Chapter 18: I Want It All
“Good morning, listeners, and welcome to another hour of music and fun in your favourite station, New Pegasus Radio! I am Mister New Pegasus, taking you through the night and into another day, and remember, this day could be a marvelous one, it could even be the best day of your life; it all depends on what you do about it! Now, about the music we’ve been listening to, it’s a modern classic by the all-time favourite of New Equestria, Velvet Remedy! I’ll be honest with you folks, she’s starting to get a little old, but her musical prowess is still as good as it’s always been. Can’t get tired of listening to her, that’s for sure!
Let’s make a little stop to talk about the news, shall we? The conflict in the streets of New Pegasus and Freedom Field is finally cooling down, thank the Goddesses. There are still some spots around the Clops Casino where there is still some fighting going on, but most of the Strip has now been secured by the roboponies of Full… oh, wait, by Farsight’s roboponies. You will have to excuse me, but I am still getting used to this new turn of events in town. I will need some time to assimilate that the Platinum Horseshoe is no longer under Full House’s control.
As per popular demand, our research department has tried to find out something more about the mysterious new owner of the Horseshoe, and from the looks of things, the potential new proprietor of the Clops. To be frank, there is few we could obtain about the former life of this gentlecolt. Apparently, he appears in Freedom Field some months ago, working as an associate to the current Mayor of the neighboring town, and he is presumed to have ties with the NER. He bought his Citizenship with Republican aid around two months ago, and has been living in New Pegasus ever since. What he did before Freedom Field and what he’s been doing these weeks is a mystery.
Now that I’ve mentioned Freedom Field, the violence and chaos of the last few days ended with an assault to the Ferratura stronghold there, according to the numerous reports that arrive from the other end of the walls. Apparently, the heir of the Family, Verrazano Ferratura, was killed in the last attack, leaving his troops in confusion and disarray. The rest of the information that we have is, to say the least, sketchy. Some speak of Steel Ranger involvement in the conflict, when the last mention of the Rangers in Neighvada was around two years in the past. The rest speak of an assault team driven by a zebra and a filly, but none of the versions seem to match.
Looking beyond the city limits, the so awaited arrival of the New Equestrian Republic has not yet come to happen. We still don’t know what has caused them to stop their advance, but we can be thankful to the Goddesses for giving us some time to sort our things out before they get to our gates. At least, the situation has been pacified enough to negotiate a sort of truce or non-aggression treaty… although I’m no diplomat, and I trust that the City Board will have something ready to deal with the situation. Speaking of which, where is the Board right now, when we need of their leadership?
I’m starting to think that the population of New Pegasus has trusted a bit too much in their leaders. For many years we lived under the firm guidance of politicians who haven’t faltered in the times of need and have taken the right decisions in the right moments. This has turned us bland and trusting, and when worse leaders have taken upon themselves the task of surveying the city, we haven’t been aware enough to bring them down. Now the NER is knocking at our door and there doesn’t seem to be nopony who can actually stop them. Mares and gentlecolts, I think that we got what we deserved.
OK, I am getting too political again… let’s go with some more music! Now, let me see what I can find around here… Oh, this is something you will certainly like! I’ve got this little recording here of the Experimental Sessions of Vinyl Scratch, a unique piece that a generous trader sold me for a few caps. He didn’t know the jewel he was carrying in his saddlebags, but now it’s for all of you to enjoy! And remember, you are listening to New Pegasus Radio, and I am your host, Mister New Pegasus, speaking directly to your souls…”
The pain was finally gone.
I felt like floating in a peaceful ocean of a thick fluid, slowly drifting away in an indeterminate direction, with my mind free to roam and think about all I had been through in the last times. I didn’t know where I was, nor did I care. This wasn’t the Wasteland, where a step in the wrong direction would bring pain and destruction; nor was it New Pegasus, a nest of radscorpions disguised as a beacon of civilization. Whatever this place was, it felt good and I didn’t want to break the peace of mind that I had found.
I had been very careless in the attack on the Diamonds. If Nadyr had been a step further away, the bullet that had destroyed my leg would have hit me in the head, and there would have been no more Farsight. Then again, if I hadn’t wasted any second enjoying the moment, I would have been able to shoot Verrazano without him noticing, and nothing of the following would have happened. I would have been perfectly healthy and things would have gone according to my plan.
Now, nothing was going to be the same. The shot had turned my hindleg into a bloody mess, with fur ripped off, bone reduced to dust and flesh torn into smithereens; and even if the pain was gone, I would never be able to walk again. My hubris had turned me into a cripple, and even if I had won the petty war against the Ferraturas, I would have to suffer the constant reminder of my weakness every time I took a step. I wanted to cry in anger, but then again, it didn’t seem like I was in my body at all.
It was a funny feeling, and the realization of it drove me away from my anger and my remorse. What had driven me to such a state of detachment from my body? Was it the work of healing magic, or was it a side effect of the chemicals used to keep me asleep? Then, a strange thought went through my head: maybe I was dead. Maybe the blood loss had been so critical that I hadn’t survived the wound; and that strange feeling was what lies beyond the last breath.
Then again, I had no reason to believe that. I was feeling things, although very distantly. The sensation of being drifting in a thick liquid was something my mind had made up from a fact: I was touching something with my back, something that was soft and firm… It could be a bed, a mattress of some sort. I remembered Ampera ordering Nadyr to take me to the Fort… could that be where I was now?
That revelation triggered something in my mind, and I began to feel more of what surrounded me. I could hear the voices of ponies speaking, muffled by the distance, and the noise of hooves against the dusty floor. My process of returning to the world of the living was like that, progressive and fairly uncanny. What I missed was the pain, though. I remembered how much it had hurt, I had the image stored in my mind. It should hurt, it had to be there, nagging, but it wasn’t.
“I think he’s coming back.” I heard a familiar voice say. “The little bugger is harder than we believe.”
“I told you that it would work.” A mare replied. Was that Ampera?
“To be honest, I had never performed such an operation before. Your help was precious, ma’am.”
“Our Order was born to serve.” It had to be Ampera. “Some forgot about it on the way.”
“You know…” I mumbled. “That I can hear you…”
“Goodness me!” The other voice had to be Mixer’s. That accent couldn’t be mistaken. “You’re finally awake, mate! Welcome back, for a moment I thought we were going to lose you!”
I narrowly opened my eyes and let them get used to the light, just to fully open them a moment later, and I found myself looking at the decaying face of Mixer at about a hoof’s distance. Luckily for me, my sense of smell was still rebooting.
“Mixer, from all the ponies I would like to wake up next to, you would be on the bottom of the list.” I groaned. “However, you can’t even imagine how happy I am to see you right now.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” Mixer composed a toothless smile. “You’ve recovered surprisingly fast, Farsight. It seems like you had a lot of unfinished business.”
“You don’t want to know, Mixer.” I smiled ironically. “However, I hardly think my leg will let me do them.”
“About your leg…” Mixer hummed. “It had been very heavily damaged… The bones were almost sawdust and the tendons of the knee were beyond repair… not even the best of healing potions or magic would put it back together.”
“I see.” I clenched my teeth.
“Don’t fret though.” Mixer laughed. “This wonderful lady here came with a solution.”
I turned my head and watched Ampera’s electric-blue face smiling gently. She looked far less imposing without her Ranger armor, but she kept infusing a certain awe and respect.
“As soon as I saw the state your leg had been reduced to, I began to think on a mechanical solution that might help you overcome that problem. You know, when a Steel Ranger suffers wounds in the battlefield, it needs to carry on fighting until the battle is over. Apart from deflecting damage, the Ranger Armor acts as a life support system, reducing the load and increasing the strength of a damaged limb in order to let it heal while the pony can keep using it properly.”
“Exactly.” Mixer nodded. “Ampera thought that such a function could apply to your situation. Your leg will never heal properly per se, as it has suffered too much damage and the bones will not regenerate adequately. Leaving things as they are would have you in need of aid to be able to move, and totally incapable of running, jumping or bucking. However, with the proper modifications, that problem could be easily averted.”
“You should take a look at your hindlegs, Farsight.” Ampera smiled.
I did as she told me and turned my head to look at my rear, and what I saw made me gasp in a mixture of awe and surprise. My two hindlegs were not soft and furry anymore, but instead they shone in a menacing metallic blue, similar but not fully equal to that of my coat. The design was sleek, with scale-like plates forming a hexagon pattern that spanned from my flank to my hooves.
“What… what did you do to my legs?” I whined.
“Nothing at all!” Mixer replied calmingly. “Your legs, your flesh and bone are still there, but they have been covered by the implant.”
“I prefer to call it ‘augmentation’.” Ampera corrected. “They’re not an implant, properly speaking, because the original limb is still there. The steel lattice has been woven to your bones and the joints are powered by servodrives that work in conjunction with a spell matrix especially devised to relieve the stress from those limbs and give you an extra buck, should you need it.”
“But if one of my legs was perfectly fine… why did you ‘augment’ both of them?”
“Installing the device in one of your hindlegs would have imbalanced you. In the end, it would be as if your healthy leg was weak and atrophied. The damages would be far greater than the benefits. By having both your hindlegs empowered, that disequilibrium problem should be solved.”
“And what happens with the balance between front and back?” I asked.
“I don’t think that’s a real problem. Your hindlegs are always stronger than your forelegs, because ones were meant to buck in case of danger. Giving them an extra boost shouldn’t cause you any trouble. However, if you feel uncomfortable or strange come see me, and I will try to find a solution that works for you.”
I sighed and realized how much the former Ranger had done for me in the last times. Not only had she been crucial for the welfare of my mission, but she had also given me a second chance by repairing my broken body. Despite all my initial quarrels with her, I found out that I really appreciated Ampera. She was a kind and noble soul, even if a little jaded by the world she lived in.
“Thanks, Ampera. You really saved my life.”
“Don’t mention it.” Ampera waved a disregarding hoof. “In the end, you are responsible for the boost Freedom Field has experienced lately. Consider it a way of repaying you for your services.”
“If you put it that way…” I shrugged. “By the way, Ampera, where did you get all the materials?”
“When I left the Order, I made sure that they would regret having cast me out.” Ampera laughed softly. “I ransacked the supply warehouse of the Contingent and left them to the Raiders. I think they were able to last for… a week, maybe?”
“Remind me not to piss you off, Ampera.” I squinted.
“If you’re wise, you won’t even try.” The ex-Ranger shook her head. “Well, now that you appear to have recovered, I’m off to repair the Tesla Bar. Those Ferratura idiots didn’t behave like perfect gentlecolts during their stay.”
She turned around and left the tent while humming a tune, while Mixer walked around checking data graphs and readings. As soon as Ampera was gone, he turned around and whistled.
“Quite a mare, innit, mate?” Mixer fumbled around. “I’ve got to admit that I was a little doubtful when she came with those metal covers for your legs, but she didn’t give me any room to object. Turns out that it was for the best.”
“I hope so…”
“Hope is all we got, mate. Apart from that, there’s bugger all. Now, move your lazy arse and get your hooves on the ground! It’s time you start testing your new gadget.”
I nodded and crept out of the bunk bed, putting the tips of my hooves on the floor with a mixture of fear and curiosity. Would the mechanic devices work, or would I end up facefirst on the dirt? It was true that the pain was gone, probably as an effect of the spell matrix; but I had no guarantee that my broken leg would withstand the weight of my body, even with the help of the augmentations.
“Come on!” Mixer cheered me. “Have a little faith, Farsight!”
I gulped and made the final move out of the bed… to find out that I was standing perfectly on my four legs. The mechanic aid that Ampera had built for me worked, and my broken hindleg was not being a problem at all. I walked up and down carefully, but as soon as I felt that my body could resist the wear and tear of walking and carrying weight, I even dared to take a little jump.
“This is fucking fantastic!” I laughed in glee.
“It is, indeed.” Mixer nodded. “Don’t try anything crazy, though, like jumping off a rooftop.”
“Who do you think I am?” I raised my brow and smiled.
“Just warning you, mate.” Mixer shrugged. “I’ve seen my share of stupid over the years.”
“Sure, sure.” I smiled. “By the way, Mixer, how long have I been knocked out?”
“Hmm… two days. Yes, two days more or less.”
“Two days? What happened with the NER? Are they here?”
“No, they’re not here; which is quite strange, actually.” Mixer rubbed his chin and some flakes of rotten skin fell to the floor. “According to the radio, they were supposed to arrive yesterday. However, I have no idea of what might have happened to them.”
“Alright. Thanks, Mixer.” I walked over to my suit and got quickly dressed. “I think I will carry on from here.”
“Sure. Good luck, Farsight, although I think you won’t need much of it.”
*** *** ***
The fact that I expected it didn’t make it less abrupt, as Rose attack-hugged me as soon as I left the tent. The filly had tear marks on her face, which led me to think that she had been crying recently; because of my fate, I believed. I hugged her back and patted her softly, trying to comfort her as much as I could. After all, I had been unconscious all that time. Who knows what she had been through?
“Farsight, you’re alright…” Rose sobbed.
“Yes, a little shaken, but I’m fine.” I whispered.
“But your leg… I thought you would never be able to walk again.”
“Me too. Then again, we hadn’t counted on Ampera’s crafting prowess.” I smiled. “She was the one that did the proper repairs on me.”
“Repairs?” Rose looked puzzled. “What repairs?”
“Take a look at my hindlegs, Rose. Notice something different?”
“No, they’re… HOLY CELESTIA!” Rose yelled. “What happened to your legs?”
“My legs are in there… apparently.” I shrugged. “Ampera built a spell-matrix powered set of augmentations, something similar to the systems used by the Steel Rangers in their armors. That’s what keeps me on my four legs and lets me walk.”
“They are… amazing!” Rose moved around me and took a closer look. “So shiny and tough-looking…”
“Well, at least she painted them blue. They go unnoticed in the first look.”
“That is true, although I think they are a bit brighter than your fur. Anypony with a keen eye will find the difference.”
“I don’t really mind… it would sound as if I was complaining about them.” I shook my head. “That’s not my intention at all.”
“Sure.” Rose smiled. “How are you feeling?”
“A bit battered, but fine. The healers did a nice job, and now it’s me who has to carry on. We still have a lot of things to sort out before we can lay back and relax.”
“Are you always thinking about your plans, Farsight? You almost got crippled forever!”
“I know, Rose…” I sighed. “Some things, or more properly, some ponies won’t be as understanding as you are, though.”
“Farsight, the Republic is not here yet, and the Ferraturas are dug in in the Clops.” Rose chastised me. “Things are under control, and you’re back among us to sort them out. Can’t you afford a minute of rest?”
“Fine, fine…” I lowered my head in defeat. “How have you been all this time, Rose? I should have asked you before, but I am terribly impolite.”
“At least you admit it.” Rose smiled sadly. “Well, I’ve had better days, that is undeniable. I was very worried about you, and Mixer didn’t seem very confident at first. The state of your leg was so bad that the poor buck couldn’t decide on what to do. Then Ampera came and they got into the surgery tent with you. They wouldn’t let me in to watch, so I had to wait the whole night here until they told me you were stable.”
“I’m sorry, Rose. I’m very sorry.” I mumbled, feeling a tear roll down my cheek. I guess that all the stress we had been through was finally transpiring off my body.
“There is no need to be sorry, Farsight.” Rose hugged me once again. “You’re fine, and that’s all that matters.”
“Thanks, Rose.” I hugged her back. “I don’t know where I’d be without you.”
“Cut it out.” Rose giggled.
“By the way, Rose… do you know what happened to the NER?”
“I think they got cut off by a Divide Storm that hit yesterday. Apparently, they were forced to back off and find shelter in Nobuck.”
“That will buy us some time, no doubt.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
“I have an idea. Let’s go have some lunch, and after that, we discuss as many things as you want to.” Rose smiled. “But please, no scheming before!”
“Deal.” I nodded.
We left the Fort and walked down the main street of Freedom Field to the LaGrande’s, the restaurant in which I had met Metronome and Dee some time ago to plot her rise to power. Now the place was crammed with ponies of all sorts, from Wastelanders to New Pegasus citizens, who had reacted to the end of the conflict by jumping to the streets in a sort of celebration. We did turn some heads around as we walked to a table, and I swear that more than one of the ponies looking at us were gazing at my newly improved hindlegs.
“I’m not used to being looked at like this.” I mumbled.
“They’ll get used to your metal legs, Farsight.” Rose replied carelessly. “I am your friend, and look how I reacted. Those who don’t know you will act similarly, don’t you think? It’s not common to see a pony with steel hindlegs.”
“You’ve got your point there.” I smiled. “What should we order?”
“I don’t know. You’re the one who has been here before, I’ll let you choose.”
“In that case, we should go for the gecko steak. It wasn’t half bad when I last had it.”
Rose nodded and placed the order, and the waiter disappeared into the kitchen. The filly then looked at me and smiled kindly, but with a maturity in her expression that surprised me. She had grown up quite a lot ever since we met, and she would become a very fine mare in no time; the kind of pony one wants as a friend. I was very lucky to have found her in the Wasteland.
“We’ve been through quite a hoofful of moments, haven’t we?” She laughed.
“Indeed… it’s been a rough ride.” I nodded. “But then again, we were nothing and now we are something.”
“You were a nopony, and I was a weak filly in the Wasteland… it was fate who put us together.”
“You can call it fate.” I said, while the waiter brought the dishes with the meat on them. “You might call it chance as well. Luck. This entire city was built around that very concept of chance and luck. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit if those two forces had conspired to make us meet.”
“Maybe.” Rose took a bite of her steak. “Still, I prefer to think there is a fate involved. Some uncanny force that guides ponies to do what they do… It makes me think that all that has happened in my life has a reason behind it… and a purpose.”
“That very idea is the one that makes me reject it.” I nommed a piece of meat. “Fate leaves you helpless against the things that happen to you, especially against the bad things. Was I destined to leave the Stable? Was I forcefully going to end up doing all that I have done? I don’t like that… it lacks a sense of agency. I think that there are governing laws that make the world tick, but beyond that it’s just our will, our mind, and a pinch of chance to stir up the mix.”
“That would make life meaningless, don’t you think?”
“Meaningless?” I smiled. “Not at all. The meaning of life is what you make of it. When the Overmare cast me out of the Stable, I could have tried to get back in, I could have cried, I could have laid to die in the tunnel; but I didn’t. I could also have left New Pegasus for good and have ventured into the Wasteland; but I chose to stay. We are the ones who has brought us to what we are now, not an uncanny fate!”
“What about all the pain we’ve been through, then? Was it our doing? Your leg, Stuka… do you blame it all upon you?”
“I have some responsibility, but it’s not my entire fault.” I shook my head. “We make mistakes, and those mistakes have consequences. We have to learn from those consequences, never to make those mistakes again. The Wasteland, for example. Was it destined to be like this?”
“I don’t know…” Rose looked down.
“Rose, I am not trying to chastise you or change your point of view. I want you to think for yourself, and if you really believe in fate, then stick to that belief; no matter what anypony tells you.”
“I… I don’t really know if it was meant to end up like this.” Rose shook her head. “However, it would mean that somepony took the conscious decision of casting the megaspells. I prefer to believe it was fate.”
“That’s the flaw in your reasoning, Rose.” I finished the steak. “We assume that ponies take decisions consciously, aware of which effects those decisions will bring; while the truth is that most of the time we don’t really know what we are triggering. I am sure that the ponies and zebras who turned the world into a Wasteland had little idea of what they were unleashing. That’s why it’s just a mistake. A terrible mistake with disastrous consequences, but a mistake nonetheless. Our duty is to learn from that mistake to never make it again.”
“I see…” Rose nodded. “But I…”
“Hey hey! Look who’s here!” Nadyr’s voice boomed behind me, making me jump.
“Shit, Nadyr, you know I hate being sneaked upon!”
“Sorry, bro!” Nadyr gave me a hug, and I saw Dee behind him smiling gently at me. “We are so glad to see you back on your… well, what is that?”
“These two are Ampera’s solution to a destroyed leg. This metallic thingies keep me standing up, and frankly, I feel great with them.”
“Aren’t they… itchy, or something?”
“Not in my case.” I shrugged. "Also, thanks for being there to save my life. I owe you one."
Nadyr waved a hoof, disregarding that last statement of mine, while Dee laughed dimly at his smug and overconfident reply.
“Nadyr told me about what happened to you in the Diamonds.” Dee said with an almost motherly voice while she and the half zebra walked to our side. “I was really worried, especially after what happened to Metronome.”
“How is she?” I asked.
“She passed away last night.” Dee shook her head. “I stood there by her side until the break of dawn, crying like a little filly… It felt as if I had lost a sister.”
“I am so sorry, Dee.” I lowered my head. “I honestly mean it.”
“We all have had losses in this war, Farsight.” Dee shook her head. “My only consolation is that we are winning it.”
“Verrazano Ferratura is dead, and Delvio and Novalis are under siege at the Clops. We will finish this.”
“What about the NER?” Nadyr asked.
“They will be here in a matter of minutes. I wanted to have a quick lunch before meeting them, but now that you’re awake, I think the two of us should confront the Republic.”
“I agree.” I nodded. “We need to show them that we stand united and that the petty disputes that have brought them here are no more. I hope that is enough for them to leave us alone.”
“I hope so too. We shouldn’t waste any more time, then.” Dee turned around and walked out of the restaurant. “Are you coming?”
“Lead the way.” I replied, and followed Dee outside.
*** *** ***
The New Equestrian Republic enjoyed making demonstrations of power, or so it could be devised from the show that they had set up to arrive at New Pegasus. Large chariots marked with the symbol of the NER Army flanked an entire platoon of elite Troopers clad in heavy armor that marched at the same beat. Flags and banners with the red, white and black emblem of the Republic fluttered in the desert wind as the entire detachment advanced like a mastodon of flesh and steel towards the two lone ponies that stood before the gates of Freedom Field: us.
The platoons of troopers formed in three rows of ponies while a luxury chariot arrived from the rear end of the retinue. The military vehicles had rolled aside, forming an effective cover that encircled both us and the soldiers, while a peach-colored mare trotted out of the VIP chariot. She wore a black suit with the NER emblem and her curly mane was pink and blue. I remembered having seen that pony somewhere before. Behind her, a scarred stallion clad in trooper armor looked at me with evident disgust in his face. I didn’t have trouble recognizing him: Stonetree.
“It seems like the NER loves showing off its war machine.” Dee snickered.
“It most certainly does.” I nodded. “From a psychologic point of view, I have no doubt that this would have some effect on the enemy, but frankly, I don’t really care. We all know what our cards are, don’t we?”
“Yes, but don’t get too overconfident.” Dee warned. “We don’t know how they are going to react.”
The mare walked towards us, looking rather annoyed, while we waited patiently one step away from the gates. Such a force to handle a meeting like ours was a bit overkill, even if we carried weapons on us.
“Welcome to New Pegasus!” I greeted, smiling broadly, as soon as the Republican envoy got within range. “I must admit that you have impressed me, although you’re making me regret that we held this meeting in secret. If I had known that you would give us such a wonderful parade, I would have brought the entire population to witness this!”
Stonetree flinched at my words and almost jumped towards me in rage.
“Why you maggot!” He barked. “I won’t tolerate such disrespect!”
The mare gave him a blood-chilling glare, making Stonetree stop dead on his tracks. The high-ranked trooper took a step back and returned to a neutral stance, although his face showed that he felt outraged by my lack of respect towards the mysterious mare that stood in the middle.
“Stonetree is a little bit harsh at times.” She spoke with a soprano voice, melodious and graceful, although not lacking a certain rough undertone. “As a career soldier, he lacks the diplomacy required to handle such negotiations. I just carry him around for security.”
“I understand that.” I nodded peacefully. “I also assure you that there was no bad intention in my previous words. Honestly, such a display of coordination should have been enjoyed by everypony. By the way, I would love to know who I am talking to.”
The mare smiled mischievously and cleared her throat.
“I am President Praline di Bon Bon of the New Equestrian Republic, and you are?”
“This is Dee Cleff, elected Mayor of the Free City of Freedom Field.” I pointed at her while she nodded courteously. “And I am Farsight, de facto leader of the City of New Pegasus.”
“You, leader of New Pegasus? Don’t make me laugh!” Stonetree barked.
I knew that Stonetree didn’t like me at all, and given how Praline had restrained him, I thought that exploiting that harshness could help me discredit him. That might give us an edge in the negotiation.
“It’s General Stonetree now, maggot.” He replied coarsely. “I am the Chief of Staff of the New Equestrian Army, so show me some damn respect.”
“Stonetree…” Praline muttered.
“Fine, General Stonetree.” I smiled ironically. “You know, many things have happened lately, and I have the feeling that you might have been a bit off the loop in the last times. You shouldn’t act too surprised about my new position.”
“Your new position, you say… I think you’re trying to play with the Republic once more, you scumbag.” Stonetree spat the words.
“It seems like you two have a backstory together…” Praline mumbled. “Mind putting me up to date, Stonetree?”
“Miss President, there is no time for this.” Stonetree grumbled. “I’ll give you a full report back at base.”
“I want to know, now.” Praline didn’t leave much room for a retort, but Stonetree was dubious.
“Excuse me, ma’am.” I intervened. “There’s not much of a story, to be very honest. Some months ago, I began working as a free agent for the NER under the command of Vice-President Harpsong Heartstrings, in order to pull off some black ops in the territory of Neighvada. That activity was what brought me to meet the General here, when he was still Captain.”
“And you two didn’t get along together, did you?” Praline raised her brows.
“Apparently not. I think that he didn’t like the Vice-President’s sneaky approach to conquest. I have nothing to say about it, I only did what I was hired for.” I shrugged.
“I understand that.” Praline shrugged as well. “As I have just told you, Stonetree lacks the diplomacy required to handle situations such as this one. He excels when handling wartime scenarios, but this is a totally different league.”
“I couldn’t agree more with you, miss President.” I nodded.
“Miss Cleff.” Praline turned to Dee, “Congratulations on your newly founded city.”
“Thank you, President.” Dee replied coldly.
“No problem.” Praline faked a smile. “OK, now that the introductions are done, let’s get down to business, shall we?”
“Of course.” I nodded.
“I assume you know what brought us here.” Praline looked at me with a cold glare.
“Most certainly. It’s been a fairly regrettable situation, this little conflict of ours. I am glad to inform you, though, that it is finally over. There are still some areas of resistance, but the majority of the insurgent forces have surrendered or fallen. We shouldn’t be too far away from a return to peace.”
“That is positive, but Republican assets have been attacked in the process. Our Supreme Leader doesn’t tolerate such insubordinations.”
“Supreme Leader?” I squinted. “I thought you were the President.”
“I am, but as everypony, I respond to a higher authority. I am the Head of Government of the NER, but our Leader is the Head of State.”
“And what does your Supreme Leader think about the independence of New Pegasus?”
“Our Leader is not to be bothered with such earthly issues. That’s what I am for. However, when the well-being of the members of the Republic is put at jeopardy, our Leader claims swift action.”
“Send my condolences to your leader and let him or her know that the authorities of New Pegasus are solving the problem efficiently. There is no need for Republican intervention here.”
“That is what you say, but our Leader thinks otherwise.” Praline spoke coldly.
“And what about you, miss President? Do you think for yourself or do you let your glorious Leader dictate all your actions?” I asked with evident anger at her fanaticism.
“I have my thoughts and points of view, of course.” She laughed dimly, menacingly. “However, orders are orders, and I abide them.”
“Miss President, Praline, your losses have been already avenged. The last remaining Ferratura forces are cornered and under siege. The NER embassies have been properly secured and the workers are all safe, beginning with Ambassador Merry Fields herself.”
“Then why isn’t she here?” Praline asked.
“Miss President.” Dee intervened calmly. “The Ambassador, such as many other ponies in town, is concentrating on recovering from the attack. Even if the situation is secure, we must evaluate the damages and begin repairing what was broken during the riots.”
“The Republic can’t trust a city that calls itself civilized and then breaks out into total chaos. Our Leader demands that the NER takes upon itself the responsibility of keeping the Cities of New Pegasus and Freedom Field safe.”
“You know we can’t accept that. Our independence is sacred and so it was signed in the treaties of cooperation between us and you.”
“I am aware of those treaties, but the conditions have changed.” Praline frowned. “An aggression against the NER cannot go unpunished.”
“Unpunished?” I asked out of sheer disbelief. “Haven’t we told you that the ponies that attacked the Republican assets have been killed or imprisoned?”
“Yes, you have. That won’t change our determination, though.” Praline didn’t seem willing to negotiate.
I considered the possibilities. There was few more we could do from a talkative point of view. Praline spoke like a clear fanatic, leaving little room to pry her in order to get a positive reaction. Whoever that Leader was, it was clear that it exerted an almost religious power over its followers, turning them into crazy and irreflexive puppets. From the looks of things, the NER was nothing more than a foul, theocratic regime that imposed the view of the Leader above any other opinion… or maybe not. Maybe it was something darker, something that was hidden in the shadows. After all, if every single pony in the Republic knew about the Leader, how come I hadn’t heard of it before?
Still, all those ramblings about the Leader didn’t change the fact that the military force deployed before our walls wasn’t only for show. The NER had the stern determination to bring us to compliance or to simply bring us down. After our last battles, we couldn’t afford to begin another war with such a powerful foe, so we needed to play smart and put all we had on the line. Risky as it was, I needed to attempt a gambit.
“You know, you don’t want to cross us.” I said coldly. “We can become a bigger pain that you can ever imagine.”
“Really?” Praline chuckled. “Do you want me to believe that bravado? You come here with nothing, while your city is still licking its wounds, telling me that you can mean trouble to the Republic? Look around and see what we’ve brought! This is just a detachment, the main Army is waiting beyond the Divide. At my word, they’ll begin the march towards New Pegasus, and your time will be over.”
“Are you sure about that?” I asked calmly, yet sternly. “I know that your military might is undeniable, but I also know about your interests beyond Neighvada and Hoofer Dam… Starting a war against us would mean that all the supply caravans traversing our territory would be hunted down and scuttled.”
“We would destroy you nonetheless.” Praline clenched her teeth.
“Yes, you would. In the meantime, however, your troops in the far Wastelands would suffer the lack of supplies and would die by the hundreds. Tell me, President Praline, are you willing to trade their lives for ours? How would you justify their deaths to your people?”
“Miss President…” Stonetree stammered.
“What is it, Stonetree?”
“I must advise you to proceed with care here.” The General looked worried. “As much as I dislike Farsight, he’s right when he mentions that our supply routes traverse Neighvada in a way that would give them a chance of seizing them without much trouble.”
“What do you mean by that, Stonetree?”
“It would be unwise to start a war while they have a chance of crippling our strategic lines like that. If we want to make the move against New Pegasus, we would have to redirect our caravans through the mountains up North.”
“Through the mountains?” Praline roared. “You know how close that is to the Divide? That route is tremendously unsafe!”
“And that is why we discarded it, Miss President. However, a conflict with the Cities would turn our current route even more unsafe.”
“Miss President, if I may…” I smiled. My aggressive stance had made them less confident than before, and now it was time to hide the big stick and begin talking softly. “There is no need to embark upon a conflict that would bring nothing more than sorrow to all of us. We want our independence, and you want to keep your supply lines open. The current status quo enables that, then why should we change it?”
“The Republic can’t be attacked just like that!” Praline roared again.
“Once again, Miss President, I assure you that the ponies behind that despicable aggression have been defeated. We promise to keep respecting the Republican delegations inside our territory, and we will ensure the wellbeing of the caravans that move close to the City Walls. In exchange, you will keep our status as is. Is that fine?”
Praline was struggling with herself. Her own fanaticism didn’t allow her to see that the best outcome for her was to leave things standing and turn away. Stonetree, on the other hoof, had understood the delicate situation that the NER army had in Neighvada, but he had to struggle with both his hatred towards me and the President’s lack of will to reason.
“Miss President, as much as I dislike Farsight, I must admit that his proposal is the best for the interests of the Republic. I seriously suggest retreating and keeping a strong vigilance on the City. In the meantime, we’ll work in a different route to keep our troops supplied.”
“Ugh, I understand.” Praline growled. “We’ll retreat, for now. Keep one thing in mind, though: the Republic will be watching.”
“Alright everypony! Roll out!” Stonetree roared.
The war machine of the New Equestrian Republic began moving once again, this time in the opposite direction, as the armies retreated from the City Gates. Praline and Stonetree walked back into the VIP chariot, grumbling something I couldn’t get to understand. As soon as the troops and banners began to disappear in the horizon, I let go a long and deep sigh of relief.
“That was veeeeery close.” Dee shook.
“I know.” I huffed. “I can’t believe that we actually managed to pull this off. Anyway, I never thought that the NER could be ruled by such a stubborn mare.”
“She spoke about a Leader… is it something religious?”
“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “It did sound like something of that kind, though. That turns the Republic into something very dangerous… We must be really careful, what brings me to something.”
“I think that we must stay together to be able to show any valid resistance to outsider threats. That’s why I wanted to propose you to demolish the inner wall.”
“Really? How will that make the two cities work, if there is no clear boundary?”
“There will be no more two cities, only one. The great city of New Pegasus and Freedom Field.”
“You’re always up for those long-sounding names, aren’t you, Farsight?” Dee smiled. “How do you intend to pull this off? I warn you from the beginning, if you want to overcome me, I won’t let you. I want my share of power as well.”
“Sure, I knew you would ask for that. I had thought on taking over the City Board: you, me, Rose, Nadyr, Saddle and Ampera. The six of us working together to prevail against possible enemies that might attack us.”
“With you being the leader of the pack, right?” Dee snickered.
“That is something that can be discussed. I don’t enjoy being under the spotlight too much, and I think that such a role could be good for Rose, given her natural charisma and likeability. What do you think?”
“Honestly, ever since I was a filly I dreamt of getting to live in New Pegasus. With the turning of the years, I have learnt to survive and thrive in Freedom Field. However, now that you give me the opportunity to become a full citizen, I find it strangely compelling…”
“Dee, trust me, I am proposing this to you just because of that very feeling. I have also known what it is to watch the city lights from the other side of the wall, and I want to end that injustice now that I have the chance to do it. I just need your approval.”
“OK.” Dee sighed. “After all we have been through, I don’t think you’d be bold enough or stupid enough to try and trick me. You’ve got yourself a deal, Farsight.”
“Magnificent.” I smiled. “Now let’s return back inside. I don’t feel too comfortable in the open Wasteland without proper gear. Who knows who could attack.”
*** *** ***
The news of the NER’s retreat spread around town like an uncontrolled fire, and soon enough, everypony was cheering in the streets that the looming menace of a Republican takeover had been properly defused. Of course, still nopony knew who had responsible of the invading forces’ change of mind, but it would only be a matter of time until somepony leaked my name and Dee’s to the public. By that time, I wanted to have things sorted out in the Clops.
However, I headed back to my office on top of the Spire. First of all, I needed a rest after all the tension we had been through. Secondly, the best way of checking out how things were going was through Full House’s monitoring network. By locating the positions of all my robots I would be able to grasp how the siege of the Ferratura Casino was going. With a proper picture of the battle it would be much easier to decide which steps to take.
When I arrived to the top of the Platinum Horseshoe, I went for a quick shower and a change of suit. With some luck, the clothes that Full House had carefully stored in his quarters would be useful for me. If not, I guess I would be able to take them to a tailor to get them properly resized. As I was walking towards the lounge, I saw something that almost made me jump scared.
An elderly unicorn stallion was looking down the window, his face wrinkled and his eyes tired of the heavy load that life had put on his back. He dressed in style, with a tasteful grey overcoat on a dust-colored suit that fit perfectly with his moss-green coat and white mane. He was carrying a saddle-mounted walking stick system that helped him stay upright even if his legs were weak and frail.
“I always wondered how it would be to see the world from up here.” He said, almost absent-mindedly, although he knew that I was listening.
“Who are you, and how did you get into my office?” I asked.
“Well, son, nopony was guarding the entrance, so I walked in.” He tried to shrug. “If you’re so jealous about your privacy, you should learn how to lock your doors. About the first question, I have the feeling that you know who I am.”
“Novalis Ferratura, I presume.”
“You presume right, son.” Novalis nodded.
“How come you have managed to avoid the siege at the Clops?” I asked.
“What makes you think that I even was in the Clops, son?” Novalis laughed again. “Did you see me there the day you met Verrazano and Delvio?”
“No, I didn’t.” I replied.
“Because I wasn’t there. In fact, I moved away from the Casino the day I chose to pass the power down to my Family. Ever since, I’ve preferred to live as an anonymous pony.”
“I see. What brings you here today, Novalis?” I asked. “Have you come to ask for revenge for your dead son?”
“Young one, do I look like a pony capable of avenging a son’s death, at my age?” Novalis laughed calmly. “I think that your scheming has turned you more paranoid than I thought, Farsight.”
“One can never be too careful in these dire times.” I replied sternly.
“Yes, that is an axiom of our way of living.” Novalis nodded. “No, don’t think I have come here for revenge. My son Verrazano took his choices and faced the consequences. This is a hellhound-eat-hellhound world, no matter how beautiful and shiny the coating is. I tried to teach him to be careful and to not rely on sheer aggressiveness, but I failed to get into his thick mind.”
“You sound bitter.”
“That is because I am bitter. Verrazano was an embarrassment for me and the Family. I have devoted my entire life to a goal of peaceful leadership, and at the first sign of real threat, he starts an all-out war that even spread to Freedom Field and threatened to have us eaten by the NER! If that would have even come to happen…”
“It won’t anymore. He’s dead and the NER is retreating to beyond the Divide.”
“I know, I heard it on the radio. By the way, I have to congratulate you for your work dissuading the Republic. I don’t know which cards you played, but you managed to avoid the end of New Pegasus as we knew it.”
“I hope the radio isn’t saying that out loud.”
“No, rest easy.” Novalis laughed. “I have my sources out there, but they also appreciate discretion, almost as much as you do.”
“Being inconspicuous and unexpected is an advantage, I am pretty sure that you know that, Novalis.”
“Of course I do.”
“Fine…” I smiled. Novalis seemed frank enough to be likeable. As Badge had told me, he was a true gentlecolt, almost picked up from an earlier, more civilized age. “May I offer you something to drink?”
“No, don’t worry. I came here to talk, and then I’ll leave.”
“Perfect, then. Let’s talk.” I stood before him, looking at his elderly eyes. “What did you come here for?”
“I want to know of your intentions, Farsight.”
“My intentions?” I laughed. “It wouldn’t be too wise from me to reveal my plans to the enemy, don’t you think?”
“No, no, I don’t mean your current plans, Farsight. I know that my son is fighting a lost battle, and that you will rule this city. The only thing I want to find out, from a deposed ruler to an upcoming one, is what you intend to do with the lives of the ponies of New Pegasus.”
“Hm… I want the city to grow, that’s for certain.” I mumbled. “There is an outside force constantly threatening to overthrow us, and I intend to keep our independence at all costs.”
“At all costs?” Novalis asked. “Even by spilling the blood of your citizens?”
“My citizens will have to decide that. However, coming to a situation in which I have to choose between the city and the citizens would mean a total mistake for me.”
“You amaze me, Farsight.” Novalis smiled. “I had you for another selfish power-hogger, and you seem to worry about those around you.”
“That is where you have it wrong, Novalis. I am selfish, and I did all this for my own good. However, I know that no ruler can live long without the support of his people, and less in this world.”
“I appreciate your honesty, Farsight.”
“There is no need for masquerades here, I think. After all, you said it yourself: you’re the deposed ruler and I am the upcoming one. Losing time in petty lies would be an insult to both our intelligences.”
“Not too fond of political correctness, either.” Novalis laughed. “When I was your age, I wasn’t all that careful either.”
“I’m not always like that.” I shrugged. “One’s stance must adapt to where and when he’s talking. I’ve had my fair share of bumps because of my big mouth, so I learned to find out what the best option was. Two eyes, two ears, one mouth. That should make us stop, look and listen before speaking.”
“I never saw it put that way, but I have to admit that you’re right. Farsight, I like you. You seem to be an intelligent and careful pony; but with clear goals and great determination, as you have proven. I know what Verrazano and Delvio did to you, and still, you managed to turn the situation to your favor and now one is dead and the other is cornered. As long as you keep those standards, you have the potential to be a great leader.”
“Thanks for your kind words, Novalis. Frankly, I expected some more resentment from you.”
“I told you that I have no resentment… towards you, at least. If there are ponies to blame for the Ferratura Family’s downfall, those are my children. You are the force that has proven them wrong, the same way that you have showed that Full House was nothing more than a bluff.”
“If you put it that way, yes. We all gambled on the same table, and I got the highest cards in my hooves.” I shrugged. “Why all this, though? I have the feeling that you didn’t come here just to have a little friendly chat with your successor.”
“I wanted to know that I left the city in proper hooves.” Novalis looked sad. “After all, I regard New Pegasus as another child I’ve helped to raise and develop. I feel personally responsible for its growth and welfare, and my only wish I have in life is to be regarded as a pony who gave his soul to keep the population safe and booming.”
“Why do you say that, Novalis?” I asked.
“Because all is over now, with you overtaking the Clops and destroying what remains of my family. I will leave now and fade into darkness, taking the shot for the Family as I am expected to do.”
“What?” I asked. “That is absurd, Novalis. You are a pony of honor, and I am willing to give you the chance to live long and prosper beside us. You should be reminded as what you are, and I want to give you the chance for you to do so. Please, don’t do anything rash.”
“You are not going to show any mercy on the Ferratura Family. Why should I accept your proposal?”
“Novalis, you spoke of mistakes. This situation was Verrazano and Delvio’s mistake, and they’re going to pay for it. The Family had a way out, but now it’s gone, sadly.”
“A way out?” Novalis blinked in surprise.
“Sandmound.” I replied. “He was the one prepared to take the lead and continue with your labour, free from the taint of ambition that both Verrazano and Delvio had.”
“Ah, we finally come to this.” Novalis sighed. “My deceased grandson Sandmound and his tragic death. You don’t know who ordered his death yet, do you?”
“No, but I plan to find out.”
“Tell me, Farsight, why the sudden interest?”
“Because I feel that it symbolizes something in this city… The lack of innocence, of honesty and good will in the Wasteland. I don’t know why, but Sandmound looked like a chance for redemption. A wasted chance.”
“Redemption, you say… Farsight, I ordered his death.”
“You WHAT?” I almost jumped. “How could you, Novalis?”
“Farsight, Sandmound was good and noble, but also stupid. He lacked the common sense that taught me who to trust and who to avoid. Instead, he walked into everypony trying to make new friends. Even if both Delvio and I tried to teach him how to be cautious and patient, he disregarded our advices.”
“That’s why you killed him?”
“No. He had to be taken out of the picture because he had talked with the NER. He believed that becoming one with the Republic was the best option for the welfare of New Pegasus, and that is why I had no other choice.”
“Really? Couldn’t you just have had him discredited, or have revoked your decision?”
“My word is my biggest possession, I can’t take it back for no reason.” Novalis shook his head. “What sort of honor would I want to brandish if I just did and undid according to my petty desires?”
“It wouldn’t be so petty.” I shrugged. “Besides, if everypony knew that your grandson was a bit of a loose screw, why couldn’t you just correct him in public, leaving him discredited?”
“That would harm the Family.” Novalis stomped the floor, even if lightly, to make clear that he didn’t agree with that. “And harming the Family would be the worst I could ever do!”
“I see.” I lowered my head. “It seems like I only had a skewed view of the whole picture, and I am no one to judge your actions. Still, my offer stands, Novalis. I want you to live and survive this conflict, so that the population of New Pegasus can remember you as what you were and not what your children did of you.”
“No, I can’t be seen as a traitor. You are the enemy of my Family now, and the only reason why I came here is to admit our defeat and to expect a honorable death.”
“Honorable death? Did you come here for me to kill you?” I asked, awestruck. “I can’t do that, Novalis. There is no honor in that.”
“What honor is there in running away, then?”
“Urgh… Honor is a beautiful concept, but one must regard it with care. You don’t die honorably, Novalis. You just die, and that’s it. There is no dignity in death… maybe there can be purpose or intention, but never dignity or honor. Please, listen to me, let me spare your life and let me get you out of Neighvada. Maybe you can live peacefully beyond the Divide, or…”
“Please, Farsight, stop it. I really appreciate that you care for my life, but I have taken this decision after a long meditation, and I am not going to change it now.”
Novalis used his magic to lift a small pistol from the coat pocket, and before I could react, he put it beneath his muzzle. I knew what he was going to do, and I wanted to stop him from doing that, but somehow I couldn’t manage to move. Something inside me told me that I wouldn’t do any good for him by forcing him to live. I sighed and looked him in the eyes.
“Novalis, you don’t have to do this…”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Farsight.” Novalis mumbled. “This is what my honor commands me to do. Good luck, Farsight, and guide New Pegasus to a brighter future.”
The bullet tore a hole in Novalis’ head but didn’t manage to exit the pony’s skull. The dead stallion shook and fell to one side, breaking his walking aid and staining the polished floor with blood. I felt terrible, even if Novalis had been an enemy and had tried to kill me. Was that the price of victory? Why did the ponies that I had a fondness for have to die in order for me to climb up the ladder?
*** *** ***
With a group of robot servants furiously scrubbing the blood and disposing of the corpse of the late Ferratura patriarch, it was time to take the final step in the downfall of the enemy Family. With my armies in place keeping the remaining grunts locked in the Clops, I waited on the street for more forces to arrive. The robots could do simple tasks, such as keeping anypony from exiting the building, but in order to flush the rest out, we would need thinking ponies.
The suicide of Novalis had me surprisingly shaken. Honor in death, or so he said; but I could see no honor in putting a bullet in your skull just because you had been defeated. Death could have purpose or even a meaning, but honor? What sort of contorted traditions had the elderly Ferratura have invoked to justify his actions? I was giving him the chance to live in peace, but he refused it. There was no way of understanding that, at least from my point of view.
He couldn’t be blamed of what Verrazano and Delvio had done. Both were adult ponies, with their own freedom and according responsibility. I could understand that he felt bitter for having seen his legacy torn to shreds by the incompetence of his kin, I could even have understood that he would have claimed for vengeance; but even with a motherload of fatherly love, there was no way of grasping his reaction: staying silent and taking a bullet for those who wrecked his work.
Even so, I didn’t want it to get into my head. The dead were gone, but the living had to carry on struggling. I had put many chips on the table, so to speak, and I was one move away from collecting the profit. Folding now was the biggest mistake I could ever make.
“Farsight!” Rose was already waiting outside the Clops. “Over here!”
“Rose, what are you doing here?” I asked. “It’s dangerous to go alone.”
“Please, I know that you care about me, but you should already know that I’m perfectly capable of defending myself.” Rose waved a hoof, acting confident. “Besides, it’s been a long time since any of the Ferratura goons has actually tried to take a potshot out of a window. Your robots are doing a good job keeping them locked in.”
“As long as they don’t try to break out, this war is about to be over…”
“Farsight, you look shaken.” Rose put a hoof on my leg. “What’s wrong? You don’t usually act like that.”
“Novalis Ferratura was waiting for me at the Spire.”
“Novalis?” Rose gasped. “How did he manage to…?”
“It turns he lived in a different building, far from the Clops.” I laughed dimly. “That is how he walked around unnoticed.”
“Unnoticed? I am sure that everypony in New Pegasus knew him.”
“Yes, but take a look at how things have been lately. The fighting in the streets has kept the population inside their homes, and once it’s finished, they have come out like crazy. A single pony can easily walk under the radar within a multitude.”
“You’ve got your point there.” Rose nodded. “What did he want? Did he attack you?”
“No, not at all.” I waved a hoof. “His visit followed a completely different purpose. One could say he was looking to formally admit defeat.”
“I would never have expected such a thing.” Rose looked surprised. “Such an elegant and well-mannered behaviour is hard to believe considering how his sons have turned to be.”
“Remember what Brass Badge told us? He said that Novalis was a true gentlecolt, something odd in the Wasteland, and that he took pride in keeping things that way. It turned out that the entire world was conspiring against him, so to speak.”
“Conspiring, Farsight?” Rose laughed. “The only conspiracy here is yours.”
“What I meant was that life chose to wreck all that he worked for. His sons were arrogant and didn’t follow his noble ways; and his grandson was apparently too trusting to have a good future in New Pegasus.”
“Sandmound? Brass Badge said he was as noble as his grandfather.”
“He seemed to lack common sense though. According to Novalis, Sandmound walked around befriending everypony, even those who would betray him at the first chance. That’s how he talked so openly with Full House and even with the Republic. Did you know that he had vouched for the integration in the Republic?”
“Who told you that?” Rose looked suspicious.
“Novalis did, and considering that he had nothing left to lose, I believe him.”
“Nothing to lose? In which sense?”
“Rose, Novalis committed suicide right before my eyes. He put a bullet in his brain.”
“What?” Rose looked at me with her eyes wide open. “Why would he do that?”
“He said that his honor demanded it. He had been defeated and he couldn’t just stay alive while watching his legacy burn to ashes. Before doing that, though, he wanted to know what kind of a leader I was going to be. That’s why he visited me.”
“And why didn’t you stop him?”
“What for?” I shook my head. “He didn’t want to live, who was I to keep him from doing what he wished for? Besides, Novalis was an old buck, he had a long and prosperous life.”
“That is true. It’s sad that it had to end that way, though.”
“I agree.” I sighed.
Rose and I looked at eachother, then we turned our heads towards the Clops. The end of our journey was in there, waiting for us to grasp it. Still, I didn’t want to walk in there alone, since I didn’t know how many Ferraturas were holed up in the building; and frankly, I didn’t feel like getting shot again. How long would we have to wait until…
“Feeling impatient, huh, bro?” Nadyr came walking down the street surrounded by a group of armed ponies. “Sorry for the delay, we had to pile up some supplies before getting here. Besides, milady Von Ohm needs a lot of time to get ready.”
“Watch what you say, zebra.” Ampera’s distorted voice echoed in the street. She was standing on the back of the pack, her metal hulk shining over the rest of the ponies.
“No offence meant, ma’am.” Nadyr bowed exaggeratedly. “But you do need quite some time to fit into that big chunk of steel.”
“Patience is a virtue, Nadyr. Your friend seems to know that a lot better than you do.”
“Considering how you’re putting me through the test, I think that I’ll be a master in patience by the time we end this.” Nadyr laughed. “Should we get moving, then?”
“Of course.” I nodded. “Everypony ready?”
A raging ‘YES!’ echoed through the group and the sound of guns cocking filled the air. I smiled and readied my rifle. It was time to bring the battle to enemy territory, and I like how that felt. I really did.
*** *** ***
The large gambling hall had been turned into a chaos of bullets and explosions, with flipped tables acting as cover spots and Ferratura goons shooting at us from the upper levels, giving us quite a hard time to move forward. Some of our ponies had already fallen victim to enemy fire, and others had been wounded. Rose was already taking care of them, while I tried to pinpoint enemies for Ampera to take down. After all, her sheer superiority in firepower was our best way to progress.
“Enemy fire at the top floor, Farsight!” She roared. “Give me their positions!”
“Fifty three meters, at your three!” I yelled while ducking behind a table. “Take them out before they can destroy our covering spots!”
Time was of the essence, because most of the tables were splintered and broken, threatening to fall apart. That would leave us exposed to their attacks.
“Got it!” Ampera nodded and a burst of fire roared from her battle-saddle mounted miniguns. After that, three red spots disappeared from my E.F.S. and I dared to raise my head above the table.
“Nice destruction.” I smiled. “It’s going to take a lot of money to get this mended after we’re done.”
“You know that I’m not precisely subtle.” Ampera laughed dimly. “I can try to be more careful, though.”
“Don’t worry, Ampera. We need to get this solved, and then we’ll worry about how much it costs and how we’re going to repair it.”
“Whatever you say, Farsight. I’ve got my own stuff to fix.” Ampera tried to shrug but her thick armour only showed a small shift.
“Hey, bro!” Nadyr walked close to me while keeping an eye out for enemies. “What now?”
“First I want to see if the scouting parties we sent forward have found something. Then, we’ll set off for the office of the Ferraturas. I suppose that Delvio will be entrenched there.”
“Fair enough.” Ampera nodded, while Nadyr smiled. “If he hasn’t escaped, which I hope he has not been able to do, we will have him trapped there.”
“Sir!” one pony called from the other end of the room. “The restaurant area is clear. All Ferratura forces have been killed and the place is under our control!”
“Good. Any trace of Delvio?” I asked.
“No, sir. Only standard goons, we couldn’t capture anypony alive for questioning.”
“OK, that’s understandable.” I nodded. “I don’t expect them to simply surrender. Any news from the other team?”
“They should be coming soon. I heard them clear the brothel area…”
“Farsight, sir!” Another pony appeared through a doorway. “The brothel area has been secured. Many mares there, but no trace of any important Ferratura pony. Should we carry on the search?”
“No, no, there’s no need for that.” I waved a hoof. “Mares and gentlecolts, it’s time for the final assault!”
“HOO-RAH!” The crowd yelled.
It felt good to be on the lead, and now I had the sensation of being able to grasp power with my own hooves, as Delvio was about to be cornered and eliminated. As we walked down the corridor that led to the office where we assumed that the remaining Ferratura had to be entrenched, I prepared myself for a rough battle. An enemy that has nowhere to run will fight to the death, and that means trouble for the attacker.
“All right, everypony.” Ampera spoke through the armor. “Don’t try to be a hero, because this will definitely be ugly. We can expect heavy resistance as soon as we breach through the door, so keep your heads low and your rifles firing. Understood?”
“Then at three, I’ll open the doors!” Ampera stood in front of the locked gates and got ready to buck them. I ducked, grabbed the rifle tightly and breathed deep.
Silence became tense and tough, as the many ponies that formed our group got ready to face a large crossfire. Some mumbled silent prayers, some checked their weapons, some just whistled a tune. The common trait was that we were all really nervous; although who wouldn’t be in such a circumstance?
“Two…” Ampera got ready to buck.
I breathed deep and got ready for what was coming: death or glory, it was as simple as that. Success would mean the end of my plans for good, letting me obtain absolute control of the city. Failure implied my death and destruction, so the stakes were fairly clear. There was no room for middle ground here, and that made my determination even stronger. If I had survived up to that point, I would live to see another day and to reap what I had sown.
“THREE!” Ampera roared and bucked.
Silence. I blinked twice and looked at my E.F.S., that simply didn’t show any enemy dots in the close range; neither did it in the long range. The place was empty, plain and simple. We walked cautiously, looking for hidden traps such as tripwires or rigged shotguns, as it could easily be the place for an ambush, but there was nothing. It looked as if there would never have been a single pony in that room for a long time.
“Where is everypony?” Nadyr asked. “Where is Delvio and his guard?”
“The scans show nothing here.” Ampera groaned. “I don’t usually trust them in closed spaces, but this time they seem to be right.”
“Group A, scout ahead!” I ordered. “Group B, search the room for hidden compartments! Delvio can’t have bypassed our blockade.”
“Farsight, take a look at this!” Rose called me from the large table in the middle of the room.
“What is it?!” I galloped towards her.
“I think that is the answer to your questions.”
I looked at what Rose was showing me. A small piece of paper was lying on the table, hastily scribbled and left as a witness of a quick runaway. I read it up and down and emitted a groan of dismay, and stomped the floor harshly.
“What’s going on, Farsight?” Ampera asked.
“This is what’s wrong.” I replied, and began to read the note.
I am certain that it’s you who’s behind all the attacks. Ever since you appeared with your pretended ‘confession’ I knew that you would be the one that would bring us down. Verrazano wanted to kill you on sight, but I convinced him to let Full House do the job. Of course, we sent those three mercenaries to kill you, but they were lousy on purpose. What I could never count on was on you getting the upper hoof against House and turning his armies against us. Now I’m forced to make a run for it, or I’ll lose my life; but keep my name in mind. I never forget, and I damn sure never forgive.
“He’s gone?” Nadyr gasped. “How?”
“Sir, we found a small passageway that led to the a sewage tunnel!” One of the ponies of the group A came galloping from the back end of the room. “It has been demolished recently, though.”
“That means we can’t follow him.” Ampera shook her head.
“Where can he be now?” Rose asked.
“Most probably, he’ll be galloping away in the Wasteland.” I groaned.
“Are you going after him?” Nadyr wanted to jump onto more action.
“No, as much as I’d love to, it would be a waste of time and ponypower. He’ll still be a marked target inside the walls, but for now, I think it’s better to focus on other things.”
“Things such as?” Ampera asked.
“Such as claiming my throne.” I grinned. “My friends! My brothers! The battle is over, and we are victorious! Come with me, and let’s celebrate this day as a time of change, a time of improvement, a time for the common Wastelander to stand proud as a member of a welcoming community. Who is with me?”
The ponies that had come with me all the way pranced and roared, rejoicing in the fact that they were alive. Soon, they would rejoice much more.
*** *** ***
The stand had been built in a flash, showing the prowess and the good functioning of the New Pegasus citizens. Microphones had been installed, lighting had been diverted towards the speaker’s position, and garlands and flags with the red eye over a blue background had been displayed along the Strip. Population was already crowding at the street when I arrived to the backstage.
Ampera and Dee had put ponies at every rooftop to avoid a possible sneak attack like the one that took Stuka’s life away in the Wedding at Freedom Field, while my robots patrolled the streets thoroughly and checked each pony for concealed weapons. Nothing had to fail this time. Nothing at all.
I walked up the staircase and looked at the cheering audience, who knew thanks to the radio that the war was over and the NER was no more a menace, all thanks to a certain unknown pony called Farsight who had masterfully outclassed both Full House and the Ferratura Family, and now stood alone in the pinnacle of power of New Pegasus. I had to admit that my ego was swelling at the moment, but then again, why should I be humble when I was on the very highest possible point?
“Mares and gentlecolts!” I saluted valiantly, and was responded by a raging cheer from the audience. “Fellow citizens of New Pegasus and Freedom Field, my friends, my colleagues… I come before you today to show myself at you, to show that my hooves are clean and that I am here for the good of this city that we take pride on calling our home!”
Another cheer interrupted me, but I smiled and let it die down.
“Yes, I am here to guide New Pegasus through these dire times! The past leaders have proven to be weak and selfish, unable to handle their foalish quarrels when a larger and far more dreadful menace was looming out there! And believe me, I am not talking about the raiders or the ghouls, I am talking about a far more dangerous and present reality, the New Equestrian Republic!”
The audience booed at the mention of the NER.
“Now, now, let’s analyze the situation calmly. The Republic came here with words of goodwill and friendship, and I welcome that! Nopony has enough friends in this world, provided those friends can be trusted, of course! The Republic has secured Neighvada and allows the traders to move to and fro, bringing us fine goods and letting our economy prosper! However, they have also shown us their darker side… Not so long ago, I was facing President Praline of the NER, who had come here to occupy the city in the name of peace enforcement, and I say no to that! We are masters of our own destiny! Our souls are only ours to command, and no Republic will tell us what to do! I will be willing to listen to any proposal, but the final decision has to be of the City of New Pegasus!”
The crowd went crazy once again.
“Now, my goal is to see a united New Pegasus and to make it grow beyond its borders, reclaiming the territory that was lost after the War! The Wasteland will be dominated, and the population of New Pegasus will be free to choose its destiny! In order to do that, my first decision has been to demolish the wall of shame that separated New Pegasus from Freedom Field, and welcome its leaders to join me in the City Board! One New Pegasus, strong and united, will stand the test of time! And we will make it… TOGETHER!!!”
My final statement was the detonator of a flailing wave of cheers and screams of joy. My name echoed up and down the Strip, and I swear that I had the feeling that everypony in the Wasteland would be hearing it at the moment. After all that suffering, after all the pain and effort we had been through, despite all the losses, I felt true happiness. The game was over, and I was the winner. I closed my eyes and took a step back with a broad smile on my face… I was definitely going to enjoy that moment.
Note: Reputation Change
City of New Pegasus: Adored. You are the savior of the city, the pony that has brought them peace and a bright future. Enjoy the moment but be careful about what you do next.
New Equestrian Republic: Not trusted. You have become a present threat for the Republic, and some of your choices are regarded with caution by the rulers of the faction. Expect anything from them.
Ferratura Family: Sworn enemy. The last remains of the family have fled but have sworn to return. Keep an eye out.
END OF ACT IV