Reversal of Fortune

by Sandcroft


Chapter 2: Unusual!

I think that's a bridge over there. Ryan had been scouting around the edges of the water for the better part of an hour. As he walked closer to the object in the dark, he flicked on the light on his Pip-Boy, illuminating the ground around him in a short radius. Luckily, he had turned it on just in time to avoid tripping on a cluster of rocks.

The white light illuminated the bridge. As best he could tell, it was made of wood and colored some shade of pink, though that may have just been the light playing tricks on his eyes. It was well made, and sturdy. It hardly creaked as he walked across it.

He looked ahead and stopped. There was something about the village he was about to enter. It wasn't foreboding in any way, it was the opposite, in fact, but something about it just caused him a slight discomfort. He looked up at the stars and peered into the black depths of space.

Night wasn't his time. When he used the night as a tool, it was done with meticulous planning beforehand. He preferred to be able to see the targets he was shooting at, for one thing, and going into a new place with a complete lack of knowledge about it wasn't a good idea. The foremost thought on his mind was that they might mistake him for a raider, given his tattered clothing.

He backed up slowly, weighing his options. It might be better that I wait until daytime.

He thought it over for a moment before deciding that would be the best course of action. He turned his back on the idle village and walked towards the shoreline again. Maybe I should go check my kill. If it's a gecko then at least I can get a decent meal, he thought with a frown.

He was absolutely sure he wasn't in the Mojave anymore. The animal he had killed might not even be a gecko. By taking into account the lack of radiation in the area, and the fact that plants actually grew, he got the feeling that it wasn't a gecko.

He stopped where he guessed he had fired the bullet into the water. He checked his Pip-Boy's compass again and frowned at the water. He hesitantly stuck his hand in, swished it around for a moment then removed it hastily. His heart rate had accelerated slightly, and he took a few breaths to calm down. He plunked down into the grass, wiping his cold, wet hand on his pants.

He didn't know why water scared him. Hardly anything scared him anymore. He had been everywhere from New Reno to New Canaan, faced down enemies that were far out of his league, and usurped the throne of Mr. House, but water... He had tried to rationalize it years ago. Read every book on psychology and the human mind he could find, even journeying through Vault 19 multiple times to search the med bays for information.

He classified it as a phobia eventually. An irrational fear not of water itself, but of what it may contain.

He was lucky, then, that the waters of Zion Valley were crystal clear, and mostly knee-deep. And it was also lucky that he had the resources to scrap together a few dozen flares that could burn in the water to scare away the lakelurks when he dove to the bottom of Lake Mead for the downed airship. He was really that desperate for the Boomer's help.

He swallowed hard and plunged his hand back into the dark depths. After a quick moment of blindly searching, he caught hold of something hard and rough and pulled it up. It took all his strength to haul the carcass of the animal to the surface, something he accounted to its seemingly thick hide. He pulled the rest of it out and let it drop to the grass. He flicked on his Pip-Boy's light to get a better look.

It was big, that was for sure. Its hide seemed to be made of rocks, its color a deep green that was close to black on some parts. It's body shape wasn't too different from a gecko, though; wide mid-section with a larger head and stubby legs. A small hole was on the flat part of its head; evidence of Ryan's marksmanship. He opened its jaws and looked inside. The teeth were razor-sharp, and the mouth and tongue were a solid gray. He poked the roof of its mouth and was surprised to find that it was hard... as a rock.

He sighed in frustration, already assuming that the thing wouldn't be edible. But he wasn't about to let a good meal go to waste in case the opposite were true. He didn't have a knife, so he needed to be a little creative. He grabbed a small stone from the grass beside him and measured its weight in his palm. It was thick, but not too hefty. He raised it up and slammed it into one of the creature's sharp teeth. It shot out with a resounding crack, and Ryan quickly fished it out of the thing's mouth.

He held the point of the tooth out the bottom of his hand, grasping it firmly. He stood up and kicked the creature over on its back. The exposed belly seemed to be less thick, but not by much. Without so much as a wince he dug the tooth in near its neck and dragged it down in a swift movement.

He sighed. Just as he had expected, nothing inside seemed to be edible. He felt around for a moment and took note that everything on the inside was hard as rock.

He stood up and cracked his back, then stooped back down and hefted the animal up with both arms. He threw it over his shoulder and began walking away from his little grassy area. After going for a minute or two, he abruptly turned and walked out into the forest. After attaining a respectable distance, he unceremoniously dumped the creature at the base of a tree.

He couldn't eat it, so surely something in the forest could make a meal out of it? And be far away from him at the same time?

He retreated to his area and sat down at the base of a tree. He leaned his back up against the trunk and sighed. There was nothing left to do but wait for the sunrise.


Earlier...

First Class smiled excitedly. He hadn't received an assignment from the Princess for years. As he and his colleges exited the underused war room he ran a hoof across his mane, making sure it stayed slicked back. The generals began to walk down the spiral staircase to take them back to the castle's main halls, Overwatch was in front of him and Bombshell was behind. His thoughts began to wander to his destination, and that of Overwatch.

Surely the Princesses wouldn't mind... He tapped Overwatch on the flank twice to get his attention. The elderly pegasus snapped up and twisted his head around so quickly it seemed as if it might snap off. First Class recoiled from the violent reaction but regained his composure in a quick few seconds. "Hey, Overwatch, do you mind if we switch towns? I have some family in Fillydelphia that would love to see me."

The old coot's face lightened up a bit. "Sorry, but Princess's orders, Class. Can't do it."

Bombshell's eyebrow rose slightly at the exchange between the two, but he didn't say anything.

He let out an exasperated sigh. "Come on, Overwatch. It wouldn't be that big of a deal. We'll all still get a post at a major town, it's just a little switch. I'm sure sh- they would be fine with it."

Overwatch considered it for a few moments as the sound of hoofsteps on stone echoed in their ears. "Alright," he grumbled at last. "Just don't mention it to anypony."


Ryan stood up and stretched his back. He had woken up quickly, as the sun shone directly on him. He was a light sleeper, a trait that had been instilled in him since he joined with the Couriers. The town before him must have just been waking up, without a doubt. He was certain that some people there had been up long before he was.

There was nothing left to do but walk in, say 'hello' to the locals, and get directions to the nearest gun dealer. Wouldn't be too difficult.

But then why did he have a sinking feeling in his gut?

He shrugged it off, dismissing it as a feeling of hunger, due to his missed meal the night before. He was used to three square meals back at the Lucky 38, even if they weren't always fantastic. He recalled a time where all he had to eat were a bunch of Fancy Lads Snack Cakes. He shivered as he remembered the so-dubbed "Snack Time of Doom." His friends wouldn't speak to him for at least a day afterward.

He straightened his duster and put on his sunglasses, making sure he looked presentable. He walked over to the bridge, ready to cross.

Going to a new town is the same as any other. You need to eat the food, see the sights, use the wrong verbs. You'll be laughed at, mocked or made fun of, or even threatened; but you'll know what's going on. And knowledge is everything. With those thoughts in mind, he strode across the bridge in a way that implied he knew exactly what he was doing. Heads up, shoulders straight, smiles on.

He walked up to one of the houses and paused in the shadow it cast for a moment. He heard chatter from around the corner, it sounded to him like a marketplace of sorts. He pulled the lapels of his duster closer in, took a deep breath, and-

"That's unusual!" he heard an elderly voice holler out.

"What? Oof!" Just as he turned his head, he was tackled by a light-blue blur. The wind was knocked out of him instantly, and he hit the ground hard on his back.

"You're not getting through me!" said the voice again.

Ryan's instincts kicked in. He threw his left elbow at the source of the voice, making contact with something soft. At the same time, his right arm snaked down to his hip and drew Lucky. He then popped his hips up and rolled over to his right, using the momentum from the elbow he had thrown.

He jumped up quickly and posed to shoot at his attacker...

But then he froze. His attacker didn't seem to be a man at all. It- he, definitely a he, looked like a horse. Sort of. It's legs were much more blocky, and there was the fact that he was wearing a combat jacket. He was struggling to get up, head down, snorting heavily.

Ryan dropped his arm. "That's new," he said, stunned. He holstered Lucky and stood up fully. "You look like a horse, but you're not quite there. You talked earlier, which means you have vocal cords, and that you're sentient. That's beautiful! I love it!"

He paused, a grin on his face. But then it fell slack quickly. "Oh, wait just a minute." He pulled up his Pip-Boy and tabbed over to the maps. "Ponyville..." He looked up again, the smile back on his face. "I get it! You're a pony, is that right?" He laughed out loud. "That's excellent! I love it when people have a sense of humor with these things!" He walked forward and stopped by the side of the sitting and confused-looking pony.

"Hold on," noticed something soft and downy on the pony's side. "You're not a pony! You're a pegasus! That's brilliant!" He paused, stretching down a hand to spread the wing out to the side. "You must be able to fly, even through your wings are so small compared to your body size. Like a bee!"

He held up his hands and made a square with his fingers. His left eye squinted shut as he looked through his finger frame with his right. " Or, given wing shape, speed should have to compensate for body mass, then." His face brightened up again as he drew another conclusion. "Maybe more like a hummingbird, then. That is just fantastic."

His face fell again and he took a step back. "Guess I'm not in the Mojave anymore. Unless Atë actually just knocked me out and suspended me in some virtual reality. That would suck." He turned around and began pacing. "But that would mean I'm in a Vault experiment. And every Vault VR experiment has a fail-safe to extract the user!" A victorious smile took over his features. "But wait, they could only plan sims from three templates, and this isn't one. Damn."

He finally took note of his surroundings, and, to his surprise, there was a ring of ponies around him. Each was a different pastel color, and all had funny-looking manes. Looking over their heads, he noted that the ring was at least four bodies thick. Several pegasai flapped gently in the air over the crowd. He took notice of how easily the pegasai were keeping airborne, despite how slowly their wings were flapping.

He looked at the mob surrounding him. "You all look surprised. That's fascinating." His eyes caught something while he mused over the facial expressions. "You there!" pointed out a random pony in the front of the crowd. The rest backed away quickly with a gasp of fright. The random pony himself just sat down quickly. He was slate gray, with a spiked black mane that ran down the back of his neck. Ryan was running off the assumption that he was male, due to the flatter muzzle.

Ryan walked forward and kneeled, then put his hands on either side of the pony's face and smushed it around. "Interesting," Ryan murmured to the shaking pony, "you have extremely well developed facial features, despite having a muzzle not really designed for expressions." He pulled open the pony's mouth and tilted his head sideways to look inside. "Flat teeth, good for chewing grasses; you're herbivores!" he exclaimed, standing back up and backing away. Then a thoughtful expression passed onto his face. "Wait, that's actually not very interesting. Oh well." He shrugged.

"Hold on! You don't have wings!" He spun back around to face the pony just as he had begun to retreat into the crowd. The pony, panicked, sat down quickly again. Ryan patted his sides, as if wings might be concealed. "No, no you don't have wings," he mumbled, his gaze turning to others gathered around him.

"You there! You have a horn!" The pony he had called out froze up immediately and the crowd backed away from her. The pony was white-ish, with a pink mane that cascaded down and ended in swirls. He bent down to look in her face. "You have a horn, but what is it used for?" he thought out loud. "You're an herbivorous species, which means it's not a weapon... Hmmph." He filed it away in his mind to consider later.

He stood up and clapped, causing the crowd to flinch. "Well, you're fascinating and all, but I should probably-" He was cut off as a noise sounded from his Pip-Boy. He looked down at it and flipped over to the Data screen, then the Quests tab.

"New World Blues"
-Go with your captors to speak with the Princess
-[Completed]Rediscover civilization.

He looked back up, confused. "But, what?"

Then, in a sudden flash, he couldn't move. He was surrounded by a soft light-purple aura, just an inch from touching his skin. "That's quite enough!" he heard a female voice from above him. With a little effort he craned his neck back so he could look up to where the voice came from.

Lucky enough for him, the owner of said voice lowered from the sky. It belonged to a female pony, colored lavender with a two-toned mane, dark purple with a pink strip. "Wait, you have a horn, and wings!" He laughed. "So that means that your species is named 'pony', but you have common minor mutations that change your physical form. This just gets stranger and stranger! Darwin would have a field day here!" he exclaimed.

The mare, he supposed that would be the correct term since they were so equine in shape, tilted her head in confusion. "What are you? I've never seen anything like you before."

Ryan sighed. "There goes any hope of there being more humans around here," he mumbled before continuing in a louder voice, "I'm a human. Species homo sapien." He made sure to pronounce the words clearly so she didn't misunderstand them.

"Uh huh," she nodded before turning to the skittish crowd around them. "Alright everypony, you can relax now. Just go back to what you were doing." She looked back at Ryan, a spark in her eyes, surrounded by suspicion and mistrust, but a spark nonetheless.

"Thank you for capturing it, Princess, I'm not as young as I used to be," said the only pony left from the crowd, the pegasus that had tackled Ryan when he walked into town. The mare, Princess apparently, turned around to look at the pony. "Overwatch? What are you doing here?"

"Looking for that thing, thank you very much. Princess' orders."

"Well, it's great to see you again. We should go get it to her, that sounds important."

The voices faded into the background as Ryan's mind raced with all the new information. Princess? That implies a feudal order, but there's more than one? Must be a distribution of power among authority. The Queen should only be a figurehead, if the Princesses can order captures like that. Females are definitely the predominant gender, not many males. Funny that they're not mentioning a Queen or a King, either.

He felt his body shift, then lift into the air. He hovered a few feet above the ground, suspended by the colorful glow. "And where is that coming from?" he wondered aloud. His gaze wandered around the area, then focused on the horn of the Princess. It seemed to be surrounded by a shimmering aura of the same color that encased him. "So that's what the horns are for!" he exclaimed, drawing the attention of the two ponies that had been conversing.

"You're controlling this with your horn, then. It's strong too, I can barely move." He wrenched his neck forward and bent the aura slightly. His head tilted downward to get a better look at the ponies below. They both had their mouths open in shock, which in turn surprised Ryan slightly.

He raised an eyebrow, then, in an experiment, pushed his left arm down with as much force as he could muster. It lowered to its normal resting position beside his hip. He looked back at the ponies, only to see that both their pupils and irises had dilated to minuscule size, while their jaws were practically touching the floor.

Hmm... "So what's this made of, anyway? I've never seen a force-field that conforms to body shape, or that can be bent and refracted, so that's out. Not getting any rads, so it's not a plasma-barrier." He stuck his tongue out and licked it, then smacked his lips in thought. "Tastes like purple, but what does that mean..." he trailed off with a thoughtful expression on his face. It brightened up a moment afterward when he thought he figured it out.

"It's pure energy! The horn acts like a conduit so you can give your innate energy shape! And you're obviously very good at controlling the energy, very strong with it, and I shouldn't be able to move at all; if your expressions are anything to go off of!"

The pair shot a look at each other, then their mouths closed simultaneously.

"No, there's a problem with that. If you were to theoretically hold that much energy in yourself at one time, or go for an extended period without using it, then that would cause an overflow of energy. Evolution wouldn't have that, so that means you draw energy from somewhere else..." He paused and looked around at the landscape. "Which means it must be the planet itself. That's what I must have felt when I walked into this town, the collective energies of its inhabitants."

It was a complete guess, but they both seemed to react to it like he was correct.

"So you can manipulate this energy field, but he can't? No, that doesn't seem right. You wouldn't be able to coexist like this if one common mutation had so much more power over than the other." His eyes trailed over the blue pony: Overwatch. He remembered how odd it was that his wings were so small...

"So that's how it works. You can manipulate the energy field too, but in a different way. Your wings must be connected to it, that's how you can fly so easily." He stopped for a moment and let his mind catch up to his mouth. "Your species is really, really fascinating!" He stopped again, lost in thought.

Overwatch and the Princess both glanced at each other, then Overwatch closed his eyes in concentration. "The Princess is on her way," he said with a slight quiver in his voice.

Ryan studied the two of them. They were scared, that much was clear. They seemed nervous too, like he had put them on edge. It was clear that they understood how different he was. And he was reasonably sure that they didn't expect to see him make so many deductions in so quick of a time. 'The Princess is on her way'... Overwatch must have some sort of communication link with someone to be able make contact like that without a horn.

Well, hold on. If he can use that like she does, and he doesn't have a horn, then shouldn't I, theoretically, be able to do it too? Worth a shot.

But then he heard the sounds of hooves on dirt and the flapping of wings. Excited voices called out, speaking about the "thing" that "Twilight" had caught. There were six of them, at least. They were all female voices, one tomboyish, one soft, one refine, one... country? Their voices soon faded as the sound of large wings flapping greeted their ears. Ryan paused in his thoughts to see what had arrived that quieted down the ponies that had "captured" him.

A great white mare fluttered down before them. It was clear to Ryan that she was powerful, as the ponies had completely hushed up. Ryan sized her up quickly. The multi-colored mane flowing in an invisible wind, the regalia, and the sheer size difference. She was the Princess they were speaking about earlier. She said some words, but Ryan ignored them, his eyes closed. He had to figure out what he was doing, and he had to do it quickly.

He felt something. A sort of electric warmth present far down inside his body. He envisioned his hands gathering it up and bringing up from the depths of his mind. He strained mentally, struggling to grasp whatever it was that he was feeling. His face scrunched up in irritation. In some remote part of his brain he registered that the Princess had stopped speaking, but he didn't care.

He had gotten it. He felt a new presence in his mind; pure energy.

His eyes snapped open, to be greeted by the face of a very confused-looking white pony.

Then he exploded. Energy coursed through him, sending green bolts of plasma shooting off in every direction. The purple aura around him shattered, sending quickly-fading flecks of lavender everywhere. He groaned and ground his teeth together. It felt like part of his body was rebelling against him, taking control for a brief moment and using him to lash out at anything nearby. After a few more seconds of excruciating pain, the energy within him shut off, and he fell to the ground with a thud.

His senses felt dulled. He barely registered a cyan hoof flying by his face and the sounds of muffled voices echoed in his ears. With great effort, he lifted a hand onto his chest and felt around the pockets there. One of them seemed bulkier than the rest and he tugged it open. With sluggish hands he withdrew a shot of Med-X and jabbed it into his arm.

The sudden injection gave him some of his strength back. The pain throbbing throughout his body faded slightly, and his senses began to return to him, although in a more subdued fashion. When he came to completely, he noticed that the area was empty, save for one pony.

The face of the Princess loomed over him, looking down in concern. "Are you alright?" she asked.

Ryan nodded quickly, eyes flicking back and forth between the Princess' two violet eyes. His eyes then focused on the hoof looming between them. He reached up and grabbed it, then allowed himself to be pulled up. She was stronger than she looked.

"Who are you?" she asked when he was up on his feet.

"I'm The Courier," he responded simply, if not sleepily.

"Well, Courier, you have surprised me; which is something that does not happen very often these days." She spread her wings out to the sides. "What do you say the two of us have a chat, hmm?"


"So what you're saying is that I'm on a planet named Equis?"

"That is correct."

"And what universe or galaxy is this planet a part of?"

"We're just off the Horsehead Nebula."

"...Why does that not surprise me?"

"Because I'm certain that you have deduced by now that my species has quite the affinity for puns."

"Ah... Alright then."

"What about you? Where is the place you call home?"

"A planet by the name of Earth. We never learned how to use the ambient energy field like you did here. Relied on science instead."

"That sounds quite impressive."

"It is, in many ways. This device on my arm is one of the products that technological studies gave us."

"I see. What purpose does it serve?"

"Many. I primarily use it to keep track of bodily damage, log inventory, and record notes."

"Fascinating."

"And that's just the surface of what it can do. I'd love to give you a demonstration sometime of its other functions."

"I look forward to it."

"But I must say, this planet is absolutely beautiful. Never seen so much of the color green in my life."

"I'm glad you like it. So what is the state of your world then? Is it a nice place?"

"We blew it up."

"It sounds lovely-" Celestia suddenly choked on the tea she was drinking as she realized the implications of what Ryan said. A napkin was quickly enveloped in a golden aura and raised to her lips, where it dabbed frantically. She coughed once and then continued. "What do you mean?"

"About 200 years before I was born, the countries of the world launched nuclear missiles. A very large amount of nuclear missiles. Shortly put, the world burned and simmered for a good hundred years or so, then my species began to return. We, most of us, at least, had moved underground to vaults to survive. It was quite nice, I hear, despite never seeing the sun." This isn't the Wasteland, don't scare her.

An awkward silence fell over the table. The two were conversing over tea, in the same spot just outside the market of Ponyville where Ryan had been attacked. Celestia had requested a table brought out from a nearby café. The managers had protested at first, but then they saw who was asking.

"But, nuclear implies radiation, correct?"

Ryan raised an eyebrow. "Yes, it does." He sipped his tea.

"While our communities do not rely just on the sciences, such as your planet's do, we know our way around the elements and possess a higher-than-basic understanding of nuclear physics." Celestia tried to dismiss the slightly smug look on her face.

"Of course. To answer your implied question, yes, some areas are still highly irradiated and we can't access them yet. Luckily enough, I managed to take control of an city mostly untouched by the bombs."

"I'm glad you changed the course of the conversation. Tell me about yourself, Courier."

"My parents grew up in one of the vaults that I told you about, I walked across the wastelands of a dead country, then I settled down and assumed control of the city of New Vegas."

Celestia blinked. "I... see. And how is life in this dead country? Surely nuclear warfare would have left ugly scars on the land."

Ryan smiled coldly. "It's something you could never imagine," he said.

Celestia looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to continue. When he didn't, she sighed. "I understand that you don't wish to speak about it. Very well. Do you mind telling me about the weapon you carry, then?"

"Alright." Ryan drew his pistol hesitantly. "This is Lucky. I'm sure if you've developed an understanding for nuclear physics then you know what a gun is."

Celestia nodded, wanting him to continue.

"This fires .357 magnum bullets from a revolving chamber. I sometimes use other types of ammunition that I make myself, but I generally stick to what's supposed to be fired from it."

"May I have a look?" she asked politely.

Ryan looked at the gun and felt over the little club in its handle. "Alright," he said after a moment. "But be careful with it."

Celestia smiled warmly at him, then the pistol was enveloped in a golden glow. It lifted into the air and hovered in front of Celestia's face. She examined it from a few angles, then set it down gently on the table between the two. Ryan reached forward to pick it up, but Celestia interrupted him with her voice.

"If I may ask a few questions before you sheath it?"

"Shoot. No joke intended."

The two shared a small smile before she continued. "You named this gun, correct? Why Lucky?"

"It seemed to fit, honestly. Especially given the way I got it, and the way it performs in combat. Had it etched on there in silver."

"I assume that most guns of this type do not share its ornate features?"

"No. The other .357 revolvers that I see have an antler handle, shorter barrel, and they don't fire as quickly. The... experiments that I have done on it and others like it gave me some strange conclusions."

"Care to share?"

"Well, as I said before, other .357 magnums don't have as high of a fire rate and the bullets don't penetrate as much when they're fired. And..." he hesitated for a moment.

"Hmm?" Celestia leaned forward expectantly.

"...I'm just luckier with this gun," he answered.

Celestia seemed unsatisfied with the answer. "Go on."

Ryan clasped his hands together. "I tend to be lucky. Just in general. Things go my way far more often than they should, and this gun only pushes that effect."

"I'm not sure I understand."

"I'll demonstrate. Do you happen to have a coin?"

"There should be one beside the kettle."

"Ah." Ryan moved the kettle, nearly burning his hand, and picked up the coin. He examined it for a moment. On one side was the image of two winged unicorns circling each other around the sun and moon. He flipped it over to see a portrait of a pony. Upon closer inspection he noticed that it strongly resembled Celestia... "Oh," he said in realization. He looked up at Celestia to see her looking to the side, just as she did in the coin. Ryan had no doubt she was doing it on purpose.

"So you're on the coin?" he asked.

"That is correct," she answered.

"There is no queen, there is no king, the power stops at you?"

"Also correct."

"And you're much, much older than you look."

"Very correct, though I have to ask how you drew that conclusion," she said, slightly astonished.

"Wear on the metal of the coin. It's gold, so age takes its toll heavily. I estimate its age to be at least at 50 years." He stopped and looked at her. "So how old does that make you? And how did you retain your looks?" he asked, slightly wary due to the way the conversation had progressed.

"I have been alive for a few centuries," she answered casually.

"Alright. Goddess, I assume?" After what he had gone through to get here, he was ready to believe just about anything.

"That's what I'm told."

"What do you reign over?" he asked, then added, "With a name like that I think my guess is already correct."

"The sun. I raise and lower it at the beginning and end of each day. Just as my sister, Luna, does with the moon."

"I'm not sure if I believe that. In my galaxy, the Solar System, our planets are all heliocentric. Your planet must be absolutely massive to have a fully-formed star orbiting it."

"Well magic does work in interesting ways," she said mysteriously, doing nothing to confirm or deny Ryan's suspicions of the true nature of the star system.

"Mmm hmm." There was a pause, but Ryan suddenly exclaimed, "Oh! I forgot about the coin! Here." He passed the gold bit to her. "Can you flip that?"

"Yes, I can."

"Good, do it."

She flipped it into the air. While it spun, Ryan called out "Tails."

It landed on the wooden table with a thunk. Celestia inspected it where it fell. "Correct," she said. "But this doesn't prove much," she said.

"Toss it again," was all Ryan said. He looked off into the distance, gazing at the terrain surrounding the town.

Celestia flipped it.

"Tails."

"Correct."

She flipped it again.

"Heads."

"Correct."

"Tails."

"Correct."

"Heads."

"Correct."

"Heads."

"Correct."

Celestia flipped it a good 20 more times, Ryan getting it correct all but twice. He had slunk down to prop his head up on his wrist during the process, but Celestia seemed fascinated by his ability.

"Are you satisfied, Celestia?"

She stopped just as she flicked the coin into the air again. It hit the table and interrupted their silence. After a quick moment she regained her composure and left the bit alone. "Yes, yes of course. But I must say, how did you find out about this?"

"The Vit-O-Matic Vigor Tester. A machine designed to tell you how special you were, and that's S-P-E-C-I-A-L as an acronym, you see. It shows you where you stand on seven basic statistics on a scale of one-to-ten. When I measured it the first time, after my... accident," he reached a hand up to touch a little scar near the top of his head, "the machine burst into flames. 'S' through 'A' was all normal, you see, but the 'L;' Luck." He paused and looked directly into Celestia's eyes. "It's funny how an idea so simple can turn out to be such a huge advantage in the world. The odds are always stacked in my favor, and that makes everything too easy."

Celestia raised an eyebrow at the bold statement, made note of it. They had been talking for the better part of two hours, and she still hardly knew anything about him. "Tell me about the city you live in."

Ryan took a sip of tea, his mood snapping from dark to energetic in an instant. "New Vegas. I own and operate it, along with seeing over the various factions that settled in the surrounding area. It's part of a much larger area called the Mojave Wasteland. The previous overseer of New Vegas, a man named Mr. House, sheltered most of the city from the bombs when they fell. Then he waited for 200 years for the area to repopulate. I took over for him about seven years ago. I fixed many of the problems with the infrastructure, calmed down tensions between residents and squatters, and made many friends along the way."

"I suspect that an area like that would be much sought after? Was there no opposition?"

"I was caught in a four-way war. One side was the New California Republic. They represented those who wanted to settle the West again and rebuild from the ashes of the past world. I allied myself mostly with them. On another side were the Legion." His face scrunched up, disgusted. "Horrible people. They were of the 'holier-than-thou' mentality, and they wanted the West to conform to their ideas."

"I take it you don't like them."

"It runs deeper than that. The crimes those people committed were atrocious." He drew a breath. "I couldn't let it stand." The words hung in air with a sense of finality.

"I can't possibly imagine-"

"Then don't. Trust me."

Celestia looked slightly miffed, but motioned for him to continue anyway.

"Then on the final side was Mr. House and the city of New Vegas. I had been around the town, shaking hands and offering smiles. It was obvious that things were bad. Most of the settlers there weren't opposed to NCR settlers coming in to the city, but they didn't like the way it was done. NCR strode in like they owned the place, but they didn't. Mr. House did a fine job keeping them all in check, but he never did anything more than that, and only for a price."

"I get the sense that something big happened that allowed you to take over."

"Your sense is correct. It was a battle, you see. The Second Battle of Hoover Dam, they called it. As the name implies, it was a fight over who controlled the dam in the Mojave Wasteland. The Legion was going to use it to choke out New Vegas, and NCR wished to fight off the Legion and hopefully restore the dam." He stopped.

"But didn't you say there were four sides in this fight?"

"I did. I was the final side."

Celestia's face betrayed her surprise at the implications of his statement. "You fought not one, but three armies and survived?" she asked incredulously.

"That's partially right. I did fight, but only against the Legion. I was the wild card in the battle, you see. For all intents and purposes during that fight I was on NCR's side. I fought tooth and nail to eliminate all the Legion at the dam, then destroy their leader, Legate Lanius."

"So what happened then?"

"I played my hand. Before the fight, I had assassinated both Mr. House and the commander of the Legion, Caesar; and I allowed another assassin to kill President Kimball of the NCR. I took control of Mr. House's army of newly upgraded combat robots and had them sent to the dam. Celestia looked impressed at the tactical move he had made, destroying all three of the leaders of his enemies' forces.

"Now things are finally calming down. The Families that run the casinos have a full cooperation with me, as do the few factions that live outside the city walls. We work together now to make the Mojave Wasteland a safe place for us to live. I even have plans in place to expand the Strip, the main street of casinos in the main city, and allow people to buy housing there. I can fund it all personally at this point, so I figured 'why not?'"

"That sounds very admirable. Not at all unlike what I would try to accomplish here, ruling over Equestria. But I am still left with another question."

"And what is that?"

"How did you arrive here?"

Ryan sighed. "I met a man named Wayland. Joseph Wayland. He was a member of The Couriers, an order of package-carriers that traveled across the lands. It's something of a fact in the Wasteland that Couriers make or break civilizations. We all had received years of training to stay alive on the road, each of us with our own special area; there was about 20 of us in all. I specialized in Tactical Assessment, something that wasn't of fantastic use in a bullet-hell wasteland.

"Anyway, Wayland came to me in New Vegas, telling me that The Couriers wanted me back. It took some time, but I eventually agreed to go with him, across the wastes to California. About two-thirds of the way there, we stopped at a freshly destroyed town he called Calico. I knew something was wrong, but I waited for too long to call him on it.

"He revealed himself to be Atë, the goddess of misfortune. So, as you can guess, she tried to get rid of me. She started calling me names, apparently assumed that I was a demigod, which I am not, all because I'm lucky. We fought, she siphoned some of my Luck, I dropped a Holy Hand Grenade, and then I jumped through a portal she created. That portal dropped me down near the summit of that mountain over there," he pointed it to Celestia, "and then I walked here."

"So you were transported here by a divine being?"

"Yes, I guess."

"Does she know you are here?"

Ryan thought about it for a minute and reviewed what she said before they fought. "No," he said decidedly, "I don't think so. The way she phrased it seemed to imply that all she wanted was to 'remove me from the world.' I don't think she cared where I ended up, as long as it was far away from Earth."

"I see. That's certainly a relief." They paused, then Celestia continued. "How did you know she had drained some of your Luck?"

"The device on my arm, I suppose now is as good of a time as any to give you a demonstration, keeps track of my special statistics just like the Vigor Tester." He lifted up his Pip-Boy and hit the button to go to the Stats screen. Celestia stood and walked over next to him so she could see what he was doing. "I just have to turn this knob to go to the S.P.E.C.I.A.L tab, and-"

He froze when he saw what it said.

"Courier? Didn't you say that it gave a rating of 1-10?"

Ryan nodded slowly, eyes stuck staring ahead.

"Then why, after bragging that your Luck was so off-the-charts, does it say 9 here?"