Chapter 4 > In which cooperation is gained
“I’ll blow the insides of yer head all over four counties!”
Alright, time to take stock of my current situation. I was apparently being held hostage for some sort of sacrifice to the Stable so that the reactor wouldn’t overload. I had, thankfully, escaped however, and my captors didn’t know it yet…
“Hey! The outsider is gone!” a voice from outside the armory shouted.
Alright, scratch that, my captors do know that I’m gone. I am, however, the proud owner of their entire armory. All I’ll have to worry about is the weapons that the security officers already had on them while on patrol.
Though now that I think about it, there wasn’t that much in here in the first place. Which probably means that most of the guns and batons are actually out there waiting for me to run into them. Apple-freaking fantastic.
“She has a PipBuck, right?” another voice from outside the armory door said.
“Well yeah…” said the first voice.
“So use her PipBuck tag to track her down! Geesh, do I gotta think of everything?” replied the second voice. PipBuck tag? That could be a problem, and I had no time to go and find the tag in the maze of matrices inside the dang thing. And forget taking it off. Not only was it my new collar’s detonator, but they’re nearly impossible to take off without the right tools anyway. “Here, while you do that, I’ll radio the other security officers to alert them of the situation.”
Uh oh. “Hiss, get ready!” I said, pushing the ‘open’ button on the door and levitating Mezzer up. The last thing I wanted was them to get the word out that I was on the loose.
As soon as I opened the door, I was greeted by the stunned looks of two security ponies, both earth ponies, one a stallion and one a mare. They had both been looking at their PipBucks and were totally unprepared for me to burst through the door right next to them. Hiss leaped for the stallion, knocking him over, a shout of alarm turning into a scream of pain as Hiss’s fangs bit deep into his shoulder. I took aim at the mare with Mezzer and steadied myself on my hooves, knocking my PipBuck against the door frame as I did so…
The world slowed to a crawl. Everything just stopped moving! I couldn’t move! What was going on!? Just as I was about to panic, words flashed in my vision.
>Welcome to the Stable-Tec Arcane Targeting Spell (S.A.T.S) tutorial! Your PipBuck has registered that this is the first time you have activated S.A.T.S, so let us take this time to say congratulations! Because this is the first time that you have activated S.A.T.S, you have either bumped into the activation button by accident, gotten yourself into a fight, or both! If you have bumped into the activation button by accident, please think the word ‘quit’ loud and clear, and the tutorial will end. If you wish to continue with the tutorial because you require assistance in fighting the zebra menace, please think the word ‘continue.’
Well, there was no zebra menace, but I could use any help I could get in combat. I went ahead and thought ‘continue,’ wondering what was going to happen.
>In order to fully utilize S.A.T.S, you must first understand what it does. S.A.T.S gives a pony what they need most in a combat situation; time to think. Unlike zebras, us ponies are not naturally violent creatures,
I smiled a bit on the inside. Clearly this machine didn’t know what it was talking about.
...and so we require more time to think about what part of the zebra we want to hit, and how much chance we have of hitting said part with our current skill with the weapon we are wielding. The PipBuck 3000 will use a long and calculated process, designed by the best software engineers at Stable-Tec, to determine your skill with whatever weapon it detects you are wielding and give you the best options and opportunities to strike your enemy with the greatest and most efficient results. Simply think about targeting a specific area of a specific target, review your chances to hit, and release the spell, and watch your attacks land every time! Keep in mind that your attacks may not land every time due to unfortunate circumstantial and uncontrollable variables that are in no way Stable-Tec’s responsibility and in no way reflect the PipBuck 3000’s ability to function. Have a nice day!
With that, the pony I was aiming at began to glow around the torso. Time was still stopped somehow, because of this S.A.T.S thing, I’m guessing. I imagined myself firing the Mezzer at this pony. Apparently I had a 95% chance of hitting her. I saw in the corner of my eye the ‘S.A.T.S charge’ bar go down a little, and my attack :Fire>Mezzer>Torso queue up in a list of actions. Well all right then. I released the spell.
With no effort or even will of my own, my telekinesis automatically aimed and fired at the pony I had used S.A.T.S on. It was an incredibly weird feeling, like my horn was being hijacked by somepony else and used to fire on this security mare. After the shot was fired, though, I regained control so quickly I almost dropped Mezzer. If I planned on using this more frequently it would take some time getting used to.
The shot from my first experience with S.A.T.S ran straight and true, the strange pulse hitting the security mare dead center in the chest. Awesome! Not that I would have missed in such small quarters, but if I could use this S.A.T.S thing at range, it would make sniping a piece of cake! I shielded my face, waiting for her head to explode like those wolves did back when I first got this thing.
“Whoa… whoa… s-stop the world, I wanna get off…” the security mare said. I looked up, surprised to see that her head hadn’t fragmented in various directions at varying velocities. She was instead rocking back and forth, her eyes dilated and almost looking like they were pointing two directions at once. Hiss looked up from his victim, who was now most assuredly dead if the two big fang-holes in his throat were any indication, and made a questioning noise. He was apparently as stumped as I.
“Um… give me your weapons. And armor. Actually, just give me all you have on you. Please.” I said to the wavering mare, not really expecting her to, but she had stopped fighting, and proper wasteland protocol is that when an enemy surrenders you take their stuff, whether you’re going to take them as a slave or not. It was almost instinctual for me.
“Alright… it’s getting pretty heavy anyway. Here you go nice pony…” she replied, stripping off her security barding, helmet, pistol, baton, and just hoofing it over to me. She even tried to remove her PipBuck, but like I said, they’re a bitch to get off, so she just left it on after trying to gnaw it off a few times.
“Um… ok, now go into the armory and sit there until somepony comes to get you.” I ordered. The purple (now I could see that she was purple. With a blue mane, so basically my color scheme, though her shades were much darker. Terrible helmet mane going on right now though, considering she had just taken it off.) earth pony wobbled into the armory and sat, just as ordered. I closed the door and locked it. “Well then… ok. So Mezzer doesn't just make heads blow up, it hypnotizes ponies too.” I said. I remembered the radscorpions and their reaction to the Mezzer when I ventured into the tunnel outside this Stable. They had been stunned, and didn’t resist when Hiss killed them. “So it’s a stun gun! All right, not as cool as head-blowing-up gun, but actually quite a bit more useful. This’ll make getting a strong potential slave into a collar a piece of cake! Ak!”
I jumped as the door of the armory started to pound. The mare inside was shouting something I couldn’t hear, though I doubt it was very friendly. “The stun wears off after a little while though. Good to know.” I said.
“Parrumoh?” Hiss whined at me.
“Oh, right, escaping. Ok.” I said to him. I looked at the barding at my hooves. It was a sight more protective than the cobbled together stuff I had outside, and in here it could work as a temporary disguise. And it looked about my size. The helmet did have a face-obscuring plate, but it wouldn’t fit around my horn, as it was obviously an earth pony helmet. Oh well, some disguise is better than no disguise, and I really wanted it more for its protective qualities anyways. “Now… where is Shimmercoat? If I find him, then that’s both my protection from security and my ticket out of here.” I said as I put the security barding on.
Hiss pawed at my PipBuck. Oh, right, I could just look up his tag! The whole tracking thing worked two ways. These things are pretty neat when you think about it. I scrolled through the list of ponies in the Stable that my PipBuck could identify, all of the names unfamiliar to me. Hmm… I didn’t find Shimmercoat’s tag in the list. I checked again, just to be sure. Nope, no Shimmercoat. Maybe his tag was removed from the normal list because he’s the Overstallion? In any case, I needed to move away from this dead body, somepony was bound to come check up on the prisoner sometime soon. “C’mon Hiss, lets move. Be quiet and don’t attack unless I say so.” I said. Hiss disappeared again and I quickly headed down the hallway, trying to act as if I had every right to be where I was at any given time. That’s what security does, right?
So far so good. I had managed to get two floors up from where the security office was, and nopony had raised any alarms yet. It would only be a matter of time, though. I had run into a few ponies on my way up, but none of them paid me any attention. Looks like even in a Stable where everypony knows each other you still want to avoid drawing the attention of security officers. I was on the lookout for Shimmercoat at every turn, but the handsome stallion just seemed to have vanished. I groaned in frustration, stopping at a corner and looking around for a sign.
Oh, look. ‘Mess Hall.’ That’s a sign. My empty stomach grumbled. I suppose a quick snack wouldn’t hurt anypony. And maybe he’s in there, yeah. I’m inspecting the mess hall for my target, and if I happen to get food while I'm there, that’s a happy accident. Yep. That’s how it is.
“ATTENTION STABLE 11! THERE IS A WILD ANIMAL LOOSE IN THE STABLE. IT HAS ALREADY KILLED ONE SECURITY OFFICER. PLEASE DO NOT PANIC.” The PA system crackled over the speakers that lined the hallways.
I could hear milling and concerned voices murmuring inside the mess hall. Right, don’t panic he says. That’ll work.
Hold up, that voice sounded like Shimmercoat! He was probably in the Overstallion’s office if he was using the PA system! Now I just gotta find out how to get there from here… I’ll study my PipBuck’s map over a snack. I trotted into the mess hall, looking like I had a purpose. Hiss’s invisible form followed close behind me.
“ALSO, A PRISONER BEING HELD AT THE SECURITY OFFICE HAS ESCAPED. PLEASE BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY, AND IF YOU SEE ANYTHING, REPORT IT TO THE NEAREST SECURITY OFFICER. THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION.”
Well… balls. Looks like somepony had finally reported my absence. I was lucky to make it this far without any warning getting out, to tell the truth. As I headed over to the Mr. Handy serving food behind the counter, something small and fast bumped into me.
“Oof, sorry officer, I’m just… eep!” Crescent Wrench said, looking up at me, rubbing her nose. As soon as she recognized me though, her eyes went wide and she started to shake with fear.
I’m never going to get something to eat, am I? I thought fast. “If you say or yell anything, Hiss will attack you. From behind.” I said. I saw the shimmer of Hiss position itself behind Crescent. She instinctively backed up from me as I spoke, and bumped into him. She froze, and Hiss chose this moment to do his little hiss-growl thing.
Crescent clearly wanted to scream, but only a small whimper escaped her lips. We had to move before anypony noticed us. I looked around, and while the mess hall was mostly empty, we were getting a few strange looks from the ponies eating delicious looking sandwiches at the tables… oh I wanted a sandwich so badly… no Coin! Focus! I turned to Crescent. “Lead me to the Overstallion’s office. Hurry!” I ordered, moving out of her way. It would be much faster if a native to this Stable guided me there than me trying to find my way using a map. She gulped, nodded, and cantered nervously through the door, with Hiss and I following close behind.
As we walked through the winding hallways of the Stable (seriously, this place was built like a maze), Crescent glanced nervously behind her at me. “Yes?” I asked. Might as well get her talking, maybe it will calm her down. I didn’t really want to hurt her, but she was easier to control if she thought I did. I was used to finding ponies ‘control’ buttons. It came with my chosen vocation. Crescent was easy to frighten, and did things you wanted her to do out of fear. I don’t know where her breaking point is, but it’s likely that she has one. I’ll have to be careful not to push her too hard.
Or maybe I do know where it is. She did urinate herself the first time I pushed her for answers. I still had to be careful though, wouldn’t want her to freeze up on me on the way to the Overstallion’s office.
We went up another floor, and we passed a few intersections that I thought I recognized. “Are we getting close?” I asked. Crescent nodded stiffly.
“W-w-what are you going to do to us?” she stammered. It looked like she was about to cry.
“What do you mean?” I asked back. All I intended to do was get Shimmercoat to teleport me back out. That whole ‘one way teleport’ crock was just that. Crock. But I wanted her to keep talking, so I didn’t mention that.
The beige mare looked back at me again. “W-well… mommy said that if the sacrifices found out what we were going to do to them, that they would fight us and… and…”
“And what?” I said, softly, trying to sound comforting and threatening at the same time. It wasn’t easy.
“And k-k-k-kill us all! You won’t kill us, will you? All the ponies I’ve ever known live here! My mommy lives here! Why can’t you just help us by being the sacrifice just this once? You won’t ever have to do it again, and you’ll get to leave!” Crescent said.
Hold up, what? Something didn’t make sense with that last sentence. “What do you mean, ‘just this once?’ Isn’t being the sacrifice lethal?” I said.
Crescent’s eyes widened again. They do that a lot, she had a very expressive face. Have I mentioned before that she was as cute as my dear ol’ Ma’s pancakes? Even with the little syrup smiley faces on them. “Lethal? You mean like, kills ponies?” she said, stopping in her tracks as if the very thought rocked her core. “Oh, no, not at all! What gave you that idea?”
“Umm…” I said, but before I could answer, Crescent cut in.
“Oh, I see.” She seemed to calm down immensely, and didn’t seem as scared anymore. This could be a good or bad thing. I listened for whatever she had to say. “This is all a big misunderstanding. Shimmercoat told us that the sacrifice didn’t get killed, they just had to leave the Stable. It’s part of Stable-Tec’s re-integration-with-the-surface program. But we don’t want anypony we know to leave us forever, so he teleports a guest in every year to act as the sacrifice in order to fool the Stable’s systems so that it won’t kick us out.” Crescent said, smiling as if she had just been particularly clever.
I stared at her for a second. Surely Shimmercoat hadn’t been able to pull the wool over the Stable’s eyes? There were historical records that the sacrifice was used as a pony battery for the Stable’s luxury systems! “Um, if it isn’t that bad, why is it such a big secret to the sacrifices?” I asked.
“Oh, well it’s so great in here that if they were told that they had to leave just after they got here, they would get really mad. Just like you…” With this, Crescent seemed to remember what exactly we were doing, and she clammed up again.
Right. Well either Crescent’s mom told Crescent a sweet story to make the ‘sacrifices’ these ponies did every year go down easier with her, or Shimmercoat had managed to make the whole Stable forget what their real reason was. Considering I had figured out the real reason in a day by reading an old burnt book, it was more than likely that the first option was what was going on here, but it didn’t change my objective any. Shimmercoat lying to me about that whole ‘genetic variability’ garbage meant that he had something to hide. At first I thought it was just the fact that he wanted to kill me, but this latest revelation from Crescent pointed at the possibility that there might be something more, and I aimed to find out what.
We approached the Overstallion’s office, finally. I don’t know if all Stable’s were built this maze-like, but this one must have been modeled after the Canterlot Labyrinth. “Well here we are! I’ll just be on my way…” Crescent said, turning around. She froze as Hiss growled.
“Oh no you don’t. Things might get hairy in there and I’ll need some leverage. Does Shimmercoat care about his Stable ponies?” I asked.
“Oh we mean the world to him, he’s the best Overstallion that way! I mean, uh… no he hates us. Especially me. He’ll k-k-kill you if I’m with you.” Crescent said, immediately looking down at the ground under her hooves. “… Sorry.” Ok, even she knew that was a terrible lie.
“C’mon. You first.” I said. She opened the door and walked in, myself close behind.
Shimmercoat looked up from his desk, adjusting his half-moon specs with his blue-glow of magic. He whipped his gorgeous mane with a forehoof and then crossed his them, looking over his glasses with his chin resting on his fetlocks. How did he get his glasses to gleam like that? I was once again blown away by his good looks, but not totally hypnotized like I’d been hit by a Mezzer shot. There was something up with this pony. “Well hello there.” He said. “I hear you’ve killed one of my guards, and locked up another. All in such a short while too. I expected you to stay in my room waiting for me after your bath.”
“I bet you say that to a lot of mares.” I replied, frowning. He was cocky, too sure of himself. I looked in the corners of the room. There didn’t seem to be any turret placements… just his horseshoe-shaped desk in front of me, the window to the atrium on my left, and a big computer mainframe behind him. Why was he so sure of himself? “Why did you bring me here? And none of that genetic variability crud.”
“Crud?” Shimmercoat said, smirking. Was he mocking me?
“My Ma told me never to curse, and I listen to my dear ol’ Ma.” I said. I looked at Crescent Wrench. She wasn’t even paying attention to what was going on, just staring slack-jawed at Shimmercoat. Hoo boy. She had it bad for him, it looked like. Couldn’t blame her, of course, he was a fine piece of meat. But that’s all he was, in my opinion. “Now tell me exactly what’s going on here, or…” I nudged the invisible mass next to me with a hind hoof. Hiss reappeared behind Crescent, fangs bared. “Or little miss Wrench here gets it.”
“And now we’ve devolved to petty threats on the life of a little mare barely out of fillyhood? Tsk Tsk.” Shimmercoat said. He pushed a button on his desk, and the door behind me closed. I heard it lock with an audible clicking noise. You’ve got to be kidding me.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” I said. “I have the contents of your armory! You’re unarmed and unarmored! How could you even think of taking me and Hiss on alone in a locked room! And I have a hostage!” His reactions were chaotic. This wasn’t how I had envisioned the confrontation going down at all.
“Confusing, isn’t it?” He said, stepping out from behind his desk. I got closer to Crescent, who was still standing there like an idiot. “It’s amusing to see that you think you still have control. You see, there are certain perks when you’re the Overstallion of a Stable. One of those things is complete control of your environment. Always. No matter what an outsider scum of a pony is threatening to do.” He shook his head in disgust. “Honestly now, she’s just one little filly. Do you think she matters to me? To the Stable? Go ahead, have your abomination bite her. See if I care.”
This seemed to snap Crescent out of her reverie. The object of your affections literally throwing you to the nightstalkers will do that. “W-w-what? B-but Overstallion… I-I-I… you were at my cuteceinera! Y-you said… I…” She sat down in shock. “Y-you said… I was… c-c-cute…” tears started to form in her eyes. Good grief, I know that she must have been thrown for a loop there, but this is ridiculous. For his part, Shimmercoat completely ignored her, his eyes focused on me.
“I… but…” I stammered. Was I really going to have to take this kid out? Shimmercoat didn’t understand the rules of the wastes, when a slaver threatens youngsters, they mean what they say! Stupid Stable pony. I growled in frustration. “Hiss! Bite her!”
Hiss hissed, and sank his fangs into Crescent Wrench’s mallet cutie-mark. She screamed as the venom seeped into her veins, and fell to the floor. It was then that Hiss was wrapped in a blue glow and hurled into the wall behind me. “Y-you actually did it!” Shimmercoat stammered, rushing forward to Crescent, completely ignoring me. Her eyes were rolled into the back of her head, and her breathing was shallow.
“Came… from… behind…” she wheezed. Hiss got up and was about to charge, but I raised my hoof in front of him. He stood down. There was no way he was wild, he was too well trained. But I’ll solve that mystery later.
“I don’t pull my bucks. Nopony does, out in the wastes. Maybe you should learn what’s the difference between a threat and a promise, Stable pony.” I said. “I doubt she’ll survive without some antivenom. Does the Stable stock nightstalker antivenom in its medical bay?” I asked, knowing the answer. Shimmercoat just looked up from the prone Crescent Wrench to glare at me. I pressed onwards. “I have some antivenom in my things that I left in the tunnel outside. If you teleport her and I outside, I’ll cure her. You’ll have to hurry though, nightstalker venom acts fast. Terrible way to go too. Let’s hope her eyeballs don’t melt all over the carpet.” That part I made up, but there’s nothing like a little eye-scream to tingle the spine of those with weak constitutions.
“You don’t understand… I can’t teleport anypony out without another sacrifice!” Shimmercoat said. “Part of the power for the spell comes from the current sacrificial pony. I used up enough power getting you in here that if I try to teleport somepony else, in or out, the sacrifice would be burnt up and the Stable’s reactor would blow under the additional stress!”
“How much power does a few luxury systems take anyways? Can’t you just shut them off and live a little less comfortably?” I asked.
“The Stable was designed to automatically blow if the sacrifice isn’t plugged in. The reactor can power all the systems just fine, but it was specifically designed to go up if the Stable didn’t follow Stable-Tec’s rules.” Shimmercoat said, spitting the word ‘Stable-Tec’ like it was a curse. “It’s a leash that they put on the so-called ‘executives’ that they gave this Stable too. And ever since that first Overmare was the first sacrifice, the position of Overpony and sacrifice are one and the same. Every year, we used to have elections for the next Overpony as the previous one went to the sacrificial chamber. Hideous smear campaigns and tyrannical voting blocs were what this Stable was reduced too…”
“Lemme guess. That all changed when you were… voted in?” I said. What kind of crack-a-doodle system is that for a system of government?
Shimmercoat shook his head, and pointed to his cutie mark. A shimmering tower shield. “My purpose is to hold the line, to protect ponies. I was security chief when I was younger than this one…” he looked forlornly at Crescent, who was still twitching on the ground next to him. “A prodigy, they called me. Until my big sister was put up by the so-called ‘Justice Bloc’ as the next Overmare candidate. I couldn’t let that happen, so I volunteered to take her place, everyponies place, so that there wouldn’t have to be a vote that year. A willing sacrifice. Of course the Justice Bloc, who hated my family, and my sister in particular, jumped at the chance for this, and since they had the controlling vote, everypony went along with them.” He looked back up at me. “Over the next twenty years, I disassembled the Blocs, made this Stable a fantastic place to live, and gave everypony a happy life free from the fear that their name might come up in an election. A good portion of the population now thinks that the sacrifices just leave, they don’t die. Only the oldsters still remember the days of the Blocs. You know how I did that?”
I bet I have a guess. “How?” I asked anyways.
“Taking in outsiders. My shield spell can be used to bypass Stable-Tec security, but combining it with a teleport spell takes a lot of magical power, more than I can cast normally. By using the magical drainers in the sacrificial chamber to boost my power, I can take magical energy from the current sacrifice and use it to get a future sacrifice from outside. There’s usually at least one every year that wanders close enough to the Stable to capture them. I thought about using the spell to escape the Stable, but…” he looked at Hiss. “After seeing some of the ponies I brought in, I have the feeling that the wasteland isn’t a place I would find appealing.” He looked back at me, standing up to his full height, which was a little taller than me. “You’ve just killed a filly. I have no qualms whatsoever with sending you to the sacrificial chamber.”
A blue bubble shimmered in front of me. I backed up, bumping into something right behind me. I looked, and saw that the bubble had surrounded me! Shimmercoat’s horn was glowing, surrounding me in a shield spell. He grunted, lifting the shield and myself up and dragging me along toward his desk. Hiss growl-hissed and leapt for Shimmercoat. Another shield surrounded the Overstallion, and Hiss bounced off harmlessly. Shimmercoat was sweating, but looked like he was well practiced at this spell and I guessed that he could probably cast it all day. Hiss was slamming himself into Shimmercoat’s shield again and again, not letting up. Shimmercoat did his best to dodge the nightstalker, rather than just sitting there and absorbing all the damage. That implied that the shields could be broken…
I started to use my Hoof of Honor to bash against the inside of my shield. It dipped lower to the ground, surrounding Crescent Wrench as well as me. When it lifted back up, Crescent was dragged along inside it with me. Apparently it would let ponies in, but not out. Shimmercoat was growling in frustration and effort as he dragged himself, Crescent Wrench, and I to the area behind his desk. He pressed a button on the mainframe, and the desk rose up, revealing a staircase under it. I wonder where this could lead? I started bashing harder against my imprisoning shield as Shimmercoat staggered down the stairs, Hiss bashing up against his shield the whole time. The shields appeared to be permeable to certain things, such as the walls and floor, so that when the bubbles intersected them they didn’t deform or bounce off, they just disappeared into the wall or floor as if they weren’t there. What this meant was that when Shimmercoat decided to sandwich me between the wall and the inner wall of my shield, there was little I could do but be mashed. I think he would have outright crushed me if Crescent Wrench wasn’t in here with me too.
At the bottom of the stairs there was a long, white hallway. I heard a voice over the speakers embedded in the walls. It sounded like a mare with a slightly raspy voice, and she sounded tired, but like she was trying to sound upbeat. “Welcome, loyal employee, to Stable 11’s purity walk! I’m your C.E.O, Scootaloo, and I’m here to guide you to the wonderful world of tomorrow, where everypony has a purpose!” As Shimmercoat struggled against Hiss’s bashing and my struggling, the recording continued as if we were just patiently listening. “In yesterday’s world, ponies choose what they get to be when they grow up. Sure, it’s somewhat delineated by their cutie marks, but they can always change their minds if they want, a cutie mark doesn't set in stone what you can do with your life. Well, look where that got us! It’s a good thing Stable-Tec was around, or otherwise the zebras would have wiped ponykind of the face of Equestria! That’s where you come in, loyal employees…”
The recording stuttered, and the voice at the end sobbed, as if she were about to cry. The next word though was as upbeat as ever. I wonder if she paused the recording for a bit. “Since you work for Stable-Tec, your role is determined by us! With defined, clearly set rules and regulations to what ponies can and can’t do, we can build a better tomorrow! Some ponies will be assigned to feeding their fellow ponies. Others will be assigned to race our latest models of Red Racer scooters, invented by yours truly! You, lucky pony, have been assigned to be your Stable’s sacrifice!” This announcer’s cheer was clearly forced. I wondered what drove her to say such things, even as I was being dragged to my death. “Now while that may not be as exciting as being a Red Racer operator, it’s every bit as important! Your Stable needs you to keep its advanced magical reactor core stable and pumping out all the energy needed to keep the Stable alive! You could say that YOU, yes, YOU are the one who is supporting the whole Stable on your back. I’d say that might be even MORE important that a Red Racer operator. And it is at this point that you are nearly there.” The recording said as we approached the end of the white hallway. The room beyond was pitch black. "With highest honors, loyal employee, I bid you to have a brighter tomorrow!"
The room at the end of the hallway lit up, showing a large, rack-like harness surrounded by robotic limbs, and hooked up by innumerable tubes and wires to a huge computer-like device behind it. In it was the desiccated corpse of a unicorn with the remains of a spiked mane-do. He didn’t look like a Stable pony, obviously. In fact, from the fleeting glances of the red tattoos I saw on his fetlocks, he might have been a member of the Flaming Hooves, a gang I know frequents this area. Shimmercoat turned to Hiss, and as Hiss charged him again, the bubble shield that surrounded Shimmercoat warped and turned itself inside-out, trapping Hiss inside and leaving a sweaty Shimmercoat outside. He then turned to me. “Most sacrifices don’t realize what’s going on until it’s too late, so I’ll give you points for effort. You’re smarter than the average outsider, but that doesn't mean that you’ll suffer any different of a fate.”
Like strawberries I will. I shouted out in fury, slamming the Hoof of Honor into the shield again. It crackled, and disappeared as Shimmercoat gasped. It looked like he was spent, and his horn dimmed. Hiss was still trapped in his shield though, and Shimmercoat was recovering almost as quickly as it took for me to fall to the floor and untangle myself from Crescent Wrench. I needed more time! Wait…
The magic of S.A.T.S activated as soon as I willed it too. So it didn’t need the button pressed… good to know. With time stopped, I could gather my thoughts before Shimmercoat trapped me again. I had just the thing for him. I’ve mentioned before that he was the most handsome stallion I had ever clapped eyes on, and in the stillness of S.A.T.S, that was no different. His eyes were staring straight into mine, righteous fury burning in them. In my line of work you get that look a lot. Well, no matter how good he looked, there was one thing that was missing… one thing that I could remedy with great pleasure.
A stallion could have his looks, but it takes a mare to get him to wear… accessories.
I lined up a Mezzer shot in S.A.T.S, right at his head (95% chance to hit), and released the spell. I mentally sat back and relaxed as my horn automatically glowed, drew the weapon, and fired, all before Shimmercoat could have a chance to react.
The pulse from the Mezzer splashed onto Shimmercoat’s forehead. His beautiful flank hit the floor, and the shield around Hiss disappeared with a ‘pop!’ Before Hiss attacked him, I shouted “Hiss! Down!”
Hiss growl-hissed, but did as he was told. Shimmercoat was rocking back and forth dizzily. “Ugh… W…where am I?” he said. “The lights are so… shiiiiiiiiiiiiny…” He waved his hooves at the lights on the ceiling. And this was the eloquent, controlled Shimmercoat. I smiled an evil smile, adjusted my ski goggles, and walked right up to him.
“Well, darling, you’re at the beauty parlor! Your marefriend brought you.” I said, gesturing towards the twitching Crescent.
“She… she don’t look so good…” Shimmercoat said.
“She has a little head cold, and would feel oh so much better if you put this on for her!” I said, pulling out my homemade slave collar.
“It looks… alright…” Shimmercoat said. He extended his neck, letting me fasten and lock the collar into place. I activated it, and looked at my PipBuck. Yep, there’s the detonator program right there. I kept grinning my evil grin and waited for the Mezz to wear off.
“Ak… what? Hey!” Shimmercoat said, shaking his head and suddenly becoming lucid again. “I… what’s this?” he said, realizing that he now had something around his neck. He touched it with a hoof.
“I wouldn’t mess with it too much if I were you.” I said. “It’s what we up topside call an ‘explosive collar.’ It encourages… cooperation. If you try to take it off, tamper with it in any way, or go more than two hundred meters from me, then your head will blow up. Oh, and the detonator is linked to my PipBuck. If you kill me, or remove my PipBuck in any way, the PipBuck will register me as dead and blow your head up. Also, if I press the ‘detonate’ button because you annoyed me too much, your head blows up.”
Shimmercoat stared at me with an unreadable expression. Finally, he said, “And I’m guessing that if I don’t teleport you to the surface…” he didn’t need to finish the sentence. It was apparent that he had gotten the point.
“Not just me. You’re stuck with me, bucko, you’ll have to come with.” I replied. I nodded to Hiss and Crescent Wrench. “Those two as well, though if you want to leave the kid I wouldn’t blame you. I do actually have some antivenom up in the cave outside the Stable though, so if you want to save her you’ll take her with us, though that’s your prerogative.”
Shimmercoat sat there for a moment. He looked at the pony-battery in the harness. “If I do that, I’ll use up almost all of this pony’s magic… what of the rest of the Stable?” he asked, a faraway look in his eyes.
“They’ll find another sacrifice, I’m sure, or die. From what you told me, though, I doubt that the ‘Blocs’ have fully disappeared, they just went into hiding while you ran the place. Least that’s what I would have done if I were a seat of power being ousted by some idealist. I have no doubt your Stable will survive. Which is more than what you can say about yourself if you refuse me. The way I see it, if I’m going to die, I’m taking you down with me. But if I live, you live. We’re two ponies with a joined life now.”
Shimmercoat put a hoof to the collar again. “Twenty years… twenty ponies saved from sacrifice…” he said. “I was doing something good!” He turned to me, standing up fully. His voice raised to a shout. “I WAS HELPING THE STABLE! I WAS HELPING PONIES! Why do you have to come in here and take that away from us?!” there were tears at the edges of his eyes. I was unimpressed. I decided to set the record straight.
“Actually, those twenty years, from my point of view, were twenty years of unexplained disappearances and kidnappings, deceit, betrayal, and murder.” I turned to the pony in the harness, being drained of energy. “He’s a member of the Flaming Hooves. Might not mean anything to you, but I know that gang. It’s a tight-knit group. I’m almost positive he had a marefriend at least, maybe even somepony calling him a husband. His gang… your Stable… is there a difference? Somepony missed all those sacrifices.” I said. “But so long as it wasn’t somepony you knew, you were ok with that…” I turned to him. “Weren’t you?”
Shimmercoat glared at me for a second… and looked away, like he couldn’t bear to see me. “I know… don’t you think I’ve already thought of that? But… between my friends, my family… the ponies I’ve known for years… and strangers? What would you do?!”
“What I’m doing right now. Look after me and my own. And right now the ‘me’ is being threatened.” I said. “So I’m taking the option that will allow me and my own,” I nodded to Hiss. “To survive. No matter the cost. Isn’t that the same as what you did?”
Shimmercoat slowly trotted over to Crescent, and checked her pulse. “She’s still alive… I thought you said that that abomination’s poison is fast?” he said numbly.
I raised my eyebrow. “It is. She must be tougher than she looks… we need to get her to the surface quickly if we’re to save her, though.”
Shimmercoat took one last look around, and smiled a tired-looking smile. He looked a little older than his thirty-something years. The decades of Overstallionhood seemed to weigh down on him. I realized that he had been in a position of authority for most of his life, and now I’m here, telling him what to do. It was up to him on how to take it, but I hoped that he would see it as a break, a release from responsibility. Sometimes slaves responded positively to that sort of thing.
“I always thought my days in the Stable would end in this room…” he said. “Not like this though…” he squeezed his eyes shut, and his horn started to glow. Hiss, Crescent, Shimmercoat, and I were all wrapped in a big blue bubble shield, and I heard a sizzling noise. Glowing energy from the machine with the pony strapped inside flowed from an antenna mounted on it and into Shimmercoat’s horn. The tang of magic could be tasted in the air. Wow, he wasn’t kidding when he said that bypassing Stable-Tec’s security needed a lot of power. This was definitely a one-way trip.
With a flash, we disappeared from the sacrificial chamber.
Level up! (Lv. 5)
New Perk: Terrifying Presence: You sometimes gain speech options that can initiate combat while sending your foes fleeing in utter terror!
Enchanted Weapon Perk analysis: 99% complete
Author’s Note: HUGE thanks to Kkat for writing Fallout: Equestria and giving us sidefic writers a great big sandbox to play in. Also thanks to Scullyhobnob and Shimmercoat for help editing and proofreading this slog to make it something enjoyable. And thanks to all who hang out at the Sidefic Compilation doc for providing feedback and inspiration to write my own story. Also thanks to Bethesda and Hasbro for two great franchises. Hope you enjoy!