• Published 21st Feb 2012
  • 6,756 Views, 403 Comments

Fallout Equestria: Tales of a Courier Reloaded - a friendly hobo

This is the story of Clover and his quest for revenge.

  • ...

Chapter 1: Death Sucks.

Chapter 1: Death Sucks.

“Load last save?”

I...I was alive...

My vision throbbed red with each heartbeat as I was dragged from the hole that had been my grave. I tried to open my left eye, but it wouldn’t cooperate and I only managed to pry my right eye open a sliver.

I couldn't feel anything, and I could barely hear or see. If this was heaven, heaven sucked balls. If it was hell, well, it could have been worse.

Through the blurry haze I could barely make out the long grooves my hind legs made as I was dragged across the sand. My body was a fuzzy mess of gray, red, and brown.

I was carefully laid on a wide plank of wood, looking straight up into the endless blue skies. The feeling started to return to my front legs as they were carefully secured to the plank. I could hear my long, ragged breaths as I tried to make heads or tails of the situation.

A dark yellow and brown blob appeared against the azure skies. “...in there, kid. You're in bad shape...to a doctor...just ha...there, amigo...” It’s speech was choppy, cutting in and out as my ears tried to focus. I tried to speak but could only gargle a response as the top of the plank rose above the ground and was dragged along the dirt.

Pain arced through my head as I tried to look up. There was nothing but green, brown, and yellow blobs all around me. I tried to focus, but my head had other plans, sending barbed tendrils of agony through me, tearing at my flesh. With a bloody cough, I gave in and lowered my head again.

My right ear was starting to cooperate as the recognizable sounds of the plank scraping against the dirt became clearer and clearer.

“I...wh...huh...” I tried my best to form words, but I couldn't manage to produce anything intelligible, just a string of unintelligible gargles and babbles. Through the pain I could feel my frustration building, like a baby trying to learn to speak.

“Save your breath, or you'll never make it,” the blob called back to me. His voice seemed strained and slightly muffled. I didn't want to disappoint, so I shut up and tried to add up what was going on. My vision refused to focus, and any attempts to force it only managed to bring a fresh jolt of extreme agony.

The only part of my body that didn't hurt when I tried to move it was my right eye, and I could barely open that as it was.

I felt several small bumps, but the ground seemed to get smoother. The even earth felt good to glide across after the bumpy, rock filled plain.

“Nearly there, just stay with me.”

Easier said than done. My vision was getting darker, the pulses were getting slower and slower, and my breaths getting shallower and shallower. I closed my eye and watched the red throb gradually diminish.

“Hey,” the voice said as the plank thudded dully against the sun-baked earth, “stay with me, now.”

I grunted an acknowledgment to who ever was dragging me, I didn't think I could go much longer. My head felt light and my chest ached with each breath. I couldn't even find the strength to open my eye again.

My eye lids were forced open by the big blob's cracked, hooves. I could barely make out his eye as he leaned in close. My mind must have been playing tricks on me as they seemed reptilian.

“Mi diosa," he growled. "I've not wasted this much time just for you to die now.” I let out a tiny whimper as my eyelid snapped shut again. The plank was picked up again, and with a faint grunt we started moving. “Almost there...”

The scorching sun was beating down on me, it was like I was being led into the fiery lair of the devil himself. My dry lips cracked and bled as I tried my damnedest to speak.

“...are....are you...” I gulped, cringing against the pain. “Are you Death?” I rasped, just barely staying conscious.

“Death?” the voice asked. “I guess that would be kinda accurate...” Great, I am dead. “But I'm not here to take you to the next life.” Or maybe not...


“Didn't I tell you to shut up?” the creature said irritably, making the plank jump a little. “We're almost there, just hang in a little longer.”

I wasn't sure I could, I felt like I was falling asleep. I had given up on trying to keep my eye open and my focus was wavering. The sounds around me were getting quieter and fuzzier as the plank jostled more and more.

All my senses failed me as they were flooded by an overwhelming surge of pain. Every strangled groan and spasm of anguish brought a fresh wave of agony which only made my body writhe more furiously.

Something long and thin plunged into the side of my neck, barely perceptible through the blinding pain.

As suddenly as it came, the flood of agony dulled to a throb. I breathed heavily, trying to form some kind of coherent thought.

“Damn, that was my last Med-X,” Death grumbled before picking the plank up again. “You'd better make it to Westwood; I don't like my time wasted.”

Try as I might, I couldn't comply with his wish. My head was starting to spin again, the sounds around me began to muffle again. I was cold, despite the burning sun. I heard some loud rumbling before the world finally came to a stand still. I could no longer will myself to remain conscious and I fell into a void of darkness.

--- --- ---

“Luna's ghost, Snake Eyes!” an old stallion’s voice exclaimed, “Where the hell did you find this kid?!”

I slowly opened my working eye, the searing pain was thankfully absent. My vision was clear out to the end of my snout, where a clear mask sat over my mouth. It was connected to some sort of old machine beside me. My head seemed to be stuck in a brace, keeping me from turning it to see my surroundings. Where the bloody hell was I?

“El Diablo Drylake,” Death said. “Kid is fucked up, doc. Anything you can do?”

A new blob appeared, this one was a mix of golds, greens, and whites. It seemed to shake a little as the new voice sighed.

“His skull is smashed in, Snake," the old stallion, who I assumed was Drylake, said. "There isn't much I can do...”

“Name your price.”

“Now we're talking. Three hundred caps up front, two hundred if the operation is successful.” Operation? Who's getting operated on? Can I watch?

Death let out a frustrated sigh. “Fine. I hope its worth it.”

It seemed my brain had gone back to mush because when I tried to talk, I could only manage to mumble and a babble.

The blob appeared again. “You shouldn't be awake, let alone alive, kid,” Drylake said as he reached over and pressed a button on the machine. “So just lie back, relax and count down from ten.”

I couldn't form words, how could I...form...numbers...

--- --- ---

Light poured in from the crack in my eyes as I tried opening them, squeezing Gunter Tedsworth closer to me.

“Some one turn off the lights,” I moaned, rolling over and wincing as pain stabbed through my head. “What a head ache. Not going drinking again until at least...lunch time.” A night in the pub was always fun, but I tend to forget about the hangover. I slowly creaked my eyes open and squeezed my teddy bear again. “Good morning, Gunter,” I sighed and looked down.

“You're not Gunter,” I grumbled as I let go of the pillow. Sitting up, the world around me filled with a high pitched whine, and my head felt like somepony was pushing a drill through it. I slammed my head back onto the bed and covered it with the pillow, screaming and shouting as my entire body tensed in sympathy.

After what seemed like an eternity of screaming and thrashing around, the pain dulled to manageable levels. I held my forelegs over my head and waited for my racing heartbeat to calm. Just breath deeply and everything will be fine. I peeked out from under my forelegs when everything had calmed down and the room stopped spinning.

“Where the hell am I?” I asked, oddly muffled... I had a transparent mask strapped over my muzzle. It was connected by a hose to a clunky machine at my bedside. How did I not notice that?

I was in a room with chipped and cracked floral wallpaper in contrast to the floor, which was so freshly polished I could see the ceiling fan spin lazily in it. There wasn't much else other than a few small pictures on the wall, my eyes darted between them, trying to make them out. Most just looked like a dumb assortment of shapes and colours but one stood out.

A yellow pegasus with long pink hair pranced gleefully through a lush green meadow, surrounded by an assortment of happy woodland creatures. Each beamed with a joy that made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

“She's hot,” I mumbled. My face burned up as I looked away, embarrassed about what I had said. I never did have much luck with the ladies, regardless of whether they were in paintings or right in front of me. Probably because of my childish antics or the fact I had no idea what to say to them without looking like an idiot...

I closed my eyes and tried to get up again, waiting for the wall of hell to assault my ears. I managed to sit up before a dull whine, not nearly as agonizing as the first burst, started to warble in my ears. I opened my eyes and blinked a few times, trying to clear my head of the fuzz that seemed to wash through it. My head felt light but oddly heavy at the same time.

I ran my hoof along the left side of my head, wincing when I brushed along a long scar that ran between my ear and mane. My head felt harder than it used to...

“What the hell is going on?” I whispered as I looked at my hooves.

There was a grunt and the sound of hooves clicking against the polished floor came from beside my bed. I snapped my head round to see the source of the disturbance and regretted it as my cranium throbbed with pain.

A gold unicorn with a big green and white mustache cantered towards me, a gentle stride in his steps. “Good morning,” he said, his mustache bobbing with each word, making me smile a little.

“Who are you?” I asked, getting a little frustrated at the mask. I fell back on the bed and tried to pull it off before the unicorn intervened.

“I'm Doc Cloud,” he chuckled as he unhooked the mask's clasps at the back of my head, sliding it off my snout. My face scrunched up as the sharp, offensive smell of antiseptic danced down my nostrils. “Can you tell me your name?”

Oh, I knew this one... I looked down at my flank. “Clover,” I muttered, bringing up the 'How the hell did I get a four leafed clover as a cutie-mark' debate I had been having with myself for years. I looked back up at the mustachioed pony. “What happened just now?”

“When you went nuts and freaked out?” the doctor pony asked. I nodded. “My guess is a side effect from the surgery. Or maybe a complication, but I'm fairly confident in my abilities as a doctor. Either way, its not uncommon to experience bursts of pain after major surgery. Best to wait it out until the patient stops kicking and screaming before intervening, saves a hoof to the face.”

“Surgery? What happened? Did you cut me open?!” My head started to throb with each word, so I buried my head in my forehooves and groaned.

“Well, the left side of your skull was crushed beyond repair. The only alternative available was to replace that section with a metal plate.” He levitated out a long needle. “Now hold still, and the pain will go away.”

My eyes immediately shot open at the needle. I scrambled back and fell off the bed with a dull thump, before scooching into the farthest corner. “Get that thing away from me!”

“Its just Med-X," the doctor said, looking puzzled. "How does a painkiller sound?”

“How does 'fuck' and 'off' sound?” I shouted, trying to make myself as small as possible.

The doctor put the needle away before coming any closer. “So no needles, eh? I get it.” He opened a drawer in an old counter and plucked out a small cardboard pack. “How about pills?”

I slowly pulled myself out of the corner, to the protest of my head, and nodded. He passed me two pills, which I quickly swallowed, before he told me to get back into the bed.

The doctor pulled up a small stool and sat down, his lab coat sweeping against the floor. “Right. So.” He cleared his throat and adjusted his glasses as he read a small note pad. “I need you to answer a few-” I raised my hoof at him.

“Hold on a tick. You said my skull was smashed. What the hell?”

He sighed and rolled his eyes. “Yes, your skull was smashed into itty-bitty pieces, but I fixed it with a metal plate, inserted perfectly so as to not conflict with the natural contour of your head.”

“So I have a slab of metal in my head?”



He let out a frustrated groan and facehoofed. “Because your skull was smashed.”

“Yeah, I get that, but why was it smashed?” If my head was smashed, I either had a very bad night, or I had a great night!

“That's what I intend to find out,” he nickered, looking back at his note pad. “From an extensive examination of the injury, I can safely say it was shattered by a blunt instrument.” He looked over his glasses at me. “Do you remember what that might have been?”

I looked up at the fan above me, trying to remember. “Nope, can't think of anything.” It could have been anything between a bottle or a bar-stool for all I knew. Then again, why would I get caught up in a bar brawl? I wasn’t a fighter, or a lover for that matter. I was a worker, and a drinker.

The doctor looked back at the notepad. “I don't see anything that would indicate what was used, then again, with the amount of dirt caked all over you I don't think I could have identified the material. It could have been metal, like a pipe, or a shovel, or a-”

“Shovel!” I blurted out, it hit me...well, like a shovel.

The memory of being tied up, not able to move at all as a great pressure forced my face into the dirt. Being forced to watch as a pony in a black suit shot my brother. Picked up by the mane and then dragged to a shallow grave before getting my head cracked in with a shovel and being buried alive.

I burst into tears and clutched the pillow, hoping this was all just a nightmare, but knowing that what transpired that night was very real.

“So it was a shovel,” the doctor said, making notes. “Do you remember anything about-”

“Leave me alone!” I shouted at him, tears streaming down my face and into the soggy pillow.

The doctor got up and put his notepad away. “Must be stress from a traumatic event,” Cloud said, shaking his head. “Probably the one that got you that blow to the head. Sit tight and I’ll get you some meds.”

“From the blow?!” I screamed at him through the pillow. “My brother was murdered right in front of me, and you say its from the blow?!”

He stopped in his tracks, seeming a little shocked before knitting his brows in thought. “Snake Eyes didn't mention a brother...” He walked back to me and patted me on the back. “You have my sympathies. Losing a loved one happens too often around here.”

I rolled over and shrugged his hoof off. “I'll leave you be for now,” Cloud said in a soft voice. I could only respond with a choked sob and a sniff as the door closed and muffled voices started conversing on the other side

Curling into a ball on the bed, my head still buried in the pillow, I continued to weep. I started thinking about all the good times I had with Shamrock. Sure, he was older than me, but he was just as childish, never passing up an opportunity to play “Raiders and Rangers.” Never hesitating to pick me first for his team in Hoofball, even if I wasn't the biggest or the fastest.

Even as we grew up he never let me down. He taught me how to drink when I got older, and always gave me tips on how to pick up mares, never once making fun of me for how shy and awkward I was around them.

He was truly a great stallion. Now, he was dead, and I didn't know what to do. I had never been this alone, ever. I took it hard when dad died a few months back, but Shamrock had never left my side, guiding me along life's path. I pushed my face deeper into the pillow as the tears streamed out.

“Remember, big guy,” I recalled Shamrock saying as we watched the sunset over the apple orchard after a bar fight. “If you ever find yourself lost and I'm not around, ask yourself 'What would Shamrock do'.”

I sniffed and peeked out over the top of the pillow. I remembered his last words to me, Stay strong, buddy. I took a deep, ragged breath. This was not staying strong. Breaking down and crying was not what Shamrock would have done. He would have gotten right back up and soldiered on.

I sat up, feeling a little woozy with a new weight on my shoulders, and wiped my eyes. What do I do now? I sniffed up a small bit of snot before choking out one last sob. I figured the best course of action would be to find out where I was.

I slid off the bed and made my way to the door, composing myself and wiping my eyes once more. The hallway outside was quiet save for a soft melody flowing down the left corridor with not a soul to be seen. I looked left and right but I had no idea where I was. Each door down the hall was numbered, I had been in room twelve.

I followed the faint sound of music and made my way down the hall, trying my best not to scratch at my legs and scalp. My hooves ached and my head throbbed, I felt like breaking down and crying with each step, but I carried on, only letting an occasional tear escape. Breaking down is not what Shamrock would have done. No way.

I blinked away the moisture in my eyes and nudged open the door at the end of the hall. My head exploded as I was assaulted with light, smells, and noises. Each of my senses screamed as I fell to my haunches, holding my head.

“I didn't expect to see you out here,” Cloud said as he picked me up. My head started to clear, slowly. The room I now stood in had chairs lined up on one wall, a desk on the other. Doctor Cloud led me to a chair and set me down, looking over my head. “You really should have stayed in your room.”

I looked up at him. “That's not what Shamrock would have done,” I rasped, my throat still hoarse from crying.

“And that would be your brother.” He sat down beside me, notepad ready. I nodded sadly. “You wanna talk about it?”

“No,” I whispered, tears welling up again.

Thank Celestia, he put the notepad away. “Alright then. Lets talk about you. Do I detect a slight accent in your voice?”

“Aye,” I said, emphasizing my accent.

He scratched his chin. “Emerald Isles? You're a long way from home...”

“Apple Plains.” I was originally from the Emerald Isles, out off the coast of Brismane, but my father had emigrated to the Apple Plains a while ago, and still retained the accent.

“Well, maybe not that far away from home. So, why are you all the way out here in the Ponave?”

It took me a moment to remember, but it felt like a punch to the gut when I did. “Package delivery.”

Cloud sighed and stood up. “Couriers don't last long out here, kid.” I winced and a tear dripped off my snout. The left side of my head felt like it was getting heavier and heavier. “But I see you've already found that out...” Cloud shuffled uncomfortably, only just realizing that he had shoved a metaphorical dagger through my heart. “Well, Federation couriers or Resistance couriers. Most Feds get shot on sight, Resistance get hung.” I would have rather been shot, that way I would be dead quickly. Just like Shamrock. I started to weep quietly.

Cloud put his hoof on my shoulder, “At least you're alive! In Westwood of all places. You could be worse off, you know.”

I looked up at him through teary eyes. “How? How could this get any worse?”

“You could have turned up in Buckwheat, or a raider camp.” I had no idea what 'Buckwheat' was but I knew about Raiders. We didn't have them on the Apple Plains though, the Federation exterminated any raiders... or any suspected raiders... or anypony who may have known a suspected raider.

So where did I go from here? My brother was the only one who knew what the package was or where it was supposed to go, and now he was dead. I had no idea where I was, or how I got there. Apparently, this Snake Eyes guy was the one to bring me in. I supposed that would be a good place to start.

“Was it this Snake Eyes who brought me here?” I asked, choking down my sorrow, trying to stay strong.

Cloud got up and trotted to the counter. He took a minute to flip through something that looked like a ledger. “Yeah, he brought you in here. Paid for your surgery too.”

I wiped my face with a hoof. “Why would he do that?”

He slammed the ledger shut. “Dunno, but it was a hefty sum of caps,” he chuckled before leaning on the counter. “I guess you're wanting to see him?” I nodded. “Well, there's something you should know. Snake Eyes is what we call a 'drifter'. He rolls up into town on occasion, but doesn't stay long.”

“So there's no chance of talking to him?” The lump in my throat felt like it was going to rip itself out and start a jig on the counter.

The old doctor played with his mustache in deep thought. “I'm not sure. If he's still here, he’d be at the saloon, but I wouldn't get yer hopes up.”

I got my hopes up, shuffled to the old wooden door of the clinic, and creaked it open. I immediately stumbled back with my eyes clamped shut and fell on my rump, hooves over my eyes.

“Careful, its bright out,” Cloud huffed in amusement. Gee, thanks... He lifted himself from the counter and rummaged though a drawer, pulling out a pair of large sunglasses. “Might need these.” He smiled. I plucked them from his levitation field, threw them into the air above me and caught them...in the eye. I yipped and held my eye while letting out an embarrassed sigh. The doctor levitated the sunglasses over my eyes and the room took a darker tinge.

“Thanks, Doc.” I trotted to the door just before it swung open, smacking me in the nose. “Oh, come on!” I whimpered, holding my nose. I don't think today could get any worse...

A large brown pony ran in, a fiery red filly on his back. She held her twisted hind leg while wailing in agony. Cloud got straight to work. “What happened?” he asked.

“Cinnamon fell off the balcony,” the large pony said, worry flooding his voice. “I told her not to go out there alone but she never listens!”

“Take her to room four,” the doctor pony instructed, pointing to the hallway I had emerged from. He turned back to me. “The bar is at the end of the street on the right.” He smiled, “Come back here if you have any more problems.”

I nodded and ventured out into the town.

--- --- ---

The searing sunlight reflected back off the almost white dirt beneath my hooves and burnt itself into my retinas; even with the sunglasses I had to squint. The town of Westwood was the very image of an old western town. Each of the small wooden buildings had a large porch, the sheriff’s office (they even had a sheriff!) being one of the bigger structures, overshadowed only by the general store and the saloon.

I slowly walked down the dirt road through the middle of the town, taking in as much as I could. Everypony seemed to have a job to do here, from the pony with the apron sweeping the porch of the general store to the pony pulling a cart full of old bits of furniture; one was even sketching a pony drawn carriage. Everypony seemed happy here. Everypony except me, but the warm smiles did a little towards raising my spirit.

I got to the end of the road and stood before the two story saloon, waiting for an errant tumbleweed to cross my path before trotting through the swinging doors and was assailed with the delightful smell of old wood, sawdust, and stale beer. Pubs were my kind of place.

I cantered up to the bar and sat on one of the stools, grabbing the silver-maned bartender's attention. “Um, 'scuse me...” I said meagerly. Why did the bartender have to be a mare? I'm no good at talking to mares...

The barmare cantered up in front of me, three glasses and a bottle in her levitation field. “What can I do ya fer, hon?” Well, you could do me for fre- no, we have work to do.

“Uh...well...” Talk, dammit! “You see...”

“Take yer time, darlin,” the purple barmare said in a soft voice, brushing her silver mane from her eyes before dumping the glasses in a sink. Celestia have mercy...

“I...I'm looking for sompony...” I squeaked.

“Aren't we all?” she laughed, “I'm gonna need a name or description to help, hon.”

I scratched the back of my leg nervously. “His name is Snake Eyes, I think.”

She picked up a new set of glasses and started to fill them from one of the beer taps. “Oh, Snakey? He left not to long ago, sorry.” She finished filling them and levitated them out to a table in the corner, much to the delight of one large stallion, who proceeded to drink all of them at once. Impressive.

I banged my head on the bar. What now? Snake Eyes was the only pony who might know what was going on. Tears began to pool in my eyes.

“Oh. What's wrong, sugarcube?” the barmare asked, trotting around the bar and patting me on the back.

“He was the only one who might know what I should do next,” I squeaked, trying my damndest not to cry.

“What happened?”

“I had my skull crushed, and...and...my brother was killed.” That set me off, the tears started rolling down my cheeks again.

The barmare gave me a small hug. “Oh darling, that's terrible!” She let go and cantered around behind the bar again, pouring a whiskey. “Do you remember anything at all?” she asked handing me the whiskey.

“Aye,” I sobbed, looking up and taking the whiskey. “Um, I can't pay for this...”

“On the house, hon. So you're the pony Snake Eyes dragged into town? The one with the caved-in head?”

“Aye.” I drank down the whiskey, feeling the warmth of it hitting my stomach. “I just don't know what to do next...” I put my head back down on the bar, staring at the entrance, hoping Snake Eyes would burst in, answer all my questions and tell me where to go from here. Instead, it was only a mare in leather barding who trotted in. I didn't even feel like pursuing her.

A stallion approached the other end of the bar, trying to get the barmare's attention, “Ah shoot,” she hissed. “I'll be right back.”

I covered my face with my hooves and let out a long groan. I felt a tap on the shoulder. “What's your problem?” a mare asked. I peeked out from beneath my hooves to see the leather wearing mare sitting next to me. She looked like the rough ‘don’t fuck with me’ pony, from her long brown mane and the machete sheathed by her side to the ace of spades on her flank. Not that I was checking her out or anything...

I buried my face again. “I don't wanna talk about it,” I sighed, before sniffing. It was the honest truth, at that point I only wanted to drown my sorrows.

“Whatever.” the mare said, a tone of disinterest in her voice. I looked up to see her scanning the room, her eyes fixing on a spot in the corner. “Shit,” she hissed. I looked over to see the large stallion who had drunk all those beers at once get up and start trotting over. The mare shoved me a little. “Okay, here's the plan, I need you to pretend to be my buckfriend.”

“Wh-what?” I stammered, very, very surprised she would ask (or in this case, tell) me to do such a thing.

“You heard me.” She wrapped her forelegs around me when the large stallion came into earshot. “I'm so glad I met you!” she squealed with glee.

“I, uh...um...” I started sweating, not really knowing what to do. “...I'm glad...too...?”

“Oh, you and your awkwardness, I think that is just too cute!” Mares find my awkwardness cute? No way...


“Ace!” the stallion bellowed with a grin. I had to admit, I was a little thankful he interrupted.

The mare rolled her eyes, “What do you want Wild Card?” she sighed, letting go of me to fix the large stallion with a sneer. I looked up at the green stallion and was genuinely intimidated. I may have meeped.

“You know what I want,” he chuckled. I didn't like this pony. Not one bit.

“Forget it, doofus,” the mare, who I assumed was Ace, scoffed. “I'm not interested.” She wrapped her foreleg around me. “Besides, I'm taken.”

The grin left the pony's face. “I don't think you understand,” he snorted. “You're mine.”

Ace let go and put her hoof to her chin in mock contemplation. “Um...no. No I'm not.”

The stallion started walking towards us.

Be strong, buddy.”

I shoved him back. “Are you deaf, ya feckin' shitehawk? She said she isn't interested.” How could he just claim her like that? How rude!

Both Ace and the big pony looked stunned. Hell, the whole bar went quiet.

“Nopony shoves Wild Card,” the big pony seethed, tensing his huge legs.

“An’ nopony with half a brain talks in third person,” I scoffed. Shamrock would be so proud.

Wild Card let out a long roar of anger, almost blowing me away. “Alright, you little runt! You and me, right here, right now!” he bellowed, spittle flying on to my terrified face.

I thanked my lucky stars when the doors to the bar swung open and two ponies with raised pistols entered...followed by a griffin with a double barreled shotgun. “Wild Card, are you causing trouble again?” he barked.

Wild Card looked up and grinned, petting me on the head. “Naw, sheriff. Jus' havin' a little fun!”

“Fun for bounty hunters like you usually end in bloodshed,” the griffin growled. “Now, what’s really going on here?”

“He's stirring up trouble, Bull.” Ace smirked at the bounty hunter. Wild Card looked back at her with a scowl and an eye twitch. I just sat there and shuddered.

The griffin raised his shotgun. “Wild Card, why don't you step out an' cool off before things get messy...”

Wild Card narrowed his eyes at me. “You and me, tomorrow at sun up. We're gonna have a little fun.”

“Uh, um...” I stammered, trying to compose myself.

“You're on,” Ace purred with a sly grin.

“What? No! I-”

“Wanna place a little wager?” Wild Card said, prodding my shoulder.

“...What kind of wager...?” I asked. What could he possible want from me? I couldn't lose anything! This might be interesting...

“If I win, I get Ace,” he grinned, ignoring the sheriff and his deputies.

“And if I win?”

“You get her.” So if I win, the beige mare can go about her business, and if I lose she has to go with the only pony with a skull harder than mine and I’d end up being very messed up...what to do...?

“Deal,” Ace said before I could respond. Wait, wait, wait. This mare just pit me against some big motherfucker. She’s either insane or wanted to get the shit kicked out of me.

“Wait a-” I stammered

“Good,” Wild Card rumbled before I could protest. “Tomorrow. Sun up. Be there.” He turned around and brushed past the sheriff and his deputies.

“Another crisis averted,” the griffin said. Averted?! I was going to get murdered! “This calls for a drink, eh boys?” They marched through the bar and sat down at a booth, the barmare hot on their heels.

Ace turned to me. “Well then, we'd best get ready, eh?” She grinned and walked out.

I looked around the bar. What the hell just happened? I seemed to have grown a pair and got myself into a fight I couldn’t win for my troubles. No way this was real, I was being set up. Some sick joke this is!

I turned to the bar. No way am I going out there with that mare. That big oaf can have her, even if I did win she wouldn't be interested in me. I put my head back down on the counter, trying to figure out what to do.

“You coming or what?” Ace called through the door.

“No,” I yelled back.

She barged in and shoved me, pushing me out. “What are you doing?” I shouted, trying to get out of her grip. “Are you crazy or something? Leave me alone!”

She dragged me out of the bar and stood me up, looking into my eyes. “That's no way to talk to a lady,” she growled. “Now it’s me on the line here, not you.”

“Exactly! I don't want to get into a fight!” I snapped back at her.

She took a step back and pouted. “Not even to protect my honor?” her eyes seemed to water. This is completely unfair!

“I...” I mumbled, “...um...”

“Won't you help me?” Her lip quivered. I couldn't help it.

“Fine,” I sighed. It seemed I wasn’t going anywhere so I might as well do something, and protecting this mare is just what Shamrock would have done.

--- --- ---

“So what now?” I asked as we stood in a back alley behind the general store. Old boxes were stacked high against the rickety building on the dirt path, some barrels of apples stood by the back door ready to be taken in and sold off. It seemed the owner of the general store used the alley as storage.

Ace turned, reared up on her hind legs, and brought her fore hooves up in front of her with a long grin spread across her face. “Simple,” she replied, slamming a hoof into my nose, “we spar.”

“What the fuck?!” I yelled, holding my bloodied nose. “Why would you do that?!”

“Toughen the fuck up, ya pansy!” Ace ordered me, sending a hoof into my gut. “Ya gotta learn to fight like a stallion.”

I fell to the ground, all the wind knocked out of me. “Ow,” I wheezed, trying to get to my hooves. I was assisted by Ace grabbing my mane and yanking it up.

I managed to choke out a short shout of terror before trying to roll away, only to fall snout first into a shallow pit. I blinked to try and get the stinging dirt out of my eyes before I was yanked back up by my mane.

“Owowowowowow!” I howled as the blue mare violently dragged me back to my original resting place.

In a flash of red hot rage I slammed a hoof into Ace's rather firm midsection, knocking her back a few steps. “Now we're cooking with gas!” she laughed, bringing her hooves up again. “Show me what you've got, ya filly!”

I looked down at my hooves, not quite sure what I had just done. I looked up just in time to dodge another hoof strike. I stumbled back into some crates, knocking away the papers and cans casually laid out on top.

Ace rolled her eyes, getting back on all fours. “Look at you, you don't even know how to fight, do you?” The beige mare asked straightforwardly. I shook my head, snuffling my still bleeding nose, . “ugh. Lets start from the top then. What are you good at?”

Well, I had grown up on a boring farm and drank quite a bit in the evenings. I was not an alcoholic, damn it! “Working and drinking.”

Ace rolled her eyes again, “Aren't we all? What kind of work? Details, ya mare!” She shook her hoof at me.

I took a step back from the crazy mare. “I worked a farm.”

“And? Is that supposed to impress me? Details, dammit!” Ace was beginning to become quite the bitch...No, wait, she was a bitch. Why did I agree to this fight?

“I bucked apples when in season, I planted crops, all sorts of things. How does this help?” I asked, stomping my hoof, impatiently.

“Apples?” Ace pounced on me, pinning me to the ground. “You're a fucking Fed, aren't you?!” she growled.

Fed? Oh, Federation! “I suppose I am,” I whimpered.

She headbutted me, almost impaling me with her horn, “What do you know? Who are you working for? How did you find me?”

“What?” I asked through gritted teeth. Struggling seemed to do nothing under her strong hooves.

“You're a fucking Fed! Now talk!” she screamed, her furious hazel eyes fixed on mine.

I tensed up, waiting for another blow, “Not like I wanted to be!” I squealed.

I clenched my eyes shut and waited for the next blow to fall, but it never did. After a moment of silence I dared to steal a peek.

Ace was looking me over, her eyes narrowed, “What do you mean, not like you wanted to be?” She asked slowly, one hoof raised and ready to deliver another kick. .

I blinked a few times, “Mandatory citizenship,” I replied, cocking my head. How could she not know this? “Everyone in Federation territory has to get it. Isn't the Ponave Federation territory?”

Ace growled and smacked me across the face again. “NEVER say the Ponave is Fed-land," the livid mare screamed in my face. "Ever!” She headbutted me again.


The beige pony staggered back a little, holding her forehead. “What the hell?” she asked, staggering slightly and seeming to have problems focusing on me.

“Metal skull plate,” I grumbled as I got up, “Now if you'll excuse me...” I was about to make my way out of the alley and back onto the street when I was tackled, crashing through a crate.

“You're not going anywhere,” Ace hissed. “You're fighting tomorrow, whether you like it or not, now grow a pair and fight me!”

“No,” I said, shoving her off. “I'm done with your games, and I will not fight you. I'm not a bad pony I don't fight for no reason.”

“So I'm not a reason?” Ace mock whimpered as I picked myself up, trying to guilt trip and manipulate me.

“Honestly?” I said over my shoulder, “No. No, you’re not.” She'd forced me into a fight and beat me up to 'train' me. She wasn't worth dirt right about now. I trotted to the alley entrance.

“There's something you should know about the Ponave, mister,” Ace called out from behind me. I turned, narrowing my eyes. “The bad live good, and the good...”

well they don't live at all.”

Everything went red as I roared down the alley at Ace. Without stopping, I spun and slammed both my hind legs into her bitchy face. I turned and smiled as I saw her sail through the air, smashing into a barrel of apples with a soft “oof.”

She shook her head and blinked, stroking her face with a hoof before picking up an apple and grinning. “Best ones are always at the bottom,” she chuckled around a swollen cheek. “You're ready.”

The apple bounced off my face.

--- --- ---

“Get up,” Ace ordered as she kicked the tattered couch she had been nice enough to let me crash on. She still refused to offer me anything to eat, even after she pigged out on a steak the night before. “We're coming up on fight time.”

Oh right, the big fight between little, scrawny me and a giant, fucking, bounty hunting bastard with the intelligence of a cactus. This was gonna be awesome...

“Come on!” she bellowed, dragging me off the couch, making my head bounce off the floorboards, sending explosive pain through my skull.

She took a step back. “What are you doing?” she asked, raising her eye brow.

Well, I'm lying on the floor, clutching my feckin' head wound after having it bounce off the hard wood floor,what the feck do you think?! “Nothing,” I hissed, picking myself up from the dusty floor, and shaking myself free of the dirt. “What are you doing?” I sneered, trying to change the subject.

The brown maned mare looked around, a little confused before shaking her head. “Come on, let’s just go,” she sighed, a little frustrated, putting her leather jacket and some other articles over her back. Yeah take that, bitch.

I put on my new sunglasses and walked out the door, trying to ignore the pain in my head. The door slammed behind me before I was shoved down the old dusty stairs to the long dirt path bisecting the town as the sun crested over the mountains to the east. I gulped down the lump in my throat, remembering how I would always watch the sunrise with Shamrock and Dad before the day's work.

Ace marched up behind me, fixing her leather jacket and adjusting the armored socks that were wrapped around her hind legs. I couldn't help but let my eyes drift down to her supple, curvy flank.

The ornery pony smacked me across the face. “Quit staring, pervert,” the mare scolded, scowling. “Ready for your big fight?”

“No,” I whimpered. Composing myself and fixing the dark sun glasses on my snout, I looked down the long street to the square outside the bar where ponies of all colours had gathered around. I gulped again. “I can't do this,” I whispered, turning away and down the street in the opposite direction.

Ace grabbed me and shook me by the shoulders, “Get a hold of yourself!” she spat, “What are you? An itty bitty silly filly, or a stallion with balls of steel?!”

I looked into her blazing eyes and dug up as much courage as possible. “I'm... I'm a stallion.”

She shook me again, making my sunglasses fall off my snout. “I can't hear you!”

“I'm a stallion, damn it!” I yelled in her face, my courage reaching a new high. This was not normal. Shamrock would have been proud. I shoved the mare off and started down the road to the bar, the beige mare following me, I could just hear her giggling.

I was shaking in my hooves by the time I had gotten to the crowd gathering. I was seriously considering just merging with the crowd and just sneaking away.

“See? Told you he won't show up!” Wild Card cheered in triumph. “What a pussy. Now, where's Ace?”

“Right here,” Ace shouted from beside me, a large smile on her face. “Lets do this.”

My heart sank as the crowd parted to reveal the hulking mass of dark green muscle that was Wild Card, ready and rearing to go. He was grinning from ear to ear as I quaked in my hooves. This was not going to end well.

“Alright, alright,” The griffin sheriff announced as he landed between us. “I've been informed that both parties have agreed to this fight.”

“Yup!” Ace piped up, not letting her grin leave her face.

“Eeyup,” Wild Card said with a smile.

“Nope,” I squeaked, but nopony heard me. Why was this happening?

The sheriff adjusted his hat and vest, his sheriff’s star glimmering in the morning sunlight. “Well then. One thing I need to add, the loser has to pay for any damages.”

What?! I can't afford to pay for anything! I have to win this! Not for Ace, not for Shamrock, but so I don't get jailed or lynched for not being able to pay! No, no way they would do that to me...would they?

Wild Card was stretching himself out while staring me down as I just stood there, not daring to move a muscle.

“You can do this,” Ace whispered in my ear. “Those hind legs of yours can be like a cannon if you apply yourself.” Since when did she get all supportive?

The sheriff cleared his throat. I could see his deputies leaning on the railing outside the bar, both with wide, goofy grins on their faces. “Okay then.” The griffin smiled. “Fight!” He took off, leaving a cloud of dust.

“Lets do this!” Wild Card roared as the crowed parted.

Ace stood by my side, leaning in. “For luck,” she whispered before giving me a peck on the cheek. That really got the blood flowing.

“Yeeehaaw!” I cheered at the top of my lungs, a new form of courage taking over. A mare had just kissed me! Sure, it was on the cheek, but she still kissed me!

Wild Card started to charge, his features screwed up in a determined scowl. This was it, the moment I had been dreading. I charged at him, a new force taking over. I felt alive, not like I had ever felt before! I felt...strong!

My primal instincts kicked in and I dove out of the way of the rampaging bronco, barely missing a swing from his over-sized hooves. He screeched to a halt as the crowd gasped. I doubt they thought I'd survive the first tilt.

I sprinted at him a grin spreading across my face. I was gonna win this, I could feel it. I rose a hoof and dove at the monstrous green pony, landing a hit between the eyes. He staggered back a little as I landed. I hopped back a little, holding my throbbing hoof. This guy had a skull harder than mine, and mine was partly metal!

He slowly got his act together. “You've got guts, kid,” the bounty hunter growled. “Ah'm gonna enjoy tearing 'em out of ya.”

I got back on all fours and met his glare. “Kiss my arse,” I grinned. This was going better than predicted.

Wild Card roared with a blood thirsty cry before charging at me. I barely had enough time to say “Oh, shite.” and dive out of the way before he came bounding across the dirt path.

“What do I do now?!” I yelled to Ace. “I've only pissed him off!”

“That's your own damn fault!” the leather clad pony called back, a smile on her face. “Don't be afraid to use dirty tactics!”

Dirty...no, I couldn't. I shouldn’t! I don't think I could ever try and target a stallion’s... stallionhood. Wild Card prepared another charge, this time with murder in his eyes. Oh, forgive me for what I'm about to do...

He barrelled down on me, slobber dripping from his rabid jaws. I charged back at him, spewing a slew of curses.

An instant before we collided I ducked and slid under the pony, looking for my target... and finding it. I kicked his tender area with all my might as I passed underneath, the dirtiest trick in the book. That was not something Shamrock would have done.

Wild Card screamed in agony and crumpled into a heap, clutching his fleshy, tenderized nethers. I got up and cheered in triumph. The power I was feeling coursing through my veins...it was magnificent! So much, so fast, it was glorious!

“You...fucking...runt...” Wild Card wheezed as he got to his hooves. “You are...so DEAD!” he roared before rearing up and charging, fueled by rage alone. Time to put some of this excess adrenaline to good use!

The pony was like a run away, green locomotive, almost unstoppable. I turned at the last moment and put all of my power into a buck. My muscles ached as my hooves connected with his chiseled face and the crowd roared with cheers!

I turned to see Wild Card on his rump, staring at his fore hooves; holding at least three bloody teeth in them. I thought I saw tears welling up in his eyes. I felt great! The crowds cheers, the close to crying, giant stallion, even Ace, who grinned and winked at me.

“You done?” I asked Wild Card, not trying to provoke him. “Can we just settle this like gentlecolts?”

He looked up at me, and back to his teeth, “No...” he whispered. He dropped the teeth and got to his hooves. The crowd stopped cheering and a dead silence crept in. “No. No.” He looked into my eyes. I could see myself in them, slowly being surrounded by fire.

“NO!” he roared before shoving his forehoof into my chest, lifting me up with it. The awesomeness I was feeling? Gone like the wind from my body. He brought me back down and slammed me against the ground. I heard a snap inside my torso and pain lash out everywhere.

“Nopony beats me! Not never, not ever!” Wild Card howled over me. “You're so dead!”

He picked me up, threw me straight up and bucked me. I felt more crunches before I sailed through the air, smashing through the bar window and sliding down the bar, narrowly avoiding the barmare, before flying off the end and smashing into a pile of stacked chairs.

I couldn't feel anything but pain. This wasn't being strong, this was being broken. Every breath I took brought a fresh stab of agony from my shattered chest. This was all happening so fast, too fast. I could just see through a crack in the chairs covering me and the green pony come stomping through the front door.

“Stop!” the barmare shouted at Wild Card. He merely pushed her away when she got in his way.

He started to tear away the chairs above me until I was staring right into his blood shot, rage filled eyes. This was it. I had failed Ace, I had failed Shamrock, but most of all, I had failed myself. I began to cry.

“That's right, cry for yer mommah, ya big baby!” the hulking mass above me laughed, raising his hoof, readying his final blow and showing me a bloody grin. “Night, night.”

“Stop!” a mare called from the bar door. Both me and Wild Card looked over and saw Ace, no longer grinning as she trotted in, looking very disappointed. “Can't you see you've won?” she shouted at Wild Card. “Leave him alone.”

The bounty hunter walked away from me, leaving me in a pile of broken wood and probably blood. He trotted over to Ace, smoothing back his dark blue mane.

“You, now that I've won, why don't you and I go some place private?” he asked with a smirk, not even trying to keep his eyes from her flank.

That was a mistake as a fucking machete came down on his cheek, slicing a long thin slit across it. He stumbled back a few steps, clutching his bloody cheek. It wasn't a lethal cut but it would probably scar.

“Nah,” Ace scoffed, nonchalantly. Wild Card was frothing from the mouth as he approached Ace. “Watch it, big guy, next swing goes between your legs.” She grinned, waving the machete around him. If I wasn't in a pain filled, crying heap, I would have laughed.

Wild Card took that moment to finally grow a brain. “Fine,” he growled, stomping around Ace. “But I'll be back for you, no doubt about that.” With that, he was gone, leaving Ace standing with a bloody machete, and the barmare with a bruise. Oh, and me, lying in a bloody heap.

“Yeah. Right,” Ace said snidely before sheathing the knife and trotting over to me. She magically pulled the remaining wreckage off me. “What are you crying about?” she spat, picking me up and ignoring my pain filled moaning. Something was broken, no doubt about it.

“I...I failed...” I blubbered, failing to support myself. I collapsed into a heap, blood leaking from my nose and ears.

“You're damn right you failed, you wimp.” she picked me up again, this time supporting me. “I mean, how could you just let him win? It was my tail on the line and you blew it! You could have won, but no. You choked and got your ass handed to you on a silver plate!”

I burst into tears. I couldn't take it any more! This was all too much for me.

“Oh, stop your crying, its not all that bad.”

“I...I don't care about failing you,” I sobbed. Shoving myself off her, walking two hooves and falling over again.

“Then who did you fail?” Ace asked, a look of disbelief in her face.

“I failed my brother!" I snapped, tears streaming down my bruised cheeks. "He wanted me to be strong! He wanted me to be honorable!" I struggled back to my hooves and limped to the bar. "I was supposed to make him proud!"

"I'm sure he'd understand," Ace said, losing some of her critical tone. "Sure you fucked up... badly, but everypony chokes every once in a while. Just explain it to him, and you’ll be fine."

"I can't explain it to him!" I screamed in her face. "Because he's dead!" I tumbled off the bar stool and just lay there weeping. I couldn't see any point to getting back up. "He’s only been dead two days and I've already failed him."

Footnote: Welcome to the desert, we’ve got fun and games.

Level up:

New perk -- Balls of Steel - You think I look bad, you should see what my face did to the other guy's hoof. You inflict a small amount of damage to your opponent proportional to your DR whenever you are struck by an unarmed attack.

New quest perk -- METAL HEEEAAAD!! -- no, put down the headphones. Smashing your head in isn’t all bad, you’ve now got a rockin’ metal plate in your head! +50% head health.


Rage Fueled:

Your bursts of strength are fleeting, but intense. You inflict less damage with unarmed attacks, but deal much more critical damage.

Wild Wild Wasteland:

Its a weird place out there, who knows what can happen?

Special thanks to Kashin, Errantindy, and Kal for their excellent edits, Dina (Damhoof) and Kashin for idea bouncing, and Julep for the art.

I would also like to welcome Julep to the Tales of a Courier: Reloaded team!

More thanks are in order to Mimezinga, No One, Snow, Damhoof, Darcy, Bob, Dr Dissonance, Aerondlight, Menti, Pistolwhip and more for the pre-reading.

Don't forget to comment and rate!