• Published 9th Mar 2012
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Fallout Equestria: Morality of Property - Sir Leadhead



A slaver learns some harsh lessons in the Equestrian Wasteland.

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Chapter 3 > In which the joys of reading are discovered

Chapter 3 > In which the joys of reading are discovered
“'Educational' refers to the process, not the object. Although, come to think of it, some of my teachers could easily have been replaced by a cheeseburger.”

I stood there, stunned. “Bwa… huh?” Oh, Coin, you are earning so many points in eloquence right now.

Shimmercoat smiled a glistening, perfect smile. “Your new home, cutie. Welcome to it. Stable 11 has all the comforts a pony would ever need, and you have been expressly invited to live in it. We need you…” he got closer, looking me straight in the eye. “I need you…”

Whoa whoa whoa. Ok, hold your hooves; something was up. I backed up a bit. “Hold up, Mr. Coat…” I said, my voice sounding a whole lot more nervous than I intended it to be.

“Please. Call me Shimmercoat. Everpony does.” he said smoothly.

I shook my head, trying to banish the thoughts my brain was offering up. None of them rose above the gutter level. This pony was really throwing me for a loop, right when I needed to concentrate the most. “Um…” I said again. “Shimmercoat… I don’t understand. How was I even brought into this Stable? I thought they were supposed to be impossible to break into, even with teleportation…” That’s right, Coin, keep thinking of technical things. That will take your mind off of how much you want Shimmercoat’s… no! Bad Coin! Focus! You don’t know what situation you’re in right now, and you need to gather as much information as possible! Afterwards though…

As my mind went down yet another gutter, Shimmercoat grinned, looking rather pleased with himself. “Ah, normally, yes, it is impossible to gain unauthorized access to any Stable, especially when the doors are closed.” He said. “As Overstallion, however, I have special permissions and access to certain protocols that nopony else possesses. I can allow anypony I wish into the Stable.” He turned and muttered, “Getting out on the other hoof…”

“Wait, are you saying I can’t leave?” I asked, my suspicion and flustered arousal quickly solidifying into anger. Oh sweet, sweet anger. I understand anger. I can use anger. Anger is good.

“Goodness me, no!” Shimmercoat said, looking back up at me. “The Stable’s mainframe won’t open the door, no matter how much its sensors say that it’s safe to go outside again. Our population has been stuck here ever since the war ended two hundred years ago. Quite tragic, if you ask me, but not so tragic as to be unbearable. After all… we occasionally get new arrivals that liven things up a bit around here…” He said with a look that made me weak in the knees again. I couldn’t think straight around this pony! “But enough questions for now.” He said, putting a hoof to my mouth before I could say anything. “I can see that you’re quite dusty from your travels in the outside world, and the Stable has strict hygiene regulations. I can’t in good conscious allow such a pretty mare to trot around so unclean. Why don’t you follow me to my quarters… you can use my bath. If you like, I’ll answer any further questions you have while we’re there… if we aren’t otherwise occupied…” he said with a wink, opening the door and gesturing for me to go first. “By the way, I think in all the excitement I forgot to ask. What is your name?”

“Uh, Coin Slot…” I said nervously. A bath? In his quarters? With him? Two ponies in my head waged war. The sensible one who said that I knew far too little about this stallion to trust him, and the much stronger one that was beating the sensible one over the head with a stick and telling me to go and do it and enjoy every second. “Uhh… ok…” I said quietly, walking out into the hallway. As we walked down the steel gray corridors of the Stable, I heard background noises of ponies. Laughing, talking, and the sound of trotting echoed quietly around me, even though Shimmercoat and I were walking the corridor alone. “How many ponies are in here?” I asked.

“At last count, around three hundred. We’re one of the smaller Stables, or so our database from Stable-Tec tells us. The small population allows for extra luxuries, such as personal baths for everypony, multi-room quarters, several entertainment rooms, and a large cafeteria.” Shimmercoat said. He sounded like a salespony, but not the bad kind that try to get fifty caps for a tin can, more like the kind that will negotiate with you for a fair price on a fine piece of hardware, be it gun or pony. “Stable 11 was built for Stable-Tec’s investors and board members. Although unfortunately, the founders of Stable-Tec didn’t make it here in time or decided not to come. I can’t imagine why they would decide not to come though…” he said, the last part almost sounding like he was being sarcastic. I was too distracted by his voice to pay much mind to it though. “Well, just up these stairs is the Overstallion’s office, and adjacent to that is my quarters. After you, Miss Slot.” He said, gesturing up the stairs.

I walked up the stairs and into the room he described. As the door hissed open, I saw that though the walls in the room were still a depressing slate gray, the effect was mitigated by large paintings mounted onto the walls, a plush, dark red carpet, and the scent of… something sweet that I couldn’t quite place. It smelled good though. As I walked through the room, the carpet under my hooves sunk in a little with each step I took. I’d never felt something like that before. I looked down at it, and started jumping up and down, giggling at the strange feeling.

I heard deep chuckling behind me, and I immediately stopped acting like a little filly as my face flushed a bright red. Oh, goodness, had I really just done that? “I take it you’ve never encountered a thick carpet on the outside?” Shimmercoat said, covering the large grin plastered on his face with his hoof.

“S-shut up!” I said, all flustered again. “W-what’s that smell?” I asked, desperate to change the subject.

“Lavender. I keep it in these vases. Helps freshen up the air.” Shimmercoat said, pointing out some purple flowers in some rather uninspired looking vases. “They’re also good for a tasty snack, although I only eat them when their scent fades. The hydroponics lab doesn't grow much of them. Would you care for one?” He levitated one out of a vase and floated it towards me. I cautiously took a bite.

Alright. He can take me now, so long as he keeps giving me lavender. The taste of the flower was the most soothing, flavorful, wonderful thing I had ever tasted. It reminded me of the rare times that the clouds broke and I felt the sun on my face, or when a cool breeze blew through a rain-soaked wasteland, when the rain is just stopping… there’s nothing better than that scent. Until now, now the best thing to treat my senses with is the taste of lavender. Maybe being a Stable pony isn’t a half-bad deal… I ate the rest of the flower, careful to savor each bite. It was over all too quick though, and I sighed in contentment and slight disappointment that there wasn’t more as the last petal slid down my throat. “That was… delicious. I’ve never had lavender before.” I said, my eyelids drooping in pleasurable bliss.

“Heh. Glad you liked it. There’s more where that came from, our hydroponics lab makes more than just lavender. We’ve got the juiciest apples, the finest daises, and the firmest carrots you ever did crunch.” Shimmercoat said with that salespony voice again. “But why don’t we eat later. For now, let’s get that bath running.” He opened a door into a separate room, which turned out to be a bathroom. Soon, water was running into a large porcelain tub. It was steaming. A hot bath? Oh yes, Stable ponies knew what was going on. I could get used to this. “I’ll leave you to it; I trust you know what soap is? Our last guest didn’t…” He said, leaving the bathroom and gesturing me in.

“Of course, I know what soap is… um…” I said. “I thought you were… um…” I blushed again. Curses. Why must I be so flustered around him? Oh, right, because he was perfect in every way possible.

“Why, Miss Slot, are you implying that we should take a bath together? At the same time?” Shimmercoat said with a very smarmy grin. Oh great fruit, this is so awkward… though Shimmercoat didn’t have a single hint of a blush on his face.

“W-why are you asking that?!” I said, a little more loudly than I meant. “You were practically stating that that’s what we were going to do earlier!”

“Oh, that!” Shimmercoat said with a chuckle that was far too patronizing and yet still sent me into another bout of frustrated blushing. “Cutie pie, that was just a little flirtation, you know, a little witty banter to loosen an attractive mare such as yourself up. Wouldn’t want you panicking at the sudden translocation from the outside to here in the Stable, I understand that it must quite the shock.”

He was right, of course. If he hadn’t come into that room and gotten me all flustered, I probably would have charged out of that room ready to kill the first pony I saw in a blind panic. “Um… ok… I do still have questions, though.” I said, walking into the bathroom. He smiled, and slid the door shut. Almost immediately afterwards, his voice came out of a speaker set into the wall next to the bathtub.

“That’s alright, Miss Slot, I can still talk to you whilst you get yourself all squeaky clean.” He said, his voice sounding slightly tinny through the speaker. Now that I wasn’t in the same room with him, I was far less flustered, and suddenly found myself able to breathe easier. I unzipped and took off the jumpsuit I was in, removed my goggles, and looked at my PipBuck. These are hard to get off… meh, they’re also waterproof. I got into the tub, the warm water feeling absolutely wonderful against my skin. It had been far too long since my last hot bath that was for certain. I soaked for a bit as I pondered my next question.

“Ok… now I don’t really care much on exactly how you brought me into this Stable. It’s evident that you did, the how of it really doesn't matter.” I said. “That was just a leading question for the real question I have. Why did you bring me into the Stable?”

“Ah, that question is always among the first that are asked.” Shimmercoat said his voice wistful sounding.

“Cut the smart-talk. Give me the reason.” I said, irritated at his tone. Yes, it was much easier to talk to this pony when I wasn’t actually looking at him at the moment.

“I take it that you wouldn’t believe me if I said that I bring ponies in from the outside as a gift to them to lighten the burdens of their no-doubt hard lives on the outside?” Shimmercoat asked.

“Correct.” I replied. Like anypony would believe that load of crock. My Ma taught me that nothing in life, no matter how trivial, is free. There’s always a cost for something, be it caps or love. Sometimes it’s caps for love. I’ve had my fair share of customers that hired me to go find them a soulmate. Those jobs are easy; just find a pony that’s vaguely attractive and of the client’s preferred gender and bam. Soulmate. Slap a collar on ‘em and sell.

I could hear him smiling disarmingly. It was mildly annoying. “Very well, I’ll tell you the true reason. I try to capture and keep happy anypony that wanders close to the Stable door in order to sustain the future of the stable.” Shimmercoat said. “Like I said before, we have a small population. We would have been inbred out of existence if this policy hadn’t been enacted a while ago. You guarantee the future of the Stable. You guarantee that it has a future. We need to retain genetic variability in order to survive.”

Wait… was he saying… “So you ponynapped me… just to make me have foals for the Stable?” I said angrily.

“Of course not! We would never force you to have children.” Shimmercoat said, sounding affronted. “However, as you live here I do hope that you find a very special somepony that you wish to…”

“And what if I already had a very special somepony, huh?” I cut him off. “What if my husband is waiting for me to come home on the outside?!” I didn’t have any such pony to go home to. I hadn’t for a while. But the principle of the matter bothered me. When I enslaved ponies at least they had a chance to fight back when they encountered me. Sure, they usually lost, but I’d been avoided or fought off before by my quarry. This… this abduction was just a sucker-move. I’d had no choice in the matter, one minute I was standing outside the Stable, and the next I’m in this bath being told that my future consists of making foals! “What if I don’t want to spend the rest of my life here?”

“Well, other ponies have tried to fight the Stable… our security handled them swiftly.” Shimmercoat replied through the speaker, an undertone of threat in his voice. “I remember one mare that simply refused to eat or do anything. Another time, a stallion we brought in committed suicide. You could react in such a manner, but I would be sorely disappointed if you did…” The way he said that, I almost felt that the last thing I wanted to do was disappoint him. “In any case, nopony has been able to escape the Stable, believe you me, if there was a way out, I would be the first to lead Stable 11 into the outside world. Stable-Tec sealed us in tight, though, so we make do how we can for now… If I truly did tear you from somepony else, I apologize with all my heart. There was no way to know…” he sounded genuinely sorry.

I… didn’t know what to think. I was angry that I had been captured, confused at Shimmercoat’s motives, sad that if I ever got out all my stuff would probably have been looted, afraid that I might really have to spend the rest of my life here, and bubbling below all these emotions was the lingering lust I had for Shimmercoat, which confused me the most. “Uh…” I said again. I’ve been saying that a lot recently. “Where did my shoe go?” I asked. Then I remembered something. “Oh! And where did the nightstalker and M… uh, gun I had with me go?” I suddenly thought of what Hiss might do if he suddenly woke up trapped in an unfamiliar environment full of ponies. The implication wasn’t pretty.

“I have your shoe and weapon right here in my room… but what do you mean by ‘nightstalker?’ Is that another type of gun?” Shimmercoat asked. “It might have teleported to another part of the Stable, sometimes the spell is thrown off a bit by the Stable’s anti-teleportation fields.”

So he doesn't know what a nightstalker is, to be expected of a Stable pony. And I haven’t heard any alarms since I’ve been here, that either means that Hiss is still knocked out or has enough sense to keep his little snake head down. Maybe I can find him before anypony else does. If I do, I have an ace up my sleeve that will no doubt come in handy. “Uh… yeah, the nightstalker is my gun.” I said. “Sorry, I’m still a bit dazed at what’s going on.”

“That’s perfectly understandable. Why don’t I let you be so you can finish your bath. Or do you have any more questions?” Shimmercoat said, his voice taking on a soothing tone.

I had a lot of questions still. But most of them, such as how to work a PipBuck or where I was supposed to sleep tonight would answer themselves in time. “No thanks, Shimemrcoat.” I said. “I’ll be sure to ask you if I think of anything.” I immediately thought of something. “Oh! About my gun… am I allowed to carry it in the Stable?”

“Ah, sadly, no.” Shimmercoat replied. Before I could yell at him, he added, “Nopony but security is allowed any weapons of any type. When we live this close together, we need the added countermeasures to make sure everypony is on their best behavior.”

“What about my shoe?” I asked.

“What about it? It’s a shoe.” Shimmercoat said. “Of course you can have it back, I’ll even set it out by the door, ready for you when you’re done in there.” I heard a clink as what was presumably the Shoe of Honor was set outside the door. “Though I don’t know why anypony would walk around with just one shoe on.”

“It has sentimental value.” I said, remembering back to the day Mr. Opportunity knocked. That day had set me down the course of events that had defined my life since then. Although, if one thought about it, every day does that. Best not to think about it too much, I’m no philosopher pony. I was a bit miffed that Mezzer was being kept from me, but I had no doubt I could get my hooves on it at some point, and in the meantime, the Shoe of Honor would serve me well. Sure, it was just a shoe, a metal shoe that had beaten its fair number of heads in.

I relaxed in the bath water, soaking the soothing warmth into my weary muscles. Sure, I was captured against my will and disarmed, but I had no intention of staying in either of those conditions. I was going to escape, no doubt about that. So I might as well enjoy some luxuries while I can.

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

I stepped out of the bathroom refreshed and invigorated. My mane was slicked down with moisture, and my coat was all fluffy from the toweling off I had just administered to it. For the first time in far too long, I felt clean. I had put back on the Stable jumpsuit, and my goggles were perched back on my forehead. Right outside the door to the bathroom was my Shoe of Honor. I put that right back on my left front hoof where it belonged. “Shimmercoat? Shimmercoat!” I called out, but he was surprisingly no longer there. I was left alone in his quarters. Well ok then. Guess I wasn’t ‘cute’ enough to wait around for, I had only been in the bath for… I checked my PipBuck.

Three hours. Huh. Alright, I would have gotten bored too; I guess I’ll let him off the hook. I looked around the room some more, but not much seemed changed. There was a bedroom through a door with a large round bed with what looked like silk sheets, and shelves of random nick-nacks were placed along the walls. A large bookshelf in the main room of the overstallion’s quarters was absolutely chock-full of books. I took one at random off the shelf. “The Canterlot Journal of Internal Medicine, huh? Now isn’t this a little bit of light reading…” I said to myself, putting the book in a pocket in the Stable barding to read later. I looked on the shelf for something else that I could use, but didn’t find much besides trashy romance novels, more technical journals about things that had to do with Stables, and a few science fiction novels that looked interesting, but there was always the first or second one in the series missing. Typical. “Ooo, what’s this?” I said, spying a thinner volume amongst the books, almost hidden from view between a large manual describing how many ways ponies could prepare themselves to die in the event of a reactor core meltdown and a cookbook. I pulled it out with my telekinesis. “Overpony Journal, Vol. 1.” I said, reading the cover. “This might have some answers as to what goes on here…” I pocketed that book too. I took a look around the shelf for any other volumes of the journals, but didn’t see any. I took a quick glance at the end date of the first volume. This journal had been filled up almost one hundred and sixty years ago! There had to be more volumes…

My musing on journals was interrupted by my stomach growling loudly. Didn’t Shimmercoat say something about there being a large cafeteria around here somewhere? I walked out of the room, looking for signs or some sort of direction to the nearest source of food. After wandering the corridors for a little while, I swiftly came to the conclusion that I was totally lost. I’d never been in a Stable before, so though I have heard that they were all pretty much built off of the same template with only a few minor differences, that particular tidbit of info didn’t do me much good. As I wandered downwards aimlessly, the echoes of pony life around me dwindled into silence, soon replaced by the hum and bang of heavy machinery working hard to keep this place habitable. I turned a corner and nearly bumped into a small beige mare who was holding a wrench and had a very focused look on her face. Until she looked up at me, that is. Then she looked positively terrified, her eyes widening and her legs freezing up. She dropped her wrench to the ground with a ‘clang!’ “Oh, uh, hi there, miss.” I said politely. “You wouldn’t happen to know where the cafeteria is, would you? I’ve kind of gotten myself lost…”

“Y-y-y…” the mare stammered. “Y-you’re n-not from here!”

“No, I’m not. I’m new.” I said, hoping that this mare would absorb that quickly and tell me where the dang food was.

“B-but if the Overstallion’s brought a new pony in… then that means… um… HI!” the mare said suddenly and very loudly. She was obviously trying to cover up a slip of the tongue. It didn’t work. I totally caught that. She practically telegraphed her nervousness to me.

“Hi.” I deadpanned. “What about the Overstallion bringing me in?” I asked. “I thought new ponies were brought in to preserve the genetic variability of the Stable?”

“MY NAME IS CRESCENT WRENCH! WHAT’S YOURS!!” Crescent shouted. Her eyes darted back and forth.

Yeah. Nothing’s up at all. No siree. And my dear ol’ Ma was a dash addict. This mare was going to give me answers whether she wanted to or not. “Coin Slot.” I answered. “So Crescent…” I took a glance at her cutie mark. Surprisingly, it was a mallet. “I take it you work maintenance?”

“U-uh… yeah.” Crescent said, observing the floor between her front hooves quite intensely.

“You seem a little high strung. What’s troubling you?” I asked, plastering a smile on my face. I think it was just as convincing as her attempts to cover something up though.

She didn’t seem any more calmed by my smile; in fact, she shivered, even though it was actually quite temperate down here. “Well, I d-don’t meet new ponies very often… All the new ponies I’ve seen in here are ones I’ve seen since they were foals… and… there’s a ghost down here!”

“Oh?” I asked. A ghost, huh? “Lemme guess, it slips in and out of the corner of your eye, and all you hear is a hissing noise?”

She gasped. “You’ve seen it too! I knew I wasn’t crazy! It just showed up today, and all the other maintenance mares think I’ve lost my mind, but whenever I go down into the pipe system to fix something, I hear it hissing… I think…” She leaned in conspiratorially. “That it’s the dreaded Creeper Ghost!”

Well, I’d dealt with crazy ponies before, but I had to admit that this was a little new and unexpected from such a cushy environment. I guess growing up safe and sound in a Stable doesn't necessarily mean you’re sane. “Creeper Ghost, huh?” I asked. I had a pretty good idea what it really was. “What do creepers do, Crescent?”

“Don’t take on that tone with me, they’re real, my great grandpappy was killed by one!” Crescent said, a little miffed at my condescending tone. “They are silent, making no noise whatsoever, unseen… unheard… until it’s too late!” She waggled her hooves in my face, making ooo-ing noises.

“What about the hissing? That’s not very silent.” I said.

“Oh! Right, they don’t make a noise until they’re right behind you, so you can’t get away… then they hiss! You have just enough time to think, ‘Oh, horseapples,’ and then… they explode!” She leaned up closer to me, whispering conspiratorially in my ear. “I even hear that the really big ones will explode twice.”

“Is that even possible?” I said, incredulous. I shook my head. “Look. That sounds ridiculous.”

“It’s true! Creepers are real!” Crescent pouted, giving me a terribly cute puppy-dog-eye look.

“I don’t think they even exist.” I replied, unmoved.

She stomped her front hooves a couple of times. Ok, this mare was pretty cute when she was angry. Such a small thing too… bet she doesn't eat much… I wonder how much she would sell for… “C’mon! I’ll show you!” she said, her voice suddenly a lot more determined.

“Um…what about the cafeteria?” I asked. I hadn’t forgotten how strangely she acted when she first saw me. I was just trying to figure out the best way to get more information out of her without her freaking out again and closing up on me. She seemed calmer now that she wanted to prove something to me… maybe I could use that. Plus if this ghost Creeper was what I thought it was, then that would be one mystery solved before lunchtime! Even though it was going to be a late lunch.

“After I show you, we’ll go up to the cafeteria. You’re really off track. It’s three levels up.” She answered. “Follow me.”

We walked for a ways, deeper into the mechanisms of the Stable. Large pipes with strange markings on them wound around us, and tiny catwalks and tunnels under the pipes sometimes popped up, but we didn’t go into any of them. The space was really tight even without trying to squeeze into the inner workings of the plumbing. These pipes seemed to go on for miles… how deep did the Stable go, anyways? We had already walked down three more flights of stairs. “Uh… you sure you know where you’re going?” I asked.

“Well duh.” Crescent answered. “Our PipBuck’s have a map function, you know.”

Oh. Right. I facehoofed. How could I have forgotten that? At least I had an excuse; I’d only had this thing for a few hours.

Deeper and deeper into the Stable we trotted. I pondered how to approach this mare with my questions. “So… Crescent…” I said. “You mentioned your great grandfather. Has your family always been in this Stable?”

“Yep! Stable 11, born and bred!” she said proudly. “My family is descended from one of the big contracting companies that worked on building all the Stables, including this one! You could say that Stable building and maintenance is in our blood.”

“That’s nice.” I said. I thought for a bit more, trying to come up with something that would answer in more detail why I was brought here. ‘Diversifying the gene pool’ my right flank. After the way she reacted when seeing me, I knew something more than what Shimmercoat was telling me was up. “So I bet you know all of what goes on in the Stable, don’t you?”

“Just about!” she said, smiling. Somewhere close by, some piece of machinery made a loud banging noise. I jumped in place, bumping my head on the close ceiling. Crescent didn’t even flinch. “Oh, that was just the hydronic purifiers pumping new deep-ground water into the system.” She said matter-of-factly. “There should be a big clanking noise coming up that will sound right above our heads…”

Sure enough, as soon as she finished talking, a cacophonous racket practically exploded above our heads. What was going on down here?! It sounded like the place was falling apart! After the noises stopped, all that was left was a faint hissing noise, originating from a point behind Crescent.

In fact, it almost sounded more like a growl…

Crescent Wrench froze, her eyes going wide. “D-d-d-d-d-d…” she stammered. “D-do y-y-you hear t-that? It’s a-a-a-a… a CREEPER!! AHHHHHHHH!!” She screamed. She ran forward for about four hooves, and then seemed to realize that I basically blocked her only route of escape. “Ohhhhh noooooooo…” she said, withering right in front of me. She sank to her knees, curling up into a quivering mess, her eyes staring straight forward. “They came… from… behind…” Dang, this mare had issues. I looked over her, seeing a familiar shimmer in the air approaching us.

“Hiss! C’mere boy!” I said, sitting down and holding my hooves out. Hiss reappeared and jumped over Crescent and into my waiting forehooves, licking my face with his forked tongue. “Aww, did you miss me? Were you scared of the noises and the crazy maintenance mare? Oh, you must be starving, aren’t you, little puppy? Oh yes, you are! Oh yes, you are!” I said as Hiss rolled over, and I started scratching his belly.

Crescent got up and stared at me, then at Hiss, then back at me again. “I… you… but… huh?” she said.

“Oh, Crescent, this isn’t a Creeper, this is Hiss! My pet nightstalker!” I said cheerfully.

“Nightstalker?” she said, a confused look on her face. “It looks… uh… what is it?”

I remembered that Stable ponies wouldn’t know what different types of mutated creatures there were. “It’s um… a breed of dog.” I said. Technically that isn’t exactly a lie, if you’re a bit loose with your definition of the word ‘breed.’

“Oh… so there isn’t a Creeper?” she said, looking for all the world like she was mildly disappointed. Good grief, does this filly want to be blown up?

“No. No Creeper. Only Hiss and an overactive imagination.” I said, smiling a genuine smile this time. Her face glowed red and she stomped her front hooves again.

“Stoooop it! You’re making fun of me!” she said. Great biscuits, was she cute. I bet there’s a lovely raider couple out there that would want a filly just like her to raise their very own. Or something. You never can tell with raiders.

“How old are you, Crescent?” I asked, the thought suddenly occurring to me.

She stopped glaring at me and said, “Almost 14. Why?”

Holy brahmin! She looked older than that, but this mare was barely out of fillyhood! No wonder she was so cute. “No reason. Just confirming a thought that I just had. How long have you been working maintenance?”

“Ever since I got my cutie mark!” Crescent said proudly, all trace of anger gone.

“Oh? Do you mind telling me how you got your cutie mark?” I asked, knowing a filly this age would still like regaling the tale every chance she got. Cutie marks were a big deal. “While you guide me to the cafeteria, of course. Hiss, c’mon.” I said. Hiss fell in line behind us as Crescent took the lead, nervously passing by him and squeezing past me.

“Oh, right! You haven’t heard the story!” She said. “Well, when I was a little filly, Mommy had just come back from her shift down near the reactor core.” Crescent launched into storytelling mode as fast as her mood changed. Like I said, this filly was a special case. “She was really tired, and I was busy tinkering with the broken Mr. Handy that’s been busted the past ten years, and she asked me to do her a favor and wash up her containment suit, because she needed a nap.” Crescent had this habit of talking faster and faster the more and more she kept talking. It was getting a little hard to keep up with her mentally. “So, I of course said, ‘Sure Mommy, no problem, you can count on me!’ and got to work straight away, cause I love my Mommy. Do you love your Mommy?” she asked suddenly. “Do they even have mommies on the outside?”

“I love my dear ol’ Ma more than you know, Crescent.” I said, very serious. “She meant the entire world to me…” my eyes misted over. No! Don’t cry in front of the little filly! I covered my eyes with my PipBuck, trying to pull myself together. Suddenly, I felt a fuzzy warmth hugging me above my Shoe of Honor. I looked down to see Crescent giving me a hug.

“It’s alright, Coin Slot.” She said. “I know you’ll see her again soon.”

“Thanks…” I said, wiping my eyes. “So, you were washing a containment suit?” I prompted her to finish her story.

“Oh! Right, so Mommy gives me her suit and goes to her bedroom, and I go to the bathroom and run some water in the tub, quickly before the radioactive waste got in the carpet.” Crescent said. I raised my eyebrow at that statement, there seemed to be a mix of priorities here. Stable ponies, I thought, rolling my eyes. Crescent continued, “I brought in the suit to wash it, and it accidentally caught on a piece of the Mr. Handy on the floor and got a hole torn in it! I thought Mommy was going to kill me, these suits were super hard to make, and she needed it for her job cleaning the reactor core!” Crescent laughed a lighthearted giggle-snort. Seriously, this filly would rake in a ton of caps on the open market for her cuteness alone, never mind her apparent repair skills. “I panicked for a bit, then calmed down and thought that maybe if I could fix the suit before Mommy got up, then I wouldn’t be in trouble! So I got out some strips of rubber I had from the Mr. Handy’s insulation, some lead paint, Wonderglue, and a mallet, and started patching the hole as best I could. Before long, the banging of my mallet woke Mommy up, and she came in to tell me to quiet down, and when she saw what I was doing, she just stood there, her mouth wide open. I thought I was in really big trouble, so I was like, ‘Mommy, no, please don’t be mad. I promise I’ll fix it. I double-doggy swear!’ and she just smiled at me and said, ‘Dear, I know you did a good job fixing my suit, just look at your flank.’ So I did, and was I ever surprised! My cutie mark had appeared!” She wiggled her rear in my face, showing off her mallet picture. I tried to look impressed. “I immediately ran around the whole Stable, telling everypony I saw.” She giggled. “I even told Mr. Cutthroat, and he had only been in the Stable for a week! I wasn’t scared of him at all!”

Oh? “Mr. Cutthroat, you say?” I said, thinking fast. There were only two types of ponies who would name themselves (Or alternatively, be named by their parents. It happens.) this particular style of name. Those were raiders and mercenaries. Either one was bound to look way different than your average Stable pony. “I think I know him, did he look really roughed up? Like he’d been through several fights and just barely crawled out of them? Maybe had a spiky mane or really bad teeth?”

“Yeah, how’d you know?” Crescent asked. “Do all ponies know each other on the outside like we all know each other in here?”

“Not entirely.” I answered, still trying to come up with a line of questioning that could lead to some real answers. “Where is this Mr. Cutthroat?”

“Oh, he was the sacrifice for the Stable that year, so he’s not… eep!” Crescent said, slamming her hoof on her mouth.

Bingo.

Before Crescent could run away, I tackled her, pinning her to the ground. Pre-empting her scream for help, I stuck the Shoe of Honor in her mouth. “MMMMMPH!!” she tried to yell.

“Don’t shriek!” I ordered. She lay there, looking pathetic. “Do you promise not to shriek?”

“Mmm Hmmm.” She nodded, her eyes wide with fear.

“Alright. What do you mean by, ‘sacrifice?’ I want answers!” I said, taking my royally-shod hoof out of her mouth.

She just lay there, quivering, her mouth shut tight and her eyes wide.

I glared at her. “Hiss. C’mere.” Hiss obediently came up next to me, into Crescent’s field of vision. “Open your mouth, and show the nice filly your beautiful fangs.” Hiss opened his mouth, his fangs dripping poison slowly onto the floor. A growl-hiss emerged from the back of his throat.

“T-t-t-t-t-t…. they…” Crescent stuttered.

“Yes?” I urged her to continue. It looked like intimidation was working.

“C-c-came… from… b-b-behind…” she finished, taking another look at Hiss’s open maw. I smelled the scent of urine coming out from under us. The young mare had apparently soiled herself. She closed her eyes and just kept muttering the same nonsense phrase over and over again.

“Talk straight, or you’ll feel how sharp those fangs are!” I shouted, getting tired of this. If I was going to survive and escape, then I needed all the information I could gather about this place, and this teenaged earth pony was standing… or rather, lying, in my way. I couldn’t let her stop me.

“Hey!”

Three yellow dots suddenly popped into view on my shiny new EFS. They rapidly turned red. “You there! Get off Crescent Wrench, and keep your hooves where we can see them!”

I looked up. Three ponies, all unicorn stallions, were running towards me in armored barding and helmets with face shields. Their barding had bright yellow letters spelling SECURITY. They drew batons that telescoped out into painful looking clubs. “Hiss, hide.” I said quietly, stepping off of Crescent. Hiss was nowhere to be found. If there’s one thing a nightstalker can do, it’s disappearing. I widened my stance and lowered my ears and head, trying to look as non-threatening as possible. There was no way I could go hoof-to-hoof with three security guards when I was unarmed and unarmored, even if I had Hiss help me. Two of the guards took positions to my right and left, keeping their batons raised in case I decided to be stupid. The other guard helped Crescent get up out of her own mess.

“What were you doing to young Crescent!? Answer me!” One of the guards next to me shouted.

“It’s alright, miss. We’re here. Why don’t I take you to your mother, huh? I’ll let your supervisor know where you are and what happened so you aren’t blamed for missing work.” The guard that was helping Crescent said. They quickly left the scene, leaving me with the two guards menacing me. Peachy.

“Well? Explain yourself, outsider!” the other guard that was next to me ordered.

“I was just asking her a few questions.” I hissed quietly through clenched teeth. So close. So close to answers. Why did those guards have to be there?!

“She pissed herself! Those must have been some sorts of questions!” The guard to my left said, his tone indicating that may have been disgusted with me. That was only a guess on my part though.

“You’re coming with us to the security office to cool your hooves until we decide what to do with you. If you’re lucky, then Crescent’s mother won’t press charges. Since she doesn't know you though, outsider, I highly doubt it.” said the guard to my right. He sounded calmer than his partner but no less serious.

“We’ll have to send a cleanup crew down here afterwards.” The guard to my left said to his partner.

“Right. Let’s get chuckles here processed first.” Mr. Right-Side said. They guided me up the stairs, heading for the security office.

My stomach growled. I somehow doubted I was going to get a substantial meal anytime soon, though.

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Sacrifice. That didn’t sound good no matter how you sliced it. I had been locked up in a jail cell, after being searched. Surprisingly, the guards didn’t confiscate anything from me, not even the technically-stolen books. Good thing too, because I was stuck here for a while and bored out of my mind. In my cell there was a bench, toilet, and rather uncomfortable cot. Not exactly the luxury accommodations that the Overstallion’s quarters were. Just outside my cell I could see the little office where the security ponies hung out on their break, the security chief’s office on the other side of the hall, and just beyond that was a locked door labeled ‘Armory.’ It seemed odd to me that the Stable designers would have the place where they kept prisoners and the place where they kept weapons in the same location, but it did make sense that both were near the security offices. Going to sit on the bench (which was a sight more comfortable than the cot), I pulled out the Canterlot Journal of Internal Medicine from my barding. I may as well kill the time by reading something, and if there’s one thing I knew from my travels in the wastes, it was to always take the opportunity to learn about medicine in any way you can. You never know when that kind of knowledge would come in handy.

The Canterlot Journal of Internal Medicine was interesting, informative, and highly useful. It’s entertainment value, however, was rather low, so after reading it for about forty-five minutes I stuck it back in my barding’s pocket, and fished out the Overpony’s Journal. I doubted that a journal written two hundred years ago was going to in any way help my current situation, but reading about the lives of ponies in the past had to be more interesting than the different classifications of tumors, right? I cracked open the journal and turned to the first page.

Day 1

Overmare Highlight Sparks

Well, it’s happened… I… I don’t know what to think anymore. I thought Stable-Tec was a company just founded and funded by hyper-paranoid ponies, that there wasn’t going to be a megaspell war at all, no pony… or zebra… would be that insane! It was mutually assured destruction! How… how could anypony do this?

I need to collect my thoughts. I’ll be addressing the Stable soon… Stable 11. Our children will call it home, as will our children’s children. I don’t know how long we’ll be stuck down here. For some bizarre reason, when we came to the Stable, my name came up on the register sheet as Overmare! Me, in charge? Of an entire Stable?! I’m a construction worker, not even a manager! I’m no leader! Still… the registration sheet was very strict on who was to do what in the Stable; that no matter our former standing in the world, the paradigms would be shifted once we began our new life… underground. Guess my loyalty to the company has finally paid off, huh? Heh.

I’m going to keep this journal, write in it on occasion. Might help me remember a few things, and besides, ponykind’s new history starts with us. Might as well record it.

I’ll never fly again… I just realized that. The only room really big enough to fly in is the atrium, and even then it’s only about 15 meters tall…

My son, Top Notch… he was in Cloudsdale. Did he make it out in time? He’s not here… maybe they let him in another Stable! They aren’t supposed to, but we ended up letting in three ponies who were supposed to go to Stable 101 and another whole family, five more ponies, that were bound for Stable 19 also got in. I hope he’s ok… though even if he is, I guess I’ll still never see him again… he was doing so well in life too! He’d already landed a management position at General Atomareics. Guess that doesn't matter any more though… I need to go lie down. I need to organize these ponies and get everypony situated… I need to get the work schedules ironed out, I need to listen to that tape the C.E.O. left in the Overmare’s terminal, I need, I need, I need!!

I’m not cut out for this. I can’t even imagine what big Stables are like, this one only has 400 ponies in it, and I know for a fact that Stable 55 has over 3000! Though when we were building it, it didn’t seem like the plumbing system for that Stable could handle the needs of that many ponies… they must have brought in a secondary construction crew to finish the job. Not that I need to worry about that now, right now I need to worry about the needs of the 400 ponies I’ve been saddled with. Gahh… why couldn’t they have given this job to somepony with management experience? Alright, Highlight, you can do this, you’ve tackled hard problems before, you can do this… Top Notch was always better at handling ponies… his poor old mother is just good with machines…

I wish he were here.

I wondered why Stable-Tec would put one of their blue-collar construction workers in charge of a Stable. Was Shimmercoat descended from this Highlight Sparks? Despite myself, I was actually getting interested in what had happened in the past. I could now see how some prospectors I met… or scavengers, depending on how noble you thought those types of ponies were, actually liked poking around in old terminals and journals like this. I used to think they were crazy for trying to find stuff about the past that was entirely not useful in the present. Only eggheads do that sort of thing. A little history makes for pretty good prison reading, though! I turned the page, reading onwards.

Day 4

Overmare Sunny Eyes

Wait, what happened to Highlight? She was overthrown in only three days?

That… bitch! Whining about her colt when she should have been, oh, I don’t know, DOING HER JOB?! Now I’m stuck with this bunch of losers… ugh.

Well, this new Overmare seemed cheery.

Ok, so I’ll write down what’s going on, because apparently that’s one of the Overpony’s duties, and Celestia damn it if I’m not going to do a better job than her! So apparently little miss gets-weepy-when-the-world-ends decided that curling up in her quarters and crying about her son would be more fruitful than trying to get everypony organized. Good thing quite a bit of the Stable is automated, otherwise we’d be in quite a lot of hot water. So I go up to complain to her, you know, about how nopony wants to wash the dishes or take care of everyone’s trash. Simple stuff, right? Just assign somepony to janitor detail, no big deal, right? WRONG. The little cunt can’t nail her own horseshoes without breaking out into tears, let alone tell anypony what to do. So I go into the Overmare’s office, right, to try and find the work detail list that assigned miss worthless into her position in the first place, you know, to find out who’s stuck with janitor duty. So right there, right fucking there, smack dab on the middle of the screen of the Overmare’s terminal, was this big flashing “LISTEN NOW” sign. Well, I’ve always listened to computers when they told me what to do, so I hit the play button, right? Well, what I hear is the ol’ chicken telling us that we gotta do this thing, otherwise we’re ALL GONNA DIE. Guess what that thing is? Apparently Stable 11 is so luxurious, so awesome and all, so much better than other Stables, that it needs ‘extra’ power requirements. So we gotta sacrifice one pony a year to the mainframe, plug em in and let the Stable drain them dry of… I dunno, magic force or some shit like that. Supposed to be painless, the chicken says. Right, and I’m the fucking princess. Anyways, we were apparently supposed to have already plugged in a pony, and if we didn’t do so within the week, life support was gonna go down and we could say hello to Luna’s ass, because the door would lock up and the place would flood with radiation from the reactor core! Ain’t that peachy?

My eyes widened. I quickly read onwards, begging this uncouth pony to keep writing useful information.

So I, in my glorious sense of duty and fellowship with my fellow ponies, head on over to the atrium with the chicken’s speech in my PipBuck and I play it over the loudspeakers. Course, the Stable was less than happy to hear the news, and more importantly, really unhappy that a certain crybaby hadn’t let them know yet. I decided to withhold the fact that she probably hadn’t even listened to the message yet. We had our first sacrifice, all wrapped up in her sorrows. When I sent her down the secret tunnel under the Overmare’s desk, she just walked down there, not a word coming from her lips, staring ahead like she was some sort of zombie pony. I almost felt sorry for the bitch. I closed the tunnel, and the system must have plugged her in, cause we all didn’t die. So now we need a new Overmare, right? Well, some bright idiot decided that we should all vote on it. What is this, a democracy? Needless to say, the ponies of the Stable voted that I should be Overmare, since I had alerted them to this disaster before we all bit the big one. Lucky me.

Ah well, at least somepony intelligent is in charge now.

I turned the page, but the rest of the journal was burnt, as if somepony had torched it, but hadn’t necessarily been trying to destroy it. Maybe there had been a riot? Whatever the case, the journal was unreadable from that point forward. I found myself disappointed that the rest of the journal had been burnt. I had wanted to know more about the history of the Stable.

Sweet kumquats… I'm an egghead!

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Since I had nothing else to do in prison but twiddle my hooves, I read the rest of that dumb medical book. Learned stuff, but it wasn’t nearly as interesting as the Overpony’s Journal. I was contemplating taking a nap when I heard a tiny clinking noise at the front of my cell.

There was a barely-perceptible shimmer in front of the barred door to the cell. “Hiss, is that you?” I whispered, careful not to catch any of the guards’ attention. From what I could see, there was only the security chief and one other guard, and they were talking to each other in the break room, looked like the chief was asking something from the guard that she didn’t really want to do. Hoping that their conversation would keep them distracted, I snuck over to the front of my cell. An invisible forked tongue licked my snout. “It is you! Listen, Hiss. I need you to find me a key to this cell. Can you do that?” He seemed to be able to understand me before. Let’s see if he was capable of understanding complex commands. “Go into the security chief’s office, and get me a key.”

The shimmer in the air that was Hiss slinked away from the cell door and into the open door of the security chief’s office. So far so good. I was already planning my next move… the Stable went deep, I knew that. So if I could get past the guards and head down low, I could probably loose them in the workings of the Stable, even if they knew the territory, there were lots of nooks and crannies that no sane pony would go into, perfect hiding spots.

Hiss came back, and soon a pair of bobby pins, a screwdriver, and a key materialized as he spit them out within reach of my hooves. I levitated them through the cell door with my telekinesis, and tried the key on the lock. It, of course, didn’t work. “I meant the key to this door, Hiss!” I whispered angrily. I couldn’t see his reaction to my scolding, but I got the distinct impression that he was looking at me like I was some sort of idiot. I took a second glance at the bobby pins and screwdriver. What was I supposed to do with these? Pick the lock?

Say, that wasn’t a half bad idea. Too bad I had no idea how to pick locks… still, nothing ventured…

I levitated the pin and screwdriver into the lock… ok, so I was supposed to wiggle the… pins, I think they’re called… with the bobby pin and apply torque with the screwdriver, that much I knew. The lock turned halfway before becoming caught on the bobby pin, breaking it in two. Sh…oot. One more bobby pin, and who knows how long I would have to wait until Hiss found more. I adjusted the pin a little from where I had it last time, and turned more slowly. The lock got caught again, but the pin didn’t break…

I heard a slapping noise come from the break room, and the mare security officer trotted out of it, her head held high and her eyes thankfully closed, otherwise she would have caught me trying to break out. If I were to guess, I’d say the security chief struck out with her. He was probably on his way out too.

Screw it.

I took the screwdriver and twisted it with my telekinesis as hard as I could. The lock resisted for a tiny bit, then gave, turning all the way and unlocking with a ‘click.’ Sweet! I quickly hid the screwdriver and bobby pin in my tail, trying to look innocent as the security chief walked slowly out of the break room, a hoofprint on his cheek. He took one look at me, sighed, and said, “What do you know about mares?”

Huh? “Huh?” I vocalized.

“Mares. You’re one, I assume you know how they think.” He said. “I’ve been trying to get Orange Slice to… well…” he blushed.

“Sleep with you. I get it.” I said. Great hanging branches, was this stallion really asking me for relationship advice? His prisoner? Stable ponies are weird.

“Right!” he said, relived that I caught on so quick. “I’ve already taken her out on three dates, gotten her an expensive gift, and everything! She’s still non-receptive though! Is there something I’m doing wrong?”

Seemed all right to me. I took a second look at him. He was no Shimmercoat, but wasn’t an ugly pony either. “I honestly don’t know.” I said truthfully. “You might want to try asking her.”

“I already have! She just says I ‘don’t get it.’” He said, sighing again. He walked into his office and closed the door. I heard a lock click from the inside. All right, time to go.

I opened my cell, the shimmer of Hiss walking next to me. As I passed by the armory, I heard a whine. What was that? Turning around, I saw Hiss’s shimmer standing next to the armory door. He was pawing at it… I think. It was hard to see his paw. I took a look at the lock on the door, then a look at the key Hiss had brought me. I tried it.

Click.

The armory door opened. Aww yeah! This changed my plans a little. Now I could go capture Shimmercoat and force him to teleport me back out of here! I’m sure there was a way, he just liked it here too much to leave himself. I looked around the room. Some saddlebags were there, good thing too, cause there were also fragmentation and magical pulse mines, four apple-shaped frag grenades, two bricks of C4 (no detonator though, sadly), a 10mm pistol with plenty of ammo, a yellow medical box full of healing potions and Med-X, and a couple police batons. I grabbed the lot and stuck ‘em in my new saddlebags… and spotted, on the top shelf so I almost didn’t notice it, the Mezzer.

I levitated my weapon down to me, giving it a hug. Oh, how I missed it! Now all I needed was a bomb collar and I would feel like myself again… hmm…

There was a workbench in here, and after a little scrounging around, I found a weapon repair kit that had wonderglue and duct tape in it. I also found a leather belt and… come on… yes! There was a sensor module back here in a pile of scrap metal. Ok… let’s get to work. I told Hiss to guard the door while I worked, after closing and locking the door of course. What I was doing was going to take concentration, and I didn’t want anypony walking in on me.

Why had I hugged the Mezzer? The thought just struck me, had I really become that attached to the weapon already? I’d only had it for a little while. Ah well, it must have left some sort of impression on me. It certainly looked cool.

I returned to the workbench, and pulled out it’s soldering tool and some of the scrap metal, along with the two bricks of C4. Carefully making a specially shaped box out of the scrap metal, I took the sensor module and welded it into place as well as I could with a soldering tool, with a few wires sticking out into the inside. Before sealing up the box, I packed it with all of the C4 I could possibly fit in there. I then quickly soldered the last metal plate onto the small box. I knew that C4 was a stable plastic explosive, and that even the heat from welding wouldn’t set it off, but I still wanted to be quick. You never know, and it only takes once. With my little shaped charge built, I went onto the next step. I took the leather belt and wonderglue and duct tape, and with the adhesives I secured the explosive to the belt as tightly and strongly as I could. I took two wires from the sensor module and wrapped them around the length of the belt as well, wondergluing them into place and wrapping the whole thing in duct tape to protect it. The belt wouldn’t be able to lock, but if anyone messed with it, the sensor would know, and that was good enough a lock as any. Now I needed to link the sensor to a detonator… which I didn’t have. I sighed, and took a second look around. No detonators. Who keeps C4 in a place without a detonator to use them? That makes it practically useless! I slammed my PipBuck onto the workbench in frustration.

Hold up. PipBuck. Thousands of functions, and I could modify them all. Or at least the ones I needed… I grinned. Closing my eyes and focusing, I reached out into the swarm of matrices that made up a PipBuck’s programming. Navigating the lines and switches of the matrix, I looked around for something I could use… a tracking signal, a free wireless hookup… ah ha! There was an empty driver bank here that wasn’t programmed, apparently it was just redundant or something. That I could use. I modified one of the empty matrices so that it would act as a wireless tracker and detonator. It started searching for a signal, and I guided it to the sensor module on the belt. Linking the two matrices together, I twisted the matrix closed and created a bond between my PipBuck and the sensor. If the sensor was moved more than 200 meters from my PipBuck, or if I triggered the detonator, or if the sensor noticed any tampering with the belt, then it would trigger the C4 and explode in a shaped direction: inwards and upwards.

I just made my bread and butter. A bomb collar. Sure, it wasn’t as sophisticated as the ones you can get from Fillydelphia, but it would do its job and do it rather well, I should think. I looked up from my work, pocketing the collar in my new saddlebags. I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to use it in here, but just having it made me feel like I was in control. Be in control of your own fate, as my dear ol’ Ma used to say. Now I am Ma.

Now I am.

Level up! (Lv. 4)

New Perk: Demomare: You have unlocked several new explosives crafting recipes that are unavailable to the average wastelander.

Enchanted Weapon Perk analysis: 85% 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 ErrantIndy 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!

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