• 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 6 > In which spines grow back

Chapter 6 > In which spines grow back
“Doctor! Are you sure this will work?!”

“Ma, what’s a megaspell?” I asked curiously. I had overheard a conversation between two gamblers discussing the transportation of a megaspell south down the Big 52. They were having a heated argument about it, but I couldn’t understand most of what they were talking about, so I went to ask Ma.

“Why do you want to know, dear? They’re dreadful things, something good little fillies shouldn’t concern themselves with.” Ma said, looking down at me from her desk, where she was filing income and expense reports, as usual. No wonder her cutie mark was an open financial scroll with a quill crossing over it, poised to work its accounting magic.

“There’s two nice stallions on the gaming floor talking about them, and I was curious…” I said. Megaspells weren’t on the ‘things good fillies should know about’ list? Maybe I should have kept my curiosity to myself…

“Oh? Get Hammer to fetch them in here, please.” She said. I nodded, my curiosity still burning, but if Ma didn’t want to tell me what megaspells were, I wasn’t going to press the issue. Interrogating your parents wasn’t something good little fillies did, and I was a good little filly. Ma said so.

So I left her office, and went up to the new security guard Ma just hired a few days ago, an earth pony stallion by the name of Hammer. He carried a really cool looking high-tech pneumatic sledgehammer he said was called a ‘super sledge.’ I thought that was a pretty silly name for a sledgehammer, but I saw what it did to that one mare who was caught with a light wand at one of our slot machines. I’m glad I didn’t have to clean up that mess… Hammer was a bit scary. “Hammer! Hammer!” I ran up to him, catching his attention. He had a black mane and tail and what he called a ‘lightish red’ coat. He let me call him pink once, since I was a little filly, he said… but warned me that if I ever did so again then he would ‘hammer me silly.’ I didn’t want to be a Coin Slot that could fit into a coin slot, so I avoided the p-word around him. He was sitting in a corner, keeping an eye on the gaming floor.

“What is it, little Coin?” Hammer said, smiling down at me. “Need help finding something to put in your Slot?”

“Huh?” I said, puzzled, looking up at him. His eyes gleamed like shining memory orbs, but I could see my reflection in them, they were so dark.

“Never mind. What is it?” he said, shaking his head. He stopped smiling.

“Ma wants you to bring those two customers into her office. She wants to talk to them.” I said, pointing the two arguing stallions on the gaming floor out. One had a magnifying glass for a cutie mark, the other had an exploding grenade.

“Alright, stand back, little filly. Hammer’s gonna go to work.” Hammer said, standing up. He approached the two stallions, who went quiet as soon as the realized he was coming for them. He said something I couldn’t hear, and the two arguers both stood up and started walking towards Ma’s office.

I followed them inside Ma’s office, wanting to know what was going on. Ma was glaring at the two of them and Hammer was standing by the door. Ma looked up from them to me and said, “Coin, darling, I need you to leave and watch the floor for now while I deal with a little administrative problem. Please close the door behind you, there’s a good little filly.”

“Yes Ma!” I said, always glad to help, like good little fillies should be. I closed the door and looked at the casino floor. Our little family casino wasn’t very big, it only had one roulette table, one craps table, one pool table, and two blackjack/poker tables. It also had two rows of slot machines, which I had converted to take caps instead of chips, since Pa couldn’t find enough chips during his salvage runs to stock our casino. Pa was at the bar off to the side of the casino right now, cleaning glasses with the sad look on his face that he had had ever since I… ever since Fiddlesticks had left. We were talking less and less now… I had thought getting rid of Fiddlesticks would solve all the problems between Ma and Pa… even though I didn’t quite understand what was going on, I knew that Fiddle had had something to do with it. But Pa was still sadder then ever.

There was exactly one customer playing at a slot machine right now, an old customer too. Old Mare Withers, who came to play every week with fifty caps, and every week she lost fifty caps. She was nice, though, if a bit weird. She sometimes gave me a 10mm bullet, saying that ammo is the lifeblood of the wasteland. Her cutie mark was a bullet, so I guessed that she was some sort of expert or something. I had a box under my bed I kept the bullets in. Anyways, I knew she was no trouble, and nopony else was here. I heard muffled voices from behind the door to Ma’s office.

“Good little fillies don’t eavesdrop… good little fillies don’t eavesdrop…” I muttered to myself… but curiosity burned inside me. What were those two stallions doing, and what in the hay was a megaspell? I scooted up close to the door, leaning in close and almost putting my ear to the door. The muffled voices cleared up enough for me to understand what they were saying.

“…nd you can understand that I would be interested in such a thing passing through here. What would two gentleponies such as yourselves be doing with such a device?” I heard my Ma’s voice say. She was using her tone that I only heard when I was in trouble, and I knew that those two ponies she had brought in were in big doo-doo.

“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about miss. A megaspell? How would you say that we would transport such a device? We don’t have a cart parked outside.” One dapper-sounding voice said. One of the stallions. He sounded nervous.

“Yeah! No cart!” said what was probably the other stallion. He sounded far less intelligent.

“Hammer, dear, show them to respect their betters.” Ma said.

I heard Hammer chuckle menacingly, and shouts of alarm from the two ponies turned into muffled yelps of pain as I cringed back from the door. Did… did Ma order Hammer to hit them? That didn’t sound like something she would do at all!

“Alright alright! Call off your thug, we’ll tell ya where we hid it!” said the dapper voice, though now he sounded a lot less dapper.

“Hammer, dear, let the nice pony talk. Keep his friend in that chokehold, though. Wouldn’t want him to get the idea that lying is okay, now would we? Good ponies don’t lie.” Ma said. I heard sputtering, wheezing noises that must have been dapper-voice’s friend being slowly choked by Hammer.

“The tunnels! We’re using the Solaris tunnels to get it to where our client wants it to go! We weren’t going to set it off anywhere near here!”

“Now isn’t that nice…” I heard my Ma reply, the clack of hooves on the floor meaning she had gotten up from her chair and was walking slowly around the room. “Hammer, do you know how valuable a megaspell is?”

“I’d guess they’re pretty valuable, miss.” Hammer said dutifully.

“So would I, Hammer. Do I like valuable things?” Ma asked.

“You do, miss.” Hammer continued the line of questioning. I wondered where Ma was going with this. Wouldn’t she already know if she liked valuable things?

“Now… no need to be unreasonable…” Dapper-voice said, sounding more distressed then ever. The sputtering of the other stallion had dropped off, I couldn’t hear it anymore. “Could you get your thug to let go of Frag?”

“What’s your name, young colt?” Ma asked suddenly. She was notably louder… I thought that she was right beside the door, and I backed up quickly, fearing that she would catch me listing in.

“Uh… Fetch Finder.” Fetch said.

“Fetch, dear…” Ma said, and then I heard a weird rustling noise, as if curtains were being pulled really quickly. Outside, the cawing of crows drowned out what else was said, but when I could hear what was past the door again, it was Ma talking. “… lean this up, then go down to the tunnels and find that megaspell. If their client wants it anywhere near here, it’ll be bad for business. It’s best I find somewhere else to be rid of it... or somepony else far away to sell it too.” The door opened. Ma looked down at me, and I shrank back. There was a look in her eyes… one I only saw when she caught a customer cheating, or that one time when I lost an entire day’s worth of caps because I fell asleep at the counter. It was a look that I never wanted to see on her face. The look that I needed to stay away from…

“COIN! Were you evesdropping!?” Ma shouted.

“No, Ma! I wasn’t!” I lied quickly, hoping against hope that she would believe me. I looked to where Pa had been, but he was nowhere to be seen.

“Good little fillies don’t lie to their mothers, Coin! And good little fillies don’t listen in on adult conversations!” Ma said, seeing right through me.

“I’m sorry! I’ll be good, I’m a good filly, I am!” I cried, tears coming to my eyes. I wanted to run, to back away from Ma, to do something, but I was rooted to the spot as Ma towered over me, the look that I needed to stay away from getting closer and closer…

“I think you need to spend some character-building time…” Ma started.

“NO! Ma… please no…” I protested, falling to her hooves, begging. Tears were now fully streaming from my eyes as I cried, knowing what she was going to say next.

“… in The Rock. Go on, now, get up young filly! Good little fillies follow their mother’s orders, and you’ve already forgotten that twice today. Don’t test me by making it a third time…” she said, glowering down at me.

I numbly got to my hooves, knowing what was coming next. I had gotten in trouble before, of course, and whenever Ma decided that I had been a Bad Filly, I was sent to The Rock. It was accessed via the basement of our casino. There were tunnels leading from a network of maintenance shafts down there, and one of them lead to a cavern that consisted of a tiny ledge by the door, followed by a huge drop into the cavern that was always full of ghouls. Ma said that spending time contemplating what I’d done while sitting a slip away from falling and being eaten by zombie ponies was a good way to ‘build character.’ I was terrified of that place, she always left me there for at least a few hours, or, if I had been really bad, even a whole day.

Ma and I headed down the stairs to the basement, where we stored old equipment, food, water, alcohol, and other things the casino used. I went in front, under the watchful eye of Ma, and even if I thought I could, I wouldn’t have tried to run off into the maintenance tunnels. The only path we knew was safe was the short path to The Rock, which Ma had lit up with portable lights and spark generators. I would have quickly gotten lost or worse if I tried to stray from the path…

“Dear… you know why I have to do this, don’t you?” Ma asked, her voice softening. I sniffled, tears still falling from my eyes. “My little Coin Slot… it’s because I love you. I want you to be safe. Megaspells kill ponies, a lot of ponies. Megaspells are the reason why the wasteland and all it’s bad things exist. I wanted to protect you from that, and those ponies who brought one here needed to be dealt with. It’s my fault, really, I should have sent you to your room… it tears me up on the inside that you heard what happened in there… now you have to build character to deal with this new knowledge…” We stopped walking, the door to The Rock in front of us. I looked up at its foreboding metal façade, knowing what lay on the other side was the dark, lonely perch above certain death where I could reflect on… whatever it was Ma wanted me to reflect on.

“Coin, look at me.” Ma said, and I looked up at her bleary image, my tears obscuring my sight. Her hoof stroked my cheek, wiping the tears away. “You’re going to grow up to be such a wonderful mare, I can tell. And you’ll have me to thank for it, dear. This hurts me more than it hurts you… I’m protecting you from the bad things like those ghouls behind that door. Just stay on The Rock and wait for me to come back, okay?”

I nodded, and Ma leaned down and kissed me on the forehead, brushing my mane out of my eyes. “When I come back, I want you to tell me what you’ve learned, okay? Now that this part of your innocence is gone, you need to cope with the new knowledge fast, or the wasteland will… well, I won’t let that happen.” Ma pressed the button that opened the door. The tiny ledge that was The Rock lay before me, and the hissing, spitting sounds of the ghouls far below drifted up towards us, making my knees shake. I didn’t mind the look of ghouls so much… it was the sounds they made that kept me awake at night. Ma gave me a little nudge towards the door, and I walked through, laying on my usual spot in the widest part of the ledge. The light coming through the door outlined my Ma’s loving expression as she pressed the button to close and lock the door behind her, leaving me in pitch darkness.

All I could think as the sounds of the shuffling feral ghouls beneath me rose up was how much Ma loved me. Not every mother takes such a proactive approach to her filly’s character development.

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

“Blow up Maregaton?!” I said, cringing as another lance of pain shot up the upper half of my spine. My lower half was still as numb as if I had Med-X flowing through my veins. Though every so often I would get this twinge of pain down in my flank or hooves, but I still couldn’t move them. The cart was getting hot, and I was starting to sweat profusely… though Shimmercoat and Crescent Wrench seemed fine. Maybe it was just me.

“So you refuse my terms?” Price asked.

“NO! No, I don’t… I just wonder… why?” I asked.

“That is not your place to question, and you are hardly in a position to bargain for such information. Do you want me to fix your back or not?” Price said, sounding like he was getting angry.

“I’ll do it, I’ll do it! Just please fix my back… I don’t want to die…” I moaned through another wave of pain.

“Yeah, I don’t want to die either. I’ll do what I can to help, though my medical knowledge is mostly only theoretical…” Shimmercoat said.

“While I appreciate the sentiment, that will not be necessary. Hold on a bit while I call my very expensive friend over…” Price said, wandering off from the back of the cart and disappearing from view. All I could see now from the back of the covered wagon was the wall surrounding Maregaton off in the distance and the soft drizzle that had started up again, tamping down the dust of the wastes.

“What do you think he meant by ‘expensive friend?’” asked Crescent Wrench.

“A doctor’s services can be pretty spendy out here in the wastes.” I replied to the beige filly. “Though I hope he’s got an actual doctor… it seems a little convenient that he has exactly what we need to survive right off of hoof.”

“Hey, that’s what I said.” Mezzer chimed in.

“Oh, shush. They don’t know that.”I thought back.

“Well, let’s get your back fixed and worry about reasons later… though blowing up a whole town needs a pretty darn good reason.” Shimmercoat said. Before I could reply, we heard a soft hissing noise. I looked at Hiss, but he was sitting there in his bubble that Shimmercoat still had around him, glowering, but not hissing.

“Hey, I recognize that sound…” Crescent Wrench said, her eyes brightening up like she had just been told what she was getting for Hearth’s Warming Day. “Is he bringing…” she hopped out of the cart and looked to where the sound was coming from, then started bouncing around in a circle. “He is! He is! Wow! I’ve never seen this model before!” she said, trotting out of sight towards Price and the mystery sound.

“That’s because it was a prototype before the war.” Price’s voice came from around the corner. “I hear tell that the Ministry of Wartime Technology and the Ministry of Peace were working on this jointly, but it never got mass produced. Nifty little find, though. It’s yours if you do this job, which you don’t have much of a choice in doing, so… well, I’ll let you introduce yourselves.”

As Price came into view with Crescent close behind, a third figure and the source of the hissing noise made itself known. “Well, then, soldier, let’s see what the damage is, shall we? Nothing a little cut-and-patch can’t handle, eh? Oh, my my my what did you do, get hit with a concussion grenade?! My diagnostics report that this mare is paralyzed! And her blood toxicity level is skyrocketing… oh, this won’t do at all, stand aside, stallion, this job calls for the MG-MS11!” the voice I had heard before, and I knew from what it was coming from…

A Mr. Gutsy robot. That’s what it looked like at first, but I immediately noticed a few key differences between what was a normal Mr. Gutsy from what I knew about them and this one. For starters, this one had four eye-sensors, and four arms, each arm ending in a different implement. It looked like it had a manipulator arm that ended in several very sharp-looking surgical implements, a rotary saw on another arm, and a magical plasma emitter in the third one. The end of the fourth arm had something I didn’t recognize at all, it ended in a tube-shaped device that had a hose attached to a box that looked like it had been haphazardly welded to the chassis of the Mr. Gutsy. The hissing noise was coming from its levitation talisman’s emitter. It was painted primarily red and light yellow, though the paint was old and chipped in several places. It had symbols from various companies plastered all over it, though the two most prominent ones were a trio of apples and a trio of butterflies.

Shimmercoat stood aside like the machine had asked, getting out of the cart, and it’s arms rotated until the tube-shaped device was pointed at me. “Ooo, what’s that?!” Crescent Wrench asked excitedly. Apparently she liked robots. I was a little nervous having a machine point something unknown at me, so I was curious as to what it was too. There wasn’t much I could do if it was harmful though… I couldn’t move out of the way.

“This, young soldier, is the Medical Extraction and De-fragmentation Injector Gun! I personally like to call it the M.E.D.I-Gun. It’s purpose is to aid the combat medic out on the field of battle, to help ponies get back on their hooves to fight the good fight against the zebra menace! Better Wiped Than Striped! Hoo-Ah!” the robot said, patriotic music from a bygone era blasting from its speakers for a short moment. “Fueled by healing potions stored in that compartment there,” it’s manipulator arm pointed at the box welded to it. “…it directs a beam of energy that promotes accelerated healing, purges the body of impurities, and even helps set broken bones, all while stabilizing a dying soldier from a maximum range of over eleven-point-five-five meters!” There was a clicking noise, and with a ‘tss-WHOOM’ a beam of purple light swirled towards me from the tube. When it made contact, I felt immediate relief from the pain that had been near-constant for the past few hours, and I sighed contentedly, glad that it was gone. “Unfortunately, it isn’t powerful enough to handle paralysis… but that’s what these are for!” the Mr. Gutsy said, bringing to bear his manipulator arm, which deployed from its array of medical tools a scalpel and some sort of metal stick. From the other side of the machine, the rotary saw came to the forefront. “Now, hold still… this might get a little messy, those with weak constitutions should look away!”

The saw spun with an intimidating WHIRRRRR.

“Ak! Wait, wait!” I said, obviously distressed by this new development.

“No, keep going, I want to see this.” Shimmercoat said nastily, a big grin on his face, his glasses shining brightly at this angle. Crescent Wrench looked on with her mouth open in wonderment. Gee, that’s comforting. Price had vanished from view, and Hiss was still floating in a bubble above Shimmercoat.

“Now now, pain is weakness leaving the body! Buck up!” the thing wielding the whirring buzz saw said with what sounded like entirely too much glee in its voice. My front hooves waved uselessly in front of me as the manipulator arm picked up my body and I was laid on my stomach in front of the machine, my rear facing it. I braced myself for the worst…

The weirdest feeling slid down my spine as the saw sliced me open from the shoulder down to my hips. I felt blood trickling down my sides as I cautiously craned my neck, looking behind me at what was happening. The purple beam from the M.E.D.I-Gun was still trained on me, and the saw was spinning down to a stop as it exited my back, done splitting me open like a fish. The magic from the beam was obviously blocking the pain I would be feeling… but a breeze where no breeze belonged was cooling my exposed spine. “Um…” I said nervously. “Should I be awake for this?”

“Well…” the Mr. Gutsy replied, “No… but as long as you are, could you hold open your back with your magic? I need room to work here…” the manipulator arm dove into the bleeding gash, I could feel the cold instruments squirming around inside me. My magic lit up as I gripped the sides of the gash and cautiously opened them up slightly. My flesh tore and I looked like I was being dissected… and I became acutely aware that I was now practically swimming in my own blood, my light purple coat dyed red. I didn’t feel woozy or anything, though… the M.E.D.I-Gun apparently also accounted for blood-loss.

“Great Celestia!” The Mr. Gutsy exclaimed, making me frown. Machines should not be taking Celestia’s name in vain. “It… it’s completely severed! The edge of the vertebra is broken, and just sliced straight through the spinal cord!”

“Is that bad?” I asked.

“Uh…” three expressionless eye-sensors looked up at me briefly, before focusing on my back again. “No, not at all. Spines grow back.” I sighed in relief. Shimmercoat chuckled, and Crescent looked up at the fourth eye-sensor behind the machine (from my point of view) in confusion. I must have missed something. “I can fix it, though, don’t worry about a thing! The MG-MS11 was designed for exactly… oh, bugger.” A red light on the box attached to the M.E.D.I-Gun blinked rapidly. “I seem to be running low on healing potions. Please refuel the M.E.D.I-Gun before surgery can continue. This unit will standby in low-power stabilization-mode for as long as possible until this action is taken.”

A flap on top of the potion storage box opened, and MG-MS11 just hovered there. Not doing anything. With my back wide open. “Ahhh! Do something!” I cried out. The purple beam wavered, and for a brief instant I felt the most pain I had ever been in in my entire life. Fire burned down the length of my back, and my nerves screamed in utter agony as an entire section of my body was exposed to the air that should never have seen the light of day.

Shimmercoat looked insanely worried all of the sudden. If that beam turned off even I knew that I would die very quickly (and painfully) from blood loss. And then he would die from sudden cranial fragmentation. “Healing potions! Price, do you have healing potions!?” Shimmercoat called out.

Price’s voice came from out of view around the cart. “I do, do you have the caps for them?”

“Yes!” Shimmercoat called out. “Coin! What are caps?” he said quietly to me. “You mentioned them earlier, but I wasn’t really paying attention to that part.” Well great. Shimmercoat always seemed like a good listener, too.

“Soda bottle caps! They’re used as money in the wasteland!” I said quickly. “There’s some in my bags, get them and buy as many healing potions as you can!”

“Really? Caps as money? Why?” Shimmercoat said incredulously, a confused look on his face.

“DOES THAT REALLY MATTER RIGHT NOW?” I shouted.

“Yes! I’m not going to just give them to you, I’m not a charity!” Price said, mistaking my outburst as me talking to him.

“Alright, alright, hold on.” Shimmercoat said, grabbing my bags and trotting out of view. A few minuets of antagonizing waiting while Shimmercoat and Price’s muffled voices came through the covering of the cart as they danced the dance of bartering. The pain erupted again, my exposed spine deciding to become solid lightening for a split-second, lancing through me and causing me to scream in anguish, tears now pouring down my face. I gritted my teeth, almost biting my tongue. Crescent Wrench looked around the cart worryingly at the two stallions arguing price over the stuff that would keep me alive.

After what seemed like an eternity, Shimmercoat came back, several dozen healing potions hovering around his head in the blue shimmer of his telekinesis. He popped each one open in quick succession and poured them into the panel of the box on MG-MS11. “Potion reserves topped off! Resuming surgical procedure! For Princess and for Equestria!” More patriotic music blasted our ears as the manipulator arm once again shlorped into my body.

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

About half-an-hour and quite a few bones removed-and-put-back later, the manipulator arm started stitching my back closed, MG-MS11 saying, “Well, that’s all she wrote! Never done something like that before, I do hope it worked! Hold on for one more minuet, I’ll just seal you up nice and tight…” the M.E.D.I-Gun flashed once, and the slice along my back disappeared as though I had drank a healing potion, even the thread used to sew up the gash was absorbed into my skin. When MG-MS11 turned the M.E.D.I-Gun off, there was only a thin white line down my back, a small scar representing a huge injury, barely visible beneath all the blood and my coat. The floor of the cart I had laid in during the operation was soaked in my blood now; it pooled all around me and dripped through the boards, probably staining the ground underneath the cart as well. “And there we have it! Quite the doozy, but I think it worked. Try out your legs, go on, give em a whirl!” MG-MS11 said, blood also covering his manipulator arm and saw.

The moment of truth. I tried moving my back legs… the phantom feeling of missing limbs fading away…

My hooves twitched. I stretched my legs, bending the knees… they worked! I hopped off the cart, not caring that I was still covered in my own blood, and I skipped around… I even tried bucking a few times. Heck, my back legs actually felt a little stronger than before! “Wow! I feel… fantastic!” I said, smiling wide. The pain was gone, I could move again, and the specter of imminent death was far away… or at least as far away as it ever got when you were in the middle of the wasteland, which admittedly wasn’t much.

“Ha! I knew you didn’t need these!” MG-MS11 said proudly, tossing a pair of vertebra down to my hooves. They were cracked, and were probably the ones at the point of impact. “I replaced them with flexible pipeline for spinal support and protection. Not as good as a full cybernetic setup, but unfortunately the funding for cybernetics has dipped in recent years, I’ve never even gotten that shipment of replacement legs I requisitioned 193 years ago! Had to make do with what I had on hand. Seems to work, though, wouldn’t worry overmuch about such a small detail.”

“At least not until they grow back, right?” I asked.

“Um… right.” MG-MS11 said, hovering there with no expression whatsoever. Shimmercoat chuckled again.

“Ahem…” Price cleared his throat. “I believe we have a contract, Miss Slot.” He said. I turned to the brown buck, a big smile on my face. I was so glad to be alive, I could have kissed him.

“Please restrain thyself. I share thy lips, remember?” Mezzer said, reminding me that I had a passenger. That identified itself as male. And apparently straight, if he didn’t want to kiss Price. That wasn’t creepy at all.

Price continued, unaware of my internal monologue. “In order to safely detonate the megaspell in the center of the Maregaton crater, you will need this detonator module.” He said, presenting us with a small metal cube that had a screen and a few buttons on it. It kind of looked like a PipBuck, but without the ability to be worn on your hoof. “Simply attach this to the megaspell, set the detonation frequency to seventy five kilothaums, and leave the city. Once I detect that you are a safe distance away, go to… can I see your PipBuck?”

I stuck out my hoof, and Price pressed a few buttons. “There. Once you attach the module, go to the location I just marked on your PipBuck. There you will find the detonator. Press the button, and watch the glorifying purification of the wastes.”

“Purification? What, is this town really that bad or something?” Shimmercoat asked. I ignored him, putting the module in my bags and nodding to Price.

“Maregaton has been a thorn in my client’s side for far too long. My client wants it gone, and the fact that they worship the very means to destroy them for good has… a certain poetic justice to it.” Price said to Shimmercoat.

“So what, just because your boss doesn’t like the town, they decide that it needs to go? Just who do they think they are, these are the lives of ponies we’re talking about!” Shimmercoat sounded like he was getting angry. He stepped up closer to Price, who looked at him above his sunglasses with a raised eyebrow. It was time to intervene before things got nasty.

“Don’t listen to him, he’s got no say in this.” I said, stepping in front of a seething Shimmercoat. “Although, I am curious as to who your client is…”

“I am not at liberty to divulge that information.” Price said. He looked at my neck, and said, “And aren’t you supposed to provide me with that insurance now, so I know the job will be done?”

“Oh, right…” I said. “I forgot, sorry, I was a bit focused on my injury. By the way, thanks for the robot doctor…”

“That’s MG-MS11, Mr. Gutsy Medical Sergeant, Unit 11, at your service, sah!” said MG-MS11, more patriotic music blasting out of its speakers. I hope it never did that if we ever needed to be quiet.

“Right… that.” I said, smiling sheepishly at Price.

“Stop trying to change the subject.” Price said. He held out his hoof. “Give me a detonator to one of your collars and put the collar on. Then proceed to Maregaton and attach the module.”

I sighed. I had hoped he had forgotten about that promise, but I doubted he would have liked it very much if I reneged on my deal. “Alright, hold on…” I said, pulling an unused detonator and slave collar out of my bags with my telekinesis, my horn glowing red as I did so. I passed the detonator over to him, and reluctantly locked the collar around my neck. “There. You know how to work these, right?” I asked.

“The detonator tracks your location, and this button here blows it up, right?” Price asked, pointing to the various sensors on the detonator’s control panel.

“You can also set a leash on it, but I disabled that part for this collar. I figure you’ll want to get far away from here if you want to watch the explosion, a leash would hamper that.” I replied.

“Right, ok, sounds good. I’ll keep an eye on the location. Once you blow the town, I’ll come to the location I marked to unlock your collar.” Price said, smiling for the first time. He felt like he was in control.

“I have a question, though.” Crescent Wrench piped up suddenly. We all turned to the little filly. “How’re we gonna get in? If Shimmy and Coin have collars on, won’t they think… I’m a slaver or something? They already refused us too. And Coin is covered in blood.” For a filly right out of the Stable, she seemed to be able to take the sight of somepony else’s blood really easily, as she so casually pointed out the fact that my coat was basically colored red at this point… say…

“We’ll use a disguise. Shimmercoat and I will raise our collars or wear scarves or something, I’ll wear my goggles on my eyes so they don’t recognize me… Shimmercoat, give Crescent your glasses. That way you’ll both look different to the guard as well. And my coat is basically dyed red, so I’m a whole new pony!” I smiled, already seeing my brilliant plan coming together.

“You smell. Of blood.” Shimmercoat pointed out, needlessly poking holes in a flawless plan. “And I can’t see shit without my glasses. Why doesn’t Price get us in in his cart? Does Maregaton search merchant carts?”

“No, at least not mine.” Price said. “I actually was a merchant that ran a route here for some time before my client hired me to better and bigger things. I can get you ponies in no problem.”

“Jolly good, soldiers!” MG-MS11 piped in. “Our infiltration method is sound, and the zebra encampment won’t bloody know what hit em! We’ll blow their striped asses to the moon and back! We’ll kick em to the curb, wash the streets with their blood, the spoils of war will be ours! Hoo Ahh!”

There was an awkward moment. “Um…” I said. “You do know that the war ended 200 years ago, right?” I asked MG-MS11.

“Nonsense! I would have received my decommission orders and have been shut down if that were the case. Say…” Three of the floating robot’s four eyes suddenly focused on me, triangulating my position. “What makes you say such a thing? You’re not a zebra spy, are you?” the arms rotated until the plasma caster was pointing right at me.

‘No! No… um… all hail Celestia, all hail Luna, praise be to Equestria! Better wiped than striped, right?” I said quickly, spouting as much pro-Equestrian propaganda as I could.

“Damn straight! No zebra is going to best this company! It’s an honor serving with you chaps, I don’t mind telling you all that if I were a pony, I’d fall in love with every single one of you!” MG-MS11 said.

“Really?!” Crescent Wrench squeaked, blushing.

Oh, come on. I would need to give Crescent a talk at some point. What with her crush on Shimmercoat and lightning-fast blush reaction to a robot of all things, the poor girl will be steamrolled in the wastes if somepony didn’t get some knowledge in her fast…

“Not that you would know anything about that. According to the memories I’ve seen of you, the only pony you’ve ever did anything with was…” Mezzer started.

“Shush!” I said quickly, also blushing. Mezzer really needed to stop poking around in my brain! Those memories were private! I noticed everypony looking at me. Shimmercoat smirked.

“Got a thing for robots, huh?” he snarked. I telekinetically knocked his glasses to the ground.

“Let’s just get going.” I said. “And Shimmercoat, put Hiss down. Now that I’m awake and recovered, I need to feed him.”

Shimmercoat floated his glasses back onto his snout, and then floated the bubble he was holding Hiss in in front of me, dispelling it. His immediately turned towards him and growl-hissed, his hackles raised. “Hiss! No! You can’t bite Shimmercoat unless I say you can!” I ordered, and Hiss whined, looking up at me pathetically. His eyes widened into dark little pools of ‘can I please bite him… please?’

“No.” I repeated, even though the puppy-dog look almost broke me. I didn’t need a poisoned slave right now though. Maybe later if Shimmercoat pissed me off, which was likely. “Here, eat this, you must be hungry.” I said, floating out a piece of meat from who knows how long ago from my bags. Hiss gulped it down faster than I could blink.

“Alright, everypony in the cart. I’ll get you in the city, and from there it’s up to you. Attach the module, get clear, and spread my client’s message to the stars…” Price said, chuckling softly.

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

Price’s cart wobbled back through the gate and into the wastes about five minuets after Shimmercoat, Crescent Wrench, Hiss, MG-MS11, and I managed to extract ourselves from it. The five of us had made for a cramped ride, but as predicted, the guard did not search the cart. We were in, and Shimmercoat and I were wearing scraps of cloth wrapped around our necks as scarves, to hide the bomb collars. Speaking of…

“Hold on, guys,” I said as we crouched in an alley right at the gate. I hadn’t gotten a look at the city yet, we were busy hiding for the moment, waiting until Price had gotten some distance from us. I unwrapped my scarf.

“What are you doing? They’ll get suspicious if they see a pony with a…” Shimmercoat started, then his eyes widened as I tapped the collar a few times with my hoof, my horn glowed, and it unlocked, floating back into my bags. “I… you…”

“What? Did you actually think I would offer to wear one of my own collars without knowing how to unlock it without the detonator?” I asked, grinning widely. “It doesn’t matter if it blows in my bags, the blast is all directed inwards. I just offered to wear it to encourage cooperation. Like I said. That’s a collar’s purpose. Just because he cooperated doesn’t mean I have to keep wearing it though.”

“Won’t that damage what’s in your bags though?” Crescent Wrench asked. I shrugged. Honestly I didn’t think Price would press the button if he traced the collar in the correct location, and if we needed to move in ways he didn’t like, I’d just leave the collar behind.

Shimmercoat just kept staring at me dumbfoundedly, before snorting and shaking his head. He grumbled something unintelligible, but I didn’t mind. We had a mission to finish. Even without the collar on, it’s location was still being tracked. We at least needed to go next to the megaspell and then exit the town in order to trick Price into thinking we had placed the module. Now that it was a choice for me, though, instead of being forced to place it… I didn’t quite know what to do. I was under contract technically… and had already been paid handsomely in the form of MG-MS11, who was busy being totally conspicuous in our little alleyway, passing ponies giving us second glances because of him.

“We should move. Come on, I feel filthy.” I said. “Let’s check out a tavern or inn or something, so I can try and wash this blood off…”

Hiss disappeared. I’m guessing he didn’t like areas crowded with ponies like this city. We stepped out of the gateside alley and looked out into the city of Maregaton.

A giant crater dipped into the earth in front of us, buildings haphazardly built into the sides all around it. The building materials were mostly made from what looked like old skywagons and metal siding. There were a few wooden shacks as well, but the majority of Maregaton was metal. Catwalks and zip lines criss-crossed the air above the crater floor, connecting the edges of the crater so that ponies didn’t have to walk down into it if they didn’t want too. I looked down the path to the bottom of the crater far below, and the glowing rainbow brilliance of a megaspell orb was clearly visible, right out in the open, at the bottom of the crater. A large building was sitting right next to it, made out of a large skywagon that from the faded places where the old lettering used to be I could tell used to say ‘Chocolate Flights,’ but now new letters were painted over to read ‘Church of the Spell.’ Bet these were the megaspell worshipers I’d heard so much about.

“I think I see something…” Crescent said, peering across the crater. “Mare Iarty’s Tavern and Inn…” she read slowly. Indeed, across the way was a building right on the lip of the crater that had a large neon sign glowing in the gloomy drizzle that was still drifting lazily down, as if it had all day. “You think that place has a bath you could use, Coin?” she asked, turning to look up at me. Her curly mane bounced on her head even though it was wet from the rain. In fact, it looked like the moisture somehow made it even curlier than before.

“It’s worth a try. Let’s find a catwalk over there… I want to avoid that megaspell down there.” I said, looking back down into the center of the crater.

“My Geiger counter isn’t liking this city.” Shimmercoat mentioned, looking at his PipBuck.

“That would be the result of building a town around a live megaspell. All the ponies in this town must be crazy.” I replied. I heard the light ticking of my own Geiger counter detecting magical radiation too. “Luckily, this rain will keep the worst of the radiation down at the bottom of the crater where it belongs. Another reason to find a catwalk over there instead of going down.”

“I shall fly over and scout the area for hostiles!” MG-MS11 said. “If there are any zebra’s ahoof, I’ll turn them to warm plasma goo before you can say Cherrychimmychanga!” The levitation talisman mounted under MG-MS11 revved up, and he drifted along one of the zip-lines to the other side of the crater, zooming ahead of us.

“I hope he doesn’t make a habit of doing that…” I muttered. “I really don’t want him mistaking anypony we might actually want to talk to for a zebra.”

“I worked with the Mr. Handys in our Stable…” Crescent said. “Maybe I could take a look at him and see how he works? Mr. Gutsy’s were based off Mr. Handy’s after all.” She continued looking around the city as she spoke, her eyes wide. She had never see a city like this before. It was far different from the Stable style of civilization she was used too. Shimmercoat was also glancing around, but had far less wonderment in his eyes.

“Well howdy everypony!” a voice drawled behind us. I jumped, spinning around.

“THEY CAME FROM BEHIND!” Crescent Wrench screamed, ducking down and covering her head with her front hooves.

“Whoa, there, folks, didn’t mean to surprise you none.” The pony addressing us said. She was a green earth pony with a blonde mane and piss-yellow eyes. Her face was creased with smile-lines, crow’s feet adorning the corners of her eyes, and she was, as she apparently often was, smiling. “Mah name’s Tootie Fruity! Welcome to Maregaton! I c’n see that ya’ll are new here, what with yer big ol’ eyes and yeller numbers on yer kit.” She pointed at the yellow 11’s on our barding. “Did a new Stable open up ‘round here?”

“Not exactly…” I said, smiling back to the strange mare. First impressions are important, my dear ol’ Ma used to say. They can make or break a sale, and can make the difference between a pony liking you or deciding to shoot you. “We did come from Stable 11 recently though.”

Tootie got a closer look at me and realized that no, my coat was not actually red. “Good gravy, filly, you look like you done got dipped in strawberry jam!” She said, covering her mouth with a hoof. “You need a doctor or somthin?”

“Our doctor went ahead to look at the inn across the way.” Shimmercoat chimed in, flashing Tootie a brilliant smile. “We’re a bit lost in this criss-cross of catwalks, though, and Coin here is a bit nervous of that megaspell down there… oh, forgive me miss, where are my manners. This is Coin Slot, this little one is Crescent Wrench, and I…” he paused, apparently for dramatic effect or something. It was working, I could already see a blush rising on Tootie’s cheeks. I rolled my eyes. “… am Shimmercoat.” He grasped one of Tootie’s front hooves, giving it a quick kiss. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Tootie Fruity was totally flustered. “Oh… my… well, S-Shimmercoat, it’s a fine and dandy pleasure to meet ya’ll as well… I…” the green mare stammered, not able to string a full sentence together coherently. Too bad they don’t abide slavery here, otherwise I’d make an oodle of caps off this mare renting Shimmercoat out to her.

“Could you guide us to a fast way over to Mare Iarty’s over there?” Shimmercoat asked.

Tootie’s flustered attitude cleared up pretty quickly. She frowned, a look that did not look natural on her face at all. “Oh, you don’t want to go there… Iarty is… well, ah won’ say nothin’ bad about nopony. But he’s a pony you’d best be avoiding if’n ya’ll are visiting Maregaton fer the first time.

“He?” Crescent said, a confused look on her face. She had turned around after her little freak-out once it had been established that Tootie wasn’t… I don’t know, a Creeper or whatever it was she was obsessed with. “But the sign says Mare Iarty’s!”

“Ah know.” Tootie said. The smile reappeared on her face, though it was a small, soft smile now. “He thinks if’n ponies think that his establishment is run by a mare, more customers will roll in. Dirty little scu… well look at me, ah’m sure ya’ll don’t care none ‘bout my opinion of others you’d never met yerself. If’n yer really a-hankerin to go to Iarty’s that’s none of my business and I’d be happy to walk ya over there.”

“Well, all I really need is a bath. I… well, this isn’t strawberry jam, and I’d really like to get clean before doing anything else.” I said.

“Shoot, then, ya’ll can come over to my place! I’m sure Hoofy’d be happy to meet ya! And I got me a bathtub that even has running water hooked up to it! S’cold, though, if ya want a warm bath I’ll ‘ave ta light a fire under it and stoke it up a spell.” Tootie said.

“Who’s Hoofy?” Shimmercoat asked innocently.

“Oh, he’s mah butler. One o’ them fancy robotic whatdyacallems. Mr. Hoof or whatever.”

“You have a Mr. Handy?!” Crescent Wrench asked excitedly. “What model?”

“I don’t rightly know, little one. You good with them things? Poor ol’ Hoofy’s been having trouble getting his levitation whatsimihoozer going in the mornings when he wakes up, and I don’t know anypony good with robots. Our town mechanic’s all left hooves when it comes to anythin’ that ain’t a gun or piece o’ armor.”

“How about we do an exchange? A warm bath for me, and Crescent takes a look at your robot.” I said.

“Sounds like a mighty fine deal!” Tootie said, smiling again. “I’d love to have ya’ll over for dinner as well! Get’s a bit lonely fer an old mare like me sometimes, I’d appreciate the company.”

“Old? You? Miss, I’d never peg you anywhere over twenty five!” Shimmercoat said.

“Oh, yer such a kidder…” Tootie blushed furiously, pushing lightly on Shimmercoat’s shoulder and tittering like a little schoolfilly. Shimmercoat chuckled back. “Follow me, ya’ll. My place is this way.” Tootie said, trotting ahead of us. Shimmercoat took an appreciative glance at her flank (which I saw had a bunch of strawberries for a cutie mark) and I raised an eyebrow at him.

“What?” he asked.

“She’s at least fourty.” I said, quietly so she wouldn’t hear. “You’re what, twenty six?”

“I’m thirty three, thank you.” Shimmercoat said. That surprised me, though from what he told me about his history I shouldn’t have been surprised. “And the older ones always know the best… things.” He grinned at me in a way that made my nethers flutter, even though I knew that was precisely the reaction he was going for.

Thou has no idea how weird this feels… Mezzer chimed in again. Great flaming gumballs, I’m never going to get any privacy, aren’t I?

“Oh!” Tootie said, stopping suddenly. “Don’t you need ta go and get yer doctor? You mentioned him earlier.”

Shoot. I had almost forgotten about MG-MS11! He seemed to be… I dunno, bonded with us or something since Price gave him to us, but if somepony stole him and took control of him, that would be a rare piece of equipment that I would rather have on my side gone. That M.E.D.I-Gun worked wonders. “Hiss…” I said quietly. I felt a brush against my back leg. Hiss was following close behind us as usual, out of sight. “Go fetch MG-MS11 and bring him to Tootie’s house.” I ordered. I wondered if such a complex order could be understood by the mysteriously well-trained nightstalker. Looking for it, I saw a shimmer run off around the edge of the crater towards Mare Iarty’s. We’ll see if this works or not… “I think our doctor will be fine. He has a good sense of direction.” I said.

“Well, if ya’ll are sure.” Tootie said. We walked down a catwalk to a little building made of corrugated metal embedded into the side of the crater. “This here’s my humble abode. Make yerselves at home.”

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

Once we had gone inside, Tootie gave us the grand tour of her house. It was actually pretty impressive; the small exterior belied a bigger interior that had been carved out of the side of the crater. The house had a living area, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom (with the bathtub right where she said it would be), and little storage room with a robot recharging station installed in it, an old beat-up Mr. Handy resting in it. The house kind of felt like a cave, since it was mostly dug out underground, but it was clean, and the furniture had obviously been painstakingly repaired to quite nice condition, probably by the mare that lived here all by herself. The living area had seating for a large amount of ponies, a couch, loveseat, and three rocking chairs, hinting at a silent wish for more visitors to her house. I wondered exactly what Tootie Fruity did in Maregaton, and why she seemed to be left alone by her neighbors when she was so outgoing and friendly.

“If you’re going to blow the town up, it’s not as if it will matter much, now will it? Or are you going to blow it up?” Mezzer said, his input ever-present in my thoughts.

“I… I’m thinking about it. I don’t know yet.” was all I could say. If Price’s mysterious client was as big a megalomaniac or as powerful as he had implied he was, then he would no doubt send bounty hunters, thugs, assassins, and other nasties after us if we didn’t complete our contract… I looked around the cave-house again. It was a really nice place, for the wasteland. And even if she had been hypnotized by Shimmercoat’s googley-eyes, Tootie Fruity was a really nice pony…

“So! I got the fire under the tub going, and the water’s running nicely. Give it a few and ya’ll will have a nice, warm bath to get rid o’ all that nasty blood ya got goin’ there.” Tootie said, stepping out of the bathroom. I could hear the running water. That was impressive… I wondered if Maregaton had a pumping system that supplied the whole city, or if Tootie had set this up herself. She seemed proud of it, but she seemed equally proud of her city, so it could be either case. “If’n ya don’t mind me askin… what exactly happened ta ya’ll?”

“Oh!” I exclaimed. I should have guessed that a mare covered in blood would have raised some questions in a town. In the wastes it was practically expected. “I, um… what was it called again, Shimmercoat?” I asked, feeling stupid. I had read that medical book, why couldn’t I remember any of it?

“She got paralyzed in a fight.” Shimmercoat said. “Our doctor cut her open recently and fixed her up. Right before we came here, actually.”

“Oh, my. Well, I’m glad ya’ll got better!” Tootie said, smiling as usual. “I’d like to meet yer doctor sometime, seems like the pony’s a miracle worker!”

“Oh, he’s not a pony.” Crescent Wrench said.

“Oh? Griffon then? I hear that there are more o’ them that are friendly ta ponies nowadays.” Tootie replied.

“Nope!” Crescent said, grinning. “He’s a Mr. Gutsy! Like your Mr. Handy, but outfitted for combat! And he’s a special model that’s capable of doing doctor work too!” Crescent Wrench sounded proud, for some reason, as if she had built MG-MS11 or something.

“Well fancy that, a robot doctor. I’ve heard about everything now.” Tootie said, smiling down at the beige filly. “Speaking of, why don’t you go and take a look at ol’ Hoofy fer me? Ya’ll can bring him out here to the livin’ room if’n ya like.” Tootie laid down on the loveseat, and Shimmercoat quickly followed suit, sitting right next to her on the short two-pony sofa. Tootie blushed as he brushed up against her, but made no move to scoot away from him.

“I’ll go take that bath now, I guess.” I said, heading for the bathroom. The tub was full, and lightly steaming. I scooped some water out of it, testing the temperature. It was nice and warm, not too hot or cold. I used the water to put out the fire so it wouldn’t heat up any more and stripped my dirty barding, taking off everything but my trusty ski-goggles, which rarely came off their perch on my forehead above my horn. Soaking into the bath, I sighed in relaxation and contentment as the warm water washed over my coat, lifting the redness from it and quickly soiling the water with my dried blood, but I didn’t care much. The water soothed my sore muscles, and I realized that I was really, really tired from my surgery ordeal… my eyelids drooped heavily, and before I knew it, I was asleep, the water flowing around me.

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

I awoke to a rhythmic squeaking noise coming from Tootsie’s bedroom. The water had turned cold, and even in the darkness of what was apparently nighttime I could tell that it was disgusting and murky. Crawling as quietly as I could from the tub, I grabbed one of the towels that Tootsie had provided and dried off, my coat still a little redder than usual, but it was now mostly back to its normal light purple.

The squeaking noise was speeding up a bit, and I suddenly realized what it very possibly could be, a blush rising unbidden up my face. Tootie’s bed was very old… and probably squeaky… “Oh… oh my…” I said quietly. Looking out into the living room, I saw Crescent Wrench curled up in the outstretched arms of Hoofy the Mr. Handy, which lay deactivated on its side, a maintenance panel open and tools spread out everywhere around the sleeping filly. The door to Tootie’s room was, thankfully, closed, but the sound of them… going at it was all too clear for my taste, and there was no way I was getting to sleep again anyways.

I stepped outside, the cool night air blasting my still slightly damp coat, making me shiver. I levitated my barding and bags from the bathroom floor where I had left them, putting them on on the doorstep. Sure, the barding was still blood-encrusted and dirty, but it broke the wind and kept me from freezing. I could always take another bath later… honestly I still needed another one. And a wash for my barding.

A soft hiss broke the night’s tranquility, and I jumped a bit, startled. Looking down, I saw that on a catwalk below me, Hiss and MG-MS11 were looking up at me.

“Ah, it’s a good thing we found you, soldier!” MG-MS11 said, but though he still spoke in the gung-ho excited tone he usually spoke, his volume had turned down. Probably his version of whispering. “General Snakehead just informed me of a dire situation happening just outside of town! There’s fires! Zebras are surrounding the city, probably gearing up for an assault at dawn! We need to rally the men and batten down the hatches, prepare for the worst and let the striped bastards have it!”

“Hold on, fires?” I said, picking up on the one not-useless piece of info the machine spouted. “You mean, like, campfires? Surrounding the city?”

“That I do, missy! Follow the general and I, we’ll show you!” Hiss and MG-MS11 turned around and zoomed down their catwalk, with me following from above and close behind. We eventually met up at the edge of the crater, and quietly made our way towards the gate. Hiss slinked up the catwalk to the top of the gate where Shotty Snipes had spotted us from what seemed like forever ago, but was really only yesterday afternoon. MG-MS11 couldn’t fit on the catwalk, but his levitation talisman revved up again, and he hovered up onto the rail, slowly climbing up it to the observation platform. I went up there as well, following my non-pony companions.

The first thing I noticed was the body of Shotty Snipes, a tiny hole in his forehead, and a much larger, much nastier looking hole in the back of his head. “This looks like a hollow point or something. Perfectly aimed too… whoever shot this knew what they were doing…” I muttered to myself.

“I would watch your own head if I were thou. And since I am part of thou, I am really suggesting that thou watch thy head quite hard. Don’t peek over the rail. The sniper could still be out there. Mezzer said.

“Gee, thanks for the advice. Of course I’ll look out for the same thing happening to me, I’m not an idiot. I snapped back. Sometimes that gun seemed like such a worrywart.

*PING*

“We got incoming! Take cover, the zebras are launching an early assault!” MG-MS11 said, bobbing in the air and falling off the rail he was hovering over, clunking to the ground below. “I meant to do that, evasion is all about doing the unexpected!” He righted himself, hovering back up again below the observation platform, on the inside of the gate.

I kept my head down. That ping had been from a bullet slamming into the metal behind us, probably aimed at MG-MS11’s glowing eye-sensors. When I felt it was safe, I peeked the tiniest bit above the rail, so I could see what was happening out there.

Fires.

Dozens of them. Spread out in front of Maregaton in an obvious statement. We’re coming for you, and you aren’t going to like it.

“Take a look to your left… I think you know where these ponies are coming from.” Mezzer pointed out something I had missed. Barely visible in the firelight from the enemy camp, there was a waving flag mounted on a spear stuck in the ground. The standard of Fillydelphia.

“Well…” I said. “Looks like I’ll have some competition in these parts now. Red Eye’s here.”

Level up! (Lv. 7)

New Perk: Intense Training: Your experiences have raised your Strength stat by 1.

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 Lesolan 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!