• Published 6th Apr 2014
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Fallout Equestria: Influx - Lex the Pikachu



A mare wakes up to discover she is in the Wasteland and not who she used to be. Determined to discover the truth she heads out into the wasteland. But the truth can be disturbing.

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Chapter 14: Paradigm


Fallout Equestria: Influx

Chapter 14: Paradigm


Three years before the balefire strikes and two years after the production of I-01 had begun.

Las Pegasus Science Expo.

A dark green earth pony stallion slowly walked through the many different exhibits on display as he searched for one pony. The exhibits displayed many different contraptions ranging from weapons, robots, surveillance systems, and many other different types of technology, but the stallion ignored them all which would usually interest a member of the MoA or somepony working with advanced technology.

“Where are you?” He asked himself quietly as he stood in the middle of an aisle facing the showcase stage.

Suddenly spotlights flashed on and begun to twirl around to get the attention of the crowd, and loud speakers began to announce the next showcase.

“Mares and gentlecolts, we have an extra special event this evening here at the expo by our very own tech genius,” There was a pause for dramatic effect which caused the dark green stallion to roll his eyes. “Mr Edwin Horse!” There was a cheer from the crowd that was familiar with Mr Horse’s work.

The announced name got the attention of the dark green stallion and he approached the stage. The pony that came out onto the stage was a yellow earth pony stallion with a small moustache, and a brown mane and tail that was well groomed. His cutiemark was a set of three gears. He was dressed in a black tuxedo with a white undershirt and red tie as he approached the microphone stand.

“There you are,” The green stallion said to himself as he turned away from the stage and began towards the backstage door at one side of the stage just as Mr Horse began his demonstration, which was a new line of Sentry Drones.

A security guard stepped in the way as the dark stallion approached the door. “I’m sorry, only backstage employees and authorised personnel are allowed through here,” The stallion said authoritatively.

“Stand aside,” The dark green stallion said gruffly as he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an identification card with a forehoof, and showed it to the security guard. The guard took the card and examined it, and his eyes widened in shock.

“Y-yes sir, err, right away,” The security stallion quickly got out of the way. “My apologies Colonel.”

Colonel Ironside nodded to him as he pushed through the backstage door and into the hallway behind. He looked up and down the corridor before settling on a direction. He turned to the left and began for the dressing rooms, one room in particular.

*2 Hours Later*

Mr Horse opened the door to his dressing room with a big smile on his face after his successful demonstration.

“That went just as well as I had predicted it would,” He said smugly. “I’ll be getting plenty of offers for those new Mark IIIs after that good reception. Robronco will be quite profitable this year.”

“You certainly kept me waiting Mr Horse,” Colonel Ironside said as he stood up from where he had been sitting in a shadowed corner.

“Holy horseapples who the hell are you?” The yellow earth pony yelped in surprise.

“Colonel Ironside,” The dark green stallion said with a strong authoritative voice.

“C-colonel, um, what do I owe the pleasure,” Mr Horse asked with a little nervousness in his voice.

“I am interested in a very specific piece of technology you recently developed,” The colonel said as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper. He then chucked it onto the table against the wall and gestured for Mr Horse to take a look.

Mr Horse hesitated for a moment before he stepped up to the table and looked at the piece of paper. He saw that it was a printout of a photograph of a rectangular microchip that was of his design. “Wait a minute… this is my prototype Neural Processor.”

Ironside nodded. “Indeed, I am very interested in these and I would like a large quantity produced immediately.”

“Now hang on a minute! I know you are a colonel but who do you think you are just coming in here and demanding I give you something?”

“I am a colonel in the Ministry of Awesome and the head of the Espionage Department,” He then tilted his head forward and looked at Mr Horse in the eyes, giving him a hard almost threatening stare. “And it would be in your best interest to give me what I want,” He said darkly.

Mr Horse gulped. “H-how can I h-help you sir?”

“I have a special project in development outside of the city limits and I require those Neural Processors.”

“The Neural Processor is still experimental and still needs some work,” Mr Horse tried to deter the colonel.

“For what I need, that chip will be just perfect and in a large quantity, I do know you can mass produce them.”

“J-just how many are you after?”

“Enough for one thousand units with some spare just in case some do not meet standards.”

“ONE THOUSAND?!” Mr Horse shrieked. “Y-you can’t be serious?”

“I am deadly serious. I have big plans for those chips,” Colonel Ironside said as he approached Mr Horse and stood almost over him, intimidating him. “I can be your best friend or your worst nightmare Mr Horse. I want those chips. Either I get those chips or I can see to it that your career falls apart in the blink of an eye,” He threatens.

“You can’t do that…”

“I can, and I will. I work in espionage after all, it will not be hard. Now then, will you give me what I want?” Ironside asked while keeping his threatening stare.

“Alright, alright… Err - meet me outside the Canterlot Royal Hotel after the expo and we can discuss the details in private.”

Colonel Ironside smiled and nodded. “Very good, I look forward to doing business with you,” Ironside said as he turned and left the room.

Mr Horse sighed as he sat down looking at the photo when the colonel left. “Well, that was uncomfortable, but…” He looked down at the photo of the Neural Processor. “How did he get a photo of this, it’s on my private server?”

XXXXX

Present Day.

Marejave Production Facility.

Down in the bowels of the hidden underground facility, Unit 1000 walked along the long since abandoned corridors of the now disused manufacturing and assembly portion of the facility. Back in the day this area of the facility would have been very noisy with all the automated machinery assembling the Mark 2 units. The large skeletal alicorn stepped into the area where the completed units were once loaded into their containment capsules before they were raised up into the Vault above. Unit 1000 raised its head as it sensed an incoming broadcast.

“Incoming transmission from Unit 1.”

The robot turned and left the old production section of the facility and headed for the elevator.

“Colonel, Unit 1 has an update; I am patching it through to you now.”

Up in the control room, the wireframe stallion head appeared on the large computer screen and looked over to the security camera feeds, which showed the alicorn robot now stood in an elevator.

“Excellent,” He said, his voice electronic and deep.

There was a crackle of static before a window appeared on the main screen showing the name, “Unit 1” before a feminine voice began to speak.

“Colonel, do you read us?” Unit 1 asked with doubt in its voice.

“I read you Unit 1, Unit 1000 is acting as a relay,” Colonel Ironside clarified.

“Ok good. Now I would like to report that we have managed to track I-01 to Manehattan. However, we lost track of it for a brief period of time after a large radiation spike, but we picked up its power signature again. It is heading into the Impact Crater,” The feminine machine reported. “How do you want us to proceed?”

“Wait. Manehattan, Impact Crater?” Ironside asked in surprise.

“Yes sir,” Unit 1 confirmed.

Ironside called up a pre-war map of Manehattan and then highlighted the location of where the balefire bomb had struck the city. He then placed a ring to show the area of effect from the point of impact that encompassed the majority of the northern half of the city.

“Why would the prototype be going into such a heavily irradiated environment?” Ironside asked himself as he examined the map closely. As he stared at the map and area of effect he noticed that a very specific location sat north of the point of impact and understanding suddenly dawned on him. “I know where it is going Unit 1; it is heading for Paradigm Cybernetics.”

“Why would I-01 be going there?” Unit 1 questioned.

“Hmm, I’m not sure. It does have an organic brain, and I believe its brain didn’t technically die. I wonder if its original mind and memories are intact? Perhaps it is trying to understand the situation it is in. It did come out here after all and go to New Pegasus and if my theory is right, it went to the old Fluttershy Hospital still within the city limits. If that is the case then this will work in our favour,” Ironside said with a sinister smirk.

“Shall we continue our pursuit, sir?” Unit 1 asked sounding a little unsure of what to do now.

“Of course, there is still a chance the prototype might get destroyed unless it is not recovered. Now, head to Paradigm Cybernetics, you’ll likely find it there.”

“Yes sir, right away sir,” Unit 1 said before ending the transmission.

Ironside had a dark grin on his face by the time Unit 1000 entered the control room and sat down before the large screen. “Is everything alright sir?”

“I believe so Unit 1000. If I-01 is trying to gather information on itself, then it’ll put it on a path that’ll eventually bring it here,” Colonel Ironside theorised. He looked down for a moment in thought. “Hmm, if that is the case and Units 1 and 2 fail to apprehend I-01, it will eventually make its way back here. Unit 1000, go back into the Vault and activate another Mark 2 and bring it here.”

“Affirmative!”

The large robot stood up and turned around, its glitchy holographic tail phasing through the console as the machine began to head for the Mark 2 Vault. Back inside the Vault, the machine took the first left and stepped onto the old catwalk. It walked along the wall of capsules until it came upon the third capsule marked with “Unit 3” and stopped.

Unit 1000 lifted a hoof and pressed the manual activation button on the front of the capsule to awaken the Mark 2 unit inside.

“Activation sequence engaged!” An electronic voice said as the robot inside began to wake up.

After a few minutes the capsule hissed and began to spew out steam that blew passed Unit 1000 and through the grated catwalk floor before the doors opened like a flower. Once the machine inside activated, its eyes glowed red and fell forward before it landed on its hooves in front of the larger robot.

“Unit 3 online,” The new robot announced as the support cables detached from its back, freeing it from the capsule completely.

“Greetings Unit 3, please follow me,” Unit 1000 greeted in its unnervingly motherly voice.

The new machine nodded as it fell in line with the larger robot and followed it back to the control room.

“Unit 3 is now online Colonel,” Unit 1000 said as it stood before the console with the smaller robot beside it.

“Ah good, Unit 3, I have job for you,” Colonel Ironside said as he stared down at the new machine. “I want you go out into the Marejave and infiltrate the society the best you can in preparation for the possible return of I-01.”

“Affirmative sir,” Unit 3 nodded before it turned and headed for the facility’s door.

XXXXX

We stood on the debris wall looking out over the Impact Crater. It wasn’t until now that I really took in the reality of the level of devastation the balefire bombs had actually wrought. All the buildings from the debris ring to the core showed multiple levels of destruction, from just having the tops blown off near the ring, half collapsed around the middle, or blown over and nearly flattened around the core. The actual impact sight was still clear for there was still a bright luminescent glow coming from the point of impact, and to it top off the horrible atmosphere of the Impact Crater, the skies above were a sickly yellowy green and seemed to swirl around in a circular motion like a slow-moving hurricane.

“Are you two ready to descend into Tartarus?” Quatermane asked as he ignited his jetpack thrusters.

I gulped nervously as I looked down the wall of rubble. “As ready, *gulp* as ready as I’ll ever be,” I said while spreading my wings inside the hazmat suit.

“We better get this shindig started before the sun starts going down. I don’t want to be in this shithole after dark,” Fruity said as he too spread his wings. “Faust only knows what critters a place like this has in it.”

“Alright then, let’s go,” Quartermane said and jumped off the rim of the rubble wall. His jetpack roared to life to slow his descent, but he still hit the ground with an earthshattering bang as he landed on all four hooves and cracked the pavement beneath him.

I gulped with nervousness and looked over to Fruity. “Don’t worry, I’m with you all the way,” Fruity said reassuringly. I nodded in thanks and kicked off the ledge and began to descent. Fruity jumped after me and fell beside me. We began to beat our wings as we got close to the ground to slow our fall and landed softly on our hooves.

Being on the ground felt a whole lot worse than being up on the top of the rubble wall. The buildings looked more twisted and mangled, barely any tarmac and pavement was visible under the thick layer of dust, rubble and ash. There was also a strong breeze that blew through the ruined streets, blowing radioactive dust around and making it hard to see a fair distance ahead of us. If it wasn’t for our hazmat suits or Quartermane’s armour we would be receiving lethal levels of radiation because upon reaching the ground, my PipBuck began to tick with ten rads per second.

“This used to be Downtown Manehattan. There were some businesses here but primarily this area was residential with lots of tower blocks,” Quartermane explained with a sigh. “Where we need to go is on the other side of the crater, the Manehattan Fluttershy Hospital is there and isn’t far from Paradigm Cybernetics.”

“Hang on, the bomb landed on a densely-populated area?” I asked aghast.

Quartermane didn’t respond, he simply let out a deep sigh and began to walk up the ruined street with his minigun primed and ready.

Fruity looked towards me with a pretty sombre look on his face. “That don’t sound good, like at all” He said to our guide’s silent response.

“I hope everypony managed to flee the area in time,” I said dejectedly. I knew in the pit of my synthetic stomach that not everypony would have escaped the blast but at least some had the Stables, which in of itself was a horrible thought regarding what we experienced in Stable 16. Despite remembering the horror of 16, the Stables did hold salvation for those with places. “I hope the Stable-Tec evacuation broadcast went out in time,” I added with a sigh as we began to follow after our guide.

We caught up with our power-armoured guide; his minigun’s rotary barrel was slowly rotating as if he expected an attack at any moment.

“I’d advise the pair of you to prime any available weapons you are carrying. There are creatures that reside in the Impact Crater that make a Feral Ghoul or a Raider look like a Radroach,” The armoured unicorn said as he ducked under a fallen lamppost.

“Like what?” Fruity asked as he started to hover a few hooves off the ground and cradle his modified Q-Modulator in his forehooves.

“You had to ask,” I groaned, not really wanting to know what sort of horrors lay in wait for us out there.

“Things like Radscorpions, more dangerous variants of ghouls such as the Reaver, Deathclaws and possibly an Alicorn if we get too close to the core.”

“I’m probably going to hate asking this but what’s a Deathclaw?” I asked with a whimper. My ears folded back against my head to show my nervousness inside the bubble helmet of the hazmat suit.

“Huh, oh right, sorry, Deathclaw is generally a nickname. What I mean by the name Deathclaw is a monster called a Hellhound. They were once Diamond Dogs before the bomb that have long since mutated them into hulking great beasts with massive muscular forearms and hands with huge blade-like claws that can easily cut through anything, even power armour,” We gaped at the description, especially me. “It is why some of us tend to call them Deathclaws because their claws can pretty much kill anything.”

“Well shit,” Fruity muttered quietly but it was clear he was nervous too from the tone of his voice.

“What do we do if we run into one of those things?” I shrieked feeling scared.

“Run, run fast and don’t look back,” Quartermane said with finality.

“Yep, don’t want run into one of those,” Fruity agreed as we fell into step behind our guide.

The dust made visibility really low and anything ahead of us was difficult to see as we trudged down the destroyed street. I could feel the loose ground shift beneath my hooves as I walked, feeling uneven and soft.

“The weather here sucks,” Fruity said as he hovered just above us.

“What do you mean?” I asked while keeping my eyes on the broken and cracked walls and windows of the buildings lining the street, my shotgun following where I looked in the grasp of my nano-fibre tail.

“Pegasi like us can sense the ambient magic in the air related to the weather and in this place the weather magic is all disrupted and chaotic, which I suppose is why it’s so severe and unpredictable,” Fruity explained while keeping his eyes and plasma rifle on the opposite side of the street.

I extended my wings and tried to feel for anything but was unable to feel anything out of the ordinary. “I don’t feel anything.”

“Hmm, you haven’t been a pegasus for long. I suppose I can help teach you later,” Fruity offered.

“Thanks,” I said with a light smile before a crunch up ahead caught our attention.

“Hostile ahead, be alert!” Quartermane yelled.

I gulped and steadied my lever-action shotgun as we slowly approached the hostile on our EFS. The dusty environment made it difficult to see what was ahead but we could hear something shifting the loose rubble about. After a few more cautious steps a shadow appeared in the haze and it didn’t look good.

“Shit, a Radscorpion,” Quartermane groaned and increased his minigun’s barrel rotation to firing speed.

Having grown up in the Marejave, I was no stranger to scorpions and how big they could be so I knew they were usually small creatures. However, the scorpion in front of us was anything but small. In fact it was huge, the size of a full grown stallion.

“Damn that scorpion’s been hitting the buckout,” Fruity commented when he noticed the huge insectoid.

“Don’t let it pierce your suit,” Quartermane urged before his battlesaddle minigun began to fire rapidly, sending lethal death towards the giant scorpion. When the large scorpion began to take the hits from the 5mm rounds it jerked and hissed in annoyance, it’s tough hide absorbing most of the damage, and looked in our direction. It let out a shriek before it dived forward into the ground and in a cloud of dust and a wave of its stinger tail, it disappeared.

“Where’d it go?” Fruity asked in surprise once the minigun stopped firing.

“It burrowed underground,” The armoured unicorn warned. “Be on your guard, it could pop up anywhere.”

My EFS still tracked the mutated scorpion but it still had it in front of us; and none of us could tell the whereabouts of the mutant. We kept our eyes and weapons forward, ready to open fire if the scorpion decided to show itself.

Suddenly the ground beneath my hooves began to shake and the loose dirt also began to shift, gradually becoming worse. As soon as my threat warning flashed, I immediately spread my wings and flapped them hard, propelling myself backwards just in time to avoid a pair of pincers bursting out of the ground, poised ready to snag me.

“Shit!” I squeaked as the large mutant scorpion had now fully burst out of the ground where I had just been standing and hissed angrily at us.

Fruity swooped around and fired a short burst of automatic plasma fire. The scorpion raised its large pincers to shield its head from the burning plasma balls, before it reared its tail back and tried to strike my pegasus friend out of the air with lightning fast stinger strings.

“Ahhh ah ahhh!” Fruity yelped as he dodged the stingers the best he could.

“Hey, leave my coltfriend alone!” I yelled as I ran as close as I dared to get to it and fired my shotgun. The recoil sent the weapon up and I decided to use its momentum to cock the lever and snap it back down in my grasp, ready to fire again. Unfortunately, my shotgun blast did little to no damage because the carapace was so thick. It also had gained the attention of the scorpion as it now looked at me with its tail raised up high ready to strike. “Oh crap.”

I was about ready to dart to the side when a yellow coloured magic shimmer materialised around the top half of the tail and prevented it from using its stinger.

“I’m too old for this,” Quartermane grunted, his horn ablaze with magic as he used the basic unicorn magic spell for telekinesis.

The radscorpion hissed angrily and rounded on Quartermane, but that resulted in it getting a face full of minigun bullets. The mutant shrieked and dove into the ground again, the sudden jerk making Quartermane lose his grip on its tail which quickly disappeared into the ground with a burst of dirt flying up into the air.

“Is it gone?” Fruity asked as he came to a hover over the hole.

I looked down at my EFS and sighed. It’s not over yet because the red bar was still there. “No, I think it’ll pop back up again,” I said looking around for possible clear spots it could surface. The red bar began moving all over the place on my compass which meant it was close by but because it was beneath me, it could be anywhere while still being close and unseen. Despite being unable to see it, I could feel it because shortly after it disappeared the ground beneath me began to shake again. I hunkered down ready to jump away when my threat warning appeared but when it did flash, the scorpion burst out of the ground, and rammed me bodily as it pulled itself out. I yelped in surprise, caught off guard by the sudden appearance of the scorpion. I tumbled away but thankfully before the monster could act on my defencelessness, Quartermane jumped onto the scorpion’s back. With the weight of the power armoured pony on its back the radscorpion was immediately pinned down and Quartermane quickly maneuvered so he could also hold down its tail.

“Pegasus, finish it!” Quartermane yelled as he fought to hold the scorpion down. He was unable to shoot it with his minigun because it was too close range.

Fruity swooped down and began to unload a steady stream of plasma bolts into the struggling scorpion’s face. The quick succession of plasma bolts soon superheated the thick armour of the radscorpion’s carapace and burned a hole into its head and finally killed the monstrous bug. The mutant let out a dying hiss before it fell limp on the ground with a glowing green hole in its head. Quartermane and Fruity both sighed in relief as they moved away from the dead carcass.

“Yeah, welcome to the Impact Crater,” Quatermane said again, this time full of sarcasm.

I stood back up and groaned. I was lucky I wasn’t hit by a pincer or anything sharp on that scorpion’s body. “Is everypony alright?” I asked in concern.

“Just fine,” Fruity said as he sat on his haunches and fished out a Micro-Mana Cell from his pocket so that he could reload his rifle. “Damn that thing was tough.”

“That was just a regular Radscorpion. We will want to avoid its larger and more aggressive cousins if we want to get out of this in one piece,” Quartermane grumbled. “I’m too old to fight monsters like this anymore; anyway, we should take the side streets and stay off the main road so we won’t be as open.”

I nodded, we couldn’t afford running into another hard to kill monster like that again. “Ok, lead the way.”

Quartermane nodded as he turned and began to walk towards a gap between two buildings. Fruity quickly hovered after him once he reloaded his rifle and I began to follow when I felt that creeping sensation crawling up the back of my neck again and froze.

“Crystal, are you ok?” Fruity asked as he floated back over to me once he realised I wasn’t there.

“I have that feeling of being watched again,” I whimpered and slowly turned to look back the way we came. The hazy atmosphere of the Impact Crater made it impossible to see the rubble wall through the dust despite being only a short distance inside.

“I-02 IS?” Fruity suggested with a touch of fear.

“I sure hope not,” I whimpered, dreading the idea that the terrifying machine survived the magical explosion. “Let’s get out of here.”

With a nod, Fruity turned and the pair of us flew off to catch up with Quatermane.

XXXXX

Unit’s 1 and 2 stood on the rim of the rubble wall looking down into the impact site. The robot in the lighter coloured armour gently poked at the loose rubble with her hoof to ensure it was steady before she stepped closer to the edge. Standing as close to the edge as she dared get the machine looked down into the destroyed portion of the city.

“Do you see anything?” Unit 2 asked, keeping at a safe distance from the edge.

“The environment makes visual sightings difficult to make out but I can feel I-01’s energy signature down there,” Unit 1 replied as she took a step back.

“So, what should we do, go after it or head it off to its destination?” Unit 2 asked a little unsure of what to do.

“The colonel said we should head straight to Paradigm Cybernetics,” She said as she began to closely examine the rubble.

“Um, be careful sis,” Unit 2 said in concern for its mechanical sister.

“We’re machines Buckshot, we are more durable than the average pony,” The machine said with a mixture of Razzle’s feelings for her brother surfacing.

“I know Razzle but you are my sister after all, I don’t want you to get hurt, even if you are made of metal,” Buckshot said as he joined his sister in scanning for a way down.

If Unit 1 could smile she would have at hearing the concern her brother had for her. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine,” She said as she began to climb down the rubble wall, using her enhanced vision to pick out the sturdier ledges she could stand on. “Follow me Buckshot.”

Buckshot watched in worry as his mechanical sister began to descend. He closed in behind her and began to follow her down, but kept at a safe distance from the other robot to not disturb the rubble any more than she was.

It took a good few minutes for the two machines to navigate their way down to the ground, but when they did they both could agree they felt a lot safer. Unfortunately for the two machines, the time it took them to get down to the ground had allowed their target to get much further ahead.

“Power signature is faint now. It would be best if we head straight for the facility now instead,” Corporal Razzle said.

“Alright then, let’s go.”

With a nod the two disguised machines began to run into the haze of dust and radiation on their way to Paradigm Cybernetics.

XXXXX

The tighter side street was more cumbersome than the main road, with high piles of rubble and debris all bunched up against the walls of the buildings, lining the streets. It was made worse by the fallen lampposts and traffic lights that had toppled over either against the wall of the nearest building or into the actual street.

We had walked for a good twenty minutes without running into any more hostiles so far. During that time the haze and dust cleared momentarily when the wind suddenly stopped and became still. However that didn’t last too long before it started up again and began to kick up the dust. Fruity was right, the weather did suck and seemed to be unpredictable as well.

We turned onto a slightly wider street and the wind died down a little. The dusty haze cleared enough to let us see further down the road and at the end we could see a Barnyard Bargains store.

“Beyond that store, we’ll enter the middle range of the damage caused by the balefire bomb,” Quatermane explained.

We nodded as we followed close. As we cautiously trotted down the road, or hovered in Fruity’s case, I started to notice a growing number of red bars filling up my compass.

“Do you see those red bars on your EFS too Quartermane?” I asked shakily.

“I do. Join your friend in the air to reduce sound but be on your guard,” The armoured stallion said as he began to walk in a crouch and reduce how heavy he took his hoof steps.

I took his advice and flapped my wings to pull me up into the air to be at the same level as Fruity. I started to feel worried as we continued because the number of red bars continued to increase the closer we drew to the old discount store and we still hadn’t seen anything.

“See anything?” Fruity asked our guide quietly.

“Not yet, but judging by the numbers, I am going to say we have stumbled upon a horde of ghouls.”

“Ghouls again, shit,” My coltfriend exclaimed in annoyance. “We’ve faced enough of those cock gobblers to last us a lifetime.”

“Yeah, last time poor Xian was with us,” I agreed. I had to admit, ghouls were the wasteland creature we seemed to have run into the most.

“As long as nothing worse than a Roamer is amongst them we’ll be fine,” Quartermane assured as he triggered his minigun to begin spinning up to firing speed again. “This may not be good against armoured targets like that Radscorpion but it’ll shred unarmoured creatures like ghouls as if they are made of paper.” We certainly couldn’t argue with that.

We came to an intersection a couple of blocks away from the store when our good fortune finally ran out. Quartermane stepped on something that was hidden under the dirt and ash, and it crumbled, which in turn made him stumble. Before our guide could stop himself, he crashed into the side of a burnt-out carriage with a resounding clang that echoed throughout the ruined street, and that echo was followed by a series of hungry shrieks from inside one of the buildings ahead of us.

“Oh that can’t good,” Fruity groaned as he cradled his Q-Modulator and prepared to fire.

Ghouls began to shuffle out of a building from across the intersection, attracted by the unusual noise. There had to be dozens of them, pushing their way out of the doors and even windows.

“Take cover behind me or stay in the air!” Quartermane yelled before he began to fire his minigun and send a stream of death towards the frail ghouls. I landed behind his armoured flank and holstered my shotgun in favour of Lucky 13 for a more accurate shot and longer range. Ghouls were indeed being literally shredded by the powerful stream of bullets from the minigun as the power-armoured unicorn swept the weapon from side to side to cover all the advancing ghouls. It was a horrible sight to behold and I was glad for another reason that Xian wasn’t here as this was something I didn’t want her to witness. Ghouls were being cut in half, disembowelled, limbs chopped off, and some even had their heads exploded because of the minigun’s power.

“Just how many are there?” Fruity shouted over the roar of the minigun.

“I don’t know, there are still so many… shit their flanking,” I yelled and turned to face the buildings opposite us. More ghouls had begun to emerge from the destroyed block of flats, attracted to the sound like the others. Quartermane was still busy with the first group of ghouls which left us to deal with these ones.

“This day just keeps getting better and better,” Fruity said full of sarcasm.

“You can bitch after we’ve kicked their asses,” I snarked. I stopped and blinked for a moment at my retort. Just where the hell did that come from, that was not like me at all. A ghoul screeched which brought me back to the now. I’ll have to worry about my increasing snarkiness later until after we are safe.

“I got plenty of bitching to do about this,” Fruity said as he fired a burst of plasma bolts into the new group of ghouls.

I aimed Lucky 13 at the closest ghoul and fired. The powerful .357 round tore through the ghoul’s head and killed it instantly. Fruity and I began to trade kills, shooting one ghoul each and either killing or downing it with our shots, and covering each other when either of us had to reload our weapon. When the ghouls got close enough I switched back to the lever-action shotgun and aimed my shots for the chest to blow them back.

Suddenly the roar of the minigun went silent.

“RELOADING!” Quartermane shouted as his horn burst into a bright yellow light as he engaged his battlesaddle’s reload system.

“Cover him, I got this,” I said since the group flanking us had dwindled down to a few stragglers.

“I’ve got you,” Fruity said as he landed next to him on his hindlegs and began to fire his plasma assault rifle at the ghouls still coming on Quartermane’s side.

I blew away one more ghoul and when I checked to see what was left. I found that the flanking group had been brought down to two slow moving ghouls wearing what appeared to be remnants of equestrian military combat armour. This was the first time I’ve seen a ghoul in armour of any kind before and considering that they were still at a distance from us, I switched back to my revolver.

“Die already,” I groaned and pulled the trigger. The revolver let out a powerful bang and the bullet shot out at the target and smacked into its withered throat which did nothing but make it growl. “Damn it.” It was a little tricky to aim the mouth-operated revolver with my nano-fibre tail since I couldn’t use my mouth due to the bubble helmet, and getting a perfect aim was hard. I closed one eye, hoping I had sighted the ghoul down the iron sights right before I pulled the trigger and fired again. This time I scored a direct hit to the heart, but because the ghoul had an armoured chest piece my bullet ricocheted off the metal. Instead I hit it in the knee, and it stumbled with a pained whine. I then felt an unusual daring wave come over me. I felt brave enough to step out from behind Quartermane and approach the downed ghoul now with my shotgun and at point blank, shot it in the head. Still riding the new feeling of bravery, I dodged over the fallen bodies of the other ghouls to approach the other lumbering armoured ghoul and again did a point-blank shot to its face. I felt a sense of satisfaction as I saw its head explode like a watermelon with some of its blood splashing onto the glass of my helmet. Normally I wouldn’t take pleasure in such a thing and this had begun to bother me.

The roar of the minigun came to a stop along with the rain of ejected ammo belt pieces and shells. “Clear!” Quartermane called.

We looked around; the street was filled with corpses of ghouls that we had all killed after they had come out of the buildings. Even the street had suffered some collateral damage. The building that the ghouls were coming out of that Quartermane had covered now sported a large gash that his minigun had cut through the wall.

“Phew, thank Celes… gah!” Fruity was cut off as he was suddenly tackled out of the air and to the ground by another ghoul from out of the air. “Get your dirty hooves off me you dang dirty ghoul!” Fruity exclaimed as he fought to hold the ghoul back while it tried to snap at him. “Somepony get this damn thing off me!”

“I got you,” I assured as I dropped my revolver and ran over to him, spun around and whipped out my tail and wrapped it around the ghoul’s neck. “Get off my friend!” I screamed at it and yanked it off him. The ghoul whined and groaned as it struggled to get back on its broken hooves. While it struggled I also noticed why it could take Fruity out of the air. On its rotting torso was a pair of bony appendages that used to be wings. I’m surprised it could still fly without any feathers on them. The ghoul gargled as it managed to roll onto its side and I realised I had to act quickly before it could attack again. I grabbed my shotgun, but in my haste, I accidently grabbed it by the barrel when I pulled it off my back. “Shit,” I groaned but I had no time to correct my mistake because the ghoul had managed to get onto its cracked and broken hooves. So, I decided to use the shotgun like a club and swung it around, smashing the handle of the weapon onto the pegasus ghoul’s head with was a resounding crunch. The ghoul let out one last groan before it collapsed to the floor dead.

“Thank the goddesses for that,” Fruity sighed as he got back up and flapped his wings to shake off the ash and dirt from his suit.

“Yeah,” I agreed, cringing as I wiped the ghoul blood off my shotgun.

“Are you two ok?” Quartermane asked.

“Yeah, that ghoul surprised me,” Fruity said with a sigh of relief now that there were no more ghouls.

“Sorry about that. Didn’t count on a pegasus ghoul,” The armoured unicorn apologised.

“It’s fine mate, no harm done.”

I smiled at that as I trotted over to where I dropped Lucky 13 and picked it back up and holstered it. Once all three of us were ready again, we continued down the road to the Barnyard Bargains store. Fruity and I returned to hovering just above and behind Quartermane while he walked cautiously. At least this time our EFS was now clear.

The entrance of the discount store looked intact, but a good portion of the rest of the building looked like it may have collapsed inside; a tall building had fallen over onto it. The building that had collapsed blocked off the street to the right. The building’s top couple of floors lay almost intact and vertical with the roof facing the street we were in.

“Wait a minute,” Fruity said as he drifted over to the collapsed roof towards a pile of twisted equipment and clumps of metal.

“Hey hang on, wait for me,” I said as I fluttered after him.

“Don’t take too long you two,” Quartermane said while he was looking up at the sky. “I think a Radstorm is brewing.”

“Aww what, shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!” Fruity groaned as we hovered high enough to clear the twisted guard rail. There was a pile of twisted metal heaps resting up against the rail, almost ready to fall through at any moment. As Fruity descended down towards the mess, I noticed a couple of terminal shaped clouds among the mess along with what looked like a collapsed table.

“What is all this?” I asked just as the wind began to pick up.

Fruity landed on the metal piles and used his wings to clear some of the dirt before suddenly bolting back into the air with a shocked look on his face.

“What is it?” I asked my friend as a nervous feeling came over me from his reaction to the metal heaps.

“Those were Enclave soldiers,” He said as he looked over the ruined roof now with understanding. “This is, or was an Enclave Research outpost. The metal lumps there were the soldiers. Their power armour is all locked up and their long dead. I can’t see the bodies of the researchers, probably long lost by now. This is puzzling; I didn’t realize they were sending research teams down to the surface, especially into a place like this. What the hell happened to them?”

“The building fell over, isn’t that cause enough?” I replied.

“Nah, look. Can’t you see those gouge marks all over the place?” He asked while he pointed to several deep gashes that were cut into the floor and through the roof extractors with a wing.

“Oh, err… I dunno… but whatever made those I don’t want to meet it,” I said nervously before a strong gust of wind blew passed us that made me falter in the air, followed by a boom of that unnatural thunder. “We better go,” I urged as I turned around and flew over to the entrance to the old store to meet back up with Quartermane.

“Right behind you.”

We quickly flew to the store and pushed our way through the broken doors, just as the strong winds began to blow a gale and lash the damaged store with radioactive rain.

Barnyard Bargains certainly had seen better days. Where the tall building had fallen upon it, the roof had caved in, totally demolishing those sections of the store on the left and right. The central area had weathered the collapse, but by the look of the bends in the steel support beams and the cracks in the roof, it might not hold for that much longer.

“We need to exit out of the roof at the back,” Quartermane explained as he began to lead us through the collapsed store.

It confused me as to why we had to leave through the roof but I didn’t question him as we navigated around a couple of the aisles. We had to climb over shelves that had fallen over, along with their contents all over the floor. It made things tricky but when we managed to make our way into the middle of the store, the answer became clear. Where there had once been windows were now large mounds of debris up to the top of the windows. At the back of the store that led all the way up to the roof, which had partially collapsed leaving a big enough hole, was a mountain of debris, dirt and ash that stretched all the way up and over the back wall and back out into the Impact Crater.

“We’ll wait here until this radstorm is over,” Our guide said as he watched the storm rage through the hole in the roof.

“Someone needs to call Filthy Rich and tell him there’s a leak,” Fruity joked since the heavy rain from the storm was falling like a waterfall through the large hole.

I had to chuckle at that. Despite the situation we were in it was good to be able to laugh at something. To pass the time I decided to have a little look around of what was left of the store. Sadly there wasn’t much left on the shelves (that were still upright) that were remotely salvageable. I did however, come across a sealed box that contained a stuffed toy of Princess Celestia in the foals section. I smiled as I picked up the box, weathered and old but the contents still looked fresh and it would make a nice present for Xian. She does deserve a little something for my neglect of leaving her behind, twice. With my mind made up I picked up the boxed toy and pocketed it, just in time to hear the wind and rain to come to a stop, leaving deathly silence in its place.

“Why is it so quiet?” I asked with a gulp as I returned to the group.

“The storm has passed, the weather can change just like that out here,” Quartermane said before he began to ascend the hill.

Fruity and I were about to follow him when the store rocked and shook suddenly.

“The hell was that, an earthquake?” Fruity asked while the old store continued to groan and creak under the stress.

“No, worse, come on, we need to move quickly,” Quartermane urged.

“You know what that was?” I asked as we followed after him.

“I do, and it’s something we don’t want to attract the attention of.”

Fruity and I shared a look of worry and we both gulped as we remembered what he told us about something that resided in here. If he’s urging us to move like this, it must be something like this Hellhound thing he said we should just run away from.

Quartermane stopped once we got to the top of the hill and looked back to us. “What you are about to see, I urge you not to touch them. So please show some respect,” He said before he continued on.

I was about to ask what he meant until we walked out from the roof and began down the debris hill on the other side and back into the street behind the store. When we left the store, the street was still hazy with thick dust but as we descended, the haze cleared and so did the skies, allowing a spot of sunlight to light up this section of the street, although the radioactivity in the atmosphere tinted the sky green and the sun a sickly yellowy green. With the haze gone and the sun shining down, I gasped in shock and disbelief at what filled the street. Statues, statues made of ash and they were all in a state of running for their lives trying to escape from something.

“By the maker, what is this?” I choked out, horrified by the scene before us.

“This Crystal, is what happens when you drop a bomb on a civilian population and don’t alert the populace of the impending doom until it’s too late,” Quartermane sighed dejectedly. “These poor souls were the lucky ones, the unlucky ones turned into ghouls but still, being flash burned is a horrible way to go.”

I can’t believe all this. All these ponies dead and worse, forever petrified in a state of terror. How could the zebras do this, how heartless must they have been to kill so many innocent ponies? I felt angry at them for this, for destroying so many innocents over the dumb war.

“Mind your step, don’t disturb them,” Quartermane reminded us as we began to slowly weave through the ash statues. “I’d rather you not fly over them; your down drafts might destabilise them.”

“I doubt that if they’ve weathered the chaotic weather of this place,” Fruity said as he took care to not touch any of the petrified ponies.

“Maybe, but they’ve been here since the day the Impact Crater was formed, and a foreign element like your downdrafts could push them over the edge,” Our guide countered.

“Alright dude, keep your helmet on,” Fruity relented.

I hugged my wings tightly to my body so I could make myself as thin as possible while I weaved through the ash statues. I felt sick as I cautiously moved through them. It was horrible to see so many, especially when you could tell what they were doing in their last moments. Most were just frozen running for dear life but there was some that were not. There was one pony that was turned so their body was opposite to the others, and beside it was what looked more like a lump of rock amongst the ash and dirt, but upon closer inspection turned out to be a smaller or young pony crouching down and shielding its head. It looked like a parent had attempted to shield their foal from the coming fire. Not even foals were safe from the fires of balefire.

“H-how many are there?” I asked shakily.

“You don’t want to know,” Quartermane sighed quietly.

“Damn!” Fruity exclaimed.

I was blown away at that myself because that could mean there are countless ash statues in this middle section of the Impact Crater. “So many,” I breathed out sadly as I passed a recessed doorway and stopped and felt my heart clench. A family had hoped to find shelter in the doorway; a mother and a father had huddled together around their foal in the middle but the fire had not even spared them. I sniffed and mentally cursed the bubble helmet as I could feel a tear trickle out the corner of my eye and down my cheek. With a sniff, I turned away from the sorrowful and heart-breaking scene and continued down the street while dodging more statues.

The clear sky soon clouded back over and the dusty haze settled back over us but, we were now so close to the core that we could see a bright luminescent green glow ahead of us. I also began to see a change in the buildings we passed while dodging the ash statues. The once vertical buildings were now starting to lean away from the middle of the impact site, and the tops of the buildings were getting shorter and shorter. We must be getting close.

“What is this?” Fruity gasped when we came to a gap between two tower blocks or what was left of them.

“Oh my Celestia,” I gaped when I saw what Fruity had seen. In between the buildings was a small playground surrounded by a short fence and where the fence wasn’t broken and twisted. There were several ash statues with their heads down. Inside the playground where more ash statues, foals petrified in various states of play apart from a couple that had turned and looked in the direction of the bomb blast. Oh, this was a heart-breaking sight. It would appear in the little time the ponies were given to evacuate, these parents decided to give their foals one last carefree playtime before the end happened.

The ground suddenly shuddered beneath our hooves, and all the ash statues in and around the playground exploded into dust as they collapsed.

“Holy sweet goddess, what the fuck!” Fruity shrieked as he witnessed the horrific sight.

I had screamed inside my helmet too when I saw the statues turn to dust.

“We need to move, we need to move NOW!” Quartermane urged with a hint of fear in his voice.

Fruity and I quickly followed after him. We felt a little fearful of what could be lurking in around us, especially considering the recent earthquakes. We dodged and weaved the statues until they thinned out and the buildings grew steeper in their angles until they were nearly flat. Eventually we came out into the core, the area mostly flat. The buildings around the point of impact had all been blown flat to the ground and in the very centre was the luminescent green glow. The radiation around this area was so high now that if we were to take our helmets off we’d likely die from radiation poisoning within a matter of minutes.

“Alright, let’s hurry,” Quartermane said before the ground shuddered again.

The ground in front of us began to bulge up before it exploded outward and sprayed us in dirt, ash and small chunks of fallen buildings.

“What bloody hell is that?” Fruity yelped in surprise.

“Emergence hole,” Quartermane gulped. “You two, run, get to Paradigm Cybernetics now, before it…” He was cut off when a deep powerful roar from within the hole blasted out.

“What in Celestia’s name was that?” I squeaked with wide eyes as I stared at the hole in the ground.

“Hellhound,” Quartermane breathed out quietly as two large bone-clawed hands rose out of the hole and grasped the rim before a large, wide and heavily muscled torso began to rise out of the hole. The torso also had two massive muscular and long arms connected to those large bone-clawed hands as they continued to pull itself out of the hole. The creature’s head wasn’t big but it resembled a canine to some degree with pointed ears but it lacked lips, giving it a permanent snarl. It also didn’t have a nose. It had two holes more like that of a skull, and on the top of its head it sported two horn-like protrusions that curled around to the front of its head that certainly gave it the dog-from-hell look. Soon it was out of the hole, standing on its relatively short but strong looking legs and behind it, a long thin but bony tail stretched out behind it and swished in the radioactive air. The monster threw its long powerful arms open, bone-claw fingers outstretched, and it roared again hungrily.

“No wonder you call these things Deathclaws,” Fruity said while he began to fearfully back up.

“Yes,” Quartermane affirmed as he began to spin up his minigun again.

The monster leaned down, raised its claws as if ready to charge at us when suddenly there was a small fleshy explosion on the back of the creature’s head.

“The hell?” I asked out of confusion from the strange turn of events.

The Hellhound growled in annoyance from the hit to its head and it turned to look in the direction the shot came from. It growled as it looked for its mysterious attacker when one of its eyes suddenly exploded in a wet pop, which was followed shortly after by a distant echo of a gunshot. The monster’s growl stopped short before its arms dropped down to its sides and collapsed onto its knees, falling flat onto its face dead.

“What just happened?” Fruity asked.

“I dunno, but I don’t feel safe,” I said shakily while backing away.

“That’s it, we run. We are not alone out here,” Quartermane ordered.

We nodded and as one we turned tail and began to run in the direction of Paradigm Cybernetics.

XXXXX

Nexus watched through the scope of the crude makeshift sniper rifle as his fatal shot blew out the Hellhound’s eye, punched into its brain, and ended the abomination’s life. If he could he would have let out a sigh of relief, but he did however feel a sense of satisfaction wash over him. Despite the fact ensuring I-01’s survival was part of his original secondary objective, saving her from certain death now free from Ironside’s control felt right to him, like it felt good to save another when they needed help.

He watched as the creature fell to the ground dead, and the three ponies he’d been following from afar quickly broke away from the scene, heading back into the destroyed cityscape of the Impact Crater. He knew where they were going, but after being cut off from the Production Facility he couldn’t get the exact coordinates. He pulled the .308 calibre pipe rifle away from his eye as he examined the core. He had to make a quick dash over open ground to reach the same side the small group was now on. However, he still had to deal with the wasteland creatures that would decide to get in his way.

“Things have changed so quickly, but I feel free despite everything,” Nexus said to himself as he prepared to make his run over the open ground of the core.

Just as he was about to run the ground beneath his armour clad robotic hooves began to shake. He looked down in confusion to the shaking until he remembered the Hellhound attack on the group earlier and he quickly jumped away. The ground erupted just as the burnt armoured robot jumped to safety. When Nexus turned back around to face his adversary he found that another Hellhound had emerged from the hole, but this one was slightly smaller, lacked horns and still seemed to have a nose and fur.

“You kill brother metal pony,” It growled while it pointed a bone claw at the infiltrator.

Nexus tilted his head. He did not expect the Hellhound to be able to vocalise words.

“You die now metal pony,” The Hellhound sneered as it began to charge at the robot.

Nexus quickly holstered his pipe rifle and then grabbed his 12-gauge Auto-Shotgun with his nano-fibre tail. He quickly aimed the weapon and targeted the open palm of the hand that was raised to strike him, and began to fire powerful 12-gauge buckshot into the soft flesh of the hand in quick succession. The monster howled in pain as buckshot shredded its hand apart from its claws, and it stopped its charge to nurse its wounded hand.

“Please do not interfere,” Nexus said coldly as he levelled the shotgun to the Hellhound’s face and fired a single shell. The buckshot tore into the creature’s flesh but not enough to kill it. However, the buckshot found its eyes and Nexus noted that he had blinded the monster by destroying both eyes.

“My eyes, my eyes!” It howled in agony and began to roll around in pain with an arm draped across its bloodied eye sockets. Nexus stared at the creature with his glowing red eyes with pity for a moment before he used this as his opportunity to make his escape and ran for the other side of the Impact Crater.

XXXXX

We didn’t slow down after our encounter with the Hellhound. We couldn’t afford to run into another deadly creature like that, and we didn’t know who or what killed it. For all we knew we could be in grave danger by whatever killed that Hellhound and I believed we were, considering my feeling of being watched earlier. If I-02 IS was still active and had followed us here, then things would turn sour fast.

We had to dodge more ash statues as we pushed through more of the destroyed cityscape in the crater towards Paradigm Cybernetics. It was difficult to not disturb them but thankfully, we were able to avoid destroying any. We did run into another Radscorpion, but we just ran and it eventually decided it wanted to fight another scorpion that was nearby.

Eventually, after about half an hour of running and winding our way through the streets and statues, we arrived at our destination: Paradigm Cybernetics.

“Is that it?” I asked in surprise while staring at the pretty ordinary looking clinic-like building, despite all the debris built up around the walls and covered the front doors, meaning we weren’t getting in through the ground level.

“What did you expect?” Quartermane asked as he examined the rubble.

“I dunno, I sorta had this image of an evil lair in my head,” I replied.

“Doesn’t look sinister to me,” Fruity said as he stood next to me. “So, how do we get in?”

“Like how we got out of Barnyard Bargains. We get in through the roof,” The armoured stallion explained.

“Oh, is that all?” Fruity asked as he flapped his wings and took off.

“Fruity wait!” I cried out.

“We better go after him, there is no telling what’s up there,” Quartermane said as activated his jetpack thrusters.

“Holy balls!” We heard Fruity shout out from the roof. I quickly flapped my wings and jumped up into the air and climbed quickly, fearing my coltfriend had run into something bad. I heard the roar of Quartermane’s jetpack beneath me as we flew up, and I bit my lip nervously as I hoped we weren’t too late to help my friend. As we crested the rim of the roof, I let out a sigh of relief when I saw that Fruity was just fine and not in danger, but instead he was staring at a suit of rusty power armour.

“Don’t scare me like that,” I chided with a pout as I came down for a landing. I misjudged my distance from my position in the air and the roof, so when I stuck my hind legs out to hit the ground first, I overbalanced and stumbled which resulted in me falling over and onto my chest. “Ooffff!”

I felt hooves wrap around my barrel and began to pull me up. “Are you ok?” Fruity asked with a little strain in his voice as he tried to help pull me back up. I realised that my levitation talismans were offline now that I was down, which meant Fruity was trying to pull my full weight up, so I quickly picked myself up.

“Err yeah… um, still not used to landing,” I said with embarrassment.

“Can’t believe my magic was given to an idiot,” That voice in the back of my head mumbled to itself.

“Heh, you’ll get there eventually,” He reassured.

A shuddering bang signalled the arrival of Quartermane after he cut off his thrusters once he got over the rim of the roof. “Is everything ok up here?” He asked once he landed.

“Huh, oh yea, everything’s just fine. In fact, I found a suit of power armour,” Fruity said with a big grin on his face as he walked over to the large suit of armour. “Surprising thing about this suit is that it’s a pegasus power armour. See those folds there?” He pointed to a set of folded metal strips on the side next to the shoulder where there was also a large enough hole for a wing to fit through. “Those are the wing guards.”

“Wait, if that’s a pegasus suit, doesn’t that make it Enclave?” I asked.

“No, there was a pegasus power armour variant built in the later stages of the Great War. Doesn’t have the strength of Mark 1 Steel Ranger armour but it was made with lighter materials such as carbon fibre. They were first introduced for the Shadowbolts… I think,” Quartermane explained.

“He’s right,” Fruity confirmed. “This is a PX-01 with fully enclosed helmet. The Enclave have since improved their power armour designs and now use PX-02 and 03 suits,” Fruity reared up and leaned on the rusty armour and peered over onto its back. “Sadly, this suit looks to be out of juice. Probably why it’s still here.”

“And I don’t have a spare Mana-Core to give you,” Quartermane added.

“Bollocks,” The purple pegasus sighed before he perked back up again. “Oh well, it would have been awesome to have had this suit but you can’t have everything.”

“I suppose it’s a good thing we can’t take it back with us. I mean just by looking at it, it looks like it’ll require a lot of maintenance,” I said while scrunching up my nose in distain at the level of rust coating the suit.

Fruity looked over the old pegasus suit of power armour before he sighed. “I suppose you’re right.”

That creeping feeling began to make its way up my neck again which made me shiver. I turned around to look back the way we came. Since we were a couple stories above ground level now, I had a good vantage point and could see a good distance into the ruins of the crater, but the radioactive haze still made things difficult to make out. I hated this feeling of being watched. It made me feel paranoid and I feared that I-02 IS was still alive despite how close to that explosion he was. I could feel my heart rate pick up with my nerves, especially when I spotted two pairs of red lights in the distance. The lights made me think of them as eyes, just like the red glowing eyes of I-02 IS had or what I used to have.

“We need to get inside, like now,” I urged with a shaky voice.

The two stallions both agreed without argument, and we quickly pushed through the roof access door and descend the stairs. I had to activate my talismans to reduce my weight as they began to creak and groan as soon as we began to go down them. I doubted they would be able to handle the weight of both me and the power armoured stallion. We followed the stairs down all the way to the ground floor and when we pushed our way out of the door at the bottom, we found ourselves in the main lobby of the building, albeit at the back and in an out-of-the-way corner.

“Whoa,” Fruity and I both said in unison as we walked out into the main lobby and looked at the many display cases that lined the walls on either side of the entrance area that led up to the reception desk. Inside the intact/broken display cases were examples of prosthetic limbs or parts of them.

“This is certainly not what I expected to find,” I said quietly to him while I took in the friendly waiting room despite all the debris that had poured in through the large glass windows and doors at the front of the building. It was a complete mess, but despite that and the horrible weather outside it retained some of its original features. On the walls, I could see the remnants of posters that detailed surgeries, and they all seemed to have ponies with smiling faces on. Well the ones that were still intact that was.

“Are we in the right place?” Fruity asked while he examined a poster closely.

“Yes, this is Paradigm Cybernetics,” Quartermane said before he pointed out the obvious: a large three dimensional sign above the reception desk that held the name of the building.

“Oh. Well um, it’s just that this faded poster says this place was approved by the Ministry of Peace,” Fruity said confused.

“And why is that important?” Quartermane queried.

That caught my interest too. “Because the Ministry of Awesome were responsible for me,” I answered.

“Huh, that is interesting, so, how do you want to go about searching this place?”

Fruity and I froze and we looked at each other. “I dunno, how should we search this place. I don’t know where to start?”

Fruity took a quick look around the reception area, and then out of the high windows that were not obscured by debris to see the churning radioactive weather before he looked back at me. “Well, I think we need to search this place as quick as possible,” He then looked over to a set of stairs on either side of the reception desk that led up to a second floor with a plaque that read “Offices and Rehabilitation Rooms” on it. “Hmm, this might be a bad idea out here but I think we should split up. We can cover more ground that way and hopefully one of us might find something.”

“He has a point. You two take the second floor. I’ll take the back storerooms and workshops on the ground floor here,” Quartermane said. “If I find anything down here I’ll contact you on your Pipbuck’s broadcaster.”

“Alright, I suppose that works. If we find anything I’ll do the same, and since Fruity and I will be on the same floor we can just yell to each other,” I said to which Fruity nodded in agreement.

“Alright,” Quartermane said before he turned around and began to trudge towards the back of the old clinic building.

Fruity and I took one set of stairs each and walked up them to the second floor. At the top of the stairs there was a sign that pointed us either to the offices or the rehabilitation rooms. “I’ll take the Rehab rooms,” Fruity announced from the top of the other stairwell.

“Guess I got offices then,” I called back.

“To be on the safe side let’s meet back here in ten minutes if we don’t find anything, ok?” Fruity suggested.

“Ok,” I agreed.

“Alright, ten minutes. Stay alert,” He said before he turned to his right and began down the corridor.

I nodded and waved a wing before turning left and walking up the hallway. The doors to several of the offices looked to have been blown off their hinges, mainly on the side of the building that faced the bomb blast, and the doors opposite looked broken and blown inwards. As I passed each office I peeked inside to check them out. The offices looked like the doctor appointment offices I used to go to when I was still flesh and blood and suffering from my several illnesses. They had the examination table in one corner next to a desk with the doctor’s terminal on it, which was beside the window that was shattered. There were also several cabinets for either medicines, filing purposes or examination tools while the doctor checked out the patient. Sadly, each office I passed looked pretty much the same: a complete and utter mess with mounds of dirt coating nearly all surfaces, wires dangling down from the ceiling, papers everywhere, and in some of the offices, there were bones slumped in the desk chairs or on the examination table. I wasn’t going to find anything in these offices, so I continued onwards towards the end of the corridor.

At the end of the corridor, it opened a little more and there was a small secretary’s desk in front of a door to another office. The desk had a thick layer of dust on it but there was a name plate visible above the dirt that read as “Ivory Scroll”.

“Ivory Scroll, I’ve heard that name before,” I said to myself out loud.

There was a buzz and then a flicker of white light from the top corner next to the door before a hologram of a mare with a stylish mane, wearing thin rimmed glasses and a collar with a bowtie materialised before me.

“Whaa!” I shrieked.

“W…w…w…w…w…w…welcome to…to…to…to…to Parad…d…d…digm Cybernetics,” The hologram greeted in a monotone electronic voice. The hologram flickered and buzzed each time it stuttered. “My n…n…name is EVA, h…h…h…h…h…h…h…how may I…I…I…I…I…I…I…I help you?”

“Um, I’m just looking for something,” I said, totally unsure of what to say or do in the presence of this hologram.

“Do you h…h…h…have an app…p…p…p…pointment?” The hologram asked.

“Um, yes,” I quickly answered hoping that might help.

The hologram leaned closer to me and its eyes began to glow. “Identifying,” I said as it began to scan me.

“Um,” I gulped nervously.

The hologram suddenly turned red. “Identity confirmed. I-01…” And then the hologram began to flicker and buzz rapidly before it then just disappeared with an electronic pop from the top corner. I gulped nervously and waited for something bad to happen, but after a good couple of minutes of nothing I let out a sigh of relief. I also felt confident I was on the right path since the hologram had identified me.

“Fruity!” I yelled loudly down the hallway. The bubble helmet slightly muffled my shout as I turned around to face the corridor.

“Celestia damn it, son of a bitch,” Fruity cursed from down the hall, and his yell was followed by a clatter and a few smashes of glass. He stumbled out of a room from down the hall and used a wing to brush some shards off his white environmental suit as he made his way up to me. “You scared me half to death just then,” He whined.

“Sorry,” I blushed.

“I had my head in a cupboard when you shouted. Anyway, did you find something?”

“I did. A hologram appeared when I got here to this desk,” I said while I gestured to the desk with a wing and then explained my encounter with the damaged hologram and how it identified me as I-01.

“Well if anything that confirms we are on the right track,” Fruity said “And maybe the answers you seek are in that office.”

“I hope so,” I said and skirted around the desk and walked up to the closed door that was still intact. I tried the door knob but the door didn’t budge. “Locked,” I groaned. I then concentrated to put more strength in my legs and shoulder-barged the door. The old lock and weathered wood broke apart with ease, giving us access to the office.

“Whoa, careful. You don’t want to damage your suit or owt now.”

“Sorry,” I said while fluttering my wings to get rid of some rotten wood debris from my back before gawking at the office. It was pretty much like the others although minus the examination table, slightly larger and was a mess. But what surprised me the most was how empty the office looked. The shelves were bare, the filing cabinets were open and empty, which to me gave the impression this office had been cleared out. “Someone’s been here before us,” I grumbled.

“This does look weird,” Fruity affirmed as he walked into the spacious but empty office. “The door was locked and there is nothing here.”

“Let’s check the computer.”

“Good idea.”

We quickly ran over to the hardwood desk. Its draws were pulled open and empty like the filing cabinets and shelves. To my great relief, we found the Stable-Tec manufactured terminal coated in grime but still functional. I pressed the power button and after a few seconds of it booting up we were met with a screen we’ve seen before.

“All data transferred to Marejave Production Facility.”

“Where have we seen this before?” Fruity asked in surprise.

“The MoA Hub,” I gasped, “Ironside’s office.”

“Mmhmmh, this looks very suspect.”

Something then suddenly clicked after I read the message on the screen again. “Wait a minute, that means that everything I need to know is back over in the Marejave somewhere,” I cried out in annoyance. “This is taking the fucking piss. We get dragged out to the most horrific environment on the planet and it still gives me nothing. I feel like the goddesses don’t want me to know the truth and are just making me run around in circles for the hell of it,” I grumbled angrily.

“Whoa easy there Crys, calm down,” Fruity gently rubbed at my shoulder soothingly.

“I’m sorry, that just really ticked me off.”

“I know,” He said softly.

“Crystal, do you read?” Quartermane’s voice crackled out from my PipBuck’s broadcaster, which gave me a little jump to which I bumped the desk and caused something to fall over.

“I… I read you Quartermane, did you find something?” I asked as calmed down from my little fright.

“Did you do something up there, because a wall opened up and revealed a hidden door with a security terminal next to it that also has the Ministry of Awesome insignia on it.”

Fruity and I exchange a look.

“We’ll be right down,” I told him as we both turned to leave to the office. It was then that I noticed a name plaque on the desk that had fallen over. The name read “Dr Pear Shape”, but as soon as I saw that name a flash of memory crossed my mind of a unicorn mare with a mane done up into a bun looking down at me, but I couldn’t picture any colours from the memory apart from red. The memory only lasted for a moment before it faded and left me back in the office alone.

“Crystal, you ok?” Fruity asked as he popped his head back through the door.

“Um yeah, I err… just got distracted,” I replied, unsure of what to make of the flash of memory before I quickly followed the pegasus, and together we made our way back down to the ground floor, using my EFS to navigate the back workshops and storage rooms to find Quartermane where he stood beside the revealed secret door.

“So, did you two find something to make this appear?” He asked and gestured to the revealed door as we approached.

“I don’t think so but…” I then went on and told him my encounter with the malfunctioning hologram and what we found in the cleared-out office which was pretty much nothing.

“Interesting, sounds like this Ironside guy had something to hide,” The armoured unicorn mused.

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Fruity nodded.

“Did you find anything before you found this?” I asked as I stepped up to the sealed door.

“Nothing along the lines of what you are looking for but I did find a brochure that explained the purpose of this place,” Quartermane began.

“Oh really, does it explain the creepy robot pieces in the lobby?” Fruity interrupted.

“Actually it does. You see this place was a clinic meant to restore the lives of ponies that had suffered from certain types of paralysis and lost limbs. It seemed that this place was set up to help those unfortunate ponies and to give them back their normal lives by restoring what was lost to them. They would first come here for an appointment to assess the level of treatment they would need and later be fitted with a cybernetic implant or limb, to which they would need to come back here to use the rehabilitation rooms to learn how to use their new limb again or the cybernetic implant.”

I looked down at myself. “Anything on a full body recreation?” I queried.

“No, nothing that extreme and I don’t think Fluttershy would have approved of this place if it did go to that extreme either,”

I nodded, still surprised of that fact. “Ok, well perhaps there maybe something useful to us behind this door,” I said as I examined it. The terminal had a card reader as well as a retinal scanner that were needed to gain entry. “Looks like we need a keycard and a prewar eyeball,” I grumbled.

“What about your mother’s ID card, it got us into that upgrade station,” Fruity suggested.

I bristled at the mention of the upgrade station but bit my lip and took a deep breath to calm myself down. “Good idea Fruity,” I sighed and reached into my pocket with my wing to retrieve my mother’s MoA card. I didn’t know if this would work but we didn’t have many options available to us. I swiped the card into the card reader and it beeped and flashed green.

“*Beep… beep…* Administrative security override engaged, opening workshop door.”

With several loud clunks the door locks released and the thick security door slid open to reveal a staircase that led down into the basement of the building. “Thank you mum.”

“Wow that’s some security clearance, it even overrode the retinal scan,” Fruity exclaimed as we peered down the dark stairwell. Suddenly there was a bright light that flashed on behind us which made Fruity and I jump in fright and we whirled around as we expected a threat, but instead we found that Quartermane had just turned on his helmet’s headlamp.

“Don’t scare me like that,” I whined with a pout.

“Sorry,” The armoured unicorn said quickly.

After we quickly recovered from our brief scare, we began down the stairs while aided by Quartermane’s light. Just as we all had entered the stairwell, the steel door slowly swung shut and sealed us in as its locks reengaged with a series of loud echoey thuds.

“Shit, it just locked us in,” Fruity yelled out nervously as he looked back behind us.

“I think I know why,” Quartermane said while he directed his light around the walls of the stairwell and at regular intervals there were a column of nozzles on both sides all the way down.

“What are these?” I asked with a nervous gulp, scared that we had just walked into a trap.

I heard Quartermane inhale like he was about to say something when suddenly the nozzles began to unleash a jet of mist upon us.

“Ah, what is this?” I shrieked and tried fruitlessly to avoid the spray.

“Don’t worry, it’s just a decontamination spray. You’ll be fine,” Quartermane assured.

I sighed with relief with his assurance and when I noticed that my PipBuck had also stopped ticking. Huh, when did it stop ticking? Was it when the door closed? I’m not sure but it seemed that in here with the door closed we are not exposed to the Impact Crater’s radiation anymore.

The spray lasted for a good minute before it died down and left us as clean as a whistle. “Decontamination, Complete,” EVA’s voice spoke out from somewhere at the bottom of the stairwell just as door at the bottom began to open.

We descended the rest of the stairs and stepped out into a fairly decent-sized workshop/lab that was lit up by the still-working ceiling lights. It looked remarkably clean, as if there was no deterioration at all, apart from a couple of points where the supports had collapsed and some shelves or racking that had fallen over; likely from the bomb explosion.

“This looks well preserved,” Quartermane commented as we properly entered the basement workshop.

“And radiation free,” I cheered.

“It is?” Fruity asked in surprise. “Thank Faust for that, it’s getting stuffy as fuck in this suit,” He whined as he quickly sat on his haunches and grabbed his helmet.

My eyes widened in alarm as I realised what my friend was about to do. “Fruity wait!” I shrieked.

With a hiss and a pop, my coltfriend twisted his helmet slightly and it came off his suit. He let out a deep breath. “Ohhh that feels better,” He cooed while he began to fan himself with his wing.

“Is… is it safe?” I gulped in worry.

“Yes, the air is safe to breath, just stale,” Quartermane confirmed.

With a little hesitation, I too removed my bubble helmet and felt the cool air wash over my fur and into my suit through the gap in my neck. I shivered but sighed softly at the soothing coolness of the air. I didn’t realise how hot I was getting inside this suit. “Oh, you are right Fruity. This is better,” I smiled.

After our little break, we began to look around the workshop. It too looked to have been cleared out but there were still items and unfinished products lying around. It was disheartening to find so little in the drawers and boxes that had no connection to me. But there was one thing that made my heart freeze when we found it. It was an incomplete endoskeleton. All there was of it was a head minus eyes and a jaw, neck, and torso with a wide-open chest cavity and one foreleg. Inscribed on its left eyebrow was its model number, “I-01 Unit 2”. This endoskeleton was going to be the one that came after me it would have seemed. While we were examining the endoskeleton, we were surprised to find a post-it note stuck to the side of its head, and to my surprise, it was meant for me because it had, “Crystal,” with an arrow pointing to a seam that ran the circumference of the robotic skull.

“Looks like you gotta open its head,” Fruity said nonchalantly.

“Are you crazy, what if there is a brain in there?” I squeaked.

“I don’t smell owt bad and if there was, it would have long since rotted away by now.”

“If something pops out on me and scares me, I’m gonna smack you,” I whined and slowly reached up to the top of the incomplete endoskeletal head. Just as I began to lift the top of the skull, Fruity leaned in close to my ear and yelled “Boo” which scared me half to death and made me jump into the air with a frightened squeal.

“HAHAHA!” Fruity laughed as he rolled onto his back and kicked his legs.

“Fruity you asshole,” I squealed in embarrassment as I fluttered back down to the floor.

“I’m… haha… I’m sorry Crystal I… I couldn’t resist,” He wheezed as he got back up.

I puffed out my cheeks in annoyance and gently cuffed him around the back of the head with a forehoof.

“Ow. Worth it,” He snickered.

I grumbled while I went back to removing the top of the skull. This time, without Fruity’s interference, I was able to remove the lid of the skull, and to my surprise, there was a holotape hidden inside the metal skull.

“What did you find?” Quartermane asked from beside a desk with another Stable-Tec terminal on it, displaying the same message as the one from Dr Pear’s office.

“It’s… um, it’s a holotape,” I said in confusion and turned it around in my hoof to get a good look at the small square disk. It didn’t look anything special but where you would generally label it, it simply said, “Play Me!”

“Play it, let’s see what it has on it,” Fruity urged.

I nodded and tapped the back of my PipBuck to open the holodisk player and then slipped it in. Once I pushed the tray back down, I pressed the play button beside the screen. Immediately sound began to crackle out of my PipBuck’s speaker.

The sound of a heavy door was heard being locked before a feminine voice began to speak. “EVA, security override…” There was some static to hide the override code, “Disable all internal monitoring systems. I don’t want Colonel Ironside to hear or see this.”

Internal monitoring disabled Dr Pear,” Replied EVA

Ok good, I need to make this quick. I don’t have much time before I need to meet Ironside at Tenpony Tower for evacuation,” The mare, Dr Pear, cleared her throat. “I didn’t want to leave without saying something to you Crystal. I know it doesn’t mean much now, but if I had known at the time that you were not a volunteer I would not have accepted the proposal for Project Infiltrator by Colonel Ironside,” There was a big sigh from Dr Pear. “I wish I could have turned back the clock and refused, but by the time I found out the truth it was already too late; I had already put your brain inside the endoskeleton of I-01. One of the reasons I had accepted the job was because it would help me develop a way to restore full body paralysis, but with you, I decided I would try to restore you as closely as possible given the resources Ironside made available, along with Starlight Industries’ funding of Paradigm Cybernetics. It may have pissed off Ironside that I was taking so long with you, but it was purely because I was trying to restore you as closely as I could make you given the circumstances, along with making you the Infiltrator Ironside wanted. If you survive the bombs and find this, please know that I am truly and whole-heartedly sorry for this and I hope you can forgive me,” Dr Pear let out a deep sad breath.

Excuse me, Doctor. Your transport has arrived,” Interrupted a new feminine voice.

Ah, thank you Miss Scroll,” Dr Pear thanked. “You can take the rest of the week off.”

Oh thank you,” Ivory Scroll said cheerfully. “I’ve been meaning to visit my family in Ponyville lately,” She said but it faded out as she had walked away.

Let’s hope you are still there when the time comes,” Dr Pear sighed. “Ok EVA, end recording, eject the tape and then transfer the data like he ordered.”

“Yea ma’am” And with that, the holotape went silent.

I was stunned to silence by what I had just heard, but inside I felt the fires of rage begin to burn inside me. Not only was I manipulated and tricked by Colonel Ironside, but so was Dr Pear. He made her believe I was a volunteer for this project, but she found out after it became too late to do or say anything, and I assumed he would have also had a contingency if she wanted out as well. I felt angry, but despite what had been done to me, my anger was not directed to Dr Pear who had turned me into this; but instead to Ironside because I held him solely responsible for my situation.

“Damn dude, that’s deep,” Fruity breathed out lowly.

“Looks like Ironside was manipulating everypony,” Quartermane observed from Dr Pear’s desk.

“He certainly manipulated me,” I grumbled. “But how are we supposed to find the Production Facility?”

Quartermane stood by the desk with a deep drawer open. “Hang on, this drawer has a false bottom,” The armoured unicorn said before his horn glowed yellow with his magical aura and he lifted out the loose panel. “Huh, it looks like Dr Pear didn’t want everything to be taken. Looks like her ledger is still here,” He said as he then picked out a thick black covered book and set it down on the desk.

Fruity and I quickly gathered around the desk as Quartermane opened the book for us. The first couple of pages detailed Dr Pear’s early years while she was in college studying robotics, so I reached out with a hoof and turned many of the pages with entries towards the end until we were at the last few entries.

“Well, this is odd,” I said as I scanned the nicely written text on the pages. “There doesn’t seem to be many entries after she began working on Project Infiltrator,” It was pretty clear from the near daily entries until the day she wrote down she had accepted the proposal, to which the entries then became once or twice a week and were very brief.

“What are we looking for?” Fruity asked.

“Anything. Anything that could give us a clue,” I whined.

“How about this?” Quartermane said as he used his magic to highlight a passage on a page before the last.

I leaned close and read out loud the entry that was dated for three years after the project had started. “I got a phone call this morning from the Colonel; he wanted to talk to me in private. He’s never asked to meet me in private before. He wants me to go to his private residence in Pondale. 7 Crescent Road, Steeple District, Pondale for future reference if I’m ever asked to go again. It must be very important if he wants to discuss something there at his house.”

“Hmm, the private household might be a good place to find information. He could have hidden things within his house that he wanted to keep off the Ministry Network,” Quartermane suggested.

“Hmm, being the head of the Ministry of Awesome’s Espionage Department, I wouldn’t be surprised if he hid his dirty little secrets there,” Fruity commented.

“Well, I guess his place is our next destination,” I groaned, annoyed that we had to go somewhere else.

“Alright let’s get out of here.”

I nodded in agreement. We’ve been in the Impact Crater long enough and the hellish landscape is certainly trying on my nerves and emotions, especially with the Ash Statues.

“Alright ponies, if there is nothing else, let’s head back,” Quartermane said as he walked around the desk and over to the open door to the stairs. Fruity and I put our helmets back on and followed behind him as we began to ascend the stairs. In a similar way as earlier, once we were all inside the door to the workshop closed and sealed before the door to the clinic opened. As soon as the door to the clinic unsealed and began to open, my PipBuck’s geiger counter began to scream with lethal levels of radiation again.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be out of this soon,” Quartermane began as he stepped out of the stairwell and back into the clinic’s ground floor. “It should take us an hour if we… argh!” He suddenly cried in pain, his cry was also followed by the crunch of glass and the sound of sheering metal before he disappeared from the top of the stairs.

“Quartermane!” I yelled in alarm.

“We better get up there,” Fruity urged and with no further encouragement we ran up the rest of the stairs. I gasped when I saw our power armoured friend on the floor, his helmet was dented and cracked, and the glass lense over his right eye was broken.

“Oh no! His helmet’s broken, he’ll be exposed to the radiation!” I exclaimed in shock.

“Shit, what did this,” Fruity growled out angrily as he looked around but it was difficult to see much as this portion of the clinic was shrouded in deep shadows.

Suddenly, two red lights appeared in a shadow in front of where Quartermane lay on his side, and a pony began to step out of the shadow. The pony was wearing black combat boots while its legs and body were covered in an old military jumpsuit with light-coloured combat armour segments on its legs and torso, two SMGs strapped to its forelegs. The pony stepped forward closer to Quartmane, its head coming out of the shadow and my heart stopped.

“Oh Celestia no,” I squeaked in horror. What stood before us was another robot-like I-02 IS, but not him because I could see its model number on its left eyebrow: “I-02 Unit 1”.

“Crystal get down!” Fruity shouted as he quickly drew his plasma rifle, but was caught off guard by a shotgun blast from another shadow to our right. The blast wasn’t aimed at Fruity but actually aimed at his weapon, the buckshot impacting it, and on instinct, he dropped his weapon and cried out in shock surprise. “Holy shit!” But then his face fell when the Q-Modulator began to fizz and spark. “It’s gonna blow,” He then quickly kicked the gun away before it exploded in a shower of bright green plasma sparks. “No, my Q-Modulator,” He whined in distress.

“Enemies disarmed,” A male voice said before another similarly dressed robot but with darker green armour pieces stepped out of the shadow to join the other one. This one had “I-02 Unit 2” on its left eye brow.

“Not yet,” Unit 1 said in an authoritative voice before she used her forelegs to grab the unconscious power armoured unicorn’s minigun, and with a show of great mechanical strength, pulled it off his battlesaddle with a metallic snap and then threw it away. “Now they are disarmed, and I doubt I-01 will bother using that shotgun of hers on us,” I could just imagine the two machines smirking if they had skin like me. “It’s not like that 20-gauge will even affect us.”

“Now, will you come quietly or do we have to rough you up?” Unit 2 asked while he pointed his shotgun armed battlesaddle at us.

I was a little confused by the way these machines acted and sounded. They sounded like normal ponies, but they acted more efficiently than I-02 IS did when we first ran into him. They disarmed us right away and with there being two of them, I couldn’t fight them, especially with both armed like they are.

“Who the fuck are you two?” Fruity asked as he flared his wings.

The two robots looked at each other for a moment before they then looked back to us. “I suppose we can humour you,” The female sounding robot said. “My name is Razzle and this is my brother Buckshot, and we are Mark 2 Infiltrators sent to retrieve you, I-01.”

My eyes widened in surprise. I didn’t expect that the two machines would have named themselves nor call each other brother and sister like this. Was there more to this or have these two developed that bond themselves?

“If I go with you, I’ll die,” I cried.

“Does it really matter I-01. You are artificial and an old model. It would be better for us all if you come quietly, otherwise we may have to threaten something precious to you,” Razzle said as she nodded to her brother who then pointed his twin shotguns at Fruity.

“No please!” I shrieked and pushed myself up against Fruity’s side.

“Come with us and nothing will happen to him,” Razzle said in a serious tone.

I didn’t know what to do. I could go with them and save him from being used or harmed by them, but then again, they could still just kill him if I agree to go with them. I feared for my coltfriend. I didn’t want him to get hurt but what can we do?

Suddenly, there was a light breakage of glass from down at the other end of the corridor, and then something smacked into the tiled floor between the two robots, leaving a small hole in the floor.

“What the shit!” Buckshot cried and whirled around as he scanned the corridor for a threat.

“Damn it, the rogue element is here,” Razzle said with a growl as she too turned around to look for the source of the disturbance.

“Crystal, let’s buck while they’re distracted,” Fruity whispered into my ear quietly.

With a beat of our wings, we shot off down the corridor in the opposite direction and quickly turned to go up another corridor so we could make our way towards the lobby.

“What about Quartermane?” I panted as we burst through the doors and skidded across the dirty floor.

“I dunno. We will come back for him when we’ve lost them,” Fruity said quickly while we looked around for the door for the roof access.

“Oh no!” I squeaked in distress when we found the roof access door blocked by metal frames that had once been the waiting room seating.

“Shhhhhhiiiiiiiit!” Fruity groaned in annoyance.

“You didn’t think we would leave a way for you to escape so easily now did you?” Buckshot asked smugly.

We quickly turned around to find the two robots stood there behind us.

“Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks!” Fruity groaned with a quiver in his voice.

“Enough running around,” Razzle said in a no-nonsense voice and then turned to her brother. “Kill the male flying rat.”

Fruity bristled. “What did you call me?”

“Sure thing sis,” Buckshot said as he took aim at Fruity to which my friend audibly gulped with wide eyes.

“NO!” I screamed in terror of losing my friend and quickly put myself in front of him and spread my wings wide as if to shield him.

“Fuck!” Buckshot whined and dropped to his haunches so his shotgun’s trajectory was aimed high and they both fired, sending their twenty and twelve-gauge buckshot into the wall above us.

“Gutsy move I-01,” Razzle said as she stood beside Buckshot.

“Thank you Crys, I-I dunno what we can do now though, we’re stuck,” Fruity whispered sadly.

“What can we do?” I replied just as quietly but in a defeated tone.

Suddenly, Quartermane appeared behind the two machines and then wrapped his forelegs around the necks of the two machines, his forelegs threading between their forelegs. He then put his body on their backs and pushed his hindlegs in between theirs to reduce their movement, holding them still before there was a loud metallic clung as his armour locked up.

“I got…” He coughed wetly into his broken helmet. “…I got them, go, now…” The poor unicorn again coughed and sounded like he hacked up a lung. “…ugh, go, while you can,” He wheezed.

“Quartermane, what about you?” I squeaked in surprise.

“I… ugh… I won’t make it, *gulp* I’ve been…” He had another coughing fit. “I’ve been exposed to too much radiation,” He groaned.

“I can’t move. He has his leg is between my hindlegs and he’s restricting my movement too much,” Buckshot groaned.

“I can’t move either,” Confirmed Razzle.

Quartermane’s horn glowed brightly for a moment before a key with a glowing orange Sparkle Cola bottle keyring appeared in front of Fruity. “Take it, use it to…” He stopped for a moment while he heaved like he was going to be sick. “Use it to get into my safe house and, ugh, and take anything you want, as thanks.”

“Aww dude,” Fruity frowned sadly as he took the key.

A small hatch opened on the back of Quartermane’s power armour and his Mana-Core extended out. “Go, while you can. I’ve set my Mana-Core to detonate,” He wheezed.

“We need to get out of here,” Fruity gasped and quickly began to look around for a way out.

“We’re stuck in here,” I cried helplessly.

The large windows at the front of the clinic that were not obscured by debris suddenly shattered before two small impacts hit the wall near us. The breakage of the windows gave us our way out.

“I don’t know what’s going on but it just gave us our escape route. C’mon let’s get outta here,” Fruity urged as he fanned out his wings. I nodded and got ready to fly.

I looked back to Quartermane. “I’m so, so sorry,” I apologised with a teary sniff as a tear dripped down my cheek.

“Don’t… apologise, I had *cough* I had one last grand adventure and for that,” He was cut off as he hacked and wheezed wetly for a minute. “Ugh, and for that, ugh, I thank you two, now go, get out of here while you still can.”

“You crazy suicidal asshole,” Buckshot shouted angrily as he struggled to get free.

“Thank you for everything Quartermane. We’ll tell Silver everything,” Fruity told him solemnly as he tugged on my foreleg.

“Tell him I had a blast,” He wheezed despite the mirth in the eye I could see through the broken visor. He then looked to me. “Look after that kid of yours, she’s *cough* she’s a good kid.”

“I will,” I said with a nod but had to cringe at his bad pun for was about to happen.

We nodded sadly and gave our last sad farewell, before we quickly jumped into the air and flew out the broken windows and into the churning skies of the Impact Crater.

“Fuck taking the safe way, we need to get the fuck out of here ASAP! We need to fly hard and fly fast,” Fruity shouted over the harsh wind.

I nodded as I felt the familiar buzz inside me as my pegasi magic kicked into full swing as it aided my flight. I then stopped in mid-air and turned around to face Paradigm Cybernetics. I couldn’t explain it but I felt something like an energy pulse or something back there, but at that moment the front section of the building exploded in a huge mushroom cloud of destruction.

“QUARTERMANE!” I screamed in anguish as I watched the explosion obliterated the front of the building.

“Aww shit. Rest in peace mate,” Fruity sighed sadly. “C’mon, we should head back.”

I nodded and sniffed as tears began to trickle down my cheeks. “Thank you for everything,” I said quietly for our fallen companion before I followed Fruity.

XXXXX

Quartermane smiled as he watched the two pegasi in their white radsuits fly out of the broken window and to safety.

“Now it’s… just us,” He groaned.

“You crazy motherfucker!” Buckshot cursed as he wiggled in an attempt to get free.

“You crazy old fool, you’ve killed us all,” Razzle angrily growled. “And you let our target get away!”

“It won’t be… long now” Quartermane grunted.

“Fuck this,” Buckshot growled as there was a loud clunk and then a thud as he released his 12-gauge shotgun, landing on the floor. He then grabbed the shotgun with his nano-fibre tail and shoved the muzzle of the shotgun into Quartermane’s armpit; and began to unload the powerful buckshot at point plank range. The ill and armoured unicorn grunted as the machine began to blast away. After several point-blank shots, the armour cracked and shattered, making it easy for the machine to unload the rest of his ammo into the weaker frame of the armour and then into his shoulder.

“Argh!” Quartermane cried in agony as his armour broke around his shoulder from the 12-gauge as it chewed through his shoulder and separated his leg from his body, freeing Unit 2.

“Haha yes! Now for you sis,” He quickly scrabbled to free his sister but she grabbed him with her forelegs and with what movement she had shoved him away. “Sister?” He asked in confused surprise.

“You know as much as I do that there isn’t enough time. You can feel that power build up,” She said sadly as she looked at her sibling robot. “Get out of here, save yourself.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Buckshot dropped his shotgun as he sat before the locked-up unicorn and his trapped sister. “I love you sis, I don’t want to lose you.”

There was a bright pulse from the back of Quartermane’s armour before there was a powerful pressure wave strong enough to pick Buckshot off the floor and throw him across the room, slamming him into the wall; which also collapsed and fell on top of him, burying him under a massive pile of concrete and steel. The pulse was shortly followed by a tremendous explosion that annihilated the power armoured unicorn and consumed his prisoner.

*6 Hours Later*

A large pile of rubble shifted in what remained of the lobby of Paradigm Cybernetics. There was another shift before a yell came from under the pile and Buckshot burst up out of the rubble.

“What, err, how long was I…?” He trailed off as he took in his surroundings. “Damn that emergency reboot… Oh my Celestia, RAZZLE!” He screamed as he quickly ran over to the spot he last saw her to which was now a small crater. “Oh no, oh no, where are you?” He panicked. “Think, think, AH!” He closed his eyes and concentrated for her energy signature and to his great relief he picked it up to his left and quickly ran over to a small pile of rubble, hurriedly pulling it apart to uncover his sister, or what was left of her. “Oh shit,” He gasped in despair as he saw her. She had been blown in half as well as lost her forelegs, and there was a third of her head missing, including an eye and to his horror her energy level was dropping fast. He sat on his haunches and cradled her head and hugged it to his still armoured chest. “Oh sister, speak to me,” He whimpered.

“You… you survived,” Razzle said quietly, her voice very electronic and fuzzy.

“I-I got buried, it-it must have protected me,” He said sadly as he could see the red glow in his sister’s still intact eye growing dimmer.

“You always did have the best luck,” She said. If she had skin she would have smiled. An automated message sounded from Razzle. “Warning, warning, power level critical!” She looked into her brother’s eyes with her dimming intact one. “I’m sorry for the times I’ve been hard on you. Just know I was only doing it to help you and because I love you brother,” She said in a terrified voice before the light in her eye went out completely and she went still as her powercell ran dry.

“Sister… SISTER!” He cried loudly as he gently shook her still form before he yelled out in anguish as his sister died in his hooves.

XXXXX

The flight back to the Tenpenny was harrowing. What made the flight worse was the horrible feeling that filled our hearts of the loss of our friend. We landed outside on the balcony of Silver Disk’s penthouse suite which started the old unicorn DJ.

“Jumping Luna on a pogo stick where the fuck did you two come from?” He yelped when we burst through the glass doors.

We quickly scrabbled out of our radiation suits and looked to the grey unicorn with sad eyes.

“Silver, I’m so, so sorry, Quartermane, he… he didn’t make it,” I told him with a snotty sniffle.

“He’s dead?” Silver asked with his ears pinned back.

“Yeah, I’m sorry dude. He died protecting us,” Fruity replied as he rested his wing on my back.

“We got ambushed by robots like me,” I explained with a sad sigh. “And they were after me too.”

“Well, at least he had one last adventure. Something he wanted to do before he went,” Silver said with a sad smile.

“Where is Xian?” I asked tiredly. It was then I noticed that my power levels were pretty low. About twenty five percent for my primary powercell, and fifty for my secondary because of all the flying I’ve done recently.

“She’s upstairs in my bed.”

“Do you mind if I take your bed for tonight?” I asked hopeful.

“Sure. Go to her.”

Fruity walked over to Silver and then rested a wing over his shoulder. “Dude, your old mate was a badass.”

I smiled as Fruity began regale Silver with our expedition to Paradigm Cybernetics. I then gulped nervously as I picked up my radsuit and began to climb the stairs to Silver’s bedroom above his broadcasting station. I smiled when I saw the young black striped zebra filly fast asleep on the bed. I quietly put the suit on the floor and dug my head into the pocket I put the toy in and then pulled it out. I cringed when the box crinkled loudly when I tried to open it.

“Silver?” Xian asked groggily as she poked her head up.

I smiled weakly as I waved a wing with the box of the plushie in my mouth.

“CRYSTAL!” She screamed happily and rushed out of the bed to tackle hug me, which made me grunt and drop the box.

“Oof! Nice to see you too Xian,” I smiled and hugged her back softly.

“Please don’t leave me again,” She sobbed with tears glistening in her eyes.

I remembered Quartermane’s last words to me. “I won’t sweetie, I promise,” I told her honestly and to seal the promise, I kissed her on the forehead.

Author's Note:

Well, been a long month and a half of writing but its done. I hope you all enjoyed it.

Feed back would be greatly appreciated.

There are references to Gears of War 3 and Terminator 2 in this chapter.