• Published 6th Apr 2014
  • 7,223 Views, 544 Comments

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 3: Explosive Welcome

Fallout Equestria: Influx

Chapter 3: Explosive Welcome

The pink steam engine and its colourful assortment of passenger cars puffed away from the station, leaving me standing on the platform. I wore a long hooded cloak that kept my body entirely concealed, and was enchanted with an invisibility spell so nopony could see me. The last thing my mission needed was for somepony to freak out from seeing me before I made it to my target. The large crowd of passengers from the train began to disperse, and I began to move to prevent somepony walking into me. I looked up to see my destination: the spire of the Crystal Palace beyond the gate to the Crystal Empire... Something in the back of my mind was telling me I was born here, but that didn’t make any sense since I'm a machine.

This was no time for feeling some misplaced nostalgia; I had a mission to complete and I was wasting time. I began to walk forward, being careful not to get too close to any of the ponies entering the city. I knew the cloak will keep me hidden from the Empire's shield detection spell but I was still a physical presence, so I would be discovered if somepony happened to touch me. The main street leading directly to the palace would make the fastest route but it was also densely populated with a high risk area of accidentally bumping into somepony and since I’ve been here on multiple occasions as a filly, which again makes no sense, I knew a good number of backstreets I could use to be out of the way and still get me to my destination without much difficulty.

The back streets were less populated as I had expected, and I was making good progress through the streets towards the palace. The empire seemed so peaceful. Everypony was just minding their business without a care in the world. Didn't they know there was a war on? Didn't they care if they died? I had heard that the empire was staying neutral and that they didn't want to be involved, but they were still a part of Equestria after all, since a Princess and a Prince from Equestria's royalty had taken over when the empire had been returned and when Tyrant King Sombra was defeated at the claws of Twilight Sparkle's little drake. Celestia knows we could’ve used the resources the empire had, specifically the Crystal Heart. If we could harness the shield spell within the heart we could properly protect our cities and towns from attack and the ever increasing threat of balefire.

I had stopped to make sure I am going in the right direction when my eyes fell upon an elderly couple sitting in their front garden on lounging chairs. Squares appeared in my vision around their heads, and words began to appear from the lines coming off the squares as the computer in my brain worked to identify who and what my eyes had focused on. After a moment, the two crystal ponies had names next to their squares. "Chocolate Éclair" for the elderly stallion and "Strawberry Éclair" for the elderly mare. I groaned to myself as I held the back of my head as a sudden pain ran through my brain. Memories of a dull, pink and yellow filly splashing in a garden paddling pool, giggling and laughing as her grandparents gently splashed her and played with her, celebrating Hearths Warming and opening large presents and other memories involving the two elderly ponies pushed themselves into my head like they had been suppressed. I felt conflicted; did I know them? Should I know them? Why did they seem important to me? I didn't know, and these strange memories were slowing me down. With a shake of my head to dislodge the memories holding me, I tore my gaze away from the couple and continued on towards the palace.

I walked slowly while I tried to get my brain under control; it just wouldn't stop filling my head with memories of a pony that wasn't me. I was a Zebra, and more importantly I was a bio-mechanical Zebra. I wasn't born; I was built for the purpose of infiltration, assassination and sabotage. It didn't make any sense why I had these memories, but they were also filling me with a sense of pain I couldn't explain either. I closed my eyes tight, and focused on shutting out the memories so I could focus on my task. "Neural processing stabilised" Appeared in my HUD, and I sighed with relief while I continued.

After a good twenty minutes, I came out of a backstreet and into the palace plaza near its western leg. I could see the heart spinning slowly in the centre of the magic circle that surrounded the palace and being held in an anti-gravity field by the two small nodes protruding from the bottom of the palace and the floor. Thankfully, the plaza wasn't as well populated as I had thought; it would make getting to the Crystal Heart that much easier. I quickly made my way to the spinning crystal. As soon as I took the heart, my invisibility cloak would light up like a firework on bonfire night, so I’d need to make my escape fast, as Princess Cadence and Prince Armour would be on my tail within seconds.

I discarded my cloak, and turned around, lifting my tail. Nano-fibres in the hairs of my tail allowed me to tightly grip the crystal, and then yank it from its anti-gravity field. I let out a soft groan of pain as the Heart pulled on my tail hairs, and it fell without the support of the magic nodes. Almost instantly, the clear skies of the empire began to shimmer and ripple like a stone dropped into a pond.

"Time to make my escape," I said out loud to myself as I pushed off with all my strength with my hind legs and began to run as fast as I could. My heavy hoof falls cracked the crystal road as I galloped past civilians and the occasional crystal guard.

"She's got the heart!" A pony yelled in shock surprise, which then prompted more civilians to gasp and cry out.

"Get her!" I heard another shout, and soon I was having a large mob chasing me, but my enhanced strength was allowing me to pull away from them.

In a bright flash of light in front of me, I saw a snow white stallion unicorn with a two tone blue mane appear,, looking pissed.

"Prince Armour, Ex-Captain of Celestia's Royal Guard. Speciality, Defensive Shields," Appeared next to the identified stallion as I focused on him and then dug my hooves into the crystal road and grinded to a halt.

"Return the Crystal Heart immediately," The Prince barked angrily.

I looked around to see if I could make a daring dash to some alley or ginnel to make an escape, or throw them off, but I found myself surrounded by crystal pegasus guards.

"I repeat, return the Crystal Heart immediately!" The Prince yelled more forcefully this time.

I tightened the grip of my nano-fibres around the heart as I lowered myself into a fighting stance. All around me, I could hear civilians and guards starting to murmur fearfully as the sky dulled from a pleasant clear blue sky to a dark cloudy gray and a cold draft began to blow through the city as the illusionary shield generated by the Heart collapsed.

Suddenly, as Prince Armour was about to make a move, another flash signalled the arrival of another being. A bright pink alicorn princess stepped forward, looking hurt and upset. That emotional combination didn't suit Princess Cadence well at all, and it made me cringe internally.

"Princess Cadence, Empress of the Crystal Empire and Alicorn of Love."

I really didn't want to get into a fight with an alicorn. Well, it was safe to say I had failed in my mission to acquire the Heart.

"Please, you don't know what you are doing. Please return the Heart," She pleaded sadly.

I lowered my tail, but still held the Heart tightly. Throwing the Heart into the air would draw their attention and with it off me, I could make a break for it while they scramble to stop the Crystal Heart from crashing into the floor.

A powerful gust of wind tore through the street, which was then followed by a biting chill in the air as the artic winds that the shield spell kept out came in unobstructed now that the shield had completely collapsed. Snow began to fall into the city and then three distant booms were heard. It seemed only the royal couple and I had heard them as only the three of us looked up to the sky beyond the city limits.

Princess Cadence paled as three cylindrical objects appeared in the sky, heading towards the Empire at high speeds.

"You brought the war to us," Prince Armour spat with venom as he disappeared again in a bright flash. Seconds after he had disappeared, a bright purple shield dome soon surrounded most of the crystal city.

"My husband may be talented in his shields but he won't be able to stop them. It is too late now to return the Heart, the missiles will hit before I can put it back into place and for the shield to reform," The alicorn said sadly as she sat down defeated.

"…I'm sorry," I said lamely. I had just brought death to an entire civilization, and I couldn't think of a single word to express how sorry I was for it. I may have been designed and programmed to assassinate specific targets, but I felt no joy in killing, and killing innocent lives just felt utterly wrong to me.

The first missile slammed into the purple shield, and it shattered like glass, raining purple sparkles all over the city, but the shield held long enough to deflect the missile. The missile swerved off course and flew beyond the city to hit somewhere in the frozen wastes. The horizon was lit up by a tremendous green explosion and mushroom cloud when the missile detonated.

I watched as the second missile descended. Following it trajectory it would strike the Crystal Palace. Oh Celestia, what have I done?

There was a bright purple flash as Prince Armour reappeared and pulled his wife into a tight embrace. They hugged and cried as the second missile slammed into the palace and in a brilliant green explosion of balefire and radiation the palace disappeared as it was vaporized. A wall of heat and radiation rushed over use, tearing most ponies apart and shattering the buildings close to the impact zone as the bomb unleashed its power of death upon the Empire.

Princess Cadence and Prince Armour remained in their tight embrace as fire and radiation tore through them. I watched with horror as the two ponies burned in green fire and turned to ash. The two ash ponies locked in their embrace soon disintegrated as the shockwave passed through them, scattering them to the winds.

"WARNING, FLESH COMPROMISED.... EXTERNAL HEAT LEVELS BEYOND SAFE LEVELS."

I looked down at myself and saw that I too was consumed by green fire, burning my skin and flesh from my endoskeleton.

Suddenly, a bright green flash caught my attention, and as I turned my head, I saw a pony walking towards me. My vision suddenly lost colour, and everything became a shade of red as my organic eyes burned away. I couldn't believe this pony wasn't burning in the balefire as she approached me. If I could widen my eyes they would have when the pony came into focus. I recognised her. I couldn't tell what her colour was from the red haze of my synthetic eyes but I knew. She was pink with creamy yellow hair in her tail and mane. Her most striking feature however was her eyes, the baby blue eyes that were identical to my organic eyes. I didn't know how it was possible with me but she was my mother. I could feel a part of my brain wanting to be let out, to remember everything but all I could get was that she was extremely important to me and that I loved her more than anything. It is also why the look of utter shame and disappointment on her face hurt me deep in my beating heart.

"Crystal, I am so disappointed in you," She said shaking her head when the last missile struck the ground behind me.

My mother instantly turned to ash and blew away from the explosion which also ripped away what was left of my own skin.

"NO MOTHER!" I screamed with true emotional pain.

The blast wave slammed into my robotic body and threw me off my hooves. I cried out as I could feel my reinforced endoskeleton starting to break apart as I bounced and scraped along the jagged crystal roads and then I bounced off a large jagged crystal boulder at the rim of the first missile impact crater. With my vision going fuzzy, I stared down into the pit of balefire as I began to fall into the flames.

XXXXX

I bolted up on the bench gasping for breath from the nightmare that had just plagued my dreams. I couldn't believe I had just dreamt that; I could have been responsible for destroying the Crystal Empire. My birthplace for Luna's sake. I certainly hope I wasn't used for anything like that in the five years I had been unconscious. I just didn't have a clue if I’d just been sleeping through whatever had been done to me, or if I had been functioning. I certainly hope not. Being a bio-mechanical zebra was so going to be a pain in the flank.

Blinking my eyes to rid myself of sleep, I looked towards the window to see that it is still kinda dark out; I thought it was morning, but this constant cloudy grey sky was making it difficult to get a sense of time.

I let out a yawn, feeling a little weak while I sat up on the comfy bench and lifted my left foreleg to look at my pipbuck. As my eyes focused on the screen, it turned on. Hmm, the doctor had said he had connected it directly to my system, and that I should be able to control it by thinking at it. Well, might as well give it a try. I concentrated on wanting to look at my status tab, which would give me a reading of my health, time of day and date. Nothing happened for a few moments and just as I was about to think it wasn't going to work and that I would have to do it manually, I felt a prick at the back of my mind, like a spark sending a little shock throughout my brain, and then the screen flicked over to the status tab.

"Huh, it worked," I said out loud in astonishment.

SNORT!

I jumped in surprise as Fruity snorted loudly as he woke up. It was only then that I realised just how quiet it actually was on the train this early in the morning. The only real sounds I could hear were the rhythmic clickity clack of the train wheels going over the joints in the track, or the occasional bang as they ran over a rather rough segment. I caught a glimpse of the time before Fruity's snort and it was only gone four in the morning.

"No don't revoke my licence again...huh, oh right.... dream, phew," Fruity moaned as he sat up and rubbed his eyes with his forehooves. "Stupid Enclave, stupid Mutfruit," He muttered quietly, so quietly I had to strain to hear him even with my cybernetic hearing.

"Are you ok?" I asked feeling concerned.

"Ugh, yea I'm...HOLY SHIT!" He screamed as he looked at me. In a blink of an eye, he propelled himself into the air and flew across the small cabin, standing before me. His sudden appearance surprised me, and I instinctively pushed myself back against the bench as Fruity leaned in close and began looking me over.

"Fruity, what...?" I squeaked out before he interrupted me.

"Oh Celestia, thank the heavens you are alright," He said, growing a bit teary.

I blinked in confusion and then took the time to look at myself. To my relief, my hide wasn't melted or burnt like it was when I passed out last night, but instead it was like nothing happened to me. My fur was pristine white with light grey stripes again. I smiled happily as I placed a forehoof onto my chest, and pressed just hard enough so that I could feel the talisman imbedded into my chest piece.

"I guess I took those potions at the right time," I said, remembering the two super healing potions I drank after I rescued that filly. I couldn't tell him the real reason, no, not just yet. Though I wanted to. I was scared of what the outcome would be.

"I was so worried for you," He said, sitting back with relief washing over him.

"You were worried, aww that's so sweet," I smiled playfully, and teasingly to try and lighten the mood. "It's nice to know you care."

Fruity blushed beet red. "Um, well, yes of course, um you are my friend after all."

I smiled warmly at him. "Thank you Fruity, I'm fine."

Still blushing, he let out a silly giggle. Suddenly, there was a loud rumble which originated from my stomach. I giggled, embarrassed at the loudness of my stomach's complaint.

"Wow, somepony is hungry," He laughed.

"Hehe, yea," I blushed and stroked my empty stomach.

"Err, I'll, um, go see what will be for breakfast," He said, and before I could tell him how early it was, he was out the door.

I giggled softly to myself. It was heartwarming to see a pony as nice as him, and he seemed pretty cute when I teased him. I was glad he found me in Manehattan; if not for him I could be pretty much lost or dead right now. I leaned back against my seat again and let out a content sigh, before suddenly a warning message flashed across my vision in bright red letters.

"WARNING, ENERGY LEVELS AT 11%, GEM CONSUMPTION REQUIRED FOR SUBSTANTIAL ENERGY REPLENISHMENT."

What? Eleven percent. But it was at twenty when I passed out. I looked down at my pristine body again, and then at my chest. The talisman had had to reconstruct my entire burnt skin and regrew my fur. I suppose the nine percent drop was from the talisman rebuilding all the damage I had taken. Well this was also now very worrying because, where was I supposed to find gems? I was on a train that was heading for New Pegasus and I couldn't get off to go looking for gems. I'd most likely run out of power before I even find any. Oh this was bad.

I could feel panic setting in as I began to look around in worry about losing power. The table lamp caught my eye, and I wound up just staring at the softly glowing brass lamp fixed to the table. Why did the lamp look important all of a sudden and why did I feel drawn to it? I scooted over to get as close to the table, as I could and gently tilted the lampshade, up to reveal the bulb or should I say, Light Crystal.

A square appeared around the gem and text began to scroll down the side of my vision as something in my brain identified the crystal.

"Light Crystal, small magical light emitting gemstones most commonly used in household lighting and small portable lighting devices aimed for use by pegasi and earth ponies. Light Crystals come in a variety of strengths, ranging from the common household 40watt to 60watt gems to high powered gems, for example police spotlights."

I let out a groan with that familiar electric tingle in the back of my head as my brain was flooded with the information about the glowing crystal.

"Accepted for consumption," Then flashed across the top of my vision.

I could eat that? Wait, of course. The doctor said I had a synthetic stomach that could process food, metal and gems to recharge my power cells and for repairs. I did eat a fork by accident the previous day. I licked my lips while I stared at the gem, feeling unsure. This was a magical gem, what would it be like to eat it? Would it be like the time your best friend dares you to lick a square battery that gives you a jolt, or will it be like eating a chilly pepper or a sweet that'll dissolve in your mouth?

I sighed as I plucked the gem out of its brass cradle with my forehoof, and held the small pebble like gem before my muzzle. I hesitated about putting the magical gem into my mouth. I mean it wasn’t something a normal pony would do. I knew dragons eat gems like this but not ponies like me, err I mean zebra. But, I wasn’t a pony anymore though was I? My stomach growled noisily in protest with my hesitation. I needed to recharge, and I didn't want to run out of power so I didn’t really have a choice. Closing my eyes, I opened my maw and chucked the gem into my mouth and closed it.

My eyes flew open as the gem settled on my tongue and turned into the consistency of a chewy Wham Bar, a chewy fruity strip from before the war. Not only that, my mouth was filled with the taste of bananas. Hmm, I love bananas. I cooed happily as I chewed on the banana flavoured Light Crystal for a few seconds, and then swallowed. As soon as the gem hit my stomach and was processed, I felt a wave of energy rush through my body. I could feel my entire endoskeleton powering up. I could feel each and every joint become more responsive and smoother in its function. I felt more alert than before. I hated to say this but the sensation felt good.

"Power levels at 16%."

Wow, that one little gem gave me a five percent increase in power. Eating that gem wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I might just be able to get used to this... I hope. It was still weird.

"Bloody hell," Fruity muttered as he backed in through the door to our compartment.

"Fruity?" I asked as I turned to face him. He had his back to me, and his head stuck out the door looking down the corridor.

He pulled his head back in a minute later. "Just saw three dudes wearing overcoats and they looked like a nasty bunch, not to mention one of them had one of those drum fed combat shotguns."

"Well, let's not get in their way then."

"Works for me," He said as he sat down on the bench opposite.

"When will they be serving breakfast?" I asked him to change the subject.

"Huh... Oh right. Um, breakfast won't be served until seven."

"So, less than three hours," I groaned as my stomach rumbled again. That gem did nothing but give me a little boost.

"Yea, we just gotta sit pretty for a little while."

He shifted on his seat so he could lie down on his back and for the first time since I met him, I noticed his flank and his cutie mark, or lack thereof. Instead of a cutie mark he seemed to have had the Ministry Mare Rainbow Dash's cutie mark's outline stamped on his flank, and it looks like it was burnt on.

"What happened to your cutie mark?" I asked with confusion, or rather blurted out.

He let out a deep painful sigh. "I lost it when I became a Dashite," He said with pain in his voice.

"Dashite, what's a Dashite?"

He let out another painful sigh. "A Dashite is a pegasus that has gone against Enclave Law and is cast out of the clouds and forced to live on the surface in exile."

"Against Enclave law? You're a criminal?" Cried out in shock.

He bolted up right and looked at me with fury in his eyes. "No, I am not a criminal Crystal. The worst I ever did was put Mutfruit in some of my cocktails, that was it. I swear. The term Dashite originally was what pegasi who willingly left the Enclave to return to the surface called themselves, and even marked themselves. But the Enclave made a Dashite a punishment, branding and casting out pegasi that broke their laws repeatedly."

"I'm sorry… I didn't mean to offend you Fruity."

He took a deep breath calm himself down. "It's...it's ok. I'm sorry too; I shouldn't have snapped like that, you don't know about the Enclave after all."

"Still, I'm sorry, it wasn't my place to accuse you like that," I said apologetically. "So, what was your cutie mark?"

He gave a weak smile at my question. "It was a pair of cocktail shakers to symbolise my talent in drink mixing and making," His small smile turned into a frown and he looked out the window to the rolling grey clouds that were getting lighter from the rising sun behind them. "I miss my job."

"What was your job?" I asked, hoping to see that smile come back a little more while he talked about something he loved doing.

Thankfully, his smile did come back, if only a little. "I was a bartender at a local cocktail bar. I was rather popular there with my showponyship with how I could mix drinks together and everypony, mostly, would comment on my cocktails being the best in New Reignno." Then his smile disappeared again. "That was until I got busted for serving drinks with Mutfruit in them."

"I'm sorry," I said sadly for bringing up bad memories for him, again. To avoid making things worse, I decided to change the subject away from his past.

So, to fill in the three hours before breakfast I began to ask him other things regarding the wasteland that I have woken up into. I asked about the Crystal Empire, like if it was still there and he told me he didn't know but there had been no records that it was ever attacked and that he had heard rumours, that involved the Empire had tried to help Equestria after the bombs fell but soon abandoned Equestria after all its social structure collapsed. I hope it was still out there.

Fruity asked me about my life before I 'left the Stable' and I had to lie again. Lying was a bad thing, don't ever do it if you can avoid it, really. I felt bad for lying to him but I was still not up to revealing myself to him in fear of scaring him away. I had to think for a moment, but using my past job as a Stable-Tec sales assistance or warehouse operative I was able to come up with a convincing story about working as the Stable's shop keeper and inventory keeper. I could certainly talk bollocks for hours when the right idea pops to mind.

XXXXX

The Pullmare Dining Car is huge. Unlike the passenger car that Fruity and I were using on this journey which was a corridor car with cabins, this dining car was open from wall to wall. I could see that it had a single aisle down the middle between the two gangway doors, and several tables lining both sides apart from the left side where the small kitchen resided and the buffet bar sat, filling the midway point of the sixty foot car.

Looking around, we could see a few ponies sitting at the tables already as well as a couple of ponies acting as waiters. We walked down the aisle and sat at a table around the middle on the right side. The bench I sat on creaked in protest with my weight, I wonder how much I actually weighed now, but thankfully it held, and was just as comfy as our cabin's bench. Like our table in our cabin, the tables in the dining car were also covered in a lace white table cloth and had a brass lamp on them and I found myself staring at the softly glowing gem under the lampshade. I subconsciously licked my lips while I stared, and it was noticed by my pegasus friend.

"Hungry?" He asked innocently.

I shook my head to snap myself out of my stare and gave him my full attention. "Yes," I nodded with a dumb smile.

He turned around and began to wave a waiter down near the door we came in from. While he was occupied I quickly plucked the gem from the lamp and popped it into my mouth, swallowing it as he began to turn back around after getting the waiter's attention. I felt a rush of energy again run through my body as it was processed.

"Power level at 21%."

"May I help you?" The waiter asked in a posh voice as he approached our table.

"Could we have a menu please?" I asked, only just noticing there weren’t any on the table.

"Certainly Ma'am, I'll be back in a moment with your menus," He said, bowing slightly before he turned and headed for the kitchen.

"I hope they do a full Equestrian breakfast," I said out loud to myself. I used to enjoy going out with my parents in Las Pegasus on a weekend morning, usually a Saturday, to one of the local cafes to get a full breakfast.

"I don't care as long as it’s edible," He groaned.

"What do you mean?"

"Half the shit I've scavenged since I started living down here has been sat on the shelves for nearly two centuries. Sure, it's been pumped full of preservatives but in some cases that means naff all and is rotted to hell or you can't just bring yourself to eat two hundred year old junk," He ranted, but yeah, I could understand that. I didn't think I'd be too comfortable trying to eat something that was two hundred years old.

The waiter soon returned with two fancily decorated, yet old and worn menus which also had several items crossed off. I supposed that was because the ingredients were no longer available to acquire in this dead world. The waiter left us once he placed the menus down while saying he’d come back in a few minutes to see if we had decided on anything.

Thankfully a full breakfast was indeed on the menu so I knew what I’d be having. The waiter soon returned to take our order, but Fruity didn't seem to have made his choice yet. He looked to be struggling with the selection available.

"Are you ready to order?" The waiter asked politely.

"Err..." I said looking at Fruity.

He groaned and closed his menu in a huff. "Sod it; I'll have what she's having."

I giggled lightly at that, and turned back to the waiter. "I suppose we'll both have a full breakfast."

The waiter nodded and using his unicorn magic, wrote it down on his little pad.

"And to drink?"

"I'll have a coffee please."

Fruity made a gagging face when I mentioned coffee. Heh, somepony doesn't like coffee; it's a good pick-me-up for early mornings.

"I'll have an apple juice," Fruity said.

"Very good, two full breakfasts, one with a coffee and one with an apple juice," He said out loud to confirm our order and with a nod from me, the waiter headed back to the kitchen.

"What marvellous service," Fruity joked when the waiter was out of earshot. I snickered at his fake posh voice. At least we could still have some fun with how things are right now.

While we waited, I looked out of the large window we had sat next to. I frowned at the sight. I could see nothing but dead land with many dead leafless trees filling the land and the remains of a fence and farm buildings on the small rolling hills. We soon passed over a river running through the farm, and I shivered in disgust as the water was a yellowy green colour that, to me, seemed to actually glow in the low light of the morning. Through the hundreds of twigs I could also see a mountain range in the distance. Hmm, looks like we were starting to enter central Equestria.

"Oh ponyfeathers," Fruity groaned quietly.

"What's wrong?" I asked as I turned to face him, my newly regrown mane flopping into my left eye as I did.

He simply lowered himself down to the table, and then pointed with a wing behind me. I turned to follow his point, and saw three stallions wearing overcoats with black cowpony hats on their heads, standing in the gangway door at the far end. I noticed the middle one more than the others. My eyes roaming over his large muscular frame and the semi-automatic, twelve shell, drum fed, 12-gauge combat shotgun strapped to his back. How in Tartarus did I know that? That was something that was scaring me about my new body, how I seem to know exactly what a weapon is by a single glance.

The three intimidating ponies began to slowly walk down the aisle, until one of the trailing ponies patted the middle one on the shoulder, and then pointed at me. The larger stallion looked at me, and then he immediately scowled with hatred twisting at his features.

"Well what do we have here? It's a little Stripe," He snarled as he approached our table.

"Um, is there a problem here?" I asked, feeling intimidated by him.

"Yeah, there is a problem here, and it’s sitting right in front of me," He sneered. Oh, and there's the flashing exclamation mark.

"Wh-what did I d-do?" I stuttered, moving back instinctively, and plastering my ears against my skull.

"You and your kind aren't welcome here," He growled.

"Oh c'mon dude she..." Fruity's defence was silenced by a powerful hoof slamming onto the table.

"Shut the fuck up Stripe lover," The larger stallion shouted angrily. "You are no fucking different you deserting sack of shit."

"Now hold on a minute!" Fruity tried again but this time, he was met with a hoof to the face. I watched in wide eyed shock as Fruity let out a cry of pain from the strike. I felt a burning desire then and there to lamp the stallion in response, but my fear outweighed that desire. However, I did let out a growl of anger at the unprovoked attack on my friend, but that little act of aggression made the stallion turn his attention back to me.

"You are not welcome here and you are going to leave now before I throw you off this train," He ordered forcefully.

I looked around for help, but found that there were no guards in the car, or any of the other ponies in the car making any attempt to intervene. Whimpering, I looked back at the stallion as he moved closer.

"B-but the train is still moving."

"Well then, I guess I'm going to have to throw you off."

"Is there a problem here?" Shouted a strong, authoritative voice. We all turned our heads to the gangway door towards where we came in, and another large earth stallion stood. He seemed as muscular as the hater in front of me, but also wore a familiar-looking Stable type security armour, familiar because I sold a few for Stable-Tec.

"It doesn't concern you Marshal," The overcoat wearing stallion said as he turned back to me.

"It does when you are threatening ponies on this train!" Marshal shouted as he began to approach us, followed by a familiar looking tiny mare who stayed behind, but very close to the large stallion. My eye's widened when I realised who she was; she was the mare whose daughter I had saved.

"But she's not a pony, she's an it and is about to leave this train by the nearest window."

"Help!" I cried out, frightened.

"This train is neutral ground, she has as much right to travel on it as anypony else," The large earth pony countered as he approached our table. "Now back off and leave her alone, OR, will "I" have to throw "You" off this train?"

The hater growled as he had an internal debate about what he should do. After what seemed like an hour, he sighed. "Fine," He said with a huff before he turned around and began to walk away. "You better watch your back Stripe," He called out as he and his little posse left the dining car. That last shout filled me with a dread.

"Are you two ok?" The Marshal asked.

"Yes, we are fine," I said. "Thank you for getting rid of him."

"Speak for yourself," Fruity whined as he rubbed his now bloody nose "I got sucker punched in the face!"

The Marshal reached into a pocket of his armour and pulled out a healing potion. "Here," He said, dropping it on the table in front of Fruity.

"Thanks," Fruity said as he popped the cork and drank the potion. I watched with fascination as his damaged nose healed up instantly. The pegasus rubbed at his snout and sighed with relief. "So much better."

"Who are those jerks?" I asked.

"I don't know, but there have been several complaints against them since they boarded at Dodge Junction," The large stallion answered. Huh, we must have stopped at a station while I was passed out. "Don't worry, miss. I will see to it that they do not bother you again."

The stallion then looked down to the small mare for a moment. "Do you mind if we join you for a moment, we want to talk to you about what you did for us."

"Um…sure."

Fruity fluttered into the air and over the table before he settled down beside me, our rumps pressing together as he settled into the seat. The contact made me blush slightly.

The Marshal and the small mare took the bench in front of us. Wow, the stallion was like three times the size of the mare.

"My name is Black Slate and I'm this train's Marshal." He then gestured to the small mare. "And this is my wife Tulip Blossom, and she tells me you are responsible for saving our daughter's life during the griffin attack and the fire."

I nodded. "My name is Crystal Éclair." As expected, my name got an eyebrow raise from both of them.

"And I'm Fruity," The purple pegasus announced.

"I'm glad to see you are fine, Tulip told me how horribly burned you were," He said with a relieved smile.

"I guess I drank those potions at the right time," I offered.

The Marshal nodded. "What you did for my wife and I, we can never thank you enough. You brought our daughter back to us even though it put your life on the line. We are forever in your debt."

Tulip nodded her head but then turned to her massive husband. "I'm so sorry Slate," She said with her voice cracking as she began to tear up.

The huge stallion gently held his wife. "Hey, we talked about this, it's not your fault, and you didn't know that would happen."

"I know but I shouldn't gone to the toilet and left her alone."

"Shhh, it's ok, she was sleeping and you could have left her unattended for a couple of minutes, don't keep blaming yourself."

"Where were you when it happened?" Fruity asked. Ouch, Fruity, you shouldn't be asking that. I quickly gave him a shocked look after he said that.

"I was on the far end of the train helping to fend off the griffins; it wasn't until after you rescued our daughter that I became aware just where the fire was."

"Um, we have brought you a couple of things as thanks, it's not much but we thought you could use them," Tulip said quietly.

"Oh you didn't have to," I said just as the small mare lifted two bags onto the table. One of them jingled nosily like it contained coins, or was it caps now? And the other one made a dull clunk like it was full of rocks.

"These two bags have a thousand caps worth between them, this one..." She said indicating the one that jingled. "...has um... how much was it again dear?"

"Seven hundred and fifty caps," Slate answered.

Tulip nodded and then indicated the other bag. "This one contains about um, was it two hundred and fifty caps worth?" She said unsure and looked at her husband. He nodded in reply to her question. She smiled and repeated herself. "This bag contains two hundred and fifty caps worth of gems that we had collected."

Gems! Oh what luck. "Um, thank you," I said with appreciation. I took the back of gems while I passed the bag with caps in over to Fruity.

"What's this for?" He asked, clearly not expecting me to hoof him anything.

"You did pay for my ticket and saved my life before," I said with a big smile. He blinked for a moment then smiled in return as he took the caps.

"I would like to also give you something as thanks as well" Slate said as he bent his head back to a larger pocket on his armour. After a moment of fiddling about, he pulled his head back around with a pistol holster and when he put it down, there was clearly a gun in the holster too. "I believe you lost your gun during the rescue," He said almost matter-of-factly.

"Um, yes, it was a nine millimetre pistol."

He nodded. "Yes, I found it among the wreckage; the fire was hot enough to render it unusable. So I would like to give you this, it has been the best gun I ever had and I hope it'll serve you well. It's called Lucky 13, thirteen because that's how many times it saved my life."

I was about to reject the gun until I remembered what Fruity had told me about Raiders and also from what I've seen and experienced so far. I'd likely need a gun for my protection out in this wasteland. Resigning myself to accept the inevitable, I reached over the table with my forehooves and pulled the holster to me and then gently slipped the gun from its home. I had to admit, it was a beautiful weapon. Oh and there was that familiar tingle in the back of my head.

"Colt-Army .357 Magnum Revolver, six shot cylinder revolving pistol. Weapon has been modified with a longer barrel and refurbished materials increasing weapon's condition and overall damage."

This instantly knowing about these guns was going to drive me crazy. The revolver looked like a piece of art with its black metal finish and intricate golden gild patterns ,as well as the white enamel mouth grip with the number thirteen etched into it, which looked like a more recent addition.

I gave Slate an appreciative smile. "Thank you, I'll be sure to take good care of it."

He smiled and nodded. "You are welcome; it's the least I could give you for saving our daughter."

The mare slipped off the bench. "Yes, thank you ever so much for saving our daughter," She said gratefully.

"I was glad to help," I smiled as they began to walk away.

"Well, that was nice of them," Fruity said while eying the contents of the bag I gave him.

I made an agreeing comment just as our food arrived. It wasn't until after I ate the eggs, hash browns and beans when Fruity told me those were all two hundred years old. That little revelation nearly had me gagging in the middle of the dining car, drawing a few stares. I could have strangled Fruity as he began laughing. At least the breakfast also helped to increase my power percentage by two.

After breakfast, there wasn't much else we could do apart from walking the length of the train, catching a movie in the train's cinema car or having a drink in at the bar. With the way things were looking, it looked like Fruity and I would die of boredom before we made it to the Marejave.

XXXXX

While resting my head on our table in our cabin, I noticed the compass of my EFS start moving. We had been heading in a westerly direction for most of the trip, but now, we were heading north towards the mountain range. Well, this was a train, so we could only go where the track takes us. As Luna's night began to make way for Celestia's day, we were drawing near the Canter Mountain Range in Central Equestria.

"So bored…" Fruity muttered to himself as he tried to make a tower out of his bottle caps.

I opened my mouth to agree when the Conductor's voice blared out of a speaker in the top corner of our cabin near the door.

"Attention passengers, we'll be stopping at Trottingham to restock on flammable material and water. Passengers will have three hours to stretch your legs while we refuel. We will also be passing through Pon'evil shortly. All passengers are to remain in their cabins as we accelerate to our top speed to pass through the town as quickly as possible, thank you."

"Ponyville, what's so bad about that?" I asked confused.

"It's not what you think it is. Ponyville or as it's called now, Pon'evil, is a raider town and one of the worst places you could ever imagine." Fruity then went on to remind me why raiders were to be shot on sight as they would do worse to me if I didn't. Some of the things he told me that he had seen were so horrible, I knew he wasn't making it up. I couldn't image how he felt when he witnessed some of the nasty things he said he had seen.

The train soon accelerated, and minutes later, we were roaring through the destroyed town. Unable to resist the urge to look out the window, I bore witness to public sex, brutal fights involving blunt trauma weapons and other unsightly things. I was thankful my stomach was synthetic because I was sure I would have thrown up at some of the horribleness I saw. While we sped through the town, some of the raiders attempted to attack us and chase us, but there wasn't a chance in Tartarus that they'd be able to run after a hundred plus mile an hour train or hit us.

Thankfully, we passed through the town without incident and stopped in the deserted run down town of Trottingham. It was once a big lively town back before the war, and was famous for its milk. Needing a change in environment, Fruity and I stepped off the train. The silence was eerie and creepy, despite the background noise of the steaming monster and the crews working to refuel it. We walked over to an old engine shed still in view of the train.

"That gun, know how to use it?" Fruity asked as we stepped through the open doors of one of the locomotive bays.

"I know how to use a gun; it's simply pulling the trigger right?"

Fruity nodded. "That's half of it, yeah. Ever used one before though?"

I shook my head.

"Right, since we got some time to kill before we set off again, why don't I teach you how to shoot?"

Normally, I would have declined his offer but I was not in the Equestria I remembered and since waking up in this world it seemed the law had changed to "Kill or be killed" and with my current experience in this world along with everything I've heard or been told, it was like nearly everything would like to rape or kill me, so learning to fight was essential to survival. With a sigh I agreed.

I had the holster strapped around my right foreleg; I bent my neck down so I could get a hold of Lucky 13 with my mouth.

"Using a gun isn't just pointing and pulling the trigger; you need to look down the sights to get your aim. Hmm, ah there, look down the sights and try to hit those tin cans on that buffer stop there."

I nodded, since holding the gun in my mouth and having my tongue against the trigger made it difficult for me to talk. I didn't feel the magical sensation in my mouth for when I put metal or gems in my mouth and I couldn't feel the enamel grip softening or the trigger either. I supposed my mechanical body was programmed to recognise what was edible or not and trigger whatever causes things to become soft in my mouth so I could eat it.

I held the gun tightly in my mouth, the sleek black and gold gilded revolver sticking out to the right side of my muzzle. Closing my left eye, I found that the barrel and the sights of the gun lined up perfectly with my eye, allowing me to get a straight aim.

"Looking down the sights, you'll want to line up your shot so your target is where the top of the middle prong is on your gun barrel. Where that is, is usually where your bullet will go."

I nodded again as I lined up the barrel of Lucky 13 with a can of beans sitting on the bugger stop. Satisfied with my aim, I pulled the trigger with my tongue. I expected there to be some resistance against my tongue, but the trigger pulled easily enough and with a loud bang, the gun fired when the hammer struck the bullet. I was so surprised by the sudden boom and jerk of the gun from the recoi,l that I let go of it and it fell to the rubbish strewn floor.

"You ok?" Fruity asked in concern.

"Yeah I'm fine, it just startled me."

"Ah, you'll get used to it. Heh, the first time I fired my plasma rifles, the magical surge from the discharge had my feathers puffed up for an hour."

I giggled to myself at the mental image of his wings all puffed up.

"Wow, nice shot," Fruity said as he inspected the can. I picked up my new gun and looked over to Fruity to see that the can had exploded and spewed its contents all over the back wall. "How many shots does that gun have?" He asked as he picked up another can from the floor.

"It's a six shot weapon, so it has five rounds left."

"Ok, so let's go five more times; that should be enough for now to give you a good idea of how to use it."

I nodded in agreement and prepared for another shot.

XXXXX

Fruity's advice with my gun was very valuable, his own experiences in the wasteland helping in his explanations with what and what not to do with your gun. Thankfully, maintenance wouldn't be an issue since not only did my electronic brain supply me with all the data on the revolver it also gave me detailed information on how to maintain it.

Fruity seemed rather impressed with my performance in the engine shed. I had hit each can almost dead centre each time. Fruity had asked me if I was sure I hadn't used a gun before and I dismissed it as just being beginners luck, but I feared it had something to do with my mechanical body. I barely felt the recoil of the revolver when I fired it. I supposed my mechanical skeleton could take the forces exerted by the weapon better than if I were entirely organic and I didn't feel like my teeth were gonna fall out from the vibration of the gun fire. I was beginning to feel less and less like a pony with the more things I discovered about my synthetic body.

After target practice, we still had time to kill, so we walked around the ruined train yard that we had stopped in to refuel. I felt I was back in Manehattan while being surrounded by so much destruction and decay. My nose was being assaulted with all the bad smells of nearly two hundred years of decay, and it was absolutely foul. The constant clouds and the nearly collapsed buildings gave a very eerie and dark scene. I for the first time took note of my EFS compass displaying friendly and hostile targets and despite Trottingham apparently being deserted, there were quite a lot of red bars in range of its sensory range. Not wanting to find out what those red bars belonged to, we stayed near the train.

By noon, we were ready to go, and steamed north towards a place called "Zebra Town". Thankfully, the train turned away from the town as it came into view at the foot of Mt Canter. The town had to be one of the creepiest places I had ever seen with how most of it was shrouded in a pink mist. I noticed some pink waterfalls, and following the falls up, I gaped at their source. Canterlot sat up above the town, and I couldn't believe the state of the once famed capital of Equestria, now that was truly a horrifying sight and cemented the claims of the princesses being dead. That was still a fact I am finding hard to accept but every day I woke up to this hell I was beginning to accept it more and more readily.

I was glad that Zebra Town and Canterlot were behind us now as we steamed west. If we made good progress we'd arrive at New Pegasus within a day and a half.

Several hours after we left Trottingham, I decided to go for a walk alone. Fruity wanted to accompany me, but I declined his offer to join me as I wanted some time to myself to get my head around some of the things I had discovered earlier. He was sweet and seems to be very caring despite his immature nature and I do like him, but a mare does need some alone time after all.

I trotted the length of the train, passing through the bar, the dining car and the cinema, also disturbed the movie being shown with my entrance, and continued down towards the front of the train until I stepped out onto the burnt out train car. Most of the roof had collapsed when the fire weakened its upper structure. I had been in my own world with my thoughts about coming to terms with the world I was in now, and that the princesses wouldn't be coming to our aid, when I was brought back to reality as a rather loud door slam startled me.

Looking up at the source, I saw one of the overcoat wearing ponies standing in front of the gangway door, blocking my path. I noticed my EFS again, and the pony blocking the door was showing a red hostile tag on the compass. Not wanting to deal with him, I turned around to walk back the way I came, but as I turned around, the other one closed the door and stood in front of the it, leaving me trapped in the burnt out car. If those two were here then that means...

"I told you to watch your back Zebra scum."

Oh horseapples.

I turned back around to see the large overcoat and black stetson wearing stallion standing in the corridor. My ears flattened against my skull as I shook with fear as his facial expression was screaming bloody murder.

"Please, I don't want any trouble," I whimpered, while taking a step back.

"Well you found trouble," He sneered as he began to approach me. Oh this is bad; my threat warning was blinking in my vision repeatedly. I backed up to keep away from him but as luck would have had it, my butt hit a burnt metal wall where I then stopped, shaking in fear of the huge stallion. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest with my fear; it was still good to feel it beating despite the situation.

"I'm going to kill you Stripe, and then I'm going to throw you off this train," He growled and lifted his left forehoof, pulling it back ready to strike. My threat warning flashed brightly as the stallion began to throw his hoof forward in a punch. I quickly dodged to the left, and his hoof barely missed my head and hit the ruined metal wall behind me. He pulled back and reared up onto his hind legs so he could use both his forehooves, and then he began to throw them in a series of punches. With each throw of his hooves, my threat warning flashed at the point his punches began towards me and it gave me just enough warning to dodge the incoming strikes.

"Hold still!" He yelled in annoyance from my dodging.

In his fury, his attacks sped up, making dodging difficult. Ultimately, one of his punches struck me in the cheek. It stung, but didn't hurt anywhere near as much as I was expecting; it felt more like a gentle slap but my instinctive reaction was to swat his hoof away. I swung my right foreleg out hard and fast to smack his leg away and I felt and HEARD his leg bone break like a twig from my hoof's impact, I really need to learn how to control my mechanical strength. He let out a cry of pain and backed away, holding his damaged foreleg.

"My leg, you fucking bitch, you are dead," He growled painfully and grabbed his combat shotgun off his back with his mouth, and held the gun practically point blank in my face. Eyes widening in fear, I reacted instinctively and grabbed the gun with my hoof, pushing it out of my face just as it fired. The buckshot pelted the wall behind me, leaving a hole behind. Something then clicked in the back of my mind, and all fear seemed to leave me and was replaced with a cold dead feeling of self preservation which made me act. I moved a hind leg forward to better balance myself, and then struck out with my free forehoof into his chest. I tried to dial the strength down a bit, but it was still pretty strong as it knocked him back, along with breaking a few ribs, but I didn't hit him hard enough to kill him, thankfully. I'm not a murder but I'm not a pony or zebra either, am I…?

"You fucking..." I cut him off when I grabbed the shotgun by its mouth grip with my maw, and held the gun pointing at him. His eyes widening at the realisation he was no longer in control of the situation.

"Leave me alone, I didn't do anything wrong, leave, now!" I practically mumbled around the mouth grip.

One of the two other ponies rushed to his friend's aid. "Boss, let's get out here," He said and supported the injured pony.

"Mark my words Stripe, this isn't over" The boss growled painfully as he and his minions retreated.

I stayed still, keeping the shotgun pointed at them until they left through the gangway door. Once I was safe, I dropped the gun and let out a cry from the emotions running through me. Fear, panic, surprise, anger and rage had all rushed through me in the space of a minute. I then looked at my right foreleg, and noticed blood staining my fur. I hit him, I actually hit him. I wasn’t a violent mare by nature, but I also had never been put in a situation where my life depended on my actions. Was that actually me that struck out against him, or was that the machine part of me? Sighing, feeling emotionally drained, I picked up the shotgun again and walked back into the train. I had something to give to the Marshal.

The train became eerily silent as I walked through each car. I could feel dozens of eyes on me as I walked past. I guess they noticed the blood on my foreleg, and most likely the shotgun slung on my back. I tried to ignore the stares as I passed through the cars. After a good ten minutes I finally found the cabin where Slate and his wife Tulip were now using and knocked on the door.

The door opened to a very surprised looking Tulip. "Oh, hello Crystal."

I smiled slightly. "Hi, Tulip, is Slate here?" I asked.

"I am," I heard him confirm as Tulip opened the door wider to allow me entry until...

"OH MY GOSH!" She shrieked upon seeing the blood on my foreleg, and she also seemed to be staring at my cheek. "Are you alright?"

Marshall joined his wife and narrowed his eyes upon seeing the results of the fight. "What happened?"

I sighed. "Those three from breakfast."

"I warned them, " He said angrily and was about to push past me when I held out a foreleg and stopped him.

"It's alright, I dealt with them and here, " I said as I then plucked the shotgun from my back and gave it to the Marshal. "This was the main one's shotgun, it's yours now. Also I don't think he'll be a problem for anyone for a while since I broke his leg and a few ribs, " I informed him regrettably .

He raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know you had it in you," He said.

"Neither did I but he did put me in a corner."

He nodded and took the gun. "Thanks."

Suddenly, the cabin filled with the loud wailing of a foal crying. Tulip quickly rushed to her bench and pulled her baby against her, starting to gently rock the foal back and forth. I smiled happily at seeing the mother with her daughter. A feeling of pride filled my heart. If it weren't for me, this young mother would have lost her baby. I smiled and nodded to them before leaving. Seeing that, seeing the family happy together was just what I needed to life my spirits.

I opened the door to our cabin shortly after my visit with the Marshal to find Fruity fast asleep on his bench. I had to cover my mouth with my hoof to stifle a giggle at what I saw. Fruity had fallen asleep with his chest on the bench and his forelegs out stretched in front of him with his head laying on his legs. His rear end however was high in the air as his hind legs were stood up. I used to have a pet dog that did that. Feeling a little mischievous I reached out with my tail and grasped the handle of the door and quickly yanked it closed, causing it to slam loudly. The result was perfect.

"GAH!!!" Fruity yelled in total surprise as he was rudely awoken by the door slam and shot up into the air and smashed his head against the ceiling, before he drifted back down to the bench holding his head while his wings fluttered.

Even with my hoof over my mouth, I couldn't stop the giggles from escaping as I snickered in amusement.

"Bloody hell Crystal, you scared the living daylights out of me," He whined cutely.

"Hehe, sorry, I couldn't resist, you looked so silly the way you were sleeping."

"I was sleeping with my ass in the air again wasn't I?" He asked with a groan.

I simply nodded.

"Ugh, some guy got the wrong idea about that once."

Oh goddesses. I burst out laughing there. Fruity chuckled too for a moment until he then let out a surprised cry. "Holy shit are you alright?" He asked as he got within my personal space looking closely at my cheek.

"Yeah, I'm fine, why?" I asked.

"You got a big fuck off bruise on your cheek," He explained. "What happened?"

I sighed and pushed him away gently so I could get to my bench and sat down. Fruity settled onto his bench while I told him about my encounter.

XXXXX

Twenty four hours passed, pretty much uneventfully and peacefully. We had left central Equestria behind, and were steaming at high speed into Equestria's desert region which means we were closing in on the Marejave. I felt a little nervousness creep into me as the dead land began to change to that of a more sandy and dry appearance. I was heading home after two hundred years of being away. I didn't know what had become of Las Pegasus; if it was anything like Manehattan then my once bright built up city home would be reduced to a shadow of its former self even if the city still stood. I also fully intend to go and visit my family home in the outskirts of Las Pegasus. I... I just had to see it... and say good bye to my mum. I hope she didn't suffer too much when the end came.

I was woken up early in the morning on the fourth day of our trip as the bright sun shone through our window. Hang on, bright sun light. I quickly sat up and looked out the window, and my eyes were treated to the most beautiful sight since I woke up in Manehattan. The sun: Celestia's heavenly body shining brightly over the horizon in clear blue skies.

I reached over the table and started to prod Fruity while I stared out the window. I could see the cloud cover to our right though, which would be behind us right now, that seemed to just suddenly end like at a boundary.

"I'm up, I'm up," Fruity groaned.

"Look," I said pointing at out the window.

"What am I looking at?"

"A clear sky," I cried almost happily.

The tired pegasus groaned as he turned his head and looked out the window. He yawned loudly. "Yeah? It's a nice sun rise. Sun rises are always lovely in the mornings in the sky."

"Um, Fruity, we’re in a train on the surface, not in the sky."

"Hmm…" He looked out the window again and yawned. "Huh, would you look at that."

"You’re not a morning pony are you?" I asked with a sigh.

"Eenope," He yawned again.

I waited for him to wake up properly before gesturing to the rising sun in the clear sky again. He seemed puzzled and confused at first, but then his face shifted to a look of realisation.

"I suppose the rumours of the SPP Towers not working this far west are true," He said with another yawn.

"The what?" I asked, totally confused.

"You don't know about the Single Pegasus Project?"

I simply shook my head. He then went into a lengthy description about how the project was created during the war and was designed to control the weather. Apparently, it was supposed to hurl hurricanes and other terrible storms at the enemy which would have been very effective. It was also designed to better the weather for Equestria, or it could be used to do what it has been doing since the world ended: create endless clouds to blanket the land and blot out the sun. I was amazed to learn that the clouds around the towers had solid properties to enable the growth of crops to support the pegasi communities. But that then begged the question, why was this region clear of the clouds and I voiced that question to him.

"Hmm, I don't rightly know to be honest, but I heard that there had been some problems with the western towers, and that some hadn't even been finished before the bombs fell," He shrugged.

"Attention passengers, we have now entered the Marejave and will be arriving at New Pegasus within eight hours."

I smiled happily. We were almost there. I could finally... My train of thought was suddenly derailed when a horrific metallic screeching sound reverberated throughout the entire train and I was thrown out my seat and onto the table, which collapsed under my weight. The whole train screeched to a halt.

"What the in the buggery is going on?" Fruity cried out.

"ATTENTION, EVERYPONY ABANDON THE TRAIN IMMEDIATELY, THIS IS NOT A DRILL, ABANDON THE TRAIN!" The Conductor shouted in a panic over the tannoy.

"Abandon the train, what, why?" Fruity asked.

I groaned and picked myself up from the floor. As I stood I looked out the window and saw that we had stopped on a bend, and I could see the engine at the front of the train and it was spewing out steam in places it shouldn't be.

"We better go, like NOW!" I urged.

"What's going on?"

"The locomotive is going to explode!" I yelled and threw the door open, breaking it off its hinges in the process, but at this moment I couldn't be bothered. We ran to the nearest door which was on either side of the gangway door on either end of the car. Thankfully, somepony had already charged out of one and we both ran out into the hot desert air.

We ran, or in Fruity's case flew, until we were at a safe distance from the locomotive. My sensitive ears could pick up the sound of popping rivets. Many ponies were flocking out of the train and scattering around to get to safety; unfortunately a few ponies I could see met a gruesome end when they were shot by a popped rivet.

"Heh, well Crystal, welcome back to the Marejave," Fruity said with a weak smile.

At that moment, the streamlined iron horse exploded in a cloud of steam and fire, violently ripping itself apart along with the tender and most of the brake car behind it. The shockwave flung several ponies, who were unfortunately too close, off their hooves and smashed them against other ponies or into the many large rust coloured rocks lying around. The shockwave passed through me harmlessly, but still had enough of a kick to make Fruity stumble a little.

"Holy hell…" Fruity muttered.

I opened my mouth to agree when my threat warning flashed again. Looking back towards the train I saw a huge piece of metal flying right towards Fruity. I quickly shoved him aside with my right foreleg.

"Crystal, what was tha.." He was cut off when a long piece of steel dug into the dirt between us. "Ahh... fuck."

I sighed with relief that it missed him. I could feel my pulse thundering through my body with the worry and fear I felt for Fruity.

"Are you alright?" I asked looking to see if he was ok.

"Yeah, I'm fine, thanks to you, thank you," He replied thankfully.

"My pleasure," I smiled as I walked around the long piece of steel. The steel was part of the locomotive's drive gear; it was the rod that connected to each of the drive wheels on one side and delivered the power from the cylinders to the wheels. This one piece was so long because it had to connect to three, two metre diameter wheels.

A familiar pony trotted up to us. The Conductor sighed with relief as he saw that we are ok. "Thank Celestia you two are ok."

"Thank you conductor, but what happened, why’d the train explode?" I asked, helping Fruity up.

The middle aged stallion sighed. "When we accelerated to top speed to pass through Pon-evil earlier, the locomotive developed a problem. The crews were being forced to open the safety valves frequently to reduce stream pressure, but the valves soon stopped working. I had been told last night that this would happen if we didn't stop to fix the problem."

"Then why didn't you?" I shouted in anger at this revelation.

"It would have taken at least three days for a replacement engine to come down here to tow us to the depot and another two days hauling us the rest of the way. Time is caps and a fast service attracts more customers. The crews said if they left all safety valves open and reduced the heat of the fire and increased the water to cool it down a little we might have been able to reach Tom City. Stopping there wouldn't have hurt us as much as being left stranded in the middle of the desert."

Money, it's always about money when something like this happens. Ponies scrimp on safety features if it means saving a bit or two here and there. I shook my head and grumbled angrily as Fruity and I stormed off. Good thing we were on a train because that meant we could simply follow the tracks to get to where we were going. As we began walking, we walked passed a stallion in dirty overalls muttering to himself angrily.

"Fucking knew she wasn't ready, fucking rushed her restoration and fucking put her on the line before her trails could be done. Wanting to make headlines with the fastest trans-equestrian travel from west to east and back, you fucking got it because the locomotive we spent twenty years restoring just went boom you fuckers," He ranted to himself, supporting my mental claim on this being all about bits or caps in this world.

The passengers of the train soon scattered into their own travelling groups and headed out in whatever direction they wanted to go. Fruity and I, plus several other ponies who had had the same idea about the tracks followed them through the desert.

As we walked, I concentrated on my Pipbuck and got it to display the map of the region. Thankfully, Tom City was only a few miles away, close enough that we could make it before sunset with a few hours to spare. Many tiring hours of walking later, for Fruity at least, we finally made it to Tom City as the sun began its decent. I gawked at the city or really, town since it wasn't that big, or really what was left of it. The town was absolutely destroyed; only a few buildings at the town's limits were still intact, while everything else was either in disrepair or totally blown to pieces. The middle of the town showed the most of this heavy destruction, with a mountain high wall of rubble sealing it off from the lesser damaged outer limits. I feared a balefire bomb had hit the town, but the damage looked more recent and I couldn't detect any hints of magical radiation.

We walked onto a street that only had one side with intact buildings and these included a bar, which Fruity stood longingly in front of the door too for a while before I had to drag him along, a store and several more buildings that had their doors all boarded up.

"What should we do?" I asked.

"I think it would be a good idea to stock up on supplies," Fruity said while gesturing to the shop with its working neon "Open" sign in the window.

"Good idea."

"You still got that bag of gems?" He asked.

I nodded, though the bag was a lot lighter than it was earlier. I had eaten good few of the gems to get my power cells back to one hundred percen,t but my Pipbuck was still telling me the bag had a considerable value.

We pushed open the door and I immediately had a Whinnychester M1887 Lever-Action 20 gauge Shotgun shoved into my face by an angry looking elderly stallion. I was really starting to hate knowing all these guns at first glance.

"You Stripes thing; you can just walk on in here and help yourself to my stuff, I don't think so," He growled angrily.

"Whoa, hey, pops she's cool, she's with me," Fruity said hoping to defuse the situation.

My vision flickered red for a moment before I closed my eyes and shook with fear, fear of having my head blown off and of the tingling in the back of my head.

"Please don't shoot!" I cried.

The stallion kept the gun pressed to my face for a moment before finally pulling it away. "Sorry, but with the last bunch of zebras you can't be too careful. Anyway, welcome to my humble little shop," The old colt said, doing a one eighty in personality; now, he seemed like a happy go lucky sort of pony. "Bastard's the name, or you can call me Right Bleeding, all my friends do, well, did."

"Why, what happened?" Fruity asked.

I facehoofed, oh, Fruity why did you ask?

"I killed them," The old stallion replied without a change in his current mood. "Now what can I get ya?"

Fruity and I exchanged a look and Fruity lifted a forehoof to his ear, thankfully out of sight of the stallion, and traced a circle in the air and nodded to the stallion. Yeah, I thought he had a screw loose too.

"Um, we’re just here to buy some supplies," I answered.

"Well, I've got pretty much anything, just got these new snacks in: Monkey Toenails, Cheese and Onion flavour." He paused for a moment. "Well… they’re just cheese really and they’re pretty strong."

"No thanks," Fruity and I both said at once. Damn, those sounded revolting.

"We'll have a look and get back to you," I said and mister Bastard nodded and went behind his counter.

Mr Bastard was right that he had pretty much everything, and we picked up plenty of things that should cover us for a while. Boy, what a name, I kinda felt sorry for that old guy.

"Um, excuse me Right Bleeding..." Fruity covered his mouth to stop a snicker from escaping. He quickly calmed himself down so he could finish. "Do you have any changing rooms?"

"Sure kid..." The old stallion stepped out from behind his counter and gestured to the open door behind him. "Just close the curtain."

Fruity nodded and quickly made his way through the curtain with a bundle under his foreleg that I didn't notice him pick up. What was he doing? Thankfully, I didn't have to wait long as he stepped out a minute later dressed in a brown duster that had holes cut into the back to let his wings through and a brown stetson hat rested on his head.

I blinked in confusion. "What are you wearing?" I asked, with a tilt of the head.

"What, we are in the Wild West aren't we? Thought I might as well look the part," He said with a goofy smile.

I couldn't help the smile that spread across my lips. He was so likeable. I looked down at my white and grey striped body, hmm, I suppose a change of clothes was in order since my Stable Suit went up in flames. I had to suppress a shudder at the memory of my suit burning up on my body, and the metal utility belt melting into my hide. Celestia, that was a dumb thing to do. I shook my head firmly and checked out what clothing items were still left. I found a rather skimpy looking nurse’s outfit that made me blush when I picked it up to look at it, and quickly put it back with my cheeks burning at the mental image of myself wearing it swimming around in my head. Practically everything indeed. I picked my way through the other clothing attire until I found a similar outfit to Fruity's.

"Is there a mirror in there?" I asked as I approached with the bundle.

"Yea, though it's a bit cracked."

I nodded and entered the changing room. I first slipped on a faded grey undershirt and then throw on the brown duster. The long coat covered my flank and my tail, though the bottom portion of my tail poked out from under it. Secondly I sat on my haunches in front of the mirror. Thankfully it wasn't cracked too badly; I could at least still see what I'm doing. I reached up with my forehooves and pulled my long mane back so it went between my ears and held it there while I used a free hoof to pluck out a blue braid I had picked up earlier, and then tied my mane back into a ponytail. Lastly, I then slipped a black desperado cowpony hat onto my head with my ears going though two holes so it could sit properly on my head. I took a step back to check myself out, and to straighten my outfit out, after I was happy with it, I smiled to myself. I certainly looked the part now, especially with my revolver sitting in its holster. Satisfied, I stepped out of the changing room.

"Well with that outfit as well, that brings the total up to six hundred and sixty six caps," Bastard said to Fruity as I rejoined him.

"That's a bit steep," I said, a little shocked.

"Steep? Its f-ing vertical."

"Hey, a pony's gotta make a living," Mr Bastard defended. I think I could see why he was called that now.

"Fine…" Fruity moaned as he began fishing out his caps. I did the same with my gems, plucking out a number of gems, while still leaving me with some as I'd need them later.

Right Bleeding Bastard spent a good five minutes estimating the value of the gems I had put down and then he counted the caps Fruity had and gave him back at least three hundred and fifty.

"Pleasure doing business with you," The old pony said as he stuffed the money and gems into a bit register.

"Err thanks."

Fruity and I then spent a few minutes evenly separating the supplies out so we had an equal share, although I got all the .357 Magnum rounds for Lucky 13, and Fruity had bought a combat knife. The dusters seemed to have enchanted pockets, so we could stuff as much of our stuff as we could into the pockets, and yet our coats weren't bulging. I believed the Pipbuck's item sorting spell would be needed to sort out what I wanted to pull out of the pockets in the future.

After making sure we had everything packed away, we bid Mr Bastard farewell and left. We resumed our previous motion of following the rail line. I smiled to myself at the familiarity of the heat of the sun beating down on me, the dryness of the air and the sandy, rocky landscape. It looked as if the Marejave escaped the devastation that had destroyed central and eastern Equestria, I could only hope.

As night fell, so did the temperature and if I thought it was cold in Manehattan during the day, dear Luna it was nothing compared to a desert's night.

"Fuck me it's cold," Fruity whined as a long strand of snot hung from his nose.

"Heh, welcome to the Marejave!" I joked. "And you might want to blow your nose."

He rolled his eyes and wiped his nose with his wing, then flicked it away.

"Ewwwwwwww."

I stopped walking as red bars began to appear in my EFS to our right. I could see movement in the corner of my eye, and it looked to be a big group of things.

"What is it?" Fruity asked as he noticed I had stopped.

"Hostile targets," I said and nodded in the direction of the movement.

Fruity looked and in the low light of the moon I could see Fruity pale. "What did you see?"

"A fuck ton of big lizards and they’re heading this way. And they look hungry," He said, backing away.

I turned and looked, and he was right. I recognised the look of the lizards to be similar to what geckos were like, but these were many times larger. I counted two dozen of them, way too many for us to take on. Looking around frantically, I spotted a building in the distance.

"There, run!" I shouted while pointing in the direction.

My shout alerted the geckos that we had noticed them and they all started to run after us. We galloped as fast as we could, jumping out rocks, jumping a rusty barrier beside a carriageway, jumping a concrete divider, over another barrier, running over more sand and rocks until we made it to the building. My Pipbuck alerted me to discovering the MASA (Marejave, Astronomical Space Agency) Headquarters. That’s where we grinded to a halt. The doors were locked.

Author's Note:

Edited by Alycorn~(CF)

I am super sorry for the delay. Work and Britian's unusually hot weather the last few weeks hadn't left me in a writing mood.

I hope everypony has enjoyed this chapter.