• Published 9th Apr 2012
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Fallout: Equestria - Memories - TheBobulator



One crazy pegasus, one roboleg, a contingent of Steel Rangers, and an adventure of infinite detours. Put all that together and what do you get? A rip-roaring mosh pit wrecking its way across the Wasteland, leaving nothing but confusion in its wake.

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Chapter 10: Can I have my body back?

Chapter 10: Can I have my body back?

“Well, it can’t get any worse.”


We arrived back in Happy Hills panting and shaking. More accurately, I arrived panting and shaking. Tabber was mildly airsick, but I didn’t really care. The second I found a clear patch of dirt, I dropped him and haphazardly landed next to him. I was in a massive amount of pain. My joints ached, my wings burned, and I could barely stand. I collapsed into a sweating, gasping, shaking, pile of fur and feathers.

Breathe, girl!

Trying. Hurts… to breathe.

Tabber staggered to his hooves. “I am not flying with you ever. Again.” He finally noticed me cringing on the ground. “Hey. Hey! You okay?” He looked around to the slack-jawed townsponies for help. “You!” He pointed at one at random. “I need a medic! Get Doc, now!”

I weakly attempted to stagger to my hooves. “I… think I’ll be fine.” I took a few shaky steps then I slammed into the ground. Ow. Ow. Ow. “Can a’ corn. Can of corn, I’ll… be… fine.” I passed out at that point, just in time to see somepony show up with Doc in tow.

~~~~~

“On the bright side, at least we made it.” I woke up to the sound of Gala Frosty’s voice. Okay, my voice. Whatever. “How are you feeling?”

I hopped out of bed. “At least I don’t feel pain here,” I replied, testing my movement. “You notice anything out of the ordinary recently?”

“Well…” She pointed at Raider’s steel door. “It’s still open, but at least she’s not trying to maul us.” Both of us peeked into the room. Raider Frosty was just huddled up into the corner muttering to herself. “She just kinda… sits there.”

“Right. Uh. How’s the rest of us?” I asked, backing away from the door with Gala Frosty.

Gala Frosty looked over into the living room. “Well, Drunky’s been really… out of it lately.” She pointed at the prone pegasus lying down on the couch. “She’s just been quiet. Too quiet.” Both of us went over to her.

“Hayyy giiiiirls….” Drunk Frosty slurred. “Waaaz happeninn?”

“Uh… what’s wrong with you?” I asked. I looked around the room. No empty bottles, no drool on the pillows. “Are… are you okay?” Her eyes were unfocused and she just laid there, staring at the ceiling.

“Tooootally. Howyaa dooin?” Drunk Frosty lazily rolled over and fell off the couch. She giggled and stumbled to her hooves. “Hehe. You know, I love me.” I suddenly became the recipient of a sloppy whiskey-scented kiss. Don’t blame me for not moving. Or reacting. How often do you get the chance to kiss yourself? I mean, really.

Gala Frosty pushed us apart. “Okay, lovebirds, break it up.” Drunk Frosty plopped herself back onto the couch with a giggle. “Look, whatever’s going on with you is going to affect us. Figure it out while you can. There’s no telling what’ll happen if—”

Both of us stopped when Raider Frosty stalked into the room. There was something about her that made me hesitate to speak. She looked more bedraggled. More bloody. More… insane, if that was possible. The gaze of her bloodshot eyes landed on me. “Hungry,” she growled.

“Look, I’m sorry I haven’t gotten to any cherry snack cakes recently. Things have been hectic, you know?” I explained, backing away from her slow advance. “I’ll munch on a few later, okay?”

“No.” She tapped my nose with a bloody talon. “Hungry,” she emphasized, licking the blood off of it.

“Uh.” I looked to Gala Frosty for assistance. “How do I…”

“Bring me out. Let me out. Fight. Give in.” She pushed me against the wall. “Kill.”

And then as suddenly as it begun, Raider Frosty slunk back into her room and closed her door. It didn’t click shut, however. She’d left it slightly ajar. Her incomprehensible mumbling started up again.

“She’s creepy.” Filly Frosty sleepily mumbled, floating into the room. “I don’t like her.” She perched herself onto my head and settled in.

“I don’t either.” I reached up and scratched her ears. “How are you doing?”

Filly Frosty murmured something and snuggled into my frizzy mane. “You smell funny,” she simply replied. Thanks, me. Note to self, get a damn bath. “What’s wrong with everypony?”

“I don’t know. I think I just need a break. Or something.” I sighed and continued scratching Filly Frosty. “Something’s wrong with me, and I’ll eventually figure it out. I think.”

Gala Frosty looked thoughtful. “I guess that’s the best we can hope for.”

“Hey, speaking of which, what’s wrong with you?” I asked Gala Frosty. She looked away. “Each one of me is ridiculous, completely bucking insane, or tired. What’s with you?”

“I don’t wanna talk about it,” Gala Frosty replied.

“C’mon. You know what’s going on in my head on a daily basis. It only seems fair that you tell me, right?” I said, patting her mane. “It’s not like you can be any more crazy than I am.” I grinned and she smiled a little.

“You know how I’m the representation of your sanity, hopes, and logic?” Okay, now I know. “Well, now you do,” she added, sensing my realization. “I think I’m going crazy. I see things.” Her voice dropped to a whimper. “Things that shouldn’t happen. Things that will. Things that don’t make sense.”

Filly Frosty climbed off my head and floated onto Gala Frosty’s head. “It’s okay. We’re all not feeling like ourselves. Yourself. Whatever.” She sleepily replied and stifled a cute little yawn. D’awww. I’m so adorable. “Everything’ll hopefully be back to normal in no time.

I really hoped so. I hugged Gala Frosty tightly. Was it possible for my split personalities to go crazy? I was a little scared that my calm, collected, smart version of me was panicking. “We’ll be fine. We’ll be fine,” I chanted. Would we? I closed my eyes and brushed Gala Frosty’s mane.

~~~~~

I woke up to the sound of arguing. The world was unfocused, blinding, and filled with pain. I was back in Doc’s clinic again, lying down in the beds in the backroom. I groaned and scooted myself toward the edge of my bed. Everything hurt, I had a cold sweat going, and my wings stung with pain. “I need a bucking drink,” I croaked.

The arguing voices abruptly stopped and then appeared in front of me. Rumcake was anxiously staring down at me. On the other side of the bed, Doc was surprisingly worried too. “Hey there, sport! Glad to see you’re not dead!” Doc enthusiastically blurted.

Rumcake reached over me and whapped Doc’s horn. “Hey. Get a little serious here, will you? Now, what’s wrong with her?”

Doc rubbed his horn irritably, then lit it with magic and placed it against my head. An unpleasant tingle washed through my body again. But at this point, it felt much better than the pain I was in. “She’s just going through some Med-X withdrawal combined with a little bit of complications from the last battle.”

“What’re my options, Doc?” I resisted the urge to retch when I tried to sit up. “Ugh. I feel like I got hit by a hailstorm.” Every little movement I made caused a little stab of pain.

Doc raised a hoof. “One. You ride out the withdrawal and stallion up.” He raised his other hoof. “Or two. I hit you with another Med-X. It’ll keep you up and running for a short while, but the withdrawal will be incrementally worse.” Okay, that sounds like a terrible option. “Or three.” He raised a hindleg. “I give you some Fixer. It’s only temporary, and I’m ninety percent sure it’s addictive on its own.”

“All of these sound like terrible choices.” I coughed. “Damn, I need a drink.” Rumcake gently pushed an open water bottle up against my muzzle. I eagerly slurped up the water, feeling a little more invigorated with each gulp. “Aaah. That’s better.” I sighed contentedly and the urge to throw up faded away.

“Well, the decision is all yours,” Doc continued, putting his hooves back on the ground. “What’ll it be?”

I weakly reached out for the Med-X on the far table. “Gimme,” I grunted, trying to will the syringe toward me. Anything to get rid of the pain. Damn these short legs! I waved my forelegs hopelessly at the Med-X. “Gimme.”

Rumcake swatted my forelegs disapprovingly. “No. The last thing I need is you turning into a painkiller addict.” He glared at me as he collected up the Med-X into a little pouch and stuffed it into of Doc’s pockets. “I need you clean.”

A whimper squeezed past my muzzle. “It hurts.” I curled myself up protectively. “Please.”

His expression softened. “Look, I know it’s tough. It’s painful, but I need you. I’m sorry.” His pink mane dangled into my face. If I wasn’t feeling like pounded crap, I would have been tempted to swat at it. “Oh, right, before I forget. Your callsign is ‘Pidgeon’, so don’t forget it.”

Of course it would be.

A fully-armored Steel Ranger burst into the room. “The Diamond Seeker squadron is geared up and waiting.” The Ranger shifted uneasily after a few seconds. “Sir, if I may ask, how many slavers are we expecting?”

Rumcake turned to the Ranger and patted his shoulder. “Too damned many.” Rumcake picked up his helmet off the ground and shoved his head into it. “Tell the Seekers I’m on my way.”

Rumcake left. I actually contemplated stealing the Med-X from Doc’s pocket the second he wasn’t paying attention. He noticed my sudden fascination with his pocket. “Look, going clean isn’t the easiest thing, I admit. But you need to kick the habit as soon as possible.”

I gave him my best sad filly eyes. “But…”

“Don’t look at me like that.” Doc tried to look away, but failed. “Alright, alright.” He looked around and pulled out an injection patch loaded with a familiar-looking orange syrup. “Here. Knowing you, you’re going to need this.” He tucked it behind my wing. “Try not to use it. Contrary to popular belief, I actually care about your health.”

Oh, really?

“Wow… thanks, Doc.” I held it tightly to my side.

“Don’t mention it.” He sighed and tiredly grinned. “Wait, seriously don’t mention it. Your coltfriend might kill me.”

Rumcake? My coltfriend?

Yeah. Totally. Get with the program.

I laughed anyway and instantly regretted it. Ow. Laughing hurts, too? Not fair. “He won’t kill you.”

He shrugged. “I’m not risking it.” He pointed at the ceiling. “I was informed by the Rangers that they need a sniper on a good vantage point. It turns out that my humble medical malpractice clinic is the perfect location. Your rifle is upstairs on the roof, Tabber’s waiting up there, and Sleazy left you a few things.” Yay. I laid in the bed and looked at Doc expectantly. “I’m not carrying you.”

After an intense staring contest, Doc gave in and levitated me up onto the roof. He refused to talk to me after that, though. I climbed the short ladder up to an elevated platform that seemed to formerly be a part of the second floor. Tabber absentmindedly waved at me while staring through a large pair of binoculars. “Welcome. I’ve been waiting for you.”

I stopped halfway up. “Wait, what?”

“Just kidding. Feeling better?” he asked, still scanning the horizon with his binoculars.

“Not really.” I winced. Even walking around caused slight discomfort. “Wow, where’d all this stuff come from?” I asked, finally noticing my beloved anti-machine rifle propped up by its bipod right next to an older model sniper rifle. There were several boxes of respective ammo lying next to them. My armored duster was neatly folded up in a small pile on top of my saddlebag, and right on top of my duster was a newly refurbished Philomena’s Touch.

“Sleazy really followed through. Pulled all the stops.” He pointed out weapons wielded by ponies as he brought them up. “Assault rifles. Shotguns. Rocket launchers. Even a few multiple grenade launchers. Everything battle-saddleable. Insane.” I tucked Philomena’s Touch into a pocket in my saddlebag.

At least he’d finally found the glimmer of generosity in his rotting heart. I pulled on my gear, holding back little whimpers of pain. Duster, check. I tucked the injector into an inner pocket before I forgot. Saddlebag, check. “Alright, how about a sitrep on our positions?”

“Blasters are at the barricades. Earthshakers are set up with their artillery inside the perimeter. Diamonds are heading down into the tunnels to wipe up the elite slavers. Rest of the Rangers are placed along the walls with the militia.” Tabber pointed out a spot on the horizon. “And… wait, what the buck is that?” he whispered in confusion.

If the team spy is confused, that’s not good. I laid down next to my anti-machine rifle (which had the enhanced scope attachment, thank Luna) and peered down the sight. Lo and behold, it was a glimmering shield blocking the path toward Happy Hills. “That doesn’t look good.”

He put down the binoculars, then took off his helmet, then took off his gas mask, then pulled off a glove so that he could rub his eyes. Huh, how tedious. “Looks like a unicorn shield on a much larger scale. I really hope they don’t have any damn super-unicorns.” He facehoofed. “Crap. Red Eye probably sent his damned alicorns.”

Strong, fast, and basically big fat cheaters on the battlefield, from what Tabber told me last time. The only one I’d spotted decided to pull a disappearing act, so I was going to have to hope that they’d go down without the velocity attachment.

I put down my rifle and examined the sniper rifle next to it. Didn’t seem very unusual at all. Just your run-of-the-mill earth pony sniper rifle with the massive button on the side for firing. “I suggest that you use this one for slightly less zealous overkill. After all, three-oh-eights are easier to find,” Tabber added.

While I examined the stock of ammunition we had and estimated how many targets I could fling into the sun as opposed to simply killing them, something pulled my attention away from the matter at hoof. “Oh hey, what’s that?” I tugged a slightly scuffed bright pink bobblehead out from under a few burned books and a large chunk of wall. “Don’t I have one of you already?” I mostly muttered to myself. That was a matter for later, so I pocketed the toy.

Tabber put all his gear back on. “Our best bet with the damned alicorns is to shoot them while their shields are down. Everything dies, after all.” I peered into the sniper rifle’s sight and attempted to make anything out behind the shield. At this distance, it was nearly impossible to see through it, even with the extreme magnification of the sniper rifle’s scope. Shapes were moving around back there, but I couldn’t see anything identifiable.

The sniper rifle was right-hoofed. Hm. I tested loading a clip, cycling the bolt, and just getting the feel for the gun. It felt weird, mostly because I’d been left-hoofedly firing my anti-machine rifle because of my claw. On the bright side, to switch weapons all I had to do was scoot over a few inches. “Wait, so are you here to keep watch or are you my spotter?”

“I’m your spotter,” he replied with disdain. “Oh, one more thing.”

Tabber produced a PipBuck—not any PipBuck, but the very same PipBuck that I had been strapped with all that time ago. “Here. I managed to snag this back for you, since it’ll probably help keep you alive.” PipBuck, PipBuck, PipBuck. And… now it didn’t sound like a word at all.

“Awesome!” I immediately snapped the PipBuck onto my right foreleg and watched the magical bars and stuff appear in my vision again. “What do you mean by ‘snagged’?” A warning box suddenly obstructed my vision, helpfully suggesting that I go through the tutorial once again. “What? No, I don’t want to read the tutorial.”

“The Rangers may not be aware that their quartermaster has an oddly disturbing attraction to socks and can be bribed to momentarily have a lapse of attention with them.” Tabber shrugged. “Keep your enemies close and your socially unacceptable kinks closer.”

Apparently I really needed to look at this tutorial, according to the PipBuck. “Go away already!” I tried swatting at the air where the ‘no’ button was still located, to no effect.

“That’s not nice.”

I took a turn to swat at Tabber as well. “Not you. Stupid window won— oh, there it goes.” Something I did worked, since the box went away.

“Now hold on a second, is this a bribe?” For all I knew, that was something he actively did, every gift—even the muzzle attachment for my rifle—seemed like it had an ulterior motive. “What’s your game here?”

Very unconvincingly, Tabber chuckled. “Hey, can’t a stallion be nice every now and then?”

I didn’t really feel like arguing as I looked over my PipBuck. There was a familiar-looking device plugged into the side of it, a device that I hadn’t had the time to thoroughly inspect when Broken Parts had given it to me. Why did she have it, again? “Oh, so that’s what the disruptionmajig thingy attaches to. Wait, you went through my stuff?”

“I pride myself on my ability to acquire anything I need.” Tabber pointedly ignored my disapproving glare. “I found it while I was going through your stuff. No, I don’t know what it actually does.”

Hold on a second, was that the sound of privacy violation? “You went through my stuff?” I narrowed my eyes at him.

I had a good feeling that Tabber was turning red underneath that stupid mask of his. “It was only to look for anything you may have needed.”

“You tell yourself that.” I was about to leave it there, but I was annoyed just enough for a playful jab. “Or does the big bad secret agent have a creepy crush on poor li’l Frosty?”

Without being able to see the look on Tabber’s stupid face, my little taunt didn’t really have the entertainment value that I hoped for. “What? You’re obviously seeing our professional relationship in completely the wrong light.”

Hmm. Suspicious stallion was suspicious, and I made a reminder to myself to keep an eye on him. “Aaaalright. Keep your nose out from where it doesn’t belong and we’ll be fine,” I brought us back on track to break the awkward silence. “So, where’s Baked?

“He’s down there with the Earthshakers,” Tabber replied, pointing at what passed for the town square. There were seven Steel Rangers sitting down with their legs apart to help balance the giant cannons mounted on their backs. I assumed they were sitting like that so when the guns fired, they wouldn’t fall over. Behind them were several piles of shells and ten scribes hurriedly cleaning the guns, making the Rangers comfortable, and the like.

“Those are some big bucking guns.” I whistled. “Impressive.”

“Yup.” Tabber looked through his binoculars again. “I’ll take first watch. I’ve got good caps they’ll attack at night.”

“I can’t sleep right now. I’m not tired yet.” I sighed and dug through my saddlebag for the velocity attachment for my anti-machine rifle. “I’ve spent too much time passed out.”

“Unconsciousness is not the same as sleep,” Tabber reminded me. “And everywhere is a bed if you try hard enough.”

“I know.” I rubbed my sore and stiff muscles in an attempt to reduce the pain. “I am not looking forward to shooting later.” Just touching my forelegs caused a little pain. I didn’t want to imagine the increased pain of rifle recoil.

A bottle was placed into my field of vision. “Sweet Apple Acres’ Hard Cider” was written across the label. “Here. Just a little. Just to take the edge off, but I don’t need you drunk.”

Hm. Cider, eh? I took a tentative sip from the bottle. Appley! Mmmm… a sort of warm happy tingling definitely made the pain disappear for a short while. I was tempted to drink the rest of it, but Tabber snatched the bottle back.

“Aww. But I want it!” I tried the sad foal eyes on him.

It wasn’t very effective. “That’s enough. Go to sleep.”

“I don’t wanna,” I pouted. “I’m not tired.”

Tabber gave an exasperated sigh. “Alright, fine. Help me keep watch then.” I hopped back onto my anti-machine rifle and continued monitoring the shield using the sight. I felt a hoof on my neck. “Sorry about this. Nighty night.”

“You’re not so—” There was a sudden pressure, then nothing.

~~~~~

I was brought out of my ninja-induced coma by an urgent shake. “Eyes up. Something’s happening out there.” Tabber pointed out toward where the shield used to be. “They’re gathering.”

I crawled over to Tabber and jabbed his flank. “You knocked me out!”

“Unconsciousness may not be as good as sleep, but it's better than nothing. You need to be in tip-top shape, but at least you’re looking a slight bit better now. How do you feel?” The pain was bearable, but still prodding annoyingly at my body.

“I could be feeling better if I wasn’t unconscious all the time,” I grudgingly replied. “So what’s going on down there?” I asked, looking down the anti-machine rifle sight again. Slavers were gathering on the road. There were so many slavers! So much red and blue striping everywhere! They seemed ready to attack, but they were just waiting for a large purple alicorn to finish wildly gesturing. “…Are they listening to a speech?”

“Looks like it, yeah.” Tabber settled into his corner. I double-checked the magazine and made sure there was a round loaded. “What are you doing?” He narrowed his eyes at me, probably guessing what I was about to do. “Targets. Purple in the middle, two greens, maybe a few more in the back. About nine hundred meters, southwest wind.”

“Doc Frosty’s diagnosis: Extreme Sociopathy,” I muttered, checking my aim. I adjusted for distance and wind. Deep breath.

One. The wind suddenly died down and I adjusted my aim accordingly.

Two.

Three. I slowly exhaled and squeezed the trigger. “Cure? Administer high velocity anti-everything lead therapy to the cranium.” The kick of the rifle slammed into my shoulder and brought tears to my eyes. Ow. Pain. Ow.

The alicorn’s entire head vaporized in a massive cloud of red. I cycled the bolt and wiped the tears away. “Woah. Talk about a show-stopper.” Tabber sniggered a little and continued. “Oh yeah, that got their attention. Green one, five meters to the right. Not happy.”

It was looking in all directions, its horn glowing with evil-looking magic. “Free samples!” I yelled, instinctively adjusting my aim for center mass. “Get some!” Boom, another alicorn down. Yay, super high caliber bullets! The cure-all for those damn shields. Unfortunately for us, the next green one looked right at us and began to charge a spell.

“To the left!” Tabber urgently yelled. “I don’t want to find out if they’ve got range to hit us.”

“I see it!” I yelled back, lining up the next shot. A fraction of a second before I fired, the damn thing disappeared from my scope. “Buck!” I cycled the bolt and located it for another shot. I fired again, and it dodged. “This thing is damn smart!” Apparently not smart enough to multitask. One of the Blaster Boys lined up a good shot and hit it with a rocket. The alicorn let out a keening wail and crashed to the ground.

I was about to confirm the kills when I realized I hadn’t been supplied with a two-way radio of my own. That also reminded me that I wasn’t actually sure what standard operating procedure for the Rangers actually were. Confirming kills didn’t seem to be a thing that they did, from my experience. I chalked it up to their armor keeping track of enemies and left it at that.

The rest of the Blasters laid into the downed alicorn with disturbing excitement, firing additional bullets and ordinance. “Well, if that isn’t overkill I don’t know what is.” Tabber scanned the gathered slavers. “Shock’s worn off. They’re regrouping and getting ready to charge.” He picked up a radio out of nowhere and calmly spoke into it “Earthshakers, this is Eagle Eye. Target zone Bravo. Hold five, fire for effect. Bring the pain.”

Something in the air pulled me out of my shooting trance. I turned this way and that, sniffing the air like a hellhound. It was something about the way the wind tickled my feathers and the faint tingle of moisture in the air. “Storm’s coming,” I said simply.

“Oh yes, indeed,” Tabber gleefully replied. “Watch.” The charging slavers were starting to spread out, but they were still a large semi-organized body heading directly at us. The Rangers stood there without reacting. The militia and townsponies were nervously glancing back and forth at each other and the Rangers. Suddenly the Earthshakers opened fire two by two (or three, for the last salvo of course) and a moment later large artillery shells smashed into the slavers, reducing their numbers greatly. “Yeah! Go explosives!”

I grimly watched through the sniper rifle’s scope. I’d switched after mentioning the storm because I wasn’t going to waste an entire army’s worth of anti-machine ammunition shooting slavers, as effective as it would be. “That’s not the storm I’m talking about.” I pulled my forelegs out of the duster’s sleeves and pulled the duster up over my head as a makeshift hood.

“What are you talk—” Tabber started, then was immediately assaulted by the freak rainstorm I was anticipating. “A little heads up would have been nice,” he dourly replied, trying to wipe rain off the lenses of his gas mask.

“I told you there was a storm coming,” I replied while I eliminated the largest, most flamboyant slavers in the charge. The Earthshakers were done for the moment, so everypony on the walls opened fire. “Keep an eye out for anything that seems to want to kill us.”

I had a sudden thought, thanks to the torrential downpour. “What if rain came down all at once and not in raindrops?”

“Just imagine thousands of ponies being pushed violently to the ground by a single sheet of water.”

And so I did try to imagine it, which caused me to miss a shot because I was giggling too hard.

The next few minutes passed like hours. Tabber pointed out targets for me, and I eliminated them aggressively. My stump felt like it was going to fall off. Every shot slammed the rifle’s stock into my poor aching shoulder. “This seems too easy,” I mentioned to Tabber. “A frontal assault is suicide, don’t they know that?”

“I think so.” Tabber pointed out a slaver armed with a rocket launcher. “Take him out.” That particular slaver had the other half of his brain removed with one of my bullets. “Flamethrowers near the gates.” I gave the three flamethrower slavers nosebleeds coming out of the backs of their heads.

“Wait… any word from the Diamonds?” I worriedly asked. Rumcake was with them! We hadn’t heard any news from the tunnels. As far as we knew, the slaver elite troops could have wiped out the Diamond Seekers.

“Relax. Their radios probably can’t get any signal. As far as I know—” Tabber urgently pointed at a pair of green alicorns that had erected a shield against the Blaster Boys’ rocket and grenade barrage. “Target sighted! Four hundred meters, green and angry!”

“I see them.” I scooted back to the left and picked up the anti-machine rifle. “Now let’s find out which one of you idiots has more blood in your head.” I took a deep breath and prepared to take two shots. One. Two. Three. I tensed my shoulder. Four. Five. I let the first shot loose and mechanically cycled the bolt for the next shot. The bullet removed the first alicorn’s entire neck.

My search for the next target was interrupted by a strange cracking noise that sounded disturbingly close to me. “Behind, behind!” Tabber shouted. I pulled out of my shot just in time to dodge a purple alicorn’s magical fireball laser thing. It was on the roof with us! How did it get there?! I scrambled backward, dragging my anti-machine rifle along with me. Tabber charged at the alicorn and actually caused it to stumble backward in shock.

It yelled at me. Or more accurately, it bellowed into my mind, “The Goddess tires of your petty attempts at combat!” I cringed. The last thing I needed was my brain to hurt as well.

Kill it! We’ll keep it out as long as possible!

The alicorn hesitated for a second. “What? How are you—

A second was all I needed. I flipped onto my back and dropped my rifle between my hindlegs, resting the bipod on either shin. “I’m going to throw you into the sun!” I giddily yelled, lining up the shot.

The purple alicorn must have panicked, because she let off a brilliant burst of light that all but blinded me. Worst of all, I’d been looking right at her the entire time and her image was burned into my retinas. “Why can’t I move?!

That looked like it hurt.

It did! I couldn’t rub my eyes or else I’d lose my aim on the alicorn… which hopefully hadn’t moved while I was blinded…

We won’t be able to hold her for long, so hurry up!

Alright. But first, a question.

Is this really the time?

Maybe I had a point. In the meantime, I attempted to blink away the blinding lights in my vision, to no avail.

You can’t even hit me—you’re blind!” the alicorn gloated.

“Wrong answer. I don’t need my eyes to kill you at this range.” I heard Tabber dive for cover to my right. I pulled the trigger and several things happened at once. I was sprinkled with blood and gore, the rifle butt slammed into my chest from the recoil, and I ended up sliding backward a few feet as well. As I woozily climbed to my hooves, Tabber was experimentally poking the neckless alicorn with what I assumed was mild fright.

“That’s one way to take care of that.” Tabber walked over and gently took my head in his hooves. “How’s your vision?” he asked, dangling the cord of his binoculars in front of me.

I backed away and coughed. My duster had fallen off during the scuffle, and I watched the rain slowly wash the blood off my coat. My vision was slowly returning to normal, but the pain was back in full force. “Getting better.” A sickening cough prompted me to stop and lie down. “I think that broke a rib.” Again.

“Let’s get you dry first. Can you walk?” Tabber picked up my duster and draped it over me. I nodded. “Good.” He looked back to the battlefield. “Get down to the clinic. There’s a ladder underneath that plywood there.” He motioned at a boarded up opening. “I can keep the place covered.”

I spat out a bloody glob. Uh oh. “Right. Got it.” I tore up the loose boards and pretty much fell in. “Ow.” I’d fallen into the front of Doc’s clinic. “Medic.” And, for what must have been the third time today, was about to pass out. Again. Good work, brain.

I was grabbed and dropped into a bed before I could totally pass out. “Oh no you don’t.” Doc growled. “Now, let’s see what’s wrong with you.” Unpleasant tingle. “Ribs again, eh? Minor internal bleeding…”

“Ugh… can you fix me without cutting me up again?” I mumbled. “Las’ thing I need is less ribs.”

Doc placed his hooves on my chest. “Don’t worry. I think I know what I’m doing.” A strong magical tugging sensation built up in my chest. “I’ve only done this twice, so give me a little credit here…”

“That’s not very encouraaaaauuugh!” I screamed. It felt like something was trying to jump out of my chest. There was a muted cracking noise, and the tightness in my chest loosened up. “Ahh. That feels better.”

Doc hastily shoved a healing potion down my muzzle, bottle and all. “Your rib should be back in position. Potion should take care of the bleeding. I gotta go, patients to treat and stuff.”

I coughed up the bottle and uncorked it first. Wow, he was really in a rush. I drank down the potion and immediately felt better. Everything was starting to come up, Frosty! “Thanks Doc!” I called after him. I flew back up to the roof through the hole.

The road outside was no longer remotely recognizable as a road. Blood coated the dirt, creating a swampy, gory mess the slavers had to wade through and take cover in. Body parts littered the crater-marked landscape. Part of the wall on the northeastern side was breached, but the Blaster Boys were giddily defending it with their rocket launchers.

“Status report, Tabbie,” I singsonged. Needless to say my mood was improving, mostly because the unbearable pain had decreased to a dull ache.

He fired the rifle again. “They. Are. Angry. And there’s a lot of them too.” He reloaded the sniper rifle and motioned to my anti-machine rifle. “I need a hoof here.” Suddenly, an idea dropped into my mind. I laid down next to him and went through the motions of reloading the rifle. “It’s already loaded. What’re you doing?”

“This might kill me, so be prepared for anything. I didn’t buy these because they were safe or stable.” I carefully loaded one of the blue-banded shock bullets into my rifle. Don’t use in wet situations? I cynically observed my surroundings. It was raining. The gun was wet. My claw was wet. Heck, I was wet. I aimed for the largest clump of slavers hiding in a blast crater.

“Why does this seem like a bad idea?” Tabber sighed and emptied another clip. He shook his head. “Sometimes I question your sanity.”

“I don’t. I know I’m crazy.” I took a deep breath and focused on the fancy-hat wearing slaver sitting in the middle of his comrades.

One.

Two. I did a last minute adjustment when he moved forward a little.

Three.

Four.

Fi-Hurugugugurrrrhk! The firing of the shock bullet caused arcs of electricity to jump down the body of the gun, up my claw, and directly into my body.

“Dammit, why does this always happen to you?” Tabber dropped the rifle and rushed over. I was spasmodically twitching on the ground, holding onto my rifle with a death grip. “The last thing I need right now is to have to get the defibrillator.”

I took a few huge breaths, attempting to not bite my tongue off in the process. “I-I’m okay. Wow, okay, let’s n-not do that again.” I shuddered and wrangled my limbs back into my control. “Okay, I’m not dead. That’s a start. I may have peed myself a little.” Just to check, I shifted my hindquarters. “Yup. I did, in fact, just pee myself.”

I immediately shoved the rest of the blue-banded bullets aside. “So, let’s pretend that never happened.” My right hindleg involuntarily twitched. Yeah. Never speak of this. You too, brain.

What?

Shut up.

A loud explosion rocked the building. Both of us looked at each other. “That’s not good,” Tabber said.

“No shit.”

“Sounded like that came from the elevator,” he continued, ignoring me. He looked around the battlefield. “I don’t see any heavy weapons out there, do you?”

“What else could it be? Sabotage?” I asked. Wait. That slaver that surrendered. “Damn, I should have seen that coming,” I muttered. I mentally beat myself up.

Ow!

Stupid, stupid Frosty! “I trust ponies too easily.” I sighed. Dammit, this was my fault now.

Tabber punched me in the jaw. Just a quick jab but damn, it hurt. “Quit your whining and do something about it!” I shamefully looked back at him. “Look, trust isn’t something that’s easily found in the Wasteland.” He shoved me toward the edge of the roof. “Go check it out. I’ll do fine on my own.”

I nodded and pulled all my gear back on.

Duster?

Check.

Saddlebag?

Check.

AM rifle?

I stared at my my anti-machine rifle and slung it across my back anyway. Might as well bring it into a small enclosed space. Check. Neglected short-range submachine gun? Check.

Common sense?

Check.

You sure about that?

Shut up, brain.

I took off from the roof and flew directly toward the elevator that led down to Underhill. Fortunately, nopony thought it was a good idea to shoot at the low-flying pegasus. I made it to the elevator without a scratch. The elevator itself was a mess. The building was blasted and thick black smoke was leaking out of the grated doors. A Ranger stumbled over to me and collapsed. “Hey, corncakes… I think ah need a goshdarn medic.”

“What happened here?” I urgently asked. Wait… that voice… “Cabbage Stew?”

Cabbage Stew nodded. “Damn dirty slaver ambushed me with a mountain of ‘splosives.” He groaned. “And by all things holy and Celestia, that no-good ninja bitch needs to go to Tartarus.”

“Down the elevator?” I looked at the smoke leaking from the elevator shaft. Oh, this wouldn’t be good.

Cabbage nodded. “Eyup.” He crawled over to the elevator’s ruined grate doors and held them open for me. “Go on, ladies first.” He weakly chuckled. “Give ‘er a little frontier justice for me, will ya?”

“Sure thing.” I stood at the edge of the shaft. My eyes watered from the acrid smoke that still billowed out of the elevator shaft, but I could at least tell there wasn’t any fire waiting for me at the bottom. “Uh… will you be okay?” Blood was slowly bubbling through cracks in his armor. Not normal.

He waved me away. “I’ll flag down a medic. Y’all don’t worry about me.” He grunted and peered down the shaft. “Looks dark. Good luck.”

“Thanks.” I gritted my teeth and dived into the darkness. “Here goes nothing.” When I was riding the elevator before, I thought the shaft was miles deep. Flying in headfirst was a stupid idea. It was hard to see through the smoke, and I nearly had a heart attack when an obstruction materialized through the smoke. I barely had enough time to flare my wings for a stop and I slammed into the roof of the elevator car after less than two minutes of diving. “Ow.” I stood up and shook out the unpleasant tingle in my hooves.

A tiny crack of light showed through bits of rubble. Most of it was too large for me to move. Now how do I get in there? I spied a small hatch on the roof right next to where I’d landed. I smashed it open and slunk in, keeping to the ceiling. Luckily, the elevator crashed in such a way that I could still enter the tunnels.

The hub was untouched, but dark. No signs of combat, no blood, no tell-tale Ranger craters, nothing. I cautiously dropped to the ground. “Hello? Rumcake? Diamond Seekers?” I whispered. My quiet voice echoed off the empty tunnels. Not good.

I was walking around the hub, trying to find some trace of the Diamond Seekers. An armored foreleg that was sticking out from underneath a collapsed section of wall deep inside the East tunnel caught my attention. I looked around for any obvious traps. I crept over to the unfortunate Steel Ranger and poked the hoof, half expecting movement.

The hoof twitched. I think. “You alive in there?” I hissed. I started shifting smaller bits of rubble off the Ranger. A feminine groan rattled its way out of the helmet. “You okay?” I slid a large curved slab off her.

She coughed violently. “Feels worse than the time I beat Baked Potato at shots.” Her armor was crumpled and dented in some places, but it was slowly pushing itself back into place. “Hey, uh, Frosty.” I grabbed her forelegs and pulled her out of the Steel Ranger shaped indent in the floor.

“Uh… Sparkle Cola, I presume?” I dug around in my saddlebag and offered her a healing potion. “Can you tell me what happened?”

She shook her head. “Thanks, but I don’t need it. Built-in med suite.” She pointed down into the familiar dim tunnels I’d traversed once. “Somepony smart decided to override the Sentry Bots that still work and reprogrammed them to attack us. One of ‘em fired a rocket at us and I got flattened by that wall coming down.” She angrily punched the wall. “Stupid wall. What are walls good for?” That gave me a giggle.

After fiddling with the controls a bit, I was able to turn up the backlight on my brand new PipBuck to use as a flashlight. There was an alert waiting for me as I cranked up the brightness. I tapped in the flashing button and a message furiously wrote itself into my vision. ‘Mk.3 Electronic Disruption Device recharged.’ Cool. So I had that. The message erased itself and it was replaced with ‘Surge Arc systems booted and charged. 72% stability. Authorize anyway? Y/N’ Uh. Wat?

“Hey, you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Sparkle Cola waved in front of me. “Is there something I’m not seeing up there?” She glanced into the darkness ahead. “Anypony in there?”

“What?” I finally responded. I’d unconsciously stopped to read the text currently obstructing my vision. “What’s happening?” I tapped the ‘Y’ button. The message disappeared, allowing me to see again. I raised my PipBuck. “Sorry, my computer thingy was getting in the way.”

“My systems are still rebooting. E.F.S. say anything?”

“What’s E.F.S.?”

Somehow, even beneath her helmet I could tell Sparkle was rolling her eyes at me. “It stands for Eyes-Forward Sparkle. There should be a horizontal bar across the top of your vision. There’ll be little vertical bars inside that bar that represent living things. Blue bars mean it’s friendly, red bars mean it wants to kill you. Yellow means it’s an ambiguous threat.”

Huh, that’s convenient. I looked up. Just Sparkle-Cola’s blue bar. “Nope. Nopony here but us dust bunnies.”

“Good. Wait, where’s the rest of Diamond?” I heard her power up a pair of power hooves. “They’ve got to be in here somewhere,” she muttered, scanning our surroundings more vigilantly.

A new blue bar appeared at the top of my vision for a fleeting moment. I guess that meant somepony friendly was somewhere further down the tunnel and to the right. “Somepony’s up ahead. The E.F.S. says it’s not a hostile.”

“You lead. I have no idea where anything is,” Sparkle muttered, casting shifty glances at every shadow. “I’ll cover your six.” I followed the corridor according to my map in an approximation of where I’d seen the bar. Sparkle fell in line behind me, her charged power hooves stompity-stomping on the concrete floor.

Strange noises echoed off the walls. “Damn, this place gives me the creeps.” Even though I’d been here once, the dim lighting really changed the atmosphere. “Keep your grenade launcher away. Last thing we need is to get caved in,” I reminded, changing the subject.

Sparkle snorted. “I’m not geared with that stuff.” I looked back at her with mild surprise. Steel Rangers without grenade launchers? Preposterous! “Power hooves and a minigun. Perfect for close quarters combat,” she retorted with glee.

“Somehow I find a minigun for close combat a bit much.” I continued following the left wall of the tunnel, since doing that always brought you to your destination. “I think we’re getting close,” I notified her, dropping into a low crouch. The one blue bar had turned into a bunch of blue and yellow bars. “Uh… don’t call me paranoid or anything, but why don’t you go ahead and talk to the ambiguously friendly lines?” It just didn’t seem like standard Ranger protocol to stand about in a hostile area, and Sparkle was the armored one anyway.

“Are they friendly?” Sparkle hesitantly asked, her minigun popping out of her battle saddle.

“Uh, ambiguously? Blues are Diamond, and I assume the yellows are Diamond’s prisoners,” I deduced. There was only a wall separating us and the multitude of possibly friendly bars. “I’ll be here,” I quietly whispered, before attaching myself to the ceiling.

Sparkle stared at me in shock. “How are you doing that?”

“Pegasus magic,” I simply replied. She angrily glared at me. “Don’t ask me how it works. All I have to do is keep flapping. It’s a little awkward, but it just happens naturally.” I shooed her onward. “There’s a door a few yards down.”

“I don’t bucking use doors,” Sparkle growled. I curiously watched as she reared up onto her hindlegs and punched right through the wall. “Oh yeah!” she yelled, presumably surprising the ponies in the room. “Wassup guys?”

Nothing. Ah, the awkward joy of a ruined dynamic entry.

“Uh… hum.” The stampity-stamp of Sparkle’s hooves became fainter for a moment before a frightening crunching of metal nearly made me fall off the ceiling. “Oh, it’s dead. I can never tell with these stupid robots,” she muttered to herself, just loud enough for me to hear.

The mare herself reappeared a moment later. “Uh, sector clear? Hey, Frosty, we might be in the wrong room.”

I glared angrily at the misleading little bar at the top of my vision. “Well, I don’t really know how this thing works. Let’s just keep looking.” Maybe I’d figure it out later.

I heard some shuffling coming from a tunnel labeled “Maintenance access only”. Curiosity got the better of me, and I crept over to the door to investigate. I dropped down from the ceiling and pressed the button on the wall to open the door. The lights in this area were completely gone, but the backlight from my PipBuck provided all the illumination I needed.

Thoughts aside, I quickly returned to inspecting my new surroundings. A thick coating of blood covered the floor. Only the door’s threshold prevented the blood from seeping through into the next room. “By Luna…” I breathed. Five armored Rangers were piled up in the corner of the hall. “Well, I guess that’s where the geyser of blood is coming from.” I floated over the entire mess so my hooves wouldn’t splash in the blood. Sparkle disregarded all sense of cleanliness and basically waded in after me.

How warm is the blood?

C’mon, brain. Don’t… wait, you don’t sound like brain. Who is this?

…Uh, that was the maniac. Who else has an unhealthy addiction to violence and gore?

Oh. That makes sense. Are you back then, brain?

The blood! Tell me about the blood!

Apparently not. I hesitantly dipped my claw into the blood and licked it. Still warm. Eugh.

It’s fresh. Tastes like they’ve been bleeding out for less than an hour.

As I drew nearer, one body in the middle of the pile stood out to me. Even soaked in blood, that familiar pink mane was all too identifiable. Oh no. This couldn’t be happening! He had to be alive!

I performed a quick check of his vitals. His pulse was thready and weak, but he was still with me.

That’s good. Heal him up. He’s lost a lot of blood.

What about shrapnel or br—

Do it. He doesn’t have much time left. Doc’ll sort him out later.

I pulled out another healing potion from my steadily-dwindling supply. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Sparkle doing the same to some other Rangers with her own first aid kit. “Drink it, please. Please.” I uncorked the potion and tilted it to Rumcake’s lips, pouring a tiny bit of it into his mouth. Nothing happened for several heartbreaking seconds.Those seconds felt like hours.

I willed myself to be strong as I checked the other Rangers. Less luck there. Only one other Ranger was still alive, and just barely. I hooked my hooves around his chest gently and pulled him out of the pile of Rangers. From there I tilted the bottle back to his slightly parted lips, trying to get as much of the potion into him.

I couldn’t tell how Rumcake was doing. He was deathly still, apart from his chest moving ever so slightly from every uneven shallow breath he made. He was still losing a lot of blood. The potion was doing its work, closing up the little bullet holes and gashes. My hopes soared. He’d swallowed it! That means he wasn’t dead yet! My heartbeat quickened as I excitedly checked his heart rate.

I quickly realized my problem. My heart was beating so fast against my chest, pounding in my ears, thus making the task of hearing Rumcake’s own heartbeat nigh impossible. I couldn’t lose him. But I didn’t know how to help him. My eyes began to sting as my vision blurred, tears rolled down my muzzle and mixed with the thick blood all over him.

Good work not paying attention in med class.

Shut up.

If only you would’ve—

Shut up!

At this point I realized I hadn’t really spent much time with him. We’d joked around, we’d had our obligatory drunken fling, but that was it. “There could’ve been so much more…” I mournfully whispered. “I didn’t even get to hear your story…” My heart wrenched as I remembered my own near-death, and Rumcake’s anguished and panicked attempts to bring me back. “A-and you felt the same. I could have…” My voice cracked before I could finish, leaving room for a quiet sob to slip out of my throat. All I could do was sit there and pray.

After what seemed like hours, Rumcake finally started swallowing more of the potion under his own power. I could feel my heart rate calm down as I watched him drink. “Thank the goddesses.” I choked back another sob and watched his eyes slowly flutter open and adjust to the dim light. “Now, what have I said about not dying?” I jokingly chastised him through tears while giving him a small smile.

Rumcake weakly reached up and batted at my ear. “Well, I haven't died yet, have I?” he said weakly. “So stop the water works will ya?” He attempted to stand up, but I pushed him down. Instead, I grabbed him in a Frosty-sized ursa hug. “What’re you doing down here?” he grunted, nuzzling my neck. “You should be outside on a stupid roof.”

“Slight change of plans.” I pressed against him, unwilling to let go. “You sure you’re going to be okay?”

“I’ll be fine.” He attempted to wipe off all the blood he was covered in. “This is going to stain.”

“Shut up. My fur’s teal and the blood comes out just fine.” I giggled a bit.

Focus, nincompoop. See a problem here?

Wait. Yeah, I do. Who cleaned out my fur that last time?

…I won’t dignify that with a response. Think. Weren’t there more? The yellow bars, remember?

Crap. I relayed this to Rumcake.

“We were ambushed on the way back by some sentry bots. Sparkle Cola got flattened when part of the tunnel collapsed, then we pushed forward right into sentry gun fire. Next thing I know I wake up to your adorable face while lying in a pool of blood.” Rumcake tapped my nose. “They’re still around somewhere, no doubt.”

“Will you be alright? You’ve lost a lot of blood.” I was hesitant to leave him alone, especially in his current state. “I think Sparkle Cola should be able to handle it.”

Sparkle tapped Rumcake’s hoof. “Right here, commie.”

“Sitrep.”

“Pally Carrot Fries and Pally Fruit Punch are still alive, but Punchy’s down for the count. I’ve sort of stabilized them, but I’m out of medical supplies. The new kid and Orange Juice didn’t make it.

He sighed and closed his eyes. “Ugh… well, it could’ve been much worse. You alive over there Carrot?” A shallow groan floated across the pool of blood. “Close enough. You two get out there and figure out what’s going on.”

Sparkle cocked her head at Rumcake. “Are you going to be okay here on your own?”

“I’ll be fine. Have ammo; will kill.”

I wasn’t nearly convinced. “I can stay with you, if you want.”

“As nice as that would be, Sparkle’s in no condition to fight alone—yeah, I see that stupid limp you’ve got going.” Rumcake groaned, shifting himself into a sitting position. “There’s at least four other hostiles down here with us. Search and destroy, Frosty. Search and destroy.”

I nodded uncertainly and went back out into the hallway. My breath quickened when I heard several voices arguing amongst themselves. Thanks to the magic of sound, there was too much echo to discern what they were actually talking about. I instinctively climbed the walls and made sure Sparkle stayed a good distance behind, creeping toward the hole she made earlier. My talons hovered over the red button on the disruption device. Should I? And what the hell did the Shock Arc system do anyway?

“You may want to like, turn off your radio or whatever,” I whispered to Sparkle. “I’m about to start some feedback.”

“Gotcha.”

I pressed the red button, hoping that it would at least jam their radios, if they had any, before I started killing them off. I jumped when big red text scrolled across my vision. ‘Error. Shock Arc not activated. Disruptor not activated. Reduce distance and try again.’ Well, crap.

“Uh, never mind. It’s not working right now.”

Logic here. Let’s try to negotiate with them first. They won’t know you’re with the Rangers, hopefully.

Oh. Yeah, that sounds like a better idea. Good work, me. I dropped off the wall and took a deep breath, silently praying to Luna that they didn’t shoot first and not bother with the questions. Alright, let’s do this.

Wait. Keep the SMG in the duster. Just in case.

I took my advice and secured my favorite and only other bullet-based weapon to the inside of my duster.

I confidently strode into the room like I owned the place. I mustered up as much snobbishness as I could, using Soufflé’s mannerisms to the best of my abilities. “Gentlecolts. Seems like you great lumbering buffoons are good for something after all.” A room full of slavers all turned their attention to me at once and, thankfully, didn’t immediately shred me on the spot.

Somehow, somewhere, somepony had found these five slavers some brand-new heavy combat armor in matte black. Even their weapons looked brand new! One of them even had a set of night-vision goggles around his neck. What gives?

I’d just walked in without a plan, so I prayed that Sparkle could come up with something. “Oi! Who’ja think you are, prancin’ in like that?” one of the slavers yelled. “Drop yer guns!” The slavers flanking him shook their weapons threateningly.

“Don’t point your crude weapons at me.” I sniffed haughtily and continued. “Have you not been informed?” I asked, feigning surprise. “The Great Red Eye has requested Enclave assistance for this particular assignment. Besides, both of us need these degenerate Steel Rangers out of the way in order for plans to progress. Our deal was that the Enclave would supply weapons and Red Eye would allow us to have our way with things.”

The leader-ish slaver nodded dismissively at his henchmen behind him then fixed me with a glare. “Stan’ down, boyos. So what’re you doing here? I didn’t think officers got their hooves dirty.” Oh good, at least I was coming off as an officer. Although it wasn’t exactly what I was going after, I’d work with it anyway.

“Depends. Are you in charge of this shoddy operation here?” I snorted and motioned at them. “I mean, this is the sloppiest operation I’ve ever seen.” I continued to advance on the group, trying to get close enough for a sneak attack or something. I was still trying to come up with a better plan than ‘wait for Sparkle to wait for my signal’.

Way in the back, one specific slaver’s eyes suddenly opened wide with fear, as if she suddenly recognized me. Why would… oh shit, that's the slaver from earlier! This doesn’t count as rehab at all! “Oi! That bitch is trying to trick us! Kill ‘er!” she screeched, bringing her assault rifle to bear.

IT’S THAT TRAITOROUS BITCH! Tag me in! I wanna gut her!

Or I could shoot her.

That’s no fun. The penalty for disloyalty is death by de-throaterizing!

What? That’s not even—

They’re right up in our face anyway, so you’re out of your element. You know how it goes—snipers wear diapers. Let’s do this!

…As much as I didn’t want to admit it, Raider had a point. Close combat wasn’t exactly my forté. Oh well, I guess it couldn’t hurt…

I relaxed and felt control of myself slip away. My muscles twitched with excitement. My vision slowly edged into red and we silently giggled under our breath.

“Suffer not the traitor to live!” Raider Frosty hysterically yelled. She slapped the button on the disruption device, but this time something different happened. A high-pitched whine emitted from the device and then lightning erupted from it, arcing outward and connecting between all of us.

I received a heart-fluttering shock from my PipBuck, but apparently not as badly as the heavily-armored and highly-conductive slavers, who apparently didn’t enjoy one point two-one jiggawatts of electricity to the face. Little curls of smoke floated off their armor as they continued to shake and spasm violently from the electrocution my PipBuck was giving them.

“Yes! Yes! Unlimited pooowaah!” Raider Frosty screamed. She forged on, pushing toward the slavers with lightning streaming from our foreleg. The lightning abruptly tapered off and died with a sputtering spark. ‘Charge Depleted. Disruptor re-activated. Have a nice day’. The warning quickly flashed into our vision and disappeared.

Great timing, Raider.

Wait a minute. I was brain now. It was strange having backseat control to my own body.

“Shut up! All of you will die!”

Only two of the five slavers managed to get back up. Unfortunately for me, the power hoof-armed leader was one of the two getting up. The other one was still staggering to his hooves and trying to find where his weapon had skidded off to.

“Think again.” The leader simply sauntered forward and lazily swung at us with his power hoof. Raider Frosty reared backward to dodge, but he still managed clipped the right side of our ribs.

Dammit, I need those ribs!

“Lucky shot,” Raider Frosty growled. She drew several ragged breaths.

Damn ribs punctured our lungs. Finish ‘em quick!

I noticed the slaver in the back trying to aim his assault rifle, but thankfully Raider Frosty kept the leader in between us and him. “Get over here!” She charged at the leader, keeping low to the ground.

“Stale moves, foal!” he gloated. Raider Frosty feinted to the right, but he was anticipating it. He brought his power hoof around and caught us on the right shoulder. Raider’s charge was abruptly stopped as we were slammed into the ground. Just by standing back up, I could feel that something in our shoulder was seriously wrong. Bones didn’t bend that way, did they?

At least the armor took most of it.

Blood slowly trickled down our right foreleg. “Give up?”

“Nowhere close,” Raider Frosty grunted, favoring our claw leg. We stood facing each other not completely unlike duelists. One looking battered, bleeding, and gravely injured, and the other looking quite pleased with himself. Raider kicked up a small whirlwind of dust and debris at him, giving her an opening to escape to the ceiling.

“That was a cheap trick!” He looked around. “You never should have come here…” he muttered.

“Right behind you.” Raider Frosty dropped down onto his back and gripped his neck in a chokehold. He struggled and tried to kick us off. “Stop it!” He tried harder and even attempted to slam us into a wall. “Stop squirming!” Raider yelled, narrowly missing his face with a wild swing from Philomena’s Touch. He swung wildly, trying to punch us with his own power hoof with very little success. “Knock it off! You’re making this a lot more difficult than it needs to be!” Raider pushed aside the pain in our shoulder and broke his neck.

The slaver leader fell like a sack of ice and finally stopped struggling. Raider Frosty climbed off of him and immediately got shot at by the last slaver before she could get off a witty one-liner. Bullets punched into our armored duster and I could hear the little metal plates inside getting shredded. Some of them were blocked by the armor, but a good number of them made it through. She staggered and weaved through the slaver’s haphazard aim and attempted to dive behind a desk.

She didn’t really make it completely behind the desk, but at least Sparkle was very calmly sitting behind the same one. She bit our duster by the collar and pulled us the last few inches into cover. “Are you okay?” she yelled, noticing the dangerous amount of blood dripping from us.

“Where the buck were you?” Raider yelled back using our voice. “A little help would have been nice.” She looked Sparkle up and down, taking note of her lack of helmet and missing half her body armor. “And where the buck is your armor?”

The mostly un-armored Sparkle rolled her eyes. “You seemed to have the situation under control, so I went back and replaced some parts of Commander Rumcake’s armor to get his meds working. Question is, are you okay?”

“Frosty’ll probably be fine!” Damn, this was going to be hard to explain later. Raider wouldn’t let me have control back, which prevented me from immediately resolving the situation at hoof. “Frosty needs your help. In a few hours, we’ll probably have a little case of dead.” She started licking our wounds, and it seemed like she was enjoying it a whole lot.

“Uh… you’re getting a bit creepy.” Sparkle chucked a rock at the slaver still trying to shoot us though the desk we were still hiding behind. “Trying to have a conversation here!” she shouted at him over the din of gunfire.

“I’m going to charge him. If I can get into his minimum range while he’s reloading, he’ll have to deal with me hoof-to-hoof.” She grinned and flexed my claw. “Then I can get down to the de-throaterizing.” The siren song of Doc’s orange slime called to her ears.

“That’s too dangerous! What if you get killed?” Sparkle exclaimed, slapping us across our muzzle. “And Rumcake would never let me live either if he found out I let you do something so stupid!” She pointed at my anti-machine rifle slung across our back. “Why don’t you just use that?”

“Only Frosty knows how to use it,” Raider Frosty glumly hissed, holding our cheek. “Snipers are wussies.”

“But you’re Frosty!” She prodded our chest. “I’ve heard of your deadly accuracy. You know what to do. Do it. It’s not like this asshole will ever stop shooting! How much ammo does this guy have?”

Raider and I both weakly laughed. Come on.

Give me control back. I’ll put an end to this right now.

No!

Calm down. Relax. Clear your mind.

“I don’t do calm!” Raider Frosty screamed, holding my head in her forelegs. “Let me execute him! Up close and personal?” she whined.

“Uh… I’ll just be over here…” Sparkle shied away to the other end of the desk, allowing me to continue my mental instability in relative peace whilst she picked up a dropped rifle and began to fire back.

Nuh-uh. Maybe some other time.

I could feel her conflicting emotions flying around my head. She finally let out a resigned sigh. “I’ll trust you on that.” She slipped away back into the disturbed depths of my mind. My movements were my own again, and with it, the impact of my injuries finally caught up to me.

“Oh, Luna, I think he hit my spleen,” I groaned, clutching my stomach. “I feel like I flew into the pointiest hailstorm in the world.” I could feel nearly every bullet in my body shift with each movement.

“Are… are you okay?” Sparkle finally piped up, tossing the empty rifle away.

“No. But I’m myself, if that’s what you mean.” I pulled my anti-machine rifle off my back and did a spot check for maintenance. My professionalism took over as I slid my SMG over to her. “I’m going to need three seconds of cover. Can you do that?”

She took my cue and confidently nodded. “On your mark.” I loaded one more shock bullet into the chamber and prepared myself in every way possible. Last-minute, I swapped out the magnification attachment for the velocity attachment. I’d be scopeless, but at this range I wouldn’t need it.

I mentally mapped out my plan. Once Sparkle had his attention, roll out of cover and shoot him. Bodyshot should be good enough. I didn’t trust my ability to accurately remove his face in my current state. “Now.”

Sparkle gripped the SMG’s firing bit tightly and swung out of cover. “C’mere y’ lit’l prick!” She fired short, controlled bursts, weaving back and forth between bits of rubble.

At the same time, I combat rolled out from behind the desk and firmly planted my anti-machine rifle’s bipod on the ground. My heart rate was all over the place, so I decided to forgo my usual counting. Steady. Boom. My heart jerked as the electricity flew from my rifle directly into my body again. The bullets and little bits of shrapnel still embedded in me became little points of fire. I probably screamed, but the adrenaline drowned it out.

I think I passed out. I woke up a few minutes later a few pints lighter and more sore than I would have liked to be. The slaver’s hooves were exactly where they were before. The rest of him wasn’t nearly as cohesive—there was some of him along the wall, over there in the corner, and on the ceiling as well. Ew. Sparkle immediately jumped over to me and dragged me up into a sitting position. “Please tell me you’re not going to die.” She nervously checked my bandages. When did those get there?

“At this point, it’d be a blessing,” I managed to croak. My world was mostly pain, tightness, and the annoyingly familiar feeling of at least two cracked ribs. “Will I be granted the sweet release of death?”

“You’ve lost a lot of blood, but I patched you up for the time being. Luckily enough, I had just enough of a healing potion left over for you.” She looked around at the little pieces of gore sort of plastered everywhere. “Whatever you just did totally made that guy fry then explode. It was kinda cool, in this really fascinatingly gruesome way.”

Oh, okay. So that’s what those bullets do.

Did you really think they were made just to electrocute the sniper?

Shut up, brain.

“Wait. Are they still alive?” I pointed at the three on the ground, one of which was the traitor.

“They’re sort of fried,” Sparkle flatly stated. “Although somehow your thingy didn’t kill any of them, so...”

“Excellent.” I stood up, against the protests from Sparkle and my body, and purposefully stomped toward the one in the back. “Now she can’t go anywhere.” I stopped in front of the unconscious mare. “I have a deal to complete.”

Sparkle uncertainly stood next to me, looking down on the hapless traitor. “Are you sure?”

I glared at her, my expression darkening. “Either you help me or you join her.”

Poor Sparkle didn’t need any further encouragement. She jump-started the traitor with an adrenaline shot then tied her up. I impatiently waited for a whole minute before agitatedly glaring at Sparkle. “Well? Why isn’t she up yet?”

Sparkle shifted on her hooves. “Give it a minute to metabolize. You zapped her good.”

The mare on the ground, stripped of her armor and tied up, faintly groaned.

I slapped the traitor a few times to wake her up, which actually made her gasp and flop forward into a sort of sitting position. “G’morning, sunshine. Enjoy the toast?” I gently patted her on the head as well, just because I was in a taunty sort of mood.

“Wha? Wot’s…” The slaver tried to rub the back of her head and instead caught sight of my crazed grin right up in her face. “Oh, tits.”

“Glad you could join us.”

Suddenly very much awake and conscious, the slaver immediately spat in my face. I grimaced and wiped the saliva off my face only to smear it right back onto hers. In the back of my mind, I felt Raider trying to make me spit on her face to return the favor, but I had better things to do.

“Now that you’re paying attention, I’m going to ask you a few simple questions. I’m angry, cranky, and injured to the point where I have zero tolerance,” I nonchalantly sing-songed to the traitor.

“Whatcha gonna do? Cry all over me?” With defiant words like that coming out of her mouth, I needed to show her I meant business.

“Shut it.” I reverently placed Philomena’s Touch on the ground as to keep it as scuff-free as possible and then punched the traitor’s muzzle as hard as I could. “You hurt somepony I love. You betrayed my trust. You nearly killed an entire town.” She held her bloody nose, anger burning in her eyes as I raised my voice. “Why should I not hurt you?”

She was silent. “Frosty…” Sparkle tapped my shoulder. “Maybe—”

One more glare was all it took to shut her up. I turned my attention back to the traitor. “At this point, there’s no chance for you to come out of this alive,” I said as firmly as I could. “It’s more like… if you cooperate, I’ll make it quick and painless.” To make my point, I made a show of examining my talons. “Drag it on, and you might not be so lucky. Understand?”

Eventually, the slaver rolled her eyes. “Oh, you really think you're so tough, don't you? M’ boy toy hits me harder than that,” she snarked at me, although it was hard to take her seriously with a bloody nose and a growing welt on her cheek.

Let me at ‘er! She just needs a little motivation.

Go away, Raider. I’m trying to conduct an interrogation.

“Alright, a bullet to the head is no longer an option.” I nudged my rifle endearingly and set it aside. “Change your mind yet?”

Ironic choice of words, considering my state of mind.

Tag me in. She’ll be coughing up words and teeth in no time.

“You're not gonna do anything to me.”

“Aaaand no throat-slitting for you,” I said. The stupid cocky smirk on the traitor’s face was unchanging. “That’s all the quick ones. You may want to reconsider your answer. It’s only going to get worse from here.”

I know a thing or two about intimidation. C’mon, let me!

Raider, buck off. I’m busy.

“Ooh, I’m so bloody scared I’m gonna piss myself.” The traitorous mare sarcastically waved her hooves in mock fear.

Hit her again, make her bleed. I want to taste her blood!

Ugh… fine. There really wasn’t any other choice left. I needed to break her will before I got any more information out of her. Lives depended on it.

Using my claw this time, I delivered an uppercut that audibly made something crack, making me feel much better about both myself and my lack of sensation in my mechanical limb. So hard, in fact, the traitor nearly made a complete backflip assisted by her face. I was about ninety percent sure that the sound was her teeth snapping together and not something breaking inside my claw, but I probably had time to figure that out later.

The traitor sat up, cradling her lower jaw and yet she still managed to chuckle. “You're pathetic, you know that?" sneered the slaver. "I just waltz right into town, admitting that I'm part of the group attacking your town, and you just let me lead you all into a trap. We almost didn't bother trying this plan because we didn't think anypony would be stupid enough to fall for it, but you proved us wrong.” She spat out a broken tooth as she continued to gloat.

I needed to get this interrogation back on track before I lost my cool. Raider Frosty was pushing her boundaries harder than ever, but I couldn’t afford to let her out. If Raider had her way, she would brutally murder the mare without bothering to get any information out of her, all while feeling quite pleased with herself.

“Why’d you do it?” I managed to hold back another swing to break her jaw, since she sort of needed it for talking.

The slaver continued to stupidly laugh. “Fifty caps and a Sparkle-Cola Rad.” That momentarily confused me when I remembered the Rad-less Steel Ranger standing behind me with the same name.

My ears flicked backward and my right eye may have twitched in annoyance. “You did this for bits of metal and a drink? Are you bucking kidding me?” I yelled in outrage.

“It was so buckin’ easy, too. All you self-righteous hero types think you can fix anything with the power of being extremely gullible.” My punching bag coughed up a tooth fragment. “Bust out the water works, the sob story, and anypony’ll jump in to be the big damn hero.”

Rip it limb from limb! Show her what real heroes are made of.

“I’m going to tear you apart if you don’t start cooperating right now,” I growled, placing myself one step closer to her.

Somehow, she managed to simply laugh that off. “You’re so frickin’ stupid, you know that? You charge down here recklessly, imagining yourself as a hero come to save the day even while you side with the Steel Rangers. The Steel Rangers. The ponies who do nothing but steal everything of value, kill anyone who's in their way, and take all the technology that could be used to restore Equestria and lock it away so that nopony can use it. You know, the 'heroes'.”

“Does your ass get jealous of the shit that comes out of your mouth?” I shouted at her. Granted, I didn’t really know what I was defending, but she didn’t need to know that. “Don’t make me let you suffer.”

"You claim that you're going to kill me for what I've done. It's an empty threat. I know it, you know it. You hero-types would never kill in cold blood. I call your bluff." The slaver flashed a victorious grin at me. "So, what are you going to do now?"

I stared at her for what felt like a long time, my frown deepening further and further.

The slaver stared back at me, looking amused by my level of concentration.

Okay, screw it. She wasn’t going to say anything useful, and she’d even called my bluff. She was literally asking for it and I’d had enough of her. “I’ll think about it,” I said, a sly grin creeping across my face.

“Of course ya would.”

I began to loosen my mental barriers and eventually stopped resisting the pressure that had been building in my brain. One request… when it’s your turn, say something cool. Put this bitch in her place.

Slowly and gradually, a low rumbling chuckle bubbled from my throat.

Go wild, Raider. You both deserve it.

“What’s so funny?”

“I thought about it,” Raider Frosty informed her, an almost sultry tone to her voice. “And I’ve decided I‘m going to have some fun.”

“Wha–wha–?” The traitor suddenly started hyperventilating, clearly seeing the shift in our demeanor.

“Frosty gave you the option of a bullet to the head,” Raider whispered evilly. “Then she gave you the option of slitting your throat. I'm not a big fan of either of those. In fact—" Raider got our face even closer than before to the suddenly panicking mare “—I heard that dying from a broken heart is the most painful way to die. I’ve always wondered if that was true.”

The slaver’s eyes widened in terror. She tried to squirm out of the psychotic mare’s grasp, but Raider Frosty was faster and she swiftly drove our talons deep into the traitor’s chest, puncturing her heart. “Let’s find out,” she giddily whispered. We stared into the traitor’s terrified eyes as she slowly bled out, second by second. I could tell Raider was enjoying this to a disturbing degree, but I really couldn’t blame her.

It ultimately took over three minutes for her to stop twitching and whimpering. She extracted our claw from the ex-traitor’s body and contentedly lapped up the blood. “Uh… are you done yet?” Sparkle cautiously whispered. “She’s dead.”

“I know. Frosty knows,” Raider Frosty replied. “And Frosty needs a break.” She stopped in her cleaning and perked up our ears. “Somepony’s coming.”

Rumcake stumbled in holding a first aid kit in his teeth. He was looking much better and less perforated, but still just still as bloody. “Found one more!” He galloped over to me and wrapped me up in a wet, hug. “You’re alive! Thank the goddesses!”

Can I have my body back?

No. Raider Frosty nuzzled against Rumcake’s neck. “Sure am. All thanks to you.” She placatingly licked the slightly coagulated blood off Rumcake’s chest.

“What?” He looked to Sparkle for help. “Uh… is she okay?”

Sparkle snorted. “No. Not at all.”

He smoothed our mane while Raider Frosty decided to give him a tongue bath. “We’ll fix you up. I’m here for you.” Yep. Definitely going to be impossible to explain this later.

END OF ACT ONE


Footnote: Level up!
New Perk: Ruthless – There is no mercy, only overkill. Your damage resistance is increased by +50%. Additionally, your Strength temporarily increases to 10 whenever your health is at 20% or lower.
Current Sub-perk: Bloodthirsty – Blood for the Blood God! You gain +3 to Unarmed.
New Quest Item: PipBuck 2000 Plus – You finally got back that computer thingy that the Steel Rangers stole from you ages ago! Technically it was theirs to begin with, but that’s not the point. You can now access E.F.S., S.A.T.S., map, radio, and inventory sorting spells.

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