• 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 2: So, why am I here?

Chapter 2: “So, why am I here?”

“You see, I saw you when you first got here, remember?”


Here I was again, in this same dinky room with the same inquisitor who thought I knew something important enough to be kept here. I stared at the table in confusion, resisting the urge to prod at the Neighton’s Cradle on his desk. What had I said that had such an impact on Baked Potato, Rumcake Rum, and Banana Pudding? Who was Autumn Leaf? What, if anything, was I involved in? I was shaken out of my confusion when a pair of hooves slammed into the table in front of me. “Tell me, you flightless little birdie, how do you know Autumn Leaf?” He lowered his hooves off the table and paced to my side of the room. “You know more than you think, and we just need you to tell us. The faster you tell us, the sooner we can remove you from our base.”

“You mean kill me? Not a chance.” I stared into his cold eyes defiantly. “I’m not telling you anything more. Besides, you know more about me than I do!” I looked away and continued. “Even if you release me, I don’t have anywhere safe to go to. Once I lost contact and got captured, I was probably marked as KIA.” I stared at him again. “I have reasons not to tell you, and you have no reasons to make me tell you, because I don’t know anything else. Can I go back to my cell now?” I huffed indignantly and stared at the opposite wall.

“There has to be something that you remember. Something you can tell us,” Soufflé growled. I rolled my eyes in boredom. “Something we can use. The previous Elder poached some of the best experts in their fields from other contingents. We can help you.” He looked at me expectantly.

“Look dirtbrain, here’s all I can accurately remember. My name is Frosty Winds, Scout Second Class, Serial 405937-5712. That’s it.” Thank you, interrogation training. I exhaled and continued. “Everything else is just a mess of violence and things that don’t make sense. If you really want to know, the last thing I remember is that I was in a city.” I closed my eyes and tried to bring back the last thing I remembered. “Wait… what do you even need my information for anyway? I wouldn’t know anything that would be remotely useful.”

“I don’t believe any of that for a second. Any actionable information that you provide will be used in order to plan for the future,” Soufflé retorted. By the sounds of it, he’d said this particular line quite a lot. “Look. You tell me, and only then can I help you. That’s it. How about we start with this: tell me something, anything, and I might be able to make my Rangers be a bit more amicable.”

I facehoofed. Really? Wow, this was just like a really bad crime film I’d watched back at the barracks. “You’ve got to be kidding. You already know everything about me, and then some.” I leaned forward at him. “And the only thing I remember about Autumn Leaf is that he made some damn fine motivational speeches. Nothing else.”

Soufflé smirked. “I bet he’d have some fine words for me, now wouldn’t he.” I rolled my eyes again. Just words wouldn’t begin to sum it up. “Fine. Tell me this: what are you doing here, so far from your little safe haven above the clouds?” I had the urge to throw an insult his way, but I held my tongue. Soufflé continued, “The Enclave doesn’t send soldiers, not to mention officers down to the surface for no reason. So, why are you here?”

“Again, I don’t remember. You’ve already recorded my memories anyway, so why bother asking?” I grinned sarcastically at him. “Why don’t you waddle on out and go look it up for yourself?”

Soufflé scowled at me. “I suppose you have a point. My methods are not going to work here, because I expect my prisoners to have the IQ of a chicken, not of a turnip.” I glared at him, but he wasn’t paying attention. He tapped his ear (where I assumed he had an earbloom wirelessly connected to a hidden PipBuck or something) and said, “Tell Instant Noodles that she can do whatever she wants to the prisoner. I have simply stopped caring until she becomes more intelligent.” He left me in the room. I waited for a few beats, expecting him to come back, but when I heard a door in the distance slam shut, I realized he was finally gone!

I hesitantly turned to leave, when the door I’d come through clanked open and a yellow and green mare wearing a scribe’s outfit walked in. “Please, have a seat. This will take a bit of time, but I promise to be nicer than our dear Inquisitor,” she said gently.

Wow, her voice was so calming. So gentle and beautiful… Woah, okay! Enough of that. I snapped out of my very sudden and random daydream. My chair was surrounded with a soft yellow light and was turned to face me. Of course, they had to have a unicorn for memory readings.

Good job, Frosty!

Shut up, brain.

“Don’t be afraid to leave anything out,” Instant Noodles said as she conjured a clipboard out from somewhere. “Due to a previous arrangement that you need not worry about, I’m promoting you from ‘prisoner’ to ‘science project’.”

I dumbly sat down and my chair was turned to face the desk again. Instant Noodles walked to the other side and sat in the chair that Soufflé had recently vacated. “Now, I don’t need you to remember anything exact, I just need you to walk through your daily routine. Before all this started, that is.” Her voice was so soft and comforting. I nodded and closed my eyes. Let’s see…

So… starting from the beginning. Woke up, Made the bed, then…

“Frosty, darling, I need you to tell me what’s happening in there.”

Oh, right. “…Go hit the showers. Small talk with Lightning Chaser, then mo— wait, who?”

“Nevermind that,” I heard a faint scribbling. “Continue, and try to keep up some momentum. Just don’t think about it. Let your mind wander and do its job.”

“Okay… uhh… right, after the showers, got toweled off, brushed, and preened feathers. Talked to old annoying officer for daily assignments.”

“That’s good, Frosty. Now, walk me through what happened four days ago.”

It was four days? Wow. “So… it was just any other day. Woke up, got cleaned and brushed, then reported for assignments. That day… we got a special assignment? From the top?” I furrowed my brow in concentration. Did this count as treason? “Our squad leader gave us ten minutes to gather our gear. So I did, and they certainly had no complaints. I think we were going for the once-in-forever wasteland check.”

“The what?”

“The wasteland check is a periodic check to see whether or not the surface is habitable again and whether the Grand Pegasus Enclave should come and help rebuild. There’s probably a fancy name for it, but I don’t care. Anyway, we were dropped off in a Vertibuck and were told to scout the area, take measurements, and the like. But something wasn’t right. Wait… no, that was the original plan. We were told to escort these scientists or researchers or whatever to the surface and defend them until their work was done.” How did I remember this? How did Soufflé not get this from me?

Brain, why don’t you make sense?

Shut up, Frosty.

“Then what happened?”

“…I don’t remember. Blood, cloud terminals, screaming. It’s all a mess after that.” I opened my eyes and looked at her. “If it helps, we were on top of some huge buildings and I think we set up some kind of installation. I remember being there for a while and complaining to somepony that it was really boring.” She nodded and wrote that down too. “You won’t tell anypony?”

She fiddled with her pencil while she continued. “It’s all about how to deal with post-traumatic stress and all that stuff. You’ve actually helped me a bit so far. Anything else to add?”

“…Um… there’s bits and flashes of a bunch of stuff… mostly fighting and blood. I can’t describe it and I kinda don’t want to talk about it,” I muttered and rubbed my eyes with a hoof.

“Okay, that’s fine. You think you’re ready for something a bit more dangerous?” I gave her my not-very-amused face. She smiled sheepishly and said, “Oh, don’t worry, it won’t hurt!” And then she added quietly, “At least I hope not…”

I sighed and agreed. What could go wrong?

“I have a spell that will take me into your memories. Both of us will be there, and we will hopefully put things together. And don’t worry, I won’t tell anypony else what happens in there unless you want me to.”

Great. Of all the ponies in the wasteland, I had to find a therapist. What were the odds?

“Relax and lay your head on the table.” I complied, and she leaned toward me, horn glowing with energy. “Now, close your eyes. I want you to think back to what happened after you landed.”

<~~~>

A radio crackled in my ear as I felt like I was falling. I groaned. Why was I in so much pain? I opened my eyes and looked around. There was an armored Enclave pony laying nearby and another, obviously dead, pegasus scientist nearby. I looked around and saw that we had fallen into an alley between two buildings. “So this is what happened, hmm? Some of it makes sense now,” Instant Noodles whispered.

I really wanted to respond, maybe even tell her to shut up, but for some reason I wasn’t in control of myself. Instead, I turned my attention to the pegasus stallion. I poked his muzzle, resulting with no reaction. I rolled my eyes, and then I automatically leaned down and whispered huskily into his ear, “Wake up, sexy boy…” Woah! Where had that come from? Whatever the case may be, that sure got a reaction out of him, he shot up like a rocket and looked around, presumably in puzzlement. “Gimme a sitrep. You good?”

He nodded. “Well, now. This is quite the predicament,” he said, looking at the scientist… bits behind him. “Of course the squint is totally dead. Now what?”

Why would there be scientists on a wasteland check? Things weren’t adding up like I thought they would. “Find Ashtray. He’s still the ranking officer of this op if he’s still around.” Where was Ashtray? Better question, who was Ashtray?

My comrade looked around the alley and decided to quickly search the dead scientist for anything particularly valuable. “It isn’t looking good. Nothing on squad comms. Your call.”

Before I had time to think anything else, an earsplitting howling noise came from all directions, followed by the stampeding of many bodies charging toward us. “OH FEATHERS, RUN!” he screamed. I followed the nameless stallion as fast as I could, ignoring the incredibly confused scribe tagging along for the ride.

We flew into the second floor of a ruined building and stopped to take a quick breather. I noticed that I had a few minor cuts and scrapes, as well as some familiar gashes along one of my hindlegs. That explained the scars all right, but when did I lose my leg? I looked at my left foreleg, still attached and still flesh and bone. I looked up. “You still have your plasma rifle?” He nodded. “How’s your armor holding up?”

“A little worse for wear, but it’ll have to do.”

I switched to radio. “Nest, this is Snowmare. Respond!” Interference and static burst over the line. I growled and yelled into my helmet, “Nest, this is Snowmare! Half of my squad is MIA and I can’t find Ashtray! We need extraction, now!”

Finally, a response surfaced through the static. “Snowmare, this is Nest. We cannot get to you at the current time. Use whatever you’ve got to survive. Good luck, gentlecolts.” Damn it! They were abandoning us!

Before I could shut off the transmission, another voice broke through the static. “Snowmare, this is Goggles. Is the station set up?”

“Dammit, I have no idea!” I yelled into the helmet microphone. “Everyone else is probably dead! We need extraction, now!” The howling grew closer and it sounded more angry. “We’re about to get killed, and the only thing you care about is your little science project?” I motioned to the buck for him to take up a position facing the missing wall of the building. “Send evac, before we lose anypony else!”

There was scuffling on the other side of the line, followed by, “…gimme that! Snowmare, this is Nest! We have evac on the way, estimated time of arrival, twenty minutes. Hold out till then, and we’ll get you home.” And then silence.

I fumed. This was how they repaid us? Left us to die without hope for assistance?

“Snowmare, I have just been informed of a new directive. We can reroute a flight that will arrive in about twelve minutes, but be advised, it will not have heavy fire support. Additionally, try to return to the landing zone, the relay has not been activated. Goggles has informed me that the relay must be turned on, or else your squad’s efforts will be for naught.” I pondered. Would we make it? It was only a few buildings away. But could we survive? “Snowmare, I need an answer.”

“Do it,” I replied automatically. I felt that this would lead to terrible consequences that would result in my capture later on. “Okay, we have a rescue plan,” I told the other two ponies. “We need to get back to that relay, turn it on, and hold out. Let’s move.”

I leapt out of the building with Instant in my hooves and the other pegasus following me on my right side. Before I could tell him to cover me, a shot rang out and a bullet slammed into his wing. I instinctively dived toward the nearest building and hid. “Sniper! Get down!” I yelled, to nopony in particular at this point. I looked back toward where my wingmate had fallen. Please be okay, just fly onto the roof like nothing happened, please…

When nopony showed up on the roof, I felt a bit of me die on the inside, like I knew him well, but his name escaped me. Did I really know him? Or was he just one of my generic squadmates? Aargh! I need to know! I shook my head to clear the questions floating about. I crawled over to the edge of the building and looked down. He was nowhere to be found! There was a trail of blood that went around a building and out of sight. I prayed to Celestia for his safety and moved on.

I was about to peek over the brick wall I was taking cover behind when another shot rang out. The bullet smashed through a brick and my left foreleg. I cried out in pain as I started to bleed out. The wound burned and stung, and I had no healing potions left after what had happened before the memory started. My medical training kicked in as I attempted to not go into shock. As fast as I could, I fetched a gauze bandage from my tiny first-aid kit and wrapped it around the wound.

After that, I risked another peek above the bit of cover and was rewarded with a horrifying pinging sound, and the sensation of my right ear being torn out. I ducked again in panic and grabbed my ear, again to stop the bleeding. So that’s how I lost my earring! Some crazy dog had shot it! I felt the wound and was relieved it was only just a little nick. I could put the earring back if I ever found it again.

Instant Noodles looked at me in pity. “What now?” she asked. “It’s been seven minutes already, you aren’t going to make it.”

I didn’t want to remember this part. I mentally prepared myself to relive this part of my memory. Skip, skip! When I noticed everything starting to blur, I realized that if I thought hard enough, I could keep my memories moving without actually having to do anything! When the scene had settled, I was back onto the building where we had set up a satellite dish, several Enclave cloud-crates, and a cloud-terminal attached to the relay I had to activate.

I was tired, worn out, had lost several pints of blood, and about to break down and cry my heart out. But I had to survive, make it to the next day! I jumped on the terminal and automatically selected a blurry option. I must not have been paying attention, because the words were an incoherent blurry mess. I toggled my radio again. “Nest, this is Snowmare. Relay has been activated, please advise on evac!”

The radio crackled again. “Snowmare, this is Nest, evac is four minutes out, you’re doing fine. Hold on, you’re almost there!” The radio cut out with a massive crack and then it was followed by silence. I looked around and heard the howling return, followed by a torrent of smashing and digging sounds. I noticed a slowly spreading pool of blood coming from one side of the building. I crept over to investigate, and immediately jumped onto the radio again.

“Nest, Nest! Come in! This is Snowmare! Please tell me that evac has medicine onboard! Ashtray is alive, but he’s in terrible shape! I won’t be able to patch him up, we need a real medic!” I rushed over to the dying buck. I was crying now. He was bleeding profusely from a massive gash in his chest. He’d tried to stem the bleeding with a sleeve, but the blood kept soaking through. “It’s going to be okay, Dad… you’re going to be okay…” I hugged him tightly as he held onto life as long as he could. Holy crap. Dad died? Oh dear Celestia, Dad was Ashtray? How could I have forgotten?

“Frosty…” he wheezed, “we’re not going to make it.” I cried harder and held him tighter. “Those creeps… got what they wanted. We’re expendable. I love you, Frosty.” He coughed violently and spat some blood out onto the ground next to the ever-spreading pool next to his head. “You’re bound for greatness, little filly. You’re a good pony… make me proud. And if you ever get back to those bastards… tell ‘em Smoky Winds… told ‘em… Rainbow Dash was right.” And with that, the shine left his eyes and he joined Celestia and Luna in the heavens, hopefully in a better place.

“Dad?” I gently shook him. “Dad?!” I shook him harder. “Please don’t go!” I cried into his chest for the longest time, holding him tightly. I’d lost several good friends, a special somepony, and my father.

My radio crackled again, and my ear was nearly blown out from the interference. It started with the voice of Nest, but then it was replaced by Goggles’s voice. “Thank you for your service to the Enclave. Your sacrifice will be honored and your remaining family will be notified. Have a nice day.”

I yelled into my radio, “You insufferable featherbrained idiot! You’ve killed us all! For what? Some numbers? Damn it, answer me!” There was no response. I cried, and mourned the loss of all these good ponies. Friends, family, lovers. All of them gone.

The voice of Nest broke in. “Snowmare… if it means anything to you… Goggles took over the mission directives and scrubbed the op. He’s only interested in his data, so you are no longer on his agenda. I didn’t know… I… I didn’t know. I’m so sorry. If—if you survive, head toward what the wastelanders call Friendship City. Contact Radar, and get the emergency broadcaster from him. It’ll override all encoded comms, so contact me then. I owe you a really, really big one. My condolences about Smoky… He was… a father to me too, in a way. Nest… Nest out.”

I yelled in rage and stomped back over to the terminal. This little terminal had caused everything. Was this mission really worth so many good ponies? I cried out in sorrow and kicked the terminal as hard as I could…

<~~~>

…And I woke up with my face in my chair, forelegs on the ground, and my hindlegs on the table. I looked up and turned around to see that Instant Noodles had been knocked across the tiny room, her notes and clipboard scattered about the room. She was haphazardly splayed across an overturned chair and had a pair of hoof-shaped bruises forming under her muzzle. I winced and covered my face with a hoof. I tiptoed over to her side of the table and helped her up. “Ohmygosh, I am so sorry! I didn’t realize—” I started, then she interrupted me.

“It’s… fine,” she said, while collecting her notes. “Most of the time, there isn’t much physical movement during the sharing process; however, you managed to somehow overpower my spell with your… grief, shall we call it?” She shook her head and rubbed the rapidly darkening hoofmarks under her chin. I shrank back in embarrassment, but she smiled at me and continued, “Don’t worry, nothing bad will come of this.” She put a hoof on my shoulder. “Go back to your room. Relax for the day.” She smiled at me and exited.

I slowly made my way back to the little room I now called home, all the while staring at my hooves in deep thought. I watched the metal plates beneath my hooves slide past as I mulled over what I’d seen earlier. I’d lost so many… so many I knew. Tears welled up in my eyes. I’d been abandoned, left for dead, and my entire squad killed, all for some stupid science fair project that some “Goggles” had decided was more important than the lives of my squad. A tear rolled down my face. My head bumped into a wall, but I didn’t care. I leaned against it and let my tears fall freely. I cried, and cried, and cried. I sat down, and just let everything out. My life is over, everypony I knew is dead, everypony I cared about is dead, and there is just… nothing left for me. I sobbed into the wall.

I heard heavy footsteps draw nearer, then stop. “Hey… are you okay?” Rumcake asked. I glared at him with my puffy eyes and my tear-streaked face. “Okay… apparently not. Wanna talk about it?” he continued. I narrowed my eyes at him, still slightly crying. “I, uh… offer you my deepest condolences?” I said nothing and wiped my muzzle with the side of my right hoof. I pushed past him and kept walking.

“My dad is dead, my friends are dead, everypony I know is dead. Please, just leave me alone.” I slowly continued to my room, quietly sobbing all the way. I didn’t need anyone else, I just needed some time alone. I staggered into my room and lay down on my bunk to think, to cry, to mourn. I took off my metal leg and rubbed my sore stump. Everything hurt so much, everything was so dismal. The thick metal collar bolted around my neck didn’t help me feel any better either. My father, my friends, my squad, all gone, never to be seen again. I stared at my stump and a question popped into my mind. Had I seen the entire memory? When did I lose my leg? I was now dreading the next trip down memory lane.

I must have fallen into a depression-induced coma at some point since a knock at the door roused me out of my misery. Surprisingly, whoever was on the other side of the door was actually waiting for me to open it. I carefully got up and hobbled over to the door and opened it.

“Ah heard from Rummy aboot what ‘appened.” Baked Potato walked into the room. “Look, if you want to talk about it, Rummy’s there for ya. Th’ Noodles lass, even. If ye don’t, that’s fine. Grief is a powerful thing, an’ Ah know it all too well. But Luna’s mane, girl, you can’t wallow in it forever!” He sat down next to me on my bunk and poked my nose with a hoof. “Tell somepony. Get help.” His voice lowered and he continued, “You remembered, didn’t ye.” I nodded and sniffed. “How many…?”

“Five,” I whispered back. “I knew them all. Three were close friends… two of them were closer.” Flashbacks of our moments together played through my head. None of them seemed familiar, nor did they connect to anything I could accurately remember at the time.

“One of them, maybe. I don’t remember. The other was my father. I don’t want to talk about that,” I quietly said. The grin disappeared from Baked’s muzzle and he nodded solemnly.

Abruptly, Baked changed back to much more happy tone. “Ach, right! Don’ be too down. Me buddy Rummy’s gotta nice surprise fer ya.”

~~~~~

Nearly an hour and a half later, I was lying down on a medical table in the Steel Rangers’ clinic. Allegedly, Rumcake needed an excuse to test the limits of a cyber-suite that they’d recovered at one point or another. Additionally, he’d said the closer I got to normal, the less depressed and mopey I’d be. I wasn’t being mopey!

…Was I?

I distracted myself by looking over the room I was in. As was the norm with Steel Rangers architecture, it was all gray boring walls and metal supports running up the walls. The less-than-imposing form of Instant Noodles stood over me, poring over unidentifiable tools and things. I was about to wonder what that really big pointy spinny-looking one was for, but she interrupted my train of thought.

“Alright, I’m going to send you into your memories again, and hopefully it’s going to be a good one. I won’t be coming along because I need to keep you from bleeding out while Senior Scribe Brussel Sprout operates on you.” She patted my head with a smile, then turned away to check something on the other table. With that voice, she could tell me aaaanything. I stared at her dreamily from my vantage point on the table, and she noticed me doing so. “It’s just the Med-X working. I’m not sure whether the memory dive effects what you feel outside, so this is just for safety.” I nodded. Her horn glowed with magic, and she leaned in close and whispered to me, “This time try not to buck me in the face.” I smiled and dopily nodded. She touched her horn to my forehead and everything melted away into nothingness…

<~~~>

I was blasted by a wave of noise: music from a party. I looked around. I was in my base’s mess hall. There were streamers everywhere, ponies partying, and a large assortment of bland Enclave food scattered about a buffet table. Everypony was in their fancy dress uniforms (in various states of being on) and there was even a multi-colored pegasus playing music! Unfortunately, it was getting hard for me to focus, and the burning sensation in my right foreleg didn’t help. I took a few steps and noticed something else. I was incredibly drunk. I checked one of my pockets and found an empty bottle of Wild Pegasus, and another half-empty bottle next to it. Wow, this must have been some occasion for an extra ration of liquor. I was hungry, so I staggered over to the table for some apple slices. Before I could get there, I was intercepted by a an intoxicated, somewhat familiar stallion.

“Hey… Whaddya think about the party, Frosty?” the buck slurred. “It’s nice, huh? So cool for the C-Colonel to throw a party.” He giggled. “Frosty… I get it.” He stumbled around to my other side and put a hoof around my neck. I tried to escape, but he pulled me in closer. “Your callsign… it’s Snowmare… and you’re Frosty.” He broke out into a poor rendition of the holiday classic “Frosty the Snowmare”.

I rolled my eyes. After I’d been assigned the callsign “Snowmare” I’d never heard the end of it. I knew every lyric of that irritating song yet I loved it around wintertime, simply because the little fillies loved me for it. I giggled back at him and I even joined in, automatically. I still felt intoxicated, and I felt happy. The happiest since my life had fallen apart. I laughed and mentioned to my companion, “Wanna make this snowmare melt?” I giggled harder. Oh Celestia, I was so drunk. In my mind, I facehoofed and flushed red in embarrassment. I didn’t even know who I’d just flirted with! I made a mental note as I watched myself follow the stallion to his quarters. He did have a very nice plot, I might add.

Before we got to his quarters however, a voice floated through my mind. “Hey sleepyhead… wake up.” Wait, we were getting to the good part! “Wake up, Frosty. We’re done.” I groaned and tried to block it out. It’s so peaceful in here… and, heck, I was about to get some action! We couldn’t stop now!

<~~~>

I was poked and prodded awake, much to my annoyance. Why was it so bright… why did it have to be so briiiiiight… I curled up and covered my muzzle with my right foreleg. “Wake me laaaater…” I managed to groan. Someone poked me, and I curled up tighter. “I was having a great dream… I wanna go back to it.”

“I’m going to put this out right now, for the record. I thought it was prudent to push our testing schedule forward, and not because I feel bad for you or anything.” I immediately sat up. What did that mean, exactly? Rumcake quickly averted my gaze in favor of a curious looking smear on the wall. “Although allowing you to pick what you wanted may have been a poor decision on my part.” He off-hoofedly gestured at my shiny new limb with a frown.

I looked down and squealed in delight, turning my new addition to and fro to admire it. I’d told him to make me a replacement fashioned after a gryphon’s claw. My stump was now attached to a cybernetic limb port. Attached to that, there were a series of tubes, hydraulics and wires that attached to a claw that acted just like a gryphon’s claw. I hugged Baked Potato. “You’re the best! Thank you thank you thank you!”

“Girl, I’ve learned from yer antics… Keep yer hoofsies ta yerself.” He proudly grinned and turned around. “Anyway, yer arm thing is done. Keep it as dry as possible, don’t hit it on things, and don’t” – he pointed at the claw on the end – “maul anypony with those. They aren’t strong enough to hold up to… hoof-to… claw… combat.”

I stared at the metal contraption that was now my left leg and silently marveled at the soft whirrs and squeaks as I tested my range of movement. “So… how do I actually use the claw bits?” This was the part of my master plan that I hadn’t really thought through..

“In theory, all you need to do is to think about moving each individual talon. Thanks to the power of science and the intelligence of the Steel Rangers, we managed to attach small transmitters to your nerves—and we’re mostly sure we did it right—and allow you to move anything attached to your limb hub.”

Intently focusing, I thought long and hard to make any of my claws twitch. In order to somehow help that idea across, I flexed the unarmored wrist joint of my metal leg. For a second I thought I had moved the middle talon, but it was only because of my excessive shaking.

Instant Noodles intently watched me. “Maybe think of the talons as an extension of your hoof. Having unfamiliar extremities probably doesn’t make sense to your brain yet, but the cyber-suite should have filled in all the gaps when fabricating the spell built into your replacement leg. Just keep trying.” Her clipboard and pencil materialized at her side, ready for use.

When she put it that way, the feat I was attempting seemed to be a lot easier. “So like… pretend the tip of my hoof is bendy or something?” I asked, doing my best to do exactly that.

“I guess. You’re the one with the cyborg leg, so you’re the foremost expert in the field,” Instant replied, quickly scribbling something down. “I eagerly await results.”

One day, I needed to find out what the heck was written on that clipboard. In the meantime, I focused on trying to move my talons again. I managed to make a talon slightly wiggle, which made Instant joyfully gasp and quickly make a small annotation to whatever she was writing.

I returned to trying to get my mechanical limb working for me. My annoyance quickly turned to glee when I looked down and found that in my fright, I’d moved all my talons inward into a fist.

“Subject… adapts… quickly…” Instant muttered to herself whilst scribbling excitedly before addressing me directly. “Can you move each one independently?”

After a few moments of thinking at my artificial leg, I made my claw open. “Doesn’t look like it.” I forced more thoughts of movement and watched in entertained awe as I continued to play with my new steel appendages.

“And what does it feel like?” Instant inquired, eagerly awaiting my response.

“Doesn’t really feel like anything. I just like, think at it and it moves. I probably won’t know what I’m touching unless I can see it.” I shrugged. “Although it doesn’t appear that I get jitters on this thing, so that’s cool.”

There was an explosion from somewhere in the compound and everypony looked up and around. An angry mare’s voice yelled over the PA system, “We have a breach along the west hallway in sector D-2! Slavers have breached the base! Weapons free! Addendum from the inquisitor: try to keep collateral to a minimum. He doesn’t want to have to rebuild part of this place again.”

Everypony looked at each other for a fraction of a second. Suddenly, the Rangers in the room jumped into action. Rumcake ran out, presumably to his quarters to fetch his helmet-o-death and kill some slavers. Instant looked at me and then ran out of the room. No idea where she was going.

Baked looked at me hesitantly, looking like he was trying to make a decision about something. Eventually he spoke up. “You have been temporarily conscripted for base defense,” he enunciated with an official tone of voice. He slid a .32 pistol across to me. I picked it up in my teeth and squinted down the sight. Well, it was a functional gun at least. “I don’ keep it loaded much. Stay close, do as I say, an’ yer head won’ blow off. We’re going to show those slavers who’s boss!” In a lower tone of voice, “Don’t make me regret this.” He crouched under the table and came up with a helmet in his hooves. He slammed the helmet on his head and yelled “Let’s do this!”

We both ran out of the room and presumably toward the breach in the base. As we drew nearer, the explosions got louder and the yelling, screaming, and the lone cry of “Let our resolve be Steel!”. As we turned the corner, a slaver jumped at us. My twitch reaction caused me to squeeze the trigger once, twice, and watched as the slaver’s head exploded in chunky bits of gore.

The headless torso, however, continued on its destined path and into the wall behind us. I’d seen a whole lot of death, but really didn’t have to see that in slow motion. This wasn’t how I operated. Get in, survey, get out. Completely clean. No unnecessary fatalities. All stealth. “Nice shot, lass!” Baked laughed, his voice creepily distorted through his helmet. That distracted me long enough to regain my composure. “But we aren’t there just yet!”

I growled around the revolver in my teeth. “Hey, could you teach me how to rel—”

Before I could complete my request, we were spotted by a large group of slavers charging down the hallway. I was about to open fire, but Baked Potato motioned for me to back up. I complied, and I watched the signature Steel Rangers minigun pop out of his built-in battle saddle and roar in response. Needless to say, the slavers were not there for very long.

We continued onward through the gore of the slavers that charged at us moments before. “Almost there. Police th’ bodies fer ammo.” Of course, just in case I ran out of bullets for this tiny little pistol that nopony told me how to reload.

The word ‘Armory’ with an arrow pointing to a hallway on the left caught my attention.

“Follow me an’ ye won’ get lost,” instructed Baked Potato. Unknown to him, I had other plans. Hopefully amidst the confusion of the assault, I could put my devious scheme into action. The second he began to tromp forward down a different hallway and wasn’t looking my way, I bolted.

For once, the goddesses were smiling on me. In their haste, a Ranger with maybe about half of his armor on burst out of the armory, assault rifles in tow without closing or locking the door behind him. Into the room I went, quickly checking one more time for anypony that might happen upon me.

Guns lined the entire room to an excessive degree. Smaller weapons like assault rifles, pistols, and shotguns were mounted on the wall using some kind of fascinating modular system. Larger weapons, like rocket launchers, grenade launchers, and the like were leaning against the wall one next to the other. As much as I wanted to yank the gatling laser off the wall and take it with me, nopony had conveniently left behind a battle saddle to mount it on.

A little green spot of hope in this sea of gunmetal caught my attention. Sandwiched between a weathered minigun and a slightly dented grenade launcher was the anti-machine rifle that I had claimed for myself—and had been subsequently taken away by a very selfish Inquisitor. I snatched my prized find from the hundreds of other weapons in the armory. I spotted a leash attached to smaller sniper rifle and repurposed it into a strap for my anti-machine rifle so I could sling it over my back.

Once I had reclaimed what was rightfully mine, I did my best to retrace my steps all the way back to where Baked was hopefully still waiting. In the remote case that I did find myself lost, I could bank on the hopes that this entire facility was a giant mobius strip and I’d find him eventually.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I found the Ranger that I was looking for taking cover behind a support beam for absolutely no good reason. “So… why’d ya want a talon and not a hoof, anyway?” Baked asked, unaware that I had just silently reappeared behind him.

I rolled my eyes. “Wasn’t it obvious when you saw the rifle? First of all, the grip is custom-designed for talons to handle.” I pointed out the oddly shaped grip of the rifle and held it in my claw to demonstrate even though Baked wasn’t paying attention. Then I pointed at the modified barrel. “There’s a bipod and that’s also why it wasn’t meant to be battle-saddle mounted. The sight on the end is made of emerald, so there must be some kind of vision spell in it. The only problem I’m going to have is that the bolt is on the left side, so I’ll have to reach over to cycle the next bullet. And the other half of the sight mounted on the rail is emerald as well, which most likely means the targeting spells are linked.”

“About time you two showed up!” Rumcake shouted from ahead of us, somehow knowing without checking behind him. “Come on, let’s move! I got slavers to kill!”

“Le’s go then. Carpe natem!” Baked yelled, giving Rumcake an encouraging slap on the behind to get him going.

Ancient dead languages weren’t my strong point, but that didn’t sound right to me. “That doesn’t mean what you think it means,” I whispered back, barely keeping up.

He didn’t seem like he cared.

~~~~~

I dove for cover behind a fallen set of filing cabinets. Bullets sparked off the top of my impromptu cover and I crawled over to a slightly less dented location and covered my head. “Any time now, boys!” I yelled over the gunfire. The slavers shooting at me must have finally needed to reload, because the stream of gunfire had stopped and was replaced with the clacking of guns. I rolled my eyes. I’d have to do this all by myself, wouldn’t I? I took a deep breath, picked up my little pistol in my teeth, and poked over my barricade. I hastily aimed a trio of shots and watched in dramatic awe as two of the slavers simply dropped. Back to my filing cabinets for safety.

“Can I get some help?” I screamed at the hallway behind me. Seriously, where were they? I hopped up while the slaver was reloading again and charged at him. He backed up and fumbled with the assault rifle in his mouth, but before he could bring it back up to shoot at me, I placed my pistol against his eye and fired. I felt hot blood and tiny chunks of slaver splatter against me. I stared in horror at the remains of the slaver’s face. I looked up just in time to see another slaver jump into my face! I cried out in surprise and pulled the trigger on the pistol, only to hear the heart-stopping sound of the hammer falling on an empty chamber. Why didn’t anypony teach me to reload this! I stared in horror at the approaching slaver as he jumped on me. I cursed at myself.

“There’s no running if you’ve got no hoovies!” The slaver cackled, and he pulled out a large machete from his bag. I bunched up my hind legs under him and bucked him in the nads as hard as I could. He cried out in pain, causing him to lose his grip on his machete. As the slaver flew across the room, I felt the machete harmlessly clink off the edge my bomb collar. I felt a minor cut draw down the right side of my neck as the large blade slid away, but I didn’t care. I needed answers. I needed to interrogate this featherbrain. I stomped over to his prone form and I slammed my hoof down into his single uninjured leg.

I grabbed his throat with my claw. He chortled madly in a sort of pathetic, strangled manner. “What’s so funny?” More giggling. Blood started pooling under him. Oh, of course. I’d probably bucked him into some sharp implements in his pack. I shook him to instill a sense of impending doom.

“You call that a kick? My shits kick harder than that.” The rabid slaver laughed. He then did the exact same thing that I just did to him and he bucked me, hard. I flew across the hallway and into a wall. I heard something crack as I hit the wall then slid down it. Everything was blurry as I staggered up and something in my left wing didn’t feel right. The slaver slowly stumbled toward me with another bloody knife in his mouth. “If you won’t come quietly, then DIE!” he yelled around his knife and charged at me again. I managed to somewhat dive over to the right but not before he got a lucky gouge in right under my bomb collar.

I laughed at him through a haze of pain and numbness. “You got lucky that time!” I staggered to my hooves and claw once more and backed up from him.

He yelled back at me incoherently and charged. I dodged, and he cried out in pain as he collided with the wall behind me. I turned to find other routes of escape when I spotted a familiar armored flank sticking out from around a corner. This charade of dodging the slaver’s wild charges went on for several minutes as I taunted him closer to the Steel Ranger. I finally got him close enough so when I dove under the Ranger, I yelled “Nine o'clock!” and he responded by obediently turning and goopified the poor slaver with his plasma rifles. I patted the Steel Ranger’s stomach plates. “Thanks for the assist!”

The ranger grunted “no problem” in reply and turned back to laying suppressive fire down his hallway. I was about to go find something else to do, some information to collect, when I saw something irresistibly shiny calling to me.

I walked over to it in curiosity and poked it with a hoof. It was sitting in a pool of exploded slaver bits and parts of wall, but it still appeared to be intact. After wiping off the bullet to the best of my ability with a bit of spit and elbow grease, I dropped the large bullet into the chamber of my anti-machine rifle and bolted it closed. Surprisingly enough, it was a perfect fit.

Yay! My massive gun now had ammo! But it’s only one bullet, I reminded myself. There was some loud clanking and some disconcerting wet thudding coming further down from the hallway I had been in earlier. I dashed over and at the very end of the hallway, I spied the silhouette of a slaver with an assault rifle firing into a Steel Ranger with black and red embellishments on his armor. I drew closer and recognized him by his special additions to his armor. It was Inquisitor Soufflé! This was my chance at revenge! I grinned evilly and looked around. No slavers, it was perfectly secure there for the time being.

I unfolded the bipod on my rifle and carefully slid the blood-spattered bullet into the chamber of the rifle. I racked the bolt and lay down on the floor, guaranteeing a stable shot. I double checked my surroundings and it was still safe. I peered down the sight and my vision jumped forward several yards, where I could clearly see the slaver gleefully beating on the Inquisitor’s armor while the Inquisitor struck back with his hooves while trying to reach his ornate pistol just out of his reach. He spied me as he reached for his pistol, and he froze. I froze too. What was I doing? I shook my head. Everything was so foggy… so blurry…

I gritted my teeth and peered down the sights again. Soufflé’s fancy cap barely hung onto his head by an ear and he looked at me with pleading eyes. Buck! Why did I have to notice that? I felt something wet collecting against my elbow and I looked down. Blood. More blood. I sighed and scooted over more. I was about to look down the sight again, but the wetness was too distracting. I sighed and looked down. The blood pool was getting larger! I was suddenly drawn to the small pool rippling in the middle. I touched my neck with my hoof. By the moon, that slaver had nicked me! I was already feeling weak from fighting, tired from running, and I just wanted to go home.

I peered down the sights. I could really use a nap… I blinked several times to try to clear my vision. One shot. I can’t miss. I took a deep breath and felt my pulse hammering in my ears. One. I lined up the shot. Two. I began to squeeze the trigger. Three. I heard something behind me and I let out my breath and whipped around. A Steel Ranger was coming down the hall! I had to hurry! I took another deep breath. Four. I steadied my claw and re-aimed. Five. My mind flashed back to my interrogation. Uh… Seven? “I don’t care anymore.” He’d said. Eight. My father’s dying words echoed through my mind. “You’re bound for greatness, little filly.” Nine. “You’re a good pony.” Ten. I pulled the trigger and the bullet exited the chamber and blasted the stallion to kingdom come.

I heard a Ranger running at me from around the corner now. He’d seen what I was about to do. He’d seen what I’d just done. I didn’t care. I laughed weakly and lay on my back. One bullet. I’d only needed one.

I heard Rumcake distantly as my vision wobbled. “Damn it, Frosty! What have you done?” I flopped over and peered down the sight. Both of them weren’t moving. Good. “You’re in big trou… damn it! I need a first aid kit over here!” he shouted. He ripped off his helmet. “We’re going to have a long talk about this later.” I weakly nodded. It was getting cold. And dark… and he had such dreamy eyes… “Stay with me! I need you to stay awake!” I closed my eyes. “You’re not going anywhere!” he shouted.

I’ll be back, I thought to myself. I just… need a little nap.

“…No, give me it, now!” I faintly heard some clanking sounds. “Drink up, Frosty…”

~~~~~

“…Hey, featherhead. Wake up.” I groaned and pulled the sheets over my head. “Hey, c’mon…” Whoever it was decided to poke my nose. “Boop! C’mon… waaaakey wakey!”

I tossed the covers back and sat up. I blearily opened my eyes and looked around, and was surprised by where I was. I was in a picturesque version of Cloudsdale, with my bed just set up at the entrance of the city. I looked at who was speaking and froze. There I was, curiously looking at… me. Though the me that was standing there had all four hooves, a longer mane from before I cut it, and she was wearing the most beautiful dress I’d ever seen!

“Hi! You remember this?” She spun around. “It’s our imaginary Gala dress!”

Oh, that’s right! It was just as I remembered it. It was mostly white, with bits of light blue trim and darker blue along the bottom. I had little snowflakes in my long mane, and it was tied back with a bow in the shape of a big fluffy cloud. This was an amazing dress and I looked stunning!

I smiled. “Yeah… I remember. I… we thought it up after we read about it in the library… What’s going on, anyway?” I motioned at Cloudsdale. “I thought it got destroyed?” I stared at the city. We were standing on a vast expanse of cloud where the city was also sitting on. “So, why am I here?”

Gala Frosty responded, “I’m you, you’re me, and all I really care about is our collective well-being. I was hoping you knew.” She gently shook her mane and adjusted some of the snowflakes in her mane. “All I know is that this Cloudsdale” – she motioned around us – “is based on that little postcard in your barracks.” Both of us stopped at a medium-sized cloudhouse. “I think we’re here.” I opened the door and walked in.

And I was completely caught off guard by a little teal filly cannonballing into my chest. “Yay! Mommy’s finally here!” Wait. Mommy? I peered down at the incredibly energetic little filly hanging onto me. She was actually me, as a filly! She saw my claw arm and squealed. “Oh no, Mommy! What happened to you?”

I sat down. Wow, really didn’t see this one coming. “I’m not your mommy, I’m you! From the fuuuuuuture.” I waved my hoof and claw around. Filly Frosty giggled in delight. “Is anypony else here?” She shook her head. I turned back to Gala Frosty. “What’s the point of all this?” I asked as I played with Filly Frosty.

Gala Frosty replied, “Well, what else are you going to do while bleeding out and concussed?” It seemed to make sense. “You should probably go take a nap. Something tells me you’ll be back. We’ll be fine, obviously.” Gala Frosty rolled her eyes and I nodded. Wow, was I really this snarky? Well, I might as well take a nap, I was getting tired of this anyway. I went upstairs and found another bed.

I hopped into the bed and got comfortable under the covers. I patted the pillow next to me. “Hey, mini-me! Wanna take a nap?” She shook her head. Yep, definitely a younger me: never time for naps, just energetic bouncing. I smiled and told the two, “If there are any more of me when I get back, I’m going to go insane. Sound okay?” Gala Frosty and Filly Frosty smiled.

I snuggled under the covers and drifted off to sleep, dismissing it all as a very vivid hallucination.


Footnote: Level up!
New Perk: Gun Nut – Pew pew pew! Bang! Bang bang! You gain +5 to your Guns and Repair skills.

-End of Chapter 2!-

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