• 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 19: You get the feeling we're being watched?

Chapter 19: You get the feeling we're being watched?

“If you're scared, you can just admit it. You don't need to put your hoof around me.”


So there I was, standing over the nearly-decapitated former leader, looking quite pleased with myself. Not only had my plan worked, but I had even managed to drop a witty one-liner that had stunned the assembled rabble into submission. Now if only they would actually let me deliver free shotgun pellets into their second in command.

On hindsight, there probably wasn’t any way anypony with two brain cells wouldn’t figure out what I had planned. I busied myself in looking calm and collected while the remaining raiders… slavers… whatever they were, argued amongst themselves.

Maybe I should have thought out this plan farther than ‘walk in and shoot the important guy’. “Wow, there are a lot of you assholes,” I nervously muttered to myself.

Sure, there was an assault rifle pointed at my face, but they didn’t know how many shells I had loaded in my ballistic claw. Maybe if I used S.A.T.S. to target them one at a time, I could probably take them. Unfortunately, I might end up eating lead without Raider Frosty’s help. Help that I really didn’t want.

“Don’t dat make ‘er th’ new warboss?” I heard one of them say to another.

Color me intrigued. Since I was only being held at gunpoint by the mottled gray-ish buck across from me, I sat down and started licking at the spattering of blood coating my claw in earnest.

“Dos it work ‘dat way?” the dirty, grimy mare in the back with the extra spiky shoulder pads loudly asked.

“How’d you think we got rid of Warboss Link’n?” Eyepatch replied to that.

“A rotta’ blew ‘is brains out da front,” the first one yelled.

“Exactly. And then we got Warboss Gork—”

“When Gorky offed da rotta’!”

There was a round of “oooohs” around the room as the group collectively realized how their system worked.

The assault rifle pointed at my head lowered just a fraction in the process. Apparently, I was now the warboss and leader of a motley group of… whatever these ponies were supposed to be. Just great. What was I even going to do with them? I definitely wasn’t going to let them follow me around.

I stomped my hoof on the floor for attention. “Do you recognize your new warboss?” I demanded at the gathered group.

Eyepatch fanatic, who was looking more and more like their approximation of a lieutenant, bowed his head in respect. “Hail Warboss—” He appraisingly stared at me for a moment. “—Warboss ‘Urt‘oof!”

A cheer that sounded more like a war cry went up from my new followers. “‘Boss ‘Urt‘oof! ‘Boss ‘Urt‘oof!” they all cried in unison as Eyepatch riled them up into an insane fervor.

Uh oh. Once the chanting started, I knew there was no turning back. In some form of cruel, twisted fate, I was the leader of a Wasteland raiding party or something. Which brought me to my next question…

“Hey! Patchy! I need a word.” Without waiting for Eyepatch’s response, I grabbed him by his scruffy collar and dragged him over to the former warboss’s mostly-headless corpse. “What did I just get myself into?” I hissed at him.

Eyepatch might have winked at me, but it also could have just been a blink. It was hard to tell. “Few things you might need to know. Keep the fillies and colts separate, or they might get into fights. Or, heh, into each other.” With mixed units, it wasn’t surprising since it was bound to happen at some point. “Two, they’ll be expecting a fight or some kind of raid at least twice a week. Lacking that, you’ll have to arrange some kind of violence substitute.”

“What.” Being a bad guy seemed like a lot of work.

“Yeah. Don’t be afraid to keep them in check with a quick conk to the skull.”

Yes, this was definitely starting to seem like a lot of work. I idly glanced at the cages. “What about them?”

Just like any good Wastelander, Eyepatch rolled the body over and searched for any valuable personal effects that Gork might have had on him. “What about them?”

While Eyepatch kept rummaging, I continued on with my line of questioning. “Like, why do you ke—” I saw a cap pouch poking out from under Gork’s dented stop sign chestplate. “Mine!” I demanded, snatching it away before he could grab it. “—keep them around?”

“Hey, I wanted that.” Eyepatch glared at me.

I gave him a good bop to the forehead. “I’s da boss, and dat’s dat,” I scolded him, adopting the same strange speech patterns as my new minions. Ooh! To add insult to injury, I also stole the former warboss’s smaller combat hatchet that had been tucked up to its head in his armor.

“Anyway, they’re the ones that decided that trying to steal from us was a great idea.” Eyepatch held up a collection of well-worn bloody clothing looted from Gork’s armor compartments to the relative light. He discarded a majority of them, but decided on a slightly out-of-shape tan kepi. “We keep ‘em around for sport. Or for clearing minefields, in case we ever run into them.”

It made me feel just a tiny bit better that at least they’d done something to earn their spot in the cages. Somewhat unwillingly and hesitantly, I nodded in agreement. “Well, I guess it’s a legitimate strategy…”

Very casually, Eyepatch mentioned “Yawp. Used a few of ‘em to clear out a sniper hiding in a minefield last week. Went through all that trouble for a broken sniper rifle, some junk, and, like, five caps.”

“Huh.”

“Yeah. So, what about your cool Ranger friends? A little friendly revenge, perhaps? Me and the shoota colts are behind you all the way.”

Right. Problem. “Yeah, about that… we’re kind of on good terms—as in, I sorta am a Ranger. We just needed you guys to stop trying to kill us.”

Eyepatch blinked his one good eye at me. “You’re a sneaky little one, aren’t ya? I’m even feeling a bit annoyed that you had to kill Gork just for that.”

“He started it.”

“As I recall, you knocked his block off. Violently.”

He started it,” I insisted.

Eyepatch regarded me curiously. “I’m pretty sure that yo—”

“I can demonstrate on your face.” I menacingly flexed my talons at him.

Eyepatch stared at my claw and I could tell he was very carefully considering his options. “Well, I guess he did start it. My bad.”

I approvingly nodded at him. What a quick learner. “Good thinking. But seriously, I can’t be the warboss. I can’t do this. I never asked for this.”

To my chagrin, Eyepatch didn’t even look fazed. In fact, he looked more relieved than anything else. He picked up Gork’s helmet and examined it in his hooves. It was big, red, spiky, and several sizes too large for him. Then, to my irritation and horror, he dropped it on my head. It stank of musty sweat and other unidentifiable stenches. Worse of all, the helmet slid down my face and stopped at the top of my muzzle.

Once the initial shock wore off, I cast off the helmet with a flick of my head. “Ewwww!” I squealed, prancing on my hooves in disgust.

“Yeah, I can’t see you as a crazed battle-drunk lunatic.” For once, a bad guy had actually complimented me. He didn’t know it, of course, but it was the thought to me that counted. “But—”

There was the word that I was dreading. “But what?” I somewhat fearfully asked.

“But those idiots won’t just let you waltz away.” Mentally, I sighed in relief. I was really scared that he would say something else.

“Then what?”

Eyepatch looked at me with this really, really creepy smile. “It’s simple.” He took a step toward me. “We kill the Warboss.”

I felt my eye twitch and my claw leg raise. “Touch me and die.”

“No?”

“No.”

We needed an actual plan. I wasn’t about to go prancing about the Wasteland as a crazed bandit leader, as cool as it may have sounded. Too much management, and obviously too much wrongdoing. I had an objective now, and I needed to stay on track.

A temporary solution came to mind. “I’m the Warboss, and anything I say is the law, right?”

“Right…” Eyepatch slowly nodded.

“Excellent! By the power vested in me, I’m temporarily putting you in command until I get back,” I brightly told him. “That work?”

“I think so. Let’s see.” Eyepatch turned around and chucked Gork’s helmet at the small group of assembled minions. “Oi, gitz! Da big boss’z gots words fer ya!”

Were there more of them now? “Bad news, everypony. I’ve gotta take care of things before I do anything else.” There was a collective groan from the gathered crowd.

“I’ll be in charge until Warboss ‘Urt‘oof gets back,” Eyepatch yelled over them. Funnily enough, they proceeded to complain louder. “Shut it, runts! Especially you. And you. You too!”

“No more beatin’s! No more beatin’s!” the crowd chanted.

“THE BEATINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES!” Eyepatch roared at the gathering of raiders.

I gave Eyepatch a sidelong glance. “Hey, you called off the guys shooting at my Rangers, right?”

“Whoops. Forgot.” He cleared his throat and yelled at the group again. “Regroup! Those Rangers ain’t worth our time. I hear the Spiked Balls needs a new one ripped!” A halfhearted cheer went up. “He’s got dinner, and we’s all invited!”

Once again, I was surprised by how cooperative they were, especially Eyepatch. A small war-painted filly dashed out through a crack in the wall, probably to get the heat off Rumcake. Not only had I killed their previous leader, doing so had made me the leader. I still couldn’t believe it. What was I going to do with these idiots?

“Sorted. See ya around the Wastes.” Eyepatch gave me an encouraging pat on the back. “Get outta here, Warboss ‘Urt‘oof.”

I sighed in relief. “Thanks. To be fair, I wasn’t expecting anything like this. I was prepared for a massacre.”

“What? We have honor too. It’s just kinda misplaced.” Eyepatch smirked. Before I made it to the large hole that I had entered through, a small object pricked my right wing. I picked up the small thrown object and examined it. “By the way—”

It was a small skull-shaped metal token no larger than my ear with a large crude lower jaw attached to it. It was made of several different kinds of plastic and metal, with the exception of the half Sparkle-Cola bottle cap pretending to be a helmet. Little gray rods protruded from the sides of the cap in an imitation of horns.

“—welcome to the ‘Ard ‘Eads.”

~~~~~

It turned out that Rumcake was incredibly angry with me and my last-ditch crazy attempt at “negotiating” with my newfound posse. On the bright side, I found out his rage face was no less adorable than his happy face. Additionally, it was great to know that everypony else was relieved I was alive, Violet more apathetically so.

“That was stupid and completely reckless! Damn it, Frosty—I thought you were done with that! I thought we agreed that you would stop doing things like that,” Rumcake angrily scolded me. “What would I have done if you got yourself killed?”

I cringed as I was yelled at. “I took care of the situation, didn’t I?” I was getting flashbacks to being back in the Enclave and getting yelled at by my superior officers. In order to look as apologetic and pitiful as possible, my ears were drooped and I kept my tail tucked. Big sad eyes mode activated.

“Just…” Rumcake caved and then grabbed me into a tight hug without warning. “Don’t do that again, okay?”

“That’s the last time,” I lied. “I’ll be more careful from now on. On the bright side, I’m a warboss now.”

I showed him the pin I got while I gave him the quick run-down of what happened. Just in case, I altered the story slightly so that I had left Eyepatch in charge. Hopefully I wouldn’t see them again and be out of their territory before anything else happened.

Sparkle was dumbstruck. “Seriously? It was that simple?”

“If it makes you feel any better, I didn’t think it would work either,” I admitted. I pinned my complimentary warboss pin to my dad’s hat.

Rumcake got his helmet back on. “Okay, we’ve got to get a move on. Our target location isn’t too far away, and I’d like to get there before nightfall. Everypony saddle up and get packed.”

“That’s it? We’re just going to ignore what just happened?” Violet demanded.

All of us sorta stopped and stared at her. “Uh, yeah? That’s actually kinda how we roll, kiddo. Just keep movin’ forward,” Sparkle told Violet.

“Basically, we know what happened and it’s probably best if we don’t dwell on it since it won’t get us anywhere if we do.”

Once I had my armor back on, we exited the diner through the large crater of a back door and carefully stepped around the bits of meat and liberated body parts haphazardly strewn around. Even though those particular raiders were on my side, Rumcake didn’t want to exit out the front because he was just that paranoid. We managed to make our way back to the main road after getting slightly lost in the maze of alleys behind the building.

Being back on the road reminded me that walking was boring. Any remaining adrenaline in my system had drained out, and I was feeling tired and a little crabby. Tangerine was whistling some kind of happy tune that I couldn’t place.

“I’ll scout forward. I’m bored,” I announced to the group.

“Don’t get stabbed,” Sparkle jokingly chastised.

Rumcake shouldered Sparkle, knocking her off balance. “Not funny, Junior Paladin.”

“Just a joke, Cakey,” I groaned, taking to the sky. “Chill.”

I made lazy circles around our group. “With Frosty’s record, I don’t doubt that it might happen,” Rumcake growled.

“Hey! That’s not nice,” I shouted back, flapping for altitude.

As I flew out of earshot, I thought I heard them arguing about me. Something about how impulsive I was or something. They could talk all they wanted, but I really didn’t care. If they were real friends, they’d tell me to my face if they had concerns.

Focusing back to the task at hoof, there wasn’t anything remotely threatening in the immediate vicinity. There was a firefight going on a kilometer away in some kind of demolished park or something. A glint of light reflecting off something would not stop trying for my attention. In order to get a better look, I unslung my rifle and aimed down the sights to get a better look.

Well, it was moving. Very slowly, but moving nonetheless. I kept a mental tag on the curious reflective object as I completed my scouting run on the road ahead. An overturned shipping wagon looked like a tempting target for some well-deserved scrounging, but it was hard to believe that hundreds of scavengers had actually missed something. Nonetheless, I tucked that little tidbit away as well.

“—diet is not an actual dietary plan! I mean, just because everything is vowels doesn’t mean you’ll lose weight!” Violet protested. “There’s no possible explanation for any weight lost, other than your brain leaking out of your ears.”

I landed, apparently in the midst of a very interesting argument. “Road’s clear. Unidentified target approaching, probably half an hour out. There’s also a wagon to scavenge, if you’re curious.”

Rumcake approvingly nodded. “How dangerous is the target?”

“Really bucking bright.”

I got a blink in response. “That doesn’t help.”

“I know.” I winked at him and then proceeded to ignore him by searching for snacks in my saddlebag. There had to be snack cakes in here somewhere…

“Hey, you can’t keep this figure without having a diet!” Tangerine shot back, swishing her robes back and forth. “Ha.”

Violet tossed her head in visible frustration. “No. I refuse to believe the secret to a healthy lifestyle is eating anything that starts with a vowel.”

In order to add to the fire, I helpfully added, “Apples are good for you.” I took a bite out of the next snack cake in the box I’d retrieved. “I hear that indigo does wonders for your coat.”

Just as planned, Violet was positively seething. I had to shove another entire cake in my mouth in order to not burst out laughing. Unfortunately, I only made the problem worse when I tried to swallow in mid-chew. Little bits of dry, stale crumbs ended up rocketing down my throat and I started to cough and choke on the lack of moisture in my entire oral cavity.

“Help!” I sputtered, still attempting to swallow. “I’m dying!”

Violet rolled her eyes. “Always the drama queen.”

“Haaackgnk!” I continued choking.

Water! I needed water! Just in time, Rumcake pressed a canteen to my lips and I chugged the liquid greedily. At least I managed to swallow the wet lumpy mess in my mouth.

“Nice and slow, Frosty. You good?” I nodded thankfully at Rumcake for the water.

I heard jingling at the edge of my hearing. “Wait, what’s that?”

“Maybe a dinner bell,” Tangerine suggested hopefully.

“Yeah, no,” Violet indignantly shot back. I had a good feeling that we wouldn’t be hearing the end of that argument anytime soon.

Around the bend at the end of the road, a stallion and a mare both wearing the simple garb of a Wastelander appeared, the stallion pulling a wagon behind him. I stared at it in confusion, as the wagon appeared to serve no other purpose than to be bright purple and gaudy, even going to the extent of having a big chrome ball mounted on top. So that’s what it was.

“What the…” several of us muttered in confusion.

Curiosity got the better of me. “Fine, I’ll go check. Cover me, in case that cart’s full of explosives or rabid bees or something. Or exploding rabid bees.”

“The horror,” Sparkle agreed.

With a slight touch of suspicion added to my analysis, there was a good chance that this could be a trap. Nonthreatening target shows up, then the real heavy-hitters slam you when you least expect it. Although on hindsight, I hadn’t seen anything that looked remotely like a raider or scavenger.

I flew over to the cart-hauling duo, prepared to fight. “Hold it right there! What’s your business?” I yelled at the pair.

The mare was acting as the defense escort for the stallion pulling the cart. She was armed with a battle saddled hunting rifle, which was currently pointed at me. It was hard to take such a pink mare seriously, especially one with a hilariously haywire neon green mane. The combat armor she was wearing, however, wasn’t remotely funny. I spun my anti-machine rifle around my back on its strap and pointed it in their general direction, threateningly hovering my claw over the trigger.

While the mare was an obnoxious blend of colors, the stallion was completely boring. Dark charcoal mane with a barely visible orange streak buried in there, and his light gray coat didn’t betray anything but hard times and stress. He was wearing a peculiar outfit that wasn’t immediately familiar to me. What did a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and a funny shirt mean?

The stallion reached out and pulled the firing bit out of the mare’s mouth. “Be not so hasty in your judgement, Carbine.”

“Sorry, Father,” the mare apologized. A family, then?

Wait. The clothes. They were the religious type, great. Still didn’t explain the gaudy cart. Since they didn’t pose an immediate threat, I lowered my rifle and waved everypony over.

Tangerine confirmed my suspicions. “Holy crap, it’s a wandering priest.”

“Or a rabid train worshipper,” Rumcake grumbled.

“Preacher, please,” the stallion told her. “Preacher Market, at your service.”

I didn’t really want anything to do with religion. Too complicated. “Preacher, as in your job?” I asked, just for clarification.

“Folks just call me Preacher nowadays.”

“Maybe he follows the Church of the Sparkly White Mugs,” I jokingly told Rumcake.

“Yeah, we haven’t heard enough about them.” Sparkle was probably smirking under her helmet.

Rumcake facehoofed. “Stop. Just… no.”

“Another pony of faith? Tell me about it,” Preacher asked Rumcake. “I quite am curious about this new following that I haven’t heard of.”

“Don’t…” Rumcake sighed. “Don’t ask.”

The preacher gave him a questioning look. “I shan’t pry into your matters, then.”

“Tell me, noble Steel Rangers. What business do you have socializing with this winged devil?” Carbine said, angrily glaring at me the entire time. It probably didn’t help that I still had my rifle in claw and a talon on the trigger.

Winged devil? That wasn’t nice. “Hey, I resent that!”

Carbine picked up her firing bit. “I tell the truth as it is.” We glared at each other.

Tangerine raised her hoof. “Actually, she’s with us. Nopony here but us Rangers.”

“Children, children! Let us not fight! Surely we can be peaceful!” Preacher yelled, mostly at the two of us.

As an act of good faith, I slung my rifle over my back and held up my hooves, still hovering in place. Carbine simply flicked on the safety and tucked the firing bit into her collar. The rest of our group visibly relaxed a bit as well, since it didn’t appear like we were in any danger at the moment.

“So, what’s with the traveling show-wagon?” Rumcake asked, curiously examining the wagon. “Spreading your words of faith?”

“Yes, of course! Would you like to hear about the glorious Goddess?” Preacher didn’t wait for a response as he opened up his wagon, transforming it into a podium. “There’s quite a story, you must know.”

“Well, I’ll bite. We could use a break, anyway. And by we, I specifically mean Violet. She looks like she’s about to fall over or something,” Rumcake teased, giving the slightly winded mare a friendly nudge.

Immediately, I touched down and began to zone out. Religion was complicated and way too much trouble for what it was allegedly worth. Rumcake sat down and let me lean against him as I started taking apart my weapons for cleaning. The first one I pulled out just so happened to be ex-Warboss Gork’s combat hatchet.

Now, I was no expert in the construction of Wasteland weaponry, but I knew the head on the axe was at almost twice the size that it needed to be. It was large and square, until it curved into a slight hook at the end. However, I had an inkling feeling that choppy-choppy stabby-stabby weapons shouldn’t have a fire mode selector.

On closer examination, it did seem like the handle of the hatchet had used to be some kind of rifle. The safety setting had been relabeled “NAda daKka”, and the single fire had been scratched out completely and now read “onE DAakKa”. Funnily enough, the burst fire setting was the most used setting, the words “mOa dAKkaa”. I just hoped that it really didn’t do anything to the actual use of the weapon, lest the rest of my sanity went down the drain.

I placed that on the ground as Preacher continued to loudly do his namesake. Next, I decided that my submachine gun needed a bit of work since I hadn’t fired it in a while. That, and I was looking for an excuse to yank the frost attachment off the end to see why it never actually worked. Now where was my gun kit?

Very carefully, I took apart the weapon into its individual parts. Moments like this made me appreciate my claw. Before, I would have had to hold things with my hooves and wings, but now I could hold or move things with my claw for more stability or fine movements. Even better, I could pick at little bits of dirt and grime off the parts with the tip of my talon.

I ended up greasing the slide for good measure, cleaning some residue off the firing mechanism, and swearing at Sleazy McCheapkins for selling me the faulty frost enchantment gem attached to the gun. I reassembled my submachine gun and placed it on top of my new combat hatchet in order to keep it as clean as possible.

The next thing I was going to clean was my trusty anti-machine rifle. I unslung my rifle, mentally adding to get the strap itself replaced at some point in the future. When I reached for the rag I was using before, it had vanished. Strange. I looked around and also noticed my submachine gun had tucked itself away of its own accord.

“Wha?” I muttered, looking around. “I coulda…”

Preacher was still spouting religious nonsense that I was doing my best to tune out. I rubbed my eyes, hoping that maybe I put everything down in a different spot than what I remembered. Where was it?

“You’re lucky that I’m here to protect your ass,” Ice Storm growled into my ear, roughly yanking my head back.

What just happened? “Ow!” I cried, pulling my head away from Ice.

The Wasteland was gone. All of its browness and gloomy dark shadows had disappeared. Instead, we were in a bright steel-and-cloud patchwork approximation of the Wasteland. Buck, we were in my mind. My friends were gone; however, Preacher and his podium was still in front of me.

“Hold on a sec, this is different.” Preacher looked around, completely puzzled.

With the sound of a fairy farting, Ice showed up and promptly dragged off to the side by the magical grip on my claw. “We might not have much time. As adorable as your younger version is, I don’t think she’s got more material than ‘be cute and obnoxious’. I’ve got us in an invisibility field, but I don’t know how long it’ll hold. Why couldn’t you just be a damn unicorn?” Ice grunted, still dragging me along.

“Well, excuuuuse me, princess,” I haughtily shot back, allowing myself to be dragged. Ice seemed to know what was going on, so I let him take the lead.

We stopped behind some kind of boxy cloudish metal thing. “You don’t realize how much energy it takes to convert your gods-damned body,” Ice groaned, throwing me into cover. “I’m too tired and old for this crap.”

“The buck is going on?” I hissed at him.

Unceremoniously, he mashed his hoof over my mouth. “Here’s the Sparklenotes—welcome to your first psychic assault. All we need to do is get rid of him before he does any serious damage.”

I peeked around the corner just in time to watch Filly Frosty hop up and down, demanding a magic show. Hopefully she could keep him busy until we came up with a plan.

“So, do you have a plan?” I asked Ice, unconsciously chambering my rifle.

A cigarette pack waved itself in front of my nose. “Care for a smoke?” Ice asked, already trying to light the blue-banded cigarette in his mouth. Curiously enough, he was using a polished silver lighter stamped with a stylized crescent moon as opposed to just using his magic.

I politely declined his offer. “I don’t smoke.”

“Suit yourself.” Ice pocketed his smokes and drew his revolver. “Any second now, your little clone is going to run out of material and then we’ll have to deal with the intruder.”

“So… we shoot him?” I asked.

A small teal blur flew past us and embedded itself in a cloudy wall. “Ow,” Filly whimpered.

Gala Frosty appeared only to yank Filly out of the wall. “Kill it. Whatever it is, it’s strong, and very strong with mind control magic,” Gala told me.

“He’s a big meanie no-pants,” Filly weakly squeaked from Gala’s back.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I told them both.

“Come out, come out! I know I didn’t throw you that hard!” Preacher snarled.

Ice cautiously peeked around the corner. He hastily pulled his head back and gave me the military hoofsign motion to stay put and alert. He darted over to a rectangular pile of clouds and steel, seeking cover in the relative shadow behind it. I could hear Preacher trotting closer and closer to us thanks to the metal plating scattered across the ground.

“Wait for it…” Ice whispered, pointing his revolver at head level from behind the wall.

I felt my muscles tense in anticipation. “What am I waiting for?”

Before my question had time to die in the air, a roaring red and teal thundercloud bolted through the space between us and tackled Preacher. “What the—” he managed to snarl in surprise before a bloodstained steel claw smashed into his jaw.

“Nopony!” Pow. “Hits!” Crunch. “FOALS!” Raider Frosty screamed into Preacher’s bloody face. Well, at least now I knew she had standards. “You wait for them to get to abusal age first!”

I couldn’t tell how serious she was from the wall I was hiding behind.

“Get off me, monster!” Preacher shouted, with what sounded like a strong kick to Raider’s stomach.

“You’ll pay for that!”

There was a loud zapping noise. “I think not.” There was another zap, and I somehow knew that Raider had been knocked out.

“Some kind of incapacitation spell,” I noted, quickly hazarding a peek around the corner. It looked like the crazed killer version of me liked to sleep with her mouth wide open and pouring drool. Nice.

From my left, Ice whispered right into my ear, “If you wait long enough, her hooves twitch in this really cute way like she’s running after something.”

This was one of those moments where I hated my reaction time. I had to clamp my claw around my muzzle to keep from screaming. When I withdrew my steel talons, they came back slightly tinged with blood. Whoops.

Once I swallowed my heart, I slowly took a few breaths. “How did you get behind me?”

“Circled around. Got some help. Get on top of this thing and wait for my signal,” Ice told me.

“Let me guess… I’ll know it when I see it?”

Ice tipped his hat at me. “Read my mind. Be ready.” With that, he literally melted into smoke and shadows.

As quietly as I could, I climbed up onto the cloud and metal surface and set up the bipod on my rifle. Preacher hadn’t seen me yet, but he was still expectantly looking around in what seemed like a confused manner.

Somewhere, I heard a bottle smash. The signal! I resorted to using S.A.T.S. to acquire my target since I’d been caught slightly off-guard. I had a good ninety percent chance to hit his torso, but I needed a better shot. Right hindleg was an eighty four percent. Right foreleg was worse at seventy three. Scrotum was a nice ninety four percent, reasonable. Left hindle—WAIT A SECOND, WHAT?

I scrolled backward to target Preacher’s balls, which just so happened to be highlighted in all their glory through his tail. No, this wasn’t professional. Even if it was the highest chance to hit, I really didn’t want to. However… at this range and angle, and accounting for caliber, it would definitely be a kill shot.

“Don’t do it, Frosty,” I muttered to myself. “You’re better than this.”

A nearly guaranteed kill overrode my sense of honor. My logic decided that since this was the dream world, a dishonorable shot of opportunity wouldn’t be too much of an asshole move. I took one last check for any other possible options before confirming the shot to S.A.T.S.

I tried to close my eyes since I really didn’t want to watch what happened. But lo and behold, the magic of S.A.T.S prevented me from not seeing. It was either that, or since I was seeing everything in slow motion, I moved in slow motion as well.

Just don’t look. Just don’t look. Focus on something else. The butt of my rifle kicked against my shoulder. The bullet exited the barrel and the empty shell gracefully spiraled its way out of the ejection port and slowly fell to the clouds under my body. The round parted Preacher’s tail and blew it out of the way and right into his family jewels.

I didn’t want to look. Blood exploded everywhere, for starters, and I’m pretty sure I saw something small and round bounce away into the distance. As the bullet continued to move forward, so did Preacher’s body. He slumped forward, his hindleg twisting much too far and tearing right off. His head slammed into the ground with enough force to snap his neck and somehow rip his head right off. More blood and gore continued to pour from the new hole in his posterior.

My ovaries were positively cringing in sympathy. What a mean thing to do. I was a bad little pony.

“What the buck was that?” Ice yelled, throwing a large gear at my head. The piece of machinery barely missed my ear. “I mean seriously, are you trying for a section eight?”

Something told me I’d done something wrong. “What?”

“THAT WASN’T THE SIGNAL, IDIOT!” Ice shouted at me, throwing another broken gear at me. “That was the distraction!”

“…Oh.” Yep, definitely one of those moments where you do something stupid and then you realize your horseshoes are filled with peanut butter. “At least I got him?”

Ice waited for me to hop off the object I was using as high ground. “You suck at plans.”

“Shut up, he’s dead,” I shot back.

Well, I guess it’s time to stop playing games and put an end to this.

“Okay, I know you’re dark, edgy, and creepy, but I need you to stop that,” I told Ice, glaring at him.

Ice glanced back and forth between me and Raider, who had just gotten up. “Not me. That you, Toasty?”

“Look at this face and tell me I’m being dark and edgy, bitch,” Raider snarled.

I stared at the two of them. “Toasty? You’re calling her Toasty?” I asked incredulously.

“What? It works.” Ice shrugged. “You’re mellow and happy and shit,” he said, pointing at me, “and she’s all mad and ragey and stuff. Opposites, you know? Frosty? Toasty?”

I continued to glare at Ice. “That’s terrible.”

“It’s bucking genius, shut up.” Raider Frosty, er, Toasty slapped me across the face, raking a trio of bloody lines along my muzzle. I retaliated by punching Toasty in the face with my hoof.

Hey, stop ignoring me!

“Wait… if the voice isn’t me, you, or her… who is it, then?” Ice muttered, looking around.

I am the most powerful psychokinesist in the entire world! Fear—grah, I’ll just have to show you. Dance, my puppet, dance!”

Toasty was in mid-swing when she abruptly stopped and shook her head. “Grah, I just had the weirdest thought.” She scratched at her right ear with her claw and shuddered a bit. “Kinda creepy too, once I think about it. I think.”

What? Im-impossible! You! How about you!

There really wasn’t any way to explain it other than something gripping my mind. Visions of fire and… somepony else’s thoughts? Huh? I felt myself shudder as if I was cold. Kill? Where did that thought come from?

I raised my claw and ineffectually poked Ice’s leg. “Huh. I think it just happened to me, too.” Maybe I needed a nap before I lost my mind even further.

“You poked me. Why would you do that?”

“I… don’t really know. I felt like it, I think?” I replied in confusion. “Ugh, I do need a nap.”

Why aren’t you killing? Why don’t you do my bidding?

Ice looked around. “Hold on a sec, be right back.” He wandered over to Preacher’s body, and for a moment I wondered what kind of loot he would be carrying. I remembered I wouldn’t be able to bring anything back to the real world, so I decided not to put in the effort.

Blam! I slightly jumped when Ice fired his revolver into Preacher’s head, ripping it clean off Preacher’s ruined neck. Blam, blam, and blam again. Apparently Ice wasn’t going to be satisfied until he’d emptied the entire cylinder into the head, continually chasing it along the ground with bullets.

Once the slight ringing in my ears had stopped, I very loudly asked Ice, “Are you quite done with that?”

“Yes, please shoot it a few more times in case the head decides to gnaw our ankles to death,” Gala sarcastically added, patting an equally annoyed Filly on the head.

Instead of letting Ice use his revolver, Toasty opted out for the more hooves-on approach and stomped the remaining limbs off Preacher’s corpse. She didn’t stop until every single limb had been severed and the torso had been reduced to a large, messy pile of meat and bone.

“There? Happy?” Toasty panted, galloping over to the head to give it a good kick. It bounced off somewhere, not sure where. “He’s dead.”

“You have no idea how dangerous that guy could have been.”

“Could have?” Hmm, come to think of it, that weird nagging in the back of my head had stopped.

Ice facehoofed. “Just… just wake up.” He sat down and began to wave his hooves aimlessly. “Oh gods, you’re hopeless. Just get out.”

“How?” I asked.

Toasty strolled over, roughly turned my head toward her, and planted a wet, blood- soaked kiss right on my lips that immediately stunned me into submission. My brain immediately shut down trying to comprehend how this was working, why this was happening, and whether this was okay or not. There was no way for me to notice the haymaker coming from my right.

I awoke with a jolt, hyperventilating and clutching at my face. My submachine gun clattered to the ground. Just a hallucination. No need to panic. It’s only a kiss, right? With myself, sure, but nothing wrong with it, right? I wiped my lips and checked for blood. Nothing. I rolled onto my back and sighed in relief. What had just happened?

When I looked to my left, my heart nearly stopped again. Rumcake’s Decrusted minigun was pointed right at me and spun up. “I just had the weirdest dream…” He turned off his minigun and sat down on the ground.

Violet got up and vomited a little. “I—” She cut herself off by throwing up some more.

“Woah, what happened?” Sparkle groaned, sitting up. “I think I fell asleep or something.”

On the podium, Preacher had completely shut up because he was completely passed out against the sparkly backdrop behind him. Carbine was next to him, doing her best to try and revive him.

“As soon as Violet’s done upchucking, I think we should get a move on,” I told everypony else.

Rumcake rubbed his eyes. “Yeah, I’m getting… I don’t know. Tell him I’m sorry for falling asleep during the sermon,” he told Carbine.

“The Father must be exhausted… I shall relay your apologies to him once he awakes,” Carbine continued to fan Preacher with her hooves.

We all politely waited for Violet to finish what she was doing. Once she had, she made us swear to not talk about what had just happened. After giving Carbine our last remarks, we continued onto the road, looking for the Stable that the Rangers wanted to loot so badly. I did my best to ignore what I’d witnessed in my mind. Anyhow, to adventure!

~~~~~

“Are we there yet?”

“No.”

“Are we there yet?”

“No.”

“Are we—”

“NO,” Rumcake yelled, finally silencing my demands for a comprehensive update.

“Oh, come oooon! I’m bored!” I whined, stomping my hooves impatiently.

“Well, it’s not really our fault that the hidden underground Stable is both hidden and underground, Frosty. There’s nothing you can really do except keep an eye out for anything Stable-Tec related,” Tangerine told me. “Besides, if you’re bored, why don’t you just go fly around some more?”

I groaned in exasperation. “I’ve already flown recon for this area like, five times.”

“And has anything changed?” Sparkle asked in a more bored tone.

“No! There’s just this random group of four Wastelanders just walking around,” I reminded Sparkle. “They’re not even going in the same direction as we are.”

We passed what was left of a giant Sparkle-Cola billboard. I still wasn’t sure what we were looking for, other than any mostly intact buildings that could possibly hold a super-secret government society testing bunker. In order to relieve boredom, I’d periodically flit to doorways and high windows to peek in.

“We’re almost at the waypoint that our scouts sent us. It’s gotta be somewhere around here,” Tangerine called out, making sure that everypony heard.

We slowly approached the remains of what used to be some upscale tourist-ey grouping of buildings. It looked like there used to be a sign to welcome travelers, but now whatever left of it was full of bullet holes. Very conveniently, there also used to be a gift shop right behind it that had been equally vandalized for target practice.

My PipBuck notified me that I’d entered the “Hang ‘Em High Hotel Ruins” area. Maybe they’d put the Stable underneath the hotel for safekeeping. By the looks of what was actually still standing, this looked like maybe some kind of gambling town back in the day.

Part of a billboard was attempting to advertise some restaurant called “WholeCookie” under it. “Hey, Pally Commander, mind if I scavenge that over there?” Sparkle asked, pointing at the same building I was looking at.

After taking a moment to think about it, Rumcake replied, “Sure. Looks promising.”

“This looks like the right area, I think.” Tangerine continued to consult her portable computer device. “I’ll keep looking.”

Rumcake examined our surroundings. “In case this isn’t the place, let’s do a quick comb of the area and see if anypony finds anything interesting. Travel in pairs, and meet back here in three hours. If you find anything or run into trouble, check in on the radio.”

“Roger that!” I saluted and hovered next to Sparkle. Both of us made eye contact, then looked at the restaurant. “Let’s go, then. Dibs on the snack cakes.”

“I call dibs on everything else,” Sparkle immediately shot back while the two of us trotted or flew toward our target. Rumcake and Tangerine went off in another direction, probably going for the Stable hidden here. Violet wandered off somewhere while I wasn’t paying attention.

“You can’t call dibs on everything!”

“Sure I can. I just did.” Sparkle tipped her helmet at me. “Too slow.”

I pouted at her. “Cheater.” I tried pulling open the door. “Damn. It’s stuck.”

Sparkle kicked down the door in our way and launched it into the opposite wall with her power armored hindlegs. “Boom. No more door.”

I peeked into the room around Sparkle’s massive armored tush. “So… it’s a little dark in there, is it?” I really couldn’t see anything until my eyes adapted to the darkness.

Suddenly, the room burst into a multitude of rapidly flashing lights and colors. “Whoop, shit.” The colors began to alternate faster and faster. “Hold on, I almost got it.”

Was it weird that I could feel my eyeballs twitching? I had to stop hovering because I was losing my balance. Finally, the lights stopped alternating and stopped on an illuminating nice pale yellow.

“Got it. Forgot I left the helmet light on rave mode.”

I had to rub my eyes a few more times and ignore the migraine forming in my brain. “I think I just caught epilepsy.”

Once the room stopped spinning, I got a good look at the interior of the restaurant. To our left there was a dilapidated greeting desk in front of a pair of heavily barricaded double doors. Luckily, it looked like we had taken a side entrance and avoided the barricade entirely. Other than that, there were booth-style tables everywhere. Along the left side, it looked like there used to be buffet troughs arranged around a much larger and fancier table. There were a few doors in the back behind all of the buffet stuff which probably led to the kitchen.

I flew over all the obstacles in my way in order to get to the kitchen. “Here’s hoping there’s something useful back here,” I muttered to myself.

Sparkle began inspecting the buffet troughs for one reason or another. “Go on ahead. I’m going to see if I can tear down some of this for scrap.” She hammered an armored hoof against the sturdy object in front of her. “Never know when you need repairs.”

I pushed through the swinging doors to the kitchen. There wasn’t anything of interest on first impressions. Ovens, stoves, grills, nothing that looked mobile enough to take with us. A few rickety old stools here and there, rusty knives around the place, a few looted first-aid strongboxes…

There was the sound of grinding and tearing metal. “Find anything?” Sparkle called out between cutting of metal.

I took another look around the kitchen. “Not really. I mean, there’s a bunch of potential scrap back here, but that’s about it.” A large locked door bearing evidence of several years of attempted lock-pickery.

“Yeah, there isn’t a whole lot here. Whoever came through here last time must have cleaned it out. I got, like, three bits and a bottle cap,” Sparkle complained, nearly knocking the swinging doors off their hinges as she stormed her way in. “Ooh, locked door.”

“Yup,” I simply answered, staring at the door. “What do you think’s behind it?”

“Treasure!”

I wordlessly watched Sparkle start grinding away at the reinforced hinges with a heavy duty saw. “Did, uh, did you try the handle?” I loudly suggested over the sound of cutting.

“No point. It’s probably locked.”

I didn’t care if it was locked, the grinding and cutting noise was getting on my nerves. A simple turn and yank later, the door slowly creaked open. Sparkle turned off her saw and probably glared at me from behind her helmet. Too bad it looked like shelves and shelves of already looted things. There were still a good number of cans and boxes left, but it didn’t seem like anything was left.

“Well, that was a waste of time. Nothing here.” I glumly padded into the storage room. “Still, I’ll see if there’s anything worth taking. Extra food’s good too.”

Sparkle pushed her way past me. “Show off.”

“What? It’s kinda your fault for not checking the door first.”

A cursory examination bore nothing particularly salvageable besides two cans of sweet potatoes, a can of corn, and nine cans of beans—assorted varieties, of course. Somepony had definitely been through here, though. Whoever it was had left behind a haphazard pile of Wasteland clothes, a few bricks of scrap, the useful half of a shotgun, and one very flat and very destroyed black mini-suitcase-looking thing.

True to her word, Sparkle began taking everything in sight that was remotely worth anything. I managed to snag the the half-shotgun before she noticed, just out of spite.

My radio squealed suddenly, nearly causing me to pee myself. “Hey, Frosty? Change of plans. I need Sparkle in the casino. Meet us at the poker tables.” I could hear Rumcake shuffling around on the other end. “Got eyes on Violet?

I held my hoof over my earbloom. “No idea. Where’s the casino?”

Are you still in the same building you started in?

“Last time I checked, yeah,” I replied, looking around.

Two buildings down, look for the giant sign that looks like a pair of playing cards. It’s the largest intact building in this area, if you get lost.

Okay, giant sign next to a giant building. “Got it.”

Might as well. Bring Violet, if you find her.

“Roger that.”

I looked up at Sparkle, who nodded. “Yeah, I heard. Nothin’ else left here anyway.” She looked around one last time, just in case, as we made our way out.

Rumcake was right, it was hard to miss. Apparently he and Tangerine had immediately gone for the hotel from the get-go. The giant pair of poker cards—a crossed ace of spades and a queen of spades—had a broken marquee attached to the front. The massive print below it probably used to read “Hang ‘Em High Casino and Bar” or something along those lines.

What was left of the blue-gray interior was still stunning, even in its looted and blood-stained form. The entry used to have groupings of four slot machines, creating several neat squares stretching past a sunken pit on my right where there used to be a few card tables. Above, there was a walkway that stretched from a balcony to my right all the way into a doorway on the right. Below the balcony, there was some kind of windowed box—probably some kind of security booth.

“Hey! Over here!” Rumcake called out from the top of a ramp at the far end of the casino. “There’s a bunch more up here.”

Once we got over there and up that ramp, we trotted into a more secluded, more fancy card room. I mean, the poker tables were made of engraved wood and what looked like it used to be green silk. Tangerine was sitting on a cushion that used to be attached to one of the many booth seats around the room. She had her head lying on the cushion, a small glass ball glowing with pale orange magic barely touching the tip of her horn.

I was about to reach out and touch the object, but both Rangers slapped my hoof away. “Careful. She’s in a memory orb right now, and I really don’t want two brain-damaged mares in this party.”

“Hey!” I protested.

Rumcake failed at choking back a laugh. “You know it’s true.” I didn’t have a good comeback, so I settled for angrily growling in the back of my throat.

“So…” Sparkle apathetically dragged a hoof through the torn carpet. “What now?”

“We poked into the basement and it doesn’t look good. Ghouls are everywhere down there, and I’d rather not bring Tangerine into a firefight. So, here’s the new plan: Frosty and Tangerine, you two do… whatever. Maybe go find something to keep Violet on a leash or something. Sparkle and I will clear out the infestation. Questions?”

I resisted the urge to poke Tangerine, lest I accidentally break her. “How long is she going to be like this?”

“Uh…” both Rangers chorused.

I faceclawed. “I guess I’ll sit here and wait.”

The Rangers departed to go look for their precious technology hoard. I, on the other hoof, made myself comfortable on a surviving booth seat. In order to keep myself busy and awake, I began work on my rifle since I hadn’t really cleaned it at all because of that weird dream trip. As I was taking out my gun cleaning kit, a yellow blip appeared on my E.F.S. very briefly.

I clamped my submachine gun in my mouth and pointed it at the door. Whatever it was, it had disappeared. Overreacting, Frosty. I placed my rifle and submachine gun on the table and exhaled heavily. Probably just some bug or something.

Drunk Frosty was sitting directly opposite to me, nursing a nearly empty… bottled… unlabeled… drink. Huh. “Bu–hic–bugs’re all red an’s stuff! Yellow’s th’ mellow and blue’s in the goo!” she basically yelled at me.

Well, Drunky did make a good point, as inebriated as she was. “Fine, then what is it?”

Why did I even bother asking? “Why y-you askin’ me?”

I had to resort to the legendary face-everything. Both wings, hoof, claw, and table. “I have no idea.”

“Well, great minds—er, similar minds think alike?” Gala Frosty suggested from next to me. “Lacking that, you do do a lot of stupid things most of the time…”

I glared at her and tried to wipe that stupid smirk off her muzzle. Gala’s only response was to giggle at me and playfully bopped my nose. I groaned and attempted to get back to cleaning. My personalities, all two of them at the moment, indulged in their own conversation while I kept myself busy.

“Where do you keep getting your drinks, anyway? We don’t have a bar,” Gala asked, clearly puzzled.

Drunky put down her bottle and produced a full bottle of rum from under the table. “Dun’cha worry ‘bout that.” With a slight bit of difficulty, she popped the cap off the bottle and took a long draught from it.

“Uh, mind if I get a bit of that?”

Drunky shoved the bottle across the table. After Gala wiped the mouth of the bottle with the back of her hoof, she hesitantly took a small sip and instantly regretted it.

“Bleh! That’s disgusting!” Gala sputtered, attempting to get rid of the taste in her mouth by rubbing the back of her hoof on her tongue.

“Wimp.”

“Drunken lout!”

“Butt.”

“Inbred drunkard!”

“You’re an inbred butt.”

“If we were anymore inbred, we’d be a bucking sandwich!” Gala practically screamed. “Just stop!”

“Butthead.”

“Stop.”

I took out my warboss axe and violently buried it into the table, immediately silencing the argument at hoof. “Enough! What’s this about being inbred?”

“Right, you don’t remember. Let’s just say that grandpa Vanilla might have had a few too many drinks at a family reunion back in the day, one thing led to another…”

“Really?”

“The truth.”

When I heard a scream of fear, the first thing I did was pick up my submachine gun and trigger S.A.T.S. in order to target the threat in the room. Turned out it was simply Tangerine, me, myself, and I. I canceled the S.A.T.S. and put my gun back on the table.

Tangerine had both hooves clamped over her head. She was breathing heavily and her eyes were dilated like crazy. Whatever was in that memory orb must have been traumatic or something, for sure. She looked around the room and saw me first.

“Screw the Stable, this entire hotel is a weaponized goldmine!” she excitedly sputtered at me, hastily brushing her mane down and putting her hood back on. “We’ve got to go find it right now!”

“What kind of casino has a weapon stockpile?” Gala asked.

“No idea. Shut up,” I told her, then noticed Tangerine’s confused expression. “Not you.”

Without missing a beat, Tangerine continued. “I was watching through the view of some kind of security pony. He was guarding his boss, presumably the owner, and he overheard his boss talking about some laser system or something. We need to find it!”

“A laser, huh? That’s cool.”

“Yeah! Think of the possibilities!” Tangerine patted herself down to make sure she still had everything. “Funny thing is, all he kept saying was ‘I need more time’ and stuff like that. Whoever he was talking to said they could fix that, strangely enough.”

Interesting information, but… “Where does the screaming come in?”

“Let’s just say I don’t want a repeat experience. My point of view died, to put it simply.”

I’d had experiences like that, so I decided not to press the issue. “Alright then. Where’s this laser?”

Tangerine’s shoulders slumped. “That, I have no idea. I just know it exists.” I raised my eyebrow at her. “Fine, it should exist. He did say that he’d invested a sizable portion of his bits into it.”

So it had to have existed at one point, and that was good enough for me. “Well, if I wanted a giant doom laser, I’d put it on the roof. Maybe put the power generators underground, for safety.” Logic, logic, logic.

“What if the Stable is part of it all? What if the laser is in the Stable?”

That was actually a good point. “Well, I assume the Stable has a generator?” I asked, which I got an affirmative nod from Tangerine. “Well, the power probably comes from there. I still say the laser is on the roof.”

“The elevators here should still work since the exterior is relatively intact. I’ve got a few materials to spare in case it doesn’t work.” Tangerine opened a smaller heavy duty looking bag and pawed through it. “A spark battery, some wiring, a circuit board off a bending unit, soldering wire, two pounds of explosives, a few more tiny battery things, a transistor, and three firing caps. I know I have some wire strippers and some wonderglue here somewhere.”

“Somehow I don’t think blowing up the elevator is going to get us to the top floor in record time,” I flatly replied.

Tangerine giggled. “When in doubt, C-4.”

“I’d rather doubt your doubt.” I tapped my earbloom again. “Hey, Cakey? Tangerine’s up. We’re headed—”

“To the roof,” Tangerine loudly added.

I sighed. “Yes, to the roof. She’s got a hunch about a laser that probably is or is not up on the roof.”

The radio crackled for a second. “Copy. Hey, if you see an important-looking keycard or anything security-liberating or something like that, gimme a heads up? Grenade launchers don’t work as keys,” Rumcake replied. There was another short burst of static. “I’m a little busy. Ow! Hey, I-I’ll call you back.

“What’s going on? Is it the exploding bees? Hello?”

No reply.

Hopefully, he would be fine. I took my hoof off my ear and quickly reassembled my rifle. Tangerine and I both got our things together and performed a quick weapons check. As I patted myself down for gear, I noticed a faint glow coming off of Tangerine’s robes. It strengthened when a wave of orange magic flickered over them, meaning that they were magically enchanted in some way.

“So what does that spell do, exactly?” I asked, watching her sweep her pale orange magic over herself one more time.

Once Tangerine finished with her spell, she looked up and wiped her forehead. “It makes the cloth more impact-resistant by causing the strands of the fabric to—”

“Right, bulletproofing. Got it,” I interrupted her, not wanting to hear about the details.

We left the VIP room and went to go look for the elevators. Well, I was looking for the elevators and Tangerine was leading the way. Up the stairs, across the hall, over the hastily-built barricade made of slot machines, and down the dead body road. Actually, it was more like the skeleton-littered road, but close enough.

I kicked a skull out of my way. “So, these bones… Postulate.”

Tangerine stared at the bones scattered along the edges of the hallway. “I assume they died of radiation poisoning. Otherwise they came here for refuge and… didn’t make it, I guess.” Both of us stopped to give a moment of silence for those who had been forgotten.

Surprise, surprise! The bucking yellow bar appeared again. By the time I looked up and had my weapon ready, it had disappeared. What the buck was it?

“Hey, you get the feeling we’re being watched?” I asked Tangerine.

Tangerine shook her head. “No. Why?”

Damn. I had been hoping that she’d detect something in the area. “Hmm. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but the PipBuck doesn’t lie…”

“Sorry if I doubt you, but you don’t really have a track record for being sane,” Tangerine apologetically told me, turning left down a corridor. “If it would make you feel better, I can take a look at your PipBuck later.”

Well, that that would definitely make me feel better. “If it makes the random blips go away, that would be great.”

We arrived at the elevator lobby. Just like everything else, most of the things in the lobby were falling apart, but overall it was still in surprisingly good condition. Each of the three elevators on either side of the room were closed. Tangerine immediately went to work trying to call an elevator.

Back before the war, this hotel might have been a very fancy place. The floors were marble, for crying out loud! The four pillars in the room were engraved and embossed with gold leaf, just like the ceiling.

Tangerine moved to a different elevator panel, leaving the previous one in ruins with its wires exposed. “Zero for one. The circuitry is all melted in the back.” She started to unscrew the next panel.

Out of sheer boredom, I pressed all the remaining buttons in the hopes of actually calling an elevator. “Hey, this one works!” I called out as the little up arrow lit up. “No need to—”

A whine of tortured metal and a deafening snap echoed through the room. Screeching followed shortly thereafter, accompanied by rattling noises that both became louder and louder. There was a whoosh of air and my mane blew back from the air that suddenly blasted into my face through the cracks in the door. The elevator itself stopped when it collided with the bottom of the elevator shaft.

“...I think we’re zero for two.” Little licks of fire burst through the doors when the demolished elevator imploded. “Yeah, definitely broken.” I sheepishly grinned as Tangerine glared at me.

My radio crackled. “You guys hear that?

“Sorry, blew up an elevator. Carry on,” I apologized.

Rumcake was silent for a second. “No, that wasn’t it… Stay sharp. I’ve got a bad feeling about this place.

“Got it.”

Tangerine continued to mess with wires and whatever she was doing. “If you keep destroying these elevators, we won’t be able to get upstairs at all.”

“It’s all fun and games until somepony gets pancaked by an elevator. Besides, there are stairs, aren’t there?”

“Stairs are overrated.”

Who needed stairs if I had wings? “You’re just lazy.”

“Do you want to climb up three million flights of stairs? Because I’m not.” Electricity exploded out of the control console in front of Tangerine. “Gah! That’s zero for three, then.”

I noticed an air vent over the last three elevators on the left. “Hold on, I have an idea.” Maybe if I shoved my way in, I could just hop into the elevator shaft and get upstairs that way…

First, hovered up and firmly planted my hooves on a fancy ornate sun carving on the ceiling. These vents were much larger than they looked, especially once I got up here. A peek through the vent revealed that it did, in fact, lead directly into the elevator shafts. I angled my head around a bit until I could figure out whether any elevators were actually on our floor.

“What’s your idea?” Tangerine absentmindedly asked, still pulling and fiddling with wires. I replied by ripping the air vent cover off the wall and waiting expectantly.

I pointed at the elevator door below me. “Good news, this elevator’s already on this floor. What I was thinking is that you go in there, fix the elevator itself, and we take it to the top.”

Tangerine stared at me for a moment, probably judging how feasible my plan was. “What if I get stuck?”

“Let’s not worry about that,” I told Tangerine. I gave her a few seconds to gather all of her tools before floating down to pick her up and shove the diminutive mare into the excessively large air vent. “I mean, I’d go in but unfortunately I’ve got a collarbone and no technical experience.”

As I assisted Tangerine by pushing her robed butt into the the vent, my E.F.S. lit up with yellow and red contacts for a fraction of a second. “Holy—” I gasped, fumbling for any of my weapons. Unfortunately, that left her hind legs dangling for a moment and she frantically scrambled the rest of the way into the vent.

My radio hissed again, this time with Sparkle on the other end. “Frosty, you see that too?

I’m telling you, something’s up. Keep an eye out for a jammer or scrambler somewhere. There’s nopony else but us here,” Rumcake ordered. “But you are seeing it too, right?

I nodded, even though they couldn’t see me do it. “Yeah, I nearly dropped Tangerine when it happened.”

“No thanks, by the way!” Tangerine retorted.

“Just fix the elevator, you little foal,” I shot back.

Tinkering sounds. Cranking noises. A zap and squeak. Finally, there was a heavenly ding and a little light above the door lit up. “Hey, it works!” Tangerine yelled.

Fault,” the mechanical voice droned. I could hear gears grinding and breaking. “Please stay calm. A repair technician has been notified. Please stay calm.

“Well that’s awkward.” I sat down and began to wonder how to get Tangerine out of the elevator at this point.

I heard something large and probably tool-like hitting something metal. “Okay, good news is that the elevator works and door on this side is open. The lights are on, too.”

“What’s the bad news?”

All the lights are on!” Tangerine screamed in frustration.

Well, at least I wouldn’t have to haul a squirming unicorn up who knew how many floors. “Hold yourself, I’ll be in there shortly.” I managed to slip my talons into the crack of the door. With less force than I expected, managed to make enough room so I could slide my hoof in to spread the broken elevator doors apart. I stood up on my hind legs for more leverage.

The second there was enough room, I attempted to get in by dropping to my hooves and diving in. However, my big fat butt was having a really hard time getting in. With a wiggle and a tug, I managed to pull myself in, until my tail blade got caught in the door.

“Stupid… rusty…” I muttered, yanking it in and flicking my tail back and forth along the ground. “Let’s just get to the roof.”

Tangerine was equally as grumpy as I was at this point. “This might take a while,” she said, pointing at the brightly lit control panel.

With a soft dinging sound, the elevator lurched to life. Not a moment later, it abruptly stopped and the doors opened. “Floor Two. Concierge and Dining on this floor,” the elevator helpfully informed us.

“Like I said, this might take a while.” Tangerine sighed and tugged her hood over her eyes and attempted to squeeze in a nap.

As the doors closed once again, I remembered my PipBuck’s radio function and turned it on, just in time for the beginning of a song.

I don’t want to set the world… on… fiiiire…

~~~~~

Floor Twenty-Three. Rooms twenty-three oh one to twenty-three eighty.

I groaned in irritation. “I should have just flown to the top myself.” The pair of fives and the other useless three cards in my claw weren’t really helping my mood.

The doors slid closed and we lurched back into motion. “How long have we been here?” Tangerine asked, throwing a king on top of my stack of a ten, a nine, and a four. “Overloaded. Get rid of that garbage.”

There went another caravan. I checked my PipBuck while Tangerine discarded my cards. “Well, we’ve been going up for the past twenty minutes.”

“This is a slow elevator.”

“Yeah.” I placed one of my threes back in the spot where my caravan used to be.

Tangerine dropped a jack on top of the three I just played and smirked at me.

“You little bitch.”

~~~~~

Floor Sixty-One. Rooms sixty-one oh one to sixty-one eighty.

“Got any nines?”

“Go fish.”

“I swear to Luna you’re cheating…”

~~~~~

Floor Ninety-Four. Rooms ninety-four oh one to ninety-four eighty.

“OH COME ON!”

“Relax, we’re almost there.”

~~~~~

Floor One Hundred. Penthouse floor.

The doors opened, and both of us dashed out, thankful that the longest elevator ride in history was finally over. “We made it! Yes!” Tangerine cheered.

I looked around the grand entry lobby that had found ourselves in. Everything was in near-perfect condition—the marble floors were only caked with dust, the intact little side table still had an ashtray sitting on it, and even the white walls were still beautifully clean.

“Okay, we’ll need to find the roof access.”

Tangerine pushed open a door on the right. “Oooh. Pretty.” She wandered inside, not waiting for me to finish my train of thought.

“Lacking that, we break a window and I fly us to the roof from there,” I said to nopony in particular. “I guess we’re just going to explore, then.”

I headed through the door opposite to the one that Tangerine had gone through. The heavy clank of my armored horseshoes was replaced with soft thuds when I stepped onto carpet. I felt a little bit bad for leaving little bits of dried dirt all over the light green carpet. There was a long white table surrounded by chairs, so this was probably a dining room.

Suddenly, static loudly burst out of the walls and ceiling. Without thinking, I drew my rifle and pointed it at the door. As abruptly as it started, it stopped and the room became silent once more. I glared at the entire room with great suspicion as I continued to search for anything interesting. “I am seriously not in the mood for spooky shit, room. Stop.”

The kitchen didn’t seem to be very interesting. All the drawers and cupboards were open and they were all empty anyway. A large multitude of boxes and cans sat next to the trash that really needed taking out. I walked into the pantry and found it just as bare as the rest of the kitchen.

“Anything?” I yelled.

“No,” came the faint reply. “There is, however, a really nice painting in here.”

I moved past the kitchen and into what looked like the master bedroom. Whoever had been in here was really living the high life. The bed was bucking massive and looked like it could be softest thing in the world. Another door to the right probably led to the bathroom. The curtains were drawn, making the room much dimmer than the rest of the penthouse.

I was about to wonder where the resident of the room was until I noticed the unicorn skeleton crumpled in the couch next to the bed. Loosely clamped on the skeleton’s left leg was an old PipBuck. The short bedside table had a few objects on it, including yet another memory orb. “Hey, I found an orby thing that you’ll love,” I yelled to Tangerine.

“I wanna see! Hold on, I’m on my way.” I could hear her excited trotting coming from the other side of the penthouse. The other two things on the counter were a revolver and an interesting-looking watch with a PipBuck-compatible plug attached to it.

I picked up the revolver first. It wasn’t anything special, really. It was a simple thirty-eight caliber revolver with a custom cylinder and a cool engraving along the side of the barrel. The cylinder was painted with alternating red and black numbered stripes, and the engraving was a bullet flying through a cowpony’s hat. Curiously enough, when I checked the cylinder for bullets, there was only one loaded. The rest were empty casings.

Onto the watch. Besides the PipBuck attachment capability, the only special thing I noticed about it was the fact that the little hand was a diamond, as in the playing card kind, and the big hand was a heart (again, the playing card kind). I flipped the golden pocket watch over and found a cryptic message engraved on the back.

“To my dear friend: Persevere, and always bet on red. From ‘Time Cop’ Don Belle,” I read out loud. “Huh.” Sense of duty compelled me to steal the PipBuck as well.

Tangerine showed up as I was staring at the watch. “Where’s the orb?” she excitedly asked.

I pointed at the orb still lying on the table and pocketed the revolver, still puzzling over the message on the watch. A grin finally made it across to my muzzle. Of course the Time Cop would have a special watch.

Springs creaked behind me and I almost unslung my rifle again until I remembered Tangerine was in the room. She’d picked up the memory orb and was trying to make herself comfortable on the bed, which definitely looked as soft as I though it did. I found it funny as she tried to go to the center of the bed without comically sinking and losing her balance.

I had to hold back a giggle. “Having problems?”

“Shut up!” Tangerine shouted back, blushing slightly. She settled on lying down where she was with the orb nestled between her forelegs. “Cover me, would you?”

“Can do.” Jokingly, I grabbed the sheets and gently pulled them over onto Tangerine, showering her with a layer of dust.

Tangerine didn’t move and instead glared at me very, very angrily. I didn’t like the look she was giving me, so I pulled the sheets over a little more so that they covered her face as well.

“There we go.” I patted the lump where Tangerine’s head should be. “Covered.”

I could hear her adorably growling from under there somewhere. “Just keep watch. No goofing around.”

“Fine, fine.” I made sure to aggressively pat the lump again. “You’ll be safe, I promise.”

“I’d better be,” I heard Tangerine mutter. Once I was sure she was watching whatever was on that orb by peeking under the sheet, I sighed and settled myself down onto the dreamily soft bed.

Back to this pocket watch, however. My PipBuck had a clock built into it, didn’t it? So why did I need a watch attachment?

“Maybe it’s just for showing off. Impracticality is fashionable, last I heard,” Ice Storm told me. He was sitting in the chair opposite from the skeleton, idly twirling a nearly burnt out cigarette through the air in front of him.

I read the inscription on the back once more. “Well, it is shiny.”

Filly Frosty just happened to be sitting at the foot of the bed. “Maybe it’s there because you can go ‘ooh let me check the time on this really cool watch that you don’t have!’ Or something like that.” She rolled around on the bed and waved her hooves in the air.

“Or maybe their PipBucks didn’t have clocks,” Gala Frosty helpfully added from the doorway. “I mean, this guy’s a big spender after all.” She pointed at the skeleton. “He probably had a PipBuck when they first came out.”

“And they forgot a clock function,” I flatly declared.

Gala scratched her head. “Uh… there was so much technology in it there wasn’t any more room for a clock?” she replied with a shrug.

“Doubt it.” I flipped over the pocket watch again. “There’s gotta be something special about this thing.”

There was a loud thud from the other side of the bed. “H-hey… I thiiink dere’s a mini bar over by the sideways wood thing.” Drunk Frosty attempted to drag herself onto the bed and failed a few times.

The creak of unoiled hinges made several heads turn (or in one case, roll) toward the bathroom. A tumbleweed bounced out of the bathroom door, around Gala, and whirled into the dining room like it belonged. I blinked and rubbed my eyes in shock. When I looked back at the bathroom door, it was closed again.

“Did we all just—” Officer Frosty blinked and rubbed her eyes as well.

Toasty slapped me in the face very roughly with the back of her hoof. When I reeled backward and nearly knocked over the skeleton’s skull, she nodded in satisfaction.

“Yup. We just collectively hallucinated a desert plant,” Toasty told the rest of me. “Bucking brilliant.”

“Why the hell did you hit me?” I angrily demanded.

Toasty shrugged. “Just making sure you didn’t nod off.”

“Was it really necessary though?”

Toasty pretended to think about it. “No,” she finally agreed. “But it was fun.”

I pointed at Officer Frosty. “And what the buck are you doing here?”

“What? It’s a party, so I might as well drop in as well.” She cocked her head at me. “Problem?

I sighed. “Ah, forget it. I really don’t wanna deal with you right now.”

“The mare makes a point,” Ice told Officer. “But seriously, what’s going on? There’s a lot of weird stuff going on, and that’s saying a lot coming from a room full of Frosty.”

“Yeah!” All of us pumped a hoof or a claw in the air, minus Ice and Officer.

Gala peeked into the bathroom. “Breaking news: the toilet seat is gold.” She trotted inside, only to emerge seconds later. “I lied. It’s just acrylic.”

I really had to be really bored if I wanted to look in the bathroom. “So, any ideas on what’s going on in this hotel? This many creepy things can’t be coincidence.”

“Maybe you should check your radio,” Officer suggested.

“How would that help?” Gala asked.

Officer shrugged. “Just suggesting the Enclave news channel might help.”

As if. “You and what reception? Come on, I can’t even get Propaganda Nightly down here,” I sarcastically shot back.

“Or the muuuusaaak chaaannaaaa,” droned the drunken voice sprawled out on the floor.

Filly rolled around on the bed. “Maybe if we need some nap time!”

Hmm. Nap time did seem like a great idea. However, I really wanted to know what was so special about the watch. I unplugged my disruptor and tucked it away safely with the rest of my stuff. To be safe, I blew off the PipBuck connectors on the watch before plugging it in.

The watch’s arms spun and spun until the time matched up with what I had on my PipBuck. Three forty-two in the afternoon. Looked about right. Other than that, it didn’t appear to do anything.

I didn’t have time to wonder if anything had changed. “Wait, what’s that sound?” Toasty asked, fearfully whipping her head back and forth.

Never before had I ever seen me, or even the most brazen, violent, angry version of me this scared. She was shifting uneasily on her hooves and nervously flicking her ears around. In her nervous shifting, she was digging little holes in the carpet with her talons. Her yellowed eyes kept searching for something invisible in the room.

“Uhh…” I glanced at Gala and Ice Storm. “So… any of you hear whatever it is?” Both of them shook their heads.

“You don’t hear it?!” Toasty screeched. “It’s so loud! Make it stop!” She looked around and finally resorted to darting under the bed.

“Hic! Weccome!” Drunky greeted Toasty.

Somepony slapped somepony else under there. “Speak again and I’ll shove that bottle so far up your ass you’ll be choking on it!”

Silence.

Tick… tock…

“Guys… I think I caught the crazy,” I warned everypony.

Where was that coming from? It seemed like it was coming from everywhere. I was getting the same looks that Toasty was receiving a moment ago. Tick… tock… The door! Wait… clock noises… I glared at the watch plugged into my PipBuck.

I reached for the clock and I was about to yank it until I heard a new sound—buzzing. “Okay, that’s not normal.” A large chitinous limb reached around the door frame, followed by another.

If the ugliest bloatsprite had decided to reproduce with the help of a few radroaches, that’s kind of what I was looking at. It had big ugly red bug eyes and a big horrendously fuzzy midsection that had horrible fly wings attached to it.

“Get down!” I yelled, not waiting for anypony to actually get down.

They were figments of my imagination after all, so they probably didn’t need to get to a safe distance anyway. I kicked on S.A.T.S. and put three shots into the creature’s eyes. Only after I let the spell do its job did I realize I was about to fire a very large gun in a very small confined space.

I caught Ice taking his revolver out of his trenchcoat. “Huh. That’s interesting.”

I fired off three shots consecutively into the thing’s right eye. Boom! The first shot blew cleanly through its eye. The next two added insult to injury by creating two more massive holes in its already ugly face. All three reports from my rifle were deafening in the room. My ears didn’t hurt yet, but I braced myself for intense ear pain in a moment.

As Ice jumped into action and started to empty his revolver into the oversized bug, complete with his appearance chime, everything froze and suddenly adopted a black, white, and red motif. A large red poker heart swirled out of the ground and flattened itself in front of me.

“What the—?”

Time for more. It did a little twirl and popped out of existence. I didn’t recall that ever happening before…

Ice continued in normal motion, firing his last two rounds into the bug. Strange thing was, I hadn’t come out of S.A.T.S. yet like I expected to. A quick glance to my AP meter puzzled me further. Hadn’t I used up all my actions on my three shots?

The only comfort I had was that Ice was just as confused as I was. “Hold up a sec, this is where I disappear like a mysterious badass and slow motion stops.” He looked around at everypony else still floating where they’d either dove for cover or not moved at all.

I canceled S.A.T.S. and was immediately slammed by the damage of eardrum-shattering gunfire. I dropped my rifle and clutched at my ears. Before anypony started asking questions, I shook my head pointed at my ears. A quick cough and a swallow later, and felt my hearing come back with a slight pop.

“Okay, what the hell just happened?” Ice demanded.

Gala pointed out the door and at the big hole in the ceiling, which was now gently raining dust and debris. “Well, Frosty flipped out and forcibly added a skylight into the ceiling, that’s what.”

I rubbed my eyes. “There… there was a giant bug there a second ago.”

“Don’t look like it anymore,” Toasty snorted, picking at her teeth with the tip of her talon.

But it had been so real… S.A.T.S. had even targeted it! Well then again, I was talking to several representations of myself. Maybe I needed some real medical attention after all.

The pile of sheets violently spasmed. “Don’t plug in the watch!” Tangerine yelled suddenly. Looks like she was awake again.

“Well, you’re a bit late on that count.” I reached over and yanked the tangled sheets off of her. “Welcome back.”

Obviously the first thing Tangerine noticed was the hole in the ceiling. “So you started on getting us to the roof?”

“Long story. What’s wrong with the watch?” I held up my PipBuck with the shiny watch attached to it.

Tangerine groaned. “There’s a prototyped spell attached to it with a security binding spell keeping it secure. By attaching Don Belle’s watch to your PipBuck, attaching it to any other PipBuck won’t do anything anymore.”

“So?”

Apparently not the reply that Tangerine was looking for. “Don’t you see? We can’t research the spell because you just assigned it to your PipBuck Two Thousand, as opposed to our PipBuck Three Thousand Dev!” She punched my shoulder, and immediately regretted it as her hoof clanged off my armor.

For some reason, I still didn’t really see the problem. “So why not just look at my PipBuck for the spell, then?”

Tangerine facehoofed. “Your PipBuck is an older, slightly outdated model. It lacks a lot of features that the Three Thousand model has by default, not to mention that yours isn’t even a developers’ kit that allows us to access the interesting parts of the spell.”

“Oh.”

“Yes.” Tangerine collected herself and wormed her way off the bed. “Sometimes I can’t tell if you’re pretending or if you’re legitimately this stupid.”

I watched her tuck the memory orb somewhere under that robe of hers. “Hey, I’ll be as stupid as you need me to be.” I winked at her.

Tangerine cutely blushed and avoided eye contact with me by rearranging things in her saddlebags. Mission accomplished.

“You just can’t stop picking on her, can you?” Ice flicked his burnt out cigarette at me. “And get some more smokes, would you?”

Tangerine suddenly switched from being bashful to full combat mode, even going as far as levitating her laser pistol out. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?” She shook the pistol at the wispy unicorn sitting on the couch.

Wait, what? “YOU CAN SEE HIM?” I yelled back at her incredulously.

Ice sat up and slammed his fedora down on the armrest of his couch. “WHY ARE WE YELLING?”


Footnote: Level up!
New Perk: Intimidation (Level 2) – Your reputation as a Warboss is spreading. Raiders have an increased chance of retreating from battle. However, there is a slight chance that they will instead double their attempts to kill you.
New Item Ability: Don Belle’s Lucky Pocket Watch – You have a 50% chance to replenish any consumed AP when using S.A.T.S. This ability may only be used every three hours.
Current Sub-perk: Confused – I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of how crazy I am. You gain no stat bonuses.

Rising Storm DLC installed.

  • New locations unlocked.
  • New quests added.
  • New perks available.
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