• 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 28: You won’t take me alive?

Chapter 28: You won’t take me alive?

“Is he friend, or is he foe, the pony wonders…”


My eyes cracked open.

I immediately regretted that decision and shut them again. Light hurt, and my precious retinas needed their rest. An accidental erotic groan made its way out of my mouth as I tried to stretch and roll over. Hopefully nopony had heard that. I sort of mulled over the curious observation that I was in, yet again, another bed and thanked Luna for the boundless plenty of comfortable nesting in this desolate wasteland.

So while I was warm and cuddled up in threadbare blanket over plush mattress, I desperately tried to recall how I’d gotten here. Little bits of enlightenment would float to the surface, like redeeming myself from the not-Frosty, throwing something, and then Ice’s ultimatum. A vague memory of slumping forward and face-planting yet again seemed to be the last thing that went through my mind.

“You do that a lot,” Gale quietly sighed.

If it wasn’t so darned bright, I would have lazily swatted at her. “Mph. Your face does that a lot.” My best efforts to drown her out were useless.

“Hey.”

A weary groan came out of my mouth. Whatever Ice wanted, I really didn’t want to bother with it at the moment. “I don’t want what you’re selling.”

“Just take it easy for a while. You burned through all the magicka I had stored up. I’ll see what I can scrounge up, but don’t count on any significant help anytime soon.”

Even though I’d heard what he said, it didn’t really process in my mind because I was still too infatuated with the fresh almost-clean scent of the pillow my face was buried in. “I don’t care,” I happily moaned. For once in a very long time, I was happy, comfy, and completely safe. Nothing could ruin this moment.

The reply from Ice was indignant. “You are intolerable.”

In the midst of my delightfully plush conversation with myself, the sound of loud hooves and clinking gear made me aware that somepony was here. Seeing as I had basically no urge to find out who it was, I continued to blithely relax in comfort. Maybe if I stayed still and pretended to be asleep they’d leave me alone. Yeah, that was a good plan.

“Hey, guy. Just tellin’ you that I’m probably gonna call it a week and go buck myself. Don’t get me wrong, guy—I’ve had an amazing time hangin’ out with you but I’m really not being paid enough to put my life into any more risk.”

What? What?! I shot bolt upright, all pretense of sleep cast aside. “What? But I can pay you more!” I desperately argued. Losing Riverbed as a travelling companion—as a friend, even—was a reality that I hoped to avoid.

The usually jovial Riverbed had a slight frown on her face and a quieter tone to her voice. “I’ve finally hoarded enough caps to retire. Your contract paid out the last batch of caps I needed for the deed. It only takes like, fifteen contracts, guy. I’m done, Frosty. I’m gonna head back and buy that mushroom farm I’ve always wanted and sell hooch for the rest of my life. Settle down, y’know? Get a suitor, make some pretty little foals, build a giant statue of a mondo-sized schlong for the front yard—you know, normal life things. Dying isn’t really on the docket.”

“B-but…” I didn’t want to lose the only traveling buddy that I actually liked! More importantly, she was also on a very short list of ponies that I hadn’t tried to kill or that hadn’t tried to kill me. As I came to terms with Violet the meanie being the only pony left in my group, I started to get a little misty-eyed.

Riverbed endearingly patted my head and lazily kneaded my ears. “Relax, guy. There’ll always be room for a little pegapet at my new place like you while I’m around.” Without even waiting for me to get annoyed, she stopped of her own accord and tried to cheerfully chirp, “Drop by sometime, huh?” She reached over with her forelegs spread, begging for a hug.

Tears blurred my vision and I dove into Riverbed’s embrace. I didn’t want her to leave. All I wanted was her to be around to crack jokes, back me up, and periodically molest me if needed. Everypony else I knew was ultra-serious and/or trying to kill me.

A pat on my back and the following gentle wing caress reminded me that Riverbed cared too. “Okay, guy. Getting damp.” I reluctantly released my hold and limply flopped back onto the bed. I guess this was it.

“See ya, space cowmare.” She grinned and waved from the doorway.

I didn’t want to say it. “Goodbye, Rivvie.” It was all just happening too fast for me to properly process.

With those last parting words, Riverbed Ransom trotted out of my life.

…What had even happened to me these past few days? I could barely remember, but whatever it was apparently freaked out Riverbed enough that she bailed at her first opportunity, only having the courtesy to wait for me to wake up before saying goodbye.

With a sinking feeling, I realized that her mind had been made up and nothing would convince her otherwise. Even if I ran out to catch her, nothing I could say or do would be able to bring her back to me. I despaired into the plush comfort of my pillow. This moment really needed a fade to black and then spacing of about a week so I could properly compose myself for whatever life had next for me.

For now, watering this pillow was a pretty good plan. I was crushed, but I somehow couldn’t reach the point of a full-blown breakdown. A dejected sniffle and a slow drip of tears was the most I managed. Where was I going to find a nice, agreeable, polite pony that I both wouldn’t want to murder and didn’t continuously question my judgement? More accurately, I really just needed a friend. Somepony that would put up with my nonsense.

I must have dozed off in mid-angst, because I didn’t hear anypony come in. However, somepony was having their way with my ears and I wasn’t going to take it lying down. Okay, I was—only because I was still comfortably in bed and because I was starting to like having my ears rubbed. It was a bittersweet experience, knowing that it wasn’t Riverbed once again nibbling on my ears but that she’d helpfully told someone to take her place.

A happy little sniffle popped out of my face as I allowed the pettings to happen. I twisted and adjusted myself into a more comfortable position so that I could get one eye on the pony keeping me company this time. Curiously enough, it was Sparkle sitting by my side, confused about whether or not I still wanted pettings. For a split second, I actually hadn’t recognized Sparkle. Instead of her usual armor getup that she was always in, she was wearing a loose-fitting jacket over somepony’s repurposed utility barding. “Were you crying?” she hesitantly asked.

The answer was yes, but she didn’t know that. “I was yawning profusely,” I instantly lied.

Sparkle hummed to herself. Whether or not that was a good thing I didn’t really care about. More importantly, my ears wouldn’t tend to themselves and I made sure to flick my ears in her direction. She caught the hint and continued to slowly stroke my right ear. There was a worried look on her face that even made me nervous. Doubt flashed in her eyes but she still stated, “Frosty, I have some bad news for you.” With news of that magnitude, I picked up my pillow and squashed it on top of my head.

Now I was prepared for the worst. “It’s okay, I’m already lying down and ready to faint on command.” Sparkle’s hoof retreated, which gave me just enough wiggle room to squish my hooves on top as well.

Even with my makeshift soundproofing, I could still make out the worried noises that Sparkle was making. “Mare to mare. Frosty, I’d want to know if I were in your position,” she muffled at me.

Curiosity overcame me and I retreated out of the safety of my pillow bunker. “Know what?”

“Well…” Sparkle hesitated, almost as if she hadn’t thought out the news yet. “Uh, Rumcake’s been boinking you.”

I breathed a sigh of relief and lightly chuckled. “Sparkle, I have schizophrenia, not dementia. Calm down. I remember very vividly, and if I recall properly he wouldn’t let me live it down either.” Now that sleep was completely out of the question, I sat up in bed and faced her directly. “I think you need to get with the times.”

Sparkle winced and looked like she was dying on the inside. She seemed to deliberate her words very carefully, only to give up. “No, I mean, while you were doing your thing.” When I didn’t visibly react in the way she had expected, she sighed. “When the changeling—”

I raised my hoof and blurted, “The what?”

“Changeling.”

“What-ling?”

“Changeling, yeah.”

“Is that what we’re calling it?”

Sparkle shrugged. “Dunno. That’s what Violet says.”

Silly Vi-vi giving things names. What kind of self-respecting giant pony-shaped bug wanted to be called a changeling, anyway? “Okay, sure. Let’s pretend that’s what that’s called. Continue.” I made a little go-ahead motion with a talon. An arbitrary thought brought me to the conclusion that “roachzilla” was a better and cooler name than “changeling”.

Tapping her hooves together, Sparkle nervously continued, “While the changeling was being you, he was going to town on it.”

The mental imagery only made me hot, bothered, and even more upset than I already was. It also didn’t help that coming up with an indignant outburst was being overridden by how viable a service Doppelbangers could be. Agh! I mentally gave myself a bap on the head for those thoughts. “And you didn’t stop him?!” I spat, any other rage simply unavailable.

My abject burst of displaced rage was stopped by Sparkle shouting back, “I didn’t know, okay?” Once she was sure that I wasn’t going to interrupt, she sort of stared off into the distance and muttered, “I had my doubts, of course, but I wasn’t just going to bust in there and yell ‘yank your dick out of that it’s bad for you’.” A little chuckle escaped her as well.

However, I didn’t find it nearly as funny. What remained of my patience died with that little laugh. “What tipped you off? The purple eyes?” I leaned forward and seized Sparkle’s jacket, pulling her close to stare her in the eye. Even if I didn’t pay attention to most ponies, I still noticed differences like that. “Look at my eyeballs. Get. It. Together.”

Sparkle scooted backward, nearly pulling me off the bed. She held up her hooves defensively. “We thought it was just another one of your alter-egos. We didn’t really think anything of it.”

Oh. “Uh.” I scooted myself back into the lumpy pillows, lost for words and my rage exhausted.

“Sorry. We just didn’t know.” She shamefully cast her gaze downward.

“Eyes?” I weakly protested.

“I don’t know. Really, I believed they were purple for that whole time.” The way she spoke, especially in the whole mutter-into-the-floor way, compelled me to realize that she was telling the truth. “Violet says that the changeling must have messed with my mind or something.” Sparkle suddenly perked up when the door opened behind her. “Oh, cool. Your turn,” she told him.

Rumcake nodded sheepishly at the tray he was carrying on his back. “I brought breakfast. Brunch, really.” Like Sparkle, he was also out of his armor. However unlike the more sensibly dressed mare, he was wearing nothing but a dinky little black bow tie and the accompanying collar. I completely ignored the first question of “why” in favor of ogling the party platter that was about to be married with my face. Orange liquid, teapot, sugary pastries of the cherry variety, “eggs” and “bacon”, wheat product, and some pile of shredded green stuff that I decided that I was allergic to.

Now knowing what Sparkle knew, the nervous look on her face made a lot of sense. “I’ll let you two play house. You’re welcome, Frosty.” With those last words of encouragement, she quickly made herself scarce. That left me and my bug-humping savior in a very small room together, where the only weapon I could possibly kill him that would cause the most pain with was the little teacup perched on the tray. Well, or the “bacon”. I couldn’t tell how crispy it was from here.

I somehow managed to remain impassive while I formulated an appropriately scathing beatdown on the stallion that had tried to murder me. Silently, I watched him carefully slide the tray onto the end of the bed. It was extremely tempting to just toss everything right at him as revenge, but I was really hungry. Unfortunately, the “bacon” was more on the floppy side, so death by pork product was also out of the question.

In the middle of his food-themed pandering, I had a random thought that all of this was probably how he’d treated the not-me as well, which only rekindled my anger. Was it just because he wanted some tail? Why did I even care? Jealousy? Envy? One of the two. Point was, I was angry again because Rumcake was dumber than a brick and couldn’t tell me apart from Roachzilla.

Toasty spawned in to my left and declared, “Give him a taste of the pimp hoof!”

While I deliberated on the ethical dilemma of whether or not abusing the abuser was the morally correct choice, I intently watched as Gale wrapped one leg around Toasty’s neck and gently covered the protesting mare’s mouth with a cute little monogrammed handkerchief. The struggling died down and the two mares vanished under the bed. As good of an idea that taking out all my stress on Rumcake had sounded, the mare in dress decided to shut down the fight club. “Don’t hit him. Please don’t,” she sighed from behind Toasty. “Don’t even think about it.”

“I don’t want to get punched out so early in the day,” Rumcake agreed as he poured out some leaf juice from the teapot into a little metal tin. Where had he gotten tea from, anyway? To think I could just be bribed by food.

In the end, being the smart one in our relationship was probably a better idea than exchanging blows. “You should have known it wasn’t me,” I still lowly groused.

Rumcake spared an additional moment to make sure the tray wasn’t going anywhere before snapping, “And how was I supposed to know that? I thought it was you the whole time.”

I raised an eyebrow and pointed at myself with a talon. “I don’t have purple eyes, asshat.”

“You looked normal to me!”

Normal? Normal? Hadn’t the whole problem with me been that I wasn’t normal? “You didn’t question the fact that I suddenly wasn’t a nutcase—how me not being weird would be incredibly weird?” How dense could he possibly be?

“I didn’t think of it—”

“And that’s the problem!”

“Hey! You don’t think when you make decisions either.”

“Yeah, that’s because I’m brash and suicidal, not mentally deficient.”

“That’s the kettle calling the pot black.”

All the momentum in the argument for both sides was suddenly lost due to lack of comprehension. Undignified silence stretched between us. “...What?” I quietly squeaked.

Surprising to all of us, Rumcake actually began to explain. “It’s an expression for when somepony is being ironically against something that they actually are. Or something like that.”

I heard myself clear my throat. “The proper phrase is ‘the pot calling the kettle black’, and the proper meaning of the idiom is ‘something that you say which means somepony should not criticize another pony for a fault that they have themselves’.” Gale self-satisfactorily hummed to herself, basking in the shocked silence. I, on the other hoof, still had no idea what was going on. Sensing that thought, she clarified, “He’s also calling us stupid.”

Nopony called me stupid and got away with it. Well, nopony but Violet. And me. And maybe Riverbed. Okay, so maybe some ponies could get away with it, but not this time. “Hey, we are not stupid. You are stupid. We have problems,” I retorted at myself and Rumcake.

Out of nowhere, Violet interjected, “As an observer, I can safely conclude that both of you are incredibly stupid.” Wait, when had she come in? I would have seen her standing in the doorway if I wasn’t so busy being angry. Yet another thing Rumcake had ruined.

Still, Violet had a valid point. I sighed and admitted, “Okay, I might be a little stupid.”

Violet rolled her eyes. “Frosty, I’ve caught stupidity just by being near you. ‘A little’ is a gross understatement.” Being on the offensive, Violent—er, Violet turned her wrath on Rumcake as well. Jabbing her hoof into his nose, she angrily snapped, “But you—I even explained exactly what happened to you. You were supposed to understand the situation and give the breakdown to Frosty without hurting her brain. Obviously I have misplaced my trust in you.”

Rumcake pointed at me. “She started it!”

I opened my mouth to defend myself with an eloquent “nuh-uh” when instead Violet stole center stage from me. “What are you, five? Goddesses’ sake, you’re supposed to be the leader of a contingent of Steel Rangers. You should know better. Get out of here and think about what you’ve done before Frosty flips her shit again and finally loses her mind for good.” She glared at Rumcake, not a single hint of humor or sarcasm evident on her face. “Now.”

Rumcake sulked instead of snapping at her. He gave me one last longing, maybe confused look before trudging back out. Violet watched him exit and made sure he wasn’t simply right outside the door as well. At least that left me with the brunch tray to pig out on afterward. Score one for me! But… what was the orange stuff?

With physical abuse out of sight and out of mind, I thought it pertinent to ask, “So… is anything broken? Am I on a bucket full of painkillers?” The follow-up would need to be can I be on a bucket of painkillers, but the answer would inevitably be no.

“No, and thank goddesses no. You had a little internal bleeding but that’s really about it.”

All things considered, not bad. “Oh, that’s good.”

“What?”

“Isn’t that where all the blood goes anyway?” I sighed in relief and squished myself into a more comfortable position to attack the munchie tray. Why was Violet giving me a weird look? Weirder than usual, anyway.

It was one of those glares that meant I was in for a pounding, so I gave up on snacking and settled myself into the bed again, bracing for the worst. More than likely it would be things I already knew and/or yelling that I could easily tune out. I was still much more entertained that she actually got Rumcake to submit to her demands. A stallion as big and abusive as he was wasn’t one I took to be cowed by a yelling little mare. Maybe there was something to be learned from Violet after all.

After an indeterminate and uncomfortable game of don’t blink, Violet finally stated, “You and I need to talk.”

“Well, here I am.” I spread my forelegs apart and calmly grinned. “We’re talking.”

“Not quite.” Unnervingly enough, Violet kept intently staring right into the depths of my soul. “Tell me about your invisible friend.”

My heart skipped a beat. “What?”

Violet drew even closer, close enough to—uh, I don’t know—lick my eyeballs? She was ignoring any semblance of personal space, okay? I was getting creeped out. “I know she exists. There are several distinct versions of you, but only one of her. Out of all your various split personalities, she is the only one that has no voice. Enlighten me.” My mind raced for an explanation, which must have shown on my face because Violet smirked. “Smart Frosty has a voice. Mean Frosty has a voice. But with what happened earlier—which we will be covering next, by the way—involved somepony that wasn’t you.” She prodded my chin and the glare intensified.

“Uh.” Out of all the situations I’d expected to be in, I hadn’t anticipated this. I panicked and licked her nose. It had the desired effect at least—Violet backed off and angrily scrunched her muzzle at me. She opened her mouth, hesitated, sneezed, then decided to instead huff something under her breath. It didn’t take long for her to regain her composure, though.

Mister hot topic appeared in a poof of blue smoke. “Wow, she is definitely too smart for her own good.” Ice whistled from right behind Violet. “I’d marry her. Or, you know, kill her. Whatever you’re more comfortable with.”

“Yeah…” I wasn’t sure how to proceed, and vocally asking Ice seemed like a terrible idea. “I’d like to ask the audience?” The angry Vi-vi glare intensified to a burning inferno. Nervously chuckling, I suggested, “...How about I radio a friend? No?” Out of desperation, I leaned a bit to my left and hissed, “What do I tell her?”

“I vote we play a game of red pill blue pill.”

Without taking my eyes off of Violet, I whispered, “And I’ll pretend to know what that means.”

The very rude little nosey mare indignantly snapped, “I’m right here, you know.”

“No you’re not,” I hastily shot back. “That’s just what you think.”

“Blue pill it is. I’ll take care of this.” Ice pulled his fedora off his head and placed it beside the breakfast platter. Next thing I knew, I was being possessed again. This time was more of the gut-twisting variety instead of the size-shifting darkening and edgening from last chapter. I wasn’t okay with it by any extent of the imagination, but if it meant that I wouldn’t have to deal with Violet then that was for the better anyway.

The weird feeling of me-not-being-me washed over me again. Last time it was horrible because I was still in my armor, but now it was much more manageable without the feeling of being squeezed to death. Maybe I looked like I’d eaten a camera or two and I sure felt like it, but hopefully Violet wouldn’t be none the wiser. Being a host to whatever the buck Ice was was becoming more inconvenient by the second.

A cocky, familiar smirk creeped onto my face. “Howdy,” my voice smoothly drawled. Not my words, of course.

“And you are?”

“Just another mind,” Ice innocently lied.

“I don’t believe you.”

“You sure?”

“Mental distress does not cause spontaneous transformation.”

“I” sighed and shook my head, weakly chuckling. “If only more were like you. You’ve seen who I have to work with. A nightmare of a situation, really.”

“Answer the question.”

“I seem to be a run-of-the-mill mana wraith,” Ice calmly lied. “When somepony promises you immortality, don’t do it. Also, if you plan on escaping mortality—don’t. This is what happens. WIthout anything better to do with all the time I have, riding along with Frosty has been quite the experience.”

“And the transformation?”

“Well, it wouldn’t be very sporting of me if I let my new friend get turned into a pancake. I had to do something.”

That seemed to be enough for Violet at the moment. Her suspicious glare slowly morphed into one of curiosity. “How does it work? Where does the extra mass come from? Does Frosty know?”

“Ah, ah, ah. A lady doesn’t give away her all secrets,” Ice chided. Such the fancy lady he was, of course.

The question-inclined mare opened up her trusty book and recorded a few things into it while in thought. “Hmm.”

Without letting Violet continue her thought, we interjected, “All this talk has made me weary. Another time? Perhaps once Frosty is more cooperative? She’s quite upset as it is.”

Violet looked deep in thought. It was a look bordering between disbelief and intrigue, and I really didn’t like the idea of either. More importantly, I wasn’t sure how long Ice and I could keep up the charade now that she knew what was happening. There wasn’t too much that I could do if Violet got curious and these lies began to fall apart.

“Do you swear it?” she ventured.

We rolled our eyes. “Of course.” In a much lower voice, I heard myself mutter, “Do not react. She can’t hear me anymore. What I’ve told her is mostly nonsense, but just enough of the truth to get her off our backs. All things hoping, she won’t make the connections until it’s too late. Just act natural.”

I felt myself shrink a little, which left behind the uncomfortable sensation of regret, deodorant, and emptiness. Good thing that Violet was too busy being nose-deep in her book to notice my relieved sigh. That was that taken care of for the time being, which meant I needed to get back to business.

Obviously, that meant doing something angry and brash to keep Violet from thinking too long about our conversation. “I’m going after Roachzilla,” I declared loudly enough to rouse the mare out of her pursuit of deeper thought.

“What?’

I rolled my eyes and bemoaned the lack of proper labeling. “The changeling. The impostor Frosty.” Imposty, if you will. Heh.

“Oh.” Violet got this nonplussed look about her and she sighed, “That’s a terrible idea. The changeling is probably gone by now and you need your rest. You’re in no condition to fight. We’ll just ignore your impending mental breakdown for the sake of my sanity.”

After giving it a few seconds of thought, I decided to retort, “You don’t know that. Maybe I let him win.”

“You angst more often than you fight as of late.”

Glowering, I snapped, “One day you’ll regret saying that.”

“But not today.” Violet paid no mind to me, levitating a few scraps of paper out of her robes and looked over what she’d gotten done in the meantime. “I have some things to take care of regarding the nature of the locals. If we can find out what you—rather, what you’re insisting on calling ‘Roachzilla’ was up to here then maybe we can fix them.”

Social justice be damned, I really didn’t care. “I’m going to go for some walksies. Try and stop me.” Hauling myself out of bed and away from potential paper cuts, I noticed my saddlebag propped up against the wall and a small pile of not my clothing next to it. My stolen power armor was nowhere to be seen however, which did raise the question, “Hey, where’s my super pants?”

Violet lazily looked up from her book and the list she was probably flipping through. “I took the liberty of selling off your miscellaneous objects and assorted junk you’ve picked up. You’ll find you have more ammunition and less clutter.”

I gaped. Most of the stuff I had was useless, sure, but it was my useless stuff! “I don’t believe y—oh hey I can actually pick this up now.” My initial fury became sheepish curiosity as I lifted the whole bag and gave it a few test swings. “Wow. Is this what a normal carry capacity feels like?”

“Your power armor is being repaired,” Violet added, “I paid off a mechanic to refurbish the rifle you’ve decided to use and the submachine gun you’re not using. The other guns paid for the repairs. We can pick them up on the way over if you’d like.”

Opening my newly re-organized pack, I marveled and despaired at its contents. Ammunition neatly stacked and sorted, a few boxes of snack cakes and provisions, my dumb bobbleheads, and literally everything else that Violet failed to sell—including the mines that I’d picked up. I didn’t really have time to double check exactly what had survived the purge. All things considered, it could have been worse. It did bother me that she’d gone through my stuff, but I wasn’t really using anything else at the moment anyway. Oh well. “Wait, whose pants are these?” I demanded at the dirty wastelander clothing.

A shifty look was really all I needed. “The last owner isn’t using it anymore.”

I eyeballed the many-pocketed pants and then the grease-stained tank top. “Dead?” At least I didn’t need to cut wing holes into that.

Shrug. “Maaaaybe.”

I was having the worst time trying to fit into these pants. “This guy has a huge waistline. Had.” Note to self, kill somepony for a belt.

“Just like you,” Violet sang.

~~~~~

I was more shocked that Violet had even let me leave on my own rather than insisting to come along. All she’d really told me before wandering off was, and I quote, “Be safe, don’t get lost, and for Celestia’s sake don’t eat anything you find on the ground.” She’d then said something about reading up on stuff to make me all better, but at that point I had already stopped listening. I was already trotting away in search of a suitable perch to angst on.

To be fair, I didn’t really need to angst. I’m not even sure of what I would angst about. I just needed alone time so that I could think. Extended periods of additional angst was optional. If angst lasts for more than four hours, consult a physician. Instead of going down that path, I resolved to find somewhere quiet and/or populated with beverages. Riverbed had said something about a bar somewhere here, right?

As I aimlessly walked, the reaction of the train ponies wasn’t exactly what I had been expecting. They didn’t really acknowledge me; they didn’t really seem to be bothered that I was one of the two ponies responsible for ruining their humiliation grounds, or even be the least bit bothered about all the wreckage. For the most part, they merrily chugged away at whatever they did.

I’d tried to talk to one. Honest, I really did. I really regretted it. Toasty wanted to gouge out my brain, and Gale wholeheartedly agreed that it was for the best.

The new pressing matter was to desperately find anypony who would sell me alcohol. There were things in my mind that I couldn’t un-think, and it was getting on our nerves. The bizarre-looking thing on the way into Value Town came to mind, and I made haste to get there before I had the sudden urge to hump a diesel engine.

For better or for worse, the “curry” vendor was still there. The stuff in the grimy plastic bowls was definitely still moving as advertised. The vendor himself, a tawny cream-coated stallion with a roughly trimmed brown mane, stared at me expectantly as if I would actually eat what he was selling. To avoid making any farther eye contact, I accidentally ended up getting an even closer look at the radroach “curry”. To be fair, it smelled nice—savory, a little bit gamey, and with a faint hint of strange spices woven throughout the veggie cubes and “meat”. I was considering even eating it until I saw a roach leg. A moving leg.

Ew. Ew ew ew. “Who sells alcohol?” I instead demanded at the vendor. Roach Chef was taken aback by the outburst. Obviously, I repeated myself louder and with a bit more crazy-eyes snarl in it. “I’m an angry mare with no limits. Vodka. Whiskey. Anything twenty percent plus.”

The chef shakily pointed over in an arbitrary direction and stammered, “F-f-f-Flagon sells beverages.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, glaring, pretending to think about whether to gnaw his nose off. “Be glad you live another day.” As I turned and began to dramatically storm off, the realization that I still had no idea who I was looking for dawned on me. Quickly turning back, I whispered, “What am I looking for?”

Thank all things holy that Roach Chef was still so shaken out of his gourd that he didn’t hesitate to immediately give up an answer. “I-it’s the drink cart that says refreshments,” he whimpered. “Can’t miss it.”

Ah. Of course, there it was—between a mechanic’s table and another food vendor offering fried confections. I curtly nodded at him as a form of thanks and quickly trotted away. Problem solved, onto the next. How wasted did I want to get? Falling-down drunk was always an option. Happily tipsy was a nice level to start, but that was for wimps. Something anywhere between would do until I felt the need to black out.

As I approached Flagon’s refreshments cart, the stallion himself was already launching into some sort of song and dance that I presumed was his selling point. After he attempted to rhyme “iced tea” and “whiskey”, enough was enough. Somepony had to put him out of his misery, and it might as well be me. Halfway through the second stanza of his song, I reached over with my claw and snapped his muzzle shut.

The vendor’s brief struggling stopped when I stated, “I will pay you to shut up and give me alcohol.” When it seemed like he wasn’t going to launch back into song and dance, I released him.

I didn’t care much for the vendor himself, especially by how intolerable he was. All I cared was that he’d sold me a good portion of his stock at a fairly low price. With my saddlebag a-clinking from the multitude of bottles in it, I made for the tallest, most secluded rooftop in Value Town—the top of an old iron mill. For a purely celebratory reason I decided to crack the top on a particularly large bottle of some kind of vintage cider so that I could chug it on the way.

Of course, that had been the plan until a certain somepony decided to ruin everything. Again. His name? Princess Rumcake, the trophy princess of domestic violence. I’d caught him out of the corner of my eye as I held the upended bottle in my teeth. He seemed like he was in quite a hurry, but not in the sort of “I’m going to murder you to death” sort of way. I gave pause and took another swig before deciding to face him.

The majestic princess himself was chasing after me at a brisk trot, which gave me just enough time to consider the multitude of one-liners in my stash. “This town ain’t big enough for the two of us.” Too silly. “Kept you waiting, huh?” Nah. Hmmm. Now that I thought of it, I didn’t really have any confrontational one-liners so much as conversation starters. Note to self, spend research points for level 26 blue quality one-liners.

“There you are! I heard you got cleared, but—is that alcohol? Should you be drinking with all that medication?”

With all the grace of a mare scorned, I accusingly brandished the bottle in his direction. “I’m a big grown mare that doesn’t need any of your shit anymore.” To get my point across, I haughtily finished the rest of the cider and pitched the empty bottle into orbit. “I do what I want.”

Rumcake visibly wilted. “Don’t be like that, Frosty.” He sort of looked like a kicked puppy, which was fine by me.

“What, am I not enough like your chitinous mistress?” I sneered in disgust.

Taken aback, Rumcake hastily waved his hooves defensively. “No, I—wow, I didn’t know you knew words that big.”

Rude. I seriously considered whether it was worth the effort of digging out another bottle to hit him with. Wait—was he trying to change the subject? “Stop dodging the question!” I shouted. I paused. “Uh, wait, what was the question again?”

“Look, I’m sorry! I didn’t know it wasn’t you. How was I supposed to tell?” Rumcake broke down and dropped to his haunches, pleading, “All I knew was that you left to do whatever you usually do, then you came back without Violet. When you suddenly started to get better, I didn’t have a reason to doubt anything. You were almost back to normal. I had hope! Then you showed up and beat her up and… I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t have any reason to doubt her.”

That gave me pause. He was mostly right, as much as I hated it. “You think a quick apology and sob story is going to make me feel better about it? You tried to kill me. Weirdly enough, ‘sorry’ doesn’t really cover it.”

“I didn’t know!” he insisted. My steely-eyed gaze was only stopped by an empty bottle bouncing off of the back of my head. I glanced upward and grimaced at the sky for a split second. Stupid gravity.

“Oh, and that makes it all better.” In a mocking tone, I sneered, “Since you apologized, I should be morally obligated to overlook the fact that you tried to kill me.”

Rumcake took a few steps toward me and whispered, “Frosty, don’t do this. Please.”

Being the angry mare I was, I slapped away his reaching hoof. “I’m trying to see this from your point of view, but I can’t physically shove my head that far up my own ass.” I snorted, chuckled, and mentally high-fived myself. “We’re lucky that we survived! If not for some weird voodoo juju we would have been turned to paste.”

The little kicked puppy look intensified, tears threatening to enter the fray. “I mean—”

An overwhelming sensation of bristling hatred broke free from deep inside me. “Stop. We will not have this kind of insolence coming from you!” Surprising myself with that violent outburst, I barely had time to process what I was shouting before I found myself lashing out again. “We shall go get merrily inebriated, and if we see you again before we are sober we will not hesitate to end your pitiful existence on the spot.”

For some odd reason, Rumcake thought that being concerned was going to earn him some pity points. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay? You’re getting sort of—”

“You tried to kill me. It’s only fair if we return the favor.” Drawing closer, we snarled, “And we won’t fail as you did. Begone, fiend.”

Rumcake took two steps back, ears splayed and head down. “I’m here for you, Frosty. I’m always here for you. And I’m sorry.” He kept giving me that hopeful look that I was pointedly ignoring. Once he realized I wasn’t going to respond, he sighed and slowly moseyed off into self-loathing town. Population one. No bathrooms for eight miles.

I waited for a suitably dramatic amount of time before allowing the facade to drop. He was out of sight and nowhere to be seen in the marketplace, at least. Just to be sure, I asked myself, “Is he gone?”

Right on cue, Toasty and Gale appeared at my sides. “Gone as can be. Do you think we were a little harsh?” Gale sort of did the uncertainty dance in place.

“Screw that. Mister Murderpants deserves it.” Toasty snorted and cackled, “Ice, Ice baby for most valuable pony. You know it.”

Out of nowhere, my good buddy and savior Icybutt popped into existence, facing off tothe side. “Thank you, thank you.” A cobalt statuette of a strangely helmeted alicorn on a glossy black pedestal popped into existence in Ice’s waiting hoof. “I’d like to thank me, myself, and my gracious co-host Toasty.” Upon mention of her name, Toasty bowed to what I guess was where an audience should be.

Still, a tiny grin formed on my face at their antics. “I’d offer you champagne if I bought any.” The addition of cute little flute glasses for it would have also been great, but Flagon wasn’t selling those either. Ice had saved my life, and I still owed it to him. The least I could give him was this theatrical moment.

He hoofed off the trophy-thing to Toasty, who graciously took it from him. “Aaaand… Curtain.”

The moment of dramatic closure stretched out for another several seconds before I cautiously asked, “So… what are we waiting for?”

Toasty shrugged, as did Gale. “No idea,” either of them chirped.

Ice looked around at our surroundings, “Usually something happens right about now. Huh.”

~~~~~

I’d gotten on the roof of the mill quite easily, since the whole being-able-to-fly thing let me scoot around all the debris and bear traps. The little area I’d cleared out for myself and my impromptu liquor tasting was right by the edge of the roof where I could watch all the happy little train ponies merrily mill about their train business.

To start off my self-prescribed grief counseling, I unpacked all the alcohol that I’d bought to take stock of exactly how much I had. After making sure that I hadn’t missed any bottles, I found I had exactly six bottles of various liquor and wines, two beers, and several little mason jars of what was allegedly a fruit wine concoction.

As I eyeballed what I should chug first, I realized that order was also somewhat important. Now what was the song? “Clear before liquor, never been sicker?” If so, that meant that this bottle of rum was going to be the first victim. I gnawed the top off of the bottle and cautiously sipped on it. Mmmm, wood flavor. My favorite. Since I didn’t find the spice-laden burn completely disgusting, I decided to simply guzzle down half of the bottle in one fell swoop.

There was a loud pop from behind me, followed by Gale intoning, “You are now addicted to rum.”

“What?” I hadn’t even finished the bottle! “I don’t believe you.” Just to prove a point, I downed another shot’s worth of rum and stuck my tongue out at her. “Myah.”

She rolled her eyes and smirked at me. “You’re not proving anything.”

“You don’t know that.” The bottle was halfway to my face before I caught on. “Fine, what else do we have?” At random, I selected a bottle—a wine-shaped one—and asked to myself, “What the buck is a Moscato and is it any good?”

“Wine made from a specific griffonian region. Sweet, low in alcohol content, and usually paired with fruits or dessert.” Gale plucked the bottle out of my hooves and regarded it like the classy lady I wasn’t. “Ah, a good year.”

Somehow I was pretty sure she still had no idea what she was talking about. I snatched the bottle out of her hooves and demanded, “How do you and-or I know this?” As far as I knew, I didn’t.

“Trivia card from a box of popcorn.” A little trading card spun around her her outstretched hoof, then vanished. Cooooool.

“Huh.” Easily enough, I gnawed the wax seal off of it and unexpectedly encountered a cork. Most things were bottlecaps or a pseudo-cork that could be pulled off with teeth. “How the…” Chewing at it didn’t really make it any easier, but mister claw had something to say about it. I stabbed it with the tip of one of my talons and sort of tried to hook it in so I could tug it out, but all that did was shred the soft wood. Tries two and three did the same to the point where my talon wouldn’t fit in the bottle anymore and I’d only forced what remained the cork down farther.

What kind of pony even carried a bottle opener? Ponies didn’t have multi-tools because they couldn’t be operated with hooves. The only multi-tool I’d ever seen a pony use was the ‘Super All-Purpose KP Tool” that deserving recruits were stuck with. Cheese grater, whisk, spatula, and an entire axe all in convenient one pony-sized package. Stupid griffins and their stupid bottling techniques.

My frustration was about to boil over until a familiar—and unwanted—voice spoke up behind me all the way from the roof access stairwell. “Hey hon… can we talk?” A wicked grin spread across my muzzle. I’d warned him. I’d given him a chance to walk away. Now was my chance. He’d failed me for the last time.

Again.

For this particular instance, I was going to be a mare of my word. Now that we were at the “murder your loved one” stage of a relationship, taking the initiative here was the obvious choice. Forgiveness be damned. You can’t un-kill somepony, anyway. What if Ice Storm hadn’t come in to save me?

I temporarily placed the unopenable bottle on its side by the others and adopted a more neutral to sad look to make sure Rumcake wouldn’t suspect anything. “Wha’dya want?” I demanded into the air, then dramatically glared over my shoulder for effect. That had apparently been taken as a summons to him, seeing as he began to slowly trot toward me.

Like the dumb bold stallion he was, Rumcake either failed to recognize my death glare or decided to continue coming toward me anyway. “Look, I know I’ve made a few mistakes recently—”

A sarcastic snort from my face hole just couldn’t be stopped. “Mistake being a gross understatement.” Just like how one could accidentally eat somepony else’s sandwich, Rumcake could simply accidentally try to murder me. Thick with sarcasm, I admitted, “I feel so much better now.”

“Hon, come on. Don’t be like that.” He began to take another step—nearly into reach—before he finally took the hint and hesitantly stopped. “I love you, Frosty. Please.”

I pretended to consider his words. What he didn’t see was me surreptitiously checking if my shotgun-leg was still loaded—which it was. “I know.” Clambering to my hooves, I lazily stretched and took one step into perfect firing range. “And that’s why this hurts you more than it hurts me.”

The look of absolute confusion on his face would stay with me forever. Maybe he was about to scream, maybe he was about to interject that my quote was backward. We’d never know because I sucker-punched him in the neck and sent his… uh—the thingy with the tube—

Larynx. The word you’re looking for is larynx.

Right, sent his larynx into orbit. The hole wetly sprayed flecks of things that were definitely not exactly blood and meat all over me, but I wasn’t really interested in that. A giddy grin was still on my face as Rumcake stumbled backward and collapsed on the ground, choking, coughing, dying, et cetera. I was about to launch into a tirade along the lines “This is what you deserve”, or “I told you I wouldn’t miss”, or more likely, “I forgot what I told you but I warned you anyway” when he burst into flames.

Like, fire. Actual fire. Fire that singed my nose. “What the buck?!” I yelped and immediately retreated to a safe distance. There was a maniacal giggle from beside me, and Toasty darted to the flaming pony, marshmallows stuck on talons for roasting. I was still too shocked to say anything. Why would there be fire?

Rumcake limply writhed in agony, barely managing to croak, “Why am I on fire? Why would you do… why?” With a final, shud— “AAAAaaauuuuuugh… agh.” I frowned at him for ruining my mental commentary. Rude. The fire abruptly flashed green and his body vanished, only to be replaced with a black, unidentifiable mass.

Just as quickly as the fire started, it died out. I cautiously scooted closer to get a good look. Now, I wasn’t the best at anatomy, but I recognized a half-squashed and melted bugpony when I saw it. The skin was all cracked and melty where it wasn’t covered in green stuff and what was left of its squishy bits was oozing out of holes or burnt to a crisp. Goddamn Roachzilla. The little happy feeling ebbed a little as a result. I’d really been hoping it was Rumcake as well. He needed a lesson in humility.

I eyed the jagged horn on bug-pony’s head and came to a bright conclusion. Quickly retrieving the bottle from where I’d left it, I carefully pushed it over the spiraling protrusion and began to twist. The bottle managed to get all the way down to the horn’s base and refused to budge, so I firmly planted one hoof against its head-thing and clutched the bottle tightly in my claw. The first cautious tug didn’t do much, so I yanked as hard as I could. I fell backward, accompanied by a frightening crack.

So now I had Roachzilla’s horn stuck in a cork. Specifically, only the horn. I stared at it for a minute before deciding that I’d just have to deal with it. “Dangit.” I dug my teeth into it and yanked again, and squeaked in surprise when the bottle finally popped open. “Woo! Violence does solve everything.” I allowed myself a nice big swallow of the wine and had to stop once my brain registered how unexpectedly sweet it was.

Not terrible, but it wasn’t great either. “Eugh. Not worth the effort.” I tossed the whole ensemble aside and instead decided to check what I’d exactly loaded into my shotgun-leg. It had been a while since I’d unloaded the thing and I almost ended up taking off my face, but I managed to eject the other solitary shell and examine it. I stared at the custom-packed shell in all its stripey orange glory momentarily. Ah, right—War’s fire ammo. After slotting it back in my leg, I happily overlooked the carnage that I’d created in about three minutes and sighed.

Mystery solved, back to the rum it was.

With my new choice of beverage in claw, I scooted back toward the edge of the roof for a better view of the Wasteland. It was such a nice view. Things in the distance burned, ponies still milled about, and nopony was trying to kill me. Finally, I could have a moment of peace and quiet to myself. Gale shot me a withering look, to which I mentally corrected the statement. Some peace and quiet with me, myself, and I. And et cetera.

“Nothing can ruin—” I immediately squashed that statement. No. No, no, no. Thoughts like that always ruined everything. The universe had already proved that it was listening to everything I was doing. Giving it an opportunity was basically icing on the cake. Wait, I’d already thought it! Did it still count? What if I—

BOOM!

I felt my teeth chatter in my skull as a massive explosion rocked the landscape. Ears ringing, I whipped my head around, looking for the cause of the blast. Was somepony attacking me? Sparkle! She might have seen me kill the thing that looked like Rumcake and was after me with her grenade launcher! What was going on? I had to escape, fly away! I flared my wings and pointed my body upward—

—And saw a view that tore my breath away.

Blinding rings of ever-expanding multicolored light tore their way through the stratosphere. They ripped through the air, sonic booms following in their wake. Destroying the Enclave cloud cover. Unveiling the sun, letting it shine down on the Wasteland for the first time in centuries.

Rainbooms.

Almost robotically, I tried looking for where the rainbooms originated from. Peering into the multicolored blitz, the light from the closest rainboom revealed a shining SPP tower in the distance. Evidently, the Sustainable Pegasus Project had been compromised somehow, and was being used to destroy the cloud cover that us pegasi had built our society on.

This was very, very not-good.

Watching with a transfixed gaze, Toasty muttered, “Cool.”

“Oh no.” Gale mirrored the same concern that I had.

“Uh nuuh.” Filly plopped down beside us and pointed, “Trubbah.”

I waited for a reply from Drunky or Ice Storm, but didn’t get it. They didn’t seem like the kind for excessive drama, anyway. Since mini-me was the last one to echo my sentiments exactly, I gently patted her head and whispered, “Yep. Trouble.”

Time stopped.

OH YES.” The little dots of light in Mort’s skull swept across us expectantly. Seeing our confused expressions, he asked, “DID I MISS THE MOMENT? Oh darn, I overshot it.

The fur on my neck stood on end. “What are you doing here?” Was this another one of his courtesy visits?

Mort examined the grouping of me staring at him. An empty silence hung in the air as he appeared to ponder his next words. His skull tilted a few times as if he was about to start, then he’d hesitate and look away again. “Um… I’m not really sure how to break this to you,” he finally grumbled.

I rolled my eyes. “Well? Get to the point.” Today was already more theatrics than I was willing to handle in one sitting.

The skeleton pony continued to fidget. “Time’s up, Frosty. You’re done,” he finally blurted. “I’m sorry.

What? “Give me like, five minutes. I’ll get it done, I promise.”

You’re out of time.

“No I’m not,” I insisted.

The fire in his eyes intensified. “YOU ARE. If you had continued your journey from there, you would have gotten the time extension that I negotiated for you.

“It’s not like you really gave me an idea of what I was supposed to be doing if the first place. All I got from you at the time was ‘go here and maybe I’ll tell you later’.”

Mort averted his gaze. “Well, I never really wanted you to properly complete the contract.

What? “That’s not fair!” I exclaimed.

He decided to completely ignore my cry for justice and instead switched onto exposition mode. “A veritable plague of necromancers has emerged in the Wasteland in recent times. Fueled by wicked and forbidden magicks, they have escaped death for far too long. This was the reason why I brought you back, Frosty. Their twisted enchantments keep me from directly ending their existence. I would be able to give you endless extensions as long as you completed the missions I set out for you. You were going to be the one to end their twisted schemes; you were to be an undead assassin, and the bringer of justice you’d always wanted to be.

If he wasn’t going to dignify himself with a proper response, I could do the same. “I never asked for this,” I grunted with as much gravel as I could muster.

But… I’m sorry, Frosty. I chose poorly, and we shall both pay the price. I had such high hopes for you. You were doing so well up until you split off from your group and wandered off—but it was never really meant to be. You're not the type of pony I thought you were. I'm sorry, but your story ends here.

My mind went blank as the severity of my situation finally sank in. “W-what?”

While I began to go into a complete breakdown, Mort began to pace back and forth. “What, indeed.” He stopped in front of me, his skull just barely touching my nose. “But you’ve squandered your chance by doing… whatever it is you’ve been distracting yourself with. Now it’s time for me to collect.

I leapt backward and assumed a fighting stance. No way was a sack of bones going to tell me what to do. “Not if I have anything to say about it!” I bared my teeth and snarled.

Mort walked to me and gently placed a bony hoof on my head. “No more speech checks, Frosty. This is it.” A creeping numbness spread through my body and I lost control of my muscles, collapsing to the ground. “I’m sorry. I had high hopes for you and I’ve done all I could. Your time is up.

As I laid on the ground, I weakly declared, “You won’t take me alive?”

Silence. Mort stood over me, his head cocked to one side. “I believe that is the point.

Swiftly recovering, I blurted, “But on a day like today?” I tried to gesture at the vast expanse of cloudless sky above us and shouted, “How do these events just so happen to coincidentally line up?” Smugly, I grinned to myself. No way he was going to just conveniently sweep that past me.

However he did it, Mort somehow coughed. “I, uh, might have taken some liberties. It’s more poetically fitting, you know.” The little eye-lights winked to pink for a split second as well. “An extra day or two on top of the two months I gave you isn’t much.

That only brought more questions to mind. What if I’d had more time? What if he was just being lazy? Why hadn’t I been keeping track of time? “That’s not fair,” I whined. Other questions that sat on the backburner—the Enclave without cloud cover, the status of the perpetual war. Was Elvis Parsely really dead or did he go home?

Mort snorted—again, somehow—and groused, “You’re telling me. I have to explain why you deserve more extra time as opposed to literally any other pony in existence.

Suddenly, I was feeling a little bit less indignant. “Oh.”

Mort only nodded. “YES. ‘Oh’ is a good summary.” Once again, silence followed.

I squirmed on the ground. “So… what now?”

Now? You pass on and I get back to my unlife.

The sound of a little bell rang out all around me, then everything was gone.


Footnote: You have died.

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