• 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 9: What’s a demand to a nonbeliever?

Chapter 9: What’s a demand to a nonbeliever?

“Secrets and lies! It's all secrets and lies with those ponies!”


We paced back to the barracks in relative silence. “What’s the plan?” I asked Rumcake. At least Soufflé had decided that he wasn’t going to give any ground—but there were serious problems of the implementation thereof.

“We’ll have to speed up our move, that’s for sure. I’ve still got Junior Paladins moving our stuff from our old bunker. I need to get orders down to them to bring our biggest guns and leave the servers for now. Reprioritize and regear for anti-infantry tactics.” Rumcake popped his head out of his helmet and scratched his head. “Those slavers will still have numbers on their side, so we need to thin them out if it ever comes down to close combat. Powerful as we are, they’ll chip us down bit by bit.”

“If th’ runts bring me Earthshaker, they won’t be a problem,” Baked boasted. “I’ll turn ‘em into paste.” He punctuated that with a stomping and grinding motion.

On that topic: “Do the Steel Rangers have sappers or do they not exist for you guys?” I asked.

“Sappers?”

Apparently not. “They’re the assholes that go around burying zap mines in the mess hall because the clouds just so happen to be the same color.” That was, of course, if my memory served me correctly.

“Oh, yeah. That’s what Senior Knight Donut Steel’s rookies are usually tasked to do. Breaks in the new blood, so to speak.” Well, that answered that. “My Paladins do much more important things.”

I fiddled with the bomb collar around my neck. “Does this mean I’m also being conscripted for defense?”

“Probably. Say, while we’re at it, mind doing a recon sweep of the area? I’d like your opinion since that’s partly what you did before, right?” Rumcake asked.

Coming from him, I couldn’t say no. “Roger that.” I unfurled my wings, gave Rumcake a salute and cocky grin, then rocketed into the air.

Happy Hills wasn’t a particularly large town, barely qualifying as such. I flew a clockwise patrol around the perimeter wall, taking note of all the little things that looked important. It was nice to feel the wind ruffle my feathers, pull banks and turns like I used to. Limited freedom felt nice. There was Doc’s clinic, then the gate, then the mountain where Underhill was. I completed my circle and landed right back where I had taken off from.

“An’?” Baked asked.

At least I still remembered how tactics worked. “If you’ve got them to spare, minefield the balls out of the slavers’ approach zone. It’ll make them think twice about getting closer and they’ll have to retreat to regroup since there’s little to no cover out there. Of course, they could always use the ‘send in the next wave’ approach. That’ll thin out their ranks.”

Rumcake blinked at me. “Wow.”

I held up a single talon. “Not done yet. The only glaring weak point is the giant bucking hill to our right, since the walls don’t go up it, for whatever reason. If they’re smart enough to flank, that’s where they’ll hit.” After that information was delivered, I tweaked Dad’s hat at him and proudly crossed my forelegs.

Baked snorted. “The more ye know.”

“That was good—amazing, even!” Rumcake gasped. “We’ve never had aerial recon before. Usually it takes a lot longer to do a perimeter assessment.”

“Pegasus master race,” I instantly blurted.

Probably not the right thing to say based on the edgy glare coming from Baked. He turned back to me. “Frosty, head back home. We’ll take it from here.”

“Right then. Uh… I think I’ll try to make myself useful.” I shrugged and left.

Without anything better to do, I walked back to Rusty’s house. What do I do? I guess I could just wait for Rumcake to come back with some information. I pulled on the door and found it locked. Hm. Guess he wasn’t home. I knocked on the door. No reply. I flew up to a hole in the wall and peeked in. Nope, nopony was in there. Huh. How was I supposed to wait at home if the house was locked? Hmm, where would Rusty be at this time of day…?

~~~~~

“Hey, Doc! Anything going on?” I yelled into the clinic, swooping in for a landing after my brief flight. Doc stumbled in from the back room, covered in soot. He pushed up the goggles he was wearing, leaving a comedic goggle-shaped clean spot around his eyes. “Wow, what did I miss?”

“So, turns out boiling Sparkle-Cola with a whole bunch of other crap I found in my medical stores is a terrible idea.” He let out a sooty cough and started wiping ash and bits of melted glass from his medical barding. “What brings you back here? I didn’t leave anything inside you again, did I?”

“No, I—wait, what?”

“Uh…” Doc looked left and right, stopping on a monstrous pile of junk in the corner which he promptly dived into. “Your authority is not recognized in Fort Kickass!”

I took a few steps and dismantled his fort with a well-aimed swat.

Doc fell on the floor and cried, “Noooo!”

“You know what? I don’t even care anymore. I’m looking for Rusty. He around?” I asked. Doc pointed back into the back room. “Thanks. By the way, I might need to talk to you later.”

“Talk to me when you’re ready. Also, can you walk around a whole bunch back there? I want to make sure there’s no more broken glass on the ground.” Doc wrapped a broom in his magic and started brushing himself down.

The back room was surprisingly intact, considering what might have happened. The beds were moved back into a corner and safely covered with a large tarp. The rest of the room was covered with bits of melted glass and soot. The table holding Doc’s little experiment setup was completely destroyed. “Hey, Frosty! What’s going on?” Rusty called, popping out from under some rubble.

“Hi, Rusty. Your house was locked, so I came here instead.”

“You want the house key?” He reached over and dug around in a little bag around his neck.

“Nah, it’s okay. Being here is actually fine,” I replied. Rusty shrugged and closed the bag. “You need a hoof?” He nodded. “Alright.” I flapped over and gripped his outstretched hoof with my claw. I strained and flew backward as hard as I could. “Dammit, what are you trapped under?”

Rusty squirmed around a little. “I think there’s a filing cabinet on top of me.”

I hovered over him and pushed some rubble out of the way. “I see it. Hold on.” I grabbed onto the edge of the filing cabinet and pushed it off of him. “You good?” Rusty wiggled free and nodded. Eh, what the hell? I rifled through the filing cabinet and pocketed a few caps and another bobby pin.

“Thanks for the help.” Rusty shook out his hindlegs. “Wanna help me sweep up all this crap? I’d appreciate the help. I’ll pay you a few caps to help me out.” We surveyed the state of the room. There was rubble and melted glass everywhere. A thin layer of sludge, dust, and ash covered everything else in the room.

I sighed. “Sure, what the hell. I’ll go steal the broom from Doc.” I really had nothing else to do. Hopefully Rumcake and Baked Potato were both handling the Rangers well enough to get their support. The slavers would show up whether the Rangers were ready or not. I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I paced right into Doc’s flank.

“Woah there! What can I do for you? Don’t you even dare touch my new fort.” Doc exclaimed. He caught my troubled gaze. “Something on your mind?”

“Yeah… Lemme ask you something.” Serious time, Frosty. “What’s so special about this place?” I sat down. “Like, what’s so special to you about this place?”

Doc scratched his chin in thought. “Well, I started out moving a medical cart around the wasteland for the longest time. I got raided a few times, and after that I learned how to defend myself.” He levitated a bonesaw out and dropped it on the table. “Eventually I somehow managed to make my way all the way to Dise. That’s when I met up with Tabber and his little mercenary team. Met Roy and all the insane stuff over there.”

“I assume this is when things went wrong,” I added, putting Doc’s story together. “Canterlot, desertion, that stuff?”

Doc nodded. “Yeah. After I left, I didn’t want to do anything involving shady deals and ill-earned caps. I decided to help ponies however I could. And that’s how I got here.” He proudly motioned outside. “Flimsy, on the other hoof, happened to be my first unfortunate criminal seeking some free chems. Haven’t had a looting since.”

Wait… I craned my neck and barely made out the hanging skeleton in the dirty window. “Hold on, you named the skeleton? And hung him?”

“Of course! What else would I do with the body? I needed somepony to show I meant business. And to keep the looters out. An example, as it were.”

“And the blood?” I continued, pointing at the front of the building.

“What? I didn’t have any paint.” He shrugged and holstered his saw. “That’s my life story in a nutshell. Anything else you particularly need? Actually, why did you ask in the first place?”

I awkwardly tapped my claw against my other hoof. “There may or may not be a large mob of slavers in varying levels of readiness coming in to kill everyone. I also may or may not be indirectly responsible for it.” Grin. Nervous chuckle. Roll for seduction. Fail miserably.

Doc wasn’t the least bit fazed, much to my relief. “Welp, it was bound to happen. I assume the Rangers aren’t interested in staying?”

“Surprisingly enough, they’re staying. My caps are on the assumption that Soufflé doesn’t have the time, ponypower, nor the patience to move all their crap back to their old bunker now that half of their crap is already here.” I snorted and grabbed Doc’s broom. “Anyway, I gotta clean up your mess.”

I spent the next hour or so with Rusty cleaning out the back room and moving everything back to its original places. The melted glass was the most difficult to scrape off of the surfaces they were stuck to. It was difficult and dirty, but I felt somewhat comforted by some good, honest work. Strange, I know. But it made me feel better about not killing for caps for once.

Once the room was cleaned up, Rusty handed me a small pouch of caps. “I know this isn’t much, but here you go. Thanks.” I took a quick peek inside. Fifty caps. Eh, whatever. “Take my house key too. I’ll get a copy from my sister later.”

“Thanks, Rusty.” I hugged him. “That made me feel a lot better.”

He looked totally confused. “What.”

Rumcake barged in. “Okay, I think I need your help.” He panted. “Bad news. Inquisitor Soufflé’s getting cold hooves.”

Well, crap. That meant we wouldn’t have Rangers without Soufflé’s support. “What in the name of Luna is his problem, then?” I asked.

“He’s got the idea that he can back off, let the slavers have their way with the town,” he explained. “Once they’re done, he’ll bring in the cavalry and mop up the survivors.”

“Well, it’s not a bad strategy,” I shamefully admitted. “Hit ‘em while they’re celebrating their victory, before they have time to regroup.”

“Some of these wastelanders are more useful alive than dead. The Sleazy fellow, the barmaid, the merchants… town’s nothing without them. Unfortunately, I don’t have the authority to argue with Soufflé any further. Good thing you aren’t an official Steel Ranger, so I need you to convince him to change his mind.”

Another chance to yell at Soufflé, huh? “I’ll do it,” I stated. “Where is he?”

“He’s still hanging out in his office, I think.” Rumcake looked around and hopped onto a bed. “I’ll just be here. Damn, I need a break.” He stretched and rolled over. “Call me if you need any help, alright?”

I rolled my eyes. “Whatever, lazybutt.” Off to see the Inquisitor, the wonderful Inquisitor of the Steel Rangers. When I got there, I was held up by the guards at the camp entrance. Again, they stopped me and tried to keep me from entering.

“No entry. Steel Rangers only,” one of them droned. “Leave immediately.”

I brandished my claw at them. “How many pegasi do you know that have one of these? I mean seriously, how many damn pegasi do you even know?” I yelled. “You have got to be the most oblivious Rangers ever!”

He silently stared at me through his visor. I swear I could hear the gears turning inside his head. Come on. Think harder. “Right. Go on ahead.” He idly sidestepped and let me through. Thank you, idiot. Time to give Souffle a piece of my mind.

I roughly shoved the door open and slammed my hooves onto Soufflé’s desk, causing him to jump backward in surprise. “Okay, we need to set something straight. Sit down, shut up, and pay attention.”

Regaining his wits, Soufflé shouted, “I could have you executed for speaking to me in su—” I interrupted him with a hoof to the jaw, sending him sprawling across his desk. “How dare yo—” I punched him with my claw, knocking him to the other side of the desk.

Oh, that felt good. Soufflé righted himself and rubbed his jaw, visibly pissed. “Now, listen up,” I growled. “I’m going to keep this as brief as possible.”

Hold on, I think this situation deserves a bit of delicacy. Let me handle this.

…How does that work, exactly?

Just go with the flow.

Uh, sure. Thanks, brain.

“I’m paying attention, whether I like it or not.” Soufflé sat back in his chair, silently fuming. “What the buck do you want?”

I exhaled and composed myself. Get his support. Try not to rough him up again. Maybe even give him a little respect. “Now, Inquisitor Soufflé. You currently hold command over the Steel Rangers occupying this town. All I ask is for you defend this town. Is that too much for you?”

“Yes. I can’t lose any more Rangers. I’m not taking a damn chance on the hopes that the slavers attacking are armed with soft spongy darts,” he retorted. “Let them settle their own score. We’ll be the damn heroes that the whole wasteland thinks we are. I stand behind my decision.”

My turn! Let’s beat a little sense into him!

Raider, get back in there. No playtime for you.

I’ll be gentle! And my gentle I mean maybe just a nosebleed. Several nosebleeds.

Well… he wasn’t changing his mind. Not without a little push. Fine, let’s do it. Thoughts of chronic and sustained cruelty began to flood my mind as I suddenly jumped over his desk and headbutted him as hard as I could. Ow. Ow. I’m going to kill you for that later, raider me. “How about I change it for you?” I hissed.

“Wha—” he started. I gripped his neck, just hard enough to leave marks.

“I saved your life, you inconsiderate prick. I’m starting to doubt my decision back there.” I sat down on his chest and grinned. “Maybe I should just fix it right now.” I ignored the dull ache all over my body as I squeezed a bit harder.

Soufflé began to choke, just a little. “You think… can… bully me?” Annoyingly enough, he didn’t even try to fight back.

“I like to think so, meatbag.” I lifted his head up and slammed it into the ground. “Change your mind yet?”

Groan of pain meant he was still conscious. Too bad that he wasn’t changing his mind. Time for a slight change in plans. “Well, I’ll just have to try a little harder.” I slugged him across the face, which made a really satisfying thwack sound. Part of me must have enjoyed it since I did it again, just for good measure.

A trickle of blood began to run from Soufflé’s nose. “You hit like a cow.”

I playfully pouted. “That’s not a nice thing to call your mother.” And for insulting his mother, I punched him again.

“I’d hate to hit a filly.” Soufflé coughed. “Don’t make me.”

“Already am.” To rub it in, I throat-punched him. After a moment, I sighed. “This isn’t working, is it?”

I allowed Soufflé to catch his breath so he could answer me. “No. It’s not.” He finally managed to choke out.

That meant Raider Frosty needed to go. It was time for a slightly more diplomatic approach. I felt a fleeting touch of calm wash over me, which also took away the invasive thoughts of yet more unprovoked violence.

“What’ll make this work then?” I sighed, allowing Soufflé to relax slightly.

“You want me to do something for you? Trading favors sounds fair.”

“How about this, then? I’ll owe you one, no holds barred, no whole-assery, favor.”

Soufflé cocked a brow. “Whole-assery?”

“Why should I half-ass two things when I can whole-ass one thing?”

“You see that bomb collar around your neck?” Soufflé reached up and seized the explosive device and gave it a shake. “I own you. What’s a favor to a demand?”

“What’s a demand to a nonbeliever?”

“What’s a nonbeliever to ten grams of comp four?”

I frowned. “You’ve ruined the joke with your serious threat. Either way, my proposition stands. Look at it as a moment to deploy a pegasus asset that you don’t normally have access to in return for your defense of this town. And as promised, she will carry our your orders to the word, and to perfection.”

To move negotiations along and to reduce farther awkwardness, I scooted myself off of Soufflé’s chest and helped him back onto his hooves. “You’ve got an unreasonable liking for this place. Why should I have have my Rangers stay? Convince me.”

“You risk collateral damage to abandoned items, not to mention potential greater losses once you charge back in to retake Happy Hills from the slavers. That is, assuming that the townsponies don’t repel the slavers first.” I rested my chin on my claw and began to absentmindedly tap my cheek with a talon as I thought. “Of course, both ways you’ll still look like the assholes you really are.”

Soufflé continued to give me his pointedly neutral glare. Unperturbed, I continued my—Gala Frosty’s—analysis. “You leave, the town survives, then you and your Rangers come slinking on back to an angry population that has quite possibly had it up to their eyeballs with the Steel Rangers. You’re half-moved in already, so why even risk the chances of losing all your technology and knowledge that you’ve no doubt already brought.”

Nothing more than an eyebrow quirk and maybe the slightest hints of a frown. “You could use the townsfolk as pony-shaped meat walls to reduce casualties among your own?” I hopefully suggested. “Even less risk than what you’re trying right now, I can guarantee that.”

“And if not?” Soufflé began to replace fallen objects onto his desk

“If that doesn’t work, we’ll all be dead any way you look at it.” I shrugged.

“Hmm.” Soufflé thoughtfully tapped his hoof on the desk. “Anything. Literally anything I want you to do, no questions and no backtalk?”

“Nada.” I’d severely regret it later, but the greater good wouldn’t save itself. “Any mission you want to task me to. Scout’s honor.”

“What’s keeping me from making you do that now?”

A valid point. “It’s a given fact that I’ll do whatever you want me to do because of my explosive jewelry. That doesn’t mean I won’t whine and angst about it the entire way, nor will I complete your mission to perfection. This in mind, I’m willing to take the risk that you won’t blow me up just because I’m a unique asset that you won’t ever have access to again. I’ll do your dirty work by the numbers, should you take my offer.”

“You’ve got a deal,” Soufflé instantly replied.

With that look he had been giving me before, it all seemed a little bit too easy. “Really? Just like that?” I inquired.

“Yes. You’ve obviously changed my mind with your very compelling argument,” Soufflé very sarcastically droned. “I concede. You’ll have your way.”

Something was up, so I narrowed my eyes at him and gave him my most fearsome glare. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” He made a shooing motion at me. “Don’t worry about anything. Now buzz off and feel lucky that I’m not blowing your head off. Go on.”

Not one to press my luck any farther than I already had, I cautiously nodded. “Thanks for changing your mind, although your condescending and suspicious tone has caused my opinion of you to drastically drop.” Obviously not the smartest thing I could have done, but the last thing I needed was being headless.

As I trotted out of Inquisitor Soufflé’s office, triumphant grin on my face, I heard something that caused my victory prance to falter ever so slightly. “Too damn easy. Looks like you can shoot a large caliber pony with a small caliber bullet. Probably only applies to stallions, then.” Just to rub it in, he began to diabolically chuckle. I’d missed something painfully obvious, I was sure of it, but I wasn’t sure what.

~~~~~

Now that the situation was temporarily resolved, I headed back to the clinic to inform Rumcake about Soufflé’s begrudging support. At least, I was pretty sure it was begrudging.

“Hey, Frosty! Wait up!” a familiar voice called out. I turned around and noticed a Steel Ranger running after me.

That gait… that happy voice… “Uh… Cabbage Stew?” I hazarded a guess.

“Eyup. Yer gettin’ good at this! Ah thought ya might want this.” He pulled out a small wrapped package. “Think of it as a thank ya gift from one special li’l somepony y’know.”

“Thanks. What is it, though?” I asked, addressing the package. I put my ear against the paper wrapping and gave it a gentle shake. There weren’t any particularly loud rattling sounds or sliding noises, so I couldn’t really guess without opening it.

“It’s not much. Needs a bit of elbow grease and some actual grease. Ahm sure ya can handle it, pardner.” Cabbage Stew paced off toward the Smashed Spritebot.

I carefully unwrapped the package and gasped in sheer awe. He’d given me a power hoof! Sure it was a little dented and scraped up, but I could probably find a use for it. A little engraving on the side brazenly dictated “Philomena’s Touch”, complete with gold leaf embellishments. How poetic. I slipped my right hoof into it and realized I also needed to get it sized down in order to fit. And I knew just the ghoul for the job.

After a few mistaken detours and a short flight over a row of shacks, I finally located Sleazy McCheapkins’ Bargain Emporium. Surprisingly hard to find from across town, believe it or not. The place was looking more dilapidated than usual, but I couldn’t place why. I opened the door and a speaker in the ceiling blared, “Four hundred percent more awesome! Also, Ironshod doesn’t make their guns out of bucking wood.”

“Sleazy? You in there?” I looked around the store. “I need something customized.” The shop was quiet. Really quiet. Not even the characteristic ghoulish wheezing of Sleazy breathing. Even the music from before wasn’t even present. A feeling in my gut told me something had gone horribly wrong and the ghoul was in trouble, probably worse. I heard the floorboards in the back room squeak. Gut feeling confirmed, I immediately jumped into combat mode and attached myself to the ceiling in preparation for an ambush. The squeaking drew nearer and I squeezed myself into the space above the doorway leading to Sleazy’s armory.

Soon, a helmeted pony popped his head out from the doorway. “Aaaanypony out there?” Sleazy fearfully whispered. He looked around. “Must’ve been my imagination,” he muttered.

Drop on him! That’ll give him a good scare!

Sure, brain. I waited for him to settle down behind the counter. Right as he was about pick up a well-worn “Guns and Mares” magazine, I let go of the ceiling and gently landed behind him. I crept as close to him as I could, then I whispered into his ear, “Boo.”

He screamed like a little filly and dived over the counter in panic. “Assassin! Help!” I burst out laughing and fell over. Oh, this was too good! “You little rascal!”

“That was totally worth it!” I managed to make out in between breaths.

“What in the name of Tartarus do you want?”

“Right.” I showed him Philomena’s Touch. “I need this a few sizes smaller.” His eyes widened and he reverently picked it up. “Can you do it?”

“Where’d you get it?” he whispered in awe. “This is good pre-war tech. Possibly even a Royal Guard’s personal weapon.” He started fiddling around with a few plates and screws on the underside of the power hoof.

I had a good feeling who’d given it to me, but I needed to confirm my suspicions. “Found it somewhere. Can you refit it?” I pressed.

“Yes, yes. Of course. These little things were made to be easy to use. Do you doubt the skill of the great Sleazy?” he shot back. “Huh. I could have sworn Dad worked on one of these before…”

“Are you saying you have no idea what you’re doing?”

“I know what I’m doing. I just haven’t worked on a power hoof in a while. Haven’t seen one in such good condition for a while, that’s all.” He took a screwdriver out from under the counter and started fiddling around with various panels and wires inside the hoof.

“Alright then. How long will this take?” I impatiently asked. Something on the far wall caught my attention. “Hey, what’s this?” I nudged a tattered, broken sign propped up against the wall. It was nearly unreadable given the grime and wear, but Sleazy looked up and immediately recognized it.

“Some time ago, my dad, Budget ‘Bob’ McCheapkins, owner and CEO of Budget Bob’s Budget Bargain Bombs ran into fierce competition with my mother, Grubby Gina of Grubby Gina's Great Greasy Guns,” he wistfully told me.

“Sounds like the start of something beautiful,” I observed.

“Shut up. This is my story. Anyway, Papa Bob was very surprised at meeting somepony who was even more money-grubbing than he was. Of course they undercut each other in this massive sales war, driving both companies into the ground and at the same time running nearly all other munitions salesponies out of business. It was love at first sight! Or more accurately, love at first sales war.”

Wow. That was really hard to top, even for most amazing love stories. “Awesome.”

“Of course! Their businesses merged together and they had me as their foal not long after. Of course, given my bloodline, I started up my own business and ran them both out of business. They were so proud that day. And that’s how the Bargain Emporium was made.” He stood proudly, motioning at the store around us. “Two hundred years ago, that is.”

“Do you miss them?” I asked quietly.

“Every buckin’ day,” he sadly replied. “It must be nice knowing your parents are around, somewhere.”

I sighed and dropped my gaze to the ground. “Not really. My father died a few weeks ago.”

“I’m sorry. Sorry about bringing it up.”

“It’s fine. It’s just… I haven’t… I haven’t gotten over it yet. I can’t accept the fact that he’s dead. I just keep thinking that when I get back home, he’ll be there waiting for me. Waiting to tell me that my bunk’s out of order or something.”

“Oh… do you have any siblings?”

“I don’t remember. I don’t know.” A sharp bolt of pain stabbed at my heart. “I can’t really remember my mom. If I did have siblings, they were Enclave military,” I answered. “Something happened to me between when I was backstabbed and when I was left for dead in the wasteland.”

Sleazy rummaged about in a chest under the desk and slid a large bottle over to me. “Sounds like you’ve had a bad run with your luck. It happens to everypony at some point, so here’s a bottle of my favorite scotch. Drown your sorrows. Works for me.”

I read the label and grinned. ‘Sleazy’s Super Special Scotch’, of course. “Thanks. Oh, one more thing before I go. No more sob stories, just business.”

“Go ahead. I’m listening.” He pulled out another bottle for himself.

I crossed my primaries and prayed to the goddesses that a second negotiation would work as well. “A slaver assault is on the way to Happy Hills, and I think the town would appreciate having a reliable gunsmith and armory available to them.” Sleazy’s eyes widened and he took a longer drag from his bottle.

“Assault? I’ve got rifles for that.” Sleazy grinned. “Get it? It’s a gun joke. Some of them shoot bucking acid. But really, I’m not sold.”

Not surprising, since I hadn’t expected it to work in the first place. “But do you know what the Steel Rangers like?” I needed a good hook to reel him in with.

“Technology, I know.”

“And they do love their guns.” My nervous grin muscles were really getting a workout today. “Once they find your stockpile, one of two things will happen.”

“I know where this one’s going. Sell to the tin cans or get steamrolled. Blah blah blah. Little pegasus, I’m upwards of two hundred years old. That gives me two and a half centuries of extor—er, business expertise under my belt.” Sleazy tossed the now-empty bottle over his shoulder and let it smash against the wall.

Welp. At least he’d saved me a lot of convincing to do. “So…” I hesitantly trailed off.

“I’ll have to sell to them, won’t I?” Sleazy responded. “There isn’t much I can do besides move my entire vault somewhere else. That’ll mean the town’s gone somewhere else and it’s dropped right out of the bottom.” He made an airy whistling sound and a spiraling motion with a rotting hoof. “Ha ha ha, that’s funny.”

“Vault? You have a vault full of guns?” I had a hard time imagining a room full of guns like my anti-machine rifle packed from floor to ceiling.

“Don’t you even try to hunt for it. The entrance is impossible to find. What I’ve got in the back there is a fraction of my collective firepower.” Sleazy rooted around for another bottle as he spoke. “There’s no use then, eh? I might as well make a few caps along the way. Beats dying again.”

Looked like my problem solved itself. “I guess you’ll sort it out with them, then?”

“Yeah. Sleazy Munitions doesn’t do refunds!”

~~~~~

“I hate my job,” Rumcake grumbled at me. He had his armor back on, and Baked was mounting an additional minigun to Rumcake’s armor.

“Quit yer bellyachin’ ye whiny little foal.” Baked whapped the back of Rumcake’s head with a wrench. “Stop movin’ about.”

Rumcake stopped fidgeting and continued talking. “I still can’t believe you convinced Inquisitor Soufflé to stay.” He shook his head and grinned. “Blackmailed him in his own office. Amazing. He even re-instated the town militia.”

“Seemed like a good idea at the time.” I told him. How else did he expect me to get that idiot’s support? “You just needed his support. Didn’t mean I had to be polite about it.” I watched the two of them in slight disinterest.

“I didn’t know there were plans fer that. Huh,” Baked said around a mouthful of wrench. “How’d ye manage t’ get Sleazy onboard?”

“Don’t worry about it.” I nonchalantly waved my hoof. “Is he following through with his end of the deal?”

“He’s still working on it,” Rumcake answered.

A worried militiapony wearing a tattered red beret ran up to me. “Ma’am.” He sloppily saluted at me. “Somepony wants to talk to you.”

Uh… what? I confusedly saluted back and asked, “Who are you, and what’s going on?”

“That’s irrelevant. More importantly, some slaver showed up and just surrendered. On the condition they talk to you, and only you,” the pony in the beret answered.

“Uh… why me?”

Beret-head rolled his eyes. “They wanted to talk to ‘the pegasus’. Do you see any other pegasi here?”

“Good point. Where is he?”

She,” he corrected, “is being held in Doc’s clinic under heavy watch. He insisted. Care for the ponies, and all.” He snorted in disgust. “Damn slavers should get what they deserve.”

“Alright, I’ll go check it out.” Oh well, if Doc wasn’t dead, then she should be somewhat talkative by the time I got there. The militiapony expectantly stared at me. “Uh… dismissed?” He sighed exasperatedly and trotted off. When they hay did I turn into the leader? Whatever.

And Doc’s Clinic was once again characterized by the telltale horrified screaming of an unfortunate “patient” coming from within. “Git away from me, ya wanker!” I assumed that was the slaver that was currently reconsidering her surrender. The other, slightly more entertaining option, was that Doc suddenly decided to develop a fillyish voice and change his speech patterns.

“Calm down. The more you struggle, the more fun—I mean painful this is probably going to be,” Doc said, trying to hide his glee. He had his bonesaws floating around a scared-looking navy mare in the corner of the room. Her orange mane was disheveled and covered in a thick coating of mystery gunk. “Now stop cowering and let me properly treat you.”

I roughly shoved Doc aside and pulled the slaver out of the corner. “Lay off her,” I told Doc. Then I turned my attention back to the slaver. “I’m here. Now, you’re going to give me some damn answers or I’m letting the good doctor here continue with invasive surgery,” I growled into her ear. “Just get talking.”

“Don’ hurt me! Ya gotta listen to me. I got information fer you.” She started wiping off her striped red body paint. “We can be civilized, right?” She laughed nervously.

With a heave and a ho, I unceremoniously dropped her onto one of the examination tables and I sat down in front of her. “I won’t promise anything.” I crossed my forelegs.

“You’re the one that flattened the Rad Lads, aren’t you?” She continued wiping off her red stripes, with little success. I gave her a blank stare. “I’m going to assume yes. Anyway, the rest of them are comin’ back in force to make an example of you gits.”

“What do you mean the rest of you?” I asked. “I thought that was your only base.” Crap. There were more of them? “And what do you mean by Rad Lads?”

“Red Eye pulled out our main force and integrated them into his army. Big Benny called up the rest of our lads to hold the fort,” she explained. “Unfortunately, somepony with a wee bit too much time on their hooves blasted our camp to kingdom come.”

“So why are you here and not with the rest of your force?” I asked, suspicion edging into my voice.

She shrugged. “Th’ Lads don’t have anything for me anymore. I don’ have a home, nowhere to go, so I might as well do th’ decent thing for once and warn you.”

“We know the slavers are coming. Based on what you’re saying, it’s the rest of the Rad Lads out for revenge.” She looked surprised but nodded anyway. I continued, “But let me guess—that’s not all, is it?”

“Our main force is approaching from the north. They’re just th’ distraction.” She pointed downward and I looked down. “They know about the tunnels. Benny’s sending th’ Lefties in while you’re distracted.” Of course! Underhill was still wide open and full of scavengers, and we’d never closed the sewers off from the Seapony Energy ruins.

“Why are you telling me this?” I pressed. “How does this help you?”

She slumped and mumbled “I don’ have anypony left. Th’ Hoof Lads were my life, and now they’re gone. I got nothin’ left to lose.” She glared at me, tears in her eyes. “I realized I wanted a change in my life. I’m done with being a slaver. I want to start over. Things changed, yeah?”

“Starting over I understand. But… are you willing to set up your entire gang?” I asked. She looked doubtful. “There will be no survivors. I’m very sure about that.”

“…Yes. I’m sure,” she whispered.

“Alright, we’re done here.” I stood up and left. On the way out, I jokingly ordered Flimsy, “Keep an eye on her, alright?” Flimsy the skeleton shifted ever so slightly. A chill ran down my spine and I quickened my pace. Okay, creepy factor has been doubled. Leaving. Leaving. Don’t make eye contact. It’s probably just the wind. Yeah, totally.

~~~~~

I was jolted out of my afternoon nap by a gentle poke. Unfortunately, I was in enough pain to make that poking feel like a shivving. I ignored the poking as much as possible. Gentle prods escalated to something more vigorous. Jab. Stab. I growled and suddenly flopped onto the hoof poking me. I was rewarded with some frantic pawing and swearing. Without opening my eyes, I mumbled, “Broken Parts, if you continue annoying me I will break your parts.”

“That’s bucking morbid.” Tabber snorted. “You’re a violent, evil little mare.” He continued trying to retrieve his foreleg from under me. “Heavy, too.” Hey! I resent that. “Dammit, move your fat flank before my leg loses circulation!”

I grudgingly rolled over and let Tabber have his leg back. “Whaddya want?”

“We’re going on a field trip. You coming?”

“What do you mean by we?” I asked, rolling back over to glare at him. “I’m not moving until I get some bucking painkillers.” My entire body felt incredibly sensitive and tender, which meant pain. Everywhere.

“Stop whining. Just wait till the withdrawal kicks in.” Tabber picked up a pillow and hit me with it. Of course it felt like being hit with a bag of fluffy rocks. I whimpered and curled up into a ball. Why do the damn pillows hurt too? “Sorry. But come on, let’s go.”

I hopped out of the bed and gingerly shook myself. I pulled on my armored duster and reattached my saddlebag. “Wait, how did you get into Rusty’s house?” Even though I did end up borrowing his key, I was ninety percent sure I relocked it afterward.

“Picked the lock. It was urgent,” he said simply. I shot him a dirty look, which he noticed. “If it’s any consolation prize, I didn’t molest you in your sleep.” I death-glared at him and ignored that comment.

“What’s going on?” I rubbed my eyes and finally noticed Tabber’s insane getup. He was out of his standard armor and now he was dressed in some reinforced black leather armor. He’d painted himself up with a large amount of red paint. He’d even dyed his mane dark blue. “You look… insane.”

“We’re going into the slaver encampment. They’ve set up over the hills a few miles away to the north, right where our informant said they would be coming from. You’ll fly us there.” He motioned at the door. “Let’s go.”

“I’m not wearing whatever you are,” I flatly stated. “Especially that paint. It looks like it’ll stain.”

“Okay.” He turned to leave.

“Wait, really?” Wow, that was easy. Wait. That was easy. Crap.

“You’d never pass for a Rad Lad. Even better, you get to be the bait. Or the distraction. Your choice, really.” He held the door open for me. “Ladies first.”

I walked past him and whapped him with my wing on the way out. “I hate you so much,” I snarked through gritted teeth, pushing down a squeak of pain.

He followed me out and I locked the door behind us. “Good to know.”

~~~~~

I didn’t know whether to be shocked or pissed. The second we’d landed in the darkness next to the camp, Tabber tied me up and gagged me. He’d even tied my wings to my sides. That damn traitor! “It’s all part of the plan. Relax. You keep ‘em busy, I’ll go set the charges. And don’t worry, I’ll keep your stuff safe.” Somehow I wasn’t sure about that.

“Mphph sffpth am attho,” I tried to yell through my gag. Dammit, I really hoped this plan could have gone differently.

Next time, ask what the plan is, exactly.

Shut up, brain. You’re in here with me too.

“Don’t worry about it. Just do what comes naturally,” Tabber idly mentioned. He picked me up by my bindings and dragged me through the dirt and gravel to the circle of shacks and tents where the remainder of the Rad Lads were camped.

I squirmed against my bonds. “Hrgh. Hudda hmph worf?”

“Shut up.” He dragged me over to the edge of the camp and yelled at the closest sentries “Now lookit the little birdie that I caught in the hills.” He roughly tossed me over to them. “Collar’d her up, too. Get her to the rest of the lads.”

The two slavers just stared at me in shock. “Oi, who’re you and wot’s she doin’ here?” One of them yelled at Tabber once he’d recovered. “I ain’t never seen yer ugly mug around here before.”

“Some twat sent me on a fetch quest when everythin’ went to shite. Headed over here as soon as possible,” Tabber easily replied in an accent more similar to what the Rad Lads sounded like. “Wha’s going on here?”

The other slaver that hadn’t spoken grabbed the rope around my torso in his teeth and dragged me off. I couldn’t see where he was taking me, so I took this opportunity to look around the camp in case I needed a quick escape. I memorized the exact path, down to the details of each tent we turned at. In order: red stripes left, gray right, ripped tan another left.

I was tossed into a suspended cage with several other sad-looking captives. A few of them were chained up, tied, or a combination thereof. All of them looked beaten, bruised, and emaciated. They were weary and they looked at me with sad eyes. As soon as the slaver that dropped me in here left, a pink earth pony crawled over to me and started untying me.

“Are you okay?” she hesitantly whispered. Her red mane was cut up and missing in a few patches, but it was evident she was very beautiful once. “Here, let me help you with that.” She gently pushed me over as I struggled to tear off my gag. My entire right side ached from being tossed into the cage.

“Ah, that’s better.” I spat out bits of rope. “This is getting old.”

She gathered up the bits of rope and nudged them over to me. “Here. Hold onto them.” I gave her my best what-are-you-talking-about face. “The guards don’t care if you aren’t tied up in the cage. If they take you out, they want you to be tied up.”

“Thanks.” I tucked the rope behind a wing. “So… what’s your name?”

“Friends call me Cherry.” She hesitantly motioned at my claw. “What’s that?”

I sadly flexed my claw. “It’s a prosthetic. I lost my hoof from something.” All this time, it still made me uneasy thinking about it. I still didn’t know what happened and I still felt a bit of loss when I looked at it. “Wait. Wow, okay these slavers really suck at prisoner management.”

“Oh. Wait, really?” She drew back in surprise.

“You wanna break out?” I raised a talon and pulled a bobby pin out of my somewhat tangled mane. “I think I’ve got the skill.”

Cherry violently shook her head. “No! That’s a terrible idea!” she hissed. “What if the guards catch us?” Her eyes darted around the cage to the other captives, all of which nodded. “I don’t wanna die,” she whimpered.

The fear in her eyes was evident. I put away the pin. “Alright. I didn’t really have a plan for afterward, anyway.” Now, how does one escape from slavers when trapped in a tiny cage? I idly chewed my fetlock in thought. “What happens now?”

“We wait to be sold off and pray to the goddesses for a merciful owner. How are you in the hay?” Cherry worriedly asked me. Some of the other prisoners also looked worried. “You good at all?”

“What do yo—” I started, then instantly started turning red. Of course I knew, but that didn’t really mean I wanted to talk about it!

You’re hopeless.

Thanks, brain.

“Uh, I guess I’m passable?” I scratched my mane awkwardly. Everypony else in the cage sighed in relief. “Why?”

“You’re a mare. There’s a reason you’re not fighting other slaves for their amusement at the moment.” Oh. Okay, so that’s how these slavers ran. “If you try to escape, well… you know,” she trailed off, pointing at a small pile of bodies at the far edge of camp.

“Then I assume you’re… uh… particularly skilled?” I hazarded a guess. She proudly nodded. “And you’ve never gotten around to escaping?” She sadly shook her head. I sighed. “So what do we do in the meantime?”

“Clean ourselves up. Hope for something better. Do slave-related things.” Cherry looked resigned. “Nopony else likes to talk to me. Everypony just keeps to themselves, just wishing for the moment they can escape.” Wow. Talk about depressing stuff.

“Don’t worry. If everything goes according to plan—” Which it wouldn’t, most likely. “—you won’t have to wait for long.” I took a furtive glance around for guards reflexively. “Assuming my partner hasn’t been caught or completely abandoned me, we’ll be able to escape soon.”

Hope returned to Cherry’s eyes. “Really?” I nodded. “That’s great news!”

“Yeah. One problem, though.” I chewed on my fetlock again. “I wasn’t really informed about the plan, if we had one.” The hope faded a little. “Sorry.”

Cherry was crestfallen. “Oh… well, there’s always a catch, isn’t there.”

“Sorry,” I repeated. I heard voices approaching from the dim edges of my vision. “Crap. Somepony’s coming.” All the prisoners, Cherry included, laid down and cowered in fear. “Uh… am I missing something here?”

“Remember what I said? In the hay? Oh horseapples, your bindings!” Cherry hissed. “Rope! Tie your forelegs up. Here, let me help.” She carefully tied my forelegs up in a loose knot. “If you’re the blood angel, maybe we stand a chance,” Cherry whispered.

What did she just call me?

What did she just call us?

Great reaction time, brain.

I didn’t have time to figure out what was going on. “So, ‘eard we got a new one,” a voice said.

“Yep! Newblood got ‘er sneakin’ aboot,” the other gloated. “You’ll like ‘er. She’s got wings. Yeah, I know right?”

“I got first dibs on her,” the first voice excitedly squealed. “Where’s she at?”

“Right here.” The owners of the voices stopped in front of the cage. The one that spoke was a tawny yellow unicorn. His gray mane was styled into several cheesy-looking spikes. “Whaddya think, mate?”

His friend was a bright obnoxious blue and his mane just happened to be a darker blue as well. Surprisingly well-groomed, considering. “I love ‘er.” I could feel his leery gaze all over my aching body. He reached forward and I tried to chomp his reaching hoof. “Oooh, feisty one. I like that.” He motioned me forward. “C’mon. You’re comin with me.”

I looked to Cherry for a little support. “Go. The longer you wait, the worse it’ll get,” she whispered. A frilly neon orange collar was tossed through the bars and I picked it up, mildly curious. Cherry motioned at my neck. “Put it on.” I rolled my eyes and tied it around my neck above my other stupid collar. Ugh.

Spiky Yellow opened the cage while levitating a shotgun at me. I growled at Bluey as I indignantly stepped out. “For your information, I like to be wined and dined first.” I really didn’t want to be here right now, but I didn’t have a choice. At least my wings were free, so if I couldn’t fight my way out I could fly away. “Also, I like long flights along the clouds,” I added. One of them clipped a leash to my collar.

As I was led away by Bluey by my equally neon leash, he started talking about a bunch of random stuff I didn’t care about. I zoned him out to try and find some other exit plan or catch sight of Tabber. That is, until he mentioned the Enclave military. “…is just a bunch of wussy little fillies campin’ in the clouds. I just can’t imagine what you see in them.”

“Hey! My dad was military, so of course I’m going to join up,” I retorted. “And anyway, we have ponies trying to help the wasteland. There was an initiative to distribute genetically improved sustainable food to select locations.” Something about it bothered me, but I couldn’t really put my hoof on it. “At least our leaders are more organized than you idiots.”

“For somepony that didn’t get nuked to the choir invisible, sure,” Bluey said dismissively. We came to a stop in front of a somewhat fancy olive green tent. “We’re here. Come along, get that sexy flank inside.” He gave me an encouraging spank.

I cringed but I went inside, against my better judgement. For a tent, he’d furnished it well. He had a somewhat acceptably soft bedroll along one wall, and the other side had a short table, a hooflocker, and a small cooktop. Hmm. I eyed the back of the tent. I could cut my way through…

“Would you like a cup of tea?” Bluey unhooked my leash and tossed it onto the table. I indifferently shrugged. “I’ll take that as a yes.” He poured some water from a few plastic bottles into a small dented pot and turned on the camping stove.

“You treat everypony like this?” I quietly asked. I was really expecting something along the lines of “get on the bed right now” sort of thing. Bluey was taking off his armor and piling it up in a corner.

“Even if I’m a ‘dirty slaver’, I’ve still got standards. Especially for the ones that aren’t trying to actively kill me the entire time.” He dropped a small bag into the pot and turned the heat off. “I’ve got a bit of scotch around here somewhere. You want a dash of scotch in your tea?” He opened the hooflocker and looked around in it.

Being the smarty flank I was, I replied, “I’d love some tea with my scotch.” If this was really going to happen, I was going at least try to get a little drunk. Why was this happening to me all the time?

“Alright, a double for you then.” Bluey laughed. I hesitantly and nervously chuckled along with him. He poured the tea into two teacups (yes, actual bucking teacups) and added scotch to each of them, one more than the other. He pushed the one with more scotch over to me. “Cheers.” He raised his cup.

“Cheers?” I nervously raised my cup too and drank the entire hot mixture. I immediately decided I didn’t particularly like tea. It tasted a lot like disgusting leafy cheap scotch. “Ugh. Needs more scotch.” I grimaced.

“I agree it isn’t as good as our usual stock, but… well, you know what happened to it.” Bluey shoved me onto the bed. “You little wanker. I’m going to make you pay for all of that.”

“Betcha love your big wankers too.” I sniggered.

Nice one!

High five, brain.

“Shut it, slave.” He slapped me, hard enough to knock the cup out of my hoof.

I didn’t like the way he was looking at me, especially how Li’l Bluey was looking at me too. Panic! Panic!

Hold up, maybe we can twist this into our favor. Just go with it.

Are you insane?

Asked the crazy mare talking to herself.

Dammit. Hopefully we know what we’re doing, brain.

He got down on top of me and I suddenly decided to grab him in a tight hug, which surprised me. I didn’t particularly like it and I was positively shaking in my fur. “Alright, alright. If this is going to happen, at least be gentlecolt enough to let me enjoy this a little,” I whispered into his ear.

I used my wings as leverage to flip us over so I was straddling his chest. “You’re like that, are you? I love that.” Bluey leered. He grabbed my flanks and pulled me closer. I inwardly flinched. I just want this to be over, please. I wanna go home! “I like my mares feisty.”

However, I resisted the urge to punch him in the face. “Really now?” I murmured. Ugh. He started planting kisses upward along my body. Do not want! Do not want!

Just go with it. Wait for an opportunity.

I tolerated his fondling, teasing, and kissing for an intolerably long time. Worst of all, I couldn’t find a moment to tear him apart while he was doing this.

“That’s enough of that. Time for the main course,” he gleefully sneered. He forcefully slammed me face-first into the bedroll. Crap! Nonononono! He slapped my flank roughly and laughed again. I could feel him rubbing against my butt. Okay, that’s enough! I desperately reached out with my wing and bumped the table hard enough to knock over one of the teacups. “Dammit. You’re making a mess.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him turn away from me just long enough to pick up the teacup.

Now.

I suddenly sat up and spun around to grab him in a chokehold. “If you don’t mind, I’m just going to skip right to dessert.” I picked up the leash and tied Bluey up with it.

Really? Dessert?

“Shut up! It was the coolest one-liner I could come up with at the time,” I hissed at, well, myself.

I wrapped up his muzzle with the last bit of leash that wasn’t tying his forelegs in place. Bluey attempted to yell something at me, but I couldn’t understand him. He attempted to kick at me and promptly fell over.

Suddenly cheering broke out throughout the camp. “Aw, ponyfeathers,” I muttered. Really hoping it wasn’t a we-caught-Frosty celebratory cheering. “Well, time to go!” As a closing thought, patted Bluey on the head. “Don’t go anywhere,” I joked. He only glared at me as I effortlessly sliced through the back of his tent and darted off into the night.

I stayed toward the edge of camp, creeping around the random patrolling slaver. An explosion abruptly cut off the cheering. Where there’s smoke, there’s explosives. And where there’s explosives, there’s Tabber. I climbed up a short hill overlooking the camp and scanned for Tabber and his stupid disguise. Or at least my bags. The slavers were now actively searching the camp, some of them were just running about screaming, but a blue-maned one was calmly trotting away from all of it. There he was!

I ignored the pained complaints of my body and took flight. I gained as much altitude as I could before dropping like a rock and snatched him at high speed. “Holy crap!” Tabber yelled as I dashed away from the slaver camp. “Thanks for the save there. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to save you too. I didn’t really have an escape plan.” He squirmed in my grip. “Do we have to go so fast? I think i’m going to get sick.”

“Stop squirming! I’m not staying here any longer than I have to. Please tell me you did something besides blow stuff up,” I yelled into Tabber’s ear.

“Oh yeah. Terrible news, the battle is about to begin and their special troops left hours ago. They’re in the sewers right now probably,” Tabber yelled back, covering his ear.

“Crap. Any idea how long it’ll take them to get to Underhill?”

“Anywhere between two hours and eight. Depends on how many of them decide to wander right into my traps.” Tabber thought for a minute. “Actually, I’d say we have at least an hour or so before they reach Underhill. There’s only five entrances into Seapony, and three of them are inaccessible from the sewers.”

“Great. Just great,” I grumbled. Tonight was going to suck. I craned my neck to look back at the camp. Cherry… I’m sorry. I’ll be back. I promise.


Footnote: Level up!
New Perk: Strong Back – Because your teammates won’t carry themselves. Stupid teammates. You can now carry an additional 50 pounds of weight.
Current Sub-perk: Diplomacy – Remember thy Charlamane. You gain +3 to Speech.
Current Status: Addicted to Med-X – It isn’t your fault. When withdrawn, your Agility and Intelligence are penalized by −1.

Author's Note:

Don't forget to check out the prequel to Memories, H is for Heresy!

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