• Published 17th Nov 2011
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Fallout: Equestria- The Last Sentinel - Adder1



It's hard to kill memories when you remember everything.

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Chapter Two: Rig

Chapter Two: Rig


Well, I see our audience shrunk a little.

A light sigh escaped his muzzle.

Folks, this is the Wasteland. It's an unforgiving place. I had to be just as unforgiving. You can't shield foals from the brutality and vulgarity forever, to say nothing of yourselves. I won't pull any punches with this story. Back then, there were no monsters like Red Eye. But there were monsters of a different breed. There were no heroes back then like the Stable Dweller and Security. But there were heroes, to be sure. Of a different flavor.

And there were sure as hell more raiders, slavers, bandits, scavengers, the like crawling around back then. Dear Luna...

I hope you realize this and look past the violence to take what you can from my story. The Wasteland was never a pretty place with a pretty face, and it certainly isn't one now.

Now then.

Where was I?

* * *

That's right. I was burying the poor, dead mare with the help of the other one. The late mare was named Humming Breeze, as the survivor told me. I used a piece of wood from the wagon as a headstone and marked it as such.

A light sigh.

What a lovely name...

The other one was fresh from the Stable, alright. Her cutie-mark was an open toolbox with a pipe wrench, screwdriver, welding torch and a hammer sticking out with screws, nuts, bolts and nails lying around. She stepped around gingerly like all ponies do after spending most of their lives walking about on nothing but metal floors. She ducked and looked around with each unfamiliar noise of the night. I didn't chide her for this, though.

After all, I've seen it happen before.

We rebuilt the fire, though it was more like I taught her how to build one. Build a pony a fire, and you give warmth for a night. Teach a pony to build a fire, and you give warmth for life.

Besides, I don't like heat.

She stumbled a bit with only my words to guide her, but to her credit, she learned fast. Still didn't get the kid's name yet nor she mine. I still didn't think she trusted me anyways. I wouldn't blame her, given what she saw me do. I just politely addressed her and hoped she wouldn't think of me as someone out to hurt her.

With a fire burning brightly once more, I put the dome back on to obscure it- from a distance, of course, using my ice arms. It had an entry hole the size of a bottle cap and an exit hole I could put my head through, but it still did its job to the two directions it mattered the most in- the lone way out and above us. The covered wagon had an abundance of supplies- canned food, dirty water, stacks of .22 rimfire for the now-broken carbine, standard survival equipment, and a small bounty of medical supplies. I removed a few units of canned yams for the both of us.

“Do you know how to cook over a fire, ma'am?” I asked her, keeping polite.

“No...” she spoke softly but strongly. I detected a hint of fear, though.

I sat down opposite her, quite a bit farther away from the crackling fire than she was. “We're not playing the game here. You don't have to fear me. I'm here to help you, ma'am.”

“That's exactly what he said...” She looked away, pointing a hoof at the late Mister Britches.

I was quiet for a while.

“Let me show you how to cook, alright, ma'am?” I offered. “All I ask is that you watch, eat, drink, and sleep as well as you can. You don't need to trust me. All I ask is that you just listen to me if we suddenly have a life-death situation. Now, first, we can't cook yams just like this. Pressure-”

“Pressure will build up in the can and it'll burst.” The earthy unicorn nodded, meeting eyes with me. “I know.”

“Yes, that's right, ma'am.” I tried to give her my most comforting smile. Not many ponies fresh to the Wasteland from a Stable knew that. “Since we don't have any pots, pans, or the like, we'll have to cook it in the can. We'll have to eat straight from them, too. No dishes here. Now, then.”

I sharpened a finger on my ice hand and slowly worked the lids open, popping them off before holding all four cans over the fire- a long ways away if I must add. I know I could've looked for the can-opener, but I didn't want to keep her waiting.

“... your arms,” she murmured, staring at them.

“Yes, ma'am?”

“Why don't they melt?”

I smiled. “A good cryomancer must learn to maintain his or her ice despite increasing temperature, ma'am.”

She looked at me once more. “Your horn doesn't even glow during this. I didn't even see it glow when you came from nowhere. Not since then.”

I smiled a little brighter. “I'm a very good cryomancer, ma'am. Only the most difficult cryomancy requires that much from me. Now... I can't see the yams from here. You'll need to tell me when the liquid inside the cans begins to bubble, okay?”

“Why don't you look over at them yourself?”

I let out a sigh.“Being a very good cryomancer comes with... a certain cost. Heat sources greater than typical room temperature aren't good for me to be exposed to, ma'am. My ice... sure, I can maintain it no problem. Myself... you get the idea.”

“...I see.” She nodded lightly.

“Do you realize what I'm telling you?” I asked her, grinning. Her blank look at me told me she didn't. “I'm telling you that means if I do anything to bring harm to you, you can always use a hunk of firewood and telekinetically throw it at me, ma'am.”

That got a small smile from her. That's progress.

“You can just catch it with yours, then,” she huffed.

“I can't, ma'am.”

She looked at me in surprise, and a little bit of distrust. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that I can't do any kind of magic other than cryomancy, ma'am,” I responded. “Another cost. I couldn't telekinetically lift a bottle cap to save my life. Catch.”

To prove it, I removed a cap from my saddlebags and tossed it to her. She caught it in a hoof.

Good reflexes.

Keeping the cans over the fire, I began to concentrate on the cap, a light blue aura surrounding my horn and the coin. My aura grew brighter and brighter, forming an overglow as I began to strain myself, followed by another. A corner of my mouth twitched, and I saw the cans begin to dip a bit, my ice crackling a little. I stopped, the glow fading and light snuffing from the crevice. Had to keep an eye out for the entrance and the skies after a stunt like that, I thought to myself. Probably should've thought of that in the first place.

“Feel anything at all, ma'am?” I asked.

“Nothing,” the young mare replied in a whisper, astonished, then looked like she was going to toss it back.

“Keep it, ma'am. I'll give you more later. They're used as currency here in the Wasteland.”

I could see there was a bit of confusion in her eyes. I could almost read her mind. Bottle caps? For money? Really?

“Nowhere to put it.” She tossed it back. I formed another ice arm to catch it.

I sighed to myself as I pocketed it again. Right. She was bare.

“The yams are bubbling,” she said.

“Then they're warm enough for you, ma'am,” I spoke, handing three cans to her and keeping one for myself. “War-era canned food's got enough preservative spellwork and additives to them to make them last far longer than how long they've been around. The manufacturers made it that way in case a balefire bomb fell and a family needed to head to a fallout shelter or something. Gotta love their dedication to planning for the worst-case scenario. Too bad it came to that...” I locked eyes with her. “They're safe to eat. Not tasty, but they're safe to eat.”

She dug into the yams hungrily, her horn glowing a soft gray as she levitated the sliced pieces and chomped them down as if they would disappear at any moment. Once the first can was gone, she looked up at me with a look of shame, avoiding my gaze for a moment.

“No worries, ma'am.” I smiled. “You have the right idea in mind. But let me show you how it's done.”

And then I proceeded to wolf down my can of yams, fishing around the bottom of the can for the last bits and drinking the juice even if all of the food burned my heat-sensitive throat a bit. My ice arms crinkled dangerously before sliding off my shoulders and shattering against the ground, my horn sparking a little.

That was definitely one of the stupidest things I could've done, putting myself into a magical burnout like that. My face must've screwed up in the process.

Because she just stared at me and bawled out laughing.

The memory seemed to elicit a light chuckle from the storyteller himself.

Progress.

I licked my lips and said, “You see, ma'am, the name of the game with food in the Wasteland is to eat fast but eat clean. Just... mind that I'm not used to eating food hot.” Again, really should've just set that one can aside. “You're often vulnerable while you're eating, so you want to minimize time spent, but you also don't want to waste anything. Especially the juice.” I motioned a hoof at her still partially full can. “Canned food normally has some sort of water content. Pure water content. Most folks don't realize this, but the preserving spells also worked as radiation wards. All liquid you find in canned food is cl- don't drink!”

She paused as she levitated the can, which almost reached her lips. “But... you said that it was fine!”

“Yes, but mind the can itself, ma'am,” I spoke clearly for her to remember, eyes wide. “The contents are preserved; the can is not. Centuries of rust plus a sharp lid spells 'death by tetanus' if that thing reaches your lips. Just keep the can close enough to let it spill into your mouth.”

The unicorn mare kept the can where it was and tilted it so she could drink up the juice and yam bits remaining in the can. Good girl. I relaxed, one possible disaster averted.

We were quiet for the rest of the meal as she proceeded to quickly- but relatively cleanly- finish up the rest of the yams. She learned fast.

“May I venture a question, ma'am?” I inquired.

“Sure.” She nodded. “You don't need to ask.”

Progress.

“How did the late Mister Britches treat you regarding food and water, ma'am? Did he give you full portions, or did he cut them?”

“One can per meal, and a little water,” she answered, biting her lip lightly. “My PipBuck told me it was a little irradiated.”

“Are you still in the green zone, ma'am?”

“Just barely.” She raised an eyebrow. “How did you guess?”

“Ma'am, I used to be in a Stable myself. Unfortunately, PipBucks don't exactly accept somepony like myself whose body temperature spells death for a normal pony. It wouldn't register me as being alive, so I couldn't use one. Anyway, the radiation shouldn't cause any illness at that level, but notify me if there's anything wrong. If you're still hungry, just let me know, but never continue eating if you're full. Additives are still additives, and vomiting your dinner back up is worse than going hungry in the first place.”

“Alright.” She nodded, standing up and trotting down to sit a little closer, holding a hoof out to me. “Name's Rig, just Rig. And you can stop with the 'ma'am' stuff.”

Progress completed. I had her trust.

“My name is Frost Windchill.” I returned the hoofshake. “Pleased to meet you.”

Rig went through one more can, heating it up as I guided her. I felt more and more like an idiot for not just giving her my heated can in the first place. Finally, she asked, “Which Stable did you come from? And what did you do there?”

“Stable Seventy-Two. Chief of security. Least, I used to be, anyway. We opened up into the Wasteland quite a while ago. And you?”

“Stable Three,” Rig answered. “Engineering and repair.”

“Explains the cutie mark.” I smiled, nodding lightly. “Thirsty?”

“I'm... still a little parched, yes.”

“Well, let's see if my horn'll cooperate...” I grunted, throat and tongue were still scratchy from the yams. I focused and got nothing. Just a fizz. “Aw, bull-frickin'-horseapples.”

“Burnout?” Rig blinked.

“I told you that exposure to warmth isn't good for me,” I grumbled, focusing again. “My strength lies with the absence of heat.” She didn't try anything to knock me unconscious and run away now that I was weak. That was a good sign at least. “Rig, would you kindly put out the fire?”

“And how would I go about doing that?” she asked in turn.

“Just separate the logs or something.” I kept focused. I didn't need my frustration to show. I needed to keep her trust. She pulled up the metal dome and scattered the logs into the dust, embers flying as the fire snuffed out. We were plunged into darkness once more.

It didn't take long before the familiar nocturnal cold of the Far North took hold, and the bare mare was left shivering, crossing her forelegs together.

“Won't be much longer.” I tried to flash her a reassuring smile, even if she couldn't see it. “Keep your forelegs over your chest. Your core body temperature's more important at this point.”

I saw that she obeyed and closed my eyes, letting the cold consume me.

Remember how stupid I was to create an overglow a few minutes ago? Well, I could already hear something skittering just outside the crevice. And I was without magic.

Focus. I focused...

Fizzle.

Spark.

Spark, spark...

… and then came that familiar feeling of a halo of ice forming around my horn, collapsing over it. A soft warmth radiated from it for a second.

I opened my eyes, horn aglow in a soft, blue aura as a shivering Rig watched in awe.

And then I quickly formed an ice arm, yanked out my shotgun, and fired outside. The deafening report of the weapon elicited a shrill chittering from whatever was outside, followed by it scuffling away. I sighed out a chilly mist, lowering the weapon, another disaster averted.

“Now, then.” I smiled. “You know how to start a fire in near-complete darkness now. Can you do it again?”

She was covering her ears. Right, the deafening report of the weapon. I slung back my shotgun and used an ice arm to tap a still-glowing log. I think she got the message.

I pushed her. I knew it was wrong of me, but I wanted to test her faith in me. I guided her, staying far back from the dimly glowing logs as she piled them up once more and tried to ignite the fire. She growled in frustration and annoyance, failing to keep a small spark going as it fizzled out.

“Keep at it...” I said quietly.

“Screw this,” Rig grunted, a gray shimmer working down her horn as a spark ignited the logs. The enchanted wood handled the rest. The walls were bathed in firelight and she beamed in triumph while I formed ice over my body to shield me from the heat, retreating to a safe distance.

“Rig, the cover.” I reminded her.

“What?” She blinked, then realized. “Oh! Shoot, sorry!”

She covered the fire in a jiffy. Yet another disaster averted.

Just to be sure, I lifted out the shotgun once more. Rig got the message by now and covered her ears as I sent another two-kilogram slug out into the darkness. A light hiss rewarded me as something slithered away. Remember, folks- life is expensive. Ammo is cheap. Safety for one night was worth all the ammo I had in that drum.

I breathed easy. “Good job. What was that, by the way?”

“Hm?” Rig looked back at me. “Oh, soldering spell. You know, engineer and repairpony and whatnot.” And yet again I wished I wasn't locked to one spell... “By the way, why didn't you just... you know, scoot a bit further away from the fire instead?”

“... because, Rig, I am not a clever pony.” I facehoofed.

The cloud-maned mare chuckled softly. “Nope.”

“In any case... are you still thirsty?”

The earth-coated mare nodded. “Yeah...”

With that, I produced a small cylinder of ice. Firing up my horn a little, I melted the inside to form a cup of water for her as she scooted back over to me.

“You can do that?” she asked, astonished once more as she took it.

“Again, I'm a very good cryomancer.” I smiled while she drank. “And cryomancy is more or less a form of hydromancy.”

“So you're literally a walking water talisman?” Rig brightened up, eyes sparkling after she finished and I sublimated the cup.

“Yeah, that about sums it up.” I nodded. “I do have a limit, though. It's one of the few spells in my repertoire that warrants firing up my horn over. I can recover from heat-induced burnouts relatively easy enough. Overtaxing my horn... that's a different matter entirely.”

She looked crestfallen and looked away. “Oh... so you can't, say, provide daily drinking water for about four-hundred-thirty-two ponies can you?”

“No, I can't.” I shook my head. But that number was a little too specific. I wanted to find out why. “Rig, why are you out in the Wasteland? Any Stable that wasn't planning on staying closed indefinitely already opened by now.”

She sighed, staring into the fire as she replied, “Stable Three was supposed to stay closed. That's what I was told, anyway. But our Stable's water talisman started malfunctioning a week ago and was starting to break down, so we pushed it and had it create as much water as possible before it downright fragmented. We managed to store an estimated one-hundred-fifty days' worth of pure water left. The Overmare prepped a team to head into the Wasteland with the purpose of recovering a working water talisman. I was assigned along with a security team. We were inoculated for all known diseases, given standard survival gear, and sent on our way. The first night, that... slaver...” She pointed at the late Mister Britches' corpse, “killed them in their sleep before they even knew what was going on. He said he was a trader. And fuck, we bought it... bastard shot me in the leg so I couldn't run... and you know the rest.”

“Your... leg?” I asked, looking for a wound. I saw none.

“He gave me a healing potion after he shackled me and put that explosive collar on me,” Rig quickly explained.

“Of course...” I solemnly nodded in understanding. Slavers wanted their 'products' to be in good condition after all. “Wait... so how long have you been stuck like this?”

“A month,” she answered. Then, as if seeing the reason behind my question, she added, “That leaves about one-hundred-twenty days left before time runs out...”

Something else to add to the list.

“Rig, I apologize for not being able to act as an impromptu water talisman for your Stable.” I rest a hoof on her shoulder. She didn't shrink away, thankfully. “That said, I will help you find a working water talisman.” As her expression brightened up once more, I added, “But priority one is still finding out what happened to the slaves Britches was bringing to Hoofstead.” The unicorn mare frowned a little, eyes losing their glow. “I'm sorry, but as time-sensitive as your mission is, those lives are all the more so. If I don't get there in time, I might lose the trail and those slaves may be transported elsewhere. And the longer they suffer, the lower the chance that I'll bring them back to their loved ones alive. But mark my words, I will do my best to help you and your Stable. Please understand, Rig.”

The earthy-brown adolescent seemed to accept my view and nodded lightly. “I understand, Frost.” She was quiet for a bit, then asked, “Why do it?”

“Do what?” I inquired.

“Any of this,” she answered. “You're what they call a bounty hunter, right? Why help me? Why help slaves? Are you doing it for bits? Er, caps?”

“Not for the caps,” I told her. I looked down at the draconic eye on my breastplate, placing a hoof on it. “I do it for... more personal reasons.”

Rig was quiet for a while, then softly smiled. “Thank you.”

I removed my hoof and bowed lightly to her. “Now rest. We'll need to start travel early if we want to get you to a safe location. The safest I know is Tenpony Tower. It's filled with... a lot of the aristocratic type, but it's st-”

“Ohhh, no you don't.” Rig cut me off. “I'm coming with you.” Before I could open my mouth to form a rebuttal, she continued. “You saved my life and proved you're more than just a decent pony. I'm returning the favor. Besides, you don't know if you might need a professional engineer and repairpony to help you out with things.” I would've objected and told her she'd slow me down, that she was unprepared to handle the Wasteland, yadda yadda yadda, but...something stopped me.

That soft yet inexplicably strong voice, that grin she flashed me... she wouldn't take “no” for an answer and wouldn't stop short of me forcing her to do as I said.

And I'm not that type. Not to ponies like her.

“...very well.” I relented, triumph brightening her face. “But,” I added, my expression stern, “I'm going to lay down some rules. You follow them, you'll stay safe. You break them, and you might never see your Stable again. I have decades of experience out here. You don't.”

“The Wasteland is an unforgiving place, Rig.” I continued. “You've seen that for yourself. Rule number one: do exactly as I say to the best of your ability. If I tell you to take cover and hide, you will seek the nearest piece of cover and hide there until I say otherwise. The closer, the thicker, the better. If we're on the defense, closer matters first. On offense, thicker. If I tell you to run, you will run until the threat is gone, even if you have to leave me behind. I tell you to move, that means you're in my way and you will get out of my sights so I can shoot accurately or you’re in someone else’s sights and you need to get out of them. Are you getting all of this?”

She nodded, saluting. “Sir, yes sir!”

“Don't push it,” I sighed. “Please. Rule number two: if you see anything out of the ordinary that I don't manage to spot on my own, you immediately report it to me in a calm, clear, and inconspicuous manner. You see glint of light out of nowhere, you report it. You see something peeking out of somewhere, you report it even if you think the Wasteland's playing tricks on your eyes. You see even so much as an outhouse lying in the middle of nowhere, you damn straight report it to me. Got it?”

“... what's an outhouse?” Rig asked, blinking in confusion.

“... right.” I forgot she was still fresh from a Stable. “It's a small shack for equines to go to the restroom.”

“Ah, got it.” She nodded in understanding.

“Rule number three: don't touch anything that you don't recognize as something safely touchable. This is dead serious, even if it looks so damn cute and fuzzy you could just hug it. Likely, such an object will more often explode, maul, acidify, immolate, poison, or otherwise injure you than want to be your friend. Clear?”

“Uhhhh, clear...”

“Rule number four: if you need or want something, tell me. I can't stress this enough. You need something to eat? Tell me. You need to use the little filly's room? Tell me. You need a song to keep your mind off of things? By all means, tell me!”

“Wait... really?” She stared.

“Yes, really!” I exclaimed. “I... mean, you can probably receive various radio channels over your PipBuck, but sometimes, nothing beats hearing it in person.”

“You...” Rig paused. I think she was trying to stifle a laugh.

I deadpanned at her. “What, don't think I can sing? I'm serious.”

“N-never mind,” she chuckled lightly, “I got the picture. Go on.”

I grumbled to myself and tapped my chin. “Well, let's see... follow my orders, report anything out of the usual, don't touch any unrecognizable object, tell me if you need anything... other than stuff that's honestly just common sense, that's it. Except some things we'll need to do for you...”

“And those would be...?” She rolled her hoof toward me, fishing for the rest of that phrase.

“We'll need to get you survival gear,” I responded. “I'm talking armor, and I'm talking weapons- never carry just one, by the way! Ideally, a firearm for general situations and a melee weapon. You'll need to learn to protect yourself above all else because your life is your most valuable asset in the Wasteland. That said, we'll need to perfect the ultimate in weaponry.”

“What would that be?” Rig asked.

I grinned. “The pony weapon. Because the mind is the sharpest of all blades, and we must never let it dull.”

“That's a quote for the books.” She smirked. She had no idea, I thought as I smirked in turn. “Where do we start?”

I reached into my saddlebags with an ice arm and handed a book to her, one with a gray cover and the illustration of a pony skull. “With this.”

She took it in her hooves and blinked. “The Wasteland Survival Guide? Really? There's a guide?”

“Made by one of the most experienced Wastelanders I know.” I nodded, arm turning to mist. “It's the best resource for arming yourself with the necessary information to dive headfirst into the hell Equestria has become and live to tell the tale. Now read. Educate yourself for the struggles to come.”

“How much?” she asked me.

“All of it. From cover to cover.”

“What?” She stared. “But I-”

“No excuses!” I cut her off. For the strangest reason, I paused as I felt as if some unicorn was turning in her grave. Very specifically her.

My expression must have betrayed my irk as she inquired, “What's wrong?”

“Nothing important,” I replied, waving a hoof dismissively. “Now, best start reading. Take breaks if you must to digest the information, but read all of it. There's no telling what we might encounter on the way to Hoofstead, so the more you know, the better. Try to...” Hm, how to put it so should would be more inclined to read it? “Think of it as an installation manual for a terminal in a Stable.” That got me a weird look from her, but she nodded. “In the meantime, I'll take watch. You read for now.”

“Well... alright.” She lied down closer to the fire so she could read through the exit hole I put in the dome.

With that, I began spreading out small tendrils of ice into the earth. They would detect vibrations in the area, alerting me to the presence of anything bigger than a radroach moving into the general vicinity of the crevice.

Only a few minutes passed before I heard the young mare's voice calling out, “Frost?”

“Yes?” I asked, still keeping my attention at my post.

My post...

Oh, the memories were coming back... I staved them off for now.

“Who are you?” she asked. “I mean, don't take it the wrong way- I'm grateful that you saved me, and I respect you for wanting to help, but...” She sighed.

“What's wrong, Rig?” I turned to face her. “Be honest.”

Her expression was one of concern. “Your armor... it's just like the ones I saw in the pre-war history textbooks.” I felt my spine tingle, spreading up my neck and creeping along my mane, anticipating the next question. I wasn't let down. “Are you a Lunar Guard?”

“Me?” I looked at her critically before nickering and shaking my head. “No, no. I wish. I'm just the descendant of one that reached Stable Seventy-Two. My armor was passed down from generation to generation ever since. I inherited it when I came of age, like my father, and his father before him and his father before him ad nauseum.” From her expression, I clarified. “And so forth, I mean.”

“Okay, but what about your eyes?” Rig asked me.

“Do you... know anything about genealogy? Sorry, I meant genetics.”

She nodded.“The basics, yeah.”

“It's a recessive gene that was passed down my family, that's all,” I explained. “My father didn't have it, but I'm told my grandfather and great-uncle did. In any case, I am blessed to have both armor and these eyes.”

“Ah... didn't know that.” Rig canted her head to the side. “So, uh... what do you know about the Lunar Guard? There isn't much known about them other than that they were personal bodyguards of Princess Luna.”

“Me?” I huffed. “Me, well, I don't know all that much, really. As far as I'm concerned, they're just that- bodyguards of the Princess.”

“You're unique like that and you never wanted to find out more about your family's history?” she inquired, doubtful.

“Well, it's not like a Lunar Guard would publicly spill the secrets of his or her organization, right?” I offered.

“Well yeah, I guess...”

“So there you go,” I said with a stout nod. “Not much else to say. Ponykind lost a lot of knowledge to the balefire apocalypse. Some secrets, though... are perhaps best left buried.”

“If you say so...” Rig sighed, delving back into the Guide.

As she resumed reading, I likewise resumed my post. That was for the best. What she needed was to survive long enough to complete her mission and then go back to living in a Stable that was never meant to be opened again in the first place. She needed to focus on just that. Nothing else.

That left me wondering, though. How many other Stables out there received that protocol- to stay shut and never open again? I might never know, but as of now I'm aware of a handful that did, though those never stayed closed for long for whatever reason. Whatever the case was, back then this was another thing I didn't need to worry about, and so I just stopped thinking about it.

I was also left wondering about something else. Rig was the first one who even wished to accompany me in the Wasteland after that... incident so many years ago. More importantly, she trusted me. And I trusted her enough to tell a little bit about myself.

I hadn't a friend by my side for a long time. Well... Rig wasn't quite on those kinds of terms with me yet, I didn't think. Hope suffused through my body, lending me strength as the thought of a small acquaintanceship did me good. I couldn't hope to to get too attached to her, though. After all, once things were all said and done, she would return to the Stable she knew and loved, right?

I looked back at her. I noticed she was taking a break, staring at the fire.

“How far did you get?” I asked her.

“Finished the first section, general information on the Wasteland,” Rig piped up, meeting my eyes. Fast reader. Hope she retained it well. “Yeesh, and I thought radiation was the only thing I had to worry about... taint and enervation sound like nasty stuff.” She let out a sigh. “Celestia's solar mareheat, the Wasteland sucks...”

My ears twitched.

Then she realized just who she was talking to and what had happened not too long ago. “Oh... oh shoot, I'm sorry!” The young mare shuddered, shrinking back as fear darkened her eyes. “I didn't mean it, really!”

I sighed softly, mist settling down before me. Easy, Frost. Easy. Easyyyyy. “The difference between you and Britches and Silas is that I wouldn't mind hurting them. You're different, just... mind your words.” She unwound a little, somewhat relieved. “Though...” I gritted my teeth, “yes, the Wasteland sucks. But it's the world we're left with. We have to make due and make do.”

Rig nodded slowly, meekly returning to her reading.

I let out another sigh, mist flowing from my mouth. No. I didn't have her complete trust yet. “Where'd you learn that kind of language anyways?” I asked, still faced away. “You're only a month fresh from a Stable.”

“Britches,” she replied.

Should've guessed.

I pulled out my shotgun and strode over to the corpse of Sewn Britches. With a string of sickening, wet crunches, I slammed the crowbar stock into the ribcage until it was all but collapsed. The little blood that was left in his body dribbled out from the torn remains of his neck.

I looked back at Rig, who was staring wide-eyed at me with a queasy expression. She looked from the body and back to me. “Message received.”

I nodded stoutly and returned to my place, taking a moment to cycle a latch to remove the spent shells from the crude drum of my shotgun. I stowed them into my saddlebags and manually chambered in the hefty, enchanted slugs into a slot.

After about fifteen minutes of only nocturnal noises and the crackling of the fire, Rig spoke up again, softer this time.“Uh... Frost?”

“Yes, Rig?” I turned to face her once more.

“Your... shotgun, that's what it's called, right?” she asked. I nodded. “What's that on the barrel?”

And so I showed it to her.

The storyteller smiled softly and paused to bring out the weapon once more, whipping it out by the hooked end of the crowbar. This time, the barrel was visible for all to see. In silvery, cursive text were two words followed by a crescent moon. It was the same on the other side.

Iudicium Luna,” I told her. “Luna's Judgment.”

* * *

Well, folks, it's just about dinnertime. I have my watch soon and you have your chow to get to. We'll continue at nine. Right here.

Stay frosty, folks.

* * *

Footnote: Maximum Level
Quest perk added: Acquaintanceship is... Science(?)- Nopony knows the answer, as the Balefire Armageddon left the Wasteland with few competent mathematicians. Whatever the case is, you gain a +5% bonus to damage against enemies targeted by an ally and a +10% bonus to damage resistance against any non-environmental source of incoming damage when defending an ally.

Unlockables added: Soundtrack- Theme of the Stalker, Frost

Character Voice Actor- Karen Gillan as Rig

Soundtrack- Theme of the Survivor, Rig

Author's Note:

Reworked version of chapter 2 courtesy of the story’s anniversary. Many thanks to Lazer for the editing. I am very grateful for the FoE community for inspiring me to write this story after over six months of “giving up on writing”. You’re all awesome, you know that?

Lastly, thank you for reading. Please leave some feedback. I greatly appreciate it, and I can use critique to improve my writing craft for a better reading experience for you.

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