• Published 28th Nov 2015
  • 3,781 Views, 217 Comments

Fallout: Equestria - Make Love Not War - hahatimeforponies

Atom Smasher, a sharp-tongued scoundrel, attends a turbulent family reunion that happens to take place in the deserts of the San Palomino wasteland.

  • ...

Sympathy for the Devil

Nobody looked like they were in a hurry to go anywhere, so I didn't stress packing up. Sam informed me that Winchester's threat to bring him back by sundown was probably a load of shit, and that there wouldn't be an issue as long as he got back in one piece. I was starting to like Winchester. If he took a bath he'd be a belligerent teddy bear.

Nah, that didn't really concern me. Ivy and Babylon turned in after dinner so we could be ready to leave at dawn, and I found myself floating around the edges of the camp, watching the skies. The rest of the tribe entertained each other with stories and music around the fire. Melodies and lyrics I'm sure I'd heard on Rainbow's fake radio station carried out to where I sat. I didn't like feeling like this. I mean, sure, after all the walking today I was ready to throw myself at the first soft thing I could find and conk out, but at the same time, I felt like I couldn't. I felt like my heart was trying to climb out of my mouth and fly away and even though my reactions were dulled and my eyes were sore from staying open, my head kept spinning with... worry, I guess? And it kept me awake.

Sam bumped me on the shoulder. I returned to awareness of my surroundings with a bleary shudder. "You all there birdie? You seem... not you."

"Oh." I stared at him blankly for a moment. "I was just..."

"Keeping an eye out for your brother?"

I paused again. I couldn't even muster the energy to come up with a lie. "Yeah."

"What happened? He seemed pretty stompy and huffy in his hurry to skedaddle."

"Sam... have you ever killed anyone?"

He made a mechanical noise that might be equated to furrowing eyebrows. Or maybe it was just a random noise, I don't fucking know. "Not that I know of. I mean, maybe if you really stretch some cases of faulty equipment you could blame some accidents on me, but that might be more Winchester's policy of recruiting imbeciles as guards. Why?"

"Okay, new question. When is it acceptable to kill?"

"Man, this got abstract quick. Uhh... self-defence, threat to innocents... maybe some penal and greater good cases could be argued but those are really sketchy and the most common case is going to be the first two. How about the meaning of life for 200 next?"

I chuckled at least. "Well, what would... what would you think... I mean, how would it affect..."

"Who did you kill, Atom?" Sam sounded less apprehensive than I expected. He sounded more like I was confessing to peeing in the sink or something.

"I..." I laughed again, nervously. "A few. Soldiers, mostly. And rai... bandits."

"Soldiers and bandits, eh? Bit of a hero, are we?" He nudged me in the shoulder.


"Is that all Rainbow Code is upset about? Man, he's a weird one. And being a Ranger Paladin he's definitely got a few notches on his barrel. I'd have thought he'd be proud of you." I just kicked the sand and stared at my hooves. "I dunno. Maybe he really does have gas. He'll be back. Go get some sleep or you're gonna hate yourself tomorrow."

"Yeah. I'll... right." I turned around towards the camp to look for an empty tent or something. I turned again after a couple of steps, and Sam had already gone.

At some point exhaustion must have overwhelmed my anxiety and let me sleep, because the next thing I remembered was being dragged across the ground by Ivy in her magic. Having my ass sanded was definitely enough to get me wide awake in a hurry, even though my eyes were heavy and my balance had yet to remember how to work. The first thing I did after standing up was overshoot equilibrium and fall over the other side.

It was still dark out, and cold enough to see my breath. Counting the rising steam trails let me find Ivy, Babylon, another sentry guard, and Rainbow Code. Seeing him unwound one of the twisted ropes in my chest but pulled another tight. (Sam didn't have breath to show in the cold, but I could see his eye light.) Babylon had stoked last night’s fire to reheat some stew for breakfast, but it was already dying down again.

"C'mon Atom, we gotta go, or we're gonna be spending peak heat in Fort Mercer again!"

I made a noise comparable to the one a manticore makes when it dies, and stumbled over to grab some breakfast. Rainbow looked at me when I flopped at the fire and gave me a stern nod of acknowledgement, then went back to organising something in a bag. He looked as tired as I felt, but was bearing it far better.

After nearly falling asleep in the bowl twice, I got up and went around behind a rock at the edge of the camp to take care of one last piece of morning business before the others left without me.

Or, that was my plan until Babylon ambushed me and started talking. "Free bird, might I pester you for some knowledge?"

"Mother of shitballs I'm trying to go for a wee, could your knowledge wait one bloody minute?"

She chuckled. "My apologies!"

"Do you think this is fucking funny?"

"Quickly. Would you happen to know where your brother went last night?"

I fumed. "No, I have no idea where the stupid cunt went, now will you piss off?"

She bit her mouth like she was trying not to laugh. "As you wish. I will... piss off." Another snort escaped. I glared at her until she was safely back at the camp.

When I returned to the light of the fire, we started moving immediately. I didn't even get a chance to stop walking, we were going straight away. The sky was paling in the east, and the pace Rainbow was keeping in front was way too fast for my liking. His size meant that a brisk stroll for him was a power-walk for Sam, an awkward near run for me, and Ivy and Babylon were practically jogging. We weren't even out of the valley before Ivy had to tug him on the tail and get him to slow down.

After that the walk was quiet. The walking was always quiet, since we had to keep an eye out and nobody wanted to exhaust any spare topics of conversation in case of extreme boredom, but this walk was a silent march. Rainbow didn't look back at me, and he barely looked at Ivy when she ran ahead to try and get through to him. We couldn't really stop and speculate on why he was trying so hard to keep up the cold shoulder act without him hearing either, so on we walked.

The plan was to take quick rest stops across the morning and power through to Roswhinny before peak heat. We called into Fort Mercer on the way to refill on water. Madeira seemed happy to see us at first, but Rainbow's mood was infectious. We emerged from the saloon in time to see another duel winding up, and Rainbow just walked obliviously through the middle of it, causing the blustering talk to stop on the spot. I gave the stunned cowboys a shrug as our convoy hurried after him.

The group split up at the edges of urban San Cimarron. Sam led me back the way we came, into the service tunnels, while Rainbow, Ivy and Babylon continued to an overpass that would take them to the bypass road. Ivy was the one who had to say 'we'll see you back at the base', and Rainbow barely gave me a glance as they went.

Once Sam and I were down a flight of stairs and out of earshot, I screamed and kicked a rusty railing hard enough to snap it in half. Five hours of frustration escaped all at once.

Sam backed up. "Uh. If you're gonna blow some steam, can you warn me first so I can get out of the way?"

"I have no idea what I'm specifically upset about but I'm absolutely furious!" I tore a crumbling fusebox or something off the wall and punted it down the stairs. It spent the next minute clattering and ringing and echoing around the tunnels.

"Thanks for the clarification, I wasn't quite sure."

The impacts had left one of my hooves stinging, which forced me to calm down. "Stupid moptop bastard won't even..."

"Hey, don't look at me, I barely know you and Ranger Technicolor. I am not qualified to solve your family issues."

"Fucking..." I spent a moment huffing and rubbing my forehead. I genuinely had no idea what came over me. I wanted to strangle Rainbow just so I could tip his head over and pour out what was inside, because it seemed like that was the only way to figure out what he was thinking.

"Just get it together, okay? This is gonna be one ugly reunion, man..." Sam shook his head and carried on down the stairs. I sighed, weakly kicked the railing again, and followed him. It had been at least a few days since I'd seriously thought about packing up and getting back on the road to see where it would take me, and right now following the overpass after Isotope City and trucking west on route 66 sounded real tempting.

Once I'd simmered off, I asked Sam about the aliens again. Anything that'd distract me. He seemed happy enough to bitch about stupid people, which was entertaining at least. He talked about how every time a scouting party would leave the city, they'd find something that they'd add to their wall of evidence in the guard house. This included everything from Ministry of Image pamphlets denying the existence of extra-terrestrials, to decaying stuffed octopus toys, to pictures of a Satellite Sam's downtown that had neon buttresses in the shape of a flying saucer, to posters that said 'I want to believe'. It'd be cute if they weren't clutching their recovered plasma rifles and sweating while they collected all this crap, so Sam just left them to it.

The day was starting to get real hot when we resurfaced. It wasn't yet midday, but at this rate it'd be really heavy going when I got back to Roswhinny. Or, maybe I'd just gotten used to the cool underground. Either way, I was hot and uncomfortable and we hurried along to Isotope City. Because we were approaching from a different direction than the way I'd come previously, we were out of the line of sight of the lookout over the door. This seemed like a security oversight, since if this were the only vantage point from which people could shoot at us as we approached, all a raiding party would have to do would be to approach from the north, until a crackling orange beam of energy turned a weed nearby into ash. I jumped. Sam was unfazed.

"Hey, blockhead! You could hurt yourself with aim like that!" He leaned over to me. "I'm pretty sure he's called Cinderblock because he had one dropped on his head at some point."

At least the lasers let up, and we could approach the walls. When we came around to the gate, Sam pounded on it with a hoof. There was a scrambling, like someone had fallen off their chair, and then the living tumbleweed himself popped his head out of the broken window.

"Satellite Fucking Sam? Tarnation, I just sent out a search party an hour ago!"

Realisation dawned on me. "So that's what the F stands for! Ahhh."

"And you!" Winchester's rifle floated out of the window, levelled at me and made a noise. "We had a deal, and you're eighteen hours overdue."

"Hey!" Sam shoved in front of me. "I'm here and in one piece. That's the important thing, right?"

"Get out of the way, tincan," Winchester grunted. Since I was on five hours sleep and exhausted from latent family drama and walking, I just blinked down the barrel of the gun like a gormless idiot.

"We were only getting to our destination after dark. It wasn't actually possible to meet your conditions."

"That means you went too far."

Sam sighed. Could robots sigh? Maybe he learned it at some point specifically to express exasperation. "Look. She's already bought repairs off me, saved me from manticores and escorted me all the way to the hills and back safely. I think we can at least not put her down over being a little late back. Shit happens, y'know?"

"Are you really gonna trust this pigeon not to be playing the long game?"

"Winchester!" Even he jumped from the level of bark Sam put out. "Pull your head out of your ass for ten seconds will you? Do I have to go up there and slap you like your dad?" Winchester snorted, and lowered the rifle. "If it weren't for this pigeon I'd still be lying under a shelf in an EZ-Mart counting breadloaves until I went completely off the rails. So drop the tough guy act, will you? You're not impressing anyone."

Winchester hesitated for a long time, looking mostly at his gun. The only sounds I could hear were the gentle wind and the distant, muffled ruckus of the town going about its business. Parts of the remaining glass cast a glare from the sun, and I could feel my ass slowly baking, and my forelegs and neck roasting in the extremities of the jacket. At least my chest was nice and cool. Because of...

"Fine." The gun retreated inside. "If you trust her, then I'll at least give her the courtesy of not blowing her brains out when I see her." He retreated back into the window, and the gate screamed into life. It lifted just below head height before stopping, wobbling for a few seconds after it stopped. "Now git, before I change my mind."

Sam turned to me. "That's the best you're gonna get out of a hardass like him. When you're ready for the big one, you know where to call. And try to kiss and make up?" He patted me on the shoulder and ducked under the gate.


The gate closed and Winchester had returned to sleeping on the job before I kicked my brain into gear to leave. The encounter tumbled in my head. Life used to be so simple. I made things difficult for bad guys by way of strategic ordinance, and had fun doing it. Then when that got dull I wandered from bar to bar, charming favours out of strangers and avoiding any kind of real work. Now I had my brother looking at me like shit on a shoe, and a robot standing in front of a gun for me, and me trying to decide my value to the world as if taking the aggregate of these mental images would somehow yield a quantifiable result. I huffed and grunted as I walked, since I had nobody to hide these frustrations from, but none of it was break-a-lamppost-with-my-face maddening. And it was going to be a long-ass walk back to Roswhinny.

Midday passed while I was walking. I was starting to figure out the route, and I was recognising more landmarks from repeated journeys. I located the dry riverbed - now more of a ditch in the wilderness than anything else. I was starting to think that south San Cimarron was the quiet side of town. When we were downtown, we came across traders and travellers. Here, I guessed ponies were giving the Rangers a wide berth. Begs the question of how Rainbow fartface ended up with them in the first place. Must have been scavenging in all these derelict houses or something. I contemplated, briefly, wandering into the Caballero Centre, walking up to one of the manticores and slapping it in the face, just so it would do me the favour of relieving me of this inner conflict.

I found something intriguing on the road. In the remains of some one-horse town, where the main road south from San Cimarron met what at one point was a bridge over the river (it was now just four rusty poles and a pile of rubble), someone had turned a couple of autowagons on their sides in the middle of the road, and sprayed a green atom with three orange orbits on it. At first I thought this was some weirdo expressing their fandom of the centuries-dead San Cimarron Isotopes, but then I noticed the colours. That was very definitely the thing on my butt. Someone was trying to get my attention. There were arrows either side of it too, pointing to U-235 by the side of the road. I bit, if only because I needed to get some shade and drink some water. It was already going to be peak heat by the time I was in Roswhinny.

I took my time looking around once I was under the canopy. There was the possibility that it was a coincidence. While I poked around the pumps I tried to think of who could possibly be looking for me. Everyone I could think of that had gotten a good enough look at me to remember my cutie mark was in Roswhinny, Isotope City or way out in the Death Caps, and of those, most of them I'd seen recently enough that if they had something to say to me, they'd have said it earlier today, and of those left, cornering me somewhere in the mess hall seemed more sensible than this backwards-arse scheme. There was nothing out of the ordinary or interesting by the pumps, so cautiously, I stepped into the shop adjacent.

My eyes took some time to adjust to the darkness inside. One shelf had been pushed parallel to the door, so I had to walk around it to see inside. At the back of the room, sitting at the counter and using it as a desk, with the only lamp on in the room, was a pony in black. Her mane and coat were a kind of pale that caused a glare from the lamp. As my eyes adjusted, I made out the half-lit outlines of three other ponies, standing watch, and the glow of multiple energy weapons, holstered or saddle-mounted. The other ponies had helmets on that obscured their eyes with the visors. The pony at the desk looked up with a wrinkled smile and age-weary eyes. "Ah! There you are."


"I've been expecting you, Atom Smasher."

I already had the willies. "So I'm guessing you're the vandal from the street out there?"

"I knew you'd be a sharp one." She stood up from the desk, and I got a better look at her uniform. Gold buttons, diagonal-shape thing down the front... and she had wings. In fact, now that I was looking for it, all of them had wings. "Allow-"

"Just, before you move on, I have to ask what you would have done if I was an oblivious moron and walked right past your not-subtle-at-all signpost?"

She actually seemed kind of tickled by this. "We'd have figured something out. But enough about that, I think it's high time we were introduced, hmm?"

"You already appear to have figured out my name, because I guess the Enclave has spies everywhere or something?"

"Colonel Valkyrie, Big Top Enclave. Pleasure to meet you." She extended a hoof in greeting. I stared at it. "Not a hoof-shake kinda gal?"

I was clearly already in the shit and in no mood for it today. "What do you want?"

"Something the matter, Atom? I've heard you're quite personable. This is something of a shock!" She had that half-smile where it was obvious she wasn't surprised at all.

"Look, I'm having a bad day, okay? You picked a bad time to have the spooks roll up and abduct me for ransom or whatever nefarious thing it is you're planning to do.

"Oh, we want nothing of the sort! Nothing against your own volition, honey."

"Why are you calling me honey that's really weird," I muttered through gritted teeth, as she swept a wing over my back and guided me into walking with her.

"See, I'm not sure what you've heard about the Grand Pegasus Enclave and what it is we do, but really what it is, is that we're looking out for each other. Simple, right? It's a tough ol' world for pegasi. I'm sure you've seen a bit of that, haven't you?"

Every time I'd been called some kind of bird diminutive in the last five days played in my head at once. "Yeah. I see what you mean."

"And hey, it's not like you chose to be born down in the mud."

"That's a meaningless assertion, but I guess it's true?"

Valkyrie chuckled. "We just want to look out for our big, wide family. Even the little ducklings down here."

"Is that why you brand your traitors and leave them for dead? That seems rather un-familial to me."

"The family metaphor only goes so far, okay? But it's still generally true. You've got a connection to the Enclave, and we want to reach out to you, Atom."

"Okay, hold up here." I threw her wing off and scrambled back a few steps. "Where the hell are you getting all this?"

She laughed again. Oh, so she's one of those. I kinda wanted Winchester back because he matched my mood more. "Relax! That's an inference. It's just probability that you, a pegasus on the ground, are descended from a pegasus who once lived in the Enclave. However, there is one other thing."

"Which of my brother's instruments am I going to have to destroy to find the bug?"

"So paranoid!" Valkyrie shook her head. "All pegasi are part of the Enclave's extended family. This is a metaphor. You are part of my family. This is literal."

My brain fizzed. "What?"

"Did you think that your poppa just fell out of the sky? He had family too! Like me."

"So you're like, my grandma or something?"

She snorted and laughed like she'd just been winded. "Stars above, do I look that tired today?" She had to clear her throat and cough for a bit. "I think we have more in common than you realise, Atom. Gadget was my brother." I went wide eyed and looked at a blank wall to think, with my hoof raised in a 'hang on' kind of way. "That makes me your aunt."

"No, that's not where I'm stumbling you dipstick, what I'm trying to get my head around is the fact that you must have been tailing me since I got here in order to find this out, along with a number of other ponies, and this is supposed to comfort me?"

"Hey, you know the situation, we've got eyes in the sky anyway. Might as well use them for some humanitarian purposes as well as intelligence, right? But enough about that. Let me show you what we can offer you." She nodded towards the door just ahead, and stepped through it. I looked around. A fourth soldiery-type, wearing power armour, had stepped in front of the door I entered through. The other three, now that their commanding officer was out of sight, looked considerably more at ease. I shrugged, seeing little other immediate option, and followed Valkyrie through the door.

This room was the repair shop part of the place. The shutter had been pulled down, and two more troopers stood guard by it. Valkyrie stood by a tool cabinet with some stuff on it. I squinted. "Are you offering me... wagon parts?"

Valkyrie lifted something, and what I thought was a collection of gubbins and duct tape was actually a clean, ironed jacket. "This is an Enclave Officer uniform, first lieutenant. This uniform and the position it implies are yours, should you choose to accept this offer." She dropped the tone, nudged me and gave me a wink. "We'll consider the trek you had to get here boot camp. Upon accepting the offer of this position you will have your choice of assignment. Off the top of my head, I'm sure engineers, artillery, and R&D would all love to have you. After six months of service at Big Top, you will be permitted to apply for residence at any Enclave settlement and under terms of non-disclosure vis-a-vis surface activities, you shall be considered a full citizen of the Grand Pegasus Enclave, right where you belong."

I went cross-eyed. "Woah, what?"

"Take your time." I ran through it all in my head again. Officer position... residence and citizenship. My crazy estranged aunt had dropped out of the sky and offered to take me away. Everything that had gotten her to this point was utterly creepy, and I had no reason to believe anything she said, from her claim to relation to the integrity of her offer to her association with the Enclave, but it did sound... simple. Unthinkable last week, or even yesterday, but today...

"So, what, I just, put on the uniform and fly away with you right now?"

"Well, I don't know if it'll fit you, our intelligence isn't that good, but we made our best guess."

I thought about Rainbow Code. Every look he'd given me in the last twelve hours was bitter enough to taste. Valkyrie lowered her head and tried to make eye contact with me while I was gazing absently at the floor. The more I looked at her the more I saw little bits of family resemblance. Maybe it was my brain finding patterns in noise, but if Rainbow looked as much like Gadget as Sam said, then I could definitely see them being related. The offer seemed to soothe every ache I had right now. Just take this whole week and pretend it never happened.

"Here." Valkyrie tossed something gold and shiny at me. I clumsily caught it against my front, then gingerly let it out on to my hoof to inspect it. "We'll give you some time to think about it. It's a big decision. But how about a keepsake anyway, hm?" It was a badge or emblem of some kind - a star on top of a circle, flanked by wings. I turned it over, and in between the two clips was the logo of the Enclave - an E circled by stars.

"Sure... time. Okay."

"You'll know where to find us." She bopped a button on the wall, and the shutters rolled up. "C'mon boys and girls, let's hit the road!" she shouted down the hall to the front of the shop. She unfurled her wings as she passed me on the way out. "See you soon, Atom!" She flashed me another wink, before swooping her wings and taking to the sky. One by one, all six troopers took off after her with varying degrees of running start, and took up a V-formation as they headed west. On the horizon I could see the lone mesa, so far away that it was like a pebble sticking out of the sand.

I looked over the badge again. It was heavy - might be solid gold. I banged it off the workbench a few times and shook it next to my ear. No rattle. Probably clean. I stared at it some more, then slid it into my bag.

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