• Published 28th Nov 2015
  • 3,705 Views, 216 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.

  • ...

Let The Sunshine In

I woke up somewhere else entirely. It was soft and I was tired enough that I didn't care much about the change in scenery. Some time in my extended half-awake state, it went from being dark to being light, and I just grumbled and turned over and buried my face in a cushion. It gave me a face full of a pretty odd old fabric smell, but I paid it no mind, and just went back to sleep.

Some time later I started getting that existentially uncomfortable feeling you get when you're sleeping for a long ass time, and nobody comes to wake you up, and you clearly don't need to sleep any more but you've stayed down for a few hours more than you needed to anyway, and you start getting so intimately familiar with what you're sleeping on that it becomes impossible to keep sleeping comfortably, and you just get up because staying in bed any longer is actually a tiny hell. If this description sounds weirdly specific it's because it happened pretty regularly in the stable, and again after I settled down back in Manechester. I'd forgotten what it was like, from being on the road for months. Usually it's a sign that on some deep level, I'm bored. This morning, it was probably just because I'd been left alone to sleep on Rainbow and Ivy's couch for fuck knows how long. I rolled away from where I'd buried my face so I could get up and start doing something. Then I noticed a pretty major problem.

I felt like I was trying to walk with plaster casts on.

There was nothing immediately wrong with me. My legs appeared intact. My jacket had been removed and folded on top of my bags on the floor at the end of the couch, along with my wrist computer, glasses and head torch, but otherwise I was as I'd been when I fell asleep. Fucker must have carried me back and put me to bed while I was out. How infuriatingly nice of him.

No, I was fine. Nothing had been done to me. I was just stiff as all hell from all that running around last night. This isn't like when I was nineteen and had an assload of restless energy to burn off chasing raiders and shit. Since settling down I'd gotten lazy, and yesterday was the biggest workout I'd had in maybe a year. Taking a step felt like I had to file an application form to my legs so they'd start moving. It wasn't painful, as long as I did my best to walk without bending anything.

Swinging my legs around like a puppet, I started looking for signs of life. Rainbow’s bed was empty, and made up neatly. The clock read ten. I wasn't sure what time I'd fallen asleep, but it can't have been more than a few hours after sunset, so there was a strong chance I'd been asleep for the guts of twelve hours. No wonder I felt like ass. I needed some water, stat.

I strapped on my computer and headed out. They'd left what looked like an initiate's jumpsuit hanging on the door, presumably to aid in my navigating the base without arousing suspicion, that I soundly disregarded. If Packet Pie or whatever had a problem with my quest for basic sustenance she could go to the Caballero Centre.

The hallways were quiet. I had to wonder what the fuck the Steel Rangers did all day. Ivy was probably off doing scribe things, I guessed Turbo Task was in his office... making paper planes? Playing sudoku? I remember the Rangers back home being pretty invested in local rebuilding work, but they had shit resources, so after I did most of the work on the raider problem, they farted around getting cats out of trees and helping old people with their shopping and other filly scout nonsense like that. These guys here actually had stuff to recover and build on, but it was always too hot to do anything in the day, and their relationship with the Enclave was more cold war than open conflict, so I'd yet to see what effect they were having, if any.

The scribes servicing the vertibucks paid me no mind as I crossed the courtyard. I'd yet to see one in use, so I guessed they were also employing Ivy's tactic of "make up problems to fix so you don't have to do any real work". I waddled to the mess hall as fast as my rigid legs would carry me.

The mess hall was as dead as the rest of the place. The counter was shuttered save for one window. A greasy pony in a hair net sat behind it, with her face in the path of a fan. She looked bored until she noticed me. "You!" I jumped. "I've been fixin' to have a word with you."

"It wasn't me!"

She sighed. "You're that outsider that Rainbow Code dragged in the other day. I'm surprised I hadn't made your acquaintance sooner."

"Oh. So I'm not about to be thrown out?"

"What?" She laughed. "Nah. Maybe you hadn't noticed, but the mess is pretty dull most of the time. Get over here, I ain't rightly met you yet." I hesitated, then came closer. I noticed, over the counter, that her front left leg terminated at the knee. Her neck was covered in scars. "Name's Crumble. Stepped on a landmine 'bout eight years back and I've been keepin' every mouth on this base fed ever since."

Oh boy. Life stories. "You sure looked bored when I came in."

"Oh, sure, it's quiet now. But three times a day, this barn is the busiest place in town. I'm happier now than when I was out adventuring. I'd say I'm the only pony who gets to see everyone in Roswhinny regularly. Not only that, I get to cook for 'em." She stared into space. "There ain't much a square meal won't help. When someone comes in here having a bad day, they tuck in, and feel even a little better... well, it lifts your heart."

Fucking hell, all I wanted was a bottle of water. No wonder Rainbow was so insufferable, he was surrounded by sappiness like this every day. "Okay, you must be astonishingly bored."

"Hush." She chuckled. "You're a new face and I'm excited. You ain't had breakfast yet, have you?"

"No, I just w-"

"Here, let me fix you up something." Crumble immediately hobbled to some machines on the far wall that looked like grills and toasters. "I just took the breakfast trays off the heat, but it's a little while before lunch, so I got time."

"Water. Just give me some water."

"I'm gettin' there! Hold on to your hogs." Damn. Her accent wasn't as strong as Ivy's, but Crumble's down-home game was definitely on point. "So what has you here? You sound an awful lot like Rainbow Code. You from his neck of the woods?"

I sighed. Withholding my precious water until I made nice with the lunchlady was some kind of crime. "I'm his sister. Atom Smasher."

"Oh! Well ain't that something. He never said you were coming!"

"I imagine he wasn't expecting me to have a warm welcome."

"Oh, psh." She waved her stump in what I'm guessing was a dismissive gesture. "You're just another part of the family."

"Then can you help a sister out and get me some damn water?"

"It's comin'!" She turned a slice of something and turned her attention to a drum with a tap. I guess she must have been used to it, but I couldn't help but be impressed at how dexterously she managed to serve things up with only the one leg to work with. At least get her a wheel, or something. A bottle slid on to the counter in front of me. "Now, don't go nowhere now that you've got what you came for. Sit down and humour me."

"Yeesh, okay!" I scooped up the bottle and chugged. Sweet, sweet nectar of life. Crumble slid a few steaming things on to a plate, then on to a tray, then slid the tray on to her back. I was busy drowning myself. She nudged open the half-door to cross the counter, then hobbled to the nearest table and sat with it. I dared not abandon her. I'd bet she could chase me down and force-feed me when I was having a good day, and maybe with only two legs. I was also kinda hungry, so I figured I might as well.

"What are you, part fish? Slow down!"

"You leave my heritage out of this!" I smirked and began scarfing down the food. There was like, a toasted potato thing, some reconstituted pre-war preserved omelette that had been revitalised with a couple of fresh ingredients, and some kind of beans in a sauce. I got lost in the food. I'd forgotten that I hadn't eaten since yesterday morning. When I ran out of food, I emerged from my feeding trance, with Crumble beaming at me across the table.

"Didn't touch the sides, did it?"

"More?" I squeaked.

She slapped her knee laughing. "Negative, soldier. We ain't got formal rationing, but someone has to keep track of supplies, and that's me. You're already being fed out of the seconds pool, and that comes from rangers skipping meals, calling in sick, or worse. Don't push your luck, kid."

"You'd be surprised how much I can, and do."

The doors swung open and banged on the wall. "There you are!" Ivy strode over. "Crumble, are you fattening up my sister-in-law?" Hearing that out loud was weird.

Crumble turned in her chair. "Damn! Caught in the act again."

I wiped my mouth of bits of grease and egg. "You're not brandishing something sharp and-or heavy at me. What have you done with Ivy Bells?"

Ivy rolled her eyes. "Atom, come on before someone sees you out here."

"Never mind." I downed the rest of the water and stood up.

Crumble tapped my shoulder as I passed. "Don't be a stranger!"


Ivy waved and smiled as she began her return path. "We'll see you at lunch!"

Outside, Ivy started leading me back to the room. I was still waddling along, but I definitely felt better than earlier. "What's going on? Why can't I find anyone?"

"Because you're wandering around mid-morning, you big dummy. Some of us are working."

"Gee, thanks."

"Rainbow's just back from patrol, he's in debrief. We wanted to go over what you found together when you woke up."

I wasn't terribly focussed on that part. "You're being pretty damn cordial and cooperative, considering the last time I saw you, you'd just decked me. I'm amazed I woke up with both my eyes."

She burst out laughing. "Atom!" She continued giggling for a moment, then stopped. We were in one of the cooler inner hallways. "Atom, I... I feel like we got off on the wrong hoof. Rainbow is so excited to have you back in his life, and it'd break his heart if we didn't get along."

I looked up in thought. "Y'know, you're right. Apology accepted."

She frowned and thumped me. "I ain't apologising, featherbrain." I mouthed 'that's racist'. She ignored me. "I just... want to make the effort. But I want you to meet me in the middle. Can you do that? Please?"

Why do people keep trying to make me have feelings? Ugh. I grimaced and huffed and hesitated. "Yeah, okay."

"Thank you."

I stared at the floor. "Can we stop standing in this hallway now?" Ivy made a noise like she'd genuinely forgotten that we were on the way to somewhere, and we started moving again.

Instead of leading me back to their quarters, Ivy brought me to Turing Test's office. "What are we doing here?"

Ivy smirked as she pushed through the door. "I can't be told to get back to work if I'm in Daddy's office."

"The last scribe I knew wasn't nearly as adept at petty craftiness as you. Maybe there is hope," I chuckled.

I followed her inside. She made a shushing gesture at a pile of dishrags or something to the left of the desk, then bounded up to the desk and hit behind it. I saw Turing Test’s cap over the top of the chair. The old coats and canvas or whatever it was looked up. Hang on. That was a stick, with some small gourds and dried berries and rocks tied to it, and...

"Ah! The thirsty traveller. Our roads meet once more." She turned and smiled.

"What the fuuuuck."

Turing Test spun his chair around and set his book on his desk. Maybe it wasn't as warm today, because he was just going for fatigues. "Atom! What brings you to my office, darl-" He was cut off by a lilac and lemon blur jumping at him from the side. He screamed, his chair span around, and when it returned the right way, Ivy flopped off the side of it and back on to her hooves. The hippie giggled.

"Hi Daddy!"

Turing Test looked like he was having a heart attack. When he caught his breath, he grinned, and grabbed Ivy around the neck. "C'mere, my little wildcat!" There was a bit of a play struggle, some noogies were involved, and then they remembered that they were supposed to be professional adults, and brushed themselves off.

"I'm still fucking asleep, aren't I?" Ivy pinched me. "Ow."

"Atom, this is my dad, Star Paladin Turing Test, and my mom, Babylon."

I blinked. "Wait, you're... what?" Babylon just grinned. "You fucking knew, didn't you? You gave me that whole stars spiel because you heard my accent and knew who I fucking was!"

Ivy frowned, looked at me, then at her, then at me again. "You've met?"

"Your friend walked the same road as me last night. It was enlightening."

"The only way this pairing could get any more unlikely is if one of you was actually a hellhound or something. I have got to hear this story."

Babylon and Turing Test looked at each other for a moment, and then they both burst out laughing. Ivy caught some of the giggles too. "Well, if I'm a cocker spaniel..."


"Don't worry."

"See, I made this joke the other day, wh-" Ivy forcibly closed my mouth by way of cheating unicorn powers.

Turing Test seemed to think nothing of it. "Well, that's a story for another day. What are y'all in here for?"

"Last night, we made a big break in the hunt for Rainbow's dad! I just thought you might want to stay current. He should be over any minute now, and we'll talk out what happened. But we might not have caught the lead without Atom's help!"

I heard my name and looked up. My attention had already started wandering. "What?"

"She's got the same resourceful genes as her brother."

"I see." Turing Test quirked a brow as he looked at me. I didn't like that look one bit.

"You can stop that train of thought right the fuck now. Just jam on the brakes and bail out, because there's no way you're getting me in Ranger armour."

He laughed. "A shame. Might have been fun to watch Crusader Prickly Pear try and break you in. We could have started a betting pool on whether she'd have an anyeurism before she put some discipline in you."

"I'm sure."

There was a knock on the door. "Come in." The door nudged open, and a tan nose followed by a rasta mop of hair poked in. "Ah! You're expected, Paladin Rainbow Code."

He chuckled nervously and the rest of him stumbled in. He looked like he'd been washed, but in a hurry. He stood to attention. "Sir."

"Oh, close the door and relax, boy."

Rainbow formally stood at ease to make himself feel better, then quietly shut the door. Ivy gave him a nuzzle. "So. Baby. Let's talk about last night. What happened?"

"Well, thanks to Atom's reconnaissance in Isotope City, we got word that the robot - alias Satellite Sam - was going to be scouting in the Caballero Centre." One of Turing Test's eyebrows went up at the name, and the other followed at the place. "That was our thought. We had no casualties extracting him - obviously - but the ponies he went in with were already dead or routed."

"I found a teddy bear! I'm still thinking of names. My first instinct is 'Trashcan' but I feel like I can do better. But at the same time it's sticking, so..."

There was this pause while everyone stared at me, and then Rainbow continued. Nobody validates me, and then they wonder why I act out. "Intel from Sam himself is limited, because while he did react positively to the mention of the name 'Gadget', he doesn't exactly trust me yet, so he wasn't eager to spill everything he knows. On top of that, there was another hitch..." Rainbow grimaced.

I smirked. "He forgot where Los Arabos is."

"What?" Turing Test and Ivy said at the same time. Rainbow nodded.

I continued. "It wasn't a complete bust, though. He said he'd recognise landmarks if he saw them, but he doesn't exactly fancy a stroll in the Death Caps."

"I'm not sure how this helps us."

"It's easy. You just have to find a way to take him around the really treacherous mountains until he starts seeing things he knows, and also it can't be Rangers with him because he'll freak out and cheese it."

Turing Test blinked at me. "You have an interesting definition of easy."

Around this time, Babylon started scratching her chin. "Perhaps I may be of assistance."

I squinted. "I'm setting my comprehension centres to 'parable'."

"Ahead of you is a dangerous road. What you need are travelling companions. Guides."

"Oh, you're being completely literal. Okay."

"My tribe may be persuaded to escort you through the mountains."

Realisation dawned on Ivy. "Of course! They know the area better than anyone, and they're not Rangers! Are you sure they'll help?"

Babylon looked at Turing Test with a smile, and ran a hoof over his shoulder. "I think we can work something out."

He sighed. "The things I do for you kids..."

"I am returning to the tribe tomorrow at first light. Join me, and you may make your case."

Rainbow turned to me again. "Atom, you'll need to break off from us and swing by Isotope City to grab Sam. We'll need tomorrow free, at least..."

Turing Test scribbled some big crosses on something that looked like a spreadsheet and tossed it over his shoulder. "One of these days, Saguaro's gonna hang my head on his wall." Ivy scooted around the desk again, threw her forelegs around him and squeezed. This made him smile.

"We'll make it up later?" Rainbow's pleading grin was pretty terrible.

"Yeah, yeah. Go stay out of trouble."

"Yes, sir."

He lead me out of his office. Ivy ran over and hugged Babylon - I can see where she got her size from - and then followed us out.

"So, now what?"

"Well, Ivy, I'm guessing you have to go back to work..."

She nuzzled him as she went past and continued down the hallway. "See you later, sugar!"

He smiled, and then looked at me again. "... and we stay out of trouble."

"I gave that a try once..." He sighed and rubbed his face. "Yeah that one's pretty predictable, isn't it? I'm tired, fuck off."

The hottest part of the day is not conducive to trouble. I inhaled another bottle of water at some point, but didn't feel like even more sleep, so I had to go and find some way to entertain myself without boiling my brain. My first idea was to watch some of Rainbow's tape collection, but he was trying to sleep, so he told me to lie down or get out. He was particularly annoyed the second time I tried, and physically removed me from the room. Wandering outside the base seemed like death, so I started looking for cool places to hang out.

The scribe-hole had the benefit of being partially underground, but it also had lots of rare and experimental things, and when Ivy'd had enough of shooing me away from them, she gave me a ball and cup toy and shoved me in the corner. Feeling rather patronised, I spent a few minutes setting up a stealth approach so that I could drop the cup on her horn and have the ball smack her in the nose. While she did admit that she deserved it, she nonetheless told me to go hang out with Babylon or something. I took the hint and went somewhere else.

I was going to be sharing a road with... hang on did I just say that? Fuck. I'm picking up her weird nomad hippie crap. I was going to be walking with her for a few hours round trip the next day, so I didn't feel like exposing myself to that kind of no-holds-barred openness for any longer than I absolutely had to. Similarly, I had no doubt Crumble would sit me down and indoctrinate me into the Steel Ranger family some more at dinner, so if I could minimise that, that'd be great too. I couldn't find Parsley Patch anywhere around the place, so I couldn't even find a reliable clock to wind up. Unless...

I kept walking around the place until I found Elder Saguaro's office. It was on the first floor of the building overlooking the helipad, adjoining that bit with the massive floor-to-ceiling windows. It also made the concourse a greenhouse, so just being here was unpleasant. The door was open. It was an old flight controller's office by the looks of it. Someone was standing there in power armour, facing away from me, but I'll get to that. He'd made it less of a home than Turing Test. There were no paintings, no plants (you'd think he'd have a cactus or something), just dusty old blinds on the windows to keep the lighting dim and moody, and a lamp over a large desk. Prickly bastard probably ate steel shavings for breakfast. I had a guess that this was the office that people went to when they weren't behaving.

The owner of the power armour heard me and turned. "What are you doing here, chicken?" Well hi there, Prickly Pear, nice to see you too.

"I'm just looking to chill out and I'm really feeling the prejudice right now?"

She set down a photo frame. I caught a glimpse of three figures, but not enough to identify. "Then maybe you should have thought twice about coming here, tribal!"

"You sound stressed. Are you stressed?"

She pulled a face like she was passing a kidney stone, then inhaled deep, and exhaled. Did this place have a shrink, or did the medical team cover anger management therapy? "In the interests of keeping the peace, I suggest you get lost before Elder Saguaro catches you here. And before I lose my patience for peace."

I chuckled. "Slurs, threats of violence, why don't you just make a pseudoscientific judgement of my inferiority to round out the racism trilogy, eh?" Her eyebrows tensed, and made a noise like she was cracking knuckles. I got the picture. "Alright, alright, I was never here." I was already coming up with ways to mess with her as I left.

I heard steps after exiting the door. Unsure of the direction, I flew up to the rafters and found a perch in the support beams to hide. (I say ‘flew’, but it was more like stiff jump into an aerial flail that eventually got me up there.) The glare from the sun coming in the huge windows made it difficult to see up here, and earth ponies never look up anyway.

A moment later the sound of steps became clearer. One set was notably unbalanced.

"I tell you, that girl is gonna crack one day if she don't find an outlet. I worry about her." Around the bend came Crumble, walking alongside a worn-out, rolled up carpet. I've seen some battered faces, but none as scarred by time as this one. He had eyebrows to rival Winchester's, and so many wrinkles that I just wanted to iron his face. Not as an intent of violence, I just think it'd be satisfying to smooth it all out.

He stopped, and threw out one leg to stop Crumble too. "I smell chicken." He started looking around. I wasn't worried. While he was scanning around, he drew the front of his robe to the side with a hoof, and I spotted a fancy-ass laser pistol holstered in there. Now I was worried. I froze and held my breath. I needed to wipe my nose too, but a prune with a gun and a penchant for shooting anything with wings was a bit higher on the agenda.

Crumble thumped him on the side. "Don't be ridiculous. You're probably having a flashback. C'mon." The old dude grumbled, checked behind him one last time, and resumed walking. They entered the office, and I scooted closer to listen in.

"Aunt Crumble!" That was Prickly Pear's voice saying that. Those two were related? Fuck. But then, everyone was probably related on this base.

"Hey, sugar pie." I couldn't not hear the smile in her voice. "All set?"

"Pressed 'em myself."

The old dude sighed. "I'm sure she'll love 'em." I had a guess that he was Saguaro.

Crumble returned to the door. "Shall we? It ain't getting any cooler out." Quietly, the three of them left the office and set off down the hallway. Crumble stayed back to close the door. Prickly Pear thundered on ahead, with Saguaro keeping up very well. The old man could really move. Before following them, Crumble threw her head back and looked me dead in the eye. She smiled and winked, and looked at me for just long enough catch my jaw drop. Then, she hobbled away to rejoin the group.

I waited for the steps to fade before dropping to the ground. All the heat in the room gathered in the rafters, so I was mildly roasted. From the sounds of it, they were going to be leaving the base. They could go and get blasted by the daystar without me. There was still plenty of daylight left, and I needed to make it go away. I had one more idea.

It was a gamble, but it paid off. I made my stealthy way up to the walls through an old flight control tower. The windows had been knocked out and it was being used as a bastion in the ramparts. Sprawling over an old control desk overlooking the outside, with a combat helmet over his eyes, was the spaceman on the door from the first day. There didn't seem to be anyone else around. A battery radio was playing something kinda jazzy. I drifted on to the console, sat down nearby and poked his helmet.

"Looking a little baked there, mate. Wouldn't want you passing out in the sun."

"What?" He sat up and looked around. I could smell something off him.

"I got whisked away before I got a chance to hang out." He rubbed his eyes and gave me a look like I had two heads. "Wow, you are out of it."

He started laughing, and kept laughing for a minute or so. Maybe I wasn't going to get anything out of him. "You didn't hear nothin', but I've got a supply." He grinned and nudged me. His teeth were... okay, most ponies in the wasteland have mediocre teeth at best. Most settlements are lucky to have a doctor, let alone a dentist. But this guy was doing pretty bad for a Ranger.

"Supply of what? Dunno if you've noticed, but I'm not exactly local."

"The moon juice, duh! The space milk. The nebula nectar." Since this guy isn't being forthcoming with a name (which is a good thing, I'm already having trouble remembering all these fucksticks), I'm just going to keep calling him Spaceman. "You gotta try some!" He started digging in his pack.

"The last time someone started using hyperbolic names for a liquid before shoving it in my face it turned out to be water. This had better be good."

He pulled out his canteen. "It's watered down to make it last, but it's real star stuff in there."

Let's be real. I didn't have anything better to do. I poured it into my mouth rather than swigging, but was still generous with it. It had water and I wasn't about to turn that down.

There was a taste in there that was somewhere between sour and bitter, like unsweetened coffee with a dash of lemon, with a mild amount of spice to it. It was like someone was trying to imitate the flavour of alcohol without really understanding what it tasted like. I was expecting nausea, but despite the taste, it went down pretty easy. The water probably helped quite a lot, but it did little to mask it. "Blimey, that's not something you drink for the taste, is it?"

He chuckled, took a swig himself, and then tucked it away again. "Just wait for it!"

I sat there for a good five minutes or so, looking around while he rolled on his back and burbled for a bit. I was basically covering for him. "Are you just drinking your own watered-down piss? I'm not feeling anything."

"Wait for it..." he whispered into the air, while he wiggled his hooves in front of him. I was now really curious as to how Spaceman here got into his job. Probably the screw-up son of some important Paladin or something.

After another couple of minutes, I figured that I was just risking being caught somewhere I wasn't supposed to be. "Right, I'm going." I stood up and oh dear. My balance departed me, and I rolled down the console, depositing me on my hooves on the floor. "Woah."

"There it is!" he chuckled.

"What the..." I was still a little stiff from earlier, but mostly, the ground just felt like it was fifty feet away. I looked at the control console and could have sworn I'd seen a face in the buttons. Fascinated, I pushed a lever forward. It didn't do anything, but it did make sound like a slide whistle. I didn't think it was supposed to. I pressed a few buttons. A dead flight control station was not supposed to be a soundboard, but here it was, producing soundbites and honks and bell noises. I giggled.

Spaceman tugged on my leg. "You gotta sit down, man, watch it go by!"

Amenable to the suggestion, I swung away from the panel, tottered over to the wall, swung around again, and parked my butt on the ground. My back continued to the floor. The rush of blood to the head gave me another dizzy hit. Good thing I was already on the ground. "I see what your strategy is with the floor thing." I stared at the ceiling tiles. A number of them were missing. I squinted, closed one eye, and put a hoof up. I lined it up with one of the spaces where a missing tile was, and moved it to the side. The hole slid with it, and where it was, a new tile had appeared. "Woah, what..."

"I could do this for hours."

I nudged the space back. "What is even happening..." I giggled again, and started batting empty tiles back and forth across the ceiling. I gathered them all in a corner, and then I blinked, and they'd all returned to where they were. Like herding fucking cats, these ceiling tiles. Frustrated, I thrust my hoof up, and one of the tiles popped out and fell to the ground. I covered my face and rolled to the side.

Seconds passed, and I felt nothing. When my heart stopped racing, I opened my eyes, rolled back, and the ceiling was as it was when I found it.

"You feeling it now?"

"What was this stuff called again?"

My next clear memory was some time around sunset. I didn’t remember where I was. My goggles had found their way to a coat hanger, and I was sprawling on a broken desk with half of my face in a pool of my own saliva. A bunch of shit from the desk was on the floor, I still wasn’t entirely clear of mind, but I was functioning enough to be aware that this position wasn’t a great one to be found in by the steel patrol.

I grabbed the goggles and wiggled them down my face until they stayed on. This took three attempts. The first two times, there wasn’t enough purchase, and the elastic of the headband snapped the damn things across the room. The third time I just went ‘fuck it’ and put them on over my eyes. A load of my mane was caught in them, and I could only see out of one eye as a result. My tongue felt like it had been out in the sun all day and I was about hungry enough to start eating the table.

I stumbled out of the building - still as stiff as this morning - and didn’t recognise which one it was. I was beyond caring who saw me. I tottered around buildings until I started seeing things I recognised, and could find my way back to the room.

“Howdy, Atom! You’re… looking a little rougher than this morning.” I squinted and pivoted my head around to see who was talking. Crumble was standing with a giant pile of scrap and smiling at me. The scrap started emitting smoke.

Oh hang on, my mistake. Steam started spewing from Prickly Pear’s ears. It was sunset, I was having trouble picking things out.

“You… you!” Prickly Pear made a face like she was self-administering heart surgery. I, frankly, was not having any of it. “You disgrace this base with y-” As I walked past, I shoved my hoof in her face. Not a punch, just a forceful impediment to talking. It stopped her talking, and left her jaw hanging when it left. I heard Crumble giggling as I carried on.

I bumped into Rainbow and Ivy on my way back to the room. They were going the other way.

“Atom! We were just about to get dinner. You…” Rainbow tilted his head. Ivy started giggling.

“Are you okay?”

“Don’t judge me.”

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