• Published 1st Aug 2016
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Fallout: Equestria - Sunny Skies - IMFoalishFace

A Ministry of Awesome agent is awoken from stasis to deal with an attack on the Stable she has been housed in for the past two hundred years.

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Chapter 2: Starprancer

Chapter 2: Starprancer

I’ll admit right now, I have a bit of a socially awkward streak and a rather abrasive personality. I had a rough at home situation growing up and I spent the prime of my life essentially working as a professional assassin during one of the most brutal conflicts in history. I had issues on top of the general depression, exhaustion, and crushing anxiety about everything hanging over my head. I wasn’t exactly the best person or of the right mindset to be helping a young filly grieve the loss of her mother.

Not that Starprancer needed any help from me.

She was nowhere to be seen when I woke up, groggy and a bit hungover. First, I elected to just lay on the floor and let a headache throb. However, the haze actually cleared out of my head after a few minutes and I didn’t feel like my memory was locked in ice. I wouldn’t have gone so far as saying I felt good when I finally opened my eyes and sat up, but I felt a whole lot better.

That feeling lasted for about as long as it took my stomach to flip. I doubled over and tried to vomit but nothing came up. The sensation of needing to throw up but not being able to was terrible, like a sneeze that wouldn’t come out combined with being strangled and punched really hard in the gut. It left me dry heaving with every muscle left in my body but my synthetic stomach not allowing me release. Fortunately, it eventually passed.

With my confidence in wellness dashed, I lifted myself off of the floor, stumbling around the Overmare’s office and into her attached apartment where I found a bathroom. I shuffled into the small room and went straight to the shower stall at the back. I idly hit the faucet and then collapsed, curling into the fetal position as the warm water rained on me.

The warmth eased my aches and quelled my nausea a little. I also hadn’t realized how dirty I was until I saw the water going down the drain was a murky rusty brown. There had been a lot of dirt, soot, and blood in my coat, to say nothing of the gross, crusty, after-birthy shit left over from cryostasis. I was more than happy to lay there and let the water work its wonders for an eternity.

However, it was at this junction that Starprancer finally discovered me.

“What are you doing?”

I cracked an eye and looked over to the door to see the white unicorn standing in it, a confused look across her face.

“I’m taking a bath,” I mumbled.

“But that’s a shower, not a bathtub. And you’re just laying in it, you’re not going to get clean like that. You have to scrub or something.”

“Mmmm,” I grumbled, meaninglessly. “I’ll get up in a minute.” Just as soon as this migraine dies down and my back aches a little less. I closed my eye and pressed my head into the wall, trying to force a piercing pain out of my brain’s left hemisphere.

“Oh... “ she said, looking at me and shifting her weight around awkwardly. “I was just wondering how much longer you were going to be. I was trying to go to the…” She trailed off and stole a glance at the toilet.

“I’m not stopping you,” I mumbled.

The filly’s face went beat red and she moved to take a step back. “Are you alright? You’re acting weird, but you’re also a weird pony so maybe this is normal for you…”

“I’m having a terrible morning to be honest, I don’t usually act like this at all,” I yawned. “But, I grew up with three sisters and three brothers and then joined the military, I highly doubt I haven’t seen whatever you have. Unless you mole ponies have been up to even weirder shit in here than I thought.”

“Mole ponies?” Star got caught up on my new slur before gritting her teeth at me and using her front leg to cover herself. “That doesn’t matter, you just met me! Do you know how inappropriate that is? I’m a kid! And you’re naked too!”

“Ponies don’t usually wear clothes…” I said tilting my head at her. “Or do they?”

“Yes!” she snapped.

“Wait, really? Why? You all live in a big climate-controlled concrete box. You have literally no need for clothes at all.”

“Because running around naked is weird!” She stomped her hoof defiantly at me.

The sight of the pre-teen puffing out her chest in anger, ears pinned back against her head, was hilariously unintimidating and downright adorable. It honestly reminded me of when I got into arguments with my little sisters and they would take a similar pose of defiance. I giggled and felt my vision swim a little, an odd fuzzy feeling settling across my body as I stared off.

I then felt a wave of freezing water crash over and jerked my head into the side of the stall. I hiccuped violently a few times and felt a wave of dizziness pass over me before my stomach flipped again. I resisted throwing up though and just held my hoof in my mouth, biting down on it. The little burst of pain that would help ground me was gone but the motion itself was enough to steady me. I let the cold water flow over me, my teeth digging into my forehoof’s plastic shell.

“Shadow… Shadow, you’re fine, just breathe and keep calm. C-come back, p-please…”

I hadn’t noticed the set of hooves right in front of me but I slowly followed them up to see a soaked to the bone and very upset Starprancer. She slowly reached out and rested her leg on the side of my head, rubbing along the stubble where my mane used to be. “You’re fine, right?”

I shifted and sat up a little. “Yeah… Just a little spell.” I swallowed down the weight in my gut and looked at the filly, trying my best to seem unphased.

She looked like it was her that had the episode. In sharp contrast to the composed comforting look she had given me, she was shaking and her face was warped with tears that were barely restrained or maybe already flowing down her water slicked face.

“Are you alright?” I finally asked the filly the question I should have had ready when she woke up this morning.

“I-I-I... “ She shuddered and looked down but otherwise retained her composure. “The ponies that have been to the surface do that. Get that far off look in their eyes like their mind was carried away by some monster and their body doesn’t know what to do. My granny did it a lot and Mom had started doing it.” Her voice caught, “I-I… I hate seeing that look, it scares me.”

I reached out and bought the filly into a hug. “I’m sorry,” I said quietly, rubbing her back gently. “Forgive an old mare’s quirks and shakes, I should have been holding together better.”

“It’s fine.” She looked up at me with her beautiful set of emerald eyes. They were weighted down with sorrow and pain but there was steel in them too. She had a strong spirit.

I nodded and sat there for a minute, the water still pouring down me. It dawned on me that Starprancer was soaking wet in her clothes and probably getting cold. That I was in what amounted to a mass grave that was probably going to start stinking pretty soon. That I would have to figure out a plan of action to get myself and Star from this crypt, through an assumedly frozen wasteland to... somewhere where we could… do something?

I shook the issue of a long term plan from my head, right now I needed to focus on our first hurdle: leaving Stable 13 and getting out of the Crystal Empire. And before I could do that, I should really finish my shower.

“I think I’ll be good on my own, Star. You take care of yourself, I promise I won’t peak, then get changed and we’ll see about getting gear together and seeing to your mother.”

“I already took care of Mom,” Star interjected quietly, “I took her down to the incinerator this morning. I couldn’t just leave her there.”

I was stunned by the declaration, I figured she was a strong kid but that was rough. I gave her a few pats on the back before releasing her. Star shook the water out of her mane and stepped out of the shower stall. Grabbing a towel, she looked over her shoulder, “Not a peak.”

“I swear on my father’s grave,” I answered with a faint smile as I closed the shower curtain.

“And make sure to use lots of soap, you smell really bad!”

“Thank you for that, Starprancer.” I rolled my eyes as I moved the tap back to a warmer setting and stepped under the spray. I found several bottles of surprisingly nice and wonderfully scented shampoos and conditioners and set about scouring my slimy, filthy coat. My mane had been shaved off as part of the prep for cryostasis and the soaps weren’t effective on my augments’ carbon fiber shells so I had only get a brush out and scrub my body, neck, and face.

I felt some of the stress and anxiety wash away with the grime. When I stepped out of the stall, I felt settled and ready to move. I toweled off and stole a look at the black beauty in the mirror making the matured disabled veteran look work for her. The matte gray augments complimented my coat’s glossy pitch black and looked pretty cool in my opinion. My left eye was unsettling, though. It was a bright icy blue, like a husky dog’s, in sharp contrast to my natural deep cobalt color, and the iris softly glowed red.

Whatever, I could grow my bangs out and cover it up later.

I walked out the door and stopped halfway into the hallway. “Hey, Star! Are you gonna freak out about me walking around naked?”

“Yes!” came from somewhere in the apartment. “What’s so hard about covering up a little bit?”

“What part do I cover up” I asked, looking at my chest and back. “My ribs, my wings, that little floof at the top of my chest? ”


“Is it like my flanks? Wait, it’s the calves, isn’t it?” I teased. “Come on, mine are plastic, you know how insensitive that is?”

“Your mare parts and stuff!”

“You can’t see any of that unless you’re staring under my tail, you little perv.”

“UGH! JUST!... Just go down to security and find something to wear and stop being weird!” she shouted out, sounding thoroughly flustered.

I chuckled a little and started walking back through the Overmare’s apartment, through her office, and down to the security wing. The floor was strewn with casings, shrapnel, soot, and bodies. The walls were scorched, chipped, cracked, and in places one could see the rock the stable was carved into exposed. I walked through the carnage, long since jaded to the sights of battle. Eventually, I was able to find Stable Security’s equipment lock up. The arsenal had been completely raided for weapons but the other gear was mostly untouched.

The security ponies had an extremely diverse selection of outfits, ranging from plain vanilla Stable-Tec Security uniforms to hilarious ensembles of gear I could only assume passed as proper attire on the surface. Combat armor with spikes welded on randomly, massive leather trench coats, all manner of old helmets mashed together with random visual implements like goggles and welding shields or even an old colander turned into a face shield. It seemed like a wardrobe for a really cheesy, dumb play or maybe a fetish dungeon, certainly not a paramilitary organization.

As much fun as I had looking through the silly knick knacks, I had trouble finding anything that would fit a mare of my stature. The only wasteland looking thing that I found big enough for me was a musty old cloak with a matching desperado hat, which I promptly declined. I would be damned if I was walking around looking one of the smugglers from the far south that I started my career chasing.

Abandoning the clown collection I started looking through the Stable’s more conventional barding and struck gold: a seemingly untouched set of winterized Stable combat barding sized for a large stallion. The suit was essentially a heavy duty jump suit, durable waterproof fabric on the outside done in Stable-Tec’s blue with yellow trim, with a thick fleece thermal insert on the inside that could be pulled out in warmer weather. A large hood of the same material laid over the tall collar to make sure a wearer stayed warm and dry from nose to hoof. The legs had shin guards integrated into them and heavy soled boots on the rear hooves. The chest featured a black tactical vest with ballistic plates, ammo pouches, and mounting points for holsters or a battle saddle. Finally, there were a set of Stable-Tec’s awesome saddlebags that you could put damn near anything in, and a healthy dose of extra pockets.

I wiggled into it and found myself quite satisfied. It was a bit tight in the chest and around the back of my shoulders while quite loose around my stomach, but it fit well enough overall. It wasn’t very stealthy and would chafe if I didn’t wear anything under it but it was armored, blocked a bit of radiation, and would keep me warm while packing all of my stuff away.

With my new attire equipped, I turned and walked back to Star to find her in what I could only assume was her bedroom, packing a pile of salvaged goodies from around her home. I was honestly surprised with how expedient the filly was. A beautiful crystal hair comb with a butterfly resting on a flower, a few books, and her revolvers were sitting on a night stand, apparently the only valuables she was taking. She was sitting in front of a pile of food, meds, and ammo for her guns.

The white unicorn turned to me when I entered, her magic shimmering around horn and guns for a second before she realized it was me. She smirked, “Going native? Super cyberponies shouldn’t really need armor.”

I rolled my eyes at her. “It doesn’t matter how ineffective it is, getting shot hurts. And I would look pretty stupid if I died of hypothermia. Besides,” -I looked back along the uniform- “it’s nice. Really just needs wing holes.”

“I don’t think you want to go around showing off your wings, Shadow. Most surfacers don’t like pegasi.”

I remembered Nebula telling me about how the pegasi had sealed themselves above the clouds, abandoning Equestria and founding their Enclave. I could see how that would breed deep resentment for my race but, “I couldn’t care less about what wastelanders think of me. It’s not like they’ll start freaking out just because I’m a pegasus.”

“True,” Star nodded, “most ponies wouldn’t know how to handle a cyber-manticore-pegasus.”

“Manticore?” I looked back on myself and instantly made the connection. The wings with a long scorpion-like tail. “Oh, I guess there is some resemblance.”

“Some resemblance?” Star snarked.

“Whatever, molepony. My colors are all wrong and I don’t have bat wings.” I scoffed at her. “You got everything together?”

“Mostly,” she answered, “I need to get this packed away and see if my pipbuck’s done.”

I looked down and noticed the filly’s oversized wristwatch was missing. “What’s your pipbuck doing?”

“I started downloading my list of read later books from the digital archive when I woke up this morning.” She blushed a bit and focused on stuffing boxes of apple cereal into her saddlebags. I gave her a funny look that she caught out of the corner of her eye. “What? Reading calms me and I’m gonna need a lot of material if I’m never coming back here and Pipbucks have ridiculous memories.”

“I didn’t say anything,” I told her simply. “Is this all we’re going to have or are we going to be able to find more gear?”

“We should raid the store rooms near The Door. They’re going to have lots of food we can travel with and medicine and caps.”


“Bottlecaps,” she clarified. “They’re what the surfacers use for money.”

“How does that work?”

“I don’t know. It just kinda does.” She shrugged.

I rolled my eyes again. “And you call me weird.” I reached past Star and scooped up what was left of her stash sticking it in one of my saddle bags.”I need to go to my locker and then we can roll out.” I turned and trotted out of the room, looking back to see a filly that just realized she was saying goodbye to her childhood home. “I’ll be down by the stasis chambers, Star. You catch up when you’re ready.”

She gave me a tearful nod as I departed. I walked through the Stable’s oppressive silence to the wing where I had rested for two hundred years. Instead of returning to the stasis pods, I went into the wing’s private armory. It had been mostly stripped by my loony compatriots, but the mechanized rack with our trunks was still intact. I punched in my code and after a whirling of machinery received my locker.

I opened the box and pulled out a few items: a folded up black and purple dress uniform, a few folders, my cybernetics’ user manual, a small statuette of a cyan pegasus. Finally, I found a black and purple Shadowbolts flight suit with a matching set of yellow goggles. I pressed the fabric to my face, luxuriating in the cool, smooth, soft, elastic material. The flight suit was perfect as an undergarment for my new armor. The hooded bodysuit was made from an amazing material that was designed to keep a pony as close to their natural body temperature as possible through swampy suffocating humidity, blazing desert heat, high-altitude flying’s biting chill, and anything in between. Additionally, it also offered a decent bit of protection against magical energy and bladed weapons. The suit would do a wonderful job keeping me from chafing and was way too nice to leave behind anyway.

I got out of my barding and slipped into the flight suit without a problem, the thing fitting like a glove as I threw the auto-tinting goggles around my neck. I dug around in my locker again until I found my rucksack. I extracted my fieldcraft kit from it, took out some heavy thread and a needle, and pulled over my barding. It was simple to make a pair of cuts to the back of my barding and stitch seams around them to keep the holes from expanding. I was just finishing the simple mod when I heard Starprancer’s hooves behind me.

“You were a Shadowbolt?” she asked, the awe plain in her voice.

“Mm hmm,” I hummed affirmatively, working on setting the last stitch in a secure knot. “One of the first.”

“Wow, that’s really cool.” She walked over, wearing a winter vest, boots, and cloak over her jump suit, and started marveling at my dress uniform and its many medals and ribbons. “That’s a lot of awards. What do they mean?”

I put down my finished barding and leaned over to her. “That one,” I pointed to a brass fleur de lis hanging from a dark maroon and olive drab ribbon, “is the badge of a Royal Marine Corps Recon-Sharpshooter, first cool one I got way back in the day. That,” I pointed to a black storm cloud with a winged skull the side and a green, purple, and black lightning bolt shooting out the bottom, “is a Founder Shadowbolt flash, to honor those of us that were around when it was just one flight of ponies over Vanhoover. I’ve got a few silver and bronze battle crests, Distinguished Service Shields, a couple of theater ribbons. My purple heart and POW medal.”

“This one though is my favorite, though.” I leaned away from the uniform and reached into my locker removing a small red velvet box. Opening it revealed a golden six pointed star. In the center was the stylized sun of Princess Celestia overlaid with Luna’s crescent moon. A laurel wreath of green crystal ran in a circle around the star’s points. A ribbon of Equestria’s blue and yellow was folded away underneath for when the medal was to be worn around the neck.

“It’s gorgeous. What is it?” Star asked not taking her eyes off the gold as she gently lifted it out of its case to look at it closer.

“My Celestial Star of Valor, the highest honor there is in the Equestrian Armed Forces.”

“How’d you get it?” she asked finally looking up at me.

“Well,” I shivered, “I think you can hear that story when you’re older.”

Star pouted as I turned back to my locker, pulling out a suppressed assault carbine. I had rarely carried three guns; it was nice to have another firearm beside your sniper rifle that wasn’t a pistol, but the added weight wasn’t usually worth it in my eyes. Especially since I almost always had at least a spotter with me carrying something for close-range. I didn’t have that luxury now so I would have to buck up and carry two rifles. It probably wouldn’t be too bad being a cyberpony, anyway.

I loaded my webbing with carbine magazines and slung the small rifle around my neck. Next, I pulled out the long hard case of my sniper rifle. An intercepted Zebra report had given my signature weapon the nickname Scythe and I was overcome an old sense that I could take down anything with it in my hooves.

It was an old, full sized, bolt action rifle that still bore most of its walnut stock, complete with a menagerie of wear marks, a crude carving of “Born to Kill” over the receiver, and a stylized print of a pegasus skeleton wearing a cloak and leaning against a scythe on the comb. An old machine gun bipod was mounted to the end of the forend. The top looked more modern though, featuring an aluminum rail assembly in place of its traditional wood and iron sights, letting me quickly swap between scopes. Finally, flash hider/suppressor-mount hung at the end of the muzzle. It was a beautiful old gun and something that was innately familiar to me, its smell and feel oddly comforting.

I placed the rifle into a padded fabric drag bag, attached it to my daysack, the bag containing most of my necessary gear; and strapped the whole affair to my back, the rifle hanging off my left haunch. I raided through my locker and rucksack for anything else of use or sentimental value, squirreling it away in my saddlebags or pockets. Finally packed, I turned to Star. “You ready to go?”

She nodded but a bit of light went out of her eyes. We left the arsenal and proceeded through the atrium up to the Stable’s entrance. This place was also in rough shape, the Stable ponies having set up a solid defence at the entrance that the Steel Raiders had decided to deal with using excessive explosive force.The whole place was pretty much coated in char. Star went to a store room off to the side that contained piles of valuables. She quickly topped off our saddlebags with food, meds, caps, a small spark battery powered space heater, and anything else we figured we needed.

With that finally done, I figured we were about as ready for the Wastes as we could be. I walked out through the massive cog shaped door, only to stop and look back at Star. She looked at the door like a dragon’s gaping maw. I sighed, “Starprancer, you can’t stay here.”

“Where are we going?”

“I…” I grimaced. I didn’t really know. Technically, I still had directives under Operation Windigo to fulfill but I couldn’t think of anything that would still be a pressing matter after two hundred years. I guess, I could see if the Princesses were dead and check up on whatever was left of Rarity. Make sure a few dark dirty secrets stayed buried. Destroy a small mountain of documents and experimental tech. But none of that really answered Star’s question.

“I don’t know,” I said. “We’ll travel south out of the ice and see where to go from there.”

“That’s it?” she asked, an angry edge creeping into her voice. “That’s your grand plan? Just wander south and hope for the best? You know what the world is like out there? We were safe here. The Rangers, the Enclave, the scum that passes for ponies; none of them could get to us here. This was our home! What’s going to happen to us out there?”

“You’re going to survive and thrive, Star,” I said. “Nothing lasts forever, I know it’s going to be rough but we have to keep moving forward. You need to be strong, face what the world throws at you head on.”

“This was never supposed to happen, Mom was smarter than this. There was no way they could have found us, no way!”

“Star, stop,” I said.

“Shut up, Shadow!” she snapped. “You’ve been frozen for two-hundred years, you don’t care about what happened here.” Tears were streaming down her face. “I saw you walking around, you don’t care that they’re all dead or that it was monsters like you that did it. You don’t know-”

“Don’t you dare!” I snarled. “Don’t you dare tell me I don’t know what it’s like to lose people.” Star jumped, backing away at my exclamation. I lowered my voice, but my cold glare remained.”Don’t you dare discount my loss, I’ve got nothing left in this world but a few nicknacks, two promises, memories, and you.”

The silence stretched out between us. I became aware of a tightness in my chest and the slightest tremble of my lower lip but I held strong and stoic. Star looked at me in shock and fear before a horrified expression spread across her face. “Shadow, I’m so sorry. I-”

“It’s fine, Star, we lash out when we hurt. Nothing I haven’t gotten before,” I said somberly. I cocked my head toward the outside. “Come on, we’ve been dawdling too long.”

She nodded tearfully, looking over her shoulder into the stable as she started walking toward me. I wrapped a hoof around her and escorted her out as she wept quietly and absorbed the last look at her home she would get.

Once out of the Stable, I left Star sitting in front of the door as I trotted over to a control panel, ejected my Pip’s uplink cable, and sent the message to close the door. The great slab of steel slowly rolled over to cover the entrance before pressing forward, sealing the shelter turned tomb.

I walked over to Star again. She simply turned to me and pressed her face into my chest as she burst out sobbing.

Starprancer didn’t seem to be one for tears. She only cried for a few minutes before she was dry, leaving her solemn and quiet. I rubbed her back and hoisted her up onto my back, turning to give our surroundings a proper look.

We were in a large underground intersection: concrete, war propaganda, and bodies all around. The area was faintly illuminated by flickering lights and a bit of sunlight coming down a large staircase across from the Stable door. On each side there were tunnels that went off into darkness. The space was massive, scaled for thousands of ponies to easily make their daily commutes to work.

If my memory was correct, we were beneath the Shining Armor Memorial Hospital and Research Center. The facility was enormous; featuring one of the largest, best-equipped hospitals in the nation, Hub offices for the Ministries of Peace and Arcane Science. Iit was at the forefront of medical developments throughout the War. Many of the medical miracles that revolutionized the world were created here including most mass produced healing potions, surgical robots, healing chambers, and stasis pods. It had also earned the nickname of “Death’s Cradle” for its role in megaspell development and some other projects carried out in its basements.

The area was scattered with the remains of Stable Dwellers, Steel Rangers, Windigos, and an odd fourth party. Dozens of robotic ponies with gray, rubber skin laid about. I don’t know who finally figured out how to make a robot that actually looks like a pony but kudos to them. “What are these?”

Star looked over my shoulder at my discovery, concern and interest spreading across her face. “That’s a synth.”

“A synth? What in Celestia’s mane is a synth?”

“They’re these really advanced robots,” Star told me. “Mom said that they are really strong and attack ponies on sight. They showed up about a year ago, the surface crews had lots of problems with them because they wander all over the city.”

“Well running into these things sounds like it will be fun,” I said dryly, shaking my head. “They just showed up?”

“Yeah, Mom and the other grown ponies thought that they had escaped from the Hospital or one of the military bases around here.”

I simply nodded.

“So,” Star turned back to me, “where are we and where should we be going?”

“Well.” I consulted the maps of the area stored on my PIP. “That,” I pointed to the stairwell up, “should come out in the Crystal Plaza near 23rd and Amethyst. That,” I pointed to our left, “leads to the main reception of the hospital’s research center and this way will take us to the metro station.” I turned to our right and started walking into the darkness. “If we follow the metro lines south we should arrive at the train station. From there we just follow those rails south to whatever’s left of Winnieappolis and further into the heartland. That should work right?”

“I guess. I’ve just never been outside before. Mom was going to start letting me come to the surface with her after my next birthday.” She looked longingly toward the stairs upward.

“We’ll be exposed up on the surface and at the mercy of the elements.” The subterranean space was freezing and the constant draft coming down the stairs seemed to be the main cause of it. “You’ll be outside all you want after we get out of town.”

“OK,” she said dejectedly as I started the downward trek to the metro station.

Part of me had wanted to listen to her and head up, just to see the sun again. But I had promised Star’s dying mother that I would take care of the unicorn and I liked her. I had only just scratched the surface but she was smart, motivated, persistent, and adorable, even if she had a few rough spots. I really didn’t want to get her killed by making a foolish mistake.

The two of us descended the tunnel to the Metro station in silence. Eventually, we arrived at a fork. One path was marked “Pink Line” and lead off to the left; the other was “Blue Line” and turned into a stairway leading deeper into the ground.

“Where do we go from here?” Star asked.

“I… don’t know,” I had only spent a bit of time in the Crystal Empire and had flown most places. Consulting the maps and plans I had stored in my PIP was met with limited success since the schematics numbered everything; tunnel “M-1A” didn’t sound very pink or blue. The interchange we were standing at was a mass of curved lines that nopony without a drafting associate’s could hope to understand.

I kneeled down so Star could jump off of me. “Look around on the walls for a map of the routes and lines.”

Star nodded and we both moved to different sides of the massive hallway. The walls were covered in countless posters all preaching about the war. “Better wiped then striped.” “Victory! Just a wing beat away.” “Knowledge is power.” “Keeping Equestria safe.” “We must do better.” “Pinkie Pie is watching you FOREVER!” (still makes my skin crawl) “Restore Harmony” “Know your enemy!” “Secure your future-Today!” Join a ministry. Join the Army. Join the Navy. Join the Air Forces. Become a Steel Ranger. Gawk in awe at the Shadowbolts. Watch out for Zebras. Secure your place in a Stable-Tec Stable. Drink Sparkle Cola, damn it!

I found myself getting lost in my memories. Things had gone so far in so short a time, I remember coming home and simply becoming lost in what my nation had become. I would sit and watch ponies race about their daily lives Studying their posters, food, clothes, technology, and society like the outsider I had become.

“Shadow!” I jumped as Star’s little body showed off a hidden volume, echoing around in the tunnels.

“Easy, Star,” I answered. Looking around I located the green glow of her Pipbuck’s light up the tunnel where we had come from. “I’m coming.”

I trotted over to the filly who was sitting in front of a full length sign. The lights for illuminating it had burned out but Star’s Pipbuck lamp showed it to indeed be a map of the greater Crystal Empire and its subway network. I was quick to pick out the junction of the Pink and Blue lines just south of the central, snowflake-shaped city of Amor. The Pink Line ran east to west from Cryolite to Fort Haygen. The Blue Line went north to south along the length of the built up areas, running under Amethyst Ave, down to the Wintergreen Landing train station. “Wonderful, the blue line will take us right to the train station. Come on, Star.”

Star started to follow me but stopped, looking at the wall. “Did ponies really believe these posters? Zebras look nothing like that and I don’t think a soda has any medical value. You pre-war ponies were silly.”

“Wartime. And yes, yes they were,” I answered. Star turned to me looking confused but didn’t say anything.

The stairs lead down to another junction; straight ahead went down to the platform while the left lead out onto a bridge to the other side of the line.

“Goddesses.” Star’s quiet proclamation carried through the massive space in a growing cacophony of echoes. The station was a massive elongated dome that would have made a good event arena. The cavern was breathtaking with its crystal walls, chandeliers, and massive arch that supported the Pink Line and its platforms overhead. The whole space was lit by scattered glow-crystals casting ghostly hues of pink, yellow, purple, and blue.

“And you wanted to go up to the surface,” I gently elbowed Star as I went down to the platform. I stopped once I got to the edge, looking down at the tracks and listening.

“What’s the matter?” Star asked

“Two of these tracks are for the wheels of the train car. The third carries electricity to power the train.”

“Cool!” Star, never stop being you. “So, what’s the matter then?”

“I’m wondering whether or not there’s still power to the track. Neither of us is going to survive a thousand sparks running through our body.” I answered, turning back from the edge of the platform.

“You really think that that the power would still be on? After two hundred years?”

“The lights are still on. Most things were ridiculously over engineered and a lot of stuff seems to have passed the test of time.” I was sifting through the bones and rubbish on the ground. The Dwellers of Stable 13 had cleared away any of the ancient deceased that might have littered the space outside their home however, the same could not be said of this train station.

“Ah, this should work.” I lifted a metallic medical brace, trotting back over to the edge and dropping it on the third rail. Nothing happened.

“We’re golden,” I said, dropping down onto the tracks. I then turned and stood on my back legs to lower Star down.

“So, we just follow these out of the city and just keep going south?” Star asked looking slightly vexed.

“That’s the general plan,” I looked over at her. “Should be smooth sailing until we get into the Heartland.”

My statement lasted for six miles of barren, quiet, completely peaceful, abandoned underground track. We had just gotten past the station at 45th St. when I started hearing things. Hooves on concrete echoed down through the tunnels along with what sounded like snakes hissing.

“What do you think that is?” Star asked in a whisper. She had moved much closer to me.

“I don’t know but hopefully it’s not more than we can handle.” I hefted the Equestrian up and flipped the carbine’s safety off. Star opened her saddlebags and started pulling out her revolvers. “No,” I put a hoof on her shoulder and she looked up at me, her brow creased.

“Whoever it is will be able to see your magic.” The frown on the filly’s face deepened but her horn dimmed. She even turned off her Pipbuck’s lamp, leaving us in near total darkness. The only light in the space came from a few scattered maintance lights that persisted. Everything else I saw through my cybernetic eye’s night vision.

Moving on confirmed that the hissing wasn’t snakes. The sound had a harmonious tone to it like a set of chimes playing just the wrong notes. There were dozens of sets of hooves slowly shuffling around. A head I saw equine shapes meandering about; an odd blue/white glow in the center of the creatures. I stopped us twenty hooves away from the “ponies.”

This situation stank to high hell. There were almost fifty creatures blocking our way forward. They seemed docile but my ears tingled and I was getting ghost sensations in my wings. What ever they were, they weren’t safe to be around. I entertained the thought that we had stumbled across a group of synths but they weren’t acting like the killer robots Star had described. Then there was that hissing, it didn’t sound like anything I had ever heard before. It was beautiful and unsettling at the same time; like an angel choir’s impression on rapture.

The pitch of one hiss grew higher and one of the ponies shuffled up closer to us. Star was pretty much under hoof as I shoved the interloper away from me. This proved to be a bad idea as it pounced at me, biting down on the hoof I brought up to block it. The carbon-fiber and acrylic shell of my limb was crushed in the jaws of the monster I had provoked.

“Fuckin’ hell!” I yelled as I yanked the limb out of the thing’s jaws in a spray of hydraulic fluid and oil. Star let out an ear splitting scream as she was doused in hot fluids, the noise drawing echoes from the walls and creatures. I brought a wingblade swinging around at the monster’s neck and severed its head. I had just enough sensation in my wing to know that it required a lot more effort then slicing through a neck should.

Another monster let out a scream and threw itself at me. I staggered back on three limbs and brought my wingblades back to bear. My swipe nicked off the things hide and I reared up on my back hooves to avoid it taking a chunk out of my face. I then brought my hoof bearing down on its head, slamming it into the concrete and shattering its head. I took a few steps back and brought my rifle up.

A green light flicked on behind while the blue one ahead shone on me like a spotlight, getting brighter. The second the horde saw the green light a horrible scream went out through it that froze my blood and oil alike. I instantly pumped a couple rounds from my carbine into the skull of the nearest monster. Its head splintered and then shattered into fragments.

In the green light of Star’s Pipbuck I got my first good look at these things. They might have been crystal ponies at some point, now however they were abominations. Their glimmering but discolored coats were cracked and warped. Almost as if they had been melted just to cool and splinter when the creatures moved again. Each mouth was a mess of razor sharp crystal shards. Their milky white eyes looked positively evil in the green light.

I let instinct kick in as I moved deftly, subconsciously prioritizing targets and taking them down with controlled bursts. At the minimal range, I didn’t miss any of my shots but I also wasn’t inflicting enough damage; the bastards could take three or four rounds to the head each to kill.

“Shadow! There are more ghouls behind us!” Star screamed at me. Sure enough, more zombies were streaming out of an access tunnel a ways back and making a beeline for us. Our situation was deteriorating rapidly and me turning away from my opponents only made it worse. I turned back to face the rear end of a massive stallion in the middle of a buck. I couldn’t dodge as he kicked me in the head, my vision went blurry and my carbine slipped out of my mouth as I staggered. Another one of the bastards took a swipe with a front hoof that knocked me to the ground, blood running out of my mouth and nose.

Bang! – Bang!

My silenced carbine’s report had been noticeable, the sounds of the angered hoard were loud, and Star’s scream had made me cringe. The blast that filled the tunnel as Star fired Sunshine and Moonbeam was like being kicked in the head again. The sound rumbled throughout the miles of subterranean passages. She hit her marks though; the two zombies that had been double-timing me collapsed bleeding what looked like mercury from their wounds.

Bang! – Bang! – Bang!

“Shadow, get up!” I felt Star’s magic wrap around me and lift. I got my hooves under me but was seeing double and still crippled. Not the worst situation I had ever been in, my carbine was back in my mouth and spitting lead instantly but I was still losing ground. There were too many of them and we were surrounded.

I moved back and took a look around the tunnel for an escape route. There, an abandoned subway train stretched back past the access tunnel spewing ghouls. We could jump on it and use it to get around the hoard, then run for our lives.

“Star, get in the train!” I tracked the filly’s movement through the shadows her Pipbuck’s light cast, falling back toward our goal. When the change in light had indicated that she had gotten into the train cars I turned and ran.

It proved a bad idea as I was tackled to the ground, my face getting rubbed in the ancient grease and dirt. The ghouls started beating and chewing on my wings and back but didn’t damage anything; my barding was already serving me well. I thrashed my wingblades and tail around fucking up the ghouls’ legs and getting drenched in their ichor. Getting to my hooves, I started lashing out with my wings and swinging around my scorpion tail. My plasma pistol soon joined in as I skipped reloading my carbine, however it seemed to not be too effective against the crystal coats though.

I was almost beating the tide back when the blue light shone on me. Instantly, the ichor on my clothes started to burn me like napalm but left my clothes unscathed. I screamed out and fell writhing in pain, trying to get the magical fluid off. From the ground I could see the origin of the ghostly light that was killing me. The ghoul’s coat looked like an oil spill, hues of a tainted rainbow reflecting off the poisoned skin. The blue magic coming from its mouth and eyes was healing the fallen ghouls around me.

At that point my world of pain gained an emerald tint to it and the sound of a set of very loud revolvers tearing into the pack ringed in my ears. I was lifted off the ground and levitated into the train the door slamming shut behind me. “Shadow!” Star grabbed me by the face. “Please get up. D-don’t die!”

My pain stopped as soon as Star moved me out of the blue glow. I took a shaky breath and tried to get up. My stomach wretched and I felt light headed, collapsing again. The frantic ticking of Star’s Pipbuck indicated that the blue light and ichor were throwing off radiation. I was probably poisoned which kinda pissed me off. Even with all my Celestia damned augmentation I had no real way of dealing with the effects of radiation poisoning. My healing talisman would repair any damage my organic body endured, including cellular destruction caused by radiation. However, the rads would still impair my nervous system, cause cellular degeneration, and eventually mutations. In short, it wouldn’t kill me, but it would leave me in a semi-conscious world of pain and delirium until I asphyxiated, cardiac arrested, or starved. At least, I would get mauled to death before that happened.

No, I wasn’t going to die. I had survived too much to finally fall to a bunch of magical abominations in some tunnel; I was going to go out fighting an army of super-mutant zebra cyber-alicorns for the fate of the world when I felt like dying. Star was going to do great things in life, I could tell that much from the way she acted. Neither of our stories were going to end here.

Of course fighting didn’t seem like a viable option either. I struggled once again to my hooves and picked Star up with my teeth. Swinging the filly on my back and covering her with my wings, I turned and broke into a gallop down the train. I skipped opening doors between cars and simply jumped through the windows in cascades of glass. In no time, I was at the last car and face to face with the ghouls entering it.

Ugh. Why can’t these fuckers just be too braindead to do anything? I thought these things would be brain dead but it almost seemed like they were strategizing. We had been lured in and surrounded by them. “Star, hold on,” I said weakly. My mouth tasted like blood and oil, breathing was becoming hard as my lungs filled with fluids and Star dug into to my neck. My computers were showing me warnings but I ignored it all as I slammed my intact foreleg through the three ghouls on the train. Arriving at the doorway, I leapt and pumped my wings. My flight talisman might have been shot but my wings could still move enough air to launch me over the horde at the end of the train.

I landed hard, breaking something in my chewed on leg and bouncing off the floor. I was back on my hooves and running without missing a beat though. The ghouls had to have been organized, there were now over a hundred of them in the tunnel and more were pouring in.

Bang! – Bang! – Bang!

Star’s revolvers knocked down anything in our path as I raced away from the main mass of ghouls. We had only just gotten past the 45th St. station; if we could get back there we could exit to the surface. There wasn’t going be ghouls wandering around the street, right?

When Star and I had first gone through the station it had seemed completely abandoned. Now, ghouls were jumping down onto the tracks en masse. I had been hugging the wall but as I arrived at the station I cut across all four sets of tracks, avoiding the ghouls coming off the edge of the nearest platform. I made for the center of the platform on the other side of the tracks which was mostly ghoul free. With another great leap and pump of my wings I was off the rails and up a creek.

There was a stairway up at each end of the terrace; the one in front of me was collapsed, rubble blocking any ascent. I skidded on the tile floor as I came about and made for the other stairs. This path was also blocked; twenty ghouls stood between me and my exit. I was cut off from the surface. Thinking quickly I bounded onto a long bench, at the end of it was a Sparkle-Cola machine. I once again employed my wing-assisted jump, leaping up onto the soda machine and using it to hurl myself over the ghouls.

I spread my wings and landed with a tile splintering crash halfway up the flight of stairs. My face took another bashing and yet more warnings appeared in my vision. All of it ignored as I ran, following any routes that lead up with the ghouls at the base of the stairs in pursuit.

Up three flights and through a few junctions, the horrible hissing sound continued washing over the space behind me. A couple times ghouls managed to jab at me. One sharp corner left me stumbling as my brain struggled to sort out the movements of my body in its oxygen starved state. A ghoul jumped on me and dug its teeth into my lower back, I still trucked through the weight and bucked it off.. As I continued on, everything around me started to loose definition. My vision blurred, nerves numbed, and thoughts ground to a halt. I was only able to watch through my eyes as a spectator on my own life. My body ran like it was on autopilot while my brain sputtered on a lack of oxygen. I barely absorbed events as I jumped a turnstile and continued running. The next feeling I had was cold air blowing over my face.

I was hit with a wall of freezing cold air at the bottom of icy steps. I struggled to find purchase as the stairs were lost in a sheet of ice that turned into a snow drift. I still managed to drag myself up and could see daylight ahead when a ghoul grabbed onto my tail. The weight dragged me down the ice. Another ghoul jumped for me but was blasted away by Star. I whipped my tail around, throwing the ghoul off and shattering its head. I was back to scrambling up the sheer ice instantly. I reached the mouth of the ice cave that subway station’s exit had become and basked in the first sunlight I had felt in two hundred years.

The sky was a clear, clean blue with the sun beaming down brightly. Even with the wind numbing every patch of skin it could touch the sun’s rays were heavenly on my face. I burst out into the open air running with the wind in my mane and sunlight on my brow, feeling the best I had in years.

“Shadow, stop.”

Why would I ever stop? I was free! I had escaped war, maiming, depression, abandonment, and a nest of demons. Not even the constraints of society or duty weighed on me any more. I was free to chase the Sun or anything else I pleased.

“Please stop, Shadow.”

I ran, soaking in my new found freedom. Basking in the glory of Celestia’s sun and reveling in the moment. The past and future ceased to exist for me. There was no war. No death. No pain. No loss. No regret. No metal. No fear. For a brief moment my world was nothing but the sun, the wind, and my face. Everything was here here and now. I could run like this forever.

“Please, you’re hurt.”

But I couldn’t. My legs and wings were metal that was heavy in more than a physical sense. My breathing was pained. Black and flashing red notices filled my vision. The weight on my back, the pressure around my neck, and tears in my mane anchored me. I imagined that my heart twisted in my chest and tears started streaming down my face.

“Shadow, STOP! You’re bleeding.”

I looked back at the small, tear-streaked white face. Behind her the snow was streaked red and black. I felt sick now: my breaths were short, my guts twisted, my head was light, and my heart heavy. She really is such a smart and observant filly, I though, I shouldn’t be running around, I need to rest. Just lay down and sleep everything off. I would wake good as new then I could go frolic in the sun and wind.

I just needed to stop and rest. The snow looked pretty soft, like a nice comfy cloud. It would be the perfect place to rest.


Author's Note:

Edit 1-7-18: Finally reworked this. I've felt like the opening of this chapter was probably the weakest part of this story since I wrote it, but for the longest time I couldn't come up with an idea for something better. Hopefully this is though. I feel like it is, does a far better job showcasing Star and her background. Thanks for reading :trollestia:

Some of this didn't work...
I like how the ghoul scene turned out and it was a good introduction to the dangers of the Nothern Wastes but at the same time its not as good as ch 1. ClickClack (my pre-reader) said that the characterization in this chapter was weak and I'm inclined to agree. However, I've made some edits and additions to help. Plus, the next chapter should be a good one for Shadow's character development.

Note: the rate of uploads wont be this fast in the future. I worked on this fic for a month and a half before publishing anything and am only on Ch. 5. Additionally I'm off to collage so I'll be pressed for time to write for a while. I'm still doing this, it might just move a bit slowly

Thanks for reading and any feedback would be wonderful :yay:

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