• Published 1st Aug 2016
  • 2,638 Views, 64 Comments

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 3: Dreams From the Past

Chapter 3: Dreams From the Past

The sea was red with blood, the white beach stained.

The once fertile dirt had been pulverized by artillery and gunfire, nothing growing but the body count.

Families cowered in their homes as we swept through their neighborhoods like floods of brimstone.

I laid motionless, camouflaged as I looked down on the unsuspecting. Purging life as a voice in my headset deemed fit. My blade struck like lightning and my rifle’s report was thunder that shook nations. My pen wrote letters of destruction using the blood of my own soldiers as ink.

The stink of the dead, the cries of the wounded, and the pain of the living filled my senses.

Almost twenty-five years of service weighed down on me with a mass greater than the moon.

Again, I walked the fields outside Stalliongrad, Hoofington, and Vanhoover; wandered the Reignland, the Saddle Arabian deserts, and the jungles of the Tenochtitlan Basin; prowled the streets of Canterlot and Roam alike; stood on the beaches of Gryphonia. All around me I saw my fallen friends and foes. Families that had been torn apart, members dead and homes burned.

I saw those I had killed. Zebras, griffons, minotaurs, dragons, ponies, and more paraded past me. The victims of my work would make a formidable army all on their own they numbered so many.

I looked at them as they marched by. I recognised many of them but it was hard to forget someone that you stalked and killed like a game animal. Others were little more than shapes, a being that I only remembered as an additional tally to my name.

Many were horrified by what I accomplished. The families and peers of my victims spoke of me like I was a demon. The zebras said I was some monster straight to the depths of nightmares and darkness; an eldritch terror that lived off of the blood and souls of those she purged of life. I could understand their pain and fear; those filing by were children, parents, lovers, siblings, and dear friends. I understood their feelings, I was no stranger to the loss of loved ones; it was what drove me. We were all soldiers, matter less if we took up arms or not, we lived by the same law: it was kill or be killed.

No matter how much or little I remembered of them I had no pity for any of those people. Sympathy yes, but no pity and certainly not regret. I had scars from my actions, both physically and mentally, but I lived with them the best I could. It didn’t matter how much blood or sleep I lost, I would do everything again if I had to. My suffering was worth the lives of my friends and preservation of my nation.

I watched the ghosts file past as death filled my nose and screaming rang in my ears. I felt nothing, just a cold detachment. I knew that I couldn’t let myself feel this, my mind could take the strain but my heart would collapse under the burden if I let it.

It was then that I started to see others. They were ponies, ponies that I recognized, that I had lead. Dash had been looking for the best sniper she could find but she had soon decided that I was better off as a leader, I was too smart to be some grunt pulling triggers. I had always strived to do the best at what I was asked but in the end, an officer always had losses and sacrifices. The blood of my own was on my hooves the same as that of my foes.

So much blood. Flowing from me like a river, the gushing flow of them all mixed together with the ash. My composure shattered. The void in my chest bursting outward as my tears burned my face like scalding oil. In that second I could feel it, the vile blackness that dwelt in me. The icy presence of death and fires of terror flowed from it like a spring; giving me strength but also leaving me but cold and ashen.

The pain in my very soul was unbearable, the fabric of my being feeling alien and evil. The zebras said that it was the influence of the Stars, some divine curse damning me to my red path. I could only hope they were right.


I woke feeling ill in body and mind but in far better condition than I had any right to be. I was wrapped in warm, cozy blankets and felt the best I had since I had been put in that stasis pod; maybe even before then. Of course, my guardian angel was on watch.

Starprancer had placed me in a large bathtub with the space-heater. The shower curtain had been drawn and supplemented with another blanket to contain heat. The filly was curled up in a blanket by my head, her cloak thrown over the top for added warmth. She was looking at me with a concerned expression and her face was streaked with tears. I lifted my head to look at her properly.

“No, don’t move,” Star forced my head back down into my blanket. “How do you feel? Any pain? Nausea? Are you hungry?” she asked with her quiet little voice.

Physically, I felt fine. I was a bit hungry, my head was fuzzy, and I kind of wanted to stretch. “Do you have something to eat and drink?” She levitated over a canteen of water and a pair of sickly apples. I ate the apples eagerly and drained the canteen. “Thank you, Star.”

“It’s fine,” the unicorn answered.

“Are you OK?”

She looked down and nodded.

“Star, look at me, please.”

She continued to look down as a couple tears ran down her face.

I took a deep breath. “I’m sorry; about everything. I shouldn’t have led us into that horde of ghouls or underestimated them. I’m sorry about collapsing on you and leaving you on your own. I…. Just…. Thank you, Starprancer.”

The filly didn’t look up at me, she just shook slightly and took a few steadying breaths. When she had regained her composure she looked up at me with her big emerald eyes, full of hurt and pain. The filly’s coat had a dark, flat look to it that I didn’t like at all. She told me “You’re welcome” in a quiet whisper.

I sighed and brought a hoof around Star’s shoulder, pulling her into a hug. I knew that pressing the filly would only end in a sorrowful break down so I changed the subject. “How bad am I? My PIP is down so I can’t tell.”

Star pulled her face out of my shoulder and stole a glance at me before returning her eyes to the tub’s bottom. “You had radiation poisoning, burns, lots of bruising, a concussion, some hardware issues, and you lost a lot of fluids. I turned your PIP off after I got your error codes downloaded onto my Pipbuck, it was just eating up power screaming about how you were going to die and crashing.”

“Well, I’m still here, so you did wonderfully,” I managed lamely.

Star let out a giggle, some of the color returning to her voice and coat. She looked up at me incredulously: “Taking care of somepony on the brink of death is pretty easy when their body does most of the healing itself then flat out tells you what else is wrong with it and how to fix it,” she said, smiling. “I’ve been administering fluids and Rad-Away for the past three days, but I haven’t been able to work on your augments.”

“I was down for three days?” I asked as I rebooted my PIP

“Well, you might’ve woken up earlier, but I programmed your computers to keep you unconscious while I was out scavenging,” Star said as she floated a packet of Rad-Away to me. “It’s about time for your next dose.”

“You were messing around with my programming?”

“Yeah,” she said questioningly as I drank the gritty, orange flavored vomit that was Rad-Away.

I had to take a deep breath. “Star, please don’t mess with me like I’m just some toy. You have no idea how unpleasant glitches are when they’re affecting your health and perception of the world. I could wind up cross eyed, allergic to ponies, lose my sense of touch. Hell, I could die, or wind up thinking everything is inside a computer and I’m the chosen one to free Equinity.”

She shrunk back from my glare, “I’m sorry, Shadow. I just didn’t know how what would happen with you waking up alone in a bathtub.”

My glare softened,

“It’s okay. You didn’t know better.”

An awkward silence fell upon us for several seconds. “Here,” Star said, trying to move on. She moved the blanket on the shower rail, letting the frigid air waft in, and levitated in a bucket full of scrap metal and a couple cans. “Your computer also told me you needed aluminum, steel, and oil order for your cybernetics to mend themselves but, uh... I didn’t know what to do with them.”

Well according to my system monitor, my front right leg was still scrap and my other three had at least one major component in need of unfucking. However, I was much more interested in exploiting an opportunity to mess with my friend. “Same thing you do with any other food.” I just smiled at her as she processed what I had told her.

“Wait… You- you have to eat it?” She tilted her head to the side in the most adorable way. “Wouldn’t that hurt?”

“You lose feeling in your mouth eventually.” I answered as straight faced as possible. I reached into the bucket, dug out an aluminum can, and chomped down on the metal. My face tingled a bit as my augments started converting my meal, the metal magically gaining the consistency of taffy. “Mmm, aluminum isn’t really like any other flavor I’ve ever experienced: like a malt with a tangy aftertaste.”

Star sat and looked at me in confused horror as I ate all of her gathered scrap, then drank the motor oil. “You need this bucket?” I asked the filly with a big smile

“Yes!” Star snatched the steel bucket from my grasp with her magic. She giggled again and I couldn’t help but smile as she returned to her normal state, “You’re weird, even for a cyberpony. But, I guess you’re super duper advanced.”

I thought back to the augmented, non-Windgo ponies I had seen in Stable 13. “What’s the story with the cyberponies in your stable?”

“According to Mom and my teachers, Stable 13 had a lot of doctors from the big hospital. They brought their technology with them into the stable when the bombs fell but the stuff they had was nowhere near as advanced as you. There was only so much material in the stable and not much reason for augmenting anypony so most of it just sat around.

“Then after Great-Granny Stargazer opened the Stable and ponies started fighting and getting hurt on the surface; they dusted all of the augments off and started using them on the injured. We still only had a limited supply of stuff though.” She looked down and scuffed a hoof on the floor again.

Moondancer’s decision to leave the Windigos on ice made even more sense now. Almost every scientist I knew during the war was an obsessive nut and they would have pissed themselves if they had learned about us. In all likelihood most of us Windigoes would have been ripped apart for our tech and then the stable ripped apart for materials; they might have even opened the Door while the surface was still glowing.

“Why don’t you need gemstones or spark batteries?” Star asked. “All the other cyber ponies need to charge their augments. Then again they also have to get their stuff fixed by somepony when they get hurt. You just keep going and eat metal to fix yourself. Do have to eat gemstones too?”

I smiled at her. “Well, like you said I’m a much more advanced model. Moondancer got her hooves on some super-secret cybernetic research and improved or modified it to fit Rainbow’s liking. Some older designs actually involved eating gemstones to charge spark battery packs, but Rainbow didn’t like the idea of us being weighed down with jewels so Moondacer used spark cores instead. I shouldn’t need to charge for another hundred years or so.”

“Wow! And you wouldn’t die of old age before getting there? Being a cyberpony sounds awesome,” Star said looking at me in wonder. A wonderful dazzle in her eyes.

That comment made my smile falter in spite of Star’s response. “It has its perks. Honestly though, I would give everything just to feel the wind in my feathers again.”

“What happened that you wound up like this?” Star waved a hoof at my whole body.

I just exhaled and closed my eyes. “It’s a very anticlimactic end to a long and painful story.”

“Oh,” Star looked down again, scuffing her hoof as she quietly said: “You wanna talk about it?”

“Not the end, no,” I sighed. “Too much pain and nothing to learn from.”

“Well, what about before that?” Star asked. “You had a life before the war and stuff didn’t you? You don’t seem to be like somepony that was born fighting zebras or something.”

I smiled at her. “You actually want an old war vet go on about back there and then?”

Star just cozied into her blankets a bit more. “I’ve always wondered what it was like before the war. And I kinda wanna know more about you.”

“Well, I was born and raised in Fillydelphia; the City of Sisterly Love. It was always a city of makers and movers; lots of manufacturing and shipping. It could be a pretty rough place but that just forged strong ponies. I lived in Maneyunk, which was one of the better neighborhoods, with my father and siblings. I was the third eldest of nine and the only pegasus in the household. Dad was a unicorn who owned and ran a grocery store. My mother was... never around for long. She was an earth pony with a love of the sea.” I grimaced at the memory of my mother, “Always thought she was making up for not being born with the freedom of wings like the rest of her family.

“When I was young, I spent a lot of time building a strong work ethic and economic know-how with my father at his store, but I specialized in finding my way into lots of trouble.” I chuckled, “I knew all of my principals, deans, and resource officers on a first name basis. Hell, the right of passage for the cops in my precinct was escorting me and the occasional sibling or friend home.

“You don’t strike me as a troublemaker, Shadow,” Star said with a smirk.

“I was a little bad ass, but it wasn’t my fault that other kids thought they could get away with teasing me. Plus being big, black, and brash earned me a reputation as a filly you didn’t want to fuck with.”

“Language, Shadow,” Star chided.

I chuckled a little but was caught up in memories. I tapped a hoof against my cheek then smiled. I reached under my collar and extracted my dogtags and a small necklace that I wore with them. I held an amulet on the chain in my hoof. “The day I met my first zebra and got this was pretty entertaining,” I said with a nostalgic smile.

“Now, it was the beginning of summer,” I pressed my head against the side of the tub, “about five years before Nightmare Moon returned and the Elements of Harmony were discovered. I was toward the tail end of my fillyhood…



“Mmm,” I groaned into my pillow.


Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.


Go away voice, I need five more minutes.

“SUNNY SKIES! Wake up now!” My father’s voice roared up through the house. Or it might have been Dew Drop’s, my older brother was a spitting image of Dad nowadays.

“I’m up! I’m up,” I yelled as I rolled out from the soft embrace of my sheets. I pitched over the side of my top bunk and came to a graceful landing, yawning out: “Good morning, Glimmer.”

“Morning, Nyx,” my sister said from the closet. “Hey, should I wear this dress or this one for my interview?” She levitated out two pretty dresses and scuffed her hoof against the floor, looking down. “I just don’t know which would look better.”

I smiled at her. “Glimmer, you’re my sister: you’ll look good no matter what just by association.”

Pause and wait for her to open her mouth, cut off retort. “That blue one with the gold trim should be perfect. It brings out your eyes and compliments your mane.”

Glimmer smiled and blushed a little. My older sister (by like five minutes, we were twins) was a cute thing; she had a nice off-white coat that turned almost gold in sunlight. Her blue mane was more muted than mine and she had it grown out much longer, but the flowing locks just aided in drawing attention to her brilliant gold eyes. She was the envy of every mare in our class and there were dozens ponies drooling over her. Poor Glim-Glam hated attention in general and what some of her… admirers did could drive the introvert to tears. Of course, few of them bugged her much after a stern talking to by me.

“You’ve already got F.I.T. in the bag; what are you interviewing for now?” I asked as I arched my back in an enormous stretch.

“I need all the scholarship money I can get, Nyx. Dad’s already having trouble putting Dew Drop through school and I don’t think the family could survive if you went off collage too.”

“Yah,” I answered a big smile plastered on my face, “they would all die of shock.” I eased out of my stretch and trotted over to my sister, giving her a hug. “You’ll be fine. You’re graduating two years ahead of the rest of us and already got college lined up. Plus, you're one of the smartest ponies I know and gonna blow those interviewers away.”

“Thanks, Nyx.”

I let her go and started to trot out of the room, “Good luck!”

“Thank you.”

After leaving my room I proceeded downstairs by jumping over the banister of the stairs and gliding the four stories down to the ground level in lazy loops. I proceeded to the back of our townhouse and into the kitchen. “Is it all gone yet?”

“Surprisingly not,” Dew Drop said from the stove top where he was pouring the last of the pancake batter onto a skillet.

“If Nyx is getting to the breakfast table with food still around I have to wonder if you all are finally slowing down. Maybe you all will finally stop eating me out of house and home?” Dad quipped from the table where he was serving enormous flapjacks to my four little siblings.

“I think you might have jinxed it, Dad.” I went over to him and gave him a kiss. I then took to wing and fluttered over to my older brother, noogying him from overhead.

“Get off, Nyx,” he said waving a spatula at me.

“Nyx, no flying in the house,” My father scolded me as he trotted over with an empty serving platter, which he placed in the sink. He then levitated three plates next to the stove as Dew was finishing the last three flapjacks. The food was doled out, coffee poured, and the three of us ate at the island that separated the kitchen proper from the dinning space.

Dad and Dew Drop looked almost identical. They were both rugged unicorn stallions with white manes and dark grey coats, but Dad had some white around the muzzle and eyes. Their main difference was in the eyes; Dad’s were gold like Glimmer while Dew shared the teal eyes Mother and I had.

“So, is there anything exciting going on around the store today, Dad?” I asked after washing down the last of my pancake with the last of my coffee.

“Not around the store but I need you to go to Dragon Town today,” he said as he refilled my mug. “I got asked by Mrs. Radish to get some stuff for her.”

“How’s Mrs. Radish doing?” Dew asked, “Her back still troubling her?”

“Ye, that’s what she asked me to get her. The doctors prescribed some sort of herbal, zebra voodoo treatment.” My dad shook his head and waved his hoof around as he tried to describe the remedy. “It’s been working well for her but the ingredients are hard to find.”

“Interesting, I would think proper Equestrian medicine would be able to fix anything that can be fixed. I don’t know why doctors would resort to using such primitive techniques.”

“Aww come on, Dew. Just because something is different to what they’re teaching you in med school doesn’t mean it’s wrong.” I teased. “We all grew up with extra sauerkraut or a teaspoon of rum as the standard household cure-alls.”

“And that might just be part of what’s wrong with you, Nyx,” he shot back. I was inhaling to retort when the sound of hooves storming down the staircase cut me off. Glimmer rounded the corner and came galloping into the kitchen wearing the pretty blue dress.

“I’m on my way out so…” She trotted over to the table and group of younger siblings hugging and kissing each of them good bye. She then moved over to the island.

“What’s the occasion?” Dew asked gesturing to Glimmer’s attire.

“I have an interview for a big scholarship today,” she answered as she hugged and kissed Dad. “Bye, Daddy.”

“Oh Celestia, my daughter has grown up into a such a smart and beautiful mare who’s already off to university,” Dad said with tears in his eyes as he wrapped Glimmer in a bear hug.

“I guess the Fillydelphia Institute of Technology technically counts as a higher education,” Dew snarked earning him a smack upside the head from me.

“None of your Pranceton elitism in the house,” I snapped.

“My children have grown up so fast,” Dad oozed. I found myself wrapped in his golden aura and carried over into the hug. “Just now my beautiful eldest daughters will be off to make names for themselves in the world, right Nyx? Going to university, getting jobs, finding stallions, and starting families.”

“Daaad,” Glimmer and I whined in unison. Dew was chuckling in the background.

Dad released us from his grasp and we staggered away. After getting her bearings, Glimmer asked, “Dew, Nyx, I was wondering if, after my interview, we could do lunch together?”

“Sure, I’m free around lunch,” Dew answered.

“I’m sorry, Glim, but I’m going over to Dragon Town on an errand for Dad. It's such a long trip, I probably won’t be back for lunch. Or even dinner.” I threw a hoof over my eyes for added effect.

“I don’t want none of your whining, Nyx,” Dad stated. “I’m done with your shenanigans; you’re still on thin ice after your brawl with the Dinker Brothers in my store.”

“It wasn’t my fault! They were calling me ‘Nightmare’ and, and…” I shook with anger. Glimmer reached over and hugged me.

“Nyx, you need to learn how to walk away from a fight,” Dew said in his most serious tone.

“Hahahaha,” I laughed, “Me. Walk away from a fight?” Glimmer and Dad laughed with me.

“You’re like your mother; won’t let anything go,” Dad said with a proud but uneasy smile. “Y-you’re a fighter, Nyx; a good strong pony who’ll never give up. You just need to make sure that what you’re fighting for is worth it.”

I looked down and opened my mouth but was cut off when he continued. “Now, I do believe we should be getting our days underway; Dew Drop, can you take the herd to school?” Dad jerked his head at the table where my little siblings sat.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Nyx you can come with me to the store for an address and some bits.” Dad turned around. “Eeh! Get ready for school you lot.” There was a wave of “Aww’s” from the younger members of the family as they all went to brush their teeth and grab their saddebags. I wondered why they were complaining; it was the last week of school, they weren’t doing anything hard. Of course, going to school when their older siblings were already out might have rubbed them the wrong way, but that was the school district's fault.

Having finished doling out orders, Dad went upstairs to get ready for his day. I turned to my sister before she could leave.

“Sorry I can’t make lunch today, Glimmer,” I told her.

“It’s fine. I just wanted a chance for the three of us to hang out a bit before you leave for Aunt Rain’s. Like old times.” She looked a bit crestfallen that I couldn’t make the date and would be spending my summer in Cloudsdale.

“Look, Glim, how about the two of us drag Dew down to Book Worm’s shop this afternoon? We can browse fine literature for a while before picking up the Mohicans.” I jerked my head in the direction of our younger siblings. “Plus, the three of us are painting this town red on Friday.”

That got a smile out of her. I hugged her one more time before shooing her out of the house. I then cleared and cleaned the tables, washed the dishes, and drank another mug of coffee. With the kitchen taken care of I went back up to my room, brushed my teeth, got my saddlebags, then flew out my window, and down to the street where Dad was waiting. He rolled his eyes at my failure to use the front door, before the two of us started out on the short trip to the store as our neighborhood was just waking up.

“Good morning, Mr. Check,” a proud unicorn stallion trotting down the sidewalk wearing a blue cap and vest bearing a fancy badge said. “Nyx,” was added flatly.

“Morning,” my dad said with a simple smile and nod of his head.

I smiled nice and big: “Good morning, Officer Clip. How are you?”

“Humph,” and maybe a mumbled “punk” was all I got out of the police officer as he passed us, continuing on his rounds. Dad chuckled under his breath. We reached the corner of Date and Hornage Streets were the Check’s Grocery was located. Dad unlocked the door and we proceeded directly to the back of the store where his office was.

Dad opened a safe and pulled out a bag of one hundred bits. He levitated that and a sheet of paper over to me. “Here, this should be enough to cover the price of the medicine and get you lunch.” He smiled as he tucked everything into my saddlebags then hugged me saying “Stay safe and don’t get too distracted.”

“I will,” I said as I kissed him goodbye.

I trotted back through the store and into the middle of the street before spreading my wings and launching into the air. I laughed like a foal as I pulled off a quick ascending corkscrew and continued upward, happy to be in the air. After my little bit of flipping about I leveled out and looked over the city of Fillydelphia.

Nothing but open fields with rolling hills surrounded the metropolis, crossed by a few roads and the mighty Delamare river that cut through the land, flowing east to the blue of the Celestial Sea in the far east. The city sprawled around me with the skyscrapers of Downtown blocking a direct route to Dragon Town. I hated trying to fly through skyscrapers; the big slabs of concrete wreaked havoc on the air currents and would toss a pegasus around like a feather if they weren’t careful. Plus, Downtown’s skies were crowded, loud, and there were all kinds of jerks going about their business there.

No, it was too wonderful a day to waste flying through Downtown so I set out to loop around. I would take a longer, scenic route and enjoy myself, but I would not get distracted. I would go straight to Dragon Town and come straight back to hang out with Glimmer and Dew.

“Hey Nyx! You want to come play street hockey?”

Damn it! I didn't even make it five minutes.

“Misty! Dawn! How have you girls been?” I looked down at the pair of earth ponies in the street. Misty’s hoof was still cupped around her mouth from her shout as she skated down the street on a set of rollerblades. Dawn rolled alongside her, dodging pedestrians. I glided down to join them.

“Wondering where you went. I know that you spend your summers in Cloudsdale, but I didn’t think you would just disappear the second the season ended,” Misty said. She was pleasant shades of pink with dark blue eyes. Dawn was a dusky grey/blue with a bright orange mane. They both had larger builds for mares but that was helpful in roller derby.

I will admit that I had trouble making friends when I was young, but that had been remedied when I had joined my local roller derby league. There, it was very advantageous to be big and scary looking (being downright graceful on skates didn’t hurt, either) so I had been welcomed with open hooves by my teammates. The Fillidelphia Filly Foulers (what a name for a team that was) had quickly become my best friends and that musty gym we played in a second home.

“Well, I’ve been training for sky ball season so I’ve been in the air a lot,” I answered. “Plus, my dad is trying to keep me out of trouble so I haven’t been out much at all.”

“Oh Yeah,” Dawn said, “we’ve heard about how ‘out of trouble’ you’ve been. Those Dinker Brothers are still stumbling around in a daze.”

“I think that’s less to do with how hard Nyx hit them and more the fact that they’re worth her time,” Misty was waggling her eyebrows at me.

“Boo – Hiss. I do not approve of this perversion of my life.” I stuck my tongue out at Misty as she cracked up laughing.

“Aww, what’s the matter, Nyxie? Scared they're going to fight each other for you?”

“They’d better not fight over me–“

“No,” Dawn interjected, “you would enjoy the threesomes much more.”

Misty stumbled and crashed to the ground cackling. Dawn and I came to a stop, looking down at our friend as she giggled out: “Y-you kiss you mother with that mouth, Dawn?”

“On the lips with tongue probably,” I quipped. Dawn flushed and I grinned but if we kept this up we might kill Misty of laughter.

“So,” Dawn turned back to me, leaving our friend to finish her laughing fit on the ground. “You want to come play some street hockey with us? The girls will all be there and Helga talked some college guys into joining us.”

“We were figuring on a battle of the sexes,” Misty said as she got up from the ground, “but if we’re going to win we need some strategy and a quick set of hooves. So, Nyxie, we gonna see some action from the ol’ ‘Black Boulderina’ herself?”

Damn it all to hell. Street hockey sounded great but, “Sorry, girls. I’m running an errand for my dad right now. I have to get to Dragon Town.”

“Aww, horseapples,” Misty grumbled. “I was looking forward to wiping the floor with those guys. Would have been the perfect way to soften them up.” Her waggling eyebrows all but screamed ‘If yah know what I mean’ at me. I just rolled my eyes and shook my head. “Sorry for keeping you, Nyx but I swear to Princess Celestia, you better hang out with us before you leave town.”

“I will,” I said as she slugged me in the shoulder. “See you girls tomorrow, I swear.”

I took to wing as Misty offered one last friendly threat: “You better!”

“Bye, Nyx,” yelled Dawn as I flew away from them.

After that interruption, I was able to proceed without further issue. Did I mention it was a fantastic day to be flying? The sun was out, a nice cool breeze blew in from the west, and the air was perfectly smooth. The world passed by beneath me like it was on a different plane of existence. Ponies scurried about their daily business as a shadow cast across them for the moment I passed overhead. Within half an hour, I had arrived at the outskirts of Dragon Town.

The street was adorned with square red archways that had turquoise tiles along the top. The rest of the street looked about the same as most in the city other than the presence of the neighborhood’s scaly residence. I opened my saddlebag and lifted out the sheet of paper with my directions.

Two hours later I was pretty sure I had seen every part of Dragon Town except my destination and that my directions might have just been faulty. “Ugh, I’ve seen seven scale buffing salons, a dozen vendors selling meat and gemstone wraps, and even a comic book store but I can’t find a stupid pharmacy!” I yelled out at no pon- , er, no one in particular, throwing my hooves in the air and collapsing onto my haunches.

“Are you alright, dear?”

I turned and looked into the store I had given up in front of. It was a clothing boutique, one of the only ones I had seen in Dragon Town, and sitting behind the main desk was a purple dragon. She was thin and elegant from the tip of her snout to her tail’s whip-like end. She was looking at me with concern in her rose colored eyes.

“Uh, hi,” I said with a smile. “I was wondering if you could help me.” I stepped into the shop with a hopeful expression.

“Well, I certainly hope so. I’m Jasmine, and this is Exotic Fashions.”

“I’m Nyx and I’m not really looking for any clothes. I was wondering if you could direct me-“

“Shame, you would look positively stunning with the right clothes. Something in red I think; it would really accent your body’s graceful stance and add to your already impressive presence. Your mane style really lends to a rugged look but I think you could benefit from a change.”

“I’m sorry but I don’t have any money for clothes or getting my hair done,” I injected. “I’m just looking for Kanga’s Apothecary. I was told it was here in Dragon Town somewhere, but I haven’t been able to find it.”

“Oh! You’re looking for Kanga? Why no wonder you’ve been having trouble. That zebra is such a recluse it’s a wonder that she manages to stay in business, but she’s by far worth seeking out. Her scale balm does wonders for my complexion.” The dragoness ran a claw across her immaculately shining scales.

Well I was getting to meet all kinds of other creatures today; I was getting pointed to a zebra by a dragon. If I got lucky, I could buy lunch from a minotaur and get in a fight with a griffon. “Yeah…. Um, where exactly is her shop?”

“OK, so you go down the street…”

Several minutes later I was out of Exotic Fashions and standing far away from the main streets in a creepy alley that seemed to be part storm drain; the deteriorating asphalt road having been buried under mud and rubbish. This part of Dragon Town was at a lower elevation than the rest of town and the shadows of the surrounding buildings cast the space into almost total darkness despite it being mid-morning. I didn’t know if I was happy the ally was abandoned or not; I was alone but at the same time I don’t know if I would have liked a bunch of drugged out dragons hanging out with me either.

“Kanga’s Apothecary” started off life as your average little shop; the paint was white at one point I think and there were big display windows on each side of a red door. Now however, the whole front of the store was covered in ivy; the windows left mostly unobstructed so that a potential patron could look in and see all of the odd items in dark displays. Bones of animals, funky wooden masks with bright colors, odd potted plants with bizarre flowers, jars full of occult ingredients, and beautifully crafted tribal weapons all sat illuminated dimly by vines with glowing blue flowers that grew around the edges of the display.

This place had officially overtaken the abandoned Baldwhinny Locomotive Works as the coolest spooky place in Fillydelphia. I stepped up to the ivy coated door and turned the knob; it opened with the ominous creaking that all doors in spooky settings need. I stepped into the store with the far too cheerful chime of a bell filling the space. The door slammed behind me with much more force then I put into closing it.

The aesthetic of the outside carried over to the interior of the shop with a vengeance. The inside of the store looked more like a greenhouse then anything else, the glowing vine crawling all over the ceiling, support columns, and walls; it seemed to be the primary source of light inside. There were even more plants I had never seen before kept in every state from seed to in a can. The walls all around were adorned with more tribal masks and weapons while jars full of Celestia knew what hung from the rafters by fibrous ropes. The air was warm and humid except for a clammy cold fog that wafted along the floor.

“Hello?” I called out.

“Who dares enters my abode? State your business and only if you have gold.” The voice was very deep and gravely but danced between being masculine or feminine.

A shadow drifted around the back of the store. “Well, I’m here–”

“Just storming in like you rule? You mare, are most uncool.”

I was maybe a little scared now. “I-I’m sorry. I’m just looking­– “

“You think life is but a game for you to play, quite the shame when limited are your days.”

“I-Wha-Who… You think you can get away with threatening me?!?” I snarled moving further into the store, fear forgotten with the challenge.

“Mwahahahahahahahahaha” The shadow’s deep but feminine laughter rolled throughout the store disturbing the white fog on the floor. I dropped into a fighting stance and started moving into the shop, ready to take on whatever prankster demon that though it could mess with me.

The fog started swirling around me as I got halfway to the back wall. With me standing in the very middle of the store and surrounded in a smoke screen the voice called out: “You dare to face that which you have no understanding of? You are an idiot bitch for not fleeing like a dove.”

“Bring it, gasbag,” I said as I spread my wings and bent my knees; it burst out laughing again. My eyes did nothing but blaze with anger as I strained my ears to tell me what stirred around me. The laughter seemed to be coming from several different places but I was catching the faintest traces of a different sound: hoofsteps.

The fog swirled in front of me and I thought I could see an equine shape. However, my ears had been following the soft hoof falls. The second the silhouette of fog showed up I heard the floor creak a tiny bit behind me and my feathers felt the air move as something pounced for me.
I swung my left wing out and pivoted on my right hoof. My wing caught the striped equine mid-flight; I swiped them around me and into the floor. I jumped on the zebra pinning them down as they... burst out laughing.

“Hahahaha. In all my years, I don’t think I’ve ever met a pony who I couldn’t sneak up on,” the big-boned zebra mare I had pinned said in her gravelly voice.

“Who are you and what are you doing?”

“I’m judging your wor- wor-hck“ she turned her head to the side and gave a great hacking cough, “I’m just messing with you, sugar.” Her voice lost its gravely tone and became warm and joyous; my expression went from demanding to confused. “Now, could you please let me up?”

I obliged and helped the zebra to her hooves. “Thank you, sugar. Now, I’m Kanga, purveyor of the exotic, rare, mystical, and occult; at your service.” She swept her hoof across her shop and then lowered into a bow. “Who might you be, honey?”

“I’m Nyx,” I answered, still confused, as she swept by me toward the back of her shop. I followed the now very pleasant zebra further back. She had a very curvy figure that she covered with a simple green dress. A bright multi-colored blanket that she had wrapped around her shoulders and head finished off the zebra’s ensemble.

“Oh isn’t that a pretty name. I have to say you seem like a special one; touched by the stars and the first pony I haven’t been able to scare in all my days.” She trotted up to a large caldron with a fire burning beneath it and a glowing green soup bubbling away inside, the white fog was flowing down the edges. “Come look, child.”

I walked slowly up to the edge of the massive pot and looked across the green fluid. It swirled in mesmerizing patterns, like it was trying to show me something. My attention was caught by what looked like a small dark green pony prancing along the surface of the much lighter colored liquid.

I lifted a hoof to point at the little apparition. “What is th-“ The second my hoof was over the vat, Kanga seized it. Before I could even flinch she dipped my appendage into the potion.

“Ouch!” I yelped, the stuff was freezing cold despite the fire roaring beneath the pot. The second I removed my hoof, it was dry and clear of any green but remained cold. A chilling sensation started traveling up my leg and into my chest, wrapping around my heart and lungs; spreading across my body, making my feathers quiver, and my hair stand on end. Then, it traveled up into my skull. My vision blurred as my eyes froze and my brain was numbed.

“Oh my, special indeed.” Kanga’s voice broke through the ice in my body. I instantly felt completely normal.

I turned to the zebra. “What did you-“

“Shh, child, look.” Kanga pointed back into the cauldron then wrapped a leg around my shoulders. The greens had been interrupted by bright blue, black, gold, and red. The colors all swirled about as dark fog started bellowing up and out of the cauldron. The vapor compressed into two shapes that I knew well.

Both of the little clouds were of black equines. One was little more than a silhouette; a pony standing proudly as her hooded cloak flowed in an unseen breeze. The second was a tall, black alicorn in light blue armor, her mane stretched out behind her like the night sky.

I gawked at the images of Nyx of the Night and Nightmare Moon as they drifted before me. “Ahh, I truly am in the presence of a special pony,” Kanga said beside me. I turned to see her looking into the swirling miasma of color the potion had become.

“Struggle is your natural state, overcoming any odds were ever you find opposition. You have seen adversity and even failure but it has only tempered you. You are strong of body, mind, and spirit. Innovative and intuitive, you seek the most efficient method to bring about a resolution.”

The zebra said as she gazed off. “I see a mighty warrior.” I shifted uncomfortably at the word. “Whole nations would tremble at the very mention of her name or rejoice for the gift of protection and life she provided.” I looked back up at two mares of steam, a shiver running down my spine.

Both of them had been dominant figures in my life. One was the wicked Mare in the Moon that had tried to kill Princess Celestia and bring eternal night on Equestria. The fact that I looked like a miniature Nightmare Moon had always been a source of teasing, fear, and rejection from others. A storybook about “Nyx of the Night” had been Dad’s solution to my fears of being like the dreaded specter. The black cloaked pony roamed the streets of her village in the night, protecting the inhabitants from monster attacks and other adversity. She was humble, brave, and noble; everything I wanted to be in life.

The shapes in the mist vanished as Kanga started talking again: “Morality and integrity will stand as the separation between your paths.” All of the gold color in the vat swirled to the center and then rose into the air as a single blob. The blob formed into a heart as it rose into the air.

“You will be tried in your endeavors,” the red liquid in the caldron shot forth in jets and green lighting lanced out at the gold heart as the white mist formed creatures; equines, griffons, dragons, and minotaurs all beating against the gold. The flaxen shape became dark and deformed, eventually becoming unrecognisable, “if you break and loose your heart you will fall into darkness.” The deformed heart sank into the chest of a reformed Nightmare Moon who reared up, her fanged mouth open in a soundless cackle as blue lightning flashed behind her.

“But know, Nyx, it matters not how far or how many times you may fall, you can always find the strength return to your heart and be a champion instead of a monster.” A gold glow started radiating out from NMM’s chest. The dark mare clutched at it as she burned away like morning fog in the sun’s rays. In her place stood my story book hero, head held high in triumph as the gold heart beat in her chest and her cape flapped dramatically.

With Kanga’s last words the mist dissolved and the cauldron's contents settled. The zebra walked away chuckling. I stared into the green fluid in a mix of terror and awe. “What was that?”

“Oh, that- some good advice, dear,” Kanga said as she looked back.

“But did you see my future? Destiny?” I asked then turned my attention back to the pot shaking ever so slightly, “What is that stuff and what did it do?”

“That’s just for show,” Kanga said cryptically with a dismissive wave of her hoof. “Now, what can I help you with? I certainly hope that such a nice young mare isn’t in here just on some dare or worse.” Her tone grew hard, like a mother warning a child. “I am not the kind of zebra to be looking for a high from, sugar.”

“No, no, no,” I shook my head. “I’m here to pick up a prescription for Mrs. Radish.” I pulled out my note and showed it to the zebra.

“Oh! I was wondering when she would be coming in. Didn’t think she would have to send a courier. She doin’ alright? I told that mare that no matter how good she felt she should take it easy or the medicine wouldn’t work right. Did she listen to the kooky zebra? No, she didn’t. Mm-hmm I swear some of you ponies…”

Kanga waltzed over to a set of cubbies set into the back wall of the store as she continued babbling to herself. I just sat there trembling slightly.

Did I just seen my future? I really didn’t see how I could be a warrior; Equestria hadn’t really been to war in centuries. I knew that it was a fool’s dream that I shouldn’t be humoring but there was the Royal Guard, Navy, Marines, and Equestria still had a few standing militias; the EUP and what not. I've got to do something with my life, right?

In an effort to clear my mind I looked around the store again, my attention settling on a wall covered in weapons, masks, and that glowing flower. I studied the beautiful designs carved into the wood of the masks, the fine work in a mighty spear, and the pretty glowing flower that ran all along the racks. A particularly astounding blossom was growing near where I was standing. I lowered my head and pressed my nose into the flower. It smelled fresh and alive, like lilacs and rain. The scent was calming as lavender in a hot bath.

“That’s a phantasmal flower, they ward off monsters and malicious spirits,” Kanga said behind me. “Never mind they’re just magnificent looking, aren’t they, sugar.”

I smiled back at the zebra. “They are.”

She trotted up next to me. “Here dear,” the zebra handed me a burlap sack containing several ceramic jars and drawstring bags. All kinds of exotic smells drifted into my nostrils as I took the bag and gave her my bit purse. The zebra took the bag and bounced it, “A sack of a hundred bits?” She asked and I nodded. “So, that’s fifthteen in change.” If she thought so I wasn’t going to argue. She reached into her shawl and dug out a much smaller purse extracting the quantity she owed me. “You don’t mind if I keep the sack of a hundred intact, do you, sugar?”

“Not at all. Thank you, Kanga,” I said. I put the bag away and turned back, ready to say goodbye to the zebra but her attention was on the racks in front of us.

The mare looked across the wall, “There it is.” She reached up to a spear with feathers and piece of carved wood attached to the shaft. Taking the spear down, Kanga untied the charm from it.

The cord that had held the charm to the spear was tied into a loop and Kanga lowered it over my head. “O-oh,” I sputtered. “I’m sorry but I just came here with enough for Mrs. Radish’s things and lunch. I could never afford this.”

The amulet was carved into the shape of the sun, much like Celestia’s cutie mark but more angular with the points of the star painted golden. The inter part had green and red making intricate, pointed patterns that were vaguely circular. At the center, a clear, light blue gem sat with an odd glyph carved into it. Three bird’s feathers hung from the bottom.

“This is Agurzil’s Heart. The green and red chasing each other represent death and growth in life’s never ending circle. The gem is aqua-aura quartz, so that the waters of all life may heal and nourish you in both body and spirit. The yellow points represent the sun to enlighten and strengthen. The feathers of a falcon, owl, and dove each bestow fierceness, wisdom, and peace of mind.” Kanga looked into my panicked and confused eyes with a smile. “It is a gift, Nyx. It does nothing here. This fetish is meant to endow a warrior not a wall.”

“I’m no warrior,” I said weakly. My knees shook ever so slightly.

“Dear, storms brew on the horizon and we both know you’ll answer the call when it comes; if you wait that long. So take it and go,” Kanga took my hoof in her own. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Nyx. Good luck as you walk your path.”

I stared back in shock for a second before her warm smile infected me, “Thank you, Kanga. It was wonderful to meet you too.”

Kanga escorted me to the door of her shop. “Now, it’s growing late and I have some brewing to do before I retire; so, until next time, sugar.”

“Good bye.” I waved a wing as I stepped back out into the street.

My little siblings had all been awed by my new charm, each wanting a turn to try and curse each other with zebra magic. Ray, my younger sister, had been beside herself that I was in possession of such a rare artifact while Dew had been indignant that I was polluting their brains with such superstition. Dad had remained silent but he never did send me back to Dragon Town for Mrs. Radish’s prescription. It didn't stop me from returning on my own and forging a friendship with the eccentric zebra or her family: something that would get us both in trouble as the years went by.

That night, I had confided in Glimmer about the ritual that Kanga had performed and the things that it showed me. I was fearful that they were true; that I would be beaten down by fate itself, fall into darkness and strife, become a monster. Even if I didn’t become a monster what would my life hold for me? Where was I headed? I didn't have a special talent or some burning passion to guide me through life like so many other ponies.

“Wow,” my sister was looking down on me from her bed, a forgotten book propped against her pillow. I was sprawled on the floor staring at the ceiling, watching the fan run its lazy revolutions, not having made it any further into the room. “This is really eating at you, Nyx. You aren’t easily fazed by anything.”

“I just had some zebra shaman tell me that my future is going to be defined by violence, that I’m going to have to endure great adversity and might become a monster," I mewled. "And the worse part is I think she’s right. Fighting is all I’m really good at.”

“That’s not true, Nyx. You’re an athlete, a model student when you're not causing trouble, fun, and really smart. Besides, you only fight bullies and worse. You’ve been protecting me since we were just fillies, it’s how you got your cutie mark.”

“Yah but there’s a difference between beating on some bullies and actually fighting and killing. I get in a fight with a bully and he might start acting a bit better.” A couple tears ran down my face and my voice caught in my throat. “I-I don’t know if I could kill anypony. I couldn’t deprive anyone of life; killing is wrong. There’s nothing a corpse can learn.” A sob escaped me and I looked over to my sibling.

Glimmer’s jaw dropped open when she saw that I was crying. My older sister had cried herself to sleep many times while in my embrace but me shedding a tear was a very rare thing. It never mattered what was said or how badly I had gotten hurt, I was always strong and stoic. I bled from my eyes before actually shedding tears.

“Nyx,” Glimmer said softly as she got up and moved to my side. She laid down and hugged me; I buried my face in her shoulder and wept. It was an inversion of our usual dynamic and Glimmer sat not knowing what to do for several seconds.

“Nyx, you’re not going to become a bad pony. That zebra said that you would forge your own path through whatever adversity you have to face. Everything she said was true: you’re strong, brave, and persistent. Sure, you'll have to make your own choices in life and they will decide what kind of pony you’ll be. We all have to do that.”

I tilted my head to the side so I could talk. “Its just that I don’t know how I’m going to be strong or righteous. I don’t know what to do about anything. You’re going to college and Dew’s becoming a doctor and I’m still in high school; just sitting around like some bum.” A particularly violent sob ran through my body and Glimmer tightened her grip on me. “Even the bullies I fight know what they’re doing more than I do. I just react to things; how am I supposed to make a decision like, like-” I took a deep breath “-that if I can’t even decide what I’m going to do with my own life?”

Glimmer rubbed my back but was slow in her answer. “You can never know if you’ve made the right decision until it’s too late, Nyx. You’re going to make poor choices and they’re going to haunt you for the rest of your life but everypony does that. All we can do is learn from mistakes; both our own and other’s.”

“B-b-b-bu-bu, I…..” I couldn’t finish a sentence as I wept into my sister’s coat.

“Shh, you don’t need to become some soldier at all. I’ll admit I think Dad would appreciate some discipline being beaten into you but you don’t have to listen to what she said.”

“But, I… I think she’s right… I like protecting ponies and I’m good at fighting…...”

“Well, as long as you’re protecting ponies I would think that you’re a good pony. Plus, you don’t have to deal with everything on your own.” I looked up to my sister and she smiled down on me, a few tears in her own eyes. “If you ever feel lost, know that there are ponies around you that love you and would want to help you. If you ever need help, no matter what it’s with, I swear to Celestia, I'll be there for you.”

“T-thank you,” I whispered. I buried my face in her chest again as my tears became those of joy and I hugged my sister tight. She returned my embrace with as much pressure as she could muster, tears of her own soaking the top of my head. We both laid there until I had calmed down enough to ask her: “Glimmer? Do you think you could help me talk to Dad about enlisting? Eventually at least.”

She pulled me away so we could be face to face. Glimmer looked scared for a second before a smile spread across her face. She pulled me back into the hug, “I would love to, Nyx.”

Author's Note:

Holy new stuff, Batman!!!

RETCON ALERT: The old summary is now part of the Prologue which is now a Forward (Yah, got that?).

I hope you're all happy (in general). I've got a new chapter, cover art(by the wonderful Hoodwinked Tales), and rewrote my summary. This chapter has been sitting in my docs for a month now but just when Click got to looking at it I started a rewrite on it. I hate having things sit around, I always get tempted to fuck with them. I personally liked writing something a little more slice of life (this is the first time I've done that) and am sorry if it was a little pedestrian. However, I wanted to establish Nyx and the flashbacks/stories that will track her evolution into Shadow.

Up and Out (RIP Gene Wilder:heart::fluttercry::raritycry::applecry:)