• Published 29th Jun 2012
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Fallout: Equestria - Wasteland Bouquet - Cascadejackal



There's a lot of stories in the Equestrian Wasteland, and they all need to be told.

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Chapter 13: Wing And A Prayer

---CHAPTER 13: Wing And A Prayer---

"Even though it provides great power, it also corrupts the user!"

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"I think... that's... the last of them..." Panting, I ejected the spent drum from Garden and slammed a new one home. My mom, not even out of breath, did the same with her rifle, a battered remnant from her mercenary days, and nodded.

"Looks like it. Help me check them; might find something useful." She'd been in mercenary mode since we got into the hospital, constantly alert and watching for anything out of the ordinary. That also meant a proper conversation would have to wait until we were somewhere secure. As we set about looting the now-deceased raiders that littered the hallway, I replayed the past few hours in my head.


We'd made it through the city just fine, flying as near to the clouds as we could without drawing the Enclave down on us to avoid all the shit on the ground. Even from so high up, though, it had been painfully clear why nobody had tried to clear out the city:

Fillydelphia was a deathtrap.

There had to be hundreds of raiders crawling across the city, in an unending war with each other, mutated wildlife and the packs of feral ghouls that would swarm out of structures without warning, only to vanish just as suddenly when every living thing in the area was dead. I couldn't help but wonder how many of those ghouls had been amongst the original inhabitants of the city, condemned to a fate worse than death when the bombs dropped, so long ago...

Of course, no matter how insane or mutated the hordes were, they all stayed well away from the bloatsprites. Entire city blocks were seething with the things, so thick with the voracious terrors we'd been able to hear their buzzing as we passed overhead...

I'd be sure to tell Lily about it later.


Things had gone south as soon as we'd reached our goal, the Redheart Memorial Hospital. After making a slow, spiraling descent to get some idea of what state the place was in, we'd set down on the roof of the oddly intact building, breaking down the roof-access door and heading in.

That was when we discovered that a group of raiders had made the hospital their base.


Several ambushes, a crap-ton of deranged ponies and most of our ammo later, we found ourselves stripping our attackers of anything even remotely useful. I didn't find any shells that would fit Garden, unfortunately, but I hadn't expected to. The undersized cannon took a larger round than most shotguns. Mom had more luck; some of the raiders had been using battle-saddles with heavy machine guns, and the rounds were the same calibur her rifle used.


When we were finished looting, we started a slow, careful sweep of the floor we were on, every hallway and room showing signs that the raiders had been there for some time. Bodies, graffiti, sharp metal spikes displaying skulls, the usual. Each room was cleared, entered and searched in almost-silence, my mother and I communicating with single words and gestures to keep from drawing any more attention to ourselves than absolutely necessary, despite the raging gunfight we'd been involved in mere minutes before. Better safe than sorry, after all.

Recovery wards, storage rooms and offices were pillaged, every last one of the yellow, butterfly-marked medical boxes picked or smashed open, their precious contents quickly filling our packs. I wondered why so many of the things had been intact, even though the hospital looked like it had been a raider base for months, at least, but shrugged it off. Smart raiders were few and far between, and since the earlier ambushes had consisted mostly of them running at us, screaming...Well, it seemed pretty clear that the hospital had found itself playing host to an especially stupid bunch of ponies.

After we cleared the top floor, we moved down to the next one, keeping our eyes open for the distinctive tube-and-donut shape of the full-body regen machine that would, hopefully, contain the talisman needed to get Rose on her hooves again.

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"Fuck!" I punched the side of the machine, leaving me with a throbbing claw, and glared at the empty space that should have contained the talisman.

After searching almost half the hospital and filling our packs with looted supplies, we'd finally found the intensive care unit, complete with not one, but two of the regenerative machines. Frustratingly, mine didn't have what we were after. I leaned around the bulky device so I could see the piebald form of my mother as she checked the other machine. "Anything?"

She turned to me, frowning, and shook her head. "Nothing. Doc Needles said it might be in a storage room, right?" I nodded. "Then let's keep looking. We're not leaving until we find something to help that mare."


As we resumed our search, I stayed beside my mother, needing to ask something that I'd been curious about since she showed up in Little Fillydelphia. "Mom... Why are you so worried about Rose? It's more than just our contracts, isn't it?"

My mom hesitated for a moment, before indicating a nearby door with a tilt of her head. "Let's check this room."

We went in, finding ourselves in a small room with several pony-sized beds along one wall and less raider detritus than I'd expected. My mom stayed quiet as we started to search, but spoke up after a minute or so.

"Ibis... How much do you know about your father?"

I set down the dirty bedsheet I was shredding for bandages and turned to look at her. She was just staring into an open medical box, looking more tired than I'd ever seen her. "I don't really remember much... Just that he was big and grey, and you looked so happy together..." She sighed again.

"I told you how he died, right?"

"You always told me he died saving some of your friends..."

"Yeah..." Mom stretched her wings a little, fluffing herself up and giving me a small, sad smile. "They held our contract for a few years... Let us out of it when we had you, though. Said there'd be time enough for work when you were older... Your dad, though... That old featherbrain... He found out they were headed someplace dangerous, tagged along to keep them safe..."

I sat there in silence; this was the most mom had ever said about dad.

"He said that he couldn't let them go it alone, not if he wanted to set a good example for you..." She let out a small, bitter laugh. "Sentimental idiot... They came back, he didn't." My mom reached into her bandoleer and pulled out a small, yellowed square of paper, holding it out towards me. "They said your dad was thinking of us at the end... Said he wanted me to have this..."

I got up and crossed the room, gently taking the little square from her claw and lifting it to get a good look. My throat tightened up when I saw what was on it. Mom just smiled sadly again.

"That was taken not long after you hatched... Where your dad found someone with a working camera, I'll never know..."

The little square held a faded, slightly blurred image. I recognised my mom on one side, looking younger than I could ever remember seeing her, with the feathers on her head spiked up and tipped with bright purple dye. Next to her, in the middle of the picture, was a young, rough-feathered hatchling that could only have been me. On the other side of me, with one arm around my mom's shoulders and looking as proud as could be, was a large, charcoal grey griffin with amber eyes...

"Dad..." I blinked away the tears that threatened to start flowing. All I'd ever had were fuzzy memories of someone big and strong, who made my mom laugh and made me feel safe, but now...

Mom nodded. "Yeah... A few years after that was taken, he took his last job... It wasn't even part of his contract, just him helping our friends..." She trailed off, and I couldn't bring myself to speak, losing myself in that small, fragile reminder of someone I had never really known... After a few minutes, I held the picture out for my mom to take, but she shook her head and smiled at me. "It's yours now, son. I've got my own memories, and you should have something to remember him by."

"Thanks..." With a small smile of my own, I tucked the photo into my belt, safe and secure in the pouch which held only my most treasured possessions, before leaning against my mother. She put one wing around me and, suddenly, it was like I was a chick again, sheltering from the world beneath her wings.

Mom was the first to break the silence. "Bet you're wondering what your dad has to do with Rose, huh?" I nodded, and she smiled, cheering up a little. "We were talking about having another chick before he died... A little brother or sister, someone to keep you from getting lonely..."

"Mom... I hate to break it to you, but Rose and me..."

She laughed and messed up my crest like I was a still a chick, making me cringe. "I know, you're a couple and all that, but it doesn't change the fact she's really grown on me. That mare's like a daughter to me, and if you want her to be part of our family..." Her smile grew sad again. "Your dad would have loved her, Ibis."

"You really think so?"

"I know so."


We hugged until I managed to pull myself free of my mother's grip. I didn't have a problem with hugging or all that emotional stuff, but my mom was still bigger than I was and it felt like she was squeezing the life out of me! Besides, I still had a couple of questions.

"Mom... what do you think about Lily?"

My mother frowned. "She's sweet and all, but..."

"She's too innocent?"

Mom nodded. "Exactly. It's like looking at a foal; she needs someone to protect her. And don't you give me that look!" I flinched when she scolded me. I hadn't been glaring that much! "I know you haven't forgiven her for what she did, but the kid's been tearing herself apart. Besides, what will Rose think if you don't give Lily another chance? The little idiot means a lot to her, after all."

I sighed, my head drooping. "Fine... I guess she deserves another chance after following us all the way out here... It's not like I hate her or anything, I'm just mad at her... Maybe I can knock some sense into that thick head of hers, keep her from doing anything too stupid in the future..."

I felt a large, heavy claw come to rest on the top of my head and looked up to see my mom smiling at me, tears in her eyes. "Your dad would be so proud of you... You're growing into a fine young griffin..."

I pulled away and turned so she couldn't see that I was on the verge of crying as well. "I'll make him proud, mom..."

"Yeah... I know you will, Ibis..."


We went back to searching the room, salvaging anything even remotely useful for the doc, but I kept thinking about the photo. It was a piece of my past I could barely remember, the only link I had to my father... I couldn't even remember the day we learned he was dead clearly, just a vaguely familiar group of ponies and my mom crying...

I pulled the photo out, taking a break from the search to have another look at the large, charcoal-colored griffin. He was big, alright. There was no mistaking it; both he and my mother were in the prime of their lives when the picture was taken. I wondered if I'd be as big as he'd been, or if I would take more after my mom and just be average... I shook my head to clear it and tucked the photo back into my belt, then went back to ransacking the room.

It didn't take long before something else got stuck in the back of my mind, and I spoke up. "Mom?"

"Yeah?" She was on the other side of the room, trying to open another one of those yellow boxes, but the lock must have been stuck or something if the look she was giving it was any indication.

"About the photo..."

Distracted from the box, she looked at me. "What about it?"

I smirked. "You had a nice crest. Purple really suited you."

I didn't duck fast enough and, as the yellow container was thrown across the room at my head, I remember thinking just one thing:

Why is all the medical stuff marked with butterflies?

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"All I did was compliment your crest! You didn't have to throw the damn thing at me!" I glared at the back of my mother's head as we walked through yet another corridor.

"You were being sarcastic." She didn't even turn around, stalking ahead of me and sticking her head into any promising rooms we passed. There weren't many; we were on the ground floor, and quickly running out of places to search. If this hallway didn't have what we needed, then we'd have to go into the basement... and that just seemed like a bad idea no matter what way we looked at it. "Besides, your thick head opened the box faster than I would have been able to. More than that, weren't you glad when it turned out to be full of healing potions? Cleared your black eye right up."

"I wouldn't have had a black eye if you hadn't thrown the damn thing at me." Muttering to myself, I kept close behind my mom, checking the doors on the other side of the hall. All too soon, we came to the final door: A big, sturdy metal one with a heavy lock, marked RESTRICTED. My mother and I shared a look, knowing full well that this might be our last hope, and she set to work picking the lock.


"Hell." After a few minutes, my mom sat back, giving the still-secure lock a deathglare. "Whatever's in here, son, it's gotta be valuable. This is the hardest lock I've seen for a long time."

I snorted. "You sure you're not just rusty? You had to break that locked box open with my head, after all." Mom turned her glare on me and I puffed myself up, trying not to let her intimidate me. To be fair, my mom was a lot bigger than me back then, and she could be quite intimidating when she wanted to.

"That box wasn't just locked, it was jammed. Now, let me see that gun of yours."

"Garden?" I blinked, surprised. "Why?"

"Because I want to scratch my backside with it, what else?." I didn't appreciate her sarcasm, especially when it concerned my gun. "I'm going to shoot the lock, idiot. With what it can do to raiders, I'm betting it'll get us through this door faster than Rad-Away goes through your guts."

With only a little hesitation (and a frown at the Rad-Away remark), I passed my mom the heavy weapon, taking her rifle as she passed it to me. "Safety's off, mom. Watch for the recoil."

"Yeah, yeah." She took a couple steps back from the door and took aim. I moved a bit further away; I already knew what happened when Garden went up against a locker, and I didn't think the door would fare much better. "I think I can handle it."

I rolled my eyes and, without further ado, my mom pulled the trigger, replacing the lock with a hole I could have easily put my entire arm through. She let out a surprised squawk at the recoil, and I smirked. "I thought you could handle it."

She turned to glare at me, holding Garden out for me to take and rubbing her shoulder. "I didn't think it would be that powerful. Thing's got more kick than a damn AM rifle; you seriously found that in a pony Stable?"

We each took back our respective weapons, and I nodded. "Yeah, it was in the armory. I think it belonged to one of the security ponies."

Mom shook her head in disbelief. "Arming their security forces with heavy weapons like that... No wonder they blew up the world; they were all fucking idiots."

I couldn't exactly disagree, so I just shrugged and we entered the newly opened room. When we saw just how many cases, crates and boxes were in there, we both groaned.

Clearing it out was going to take forever.

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I swept my claw across the case, cleaning the dust off and double-checking the label, before calling out to my mother. "Think I found it!"

She quickly came over, stepping around the large pile of bags we'd filled with salvaged medical supplies, and giving the label a close look. "Finally. Let's get this thing open and get the hell out of here."

With a nod, I tried the latch... with no luck. "Locked." I turned to my mom. "You wanna try your claw at it?" She rolled her eyes.

"Just break it open. We'll tape it closed after; right now we just need to make sure the talisman is in there."

A few seconds spent working my knife into the lock, a sharp twist and... "Open!" The lid popped up, revealing a half-dozen hunks of shiny green rock the size of my fist, covered in little red symbols and nestled into holes in a bed of foam. Mom checked the label again, then gingerly picked up one of the stones, holding it up to the light and looking it over.

"Huh... Thought they'd be bigger..." She set the stone back into its place before lifting another and repeating her examination. This carried on until she was satisfied they were all in one piece. "Okay... We've got a bunch of talismans for the Doc's regen machine and enough spare supplies to keep him in business for months. Ready to get out of here and back to your mare, son?"

"Almost... Let's take one last look; we haven't checked all these crates yet."

Mom frowned. "Unless you're stronger than you let on, son, we'll be having enough trouble getting back as-is." She waved her claw at the mound of assorted satches, sacks and bags piled in the middle of the storage room. The hospital had yielded quite the bounty, and we'd had to scrounge up extra bags so we could take as much as possible. "Much more, and we'll be walking."

"Just one quick look, and I'll only take the really good stuff. I'll even carry it. Promise."

With a roll of her eyes and a sigh, my mom set about taping the lid of the talisman case closed and trying to fit it into one of our bulging bags. I made a circuit of the room, checking labels and markings for anything worth taking.


"Bandages... Painkillers... Bedpans... Hello, what's this?" I shoved the crate of bedpans aside, trying to get at the small metal box that had been peeking out from behind it. A little shoving was all it took, and I was greeted by the sight of not one, but two very secure looking boxes, each about the size of an ammo box.

I picked one up, surprised by how light it was, and blew on it, trying to make out the words painted on the side. "Prototype... Regenerative... Implant... Hey, mom! Take a look at this!" I held the box up as my mother sighed and tugged the zipper closed on the bag she'd stuffed the talisman case into.

"What did you find?" She took the mysterious box from me and gave it a once over. Upon seeing the faded lettering, though, she looked a lot more curious. "A regenerative implant, huh?"

"That's what it says. There's another one, too." I indicated the second container with a wave of my head, and my mom nodded absently, busy checking the lock on the box she held.

"Uh-huh..." She set it on a crate in front of her and pulled out some bent pieces of wire and a screwdrivers, her usual lock-picking tools. "This is one hell of a lock... You take the other one."


We worked in near silence, trying to pick or break the locks on our respective boxes and getting more frustrated with each failed attempt. Eventually, there was a click from the case my mom was working on and I left mine where it lay, unopened, to investigate what she'd uncovered.

"That's... interesting..." There was a bunch of papers clipped together inside the box, sitting on top of another, smaller case. My mom nodded and passed me the papers.

"Take a look while I open this."

As she started work on the inner case, I studied the sheets, which were oddly intact... probably because they were sealed in the case for so long. Most of them were covered in charts, diagrams or techno-babble, but I could understand some of it.

"Project Pheonix... Development of surgically implanted talismans, intended to provide physical regeneration for decreased casualty rate among soldiers... Results unsatisfactory... Regeneration only activates when host is severely injured and functions at an unnacceptably slow rate... The implant is unable to heal critical or life-threatening damage without supplementary application of additional healing magic... Talismans become impossible to remove from host approximately one week after implantation, and sooner if host is injured before or after the implantation process... Unpredictable secondary effects, depending on host... Remaining prototypes to be stored at Redheart Memorial Hospital, by order of..."

I frowned; the name was blacked out. A quick flip through the rest of the pages revealed that every single name was buried behind black ink. Whoever made these things or ordered them to be stored here must have really wanted their identity to remain secret... Those pre-war ponies never seemed to do anything that made sense.

At least the contents of the case seemed promising. If I'd understood the admittedly confusing science-speak, then there was a talisman inside that could get Rose back on her hooves faster than the regen machine itself could.

"This thing's an implant?" The sound of my mom's voice drew my attention, and I looked up from the papers to see she'd gotten the inner case open. Inside was a deep red stone, almost twice the size of the other talismans. My mother took it out and held it up to the light like she had the earlier talismans, examining it.

I tapped my claw on the sheets of paper I was holding. "Apparently. According to this, it was meant to keep wounded soldiers alive in the field, but it wasn't effective enough to save their lives on its own."

"Let me see that." We exchanged objects, and it was my mom's turn to read through the paperwork. I held the stone up, having a look at it myself. It was blood-red and translucent, with a dark, opaque smear in the middle of it, like there was something stuck inside. "You're right." I looked back to my mom. "This thing was meant for soldiers, but..." She took the talisman from me and set it back inside the case, along with the documents. "Let's get these back to Doc Needles, son. I won't hold my breath until we get his opinion, but if we can put one of these in your mare..."

"Between the machine and one of these, she's almost certain to survive, right?" Mom nodded.

"Right. Let's stow these things and get moving. We've been gone too long already." We took one of the implants each and split up the bags. It was difficult enough to carry them and still have any chance of flying when we got to the roof, but we managed before leaving the storage room, only half-looted, and making our slow way back through the hospital.

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We half jumped, half flapped our way up the stairs, the stream of ghouls boiling up from the basement hot on our tails, pausing at each landing just long enough to fire at the lead ghouls, trying to slow the howling undead horde down long enough to make our escape.

My mom's aim was as good as it had been with the raiders, her rifle punching holes through rotting heads and bodies, turning undead ponies into obstacles for the rest of the horde to try and climb over to get to us.

I was doing a lot better than she was, though. With every roaring blast, Garden tore another ghoul apart, the heavy slugs often ripping through two or more jerky ponies before hitting the walls of the stairwell.


We burst through the roof access door, running for the edge of the hospital's roof with the screaming horde right behind us, flapping as hard as we could to try and get lift with the heavy bags of supplies weighing us down.

As we took to the air, one of the ghouls leapt at us, ripping several feathers from my wing before plummeting to its death, far below. I screeched, trying to stay level despite the damage my wing had taken, and my mom swooped in above me, grabbing the straps of my bags and doing her best to keep me steady as we flew. "You okay?" She yelled, and I could feel her wings beating above me. I flapped harder, and we began to gain some height.

"Y-yeah!" I yelled back, risking a glance at my wing. "Only missing a few feathers... Rose has done worse!"

"Think you can still fly?"

"No choice! Fly or die!"

I was more shaken up by anything, the sudden influx of ghouls from the basement and the subsequent chase having left me gasping for air. As my mom released me so I could fly under my own power, I took a quick look at the hospital, fading into the distance behind us. The ghouls, now dark, featureless blotches, had vanished, retreating to their dens and warrens under the hopsital and the city.

I really hated Fillydelphia.

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It was late evening by the time we got back to the clinic, exhausted and worn out by the long flight and the heavy bags of looted medical supplies we'd been carrying.

Lily was in the waiting room, talking to that courier mare... Jacknife, I vaguely remembered. When we entered the clinic they ran over to me, Lily frantically asking if I'd gotten the talisman for the machine and Jacknife running in circles around us and poking the bags I was carrying, trying to guess which one held her idol's salvation.

While I tried to shut the girls up and tell them what we'd found, my mom went further into the clinic to speak with the doctor. I spent the next few minutes shedding my bags and getting the girls to help me unpack everything, sorting the supplies while I described conditions in the city, turning Lily into a quivering ball of pony when I got to the bloatsprite swarms.

My mom and the doctor came out, deep in discussion, and took the crate of talismans for the machine into the surgery, leaving the rest of us with instructions to move the normal medical supplies into the back room. Jacknife took charge, and I got the feeling she spent a lot of time in the clinic from how quickly she got everything squared away. Lily wasn't much help; my description of the bloatsprites had put her into shock.

In the end, we were sitting in the waiting room with a pile of empty bags and the two implants, secure in their cases, when the doc and my mom came back out. They took the implants and vanished into the surgery again, re-emerging a short time later.

"Ibis, how much medical training do you have?"

I answered the doc, shrugging. "Some. Mom taught me how to get a bullet out, stitch up a wound or take care of a broken bone. Why?"

The doc nodded. "That should be enough... The implants you brought back... If I'm right, they're your mare's best chance at coming out of this able to live a normal life. You and your mother are going to help me perform the surgery."

"Huh?" I stared at him, stunned. "What about your nurse? Why us?"

"My nurse is still burned out from saving young Rose's life, and I'll need all the help I can get if I'm going to do this."

I turned to my mom, and she nodded. "I'll be right there, son. The doc and I will handle the surgery, all you have to do is assist."

With a sigh, I stood. "Okay... Let's do this, then."

As we went into the surgery Lily recovered from her phobia-induced coma, running up and getting in my way, glaring. "You'd better not let anything happen to her, Ibis! Just... Just don't..." Tears started to form in her eys. "Please... Don't let her down..." I sighed, remembering my promise to my mom, and hesitantly pulled the crying mare into a hug.

"She'll be fine, Lily. We'll do everything we can."

"Yeah! Mr Griffin is Miss Whiskey's trainer! He's gotta help her 'cause she's a good pony and Miss Whiskey said good ponies always win!" Jacknife came trotting up beside us, poking my side with her hoof and grinning. I wished I had some of her confidence, but I managed to force a grin.

"Exactly. You two wait out here, okay? We'll do this as quick as we can, get Rose in that machine and everything'll be fine. You'll see."

The pair nodded, varying degrees of certainty plain on their faces, and I took a deep breath before entering the surgery, mentally prepping myself for what was to come.

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Morning. The surgery had taken all night, leaving me drained and numb.

Seeing Rose like that... She'd looked like a ragdoll, more stitches than mare, her shattered horn just a stump under her cropped mane. When we'd opened her up to put the implant in her chest, I'd almost frozen up. There were holes in her ribcage, huge gaps where pieces had been shattered or broken, and I could only imagine what the rest of her bones looked like.

In the end, though, we'd gotten the implant in place, the hunk of dark red stone nestled beside her heart, just where the doctor said it had to be. We'd sewn her back up, done everything we could to keep her alive, and carefully placed her in the machine. All that was left to do was wait and see.


I gave up on getting clean, my claws stained with Rose's blood, and made my slow, drowsy way back through the clinic, pausing at the door to the surgery. I poked my head in, seeing the piebald form of my mother stretched out on a bed near the humming regenerative machine. She was getting some much needed rest, and I assumed the doctor was doing the same, since he'd gone into his office while I was trying to scrub the blood off.

Sleep seemed welcome, calling to me, but I couldn't rest yet. I went into the waiting room, managing a small smile at the sight of Jacknife, sleeping on her back with all four hooves twitching, like she was running in her dreams. Lily was curled up next to her saddlebags, her head on Rose's duster, and I gently poked her, waking her up.

"H-huh? Ibis? Is Rose okay? Did something happen?" Still half-asleep she started to stand, but I put my claw on her shoulder, keeping her down.

"Rose is fine... We got her patched up... She's in the machine, and it's looking good..." I yawned, leaning on the relieved looking mare. "Just... gotta... wait and... see..." My head came to rest on her back and, as Celestia slowly rose behind the clouds, I said a small prayer to her and Luna before drifting into the oblivion of sleep.


FOOTNOTE: 50% TO NEXT LEVEL

Author's Note:

The usual round of thanks! KKat for everything, Winter Storm for making me the author I am today, Midnight Stalker for putting up with my constant trolling and, most of all, all you readers out there! ^_^

Before anyone says Rose is gonna turn into another Rampage now that she's got a healing talisman, don't worry! She's still completely mortal, just a bit tougher to kill than before.

I'd also like to put up a shout-out to Lycan_01, author of FoE: Deadlands.
He's got a Whiskey Rose of his own, and she's not half bad. Give it a look! ^_^