• Published 9th Feb 2017
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Fallout Equestria: Dead End - TheWanderingZebra



A wanted zebra fights for survival and revenge in the wasteland of the Pinewood Valley.

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Chapter 1: Lowlife

The afternoon sun beat down on me, the dirt road warm under my hooves. The black stripes on my coat were like hot coals against the skin underneath, and the occasional breeze rolling through the trees around us didn't help much.

I shifted my shoulders in a futile attempt to get some fresh air between me and my barding. Leather armour turned disgusting in the heat. But I had a job to do, and four gun-toting idiots to manage while I did it.

"Need a break," a young earth pony behind me said, his voice slightly hoarse. "They dun need to shoot us if we already dying when we get there."

Rave, second-in-command of the mission and all-around griffon bitch, spun around to glare at him. "The fuck do you think this is? A fuckin' picnic?"

I took in the dry grass around us. The gently swaying trees above. If the wasteland had a single picnic destination left, it was probably here in Pinewood Valley.

Then I frowned, taking another look up. The sun was right overhead, and we were still on the road. If we wanted to be back in our beds tonight, we'd have to keep up the pace.

"Rave's right," I said, hating how the words felt in my mouth. "You can rest when we get to Horseshoe."

As scenic as the Pinewood looked, it was just as rotten as the rest of Equestria. Where it lacked desolate, burned out landscapes, nightmarish monsters, and wars between feuding factions, it made up for in business. Business ranging from farmers to chem dealers, doctors to mercenaries, and merchants to bandits. They all had something to give and something to take, and no one took more than the gangs. No one took more than the Gravestones.

We knew where we could push, where we could pull. We knew how many caps, guns, bullets, or scraps of food we could squeeze out of a town before they fought back, and how to put them back in their place when they did.

And one settlement, Horseshoe, was late for their third payment in a row.

As Horseshoe’s squat, slumped, and damaged buildings came into sight over the horizon, I stopped and turned, bringing the group to a halt. Three ponies and a griffon, armed to the teeth and dressed in the best armor a bandit's salary could afford.

"I'm going in first, alone," I said.

Only one member protested. Who it was didn’t surprise me much. “This is bullshit, Phisa. Let’s just go in guns blazing and end it,” said Rave.

“Our job is to make sure Horseshoe is still under our control, not slaughter aimlessly,” I retorted.

She crossed her arms against herself and huffed. “Really? Cause I’m pretty sure ‘slaughter aimlessly’ is my entire job description.”

I narrowed my eyes at her. “We’re professionals. If Horseshoe thinks they can live without us, we’ll make them pay. Until then, you are to stay here.” I turned to a unicorn mare. “Sparkplug, you’re in charge while I’m out.”

She gave a nod.

“My name’s not Sparkplug,” Rave said, stepping in close and jamming a talon against my chest. “And I’m in charge while you’re gone, Miss Enforcer.” She spat the last two words.

“I don’t trust your trigger-talon, and Sparkplug knows the area. She’s in charge. End of discussion,” I said. Rave wasn’t happy, but at least she shut up.

The town wasn't walled. I entered from the east, under the town's shadow. The first thing I noticed was silence. Even little towns like this had some life, but all I could hear was the wind whistling between houses, swaying open doors, and windows on their hinges. The dirt on the road was uneven where numerous hoofsteps had tossed it aside, and some dust still clouded the air.

I passed by dark buildings, their walls and doors and windows intact, all empty. A quick search through one told me that it hadn't been abandoned for long. With every second of silence, I grew tenser. Something was wrong, and until I knew what it was, that something was dangerous.

I trotted behind dead motorwagons as I looked at the empty streets. None of the traders stalls contained any signs of life. Not even any gardens to at least grow food. Was there even anything worth taking from Horseshoe?

The silence didn’t last long. As I neared the far side of the town, I heard voices in the distance. I slowed down and crept toward them, glancing around the edge of a building to see a group of ponies gathered around some brahmin. To my shock, they had alicorns helping the settlers load the wagons with supplies.

We had heard rumours that a group called the Followers of the Apocalypse offering charity here in the valley, but I hadn’t expected some of them to be alicorns. Tomb hadn’t considered them a threat; aiding our settlements meant aiding us in the end, and they showed no interest in plotting against us. But if they were helping Horseshoe now, Tomb wasn’t going to be pleased.

Though none of them seemed to be armed, messing with alicorns seemed like a fast track to whatever afterlife I was headed for. Once I registered that there were quite a few foals scurrying beneath them, I realized this wasn’t worth it. Again I wondered if there was anything valuable left to take here. Other than lives?

I leaned a few millimeters further out.

A gunshot rang out. A bullet ricocheted off my cover, inches from my muzzle.

I rolled to the side before more bullets sprayed toward me, one glancing off my armor, right against my neck. My assailant yelled, “Gravestone! Run!”

Shouts filled the air. I brought a hoof up to my neck, felt the dent in my armor. I saw the earth pony a few feet away from me taking cover behind a different motorwagon. I gritted my teeth and ripped my pistol from its sheath.

He was going to regret this.

From the glance I got at the rifle on his battle-saddle, I could tell I that I wasn’t dealing with a poorly repaired hunk of iron. As far as I could tell, it was pre-war and well maintained. More than capable of turning my striped hide into swiss cheese.

He bit down, sending another spray of lead towards me.

I dove back down behind the motorwagon. I felt each bullet slam into the metal, sending vibrations through it and down my spine.

I couldn’t afford to be reckless. I hadn’t been that close to dying in months. If he’d had anything other than a battle-saddle, I could have waited him out. As it was, he wasn’t likely to run dry any time soon.

Lucky for me, even battle-saddles took a few seconds to reload, giving me a valuable opportunity to slip out of cover and close in. I fired off a few shots mid-sprint to keep him busy while I slid into cover behind a crumbling wall.

Wait for him to reload, jump out, run forward.

I made it about halfway there before he got wise to my game and stopped shooting. I took a few seconds to catch my breath and steady my grip on the pistol. How was he going to play this?

I didn’t have to wait long. I heard hoofsteps approaching on my left, alongside the familiar clunking of a battle-saddle swaying across a pony’s back.

I heard a click.

I jumped, my hind legs barely clearing the rubble between us. I lashed out in mid-air. My hoof caught him right in the nose.

My hoof stung. Hitting an earth pony was like hitting the ground itself.

His face must have stung more. His skull bounced off a nearby wall, and he crashed to the ground.

I hit the ground running and was at his side again before the stars left his eyes. He started to get up. He reached for his weapon’s mouthpiece.

I spun and flicked my tail. Ponies used to tease me for practicing tail tricks. They wouldn’t have laughed at the knife that flew free from within the coils of dock and tail-hairs and embedded itself deep in the earth pony’s right thigh.

He writhed, roared, clutched at his wound, then reached again for the trigger.

I flinched, and a shot rang out. My shot, straight into his shoulder.

He spasmed, then slumped back down. He jerked his chin toward the trigger, and I nearly shot him again, but then he gasped and fell back. His face was drawn in pain.

I kept the pistol steady, leveled at his head.

“You … you won’t,” he said. His voice was hoarse and breathless. He winced with every heave of his chest. I frowned at him, all my aggression draining away until all I was left with was a vague sense of disgust. I looked around the place, saw it was just me and him. Then I looked back to him, his lips trying to form words. Still trying to curse at me.

This was pathetic. Business was business, but what was the point of butchering an entire town of broken ponies? To prove a point?

Besides, I had better things to do than chase them across the valley.

I let out a frustrated sigh and trotted over to him. I detached the assault rifle from his battle saddle off, put it in my bag, and then retrieved a single healing potion, which I dropped on the ground between us.

He blinked at me in confusion.

I sneered. “Don’t get the wrong idea. Another time and place, and you’d be dead. I’m letting you live to give Horseshoe a warning. Any of you come back on Pinewood turf without enough caps to buy Tomb’s forgiveness, the best you’ll get is a quick death.”

After that I turned away, and looked for Slick Trick, the town's resident Gravestone ‘ambassador’. Assuming the ponies of Horseshoe hadn’t butchered him days ago.


By the time I made my way out of the abandoned town, the sun had already started its descent. My short search had led me to the barely recognizable corpse of Slick Trick, dumped in an alley and hastily covered with straw and assorted garbage. That was probably for the best. Dead ponies told no tales.

With my business in Horseshoe concluded, I began trotting back up to the hill where I’d left my backup. Rave was pacing, shooting glares in my direction and flexing her talons. The other three sat around, sipping from waterskins and resting their hooves, too hot, tired, and bored to pay much attention to Rave’s antics.

"Town’s deserted. Pack up, we're heading back to Brandson," I ordered.

One of my backup spoke out. "What about Slick Trick? Is he-"

"Dead," I finished for him.

Before Sparkplug could say something Rave spoke out first. "Tst. Of course they fucking left. Must’a had plenty of time to run while you were sneaking around."

I narrowed my eyes at the griffon. "They’ve been gone for hours. My sneaking around saved all of you the trot into town."

Rave spat on the ground and turned away. "Fine, fine, whatever. But you're gonna have ta tell the boss the bad news." She started back down the road, and the other three followed her without even a glance my way.

I looked toward Horseshoe. They’d be back eventually, and I’d collect on my investment. Not charity, not mercy. Just sound economic investment, like Tomb always said. I turned and started after Rave and the others, squinting against the dust their hooves kicked into the air. Tomb would understand.


Tomb was going to be pissed.

And being the leader of the strongest gang in Pinewood Valley, he was the last stallion to piss off.

We had made it back to Brandson just as night fell. The others were paid and sent off, and were probably either asleep or drinking now. But I led the mission, so I had to debrief. I wasn’t really looking forward to it.

My hooves tapped nervously against the elevator floor. I bit my lip, and contemplated on just how my meeting would be ending.

The music playing in the elevator didn’t help to calm my nerves, its soft, orchestral notes building up to a storm.

Ding.

The elevator door slid open.

I approached Tomb's office and grimaced.

Sure, giving him bad news wouldn’t normally make him too mad … but he wouldn’t like what came next. Sparing Horseshoe was in the gang’s best interest, I was sure.

Still, I was going to get yelled at. No avoiding that.

My steps echoed throughout the hallway. There wasn’t anypony on this floor but Tomb. He liked his space.

As I walked closer, I heard a faint voice coming from Tomb’s office. Not talking, but singing. Tomb had his music playing. I arrived at his office door, took a few short breaths, and knocked.

“Come in,” said a gravelly voice. I entered.

Tomb was different from most bandits. For one, he was a clean freak, his office washed and polished to the point that it contrasted with the aged surroundings in the rest of the hotel. His room was pretty bare: a desk, a few shelves, a fan, and a phonograph that was playing opera.

A female singing voice filled the air. I could tell she was speaking Equestrian, but I couldn’t make out the words of the lament against the instruments. Fitting in my circumstance.

In front of me sat the boss himself. He didn’t look at me when I came in, his attention focused on the cards spread out on the desk before him. He lifted one in his magic, regarded it for a moment, then flicked it back down.

He stared at the cards for a few seconds. Neither of us moved. Then he leaned back and raised his eyes to mine, his neck-tie glowing in his magic as he tightened it. If not for the flesh rotting off his face, he’d fit right in at Tenpony Tower.

“Phisa. Did you remind Horseshoe why they pay us?” he said in a businesslike manner, tapping his forehooves together.

I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath before speaking. Before lying. “The settlement of Horseshoe was found deserted, and our ambassador dead.”

Tomb’s expression was neutral, but that wasn’t going to last. My hooves tapped at the floor. The music’s heavenly melody began to turn somber. Tomb glared. “What else?”

“Nothing else,” I replied automatically.

“Are you telling me that Horseshoe was found abandoned? That there wasn’t a single pony left?” With every word his voice grew louder and his face became colder.

I shook my head. “No.”

The room fell silent save for the opera playing from the phonograph. Tomb pressed his forehooves hard against his desk and stared at me for a long moment.

He brought a hoof to his temple. “That’s ... troublesome. Gather some ponies, ten or so, and hunt them—”

“If I could interrupt, sir?”

He gave an annoyed growl. “Yes? What is it?”

I coughed before responding. “I don’t think Horseshoe is- ”

His eyes narrowed. He set both his forehooves on the desk and let his shoulders fall. I expected him to continue where I cut him off. The singer warbled on beside us, the music falling into a soft bridge. My heart sped up, and after a few seconds I could feel it in my throat.

“Sir?”

“You’re treading dangerous ground, Phisa.” He didn’t break eye contact for a second, like he was searching for something. “Continue.”

I coughed and licked my lips. I had almost forgotten my lines. “I was saying, sir, that I don’t think they’re worth pursuing.”

Here it comes.

I braced myself as he finally lost it, gritting his teeth hard and slammed his hooves, cards flying off his desk. The music skipped a few times. “Not worth it!? They have humiliated us! The Gravestones reputation will be damaged. Your reputation will be damaged! We’ll all look like fools if they aren’t dealt with!”

My leg muscles tensed. “They ran because they’re afraid of us, and they’ll keep running. And anypony who asks them why will hear how they would rather leave their homes behind than talk back to us. Ponies who’ve never even heard of us will fear us.”

Tomb gritted his teeth and glared daggers at me. “Are you telling me how to lead the gang, Phisa?”

I blinked. “No, sir. Just my advice as Enforcer.”

Tomb was silent, but the cold rage on his face could tell me how frustrated he was. He wrapped a heavy globe from his desk in his levitation, clearly contemplating on the best place to toss it. But he gave a deep sigh, and dropped it back harmlessly.

There was a brief silence in the room before he addressed me, a chill creeping in his tone. “As much as I despise admitting it, you are correct. They’re ever so slightly more valuable alive than dead.”

I simply nodded. Anything I said at this point would just rekindle his anger.

Tomb snorted, and turned away from me. “Our other clients should be taught not to follow Horseshoe’s example however. The Gravestones pride themselves in being professional after all. But for now, you’re dismissed.”

“Thank you, sir. If you need me, I’ll be retreating to my room,” I said before trotting out of the room.

Once out in the hallway, I took a deep, shaky breath. I could never tell with Tomb. Some days he was like a friend, some days like a slave master. Luckily today he seemed more like the former. After a quick glance back at Tomb’s office, I headed down the hall.

I didn’t notice Rave leaning against the wall next to the elevators until I was almost inside. She stood up and stepped in my way at the last second.

Great, just what I needed.

“So, told the boss all about your fuckup?” she snarled.

I’d dealt with too much shit today to put up with even more from Rave. Sure, every word out of her mouth was basically shit already, but this was something special. She was begging for a fight. I gave her no response, instead shouldering past her into the elevator and kicking the button with a hind leg. Rave tsked behind me. “Starting to wonder if Tomb thinks you’re up to the task anymore.”

I paused, and looked back at her with annoyance. “If you want something other than my hoof in your beak, spill it now.”

Rave grinned and walked next to me, reaching across and holding the door open with one arm. “Hey, I’m just trying ‘ta be friendly with ya, Phish. This Enforcer gig’s got you stressed out all the time. So, if you feel like it’s maybe-”

I knew where this was going, and I growled at her. “Like Tomb would want to have an idiot like you in charge. He learned his lesson with Lead, and he’s not gonna make it again.”

Another “tsk” from her. “This coming from the mare who wussed out of taking care of those settlers the easy way?”

She was really trying to piss me off, but I’d gotten bored of competing against Rave years ago. I swatted her arm down, and the door started to jerk closed. They didn’t get far before she wrenched them back open with both arms, leaned in and sneered. “Hey! I ain’t done with you, Phish! You better tell me-”

Enough was enough. I pounced forward, catching her off-guard and slamming her into the wall.

“Listen close, bitchbeak!” I hissed into her ear. “You think you can just walk up casually and shit talk me like that?”

Rave tried to speak with eyes wide, trying to mutter up some half-assed excuse. I didn’t let her and slammed a hoof into the wall, inches from her skull. “I can let this slide. But if I hear another word out of your beak tonight,” I pressed my other hoof on her chest, shoving her against the wall. “I will break you in half. Capisce?”

Whatever mix of courage and stupidity Rave was running on dissipated. There was no smirk on her, no sly remark, just a weak nod.

“Good, and don’t let it come to that.” I let her go, gave her a menacing glare, and went into the elevator.

I clenched my teeth hard as the elevator began its shaky descent. I slammed a hoof against the wall next to the controls and took a breath, trying to calm down. Right now, I needed some rest from all of this.

As it turned out, I didn’t get very much.

Author's Note:

Phew! New starting chapter! Hope all of you guys enjoyed this. If you'd like, please leave any feedback or question you guys have in the comments. Or PM it to me. I wouldn't mind. Also, I would love to give my thanks to Typo for editing and to everyone who had preread this.