• Published 9th Feb 2017
  • 1,622 Views, 50 Comments

Fallout Equestria: Dead End - TheWanderingZebra

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

  • ...

Chapter 11: Joker and the Thief

Six hours had passed since our raid against the Gravestones tribute. In that time, I had been examining the loot we’d salvaged (minus the battle rifle Vandal had ‘called dibs’ on). Out of the weapons we were able to gain, I took a liking to that smg I had taken earlier. A good secondary weapon for my sawed-off.

The rest we kept inside Vandal’s gun locker. Whether we’d hold onto them for future members, or sell them at Leathersworth, I hadn’t decided yet.

In the meantime, Vandal and I had been discussing future plans with my Crossbones after our stay in Leathersworth, while Minty kept quiet to herself as she read a pre-war magazine.

“Savage was the big shot in Buckborn, right?” Vandal said, exhaling smoke from his cigarette. “So how about raiding that weapon factory they have?”

“Tempting, but too risky,” I sighed. “Considering how important Buckborn is to the Gravestones, I’d imagine Savage wouldn’t be the only Gravestone operating there. With no knowledge on how many we’d be up against, added with our current size… You get the picture.”

Vandal groaned. “Shit, that was the only idea I had.”

“We’ll come up with something,” I said, wanting to at least give Vandal some consolation.

“I don’t get any of this bandit stuff.” Minty mumbled, her head turning away from her magazine and toward me. “Why are these Gravestones so obsessed with bullying all these towns to give them stuff?”

Always kept forgetting that Minty was naive on ‘bandit politics’.

“A strong reputation is more powerful than ten thousand bullets.” I said, “As long as your rivals and victims think you're invincible, you can avoid ever having to even fire a shot. But in order to keep that rep, and remain safe, you need to make a show of power if anyone dares to push back. If you can make an occasional ‘example’ of anyone who thinks they can fight back, it weakens the resolve of the next gang or settlement who thinks of doing the same.”

Vandal gave a tired snicker. “Yet here we are, planning to take them down. Guess they ain’t done a good enough job on the ‘reputation’ front.”

I snorted. “I built their reputation. I know where the foundations are laid, I know how to tear it down.”

His response also made me remember something. I had almost forgotten to inform my gang about the Rockfalls. It didn’t feel right leaving them in the dark.

Clearing up my throat, I said, “Well, we aren’t the only ones aiming to topple the Gravestones.”

“Huh?” Vandal hummed.

Minty tilted her head, waiting to hear my response.

“You remember the griffon that followed us at Roulette’s casino?” I asked.

Vandal groaned. “Yeah, the crazy bitch who couldn’t lose at the Cage.”

“Yup!” Minty nodded. “She also followed us outside Pona Rosa as well…” She began grinning, “You think she wanted to be friends with us?”

“Pfft,” Vandal snorted. “She probably just had some screws loose or some shit.”

“Actually, I think Minty’s right… to a degree.” I said.

I begun to tell my gang what I knew about the Rockfalls; that they had been gathering allies from Pona Rosa, that Vena and whatever that annoying pegasus’ name was were members, and that they told me that their boss might be interested in making a deal with me, should I do something to really hurt the Gravestones.

“A pegasus?!” Minty shouted.

Somehow I wasn’t surprised that that would be what she cared about more.

Vandal eyebrow raised and he told Minty, “Why are you surprised? There’s been a lot of pegasi after their stunt two years ago.”

Minty gave a confused look at Vandal. “I mean, Phishy told me that there’s a buncha pegasuses out in the wasteland now, but I’ve never seen one. And what’s this about a stunt?”

“Could we get back on topic?” I snapped, not particularly in the mood to explain yet more things about the world to Minty.

Minty folded her ears. “Sorry.”

I sighed. “As I was saying, if we can prove to these Rockfalls that we’re an effective thorn against the Gravestones, we may be able to work out an alliance with them.

“I’ve seen Vena fight, and if that pegasus’ word can be trusted, they have more fighters like her. With their help, we may be able to succeed in taking down the Gravestones.”

Minty gave a merry hum. “And that means making new friends! I’m down for this!”

Vandal didn’t appear to share Minty’s enthusiasm if that frown on his beak indicated anything.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him.

The catbird took out his cigarette, and placed it in the ashtray on his dashboard before saying, “I’m not sure we can trust these assholes.”

“Go on.” I said.

“So, you want to be the queen bitch of the Pinewood, but these Rockfalls seem to have similar ambitions. Let’s say we do impress them, and we get to chat with them, then what? Would they be helping us… or would we be helping them?”

He had a solid point. Even if I did manage to get their attention, what’s to stop them from forcing me and my gang into being their subordinates?

And worse, what’s to stop them from backstabbing us once they no longer had a use for us? I couldn’t afford to have that happen again, and not just for the sake of my pride.

I bit my lip, berating myself for not having thought this ahead. “As much as I hate to admit it, you’re right. But the Rockfalls are the only ponies I know who are up against the Gravestones. If we’re going to deal with them, we need to have leverage. We need to prove to them that we’re not coming to them hat in hoof. That we can hold our own, and are worthy of respect.”

“What if…” A grin formed on Minty’s muzzle. “We make friends with all the settlements being bullied! We could be nice bandits to them, and they could help us fight back those meanies!”

“Really?” I snorted, then shook my head. “There’s no such thing as nice bandits Minty.”

The earth pony puffed her cheeks. “Well, we could be the first nice bandits!”

I shook my head at Minty. “And the Rockfalls will think we’re soft and easy pickings. Besides, even if we were to try being nicer, those settlements aren’t just going to trust us. Especially considering that I’m…”

Upon seeing Minty flinch, I took a moment to soften my tone and expression before I said, “Even if I wasn’t a bandit, they wouldn’t want to trust a zebra.”

Minty’s ears folded as she sighed. “Yeah, a lotta ponies don’t like you, even when you aren’t being mean.”

I was just about to respond to Minty before realizing only now that Vandal had been suspiciously quiet. Not to mention that the Timberwolf had been slowing down.

“Vandal? Are you alright?” I asked.

“Huh?” He groaned. “Yeah… Sorta. Don’t normally drive this long, and having us talk about all this shit is stressing me out. It’d be cool with you if we took a pitstop somewhere for a while?”

He had been driving for quite a long time. It hadn’t crossed my mind that you could get tired from operating a motorwagon, but then again, I wasn’t the one doing the driving.

After clearing my throat I said, “Go ahead. Be sure to park us somewhere safe.”

It didn’t take long before Vandal parked the Timberwolf right beside a small pre-war school building.

Minty was the first to step outside and immediately stretched her body, no doubt feeling relieved with having more space to move.

I followed her out, with Vandal stopping behind me to sit down at the Timberwolf’s entrance.

“Minty!” I said to her, “Check that building to see if there’s anything dangerous.” Normally I wouldn’t trust a single pony to check out a location alone. But after being with Minty for this long, I was confident she could take care of herself.

“Okie dokie!” Minty saluted and then trotted over to the station.

I turned to Vandal. “I’m going to scout the area, will you be fine on your own here?”

Vandal smirked. “I wouldn’t mind just sitting around,” he scratched the back of his head, then frowned. “But I’m betting you’re gonna need my wings?”

I was hesitating to say yes. It had only been yesterday that I had dismissed his worries about getting caught the last time I sent him out to scout. That, and he was also too exhausted to really scout efficiently.

I shook my head and said, “It’s fine, I have this covered.”

The area surrounding the school was tranquil, yet unsettlingly familiar. Behind the school was a playground, its equipment having rusted over the centuries, yet still miraculously functioned on some level.

It reminded me of that playground the original Gravestones would let me visit occasionally…

I had been lost in my thoughts for a brief moment before looking at my EFS to check for hostiles. Minty and Vandal’s blips were shown… but there were two other blips just west of the school.

One non-hostile, and the other hostile.

I gave the playground one last look before heading toward where those other blips on my EFS were. Finally, I spotted two figures out in the open, just a few hooves away from an eroded water fountain I hid behind.

The red blip on my EFS pointed towards an older looking unicorn stallion with a galleon hat. A shotgun levitated in the air beside him. He had an intense scowl on his face before saying something I couldn’t pick up.

The other pony took me by surprise; she was a teenaged filly, with a fuchsia pink coat, with a light fluffy purple mane and tail with bright pink streaks. She wore some sort of khaki jacket and a yellow bandana around her neck… and a series of chains wrapped around a brown blanket on her torso?

The last detail bewildered me, given that the chains didn’t extend enough for the unicorn to use as a leash.

Taking another look at the scene made my muscles tense up. The teenage filly was digging a hole…

It finally clicked together what was happening.

When I was working my way up the ranks of the Gravestones, I must have done this a dozen times. Forcing a pony to dig their own grave at gunpoint.

Besides saving the exocutioner some sweat, it was effective psychological torture for the condemed. Naturally, you never admitted to them what specifically the hole was actually for. The victim had plenty of time to fret, hoping for some last minute reprieve. Maybe the hole wasn’t for them after all?

But of course, it was. It always was.

To have that happen to a filly…

“Psst. Phishy? Phishy? What are they doing over there?” Minty whispered.

“Minty!?” I had almost blurted, but kept my voice to a hush, “What are you doing here?”

And how did she sneak behind me without my notice?

“I was done looking into that building,” Minty said, thankfully keeping her voice low. “But what’s going on over there?”

“I don’t know, maybe… treasure hunting…” I lied, scrambling to think of a way to keep her from doing something reckless.

Minty’s ears perked up with excitement, “Treaaaasure hunting?”

Oh, great, I made it worse.

“Calm down!” I hissed, slipping my attention between Minty and the unicorn with the shotgun.

On the up side, maybe there was an outside chance I wasn’t lying. There were foodcashes all over the waste. That filly might just be doing some slave labor. Which would probably explain the chain...

I couldn’t know for sure if that was really the case or not. Asking the stallion was out of the question, my EFS showed he was hostile. So my best chance to learn what was going on was to either subdue him, or kill him and ask the filly what was going on.

First I had to take away that shotgun from him.

“Stay here,” I ordered Minty. “Don’t act unless something happens to me.”

The tribal mare gave me a nod.

With that out of the way, I skulked toward them, the soft dirt making it easy to avoid making noise. Anxiety began to flow through my blood, but neither of them had looked behind yet.

“Yur slacking off. I ain’t got all day, dig faster.” said the unicorn, his voice like tar slathered gravel.

The little filly looked like she was on the verge of passing out. She huffed and puffed as if trying to muster the strength to say something.

“Alright. If that’s the way it’s gotta be…” the unicorn chuckled hideously, as he aimed and readied to fire.

Adrenaline rushed through me as I made a mad dash toward the unicorn. By the time he had taken notice of me my tail had already wrapped around his shotgun. With a quick yank it left his telekinetic hold just as it fired a round into the ground.

“Whut?!” He shouted with grit teeth and a glowing horn as he began to unholster a bulky looking sidearm that took me by surprise. A laser pistol.

I didn’t give him the luxury of space as I swung a hoof at him. He ducked, my hoof knocking his hat off his head, but he didn’t change his position.

Acting fast I tackled him to the ground and slammed a hoof in his face. Some teeth broke out from his mouth before he bucked me in the chin with both rearhooves.

I quickly regained my balance as he got up to charge at me, our forehooves beginning to wrestle with each other.

Minty had begun to rush over with her hammer but paused, no doubt realizing that she’d run the risk of striking me alongside this unicorn. After having seen her cause a rockslide, I did not want to be hit by her.

The unicorn grinned. “Hah! Shouldn’t have poked your muzzle in this, you dirty stripe!” His horn gleamed once more as he reached for his laser pistol…

The moment it was drawn out, the same filly, who had moments ago looked exhausted, had rushed forward and snatched the laser weapon out of the air with her mouth.

My opponent was dumbfounded for a brief moment, enough that it allowed me to shove him away from me before the filly aimed and fired her newly acquired weapon.

He couldn’t finish swearing before being struck by the laser. Watching another pony’s body be consumed by a red light before crumbling to a fine powder was a rare and horrible sight.

Everything was silent for a heartbeat, but it felt like forever…

“Phishy! Are you alright?” Minty yelled by my side before taking notice of the filly.

“I am,” I said, then glanced at the panting filly. I pondered if she had actually had everything under control, considering the stunt she had managed to perform. Was she only pretending to be completely vulnerable, or was it just her second wind?

The filly was speechless, no doubt that I was the first zebra she had laid eyes on. Eventually she mustered up the courage to say, “A zebra? Who are you two?”

I was about to say something before Minty interjected. “She’s Phishy, and I’m Minty Fresh, the mare in mint condition. What was going on with that stallion? Is it true that he was making you dig for treasure?”

The filly blinked for a second, blank faced, before saying in a tone of childlike awe, “How did you knooow?”

I was thrown. Well. I guess it wasn’t impossible… but...

Just then I heard someone land behind me. It was Vandal, a worried expression on his face.

“Hey, heard a gunshot, everything alright,” He blinked when he saw the filly. “And who’s she?”

The filly’s eyes laid onto Vandal for a moment, particularly focusing on the battle rifle he had holstered on his back. Her eyes turned back to me. “I’m Merry Go. And yeah, I was digging for treasure!”

“You were?” I said, keeping my expression neutral.

It seemed just too good to be true.

The filly nodded. “Yup! I bought a map from a caravan a few days ago that’d lead to a cache of caps.”

She turned over to the ash pile of what used to be the unicorn I had fought earlier. “That unicorn was looking to get that map. When he heard I already bought it, he began chasing after me. He caught me good, but I had destroyed the map and told him I still remembered the location.”

“And that was why you were here?” I asked, looking at the dig spot. It was at least two hooves deep, and it didn’t look like there were any signs of some container.

“Yeah, but this wasn’t the right place…” Merry then frowned. “In fact, I’ve sorta forgotten the exact location. But it’s around the old school building.”

Vandal took a look at the chains wrapped around Merry and asked, “Huh, somebody wrap these around you?”

“I assume that unicorn I fought did it. Didn’t seem to do a good job at binding her though.” I replied, and noticed Merry grinning in response.

Vandal turned to the ash pile. “And I’m guessing that the key was ashed alongside him?”

“Oh no!” Merry blurted out, waving her forehooves. “These chains are actually mine! They’re a fashion statement.”

“That’s an odd sense of fashion.” I replied with a raised eyebrow.

“Said the zebra wearing a spiked collar.” Vandal snarked.

I narrowed my eyes at the catbird.

“That was a compliment.” Vandal said with wide eyes.

“So the treasure is somewhere around here?” Minty asked, her body trembling with anticipation.

Merry appeared put off by Minty’s enthusiasm, but gave a sheepish smile and said, “Yeah… In fact, you guys can have it!”

“Reallly?!” Minty squealed, then turned to us. “Phishy? Vandy? Can we look for the treasure, pleeeeeeease?”

Vandal smirked. “Shit, didn’t think you’d be the sort of mare obsessed with money.”

Minty shook her head. “Oh no, it’s the whole act of finding the treasure I want to do! There was a book all about a group of fillies looking for treasure and I’ve always, always, always, wanted to do something like that when I decided to explore the outside world? Can we treasure hunt Phishy?”

I was really peeved. Yesterday she had stressed with me about wanting to go to Leathersworth to see Sundance and Dove Trick, and now she wanted to forget about that and focus on some dumb treasure hunt?

I was just about to harshly scold Minty… but thought against it. I sighed and said, “Remember Sundance and Dove?”

Minty frowned. “I mean, yeah… but they said that they’d be around in Leathersworth for awhile before leaving.”

Vandal beat me before I could respond. “I mean, your friends aren’t going to be at Leathersworth when we get there. We have a motorwagon, they don’t.”

“I’m surprised you’re advocating for it.” I said to Vandal.

The catbird shrugged. “Eh, it’s harmless fun for Mints’. She did save our asses today. Plus, we could get some extra spending caps.”

I would argue that going to Leathersworth was Minty’s reward for saving us against Savage… But I was clearly outnumbered in my opinion anyway. Besides, those extra spending caps sounded nice.


I looked at Merry and said, “If we find that cache, we’re splitting it fifty-fifty.”

Merry’s eyebrows raised. “Huh, are you sure? I mean, you guys did-”

“And you were the one who bought the map.” I countered.

“Yeah! Wouldn’t be fair if we took it all.” Minty shouted before taking the shovel from the hole, her body shaking with anticipation. “I can’t believe we’re really going on a treasure hunt. This is going to be so much fun!”

I rolled my eyes. “Just to be clear, this doesn’t mean I’m going to participate in this little game. I’m sitting it out.”

At first it was just Minty and Merry going around the playground, digging holes in spots where Merry thought she remembered where the location was.

Me and Vandal, on the other hoof, kept out of the way to be ‘bodyguards’... though to be fair, Vandal was really the only one doing any bodyguard work, having a bird’s eye view of our location. He was a bit skittish at first, fearing a repeat of getting spotted by potential danger. It made sense, so I assured him if that happened, my EFS would detect them.

Minty had bombarded me with requests that I join in on the ‘fun’. I reiterated my stance in not participating, up until Merry admitted that she was getting a little worn out, and was in need of a break. I eventually gave up and tagged in, if only to get Minty to shut up and stop making that face at me.

We were digging near a slide when Merry had asked, “So… What is it like, being a zebra?”

If I got a cap everytime someone asked me that...

“A lot of ponies really don’t like her,” Minty said after placing her shovel aside.

I narrowed my eyes at Minty. “I can answer for myself.”

“Sorry,” Minty eeped.

“But like she said,” I began speaking to Merry. “Almost everypony I met assumes the worst, even if they don’t always admit to it at first.”

Merry shook her head, “Not me!”

“Oh?” I said, raising an eyebrow, pretty used to hearing that as a lie.

“Yeah!” she continued, stubbornly stomping a little hoof in the dirt, “I don’t have anything against you. Before I was on my own, a lot of ponies kept telling me you were all monsters and such. But you seem to be nice, so I know they're wrong.”

There was something hilariously tragic about the fact she was telling that to a lifelong bandit. I’m a murderer, an extortionist, and plenty worse. Besides all that,after meeting Zubri… I wasn’t really sure if I could really be considered a ‘zebra’, what with the large culture gap I was now aware and conscious of.

I decided to change the subject. “You’re on your own? Wasteland orphan?”

“Uh… I guess…” She looked away uncomfortably, taken by surprise at my question. “Used to live in a town with my parents. But… two years ago stuff happened, and I had to run away. I don’t know what happened to my parents.”

Two years ago…

“So the Enclave attacked your settlement?” I guessed.

Merry’s eyes widened, her stiff body answering my question.

“Enclave?” Minty asked with her head tilted.

Well, I couldn’t avoid answering Minty this time.

“Remember two years ago when the sky was just an endless cloud?” I said, receiving a nod from Minty. “The pegasi made it like that to seal themselves off from the surface. Two years ago they tried to attack the surface, and lost. The cloud cover has been gone since then.”

“Ohhhh… So that’s why the sky broke?” Minty said.

I blinked and said “Excuse me?”

“Yeah! The sky broke two years ago, and eeeeeverypony in my tribe were panicking. They thought the world was ending or something! Jawbreaker even flipped over the giant outhouse we carry! But then the next day came and everypony got over it.”

We both took notice of Merry shaking uncontrollably. Minty briefly panicked and said, “Oh my gosh, I’m sorry!”

Merry shook her head, her ears drooped as she spoke. “No! It’s fine. But yeah, those Enclave were really bad… and so were those pegasi for having followed them…”

I couldn’t help begin to sympathize with her. Like me, she must’ve grown up having been sheltered from the wasteland. And now she was out on her own, having to adapt to her new environment.

There was also something else in Merry’s tone that made me want to ask something.

Two gunshots rang in the air a distance from where we were. I turned to the sky to see Vandal beginning to descend down.

“What’s going on?” I asked him.

“Shot a critter. Think it’s editable. Could Mints’ help me carry it back?” Vandal said with a grin.

By the time Vandal and Minty came back with the ‘critter’ that Vandal spotted (apparently a giant spider living inside a shack that he saw through the window), night had begun to fall. We decided to postpone our treasure hunt and set up a campfire.

As all of us ate, Minty had been telling us a story about her brother that while I had already heard about it, the other two hadn’t.

“Right through the cheek?” Merry gasped.

“Uh-huh!” Minty said, her right forehoof poking at her cheek. “Had to get stitches and lost some teeth, but luckily he survived!”

“Teh,” Vandal snorted. “Hope the lucky bastard learned how to actually hold a mouth held pistol.”

“Oh, he gave up on wanting to use guns after that,” Minty frowned. “But he keeps insisting it’s because he thinks they’re lame.”

“Probably for the better,” Vandal sighed. “Take it that’s why you never use guns?”

“Yup!” Minty nodded, and gestured to the sledgehammer holstered on her back. “That and I’m fine enough with my hammy.”

“But damn, I didn’t think a pony could live through getting shot in the cheek.” Merry said.

“Well, Sweet Tart always says that my brother is ‘too stupid to die’.” Minty replied.

Vandal snickered. “Shit, I can imagine this isn’t the first dumb accident he lived through.”

Minty grinned. “Well, there was that time when-”

It suddenly realized… I was smiling. It was just like the old days. The original Crossbones sitting around a campfire, sharing food and stories. It was too comfortable. I was too comfortable. And Merry was just a little older than I was when…

I stood up, causing Minty to look at me with concern and say, “You alright Phishy?”

“I am, I just need to rest. I’ll be in the Timberwolf if you need me.” I said, a little more rough than I’d meant to.

After getting into the Timberwolf and retrieving my canteen from the bedroom, I sat at the table and sighed.

About twenty minutes passed before Vandal came in. “Not feeling too well?”

“I’m fine,” I said, looking at my canteen.

Vandal frowned. “Doesn’t sound like it.”

I sighed. I didn’t want him to keep poking me for questions… but I knew he wouldn’t leave me alone unless I told him something.

Besides… I still had to uphold our contract.

“This playground we’re at? My caretakers would bring me to a place almost exactly like this from time to time.” I said.

Vandal blinked. “Caretakers?”

I nodded. “My adopted family. The original Crossbones. It’s what I named my- our gang after.”

I looked out through the small gap in the window’s reinforcement, looking at the campfire, and said, “I’m not in the mood to share my entire life story, but I cherished those days… It also isn’t helping that Merry is reminding me of myself.”

“Reminding you of yourself… Your caretakers are dead?” Vandal guessed.

I didn’t reply at first. Vandal briefly panicked and said, “Shit, that was a sensitive button I pushed, wasn’t it?”

I shook my head. “Two are alive. You’ve already met one of them.”

“I did?” Vandal raised an eyebrow, before widening his eyes. “Oh yeah, Sundance was part of a gang you once were in… guessing that’s the one that raised you.”

I nodded. “The only original Crossbone I had a bad memory of.”

Vandal lit his cigarette and sighed. “Fuck… Kinda feel envious.”

I raised an eyebrow, about to ask ‘how’ before I remembered that he had told me he had stolen the Timberwolf from his own mother.

“Was she that bad?” I asked.

“Hell yeah.” Vandal exhaled smoke. “Bad enough that my pops left her while me and Gaige were pretty young.”


“My little bro, just by a year. Far too soft for the Talon business, but mom wanted to raise us to succeed her since ‘that’s what my parents did’, and cause she wanted us to compete with Gawd’s brats.”

That name rang a bell. “Gawd Grimfeather?” I said.

“Yup. Mom was obsessed with being the better Talon than her…” His face turned grim. “That obsession is what got Gaige killed.”

Was that why he stole the Timberwolf?

Vandal caught my surprised expression and sighed. “Shit, I was almost going to go on a mad rant. Don’t mind if we change subject? There was actually something else I wanted to ask.”

I nodded. “Go ahead.”

“So… Merry had asked me about how us griffs felt about the fucking Enclave forcing us off our home…”

Merry Go exited from the bedroom appearing nervous. It had been four hours since the others went to bed, and she did everything to avoid making noise as she retrieved a bobby pin and screwdriver to work on the lock on her chains.

Once unlocked, she carefully placed them and the cloak on the ground, and flexed out her wings that no doubt had felt cramped from how long they were bound and hidden.

She grinned, then began work on lockpicking the gun cabinet. Once that was finished, she brought up a bag and began to place firearm after firearm into it with surprisingly nimble handling.

Her looting complete, she came over to open the door to the Timberwolf, confident that she would make a clean getaway with her wings.

That was all put to a halt when she saw me at the front door, and didn’t react fast enough before I tossed the net at her.

“What?!” Merry yelled, attempting to escape from her net. “Phisa?”

I had never actually gone to bed. I had actually been out of the Timberwolf before Vandal came out to call the girls in for bed. In my place, on the top left bunk bed, was a pillow covered in a blanket… admittedly it was the crudest form of a decoy that could’ve been exposed had Merry investigated.

I would then keep watch through the windows, and wait to see if Merry really would be confident enough to rob us in the middle of the night.

Merry froze in silent terror as I leaned down to look at her in the eyes. Before she could say anything, Vandal had already gotten out of bed, smirking. “Well, turns out my hunch was right.”

“Huh? What’s going on?” Minty groaned, having just gotten out of her bed. She stared at Merry in the net, paying special attention to the pair of wings.

Minty had begun to gasp, no doubt wanting to comment on Merry being a pegasus.

I interjected before she could speak. “Merry had been aiming to steal our guns this entire time. That stallion we rescued her from? She wasn’t digging for treasure at all, she was being made to dig her own grave… no doubt for getting caught stealing from him.”

“What?” Minty said, completely disoriented.

“No I didn’t!” Merry said, prancing awkwardly in place as best as the net would allow.

The three of us just stared at her for what felt like an age.

Merry bit her lips, and spoke with clenched teeth. “Okay, yeah, fine. I made up the treasure map story. Or, well, it was the first thing out of the tribal’s mouth and I just decided to roll with it. I figured you’d probably just kill me or abandon me if you knew the truth.”

“Shit, and I was starting to doubt my hunch,” Vandal said, looking at Merry’s wings. “You tried to steal from that unicorn too right? Kinda hard to imagine a pegasus getting caught though.”

“Oh yeah! You’re a pegasus!” Minty said. “Why didn’t you tell us?”

Merry looked away uncomfortably. “Usually don’t, but you all didn’t think I was one. I thought, you know, most ponies hate me for what the Enclave did, so why not hide my wings this time. Maybe you all would trust me more if you thought I was an earth pony.”

That’d explain her reaction before. “You’re not wrong. It’d be difficult to earn the trust of ponies you’re trying to steal from if we knew you were a pegasus.”

“So,” Vandal sighed. “What are we gonna do with her?”

“Well we can’t kill her!” Minty shouted. “Sure Merry tried to rob from us, but she’s-”

“We’re not going to kill her.” I with a huff.

For all it was worth, I understood Merry’s predicament too well. Even if I did hold a grudge against the pegasi for trying to wipe us out…

What Merry was experiencing was no different than what I have gone through.

I removed the net on top of Merry. “If she’s that desperate for a gun, we’ll give her one of ours and a box of ammo. That’s all we’re going to give her.”

Merry just looked dumbfounded at me. “What? But…”

I shook my head. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m upset that you tried to steal from us… but I’m more upset that you were so amateurish at it. Next time you try to con ponies out of their supplies, spend at least more than a day with them before stealing.”

“But… There is still treasure, right?” Minty whimpered.

Vandal was keeping it together, but I could tell he was on the verge of cracking up laughing. I just rolled my eyes.

“Wait a sec,” said Vandal, the mirth leaving him, “You never answered my question. What was with that unicorn? What’d you try to steal from him?”

Merry shook her head. “I didn’t steal anything from him specifically! I was stealing from his stupid gang. When the Gravestone’s caught me taking extra rations for my friends, they had him drag me out here.”

Minty blinked. “Wait, you have friends?”

“Gravestones?!” I said, almost spitting with surprise.

Merry looked hesitant to speak for a while, but eventually she continued. “Yeah… awhile ago, I was living in an orphanage in Buckborn. Used to be a pre-war gun factory-”

“Wait,” I said, my mind running upon hearing her mention Buckborn. “You said you’re from Buckborn.”

“And they made an orphanage in a gun factory?” Vandal said.

“Yeah.” Merry replied, then turned to Vandal. “It was the only free building with enough space! It was nice enough for a while. One of the few places that could tolerate me. Then the mayor made a pact with the Gravestones. Forced us all out of the place so they could rebuild it back into a factory.”

“And now Buckborn are building guns for the Gravestones?” I asked.

Merry nodded. “I’ve heard other settlements under their ‘protection’ weren’t monitored that much, but in Buckborn they keep a close eye on us all. Mayor keeps telling us all that it’s for our own good… But I know that’s bullshit.

“Me and my friends have wanted to leave Buckborn. But we don’t have weapons to keep us alive on our trip out, nor food or water. I wanted to help them out and well… I got caught, and you know the rest.”

My right forehoof tapped against the ground as I thought about this new information. Earlier, Vandal had suggested that we rob Buckborn’s factory with Savage out of the picture. But with our lack of information on the area, I didn’t think it was a good idea unless we had more members in my gang.

But now…

A sly grin grew on my face. “So you know the layout of this factory?”

Merry gave a quizzed look at me. “Well, yeah. I don’t work there though… but one of my friends does work in it.”

Vandal whistled. “I think I know where this is going.”

I nodded to him, and turned to Merry. “I’d like to meet this friend of yours. I think we can work out something that will benefit us all.”

Author's Note:

Phew, this chapter took awhile to get done, but so far I've been making a lot more progress lately. All thanks goes to WeirdingtonEsq for editing and planning.

Also want to thank GODOG, Nethlarion, Imperator, Threed, and Dusty for pre-reading this!