• 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 3: Becoming the Bull

I flattened myself against the wall, gesturing with my eyes and head for Minty to do the same. I held my breath, as if it would make a difference.

Twenty yards of smooth, featureless road was all that lay between us and three armed Gravestone members. Four, counting Cinder. If a single pony turned around...

"We need to move," I hissed. "Now!"

The only thing we could do was run. We were halfway to the nearest alley when they started shouting and shooting after us.

I dove around the corner just in time to avoid another hail of bullets. My eyes darted for an escape route. This was not a shootout I wanted to be a part of.

Inches from my ear, Minty screamed, “Okay! Now I’m more confused! Why do ponies want to kill you?!”

Instead of answering, I bolted down the alley. It looked like it opened out onto the next street. Maybe… just maybe…

Gunfire peppered the walls behind me as one of the Gravestones reached the mouth of the alley.

A white hot line of pain lanced across one of my flanks, nearly knocking me off my hooves. I managed to keep running, teeth clenched and blood streaming down my leg.

We careened out of the alley and onto the street. “Get your gun and shoot back at them!” I barked at Minty as I leaned against the wall and reached for my own weapon.

“Gun?” she shouted back. “I don’t have one!”

“What?!” I asked in disbelief. Was Minty a mare who enjoyed getting screwed over in the Wasteland?

“Yeah! See, long story, I don’t like them, because my brother—”

“What do you have?!”

“I have a hammer!”

She had a hammer. For a gun fight.

I had found somepony more incompetent than Rave. And she was the only mare who I could turn to for assistance.

Fuck me.

Hoofsteps charged down the alley toward us. The Gravestones fired wildly into the street, creating a wall of death between Minty and I. As soon as the barrage ended I wasted no time making a mad dash out, yelling, “Come on! Just run!”

Minty responded quickly enough, even with how heavy her armor was. We’d only made it a few steps before I heard a familiar metallic clatter behind us. Grenade.

I slammed my eyes closed and dove forward. A blast of sound, heat, and metal licked at my hind legs. The ringing in my ears was so loud it nearly blinded me, but I stayed upright and moving, albeit with a bit more wobbly than before.

Minty pulled past me, her stride unbroke, and I noticed blood pouring from her ankle where a shard of shrapnel had torn straight through the bare leather. If not for the thick metal plates covering her neck and torso, she probably would have been pulverized.

Luck seemed to be back on my side as I noticed a little round plate embedded into the pavement. A ponyhole. “Come on,” I said as I rushed over to it and started tugging. “Help me pry this open and get in, now!”

Minty didn’t hesitate to act. In fact, the second she got her hooves around the cover, it sprang loose without complaint.

I stared at her as she tossed it aside with a resounding clang.

The gunfire resumed behind us, and we didn’t waste any more time before sliding down the ladder and into the foul smelling sewer. The sludge nearly came up to my thighs.

Minty plopped into the sewer waters right behind me, splashing the disgusting water up onto my back and neck. At least my jacket caught most of it.

She immediately cringed back, her nose wrinkled. “Do we really have to be down here? Everything is all icky and I don’t want to have to clean my armor.”

I glanced both ways down the tunnel before picking one and starting forward. “You can whine about that later! Right now we need to keep running!”

It didn’t take long for Minty to follow my lead.

We weren’t even running for a full minute before we both heard a shout behind and above us. I risked a look behind and saw hooves gathered around the open ponyhole. We weren’t safe yet. Not by a longshot.

Minty didn’t need to be told to increase the pace.

“So what’s our plan?” Minty shouted.

“We keep running until we lose them!”

I knew how experienced Gravestones operated. They wouldn’t shoot someone when they could wait them out instead. So long as we kept turning corners they’d eventually give up and regroup aboveground. They knew that this sewer wouldn’t lead out of Riverside, for one thing. And another? There was a clicking sound coming from my saddlebags.

The Pipbuck’s geiger counter.

I heard a giant splash behind me. Minty shrieked. I stopped in my tracks to see that a feral ghoul had risen up from the water and latched its jaw onto Minty’s leg.

“What is that and why is it biting me!?” Minty shouted, giving the ghoul a panicked kick and sending it sprawling back under the surface.

The former pony didn’t take long to rise up. Soon enough more ferals came up from the water in front of us, adding to a moaning carol.

“Okay, they look really really hungry!” Minty said as she trotted back a bit.

I snorted in frustration. Every single time… as soon as I had things under control, another ridiculous coincidence screwed them up. I ground my teeth. Not this time.

“Minty, get out your hammer. We’re going through them. And try not to kill too many. The more ghouls between us and the Gravestones, the better,” I said as I brought out my half-broken shotgun, just in case. Minty was about to say something, but I had already begun charging forward.

Ferals leapt out at us, rising up from the underwater and crawling through grates in the walls. They shrieked and snarled at us in a mad frenzy. The tunnel resounded with splashing hoofsteps.

A shriveled husk grabbed at me from around a corner, its splintered and cracked hooves catching and tearing at my barding. The ghoul’s flesh was black and slimy, rotten and fetid. By the squat, crooked stump jutting from its forehead, it must have been a unicorn pony once.

One broad swing of my shotgun, a jab with the butt, followed up with a swift kick, and the creature fell back, tripping and clawing at its own legs, sputtering and choking on sewer water.

Feral ghouls were the stuff of nightmares, but they were clumsy at the best of times. In knee-deep sludge, they could barely stand.

Something I could exploit.

I weaved to my left past the next ghoul tumbling towards me. A swift hind leg kick to its chest discouraged it from pursuing me further.

The next one had the guts to leap towards me. I ducked past it, hearing a loud splash behind me.

Minty’s shouts were beside me. Contrasted to my nimble methods of evasion, Minty just charged right through the ferals like bowling pins. Whatever ghoul she couldn’t push aside she shoved away with her sledgehammer.

I would chastise her for not following my orders exactly, but my mouth and lungs were occupied. That, and at the time, I was really happy to be on the right side of her hammer.

Gunshots could be heard from behind us, and most of the ghouls beside and behind us turned. Stray bullets clipped the walls, sent water spurting into the air. A couple even ripped into the first line of zombies.

The herd charged, their other prey forgotten.

We stood there for a moment, looking back at the disappearing horde. Equine screams echoed against the stone walls. More gunshots rang out.

Minty gave me an exhausted smile as we both continued running. “We did it! Whew we- Wait, I got bitten! Doesn’t that mean—”

I groaned. “You’re fine! Just keep running for now. We need to get some distance between us and them.”

As we continued down the tunnel, rounding corners and crisscrossing other passages, the distant commotion faded until I could barely hear it over our own splashes.

That should have bought us some time.


After minutes of convincing Minty that she wouldn’t turn into a brain eating zombie and that a healing potion would suffice, we were both trotting through the sewer tunnel looking for another ladder up to the streets.

I kept us going at a fast pace, paying close attention to the rapid clicks from my saddlebags.. There weren’t as many rads here as there were by the ghouls, but after surviving the river, I really didn’t want to repeat the experience.

“Sooooo,” Minty finally said, breaking the long silence. “Do you wanna fill me in on what’s going on? I’d super appreciate it!”

I considered her for a moment. I was still pissed that she’d let Cinder escape, but the more rational part of my brain reminded me that the Gravestones would have shown up at Mal’s house anyway. In the end, killing Cinder wouldn’t have made a difference. And as she’d just proven, Minty was an effective wrecking ball. In the absence of real backup, she was better than nothing.

Better to put it all out in the open than wait for Minty to piece it together herself.

“I used to work with them.” I snorted. “Their second in command, actually. Long story short, my boss stabbed me in the back and had me tossed in the river. Now the gang’s out in force to finish the job.”

“Huh,” She replied. “So, that makes you a bandit?”

I turned around and glared at her. “Is that going to be a problem?”

Minty shook her head. “Nope! Why would it be?”

I craned my neck to peer at her. “You do know what bandits do, don’t you?”

She nodded. “Yeah, they steal stuff, make loud boasts, and then limp home covered in their own blood.”

That was oddly specific, but it gave me a hunch. “You’re talking about your family?” It would explain why her armor appeared built to intimidate.

“Uh huh!” She smiled. “They don’t really trust outsiders, so we normally go out and steal food or water or toilet paper from them.”

I would've questioned why a bunch of tribals would need toilet paper of all things, but I had better things to focus on.

“So does that mean I’m stuck with you?”

“Well,” Minty frowned. “I don’t really have anywhere else to go.”

“Fine. You can come with me for now, on the condition that you do exactly what I tell you to. The second I decide you’re more trouble than you’re worth, I’m done with you.” I stared into her eyes. As guileless as she seemed, I knew better than to trust her completely. “Don’t try to betray me. I’ll see it coming.”

She blinked, then nodded slowly.

“All right then.” I inhaled. “We need to get far away from Riverside and hunker down. Tomb won’t be able to keep this kind of heat up for long, so we’ll just wait until he starts to pull everyone back to base.”

“Sounds like an adventure! I hope you don’t have somewhere in mind,” Minty said.

I squinted at her. “I do. One of my old hideouts.” I felt a prickle roll across my skin, and I glanced back at toward the clicking Pipbuck on my side. “But before we leave, we’ll need more medical supplies.”

“You mean we’re gonna ask Mal for help?” Minty chirped.

I thought back to the scene outside. Mal nodding and chatting with the Gravestones. “No. We can’t trust him. He’ll sell us out in a second.”

“Then what are we going to do?”

“I’m going to sneak in.”


The sun was setting when Minty and I poked our heads up from a ponyhole on a quiet side street and started to creep toward Malpractice’s clinic. The streets were empty, ponies driven inside by the fading light and presumably our shootout earlier that day. The few that were still out weren’t exactly hard to sneak past. The Gravestones idling around outside were none the wiser.

Once we were out of sight behind Mal’s house, the plan was simple.

Break in through the backdoor, steal the medical supplies I had sseen earlier in the MoP box, and then leave town as fast as possible.

I was relieved when Minty had told me she had a bobby pin. Using that and a fragment of rebar I’d found in the gutter, I had no trouble picking the lock. I turned the knob, then glanced back at Minty. “Think you can sneak inside without letting the whole town know where we are?” I asked.

She took a step toward me, and the metal plates of her armor jangled like a drawer full of steel pans.

I winced. “In that case, stay here. Try not to look suspicious,” I said.

She nodded, and I opened the door and crept into the house.

The inside was silent. It was late enough for Mal to be asleep. Despite the dim light, I remembered the house’s layout well enough to make my way toward the hallway.

It didn’t take too long to find the same box I had tried to loot before. Now that I had a saddlebag, I could take as much I needed.

My hoof went to open the box, and just as I reached out to sweep the contents into my saddlebag, the lights flickered on overhead. I spun around.

"Phisa." Malpractice was staring straight at me from the end of the hall. His eyes fell on the empty medicine box, and then my saddlebags. The saddlebags he'd given me. “I suppose putting all of Riverside on Tomb's hitlist wasn't enough for you.”

I stared back, my ears pricked for movement behind me. One shout was all it would take to bring my former colleagues running. “I’m sorry. I never meant to bring the Gravestones to your door. I never meant to come to Riverside in the first place.” I took a careful step toward him, trying to appear non-threatening. “I just need these chems to survive out there.”

His face hardened, and he all but growled, “That's enough medicine to treat this entire town for a month. Even if those thugs outside don’t shoot any of us, ponies will die without those supplies.” He angled his head back, mouth opening to shout.

I swung my shotgun up to aim at his head, almost without thinking. “Ponies die every day,” I said past the mouthpiece. “Let me go, and I’ll be out of town in seconds. You’ll never have to deal with me again. Yell, and I’ll kill you.”

Mal flinched back from the weapon. His jaw quivered for a moment before he set himself. “Ponies die, but never you? Is that how it goes? How many other lives is yours worth?”

“So,”—my mouth was dry around the shotgun’s grip—“am I supposed to just roll over and die? I can’t do that. I’m sorry that it’s at Riverside’s expense.”

“Then there’s only one thing I can do.” He swallowed, inhaled and opened his mouth. His legs were locked, his throat tight. He was bracing for death.

“Wait!” I hissed.

He waited.

I lowered the shotgun--just a bit--and turned my side toward Mal. “Look, you can keep the meds. All I really need is a few packs of Radaway. Hell, take your damn Pipbuck back, too. Just let me leave.”

For a second I thought he was going to yell anyway.

Then he gasped in relief, his shoulders slumping. “Thank you,” he said. “Healing potions can’t fix a shotgun shell to the brain,” he added with a half-hearted chuckle. He turned his head to look back down the hallway, then he quickly staggered toward me, on shaky legs and his horn glowed. I felt my saddlebags shift.

“They’re still staked out around the sewer outlets on the edges of town,” he said as he glanced inside the bags. “They think you’ll make a break for it from there.” I watched him levitate healing potions, Med-X syringes, and packages of bandages back to the box. It seemed like he was leaving me with plenty of essentials. “Once you’re back on the street, head for the river. I don’t think they’re watching the bank.”

I nodded, although I fully intended to see for myself before following his advice.

He snapped the box shut and closed my bag. “And when you’re safe, can you help us? So long as the Gravestones think you’re here, we’re in danger.”

I considered that for a moment. It would be best if my trail died in Riverside. A small town was almost as hard to search as entire swaths of the wasteland. But I knew the playbook when a gang thought a town was holding out on them. Ponies would be lined up and examples would be made.

“I’ll throw them some false leads,” I promised. “Enough to convince them that I’ve left Riverside behind.”

There was a clatter behind me, by the front door at the end of the hall and around the corner.

I didn’t waste time by turning to look. I jerked forward, throwing my shoulder into Mal’s and nearly knocking him into the wall. “Sorry,” I gasped, already cantering for the back door.

“Wait!” he said, reaching for me. “In here!”

A turquoise magic glow surrounded the handle of the nearest door and flung it open.

“Hurry!” he hissed.

I glanced between him and the doorway. What if this was a trap? A giant, overcomplicated trap.

Mal waved a hoof towards the door. I gulped, bit down on my gun’s grip, and hurried into the room. Mal slammed the door closed behind me.

I glanced around me. Other than the faint light from under the door, I was in pitch darkness.

Heavy hoofsteps moved toward the door, the ancient floor creaking. I leaned in close to the doorknob. Through the keyhole, I could make out the faded white of Mal’s lab coat where he stood casually in front of the door.

The hoofsteps stopped, and I caught sight of a blue coat and a scarred face. “I’m hungry.” the blue stallion said. “This where you keep food?”

Mal’s coat swished as he took a half-step backward, filling the doorframe with his body. “The kitchen? Sure! Just tell me what you’d like and I’ll get it for you,” Mal said. I could hear the tension in his voice. I hoped this bandit wasn’t any smarter than he appeared.

The stallion snorted. “Piss off, doc. I know your type. Bet you’re itching for a chance to poison one of us. Nopony touches my food but me.”

The door jolted as Mal backed right up into it.

Something wasn’t right. I turned again, and now that my eyes had adjusted enough to see, I understood. A table, cabinets. A broken fridge. A kitchen. I had to hide.

I turned away, glancing around to see if there was another exit out of here, or something. My eyes landed on a closet door next to the fridge. I slipped inside, contorting between empty shelves and dusty boxes. I could barely hear the conversation from the hall.

“What do you think you’re doing, huh? Got something to hide?”

The kitchen door rattled again. “Please. I don’t want you to make a mess in there. I know Riverside is under your authority, but this is still my property.”

I backed up into the cramped closet and squeezed the door closed behind me as I heard the Gravestone reply, his tone now taking on a chill. “I think you should get out of my way before somepony gets hurt.”

“No, please!” Mal yelled. “I just don’t want you to make a mess. T-that’s all!”

I shivered and bit down hard to keep my teeth from chattering. My limbs were frozen and trembling. I had to do something.

A stomp echoed through the house. “Maybe I wasn’t clear enough. By ‘somepony’ I meant you, doc.”

There was silence for a few seconds, then I heard the doorknob turn. “Fine,” Mal said, “You can go in n-” I heard more hoofsteps and a few clatters before Mal spoke again. “W-what are you doing?!”

My heart stopped for a moment as I heard a disgruntled sigh near the closet door “Well, you lookin’ like you’re hiding something now. Just making sure their ain’t anythin’ we’re looking for.”

I heard a stomp on the floor. “This is exactly what I was worried about! You’re making a mess of my kitchen!”

“Come on!” the stallion shouted. “Are ya going to bitch and moan all day? Who fucking cares about how your kitchen looks?”

“I care!” Mal shouted. “And if you have no intention of respecting my property then I-”

Bang!

My body froze as I heard a gasp, and then a wet thud of meat hitting the floor.

I felt like my lungs were full of iron.

I dared to take a small peak through the door, and saw Mal’s body on the floor of the kitchen entrance. He was missing an eye, and most of his skull. The remains of his face stared blankly as blood pooled below him.

“Worthless needle-pusher,” the stallion grunted, letting go of his battle saddle bit. He stepped over Mal’s corpse and walked across the room, peering under the table. He grumbled.

I ducked back inside, pulling the closet door closed as quietly as I could.

I heard the stallion growl, “Dumbass! There ain’t anything here! You just wanted me to starve, huh? Fuck you!” Over the pounding of blood in my ears, he could have been miles away.

In the dark, dusty closet, I might as well have been sinking through the earth.

"How could you? You just stood there and let her die? Did you just not care?"

I wanted to be angry. This was his own damn fault. I never asked the idiot to die for me.

"You don’t see that this zebra is just a burden to us? She can’t even shoot! And we’re nearly the same age!"

Mal probably hadn’t wanted to die for me either.

"Mewling, pathetic foal!"

I trembled. Why didn’t I run? Or fight. Do anything other than hide. Malpractice was an old, weak stallion, and I’d hid behind him like a foal. More than that, I was hiding from a single pony with a barely functional battle saddle.

The empty pit inside me filled up with a familiar boiling rage. There were, what, three ponies standing between me and escape? I cracked open the closet door and squinted out at the blue pony. He’d found something to eat in the meantime, and now he was crouched over the table, stuffing his face, completely ignoring the pool of blood and gore a few yards away.

I maneuvered my mouth and tongue into position over my shotgun’s trigger, then paused.

Why waste ammo when I had something better?

I set my shotgun down on a nearby shelf, making a tiny clatter as it slid along the wood. I twisted slowly, working my tail around to my front, then stretched my head down until I could reach it with my teeth. I couldn’t see a thing, but I could still feel the bulky shape of the Stampede syringe nestled between my tailhairs. Careful not to stab myself prematurely, I plucked the syringe free and brought it to my forehoof.

Stampede was just Rage and Med-X, right? I’d tried Rage once. Not a full dose, but enough to send my heart racing and my hooves itching. It made things easier. And everyone in the wasteland had used Med-X a few times, either to treat a wound or just to take the edge off. It sounded perfect.

I stabbed the syringe into the thickest part of my leg and fumbled with the plunger until it wouldn’t depress any more. I kicked the spent syringe free with my opposite hoof, and it clattered to the closet floor.

Everything was quiet. For a moment, I wondered if it was even working. Then I felt it. A flow of sensation, somehow cool and warm at the same time, spread through my chest. My heart swelled in glee. The closet was suddenly too small, too cramped. My legs shook, eager to move.

I smashed the closet door open. All color faded away as I glared at the only thing I needed to focus on: the blurry blue shape by the table. It took notice immediately. It must have shouted something, but I was too busy charging right at it. It tried to dodge, but I was faster. I cut it off and slammed my shoulder against it.

It staggered, fetching up against the edge of the table and scrabbling away from me. Blue shouted again, but it was like I was underwater. My ears rang. Lights flashed. It must have been shooting.

I jumped forward and drove it back until it hit something hard and we both stopped.

My hoof caught its chin, slamming its head against the hard thing. It seemed effective. I bashed Blue’s skull against it again. Porcelain dust filled the air. Its jaw went slack. I gave it one more, just in case. It slumped to the ground, and I looked at the sink as Blue’s blood spiralled down the drain.

It was amazing that the pipes still worked after all these years.

I saw bullets pepper the wall to my left. I turned around to see a yellow shape standing in the kitchen doorway. A smaller, light blue shape floated in the air next to it. I stepped away from Blue and made my way over. Everything felt slow all of a sudden, like I was running through molasses. Something slammed into my chest, nearly knocking me clear off my hooves.

Then I was at the door. I tried to focus on Yellow--it was bigger and I wanted to hurt it--but the little Blue floating by my head distracted me. I snarled and wrenched it out of the air with my teeth. My tongue recognized the shape of a trigger.

Yellow thrashed and yelled. I wished it would be quiet. Each shout was like a heavy wave, buffeting my head and leaving me reeling. I aimed my new gun. Yellow was so close that the barrel caught it in the cheek.

I pulled the trigger, and bits of Yellow painted the wall behind it red.

Everything was quiet again. I stood in the hall, swaying a bit on my hooves. The walls were too close in here. I needed more space. I turned and cantered toward the back door.

This was the plan, right? Grab the medical supplies, meet Minty around back, and then leave. It was simple, too simple to go wrong.

I stepped outside, and something pink bolted away from me, running for the next row of houses. My legs were still shaking, but maybe they just wanted to run too. I chased after Pink.

Again I was faster. I tackled Pink to the ground. It started making noise when it hit the ground. It mostly stopped after I stomped a hoof down on its neck, screams becoming gasps and rattles.

I stomped on it again!

And again! And again and again and again and again and again. And again. And... again...

Again...

And I felt a dagger to my brain and recoiled, dropping to my haunches and raiseing both my forehooves to my head.

I shook back and forth. I shook forward some more.

An especially heavy wave of pain knocked me down onto my side. A gentle force tipped me back onto my hooves and pulled me forward.

Forward?

No, I was leaning against something now.

A dripping sound was all around me.

I was shaking. I was breathing. I was gagging.

And more colors entered my sight. But it was different. Everything was darker.

And I saw something green.

Minty Fresh.

“Are… are you okay? I-I …” She looked down on the ground and sat down, frowning.

I looked around at the other colors. This wasn’t the alley, we were next to a highway, under a broken bridge. I leaned against a stone wall as rain poured outside.

I was tired, drained in every way I could imagine. I felt like vomiting.

“H-how long… when did we get here?” I struggled to say between heavy breaths.

Minty gave a confused look. “Uh, I don’t know time that well… I think not too short, but also kinda long? It’s still the same day.”

Hours. I was out of it for hours. I looked down at my legs. My hooves were caked in drying blood, my striped coat stiff and matted, stained dark red. My tongue was a dried up slug in my mouth.

Did I… did I do that?

“So…” Minty began. “When you feel better, we’re going to your hideout, right? J-just asking to make sure I remembered right.”

I felt another stab of pain in my skull, but it subsided quickly. I looked back at Minty as I tried to mentally piece it all together. “Yes. That’s the plan.” I looked around for my weapon. “Where’d my shotgun go?”

“It was in Mal’s house. I put it back in your bag.” Minty said in a somber tone. “And yeah, I… I saw him.”

For a long time, there was an awkward silence in the atmosphere. I caught Minty eyeing my bloodstained legs and casting a glance back toward Riverside. I tried to catch her gaze, but she turned and started rummaging through a pack.

I eventually forced myself up, falling down a bit before fully standing up. “We need to get moving.”

“B-but…” Minty was protesting, but that didn’t last long. “Yeah, you’re right… the sooner we get to your hideout, the sooner everypony’ll be safe.”

That wasn’t my reason for wanting to get on the move.

I never wanted to be in Riverside ever again.

Author's Note:

Yoy yoy, another part of the update I made. Hope you all enjoyed it. And again, feedback in the comments is a ok with me!