• 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 8: ... We Carry On!

We circled around to the front, giving the Cage itself as wide a berth as we could while still staying out of sight from the streets. So far the chaos hadn’t spilled outside yet, but it was only a matter of time.

“They’re supposed to meet us downtown if things go south,” Sundance whispered. “It didn’t look like anypony was targeting Dove, did it? Oh shit, or Minty? They were together. Do the Gravestones know about—”

“One catastrophe at a time,” I said, ignoring the pit of worry growing in my own stomach. “And downtown, really? That’s as specific as you’ve got?”

“We have a few backup locations, but they’ll probably be at our usual dive.”

From behind us, Vandal said dryly, “The Reaper’s Bounty, right?”

“Huh?” I glanced back. I’d almost forgotten he was there.

Sundance was no less surprised. “How did you know that?”

“Everyone hangs around that place. It’s kind of a tourist trap.”

“What?” I said. “No it’s not. It’s a hole in the wall.”

“It’s the hole in the wall. If you want a drink in Pona Rosa, you either go to Roulette’s casino, that expensive restaurant, or you go to the Reaper’s Bounty.”

Sundance and I shared a look. “The Reaper’s Bounty it is,” I said. “And if they’re not there?”

She visibly shivered. “Let’s cross that bridge when we get there.”

Thankfully, the Cage wasn’t far from the downtown area of Pona Rosa. We stuck to the alleys between buildings and secluded side streets. All I knew for sure was that the Gravestones were in town, but the ramifications of that were staggering. If they were allowed to be in town, anyone could be on their side. We avoided everyone we saw, as a precaution.

At the opening of the alley leading to the bar, I turned to Vandal. “You should scout the place out. Nobody’s out for your head right now, right?”

He shrugged and pointed a talon at the scratched out insignia on his barding. “No more than usual.” He strutted past us and into the bar.

“You trust him?” Sundance asked.

I stared at the closed door Vandal had disappeared behind. “Not really, but I think it’s worth the risk. He knows the town better than either of us, and he knows Roulette.”

“If he gets me or Dove killed, I’ll never forgive you.”

“Fuck off, Sundance.”

“No, you fuck off.”

The bar door cracked open and a feathered head poked out. “Hey, could you two stop bitching?”

Sundance groaned. “Fine, I guess I don’t have a choice.” I relaxed my shoulders and sighed as well.

Vandal nodded and held the door for us.

The bar was nearly empty. It was early afternoon and the lunch crowd must have already come and gone. Vandal was perched on a barstool next to two familiar ponies.

A stool clattered to the floor and loud metal boots clanked across the bar. “Oh, I was so, so worried about you!” Minty shrieked. She tackled me to the floor with all the grace and mass of a friendly bear.

I wriggled free. “Not now, Minty. We need to keep low,” I grunted. She hadn’t gotten any lighter.

From behind the bar, Dead Ringer coughed. It sounded like a rock cracking apart. “Take it y’all are bringing trouble on your heels?”

Dove Trick strode forward and slid between Sundance and I. She gave her marefriend a nuzzle. “Indeed. Were you followed?”

“Course not,” Sundance said, her eyes half-lidded. “We stuck to the alleys and watched our tails.”

“And the skies? There was a griffin in the crowd, the one with the rifle.”

I winced. “She’s with the Gravestones. I don’t know when she caught my trail, but she still seemed pretty busy tangling with the Cage’s security when we left. We’re probably safe for a little while.”

Dead Ringer sighed. “I wouldn’t count on it. For some reason, ponies always think this place is off the grid. It’s the first place locals look when they’re hunting somepony.”

I ground my teeth. Right. Tourist trap. We had to move. Already, people were starting to filter in through the door, and maybe I was just paranoid, but I could feel eyes on my back.

Vandal appeared next to me. “Uh, we might have a problem.”

“No shit.”

“No, I mean a new problem. I just checked outside, and I think there’s a teensy little riot starting.”

“What!” I spun and raced to the door. I heard shouts and gunfire the second I cracked it open. I poked my head outside and saw dancing, flickering light at the end of the alley. Fires.

Of course. After what happened at the Cage, word must have spread that Gravestones somehow found their way into Pona Rosa, and the regular bandits and merchants who come here to do business hated the Gravestones.

Out of context, many of those regulars would pin the blame on the town guards for doing a lousy job at keeping them out, so of course there would be a riot.

And worst of all; a riot meant everypony in Pona Rosa was a criminal waiting to take advantage of the chaos. That meant getting out of Pona Rosa would be hell.

I retreated back inside the bar. “Shit. Shit shit shit shit!” I rounded on Vandal. “Okay, you said you had a way out of town, right?”

Vandal nodded. “Yeah. There’s a secret exit that I know of. I’ve got a ride hidden near there, believe it or not.”

Outside of the bar I heard a window shatter from the distance. It was only a matter of time that the riot would reach this bar. I bit my lip. “A ride?”

“Motorwagon, an RV actually. Long story on how I got it, but it’s in working condition. I hid it outside Pona Rosa, couldn’t risk any random asshole tripping over it, or worse, Roulette finding out.”

“What’s a motorwagon?” Minty asked, head tilted.

Vandal rolled his eyes. “Right, tribal. Uh, it’s a… wagon. A wagon that moves on its own.”

“But?” I asked. There was always going to be a but.

Vandal nodded and tapped a talon on the floor. “Right. My contract.”

“Your contract? That…” That had been the deal. Ugh. “How the fuck am I supposed to get your contract now? Roulette’s gone to ground for sure, and at this point I don’t know who wouldn’t shoot me on sight.”

Vandal groaned. “Shit…” His face twitched and his eyes flitted around the bar as his thoughts raced.

I turned back to Sun and Dove. “What about you two?”

Sundance gave a confident smirk. “Oh, Phisa, we’ve been stirring things up here for months. We’ve got dozens of escape plans.” Dove Trick gave her marefriend a gentle flank bump. Sundance swallowed her glee. “But you know, we could help you out before briefly parting ways.”

I couldn’t help but frown. ”You’d help me? After everything?”

Sundance frowned. “If only to truly bury the hatchet between us. Right now I can see it isn’t exactly the time. But hey, I wouldn’t just be doing it for you.” She gestured to Minty.

“Awww, that’s nice of you!” Minty piped.

I took another glance at Sundance, and sighed. “You could come with us, you know.”

“Really?” Sundance said, but sighed. “But no offense, Dove and I wouldn’t want to get mixed up with your spat with Tomb. Buuuut… if you have any free time, we’d be in Leathersworth. We’ll be cooling down there, then head out of the Pinewood.”

Leathersworth was outside of the Pinewood, away from the Gravestones. It’d be the perfect spot to meet these two con artists. “Alright,” I said. “I’ll think about giving Leathersworth a visit.” I turned to Dove Trick. “Is there a place we could meet?”

“The Shipwreck,” she was interrupted by a loud shout from outside. Dove swallowed. “It’s owned by the pony we want to repay. I mentioned him last night.”

Next to me, Vandal suddenly jumped and started fishing through the pockets of his barding. “Fuck, can’t believe I forgot about this,” he muttered. He withdrew his hand and held up a small, black device.

I raised an eyebrow. “Is that a-”

“Recorder!” he finished for me. “If Roulette thinks I’m still loyal, I might be able to get her talking about something incriminating.”

“Incriminating?” I echoed. “Like what?”

“Like the fact that she let a bunch of Gravestones in to hunt someone down. There are lots of folks in Pona Rosa who’ve crossed the Graves one way or another. That kind of news won’t go down quietly.”

I nodded slowly. Pona Rosa wasn’t much more than a flea market before Tomb and his gang rose to power. The town’s greatest asset by far was its supposed neutrality and resistance to Gravestone influence.

“So we get her to admit to working with Tomb and letting Rave inside the walls, and then…”

“Blackmail,” Vandal said. His beak narrowed into a sharp grin.

I returned the expression. “You took the words right out of my mouth. We get her to give us your contract in exchange for keeping that recording quiet.” I frowned. “That’s going to be dangerous, though. We’re still in her town, and we don’t have any way of sending the recording to anyone else. She could just kill us and take it back.”

The energy in the room deflated and was replaced by a faint sense of dread. Vandal let loose a string of quiet curses while glaring at the floor. I sat down at a nearby table and propped my head on my hoof, wracking my brain for everything I knew about Pona Rosa and its leader.

Vandal reached out with a talon and poked at my foreleg. “Is that what I think it is?” he asked.

“Hm, a PipBuck? Yeah,” I replied. I shifted my leg away from his reach. “Why do you ask?”

Vandal’s grin was back in force. “You know, those PipBucks have a broadcaster. We record incriminating shit, and we can threaten to broadcast it via your PipBuck.”

I couldn't recall if Dice had ever told me that PipBucks could do that. But if I could broadcast… “I take it you’re some pre-war tech expert?”

“Yeah… sorta.” He reached out again, and again I drew back. “Let me look at it, for fuck’s sake. I wanna see if there are any ports.”

Sundance snickered in the background. “Oughta buy a filly a drink before feeling up her ports,” she said. Dove Trick smacked her, while Minty suppressed a giggle.

“Here,” I said to Vandal, offering my limb. “But keep your talons to yourself.”

He leaned in and peered at my PipBuck from every angle, then gestured for me to lift it up. “Hah, there!” He brought the recorder up next to it. Two identical plugs. “We use an AD-2 cable, we can plug your PipBuck into Roulette’s speaker and have the whole place hear her confession if she doesn’t give us what we want.”

“I don’t think my PipBuck came with this cable.”

“No problem. The PA system, right at the casino’s front desk near the entrance, it has one I can snag.”

“We’d have to sneak by to get that. But after that, how do we reach Roulette without getting detected?”

“Employee stairwell to the top floor. We can go through a fire door they never lock. There won’t be a lick of security between us and Roulette.”

We held eye contact for a moment. I could feel my heart pumping. We had a plan. A good one. Things were coming together.

Minty clanked up to us and thumped a hoof down on the table. “Yeah! They can’t stop us with two smart ponies on our team!” She beamed at Vandal and I, two distinctly non-pony creatures. “So how do we get there?”

Get there. Shit. I winced, sighed, and opened my mouth to say—

“Eh hem!” Dove interrupted from the bar. All eyes turned to her. “If I may?”


Minty, Sundance, Dove Trick and I all crouched at the end of the alley outside the Reaper’s Bounty. Hooves thundered past, and shouts rang out up and down the street, and from all across town.

“You’re sure about this?” I asked Dove Trick. “Nobody out there is going to be friendly, especially once you start the light show.”

Dove Trick smiled and said, “I wouldn’t expect anything less from the fine bastards of Pona Rosa. Don’t worry. So long as Sundance is by my side, nothing will touch us.” She turned back and looked at her marefriend with smoldering eyes. “Isn’t that right, dear?”

Sundance swallowed hard and nodded. “We scammed a town of criminals for months together. They’re not going to stop us now.”

I could hear the apprehension behind her words. I didn’t comment. I felt the same way.

Vandal stepped up beside us. “The south gate would be your best way out,” he said to Sun and Dove. “We won’t be there to help you if things go… south.” He groaned, and then muttered to himself, “Pun unintended.”

“Nothing to worry.” Sundance grinned, then made eye contact with Dove Trick, and in one motion they leapt out of cover and into the chaos of the main street.

Fireworks shot into the air, and a thick blanket of smoke choked the air. Bullets slammed into the wall on either side of the alley’s mouth. The sound of explosions rocked the street, up and down and back, like someone had placed mines every other block. Screams and hollers, even the roar of a minigun shattered the night.

It was impossible to know what was an illusion and what was real. Just like we’d planned.

Minty, Vandal, and I turned the corner and sprinted down the street, in the opposite direction of the cataclysm of sound and sight our allies were laying down. Even the rattle and clank of Minty’s armor right next to me was barely an echo in my ears. Perfect.

We cut down another side street and hurried south. Vandal took the lead, cutting through the occasional building to avoid an exposed street corner or ducking through an alley when the riot sounded a bit too close for comfort.

The cacophony seemed just a few blocks behind and beside us. Dove Trick and Sundance were keeping a perfect distance: close enough to attract the attention of everyone in our path, but far enough away to keep the worst of the heat off our tails.

A white blip appeared on the very edge of my EFS display, then disappeared just as fast. I glanced over my right shoulder. The road behind us was empty.

“Something wrong?” Vandal asked.

I shook my head. “Just an aimless pony somewhere behind us, I guess.” I glanced over my shoulder again. “Let’s keep an eye out. The last thing we want is someone sneaking up on us.”

He nodded, and we kept moving.

We turned a corner and the casino came into sight. We all stopped dead in our tracks.

“Shit,” I said.

No less than six large, armored ponies stood in front of the casino’s main entrance, and I could see more dotted around the perimeter.

I turned to Vandal. “Got a way inside?”

“Uhhh, one sec.” He fumbled for a cigarette and jabbed it into his beak, unlit, then stared blankly at the building. He glanced back at us. “Why the fuck couldn’t you two be fliers? Grounders never look up.” He gestured to a window on the second floor. It hung open, and the surrounding buildings on that side were squeezed tight together with barely an alley between them.

If we could just get up there, we’d be nearly invisible from the street.

I let my gaze wander up the neighboring building. “We don’t need to fly. Look, there’s a ladder up to that roof, and there’s that balcony on the next building over. If we’re quick, we can just jump across and climb through the window.”

Vandal looked at me dubiously. “You think you can do that?” Then he gestured sideways at Minty with a thumb. His expression was even more doubtful. “You think she…?” He paused, and glanced at where he was pointing. I followed his gaze.

Empty space.

Fuck everything.

I spun around and caught a flash of a green tail. I darted after it.

“Wait—” Vandal hissed behind me. I didn’t stop.

I crossed the street in half a second and slipped behind a billboard just in time to avoid a glance from one of the guards at the main entrance.

Minty disappeared around the corner of the casino. Low to the ground, I stalked after her, grinding my teeth as I counted the seconds that I was completely visible and exposed. I was actually going to kill her.

I turned the corner and… blinked.

Minty stood next to an open steel door near the loading dock. Two casino guards, unconscious, laid in crumpled piles of body armor at her hooves. She turned and waved at me, her hammer still between her teeth.

I nearly staggered as I siddled up to the wall and stared down at the two incapacitated guards. “How did—”

Minty dropped her hammer into the crook of her foreleg and said, “They weren’t looking.”

I shook my head. “I mean how did you find this entrance?”

“Oh! I just guessed that there might be a door at the back.”

Vandal flew beside me. “Did you knock out both of them?” he said.

“Uh-huh!” She mimed a swing with her weapon. “They were standing pretty close together.”

I couldn’t—she didn’t—what did—?

Vandal touched down next to me and folded his wings. “Are you two insane?”

“Yeah,” Minty nervously hummed to herself. “I might have overdone it… but hey! Now we’ve got an easy way in!”

I cleared my throat. “Minty, I appreciate your help, but if you ever do that again without telling me, I’ll—”

“Can we do this another time, please?” Vandal asked, eyes darting around. Minty took a step, and he flinched. “And keep that hammer away from me!”

“Sorry…” Minty holstered her hammer.

I took a deep breath. “Well… we can sneak in there,” I gestured to the steel door, then turned to Minty. “Keep low, and make sure nobody else enters. Alert us if something happens.”

“Guard duty? Again?” Minty whined.

I pointed at Minty’s armor. “Your armor makes noise. It’s better if you stay back.”

She frowned, and her tail whipped behind her.

“Look,” Vandal said, rubbing the edge of his beak. “We need someone to watch our only exit. Probably ain’t fun, but the last thing we want is to have this place sealed out.”

Minty gave a quiet groan. “Okay… but what should I do if someone comes by?”

Vandal pointed at the knocked out guards. “I think you can handle it.”

Color me impressed. Vandal had an easier time convincing Minty than I usually would. After we left Pona Rosa, I could ask him for some advice.

“So are you alright with that?” I said to Minty. “We need this steel gate left open no matter what.

Minty hummed to herself before finally nodding and smiling. “Okie dokie! Current objective: keep door open!”

I turned to Vandal. “You know the building better than I do. Lead the way.”

Vandal took out his magnum pistol and nodded. “My pleasure.”

Everything seemed to be set… but I oddly felt something was missing.

Then I remembered. I gave Minty a stern look. “And whatever you do, don’t do anything stupid.”


The door led to a stark, dim industrial hallway. The concrete floor was stained with centuries of partially cleaned spills and coated in dust. The sounds of ponies at work came dimly through the walls on either side of us.

Vandal motioned ahead, straight down the hall. We crept forward, ducking across doorways as we passed them, hugging the wall whenever the sound of voices or hoofsteps got louder.

“Right here,” said Vandal, gesturing to the next doorway. “It’s a closet or something, but there’s a door on the other side that leads to the elevators.”

I waited a moment for him to proceed.

He frowned, then carefully pulled the door open, keeping his body hidden behind it, then glanced inside. “All clear.” He looked at me expectantly.

Okay, I guess I was taking the lead now.

‘Closet’ was right. The space was barely three feet wide and four feet deep, and the bare, flickering lightbulb above us barely illuminated all of it. Boxes were stacked haphazardly against the walls, leaving only a narrow passage from one door to the other.

Vandal stepped inside after me, and I instantly felt a touch of claustrophobia; more because we were in hostile territory than the tight space.

The door in front of me cracked open, and adrenaline shot through my veins in a heartbeat. I couldn’t retreat back to the hallway with Vandal on my heels, and there wasn’t time or space to hide.

So instead I lurched forward and ripped the door open, grabbed the pony behind it by the neck, and pulled him into the room with us.

He started to scream, but I quickly shoved my other hoof into his muzzle. We crashed to the ground and I quickly wrestled my way on top of him.

Vandal already had his magnum trained on the guard’s head. He looked at me questioningly.

I shook my head, clenched my jaw, repositioned myself so that the knee of my foreleg pressed into the guard’s throat, and bore down with all my weight.

His thrashing stopped after a few seconds. I didn’t let up. We couldn’t afford him waking up and sounding the alarm.

When I gathered myself and stood up, I caught a flicker of disgust cross Vandal’s face. I winced and did my best not to think of it.

We proceeded out the door, and Vandal took the lead again. From the elevator area, we could see the main gambling hall and the lobby beyond. People of all kinds mulled around the various tables and machines, and Roulette’s armed guards dotted the room.

“A riot is going on outside, and they’re still open?” I asked Vandal.

“Well, knowing her, Roulette probably isn’t letting anypony out for their ‘safety’.”

“Their caps?”

Vandal shrugged. “Yeah. Isn’t the first time this has happened.”

The lobby, however, seemed deserted apart from a lone receptionist sitting behind the front desk. I checked my E.F.S. to confirm. “Any secret passages to the front desk?” I asked sarcastically.

He sighed. “‘Fraid not.” His eyes scanned the casino floor. “But we might not need one.” He started forward, keeping close to the wall, and slid behind the nearest row of slot machines.

I followed, trying to breathe as little of the smoke-filled air as possible. The stench of tobacco clung to every surface, and was strong enough that I nearly gagged with each inhale.

On the other hoof, the haze of smoke in the air might work to our advantage, and it seemed that some of them weren’t any more comfortable with the smoke than I was. More than one of them had loose bandanas tied around their necks and tucked over their chins in vain attempts to filter the air. It wasn’t the best cover, but it was better than none.

I had just about picked out a route through the gambling hall that minimized our exposure to their guards when I heard a faint metallic clank beside me.

I turned to Vandal and found him elbow-deep in the wires and circuits of the nearest slot machine, its panel leaning against the wall behind him.

“That desperate for caps?” I whispered.

He rolled his eyes and pulled his arm free. “Just set up some cover. Ready to roll?”

“What? You think a defective slot machine is going to empty the entire room? That’s insane.”

Vandal grinned. “Trust me, I know what I’m doing. Just be ready to move.” He gestured toward a poker table, and as if on cue, every light in the room flickered, sparked, and died, plunging the room into nearly total darkness.

We slid under the table as groans and curses filled the air.

“Ah shit!” one guard shouted. “Did one of you dumbasses plug in all the machines at once again? You know it trips the fucking breaker every time.”

“Wasn’t me! Must have been one of the guests.”

The first guard growled. “Well I hope they got their fucking caps’ worth, cause I’m throwing them out as soon as we get the lights back up. You, go reset the breaker. And you two, go make sure we only have eight machines plugged in, or the lights are just gonna die again.”

I was left awestruck as the guards began to leave their posts, giving us a clear shot across the floor, and with the dim light we were unlikely to be seen even if one of them glanced back toward us.

“Roulette’s been putting off upgrading the spark generator for years, so we get blackouts all the time.” Vandal said. “We’ve got a good minute or two.”

“Color me impressed.” I couldn’t help but smirk at his resourcefulness.

We crossed the casino floor in seconds, darting from table to table. We never came within twenty feet of a guard.

Vandal motioned for me to wait under the last table before the lobby, and he crept forward around the front desk. He returned moments later with a short, coiled wire in his beak.

“Piece of cake,” he whispered.

We quickly snuck back to the elevators and were halfway up the stairs to Roulette’s office before the lights finally came back to life.


At the top landing of the staircase, Vandal stopped to light a cigarette and bring it to his beak. He turned to face me. “Ready to do this?”

“Not much other choice at this point. Getting cold talons about betraying your boss?” Unlikely, based on his attitude toward Roulette in general.

He breathed out a laugh. “Hah, at this point I’d probably kill her myself if you backed out. Just checking that we’re on the same page here. We get my contract and get out of there?”

“That’s the plan. Once we’re even, we can all get the fuck out of Pona Rosa.”

“Right,” he said. “Even.”

I snorted. “What, you want more from me than freeing you from indentured servitude?” He did save Sundance and me at the Cage, and by extension Minty. Maybe I did still owe him.

He cleared his throat and turned away. “No, we’re even. I don’t do that kind of debt anyway.” I swore I saw a slight blush, but I brushed it off.

“Where will you go?” I asked, almost surprising myself. Why did I care where this washed-up ex-Talon ended up? “Once we’re out of Pona Rosa and you’ve got your contract?”

He opened his beak, paused, and shook his head. “One step at a time,” he said, and gestured ahead.

We gathered by the door. There was a hallway beyond it, and then Roulette’s office. Usually unlocked, according to Vandal. We steadied ourselves.“Stay outside her office until I give the signal,” Vandal said. “She’s more likely to run her mouth if she’s alone with me. Once she’s talked enough, or shit starts going sideways, we’ll incapacitate her together.”

I nodded, and we proceeded into the hallway. All clear. I placed myself to one side of the office’s entryway, where I would be hidden by the open door. Vandal withdrew his recorder and pushed a button, and a red light on the device started blinking. He slipped into a pocket of his barding, squared his shoulders, and knocked.

“What?” came the reply, clipped and frustrated. “Who is it?”

“It’s me,” Vandal said.

“Vandal.” Roulette’s voice was flat and unimpressed. The lock clicked, and the door swung open. “Have you found them?”

“What does it look like?” Vandal gestured around the empty corridor. “We need to talk.”

There was an icy silence for a moment. I held my breath. If she swung the door open much further, there was a chance she’d see me.

“You ‘ll make it quick,” Roulette commanded. They both disappeared into the room, and the door closed behind them.

I let out a slow breath, then crept up to the door and pressed one ear against the wood.

“Gravestones? In the city?”

“It’s being dealt with, hon. Your concern is—”

“The whole fucking town is rioting, and we know those Gravestones are to blame! And yet here you are, telling me to tail some rogue zebra instead! My contract states that I’m supposed to make sure this place doesn’t burn to the ground. That’s my concern. So tell me what we’re supposed to do with these Gravestones before shit hits the fan.”

I heard Roulette inhale deeply. “Vandal… Darling. I ain’t lying when I say that your concern should be tailing that zebra.”

“Okay, but what does-”

“Let me finish,” Roulette said in a harsh tone. “Those Gravestones you’re worried about? I have it under control. But I suppose by now I ought to have learned to be clear and simple with you. Bring that striped bitch to my office, and the Gravestone problem will be fixed.”

I grit my teeth at that. Why was it always the unimaginative insults that pissed me off?

“They’re… they’re here for the zebra? And you’re just going to give her to them? Since when have we cooperated with the Gravestones?” Vandal said with alarm.

Roulette groaned. “Yes, yes, officially they still ain’t friends of ours. But… They’ve promised to leave us alone in exchange for giving them a bit of leeway in this one case.”

“Uh… Okay?” Vandal was a decent actor, thankfully. He sounded genuinely surprised. “So all that stuff about you helping her take down the Gravestones?”

She laughed. “Oh, believe it or not, I actually considered what she had to offer. Tomb’s word ain’t exactly golden, and getting rid of all ‘em Gravestones could mean other bandits can flourish. But Phisa’s reputation ain’t what it used to be neither. News from Horseshoe is that she’s gone and grown one of them bleeding hearts. I don’t fancy a zebra like that in charge of any gang at all, let alone the Gravestones.”

Horseshoe. It felt like another life, but it had only been a week ago. Back when I was Tomb’s enforcer. Back when I believed I had finally gained the respect I worked hard for. Back when I felt I had finally done it: I had finally become a bandit that would make the deceased Crossbone gang proud.

I hadn’t really reflected on it before, but that one decision had led to all of this. Sparing a hooful of lives was all it took to make me a bandit pariah. Of course word would have spread by now. Pinewood Valley was a small place. My blood simmered anyway.

“What’s this about Horseshoe?” Vandal asked. I restrained the urge to burst into the room then and there.

“Run-down place,” Roulette answered. “They owed the Gravestones caps, but Phisa let them off scot-free. Left a mighty poor impression. Here she is, big scary enforcer for the baddest gang around, and she’s playing at being Velvet Remedy.”

Vandal was silent for a moment.

“And all that stuff about the Cage?” he asked.

“To be her… cage.” She snickered. “She needed to stay long enough for the Gravestones to send their assassin. Her fighting in the Cage though… well, I couldn’t have planned a better execution myself. All visible and isolated in public, just waiting for a bullet in the head. She was all gift wrapped in there, and they fucked it up.

“So now, hon, I want you to find that striped simpleton and drag her ass in here for our guests. I’d prefer her delivered alive, but knowing Tomb, she won’t have a long life once he’s got his hooves on her, so use your best judgement, hon.”

I heard a click. The sound of a button on a voice recorder.

“Very impressive, boss. You really pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes.”

“We bandits are a lotta things, but none of us with any sense tolerate traitors. She lied to her boss, far as I’m concerned she got what she deserved. Besides, with or without our help, she stands no chance against the Gravestones. Call it my best judgement.”

“Even if lying to the boss is her ‘best judgement?’” He chuckled. “Your words.””

I turned the doorknob and gave it a little push. The door creaked open slowly, so slow and dramatic that it was almost comical. I was greeted by the sight of a very shocked Roulette sitting behind her desk.

“She’s been listening the entire time.” Vandal smirked as he brought out his magnum. With his other hand, he raised the recorder. “And soon all of Pona Rosa will hear it, if you don’t do what we say. Oh, and by the way, I quit.”

Roulette’s eyes widened as she tried to reach for a speaker. I aimed my sawed-off at her. “Call your guards and we shoot.”

Her eyes narrowed. “If you shoot, everypony in the building will hear!”

“You’d be dead by the time that would matter,” Vandal said, inching closer toward Roulette.

Her face contorted into a scowl as I gently tapped her forehead with my gun. “Don’t. Move.”

She obliged, and I turned to Vandal. He appeared to have the same idea I had. He brought out some rope from his pack, and tied Roulette against her chair.

“You broke your contract,” Roulette muttered.

Vandal snorted. “You think I gave a shit about a piece of paper?”

Roulette grit her teeth and sneered. “Yes.”

“Fucking naive.” He pushed Roulette’s chair against the wall. “So where is it?”

Roulette laughed nervously. “Vandal, hon, if this is about your pay you coulda just-”

“Caps aren’t going to save you,” Vandal said as he popped out the holotape from his recorder. He tossed it over to me, and I slid it into my PipBuck.

“He’s right,” I said as I attached the AD-2 cable into the intercom. “Tell us where Vandal’s contract is. Otherwise,” I tapped my PipBuck. “Your clients will do the rest.”

Roulette shook her head, and gave a soft laugh. “Hon, please, You ain’t going to do jack shit. What do you think will happen once you air that tape? I go, Pona Rosa goes down in anarchy. And you wouldn’t want Tomb to take control, would ya?”

I recalled Dove’s speech about ‘small details’. I holstered my gun and came face to face with her.

I reared back and slammed her head down against the desk with a loud thud. Blood poured out from Roulette’s nose and onto her desk as I forced her head onto the table with a hoof. Now she knew I mean business.

Roulette gasped and tried to raise her head. I wouldn’t let her, and kept my hoof on her head. “You know, I can’t help but be disappointed. I always imagined Pona Rosa being a valuable asset, but after a few days I realized it’s a dump.” I lowered my head down and stared at Roulette eye to eye. “I couldn’t give a damn if Tomb took over. And we don’t have all day. Tell us where Vandal’s contract is or we expose you and find that scrap of paper ourselves.”

Vandal said nothing as he nervously smoked, his talons fidgeting.

Roulette trembled and coughed out some blood, but otherwise said nothing.

“Very well,” I removed my hoof from Roulette’s head and used it to press the play button on my PipBuck.

What? Who is it?” Roulette’s words came out from my Pipbuck.

Vandal stepped over to Roulette’s desk and flicked on her radio.

It’s me,” said Vandal’s recorded voice from the radio’s crackling speakers.

“Stop!” Roulette shouted. “It’s under my desk, there’s a hidden locker. Combination is ten, forty-two, and twenty-eight.” she said in a weak, defeated tone.

I pressed the stop button, and Vandal went under the desk and popped the locker open, and pulled out a piece of paper that had ‘Vandal’ scripled in a big, messy talon-writing. He brought out his lighter and set the paper on fire.

“That was all?” Roulette almost whimpered.

I shook my head. “Do your guards have orders to kill me?”

“N-no.”

“Then we’re done here.” I trotted toward the door. “Vandal, leave her tied up.”

“Yeah.” The catbird said as we departed the room. He closed the door behind him and exhaled. “You have to hit her?”

“She needed to know who’s in control,” I snorted. “Is there a problem?”

He closed his eyes and hummed. “You hitting her? No, I actually enjoyed that, the bitch done a lot to have it coming…”

“So what’s your issue?” I narrowed my eyes at him.

He shrugged. “Well… Couldn’t help but feel you were compensating for being called a bleeding heart. What’s the deal with Horseshoe?”

I groaned. “I’ll set the record later. Let’s get Minty and leave.”

My ears perked as the noise of gunfire came out down below. A muscle tensed in my fetlock.

I told that idiot to not do anything stupid!

Screams echoed from downstairs. “Hey, Mints isn’t this bloodthirsty, is she?” Vandal said as we approached the main casino floor.

“She shouldn’t be bloodthirsty now!”

The main casino floor appeared as though it was struck by a hurricane: tables and chairs were overturned. Customers were crouching under tables as armed guards fired rounds toward the familiar hooded griffon.

Vena. She really was stalking me!

“Phisy! Vandy!” I heard a yell down the hallway. Minty stopped charging through when she noticed the both of us. “I’m so, so sorry. I was on guard duty doing nothing stupid until that griffon came by asking if you were inside. I told her to go away and-”

“And now she’s murdering everyone.” Vandal interrupted. “I don’t know about you girls, but we should get the fuck out of here.”

I looked back toward the carnage the Vena was performing. There were already a few dead guards bleeding on the ground, some having limbs smashed hard by what I presumed to be her bat, others bleeding to death from slash marks… one that creeped me out the most was the guard who appeared to have had the entire front of his throat torn out.

Another time and another place I would be confronting her, murder machine or not. Right now however, we needed to leave. “Vandal’s right. We’re leaving!”

As all three of us exited the casino, I turned back once just to catch a glimpse of Vena’s talons ripping out a chunk of wet meat on a poor guard’s neck.


That secret exit Vandal told me about turned out to be an abandoned parking building, which was part of Pona Rosa’s wall, and was close by. The path was clear, thanks to Vena’s distraction.

“Hey, wait up!” Minty shouted behind us as her armor clanked.

Vandal groaned beside me. “It’d help if you wore normal armor like everyone else.”

“Yeah, but this armor makes me look sexy!”

I was the wrong zebra to hold a good opinion on what made ponies look ‘sexy,’ but I was pretty sure only a specific group of ponies would find Minty’s armor to be a turn on.

Regardless, I kept my pace slow enough for Minty to catch up, and gave a quick glare at Minty. “When we are out of here, you and I need to have a talk.” Though the ‘hostage’ situation was now resolved, I couldn’t afford to have Minty pull a stunt like that again.

“Um, yeah,” Minty gave a nervous smile. “I want to ask some questions after we leave.”

I gave her a quizzical look, but now wasn't the time to ask about that.

We approached a vine covered five story building, and I could see that the door to it had been blocked by rubble.

“Elevator shaft.” Vandal pointed at an open hole a few meters away from us. We trotted over to it, and got a clearer look at the hole. It was an open shaft, it’s doors torn off, and missing it’s elevator. “There’s a ladder you two can climb down from. Strong enough to hold even… err, Minty, right?”

“Uh huh!” Minty chimed. “And in mint condition!”

“Heh, is that supposed to be some catchphrase?” He said with a smirk.

“Uh huh! I thought of it myself!” Minty beamed with a grin.

Vandal snickered. “Cute.”

I approached the shaft and saw the ladder on the right. The bars on it looked a little rusty, but still intact. That didn’t comfort me. “You’re sure this is safe?” I asked.

“Yeah, I climbed up them once just to test it. You know, just in case I wasn’t in the right condition to fly.” He stepped past me and tapped the ladder, a clank echoing through the shaft. “Doesn’t hurt to come prepared.”

I narrowed my eyes. “You’re certain?”

Minty appeared on the first rung of the ladder. When did she get there?! “Last one down is a rotten radroach!” She slid down on it while shouting out a ‘wee’ in the process.

Vandal laughed behind me, no doubt having missed Minty grab onto the ladder as well. “That answers it. You should be safe.” I narrowed my eyes at him. He sighed. “If you slip, I promise I’ll catch you.”

I took a deep breath as Vandal latched onto the ladder. “Fine,” He gave me enough space for me to get on it as well. “You better keep your word.”

“Relax,” he said as he climbed down.

To my relief, the bars of the ladder weren’t slippery, and in fact it was the opposite. Rust had made the steel rough enough to have a firm grip with my hooves. When we reached the final floor, Minty was leaned against a way merrily humming herself. I jumped off and landed on all fours, just before Vandal placed a hindleg on the floor.

“It’s official! Vandy is a rotten radroach!” Minty exclaimed.

“Cheater.” Vandal said playfully.

The underground parking building wasn’t completely dark. The bleak interior was illuminated by thin rays of sunlight which reached inside through small cracks and holes in the walls. Still, I turned on my PipBuck’s lamp to get a better view.

Defunct motorwagons were strewn about. Most of the pillars were still intact, though they showed signs of heavy erosion. Water dripped from the ceiling, creating small puddles near the walls. I could see a toll booth, and beyond that was a large, vine riddled garage door.

“Does Roulette not know about this place?” I asked Vandal as we trotted down a ramp to the bottom floor.

“She does,” he replied. “But she wrote it off as a death trap. Door can only be opened from the inside, and see where that other building is leaning on it? Try to blow your way in and the whole thing would collapse on you.”

“How do you know if the door can be opened?”

He smirked. “Got curious. Spent some of my free time down here and figured out how to get it open. It helps to have an emergency exit if things fly south.”

From the distance I heard Minty grunting as she tried to lift the garage door with her bare hooves. I facehoofed. “Minty!” I shouted. “You’re not going to have any luck opening it.”

“Awwwww!” Minty whined as she returned. “It was worth a shot.”

Vandal suppressed a laugh as he shook his head. “Yeah, it can only open via control panel." He pointed at the toll booth. "Should be in there. Already tested it, but it’s old as hell. It’ll take a long-ass time to open up.”

I couldn’t help but smile at him as he headed over to the toll booth. Minty must of noticed since she came beside me and grinned. “Phishy,” she whispered. “Do you have your eyes on a certain pair of wings?” My threatening glare made Minty step back a bit. “Sorry!”

I relaxed my expression. “Not in that way. He’s the only thing we’ve gained from our visit here.”

Minty beamed up. “That’ll be so cool! First I befriended a zebra, a buncha mares like me, and now a griffon! I can’t wait to make more friends!”

I kept forgetting that Minty left her tribe to meet new people. Her optimism wasn’t going to last. Eventually she’d wish she’d been jaded from the start, just like everyone else.

“Either way,” my head shook, “Don’t get your hopes up. Vandal could refuse to join us.”

Minty’s ears drooped. “Don’t be a party pooper.”

I glanced over to my PipBuck, realizing that I hadn’t checked up on my E.F.S. Red blips. And six of them pointing towards the garage door.

“Vandal!” I called out. “Get your gun out, we have hostiles!”

I heard a mechanical whirl as Vandal stepped out of the booth with wide eyes. “What?“ He glanced over to my PipBuck. “How many?”

“Six.” I really hoped it was just a colony of bloatsprites that had wandered around near that garage door. But knowing I was pursued, that was a wishful thought.

“What if they’re those Gravestones?” Minty said.

More Gravestones? Now that she mentioned it, Vandal did say that two others aside from Rave got VIP rooms. Were there more outside of Pona Rosa? And did they predict I’d be here?

I was just about to swear to myself… but instead I grinned as a realization hit me. Right here, where we held the field advantage, was the perfect spot to end Rave. She was literally leading her crew into a counter ambush!

Amateurs.

I turned off my PipBuck’s lamp. “Both of you, we’re going to counter-ambush them. Hit and run!”

Vandal was already ahead of himself as he took out his magnum and hid behind a pillar. Minty meanwhile took out her hammer but kept still.

“Hit and run?” Minty asked.

I groaned. “Hide in cover, attack them one at a time, then hide again.”

“But I can-”

“You might not feel pain, but that doesn’t make you invincible!” I took a deep breath and frowned. “Please?”

Minty brought her hammer to her mouth and nodded. “Owkay.” She rushed over behind a motorwagon.

“Vandal!” I shouted. “How equipped are you?”

I heard a loud sigh from his cover. “Magnum. Seven clips. And just one frag grenade. Hoping I stay cool enough to use them.”

“Just be careful with that grenade.” I said as I made my way over to a motorwagon.

I made sure my sawed-off was fully loaded as I glanced back at the opening gate. Gravestone grunts were the least of my worries. Rave on the otherhoof was a tough customer. As much shit as I gave her for her temperament, she was a seasoned fighter.

If the grunts she brought along with her all died however, it’d be three on one. The only thing I could not account for were my two allies. But I was confident that we could make it out.

The garage door opened up halfway, but there was enough space for the five grunts, one of whom I recognized as a familiar yellow unicorn, Sparkplug. Of all the mooks I had to manage during my time as an enforcer, Sparkplug was one of the few bandits I actually took a liking to. While it was a shame that she was out to kill me… knowing that she doesn’t get along with with Rave could be to my advantage.

She was equipped in leather armor and held her assault carbine in a telekinesis field. The rest of the grunts were outfitted the same way (with battle saddles for non-unicorns).

The last one to come in was Rave, her bozar in her talons as she smirked. “Gig’s up, Phish! We know you and your losers are here!” The Gravestone grunts began to spread out. “You really thought that the boss wouldn’t think you’d be coming here?”

She was baiting me to respond, trying to get me to do something stupid. It was tempting, if my muscles tensing up were to say anything. But I wasn’t an idiot, so I waited for the right opportunity.

Funny, Rave should know how I operate, but then again I don’t think she particularly paid attention to how I led.

Rave growled. “You can’t hide forever. Make it easy for us eh? You ain’t gonna take down Tomb anyhow, not without Pona Rosa.” She turned to her subordinates. “Remember, Phish is mine.”

The grunts nodded and had spread out enough that I could get away with a sneak attack on one of them. But I needed to keep waiting…

After Minty jumped from her cover and swung her hammer against the grunt unfortunate enough to get to close, that was when I sprung out and aimed my sawed-off at Rave.

The feathered bitch reacted in time to move enough that the blast only struck her armor’s shoulder pad. She spun a bit before taking cover. Soon enough the entire building erupted in gunfire.

Minty had drawn the attention away from most of the grunts, but unsurprising, Sparkplug in particular seemed to defy Rave’s orders and took aim at me. She fired a barrage of bullets, one nicked me at my shoulder before I safely took cover.

“Hey! What did I just say!?” I heard Rave shout.

“Shut the fuck up Rave! We wouldn’t be in this mess if ya did your damn job!” Sparkplug replied.

Perfect! She’s distracted!

I rushed over to where my former subordinate was while they were distracted. Jumping over the guardrail she had placed herself at, Sparkplug couldn’t respond in time before I swept my rearlegs to cause the mare to fall down, and then used my SATS and targeted her legs.

They exploded into chunks as she gave out a shrill shriek. Her telekinesis failed her and before she could get the chance to act again I stomped a forehoof against her neck and pressed hard until I heard a snap. Her blip disappeared from my EFS.

Rave cursed out as she began to fire more rounds toward me. I rolled away just in time and took cover behind a pillar.

An explosion of a grenade caused me to turn back to see that Vandal had caught two other grunts in a bloody mess. Minty was busy chasing after the last remaining grunt, who began to retreat. I couldn’t help but smile.

We’re getting through this better than I thought.

I reloaded my sawed-off and thought out my next course of action. Vandal had flown over to my side and shouted. “Hey, most of your friends are all dead! You could make this easy and follow your last friend.”

“Shut up!” Rave shouted before she flew out from her cover and fired at Minty. Minty yelped as bullets struck against her armor, with one of the bullets piercing through a shoulder. She couldn’t feel pain, but I was glad Minty was wise enough to get behind a motorwagon after the fact.

“Vandal, keep her in cover!” I rushed out toward Rave, intending to use SATS and target her head.

Rave took wise to that when she noticed the PipBuck on my leg, and attempted to shoot at it. I canceled SATS and weaved to my left. Rave was forced back into her cover as Vandal tried to shoot her.

I reached over to Minty and we both took cover behind a motorwagon. Unsurprisingly Minty was unfazed, but blood was seeping out from her armor.

“You can still move?” I asked Minty, who nodded. “Okay, we’re going to do a pincer attack on Rave.”

“Pincer attack?”

I growled. “We’ll charge at her from both sides. You take the right, I’ll take the left.” Minty seemed to understand that.

Vandal had only briefly stopped his suppression fire to reload as Minty and I executed our maneuver. Rave’s eyes widened as we approached her from both sides. The griffon dodged Minty’s hammer, which cracked a stone pillar while I fired my sawed-off at Rave and hit her in the chest.

She stumbled back and grunted. Her armor protected her from most of the damage, but the blast shoved her out of her cover. I rushed over and kicked her rifle out of her talons. Rave responded with her talons slashing my left shoulder.

Minty charged over with her hammer swinging at Rave. The feathered bitch flew away in time as Minty’s weapon collided with the pavement, a slight crack forming on it.

Rave was panicking now that it was three against one. She tried to swoop in for her gun but Vandal managed to shoot her chest. I heard her curse again as she went for new cover.

As both me and Minty made way to her, something was tossed across from Rave’s cover and toward us. A flashbang grenade.

“Minty! Look away!” I yelled, but it was too late as a bright flash filled my eyes along with a high pitched ping.

When I came to my senses, Minty was beside me still dizzy (I guess she wasn’t immune to that). Rave was nowhere to be seen as Vandal rushed over to us. “Hey, you two alright?” He asked.

“Uhhhhh, everything was really bright and loud for a moment.” Minty said.

“Alive… But that bitch got away.” I growled.

“You two have some history?”

I didn’t answer his question, and instead helped Minty get back up. Her leg was still bleeding, but she was otherwise alright. “Let’s get out of here and to your ride. It isn’t far away from here right?”

Vandal nodded as he helped me pick up the still dizzy Minty and we made our way out of the parking building and into the wilderness.


We met no other trouble as we approached the highway overpass and turned left. Rave must not have come with too many Gravestones, but the next time we met there was no doubt that she would bring in more grunts. I put that worry on hold as we approached a giant object covered in a green cloth that was waiting right near the forest.

“So this is it, your ride?”

“Yeah,” he said as he took off the cloth, revealing a large, bulking brown RV that appeared to have been reinforced and armored with steel plates through its sides, rear, and the windows themselves. The front in particular caught my attention; the motorwagon had a plow attached tightly to its front with teeth painted on it.

Minty beamed at the machine. “Woooooow, it looks so cool! Does it have a name? Where’d you get it? How does it-”

“Easy,” Vandal sighed and smiled. “Her names’ the Timberwolf. How I got her… eh, long story. Really we should be getting her running and get the hell out of here.”

I checked my E.F.S. One white blimp was in the distance. Looking up, I spotted Vena just a few meters away from me, standing on top of a dead gray oak that still stood, cackling as she no doubt was staring at me.

Vandal took notice as well and frowned nervously. “Fuck, that crazy bitch made it out of the casino alive.” He took notice of me trotting over to her. “Uh hey, why don’t we leave the psycho bat griffon alone?”

“I need answers.”

“Do you really need them?”

I replied with only a sigh and glare.

Vandal waved his arms. “Okay, okay, fine. I’ll get her running by the time you’re done. Or dead.”

I rolled my eyes. “Thanks.”

It didn’t take long for me to approach Vena. The hooded griffon made it easier as she flew down in front of me. Her blip on my EFS was a neutral white, but I still kept my guard up, making sure my sawed-off was still on me.

Her cloak was riddled with bullet holes, and her bat dripped with fresh blood. Getting a better glimpse into her hood than I had at this point, could see scars across her face and beak. Radiation scars, judging by the patches of skin not covered by feathers. I’d set aside asking about that.

“Start talking. Why have you been following me?” Nothing but laughter came out from her.

Okay, so she’s going to make this difficult.

I stomped a hoof at the ground. “I’m grateful for your help at the Cage, but I don’t appreciate this silent treatment. Talk now or else.”

Vena frowned and had a free talon grab the handle to her bat. I was just about to unholster my gun before I found Vena’s bat right beside my right shoulder. I had almost flinched, but kept my ground.

The crazed griffon grinned as she holstered her bat. “Nice backbone, you’re not like he said you were.”

I sighed in relief, for a moment there I thought I was going to fight her. “Your pegasus friend?”

“So you’ve met Thunder.”

“I have,” I said with a growl. “Asked him why you were interested in me, but he didn’t know, and said that he-”

“Is my bitch?”

To say I was bewildered would be an understatement.

Vena lost control of herself and began yipping hysterically. I backed away a few inches, giving the mad griffon her space.

She eventually calmed down, her laughs replaced with painful pants. She took a few deep breaths before speaking. “Answer my question. What are you going to do now?”

“Now?” I recalled what Thunderstruck had told me. “I get your boss’ attention. I’m going to raise hell against the Gravestones. Make them regret backstabbing me. Thunder said your gang would notice and take an interest in me.” I looked back at the Timberwolf. “But you know what? Even if I don’t get your gang’s help I’m still going to take down Tomb.”

Vena responded with another yip. She beat herself in the chest and spoke. “I like you. And so would my boss.” She turned away and flapped her wings.

Before I could ask further, Vena launched herself up into the sky and flew off into a blur. Even if I asked Vandal to follow her, I doubt he’d be able to catch up. Nor would he be willing.

I heard a motor behind me, and saw the Timberwolf parked beside me. The door opened, revealing Vandal sitting on the driver’s seat. “We done here?”

I felt the soft rumble of the engine beneath my hooves as I climbed in. “Didn’t get any good answers from her.”

“You surprised?”

I shook my head. “No.” Shit, I had almost forgotten about Minty. “Do you have any medical supplies?”

“Yeah. Left of the sink, second cabinet on the bottom.”

“Thank you.” A grin grew on my face. “You know, we made a good team. Maybe you’d be interested in employment?”

Vandal gave a blank stare and sighed with exhaustion. “How about we get far away from Pona Rosa, then we can talk about work.”

“Fair enough.”

I passed through a curtain into the back of the vehicle. The RV was cramped and messy: the floor itself was littered with an assortment of junk: pre-war magazines, used food wrappers, empty alcohol bottles. I hesitated to shove them aside out of fear that they’d skitter in every direction.

The Timberwolf had the usual commodities I’d expect from an RV, a prewar vehicle that I recognized from my small collection of old tech magazines. There were sinks, fridges, a bathroom, and windows. Said windows (sans the ones at the back) were reinforced with steel plates.

The rear back of the vehicle, where two bunk beds were laid, and the kitchen table were the only spots that were mostly clear to walk through. I took notice of the cabinet Vandal had told me about, and noticed another right next to it locked up. No doubt what he put in there.

I took out a Ministry of Peace first aid box and came toward the table, where Minty sat. She had already taken her armor off, and I could see an oozing bullet wound by her side. Of course, she showed no signs of any pain.

The engine revved and lurched beneath my hooves as Vandal hit the gas. I sat down beside Minty and noticed her apologetic look. She opened her mouth to say something but couldn’t come up with anything.

I sighed. “Let’s patch you up.”

I bandaged both of our wounds, then we shared a healing potion. I plopped myself onto one of the bunk beds and contemplated on everything that happened in Pona Rosa.

Reuniting with Sundance, discovering Roulette’s deal with the Gravestones, seeing Vena, and finding an ally in Vandal… They were a long three days.

I looked through the back window and saw Pona Rosa shrink into the distance, replaced with the dead oaks of the Pinewood.

Author's Note:

And so concludes the Pona Rosa arc! Want to give some special thanks to NyxOs, Nethlarion, GODOG, Threed, and Phi for pre-reading, and of course thank my awesome editor Typo.