• Published 28th Jan 2018
  • 5,656 Views, 362 Comments

Fallout: Equestria - War Does Change - tom117z

It has been nearly two hundred years since the megaspells rained fire down on the world, reducing it to a tainted wasteland. And ever since that day, the changelings have never been sighted in the wasteland...

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8 - On The Road Again

Chapter Eight: On The Road Again

“Maybe next time you will take a second look, and not judge the cover of the book.”

We had ended up sleeping in the backroom of some old megamart that night. The PipBuck’s marker was leading us out of Manehatten a separate way to where I had initially entered, though the destroyed streets and roaming bands of raiders meant we had to take a few detours every now and then. Our formation was unchanging the entire way, Stripe unwilling to allow Cobalt to walk behind her for even a second. Cobalt made no comment on this, though I’m pretty sure he had noticed it by then.

There had been little conversation between us in the meantime, our only constant sound being the music coming from my PipBuck and the occasional news update from DJ Pon-3. We continued to move even after the initial fall of darkness, getting all the way to the outer edges of the city before we finally decided to call it a night.

The megamart was mostly abandoned, food stocks long pilfered and the only modern residents being a moderate infestation of radroaches. But really, radroaches were pathetic enough as they were, and what were they now after I had fought crazed zebra and rogue robots?

But there were a lot of them, red bars scurrying around my E.F.S. at a constant rate. And we didn’t want to waste ammo on them or waste our remaining energy stomping the buggers with our hooves. So we quickly slid down along the edges of the interior until we found a door marked ‘employees only’, opening it up to find a hallway with several more doorways running down either side. A couple of the doors led to staff bathroom, another to a basic meeting room filled with charred skeletons in the tattered remains of megamart employee uniforms. The meeting room made my PipBuck’s Geiger Counter click slowly from some remaining radiation left from what had killed the employees, so we left it well alone. Around the bend, there was a final door that led into an old small storage room of some kind. Once again, the shelves had long been stripped of anything useful.

We chose that storeroom to bunker down in for the night, shutting the door and moving one of the metal cabinets to block it. At this point, the light of my PipBuck was the only source of brightness in the otherwise pitch-black room, though it was bright enough that we didn’t need to use any of our magic to create more.

After that, we had a couple of bites from whatever food we had in our packs, before laying down to get some shut eye. Though I’m not exactly sure how much sleep Stripe got that night; I swear that, in a couple instances where I roused for a couple moments, I could see her keeping watch in the corner with her sniper rifle firmly in her hooves.

When we finally awoke to an alarm we set on my PipBuck, however, Stripe had been woken with the rest of us. Before that, she seemed like she’d been curled up so soundly that it was actually a little adorable, not that I’d say that to her face of course…

Zebra scared me, at least a little bit.

Luckily, nothing had tried to disturb us during the night. And after moving the cabinet aside and opening the door, we made our swift exit from the abandoned megamart back out into the morning sunlight.

Or as much as we could get with the cloud cover.

There was a small pack of dogs, three in number, tearing at the corpse of an unfortunate brahmin outside between the various wrecked vehicles. It was a grisly sight, but hardly uncommon in the Equestrian Wasteland. It really was best for us just to move around it, and we tried to do just that, though one of the mutated mongrels spotted us out. How? Who the hell knows. Corner of its eye? Scent? It doesn’t really matter though, the point being that the pack almost instantly forgot their meal and turned to growl at us.

“I don’t suppose you’ve got a bone to throw at them,” Cobalt dryly commented.

“We could throw them you,” I replied with ultimate grace and wit. But then again, we did need him. Whether we liked it or not.

And throwing a pony to the dogs would have been bad. That too.

It was around then that the dogs had finished sizing us up and made a quick sprint in our general direction. Each chose one of us to target and gave a bounding leap upon their prey.

But I don’t think any of us were really in the mood.

Stripe just brought up a hoof and clotheslined her attacker with it, before turning that hoof around and stomping its skull into paste. Cobalt caught him in a levitation spell, slamming it back into one of the rusted hulks where it slumped down with a whimper and didn’t get up again.

I think mine was the only one to reach its target. Go me.

I fell back with a grunt as it clawed at me, landing my ass sorely down into the concrete before bucking the dog to the side. However much my backside ached from the landing, his probably hurt more as he slammed into a pothole. Still, the dump pooch didn’t seem to get the memo, and I pulled my gun on the animal as it charged me again.

Only to then be covered in a fountain of gore!

I mean, I’d only fired a single bullet from my dinky little pistol! And yet, somehow, that had been enough to tear through the dog’s entire body and splatter every single meaty chunk inside him all over the parking lot!

I mean…

“What. The. FUCK!?”

I mean, I was caked in dead dog! How did that even happen!? I just… don’t understand!

And when I jumped back to my hooves and tried to kick off all the disgusting goop, it was clear that my companions didn’t seem to either. Or maybe the weird looks were due to the fact that I looked like I’d been in some kind of sick and twisted blood orgy.

Now there’s a lovely thought…

“Are you sure you’re not using an explosive round in that thing?” Cobalt asked incredulously, backing up a few steps.

“Just standard rounds, believe me,” I replied, thankful when Stripe passed me over some rags to help clean the crap off of me. “Don’t ask me what just happened! Just… give me a minute!”

Stripe just chuckled, though wrinkled her snout at the putrid smell. “I believe that is what a wise zebra would call ‘a lucky shot’, no?”

“Lucky… Right,” I grumbled to myself, using the rage to completely clear my face and as much of the rest of me as I could before it became useless.

I then tossed the rag away, wishing never to lay eyes on it ever again.

“Well that’s all well and good, but can we return to the job you were hired for?” Cobalt asked in a non-too-pleased tone. “We don’t even know if it was just those three, there may be far more of those mutts out here.”

“Then we should continue on,” Stripe seconded. “That is, if you are not about to lose your lunch, Scrap Heap.”

“I’ll be fine,” I dismissed, thankfully mostly clean of the gore now, aside from a few persistent bits here and there. “Let’s just go.”

We swiftly left the megamart behind, moving back into the city’s streets. The massive ruined skyscrapers had already been left far behind us, only the smaller buildings and businesses surrounded us now. It wouldn’t be long before we were on the road out of the city, back into Equestria’s burnt countryside heading north. The route would take us close to a mountainous region just south of Rainbow Falls, bordering the Frozen North.

We would have to go around the mountains, taking us near to Hollow Shades and past Neighagra Falls before we got to the general area of Stable 84.

Oh, it was definitely going to get a little cold.

And speaking of Stable 84…

“My lineage can be traced back to a stable,” Stripe casually stated as we walked past a burnt-out café. “Where my ancestors sought refuge from the fire and ash.”

“Then you must be talking about Stable 3,” Cobalt idly noted. “No other stable accepted zebra residents. Then again, the tower hardly has a complete record of all Stable-Tec facilities.”

“But you do know of Stable 3?” she enquired.

“I know of a few,” he confirmed. “Stable 1. Stable 3. A couple others. None of interest, shelters for the citizens of Equestria. Scraps of information on them, varying in detail. Stable-Tec did some work with the various ministries back during the war.”

“My stable died a long time ago, the pink poison of Canterlot seeped in and turned a haven into a hell,” Stripe continued. “My people left. Some are still around there as far as I am aware, others chose to wander.”

“This is a very roundabout way to grill me about Stable 84,” Cobalt rebuffed.

“I only wish to know my travelling companion,” Stripe coolly replied. “Are all little ponies so suspicious of others?”

“It’s natural to fear the unknown,” Cobalt argued. “I don’t know you, and you’re not my friend.”

“I am curious though,” I butted in, looking at Cobalt. “You haven’t said a word about yourself. She told you her background, least you could do is tell us a little about yourself.”

Cobalt snorted. “Like what?”

“You’re an intelligent stallion. I’m sure you could find something to talk about.”

Cobalt rolled his eyes, but he seemed to relent. “Fine. My parents were in the Society, so I am too. I grew up in the tower. Actually, this is the furthest I’ve ever been from it.”

“Then why didn’t the Twilight Society send somepony with more experience?”

“None of the Twilight Society, or at least nearly none of them, have ever left the tower,” Cobalt retorted. “The ones who have, they’re unlikely to budge or are needed elsewhere. But I know magic, it’s my special talent.”

“Just because you have it, does not mean you will be able to use it during the real thing,” Stripe noted with a frown.

“You need a shield spell? Got it covered. Teleport? Got that too,” he returned with a small bit of pride leaking from his mannerisms. “I’ve studied all of Twilight Sparkle’s techniques and all the writings she’s left behind in our possession.”

Now I shared Stripe’s frown. “What? You think you’re the second coming of Twilight or something?”

He grimaced. “Hardly. I know the spells, I can use them. Doesn’t mean I’m anywhere near as proficient as she was. She could teleport across Equestria during the war. I could make it from here to the top of one of these buildings.”

Stripe hummed. “I sense a deep admiration in your voice towards the Ministry Mare.”

“We’re the Twilight Society,” he pointed out. “The last remnants of the Ministry of Arcane Sciences, continuing her legacy. She had no children after all. No remaining descendants.”

“As far as you know,” I joked.

“If she does, I want to meet them,” Cobalt replied. “But no, no children. It’s just us.”

“And I imagine you believe all she left behind is yours by right?” Stripe questioned.

“We’re her ministry, her legacy,” he repeated. “Recovering what would be otherwise lost, it could be described as a sacred duty.”

And now he was sounding like a Steel Ranger.

But Stripe wasn’t finished. “And what do you do with this knowledge?”

“What we think is best.”

“And what would that be, little pony?”

Cobalt didn’t answer right away, instead keeping his eyes locked forwards on the road ahead. We moved down the street and made a turn, passing by even more old buildings and some signs indicating our proximity to the city limits. Finally, however, he did find his tongue again.

“We preserve it,” he replied as resolutely as he could. “Until the time is right.”

Definitely Steel Rangers, and I couldn’t help but snort at the reply. “In other words, you sit on your flanks and do nothing at all.”

“Tenpony Tower is safe,” Cobalt retorted quickly. “And we keep it that way! Whole generations, living in peace away from the raiders and mutants!”

“And it was you that said the Wasteland still existed in the tower,” I pointed out, and his flinch was quite telling. “And even so, what of the rest of us? I’ve never had a place to call my own, I know that much. And yeah, I’m not the only one.”

Cobalt couldn’t meet our stares. “…Equestria’s time will come.”

“Bullshit,” I spat. I hadn’t known all that much of the ponies running Tenpony Tower before the last couple of days, and all of a sudden the thought of living there was losing its appeal. New Appleoosa was sounding more appealing, and they trade with Red Eye! “From what you’ve told me about the Twilight Society, they’ll sit quietly and let the status quo stay the status quo! Just like the Steel Rangers. Just like the pegasi! So long as ponies keep being apathetic and self-serving about everything, nothing will change! Just the same grinding existence and barely getting by we’ve always known, until there’s nothing left to save.”

Cobalt stopped in the middle of the road, closing his eyes and giving a soft sigh. “There are those of us who wish we could be more active out here. Who wish we could help the rest of Equestria. But this is the way things are. Red Eye and his slavers in Fillydelphia. The Enclave up above. Steel Rangers who would love to get their hooves on what we’ve got. And whatever the hell is up with Hoofington these days. The Twilight Society believes things are still too dangerous.”

“And so they shall remain,” Stripe stated, shaking her head. “I can understand why your DJ Pon-3 loves ponies like the Stable Dweller and the Security Mare. They are the few who try.”

“Pon-3 is an idealist,” Cobalt remarked, huffing. “And an infectious one. But whatever the case, when I have what I need from Stable 84 the Twilight Society will decide on how best to manage the situation.”

Ah! Stable 84! I was feeling rather hopeful that he was about to let slip his intentions… “What situation?”

Cobalt opened his mouth, about to tell all! And… then paused. Oh, and that glare he was shooting us was looking rather peeved.

So much for letting slip…

“Nice try,” he deadpanned, turning his back on us and continuing down the street.

Stripe and I watched him go, a little disappointed in the outcome of our little heart-to-heart. But still, we began to follow slowly along. And it all took only a few steps before Stripe began whispering over to me.

“We may know nothing more about our destination, but it was still quite telling, yes?” she said over to me, and I gave her a perplexed glance. “His hesitation, his flinch. I believe he may be among those who wishes for better, but he himself has grown so accustomed to not getting better that he’s become acceptant of the lesser.”

“So he just does whatever his bosses tell him to do.”

“Exactly,” she confirmed, before giving me a smirk. “You were correct about apathy, Scrap Heap. And so your heart shows through, as I said it would.”

What was she-

Ah, damn it!

Silence reigned for much of the rest of that day, Cobalt was in no hurry to talk to us again. But eventually, we did finally leave the city of Manehatten behind, following the main road out of the dead metropolis and towards the mountains in the north-west. It was a long and arduous trip, and we still had the occasional critter skittering around us. But if there were any raiders or worse out here, we didn’t run into any of them as the day dwindled and the night drew once again.

We spent that night under an overpass, taking turns keeping watch as we slept around a cosy campfire. A brave radhog tried to take a midnight snack, though we only discovered this after the sound of Stripe’s sniper rifle woke me and Cobalt as the zebra mare took care of the problem.

I was the one keeping watch as dawn broke, sitting idly against one of the support beams as the dull light began to illuminate the wastes around us. And with that, I woke Stripe and Cobalt up, and it was back onto the road for us.

And as we continued to walk in that new day, eventually the mountains came into view. And as we drew closer to their slopes, the main road once again split into two separate directions for us to follow. Looking at my PipBuck map, the direction to the right just led to a couple of old warehouses that I didn’t particularly fancy taking a peek in. It, and the marker on my E.F.S., both agreed that it was left we had to go.

“We take a left here,” I informed the others, showing them the map on my PipBuck’s screen.

“It’ll take a while to go around the mountains,” Cobalt said, speaking up for the first time in ages. “Too long.”

“Well, it’s the only way to go,” I rebutted, preparing to head off down the road in question. “So come on if you want your oh so secret MAS whatever.”

“There’s another way,” he announced, and I didn’t really like the way he grabbed my PipBuck hoof like that! Still, he was pointing to a smaller pathway leading off of the road to our right. “That path right there should lead through the mountains. We can cut right on through, and when we come out we skim the very edges of the Frozen North until we’re but a couple miles north of Stable 84. And then it’s just a straight line to the old bunker.”

Cobalt let my hoof go, only for Stripe to grab it next, albeit less forcefully, and examine the map for herself.

“Yes, that would be a quicker route overall,” Stripe admitted, thankfully dropping my hoof. “But the map is vague about that area.”

“Aside from some mining operations, I do not believe Equestria did much with the mountains between here and Rainbow Falls,” Cobalt explained. “We might find a rogue Yao Gui or two perhaps. But I’m sure you can handle that.”

“Great,” I deadpanned. “Well since you two are so enthusiastic about this shortcut, I suppose I’m outnumbered. Fine, we’ll go your way.”

Footnote: Level 7

New Perk: Bloody Mess - +5% overall damage, more violent death animations.