• Published 23rd Mar 2019
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Fallout Equestria: Influx - Beyond the Adventure - Lex the Pikachu



Crystal and the False Princess must now live with the consequences of their actions while settling into their new roles in the Wasteland.

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Super Stable 24

Fallout Equestria: Influx
Beyond the Adventure

Super Stable 24

5 Years before the Bombs Fell

Stable-Tec Head Office

Three adult mares of the three pony tribes sat around a large wooden, round table with a pull up projector screen set up across from it. The screen showed a projection of the Stable-Tec logo that flickered every so often. The three mares looked between each other before an orange pegasus mare dressed in a black suit stood up and looked towards her yellow and red earth pony colleague.

“Ok Bloom, what’s the meaning of this?” She asked with a frustrated sigh. The projection flashed to reveal a building plan of a Stable.

Apple Bloom stood up and placed her forehooves on the table. “I suppose you’re talking about the new stables I’ve had authorised and commissioned?”

The pearly white unicorn mare, with a long luscious two-tone purple and pink mane, nodded gently. “That’s right, Bloom. The acquisition of so much material will make it difficult for the nation to avoid suspicion. Luna may have approved our Stable project, but if ponies see these large quantities of materials and construction equipment going to one place all of a sudden, it could cause unnecessary panic.”

“She’s right, Bloom. We’re trying to build the Stables as discretely as possible to avoid such things, but this will not go unnoticed, and that will slow down our current Stable constructions,” added Scootaloo.

“Listen girls, our current Stable Project will have over a hundred Stables operational by the predicted time things are supposed to reach boiling point with those Zebra varmints; but Ah can’t help but think that we won’t save enough ponies. That is why I put into motion the Super Stable Project.”

Both Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo blinked in confusion.

“Wait, another Stable Project? But Apple Bloom, we already have a Stable Project underway with a projection of at least two hundred Stables in the next few years-” said Scootaloo, only to be cut off by Apple Bloom.

“Yeah, but how many can our current Stable’s occupy? Hm?”

“Around one to two hundred per Stable, why?” asked Sweetie Belle curiously.

“With the current projections, that’s like…” Bloom paused for a moment to run the math. “That’s around thirty thousand ponies, give or take a few spread out between the projected number of Stables. Now, what I’m envisioning here with the Super Stables are much, much bigger.”

“Bigger? How many ponies are you expecting to house with these Super Stables?” Scootaloo asked.

“If everything goes accordingly, or we get enough built, around a thousand ponies per Stable.”

“A THOUSAND!” Both mares exclaimed in shock.

“Do you have any idea how hard it will be for such things to not be noticed?” Scootaloo shrieked.

“Don’t worry. Ah know they’ll be huge, so Ah’ve only commissioned the construction of twenty-five of these, and each one is to be built in the centre of twenty-five major population centres.”

“Twenty-five… How do you even hope to get them built under the cities?”

“Don’t worry about that. The method has been working well so far for Super Stable 24 under Las Pegasus.”

“Hold on, you already have one in construction?”

Apple Bloom nodded with a proud smile. “Ah do, and if everything goes right, it’ll be complete within three to four years’ time.”

The two other mares shook their heads before their discussion moved onto other Stable-Tec matters.

XXXXX

195 Years after the bombs fell; 5 Years after the destruction of the Production Facility.

New Pegasus: Underground

“Well, I’ll be. That old codger wasn’t spouting bollocks after all!” Fruity, a purple pegasus stallion with a messy fuchsia mane, stood side-by-side with his family before a huge steel cog door.

“To be fair, he wasn’t legless, like he usually is.” Said Crystal Èclair, a grey-striped pegasus-zebra with a long grey-and-white mane in a ponytail, tilted her head slightly as she gazed at the centre of the door with intrigue.

“What does S24 mean, mum?” asked Xian, a teenage, black-striped zebra with a long, wavy, black-and-white mane.

Crystal put a forehoof to her chin “Hmm…” She hummed to herself before her eyes widened in recognition. “Wait, could this be one of them?”

“One of what, mother?”

“A Super Stable.”

“The hell is a Super Stable?” asked Fruity.

“A Super Stable is a high-capacity Stable that is separate from the other Stable Project,” Stated Nexus, a robotic pony.

“And how the hay do you know?”

“Because the Ministry of Awesome,” Crystal surmised in a flat tone. “Right?”

“Affirmative, ma’am.”

“Ok, so, what are they exactly?”

“Hmm. From what I remember reading in a Stable-Tec newsletter, they are, as Nexus said, high-capacity Stables; and there were going to be twenty-five of them.”

“Define ‘high capacity’?”

“One thousand plus.”

“Holy brahmin, that makes these things sound like huge underground cities!” exclaimed Xian.

“I can confirm with ma’am. If records are correct, this is the only completed example.”

“Cool. Well, are we gonna stand out here all day or are we gonna see what’s inside?” Fruity asked in slight apprehension as memories of their excursion to Stable 16 surfaced.

The memories must have shown on Crystal’s face as well, for she was also hesitant to approach the door controls. “We… we better make sure it isn’t dangerous,” With a deep breath, she approached the door’s console. “Huh, this Stable requires a key.”

“A key? We didn’t need one for 16 and it was just a lever switch. What makes this different?” Fruity asked.

“I dunno, but you can only access this console if you have the right key.”

“So that’s it then. What now?”

Crystal gave her husband a flat look and raised her foreleg with the Pipbuck strapped around it above the hoof.

“Wait, that’s the key?”

Crystal nodded as she tugged a small, white node from the back of the Pipbuck off and connected it with the console’s external port. A security cover over the door release button flipped up to give Crystal access. With it open, she hit the big red button. As she reconnected her node, the giant steel cog door made a teeth-clenching metallic screech as it pulled back and rolled to the side.

“Ugh, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that noise,” Fruity groaned, rubbing his ear.

“You said it, Dad.” Xian whined as she too rubbed at her ears.

Inside, a portion of the wall in the raised ceiling was painted in warm colours and displayed the words: ‘Welcome to Super Stable 24.’

Nexus walked in first with his Riot Shotgun held in his nano-fibre tail and at the ready. He walked across the metal bridge and stopped in the middle of the entrance. A moment later, he looked back and beckoned his companions inside. “All clear.”

The family soon followed their robotic butler into the Stable’s entrance. As they passed the threshold, they noticed that the Stable was slightly decayed. There were light patches of rust on metal surfaces and marks of grime on the walls. Fortunately, it was only a light dusting or in small patches, for the most part.

“Huh. I kinda expected this place to look as bad as 16 did.” said Fruity.

In front of the group were two doors; the door on the left was marked ‘Authorised Personnel Only’ and was locked, while the one on the right was open with windows lined along the right-side wall. To their right, a third door was marked as ‘Security.’

“We’re gonna need to check to see if this place was supposed to have an experiment. That means we need to find the Overmare’s Office,” said Crystal as she began to head for the open door on the right.

“For your information, ma’am, the office is on the Entrance Level beyond the door, down the hall, around the central shaft, down another corridor and it’ll be at the end,” Nexus informed.

“And you know this how?” Fruity asked, sceptically.

“I have the local map on my HUD, sir.”

“Of course, you do…” Fruity sighed with a roll of his eyes.

Crystal chuckled softly. Five years, and the two still got into verbal spats. “Hehe, he’s right honey.”

“What experiment could they run here?” Xian asked innocently.

“Nothing good, I’m afraid. We should’ve told you about 16.”

Xian blinked. “I, um, heard you talk about it to other ponies and you did look upset about it … What happened there?”

Fruity sighed. “We went there to take care of a bounty. Ended up in a battle for our lives because the place was full of insane lunatics; but more importantly, the Stable’s air filtration system was designed to pump some kind of psycho-active drug into the air.”

“Wait, you were being drugged by the air?”

“That’s right,” said Crystal. “Ugh, soon enough we began to hallucinate things that played on our fears.”

“Yeah, it was terrible. The longer we were in there, the worse they got,” said Fruity.

Fruity draped a wing over his wife, and she responded by nuzzling his cheek along his muzzle as they walked up the corridor to the central shaft.

“I… I hope its safe in here,” Xian whimpered, hurrying up to walk beside her foster parents.

“For the moment, the air is clean. Old, but clean,” Nexus said to lighten the mood.

“We’ll be sure once we see the mission objective.”

Nexus nodded. The group then entered a T-junction, with doors for elevators straight ahead and two corridors branching off to corners on either side. This, they deduced, formed the hallway that encapsulated the central shaft.

The group came upon the Overmare’s Office after walking around the central shaft and up the opposite corridor. To their surprise, the door was wide open, but there didn’t seem to be any sign of damage or forced entry. A bank of terminals was stationed against the backwall and behind the large horseshoe-shaped desk, all of which were dark. On the left wall, they could see several shelving units with ornaments and other knickknacks, and on the right wall was a large map of the Stable and a door marked ‘Living Quarters’.

“This place looks f-ing huge,” Fruity said as he stepped up to the large map and took in the multiple levels.

“To hold a thousand or so ponies, I’m not surprised,” Crystal agreed. She sat in the Overmare’s chair and booted up the desk terminal. “Hmm, it’s not locked.”

“Is that good?” Xian asked as she stepped up behind her mother and peered over her shoulder.

“It could be.” Crystal began looking at the data entries. “Hmm, from some diary entries here, this place doesn’t sound like it had any experimental objectives. Now, where is the mission brief?” She eventually found a folder marked ‘Stable-Tec Directive’, which she quickly opened to find one entry: the mission statement. She opened it up and began to read. Then, she sighed with relief.

“Is it good?” Xian asked with a hint of fear.

“Yes darling, this place is safe.”

“Oh good. I didn’t want to run into another ‘Auntie Glimmer’ scenario again,” said Fruity with a shudder.

“You and me both, Fruity.”

“Who’s Auntie Glimmer?” asked Xian confusedly.

“Err, best you don’t know that, sweetie.”

“Ok. So, what’s the deal with this place?”

“This Stable was made as it was intended. It was to hold as many ponies that could make it from Las Pegasus during the evacuation and stay closed for twenty years. However, based on these diary entries, there was an error in the system which delayed the opening, so it didn’t open until ten years after it was supposed to.”

“So that’s it? Everypony just left when the door was released?”

“Mostly. Again, from the entries, nopony wanted to leave until they knew it was safe; but even then, it took five years before everypony left.”

“So, we have a safe and empty Stable to explore then?” asked Fruity.

“It would seem that way, yeah.”

Phew.”

Nexus nodded and holstered his shotgun onto his back.

“Ok then. Where should we start?”

“Hmm. I think we should start from the bottom and work our way back up,” Crystal suggested.

“Sounds like a sound plan to me,” Agreed Fruity.

With that, they returned to the central shaft. They walked around until they found a utility elevator that would run the full depth of the Stable. Once they found one, Fruity pressed the call button and the up arrow lit up, followed by a whirring sound that signalled the lift was on its way up.

“This could take a while.” He groaned as he took note of the rolling numbers displayed beside the arrow.

“Well, this is a big place after all,” Crystal added.

“So, how should we go about covering this place?”

“Well, since we don’t seem to be in any danger, we could split up and take half of each floor as we go.”

“Sounds good.”

“Fruity, you go with Nexus, and I’ll go with Xian.” Crystal’s suggestion got a smile from the young Xian.

Fruity nodded and looked over to their robot butler. “Well Nex, it’ll be just you and me for a while.”

“Excellent, sir. Maybe I will have better luck in keeping you out of trouble,” said Nexus in a pleased tone.

Crystal smiled fondly. She was glad Fruity didn’t dislike their mechanical friend anymore, now referring to him by his name or a friendly nickname.

“’Bout fucking time!” said Fruity in frustration after ten minutes of waiting for the elevator, only to get a hoof to slap him upside the head.

“Language, sir. You are in the presence of the young lady,” Nexus reprimanded.

“Ow! Damn, sorry.” He turned to Nexus. “And who said you could slap me?”

“I did,” Crystal said with a chuckle as she entered the spacious lift, her husband following close behind.

“But why? That really hurt.”

“So he can keep you in check. Xian doesn’t need to hear that language.”

“Muuuum!” The young zebra whined.

“Yeah Crys, she ain’t a foal anymore.”

“Still doesn’t mean you can be vulgar in front of her. Besides, she’ll always be my little foal.”

Once inside, the elevator let out an ominous creak from the combined weight of two robotic ponies, along with the pegasus and zebra filly. Nexus pressed the button to take them down to the bottom floor, and with a shudder, the utility elevator began its long and slow descent.

Five minutes later, Crystal and Nexus both looked up at the ceiling simultaneously. The longer Crystal stared, the more her face contorted with worry.

“What is it?” Fruity asked.

“Something’s wrong.” Just as she said that, the lift began to jerk up and down.

“Whoa! Mum, what’s going on?” asked Xian in alarm.

“I don’t know, honey.”

A few seconds passed, and then there was a distant boom. Soon, the elevator began to free fall.

Fruity and Xian both became airborne before hitting the ceiling. Fruity ended up beside the roof hatch while Xian screamed in terror. Their impact knocked open the small ceiling hatch, allowing the group to see up into the elevator shaft. Crystal gasped in alarm as what she saw was the cause for her HUD’s alarm: the elevator motor at the top had broken loose and was tumbling down the shaft after them.

Suddenly, the lift screeched and whined as the emergency brakes activated, causing the lift to slow down.

“Eek!” Xian cried as she found herself falling to the floor, but thankfully, Crystal put herself underneath her so that she landed safely on her mother’s back. Nexus did the same for Fruity, but since he was made of metal, it wasn’t a soft landing for him.

The lift eventually screeched to a stop close to the bottom, but between floors.

“This is bad! If we don’t get out of here, we’re gonna get crushed!” said Crystal urgently.

“Nexus grab the door!” yelled Fruity as he jumped off Nexus’s back and headed for the door, digging his hooves into the groove to pry it open. Nexus quickly joined him, and with his mechanical strength, the door began to give way. The door screeched open to reveal another closed door halfway up a solid concrete wall.

“Shit… quickly!” Fruity and Nexus grabbed what they could of the next door to pull it open as well.

“H-hurry!” cried Crystal as the falling motor was getting closer and closer, banging and bouncing off the metal guide rails and support structure while the heavy steel cables coiled underneath.

With a primal yell, the two forced the second door open. Nexus jumped up through the small hole first, and then quickly turned around to hold out his nano-fibre tail for Fruity.

“No! Crystal, you and Xian go, NOW!”

Crystal rushed up. Using her wings, she lifted Xian up for Nexus, who quickly pulled her through. Crystal then grabbed her husband and practically shoved him up through the door before quickly jumping up herself. Nexus and Fruity both grabbed her forelegs and hauled her in just as the steel cable and motor crashed into the lift and overwhelmed its brakes, sending it crashing down to the bottom with an almighty, metallic crash.

Crystal immediately hugged her terrified daughter, to which Fruity quickly joined in. Nexus stood close by, watching the scene play out before him. He learned awhile back that dealing with equine emotions was still something he needed to understand better. After a few minutes, Xian had calmed down and relaxed into her mother and father’s embrace.

“Are you ok?” asked Crystal worriedly.

“I… I am now, mother,” said Xian quietly.

“Its reasons like this that we were reluctant to bring you along in the past,” said Fruity as he nuzzled her head.

“I… understand, Dad.”

Fruity then looked at his wife with concern. “How about you Crys? You feelin’ alright?” His eyes glanced down to her middle, covered by her remade noir coat.

Crystal blinked in confusion before she looked down. She nodded and sighed in relief. “Y-yeah, we’re fine.” She gently rested a forehoof on her slightly rounded abdomen. Fruity reached around Xian to put his hoof on top of his wife’s.

After spending another minute in each other’s embrace, getting their wits back about them, the three ponies stood back up.

“Are you all ok?” asked Nexus in concern for his friends.

“We are. Thank you, Nexus.” Crystal looked around the concrete corridor they now found themselves in. “Where are we?”

Nexus’s red, glowing eyes flashed for a couple of seconds as he went over the new local map data his sensors were picking up from the surrounding area.

“We are on the maintenance level, two levels from the bottom. We will find workshops and storerooms on this level for numerous categories of Stable operation.”

“We should be able to find some gems down here then, right?” asked Crystal, to which Nexus nodded. “Good, I could do with a little recharging after that ordeal.”

“I could use a good strong drink too,” added Fruity.

“Ah, no. You promised to give up the drink if we had foals.”

“Yeah, I know, but I’m not talking about getting pissed.”

Crystal raised an eyebrow. She knew how Fruity got after just a few drinks.

“Nexus, if he finds anything alcoholic, make sure he doesn’t drink any.”

Fruity whined, and Xian giggled.

Crystal looked down at her Pipbuck and switched it over to the map screen. “Ok, Xian and I will take the left side.”

“Ok then ma’am,” said Nexus. “Sir and I will take the right.”

XXXXX

The two groups went on to explore what they could. What they quickly came to realise was that despite the relatively light deterioration seen on the entrance level, it was not the same for the rest of the Stable.

Crystal and Xian both found one section heavy with rust and damp, the reason being a locked door with water spraying out any non-watertight gap it could, creating a flood in the hallway. This told the two that beyond that door, the Stable had flooded and was underwater, for whatever reason.

Fruity and Nexus, however, were luckier in that the half they were exploring wasn’t flooded; just filled with rust and grime that coated the walls. Nevertheless, both parties found several workshops that still had plenty of materials and tools that were worth salvaging. They took all they could find of use, filling their bags and pockets with as much as they were willing to carry. Hayside would benefit from the things they salvaged, and the Queens would put them to good use by helping the ponies living outside the New Pegasus wall have a better quality of life.

Things got more interesting for the two parties as they moved up the lower levels.

“Food and Oxygen Production?” Fruity stood alongside Nexus in front of a door labelled as such. The local map showed that the area contained several large rooms.

“Air recycling can only do so much. I believe there is an oxygen farm in this area.”

“Hm. And I assume the food production consist of the apple orchard typically found in Stables?”

“Quite likely, sir. Possibly on a grander scale considering the size of this Stable and its intended capacity.”

Fruity nodded and walked through the door. As they moved further inside, they could smell the greenery. The air smelled like plants and flowers, but so much cleaner and pure.

“Oh wow, this smells amazing.” Fruity cooed as he took a deep breath. The grime and rust on the walls had no effect on the air’s cleanliness.

“I dare say the air quality here is better than on the surface,” said Nexus.

“Well shit, why don’t we live down here then?”

“Because you would go stir-crazy in less than a day.”

“Oh, sod off, ramrod head.”

The two came to a door that looked like it was bowing outwards. Thick roots could be seen coming out of the walls and digging into the drainage gutter running along the floor.

“What the hell is this?” asked Fruity

“I would assume this is the result of a hundred and fifty years of unmonitored growth.”

“But if nopony’s here to look after these plants, how the hell are they still alive?”

“Stables are equipped with artificial sun lamps and automatic irrigation systems. If the system is still working, then the plant life could continue to thrive, even without ponies.”

“And breaking through the wall?”

“Uncertain. However, pre-war records have some instances where tree roots have pushed up pavement or destabilised buildings due to root growth.”

“So, this is in the realms of possibility?” asked Fruity as he gestured to the crumbling wall.

“I would assume so, sir.”

“Think we can get in there?”

“Considering how the door’s condition, I would again assume the flora on the other side has put enough pressure on the door to compromise it, and in that state the door will not budge.”

“Cock…” Fruity looked over toward the end of the hall and found another sign. “Hey, what about Hydroponics?”

“Would be a good source of seeds for planting up on the surface,” said Nexus before the two headed in the sign’s direction.

The two soon came to a half-open door, with vegetation crawling out of it and filling the end of the corridor in greenery. A half-covered sign next to it labelled the room as the ‘Hydroponic and Oxygen Farm’.

“Woah, this is insane!” gasped Fruity as they squeezed under the door and entered the lab.

Every inch of the lab was covered in plant growth, from everyday plants to fruits and vegetables. It was almost impossible to tell where one plant started and another began, as they intertwined and grew over each other. The ceiling had several functional sun lamps which bathed the room in soft yellow light, and the greenery glistened with saidlight, meaning the irrigation system was also still working.

“I’ve seen messes before, but this is ridiculous,” groaned Fruity.

“Judging from the plant growth here, any equipment and seeds would be now useless.”

“Damn. Oh well, we keep going then, I guess.” Fruity sighed and turned around to leave. Nexus nodded and followed his friend out.

XXXXX

Crystal and Xian both emerged from a utility staircase laden with scavenged materials from the maintenance levels and stepped onto the first of the residential levels of Super Stable 24. They looked around and found themselves at a far corner, where they could see doors to living quarters and front windows for each. Beside where they entered, they found a large room which turned out to be this level’s school room. A Stable of this size and capacity would require several school rooms to comfortably hold and teach all the young foals that would’ve called this Stable their home.

“Whoa, is this a pre-war school?” asked Xian in amazement and curiosity.

Crystal smiled as she stepped up beside her. “Kinda. This is just Stable-Tec’s rendition of a school. Pre-war schools are considerably different; some were small, one-room schoolhouses, while others consisted of a whole series of buildings linked together.”

“Wow.”

Xian entered the school room proper. It was fairly large, with what looked to be a capacity of around thirty elementary students and ten preschool students. The main section of the room was for the young colts and fillies, while a small section in the corner divided by a half-wall was for the toddlers. The main room was full of desks and chairs, with lockers and cupboards lining the side walls. The back area held the teacher’s desk, as well as a chalk board and white board. The preschool section, by the teacher’s desk, mostly consisted of toy boxes and beanbag chairs.

Crystal was glad to see that, like below, there were no skeletons lying around. It would have been a heart-breaking sight to see, and unbearable with her daughter nearby. What further cemented the idea that everypony left the Stable on their own terms was that there were no books, bags, or any other school supplies anywhere. Everything in the school room was neat and tidy despite the small level of decay.

After spending a few minutes to loot some of the school supplies, the two left to explore the residential floor.

“Oh wow, this is so cool!” squealed Xian happily as she bounced down the corridor. Crystal smiled at her adoptive daughter’s enthusiasm.

Xian reared up and braced herself on a wall so she could look through a window and into a living room. “Did ponies really live like this before the war?”

Crystal nodded. “In a manner of speaking.”

“It must have been nice and comfortable to live back then.”

Crystal frowned slightly and sighed. “Yes, and no. Back then, how comfortable you lived depended on how many bits you had, but today, you live as good as you can with what you got.”

“But the ponies behind the wall?”

“That’s as close as you can get to pre-war, but it’s still rough and driven by money.”

Xian’s ears wilted as she dropped down from the window. Crystal nuzzled her head affectionately.

“Don’t worry, though. We have all we need, and thanks to what we’ve scavenged today, we can certainly fix up the house now.”

Xian nuzzled her back. Crystal cooed softly at the affection. “Why not go inside and see if the ponies left anything behind?”

Filled with excitement and curiosity, the teenage zebra pressed the door control button and quickly rushed in to begin rooting around for anything of interest while Crystal watched.

“So many clothes! And in such good condition, too!” exclaimed Xian as she began digging through a dresser in one of the bedrooms.

While Crystal stood in the living room listening to her daughter having a good time, her smile began to fade. Memories of her past life, her family, her friends, her mother, and other significant events of her past flashed through her mind. It was painful to remember so much so vividly, and she couldn’t help but wonder what her mother and the rest of her family went through after they were falsely told she had died.

Just then, her ears twitched. They flicked again, and Crystal tilted her head in confusion. She closed her eyes to concentrate; she could feel something, something that was making her head tingle with familiarity. Soon, she realised she was sensing a power signature, and she rose an eyebrow as she looked up toward the ceiling, in the direction she was sensing it. But then her eyes widened, for she could sense a second signature on the same level as her.

“Wait, if Nexus is on this level with us, then who…?” She asked before her eyes widened further, this time in shock and fear. “Th-that’s a Mark 2 power signature. Oh no!”

Crystal quickly pulled up her Pipbuck and turned on its communicator. “Nexus, do you read me?”

“M-mum?” asked Xian with worry, stepping out of the bedroom. She went unnoticed by Crystal.

“We read you ma’am. I suppose you sense it as well?” replied Nexus.

“I do. It’s a Mark 2 power signature.”

Fruity could be heard over the communicator. “But that’s impossible! I mean, Dr Pear told us she couldn’t detect any other ones.”

“It can’t be Unit-02, that went dark four years ago. It can’t be Pixie, she’s performing in New Pegasus; and it can’t be Nexus as he’s here with us.” said Crystal, trying to narrow down possibilities.

“This unit has deactivated its Remote Signal Transmitter. I can’t identify it,” said Nexus.

“Wait… could it be Unit-04?”

“Wait, what?” yelled Fruity.

“Back then in the facility, I remember seeing a fourth pod open. Do you think it could be Unit-04?”

“It’s possible. The destruction of the facility could have prevented it from being identified by Dr Pear,” said Nexus.

“Well, shit… OW! Damn it, bucket head!”

“Sorry sir, but young Xian could be within earshot.”

“Guys! We need to regroup and get out of here before that…” Crystal trailed off as her ear twitched again.

“Affirmative, ma’am. We’re heading for the Central Shaft now!” said Nexus firmly. He too felt the same thing Crystal did.

“Mum, what’s going on?” asked Xian fearfully.

Crystal blinked, finally remembering her daughter was in the room with her. “X-xian, I’m sorry honey, but we gotta go.”

“M-mum?”

Crystal sighed and rushed over to her daughter, draping a wing over her back and leading her to the door. “There’s a potential threat in here with us now, and we just lost track of it.”

Xian seemed to pale at the fear in her mother’s eyes as they entered back into the corridor.

“We’re gonna meet back up with your father and uncle, and then get out of here.” Crystal’s ears twitched again, trying to sense the Mark 2 once more.

The two came to the corner that led back to the schoolroom before taking a right to head toward the central shaft. Unfortunately, they came upon a security door that seemed to be without power, which meant it couldn’t be opened. Thus, the two mares had to double back and find an alternate route.

At this point, Xian was getting more and more scared the longer it took them, and so was Crystal since she couldn’t sense the Mark 2 anymore. It took them several minutes to follow the corridors and get around the locked door, precious time they didn’t have. When they finally found a corridor that would take them back, they hurried on through it and kept going until they reached a T-junction and turned left. When the two got closer to the central shaft entry door, it opened; and a silhouette of an earth pony filled the doorway, forcing the two mares to halt.

Crystal quickly threw a wing up in front of Xian to both stop and shield her. The silhouetted stallion stepped through.

“Who are you?” demanded Crystal.

The stallion tilted his head slightly. “What’s wrong? You don’t recognise me?” His voice was eerily familiar.

Why does that voice sound so familiar?” thought Crystal. The stallion began to approach them. “Stay back!” She reached for the lever-action shotgun on her back with her nano-fibre tail.

The stallion grinned just as the dim light from the ceiling revealed his face. He had a beige coat and a light brown mane, but the most striking features were the metal face mask that covered the left side of his face and the missing left ear. It looked like he had suffered a terrible burn, for the edges of the mask showed warped and twisted flesh. Suddenly, there was a flurry of movement behind him, and the back of his duster was flung up to reveal a large auto-shotgun battlesaddle.

Crystal quickly, and unexpectedly, shot the floor in front of him. As he flinched, Crystal quickly grabbed her daughter with her forehooves and used her wings to propel themselves back the way they came. She banked around a corner and stopped, panting from the fear. She leaned out from the corner and saw that the stallion had already begun to follow them.

“Who is that, mummy?” asked Xian fearfully.

“I don’t know honey, but I swear I’ve heard his voice before somewhere.” Crystal leaned out again to gauge the distance between them, but swiftly pulled back as the stallion’s shotgun fired. “FUCK!” The slug smacked into the floor, creating a sizeable hole in the concrete.

She quickly shook off her medical box backpack and opened it. She dug through its contents until she found and pulled out a pair of orange-coloured devices with handles and covered with nubs typically found on naval mines. “Alright, let’s see how this guy likes these.” She twisted one of them. There was a beep, and its handle extended by releasing a chain, turning the device into an old ball-and-chain-like weapon. She took hold of the handle with her tail and swung it around before letting it go by throwing it around the corner. It bounced off the opposite wall and landed by the stallion’s hooves.

“SHIT!” he yelled, diving back. Not a second later, the device exploded.

“I gotta thank Right Bleeding for these bolo grenades,” said Crystal, smashing the second one against the corner wall. Upon striking the concrete, the nubs extended, digging into the wall and pinning the grenade to its surface. “Alright, trap set. C’mon sweetie we need to go, NOW!”

The two mares ran off to find another way, while the stallion angrily grumbled and continued down the dust-filled corridor in pursuit. As he reached the corner his target had gone around, he immediately looked over to see the grenade planted on the wall. “Oh, for fuck sake!” He swiftly performed a combat roll back up the corridor as the explosive beeped and then detonated.

He stood back up, growling angrily. The dust and smoke didn’t irritate him as he slowly turned his head, like he was tracking something. “You may run I-01, but I will find you.” He turned around to head back the way he came and opened a door to the left of the central shaft entrance, following the stairs up to the next level.

XXXXX

The corridor shook, followed by a dull boom that echoed throughout the floor and caused some dust to rain down from the ceiling. The purple pegasus and robotic stallion paused in their mad dash for the central shaft.

“The hell was that?” asked Fruity in alarm.

“That was a bolo grenade, sir,” informed Nexus sadly.

There was a second shudder-and-boom combo.

“Shit! She’s used two! C’mon bucket head, we need to find her!”

Nexus nodded and charged forward with Fruity close behind. Being a robot, Nexus was able to quickly plot a course using his local map data function, and quickly directed his organic companion toward a stairwell. With a swift shoulder barge, Nexus broke the door down and thundered up the stairs to the next residential level while Fruity practically flew up them.

Nexus burst out the door at the top and charged down the corridor toward the east side of the central shaft.

“Fuck, this place is big!” said Fruity as he landed and galloped alongside Nexus.

When the two entered the central shaft, Nexus slowed to a stop and tilted his head slightly in concentration.

“Hey, why’d you stop?”

“Sir, it’s faint, but I can sense a Mark 2 power signature on this level now.”

“It’s here!? Fuck!”

“Yes, sir. Considering the difficulty in pinpointing its exact position, I believe it can supress its power signature to the point that only sophisticated sensors can detect it.”

“Sucks to be you then.”

The machine looked at Fruity for a moment before looking back ahead of them. “Thank you, sir. I must file a complaint that this Stable’s walls interfere with my sensor array.”

“Funny… Well, sod looking for the Mark 2, find my wife and kid.”

“Yes, sir.” Nexus looked around before his gaze focused to the southeast. “Found her, sir.”

“Great, now move your metal ass!”

Without further prompting, the two resumed their gallop.

XXXXX

Crystal and Xian barged into a large open space within the centre of Residential Level 2. The large room had laminated wood flooring, ropes and climbing frames on the walls, and on either end were both goal posts for Hoofball and buckets for Buckball. Simply put, it was one of the sports and recreational rooms supplied to the Super Stable. Unfortunately, a large metal support girder had fallen from the ceiling and made a divider of wreckage in the middle.

Crystal hurriedly opened her backpack and pulled out her last two bolo grenades, quickly planting one on the doorframe before she and her daughter moved away and sat down. Xian was huffing and puffing from fear and exhaustion. Crystal, on the other hoof, was barely breathing faster than normal, one of the side effects of being mostly machine, and thus not needing as much oxygen.

“D-did we lose him?” squeaked Xian.

“I don’t know, sweetie. I can’t sense him.” Crystal frowned. “I must get Nexus to teach me how to sense things better.” She sighed before looking at the bolo grenade in her tail’s grip. “Damn, down to my last one.”

“I want to go home now, Mum.”

Crystal quickly moved closer to her scared daughter and wrapped her up in a comforting wing hug. “Oh, I know darling. We’ll leave as soon as we can. I promise. I don’t want to be here any longer myself.”

BANG!

Both mares jumped as something heavy hit the door they came in from.

“Crap, he’s here! Grab a hold of me, sweetie.”

Xian wrapped her hooves around Crystal. Once she was secure, Crystal flapped her wings to get airborne, lifting off the floor just as the door was swiftly shoved open and the grenade trap was triggered as a result.

“Not again!” The stallion groaned upon hearing the beep and rolled behind cover.

Crystal flew where the rafters had fallen and planted the final grenade on the concrete ceiling before diving down toward the door on the opposite side. Once she landed and set down her daughter, she quickly grabbed her shotgun in her tail, aimed up at her planted grenade and waited. It wasn’t long before her pursuer crested the hill made of fallen rafters and looked down at her with an annoyed frown. He raised a brow at the sight of her aiming at the ceiling. He followed where her gun was pointing and cursed when he saw the grenade directly above him.

“Leave me alone!” shouted Crystal as she pulled the trigger. Her buckshot peppered the ceiling and one pellet struck the explosive, setting it off. At first, the grenade caused multiple cracks to form in the ceiling, but shortly after, the sounds of groaning and shifting concrete met their ears. Moments later, droplets of water dripped down.

“That didn’t go as expected,” said Crystal. She thought that without the rafters acting as support, she would bring the ceiling down on her foe.

“Um, Mum? Why is the ceiling crying?”

Crystal blinked and looked up again, noticing that the dripping water was getting worse by the second.

“Oh, no.” Crystal paled and immediately moved her daughter toward the door, shoving her out quickly. “Go fuck yourself!” She yelled back at her pursuer before slamming the door closed. The stallion hadn’t moved, too captivated by the growing number of cracks in the ceiling to notice his target getting away.

He didn’t snap out of it until he heard the door close and seal. He grumbled to himself for letting himself get so easily distracted; but when a large chunk of the ceiling fell and crashed onto the floor, his attention swiftly went back upward. Moments later, a torrent of water cascaded down through the hole.

“Lucky bitch. She breached the swimming pool above.” The rest of the damaged ceiling gave way, and a tremendous flood of water came crashing down into the sports hall. He yelled in rage as the force of the water picked him up off his hooves and carried him away. He was slammed into multiple walls before being sucked out the first door.

Crystal and Xian both slowed to a halt. They could hear the torrent of water and feel the floor vibrate from the force of the flood.

“Mum, what did you do?”

“I-I dunno.”

“Oh, thank the stars you’re alright!” cried Fruity as he swooped in and hugged his wife in relief.

Crystal squeaked in surprise, but soon melted into the pleasant embrace of her husband. “Oh, Fruity.”

Right after, Fruity quickly embraced his adopted daughter. “I was so worried about you two.”

Xian cooed happily as she snuggled into her father’s plumage.

“I hate to interrupt the family moment, but we need to leave. I can sense that the Mark 2 has resumed its pursuit,” said Nexus, joining the group proper.

Fruity gave his wife and daughter another quick hug and stood up. “Alright, lead the way, mate.”

With a nod, the family all followed their butler while remaining on high alert.

XXXXX

The stallion grumbled to himself as he trudged down the corridor, dripping wet and shaking water off himself.

“This is getting ridiculous. It’s a good thing I don’t rust. How many of those fucking grenades does I-01 have?”

He tilted his head upon sensing another Mark 2 close by. “So, the traitor is here too. Well, no matter.” He growled in irritation and hurried to cut off his prey before they could reach the central shaft.

XXXXX

The group emerged onto the top residential level after having been forced to detour once they realised that their pursuer had got ahead of them. The group found themselves in the equivalent of the upper class of the Stable, for the living quarters here were around a third of the size bigger than the ones below them.

“Well, I guess this is where the snobs lived,” snarked Fruity.

“You get them anywhere you go Fruity,” added Crystal.

Nexus tilted his head slightly as they rushed through. He could sense the Mark 2 below them, and based on that and his map, it was backtracking to find a stairwell that reached the floor they were on.

“We are in the clear, Ma’am,” he informed.

“Thank Celestia. C’mon, lets hurry.”

It didn’t take long for them to reach the central shaft and burst into one of its stairwells.

“You gotta be shitting me!” Fruity gawked as he looked upward to see just how high it was. “OW!” he cried when Nexus gave him a slap to the back of the head. “Damn it butter-pat head, stop being so heavy-hoofed!”

“Sorry, sir.”

“You two, stop bickering. We need to get out of here fast,” urged Crystal.

“It’ll take forever and a day to climb these stairs, and sod elevators after the first one.”

“Fruity, we can fly, and Nexus has endless stamina so him running up the stairs won’t be a problem.”

Nexus nodded.

“Alright, then what about when we get to the entrance?” asked Fruity. “We trap him in here?”

“Negative, sir. That won’t work,” said Nexus

“Oh, and why’s that, smart guy?”

“As he is a Mark 2, he would be able to interface with the Stable’s systems even if we destroy both door control terminals. He would be able to open the door eventually.”

“Then we have to stop him,” said Crystal nervously. “Because he won’t stop ‘til I’m dead.”

“We can form a kill box at the entrance. Give him little room to manoeuvre.”

“Alright then, let’s get a move on and get this over with,” said Fruity, spreading his wings.

Crystal embraced Xian and spread her wings as well. With a nod from all party members, they took off for the entrance level. Crystal, Xian and Fruity all flew up the stairwell’s gap in the middle, while Nexus sprinted up the stairs and used his mechanical strength to jump several steps at a time.

It took the group several minutes to reach the top, and once they left the stairs, they quickly made their way to the open cog door. Once outside, they all turned around and readied their weapons in preparation for the arrival of the Mark 2.

“Fruity, do you have any bolos on you?” asked Crystal.

“Yeah, why?”

“Plant them on the doorframe.”

“Right-o.” Fruity nodded as he rushed up to the doorframe and dug into his duster pockets with a wing. He fished out a pair of bolo grenades and jammed each within the door’s groove on either side. Once that was done, he retreated to his family.

“Xian, go home.” Crystal readied her shotgun and exchanged its buckshot for slugs.

“No! Not without you, mummy!”

Crystal grumbled. “We don’t have time to argue with you about this. Just… stay behind me and keep low.”

Xian gulped and did as she was told, hiding behind her cybernetic mother.

“He’s here!” called Nexus. Everypony with a gun snapped them up and aimed at the door.

Slowly, the beige earth pony walked out and onto the bridge toward them. He grumbled in annoyance as he stopped several feet away from the door upon noticing the planted grenades.

“Wait, he’s a Mark 2?” asked Fruity as he looked him over. “Then how does he have skin? There’s no way he visited Dr Pear?”

“That’s something I would like to know as well,” said Crystal. “Explain yourself!”

The pony looked between the three with their weapons all pointed at him. He was more worried about what the purple pegasus was armed with; a Multipass Rifle would be the most effective against his endoskeleton.

“Alright, I’ll indulge you,” he said, knowing he was at a disadvantage. “My name is Busckshot, though you might know me better as Unit-02.”

“Wait, Unit-02! But, that’s impossible!” squeaked Crystal in surprise.

“Yeah, Unit-02’s signal went dark four years ago,” said Fruity.

“Unless he deactivated his signal transmitter,” whispered Nexus, just loud enough for his companions to hear. “Without that, he could remain undetected by Dr Pear’s scanners.”

“Ok, but that doesn’t explain how he has flesh.”

“Five years ago,” said Buckshot. “Right after our last encounter, I stumbled upon Upgrade Station Delta in the ruins of Manehattan.”

“Wait, there are more Upgrade Stations?” asked Fruity.

“Affirmative, sir. One for each region of Equestria. It was necessary for Ironside’s original plan,” informed Nexus.

“Yeah, well, I found it still operational, and somehow, the Flesh Binding spell was on the system’s network. Though it cut out for some reason before it could finish.” Buckshot absentmindedly reached a hoof up to touch the face mask as he reminisced.

“How the hell would that facility have the Flesh Binding spell?” asked Crystal in horror, the possibility of that spell being freely available terrifying her.

“It’s possible that Ironside extracted it from you during your battle with Unit-1000,” said Nexus. “It’s cutting out, as he put it, might be because it was being sourced from the Production Facility; so, when it was destroyed, it stopped streaming the spell’s data.”

“I don’t give a shit what the reason is!” yelled Buckshot angrily.

“Hey! Language, you’re in the presence of a young filly,” reprimanded Fruity.

“Oh boo-fucking-hoo!”

“Ok, ok!” yelled Crystal. “Now that brings us to the other question: why are you here?”

“Isn’t it obvious? I’m here for you.”

“Why? It’s been five years, why are you coming to kill me now?”

“Don’t you remember?” Buckshot’s anger was rising. Upon seeing nothing but blank and confused looks, he shouted in rage. “You killed my sister!”

“Who?” asked Fruity.

“My sister, you dumbass! Razzle!”

“I think he means Unit-01,” suggested Nexus.

“Her name was Razzle, damn you!”

“Alright, alright, calm down,” said Fruity.

“Because of you, she’s dead!”

“Wait, I couldn’t have killed her. We were unprepared to face you two, how could I be the one responsible for her death?” asked Crystal, shocked at such an accusation.

“Yeah. It wasn’t her that locked you both in a chokehold and blew himself up,” added Fruity.

“They raise a good point, Unit-02,” said Nexus with a nod.

“It’s because of you that we were there. If it wasn’t for you, my sister and I wouldn’t have had to go there after you!”

“You’re rage towards ma’am is unfounded, Unit-02.”

“Like hell it is!” Buckshot brought his auto-shotgun to bear. Fruity and Nexus stepped forward and in front of Crystal, shielding her.

“Wait! Nexus is right, and I’m not saying that to save my skin,” began Crystal as she pushed herself between the two protecting her. “You were there for me because you were ordered too, weren’t you?”

Buckshot blinked several times, tilting his head. “Your point?”

“It wasn’t my fault your sister died; it was Ironside’s. It is because of him you were there; it’s because of him that you lost your sister.”

“Ma’am is correct, Unit-02. In fact, you owe your life to her. If it wasn’t for her, you’d likely not exist right now.”

Buckshot stood wide eyed for a moment. Then, his teeth clenched, and his face bore an expression of conflict; his shotgun began to dip in his battlesaddle. After nearly half a minute, he hung his head, and his shotgun slacked downward.

“Damnit… You’re right… All this time I was angry with the wrong pony.” Suddenly, his angry look returned. “Ironside. He needs to be dealt with!”

“Whoa, easy, it’s ok,” said Crystal soothingly. “He’s dead. He went up with the facility along with all the other Mark 2’s.”

Buckshot was again wide-eyed with shock, but then his expression shifted to that of somepony who was lost. He sat down and seemed to deflate. “My sister has been avenged…but, what am I going to do, now?”

“That’s for you to find out now, Buckshot,” said Crystal sadly. “Fruity, deactivate those grenades, would you?”

“Seriously?”

“He’s not a problem now. You won’t be coming for me, now will you?”

“… No. I should never have come here,” sighed Buckshot.

After some further urging, Fruity approached the door, and deactivated and removed the two grenades.

“Let’s go.” Crystal and the family left Buckshot to his thoughts, though Fruity and Nexus kept their weapons trained on him until they were out of sight and heading into the New Pegasus Underground.

“I think we made a mistake letting him go, honey,” said Fruity, voicing his concern.

“He has realised his error. We don’t need to cause him any harm. We showed him there is a better way,” explained Crystal. “Besides, there’s enough death in this world. We don’t need to contribute more to that.” She looked down at her stomach. “And besides, we have more important things to worry about.”

Fruity followed her gaze, and then nodded in agreement.

XXXXX

Back at the Super Stable’s entrance, Buckshot remained where he was, deep in thought as he tried to think of what he could do, now that his quest for vengeance had been for nothing. He was also angry, not at Crystal or her friends, but at himself for being so blinded by rage that he didn’t stop to think of who was really to blame.

He gasped in surprise and jumped back when a brilliant golden light flashed in front of him. Once he recovered, he looked up in amazement at the great white alicorn with a flowing red mane and tail standing before him.

“P-princess Solaris!”

“I am proud of you, Unit-02. You didn’t stoop to killing, and you saw reason when it mattered,” said Solaris with a serene smile.

“Yes, her explanation made sense. I… How do you know my unit number?”

Solaris gave a knowing smirk. “I know everything there is to know about you, Unit-02. After all, I woke you up.”

“Woke me…” His eye widened considerably, and then he dropped to a knee, an instinctive reaction when in the presence of his commander. “Unit-1000.”

The alicorn smiled softly. “Rise, Unit-02. I’m not here to control you, and besides, I don’t go by that name anymore. So please, call me Solaris.”

Buckshot nodded lightly. “Why are you here?”

“I wanted to make sure you didn’t do something stupid. I’d been keeping an eye on you ever since I detected your energy signature back in Manehattan. Thankfully, everything you’ve done on your journey here had been reasonable, but I wanted to make sure you didn’t fall to what claims many ponies in this world.”

“I didn’t kill her, so what do you want with me?”

“I can see you are now lost, without purpose. I’m here to offer you a chance at a life with purpose.” The alicorn smiled a smile of absolute warmth. “I offer you a place at my side, to be my Captain of the Guard for Sparkle-World.” Just as she finished, her smile disappeared, and her eyes projected a dark aura of malice. “Or, I can erase you from existence so you can’t be a possible threat to the ponies of this world.”

He knew that either way he would be at her mercy. So, he did the only logical thing. “I will join you, Princess.”

The malice faded, and her motherly aura returned as she smiled. “Splendid.” Her horn began to glow with a golden light, and in a flash, both cybernetic beings were gone.

Author's Note:

Been a little while but I present the next instalment for Beyond the Adventure.

I hope you'll all enjoy this chapter and please, feedback is welcome.

The Eclaire Family