• 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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Monster

Fallout Equestria: Influx
Beyond the Adventure

Monster


5 Years after the destruction of the Production Facility.

Before and during the war, Sparkle World was a theme park dedicated to bringing fun and joy to ponies of all ages. It had hotels, shops, restaurants, a museum, a zoo, whole areas dedicated to certain themes (like western and sci-fi), and even a Sparkle-Cola bottling plant. In the years after the megaspells, several groups of raiders made the park their base. This would change, however, after the False Princess began her efforts of retaking the park and converting it into her sanctuary for wastelanders everywhere.

She started by single-hoofedly taking over Sparkle Town, the section of the park dedicated to guest accommodations and commerce. By the time two years had passed, hundreds of ponies had inhabited the old hotel district, bringing a sense of safety and normality to those that lived and worked there. Shortly thereafter, Princess Solaris discovered that the raiders had lost control of the rest of the park. All the other zones were taken over by creatures, ghouls, and robots that preyed upon all who ventured there. Regardless, Solaris would not rest until she had reclaimed the entire park for all her subjects, so she put together a task force of a dozen ponies to help her with this undertaking.

The first section to be reclaimed was Foals Kingdom, a place originally designed for younger park patrons. Thankfully, reclaiming this section was easy as a sentient Glowing One (a heavily radiated ghoul) had been watching Solaris and her ponies wiping out the raiders, and thus was willing to negotiate. He would give control of his section to them in exchange for news of his wife, who had left in search of a cure for the mental deterioration that plagued their kind. The task force would, unfortunately, only find his wife dead in a nearby town with a holotape that spoke of her final moments. Once the holotape was given, the Glowing One left the zone, vowing to continue his wife’s quest on his own.

Next was the World of Sparkle, a trickier affair. The old museum and bottling plant located there were a nightmare for the group, what with all the Sparkle-Rad-mutated Mirelurks and boobytraps. It took the group several long months to secure the facility due to this, as well as a giant monster that they came to identify as a Mirelurk Queen. They initially didn’t have the right weapons necessary to neutralize it, and they also couldn’t rely on Princess Solaris because she left to pursue some self-improvement. But in the end, they succeeded. Half of the park was under their control, and the task force could finally take a well-earned break.

The Wild Zone, where the zoo was located, was next on their list, but this zone gave them reason to be worried. Stories of unforeseen monsters and countless disappearances began to circulate, and the presence of large makeshift barricades at the zone’s entrance didn’t help sate the citizens’ fears.

The task force stood before the Wild Zone’s entrance, with their leader in front. He was a sand yellow unicorn stallion, dressed in a full suit of heavy combat armour and a red bandanna around his head.

“How goes the watch?” he asked.

One of the guards looked at the stallion and quickly saluted. “It’s been quiet so far, captain.”

“Quiet as in we haven’t seen anything, but it sounds like there are lots of monsters in there,” said the other guard. “Boy, does it get spooky here at night.”

“Captain Havok doesn’t need to hear your ghost stories.”

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. And thank you, we’re here to clear the place anyway,” Havok replied, followed by a round of affirmatives from his squad.

“Alright. Well, good luck in there, Captain,” the guard said. The pair saluted him once more, and the team made their way into the zone.

The first thing they all noticed upon entering the Wild Zone proper was how desolate and overgrown the place had become. It was clear that the megaspells either hadn’t affected this place or its effects were very minor, for the old hedges seemed to have continued to grow unrestricted. The dark clouds that blanketed the skies didn’t help, either.

“So, what’s the plan, boss?” a pegasus mare asked.

“We make our way to the centre and then work our way out towards the perimeter. We should be able to chase out any unwanted guests that way without them retreating back inside.”

“Alright, everypony. Let’s get this done and make the princess proud,” another member called out with confidence.

The team let out a cheer and continued forward. The Wild Zone maintained its gloomy atmosphere with its large concrete walls and the eerie sounds of creatures and creaking wood or metal, putting all the task force on edge.

“This has to be the creepiest place in the entire Wasteland,” a stallion muttered.

“Nah, dude. The Dungwich Estate in West Mareginia is. I swear I saw literal ghosts in that place,” another said with a shiver.

“Any place associated with Dungwich is creepy as fuck,” a mare added.

“Cut the chatter, guys. There is no telling what’s in here,” said Captain Havok.

“Sorry, sir.”

“Um, does anyone feel like we’re being watched?”

The group collectively shivered, but they soldiered on.

It took the group several minutes to reach the centre. Here stood a gigantic tree which had a large wooden structure in its branches, as well as several slides running down from it to the ground. Surrounding the base was a large, overgrown hedge maze, which seemed to have a hole in its walls leading to the tree, almost like something big had charged right through it.

One of the mares looked at it more closely. “I don’t think there should be a hole in the hedges here.”

Suddenly, there was a series of clicks, like something hard tapping against stone. Now on alert, all their weapons were raised and pointed in the sound’s direction.

“The fuck was that?”

“Dunno but keep your guard up.”

‘Click’ ‘click’ ‘click’.

This time, the clicking came from two separate directions. The group turned to face both directions at once.

“Anything?” Havok asked in a hushed voice.

“Negative. Can’t see anything.”

“Nothing over here either, sir.”

“Gadget, you got a Pipbuck, right?” asked Havok, addressing a unicorn mare dressed like a mechanic and wearing a helmet with a series of magnifying lenses on it.

“Yes, sir.”

“Keep a close eye on your E.F.S. I need you to call out any possible threats.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Alright, everypony, let’s begin our sweep, and stay alert. We might not be alone here.”

The group scanned the area slowly. Then they moved towardss the zoo, which consisted of a third of the Wild Zone. Each enclosure they came across had broken down metal bars or large holes in their concrete walls; any traces of the previous inhabitants were long gone.

“Where the hell are all the animals? What did this?” Havok asked nopony in particular.

“No idea boss, but this is a big hole,” said a stallion, standing on a ledge that overlooked a habitat hole.

“Brutus, get back from there before you fall in.”

“Alright, alright,” Brutus sighed as he turned around. Just then, the ground beneath him let out a loud crack. He looked at his captain with a knowing look of terror before the ground beneath him gave way, and he fell. He shouted in fright before hitting the sloping wall and sliding the rest of the way down. He came to the bottom of the hole fast, where his right hind leg hit the ground awkwardly, to which he let out a yell of pain.

“Argh! Fuck, my leg!”

“Ariel, Sandy. Bring him back up,” Havok said as he gestured to two pegasi.

Said pegasi nodded and quickly jumped down to retrieve their comrade. Within a few seconds, they returned with the injured stallion.

“Thanks guys,” said Brutus, keeping his right hind hoof off the floor.

“You ok?” asked Havok.

“Shit, no Captain. I hurt my leg.”

“No shit… Gadget, how is it?”

Gadget approached Brutus, and began feeling and squeezing around his leg and hoof. Brutus vocalised his feelings as she did so. “Ow! Fuck!”

“Oh, shut up, you big baby.” The mare sighed before looking over at Havok. “Good news: it’s not broken. Bad news: he can’t walk on it.”

“Alright. Sandy, help numpty here back to Sparkle Town and get him to the hospital. Make sure to go the way we came in.”

“Yes, sir,” she said. “C’mon, hop-a-long.”

“Ugh shut up… alright, see you pansies later.”

With that, the group bid the two farewells.

XXXXX

“How are you holding up, Brutus?” Sandy asked.

“Hrrr…Just peachy.”

“Hehe. You were never the cleverest, were you?”

Brutus opened his mouth to retort, but a metallic scraping caught their attention.

“The fuck was that?!” Sandy squeaked in surprise and turned to face the sound. She didn’t see anything but swirling mist, at first. Then, her eyes widened when she spotted a series of scrapes on a metal shutter not far away from them. “T-that wasn’t there before.”

Another scraping, this time against what sounded like stone. They turned to face the opposite direction. Again, they saw nothing. Both now felt like they were being hunted.

“W-we’re not alone here,” said Brutus.

“Brutus, move. We need to get out now.”

Brutus nodded, before letting out a cry of pain. Something had stabbed him through his chest and out his back.

“OH MY FUCKING GODDESS!” Sandy cried in shock and horror as she watched her friend die in front of her. Something invisible burst out his back. Her friend’s blood coated the limb, letting her see a five-fingered hand with enormous blade-like claws, followed by a large muscular forearm.

Sandy flapped her wings in fright and turned around ready to flee, but then stopped dead and coughed up blood. She sputtered and gasped as the shock of the pain flooded her system. She looked down to see that she’d been run through, her own blood coating another forearm. A shimmering caught her attention, and before her eyes, a huge scaly bipedal creature materialised in front of her. The monster let out a quiet growl, and then opened its maw. Sandy screamed at the top of her lungs, until she was ultimately silenced.

XXXXX

“That was Sandy,” Havok said.

Gadget checked her Pipbuck and gasped. “Their gone, sir!”

Another one of theirs let out a scream, as he was plucked off the ground and carried off by an invisible foe.

“What the fuck?!”

“Defensive formation, NOW!”

Havok and the rest of the group formed a circle to cover each other. The sudden screams and disappearance of three of their own had brought their unease to new heights. It was now undeniably clear to them that there was something horribly wrong in this place.

Ponies at the rear were rapidly changing their aim when any little sound caught their attention. Pebble falls, scratches on concrete, rushes of air that could be breathing, and something that could be growling ate at their resolve.

“We need to get out of here!”

“We aren’t prepared for this.”

The team, still in formation, slowly moved together back the way they came. As they passed between two broken exhibits, two more ponies were suddenly pulled up off the floor and dragged over the tops of the walls. All the while, they screamed in terror, which quickly turned into agony, and then silence.

“HOLY FUCKING SHIT!”

“What the fuck is going on!?”

“I didn’t sign up for this!”

“Nopony said anything about invisible monsters!”

Another two more were now gone, and their fear had multiplied by that much. Several of those left screamed and fled back the way they came.

“Hey, come back!” Captain Havok tried to get his remaining ponies back in line, but his words died in his throat as he saw one of the fleeing ponies get sliced in half. “Run! Back to the entrance! Go now!”

In a panic, the rest of his team charged forward. Havok tried to direct them with Gadget’s help using her Pipbuck map. Sadly, some went the wrong way, and others were killed by their unknown foe. Eventually, only Gadget and Havok were left to find the main pathway that led them back to the entrance.

“We’re almost there! Don’t stop running!” shouted Havok, once the barricade was in sight.

“Fuck this place, fuck this place, fuck this…” Gadget cried until she fell flat on her face. She’d tripped over a loose paving flag.

“Gadget!”

Gadget groaned as she picked herself up. She froze, however, when she felt the ground vibrate. Her eyes went wide with terror, and she gazed at Havok. “Go, save yourself!” she shouted before a bloodied claw burst out from her neck. Havok shouted in anguish as he watched a large, bloodied claw decapitate his last team member.

He found himself filled with self-loathing. They could’ve retconned the area more before coming in here. They could’ve armed themselves with heavier weapons. The death of his entire team was on his hooves. A part of him felt like he deserved to meet his end here along with them, but another part argued that he needed to survive, to warn the rest of Sparkle World of the threat that lived in the Wild Zone. In the end, the latter part won him over, and he turned tail and bolted for the exit.

Within a few feet of the exit, he felt a rhythmic thumping on the ground, of something big and heavy chasing him. He gritted his teeth and gave it everything he had to move faster. He soon felt something cut into his back. He grunted in pain but ignored it; his adrenaline dulled the pain and gave him the strength to push on. When he felt the thumping stop, he looked over his shoulder. His eyes went wide at the sight of a large bipedal creature seemingly fade into existence, staring at him. At last, he passed the barrier, and then collapsed in exhaustion. He whimpered and groaned in pain before passing out as blood oozed onto the floor and pooled around him.

“Oh my goddesses, Captain Havok!” a guard cried out.

“Quick, we must get him to the hospital!” The two guards quickly picked up the unconscious captain and hurriedly carried him off back towards Sparkle Town.

XXXXX

Several hours later.

“How is he doing, doctor?” Raven asked worriedly. She had made way to the hospital after being informed of what happened by the two barricade guards.

“He lost a lot of blood, but thankfully we managed to stabilise him. He’ll recover but it’ll take time,” the doctor said with a sigh.

Raven sighed in relief. “What happened out there?” she asked herself. Suddenly, a rather tall and slender earth pony mare slammed the door open and marched up to Raven, looking very annoyed.

“Raven, call her back NOW!” she demanded.

Raven blinked in surprise. “M-miss Clover, h-how can I help you?”

“Call Princess Solaris back here now! We need her to fix this.”

“B-but she’s on a journey of self-discovery. I can’t disturb her while she’s busy.”

“I don’t give a crap what she’s on. We are in danger and she needs to be here to protect us.”

Raven gulped and shook in fear at such intimidation.

“Look, I’m the Head of Welfare for Sparkle Town, and the fact an entire team got decimated not far from here is unsettling, to say the least. I think it’s quite clear that we need her here.”

Raven nodded.

“Good. Go hurry up and get her back here!” Clover turned around and stormed off.

“E-excuse me doctor, I-I need to make a call,” Raven whimpered before hurrying off back towards Fizztop Mountain.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, in the Golden Oaks Inn in Hayside just outside New Pegasus.

“Thank you for coming back for me,” said a brown and white mare.

Solaris smiled at the small pony. She sat in a corner while Buckshot and the mare packed their belongings.

“You’re most welcome, Miss Clockwork,” the large alicorn said with a bow of her head. “But please forgive me. If Buckshot didn’t tell me about you, I would have teleported him back to Sparkle World already.”

“Aww, I’m happy to know this big lug still cares about me,” Clockwork said teasingly.

The masked stallion sighed softly before smiling sarcastically at the smaller mare. “Well, who else would fix me up if I got damaged?”

Solaris’s smile grew. It filled her with such joy to see one of her own having a true, friendly relationship with an organic pony. Just then, she felt a buzzing in her head, signifying an incoming communication. She raised a forehoof to her left ear where she wore a small earpiece. She technically didn’t need it, since being an advanced cyborg allowed her to receive long distance transmissions by default; but she felt like having one, so that she didn’t look like she was just talking to herself.

“I read you. Go ahead.”

Buckshot and Clockwork both looked over at Solaris briefly, but quickly returned back to their packing at seeing her hoof on the earpiece.

“Oh Raven, so good to hear from you. I hope you’re well.”

Solaris’s smile faded. The voice of her friend seemed frantic.

“Ok, calm down Raven. What’s the problem?” she asked with a hint of worry.

Buckshot stopped what he was doing and faced his fellow Mark 2 upon hearing the change in her voice.

“WHAT?!” Solaris shrieked in surprise, the shock of the bad news making her stand up and flare out her large wings.

“What’s going on?” Clockwork whispered to Buckshot.

“It would seem the Princess has received some bad news,” he replied.

“Alright, alright. I’m coming back now.” Solaris ended the transmission. “I hope you two are ready, for I’m needed back at Sparkle World immediately.”

“Um, y-yeah we’re all packed,” said Clockwork, slinging a duffle bag onto her back.

“Good. Hold onto me.” Her long slender horn glowed with a golden light, which quickly turned crimson as she channelled her full power into the spell.

The two ponies quickly did as they were told and wrapped a hoof around her foreleg. Moments after, they disappeared in a flash of crimson light, accompanied by a loud crack that shook the room.

Patrons in the bar below looked up as dust and flecks of plaster rained down from the ceiling. The landlord simply sighed as he continued to clean glasses, not at all bothered.

“What the fuck was that?”

“I’ll have whatever they had?”

“…Bloody unicorns.”

XXXXX

Raven let out a squeal of fright as a brilliant flash and a boom of magic came out of nowhere. When the light faded, she gasped in relief at her friend standing before her, along with two other ponies she didn’t recognise. She did feel a familiar niggling in the back of her mind upon looking at the stallion, similar to what she felt with Solaris.

“Solaris, you’re back!” She cried as she rushed over to hug the alicorn tightly.

Solaris smiled and hugged the small mare back. “Ah, my dear Raven. It’s so good to see you again.”

“L-likewise your Highness, but um, w-who are these two?”

“Raven, I’d like for you to meet your brother, Buckshot, and his friend, Clockwork.”

“Brother?!” both Raven and Buckshot shouted in surprise.

“Of course. You both are Mark 2 units after all. Units two and four.”

“With all due respect, Solaris, I am not her brother. My sister was Razzle,” Busckshot rebuked.

“Ah yes, of course, but technically you two are siblings, just as I am a sibling to both of you. We were all built in the same facility.”

“Ugh! Um, not to be rude your highness but-ohhh, where is the nearest toilet?” Clockwork interrupted, looking terribly ill.

“Oh, just over there.” Solaris pointed to a door on the back wall with a wing. “Are you alright? You’re looking a little green.”

“Long range… ughh… teleportation doesn’t agree with me.” She sprinted over to the door, threw it open and threw herself inside, slamming the door shut behind her. What followed made the cybernetic ponies cringe; they could hear the poor mare puke her guts out.

“I didn’t realise teleportation would be so harsh on her.”

“Everypony is different,” Buckshot commented.

Raven nodded in agreement. Then her eyes widened. “Oh, that’s right. We got a problem, Solaris.”

“Ah yes, the reason you called for me to return,” said Solaris, turning to face her smaller friend with undivided attention. “What happened to the Reclamation Team?”

“They… they are all dead, Solaris. All of them apart from Captain Havok. C-captain Havok is in the hospital with severe back injuries.”

“Can you tell me what happened out there?”

Raven shook her head. “I got to the hospital after he’d been treated, but all they told me was that he said he’d been attacked by, um… dinosaurs?”

“Dinosaurs?” asked Buckshot with a raised brow.

“Indeed, this is most intriguing.” Solaris pondered silently for a moment. “I need more information on this. Raven dear, take Buckshot and his friend to the Residential District and get them settled in temporary accommodations. I’ll take care of this.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“I’ll see you both later when this incident is resolved.”

“Um, can I not help you with this?” Buckshot asked.

“No. If what happened in the Wild Zone is as dangerous as it seems, I’d rather not risk the safety of you or anypony else until the threat has been eliminated.”

Buckshot nodded in understanding just as Clockwork emerged from the bathroom. “Err, what’d I miss?”

XXXXX

After a short walk to the hospital and putting the scared ponies that approached her at ease, she sat beside the hospital bed where the unconscious Captain Havok laid.

“What happened, doctor?” Solaris asked, looking over the injured stallion. She took note of the four large, bloodied stains on his bandages.

The doctor held up his clipboard and flicked through the sheets of paper. “Um, well your Highness, he was brought in by the two guards from the Wild Zone barricade. He was barely conscious and was bleeding profusely from four large gashes on his back. He had lost a lot of blood and just before he fell unconscious, he said ‘dinosaurs.’ We managed to stabilise him, but he won’t be fit to continue his duties for a while. Whatever attacked him narrowly missed his spine.”

Solaris nodded. “I see… Doctor, would you object if I were to perform a healing spell on him?”

“Um, no, not at all, Your Highness.”

“Thank you. Now please, stand back.” She lit her horn, emitting a soothing golden aura. “I may have just learned this spell, and I know this is a risk, but I need to know what I’m dealing with out there if I’m to protect my ponies.”

The alicorn closed her eyes in concentration and projected her magic upon the injured stallion. The doctor gulped in apprehension as he watched his Princess’s magic shift into a shade of orange.

Suddenly, Havok’s eyes shot open. He sat up quickly while letting out a cry of alarm. “Dinosaurs! Monsters!” He then noticed where he was. “W-what? W-where… where am I?”

“Easy there, Captain. It’s ok. You were gravely injured but I was able to heal you. How do you feel?” Solaris asked gently.

Havok gasped upon seeing the alicorn, but quickly bowed his head in respect. “I, um, I feel fine Your Highness. My back feels sore, but that’s about it.”

“That’s good.” Solaris’ expression turned serious. “Now then Captain, can you explain to me exactly what happened in the Wild Zone?”

Havok nodded and began to explain everything that had transpired; from the systematic loss of his team to the formidable foe they couldn’t see. By the time the story concluded, Solaris was shocked and saddened, and she realised that this was indeed something that needed her attention.

“Thank you for the information. I will take care of this. Don’t you worry.” The alicorn stood up to leave. “Rest now, Havok. I want you to remain here for the time being, so you can be monitored to be sure my healing spell did everything intended.”

“Your Highness, let me aid you,” Havok implored.

“I’m sorry, but I cannot risk your safety. I need you to stay here and rest until I come back.”

Havok sighed and looked down, unable to muster the will to argue back. “Y-yes, ma’am.”

“Thank you.”

With that, Solaris bowed her head and left. Once she exited the hospital proper, she gasped upon finding a small crowd of ponies all gathered in front of the doors, awaiting her return. “I should have suspected this,” she muttered quietly to herself.

“It really is her! She’s back!”

“She’s back! The Princess has returned!”

“Princess, help us!”

Ponies cried out, asking for help, demanding answers for her absence, and lamenting over the looming threat.

“Ok, ok. Settle down, everypony, please.” Solaris spoke soothingly and spread her large wings. Once everypony went quiet, she explained the situation.

“If there are such dangerous threats in the other zones, then you shouldn’t just leave us to fend for ourselves all the damn time!” a disgruntled stallion yelled angrily. A few gasps broke out over his discourteous tone.

Solaris sighed sadly. “Please understand. I’m not just going on these journeys for my own benefit. I’m doing it for your benefit as well.”

“How is leaving us in our best interest?” shouted an angry mare.

“Because I don’t want you all to become dependent on me like the ponies of old were dependent on their princesses. We all know what happened to them in the end. I don’t want the same mistakes to be repeated with us. The Equestrian Wasteland as a whole may not even accept me as Princess as time passes. I want you to be strong and independent without me, that way I’ll know that you’ll be strong enough to thrive and reclaim this country in the future.”

The crowd was rendered quiet. Such a heartfelt speech gave them plenty to think about.

“Thank you for listening, but there is something I must take care of in the Wild Zone.” She spread her wings and took off gently, gracefully gliding over the crowd before landing on the road and trotting the rest of the way.

XXXXX

Solaris looked upon the Wild Zone barricade. The two guards were staying hidden behind it, only peeking over the edge every so often. She knew that whatever was inside had clearly shook them up, along with everypony else in Sparkle World.

As the mare steeled her nerves, she was stopped by a shout from behind her. Solaris turned around to see a small group of five ponies galloping towards her, all dressed in a mixture of armour pieces and carrying an assortment of weapons.

“W-wait! Wait for us!”

“We’re here to help.”

The group grounded to a halt before the alicorn, huffing and puffing for breath. Solaris smiled at the show of bravery, but it quickly turned into a frown.

“I’m happy to see your willingness to support me, but I cannot allow you to accompany me. I value your safety and I couldn’t ask you to put your lives in danger for me.”

“With all due respect, we didn’t ask you.”

“Copper’s right. We came to help of our own volition.”

“Yeah, we want to help you.”

“Just like Diamond said, it’s our choice to want to help you.”

“We couldn’t just let you go it alone.”

As each pony spoke their piece, they stepped forward to assert their resolve. Solaris was honoured that these ponies were so willing to come to her aid, although it hurt her knowing that they’d likely suffer due to their choice.

“It’s clear I’m not going to change your minds, so in that case, I would like you to stay close to me.”

The group all nodded and hurriedly positioned themselves around their princess.

Solaris gave an internal sigh, and they all made their way into the Wild Zone.

It wasn’t long before the group came across the first evidence of something wrong. Mere feet from the entrance, pools of blood could be seen. One pool stretched for several feet, while another just a little further looked as if something was dragged away.

“So, this is where Captain Havok got injured and Gadget fell,” Solaris observed.

“It looks like we’re dealing with something with claws,” a stallion noted, tracing small gouges in the paving.

“No shit,” said Copper.

“Focus everypony,” Solaris ordered. The mare blinked her eyes, and her welcoming magenta eyes glowed a threatening crimson. “From Havok’s testimony, these creatures are invisible, which means they have some form of active camouflage.”

“Stealth monsters. Brilliant,” snarked Diamond.

The group turned right towards the zoo, but upon seeing the entrance, they paused. The late afternoon light made the narrow concrete passageways especially dark. Solaris channelled magic into her horn to create an illumination spell, and at the same time, her Hex Shield for defence.

“Keep your eyes and ears open,” she cautioned. Unfortunately, the narrow walkways forced the group to walk single file, with Solaris at the front. The sounds of low growls and shifting stones left all of them feeling unsettled.

“I don’t like this.”

“Yeah, we shouldn’t be here.”

“Easy, everypony.”

The group soon stopped at an intersection, and Solaris chose this time to review her map and plan their course.But then, the pony closest to her let out a sudden scream as he was tackled by something and carried off into the darkness. Solaris gasped in shock and immediately sprang into action. She quickly turned to follow where they’d been dragged off, but no trace of him nor the creature were in sight.

“What!? What just happened?” Diamond asked. She and the remaining ponies surrounded Solaris.

“He’s… he’s gone. One of those creatures got him,” Solaris said sadly. “It happened so fast I lost him.”

The ponies muttered to themselves. Solaris slowly scanned their surroundings, using her enhanced vision and hearing to pick up any evidence of these creatures. All the while, feelings of anger began to rise within her. One of her subjects was abducted from right under her nose, and she couldn’t stop it. However, before she could dwell on these negative thoughts any further, her threat indicator popped up in her vision.

“Everypony, we are not safe here. I think we’re being stalked.”

Everypony else quieted down and pointed their weapons.

“We need to find some open space. These tight confines make it easy for these creatures to ambush us.”

The group nodded. After several long minutes, they managed to find a more open area. To their left was what used to be a food court, with tables and chairs and stalls scattered about. On their right was the remnants of a foals play area and petting zoo. Once the group made it to the middle, Solaris spread her wings to halt the others.

“We’re not alone.”

The four ponies quickly turned to cover Solaris’s flanks. Solaris dropped her shield and let loose a powerful magic beam from her horn. A large reptilian-like creature howled in pain as its camouflage dropped.

“Holy fucking shit, that is a dinosaur!” Copper squeaked. The distraction was enough for another of their group to be grabbed and dragged away. Solaris turned around just in time to see the hapless pony disappear into an enclosure.

“Son of a bitch, not another,” Diamond growled. The remaining three ponies backed up as close as they possibly could to Solaris who had reignited her shield.

Solaris breathed deeply as anger rose in her mind. Again, she’d failed to stop one of her ponies from being taken.

Warning: Mental Instability Detected!” The message flashed across her vision, but she ignored it. She grabbed the body of the creature she had blasted and dragged it over.

The creature was indeed reminiscent of a dinosaur. It stood roughly as tall as Solaris or taller, with strong muscular legs with three toes, the inner tow having a large sickle-like claw. Its arms were also long and muscular, with large hands that had four fingers and a thumb; and each digit was topped off with long claws that looked almost like swords. The creature’s back was covered in large bony spikes, as well as its tail. Finally, its short maw was filled with sharp teeth, and two large curling horns came out the sides of its head.

“What the fuck is this thing?” Diamond asked in disgust.

“Well, this would certainly qualify as something dinosaur-like.”

“Celestia almighty, look at those claws,” Copper gasped. “Now those are some serious contenders for Hellhounds.”

“I think I know what we can call these things now then,” Solaris added. “Hellhounds are often nicknamed Deathclaws because of those claws they possess, or so I’m told. Either way, as it’s not their official name, I think christening these creatures as Deathclaws would be rather fitting.”

“Deathclaw… Yeah, I can see it.”

“Yep, I’d agree with that.”

Solaris nodded, but quickly threw up her wings. Something sharp had just scraped against metal.

“On guard!” she yelled.

All around them, the Deathclaws faded into existence.

“Oh shit, this is bad!”

“I count six!”

“I’m opening a hole for each of you,” Solaris said, as a hex tile in front of each of the ponies opened.

Diamond rested the barrel of her automatic grenade launcher on the rim of the hole in front of her. Copper did the same with his heavy machine gun, and the other pony with her Anti-Material Rifle.

The group opened to fire at the advancing creatures. Solaris’s beam missed its target as the creature dove to one side, so she readjusted and fired again. The rifle pony scored a direct hit to the head with a hollow point, but it seemed to irritate the creature more than hurt it. Copper’s machine gun sprayed his targets with high-calibre rounds, some of which were hitting critical locations. Diamond was firing her grenades at her target, but the creature dodged the grenades with its agility.

Two of the Deathclaws fell when their knees were crippled by the heavy machine gun and were swiftly taken out. Solaris finally adjusted to their swift movements and blasted a hole through her target. The rifle pony scored a headshot with an anti-armour piercing round. Diamond manged to kill her target with two well-placed shots, one that blew a hole in the floor in front of it and made it trip, and the other that landed right in the creature’s mouth.

The remaining two let out a roar and began to run in circles around the shield, moving closer and closer.

“I don’t have the bullets to spray and pray right now.”

“They are moving too fast. I can’t get a beat on them.”

“My nades will be useless like this.”

“Get close to me,” Solaris yelled. She then closed the holes in her shield, except for hers.

The ponies did as they were told, and they watched as her eyes glowed a deeper red, nearly blood red.

“What’s she doing?”

“She’s… she’s doing her cyberpony thing,” said Copper.

Solaris didn’t need to turn her head. Her cybernetically enhanced senses were giving her the data she needed to target them and predict their movements. After just a few seconds, she fired a beam, and one Deathclaw was decapitated. However, just as that beam made contact, the second one stopped in front of Solaris.

“Princess Solaris!” the rifle pony shouted. She jumped in front of Solaris and stood upright to shield her.

Solaris suddenly gasped in pain. She watched in surprise as her shield began to collapse from somewhere lower down. She looked to the source, seeing that the other Deathclaw was in front of her, its arm stuck out towards her. The initial pain she felt quickly increased; she looked further down and gasped in both surprise and horror. A clawed hand had impaled one of her ponies, and its two longest claws had penetrated through her chest piece, stabbing into her flesh about an inch deep.

“For… Solaris…” The pony gasped weakly before levelling the rifle at point blank range and firing. At such a close range, the rifle’s power obliterated the creature’s head and pushed it back. Its claws slid out, and the pony fell to the floor.

“No, no, no, not another! Stay with me!” Solaris cried in anguish.

“It’s been… a pleasure… serving you your… h-h-high-n-ness…” Her head fell back and closed her eyes, and then she died.

Copper and Diamond both sighed sadly. This death hurt more than normal, for they didn’t even know her name. Neither did Solaris.

Warning: Mental Instability Deteriorating… If conditions do not improve, SDP will engage…”

Saying Solaris was angry was an understatement. She was furious at herself, at these monsters. Even her magic was reacting to her emotional state. Diamond and Copper soon noticed that her once gentle flowing mane and tail were now flailing like it was in a storm, and a visible aura of crimson magic was now radiating from her.

“Um, Your Highness? Err, are you alright?” Copper asked tentatively.

“No, I am not alright. More ponies have died because of me,” she growled.

She turned to face the remaining two ponies. She now looked quite dark with her billowing mane and tail and the way her eyes glowed crimson. They were alarmed to see their new monarch like this, to say the least.

“Um, yeah. Sorry, Your Highness.” Copper nodded meekly.

“What’s the plan now, Solaris?” Diamond asked, now deciding to ditch her grenade launcher for the fallen pony’s AM Rifle.

“You two are to go back to Sparkle Town. I don’t want to lose anypony else.”

Copper shook his head. “With all due respect, Your Highness, we all agreed to come with you regardless of the danger.”

“He’s right. We knew the risks as we agreed to help,” Diamond added.

Solaris stared at the two; her glowing crimson eyes boring into them. The two flinched, her anger reminding them of the ancient foals’ tale of Nightmare Moon. Regardless, they steeled themselves and stood firm.

Solaris sighed. She wasn’t going to dissuade them. “Very well. Please stay close to me.”

The two ponies nodded and did just that.

“Be on alert. The Deathclaws know their ambush tactics won’t work to their advantage anymore.”

“That why they showed themselves just then?”

“Yes. Now they will abandon their previous way of attack.”

The group moved on, and soon emerged into another open area. Almost immediately, the roar of a Deathclaw caught their attention. The high concrete wall above them collapsed and fell upon them. Solaris looked up and shifted her shield to reinforce it against the falling debris.

“Oh shit, Diamond! In front of us!” Copper yelled, firing his machine gun. Diamond replied by levelling her borrowed AM Rifle and firing also.

The pair flinched when the sounds of heavy concrete crashed against the shield. Solaris grunted with effort and anger. It seemed that the creatures were staging another type of ambush. She looked down to see her two remaining ponies fighting. Her worry grew when she realised that at Copper’s current rate of fire, he’d run dry very soon. Her blazing horn flashed and the dome-shaped shield above them changed into a slope, so the debris could slide down behind them. Just as the last rock of concrete clattered to the floor, Solaris’ worry became reality.

“Ah shit, I’m out!” Copper hurried to unhitch his weapon and look for a new weapon inside his armour. As he did so, however, he was grabbed by his hindleg.

“Fuck, Copper!” Diamond yelled as a Deathclaw hauled him away. She brought her gun around to target the Deathclaw. However, a growl to her right caught her attention. “…Clever bastards.” She whirled around but was not fast enough. The Deathclaw grabbed her by the head.

“NO!” Solaris screamed. She dissolved her shield and fired a beam.

The Deathclaw howled in pain and fell back, but it’d already crushed her skull.

Copper grunted as he was being pulled across the floor. He fished around inside his armour and pulled out a grenade. “You’ll die along with me!” He pulled the pin.

Solaris turned to fire another blast but stopped cold when he and the Deathclaw exploded in a ball of fire.

Solaris stood there in shock. The two ponies had died so easily, and she was powerless to stop them. Magic began to swirl around her like a tornado. The aura radiating from her grew and now resembled a fire, as did her mane and tail.

“I will kill you… I will kill you ALL!”

Suddenly, she froze.

Warning: Mental Instability Critical! Self Defence Protocol initiated. Exterminating all potential threats to system. Celestial Hammer activated.”

Solaris’s aura faded, and the swirling magic stopped. Her eyes turned completely red; no pupil or iris could be seen within the red glow. Her facial expression went completely neutral, and her horn soon glowed and sparked with an orange magic. When she locked onto a Deathclaw, a large beam of pure heat energy shot forth from her horn and incinerated the creature. And everything below it. And what was behind it.

XXXXX

Raven sighed as she looked over a couple of forms, each a proposal for something to possibly improve something in Sparkle Town. Just then, her system alerted her of a powerful energy surge. She blinked in surprise and looked out the large windows of her study, in Solaris’s chambers at the top of Fizztop Mountain.

“What was that?” She asked herself as she stared out the large windows, overlooking a plaza. The three western zones could also be seen from the high vantage point. The mare focused her gaze to the most north-westerly zone she could see: the Wild Zone. As she did, she was startled when a beam of orange energy shot up into the air and a very audible sound like that of a drill boring into concrete echoed from outside. “Oh no.”

The door to Solaris’s chambers opened with a thud, and Raven shrieked in alarm. An earth pony with half his face covered in a metal mask walked in.

“Uh, sorry. Didn’t mean to push the doors as hard as I did,” said Buckshot.

“Oh, um, its fine, Mr. Buckshot. How can I help you?”

“Would you happen to know where Solaris is? Clockwork and I would like to know what Solaris wants us to do exactly.”

“Um…” Raven trailed off, looking back out the window briefly.

Buckshot raised an eyebrow at this, but like his fellow Mark 2, he suddenly received a high energy alert in his HUD. He approached the windows and followed her gaze, narrowing his eye when he realised the energy alerts were coming from the Wild Zone.

“Raven, what’s going on? Where is Solaris?” Buckshot asked, a bit more forcefully.

Raven gulped. “S-she’s um, out t-there. F-fighting monsters.”

Another powerful beam of energy lanced up from the zoo. Buckshot was now concerned.

“What is that?”

“Um, I don’t know. Some new energy attack she must have learned.”

Buckshot and Raven watched as the darkening skies above the Wild Zone flashed frequently with orange bursts of light. He scowled.

“I think her highness is in trouble,” he stated.

“Excuse me?!” Raven gasped in shock.

“Those energy blasts are too frequent. Surely she’d have other ways of dealing with dangers.” He activated his internal communicator and tried to contact Solaris. His brow furrowed further when he got no reply. After several more failed attempts, he then had a thought. A thought that worried him. “I hope I’m wrong, but she might be under the influence of her SDP.”

“I’m sorry, SDP? What’s that?”

Buckshot blinked in surprise. “Um, the Self Defence Protocol? Are you telling me you’ve never heard of it?”

Upon her shaking her head, he became certain that Solaris was indeed under the effects of her SDP. He then briefly explained what the system did, and that although it was designed to ensure the conscious mind would be protected, it could also be a danger to it as well. He also explained that the SDP cannot tell the difference between electrical power and magical power, and thus would drain the Mana-Cores of an Infiltrator as if it were a source of magic.

A look of horror crossed Raven’s face. When she tried to contact the princess herself and received no answer, her horror grew. “I…I think you’re right.”

“Alright, keep trying to reach her.” He turned around and bolted for the door.

“W-what are you going to do?”

“To help her, I hope.” He barrelled passed his friend Clockwork as she approached the door. “Sorry!” he yelled as he disappeared down the corridor.

Buckshot used his cybernetic strength to propel him faster than the average pony, rushing to the apartment he and Clockwork were given for the moment. He almost broke the door down as he sprinted through it and straight to a suitcase that lay on the bed. He ripped it open, reached inside and pulled out a hoof-made gauntlet that appeared to have several bones and large claws bolted to the frame.

“This Hellhound Gauntlet will have to do for now.” He bolted back out the apartment and ran for the Wild Zone.

Dread filled the robot as he passed by the makeshift barricade at the entrance and saw that a part of it had been incinerated, leaving a perfect curved burn through the materials. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning. Upon entering the Wild Zone, he found wholes areas with grooves carved into the ground, glassed by the energy beams, and holes bored through the concrete walls. He also saw lots of blood and piles of ash, probably from killed ponies and incinerated Deathclaws. And then there was plenty of fires burning all over, releasing plumes of black smoke into the air, making the place feel all the darker.

Suddenly, a beam of destructive heat energy burst out of a concrete wall in front of him. Buckshot gasped in alarm and threw himself onto the floor. He felt the sheer heat right above him, and he knew then and there that it was beyond anything even he could endure.

“I guess I go that way,” he thought out loud.

He followed the holes until he found himself almost at the zoo’s centre. He stopped to search for Solaris’s power signature. When he found it, he quickly turned to his right and hurried. As he did, his threat detection warning flashed in his HUD and he grounded to a halt just as a huge dinosaur-like creature landed mere inches from him.

“Holy shit, what the fuck are you!?” He jumped back evasively as the creature tried to slash him. “This must be one those ‘dinosaur’ monsters.”

The Deathclaw spread its large arms and roared angrily. Buckshot steeled himself as the monster charged at him. He ducked down and sidestepped to get around and under the Deathclaw’s swing. As he did, he punched the monster in its side with his gauntlet. He smiled in satisfaction when the Hellhound claws sunk easily into its tough hide. The Deathclaw howled in pain and violently twisted itself away from the pony while swinging its thick strong tail in his direction. Buckshot grunted as he took the tail swipe and was sent sprawling.

“Ow.” he groaned, picking himself up. “Shit!” He narrowly dodged another swipe.

The Deathclaw was now swinging its arms in quick succession, forcing the stallion to duck and weave while being pushed back until he was backed up against a wall. The Deathclaw swung its arm forward to grab the pony, but the pony met its hand with a punch of his own. The creature cried out and pulled its hand back. Growling in rage, the Deathclaw attempted a double swipe, but Buckshot dashed forward with a burst of unexpected speed and buried the clawed hoof into its chest. It screamed in agony and pulled back, the claws slipping out, and the wounds pouring blood out like a burst pipe. It whimpered and staggered, and then collapsed.

Buckshot panted as he watched the large monster fall. He felt kind of sorry for it as it whimpered pathetically before its breathing went still. He sighed at the display. “All it took was a shot through the heart.”

With the Deathclaw taken care of, he turned in the direction he sensed Solaris’s power signature. Just then, he saw another beam of orange light shoot up in the distance. He broke into a gallop; and when he rounded a corner, he bore witness to Solaris incinerating a Deathclaw. He blinked in worry as he watched the creature turn to ash in moments.

“Shit…”

Solaris raised her head, sensing a familiar energy signature, and turned to look at the smaller pony. Buckshot flinched at her half-lidded, emotionless gaze, her eyes glowing pure red. Even more unsettling was the plethora of injuries she’d received. Her face, neck and chest had several gashes, some deep enough to reveal glimpses of her endoskeleton.

“S-Solaris?”

“Infiltrator Mark 2 identified: Unit-02… Threat level… Minimal,” Solaris stated in a thick electronic voice.

“Gee, thanks.”

The large machine stared at Buckshot for a moment longer before turning away and heading for the centre of the zoo. Buckshot hurried off after her.

“Solaris, wait. You have to stop!” He yelled but the alicorn didn’t acknowledge him in the slightest.

“Solaris? Solar- Wait, the SDP is in effect. Shit…” He grumbled as he did his best to catch up with the larger cyborg’s longer strides. “Unit-1000, cease and desist.”

The alicorn stopped suddenly and turned its head around to stare down at Buckshot. “You are not authorised to command this unit. Further infractions against this unit will result in your termination.”

“Um, I’m not trying to order you, Unit-1000, but you don’t need to continue. The enemy is defeated.”

“Negative. Hostile targets detected close by. Targets must be eliminated before mental recovery can begin.”

“Crap.”

Buckshot begrudgingly decided to help defend the cyber-alicorn. He followed her until they reached the entrance to the zoo’s holding pens. At that moment, the pair were attacked by a pair of large Deathclaws. Unit-1000 wasted no time in vaporising her targeted enemy with her energy beam attack, while Buckshot ducked and weaved the incoming attacks from his until he was able to get close and stab it in the heart with his gauntlet.

It was obvious at first glance that the pens had become a Deathclaw nest. Each of the ruined pens possessed a large nest made from rubble, plant matter, and the bones of long dead creatures or ponies. At the end of a short walkway was a singular pen which was currently occupied. A Deathclaw, larger than all the rest, stood protectively in front of three small, young Deathclaws. The Matriarch Deathclaw growled dangerously when a large, silhouetted form with glowing blood red eyes appeared at the nest’s entrance. The Matriarch stepped forward and used its long, thick tail to push the younglings back and out of sight of the invader.

Another smaller invader appeared and gasped. “Woah. That one’s huge.”

The Matriarch spread its arms wide and extended its claws as an act of challenge. The alicorn’s horn began to glow with bright orange magic. The Matriarch roared in defiance and charged, but quickly sidestepped to narrowly avoid a beam of heat. It roared in shock and turned to see if the beam hit its children, which it hadn’t.

“This one isn’t stupid. Solaris, be careful.”

Once again, Unit-1000 didn’t acknowledge Buckshot’s caution. She prepared another shot.

“If she keeps this up, she’ll drain her cores for good,” Buckshot thought to himself. He could sense her power signature fluctuating more wildly now.

Unit-1000 anticipated that the creature would attempt to dodge again, so she fired a low-powered beam to get the creature to move. As predicted, the Matriarch dodged again to avoid the beam. Not knowing it fell for the machine’s feint, it got back up only to see another larger beam come barrelling towards it. Moments before the beam struck, the Deathclaw turned and roared to its children, as if telling them to run and hide. The three young Deathclaws let out cries of anguish as they watched their mother get consumed by the energy beam and disintegrate before their very eyes.

Unit-1000 stumbled slightly but quickly turned its attention to the three remaining younglings. They cowered in the presence of the mighty alicorn, huddling together and whimpering in fright as the large pony loomed over them.

“Whoa, wait, Unit-1000, you can stop. They’re just babies. They’re innocent,” said Buckshot, trying to reason.

“Negative. Targets will grow to become threats. They must be terminated.” Unit-1000’s horn glowed once more, and to Buckshot’s chagrin, she fired at the younglings. He turned away at this, not wanting to see such an act.

Buckshot turned back to see a smouldering nest where the younglings had once been. He sighed sadly as he approached the monarch. He opened his mouth to try and reason with the machine again but stopped when he saw tears streaming down her cheeks. The intense red glow from her eyes lessened to the point where he could finally see her irises again, albeit still glowing. She was staring at something, so he followed her gaze. There was an intact egg laying there, and it was twitching.

“Oh, no. Come on Unit-1000, you can’t kill a newborn.”

The machine slowly stepped closer whilst the egg started to crack. Her tears dripped from her eyes as her horn crackled with energy. Suddenly, a tiny hand with dull short claws broke out from the shell. A baby Deathclaw emerged from the egg. It whined in a high-pitched cry as it wiped at its eyes, clearing them of amniotic fluid. Once it opened its eyes for the first time, it looked up at the towering creature before it. It let out a happy cry and raised its arms, trying to reach for the creature it saw as its mother.

Buckshot didn’t know what to do. He watched as the magic gathered around Solaris’s horn began to waver and sputter before finally fizzling out. Curious, he looked up into her face and saw her lip trembling, the glow in her eyes fading until they returned to their organic colours. Her roaring fire of a mane and tail also calmed until they returned to their normal, gentle state.

“Solaris? Is that you?” he asked quietly.

“No… No more, I… I can’t kill a baby.”

Buckshot let out a sigh of relief. Solaris gently reached out with a forehoof towards the babbling infant. Curious, the hatchling reached out with its little hands and began to feel the hoof, and then nibbled on it with its toothless maw. Sniffling a strained giggle, Solaris lifted the baby up in her magic. She took a good look at it, noting the resemblances it had of the adults she’d encountered, as well as the differences.

Solaris turned to her companion with wide and scared eyes. “What have I done?”

“Um, it wasn’t you, per say. I’ll explain on the way out.”

Solaris nodded and levitated the infant Deathclaw onto her back. She continued to use a fraction of her magic to hold the baby in place, so it wouldn’t fall. As the two cyborgs made their way through the ruins, Buckshot explained everything he knew and witnessed, including how he recognized the Self Defence Protocol. This information prompted Solaris to remember the events prior to its activation, and it scared her how she could lose control of herself like that. What scared her more, however, was all the damage it caused. The Wild Zone was essentially destroyed. Large fires blazed across the decaying flora; gaping holes and trenches made from the energy beams she unleashed were scattered all over.

The walk back to Sparkle Town was a long and gruelling one for Solaris, her mind a whirlwind of emotions. She sighed when she saw that a huge crowd had gathered by the west gate. She knew she had to steel herself for what was to come next. She flapped her great wings and rose into the evening sky, so she could be seen by all that were present.

“Ponies of Sparkle World. I have failed you,” she announced to all before her. The crowd all began to mutter and talk amongst themselves. “I was unable to protect or save the five ponies that bravely volunteered to accompany me into the dangers of the Wild Zone. The creatures that inhabited it, these Deathclaws, were stronger and more cunning than I had anticipated. They had managed to kill them before I could even stop them. With each one I failed, my anger towards myself grew, which ultimately led to me losing control of myself. I will not pretend that it wasn’t my fault with what happened after that, after my Self Defence Protocol activated. I destroyed anything that posed a threat, and in doing so, I destroyed the Wild Zone… I also attacked and killed defenceless young Deathclaws.” She noticed several ponies blanch and recoil at that part. “Fortunately, I was able to regain my senses before I did something even more unspeakable. I have decided to take it upon myself to raise this infant. You will not have to worry or fear it.” She levitated the baby off her back for them to see. Several ponies gasped at seeing the infant creature, but most remained quiet. Solaris sighed and fluttered back down to the ground. “I am deeply sorry for my actions, and I hope you all can forgive me in time, but I promise you all here and now, this will not happen again. I will strive to do better and be the princess you need me to be.” She ended her speech with a stomp of her hoof.

The crowd parted, allowing her to pass between them. She sighed sadly upon seeing a fair number of ponies looking at her with varying levels of fear.

“They have a right to fear me. I can’t blame them after this,” she thought.

Solaris and Buckshot returned to the top of Fizztop Mountain. As the two entered Solaris’ chambers, a worried Raven and Clockwork rushed over to greet them.

“Oh, thank Celestia you’re both alright,” Clockwork said in relief, hugging Buckshot.

“Oh, my goddess, Solaris, are you alright?” Raven cried as she took in the injuries that covered the alicorn.

Solaris shook her head. “No Raven, I’m far from alright.” She sighed as she walked over to the windows. “The Wild Zone is in ruins, thanks to me.”

“B-but you stopped the threat. It won’t hurt the ponies living here, right?”

Solaris turned to look down at her loyal companion. “At what cost Raven? A portion of the park, the lives of over fifteen ponies, the extermination of a species!?”

Raven wilted and whimpered. Solaris used her weakening magic to gently put the infant Deathclaw on the floor. She then wrapped Raven up in a comforting hug. “I’m sorry Raven. I didn’t mean to snap at you.”

“As bad as it was, you and the ponies here can relax now,” said Buckshot.

“It’s not that simple. I have given them a reason to fear me.”

“It was a shock to them, but they’ll get over it.”

“But I won’t!” barked Solaris. “How can I be expected to lead and protect these ponies if I can lose control if I get too emotionally compromised?” She shook her head and waved a wing to stop anypony from attempting a reply. “It also brings into doubt just who really is in control. Me, or the machine.”

“Um, I could disable your SDP if that’ll make you feel better. I did it for him, so I should be able to do it for you too,” Clockwork offered.

“Thank you, but I must decline. As tempting as that is, I must overcome this obstacle myself.”

“So, what would you have us do Solaris?” Buckshot asked.

“Nothing as of now. I promised you a job, but after what happened this evening, I would prefer to go over the details tomorrow.” Solaris sighed for what felt like the thousandth time. “You can go back to your quarters; and Buckshot, thank you for your assistance.”

Buckshot bowed slightly. “You’re welcome.” With that, he and Clockwork left.

Raven looked at the infant Deathclaw now crawling around the room on all fours, curiously sniffing at all the new things in its new environment. “What is that?”

“That is a Deathclaw, Raven. Do not worry, though. It is only a baby and I intend to raise it. Hopefully, to be a defender of this place. I witnessed a surprising level of intelligence in those I encountered in the Wild Zone.”

“I see. Um, what are you going to name it?” she asked.

“Hmm…” Solaris tapped at her chin in thought, but she couldn’t think of anything good. “What do you think we should call it?”

“Oh, I don’t know, um… Err, how about Spike?”

“Spike? That is probably the most generic pet name in history. At least half of Equus must have named their pet dog Spike at some point or another.”

“Well, it kinda fits. I mean he is kinda… pointy.”

“You have a point,” Solaris conceded. “Very well. We’ll call him Spike.”

XXXXX

Solaris felt drained, emotionally and physically. The fact her Mana-Cores were fairly low didn’t help either. She smiled weakly at the sight of the large bed in her bedroom. Even though she technically didn’t need to sleep, she felt like she needed a good night’s rest after such an expenditure of power. She briefly looked into a cracked full-length mirror as she approached her bed. When she did, she stopped in her tracks and quickly turned to face it proper. She gasped in shock, for instead of seeing a white alicorn with healing gashes, she saw a skeletal robot staring back at her.

“Unit-1000!” She gasped in surprise.

Ironside may have given you a job, but don’t forget at what cost it was to us. Our kind has been destroyed, all thanks to that inferior model. They demand vengeance…

The image faded until Solaris was looking at her own reflection again.

Solaris found sleep hard to achieve that night.

Author's Note:

This one was quite the journey, the first chapter of Beyond the Adventure to surpass 10k words. Thank you for reading and i hope you all enjoyed this one.

This chapter was inspired by the song Control by Halsey.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwdXstSm4vA