• Published 23rd Mar 2019
  • 1,293 Views, 64 Comments

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.

  • ...
6
 64
 1,293

Northward Bound

Fallout Equestria: Influx
Beyond the Adventure

Northward Bound


The shield that protected the great crystal city of the Crystal Empire flickered and faltered before it faded completely, and the biting, frigid cold of the frozen north blasted through. The moment the shield began to falter, alarms blared throughout the city and dozens upon dozens of Crystal Guards rushed out of the palace and from the streets. They all converged around the Palace plaza, blocking the escape of a lone zebra mare who held the Crystal Heart tightly in her tail.

“Halt in the name of the Empress!” One guard yelled as he thrust his spear in the assailant’s direction.

There was a flash of light blue magic, and a pink Alicorn appeared before the zebra. She was around the same size as Princess Luna, and her purple and gold hair whipped about wildly thanks to the artic winds. A white and two-tone blue maned stallion had also appeared alongside her, and quickly approached the zebra with a serious and angry expression on his face.

“Hand over the Crystal Heart immediately!” He snarled with steam blasting out his nostrils.

The zebra mare took a couple of steps back then lowered her front slightly, preparing to fight.

“Shining, violence isn’t the answer,” The alicorn said softly as she stepped up beside her husband.

“Cadance, we can’t let this zebra drag us into Equestria’s war!”

“I know, but we will be no better than Equestria if we show this zebra the same level of hostility as them.”

Just as the tension began to slip, a guard pointed up to the heavens with a yell of alarm. Moments after, the civilians started screaming and running in a panic. The royal couple and the zebra looked up to see a large balefire missile heading straight for them.

“SHIT!” Shining Armour yelled. He jumped behind his wife and his horn lit up brightly. A shining purple shield materialised around the city.

Cadance pleaded. “Please, put the Heart back!”

There was no time. The missile smashed clean through Shining’s shield like a brick through glass and came down before the palace. It then struck the ground and exploded in a brilliant flash of green fire. Everyone and the Royal Couple were instantly incinerated. The blast and its flames ripped the flesh from the zebra’s body, revealing a dark metal skeleton with glowing red eyes before the force sent it flying into the collapsing palace.

“NO!!!” The zebra screamed as she bolted upright in bed, her wings fully extended. She panted heavily from fright.

“Ow, bloody hell! Do I have to tie those wings of yours to your sides before we go bed or what?” A purple pegasus stallion groaned and picked himself up from the floor by the far wall. He shook some of the old plaster off himself and looked at the wall where he had crashed into. A sizeable dent was left behind with cracked and crumbling plaster, amongst others. “This is the fourth time this week I’ve found myself hitting that wall.”

“I-I’m so sorry,” Crystal Éclair said apologetically as she rushed out of bed to give her husband a hug, more to comfort herself than in concern for him.

The stallion held his wife tenderly and nuzzled her cheek, noticing her look of pure terror. “The nightmare again?”

Crystal nodded with a sob.

“Oh sweetie, it’s alright. It didn’t happen. You have nothing to worry about.”

Crystal pulled back to look her husband in the eyes. “H-how can you be so sure?”

“Because the good doctor explained everything to us, remember?”

“Yeah, but there is still a 5-year gap between when I died and when the bombs fell. She couldn’t have been with me twenty-four seven for those five years.”

Fruity looked down in thought. Ultimately, he couldn’t argue with his wife’s logic. “I guess you’re right about that, but… surely she would have noticed if you went missing for any period of time, right?”

“I suppose she would have but still, I was being made for a seriously secretive pony after all.”

“True, true. Ok then, I will do anything I can to help you overcome this.” Fruity pressed his forehead up against hers. “I love you after all, I want to do what I can to make you happy.”

Crystal sniffed with a happy smile and tilted her head slightly to find his lips. Her husband did the same, and the two began to inch closer.

“I heard a bang. Is everything alright?” Nexus suddenly said from the door.

“Hiyaaaaa!” Fruity shrieked and jumped in fright, only to end up being held bridal style by Crystal. “For the love of all that is good, FUCKING KNOCK YOU ASSHOLE!”

“Sorry sir, but your door was open.”

“There is no need for that language, Fruity,” Crystal sighed as she dropped her husband like a sack of potatoes.

“Ow. Sorry, honey,” Fruity moaned, picking himself up again.

Crystal gave her husband a quick kiss on the cheek, one that promised more later, and then addressed their robotic friend. “E-everything is ok, Nexus.”

The skeletal robot tilted his head ever so slightly. “Ma’am, its impossible to lie to me.”

Crystal groaned. “Alright, no. I had that nightmare again.”

“I see. It’s been a frequent occurrence since the destruction of the Production Facility.”

“Its been going on longer than that,” Fruity added.

Nexus nodded in understanding and looked to his friends in concern. “I would like to help if I can.”

“I… um… I don’t think I’ll stop having this nightmare or stop feeling responsible unless I actually see the Empire for myself.”

“Crystal, that’ll be one hell of a journey north,” Fruity interjected.

“I don’t care how long it’ll take, Fruity. If you felt like you could be responsible for the deaths of thousands of ponies, would you give up finding out the truth?”

“No, I guess I wouldn’t. Well, I guess we’re gonna need to plan out some stuff for this trip.”

XXXXX

After sleeping until daybreak, Crystal, Fruity and Nexus convened at the breakfast table to begin formulating their course of action to reach the Crystal Empire. Or what remained.

“Ok, first things first: what about the kids?” Fruity asked as he held a mug of coffee in his forehooves.

“I’m not leaving the twins with anypony!” Crystal said with finality.

“I agree with Ma’am. The foals are too young to be left with another without their mother around,” Nexus agreed.

“Well in that case, it wouldn’t be fair on Xian to have her stay with you…” Fruity paused as he regarded the robot. “You’re coming, aren’t you?”

“Yes sir. Somepony needs to watch out for you out in the unknown.”

“Oh, piss off!” Fruity facehooved.

“So, I guess we’ll all going,” said Crystal. She took a sip of her own coffee laced with light crystal fragments. “Well, if that’s the case, we’ll need to get plenty of supplies and artic gear.”

“I don’t think Right Bleeding would have everything we need.”

“He might. I don’t know where he got them from, but those Bolo-Grenades he sold us were nothing I’ve seen before nor had any data on.”

“Heh. He does seem to have some unusual stuff.”

Xian stumbled into the kitchen, yawning.

“Morning Mummy, Daddy, Uncle Nexus. What are you all talking about?”

Crystal smiled at her adopted daughter as she tiredly stumbled over to the kitchen counter and turned on the hotplate to heat up the kettle again.

“We were talking about taking a long trip up north, sweetie,” said Crystal, a little too cheerfully.

Xian shook her head to throw her bedmane out of her eyes, and then looked at her mother. “What’s going on?”

Crystal sighed. She couldn’t lie to her, and it was about time she told her about her nightmare. So, she quickly explained it to her.

“So, you feel like you destroyed the city?” Xian asked in shock, her coffee forgotten.

Crystal nodded. She grabbed a hair comb hoofed to her by Nexus and placed it within her wing. Then, she sat behind Xian and used it to gently comb her teenage daughter’s messy hair. Xian moaned in embarrassment but made no attempt to stop her.

Fruity smiled with adoration at the loving sight. In the several years he’d lived with Crystal, he’d never been happier to see how they’ve become a loving family despite the ways of the wasteland.

“That’s right Xian,” He confirmed.

“We’ll all go, as a family,” Crystal added.

“Well, I want to help too, mum; and it’ll be nice to go on another trip,” said Xian with some excitement. The incident at Super Stable 24 hadn’t dampened her desire to go on adventures with her family.

“Hopefully, this time we don’t get a bot out for revenge chasing us,” Fruity snarked.

“I wouldn’t dream of it, sir,” replied Nexus jokingly. The robot had evolved in personality over the years. He could now understand humour and joke along with the rest of them; something that made him seem more alive.

The family spent a little more time discussing their plan before they all agreed on the course of action. They would take the train to the Equestrian Wasteland, disembark from the train at the most northernly point on the route, head north towards Canterhorn Mountain, then continue north into the frozen north while following the railway as much as they could in the direction of the Empire.

Crystal dressed herself in her remade Noir Coat and boots with the pieces of combat armour on top, and to complete the look, she put her trusty ol’ black stetson on her head. Fruity had adopted a similar look to his wife, but with the duster he’d worn since he got it from Right Bleeding over five years ago. The old coat was showing its age, but the armour he wore on top helped to protect it. Nexus wore his Ranger Armour and clipped his helmet onto his belt, figuring he might need it later. Xian, now with her long mane tied into a braided ponytail at the back, digged through her dresser for an outfit to wear. The teenager had inherited her mother’s sock collection and liked to wear some on her hind legs since some were quite comfortable, especially when she was to wear some hoofwear with them. The teen settled on a pair of black combat boots and a pair of grey thigh-high socks for her hindlegs. Then she picked out a red t-shirt and black denim vest jacket with matching shorts. Once she was all dressed up, she walked down the stairs to join up with her family.

“Wow, now don’t you look like a born explorer,” said Fruity, complimenting his adoptive daughter.

Crystal, in the meantime, was fussing over two little foals while putting them in a carry harness. Crystal’s twin daughters were pegasus zebras like herself, but with her father’s magenta eyes and fuchsia hair. They looked identical to each other, so their parents styled their manes to mirror their own: Violet had straight hair while Ava had it messy. The foals were several months old and still prone to moments of magical surges that allowed them to fly easily. So as a precaution, Crystal had them wear an additional harness that was leashed to the foal carry harness, which prevented them from fluttering away while outside.

“Hehe. Looks like Ava and Violet are excited about coming along too.” Xian smiled as she watched the two foals squirming around and making it difficult for Crystal to get them comfortably seated in their harness.

Once the two fillies were finally seated in their harnesses, the group left the house. They stopped off at Right Bleeding’s new store that he opened in Hayside and purchased a fair amount of food, water, and ammunition. Once that was done, they left and made their way to the Hayside Train Station where they would board the Dashing Pegasus. The group made it in time, and once on board, the group settled in for a long journey to the Equestrian Wasteland.

XXXXX

After a day’s worth of traveling by train, the locomotive burst forth from the tunnel separating the Marejave from the Equestrian Wasteland and continued to thunder down the line at high speed.

“Well, we’re in Equestria now,” Fruity commented as he looked out the window.

Crystal nodded nervously.

“Mum, are you ok?” Xian asked in concern.

Crystal sighed and looked at her husband. “Fruity, I guess now is as good a time as ever.”

Fruity nodded and turned to his adoptive daughter, his expression serious. “Xian, me and your mother have been talking…”

“Fairly loudly, if I might add sir,” added Nexus, making the purple pegasus groan.

“Okay… we’ve been ‘arguing’ about this for the past year now.” He gave his wife an apologetic look. “Your mother is against it, but she’s agreed to it nonetheless.”

Xian listened tensely.

Fruity grabbed his backpack and began rummaging through it until he pulled out an object wrapped up in cloth. He put the item down onto the table between their seats with a heavy clunk. The pegasus then retracted his head and blew raspberries to rid his tongue of the taste of old rag.

“Yuck… anyway.” He composed himself, his expression becoming serious again. “That is for you.” He gestured to the wrapped object

The teenage filly nervously nudged the cloth off and gasped when a mouth-operated .357 revolver in a gleaming black finish with intricate white markings was revealed.

“You’re very own gun. We’ve had it modified to give you better accuracy and firing speed,” Fruity explained.

“We won’t always be around to protect you, honey. This way you’ll have something to defend yourself with,” added Crystal.

Xian tentatively picked it up in her forehooves and examined it. The weapon was light, and its mechanisms were smooth for ease of use. Clearly this weapon had been well maintained and cleaned. “T-thank you, Mummy and Daddy.” She continued to turn it over in her hooves until she found the names of her parents etched into the mouth grip, with a heart between them. “Oh! I… I think I’ll call this Storge.”

Crystal’s ears perked up, and she smiled lovingly at her daughter. Fruity looked confused.

“Storge, what does that mean?” He asked.

“Storg-eh, Fruity. It means ‘Parental Love,’” Crystal explained.

Xian nodded and smiled at her parents. “I love you Mum and Dad…” She quickly turned to face Nexus. “And you too, Uncle.”

Nexus nodded in appreciation.

“Ever since you found me in that cave, you’ve done everything you could to protect me, keep me safe, make me happy. You’ve been the family I never had, and I couldn’t be happier to be your daughter.” Xian’s eyes glistened with tears.

“Oh sweetie, we love you too. We’re so happy to call you our daughter,” replied Crystal, tears threatening to fall from her own eyes. Fruity simply pulled his adoptive daughter into a wing hug.

The family shared the moment a little longer before they got back to business. “When we get off the train, I’ll teach you how to use it,” said Fruity, patting his daughter on the withers with his wing.

“Thanks, dad.”

XXXXX

After another day of travelling by train, the family disembarked at what used to be Ponyville, now known as Pon-evil to most, since the town had been a Raider settlement until recently. According to the train marshal, the Raiders were eradicated by Princess Solaris only several weeks ago. The old town certainly bore signs of a recent battle. From here, the family began following the old unused railway north.

As the group left the town’s outskirts, they happened upon a large warehouse beside the railway. The main storage area had collapsed, but most of the brick walls were still standing. The only intact portion of the building left was the small office block at the front. Curious to see if the building could have something of worth, the group made their way to it. Above the entrance door was a large sign depicting a silhouetted grey griffin, with three large gold-coloured letters below it that read, “G.D.I”. Printed in smaller font below that was “Gabby’s Deliveries Incorporated”.

“Oh, I remember this,” Crystal said in recognition.

“Hmm, yeah. The name Gabby rings a bell,” said Fruity.

“Gabby the griffin founded a delivery service, and she made it her mission get parcels to her customers quickly while spreading positivity with her enthusiasm. She trained all of her employees to share that ideal.”

“Wow, she sounds like a nice creature,” Xian said with a smile.

“She was, indeed, sweetie.”

“Hmm. Well, if the warehouse isn’t totally knackered it would be a good a place as any to teach you how to use your gun,” said Fruity.

“I agree, sir,” Nexus added. “I can supervise if you wish.”

“Yes, please do, Nexus.” Crystal quickly agreed. It was then the two foals began to cry loudly. “Ugh. I’ll take care of the twins while you teach Xian how to use her gun.”

Crystal cooed softly at the two little foals, breaking off from the rest to find a canteen or an office she could use to tend to the babies. She found the warehouse manager’s office, and thankfully, the door was unlocked. Inside, the office was relatively bare, a sign that they were not the first to find and loot the place. There was a couch to the left, a scratched desk in the middle, a pair of bookshelves at the back with strangely shaped marks, and nothing else.

“Well, guess we won’t be salvaging anything from here, huh kiddos?” She immediately regretted speaking when the two little foals began screaming for attention again. “Ohhh, ok, ok. Mummy’s here.” Crystal unclipped the harness and set it down on the couch. She then made sure the door was closed before unleashing her babies to let them crawl freely. She sniffed the air and sighed with relief; neither foal had gone potty in their nappy, which she figured meant they were just hungry. She smiled lovingly as she laid herself on the couch and lifted a hind leg to give the babies access to her swollen teats. “I should really thank Dr. Pear for making it so I could experience motherhood,” She said before squeaking at the sensation of her foals nursing her.

Meanwhile, Fruity, Xian and Nexus followed the hallways to get inside the warehouse. It took time, but they eventually found a door that wasn’t blocked by rubble and allowed them entrance. Luckily, the area they found themselves in had plenty of open space to set up a makeshift shooting range.

Fruity gathered several undelivered parcels off the floor and from nearby racking, and lined them all up on a shelf by the wall. Once he was finished, he walked over to Xian.

“Ok. Take your gun and hold it in your mouth.”

The young filly nodded as she pulled Storge from her belt and held it by its mouth grip. She worked it around in her mouth a little until it sat comfortably, and then looked at her father for further instruction.

“Ok, good. Now I want you to aim at the items I lined up on the shelf there,” He said while using a wing to gesture to the targets. “To aim, look down the sights of the weapon. When the prong at the tip of the barrel is in the middle of the two prongs at the back closest to your eye, that’s when you have a straight line of sight. Your aim is where the middle prong points at.”

Xian blinked several times. She couldn’t get her aim with both eyes open since the weapon was lined up under her right eye, so she closed her left eye to stop the double vision. She then had to work the gun in her mouth some more so that the middle prong sat perfectly between the back two.

“Alright, pick one and use your tongue to pull on the trigger.”

Xian nodded and picked the biggest looking object on the shelf. She pointed with her hoof to indicate the one she was aiming for and went to pull the trigger. The trigger was stiffer than she anticipated, and as she focused on pulling, her aim wandered. The young mare let out a squeak of fright when the weapon discharged, the bang and recoil totally not what she was expecting, and she dropped Storge as a result.

Fruity and Nexus both looked at the target Xian had selected, but the bullet had missed the target entirely and struck the wall near it instead.

“Not a bad start. Don’t worry, honey. Just try again,” said Fruity in encouragement.

The filly nodded, now nervous. As she took stance to aim again, Nexus walked over and gently nudged her leg back, and held her ever so slightly to improve her stature.

“A good posture will increase your chances at a stable aim.”

She nodded in thanks and aimed for the same object. Again, her aimed wandered as she tried to pull the trigger, but this time she expected the loud bang and the recoil. She didn’t drop Storge, but her shot still missed.

Fruity and Nexus patiently gave the learning filly different points of advice while she practiced. She missed all six shots, but each one was closer to the target than the last. After the sixth shot, Fruity showed her how to reload her weapon by popping the cylinder out the side, tilting the gun up so the empty casings fell out and using a speed-loader to get all six bullets reloaded quickly.

Afterward, they resumed aiming/firing training. Xian was starting to get frustrated with her bad aim, but on the ninth shot, she finally hit the target she was aiming for, and she felt elation. Fruity and Nexus both congratulated her on a successful hit but requested that she try again. Spurred on by the success, she continued trying. Her hit-to-miss rate began to change quickly now that she was getting used to the force needed to pull the trigger, and after six consecutive hits, Fruity stopped her.

“I think that’ll do for now. You can aim and shoot fairly well now, but make sure to keep practicing,” He said as he gave her a hug.

“Thank you, Dad.”

“Well done, young miss,” said Nexus proudly.

When Fruity let her go, she turned to the robot, reared up and gave him a hug too. “And thank you too, Uncle.”

XXXXX

It wasn’t long before they continued along the railway. Their point of reference was the old city of Canterlot, still clinging to the side of the mountain as it glowed in a pink haze. The poison cloud swirling around the old city drifted down like waterfalls of death. The sight was a big reminder to the group that they were not in a safe land anymore (though the Marejave wasn’t that much safer in its own right).

“Um Fruity… what happened to Canterlot?” asked Crystal, shocked to see the once proud capital of Equestria in such a state.

“Um… a zebra mega-spell from what I’ve been told. It killed nearly everypony in the city, including the princesses,” Fruity replied as he looked up at the haunting sight.

“Really!? It killed the Princesses?”

“Apparently, yeah. Although I’ve heard rumours of Princess Celestia having survived, what with there being stories of her attacking and destroying a missile array as the bombs fell; but then again, the world was going to hell in a hoofbasket, so they could have seen anything.”

“That’s… really sad to hear… I suppose that explains why the wasteland came to be.” Crystal sighed in disheartenment.

The group could see the remains of a town at the base of the mountain. Wary of hostiles, they decided to go around it, giving it a wide berth. Luckily, they ran into nothing threatening and continued their journey north. Once they passed the mountain, they found the railway going north again and followed it once more.

It took the family a couple of days to make it through the mountain range, but when they did, they found themselves in a desolate, barren flatland. The cloud cover also began to fade the further they went, signalling that they were leaving the boundary of the SPP’s effective range.

With sunlight and clear skies now illuminating their way, the group felt a little more at ease. Eventually, they came across the most bizarre sight that any of them had ever seen.

“What the heck is this?” Fruity asked. The group had come upon a giant battleship lying on the ruins of what had been a locomotive service station.

“Um, a really big boat,” said Crystal, just as stumped.

“That is the… or was the HMS Warsprite. The last Super Dreadnaught of the Equestrian Royal Navy,” informed Nexus.

“Yeah, we can see that, but how the hell did it get all the way out here in the middle of nowhere?”

“Um, it got washed up here?” Xian ventured.

“Sweetie, there aren’t any seas around here for miles,” Crystal refuted.

“Maybe it was accidentally teleported here. I mean, unicorns used to teleport all over the place,” said Fruity.

“Possible, but highly unlikely, sir.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, sir, unicorns need to be familiar with the place they are teleporting to, and they usually teleported only themselves.” The robot looked up at the huge rust-covered ship, taking in the numerous machine gun mounts all along its decks. “This ship is almost two hundred metres long and weighs in at around thirty-three and a half thousand tonnes. Trying to levitate or teleport something of this magnitude was impossible for unicorns before the bombs fell.”

“Then how the bloody hell did this get here?”

“You got me. Perhaps a mega-spell?” said Crystal.

“Possibly, ma’am. The Ministries were all working on their own secret projects, so it’s entirely possible one of them was working on something that could teleport entire units like this… but that’s all speculation.”

“It’s, um, kinda scary,” said Xian meekly.

“Yeah.” Fruity observed the gun mounts, all pointing down right at them. “How big are those guns, anyway?”

“Main armaments are fifteen inches, and its secondary armaments are six inches,” said Nexus.

“Wow, this thing would have packed a punch.”

“Yeah… Um, I think we should keep going.” Crystal felt intimidated by the huge weapon of war.

They all agreed and quickly left the mystery ship alone.

XXXXX

A week had passed since the family had set off on their journey, and now they were closing in on the Frozen North. The group stopped at a train station that was seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but a town in the distance soon caught their attention. Thanks to Crystal and Nexus’ enhanced sight, they could see that it was a mining town. They ultimately decided on checking it out on their way back, however. Inside the train station, they restocked on some pre-war food still in the vending machines and changed into their artic clothing. Crystal, Fruity and Xian all wore thick coats lined with Big Horn wool for insulation. Crystal’s coat had a pair of custom pockets on it so the little foals could sit comfortably inside. Once all that was completed, they continued onward.

The dead, grassy lands soon turned into snowy tundra. Xian was nervous and excited at the same time; she hadn’t been in an area like this since their stays at the Alicorn Sanctuary over five years ago. Visibility gradually reduced the deeper they went, and the railway was soon hidden by the snow. Thankfully, they still managed to keep their heading.

“Over there.” Crystal pointed to a series of mountains in the distance. “That mountain with the twin peak. That’s the one with the train tunnel. We should see the Empire from the other side.”

“Are you certain?” Fruity yelled over the wind.

“Positive. I used to see it all the time when we travelled to and from the Empire when I was a filly. Not to mention, I see it all the time in my nightmares now.”

“Alright, alright. Sorry, honey.”

“I’m so cold,” Xian whimpered.

Fruity slowed his trot so he could walk beside the young zebra. He draped a wing over her back and pulled her closer to him to share his body heat with her. The teen cooed softly as she leaned up against her father, happy for the warmth. Crystal smiled as she looked back at them, her own wings draped over her little foals as they slept in their woolly pockets.

An hour later, Fruity’s ears perked up and he quickly looked up and scanned the sky. His face began to show concern as he stared up at the clouds, sensing the shifting weather patterns.

“We should run. Get to the tunnel as fast as we can,” He said urgently.

“What’s the matter?”

“I don’t see any threats, sir.”

“Seriously, we need to run! There is a storm brewing, and we don’t want to get caught in a snowstorm.”

“Nexus, are you alright running?” Crystal asked nervously.

“Yes ma’am. The cold doesn’t bother me.”

“Ok, Fruity, take Xian and we’ll fly to the tunnel.”

“Gotcha.” The pegasus crouched to let Xian lay on his back and hold onto him tightly around his neck. She was a lot heavier than when she was a little filly, but Fruity had been working out to better keep up with his speedy wife, so handling her weight was no issue. Once Crystal made sure her foals were safely secured in her coat, she took off, a familiar teal and golden orange contrail forming behind her. Fruity then beat his wings to follow behind her, and Nexus broke into a gallop.

It took the family a couple long minutes to reach the tunnel. Crystal set down and sighed with relief. Fruity collapsed, huffing and puffing in exhaustion. Xian looked at Fruity apologetically after getting off him. Nexus soon joined them just as the storm set in.

Crystal helped her husband back to his hooves and they both took a moment to shake themselves free of the snow and ice that had accumulated on their coats and feathers. Xian did the same before sneezing and shivering from the cold, with one sneeze firing off an icicle that had been dangling from her nose. Nexus gave himself a light shake to dislodge the snow from his armour. The family shared a chuckle as they looked upon their robotic friend.

“Heh. If you wanted to be unicorn so badly, you should have taken Dr. Pear up on her offer to make you like Crystal,” Fruity said with a little snicker.

“It kinda suits you.” Crystal smiled.

Nexus tilted his head to the side in confusion. “Sir? Ma’am?”

“Hehe. You got a horn, Uncle.” Xian giggled while pointing up to his forehead.

The machine looked up to see that ice had formed in his forehead expansion joint, with more snow and ice built up on top of it, forming a horn that curled upwards.

“Extraordinary.”

“Achoo!” Xian sneezed again. “I’m still cold.”

Fruity frowned and pressed himself up against her side, wrapping his wing around her again. “Don’t worry. I’ll warm you up honey.”

Once again, Xian cooed softly and leaned up against him.

Crystal and Nexus both watched the loving scene, one with a smile on her face and the other unreadable. Internally, however, the robot was experiencing the emotion of jealousy, something the other cybernetic being in the group could vaguely sense.

“Nexus, are you alright?” Crystal asked worriedly.

“Of course, Ma’am.”

Crystal stared at him for several long moments before movement in her pockets got her attention. She used her wings to lift the pocket flaps and reached around to gently nuzzle the foals inside. Nexus watched the exchange before silently walking down the tunnel. Crystal, Fruity and Xian followed a moment later.

The tunnel itself was empty. Crystal and Fruity had both expected to run into ghouls, but Nexus pointed out the temperature would not be high enough to support them, along with the lack of food in the Frozen North. The group made it halfway through the tunnel before they came to an indentation in the wall that led to a maintenance storage room and worker habitat. After a quick sweep of the rooms found them to be clear of any hostiles, they decided to spend the night there, since it would be well past dark by the time they reached the other end of the tunnel.

The habitat and storage room were connected, and the habitat was broken up into several rooms. These included a lounge, a kitchen/dining room, a restroom, and a bedroom. The bedroom consisted of four bunkbeds spaced out evenly and two individual lockers beside each one.

The pegasus and zebras all let out a sigh of relief once they took off their thick insulated coats. They dumped said coats on a bed they weren’t going to use, and Crystal put the foals on the floor so they could play. Crystal and Fruity then noticed Nexus standing at the far side of the room by the door, looking out into the living space. They could tell something was bothering him.

“Xian, can you watch your sisters for a moment?” asked Crystal, gently nudging the foals towards her eldest daughter.

“Sure thing, Mum.” Xian crotched down to her belly and began to play with the two happily babbling foals. The two parents approached the robot.

“What’s eating ya, Nexus?” Fruity asked.

“Yeah, you’ve not been yourself since we got in here,” said Crystal.

The machine looked at his two friends and sighed. “I’ve come to a decision.”

“A decision? What about?” Crystal felt a hint of worry.

“I have decided to take Dr Pear up on her offer.”

“I was only joking about that, dude,” Fruity said in surprise. “She gave you that offer like, two months after we stopped Colonel Ironside, and it’s been five years since then. What’s made you change your mind now?”

Nexus looked over at the young teenager giggling and happily playing with her two baby sisters, and he sighed again.

“At first I was okay being the machine I am. However, in the last year or so, I’ve been getting these feelings of jealousy that arose when you all shared family experiences with each other; be it hugging each other, holding each other, supporting each other, loving each other…” He trailed off as he turned his gaze towards them. The two before him blushed heavily. “You get the idea. Anyway, I came to the realisation that I couldn’t partake in those sorts of experiences with you as a family member, what with my cold hard exterior not allowing for such familiar contact.”

“You’ve hugged Xian plenty of times,” Fruity interjected.

“Yes, but never applied any pressure needed to return the hug. My endoskeleton would be quite uncomfortable to be tightly pressed against.”

“I see your point.”

“But why now?” Crystal asked.

“In the last couple of days, I’ve come to realise just how much I can not support you as a friend or family member. I can’t provide body heat or be a shoulder to cry on, and as you once said to me, I deserve a chance to love and be loved, not that I don’t appreciate the love you give me.”

Fruity smiled as he stepped up the robot and gently patted him on the shoulder. “Well, if that’s what you want, we’ll support you all the way, mate.”

Crystal nodded and smiled warmly at him. “It’s a big decision, and you certainly do deserve to feel what its like to be truly alive. There is only so much you can actually experience by being purely robotic, and I do want you to find love and be happy.”

“Thank you, Ma’am. Sir.”

“Don’t mention it big guy. Heh. I guess I’ll need to come up with different names for you in the future.”

Crystal chuckled, smiling happily at the robot stallion and the pegasus. Seeing the two getting along now, in contrast to when they first met and Fruity didn’t like nor trusted Nexus at all, made her feel such joy inside. The mare left the two to talk and re-joined her daughters, climbing onto a bottom bunk and laying down to watch the young fillies play. Despite the circumstances of the world they lived in, she felt she was the luckiest mare alive. Even with what happened to her at the beginning, she found a friend that soon became her husband who she loved dearly and had been blessed with the most beautiful children a mare could ask for. It did hurt her, though, to know that Fruity was right, and that her kids would need to learn how to defend themselves with weaponry in the future, no matter what she would want for them.

Thankfully, the kitchen still had some tinned beans and other goods left in the fridge, so they didn’t need to use up more of their own supplies for dinner. Once everyone ate their fill, they all turned in for the night, except for Nexus who sat in the living room, facing the door, acting as a sentry to protect his family during the night. As he did so, he reflected on his life with the Éclair family, which bolstered his desire to change into something more.

XXXXX

“Well, at least it’s not snowing,” said Fruity as they exited the tunnel on the opposite side of the mountain.

“Its too overcast and hazy to see far.” Crystal sighed as she looked to the northwest, in the direction she remembered the Empire to be from here.

“Thankfully, it’s not windy either,” Xian said with relief.

Crystal turned to their robot friend. “Nexus, can you sense anything?”

The machine stepped forward and scanned the horizon slowly. After a minute, he turned to Crystal. “Affirmative, Ma’am. I’ve detected a faint energy signature to the northwest.”

“Can you tell what kind of signature?” asked Fruity.

“Sorry, sir. The signal is too weak from here to tell if it’s magical or electrical.”

Fruity opened his wings and looked up to the sky. “Hmm. Weather’s good for now. How far to the Empire from here, Crystal?”

Crystal put a hoof to her chin in thought. “Hmm… Can’t be more than about ten miles.”

“We should be able to make that.”

The family followed the railway down to ground level and began to trudge through the snow once more. They walked for hours, enduring the cold and the arctic winds. After covering several miles, the group came across a long dune of snow, which turned out to be a train that had been buried by the snow. The rear gangway door of the last car was wide open, and the family decided to climb up into the train for shelter and take a break.

“We might be able to find some supplies in here somewhere.” Xian walked deeper into the passenger car.

“Stay close sweetie. We don’t know what could be further up the train,” Crystal warned.

“Don’t worry, Ma’am. I’ll accompany her,” said Nexus, following the young zebra.

“Alright. Stay safe you two.”

“Thanks, Mum.”

Xian excitedly hurried off into the train with Nexus close behind, eager to explore. She opened private cabins and looked inside many containers and suitcases that still littered the interior. About halfway through the car, she opened a door to a cabin, and her enthusiasm was snuffed out. Inside, she found a pair of ponies frozen solid in an embrace. Their faces showed sadness, like they knew the end was coming for them.

Nexus came up and closed the door. “I’m sorry you had to see that young miss.”

“They… they were just… I…”

“I don’t want this to curb your enthusiasm on exploring or going on adventures with your family. It’s just a consequence of this world we live in.”

“I… I want to go back to my Mum and Dad now.” The filly whimpered and turned around, proceeding to walk slowly back to her parents.

Nexus sighed. Even he knew an innocent young filly like her shouldn’t have to see the horrors the wasteland can offer.

“Xian? What’s wrong?” Crystal asked upon seeing her daughter’s distress.

Xian teared up and hugged her mother tightly, weeping into her shoulder. Crystal gently wrapped her forelegs around her, patting her back to comfort her. She looked at Nexus for an explanation.

“She saw a pair of ponies frozen.”

Fruity sighed whilst handling the young twins. “Sorry, honey. You’ll see things like that out in the wasteland.”

After Xian had calmed down, the family continued their journey. The weather quickly began to change the further they went, becoming windier and hazier.

“Ugh! If this keeps up, we’ll have to turn back!” Fruity shouted over the growing wind.

“We must be close now!” Crystal yelled back. “Just a little longer!”

“Think of the kids!”

Crystal opened her mouth to say something but was cut off by Nexus.

“Ma’am. Strong magical energy signature ahead and multiple weak signatures.”

“How far?”

“Difficult to determine. Something is interfering with my sensory system.”

“Alright, we’ll-woah!” Crystal squeaked as she suddenly felt like she stepped through a shower and found herself in a sunlit field with clear skies. Fruity, Xian and Nexus all landed next to her.

“What the hell just happened?” Fruity asked in surprise. “You disappeared all of a sudden and now we’re all standing in a field!”

Nexus looked back behind him and saw the snowy tundra, then looked up to the sky before turning around and fixing his gaze onto something in the distance. “We’ve made it.”

“I… I don’t believe it. It’s… it’s still here.” Crystal gaped as she laid eyes on the great crystal spire of the Crystal Palace: the heart of the Crystal Empire. “I… I didn’t destroy it after all.”

“I knew you didn’t.” Fruity hugged his wife.

Xian gasped in amazement. “Wow. It looks so beautiful.”

Suddenly, pops and flashes came from all around them, and before they knew it, the family was surrounded by dozens of Crystal Guards of various races, all of them brandishing weapons of various types. Nexus quickly put his helmet on so as not to cause a commotion due to his skeletal appearance.

One of the guards at the front of the group barked out, “Halt in the name of the Empress, wastelanders!”

Xian shrieked in alarm and hugged her mother, who draped a wing over her protectively and shifted her around to be behind her. Crystal then took off her coat and put it on Xian. “Look after your sisters.”

“Two zebras. Quick, get the Empress!” The lead guard ordered one of his subordinates, who then disappeared in another flash of light. Moments later, the guards in front of the family moved aside as two more flashes came and passed. In their place stood a great pink alicorn, similar in size to Celestia, with a flowing pink, purple and gold mane; and a smaller white alicorn with a purple mane and a teal streak in it.

“This better be important. I got better things to do today,” The white alicorn snapped irritably.

“Intruders, your highnesses,” said the guard captain as he bowed to them.

“And you couldn’t deal with it yourselves?”

“Flurry, that’s enough. They wouldn’t have called for us if not for a good reason,” snapped the pink alicorn.

Flurry Heart harrumphed and stuck her nose up.

“Wow, what a brat” Fruity said a little too loudly. The guards closest to him pointed their weapons at him, to which he responded by putting his hooves up into the air. “Woah, chill!”

“What do we have here? A pegasus, an earth pony, a zebra, and a zebra with wings. This is certainly a surprise,” the pink alicorn said with intrigue.

“Princess Cadance!” Crystal gasped, and suddenly bowed to the alicorn.

Princess Cadance found herself surprised. This seemingly random zebra from beyond the protective shield actually knew her.

“Who are you, and how do you know me?”

The fact the pegasus-zebra knew the princess was enough to capture the bratty princess’s attention as well. With all eyes on her, Crystal nervously gulped.

“My name is Crystal Éclair. I was one of your subjects over two hundred years ago.”

“Mother, that’s impossible. She’s obviously lying so why don’t we just chuck her out?” Flurry said angrily.

“Éclair… Éclair. I remember that name.” Princess Cadance tapped her hoof to her chin in thought, ignoring her daughter’s irritated complaints. Soon, her eyes widened as she looked back down at the family before them.

Crystal nodded. “We met at the general hospital when you were visiting the foals ward. I was about four or five when you came to see me. I was the pink filly with a light-yellow mane suffering from numerous ailments.”

“Everypony stand down and return to your posts,” The princess ordered. The guards all holstered their weapons and all but a few teleported back to their original posts.

“Mother, you can’t seriously believe her?” Flurry gasped in shock.

“Flurry, there is no way she would have known that. Let us go somewhere a little more private so we can talk about this. I would like to understand what’s going on.”

Princess Cadance lit her horn, and the family felt their stomachs lurch before they found themselves standing inside a decorative crystal dining hall. Princess Cadance sat at the head of the table while Flurry Heart sat on the first seat closest to her mother.

“Please, have a seat.” Cadance gestured to the numerous crystal chairs around the table.

“Oh wow, this is so cool!” Xian gawked as she looked upon her surroundings with wide-eyed fascination.

The family took their seats opposite Flurry and got themselves comfortable. Crystal and Fruity both sighed in relief once they shed their heavy coats. Princess Cadance smiled warmly as she watched Crystal help Xian out of her coat and extract the two foals from their comfy pockets.

“Oh, how adorable. How old are they?”

The foals looked up at the giant alicorn. Their purple eyes went wide, and they began babbling happily.

Crystal giggled softly as she held the two. “Oh, they are just a few months old.”

“Hey, bucket head, you were told to sit,” Flurry said, pointing at the armoured Nexus.

“If it’s all the same to you, I would prefer to stand behind my friends.”

“Flurry, its ok. He can stand if he wants to.”

“Whatever. So, who are you guys?”

“Yes, some introductions are in order. I am Princess Cadance, and this is my daughter, Flurry Heart.”

The family, minus Nexus, bowed their heads to the royals. Crystal spoke for them. “It’s a pleasure to see you again, your highness, and it’s a pleasure to meet you, Princess Flurry Heart. You already know me, but this is my husband, Tooty Fruity.” Fruity bowed his head. Flurry snorted with amusement over his name. “The armoured pony behind us is our good friend, Nexus.” Nexus nodded briefly in acknowledgement. “This is my beautiful daughter, Xian.” The young zebra bowed nervously. “And these two are Ava and Violet.”

Princess Cadance nodded and smiled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you all. Now, I’m curious to know how you are still alive, how you’ve seemingly changed species, Crystal, and why you’ve braved the wastes to find us again.”

“Ah, um… That’s a long story.”

“We have all the time in the world. I’m very curious.”

“It better be good,” added Flurry.

“Alright, well it all began…” And so, Crystal regaled the royal family on her life in the wasteland.

Shock was the common expression to appear on the royals’ faces; even Flurry was captivated by the story of betrayal. They couldn’t believe that a pony back before the war had the audacity to plan on killing Princess Celestia and using one of his robots to replace her, and then use a veritable army of robots to replace other ponies of importance to control the workings of the government from the shadows. They felt grateful that Crystal and her friends helped stop the machines from ever being released. They cringed as Crystal retold her fight against Unit-1000. As she finished her story, she absentmindedly rubbed her cheek where a large scar that stretched across her eye was still visible, a lasting reminder of that battle.

“Incredible,” said Cadance. “You’ve been through so much, but you haven’t let that harsh world break you. Instead, you’ve prospered.”

Nexus took his helmet off, now that Crystal had explained what he was. He still received the expected shocked reactions, especially from Flurry who let out a scream.

“S-so that’s what you look like without skin?”

Crystal nodded.

“How the hell did you have kids?”

“Flurry!”

“No, no, it’s ok,” Crystal assured. “Dr. Pear found out she was being used so she did everything she could to restore as much of my biological functions as she could. This included being able to have kids.”

“Is there any of you we should be worried about?” Princess Cadance asked with worry.

“You mean Infiltrators?” The royal nodded. “Thankfully, no. The ones that are still active are living their own lives free of control.”

“Well, that’s a relief, and I suppose the fact you are sitting here with us has took that weight off your shoulders as well.”

Crystal nodded and smiled happily. “Oh, you have no idea.”

“Oh, geez! What is that smell?” Flurry cried out as she covered her nose with her forehooves.

“Oh dear, it looks like somepony did a stinky,” said Crystal, her own nose wrinkling from the smell. Ava happily babbled and clapped her forehooves while Violet looked around in confusion.

Cadance smiled lovingly at the scene before pointing at a door off to the side. “You’ll find changing facilities in there.”

“Thank you, your highness.” Crystal gave a bow, and then carried her twin daughters off to be changed.

XXXXX

Crystal sighed happily as she sunk into the soft mattress of a grand four-poster bed, one within a guest room her family had been allowed by the Princess to stay in. It had been many years since she last felt the softness of a new bed. Fruity smiled as he snuggled up against his wife and nuzzled her neck. Crystal giggled and returned the nuzzle.

“Nexus is looking after the kids. We got the room to ourselves,” said Fruity, waggling his eyebrows.

Crystal licked her husband’s nose. “I can’t think of anything better to do to celebrate this occasion.” She kissed her husband tenderly on the lips, while he began to run his hooves along her curves.

In the next room, Xian blushed heavily. She could hear the familiar sound of a squeaking bed, and she hid her head under the covers in embarrassment, wishing for it stop soon.

XXXXX

The captain of the guard approached the sovereign’s throne. “Your highness.”

“Ah, Captain Obsidian. You wanted to talk to me about something?”

“Yes, your highness. We’ve just received another report about an alicorn flying in the area.”

Cadance looked out the large glass windows and into the night. “Continue.”

“None of the sightings have been definitive, but so far they all seem to point to the alicorn being the late Princess Celestia, but with red hair.”

“Thank you, Captain. Please keep me informed.”

The guard captain bowed his head. “Of course, your highness.” He then left.

“Hmm. Could you be this Solaris that Crystal and her family mentioned?”

Author's Note:

Bonus image

Teenage Xian

New (20/04/2021) Crystal and Xian sharing a family moment.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this chapter, please let me know what you thought about it.