• Published 1st Jul 2019
  • 546 Views, 31 Comments

Sunless - Korenav

The sun is gone. The world has frozen over. Towering cities glow with power and warmth provided by the finite resource, Sunstone. Jovin, one of the many living a life run by cybernetics finds himself in debt as his body needs Sunstone to survive.

  • ...

Sometimes the Little Guy Wins


A hoof to the side of his face shut him up before he could finish, so sudden that he barely noticed the wind-up, his vision flickering and cracking from the impact. Jovin landed on his back some distance away, skidding across the snowy pavement and leaving a clean streak in his wake, coming to an eventual rest by a small mound of frost.

“Oi! You nearly flipped with that one! I’ll have to hold back on the next several.” The mare roared a nasally laugh, trotting up to the fallen groceries with a casual air about her, as if she hadn’t just knocked his lights out. “Name’s Nightcaster, but you can call me Emi.”

Curled up and clutching his head, he rolled over and tried to make sense of the world around him. And through the slowly lessening glitches in his eyes, he saw her grey form sifting through his shopping. “Uuugghh… H-hey.” He reached for them. “Those are—"

“Mine?” She picked up one of the boxes. “Hmm…Choco Tacos? Is that even supposed to rhyme?” Emi shrugged and opened it, spilling out the contents and taking one for herself, unwrapping it and taking a bite, sampling it as if she were a connoisseur of fine wine. “Hey these aren’t bad.”

Jovin staggered back up to his hooves, unsteady and still a little dizzy from the blow. “Those are my choco tacos, you bi—"

A quick buck to the shoulder sent him flying another several feet, the sound of hoof gauntlets on metal, short, sharp, and unpleasant, and it knocked the wind out of him. “You’d think they’d come up with a better name than choco taco. It reads way differently than it sounds.”

“Yeah. Like, maybe ‘cream burrito’, or ‘cream taco’, or something,” said her associate.

Emi gave him an unimpressed stare. “Yer not allowed to have ideas anymore. Banned.”

“Are… you serious?” Jovin sat up, clutching his now unresponsive leg as he glared at her, one of his eyes still fuzzy with static, and feeling quite grating within its socket. “You’re going to… talk shit about how you pronounce choco taco with that absurd accent?”

Emi stopped in place. She slowly turned her head towards him, revealing a toothy smirk — a smirk that said she’d enjoy doing horrible, horrible things to him, starting with ripping off his prosthetics and rearranging his face with them. “Oh, yer one of those fellers, aren’t ya? Yer gonna be fun.”

“Umm… No, really.” He propped himself on his working foreleg, then dragged his hindlegs closer and painfully edged himself up, head still aching and growing worse from the change in height.. “You sound like a… a twelve year old trying to imitate a Sirish accent.”

“Yeah, you do kinda force it a lot,” commented her associate, “and it's really inconsistent—"

Emi threw her half-eaten taco at him to shut him up, and it caught him right in the eye. “You don’t know shite! Shut up before I break yer gob mouth! And you…” She stabbed a hoof at Jovin, that wicked smile gleaming in its full glory, the world seeming to darken around her. “I’m going to enjoy making you into a punching bag.”

Don’t say it Jovin. Just take it and move on. Just let her

“Still less painful than hearing another word of that drunken bar brawler accent,” Jovin blurted out with a stupid grin on his face.

…This is going to hurt.

“Oh, I’ll give you a funny accent fer life!” Emi charged toward him, an excited fury in her eyes.

Curse his stupid mouth, it didn’t need to come to this. But damn, if it didn’t feel good telling some dimwit brute to stick her attitude up her own ass — could’ve used that line, actually. But now wasn’t the time to revel in his own smartassery or despair at lost opportunities, now was the time for action.

Already on his hooves, he quickly lowered himself into a combat stance and bounded to the side, clapping his wings for added speed, just as he’d been taught in the military.

Emi barely missed him by a hair, flapping her wings to slow down and come about. She was big, she was strong, yes — by far one of, if not the biggest, strongest mare he’d ever seen — but size and weight are as much a disadvantage as they are the opposite; this was his moment.

He turned and flung himself at her, latching onto her legs and pulling them out from under her.

But they didn’t budge. His legs weren’t strong enough. He needed more H in him.

Emi watched for a moment, huffing a contemptuous snort. “Yer really something, aren’t y—"

Jovin threw a punch right at her face, hitting her square in the side of the head. “I’m no pushover. Not with legs like these!” He hopped off and swung another hoof at her.

She caught it her own hoof, the previous blow barely phasing her, then tugged him close so she sneered almost directly down at him. “Crutches, ye dumb git. Ain’t nothing special about ‘em. Yer just as bad as every other softee.”

Jovin glared at her and opened his mouth to retort.

Emi cracked her forehead over his.

He didn’t have time or the mind to yelp, merely stumbling back in a dazed, off-balance, aching stupor.

“You think some robot bits make all the difference, don’t ya?” she demanded, threw another punch.

Jovin barely managed to deflect it, and return the favor, but Emi didn’t even blink, taking it square in the jaw.

She snatched the offending hoof and yanked him close again. “Ye got some fight to ya, but you’da been better off au natural.” Her leg went over his shoulder headlocking him under her.

“L-like you’re any b-better!” Jovin gasped, beginning to choke, flailing a hoof at her while the other tried to pull away the foreleg keeping him in a vice-like grip. His claws extended, scratching at her viciously like a rabid cat.

“Is that right?" She fell upon him, slamming him into the ground with her whole weight before backing out of reach of his claws, then chuckled to herself as she inspected her work. “Did that feel real enough for you, Taco Girl?”

Jovin coughed before fumbling for a foothold and staggering back up to his hooves, head spinning, face bloodied from the pavement. Faint lines of red streaked in the fur along her foreleg and neck where he’d scratched deep enough. In his brief little moment to catch his breath, he looked down at his legs, wincing at seeing them, especially like this, and let out a sigh. “W-what do you want?”

Emi’s smirk lessened. “Pay up,” she demanded humorlessly, “or I break something”

“I can have it soon, okay?” Jovin swallowed. This wasn’t like last month with the neatly dressed pony asking for his due. He could at least barter with him without being harassed.

The shaking of her head sent a chill down his spine, that smile of hers gone completely. “No.” She extended a hoof, the shoe clicking as prongs extended from it. Electrical arcs zapped between them. “Now, hold still.”

Jovin tried to turn and take flight, but she was on him in no time. The electric surge of the taser going through him turned his legs into solid rocks momentarily, losing all feeling in them, and for that moment, he felt the painful reminder of what he was without his cybernetics.

On the ground, Emi hammered away with her hooves on Jovin’s leg, metal and plastic giving way. She was furious, not at all smirking like she was before, if not even a bit strained. It was one of the last things he saw before he felt his consciousness slip.

“You’re sure he doesn’t have coverage for this?”

“I know from all the patients I’ve worked with at Medicart. These injuries are not that severe, other than the concussion.”

“Poppy, his leg is off.”

“I know, I know, but that’s cybernetic. Nothing that can’t be replaced or threatening to his health. He should be fine, and the rest is repairable.”

“You’re sure there’s nothing to call in here? I mean, he looks pretty beat to shit.”

“Well, I mean, I would just to be safe but he kinda has garbage insurance. He’d be even deeper in the hole…”

“Well… Hey, I think he is waking up.”

Jovins slow motions on the couch generated some questionable mechanical clicks as he returned to the waking world. The pain ached and burned like any other, but his legs were different; inconsistent, cold, duller. Some parts didn’t even have any feeling to them, or worse, an alien feeling of being more wrong than they should on him.

He instinctively reached for one of his legs, wanting to feel it, confirm it was there and feel its surface… but there was nothing. Jovin reached with his other foreleg to find the unresponsive one. It all felt fake; his skin cold metal and motions robotic. It was like every morning of his life, only even more was missing.

Vision fuzzy, he made out the silhouettes of two ponies looking down over him. Peach and grey. Poppy and Buck. The first seemed openly concerned, the other more resigned. At least he was among friends.

“Please tell me I won.”

“Well…” Poppy scratched the back of his head.

“You got fucked.” Buck said bluntly. “You okay? You hurting?”

Jovin sighed, fearing the worst. “Is my leg…?”

“It can be fixed.” Poppy said with a smile. “You might need a few parts, but we got it right here!” He promptly grabbed something out of sight and wagged it like a dog’s tail it before him. “You can wave hi to yourself now!”

Jovin watched the display, eyes following the limb side to side . “Poppy… could you please not? This isn’t making me feel any better about myself.”

“Oh, sorry. Hehe.”

Reaching out with his clawed hoof, he took the leg. It felt heavier than he remembered, or perhaps he was just weaker than he was earlier. It was mostly intact, but the plastic coverings had some significant dents and scuffs, making it look rather bent out of shape. Impressively, or maybe not so impressively, considering its overall quality, was the bend in the elbow joint. It would’ve taken quite a bit of force to cause that. It was probably the reason why his leg came off, shearing off at the weakest point.

Seeing it detached from him, holding it like it were a mere prop with his other quite attached leg filled him with a subdued sense of despair. Feedback sensores allowed him to feel things through his cybernetics, but it was never really the same as flesh; losing a limb was usually permanent, but with prosthetics, it was merely a temporary inconvenience, like how socks have holes worn into them eventually, and have to be replaced. If the sensors bugged out and switched themselves off, they’d feel like he was using overpriced stilts.

It was a tradeoff he hadn’t considered until he’d already had them installed.

“Sooo… did you pick a fight with a griffon, or something? Or did they just really want your ice cream taco things?” Buck queried, leaning over him.

“Choco tacos,” Poppy cut in.

“Whatever. Are you going to be alright? You’re not in deep with anyone are you?”

Jovin sighed, looking over his leg before sitting up, his bruises making themselves very apparent as the pain became much more noticeable. “No. Stop being my mom.”

“Jobird, Poppy found you in pieces on the doorstep of the building.” He leaned further in, brow raised. “I’ve got plenty of reasons to play mom right now. What’s going on?”

He’d barely taken his eyes off his leg, looking it over, before sighing and letting it drop onto the carpet like another broken tool of his. “Huge monster mare debt collector. That’s what happened.”

Buck quirked a brow of his own. “Monster mare?”

“Yeah! She was this huge bat pony with the absolute worst accent! It's like she was trying to pass it off, but didn’t know how to ‘mouth’. Or was just as dumb as a box of rocks.”

“Like, some fancy ‘High Canterlot’ talk? Or…”

“No, like that accent you’d expect from a bar brawling drunk, only she sounded like someone broke her jaw too many times. Yet she said ‘au natural’ like she was fluent in whatever it comes from.”


“Never heard it, and honestly, it was painful to hear her speak in any way, shape or form.”

“You owe money?” Poppy chimed in, sitting just besides Jovin, peering down at him with concern.

“Everyone owes money,” Jovin said defensively, crossing his forelegs, but realising he could only half-complete the motion and deflated with a heavy sigh.

“Not everyone owes enough to get busted up like you.” Buck crossed his own forelegs — oh, how Jovin already missed being able to do that. “Didn’t know you were in that much trouble. Is it the H?”

“No…Maybe…And a few other things. Listen, I got this okay? Just a payment or so behind.”

“But…” Poppy gave him an unhealthily big and extraordinarily convincing dose of puppy dog eyes. He swore someone would start crying if he didn’t do something about it, and he wasn’t sure who.

“Poppy…That’s not fair to give me that look.” Jovin had the hardest time turning away.

“Buck?” Poppy looked up to him, his voice sweet and soft. “Do you mind if I speak with Jovin alone?”

Buck couldn’t help pausing for a moment, then rolled his eyes. “Oh great, now you made Poppy sad. Listen, just stay out of trouble and pay your bills. I don’t want to come home and find you all over the place. Literally.” He went for his bedroom door. “Poppy, I leave the charming to you.”

Jovin raised his brows, looking up to Poppy with some confusion. “Everything okay, Popster?”

Even before he finished, he saw something in Poppy had changed’ his ears were drooping, his brows upturned, the corners of his mouth curled downwards, so he was clearly concerned, but there was something more — a glint in his eyes. He wasn’t begging him, but it was without a doubt a heartfelt plea for the honest truth between friends. “Jovin…”

He knew what was coming — it was a fuzzy, fluttering feeling, rather than past experience, but hunches had served him well enough in the past, and everything he knew about Poppy pointed in this direction. But Jovin wasn’t about to let sentiment choke him up, even as he wanted to do nothing more right then and there than give him a reassuring hug. “Yeah?”

“…Didn’t you just lose your job?”

“…Yeah…” He looked off at the window, the light of the city seeping through like a suffocating sludge. There was so much opportunity here, he knew, but nothing ever seemed to go his way, and right now, nothing symbolised the world’s indifference to his problems than the ever-present, everlasting green glow.

But again, he wouldn’t let it get him down — he’d come this far without crying, suffered through worse beatings, dealt some of his own. This was just another hiccup. And to assure himself that it was, he reached his hoof up to grab and rub his shoulder… only to find it missing. He sighed once more and returned to Poppy with a brave face.. “I’ll be fine.”

Poppy sighed as well. Even his wings were drooping now. “Jo, I need a little more than that to work off of. You know with your record that finding another job won’t be easy.”

“I know, I know! Let’s not talk about that.” Jovin flapped his wings once with a firm slap of the air. “I just need to look in the right places, okay? I’m going to be fine.”

Poppy took a deep breath, looking into him.

If he didn’t know any better, Jovin might have thought there was something wrong with his eyes — maybe the glitches in his vision from before were more than signs of temporary damage.

“Can you give me your special promise?”

He grumbled. Poppy had to ask for that, didn’t he?

“I promise, Poppy.”

“No, I want to hear the special promise.”

After a few more grumbles, he rolled his eyes as far and as hard as he could. “….I Sweetie-promise.”

With that, Poppy smiled again, and the pleading look in his eyes faded. Leaning in, he put his hooves around the Jovin and wrapped him up in a warm, tight and completely unexpected hug, practically lifting him off the couch.

Jovin squirmed and wriggled his legs and wings, but couldn’t do much, partly out of fear of hurting him, partly because he wasn’t physically able to resist. And maybe because of something else. “Poppy!”

“No. I’m not letting you go. Not ‘til you feel better too.”

The two of them teetered over sideways on the couch, Jovin trapped in a hug, his face a rosy red. After a brief bit of struggling, he sighed, giving up. “Alright… Fine. I guess I could use some Poppy treatment.”

“The best kind of treatment.”

“I guess this is to make up for missing the movie, huh?”

“It's a lot easier hugging you when you got one less leg to stop me with.”

“I might lose another to the diabetes you are giving me at this rate.”

“Well, you technically lost four at one point so…”

“You’re the second pony to make that joke…”

“And the first?”

“Just a hacker friend. You wouldn’t know her.”

“Lucky me, having hacked your soft spot.”

“…Now you’re trying to give me diabetes.”

Poppy giggled to himself, resting his head next to Jovin’s. “Jovin… you know you’ve got me here to help you. You don’t have to be the lone tough guy all the time.”

“I know, Poppy.” Jovin took a deep breath, the air leaving his lungs less confidently than before as he felt himself curl up. “But I’m anything other than that right now. Don’t worry about me so much. I can handle this.”

Poppy was silent for a moment, thinking to himself as they lay there with each other. “…You know, I’d do anything I could to help you, Jovin. I don’t care what it is. You’re more than worth it.”

“Thanks, Poppy.” Jovin couldn’t stop the smile pulling at his cheeks. “I’m hardly worthy of you, and yet here you are, snuggling me again.”

“Maybe someday I’ll get you to go on that, uh…” He bashfully laughed to himself. “That date.”

Jovin smiled even more. “Maybe. Once I get this situation all squared away.”

With a nod, Poppy gave him another squeeze of a hug, relieved. “I can’t wait.”

It was some time later when Poppy left for home and Jovin got a chance to begin work on his leg. He wasn’t the best mechanic when it came to repairing things, but he knew enough about computers and circuitry that he could give it the ‘good enough’ fix. Normally, he’d be swearing up and down at this point, but after that lovely session with Poppy he found it rather hard to ruin the mood. Right now, he was focused on his work, eyes zooming in on the mess of metal and screws on the table while some trance music thrummed in the background, a subtle smile on his face. It would take something startling to—


“Uuaaah! Fuck! What?!” Jovin nearly jumped out of his seat at his desk, his damaged leg in several pieces on his desk.

Buck had peeked his head through the partially open door, starting to lean into it. “You got a second?”

Jovin huffed and put down his tools and turned off his headlamp. “Could you knock?”

“The door was open.”

“You don’t screw a mare because she dresses a certain way.”

“That… that doesn't even… What?”

“Just… nevermind. What’s up?”

Before he’d even finished his question, a simple look at Bucks expression was enough to tell him this wasn’t just the routine complaint about house chores. He looked concerned, his brow furrowed and eye glancing about occasionally.

“Jo, you going to be okay?”

“Well, I mean,” He scratched the back of his head, pulling on a few clumps of mane. “Poppy just wanted to do his snuggle thing and—"

“What? No no no. Not that. The debt. You got a collector on your ass.”

Jovin huffed, turning away, glancing out at the open sky through his window. “I got it. It’s fine.”

Buck sighed, leaving the doorframe and stepping inside. “Jo, I don’t know what you got into, but… as your roommate I kinda need to know how you’re doing.” He shrugged, forcing a smile.

“So I can keep paying my share?” Jovin responded flatly.

“Well, that’s not why I’m concerned, but that’s one of the reasons to ask. Listen, I spoke to Poppy some and… You need a new job.”

“I’ll find one just fine.” He quickly turned in his seat, looking right at Buck. “I guess Poppy told you then, huh?” His eyes already averting to his desk, claws idly flexing themselves on his hoof.

“Yeah… Jo, I’m not going to give you shit about getting fired but, you can’t exactly just get a job anywhere with your record.”

His gaze remained trained on his desk, looking at nothing in particular while his claws continued to flex and relax, the good mood from before fading. Poppy cared for him and so did Buck, he knew, but they expressed it in different ways, and both never seemed to mesh well when one got the chance to do so before the other.

“You’ve got to at least be able to afford your H, otherwise you won’t be able to even move, maybe not even see, and heliodyril toxicity is not something you want to experience.”

“I know, I know, okay?! I’m not a total idiot!” he fumed i. “I just need to fix this leg and… look around for said job.”

Buck cocked an eyebrow. “Jovin. I…” He sighed, gritting his teeth. “You’re flagged. No job that can pay you what you need will take you! I’m going to need to hear something a bit better than you’ll just ‘look around’, okay?”

Jovin scowled back at him. “I’m plenty capable. I’ve got features and parts no one else—"

Plenty of others have that, Jovin,” Buck interrupted, then paused, then sighed, shaking his head as he glanced away. “But you know your way around computers and stuff, right? And can fly. At least you don’t shut up about it when—"

“I’m a pretty sharp flier, thank you very much! And you won’t find many like me!”

“Sweet Celestia, just shut up and listen!”

On instinct, his wings flared, but he forced the urge to raise his voice down and kept himself in his seat. Turning this into a shouting contest wouldn’t get him anywhere, especially when he lived with the opponent and couldn’t afford to find somewhere else, even for a short break. Not in his current condition.

“Jovin… It’d take you weeks, maybe months to find a job that’s actually going to give you what you need. That’s a longshot already. You can barely pay for a regular dose of H as it as, and now you’ve got some loan shark on your tail for any money you make, and this girl means business. And on top of that, you still owe me. Seriously, you need help.”

Jovin sat back in his chair, attempting to cross his forelegs only to again remember he was missing half of them. “Yeah, well, no shit. What’s spelling it out for me going to do? You want me to ask for help? Is that it?”

Buck huffed a snort as his frown deepened. “I’m trying to help you, okay? I might have something for you.” His previous frustration faded, being replaced with… anxiety? “A connection to someone who can offer you more options, though…”

“…Thooough?” Jovin cocked an eyebrow at him, having never seen his roommate like this before. “Are you leading me onto your ‘tragic backstory’ or something?”

Shut up. Listen. It may not precisely be… how to put this… in the good graces of ‘the law’…”

Jovin’s quizzical gaze gradually became a wicked smile in a matter of moments. “Buck… you’re a goddamn criminal?”

Buck glared at Jovin with a confused and nervous expression. “No! Not now. Should I be concerned with the fact you are smiling? You know what I’m saying, right?”

“This is like the movies, where you hook me up as that 1337 hacker for a team, isn’t it?”

Buck just stared at him, deadpan. “This has been a terrible idea.”

“Oh, come on. I was born and partially made for this!”

“I haven’t even told you what its about yet…”

“Where do I sign up?”

“…I’ll introduce you when my contact is around. Then you’re out of my hooves. Alright?”

“Sweet.” He returned his focus to the leg parts before him. “I’ll be sure I’m in top shape.”

“Yeah… Listen, just… be more careful and tone down the excitement.”

“Hey, you know me.”

“That’s exactly what I’m afraid of.”

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