• Published 30th Oct 2019
  • 388 Views, 33 Comments

Fallout Equestria ABC: Dangers of the Wasteland - Doomande

Surviving in the Wasteland is as easy as ABC... or is it?

  • ...

J is for jaws of steel, which hunt you but not for a meal

Trembling with excitement, Mikaella gingerly unfolded the cloth wrappings and gazed in admiration at the staff before her. Having been soaked in a solution overnight, the shaft now gleamed with varnish. She lifted it, leaning in close to study the grain and appreciate the staff.

"Wow…" Mikaella murmured.

Behind her came a rich voice. "It may bend, it may flex, but that staff will never break."

Mikaella nodded. This weapon had come so far, once a mere fallen cypress limb. Under the tutelage of her mentor and guardian, Xurabi, the large branch had been stripped of its bark and carved down. The work had lasted many days, but after enough chiseling and whittling to dull two blades and carpet their tent floor with shavings, the piece took shape into an elegant stave.

Xurabi's alchemical expertise had then produced a solution in which the staff bathed for two days. Now, sitting on the ground in front of Mikaella, it had become a proper tool of defense. Still, it wasn't quite complete in the young zonkey’s eyes.

"You think Live Wire could help?" Mikaella asked as she turned to Xurabi.

The zebra inclined her head. “From what I have heard, yes, he has the expertise. Have you asked Z-”

“No, I’m not even gonna try asking Zee,” Mikaella quickly interjected. “I’m shocked he doesn’t walk me to and from the lavatory...”

“He only wishes the best for you. Do not blame him for being protective.”

Mikaella had already started to pack a saddlebag. “Yeah, well, either way it’s easier to ask him for forgiveness than for permission. And it’ll only be a day or so; if I’m quick he might not even notice I’m gone.”

“I will not go out of my way to inform him, but I will not lie on your behalf, either, Mika,” Xurabi reminded.

“Yeah, I know.” One healing potion, some bandages, and Mikaella’s entire savings of three hundred and eighteen caps went into her saddlebag. Hoping those would be more than enough, she slung the bag across her back and fit the staff snugly against it. “If he busts me later, then so be it.”

Mikaella’s hoof pulled aside a tangle of creepers that obscured the entrance sign reading ‘Everglimmer Estates.’ The once-pristine suburban neighborhood was now a desolate and overgrown landscape of splintered house frames covered in copious overgrowth. Mikaella recognized the destructive signature of a hurricane had ripped a path through the area, laying waste to everything in its path. What had once been expensive dwellings complete with white picket fences were now rotting away and embraced by nature. One house had been speared through the front door by a tree.

As Mikaella trotted down the lane, she noted the small zappers that lined the road, which she recognized from those that lined the defensive walls of the city of Divide. Each contraption was a collection of slowly-spinning blue crystals, crackling with magical energy. At their bases were collections of ash piles and the fried carcasses of goremoths and bloatsprites. The zappers led down the street to a large ruin filled with some sort of green glow, standing out in bright relief against the twilight-darkened woods.

Nearing, Mikaella recognized that the glow was generated by hundreds of small balefire flies. Their abdomens pulsed with light, and Mikaella didn’t need a rad counter to know that the swarm was enveloped in radiation. They congregated around a collection of floodlights strung up around the center of the foundation, above a trapdoor. Mikaella rang a bell which hung from a post just in front of the house. After a minute of waiting and two more cautious rings, she heard, “Yeah, yeah, I’m comin’!” and the trapdoor was telekinetically hoisted open.

Emerging from the basement was a decrepit ghoul. He was a unicorn, dressed in a relatively dapper tweed jacket, with a beard of fluffy moss that grew off his face. He shooed at the insects. “C’mon, get! I have company!” The bugs did not seem too keen on heeding his request, continuing to silently flutter around the hanging lights.

“Um…” Mikaella ventured, watching as the stallion groaned at the oblivious swarm and lit his horn. He telekinetically slid the lights to opposite ends of the line they hung from, and the balefire flies lazily followed. “You’re Live Wire, right?”

“That’s correct,” he answered. “What brings you to our town?”

“Our?” Mikaella repeated doubtfully. She cast a look behind her. “You’re living with others?”

“The spirits of my neighbors, of course.” Live Wire’s voice was gruff but pensive.

“I see,” responded the mare. “Well, I was hoping you could…”

“Hey, slow down. Come on in and we’ll talk shop; I don’t wanna let you get devoured by the skeeters.”

Live Wire’s basement was modestly-sized, its carpet still intact. He had converted a pool table into a workbench, upon which were piles of half-disassembled technology, including one of the bug zappers from outside. Shelves lining the walls were packed with frayed wiring, archaic terminal parts, and dusty gemstones. Above and below those were strings of multicolored gem lights, interspersed with jars of balefire flies. The combined, colorful lighting gave the basement a mystical atmosphere.

“Cozy!” Mikaella complimented.

“Pah! You shoulda seen my house before it got picked up and thrown halfway across Mulisiana. Damn negligent pegasi… I’d barely gotten any belongin’s belowground when the storm hit.”

Mikaella nodded, studying the room again. Interestingly, there was a framed diploma that was the centerpiece of the nearest wall. The ghoul noticed where the mare’s attention had been pulled to and spoke up.

“Before you ask, yeah, that degree in magical engineering is mine. I know it’s been a couple centuries since I studied for that, but…” He gestured around him, hoof lingering at his desk. “As you can see, I haven’t let it go to waste,” Live Wire rasped as he took a seat at said desk and indicated a nearby couch for Mikaella to sit on. “What can I do you for?”

Obliging his offer, Mikaella lowered herself onto the lumpy but soft couch. “I recently finished this staff, and I’d like some kind of non-lethal stun attachment for it.” She drew the weapon in question and offered it out to the unicorn, who took it in his magic.

Non-lethal? Did I hear that right?”


“Been a long time since I got a request like that…” The stallion turned the staff over in his telekinesis, studying its design. “This is well-made. Sturdy.”

“Thanks! It’s carved from cypress, and I had help. So, I’ve been told that you were the one who designed those bug zappers around Divide’s walls. Could you build a miniature version for my staff?”

“That’s true, I did design ‘em, but they ain’t non-lethal. Those’re built to vaporize goremoths, and anypony dim enough to touch ‘em is gettin’ fried to a crisp. If they’re lucky, and I mean lucky, they’ll only lose a limb and be paralyzed for life.”

“... I see.” Mikaella paused, considering this. “Well, could you, like, build one that’s less powerful? Or that could be tuned or something?”

“I reckon it’s doable.” Wire inhaled slowly, returning the staff. “But I’ll need a magical energy weapon to build the capacitor and for a focusin’ crystal.”

"I don't suppose you have any to spare?"

Live Wire shook his head.

“So… where could I get one of those?”

“You could buy one in Divide, but they’ll cost you a foreleg and a hindleg. Wire-veins use ‘em, but they’ll shoot on sight.” The ghoul’s jaw shifted as he ground his teeth idly.

“I got the idea from my teacher,” Mikaella offered, hoping against hope that more description could help him design something with materials he had on-hoof. “She has a staff made from bamboo, and it can be loaded with gunpowder on one end. Basically a shotgun on a stick!”

“Hmm. Is your teacher around to show me this weapon?”

“No, she’s… uh… currently busy looking after our tribe.”

“You’re tribals, eh?”

“Not really. Well, we kind of are now. I’m from Neigh Orleans, she sailed here from Zebrica.”

The ghoul looked surprised. “Across the sea? Hah!” He stroked his beard slowly. “Doubt there’s much left for her in Zebrica anyway. So, you still interested in this magical staff business?”

“I am. Where can I find a… a ‘wire-vein?' ”

The ghoul narrowed his eyes. “Miss, you sure you want to hunt a synth? They shoot to kill. They don’t ask questions, they can’t be bargained or reasoned with.”

“I think I can figure something out,” Mikaella replied.

Sighing, the ghoul explained, “Well, in the past few years the modern Institute’s been known to send salvage teams out into Mulisiana, cuttin’ up metal and cleanin’ out whole towns. And since I know you’ll ask, I graduated prior to them disappearin’ and churnin’ out all those robots, so no, I can’t give you any inside information.”

“That’s alright. I just need to know where they’re at.”

“The Trash Heap isn’t too far away. There’s a strong chance you’ll find some there.”

“That’s…” Mikaella’s hoof rose hesitantly, then pointed. “... West of here?”

“Mhm, about a day’s trek. Hard to miss; you’ll smell it before you see it.” He thought for a second, then added, “I have an acquaintance who hangs around the outskirts. Former Cog, now he makes a living by salvagin’ parts from the Heap and selling them to me, Divide, Buckwater, LaFerrier, wherever. He’s a little… jumpy.” Wire trailed off for a moment, cocking his missing eyebrows. “But he’d know for sure if there’ve been synths in the area recently.”

Mikaella groaned internally. She really didn’t want to prolong her excursion any longer than was needed, but now that she’d already been gone for half a day, she might as well make the most of it. She dreaded having to explain her absence once she finally returned home. “He lives there?”

“Are we in a full moon right now?” Live Wire asked as he grabbed a small calendar from his desk and flipped through it.

Mikaella had to think for a moment, not expecting such a question. “I think it’s a crescent.”

“Three quarters?”


“Is it…” The ghoul tiredly rubbed his face with a hoof. “Mostly full or mostly empty?”

“Mostly full, I believe.”

“Hm. Well, Brownie should be parked at the southwestern corner of the Trash Heap right now. He stays mobile, but since we trade parts every so often, I have his schedule.” Wire tossed the calendar back onto his desk. “This lunar cycle's schedule, anyway.”

“ ‘Parked?’ ”

“He built a wagon that can pull itself, using some old world tech he dug outta the Heap. Tends to stay on the move so he doesn’t run into the Institute or Cogs.”

“Oh,” Mikaella said. “He won’t just shoot me, right?”

Wire turned to his desk. It took him a half a minute of digging and rearranging before he turned back and offered a strange jumble of metal and wires to Mikaella. “Show him this. It’s a bit of an inside joke between us, he’ll know to trust you.” When the object was taken, he added, “And make sure you get it back to me, okay? It may be useless junk, but it’s my useless junk.”

Mikaella followed her compass west for a day. The trek was gruelling, as the ground beneath her constantly shifted between solid and soggy. Sometimes the cracked remnants of pre-war roads were her guide, other times post-war paths through the woods and floating bridges that spanned bogs. She spent the evening curled up in an overgrown wagon stop, and the next morning resumed her trip.

Live Wire’s words had been true; even still deep in woodland, Mikaella caught a whiff of foul air carried on the breeze half an hour before she first glimpsed the Trash Heap. It was a vast landfill, a dumping ground for the pre-apocalypse’s unwanted items, stretching as far as the eye could see. The rolling hills of garbage and scrap were bordered by a wide swath of dead land. Mikaella’s eyes almost watered at the powerful stench. How anyone could choose to live anywhere close to the Heap was beyond her understanding.

Referring to the compass again, Mikaella orbited the Heap while moving south. After a short while she finally spied a wagon parked amidst stacks of compacted trash on the edge of the landfill. The vehicle itself was reinforced with shiny metal plating, with no windows and a heavy refrigerator door on the side. A bulky, grimy engine with a smokestack was mounted to the rear.

The clearing it sat in was comprised of packed-in mud, dirt, and rubbish, pocked with strange prints. In front of the center of the area and in front of the wagon was some sort of large industrial crate. In cleaner days, it would've been shone with a neat white exterior with green trim. Mikaella scraped away a layer of accumulated grime to reveal the text “WHINN-E” stamped on the crate’s side.

The mare approached the wagon. Before she tentatively knocked on the wagon’s door, she took out Live Wire’s doodad.

After a couple heartbeats, a very muffled voice yelled, "Password!" from within.

"Err..." Mikaella cringed. Live Wire hadn’t warned about this. "Password?"

"Did I stutter?" Before Mikaella could respond, the voice added, "Or wait, is that your answer?"

“Uh… sure.”

"Well, it's still wrong!"


"That's last month's password!" Something clicked behind the door. "Last try."

"... There isn’t a password?"

"About time someone figured it out." There was another click, this time being the door’s lock rotating. "Come on in, you."

Cautiously, Mikaella stepped up and into the wagon. The first detail she noticed was the smell. It was cloyingly musty inside, tinged with oil and an unfamiliar but strong, industrial scent. The interior was equally as full of items as Live Wire’s dwelling had been, though it managed to appear more organized.

Brownie was a gaunt, auburn-coated unicorn with a wispy mane. He watched Mikaella with narrowed, calculating eyes as she presented the item from Live Wire.

“I came from-”

“Live Wire, I see.” Brownie nodded. “So what, are you collecting some parts for him? You a courier? Apprenticing under him?”

As Mikaella looked at him again, she noticed that the unicorn had a small hole that ran clean through the middle of his horn. She tried her best to keep from staring at it as she answered, “No, I’m… well, I will try to retrieve something for him, but I’m specifically looking to get some magical energy weapons.”

Brownie took a seat atop a nearby stool and inhaled. “Senile ghoul must be losing it. I don’t know what he told you, but I still don’t sell them.”

“I’m not here to buy. I’m here to ask you where I could find some synths, so I can take theirs.”

Both of the unicorn’s brows rose. “Oh…” He nodded, and the eyebrows dropped back down. “You do know that-”

“They shoot to kill on sight. Yeah. I’m still gonna hunt one down.”

His eyes creased as a smile played at his lips. “That's the spirit. I know where you can find your quarry.” Brownie stood and went to one wall, pulling open a thin slot. “That excavator through there...?”

Beckoned to peer through the gap, Mikaella squinted and was able to spy a towering machine in the distance, protruding above the sea of junk. Its shape vaguely resembled a suspension bridge with a big wheel on one end. “Mhm?”

“I use that as a landmark in this quadrant of the Heap. Yesterday I spotted a small scavenging party of synths about a klick to the east of the digger.”

“A ‘klick?’ ”

Brownie bit his lip. “About a thousand steps. They’re taking apart a boxcar I’d had my eyes on for some time now, but it seems I didn’t get to it fast enough. If I remember correctly, there’s…” He tapped his chin. “Three armed with MEWs and four equipped for material break-down and collection. I would remove them myself, but to be honest I've been too tired."

Mikaella pulled back to look at the unicorn. “I could, then.”

“I would appreciate that,” Brownie admitted. “But how exactly do you plan to take them on? With a stick?” His unimpressed eyes glanced at the weapon strapped across the zonkey’s back.

Mikaella toned down her indignation as much as she could. “That’s the plan. Though Live Wire said you could help...?”

Brownie answered by opening a nearby drawer. He levitated out three watches, all with faintly glowing stones attached to empty faces. “These electric wards should be enough to completely power down a few. I would recommend you sneak up on the long-range wire-veins and... apply these. Any synth that Whinn-E gets her TK field on is getting smooshed into a one-by-one yard cube, MEW and all.”

“Whose TK?”

Wordlessly, Brownie lead Mikaella outside. The unicorn brought with him some sort of remote, its face covered in silver switches and jerry-rigged with an antenna at the top. He looked to grimace when using his telekinesis, and Mikaella idly wondered if that had anything to do with the hole in his horn.

Aiming the remote at the crate and flipping one of the switches caused the object to shake, shudder, and then shift. It rose up on two large, powerful legs, then split two arms and a head from its frame. It whirred and turned to face the pair.

"Whinn-E 088 online. Servos active. Telekinetic coils active." It shook briefly, then settled. "Have you watered a plant today?" The synthesized voice was feminine, with a Prench accent.

"So what is it? Does it actually whinny?"

"No, that's an acronym."

"Acro… what?"

"Means each letter stands for a word. The full name is Waste Harvesting Independent Nature Nurturer; don't know what the E stands for. Excellent, maybe," Brownie chuckled, indicating the remote. "Though she isn't really independent anymore."

Mikaella watched as the robot's head swiveled regularly. "But she was, once?"

"Mhm. One of the wartime Ministries built a bunch of these and left 'em in the Heap to clean it up. Guess they were supposed to be a sign of goodwill to Mulisianans, a promise to take care of the landfill that Equestria was mostly responsible for."

There were two shiny, faintly glowing capacitors on each of Whinn-E's shoulders. One arm terminated in a scoop, the other in some sort of long, thin, metallic barrel.

"Is that…" Mikaella gestured at it. "A gun of some sort?"

"Heh, yeah, a pea shooter. Well, seed shooter is more accurate. When she cleans up trash from an area, she also deposits seeds, which I guess is the 'Nature Nurturer' part of the name. Though I have considered modifying it to accept bullets instead…”

Mikaella's brows furrowed. "But if she doesn't have a gun or anything, how can she help against the synths?"

Brownie looked at her smugly. "When I found and fixed her up, I also removed her safety subroutines. Now she'll compact anything. Trash, ponies, Cogs… and synths."

"O-oh. I see."

"Yup. That said, she'll crush the entire synth. If you want the MEWs for yourself, I'd recommend you take those ones out of commission first, then let her at the rest." He held the remote out to Mikaella. “You sure you still want to do this?”

Without hesitating, Mikaella took it and replied, “I’ve come this far.”

Brownie nodded approvingly. “Well then, this is how I’d eliminate them…”

The gentle hiss and patter of the halcyon drizzle was pierced by a harsh two-tone beep. Hollow and robotic, it was soon answered by an identical signal somewhere nearby. The noises spurred Mikaella forwards as she galloped for all she was worth through a canyon of rusted metal. Twisted roots of steel and cables burrowed through the muddy earth beneath, but the zonkey’s quick eyes led her hooves, which deftly navigated the treacherous terrain.

Attempting to blink the rain away, Mikaella chanced a quick look behind her. Over a distant hill of trash she glimpsed a blur of pale yellow light crest and then dip into the valley. Another sequence of beeps from two distinct sources behind her. Mikaella hastened her pace, turning out of a bend in the valley and struggling to ascend the slope of cast-away garbage and scrap. It was highly unsteady, and every step she took caused her to sink, in some cases up to her barrel.

She panted heavily, her sweat mixing with the downpour and further irritating her vision. Barely keeping her balance, Mikaella drew her staff and tried to steady herself with it. To her dismay, it simply plunged through the detritus. The mare stumbled, catching herself on and clinging securely to an old oven like a shipwreck survivor would cling to driftwood. Another beep rang out, so loud that it stung Mikaella’s eardrums.

Supporting herself with the staff, the mare regained her footing and launched herself forwards at a brisker pace, finally reaching the top of the junk pile. Before her, the vast landfill evened out into mostly-flat ground, dotted with small trash hills. The huge bucket excavator sat long-abandoned, its task of carving down and compacting the mountains of waste left incomplete. A large canopy was attached to one end and stretched out over Brownie’s workshop area.

Half-sliding, half-falling down towards the machine amidst a small cascade of trash, Mikaella finally broke free of the offal and was able to resume her sprint on the soggy but flat ground. Mud and puddles alike splashed up, staining her striped legs on top of the grime and unknown stains picked up from the garbage she had waded through. Fear coursed through her veins as another hunting call went out. This time it was three tones long.

Rushing to the excavator, Mikaella practically dove beneath it, sliding in the muck to rest between a set of its massive treads. She wriggled around, coating herself in the freezing mud and slime that had collected underneath the great machine. Her normally-bright legs now more closely matched her brown body, and she rubbed her head across the ground to dull her blond mane. She felt like a mud-pony.

Three pairs of yellow lights crested the last hill, all focused towards the excavator. Mikaella hunkered down in the mud while she observed them in fear, shivering and pulling the staff closer, keeping her eyes just above the edge of her hiding place. Above, the excavator creaked solemnly in the wind. A noisy miniature waterfall cascaded down the nearest corner of the huge vehicle’s base, which flowed down into Mikaella’s hideyhole. The spray was frigid and filthy.

Neither the weather nor the temperature fazed the hunters whatsoever. Each one marched towards the excavator with eerie rigidity, lightly-plated pneumatic muscles whirring and clunking. Their grey frames and off-white protective plating barely stood out beneath the dreary, overcast sky, but the bright yellow lights in their hollow eye sockets were terrifying beacons. Their faces, with frightful metal jaws stuck somewhere between a grin and a grimace, rotated and scanned for Mikaella, who retreated further back.

One of the robots obliviously trailed a plastic bag from one of its hind hooves, which whooshed every time it took a step. Another had muck covering its front and splattered over the pair of primed magical energy rifles which were attached to its side via rails. The group exchanged beeps and chirps, their indecipherable communication painfully high-pitched for Mikaella’s eardrums.

Fidgeting in her uncomfortable position, one of Mikaella’s hind hooves dipped into the swelling puddle that filled the groove. If the rain were to get any worse, she’d be submerged soon; she needed to act before the rest of the synths arrived. Her current pursuers had begun to spread out and surrounding the excavator, beeping every few seconds. Their heads swiveled back and forth frequently, casting pale yellow light across the mud and scrap around them. When the nearest machine turned its head, Mikaella took up the staff in her mouth and crept out.

The sodden zonkey began towards the far corner, sticking close to the enormous rugged treads which had once transported the trash-compacting machine around the Heap. Every step taken made Mikaella wince and slow her pace, as her hooves made slimy sucking and squishing noises in the soggy muck. Once at the end of the treads, Mikaella could hear the plastic-bag-shackled synth patrolling just out of view, generating a repeated crinkling whoosh.

Looking to an adjacent puddle, she could spy the reflected glow from the synth's eyes growing larger as it neared. Mikaella readied her weapon in a stance she had long practiced and concentrated on the rippling puddle. Her ears were both turned forwards, acutely tuned to track the synth’s position. Her muscles tensed and released with each breath as Mikaella trembled.

After a few moments, a pony skull constructed of steel entered Mikaella’s line of sight and rotated to stare directly at her, its glowing eyes bright like a pair of flashlights. Mikaella’s mud-cooled body made the synth pause momentarily to process, just enough time for the zonkey to act first.

The staff shot forwards. Aimed at a small speaker centered in the synth’s neck just below its affixed metal jaw, the weapon’s end connected. With a crunch, the voice box was flattened. A garbled bleat was all that escaped as the synth stumbled back a pace. Before it could bring its rifles to bear, Mikaella followed up with a heel kick. Her hoof struck the machine’s temple with vicious force. The hit was powerful enough to snap its neck back, leaving the head dangling awkwardly on its side.

Still active, the synth opened fire. A pair of bright blue lasers seared past Mikaella and up into the clouds. Unable to aim properly, the robot fired off several more shots. Some went straight into the mud while some impacted piles of trash a dozen yards away, igniting into sparks.

Mikaella dodged around to the side. Leaping onto the synth’s back, she used her momentum to bring her enemy falling onto its side, stiff metal limbs thrashing. She raised a hoof and pulled off one of the three watches secured to her leg. Avoiding the sharp hooves as best she could, Mikaella shoved the electricity ward as far into the synth’s chest cavity as she could reach.

All at once, the synth ceased its struggling, eyes going dark and the legs falling limply to the ground. Leaving the ward inside, Mikaella breathed a quick sigh of relief. Weeks of practice with Xurabi had honed her combat skills, and she was impressed with her own efficiency. Now with one less pursuer, Mikaella opted to scale one of the excavator’s thin staircases. The crusty metal floor beneath her creaked as she moved at a cautious trot next to the railing.

In the center of the superstructure was the excavator’s gigantic engine, as well as a compactor. Stretching out from both ends was a long conveyor belt. One end bore a titanic wheel lined with buckets, dug firmly into a mountain of garbage that it had been carving into. Piles of trash dotted the belt, and on the other side of the compactor they had been transformed into squares as tall as Mikaella. They led to a counterweight and dropoff, beneath which was a stack of cubed waste. The operator cab looked to have been pulled apart by those who had also harvested pieces from the rest of the excavator. The engine itself resembled a sugar cube that had been left with a starving pony; it was almost entirely disassembled, unevenly reduced to a lump of base components.

Mikaella located one of the synths on the ground below, moving towards the rear of the excavator. An idea sprung into her head and she grabbed a walkie-talkie from the operator cabin. She switched it on to check its functionality and was pleased to hear static hissing from its speakers. As swiftly and silently as possible, Mikaella then moved to one end of the conveyor belt. She dropped the active walkie-talkie into the mud below and then rapped her staff on the metal edge, generating a hollow ring.

The synth was drawn to investigate, chirping as it gazed at the radio and tried to comprehend the noise. Above, Mikaella wedged one end of her staff beneath the trash cube. Putting her back into it, she levered the compacted waste. It was weighty, but unevenly so, composed of as many various materials as it was. Though the staff’s shaft flexed and left a groove in the cube, Mikaella managed to shift it enough for it to tip.

Below, the synth sensed activity above. The machine had just enough time to turn its head upwards and give a surprised beep before a veritable boulder of garbage plummeted into it. When debris settled around the impact site, Mikaella could see what little remained of the synth. Its limbs had been either stoved in or awkwardly bent, reduced to a pile of twisted fiberglass, steel, and wires. The eyes flickered dimly as it struggled to stand.

Mikaella then jumped in fright as a fierce double-beep sounded. Turning her head, she could see that the last synth had witnessed her ambush and was galloping along the excavator’s side for her. Mikaella backed up just as a pair of lasers cut through the air where she’d been just moments earlier.

Retreating a safe distance from the edge, she debated her next move. There was a chance that she could simply lay low for awhile and sneak up on it. She was grateful that synths couldn’t jump; she had some time to-


Her final opponent caught its front hooves on the railing. With whirring and whining muscles, it pulled itself up and fired again. Mikaella swiftly ducked around a corner, cursing herself for assuming she’d be safe anywhere around a synth.

Relentlessly rapid and heavy hoofsteps were approaching. Thinking quickly, Mikaella removed one of the two remaining wards from her leg and strapped it to one end of her staff. As the metal hooves closed in, she spun around the corner and swung high, aiming for the synth’s head. She had anticipated incorrectly and the staff merely glanced off the dome of the robot’s skull, though its eyes dimmed a small amount. Unable to stop her attack, the staff bounced into the excavator’s side, nearly causing Mikaella to lose her grip as it reverberated painfully.

While at too close a range, the synth still tried to take a shot. One of the beams singed Mikaella’s tail as it crackled past. Wincing in pain, Mikaella tried to circle, but the synth charged her instead, throwing its heavy body into hers. She yelped in pain and stumbled back into the railing, staff falling to the floor and rolling just out of reach. All the while, the synth was blaring a loud, repeating siren. If the workers weren’t already on their way, they certainly were now.

The next attack was aimed at Mikaella’s head. She dodged low under the strike and retaliated with a kick of her own to the synth’s chest, which she instantly regretted. Pain fired through her hoof and leg; it felt like she’d just tried kicking a wall. The machine’s body barely even rocked at the impact. Mikaella rolled out of the way of a stomp, reaching for her staff. Her hoof grazed the shaft and sent it rolling again.

The mare rose but was clipped in her side by one of the synth’s rear hooves. Mikaella screamed as she fought to maintain her balance. If she got any farther away, the synth would just switch back to its rifles. Mikaella leaned out, managing to bite onto the staff, and pulled it up to her waiting hooves. Just as the synth took a step back to properly aim its rifles, the zonkey took another swing. This time she connected with the side of the robot’s head, and the impact combined with the ward’s proximity caused the whole synth to shut off momentarily, like it had lost consciousness.

It rebooted a second later, catching itself from falling, but by that time Mikaella was on a full offensive. She delivered blow after blow, causing the synth to fall into a cycle of constant restarting. Once the synth had fallen to the floor from being stunned, Mikaella took her staff. With a fierce growl, she plunged it into one of the openings in its armor like a spear. Everything went still and quiet.

Trembling and shivering, Mikaella left her weapon protruding from the inactive synth and stumbled back onto her rump. A hoof clutched her bruised and bleeding side, wiping away as much mud from the wound as she could. Her ears still rang after the clamor of battle. She felt like laying down and resting, but knew that her task was still incomplete. The thought was punctuated by a distant series of beeps.

Exchanging her staff for the last ward, Mikaella descended the excavator and trotted briskly into the relative shelter of Brownie’s workshop. The canopy above kept her shielded from the rain, but a cool breeze still cut through the space. On a few tables that had been set up, she saw bits and pieces of scrap and presumably valuable technology sorted into piles. Around these were loose bolts and the occasional toothbrush, with bristles stained black by grease and dirt.

Whinn-E sat in the corner, folded into her inactive state. More beeps reached Mikaella’s ears as she picked up the remote and flipped the power switch.

“Come on, come on…” the zonkey begged breathlessly as Whinn-E shifted and began to unfold. Once the procedure concluded, Whinn-E delivered her introduction and swiveled her head to focus on Mikaella.

“Plastic takes a thousand years to decompose. Please recycle!”

“Yeah, okay, I will! Just…” Mikaella looked back at the remote. There were several switches which would set Whinn-E about various tasks, be it cleaning, tending to plants, or delivering an environmental lesson. She threw the one to activate Whinn-E’s self-defense mode and watched as the robot’s eyes flickered momentarily. Her frame made a whirring noise.

“Did you know that composting can reduce landfill sizes by twenty percent per year?” She made no effort to speak below the equivalent volume of a shout. Her proclamations were undoubtedly audible to the incoming synths.

“Wow! There’s, uh, there’s some litter over there!” Mikaella pointed to the front of the excavator.

Whinn-E did not acknowledge Mikaella’s words, but stomped forwards with her heavy gait. The synths’ beeping was upon them; there would be an encounter any second now. Sure enough, the first Institute machine came into view around the rear of the excavator. Mikaella ducked behind a table and watched as it emitted three short bleeps.

It advanced on Whinn-E, who turned to observe. The much larger machine prompted with “Shop using a reusable saddlebag!” and was answered by the synth kicking at her. Just like Mikaella’s kick against the synth minutes earlier, it looked pathetically ineffective. It did, however, cause Whinn-E to retaliate. She swung an arm at the synth, batting it with her scoop and knocking a few parts loose from the synth’s head.

The synth screeched and turned to buck at her, but was once again savagely struck down into the mud. This time one of its legs snapped. Whinn-E then trampled the synth, her significant bulk flattening the synth’s head and chest and finishing it off quickly.

Finally, the three remaining synths arrived and rushed to the defense of their ally. These reinforcements were armed with a buzzsaw, cutting torch, and a jackhammer. All three immediately recognized Whinn-E as a threat and beeped aggressively as they surrounded her. The buzzsaw blade and jackhammer skimmed off of Whinn-E’s thick plating, while the cutting torch left a black scorch mark but did not set her ablaze.

In response to the attempts on her wellbeing, the two capacitors on her shoulders lit up with pale telekinetic magic and caught the nearest synth, freezing it in place. Swiftly, the magic intensified and the Institute’s machine was compressed from every angle. Metal shrieked and squealed as it was bent at extreme angles, and the entire body crunched as it was compacted into a one-yard by one-yard block of advanced wiring and machinery. The light was quickly extinguished from its cold eye sockets.

Whinn-E turned to the remaining pair. Both synths were lifted and slammed together and the TK field brightened. When the solid mass of bodies refused to compact as easily as a single one had, Whinn-E’s capacitors glowed brighter. They were forced into a smaller and smaller bundle, and one of synths managed to eke out a single, painful beep before it crumpled into silence.

With every enemy taken care of, Mikaella used the remote to reset Whinn-E into her passive state. The big robot rumbled and chimed, "Trash: compacted. Objective: complete. The Ministry of Wartime Technology wishes you a pleasant and productive day!" Stacking the trio of crushed synths into a neat pile, she then sprinkled some seeds into their hoofprints.

A thin trail of smoke rose as Live Wire raised the soldering iron from a circuit board he was working on. He leaned back from a magnifying glass he’d positioned over the circuitry and took a moment to stretch. He’d been hunched over for a considerable time, and the way his joints cracked were proof.

Just as he was about to go back in, he heard the faint ring of his surface doorbell. It was about time; he’d been waiting days for the salvage caravan to swing by. They always brought with them new and interesting items for Wire to get his hooves on, which he often traded for items that he had restored or modified for wasteland use. Today he was hoping to find a good spark battery.

Shuffling up the stairs, the elderly ghoul groaned at the effort. He wondered how much longer he would be able to make the trip to Divide if he was struggling just to ascend a flight of ten steps. Perhaps he could move the entrance to the bottom of the stairs instead, and have his more sprightly visitors make the multiple climbs instead…

When he wearily emerged from his basement into the crisp morning air, however, he found not a griffon and brahmin duo waiting for him, but rather the young zonkey mare from the other day. She looked significantly more worn-down than she had been when she’d last visited. Her legs were stained by mud, her coat covered in inadequately-cleaned dark splotches. She had a number of bruises and a busted lip, but her eyes still held that bright, resilient vigor.

On her back was a stack of five MEWs, bound together with duct tape and bundled alongside a spark battery. Most surprising of all, she had a severed synth head hanging from the staff secured with her saddlebag. She grinned as wide as the machine’s steel maw while she offered back Live Wire’s doodad.

“Special delivery!”

Author's Note:

By nyxOs