• Published 11th Apr 2022
  • 1,049 Views, 128 Comments

Frostpony - The Original Gaston

  • ...

Chapter 4 - Octavia Melody

The wind howled through the group of ponies standing safely at the edge of the large collapse that had doomed Lorries Four and Seven.

Octavia mumbled apologies as she trotted briskly past the bulky earth ponies lugging wood, steel, and coal up from the cargo bays of the stranded Lorry Seven. They were in the process of setting up tents and lighting campfires.

In the distance, a foal's cry was audible. Ponies murmured among themselves, some mourned. Rumors were being passed around that something was holding up the convoy. After all, why did the Captain order the workers to set up tents and a medical post if they were going to be underway in just a few hours?

A whistle was blowing, though, and a voice called out through the intense winds that swept through the Frostlands. "Attention! Attention!" Cried a stallion's voice over winter's screech.

Octavia weaved between two tents to see a large group of ponies gathered around a campfire, with an amethyst purple unicorn she only vaguely recognized from somewhere in Ponyville standing on a makeshift podium made up of wooden crates in front of them.

"Can I have your attention please!?" The pony called once more as more ponies from around the camp moved in to crowd around behind Octavia. All eyes were up on the unicorn on the podium.

The pony looked around, her lips pursed and her legs rocking back and forth nervously as her telekinesis clutched a clipboard. Once she seemed satisfied, she continued her speech, "Attention everypony! If you are below the age of fifteen, or are an educated Engineer, please step forward!"

Several foals left their mothers and fathers to stand forward next to the campfire. A few other adults stepped forward, looking upwards curiously towards the unicorn.

The speaker looked around nervously, looking down at her clipboard, "We are missing some... Are there any more Engineers among this group!?" She shouted, looking around at the crowd.

Murmurs surrounded Octavia, and ponies looked around at each other. Octavia's mind whirred as she looked around at the camp being hastily erected around them.

"Why the call for engineers? Do they need doctors to treat the survivor's injuries?" She thought, "...No, that wouldn't make any sense at all. Why would they call for foals too?"

One more pony stepped forward, prompting the speaker to shout into the crowd, "There is one more Engineer here! Please do not be afraid to um... don't be afraid to step forward, please!"

Octavia didn't know what she was doing, but her hooves walked forward by instinct. As she was halfway through pressing through the crowd, she raised a forehoof high above the heads of the ponies.

"Me! I am!" She shouted in her proud, Canterlotian accent.

The pony furrowed her eyebrows, looking down at her clipboard, "What is your name!?"

Octavia shivered as another blast of wind tore through the camp, causing the tents to flap aggressively and the ropes holding them down to whip and strain, "O-Octavia! Octavia Melody!"

"What am I doing!?" Octavia demanded of herself.

The pony looked down at her clipboard again, "...Where did you get your doctorate!?" She asked, looking back up at Octavia with questioning eyes.

Doctorate? Octavia had naught but a music degree. Still, she had her suspicions. She believed the rest of the survivors were about to pack up and leave them behind, with only freezing tents to keep them alive. Perhaps there would be empty promises that they'd be back for them... but in this case... all Octavia wanted to do was survive.

"I... I went to the Velvet Academy!" Octavia responded shakily, cutting out the "Music" from "Velvet Music Academy".

The unicorn studied her for a few more moments, before seeming to just shake her head dismissively, "Very well."

Uncertain relief washed over Octavia. The administrator pony seemed to believe her... for now...

"For everypony else! Due to overcrowding aboard Lorries Two and Six, we will be unable to take you all the way to your destination...!" The pony began, but was interrupted by angry and fearful shouts from the crowd.

"What!? What about my dear Spool? He can't live without his mother!"

"You can't do this to us, the Generator was meant to be for all of us!"

"How are we meant to survive in this cold!?"

"We can't have come all the way out here just to be stranded here like this!"

The speaker cringed away from the crowd, seeming fearful. However, she finally rallied herself, leaning forward and shouting herself hoarse over the wind and the crowd, "Calm down! Calm down! We will be back for you! You just need to weather it out for a few days for us to reach the city and activate the Generator. We will prepare an expedition immediately to reach you! You WILL NOT be left behind!"

The crowd's angry shouts only grew louder. They pushed up once again, forcing Octavia to run forward to escape them. They mobbed the podium, only for the speaker unicorn to teleport away in a flash of purple light.

An earth pony that had been waiting nearby gestured at her, shouting "Come on! Come with me! The rest of the foals and engineers too!"

Octavia gladly followed him, breaking off from the now stranded crowd along with the rest of the group of educated and young. She spared a final look behind her, torn between guilt and relief. She was relieved to not be among them, but she was guilty...

Was it really every mare for herself at this point?

Other ponies of all tribes came to try and contain the riot as a whistle blasted from Lorry Six, signalling the departure of the convoy.

The wind blasted once again, kicking up Octavia's scarf and causing her to reach up and hold her beanie down over her disheveled mane. The temperature was continuing to drop, and she believed that perhaps the calm a few hours earlier before the collapse was just the eye of the storm. She trudged through the snow, enduring as the pony lead her to the open hatch of Lorry Six up ahead.

Climbing in, they were finally safe from the wind and cold, the inviting warmth of the boiler flooding out towards her frostbitten cheeks as the pony lugged the bulkhead open.

The other adults looked around nervously, and the foals looked back towards the camp quietly. Near the beginning of the journey, the foals were rambunctious, running around and getting themselves into danger. However, the frostlands were cruel, and by now they followed the head pony without a word, even as their family were left behind in the camp.

"What's... what's going to happen to us?" Octavia enquired as the earth pony lead them through the suffocatingly crowded halls of the lorry.

"You Engineers are going to be put up healing the sick and shovelling coal. The foals are gonna need to try and find a place to sleep," The pony gruffly explained, "Name's Star, by the way."

"But.. I'm a doctor of mechanical engineering, not a medical doctor!" A mare to Octavia's right complained.

"Then you'll be working on the furnace," Star grunted, ducking underneath a low-hanging valve.

The Lorry finally began moving, the chugging of the steam engine sounding off in the distance. The lanterns hung from the ceiling swayed, and Octavia and the other ponies in her group lost their footing as the lorry began to move forward slowly but surely.

Octavia scratched at her collar nervously, remaining quiet as she looked around the crowded cabins. The smell was horrendous, not that it wasn't back aboard her previous lorry, but she could only imagine how much worse it could get with even more ponies being packed into the corridors. She looked at the floor, knowing she wouldn't get a bunk to sleep in, and gulped hard as she considered the prospects of sleeping on the cold, hard steel. She had been one of the original passengers aboard Lorry Seven, meaning she had a bunk. Now she was sleeping on the floor like the rest of them...

She slapped herself mentally. It was better than sleeping on the freezing ground in some tent, only barely protected from the wind, while you watched your comrades steam away from you, most likely to never return...

The pony pointed them towards a larger room: this lorry's Mess Hall, "You wait here. Somepony will be back to collect the engineers and send you to your posts. You kids..." He paused, "Try and get comfortable, will you?"

Everypony looked at him silently, without a word. He simply walked away down a hall out of eyeshot, leaving them in a room packed full with ponies sleeping on the benches, tables, and all across the floor.

Octavia tried to find a place to sit down comfortably, her black tail curling up underneath her as she nestled between two sleeping ponies. She herself was tired, but she wasn't sure if she could bring herself to fall asleep just yet. After all, the pony would be back soon, wouldn't he?

One of the other Engineers grunted as he sat down, leaning up against the steel wall beside her. He looked over her, causing Octavia to shift uncomfortably.

"What's your name?" He grunted.

"Octavia. Octavia Melody..." Octavia mumbled awkwardly.

He smiled, extending a forehoof, "Sorry, was just wondering. My name's Steam, Steam Scalpel."

Octavia nodded, giving a weak but appreciative smile and shaking his forehoof, "Nice to meet you."

Steam Scalpel was an aging stallion. A brown coat and silvering hair adorned his frame. His collar was pulled up close to his chin, and a thick scarf covered his neck. A cloth cap was pulled over his ears, and snow still specked the fringe of his mane.

"What did you study?" He asked, retracting his foreleg to rub it together with his other one, stimulating warmth.

"Uhh..." Octavia weighed her words carefully, "I studied..." She remembered the words of Star, and how he said that non-medical doctors would be sent to shovel coal, "...I studied medicine."

Steam cracked an uncertain grin, "Strange... it's usually not that hard to remember your specialty."

Octavia shrugged nervously, "Sorry.. I'm just all over the place."

Steam didn't seem to pay her lie much mind, and continued on his own, "I'm a surgeon, myself. When I was young, I treated wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Honestly, not that much less... distasteful... than our current situation."

She nodded slowly, "I uhh... I see. I never really got to... practice that much..." She coughed, "Outside of just my," She wracked her brain for a medical doctor position she knew about, "...My General Practitioner job, that is."

Steam grunted, "Huh. I see," He looked away, staying silent for a moment, before looking back over to Octavia, "...You know, Octavia really doesn't sound a lot like a doctor's name. Sounds more like a musician's," He observed, nodding towards her slightly.

Octavia blinked, blood rushing to her head and flushing her cheeks as she scrambled for the best lie she could think of, "Uhhm... Yeah..." She looked away for a moment, ordering her brain to think, lest the friendly stallion grow suspicious, "...yeah, it's kinda weird. I guess... my parents wanted me to go into classical music..."

She gulped, looking up towards Steam hoping it was a convincing enough lie.

Steam locked her gaze, staying silent for a moment, before sighing and looking away, "I suppose so. Though, you didn't change your name when your cutie mark came through?"

Octavia gulped, looking down to her flank. Her coat covered her mark fully, and she realized that the stallion must've not seen her treble-clef cutie mark yet. Looking up, she only nodded, "...I uh. I liked the name. It sounded... harmonic. Kinda like the harmony of machines," She mentally praised herself. Finally, she said something convincing with a confident voice!

Steam raised an eyebrow, "...But you're a medical doctor, not a mechanist, right?"

Octavia's pupils shrinked, "...Um..." She once again looked away, wracking her brain for an excuse, "...Y-Yes. But... as you know, machines play a big part in even medical science!"

Scalpel shuffled away from her, mumbling, "I suppose so..."

Octavia wilted under the stallion's aura, praying to Celestia that he would eventually forget her half-baked lies. Awkwardly, she tugged at her coat, and tried to look around at anything to distract her.

She saw a group of three foals, one white, one yellow, and one orange, all gathered around a tiny circle of open floor. They chatted actively, and their faces were full of life. Octavia was sure she recognized them from somewhere, but couldn't quite place where. Most likely Ponyville, back before the final autumn ended...

Goddesses, she didn't even remember those times well enough...

When Ponyville was full of life and greenery. When she was roomates with Vinyl and the only trivialities she had to worry about was her musical career not quite giving enough money to make ends meet. That, and Vinyl leaving the dishes to pile up, and chips all over the floor...

If she could only go back, and give her just one more hug... if she wasn't so afraid...

She was brought back to reality by the words of Steam once again.

"Do you have family?" Steam asked, placing a forehoof on Octavia's shoulder.

Octavia looked up at his crooked, smiling face, "...N-Not my own family, no. Just my parents living in Canterlot..."

"I don't see why not. You're a lovely young mare. Surely some colt loved you..." He retracted his forehoof to fold with his other to preserve warmth as he gazed over her curiously.

"Well... no. Well..." She sighed, "There might've been... but the cold took her away."

"Oh..." He grunted, "...I'm sorry."

"I'm past it now," Octavia quickly dismissed, "It's just about survival now."

Stream nodded, "Aye, I suppose that's the only way her memory survives, no?"

Octavia looked over at him, swallowing as her heart twisted. She only nodded slowly, unable to find words.

It was several hours until another pony entered the mess hall. It was a brown earth pony, with a darker brown mane. He wore a thick coat, with a bowtie pinning down his undercoat just below his scarf.

He looked around as a bunch of ponies, Octavia included, stood up. Questioningly, he asked, "Are you all the engineers recovered from the Lorries Four and Seven?"

General affirmatives were muttered among the gathered ponies. Octavia stayed silent, looking towards Steam Scalpel as he gave a curt nod.

"Good. Raise your hooves if you are medically trained, please," The pony asked, glancing between the engineers.

Octavia hesitantly raised a hoof. Steam, and 3 others all raised their hooves as well.

"Okay. You five will come with me. The rest of you will follow Star here..." The pony stepped aside to gesture to the same pony that had lead them aboard the lorry standing behind him, "...To the boiler room to help manage the engines of the lorry."

Murmurs of discontent went through the crowd, mostly from the mechanical engineers now being told to go and shovel coal into boiling hot furnaces, but the gathered ponies followed along anyway.

Octavia stayed behind with the doctors, considering the technicalities of the situation she had gotten herself into. She had lied about being a medical doctor in order to save herself from what she believed was certain death by abandonment, and now she was expected to perform medical duties. What would they do to her if she found out she was a liar? Punish her? Take away her rations? Beat her? Or... just simply toss her off the back of the lorry, to suffer a slow death in the endless snow plains...?

Octavia swallowed. She sincerely hoped whatever she was expected to do could be done by any pony with a good education... or was at least simple enough that she could guess her way through. From there, maybe she could do a crash course in the methods she needed to use in her new job?

"I am Doctor Hooves," The bespectacled earth pony said, lowering his head in a short bow as the rest of the ponies followed Star out of the room, "We've recovered several sick and injured from the crashed Lorries, and while we haven't been able to take them all, our Captain has tried to make as much space as he could for them. What you surgeons will be doing is tending to their injuries and diseases as best you can."

The Doctor cleared his throat, "Some of them have bad infections. Many are badly concussed, and suffer from blunt force trauma from slamming around during the crash. I don't expect you to be able to save all of them, but..." there was silence for a moment, "...Save who you can, please," Hooves finished with a curt nod.

Octavia looked nervously around at the other doctors, and they seemed to exchange similar looks of uncertainty.

"If you'll follow me," Hooves gestured to them, before turning to walk out the door.

The trip down to what Octavia assumed was Lorry Six's medbay was an expedition of cautiously stepping over piles of ponies and pushing past others trying to navigate the packed halls of the steam vehicle.

While on the way, Doctor Hooves continued explaining, "The Lorries have no dedicated medbays, so we turned one of the quarters into a place to nurse those who've fallen unwell during our journey. Currently, we have around twenty patients who are going without treatment. I understand that you have been unable to bring your tools along since you evacuated from your crashed lorries, so the doctors already here will be expected to share their tools with you..."

Octavia glanced at the back of the brown earth pony, a frown deepening on her face. It sounded like it was all hooves on deck when it came to medical emergencies. She didn't know how she was going to be even a vaguely convincing doctor.

As her eyes nervously glanced towards the aged frame of Steam Scalpel, she got an idea.

Tapping him on the back, she whispered to him, "Sorry, sir, but I have a confession to make..."

Scalpel looked towards her with an eyebrow raised.

Trying to put on a convincing, innocent, nervous grin on her face, Octavia continued, "I only studied pharmaceuticals in college. I'm not sure how good I'll be at directly treating the ill..."

He grunted, "I thought you worked a general practitioner job?"

Octavia slapped herself again. How could she forget about her own lie like that? She scrambled to weave another string in her web, before giving a stuttering retort, "W-Well ye-" she coughed, "Well no. I erm, I might've lied about that. I was just a technician, you see, and I thought it might..." She paused, thinking of her next move, but continued before she (hopefully) aroused suspicion from the kindly doctor, "I thought it might impress you..."

"Uhh..." He gave a confused stare, before shaking his head, "It's okay, I'm sure you'll do okay..."

"It's just... I don't want them to think I can't do my job. I don't want to be..." Octavia bit her tongue, "...I don't want to seem useless, after all."

"Right," The stallion gave a warming smile, "I'll try and work with you and help you, but it sounds like it'll be pretty hectic in there..."

Octavia returned the smile gratefully, "Thank you. I really needed that."

The group ducked under one more low-hanging pipe before taking a turn to the left, opening up in a refurbished cabin, lined with bunks full of injured, unconscious, and coughing ponies. The air hung with a certain stink that stung different from the general stench of the unwashed crowds in the other compartments. It was the iron smell of blood, mixed with the stench of necrotic flesh and the menial amounts of antiseptic to counter it.

Coughing, Octavia followed the group inside, looking around curiously at the other doctors who already walked from bed to bed, like worker bees in a beehive.

"This is the head doctor, Doctor Horse, a good friend of mine. He will direct you from here on out," Doctor Hooves nodded towards a caramel unicorn stallion, who was currently hovering over a patient taking a pulse.

He turned towards the crowd, "Good, we're swamped with patients. Can I have everypony's names!?" He asked, urgency lacing his voice.

"Steam Scalpel," The doctor next to Octavia wasted no time in asking.

"Star Strider," A unicorn mare said.

"Healthy Hearts," A pegasus mare chirped.

"Newton Cradle!" An earth pony stallion nodded.

Doctor Horse's eyes landed on Octavia last, and she gulped.

"Octavia Melody!" Octavia forced out, giving what she hoped was a confident nod afterwards.

"Octavia?" Dr Horse's tired-looking eyes squinted from behind the thick glasses resting on his muzzle, "...Do I know you? Are you from Ponyville?"

Octavia blanched as she too began to recognize the doctor's face. He must've worked at Ponyville General, a place where Vinyl had no shortage of visits to...

"...No, no I'm from Canterlot," Octavia said, hoping her accent would convince him.

Horse looked down to his clipboard, "Very well..." He then pointed backwards to the racks of ponies resting behind him, "We have about twenty-five piled here. Some ponies are resting on the same bunk right next to each other. I already have one of my nurses running tools and medicine to everypony, so I expect you to start from that side," He indicated the far row of sick ponies resting near the left corner of the room, "And diagnose them and give them the quickest recovery plan. I'm not looking for bedside manners here, ponies. Just do your work quickly."

Steam Scalpel gave a glance towards Octavia, who simply sighed. The crowd began to disperse, moving towards the ponies resting on the far bunks. Octavia reluctantly followed, watching the other doctor's move to examine the ill, most of whom looked more dead than alive.

While most proceeded to look over ponies farther to the left, Octavia simply went to a random bed that nopony had taken yet. She eyeballed the pony lying there, trying to appraise their condition the best she could while trying to remain professional-looking.

The pony... her Patient, appeared to be badly burnt. Fur hung off in clumps while deep, red, angry tissue seemed to constantly bleed. The burns extended across their face and neck, and a bit down their shoulder until it disappeared under their coat. Octavia swallowed, trying to not vomit at the sight of blood as she leaned in closer.

The patient herself was purple as a grape, with a clove of said grapes as her cutie mark. Whatever her eye color was, it was obscured behind her eyelids, which were currently shut. A bushy mane hung over her forehead, and many hairs on her tail seemed to be singed or straight up burned off.

Octavia's eyes travelled down to a clipboard sitting on the small ridge dividing the bunk's mattress from the frame. She picked it up, scanning over it.

"Berryshine. Injured by steam explosion during Lorry Four crash." was all it said.

Octavia looked up from the clipboard, before looking around with worry. The other doctors seemed very preoccupied, even the head doctor tending to his own patient. She swallowed once again, hoping that none of them would notice how unconfident she was in her work.

"I suppose you should always start by taking their pulse...?" Octavia thought, cautiously reaching a hoof up to feel for Berryshine's throat.

Holding down her forehoof, she could vaguely hear the beating of a heart through her neck artery. She breathed a sigh of relief. At least the patient wasn't dead... yet...

Octavia hesitated. She looked the patient over from head to tail once again. The burns were severe... or at least they were from what she could tell from an untrained eye. This pony could legitimately die if she wasn't careful.

Dear Celestia... what if she had a family?

After a few minutes, Octavia pressed her hoof to the patient's neck once again, reassuring herself that the mare hadn't passed away yet, before steeling her courage and trying her best to make do with the situation.

Her mind raced as she simply stood there, her forehoof against the mare's neck, trying to figure out her next move. The other doctors had already moved on actually treating their patients, and the singular nurse in the medbay ran back and forth hurriedly from a table full of tools and medicine, ferrying supplies to the busy ponies.

She eventually figured that her first move should be to fully inspect the wound.

Cautiously, trying to avoid touching the burns, Octavia began undoing the buttons that held the earth pony's coat together. There were burn marks on the leather padding, but the coat still hung on to its owner defiantly. Eventually, though, it pulled away. Not before long, her undercoat pulled away, then the shirt beneath that. All that was left was Berryshine's bare form, where Octavia could assess the damage in full.

The burn did not go much farther down than the neck, which made sense in hindsight considering the coat probably protected the poor mare from most of the "Steam explosion" that had injured her.

Octavia vaguely remembered something about there being three degrees of burn, and that each different one required different treatment. Biting her lip, she leaned in closer to try and wrack her brain for details on what classification the burns were.

The burns were deep red, and the flesh beneath the burnt-off fur was blistered. Uneven discoloration and white skin was also visible, making Octavia even more uncertain in her diagnosis.

Swallowing, she turned around to try and catch the attention of the nurse. Fortunately, it seemed the nurse caught her gaze, and walked over, her gaunt appearance reminding Octavia of the very patients they treated.

"What do you need?" She asked weakly, staring Octavia down with judging eyes.

Octavia cringed away, "Uhh... I could... use some bandages..."

"Just bandages?" The nurse asked, blinking her pair of tired, sunken eyes.

"...Yes... Yes I think so," Octavia nodded.

The nurse rolled her eyes, walking away to the table, before coming back and depositing a roll of clean bandages right next to Octavia, before running off to deal with another request for help.

Grimacing, Octavia reached down and picked up the roll in her mouth. With a free forehoof, she sought out the free layer of the bandage, before pulling a length free. She held it over the burn marks, before looking down at her occupied forehoof with a sudden realization.

The length of bandage wasn't going to cover up the burn effectively. Surely she didn't have to basically bandage half of this mare's face with fifteen lengths just to cover her burnt cheek, would she?

Her thoughts were broken by a hoof on her shoulder. She jumped with a slight gasp, dropping the roll to the floor, where the bandages continued to unravel from the roll as it bounced along the floor.

She looked towards her assailant, only to meet the grey eyes of Steam Scalpel, "Are you okay, Dr. Melody?"

Octavia nodded her head in relief, leaning down to collect the rogue bandage roll, "I was just about to bandage her burns..."

"With no scissors to cut the bandages evenly?" Steam Scalpel raised an eyebrow, "Or any gauze to cover the wound itself?"

Octavia blinked, "...Right... those. Of course."

She looked at the roll of bandages, beating herself up once again, "Stupid! These are only meant to secure those patches of spongy stuff to the wound!"

"Tell me if you need help..." Scalpel grunted, before moving on to the untreated patient lying to Octavia's right.

Octavia sighed, before turning around, only to find the nurse standing behind her, a deep frown on her face, with a pair of scissors and several wads of gauze already in hoof.

Octavia cut several lengths of bandage, before wrapping them as delicately as she could around the earth pony's head and neck. Underneath them, she secured the thin, white material to properly cover the wound from infection. After she was done, Octavia had to smile a bit. The pony rested comfortably on the bunk, with the nasty burns covered up by a web of grey bandages and fluffy white gauze.

As a final step, Octavia lifted up the coat she had taken off of her earlier, carefully spreading it over the unconscious mare. She gave the mare's forehead a pat, before looking around for another patient to take care of.

Yet, as she walked away, she couldn't help but feel she missed something...