• Published 1st Oct 2022
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Fallout Equestria: Influx - Under the Red Cloud - Lex the Pikachu



Fruity finds a solid lead to the whereabouts of Crystal's mother which leads them to the Sierra Maredre and into a fight for survival.

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Chapter 1: Invitation

Fallout Equestria: Influx
Under the Red Cloud

Chapter 1: Invitation

“I can’t believe it's been ten years already.”

My husband and I ascended the stairs of our family home.

“Yeah. It's been quite the rollercoaster hasn’t it?”

I nodded with a smile, and I couldn’t help but reminisce. At first, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves after we stopped Ironside’s plans for domination. We were hailed as heroes in the Marejave and beyond, thanks to DJ Pon3 singing our praises over the radio. We had our fair share of scares, like when we faced the Illustrious Moon tribe or the Krogoth. There were aspects of our life that took time getting used to, like my body’s ‘upgrades,’ which had inspired locals to coin the term ‘zebrasus’ for my new kind, or Unit-1000 turning out to be Princess Solaris.

However, none of that got in the way of what were the best things to happen to me since my rebirth: getting married to the stallion I love, and becoming a mother twice over. First, was our adopted zebra filly, Xian, and then five years later, our twin zebrasi, Ava and Violet. I feared Xian would become jealous when our attention had to go mostly to the twins, but she became the best big sister the twins could’ve ever have asked for.

“Crystal, you there?” Fruity asked, waving a hoof in front of my face.

I blinked as I came back to reality and giggled. “Heh. Sorry. Got lost in thought there.”

“Yeah, you sure did.” He gestured to the ceiling hatch. “What am I looking for up there again?”

“Wouldn’t it be easier if I helped you up there?”

“No offence, love, but you weigh more than I do and one wrong step up there would have you falling through the ceiling. I really don’t want to see the result of that again, and I doubt the kids would either.”

I cringed.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Well then, we haven’t been up there since we moved in properly. There’ll likely be a lot of old things from before the Collapse that we can sell or break down for components. So, basically, bring down anything you think has any value.”

He nodded and fluttered up to the ceiling. He pushed the wooden hatch cover up and aside, and immediately, a thick cloud of dust rained down over him. He coughed and sputtered while I used my wing to wave the dust away.

“Well, that’s a year off my life,” Fruity muttered to himself before he pulled himself up into the attic.

“There should be a light up there near the hatch.”

“Found it.” Light suddenly flooded out of the hatch. “Bloody hell, that’s bright…” I was pleasantly surprised that the light still worked after all this time.

“What do you see?”

“A whole lotta shit.”

“Yeah, I know. Which is why it’s up there. But is there anything of value?”

“I’ll get back to you on that. There are so many black bags up here.”

I nodded, but then I remembered he couldn’t see me. “I’ll be here.”

I heard grunts and the shifting of plastic bags up there. I giggled to myself at some of his mutterings. After about half an hour, we had amassed a fair pile of junk that could be worth a cap or two, and some things that could be used for scrap. I sat on my haunches for a while, waiting for him to show me something else, but I soon realised he hadn’t shown me anything for some time now.

“Hey Fruity, you ok up there?” I called with a hint of worry.

“Huh, oh shit, yeah. Sorry, got distracted,” He replied hastily.

“Distracted? By what?”

“Well, your foal pictures.” He chuckled, and I felt a lead weight drop into my stomach.

“Oh, please no,” I moaned.

“Hehe, you were such an adorable little filly.” He giggled some more at my embarrassment. “Alright, I’ll save these for later. I bet the kids would love to see these.”

I hid my face in my wings. “Oh, this is going to be a long night.”

“Crys, get ready. This bag is fairly heavy. There’s got to be like ten albums in this.”

I stood on my hind legs and held out my forehooves to accept the bag. Fruity peeked over the rim of the hatch to make sure I was ready, and then disappeared again. Moments later, a dirty, dusty old canvas shopping bag was hefted over the threshold and slowly inched down. I could see my husband clutching the handles of the bag in his mouth, gritting his teeth from the strain of the weight. I flapped my wings to bring myself closer and take the bag. He let go once he noticed that I had the bag in my hooves. I squeaked at the sudden weight and nearly fell to the floor, but quickly got control of myself and slowly hovered back down and placed the bag to the side.

With everything we had amassed so far, it would take us a day or two to sort them out and take them to the appropriate merchants.

“Anything else up there worth bringing down?”

“Nothing else really…” He paused. “Hang on a sec, I think I see something near the chimney breast.” I strained my ears to hear what he was doing up there. “There’s a black bin bag hidden in the insulation over here.”

I raised an eyebrow at that. A bin bag in the insulation. That sounded very odd.

“HOLY SHIT!”

“What?!” I squeaked out in surprise.

“Look out below!” Said black bin bag fell through the hatch and landed with a smack, spilling out letters and yellowed envelopes and dust onto the floor by my hooves. After a brief coughing fit, and Fruity flapping his wings to land and blow the dust cloud away, I picked up one of the letters in my feathers and gasped in shock. The letter I held was a confidential document from the Ministry of Awesome. With my mother’s name on it.

“Oh my stars…” I picked up several more letters. “T-these are my mother’s Ministry letters.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Your mum was a member of the M.o.A.”

My eyes widened, and I breathed in deeply. “This could be it , Fruity.”

The purple pegasus raised a brow.

“These letters…” I gestured to the bag. “Something in this bag could lead me to my mother. This could be the thing we’ve been looking for!”

“Why don’t you get stuck into that then and I’ll start sorting this shit out.” He gestured to the junkpile.

“You sure?”

“Of Course. This is important to you.”

XXXXX

Several hours later.

I gasped. The sound of the front door closing startled me awake. Despite how much I wanted to find out what became of my mother, I’d fallen asleep after hours of sorting through boring bills, wage slips, terms and conditions and the sorts. In hindsight, it made sense that the Ministry wouldn’t have sent out anything sensitive by mail and risk it being left out in the public.

“Hey mum, we’re home,” Xian called from the hall.

I smiled and stood from the kitchen table. “Welcome home, sweetie.”

The living room door opened, and my eighteen-year-old daughter walked in. She opened her mouth to say something when two smaller fillies rushed in and clamped their little legs around their mother’s forelegs.

“My babies.” I draped a wing around each of them in an embrace, giving each filly a nuzzle. Ava and Violet… I would never stop being grateful to Dr Pear for making me capable of having foals.

Xian smiled and wrapped a foreleg around my neck. “Are you ok? You look like you’ve just woken up.”

I craned my neck up to give Xian a loving nuzzle on the cheek. She had grown into quite the beautiful mare. Tall, toned, long silky hair, and a soft caring personality that didn’t stop her from fiercely defending those she cares about. “I’m ok sweetie. I guess I dozed off from one too many boring letters.”

“Letters?”

I motioned towards the kitchen table, covered in old sheets of paper and a half-empty black bin bag.

“Where did all those come from?”

“From the attic. Your father found them while we were cleaning it out,” I explained. The twins jumped onto the living room sofa and turned on the TV. Nexus had managed to fix it as well as the holotape player, meaning we could watch all the holotapes we found over the years, including some of my favourite TV shows from before the war.

“Why are you going through all of those?” She asked.

“Well, I’m trying to find clues on what happened to your grandma.”

“Oh! Can I help?”

I smiled warmly. She was always eager to help if she could. Nexus must’ve rubbed off on her, or so I believed, at least.

“Thank you, honey. An extra pair of eyes would help this go quicker.”

Xian scanned the room. “Where’s Dad? Why isn’t he helping you?”

As if on cue, we heard a dull thud from upstairs. It sounded like it came from the spare room, where Fruity had dragged in all the other stuff. A second later, his colourful profanity trickled through the ceiling.

I giggled. “Sorting out the stuff he brought down.”

Xian giggled also. Having grown up, she found the majority of his cussing humorous.

XXXXX

I snorted awake again sometime later. As I lifted my head off my forehooves, I blinked the papers back into focus. The light outside the windows indicated that the sun had begun to set. I groaned in mild annoyance. So much time spent, and so little to show for it.

Just then, the living room door opened, and Fruity walked in with Violet riding on his back. Whatever sleep that still clung to my mind was immediately purged as I bolted out of my chair and my eyes searched for Ava.

Fruity must’ve figured the reason for my abrupt change of demeanour, for he rushed over to me and draped one of his wings across my back comfortingly. “It’s alright, Crys. Ava is upstairs tormenting Nexus.”

I sighed and dropped back down into my chair.

“I fell asleep again.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” Fruity chuckled as he used his wing to peel a piece of paper off the side of my face. “I can see Xian was just as thrilled.”

I looked to the other occupied chair and smiled at the sight of our eldest quietly snoring away, her long-braided mane draped over her face.

“Mummy sleepy?” Violet asked as she stood on her hindlegs and propped herself up against the back of her father’s head.

“Yes, mummy sleepy.” I giggled and extended one of my wings to gently tickle my daughter’s nose. She giggled and dove back down behind her father’s head to shield herself.

“So, no luck I take it?” Fruity inquired.

I shook my head with a dejected sigh. “No. Nothing yet but employment letters and wage slips. But I have found a sort of time scale from these letters.”

“Time scale?”

“Yeah. From what I can see here, my mother had worked for the M.o.A for almost ten or so years before the Collapse.”

He took one of the few remaining letters out of the bag with a wing. “I suppose even this was a long shot, huh?” He flicked the envelope away and unfolded the old piece of paper inside. As he did, a smaller slip of decorative paper drifted down onto the table.

“Smegging hell!”

“What?! What is it?” I squeaked in anticipation.

“Dude, this is a letter of invitation addressed to you and your mother for the grand opening of someplace called the Sierra Maredre Casino and Hotel… Wait, there isn’t such a place like that on the Strip.”

“Sierra Maredre… Sierra Maredre…” I mumbled to myself as the name rang a bell in my memory, from before my death. I closed my eyes in concentration, and eventually, the memory materialised at the forefront of my mind. My eyes shot open as it all clicked into place. “Ah, I remember now. The Maredre had been announced for construction and was said to be its own separate resort somewhere in the Marejave. I guess they managed to get it built before the Collapse happened,”

“Oh definitely, because the date on this letter is no more than a month before the bombs fell.”

“Wait, what?!” I snatched the letter out of his wing to read it myself.

Dear Cream Éclair,

We of the Ministry of Awesome hope this letter finds you well.

You have been a valued member of our team here in the Ministry of Awesome for the last several years, and in recognition of your service, we would like to reward you with a full expense paid trip for two weeks at the newly constructed, state-of-the-art Sierra Maredre Casino and Hotel this October. You have also been invited to attend this year’s Grand Galloping Gala that is to be hosted at the Sierra Maredre to coincide with its grand opening.

Enclosed within this letter are two tickets. One for yourself and one for your daughter, Crystal Éclair. These tickets will be required to gain entry to the casino and for specific transport routes.

The Lunar Eclipse train service has been chartered for passengers from the Marejave region.

We hope you will enjoy your stay at the new luxurious casino and hotel, and we look forward to many more years of your loyal service.

Yours faithfully.

Silver Moonlight.
Marejave M.o.A Equine Resources Manager.

I looked down at the small decorative paper on the table and plucked it up with my primaries. It was a ticket with my name on it.

“Wait, why did it include you? By the time your mother received this, you would’ve been dead for a few years, right?”

I nodded. “Doesn’t surprise me, though. When we first moved into this house when I was five, we were still getting letters for the previous owner twenty years later.”

“Sounds like my old landlord,” Fruity chuckled. “Dumbass kept sending letters to my flat addressed to the guy that lived there before me.”

“Yeah, I guess the M.o.A didn’t update their records properly… or at all.”

“Must’ve been painful for your mum though, seeing your name in that.”

I sighed sadly. I could only imagine.

Fruity cleared his throat as he began to tidy up the table. “So, we got a solid lead to where she may have gone now. Her ticket isn’t here, so we can safely assume she took the trip.”

I flipped the letter and ticket over, scanning both thoroughly for an address; neither of them had one. Perhaps the aforementioned transport routes were privy to invitees until the Maredre was open to the general public. Not to mention, the Lunar Eclipse hadn’t been running for two centuries.

“So, how do we find out how to get there?” I asked.

Fruity rubbed his chin in thought. “Hmm. Maybe somepony at the Golden Oaks would know. I mean, somepony must’ve been there and back in the two hundred years since the Collapse, right?”

“Good idea.” I looked out the window. “And it looks like it’d be a good time to go check.”

Fruity followed my gaze and nodded. “Should be packed by now.”

“Ok, let’s go see if Nexus is up to foal sitting for the next couple of hours.”

We walked into the hallway just as Nexus reached the bottom of the stairs.

“Ah, Sir. Ma’am. I was just about to come find you.” Nexus had gone through a major change in his life about five years ago. Our trip to find the Crystal Empire had a profound impact on his mentality. Originally, he said he was okay staying as a robot, but being exposed to a loving family everyday made him long for a family of his own. This resulted in him accepting Dr Pear’s offer to have him rebuilt as a Mark 1.5 like myself. He even chose to become a grey-striped zebra, just like me. With his rebirth, he had become more outgoing and even made a few friends outside our family; one of those friendships blossomed into an attraction. We couldn’t have been happier for him and how much he had grown.

Fruity chuckled. “We were just coming to find you too, buddy.”

“How can I be of service?”

“Well you wanted to see us, so what can we do for you?” I asked him.

“Well, I wanted to ask if you required my services this evening?”

“Got a date with your marefriend lined up?” Fruity asked with a knowing smirk.

“Um, yes, sir.”

“Dude, how many times? You don’t have to call me ‘sir.’”

“At least once more, sir.”

“Um, well Nexus, we were hoping you could foalsit the kids this evening, actually. Fruity found a solid lead to where my mother may have gone.”

“Ah. Of course I can, ma’am.”

“No, you don’t have to drop your plans just for us.” I turned to Fruity. “We could always go tomorrow,”

“I understand ma’am, but this is very important to you, so I will not deny you the chance to find out what became of your mother when you have a good chance to find out sooner rather than later.”

“Why not invite Killian to join you here tonight then?” Fruity suggested. “That way you still get to spend time with each other and you keep an eye on the twins.”

“Thank you, sir. Do you mind if I go now to explain the situation and invite her over?”

I shook my head. “No not at all, go ahead. The night is still young.”

Nexus then left to meet up with his marefriend.

As the front door closed, Fruity turned to me. “While we wait for him to come back, I’m gonna put the twins to bed. Hopefully they’ll stay in bed all night.”

I gave him a sad smile. “I hope his commitment and loyalty to us doesn’t get in the way of his relationship with Killian. The last thing I’d want is for him to lose out on love because he feels obligated to keep serving us.”

“I understand, honey, but he’s still adjusting too. Being only half-organic means real emotions are still confusing to him. This will be something he’ll have to learn on his own, but we’ll certainly help him if he needs it.”

I looked over at Violet, now struggling to keep her eyes open. “Good night sweetie,” I cooed softly, kissing her forehead.

“Night, night, mummy.” The young filly yawned.

Fruity smiled softly at that, and then cantered up the stairs to put her and Ava to bed. Try, at least. I decided to wake up my eldest. The poor young mare was still sitting at the table with her head in her hooves when I reentered the kitchen. I gently shook her with my wing.

“Wake up, Xian. We can’t have you sleeping at the table all night. It’ll be no good for your back.”

The teenager groaned and groggily sat up. “Oh, Mum. H-how long have I been asleep?”

“Um, a few hours.”

She yawned loudly. “I’m sorry I wasn’t much help.”

“Think nothing of it, honey, and thank you for trying. Besides, your father found a solid lead just a minute ago.”

“Really, that’s awesome!” She chirped, suddenly much more awake.

“Yeah, and I hope you don’t mind but we’ll need you to help Nexus in foalsitting your sisters tonight. Your father and I are going to the Golden Oaks to see if they know anything about the Sierra Maredre.”

“Is that where your mother went?”

“Might be, but it's our only lead. Oh, and Nexus might be bringing his marefriend over. They were supposed to be going out tonight, but you know him, dropping anything to assist us. But at least he does want to be with her.”

Xian nodded. “Killian and Nexus work well together. I’m sure she’ll be ok with it, and it’ll be nice to see her again.”

The two of us cleared away the remaining rubbish off the table, and I peeled a piece of paper still off my daughter’s face with a laugh. After that, I went upstairs to bid my youngest good night.

Violet was thankfully fast asleep, but her sister was restless. Luckily, she calmed down with the promise of a treat in the morning if she went to bed. Fruity was grateful that Ava seemed to listen to me more often than not. Identical or otherwise, their personalities couldn’t be any more different from each other. Once the two were finally settled, we retreated to our bedroom to get ready.

It still felt weird to me that we slept in the master bedroom where my parents once slept, even after Fruity told me the house was rightfully mine and I could give Xian my old room. Still, I knew it was better to move on than to let memories of the past affect me.

More importantly, my newest discovery might actually explain something that confused me when we took the bedroom for our own. While the rest of the house was more or less as I remembered it, a fair amount of my mother’s belongings were missing. Maybe the lack of my mother’s clothes was because she left for a trip.

“We’re only going to the Oak, so I doubt we’ll need our full combat gear,” said Fruity, opening his wardrobe.

“Yea, but at this time of night, some thugs might try to be brave and mug us, or some other innocent bystander.”

“So, still pack the repellent then?” He pulled out his plasma rifle with the flamer muzzle attachment and slung it across his back.

“Repellent… yes.” I shook my head at my husband’s choice of words whilst pulling out my own 45-70 calibre revolver, Lucky 7.

“I never realised we had such dexterity in our primary feathers,” Fruity commented as he watched me handle my revolver with a wing like it was a hand.

“I don’t think either of us realised it. I mean, I wasn’t born a pegasus and you didn’t have to use your wings like that for your bartending job. Hell, down here you were shown to use things like an Earth Pony, what with bite trigger weapons and battlesaddles,”

“True, true; but learning this level of dexterity would’ve made things so much easier.”

“Can’t argue with that.”

We heard the front door open just as we finished getting dressed. We hurried down stairs to greet Nexus, finding him holding the door open to let in a slightly smaller unicorn mare. Her name was Killian Rose, an ex-Desert Ranger sniper. She had an unfortunate run in with a landmine some time ago, which ultimately cost her left foreleg above the knee, as well as her eyesight in her left eye. She recovered, but the injuries left her unfit to continue serving in her squad. The poor mare’s cream coat was marred with a spider web of scars on her chest and around her leg stump. She also wore an eyepatch most of the time to hide her milky white eye. Her soft pink mane and tail were cut short out of habit, to keep her hair out of her line of sight.

Despite all that, she remained strong-willed and loyal to those she cared for. She even developed a stubborn streak and refused to be treated like a helpless victim. When not fighting, she was actually quite the softy. She loved gardening and socialising, but could be a little awkward when communicating; something she and Nexus had in common.

“Ah, good evening, Killian. Sorry we interrupted your plans tonight with Nexus,” I greeted.

Killian grunted as she hobbled into the hall and leaned herself up against the wall, panting softly. “It’s fine. We didn’t have anything extravagant planned. Just a late-night stroll. But…” Her horn glowed light pink, and a blob of magic formed around her stump. “My prosthetic broke this morning, so I have to go three legged until I can get a replacement. Takes a lot out of me.”

“Perhaps Nexus can fix it for you,” Fruity suggested.

“My thoughts exactly, sir.” Nexus closed the front door behind him, carrying her prosthetic limb on his back.

“Xian will be here, as well. Maybe she can give you a hoof with that leg while you all keep an eye on the twins,” I suggested with a smile.

“Thank you,” Killian replied tiredly.

“Right. Well, we shouldn’t be too long, but if there are problems, you know to reach me, Nexus.”

“Of course, ma’am,” He said, tapping his left ear.

I’d taken to wearing a wireless earpiece in my ear. Whenever Nexus or Dr Pear decided to reach out to me via our communication network, I’d hold my ear as if I was using said earpiece, so ponies didn’t think I was talking to myself.

“We’ll see you later tonight.”

With that, we left the house into the early evening of the Marejave. It only took us a few minutes of leisurely walking to reach the south gate. As we approached, we spotted two Queens on sentry duty, including our good friend, Zatara. We’d become friends since she helped in my rescue from the Illustrious Moon Tribe several years ago.

“Good evening, Mr and Mrs Éclair,” Zatara greeted.

“Good evening, Zatara. How’ve you been?” I greeted back.

“Oh, I’ve been good. Only been on duty for an hour, but it’s been quiet…”

“Usually always is.” The other guard mumbled to herself.

“…So, you’re heading to Hayside?”

“That’s right. We’re going to the Oak.”

“Ah, well I hope you enjoy your evening at the bar.” She used her tail to pull the gate open for us.

“Thank you. Hope the rest of your shift goes smoothly.”

Once we passed through, the large gate slid closed again, and we made our way up the run-down street, being careful not to step into any potholes. The outer regions of Hayside were practically slums, with its fair share of thugs, junkies, and dealers. Most ponies would need an escort if they wanted to avoid the possibility of being jumped and robbed, or worse, murdered. The Queens did a good job of policing the town but the majority of their resources were spent on the inner limits.

“Well, at least the road is clear.” Fruity kicked a pebble to the side.

I knew Fruity was referring to the time when the ruins of the former primary school littered the streets. I assumed the local salvage shops had cleared it up for whatever reason.

“Err, shit, which way was it again to the main road?” Fruity asked.

“I swear you’d get lost in our own house if you didn’t already live there.”

Fruity stuck out his tongue.

I giggled and shook my head. Faust, I love his goofy ass so much.

“Ok, numpty, we take the next right at the intersection, then a left by the old fort, and another left to bring us to the gate into the town proper.”

“Ok, I’ll try to remember that.”

I very gently cuffed the back of his head with my wing. “You better. We come here often enough as it is.”

As we passed the old fort, we found a group of three ponies loitering in the middle of the road. My EFS had all three of them flagged as hostile. Great. Thugs or junkies.

I waved a wing at Fruity to get his attention while using the other to grasp my revolver. I nodded in their direction to convey my intended message to my husband. He briefly looked towards them and took hold of his own weapon.

It was then that one of them noticed us and turned. “Well now, what brings you two to our part of town?” He asked with a sleazy grin.

“We’re just passing through,” I spoke evenly.

“Well, you gotta pay a fee to pass through here safely.”

“We ain’t paying shit to you nobs,” Fruity countered, hefting his rifle in his forehooves and flapping his wings to hover.

At Fruity’s defiance, the other two brandished their own weapons: poorly maintained .308 hunting rifles.

“Now sir, refusal to pay will result in some hardship to you and your lady.”

“Really?” Fruity raised his weapon and fired a stream of plasma fire into the air, illuminating the area in a baleful green. The sight made all three of them gawk and mutter worriedly.

“You three are outmatched, and I have a revolver aimed at your head,” I threatened. “Your friends would not like to see what a bullet out of this gun will do to your face.”

Fruity levelled his plasma rifle at the head goon. “If you know what’s good for you, fuck off and don’t bother us again.”

I cocked back my gun’s hammer. By now, they knew we were serious.

“You know what, this is the wrong street. C’mon guys, we should go back,” the head goon hinted calmly. We could tell he was doing everything in his power to keep his face straight.

The other two nodded, and they fast-walked right on out.

“Heh. Stupid twats,” Fruity snickered as he deactivated his weapon and holstered it.

“Gotta give them credit for trying, though,” I giggled back, holstering my revolver.

Thankfully, the rest of the walk was peaceful and uneventful.

XXXXX

Crossing through the gate into inner Hayside felt like using some kind of interdimensional portal. The majority of the buildings here had power and the streetlights were lit, bathing the roads in dull yellow light. Combine that with an even greater population walking the streets, Hayside was suddenly a living town.

I smiled at the sight of so many ponies. Hayside and the surrounding Marejave area were becoming safer and more hospitable, so more and more were not afraid to go out at night.

A mare spoke as she walked by.“Oh, hey. Welcome back to Hayside. Thank you for all you’ve done for us,”

“Uh… You’re welcome,” I replied, keeping my emotions in check.

By now, we were thanked by random ponies every time we stepped into Hayside. The praise was flattering, at first. These days, its consistency was annoying to no end.

“You do a couple of good things and these ponies don’t shut up about it,” Fruity mumbled.

“I know. This is getting ridiculous.”

A young Queens guard noticed us. “Oh, good evening Mr. and Mrs. Éclair. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Oh, good evening,” I greeted with a strained smile. “We were just going to the Golden Oak.”

“Oh, please don’t let me keep you.” She bowed her head respectfully. “The Oak is very busy tonight, though.”

“Perfect. Thanks,” said Fruity. We began making our way up the street towards the golden yellow neon. There stood our destination, close to the gate to New Pegasus.

A few minutes later, we arrived at the door. Fruity pushed it open and held it for me, which earned him a peck on his cheek. Such a gentlecolt, when he wants to be.

The Queens member wasn’t kidding. Everywhere from the bar to the casino was stuffed to the brim. Most of the crowd appeared to be prospectors and mercenaries, veterans of the wasteland. This was perfect for us; there was a good chance that somepony here knew something about the Maredre.

“Good evening, barkeep.” Fruity greeted the stallion behind the bar as he cleaned a class.

“Mr. Fruity, nice to see you again. The usual?”

“Nah, but thanks.”

“Good evening sir,” I smiled.

“Good evening Mrs. Éclair. What can I do for you?”

“We were hoping to get some information. Maybe somepony here might know something.”

“Probably. Some of these drunks can talk shit for hours to anypony who’ll listen.”

“Know anypony here that might know something about the Sierra Maredre?”

His expression immediately darkened, and he stopped cleaning his glass. “I’m sorry. I’m afraid not.” It was obvious he knew exactly what we were talking about.

“Sod this.” Fruity climbed up onto the bar.

“Sir, get down-”

“Alright, do any of you tossers know anything about the Sierra Maredre Casino?”

What came next made me think we had said something bad. The entire room went deathly quiet.

“Um, Fruity. Get down, please.” I implored nervously.

Suddenly, there was a gruff cough, and an old, white-bearded earth pony stallion stepped out from the crowd.

“Here we go…” The bartender groaned and turned away.

“Everypony has heard of the Sierra Maredre Casino.

We all have. The legends, the curses.

Equestria’s most famous stars and performers had been invited to its grand opening. The invitation was supposed to be a sign of… exclusiveness.

The opening was supposed to symbolise the path to a better, brighter future. Not just for Equestria, but for everypony that came to its doors. A chance for anypony to start again.

The Sierra Maredre never opened, however. The War and the Collapse froze it in time, like a camera going off.

The Grand Opening, one big failure for equinity.

It’s still out there, in the Marejave Wasteland, preserved, just waiting for somepony to break it open.

Hidden beneath a blood-red cloud. A bright, shining beacon attracting treasure hunters to their deaths.

Getting to it isn’t the hard part. It’s getting out.”

Ok, that painted quite the picture. I immediately felt apprehensive. Had my mother walked into a death trap?

“Well, that was descriptive. Have you been there?” Fruity asked.

Several patrons started mumbling to him. From the looks on their faces, they were trying to dissuade him from talking more.

“I have,” he answered.

Ponies around him facehooved and groaned. “Now he’ll be talking about it all night,” muttered one.

“Can you tell us how to get there?” I asked, hopeful.

He stared at us for a moment before shaking his head. “No. You don’t want to go there.”

“I do! It’s a personal matter.”

He regarded me for a long moment. Then, he sighed. “By now, it’ll likely be a one-way trip. Escaping the clutches of the Maredre is extremely difficult and costly.”

“We’ve dealt with some of the worst things the wasteland can throw at us. Hellhounds, robots; hell, we even survived the Krogoth,” Fruity countered. Mentioning the Krogoth got a few ponies muttering.

“I don’t remember how to get there, personally but I can tell you where you can find a map. It’s how I found out about the Maredre myself.”

“Where can we find it?”

“Head south from the Horseshoe Dam and follow the Coltorado River for about two miles. On the west bank, you’ll find a drainage pipe sticking out the desert floor in a small valley between two hills. The pipe was a secret entrance to an abandoned Steel Ranger bunker. It’s full of things related to the Sierra Maredre, including a map.”

“Thank you,” I spoke gratefully.

We tried talking to other ponies in regard to this information, but nopony else was willing to talk, and the more we asked about it, the more hostile they became. We decided shortly thereafter to leave. As we stepped out, we almost collided with a patrolling Queens member.

“Oh shit! Sorry,” I apologised.

“It’s ok, no harm done,” she said.

Fruity interrupted. “Oh, wait. Crystal, Miss Queenie is kinda old now, right?” His eyes suddenly went wide. “Uh, didn’t mean to offend.”

“It’s fine, sir.”

“Ok, cool. Anyway, since she’s been around for a long time, perhaps she knows something. Maybe she could even verify that old codger’s story.”

“That’s a good idea.” I turned to the Queens member. “I know it’s getting late, but would Miss Queenie be up for any visitors?”

“Normally, no, not at this time of night. But considering it's you two, I think she’d be happy for your visit.”

We thanked her and took to the air. We were careful not to go too high, so as not to spook any trigger-happy assholes. Growing peace or otherwise, it was still customary for pegasi to take such a precaution. Regardless, we knew the way to Miss Queenie’s mansion by heart, and we arrived at the old iron gate in just a couple minutes.

“Don’t you think it’s a little late to be dropping by?” asked a gate guard as we landed.

“Sorry, but it's something of an important matter,” I answered.

“Fine. One moment please.” She turned to the brick column beside her and spoke into the intercom. “Miss Queenie, Ma’am. Mr. and Mrs. Éclair are here to see you.”

The speaker buzzed, indicating a response.

“Yes, ma’am, I know it's late, but they said it's important.”

Another buzz later, and the mare used her magic to open the gate. “Ok, she’ll see you.”

“Thank you.”

She nodded, and we headed through. Just as we reached the top step, the front doors opened with Miss Queenie. The years hadn’t been kind to her lately. Her face was marred by wrinkles, her mane, once a dull purple with streaks of grey, had become entirely white, and she stood on shaky legs.

“Well, this is a surprise,” She said, her voice still strong. “What can I do for you at this hour?”

I stepped forward and bowed my head. “Sorry to disturb you so late at night. But we’d just been at the Golden Oaks in search of some information and we were hoping you might be able to verify what we’ve been told.”

Fruity did the same. “Yeah, sorry about this. We were hoping that you may have heard about or been to the Sierra Maredre.”

Her irritation instantly vanished, and was replaced with shock.

“Why in the living Tartarus would you want to know about that dreadful place?”

I, then, explained to her about my search for my mother’s last known whereabouts after finding the letter of invitation so we set out to find out about the Maredre.

“You just want to know if your mother had gone there?”

I nodded. She looked very uncomfortable.

“Look, normally I wouldn’t talk about the Maredre because it attracts thousands of ponies every year to its doors, and those that can’t brave the journey are the only ones that often come back alive. There’s something sinister about the place that draws in and claims so many lives. I would hate for you to go there just to die, but I can see you are determined, and I can sympathise.” She sighed dejectedly. “Yes, there is a bunker south of the dam with a map. I’d still strongly advise against it, but I can’t force you not to go. At the very least, I insist you go prepared.”

“Thank you kindly.” Fruity and I both looked at each other, a silent conversation quickly passing between us. “Don’t worry, Miss Queenie. Considering everything we’ve heard, we don’t intend to go ill-equipped.”

We bidded Miss Queenie farewell and returned home, intent on sleeping in.

XXXXX

The following morning, Fruity and I left the house early. The abandoned Steel Ranger bunker was further south than Tom City, in an area we hadn’t explored. An unknown. Thus, we decided it would be best for Xian to stay home and look after her sisters. Nexus wanted to join us, naturally, but he previously had plans with Killian and we didn’t want him to disappoint her, so we convinced him to stay behind. We hoped to be there and back before the end of the day, anyway.

After a short flight to Tom City, we landed outside the ruins around ten in the morning. The town was still just as ruined and broken as the last time we saw it. We often came here to visit Right Bleeding at his shop.

“Hey Crys, think Bastard will know something about the Maredre?”

I blinked at my husband in confusion before I remembered the rest of Right Bleeding’s name. “Oh right! Good thinking, honey. Maybe he’ll know something more, he tends to know just what we need when we’ve visited previously.”

We followed the cracked tarmac surrounding the destroyed town. As we came upon a familiar left hand turn, we halted at the sight that befell us.

“When did this happen?” I asked in shock.

Right Bleeding’s shop, or what remained of it, looked as bombed out as the rest of the town, a shell of its former self. All that remained were the four corners, what little brickwork that connected to them, and a large pile of debris in the centre.

“This doesn't make any sense…” wondered Fruity.

We stared in confusion, unable to think up an explanation for this. Then, we sighed in defeat and continued down the road.

“Faust, I hope he’s ok,” I said, pushing myself up against my husband.

Fruity draped his wing across my back. “I’m sure he’s fine. That old coot seems to be very resourceful, considering the things he’s sold us over the years.”

“Ah my friends!”

“Ah, shit!” We whirled around to find Right Bleeding behind us with an overstuffed rucksack on his back.

“For fuck sake, don’t sneak up on us like that!” I whined.

“I’m sorry. Just got back from my suppliers.” he said with a shrug.

“You came back? But your shop is…” I stopped when I looked back. To my complete surprise, his shop was there as we remember it. Run down, but intact with partially boarded up windows and all.

“What the fuck? I’m sure we just saw that building as a pile of rubble,” Fruity remarked.

Right Bleeding chuckled. “I think you two have been out in the sun too long.”

“You might be right. Even now, it’s blistering,” Even after ten years in the Marejave, Fruity just couldn’t acclimatise to the desert heat. I watched as he balled up the feathers of his left wing to form a fist like shape before turning to face the early morning sun, shaking his wing up at it and shouting. “Damn you, sun!”

I chuckled at my husband’s antics.

“As you’re here, can I interest you in something for your travels? Perhaps a sun umbrella?” the old shopkeeper asked.

“Uh, sorry. Not this time, but maybe you could help us in another way?” I probed hopefully.

“Well that’ll depend on what you want help with.”

“You’ve been around a long time, right, Mr. Bastard?” Fruity asked.

The old stallion looked at him. He certainly did look much older than when we first met him with his white goatee, his long, white bushy eyebrows, and his now long, white mane against his pale brown fur. “You're a very perceptive young pegasus.”

Fruity puffed up in annoyance. I couldn’t help but smile.

“We were hoping you could tell us about the Sierra Maredre.”

And just like back every time before, Right Bleeding went deathly silent.

“Why in Faust’s name do you want to know about that dreadful place?”

“It’s a personal matter. We think my mother may have gone there before the Collapse happened.”

“Forget about it. Going to the Maredre is not worth your life.”

“I need to know. My mum was all I had before I woke up, and she never gave up on me. I have to say goodbye to her!”

The old stallion regarded us for a moment, stroking his goatee. “...Alright.” He then proceeded to tell us pretty much everything we’ve already heard, including the bunker we were heading for.

“Thank you, but we’ve heard all that already,” Fruity sighed.

“There is one other thing I can tell you,” Right Bleeding quickly added. “I’ve heard stories of places that held the location to the Maredre being boobytrapped, so I would advise caution.”

“Shit, thanks for the heads up.”

“Yeah, thank you for the warning,” I said gratefully.

“Of course. I wouldn’t like to lose my best customers.”

We resumed our journey south. I briefly pondered on how I could’ve experienced a mirage despite my cybernetic nature.

We kept along the road as it circled around town before following it out away and towards the Coltorado River. We stopped at an intersection where leftways would take us towards the dam, and rightways would follow the riverbank.

“Ok, we’ll be entering unexplored territory for us from here, so be on your guard,” Fruity warned.

I nodded and kept my ears up.

We decided not to fly the whole way there to keep us from being spotted by any unknown threats. We continued following the road along the river until it curved away from the bank and towards the hills.

“Hmm. Looks like the road is taking us to another ruined town,” Fruity observed as evidence of a settlement came into view. Wooden posts, remnants of brick walls, chassis of burnt out motorised carriages and remnants of old billboards started to litter the landscape.

“I do vaguely remember a small town down here. Can’t remember its name, though,” I muttered.

As we walked deeper, I heard Fruity gasp. He then shoved me hard until we were both behind a brick wall.

“Fruity, what…?!” I began to protest until he practically shoved a hoof into my mouth.

“Shhh! Hostiles.”

My eyes widened. He removed his hoof and unslung his plasma sniper. I followed his example and unholstered my revolver in preparation for a fight. Fruity crouched down until he was practically laying on his belly, and slowly inched out around the corner of the wall to scope out our enemies.

“I count four. Ponies, likely raiders. Two on the hill overlooking the ruins and two down the main road.” I looked for a small hole in the wall that I could peek through. After a good minute, I managed to find one and slowly brought my eye to it. Sure enough, I could see a pair of ponies milling about on the hill beside the town. They seemed to be wearing biker leathers, and each one of them held some form of long-range weapon fitted with scopes.

“Ok, I got the two on the hill. Be ready to return fire. Can you see the two down the road?”

“Can’t see them from here.”

“Ok, well keep an eye out for them.”

“Ok.”

I tried to get a better view through the hole. While I scanned the main road, I heard the energy discharge from Fruity’s sniper and saw a green bolt of energy shoot up towards the hill. As expected, the two saw the bolt coming and managed to avoid it, but the shout of alarm and rage I heard told me one of them narrowly evaded the shot. Fruity was able to get a second shot off before he dove back behind the wall as two bullets hit our cover.

“Wow, their aim is terrible,” Fruity joked.

“Neither is yours,” I shot back with a cheeky grin.

“At least I have an excuse: plasma bolts are slow.”

I laughed. “Still can’t see the other two.”

“Keep looking, they should’ve seen those bolts by now.”

Fruity rolled back out and took aim. I could see that our enemies had found cover behind some boulders near a cliff. One of the raiders poked his head up in an attempt to take a shot, only to see a sizzling green bolt hurtle right at him. I could hear their cry of pain from afar. The raider clutched the side of his head and rolled on the floor in agony. His comrade shouted something, and the wounded raider accidentally rolled off the edge of the cliff and fell into the rocks below.

“One down!”

“I see movement on the road!” I called back. I pushed my revolver through the hole to take aim.

“Alright, keep them off my back.”

Another plasma bolt whizzed through the air. The remaining raider on the cliff shouted a curse before calling down to his two comrades, likely relaying our location.

I blinked my eyes and my vision was tinted electric blue, and a reticule appeared. I intended to put all my practising of my cybernetic abilities to good use. At the very least, to save caps on bullets.

“This bugger is getting annoying,” Fruity mumbled, unable to land a hit.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got the two on the road.” My reticule locked onto the first pony and I pulled the trigger. The revolver let out a thunderous boom, and the resulting bullet exploded the raider’s unprotected head. His companion swore and dove out of sight.

My shot must have distracted the raider on the hill, because a plasma bolt finally got his face. Fruity called him a ‘dumbass’ under his breath.

“That’s the hill taken care of. Now where’s the last one?”

“Lost him behind a wall,” I answered.

“Hey, you should be able to find him. You’re wearing your PipBuck, right? Use your Eyes Forward Sparkle.”

I rolled my eyes. The Pipbuck was certainly a useful tool, but I didn’t feel the need to constantly use its features everyday, so I couldn’t help it if all its functions slipped my mind every now and then. I concentrated in order to activate my Pipbuck remotely,and moments later, a compass appeared in the bottom left of my HUD. A single red bar indicating a threat slowly moved to the right.

“Fruity!” I whispered, using my wing to point in the bar’s direction.

“I got him,” Fruity assured quietly.

“Gotcha!” The Raider jumped out from behind the wall, expecting to have caught us off guard, but instead, he got his head disintegrated. I gasped when I heard a bang, and I felt something whizz through my tail at the same time the Raider got his head melted.

Fruity let out a scream of agony. I turned around quickly to see my husband on his rump, groaning in pain while rubbing his chest.

“Oh, thank Faust, I thought you got shot!”

“Ow, fuck!” He groaned as he flicked something off his chest. A small compressed piece of metal clattered to his hooves. “I was fucking shot…”

“Then thank Celestia you were wearing your ballistic weave shirt!”

“Yeah, lucky me. If I meet the guy that invented this shit I’m gonna throttle him. For all the bullet stopping, it still hurt like fucking buggery!”

I giggled before my EFS picked up another hostile. “Crap, new contact directly ahead! Down the road!”

“Fuck!”

We quickly hurried back into cover and began watching for the new threat. Eventually, we could hear heavy hoof falls.

“That don’t sound good,” I muttered.

“Ah, shit. Power armour,” Fruity said under his breath.

“Power armour! Shit we aren’t prepared for that.”

“No shit… Wait, looks like it’s not a full suit.” Fruity used a wing to twist a knob on his plasma rifle’s scope. “I see a leg from a P-45, another leg from a P-51, and the body armour from a P-60. The rest is typical raider armour made of scrap.”

“And that’s good?”

“We have a chance,” He continued observing the armoured raider. “He has nothing protecting the rubber neck seal that connects between his helmet and chest. One of your 45-70s should be able to penetrate it.”

“That’ll be a difficult shot to pull off.”

“Yeah I know, so I’m gonna distract him for you.”

“Wait, what?!”

“I’ll keep him… OH SHIT!”

Fruity suddenly jumped up and flapped his wings. He then placed all four hooves against my side and gave me a push with all his might, which sent me tumbling over and away from him. The shove also propelled himself in the opposite direction. Just as I rolled back onto my hooves, the section of wall we were hiding behind exploded, with specks of brick and mortar raining down all over us.

“He has a fucking Anti-Dragon Cannon!”

I felt that little niggle in the back of my head when my electronic brain fed information directly into my brain. Since dragons had been seen aiding the zebras during the war, some Steel Rangers were fitted with 120mm Anti-Dragon Cannons to help combat them. If this guy really did have one, then we were in trouble.

“Crystal, you gotta get him in the neck! I’ll draw his fire!” My husband took to the air, firing his weapon at the power-armoured raider.

“Fruity wai-” It was too late. I quickly scooped up my revolver and found some new cover. Thankfully, there was a big gap between his helmet and chest armour that left his throat vulnerable. I aimed with intent to kill, but as I did, I caught sight of my husband flying side-to-side. He taunted the raider with hoof gestures and insults between taking pot shots. Then I saw the cannon tilt upwards and fire another shell.

“Woah!” Fruity shrieked. The shell whistled past him.

“No, Fruity!” I squeaked in terror and hastily went back to aiming. Unfortunately, I rushed my shot, and when I fired, the heavy round impacted his chest armour and ricocheted off. Worse yet, the raider’s attention was drawn to me.

“Oh fuck.” I flew away and to another wall for cover. As I did so, the raider fired, and my previous cover was blown away.

“Crystal!” I heard Fruity cry for me. “Hey, cunt-head! Up here!” He fired down at him and struck his armoured flank, bringing his attention back to him.

I took several deep breaths to calm my rattled nerves, and I peeked out from my new cover to aim once more. My revolver shook in my wing’s grip. I had to focus. If I didn’t, my husband and I could die here, and my kids would be without their parents.

“Ok, Crystal. You can do this. Just relax. Just relax.” I whispered to myself, and I brought my other wing around to help steady the revolver.

The raider fired his cannon. Fruity pulled up his hindquarters high enough that his rear hooves touched the sides of his head. The shell whizzed by below him. “Almost hit the crown jewels!”

I felt the fear rise again, but I kept my breath steady. I couldn’t fail here; too much was on the line. I exhaled, and I pulled the trigger. The Raider suddenly lurched to the side with a new, bleeding hole in his rubber neck seal. Fruity flew over to me and landed while the Raider made some choking gasps. Finally, he slumped forward and fell onto his side, a sizable pool of blood expanding beneath him.

“Good shot,” Fruity praised.

“That was not fun!” I shouted on the verge of tears.

“Hey, hey, it's ok. We’re ok.” He cooed softly, wrapping me up in a tender hug and kissing my cheek.

I buried my face into his shoulder and sniffled. Fruity whispered sweet nothings to me while gently rubbing my back. We stayed like that for a couple of minutes until I calmed down and pulled away.

“Thanks.”

“Are you ok?” He asked worriedly.

“Yeah. I was just scared.”

“I was too, but we got through it. Everything is fine.”

I nodded, and we moved on. We kept our guard up until we cleared the ruins. About a half-hour later, the road curled back towards the desert and away from the hills. A quick look at my PipBuck map showed that we were not far from our destination, and would have to climb over the hills to find it.

“What do you think? Should we fly?” Fruity inquired.

“Wouldn’t we attract unwanted attention? Isn’t that why we’ve been walking so far?”

“Yeah, but if we don’t go too high, it shouldn’t be a problem. Plus, it’ll be quicker to find the bunker instead of going up and down the hills all over.”

I couldn’t fault his logic, and frankly, after our run-in with the raiders, I wanted to get all this done as soon as possible.

“Alright, but keep your eyes open. I don’t want something to jump us.”

“Yes, ma’am!” He mock-saluted, and I rolled my eyes. We both took to the air and took our time flying over the hills, combing over every valley for any sign of the bunker. Eventually, as we passed over a particularly tall hill, we spotted a drainage grate, surrounded by cracked mud.

“Hey, what’s that?” Fruity pointed down to it. “Looks a little out of place, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, it does. Let’s check it out.”

We banked around and came to a landing on the hillside, and trotted the rest of the way down the valley. When we got closer, we could see that the grate was big enough for a pony to fit inside. Upon closer inspection, the Steel Ranger’s insignia was etched into the rim.

“This is it!” I squealed happily.

“Finally, we might be able to make it home for a late lunch,” said Fruity, licking his lips.

“C’mon, let’s get this grate open.”

We examined the grate thoroughly. It was pretty rusted, like it hadn’t been moved in a while.

“Hmm. Looks like it just lifts off.” Fruity grabbed the grate with his primaries. He braced his legs and heaved, grunting in effort, but the grate didn’t budge. After a good while, he stopped, panting. “Fuck… Little help, please?”

“Hehe. Alright, strong pony.” I stepped up beside my husband and grabbed the grate along with him.

Fruity counted down from three, and on one, we heaved. The rusted grate bent, and then something unseen broke and the grate came free from the pipe with ease, sending us flying onto our backs. Fruity cursed in annoyance as we stood back up. We peered down the pipe and found a ladder built into the pipe lining, going down a good twenty feet, at least.

The climb down wasn’t difficult, with all the ladder rungs still in place. Once we reached the bottom, we found ourselves in a large rectangular room which, interestingly, still had some functioning lighting. It wasn’t great, by any means, but at least we could see. The place was an absolute mess. The corners were piled high with rubbish and the floor was littered with papers and other junk. The concrete walls were covered in rust from the metal supports and rebar. The biggest feature, however, was the massive banner hung up on the wall opposite the ladder and next to a corridor. It depicted the Sierra Maredre, along with a mare dressed in a ball gown that looked very similar to Fleur De Lis. Underneath, it read: “The Sierra Maredre Casino, where dreams and a brighter future await.”

“Well, this must be the place,” Fruity stated.

“Yeah. Now we just need to find a map.”

I stepped up closer to the banner, scanning it for any hidden details while Fruity moved over to the corridor.

“Hey, I can see something down there.”

“What do you see?” I asked, heading over to him.

“Dunno. Looks like an old radio set.”

As I joined him, I could see another large room on the other side. In the middle there was a pedestal, with said radio on it. A bright light shone down on it all, almost as if to draw our attention. My cybernetically-enhanced hearing could pick up the radio making odd, crackling sounds.

“Perhaps we’ll find something down there,” Fruity suggested. He took a step forward, and as soon as he lifted his hoof, my threat detection system flared brightly in my vision. I was briefly confused, but then I remembered the warning Right Bleeding had told us about boobytraps.

“Fruity, wait!”

“Huh?” There was a faint snap. Fruity had stepped on a tripwire. “Shit!”

My HUD flared brighter before the ventilation ducts above us gushed out a thick red gas. It blasted us in our faces from above, and we immediately began coughing and sputtering. I felt an intense burning in my throat, and then a sensation I was very familiar with in my pre-war life. This gas was some kind of anaesthetic.

“We gotta-*cough*-get out of-*hack*-here!” I choked.

We whirled around, but the entire room had already become clouded in gas, blinding us. Luckily, my EFS was still able to point in the right direction. I grabbed my husband with a wing and began pulling him with me, even as his movements grew sluggish.

“But mummy, I don’t want to go to school today…” He slurred drunkenly, only stopping to cough. “…I want to stay home and bake cookies with you.”

“Fruity?” He fell onto his side. “No, Fruity!”

Warning: cognitive function destabilising!

I could feel it. The heaviness in my limbs, the feeling of pins and needles creeping across my body. I had to get out and find help. I struggled to continue towards the drainage pipe. I could just see the sunlight through the red mist.

Warning: system failure imminent!”

I gasped and choked on the red gas, and I suddenly felt my legs give out from under me. I collapsed onto the dirty metal floor with a thud. Blackness began to creep its way into the edges of my vision.

“No… Not like this,” I whimpered.

I saw a shadow cast down from above the pipe entrance.

“Help. Please…”

I then fell unconscious.

Author's Note:

(Can't believe I forgot to add an Author's Notes...)

Hi everypony, thank you for taking the time to read the beginning of my new story. I had originally started an Under the Red Cloud with Broken Steel but I lost interest a couple of chapters in and soon deleted it to begin Influx. This time around I plan to see it through to the end.

The scene of Fruity making a fist with his wing and yelling at the sun is actually a reference to a Youtuber i like called UpIsNotJump and this in particular. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSp2mf8yrOQ

He is a pretty humours Youtuber how has largely reviewed video games but has done some informative videos about climate change and how coffee is made. I would recommend giving him a watch :raritywink:

Anyway, thank you all again for reading the beginning of my new fic and I hope you'll enjoy what follows.

*Edit 28/02/23*

Can't believe i forgot to post a bounce image for this chapter.
Here is Nexus as a Mark 1.5.