• 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 3: Tick Tick TICK

Fallout Equestria: Influx
Under the Red Cloud

Chapter 3: Tick Tick TICK

Fizztop Mountain: Sparkle World

A spark of purple flashed in the middle of the restored living quarters of Fizztop Mountain. A unicorn mare, wearing thick-rimmed glasses and tending to an adolescent deathclaw, looked up as her horn glowed in reaction to a strong magical energy.

“Hm?”

The Deathclaw hissed.

“Easy Spike,” Raven said soothingly, patting his shoulder.

Suddenly, a disc of swirling purple energy began to form there.

“A phase gate! I better get Solaris!”

Badlands Zone, Sparkle World

Princess Solaris grit her teeth in rage. Her long horn lit up with incendiary power as she stared down the Bloodworm Queen.

“Die, you despicable mutation!” The Celestia Hammer was released upon the large mutation. The creature shrieked until it was nothing but ash.

Solaris smiled, and her eyes glowed a deep crimson. She took pleasure in killing the creature that had terrorised her community for the last couple of months.

Just then, she received a transmission. Other Mark 2s were contacting her via her cybernetic network.

Princess. Please come back home immediately. A phase gate is opening.”

The sound of her best friend’s voice brought the natural magenta back to her irises. “Raven! I’ll be right there.” With a hint of worry, she teleported with practised ease.

Fizztop Mountain: Sparkle World

Raven let out a squeal of surprise as Solaris materialised in front of her with a loud crack.

“I’ll never get used to that,” she muttered.

Princess Solaris gave an apologetic look before turning towards the swirling disc.

“How long has it been here?”

“It only formed a couple of moments ago while I was checking over the new residential proposals.”

Solaris nodded and approached. Spike stepped up to his caretaker’s side, standing almost as tall as the cybernetic alicorn, ready to defend her if needed. Once Solaris got within a couple of feet, the vortex opened into a shimmering purple ring that led into a recognisable laboratory.

“The Sanctuary,” she said to herself. One of two alicorns on the other side stepped aside, and a zebra stallion stepped through, followed by three zebra fillies.

“We will open the gate again in a few minutes, Nexus,” said the other alicorn, before it closed behind them.

“Nexus, this is quite the surprise.” Spike hissed at the newcomers. “Easy, Spike. They’re friends.”

The Deathclaw snorted, plodding off to a corner to lay down.

“Indeed, it is. Unfortunately, it isn’t in better circumstances.”

Solaris’ expression grew serious. “What’s happened?”

“Crystal and Fruity have gone missing.”

“Missing?!”

“Yes, they-”

Xian interrupted. “Mum and Dad went to check out something about a casino. One Grandmother might’ve been to.”

“Yes…That was four days ago.”

Solaris nodded, their concern validated in her mind.

“I have come to ask for your help, Princess,” Nexus continued.

“You know you don’t have to call me that, and I will help in any way I can.”

“Thank you. If it’s ok, would you be willing to look after Xian and her sisters? I can’t maximise my ability to search for Ma’am and Sir whilst having to worry about Xian and the foals at the same time.”

“I understand. They’ll be safe here.”

“Thank you kindly.”

“You’re welcome. However, I would like to help in the search as well. Can you tell me anything specific about what they were looking for?”

“Uh, yes, of course. Sir and Ma’am were looking for some place called the Sierra Maredre Casino.”

“The Sierra Maredre. Hmm… Ok, I’ll see what I can find and relay it to you.”

Nexus nodded gratefully, and then turned to the teenage zebra filly comforting her sisters. “Will you be ok here?”

She looked up to him and nodded with a sad, teary smile. “Yes. Thank you Uncle, but please find them.”

“I’ll do my best.” Nexus held a hoof to his ear. “I’m ready.” Another portal opened beside him. “Thank you, Solaris.” He stepped through, and the portal closed swiftly behind him.

Solaris turned to the fillies. “You’ll be safe here in Fizztop Mountain. If you wish to explore the park, Spike here will keep you safe,” She gestured over to the deathclaw, who seemed to be listening to the conversation.

“He looks like he might want to eat us,” Xian said with a gulp of nervousness.

“I assure you young one, he wouldn’t dare try to harm you,” Solaris said firmly.

Xian noticed the creature wilt ever so slightly at the alicorn’s tone, clearly afraid of upsetting her.

Solaris then turned to her friend. “Raven.”

The cybernetic unicorn jumped with a squeak. “Y-yes?”

“Call all scouting parties back to Sparkle World, including those preparing to leave. I want to speak with them in regards to this matter.”

“Yes, your Highness.” Raven put a hoof to her earpiece. “Attention. All scouting parties are to return to Sparkle World immediately by the order of the Princess.”

Solaris cringed at the formality. Even though the majority of Sparkle World saw her as a new Princess of Equestria, she still believed she didn’t deserve such recognition.

While Raven got to work, Solaris took Xian and the foals to their room, taking time to explain what to expect during their stay, for however long that might be.

By the time she returned, Raven appeared to have completed her task.

“Oh Solaris, the last scouting party just confirmed they are heading back to Sparkle World.”

“How many failed to report in?”

Raven blinked and looked down at her clipboard. “Only one failed to report in.”

Solaris sighed. Dealing with losses never got any easier. “Which one?”

“Um… Team Sera,”

“Team Sera… That’s Myrrah’s team!”

“Um, yes. Yes, it is… Wait, getting another transmission,” Raven held a hoof to her ear. “Oh, Team Sera just called in. Apparently, they’d been unconscious and… oh no!”

Solaris’s ears flicked up. Whatever relief she had briefly gained was immediately replaced with dread. “What is it?”

“Myrrah has disappeared.”

“What? How?!”

“They don’t know. They report that a red gas knocked them out when they entered some travel agency building.”

“Where are they now?”

“Just leaving said building in northern Fillydelphia.”

“Right. I will address the other teams first, and then I’ll go to this travel agency to investigate Myrrah’s disappearance. When the rest of Team Sera returns, get Buckshot to interview them. I want all the details.”

“Yes, Solaris.”

XXXXX

Sierra Maredre: Villa Police Station

We entered through the back door. The room appeared to be the station’s staffroom, with the scattered small tables and their small chairs, the lockers to the right and a kitchen area to the left. The dirty and dishevelled look of it all was typical wasteland chic, however.

“Cosy.” Fruity muttered.

My ears were dancing on my head as we moved further inside. I could hear some sort of garbled bits of a voice that I couldn’t make any sense of. Then I could see the static creep into my vision again.

“Do you hear that?”

“I hear something, but can’t make out what it is.”

The more we headed in, the more the static swallowed my peripherals. I had no idea what was going on. It was so distracting that I didn’t notice I was getting a headache until the pain grew into something akin to stabbing down my spine. I let out a cry of pain and grabbed the sides of my head. The pain doubled and my sight became entirely filled with static, save for my HUD, but even that appeared to be going haywire with flickering colours. Then there were the flashing errors, a whole lot of them. The most disturbing of all was 'Core System Shutdown…' and 'Core System Shutdown… Aborted'. Whatever the hell was afflicting me, it was screwing around with my cybernetics on a level I never thought possible.

I could no longer tell if I was still screaming as my hearing had now devolved into a constant ringing. I knew that if it hadn’t been for my high pain threshold, developed from all my years of illness as a foal, I would’ve passed out by now. Suddenly, I felt a pressure on my side push me back. I instinctively put my hooves down to prevent myself from falling. Even so, my limbs moved in an almost drunken manner as I was forced to hobble along.

After what felt like an eternity, the pain subsided and my senses returned to normal. Thus, I was greeted to the sight of a tired and extremely worried purple pegasus.

"Fruify, are you alright?" I asked.

"Am I alright… shit Crystal, I should be asking you that. You were screaming like somepony stabbed you and was twisting the knife every which way till the brahmin came home!"

I gave my husband a weak smile and nodded. "I'm ok, now."

"Thank fuck, I don't want to ever hear you scream like that again." Fruity sighed. "Just what the fuck was that?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "I don't know, but whatever it was, it messed with my cybernetics in a bad way."

Fruity opened his mouth when my PipBuck crackled to life. The deep voice of our captor blared out.

"Beware of speakers and radios. In their degraded state, they emit a signal that interferes with the collar's electronics. It's an unfortunate side effect, one I did not anticipate. To get around this, simply smash them or turn them off."

My PipBuck went silent.

"You could’ve at least warned us about this sooner, asshole!" I shouted angrily.

Fruity gently draped his wing over my shoulders and gave a comforting squeeze.

"Yeah, the twat could've."

He nuzzled my cheek, and I returned the affection with one of my own, my mood slightly improved. I then looked down at the compass in my HUD to see a direction marker pointing to the next room. I frowned.

"So, how are we gonna find the collared pony if we can't get close?"

"I’ll have to find whatever is emitting that signal, and smash it to bits. Or turn it off, at least. You just sit tight and recover. I'll handle this."

I grabbed his foreleg as he stood. "Please be careful." I implored.

Fruity gave me his reassuring yet cocky grin. "Don't worry, I got this." I let go of his leg reluctantly, and the stallion I loved marched on.

XXXXX

I looked back at the mare I loved as I passed into the next room and flashed her a smile. Inside, however, I was bricking it. That scream was the worst sound I’d ever heard. Not since she’d faced Unit-1000 alone in that robot factory had my gut been filled with such dread. Hell, even when giving birth to the twins, she never screamed like that. As far as I was concerned, this place was the deadliest death trap we'd ever stumbled upon.

A few more steps inside, and my collar began to beep and throb at an increasing rate, just like before. I waited and counted, and just as the beeps almost became a constant, I stepped back until it stopped. It seemed that I had a similar window of time to act. Just enough time to zip in, smash a radio and dash back to safety.

From where I stood, the layout was simple: a large detention cell that dominated a quarter of the room ahead of me, two desks set right next to it, preceding a doorway straight ahead, and another two office desks in a waiting area to my right. There were ham radios on the desks closest and farthest from the cell.

Thirty seconds wasn't a long time, especially when you're looking for shit that could kill you. I stepped up as close to the threshold as I could without my collar twitching and flexed my wings. I needed to be fast. Thankfully, several years of trying to keep up with a mare capable of breaking the sound barrier improved my wing power considerably. With a deep breath and one last look at my wife, I shot forward.

As I flew in, I caught sight of another doorway to my left. The beeping started, and I banked right around the corner and put my hoof through the furthest radio. Turning around, I spotted another desk with a terminal on it, as well as the security door next to it. The beeps sped up, so I powered back to the first desk and quickly smashed its own radio. The beeps didn’t stop; there had to be another one. At this point, however, I didn't want to try my luck, so I pegged it back into the safety of the canteen.

"Is everything ok?" Crystal asked worriedly.

"Yeah, just knocked two radios out. I reckon there’s at least one more."

She smiled, but her gorgeous blue eyes couldn’t hide her fear.

"I'll be right back."

The garbled noise sounded close, so I ran through the leftward doorway and into a hallway. It continued to the right and from there to the end were three holding cells along one wall, a row of filing cabinets along the other, and a desk right there in the middle with another radio. I hurried over and turned it off. My collar finally stopped beeping and throbbing and I sighed with relief… until I realised I could still hear that garbled sound from the front. Always with the hidden one, I thought.

I went back and peered into the station's main room. I couldn't see more radios from here; maybe it had to be in the front somewhere. I shot over to the waiting area, where I finally saw a large padded armchair and a small end table by the wall, and right there on the end table, was a radio. I quickly turned it off, but my collar was still beeping. Panicked, I whirled around in hopes of spotting it, and there I saw it, underneath the other front desk. I hurried over and smashed my hoof into it. The noise, and my collar, went silent, and I plopped down right on the floor with my tired wings drooping to my sides.

"Thank Celestia," I quietly muttered to myself. I turned my head and called my wife. "Ok honey, it's safe."

XXXXX

There was a small crash from somewhere, and the static rimming my vision faded away completely.

"Ok honey, it's safe."

I smiled as I got up and trotted in to find Fruity sitting on the floor, looking winded.

"Are you alright?"

He gave me his reassuring smile. "Yeah, just fine. Just my wings feel tired after having worked them like a hummingbird."

I chuckled lightly at his choice of words. "Great job, honey. So, where is our pony?" I checked my compass to see that it was pointing toward the detention cell. "He's in there?"

"Huh?" Fruity said, getting up.

The space inside the cell was pretty dark, what with how little lighting was still working in here. But as I stared into the gloom, I soon picked out the outline of a tall pony huddled up in the far corner, completely shrouded in darkness.

"Um, excuse me?" I called out.

The figure’s head shot up and turned towards us.

"Master?" The figure’s tone was deep, hopeful, and feminine. She stood up and approached the bars. As it stepped into the light, Fruity and I gasped in surprise as the figure turned out to be a purple alicorn. She had a short mane and numerous scars on her body, including one that looked like the word 'Snake' carved into her chest. Her long slender horn appeared to be cracked but otherwise intact. Chains were wrapped around her barrel and one of her forelegs had a broken bear-trap around it.

"No. Not Master," she moaned. She abruptly turned around and sat back down in her corner.

"Hey, wait a minute!" I cried. She didn't respond.

"We need to talk to you," Fruity tried. She still didn't respond. "Ugh, bloody Unity Alicorns."

I walked around until I found the cell door, and tried to open it.

"Bollocks, it's locked."

Fruity smirked at my profanity before frowning in thought. "Whoever locked her in there is likely long gone with the key, by now."

"Well, this is a police station. They must have a skeleton key somewhere."

"I guess we gotta find something like that to open this cell."

"Yeah. We should split up…"

"I'll go check in there," Fruity interrupted,immediately walking towards the far door. A sign indicated it was where the restrooms were.

"Um, ok. I'll look around here."

I began my search by checking the desks. Sadly, none of them contained much of anything apart from a hoofful of .357 rounds and a spare pistol.

The last desk I checked, closest to where Fruity disappeared to, had a functional terminal. Unfortunately, the screen was filled with lines of words and symbols, and I didn’t get many chances to try hacking terminals in my free time. I knew I could easily bypass the security if I used my link cable that all Infiltrator units had, but I hated that sensation of the cable digging its way out the back of my neck, so I decided against that option. However, being cybernetically enhanced, I thought maybe I could use my enhanced strength to force the door open. With that in mind, I approached the security door, turned around, reared my hindlegs and bucked with all the strength I could muster. There was a resounding clang as my hooves met steel, but surprisingly, I felt a jolt run up my legs and my spine. I let out a cry of pain and hopped away from the door.

Fruity rushed back into the room. "Shit, Crystal are you alright?"

"Yeah… ow!" I winced. "I didn't think that door to be so sturdy."

"You sure? That was quite the crack."

Just then, a damage report had popped up into my HUD, detailing my rear ankles suffered what would amount to a minor sprain. But what captured my focus was a system warning alert.

“What?! Strength Inhibitor Engaged!"

"An inhibitor? Didn't you already have a regulator?"

I called up a diagnostic screen and gasped when I saw two new modifications listed. An installation of this new inhibitor, which I subconsciously rubbed at the back of my head where I felt a slight bump, and a modification to my regeneration system. Apparently, my regen system had been set to only heal at an organically natural rate, regardless of the damage I might take.

"Somepony messed with my system and cut me open to stick a new chip in my neck!" I screeched indignantly. I felt violated. "I knew something felt off when I woke up."

"What does this mean? Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. From this, it means I won't be able to use my cybernetic strength, and I only heal at a natural rate."

Fruity sighed with relief. "That sucks, but at least you're ok."

I nodded, and the two of us went back to our respective searches. All that was left was to attempt hacking the terminal normally. I tapped a key to wake it up. Once the screen flashed back to life, I sat in front of it and began examining my choices. I remembered a time when Fruity tried teaching me how to hack. He told me that when the Collapse occurred, all the active terminals locked themselves and defaulted to a random word generator that created a password, meaning that whoever tried to log back in would need to find the correct word. He also taught me a way to help narrow the choices down and it started with finding two opposing arrows or brackets. Finding any would remove an incorrect word or reset the number of attempts you still had (and usually, you started with four). Doing so proved to be a tedious endeavour, but eventually, I managed to reduce the word count on the screen down to three. With those odds, I took a stab at selecting the right one.

"Oh come on, out of the three still there, I happen to choose the one with no matching letters." I grumbled irritably. The next one I selected was the correct one, not that it cured my annoyance. There wasn't much it provided save for an announcement email in regards to contraband, and the option to remotely open and lock the security door to the contraband locker. I selected to open the door, and there was a series of small clunks as the locks disengaged.

"Alright, let's see if there’s anything useful in there."

I pulled the steel door open to find a small room with metal shelving units on both sides. There was barely enough room for me to slide in. To my surprise, there was another BAR and two full boxes of ammunition for it on one shelf, which I quickly swiped for myself. I also gathered some more .308 rounds and a holotape that my HUD labelled as ‘Vending Machine Code for .308 Rounds.’ The only stuff I didn’t grab were a couple of drugs. I never did drugs, even before the Collapse, and I doubted my cybernetic body would even utilise them.

Sadly, though, there was no key. I left the locker and decided to check on my husband. The door to the bathrooms opened up to a narrow hallway with four doors on one side, leading to locker rooms and bathrooms for each gender. Soon enough, I heard struggling from the stallion's locker room. When I poked my head in, I saw Fruity attempting to put on a suit of Marde Security Armour, only to have gotten tangled up in it. Only when he nearly fell over did he notice me in the doorway.

"Well, this isn't the most embarrassing thing you caught me doing."

I snorted and shook my head.

"How'd you get yourself tied up in it?"

"Lots of straps and they're all higgledy-piggledy."

"Right. Hold still and let's get you untangled."

For the good part of fifteen minutes, we worked to get him untied and then to put the armour on properly. I felt a bit better knowing my husband had a decent level of protection now.

"Phew, thanks," he said as he adjusted the armour. "Did you find anything?"

I gestured to the second BAR I had on my back. "Found a spare gun, some ammo and a vending machine code for rifle rounds."

"Huh, what a coincidence, I found a code for .357 rounds in here." He gave me another holotape which I pocketed. "I also found a couple of stims and a pair of pistols with ammo." He fished said items out of his new armour's magic pockets and held them out to me.

"You should keep the pistols. You could use a backup weapon," He nodded and pocketed the pistols again.

"I'll need to sit down and repair one," he muttered.

I nodded in agreement; I had to do the same for my BARs.

"I guess you didn't find any keys."

He shook his head. "Nah, nothing."

"Well, we still got the backroom to check, and if that fails, I guess we'll have to get creative."

Together, we made our way back. The alicorn hadn’t moved, but we ignored her as we passed by. Returning to the holding cells, we found the first two were completely empty. Fruity went up to the last one while I took to checking the desk.

"Oh, now that's just cruel."

"What is?" I asked.

"Some dickhead left a bottle of water just out of reach for this poor guy."

I poked my head out to see a skeleton pressed up against the cell door from the inside, its leg reaching out through the bars, millimetres away from a bottle of water set on the floor. I shook my head to clear the visions of what was most certainly slow torture. Ten years of wasteland life made something like this to be expected.

After a minute of searching the drawers, I let out an annoyed huff and slammed the last one shut. "Nothing."

"Yeah, nothing over… Hang on," I looked up to see Fruity on his hindlegs as he plucked a holotape off the top of one of the cabinets.

"What've you found?"

"A vending machine code for Stimpaks," he stated happily.

I smiled at our stroke of good luck. "More supplies for us, then."

"Well, that'll depend on how many chips they cost."

"Yeah, there’s that… So, where should we check now?"

"Well, there is the basement." Fruity pointed to a door on the opposite side that I missed. With nowhere else to go, that’s where we went. Being a gentlecolt, he opened the door for me. Once we stepped through and the door closed behind us, a deep, masculine voice sounded off, seemingly everywhere at once.

"If you are who I think you are. You've come to fetch Snake from her cage upstairs. I cannot allow that. Come. Find my voice, and then we'll talk."

"Who the fuck was that?" Fruity squeaked.

"I don't know, but it certainly wasn't that Enclave pegasus."

We cautiously descended the stairs into the basement proper, brandishing our small arms. At the bottom was an open security door, and I slowly poked my head in. Inside was a storage room full of wooden crates. No sign of anything that posed a threat.

"Clear."

We kept our pistols out, regardless. We skirted around the crates until we came to a door on the opposite side of the room. It was one of those heavy security types with hydraulics and a locking wheel in the centre. I grabbed the handle bars and spun it counterclockwise, and luckily, the locks released and the door opened up for us. The voice came back.

"You're almost there. Just a little further."

Another corridor, and apparently a U-shaped one, at that. About halfway through, I stopped.

"Crap… Static’s filling my vision again. There must be another radio up ahead."

"Alright, sit tight. I'll go ahead," Fruity said, taking the lead.

"Be careful."

Fruity rushed towards the door and went through. I listened as Fruity mumbled curses as he searched until the sound of something breaking ended the white noise.

"Ok Crys, it's safe."

I hurried on to join Fruity. The room was kinda small, possibly an office. All that was left was a table with a terminal, a toolbox and a holotape. The voice spoke again.

"There, on the table. My voice. Take it to the one in the cage upstairs. Play it, and we'll… talk."

I approached the table and cautiously picked up the holotape. When nothing happened, Fruity and I deflated; we both expected something to happen.

"Phew. Ok, so now what? We take that up to weirdo upstairs, play it and hope for the best?"

I shrugged. "I dunno, but currently it's our only option."

We promptly returned to the detention cell. I sat down before the cell door and lifted my PipBuck. Opening the holotape deck, I found myself surprised to find a holotape already in it. I pulled it out and examined it, flipping it over to find a label written in black marker.

Your instructions in case you can't read.

"Oh fuck you!" I growled in annoyance.

"What is it?"

"A message from our captor."

I tossed the tape over to Fruity. He caught it with a wing and read it. "What a cunt."

I inserted our holotape and hit play. The voice played, loudly.

"Snake, back in your cage!"

The effect was immediate. The alicorn stopped rocking back and forth and muttering to herself. She sat rigid for a moment before she slowly got up. Fruity and I took a step back as the air about her seemed to completely change, while she slowly and methodically approached the cell door.

"Hmm. You're not who I was expecting. But you can't be totally stupid since you found my voice and can follow instructions. Good." Her voice was the same as the one in the basement.

"Charming," Fruity quietly muttered.

"Um, hi. We came looking for a pony with a collar on like us. My EFS points us to you but I don't see a collar on you."

"It's close. Closer than I'd like," she grumbled.

"What do you mean?"

"Snake's been into things. Doesn't think before she eats, regardless of what's on them."

"Wait, you ate your collar?!" Fruity blurted out.

"Snake doesn't care what she eats. She'll crush it, mangle it, make it fit, until she's full."

Fruity and I both shivered at the mental image.

"Y-you're not gonna eat us right?" Fruity asked with a nervous tremor in his voice.

"I won't, but Snake might."

"Err, ok, we're getting off topic. It's clear you’ve got a split personality. Who are we speaking with right now?"

The alicorn regarded us coolly. "I don't remember my name anymore, but you can call me Ekans."

"My name is Crystal and this is my husband, Fruity."

"Ok, now that introductions are out of the way," Fruity began, stepping up beside me. "Since the collar is in your gut, that makes you the one we need. So how about you tell us how to get you out so we can get out of this mess."

"No. I'm not leaving here until the old stallion shows himself."

"Look, like it or not, we're in this together. He linked our collars, so if we die, you die."

"You think I'll open this cage so you can let Snake drag others here? I don't think so."

I gasped in shock. "You brought us here?!"

Ekans looked genuinely offended. "Definitely not. It was Snake that brought you here."

"We did not want to come just yet,"

The alicorn sneered at us. "Of course you did. You, like everypony else, heard the call of the Sierra Maredre, and your greed brought you here."

"You're wrong! We didn't want to come here for some treasure. I have a personal reason for wanting to come here," I rebuked heatedly.

The alicorn looked mildly amused. "Oh, and what other reason could you possibly have?"

"...I’m from the prewar era. I was put in stasis, and since I’ve woken up, I haven’t been able to find out what happened to my mother. I know she's dead, but I don't know where or how she died. The only clue we’ve found was an invitation for her to the Sierra Maredre's grand opening . That's why I wanted to come here, to find her… S-so I could finally say goodbye."

Ekans chuckled. "Heh. I don't think you belong here." Suddenly, her face hardened. "No, you don't belong here. But regardless, you can go back to your master and tell him that if he wants Snake, he must come and see me so we can… talk."

"You say talk but your face says bloody murder," said Fruity.

"I don't think he'll waste his time coming to you. If he wanted, he could just detonate the collars and find somepony else to do his dirty work for him."

"He won't risk harming Snake. He needs her to bring others here."

"Sounds like Snake does whatever he says," Fruity observed.

"Snake… obeys, yes. Always so eager to please her master," The alicorn sneered.

"She did seem very hopeful he’d come for her when we tried to talk to her," I added. Then I thought of something. "Would she take control if she heard his voice?"

"Snake obeys his voice, yes. Why? Do you have some means of contacting the old stallion?" Ekans queried worriedly.

I held out my wing to Fruity. He clocked on immediately and put the “instructions” holotape into my wing. "I have his voice on this holotape."

"You… DON'T PLAY IT! If you do, I'll find a way out of my cage and end you, murder you, break your hooves and legs until-"

I held my hooves up and squeaked in terror. "Whoa, whoa, whoa, easy!"

"Holy fucking shit!" Fruity bared his holorifle.

"I won't play it, alright? Not unless you give us reason to." I took a breath to calm myself down. "Look, we need your help to get out of this alive. Perhaps we can help you in return."

"And how can you possibly help us in return?" She questioned, appearing intrigued.

"We know a place called the Alicorn Sanctuary. It’s run by a close friend of ours. She could help you with your multiple personalities, and you'd be safe. No one will try to use you there."

Ekans pondered for a moment. "All I want is to keep Snake safe. You see these scars, the bear trap on her leg? She did that to herself to silence me. Can you guarantee she will be safe there?"

"I can't, no." I answered honestly. "But it will be the safest place in the Marejave for her and you."

Ekans hummed. We kept quiet and didn’t try to pressure her.

"...Very well, then. You may regret this, but I'll unlock the cage." Her cracked horn ignited and a key floated out of her short mane.

"You had the key on you this whole time?!" Fruity cried out.

The cell door screeched open, and the alicorn stepped out.

"I hid the key on me so Snake wouldn't know. It was part of the plan to confront the old stallion."

"Oh yeah, you were so gonna murder him."

The alicorn simply smirked.

"Speaking of him, do you know who he is?" I asked.

Ekans shook her head. "Snake does. I do not."

I was a smidge disappointed. "Well, I'm glad you decided to help us."

"If we get into trouble, I won't be much good in a fight," Ekans cautioned.

"Why's that?"

"This body is difficult to fight in, especially when I'm in control. I can't use powerful magic because of the crack in my horn." She regarded our armour and weapons. "I assume you've already encountered the ghost ponies."

"If that's what you call them, yeah. What are they, some kind of zombie?" Fruity asked.

"In a sense. They can't be killed unless you remove a limb or their head."

"Yeah, we figured that much."

"Nopony knows where they came from, but those they don't kill, they drag them off into the Cloud."

"I don't suppose you know anything about this Cloud?"

She shook her head. "It was here when Snake stumbled upon this place. The only thing I can say for definite is that the Cloud is corrosive and toxic, and it seems to have gotten thicker over the years."

"Yeah, it's so thick right now I can't tell if it's night or day," I agreed. I then laid our two BARs down on a desk. "Before we go back out there, we might as well fix our gear."

"Good idea." Fruity found space on another desk and began dismantling his pistols.

Currently, I was thankful for the data my electronic brain held, for it made me fully aware on how to disassemble the BARs and which parts had to be replaced. After taking the bad parts out of one and replacing them with the good parts of the other, my new BAR certainly wasn't up to one hundred percent, but it was at least better than it was before, and worthy of combat. With that, I slung it onto my back and proceeded to do the same for my own pistols.

About ten minutes later, we both holstered our weapons. Fruity turned to Ekans and held out a kitchen knife to her.

"I don't trust you enough to give you a gun, but here. These knives seem pretty effective."

"Ah, a Lunarite Knife: a prewar magic wonder that never goes blunt." The alicorn said took hold of the knife in her magenta magic.

"And I know firsthoof how sharp they are." I groaned. My flank still stung from where that knife spear gashed me.

We approached the front door. I held my BAR under my right wing, ready to fire. I took a quick look back at my companions, seeing their confident expressions. I nodded and pushed open the door, stepping back out into the gloomy red darkness.

"Ah shit." Fruity grumbled.

Four ghost ponies were milling about before us.

"They are attracted to anything that is out of the ordinary for them. The commotion you have caused during your trip here to find me has likely stirred them up."

"Well, bollocks. So anything we do here is likely going to attract more of them?"

"Yes." Ekans replied bluntly.

"And they've seen us!"

One of them launched a knife spear at us.

"Divide and conquer!" The alicorn yelled, charging forward.

"I've got this one!" Fruity announced, flying a couple of feet off the floor and firing.

While Ekans engaged the ones to my left and Fruity had the one to my right, I took aim at the one in front of me as it hobbled towards me. It was another one of them with the bear-trap contraption on its hoof. I remembered my mistake from the previous encounter and pulled the trigger lightly. The rifle kicked back heavily and I was quick to release, firing off a short three round burst.

The ghost pony staggered as the rounds punched into its shoulder, chest and neck; but it wasn't enough to bring it down. I tried to aim at it again but the creature began doing its weird phase shifting. It kept getting closer, and that’s when I mentally slapped myself for forgetting something very useful: I engaged my SATS and time slowed to a snail's pace. I focused on the forelegs, toggling a hit for each one with a ninety percent chance of hitting. Satisfied, I released SATS and let its magic take over. All but one bullet hit the creature in its kneecaps, and its front half crumpled to the floor like a sack of potatoes. Neither leg had been severed, however.

"End him now!" Ekans grunted whilst repeatedly stabbing her own target.

I looked at my weapon. Its length was long and its stock was thick and almost shaped like a hammer. I had an idea. I reared up onto my hindlegs and flipped the BAR around, catching it by the gun barrel with my forelegs. Then, I swung the rifle over my head and brought it down with all my might onto the creature's head. There was a satisfying wet crunch as the ghost's head exploded.

"Nice!" Fruity cheered.

I went to help my husband but he waved me off.

"No, go help Ekans. I got this peach. Hold still, you bastard!"

I reluctantly turned around and saw that Ekans was now holding off two ghost ponies, even using her bare forelegs to keep them at bay. Seeing that she was struggling, I ran over and crashed into one of them, knocking it down. The alicorn slugged the other ghost in its head, and when it went down, reared up and brought her hooves down on its head, crushing into a bloody mess. Meanwhile, I levelled my BAR and fired a burst of rounds into my target’s head at point blank range, ripping its head apart.

"Whoa!" Fruity exclaimed as his ghost pony threw a knife spear at him that barely missed. "Eat shit and die!" He fired his holorifle again just as it grabbed another spear, and hit it right smack dab in the forehead. The whole creature began to glow. "Ha! Eat that bitch!" Just before disintegration could end the ghost, it finished its throw, and the spear was launched towards me and Ekans. "Shit, look out!"

"Eep!" I squeaked and jumped out of the way. Ekans didn't even bat an eye as the spear crashed down and dug its blade deep into the cobbles in front of her.

"Well, that was exciting," she deadpanned. "Where are we going?"

"Um, to the main fountain, I think. It's where we woke up and where the old stallion addressed us via hologram." I said, rubbing my chin in thought. "He wanted us to gather the other ponies with collars and bring them back to the fountain. I think you'll be safe there while we go find the other captive."

"Then we best hurry. I can already feel Snake clawing at my guts."

I nodded, and we proceeded to hurry back through the dark narrow streets and towards the fountain.

XXXXX

High above the streets, a large shadowy figure looked down as a winged zebra mare, a pegasus stallion and a scarred alicorn made their way back to the central plaza.

"Good. You have rescued the mutant."

It grinned darkly, and watched as they came upon a junction where to the group's left a gate sat.

"You’re not yet done in this area. Time to find the wild card." Its horn glowed crimson. "Just a little push to get you going in the right direction."

Suddenly, a light flickered on above the gate, driving the suffocating darkness away. The group, as expected, turned to look and gasped in surprise.

"How the fuck did we miss this?" the stallion asked.

The mare scanned the area for a moment before spotting the vending machine nearby. "I guess we were too distracted by that vending machine to notice." The light flickered again. "Medical District… Oh great! A quick excursion through there should bump up our medical supplies."

"But what about the other captive?"

Its horn glowed again. "And now a little persuasion."

"Well, they aren't going anywhere and we could really use the meds. I mean, if we get into a hairy situation and run out, it won't end well for all of us."

The stallion pondered, and then nodded. "I guess you're right. I kinda like where my head is at the moment." The two were completely unaware of the magical manipulation being cast upon their minds.

The stripe turned to the mutant reject. "The fountain is just there. Will you be ok to wait for us while we see about stocking up?"

"While the hologram is functional, yes. The ghost ponies do not like the other kind of ghosts that inhabit this place."

"Ok. We'll try to be as quick as we can."

"Try not to take too long. Snake's hunger is growing by the minute."

"Hey, have some faith in us." said the pegasus outcast.

The mutant snorted and headed for the fountain while the couple pushed open the gates to the Medical District.

The shadowy figure smiled triumphantly. "Excellent, everything is going according to plan." It then looked up at the bright monolith. "Soon, Fancypants, everything you worked for will be taken away from you." It spat.

Author's Note:

Hi everypony.

Thank you for reading chapter 3 and leaving your feedback.

Unfortunately this will be the last chapter to be edited by my previous editor and now i'm in need of a new editor.

If you are willing to be my new editor, please PM me if you're interested.