• Published 8th Nov 2012
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Fallout Equestria: Two Corners - Atomic Horse



The story of a small town in the heart of the San Palomino desert and the Ponies who call it home.

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Chapter one: Crab County

Fallout Equestria: Two Corners

A >fanfiction by Atomic Horse

Chapter One: Crab County

Many years ago before the Great War and the Balefire bombs removed any hint of color from the world, an Earth Pony found himself staring up at the sky. The object of his interest was not a meticulously shaped cloud or a brightly colored bird, but a Pegasus. Specifically, his eyes followed the gaudy, metal wagon that trailed behind the Pegasus.

It was called a Sky Wagon. This grand feat of engineering allowed for a Pegasus to be hooked up to its front. As the Pegasus took flight, the magical components would kick in and allow the heavy wagon to be pulled off of the ground with ease! It could haul ponies, supplies or even guns and soldiers! Some said it was the future of engineering, others claimed it was responsible for revolutionizing Equestria in it’s wartime state.

The Earth pony thought very little of it. He watched it disappear off into the horizon with all the excitement of someone who just was just stung by a bee. Kicking a nearby rock with a scoff, he wandered back to his work and attempted to return to his day. Though try as he might, the thought of the Sky Wagon simply wouldn't leave his mind. Sometime around dinner that night something finally clicked inside the head of the earth Pony. He stood up from the dinner table and declared:

"Revolutionize my rear! I can do better!"

With that, he stomped out of his house and left behind a perplexed wife.

Mr. Ford set to work gathering the brightest minds he knew. After a series of nagging letters, heavy loans and bold claims of a creation 'faster, sleeker and more tricked out than those ugly sky wagons' he managed to assemble a team of engineers dedicated to his vision. For weeks they sat around tables scrunching their noses until they had drawn up a schematic that promised results. Weeks of scrunching their faces over pieces of paper turned to months of scrunching their faces over bits of metal, sparkle batteries and coffee. Within a year the first 'Auto wagon' rolled through the streets of Manehatten.

The Autowagon was not unlike the skywagon. A rectangular metal frame allowed for two ponies to hook themselves into the front seats. Their hooves could touch the ground which allowed them to slowly walk forward and build the vehicle's momentum. Once the ponies hit a trot the Auto wagon would come to life. The engine would roar and the wagon would begin to move thanks to the power of the engine housed in the hood. From that point the ponies would haul themselves up off the ground and into their seats. Simple hoof controls allowed the driver to increase or decrease the Auto wagon’s speed and steer with ease! Mr. Ford had done it. He had created a vehicle capable of rivaling the Sky wagon in nearly every way. Its speed easily matched that of the flying wagon and it's sleek, roadster design certainly made it more appealing to look at. Mr. Ford was certain that his invention would gather the attention it deserved!

Unfortunately for Mr. Ford and his team of engineers, it never caught on. There were just too many problems with his machine. Maintenance was complicated as the engine had many small moving parts and the tendency to break down when just one faulted out. The array of magical gems that lined pieces of the motor were fragile and expensive and rocketed the price skywards. Not to mention it was common for the Auto wagon to simply refuse to start and choose to catch fire instead!

As if a multitude of mechanical issues weren't enough, most of the general population just didn't care. By this point in time the war was nearing it's end. If an invention couldn't be used to kill a Zebra in some horrific way or keep their own lives intact, it just went over the heads of other ponies. They would rather buy a stable ticket to preserve their life than an expensive vanity item to enjoy it.

Despite lack of interest, low sales and collection agencies pounding on his door, Mr. Ford pressed on. His remaining money shifted from creation to advertising. He would tear through the Manehatten streets at top speed while his partner would hurl fliers from the passenger seat of the vehichle!. The fliers boasted buying an Autowagon would allow Ponies to once again 'live the good life!'. He even attempted to cross promote with Stable Tec, offering to help them build a massive 'underground racing track/lifestyle center'.

Though Scootaloo seemed enthusiastic, the support of only one board member could only get a project so far.

In the final days of the war Mr. Ford finally gave in. By the time he had called it quits he had sold only fourteen Auto Wagons in total. One of which was purchased by his mother in apparent pity. He melted down publicly during his fianl press conference after calling the crowd, quote, "A bunch of trigger happy psychopaths!” and heavily implied the Zebras may have been right for shooting at them.

He barely escaped the enraged crowd and their bombardment of assorted on hoof items.

Shunned for his comment and still hunted relentlessly by the banks he had borrowed Bits from; Mr. Ford fled the city of Manehatten. He was last seen leaving the city at high speeds the day the War ended. As he drove into the now green setting sun many could hear him shout:

"I WILL OUTLIVE THE APOCALYPSE!"

No one knew what happened to Mr. Ford after his disappearance. Then again, no one really cared. The world was ending and the Balefire mega spells had decimated most of the critics and bankers who followed his creation since its conception.Though it seemed Mr. Ford had died a failure, his legacy was apparently more stubborn than he was. Somewhere at the edge of the San Palomino Desert, tucked away in a rundown garage, his Autowagon waited. Time may have rusted down its parts and sand stripped away its glossy red paint, but it refused to disintegrate into the past.

Some years after the multicolored holocaust a pair of Ponies stumbled across the aging vehicle. Neither of them had seen such a wonder of engineering before! Driven by curiosity, they began their work on bringing the past back to life.


***

The stretch.

Hundreds of miles of charred, scarred and otherwise blasted dirt road formed one of the largest highways in Equestria. Before the mega spells had wiped clean any kind of neighborly interaction between species, the Stretch was one of the main trade routes in and out of the southern half of the country. Heading North out of the Badlands and Zebra territory, it cut through the San Palomino Desert and curved along the Equestrian coast. If one was to follow it to completion they would pass through the ruins of Las Pegasus and arrive in the bubblegum pink hellhole that was the Canterlot ruins. Along the long highway numerous other roads branched off and shot east towards Apploosa, Manehatten and the grand Celestia's Paradise...

***

For the first time in a hundred years the roar of a machine could be heard throughout the San Palomino. Two ponies in a faded red chop top Autowagon blazed across the dirt highway faster than any Griffon and in far more style than any flying machine. The speed of their vehicle offered them protection from nearly everything the wasteland could throw at them, from bloodthirsty Bandits to horrific Hellhounds. Even a lone Alicorn who decided to give chase lost heart after it realized there was simply no catching up with them.

The pair assumed it had left to find an Autowagon for itself.

It was a wonderful day. The early morning sun was baring down on them as they whipped down the road, the salty smell of the coast to their west as they blazed northwards. Everything seemed to be going exactly as they had planned.

The key word, of course, was seemed.

The pair had been making excellent time along the length of desert road when a curious groaning sound began to reach their ears. They had attempted to drown it out by cranking the volume knob of the radio up as loud as it would go, but no matter how hard they tried to cover it with Bon Pony's rendition of 'Steel Horse' the terrible moan was growing in intensity. When the thick black smoke began to pour from the Bullet holes that were scattered across the hood of the Auto wagon, the pair shared a glance between themselves.

Both of them had admitted defeat without saying a single word. Something was terribly wrong.

Spinning the steering wheel, the Unicorn in the driver’s seat guided the smoking machine to the side of the dirt road. The car sputtered and died as they rolled to a stop. Judging from their expressions the pair seemed thoroughly annoyed at their setback.

***

"Pop the hood, Buck."

The light brown Unicorn who was relaxing in the front seat of the Auto wagon shook his curly blonde mane and revealed a long horn that was hidden by thick and glorious hair. The horn glowed a soft tan color and magically grasped for the small latch below his feet. He effortlessly threw the switch and with a quiet 'click' the cover of the vehicle popped open. Satisfied by his contribution, he slunk further into the seat and let loose a relaxed sigh as his partner worked.

The squat earth pony, who apparently had once been a shade of light blue before a life of mechanical work had stained him an oily color of black and grey, appeared from behind the hood. He was the exact opposite of his handsome companion. A square face and a bald head gave way to a square orange goatee and mustache. In an expectant tone he asked his companion.

"Need to catch your breath after that effort?"

The Unicorn raised a lanky foreleg, waving the question off as he leaned back and kept his eyes on the blue morning sky. "I know as much about fixing this relic as you do about selling scrap," he replied. Rolling his head and leaning it on his shoulder, he flashed a toothy grin to the Earth pony. "No need to break a sweat. I believe in you Smitty!"

"Yeah, yeah. I Wouldn't expect you to dirty your hooves for something like this." The earth pony returned to his work with a grumble.

Turning his attention back to the matter at hand, smitty began to look over the smoking mess that was the engine of the Autowagon. Fluids dripped from incorrectly sized hoses, occasionally hitting something electrical and causing a small crackle of sparks. Worn gears barely grasped at the others and many of the original irreplaceable parts were almost completely rusted through. Many of the bits and pieces seemed to be held together with nothing more than strips of industrial tape. It was an absolute mess!

And those weren't even the reasons they had broken down.

as he continued his search something caught his eye. Light streamed through a trio of bullet holes in the side of the body. They continued through the choking smoke and exited out a trio of equally large holes on the other side. The grey colored pony groaned and leaned his forehead against the frame of the Autowagon. A moment later he was banging his head against it lightly. Something critical had been hit and like any decent mechanic, Smitty knew just what needed to be replaced.

"I knew you could do it, Smitty!" Buck began as he leaned out the window from the driver’s seat. "The sounds of grief means you're making progress!" Buck barely ducked his head in time to dodge Smitty's flying wrench.

"Break's up! Get the map, your pea shooter and your purse. We're going for a walk."

"It's a Satchel, boss."

***


"Here are our choices. There is some place called Crab County about…” Smitty paused as he calculated the distance in his head. “Three hours walk up the road."

Smitty had unrolled the map and spread it flat across the hood of the car. All across the map sat cans of food, boxes of bullets and Buck's 'Satchel' in an attempt to keep the winds that whipped inland from the ocean from tearing the map away from them. As Smitty Studied the possible routes, Buck was busy preparing himself for the long walk by studying himself in the side view mirror and running a comb through his hair.

"Ooooh," Buck groaned. "Seems a bit far for me to walk. Anywhere closer?"

"Well we've also got..." Smitty paused as he ran his hoof down the map.. "We have the Red Hoof Reserve to the south. I'm guessing it’s somewhere between six to eight hours walk.”

Finalizing his hair and pulling himself from the passengers seat, Buck made his way back to the back of the car and joined his companion.

After hearing their options Buck encountered a sudden change of heart. Ina much more positive tone he suggested, "So. Lunch in Crab County?"

Smitty just nodded his head as he folded the map back into a Square. After a brief struggle to fold the massive road map in the middle of high speed ocean winds, the pair eventually had it tucked back away into the glove compartment.

***


They had once again circled back to the front of the Autowagon. Smitty had donned his Modified utility saddle over his normal oily overalls and was hard at work disconnecting a pair of partially melted Sparkle batteries from the hood of the car.

Buck, who was strapped into the satchel that hung to one side of his neck, was hard at work chatting Smitty's ears off.

"If we weren't a hundred years too late, you know the mare I'de go for?"

"Hoofs that?" Smitty asked through a mouthful of wrench.

"Filly Diller." he responded without hesitation. "Every time that DJ plays her old recordings I can't stop laughing.

While Smitty dug around the engine, Buck leaned forward on his rear legs and placed his front hooves on the frame of the car for support. When he had realized that one of his hooves had landed directly ina black smudge of oil he quickly returned to his hooves and wiped it off along the ground.

"Oh man!" he continued in an excited tone. "And you just cannot forget her voice! I wonder what she looked like... think she was pretty, Smit?"

"Ah think yer dreamin, Buck." he responded in a tone that suggested he was more focused on his work than Buck's rambling.

"What makes you say that?" Buck asked with a challenging look. Before continuing he took a casual lean against the Autowagon's body, arching a well plucked eyebrow and crooking his left front hoof at a relaxed angle. "Are you saying that a charisma of this magnitude wouldn't ensnare her instantly?"

Smitty just raised looked over at his friend and his ridiculous pose. Unimpressed, he went back to his work without saying a word. Buck felt his cocky smile drop into an annoyed frown.

"What?" he asked with a hint of annoyance.

"Bugk, Whaappen' evree time yoo hittonah woomin?" Smitty asked as he rotated the final bolt holding the batteries in place.

"Err..." buck grumbled, attempting to deflect the question. His voice dropping to almost inaudible levels, he mumbled. "Most of them already have a special somepony..."

"Liah!" Smitty spit the wrench out of his mouth. The earth pony didn't even bother removing his eyes from his work as he responded. "They tell you they're into other mares! Every last one of them!"

Buck just stammered as Smitty clamped his teeth around the Sparkle batteries and pulled them from the motor. What had once been two individual batteries had fused together into one large slab of plastic, metal and magical components. He tossed them aside and turned back to his companion.

"How can every single mare in this wasteland be gay? We'de have died off by now if that was the case!" He grasped the wrench in his teeth and craned his neck, wiping the grease from it before placing it back into his Saddle. "If you can't get the nopony who wanders into the shop, how're you gonna get a classy lady like Filly?"

"I suppose you have a better chance, right?" Buck fired back. "I'de at least change out of my overalls before I approached her!"

Smitty shook his head. "Gonna have to learn one day, Buck. It takes more to woo a mare than a clean-cut Stallion whose hair puts her own to shame!" Wriggling his small body and pushing himself out of the Autowagon, he landed back on his stubby legs. "Go ahead and close it."

Buck grasped the hood of the car with his magic and closed it with an angry thud, looking offended as Smitty cleaned himself up. Eventually he pulled himself together and peered at the car with a sidelong glance.

"So... what's the problem with it?"

"The problem with her," he emphasized as he nodded to the car. "…Is the Sparkle Batteries. You know the raiders who took potshots at us earlier?"

"What about'em?" Buck asked back curiously.

"They got a few lucky shots on us. A round or three skimmed the casings and caused them to overheat. Then, in true wasteland fashion, they melted together and fizzled out."

"Neither of them are salvageable?" Buck asked. From his tone of voice he was hoping there was a chance they wouldn't have to make the walk for more.

Smitty glanced back over to the road where he had thrown the batteries.There they sat in an almost gooey lump of plastic and magical components, slowly melting into the dirt. Turning his head back to Buck, he simply stated."Don't think so. Now quit hoping you can get out of a nice little walk'n'loot."

***

There wasn't much to look at along the stretch. To the east you could see an ocean of razor sharp rocks, raiders and the occasional mutated abomination. While to the west there was the equally dull and much more depressing view of Equestria's toxic green coastline.

With nothing else to focus on, the only real sights became the ancient billboards that towered over the Stretch. Many of the tall signs had rusted away and toppled into the desert below, their advertisements long faded with time. It was rather depressing sight seeing the evidence of a much happier time being slowly eaten away by the desert.

Though Smitty and Buck tried not to focus too hard on the reminders of their ancestor's failed society. Instead they took interest in mocking the few billboards that remained along the desert road. Advertisements ranged from high class resorts along the Stretch to the occasional Sparkle Cola billboard, the most memorable of which featured an odd hollowed out pony filled with liquid. They took particular joy in a sign that featured a bright yellow pony and his white flattop mane. He stood beside a rather familiar Autowagon and enthusiastically reminded all those that passed by to enjoy the good things in life.

"Make sure to bring a friend when you visit fabulous Celestia's Paradise!" Buck read aloud from the nearest billboard that loomed over the road. It featured a rather inebriated mauve and purple pony lying facedown in a wagon. It’s cutie mark, some grapes and a strawberry, looked to be stained with the deep red color of wine. A light pink filly pulled the cart towards the edge of the frame with an embarrassed look on her face.

Smitty paused mid stride to crane his neck up at the image. After a moment of laughter, he stated. "The sign over the garage is still my favorite."

"Agreed. Looking at it on my breaks was the only thing that kept me working in that run down old shed." Buck commented as he awkwardly followed behind Smitty, having some difficulty matching the stride of his stubby legs without overtaking him.

"The only thing, eh?" Smitty began.

Rolling his eyes and donning his most sarcastic tone of voice, Buck continued. "The one and only, boss!"

"In that case!" Smitty turned and pointed his Combat Shotgun at Buck, shaking it a little for emphasis. "I'm dropping you off in that next town."

"Act as tough as you want, shorty! The garage would go under in an hour without me bringing in customers." Buck boasted with a confident smile.

"Customers?" Smitty challenged. "The most customers you ever brought in were from that silly magic show. And you know how you did that?"

The question caused Buck to stick his nose in the air. "An exceptionally high charisma score?"

"Wrong!" Smitty interrupted. "When you were spinning that sign like a lunatic you smashed up Mama Mare's window. The other folk from around town overpaid us for repairs so we would have enough to fix the damages you caused."

It took a few moments for the gears inside of Buck's head to turn over. A few heartbeats later something clicked and Buck's brain sputtered to life. "I was wondering why we were so swamped that week..."

***

"I left Filly' back in 49, and went'tah Manehatten werkin' on an assembly line."

" The first year they had me puttin' wheels on them Auto-wags."

"Every day I'd watch them beauties roll by, and sometimes I'd hang my head and cry."

"'Cause I always wanted me one that was looooong and black."

"One Day while workin, my machine an idea came together under my mane."

"I'de just sneak the whole thing out in my, Saaaddle bags."

"Now gettin' caught, meant gettin' fired, but I figured I'de have it all by the time I retired,

and I'de finally have a car I've always oh-so admired!"

Smitty and Buck, who had been alternating lines of the song, suddenly raised both of their each of their voices and joined together for the chorus of Benny Bit's 'Piece of Shift Autowagon'.

"I'd get it one piece at a time, and it wouldn't cost me a dime!"

"You'll know it's me when I come through your town!"

"I'm gonna ride around in style, I'm gonna drive everypony wild"

"Cause I'll have the only one there is a round!"

Buck's voice fell away, allowing Smitty to take the lead once again.

"So the very next day when I, cann'ered in, with my big Saddlebags and some help frommah friend,

I took a few wheels that would shiiiiine and spin."

"I never considered my self'ah theif, but I figger'ed Mr. Ford Wouldn't miss just one little piece,

especially now when he's distracted by a world sooooo full of greif!"

"The First day on the mission, I got me some sparkle batteries in prime condition,

followed by some pedals and all the bits of the ignition."

"What did he snatch next, Boss?"

"Why don't you shut your hatch an'lemme finish?"

"The Little parts I could fit in my, Saddlebaaaag,

but some of the bigger ones caused it to bulge and sag."

"So Me and my buddy hadtah thinkah something a bit more s-"

"Swaaag!"

"What've I told you about using that word?"

"Now our plan was comin' together,

since my Pegasus friend would lift without leavin' a feather!"

" So one night we decided to get all our parts and

see whether or not we could make that baby start."

"Half the pieces were a model fiddy'three,

while the rest were bits from an old model T."

"And when we tried to make'em fit,

the parts stated clear became clear they weren't havin' none of it."

"Now Boss?"

"Now's the time, Buck."

Their voices came together once more in unison, their chorus rising and echoing across the desert sands.

"Buuut we'd get it one piece at a time, and it wouldn't cost us a dime!"

"You'll know it's me when I come through your town!"

"We’re gonna ride around in style, we’re gonna drive everypony wild"

"Cause we’ll have the only one there is a round!"

Their spirits higher than the rising sun, the pair kept up their brisk pace as they sang their way towards Crab County. Five years of digging around ditches and blasted out garages had long accustomed the pair to the never ending search for the next replacement part. It was long ago that they had learned it was easier to enjoy the journey rather than worry about it.

***

"Stand in awe, for she approaches!" Smitty declared to the world.

"Who approaches, you ask?" Buck echoed back.

Their song long over, the pair eventually spotted a collapsed Billboard half buried by the sand. The top half of a pink pony peaked over the bottom of the surface, leaving just her nose, eyes and curly pink hair to look down on you. There was no text aside from the aging graffiti in its corner that read 'All hail the Lightbringer!'. It was at that point Buck and decided to disappear around its back and leave Smitty alongside the road.

"The grand hero of these wastes! Please, bless us with your presence!"

"Where art my royal Canterlot trumpets?! The hero will not appear until she has had the proper introduction!"

Suppressing the growing urge to laugh, Smitty cleared his throat. Pressing his lips together, the earth pony produced the mocking sounds of a trumpet through his mouth. As Smitty's 'Trumpet solo' hit its peak, Buck stepped out from behind the collapsed Billboard. He had produced a Blanket from his satchel and tied it around his neck. Fromt hat point the coastal winds did the rest, their currents causing it to flow behind him like a cape! He placed one hoof on the large rock before him and struck a dramatic pose! Smitty simply fell to his knees in mock awe.

"Queen Pip!" Smitty began with his eyes to the Road. "What is your first decree as ruler of these wastes?"

"Turn on some lights in here, for it is rather dark!"

Through gritted teeth, Smitty forced down the laughter that threatened to burst out. "It is done, Queen Pip! What is your next request?"

"Bring me a radio!" Buck waved his hoof through the air. "FOR I WISH TO HEAR OF MY EXPLOITS!"

"B-but... Your majesty..." Smitty babbled, "We don't have a radio with us!"

"Then go fetch me one!" Buck narrowed his eyes and looked down at Smitty from atop his rock. He pointed a hoof to the groveling pony and spat, "Quickly now! I do not like to be left waiting!"

"b-bu-but... the sun is so hot... I can't walk bac-"

"SILENCE!" Buck commanded in an authoritative voice. His horn flared to life and drew the pistol from his leg holster. He aimed it down to the Earth pony and threatened. "Find my radio or I shall shoot your entire town!"

"Queen Pip, no!"

"BANG!"

Smitty threw his head into the air and let loose a dramatic wail of pain. He flopped to his side and hit the dirt road with a heavy 'thud', allowing a puff of dust to rise up around him. Buck simply kept his pistol trained on the motionless earth pony as the debris settled around his body. 'Queen pip' hopped from his rock and approached the motionless Smitty. Dead silent, he peered down at his friend as he holstered his pistol.

Then, they started to laugh.

It began as a chuckle and rapidly progressed into both of them breaking down into hysterics. For nearly two minutes, they laughed like a bunch of lunatics who had been out in the sun for far too long.

Eventually Buck pulled himself back together and grasped Smittys tail in his magic. With a slight grunt of effort, he magically tugged the still laughing Earth pony into the shade of the fallen billboard. As he waited for Smittys fit to leave, he unslung his canteen and took a small sip of water. The idea of hydration must have pulled Smitty back into reality as he reached a hoof out to the canteen when he caught sight of it. Buck happily handed it over and took the moment to stretch his arms and legs. There they sat for a few silent moments, watching the rolling green ocean and enjoying their brief escape from the sun. Buck was the first to break the tranquility.

"Hey Boss."

"What's that, Buck?"

"Do you ever miss the clouds?"

"Every damn day, Buck."

Far above them, the sun radiated heat on the dunes of the San Palomino. For the first time in nearly 100 years the desert was returning to its natural state: dry, unpleasant and capable of giving even the most durable pony heat stroke.

***

"It's tacky and stupid!"

"What's your point?"

"That IS my point,” Buck complained. "It's tacky and stupid!"

It was around 2 PM Western Equestrian Time when the duo saw their first hint of their destination. A large sign told them "Crab county, Relaxation; 2 miles. Memories; now!" and sported an arrow that pointed further into the distance. When they really squinted their eyes they managed to pick out what could have looked like a building. They weren't exactly sure.

The sun, which had long since hit its highest point in the sky and hottest temperature of the day, was giving our heroes some difficulty. Sweaty, tired and starting to feel rather grumpy, the pair trudged along the final stretch of road. Despite the fact they had come all this way for a pair of Sparkle Batteries, neither of them had anything on their mind but the possibility of more shade.

In the meantime the town grew ever closer. While Smitty had decided to shut his mouth to prevent a bad mood from ever rearing its head, Buck had decided to bitch about the name to keep his mind occupied. Though it grew tiring to hear, it was rather effective at keeping the blistering sun off of their minds.

"We get it, you live by the beach!" He stamped his hooves into the hard packed dirt, looking furious over the idea of such a place even existing. "Why couldn't they name it something more catching? Something more original?" He sniffed at the salty air with a grimace and commented. "Why not the smell? This place smells like the butcher shop back home! Disgusting..."

Rolling his eyes, Smitty offered up a possible answer. "Maybe they wanted a theme?"

"Oh great, does that mean they decorated their buildings with seashells and surfboards?" Buck looked like he wanted to gag at the thought. "I mean be more original if you're going to do someth-"

"Wait, wait, wait." It was Smitty's turn for his discomfort to show itself. He turned on his hooves, trotting backwards so he could face his companion as he spoke. "So. You have issues with a bunch of long dead ponies decorating their homes like the beach... does that mean you have issues with a bunch of Robots over a garage?"

"Well the decorations back in the shop are kinda... they look..." Buck started to say, before Smitty cut him off a second time.

"The decorations back in the what, Buck?" Smitty demanded of his partner.

"The decorations are... very... nice..." Buck answered, his voice dropping.

"I KNEW IT!" Smitty shook the barrel of his shotgun in Bucks direction. Raising his voice as he trotted backwards, the earth pony sounded rather betrayed.

Buck had frozen in the middle of the road and was now trying his best to get the attention of the annoyed Smitty. "Smitty."

"No! No interruptions, Mr. Style! You can be a real ass sometimes. I thought it would make sense chopping those things up and making art. It is a machine shop after all!"

"Smitty, you should proba-" Buck cut in again.

"Buck, you should probably shut up for a second!" Smitty cleared his throat and stamped his back leg to add punctuation to his comment. "And that's another thing!"

squish.

His hoof, which he had assumed would land against the hard packed dirt road, landed in something warm and soft. It made a rather unpleasant squishing noise as well, not to mention a terrible stink. Smitty slowly craned his neck around to see what he had stepped in.

It was a corpse.

Like a slap in the face, the grim nature of the wasteland had returned.

Tugging his hoof out of the chest cavity of the sunburnt corpse, Smitty stumbled away while shaking the gore from his leg. Unfortunately the corpse was still relatively fresh. And from the bullet holes that peppered it's back and created vicious sprays of blood in the pavement, it looked as if it was heading in the same direction they were. Ahead of them another body slumped against a large wooden sign that was supported by concrete and small boulders. Spatters of crimson blood had dried on the welcoming white letters that simply stated:

Welcome to Crab County!

***

"I feel like we should say something, boss."

"What is there to say?"

The pair had taken a few moments of their time to drag the bodies off of the road and lay them in the desert sands. Now they stood above them, contemplating the unknown corpses and considering their next move. The bodies, which had already been stripped of anything worth taking, were about a day old. To the heroic duo this suggested whoever had killed them had either moved on through the town or was lying in wait for another victim.

They sincerely hoped they moved on.

“Actually, I think I got this.” Buck began as he took a ginger step towards the dead. Smitty just nodded his head and went silent, waiting for Buck to speak.

"Day horse," Buck began in a low reverent tone. "Please, watch over the souls of these two individuals as they enter your graces."

Smitty lowered his head in respect, allowing Buck to have the floor.

"May they finally find peace and tranquility after their life of hardships and suffering in this unfair world."

Smitty, from Buck's side, uttered a simple. "Be at peace."

He should have known his employee better by now. Buck continued to eulogize the bodies by raising his voice in melodramatic anger. "AND MAY YOU ASSIST THEIR SOULS IN FINDING THEIR MURDERERS! MAY THEY BE STRICKEN BY THE HEAT OF YOUR SUN AND BE DOOMED TO WANDER THE DESERT, BLIND AND BURNT UNTIL THEY FALL DEAD FROM DEHYDRATION, OR BLOODY FROM THE JAGGED ROCKS O-"

Smitty kicked the unicorn in the knee, which elicited a whine from buck. A whine that Smitty quickly spoke over. "Buck, for all we know the killer is in the area. Shush up!"

That seamed to snap Buck back into it. "Yeah, good point." Clearing his throat, he nodded his head in the direction of Crab County.

"Should we... uh... formulate a plan or something?"

***

The pair had taken cover behind the welcoming, if a bit bloody, sign as they formed a plan of action. Crab County was a rather simple town. It was built along a strip of highway that ran north through the dunes of the San Palomino. The Buildings were built in a single strip along the east side of the road, facing the toxic ocean and it's somewhat sickening view. It looked easy enough to spot trouble if it appeared.

A long ditch ran parallel to the west side. Though it lacked any solid cover it was rather deep, enough for the pair to use to approach the town and in the event of hostiles, hit the dirt and crawl away. With loaded guns and reigned in nerves, they hopped in the ditch, crouched low and approached the town.

Their plan went to hell almost instantly.

Much to Buck's amusement, Smitty was far too short to see out of the ditch. While on the other hoof, Buck was far too tall to conceal him effectively. He was forced to awkwardly half crouch as he moved to stay in cover. They scurried along the trench until they were at the edge of town. Only then they risked a closer look.

If any raider was watching for the pair, they would have likely erupted into a fit of laughter and exposed their position instantly. Buck slowly raised his head from the ditch like a periscope from a submerged submarine while Smitty awkwardly clawed his way up the Sandy ditch to get a view of anything but Buck's rear or sand and rocks.

Fortunately for them, no laughter rang out and met their ears. Instead they were met with a row of long dead and empty buildings. The vast majority of the structures had collapsed in on themselves. The few that remained looked dry and brittle from the years of being worn down by sand and the salty air.

And Buck's prediction had indeed been correct: The town was as tacky as it sounded. Many of the buildings were decorated with nautical themes, from surfboards to rotted signs sporting slogans like 'Bless this beach' or 'Sea you at the beach, Pony!’ Buoys and bobbers were strung along porch railings, green from age and nearly rotted away from time.

Apparently the town had once been a tourist trap. A long empty signpost with the word 'Attractions' was raised next to a busted up gift shop. Through the algae encrusted windows they could make out cheap trinkets that lined the shelves. Tiny porcelain seaponys played, frozen in a better time. The pair could also pick out the occasional, almost lifesized statue of a pony dressed in nautical attire staring at them from a cracked and dirty window.

After a few moments of silent observation the pair slid back into the ditch. His voice low, Smitty was the first to speak.

"I'm going to make a run for the other side of the road. Then I'm going to check inside the buildings one by one. Move along the ditch and cover me if anything takes a potshot, right?"

"Right, boss!" Buck responded with enthusiasm. His pistol drawn in his magical grip, he poked his head out once more. Swiveling it around to spot any trouble, he spotted none and looked back down to Smitty. "It's clear, Smit."

Wasting no time, the Earth pony made his move. Awkwardly crawling out of the ditch with a bit of help from Buck, he popped out in the street and bolted across the hard packed road. Buck's eyes never left the buildings until Smitty had reached cover on the opposite side.

Now came the tension.

Building by building, Smitty began his search. The strip of structures were connected by one long wooden walkway that was raised off of the ground by a few inches. As carefully as he could, he made his way along the creaking planks of the wooden porches. Many of the shattered windows gave easy view to the interiors of the buildings, allowing Smitty to peek inside, wave his shotgun around somewhat and then feel safe enough to move on. Other buildings weren't so easy. The windows that remained intact were stained green from years of being in proximity to the sea, forcing Smitty to dip inside and search around the dark interiors all by his lonesome. One by one he would disappear inside, leaving buck to watch the strip of road and his back.

It wasn't until the fourth building something finally made itself known. Smitty, who had been peeking through the windows of a particularly dark building, suddenly froze up. Sliding down to the porch and out of the windows view, he waved to Buck and pointed a hoof at the building. Getting the message, Buck leveled his pistol and took aim at the small storefront. Smitty kicked the lever of his utility saddle and chambered a round into his shotgun, ready for whatever was inside.

***

The door let loose a quiet slow creak as Smitty nudged it open with the barrel of his shotgun. The room was nearly pitch black aside from the shafts of foggy light that glinted through the stained windows and half illuminated the business. The Earth pony found himself inside of a book store, the smell of mold hitting his nostrils and causing him to sniffle. Whatever he had seen thankfully didn't hear the sneeze that followed. Whether it had wandered off or was just too deep in to hear him, he didn't know.

As he stalked the store, his eyes begin to adjust to the low light. Soon he was making out curious markings all over the floor. Leaning down and brushing a copy of 'Terror and Resentment' out of the way, he squinted his eyes. Heavy gouges, long scratches and indents covered the aging wood. Hundreds of them had worn down the surface of the planks. They led from the door he had just entered towards the back of the room.

Despite his nerve threatening to leave him, he pushed onwards. Only the quiet creaking of the floorboards and the groan of the wind against the building could be heard along with the steady clacking sound of the shutters lightly tapping against the building.

"Wait." he mumbled.

He turned his head and peered through the windows. They didn't have shutters. That and the quiet clacking sounds were coming from the back of the store. The clacking soon gave way to the sound of something grinding along... something, he wasn't sure. But he knew the sound was coming from the rear of the shop, which was enough to work on. He soon located the source of the sound; an overturned bookshelf. It was toppled over an another, giving shelter to a very large hole in the floor. He peered at it for a while like he expected something to charge up from beneath it.

Nothing. He leaned in closer, risking a look. From what he could make out the hole led into a sandy tunnel about four feet wide, growing even bigger as it went deeper. How strange.


***

Meanwhile, in a sandy ditch:

The Unicorn sat alert, his horn glowing and gripping his pistol in a sparkle of tan colored magic. The minutes passed and nothing happened. But still he sat alert. Ever vigilant! Ready for anything that would come his way! Nothing would get passed his gaze! If he’s sees it he's shoots it! Who's the watchman? He was the Watchman!

Moments later the gun was limping from in his magical grasp and the unicorn was letting his attention drift. He effortlessly summoned what looked like a switchblade from his pocket. Glowing with magic, he lifted it and tossed it into the air. It span above him in a dramatic, well-practiced arc before he caught it with his magic at hair level. With a soft clicking sound it flicked open into a comb.

"Who's bad?" He mumbled with a stupid, cocky grin as he ran the Switchcomb through his hair. "You're bad."

BOOM!

Buck yelped in surprise as the shotgun blast echoed from inside the store front. His magic flared up on reflex alone and accidentally pulled the trigger of his pistol. It discharged with a loud crack and fired a shot into the ground. Sand, rocks and dirt blew back in the Unicorn's face, leaving him hacking up earth as another two booms of Smitty's weapon reverberated from the building.

"I'm comin' Smit!!" he shouted out to the building. Sticking the comb back in the front pocket of his satchel, he charged from the ditch...

Just as Smitty flew through the aging door of the shop. Splinters of wood and bits of the door rained down on the earth pony as he skidded across the porch and rolled to a halt. Eyes wild and fueled by adrenaline and terror, he yelled a warning out to his more stylish companion.

"IKNOWHYTHEYCALLITCRABCOUNTY!"

What followed Smitty out of the book store was somewhere between a nightmare and a sick joke from mother nature. As the creature emerged, Smitty decided right then was the perfect time to flee back towards his companion and the cover of the ditch.

Massive, razor sharp claws, scuttling legs, thick armor plating and black, beady eyes appeared from the darkness in pursuit of the Earth Pony intruder. It was both the biggest and angriest crab either of them had ever seen. Standing nearly two feet tall and three wide, with claws about half the size of its body, it bolted after him. Even its legs looked like they could impale something with the slightest of effort!

Buck opened fire on the creature, his 10 millimeter rounds just barely penetrating its armor and grabbing the Crab’s attention. As the bullets pinged off of its thick shell, it turned its gaze from intruder to attacker, scuttling towards the unicorn and snapping its claws with a particular brand of menace only a giant Crab can deliver.

Noting its waning interest in him, Smitty dug his hooves into the hard packed road and ground to a stop. He circled back, heading for the crabs exposed left side. Nearly point blank with the creature, he fired in unison with Buck. The first shotgun round tore through its legs, while the second blew chunks from it's claw, causing it to hang limply at it's side. Furious, it gimped around to face the Shotgun wielding Pony. Fortunately for our heroes, its mangled legs prevented it from catching up, allowing Smitty to circle the beast and fire round after round into its armored back. Finally, under their combined fire and a lucky shot from Buck, the crab exploded into chunks, pelting the pair with chitin and bits of crab meat. It fell with a thud, gurgling its final breath as the pair looked down on it in terror.

Thud!

While Buck at least attempted to keep some level of cool in the fading panic, Smitty hadn't even tried. He let himself drop to the dirt and turn onto his side. Eyes still wide, he lay there and breathed in heavy, panicked breathes for a good solid minute. Buck, recomposed and ready to go, leaned over him with some concern.

"...You all right boss?" he questioned.

"P-peachy. Got some pain in m-my side, how 'bout you?" he responded with a shaky breathe, sounding a bit more together by this point.

"I'm fine! I uh..." he glanced back over at the shop, looking at the splinters of wood strewn across the ground. "...Boss, did that thing hurl you through the door?"

***

A few minutes later they were both on their feet and ready to continue. At this point in time, they assumed the town was clear of hostiles, aside from the handful of giant crabs that still stalked the bookstore. But before they could continue their search, Smitty had to make one necessary stop.

The second biggest building on the strip, dwarfed only by the Hotel next door, was the saloon. With classic stable doors that swung open freely, the pair happily went to work looting the essentials. Specifically, an unopened bottle of Wild Pegasus that Smitty needed for killing the pain in his ribs.

***

Their first stop, a small, cramped building near the end of the strip, was the Crab County local history museum. They could barely move through the room without knocking over some town artifact. Shelves upon shelves were filled with newspaper clippings and photographs relating to the long forgotten residents who used to give the town life.

While Smitty set to work looking for the first Sparkle Battery, Buck was leaning over a plaque, reading aloud for the pair.

"Crab County, founded in..." Squinting his eyes in the low darkness, he attempted to decipher the date. Something had long dented the plaque, making most of it illegible. He shrugged. "Eh, no one seems to know the year anyway, this date can't be that important. Anyway, Crab County.... founded by a Mister Mayor Longface.... was popular among tourists… it’s name was derived fr- Hey! Smitty! I really do know why it's called Crab County!"

Smitty, who had been busy tearing apart the innards of an ancient Sparkle Cola machine called out from the corner of the room. "You mean it's not the giant crabs?"

"No! Well... yeah, kind of. Apparently those are actually called 'Surf Crabs'. According to this, they're incredibly friendly. The locals used to ride these things around in the ocean!" Buck felt his smile drop. "...now why couldn't we have met those Crabs instead?"

"Blame the mega spells?" Smitty offered from inside the vending machine.

"Too easy. We blame the Megaspells for everything." Buck shot back. He was slowly scanning the walls for any interesting clippings or photographs.

"Name me one th-OW!" a loud thud echoed from inside of the machine, followed by a rather foul word you are better off not knowing. "...-as I was saying, give me one example of something a Mega spell didn’t ruin."

"What about the Autowagon?" Buck shot back. Something on the wall had caught his eye. Sidestepping an oversized cast iron skillet, he approached a framed newspaper clipping that hung from the wall.

"Ruined it twice. First time the end of the world killed it."

"And the second time?" he asked, distracted by the photograph in the article. It featured the same pony they passed on a Billboard earlier that afternoon. A yellow coat, white flattop hair that ran down his neck and a pair of dark sunglasses.

"Second time was a Raider. Y'know, one of the byproducts of the whole armageddon thing."

By now Buck had stopped paying attention to Smitty, all his attention now focused on the clipping. His grin growing wide, he turned back to the Sparkle Cola machine and spoke up excitedly. "Smitty! C'mere and see this!"

"Hang on, a few more pieces and I've got this baby free."

"Smitty, you don't understand!" he turned and pulled the clipping from the wall. Twisting around, he floated it over to the machine with his horn and exclaimed. "It's a picture of Mr. Ford!"

"WHAT?!" Buck could hear the sound of metal being wrenched from its place, followed by a brief cascade of sparks and lights that strobed from the machine. Smitty slid himself out of the Sparkle cola dispenser, a Sparkle battery clenched in between his teeth. Buck levitated the battery from his mouth and instead floated the framed photograph over to him. The earth pony stared at it with a growing smile, eventually commenting, "So that's what he looks like..."

They just sat there for a while, each with a stupid grin on their face as they scanned the article. In aged ink, it read, "Mr. Ford drives the town wild!" it went on to describe the Mustang himself stopping in Crab County as part of a publicity tour for the first Autowagon.

"Y'know." Smitty began after a long period of silence. "This would make an excellent addition to the shop."

"I’d drink to that."

Craning his neck over to the nearby table, Smitty reached for the bottle of Wild Pegasus. Grasping it in his teeth, he let it clink it against the framed article. "Cheerfs!"

***

"C'mon, Boss. You really want to wear those greasy overalls when we roll down the Strip?"

"Is that another jab at my work clothes?"

"Boss, for once I'm trying to help you. Look." Buck circled around to Smitty's side and draped a shoulder of his shoulder. Hoof extended, he waved it to the store before them. "The mares will already be all over our amazing piece of machinery. But what happens when they look at the one driving it?"

"Are you saying I'm ugl-"

"No sir, Bossman. But will they want to hang around the shoulders of some pony that will get them covered in grease?"

Smitty went silent in thought as he considered Buck's point.

"Y'know." Smitty began to admit as Buck's smile widened to the point of insanity. "I think you're rigHHTT-"

Buck had already kicked down the aging door of the building, enveloped Smitty in a field of magic and drug him through the doorway as the earth pony agreed. The faded sign that hung above the door read "Beach Bummin' and Sunnin' in Style." Inside, it wasn't books, history or giant aggressive crabs that awaited them. But a high class store filled to the brim with well sewn clothing.

Circular racks covered the floor, each one filled to the brim with clothing that ranged from only brightly colored, if a bit faded, button down tropical shirts to horrific graphics Ts that reminded everyone that the wearer had been to Crab County. While Buck busily went to work searching out the less moth eaten clothing in the section labeled 'Dudes', Smitty wandered the racks of clothing aimlessly, looking bored.

"This is going to be brilliant!" Buck exclaimed, his magic flicking through the faded clothing at top speed. Occasionally he would lift a shirt out and throw it into a pile on a nearby rack. "Not only will we be the toast of the strip in our high class, one of a kind Autowag..."

Lifting a Tan bowling shirt that matched his color pallet from the rack, he turned to one of the nearby mirrors and held it in front of him. After a moment of consideration, he mumbled 'Yesyesyes!' and tossed it into the ever growing pile. "But we will look like two classy mother buckers as well!"

"Horse shit." Smitty exclaimed. "Half of these clothes look ready to fall apart when you touch them."

'Cmon, Smit. Don't be such a bent spoke." He leaned out from behind a rack, tossing Smitty a baby blue tropical shirt. Repeating patterns of Seaponies lazing on Surfboards covered the fabric. "This should straighten you ooout."

The average pony would found the pattern painful to the eyes. But then again, the average pony didn't live directly underneath the greatest advertisement ever made. Smitty's eyes went wide as he caught the shirt in a hoof. Looking up at Buck with a twinkle in his eye, he commented. "No way."

"Does that make the trip in here worth it, boss?" Buck asked with a knowing grin.

Smitty made for the dressing room as he shouted. "Find me some sunglasses! We'll get the rest from the bar later!"

While Smitty changed into his tropical Seapony shirt, Buck had decided to don the aforementioned Tan bowling shirt. Two black stripes ran down its front, giving the entire shirt a very pleasant and relax feeling. As he admired himself in the mirror, Smitty reappeared from the dressing rooms. If one looked hard enough, they could notice the subtle shade of blue beneath his stained body. It matched rather well with the shirt.

Buck whistled low and slow. "Lookin' snazzy, Bossman. There are some sunglasses over by the door to complete the ensemble."

***


Once the pair had made their selection of shirts and sunglasses, they tossed a few caps onto the counter of 'Beach Bummin' and continued on their way. As they strolled down the street in search of the next Sparkle Battery, a small building caught their eye. They paused in place, pulling their sunglasses down their snouts so they could better observe the structure.

In fact, it was less of a building a more of a tiny, ruined kiosk. Years of abuse from the sea air had turned the entire structure a murky shade of green. The building limped to the side, leaning up against the much larger red hotel to its right. Without the hotel’s support, it likely would have collapsed long ago. A wooden Pegasus stood proudly atop of the kiosk with a sign clutched in its mouth that read 'Dreams of Flight Kites.' Unfortunately the effect was somewhat diminished as the carved Pegasus was missing a wing.

Pictures of ponies flying kites hung from the walls inside, showing a much happier time. Unfortunately, the contents of the kiosk had long since rotted away, leaving a hollow nothingness. The pair simply stood there, staring at the remains of the kite shop.

Buck was the first to break the silence.

"I feel bad for this thing. I don't even know why, it's just a building."

"I know what you mean. It’s depressing to look at. I actually feel bad just being around it."

"It’s like... it's a piece of shit. But it could be so much more than a piece of shit."

"I want to get my tools and fix it up."

"I want to give it a fresh coat of paint."

'I want to build a town around it so we can open it for business again."

"I want to find the owner and give him a proper burial."

The pair each took several long swigs from their bottle of Wild Pegasus as they stood there and contemplated the run down green building. Eventually they had decided enough was enough, as they began to feel depressed the longer they were around it. Turning away, they continued down the street with heavy feelings in their hearts.

"Y'know, that building is a good metaphor for the past." Buck commented as they left its sight.

"Yeah, Buck." Smitty nodded. "A metaphor for the past."

***

"So Buck."

"So Smitty?"

"What are you looking forward to the most when we finally roll down that strip?"

"The better question is what I am looking forward to doing first."

Maintaining a casual pace, the pair made their way down the wooden sidewalk that ran parallel to the empty buildings. Occasionally, Smitty would peer into the windows of the long abandoned establishments and search the trashed rooms for a potential Sparkle Battery, but so far they had seen nothing worth the effort of tearing apart and searching.

So they walked.

It was odd, really. Seeing two ponies dressed in their best clothes, eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses as they simply enjoyed a stroll through the ruins of what was once a bustling tourist community. For the first time in a century, the town was returning to the much happier times from before the war. The residents may have been long dead and gone but the spirit of the town lived on through these two renaissance Ponies.

"I'm pretty sure we both share this vision." Buck began as he waited for Smitty to finish peering through the windows of what was once a convenience store. "I want to roll down that strip and I want all eyes to be on us and our Autowagon."


Smitty's observations revealing nothing, he jerked his head further down the road and they started their slow stroll once again. "Sounds like you've got your priorities in order so far. What's next?"

"Weeeeeell once we cause enough of a stir slowly rolling through the streets, I want to find the snazziest Casino in Paradise." his Switchcomb levitating from his pocket and running through his hair, he was apparently preparing himself for their arrival already. "I want to stop in front of the building, rev the engine a few times and then jump out into a horde of mares just dying to know where this mysterious pair came from."

At the phrase 'rev the engine', Smitty found himself looking up at Buck with a doubtful expression. Poking fun at him in a playful voice, he asked, "And what makes you think I'll be letting a little filly like you drive my beauty when we arrive?"

Buck turned to face Smitty with that shit-eating grin he had come to know so well. "Well, I figured the master of machinery would rather enjoy relaxing in the passenger seat!"

With a snort of laughter and a shake of his head, Smitty made his stance quite clear. "You can drive us out of town. Now that we've hammered out who's driving, continue."

Rolling his eyes and giving a bit of a huff, Buck did just that. "Well, now that I have the mares, I figured I’d go drop some money on chips, see what I can win."

Smitty raised a hoof, bringing them both to a halt as he peered in through the next window. Squinting his eyes he noted something moving in the darkness and calmly stated, "More crabs."

With that, they moved on once again.

"Think that freakish luck of yours will hold up on the tables?" Smitty pondered out loud.

"Oh, I know for a fact I'll be buying drinks for the floor by the end of the night!"

His turn to grin wide, Smitty nodded and requested, "Order me a Fixer-upper, alright?"

At one point, Buck would have called his employer insane for drinking such a thing but by now, he just rolled with it. "I doubt they'll have Motor Oil as a garnish, boss. But I'll see if I can special order it with my winnings."

With a nod of his head down to his friend, Buck reflected the question back. "What about you, boss?"

"What about me? Well, here's what I envision." Coming to a halt, he twisted his neck around and bit the pocket of his Utility Saddle. After fishing around with his teeth and tongue, he managed to produce a bit of paper and extended it to the unicorn. Grasping it in the glow of his magic, Buck levitated it in front of his eyes.

It was a worn photograph of a thriving city at night. Massive towers stood proudly in the sky, their florescent lights illuminating the darkness and casting colorful glows down on the sharply dressed ponies below. In the distance you could make out the glow of a sign that read 'Celestia's Paradise.'

"Hey, I know this photo..." he looked over the paper and down to his companion.”You cut this out from the magazine in our waiting room, didn't you?"

Smitty nodded his head. With a short hop into the air, he bit the photograph and tugged it out of Bucks magical grasp. He tucked it away before continuing.

"What I envision is a city of that magnitude. Great lights and towers crafted by the great engineers of the past!" Smitty continued on his way as he spoke, Buck in close pursuit.

"I want to talk to the Ponies who maintain the city, see what they can teach us and most importantly..." He paused for dramatic tension, staring into the distance away from Buck.

Curious, Buck played along. "Most importantly, boss?"

Smitty turned to face his companion. Now it was the Earth ponies turn to have the shit eating grin that was normally reserved by Buck.

"I want to make'em jealous of our Autowagon."

It was at that point Buck broke down into tears of laughter, Smitty simply smiling like a goon. Through harsh gasps for air, Buck cracked. "Heehee...Great engineers of the... heeeee... past, right boss?

"Yeah. I figured they could teach me some humility!"

"A-always... heehe... always humble, Smit." Needing to catch his breath, Buck slumped against the railing of the wooden walkway.

"Sitting opposite of his buddy, Smitty's grin had finally dissipated somewhat.”Really though, gambling sounds nice. I was thinking we could bring everyone back home something nice. Maybe a new robit for the midyear roundup? That is, if we ever find another battery and make it there!"

"Hey Boss?"

"What's that, Buck?"

The unicorn raised a hoof and pointed through the window at Smitty's back. “I think I know where a second Sparkle Battery is."

Turning to look, Buck noticed it as well. Inside the darkness of the building, a red light flickered back at them. Whatever was inside was likely powered by just what they needed.

"What a convenient way to advance the plot..." Smitty mumbled to no one in particular.

***

"C'mon, Smit. Put your back into it!"

"I told you, it's...hhhnNNGGGHHHHH. it won't budge!"

"Have you tried pulling it?"

"The door says push, Mr. Charisma score."

Buck went silent for a few moments.

"...have you tried pulling it anyway?"

"Y'know what boy, stand back."

A few moments later, a red surfboard smashed through the window of the building, spilling light into the dark room. Following right behind it, the pair lept through the window into the cramped establishment.

"And you were complaining about the decorations!" Smitty taunted.

"Yeah, yeah. C'mon boss, let’s get that battery and get out on our way."

They had stepped into a long, narrow room. It was filled wall to wall with strange, slanted tables. One of which had collapsed in front of the door, preventing it from moving. A mural painted in bright neon colors and covered with geometric shapes proudly displayed the name of the store in stylized Graffiti. It simply read 'The Wizard's place'.

Upon closer inspection, the tables were actually hollow inside. Glass covered the innards, which were filled with various decorations depending on the theme. One housed a tiny castle, circular trees coated in rubber and metal tubes that ran around inside of it. While the other next to it was themed completely differently, featuring griffons and tiny plastic cliffs.

The pair made their way towards the blinking red light at the end of the narrow room. The light was actually flickering on and off from one of the tables. Looking over it curiously and reading the cabinet, Smitty turned to Buck and asked "What the hell is Pinball?"

Buck shrugged, at just as much of a loss as Smitty was.

Turning back to the machine, he looked it over with an intense curiosity. Eventually, he located two buttons on the side of the machine. Pressing one with a gently, he blinked it surprise at what happened next. Inside of the machine, one of two flippers near the bottom of the slant came to life, flipping up before falling back into place.

"How bizarre..." His gaze went down the front of the console. A red slot which read '1 credit' stared back at him. "What's a credit?"

Again, Buck shrugged. "Dunno. But one of the machines over the said something about'em." Smitty turned back to face the room. Near the window, a squat machine read 'Credits: 1 Bit equals 4 credits.'

"I'm curious now..." The Earth pony grumbled. Drawing one his aforementioned over sized wrenches, he approached the machine and raised the heavy tool in the air.

A few moments later he had successfully beaten the machine to a pulp, allowing a cascade of small, silver coins to flow from the slot at its front. Plucking one of the coins from the ground with his teeth, he wandered back over to the Pinball machine and inserted the credit into the slot. With a flicker, the machine wheezed to life. Partially burnt out light bulbs glowed soft colors and a rusty speaker pumped scratchy music from the depths of the machine. In a small side slot, a silver ball rolled into place.

"So now I think..." Raising his hoof, Smitty reached out for the rusty Pully at the front of the machine. It was curved, shaped for a hoof to fit in it comfortably and pull back. He noticed as he pulled back on the spring loaded bit of the machine, it would launch the ball upwards into the table.

He released it and the ball shot forwards into the table.

Scratchy sound filled the room as the ball bounced around the table, reflecting against spring loaded objects that caused it to bounce chaotically around the machine. And then, it began to lose speed, curving downwards and rolling towards the flippers.

Tensing himself, waiting for the right moment to fire it back. Four inches. Three inches. Two inches. NOW!

His hooves pressed down on both switches. They flipped upwards-

-and missed the ball, allowing it to pass directly between them.

"OH COME ON!" Smitty screamed at the table. Hopping away from it, he reached out for the wrench he had set aside. Through a mouth full of metal, he complained. "Waf thith thom kind of thick prank to take poneeths monee?"

Buck, who had been suppressing his laughter at his employer’s absolute failure, turned back to the busted change machine. His magic picked up a pair of coins before he turned and wandered back.

"Hold on Boss, before you tear it apart..."

***

Several hours later, the pair stumbled from The Wizard's Place. Their one attempt at the pinball machine turned into many. Soon after, they were smashing the second change machine for more credits as they downed their Wild Pegasus dangerously fast. Bleary eyed and belligerently drunk, they hauled themselves out of the broken building, giggling like a pair of fools.

Smitty was the first to emerge. Struggling to haul himself out of the broken window, the stubby legged pony jumped up and hurled himself out the window. Graceful as a Steel Ranger attempting Ballet, Smitty tumbled outside and fell to the sidewalk with a solid thud of Pony on wood.

Buck followed soon after, the now empty bottle of Wild Pegasus floating above his open mouth. Realizing there was nothing left; he dropped the bottle and turned his magical grasp to Smitty instead. Grabbing him by his cropped tail, he pulled him onto his feet.

."Weewe... We need to pichwonna thees up onnah way throooough town. Bring et back to thah gerrrage." Smitty slurred as they began to make their way back towards the Saloon.

Buck, who was right behind him levitating the Sparkle Battery in the grasp of his magic, agreed without hesitation. "We kin... *hic* Pickkit up onnah way back tooowhooao..." he stumbled, leaning against the building and using it for support as he followed after smitty. "waybactah Two Corners... we shood put it in Momma's place..."

"Buck, thas thebest idea you've..." Smitty went still for a moment, swaying in place. A heartbeat later, he was good to go. "The best idea you've ever had."

***

It was evening by the time the pair had managed to sober up enough to sit up straight. In celebration of this momentous occasion, they had decided to reward themselves each with a beer before they began the long walk back to the Autowagon. They sat upon rusty stools, their backs to the bar as they nursed their drinks and watched the sun set above the toxic ocean. The vast body of water twinkled green below a sunset that bathed the town in pink and orange light.

In the corner of the Saloon sat a rusty Juke box. Thanks to Smitty hooking up one of their Sparkle batteries into the machine, it was now cranking out scratchy recordings of long dead artists. Song after song of calm, tropical music drifted from the bar and into the surrounding desert as the sun set ever lower on the town.

Smitty was the first to break the atmosphere of the scene.

"Hey Buck."

"Hey Boss?"

"I can see why the ponies of the past took so many vacations." Smitty stretched his fore hooves over his head before crossing them back behind his neck and leaning into the counter of the bar. "I feel great!"

Buck raised his beer in his magical grip and responded. "Cheers to that!" He took a quick swig before setting it back on the bar and continuing. "I mean, we were almost killed by a giant Crab today and I still feel amazing!"

"So how long until we get to Celestia's Paradise?" Buck asked.

"Well, if I was to guess..." He paused to grasp the beer in his teeth and take a swig. Setting it down with a belch, he continued. "....we've got about two days travel left along the strip. Once we hit Las Pegasus for some supplies, we'll probably have..."

Smitty swiveled around to the bar, Buck following suit. He tapped his hoof on the hard top counter in thought before replying. "Two days. So a good four days travel at the most."

"Blaaahh..." Buck responded in mock disgust. Burying his face into his forelegs he had crossed atop of the counter, he complained. "Why did we open a shop at the edge of nowhere?"

"Hey," Smitty challenged. "Would you rather live somewhere besides Two Corners?"

For a few moments, Buck thought in silence. Eventually he raised his head from the counter and shook it.

"Wouldn't live everywhere else."

"That's what I thought. Anyway, look on the bright side!" Smitty tapped the pair of Sparkle batteries that hung from his Utility Saddle. "We've got what we need to get moving by tomorrow morning and just think of the places we will see!"

"And the Ponies we'll meet?" Buck asked with a growing grin.

"That's the spirit!"

They both raised their bottles. Smitty held his in his teeth while Buck in his magical grasp. Through the glass container, Smitty declared. "To Misser. Ford?"

"To Mr. Ford." Buck echoed.

Clinking their bottles together, they toasted to the memory of the pony who gave them so much. Not just an Autowagon, but something to pour their energy into over the years.

Something to look forward to in a world filled with so much grief.

Something to keep them sane.

***

Once again, the Autowagon blazed down the strip of hard packed dirt road. On the dashboard sat a bubblehead sea pony that lazed atop of a Surfboard. A tiny plaque on its base read ‘Surf’s up In Crab County!’

It was Smitty’s turn at the wheel. While he kept them on course, buck lazed in the passenger seat, his Sunglasses blocking the midmorning sun from his eyes. Feeling a hoof smack against his side, he heard Smitty trying to get his attention.
“Buck! Buck!”

“What’s that, boss?”

Smitty pressed his hoof against the breaks, grinding the Autowagon to a halt. Raising his hoof, he pointed it up at the Billboard that towered high above them. The advertisement was the one they knew so well.

Buck, who had finally glanced upwards at his partners urging, burst into laughter.

It was the same advertisement that the billboard outside their shop displayed.

It featured Princess Celestia in the same baby blue, Sea pony decorated shirt that Smitty now wore. Pink sunglasses rested upon her head as her tiara tilted dangerously to the side. She looked absolutely shitfaced drunk as she floated a martini over her. Her hoof was hooked around an uncomfortable looking Twilight Sparkle, who simply sat beside her at the bar with a glass of water. In unison, the pair read the caption.

“Roll the dice…”

Smitty hit the gas, tearing northward along the road.

“…IN CELESTIA’S PARADISE!”

They raised their hooves and clapped them together in a hooffive.Engine roaring, they shot into the distance.

Their Vacation had just begun.

***

"....reports of blasts all across Equestria..."

Fffsshhzzzzzz.

"...erlot in a state of chaos. Pink cloud causing massi..."

Fssshhssszzzzz.

"C'mon you piece of shit..."

The earth pony fiddled with the dial of his Autowagon's radio, searching for a new signal. Channel after channel he searched, each blasting the scratchy fuzz of static back at him. Occasionally he would find a few moments of news but the radiation in the air was making it difficult for radio waves to transmit.

"...fffffsshhzzsss-unknown whether the ministry marfffsshhhzzzz..."

"-abletec offfffsssshhzzzz urge you to make your way to your specified Stable IMMEDIETLYFFFFSSSHHZzzzzzzshhsss..."

With an angry growl, the Pony in the front seat flipped the radio off.

"It's the same thing on every channel anyway..." The Yellow Stallion mumbled.

Mr. Ford wanted to believe he had been lucky, that he had escaped the devastation of the Mega spells. Unfortunately, a quick glance into his rear view mirror told him otherwise. Yellowing eyes looked back at a sunken face, making it appear that he hadn't slept for weeks. His flattop mane was unkempt and when he ran a hoof through it in an attempt to straighten it out, he just pulled more out more bloody chunks of white hair.

"You don't look good, buddy." he mumbled into the mirror. Looking down from the mirror, he squinted his eyes at the rapidly approaching town. On his left, a small garage and convenience store was growing in his vision. "Might as well make a pit stop and clean myself up."

After all, he didn't want to look his worst during the end of times.

Pulling his Autowagon off the road, he skidded to a halt outside of the Store. He left it idling as he stepped out into the parking lot. The yellow earth pony only made it a few steps towards the station before another coughing fit hit him. Loud, horrific coughs forced their way from his lungs, causing him to shudder in pain and almost. Reaching for his Autowagon, he placed a shaky hoof on the hood for support.

The fit soon passed, leaving him wheezing in shaking breathes of irradiated air. Slowly he removed his hoof from the Autowagon, regained his balance and continued into the store. With only one thing on his mind, he pressed onward.

"I hope the mega spells didn't knock out the plumbing..."

The lights were dead inside of the building, leaving him to stumble through the semi darkness in search of the restrooms. Speakers that were installed in the ceiling droned the low crackle of static all around him. Occasionally a burst of news would come through, but whoever was broadcasting sounded weaker and weaker with each passing report.

Spotting the restrooms near the back of the store, he felt the first smile he could muster in over a day hours grace his expression. With Renewed vigor he made for the door. As he made for the door, one weak hoof step at a time, something caught his eye. It was a single pony who sat in the darkness of the store, still manning his register.

He was slumped over the counter, cheek pressed against the hardtop surface and blood pooling from his mouth. Though he may have been alive, he certainly didn't look it. He was covered head to hoof in horrific radiation burns and most of his mane had already fallen out, leaving piles of hair surrounding him and the register. Unable to move aside from his yellowing eyes, he just sat there watching Mr. Ford in the darkness as he wheezed weak and painful sounding breathes.

"Do you, uhh..." He raised a hoof, pointing it at the bathrooms. "Are these open to the public?"

The pony at the counter just watched him, unable to answer. Mr. Ford took that as a yes and barged into the restroom.

***

He was getting worse.

Another coughing fit hit Mr. Ford as he occupied the bathroom stall, leaving him shaken and out of breathe. Bucking the door open, he stumbled over to the sink on unsure hooves. As soon as he reached it, he bent his head down over the porcelain bowl and retched. Bloody bile welled up from his throat, splattering the clean sink and staining it a dark red color.

He looked at it and groaned in despair. Raising his head, he stared at the mangled Pony in the mirror. Tired eyes, thinning hair and a bloodstained chin peered back at him. Reaching out, he flipped the handle of the sink and let the water fill the shallow bowl.

Any hope of surviving this catastrophe left him as he watched his blood swirl down the drain of the bathroom sink.

***

A few minutes later he emerged from the bathroom on weak legs. He had cleaned his chin of blood and used the water from the sink to fix his mane to the best of his abilities. He didn’t look much better, but by Mr. Fords logic it was better to die looking presentable than mangled. Turning away from the restroom, he began to make his way back through the store, gunning for one thing he knew would help him: the Sparkle Cola machine near the front.

Reaching for his change purse full of bits, he slid a coin into the machine. As his eyes scanned the selection of drinks, something caught his eye.“Sparkle Cola RAD?” he frowned, disgusted by the product. “What kind of sick joke is this?”

His hoof sliding up the buttons, he made his selection. A clear bottle of soda dropped into the slot at the bottom, which he took tenderly. Before turning back to the shop, Mr. Ford raised his voice to the dying pony in back.

“Hey buddy; you want me to get you something?”
No response.

He bought him a drink anyway.

Sparkle Colas in his teeth, he slowly meandered back through the store. He set the glass bottles on the counter beside his kindred irradiated spirit before turning away and making his way to a shelf that held various plastic utensils. He plucked a straw from the rack and moved back to the Pony.

He cracked his drink open and took a sip, simply watching the pony who could do nothing but stare back with pained eyes. Satisfied for now, he set his drink aside and cracked open the second bottle. He dropped the straw into it and held it out to his new friend.

“One more for the road?” he asked.

Mr. Ford could swear he saw the mouth of the pony twist into the faintest of smiles before he closed his lips around the straw and took a tiny drink.

***

Mr. Ford emerged from the store a few minutes later, clutching a bit of paper and a worn down charcoal pencil in his mouth. All around him, the San Palomino was beginning to darken. Thick, ominous clouds rolled across the sky at an unnatural speed. In a few hours, the entire sky would be covered, preventing anything but the smallest ray of sunshine from coming through.

"Yeah, fuck you too…” he mumbled with eyes on the clouds.

A twisting pain in Mr. Fords chest snapped him back into it. He made his way over to the garage door of the store and dug a hoof under the crack. Slowly, he raised the door, groaning and coughing from the exertion. Soon it was wide open, revealing the garage inside. It was filled with neatly stacked boxes of merchandise, which Mr. Ford began to slide out of the way and against the walls of the building. Eventually he decided there was enough room to work with and turned to make his way back to his Autowagon.

He made it a few steps before his front legs gave out. He toppled forward, chest first as he hit the ground with a solid thud of pony on hard packed dirt. For a moment, he just keeled there, breathing ragged breathes as blood dribbled from his chin. He even considered staying there and just dying in the road.

“Nooo…” he moaned, mustering enough strength to pull himself to his hooves. “No, I won’t let it happened. C’mon Ford, get up.”

On shaky legs, he stood up. One slow step at a time, he closed in on his Autowagon. He eventually made it back to the driver’s seat and with some effort, buckled himself into the harness.

“C’mon… you said you’de outlive the end of times.” He eased his hoof onto the gas, rolling the machine towards the garage. “Let’s prove we still got some good in us…”

***

He wasn’t sure how long he had blacked out for, but when he came to his Autowagon had collided with the back of the garage, forming a large crack where it made impact. Reaching a hoof to his temple, he rubbed it tenderly as he reached around with his other hoof to shut the Autowagon down.

His car safely stored away, he reached over to the passenger’s seat where the paper and pencil were waiting. It was time to make his mark.

Pressing the scrap flat against the dashboard of his vehicle and taking the charcoal pencil in his teeth, he began to hastily scribble a message before he blacked out for good.

For all I know, no one may ever read this. Maybe we’ve killed ourselves off completely and there will be no more future generations or maybe this letter will just go unnoticed and rot away before anyone can ever read it.Regardless, someone needs to say this. So here I go.

For years now, I’ve watched everypony I know lose themselves in this twisted fucking war. We've gathered around radios as we listened to casualty statistics. We've pumped bit after bit in new technology meant to help us kill our enemies.
We built massive underground bunkers in the event we blew ourselves up! Isn't that sad? We actually spent our time and effort building those damn stables instead of focusing on how to end the war! And do you want to know the worst part about this mess?

We have forgotten about the good things in life. We became so wrapped up in the violence we no longer gave a flying feather about anything unless it was designed to save our lives or end another. I had hoped creating these machines would distract us from the war. I had hoped my creation would give us something to love again. The keyword is hoped.

So you know what? This is now my gift to you, whoever you may be. Find this machine and fix it up. Take it for a spin around the block or on a grand adventure! I don't care! As long as you aren't spending your time and energy harming another living soul, I'll be satisfied.

Because Celestia knows we've lost too many of those already.

-Mr. Ford.

Satisfied by his hasty message to the future, Mr. Ford gently folded the paper into a square. Reaching over, he clicked open the glove box and folded it into the road map. Maybe someone would find it. Maybe no one would! He didn't care. What mattered to Mr. Ford was the fact he spent his final years wisely. And maybe, just maybe, the future generations could learn something from his creation.

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Comments ( 5 )

*Music* I welcome you the FoE community I hope that you have fun! We do lot of cool stuff that always ends in fun! I bet that you like it, and I wish you the best! Good luck with your story and try to ignore the pests! Yeah! *explodes*

Oh my, you are a very good author. This is a very great story.

Have my like.

There's a compilation document here where you can add your story and talk to other authors and editors in the FoE community. Hope to see you there, this story's really good! :twilightsmile:

Ooh me gusta. Looking forward to Chapter 2! :rainbowkiss:

Looking very good. Buck and Smitty make a quite nice comedy pair. Also, the setting was good, very believable to me. Keep it up!

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