• Published 5th Nov 2011
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Fallout Equestria: Heroes - No One

A Fallout Equestria Sidefiction. A lonely guard, inspired by Littlepip, goes to save her brother.

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Chapter 22: Are We There Yet?

Are We There Yet?

"These people, they're like ghosts, always hiding in the shadows, always hiding behind lies and proxies."

Dawn broke over the horizon, bathing the land and sky in a beautiful wash of oranges, yellows, and reds. It also stung my bloodshot eyes and reminded me that it had been a long time since I got any sleep. Even Med-X could not stop my eyes from burning. Serenity, however got a lot of sleep last night and the day before, so she was ready for the day. And loud.

“So I thought you were a goner f'sure, what with tha blast an’ everything!” She gleefully retold the events of the night before. “But I had'a believe you'd be okay, so I whipped out my pistol and BANG!” My ears twitched and I did my best not to wince. “'Cept it bounced right off his mask! Can ya believe it?! My magic zebra pistol! Well I was determined ta defend ya, so know what I did?”

“What, sweetie?”

“Kept shootin!” I never would have guessed. Her story didn't make walking much easier, as she had to stop every few seconds to pose dramatically, or act out a scene. “See, I had this brilliant plan. Whenever my bullet hit her visor, it sparked, so I kept sparkin' at the visor, givin' ya plenty a time to-”

“I was there, if you remember.”

“Ya were hardly payin' attention to the finer details 'cause ya were busy stompin' ponies flat.” Well, it was one of the few things I was good at. “So you're lucky I was there ta help ya. I'm an awesome distraction. Oh, I had an idea. What if I got a-”

“Whatever you are about to ask, no.”

“What bu-”

“You're not allowed to get cybernetics.”

“I wasn't even gunna ask...” Her voice trailed off, and she pouted. “How'd ya know I was gunna ask?”

“Because you always ask.” I smiled weakly. “Then I say no. You pout. Then we do the same thing again the next day.” She blinked at me.

“Same time tomorrow then?” she said with absolute sincerity. I nodded, and she gave me a smile before hopping onto my back. “'Cept it's early an' I'm gonna want to be sleepin' now, so maybe we can postpone it.” Yeah, I thought that was a great idea. Morning, as a rule, sucked. Especially mornings where you have been fighting and walking all night.

In the distance I could see the mountain, getting closer and closer. Even though we were far away, it still looked like a huge blot on the horizon, and it made me shiver to look at. As if the memories of that horrid place weren't bad enough, it reminded me of the memories I had to relive in there. Things that... I closed my eyes and thought of something else. Anything else.

I forcibly shifted my thoughts to the task at hand. Between us and Dise were dozens of Steel Rangers who could at least passively track me down. They were armed to the teeth wish high-tech ballistic and explosive weaponry, and were currently being commanded by a mare who made Nightmare Moon look like a paragon of mercy. As usual, my choices were dim, my hope little, and the chance of success high.

The best chance I had was to take the long way and try to circle around the mountain, but that would take an extra couple days, and I was uncertain that I'd enough Med-X to last me that long. My Pipbuck map only marked towns I'd been too, and there was nothing nearby (the closest was Snake Head but that was days east). Of course that was not even counting our food and water supply which was also not doing the best.

It'd be easy enough to find a small stream, but it'd be irradiated and I didn't have any Radaway. Still, that would be better than nothing. If I ran out of food, I could go hunting, it wasn't like the wasteland lacked wildlife (mostly mutated, but still). However, I was not sure Serenity would eat meat if offered. So that was not a very good option.

Our best hope was that Mr. House was tractable when Flare went to ask for help. That is if Flare hadn’t decided to ditch us for High Stakes, but I tried not to even think of that option. He really should know better than that, but love makes you do strange things. If it was indeed love, it's hard to tell.

I sat down on the road (causing Serenity to slide off) and rubbed my eyes. So tired. If I could have gotten away with it, I would have slept there forever. Or at least for a day. Nightmares be damned.

“You okay, Momma?”


“Don't think we should jus' sit here though.” She looked around warily. “Too open. Don't look like much nearby.” Rocky brown hills to the east and west, Bridle Hope behind us, and the mountain in front. Wait. I looked to the east again. There was an amber blip in my augmented vision. It faded, then came back. The blip did this a few more times, travelling north to south before disappearing.

“Hey. Hey, Momma!” Serenity waved her hoovsies. “Are you lookin' at your HUD? Innit cool? Can I get one? What do you see?”

“Yes, yes, no, something.” I got back to my hooves and walked towards where the blip had vanished. It was worth a try at least, and with Subtlety on my back I could destroy it if it was a hostile. Not that I figured it would be hostile, because my magical vision told me it wasn't. That sounds logical right? When has technology ever failed me...

Despite the obvious flaws in that argument, I kept walking. It was easy enough to walk up the shallow incline of the closest hill, and on its crest I could see that it was steeper down the other side. Between the hills, I could see a figure a good distance away walking south. My EFS read her as a friendly, but with my eyepatch on I couldn't read any additional information about her.

“HEY PONY!” Serenity yelled from beside me. “HEY! HEY!” The pony stopped and turned to us. She looked familiar. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? HEY! WHERE YOU GOING? WE NEED HELP!”

The pony waved and started walking towards us. Oh, wait.

“Pearly?” I said when she was close enough to hear.

The white mare smiled sweetly at me. “Now there is a sight for sore eyes.” To my surprise, and embarrassment, she nuzzled my cheek. “Saw ya back in town, and I thought, wouldn't it be nice if ah lent ya a helping hoof.” She smiled down at Serenity who seemed displeased about something.

“Town? Bridle Hope?” She nodded at my question. “Why were you there?”

“Well it weren't like I could escape. When them raiders took the Casino, they gave a lot of us the chance to surrender, ya see. Now we lost and I didn't like dyin' so...” Yeah, I understood. “They made us help build the wall, and then gave us the option to leave. But, for many ponies.... It’s their home, you know? Lived there forever and didn't want to leave, so most stayed. Some what got evacuated even came back. Not me though, I was plannin' on leaving once I got my stuff together.”

“And then we came back?”

“Yup! Heard bout it right after that fight from some mutterin' guards. So I took to hoof to find you. Figured you'd take the south road.” What else could I take? “If you're heading to Dise, you should join a trade caravan. Strength in numbers, and smart ponies won't attack them what are protected by the NCA.”

Oh, well that did make a lot of sense then, travel south and pray. Now that I thought about it, too, wasn't there an NCA base nearby? I remembered hearing something about that sometime. It was... I could not recall. Somewhere.

“Where is it?” Serenity asked the smart question, though she was still giving Pearly a weird look.

“This way, ah'll lead the way.” At that, she trotted off north-eastish, over a hill. Serenity motioned for me to wait and hopped on my back when she was a good distance away.

“Who's she?” It was right about then I realized I was an idiot. For some reason I just expected Serenity to know her, but each time I had met Pearly, Serenity was unavailable. So of course she would be suspicious of some random mare I found on the road and started nuzzling. This was the sort of thing I should have thought of before making a fool of myself.

“She's a friend, from Bridle Hope.”

“She sounds familiar.” There was a haunted look in her eyes.


“I...” her voice trailed off and she seemed to be staring into something in the distance. “Okay, right. Friends. Let’s go.” I tried to ask if she was alright but she cut me off. “I'm fine! Really! Just... c'mon...” Reluctantly, I looked away from her to see Pearly waiting a good distance away looking at us oddly.

“Okay...” I said to Serenity before following after Pearly.


We found the NCA Camp around noon. By then, I was completely exhausted, to the point that I fell asleep multiple times while trying to walk. Which is not nearly as difficult as it should have been. Pearly gave me a Sparkle Cola, and that was supposed to help. It almost sort of worked, as I didn't fall asleep, but I certainly did not feel less exhausted. I might have felt worse actually.

The camp itself seemed to be a small outpost on top of a rather large hill that was so steep on one side it might as well have been a cliff. We had to take a long way around the hill to reach the stairs that led to the series of tents that formed the camp. I noticed that at the foot of the hill there was a small building and a few carts of goods. Made more sense than dragging them up the hill, I supposed.

The top of the hill had the camp surrounded by ditches, dikes, and what looked like spiky walls pointing outward. I also may have been mistaken, but it seemed like the wooden staircase had a series of plastic tubes attached to it with a strange liquid inside. If I had to guess, I'd imagine something flammable. Clearly this place was very well defended. Which was pretty self-evident given what I just described. I'm an idiot sometimes.

Two guards stopped us at the main gate. I didn't get a good look at them, as I was busy wobbling from side to side trying not to fall asleep. I did notice they talked with Pearly for a few minutes and there was an exchange of caps. I would need to pay her back for that. Near the end, my weary mind picked up the words. “Place to sleep...” from Pearly.

The guard pointed into the camp mumbling something I couldn't be assed to listen to. When Pearly motioned for me to follow I did.

“Darling, we need to get you to bed. When was the last time you slept?”

“Uh.” I tripped over a rock. I thought I heard a pony snicker near me. “It was... I was supposed to. At the town... but...” I blinked. “Before that. In a mountain... for a few... before that...” I only really slept for maybe an hour or two on the trolley, and I was pretty sure the psychic dreams didn't actually count as restful.

“Long time.” I nearly jumped when Serenity spoke. She was still lounging on my back, but she had been very quiet, so I’d almost forgot about her. “When we headin' out?”

“Tomorrow, just before noon; they're waiting for a general from an outpost in the east.” Why, exactly? “You should rest until then, you look beat up.”

“The face right? Scars. I'm ugly now. I mean. Always been ugly. Much uglier.” It was hard to talk when tired. My tongue kept moving before my brain could catch up.

“Ain't that bad.” She was lying. If that wasn't clear. “They make you look badass.” I was badass before. That's all I was, and now I was ugly and badass. The worst kind. “Considering you got shotgunned in the face, you're a picture of health.” I wish she didn't remind me of that. It sucked.

“Yeah. Lucky me.” It was just my luck my best friend’s buckfriend betrayed me. And I was also lucky enough to be put through psychological hell inside an ancient pre-war facility where everything that moved wanted to zap me to death. I was the luckiest motherfucking pony ever.

“Well, maybe not lucky but... hon, don't look so glum. You have your health, and your-”


Yes, I did still have Subtlety. Wait. I lifted my head up and looked around. Who said that last part?

“HIRED GUN!” The gravelly voice yelled again. I kept turning around, looking for the voice, until I was face to face with—

Zombie! I almost screamed that out loud in my exhaustion. Instead I caught my voice, looked the ghoul in his milky white eyes, and said, “Major Lucky?”

The ghoul gave a gross grin and nodded. “It has been a while Hired. Too long. I see you're doing...” he looked at my face, my eyepatch, and half missing ear. “Well, you're alive.” He paused. “We need to talk.”

“What are you even doing here! You were in Dise. Before. Right?”

He just turned away. “Please escort Miss Gun to my tent.” Two guards flanked me. So much for sleeping. “And only Miss Gun... well, and her foal. You can try to take the filly away from her if you wish, but I doubt you'd survive.” Damn right. Even half asleep and sore from a thousand wounds I'd kill anypony who tried to hurt her. Or touch her. Or anything.

“Wait, hon.” Pearly said, but a shoulder shoved her roughly away. “Hey now, that ain't how ya treat a pony. I'll meet you outside his tent Hired! Don't fall asleep.”

Yeah, that was going to happen. The lovely and talkative guards led me silently through the outpost to a rather sturdy looking tent underneath a small watch tower. Inside was a small desk, a foldout bed, and other assorted stuff... I'll be honest I was only really looking at the bed. It looked so comfy.

Focus. Just. Focus. I sat across from the desk with the guards still flanking me. I hated them.

A few minutes later, the ghoul officer strolled through the entrance and took a seat across the desk from me. This seemed to happen a lot right before I was lectured at. I can't imagine why. “Hired.” He shuffled through some pieces of paper not looking me in the eye. “I have received a report...” his voice trailed off and he got the piece of paper he was looking for. “That you are currently a Hizai.”

“Uh. Yes.” I scratched idly at the scars on my face.

“An elite cybernetic warrior, assassin, and spy charged with advancing Mr. House’s interests in Dise, Caledonia, and beyond?” I nodded. “One of the elite...” he shuffled the papers. “Well the numbers are changing, but there are anywhere from thirty to sixty, and you are one.” I nodded. “Really?” I nodded harder. “Don't li-”

“Yes! I'm a fucking Hizai!”

“Just making sure.” He set the papers down. “You can understand my... suspicion. You are not exactly known for your tact.” His face contorted to what must have been a smile. “Why, exactly, did Mr. House hire you?”

“It's classified.”

“Right. I need a favour to ask o-”

“Two hundred caps.” I leaned over the desk with a grin.

“Oh, I was going to offer you three hundred.” Oh come on! “Just kidding. I'll pay you one hundred and fifty.”

“Two hundred and twenty five.” I put my metal hoof on the desk. It was actually more to keep me from falling over and going to sleep than to intimidate.

“You know, ponies don't usually don't go up from the starting price.” He seemed only mildly amused.

“Normally. But you need me. You made it clear you need a Hizai. We tend to be difficult to find.” I gave a smile. “So how about two-fifty.”

“Two hundred.” He slid a envelop over. “I need you to deliver this to Mr. House. Not to his assistant, or his friend, or on his desk, to him directly. Don't open it; it is for his eyes only. Yes I am sure you will anyway, but you won't understand it so there is no point.” Now I felt like a spy. That was pretty cool.

“Okay...” I slipped the envelope into one of my collar pockets. “If I can ask, why are you here?”

The ghoul tapped his rotten hoof on the table and gave a sickly smile. “I don't believe that was part of the trade.” Ugh. I was too tired for this shit. “But I'll tell you. I'm here because of you.” Well, wasn't I important. “You did the NCA a great service.” He continued not to make sense as he rose and started to walk around his desk. “Did you know that since Timber burned and Bridle Hope was taken over three new towns have joined with the NCA? That was in a matter of days. Days. In a few weeks who knows how much larger we will have grown.” What? I didn't understand.

“Why Timber? You didn't control Timber. You were kicked ou-” Wait. Something hit me.

“Yes, you forced me out. After you helped me kill the last of the fighting ponies. Do you remember?” I nodded dumbly as he continued towards me. “It was all over the news, and wouldn't you know it, a few weeks later it burns. Which wouldn't have happened if we were there. It got ponies thinking.”

“Really.” I looked away from him. “You expect me to believe that. You planned this? Really? That's a bit contul... convulated.”

“Convoluted.” I hated when ponies corrected me. “And yes, it would be. It was one of many contingencies I worked out, and it just happened to be the option that stuck. Why have one plan when you can have a dozen going all at the same time?” I guess that made sense. If you were a smart pony. I could barely hold down one plan at a time (and my current one was a doozy) so I could only nod.

“Congratulations. I totally care. So you're here to... supervise the change in management?” Serenity snickered on my back, but then went back to being completely silent.

“Supervise the new supply lines needed for our new territories. Such as this camp. A well defended outpost for trading caravans. The route completely ignores Timber, and Bridle Hope too.” He must have noticed me start to doze off because he shouted. “Attention! Listen up. You are suppose to be an agent of Mr. House, now don't you think he might find this information crucial.” I blinked at him.


“You are useless.” He just shook his head. “Go, I need you no longer. Make sure to deliver that letter.” Right, I think I was missing something important about the nature of our conversation. Not that it mattered if it was that far above my head, so I just turned around to the tent's exit. “We're leaving tomorrow just before noon. Be ready.” He called out at me.

I turned my head back around. This conversation was annoying. I just wanted to sleep. “We?”

“To Dise. The NCA Chairpony is giving a speech, and I'm going.”

“Right.” I walked out through the tent flap, imagining all the ways that this could go horribly wrong. On the top of my list was a random Balefire Explosion.

Thankfully, right outside, I saw Pearly waiting. “Pearly.” I walked up to her. “Don't take this the wrong way. But take me to bed.”


Soldiers in green stood in a line overlooking their enemy's encampment. They had been making steady progress, and it was nearing time to put the war to an end. For each pony that stood ready to bring the battle to an end, five more had fallen in the line of duty; good ponies who only wanted to return home when the battle had run its course. For their sake the green soldiers were prepared to put everything on line in the final assault. A battle which would change the course of pony history.

There was a whistle. Panicked ponies looked upwards, but they were too slow. The cap slammed into their line sending ponies flying.

“No fair... ” Foundation was, like any filly, really good at whining. She looked from her line of toy ponies to where I sat on the bed. She had managed to take over much of our little house, winning her bed, much of the floor, and the table, and forcing me back to a small semi-circle around my bed. It was a delicate game of war that I always seemed to lose. “It was my turn,” she continued. “You can't attack on my turn.”

“Sweetie, you're the one who said bottle caps could be used at any time.” Wildfire stood by the door and was forced to play referee in our little game. It was possible that I always lost because Foundation was allowed to make up new (and entirely inconsistent rules) on the fly, while I got to deal with it. Not that I was complaining, I was perfectly content to let her win.

“I meant I get to. Momma can't.” The red mare raised an eyebrow at her daughter. “‘Cause she gets to set up a new soldier every turn, an' I can only every other turn. It's only fair.” While they argued I just smiled and leaned back on the bed.

“Oh... I see.” Wildfire looked at me and I gave her a curt nod. She could have this little victory. It was going to be lunch soon anyway, so we had to quicken our pace. “Okay, next time. But this one still counts.” The filly gave a little pout and reluctantly nodded.

“Take this momma!” She bent down and grabbed a bullet casing in her mouth and tossed it at my army. It slammed right through the centre of my soldiers knocking at least five of them down. “Hah! Now it explodes.” As she made an explosion sound, I good naturally reached over and knocked over a few more of my surrounding ponies. She gave an approving nod as she scooped up a few nearby toys, jumped off the table, and inched them closer. Once they reached my bed the war was over.

It really was a stroke of luck we even managed to get these army ponies. One of the infrequent trade caravans came down a little over a month ago boasting about its supply. Wildfire had jokingly asked if he had any foal toys but didn't really expect any. Yet as soon as she said that the merchant had a tub of army ponies ready to be paid for. Toys were hard enough to find in the wasteland, so we hurriedly picked them up, along with a small thing of paint so we would have two armies instead of one. They may have been colt toys, but Foundation was more than happy to play at war.

When it was my turn again I flicked a broken pencil at her line, but I hit it too hard. It flew above the closest ponies and hit uselessly against the floor. Foundation took this as a sign of her victory and declared, “Since you missed, I get to shoot twice.” Of course she did. Her first shot destroyed all but a single pony on my bed, and she just beamed up at me. “I'm going to beat you, now.”

“Oh?” with a deft hoof I snatched the remaining pony. “It's time for a tactical retreat.” Wildfire snickered as I placed the pony behind me on the bed.

“Hey!” she leaned to the side trying to look around me to see the toy. “No fair, you're in the way.”

“I am? Really. Whatever will you do? I guess it's a draw then.” The filly narrowed her ruby eyes and pushed her mane out of her face. “Or not?”

“I got this.” She grabbed a half-broken soldier toy that was serving artillery duty and tossed it up into the air. As it started to fall she turned around and bucked. Her hoof connected sharply and sent the shell over my head. I followed it in awe as it bounced off the ceiling, into a wall, and finally hit the pony behind my back knocking it over. “Heh.” She smirked. “That was awesome.”

“Huh...” I traced the trajectory with my eyes and looked back at my filly in amazement. “How did you do that?”

“It's a secret!” she blurted out. “An earth pony secret!”

“Sweetie.” Wildfire trotted over to her, careful to avoid stepping on any toys, and kissed the top of her head. “We're all earth ponies.”

“Oh...” She looked up at me again. “I don't know. Just did. It's like. In my brain I knew it'd work!” She smiled. “Momma used to say it was earth pony magic... oh... I mean.” She flushed and looked down at the floor, her long mane falling over her face. “Not you Momma, or Mommy.” I was Momma, and Wildfire was Mommy. “Old Momma. She used to say that...” her voice trailed off as she dug at the floor with a hoof.

It always happened like this. When we first took her in she was constantly shy around us, and refused to let other ponies even look at her. Over time we got it so she was able to be more open with us, and was able to actually talk to other ponies. She didn't like talking to other ponies, and was really shy around them but it was improvement. Once anypony mentioned her old life though, she would just get really sad and revert to how she was before, if only for a little bit.

We had tried to get her to talk to us about what happened, but she just couldn't. It wasn't that she didn't want to, but every time she started to describe the day when her village was attacked she would just start crying, and no amount of comforting would make her feel better. After a while we decided to wait until she was older, but it just hurt to see her like that. Wildfire suggested seeing if we could find a psychologist outside of Marefort, but neither of us had the faintest idea where to look for one. We did ask a few of the merchants who came by, but they were entirely unhelpful.

“Foundation...” I said softly, reaching out for her. “Are you okay?”

The filly didn't react as I stroked her mane.

“Foundation.” Wildfire looked down in confusion. Usually when she got like this she would either flinch away or hug us and cry. “Are you okay?” She brushed the filly's mane out of her face. “Foundation!” she screeched.

Our daughter’s face was cold and blue, and her eyes bloodshot. With a gasp I rushed over to her, cradling her in my forelegs. “No! You're going to be... to be...” her breaths were short and shallow, and for a second I thought she was trying to whisper something to me. “Please you have to be... you can't.” Tears stung my eyes. Even in my blurry vision I could see the length of rope tied tightly around her neck.


My eye opened. The tent was bright with morning light, and it reminded me how long I'd slept, and how much I hated sleeping. With a groan, I pulled my pipbuck out from under me to check the time. Before noon at least, that was good. Looking away from the device and back around the tent I noticed, it was empty save for me. Pearly must have went to get Serenity breakfast... I knew this, but after the dream it twisted my gut into a knot.

I took a deep breath. Just needed to relax. To that end, I turned on my radio, but instead of turning it to New Haygas I flipped over to the Hizai special channel. Hopefully Flare was at Dise by now and told House that we needed help, so I listened to the channel to see if my orders had been updated. I was still fairly sure House was going to be pissed about everything that happened, but hopefully my information would prove useful.

The channel did more than just inform me: the gibberish of codes that I didn't understand also gave me a good chuckle and helped calm my nerves. Once the effects of the Nightmare were over, I had to admit I felt good. It had been so long since I got a proper sleep, and so long since I could just relax, I almost forgot what it felt like. Hopefully this was going to be trend, but I didn't count on it.

Star-Mare exodus Wishing Star.” The word spoke into my implanted ear bud so quietly I almost missed them. Once I realized what was said I quickly flipped through my list of key words. 'exodus' roughly meant, 'will be assisted by agent'. So I guess whoever was designated 'Wishing Star' was going to come to my aid to help me get to Dise.

Just Wishing Star. Flare must have gotten to House if my orders had been changed, but I wasn't confident he understood the gravity of the situation. The Steel Rangers were ready to tear me apart limb from limb, and they had a way to track me. How as a single pony supposed to be able to assist me? I wouldn't turn down the help, especially not now that a NCA caravan might be caught in the crossfire, but I'd hoped for something a bit more substantial. Maybe House was annoyed at my incompetence and wasn't really trying to help me. If that was the case, I was lucky I got a single pony to help, so I guess beggars can't be choosers.

At that point, I'd been laying in bed so long I was sure I was going to get bedsores, so I rolled off the cot and trudged over to my equipment. Subtlety was as beautiful as ever, and it was a joy to help her onto my back once more. It was less of a joy when I realized I had set her up on my right side (again), and the eyepatch on that side made it impossible for me to, you know aim. So I had to take her off and put her back on correctly. Part of me wanted to just give up and take the eyepatch off, but when I did, I thought of Post Haste burning, and decided it should stay on, if only to remind me which paths not to go down.

“... is how I got my cutiemark.” When I heard Pearly's voice I realized I didn't have much time, so I took out a Med-X, injected it, and put the empty vial back in my bag. A few seconds later she appeared through the tent flap with Serenity following along beside. After what happened the day before I was worried she and Pearly wouldn't get along, but I guess I was mistaken.

“I didn't even know apples could explode!” Wait, what? “Hey Momma!” She smiled and trotted over to me. “I changed my mind, Pearly is pretty awesome!”

I looked over to the white unicorn. “Well,” she looked abashed, “she heard my voice when she was with her.” Yes, Nanny Jane. No other pony I killed deserved it more. “So she thought I was working with her, when I explained I tried to barge downstairs to see what she was hidin' an was turned 'way, she changed her mind.” That made a lot of sense. “I just... wish I could'a gotten Serenity out of there. I thought she was doing something, but if I had known it was that bad...”

“You couldn't have known...” I shook my head and looked over to Serenity. Her smile had faded at the talk, but she didn't seem too distraught. I was really going to need to take that filly into therapy. Maybe the Watchers had a program I could use.

“Yeah. It’s fine Pearls.” Serenity smiled. “Anyway, now that Momma is finally awake, we should get ready. The loud ghoul been sayin' we need'a pack up.”

“Right. Have you seen Flare?” My filly shook her head as she went over to her side of the tent. “Damn.” I’d hoped he had started to make his way back... of course he had no idea where we were so even if he did, he wouldn't be able to find us. Hopefully he wasn't flying around Caledonia looking for us. He was probably smart though and just waiting by Dise. So long as the message got through everything was good. Well, as good as it ever got.

With a sigh (I sighed way to much) I turned back around to Pearly... to find her extremely close. “Uh.” She nuzzled at the un-scarred side of my face. “W-what are you doing?” Why did it seem so many mares delighted in seeing me blush?

“You know, hon, it is a shame you slept for so long. I had plans for what we could do to pass the time. And what plans they were.” I tried my best to not focus on the sultry tone in her voice as I looked over to make sure Serenity was not paying attention.

“Why?” I pulled my head back. After the dream I was in a decidedly un-sexy mood. “I'm not pretty. Never was. Look worse now.” The mare carefully brushed her hoof across my scars making my mouth twitch.

“Well.” She seemed to be looking past me. “It was never your face I was interested in.” She grew a sly smile as she looked at something past my face. “I swear that thing is a lethal weapon.”

“What are yo-” I cut myself off when I realized what exactly she was staring at. “Oh... uh.” And I blushed harder.

With a cunning smile she pulled away from me. “Sorry, hon, it's just seeing a big mare like you blush like a school filly. It's adorable.” I had been called many things, but adorable was not one of them. That might have had something to do with the fact I was a giant freak of nature, rippling with muscles, thick of body and thick of head. In essence, if you took everything cute, and flipped it, you would get me.

Some ponies just had weird tastes.

“Stop hittin' on my momma,” Serenity said super seriously as she walked over to us.

“I was flirtin' with her, not hittin' on her.”

“What?” She tilted her head. “What's the diff’rence.”

“Semantics.” She gave a grin before trotting over to gather her supplies. “Let’s go. That ghoul you were talking to yesterday was giving me the stink eye, so I think he wants to see you.” Lovely, another chat with Lucky, just what I wanted. “I say we avoid him. He's hardly a pleasant stallion to be around.” She wrinkled her nose.

“I'm not sure I can.” Because when I spoke to him I had the unfortunate responsibility of talking to him as a representative of the Hizai, the same way he spoke to me with the authority of the NCA. Like it or not, my position gave me a sort of authority and obligation that I couldn't pass up just because he was unpleasant. “Sorry.”

“It's fine, hon, ah get it. You've got to do your duty.” She chuckled. “Ah still find it hard to believe you're working for a pony like Mr. House. I've only been to Dise a handful'a times in my life, but even ah can tell that House there is a big name, an' only works with the best... not that you're bad, hon, just...”

I was about to tell her not to worry about it when Serenity chirped in. “Actually! She got hired 'cause she had really noticeable cybernetics, and on her own she was givin' House a bad rap, an he wanted to curtail that.” She grinned, apparently quite pleased with herself.

“Thanks, Serenity.” I deadpanned as Pearly nickered. It wasn't like I was that bad before meeting House, I did manage to assassinate one of the top gang leaders in the city without anypony catching me, and even the ones who suspected it was me didn't know why I did it. Sure, it may not have been the cleanest kill, but I got the job done.

Of course, jobs like that were just going to get more and more difficult. I was able to get to Roy because he didn't know who I was, and didn't suspect that Lucky had hired me to kill him before hand. So when I set up the cards in order to get him to fall without breaking any of my contracts, and without implicating me in the crime (Molly was still the prime suspect for obvious reasons), he didn't stand a chance. Now, however, I was known by nearly every major gang leader at least in passing, and I wouldn't be able to hide my affiliation. Which meant jobs like that would have to be played without getting directly involved.

Still, killing Roy was my proudest moment. Not the actual killing (as epic as it was) but getting no less than three gang leaders to do what I wanted in order to facilitate the killing. Sure there was some ambiguity over what Mayhem knew, and Molly had gone behind my back, but it was still a fairly effective operation. Of course, none of that was news, but damn it made me smile to think about. If only I could achieve a similar effectiveness with my current gambit.

If I could actually get the different groups I helped to fight the Steel Rangers, and waste all their resources against each other to maintain the delicate equilibrium (Serenity taught me that word!) that kept Dise stable, then I was pretty sure that elevated me to Dise power player. Some ponies liked to compare politics to poker. They say it's about keeping your hand hidden, bluffing, and knowing when to fold. That was close, but not quite, because in Poker you can see all the players at the table, and who would suspect the dumb muscle actually had her own plans?

“Are you coming, hon?”

I, er, what? With a shake of my head, I was back in the world of reality, instead of living in a world where I was a genius and everything went according to plan. It was a nice dream though.

“You're not?”

“Yes, I mean no. Or...” Serenity smirked at me as I shut my mouth and started to follow them into the camp. “Sorry. Lost in thought.” If Flare was there he would have made a crack about smelling smoke. But he wasn't, so I got off without a single insult, and that meant my ego could run wild.

The NCA camp was fairly busy, with ponies running every which way. Apparently the trip south was a big deal as one in three ponies seemed ready to head out, leaving the outpost with only a small contingent. Either that or all these ponies were from elsewhere, and just meeting here for the final leg of the journey, and the contingent here was always supposed to be small.

Then I remembered I didn't actually care about NCA troop movements! And my life made sense again.

We found Lucky talking with a rather large stallion. Lucky's friend was a green I couldn't imagine existing in nature, and his mane was a yellowish orange. He was wearing the standard NCA military blue barding, but he had four golden stars in the shape of a diamond above a fancy looking symbol on his right foreleg. The stallion seemed to be in a good mood, laughing and patting Lucky on the back. Lucky didn't seem to approve of the touch.

When we approached, Lucky looked over at us in relief, “Ah, here she comes.” He looked back at the stallion. “General Scoiatel, may I present to you Hired Gun, of the Hizai.” At the introduction I strode forward. “Hired Gun, this is General Scoiatel, one of the five Generals of the NCA, commander of the Crest Division, and second in command after Major General Hailstorm herself. He arrived last night, but you were sleeping.” All of that sounded very fancy, but I didn't really understand.

The green stallion looked me up and down and whickered in approval. “I say. That is some fancy ironwork you have upon your leg.”

“Uh... thanks...” I wasn't sure what to do with somepony like him. He was clearly a pony of importance, but I was bad at showing reverence.

“What model is that, good mare? I must know.” His smile was fake, and his attitude irritated me. Also I forgot what model that was.

“It's'a Series 19-B.” Serenity was suddenly beside me and grinning. “The Series 19 was the 19th iteration of Cybernetics used in pre-war Caledonia, and's called the most reliable even though five more came out after. The -B classification indicates it is using a modified version to include a leg extender for taller soldiers. If yer wonderin', the -A class was a popular retractable blade.” She looked at my leg and then back up to the general. “Technically, this is a replica of a Series 19-B cybernetic foreleg. Mr. House made it special for Hired 'cause she was already used to the model, but hers broke...” she looked harder at my leg. “I'm pretty sure the original leg was made'a steel, while this appears'ta be an aluminium alloy. I really need'a ask House ta make sure, otherwise I could be gettin' maintenance wrong.”

General Scoiatel looked a bit shocked at the filly's loud and long interruption. “I say. Your... mechanic, I take it? I am surprised they come so young... she's not a slave is she?” He tsked at me before I could answer.

“My adopted daughter.” I might have said that a bit defensively. “She really likes cybernetics.”

“Of that I am quite aware.” He knelt down with a smile. “So you're a little mechanic are you?” Serenity put on a stubborn face and nodded. “Tell me, little dear, why do you like cybernetics?”

“Because they're cool!” The stallion laughed and started to stand up, apparently expecting just that. “And they make ponies better.” Serenity added when he was halfway to standing, making him stop in place in an odd, hunched-over position. “Ponies're flesh and bone and hair, and that stuff’s good. But sometimes it's not good 'nough. With this technology we c'n become better than our bodies, beyond our limitations! Weak ponies can be made strong, dumb ponies can be made smart. We all get better, an' when we're all better the world is too.”

“I see...” he said slowly. “You are a precocious little scamp aren't you?” What? “You, Miss Hired, I must say she must be a hoof-full, wot?” I looked at Lucky to see if he could help me, but the ghoul just gave me a knowing nod before leaving me to the crazy pony by vanishing into the crowd. “I say, let’s walk and talk. It's a glorious day, and we are just about ready to be on our merry way.”

“Sure... can they-”

“Yes, yes. Your filly, and your marefriend, can come. I'm sure anything I told you would be repeated soon after, wot.” I... was not sure what to say to that, except to wonder how this pony became one of the highest-ranking officers in the NCA. Must have been magic, or he had connections. Or he had magical connections.

The three of us (Pearly came too, I think she found the whole situation hilarious because she wouldn't stop smirking) left the gate of the camp and started down the steep set of stairs. Looking down as we walked made my stomach twist, and it was really hard not to close my eyes. It wasn't a sheer drop, but it was steep enough and high enough that my phobia apparently thought it counted. It didn't help at all that the stairs were skinny and crowded with ponies heading down.

As we walked, Serenity lectured the military pony about the different types of cybernetic limbs. She gave a detailed description of how they connected to the nervous system and listed the pros and cons between feeling and unfeeling legs. She also remarked, frequently, about how cool it was to have swords in your leg. I had to agree with her on that part, but I was sure if I tried I'd end up stabbing ponies by accident. A lot of ponies.

When we reached the bottom the General asked an interesting question. “What about other types of cybernetics?”

“You mean like eye replacements? Or-” Serenity started but was cut off. That did not endear me to this pony.

“Combat augmentations. Stealth systems, reflex enhancers, muscle supplements to make ponies stronger, bone strengthening, dermal armour.” He waved a hoof in a circle. ”Things like that, wot.”

“Huh, well. 'Course that sort'a stuff is on the market. My favourite is the high jump boosters. By augmenting the muscles used in jumping, combined with a focused blast of air and levitation talisman it allows ponies to jump nearly fifteen feet in the air!” I wasn't sure that was a combat cybernetic, but it sounded really cool. “But, it's like, anything like that tends ta be on tha expensive side, ‘cause it requires more in-depth surgery and more delicate wiring. Heck, it's possible ta create a super soldier that's almost entirely cybernetic and eats gems to power themselves, but it's so expensive ta do, it would hardly be worth the investment.”

“I see...”

“Why'da ya ask?”

“Curiosity.” General Scoitel stopped near where a group of brahmin-pulled carts were waiting. “Does it hurt?”

“Yes.” That was a fast answer. “It d'pends on tha pony a'course, but it hurts. Sometimes right after the surgery, sometimes forever and ever. It's delicate, and a single mistake can turn'a ponies life inta pain.” The large stallion grimaced before placing a huge hoof on Serenity's head to ruffle her mane. Just in case, I had Subtlety trained on his head.

“You're a smart filly. Where are you from?” He said amicably before removing the hoof.

“From Eye Glow 'riginally, but grew up mostly in Dise with The Watchers.” Serenity apparently got bored of the ground because she decided it was a great time to jump on my back, forcing me to stand sideways so we could both see Scoiatel.

“The Watchers?” The stallion was unconvinced. “From the reports I have seen, The Watchers have never properly approved of cybernetics.”

“Yer reports are wrong... or wrongish. They're mostly wrong-like. Ya see, you got 'The Watchers' who're the group what gives out medical supplies an' treatment for near as free as ya can get, then ya got 'The Church Of The Watcher.' Them’s the ones what worship The Watcher, an’ The Watcher is basically Celestia after tha war. Somethin' bout she doesn't interact with us anymore cause we disappointed her an now she watchers and waits for us'ta get back on tha right path.”

“They're related to Celestia's Promise, right? The ponies who protest Mr. House, and tried to throw the zebras out of Karkhoof?”

“Celestia's Vision.” Serenity corrected. That was good to remember, I could never seem to get it right. “They're an offshoot that wantsa force others ta turn ‘way from their sins forcefullably.” She took a deep breath. “Jeez, you keep makin' me talk so much I'm gettin' light headed! Anyway, like I was sayin' 'The Watchers' themselves don't mind cybernetics, but summa them what are affiliated dislike, so their use'a em are on the down low. They used to work mostly with Mr. House, but lately contract out ta Cerberus.” Sometimes I forgot that my filly lived in Dise much longer than me, and had a deeper understanding of how it worked. At least when it came to The Watchers.

“I see...” He nickered in approval. “I need to go tend to some business, I say, but since you've been so helpful hows-about I let you ride in the cart instead of walk.” Serenity grinned and nodded despite clearly not intending to walk at all when she had a momma-taxi. “Good show! I'll get it all set up then, I say this has been quite enlightening, wot!”

The large stallion gave his best fake smile before trotting off into the crowd, leaving us standing there a bit dumbfounded. I for one had no idea how I was supposed to comment on what just happened. “So... hon, does this happen often?” I turned my head over to Pearly who was standing quietly. “I mean, big name ponies walking up to you asking for favours.” Every damn day.

“More than ya'd think,” Serenity said proudly. “Momma is popular.”


Just as promised, the three of us got a cart to travel during the ride. Other than once or twice when soldiers came back to make sure nothing was missing (I'm not a trustful-looking pony), we were left to our own devices. It was a long and mostly boring trip, and while a few times the line stopped and I heard gunfire in the distance, it never lasted long. Probably just mutated animals following the large group hoping for a free meal.

Flare was dearly missed during the trip because, while Pearly was an okay story teller, she didn't really have the spunk that made Flare's tales so endearing, so we ended up listening to the radio for most of the journey. With all the repeated songs, and occasionally repeated news, that started to grate on my nerves too. At least it was better than listening to the memories of my past like in the Reconstruction Facility. I guess that was one good thing about that place. No matter how much things annoyed me, I could look to that place and remember that things could always be worse.

Eventually the group stopped, and we made camp. There was a meagre meal given out, but for the most part we slept through the night, to be ready for the next long day. Of course, when I say 'we' I actually meant Pearly and Serenity. I, for one, was in no mood for sleep after my dream the night before, so I laid on my back staring up at the stars.

They had been there for weeks by that point, but I had never really looked at them before. Sure, I’d seen them, but I never really looked. They were like little diamonds dotting the sky between clouds. There was something mysterious about them, a forlorn sense that no matter how hard I tried I would never really be able to understand what they were. At least they were pretty.

With my metal leg I reached out and tried to touch them. I didn't get close, of course, but I tried. It was funny to think that no matter how hard I tried I could never reach them, but they could come down to reach me. My leg was testament to that. A star fell a long time ago, was made into a bullet, shot into my leg, killing it and nearly me, and here I was trying to reach out to them with my replacement. It was a little bit silly, but even more than that it left me feeling small. No matter how hard I reached I could never come close to a star, but they could ruin my life without really trying.

I put my hoof back but I didn't look away. Despite all that, I liked the way they looked fading between the shifting clouds. The way they twinkled and sparkled. Maybe I should have gone to sleep, because I clearly was not thinking right.

“Hey...” A soft voice said beside me. “You're still awake, hon?”

“Yeah...” I closed my eyes. “Yeah.” Then opened them again. No way I was going to sleep. There was a shuffling in the cart before something pressed onto my chest, and I felt a warm breath. “What're you doing?”

“Ya know, for all that muscle you're still comfortable.” In the darkness I hoped she couldn't see me blush.


“Ya know,” she said softly, her breath tingling against my chest, “for all I make ya blush, I've been gettin' tha feelin' ya ain't interested in me.” Oh shit. “Or am ah wrong? 'Cause when we first met ya seemed a lot more... reciprocal. To my advances.” With a sigh I carefully put a hoof on her back and slowly rubbed up and down her spine.

“Why do you even like me?” I didn't want to look at her. She was nice, but it was true I wasn't really interested in her. Beyond the blushing, I didn't feel for this mare. Maybe if I never met Platinum Haze I would have given her a chance but... that just made me feel worse. Like I was shallow, and couldn't accept a mare who wasn't an alicorn or something.

“Now, normally, hon, you’d have to answer my question first. But 'cause you asked so nice...” she paused and sighed. “I ain't sure. You seem like a nice mare, big'n'strong, and I've always liked my mares with some meat on their bones. You're not pretty, but you got heart, and I guess I just feel like we could make somethin' special.” I guess that made sense. “Ya gunna answer my question, or did ya just plan ta fluster and confuse this poor mare?”

“Sorry...” I said softly. “It's not you... I mean. I'm... a stupid mare. Big and dumb and stupid. With issues. So many issues.” I tried to say this very seriously. “You wouldn't like me. If you got to know me. Really. I'm not... I'm troubled and... and you would get hurt.”

“And you got yer eye on somepony else? Ah ain’t gonna fall for that 'it's not you it's me' shit.” Aw, shit. “Though I'm sure you have issues. Can see it in your eyes.” It wasn't really fair to Pearly. Platinum Haze had seen a lot of my issues first hoof, and while she thankfully stayed away from Foundation, it gave her enough of an insight to understand me.


She nuzzled my chest, making my stomach flutter. “Don't be. I mean, ain't like ya can help who ya find attractive. Believe me, for the longest time I tried to convince myself I wasn't a filly-fooler.” I couldn't help but laugh. “Hey! It's not funny hon, mocking a pretty mare after breaking her heart.”

“Oh... uh...”

“I'm teasing.” She lightly swatted at my chest and laughed. “It was silly, but I learned my lesson. So I mean, ya can't help who you're attracted to, but doesn't mean ya shouldn't give others a chance. So... if it doesn't work put between you and this other pony, give me a call. Or we could just have crazy sex. I'm good at that. It'd melt your mind.” Normally I would give a cry of indignation, but it'd been so long since I’d been mind melted, I just blushed furiously and imagined how that felt.

She must have felt my excitement, somehow, and stood up slightly to look me in the eyes, blocking my view of the stars. “What do you say, big mare? Just a fun night, no attachment, no expectations.”

“Uh...” Her deep red mane fell over her face in front of her half-lidded eyes. She was really pretty and I squirmed at the thought. “Um.” It was really hard to think with her looking at me like that. “Sorry.” I hated myself. So much. I really, really, really, did. “I can't...” If Serenity weren’t sleeping a few feet away from us, I probably would have agreed. She wanted me, and while I didn't want a relationship, I did want her, but... “My daughter...”

She gave an adorable pout and looked over to the sleeping filly. With an exaggerated sigh she laid back down and returned her head to my chest. “I understand, hon, maybe another time. Until then, I claim rights to use you as a pillow.” I returned my hoof to its comforting rubbing on her back as I cursed my decision. Sometimes I was just really stupid. “Not sure how I feel about you rubbin' me down after rejectin' me.” I er, what. I carefully lifted my hoof. “I'm just teasing, hon. You're too easy.”

“You're really not mad?”

She nickered. “Mad? No. I could never be mad 'cause a pony made a reasonable choice... I'm upset though. Not at you, just, you know. I want you ta be happy, but I'd be happy if ya said yes.”

“I know... but...”

“Your daughter, I understand.” I stared back up at the stars to clear my mind. “You know, when I heard you adopted her, I wasn't sure. You're not always the nicest pony, hon, and you're not sharp. No offence but, well you know.” Yeah. “But you really care for her, don'tcha? That means a lot, I think. So I'm not that mad you turned me down. It was to do right by her, and that poor filly deserves it.” Serenity deserved more than me, she deserved everything. If I could pluck the stars from the sky and give them to her I would... then I remembered my metal leg and decided that might not have been the best idea.

“They're pretty,” I said stupidly.

“What, hon?” Pearly replied sleepily.

“The stars. Look.” She tilted her head towards the sky and a smile formed on her muzzle.

“Yeah... yeah they are.”

We just rested there in the starlight and thought of better times. Eventually, Pearly fell asleep on my chest, her breath blowing at my coat. She really was a beauty, and no sane mare would’ve have turned her down. Too bad she had to ask me. With a sigh, I turned and looked up at the stars and stayed awake. I didn't want to sleep, sleep made the nightmares come, and I was too content to let them take that moment away from me.


The morning came and I must have fell asleep at least for a little bit because Pearly was nudging me awake. After thanking Celestia that I didn't have any dreams, I opened my eyes. Our personal cart was on the move already, at least judging by the way I was bumping along. My head was pounding, and my sweaty mane was sticking to my face. I hated morning.

“Wake up, sleepy.” Pearly nudged me. “Some ponies brought breakfast. They seemed annoyed we got to ride. Why do we get to ride, hon?”

“Hizai.” I rolled over and started nosing through my bag looking for... well it was pretty obvious what I was looking for. “Special privileges. House always wins. Blah blah blah.” I jammed the vial of Med-X into my leg. As soon as the medication hit I let out a sigh of relief. In an instant it felt as if all my worries had washed away, and ponies wondered why I used this stuff.

“Hon...” Oh yeah, Pearly was there. Judging me. “What are you doin'? Are ya hurt?”

“I'm coping.” Oh, and I was coping so well.

“Hon...” She started but I really didn't want to hear it.

“Remember my face.” I poked at the scar tissue. “It helps with that. And the constant surgery. Lots of cybernetics. Little rehab. Okay? Is that good enough? Fuck.” She looked a bit shocked and just slid over a meagre plate of food. I ate it slowly, and it did nothing to improve my mood. Why couldn't ponies just let me have that one thing that actually stopped me from feeling like shit. Was that so much to ask?

Pearly was a bit distant after that... I didn't mean to offend her, or to get mad, it was just annoying that every other pony in the wastes could have their own vices, but I wasn't allowed. Because obviously I was too dumb to know what I was getting myself into. Not like I tricked a god or anything.

My mood only improved slightly when Serenity awoke. I wasn't entirely sure why Pearly frustrated me so much that not even Serenity could pull me out of it. Chances were I would have to apologize by the time the day was over, but at the time I just felt like fuming. Serenity’s a smart filly, always quick on the uptake, so she realized my malaise and spent her time playing with Scootaborg and annoying, I mean talking to, the pony leading the brahmin pulling the cart.

Pearly didn't talk to me for a while after that, and instead rested as far away as she could from me (The cart was fairly small, and full of other supplies as well.) reading a book. A few times I caught her looking over at me with sad eyes, but I pretended not to notice. I really didn't want to have another fight, if it could even be called a fight. If one side is a raging bitch for no reason, is it a fight? I was going to have to apologize, I knew, but I didn't want to despite it all.

Eventually my scowl faded and I looked over to Pearly. She was still staring at the book in front of her. “Listen.” She flipped a page with her magic (my shoulder burned, but this should not be news), waited a second, then looked over. “Sorry.”

She smiled sweetly. “It's fine, hon.” She turned back to her book. Well that was anticlimactic. “You've had a rough week. But you shouldn't blow up at your friends. For next time.” She didn't sound angry, but she certainly felt angry. With a sigh, I just let it go. It just wasn't worth pushing. I’d said my piece, and now we just both had to cool down.

Sometimes I sound reasonable, and that is just scary.

With nothing better to do, I hefted up my pipbuck and flicked on the radio to Mr. New Haygas. If nothing else, his soothing voice would help calm my mind. “Well, hello there Wasteland, have I got news for you. Hold onto your hats because I'm about to lay it on yo-”

“Momma...” My radio show was interrupted by something far more important. Without a second thought, I flicked off the radio and looked down at my filly. “Can we talk, I uh, need'a ask a question. Might be 'portant.” I nodded and Serenity and looked over at Pearly. She got the hint and inched further away, pretending not to eavesdrop.

“What's wrong, Serenity?” She seemed reluctant, so I wrapped a leg around her and pulled her in close. I think it helped, but I was never really sure.

“Um, do ya remember back at Bridle Hope hope, Uncle Meadow... or... your brother.” She wrinkled her muzzle, “Can I call him Uncle?” There was no way around this, so I just nodded. “Uncle Meadow said somethin' 'bout me bein' yer 'New' daughter. Don't that mean you had an 'old' daughter too?” Just then, the cart shuddered to a stop, and my heart mimicked it.


Shit shit shit. And might I just add, shit.

There was no good way to have this discussion. None whatsoever. No matter how this talk went, it was going to go badly. At best she'd think I was irresponsible, and at worst she'd leave me altogether after losing all faith in me. How could I tell her that? Some secrets are best kept in the dark. But how could I lie to her? After everything we'd been through, I didn't think I could do it to the filly. Not now, when she seemed so concerned.

“Uh...” My heart pounded against my chest so loud I could hear it, and I could feel a cold sweat start down my back. “Um...” My stomach twisted itself into knots, and my mouth felt really dry.

“Momma? A-are you okay. You look pale.” Fine. Just fine. I was just a helpless pawn in a game bigger than I could imagine, risking my life for ideals I didn't believe in, all the while putting a filly I couldn't protect into danger time and time again. How was I supposed to save one, when I couldn't save the other. What gave me the right to drag Serenity into danger as visions of lengths of rope invaded my every waking thought. How could I-

“Momma you're shaking.” No... I wasn't shaking I was panicking. There was a difference. “M-momma...”

“Yes.” Yes I had an old daughter. And then she... “Yes. Long ago.” It was not that long ago, and it most certainly was not long enough. “I...” Felt like running away. I hated that feeling. Every sense felt more real, everything I saw reminded me of my past. I just needed something, anything, to connect me back to reality. Where I was a big strong assassin, not a helpless mare watching as her child...

“What happened to her...?” Serenity said quickly before realizing her mistake and clamping a hoof over her mouth. “Ah mean! Ya don't need'a... I was just... don't be upset...”

“Sorry.” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The breath filled up my chest, and I held it so long it started to sting. I focused on that sensation, the twinge of pain as my body called out for breath. Slowly I let out a long slow breath before inhaling deep once more. The rhythm helped. It gave me focus, a place to ground myself. Force back the memories and all the emotions that came with them. It wasn't easy, but I couldn't cry in front of Serenity.

“Sorry.” Inhale. Exhale. “It's not... a happy story.” Inhale. Exhale. “I'll tell you some day.” Inhale. Exhale. “But... not today. Please.” Inhale. Exhale. “So another time.” Inhale. Exhale. “But...” Inhale. Exhale. “Serenity... no matter what.” Inhale. Exhale. “I still love you.” Inhale. Exhale. “With all of my heart.”

Inhale. Exhale.

“I... I gotcha momma. Sorry. I didn't mean'a...” She hugged me hard. “I love'ya too. Sorry about what happened to... her...” I winced a bit too much and she looked up in shock. “Oh, I'm...”

“It's fine.” I reached down and mussed up her mane. “Really.” she nodded sadly and let go of me.

“I'm just... I'll be workin' on Scootaborg. So ya can think or... whatever...” She bit her lower lip, took one last look, and trotted off.

That... could have gone better. I was still not calm by any sense of the word, but I was no longer freaking out. And at least I figured I had sated Serenity's curiosity for the time being. With any luck she would never bring up Foundation again... though I was sure she would. It was in her nature to be curious. At the very least, then, she didn't completely hate me for my repeated failures as a mother, at least not yet.

I banged my head against the bottom of the cart with a heavy thunk. The thoughts were coming back. What I really needed was something, anything to distract me from them. Thankfully, for once, Celestia heard my prayers.

“HIRED GUN!” Of course the distraction she sent me was Major Lucky. I'm not sure if that was a good thing or not. “Get your ass up.” I lifted my head up and turned to the ghoul. He was as ugly as he ever was, and looked none too pleased. Not that he ever looked pleased. “General Scoitel wants to see you, now.” Judging by the way he spoke I could tell he would broker no questioning.

“Okay...” I slowly got to my hooves and jumped off the cart. He seemed a little surprised that I didn't ask him anything, but I was really not in the mood. I'd just listen and follow and let whatever was going on overpower the conflict in my head.

The caravan was one of the largest I'd seen. Not for the amount of supplies brought along, but by the sheer number of soldiers accompanying it. Of course when you're escorting a high ranking General and a famous Major, you make sure you have enough ponies around to frighten away any threat. Not even the dumbest raiders would risk attacking so many ponies. The only things that would even try to attack would be monsters, and even most of those were smart enough to steer clear.

As we walked forward through the mass of ponies, I noticed I could see Dise. Its towers and skyscrapers stuck into the sky like a dirty splotch on the horizon. The largest tower stared at me still. No matter which direction I was from Dise, the giant pink pony head always seemed to be looking at me with its glowing eyes.

When we got to our destination though, I realized I'd much more dangerous glowing eyes to deal with, because standing there blocking the road were two Steel Rangers. One of the steel rangers was a small green mare in a brown scribe’s robe, and though she had a grenade machine gun on her back my EFS marked her amber. The other though was showing a red tick though, and on his armoured back was a... thing. It was made of a long tube cut in half so the bottom part was carrying a strange glowing ball, and the top was open to the air. I may have been wrong, but it looked like it was a type of catapult to throw whatever that glowing ball was. As we got closer though, my shoulder started to throb and ache, and I knew what that glowing ball was.

“They have a megaspell!” I whispered hurriedly to Lucky.

“A Balefire Egg.” A what? “And a B.E.L. It's the only reason we haven't just killed them.” Part of me had to wonder if that toy wasn't one of the weapons they found hidden in the facility. This was exactly why I needed to tell the other gangs, to even the odds. Because right now it simply was not fair. Though I had to enjoy the irony of the last remnant of the Equestrian army having to take supplies from a Caledonian military facility in order to survive. That's irony right? I'm not sure what irony means.

“I say, here she comes now.” General Scoitel did not smile at me when I approached as he had the last time we spoke. “This is the mare you're looking for, wot?”

The Steel Ranger who was carrying the weapon so large I was sure he was overcompensating looked at me. “What is your name?” It sounded like he found the whole thing very amusing. His scribe, however, didn't seem amused at all. She stared at me with a determined look.

“Hired Gun,” I said sharply.

“Yes, you are, aren't you. Did you really think you could escape?” Apparently somepony had been taking Blackwater lessons.

“Actually, yes.” Doing verbal battle with idiot Steel Rangers really helped clear my mind. “And I did. In fact, I’ve escaped twice, now. Your record is shaky.”

“Yes, Elder Blackwater has noticed this. Which is why I'm not here to capture you.” He was here to kill me, and the scribe was going to take my pipbuck off my corpse just in case. I hated it when ponies finally smartened up, but it was about time they started realizing I always escaped. Usually in some brilliantly fantastic show of wits. Or shooting. Either way.

“Oh.” I did my best to sound upset, but I was a bad actor. “Is that what that thing is for?” I waved my cybernetic leg at his weapon.

“This is a B.E.L. It shoots miniature balefire bombs. And by ‘miniature,’ I mean it'd still kill every pony here and leave their corpses irradiated.” I already knew that. “I brought it to make sure whoever was harbouring you would give you up...” He paused. “And because, well, you survived that Facility and managed to escape. Blackwater wants to make absolutely sure you're dead this time. You might call it overkill, she'd call it assurance.”

I grimaced just a little bit before looking over to Major Lucky. “Tell me. How well did balefire kill you?”

The Major actually laughed and lifted up a ghoulified hoof. “Well. It killed me. I just got better.”

“So, whoever you are,” I addressed the steel clad ranger. I would taunt the scribe too, but her intense look was kind of off putting. “Do your worst. And when you're done? I'll climb out of the crater. Fight my way through every last one of you. And kill Blackwater myself. You tell her that. Tell her you killed me. And that I'm going to kill her back.”

Truth be told, I'd no plans to die easily. It was clear to me that the NCA had sold me out, but I couldn't really blame them. It was either they gave me up, or he'd bomb the entire caravan into submission and kill me anyway. Sure, it sucked, but I wouldn't hold that against them. Not that it mattered. I resolved not to die. Serenity still needed me, Flare still needed me, and Dise needed me to stop them. I didn't go through that hell of a facility only to die like a chump.

“Sorry, Hired. I hate to do this, but...” The General looked at me with a frown. “I am charged with the protection of my ponies, and right now it's between you or them.” If the entire caravan fired, they would be able to take down the one Steel Ranger, but not before he got a shot off, and that one shot would be devastating. My life wasn't worth that, not to him anyway.

“It's fine.” I said. I still had Subtlety, and she could pierce Steel Ranger armour. All I'd to do was follow him along, then kill him before he got a chance to fire. If he tried to take her from me I would just jump him and smash his skull in. It has been proven multiple times that while Steel Ranger armour is tough, it's not tough enough to stop me, but of course few things were.

“You.” The Scribe spoke and suddenly everyone looked at her. The small green mare was still looking at me with strangely focused eyes. “What is your designation?”

“Shut up, Breeze,” the armoured ranger hissed.

“What is your designation?” she repeated. Her voice seemed to lack inflection, and was creepy enough nopony stopped her.

“I'm a Hizai.”

She nodded and repeated, “What is your designation?”

“Hired Gun?”

“What is your designation?”

“Silver Storm.”

“What is your designation?”

It was then it hit me what she was asking for. With a sly smile I nodded knowingly to the scribe and said, “Star-Mare.” Then I asked her, “What is your designation?”

She whispered, “Wishing Star.” Her leg suddenly shot out sideways (I wasn't sure ponies could move like that), as a blade shot out from it. The cold steel slammed into the Steel Ranger’s armour piercing it just enough for him to cry out. Before the stallion could retaliate, the mare jumped and twisted in a way that shouldn't have been possible. She landed on the Ranger’s back with all four legs stabbing into him.

“Fuck! Get off! Fuck, shoot, shoot dammit.” Everyone was too stunned to move. He was trying to fire, but couldn't. “Get off, Breeze!” He tried to struggle, but it looked like his armour was starting to shut off.

The mare was silent as she lifted reared up on his back, her bloody blades glinting in the sunlight, and drove her hooves into the back of the stallion’s head. There was a sickening crunch, a gasp, and slight shudder from the stallion before he fell over into a heap. Blood pooled around his lifeless body from his wounds.

“What the hell are you!” Major Lucky demanded to know as the mare strode forward. The mare ignored him, and instead ripped off the scribe’s cloak and started towards me.

As she moved, she started to... change. Her green coat shimmered and faded revealing a deep golden coat hidden partially under a plethora of cybernetics. All four of her legs turned from pony legs to deep black metal legs that seemed to be made from many plates of shifting metal, and designed to look almost pony like, if only from a distance. Her torso seemed mostly pony-like, save for a metal line running down her spine, and a few instances of wiring that had reached the surface. When she stared at me I say her eyes were glowing green like mine, and in her mouth were many metal teeth. Of course, the most noticeable change was the face she was not a mare, but a stallion. The green mare called 'Breeze' was gone, and in her place was a black and gold cyber-pony who was undoubtedly a Hizai.

“You are Designation Star-Mare.” It was not a question, but a statement. “I have been instructed to escort you to Mr. House.” I realized that when I had felt magic before, it wasn't just the B.E.L., but also whatever magic he was using to make that disguise.

“How did you do that?!” Just looking at him made me feel self-conscious about my low-grade cybernetics.

“That information is classified.” He paused and stared into space. “I am allowed to inform you the disguise system is based off of Changeling magic.” Changelings? I'd always thought they were just a myth. Of course back in Marefort, I’d thought pegasi were a myth too.

“I mean. To...” I looked at the dead body.

“I disconnected the wiring to his battle-saddle in his helmet. I then damaged the powering system in his back. Then I killed him. Do you have another enquiry?” He stood eerily still as we spoke. The other ponies who had been watching just sort of stared.

“You're a Hizai.”

Other ponies would have looked at me like I was an idiot (Major Lucky and General Scoitel actually did), but he simply nodded. “Affirmative. Our mission is to escort you to Mr. House. You are currently not authorised to know the nature of our previous missions.” You know what, I was good with that. Flare did good getting the word to Mr. House. Now if only I knew where he was. It wasn't like him to leave and not come back.

“I say, good show.” General Scoitel walked over. “You did good, son, really had us going.” The General had returned to his amiable facade, and tried to pat Wishing Star on the back.

The Stallion slid away faster than he had any right. “I request you do not touch me, or else I will be forced to retaliate.” He turned his head to look the General in the eyes. “You have Mr. Houses thanks for escorting designation Star-Mare. Mr. House requests you take us the remainder of the way.”

“Uh, Sure, son. You deserve it for that show.” The General backed off and whispered something to the Major.

“So...” The stallion snapped his head back to me as I spoke. “Your designation is Wishing Star. What is your name?”

“My name is whatever Mr. House desires it to be. I am designation Wishing Star, you are required to call me by this name.” I, okay. “Mr. House is curious as to the outcome of your mission. It is hoped you did not disappoint.” He was really starting to creep me out.

“I'll, uh, inform him. Upon. Arrival.” That was fancy right? “Uh. I'll take you... to our cart.” If nothing else, it'd be amusing to see Serenity beg to take him apart and see how he ticked.


Serenity did not disappoint. Her reaction upon seeing Wishing Star was something between a gasp, a squeal, and a cry of excitement. I had to physically stop her so she wouldn't touch him. After a little bit of coaxing to both of them, Wishing Star agreed to let her study the cybernetics on the condition that she did not, under any circumstance, touch them. So for the remainder of the ride Pearly and I watched Serenity interrogate the poor cyborg.

Most importantly though, Wishing Star let me take the B.E.L and keep it. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

After the cybernetic inspection and brahmin-pulled cart ride, we finally made it back to Dise. We stood before the great wall that surrounded the city. How long had I been away from the city? It felt like forever. There was so much I had to do now that I was back, so many ponies I had to talk to. Before, I’d tried to escape the city, but now it kept drawing me back. It was, for better or worse, my home, so I had to get used to that.

The Ponitrons at the front gate let Wishing Star, Serenity, and me in, but they stopped Pearly. I gave her a few caps, told her where to find the casino-hotel-thing, and promised to help her get into the city once I got paid for the job. I'd have more than enough to ensure she got in, but after that I wasn't sure I would be able to get her a job.

Then we entered the city.

It was like walking into a different world. The sheer volume of ponies filled up my EFS almost instantly. Just being past the gate assaulted my senses: the neon lights of the hotels shining, the sweaty smell of a thousand ponies, the sounds of so many ponies talking, and the feeling of burning in my shoulder from the near constant abuse of magic. The wasteland was nice, but this was civilisation. The last refuge of ponykind. At least until the gang war, minotaurs, or secret conspiracy destroyed it. Of course, since this was Dise, I'm sure half the ponies had placed a bet on how exactly it would get destroyed.

The cyberpony escorted us to The BS, seemingly not noticing all the gawking ponies staring at him. It was a fairly quiet walk (Flare still hadn't found us, and I was starting to get worried) as Wishing Star didn't seem to speak unless spoken to, Serenity was too busy staring at him like a filly with a crush (that’d better just be a simile, because Serenity was not allowed to have crushes) and I just rarely spoke. Or I tried not to.

Eventually we made our way up the BS, and waited in front of Mr. House’s door.

“Momma,” Serenity said, looking up very seriously as we waited. “You need more cybernetics.” Somehow I knew that was coming. Before I could say anything she cut me off. “Not just 'cause they're cool, but they could help. Like when we were in tha facility, and didn't have any weapons. If you had, like, a stealth system and blade arms, ya could'a tore those robots apart. There's a thousand different cybernetics you could have that'd help ya, and since you're already a cyborg, why not get more?” I guess that made sense.

“Maybe...” I looked over at Wishing Star who stood very still as we waited. As useful as I’m sure his cybernetics were, I was quite positive I didn't want to look like him. It wasn't because I was afraid of losing my identity as a pony (Honestly I thought ponies who thought that to be even stupider than me) but because I kind of liked physical touch, and I wasn't that fond of the cybernetic aesthetic. Not that there would be anything wrong with more subtle augmentations. “Did you have any suggestions?”

“Well ya might wanna cloaking system. Kinda like stealth-bucks, but it recharges based on yer power so it lasts longer. Maybe some sort'a auto-healer that injects health potions during fights. Oh, and definitely a sword leg! Those are super cool, and useful.”

Wishing Star looked over at me. “I can confirm the versatility of said augment.” That was a ringing endorsement. “Do you require our opinion?”

“Sure,” I said. Serenity agreed with me by nodding excitedly. She apparently really wanted to hear what this cybernetic god had to say.

“I would suggest dermal armour. A combination of skin strengthening, and superdense armour plating under your hide. It'd decrease the damage done by bullets, and make you harder to injure...” He looked very seriously at me. “It is my understanding you are often hurt, and this would assist. In addition, you may find a stealth system useful.” He suddenly lifted his head up. “Mr. House is free.”

“How... do you know.” I looked around the hall. Then I remembered he was very cybernetically enhanced. “Radio system built in?” The stallion nodded. That made perfect sense, too. So I helped Serenity onto my back (She liked to be there when I was talking, so ponies would pay attention if she said something) put my new B.E.L and Subtlety outside the door (Shouldn't walk in on your boss ready to kill), and entered the room.

As we entered Mr. House turned off one of the panels on his huge computer system and turned to us. Actually, he turned to Wishing Star and nodded approvingly. “Wishing Star, report,” he rasped, walking over to us.

“Yes, Sir.” The cybernetic pony stood perfectly still as he spoke. “Our first assignment was to infiltrate the base of Baises and report on how Molly was able to hold onto power despite the dislike of her kind in the city. We found the information within three days of infiltration. The answer is real and legitimate threats to a pony resulting in death if her race is brought into question. Upon joining the organization I was given a video to watch. It has been recorded and I will present it here as it has been deemed clearance beta.”

Without another word the stallion trotted over to the large screen in the far side of Mr. Houses room (the one where House first tried to convince me he was just a head on a screen) and did something. It looked like he plugged a wire into his leg...

The screen flickered on and went fuzzy before changing. The scene appeared to be some sort of party around a large boardroom table and our view was from a security camera that showed the length of the table. The only pony I recognized was Molly at the head of the table, and only because I recognized her black hat. “We were informed that this was the day after Molly took control of the Baises when her mother passed away.” Wishing told us.

The first part of the video was fairly normal. There was a party. Ponies were drinking, and talking, making it so loud I could barely hear what any one pony was saying. That was until one pony at the far end of the table slammed his hoof down. His was a green earth pony with a yellow mane, and could have been mistaken for Molly's brother had he been a mule. All at once the crowded quieted and the green mule at the end of the table lifted her hat up some. “Uncle, are you upset?”

“Upset...” he lifted his head up and looked around at the ponies staring at him. “Upset! My father... built this organization. He took over this building, and made us into something. For you... you. A bastard-born bitch to take control. You... mule.” He spat. “This city was built by ponies. When the world was destroyed, ponies built it back up again. We kept it running. Ponies made this organization, ponies made it great, to see your kind trying to take control of it, it makes me sick.”

Molly did not answer. Instead she pulled a sawed-off shotgun out from under the table, held it in her fetlock, aimed it across the table, and shot him in the chest. “Really? That’s what you have to say?” She fired again. The slug slammed into his head jerking it back in a spray of blood before he slumped back over the table. “Listen up, you rats.” She climbed onto the table, kicking away a glass of wine, and looked around expressionless. “I'm an open molly. I'll listen your complaints. Your questions. Your concerns. But, if you ever question me because I'm a mule.” She cocked her shotgun. “You know the rest.” She walked back to her seat, and the party continued.

“I have deemed this reason, along with the good work she has done for the Baises, is enough for the ponies in her order to not turn against her.” The video shut off and Wishing faced us again.

“Thank you, as for your other assignment?”

The cyborg looked at me. “I have deemed it classification Alpha, Designation Star-Mare does not have the appropriate clearance to be privy to the details. I request she is asked to leave, or I inform you another time.”

Mr. House nodded. “Just so. Be on your way then, I have things to discuss with Star-Mare.” The cyborg nodded and left the room at a measured pace. “So, what did you think?” I blinked. Because that was a vague question. “I bought him off a slaver, gave him the choice to live free or work for me. I saved him, so he worked for me. All of those augmentations you see he took by choice. Now he's my best warrior, and head of the infiltration department of the Hizai. Technically. He is not very proactive, but he follows directions to the letter.”

“His cybernetics are so cool!” Serenity said that. If it wasn't obvious. House even seemed to chuckle a bit at that.

“He's... nice. I really like his... uh... legs.” I coughed into my hoof.

“Yes, I thought you would. Which reminds me. I had that pegasus friend of yours...” Flare! He was around. I guess he stayed in Dise after he spoke to Mr. House, because he knew it'd be too hard to find me. “Put some magazines in your suite. High level augmentations. I suggest all members of the Hizai get whatever best suits their job. Now tell me, why did this job take you over a week, and why now are the Steel Rangers trying to kill you? Did you at least get it done?” His voice was calm, but he looked furious. “And what happened to your face?”

“High Stakes. He shot me...”

“I knew I shouldn't have trusted him. I take it you killed him?”

I winced and shook my head. “Let me explain though! Do you know of the mountain facility, the one Wallkirk founded?”

“Yes. I had spies in there before the war, but never anypony of a sufficiently high level. My knowledge is sparse at best, and I lost all contact with them when the bombs fell.” I think I knew what happened to them. “Why?”

“My pipbuck. It has a password to all of the facility’s locked doors. Terminals. And barriers. If you can find the robot level. It'd probably turn them off too.” The ghoul's eyes literally sparkled. “He shot me. Sold me to the Steel Rangers. They threw me into the facility. We... managed to escape. I know a way in. I know a way into the section where Caledonia was working on experimental cybernetics.” It was one of the four entrances I’d found, and the best suited for Mr. House.

“I'm... impressed. Your pegasus friend had me thinking you'd all but gotten yourself killed.” Well, there was that too. “Where is this entrance, not near any Steel Rangers, right?”

“Yeah...” I waved at the computer. “Can you bring up a map?” Mr House seemed annoyed at the request but obliged me. “Here.” I pointed at the approximate location judging by the indoor and outdoor map. “It might be hidden. A warning though. It's dangerous. Lots of robots. And weird magic...” He raised an eyebrow. “I'd say have teams go in to scavenge. Another waiting outside. Have them report every five minutes. If they don't, send an evac team to clear them out. Quickly. And lots of Spark pulse weapons.”

“There's voices in there too!' Serenity added. “Tha scary kind, tell'em not ta get too scared, an not ta sleep. If they see weird thingies, not ta follow. Okay?”

“Duly noted...” He looked a bit surprised that I’d managed to get all this information. Or was that scepticism. “I'll send a team over there as soon as I can, and you will be kept on call if your password is needed.” I nodded. “Now. This is good. What about your actual job?”

“I tried to stop the Crimson Hoof-”

“Who?” he cut me off.

“A northern raider gang. I have previous affiliation with them. They took over the town anyway. Then I went back and made a deal. They agreed. No tariffs or taxes will be levied.”

“Maybe I was wrong about you,” the ghoul said to me. That was kind of nice, I think. “I had expected you to die, to be honest, but not only did you complete the job, you have given me valuable knowledge and a chance at valuable supplies.” That was a compliment. I think. “To be honest, I only brought you in here today to chastise you. I had thought you failed. Instead I think I'll be giving you a raise, and a few days off to recuperate. I'll have a new assignment by the end of the week, until then, rest.”

“Thank you.” I was being polite so my next assignment would involve fewer ancient secrets and megaspell-powered demi-gods.

“For now, I have things that need to be done; it is good that my kind never sleep or I'd be much less effective. So go, I expect a full written debrief presented to Starscream by the end of the week.” Blah, I hated writing more than I hated reading. I nodded though, and went to leave his spacious office. “One more thing.” I turned to look back at him. “Tell your pegasus friend to be more discerning as to who he brings into your room. We have a reputation to keep.” Oh... kay. The only ponies I figured he would bring would be pegasi, and I guess he didn't want to be associated with them.

As soon as the door closed behind me Serenity jumped off my back, and we hoof bumped. “Nice work, impressin' yer boss! We did real good, didn't we, Momma?” Well, maybe not good. If everything worked as planned we broke even, and that was good for us.

“Real good.” I hefted up the B.E.L and Subtlety onto my back. “Let’s put this away, then I want to go see Haze.” Serenity gasped and giggled something about me having a crush before merrily leading the way to our room.

In a way, it was really good to be home. When I'd left the BS before, I did not think I was going to be gone for as long as I had, and I found myself missing the city. It was a horrible place to me at times, but things seemed to go right for me more often there than anywhere else. Most importantly though, it was mostly secure. I could rest in Dise, unwind, and let my brain work though everything that had happened to me. To us.

It had been a harrowing experience to be sure, but for some I was really excited to tell Platinum Haze about what had happened. Just to see her again, to talk to her. I'd thought before it was just a silly crush because she was pretty... and it was a silly crush, and she was pretty, but she was more than that. I could only hope she still liked me despite my face. It was foalish of me to dismiss her out of hoof before. Yes I had issues, but I realized that most of those problems could be resolved just by taking it slow. I didn't need a 'true love' but I could really use the comfort of a casual marefriend. Maybe start out with a date or something...

Blah blah blah not a filly-fooler. I'm not even sure why I keep saying that.

Eventually we reached out room. Serenity jumped up, turned the handle, and opened the door.

Inside was Flare, lying on top of very well-endowed stallion on the couch. Scattered around him and across the room were dash inhalers and whiskey bottles. When I walked in, Flare looked up at me, blushed hot red and gulped. “Hired! You're... early...” His eyes scanned the many empty vials of dash. “I can... explain...”

“Go on...” I wasn't even really sure what to say to that. My mind just went into a complete halt at the scene.

“Curly Fries... it's his fault...” Seeing as the prostitute was clearly not Curly, I found that hard to believe. “Really...”

Level Up!

Skill Note: Speech 75, Unarmed 75

((A/N: Another late chapter. I do apologize once again and am trying to do better in the future. But it is here, and I’ve hit another milestone. So here’s to the ten thousand of you that read the prologue. I love you guys. I also love Kkat and the story she created, and my editors theBSDude, Menti, and Mint Julep. Cheers! ))

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