• Published 18th Jan 2012
  • 6,693 Views, 320 Comments

Fallout Equestria: The Ditzy Doo Chronicles - Ten Mihara



200 Years is a long time. It's time to tell my side of the story.

  • ...
28
 320
 6,693

Chapter 8: The Stolen Sky

Chapter 8: The Stolen Sky

“The pony in my head tried to come up with an epitaph, but no lewd reference to the Goddesses could match the profanity of that event.”

Faith.

I know that many of you out there in the wasteland turn to the Goddesses Celestia and Luna for guidance during troubled times. Your faith in them becomes an anchor that helps keep you strong. However, this coming tale describes images, events and conversations that may be upsetting to the more devout ponies out there. For that reason, I felt the need to warn you ahead of time. The events described here did happen, and were witnessed by me, so I feel I must apologize in advance to any who take offence. If a certain toaster repair pony has gotten her hooves on this book, then I can only say you would be glad you weren't there to see it for yourself.

***

After the events of Stable Twelve, May, Rottingtail and I were mentally and physically exhausted. I wondered if May's wish to see the sky was born of of weariness. I insisted that we all get some rest, although I suspected that May intended to spend the night going through Doctor Fixit's journal entries. Rottingtail had a couple of spare rooms in the sheriff's office that he offered for us to use, along with his thanks for helping to clear the Stable. I didn't really want to be thanked for it though.

I didn't really sleep that night either. Most of the rest of the town was awake (since ghouls don't need to sleep), and the distant sounds of their various nighttime activities reached me as I lay on an old military cot. I was also being kept awake by my own thoughts of what happened down in Stable Twelve. I knew Scootaloo; I had often witnessed the antics of her and the other Cutie Mark Crusaders (as they used to call themselves) when they were little fillies back in Ponyville. What had happened to her? To all of them? Of course, I already knew the answer.

The war had happened. Things had gone from bad to worse alarmingly fast, twisting Equestria, neigh, the entire world down to its very core. A memory came to mind, one from before the war started. It had been one of my encounters with the Ministry Mares. They were being sent as diplomats to the Buffalo after the incident with the Wonderbolts and Zebra gem pirates. Ironshod Firearms was just starting up around that time. I remembered volunteering to look after Fluttershy's animals while she was away. That day had been a good day. Was that when it all started? It was so long ago and everything after seemed like such a blur.

The war, the Littlehorn Massacre, the death of Big Macintosh, the escalating arms race, the megaspell holocaust, the closing of the sky; it had all slipped out of our hooves before we even realized it. Was there any chance it could have been stopped? Not that it mattered now. Forty years after the war ended, Equestria was still suffering the lingering effects. Things would never go back to the way they had been. I knew that, and so did May. Just about anypony else alive right now (that wasn't a ghoul) wouldn't even remember the time before Equestria was a wasteland.

The gears in my head (a bit squeaky at times, but still functional) turned over these thoughts as I lay restlessly on that cot. It was becoming clear to me why May often felt the need to go back though dash to the times before. As well, her desire to see the sky again rang true; it was perhaps the greatest thing we had lost to the war, after our innocence and the lives of so many ponies. I couldn't bring the sky back; I had no idea what my kin were doing up there, or if they were still up there at all. I had been at peace with that idea ever since I became a ghoul. But maybe, just maybe, I could borrow it for a little while.

***

At some point, I had managed to fall asleep, and awoke the following morning. When I awoke, I could hear faint sounds coming from the room next door; the one May had stayed in. I trotted over and found her (called it) listening to the journal entries she had taken from Stable Twelve. As soon as I entered the room, she looked up from her Pipbuck, giving me a weak smile. She paused the recording and stood up, trotting over to me.

“Anything helpful yet?” I asked tentatively.

May shook her head; “Not yet, but I've only been through about half of them.” She gave me a sympathetic look; “How are you holding up?”

“I've been better,” I admitted. I was torn up inside by what had transpired down in the Stable. Despite the fact that Scootaloo's mistake had cost most of the Stable's population their lives, I didn't want to be mad at her. It was the war's fault, and blaming any one pony wasn't going to make anything better. “I could use some cheering up.”

“Well, Rottingtail seemed to be available,” May said with too straight a face.

It took me a moment to register what she had said. “What?!” I exclaimed. Was she joking? Or did she really think that was what I meant.

“Sorry, was that in bad taste?” May asked, looking apologetic. “I didn't mean to offend or anything.”

“It's not that,” I said, waving a hoof in negation. My face was hot with embarrassment. “It just came out of nowhere, that's all.” I gave an awkward smile.

May smirked, “Well, at least you're smiling now.” She placed a hoof on my shoulder. “That smile of yours is a wonderful thing, don't ever lose it.”

“You seem to be in a better mood yourself,” I noted, turning the conversation around.

May held up her Pipbuck, scrolling through the data on it. “I took a break from reading over the journals last night and caught this on DJ P0N-3's broadcast.” She tapped the arcano-tech device and a recording of a newscast played back.

“Good evening wasteland, this is DJ P0N-3 and I've got some late news for you night owls out there. Remember how I told you about the Iron Mare and how she saved Stalliongrad? Well, some no-good-nicks out there heard about it, and went lookin' for trouble. Witnesses speculate that they were chummy with the bandits she routed at the Stable near Hoofstomp, and were looking for revenge. They seemed to think that the time was perfect, since she was out of commission due to manticore poisoning.”

“Well, the good folks of Stalliongrad disagreed. When the bandits came knockin', demanding they turn over the Iron Mare, the entire town stood up in her defense. Sent those ruffians packin' with their tails between their legs. This is the sort of shit I love to see children; when somepony helps you, you help them in return. If more ponies out there get that through their heads, there might be hope for us after all. I'm gonna turn in for now, but I'll catch ya'll later. Here's some Sweetie Belle to sing you off to sleep...”

The recording cut out, and May smiled at me. I had forgotten to tell her about the incident with the manticores after getting caught up with the Stable. “Manticore poisoning can be treated with anti-venom,” she noted, “so she'll be alright. I'm just glad to hear that there are others willing to follow her example.”

I found that I was feeling better after hearing that too. “I've got some more good news for you.”

“Oh?” asked May, looking curious.

“I've been thinking about what you asked last night,” I began, “and I've made my decision.”

***

“Have Ah mentioned that ya'll are crazy?” came the skeptical voice of Rottingtail. After informing May that I had thought of a way to see the sky again, we had found the ghoul town's sheriff in his office (asleep on that hammock again), and told him we were planning to leave.

“I won't deny that I'm a bit of a scatterbrain sometimes,” I retorted, “but May thinks it'll work too.”

The plan was simple enough. Near the spot where Cloudsdale used to be, there was a range of mountains. Those mountains contained the very same valley where I was on the day of the megaspell holocaust. It wasn't the most pleasant memory, but it was also what led to my meeting May for in the first place. Within that range were a few peaks and plateaus that managed to reach above the cloud ceiling. I would fly May up to one of those crags so that we could see the sky again for a little while, before coming back down. The only thing I was counting on was that any pegasi living up there hadn't moved back into the surrounding area.

“Do ya plan on carryin' her all the way there?” Rottingtail asked dubiously.

“Of course not,” I nickered. “We've got a ride.”

After informing Rottingtail of the cart I had used to bring May here in the first place, I exited the Sheriff's Shanty and flew over the wall surrounding the town. I set down near the old cart and hitched myself back up to it, before flying back into town with it in tow. May and Rottingtail were waiting for me near the irradiated well, and I set down gently next to them.

“Tad-ah!” I said mock grandiosely, gesturing to the old, worn cart.

As I detached myself from the harness, Rottingtail gave the cart a look over. He snickered loudly when he saw May's safety harness. May harrumphed, but said nothing. “Well, that could work. Thing is, Ah see two problems.”

“Oh?” remarked May, looking confused.

“First o' all,” said the Sheriff, a smirk on his face, “that old cart's lookin' on the verge of collapse. Second, with that fancy harness ya got rigged up, there ain't room fer more'n one passenger.”

May and I exchanged curious glances. “Were you wanting to join us?” I asked. That took me by surprise, considering he had balked at the idea minutes earlier.

“After a fashion,” he replied. “We don't know what's up there in the sky right now, and Ah'd be a right poor stallion if'n Ah let ya go up there without a proper escort.”

“We can handle ourselves,” May nickered.

“Weren't sayin' different,” rebutted Rottingtail, “but Ah'd feel better if Ah was there with ya, 'specially after ya'll helped me out yesterday. There's more,” added the cowpony. “Apple Crumble. When he was just a little feller, he always loved campin out in the badlands, lookin' up at the stars at night. He ain't been able to in a long time, and if ya'll are lookin' to sneak a peak at the sky, then Ah know he'd wanna join ya. He may be pushin' fifty, but his body and mind are still those of a colt.”

I smiled gently at Rottingtail; “You're more than welcome to join us Lone Star, but did you have something else in mind for our transportation arrangements?”

“As a matter o'fact...”

***

Rottingtail led me out of the shanty town the ghouls had constructed, and into the core of the old city of Trottingham. The only things still standing were the large skyscrapers that had once been ministry hubs, as well as a few smaller buildings nestled in between them. One such building was a grocery store, parked in front of which was a delivery wagon for Sparkle~Cola. It was scorched black by the megaspell fires, but the logo of a stylized carrot was still just barely visible through the grime. According to Rottingtail, this was the same wagon that The Watering Hole had gotten its supply of Sparkle~Cola RAD from.

Upon giving the wagon a look over, I noticed that it was very similar to my old wagon, the one I had used for 'Ditzy Doo Deliveries'. However, unlike mine, this one had not been in flight when the megaspells went off, and the frame was still entirely intact. Curiosity drove me to crawl underneath it, and I was delighted to see that it had the same type of array that magically reduced the weight, which would make it more than suitable for carrying the other three up the mountain.

I came out from under the wagon and turned to Rottingtial. “Do you have any spark batteries? The array is intact, but the batteries are dead.”

Rottingtail placed his good hoof on his chin. “Ah think Clank might have some; she was gatherin' stuff from the maintenance section of the Stable yesterday.”

“Alright, but for now I'm going to need your help moving this thing.”

Rottingtail and I went to hitch ourselves up to the front of the wagon, only to find that it had no harness. I could only assume it had been burned to ash by the megaspell. A small part of my mind insisted on adding that it might have been vaporized along with the pony pulling it. I did not need that right now. Instead, I focused on moving the wagon. Rottingtail and I moved around behind it and started to push. The wheels were stiff with decades of rust, but after a few heaves they started to turn.

***

Rottingtail and I managed to get the Sparkle~Cola wagon back to the ghoul shanty town, although it took a couple hours. Upon our arrival, Rottingtail set off to find Clank and hopefully procure some spark batteries for it. As well, May went off to find Apple Crumble and tell him what we were doing. While they were away, I set my sights on fixing up the wagon. I couldn't do much about the wheels, but they wouldn't matter once we were in the air. Instead, I focused on replacing the harness, transferring the one from the old cart. The delivery wagon was fully enclosed, so I wouldn't have to worry about rigging a new safety restraint for May or the others.

While working on the cart, I was approached by the strange griffon ghoul that had been staring at May and I the day before. She looked at the wagon, then turned to me. “So, I hear you dweebs are planning to head up and see the sky.”

I looked up from my work on the harness, surprised that she (I'm pretty sure it was a she anyways) was talking to me after the way she'd flown off the day before. “Yes,” I replied simply.

The griffon ghoul scoffed. “You got a death wish?” She gestured at me with a talon. It looked to be fused with some kind of strange arcano-tec device in the same way the armour she wore was fused to her flesh. “The skies are no place for a bunch of lame brain ponies like you.”

I did not like this griffon's attitude, but what she said did concern me slightly. “What do you mean?”

“You got bad ears to go along with that bad eye of yours?” snarled the griffon. “You go above the clouds, and you're dead. The featherbrains don't let anything from the surface contaminate their little utopia.”

In spite of the griffon's harsh words, my ears shot up. “You mean the other pegasus ponies are still alive up there?” I blurted out.

The griffon rolled her eyes. “Yeah, and they've got themselves a nice little isolationist attitude now, so don't think they'll let you just waltz on in. Maybe you'll get lucky and they'll take you in for experiments.”

I didn't like this griffon, not in the slightest. I was quite relieved when Rottingtail returned, with May and Apple Crumble in tow, at which point she decided to fly off again. “Hope she weren't givin' ya too much trouble,” claimed the Sheriff apologetically.

“She's got a serious attitude problem,” I muttered.

“What's her story?” asked May curiously. “She's not like any other ghoul I've ever seen.”

“Welp, I don't know too much fer sure,” replied Rottingtail, “mainly cuz she don't talk t'anypony 'cept to belittle 'em. I can say fer sure that she is, or at least was, a Talon Mercenary. The armour's a dead giveaway.”

“Talons?” balked May, her expression becoming stern. “From what I was told back at the MoP, they're a bunch of cutthroats who would do absolutely anything, so long as they were paid for it.”

“Most of the time, yeah,” muttered Rottingtail, “although you'll occasionally meet one with principles. Can't say much for her though. Don't even know her name. She showed up here about thirty-five years ago, lookin' like she'd gone through a thresher. Not to mention the weird way her armour and weapons were fused to her body.”

“I was wondering about that,” cut in May. “What could have possibly caused something like that?”

“Canterlot,” replied the Sheriff, somewhat unevenly.

May and I exclaimed our disbelief in unison. May knew of the megaspell that had destroyed the former Equestrian capital city, and I had learned about it from her. Its lethality was second to nothing, so the prospect of someone who had survived exposure was alarming. Although, I would later learn that the griffon was in fact the second Canterlot ghoul I had encountered. The first one I'm sure you're already familiar with.

“Eeyup,” affirmed Rottingtail. “After a few years, that pink gas stuff started to thin out, so Ah was told. Doesn't kill ya right away, but its still right nasty. Muh theory is that she went into the city after somethin', but weren't quick enough. Didn't die, but weren't really alive no more neither. Kinda like us, but not quite.”

“Remarkable,” said May, taking me by surprise. “Do you think she'd let me study this phenomenon?”

“Don't count on it,” sneered the cowcolt, “she comes back here every so often, but she spends most of her time out lookin' fer stuff t'fight. Dunno why, although Ah do sometimes hear her grumblin' about 'her'.”

“Her?” I asked warily.

“Muh guess is she had a rival back durin' the war who didn't make it,” he speculated. “Or maybe she lost and was lookin' fer a rematch. She never says nothin', so Ah can't say fer certain.”

Our discussion was interrupted by an impatient interjection from Apple Crumble; “Uncle, you said Derpy was gonna take us to see the stars!”

Rottingtail turned on his nephew and shushed him loudly. “Crumble, you know it ain't nice t'call folks names. 'Specially a lady.”

“It's alright,” I said, waving a hoof in defence of the colt. It wasn't the first time I'd been called that. “I've been called worse. Besides, he has a point.”

Rottingtail relented, then pulled a bag out of his saddlepack. “Hope this is enough,” he said, handing the sack of spark batteries to me.

“Plenty,” I replied with a smile. My lazy eye began to roll again, but I forced it to look straight as I moved to the wagon to change out the batteries. “Let's get this show on the road.”

***

Flying with the delivery wagon in tow brought back some pleasantly nostalgic memories. It took me back to a simpler time; before everything had gone so wrong. The feeling of the wind in my mane (what was left of it anyways), and the familiar drag of the wagon behind me made me feel like it was just another day in my old job, although I wasn't normally in the habit of delivering ponies. Still, I enjoyed the sensation. I could occasionally hear snippets of conversation coming from the enclosed wagon, my passengers passing the time (and in May's case, keeping her mind off the height we were flying at). The occasional snore suggested Rottingtail was spending his time napping.

I had been flying for most of a full day now, but I was in no rush. Getting exhausted before reaching our destination could have unfortunate consequences. At my current speed, we were still a couple hours away from the mountain range. Wary of what the griffon had said, I decided to fly beneath the cloud curtain until I reached the plateau. I was starting to get bored though, and looking up at the solid grey clouds the whole time wasn't helping.

I kicked at the wagon behind me with a hoof. A moment later, a small viewing window slid open, May peeking out of it. “Hey Ditzy,” she called, sounding a little shaky.

“You hanging on alright back there?” I already knew the answer, but was looking to wedge myself into the conversation.

“More or less,” came May's reply. She hastily added; “How much longer?”

“Still another couple hours at least,” I replied earnestly. May muttered something inaudible, and I couldn't help but snicker. “How are Lone Star and Crumble doing?”

“Rottingtail's taking a nap,” said May with a touch of bitterness. “Honestly, I don't know how he does it. Ghouls don't need to sleep, but he spends most of his time that way.”

I chuckled; “Maybe he's just doing it so he doesn't have to admit to being afraid of flying.”

May changed topics remarkably fast after that; “Crumble's pretty excited to see the stars...” I heard Apple Crumble's voice from somewhere behind May. “He wants to know if we'll see any other pegasus ponies while we're up here.”

The smile faded from my face; I had been hoping to avoid that topic. Mostly because my feelings on the matter were conflicted. While I would have liked to see my kin again, the odds of such an encounter being a peaceful one were slim, especially if the words of that griffon held any water. At best, we would be trespassers. At worst, we were mutated contaminants and a stark reminder of why they had isolated themselves in the first place. I had chosen the location we were headed towards largely out of a desire to avoid contact with other pegasi, counting on the area around where Cloudsdale used to be being deserted.

I finally settled on an answer, one that hopefully wouldn't be too disappointing. “Probably not; between lingering radiation from the megaspell that destroyed Cloudsdale and unpleasant memories, I'd wager they avoid the area entirely.”

If May suspected my other reasoning, she didn't say anything. I heard her saying something else to Crumble, but it was lost as a sudden gust of wind battered me. It wasn't strong enough to push me back or knock me off course, but the trace scent of ozone was carried with it. Squinting, I tried to look as far ahead as I could. There was a massive cell of darker clouds looming in front of us, and the distant roll of thunder told me they were highly charged. Moments later, rain began to pelt me, cold and stinging with the wind that was picking up.

“This isn't good,” I grumbled to myself. Another roll of thunder, this one much closer, punctuated my thoughts.

“I heard thunder,” called May from within the wagon. It was hard to hear her over the shrill winds that were whipping around my head. “Are you doing alright up there?”

“For the moment,” I called back, somewhat less than honestly. The winds were beginning to push hard enough that it was impeding my flying. The huge cell of black clouds drew closer, and a flash of lighting tore across the sky before me.

“Can we get around it?” Asked May, shouting this time.

“No!” I called back.

The winds were too harsh and the storm cell was massive for me to get around, and I wasn't fast enough to get us away from it by going back. Worse still, we were in a flying lightning magnet; a metal delivery wagon powered by spark batteries was just asking to get zapped. Another bolt struck close enough to blind me for a moment, cementing my fears. As much as I didn't want to do so ahead of schedule, I couldn't see any other choice. I was going to have to push above the clouds.

“May, can you float the three of you off the floor?” I asked, having to yell to be heard over the winds. “You really need to not be touching any part of the wagon.”

“I can try,” May replied, “but that kind of telekinesis requires a lot of energy. Even if I can manage it, it won't be for long.”

“Just hang on tight, this is gonna be a bumpy ride!” My lazy eye rolled back, catching the glow of May's horn, bright enough to illuminate the entire wagon. I really hoped she could hold on long enough.

Without wasting another moment, I banked sharply upwards. I could hear May groaning from the strain, not helped by the constant shifting of the wagon itself. Seconds later I hit the cloud ceiling, punching into the thick clouds with as much force as I could muster. I kicked away at clouds in front of me while beating my featherless wings furiously. Even inside the clouds the wind was ridiculous, making me curse my lack of flying prowess.

Small bursts of static filled the clouds surrounding me, making the few hairs left on my body stand on end. A bolt of lightning discharged from a cloud directly in front of me just as I was about to kick it away, singeing the tip of my hoof. The smell of my burnt rotten flesh was lost to the wind and rain. The bolt passed inches away from the wagon behind me. I grunted, straining to get all the speed I could muster. The harness groaned in protest.

Another lightning bolt came, this time striking the wagons hitch beam on my right. I felt the charge pass through me, greatly thankful for a natural resilience to shocks (although I had been struck by lightning more often than any other pegasus I knew, so maybe I was just an odd case). Unfortunately, that resilience was not shared by my companions. I heard a shriek from May and three rapid thumps; she had been caught by the shock, and had dropped the others onto the wagon's rear door. Another hit like that and they'd all be electrocuted. I pushed forward...

Then, as suddenly as it had all started, it was over. I burst through the top of the cloud ceiling, and had to shield my eyes from the brilliance of the sun. Sadly, I had no time to enjoy the sight as I righted the wagon. Had I taken the time to properly observe the sky, I might have noticed the moon sneaking up on a path behind it. Instead, I looked back to the wagon's viewing window, hearing my three passengers roll onto the floor. I heard the distinctive 'thunk' of Rottingtail's bony leg as he stood up, groaning loudly.

“Never liked flying,” he grumbled. I could see him moving through the window.

“How are the others?” I demanded.

“Crumble bonked his head on the rear door, but he ain't even unconscious,” replied the Sheriff. “May's out of it, but I'm gonna feed her a healin' potion. Anythin' other'n that is beyond my knowledge of medicine.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“She couldn't lift herself and us at the same time.” His next words were spoken around something in his mouth; presumably the potion he was pouring down May's throat. “Sho, she liffed us, bup noff hershelf.”

I let out a sigh of mixed relief and anxiety. I pulled the wagon forward, hoping to reach the plateau as quickly as possible so I could check on May. At least now that we were above the clouds, I didn't have anything more to fear from the storm. Unbeknownst to me, an alarm had triggered the moment I got above the clouds, and the four of us ghouls were due for some unpleasant company.

***

It took less than an hour for me to reach the mountain range that had been beneath the city of Cloudsdale. The trouble after that was finding a safe place to set down. I had underestimated the height of the cloud ceiling, which threw off my bearings. Only the tallest of peaks breached the clouds, and none of them had large, even plateaus for me to land on. I had to settle for a shelf that was barely double the width of the Sparkle~Cola wagon. I set my burden down as far from the ledge as possible. It was wide enough to hold all three of my companions safely, so long as I stayed airborne.

I detached myself from the harness and quickly flew around to the back of the wagon. The rear door had buckled slightly from the impact of its passengers, but the sturdy frame and heavy bolt had kept it from breaking off. I pulled the bolt loose and threw the door open. Rottingtail had Apple Crumble on his back, and trotted out of the wagon, allowing me enough room to get in. There would have been more room, but Rottingtail had insisted on wearing his battle saddle as a precaution.

May was laying on the floor of the enclosed wagon, conscious but looking rough. She opened her mouth to say something, but then had to quickly cover it. Before I could say anything, she had slipped past me to the edge of the shelf, vomiting into the gulf below. Once she had finished, she seemed to realize her precarious position, backing away from the ledge and falling onto her haunches.

“I'm never letting you fly me anywhere again,” she grumbled, wiping her muzzle.

“Have fun walking down the mountain then,” I quipped. Setting aside the sarcasm, I asked; “How are you doing?”

“Nothing too serious,” she replied calmly. “I checked myself over after I regained consciousness. I would have suffered some internal burns from the shock, but the healing potion prevented any permanent damage.” She cast an appreciative look at Rottingtail. He simply tipped his hat back and smirked in response.

I let out another sigh, this time in relief. “I was worried. I was never the best weather pony, and that storm came out of nowhere. If anything had happened to you I-”

“You got us through it alive,” interrupted May, smiling softly. “No need to worry about the alternatives.” She then turned her gaze away from me, looking up to the sky. “Now, since you were kind enough to bring me all the way up here, I intend to make the most-”

May stopped abruptly, causing me to wonder if she might have a concussion or something. She gestured at the sky behind me with a hoof, prompting me to turn around. I let out a loud gasp at what I saw. The sun was high in the sky, as it should have been, considering it was just past midday. However, the moon was right there in the sky next to it; a lost pet following what it thought to be its companion. Not only that, but they seemed strangely close to each other, almost like the moon was coming up from behind in a race.

“What...” started May, but she trailed off.

“That sure is a sight,” called Rottingtail, drawing my attention. “Never seen anythin' like it b'fore.”

Words finally came to me; “This is... wrong.” There really wasn't any better way to describe it. “Celestia raised the sun at dawn, and Luna brought out the moon at night. They've never shared the sky.”

Rottingtail turned to face May; “Ah reckon this is just some kinda fluke. Ah heard over the radio all those years ago that the Princesses were in a Stable under Canterlot. Kinda hard t'see the sun and moon underground, don'cha think?”

May shook her head; “It doesn't work like that. Even if Celestia and Luna couldn't see the sky, they would know when day and night are supposed to be. At the very least, they would know when the other had their celestial body aloft.”

“Then what...” I trailed off this time, watching the moon. It really did seem like it was getting closer to the sun, ever so slowly. I turned to face May, averting my eyes from the sight. My lazy one almost seemed drawn to the abnormal sight, rolling backwards. I couldn't think of what to ask, so I just stared at her blankly, hoping for an explanation.

May shook her head, looking distraught. “I can only really think of two possibilities, one of which I don't even want to consider.”

I suspected I already knew what that less pleasant possibility was. “What about the other one?”

“The Pink Cloud,” May said simply. “It's the single most lethal thing those zebra bastards ever made. A megaspell version would undoubtedly be orders of magnitude worse than what was used at Littlehorn.” May teared up as she spoke, and nearly choked on her words, but continued. “Princess Luna and Princess Celestia are far more durable than any other pony in existence, but even they have limits. The act of reaching the Stable, or even fleeing from Canterlot would have meant they'd suffer exposure.”

“We were never able to find out if the effects of the Pink Cloud could be neutralized or healed,” May concluded, “if only because nopony ever survived exposure. One of the MoP researchers under me felt that healing potions could prevent permanent damage. That was only accounting for minimal exposure though, and was based on a theory stemming from the composition of the spell itself. If the Princesses were exposed to the Pink Cloud at all, then they would substantially weakened. If that is the case, then its possible that their control over the moon and sun is likewise hindered.”

I gulped audibly, and went quiet. Nopony spoke, the silence weighing down on us like lead. We all looked back and forth at each other, then up at the sky. The sky that had been stolen from Equestria four decades ago now seemed alien when compared to the familiar, solid grey of the cloud ceiling. What would those living below think if all of them could see this? Probably a lot of what we were thinking right now. Some might even consider the worst possible scenario, which May tried to keep us from thinking about.

In that heavy silence, my ears shot up as sound carried on echoes reached my ears. “Tracking put it somewhere around here before it vanished,” came a voice that was not close, but not too distant either.

“Let's hurry this up,” came a reply. “This place gives me the creeps. Contrail keeps telling me that the ghosts of the ponies who died in Cloudsdale haunt the skies here.”

“Don't be foalish,” snapped the other voice. “There's no such thing as ghosts.”

The voices trailed off, probably blocked by another peak nearby. I looked over to my companions, and it was apparent that they had caught the voices as well. I lifted a hoof to my muzzle, motioning for them to stay quiet. “I'll go check it out,” I whispered, “wait here.”

May gave me a look that swiftly reminded me of their inability to do otherwise. Without dignifying the look, I flew away from the cliff and around the mountainside.

***

It took me a few minutes to find the voices again; they hadn't gotten that far off. From what I had heard from them before, it seemed that they had somehow known we were here, and were looking for us. If that was the case, I wanted to make sure they weren't going to start shooting the moment they found us. I stopped for a moment, realizing that I had neglected to bring Stronghoof's rifle. On second thought, that was probably for the best; they'd (probably) be less likely to shoot an unarmed flier. I also didn't want to shoot at them, even if they did fire first.

I flew slowly around a peak, catching snippets of conversation between the two I had overheard earlier. “That crevice is too small, the tracking station said it was bigger than two ponies.”

“Fine, but it would have to have gone into a cave or landed on a ledge somewhere, otherwise we wouldn't have lost track of it.”

As I came around the side of the mountain in front of me, I finally spotted the two pursuers. Both of them were pegasus ponies, but it took me a moment to realize that. They were clad in sleek black armour that resembled the carapace of an insect, even down to the compound eye goggles in the helmet. The glowing spike at the end of each of their tails and the gem tipped 'antennae' that formed their battle saddles suggested that, like the Steel Rangers' armour, theirs was magically powered.

Despite the quietness of my flying, the two armoured pegasi rounded on me the moment I had a clear view of them. I guessed that their armour came with the same kind of magical tracking that I had seen both Gizmo and May use before. “Halt!” called the first pegasus, a mare by the sound of her. Her armour was slightly different from her companion; anointed with gold filigree. “Identify yours-”

“Holy fuck!” shouted her companion, cutting her off. This pony was a stallion. “What in the hell IS that thing?”

Without waiting for an answer, the antenna weapons on his armour lit up, crackling with magical energy. They discharged, sending twin streams of pink energy straight at me. I immediately stopped flapping my wings, dropping like a rock just in time for the beams to zorch over the top of my head. If I'd still had a mane, it would have been burnt off. I raised my forelegs over my head and flew back up, hoping they would recognize the sign of surrender.

“Hold your fire Lieutenant,” demanded the mare, holding an armoured hoof out in front of her companion's still charged weapons.

“Contrail was right,” blabbered the stallion. “It's a zombie pony! A vengeful ghoul who died in Cloudsdale!”

“Don't be daft,” the mare called out. She then lashed with her armoured tail, thumping the Lieutenant on the head with the blunt of it. His weapons powered down moments later. She then turned back to me; “You are trespassing in Enclave airspace,” she said sternly. “Identify yourself immediately and explain your presence here. Falsities or hostile intentions will be met with lethal force. Understood?” The magical energy weapons on her armour crackled for emphasis.

I nodded warily. “My name is Ditzy Doo,” I managed. The mare's tone had me worried; the griffon had been right it would seem. “I was flying beneath the clouds when I ran into a storm that I couldn't get around. I came up through here to avoid it.”

“I wasn't aware that any pegasi still lived below the clouds,” mused the armoured mare.

“Why are you talking to it?” demanded the Lieutenant. The mare silenced him with a glare before addressing me again.

“I am Major Wingright, and this is Second Lieutenant Haywire,” she stated, a bit more amiable this time. Perhaps she was compensating for her partner's outbursts. “I have a few questions for you, after which we will escort you back below the cloud curtain. However, my previous warning about falsities and hostile actions stands. Are we clear?”

I gulped; if she asked anything about the others I might be in trouble. Would she see their presence as a contamination, like the griffon had suggested? Or would she think we were scouting for some kind of zombie uprising? I doubted the latter, considering she seemed to be fairly level headed. As well, she wasn't shooting at me yet. “Crystal,” I stated.

“First question,” began Wingright; “your emaciated physical condition, which caused my rather superstitious underling to think of you as a zombie, is a potential contaminant. What is its cause?”

“Severe magical radiation exposure,” I replied, breathing an internal sigh of relief. I didn't say anything about when and where I had gotten that exposure, hoping they wouldn't press the matter. I doubted they would believe me anyways.

“And that,” cut in Haywire, addressing his superior, “is why the high council keeps us up here. If this is what exposure to the surface can do, I'm glad we're not due to go back down yet.”

“Yet?” I asked tentatively. Haywire glared daggers at me through his visor, surprised by the apparent audacity of the question.

Wingwight on the other hoof, was willing to respond. “It is the Enclave's position that we pegasus ponies should wait until the surface becomes hospitable again before rejoining the rest of Equestria. Patrols are sent twice a year, but they usually only skim just below the clouds.” I could swear she smiled at me behind her helmet; “Frankly, I've been looking for an opportunity to get more direct information.”

Haywire sounded puzzled; “Ma'am, are you certain this is wise? The council-”

“At ease,” she replied. “I am gathering intel, nothing more. This pony is dessicated, unarmed and probably old to boot. I highly doubt she poses a threat.” Haywire said nothing else.

I may have been closing in on a century in age, but being called old still bothered me. However, I set it aside in favour of another question; “What's the Enclave?”

“Classified,” replied the Major sternly. “All you need to know is that we hold military authority up here.” I nodded, shrinking back. “One more question; are you alone?”

I was about to claim that I was, but then stopped. She had said something before about the thing they were tracking being bigger than a pony. If I claimed that I was alone, they might get suspicious. “I'm a courier and ferry on the surface,” I replied half-honestly. “I was flying with a wagon in tow when I ran into the storm. I passed through the clouds for the safety of my passengers. There are three of them; a mare, a stallion and a colt. They were looking to relocate.” For good measure I added; “They suffer from the same condition as I do.”

The Major raised an armoured hoof to her chin, contemplating my response. “Very well,” she stated after a few moments of pregnant silence. “Take us to these passengers of yours so we can verify your story. If there are no problems, we will see you back down below the clouds.”

I felt cautiously optimistic. The griffon had been right about the pegasi's desire to remain isolated, but she had made them sound far more severe about it. My suspicions about how they would react to ghouls, as far as Haywire was concerned, turned out to be true. I was very thankful (and probably a bit lucky) for Major Wingright's more amiable attitude, although I was disappointment about being forced to leave without Apple Crumble getting to see the stars again. Still, things were going better than I had originally hoped. Naturally, that was when the unthinkable happened.

***

I was leading the two powered armoured pegasi back towards the ledge where I had left my 'passengers', when my lazy eye started rolling upwards. It fell upon the sun, the moon now a hair's breadth away from its eastern edge, and still seeming to inch closer. I stopped dead in midair, captivated. It was almost as though they were going to...

The sun and moon collided!

My jaw dropped, stunned at the sight that was playing out before me. At first it seemed as though the moon only just touched the sun's edge, but it kept on going, unhindered by its contact with the blazing fires of the Celestia's charge. The moon had become a ravenous beast that was slowly devouring the sun, consuming its light and turning the sky as dark as night. There were no words to describe the wrenching I felt inside. I'm pretty sure I threw up, but I was so completely transfixed by the horrendous sight that I barely noticed. The moon seemed to come to a stop once it had completely enveloped the sun. The sky now held a single black orb with great tendrils of crimson flame whipping around its edges. It looked like the gateway to hell. I heard a distant, gruff shriek echoing off the mountain nearby.

“What the fuck?” came the voice of Wingright. Her Lieutenant was far less composed about it.

“This can't be happening!” exclaimed the armoured stallion. “It's not... this can't...” he then proceeded to babble incoherently.

“Maintain your composure Haywire,” barked the Enclave Major, but it was no use.

“It's all true,” he yelled, frantic. “The Princesses are dead, and now the sun and moon are following them. It's all over!”

Haywire's comment snapped a bit of sense back into me. The Princesses were dead, he had said. The worst case scenario May had not wanted to even consider, and he had stated it as a simple fact. I turned around, wanting to demand some sort of explanation, but he had already flown off in his hysteria. Wingright moved to follow him, but then rounded on me.

“Shit is going to get real ugly, real fast,” she stated. “Get back down below the clouds and stay there.” She flew after her underling without another word.

I hovered there, dazed and confused. I didn't look at the sky again; the sight was too horrific. I had heard May scream moments earlier, but it only just now registered that it was her. I flew back down towards the ledge where I had left them, not knowing what else to do.

All three of my friends were still there on the ledge when I reached them. May was laying flat on her stomach, shuddering in her panic, a small bit of sick stuck to the side of her muzzle. Apple Crumble was laying underneath Rottingtail with his hooves over his face. Rottingtail himself was staring up at the sky with a brave face, but his skeletal leg was rattling with subtle shivers. He looked to be shielding his nephew as best he could. He looked at me uncertainly as I approached.

I set down on the cliff next to May, just barely enough space available for me. May barely seemed to notice until I wrapped a hoof around her shoulders. She looked at me, eyes wide in horror and hurt. She opened her mouth and her muzzle moved, but no sound came. There were simply no words. Instead, I held her firmly to my breast, laying my neck across hers. I shut my eyes as tears started to form, rolling down my face. I sat there embracing May and waited. What else could we do?

A minute passed, then two. The longest seven minutes of my life were spent cowering on that mountain ledge with my fellow ghouls. Only Rottingtail seemed to have the courage to look up at the blackened sun. “Ah think...” I heard him mutter, “Ah think it's over!”

I dared to take a peek up at the sky. Rottingtail was, it would seem, right. The moon was moving again, slowly but surely, and the eastern edge of the sun was already freed from its obstruction. I nudged May to look up at the sky, and she took the chance as well. Together we watched as, over the next few minutes, the moon receded, the shadow it cast over us lifting in several respects. Eventually, it released the sun entirely, and simply sat in the sky beside it. Wrong, but not the horrendous cataclysm we had been subjected to moments before.

Once it was over, May looked to me. She still seemed unable to speak. I didn't have much to say myself, so I simply held her as she wept into my chest. I was crying too; despite not knowing what we had really just experienced, the emotional impact of it would linger for a long time to come.

***

Nopony said anything as we descended around the mountain. It was still raining, but the worst part of the storm had long since moved on. I had kept our flight close to the mountains anyways in case we needed to make any sort of emergency landing. The cold of the rain against my rotten flesh mirrored the cold emptiness I now felt inside, which had replaced the abject horror we had all just been subjected to. I didn't mention to the others what I had heard Haywire say; we were already hurting enough. Besides, the pegasi had lived alone up in the clouds for the last four decades. How could any of them know anything for sure about the world below.

May's Pipbuck was blasting DJ P0N-3's station in the wagon, the sound leaking out through the viewing window enough that I could hear it clearly. May was distracting herself from what we had just witnessed, and a sharp inhale that I heard over the music told me she was escaping again. Still, I didn't have the heart to get on her case about it. I didn't really have the heart for anything right now. I simply focused on getting us back down to the ground.

I wasn't really listening to the music as it gave way to another newscast from Remix.

“Good evening children. Well, maybe not so good. I've just received a message from Stalliongrad's local medical pony regarding the status of the Iron Mare.”

Remix played the recorded message, which sent the voice of an elderly sounding buck over the radio in her stead.

“Hello, my name is Doctor Gauze, local physician of Stalliongrad. This message is for DJ P0N-3 so that she can inform the rest of the wasteland. As you are aware, the pony you refer to as the 'Iron Mare' (her name is Peaches by the way), is in our care after fending off a small flock of manticores that were going to attack our community. She is presently in stable condition, but there were complications. We were able to treat her injuries, but we did not have an available supply of anti-venom to treat the poison. Some brave members of our community rushed to scavenge a nearby Ministry of Peace clinic, and were able to procure some, but sadly we were not fast enough. Peaches will recover, but she will be paralyzed from the waist back for the rest of her life. However, in recognition of her acts of bravery both for this community and many others out there, we will make sure she is taken care of for the rest of her days.”

The recording ended, and Remix returned to the broadcast.

“Sad news folks, but instead of despairing about what's happened to the Iron Mare, let's take a fond look back at what she's done. She selflessly risked her own like to help hundreds of innocent ponies, with Hoofstomp and Stalliongrad being particularly vivid highlights. She set an example, and in turn those who she helped returned the favour in kind. The wasteland needs more of this children, so don't be afraid to do the right thing; you could be the next big hero. This next one goes out to the Iron Mare; may her retirement be peaceful and happy...”

Under any other circumstances, I would have felt depressed hearing that a heroine like the Iron Mare would no longer be able to help and save other ponies. However, the emotional void I was experiencing in the wake of what had happened up in the sky drowned it out. Between the isolationism of my kin, the cloud ceiling that would continue indefinitely, and the horrific collision of the sun and moon, it was just another drop in the bucket. A small part of me wondered if May had heard the broadcast through her dash high, and what she might think, considering she had loved the heroine. Perhaps it was better that she didn't find out right away; who knows what it would do to her psyche.

***

We returned to Trottingham in the wee hours of the morning. That didn't stop a small crowd of ghoul ponies from swarming around us in their curiosity. The Canterlot griffon was among them, looking almost irritated that we had returned unscathed. The other ponies were eager to hear about the sky above, but we were all rather exhausted. The four of us returned to the Sheriff's Shanty to retire, intending to inform them of what we had seen in the morning.

When I got into my room, I found the griffon waiting there for me, having flown in through the window. “So, looks like you got lucky,” she scowled.

I hung my head and sighed. “I wouldn't exactly call it lucky. The first pegasi I see in forty years and one of them tried to vaporize me. The only thing that I would consider lucky is that he missed.”

The griffon sneered cruelly. “Don't say I didn't warn you, featherbrain. The pegasus ponies only care about themselves now, and anypony up there who thinks different gets branded a traitor. They'll do anything to silence their opposition, to the point of hiring mercs to hunt 'em down. Even Talons, like me. Of course, that went out the window after this happened.” She was presumably referring to her ghoulification.

The griffon was oddly talkative, even though her attitude was very much the same. “Why are you telling me this?”

“'Cuz I wanted to gloat,” she spat, turning away from me. “I don't get many opportunities to say 'told you so' anymore. Also, I wanna know something.” She turned to face me again, locking me with a glare. “You hear anything about a pony named Rainbow Dash while you were up there?”

This griffon knew Rainbow Dash? I vaguely remembered a time when a griffon had come to Ponyville, years before the war ever started. Pinkie Pie had thrown a party, and the griffon had revealed herself to be quite a bitch. Was this the same griffon? She certainly had the same temperament. Or was I reading into it too heavily? Dash didn't exactly have a low profile during the war. “No, I didn't hear any mention of her.” I replied.

I was about to ask why when the griffon backed away. “Good.” She turned and flew out the window. I caught her muttering; “If I couldn't get her, no one could.”

Although the griffon provided a temporary distraction, I was still dead tired. I sauntered over to the hard cot that was my bedding and collapsed onto it. My mind was a sieve; everything that had happened that day trickling out as I slowly dozed off.

Footnote: Status Update!

Current Status: Non-Feral Ghoul
Lucidity: Moderately-Low

Ghoul Tip: Radiation is your friend. Radiation is known to have a regenerative effect on the bodies of ghouls, but it is also speculated that the energy contained within magical radiation has a positive effect on the psyche and overall mental well being of ghoul ponies. Some have described being irradiated as 'pleasantly warm'.

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!