• Published 18th Jan 2012
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Fallout Equestria: The Ditzy Doo Chronicles - Ten Mihara



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

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Chapter 9: Overdose

Chapter 9: Overdose

“Ya got the caps, I got the stuff. A match made in heaven.”

Dull.

Travelling through the Equestrian Wasteland was almost never dull. There were usually encounters with wild beasts or raiders that had to be fended off. A travelling merchant's caravan is often an all too inviting target. Which is why it is often crucial for those working as merchants or scavengers to either be adept at protecting themselves, or hire somepony who is to serve as protection. The few Talon Mercenaries spread throughout Equestria are particularly fond of this line of work, including a certain Canterlot Ghoul.

That said, this particular journey through the wasteland had gone off without major incident. A few radroaches and some bloatsprites, but those are hardly worth noting. I was presently taking my turn at pulling the lead wagon of our (admittedly small) caravan, while an earth pony ghoul who went by Blackhoof pulled the other behind me. I suspected that, like Sheriff Rottingtail, that was not his real name, and he had taken it up after becoming a ghoul. That his left forehoof was burned black by spellfire was admittedly also a clue. He happened to be the first ghoul from Trottingham I had met, along with the unicorn guard named Fester when May and I first arrived in the necropolis.

“You doing all right up there Ditzy?” called Blackhoof.

“Just fine, thank you,” I called back. Accompanying our caravan were three members of Rottingtail's militia, and Blackhoof and I were both armed as well. Unless we ran right into a town full of raiders, I didn't suspect we would have any real troubles.

Our caravan had been away from Trottingham for close to two weeks total now. We had gone as far as Stalliongrad, stopping at smaller settlements along the way. We were now heading back towards Trottingham, approaching from the south. Our trip had been fruitful, once again largely thanks to our ability to offer decent quantities of pure water thanks to the salvaged Stable Twelve water talisman. At my insistence, we didn't charge a high premium for the water itself, instead using it as an incentive to open trade for other goods. Without that, I doubted many ponies would even consider trade with ghouls.

Another couple hours of travel would see our caravan back at Trottingham, and it seemed as though that time would pass without incident. Then, I heard it. My ears perked up as a noise reached them. Except that it wasn't noise; it was music. It was tinny sounding and faint, almost like a radio with bad reception. I immediately stopped and scanned the surrounding area, but I couldn't see anything (my lazy eye notwithstanding).

I heard the wagon drawn by Blackhoof skid to a halt behind me. “Something the matter?”

“I think I hear... music,” I replied, a little uncertainly. The sound was growing fainter, as though it was moving away.

“I don't hear anything,” called the earth ghoul. That was understandable, considering he was further back and had a wagon in front of him blocking what I was hearing.

Our militia escorts trotted up to the front of of my wagon and began looking around, although they seemed to be coming up as empty hoofed as I was. “Wait right here, I'm going to take a look.”

I quickly shucked myself free of the wagon's harness, taking a moment to stretch my wings. Leaving the others beneath, I flew straight up into the air. I grasped Stronghoof's rifle, faithfully strapped to my back, in my teeth, slipping it free of its strap and bringing it up to eye level. Closing my bad eye, I brought the scope up to my good one and began to look over the surrounding area. The magnification on the scope was decent, although I found myself wishing I had a pair of binoculars.

I found the source (or what I presumed to be the source at least) northeast of our position. It was a round metal machine, about the size of a pony's head. It had four insectoid wings flapping on its back, a pair of antennae on top and a grilled front plate that looked like a speaker. I watched the round robot curiously; it had been eighty years since I had seen one of these.

“Where did that come from?” I muttered to myself, watching the floating orb through the scope.

The flying device was a sprite-bot. They had been invented and employed by the Ministry of Morale during the war. Pinkie Pie constantly pumped uplifting (by her standards at least) music through them, hoping to spread joy all over Equestria while she could not be everywhere at once herself. However, this was my first time seeing one since the holocaust. I had presumed they had all been either destroyed or disabled by the megaspells. Had this one survived and been floating around the empty wasteland spouting music to no one for nearly a century? If that were the case, I almost felt sorry for the little flying radio.

***

The sprite-bot was suddenly struck by something, sparks shooting off the metal casing. It had been shot, and one of its wings had been damaged, causing it to list to one side. The bot turned in the direction the shot had come from at the same instant I moved the scope to find out what had shot it. I spotted a pony in ragged looking barding holding a sawed off shotgun in his teeth. He fired another shot as I watched, downing the sprite-bot. The sprite-bot, apparently programmed to defend itself, managed a single shot from a magical energy weapon at its attacker. The offending beam of pinkish light left a nasty burn on the stallion's chest.

Staggering away from his kill, the buck dropped his gun and nearly collided with a unicorn mare in similar makeshift armour. She kicked him in annoyance before turning her attention back to something in front of her. She was levitating an assault rifle and firing at... I moved the scope to spot an odd looking transport. Floating above it was a lever action shotgun suspended in a field of green magical levitation. Whoever was wielding it was hiding behind the vehicle and firing blindly at his attackers. I could see the corpse of a brahmin that had been caught in the crossfire in front of the transport, as well as another pony in armour who was probably a hired guard.

Flying back down to the others, I quickly called out: “Raiders!” I had gotten used to calling them that, but Stronghoof's rifle remained a constant reminded that it had not been his fault.

“Coming here?” demanded Scatter, one of the militia ghouls. She was a unicorn with a battle saddle sporting side-mounted, single shot grenade rifles.

“No,” I replied, shaking my head firmly. “Another merchant I think, northeast of here. As far as I could see, its three on one.”

In addition to the shotgun stallion and assault rifle mare, there had been one more unicorn stallion wielding a small calibre firearm. Closer to the wagon had been the body of a fourth raider. An earth pony mare had attempted to charge the merchant with a sledgehammer in her mouth, only to be killed by scattershot from the floating lever-action shotgun.

“Right then,” stated Scatter, turning to the rest of the assembled ghoul ponies. “Ditzy and I will go help out, since she can fly and I'm the fastest runner. The rest of you stay sharp and take defensive positions; there may be more in the area.”

The other three militia members deferred to Scatter's plan, placing themselves strategically around our two wagons. Blackhoof freed himself from his harness as well, drawing an assault rifle off his back and joining the militia ghouls. Scatter ran forward, kicking to load her battle saddle. I took to the air, flying off ahead of her while leading her in the direction I had seen the fight.

By the time we arrived, the shotgun raider had recovered his weapon and was slowly approaching the odd wagon. The lever-action shotgun was no longer floating above the vehicle, either being reloaded or out of ammunition entirely. The other two raiders were apparently content to wait and let him be the guinea-pig to find out. I raised the rifle's scope to my eye yet again, training it on the shotgun wielding stallion. Through a hole in his patchwork armour (I could make better stuff in my sleep), I could see that his cutie mark was a spiked ponyshoe dripping with blood. I tongued the trigger.

The shot tore through the stallions hindquarters, downing him instantly. It wasn't a kill shot, but the gaping exit wound would have him dead of blood loss within minutes. I deftly cocked the bolt of the rifle, with which I had become rather proficient at ever since I custom fitted it, while swinging the gun towards another target. The other two raiders had turned around, looking for where the shot that downed their companion had come from. Nopony ever looked up; nopony ever expected a pegasus.

Before I could get a clear shot at either of the remaining raiders, two successive booms signalled the firing of Scatter's grenade rifles. One of the launched grenades went wide, but the other landed right between the two. When dealing with explosives, accuracy is not always a big concern. The two remaining raider ponies were torn apart brutally. The raiders dealt with, I slipped my rifle back onto my back and flew towards the strange wagon.

***

I was rather shocked to see that the pony behind the wagon was in fact a ghoul pony. This was mostly because ghoul ponies almost never travelled with regular ponies, like his deceased guard. Still, caps speak louder to some ponies. He was still floating the lever-action shotgun, now fully loaded, but was peeking over the top of the vehicle curiously. He seemed rather surprised that somepony had come to his aid and dispatched the raiders. I looked over to Scatter, seeing her waving to the ghoul. He waved back warily.

“Hey there,” I called out from above. The ghoul turned both his gaze and shotgun towards me, mercifully hesitating. I held my hooves out in front of me, then slowly descended towards him.

Picking up on the fact that I was not hostile, the ghoul unicorn slipped his weapon into a harness on his back. He was a rather lanky ghoul stallion, and despite not having hair anywhere else on his body, a bushy red moustache crowned the tip of his muzzle. He was also dressed oddly; a faded blue and white pinstriped vest adorned his chest, accompanied by a black bow tie around his neck and a straw hat atop his head. He struck me as familiar, but I couldn't place my hoof on why.

“Greetings my flying fellow flesh-rotten friend,” stated the unicorn ghoul, smiling deftly at me. He was certainly charismatic for a ghoul. “Am I to presume that I have you and your heavily armed associate over there to thank for my rescue from those raider ruffians?”

“You're welcome,” I said simply. The fast speech of this pony and the tone of his voice further struck me as familiar, but I still couldn't quite place it.

“Indeed, I am very much grateful for your timely intervention,” continued the dapper buck. “After Gallant fell, I felt for sure that I was a goner. As well, I lament the loss of dear Bessie; best brahmin I'd ever worked with.”

After thanking me, the unicorn ghoul made his way over to the bodies of his fallen companions. He began to pluck items from their packs and barding, including weapons, ammunition and bottle caps. At the same time, Scatter trotted up to us, floating along with her the weapons she had looted from the dead raiders. She looked them over, dropping the assault rifle, which had been mangled in the explosion, but began tucking the rest away into her saddlebags.

Looking up from his own looting, the other merchant remarked; “I say my dear, would it be too much trouble if I asked to take those weapons for myself? Considering that I am going to need to hire a new protector and buy another brahmin, I would ever so much like to recoup some of my losses. Of course, I know I have no real right to ask, considering you just saved my life, but it would be yet another turn most greatly appreciated.”

Scatter looked to me, shrugging. We had made a decent profit on our excursion, and were already fairly well equipped anyways. She floated out the weapons again and handed them off to the moustached ghoul, who added them to his own loot before placing the loot onto his peculiar looking mode of locomotion.

Trotting back over to us, he spoke again; “Now then, this may be a tad presumptuous of me, but would I be correct in assuming that you most delightful ghoulettes are heading to Trottingham as well? I have heard tell that it was a safe haven and trading town that is most welcoming to our kind.”

“We're from Trottingham,” I replied. “We were part of a merchant caravan that was heading back after making a run to Stalliongrad.” I gestured to myself, then to Scatter; “I'm Ditzy Doo, merchant and proprietress of Trottingham Trading Post. This is Scatter, she's a local militia member and caravan guard.”

“Ah, so you're fellow merchants as well as fellow ghouls.” The buck facedhoofed. “Where are my manners,” he said, his face bearing an exagerated mock exasperation. He plucked his hat from his head and drew it across his breast in an exaggerated bow. “Allow me to formally and properly introduce myself. I am Flam, travelling salespony-”

“Nonpareil,” I finished, my mind finally piecing together why this buck seemed so familiar.

Flam looked up from his bow, a shocked expression coming over his features. “It would appear that we have crossed paths before. Would you do me the kindness of reminding me when and where; the old days area little fuzzier than I like to admit.”

“We didn't meet exactly,” I supplied, “but I was in Ponyville during the 'Super Speedy Cider Squeezy Six-Thousand' incident.”

Flam looked abashed. “Oh... that. Well, then it might gratify you to know that, following that incident, my brother and I were unable to corner the cider market anywhere, and were forced to change professions. The whole thing is most lamentable.”

I shrugged. “It's been nearly a hundred years or so since then, and I was never really one for holding grudges. I never actually tried your cider anyways.”

Flam gave a bit of a relived smile and replaced his hat. “The incident was not without more fortunate repercussions though. That little Apple Bloom recognized the potential of our unique mix of mechanics and magic, and actually sought my brother and I out when she founded Stable-Tec! Granted, by then she was a lot more business savvy than when we first met, but she still gave us a fair and profitable offer on our patents.”

I cocked an eyebrow; “Really? I always thought Apple Bloom made her inventions herself.”

“Oh most indubitably,” Flam assured me, “and her ingenuity and crafting talents put my brother and I to shame. Possibly because her earth pony upbringing allowed her to see the potential in so many new and different ways. However, our transport was the starting point for much of her insight into the mixing of magic and machinery.”

“Speaking of Flim,” I stated; having only just realized the strangeness of Flam being by himself, “where is the other half of the 'World-Famous Flim-Flam Brothers?”

In response to my question, Flam sighed, a dejected look draining his previous charisma. “Alas, my poor brother, I knew him well. We had been together always, and even survived the megaspells together, in so much as we did. However, not two years ago, his mind started to give, and he began to turn towards a most feral persuasion. His last act as himself was to ask me to spare him the cruelty of such a fate. Knowing that I would ask the same were I in his horseshoes, I did the deed.” Flam began to cry, tears running down his sunken cheeks.

I felt for Flam. May, Rottingtail and I had all borne witness to the decline of mental health in ghouls, and had to perform the unfortunate mercy of killing those who turned feral. May's treatments helped many, but not always. I pulled Flam into a hug; I may not have much experience with family, but I knew about friends, and the pain of losing them. Hopefully it would be at least a small comfort to him. His tears dripped onto my skin for a while before he regained his composure.

***

“Please, forgive my lapse in civility,” said Flam, wiping his eyes after I released him from the hug. “It is most unbecoming.”

“It's quite alright,” I said warmly. Scatter nodded her agreement from behind me. “Everypony has their moments.”

“Now then, it might be in our best interest to get going.” Flam looked around a bit nervously. “Those Raiders seemed to be out and away from whatever hovel they reside in, but there could be more of them in the area. I most certainly would not like to be caught up in any more of their debauchery.”

“Do you need any help with your wagon?” I offered. The strange wagon looked heavy, and the fact that he had a brahmin pulling it before suggested he couldn't quite manage it himself.

“You are most generous Miss Ditzy Doo,” said Flam, bowing his head, “but that will not be necessary. For you see, this is no mere wagon, and is in fact the salvaged remains of the Flim-Flam Brothers Super Speedy Cider Squeezy Four Thousand, Nine Hundred Eighty-Six! It was one of our earlier models; it took us a long time to get it right,” he admitted sheepishly. “I only had Bessie pulling it for me to conserve my own magic for situations such as the one you just saved me from.”

I chuckled softly; “Alright then, get that thing moving and follow me.”

Before mounting his transport, Flam ran out to the wrecked sprite-bot. He disassembled it as he returned to his vehicle, stripping some of the components with his magic. After a few minutes of tinkering, he finally hopped aboard. “Bing, bang, zam!” he called, his horn igniting with a burst of magical energy. The energy flooded into the machine, which roared to life with a clamour. We were on our way.

***

As we approached Trottingham, I was deep in conversation with Flam. Scatter had taken up pulling the lead wagon of the caravan, giving me the opportunity to catch up with what she perceived to be an old friend. That wasn't really the case, so most of what we talked about was our respective experiences dealing with trade in the Equestrian Wasteland. I was surprised to learn that he apparently had almost no trouble convincing ponies to do business with him, except in the most extreme of circumstances. Then again, he had always been a travelling salespony. I had only recently made the change from courier to merchant.

“Even more important than having the right goods is finding the right buyer,” claimed Flam, seated atop his prototype arcano-tec transport. I was flying along side him as we approached Trottingham. “I guarantee that no matter what it is you have, somepony out there wants it. You just have to find them.”

“Wouldn't that get expensive?” I asked in response. “Going out of your way to find 'the right buyer' could mean days of unnecessary travel.”

“Travel is never unnecessary to a travelling salespony,” quipped Flam. “Besides, not having to eat, drink or sleep makes it a lot easier.”

Our conversation drew to a close as we came up to the wall surrounding Trottingham. My right eye rolled around to the top of the wall, where the guards were looking perplexed at the odd machine approaching them without being drawn by anypony. Seeing me seemed to take their edge off but, as was protocol, they kept their weapons trained on. This included a pair of heavy chain guns on either side of the main gate.

As we approached the gate, Flam's horn lit up again, and the magical energy powering the machine drained out. The machine slowed before coming to a stop, but not without running into the front of the main gate. Flam grinned sheepishly. “That always happens,” he muttered.

I chuckled softly, then flew up to greet the guard ponies. Fester trotted along the top of the wall to greet me. “Made a new friend?” she asked with a smirk.

“He was under attack by raiders,” I replied, then proceeded to fill her in on Flam's situation, as well as the status of our caravan's trip. After she was up to speed, she moved off to open the gate while I flew back down to Flam's transport.

“I am most grateful to be allowed into your community of the forsaken,” Flam stated, nodding his head to me as the gate squealed open.

“We're not forsaken so long as we have each other,” I replied simply, smiling. He smiled back.

“Indeed.” Once the gate was open, Flam and I jumped down and began pulling his vehicle into the city ourselves. He didn't want to start it up again only to have it collide with a structure that would more than likely collapse on impact.

Once our wagon train was inside, the large metal gates squealed once more as they shut behind us. Scatter drew my wagon around to the two storey building that constituted my home and the Trottingham Trading Post, leaving it there for me to unload later. Blackhoof moved the other one in the direction of the Sheriff's Shanty, where we kept most of our armaments and the town's main treasury. Flam and I deposited his wagon in the town square, where a number of curious townsponies came to greet the newcomer. As he began to make himself known, I moved off, having a few ponies that I wanted to see. I had begun to miss them after two weeks.

***

I found the first of my companions inside the Sheriff's Shanty, asleep on the hammock in the back room, as usual. I snickered to myself before walking up to the resting form of Rottingtail, then turning my back towards him. Just as Apple Crumble had demonstrated all those years back, I reared up and bucked the hammock. Not as hard as the little colt had made it seem necessary, but enough to flip the hammock over once and dump the sheriff onto the floor roughly.

Rottingtail groaned as he got to his hooves. He turned towards me, a potential outburst dying when he saw that it was me. He smiled and planted a peck on my cheek, making me blush (in so much as a ghoul could anyways). “Welcome back,” he said simply.

“It's good to be back,” I said, drawing the sheriff into a hug. “I missed all of you guys.” I leaned in close to whisper something in his ear.

The scampering sound of hooves coming down the stairs caused me to break away from Rottingtail, Apple Crumble bursting into the room moments later. “Hiya auntie Ditzy,” he called cheerfully. “I saw the caravan come back. I'm glad yer home safe and sound.”

I smiled warmly and patted the colt on the head. Despite his interruption, I was glad to see him. Plus, it made me feel warm inside to hear him call me 'auntie', even if it was just an honorary title. “Glad to see you too.”

“Did you see that funny lookin' wagon what pulled into town?” asked the ghoul colt, changing topics remarkably fast. “Ah've never seen anythin' like it!”

“Ah yes,” I said, turning to face both Rottingtail and Crumble together. “On the way back, not too far from town, he was being attacked by raiders,” I explained. “Scatter and I took care of them and brought him back with us. He was looking to come this way anyways.”

“Well then,” sighed Rottingtail, “guess Ah'd better go introduce muhself. Ah'm s'posed t'be in charge 'round here after all.”

Crumble and I both rolled my eyes, then he snickered at me because mine rolled in opposite directions. We followed Rottingtail as he trotted out of the Sheriff's Shanty towards the center of town. There was a fairly sizable crowd around Flam's wagon, drawn in by his considerable charisma. A small part of me wondered if it was alright to be letting him sell his wares here, but considering the success of our recent caravan trip and the fact that he had lost a fair bit, I didn't press it. Besides, his attitude seemed to be infectious, and many of the ghouls were amused by his antics.

As I pushed through the crowd, I bumped into my oldest friend. May turned and smiled at me. “Heya Ditzy,” she said, “you getting a load of this?” She snickered at Flam, who was now gesturing grandiosely at the variety of goods on his wagon.

I chortled as well; “That's nothing, last time I met him, he and his brother started singing. Got the whole town involved.”

May burst out laughing, drawing a few odd looks. “Well, I'm glad he isn't singing this time. Ghoul's aren't exactly known for being able to carry a tune.”

May, Rottingtail, Crumble and I nudged out way through the crowd, eventually popping out at the front. Flam noticed us immediately. “And there she is, the mare of the hour!” The moustached ghoul waved for me to come forward. “I'm sure you all know her better than I do, but without this caring and brave young mare, I might never have met all you wonderful folks. Let's hear it for miss Ditzy Doo!”

The crowd laughed and cheered, calling my name. I grinned sheepishly and waved back at them; I was never one for the spotlight. “It was nothing, really,” I said, turning to face Flam. “I'd have done it for anypony.”

“Nonetheless, I am most grateful. As such, I am extending a generous discount to you and all your friends on any of my wares whilst I am staying here in Trottingham.” Flam glanced past me to May, Rottingtail and Apple Crumble. The trio walked up and joined me next to Flam's cart. He bowed to them, touching a hoof to his chest. “Any friend of Ditzy Doo is a friend of mine.” He gave a winning smile towards May, who nickered.

“Well, that's mighty kind o'ya,” stated Rottingtail, shaking Flam's hoof vigorously. “Iffin ya'll plan on stayin' a while, you should probably talk t' Merryweather. She runs our local inn.”

“Your consideration is greatly appreciated,” replied Flam, smiling broadly at the sheriff. “Until then, I should like to return to business.”

I nodded my understanding and turned to depart. Apple Crumble began to follow us, but ran off when approached by a pair of ghoul fillies who wanted him to come play with them. Rottingtail cast me a knowing look, which made me flush a little. May left us be, walking up to talk with Flam on her own. As Rottingtail and I pushed back through the crowd, my lazy eye rolled back to land on May, who was pulling Flam away from the rest of the crowd. I didn't hear all of what she said, but I'm certain I caught the word 'dash'.

***

I let out a sigh as I lay on Rottingtail's hammock, nuzzled up against the sheriff stallion. “What's the matter?” he asked, sounding a bit worried. “Ah weren't that bad, was Ah?”

I flushed, feeling hot. “Nonono,” I said, waving a hoof at him. “It's not you at all.” I sighed again, feeling a bit ridiculous. “It's nothing.”

Rottingtail nudged me with his good forehoof. “T'weren't nothin' if yer sighin' like that. Ah know that sigh, and it means somethin's the matter.”

“It's May,” I confessed.

Rottingtail sat up in response; “Well, now Ah know fer sure it's serious. Ya been friends with her for what would amount to any normal pony's entire lifetime.”

I sat up too, glancing at Rottingtail. My lazy eye rolled up towards the ceiling, where an old light buzzed softly. “Yeah, and you'd think that would mean I know her better, but really, she's always been so distant. She's friendly and cares about helping ponies, but...” I paused, not sure how to put my thoughts into words.

“Is this about her huffin'?” Rottingtail asked bluntly.

I glared at the sheriff, forcing both my eyes to look straight at him. I hated when he called it that; it made May sound like a lowlife junkie. Still; “That's part of it, I think. We've talked about it a few times, but she still partakes of it frequently. I thought that being here in Trottingham and doing some good for her fellow ghouls would help, but that only lasted a little while.”

“It's kinda like there's a part of her she don't let anypony else see,” mused Rottingtail, “Somethin' that she's lost, or maybe is tryin' t' forget. Or maybe she's keepin' to herself cuz it hurts to much to let it out.”

I glanced curiously at Rottingtail; that was an oddly accurate summation. “That's... about right actually. How did you-”

Rottingtail gave a snort; “Braeburn.” he stated simply. “Back durin' the war, as ya'll know, he was a bigwig at Ironshod Firearms. He was contracted with the Ministry of Wartime Technology, and his cousin Applejack was the Mare of the Ministry herself.”

I nodded, already knowing that much. However, Rottingtail never spoke about Braeburn that much. Perhaps it was out of respect for his dead brother-in-law. “So what happened?”

“About a year after the Steel Ranger project got going, he started hittin' the bottle really hard,” he explained. “He wouldn't talk to Silver Sand or me about it at all, and she had to find out from some other Ironshod employees what had happened. He and Applejack had a huge row over the new anti-machine rifles that Ironshod had developed. She actually blamed him personally for what could potentially be the death of her dearest and most treasured creation.

“Now, Ah spent some time on the battlefield muhself,” continued Rottingtail, “and the zebras were pullin' out all kinds of crazy war machines to make up for their diminishing numbers. Ah stood by Braeburn's decision in regards to makin' somethin' what could bring 'em down more easily. Still, that don't change the awful things Applejack said t'him.”

“So what did you do?” I asked. Surely there was some point he was trying to lead into that might help me help May.

“Ah beat 'im senseless,” Rottingtail said, eliciting a gasp from me. “What he was doin' was hurtin' muh sister and nephew, but he didn't realize it until I started kickin' the crap outta him. He thought he was only hurtin' himself, and kept it up out of an endless spiral of self pity and recrimination.”

I wasn't exactly sure how to respond. Certainly he didn't expect me to face May's problem so violently. “Did that... work?”

“It got him off the hooch,” Rottingtail confirmed, “although he was still pretty rough emotionally. He got better near the end when Applejack tried to mend fences, but Ah'll never know if they reconciled completely. Bombs fell, everypony died.”

I considered what Rottingtail had proposed, excluding the 'beating him senseless' part. The few times in the past I had approached her, May had met my attempts at confrontation with evasion and self-justification. Granted, she had years of knowledge from her work as a medical pony behind her, and she didn't show most of the signs of severe addiction, but I was still worried for her. There was still the chance she could fall on that slippery slope, after which I didn't know if I'd be able to help her. As time had passed, she had grown more and more frequent in her usage of the drug outside of traumatic experiences. Whether or not she was suffering, I knew I had to let her know how worried I was. Rottingtail was right; it was time to force her hoof.

I rolled out of the hammock, which swayed as my weight lifted from it. “Thank you,” I said, planting a kiss on Rottingtail's sunken cheek. “I'm going to make her see this time.”

“Now, don't be takin' what Ah said too literal like,” Rottingtail called as I made my way out of the Sheriff's Shanty. “Me'n Braeburn were always the more rough'n tumble sort. Ah figure some stern words'll be good enough fer May. Lemme know how it goes.”

***

After exiting the Sheriff's Shanty, I trotted through Trottingham at a brisk pace. All the while, I was considering what I would say to May. What would make her understand just how much it hurt to see her doing what she was doing to herself? May was an intelligent, reasonable pony, but all the times before I had been thinking about what she was doing to herself. I hadn't really stopped to consider the effect it was having on me.

I stopped for a moment, thinking. I could hear loud singing coming from the Watering Hole behind me; Flam had apparently roused the ghoul population into a drinking song. His voice was the loudest and clearest (and the huskiest), and only he seemed to really know the words. It was possible he was just making them up... wait, why was I focusing on that? Lousy distractions.

Forcing my mind back onto the proper train of thought, I tried to work out what I would say to May. It was easy enough to that she was my friend and I was concerned about her, but I had to really think about why her dash usage was a problem. Maybe it wasn't a problem for her, considering she never showed the signs I had been taught to associate with addicts. However, the time she spent lost in her dash hallucinations...

Then it clicked. The time she spent high on dash was time she could have spent making things better. Granted, the amount of time she actually spent in her escape wasn't comparatively large, but the fact that she kept going back to it meant it was constantly somewhere in the back of her mind. It was holding her back, because she couldn't let go. She couldn't possibly hope to try and make a brighter future for Equestria if she kept trying to relive her past. I wanted that future, and if May really did too, then she would understand.

I found myself standing in front of the scrap metal building that was May's home and clinic before I realized I had crossed the distance to it. Flam's singing had faded into the distance. I took a deep breath, steeling myself, and pushed open the door. The reception room in the clinic was empty, although that was expected. May spent most of her time here in case there was a call for her services (open all day, every day is a lot easier when you don't need to sleep). However, considering nopony was in trouble, she wouldn't be in either her operating room or therapy lounge. That left upstairs.

I flew up to the second floor of the clinic, not bothering with the stairs. The light was on in the room at the end of the hall. There were several unoccupied rooms that would, if there were patients being treated here, serve as lodgings for them. I walked past them, a little more slowly than I had trotted through the town outside. I stopped in front of May's door; the sound of her slow, ragged breathing and the soft buzz of the ceiling light could be heard. I pushed the door open.

May was laying on the floor next to an end table, high again. There were two inhalers on the table, seemingly yet unused. Her pupils were dilated and she wore that same awkward smile. I didn't like that smile anymore; it seemed so fake. My right eye rolled to the empty inhaler beside her as I kept my good eye focused directly on her. Something in my brain tried to tell me something was off, but I couldn't quite place it. I didn't have to; May showed me.

May stood up. At first I thought she was coming down, but the look on her face didn't change. She was looking at me, or seemed to be, and I forced both of my eyes to focus on her. I opened my mouth, about to say something, but was cut off. May kissed me. She pressed her muzzle firmly against mine, her eyes closing momentarily. I was so shocked by the act that I didn't move for a few moments, completely stunned. A bunch of warning sirens went off in my brain, pointing out the glaringly obvious fact that this wasn't normal.

I pulled away from May, panting a little. “May, what the hell?” I asked. She just continued to stare at me.

Then she spoke, softly, as though she would to a lover; “Welcome back, Buttercup.” What? I knew Buttercup had been a close friend of May's, but she had never mentioned anything like this. “It's so nice to see you again,” May continued, oblivious. “I know working that double shift overnight must have been rough, but I wanted to make it up to you.”

By the Princesses! Something was definitely wrong with May. All the times I had seen her high before she had been quiet, motionless, and serene. This time she was moving, talking and- gah! May had somehow gotten around to my backside before I could process what was going on. Was she always that fast, or was I just not paying attention? It didn't matter; I couldn't let her do something like that, not when she was out of her senses.

I rounded on May, giving her as concerned a look as I could muster. “May, listen to me...” I planted my hooves on her shoulders, keeping myself aloft with my wings. “You need to focus on me May. It's Ditzy, not Buttercup.”

May continued to stare at me with that false serenity. “Oh? I thought you'd be tired after all that work, but if you want to go first, by all means.” She turned around, slipping out of my hooves and raising her nub of a tail.

Ignoring her presentation, I flew back around to May's front. “Listen to me May,” I said, flinching away from the words I was about to say. “Buttercup is dead. She died eighty years ago. You need to come back to me May, right now!” I felt my eyes begin to burn as tears formed

May looked at me plaintively, her expression seeming to waver. “...Ditzy...” Before I could respond, she began to wheeze wretchedly. “Where'd Buttercup go?” she demanded, panic crossing her face. She coughed violently, crashing from the drug alarmingly quickly. “She was right here and...”

May turned away from me, looking back to the still open door of her room. I could tell that her gaze had fallen to the remaining inhalers that she hadn't yet used. She began to gallop for the door, but I pounced on her. I held her firmly in place, and she wasn't strong enough to buck me off. She didn't need to be. Before I could stop her, her horn lit up, and the inhaler streaked off of the table in a field of magical levitation. I tried to grab it in my mouth to keep her from getting it, but it was already at her lips. She inhaled deeply and desperately.

Immediately she stopped rasping for breath, and the look of serenity returned to her face. She began to mutter quietly, apparently no longer aware I was there. Buttercup's name came up a few more times. I looked into her room at the last inhaler on the table. The tubing on it was a different colour than the ones I had seen her using before, as were the ones she had already used and discarded. I might have recognized that sooner if May's actions hadn't caught me by surprise. I immediately knew where and when she had gotten them, and my sadness quickly turned into anger...

***

The swinging doors to The Watering Hole nearly flew off their hinges as I burst through them. The tavern was rather rowdy, but half of its occupants still managed to notice my rather dynamic entry. One of them was just the ghoul I came in here to find. Flam was standing on a table, floating a mug of hard apple cider next to him. A greeting died on his lips as I slammed into him, knocking him to the floor and pinning him there. The magic holding his drink evaporated, sending the flagon and its contents clattering to the floor.

“My word Ditzy,” proclaimed Flam, looking utterly shocked. “What in Equestria are you doing?”

In response, I spat out the inhaler grasped in my mouth next to his head. I had taken it from May's room, hoping she didn't have more stashed anywhere. “What. Is. This?” I demanded, both my eyes fixed in a glare at him. I could hear worried murmurings from the crowd, and I thought I heard somepony run out the door. I didn't care.

Flam looked relieved for a moment; “Oh, that. Well, like I told you before, a travelling salespony does what he must. If there are ponies who desire chemical assistance, then I see no reason why I can't provide it for them. Your friend was more than willing to procure my entire stock of dash.”

My glare narrowed; “No,” I almost growled. “I've seen May on dash a hundred times before. This is something else. What did you give her?!”

Flam was visibly sweating; “Come now Ditzy, you can't expect every single batch of chems to be the same. Surely-”

I cut Flam off by pressing a hoof to his throat. Not hard enough to crush his windpipe, but enough to let him know I wasn't fooling around. “What. Did. You. Give. Her?” I punctuated each word by pressing more firmly against his throat.

Flam choked and coughed; “Alright!” he yelled hoarsely, “alright, just take your hoof off.” I did so, allowing him to breathe for a moment. He spoke more huskily than before now; “Many years ago my brother and I discovered that ghoul physiology prevented most drugs from having their full impact.”

Gears in my head started to turn. The reaction May had displayed just now was far more akin to what I had been told about substance abuse in that original MoM seminar all those years ago. Could it be that all the times before her reaction was subdued simply because she was a ghoul? I wondered why I had never considered that. Still, that left the question of what Flam had done with this particular batch to improve the experience for ghouls.

He was willing to provide an answer with just a scowl now; “When certain clients asked if there was a way around this lack of potency, my brother and I brewed up an enhanced batch that we called the Flim Flam Brothers Ultra-Dash. It made up for the difference in physiology, and then some. But...” Flam trailed off, probably because he figured what he was about to say would draw my ire.

“But what?” I demanded, raising a hoof again.

“But the effects of withdrawal were also far more pronounced,” he stammered.

I was sorely tempted to start strangling him again, but I kept myself reigned in. That wasn't going to help anypony, least of all May. “Can you fix her?!”

Flam winced away from me, telling me right away that the answer was 'no'. “My brother and I never dabbled with detox; we'd have been undercutting our own market. But,” he added, seeing the intense look in my eyes, “the Ministry of Morale! They were the ones who enacted the contraband laws! If there's any thing in the way of detox, it would be there!”

I got off of Flam just in time for Rottingtail to barge into the Watering Hole along with the ghoul who had run out earlier. He looked to Flam, then to me; “What happened?” He wasn't wearing his battle saddle, but had his revolver holstered at his shoulder.

I gestured pointedly at Flam; “This fucker gave May some kind of super potent dash, and now she's really messed up.”

Rottingtails expression quickly ranged from concern about my words, to anger directed at the squirming salespony. He wasn't the only one; upon hearing that May was messed up, at least half of the taverns occupants had rounded on Flam. Many of them owed their continued well being to her, and the idea that someone had done something so awful to her was not looked upon lightly. He scooted back across the floor until he collided with the wall, looking about to cry out in fear of what the other ghouls might do to him. I paid him no further heed as I departed from the Watering Hole. Rottingtail followed behind me and the two of us began galloping towards Trottingham's Ministry of Morale hub.

***

Most of Trottingham was still abandoned, and those of us living in the necropolis only really ventured there to scavenge. Rottingtail and I ran through the empty streets, not saying a word between us. Since departing from the Watering Hole, my rage had dulled, replaced with worry. Not only for May, but for myself. My anger at Flam had been more intense than any I had felt in a long time, which caused me worry because emotional instability could lead to feralism. As soon as May was better, I was going to seek treatment. For now, I focused on getting to the MoM hub and, hopefully, a way to get that awful drug out of her system.

Suddenly, I could hear music again. The same tinny, patriotic music that I had heard not half a day earlier coming from the sprite-bot that had led me to encounter Flam. Another flying radio identical to the one from before flew across our path on a street up ahead. It struck me as odd, not only because there hadn't been an active sprite-bot in Trottingham during out previous scavenging excursions, but because that was the second one I had come across that day. Did somepony throw a big switch somewhere and suddenly turn them all back on?

That was a mystery for later as Rottingtail and I slowed to a trot, having reached the Trottingham Theatre. This old playhouse had been built upon from the small show stage it had been before, becoming the roots of the MoM's hub here in Trottingham. The floors above it were not quite as monolithic as some Ministry Hubs, but still spanned ten storeys.

Rottingtail and I pushed through the door, undaunted by the prospect of entering a Ministry Hub. The ghouls of Trottingham had been scavenging in this building before. It had been occupied by a security system composed mainly of automated turrets and a few guard robots, as well as a small number of feral ghouls. The megaspell had impacted far enough away that not everypony in the Ministry buildings had been killed instantly, although their fates were decidedly more cruel. The scavenging parties had seen to putting them down and cremating them. The rest of the security had been dealt with by Clank, who had seen to shutting it down via a hacked terminal.

Rottingtail and I hurried through the lobby of the theatre, concerned with getting to the upper floors quickly. We had no idea where to look for a possible antidote or detoxification method, and would have to search floor by floor. Our previous visits here had been mainly spent looking for food, caps and other useful or valuable trade goods. The thought cross my mind that something like a detox formula or dash antidote might be locked in a safe or be merely a recipe stored on a terminal. I immediately regretted not stopping to find Clank and bring her along with us. We were already at the second floor when the thought came to me, but it fled immediately when we entered the floor proper and found something waiting for us.

***

Rottingtail and I stopped dead as we entered the second floor of Trottingham's MoM hub. Floating there in front of us was another sprite-bot, although this one was simply floating silently, no music channeling through the built in radio. It seemed obvious really; these things were employed by the Ministry of Morale, so finding one inside was no surprise. What really struck me was the fact that, after eighty years of being destroyed or disabled, I had come across three of them in one day. Had they really all just come back to life at the same time? If so, then why now? These questions were at the back of my mind though, as May was still my first priority.

Rottingtail and I moved to pass the sprite-bot, but it immediately reacted, flying back out in front of us. I took a cautious step back as a voice that sounded like a mechanical Pinkie Pie came from the bot; “You're not suppose to be here! Omega-Level Threat Protocols have been enacted; that means this office is off limits to all non-MoM employees. Theatre patrons are to depart immediately from the premises and seek shelter. Really sorry about this.”

We tried to get around the sprite-bot again, but it moved to intercept us as before. This time, its warning was more stern; “Unauthorized ponies will be prosecuted on the authority of the Ministry of Morale. Bad ponies better leave now before they get in trouble!” The grill on the sprite bot glowed an angry red.

Rottingtail reached for his revolver, but I raised a hoof to hold him off. I remembered the raider from earlier that day who had been blasted by a sprite-bot's magical energy weapon. If the concealed weapon was anything like what Gizmo's mechanical owl had been packing all those years ago, there was a chance we might end up as piles of ash. I was not about to let that happen, not when May was counting on me. Not that I had any desire to be turned into a pile of ash on any other circumstances, mind you.

I racked my brain, trying to find out how we could get past this obstacle. My mind fell on May once again, going back to the first time she had used dash. It had been at the hospital in Manehattan, which, oddly enough, had also been a Ministry Hub. May had been working as a spell researcher and medic for the Ministry of Peace, and we had been sent there to get supplies by the ponies of the Ministry of Arcane Sciences... that's it!

“Authorization Sparkle-Alpha-Dash, Two-Two-Seven,” I proclaimed to the sprite-bot. I watched intently, praying that I had remembered that correctly. If I had gotten it wrong, we might be in even worse trouble.

The angry red glow faded from the front of the sprite-bot. “Ministry of Peace authorization code recognized. Number of ponies in this facility requiring treatment: none. Ministry of Peace healer is advised to seek out the nearest MoP hub.”

Bingo! Now we're getting somewhere. Maybe it could tell me what I needed to know. “I have a... patient suffering from dash addiction. I came here looking for a way to help her.”

The sprite-bot was silent a moment. “Invalid query,” it finally stated to my dismay. It then proceeded to repeat its recommendation that I head to the MoP hub.

I flew up to the sprite-bot, grasping it with my forelegs. If there was a dash antidote, then I needed to get it to May as soon as I possibly could. Searching could take hours and I didn't know what kind of effect the withdrawal might have on May if I couldn't neutralize the drug.

I tried addressing the bot again; “Dash antitdote, dash detox, dash remedy, dash cure, dash healing.” I said anything I could think of that might yield a result, but the sprite-bot once again told me that it didn't understand, repeating its previous message. Tears of desperation ran down my face. There had to be some way to make it understand. “Please...” I muttered, not really addressing the robot this time.

The sprite-bot was once again stating the same message when a static pop cut it off mid sentence. An entirely different voice came out of the sprite-bot. It was still tinny and artificial, but it lacked both tone and inflection. “Fifth floor,” stated the new voice, “that's where they keep detox supplies. There might still be some dash purger in the safe. Sorry I can't be of more help. Good luck.”

Before I could address the new voice, which seemed as though it was talking directly to me, the sprite-bot burped static again, resuming its statement right where it had left off. I was utterly confused, but that took a back seat to the fact that I had just been told what I needed to know. Slowly, I moved around the sprite-bot. It was no longer saying anything, and did not move to stop me. It simply turned on the spot, watching me.

***

Proceeding up to the fifth floor was easy now. We met more sprite-bots, all of which started off with the same warnings as the first one, but May's Ministry of Peace authorization seemed enough to placate them. Like the one from the second floor, they all treated us as non-hostile, and seemed content to just watch us move through the building. It was creepy, but not as creepy as the posters of Pinkie Pie on every wall that claimed she was watching me 'FOREVER'. I had always disliked those posters; they painted the usually cheerful party pony in an unbecoming and sinister light.

Half of the floor was taken up by what was either a kitchen, a chemistry lab, or both. The other half seemed to be filled with broken terminals, research notes and independent desks that had all been charred or destroyed by the megaspell eighty years before. There were a few refrigerators on the kitchen side of the room, but they were all open and emptied. Of course they were; we had been here before. In my haste and worry, I kept missing things that should have been obvious.

This left me feeling frustrated; the voice on the sprite-bot had suggested looking in a safe on this floor, but we had never come across one. Rottingtail was scouring the desk drawers and filing cabinets, looking for anything we might have missed. I kicked the wall in irritation; I knew it wouldn't do any good, but I needed to vent somehow. A framed picture of Pinkie Pie fell to the floor, my kick having knocked it loose from the bent nail it had been hanging on.

My lazy eye rolled onto the picture, and I turned to look at it as well. The photograph was of Pinkie before the Ministry of Morale; when she had been going around to the troops to give her own morale boosting presentations. She was dressed in a showgirl's outfit, dancing on a stage. She looked so much more lively and happy than she did in the 'Pinkie Pie is Watching You' posters. Looking up, I saw that Rottingtail was looking at the picture to, or at least in the direction of it.

Rottingtail raised his good foreleg and pointed to a space on the wall that had been behind the picture. Moving myself to get a better view, and saw that the picture had been hung over a safe that was built into the wall. I facehoofed; how had we missed that before? Trotting over to the newly revealed safe and tried to open it. It was locked. Damnit.

My first reaction was to turn to Rottingtail, intending to ask him to try shooting the lock. The suggestion died on my lips as I saw him dangling a ring of keys he had found in his scavenging. Just as well; this wasn't a padlock that could be removed by breaking it, it was built into the safe. Rottingtail tossed the keys to me, catching them in my teeth. I tried them one after another, discovering that the last key on the ring was the one that opened this safe. I thought about how I could have gotten it open faster if I'd started turning the keyring the other way, but it didn't matter now.

I pulled the safe open, revealing the contents to be an inhaler and a sheet of paper. I took them both out, setting them on a nearby table to look them over. The inhaler was almost identical to the inhalers I had seen May using dash from before, but the mouthpiece was slightly different, and the colour of the tubing was also not the same. The sheet of paper looked like a recipe. It read: 'Dash Purger', followed by a list of chemical and herbal ingredients that I couldn't make sense of, as well as preparation instructions.

Curiously, I flipped the recipe over to see if there was more to it. Instead, I found a hastily scrawled note.

I'm not sure I like this method. The Helpinghoof Clinics, with help from Ministry of Peace subsidies, are already well on their way to a more effective and presumably less... forceful addiction treatment. I could see this stuff as a temporary means or a quick fix, but-

The rest of the note was scratched out. From the sound of it, taking this stuff was going to be rough on May. Still, the alternative was letting her waste away under the effects of (or withdrawal from) Flam's ultra-dash. As well as she had handled herself before, Flam's stuff had messed her up. It had only taken one use. I was worried for her even now; if she had more that I hadn't taken way, she had a risk of overdosing. I could worry about the consequences after removing the drug from her system.

After depositing the dash purger and recipe in my pack, I moved back towards the stairwell. I stopped short when I heard a 'thunk' behind me. Turning on the spot, I saw that Rottingtail had fallen to one knee. His bad leg had buckled underneath him. I winced; he had been running all over Trottingham to keep up with me. I had been so concerned about May that I had completely neglected his condition.

“Hang on,” I said, flying over to him. At a closer look, his leg was in bad shape; it had been strained to the point of the flesh tearing and bleeding. I wasn't even sure it was his knee that had bent.

“Ah'll be fine,” he muttered, trying to force himself up. He failed miserably. “May needs yer help a lot more than Ah do. Ah'll catch up.”

I shook my head vigorously; “No; I'm bringing you back with me. Once May is cured, she can fix your leg up again.”

“Yer as stubborn as any Apple family mare, y'know that?” Rottingtail nickered at me.

Ignoring him, I flew over to a nearby window and bucked it open. I wrapped my forehooves around Rottingtail's middle and hoisted him up, very glad that he wasn't carrying anything heavy. The sprite-bot in the room didn't seem to like my forcing the window open, and started approaching, its grill glowing an angry pink. Rottingtail whipped out his revolver and emptied it into the robot before it had a chance to fire. I quickly flew out the open window and back towards the necropolis before any more suddenly active sprite-bots noticed that we had taken one down.

***

Upon returning to the occupied part of the city, I found that Flam's wagon was no longer present in the town square. I would later learn that the rest of the town had forcibly evicted him after learning that his enhanced chems had poisoned May. I would be quite happy to never see his face again, and felt a long lost sympathy for the folks of Ponyville who had dealt with him and his brother all those years ago. So much for not carrying grudges.

I flew Rottingtail into May's clinic, setting him down on a bench. I propped his injured leg up on a table, not wanting to do any more for fear of making it worse. A violent retching sound from the floor above suggested that May did not have any more doses of ultra-dash, and was suffering from withdrawal. I flew up to the second floor and found her in her room, shuddering on the carpet and wheezing terribly. Her room was in disarray, having been apparently torn apart by May in a desperate bid to find the missing inhaler. Three empty ones that looked like normal dash indicated that she had attempted, and failed, to compensate for quality with quantity.

May took a few moments to notice that I had entered her room. “Ditzy,” she pleaded, her eyes wide. “I need...” She then clutched at her breast, giving a painful looking convulsion.

I pulled the purger inhaler from my pack and held it out to her. No sooner had she caught sight of it than it was ripped from my mouth with her magic, floating up to her own muzzle instinctively. “Please let this work,” I prayed softly as May breathed deeply from the inhaler.

The effect was immediate. May's eyes went wide and she looked at me, a mix of confusion and relief on her face. Then she threw up. A lot. I helped her reach the nearby bathroom and sat beside her, rubbing her back and holding her tattered strands of mane back as she violently emptied the contents of... her entire body so far as I could tell. It was immediately and painfully apparent what the note on the back of the recipe had meant by 'forceful'. May was crying wretchedly from the strain, but whatever that stuff had done, it wasn't going to let her stop until every last trace of dash had been evacuated from her system.

I don't know how long May and I actually spent in that bathroom, but it felt like hours. Once the ordeal was over, May was completely and utterly drained. She didn't even have the energy to move, so I picked her up and flew her back to her room. She passed out the moment I set her down on her bed. She looked ragged, even for a ghoul, and I didn't imagine she would be up and about for some time. I shut the blinds, turned out the light and left the room, closing the door behind me. I was going to make damn sure she wasn't disturbed by anything. I proceeded to occupy myself by cleaning the hall and bathroom of May's vomit. It would give me a chance to think about what I could say to her when she woke up.

***

May remained comatose for the better part of two days. The ghouls in town were all really worried about her, and the whole settlement seemed to wait on baited breath for her to recover. I never left the clinic the entire time, milling about and keeping the place tidy while May was out. Rottingtail's leg wasn't going to get better without proper treatment, but in the meantime he had used a medical brace to set it and make himself ambulatory again. He had other responsibilities that he needed to take care of. Thankfully, nopony else in town had a need of May's services during that time.

Late in the afternoon on the second day after May had taken the dash purger, my ears perked as I heard her calling out weakly from her room. I immediately flew up the stairs and into her room, slowing only to open the door. May was still laying on her back, but had managed to nudge the blanket I had pulled over her off. Before doing anything else, I checked the bucket I had placed beside her bed, but it seemed that she had mercifully avoided being sick again.

May looked up at me from the bed as I turned to face her. “How long was I out?” Her words came slowly, strained by weakness.

“A couple days,” I replied casually. “How are you feeling?”

“Weak,” she stated, both obviously and honestly. “Does anypony-”

“No,” I said, cutting her off, “we're all doing just fine, physically at least.”

She gave a weak but relieved smile. Her expression wavered as she asked: “What... did you do?”

I wasn't entirely sure how to answer that question, so instead I pulled out the recipe for the dash purging agent. She was able to muster enough focus to grasp it in her magic and float it in front of her to read. “I'm sorry,” I said, looking away from the bedridden mare, “but I didn't have time to look for another way. I was really worried about you.”

May finished looking over the recipe and set it down on the end table. “I see,” was all she said. The face she had made while reading the recipe was a mix of understanding and disgust. She turned her gaze back to me; “I've told you before that I envy you, right?”

I looked back to May, a bit confused by her statement. “Yes...” I answered cautiously. “You said you were jealous of my ability to cope with everything that happened.”

May nodded; “I was doing okay at first after the megaspells went off. I had found survivors, and I had hoped that my love might have survived as well. Seeing her corpse, and knowing that I was partly responsible for her being there when it happened, I couldn't bear it. I found that using dash was the only way I could see her again.” May was crying now. She made no motion to dry her eyes, her hooves laying limp at her sides.

I grabbed a nearby kerchief and dabbed at her eyes, wiping the tears away. “It's not your fault,” I said, trying to be comforting.

May now looked hurt; “I know why you did it Ditzy; you were worried about me, but-”

“Not just you,” I cut in. I didn't raise my voice, but there was an edge to my tone. “Me, Rottingtail, Apple Crumble, and and everypony else in this town were worried. Yes they were worried about your well being, but they were also worried about what would become of them without you. A lot of ghouls rely on you, and half the town wouldn't even be here if it weren't for you.” I took a deep breath, steeling myself. I had thought long and hard about my next words. “You're a good pony May, but you've been selfish. Your dash usage didn't just hurt you, it hurt everypony who cares about you.”

May looked abashed, and shied away from my gaze. My lazy eye rolled to follow her as she turned over in the bed, staring at the window. “You don't understand,” she tried to protest.

“No, I don't,” I stated simply, “but you don't seem to either. You lost your lover yes, but everypony in the Equestrian Wasteland, especially us ghouls, has lost somepony. Friends, family, lovers, and everything in between. We've all lost the beautiful land we once called home, our Princesses, even the sky.” I flapped my wings gingerly for emphasis. “You and Buttercup joined the Ministry of Peace because you wanted to help ponies. Do you really think she would want you obsessing over her when you could be doing just that?”

May sat bolt upright, glaring at me with daggers in her eyes. She looked like she was about to scream at me for daring to mention her love like that. I met her gaze with soft, sympathetic eyes. Her anger seemed to melt away, replaced by deep sadness as she began to cry. I pulled her into a hug and let her sob into my shoulder. This much at least I could do for her, as her oldest friend.

Footnote: Status Update!

Current Status: Non-Feral Ghoul
Lucidity: Moderate

Ghoul Tip: Don't go to pieces. Ghouls may have a regenerative ability, but it's only good for flesh wounds and general wellness. If they lose a limb, it's gone for good, just like any other pony.

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