• Published 22nd Dec 2012
  • 4,603 Views, 55 Comments

Fallout Equestria: The Fossil - alnair

A pegasus and a zebra hybrid mares on a quest for ancient Equestrian artifact in snowy northern mountains.

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A Quest Of One

Northern wasteland exploring theme: http://youtu.be/P0yiXyswSZg

Chapter 2. A quest of one.

I stood outside and exhaled onto snowflakes. They evaporated in midair and I felt like a little fire-breating dragon. I’ve been overflown with desire for activity. First, I wanted to make a snowpony! Then, I had a pile of whiskey bottles to trash. Next.. Oh! How could I forget the main thing! The idea that came to me inside Maney’s shack, danced inside my noggin. I catсhed it and examined it closer. It was genial!

Shuck, I am a high grade technician after all! Not a some rookie trainee, barely able to grip their teeth on a screwdriver. And that means only one thing: whatever is broken up here on the Surface, I can fix that! And I’ll start from this lighthouse that doesn’t shine for two hundred years. Ayep, Maney, I take your watch. By the way, now I could see where that green cable ended!

Standing beside the base of the tower, which undoubtedly was the lighthouse, I could hear the whole thing creaking under wind blows. The green cable stretched along one of its pillars and disappeared somewhere up in the darkness, obscured with a metal platform. The platform was accessible via a familiar bracket ladder. A challenging thing, urging to conquer the height, and without any safety, too.

But first, I found it fun to stand up on my rear legs and push my forelegs against the pillar. I pushed strongly, but it didn’t bulge. The only outcome I got were some icicles that fell down, almost hitting my temple. I did the pushing sequence again and dodged three more icicles. Wow, I’m agile! But the devious thing prepared another surprise for me. My next blow brought a huge pile of snow from above! I shook it off and checked the score. Dodo: 0, tower: 1.

Bollocks, that aint’ gonna happen! Now, it was time to get to the bad things. I walked around the pillar and set my hooves on an iron bracket. Unlike the shafts, this ladder had some angle and that made my ascension easier. I vigorously pulled myself higher and higher, hearing the tower shaking from feeling of imminent defeat. Now this is another story!

Ah yes, I forgot the wind. It pierced the whole tower. If I unfolded my wings, I could fly right here and now, pretty high and far away.
“Not now. I’ll have my flights later - the platform looks like a better start.”, I said to myself.
It looked like I’ve been getting used to such obstacles, as I reached the top unexpectedly quickly. Well, I couldn’t quite remember how long did it take exactly... Yet, I did remember the moment I set all my hooves - if a bit unstable - on an iced platform and saw my reflection in a lighthouse flask.
Now, that was an achievement to celebrate! Shame I had no booze left, so I needed some epic gesture instead.
“I wish I had a flag of 96,” I thought, “I could set it on the fence, yay. But... I think my hanky is fine, too! It’s all blue and with golden clouds. Guess that’s nice!”
Hanky bound, I understood I actually conquered the height over... Altitude 472. I think I should call it something? Altitude 473? 472,5? Boring. I think I should think it over, right? Naming such a small tower after the Princesses - this is just not serious. Naming it after myself - is top indecent, doesn’t fit, too. At all. I kept thinking hard, knowing the answer is obvious. I shooed my flock random joyful and genial ideas away and one humble, but incredibly correct one remained.
I cleared my throat and proclaimed as solemnly as I could, “Hereby I name you a Maney Brown’s Peak. Whatever bore he was, he did well to keep you working. He changed bulbs, cleared ice and fixed the wires. From now on you’ll be named after him”. I only needed a cheering applause to finish the scene, but I was all alone, so I clopped my hooves a few times against the platform and nodded into darkness.
Now, to repair the lighthouse, I needed to restore the circuitry. The green cable was intact and went into below the lamp, though a maintenance hatch. It’s lock succumbed to my screwdriver, and I was pleased to note that StableTec did have standarts even on the Surface.
Hatch opened, I started looking for malfunction. The wind howled around, the snow kept flying from everywhere, the platform was shaking like mad and I picked in below a huge red glass flask with my screwdriver in my teeth. I found a breakage fast and poked my muzzle into where I kept my best pegasi technician friends: an honest hammer, handy wrenches, two sticky duct tapes - a blue and a red one, a crimper and a lot of other useful tools. I tried to organize them but found it unexpectedly complicated.
It was hard to concentrate. A couple of times I tried to unscrew a bolt with a bigger wrench, and one time I even mixed up a slotted screwdriver and a crossed one. With every mistake I could feel my enthusiasm evaporate and my head getting heavier and heavier. The darned tower again started to win over me. My clumsiness brought up tears of my own worthlessness. Of course. Who needs a technician who can’t unscrew a bolt? I caught a whisper of a voice of reason, obscured with alcohol, in my head, saying “Why should you have gotten that drunk? How are you going to get down now, fool girl? Flying, huh? First seat the screwdriver properly, you useless prick! And don’t you dare to short these two cables!”
The latter I needed the least, actually, so I put the screwdriver back into the saddlebag, stood up and shook my head. I stepped towards the wooden border of the platform, put my forehooves on it and closed my eyes. Icy wind blew into my face and now it felt pleasant.
When I came back to work, I could take a fresh look at my activities. I have almost fried a fully operational chip! I returned every disassembled piece back and screwed all wires firmly and only then I noticed a real breakdown cause. It actually was a piece of cake: screw here, duct tape here aaand...
A brigt red flash blinded me, I recoiled instinctively and next moment I rammed my back through the slimsy wooden barrier. I fell down, flapping my wings chaotically, trying to resist the wind. A bright red dot flashed up ahead. The wind blows threw me side to side, the visibily was a zero and my fligth abilities were downright negative. Dodging a suddenly appeared rock, I made a couple of ridiculous flips and, lost any air control, flew into a deep snow pile. Face first.
I lay on my back, big snowflakes silently falling from above and two red circle flickered in my vision. I registered a blurred thought: “If I fall asleep, I’ll freeze to death”, but my body refused to respond. It was too much for today and I passed out.

* * *

A piercing beep into my ear made me open my eye. Alarm clock displayed 6:30 - time to wake up for work. I’ll get to the shower now... Wow, it feels like somepony damaged an air conditioning system. Otherwise why the hay is it so cold in my room? Whatever, just a 5 more minutes of beauty sleep...

I opened both my eyes abruptly, as I suddenly remembered everything! Right: the grey sky above me, no more snowflakes falling now, and a red dot blinking on the top of the mountain; there was snow all around me, but the wind settled down. How long have I been laying here? An hour, two hours?

I tried to stand up and felt a lot of dizziness. My vision went dark and it did cost me a lot of effort to keep myself upright. Feeling headache and chattering my teeth from the cold I finally stood up straight.

A bottle. Hoof-sized, maybe a bit bigger. I had to admit the Overmare was right about this tasty drink being a brain poison. Maybe, though, it was a fault of my brain that decided to take it all in one turn. Brain... My head... Headache pills! As much of a bore as that Maney buck was, he surely knew a lot about drinking... and its consequences. I examined the pills pack: “Unicorns - two pills after meal, earth ponies - one pill after meal, pegasi...” I tore away a price label that covered the rest of the phrase and read: “pegasi - one pill after meal, three hours - weakness, flying prohibited! Maximum daily rate: three pills.”

So I took a unicorn dose, just to be sure. I doubted I would try any more flying right now, anyway. Also, I doubted that unicorns’ and pegasi’ kinds of hangover were that different.

Now I only needed to get warm again, but I failed to peform any jumping or dancing: unfortunately, these were regular pills without any magic amplification, so my head continued to crack from the inside. Stretching my numb wings, I kept walking in circles. My fall from that lighthouse somehow reminded me of a story of one of the Ministry Mares - her name was Fluttershy. A really weird pegasus mare: she was a poor flyer since foalhood and once she just fell off a cloud and went all the way down to Earth. She settled there and never yearned for skies before. I could never understand that. Until tonight I knew nothing about the real sky, but still, I never wanted to live like Fluttershy did. That rapid and uncontollable descend I survived this night did not discourage me to use my wings the way they were supposed to be used. Actually, it had been worse. Jumping over the Atrium balcony was definitely not a good idea.

My contemplations were interrupted by a PipBuck signal. It turned out I’ve been walking in circles of bigger and bigger radius - actually I beat a huge spiral in the snow. A new label appeared on the PipBuck’s map and I almost jumped: it said “Stable 96”. Am I going to see my Stable from the outside?

Since foalhood, I wondered why Stable 96 had no door to the Surface. The elders were usually so occupied with keeping Stable in a good shape that they just didn’t bother to tell stories to me. Mom and Dad told me that there must have been a door somewhere upside, where only the engineers were allowed to go. However, I peeked in each and every corner of the Stable (including the filly-restricted ones), but I failed to find the cherished Door, so I turned towards the library, named after the Ministry Mare Twilight Sparkle.

The Ministry Mare’s name, written in purple volumetric letters, backlit with neon, decorated a lavender wall with a pink horizontal line. The Library’s interior was astonishingly beautiful compared to grey metal interiors of the rest of the Stable, with mass-producted humming lights and meals being served the same time every day.

Granny Turtle, an elderly librarian had been really surprised to find out such a young filly as me could be interested in the Engineer’s Stable Reference Guide. But when I explained the reason, she told me everything she hear from her own grand-grandmother who was born back outside!

Our Stable was not a simple refuge for civilian ponies during the war. It had a much greater purpose: to become the salvatory for knowledge and traditions of all the ponykind! The Stable was populated with best scientists and artists of the state. Books were transported here from every corner of Equestria, forming the one and only underground Library of its kind. Our laboratories were equipped with cutting-edge hardware and were ready for a big group of scientists from Hoofington itself! These scientists never came, though, as Zebras were apparently aware of both the Stable’s location and purpose and where the day came, they targeted their missiles precisely. And they were generous for missiles.

A series of chthonic explosions shook the whole mountain. Neither the engineering designs, nor the covering stone could handle such a straight hit. The huge, multi-ton Door had been banged away like a bottlecap and the balefire radiation streamed inside. The balefire triggered a firestorm on the upper level, which no ordinary fire extinguishing system could handle. The hall had been stocked with magically enforced book containers that took the most of the damage and started to melt down. Every single thing was burning and melting on the upper level. The survivors have been evacuated to the lower levels deeper in the mountain, and upside went a special group of volunteers in a desperate attempt to win over the fire. Later, they would be named The Liquidators.

When it became clear that the upper levels could not be reclaimed, it was decided to seal the corridor connecting the upper level and the Library with concrete. The Liquidator have not just been mixing concrete and pump it into the space between airlocks. Having hazmat suits, giving next to none radiation protection, on, they evacuated every book container, that remained, downside. All of them died in a matter of days.

Despite the instructions, their bodies were not utilized, but buried with honor, in a vala comum - a bed of honor - carved in the Library’s floor and filled with the same concrete: so irradiated were their bodies.

Now the story I knew since foalhood, turned into flesh and blood as I stood before an enormous tunnel, a huge gallery that, according to Maney Brown’s records, led to the dragon’s cavern. I dreaded to imagine the size of a dragon who could dwell in such a huge apartments before the StableTec arrived.

Crawling up the stone pile I reckoned what I’m going to see there under the snow: bones of those who failed to enter the Stable in time. And I knew exactly what I’ll see inside the abandoned part of the Stable, if I am ever to get inside. PipBuck’s alarming cracking noise did not stop me. I had no idea what exactly made my head clear now - either a hangover pill or a lust for adventures, but I felt no headache anymore and night troubles were dislodged by curiosity I accumulated through years.

Apparently one balefire missile hit the tunnel directly - it had almost no ceiling and I could see the sky above. It was much brighter now but remained grey and unfriendly. Almost 7 a.m. So, this is what sunrise looks like: diffused white light, just like Stable’s lamps. Normally, this is the sort of light that illuminates me staying next to a coffee machine and striving to get my sleepy eyes open. Contrary to adventure books, there were no bright colours, only grey, dim and gloom.

I imagined myself being in another Stable, a freaking huge one, only frozen and unihabited. Such a dangerously discouraging idea made me buck a stone, right into a barely visible gap, making metal noise, apparently, somewhere inside the Stable. I bent over a gap with sharp rusty edges and sniffed the air, smelling with burning. I coughed hardly and started to pick stones aside. Not an easy job, but it helped me get warm again. Bigger stones proved to be easier to buck inside, rather than pulling aside. I could see now that the gap was actually where the huge Stable Door belonged to. Finally, I managed to crawl inside, turned on PipBuck light and froze, stupefied.

The Hall was lit with emergency lights, dim and red and slowly rotating and that made the picture before me especially sinister. The room was unevenly damaged with fire: I could see burned bones mostly to the left. To the right, under a label reading “luggage examination”, were white bones, mixed with what once were personal belongings, cases and clothes. Well, there were bones everywhere, but the ones to the left were melted into plastic and glass. I could only guess who of the dead were more lucky.
I had to breathe with my muzzle. A reek of soot made my nose sore and eyes watering. What I saw before me was basically a huge common grave and I lost any intention to pick through these ponies’ personal belongings.

The most amazing, however, were not these atrocious remains. Staying on the stone pile, next to the Hall’s ceiling, I could see a gigantic gear-shaped Stable Door, thrown inside with a direct balefire hit. I could clearly imagine a number “96” painted on the burned surface, if only it was not covered with a cadaver of a huge bird, laying in the center, like a some sort of an ancient ritual’s sacrifice. Apparenly, it had been there for a long time already, as I could see empty eye-sockets and a bony neck, barely covered with feathers.

Carefully descending into the Hall, I tried my best to remember everything I knew about pre-war Equestrian birds, fruitlessly. I simply did not know any bird of that size. Actually, the creature - a sentient, judging by remains of clothes and a gun in its paw - the creature was only a half of a bird, and an upper half. It featured two wings, two paws and below that... there were two more paws and a narrow, long, absolutely not avian tail.

A griffon! I remembered these proud and independent inhabitants of Equestria had mixed feelings towards ponies. Say, some of them helped Daring Do to escape all sorts of troubles while others tried to assasinate her for good. My cookbook was written by some griffon named Gustav, and I tried to perform its recipes, fruitlessly, as half of its ingredients were merely not available in the Stable.

This griffon, however, definitely was not a cook. Once he wore a leather jacket with a fur neckpiece and camouflage pants. His chest was covered with a steel plate which obviusly failed to protect its owner. It had holes here and there and I saw a puddle of dried blood beneath the corpse. Not that I liked this one any more than the pony corpse back in the tunnels but this mummy at least did not emit a suffocative reek of decay. He clearly died much, much later than all the ponies around and I wondered what killed him...

And the answer was easy. As soon as I stepped closer to the griffin’s duffel bag, a hatch opened in the ceiling and an automated turret appeared! I charged across the Hall, almost hearing a ruthless automatic fire behind. Jumping over the piles of bones and skulls, I stopped abruptly only before the second turret that suddenly appeared right in front of me. I fell on the floor and covered myself with a nearest case, not quite comprehending this being a pretty poor protection from bullets. I tried to push myself into the floor as hard as I could, not that I could actually push myself into the concrete...

THE END! Facing the dreadful fatal error of my whole life, as short and useless it was, I heard a dry click above and another one behind. The clicks repeated and I peek from under the old case. Turrets rotated as if they examined me, chambers clicking, but the turrets were empty. The nearest turret’s scanning beam paused over my PipBuck for a second. Then something beeped inside the machine and its red lights changed to green.

Have these machines just examined me and declared me... friendly? Apparently, these guns prefered to shoot first and sort friendlies out later.

I heard a loud click of hidden switch and regular illumination replaced the red emergency lights. I stood back on my hooves and walked back to the griffon corpse. Now this was the adventure I had to do some looting after!

My gaze fell upon an airlock, a label stenciled above read “The Library lvl. 2”, and an index next to it told me there were also Caffeteria, Radio Room, Reading Room and an Overmare’s Office on this level. Right beneath the airlock door was a skeleton of a unicorn, partially embedded in concrete that once streamed from between the door and the floor. One of the Liquidators.

I carefully stepped over it and put my hoof on the door, eyes closed. I imagined this layer of concrete, fifty feet that separated me from the Librarian’s bar. Yes, the purple wall I saw every time I visited the Library concealed the concrete seal that kept the Stable alive for two hundred years. But most important was that these fifty feet of concrete separated me from habitual, measured and boring life. Now I was sure I did not want to return home.

See, I had a job and I was good at it, but it provided no sense of adventure I experienced now. Actually, I’ve been really disappointed when I received a spark piercing a red cord on my flank. I always wanted to bear a compass there, or a some map or a treasure chest. That very day I managed to open the airlock by shorting two cords, but that was not supposed to mean I wanted to be a Stable technician! I merely wanted to enter an inaccesible area! The cutie mark had been already there, however, and there were no way to remove it. On a bright side, I was the first filly in my class to get it, although two blank flanks virtually came to hate towards me for that...

However, now I was grown-up and free. Although it had been more than a year since I left my parents’ apartments and lived alone, I still had to obey Stable’s weird rules - like the Library being closed at night, personnel being awoken with the same Octavia’s “Morning suite” every single day and boring security mares in ridiculously full armor forbade running in corridors.

Living in confined space, having such a vast, if unfriendly, space around you? Doggone, I dreamed not to break free for all my life! Of course the Stable dwellers would be looking for me, but what could they do? It took wings to ascend that shaft, and I’d bet they won’t even try that one. I only hope Copper Wire won’t have to face the music too hard. She’s a trainee, after all, and bears no responsibility...

Responsibility... What the hay am I ever thinking about? Listen to me, speaking as if any part of me still remained behind the seal, and I’m not that free Dodo who’d rather be picking through the griffon’s belongings. The last thing I needed right now was an imaginary excorciation by an Overmare. Enough!

I withdrawed my hoof from the door and headed straight to the duffel bag I missed. “What do we have here? Two pistol clips, one empty, an old compass - a mechanical one, no electronics! Binoculars, one lens broken. So call it a monocular, but still usable. Now this is super cool! A planchette!”

Inside the planchette was an old copy-book, without a cover, filled with incomprehensible writing - griffons language, maybe? How is called, I couldn’t remember. The transparent pocket contained a map. The names were in pony, yet I couldn’t find any familiar city on it. The only mark that drawn my attention said “Flashtown” and it had been circled with red. While most of griffon’s stuff could be examined instantly, the planchette’s insides required more thorough inspection, and in different circumstances.

As I put all the records back in the planchette, I examined the bag. It was empty and holes gaped here and there so I threw it away and then I noticed a tin candy can. Inside was a whole collection of “Sparkle-Cola” caps of different condition, from new to rusty. This fellow griffin surely had a weird hobby, didn’t he? I wondered if he used these caps as chips in some sort of a game? Anyways, I had a plenty of pockets, so I took the can. To my deepest regrets, there were no food whatsoever. Whatever, the only thing I had to do now is to examine the corpse itself. Ugh...

“So, Dodo, you wanted to be an archeologist? Come on, you can just close your eyes. What your eyes fear, your hooves do.”

First, I retrieved the pistol from griffon’s grip, causing the skeletal paw to crumble. Clearly, I could not use this weapon - it was way too big and the grip had an angle, designed for hands. And it could be triggered neither with teeth, nor with... tongue. Yes, I did see such weird designs in “Armed To The Teeth” magazine! I guess I could have adapted the weapon for a pony, but I needed a workbench and a number of tools. So I just dumped the gun into the saddlebag.

A holster, however, was a good thing to find. I managed to tie it to my leg, below a pocket. Although Maney’s gun was smaller, it fit into the holster and even did not dangle. Now I could draw it with ease.

Scavenging griffon’s jacket pockets, I found only a pack of “Magic bubbles” bubble gum. The pack featured a yellow earth pony flying over a colorful city via a huge pink bubble coming out of his muzzle. The slices sticked together like a pink piece of stone one could hammer nails with. I threw it away and finally dared to peek at griffon’s head. Dark empty eye-sockets, half-open beak, several pefrorating bullet holes. Disgusting and creepy. I looked away and noticed a pair of flight goggles and the animal’s neck. Incredibly, they survived all the bullets.

I tried to take them off, but they stuck. The tension caused griffon’s skull to detach and fall down, jingling with something. One could guess what was jingling.

The goggles were just a bit dirty. I wiped them with my sleeve, trimmed the strap and got them on. Now this was the solution to piercing blizzards that made me look under my hooves constanlty.

I returned the skull back to its place and headed outside. Nothing to do here anymore. When the fire broke out, automated alarm systems blocked the airlocks leading to other parts of the Stable. Of course, the lockdown could have been raised from the Overmare’s office behind the concrete seal and my special short-circuitry trick just didn’t work on the cables that were actually inside the walls.

Judging by the turrets that obviously preferred to shoot before performing a friend-or-foe identification routine, the StableTec disregarded a single pony’s death over the Stable’s survival as a whole. I had to get as far as possible from this horrible place and to wipe away such conceptions, so rational yet so inequine, from my head. I need some fresh air: the omnipresent smell of burning and soot made my head ache and my throat burn.

When I got out from this “Crypt 96”, as Many Brown aptly named it, I felt a lot better. It was cold and windy outside, yet I could breathe deep. Coughing, I tried to clean my barding with snow, succesfully, although some stains and a tiny scent of soot remained.

I got a hoof-ful of snow and smeared it over my face to freshen myself, then I got the goggles on and started down the narrow path down the slope that disappeared in the snowfall.

* * *

I shivered with cold. The feeling was constant and it annoyed me a lot. Fitful wind wouldn’t stop and most of the time was blowing in my face, as if on purpose. Of course, I was hungry, therefore I felt cold. The PipBuck’s thermometer displayed 26.6 F degrees, and it was ridiculous after constant 78 F degrees I’ve got used to back in the Stable. The clock displayed 12:25 and this meant half and hour ago a lunch break started in our technicians’ room. I could bet my rump on that Steel Wire is going to steal another salad leaf from her talkative younger sister Copper Wire’s plate today. Thoughts of food made my stomach rumble - it has actually been a day since I had any considerable meal, not counting a chocolate bar.

I had conflicting feelings tearing me apart: some part of me actually wanted to return home, into comfort and safety, where the most curious thing ever would be a green cable hanging on the wall, reminding me of all the adventures I failed to see. Having this kind of a remainder nearby for the rest of my life was more than I could bear, so I decidedly went on forward, towards the unknown.

I kept walking down a narrow path between the rocky wall and the abyss, crawling over larger boulders and jumping over gaps. Here and there the path turned into an icy rink, and all I could do was carefully sliding down, praying I don’t fall all the way down.

After the next turn I saw a huge pile of rusty metal. Actually, it was a wreckage of some vehicle. Whatever sheathing remained, was of dirty yellow colour, and a triple pink butterfly symbol was visible. I recalled an image from “Equestrian Ministries and Departments Guide”: this was a logo of Ministry Of Peace. So, that meant I was on a right track.

The wrecked vehicle obstructed my way and I had to crawl right through it. Something crumbled under my hooves. I lowered my eyes and immediately regretted it. Black scorched bones protruded from under thin layer of snow. I realized that bones and corpses everywhere was all I saw on the Surface. At this instant my PipBuck emitted a high-pitched beep and a lonely red dot appeared on my EFS.

A deafening roar thundered behind.

A predator! A huge one, covered with shaggy white fur, it stood higher the path, where I just passed and prepared to jump. Its paws were strained and its membranous wings spiked aside. And yes, I knew this creature exactly: Daring Do did run away from one of those.

A Man-ti-core! I could feel hair standing up on the back of my neck. This. Is. Not. Good.

The beast charged towards the wreckage, roaring, and I jumped as far behind as I could. I could hear metal grinding as the manticore tried to free itself from the trap. Its claw has gotten in between the metal sheathing. Taking advantage of the beast’s confusion, I unfolded the holster and gripped my teeth on solid pistol handle. I pointed the gun in animal’s general direction and attempted to summon the Arcane Targeting Spell, but the PipBuck made a shuffy beep and displayed an error. I remembered the day I got my PipBuck: the technician said “You won’t ever need SATS, right?”. Wrong. I just did.

The manticore pulled its paw fiercely, but fruitlessly. I aimed to the monster’s head and was able to see its piercing blue eyes, full of pain and rage. The heavy gun in my teeth wavered, I hit the safety latch and clenched my teeth. The recoil sent my head back and the bullet went high, hitting the wrecked sheathing. I hoped my next shots hit the animal’s forehead, but, as if on contrary, the beast emitted a deafening roar of rage and started to break through the vehicle, bending its metal “ribs” aside with incredible force.

I ran away. Clenching the gun in my teeth, I ran, without looking under my hooves, jumping over boulders automatically. I didn’t turn back but the manticore’s ocassional roar told me it’s too early to slow down.

My run ended abruptly by another vehicle, this one being almost intact. I jumped through the doorway and realized there was no other way out. I’ve just driven myself into a trap! The manticore dashed into the vehicle, bending its board inside, showering me with glass. I bent down and crawled towards the doorway, hoping to sneak past the raging predator. My attempt, however, was interrupted by a huge paw with razor-sharp claws: the beast was wild, but definitely not stupid. I backed into a far corner of the vehicle and desperately tried to think of something.

A window! Right above me, in the ceiling! More like a hatch, narrow and glassed, but if I drop my saddlebag with all equipment... Nonono, no way!

The whole vehicle started to lean. It seemed like the manticore decided to shake me out, right into its jaws. The predator swung the wagon and I rolled inside like some piece of junk. With a thud the wagon fell down and the ceiling became a wall and a wall became the floor. That’s it! I dashed towards the narrow window and hammered it with the pistol’s handle with all force I could muster. For Celestia’s sake, how sturdy it is? “Everything for your safety. Diamond Glass, inc, division of Ministry of Image.” They owned every window in the Stable.

The window cracked, but remained in place. Meanwhile, the manticore reached somewhere atop the wagon and started to tear its sheathing sheets apart. My firm buck caused the glass to finally fall away. Now useless gun holstered, I started to squeeze through the window. Of course, my saddlebads stuck and I had to unfasten them. Immediately, my pursuer’s huge head pushed through the roof, followed by a mighty paw, catching the saddlebag’s belt. “N-no way!” - I shouted, sticking the PipBuck in the manticore’s face and hitting the “strobe” mode. Apparently, the creature didn’t like it, as it loosened its grip and I pulled my belongings into the hatch after me.

“No luck for you today, little one” - I thought, raising on my hooves. It was too early to celebrate victory so I charged with my last effort, throwing the saddlebags behind as I ran down the path. I could hear the wagon falling into the abyss behind: the predator simply pushed it aside and ran on after me. What a determined one!

A stone, a branch, some rusty metal... Normal jumps, side jumps, sliding jumps - I’ve got really skilled in these... The abyss! The path broke off into the abyss! Behind me is the raging manticore, ahead of me is the precipice. Here it is, the flight I dreamed about! I reversed a few steps and ran down the path, flapping my wings fiercely. On the very edge of the slope my hooves left the ground and continued running in the air. I flew! No, I actually controlled my flight, rather than being just another snowflake in the rough wind! The manticore made a disappointed howl, loosing track of its prey. “Take that, bastard!” I teased behind. Boy, did it deserve it!

I flapped my wings as fast as I could but soon I realised that it was not speed that mattered, but the force of the flap. This was the mistake I did every time before. Now that I could control my flight, I could fly wherever...

Suddenly I felt a wave of weakness, and my flaps became dangerously slow. I remembered the headache pills label: “Three hours - weakness, flying prohibited!” Screw it! I certainly had some weird kind of luck: a failure followed every considerable success. The abyss’s edge was close but I had to turn right in order to catch the wind. The wind brought me to a ledge some thirty feet higher than I aimed.

Landing, and at least, not a crash. Breathing hard, I fell into the snow, face first, while pushing myself away from the abyss with my rear hooves. I crawled until I faced the rock wall, leaned to it and tried to catch my breath. Before I could make a couple of steps, I found a tin can, that once contained canned beans.

Oh yes, I remembered a joke some technician made. From the times of Stable’s construction, there had been a poster hanging on the wall of technicians’ room, advertising these particular beans, featuring some slogan, like “Saving your beans through centuries. Wartime Food Concern”. There was a tin can painted with its lid pointed towards the observer, and some joker drew the number “96” on it.

Actually, I did not even know how to treat this joke: after all we were actually canned, preserved to fill Equestria with qualified specialists and knowledge. Although, I doubted anypony was going to open this particular can in a century or two or even five... I’ve been a whole day up here on the Surface and all I saw was bones and no alive intelligent being whatsoever. It seemed like there were nopony left at all to open the Stable from the outside. And here goes another corpse!

A few feet away from my landing spot I could see a brown barding from under the snow. I’ve already got used to the dead so I started to rake away the snow, already knowing whose remains exactly I was going to see.

“Hello, Maney Brown” I said quietly.

* * *

The wind was determined to blow me off the ledge. The ledge itself was plain and empty, save for a lonely dead tree, its trunk protruding from the rocky wall. I tried to turn Maney’s body on its back to reach into his pockets. The corpse was deeply frozen and still kept some resemblance to a pony. I justified my unplanned act of marauding by my desperate condition. If I fail to find anything useful on this Celestia-forsaken cliff, I would decease right there, next to this Maney fellow.

“He must have pockets in his barding. And the pockets are filled with all sorts of stuff.” Of course, I judged by myself, but I truly hoped other ponies filled their pockets with useful things, too. The barding was sturdy and was frozen to the body, so I could not rip it off even with my mouth. Actually, I managed to rip off its hood and saw a grinning skull. As expectable as it was, I still recoiled in disgust. However, I did manage to find something useful: the dead stallion still clenched his teeth on an ice-pick.

Was it destiny, blind luck or a sign from above, did not matter. I preferred to call it a coincidence. Having seized the ice-pick, I started to chop ice around the stallion’s body. Every strike cause a pain in the back of my head, but I was prepared for worse.

His barding actually had two pockets: one of it was empty while another contained a pocket watch with a thin metal chain - the most useless thing in given circumstances. I carefully turned the corpse on its back. The barding’s lining rotted almost entirely, and I discovered an obligatory flask with some liquid inside deep inside his ribcage. Quite symbolic, isn’t it, Maney? The poor fellow, apparently, had a really unfortunate fall: most of his ribs were broken. I instantly remembered my night fall and thanked the Goddesses for a couple of wings on my back.

I did my best to cleanse the flask from, ugh... Okay, it’s no time for disgust. Whatever, I unfastened the lid and poured whatever remained inside of me. A familiar taste of “AmberMare” spilled warmth all over my body, but my empty stomach protested. Doing my best to ignore it, I retrieved an alpine safety cord that was covered by Maney’s remains. The cord was followed by a heavy double-barrelled shotgun, damaged beyond repair. However, I already knew hos to use it.

* * *

What I was doing at the moment was the most dangerous and reckless thing of anything I ever had to do. I hanged over the abyss on a safety cord. It’s upper end was snapped to the shotgun I secured in a fork of the dead tree.

I swung from side to side, desperately trying to stick the ice-pick into the cliff I aimed to. Every swing brought me a bit closer, but then I swung back, with an ice-pick in my teeth. The darned tree could snap any moment, but I preferred not to think about it. Somewhere deep inside of my mind I decided that if luck could be measured from one to ten, I’d have mine somewhere around seven.

Next time I approached the cliff, I nodded powerfully, driving the ice-pick into frozen ground. The Dodo Pendulum stopped and the safety cord stretched dangerously. I hanged right over a bit of stony soil. I could feel myself being pulled backwards and downwards at the same time and this was not a pleasant feeling. The cord was too short to let me reach the ground, and I understood that this setup won’t keep its state for long, so I hastily tried to unsnap the shackle with my rear hoof. Thankfully, the lever was large enough, and the very moment the ice-pick started to plow the iced earth, the safety cord went off into the void like a slingshot with an audible snap. I fell on the rocks, belly first, and this was painful. I could almost see sparks of pain burst from my eyes, followed by tears.

I turned on my back, trying to ease pain and catch my breath. Fortunately, my ribs were apparently intact. I retrieved a painkiller from my med-kit and reckoned I would have to put it away: one of its side effects was weakness and drowsiness, and that I could not afford. I stood up on my hooves and started walking up the path, peppered with rocks. I did not understand that moment that I actually was a perfect victim. My lavender pink hide and blond mane contrasted to white snow. I could neither fly nor run away. Actually, I could barely move my hooves. To cheer myself up a bit, I remember an old Pre-War rhyme about the Winter Wrap Up. I didn’t remember the lyrics too well. The only image I could recall included pegasi and a particular pink earth pony in warm and cozy blue jackets pushing snow down the rooftops. Every time I forget the lyrics I started humming the verse from start. In the end, I’ve got stuck at the moment where pegasi push away clouds, giving way for sun beams and then I got completely discouraged.

* * *

The landscape changed. The left edge of the road was into abyss no more, and the path became wider now. It meandered between large boulder that obstructed my field of view and I had to realy on my EFS and my luck. And I sure hoped the latter was on my side, for I could not wind another run from a manticore or any other agile beast, whatsoever. Good thing not every winged creature can fly. I remembered manticore’s tiny wings, unsuitable for flight, and smiled to myself.

After the next turn the boulders ended and the descend became more gentle. I’ve been on the Surface long enough to get used to all shades of gray and brown around me. That’s why a lone yellow point on the horizons immediately drew my attention. I retrieved the griffon’s one-eyed binocular, I examined this bright spot, which turned out to be another carriage. This one had large wheels and apparently used to roll the ground instead of flying. Unlike the ones I met before, this one was cleaned of snow and, from the looks of it, inhabited

Until this moment the only evidence of sentient life on the Surface was, as weird as it may seem, the fresh corpse from the cavern I emerged from. And now I saw a dwelling, obviously created after the Catastrophe, and that told me that ponies or whatever creatures they turned into, still remained their sapience. And that meant I could try to find some common ground with them.

And whoever inhabited this colourful dwelling, was at least a curious sort of person, as now I could see the whole vehicle was turned upside down.

And then I saw the most interesting detail: the vehicle’s board featured a large wind rose. And of all possible wind roses I saw the one that was exactly the cutie mark of Daring Do!

New Perk added: Adrenaline Rush. In critical circumstances you move faster and more agile than most ponies.
New Quest Perk added: Nestling’s Flight. You learn to fly, step by step. But remember: low strength or endurance may end your flight deplorably.

Author's Note:

Alnair's Notes.

Now it feels like we've managed to get the story running, haven't we?
I would like to thank everyone who left their comments: they do help us make the story better.
I would also like to thank the artists who dedicated their works to "The Fossil". You can find them on DeviantArt.
For those of you who might wonder what Dodo actually looks like, here is Lucky's own rendition:


I absolutely love to see more artworks!
And, also I would like to point our readers to another awesome fic I truly enjoyed reading. It's called "Wild Wasteland", by ClickClackBrony. It's as interesting as it is hilarious. Keep up the fine work, Click!