• Published 22nd Dec 2012
  • 4,317 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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Falling With Style

Chapter 04: Falling With Style

The night has brought a lot of snow. The snow has flattened the landscape, but that was only an appearance of things. In fact, I kept falling into snow traps.

Before we departed, Jester offered me some weird shoes to get on, that looked more like tennis rackets - she called them ‘snowshoes’. I instantly refused: they were bulky, ugly and they disabled me from using the PipBuck or even scratching my nose.

And now I regretted my refuse. Keeping pace with Jester took a lot of efforts, and otherwise I had to speak really loud which was bad for my sore throat.

“And where are we going again?” I asked.

"To the Butterfly.”

"And what are we going to do there?”

"We’ll find a bigger gun and a better apparel for you, silly. Since you’re so stubborn and don’t want to go home, we need to equip you appropriately. You’ll talk to people, too. That would be good for you.”

I could barely hear her last words. Navigating through shallow places, I managed to fall some ten feet behind Jester. And the darned mare won’t raise her voice as if on purpose.

The path curved. Jester’s hoofsteps did too. It seemed logical to make a direct shortcut to catch up with her. As a result, my next step made me dive into snow almost up to my neck. So much for a shortcut!

"Jester, waaaait!!!" I shouted loudly and my sore throat reminded me about itself again.

My companion stopped and turned around to see if something happened. And when I pulled myself out of the snow pit and finally reached her, I heard:

"I told you to follow in my hoofsteps.”

We went on and I remembered: yeah, she did say so. But I had no idea she meant it literaaaa...!”

I fell again and but my tongue painfully. This time, my legs slid to the side by themselves. “Darn, I’m fed up with this!” With that, I unfolded my wings and made a couple of flaps and then another one. My hooves raised above the snow cover and after some more flaps I reached Jester again.

"Oh, hello again, Dodo. I had no idea you can be that fast." And, to my astonishment, she quickened her pace! But now I could keep up with her anyways so I could stop my snow-diving and continue our conversation.

"So, Butterfly, huh? What is this place?”

"A village. You’re going to love it. Merry folks, pretty music.”

When she said “merry folks”, I shuddered. Jester alone was enough for me, with all her constant joy. And now I had a feeling I was going to face a whole Jesterville.

I sighed, imagining it vividly. Jester even turned her head towards me.

"Why so sour? I can’t speak for the whole Wasteland, but of all places I visited, Butterfly is the friendliest place.”

Sure.

"What is this ridiculous name - “the Wasteland”? " I cling to the new word. " As far as I can see, there is a plenty of things. There are even trees.”

Jester stopped and looked right before herself, deep in her thoughts. I reached her and now stood next to her, gazing at already familiar northern landscape.

Our path went along the top of a mountain ridge. To the left and to the right I could see snowy ravines and distant ridges, its shapes blurred with fog. And here and there you could see some trees on the mountain slopes " conifers, apparently. Backgrounded with snow, they did not appeared green, as I used to see them in the books, but rather black. But unlike the dead tree from the abyss, these ones did not appear dead at all.

"When Equestria died, the most of its territory turned into the wasteland, literally soaked with all sort of poisonous stuff. But the mountains stopped the radiation flow, and the wind moved the fallout towards Manehattan and Hoofington. " Jester made a dark face, remembering something. " So, you’re right, Dodo. The Wasteland is just a common name for what have once been Equestria.”

Jester went on and I had to hustle up again to keep up with her. Now I could see why my PipBuck kept silent all the time. The air here was not poisoned, and the radiation did not go beyond my Stable’s surroundings. I did not want to know what happened to the places that received the most of the fallout, but Jester spoke, as if she heard my thoughts:

"Mind you, this region has its own dirty places, too, like the Wreck. Once, it used to be a large industrial center with a proud name of Stahlbarn. It’s new name, however, speaks for itself, although these ruins are always crowded with all sorts of losers. Losers without enough experience, guts or gear to stick their muzzle outside a local boozer and attempt a deeper recon.”

Jester snorted. Apparently, she did not think much of these ponies.

"Eh, and what are they doing down at those ruins?”

Jester snorted again.

"Picking, of course. Newbies like you. This shithole is crawling with them, trying to find something worthy where everything has been scavenged, like, a dozen times already. Only the dumbest and the desperate dare to venture deeper underground.”

Jester spit under her hooves with disgust.

"Those who have caps but have no guts, get themselves a fancy hazmat suit and stick to more or less safe places of the former city communications. Those who have no caps, but have brains, spur the newbies underground. Those who survive sooner or later replace their former ‘patrons’. Those who don’t even have brains usually die in a couple of hikes, choking on some poisonous shit or cracking their neck in another shaft. Usual story.”

"And what about no caps and no guts?’

"Ah, those. Those are the most pityful sight. Beggars and wasted drunkies. Always dirty, stinking and with opaque eyes. For a cap or two they will tell you an awesome story of tearing a manticore’s maw with their bare hooves, or seeing an apparition of princess Luna with their own eyes. Well, I have no doubts about the latter, there’s so much you can see when you’re high.”

I gulped.

Jester’s story shook me well. All my disappointment with my little confined world I used to live in has suddenly been double-crossed with a single thought: I was born in a right place and in a right time.

What would I have become if I had not been born in the Stable? Another loser from the Wreck kind? And what if my family was a couple of raiders... if they make families at all. Would I have killed and robbed? I even shuddered to this thought.

And what about Jester? I doubted she had an easy time. I was almost sure she started her career of scavenger exactly in the Wreck. But she looked nothing like a loser, and even more - she dropped every hint to display she adapted to the Surface well. I wish I could borrow even a little bit of such confidence.

"So, are you coming or prefer to stare at the snow?" Wow, Jester went quite far away while I digested new information. I charged to catch up with her, but my hooves slid away again and I rolled downhill.

* * *

Whenever I dreamed about flying, I imagined it happening in a relatively straight trajectory and farther from the ground. Hell, this was not flying, this was falling, and without style.

I rolled down the slope, hitting snow-covered rocks every now and then. Earth and sky replaced each other rapidly, and I lost my sense of space. “More bruises incoming” " I thought in between two particularly hard hits. Some deep instinct told me to brace myself and not to wave wy hooves in the air. Then, a familiar sense of weightlessness came, followed by a crash into the snow, face first as usual. I heard an unpleasant crunch in my neck and then I stopped.

My attempt to stand up and shake myself off failed. The morning radroach soup was about to come out in an unnatural way and I tried to make the world stop from spinning with my hooves, fruitlessly.

I had to fall on my side to keep my breakfast inside. The world kept spinning around me and I decided to wait until the sky become one again.

"Are you alive down there, filly?" Jester descended down the slope as if she was sliding. Darn it, how does she do it? I waved my hoof to her.

"I don’t want to disappoint you, young one, but you’re doing your flying wrong. And stop looking at me like that, you’ve been barely scratched!" Jester came closer, looking down at me calmly. Oh boy, how I wanted to say something really unpleasant in reply. The world still tried to sail away from me and the snow melted under my collar in a most disgusting way.

"And I see you’re making progress in your archaeology stuff.”

"What are you talking...?”

Jester interrupted me and pointed her hoof somewhere behind my back. I turned around and found my involuntary descend to end at the edge of a huge pit, like a scoop, with one side open to the abyss. The pit was filled with much deeper snow, and on the edge of it, something big and long layed, hanging over the abyss. Some kind of an prolongate construction or, rather, a machine, painted in grey. And almost entirely covered with snow. I could not realise what that was exactly from my point.

"What is it?" I looked at the striped pony and saw her eyes sparkle with excitement.

"Now, girl, it seems you’ve discovered a whole aircraft.”

* * *

We descended down the slope of the scoop with great care. I had my ice-pick ready in case I fall again and Jester layed rope so we could get back.

At first I though the aircraft layed horizontally, but the closer we went, the more obvious it became that the whole machine had an angle: its tail was raised and its nose looked down the abyss.

At the pit’s bottom I realised this was not the only illusion: the machine was much bigger than I thought first. Even despite the most of its body was under the snow, it was clear that a whole dozen of those carriages I saw before could fit inside this one.

"Jester, have you ever seen such aircrafts before?" I could trot the snow much faster now, but I still lagged behind the grey mare.

"Only on the ad posters. But I heard they were quite popular cargo transport those days. They delivered mail, cargo and sometimes - ponies. I bet this one is the Cloud Brigand, developed after Sky Bandits became too small for the war needs.

"Sky Bandits?”

"You said you’ve seen some weird carriages without wheels. Those are Sky Bandits. They were driven by a single pegasus and could take up to a dozen ponies with luggage.”

"That has to make a couple of tons of weight. How is this even possible? " I failed to imagine a pegasus powerful enough to pull such payload.

Jester stopped abruptly and looked at me as if I just put my rear hoof in my mouth.

"Dear, do I look like a pegasus to you?”

I had nothing to say to that.

"Sweet Celestia, you’re so easy to disarm. " She shook her head dramatically and then her face suddenly changed to smile.

"I’m not much into mechanics. It’s Hack Wrench who could tell you everything about these vehicles.”

"Hack Wrench? You never told me you’ve got another pegasus friend.”

"Actually, you’re wrong, little girl. She was an earth pony.”

"Ahem, and what was her interest in the Bandits then?”

"Oh, this mare was obsessed with the idea to repair one of those Bandits, not too far away from the village. She found the blueprints somewhere and turned her house into a whole warehouse of spare parts and cords. The Bandit is still there, unfinished.”

"Why are you speaking in past tense? " I asked carefully.

"She was good with mechanics and locksmithing, and she went on. But she could not cope with the wires " all those batteries and power lines were beyond her talents. And the worst of all, she could not find a pegasus nearby. You see, who needs a vehicle with no driver?”

I nodded.

"She came somewhere from the south and she could not handle the cold so well. So, in the middle of the winter she packed her saddlebags and left. “

"Well, I can relate." I answered, shivering with cold. “Bad climate it is. And I thought something bad happened. To hell with such thoughts”.

"She told me there is an engine in every Bandit that propels the vehicle. The pegasus only steers it with the mechanical harness. And I doubt even she could tell you how to steer this thing." Jester pointed at the buried aircraft.

We stood near its tail. Its huge keel was pointed towards the sky, the sky that was ready to burst into another blizzard any moment. The true sun could barely pierce the cloud curtain, but the airplane’s tail was decorated with another one - Princess Celestia’s cutie mark! Apparently, it was a some kind of insignia. I could read a partially worn label below, saying “Ryal Wnged Mil”.

"Are we going to read somepony else’s mail?”

"Sure, Princess Celestia’s love letters." Jester mocked.

Jester’s word made me feel uncomfortable. Well, of course I knew Princess was made of flesh and blood, but saying such things about her... It’s blasphemy.

"Hey, Dodo to Jester, come in! " Jester waved her hoof, without her snowshoe, before my face. " Are you going to spend a whole day outside?

"Huh? " I think I’ve just got carried away with problems of theosophy. "Of course not. But how do we get inside?”

I could see no doors that we could use to infiltrate to aircraft. They, if any, seemed to be buried under the snow.

"And how would you have done it?" Jester undid her saddlebags and started picking through the contents.

"Well, I will use the door. Probably, with the aid of hammer, ice-pick or some other property destruction device.”

Jester even stopped picking through her saddlebags to that.

"Well... If I fail to pick it with my screwdriver first." I pretended to pick the snow shyly with my hoof.

Did I just managed to surprise her?

"Then dig.”

"Where?" I started to feel dumb again.

"Right before yourself." Jester returned back to her saddlebags, apparently determined to find something in there.

I estimated the snow at the fuselage. There had to be no less than five feet deep!

"What, right with my hooves?”

"Well, personally, you may use your hooves, why not." Judging by the silence, Jester has finally managed to find whatever she was looking for.

I turned my head. Jester had a small portable shovel in her teeth.

* * *

"A window is fine, too." I shrugged.

The two of us stood at the bottom of a small pit, dug in snow with our collaborative efforts. I had no intention to do that again. I examined the rim of the round porthole on the Brigand’s side.

"Now we only need to open it..." I reached my head to retrieve the screwdriver from my pocket, but my movement was interrupted by a sound of a powerful blow and breaking glass. "...carefully.”

Jester unholstered a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun, short enough to grip her teeth on it like a pistol.

“Fo? Hoo firft?”

She didn’t need to ask me twice. Excited by our excavations, I eagerly started inside, but a hard grey hoof stopped me.

“Filly, you either do not listen to me, or you’ve got your memory blown off with snow.”

I blinked in bewilderment. It was the third time she called me ‘filly’. It seemed like all the impression I made with my story back at her van has just vanished.

“What’s wrong, Jester?”

Jester winced as if she’d just eaten a rotten carrot.

“You’re worse, than a sheep on a minefield. Do you really have no idea you are going to open your back to me?”

I really had no idea at all.

“What do you mean?”

The petite striped mare dropped her shotgun to the ground and spat.

“There’s nopony you should trust in the Wasteland. Nopony at all. You saw a shotgun in my teeth. What stops me from shooting in your back?”

My jaw dropped from such a twist.

“But you have just saved me, Jester! You’ve gone through a lot of trouble to get me back to life.”

“Well, you’ve helped me carry your loot. So now I can shoot you for your belongings.” I could not tell if she was joking or not. I could feel the group slipping away from my hooves. “This is your vulnerability. There is no reason a Wasteland dweller should not kill you, no matter what he said or did before.”

I did not believe her. I could not, I did not want to believe this.

“Ponies don’t act this way, Jester.” I pushed her hoof away with force and went into the porthole, leaving the striped mare behind.

Inside was dark and it smelled like humidity, rust iron and all sorts of other materials, whose smells I did not recognize. I jumped down, lit up my PipBuck and looked around.

I’ve said it already that I had no idea how big this machine was. It appeared even bigger inside. I think the plane’s interior was wider and higher than some corridors in the Stable. The interior featured bare steel “ribs” and some pipelines on the ceiling. Apparently nopony bothered themselves with furnishing on a cargo plane. All this, along with round portholes, wooden boxes and metal latticed floor reminded me of ancient ships’ holds from pre-war books about pirates and sea travels. Well, even this plane’s name had a bit of pirate feel for me.

But, unlike the ships from the books, everything - or almost everything - here was made from metal, and looked more or less contemporary even after two hundred years.

I heard Jester rolling inside noisily behind me. Then I saw some light source ignite behind me and heard an approving whistle.

“Jackpot! Speak about begginer’s luck!”

Turning towards Jester, I saw a weird picture. Her forehead emiited a very bright beam of light, as if she was... a unicorn? I winked and realised my mistake. There was a hexagonal white gem in a metallic body with a leather belt on her head.

“Surely, you know you’ve got a star in your head, don’t you?” I mocked, trying to give Jester a taste of her own medicine.

“You jealous?”

Of course I was. Such a tiny gem gave about three times more light than my PipBuck. I said nothing, though.

“It is ‘LP-31 Lightbringer’. Branded stuff, not a some lame mule counterfeit. Where other toys would please you two times maximum, this little one can handle up to thirty and one extra! Or, at least, that’s what the package said...

Tarnation, why does every, even the most innocent thing, sounded almost like obscenity in her mouth? My thoughts carried me away and I felt crimson on my face.

Leaving me behind with my mouth open, Jester went on, and her headlamp illuminated more rows of boxes.

“Shit, Dodo, it’s like Hearth Warming Eve in November! What are we waiting for?”

Actually, I had no idea what should be done in such circumstances. Jester, however, obviously had no intention to lose any time. In a split second Jester was in posession of a red crowbar. Does she always carry all those tools along? Jester inserted the crowbar in between planks of the nearest large container and then forcefully pushed it with her hoof. In five minutes the whole wall of the container fell before our hooves, peppering us with wrapping paper confetti.

“What the hay?” After spitting away the paper from my gaping mouth, I dercted the light forward. The whole container had been occupied with a huge old piano. A piano! Who could have thought of sending a piano with a cargo plane this far north?

“Hey Dodo, you like classical music?” Jester had been definitely amused with my disappointed look.

“You have no idea.” I replied sarcastically.

The music Jester had shown me yesterday was a revelation to me. I have never heard such sounds before. Jester explained that such sound are emitted with special arcane devices, assembled on magic gems and spell matrix. Such instruments could be connected to other devices that change the input sound in many different ways. One could build a chain of devices of any complexity and, by adjusting them, get any sort of sound they desired. Such magical framework could make even the sad Octavia’s play sound magnificent.

I was ready to listen to this music all night, but Jester forced me to go to bed. I spent the rest of the night cursing the Overmare and the Stable Cultural Council who made sure nopony could get their hooves on anything better than hoof-n-roll records. These elderly and respected but incredibly snobbish and boring ponies have completely forgot the true aim of our Stable and of all Equestrian cultural diversity they left only the most refined pieces publicly available.

I guess it was up to me to discover what other forbidden masterpieces have been hidden in the deepest shadows of our archives.

Unfortunately, there was only one crowbar and Jester already had it, so I left her to have fun with containers and went on exploring the plane. Some portholes were broken and there were huge piles of snow beneath them, but other than that, the Brigand was in almost perfect condition. I even managed to find a red bag of a weird shape with a stencil inscription saying “Self-rescuer Rebreather. Duration - 15 minutes.’

“Hey, Jester!” I shouted. judging by the sound, my striped companion had a nice time stuffing the bags with some loot somewhere behind me. “What is a ‘self-rescuer’?”

“It’s like a gas mask, but with its own oxygen source. You can breathe in smoke or even underwater. Grab it.”

Done.

The containers, who were just expecting to meet Jester’s crowbar, were left behind and I passed by some lockers with equipment, into the front compartment. A plate saying ‘correspondence’ told me I had a nice opportunity to fulfill my lust for reading.

The compartment was a mess. The floor was literally covered with all sorts of wet, rotten and dirty envelopes of every possible size. I picked the more or less intact one and retrieved a twofold sheet of paper. But it was impossible to discern a single word, as the ink has lost its colour and streaked beyond recognition. A canvas bag, also filled with letters, was not in better condition. Apparently, the letters have been destroyed by overall humidity and by water that flowed towards the plane’s front whenever it got warmer here.

Disappointed, I turned back towards the tail, where Jester enthusiastically vandalised the containers, but then I noticed a huge steel locker. It said ‘First Class Delivery’. Of course, it enjoyed a considerable padlock, but this could not stop me. There was no way I could break it, so I used my ice-pick and my own weight. It was not an easy deal, but after a moment of swinging on the ice-pick, I managed to lift the doors from their hinges. You see, the bigger the doors are, the worse are the hinges, usually. Anyways, now nothing stood between me and the precious mail!

Inside were blue plastic containers. They beared a logo of “Royal Winged Mail” - a white envelope pierced by a golden lightning. The containers seemed to be airtight.

I tore a seal from one of them. Inside were some documents on a stamped paper - some contracts and bills with sums of millions of pre-war bits. They were written in a dry style and contained a whole lot of unknown words like “cadastre”, “diversification” and “end user license”. Boy, this was an embodiment of boredom for me. These papers had neither price nor meaning now, and I put them back. I looked down and saw a big crate, also made of plastic, saying “Letters for Her Royal Highness Princess Celestia”.

Fascinating! Jester’s joke has just became real. I’ve overcome by confusion, opened the box and went on reading.

“Dear Princess Celestia. I know, you can do everything. My dad went to war and disappeared. Please, bring me my dad back. Juno, earth pony.”

“Dear Princess Celestia. We went to Polarstern recently. Here mom and dad have serious science business. And it’s is deadly boring and the weather is disgusting here. Could you please tell the pegasi to give us a little bit of Sun? You are the Sun Princess, they must listen to you. Sincerely yours, Orange Spot.”

“Dear Princess Celestia. I saw you at the last Summer Solstice. You are incredibly beautiful. I painted you from my memory. I know, the resemblance is not exactly perfect. Please, tell, are we going to be ok? Sign: Nuit Blanche, Cloudsdale.”

The painting was on another side of the letter. The Princess stood before the orange sky with a bright white Sun in the middle of it. Her magnificent mane was soft pink with a tiny stripe of cyan. There were faces of ponies on the foreground, but they were not detailed, unlike the Princess’ face, diadem and chest armor. Well, the picture was not perfect, but I guess this Nuit Blanche was definitely a gifted painter.

I reckoned that all these letters have been written by fillies and foals. Unfortunately, their dreams, hopes and please have never been delivered. I put the picture away and took another envelope.

“Dear Princes Celestya. Hi.

My neim is Baton.

I was good this year. Dunno why I get stupid paper from Stabletec for Hearth Warmin Eve. Mom say this your gift and it very expensive. I want toy train instead. Hope you don't mind.”

I recoiled and retrieved a green piece of paper with Stable-Tec logo. Silly little foal...

Every next letter was telling about new troubles of wartime. Torn-apart families, excruciating labor, work injuries, starvation and poverty. Many fillies and foals had no idea how hard it had been for their parents. They believed in better future. Now I could see that even if somepony had been lucky enough to shelter inside the Stables, it had been a loss - a loss of aspiration, of open space, of hard but usual life.

The last letter was too close to my own life.

“Dear Princess Celestia. Yesterday we harvested potatoes with our whole village. The autumn came before time and potatoes could rot. I worked hard and was all messy. We saved the crops, though. In the evening, when I washed all the dirt away, I discovered I gained a cutie mark: three potatoes. Why?! I always dreamed of becoming a surgeon and heal ponies! Now, with such cutie mark and my rural origins, I may as well forget about Medicine University forever. This is not fair! You are the most wise pony in Equestria. Please, tell why can not chose our own destiny? Neither griffons, nor the damned zebras have such problems. We are the only ones to obey the fate. You may think that I’m the only one disappointed, but this is not true. Maybe it’s time to change something? Hope for your reply, Heavy Duty, Hayfield farm pony”.

When I finished reading, I pressed the letter hard to my chest and sobbed. The young colt who merely wanted to help got his life ruined because of his cutie mark. After all, I’ve managed to find a fitting job, and he could hope for no more than rural doctor’s position at best.

My hooves trembled so I failed to put the letter back into the envelope. “Enough sad stories for today” I thought angrily and threw the piece of paper back into the pile of other letters. I wanted to push the box back but then I saw the Nuit Blanche’s drawing again. I could not let it remain here. There were two sections in my planchette: the transparent one contained the map and the closed one kept the griffon’s notes. So there was where I put the drawing of an unbeknown pony who lived two hundred years ago.

My mood was ruined. No surprise. To distract myself I decided to check the rest of the locker. “Could not be worse” I calmed myself, picking through the middle section that contained yellow polymer packages with white and red stripe and a label “Winged Mail Delivery”. I stashed them on the floor, reading addresses and company names.

“Baltimare Utilization Group (Northern branch)” seemed to care for ecology. With great efforts, I manage to tear the package apart with my teeth. Apparently the package still contained the pre-war air, along with snow-white sheets, as if they were printed, like, yesterday. Lots of tables and diagrams. Of course. One had to organize trash processing somehow. Not interesting.

“Hydra” private security. “Woona Travel” touring bureau. “Pony Joe’s Donuts” bakery. Soon I had a little mountain of envelopes next to me that contained letters of no interest or value for me.

The next one was large and heavy. It had been addressed to a person - somepony named Pepper Mint. Inside was - wow! - a bundle of Daring Do comics! I made myself not to jump and dance around the plane that hung over the abyss. But my heart was ready to jump away from my chest when I stared at the colourful cover - Daring Do crouched under a heavy axe that split her famous hat in two. And the bundle had some five or six stories!

I hid the true treasure in my saddlebags and picked the last envelope. It had been sent by some Barbara Seed from Manehattan to a some number mailbox situated in a town of Maremansk. This envelope was different from others: it was bigger and, apart from papers, contained something round inside. It feeled like my souvenir Cloudsdale orb. Well, that was enough to open the package that instant.

Good for me I was so careful. Surely, opening envelopes with teeth was a difficult thing to manage, but I did my best to rip only the edge to keep contents intact. I carefully pushed out a very strange sheet of paper. Or was it paper, actually? Anyways, this sheet was much, much older than the dead griffon’s map, and was inscribed with all sorts of symbols - like stars, horseshoes, wings, trees and even more mysterious signs I could not relate to anything at all. Well, it seemed like Jester’s joke about archeology was not a joke at all. This encrypted message that once belonged to this Barbara Seed had definitely had to do something about ancient pony history. “If only this is not somepony’s joke” my sceptical inner voice objected.

Sticking my hoof deeper into the package, I picked a mysterious round object. It was a small black orb with barely visible glow. I did not know whether this was a some powerful ancient artefact or merely a decoration. I doubted Jester could tell me what it actually was, so I put it in my saddlebags until later.

I carefully tucked the ancient papers there, too - away from the humidity. The locker was empty now.

There still remained one place in the plane where I had not been yet - the cockpit. It was separated from the rest of the plane with a thin metal wall. While the wall appeared loose, the door merely fell down as soon as I touched it with my hoof.

When I entered the cockpit, I gasped: after the darkness of interior this space blinded me with flooding light through the huge windshield; the windshield was as wide as the plane itself and was partitioned in separate panels. When my eyes got used to the daylight, I looked around.

My first finding awaited me right at the door: a perfect leather pilot jacket with fur collar! Of course it was deeply frozen but the cold prevented it from decay. Apparently, the jacket belonged to a pegasus because it had holes for wings and even pockets for wings! Sweet Celestia, it was so cold! I had to move vigorously to make it warm from inside again.

As I moved my body, I noticed a weird assembly in the middle of the cockpit. Honestly, I expected to see a pilot’s seat, a steering wheel or something to steer the machine with teeth or hooves. Well, there was nothing like that. And actually, there was nothing at all, put aside some personal lockers, a dashboard under the windshield and this weird installation. The installations itself resembled a big egg-shaped glass case with thick wires going inside.

I stepped closer and peeked through the glass, but the frost was opaque. I brushed it with the sleeve of my jacket and recoiled: from inside a dried corpse looked at me. A pegasus, a stallion... I think. The thick wires ended on devices fixes on his body. They plugged a pony into a plane? Why? Apparently, this was the pilot, but I could not understand the necessity of such solution.

I had my share of dead ponies recently, and I believed I had many more ahead. I had no interest in watching another one. So I left the dead pilot and his crystal coffin and walked towards the windshield. The opposite side of the abyss was barely visible through the glass. It rose like a grey wall above the plane. I could not see the abyss itself, though, because the Brigand’s nose obstructed my view.

I crawled onto the dashboard to see at least something else. I knocked on the windshield frame to shake the snow away. And, as if on reply, that very moment something very heavy dropped on the plane’s rooftop. The huge machine swayed and I fell on the floor on my back. What the...?

The answer came instantly. An old friend of mine, a white manticore - the manticore! - jumped on the nose. She was so close I could see my bullet wounds on its face. And, worst of all, it recognized me too; its blue eyes glowed with definitely not cold hatred. I knew this beast was stubborn, but I had no idea, how much!

The manticore reached its paw towards me but it stuck in the glass. Unable to comprehend the obstacle, the animal furiously lashed the glass, showering me with shards. Too bad for it I already crawled far enough to push my back to the metal wall. This was far enough for the beast not to be able to reach me: the massive paw lashed across the air a couple feet before my muzzle. Well, at least here I was relatively safe... Tarnation!

I was not safe at all! With a powerful jerk the beast tore the whole frame with remaining glass away and sent it flying down the abyss. I thought the beast was too large to fit into the gap, but I was absolutely wrong. The savage hybrid of a cat and a scorpion was incredibly flexible. It pulled itself inside the cockpit and stomped its paws against the glass capsule. The sturdy glass cracked and fell apart into several bulky parts and the plane’s fuselage cracked somewhere under me.

With a soft and streaming jump the manticore landed on the metal floor. She pushed the capsule aside, throwing its disgusting contents right before my hooves. Before, I’d rather scream or even shriek but now such sight could not distract me from desperately seeking for anything sharp, heavy on the floor or on the wall.

A red. Tubular. Fire extinguisher!

I ripped the seal, pointed the horn right into the monster’s face and pulled the lever. A cloud of ice-cold white foam broke out with a loud hiss.

“What? Don’t like this now?” I roared.

Disoriented and blinded, the manticore attempted to sting me with her tail, but to no avail. I threw the exhausted canister in its head. The animal howled and shook its head, throwing flakes of foam all around the cockpit. Realizing I had no time to lose, I started towards the cockpit door and stopped only when I rammed into Jester, who had her sawed-off shotgun in her teeth.

“Whaf the fuh if goin on there?” She asked.

I rushed so hard I choked first part of my reply:

“...core.”

“Cove? What cove?”

“Manticore!” Jester’s eyes widened and I realised she was not prepared for this. Or?

A powerful blow made the thin cockpit wall bulge towards us and a furry head of my pursuer appeared in the doorway.

Feeling shivers in my legs, I pulled my pistol and aimed with my left eye closed. But then I felt a rude push in my shoulder and Jester’s unamused voice over my ear:

“Get off the line of fire, filly”.

I stepped back and saw that Jester had no shotgun already, but a thick metal pipe with wooden stock.

The metal wall opened towards us like a door. The pipe made a deafening thud and some invisible force sent the manticore flying back into the cockpit. Its huge body rammed into the dashboard so hard that the whole aircraft jerked forward and the floor angled towards the abyss.

Jester looked disappointed.

“Not good” She muttered

“What’s not good? That we are slowly sliding into the abyss or that the manticore is coming to her senses?” Her roar of pain made this clear enough.

“That the grenade’s detonator didn’t go off...”

“WHAT?” I was absolutely sure this metal pipe shot a blast of some invisible magic or something. But...

A blinding flash and a wave of hot air washed over me, and the blow was so loud that the Brigand shuddered to the last of its screws.

The shockwave threw me down, and the aircraft slid a little bit forward and then its taile started to rise. A contained filled with something fragile slid by me and almost hit Jester in her head, while she tried to bite the grenade launcher by its belt. When she finally threw it on her back, she started climbing up the floor - the angle was not too steep yet.

“Cargo door, go!” she croaked, pointing her hoof ahead.

Thankfully, we were getting closer to the tail end of the plane, while fire flared behind us, in the nose of the aircraft. There was no way we could escape through the porthole. It took only a couple of hops and wing flaps to get to the cargo door. I unlocked the latches and bucked the emergency lever. The huge door fell down, and a flow of fresh air boosted the fire behind us. Jester, however, had almost reached me already.

This crazy mare had her loot bags with her!

“What are you doing?” I screamed over the rumble of a huge sliding machine.

“We came here not to leave this wooooooow...!”

The tail went up abruptly and Jester had lost ground. I barely managed to grip her grenade launcher’s belt with my teeth. My neck bent, but this bastardly mare had no intention to drop the bags!

Tarnation, how much had she put into these bags? Desperately flapping my wings, I realized the loot still pulled me down. The tail continued to incline, making a loud and low sound that almost caused pain. It was still too far up to the cargo door, the fire raged below and I could swear I heard a scream of the dying manticore through the rumble of firestorm.

“Jester, drop the bags, I can’t hold you!” I remembered my first flight over the abyss. The idea was to flaps forcefully, not frequently, catching as much air as possible with each flap. It looked like it did the trick - I managed to stop our descent and hang up in air. But I could already feel convulsions - the precursors of that my grip will eventually loose besides my will.

Jester, however, desperately waved her hooves in the air, and I had no idea what she intended to do. To unfasten the belt? Boy, she’s certainly insane!

“Stop it now! If you want us to survive, stop dangling, curse you!” Really, the more she moved, the harder it was for me to keep us in air. Flying up was not an option. I had to think of something immediately or otherwise we’ll soon find our death in the flaming cockpit below. Why does this thing not fall down already?

I could feel hot air touching my hooves, and all this time Jester kept bucking, not helping me a little bit. Who’s the sheep on a minefield now? We’re both going to die now because of her damned loot!

And then I felt Jester gone quiet. When I looked down, my mane stood on end: still holding her bags in her mouth, Jester used her hooves to point her grenade launcher downright below!

“Jester, what are you doing?”

“Adding fuel to fe fire” she hissed. She bucked the trigger lever and with a loud thud a grenade burst down.

Oh. Shit.

The grenade did not go downright, however. It hit the plane in the middle - right where the wings were attached to the fuselage. How could I know they kept fuel inside the wings?

Believe me, the grenade explosion inside the manticore was nothing compared to the explosion of the wing full of aviation fuel. Before I could think of anything, the pressure wave embraced me, Jester and her damned bags and launched us all out of the cargo door like a bullet.

As I skyrocketed, flames licked me and I smelled burned hide. The huge plane that remained under snow for two hundred years, broke its deadlock below us and finally fell down into the abyss, burning from inside like I’ve never seen before. When it hit the bottom, a monstrous explosion of the second wing blew the remains of the plane, the manticore and the cargo across the gorge below and only then I heard a rumble of metal falling apart and a heartbreaking farewell sound of an old piano.

I unfolded my wings and easily landed us on ground.

“Bitf, why did it ftuck” Jester excelled in her profanity as I carefully put her on the snow. Actually, I had enough profanity for her in my mind. But, on the one hand, she had just save our lives. On the other hand, though, it were her loot bags that got us into all this.

Lying on a sooty snow I looked at my flank. Oh, I wouldn’t have been surprise if I found a new cutie mark there after such an adventure.

I left Jester with her bounty and walked to the edge of the abyss. Down there the remains of the plane burned out and with them - my old foe. It looked like this was my first real victory on the Surface. My neck ached and I could barely hold my head upright, but I was full of pride. I felt an urge to say something badass, just to mark the moment.

“I always said you need a bigger couple of wings.”

“Dodo, who are you talking to?” Jester was on her feet already and almost glowed with happiness, as if she had not been hanging over a flaming abyss on a grenade launcher belt a minute ago. Where the hell did that come from, by the way?

“With the manticore. Or, with whatever remained. Where did you get the grenade launcher?”

“Found it in the airplane. I just could not miss such a big gun!”

I looked at her sullenly.

“What?” She was innocence itself. “Every girl can have her own little wishes.”

Damn, I could not stay angry at her. Jester was such an incredibly resilient little lump of insanity and she definitely enjoyed it! But I could not just stay silent about what just happened.

“Jester, we could have died because of your bags.”

“Could have. But we haven’t” She started to untie the bags. “And if it became really tight, I would have thrown them away.”

So, this was not tight enough?

“But we survived, and we have loot. And if we threw it away, we wouldn’t have it now. Simple Wasteland arithmetics.”

“Jester. You’ve risked me, yourself and your loot.”

The striped pony stopped working on the rope and looked at me seriously. I already knew she can be serious, so I prepared for a lecture.

“So, Dodo, you say you hadn’t risked yourself when you emerged from that Vault of yours?”

“A Stable.”

“Doesn’t matter. And you hadn’t risked your life when you dangled on a rope, fastened to a rusty shotgun?”

“I had no choice.”

“You always had choice. You could shoot yourself. Or you could jump down the abyss. Or you could shatter your hooves trying to climb the cliff. You have no idea how many choices a truly desperate pony can discover. But, the most of all, you could just stay down in your Stable and live the rest of your life in comfort and safety. But you made a risky decision and now blame me of risk?”

Well, it seemed like Jester was right again. Yes, she was somewhat cynical, but generally, she was right. And I judged the situation according to my habits and stereotypes and not according to what actually happened.

Jester’s ability to switch from her insanely playful mood to a deadly serious one amazed me. I started to get used to these changes and, from the looks of it, she preferred to say important things in serious tone.

I gave up. After all, we’ve survived, we had two whole bags of loot and we’ve just dropped a huge plane with a dead manticore down the abyss. And this... was awesome! Shit, this was really awesome!

Joy started to take over me and I could not help but smile. I remembered the both of us flying up, riding the blast and a giggle came out from my mouth. Then I looked at the joyful Jester with light burns across her face and then I’ve burst into laugh. I fell on the snow and could not stop laughing.


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LEVEL UP (5):
New perk: Property damage. Opening locks with a bobby pin and screwdriver? That’s not your style! You never look for an easy way and invent the most exotic ways of breaking in. Other lock-pickers can envy your inventiveness and stubbornness.
Quest perk: Nestling’s flight level 2: While you still can not fly far, you already can take more cargo on a short distance.
Talking to Jester, you train your speech skill. You gain +2 to your starting 25 of Speech.

Author's Note:

Sorry for the delay, people.
I had to do some nursing for my grandma in a hospital, so it took a bit longer to translate the chapter than usual. So Lucky already brainstorms Chapter 5 as I upload this text to FimFiction.

Basically, unlike previous chapters, I was the scriptwriter for this chapter and Lucky added details and emotions - I particularly like his letters to Princess Celestia. Hope you like it too.

Please, leave us feedback, both positive and negative. It keeps us going.

P.S. We could use some editors. Would anyone like to do it? We need a native enlish-speaker for that.

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