• Published 25th Jan 2012
  • 10,623 Views, 517 Comments

Fallout Equestria: Guise of Chaos - Fallingsnow

A story in post war Equestria following former raider Two Kick Ripple on a quest for vengeance.

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Chapter 12: Unbound

Chapter 12: Unbound

“Hey there Handsome.”

That was all I needed to hear before Broken was out and aimed. I wasn’t going to waste words with her, not this time. I had to kill her.

The orange mare stood close enough that I could smell the harsh scent I’d picked up last time, and that was easily within range of the buckshot I had loaded. I would need to get away from her, load in some heavier ammunition. For now, I had to keep her occupied.

Broken barked as the buckshot tore through the air towards her face, but she stepped to the side slightly as the bullets hit the heat shield that I hadn’t noticed shimmering around her. Flashes of flame, and the airborne lead was redirected to the side, peppering a dilapidated building with a few new holes.

She took a step towards me, a pleading look on her face. “Listen, Two Kick, I want to talk. I’m not here to fight you. We can go about this your way, but you’ll run out of ammo before I run out of fire. Then I’ll make you listen to me.”

I’d only fired one shot, but it looked like she’d learned a new trick since we’d last met. A slight burn scar across her neck showed where Ash’s round had hit her, so I guessed she’d looked into methods other than melting to stop bullets.



The mare grinned as I spoke out loud. I kept the weapon on her, but didn’t pull the trigger. She was still the single most lethal thing I’d met in the wastes, and as far as I could tell I was at her mercy right now. “Good boy. I knew that I could still get through to you.”

Taking a step towards me, she put on the most seductive face I’d ever seen. I smiled for only the briefest moment, thinking of how jealous that look would make Shade, but it was a moment too long. Cinder caught on to the smile and grinned slyly.

“See. I knew that you were still in there somewhere. I’ve gotten awful lonely without my buckbuddy, you know.” She held a hoof out towards me and patted the air with it. “Now put Broken down, so we can.... chat.”

Oh yeah. Come on, put it down. This could be fun.

I felt the air around me beginning to heat up... she’d be able to fry my lungs if I tried anything. I wanted so desperately to kill her right then...

Yeah. Kill. That’s the word you’re looking for. Right.

Damn it all, shut up!

I slowly lowered Broken to the ground and kicked it away with a hoof. I still had my ballistic hooves, and if I had to lose all the skin on my legs to kill her, I was willing to take that chance. Doc Care would be furious, but the wasteland would be down another Paragon. It would be worth it.

Once Broken was away, I felt the heat lowering, even though she was getting closer. Cinder was now practically nose to nose with me, a playful look in her eyes. I met it with my angriest stare.

I didn’t see the kiss coming. I pushed her away with a hoof, but she shook her head with a “Nuh uh, no fighting.” The air around me jumped in temperature noticeably in just that moment, a warning more than anything.

She returned to the kiss. It was long and deep, and I hated every second of it.

Sure you did. You can’t lie to me.

The voice in my head was coming back more and more. It was like Cinder had the exact opposite effect on me that Shade did. His voice was constantly at the edge of my mind now, crystal clear and growing in volume. If I didn’t get away from her, I was beginning to worry that I’d lose myself.

Once she stepped back from the kiss, her eyes were hooded and she had a goofy grin. “Oh... I’m so glad I didn’t kill you. I missed that. I’d ask if you want to go any further, but... you know. The whole you’ll try to kill me thing.”

I sighed. “Get to the point, or kill me.” I’d been lit on fire once already; the experience had not been pleasant. I hoped that if she decided to kill me, it would at least be quick.

“Ah... no foreplay? You always used to like it.”

“Then I died. Get to the point.”

Scowling, she gave a little huff. “Fine. So anyways, I was thinking... I don’t hate you anymore. I’d like you to come back, I’m sure that I could convince Hate to bring you back in.” As she talked, she started smiling and bounced a little with each word.

I laughed at her coldly. “If you don’t recall, he’s the one that shot me in the face. I don’t think he’d take me back.” Shaking my head in disbelief, I continued. “Besides... I’m not Two Kick anymore. Why would I want to help a raiding, pillaging, murdering fuckhead?”

“So... you won’t come back?” Surprisingly, tears sprung to the psychotic mare’s eyes. Her goggles were around her neck, or I suspect she would have filled them quickly. She stomped at the ground briefly, sobbing out. “It’s not fair! Why won’t you come back?!”

“It’s simple, Cinder. I’m going to kill the Paragons. All of you.”

A snap and hiss came from her heat shield, and then I felt a few drops on my coat. Rain. I suddenly wondered how well a fire wielding pony would do in the rain. Would I get the hoof up that I needed?

She opened her mouth to respond, but the sky opened up and unleashed a torrent. It must have been holding back for a while, to drop this much water so quickly. The drizzle turned into a downpour with a great haste, filling the air with a constant hissing as the water struck her shield and flashed to steam. I saw her eyes narrow in concentration, the tears gone from them. “Shit. That’s not good.”

I took that as my chance and lunged forward, kicking out with a front leg. As my leg passed through the weakened heat shield, most of it was protected by the PipBuck but pain still shot through my hoof and upper leg as my flesh burned. It was worth it though, as I lay a solid blow on her jaw, throwing her away from me.

Taking my chance, I bolted away from her, towards Broken. As I dove, I grabbed the weapon from where it had landed with my magic, snapping it up and tucking it against me. Landing, I rolled to my hooves and jumped, spinning, further away from her. Broken snapped out from where I’d been holding it at my side as I took a shot at the mare in mid leap. She was standing from where she’d fallen after she hit the wall, and I let out a whoop of victory as the buckshot only changed direction slightly once it hit the shield. It tore into one of her shoulders, throwing a spray of blood to sizzle against the inside of the shield.

Screaming in pain, she sent a ball of flame shooting at me. I rolled, the fireball just missing me and slamming into a crumbling storefront, blowing out the facade in a rain of debris and glass. I fired again, but she threw up a wall of blue flame which blocked her from my sight. The roar of the collapsing building drowned out everything else, so I couldn’t tell if I’d hit her or not.

Despite the pouring rain, the flames continued in both the street and scattered about where the building was settling. A thick fog was also setting in, the rain evaporating in the heat of the fight. As the building settled, it was almost peaceful until I realized I could hear her screaming through the rain.

Her scream of pain turned to one of rage, as she shrieked at me through the noise. “I was willing to give you another choice, and this is how you respond!? That’s it, no more chances! It doesn’t matter how I feel, apparently, so I should have no trouble broiling you!”

The building next where I thought she was exploded outwards, the mare now covered in her fire dragon as she leapt through the burning debris. Through the flames, I could make out that one of her legs was soaked in blood, bleeding from her damaged shoulder.

I fired again, the buckshot melting rapidly as it hit the dragon. She’d gone back to her less subtle defense, which was not boding well for me. Two shots left before I had to reload, and I doubted I’d get away with kicking her again. The flesh on my front leg was already beginning to blister, most of the hair gone from it, aside from what hair I assumed still remained under the durable PipBuck.

A claw built of fire swept out at me, which I barely dodged. She was fast, and I was only just getting out of the way each time. I’d slip up at this rate, and then it would all be over. I needed something to help.

Stampede. You have it. Use it. Let me in, I’ll end the bitch.

Fuck... I’d been doing so well at ignoring the voice... but for once I had to agree with him. I was going to lose at this rate. That feeling was compounded as I dodged a tail made of flame that cut through the wall of the building I was covering behind.

I was still a couple minutes away from Blank, and I was sure that they’d send somepony out to investigate the explosions and gunshots, but by then I would probably be dead. Then what was to stop Cinder from walking up to Blank and leveling the town? Nothing.

I needed to use stampede.

Amidst the clouds of dust being quickly turned to a gooey mud and the fogbank coming off of Cinder as she hunted for me, I slipped in behind an old rusted carriage. Pulling one of the little red containers, I looked at it for just a second.

In that second, every part of my body lit up with withdrawal symptoms that I had somehow managed to ignore. My muscles ached, my brain hurt, my skin hurt. The little red promise of absolute power was just floating there in front of me.

I slammed the needle into my side, feeling the effects of the drug immediately. My body had been waiting for so long for this... I’d been getting slower and weaker every day that I didn’t have it flowing through my veins, driving me to new peaks of physical achievement.

The hiss crackle of the fire dragon came into the alleyway where I was letting the world turn red. I could hear her breathing, each individual drop of rain evaporating as it hit the incendiary projection, I could even hear the blood coming out of her shoulder.

Bracing myself between the wall and the carriage, I kicked with all of my might. It was a lighter model, which helped, as the carriage rocketed towards her, catching fire as it neared but still slamming into her. The flaming carriage burst, sending scraps of wood, metal, and one very pissed off pony back into the street.

Screaming in rage, she leapt back into the alley, but I was already there. Sliding in underneath her, our eyes connected briefly before she reacted, sweeping flame in underneath her. I guess she knew me better than I had expected, as she blocked in the exact place that I was aiming my rear kicks. If they had connected, the blast would have gutted her, and this fight would have been done with.

My hoofguns connected with what I could only describe as solid fire. It burned like a bitch, but the weapons still triggered at the contact, launching their deadly payload into the very solid shield that she had thrown at me. There was an explosion, a clap of pressure throwing the mare violently off of me and back out into the street.

The dragon was gone, only a slight haze of heat surrounding her the only indication that she had any magic still going, but even that wavered as she got shakily to her hooves. She coughed, spattering blood across the pavement. She was hurt, but so was I. I could feel, just at the edge of the red that was my world, that that move had really cost me. I was burnt. Badly. Again.

My mouth opened. “Oh Cinder! I missed this. Missed you! You were always such fun. So here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna break your horn, break your legs, and have some fun with you. It will be like old times, just much less pleasant.”

I mentally reeled from that. What did I just say? That wasn’t me, that wasn’t something I’d say.

Oh fuck. That wasn’t me.

My body took a step towards her, a sadistic grin slathered across my face. Her face turned to fear and she scooted away from me. “Two Kick? Oh my Luna...” She sounded terrified, her eyes wide as she stared at me approaching her. The fire fully flickered out, leaving her there, cold and alone in the middle of the street. Rain still poured down, putting out most of the fires in the area in seconds.

Is this really what I had been like before?

I had to get control back before I did something horrible. I had to get my body back... especially before anypony else showed up. They couldn’t see me like this...

My body flexed and stretched, pausing in his approach to the terrified mare. “Wow, this is so liberating. I’ve been locked up in here for weeks, watching this dumbfuck stumble around and get in all sorts of trouble.” He tapped the side of my head with our hoof, as if indicating me. I was powerless, with no control of my body. Is this how the voice felt all the time? I would do anything I could to get out of here... no wonder he was constantly suggesting stampede. He must have known it would give him an in.

We were standing over Cinder now, where she had stopped trying to crawl away as we caught up, looking down at her as she lay in a puddle in the middle of the street, tears streaming down her face. If those eyes were on any other mare, I think that I would have done anything I could to save her. They seemed out of place on this psychotic arsonist, the eyes of a scared victim. “Please... don’t.”

He grinned, using my mouth, and leaned down next to her ear. “You know, all the pain that he felt, I felt too. I have a lot to pay you back for.”

Let me back in! Celestia, let me back in! Please!

“Stop fighting. This is my time. You had your turn.” He spoke directly to me, and then he kicked Cinder in the head, once and just powerful enough to knock her unconscious. She almost looked innocent as she lay there, unconscious, under our hooves. My hooves. Damnit.

He reached down and stroked the side of her face. “Oh, you’re not gonna be pretty when I’m done with you.” He licked the side of her face, and I found that I could still taste. She tasted horrible. Like acid and ash. Whatever gave off that chemical smell, she apparently bathed in the stuff.

“Ech... you still use that stuff, don’t you? You never were the best tasting pony.” He wasn’t nearly as disgusted by it as I was though, I guess that he’d tasted it before. That led my mind down a path I didn’t want it going, and I pulled back. I had to do something before my body raped an unconscious mare.

Reaching down, he rolled her over so that she was on her back. He licked his lips as he looked down at her prone form, nothing good going through his head. My head. Come on... come on...

An impact from the side threw us off of her, bouncing down the street. Two Kick, clearly more experienced with this body than I was, caught himself on one hoof and kicked, springing up to all four hooves. He fell to the side as he landed though, a sharp pain tearing through him. Through me. Us. This was confusing.

He’d been shot. I’d been shot. It was suddenly a lot harder to breath, and as he looked to the side we saw the hole in our barding. Blood was pouring out. The bullet had hit something major, and I was pretty sure the bullet had collapsed a lung as it went into my chest cavity.

We coughed, a mist of blood escaping our lips, and fell to our knees. There was a sniper out there... a good one. Two Kick was scanning the rooftops, even as our eyelids started getting heavy. “Oh Skyline... you bitch... how could you shoot me?”

He collapsed onto his side and faded out of consciousness, the effects of the drug wearing off as rapidly as ever. Once his eyes closed, however, I fought for all that I was worth in the darkness. Two Kick was out... this was my chance.

I coughed, a deep pain in my side and chest, and opened my eyes. I couldn’t see much, there was too much darkness creeping in on the corners of my vision. Luckily, Two Kick was still out, so his voice was not there, granting me a small bit of piece. Now I just had to deal with the issue at hoof.

I was laying in the middle of the road, a hole in my side, an increasing amount of blood pooling around me, and nopony knew that I was here. Was I really going to die like this? It seemed almost... anticlimactic. Getting taken out by a sniper after a fight like that... it was a waste.

Glancing over, I could just make out Cinder getting up and shaking her head. Another pony shape, this one carrying a heavy rifle on a battle saddle, was running down the street towards her. When the two met up, they turned and headed off, leaving me alone in the street.

Cinder had survived. That wasn’t good... but she hadn’t been raped and tortured. So I could still chalk that one up as a victory I guessed.

Now.... what? I’d just die here and hope that Ash came along to get the box I still carried. It had been pretty stupid of me to go off with the cubes, not telling anypony where I was going.

Though it was sheer luck that Cinder and the other Paragon, Skyline, hadn’t come and looted me. They would have given Hate exactly what he wanted. Me dead, the cubes in his possession, there’d be nothing to stop whatever it was that he was planning.

As I died, again, all I saw was a flash of white fabric sweeping over my vision, coupled with what sounded like a gunshot. Huh, that hadn’t happened before.


I found myself in that field of endless white. It was different from the flash before I went down, but I still knew exactly where I was. I was in my own head. I’d been here once before.

“Hello, my messy pony. Well isn’t this interesting?” The voice, smooth as a razor, purred from behind me. I glanced backwards, finding only Pandemonium’s eyes floating in the air. Off to one side, I saw the ragged form of Two Kick, unconscious on the ground with a pool of blood forming around him.

“Quite interesting. I try and try to get in touch with you, but your troublesome little box hampers all of my attempts. That and your violent friend there. I guess with him indisposed, I can slip into your head just a bit. Enough to talk to you in your weakest moment.”

“So, what, am I dead?” I was pretty sure that I was dead, but with how many times it had happened, I guess I really could never tell. I’d come back from worse.

“No, you’re not dead. Not yet. You still haven’t pulled off your part of my little proposal. It’s not quite a deal, your little marefriend made sure of that when she cut me off last time. How is she, by the way?” The eyes were just floating around me, narrow slits of golden malevolence.

“You don’t need to know about her. This is between you and me.” I wasn’t going to let him get near Shade. I wasn’t going to let him get near anypony. This was just him and both of me, here in my mind.

“Well, I am half trapped with you. I can’t touch my other pieces from in that accursed case, so you’re all I have. My messy pony. My savior.” His voice, so warm but completely without a hint of kindness, was rather hard to ignore.

“So I’m carrying two monsters with me. Good to know.” I pointed a hoof at him. “You better be able to pull off your part. If I get the other cubes, you end this. End this and then you leave.”

He nodded, or at least his eyes bobbed up and down in what I assumed was a nod, and his voice drifted from everywhere yet again. “Don’t worry, my messy pony. I am a god of his word. You do your part and I will do mine.”

His eyes glanced off into the distance and he sighed audibly. “Very well then. I will be seeing you around, but don’t be such a stranger. Crack open the box occasionally. I won’t bite, and I’ve grown tired of having a lack of conversation partners.”

As if I would open the box for anything other than to put in a new Cube.

Wait, why was he bidding farewell to me?


Ceiling. Wall. A couch. Shade sleeping fitfully.

What was this? The third time I’d woken up on this bed? I lifted a hoof, an ache going through my side. At least it was me doing the lifting. I’d won out on that battle.

Seeing Two Kick broken and bleeding in my mind had given me hope that I would be in control when I woke up, but when it came to how my mind worked, I could only guess. It was getting crowded up there.

Opening my mouth to speak, I could only let out a groan. My throat hurt. I’d been out for a while. It had seemed only to be a few minutes in my head, but I could tell that it had been much longer.

Shade was there, almost instantly, at my side. Her eyes had that deep concern that I loved, but hated seeing since it almost always meant that I’d been horribly injured. She wasn’t hugging me, which I was glad of. There had been a sizable hole in me the last I’d checked, and the area was still rather tender.

I coughed, clearing my throat, before I rasped out. “How long?”

She smiled at me, giving me a quick kiss on the nose, before answering. “Two nights. It’s about noon.” She kissed me again. The she smacked me, just lightly enough to sting but not do any damage. “What were you thinking? Heading out on your own to talk to strange ponies? You almost died!” Tears started welling in her eyes, and I put a hoof to her cheek in what I hoped would come across as comforting.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking...” Then I glanced around. Nopony else was in the room, and I couldn’t hear anything from outside. Doc Care should have rushed in by now. “I was sure that I was dead... how did I get back here?”

“One of the Whitecoats found ya’, dragged ya’ back here to bleed all over my waiting room.” Doc Care had arrived, as I had expected. Could he just sense when his patients woke up, or did he have somepony telling him? I wasn’t sure.

“You saved me again Doc? Thought you were done with that.” I tried grinning, but grimaced at the pain in my side. Sighing, he floated over towards me and gave me a dose of Med-X, which helped immediately. Once the pain was gone, he moved away from me.

“I only bandaged yer’ burnt leg. Couldn’t do much for the hole in ya’. The wound was too severe, normally the only treatment for a bullet in the lung around here is a burial. The damned thing was close to your heart too.” He seemed resentful of that fact. He gestured through the door and continued. “Whitecoats pulled in a specialist of their own. Apparently they care enough for ya’ to save yer’ life. They don’t know what an idiot ya’ are, I guess.”

“Well, I guess I’d better go thank them.” I made to get up, but he was there immediately pushing me back down. He was glaring at me.

“No you don’t. You’re not moving until your surgeon checks on ya’ again, gives ya’ the go ahead.” Turning, he flapped towards the door. “I’ll get her. Stay here, don’t get yerself wounded while I’m gone.”

I lay there, and Shade pulled herself up onto the bed, opposite side from my wound, and curled up against me. She’d missed me, I could tell. I’d scared her badly by going out... I didn’t even want to think of what would have happened if Two Kick had stayed in control.

If he’d woken up instead of me...

I focused on the warmth of the mare against my side and let the painkillers wash over me. No more thinking for now. No more pain. Just Shade.

The door opened again after a while, and I glanced at it. My eyes went wide at who I saw coming through the door, however. My coloration, covered in burns, a white coat over all. Raw Deal. My uncle.

He turned once through the door and sat on the couch, glaring at me. I hadn’t pegged him for the surgeon type, so I was glad that it wasn’t actually him that had been responsible for saving my life. That would have been complicated.

The creature that walked in behind him, though, caught me off guard. I’d seen pictures of her kind, mostly faded and scattered across Hornsmith. Posters extolling her people’s evils; how they should never be trusted; how they should all be wiped out.


Approaching me, the rather fetching zebra held out a hoof and pressed against my side. Testing the area around my wound gingerly, she smiled. “I am glad to see you took the stitch, after we found you in that ditch.”

I just stared at her, my mouth hanging open slightly. “What?”

Standing on two legs, in a manner that reminded me quite a bit of how Raw Deal had held that rifle, she lifted the bandages slightly to look at the wound. She smiled. “I am checking if my nephew has healed, without the need for bandages peeled.”

Nephew? I glanced over at Raw Deal, who nodded his head once. So he’d married a zebra. That explained a bit.

“So... you sewed me up? Got the bullet out.”

She nodded. Movement next to me told me that Shade had repositioned to get a better look at the mare that was touching my side, but glancing at her I didn’t detect the jealous look in her eye. I guess she caught the nephew part as well.

“You may call me Xiera, as that is....” She paused for a long time, clearly thinking on this. Eventually, she slumped her shoulders. “I am sorry. It is old tradition to rhyme when speaking to the non striped, but I never had the knack for words that is required.”

I laughed. “It’s alright. The rhyming was... a little strange.” She smiled at me, the look filling me with warmth. Past her, I caught the scowl of Raw Deal. I was quickly becoming more fond of my Aunt, rather than the Uncle that I wasn’t sure wouldn’t shoot me.

“That is what Deal has told me, but I find it amusing to introduce myself through rhyme. One would think I’d be better at it after all these years.” The zebra laughed, and I caught a smirk from Raw Deal. It was quickly replaced with the scowl though.

“Thanks for saving me, Xiera.” I bowed as low as I could while laying on my back, trying to show that I was really grateful. It wasn’t like I could give her a hug, or even get out of bed, so the bow was the best I could come up with.

“Shade has told me much of you. Your uncle and I have listened to the young mare’s tales with great interest.” The zebra returned to all fours and trotted over to where the surly unicorn sat. She nuzzled him lightly, but he would not stop glaring at me. Xiera nudge him with a hoof lightly, and he grudgingly stood.

“Look. Good pony or not, you did things I won’t soon forgive. Xiera wants me to give you a chance, so I’ll try... but fuck up once. Just once.” He glared at me, a look filled with so much hate and distrust that I felt Shade shrinking down behind me to escape it. “I will end you. I won’t make a mistake, I won’t leave you alive. I will kill you where you stand.”

He turned and stormed out of the room. Xiera smiled at us as she began following him. “He’ll come around. Don’t worry.” Then she was gone as well.

She popped her head back in for just a few seconds. “Oh, and you’re good to move around, just don’t do ANYTHING strenuous. No alcohol, no fighting, nothing. I suggest just going somewhere and cuddling.” Her eyes flicked between myself and Shade, a suggestive grin on her face, then she was gone again.

So I had an uncle that despised the very sight of me, and a loving aunt that I’d only just met.

Did I have any other family? Other than the psycho and the monster camping out in my head?

That question was bugging me, even as Shade helped me get to my hooves. “Come on, your stuff is in our room. You should probably spend a bit more time laying down.” She smiled up at me, concern written across her features.

This was the closest I’d come to dying since I’d been turned into a nail depository. That had kept me under for a week... perhaps I shouldn’t push this. I think that I’d actually listen to the doctor this time and lay low.

Sure, the first time, I’d been sent out into the wasteland to hunt raiders as soon as I could stand on my own, and from then on it had been near constant beatings and injuries. Concussions, burns, gunshots, bites, stabs... I’d been physically hurt in nearly every way that I could think of. Mentally, I’d felt pain that had made everything else seem so minor in comparison, but as I looked at the blue mare I thought of another kind of pain that was being caused.

She worried about me. Pretty much all the time, since I’d been unconscious for almost half of the time that we’d been near one another. What was going through her head, knowing that at any given time there was a really decent chance I’d be killed.

I’d been selfish, and my trip to the relay had been the capstone. The single most selfish thing I’d done, and she’d had to worry through it. Wonder if I’d ever wake up again. I could have bled to death in the middle of a street. Maybe she would have come across me as she frantically searched the area around Blank for me. That probably would have destroyed her.

I was a selfish fuck.

I quickly found that I ran out of breath with very little actual movement. It felt like there was a belt around one of my lungs, and for all I knew there was. I could still move, I just had to take shallow breaths. Shade was there, propping me up as I limp on my burnt leg. As we entered the waiting room, I found Care sitting behind his desk, reading a worn and dog eared book. Looking up, he gestured towards where his hooves were propped up on the desk.

Sitting there was a potion, all ready to be consumed. “Yer Whitecoat friends paid for that, and for yer stay. Yer settled up, now get the fuck out before ya hurt yourself again.” He talked quickly, his accent cutting through thicker than usual, not even looking up at us.

I took the bottle, downed it, and put it back. The Doc just waved me off with a wing as the glass hit the table. Turning, Shade and I left the clinic, even as I started feeling better. By the time we were in the street, my burn felt so much better, the skin was even healed. It was also just a little easier to breathe.

Back in the street, I noticed that there were even more Whitecoats gathered around, each of them heavily armed. “Uh... Shade, what’s going on?” I spotted Raw Deal and Xiera off down the street chatting to a small cluster of white jacketed ponies, and thought that I picked Willow’s longer jacket passing through the door into Traffic’s.

“After you were attacked, the Whitecoats picked up patrols in the area. They’ve been all over while you... while you were asleep.” Her voice caught, and I glanced down at her. She’d missed me. I smiled at her.

“Yo, Kick!” I looked up and saw a grinning griffin heading at us at a fast pace. Ash was fully healed from what I could tell, not a bandage on him. He was fully armed, with the grin topping off everything. He looked like he did that first day I’d met him, just with a revolver added. He slowed as he got near me, an odd look on his face.

“You look tired. Really, really tired. Weren’t you just asleep for two days?” He nudged me with an elbow and chuckled.

“He’s headed to the inn Ash, to continue resting.” She gave the griffin a hard look, and he backed away from her, talons held up in the air.

“Whoa there, Miss Shade. I wasn’t suggesting we go find some trouble, I was just asking a friend how he felt.” Looking at me with a discerning eye, he laughed. “Are you ever not beaten all to shit?” Slapping me on the back, which apparently was also a place that hurt, he strode off, in the direction of the tavern.

He paused, yelling back at us across the street. “I’ll tell the girls to stop by and say hi. I’ll give ya a few hours before I do though. Have fun.” He waved and winked at us before slipping into the tavern. I sighed, Shade blushed. That griffin always seemed to think that we were just rutting every chance we got.

“I gotta ask him to stop that.” I murmured under my breath, just low enough that Shade perked up her ears and looked at me quizzically. I smiled and shook my head, waving off her question of what I’d said.

Once we got to the inn, Radish was waiting for us. “Hey there Ripple, I got the room all set for ya.” I’d never really talked to Radish before, despite having seen her a couple times, but she was gone almost immediately after she had pointed out which room was mine and Shade’s. She always seemed to have errands to run in the town.

The room was simple, with a bit of old furniture scattered about and a bed against one wall. It was a wide bed, designed for two ponies, and I was grateful for that as I pulled myself up onto the mattress with minimal assistance from the blue mare. She climbed up after me and lay next to me, resting her head next to mine. I lay there, staring at the ceiling for a minute or two to catch my breath. Regrowing bits of my lung was really taking it out of me.

“Just laying here sound good? I know I just slept for a while... but it sorta hurts to move right now.”

A kiss on my cheek from the side was followed by her soft voice in my ear. “Whatever you want.” It was much more suggestive than I had expected, but I was really only in the mood for laying there and letting my body continue mending.

I let my body relax, and the pain just seemed to bleed out of me as I lay there, her warmth pressing into my side. This was so much better than being lit on fire or shot. In every instance, I would prefer this.

After a few hours of dozing, I roused the sleeping Shade and got to my hooves. I couldn’t spend the entire day in bed, healing involved eating as well. The streets were fairly deserted as we left the inn in the coming dusk. The tavern was well lit and noisy, as the townsfolk as well as the Whitecoats in town drank and laughed the night away. Since it was the only place to really eat in town, the two of us headed in.

Inside, roughly three quarters of the ponies turned and looked at me as I walked through the door. I heard a barrage of nicknames murmured under breaths.

Paragon slayer. Demolisher. Bandages. Bringer of music. Flamewalker.

I was sort of fond of Flamewalker, I had to admit, even as the recently healed skin around my PipBuck ached with the phantom memory of the searing heat.

One voice cut through the crowd, as the griffin standing at the back of the crowded tavern shouted over the heads of every pony. “Hey Kick!”

The hubbub of the room quickly returned as I weaved the way through the crowded room, noticing that most ponies were clearing out of the way. Either in deference, or fear, I wasn’t sure. Shade and I came through the crowd and found that the taller griffin was not alone. He was with Willow and Traffic.

It had never really occured to me that the often surly merchant was actually capable of leaving her store, so seeing her here came as something of a shock. She just nodded to me, a mug of hard cider nestled between her hooves on the table.

“Ripple, so good to see that you’re feeling better.” Willow smiled up at me, and I could feel dislike begin to radiate from Shade. Willow glanced at the blue mare softly, her eyes asking for forgiveness. “I’m sorry. I dropped the ball. Never should have let you head back alone.”

“There was no way to know that a Paragon was waiting for me.”

Willow dropped her jaw. “You fought another Paragon? We thought you’d just been jumped by raiders. When Xiera found you, there were two ponies fleeing the scene. One was heavily wounded.”

“Cinder Trails. She’s psychotic. I have.... a history with her.” Shade’s look caught my eye, as she asked me silently what that history was. Ah, always the jealousy, but I would never tell the kind blue pony that my ex-marefriend was an arsonist and a killer. Though, since she had spent as much time in Neighwhere as I did, I really didn’t know just how much she knew. She must have heard rumors, especially if she had spent any time around Sweeps. I couldn’t imagine that the late mare’s infatuation with me would have sat idly by, especially as she had been the most talkative Paragon I’d met. Even more than Holepunch, and he hadn’t shut up until I’d kicked his chest in.

“I could have killed her, but she had sniper cover. I didn’t know that until I took the hit.”

Ash held up his claws clenched into a fist. “That was a major hit, Kick. I coulda fit my fist in the hole in your side. How’s that doin’, by the way?” He reached across the table, a whiff of alcohol preceding him, in an attempt to pull at the bandages wrapped around my midsection.

I backed away, fending off his probing hand with a hoof. “Yeah, I’m not letting that many claws near a hole in my side. Sorry Ash, I’ll show you the scar later.”

The griffin seemed to take this as a promise, sitting back with an over exaggerated nod of his head. Traffic inclined her head towards the Whitecoat sitting next to her. “Seems some ponies just don’t know you that well. Willow here paid your tab for the medical supplies in full. I already had a whole job set up on the side for ya as payment too.”

She made a show of sighing, a smile creeping onto her lips. She was just jabbing fun at me, and how I could never seem to pay for my own treatment, always having to go on some ridiculous quest to make my dues.

“Well, I’m glad to hear that. With my track record, I’d probably get set on fire again.” I said it in jest, but I was rewarded with a single laughing griffin and three stern mares. Okay, so joking about getting injured while I was still bandaged and aching was a bad idea around these three mares. I felt like Ivory would have laughed, but I hadn’t seen her since before I’d headed out to the Relay with Willow.

Something occurred to me then. Looking at the griffin, who was in the midst of taking a drink, I brought it up. “The sniper that shot me. Does the name Skyline ring any bells? I’ve heard it twice, and I’m pretty sure that’s who shot me.”

He froze mid drink, staring at me. I caught him glance towards Traffic, but then he swallowed and put down the glass. “Skyline... yeah, I’ve heard the name. Don’t know much about her, other than her being a Paragon.”

He was avoiding something. He’d never done that about a Paragon before.

“What? Is there something else?”

He leaned back, cupping his claws behind him and resting his head in them. “Nah, Kick. Anything I’d heard would have just been rumor. I may have met a few Paragons in my time working for them, but it’s not like I got to know any of them.”

I looked from him to Traffic. She was avoiding my glance on this. They knew something... but I didn’t think that I was going to get it out of them.

After a short time of strangely awkward silence, Willow diverted the conversation. In no time at all, they were chatting away, seemingly oblivious to the two of us sitting there at the table.

I found that the three of them had simply been comparing tales of their time in the wasteland. As Shade and I got food and sat down at the table with them, I listened absentmindedly as they compared and one upped each others stories. I was really just too hungry to focus.

Eventually, the three moved on to heavy drinking, which didn’t seem entirely appealing. A walk around town, however, seemed like a good idea. Shade concurred and, saying our goodbyes and stressing that I wasn’t leaving the town, the two of us left the tavern.

There was a crude assortment of street lamps strung, bolted, and propped through the town, and the wide variety of types gave the dark streets an odd patchwork of different colored lights. Honestly, it was pretty. I hadn’t seen anything other than the occasional mare that I could use that word for, the wasteland was normally a very bleak and dull landscape.

Shade smiled as she looked up at me, staring around. “You like it? I helped with the wiring when we were here the first time. It came together really well I think.”

I’d forgotten about the work she’d done. I knew that she’d fixed up the irrigation system and worked on the front gate, but that she’d also rewired much of the town was downright impressive. “Wow Shade. Yeah, that’s amazing. Way more than I could do.” I smiled down at her and nuzzled her cheek. “You have a real gift for this kind of thing.”

“Thanks.” Smiling up at me, she caused all of my worries to just bleed away.

Which made me think.

“There’s... there’s another gift you have. I don’t know if you know you have it though.” That got a strange look from the mare, who stopped moving. I stood next to her, the two of us in a pool of light.

“There’s been this voice. In my head, ever since I woke up.” She edged slightly away from me, but I smiled at her, the softest I thought that I could pull off. “Thing is, he goes away whenever I’m near you. Don’t know how, don’t know why. All I know is that when I’m near you, my mind calms down.

“Do you know who the voice is?” I could tell she was torn. She wanted to comfort me, but she also wanted to put distance between herself and me. Fighting instinct, because most crazy ponies were the kind of thing one just wanted to get away from.

I nodded slowly, focusing on just the one voice. She didn’t need to know about Pandemonium. Not yet. She definitely didn’t need to know that I’d lost control of my other self, that I’d been pushed to the sidelines for that brief time, but it couldn’t hurt to tell her who it was that she was keeping in check. “I’m pretty sure it’s the old me. Raider me. He seems to want to out.”

Gasping, she pulled me into a hug. A tight hug, one much stronger than I had thought she was capable of. Sharp pain shot through my ribs, but I bore it. For a little bit at least.

“Shade... that really hurts.”

She loosened her grip noticeably, but didn’t let go. “Sorry.” She stayed quiet for a while, but when I looked at her eyes I saw that she was deep in thought. I wondered if that’s why I looked like when I did that... I spent a lot of time lost in thought.

“‘Scuse us! Comin’ through!” We were both pulled out of thought by a pair of earth ponies dragging a large chunk of scrap metal through the street. Probably still shoring up the wall, which had received a bit more work in the two days I’d been unconscious.

We began walking again, strolling through what few side streets we could find. Taking in the sights. Ignoring the dull ache coming from where there had once been a large hole in my side.

It was a good night, once I forgot everything but where I was and who I was with. I had to enjoy the little things in life.


I awoke to a loud banging on the door. It wasn’t the sound that Ash made when he knocked, it sounded more like a hoof. I got up groggily, leaving Shade yawning on the bed. We’d wandered the town for a couple hours the night before before going to sleep. She’d curled up at my side and it had been one of the most restful sleeps of my new life.

Then that night was shattered by banging.

I could hear shouting outside, and the adrenaline started pumping. Something was happening in Blank. I rushed to the door, snatching Broken from it’s place on top of the pile that was my gear, and pulled open the door.

Ivory, fully dressed for battle, was there. She gave a little wave and a nod to Shade, who was much slower in getting up. “Hey there Rip, good to see that you’re better. Good timing too, there’s something you should see outside. Bring your gear.”

Turning with a playful smile, she trotted away from us towards the exit. She had a spring in her step that I was pretty sure meant bad news. It probably involved shooting raiders, which seemed to be one of her favorite things.

I started pulling on my barding, but stopped as pain shot through my side. Okay, so I still wasn’t fully healed. I slowed down, letting Shade help me firmly secure it. She already had on her equipment, her pistol holstered and ready for use.

The street was chaos.

Ponies running back and forth, weapons and ammunition being carried by everypony I saw. There were a good number of Whitecoats scattered about, but they were moving much more calmly than the townsponies. They were all brandishing their weapons though.

“Kick! Up here!”

I looked around before spotting Ash, perched up on the catwalk running on the interior of the wall. There were a lot of ponies up there, most of them were Whitecoats, which made the dark griffin stand out.

I found the ramp up, limping as I carried all of my equipment. I hadn’t worn my barding or saddlebags for a couple days, and they were rubbing in the wrong place on my side. As I reached the top, I caught my first glimpse of what all the commotion was about.

An army. The army. Raiders were setting up camp in great numbers, just out of easy shooting distance. Ash landed next to me; I hadn’t even noticed that he’d taken off from his spot further down the wall. He held out a scope, which was detached from his rifle, and pointed out towards the raider camp.

“They showed up about an hour ago. They haven’t made any moves against us, but it’s only a matter of time.” I took the scope up with my telekinesis and held it to my eye, training it towards the army. “Take a look over near Sweeps’ hill.”

I panned to the left and found the rock I had carved that message into. There was a Pony standing next to it. A huge stallion.

Filthy, a color that had once occurred to me to be that of violence. A pony I had watch beat several others to death with his bare hooves while the rest of us watched.


He was wearing thin body armor that only covered his most vital organs and a mask. At first, it looked like a gas mask, but then I saw that instead of one filter it had six tubes stuck into it. They were colored differently and all fed directly into the mask. He was still totally unarmed, his thickly muscled legs clad in scraps of metal, but for protection rather than lethality.

Massacre was just standing there, staring down at the stone. He lifted his head, and then as if he knew that I was watching, turned and looked directly at me. Through the scope, I could see the rage in his eyes.

He was going to make this town pay for her death.

I was sort of glad I hadn’t signed that gravestone.

Author's Note:

Thanks to Kkat for creating FoE, allowing us to travel through this land

Though my editor ErrantIndy couldn't help on this chapter, I'd still like to thank him for all that he's done.

New thanks to Mittens for prereading and helping me out with parts of the story. Mittens gave me the title chapter on this one.

As always, comment/fave/track/rate.

Because Fern wants you to.