• 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 15: The End

Chapter 15: The End

The noise echoed the length of the tunnel, sending shivers up my spine. Nothing I’d met in the wasteland could produce a scream quite like that, and whatever it was was most likely between us and Neighwere. If we were lucky, we could avoid it or sneak past it.

But that relied on luck, so I fully expected whatever it was to find us. Claws, fangs, stingers, whatever it had. It would bring them all to bear on us.

“Well that’s not a good sound.” Viola said it with a tinge of boredom, but she’d probably heard it before. She was a good ten times older than the rest of us at least. The experience of age, and all that. Floating her rifle before her, she absently slid the bolt back to double check the weapon was loaded.

“What is it? Raiders? Ghouls?” Willow had a sword out, her pistol floating on the other side. Her eyes were searching the darkness quickly, ready for a fight. Maybe a fight would make her a little calmer, less twitchy and ready to cut down anypony that came near her. It would work for foes, but I had been getting the feeling she was seconds away from attacking any of us.

Oh yeah, I know that feeling.

“Might be ghouls. Gnashers don’t make much sound, unless they’re going for your throat. Last time I was here was... centuries ago. Plenty of time for something to move in.” The gas masked mare flicked on a flashlight built into the mask, the ancient bulb flickering to life. The illumination it granted was better than my own, but it flickered and dimmed at random, throwing strange shadows down the foreboding tunnel.

Ash and I exchanged a glance. He was not looking forward to walking into an unknown enemy underground, if I knew him at all. I was not looking forward to whatever new damage I would receive. The mask, while cripplingly painful, had restored me. Debilitating wounds were gone, and I was working at 100% again. My legs were still a bit wobbly, but after the walk from Blank I was feeling much more confident. I wanted to be in top shape once we got to Neighwhere, I had to be at my peak to get the girls back.

I had to.

Viola was already trotting off down the tunnel, her rifle at the ready. I moved to catch up, hearing the stumbling of the others behind me, trying to keep up with the only light sources. The tunnel ahead was pitch dark, and the going was almost immediately difficult. We made it about ten minutes into that blackness before we hit our first snag.

“Fuck! Ow!” Ash’s voice brought a beam of light from Viola to highlight the griffin. He had smacked his leg into a cargo box, spilled from an overturned train car. Quickly, we found that it wasn’t just an overturned car. It was an entire train, flipped and scattered through the tunnel for some distance. Time and the seeping dampness had not been kind to the vehicle, the metal warped and corroded, making it impossible to tell what the train had once carried.

Ash and Viola had the easiest time making it through the debris. His talons allowed him to grip and pull, steadying himself as he went over or through any obstacle. Viola trotted along like it was any other situation, drawing on two hundred years of tunnel dwelling.

Willow stuck near me and my illumination, and the two of us kept an eye out for each other. A slip of a hoof, one ill timed step, and we could have easily fallen into piles of jagged metal or precariously balanced debris. The going was slow, to say the least.

A twinkle caught my eye as I crested a pile of what had once been metal crates. Approaching it, I looked at it closely. A thin metal wire, taut and completely out of place. “What is this?” I reached a hoof for it, and as I pressed on it I was hit from the side. There was a deafening boom in the enclosed space, and I was certain I’d just been shot or blown up. I could only feel a weight on my side, and I looked up into the eyes of Willow. She’d tackled me.

“That was a trap. Don’t touch those.” Standing and getting off of me, she walked towards where the blast had gone off.

Ash’s head poked up from past a crumpled train car, his eyes catching the light from my PipBuck. “What was that?”

Willow had found the other end of the trap. Floating in front of her was a crudely constructed shotgun, similar to those I’d seen used by the citizenry of Blank in its defense. The barrel was much larger, and as she popped the breach open I saw that instead of a shell it contained a tin can.

Only then did I observe where the shot had gone. A ragged hole had been punched in a car next to me, big enough that I could have put my head in it. If Willow hadn’t stopped me, I likely would have been decapitated. A tough hide and resistance to pain would have done nothing to help me in that case, I would have died.

“Somepony in here doesn’t want visitors. Don’t think ferals did this.” Willow dropped the crude shotgun, the clatter echoing down the tunnel. I drew Broken, the glow from my telekinesis adding slightly to the light in the tunnel.

“Definitely not. Can’t ever really call a gnasher smart, so I’m betting whoever put this here is either long dead, or not looking forward to visitors.” Viola had joined us around the disabled trap. “I’m betting the latter.”

Ash glanced at her, a smirk on his face. “Dead ponies everywhere back there, what makes you think this is recent? Two hundred years is a lot of time for ponies to build traps.”

Averting her face to the wall, the beam of light lit up a coating of fresh blood on one wall. It still ran in places, and it couldn’t be more than ten minutes old.


“Gnashers don’t write.” She lead the beam down, highlighting the source of the blood. It was a raider. She’d been gutted, chin to tail, her insides smeared along the wall to write the message. The rest of her had been dumped under the words in a pool of blood.

Nice. Very artistic. I approve.

That was not good. So much for the hope of an easy trip under Neighwhere’s walls. I honestly would have rather faced gnashers. They were predictable, brutal, and dare I say it, easy. I could handle gnashers. An unseen and... literate foe in a dark and mysterious tunnel, on the other hoof... that was an entirely different matter.

“What’s that last word read?” Willow asked, staring at the wall. It struck me that she was likely a former slave, or a farmer, or something. I could read because I’d been brought up in a Stable. Literacy would be of benefit to a mercenary, which covered Ash. Viola had the benefit of prewar Equestrian schooling, if she remembered that far back.

“Beckon. It’s an invitation.” Her eyes shone past the protective glass of her mask, surprisingly clear in the darkness as she looked across at the Whitecoat. I could see the hints of a smile around her eyes. “I say we keep walking. Take them up on it.”

I turned from her as she let out a raspy giggle, clearly having too much fun with our current situation. She hadn’t been through Blank... she’d probably seen more in her time than we could imagine, and her mood was a little offsetting. She was right though. “Yeah, lets keep moving. Willow, you’re better at this than me, could you take point?”

The mare nodded to me, looking down the tunnel. Glancing at the still chuckling ghoul, I cut in to her fun. “Viola, you stick close to Willow. Your light is better.” She looked at me, shining the light right in my eyes for a second. I shielded with a hoof, and looked back at Ash.

“We just follow the girls then. Keep an eye out.”

He gave me an exasperated look. Pointing at his eyes with both talons, he flicked them to point at me. “I’m always watching, Kick.”

Of course he was. That’s what he did.

Stupid bird. That’s why it’s hard to kill his kind.

Shut up Two Kick. I don’t need it. Not now. If I die from a mistake, so do you.

Fine. Bah, you need to lighten up... at least we get to follow the mares, so I’ll have something to watch. Thanks for that.

Fuck you.


We’d come across three more similar traps, as well as several landmines. Those had posed a unique threat, at least until Viola had approached one and deactivated it with a quick burst of magic. Turning back to us, she floated the explosive next to her. “We used to use these against gnashers, but we ran out.” Tucking it in her bag, she all but skipped to the next explosive before giving it a similar treatment.

The going was slow, to say the least. With the girls checking for traps. Ash and I focussed on the surroundings. Every sweep of Viola’s light made shadows dance across the tunnel. Ash kept cocking his head to the side, a move I’d seen him make when he was listening for something.

It got routine, almost. That of course meant that something had to change drastically.

“You follow the path of The End?”

The four of us froze at the voice, which almost immediately had four firearms trained on it. Viola’s light caught the figure, and for just a second I thought that it was Fluster.

No, it wasn’t Fluster. Black, shredded robes. A horn in the center of her forehead. A crazed glint in the mare's eyes. Rotted flesh and sharpened teeth. A ghoul, but not a gnasher. Her crazed glare locked onto Viola, who was aiming her rifle between the ghoul’s eyes.

“Sister. Join us. Leave the unenlightened. I shall escort you to the End.” The ghoul held out a gnarled hoof, which I couldn’t help but notice was completely coated in gore. She’d either been the welcome sign’s artist, or had been involved with something equally gruesome.

Viola tilted her head to the side, looking curiously at the ghoul. “Nah, I’ve got a home to return to.”

The black robed mare nodded. “You’ve made your choice then. You are not a pilgrim. You are an interloper. A heathen.”

From the shadows, a dozen voices began chanting. “Heathens... heathens...” Our weapons trained out into the unseen, looking for the source of the voices. Slowly, Viola’s headlamp unveiled the rest of them as they stepped closer, circling us at the edge of the shadows.

A rainbow of color lit up in the dark, each ghoul a unicorn using their telekinesis. From within their robes they pulled weapons, each of them hoof crafted and wickedly edged. The leader, or at least the first ghoul we’d seen, pulled a rusty set of daggers dripping with blood from within her robes.

They rushed us on an unspoken cue.

The first one that moved took a shot right under the left eye from Ash’s revolver, blowing him backwards in a spray of ichor. Even though I had much more pressing matters as the mob rushed us, I couldn’t help but think that the pony was blown out of existence as his horn’s magic flickered out and he left the small lit area.

Yeah. Pretty. Pay attention to the knife.

Reflexively, I jerked Broken up in front of my face, a rusted blade bouncing off course inches from my eye. I was faster on the recovery, spinning the sturdy stock into the cheek of the ghoul. His head twisted to the side at the impact, and I took quick aim as the weapon finished its revolution. The shot tore into the side of the ghoul’s head. Ghoul goop sprayed into my face as I readied another shot.

Willow was taking it upon herself to fight five of the ghouls at once, kicking and spinning as her blades flashed through the air. A pony tornado made of razor sharp metal. The tip of a blade slashed through a windpipe while her hoof staved in a skull.

Viola was backing away from the melee, trying to fend off the savage swings of a robed ghoul. Her rifle was taking the hits, but she was losing ground. She tripped and fell backwards, her assailant whooping for joy and leaping for a killing blow. He was snatched out of the air, however, by a taloned fist that gripped him by the throat. Ash spun with the momentum of catching the ghoul, but kept steady. Even before the ghoul could die from the claws piercing his neck, Ash put a shot through his face and hurled the corpse at another ghoul. He reached down to help the masked ghoul to her hooves, putting a second shot through the knocked down ghoul without even a sparing glance.

Seeing opponents in this lighting was really difficult...

EFS, dipshit.

Right. The little red bars that I was constantly not paying attention to. I’d picked up a nasty habit, ignoring the functioning radar I had slapped onto my eyes at every waking moment. There was red mixed in with blue, but a steady red at the very edges and an instinct I couldn’t describe as mine told me to kick.

I kicked out with a hind leg. The motion was rewarded with the detonation of a shell being set off as I hit a body that was rushing in from behind. I glanced back just in time to see the shredded remains of a ghoul returning to the shadows in a pinwheel spray of blood and bone. I’d hit the ghoul right in the tip of the nose, if what little was left of the head was any indication.

I’d probably have gotten a knife in the flank if Two Kick hadn’t spoken up. That was twice he’d helped me in this fight.


Wait. No. Fuck.

Yeah. You love me.

I tried shutting his voice out, but I couldn’t deny that he’d been getting a lot more friendly towards me. He was also at max volume every time he spoke. I needed Shade, I really did. The Med-X wasn’t cutting it anymore.

The little bloodthirsty laugh that came as I shot another hooded ghoul in the face drew up the corners of my mouth in a smirk. I forced a frown immediately. Reacting physically to him was not helping.

I clenched my teeth in a snarl and threw myself at one of the last remaining foes. In my distracted state, Willow and Ash had cut down a majority of our shadowy lurking opponents, leaving only a couple of stragglers. A gunshot cutting a cry of anger short told me that it was down to one, and the little red bar confirmed it. The last ghoul, faltering as he found himself outnumbered, had me in his face before he could react.

Batting the hovering blade aside before he decided to ram it into my neck, I swept his legs out from under him with Broken. I swung just a little too hard, and his left leg shattered at the impact. Slamming into the debris littered ground, hissing in pain, he soon found three pairs of eyes staring down at him, accompanied by the barrels of two guns and a twin pair of swords pressed against his neck.

I glanced back at Viola, who was rummaging carefully through the remains of the cleanest kills. “Viola. You have a knack for this, could you ask him what’s up ahead?”

She beamed, quite literally, at me. As the spots left my eyes, the ghoul had already trotted over and taken her place in our midst. Looking down at the ghoul, there was still a laugh in her eyes. Two hundred year old ghoul mares were just as strange as any other, it seemed.

“So “brother”, tell me more about this End. You have me intrigued.”

The grounded, groaning ghoul grimaced gingerly as she pushed a hoof down on his broken leg lightly. Her rifle was holstered, leaving her unarmed, but the ghoul would still be dead before he could try anything.

The ghoul glared up at her. “You rejected The End. We offered you a great gift. The Chorus of The End will kill you and use your remains for decoration. Your entrails will serve as our supper. The End will play with your mares before he crushes them beneath his hooves, as -”

His zealous tirade was cut off as a sword jammed through his throat, severing his spine and embedding slightly in the debris he was laying on. A brief jet of thick black fluid from his neck, and he was dead. Viola turned, glaring at Willow as the dead ghoul’s last revenge dribbled off of her eyepiece.

Willow shrugged. “What? That was getting old fast.”

Ash and I nodded a little in agreement. I’d been a few seconds from shooting the ghoul myself. You just can’t talk to a fanatic.

Viola wiped her cloak across her mask, clearing as much of the viscous liquid as she could. Leveling a joyless stare at Willow, she spoke softly. “Yes, but the spray was unpleasant.”

Shrugging, Willow pulled out the blade and whipped it to the side, a move I’d seen her do several times before. Blood, if you could call it that, spattered the ground and she wiped the blade on the robe of the dead ghoul before sheathing her blades. “Right, sorry. Let’s keep moving.”

Ash was already moving, calling over his shoulder. “Yeah, it sucks down here. Lets go kill everything else and get topside.”

The rest of us started following, Viola moving faster to get to the front. Ash was practically blind down here, and his need to get back topside would likely get him killed if he started walking down a trapped tunnel without any light. Luckily, Viola caught up to him before he could trip another shotgun or stumble across a horde of murderous tunnel ghouls.

I brought up the rear, hopping on one of my back legs as I reloaded the weapon attached to my hoof. The promise of more cultists was not good, but at least we knew now that there were more ahead. Full readiness would be useful.

As we went farther into the tunnel, into the realm of the hooded ghouls, things started getting weird. Before long, every surface was covered with writing. What made it weird was that it wasn’t all threats against us and declarations of the End’s various tremendous qualities.

Scratched into some of the walls were notes to loved ones, epitaphs, assorted messages. I came across a date hastily scrawled onto an ancient sign and stopped. Staring at it, I had a flashback to when I was young, sitting in a sterile room with a motherly mare teaching a room full of other colts and fillies. History. A date on a board, the date the ponies went into the vault.

“Hey. This one is from the day after the balefire hit.”

From behind me, I heard a grumpy groan. Willow’s voice echoed across to me as I read looked at the message from the past. “Rip, we don’t have time for sightseeing.”

I waved off her complaints and read it aloud to them. “Daddy, set up camp further in. We’re fine, just tingly. Diadem... it’s just a message from one pony to another. The walls covered with them.”

Viola’s light lit up the passage and the wall surrounding it, throwing everything into much sharper focus. “Wonder if that would be Pearl Diadem. I went to school with her, before the war. Bit of a bitch.” Gazing closer, the mare sighed. “Yeah. It’s her writing. Always sort of hoped she’d burned.” She chuckled lightly, and turned, trotting back towards the middle of the tunnel.

“Felt tingly, eh? I felt that way, before I got all pruney and this mask welded to my face. If that’s the case, she could be down here. There could be hundreds down here. Maybe more.”

My face dropped a bit. Hundreds? We didn’t have the ammunition for that. We didn’t have the energy for that. I took mental count of how many shotgun shells I had with me. Around fifty. If it came to it, and we really had to fight our way through a mob of ghouls... I’d have to use my hooves.

We’d be overrun and ripped apart.

I could take them all. Little stampede, I’ll come down on them like a fucking force of nature.

Shaking off Two Kick’s suggestion, I turned to Viola. “Let’s hope not... Willow’s right, we don’t have time for sightseeing. Let’s go.”

Down the tunnel we went, towards a promise of nothing good.


“You see any way through Ash?”

We crouched in the dark before a passenger train that was turned sideways. The side we were on had metal plates welded to it, and served as a very effective wall. There was light streaming over the top of it, indicating that something was on the other side. It could have been an ancient bulb that had held up through the years, or it could have been an army of ghouls.

The army would be more fun... but lets go for the bulb. I’m getting kinda homesick here, with all that talk of Neighwhere. Will be good to get to the old killing grounds.

Not now.

Viola had been whispering up to the griffin, who was clinging to the side of the wall just under the ledge. Though we had all of our lights off, there was enough ambient illumination to see him turn to us and hold up one talon. Returning his grip to the wall, he slowly edged an eye over to take a look. He jerked his head back quickly and threw himself over to a towering pile of scrap, giving his one good wing a flap for stability, where his dark coloring helped him blend into the assorted junk.

Taking it as a sign to hide, the three of us on the ground ducked below the frayed bench we’d been taking cover behind. I kept an eye on the wall and saw why Ash had jumped. A robed head appeared over the wall, quick enough that it meant the ghoul had been patrolling the top. A long and wicked spear floated alongside the ghoul, aimed down towards us as though ready to be thrown.

A snap from the wall to our left and the ghoul looked quickly, lowering the spear and turning his head away from where Ash was hiding. Leaning forward, he narrowed his eyes, completely missing the dark blur launching at him from the hiding place in the rubble.

A flap of his wing and Ash had the ghoul’s head in his talons, dropping his whole weight on the pony and pulling it over the ledge with a muffled yelp of alarm. It’s neck bent double over the lip of the wall with an audible crack, and Ash’s weight pulled the rest of it after him. He landed as softly as he could, stabilizing with his good wing, clutching the dead ghoul in both hands.

Ooh, nice. Little clean for my taste though.

He walked over to us. “Sorry, had to move fast. Anyways, there’s a camp further on, but only this guard at the wall. I think he was waiting for the group we killed back there, they might have been foraging or something.” The ghoul was still in his grip, its lolling head beginning to drain a string of nasty black fluid on the ground at his paws.

Viola was looking up at the wall, admiration in her eyes. It was rather impressive, how well the wall was constructed, and a pony who had spent a long time working as a guard would probably appreciate such things. Her voice came from the mask, muffled as ever. “How do we get in?”

Ash was busy stuffing the corpse into a broken pipe, and waited until he was closer to us before he answered. He was the only one with the hearing of an airborne predator, and luckily he knew enough to not shout his answer to us. “I’ll find a way. Be right back.”

He scaled the wall quickly, finding holds where the metal was welded to the train. I felt a brief bout of jealousy at what could be accomplished with fingers, but it was fleeting. Magic did what I needed of it.

After about a minute, he came back over the wall with a disappointed look on his face. As we gathered around him, he pointed at the biggest piece of metal on the car. “That’s the gate, but the gears are so rusted opening it would announce our presence to every thing in this tunnel.” He sighed and dropped his shoulders. “I’m gonna have to carry you over one at a time... which is going to suck.”

He gave his weapons to me, and then Viola and I got to watch the humorous scene of a griffon giving a pony a piggyback ride. Willow wasn’t the smallest of us, but could hold her own the most silently if something went wrong while the rest of us were going over, so she had been nominated to take the first ride over the wall.

Once her front legs were wrapped around Ash’s neck in a way that didn’t strangle the griffin, he started making his way up the wall, much more slowly this time with the added weight of the armed pony on his back. Willow was visibly tightening her grip as they went up, and as they reached the top I heard the griffin give a little choke. Willow loosened her grip so much that she almost fell backwards off of Ash’s back, but he caught her with one hand and steadied her. Then they were out of view, leaving Viola and I to wait patiently.

Ash returned, and then it was the masked ghoul's turn. She was much more relaxed about the entire process, and after watching Willow’s fiasco knew exactly what to do. Ash’s ascent was much quicker, and went over the wall without incident.

Then it was my turn. Ash had carried me before, but he’d had access to both wings then. I was substantially heavier than the girls, and Ash and I stood there looking at each other. He glanced at the wall, then at me, then back at the wall.

I had Sight to the Blind slung over my back, and I’d been a little surprised at how heavy the weapon was. He always carried it without complaint, and I’d seen him fire it one handed on more than one occasion. Right now though, he had to carry both the weapon, me, and everything I was carrying.

“We shoulda let one of the girls carry the rifle.” He nodded in agreement with me, before turning his back and spreading his wing to allow room. He was bigger than me, but not by much. He towered over me when he stood, but in reality we were similarly sized.

Sighing, the griffin crouched a bit. “Let’s just get this over with.”

I did exactly what I’d watched Viola do, and as I propped my fetlocks over his shoulders my perch seemed rather stable. Ash grunted as he stood, straining under the weight. “Fuck, Kick. You been putting on weight?”

Then up the wall we went, slower than any of the previous times. He tested his grip each time his talons found purchase in a crevice or seam, making sure that it would hold. Then we were up top, and he dropped me before the hop down. Looking at me, he was breathing hard. “There’s a ramp... you can take that.”

Pulling the heavy rifle from my back, he hopped over the side to join the girls where they were hiding, down behind a large crate. From here, I could see down the tunnel to where the light was. It wasn’t a bright light, but the smallest amount would travel far in this darkness for some reason. The light was given off by the combined glow of what looked to be hundreds of dim bulbs, stretching off until the horizon point of the tunnel, where it was too distant to see.

I mouthed a curse to myself, and made my way to the ramp, where I rejoined the others as quietly as I could. Hooves on metal. Always a problem when it came to stealth.

When I clicked up to the girls, weapons strewn about me, Viola judged me with a glassy stare. “Why did you carry the weapons up? That must have been heavy.” I sighed, knowing that she was right, and just hunched my shoulders in defeat.

Once we were together, we tried coming up with a plan.

We all looked at Viola, the mare who had been down here before. She knew the underground of this city better than anyone, and would know any tricks to getting us down the tunnel. A secret tunnel, steam tunnels, maintenance tunnels. She would know, and she shared her wisdom on the matter with us.

“There’s really nothing. There’s an emergency exit a ways down, but the station that can get us into Neighwhere is past that.” She was staring out at the ghoul city as she told us just how poorly prepared we actually were.

“We really should have grabbed some of those cloaks.” The two of us just stared at Willow as it dawned on us that we really should have. Viola just nodded her head thoughtfully. Cloaks would have allowed us to just walk through the town, without having to sneak from shadow to shadow.

Oh come on. Nopony is gonna realize it? Fine.

What? Realize what?

Ask nicely.

Fuck. Fine. What is it.... please?

Your little ghoul is already wearing a cloak. Cover her up right, she’d blend right in with these freaks. She could bring you cloaks.

It scared me a little, but Two Kick was right. Again. Viola was a ghoul with a cloak. She could just walk into the ghoul town, bring us what we needed, and we could be on our way. I facehoofed.

Wow... we really had just thrown ourselves into this. If only Ash and I had learned from our mistakes, but nope. We never really had a plan before we threw ourselves into these things, and if we did it was always blown to shit when something went wrong.

When I opened my eyes and removed my hoof from my face, I found three pairs of eyes staring at me with a range of emotion. Playful apathy, barely contained contempt, and the predatory gaze of a griffin that wanted nothing more than to be topside again.

I sighed, ashamed that I was about to present a plan given to me by the murderous psycho talking in my head. “Viola, with the hood up and your armor stripped, you’d look just like any other ghoul down here. Aside from the mask.”

She tilted her head to the side, looking at herself, before looking back at me and nodding. “You want me to bring you cloaks? Play the fox in the chickencoop?”

I didn’t quite get the reference, but agreed. “Yeah. Just find us some cloaks, and we can get through town.”

She began undoing the guard armor she was still wearing beneath her cloak, removing her saddlebags and dropping her rifle carefully on top of it. I averted my eyes, as it seemed almost indecent to watch a mare strip down, even if ponies don’t normally wear clothes.

Oh come on. She might be two hundred something, but I’m sure she’s still got some good curves. Look, you fucking pansy.

Nope. I looked at the ground, intent not to give him anything.

No reward, even when I save your useless flanks? You owe me.

I don’t owe you shit.

Once Viola cleared her throat a bit, I looked up. She’d pulled her hood over her head, and I had to admit that she blended in quite well. Her cloak was a few shades lighter than the others we’d seen, and if you really looked you could see that she had a face made of metal, plastic, and rubber, but it really looked like she could pull this off.

Ash nodded with a small grin on his face, approving. “Looks good. Be quick, be quiet, don’t get killed.”

A nod of a hooded head and she hopped over our cover, heading into the ghoul camp. It didn’t feel right, letting her go, but there wasn’t any other option. The ghoul was the natural choice to sneak into a ghoul camp.

Sitting there, we had little to do but think about our situation. Ash was rubbing his shoulder a bit, and I looked at him with a raised brow. Noticing, he shrugged and kept rubbing. “Oh... I pulled my shoulder in that fight. All that climbing didn’t help, now I’m just working out a few kinks. No worries Kick.”

Willow had her swords out and was cleaning them with a rag, keeping herself occupied though she was tapping a hoof impatiently. She’d been a real pain to travel with this whole way, and if I hadn’t known how much coming with us had meant to her I would have told her to go back to Blank. As it was, her blades were coming in handy, so putting up with her was the price that had to be paid.

With the griffin rubbing his shoulder and working his arm in a range of motion, and Willow busy with her swords, I tried to find something to do. My vision showed a sea of red anytime I looked in the direction of the camp, almost indicating of the sea of blood that would have to be spilled to fight our way through.

See, that I want to see.

Turning away from the others, I floated out a dose of Med-X. Ash probably knew how much I’d been taking; I was sure that Xiera had told him to keep an eye on me. I needed it though... even if I wasn’t feeling any real pain, the medication helped lower the volume of the monster in my head.

Oh, sure, just drown me out. Listen, if you take stampede and let me out to play for a little bit, I’ll be a good little colt afterwards. Honest. I’ll sit in your head, nice and quiet.

Let you out to do what? Fight a tunnel full of intelligent ghouls? Kill until you couldn’t kill anymore?

I’d take a run at your goody goody there too. Mare that fine needs some attention every once in a while. Maybe she’d lighten up a bit.

No. You’re gonna stay in there and you’re going to fucking like it. I’m not letting you out, not ever again.

I jabbed the needle into my side, and waited for the cooling fog to settle into my head. Since the mask, I’d lost a lot of the feeling in my neck, chest, shoulders, and withers. Now I couldn’t feel the rest of my body either. The voice in my head grew muffled and faded a bit, to the point that I could ignore him. It wouldn’t last long, but it was worth it.

Much better.

Without the voice in my head, it turned into the longest wait I think I’ve ever experienced. The need for stealth ruled out any lengthy conversation, and I couldn’t exactly walk around and take in the sights.

When Viola returned, she was greeted with the barrels of three guns. They were quickly replaced with grins, as we saw that draped across the triumphant ghoul’s back were several black cloaks. Viola had brought back five cloaks. I wasn’t sure where she’d gotten them from, but they weren’t covered in blood and didn’t smell too terrible.

Then, it came down to us disguising ourselves and our armor. Willow removed her jacket, the first time I’d seen her do so. Her cutie mark, which I only got a glimpse before she adorned herself in a black cloak, was what looked to be pruning shears. Maybe I wasn’t too far off on the farmer guess.

Viola slipped back into her armor, the larger black cloak being able to cover more of her than her faded travelling cloak had.

The hardest disguise to pull off was Ash’s. The rest of us could act like ghoul ponies, because we were shaped like ponies and moved like ponies. Ash, on the other hoof, moved nothing like a pony and had his wings to cover. For once, his being a griffin was not helping.

It took two cloaks to cover him. At his very reluctant suggestion, we tied down his wings with Sight to the Blind tucked underneath them. We would keep between him and anypony we encountered, and just hope that he was taken for a big ghoul. At least he was dark colors.

Willow was tan, I was white. Not common ghoul skin colors. They ranged more in the brown to green spectrum.

If only Fluster and her jar of horrible black goo was around... it had worked once, and I was sure it would work here. I missed the quiet little pegasus. I just missed the girls. I missed Shade.

I ignored the little voice making suggestive comments about the girls.

“So... we ready to do this? Kick, you good?” I snapped out of it, looking at the hooded griffin. Viola had done her best making him look like a ghoul, and he did to the extent that a griffin could.

“Uh... yeah. Let’s go.”


“Was it this abandoned when you got the cloaks?” I whispered ahead to Viola as the four of us weaved our way through assorted scrap metal huts. We hadn’t seen a single ghoul, and I was beginning to question where the hundreds of potential threats were. According to my PipBuck, they were still ahead of us, just as they’d always been.

Her hooded head turned to the side and she gave a little nod. “Only pony I saw was this guy.” Following where her hoof pointed, I saw another raider, a companion to the paint donor we had seen earlier.

The raider had once been rather large, as raiders went. Nailed to a table, he’d had most of the meat stripped off of his legs. There was a decent sized bite mark in his neck, and I honestly hoped that he’d been dead before they started eating him.

Not even raiders deserved that.

“Let’s not get caught.” Viola spoke so casually, it was a little creepy.

Everyone nodded, and we hurried past the grisly scene. The raider was far beyond help. None of us wished to join him, if I had to guess.

I sure don’t.

And the Med-X had worn off.

We were moving at a faster pace, since we still had yet to see any of the residents. Just short of running, actually. At this point, if Ash had started tunneling his way to the surface I probably would have pitched in and helped.

We came across the remains of several other raiders... or they might have been ponies just caught in a bad place. It was impossible to tell from the flayed corpses on tables or piled into corners of the tunnel. The name was scrawled everywhere, mixed in with notes and ancient letters. On signs, on the walls, on the floor, on tables, and one on the hide of a pony, stretched across a frame made of bones.

The End.

I had assumed it was a name, at first. The first ghoul had made me think that they just meant death, but they treated it like a deity. No more notes, epitaphs, or doodles. Just The End.

Then we were in an open area. There were no more shacks here, and for one glorious second I thought we’d gotten past the ghoul camp. As I turned to look back at the camp, the complete circle of red marks told me just how sorely mistaken I was.

We were surrounded. Behind us loomed dozens of hooded ghouls, and in front of us I spotted the glow of horns and brandished weapons. We had our weapons out and aimed, but the odds were just too against us. Viola was right. Hundreds. We were so fucked.

I muttered under my breath, “Shade... I’m sorry.” Ash shot me a glare as he held his revolver out, searching for whichever target he’d take out first before they rushed us.

A booming voice cut through the cave, and at first I had a flashback to Massacre slamming me against a cabinet. “So... you are the heathens that have stumbled into my little dominion, killed my followers, and stole some of their garments.”

The earth pony that stepped forward was certainly similar to Massacre in size, but I’d only ever seen one ghoul like him before. I had a disturbing suspicion that we were in a lot more trouble than we thought. He strode out of the throng of armed unicorn ghouls, approaching us with an easy canter.

Ash aimed the revolver more carefully, pulling back the hammer and pointing it straight into the massive ghoul’s eye. He chuckled and pushed the revolver out of his face with a hoof. “Please. That won’t work, bigger weapons have failed to kill me.”

He began circling us, admiring the work we’d put into our disguises. “Well done... if we hadn’t been watching you, it might have worked.” Laughing, he threw back Ash’s hood. “Very well done.”

As he got to me, he stopped, cocking his head to the side. “Thats... that is a sensation I haven’t felt in some time.” Reaching for my saddle bag, he flipped it open and reached in. Out came the black case, and my eyes opened wide. Balancing it on one hoof, he looked closely at it. When he nosed close to the latch to open it, my eyes opened wide.

He saw my look and smiled, nudging open the latch. As the box opened slightly, white began creeping into the edges of my vision. No. Not now. Stop.

“Hello again, my messy pony...” I was sure that only I heard the voice, but it was enough. I couldn’t afford a meeting with Pandemonium, not now.

“No!” Reaching out with my telekinesis, I slapped the box shut and pulled it to me, tucking it against my chest. I slammed the barrel of Broken into the bottom of his jaw and fired, more on instinct than intentionally. I had a feeling that Two Kick had a hoof in it, because the instinct wasn’t mine.

Blood shot into the air, thick and stinking, showering down on us. With a roar, the mob of ghouls started rushing in, ready to tear us to shreds with their bladed weapons. They’d probably eat us too.

“Wait!” The End bellowed, and his minions slid to a stop, several weapons already chopping down towards us. The ghoul looked down at me, parts of his face missing and oozing gore. Any pony would have died from that shot. Any ghoul... except...

Fuck. The End was Endless, and he wasn’t a mindless berserker like the one we’d turned into a quivering yet angry pile of goo and bone.

I mouthed the word, “Endless.”

The ghoul with half a face nodded. “You know what I am then? That’s a first, but with that box I’m not surprised that you’ve encountered my ilk before.”

“I killed the last one I met.” The horde surrounding us was straining at their leash. I could see a mixture of bloodlust and confusion in their eyes.

The End laughed in my face, his wound throwing viscous fluid onto me. “Did you now? You killed the unkillable?” His grin was widened enough that it reached the back of his head on one side, scraps of flesh flapping as he spoke.

Tear this fuckers head off. I know you want to.

It was tempting, but I doubted that the mass of cannibals surrounding us would appreciate me attacking their leader a second time. Willow had her swords out, Ash had the barrel of his gun actually in the empty eye socket of a ghoul that had a knife inches from his chest, and Viola was clutching a grenade with her magic. We’d make a showing of ourselves, but we’d be ripped apart.

“Wasn’t a pony left when I was done.” I really shouldn’t be doing the talking here. Really, really shouldn’t.

“I respect that. Shows determination.” The End stepped back from my face, rubbing a hoof at the hole in his face. “Stand down, my Chorus. Return to your homes.”

As one, the ghouls turned and walked away, leaving the four of us rather confused. Had that really just gone our way?

“What, you think we won’t kill you? Sending your lackeys off won’t score you points.” Willow. Shut up. You’re not helping.

I wasn’t sure if that was me thinking, or Two Kick. I wasn’t sure it mattered.

“Oh, you can try. I’ll be up and about in a week or two, and you’ll be warming the bellies of my congregation. I don’t really see a point, do you? They’ve had plenty to eat, you surface dwellers have been coming down here more and more lately.” He turned away from us, and I noticed that the lights were coming on in the darkened tunnel. His ghouls, the Chorus had turned them off to set the trap, which we’d walked right into. I wasn’t really sure if we were out of it yet.

He was walking away, and paused only briefly to turn his head and speak to us over his shoulder. “You coming? If you’re not going to make your attempt on my life, I’d like to chat.”

Three of us exchanged confused glances, while Viola trotted after the subterranean deity. She’d holstered her rifle, and the rest of us followed her cautiously. I kept my weapon out. Ash and Willow chose to do the same.

We followed him to an intact, if rusted, rail car. It was bigger than the rest, and looked like it was built to carry a tank. Or an Endless experiment. Unlike everything else down here, the car was completely unmarked by graffiti and religious declarations. Viola followed him in, and we pursued more out of concern for the ghoul. With her years of experience, there was no way she was this naive. I was beginning to think she really didn’t care for her own well being.

Inside, we found that The End had turned what was once a sterile and heavily reinforced shipping container into a fairly comfortable living situation. A pile of fairly clean mattresses in one corner, a jukebox in another... it was pretty decent. For a hole in the ground filled with cannibals and bones, it was pretty decent.

“You have two cubes? That’s rather impressive, I thought them all lost.” He was looking at my saddle bag, where the demon in the box lurked.

“Uh.. uh, yeah.” I stammered a little, still thrown off by how this had all gone down. He was being rather cordial, considering I’d blown off half of his face. Though if what he’d said about being up and about in a week or two was true... Underhoof might be having problems if the other Endless managed to get past the door we’d closed.

“Who the fuck are you?” Ash still had his revolver out, and jabbed it at the ghoul with each word. He was rubbing his shoulder with his free hand still. He was not enjoying his time underground.

“Now, I am The End. I brought endless life to the Chorus that exalts me.” He said it grandiosely, with a sweep of a leg. Then he looked up, as though recalling a memory. “I used to be Nickel.”

I looked at Ash, my jaw hanging open slightly. Somehow, we’d gone from seconds away from death to hitting the jackpot. Celestia had shown mercy once again, as far as I could tell, because I was NOT that lucky.

Viola was flipping through a small stack of magazines on an end table. Glancing up, she posed a question. “How’d you end up down here?”

“I woke up in this container. Before that, I’d volunteered for a project that was supposed to create unkillable soldiers to fight against the stripes.”

I held up a hoof cautiously. “Wait, why are you telling us this? I need to know why you didn’t have them cut us apart back there.”

The large ghoul chuckled. “I like to talk to outsiders every once in awhile. I found that conversation helps stave off the madness I’ve seen grip so many of my flock over the years, and just talking to sycophants just isn’t enough. Immortality gets tiresome.”

“Those murderous freaks out there? Explain them.” Willow was lingering near the entrance, glancing over her shoulder into the dark tunnel frequently. A sword was resting across her withers, ready to be used at a moments notice.

Viola glared a little, and The End gave a low growl. “Careful child, those are my worshippers you’re talking about.” He sat down, causing the entire car to rock slightly. Ash braced himself against the wall, looking around quickly. We’d need to be moving on before too long, before he started freaking out.

“They were down here when I found my way out of my confinement. Scared and lost, they saw me as the giant who emerged from the tunnel to save them from the death and fire of the outside world. I brought them the gift of immortality, and they brought me companionship.” As he spoke, it dawned on me that he really believed he’d given those ghouls their ‘immortality’. That didn’t explain the ghouls I’d encountered elsewhere in the wasteland, and I realized that he was crazy.

“Every so often, interesting interlopers such as yourselves find your way into my realm. I always enjoy hearing of how the topside is faring in these dark days. Most of my visitors decide to stay in the end, as I hope you will.” An image of the raiders nailed to tables and eaten passed through my head, and I wondered if they’d decided to stay, or just been cut down in the dark.

I spoke up, now very interested on getting us out of here. “Well, thank you for your hospitality, but we are on a bit of a tight schedule.”

Ash looked hopefully at me, and I jerked my head towards the exit of the container. My eyes were wide, and he tilted his head to the side just a bit. I nodded very slightly. The griffin stood, turning towards The End as he backed towards the tunnel.

The End glanced turned to me, now between Viola and myself. That could become an issue. “In a hurry to go somewhere? I’ve never seen one with my gift from outside before that didn’t have the madness.” The large ghoul was now looking at Viola, who had put down the magazines. The mare in the mask was looking past him to me with questioning eyes. I jerked my head towards the door, not sure if she’d get my meaning.

He was approaching her slowly, cornered in the container. So our luck hadn’t changed, it was just bad in a different way.

Ash was out, his revolver still aimed at the ghoul. Willow had her sword ready as it had been, but Ash had pulled her out with him. I drew Broken, aiming the weapon at the back of the Endless’ head. It wouldn’t kill him, but it might buy us enough time to start running.

Viola saw what we were doing and nodded almost imperceptibly. Her horn began glowing just slightly, and her saddle bag popped open. Out floated the grenade, and I heard the large unkillable obstacle let out a low growl similar to when Willow had called ghouls freaks.

I didn’t expect Viola to do what came next, as she slammed the grenade into his mouth as soon as he started to talk again, rushing him. With more agility than I’d ever seen from her, she sprung past him, bouncing off the pile of mattresses and clean over the massive ghoul. As she sprinted past me, I turned and followed.

We were only a short distance from the container when there came the thump of a grenade detonating, followed by a strangled roar that bounced down the tunnel. The roar didn’t die down, but was instead joined by others as the ghouls realized something had gone wrong.

I didn’t look back, I just kept running. I holstered Broken, wanting my full concentration on the task at hand. Dodging debris, broken tracks, and collapsed parts of the tunnel as quickly as we could, we tried to keep our head start. Viola had turned on her headlamp, so we had illumination, but if the ghouls had trapped this direction we were screwed.

“Viola! How far to the station?!” As I ran, I shouted as loudly as I could. The roar behind us was staying at a constant level, which I hoped meant they weren’t gaining on us, but it was enough that shouting was necessary.

She was leading, with Ash and Willow behind her. I was bringing up the rear. Her voice, muffled as ever but harder to hear with the roaring, drifted back to me. “Not far. Maybe a few more minutes.”

“Lets hope we live that long!” Willow was running while looking over her shoulder, something I wasn’t too keen to do myself. I’d rather see what was going to trip me than what was going to stab me to death and eat my flesh.

Viola, at the head of the group, opened her bag as she ran. I couldn’t see what was enveloped in the glow of magic, but she threw it to her side as we passed a detached railcar. It didn’t look like a passenger car, it looked like a big tank of something. Passing by, I saw the mine she had casually tossed next to it.

Oh fuck.

I began running just a little faster.

The ghouls were just a little bit behind us, and to their credit they’d been catching up. When one of them strayed too near the blinking explosive, the proximity fuse was tripped. Whatever was in that tank had spent two hundred years waiting for a spark, and it had just been given its moment to shine.

Its moment to burn.

Its moment to over pressurize the tank and detonate outwards in a fireball, washing a horde of ghouls in flame and obliterating everything near it with a crushing shockwave. The ceiling of the tunnel, after two hundred years of regular neglect and weathering, took that shockwave as its cue to give up in the constant fight against the weight above it, collapsing into the tunnel in a shower of concrete, metal, and earth.

The shockwave was a lot kinder to those of us up the tunnel from the blast. As I heard the blast, I felt an invisible force pick off my hooves and throw me down the tunnel. In the light of the fireball, I saw the train car I was flying at in stark detail, every window, bolt, and decoration picked out in the bright yellow light. Then I hit, and everything went black.



“Kick. Kick, wake up.”

Turn on the lights. I’m getting bored.

A snapping sound made me snap my eyes open. Gripping for Broken with my magic, I tried rolling over to get upright, but a clawed hand was pushing down on my shoulder.

“Whoa there Kick. Everythings cool, just take it slow.” Ash was over me, backlit by a fire. Looking past him, I saw a shattered window. Looking at my surroundings, I found that I was inside the train car, laying on an ancient cushion that was still surprisingly comfortable. If it wasn’t for the glass in my flank and the splitting headache, I’d be downright comfortable.

“Is he dead?” A shout from outside told me that Willow really cared.

“Nah, he’s just a little beat up.” He pulled me up and ran some talons down my back, dislodging shards of glass from my cloak and the armor underneath. “You good, Kick?”

Getting to my hooves, I found that I really was. That was the least damaging explosion I’d ever been in. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m good. Everyone okay?”

“Willow ran into a train car, but other than that we’re all good. We gotta get going though.” I nodded at him, following as he made his way through the car and hopped out the back and into the tunnel. As I landed, my front right hoof slipped and I hit the ground hard.

“Ow...” As I picked myself up, looking for an injury I’d missed because I couldn’t feel, I saw that my right leg was covered with thick black goo. Looking down, I saw that I’d landed in what had once been a ghoul. He’d been ripped in half, and I’d landed squarely in the insides spilling from his chest. “Ew...”

Willow, whose right eye was swollen shut, laughed out loud at my misfortune. “Watch your step, Rip.” It couldn’t have been too long since the blast, but she was already wearing her long white coat, the black tree design reminding me of the black veins running down my neck.

“Willow, we’re gonna be walking into a city filled with murderers, rapists, slavers, and sick fucks. Is wearing the symbol of opposition to all those things really a good idea?” She stopped laughing as I pointed out that wearing her coat was a really bad idea, and frowned at me for a few seconds before grudgingly stripping the jacket off and placing it back in her bags.

Viola trotted up to us from further down the tunnel, her eyes twinkling in the fire behind us. Glancing at it, I saw the collapsed tunnel and the burning debris. I’d gotten really lucky, landing on a cushion. Extremely lucky.

“Station’s right up ahead. Looks closed, but that’s not really an issue.” With a tilt of her head, she indicated behind her. Turning into the tilt, almost playfully, she practically skipped away from us.

Shrugging, I followed the ghoul mare. Ash fell in next to me, walking upright. Willow trailed behind, her pride damaged, but the rest of her intact apart from the bruised eye.

Catching up to the playfully trotting mare, I began walking alongside her. “Viola... could you warn us next time you use high explosives?”

Glancing over at me, she nodded. “Sure. Can do.” She gave a little giggle. “That was pretty cool though, wasn’t it?”

I gave a conciliatory nod, chuckling slightly. “Yeah, it was pretty cool.”

I needed a laugh. Ahead, I could see the open space of the Anchor station. Somewhere above it, Neighwhere festered like a boil on the world. A whole new hell awaited us there.

Neighwhere didn’t know we were coming.

Hate didn’t know we were coming.

He’d know, soon enough.

Author's Note:

As always, praise to Kkat for creating the fantastic Fallout Equestria.

Thanks to my editor Wirepony, he has great ideas.

Also the most recent picture is a feature on Broken, done by BurnOut42. Love it, the look on Ripple's face is great.

Then, as always, fave/comment/rate/track. Thanks much, hope you enjoyed the chapter.