• Published 25th Jan 2012
  • 10,652 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 16: Gentle

Chapter 16: Gentle

Entering the station, I had to wonder why the ghouls hadn’t camped out here. It was spacious, and surprisingly still had functional lighting. Viola was leading the way, hopping from the tracks up to the platform. As I climbed up, I took a look around the abandoned space.

Much like where we’d first come into the tunnel, this station was littered with abandoned belongings from hundreds of years before. There were skeletons here too, but as I passed by one I couldn’t help but notice that there was a hole in the skull. These ponies had all been shot, but by what I couldn’t tell.

I felt sorry for the dead pony on the ground. Getting shot in the head was never fun.

As I noticed that every other pony skeleton here was similarly killed, I heard a ratcheting sound from my right. Broken snapped out to point at the sound even as I whirled, finding myself staring down the twin barrels of an automated turret nestled in the ceiling. A small red light shone, aiming right at my chest, but as the ratcheting sound continued I realized that the turret was out of ammo.

“Phew... that’s lucky.” As I muttered my little statement under my breath, Ash stepped up alongside me, looking up at the turret. The griffin inspected the rest of the platform, concentrating on the ceiling.

Crossing his arms, he let out a little laugh. “Huh, tenacious isn’t it, Kick?” Drawing his revolver, he pointed up. “Keep an eye out though, if there’s one there might be more.”

As if on cue, a metal pony lurched its way around a corner, one rusted leg giving it a creaking limp. I recognized the model immediately, throwing myself behind a crumbling bench as beams of burning energy slashed through the air at us. Ash was forced to dive off of the platform under the barrage of energy.

As I popped up over my cover, I prepared to unload lead into the rusted sentinel, but the robotic pony had suddenly suffered a bad case of sword through the brain. It lurched drunkenly to the side, sparks sputtering from around Willow’s sword. It took a few more steps, fell over, gave a little shudder, and then lay still.

As Ash and I got out of our cover, Willow was already prying the sword loose from the robot's head with her magic, a hoof firmly pressed against the prone form to apply leverage. That didn’t really make sense, but Willow’s sly grin as she turned back to me gave me pause. Approaching me, she pushed Broken’s barrel down with the tip of a sword. “Can’t be making much noise. A little tact this close to Neighwhere.”

No. It probably wasn’t. Thinking about it now, if Neighwhere wasn’t up in arms over the detonation only a short walk down the tunnel, it could only mean that we were the luckiest ponies in the wasteland. Though with how smoothly events had been going recently, I was sure that we’d be walking into a wall of armed and very alert slavers. Luck never lasted.

We were fucked.

Shaking my head to get that thought cleared, ignoring the voice telling me that I was right, I walked past her to where Viola was already peeking around the corner that the robot had come from. I joined her in scoping out the path ahead, but from what I could see it was clear. No robots, no turrets, just lots of skeletons.

Taking a few tentative steps out, I waited for another turret to spring to life and spray me with bullets. With a click and a grinding whir, my expectation was answered, but once again the turret made a rapid clicking sound. Fresh out of ammo. Bad for the skeletons littering the floor, good for me.

“Wow. It must have really sucked to be here after the bombs. Death or ghoulification.” Trotting past me, carefully avoiding stepping on any exposed bones, Viola led the way. Making our way through the boneyard, the four of us eventually came to the locked gate that had doomed everypony here to a violent death.

The gate was a big steel shutter that had slid down from the ceiling, probably when the bombs had gone off and the security had been tripped.

“We could blow it up.” Viola giggled a little as she suggested the use of one of her reclaimed mines, but we shot down the idea before she could even open her bag. We didn’t need to make any more noise while trying to stealthily enter Neighwhere. Collapsing a tunnel had done enough.

“You could try forcing it open. Worked at the headquarters.” Ash shrugged as he spoke, bringing to mind the door I’d forced open all that time ago. That had taken most of my strength to do, and the door leading to Grace’s labs had been much, much smaller than the one before me.

I shook my head, not even willing to attempt. I’d probably kill myself trying. “Don’t think that’s an option either...”

As we stared at the door, Willow taking a chance at prying at a seam with her sword, I noticed that Viola was drifting off to one side. As I watched her, I saw her inspecting a rust covered wall closely, scratching at it with a hoof. With a little glow of her horn, a panel popped open in a shower of rust.

“Oh, that works too.” Reaching into the opening, she moved something and the gate gave a cringe inducing screech. Slowly and haltingly, but surely, the gate began retracting into the ceiling. From underneath, a flow of debris and stinking liquid began entering the room.

The three of us in front of the gate took a few steps back, Willow even going so far as to hop up onto a skeleton draped bench. The foul flow oozed around my hooves, and Ash shuddered as he tried picking his paws out of it. As the gate unveiled the room past it, I saw that it led into a long abandoned building. The ponies of Neighwhere, and probably of Anchor before it, had used the building to dump trash, and water had pooled there to form the horrific sludge we now stood in.

I sloshed my way through the muck, pushing the larger pieces of filth out of the way with my magic, before reaching the stairs and climbing up them as quickly as I could. Standing on the stairs, I started shaking the grime from my legs as I looked down at the three making their way towards me. Viola was strolling through it casually, Ash was rushing it, and Willow was hopping from debris to debris.

Eventually, all of us were out of the trash. At the top of the stairs, I found a boarded up, dilapidated interior. Nopony had been here in a long time, which was perfect for us. A thought had occurred to me, and I chose now to express it.

“Ash, Viola, you two can’t go into Neighwhere.”

“What?!” They shouted in unison, and Willow and I hissed them silent. It was dark out, and shouting coming from a closed up building in the middle of the most hostile place I could think of couldn’t be good.

“Ash, you know you can’t just go walking around in Neighwhere. They know you here, and they know you were fighting at Blank. Griffins don’t exactly blend in.” As I spoke, he narrowed his eyes menacingly at me. He knew that I was speaking sense, but I knew the griffin. This would not go over well with him.

“That’s not part of our contract. You’re not denying me my chat with Hate.” He was towering over me, rage emanating from his very being, though he was speaking low and even. Talons hovered near my face as he grasped at the air like he was ready to wrench my skull from my neck.

“I know it’s not, but we’re here for rescue. If we go in killing, how many ponies do you think will get out? We’ll be cut down before we could even try.” I stared into his eyes, not backing down. I was hoping this wouldn’t turn into another fight like it had at Orchard.

I was sure that this time one of us would die if we got into it.

“Besides, we need a way out. We could keep going down the tunnel, and I need the way clear for when the rescue happens.” I could see the griffin narrowing his eyes and glancing to the side furtively. I knew that he knew I was speaking the truth. The angry griffin just had to work it through his head and convince himself that he knew it. Very slowly, he lowered his talons.

“Fine.”

The griffin turned from me and walked off. “I’ll check this building out then.” Disappearing into a doorway, he let me release the breath I’d been holding.

“Why can’t I go in?” Viola was standing next to me, watching the doorway the griffin had departed through.

“You’re a ghoul. Don’t raiders shoot ghouls?”

She nodded her head a little, scuffing a hoof at the filthy ground. “Yeah... they do.”

“You also know tunnels. There are emergency exits farther along, right?” The nod she gave was much stronger. “Well, I want you to check the tunnel. Those ghouls aren’t past here, but I want to know that the way is clear. Can you do that?”

Willow was up against a window boarded up with ancient and rotting woods. Her voice came across the room softly at us. “So just you and me then Rip? We’re gonna have to cover up, you did live with these ponies for most of your life. If they recognize you, it’s over.”

Hood to the rescue, yet again. Pulling the dirty white cloth around my neck over my face covered the telling scar. “Better?”

She nodded and used her magic to grip a slim sheet of metal in place over one of the windows. With a short jerk, she pulled it from its rusted moorings, surprisingly with almost no sound. Placing it against the wall next to the window, she hopped through the window before I could say anything.

I nodded to Viola and to Ash who was just coming back, and followed her through.

I got my first real taste of Neighwhere in those first moments.

Though it was early night, there was light everywhere. Flood lights, strings of colored light, salvaged streetlamps. The air was also filled with a deep bass rumble... it sounded like music, but not like any that I’d heard.

Ah, so that’s tonight.

There were ponies everywhere, raiders and slavers walking the streets. It was actually a lucky break for us. There were other ponies with covered faces and hoods, which meant that Willow and I would be able to blend in and wouldn’t be limited to hiding in the shadows. It would make the rescue that much harder though.

Now we just had to find where they kept the slaves. Come on... let me remember.

I know where it is. You just have to follow my lead. Take that left up there, with the red light.

“I think I remember. It’s up there.” I tried keeping the volume low, but with the music in the air I couldn’t whisper. No response from Willow and I turned my head to make sure that she’d heard me.

The mare was gone.

Fuck.

I looked around frantically, but I couldn’t tell Willow apart from any of the other ponies on the street. I locked my teeth to hold back a scream as all the ways that this could go wrong flooded into my mind. The absent Whitecoat could quite literally be the death of me and everypony I cared about.

With how flaky she’d been acting, I guess I should have seen her abandoning me immediately coming. She’d either be off to do something incredibly stupid, or she was looking on her own for her captured comrades.

I glanced briefly back at the building I’d left Viola and Ash in, but decided against returning. The reasons I had left them as the rearguard still existed, it was only my situation that was different. The ponies of Blank needed rescue, and I was going to provide.

I was just surrounded by enemies, any of which could be family or friend from before.

Fuck.

All I had was the murderous voice in my head. He knew the way around, he knew these ponies.

Damn right I do. Up there, red light. Take a left.

Sighing, I followed his directions. I didn’t know if this was a trap, or if he was being honestly helpful. I could only follow along and find out.

As we went down the side path, I noticed that even for a place run by monsters, it was unpleasant. Drugged out raiders lying in pools of filth, the occasional corpse, mares selling themselves to anypony that walked past.

“Hey there stallion, looking for a good time?” A scrawny unicorn mare stepped in front of me, shaking her rear to emphasize the offer.

Masking my voice, I growled out. “No. Outta my way.”

“Okay, geez. Colts are two streets over, you gelding.” Making room for me, the mare spit curses at my retreating form as I kept walking.

She’s right. You might as well be a gelding. You’re never any fun.

Shut up. How much further?

Just a bit more, gotta go through that building on the right.

The building on the right must have been an apartment building before the bombs. Several stories tall and covered with cruel graffiti, it was now to a building as a ghoul was to a pony. Not very pleasant to look at.

The doors were long gone, a filthy curtain in their place. Pushing it aside, I entered a dimly lit hallway. There were a few lamps here and there, giving off enough light to make the whole place look even worse than it should have.

And here we are.

I stared at the door he’d led me to, a sense of dread sweeping over me. Solid metal, a massive keyhole with scorch marks right above a blood spattered door handle. Right in the middle of the door were the indents of two pairs of hooves caked with long dried blood.

My hooves.

This was Two Kicks room.

“No. We can’t be here.”

You wanna blend in? I gotta grab some things. Remember, two deadbolts up and down, turn with magic. Don’t want you killing yourself trying to pick the lock.

I knew this part, and even though I wanted to get away from this door as quickly as I could, I reached out with my magic and slid open the locks unseen on the opposite side. With a creak, I pushed the door open, opening up a nightmare I wished to never see.

Luckily, the image I’d had long ago about a blood-smeared room filled with the rotting corpses of ponies was mostly inaccurate. Aside from a skeleton tactfully nailed to one wall, there weren’t any dead ponies at all. The room, however, was a mess. Shotgun shells and Stampede injectors lay in piles scattered around the room, along with mounds of healing bandages, and heaps of shattered armor.

Dominating the room was a massive bed, one that could fit five or six ponies comfortably.

What? I like to have fun. Now close the door, mighty suspicious looking if it’s open. I’m supposed to be dead, you know.

Closing the door behind me, I was presented with the most complicated lock I’d ever seen. Where a lock should have been, and where any enterprising ponies would choose to pick a lock, there was a crudely rigged shotgun rigged with a long feed of shells. On the ground I counted three spent shells, which explained the dried blood splattered on the door.

“Wow... is that really necessary?”

I don’t want anypony stealing my stuff. Do you know how many thieves there are in this town?

“Three less?”

Hah. Yeah. Hey, you made a joke.

I began sorting through the supplies scattered in piles around the room. Dozens of shells for Broken, healing items, anything that could come in handy went into my bags. He kept trying to get my attention, but the way I saw it what was his was mine. Just take what I need and leave.

If I had my way, I’d burn this place before I left, but running incognito ruled out arson. Two Kick sounded relieved when I reached that conclusion.

Phew. Okay, open the closet, stop looting my room.

I dropped several more shells into my bag very deliberately before approaching the heavily reinforced clost door. As I opened the door, I was assaulted by a stench that I couldn’t believe had been contained by a simple metal door. It should have broken free and rampaged across Equestria long ago.

I stumbled backwards, gagging.

Like it? I find that the smell helps when I’m fighting. Psychological shit, there.

Hanging in the closet was battered leather barding, scraps of sharpened metal fastened to it almost at random. The entirety had once been soaked in blood, which had likely come from the gutted stallion lying at the foot of the closet. At least three weeks he’d been there, and was now a festering pile of pony scraps, putrid and rotting.

Looking at the scene from across the room, I held back the urge to gag.

It’s perfect. Protects in the right places, flexible where it needs to be. Go ahead, it’s a gift. It’s custom fitted to us anyways.

No.

I slammed the door shut with such an expenditure of my magic that I felt the strain almost immediately. Distance wasn’t a strength of mine, and that door was heavy.

No? I give you a gift, and you say no?! I’m trying to be helpful here.

It hit me. I’d been too lenient with Two Kick, listening to him and taking his advice. The filthy leather abomination on the other side of that metal door was everything that set us apart. The armor I wore now was given to me by friends, had held the warmth of what I was pretty sure was the love of my life, and had saved me several times.

I would never put on something like that abomination in the closet. Never again.

Put it the fuck on! These ponies respect power. Fear. Pain. Strength. You need these. You need me! You’ll fucking die without me! I’m trying to keep us alive you stupid fuck!

I jabbed the needle into my side, feeling the coolness of the Med-X spread through me. His voice slowly mellowed from a screaming rage to a menacing tingle.

A sound at the door made me drop into an alert crouch, drawing Broken by instinct. Approaching cautiously, I could hear muffled words, from a mare and a stallion.

“I’m telling you, somepony went in. They got Two Kick’s door open. Last pony that tried that was...” A soft mare’s voice was cut off by a gruff stallion’s voice.

“Sledge. Dragged his corpse off and everypony wised up that the door just kills you. Nopony goes in but Two Kick, and he’s dead.”

“Then why’s the door ajar?”

I noticed then that I hadn’t bolted the door back up, and I could see through the slight crack into the hallway. With a creak, the door started opening very slowly, and the glow of magic accompanied the barrel of a pistol into the room.

Thinking quickly, I grabbed at the door lock with my magic, pulling the hair trigger attached to the shotgun. Blood sprayed the inside of the door as the weapon fired, wrenching the door open with the recoil. The pony that had been opening had had his ear up against the lock as he nudged it open, which had ended with half of his head being liquefied against the wall.

As the door slammed open, the other pony was scrambling for the long blade sheathed against one leg. Broken was already aimed, and the shot tore out her throat and lower jaw, cutting off any cry for help.

She still grasped for the knife, even as her blood poured from her ruined face and neck. I watched as her eyes went dull and she slumped into the hallway. I sighed, “I’m sorry,” and dragged her body into Two Kick’s room. Her companion followed shortly, twin streaks of blood leading into the room.

I knew that somepony would have heard the shots. Even if they’d thought that it was just another pony trying to get in with the first shot, Broken had a noticeably different report. Somepony was sure to come check, if for no reason other than to loot the bodies.

Stepping into the hallway, I closed Two Kick’s door behind me, hoping to never return. I locked both deadbolts with my magic, and turned. Two Kick knew the way to where the slaves were, but with his leading me astray once already, I decided to try and find it myself. Maybe I’d run into Willow. I wanted to head her off before she did something irreversibly stupid.

“Hey! Who are you?!”

There were two filthy unicorns at the entrance to the building, brandishing shotguns at me. The shots had attracted scavengers faster than I’d expected, and the ponies that had come to check had the upper hoof. They’d caught me standing in a pool of blood and closing a door that nopony was supposed to be able to open. They were far enough away that if I rushed them I’d likely be dead before I could reach them. It would take some fast wordsmithing to get out of this.

“Uuuh....” I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I fired Broken blindly at them as I started running further into the apartment building. Shouts and a blast of buckshot ricocheting off of a wall followed me down the dark corridor. With Two Kick muffled, I tried using any inkling of instinct that I could find as I ran.

Hitting a corner, I started running up a flight of stairs. I could still hear the two behind me as I ran, and I wondered if I could ambush them. Wait around a corner, take them out as they passed.

“He’s upstairs, let’s go! Pony looted Two Kick’s room!” The cheers of around a dozen reverberated through the building, and my ambush plan was immediately scrapped. The two had gotten help.

Door on the right.

Two Kick was barely understandable, muffled by the Med-X and amplified by my search for memories. I could barely hear him over the thunder of hooves coming up the stairs after me

RIGHT! NOW!

I opened the door to my right and scrambled through, slamming it shut behind me. Pressing up against the door, Broken aimed and ready, I listened as the mob ran past in blind pursuit of liberating anything I’d taken from my old room.

A sound behind me was followed by the audible click of a revolver’s hammer. “Only pony that busts into a Paragon’s room is a dead pony, didn’t you know that?”

The voice sounded familiar, and as I turned slowly I gently lowered Broken to the ground. It wasn’t the bad familiar I’d gotten more frequently, but a pleasant familiar. As I turned, I slid back my hood and pulled down my face cloth. It just seemed right.

Standing there was a mare floating a large revolver, the business end pointed squarely between my eyes. Her blue eyes were very familiar, and they slowly opened wide as she stared at me. Her coat was a more off white than mine, a cream color. A greyish blue mane, not striped like mine.

“Ripple?” The mare lowered the gun just slightly.

“Gentle.” I knew the name, and now I could attach it to a face.

The revolver clattered to the ground and she fell to her knees, staring up at me with regret etched into her face. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry I shot you.”

Shot me? Taking in the room, I found things that I didn’t immediately connect to the sister I knew from Sweeps’ recordings. Worn leather barding, assorted munitions. A battle saddle with a massive sniper rifle connected to it, longer than Ash’s prized weapon.

“You’re Skyline?” My sister had shot me in the side. I had wondered why the sniper had gone out of her way to hit me with a shot I could survive. When I had wondered why she hadn’t gone for my heart or my head, I hadn’t conceived it was because she really didn’t want me dead.

“You know that. We were in together...” She sobbed, clearly broken up by my entrance back into her life. “When Crackerjack shot you... When Hate shot you... I lost the last of my family. When I started hearing rumors that you were still alive... when Cindy started talking about running into you... and then I saw you hovering over her, that look in your eye. I had to shoot. I’m so sorry.”

I approached the mare slowly. She was my sister, true, but she was still a Paragon. A certain menace came with that title, and I had no idea how it would show itself in her. I’d seen insanity, brutality, arson, callousness, and a host of other negative qualities in Paragons. The voice in my head was a monster, and he got along fine with these ponies.

How did my sister fit in with these monsters?

I didn’t put Broken away, unsure if I’d have to shoot my sister.

“It’s okay. I’m fine, really.”

The mare pulled me into an embrace, crying. I just sat down and let her go at it. Seriously... one of these days I’d have to figure out mares. Right now was not that moment, as a crying mare buried her face in my shoulder while I floated my shotgun, ready to blow her head off.

-----

It took a while, but eventually Gentle’s sobs tapered off, and she drew back, apologizing and wiping at the dampness on my shoulder. As she regained her composure, she looked at the worn and battered gear I was wearing. Her eyes lingered on the cloak and white cloth. “What are you doing here? You were with the monsters.”

“Monsters?” The word had been said with an amount of fear.

“There are monsters everywhere.” She was looking at me oddly, like I should have known that. I did know that, I’d been fighting monsters for three weeks.

“Gnashers, bloatsprites, timberwolves. Yeah, there are monsters.” Not to mention all the monsters I’d encountered.

“No, not just them. Ponies. Like the ones that killed Dad.”

When she said that, I could only stare at her. Deal had told me our dad had gone out on a trading run and never come back. It would make sense that he had been killed, but how was a mystery as far as I knew.

Her suspicious look deepened as I worked that through my head. “You told me that, Ripple. Every pony that didn’t come from the Stable was a monster. You told me right after it happened... don’t you remember?”

Looking at her was sending a stream of memories through my head. Fractured memories, but memories all the same. An adoring younger sister, looking up to me to protect her. A loving filly that supported me in my every endeavor. The optimistic mare staring out at the bright world for the first time.

The teary eyed, distraught young mare that had just lost her father.

The mare that followed her brother into a life of thinly veiled evil.

The killer that believed the lies fed to her by her older brother.

The Paragon that saw the outside world as evil.

I had done that.

Yep. Sure did. Had to protect her somehow. What better way than to turn her into a killer like you? A killer amongst killers, feared and respected by all. No safer position.

Two Kick was back. The med-x had worn off faster than ever. I growled under my breath. “You monster...”

“What was that?” As she looked at me, I couldn’t stop seeing the innocent filly that had just slammed into my head in the form of lost memories. I stammered, trying to find words. I wasn’t worthy to talk to her. Two Kick was voicing confusion over why I was so mad... he thought that he had done the right thing, making her a Paragon. What had been wrong with my head that I had thought that was a good idea?

“Look, Gentle...” I paused, sorting through the next few words. “Things have been complicated these last few weeks... and I...” I needed to get to the slaves and keep on with my rescue mission. I needed to find Willow. I needed to find the girls. I needed to find Shade.

“I need your help.”

She tilted her head to the side with a smile. She didn’t care that I’d been killed by Hate, she didn’t care that I wasn’t a Paragon anymore, she didn’t care about anything other than her big brother had just walked back into her life. “With what, Ripple?”

“I’m looking for somepony. Massacre just came back with a crop of... slaves, right? You and Cinder were with him.” It hurt to refer to Shade as a slave. I winced as I said it.

Gentle nodded. “Yeah, from that raider outpost down south. We lost a lot of good ponies, but the crop is sure to bring in good trade from Red Eye.”

I twitched a little, holding back the urge to correct what she had just said. I didn’t know much about Red Eye, I’d only heard the name a couple times, but it didn’t sound like he was somepony I’d be thrilled to meet.

“I need to find those ponies.” I need to find that pony. “Hate’s mad at me though... I have to get there quietly.”

Gentle smiled at me, nodding. “I can do that. I was headed there in a short bit anyways, it’s fight night you know.”

Oh good. I was right, this will be fun.

I put back on my flimsy disguise as my sister strapped on her armor and broke her massive rifle down into pieces. She packed each with care into a case which she slung along her back. “Lets go, it’s going to start soon.”

I can’t say that I was looking forward to whatever ‘it’ was.

I sure as fuck am.

-----

The streets were much easier to walk through with Gentle leading the way. Other ponies avoided the ‘Paragon Skyline’ like she had a magical shield around her. I fully understood the looks she was getting. I’d gotten them a few times since I’d woken up in that ditch, and Two Kick had revelled in them for years..

They were afraid of her.

Armored up, the heavy revolver in a holster on her left leg and the heavy case on her back, she did indeed cut an imposing figure. I hoped that it would draw attention away from my hooded and masked form slinking along next to her. I was doing my very best to blend in.

As we walked, the music in the air was getting louder. Looking down the road we were trotting through, I could see that the area ahead was very well lit. I could hear the voices of many ponies as well, cheering and screaming obscene things.

The building she led me to was massive, easily filling an entire city block. It had reached for the sky once, but was now crumpled, almost chewed off at around two floors of height. It probably had a roof, too, but that was long gone. Now it was a jagged stump of a building, filled with rows and rows of seats overlooking a clearing in the center. At one end was a raised platform rimmed with jagged metal and sporting a rather comfortable looking couch.

The seats were packed with raiders, slavers, and assorted scum. In the higher seats, I even spotted four griffins in dark combat armor cheering and shouting along with the ponies. At the center were two earth ponies dead set on kicking each other to death.

“It’s game night. Wanna catch a few matches before we see the slaves?” Gentle was at my side, smiling at the carnage as one pony landed a lucky kick that sent teeth and blood flying.

This was the place. Caps flying. Mares throwing themselves at me. Paragons cheering. I’d fought in this arena more times than I could guess at. This is where my fame had come from. I was the monster of this arena. I took a step forward unconsciously.

Yessss.....

I froze mid step and turned my head to the sister at my side. “No, lets go see the slaves.” I had to get to Shade. I was playing it cool with Gentle, or I’d be tearing through walls to get to my blue mare. The voice needed to go away.

Oh come on. I haven’t killed anyone in so fucking long...

Gentle turned from the arena and began heading down a side passage, missing the little twitch that I gave while trying to ignore the voice. I trotted after her, and quickly found myself in a low, dark tunnel. It was a service corridor, or had been long ago. Pipes and ductwork crisscrossed the ceiling, rusted and in poor condition but from the dripping of water and occasional hisses of steam, still serving a purpose.

Down a broad flight of stairs, the strangely calm mare led the way. Her dead brother had just walked back into her life, and she was acting like it was just any other day. I’d messed her up pretty good when I was still Two Kick... I could tell just from the little smile on her face.

We came to a doorway where two burly unicorns stood guard, cruel looking whips coiled at their sides. They straightened up when they saw Gentle coming, and one of them stammered a little as he greeted her. “Skyline... pleasant evening we’re having, isn’t it?”

She smiled softly at the pony, who I could tell wasn’t from a Stable due to his lack of PipBuck. The kind of pony she’d expressed notable dislike for. He wasn’t even a pony in her eyes. “It sure is. I’d like to see the stock.”

The guard pony nodded rapidly, then shot a glance at me. He was the first pony that had looked me in the eyes here, and I really hoped that he wasn’t familiar with my face, even though I’d only been gone for a little under a month.

“Don’t worry about him, he just needs to take a look at the stock.” Gentle set a look on him that looked foreign on her serene features. A warning look, like she was seconds away from putting a bullet through the guard’s head.

“Oh... of course, Skyline. Anything you say.” He stepped aside, his silent companion following suit and making room for the two of us to pass by them. As we entered the low, dark room beyond, I heard one of the guards let out the breath he’d been holding.

My sister was that unpredictable?

Glancing at her, she gestured around the room. “Here’s the stock, including the slaves that Messy brought in.” She pulled a key from the wall and tossed it to me. “Take a look around. They’re not scheduled to be traded for another few days anyways, no harm in letting you look.”

I took the key and hurried to the nearest cage. There were several very large cages, capable of holding dozens of ponies each, and I had every intention of letting them all free... but I had to find Shade.

At the first cage, I didn’t recognize any of the terrified ponies that drew away from the bars as I approached. Filthy, beaten, dull eyes. These ponies had been here for a while. A red light around each pony’s throat drew my attention, and when I looked closer at the nearest slave, I saw the crude collar around her throat.

Slave collars. I was familiar with the concept, from listening to Whitecoat stories. Enough explosives to decapitate the wearer, the easiest way to keep slaves in check. If everypony had one, my plans for their freedom were instantly much more complicated.

The second cage was similarly filled with beaten and broken ponies. As was the third. I was beginning to panic. The alternative to not finding the girls was not something I wanted to think about.

At the fourth cage, I spotted several ponies in torn and filthy white jackets. Opening the cage, I walked in slowly. Several of these ponies were trained in close combat by my aunt and uncle, and could probably do some serious damage. I looked like a raider after all.

Gentle stood outside, her horn glowing and the magic enveloping the handle of her revolver. The ponies inside the cage saw this as well, and cleared away from me as I approached. Glancing rapidly from face to face, I started to panic.

Then, in one corner, I saw a pair of mismatched eyes. Blue and violet. My soul calmed instantly, and tears sprung to my eyes. Pulling back my hood, I whispered her name hopefully. “Shade?”

The blue mare stood slowly, staring at me. Taking a few tentative steps towards me, she smiled. Then without warning she leapt forward, hitting me and driving me to the ground in a deep kiss. I couldn’t get a word in as she clung to me.

A click and the glow of magic made Shade freeze, and I opened my eyes to see a revolver pressed against the head of the loving mare. “Get off of my brother.”

“Gentle... put down the gun.” I shot her a warning glance, and luckily she reacted quickly, backing up and dropping the pistol to a less pointed ready position. The other ponies in the cage were edging towards her now that she had stupidly followed me in. When she’d been outside,the bars had protected her. Now the two of us were surrounded by ponies, several of which I could immediately identify as trained killers.

I scooted away from Shade and stood, pulling the bandana from around my neck. Holding it aloft, I spoke directly to the Whitecoats in the cage. “I came here with Willow. We’re here to free you.”

A voice from the back raised a very good question. “Well where is she?”

I didn’t want to sugarcoat it, so I gave it to them straight. “I don’t know. We got separated, and I’d hoped to find her here...” The Whitecoats groaned at the news.

One of the Whitecoats, one I recognized from Relay but didn’t know the name of, stepped forward, eying Gentle warily. “We can’t leave. These collars are rigged to blow if we leave this room. You got a way to get these off, great. If not, then fuck off with the false hope.”

Wow. Very straightforward. I wasn’t expecting that. Maybe a little gratitude?

I glanced at Gentle, who was giving me the strangest look. “Do you know how to get those collars off?”

The mare shook her head, backing away from me and the captives. Raising her revolver, she pointed it in our direction, but not specifically at any of us. “Why? They’re monsters... they’re not like us. You’re siding with them?”

Fuck. I was hoping that this wouldn’t happen.

I took a step towards her, hoping she wouldn’t shoot me. I’d been shot plenty, but I had the feeling that getting shot by my sister would just hurt more. The last time she’d shot me had been painful enough, but I didn’t know that it was her at the time. “Gentle... you trust me, right? You trusted me enough to not shoot me when I walked into your room.”

The revolver aimed at me, and I knew that if she shot the guards would be all over us. Everything would be over. My sister gave a little half nod, unsure of herself.

“Listen, Gentle. I was wrong... I was so wrong. The ponies outside aren’t monsters... they’re just trying to get by.” I wasn’t the best at convincing speeches. I knew that almost every one I attempted ended with me getting shot or blown up, but I had to try. I had to try to save my sister.

“The ponies that killed our dad... yeah, they were monsters. Raiders.” They could have been bloatsprites for all I knew. “But not all ponies are raiders. These ponies, these are good ponies. Torn from their homes by raiders and slavers. They have families.”

I pointed a hoof out the door, hoping to drive my point home. “There are ponies out there who just want to make something better, who work every day to try and improve the Wasteland, even just a little bit. And yes, there are ponies who are monsters, who bring death and destruction wherever they go. Ponies feared and hated, whose names aren’t spoken lightly in case they hear.” I took a deep breath and rolled the dice, hoping that luck would be with me. “That’s the Paragons, ‘Skyline’. That’s us. Hate... Crackerjack, all he’s doing is making more ponies like that, like us. He’s a monster. The Paragons are monsters. I’m a monster... and so are you.”

She dropped the revolver with a clatter and sat down hard. She was just staring at me. I really didn’t know how she hadn’t figured out that the Paragons were evil. There was a rotting corpse in my closet, and a fight to the death going on somewhere above us for the amusement of others.

“I found this out when he shot me. I’ve spent the last three weeks trying to make the wasteland a better place, even if that wasn’t my original goal.” I felt a welcome warmth at my side, and knew that Shade was leaning against me. We’d been separated for only a short while, but it had felt a lifetime to me. It must have been even longer for her.

“Shade is one of the ponies whose life was destroyed by Hate. We...” I glanced at the soft mare, seeing that she had her eyes closed. She wasn’t even listening to me, she was just enjoying my presence. “We’re close.”

Gentle’s face changed right then, a small grin playing across her lips. “You have a very special somepony?” Her voice was quiet, but didn’t sound malicious. It was almost playful.

I nodded.

She grinned wide. I almost smiled as well until she spoke again. “Sweepy will be jealous, you know.”

My mouth dropped open. I was at a loss of words. She hadn’t heard that Sweeps was dead? Cinder had figured it out, and Massacre knew for sure. Had no one told her? Told her that I’d killed her best friend.

Shade took the initiative and stepped forward cautiously, approaching the Paragon as though she were approaching a bomb. When she got close enough, she gave a low bow to my sister. Gentle looked at her with her head tilted, a look she apparently favored.

“Hello Gentle. I’m Shade, your brother's very special somepony.” Gentle looked her in the eyes, possibly waiting for her to attack or turn into a dragon or something. I took a step forward, tensed to lunge between the two if needed.

Gentle gave a small smile, and bowed her head just slightly. “Nice to meet you Shade.” Looking the blue mare up and down, Gentle widened her smile just a bit, nodding in approval. “Sweepy is going to be quite jealous.”

I sighed. This was going to get complicated.

“So, yeah. Make with the fucking rescue already. Get these collars off.” That same Whitecoat, standing next to me, was growing rather impatient. I understood why. Gentle turned and glared at the Whitecoat, but softened when she saw the look that I was giving her.

Years of xenophobia would be hard, if not impossible, to break. I had to undo the damage I’d done to my little sister though. First, though, I had to do what I came here to do. I had to get these ponies out somehow.

“Gentle, do you know how to get the collars off?” The Paragon nodded and turned to trot out the cage door. I turned my head to Shade, nuzzling close to her.

“I’ll be right back. Don’t worry, I’ll be safe. Just... stay safe. I’ll be right back.” She gave me a kiss on the cheek, then gave me a hug.

In my ear, she whispered. “Be safe. I love you.” I nodded, mouthing back that I loved her. Then, I had to pull myself away from her, one of the hardest things I’d ever done. I slowly walked away from her, back to the door. I closed it as I passed through, but didn’t lock it.

Turning back to them briefly, I addressed the crowd of Blank residents and Whitecoats. “I’ll be right back. Act like nothing happened.”

There was a muttered chorus of agreements, and I realized that the other three cages had been listening in quite intently, pressed up against the bars of their doors. Hopefully none of them would try an escape before I came back with the ability to remove those collars, or the plan would be as dead as whichever pony attempted to flee. “Please don’t try to leave yet.”

Catching up to my sister, who was already out in the hall and past the guards, I drew up alongside her. “Gentle... how do we get those collars off?”

“We get the key from Messy.” My face dropped as she said it. She made it sound like the easiest thing in the world. I remembered what happened the last time I’d come up against Massacre. My whole body remembered... the black veins snaking through my neck were a constant reminder of the pain that had let me survive that encounter.

“I... can’t go near Massacre. He knows my face, my scar... you’ll have to do it for me.” As much as I hated saying it, I knew that I couldn’t go near Massacre. Gentle could. I was sending my sister to get a key from the worst pony I’d ever met.

She smiled and nodded. “No problem. Messy has always liked me, he’ll do anything I ask.” I didn’t want to think about that, Massacre liking my sister.

We’d reached the top of the stairs by now, and were standing near the entrance to the arena. Inside, I could hear the clamour of countless ponies screaming for blood. Gentle tilted her head into the air, smiling as she listened. “Sounds like it's getting good. You stay here and watch for a while, I’ll go get the key.”

Yes. Do it.

Two Kick had been tickling at the back of my mind since I’d left Shade, and his voice was now at full volume again. I didn’t want the stimuli of the arena affecting him... but the crowd there would be my best chance to blend in while Gentle retrieved whatever means Massacre had of releasing the captives. I sighed, glancing at her. “Okay... just... be quick about it.” The mare nodded, turning away. “And Gentle... be careful, okay?”

“Don’t worry. I’m a Paragon, this is my home. I’ll be fine.” With that, she trotted away from me to whatever dank hole that Massacre dwelled in. As she rounded a corner and disappeared from sight, I hoped deeply that trusting her wasn’t a huge mistake. She seemed a little... broken.

The crowd in the arena went silent, which drew my attention more than the screaming had. Curious, but wary, I walked through the entrance. Pushing past a few ponies, I found myself in the arena proper for the first time that I could actively remember.

Two Kick, needless to say, was deeply pleased that I had set hoof on his old killing ground. He was reminiscing about his favorite kills, going into deep detail about how he had killed each, savoring each as he did so.

I subtly slipped a needle of med-x into my leg, hidden beneath my cloak, in a hope of getting him to shut up. Only a little more and I’d be back with Shade, then we could get out of here. As the medicine kicked in, granting me at least a few minutes of relief from the voice, I looked out onto the arena floor.

I almost screamed in frustration as I saw the long billowing white coat worn by the pony standing there. Swords out, Willow was standing in the center of the arena, ignoring the two ponies dragging the bleeding and broken remains of a combatant away on a streak of blood.

“Hate! Hate, come out and face me! I know the rules! If a challenge is given, a Paragon must accept!” She screamed at the top of her lungs, filling the arena with her voice even without an augmenting spell. Gasps and murmurs roiled through the crowd, and even the muffled voice in my head got through.

Oh shit.

Willow stood there, and I would have yelled at her if it wouldn’t have blown my cover and doomed the ponies I was here to save. I didn’t know what she thought she could accomplish with her current actions, but I really hoped that she had a plan.

A voice, one that I’d heard once before on a recording I’d taken from the PipBuck of a mare that had loved me, came over the arena, amplified magically to shake the very walls.

“So, who is it that calls me?” A figure on the other side of the arena, up on the raised platform with the couch, came into view. “Ah, one of the so called Whitecoats.”

The pony that I instantly knew to be Hate came into view, and it was the absolute measure of my self control that I didn’t join Willow right then and there. The sight of him made my blood boil, and it almost seemed worth it to rush him and tear him apart with my bare hooves. Kill him before he could do anything.

No, I’d have to cross the wide open arena floor and somehow jump up onto a platform five times my height. Maybe if I was running on rage and stampede I could make that... but then it would be Two Kick in control, and not me. I needed to kill him, I couldn’t leave it to my darker side.

“As you say, I cannot turn down a challenge. I ask you though, is it worth it? Whatever you came here to do, it ends once I step into that arena.” Hate had a deep red cloak on, which obscured most of his body and head. His eyes shone brightly though, even this far away. Silver and piercing.

“I came here to kill you. Everything will fall in line after that.”

I swore under my breath. She hadn’t come along to rescue her captured comrades. The Whitecoat had come with us to get a shot at killing Hate. I should have figured it out, she had barely spoken of rescuing the ponies that she had fought alongside. She had just wanted to get to Neighwhere.

“Very well.” Hate removed his cloak, tossing it over the couch. I saw now that the leader of the Paragons wasn’t what I had expected. He was slender, almost scrawny compared to Massacre or I. He was almost unhealthily thin. His body was a dull red, but his mane was the same brilliant silver as his eyes. He wore light combat armor, with several sharpened metal rods strapped to his sides.

He hopped to the floor of the arena with ease, a small burst of magic softening his landing so that he barely had to brace for the impact. Striding forward, he threw his head back and gestured broadly with one of his hooves.

The crowd exploded into screams and cheers. Their leader had taken the floor, a rare sight indeed. I could hear bets being made, the clear favorite being the thin red stallion. He was milking the crowd for all they could give him, grinning broadly at the applause. Willow had her swords out, low, in a fighting stance I’d seen her take before. She was ready to start, but Hate was taking his time.

He always was one for theatrics. The fucker.

The drugs had worn off faster than I’d expected, Two Kick was back already. I might as well just stop at this point, it wasn’t doing me any real good.

Up on the platform he had jumped from, I saw a familiar white maned mare. She was limping, her shoulder still hurting from when I’d injured her earlier outside of Blank. Right before Gentle had put a hole in my side. With healing medicine, she should have been better by now, and I grinned as I saw that she was still in pain.

No, that wasn’t me. Causing pain wasn’t good. Damnit, I needed Two Kick out of my head.

“Well then, I believe that we should begin.” One of the metal bars at his side floated out in front of him, held like a sword in defense.

Willow sprang forward, whirling with both swords slashing out. At the last moment, almost lazily, Hate’s weapon slashed forward to block the spinning mare’s attack. Both swords hit the metal rod with a loud clang, and Willow jumped backwards as Hate slashed at her with the dull metal.

Springing forward, he went in for a broad overhead attack which Willow blocked easily. This left her wide open for the metal rod that he flashed forward off of his side to smack her squarely in the chest. She gave a yelp, and jumped to the side, slashing at him as she did. The tip of the blade sang as it nicked the armor at his neck.

He gave a little laugh, and strode confidently towards the mare. She hopped up onto her rear hooves, holding her front legs in a strange way as the swords floated at her sides. I’d seen enough of how Raw Deal fought to know that she was mixing zebra martial arts in with her sword fighting technique.

“Oh ho. That’s new. Let’s see how it works, shall we.” Hate’s voice was playful, as though this fight to the death was nothing more than a training match.

When she jumped at him, slashing with both swords and punching towards his throat with one of her front hooves, he moved quickly. Using both rods to parry the incoming blades, he deflected her hoof with one of his own. Leaping into the air, he kicked forward, planting two hooves squarely into her chest. He used the impact to flip backwards, landing ready for the next attack.

Willow, on the other hoof, was thrown off balance and hit the ground hard. Scrambling back up, she readied herself much as she had before. She snarled at the grinning pony, and rushed in for the attack.

Slashing with one blade, she thrust with the other. As his weapons blocked each skillfully, a series of rapid gunshots went off between them. Her pistol had been tucked in against her belly as she’d attacked, and she’d hoped to take the Paragon off guard with twin distractions.

It didn’t work, however, as Hate had somehow dodged the point blank shot. Willow’s fire had gone into the stands, nearly decapitation a raider pony with three tightly grouped shots. The raider clutched at her throat as blood spurted from the wreckage of her neck. The ponies around her did little more than move out of the way of the spray, intent on the unfolding battle.

Hate took several steps backwards, his twin rods held defensively. “Tricky. I like a mare that can think on her hooves. It’s a shame that this is to the death, or I think I’d like to get to know you a little better.”

“Go fuck yourself. I’m gonna rip you apart.” Willow had her three weapons out and ready, breathing heavily from both the physical workout and magical expenditure.

Hate barely twitched, and there was a flash of magic. Willow screamed in pain as one of the rods that was still at his side was now punched cleanly through her front right leg. He’d thrown it faster than my eyes had been able to follow.

Willow crumpled to the ground, her swords clattering to her side as she screamed at the metal bar impaled through her leg. Grasping at the simple steel rod with her faltering magic, she screaming in rage through her tears. Hate lazily stalked towards her, more rods floating at his side.

“This was fun.”

Another rod appeared in Willow’s right flank, almost tearing her leg off in a spray of blood. He was throwing them from his sides, barely even a flash of magic to indicate that he was firing. He’d been playing with Willow... he could have killed her without even hopping down off of the platform.

“Because you were such a good fight, I’ll let you hang around for a while. Heh, I hope you found that funny, because I did. You’ll see.” He fired another rod, burying it deep into her chest. She coughed, spraying him with blood.

“....Fuck you.” The crowd was dead silent, or I’d have missed the mare’s gurgled words. Blood was pouring from her open mouth, but she still clung to one of her swords. She swung it, very slowly, at Hate. The blade hit him in the chest, and if she had any power to put behind it she could have scored a killing wound. As it was, the blade barely scratched the armor.

“Sorry, but I’ve got a schedule to keep.” The next rod buried itself deep in her eye, killing her instantly as it pierced through the back of her skull. Blood sprayed across the stylized tree worked into her jacket, and she slumped to the ground dead.

I closed my eyes, gritting my teeth. I hadn’t wanted to see that... but now I knew how Hate fought. I had no idea how I would counter something like that, but Willow’s death had granted me a small tactical advantage for our eventual fight.

Still, it hurt to watch the mare die. She was a good pony. She’d spared me when she had had every right to kill me. Her orders had helped protect Blank, and her skill in combat had helped to get us to Neighwhere intact.

I would do everything in my power to see that she didn’t die in vain.

“Sorry Willow...” I spoke under my voice, so that none of the ponies around me could hear. They were too busy cheering.

Looking back at the arena, I saw that Hate had lifted her corpse and was approaching the platform where Cinder was now lounging on the couch. Blood poured from Willow’s body, less and less each second as she simply ran out. When she was floated up near the platform, Hate lifted her against it with her two front legs outstretched.

He drove two rods through her fetlocks, nailing her securely to the front of the platform. He pulled the other rods from her body, placing them back in their places at his sides, and turned to the cheering crowd.

“Who don’t you mess with?” His voice echoed out, drowning out the crowd.

As one, they screamed back at him. “Hate!”

“That’s right. Now have fun, and let the games continue!” He rose into a victory pose, both front legs over his head as he shouted at the crowd. Dropping to all fours, he turned and walked out of the arena.

I stood there, staring at Willow’s bleeding and broken form.

Heh, hang around. I got it. Nice touch.

Shut the fuck up.

Now I could do little but wait for Gentle to return, there amongst the crowd of murderous scum. I did my best to not look at Willow, and as the next combatants were pushed into the arena, I swore to myself that I would do everything I could to level this place.

To wipe it from the face of Equestria any way that I could.

I owed it to Willow.

-----

A nudge at my side made me tense up, gripping for Broken as I turned. Soft blue eyes looked at me over a sly grin. I’d been waiting there for half an hour after Willow’s death, watching her corpse preside over several lesser battles. Each time another pony’s lifeblood spilled to the arena floor, I felt my hatred grow and fester.

I couldn’t smile as she stood there, looking at me. “I got the key, lets go help your marefriend.”

I nodded, turning and walking out of the arena. Following after me, she got a concerned look on her face. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Let’s get the slaves and get out of here. Do you know a quick way from here to the abandoned rail station at the edge of town?” I wanted to get out of here. I wanted to get out of here more than anything. Get Shade and leave, never to return. I knew that I would have to though, to kill Hate. I just had to get everypony to safety first.

She nodded. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can even get the guards to help.”

As we walked down the stairs to where the cages were, she floated a small device up in front of her. “This is the transmitter. If I turn this switch, it takes control of the collars and changes their radius. It’s how they’re moved outside the room.”

“What about getting the collars off? I asked for a key.” There was much more anger in my voice than I had planned for, but I was still filled with rage from my time watching the arena. Willow’s death was still playing over in my head.

“It’s not that hard, the transmitter can also put a delay on the collars. They can be taken off then, but it takes time.” She kept the transmitter as walked, looking it over. “At least, that’s what Messy said.”

The guards at the door looked up as we approached, straightening up again as they saw that Skyline was one of the pair approaching them.

Gentle spoke softly to them, that hint of menace slipping into her voice. “Hey, we need help moving the stock.” They looked at each other questioningly, then at her. “Massacre wants them moved, and you’re going to help us.” Gentle added, with a hint of menace gaining strength.

“Yes... uh, Yes m’am.” The pony that had spoken last time took the initiative, stepping aside and letting us pass. When we got into the room, the two followed us. There was a murmur from the ponies within the room as the four of us entered, and I caught Shade's gaze and gave her a little smile with a reassuring nod.

“Okay scum, you’re being moved!” The guardpony who had done all the talking yelled at those in the cages.

“You, open the cages.” Gentle, in a bit of thinking that would have escaped me, tossed me the key again. I’d left all the cages unlocked, and if either of the two she’d conscripted into assisting us found that out, they’d know that something was up.

I made my way to each of the cages, starting with the one holding the ponies I’d come here specifically for. Shade made to press against me, but I shook my head at her. The blue mare nodded slightly, frowning and shrinking back into the group of ponies she’d been with.

Once all four cages were open, the crowd of ponies milled around uncertainly. The guard looked timidly at Gentle, still terrified of the unstable Paragon with a history of shooting ponies she didn’t like. “Do you have a transmitter, Skyline? Cause I can get one if you don’t.”

I wanted to facehoof that it had actually been that easy, but kept a straight face and played along with my sister taking charge. She held out the blinking box in front of her, nodding. The guard looked past her at the slaves. “Okay you fucks, keep up. If you get out of range of this box here, your collar goes off. So stay close, stay quiet, and if you try anything you’re getting shot. Ammo’s cheap, and you’re easy to replace, so don’t try anything.”

The slaves nodded and murmured assent. Gentle took the lead, waving the box over her head. “Follow me if you don’t want to die.” Walking through the door, she set off through the tunnels at a leisurely pace. The two guard ponies took the rear, pulling out their whips and keeping everypony in line. I walked near the front, right behind my sister.

Each snap of a whip made me start a little, every part of me wanting to turn and kill the two slavers. They were helping our cover though, making it look like a legitimate slave transfer. We needed them, at least until we made it to the tunnel.

Gentle led us through a series of dank passage, back alleys, and the occasional room filled with ponies too stoned out of their minds to attend the games. Before long, the boarded up old building I’d entered Neighwhere through.

I hurried ahead of the group, hoping to get there first. Reaching the window that Willow and I had previously gone through, I stuck my head in to check if Ash or Viola were within shouting distance.

Instantly, I found that I couldn’t move my head and it was hard to breath. Glancing down, I saw that a taloned hand was firmly clamped around my throat, my deadened nerves had just denied me all sensation other than the denial of air.

I choked and coughed out, “Ash, its me. Let go.”

My air returned, and the griffin backed off, holstering the revolver he’d been ready to shoot me with. “Took you long enough. Where’s Willow?”

I looked at him and shook my head. He nodded, an understanding look in his eyes. “Hey, open the front door, we’ve got company. Get ready though, we’ve got two slavers I need dead following the line. Keep it quiet.”

The dark griffin nodded with a quick malicious grin. He disappeared into the shadows, and I turned back to Gentle and the approaching line of around forty ponies. Behind me I could hear the crack and crunch of moldy boards being ripped loose, and the front door of the station opened for the first time in a long while.

Gentle led the line up to me, stopping short. She floated the transmitter to me, a sad smile on her face. “It was real nice seeing you again Ripple. Come back and visit soon.”

I looked at her, dumbfounded. “No...” I stammered a little. “No, you’re coming with us. I can’t leave you here... I just can’t. You’re coming with.”

She shifted her weight from one hoof to the other, uncertain. “My whole life is here...”

“I don’t care. You’re coming with us. Trust me, you need to get out of here... I don’t like what this place has done to you.” I placed a hoof on her shoulder. I looked into her eyes with what I hoped was my most convincing “I’m your brother, this is best for you” look.

One of the guards cleared his throat, looking over the crowd of collared ponies. “Uh... Skyline, what’s going on here?”

She gave a start, looking over at the slaver. “They’re going in there... we’re uh... transporting them by train.”

He got a strange look on his face, glancing at me. “Uh... I haven’t heard anything about that. You sure this is what Massacre said?”

Looming behind him, I could see the dark winged shape of Ashred. The pony slavers gave each other strange looks. I whispered to Gentle, “Distract them.”

“Uh... yeah. He wants to try this route for getting the stock to Red Eye. Said it would avoid most of the dangers.” She wasn’t very convincing, and the two ponies drew the short pistols they carried at their sides.

“Where’s the caravan. The guards?” They were at high alert now, aiming their weapons at me, warily avoiding pointing them at my sister.

“Stop them!” From further away, a voice shouted out. I saw a mob of ponies rushing towards us, weapons in tow. They were armed, and they were angry.

“Ash! Do it!” Even as I was halfway through his name, the griffin looped an arm around the talking raiders neck, snapping it with a sick pop as he put a shot through the companion slavers eye with the heavy revolver held in his other hand. “Gentle! Into the tunnel! Everypony run!”

I drew Broken and snapped a shot off over their heads towards the incoming raiders. The crowd of captives panicked, but luckily for me took my advice and followed Gentle as she headed through the open door into the waiting rail station.

The ponies streamed past me as I fumbled through my bag, looking for the shell I knew I still had somewhere. Grasping at the one I needed, I pulled out the last of Torque’s custom explosive slugs and fed it into Broken. Aiming carefully, knowing that my shot had to hit them, I pulled the trigger.

The slug hit one of the lead ponies, detonating him into a cloud of red mist. The ponies alongside him where killed by the shockwave, which threw them into the ponies next to them. The entire front line collapsed in a heap of shredded pony and tangled limbs, the ponies behind them getting tripped up as they ran into what remained of the front line.

Ash ducked past me, firing his revolver into the ponies that had crumpled up in the street. “Kick! What the fuck!?” He screamed as he disappeared into the tunnel. I turned and ran after him.

“Shut up and run!” He was already down the stairs, and I was at the top. All of the ponies had gotten down onto the platform, and I started rushing down after them, taking the steps several at a time.

As I hit the bottom, a wall of flames sprang up, and I set my hooves, sliding to a stop before I was immolated. Turning, I saw Cinder at the top of the stairs, an insane grin on her face. Gathering around the incendiary pony were gore smattered raiders and slavers. I saw the hulking form of Massacre moving through them towards me.

I was done for.

From beyond the flames, I heard three voices shouting at me. Shade, Gentle, Ashred. They had to keep running... I was meat, but I could at least buy some time for them and the escaping captives. As much as I could.

I slipped my saddle bag off quickly, throwing it through the fire as hard as my magic could handle. “Take this and run! I’ll hold them off!”

Inside that bag was the black case that held half of one of my demons. The very thing that Hate wanted... if I died in Neighwhere, I wasn’t going to let them keep it.

“Viola! Close the door!” I hadn’t seen the ghoul pony, but I knew that she couldn’t be too far off. I heard protests from the other side of the flames, but somepony had heeded my order and I heard the slam of the heavy gate. I heard a banging sound, and Shade’s muffled voice screaming my name.

“Sorry Shade...” I spoke low, knowing that she wouldn’t be able to hear me. Looking up at the wall of raiders, I aimed Broken. I now counted three Paragons.

Cinder Trails, staring down at me with those crazed eyes, a look of anger slashed across her face.

Massacre, the pony that had almost killed me, with a broad grin. He had another mask hanging from his neck, showing me that the one that I had used was not unique.

The crowd had parted and let a form through, silver eyes staring down at the steps at me. Hate was standing there, a smile on his face. I snarled back up at him as he stood there, backed by what looked to be half of Neighwhere.

“Hello Ripple. Long time no see.”

Author's Note:

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

Thanks to my editor Wirepony, he has great ideas, and helps me mold this into a readable form.