• 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 17: Stairs

Chapter 17: Stairs

A mob of filthy, screaming ponies rushed down the stairs as the flames went out, leaving just me and the huge metal door. Knives, clubs, spears, guns, all aiming at ending my life. I couldn’t let that happen, not without killing Hate.

Rushing the ponies, I knew that I only needed to get to Hate. I fired Broken into a pony’s face at point blank, detonating his skull in a shower of bits and blood. Jumping through the spray, I used the ruined stump of his neck as a springboard to launch as far into the crowd as I could.

Landing rear hooves first on the backs of two raiders, I came down in a shower of blood as my ballistic hooves ripped through their spines and they crumpled beneath me. Broken ended a pony trying to gut me with a rusty spear, and I smashed down another with one of my front hooves, throwing him off balance and making an opening.

A hulking pony with a shotgun reared in front of me, and I ducked to the side as the weapon roared. I didn’t see the carnage the weapon made behind me, but I heard a surge of pained screaming amongst the roar of rage, even as I unloaded buckshot into the obstacle’s chest. As he fell over backwards, I ran up his body, hoping to duplicate the springboard maneuver. I was already more than halfway up the stairs. Hate’s face had the most hideous smile I could imagine as he watched the carnage unfolding beneath him.

I felt a bullet tear into my leg, and rewarded the origin for his endeavor with a shotgun blast to his face. There was now nopony between me and Hate. Running up the stairs as fast as I could, I skidding to a halt and aimed Broken straight into his face, pulling the trigger with my magic. Not even Sweeps could have stopped it at this range.


My eyes went wide as the firing pin fell on an empty chamber. Five shots. Torque’s explosive slug, and four coming up the stairs. Stupid. Stupid stupid fucking stupid.

“Out of ammo?” Hate chuckled, looking me in the eyes with a knowing gaze. He knew me, he knew Broken. He knew I was out of ammo, which is why he hadn’t dodged.

Massacre’s hooves came from the side, and as they connected with my face everything went dark.

Not like this...



I couldn’t move my legs.

“Wakey wakey.”

My head hurt. Everything was dark.

“Wake up, you fuck!” A hoof smacked me across the face, and I wearily opened my eyes to the hell I was in. The reek of death wafted off of the massive pony that had just backhoofed me, his eyes glaring malice at me through the glass of a familiar memory.

“Now Massacre, don’t hurt our guest. He’s a brother to us after all, is he not?” Behind Massacre, Hate stood with a little smirk playing across his face. He was close enough, that even with Massacre in the way, I could kill him. End his murderous existence before they brought me down. If I wasn’t chained to a wall, anyway..

Massacre stepped aside as the gaunt pony that had been the focal point of most of my anger approached me. Hate was aptly named. As he drew nearer, even the sneering face of Massacre dropped away. All I could see was the narrow face of the pony I had once called brother. Standing there in front of me, his piercing silver eyes appraised me like I was a piece of meat.

“You made quite a showing of yourself before you were... incapacitated. I expected no less, really. Sixteen of my best dead, but here you are now. It was well worth the price.” His horn glowed, and I felt the grip of magic around my jaw. He turned my head to the side, examing the scar that still lurked beneath my eye.

“Rather dashing, wouldn’t you say, Massacre?” The pony giant snorted in derision. “I should have known that wouldn’t have been enough to end you. Pegasus tech couldn’t have been able to take down my star. Oh well, hindsight always has had a tendency towards accuracy.”

As he released me, I spat at him, but he nimbly stepped out of the line of fire, not even appearing to notice. “You’ve been busy, haven’t you Ripple? Sweeps and Holepunch dead, my attempts at both Orchard and Blank foiled, an entire stock of slaves released, two of those lovely little cubes unaccounted for. I assume that's what you threw to your compatriots before your stand against us, an attempt to keep them out of my grasp.”

He shook his head with a sad smile, his eyes calm and placid. “I have to give it to you Ripple. I underestimated you, and I have surely paid the price. I apologize.”

“You apologize?” I let out a sharp laugh. Chained to the wall, all I had were my words. Not my strong suit. “Go fuck yourself. Let me down from here, and I’ll show you what I think of your apology.”

If I could just kill him, I could let myself die. It would crush Shade, break her already wounded heart. But, without the Paragons, without Hate, she would be safe, she would heal. I had a feeling that the Paragons would fall apart without Hate at the top, and their infighting would be the end of Neighwhere. Blank would be better off. For that matter, the whole Hornsmith area would be improved. I would have atoned for the things the voice in my head had done. Good enough.

“I challenge you to the Arena!” Willow had done the same, and had mentioned rules. I couldn’t remember specifics from my time as a Paragon, but the rule of the challenge had been absolute in the Arena.

What? Fuck! You fucking idiot.

Two Kick had woken up, it seemed. The voice sounded groggy and pained, just like I felt. I tried to ignore him as Hate shook his head, snickering slightly as he did so. “Normally, I would be bound to accept, but there are several loopholes you’re forgetting.” Stepping closer, he looked into my eyes. “Or maybe you don’t know them at all. Isn’t that interesting... you’re Ripple but not the Ripple I know.” He shrugged, tugging at one of my chains with his magic.

“But I digress. Loopholes. A challenge may only be issued in the Arena. We are not in the Arena. A challenge may only be issued by a pony without a pending fight, and you, my friend, have quite the day ahead of you.”

“What?” He’d shot down what I’d hoped was my best chance at killing him. I’d seen him fight Willow, and I had seen his tricks. It was better than not knowing, even if i didn’t know exactly how I would counter his attacks.

You don’t counter Hate, you idiot. The only way we’d stand a chance against him is with a head full of stampede and me driving. Always wondered if I could take the bastard out.

“Oh, we dragged you through the Arena while you were unconscious. Friends, family, lovers... you killed a lot of ponies that had all of those things. There’s quite the list of challengers for you. The prize for killing a Paragon is quite high, and with you obviously not in top shape, many of the enterprising ponies of our humble town saw their chance at a fast track to the big time.” He turned from me, gesturing to Massacre to follow him as he approached the door leading out of the bare cell I was in.

“Anyways, you have a big day ahead of you. I let you sleep in, so that you would have your rest.” A grin thrown back at me from the doorway drove home just how very deeply I wanted to remove his head from his fucking neck. “It wouldn’t be fair to the competitors if you were worn out at the start.”

The door slammed behind him, plunging me into a dank gloom. The only light in the room was from a barred opening set into the door, the dim rectangle casting an even dimmer illumination across my cell. Hanging there, I wondered how long I’d been asleep.

Now I was here. Chained to a wall in Neighwere. No hope for escape. Fated to fight until I died for sport.




When next the door opened, a scrawny, filthy earth pony mare sporting a heavily bruised face walked into the room dragging a bucket. When she got near enough for me to have attempted an escape, the look in her eyes stopped me. She didn’t want to be here anymore than I did. The blinking collar around her neck put an explosive punctuation to the statement made by her dead eyes.

“Mr. Two... I mean... Ripple... my name... is Pearl.” She spoke with a halting wince, like saying more than two words at a time caused her pain. The little slave pony’s side was mottled with bruises, and I suspected from personal experience that she probably had at least a cracked rib or two.

“And?” She flinched as I spoke, closing her eyes as though I was about to strike her. I wouldn’t even if I had had the capability to, she was the most wretched pony I’d ever seen. I’d seen gnashers that looked in better health.

“I’m here... to clean... you up... for... your show.” Reaching into the bucket, she pulled out a sponge soaked in clean water with her mouth.

“I won’t hurt you, you know.” She flinched as I spoke to her again. Without answering, she started sponging away at me. Between the battle at Blank, the tunnel, and my short time in Neighwhere, I guess that I’d gotten pretty filthy.

Dropping the sponge back into the bucket to let it absorb more water, she whispered up at me. “Please... don’t talk... they’ll... beat me.” A quick jerk of her head towards the door drew my attention to the still open door, two armored ponies standing outside it, watching our every movement.

I shut my mouth, not wishing any more harm on the battered pony that had gone back to cleaning me. I watched her, glancing occasionally up at the guards. If I wasn’t chained, I’d be able to take them easily. They only had crude batons slung at their sides, not a gun in sight. If only I was loose.

A splash drew my attention back to Pearl, who had dropped the sponge into the bucket. She gave me a look with sad, swollen eyes, and began dragging the bucket back towards the door. As she passed the guards, one of them kicked her in the side. She gave a short cry as she fell over, curling up defensively. A baton raised, and she pulled herself to her hooves and limped from sight as the two guards began laughing at her.

All I could do was grit my teeth and wait. I really hoped that they were on the list.

The sound of hooves outside drew my attention away from glaring at the guards, and six unicorn ponies in the brutal garb of raiders entered the room. Heavily armed, each carried a riot shotgun and had even more chains slung over their withers.

When they got close, they attached chains to all four of my legs, and two to my neck. Only then did they unshackle me from the wall. I dropped, catching myself on all fours, and immediately they pulled the chains taut. They weren’t taking any risks with me... I was still a Paragon in their eyes. A killer.

“Move. Try anything, and we tell Hate you tried to escape.” The pony I assumed was in charge of my little transport detail hissed at me from behind the floating shotgun aimed into my eye.

I started moving with them, heading through the door and into the tunnels under Neighwhere. I recognized this tunnel as one of the ones that Gentle had led us through previously... if it was a few hours ago or a day ago, I wasn’t sure. I would have accessed my PipBuck to check, but the warning I’d gotten seemed to encompass pretty much any action other than walking.

Walking through the tunnels, I now saw that there were dozens of doors similar to the one I’d been led from. I could see the eyes of ponies staring at me through the bars set into each door, and I realized that they’d watched my sister and I walk the ponies in those four cages past them.

I spared a moment to think of Gentle, and Shade, and Ash. Had they been able to get the slaves free? Depending on how long I’d been out, they could have made it back to somewhere safe by now, Underhoof or even Blank.

I now actually started listening to the sound around me, which I’d blocked out while thinking on my current plight and how best to kill Hate. Jeers, insults, death threats, all thrown at me from the ponies in the cages. Calling me Two Kick. Screaming about revenge, about family I’d killed, and not just from my capture. Spanning back years, these ponies had grudges against me that could now be fulfilled since I was free of the protective umbrella of being a Paragon.

I walked in stony silence with my guards, and began coming to the realization that they weren’t just there to keep me from escaping. They were there to protect me from being killed before I had a chance to provide some sport.

Please? This rabble? Just meat waiting to be tenderized.

When we came to a heavily armored door, one of the guards banged on it with the stock of his shotgun. A clank of bolts being drawn, and the door swung open revealing a room filled with weapons, and a single unicorn standing near a table covered with crudely forged blades.

Glancing up at me, he grinned wide as he spotted me in the middle of the six armed ponies surrounding me. “Ah, Two Kick. Long time no see.” Trotting towards me, he floated a bulky device made of leather and metal towards me, snapping it securely around my neck. I’d seen many of its like before, and knew that I now had a bomb strapped around my neck. “And there we go. You can remove his shackles now.”

As the six guards began freeing me of the metal restraints, I had a metal box waved in my face. “Know what this is? I press the button and boom. Behave, okay? Have at it.” He stepped to the side, giving me a clear path into the room.

I looked at him quizzically, then I glanced at the six guards aiming shotguns at me. “What, you’re gonna give me weapons?”

The pony gave a shrug and a nod. “It’s only fair. No fun if you’re not at your peak, you know. Blades, hammers, spikes, drugs, the works. Special rules from on high say no guns though. Don’t want you taking pot shots at the spectators now, do we?”

I glared at him, as he stood there grinning, denying me a chance to kill Hate. If I’d had Broken.. as long as I had my horn I would have gone after him. Leaving me with only weapons I barely knew how to use didn't give me much of a chance for that.

That’s the whole fucking point, you idiot. Make sure you get a lot of stampede and some dash. I’m gonna need it if we’re gonna have a chance at all out there.

I was suddenly painfully aware of how naked my rear legs felt. I’d gotten so used to having my ballistic hooves, I only now realized that they were gone. Glancing around the room, I hoped for a suitable replacement. The armorer laughed as he saw my gaze. “Yeah, if you’re looking for your little kick jobbies, no luck there. Those are guns after all. Don’t worry, all your stuff is safe, I made sure of that. Fine weapons such as those deserve respect after all.”

“So what, I just go out with whatever I find in here?” I asked, not waiting for an answer as I began rummaging through the assorted weapons in the room, looking for anything to put on my rear legs. My kicks were still plenty potent even without my signature weapons, but adding lethality to them could only help me survive long enough to think up a plan.

I picked up a pair of what looked like leather socks covered in metal and razor edges. Glancing back at the shotguns pointed my way, I gave a sigh and began putting them on my rear legs. The fit could have been better, but tightening the straps on the razor socks at least gave me a functional weapon.

I pulled enough bladed and blunt melee weapons from the tables to almost work as armor. My front and back legs were liberally covered with stout, well maintained weaponry, which was about as good as I was going to get with the available selection..

Then I froze as I saw the table at the end of the room.

Oh yeah. That I like.

The table was covered in piles of combat drugs. Dash, Buck, Med-X, Hydra... and Stampede. Each pile was labelled with a crude picture indicating what the drug did, as well as the name. Trotting slowly towards the table, I idly lifted samples from each pile, floating them in front of me as I thought about it.

Come on. This is my playground. Let me out for a bit, I promise I’ll make it worth it.

Two Kick had the skill and killer instinct that I didn’t. I could fight on muscle memory and my own fury well enough. I was sure I could hold my own, as myself, for a while. But I didnt’ know how many ponies I was set to fight. Hate had made it sound like I was going to fight every thinking being in Neighwhere, one after the other. Knowing Hate, that could very well be the case, and I’d be worn down to a pile of guts long before I killed everyone in town.

I can do it. Two Kick’s my name for a reason. I’ll cut through them like a field of flowers. Blood everywhere, it will be glorious, and then we come out the other end ready to fuck Hate’s day.

No. I would do this on my own. Even if I died in the Arena, I would so so as myself, not the ravening monster in my head. Turning from the table, I tucked away several doses of Med-X, knowing that the drug could come in handy and help me keep control. Approaching the grinning stallion, I nodded firmly.

“Okay. I’m ready, let’s get this over with.”

“Ah, Two Kick, I been waiting a long time to see you back in action.” His smile seemed legitimate. A fan? I glared at him as he grinned towards me. He gave a sharp whistle, and I felt the prod of a shotgun barrel in my side.

“Okay. Follow me, wave to the crowd, don’t die too quick. I got money on you.” Ah, so that was what was motivating my ‘fan’. Leading me down a hall, and through a door, I found myself gazing through the bars of a cage out onto the floor of the Arena.

The cheers of a bloodthirsty crowd thundered past the bars and filled the cage I found myself in. A slam of a door behind me drew my attention only briefly enough for me to find that I was now alone. There were two ways from the cage: back the way I had come, or out onto the Arena floor.

With a slow cranking grind, one wall of the cage lifted, and I heard a voice calling out over all the cheering and shouts. “Ponies of Neighwhere and guests from afar! Welcome to this very special event!” The voice was augmented, but I didn’t recognize it. Slowly, I made my way out onto the floor of the Arena.

“Returning after a brief stint of being dead, we have an old friend come to join us. You know him, you love him, make some noise for Two Kick Rip, the Terror of the Arena!” The cheering of the crowd spiked to a new high, one I could feel thundering in my chest. These ponies were seriously excited to see me back in action, and they couldn’t care less that I was here against my will.

Fuck. Yes.

Across the way, I spotted five ponies staring intently at me, a range of emotions across their faces. Anger, hatred, fear. The things that Two Kick craved.

“Facing him are ponies from all walks of life, stepping forward to be the challengers for this round! Each of these ponies has their own reasons for wanting Two Kick dead, so let’s hope that that gives them the drive they need to land that lucky killing blow. Let’s stamp our hooves for Ductwork, Iris Blossom, Crankshaft, Dirge, and Sprinkles!”

The roar of the crowd grew even louder, as their representatives stood before them, ready to end my life as messily as possible. To me, these ponies were just obstacles between me and Hate... if I killed every single challenger, I could make my own challenge.

I just had to wade through the ponies put before me. I had to become the scythe to their grain.

“Let’s get this over with.” I growled through clenched teeth, steeling myself for the battle ahead. I couldn’t think of them as ponies. I had to think of them as obstacles. As ambulatory meat with weapons. Not ponies with lives and plans and feelings, just stepping stones to Hate’s life, spilling away under my hooves.

Fuck yes.

“Well, that’s enough for the pleasantries, now let’s have a nice vicious fight!”

The ponies began slowly approaching me, and I took a few tentative steps before striding forward confidently. Perhaps if I dealt with this fast and quick enough, I could scare other ponies out of their challenges, and I could get on with my plan.

With a scream, one of the ponies rushed out past her companions. A unicorn in a ragged oil stained jumpsuit. I could only guess that she was one of the Anchor ponies, like my Shade had been.

What had I done to her that had her so mad at me? Had I done something as Two Kick, something horrible? Killed her family? Done things to her?

I couldn’t dwell, I had to fight. These ponies wanted me dead, and I doubted I had the time or skill to convince them otherwise. I frowned, readying myself for her attack.

I’d at least make it quick.

She was wielding a large metal wrench with her telekinesis, carrying it high for a strike down onto my skull. If she had enough force behind it, she could easily knock me out or kill me.

At the correct moment, I spun into a kick, connecting with one bladed hoof. The throat strike shredded her hide thanks to the razor edges, but it was the impact itself that killed her. I felt the sharp pop of her neck breaking through my hoof, and knew she was dead. I doubt she’d even had time to feel the blow that had ended her life. The force of my hit had been greater than the momentum that she’d built in her charge, and she bounced away from me. Her wrench sailed past my head, freed of its magical control to follow its own path.

“Ooh, and Ductwork is down! Shame, she won’t be fixing any more leaking pipes, will she?” The crowd roared in laughter, cutting through the few disappointed shouts that had resulted from her death. There were still four more ponies that could kill me, after all.

The remaining four had clumped together and hung back, seeing how Ductwork would fare. As she fell, I ran at them, and their return charge matched me. We clashed at the center of the Arena.

I went airborne right before the crash, and slammed into an earth pony with both forehooves. The bladed socks demolished his face, and slammed the knife he was carrying into his own throat. He crumpled under me with a burbling scream of agony.

There wasn’t enough time to dodge the pony that came at me through the spray of blood, his dark coat and mane barely showing the blood as he scored a slashing wound across my side with a rusty yet wickedly sharp knife.

A straight kick with a forehoof stunned him, knocking him away from me and off his hooves, buying me time to face the remaining pair. Another ragged jumpsuit was poorly fit on a filthy unicorn, trying to stab me with a spear. I was close enough to smell the grease and filthy stench of him, and I sighed internally as I ducked my head. If he’d stayed at range, and if he’d speared at me when I’d jumped, he could have easily scored a killing blow.

I headbutted him in the chest, my horn piercing deep and cracking through his sternum. The impact hurt, but my horn was up to the task. Pulling back, I took a spray of blood to the face, closing my eyes by instinct so I wasn’t blinded. A choking gurgle issued from his lips as he tried stabbing at me, despite the torrent of blood issuing from his ruined chest.

Two Kick murmured happily in my head, and I was treated to the distracting and disgusting sensation of part of my mind happily displaying its arousal. An impact to my side snapped me out of the momentary daze, and threw me to the ground. I coughed as I rolled back to my hooves, very grateful that my ribs had been healed up by the mask. The hit was powerful, and had hurt even if it hadn’t broken any of my newly healed ribs.

Glancing up, I saw that the largest of the ponies stood glaring at me, his eyes filled with rage. Floating next to him encased in magic was a crude sledgehammer, a chunk of concrete with a length of rebar serving as a grip. The pony that I had kicked in the face was now standing next to the larger stallion, brandishing the knife still dripping with my blood.

“Wow, folks, that was quick! It’s down to Dirge and Sprinkles! Will either of these two ponies have what it takes to kill Two Kick?!” I barely heard the commenters voice over the yell of the large pony as he swung his sledge at me. As I moved to dodge, I spotted the other pony coming in low with a knife.

A rear hoof served to parry the knife out of the earth pony’s face, but that left me wide open for the sledgehammer, which slammed into my side a split second later. This stroke had some force behind it, and hurled me away from the two remaining aggressors. I landed unsteadily, coughing blood and hurting. That had been sloppy...

Never would have let that happen. Shoulda let me play.

No. I had to figure this one out. I had Two Kick’s instincts... I knew the moves and where to hit for the most damage. I’d already killed three...

Nope, I’d killed two. The pony with the shattered sternum was kicking at the ground with his rear hooves, pushing himself around leaving a blood trail. He was down, but wasn’t out yet.

Standing my ground, I roared at the two, ready to get this over with. A voiceless cry of challenge, much like I’d heard in the throats of many. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the wrench that had flown off when I’d broken Ductwork’s neck. Grasping at it with my magic, I figured that an extra weapon couldn’t hurt. Taking the initiative again, I ran at the two. I had to finish it on this run.

Reeling back, I hurled the wrench with all of my magical might. As telekinetic throws went, it may not have been anywhere near the power that Sweeps or Hate could have managed, but it was still a heavy wrench, moving at a high speed. The larger stallion with the hammer was slow in dodging, taking the full force of the metal tool in the face.

The dark pony with the knife was also slow in reacting as I drove my PipBuck into his mouth, knocking the knife back to the ground in a spray of teeth and blood. Quickly wrapping a front leg around his neck, trying my best to emulate a move I’d seen Ash make, I lept forward. Without having a ledge to snap the pony’s neck, I had to improvise and bent his neck backwards. The weapons I’d strapped to my limbs as armor dug and cut into the stallion’s neck, spraying me with blood as my bulk and momentum served to kill him.

It worked much better than I had hoped, the cutting working along with the attempt to shatter his spine. Skin and muscle tore, spraying blood everywhere as I partially decapitated the pony. The cheering rose in volume from the stands as I rounded on the stallion that had until now dealt the greatest damage against me.

“Oh! Dirge almost lost his head there, and now it’s down to Two Kick Rip and Sprinkles!”

Sprinkles glared at me as I let Dirge’s corpse drop, scraps of his flesh still clinging to the weapons and armor strapped to my forelegs. Snarling, he spoke one word before charging in, his club raised to smash my head open. “Monster.”

Maybe he was right. No, he was definitely right. I was a monster, but I was a monster with a reason.

Running to meet him, I ducked underneath his swinging club, going for a move I’d done before. At least, Two Kick had done it, while I’d been riding along. Throwing myself onto my back, I slid underneath him and readied for the killing blow. As I bunched and kicked into his stomach, hoping for a clean kill, he suddenly wasn’t there.

Another impact in my side sent me sliding with a crack, and pain shot through me. That was a broken rib, a pain that I was all too used to, as much as I wished I wasn’t. He’d hopped straight up and swatted me out from under him, sending me rolling across the Arena floor with a crushing impact.


Standing shakily, I knew that I had to do this here and now. I wasn’t going to last through too many hits like that... I’d really only felt their like when Massacre had been pummeling me within inches of death. I couldn’t try flashy tricks, I couldn’t mess around. I had to end this.

Approaching more cautiously, I sprang backwards as he swung the heavy chunk of building at me. He swung again, and I made my move. Springing forward underneath his lethal but slow attack, I punched a front hoof as hard as I could into his horn. The magical glow faltered at the impact, and his grip on the weapon weakened visibly. Just as I’d hoped it would.

Powerful as we were, unicorns were always walking around with our biggest weakness in the center of our foreheads.

With a twin kick, I sent the weapon rocketing away from us into the stands. A souvenir for some lucky raider. Sprinkles’ eyes followed the weapon with a shocked look on his face, which ended as I spun and placed my next two kicks into the side of his head.

Slamming into the ground, he stopped moving. Blood leaked from his still open eyes, and I knew he was dead even before the blood started pooling. I stood, glaring at the crowd, and turned my head up towards the platform where Willow’s corpse still hung.

Hate was there, a knowing grin on his face. I pointed a hoof at him, then drew it across my throat in a gesture that couldn’t possibly be misconstrued. Turning, I walked back into the cage they’d released me into this fight from, even as the crowd exploded into shouts of both support and antagonism.

“Two Kick Rip holds his record! Never beaten in the Arena, folks! Oh, I thought Sprinkles had him on the ropes there, but it just goes to show you that a pony that spends all day hitting rocks is no match for an experienced killer! Will Two Kick Rip continue his domination on the floor, or will he finally bite the dust? We’ll find out later, but for now, let’s welcome the next match!” The voice blasted through my ears, drowning out the criticisms of Two Kick. I didn’t care what he had to say, I just wanted to get back to my cell and rest up for the next batch of ponies I’d have to murder before I got my shot at Hate. I didn’t even listen to the names, I just returned to the door at the back of my cage.

Pounding a hoof against it, I waited only a few seconds before it swung open with a creak. Stepping through, I found that there were only two guards waiting for me. With the explosive collar around my neck, I guessed that they didn’t feel they needed the extra security.

One of the two had a look in his eyes that made me uneasy. Staring into my eyes, he spoke low and level. “Ductwork was my sister. You killed her husband.” Without another word, he slammed the butt of his riot shotgun into my face.



At least this time, I wasn’t chained to a wall. When I regained consciousness, I was curled up on the floor of my cell, stripped of the weapons I’d carried into the Arena. My side hurt, and my eye was swollen shut. I was much more bruised than I had been last I remembered, so the guards must have given me a good beating while I was out. The long slash along my side had scabbed over, which was a little surprising. It was wide enough that I probably should have bled out depending on how long I’d been laying here. Maybe a side effect of the mask?

I lay there, for lack of anything to do, as I was actually sort of comfortable. Moving hurt my rib. My legs were shackled together, so I really couldn’t go too far if I wanted to.

After a while, a click from the door drew my attention. Standing, I tried making myself as intimidating as possible. If they wanted to talk to Two Kick Rip, they were going to get Two Kick Rip in all of his monstrous power.

Fucking right they are.

The door swung open as a small dirty bulb planted in the ceiling turned on, giving illumination to the room. Through the door, however, walked the pony that had cleaned me before. Pearl.

The door slammed shut behind her, making her jump. She was carrying a bag slung over her bruised form, the bucket of water gripped in her mouth. Limping towards me, she was breathing heavily. I didn’t speak, remembering what she’d said before, about being beaten. I didn’t want any more harm to come to her.

I sat down and watched her approach me, watching the mare drop the bag tenderly next to me and open it to reveal two healing potions and a bundle of healing bandages. Pulling a potion from the bag, she popped the top out and offered it to me. “Drink... it will... feel better.”

I gripped the bottle with my magic and drank the contents. Pulling the second, she offered it as well, but I shook my head. I pointed my hoof at her before making a drinking motion towards my mouth. She was injured, just as injured as last I’d seen her, and her constant wincing and shortness of breath had me worrying for the mare.

Shaking her head, she protested. “No. You need... to be... better. For... the fight...”

I could already feel my rib healing, which meant it wasn’t as bad off as I’d thought. With the healing bandages, and what I was still getting from my use of the mask, I’d be fine.

I plucked the bottle from her tenuous grasp, pulled the cork, and sprang towards her. Her frail form put up little fight, and I held her down with one hoof easily. She emitted a short squeak before I put the open bottle to her mouth and forced her to drink it.

Despite her denial of the bottle, she drank greedily at it once it was shoved in her face. After she’d drained the bottle, I removed what little weight I’d been using to hold her down.

I watched the bruises disappear rapidly. I must have built up an immunity over the years, because my wounds never healed that fast when I downed one of the healing draughts.

“Why? Why did you do that, they’ll only beat me harder.” She spoke sadly, tears springing to her eyes as she stood steadily before me, her limp and shortness of breath gone.

“Then don’t tell them.” I smiled reassuringly to her. “Just fake the limp and talk in a halt, they’ll never notice.”

Glancing at the ground, avoiding my gaze, she shuffled uneasily. “I... I suppose.”

Continuing with her duty, she began scrubbing the blood from my sides. Now that the light was on, I saw that I was at least half coated in blood, and most of it wasn’t mine. That fight had not been clean, especially when I’d killed Dirge.

“I can talk now?” She hadn’t begged me to be quiet when I’d talked, and I tried my luck. This would be a lot more pleasant if I could talk.

Nodding, she went back to scrubbing at the scab along my side.

“So, you’re my... what?” Please don’t say slave. Please don’t say slave.

Nice little slave, too.

Speaking rather skillfully around the sponge clenched in her teeth, she nervously looked at me as she worked. “Your handler.”


“What’s that mean? You clean me after fights and make sure I’m good to go?” Nodding she dropped the sponge in the water and stamped on it gently with a hoof to .

“Any needs you have. Injuries, hunger... other needs.” She glanced away from me as she finished speaking, grimacing but trying to hide it from me. I knew what “other needs” meant.

“You don’t have to worry about that. I’m... I have a marefriend.”


Picking up the sponge again... she looked at me, searching my eyes for truth. I had no intention of touching her. Letting out a breath, she sighed. “Thank you.”

I stood in silence as she moved with more of a purpose, finishing cleaning the blood from me. Then, out came the bandages. She began wrapping them around me, the healing magic worked into them tingling slightly as she covered my chest and flanks.

Part of me enjoyed the bandages much more than made sense. A wash of nostalgia took me back to when I’d first woken up in that field, covered in very similar bandages. A simpler time, when death wasn’t the first thing on the agenda for the day.

The slam of the door swinging against the wall snapped me out of my ramblings, and sent Pearl skittering away from me, ducking her head to seem even more meek. In walked a pony I didn’t recognize, holding a strange device in his magical grip.

I heard a thunk, and felt a stinging on my chest, like an insect bite. Looking down, I saw a dart sticking out of my hide. I couldn’t feel that area, but I felt the effects of the dart pretty quickly. My vision started swimming, and I lost my balance, slipping and slamming chin first into the cell floor.

His voice was cool and even as he looked at the cowering Pearl. “Out.”

She quickly gathered the things she’d brought with her and rushed out the door, closing it behind her. Now I was here with this strange pony... though I was getting a familiar feeling from him. A feeling I’d been expecting since I got to Neighwhere.

This was a Paragon.

Trotting towards me, he put the dart gun away. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t feel anything. A slight nudge from his magic, and I rolled over. I stared up at him, trying to slur words from my now completely useless mouth.

Poking at my neck with a hoof, he spoke softly. “For lack of a better word... neat.”

Crouching, he looked into my eyes, a smile on his mouth. “Massacre said that he’d killed you. Turned you into a broken sack. No way to survive. Normally, I’d take him at his word, his expertise on breaking things is... second to none.”

He smacked me in the neck with a hoof, looking for any reaction from me. “Then, you walk into Neighwhere, twice dead but still kicking. Bravo, my friend, bravo.”

Pulling a magnifying glass and flashlight from a pouch at his side, he began examining my neck very closely. “Last pony I saw veins like that on was left a bubbling mess. Quite healthy, but mentally gone. Didn’t think anypony was strong enough for a purge. I only built that option in because I was curious to see if Massacre would ever find it and try it out himself.”


He didn’t look like a Paragon. Pale coat, red mane, blue eyes, he didn’t seem to stand out at all.

Fucking egghead.

“This is giving me ideas... I’d ask you questions, but I’m not exactly here on any official business, as loosely as that term applies here. Just fulfilling my own curiosity. It’s not often I get to see a dead pony walking, talking, fighting... you’re a fascinating specimen.“

I lay there as he prodded at me, and I could do nothing as he pulled a scalpel from his bag and cut open one of the black veins. After several minutes of poking, prodding, slicing, and testing, I guess he had his fill.

“Fascinating,” he repeated. Standing, he placed the tools he’d been using back in his bag and turned away from me. As he reached the door, opening it and waving back the guards posted on the other side, he paused briefly.

Turning back to me, a smile flickered across his face. “Oh right. Best of luck tomorrow. You scared off most of the less... committed challengers with today’s display. Don’t die, I’d really hate to lose the opportunity to examine you further.”

As the door slammed shut, I continued to lay there paralyzed. “Just an Eff Why Eye, ‘Ripple’, that should wear off in an hour or two.” His voice echoed through the barred opening, and then it was gone. The light snapped off, and I was plunged into darkness as a cover was placed over the opening.

Great. Darkness that I was awake for.

Fuck that pony.


I must have fallen asleep at some point, because I jerked awake to the door slamming open. Something thumped into my side, and I looked up to see the hulking stallion standing in the doorway.

This morning’s wake up brought to you by Massacre.

Looking at what he’d thrown at me, I spotted what my animal mind identified as food. I realized how hungry I was... I couldn’t remember the last thing I’d eaten, and began wolfing it down as rapidly as I could while I kept my eyes on Massacre. I didn’t worry that the food had been poisoned, because honestly, if they wanted to kill me I had an explosive wrapped around my throat.

“Done stuffing your fucking mouth? Good, let’s go. Hate wants to see you.”

Maybe this was my chance. I doubted that they’d arm me, but I really only had to get close enough to lay my hooves on him. They wouldn’t be able to kill me until I’d beaten him to death, weapon or no weapon. I swallowed what little food I had left and stood, trying to fight back the grim smile I felt creeping onto my face.

Massacre walked up to me, grabbing my front manacles with a hook on a chain secured around his neck. That wasn’t a good sign, I’d hoped to at least walk there. He started walking, dragging me across the floor of the cell.


The guards remained at the door as Massacre dragged me roughly out of the cell. It gave me time to take in my surroundings. Strapped next to the pipbuck on his leg I spotted the device that would blow my head off at the push of a button, and I briefly wondered why Massacre hadn’t killed me the second he’d been passed the detonator. He must have been a good little soldier, listening to Hate more than his own feelings towards me.

The bumpy drag up a staircase set Massacre to chuckling, and got me my first look at Neighwhere in the daytime, outside of the Arena. Old, dilapidated buildings held together by more recent additions of scrap metal and masonry. It was a testament to the ingenuity of the Anchor ponies and the Stable dwellers working together that there were so many buildings over a single storey in height.

After leaving the underground where I’d been kept and where most of the slaves were held, I started getting some really mixed signals. Glares and threats of death came from raiders and Anchor ponies alike. I had fans and I had enemies. I had ponies that had won and lost money betting on me. It was a very different feeling from what I’d gotten in Blank or Underhoof.

During the day, Neighwhere was a living, bustling monster. There were shops lining the streets, each undercutting the price of their neighbors in an endless pursuit to sell their wares, ranging from medicine to weapons, food to slaves. The ponies hawking their wares also ran the full spectrum of seemingly trustworthy to obviously cutthroat.

Fluster could probably clean house here. Wherever she was.

A decently clean building, devoid of much of the graffiti that decorated the rest of the town, was apparently our destination. It seemed very familiar to me, but I’d had a sense of off-putting nostalgia since I’d stepped hoof in Neighwhere that first night. The doors were long gone, just a yawning hole punched into the front of the building, leading to stairs leading down. I was reminded of the stairs to the station, but that was on the other side of Neighwhere from our current location, by my guess.

At the top of the stairs, Massacre casually tossed me, sending me tumbling flank over hooves. It hurt, hitting each step on the way down and sliding to a painful stop against a metal console. Groaning, I pulled myself to my hooves as the chuckling monster made his way down after me.

Looking at what I’d run into, I saw the same symbol worked into my PipBuck. The Stable-Tec logo. To the right of the console I’d come to a rest against was a massive cog shaped portal worked into the wall of the basement.

Stable 87.

The place I was born and raised.

I guess I had been staring for a while, because an impact from behind threw me through the wide open door. “Keep fucking moving.” Massacre stood there, growling down at me as I picked myself up again, now standing within the threshold. The hook went back in place and he walked past me, dragging me up another, thankfully short, set of stairs.

The Stable was a stark difference from the broken down and graffitied up Neighwhere. Brushed metal walls, clean floors, functioning lighting. It was like there wasn’t a wasteland right outside the door.

It was a little unnerving.

Through halls almost untouched by two hundred years of suffering I walked, taking in the sights. Deja vu, everywhere. The Paragons had grown up in these halls, which threw a layer of blood over the clean veneer in front of me.

I found that I knew the way even as Massacre was dragging me along the thankfully smooth floor. Two Kick must have shared the layout of this place with me. He’d been quiet today, but as always I could feel his presence in my head. He wasn’t the silent observer type, so I was expecting him to interject at any moment. To make comments about where we were. Reminisce. Anything.

Nope. I don’t like it here.


A door slid open on well kept mechanisms, leading us into the atrium. I knew the word, and that it meant this room, but I can’t say I’d heard it before. Two Kick information again, I figured.

The first thing I saw when I was dragged through the door was the orange arsonist lounging in a tub of... something. Glancing at me, Cinder smiled brightly and splashed a wave of liquid at where I lay on the floor. That acrid smell hit me, the smell I’d gotten off of her each time, and now I knew why.

“Hey there handsome.”

A barrel next to the tub had three words stamped across it. Liquid Flame Retardant. She bathed in the stuff... which explained how she hadn’t been literally bursting into flames each time we’d fought. Her coat and skin were soaked in it, and judging from the pile of barrels in one corner, she could keep soaking for a long time.

“Ripple, thank you for accepting my invitation.” As Massacre unhooked and trotted off to a table covered with various alcohols, Hate entered the atrium through a side door. He wasn’t wearing any armor, he didn’t even have any weapons. His reign here was so secure that he didn’t even see me as a threat.

“Crackerjack.” I wanted to test the name.

Until now, he’d maintained a controlled, polite demeanor, save for the moment after he’d murdered Willow. At the name, his eye twitched and his lip quirked, just for a split second. It was enough to know that the name had gotten through.

Composing himself quickly, he used his magic to brush a few stray hairs back behind his ear. “Please, Ripple, I prefer Hate. Much like how, from what I understand, you no longer go by Two Kick.”

“So why aren’t I fighting? I thought you had a line up for me to cut through.” I just wanted to get back to my plan. With my legs shackled and the bomb around my neck, I wouldn’t even be able to make a move towards Hate before I was dead. I had to get back to my plan to challenge him and take him down in the Arena.

“Oh, your match yesterday was quite the show. Sure, it wasn’t quite up to your norm, but it sent the message. Those ponies you slaughtered, they fought the hardest to get first run at you. They wanted it the most.” A noise from Massacre, who currently was slamming back a bottle of whiskey clenched in his teeth, drew Hate’s attention briefly.

“Ah yes, of course. I wouldn’t let Massacre fight just yet, I wanted to give the ponies of my city their fair shot first. My Paragons get preferential treatment enough, wouldn’t you say?”

Cinder, lounging in the bath, gave out a sharp laugh. “And we love it, Hate.”

“Thank you, Cinder my dear, but I was talking to our wayward companion.” Trotting nearer to me, Hate used his magic to lift me up. Looking closely at the veins, much as Epiphany did, he chuckled.

“Brought back from the edge of death, and you receive a rather fetching tattoo for it?” Hate chuckled lightly to himself, before dropping me roughly to slam back into the ground. Sitting next to me, a smile on his face, he gestured around the room.

“You miss it, don’t you? Living the way we want, doing what we want, no one to limit us or tell us we’re wrong. It’s paradise here, it really is. You felt that way as well, once.” The grin left his face suddenly, and he levelled a completely serious, even grim stare at me.

“So why betray me? Betray your family?”

“Betray you? You shot me in the face, why wouldn’t I fight back?” I yelled at him. I couldn’t help it, he was talking like it was my fault he’d shot me in the face and left me in that field.

A soft but piercing voice came from behind me, like a needle made of silk. “Before that. Trying to undercut your friend, our business partner.”

I turned my head quickly, not trusting any voice I didn’t know to be behind me. Not that a voice I knew would be any better, but the evil you know is better than the evil you don’t.

A griffin. Female, I guessed, from her feminine voice and lighter build compared to the... one other griffin I could compare her to. Other than that, she was very similar in look to Ash. Same coloration, save for lavender feathers rimming her eyes. She was wearing combat armor and had a long sword slung across her back between her folded wings.

“What?” What had Two Kick done? Had he actually done something to get himself shot? Was it not just Hate betraying us?

“Trying to sell your little discovery to Red Eye, cutting Hate out of the deal.” The griffin tapped a claw on my withers with each word as she stood next to me. Her other hand was running those razor sharp talons along my neck, applying no pressure. I knew all too well what those could do to a pony, so I stayed still, feeling my heartbeat echoed in those talons dimpling my hide.

“It really was a bad move, Ripple. Not very respectable business practice, selling out your entire town for a little power.” Hate was letting what sounded like disappointment to creep into his voice.

“Told Hate he shoulda ground you into a fine fucking paste, but he just shot you. Thought it’d be a mercy.” Massacre snorted from across the room. “Now look at the trouble you caused us.”

“Sweeps and Holepunch dead, Skyline missing... Things could be better.” Cinder splashed playfully in the tub as she outlined the damage done to the Paragons. I was rather proud of most of that, a hint of a smile on my face as she said it. Sweeps still hit a nerve, but Holepunch had been an asshole. It was interesting that Cinder didn’t seem to know about the cubes, or wasn’t willing to bring them up with the griffin present.

“Luckily for us, Red Eye’s liaison Miss Fraya decided to honor the contract we had drawn with her employer, and informed us of your betrayal.” As Hate nodded towards Fraya, the griffin removed her claws from my neck and walked further into the room, snatching a bottle of alcohol from the table near where Massacre stood glaring at me.

“So, Hate, you said you had something special when you called me here?” Fraya the Griffin took a swig from a bottle, and for a split second I saw Ash. It made me miss my friend. Miss everyone I’d sent off through the tunnel. Everyone that had died, or was missing. I snarled at the world.

“Oh yes, of course. We have arranged a special match in the Arena, since our scheduling with Ripple here hit a bit of a bump.” Hate gestured a hoof dismissively at me. “I’m sure you’ll appreciate what he have planned.”

I’d seen Ash grin enough to know that Fraya had a smile on her face. “Can’t wait.”

Hate walked towards the door, stopping and giving a short bow to Fraya as he neared her. “If you’ll accompany me, we shall take in the festivities. Massacre, if you’d be so kind as to bring Ripple?”

Massacre snickered and approached me. I’d been on my hooves for some time now, and he kicked me in the side to throw me back to the ground. Attaching that hook back to my shackles, he dragged me out of the room after the Paragon and the Griffin.

“Bye Ripple. Come back soon.” Cinder giggled from her tub, content to continue lounging in the harsh chemicals.

I sighed and braced myself for more stairs.


From Hate’s platform, I could see every pony in the seats. Cheering and screaming as Hate and his entourage came into view. A trio of griffins lurked high in the stands, nodding to Fraya as we entered the Arena.

Massacre pulled me to my hooves and unhooked the chain, leaving me to stand defiantly there. “Don’t fuck around.” Hissing a warning in my ear, he turned and left the platform.

Hate’s horn glowed briefly, and he opened his mouth. His voice boomed out, magically amplified to fill every corner of the Arena and ensure that his every word was understood. I got the feeling that he was very proud of his linguistic prowess.

“Greetings, my good ponies and honored guests. Today, we have something special for you. Yesterday, we watched our old champion tear through five ponies with grudges, ending each spectacularly.” Hate, the show pony, was gesturing dramatically as he spoke, building up the promise of what was to come. I wondered briefly who had been talking when I’d been in the Arena, because it certainly wasn’t Hate.

“Today, Two Kick is recuperating from his efforts, and we have decided to showcase some of our other talent.” As if I had a choice in this. They’d been dragging me around Neighwhere all day; I’d not gotten much of a chance to recover.

“For your enjoyment, I present nature at its finest. A predator fighting prey. Open the cages, and let’s all have a good time.” He bowed and stepped back, letting the crowd’s attention shift to the floor of the Arena. The cage doors opened, and out stepped four heavily armed ponies on one side, and...


I’d only heard of him once from Ash, but there stood a male griffin that looked very much like my friend. He was heavily muscled, his arms sporting armor plating that added blades to the already lethal talons he’d been born with. That wasn’t his most prominent feature though.

Cutter had no wings.

Two long, vicious scars ran along his back right above his shoulder blades, where they’d either been cut off or torn off. He didn’t look much like the young naive griffin that Ash had described, but at least he was alive. Ash would be happy to know that.

For now, it was the brutish griffin versus the four ponies in the Arena. As he took the first step towards them, I wondered if I had looked like that the previous day. Like a monster.

With a blur of speed, Cutter was on his opponents. They were armed with assorted blades and axes, but his natural speed and agility put him on another level. I realized that I was about to witness a slaughter.

Landing amongst them, the griffin grabbed a hapless unicorn by the collar of his barding, slammed him into a second, and hurled the unfortunate unicorn into the third, sending the unfortunate earth pony flying. The three ponies went tumbling in different directions, leaving him ample time to deal with the standing pony.

The single upright pony had been opening her mouth to yell something, but the muscles in his arms were strong enough to shatter her jaw as he forced his bladed forearm into the opening. The blades tore into her, spraying blood as they carved through her face, but it was the talons that killed her. Those razor sharp claws impossibly came out the back of her neck, grabbing onto the spinal column before ripping back out.

I’d thought that shredding Dirge’s head off had been brutal, but as he yanked his arm upwards and tore most of the pony’s head clean off her body, I almost felt queasy. The upper portion of her head spiraled away in a geyser of blood, but Cutter was already moving onto the next pony.

The first of the ponies to stand back up was the one that had been bludgeoned with his comrade, a burly unicorn with a patch of scar tissue where his right eye should have been. He threw himself at the griffin, swinging a massive sword made of scrap with his magic. The pony was rather skilled, drawing a figure eight in the air with the blade, forcing Cutter to fall back and give the others time to get to their hooves.

One on one, Cutter would take them apart. Just like I would have. Fighting a group, however, attrition or even a single mistake would lead to death.

The unicorn made a wide slash, hoping to catch the wingless griffin in the side, but Cutter lept over the swinging blade. Landing at the pony’s side, he came in low and grabbed the unicorn by two legs. The unicorn could only give out a confused yell as he was hauled into the air. Cutter, in a move very similar to what Massacre had done to me in that kitchen, swung the pony down onto the hard floor with savage force.

The blade clattered away as the unicorn hit the ground at a bad angle, his horn snapping off with a scream. On the second hit, his neck landed just wrong, and broke with a noise audible even over the cheering of the crowd. He was dead before the impact could even register with him. Cutter then used the now limp pony as a painfully familiar flail against the remaining two.

The survivors did their best to fend off his attacks with their friend’s corpse. One of them, a unicorn mare with twin daggers, was surprisingly light on her hooves and kept springing away from his attacks. The other was the pony he had thrown at the start of the melee, who was nowhere near as fast as the lithe unicorn.

A hit to the pony’s side knocked him off balance, and Cutter took the advantage he’d been given. An overhead arc brought the dead pony onto the back of the slower earth pony, driving him to his knees. A third impact drove him fully to the ground, at which point Cutter threw the corpse at the unicorn mare who narrowly dodged taking the full weight in the face.

The poorly fated pony had been wielding a large axe before he’d been thrown, and he had been trying to reach it where it lay when he’d been beaten with his partner’s corpse. Cutter snatched the weapon up, spun it once in his grip, and struck. The sweep of his full swing gleamed like silver in the harsh sunlight, and the axe cleaved completely through the pony’s back.

The blade cut through barding, flesh, muscle, spine, and organs before embedding in the floor of the Arena. The unicorn coughed up blood and tried getting to his feet. He managed to drag his upper half a short distance before looking behind in confusion. Once he had confirmed that he was no longer entirely together, he slumped over and died in a widening pool of blood, leaving a trail of viscera and lifeblood between his two halves.

Setting his eyes on the remaining unicorn, the bloodsoaked Griffin began stalking towards her, walking low on all fours. She was backing away from him, the blades held out in front of her defensively, and I felt that I should do something.

Just watch. This is fantastic. Don’t deprive me of this.

I made to stand, but I immediately felt a pressure on my back. Glancing at Hate, I saw that his horn was glowing. He was holding me down, making me watch. I felt my head forced back towards the Arena, and I watched as Cutter got near enough to the pony to make his move.

Leaping forward, it looked like he was going to take both daggers in the chest. At the last second, he formed a shield with both arms, the blades impacting the blood drenched but still razor sharp armor. Batting both blades aside with enough force that one stuck fast in a wall, he landed and pinned the unicorn underneath him. Holding her hooves to either side, he reached in with his head and looked into her eyes. His mouth moved a little, but there was no way I was able to hear what he had said this far away through that much commotion.

Quick as that, he gripped her neck in his beak and twisted, snapping her spine cleanly. She slumped, limp and dead. Picking himself up off of her corpse, he walked solemnly towards his cage, not displaying any of the behavior I had expected. He didn’t soak in the adoration poured from the stands, he didn’t gloat or boast, he just walked back to his cage.

The crowd was going insane, cheering and screaming. Even the griffins were nodding and smiling, clearly impressed even though Cutter was a prisoner. They must not have cared what his situation was, provided he was still capable of combat.

With that, Hate turned to Fraya. “What did you think? It was quick, but I believe that I have quite the warrior there.”

Nodding, she looked down at the bloodsoaked scene that Cutter had just vacated. “Yeah, he would make an excellent Talon. Only one issue though.”

Hate made a questioning sound, clearly not expecting anything but praise. “Is it the wings? He did that to himself. There was nothing we could have done to save them.”

Shaking her head, she dismissed it with a wave of a talon. “Oh no, nothing of that sort. The issue is that he was already one of us, but broke his contract and left.”

Right. I knew that. I was surprised that Hate didn’t, though. He was looking down at the remains of the seasoned fighters he had thrown into an Arena with a killing machine for potentially no reason. He didn’t strike me as the kind to waste valuable resources. Hate frowned.

“His name is Cutter, correct?”

Hate narrowed his eyes. “I never told you that. Did you go digging into my surprise?”

The female griffin laughed. “Ha. No. Him and his brother left the Talons a while back. It was a big deal.”

Hate slumped briefly before composing himself. His business deal had just fallen through, and in the back of my head I knew that the most important thing to this pony was that his plans succeeded.

“However, there is a standing bounty. So not all is lost. Don’t worry Hate, your efforts have not been in vain.” Apparently Fraya knew Hate well, speaking with a hint of laughter in her voice. She’d been toying with him.

“Well, it does please me hear that.”

The griffin nodded. “I thought it would. Just one more thing I’d like to request before we wrap up our business though.”

Hate’s body language had relaxed, and he smiled. I didn’t like that smile. “Oh?”

Fraya grabbed me roughly, hauling me up with those talons digging into me. “Make sure that he dies this time, or should I just rip out his throat right now?”

Hate laughed. A cold, hard laugh. “Oh, no need for that. We’ll get a good show of him, but he’ll die. I guarantee it.”

Slamming me into the ground roughly, she kicked me in the side with one of her paws. I’d had worse. I didn’t give her the satisfaction of making a noise, and I received a second kick as reward.

Fraya turned and walked away from the platform, leaving me and Hate. He ignored me for the most part, and I just lay there. Now that I thought about it, I was alone with him. This would be as good a chance as any.

There were ponies cleaning up the remains of the fight, and it was diverting attention. Not that anypony was paying attention to them, as the stands were filled with talk and the occasional fight. They were just waiting for the next match.

I decided to make my move.

Mustering all of my strength, I threw myself at Hate. If I could get my hooves around his neck, lock him in with the shackles, I had a very good chance of snapping his rotten neck like a fucking twig. Raising my front legs high, I saw the surprise on his face as I moved.

As I drove the shackles down past his head, I felt the impact in my chest. His horn had flared with light for only a fraction of a second, but as I went sailing off of the platform I knew that I’d messed up. I’d let him see me make my move. Sloppy.

I slammed into the Arena floor far below, the wind forcing itself from my lungs. As I choked for breath, I stared back up at Hate. He was gazing down at me over the pale corpse of Willow. I could feel the stomping before I heard it, and Massacre launched off of the platform as well.

Landing next to me, the large pony proceeded to kick me as hard as he could. I still couldn’t breathe, and being hurled into the air to impact a wall didn’t help. As I lay there, still fighting for air, I saw the chain placed around my shackles.

Then I was unceremoniously dragged back to my cell, apparently taking a route that involved every staircase in Neighwhere. I regained the use of my lungs somewhere along the trip, right before I was about to black out. Coughing and choking, I endured the gauntlet that Massacre decided to run before reaching my erstwhile home.

Opening the cell door, Massacre loosed the chain and hurled me against the far wall. He slammed the door and turned off the lights, leaving me in the little square of light provided by the door.

“Asshole.” Talking made blood dribble down my lips, but I was too sore and bruised to do much about it.

After an hour or so of laying there, the door clicked open and Pearl entered. I didn’t say anything, I was too busy planning how I could get the drop on Hate. I doubted I’d be given another chance like today’s, and I was sure that whatever challenge I faced the next day would very likely be lethal. Hate had promised on that.

Pearl tried talking to me, but I didn’t listen. I didn’t talk. I just stared at the wall.

Eventually, she left. I felt a pang of guilt that I had ignored her, but I could only think of the next day. Of my death, and how I had to kill Hate before I went.

I couldn’t allow anything in that would distract me from that goal.


“Ripple... are you okay?”

For a second, I thought that I was hallucinating. She couldn’t be here. As I was roused from my fitful sleep by a hoof prodding at my neck, I opened my eyes. When I felt the prodding move to the explosive around my neck, a spike of adrenaline brought me to full wakefulness.

I snapped my eyes open and moved my shackled legs to stop the prodding. I didn’t need the explosives going off before I had a chance to kill Hate.

“Easy Ripple, I’m only looking.” In the dark corner I had crawled to sleep, I couldn’t make out much that wasn’t in the square of light. The hooded form before me was definitely Fluster though.

My throat was raw and my mouth tasted like blood, but I had to talk. Coughing, I cleared my throat. “Fluster? What... how?”

“I don’t have long. Ivory’s distracting the guards. I’m just checking on you.”

“What?” My mind just wasn’t wrapping around this. Fluster was dead. Ivory was off hunting Crossed Wires. They weren’t here. I’d checked.

“We need to get that collar off of you, or at least disarm it.” She went back to fiddling at the collar around my neck, a flashlight clicking on to get a better look. It was tucked back in her hood somewhere, a screwdriver held in her mouth.

“Fluster.... what?”

Last I’d seen her, she’d been a quivering wreck of a pony. Here before me was the scavenger I’d first met in Underhoof, curious and vibrant. Ivory must have helped her through it, or... something. As she worked at the collar, she mumbled around the screwdriver. “Okay... this isn’t too complicated...”

“Fluster, what are you doing here? How... are you here?”

“I followed Ivory during the fight. We got here chasing Wires, and walked through the front door. A mercenary and her indentured pony. We saw you in the Arena, couldn’t just leave you here. You’re my bodyguard after all.” The image flashed through my head of the two of them walking up to the gate in the wake of the battle. Ivory in her battle armor, carrying some heavy weapons. Fluster following along timidly at her side. Yeah, I could see that.

“And... click.” As she said it, a sound from the collar matched the sound. “There... it at least won’t blow your head off if’n they press a button. Now let’s get it off.”

I shook my head. “I... I can’t leave. I have to kill Hate. I don’t know when, or if, I’ll get another chance.”

She punched me right in the mouth with a hoof, then leaned forward and hissed into my ear. “No, you’re going to come with us. Hate can wait. We saw you out there today. You got your chance, and you need to come with us. Alive, you can try again. You can make another chance.”



“You’re right...” I sighed, letting my whole body slump over. I had a chance of escape now. When I hadn’t, I’d been so set on getting to Hate that I’d lost sight of any other option.

Taking her screwdriver to my front shackles, she grinned around the screwdriver. “Of course I am. Now let’s get you out of those-”

A banging on the door preempted Ivory’s voice coming through the small square opening. “Fluster. Guard’s coming back, he out?”

“Not yet.”

“No time! Move, Fluster, now! Please!” Fluster was still working at the shackle until the ‘please’. She stopped, looking up at me with apologetic eyes.

“I’m sorry Ripple. We’ll figure something out.” With that, she clicked off the flashlight and rushed back to the door. Slipping out, she was gone. I was alone again.

Laying back down, the hope that had been building shattered, I couldn’t help but wonder one thing.

Had that been a dream?


I was woken by Pearl, who came into my cell and started my day with food and some fresh bandages. What she’d given me before had done a good job of healing the bruises, but my ribs still felt a little off after the beating and dragging, both courtesy of Massacre.

“Sorry ‘bout yesterday.” I talked out of the corner of my mouth as I lay on my side, letting her work on my bruised ribs.

“Hmmm?” She was occupied by her work, and still seemed a little uncomfortable with talking to me. The bandages she was wrapping around my chest were her main focus right now.

“For ignoring you. I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me.” Any way I went about this, this was the last day I’d be in Neighwhere. Too many ponies had died without a goodbye. I wasn’t going to be one of them.

“I... I should say the same to you.” Pearl had finished wrapping the bandages and went to wiping the dried blood from my mouth. “I’ll miss you when you’re dead.”

The two of us stayed silent, after that cheery statement. When she finished, I nodded silently to her, and received the same gesture. Once she was out the door, I went back to waiting. Either for a daring rescue, or my last trip out to the Arena.

The door clicked open.

In walked two guard ponies, one of which I recognized as the brother of Ductwork. So it looked like it was the brutal death option then.


There’s still time. We could always kill everypony.

At least as many as we can.

As they attached their chains to me, I readied myself. I’d take down as many as I could trying to get to Hate. I’d have weapons and all my limbs. Nothing would stop me.


That... was an option I was starting to consider. I had ruled it out earlier, but the situation had changed. Two Kick was better at this whole killing thing anyways.

Thanks. I’ll make our last hurrah memorable. Something they’ll never fucking forget.

Walking through those halls, I stayed quiet as the two ponies escorted me to the room where I would get my weapons. Through the door, I was unchained and left to arm myself as they made sure that I behaved.

“Two Kick, I got a decent haul on you. Good match. I even pulled some strings to get you a little present for today. Big match needs bigs kicks, you know. Gotta make sure it’s a fair fight, after all.” Pulling a tarp off of a table with his teeth, he presented the gift.

I laughed out loud, the voice in my head echoing my reaction. My ballistic hooves and enough ammo to kill dozens. Broken was nowhere to be seen, but I’d take what I could get on my last day.

With practiced ease, I slipped the weapons into the grooves carved into my rear hooves. It had been a bitch getting them off after the mask, but I’d done it in what little resting time we’d had on our way to the tunnel. Chipping away with a sharp piece of metal, I had liberated the weapons from myself before carving the grooves back in. It had hurt, but it was worth it.

Now, I had them back. Once they were on, I felt more like myself. If I had Broken, I would have been complete.

Two thirds of Two Kick Ripple was still more than most ponies could handle.

Bring it the fuck on.


As I stood in the cage, the weight of several hits of Stampede reassuring in some pockets sewn into the crude armor I was wearing, I felt that this was the time. This was when I would kill Hate.

I would cut my way through whatever he threw at me.

I would climb onto that platform.

I would kick his fucking face in.

The cage door opened, and I strode confidently out onto the killing floor. The cheers were deafening. This was the last match of Two Kick, after all. I could definitely see how he had gotten addicted to this feeling. The cheers made a pony feel unstoppable.

Then I saw my opposition. I’d prepared myself for another swarm of ponies. I’d even toyed with the thought that I’d have to kill Ash’s little brother.

As Massacre stared at me through that mask, I realized I’d missed an option.

The one where Massacre and I beat each other to death.

He chuckled, a throaty bass sound that I could feel in my chest. My recently repaired chest that he had all but caved in the last time we’d fought.

Stop it. I can beat him. Let me out.

As the announcer did his bit, introducing us and riling up the crowd to a nice boil, I took one of the stamped ampules from the pouch. Toying with it, I watched as Massacre stared at me across the way. The promise in his eyes was clear. He was gonna hit me until there was nothing left to hit.

Going against every urge I’d had since that day where Two Kick had almost done unspeakable things to Cinder, I slammed the needle into my leg. I needed Two Kick’s help.

I just prayed that I’d still exist after all was said and done.

The rush of red flowed through my veins, this first time since I’d been remade. Since the mask, I hadn’t felt the physical craving at all. That sense of weakness had been absent. I’d felt whole. Didn’t matter much now if I ruined myself again, it wasn’t like I’d be getting out of here. That window of opportunity had come and past. If I hadn’t dreamed it, that was.

I never could tell the exact moment that Two Kick took over, but as I took a step towards Massacre without willing my legs to do it, I knew that I was riding side saddle on this pony.

“Ah... I do so fucking love this. So cramped in there, it’s nice to get out and stretch my legs.” Two Kick trotted in place, getting the blood flowing. Speeding up the flow of the blood made sure that the Stampede really got in deep.

Okay, just remember that I want the body to kill Hate with.

“Yeah, yeah. I got this, fuck.”

“Who you talking to? Praying for it be over quick?” Massacre was taking a few steps towards us, the hooks on his front legs clicking with each step.

With a wicked grin, Two Kick stopped hopping and threw himself forward. Closing the gap between them in a second, he came up underneath Massacre. His horn pierced deep into Massacre’s throat, pulling out sideways and spraying blood into our eyes as it tore through the soft flesh.

Hopping back as the choking Massacre made a swipe with a hook, Two Kick let out a laugh. “Shut the fuck up and fight!” As he bounced away from Massacre, I realized why Two Kick would win this battle.

I’d fought the massive pony in an enclosed area. I hadn’t been able to get out of his range very quickly, where here in the larger arena, Two Kick was staying well outside of the range of those hooks.

Massacre’s wound was already healing rapidly though, and the monstrous pony thundered at us like a bull. Needless to say, he was mad. The sound he made, spraying blood from his neck as it was busily knitting itself back together, was a bestial and angry noise.

Getting in close, he swung a meaty leg, the hook narrowly missing our ear. As a reward, he got a sharp hoof kicked into his fetlock. Two Kick angled it so that the edge dug in deep, scoring another wound on the seemingly unstoppable pony.

“Always had fun killing you, Messy. Not often I get to kill a pony multiple times. This will be the fucking last.” Two Kick taunted as soon as he was back out of range, rolling away from the increasingly furious pony. I had to give it to Two Kick, he really knew how to make the body move. In comparison, it was like I was working with limits on my every movement.

Coughing a mouthful of blood at us, Massacre bellowed. “Fuck you! You shoulda stayed dead, and I’m gonna fucking end you.”

Rushing at us, he demonstrated that he had the ability to learn. Jumping into the air, he tried using his greater bulk to crush Two Kick as he came down. Two Kick leaped sideways, and Massacre slammed into the ground where my body had been only a fraction of a second before. Rolling to his hooves, Two Kick reared back and sent a rapid flurry of kicks into Massacre’s side, before jumping into the air and planting both rear hooves squarely into the large pony’s armored side.

In an explosion of shattered armor plates and blood, Massacre was thrown away from us. Two Kick used the force to backflip and land cleanly on all fours, grinning at the pony. Fuck... no wonder he had so much respect, and I received so much less. Without me fighting his control, Two Kick was a monster.

Massacre shakily got back up, a crater in his side filled with broken bone and armor. Blood poured out of him, and I could barely understand how he was still alive. That was two kicks. Nopony was supposed to survive two kicks.

Vomiting a mouthful of dark liquid, Massacre started taking steps towards us. He picked up speed, building into a full gallop. Two Kick chuckled and shook his head at the dogged determination Massacre was using. Bracing himself for another side leap, Two Kick didn’t see it coming.

I saw the flicker of Massacre’s eyes as he looked at our legs, judging where we were placing weight. As he got near enough to hit, Two Kick hopped to one side. Massacre did as well, plowing into our body and slamming us to the ground. We slid briefly, his bulk grinding us into the floor beneath him.

Standing with more speed than a pony with a hole in his side should, he managed to catch one of those hooks into my leg again. I knew what was coming.

“No!” Two Kick managed the one word before Massacre threw us with all of his considerable strength towards the platform. Slicing through the air, we slammed into Willow’s bloated corpse with a sickening crunch. Coagulated blood and foul smelling liquid sprayed from the dead mare as we knocked her loose from her place.

Willow and Two Kick hit the ground hard, the metal rods holding her in clattering next to us. The pain of another hook drew us up again, getting eye to eye with the furious Massacre. He was grinning through his rage, loving that he had us where he wanted us.

Two Kick gave him one decent blow with a front hoof before Massacre slammed him into the ground, stunning the pony in command. Lifting us up, he looked into our eyes. “I’ll make sure you’re dead this time.”

Two Kick, coughing from the impact, smiled. “Same thing, fucker.”

Massacre’s eyes widened as he saw the glowing horn, which was the last thing he saw before the two rods that had been holding Willow up rammed down through the faceplate of that horrible mask and into his eyes. As Massacre stumbled backwards, screaming at the metal intruding into his face, Two Kick worked himself loose from the frantic pony’s hook and hit the ground hard.

Two Kick rose, bleeding heavily from the wounds right above both ballistic hooves. He practically skipped after Massacre, gleefully laughing. “I got you, I got you, I fucking got you.”

Massacre yelled at where the voice was coming from, swinging and kicking blindly in hopes of hitting his assailant. Two Kick dodged nimbly, very light on his feet for a wounded pony of our size. Snapping a hoof out, he drove it into the side of one of Massacre’s legs, breaking the bone and driving him to the ground.

As the filthy red pony tried rolling back to his feet, Two Kick stood back and let him do it. When the Paragon was on his knees, trying to compensate for the shattered wreck of his leg, Two Kick spun and planted a single kick into Massacre’s neck.

The blast destroyed Massacre’s neck, laying bare sections of spinal bone gleaming white against the red ruin. Massacre slumped over, gasping for breath. He wasn’t making noise anymore. Two Kick stood over him, looking down. “Messy, you’re pathetic. That was for the fucking chains.”

Turning slowly, he lined up for another kick. Turning his head back to look the dying pony in the eyes, he grinned. “This is for making me sink to your level.”

Placing another kick straight into the exposed spine, he decapitated the giant of a pony. The head went sliding away, leaving a streak of blood as it went. Coming to a rest, it rocked slightly and ended staring up at the platform where Hate looked down at us.

Two Kick gave a little wave to Hate before pulling the shattered mask from Massacre’s separated head. Placing it on, he breathed in deeply as the needles pierced and the fluid contained within flew into our drug stream.

I was shouting at Kick to not use it, not after the last time, but he did his best to calm my objections. “Just enough for the legs. Don’t worry.”

The drugs started healing the wounds in Two Kicks legs rapidly, but also started pushing the Stampede out of our system. He’d kept his word, and returned control after killing Massacre. Within seconds, I could feel my legs knitting, and I could move them myself. I pulled the blood soaked mask from my face with my magic and threw it to the ground. I spared a moment to stomp the horrible thing in half before reloading my hoofguns and running towards the platform. I had to make it up and get to Hate before they killed me. Everything depended on it.

The crowd had gone silent as I killed Massacre, apparently taking them all by surprise. Even the announcer pony, whoever he was, was dead quiet. As soon as I started running, they burst into activity.

I could see Hate yelling something behind him, probably the order to kill me. I jumped, scrambling at the wall in an attempt to get enough purchase to get up onto the platform. Sliding back down, I looked for an exit. I had to get out, and get up to Hate.

At that moment, one whole section of the stands erupted in a detonation that threw me sideways. The blast threw chunks of building, pieces of pony, and total chaos into the Arena.

Standing, I looked at the destruction for a few seconds, standing there with my mouth hanging open. My mind went to the only ponies I’d seen that could level a building that completely in that little time.

Crossed Wires? Viola?

I couldn’t imagine the pony that wanted to be a Paragon doing that, and Viola with any luck was long gone by now. It had been three days.

A bullet hitting the wall next to my head and Two Kick screaming for me to move snapped me back to reality. A salvo of rockets thundered in from somewhere, slamming into the Arena and stands in a ripple of explosions and fire.

Neighwhere was under attack. I couldn’t think of anypony that had that level of weaponry. That was wartime military level tech.

Oh. Of course.

The Steel Rangers.

That fuck Broken Arrow.

It had to be them.

I now had the cover I needed. I had another chance.

I ran into a cloud of debris and smoke, intent on hunting down Hate in this madness.

Author's Note:

As ever, praise be to Kkat for creating the amazing story Fallout Equestria. Inspired a lot, it did.

Thanks a lot to Wirepony, who's getting better and better at fixing my story.

Also, if you want to ask Ripple anything click here