• 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 21: Maremack

Chapter 21: Maremack

“We... we need to go...” I tried getting up, but a strong hoof kept me down while Pearl was busy stitching my face back together. I didn’t have time to look presentable. I had to get after Flurry. She couldn’t be allowed to get the cubes to Hate. Hate couldn’t be allowed to make the deal with Pandemonium.

“He’s suffered some strain to his back. I don’t think he should be walking anytime soon.” I’d grown to dislike the Whitecoat medic, Sawbones, because he kept saying things that would stop me from going after hate. Massive blood loss, spinal damage, a broken leg. I’d had worse, and he just wouldn’t let me get up.

Ash was there, watching me as Sawbones and Pearl worked on keeping the rest of my blood in my body. Behind him, Shade was laying on a cot. She had several cuts on the left side of her face, and there was a deep slash along her ribs. Flurry hadn’t had much time to “play” with her. Shade had been lucky.


He leaned forward, the bandages around his neck making his head look out of place on his shoulders. “Kick?”

I glanced at Pearl, who was working on my face with a needle and thread. Looking at her gave me an idea. What would a handler give to a fighter that was too injured to move but had a fight in a few hours? It had to come up sometime. I knew what I’d do.

“Ash... I need...” I paused for a few seconds, thinking about the list. “Potions... Hydra... whatever will get me up. No Stampede... I need to be me...” I narrowed my eyes at that.

Sawbones cut in right there. “No. Ash, those will do lasting damage to the patient.”

I coughed blood at him, earning a small jab from Pearl with the needle. If Ash got me the drugs, I could be up and about. Then we could leave. I didn’t have time to lay around.

Pearl made a satisfied sound as she finished what she could do to my face. I could feel air on my gums, and I was thinking that I had gained a wider smile. I wasn’t too keen to see a mirror, and when she brought out the bandages I sighed in relief. I really didn’t want Shade to see whatever had happened to my face... and the bandages were familiar enough to be a welcome sight.

The wrap job that Pearl gave my face was quite good, and left my mouth able to talk. I couldn’t open it too wide, but I could at least speak, which was an improvement over the last time my face had been bandaged.

Which had only been the previous day. I was a mess.

As soon as Pearl finished the last wrap of bandages, I pulled myself off of the table. Sawbones tried holding me down, but I wasn’t going to put up with that. I had things that needed to be done. It was only when I was on all four hooves that I remembered the blood loss, spinal damage, and broken leg. I crumpled.

Then I blacked out as I smacked my newly bandaged head on the hard floor.


I was still on the floor when I came to. It could only have been a few moments, because everypony was still there. I realized that I had been awoken by Ash, who was shaking me by the shoulder.

“Kick, get up.”

I groaned as my body continued wanting to be on the ground. There was an odd numbness stretching from the middle of my back to my legs, but I could still feel the weakness of the break in my leg. My spine wasn’t as damaged as Sawbones had made it sound.

My mouth was restricted by the bandages, and I mumbled through clenched teeth. “Meds...”

Ash crouched down next to me. “Yeah, I got ‘em. Grabbed anything that looked useful.” He placed one talon on my side and lifted something in his other. I couldn’t focus too well... my head had been through a lot.

“This first.” He slammed it into my side, the needle biting deep and depositing the medicine directly into my blood.

For a few seconds, nothing happened. Then it felt like my body was starting to shake... no, that wasn’t the word. It was familiar. It was like what happened with the Mask, but much less painful.

It still hurt like a fucker though, as my flesh crawled and writhed under my hide.

I clenched my teeth as my leg set itself beneath my skin, the disturbingly familiar feeling of bone tearing through muscle bringing a yelp of pain. The flesh of my skin started pulling and tightening, as did my shredded ear.

Then the hydra got to my spine. The entire length let out a rapid series of cracks and pops, and it felt like I was being folded in half. A gurgle was all that managed to get through my throat as my spine was forced back into place by the powerful drug.

It was over much faster than with the mask, and I was sitting under my own power in no time. I couldn’t help but breathe heavily, panting even... rapid regeneration really takes it out of a pony. Ash was looking at me with a discriminating eye, and shrugged.

“Sorry, thought that would have put your ear back together.” With one of his claws, he flicked at the side of his head to indicate my own ear.

“My ear?” I was more concerned with the rest of me, but feeling around with a fetlock I found that my ear was still split in two.

He shook his head. “Don’t worry, it’s not important. Need anything else, or are you ready to go?”

Gesturing behind him, he drew my attention to Ivory and Fluster near a table. Fluster had her hooves up on the table and was busy sorting through a pile of hastily gathered supplies. From where I was, I could see mostly medicine, but a few errant bits of ammunition were jutting from the pile.

Good. I’d need ammo. I had ponies to kill.

I struggled to my hooves. I was glad to find that the weakness that had been there after the mask wasn’t present with Hydra. I hadn’t been rebuilt, just restored. I twisted my head to the side to ease a crick out of my neck as I got the feel of my body.

I was sore, but I was good. I was motivated. Hate was going to die. Epiphany was going to die. Flurry was going to die.

She’d hurt Shade.

I pushed up next to Sawbones, who gave me a snort of dismissal. I didn’t care what he thought about me... he had wanted to keep me bedridden while Hate got what Hate wanted. If he thought he was going to keep me from Shade, I’d just add him to the list.

“Hey... Ripple...”

Shade’s voice was low and pained. Her side was heavily bandaged, and one of her legs was covered in bloody rags. Half of her face was covered in blood-soaked bandages. There were empty potion bottles next to her, and I could see a dozen fading cuts on her neck and flank.The sight made me feel like I’d failed.

She’d been shot outside of Blank. I’d almost killed myself getting her to the help she had needed, and I’d done everything that I could to protect her from that point on. Seeing her here, bandaged up and pale from blood loss, was crushing. I should have taken those injuries... not her.

I nuzzled her neck softly. “I’m sorry... “

She smiled faintly at me. Blood loss was not something she was used to. One of her hooves reached up and stroked my cheek softly. “It wasn’t your fault... she was just there... who was she?”

I sighed. Right, Flurry was the unknown Paragon. By her own admission, she wasn’t a famous pony. Outside of the Paragons, she wasn’t just not well known, she was unknown. Her work as Hate’s messenger kept her out of Neighwhere, and she wasn’t a Stable pony. “That was Flurry.”

Her eyes widened slightly. “That was Fluster’s sister? That... Fluster...”

I hadn’t been aware that the robed mare was standing next to me. Sawbones had left, and she’d just taken his place. It had been so subtle I had thought that the Whitecoat was still there, awkwardly standing in the middle of our conversation. I jumped slightly.

Fluster shook her head. “I apologize for my sister. She should have been killed a long time ago...”

I nudged Fluster with my shoulder, hoping that what I was about to say wasn’t going to hit the wrong strings. “Don’t worry... we’ll kill her when we head up the mountain.”

Fluster nodded. “I know. That’s why Ivory and I are going with you.”

I’d only really planned on Ash and I going up the mountain. Ivory would have been quite useful to the Whitecoats in protecting the escaped slaves, and Fluster had never really crossed my mind as being useful in combat... even if she was the only one of our little group with a Steel Ranger kill to her name. She was also the only one of us that could pick a lock.

I just nodded. Discounting Fluster had never proved wise, even if she didn’t have her own reasons for going.

“I told you I’d help you see Hate dead anyways. You actually thought you’d be going without us?” Ivory trotted up, smiling. She’d received treatment for the wounds she’d gotten in Neighwhere, and looked as ready for action as ever. Even if she was still discoloured; Wires was apparently tricky to fully remove from hair.

“...Thanks girls. Now... I need to talk to Shade for a minute.” I gave Ivory what I hoped was a meaningful glance, and she nodded.

“Sure Rip. Come on Flusterbutt, let’s go finish scrounging.” Nudging the cloaked mare, she headed back towards the table. Fluster looked up at me for a second before following back to the piled supplies.

I looked down at Shade, who had a little smile on her face. She spoke up before I had a chance. “You want me to stay behind.”

I nodded. “I do. I’m sorry... but I can’t risk you. I love you... and they know that. You’d be a target to get to me. Hate wouldn’t let that go without acting on it.”

A tear rolled from her eye, clearing a path through the blood on her face. “I understand. I love you too... just come back to me.”

I kissed her, lingering for a while. Pulling back, I smiled. “I promise.”

Then, I slowly turned away from her, keeping an eye on her for as long as I could. It hurt, knowing that it might be the last time I saw her, but I had to do it. I pushed past Sawbones, who immediately swept in to finish seeing to Shade, and headed into the hallways.

It took only a minute to find the pony I was looking for, because she was where nopony else was. Viola was reading an ancient magazine she found somewhere, sprawled out across an old mattress in a room at the back of the building. She looked up as I came in, her eyes twinkling from behind the mask.

“Hey Ripple. You all better? How’s your girl?” She put down the magazine and folded her front legs in front of her.

“I’m fine. Shade’s gonna be fine...”

She nodded. “...and you wanted to talk to me about something, right?”

I sat down in front of the mattress. “Yeah... I need you to watch after Shade. Get her to Underhoof, and keep her safe.” I slouched my shoulders, saddened that I needed to do this. Shade couldn’t come with. It was decided, we both knew it, but it wasn’t enough. I had to take another step to make sure she was safe.

Glancing over my shoulder at the open door, I sighed. “I know the Whitecoats mean well... but if she stays with them, I’m not sure what will happen.”

I was thinking of Rhapsody, the Whitecoat that had threatened me. With Willow gone, he might act against me. He could use Shade against me. She was safest with Viola. “So when it’s safe, I want you to get her to safety. Take any pony that wants to go, but...”

Viola nodded, standing and approaching me. She put a weathered hoof on my shoulder, looking me in the eyes. “Ripple, I’m a guardspony. Thats what I do. She’s in safe hooves... you just go do what you do.”

Then she pushed me with towards the door. “Now go. I’ll talk to Vigil about getting the ponies home, you just go kill everypony that needs it.”

I had to smile, which hurt my face. “Heh... yeah, I plan on it.”

At her pushing, I gave in and trotted to the door. Right before I passed through, I looked back at her. “If I don’t make it...”

She nodded. “I know. Come back, though. You owe that to her.”

I nodded, and went through the door. The others were waiting for me.


Out in the open, it was cold and wet. The rain had stopped, and a low fog had swept into the forest. It was darker than I’d have liked, but we had to get to Maremack as soon as possible.

Ash led the way, guiding us to the road that was supposed to lead up the mountain. I soon realized that we were already walking on a roadway, but two hundred years of wear and the death of the forest had covered it with all manner of debris.

Fluster and Ivory were bringing up the rear, with Fern scampering around their hooves. The young wolf was clearly enjoying being able to be in a forest again, free from the pouches he had spent the last few weeks stuck in.

The armor that they’d scrounged up for me was rough. It itched where I could feel, and rubbed in the wrong places. I didn’t know where they found it, but I was pretty sure that it was made for a pegasus of all things. One notably smaller than me, at that. The straps were as loose as they could get, and still the plates were tight on my frame. I wasn’t putting much stock in this second-hoof gear, but at least I had my leg armor. Fluster had cleaned it and made some minor repairs. I had more confidence in that assemblage of straps and jagged metal that I did in what I wore on my body.

The girls both looked to be in good spirits, despite knowing what we were heading to. I knew very little about Maremack. The one definitive description I had ever gotten on it was that it was a “death trap”. The only creature I knew that had even been near the base was Ash, and he’d only been to an outpost near the mountaintop base.

“Ash... what are we really walking into here?” I had picked up my speed to come up next to the griffin, who was walking with Sight clutched in his clawed grip. He was focused ahead, searching for threats in the thick fog.

Shrugging, he hefted the weapon up onto one shoulder, slapping his claws over the stock to keep it stable. “I really don’t know, Kick. I’ve heard everything from laser death walls to ghosts. That’s the problem with anything above the clouds, especially if it’s old military.” Scratching his brow absent-mindedly, he shrugged again. “At least there won’t be any ‘Clavers.”

Again, mentioning the Enclave. I was glad that they hadn’t shown up to make my life harder, and that it was very unlikely that they would make the trip to Hornsmith specifically to do so. I really didn’t need more enemies.

As we walked along, a thought occurred to me. “...and whatever Hate has up there.”

The griffin nodded. “Yeah. So it could be anything.”

“So...we have no plan. No idea what we’ll be facing. And the pony we’re after knows we’re coming.”


“Well, at least we’re consistent.”

Consistently fucking up.


Ash had heard it first. A fairly rhythmic thumping sound. It wasn’t too loud, but it definitely wasn’t just another sound of the forest. As it got louder, the four of us began moving more carefully. We wanted to see whatever it was before it saw us.

Ducking underneath a tangle of vines and brambles, I found the road.

I also found the source of the noise.

I scrambled back under the growth, hoping that the robot hadn’t seen me. One of the bots that the Rangers had used to attack Neighwhere was leisurely strolling up the road, flanked by at least seven Rangers. They were headed to Maremack, same as we were.

“Rip, what...” Ivory started asking me before Ash clamped her mouth shut with a hand. He held a single talon to the end of his beak, shushing her.

I mouthed “Rangers” at her, and she nodded grimly. Glancing at Ash, I tapped seven times at the ground. He nodded, and slowly ejected the magazine from the hefty rifle. He began replacing the normal rounds with armor piercing, but he only had five. We couldn’t take the Rangers on as we were... especially not with the giant death machine lumbering over them.

We all knew as much, and began retreating from the road. We’d have to stick to the woods for the entire trip... risking a fight with the Rangers was just too much of a hazard. We didn’t have the firepower to take them on, and I doubted we’d be fully prepared for Hate after a fight with the heavily armored ponies. We’d probably die.

Cheating fucks. Takes a coward to hide behind that much armor.

Two Kick was back. The med-x wasn’t doing much of anything for me at that point. With Shade back with the Whitecloaks, I just had to do my best to ignore him. Thankfully, he wasn’t trying to take over. It must take a lot of willpower to do that; I was sure he’d be trying again at the worst possible moment.

Once we had pulled back, far enough away from the road, we continued our trek up the mountain. The sound of the robot continued as we walked. If it got to Maremack at the same time as us... then maybe we could use it as a distraction. As far as I could tell, the robot was made to break into reinforced areas. It was the perfect tool for taking on a heavily defended airbase.

We stayed silent as we slipped through the woods. It was too much of a risk to alert the Rangers to our presence.

All we had to do was make sure that we didn’t stray too close to the road.

The fog was constant and thick, and I found that I had to start relying on the display from my PipBuck that floated in my vision. I’d somehow trained myself to just never notice the little marker at the bottom of my sight, which was probably a bad thing. The EFS could tell me where enemies were, and maybe would have stopped me from being so easy to get the drop on.

Right now it was showing the way to Maremack. Or... the direction at least. I didn’t have a set location. As long as I kept all those little red dots on our left, we’d be fine.

Then it occurred to me. If I had Eyes Forward Sparkle... did the Rangers have it as well?

As the thought drifted through my mind, we wandered into a clearing in the trees. I paused at the edge, looking up through the break in the trees to see if I could catch a glimpse of our destination. Seeing nothing but fog, I shook my head and sighed, dropping my gaze nearer to the ground.

The tree next to my head was ripped in two, peppering my side with splinters. If I hadn’t ducked, my head would have been turned into blood mist. Across the clearing, a Steel Ranger was cycling the next round into the weapon strapped to his armor. It was more of a cannon than a rifle, and the shot had just torn a ragged hole through the wounded forest. How none of us had seen him, I had no idea. I should have been paying attention to the EFS, instead of just keeping the red on the left.

“Fuck!” Ash was pulling himself off of the ground, a shard of wood sticking from his shoulder. He was looking around for Sight, and I saw that it was laying next to my hoof. Kicking it into the air with a shout to get his attention, I drew Broken for all that it would be worth. He snatched the rifle from the air and whipped around to aim it towards the Ranger.

He’d already put armor piercing rounds into the weapon, and the bullet tore easily into the Ranger’s armored helmet, dead center between the lifeless glass eyes. He’d finished cycling the next shot, but as the contents of the pony’s skull followed the bullet through the ragged hole in the back of his helmet, he was far too dead to shoot at us.

The Ranger dropped to his knees, dead, and the weapon discharged into the ground. It blew a crater into the moist dirt, spraying mud and debris everywhere. As he fell to the side, an augmented shout echoed through the forest.

“Hostiles engaged. Creme Fraiche is down!” It was a voice I recognized, and Ash’s growl said that he recognized it as well. Notches.

“Open fire!”

The four of us turned as one and began galloping hard. Slashes of energy tore through the trees, accompanied by the streams of lead from at least two miniguns. Long dead trees blew into shreds, pelting us with even more splinters and filling the air with smoke.

Amazingly, we didn’t take even a glancing hit. Sliding to a halt behind a large rock sitting next to a long dried creek, we took cover from the barrage.

“How!?” Fluster managed to choke out, coughing from the smoke.

I glanced down at my PipBuck, hating that I hadn’t thought of it. “They must have a way of seeing us... you know, without seeing us.”

“That was Notches.” Ash had an almost maniac grin on his face as he fumbled around in one of his pouches. He pulled out a bullet, and ran it through his fingers. “I’ve been saving this for him.”

He wasn’t even paying attention to us. I peered at the bullet the griffin was spinning, and he stoped it. It said ‘Notches’ on the side, in small square lettering. Fucking unbelievable. I thought that sort of thing was for bad stories.

So fucking cheesy.

Ivory set her minigun spinning, the barrels whirring rapidly. Like Ash, she had loaded armor piercing ammunition into her weapon. Unlike Ash, she had very few of the only rounds useful against Rangers. 5mm armor piercing wasn’t terribly common in the Wasteland.

I was shit out of luck when it came to ranged combat with the heavily armored ponies, and Fluster needed to be on top of them to put her scalpel to use.

“Ash, how many are there?” He looked at me sharply as I spoke at him, but then his features softened and he pocketed the bullet. Tilting his head towards the sky, he began visibly concentrating. After a few seconds, the shots stopped smacking off of the other side of the rock, and silence descended across the foggy forest.

Putting up a single claw for silence, he tilted his head to the side so that one ear was pointed at the sky. “Four. There are four. Two with miniguns, one that hasn’t fired, and I’m guessing Notches with the lasers.”

Hefting Sight to the Blind, he popped out the magazine to check how many shots he had left. He’d used one, and had four remaining in the mag. I didn’t know how many he was carrying in his pouches, but every shot had to count.

Reaching up with his free hand, he dug in with his talons and lifted himself up the rock. He risked a peek over the top, and ducked back rapidly as a rapid burst of red laser shaved off the top edges of both the rock and his feathers.

“They’re right there!” He hissed through a clenched beak, looking at the three of us. Jerking his head towards the direction that would lead us up the mountain, he spoke softly. “I’m gonna head the other way. Provide a distraction. You three run... just wait until I’ve made my first shot.”

“No, you’ll get torn apart!” Ivory snapped at the griffin.

He shrugged. “I’m the fastest one here. I can fly... why not me?”

Ivory closed her mouth, looking for an argument against what he had said. I had to agree with him... he did have the best chance of drawing them off.

I looked at Ivory and Fluster, nodding. “Okay... get ready to run.”

There was a soft thump from the other side of the rock, and an object came arcing over the rock. I hated that I could identify a grenade by the weight as it bounced off of my side, but I at least knew how to react.

“Run!” I pushed the girls with my magic, getting them a head start, and started after them. We had maybe a second before the explosive went off. From the other direction, I heard the thunderous boom of Sight firing, and an mechanically augmented scream from beyond the rock.

When the grenade went off, I was halfway through throwing myself so that a tree was between my hide and the blast. The girls had the tree, and my body protecting them. It blew the old wooden relic of a once healthy forest in half. It began falling, and I had splinters in my ass again, but we kept running.

I heard Ash fire again, this time from above, and knew that he must have taken flight. Fluster was leading the way, ducking under dead branches and easily maneuvering through small gaps between trees. Ivory was hampered by the heavy weapon she was carrying, but managed to keep pace with the smaller mare.

I had to admit that the blast had knocked me off balance. I was smashing through branches, and picking up even more slashes across my face, neck, and chest as I ran. I held Broken tight against my side with my magic, ready to put a load of buckshot into a Ranger’s visor. It might not kill him, but taking point-blank buckshot to the face had to at least be an inconvenience.

I don’t know how he caught up to us, but without thinking I slid to dodge the power hooves that came launching out of a bush, one of them clipping my shredded ear as I dropped to my belly. Springing up, I gave a shout of alarm to the girls, so that we didn’t get any more separated.

This was the first Ranger I’d seen without heavy weapons on his sides, but he was by no means unarmed. The four power hooves took my focus, as he spun to try and back-hoof me with one of them. He was surprisingly quick for a Ranger, and I found myself on the defensive.

“Rip! Get away from him, I don’t have a shot!” Ivory’s voice drifted into my concentration as the pony tried apple-bucking my face and then did a hop backwards to close the distance for a second attempt. I was backing away from him, ducking most of his kicks and deflecting the rest with Broken. I was relying on the weapon's seemingly indestructible nature, but with each impact of the hoof weapons I felt my magic losing potency.

I heard a shriek of rage coming from the girls, and spared a quick glance. A second Ranger was charging them. Ivory, now sporting a long slash along her neck from a bullet, was bracing to fire at the attacker.

In the instant I looked away, the Ranger took advantage. Pressing his attack, he sent a full power kick into Broken. He drove the weapon into my side, and threw me against a tree with the force of the blow. I hit the ground hard, and had to roll underneath him to avoid him stomping down on me.

When I was underneath him, I kicked up as hard as I could into his armored belly, hoping that the ballistic hooves would hurt him, if even a little. The blasts were powerful enough to throw him off of me, a deeply dented and scored metal plate the reward for my attack.

He landed roughly, but sprang quickly back to the attack. I rolled and jumped to my hooves in time to duck. The powerhoof whistled past my head and hit a tree, blowing a hole in the bark. I knew that if I took any of these hits, I’d be in no shape to keep going up the mountain.

I slammed Broken into the side of his helmet as hard as I could, and he stumbled off balance. Seeing my chance, I did a completely graceless half-backflip and kicked him in the neck, between his shoulder and helmet.

After Massacre, I knew how much damage a hit there could do, and I was really hoping that it would finish off the stubborn pony. I slammed into the ground, cutting my train of thought off, and got up quickly.

The Ranger was stumbling back to his hooves, wobbling. I’d done some damage, and there was now a gaping hole in the Ranger’s armor. I could see his neck, which was bleeding heavily, but wasn’t too seriously injured. I had a remedy for that.

Rushing him, I plowed him back over onto the ground with my front hooves. I jammed the barrel of Broken into the gap in his armor, aimed it up towards where his head was, and pulled the trigger.

The shot tore into his throat and neck, spraying me with blood. I worked the lever, which dug the barrel even deeper into the hole, and pulled the trigger again, just to make sure. His glass visor blew out in a spray of glass and pony bits. I pulled the weapon out dripping with gore, and levered another shell into the chamber. The Ranger was very dead, and I had other issues to handle.

I ran towards where I’d last seen Ivory and Fluster, following the shredded remains of trees. I didn’t see any bodies, but the forest had not fared well in the face of aggressive heavy weapons users. I couldn’t hear firing anymore either... silence had dropped back into the forest.

I was starting to get worried, until I rounded a large dead oak and found myself face to face with another Ranger.

“Shit!” I yelled in surprise, and pulled Broken up as fast as I could. I fired directly into the Ranger’s face, and the armored pony rocked back on stiff rear legs before falling to the side. As he hit, I understood. The shredded remains of a rifle were there, perforated and broken. His side was blown open in some places, as if the weapon had exploded. He’d been dead when I’d found him... I guess that his armor had locked up and he’d just been left standing there.

I aimed Broken quickly as I heard another sound, but lowered the barrel as I saw the robed figure of Fluster peeking at me from over a fallen log. She waved me over frantically, and I hurried. As I hopped over the log, I almost landed on Ivory, who was laying there while Fluster was fussing with several grenades.

“Have you seen Ash? Is he okay?” Ivory was busy guessing how many shots she had left. The bundle of ammunition before her was all held together in one long belt, and it trailed up to Sweeps’ minigun. She didn’t have nearly enough to deal with the Rangers. I knew that one of her saddlebags was bulging with standard 5 mm, but the armor piercing was a slender hope by comparison. That stuff was just too hard to come by out here.

I shook my head, glancing up over the log. The fog was moving in, thicker than before, and I was slowly losing sight of the dead Ranger. The forest seemed almost peaceful, which was making me worry as well.

Then, I heard a loud shot echo through the woods. Ash was still fighting. He’d catch up, it was just up to us to put distance between us and him.

Using my magic, I picked up the pile of ammunition and helped Ivory put it back in the bag she was using to feed the minigun. “Come on, we gotta go. Ash will catch up... he can fly, after all.”

Ivory closed the flap once the ammo belt was back into the pouch, then lifted her head to glance back the way we’d come. She was looking for any hint of the griffin in the fog. I knew she was, because I was doing the same thing. Fluster was already starting further up the mountain, clearing her throat as she got a short distance from us.

Ivory and I both started at the sudden noise, and looked at the hooded mare. Jerking her head in the direction she was heading, she whispered at us. “Come on. He’s a big griffin.”

Her voice rang loudly, even though she was speaking softly. Taking a step, I stepped on a branch that echoed like a gunshot. It was like the fog was amplifying any sound... or maybe I was just being paranoid about being followed.

I thought to check my EFS, and forced myself to look for the red markers that would show any Rangers bearing down on us with explosive death. I saw markers for Fluster, Ivory, and what I could only assume was Fern... but nothing else.

We were alone.

I let out a sigh, one simultaneously of relief and distress. No Rangers meant we weren’t in immediate danger, but no Ash meant that we had no idea what had happened to the griffin.

Ivory turned after Fluster, and after a few moments of waiting and hoping, I did as well.


The incline up the mountain had been getting steeper. The fog had gotten so thick that I was thinking that we were actually in the clouds. It was getting colder, and the trees were beginning to look... off. Warped in places, they looked mutated.

Then the clicking started.

I’d heard my PipBuck’s radiation reader before. It went off anytime that it rained, but the levels were always fairly low. As we went up the mountain, however, the levels were slowly climbing.

When I pointed it out to the girls, I found that Fluster was ready with the little chewable tablets that would help us brave the radiation. Radiation was a constant in Hornsmith, but it just never seemed to hit dangerous levels. Up here though, I was beginning to feel my skin tingling. Fluster rubbed at her neck with the back of a fetlock, and I knew that she was feeling it as well.

We continued our blind journey up the mountain, listening to the ticking get steadily faster.


The trees just stopped being, and we stumbled out of them into a vast openness. The fog was also gone. The clouds were too.

I just froze, staring up. Ivory and Fluster walked forward a ways, before also glancing up. Fluster let out a little shriek and backed into the tree cover rapidly. Ivory just sat down, her mouth hanging open.

We could see the stars. The sun had gone down while we’d been climbing, but the stars above were bright and shiny. I was so used to the constant cloud ceiling and the rain... I sat down next to Ivory and just stared up.

The moon was beautiful. I knew that I’d heard stories as a foal of Princess Luna’s beauty, and I could only imagine that it matched the glowing celestial body I couldn’t take my eyes off of.

I heard a throat clear, and glanced down. Fluster was now standing between us, her eyes firmly rooted on the ground. Her hood was drawn so far down that I think the only way I could have seen her face was to be laying underneath her.

“Uh... we should get out of the open. That’s a big wall, and we don’t know what kind of defenses Maremack has.” Her voice was low, even quieter than when she was whispering. Like she was trying to hide from the sky.

It was really hard to bring myself to look at the wall, with the sky and all of its complicated beauty as overpowering as it was, but eventually I forced myself to look down.

First the sky, and then Maremack. It was a night for firsts.

The wall looked like it had been carved out of the mountain itself, jutting straight up out of the bare rock that stood defiant above the trees. Lining the top were heavy barreled weapons pointed into the sky. They must have been there to defend the base from zebra attack, even this far from where the ancient front lines had been.

Actually... I looked around. I had thought that Maremack had been bombed. What I knew of Balefire wasn’t much, just that it just destroyed anything it touched. Maremack looked completely intact. The radiation supported the balefire theory, but the fact that the whole base looked like it had just been built disproved it.

“How do we get in?” Fluster whispered, still hiding from the sky, this time tucked in under Ivory’s minigun.

The wall presented an issue. It was a wall. A big wall, and it looked like it was very good at its job.

I shrugged. “We go around until we find a way in.” Glancing to the left, and then to the right, my shoulders slumped. The wall stretched off into the distance in either direction, and I knew that to the left was the road. The Rangers would be coming up that way... but that was also where the door probably was.

If we went right, me might walk around the entire thing and come to the door anyways.

I nodded to the left. “We go left. We stay quiet, and we stay down.”

Ivory nodded absently, still staring up. Under her breath, she muttered, “I could paint this for days.”

I hissed at her. I understood her fascination, I really did, but we had to move. “Ivory, come on.”

Almost painfully, she tore her eyes from the open canvas of the heavens. Glancing at me, an almost sad look on her face, she nodded more forcefully. “...Right. Yeah, okay.”

We slowly began to work our way left along the wall, trusting the cover of night and the open area to protect us. I half expected lasers or something to shoot down at us, but as we walked the wall it just kept on standing there. The radiation had evened out, and was staying at an uncomfortable level.

“How much Radaway to we have?” Fluster was still huddled underneath the bulky weapon, but she had all of our meds. Her eyes connected with mine for a second, and I was taken back by how scared she actually looked. I was beginning to think that she was afraid of big spaces, which made a lot of sense for a pegasus that chose to live in tunnels.

She took mental stock quickly and whispered up at me, “Six doses.”

I nodded. Even with Ash not around, that wasn’t enough. If we didn’t get out of this radiation quickly, we were going to have a problem.

I began trotting faster. We had to find a way inside, and a way inside that wasn’t covered with Rangers. If we could beat them to the main gate, wherever that was, then maybe we could get in before they did.

As we came around the curve of the wall, I spotted something further ahead. I broke into a slow gallop, closing the distance quickly, and came to what I had seen. There was a hole in the wall. It was a big hole.

An entire section of the wall had been plowed into by some sort of flying machine, which lay in the rubble like a broken dragon. As I picked my way towards it through the field of rubble that had once been the wall, my hoof kicked something on the ground.

Glancing down, I saw a strange sight. I was pretty sure that it had been a pegasus once, encased in threatening black armor. It was long dead, just a skeleton, but the armor and sophistication of the weaponry attached to its sides gave me pause. It was like a sleek, flying Steel Ranger, and I knew I never wanted to fight one. I wasn’t a fan of any enemy that could fly.

I turned back, looking along the wall to where I saw Ivory was approaching cautiously, her minigun’s barrels spinning in anticipation. Fluster was hanging back, pressed up against the wall to make herself look even smaller. I waved the two of them over with a hoof, and they picked up their speed.

Fluster’s eyes went wide as she rounded the bend, taking a few tentative steps towards the downed craft. “That’s a Raptor... I haven’t seen one since...” She went quiet, just staring at the crashed craft. Her eye darted to where several more winged skeletons in black armor were dashed upon the ground.

“Who are they?” Ivory was nudging one of the corpses with a hoof, as though she expected it to stand up.

“They’re Enclave. Pegasi... like me...” She turned away from the corpses, muttering low but loud enough that I heard. “Not since I was a filly...”

“Well, it looks like they’ve been here since you were a filly. I don’t think we have to worry about any more showing up.” I tried to sound warm. Fluster was on edge, we all were, and I really didn’t want her to freak out... I was barely holding on myself, and I hoped I seemed more focused than I felt.

Crazy little shit... I like her sister though. Wish I’d met her in better times, she doesn’t seem shy at all. Probably a crazy fuck, too.

Shut the fuck up, Two Kick.

Ivory approached Fluster and helped the smaller mare get over the wreckage and bodies. She was twitching a little as she walked, making small whimpering noises. I realized that the noises were coming from Fern, who was once again hidden somewhere in the pegasus’ gear.

I followed her, making my way through the smashed wall and under one of the Raptor’s shattered wings. Once past, I found myself in Maremack proper.

Immediately, I could feel a small tingle at the back of my mind, and a hint of that terrible whiteness at the edge of my vision. Two Kick immediately began growling and muttering threats to me if I didn’t turn around and walk away. I ignored him.

I could feel Pandemonium. He was near.

Even if it weren’t for the mental clues, I had the feeling that something magically substantial had been here for some time. The inside of the base was completely overgrown with plants, very similar to how the regional headquarters had been. It was the same type of plant, a vine that was covering most of the surfaces.

I knew those vines so much more intimately than I wanted, and my ribs hurt from the memory. I groaned and recoiled slightly as the memory surged back, vivid and painful.

The base appeared to be shaped like a big hoop, wrapped around the peak of the mountain that kept going up and disappeared into another layer of clouds that clung to its top like a big hat. In either direction ran assorted buildings and warehouses, presumably wrapping around the entirety of the mountain in a continuous loop. A continuous loop of shadows, vines, and mystery.

“Rip? You okay?” Ivory’s face suddenly dominated my vision, and I took a step back. I hadn’t even met her when I’d been to the headquarters; she had no idea of what had happened there. The vines killing everyone, and the memory orb I had used.

I just nodded. “Uh... yeah, I’m fine...” I looked around, and realized that the vines weren’t as thick as I’d first thought. It wasn’t quite as thick as where the Greenhoof Cube had been. Maybe it was just natural...

I didn’t know what was happening, but the world just seemed off. One second, everything was covered with vines, and the next the base was bare and windswept. It slowly faded from one to the other, and I had to rub my eyes.

Glancing at the girls, I noticed that they didn’t seem surprised or astonished. Fluster still looked terrified, but not because of what I was seeing.

I see it too. So why the fuck aren’t we leaving?

I shook my head, trying to clear the voice and the images, but neither went away. I hadn’t really expected them to, but there was no harm in trying. The vines and the light were all pulling in one direction... and I just knew that my goal was at the source.

I nodded my head towards it. “This way. Let’s hurry.”

I began trotting rapidly, stepping over the vines that I was now sure weren’t actually there as I watched Ivory pass clean through a large cluster unhindered. My mind was just finally breaking down, or I was being influenced by Pandemonium, or Two Kick was messing with me, or I was having some new withdrawal symptom, or... there were a lot of ors. I wasn’t sure which one, but it didn’t matter.

I had a job to do.

The buildings, when I could see them unhindered, were definitely built for military use. I was reminded of the Orchard, but the streets were wider. Scattered around were several large vehicles that looked like they were made to move... well, I couldn’t really guess what they were made to move, but it was something sizable.

What really surprised me was that the lights were on. This place had been abandoned, as far as I knew, for two centuries. Somepony had left the lights on, or Hate had figured out how to turn them back on. It made our way through the base much easier than it would have been in the dark, but I was very aware that with the lights on we couldn’t hide very well.

I kept seeing thing, shapes and forms down alleys. They were mixed in with the vines that weren’t there, and I just couldn’t escape the deepening sense of paranoia I was getting. Fluster and Ivory were getting it as well. They would glance at some movements, and then completely ignore others. This place was really messing with my head.

After we had walked for a short distance, the sheer size of Maremack surprising me, Ivory fell in step with me. Fluster was still under the weapon, which basically sandwiched the smaller pegasus between us.

“Why this way? Shouldn’t we be getting inside?” She was nervously looking over her shoulder, probably trying to figure out if a shadow was moving or not. That’s what I was doing, at least.

Turning my head to her, I nodded. “Yeah, we should, but I’m pretty sure what we’re looking for is over this way.” I didn’t know for sure, I was still just following the hallucinations. They were definitely coming from that direction.

She was about to respond, when I saw something that made me give a whispered, triumphant whoop. A large clear area, ringed with official looking buildings, was up ahead. It would get us out of the dark, paranoia inducing street we’d been following since coming through the hole in the wall.

Once I got a full view, I saw the massive gates along the monolithic wall. The Rangers hadn’t reached the top yet, or I’m sure that the courtyard would have been filled with armored ponies and their stupid giant robots.

There was nothing. A few pools of light from overhead lamps illuminated the emblem that took up most of the ground. It was a combination of three butterflies over an apple with wings along the sides. The wings were new, but I knew the butterfly and the apple. This was a joint project between the Ministries of Technology and Peace. The wings probably denoted the airbase part.

We trotted into the circle, sticking to the edge and out of the spotlights. The vines were everywhere. I stepped over one, even though I knew they weren’t real, and looked around. Each building looked the same. Official, but more like office and administration than research.

If I was a researcher two hundred years ago, where would I keep a god that I’d cut into pieces? Knowing the rest of Hornsmith, probably underground, beneath a completely separate building. That’s how it had been so far, and I doubted that it would change now.

The front gate shook suddenly, as a tremendous force slammed into it. The three of us froze, and looked across the wide empty area.

A second hit and the doors began buckling. Red dots began popping up in the edge of my vision, showing me that there were at least a dozen hostiles on the other side. A dozen Rangers, and at least one of the robots. Fuck. I’d been hoping we’d made better time than them; put more of a gap between us.

The third hit knocked the gate open just enough that I could see the robot on the other side as it reared back for another hit.

“Run.” I spoke with an urgency that the girls picked up on immediately, and we started running. We had to get a few buildings between us and the robot, though I knew that wouldn’t stop it. One had walked through Neighwhere like it was a field with a few stumps in it.

I didn’t know where we were going to run to, and I was sorely missing Ash’s sense of direction right about then. I really wanted to know if the griffin was still even alive. As far as I could tell, he wasn’t on the other side of the fence. Just red contacts on the EFS, nothing friendly.

We were just out of sight down a narrow gap between two buildings when the front gate burst inwards. The robot slammed both doors off of their hinges, crushing them into the ground with enough force to crack the two hundred year old decoration.

They knew exactly where we were as they entered, a flash of murderous green streaming from the lead robot. The shot was a little off, tearing along the wall above my head and raining debris down on us.

Something hit me from the side right then, driving me behind the building. For a brief, happy second, I thought that it was Ash arrived to save the day. The face, if I could call it that, that greeted me was beyond my worst nightmares.

The mouth was way too big, running back to about halfway down the pony’s neck and brimming with razor sharp teeth. Three bloodshot eyes, crusted and dripping, stared down at me from one side of its head. A tentacle jutting from where its tail should have been was busy wrapping itself around my midsection, needle like barbs digging into me as it did so.

As it lunged to take a bite out of me, I snapped out of the shock I had fallen into. Its mouth opened impossibly wide, wide enough to decapitate me with its wicked and multiple layered teeth. It lunged forward, holding me down with the tentacle. I slammed Broken forward faster than I thought possible, jamming it into the thing's maw. Wedged open, the abomination gurgled and coughed vile smelling spittle at me.

With a pull of the trigger, Broken tore the things upper jaw and face clean off in a spray of blood and bone. Now that it was missing most of its skull and those horrible eyes, it collapsed onto me. I fought to get its dead weight off of me and ripped the barbed tentacle from around, and thats when I heard the noise.

It wasn’t just me that had been attacked, Ivory and Fluster had also been jumped. Whatever these things were, they weren’t a hallucination. Ivory’s minigun pulped the chest of one that was backing the two of them into a corner, its face a mass of whipping, tooth studded tentacles. It practically turned inside out as the minigun fired a burst directly into it, and fell over twitching. Ivory screamed at it, and Fluster’s eye was impossibly wide and bright beneath her hood.

The noise continued, and I realized that it was coming from the courtyard. I glanced over, and saw a swarm of the pony things streaming out of alleys and windows. They were attacking the rangers. If this was a nest of some kind, then knocking down the door had been like poking a beehive with a really big stick.

I was about to turn and run when I saw a pony I was looking for. His armor was more decorative than the others, and he was walking behind the rest of them barking orders as they fired heavy ordinance into the onslaught of monsters.

Broken Arrow. He was on my list.

The Ranger next to him was impaled on the end of a horn jutting from a monster pony’s face, twice the length of its body and almost impossibly thin. The Ranger twitched, firing a grenade from a launcher in a high arc that hit the building next to me somewhere in the second floor. The Ranger died, and the creature pulled the horn out, flexing it like a whip as it did so. Broken Arrow aimed the huge barreled weapon I’d seen him with in Orchard and fired. It was a shotgun or something, as the blast shredded the creature back to its skeleton in some places and threw it skidding across the courtyard in a spray of blood.

“Rip! Let’s go! Now, please!” Ivory yelled in my ear, and when I didn’t turn she bit down hard and dragged me. Around the pain, I was just glad that she hadn’t bit into my shredded ear. I couldn’t help but follow though, and as soon as I started moving under my own power she let go.

We ran. I put another shell into Broken, hoping that I wouldn’t need to use it, but glad that whatever these things were they weren’t terribly hard to kill. I had to stop thinking as I ran into Ivory’s armored rear, coming to a dead stop. She was backing up, and I saw why. At the end of the alley we were retreating down there were at least six more of the things, slinking towards us in the darkness. They were all dark colors, and if she hadn’t seen them we would have run straight into their midst.

“Here. Here!” Fluster’s voice came from behind us, and we turned to see that she was holding a door open into one of the buildings we were alongside. Glancing the way we had just come, I saw several more of the creatures approaching us slowly. Ivory started towards the open door first, and I was close behind her. I slammed it shut behind me, only for it to be dented inwards by an impact from outside. They’d closed the gap a lot faster than I’d thought possible, and with a second impact I realized that they’d be inside in moments.

We ran.

Fluster led the way, running through the dark building as fast as her shorter legs could carry her. It was dark in there, occasionally lit up by gunfire from the windows outside. Every few seconds, a heavy thud would shake the building as the robot slammed its giant metal hoof down on one of the creatures.

The inside of the building was filthy. Litter and animal leavings were everywhere, and I knew where the creatures lived. I spotted several skeletons, deformed and still wet with blood, which told me what I needed to know about what the things ate, and where they lived. It had been clean outside, but inside was more of the bloodsoaked hellhole I had been expecting to encounter in Maremack.

Fluster, somehow, managed to find a staircase down. Her affinity for the underground was amazing, and she was already heading down the stairs as Ivory and I caught up. We looked down into the gloom. Ivory wondered aloud, looking at the claw marks covering the stairs themselves and the walls coming up. “Are... you sure we want to go down there?”

Fluster nodded her head. I agreed with her before she could explain. “She has the right idea.” The Projects with Pandemonium had all been underground. Hornsmith construction was fond of tunnels. The hallucinations were still fading in, vines flowing on the stairs and along the walls. Down was where we wanted to be. “Hate will be underground. I know he will.”

Ivory looked at me for a few seconds, but a slithering sound from the darkness behind us got her moving. “Okay, but if you get me killed I’m haunting you. Haunting you so hard.”

We went down the stairs, into the home of monsters.


If there was one comfort in the hell we had walked into, it was that the inhabitants appeared content with being outside. The tunnels were abandoned. Signs of the creatures were everywhere: smeared on the walls, piled in the corners, clawed into the floors. I even spotted what looked a lot like a clutch of eggs, but I wasn’t curious enough to inspect the horrific looking bundle of lumps.

Despite all of that, there was no sign that any of the creatures were still around. Luckily, there was a thick metal door at the bottom of the stairs. It was badly rusted, but the hinges were in good enough order that I got it shut with a small effort on my part. Slamming it closed, I twisted the handle with my magic and smiled as metal bars in the door slid into the floor and ceiling. Then, I turned and made my way past the two mares who were giving me concerned looks.

I had taken the lead again, delving further and further into the tunnels beneath Maremack. I was following the vines still, even though they weren’t real. I could very well have been walking into death, but something about Pandemonium’s deal drove me forward.

The vines knew where he was. They knew where Hate was.

You’re fucking insane, you know that? Look at where you are. Go back to your mare, spend some time with her; I’ll give you that if you turn around. You’re going to get us killed. Get me killed. Turn around you stupid fuck! TURN AROUND!

I pressed on, stepping over a rotting monstrosity, taking care to avoid the razor sharp mandibles where its mouth should have been.

As we hurried through the dark tunnels, we began hearing sounds behind us. Clawing, scraping, grunting. They were getting close. We started running, full out, and the noise increased. We were now being hunted noisily and actively, the creatures still out of sight but tearing towards us in the darkness.

Then, the tunnel ended. The scant lights in the underground continued, but I could tell that we were now in a much larger room. A room, that as far as I could see, had only one exit. A massive metal door, like a safe.

Or a Stable.

“Huh...” Ivory was staring up at the metal door, as confused as I was. Even Fluster was stepping forward, her eye wide in fascination instead of terror.

A clicking hiss behind us drew my attention, and I spun around. The door was now brimming with dark furred, heavily deformed not-ponies. They were slipping into the room, spreading out to try and surround us. We were backed into a corner.

Ivory’s weapon began spinning up to speed as she gripped the yoke in her teeth. I aimed Broken, mentally keeping track of my ammo. Five in Broken. Four kicks. Nine shots total, then I’d have to reload, or just start kicking without the ballistic help.

A quick glance at Fluster showed that the small mare was crouched low, the scalpel she’d taken from Doc Care gripped in her teeth. If it could kill a Ranger, I had no doubt it could kill one of the wretches facing us, but I couldn’t help but worry about the range on it.

I counted about two dozen. Hissing, snarling, gurgling, the beasts were squaring off against us. I saw tentacles, stingers, claws, teeth, and a whole assortment of other parts that had no right being on a pony. Each one of them was too horrific to exist, but they were slowly stalking forward all the same.

“Come on, you monsters...” Ivory’s voice was low, almost inaudible over the whine of her weapon, but filled with menace. She opened fire a split second later.

The shots tore into the creatures as they burst into action, the armor piercing bullets she still had loaded punching clean through the creatures as she swept the weapon left. We didn’t have very much armor piercing ammunition, but she didn’t exactly have time to switch it out for something more appropriate.

Bullets were still bullets, and several of the creatures died as they were struck in what resembled faces, their throats torn out, torsos blown through. She let out a frantic laugh as she saw them die, emboldened by the sight.

I had my own problems, as half of the room of nightmares rushed me.

I shot the first in the eye, blowing the side of its head off along with half of the spikes that covered it like a screaming cactus. It hit the ground, keeping up its momentum and sliding. A second beast jumped it and closed the distance between us in the blink of an eye.

I’d only just levered a new shell in, and didn’t have time to aim, so I just rammed it as hard as I could into the side of the things face. It had a circular mouth, like a leech, but the teeth inside looked like they could shred a pony to bone in seconds. The mouth missed my face by inches as I changed its direction, slamming it into the ground next to me.

It hit, slid, and sprang back up. Spinning to face me, it met something that it couldn’t digest as the firing plate on my hoof guns hit it right in the nose. It’s razor lined maw blew out like a cake made of flesh and blood with fireworks in it. It wobbled lazily without the top of its head, but I was already busy with the next one.

I was too slow, and the pony things jaws clamped down on my front leg, hard. The razor on my raider armor cut into its mouth, but did little to deter it. It pulled, yanking me off of my hooves. Its neck was long, way too long, and muscled like a serpent. Its body was in the middle of the room, and it hauled me into the air with unnatural strength.

I kept my grip on Broken, though, and aimed at the long, sinewy neck as I dangled. Before I could squeeze off a shot, it whipped me up, and then slammed me into the ground. I hit like a sack of bricks, and my poor, frequently abused ribs groaned in protest. I tasted blood. As I coughed, it yanked me back into the air for another hit, sending my blood spraying from my mouth as I went.

I could still hear Ivory firing, filling the entryway with lead, which told me that she was still okay at least. I didn’t have time to check, on the upswing of the creature’s next attempt to break me on the hard ground. I took my chance then, aiming quickly and snapping off a shot.

The buckshot tore into the neck. Strong as it was, it didn’t hold up to the lead tearing through it and my weight. It tore, spraying blood as the muscles ripped and the long spine snapped. I slammed into the roof of the chamber, and then braced myself for the plummet back into the mob of creatures.

I bounced off of the back of one, dozens of tiny barbs catching in my neck and ill-fitting armor and tearing me where they touched. Lucky for me, I was much bigger than the one I landed on, and I felt its spine and legs snap under my weight. I rolled off, bleeding heavily from the dozens of superficial cuts I’d gotten in my landing. I didn’t have time to pry the still clamped jaws off of my leg, as another creature leapt at me, screeching through its regular looking mouth. The dozen eyes set into its face glared death at me as it came.

Before it could get to me, it was ripped out of the air by a stream of bullets as Ivory turned her fire on it. I was sprayed with the creatures blood, and started looking for the next target. Heaps of them lay where they had been cut down by Ivory’s scything spray.

It hit the ground with a wet splat, splashing blood on me as it sprayed from the holes that had been punched into it. I was now soaked in blood, both my own and the stinking black filth that ran through the creatures. I stood, using Broken to pry the clamped jaws from my leg. Shreds of the creature remained behind, hanging from the metal, and several long teeth were puncturing the armor and sticking into my leg. I pulled them out, and the wounds began oozing blood into the already gore soaked fabric.

A whimper from behind me made me look for Fluster, and I found her in a heartbeat. She was huddled in the corner, beneath the corpse of one of the creatures. “Fluster! Ivory, help her.” The pale mare was standing with a hoof in the head of one of the abominations, having just stomped the life out of it. Blood ran freely from a series of long slashes on her face, and I saw what appeared to be teeth marks scoring the entire front of her armor.

Ivory spotted the cloaked mare quickly, and ignored her own condition to run to her friend. Her path took her through the pile of shells at her hooves, sending them skittering around the corpse filled room. I reloaded while I had a chance, turning back to the door where we had come from. I could see movement in the gloom, and pumped a shot into it. A inequine shriek of pain replied, and the movement faded back into the darkness. They were probably regrouping, so we had only a brief moment to catch our breaths.

Fluster was fine, but she had gutted the thing on top of her groin to throat with her scalpel. She scrambled to her hooves, frantically wiping at the gore that spilled out as Ivory lifted it off of her.

She whispered a “Thank you” at Ivory, which I could hear through the now complete silence that filled the room. She began bandaging Ivory’s face, while I stood vigil over the door. I was watching the darkness, unsure of what we could do. Back into the tunnels were the creatures, and up above I was sure the Rangers were still around.


It was all I could really think to say. Fluster had finished with Ivory, and was now fussing with my wounded but razor edged leg. I helped her, stripping the shredded garment from my leg as I undid the belts holding it in place. My leg underneath was pierced in a dozen places and bleeding heavily. It was a little hard to tell if all of the blood was from my leg or neck, but my leg was soaked. Splashes of black blood were mixing in as well.

“What the fuck are these?” Ivory was busy changing out what little armor piercing she had left for regular ammunition, in light of our current foes. Her barrels were aimed ever at the door, even as she struggled to place a different belt into the feed.

I replaced the spent shell in Broken, sighing. I’d really fucked us this time by running down here. The vines were pulsing. “I don’t know.”

Lights snapped on, giant flood lights built into the ceiling. One was cracked, flickering, and I spotted blood on it. It threw a red hue over everything, a making the room looked bathed in blood in flashes.

A voice flowed into the room from a speaker up on a wall. “Oh... I thought one of the armored interlopers had stumbled in, but look at whom we have here. Fascinating.”

I could picture him grinning as he continued. “How do you like my little pets? Hate asked for a defense system for Maremack, and who I was I to deny using the resources given to me. Do you know what you can do with the ability to create life? To manipulate time? Well... I know you do. You’ve seen the fruits of my labor firsthand, though it appears they aren’t as effective as I had hoped. Bravo, by the way. You did well, ever the perfect specimen.”

The slithering and clawing in the hall was getting louder. More and more creatures were waiting for us in the dark, not daring to come into the light. The vines in the room were growing in intensity, becoming more solid and real with each pulse.

“I do have to thank you. The remaining cubes make so much more possible. Hate can reshape the wasteland. Boundless things... there’s no other way to put it. Endless possibilities. The research they were doing here... I could spend a lifetime studying it. Perfecting it.”

Epiphany let out a long, thoughtful sigh. The speakers gave his every word a filthy, tinney quality. His normal buttery words were distorted to be as ugly as the mind behind them.

“For now, my friends, I invite you in. Do not fight, or I will have you torn apart. My children are at the door, and they follow my every whim with absolute dedication.”

The massive door clicked, and a tremor shook the room. The doorway was now filled with black shapes, teeth and tentacles wanting for our blood. As the Stable door began swinging open, I found that the light within was absolutely coated in vines that weren’t. As they faded out, I spotted two large turrets in the ceiling, already tracking us with lethal intent. The huge barrels had muzzles the size of my hoof, and I really doubted we had the room to get away.

We lingered, the girls looking at me for guidance. I took a step towards the open door, and the speakers gave a contented sigh from the deranged pony holding our lives in the balance.

“Welcome to Maremack, my friend.”

Author's Note:

Thanks to Kkat for writing Fallout Equstria, one of the best things I've ever read.
Thanks to Wirepony for editing.
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Sorry this one took so long.