• Published 25th Jan 2012
  • 10,566 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 3: Sweeps

Chapter 3: Sweeps

In a short period of time, I found that Shade had not spent all of her free time at my side while I had been under. She’d been asked by Traffic what she could do to help around the town and had divulged a connection with mechanical workings. I’d been shocked to find that I’d only payed off half of what I’d really owed with my trip to Relay #108. Shade had been busy the last few days, repairs visible on nearly everything with moving parts in the city.

The once useless hydraulics system attached to the gate now wheezed and creaked as it opened the main gate to allow the coming and goings of ponies. The shoddily-made irrigation system feeding the town’s ragged farm had been overhauled, pipes replaced and seals fixed. A large fixed gun of an odd design has been refitted and made functional, further securing the area immediately before the gate.

She smiled shyly as I grinned at her. “Shade, this is amazing. Who would have guessed you were so skilled at this?” Every moment I’d seen her since I’d woken she had been blushing and I began to question if she would ever stop. It warmed my heart that she was happy, even if I didn’t really understand what I’d done to get that reaction.

“Why did you have them fix me?”

Her eyes darted away from me and if possible, she blushed deeper. Stuttering, she tried to give me an excuse. I trotted over to her and lifted her chin, looking into her eyes. It was the first time I’d touched her without her having been unconscious or injured and my mane bristled slightly as I thought about that. “Why didn’t you leave me to die, like I deserved?”

“You... you keep saying that. Like you wanted to die. When they told me how I’d gotten to that clinic, I couldn’t just leave you. You saved me. You’re not a bad pony. Nopony who did what you did could be a bad pony.” Her eyes hardened and she glared at me. My eyes widened in surprise as I realized she was mad that I thought I deserved to die.

I backed down slightly as her voice rose. “You took me in, helped me! Gave me your supplies when all I’d done was shot at you and caused you pain! No normal pony would have suffered so much to help anypony in trouble! You walked for hours in what I can only imagine was excruciating pain to help someone who’d only hurt you!” I had honestly not expected this much volume from such a small pony, but as she shouted she seemed to increase in size. A black shape in the corner of my eye drew my attention briefly. Ash was standing in a doorway, laughing as a mare put a buck twice her size in his place.

“I.... uh....” All I could manage under her tirade.

She reached up and touched the side of my face tenderly, being careful of the wound taking up a good portion of my face. It had stopped hurting and I had honestly not thought of it in a while until she took such great care to not touch it. “Ripple, I need you to stop saying you’re a bad pony. It’s not fair. Not fair at all.” Tears sprung into her eyes and she suddenly changed back from the pony that had been yelling into my face. Hugging me, she plunged her face into my neck.

This had taken a lot out of her. I had the impression that much of her current stability was resting on me, like I’d become some pillar for her current sanity. I stood there, blocking out the laughing griffin and focusing on the blue mare pouring tears into my bandages. Hearing the approach of hooves, I glanced to the side in time to see Doc Care approaching.

“I spoke with Radish, the mare that runs the inn. Two of you have a room for a few nights on account of bringing back the radio. Everypony’s mighty indebted to you two, but that’ll only carry ya’ through for a few days before ya’ have’ta start working. Take it easy and finish healing.” I nodded to the old pony and took the key he gave me. “Now would ya’ kindly take this display off the street, ya’all are weirding folks out.” He turned and started back towards his clinic. I’d seen the hints of a smile on his face.

Shade pulled back from me, blushing furiously. The clouded sky was beginning to darken a bit but I could still see the color her cheeks had turned. I could also see the bags under her eyes, she looked exhausted. I handed the key to her. She took it and I nodded towards the inn I saw across the street. “It’s been a long day. For both of us. I’m gonna take a look around town first though.”

She was slow to turn from me and head towards the inn. For the first time in my current life, I felt important. That mare depended on me to be strong. I would be strong for her. I turned and headed towards where Ash still stood, the griffin grinning.

“Got yourself a marefriend, eh Kick? Didn’t peg you for the type.”

I glared at him briefly before smiling, taking in the joke. He was mocking me, but in a way that didn’t seem intended to offend. I shook my head. “Nope, just a pony grateful for my help.”

He punched me in the front leg lightly before putting his arm around my shoulders. “Here, lets hit up the saloon. I’ve got a business proposition for you.”

He guided me towards the noisiest door in the town and pushed it open, leading me inside. A dozen set of eyes swivelled towards us and focused on me. Ash raised an arm in a grand sweeping fashion, shouting over the crowded room. “Everypony give it up for Ripple, the hero that brought music back to your lives!”

The cheering and stomping shook the room and I hissed at Ash. “I thought you said we were gonna talk business.”

He winked to me and turned his attention back on the tavern ponies. “Now he’s been through a lot today and has a lot of Care’s drugs running through him, so the amount of liquor I’m sure you want to buy him would probably kill him. Save it for tomorrow.” A chorus of disappointed sounds replaced the cheering and Ash guided me to a corner table, taking a seat and sliding one out for me. I sat, suddenly realizing how tired I felt. I probably should have just gone to the inn, let Shade have the bed and pass out on whatever other furniture was left. The floor would even have been acceptable.

“Kick, I’ve been thinking. My offer for a discount, I’ve changed it a bit.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, wondering what he was up to. He laughed. “I’m not shirking on the deal, not my way. I’m sweetening the deal.” He tapped the tabled with a claw, digging into it slightly. “Way I see it, our goals match. We’ll both be heading to Neighwhere sooner or later. I need to have a friendly chat with Hate, you need to strangle him until he shuffles off this mortal coil. So here’s my deal.” He began carving into the table, making the rough outlines of a pony and a griffin. “You and I work together. You can bring along your little marefriend if you want. I don’t charge you anything but salvage and... let’s say any caps that Hate or the other Paragons have on them. Way I see it, we all get what we want that way.”

I had to admit, his deal was pretty good, but only if I could really trust him. Things would go south pretty quick if he decided to sell Shade and I to Neighwhere, but having a seasoned griffin backing me up would really help in any scrapes I got in in the coming days. I looked at the table, at the pair he had carved. He didn’t seem the malicious type, but it was hard to tell what the underlying goal here was.

“Ash, you’re gonna have to give me more than ‘you want to chat’ before I decide on this, you know.”

His eyes darkened a bit, the same look I’d seen when he’d mentioned Hate not killing. “Hate took something very dear to me. I need to have some words with him.” We sat in silence for a few minutes as he picked at the table.

I finally nodded and broke the silence. “Okay. I’ll accept your deal.”

The grin spread across his beak yet again and he slammed his fist into the table. “All right! I knew you were the right pony to bet on.” Reaching into the bag he carried, he pulled out the piece of paper I’d seen him put away at Traffic’s. He slid it across the table to me. “This is my contract. As long as you hold it, I’m your griffin.”

My magic picked it up off the table and I looked at it. It was just a beaten piece of paper with the name ASHRED written across it in what I hoped was red paint. It must be a griffin thing was all that I could figure. I rolled the paper and put it in my saddlebag. Ash had started yelling over my shoulder to the pony behind the bar for a drink and I looked closer at the griffin. I was getting the feeling he was not quite the mercenary he had made himself out to be. There was more to him than caps and violence. “Sounds good Ash. I hope this is as mutually beneficial as you made it out to be.” His grin was strangely violent as I said this. I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to be around when he started drinking. Not tonight.

Standing from my seat at the table, I yawned widely. “Well, you were right about me having been through a lot today. I’m gonna turn in.”

His drink on its way, he leaned back. “Sure thing Kick. I’ll see you in the morning, then. Just make sure you don’t leave without me.”

As I crossed the street, I heard the hiss of the gate closing and glanced to my side. A small pony in full black body armor was walking down the street towards me, several large bags at her sides. Something about the mare trotting towards me made me stop in my tracks and stare. I knew her.

Oh shit.

Dashing for cover, a high pitched whirring sound filled my ears. Two of the bags opened and the two black painted miniguns she was carrying floated out at her sides, spinning up. The noise they made when they fired was like a sheet getting torn in half. Bullets ripped into the ground where I had just stood and traced the path I had run. The stream of bullets shredded into the ancient soft drink machine I had taken cover behind, sending shrapnel spraying across the street.

The firing ceased but the whirring sound continued. “Wow, they were right! You did survive that head shot. Got a scar? Can I see it? Come on Two Kick, let me see.” I responded by firing Broken around the corner at her, hoping to give myself a second or two to find a new vantage point.

“Ah, that’s not nice Two Kick. Just let me finish you off. Let’s leave these nice people to their lives, all it takes is one bullet. Or a hundred. All the same to me.” As she spoke, I took a quick peak around the mangled machine to survey what damage I had caused, if any. I was taken back by what I saw. Not only was she floating two weapons meant to be fired from fixed emplacements at her side, she’d stopped each pellet of buckshot in front of her face. Entirely with her magic.

The miniguns had ammunition feeds coming from a third bag and a fourth was opening. A sleek black rocket launcher floated out and took aim, floating menacingly above her head. With a whoosh of flame and a clap of ignition a rocket shot towards me. Entering S.A.T.S. I targeted the lethal munition flying at me and fired Broken at it.

The shot clipped the missile in midair, ripping off one of the little wings on its side. It spun, spiraling into the wall on the other side of the vending machine, detonating in a cloud of fire and masonry. The vending machine was launched into me, throwing me into the street in a rain of fire. Hitting the ground, I felt a rib break in my chest but kept rolling and used the momentum to hop to my hooves, firing Broken as I went. The roar opened up again and several of the bullets punctured my side before I could move.

An impact from the side sent me rolling into a side road with a large feathered object on top of me, claws tearing into my sides as he held me down. Ash held me down with one hand and pulled the large rifle from his back as the roar of the twin weapons continued, following the path we had traveled and ripping into the building between us and her.

He pulled me to my hooves and tossed me bodily further down the street as the bullets began tearing through the building and hitting the area of street we were in. I was immediately getting tired of being tossed about Blank, especially now that I carried more lead in me than previously.

Ash indicated that I should stay down and hissed across the street at me, carrying surprisingly well over the whirring of the minigun motors. “Kick, stay low. Sweeps is a crazy bitch. When she has to switch feeds, we make our move.” I nodded lightly as I felt more of my blood filtering out of me like a sieve. I felt for my saddlebags and pulled out a roll of bandages, wrapping it quickly about myself. Sealing up the holes with the bullets still inside was a bad idea, but I just needed the bleeding to stop.

The crack of a high powered rifle filled the air as Ash fired a round at her. The firing stopped briefly and I could hear her grunt. “I know that gun! Ashred! It’s been a while, what are you doing in this rat’s nest?” The delight in her voice did not match up with her trying to kill us as she let off another burst of fire. Sneaking a look through one of the many freshly chewed holes in the building, I saw that she had caught that bullet as well but was now standing a foot behind where she had been.

The building began creaking noisily as the pony Ash had called Sweeps fired another rocket into the it, demolishing another wall. I could hear the residents of Blank screaming and running, but I had yet to see any of them. The guards should have been firing at the walking tank but the only weapons I could hear were hers and Ash’s.

The air filled with a ratcheting sound as the miniguns ran dry and I heard her curse at the weapons. “Stupid pieces of junk, I make you and this is how you repay me?!” I could hear her rustling through her bags and decided to make my move.

As I rounded the corner, I found why the guards had not been firing. They’d been ground into paste against the very walls they patrolled; long red smears against the metal. I briefly wondered when she had time to do that as I neared her, saw her widening eyes and turned to plant a double buckshot kick into her face. I saw Ash in that split second, his eyes wide and his mouth yelling something as I felt a force grab my legs.

Looking back, my hooves were inches away from obliterating her face, her hazel colored eyes looking at me playfully. A light blue aura surrounded my legs and she shook her head disapprovingly. “Now Mr. Two Kick, you know I don’t allow touching on a first date.” With that I was lifted into the air and hurled down the street. The theme for these last few minutes.

With a crunch I slammed into the big sign over Traffic’s store, tearing one of the parts of the T off in a shower of splinters and metal scraps. I bounced once on the roof and skipped over the gap between the store and the building next to it, landing on the roof and sliding until I came to a sudden halt half embedded in an old wooden box. My saddlebags hit me in the chest, torn off during the flight and knocking the wind from me. All I could feel were the bullets in my side and the many splinters I had picked up in my short trip.

“Oh.....” I coughed, blood splattering my chest as I lay there. Would I ever go a day without bleeding? Was it even an option?

A clawed hand appeared at the edge of the building and Ash hauled himself up onto the roof with me. He crouched next to me, taking a peek into the street. “Right. Forgot you don’t remember her. That was a bad idea. Sweeps may be young but I’ve never met a unicorn as powerful as her.” He handed me a Med-X and I took it as quickly as I could, feeling the pain fade away.

I gritted my teeth and turned over, getting up into a crouch. I coughed again, “So, Ash, how does one beat an opponent they can’t touch?”

Ash shook his head as he worked the bolt on his rifle, sending an empty casing spiraling off. “That’s the thing about you Paragons, Kick. If it they were easy to kill, they wouldn’t be Paragons. Look at you, most ponies would be dead twice in this fight already.” He handed me Broken, which I hadn’t realized I’d dropped, the weapon still looking as pristine as always.

The image went into my head of what had happened when we’d shot at her. The buckshot she had stopped with no issue, but the much heavier bullet had displayed a greater effect. I had an idea. “We gotta keep down, draw her to Traffic’s.”

Ash narrowed his eyes. “I don’t want Miss Traffic to get hurt, you know.”

I shook my head, “Oh yeah, I know. Trust me, I’ve got a plan.” His look did not show a high amount of confidence as I pulled a dose of stampede from my bag.

----

The streets were eerily quiet, aside from the creaking coming from the deeply damaged building further down the street. Sweeps’s voice called out over it all, a clicking and whirring giving her an almost mechanical sound. All it meant to us was that she had reloaded and was ready to kill us. “Where are you?” Her voice was sweetly singsong.

I was putting all of my focus on listening, putting every bit of my attention on the matter at hand. My vision blurred red, stampede pumping through my veins.

Crush her. Kill her. Make her suffer.

I shook my head, trying to get the voice out of my head.

Listen to Sweeps. Listen to her hoof steps. Get this right.

“Come on Two Kick. Ash. I don’t wanna play hide and go seek. Just come out and let me kill you.” That was it, her voice came directly from below my hiding place, crouching behind Traffic’s sign. I stood and slammed my body into the sign, pushing with all of my drug fueled might. My muscles strained and I heard the bolts holding the sign pop free.

The sign began to move and I heard Ash kick into the part of the plan I had assigned him. His shots came from further down the street, as fast as he could fire. I heard her grunt as she blocked each shot with her telekinesis, increasing in volume. She didn’t even notice the small shower of roof coming down around her, so focused was her defense against Ash's large caliber weapon.

I roared and put everything I had into pushing and finally I felt the sign give fully and pop free. This sign was massive, metal and wood standing as a testament to durability in the wasteland. She only noticed the sign as it cleared the edge of the building, picking up speed. I slammed into the top of the sign, hoping that my added weight would help.

The sign impacted the street in a burst of dust, the sudden cloud rushing down the street in all directions, obscuring everything. When the sign hit, I was thrown clear, rolling across the street, dazed. Lifting myself to my feet, I slowly stumbled my way towards the impact site. I heard a soft crying and the voice in my head yelled in triumph.

She’s down. Rip her apart. Kill her. Take her for yourself. I don’t care, just have fun with it!

The red haze combined with the dust in my eyes and I could barely see, but I could see the black armored figure sticking out from just underneath the edge of the sign. The broken T had spared crushing her head, conveniently enough for her. Her helmet had been thrown clear and I saw a face twisted with pain. Her horn flared pitifully as she tried to lift the massive weight off of her. She froze as I stepped up to her, looking up into my bloodshot eyes.

She smiled weakly. “Hey Two Kick. Now don’t take this too harshly. Just following orders, heard that you were still alive.”

I snarled at her in response, the voice in my head screaming to just kill her.

Break off her horn, stab her to death. Skull fuck the bitch. Do ANYTHING!

A flash of multicolored eyes and I looked to the side as Shade hugged me around the neck. She stared into my bloodshot eyes and the monster stared back. They stared right into each other, wishing the other would go away. Shade won out as the drug rush, short lived as it was, faded from my system. The voice faded with it, the blood lust sinking back into the deeper parts of my mind.

“Dusk? What... what are you doing here?” Sweep looked honestly confused. So did I. Dusk? Was that Shade’s real name? Why had she hid that from me?

Shade went to her knees next to Sweeps, stroking the crushed mare's cheek lightly with a hoof. “Shh... it’s okay, Sweepy. I just had to step out for a bit. Hate and I had a bit of a fight, nothing for you to worry about.”

Sweeps eyes went out of focus for a little bit and then she looked at me. “You know... back at 87 I always had a crush on you, but I was just a filly. I did everything I could... when we got out. To prove myself to you. To the others. Joined the Paragons. Now... it all just seems wasted.”

She stared into my eyes, an odd look crossing her face. “That... scar. Not a good look. Not on my handsome Ripple.” Her one free leg reached out and touched me right below my left eye. “At least it was you... I’m so sorry for shooting at you. Orders, you know.” A glance to Shade told me that I should say something. The echoes of the voice stirred around my head and I knew that for the safety of everypony in town that I should kill the crushed mare here and now. I didn’t.

“Sweeps...” The name sounded odd coming from my mouth. This mare had been trying to kill me minutes before. “I... I’m sorry I crushed you.” She laughed and coughed, spraying blood into the dust. “Don’t lie, its no fun.” Her eyes went past me and widened slightly. “Ash. Hey.” Looking back, I saw him only nod as he walked up on his hind legs, his rifle aimed straight at her face. “Old girl’s holding up well I see.”

Her eyes lingered on the weapon and she cringed a bit. “Oh... my poor babies are under here. I was being so careful to keep them from getting dirty too...” Her eyes went unfocused again but didn’t come back. “I... can’t feel. I always thought this would hurt....”

She died there, under that sign.

The inhabitants of Blank had begun trickling back out into the street as the noise had died down and I spotted Doc Care trotting towards us with a bag of medical supplies. I saw Traffic’s eyes as she saw the damage done to her store. Shade’s eyes as she looked sadly at me.

I turned and walked away. “I’ll be at the inn.”

----

I’d been pointed to the room by the pony standing in front of the inn, taking in the damage to the town. I assumed she was Radish. Our room’s door was wide open, it seemed that Shade had left in a hurry when she’d heard the fight. I stumbled into the room and collapsed onto a mattress on the floor. Now that the stampede had worn off, I was getting none of the benefits of its pain control. I’d lost my saddlebags somewhere and I assumed they were underneath the sign at this point, holding my store of medicine. As I hit the mattress, I felt every broken bone and every bullet inside me, scraping and tearing. I didn’t care.

Sweeps, despite first impressions, had held me in very high regard. It almost seemed like she loved me. If I had to fight every Paragon like this, what would I come out the other side like? Would I be just as bad as before I’d woken in that field? It felt like I’d just murdered a sister.

I heard hoofsteps enter the room, two ponies from what I could tell. I didn’t look. I heard a gasp from behind me accompanied by a sigh. My sides felt wet.

A muffled voice and a clatter of hooves.

Slowly, I noticed the darkness that had been creeping up on me as I lay there. I’d spent more time in the dark lately than I’d have liked and tried briefly to fight against it.

The sounds of more steps entering the room, brought me back slightly. I opened my eyes and saw a few blurred shapes. The blue and the black one were probably Shade and Ash. The others I couldn’t make out.

I felt myself being lifted, talons cutting into my sides a bit.

We left the building, hurrying. I was growing concerned that I couldn’t really focus or move. It felt like I was underwater.

Bright lights filled the world as I was placed on a familiar bed.

I blacked out yet again.

----

This all seemed familiar. Waking up on this bed. Shade on the couch. Ash reading a magazine was a new touch.

He was the first to notice I was awake and stood, walking towards me. “Answers that question. Since you’re not dead, I’m gonna go get you something.” He turned and walked out of the room, tapping Shade lightly with the back of a claw. She opened her eyes and stood slowly. No shrieking or hugging this time.

“Are you going to be alright Ripple?” She stood next to me, concern filling her eyes. I coughed and cleared my throat. How long had I been out this time? Days? Weeks?

“Dunno. What’s Care say?” My voice cracked as I spoke.

She smiled lightly. “He says you’re an idiot and he’s not doing this again.”

“Well, that’s fair.” There was the hug I was waiting for. Shade seemed to make the voice go away whenever she was in close proximity, instead of the constant nagging I felt at the back of my mind. I’d never once thought of murder or pain when she was around my neck. She was quickly becoming my favorite drug in the wasteland and I was getting rather hooked.

Care walked into the room and hit me on the nose with his hoof. “Ya’ know why ya’ ended up in here this time? Any inklings? Any at all?” I began to open my mouth to tell him it was because I was shot, but he threw an empty red capsule in my face. “This shit. Stampede. It opened most of the injuries I’d already healed up on ya’! Your damned muscles split your skin like a sheet, ya’ dumb fuck!”

I didn’t know what to say. Sorry?

“If we didn’t owe ya’ for smoking the Paragon that walked into town, I’d have thrown ya’ back in front of the gate to finish dying. Next time, you’re getting thrown out. No more from Intensive Care, no sir!” He stormed out. Shade was still holding onto my neck and whispered into my ear. “If you ever want to get rid of the bandage look, you should listen to him.”

Then she sobbed slightly. “Thank you for being nice to Sweepy in the end. I always liked her.”

I lifted a leg and patted her on the back. “I think I did too.” We stayed that way in silence for quite a while.

A knock at the doorway and Ash strolled in, carrying my saddlebags and something wrapped in a crude cloth. “Happy cute-ceañera, Kick.” He dropped the package next to my saddlebags on a table at the end of the couch and paused, looking at Shade and me. He grinned and turned around, with a flourish of his wings I noticed. His wing was better. “I’ll leave you two to your privacy. Have fun.”

I glared daggers into his back as he walked off and felt the awkwardness spread over the room like a blanket. Shade pulled back from me, blushing brightly, and walked towards the package. Opening it, she smiled and looked up at me. “When you can walk, I’ll help you put this on.” No comment on what ‘it’ was but she lay back down on the couch, waiting for me.

I stretched my legs and felt them cramp up immediately. My teeth gritted and my eyes watered as I worked through it. “How long have I been down this time?”

Looking up at me, she laughed a little at the face I was making. “Only for the night. It’s morning now.” It had felt like days.

I pushed myself out of bed, unsteadily, catching Shade off guard. She rushed to my side and let me lean on her, though the plan had clearly not been thought through. I was twice her size and weighed substantially more than she did. She grunted and her knees bowed slightly, though she still managed to get me to the couch. I sat on it and she lay next to me.

Floating my bag over to me, I popped the flaps and opened both sides, wondering what supplies had survived the scuffle. Most of my meds were still intact, a potion had broken and sprayed the inside of one bag with purple liquid. Something caught my attention and I leaned over to get a better look at it. Using my magic, I lifted the small orb out of my bag and floated it near to get a better look at it.

I saw Shade lift a hoof and open her mouth in warning, but the world disappeared.

oooOOOooo

I wasn’t me. Not the first time I’d had that feeling, but the first time I’d ever been a completely different me. Everything felt off. I was smaller, the pain was all gone.... I was a mare. That was definitely a different feeling... It felt less restrictive.

Everything around me looked cleaner. More polished. Much less worn.

The body I was in was walking down a long hallway, lit intermittently with harsh buzzing lights. In the hallway were two other ponies, a unicorn buck and an earth pony mare. They walked with a sense of urgency, my body lagging behind a bit.

“The Ministry Mare has expressed a keen concern with your research here. She wants to know the specifics of exactly what it is you’re attempting.” The earth pony spoke harshly and in a high, clipped tone.

The unicorn was floating a chart alongside him as he walked, flipping through pages while nervously glancing at the authoritative mare. “I can assure you, Miss Grace, that we are ensuring the highest standard of safety. We’ve emulated much of the facility on plans that we’ve acquired from the Ministry of Arcane Sciences, there are enough built in safeguards to make sure that nothing bad can come of this.”

“Fluttershy is not concerned about the safeguards. She is concerned about what you have in that room.” They were quickly coming up on a doorway at the end of the hall, painted yellow with pink butterflies on it. The symbol painted on all of the medical boxes I’d run across in the wastes. The emblem of the Ministry of Peace. Grace shot a wicked glance over her shoulder into my host’s eyes, being none to subtle. “Also, tell me why a mare from the MoAS is here.”

The unicorn shot a sympathetic glance at the unicorn I was in. “Miss Leap is on loan from Arcane Sciences to assist in the project, personally vouched for by Miss Sparkle.”

The unicorn practically barked at him, “Dr. Copper, could you please stop referring to everyone by ‘Miss’, it is giving me a headache.”

He nodded, “Yes, Miss... I mean Dr. Grace. As I was saying, Hopeful Leap has been instrumental to our progress here. I can have her qualifications sent to you if you’d like.”

Dr. Grace gave a sharp nod, “Yes, I think that would be best.” Another glare at my host, Hopeful Leap, and we came to the doors. To either side of door were alcoves with automated guns tracking us, ready to kill us where we stood. Leap stared as the cold metal killing machines turned, following her, but the two Doctors strode past them without a pause and through the doors.

The room they entered was massive, terminals and machines I couldn’t name covering the surface of every wall. There were ponies everywhere, unicorns and earth ponies, dressed in lab coats or protective wear. In the middle of the room was a giant glass tube with a thick orange liquid inside of it. We approached the tube, walking past ponies that shot nervous glances at Dr. Grace, like her being here was not something any of them had wanted.

Looking into the tube, there was a shape. Not a pony or a griffin. Nothing I could place, it was like a combination of several types of creatures. I’d never seen anything like it in my life.

Dr. Grace looked up into the tube for a long while before turning to Hopeful Leap. “Is that what I think it is? Fluttershy was right?”

The mare I dwelt in nodded to the angry doctor. She coughed once into her hoof and adjusted the glasses riding down her nose. “Yes, Doctor. I believe the Ministry Mare had dealings with one in her youth, and has every right to be worried. Don’t worry, the Draconequus is quite sedated and nowhere near the power of his brother right now, the being that terrorized Ponyville briefly.”

Grace went back to staring into the tube. “I’ve only heard rumors of what transpired in that event. Would you care to enlighten me how this is a Ministry of Peace affair? If I am to be running this operation, I wish to know everything I can about the subject.”

“The creature holds what we believe to be a powerful control over the fabric of reality. If harnessed, it is likely that we could reverse injuries suffered in combat or even negate the effects of powerful Zebra weapons such as the magi-chemical weapon used in Littlehorn.”

Grace nodded slowly, taking in what Forward Leap had told her. “Yes, that does fall under Ministry of Peace jurisdiction. Very well, I shall pass word along to the Ministry Mare that she should have nothing to worry about. Do not make me regret this.” With that, she turned and stormed off, back through the doorway the group had entered.

Dr. Copper put a comforting hoof on her shoulder. “See Hope, I told you that Grace could be made to see reason and not shut us down.”

Hopeful Leap nodded slightly, still looking up at the creature in the tube. “I just hope that I can actually pull this off, the last thing that Equestria needs right now is a reality bending monster running about it.”

“Your Ministry set up the defenses in this place. You know as well as I do that not even one of the Princesses could get in or out of here without proper clearance. If the creature escapes, he’ll be detained and returned immediately.” Copper had a hopeful glint in his eye as he stared at the Draconequus, relishing the thought of a medicine of limitless potential. Hope just saw the potential for devastation on a massive scale.

She sighed. This was the job that had been assigned to her by Twilight Sparkle as a favor to Fluttershy. Who was she to turn down a role given to her by two of the most powerful ponies in Equestria? She had to stay positive.

This had to work.

oooOOOooo

I came to on the floor, Shade staring hopefully in my face. I blinked a couple times and sat up. “What was that?” She smiled widely as she saw I was okay and hugged me again as I kept trying to sit up.

“That’s some unicorn hoodoo. A memory sphere. Sweeps had it in one of her bags, thought you might like a souvenir. Didn’t figure you knew how to turn it on.” Ash was back in the doorway, though he wasn't looking too concerned.

I shook my head as I got to my hooves, holding Shade off for a few seconds as I got off of my back. I’d scattered the contents of my bag across the floor as I’d gone into the orb and fallen off of the couch and could understand why Shade had been so concerned. Ash just looked amused, as always.

Looking around the room, the recurring question came back. “How long?”

Ash answered this time. “Only a couple minutes. Probably as long as the memory in there was.” Shade looked at the orb where it had rolled next to the couch and then back at me. Ash leaned down and picked up the orb, tapping it against his forehead lightly. “See, nothing for us non-magical creatures. Stories I’ve heard though, these things can be anything. Any memory. Good or bad. Bad enough to fry a mind bad.”

He pointed at me. “You need to be careful next time. We’ve got a contract and I don’t want some mind wiped muscle-head holding my reins. You know, more so than you are now anyways.” He laughed and turned, leaving us alone yet again, taking the orb with him.

Now that I was standing, I approached the package and opened it. Inside was armored barding, quite different from the ragged mess I had left in that house. This was nice leather with armor plates in key places, such as my chest and sides. Just the kind of thing that would have stopped me from getting shot up or filled with nails. I reached for it with my magic but found that it was back at the weak level I had experienced before. Shade approached me and helped me put it on over my bandaged and beaten body. I flinched lightly as some of the large bruises were touched, but had had much worse just recently and stood still as she helped me.

Once the armor was on, we placed the saddlebags in their place and I slung Broken’s holster over the whole ensemble. Sliding the shotgun into its place, I had to admit that I felt like a badass. I turned to Shade and posed slightly. “How do I look?”

She blushed a bit and nodded. “You look like a proper good pony.”

I smiled. That was just what I had wanted to hear. The two of us left the clinic.

-----

The street was bustling again, but there was less of an everyday feeling in the air. A team of ponies were working on Traffic’s sign, which had been lifted and propped against the side of the building. A disturbing smear on the corner was being rinsed off. The road itself was dented, the sign’s shape imprinted into the thick dust. I could still tell where Sweeps had been but her body was absent.

The building that had taken the brunt of the attack had collapsed sometime during the night and a pair of unicorns were picking through the rubble for anything that could be salvaged. It seemed that the building had been abandoned for the most part, but a small pile of salvage was still growing in front of it as they discovered items of any value and removed them from the wreckage.

I spotted Ash to one side leaning against a wall and picking through a bag. I trotted up to him, Shade at my side, and nodded towards the dent. “Where’d they take Sweeps?”

He didn’t look up as he kept going through the bag. He gestured off towards Traffic’s. “They took her into the store. Salvaging the weapons off her. I talked Traffic into giving me the bag of miscellaneous junk.”

“Miscellaneous junk?” I’d been under the impression that everything Sweeps had on her had been a weapon or ammunition.

“Yeah, you know. Meds, caps, whatever this thing is, that memory orb you jumped into. Miscellaneous junk. As per our contract.” The griffin was trying to identify a tube of something as he spoke.

I left him to his rummaging and crossed the street, avoiding the dent and the leaning sign. I pushed open the door, letting Shade go before me, and entered the cluttered room. On one shelf I spotted one of the pair of miniguns that had chewed up the town. I spotted Traffic’s eye behind a pile of clutter on the counter. I was pretty sure that if looks could kill I would have exploded into a fine puree of pony.

“The fuck do you want? Want to rip up my sign again?”

I couldn’t think of anything that would possibly appease the furious mare. I opened my mouth, searching for the words, but closed it after a few seconds. Shade took the initiative, stepping forward. “Miss Traffic, Ripple feels terribly for what he did to your store, but the damage could have been far worse. Imagine what would have happened if the Paragon hadn’t been stopped this short into town. How many deaths there would have been.”

Traffic snorted, stamping a hoof. “I know exactly what could have happened!” Her eyes softened as she looked at the blue mare standing in front of me. “Don’t take it the wrong way, I’m grateful for all that he’s done for the town.” She looked back up at me with that fury shining through her eyes. “You just had to use my sign though! Do you have any idea how long it will take to get it back up?! Any idea just how heavy it is?!”

I held my hooves up and apart slightly. “A little bit.”

I had to dodge as she threw a wrench at my head.

“Miss Traffic? Do you know where the Paragon’s body is? Ashred said that it was brought in here.” Shade just always seemed to defuse the situation, it just seemed impossible to stay mad when looking at her.

Traffic shrugged at her lightly. “She’s in the back. We’ve gotten most what we could off her, but you’re welcome to check. She’s got one of those, can’t quite figure how to remove it.” Her hoof was pointing at my PipBuck. I hadn’t noticed Sweeps wearing one, but she had been covered in armor and I hadn’t had much time to really look for one when she had started shooting.

Shade thanked her politely and we walked behind the counter into the back room where an earth pony in filthy overalls was working on taking apart the rest of one of the multi-barreled weapons Sweeps had attacked me with. It was already stripped down and I assumed used to repair the one on sale in the front room. He glanced up at us and smiled as he saw Shade. “Good morning, M’am. Come to help me out again?”

“Sorry, Mr. Torque. Not today.” She made the introduction, “Ripple, this is Torque, Traffic’s repair pony. Torque, this is Ripple.”

He chuckled a bit, putting down the wrench he held in his mouth. “So you’re the pony that wrecked up the sign and put down that crazed gunmare. Got to thank you for not crushing her equipment as thoroughly as you did her.”

My eyes drew to the side where a bloody blanket was covering a figure on a table to the side. I nodded absentmindedly at him as I walked over to where Sweeps lay and pulled back the sheet a bit. Her eyes were closed and she honestly looked like she was just sleeping, though the amount of blood pooling under the table suggested otherwise. I didn’t remove the sheet entirely, not really wanting to see the damage that had been done, but just enough to get at her leg.

Sure enough, there was a PipBuck painted the same matte black that her armor had been, scratched up a bit but still in good condition. “I didn’t know what I needed to get that off, short of sawing off her whole leg. I’m a mechanic, not a doctor.” Torque was suddenly next to me, looking at the device. “You’re welcome to try any of my tools, but I went through most of them already.”

Shade bumped in between us and took the PipBuck up in one hoof. Using the other she turned it on and fiddled with some settings before reaching into her own bag and producing a small wire from within. She plugged one end into Sweeps' PipBuck and turned to me, motioning at the one on my leg. Lifting it for her, she quickly plugged it in and fiddle with a few dials and knobs on each.

I heard a small beep from the machine on my leg and she unplugged it. “Done.”

I wondered briefly what she had done and looked at it. My notes section now had several entries and the map had filled itself out quite a bit, aside from the small bit I had uncovered. Made sense that she’d know how to mess around with PipBucks, being from a town with such a high percentage of Stable ponies and being as good with mechanic work as she seemed to be.

Torque began asking Shade a bunch of technical questions about PipBucks which went a bit over my head and I cut in briefly. “Mind if I take her off your hands?” I flicked my head towards Sweeps’ body.

He shrugged. “I’ve got no problem but you might want to clear it with Traffic first.”

I nodded and test fired my magic. It had strengthened now that I’d been up and moving and I used it to wrap Sweeps fully in the blanket and lifted her, draping her over my back. Telling Shade to wait for me, I turned and left into the front room.

Traffic stared at me as I walked through the middle of her store, the bundle on my back bleeding lightly on her floor. I looked her straight in the eyes as I walked through, daring her to stop me as I walked out, grabbing a shovel in my mouth. She opened her mouth to say something, but closed it and glared. The door closed behind me, getting between myself and the angry mare.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered a story from my youth. Bits of that were still open to me at least. It was a tale of how long ago, before the Stables, most ponies would bury their dead. When the Stables came about, it was not an option and bodies were often burnt. I remembered vividly the buried part. Perhaps it had scared me as a foal, I wasn’t quite sure.

This just seemed right though.

As I stepped into the street, I turned towards the main gate and began walking. I heard Ash approach rather than see him, my eyes straight ahead, the shovel still gripped in my teeth.

“Ah. Okay.”

It sounded like he knew what I was planning and just walked silently next to me. We came to the gate and looked up at the replacement guard, a nervously twitching tan earth pony manning the mounted gun on the wall. He hit the button after looking down at me for longer than I’d have liked and the gates opened with a hiss and a light screech as the recently repaired hydraulics went to work.

Once we had passed through, the guardpony closed the doors almost immediately and returned to staring down the road in the direction of Neighwhere. It felt that if anything approached, he was going to pull the trigger until the weapon went dry.

We walked down the road a short ways and I took a detour off up into the hills surrounding the town. Finding a nice spot clear of any long dead vegetation or rocks, I set the bundle containing Sweeps down on the hard packed earth and began to dig.

As I dug, I thought of the little mare I was burying. A slight breeze came through and pulled back the edge of the blanket, uncovering her head. Without all that armor and weaponry, she looked rather innocent, laying there with her eyes closed. It was rather unfortunate she had become a monster, she had seemed like a sweet mare at the end.

Right after you crushed her like a blood pack.

Ash looked on as I dug, sighing slightly. It was a bored sigh and he took off after a little while, flying into the air. Occasional flashes of shadow told me that he was circling, probably keeping an eye out for any threats while I was otherwise indisposed. I hoped he was doing that at least, at this point I wasn’t sure that Doc Care would heal me up if I got in another fight.

Finally, the hole was deep enough and I threw the shovel out before climbing out myself. Using my magic, I lifted Sweeps in her blanket and lowered her into the freshly dug grave. Looking down at the bundle laying in the ground, I felt pangs of guilt. Her final words were still haunting me. She’d loved me, or so she claimed. When this was over, I’d look through all the notes that had been on her PipBuck. See if there was something that could tell me something about the light blue mare that had both loved me and tried to murder me.

I shoveled the dirt back into the grave and went looking for a big rock. Finding one the right size and shape, I rolled it to the head of the loose earth. Rummaging through my saddlebags, I produced a piece of metal that had once been a knife or something in that line of weaponry and began carving into the headstone.

Sweeps.
I’m Sorry.

It was all I could think of. I stood there for a few moments, staring at the headstone, before I turned and trotted back towards the road. Ash landed at my side again, slinging his rifle back between his wings. We waved at the guardpony to not shoot us and walked through the gate as it swung open to readmit us into the town of Blank.

We’d be leaving in the morning.

Author's Note:

Thanks to Kkat for creating FoE, an amazing piece fiction as well as setting.

Comments can help me learn and grow to be a better writer. Also, rate/track/favorite if I have amused you with my tale.