• Published 25th Jan 2012
  • 10,565 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 5: Underhoof

Chapter 5: Underhoof

I slammed into the grate, feeling it long before I could see it. My trip through the waterlogged underworld of Hornsmith had been filled with darkness and uncertainty. Pulling myself from between the crush of water and the metal grate, I found I was on a surface made of what felt to be stone.

An impact followed by a coughing sputter told me that Ash had made it. I’d been unsure if he had been alive or if it was even him, my mind having filled itself with images of the shapely orange mare following me down the pipe to fry me. I reached down and jabbed at my PipBuck with my muzzle, eventually hitting the light feature.

The chamber was massive, a focus point for much of the sewer system it seemed. In the gloom I saw, or heard rather, dozens of pipes draining into the chamber. I’d never really thought of what was below my hooves as I had walked through the ruins of Hornsmith, but I had a strong sense that there was much more to this city than a blasted two story high skyline. If this was down here and the MoP headquarters had also been underground, how much else must there be?

It was an interesting thought, broken off as a bedraggled and unamused griffin stepped into the immediate area of light around me, wringing the water out of his wings and fur. He shook his head, spraying water about.

“Ash, you okay?”

The griffin nodded slowly, looking at me. “Huh.... forgot that's what you looked like.” I looked down at myself and noticed it immediately. Most of the bandages were gone, either burnt away or torn off in my trip through the tumultuous water. Luckily I had kept my barding and equipment, but for the first time that I could think of, I was mostly free of bandages. It felt sort of... liberating, honestly. I turned my head to look at my side and the pain kicked in.

My back was burnt, and quite badly. Moving my head had irritated the fresh burns, their constant submersion since having been gained had distracted my notice. Now they were open to the air and the burning sensation was rather painful. I sighed and pulled off my barding before opening one of my saddlebags. I levitated out a fresh pack of healing bandages and began wrapping my midsection and neck, the magical properties of the wraps making me feel better immediately.

The sense of freedom had been brief and of course the wasteland could not have left something like that unbroken.

I heard the ticking sound of Ash walking around the platform we had landed on. “That thing got any more light? It’s still pretty dark down here.”

I had just finished wrapping myself back up and putting on my barding. “Not that I’ve found. It’s really only got an on or off setting.”

He clacked his beak in what I assumed was disappointment. “That’s.... unfortunate.” Continuing in his search, I heard him stand on his hind legs and start checking the walls. I couldn’t see it, but I heard the tapping coming from further up the wall. Curious, I moved towards the edge of our platform, avoiding the mesh grate in the middle, unsure how secure it was especially after our impacts. Two hundred years of constant corrosion could not have left it entirely stable.

I looked out into darkness, walls so distant I couldn’t see them with what little illumination I was providing. If it came to it, would Ash be able to fly us over to another platform? Looking down, I shuddered slightly. Would I survive if I fell?

“Kick. Found something.”

I turned and trotted to where Ash’s voice was coming from. As the light reached him, I saw what he had found. Just past where the dark-feathered griffin stood was an old metal door in the wall. It was heavily rusted and hadn’t been opened for two centuries, but it was still a door. His claws were gripped around a handle and he was throwing all of his weight into it.

Approaching, I sized up the door. I could give it a good kick. “Ash, stand back.”

He looked at me as I turned and prepared to buck the door, but his claws coming to a rest on my back stopped me. I turned, wincing slightly at the pain, lessened though it was. “Kick, think about that for a second. Door’s metal, where’s all that buckshot gonna go.”

Oh.

Turning back towards the door, I felt stupid. Again I wondered how this was fair. Sweeps and Cinder would both have had this door open in ten seconds flat. I’d find a way through, I had to. “Okay... how about we both try.”

Nodding, the griffin put his talons on the handle. I propped my hooves on it. “One, two, three!” As I shouted three, we both pushed down as hard as we could. The handle creaked a little, resisting. Come on... Come on....

With a crunch, the handle turned downwards, unlocking the door. We both let out whoops of victory and Ash pulled the door open, rust falling off the hinges and frame in a shower of flakes. I saw inside before he did and drew Broken. “Ash...”

The light from my PipBuck was reflected back at me from eyes in the hall past the door. I saw rotting flesh and bared teeth. A noise from my PipBuck told me of the radiation that was now flowing through the door. Ash jumped back from the door, drawing his rifle. I thought that I should really convince him to pick up a closer range weapon for a brief moment before I opened fire.

The first slug from Broken tore into the ghouls just as they started rushing us, taking a chunk of head off of the nearest to me. Shit, I still had slugs loaded from fighting off Cinder. No time to change out, I thought as I fired again. I’d fired three shots at Cinder, one at that first ghoul and that shot there. Fuck.

The firing pin closed on an empty chamber.

As quickly as I could, I pulled buckshot from my bag and started loading it, but the ghouls streamed through the door, closing quickly. A high powered round from Ash tore two of them in half, but I counted at least ten left.

The first to get to me got there when I only had two shells loaded. It had been a unicorn mare once, but that was long past. Now it was just another monster. I spun in place and put a strong kick into her rotting chest, the blast of buckshot tearing her apart. I was showered with a thick black liquid that must once have been blood. Three shells loaded. Three left in my hoof guns.

Ash fell back next to me, firing as he went. That thing was really loud in here. If we were in a hallway, it would be damagingly loud. For now, it tore a hole through every ghoul in a line. It only killed two, but tore the leg off of a third, halting his charge. Four shells loaded.

Out on the platform, stopping the ghouls became much more of a priority. We only had so much room to back up. The crippled ghoul tripped two of his mindless companions. That left four up and charging us. Fuck it.

Broken had a maximum capacity of five shells and I had four loaded. Floating next to me, it bucked as I pulled the trigger, sending a hail of lead pellets into the face of one of the ghouls. The shot tore deep, cracking bone and shredding brain. The ghoul hit the ground hard. I worked the lever on the gun and fired again. Similar effect. Two rushing me now.

Again, the weapon fired as it floated next to me, taking a ghoul full in the chest and halting his charge. Ash fired at the two that had fallen as they scrambled back to their hooves and rushed towards him, picking up speed. Again, his shot was very well lined up and the bullet decapitated one before blowing the second several feet backwards into a bleeding pile.

That left one...

Suddenly, I was falling, teeth snapping at my face. Oh fuck. The last charging ghoul had hit me full force and we’d launched off the edge. Oh fuck. The sensation of free fall was very unwelcome and I grabbed the snapping ghoul with my hooves, twisting in midair. We switched places, him underneath me now, still desperately trying to take a bite out of my neck. I punched a hoof into the snapping maw, breaking off long rotted teeth but ceasing his incessant snapping.

We hit something with a crunch. My hoof went straight through his head, sending bone, brains and that black fluid flying. I felt the impact softened as my larger bulk crushed the ghoul underneath me, but then the pain came. My ribs cracked and the hoof I had punched through hit something hard on the other side of his head with a snapping sound. My head hit last.

----

My eyes opened slowly as I came to. I was cold and wet. Everything hurt. I was really, really getting sick of this. A voice drifted through the haze of what I was pretty sure was a concussion. “Kick, you okay.”

He drifted into view slowly as my eyes refused to work right, focusing everywhere but where I wanted them to. I willed them to focus and they slowly obeyed. I saw the black feathered face of Ash hovering over me. He had a bottle of purple liquid out. “Drink up, you’ll feel better.” I just opened my mouth and he poured it in. I did start feeling a little better, but my chest and leg still hurt a lot, not to mention every other part of me.

Though, now that I thought of it, all that pain seemed nothing compared to what I’d been through in that memory orb. I was on my side, laying on a stone walkway. I lay my head down, waiting and hoping for the blurriness to go away. Whatever I lay my head in was cold and slightly sticky. Ghoul goo. Ugh.

“Kick, I’m gonna pick you up and we’re gonna get out of here, okay?”

I couldn’t work my mouth. Fuck, this better not be permanent. I felt the claws dig in under me and lift me up. He was straining, I could feel it. I was not a light pony. Spreading his wings, he gave them a few preparatory flaps before powering us into the air. Looking down, I saw where I had hit. The ghoul that had broken my fall was a dark smear on the stone with a vaguely pony shaped outline next to it. At least that hadn’t been me on the bottom.

I was flying again, this time headed up. We came to the ledge where the battle had been and I saw how Ash had dealt with those few remaining ghouls when I’d gone off the edge. Claw and bite marks covered the remains. He’d ripped them apart in close combat and I felt his blood dripping onto me from multiple wounds..

I didn’t have control over most of my body and I was starting to fear that I had damaged my spine, but I could still feel. I could move my eyes freely now, they’d stopped fighting back. Looking at him, I saw bleeding wounds where he had been bitten. He set me down so that I was right side up, laying there with my legs under me.

We stayed there for several minutes, Ash keeping one eye on the still open door for any movement. I was waiting for the blurriness to go away so I could try walking. I’d already flexed my leg muscles and aside from the one that was either sprained or broken, they all worked fine.

Slowly, I got to my hooves and found that I could not put much weight on my right one. It was definitely at least sprained. I took a few test steps, hopping slightly with my bad leg held up. I could managed. I spoke, my speech still a little slurred. “Ash... let’s get going.”

He stood and nodded at me. “You need a hand Kick?”

I shook my head at him, wincing slightly. The burns were still sore. “Nah... I got this.” I spotted Broken laying on the ledge where I had been knocked off and floated it up to me, glad that it had not gone over or it would have been lost. Approaching the tunnel, I hopped the small ridge ringing the doorway and we began making our way into the blackness, my PipBuck lighting the way.

As we progressed down the tunnel, I found myself trying to send a mental letter to a higher power in what I assumed was a concussion fueled attempt at asking karma to forgive me. “Dear Princess Celestia. Hey... Ripple here. You might know me better as Two Kick Rip for all the shit I did.. I know that I’m not really the best pony around, but I’ve been trying to do better. Sorta wondering if you could throw me a break here and not let us die in a dank tunnel who knows how far underground. Well, you might know, but I’m not sure you can answer me.”

I paused for a while, silently hoping that the kind ruler I vaguely remembered hearing about as a foal could hear my plea for help. I wondered if she could help me, but mostly if she could just hear me.

Ha, praying to some long dead pony bitch? You really are pathetic.

Great, the voice was here. If I knew where it was hiding in my head, I’d shoot it without a second thought if I knew it would help. Probably wouldn’t. With my luck, it would put him back in charge. That was not something I would let happen.

Ah, but we had so much fun all those years. Money, mares, mayhem. It was fucking incredible. Best days of my life, then I got shot and you showed up. A sad, pathetic excuse for the damned Adonis that I was.

Yeah, because having ponies fear you and attack for little to no reason is great fun. Having a reputation as a slaughtering psychopath is SO much better than having friends that you can rely on to not shoot you in the face.

The voice went silent. Hey, so I could argue him down. Good to know.

As we walked, Ash was checking each door we passed. This tunnel stretched much further than I could see, likely a maintenance tunnel of some kind. Nearly ever door was either broken or so rusted that it couldn’t be moved without much more effort than I could put forward right now.

After about fifteen minutes of walking, keeping our eyes out for ghouls, one of the door handles turned easily and Ash pushed it until the door clicked. Pushing the metal portal open, he stepped through slowly, watching for another horde of ravenous ghouls.

A shot rang out, missing Ash and ricocheting into the hall. “Whoa! Whoa, hold fire!” I didn’t recognize that voice. It was gravelly. “Who are you. What business do you have here?”

“Whoa, just... name’s Ash. This here is Ripple.”

His claws beckoned and I stepped into the light shining through the doorway and limped into the room. Two ponies had a spotlight on us, I could only see their outlines through the glare. “Put away your weapons and close the door. Nice and slow.” I could tell they had their weapons pointed at us. I slowly put Broken back in its holster, Ash sliding the rifle onto his back. One of the shapes began walking towards us and I recoiled slightly when he got past the glare of the light.

He was a ghoul. The primary difference between him and every other one I’d met was that he talked and wasn’t currently trying to rip my throat out with his teeth. He stepped up to us, but still to the side providing a clear line of sight for his still unseen companion. He looked the two of us over. Ash with the bite marks covering his arms and the dark stains of ghoul remains in his fur. I was just covered in ghoul blood, injured and favoring one leg heavily. “How did you get in there? Nopony comes from there except the gnashers.”

Ash held up his claws in his most disarming gesture, showing that he meant no hostility. I would have done the same, but I could barely keep my balance. “We came in through a water pipe. Sort of a snap decision, had no idea anypony was down here.” Ash did the talking. I was still slurring my speech and thinking slowly.

The ghoul looked at the two of us for a while, obviously sizing us up and judging us. He lowered his shotgun and nodded. “Okay, I believe you. Just don’t start anything or you’ll be put down like a gnasher.”

There was that word again. “Gnasher?” I basically chewed the word out, making it garbled but getting the question across.

The ghoul looked at me, his eyes a surprisingly bright blue. Guess there was the difference, that spark of intelligence. The rest of him had once been... white or grey. Now it was just scabs and necrotic flesh. “It’s what we call the mindless ones out there. All they do is gnash their teeth. Gnashers.”

Ah... took me a little bit. My mind was not working right now. “Makes sense...”

The ghoul looked at Ash. “Ash, was it? There something wrong with your friend?”

Ash shook his head as he pointed a claw at me. “He had a nasty fall, think he hit his head. He’s pretty messed up. You got a doctor around here?”

The ghoul nodded and turned to shout at the other pony. “Hey Viola, take these two to Knife. Keep an eye on them, don’t want strangers walking around freely.” He stepped to the side and held out a hoof, indicating that we should follow the other pony.

Ash dropped to all fours and walked towards her as I limped behind. Once around the light, I saw that Viola was also a ghoul. A mare, she had a gas mask practically melted onto her face, obscuring most of her features.

As we left the room we had came to, I thought to ask something of Viola. “Where are we?”

She laughed a little. “Guess old Rail Spikes isn’t much for welcomes, is he. This here is Underhoof, safest little town in all of Hornsmith. Don’t start nothin’ and you’ll get along fine. Also, bit of a warning, as you may be able to tell from me and Spikes, we’ve got a number of ghouls living in town. We just want to live like every other pony, so as long as you don’t have a problem with us, we won’t have a problem with you.”

That had gotten threatening fast, her eyes glaring at us from behind the mask which had given every word she’d said a sort of muffled yet sinister quality. “I got no problem with ghouls as long as they don’t attack me. You got a problem with ‘em Ripple?” I shook my head.

Her eyes softened behind the protective glass and I was sure she was smiling. “Oh good. I do so love when we get nice visitors.”

As she said this, we stepped into what I assumed was the main chamber of the town. It was much larger than the rest I had seen, other than that giant black chamber, and there were a number of ponies walking around, ghouls and unicorns mostly. Now that I looked closer, they were all unicorns. The gnashers we’d killed out on the platform had been unicorns as well. Made sense, if Hornsmith had been a primarily unicorn town before the war.

“Underhoof, where you can escape the horrors of the topside. We’ve got trade, drinks, entertainment. Also, more importantly, we have a doctor. Right in here.” She stepped into a side door with a big red knife painted next to it. I was a little nervous, that sign seemed more at home on a raider’s barding than on a place of medicine and healing. I followed her in, Ash lingering outside briefly before entering.

“Hey Knife, you got a visitor! Lay down there and the doctor will be with you.” Viola indicated a low bed, which I limped to before slowly climbing onto it. The bed that must have at one time been white. Now... I couldn’t really name that color. Ash leaned against the wall. Viola looked at the two of us for a couple seconds before she spoke again. “Well, have fun. Behave, or I’ll have to shoot you.” Her eyes told me that she meant it.

The room was quiet, I heard no movement from the back. Suddenly, somepony was there. “Well hello there!”

I jumped, or jerked spasmodically at least. I was surprised by her appearance, expecting much different. A young looking mare, not a ghoul, deep red coat and a pinkish mane. Soft blue eyes. A unicorn mare.

Her horn glowed pink and I felt her magic moving me as she began checked me for injuries. “Now whats wrong with you? Plenty of old injuries, but what’s going on right now.... Ooh, there we go. Bruising and swelling around the right front carpus, most likely fractured.”

She floated out a small light and shone it in my eyes. “Slowed pupil response, possible head trauma.”

Continuing on, she undid my barding with a quick motion and dropped it unceremoniously on the ground next to the bed. Lifting my bandages with her magic, she looked in. “Second and third degree burns along back and neck.” She wrinkled her nose at the smell of burnt hair and skin. “Diagnosis: Patient is in no critical threat, but still a priority.”

She had said all of that so fast I’d barely gotten it. Then she was gone. She didn’t walk, she just was here once second and then next to Ash the next. “Hold still, will you.” He was still drawing back in surprise.

She gripped his arms with her magic and pulled them out for her to look at. “Griffin patient has multiple puncture wounds along arms matching the bite radius of ponies of varying size. Most likely by victims of heavy radiation poisoning, otherwise known as Ghouls, or gnashers to the locals. Griffin patient is showing signs of fatigue.”

She shone the light in his eyes. “Pupil response normal for griffin species. Diagnosis: Griffin patient needs wounds cleaned and bandaged and a night of rest.”

She stopped and took a deep breath before turning over towards me and trotting across the room. It actually struck me as strange, her walk. Like she was unaccustomed to it. “Hello, I’m Crimson Knife. Don’t worry about the name, got it from my dad who thought it was intimidating. How are you feeling? How did you get hurt? Just tell me, I’ll be listening.”

She floated a doctors bag towards her as she was already using a pair of scissors she had gotten from somewhere to cut off my bandages. Once they fell to the bed, she stepped back from me. “Oh... you are just not sanitary at all. I need you to take a shower first. Here, I’ll help you.” With that, before I could even get a word out, she lifted me and the world blinked.

We were in another room, white tiles with a shower head in one wall and a drain in the floor. She dropped me gently underneath and turned on the water. I winced as it hit my burns, but she honestly seemed like she knew what she was doing. Not that I would have been able to get a word in edgewise. She quickly procured a sponge from thin air and began wiping me off. I guess I had been getting pretty filthy, I’d been going for almost two weeks and who knew how long it had been since I’d bathed before that.

I was sort of surprised that my coat was actually a pure white. It had just been an off white or at worst a gray when I’d seen myself before. “Oh no, this just won’t do.” I started seeing hair fall. She was trimming my mane as she washed me. Sometime I’d get to talk to her. She was humming a song now, loudly.

This was probably the strangest mare I’d ever met.

“There we go, all clean.” The world blinked again and a startled Ash jumped back to the wall he’d been leaning on earlier. He’d been looking for me. “Now I can begin treatment. Oh, and you were saying?”

I was? Oh, right. “Well.... uh.... hello Crimson Knife. I’m Ripple. I fell and hit my head.” She was nodding with an eager smile on her face. I was sort of afraid she was going to explode with that much energy in her. She was beginning to wrap my leg in a splint and heavy bandages, but I saw a tube of something float by, the medicine inside seeming familiar. She jabbed me in the flank with it and I felt the pain go away. Med-X. Okay.

Then the knife floated past.

“Uh... what are you doing?” I was still a bit dazed by this mare and not just because of my concussion. She was all over the place.

“Oh, I’m just performing some minor debridement before I wrap up your burns.”

That word was right over my head. “Debridement?” I felt the cold of the knife slice into my back, but there wasn’t any real pain.

“The excising of dead tissue to promote healing in the neighboring healthy skin. Standard procedure from what I’ve read.”

Wait. Wait. “Wait, what do you mean read.”

She giggled slightly, “Oh, I’ve never had a burn patient before. Outsiders always bring me the most exciting new injuries.” I tensed up, already under the knife. Her bedside manner left a lot to be desired. Looking down, I saw that a hardening shell was already around my leg. That left me with no legs unadorned.

The scalpel clattered into a metal tray and she spread something on my back, which immediately sent a sense of cold through me. I shivered slightly and she lifted me into the air before running fresh bandages around me. Not that the old ones were that dirty, but I wasn’t about to argue with her. It just sounded like a bad idea to do so.

She placed me back on the bed and started talking in her fast pace. “Now don’t do anything too strenuous for a little bit, take two of these,” she handed me two potions that looked to be higher strength than I was used to, “One now and one in the morning. Get plenty of rest and see me later.”

Turning, she approached Ash, who had a look of fear in his eyes. She went about her business of healing him.

-----

Underhoof was an odd town. Nopony had guns, aside from a few ghouls in armor I saw occasionally. Perhaps their location gave them the security that so many towns strove towards. I was getting quite a few odd glances, probably from the limp and the fact that I was an outsider, something they didn’t get too often. Nopony knew this was down here.

I was sort of in awe. Families walked the streets, a couple sat in front of a local eatery nuzzling each other, there wasn’t blood or violence anywhere. I was the oddity here, a stain on the pristine image that Underhoof managed to pull off. Sure, the town was located in the sewers and maintenance tunnels underneath a city long ago destroyed by balefire and the reoccurring color motif was rust, but it wasn’t the look of the town. It was the feel. The feel that this is how life should be.

My stomach suddenly let me know just how hungry I was and my concussed brain slowly agreed. I turned and headed towards the eatery, drawing strange glances from the couple out front. Walking in, I heard the bustle of the room shut down. All eyes were on me. I approached the pony behind the counter slowly, not letting my eyes wander around. This was awkward.

“Yeah... can I get... uh... just something to eat.” The mare behind the bar nodded and made a quick plate of... food I guessed. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but it looked edible. I payed the mare and turned, walking my food to a corner table, away from the staring eyes.

I had just started eating when a pony slid into the chair across from me. I immediately pegged her as another outsider. An earth pony from what I could tell, though she was wearing a dark hooded robe and had a dark coloration, making her shadowed face all but impossible to see. A single gray eye glinted at me out of the darkness.

“Always good to see another surface dweller down here. Hi, name’s Fluster. I’m a trader. You are?” Her voice was high pitched and sweet.

I swallowed what I had in my mouth and looked at her. “Ripple. Sorry if I seem off, a bit concussed.”

She nodded knowingly, a smile causing her teeth to catch the light, adding more to under the hood briefly. “So, Ripple the concussed, what do you do for a living.”

I paused, thinking about that. Revenge wasn’t a good answer. Spite wasn’t either. “I’m a treasure hunter.” Perfect.

“Ooh, sounds exciting. So how does a treasure hunter come to be down here. They don’t normally let anypony in without a good reason. I for one bring in ammo from the outside. These ponies don’t have any of their own, all they got is medical supplies. Word is they’ve got a MoP vault down here somewhere.”

My ears perked up at that. The Ministry of Peace had hidden some pretty interesting stuff around Hornsmith. Some of it was horrible, like the cube I had in my bag, but there seemed to be a near endless supply of medicine stashed around the town.

“A colleague and I... we found our way here through the sewers. Didn’t know the town was here, but they let us in to recover. Had a run in with gnashers.”

She grimace. “Yeah, those ghouls are pretty mean customers. The ones in the tunnels I mean.” I took another bite of the food, chewing slowly as she talked. Somepony entered the joint but I didn’t look up. Not until he stood next to the table looking down at us.

Rail Spikes.

“Oh, this is convenient. Just the two ponies I was looking for. Listen, I need to see you two in my office when you’re finished eating. Got a little problem that needs settling.” Great. I nodded at him, taking another bite. I wasn’t sure what this food was and I couldn’t exactly describe it in any accurate detail, but it wasn’t half bad.

After Spikes walked away, I looked across the table at the trader. “Know anything about that?”

She shook her head. “Not a thing. Spikes probably has a job for us though.”

Ah. Of course.

----

Fluster led the way as I wobbled along behind her. Her robe dragged along the ground as she walked and I wondered what sort of job the two of us could be working on. She didn’t exactly look combat capable, but if she was actually a trader, she had to know how to fight or she would have died long ago.

Rail Spikes’ office, as I found out, was actually the headquarters of the Underhoof Guard, the entity that policed Underhoof and protected it from outside aggression. Made entirely of ghouls, the Guard kept the ponies of this town safe. Rail Spikes was the captain of the Underhoof Guard, which explained why we had even been let in to town. Captain says you’re okay, everypony follows along.

Ash was waiting for us, his arms heavily bandaged as he looked grumpily at us. “That pony is crazy. You left me with her.”

I shrugged slightly. “Sorry Ash, didn’t think about it. Concussion and all.” I nodded towards Fluster. “Meet Fluster, she’s from topside too. Rail Spikes’ asked her to meet him too.” Ash nodded in greeting at her, clearly wary of the hooded pony.

Rail Spikes stepped into the office from a side room and closed the door. “Good, now time to get to business. You two,” he pointed at Ash and I with a hoof, “owe Underhoof for letting you in. We’ve got some gnashers that have been attacking the west entrance and you’re going to kill them. Fluster here is going to be your guide to their den, she knows the tunnels better than anypony. Fluster, you get first pick of any salvage as payment.”

The trader pony practically rubbed her hooves together when he said that. Ash and I traded glances at the prospect of protecting a pony through something like what we had gone through earlier.

“Hey Chief.” Ash was tapping a claw to the end of his beak as he spoke. “You got anywhere to buy guns around here? I’m not exactly equipped for fighting down here.”

Rail Spikes nodded, pointing out the door. “Outside, tunnel on the left. Blue buck, name of Gristle. Don’t ask about his name.”

Nodding, Ash turned to leave. I followed, Fluster close on my hooves. She trotted along happily, still practically glowing at the prospect of salvage. Me, I worried about her safety. We mess up and she died.

From behind us the gravelly voice shouted. “Oh right. Now I talked to Knife and she told me neither of you are to go anywhere til the morning, so we’ve got a nice cell for you here in the jail. You can head out in the morning.”

We stared at him. We were going to be in the jail all night? Honestly, I’d slept in worse places and I was sure Ash had as well. Nodding, we both felt his gaze follow us as we turned and kept going down the street.

We must have made quite the procession. A bandaged up and angry looking griffin, a large white unicorn covered in burns, bandages and scars, and the small robed pony practically hopping after us. The fact that we were all surface dwellers was just icing on the cake for the townfolk to stare at us.

Ash ducked through the tunnel, sticking to walking upright since his claws and arms were bandaged. I followed, limping slightly and not used to the extra height given by the cast on my leg. The side tunnel led into a room jammed floor to ceiling with storage lockers, shelves, and crates. A small blue buck was digging through a box in the back of the room and looked up as soon as we entered his domain.

“Welcome to Gristle’s Emporium. Everything you need for facing the hazards of the wastes. I’m Gristle, how may I help you today?” He was very short for a buck. Colt sized. Ash towered over him, looking down. The buck to his credit showed no fear. Ash grinned, sure he was going to be able to get a deal. The bargaining was on.

I sat down, rubbing absently at my broken leg and Fluster sat next to me. We watched the two go back and forth, haggling and throwing deals at each other. I’d never seen Ash work before, he’d always just gone to the store and come back with stuff. He was good, way better than I was. Fluster watched it like it was a sport of some kind, her eyes going back and forth as they tossed bids at one another. Finally, it came down to the line.

Gristle won, but not by much.

Ash turned back to us holding a large revolver in one claw, the cylinder open. He was looking the weapon over, checking the barrel and the firing mechanism for any defects. Finding none, he took two boxes of ammunition and a holster belt that Gristle handed to him. From his bag he counted out a good number of caps and several items he had picked up. I wasn’t really paying attention to what he handed over. He fastened the belt around his waist and put the weapon away.

Despite having come out paying more than I felt he had wanted, he looked pleased. “Kick, you should really look into getting another gun.”

I shook my head. I was fond of Broken and it felt almost like I’d be cheating on the weapon if I got another gun. “Maybe another time. Right now... I think I need to lay down.”

The blurriness was beginning to come back in force. I was exhausted from what I had been through and the concussion was just making things worse. I turned from him and left the Emporium, headed back to the jail. By the clock on my PipBuck, the sun had set hours before and it was getting fairly late. I walked into the Guard station before hearing the hooves behind me. Right.

I turned and looked at the mare following me. She hadn’t gotten the hint off of what I’d said. “Fluster, we’ll set out in the morning. Go get some sleep, we’ll see you bright and early.” The look in her eye was odd. Not being able to see the rest of her face made her fairly hard to read. Without saying anything, she turned and trotted off back into the town.

Walking into the jail cell provided, I found a bunk bed and collapsed into the lower bunk. I was asleep in seconds, glad that it was by my own decision and only partially from injury.

----

When I opened my eyes, I was immediately aware of two things. The griffin on the top bunk snored, and waking with a single gray eye staring you in the face in unpleasant. With a startled shout, I backed away from the mare standing on my bed, staring into my face.

“Oh good, you’re awake. We can go get that salvage now. Come on, lets go!” Her voice pierced through the sleepy haze filling my head.

I groaned and floated the potion Crimson Knife had given me up from where it lay in my bag and drank it. My head was feeling much better, as were my burns. My leg still ached a bit, but bone was taking longer to heal than flesh. I kicked my PipBuck leg into the bed above me, trying to wake up the heavily snoring griffin. No response. I looked down at where Fluster was sitting on my bed, “Watch out, I’m gonna try something.”

I braced myself and pushed upwards on one side of the mattress above through the thin metal bars. It lifted and dumped the sleeping griffin onto the cold metal floor with a loud crash. I heard him groan for a while, then the claws came up onto the mattress. The griffin’s head followed shortly and he looked none too pleased.

I shrugged nonchalantly, “Had to wake you up.”

He stood, dusted himself off and walked out of the open cell, picking up his things as he went. I pulled myself off of my mattress and put on my barding and saddlebags, following behind. Fluster was right behind me.

----

The large door made a ringing sound as it slammed shut behind us. We stood in a large tunnel, much bigger than the one we had originally come in. This tunnel was better lit as well, lights running its length. There were signs of traffic on this path, but the torn body of what looked to be a local a ways down the tunnel indicated that it was in no way safe. The body had been ripped apart and partially eaten, blood smeared across the hall and walls. It had not been a pleasant death.

Fluster looked down at the pony for about half a minute. “Pipe Wrench. Local mechanic. He was a good pony.” Her saying that made me immediately start thinking about Shade. It had been only a day since I’d left her in Blank, but it felt like an eternity. I looked at the mare as she gazed at the corpse for a few more seconds and turned, walking further down the hall. The two of us caught up to her quickly and we walked down the tunnel, following her lead.

Quickly, we hooked off of the main path and into a side passage. Then another. Going down some stairs, I hoped briefly that Fluster was as good at knowing these tunnels as Rail Spikes had said, but the confidence with which she moved, never questioning the path we were on, made me feel that she was.

Ash walked with one hand on his newly acquired gun, practicing quick drawing it. He was getting pretty good. I was also quite glad that he had gotten a sidearm. The last time he had fired it down here, my eardrums had nearly burst from the pressure put off by the large rifle.

“Okay, they’re right up ahead. Be careful.” The robed mare had not said anything since we’d found Pipe Wrench and her voice broke the silence I had not even been aware of. I drew Broken and made sure that it was fully loaded. Ash pulled the revolver from his hip, serious now. He stepped forward, his rear legs making very little sound.

He was much stealthier than I was, despite his height, and lead the way. I gestured to Fluster that she should stay close to me and stay low. She nodded eagerly and crept up next to me. She made no noise in doing so and I suddenly felt like a clumsy oaf with my audible click-bump walk from the cast still on my hoof.

Ash was moving ahead of us, going from cover to cover. Making it to a bend in the tunnel, he peeked around the edge and jerked his head back. He held a claw to his beak in a shushing fashion and we snuck up next to him. I peeked around the corner and saw them.

Four ghouls, just standing there, luckily with their backs to us. Ash got a big grin on his face and looked at me. Using two of his claws, he made a walking motion. Then he put his fist into his open hand. I nodded. Ammo conservation would be important, we didn’t know how many we were dealing with. The noise from gunfire would also bring the rest running.

Moving as quietly as possible, rather difficult for me I had to admit, we edged around the corner, approaching the ghouls. Ash snuck ahead while I waited for him to make the first move. Between the cast and the metal on my rear hooves, I wasn’t getting close to them without being detected.

The griffin crept silently behind the nearest one, looming out of the darkness behind it like the predator he was. He grabbed it’s jaw and wrenched its head up, his claws digging deep. Slashing across its throat, he nearly took its head off. The ghoul let out a pitiful choking sound and the others turned their heads towards the griffin’s kill.

I made my move. I moved quick, closing the gap before they even fully registered that one of their numbers was down. My PipBuck clad hoof impacted the side of one ghouls head, driving it into the wall with shattering force. The rotted unicorns skull burst like a melon and I was on to the next target, kicking out with one of my back legs. The impact was dead center in the side of my second ghoul’s neck, the snap of its spine audible through the necrotic meat encasing it.

I looked back in time to see Ash grab the remaining ghoul by the neck, his talons sinking in for better purchase. The ghoul tried to make a noise, but he was pinching its windpipe closed. Gripping the side of its head, he wrenched it to an unusual angle before letting the dead ghoul drop to the ground.

That had gone better than I’d expected. A whisper of cloth on metal made me turn and I saw that Fluster was already amongst us, looting through the ratty utility barding the ghouls wore. “You guys are good. Gnasher’s are mean, but you can find the most interesting things on them.” Pulled a screwdriver from the pocket of one and several caps from another. She held the screwdriver in her mouth proudly. “Been needing a new one of these.”

She slipped what she had found into her robes and I sort of wondered if she had bags, pockets or what. I’d ask later. “Glad you got what I was saying Kick. You really suck at the whole stealth thing.” I was aware. Glancing back at the robed mare, I found she had finished looting the bodies and was nodding eagerly.

“Lets... let’s get get going. We’ve still got a job to do.” Them judging me was getting sort of annoying, so I turned and began trotting away from them further down the tunnel.

Click-clack-bump-clack. Click-clack-bump-clack.

Damn it.

After that, mopping up the gnashers we encountered was easy. They were always clustered in groups of two to four for reason’s beyond me. Ash and I made short work of them all. I guess I had over thought how dangerous they actually were based on our encounter with over a dozen. Smaller groups were much easier to handle. Fluster followed our trail of extermination, leaving nothing of value behind.

Finally, we came to a tunnel leading downwards. It was much darker down there and a horrid stench drifted up to us, much worse than what we’d grown used to.

“The den is down there. Be careful guys... there’s a really mean gnasher down there.” Fluster was cowering a bit as she spoke. For once, she didn’t look excited. She looked legitimately scared. I nodded and began walking downwards into the darkness, Ash next to me. Glancing back, I caught Fluster peering around the corner at us, her gray eye catching the light. Without that, she would have been all but invisible. I saw now how she knew these tunnels so well and yet had displayed zero combat ability.

The tunnel leveled out and we found ourselves at a large metal door, different from every other door, hatch, and portal I had seen down here. Entirely rust free. The paint was long faded, but I thought I saw a faded starburst on the door. Didn’t know that symbol, it wasn’t the three butterflies I’d gotten used to seeing slapped on everything of importance around Hornsmith.

It looked like a bomb had gone off in the room past the door. The room had once been square, but now had holes punched in the walls and ceiling, like an immense force had pushed them outwards to the point of breaking. Standing near the center of the room was a single gnasher. Bigger than the others, a large unicorn stallion. He was wearing scraps of heavy armor, heavier than any I’d seen. He was wearing a battle harness, but the heavy weapons that had once been mounted on it were shattered and bent, far beyond use.

Ash slowly put away the revolver and drew out his rifle. This room was large enough that it might be safe to fire. He took aim through the scope and carefully sighted. I crouched, ready to spring into action at the first sign of hostility.

BOOM!

The shot rang out and the round hit the gnasher in the side, throwing him into a pile of boxes, crushing them into the ground. Then the gnasher stood back up, turning towards us. He let out a shriek and began running across the room at us.

“Shit!” Ash worked the bolt and pulled the trigger again, the round punching into the armor, slowing the charging gnasher for a second before he got up to full speed again. Plowing straight through Ash, the griffin was thrown into the wall, his rifle clattering away into the rubble.

The gnasher hit the wall too, but backed slowly from the wall and started turning towards me. Broken fired, the buckshot tearing into the gnasher’s face and neck, but he barely flinched. What the hell was this pony made of? He charged me, hitting like a brick wall and throwing me end over end. This all seemed familiar somehow was all that I could think as I went airborn. Oh right, the raider in #108. It sucked fighting ponies stronger than myself.

I slid a few feet and pulled myself to my hooves, ready for his next charge. The gnasher kicked up dust as he started building up speed and I waited. At the last second, I jumped to the side and queued up S.A.T.S. Locking in his head twice and his front legs once, I triggered the spell and life began moving again.

BOOM!
BOOM!
BOOM!

The first shot took off his snout in a spray of dark liquid. The second blew out his eye and chunks of his skull, exposing his brain to the outside. The third shot tore into one of his legs at the knee, stripping away metal and rotten flesh to expose muscle and bone beneath..

He hit the ground and slid through a pile of rubble, kicking up a huge cloud of dust and debris. I coughed as I reloaded Broken. I aimed back into the obscuring dust, sure that the large gnasher was finally down. I heard rubble moving and my jaw dropped when I could finally see.

The dead pony was standing back up and turning to face me. A loud shot rang out and a large caliber round tore another hole in the gnasher’s chest, but he still didn’t go down. Charging again, this time with a limp, the gnasher was at least easier to dodge. Leaping to the side but putting a kick into his flank as he passed, I tore another chunk of the pony off but he kept going. Ash dodged as well, putting a round from his rifle into the thing at close range. It went clean through, blowing metal, bone, and innards through a hole in it’s side, but still it came on.

Ash flapped his wings once, lifting him the distance between us and landed next to me as the gnasher slowly turned to start another turn. “What the fuck is this thing?”

The griffin shook his head as I asked and he lined up another shot, “Kick, I got no idea.” The rifle kicked as it hurled another chunk of lead down the room and into the nigh-invulnerable gnasher, blowing chunks off but not dropping him.

“We keep hitting him like this, eventually there won’t be any pony left.” That was my plan and I couldn’t think of any other solution.

The griffin grinned, the look I hadn’t seen in a bit. “Yeah. Let’s do that.” Racking the bolt and putting another round in, we waited for the next charge. It was a good thing that the gnasher was a mindless berserker or this plan would probably fail.

It kept charging and we kept dodging, taking pieces of it with each pass. It was beginning to wear on our ammunition reserves though, which was starting to concern me. “Ash, you got anything explosive in your bag?”

He shook his head and we had to dodge again, firing into the passing gnasher. At least it had become routine. “You still got those explodey rounds though.” That was true, I guess that only having two of them left had kept me from considering using them, but this was getting ridiculous. Fuck it.

I loaded one of the rounds into Broken and triggered my S.A.T.S. not wanting to risk missing on this. I locked in the now charging gnasher, frozen in time through use of my spell, aiming straight into the center of his chest which was now almost completely gone, a dark cavity into his innards.

I fired, watching the explosive slug travelling the distance between us and clear the gap in the gnashers chest. Time sped up and the charging beast exploded from the inside, ripping him in two. The front half landed near us and I groaned as it tried righting itself and started dragging towards us. It was a simple matter then of stomping the gnasher until he couldn’t move anymore.

I was slowly being coated in black goo, but I didn’t care at this point. I called out, “Fluster, you can come clear the place out now!” My E.F.S. showed all clear aside from the red dot I was crushing into paste. Bones crunched and organs squished as I went. Eventually, the pile of once pony was just a quivering mass of hostile intentions. I was briefly struck with the guilty image of what I had done to Outfield as I looked at it, not fully understanding how it was still showing red. Break it down, rip it apart, burn it, shoot it, crush it. This pony just would not stop trying.

This was no ordinary ghoul, nothing like any I’d seen. It had taken far too long to kill and both Ash and I were visibly tired of fighting. The dark shape that was Fluster started working her way around the room, rummaging through surviving boxes and checking every dark corner. I heard her let out a low “Oooh....” and turned looked closer. She had found a door, barely distinguishable behind a pile of rubble. “Could I get some help?”

I trotted over to her, still dripping black ooze. I’d been covered in worse. She recoiled as I neared her, covering her dark face with a robed hoof. “Oh Celestia do you smell! Oh, I’m sorry. Please, could you help me move this rubble, I need through this door.” I chuckled as she felt that she had offended me, but I knew how I smelled. I was covered in what passed for ghoul blood, not exactly a pleasant liquid.

I started shifting the rubble away from the door, using my greater strength to easily move chunks of metal and stone. Ash trotted up next to me and used his more dexterous hands to assist. In no time at all, we had cleared the door, to which Fluster took immediately. Pulling the screwdriver from somewhere under her robes as well as a small strip of metal. Inserting the two in the lock, I wondered if she knew what she was doing. With a click, the door opened and I figured that she did. That skill would have helped back at the HQ or with any of the boxes I had smashed open trying to get into.

She practically hopped as she entered the room and the two of us acting guard walked in behind, weapons drawn. The room was... strange. Equipment I couldn’t even guess at the function of lined the walls, but a single terminal sat in the center. Fluster was clearly not interested in the terminal, opening instead the number of lockers lining one wall.

>>Ministry of Arcane Sciences - Hornsmith Maintenance and Storage
>>Connection to Canterlot Server Lost - Read Only Mode Active
>>
>>
>>
>>Report 2576

I activated the report, the only option since the terminal was in some sort of lockdown. A wall of text popped up and I read through it, not expecting much.

--Report 2576
“Grace is having us move one of the subjects from Project Endless out of Hornsmith but with our limited presence here, we’ve got to keep it in this damned maintenance room. Hate this town, everything’s underground. Sure, Hoofington isn’t much better, but at least you get to see something there. The town up topside is so very bland. Like they chose the lamest unicorn in existence to design it. None of the usual flare. Anyways, I hate having to keep that thing here, I don’t trust it. None of those ponies seem right and we’re keeping it in a room filled with the experimental power supplies for long term cryogenics containers? Who’s idea was this. Probably Glory’s, she has no idea how to handle magical materials, much less magical weapons. These MoP ponies shouldn’t be messing with this, it’s way beyond them. Hold on... somethings going on. Ground just shook. I’ll report further when I return.

-Azure Crystal
-MoAS Inventory Control Specialist
-------

That was all there was. I wondered if the pony we had put down was the same one she was talking about. Also wondered if the power supplies she had talked about were what had caused so much damage in that room. This had just added questions to my mind, though not as important as what Project Endless actually was

Was it connected to Project Greenhoof? The horror I’d seen (and felt) attached to that made me think that if another Black Cube or whatever that thing in the tube, the Draconequus, was involved, an unkillable pony was not beyond question. I copied the report to my PipBuck and turned away from the terminal as Fluster walked up next to me. “I got all the good stuff. Let’s head back, Rail Spikes will be happy that you took down these ghouls.” She smiled, the light reflecting on her white teeth under the hood. Again, I wondered what she really looked like.

Nodding, I turned to the door. “Let’s head back. Fluster, you lead the way, pretty sure we’d get lost without you.”

She hopped out the door and I followed, Ash close behind. Passing the mass of bone and rotten meat that was the unstoppable gnasher, I noticed that a blood smear was on the ground for a foot or two. It had still been trying to get at us. Shuddering, I gave it a wide berth, heading to the door. As Fluster continued through, I asked Ash to close the door behind us. That thing was really creeping me out.

He closed the door with a loud bang and turned a handle, locking it securely. With that, we headed back through the tunnels towards Underhoof where then hopefully we could make our way back topside. There was only pain in these tunnels.

----

When I saw the corpse of Pipe Wrench, I knew we were on the right path. Right up ahead was the main door to Underhoof, undecorated and looking much like every other door of it’s size down here. I now fully understood how a town stayed so hidden and functioned with scavengers and merchants like Fluster heading out to bring in supplies.

Fluster approached the large metal gate and banged on it with a robed hoof, three times and then one. The door clunked and started sliding into the ceiling, revealing the entrance to Underhoof. Rail Spikes and two Guards I hadn’t seen before were there, guns pointed straight into our faces. Upon seeing Fluster though, they lowered their weapons and moved aside. We walked in and the gate closed behind us with a loud clang.

Fluster, still rather excited about the salvage she’d brought in, hopped towards Gristle’s Emporium. Ash and I stood there as Rail Spikes approached us, the other two Guard heading into the city to do whatever it was they did when not guarding doors. “I see you’ve come back in one piece. Kept Fluster unharmed too. Good work, didn’t know what to expect from you two honestly. If you’d died, no skin off my back, but if she died this town would be down a talented scavenger. Can’t have that, but I knew she’d have been able to handle herself if the situation got bad. Anyways, I’m rambling. You’re payed up and free to go, though Knife asked to check up on you before you left.” He nodded, a short nod, and walked away from us. We made our way towards the big red knife and trotted through the open door.

“Crimson Knife? You here?” I called out only to have the unicorn appear in front of my with a small pop I hadn’t noticed before. She glanced the two of us over and her eyes narrowed. I felt the straps holding my barding on loosen and the whole thing was removed along with my bags.

She was immediately at my side, looking at me and lifting the bandages from around my midsection. “Patient displaying substantial bruising most likely from strong impact. Bruising not in conflict with burnt area, debridement treatment showing positive results. Burns healing nicely.”

She leaned down and her horn glowed, tapping my cast. The whole thing went transparent and I could suddenly see my bone. That made me a little queasy. “Bone fracture healing nicely, potion seems to be doing its job and helping the process along at an accelerated rate.”

The little flashlight came out again. “Patient’s pupils responding normally, concussion nearly completely healed.”

Then she moved to Ash, giving him the once over and removing his bandages. Once she finished talking to herself, she recoiled from us, her nose wrinkling. The world blinked and the three of us were in the room with the shower. The water turned on and myself and the griffin were immediately soaked.

As the water ran over my face, I had to ask. “Is this necessary?”

She was scrubbing both of us rapidly with twin sponges. “You’re both absolutely filthy. Filth begets infection. Infection begets death. I won’t have any of my patients dying because they’re dirty.” The scrubbing got to my mane and I sighed, accepting my fate. Ash hadn’t said anything, just sitting there as the red mare scrubbed at his black feathers.

Yep. Strangest mare I’d ever met. Even with Shade’s strange behavior, Sweeps’ complete switch of personality, Cinder’s gleeful insanity, and Fluster’s overactive scavenging, Knife took the cake on this one.

----

As we stood in front of the opening gate, we were both in good moods. We were going to get back to the surface, out of this hell of metal and darkness. Ash had a massive grin and I was honestly a little proud that he’d been handling his claustrophobia so well, but made a note to avoid elevators with him. The large metal gate opened fully with a shuddering bang and we took our first steps towards the surface. Rail Spikes has told us the route to take and I’d done everything I could to tie it to memory.

As we walked down the hall, I heard a faint rustling sound and looked behind me. I saw nothing save for a few Guards as the door closed, looking down the tunnel at us. I just chalked the noise up to the gate and kept walking, eyes forward.

The two of us walked side by side for a long while. We’d gone to Gristle’s and loaded up on ammo and supplies with what little we had left to trade, along with a bit that Fluster had apparently given him for just that case. She was a nice pony, way nicer than we had deserved. She made me think of Shade, honestly. I was missing her more and more. I think I was in love, or something. It was a strange feeling, nothing like the usual guilt and self-loathing. A warm feeling. The pain of being away from her was an alien feeling though, like part of me was in a completely different locale.

That rustling noise again and I whipped around, Broken drawn. Ash kept walking and whistled for me to keep up. I saw nothing behind us again and holstered the shotgun before turning to catch up to the griffin. “Hey Kick, you should calm down brony. Nothing bad sneaking up behind us.” He leaned in close and whispered, “It’s just Fluster. She’s been following us since we left.”

I turned my head slightly, playing it much stealthier this time. There, I caught a glimpse of a dark robe disappearing into a doorway. Playing along, I kept walking, a smile on my face. At least with her tailing us, we wouldn’t get lost. I don’t think she’d let us go off our path and end up dying somewhere in the tunnels, at least not if I had her pegged right.

Slowly, I began noticing that the tunnel we were in was sloping upwards. It was the small stream of water running down one side that tipped me off. Must be raining topside. Occasionally, I would peek behind my shoulder to make sure that the mare was still following us. Sure enough, now that I knew what to look for, I saw her. I knew what to look for and I was still straining to see her.. A little darker shadow than usual, a small rustle of fabric, each of these betrayed her location.

Ash’s head perked up a bit and he moved quicker. I trotted faster to keep up with him, Fluster’s noise behind us picking up only slightly. “What’s up?”

The grinning griffin began running. “It’s rain! Can’t you hear it, we’re near the surface!” We rounded the corner and came to a stairway running up to a door. He took it several steps at a time and stopped right before the door, taking a small breath. Placing a claw on the door handle, he turned and it swung freely.

Opening the door cautiously, he peeked out briefly before opening it wider and stepping out into the rain. I followed, eager to get some fresh air. It was really coming down outside, like the sky was trying to wash Hornsmith off of the world. Ash was standing in the middle of a partially flooded street, staring straight up with his wings spread wide. He was laughing to himself.

The door had lead into an alcove in between two buildings, a small shelter from the rain. I stood there, not wanting to get wet at this exact moment. I’d had enough water for a while. I stuck my head back through the door and caught movement as Fluster darted back around the corner. “Fluster, it’s alright. You can come out, I want to talk to you.”

Her hooded head poked around the corner and I saw her single gray eye looking up the stairs at me. Sighing visibly, she began the ascent, reaching me in no time.

“I was hoping you guy’s hadn’t noticed me.” I patted her lightly on the head, shaking my head with a smile. “You did a good job, I would never have known if Ash hadn’t told me. Why are you following us though?”

Looking past me at the griffin in the rain, she smiled. “You two are fun and if you don’t mind, I’d like to hire you to be my guards for a bit longer. It would just be me following wherever you went and scavenging what I can. I’ve never had guards on the surface before, I can only imagine what we’ll find. You’re treasure hunters after all.”

Oh right, I’d told her that. I grinned, nodding. “Yep. We’re treasure hunters alright. We’ll take the job, just stay out of the way, alright?” She bounced lightly, nodding happily. “We’ll be going to some pretty dangerous places, so I want you to do your stealth thing as much as possible. Rail Spikes would kill me if I let you get hurt...” Though he might kill me if he knew that she had followed us up here.

Ash walked up to us, dripping heavily from the amount of water his feathers and fur had absorbed. Looking down at Fluster, he nodded with a grin. “Hey short stuff, you finally came out of hiding.”

The griffin shot a glance at me, I shrugged in response. “Fluster’s hired us as her guards for a bit longer. She’ll be travelling with us.”

Crossing his arms, he glared a little. “Well... can’t say no to that I guess. Caps are caps and I’m under contract. Just don’t get in the way, okay?” She nodded up at the large predator, unbowed by the bird of prey look I’d seen him give to several ponies now. The look he’d given me when we’d first met, like I was a potential snack. Must be his way of testing a pony’s resolve.

“We’d better take shelter for the night though, this rain is gonna make travelling a bit tough. Think I saw a building a bit further down the street that looked promising.” The griffin walked back out into the street, pointing down the road. Following, Fluster and I joined the griffin and we strolled down the drowning street.

Author's Note:

Thanks to Kkat for creating FoE, an amazing piece fiction as well as a setting.
Credit for the name Underhoof goes to No_One, writer of Fallout Equestria: Heroes. Brohoof to him.

As always, if you've enjoyed it thus far, please comment/rate/favorite/track. Much love from me.