• Published 27th Feb 2013
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Fallout: Equestria - The Hooves of Fate - Sprocket Doggingsworth



A young filly in present day Ponyville is cursed with nightmares of post-apocalyptic Equestria. She finds herself influencing the course of future history in ways that she cannot understand.

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The Pit of Infinite Duckies

CHAPTER NINETEEN - THE PIT OF INFINITE DUCKIES

"There are other worlds than these." -Stephen King



Excerpt from The Ponies' History of Equestria:

The Discordian era was a Dark Age. We call it that not because of the suffering that was inflicted upon Discord's subjects, but rather, the joy that was deprived from them.

We have little to go on, save for a saddlebag full of accounts recorded by the first generation of survivors after The Great Petrification, but one point seems quite consistent from testimony to testimony. The ponies of that era were systematically, or rather, chaotically, robbed of their identity and culture. This was, by all first hoof accounts, far worse a crime than any of the admittedly comical physical violations perpetrated by the tyrant Discord.

'It wasn't all bad.' Reported Ivory Keys, an old mare by the time the royal archivists had started the P.R.E.S.E.R.V.E. oral history project. 'My husband was born blind, you see? 'Till he went and stepped on de empr'ers tail.

'From way I hear it told, Ol' Empr'er Discord, had whipped around, and said, "What are you blind?"

'Then he saw the whites in my poor hubby's eyes. And just bust out laughin', that Discord did.

'Ol' Empr'er touched my special somepony on the head, and made him see for the first time in ever. Even threw a couple-a extra eyeballs onto his face for good measure.

'Freaked 'im out something fierce at firss, but once he got used to it, it really did seem like a miracle. We were both so happy.

'That's one thing that folks who didn't actually live through such times don't never seem to get. Y'all think Discord's reign was a matter-a hardship n' physical torments, every hour, every day.

'Nope.

'Ol' Empr'er Discord was kind as often as cruel. So long as it was funny to 'im. That's the key.

'What really gets ya is something my folks used to call the not-knowin's.

'You couldn't count on sun nor moon to rise and set proper-like. Not like these newfangled innovations our sov-rin princesses worked up. You didn't never know what was gonna happen, or even how long a day was gonna last.

'You couldn't even count on your fellow pony the way you can today. If you went and met somepony you got along with, ya just didn't know if they were gonna to be blind from one day to the next, or if'n they might alla sudden start meowin' like a alley cat.

'So yeah, we all had our bad days and our good.

'But when our highnesses came along, (and I'm proud to call 'em that), dey not only told us stories about kindness, loyalty, laughter, and other et cet'ra's. Dey gave us somethin' to trust."


Ivory Keys' recording is just one of several dozen records to express that sentiment. The surviving testimonies unanimously confirm that Discord, as Emperor, had kept positively everyone intentionally disoriented - in the dark about their own history.

So we refer to this era as The Dark Age, for the ponies of the time were in the dark regarding so very many things. We also refer to it as "dark" because of how little we, in the modern era, know about it.

'There is no darkness as great as the unknown, for in every uncertainty, lies the potential for our greatest fears and insecurities to take root, and bring out the very worst in all of us.' So sayeth Cloprates.

In this vein, it is worthy of note, that Ivory Keys, upon finishing her final recording, left us all with a rather chilling reminder. When the interviewer inevitably inquired whether she or her husband had ever mourned the gift of his vision, she told the story of how her husband lost his sight again after the princesses took reign of the kingdom.

'He wept, of course. For days. Weeks. 'Till suddenly he just plain didn't.

'I didn't question it, being the type to let sleeping dogs lie.

'Whelp, after he had been blind again for quite a while, and the princesses had brought some order back to Equestria, old Ebony Mixolydian told me how lucky he was. For the friends he'd made, the family me and him'd built - for the miracles that happened around us every single day. I know they don't seem like miracles to you youngsters, but to hear kind words at the marketplace, to meet up with old buddies and have 'em remember ya, to be able to put some trust in your sisters, and to know that you got a bunch of someone's to catch you if'n you fall?

'That's a kinda magic I wouldn't never guess possible back in the day.

'Well, anyway, one night, when we knew the worst of it was long behind us – when we were both good and wrinkled, and our kids good and grown, I just up and woke all those sleeping dogs. I asked the old colt outright if he ever missed that short time when he could see – what with all them extra eyes and all.'

[The archivists of the day recorded a long, silence as Ivory rocked back and forth and looked up at the sky.]

'You know what he said to me?

'He put his withered ol' hoof right up against my face and he said, "Honey, I see more clearly now, than I ever done seen before.'"

-The Ponies' History of Equestria

* * *

I sobbed when I crawled through that tunnel. Wailed. Freaked out so blindly that I can barely even remember it now. I carried on and on and on and on and on, 'till eventually the terrors tired out.

After that, I just felt spent. Frayed.

I dragged myself forward, out-of-it as I was. Jittery as I was. And lurched like some kind of zombie. It was fucking awful. The not-knowin's.

That lady from the history books was right. When you don't know what's around the bend, every birthday candle is a potential red hot poker to the eye; every dark scary 300-year-old tunnel, a death trap of whirring spikey bits and flames; and every curve in your path has shadowy clitmuffins on the other end of it, waiting to pop out of nowhere and nom on your fucking soul.


I don't know how long I crawled through the darkness, but it sucked. The sound of my own breath was the only thing that might pass for company. One of the many reasons that I fucking hate tunnels.

Yank! I snagged my sleeve on some kind of ridge - an imperfection in the floor - and fell forward.

"Ahhh!" I cried, certain that I was going to drop away into some hole - some grindy spikey flaming octopus-filled abyss, never to be seen or heard from again.

Then, wham. The floor hit me. And nothing happened.

I'd fallen all of 18 inches.

I got up, rubbed the sore spot on my chin. It didn't even hurt all that much. I looked around, for what good it did. The outsides of my eyelids were as black as the insides.

"Fuck!" I cried out in frustration.

Cringed when the sound inevitably came echoing back at me. If so much as a whimper gets out in a place like that, it reverberatizes strangely - bounces back sounding like some kind of awful whale song.

When you get fed up and actually shout?

It's deafening.

I threw my hooves over my ears.

"Fuck fuck fuck fuck." I whispered, growling under my breath, pressing my head against the floor.

I wished I could wake up. Like a normal pony. Like a normal dream.

"Stupid brain wind!" I slammed my head against the floor, whale echoes or no.

I cried. Sobbed. I broke down all over again. Hated myself for it. All over again.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Then I stopped. Just stopped. Picked myself up, and stared angrily at the darkness ahead of me.

“What if I stay here, instead, huh? Ruin your plans!” I raved under my breath. "How do I know you're not just gonna pull some One-I'm-Supposed-to-Save-and-fuck-everypony-else bullshit like last time? Huh? Huh?!"

There was, of course, no answer. So I blew a raspberry at the darkness.

"Pbbbbt."

Still no answer.

It made me so mad that, I forgot about how echoy the tunnel could get. Broke that growly whisper and raised my voice.

"Answer me, already. Answer me!" I commanded.

But once again, there was no answer. Except for my own voice, coming back at me to stab me in the ears. Like that whale song, only it hurt. Hurt so bad I had to stuff my entire mane in my ears just to shut it up.

And when it passed, there was that same old silence. And the hum coming from the wall.

MmmmmMMMMmmMMmm...

With a sigh, I picked myself up, and got to crawling again. Cause what would dying forgotten and alone in a tunnel prove?

* * *

"Stupid voices." I grumbled under my breath.

The fates had a bridle on me. No matter how much I chomped at the bit, I had no choice but to move forward. But it boiled up that slave rage all over again.

I was roasting in there. Sweating. Squirming for half a fucking mile through an ancient spooky Tunnel O' Suck, all 'cause of the whims of a bunch of voices, and images, and super-special/mystical-forcey-heads who took some kind of sick pleasure in shoving me every which way. Watching me like another squiggle majig under their microscope.

Those ineffable pricks never even bothered to give themselves a name - to say hello. To do me the basic common courtesy of saying, "Hay, we're sorry, but we really need ya, Rose, and here's why. Could you do us a solid and help us out?"

Nothing.

I stewed in my anger. Fermented bitter thoughts about The Powers That Be. About the Priestess. About Wormwood. Wondered how I even ended up in such a crawly, shadowy, not-knowin's-y mess anyway? I grumbled my way down the tunnel. Replaying the night's events in my head again, and again. Like a beat up old instructional film they show you in class. 'Till, finally, it struck me.

This wasn't about the folder. Or the war. I wasn't crawling through that forsaken tunnel 'cause of The Powers That Be.

I had done it to myself.

I'd done it to imagine the look on Wormwood's face when she flipped out and blew a gasket.

Fuck you, Colonel wormwood. Fuck you.

That's what drove me in here. Not voices. Not a sense of duty to the potatoes and the corns down in No Mare's Land – not any kind of hifalutin concern for all the lives at stake.

Just a simple, petty fuck you.

One of the good ones, my flank.

There were thousands out there counting on me to fight for them. And all I cared about was spite.

"I'm sorry, Twink." I cried.

l wasn't one of the good ones. Wasn't special. I'd let her down. Whatever it was that poor Twinkle Eyes had thought she'd seen in me was a lie.

I was just like everypony fucking else. Good when I want to be.

Then there was Colonel Wormwood. All that stuff about the Crystal Empire secrets falling into the wrong hooves? She believed it. Sure, she was a boiling kettle of grief-rage. Sure, she was doing a horrifically wrong thing. But she wasn't doing it blind. Wormwood had a reason, and she, at least, believed in it.

Fuck, I thought. If she’s doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, is my doing the right thing for the wrong reasons really any better?

* * *

I ran that fuck you through my head over and over. I had plenty of time to do it, too. In a place like that, your thoughts echo in your skull louder than your hoofsteps do.

Wormwood hadn't simply blown a gasket. She had panicked. The question that ate at me was: Why?

Think about it, Rose. If this tube's a dead end, she can just post a sentry at the entrance to the tunnel. Wait me out. If it's a death trap, she wouldn't have to worry about the folder coming to light.

Yeah, she might care about my well-being just enough not to want me to go inside - she wasn't a monster - but the way she'd acted?

That was no concernitty flail. She was angry. Afraid.

Wormwood knew - actually fucking knew that if I went in there, I would come out again eventually. She knew that I had everything I needed to expose her. Her team may not have cracked The Wall's ancient mojo, but Colonel Wormwood had figured out enough of it to get all flailitty on me. And that meant that if I kept crawling forward, I might actually stand a chance.




So I kept crawling. And crawling and crawling and crawling and crawling.

Left, right, left right.

Slip, slide, slip slide.

My trenchcoat dragging under my knees all the way.

Swish swishitty-swish, swish, swish.

With a little taste of hope, and the not-knowin’s tucked far away, at least for a while, I lost myself. I crawled 'till I forgot I was doing it.

Until my body forgot too. Until I was left with just the rhythm of my breathing, the rhythm of my motion, and the hum of the great big crystal whale wall I was inside of.

It made me forget that my body was even a thing. After my thoughts had finished chasing themselves around in circles, I forgot them too. And was left in a strange hypnotic silence.

Eventually, the rhythm of the crawling faded too.

Then there was the desert.

* * *

Red sands. Everywhere. Purple skies.

"What the fuck?"

I spun around, and saw only horizon. Miles and miles and miles of nothing stretching out as far as the eye can see.

I was somewhere else now. Somewhere alien.

"What the--?" I whispered again.

I closed my eyes. Looked deep down inside. Desperate for a brain hornet. A clue. Anything! Think, think, think, think, think.

But It was quiet in there. For the first time since I’d gotten my cutie mark, the inside of my brain was dead. Fucking. Quiet.

I checked my black evil hoof next. Felt it. Rubbed those red grains of sand against it.

Nothing.

I don't know what I'd expected. The stupid thing wasn't exactly made out of centipedes or anything - no evil mojo teeming around down there. No giant pools of black tar or smoke. But my hoof still felt quieter than usual somehow.

I can't explain it. The shadows' connection to me had been so faint, that I hadn't even noticed it myself. Until it was cut.

The brain hornets were gone. The shadows were gone. Wherever I was, it was outside of their reach.



I looked down. Saw only cracked zig zaggity sands. Looked up. Saw only sickly purple skies. Purple!

Think, Rose. Think! What do you actually know?

The time. Yeah, that's it. The time.

It was 280 years after the big bomb. Same as it was back in the tunnel.

The place? Somewhere un-Equestria.

But how did I know that? More importantly, if I wasn't in Equestria anymore, where was I?

I looked around again: at the sickly skies; at the cracked and broken ground. Scanned the landscape for some kind of clue - some kind of way out. As though there'd be a zipper just casually floating there in the air, that I could grip with my teeth, open up, hop on in, and just go right home. But there wasn't.

I had to calm down. I had to get logicky. It had worked in the tunnel when I'd picked apart Wormwood's motives, and figured out that there had to be an exit. So why not here?

Ok, Rose. I said to myself, yet again. Think!



I was in another place . A world outside of Equestria. That I'd gotten to all by myself. The powers that tugged on me - the hornets, the shadows - for whatever reason, they couldn't follow me here. The only voice I had helping me was totally my own. And all it knew was the time relative to the apocalypse. And it seemed to have an extremely vague concept about the place.

"Sweet Celestia," I whispered to myself.

That internal clock of mine? It wasn't a message from beyond like those other whispers.

It was something I perceived. All by my lonesome[. A fucking superpower. That I had control of.

I thought it over and smiled.

It made me wonder what else I could do.




I approached the nearest object. A rock. Well, not really a rock. More like a dried up clunk of sand. I bent down to look at it real close. Focused on it. Concentrated.

If I could clear my mind again like I had when I'd tranced out back in the tunnel, I stood a chance of maybe doing something, I don't know...else. Something cool!

So I examined every crevice of that rock. And cleared the everliving shit out of my mind. Just gritted my teeth, grunted, and cleared that fucker.

That's what you're supposed to do, right? Clear your mind? I think I read that somewhere.

Anyway, when it was good and clear, I focused. And I waited. 'Till I happened upon this moment - just a teeny tiny moment - where it was just me and the rock, you know? Nothing in the world else.

So I let 'er rip. Threw all my attention forward like a great big attention cannon. Ready to do something amazing. Ready to tap into my inner potential. Ready to get fucking magical. Ready to set fire to that damn rock...with my mind!

* * *

...

* * *

...

* * *

...




Nothing happened. Nothing at all.

"Arrrg!"

I kicked the stupid rock.

“Stupid rock!" I shouted.

When it landed, I had nothing better to do, so I tracked it down. Trudged on over to it, and kicked it again. Just to show it who was boss.

"Fucking desert! Fucking rock!"

I sighed. Plopped my flank down on the ground. And sighed again.

I had no water. No compass. There wasn't even a Sun in that freaky purple sky.

Only I could take something as simple as getting as lost in a tunnel, and turn it into something as complicated as getting lost in a desert.

I missed No Mare's Land. At least there I understood what I needed to do. I missed Ponyville. Dorky old Cliff Diver, and Bananas Foster, and Screw Loose. I worried about Roseluck. Where had she gone? Would she make it in time for Hearth's Warming Morning? I wondered what condition she 'd find my body in if I couldn't figure out how to escape from that stupid desert.

Somewhere in all that, I caught sight of a mountain range way off in the distance. One I hadn't noticed before. So I headed in that direction. Because why the hell not?

I picked myself up with a bit of a grunt, and got moving. The sands were hot under my hooves. The walk took me fucking nowhere. But I made for the mountains anyway cause it seemed like the thing to do.

I'm not sure how far I got. And it doesn't really matter. Because the desert up and disappeared on me.

Poof! Gone. The whole world. The whole universe. Pulled out from under me.


Like the plug in a bathtub. The next thing I know, I'm getting sucked down the drain. In this giant whirlpool of what the hell.

That little meter in my head that told me when and where I was? It went crazy. 300 years after the bomb. 200 years after the bomb. 100. 50. 20. 10.

Worlds flickered in front of me too. Ones not even Equestria. Ones I can't explain. Worlds that took the simple, beautiful primary colors of life, and ground them up into a gritty hideous mess, with not a drop of pastel in sight.

I saw a sock puppet and screamed.

"Fuck!"

I flailed, tried to grab a hold of something - to find a world I could land safely in - to find that rubber ducky that I had taken for granted back when this whole mess had still been a regular old bath. But I just kept swirling on down the drain.

"Ahhh!" I screamed.

'Till finally, I got sucked through the hole, and I fell. Zoom! I hurtled directionless through Luna probably wouldn't even know what, and I suddenly found myself totally surrounded by millions. Billions of these things - bubbles that looked like they were made out of chunks of the night sky - universes. They warped into these weird curvy shapes. Like little rubber duckies careening down the drain with me. But none of them was my ducky. None of them were home.

I concentrated – stretched out with all my might. Focused. The first "ducky" to come within my reach, I grabbed a hold of. Latched on for dear life. It made a squeaky sound. An actual squeaky sound.

"No way," I said.

Then, whoosh.

<-=======ooO Ooo=======->

Crack-a-doom. Lightning strike. All of a sudden I was in the universe I'd been holding.

That big evil shadow castle from my dreams was right in front of me, big and tall, floating on some kind of sky island.

Time: 1050 years before the bomb. Place: Some kinda space between worlds.

I screamed for dear life. "Aaaah! Ahh! Ahh! Ahhhhhh!"

The thought of setting hoof in that place made me want to grab my own mane, stuff it in my mouth, and swallow it just to avoid breathing the air inside. But I had no hooves to set. No mane to eat. No lungs. No body at all. I shot straight through the castle walls, all the way to the inside.

From there, I just sorta floated with my consciousness. And when I looked around, there were no shadowy clitweasels at all.

* * *

I was in some kind of great big reception hall. It was quiet. Cavernous. Cold. Until the colts came running.

They darted around, trying desperately to escape something. Their hoofsteps echoed all over the place.

"Quick! Hide in there!" One of them whisper-shouted at the other.

A pegasus. Green. About my age. He flew straight up the wall, careful not to be seen.

"Hide there." He said.

"Where?" The other one snapped from down below.

A yellow earth pony kid. The pegasus perched atop a ledge and shuffled his way behind a massive tapestry.

"Where?!" The smaller one repeated, spinning around like a dog chasing his tail.

The pegasus poked his head out from behind his ceiling tapestry just long enough to point at a floor level tapestry.

"Right yonder! Hurry!" His little voice trembled.

The earth pony kid ran for it as fast and as hard as he could. Dove behind the wall rug. Straightened it out. But he was winded, and bad at hiding. He breathed louder than donkey's snore.

The pegasus held dead still behind his ceiling tapestry. Closed his eyes.

"Run," I whispered, though I had no mouth.

A tense silence hung over the hall as the echoes of their hoofsteps faded. The boy at ground level struggled to quiet his breath. When the door thundered open, he gasped, and held it.

My brain wasn't flying around anymore. I was following the kid now. All I could see was the top of his head. All I could hear was the pounding of his heart.

A storm started brewing right there in the castle. The tapestries shook. The winds blew. The temperature of the whole room dropped so fast, the air seemed weird and unnatural. The ground even started to rumble. It was coming for them.

"Oh no, oh no, oh no." The earth pony kid whispered. His heart did a massive drum solo inside his chest.

Then whoosh. The tapestry blew away - folded itself all the way upward, straight to the ceiling, and the child was exposed.

He huddled. Helpless. And an unearthly jingling crept up on him. Like the sound of a Hearth's Warming ghost and his chains dragging over the floor. When the sound stopped, the kid looked up and saw a pony. Beard as long as the ages. Flowing robes adorned with bells and stars and moons.

"What is this?" Said the withered old stallion.

He plopped a poorly made plush toy on the floor.

"Coolface! You found him!"

The kid grabbed the toy with teeth, and hugged it tight.

"That I did." The old guy stared down his nose at the boy. "And how, pray tell, did Coolface find his way into my chambers?"

The beardo's robe jingled with anger.

"I, I, I..." The kid stuttered.

When he couldn't come up with a reply, he just up and burst into tears.

"Cloud Raiser? Would you care to answer?" The beardo turned to face the ceiling - the exact tapestry that the pegasus had hidden behind.

"We...um..."

The pegasus poked his head out from behind the tapestry. He wasn't as stealthy or as clever as he'd thought

"It was me." Said the little one. "Only me."

The beardo cocked an eyebrow. He wasn't buying it.

"A wizard's chambers is no place for child's play. You could've been hurt."

"I know." The little one sobbed.

"Then why were you in there?" Beardo roared, unmoved by the tears.

He knelt down, grabbed the kid by his shoulders.

"Why?" He pleaded angrily.

I got so mad at the old bastard. He seemed like such a jerk. But when I looked closer, I saw terror in his eyes. There was something going on here I didn't quite understand.

"Why?" The beardo bit his lip. Like he was about to cry himself.

"Because I was helping him." Said the pegasus from up above. "To...to...look for a weapon."

Beardo spun around, speechless.

"For the next time that they come back." Said Cloud Raiser.

The wizard's jaw dropped.

"I'm sorry." Said Cloud Raiser.

He leapt off the ledge and flapped his way down onto the ground. "Please don't...we only wanted to...It's just that..Cake Frosting has been afraid to sleep. It's been days."

The old stallion spun to face the little one, Cake Frosting. The earth pony just turned away in shame.

"Why?" Said the wizard. "The princess will protect you. Always. You know that, don't you, child?"

The little guy sniffed, nodded in agreement. After a long hard silence, he finally worked up the nerve to say what was really on his mind.

"But, Master Starswirl," Cake Frosting asked. "What if she can't?"

It hurt him to say it. It hurt the wizard even more to hear it. But it was one of those conversation elephants. A real fear on both of their minds. What if she can't?

"No, " I whispered, though I had no tongue.

Princesses protect you. It's what they fucking do.

What if she can't? What if she can't?! What's wrong with these ponies? I thought. How dare they? Luna can do anything.

It was bad enough that the potato soldiers in the future had to go princessless, but a child? In Luna's own castle?

The thought of it made me feel alone.

I got so mad I couldnt concentrate. My sight went all hazy on me. The whole world started crumbling away. It was like looking through cracked glass.

No. Not again! I struggled to get it together - to hold on - but It was like trying to grip a hoof full of rain.

I could still make out the old beardo. Just barely. He didn't say a word to the kids. Didn't offer any comfort. No hugs, or “it’ll-be-alright’s.” The three of them just sorta stood there, not sure what to do with one another. 'Till their mournful silence was finally broken by the sound of music. Beautiful music.

It's one of the last things I caught before the world flickered away and got all scrambley on me. A voice, dark and soulful. It seemed to whisper in my ear a message of love and acceptance meant for me and me alone. But Cake Frosting's face lit up at the sound of it too. And Cloud Raiser. The only one frowning was the beardo. Something weighed heavily on his mind.

The voice was Princess Luna's. The song, a melody I'll never forget.

"Come little children, I’ll take you away into a land of enchantment.

Come little children, the time’s come to play

Here in my garden of shadows."

The sound of laughing fillies carried in with it. I wished so hard that I could be one of them. I desperately tried to hold on - to focus - for just a moment longer. I had to see what was coming next. But I couldn't! The world was going down the drain way too fast. The absolute last thing I could make out was the ancient beardo.

“It would seem the new freshman class has arrived,” he said in a voice that warbled and flickered away into mush.

"You know what to do." Master Starswirl turned to Cloud Raiser.

Then everything went black.

<-=======ooO Ooo=======->

Patooey!

That universe spat me out, back into the pit of infinite duckies. It was just as disorienting as it had been the first time, but I was left in awe of what I had seen - of what I had heard.

That feeling I got when Princess Luna had sung to us - I wondered if that's what it felt like to have a mother sing you to sleep.

* * *

Bam!

"Ouch!"

I was going down the stupid hole so fast, I ended up knocking into duckies left and right.

Squeak-a, squeak-a, squeak-a! That same rubber ducky sound that had catapulted me into the castle's past.

"Not again," I said.

<-=======ooO Ooo=======->

Equestria. 1500 years before the bomb. A giant rock came crashing in from the sky burning with magic flame.

Yikes!

Whooom!

<-=======ooO Ooo=======->

I bounced out of there, just as quickly as I'd bounced in.

Wrong ducky.

I didn't even get to tumble around the ether this time. Squeak-a-squeak-a-squeak. I slammed into another one, and in I went.

"Stupid duck!" I shouted at the universe.

<-=======ooO Ooo=======->

The shadow castle again. 29 years after what I'd just seen. Beakers were scattered everywhere. Bunsen burners. A pony was strapped into some kind of freaky looking chair, trying to scream, but she couldn't. She turned black with shadow and mist. Disintegrated into smoke just a few feet in front of me. The sight was so terrible, I would have screamed with her if I could.

I don't know why, but I felt like, somehow, I knew her. In the moment just before her eyes fogged over, she reminded me of Twilight Sparkle. The librarian.

Swish.

<-=======ooO Ooo=======->

I came out again, back in to the pit. The area around me looked like the night sky. Speckled with blue and purple, and a hundred gazillion stars. Flower petals floated around absoltuely everywhere for reasons I can't even begin to explain. I would have stopped to marvel at the beauty of it all, if I could only stop smacking into those stupid rubber duckies every five seconds.

Squeeeak! I hit bottom. The worst ducky of them all.

<-=======ooO Ooo=======->

I found myself suddenly standing in a fancy hallway, only it was decrepit. Ruined. The air was not only dusty, but pink for some reason. It burned my tongue and throat

I can't believe it! I thought.

I have a tongue! And a throat!

I was in an actual body!

There was a catch though. It wasn't mine. I tried to move it. Couldn’t. Tried to steer it. Couldn't. I didn't know what was going on. All I knew for sure was that my host was taller than me, and wearing heavy clothes more uncomfortable than anything I would ever have dreamed possible.

“And you die,” said a booming voice from behind. She sounded almost casual about it, whoever it was.

We spun around, my body and me. Right in front of us was an alicorn. Big and mean. Not like Luna. Not like Blue. This one burned with a malice as bitter as ash, and floated some kind of black leather book over me.

Oh, dear.

My legs gave out. I dropped to my knees; they splashed into a thin pool of blood - my own blood - blood that was becoming saturated with...pink.

My lungs burned. My head throbbed. It had to be that pink stuff in the air.

Great! I hopped into a dying body. Can't I just catch a break for just one fucking minute?!

But a voice answered me from inside my head. Be Unwavering! It said.

Only it didn't sound like me. Or a brain hornet. It was my host. The Mare.

* * *

I could feel the physical effects of anger. Tension. Hatred. Rage. All focused on the alicorn who stood over us, ready to telekinetically thrust a thousand knives at our already failing body.

The Mare didn't care. She just watched the alicorn's adornments with the purest of all possible anger. It was bones around the Evil Alicorn's neck. A skeleton. With wings. And a horn.

My Rosie Sense kicked in.

Canterlot. 200 years after the bomb.

I knew this story. Big Blue had told it back in the trenches.

We were facing down the bitch who had killed Luna.

Suddenly The Mare's anger became my own.

"You fuck!" I sobbed though no one could hear. "You fucking, fucking fuck!"

The Mare held it together better than I. She focused coldly on Luna's skeleton, especially its long, slender horn.

A host of magical knives darted through the air at us, but The Mare didn't even care. She just focused. I could sense her horn coming to life as though it were my own.

The Evil Luna-Killing Bitch glanced downward as her necklace shifted. And we struck.

With a telekinetic thrust, Luna’s horn drove through the soft tissue under the Evil Bitch's muzzle, right up into her brain. Just fucking impaled it.

She twitched once, the spark of life remaining in her just long enough for her knives to strike home.

Most of those magic blades evaporated against my armor - Littlepip's armor - but several sunk in deep before vanishing as the alicorn crumpled to the ground.

"Aaaahhh!" I screamed.

And fell again into blackness.

<-=======ooO Ooo=======->

I tumbled forward. Dropped off of that world into one where the air was bitter cold. No stars. No space. Just a frosty smack to the lungs. And wham. Landed face first on the ground.

* * *

It hurt. It hurt like Hell. But the fall hadn't killed me.

"Ugh."

My face burned with the ache of the impact. My cheek was left with a sharp sting - my head, a dull throb. Then I realized that it was my cheek! And my head!

I lay there a while. Coughing up what tasted like blood, staring off into nothing, working up the nerve to get on my hooves again.

There was a faint glow up ahead. The rest was black. I was getting really, really tired of black.

I groaned.

It sure felt great to be back in my own body again. Except that I was apparently bleeding. The pounding in my head gradually slowed down nice and easy. I was in no rush to get up. There didn't seem to be anything there that was actively trying to kill me.

Not bad as far as duckies go. I thought.

Then I heard it. The humming.

I was back inside the Crystal Wall. No Mare's Land. 280 years after the bomb.

I sighed in relief. I never thought that I would actually be happy to be back inside of the Crystal-fucking Wall. With a moan, I rolled over on my back, and looked up at the opening I'd fallen from.

Even though it was dark up there, it was no longer completely and totally pitch black. The long long tunnel I had trudged through for Luna only knows how long? All that fear? All that discomfort? All of those not knowin's? It amounted to a tiny hole in the wall. About seven feet up. Completely unremarkable. There wasn't even a ladder or a guard rail. No one was ever meant to go inside.

A cool breeze tickled the top of my head ever so softly. I rolled over to face it.

The darkness softened just a little bit. A faint purple glow was creeping in from somewhere outside The Wall.

The Way Out.

With a long slow groan, I picked myself up and headed for it. I hoped that I wasn't too late.

As I dragged myself forward, the black gradually got paler and paler. I even started tasting real air again. As my escape into the wide, wide world of No Mare's Land seemed more and more imminent, I made myself a vow.

No more tunnels. Tunnels are just too damn weird for me.

Author's Note:

Special thanks to Seraphem and Deep Sky. You not only helped me edit and proofread this chapter, but put up with my obnoxious re-writing of it six times. I'm a pain in the ass. Thank you. This chapter would not have come together without your input. You're both awesome.

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