• Published 1st Mar 2013
  • 1,098 Views, 46 Comments

Fallout: Equestria Rise from the Ashes - Nightrein



A name. The most integral thing to anypony; even when the Wasteland leaves nothing left of you, you always have your name. After a brutal attack, one stallion awakes to find even that is lost to him. Can he survive on the one lead he has to his past?

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Chapter 3 - The Beast Called Rage

Chapter 3 - The Beast Called Rage
“I was shaken to my core... and my core was furious.”

Anger.

That was the only thing I was anymore. A mass of anger and hate that was about to explode. I locked eyes with the feathered beast that had taken down the pony I came to save. I hoped my expression read certain death as clearly as his read panicked confusion. Flames licked at the air where his bizarre weapon had struck me, leaving a gooey, burning trail across my body. I turned to face Basset where he lie beside me, quickly coating my hooves in the burning adhesive that took his life. If that was what it was meant for, then it would be my weapon too.

Turning back to see a few other Gangers seemingly waking up to the sounds of combat start to group up, I held up a foreleg and pointed at the winged monster. Flames enveloped the hoof in front of me, but for a reason I still couldn’t fathom, it didn’t burn me. But it would burn the bastard in front of me. All the bastards in front of me; they were all the same... murderers! There was nothing for it, they would all die for this. The town sheriff had died... Basset had died... they all needed to... needed to…

Die!” I bellowed as I charged toward the door. The beast snapped its wings open immediately and used them to propel itself backward, barely outdistancing my quick uppercut. The rest of the group, all ponies, didn’t quite react. They had definitely all been sleeping to be so lethargic, or else they somehow didn’t recognize me as dangerous. I’d make time for them... this monster had to die, and it had to die now.

The weapon it carried seemed to slow it down greatly, else it simply had a vastly less graceful flight pattern than Skydive’s. It flew slowly, only able to climb out of my reach rather than outspeed me. Tables were scattered throughout the room where the gang had been eating at some point. I leapt upon one and used it to springboard myself up at the fleeing beast. I reached out with my front hooves to grab it and bring it down with me. Less than an inch remained between my grasp and its leg... and I started to fall. Dammit!

The tiles around me cracked when I landed, jarring my whole body with the impact. I shrugged it off after a second and looked up to see the bastard had clung to a support beam near the ceiling with its talons and had a rifle (Where did it get that?) pointed at me. I barely had time to move before it began to fire. It could use a claw to pull the mouth-intended trigger, allowing it to fire very accurately as well as quickly; this I learned by having a bullet graze my foreleg twice as I ran. I knocked a table over and used it as cover, the dishes clattering upon the floor quite audibly.

The other ponies were starting to rouse, realizing there was a problem. I could smell the alcohol in the air, finally explaining why they were all so lethargic. It wouldn’t last long; I needed to take this monster out quickly. I heard a scraping sound as it adjusted position on the beam it now clung to, trying to get a better aim before it took more pot shots. Wait…

I peeked around the corner of my cover, only to have to jerk it back a moment later as it fired. That aim was scary... but I saw what I wanted to see. The beam the beast was perched on was wooden, and only had the one support holding it up. Judging from its previous flying pattern, I could ground it, if only momentarily, if I took down the beam it was using. Even if it reacted too quickly, I’d have at least forced it to stay in flight... then I could just wait until it had to land. It would get tired, right?

I quickly realized there wouldn’t be time for that. Multiple bullets started pinging the table and breaking up the tile around me. Shit... why couldn’t their hangovers be just a little bit stronger? I let out an angry sigh as I looked back down at my burning hooves. Basset’s scream echoed in my mind... that bastard was going to pay, no matter what happened.

One of the gangers suddenly appeared from around the table. Reflexively ducking down, his knife clipped a bit of my mane off my head. I grabbed him by the neck with my forehooves, the flaming, viscous material coating them quickly adhering to his own hide caused him to let out a yelp that was cut off almost instantly when I crushed his windpipe. He pawed at my hooves much like the Ganger from the entrance had, but once again to no avail as his body went limp. I threw his body aside and-

No, I tried the throw his body aside. It stayed on my hooves. I shook him around a bit, and started rapidly swinging his body back and forth to no avail. Damn stuff was like super glue! I leaned back against the table, the shooting stopped as they witnessed me attempting to pry their friends body from my agglutinant hooves, and set my non-coated back legs against his flanks and began to push. Very slowly, he pulled away from my forelegs before suddenly jolting out of it and several feet in front of me. I panted from the effort and strain of simply unsticking the pony after that. To my disgust, a large patch of his coat (and some skin, ick...) was still in the adhesive. My hooves were thankfully separated from each other; having to unstick them too would’ve gotten me killed for sure.

Speaking of which... why hadn’t the Gangers just come around and killed me already? I peeked around the corner, prepared to jolt my head back once again, and saw all of them staring at the body completely flabbergasted. “What?” I called out, “This shit is sticky!” They seemed to be confused all the more that I would actually talk to them during this whole event. Well, nothing else was happening!

A sudden shot nicked the table right next to my head, marking the resurgence of combat. I jerked my head back and kept it down as the Gangers unloaded clip after clip into my cover. It wasn’t going to last long. I needed a way out; I needed an opening in their fire. It wasn’t coming, though, as their bullets sprayed the table unceasingly. I pounded my hooves to the ground (noting that the gel didn’t seem to adhere to it) in frustration. Why couldn’t a solution ever just stare me in the face?

Unless... it kind of was. The dead Crystal Ganger’s eyes stared vacantly into my own. But I wasn’t paying much attention to his eyes, rather, I had my own fixated on his barding. A small red tube was nestled in one of his pockets, a stark contrast to the dark brown of his armor. I lightly pulled it out with my mouth, careful not to get my hooves stuck on him again. After I set it down again, I got a better look at it. It had glittering dust apparent on one side in the center of the red tube, of which I couldn’t tell the material. Protruding from the side with the dust visible was a string, maybe an inch long. I rolled it over a bit with my muzzle to see writing on the tube. ‘Caution: high explosive’. I slowly grinned as defective memory came into play. Dynamite.

I searched over the rest of the corpse to find the lighter, all the while still being oppressed by the Gangers’ fire. A bullet-sized hole was now visible in the table; I need to move now. But... I couldn’t find the damned lighter! Who the hell carries a stick of dynamite without one? Seriously? I stomped in frustration again. Wait... I held my hoof, still coated in burning adhesive, up to my face. If I wasn’t afraid of getting it stuck, I’d have smacked myself with it. I was really bad at noticing the obvious…

I grabbed the dynamite with my teeth and held the fuse to one of the small fires. A sizzle began to sound and I eyeballed the support holding up the beam the monster still sat perched on. I noticed a second tipped-over table to my right as well, close enough that I might be able to get to it on the trip. No time to think now... only act. I darted out from behind the table, catching most of the Gangers by surprise. The beast up above didn’t miss a beat, immediately taking shots. I whipped my head toward the support pillar and let the dynamite fly. I finished my gallop and slid into the new cover, feeling a bullet bite into my hind leg. Thankfully, not the injured one.

Another grin spread on my face. “Eat it you bitch!” I yelled, fury letting me project my voice clearly over the gunfire. A second later, a blast not unlike the one from the mine I’d detonated sounded, and wood shrapnel pelted my cover audibly. Several Gangers howled in pain as their mostly unprotected bodies were sprayed with splinters. One seemed to have lost one of his eyes, judging from what he was screaming between curses. A loud groaning noise began to resound, resulting in silence from everypony (save some more cursing) as it grew louder and louder. I risked poking my head out to see what was going on. The support pillar had a huge hole blown in it... it was coming down! My grin began to die a bit as it started to fall…

Right over my head! I scrambled to my hooves as fast as I could, dashing away from the falling mass of wood. I caught the winged monster caught on it, trying to move out of the way. The hefty weapon it carried weight it down too much, and as it tried to fly, it was caught beneath the beam. It crashed down to the ground, a deafening shockwave of sound as it splintered and cracked from the impact.

The dust began to clear. I could see a large spot of blood flowing from underneath it, accompanied by a foreleg that informed me I hadn’t been the only one in the crumbling pillar’s way. As well, another form lie near the pillar... the beast was stuck, the pillar having crushed its wing. I spat, my anger boiling once again now that all the excitement had passed. Now it was time... a little payback was in order. I trotted toward it as it struggled to stand. Eventually, it took notice of my presence and drew yet another gun, a small pistol much like Crutches’. I didn’t care anymore... I’d just been through enough bullets in the last two days to care about a few more. I raised a foreleg to shield my face, but otherwise kept advancing. It began to fire, its claw able to pull the trigger much faster than a pony’s tongue. Much of the bullets got caught in the flammable resin that coated my legs and hide, but a few bit into my exposed hide. I barely felt the pain.

Its clip ran dry after a moment. I lowered my leg as I now stood looming over it. Staring down, I merely snarled at the bastard. It returned the expression. The fear had seemingly vanished from its eyes, though. A cold acceptance of its fate seemed to emanate from its gaze now.

“What the hell are you?” it growled at me.

“Pissed,” I replied quite honestly.

“Very funny,” it grumbled, trying once more in vain to lift itself. “Fuck...”

“You seem a bit stuck,” I commented. Its eyes flicked up to me. “Here,” I said, wrapping my forelegs around its neck and torso as best I could, “let me... help!” I strained every muscle as I pulled on the monster as hard as I could. It screamed horribly as the flesh and feathers of its wings were pulled apart. After several moments, it came loose. Inertia carried both it and I further, the both of us landing on our backs. Its screaming died down slowly, but never fully stopped. I got to my hooves quickly, making sure it couldn’t get the jump on me. I saw the ruination of what was once its wing lay drooping on the ground. “Ouch,” I said mockingly.

“I’ll rip your fucking heart out,” it threatened in it’s gravelly, growling voice. I laughed a single, sarcastic laugh.

“The hell you will,” I growled back. I set a forehoof down and pinned its claw, confusing it for a moment. Long enough that I could raise my other leg and smash down on it. I felt bones crunch under my stomp. It yelled out in pain again. “How’re ya gonna rip my heart out if your claws don’t work?” It didn’t respond, only continued to groan in pain. I struck my hoof across its face. “Where’s all that confidence you had when you killed Basset, huh?” I raised my voice. “I haven’t seen it since you noticed that big hunk of junk didn’t hurt me. Is that the only time you’re happy, then, when you’re killing somepony? Is it?” I stomped on the claw again, eliciting another pained yowl. “Well? Answer me!”

“Rot in hell!” it yelled back at me. I reared up and smashed down on its chest, ribs cracking like twigs beneath my inequine strength. All it could do was scream.

“You first!” I screamed, smashing down on the monster again... and again... and again. I let out all of my frustration, my anger at everything. In two days I’d been nearly killed multiple times. Crunch. It screamed. I had a town kick me out for reasons I couldn’t even remember! Crunch. It cried out. There was a Goddesses damned voice in my head that could take control of me! It almost killed my only friend! Crunch. Its howls only got louder. I kept needing that friend so save my ass because I was so worthless! Crunch. I had promised to get Basset out alive! Crunch. They killed him! They fucking killed him! Crunch. Why!? Why was everything so... so messed up? Why was I like this? What was I!? Crunch. Why... why was it so quiet?

I opened my eyes, never even realizing I’d closed them in the first place. It’d stopped screaming... when had it stopped? Blood was oozing out from places I’d pounded its body to the point of rupturing it. Its eyes were closed, its face a permanent mask of agony from its death. Just like Basset... I had my revenge. Why, then, did I still feel so... bad? I felt sick and angry and sad, but I’d just gotten the revenge I wanted. No... scratch angry, I was just sick now... sick and sad. I felt my eyes watering and my stomach churning. What was I going to do now? Go after the other Gangers? Did I even have the heart for it now?

Wait a second... the other Gangers! I looked up from the grizzly corpse I’d left. Even the convict that had injured his eye was silent now. All of them were staring at me, all of them still as statues. Mouths hung open in shock and pupils shrunk in fear. This wouldn’t go on for long; if they came to their senses, I was dead. I stood up and glared at them, trying to summon any piece of wrath I still had left. “Run...” I muttered, “you should be running. You all want to end up like this? Huh?” They still stood, too stunned by what they just witnessed. I did the only thing I could think of in my quickly deteriorating mental state: I inhaled deeply and roared. Suddenly, the Crystal Gangers were very eager to vacate the room. The primal bellow kept on, even after they left. Slowly, it faded... and devolved into tears.

What was wrong with me? I won... and once again I was having the wrong reaction! My legs were trembling underneath me so badly I could hardly stand. First I panicked, now... I was crying? I let out a tear-choked laugh; I’m sure I looked real scary now. Good thing I’d gotten the Gangers away when I did. My vision was getting blurry now. I noticed the mattresses the Gangers had been sleeping on in the corner of the room and slowly walked there. I had to pause every few moments to keep my quivering legs underneath me. Eventually I found my way onto one of the beds and simply collapsed onto it.

Why did I have to be like this? Nopony (or whatever that freak I just killed was) I’d seen so far had any problems killing whatever they needed to. Why was it me? What was wrong with me that I broke down whenever I killed someone, even if I had to? Even if they deserved it? Why was I so weak? I didn’t have time to... to be so pathetic! If this kept up, I was going to get myself killed. Or worse, I was going to get Sky killed because of me…

I felt a hoof prod my shoulder, but I just ignored it. My every breath was shuddering now, and I had squeezed my eyes shut to keep the salt in my tears from burning them. After a moment, it poked me again. And again. I turned over and opened my eyes. Skydive stood over me, looking... I couldn’t even tell with my vision this blurred. Why was I always reading faces?

“You were shot,” she said calmly before pulling a healing potion out of her saddlebags. I merely shut my eyes again. I felt a something damp, likely a rag, rub over the spot a bullet grazed my back leg. It immediately felt better as the healing potion she must’ve soaked the rag in took effect. She checked me over and found several similar wounds, each of which she swabbed with the soothing rag. “I can’t see any bullets still lodged in you, so that should do it.” I nodded; I was still shaking, but my tears had stopped for the most part.

I felt a shift in the mattress. A moment later, a leg reached around and held me. Followed by a wing. Sky was careful not to get herself caught on the adhesive still coating me. “You’re okay,” she said in the same gentle voice I’d heard her use with Ice Pack. I just kept shaking, not responding to her. I was too caught up in my own thoughts. “You’re okay,” she repeated. I felt the tears coming back as my racing thoughts came back to what just happened. Pounding... crushing... oh Goddesses it was horrible…

“Everything’s fine,” she spoke softly. How... how could she be this calm? After what I just did, why was she even still here? Why was she helping me? She should just go back to New Trottingham already! I told her... I told her at the overpass to go home, why…

“Why...” I repeated my thoughts aloud. “Why...” Skydive simply continued to hold me and repeat that I was okay and everything was fine. I felt like a foal, sitting there bawling while Sky just held me. It made me feel stupid if nothing else. But, for a minute, I enjoyed her embrace. Knowing she still cared, for whatever insane reason she must have had, was comforting. Enough so that, by the end of that minute, I simply fell asleep.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Here comes the field of... grass? Wait, what? Where was the giant ring of fire? Was he just trying to confuse me again? I called out for him, but never got a response. Curious... maybe he was asleep? Did evil bastard voices even need sleep? It might explain why I wasn’t burning with my touch anymore.

I was in a large, grassy plain. The sun shone though I felt none of its heat, and there was a single cloud drifting along lazily in the sky. Scanning around me, there was nary a tree in sight. All empty plains as far as the eye could see. Except... something. I could see something to my left, something standing amidst the otherwise empty grassland. Well... I had nothing better to do. I started a brisk trot toward the unknown object.

After what felt like a few minutes, I finally arrived at it. A house. Not like the ruins I saw everywhere, but much like Crutches’ home. Perhaps a bit cleaner and free of wear and tear that time and the apocalypse had caused it. Again, I had nothing better to do in this strange lucid dream. I knocked on the door. No answer despite the lights being on. I shrugged, this was my dream, I doubted I’d get in any relevant trouble if I walked in. I opened the door and did just that.

I was in a kitchen, not much unlike the Buffalo Chief’s that I’d just been in. Nobody was here, though there was a glass of water with ice still floating in it. Someone was here not too long ago. I stepped away from the kitchen, through a door on the right. There were stairs immediately on the other side, making up an effective wall of the living room area I’d just entered. A couch along with two chairs adorned the room, all of which surrounded a low coffee table. What caught my attention, however, was what was on that table. A piece of paper folded to stand upright was left there. On it, in large letters, read ‘Take a seat’. Well, why not? I trotted over to one of the chairs and sat down on my haunches. It was extremely comfortable!

“I’ve been expecting you,” a voice called from nowhere, startling me for a moment.

“Ugh,” I sighed, “another voice? Come on, that’s already old with me. Not to mention pretty cliche.” The voice laughed, an eerily familiar laugh.

“I suppose,” it replied.

“Wait... expecting me? You knew I would be here?” I asked. “I figured I’d be in the ring of flames for the rest of my sleeping life.”

“Oh, yes,” it answered, “I just didn’t know when. This meeting has been a long time coming.”

“A long time? Hey, I only remember the last two days of my life, so you’re gonna have to fill me in.” I told it.

“Only two days?” it sounded surprised. “It feels like two years at this point... I suppose time moves pretty slowly when you’ve got nothing to do but sit and wait. Besides, days never really end here... that sun hasn’t moved since... well, two days ago apparently.”

“So you got here when that other voice took over, then?” I asked.

“Indeed. That feels like ages ago, like I said. So to me, it has been a long time coming, this meeting between you and I.”

“So, who are you?”

“Well,” it paused a moment, and a shimmer appeared in the chair opposite me before a pony materialized in it. A sort of cloak with a gemstone on it fell to the ground. My jaw dropped as I saw the pony before me. “I guess I could say ‘between you and you’, but that’d just be confusing.” I stared into my own eyes as he... as I spoke. “For the sake of this discussion, let’s just consider me another party, hm?”

“Wha... okay, what the hell? No, you know what? I don’t even-”

“I’m your past,” he cut me off. That caught my interest explicitly.

“Okay. I do want to know. Talk.” I... he chuckled.

“I’d love to,” he explained, “but I don’t have all the time in the world. You have to tell me what it is you want to know. Make sure it’s important, as well, because I don’t know when we’ll be able to meet again.” Well... that made it hard. There was so much I wanted to know! My whole life, in fact! I sighed.

“Alright... why am I here?” I asked. “Why here and not the field of fire I’m disturbingly used to?”

“Good question. It’s because he messed up,” he replied.

“Who is he? And how did he mess up?”

“He... is my mistake. Our mistake. We’re the reason he’s here,” he explained, “I’m afraid I can’t tell you much more.”

“Can you tell me his name?” I requested.

“Sure,” he laughed a bit. I saw him move his mouth, but he never spoke.

“What?”

“Funny, isn’t it?” he asked.

“You never said anything.” I replied.

“Oh? I said it was...” once again, he moved his mouth soundlessly. I gave him an annoyed look. “You can’t hear it?”

“Unless you’re messing with me,” I commented.

“Why would I ever mess with myself? That wouldn’t do me any good. He must have done something to prevent you from hearing it from me. How unfortunate...” he frowned. The fact that even when he wasn’t present he was still being a nuisance irked me a bit. “As for how he messed up... you remember what he did last, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I hissed.

That was his mistake. Trying to take control of a body that wasn’t his. He can control you, but it takes far more energy than the old bastard’s got in him. He wore himself out trying to do it, and now he has to recover. It won’t take very much longer before he’s back, I’m sure.”

“That’s why I’m not burning the people I touch anymore, then?” I asked.

“Correct. Now, is there something else you want to know?”

“Only everything,” I muttered. I thought for a minute before my eyes fell back on him. “What’s the deal with that?” I asked, pointing at what he was wearing. It was a type of barding, clearly hard leather and dyed to match the dark grey of his coat.

“Ah, my barding. It came with the job. Back in the old days, you were a bodyguard.”

“For who?”

“Somepony important,” he said, “I’ll get to whom when it becomes relevant. Until then...” A glare shone through the window behind me. I looked out to see the sun setting rather rapidly. Turning back, the other me was frowning disappointedly. “I fear we only have time for maybe another question.”

“Is he coming back?” I questioned worriedly.

“No, not yet. But we’re about out of time. Hurry, now; if there’s something else you’d like to know, now’s the time.” I panicked a bit. What was the most important thing I could ask? Where did I come from? No, that was clearly Equestria... who shot me? But I couldn’t find them based on a name... name…

“What’s my name?” I asked quickly. My heart sank a bit when I saw him look at me with an expression as full of pity as they came.

“There’s many for you. A birth name, a nickname or two, or even a dozen. I figured you’d ask, but not for a last question... I’m sorry, truly I am, but that’s something you need to find yourself.” The sun fully set at this point, and the house began to fade around us. The other me stood up and put his cloak back on. “Your name is who you truly believe you are. You will find the names you’ve had, I promise. It’s up to you to decide which is really yours.” He tapped the blue crystal that held the cloak together and vanished before my eyes, the house soon following. “Remember, it’s your decision, nopony and no thing else’s!” And with that, the world dissolved into the night sky around me.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

I opened my eyes slowly, not exactly wanting to wake up yet. That had been the first good sleep I’d had in memory. My tired mind slowly caught up with events, letting recent events flow back into the front of my thoughts. I felt the cold surge of panic swell in my chest again; this time, however, it was noticeably weaker than before. I wasn’t breaking down again, but I still felt uneasy.

The blur of sleep clouding my vision was wearing off quickly. I turned my head to Sky still sleeping next to me, her hoof still over my shoulder. That she was still there made me forget that cold panic, if only for a moment. She didn’t leave despite everything that should drive a pony to run away from me. I was mildly insane, clearly some form of monster pony, and had breakdowns after violently killing things. Yet here she was, making sure I was okay.

As gently as I could, I moved her foreleg off of me and quietly moved away, careful not to get her caught on the resin still coating me. It occurred to me that if either of us had moved in our sleep, we’d be having quite a bad time. As silently as possible, I moved over to the kitchen area. A pang of guilt hit me as I saw Basset lying dead in the corner. I needed to tell Ash about him... but for now, I turned my attention to the sink. There was a hoof-held scrub brush in the basin. Perfect.

I turned the faucet on, wet the brush, and began to scrub the adhesive off of myself. It didn’t hurt when it peeled off, and didn’t seem to take very much of my coat with it(thankfully). It was a hassle, but after a few minutes I had pretty much all of it off. I threw it in the nearby trash can to make sure it didn’t clog the sink; I still had one last thing I wanted to use it for. I leaned over the sink and ran a forehoof under the warm water. It was likely irradiated, but it would get the job done. I took the scrub brush in one hoof and began to scrape the other with it. The blood washed out fairly easily, but it took some effort to get all of it out. The water ran red off my hooves as I worked, finally getting the crusted reminder of Clamp and... whoever this thing was off of myself. I switched hooves and repeated the process. A minute or so later and I was clean. Well, mostly, but it was close enough for me. I set the brush in the slightly red-tinted sink and gave a relieved sigh.

“Feel better?” Sky asked from behind me, startling me a bit.

“Yea,” I answered, “quite a bit.”

“Good.” Her eyes wandered over to Basset in the corner and she gave a sad sigh. “I’m so sorry you couldn’t save him.”

“Don’t be,” I told her, “it’s not your fault.”

“It isn’t yours either.” I contemplated the comment for a moment. She wasn’t wrong, but... I still felt responsible. I said I’d bring him back, and I failed. Mixed feelings fought each other for dominance over the subject, leaving me with a sort of hollow feeling. I’d have to sort it out with myself eventually.

“Did I wake you?” I asked, changing the subject.

“No, no, I woke up on my own. I heard the sound of water running and figured it was you, just wanted to make sure you were alright.”

“Thanks. You know, I don’t really understand why you do it, but it means a lot that you’ve stuck with me,” I said. “If you weren’t here after... that... I don’t know what I might’ve done. So, thank you. Especially for last night.”

“Oh, it’s alright,” I caught Sky blushing a bit as she replied, “you looked like you needed somepony there.”

“Yea,” I admitted. I checked my Pipbuck to see it was about eight O'clock. “I think we should get moving. Ash probably thinks we’re dead at this point. Anything you want to do before we go?”

“Yes, actually. I’m running low on ammo, I want to see if there’s any around here.”

“Alright. Maybe try that old gift shop, there was stuff lying everywhere,” I suggested.

“Yea. What are you gonna do?” she asked.

“I’m going to get this gunk off Basset. I told Ash I’d get him out, and I’m going to do just that. I’m not bringing him back looking like this, though.” Skydive nodded silently and trotted off. It was a lot more work to get the adhesive off of Basset’s body since it wouldn’t cooperate with me. Scrubbing it off seemed to leave his hide intact, but when I tried to just pull it off, (after his foreleg slipped out of my fetlock for the fifth damned time) it peeled coat and skin with it. As I worked, I heard Sky poking around in the large room behind me. She seemed to be checking the Gangers’ corpses. It seemed rather rude, but I doubted she would do it if it was really frowned upon. Besides, it isn’t like we owed them any courtesy anyhow.

“Hey,” Sky called out to me, “when you’re done over there... I think you need to see this.” I was basically finished anyhow. Setting the now adhesive-free Basset back down, I check over him once to make sure all of it was gone. He stared up at me with his ever-empty eyes. I sighed and pulled them closed with a hoof. If I didn’t know better, I might have believed he was asleep. If only…

I trotted out to see what Skydive had mentioned. She was staring at a piece of paper that, since she was standing over it, she had pulled from the monster’s body. She seemed puzzled, and more than a little worried at what she was reading.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, getting a bit worried myself. Sky didn’t seem the type to easily upset.

“Read this,” she passed me the small piece of paper. Looking at it, the writing was a bit hard to understand. It read: ‘Look, a lot of the guys are heading north. The rest seem to be staying at the warehouse. You really should just stick with one of those two groups. Plus, a certain somepony - if the word even applies - made it pretty clear she wanted us away from that little town down south. A certain somepony from out in Mirage. You’re playing a dangerous game being that close to it, and if any of your guys fuck around in that town... you remember what she did to Barbed Wire. If you insist on striking it out down there, just wait ‘til she takes care of that freaky torch of a pony. If you stick your beak in it, you’ll get killed for sure. Or worse if that flaming maniac gets a hold of you.

“Freaky torch of a pony, flaming maniac,” Sky repeated what was on the note after I set it down, “if a big patch of burnt land and a charred skeleton are any indicator, I think this note is talking about you.”

“I’m not a maniac,” I retorted. Then I remembered whose corpse the note came from. “Not... usually.”

“Maybe not now, but you might’ve been before. And what are the odds there’s another pony who burns what he touches near here?”

“Well...” She had a point. But... it didn’t really matter now. “What about it? He’s already dead, whoever wrote this had his fears realized, so...”

“So,” she picked up immediately, “look at what it says! Somepony out in Mirage, right?”

“The one who wanted me dead and had these guys frightened? What about her?”

“They seemed far more scared of you than her,” Sky commented.

“No, they were scared of who I used to be.” This paused Skydive for a second. “I’m not the flaming maniac they were talking about, not anymore anyways. That was someone else.”

“But that pony in Mirage knows you! She could tell you about your past,” she argued.

“Right, because she seemed to have such a good disposition toward me, what with getting me shot in the head.”

“You changed, though. You said it yourself, you’re different now!”

“How different am I? You saw what... what I did just last night! Look at what’s left of this... thing! Whoever this pony is has every reason to think I’m still a monster. Hell, New Trottingham does, and they didn’t even know what I used to be!”

“Well I don’t!” Neither of us had noticed we were shouting until this point. “I don’t,” she repeated quietly. “You might have freaky things happen to you, you might be scary when you’re angry,” she glanced down at the ruination of the body that had held the note, “but you don’t ask for it. And you do one thing no ‘monster’ or ‘maniac’ ever does: you regret. You don’t want to do the stuff you’ve done. I’ve seen ponies to the cruelest, most horrible things you can imagine and worse, and they don’t regret a thing. They love it! Those ponies are monsters, not you.” I... didn’t quite know how to respond.

“I... uh... thanks? I guess?” She rolled her eyes but smiled. “But... I still don’t see why we should go talk to her. Even if all that’s true, she clearly wanted me dead. Probably believes I am. Why go stir her up and risk her coming after me again?”

“So you can learn who you were! Doesn’t it hurt, not knowing anything about yourself?” she asked.

“Well... a bit. It’s more aggravating than anything, but...” I trailed off.

“But?” she persisted. I sighed.

“What if who I was was... really bad? Like one of those ponies you just mentioned? I said it to Crutches, I doubted she wanted me dead because I was nice.”

“Then you were, and it’s a good thing you changed,” she explained. I still didn’t want to risk it, getting somepony who wanted me dead hunting me down and probably Skydive just for associating with me. “If you don’t want to go,” she picked back up suddenly, “don’t. If you’re afraid of discovering a lifetime of wrongdoings and evil, I won’t blame you for not wanting to.”

“It’s just... I don’t know. It’s also that I don’t want to have somepony hunting me down. And it doesn’t feel... right, I guess. The more I travel, the more stuff like this,” I waved a hoof at the dead beast, “is bound to happen.”

“Give it some thought,” she said, “I know you want to do what’s right by others, but I think this would be doing right by you. You have to take care of yourself too, y’know.”

“Yea, yea,” I resigned. My attention returned to the kitchen area, where Basset lay peacefully on the table. “But I have to take care of someone else first.”

* * *

“Figured y’all were dead,” Ash drawled when he saw Sky trot in. I followed soon after, Basset lying still on my back.

“No... not us,” I replied. Skydive gently lifted him off my back with her forehooves and flew to a nearby table to set him down.

“Oh, no...” His voice was sad, but not particularly upset.

“We’d gotten him untied when a griffin came in with a Flamer. Basset tried to run, but...” Sky trailed off in her explanation. She’d explained to me the winged thing I’d killed was called a griffin. ‘They’re half eagle, half lion, and all creepy’ she’d claimed.

“Always on the run... boy couldn’t fight to save his life. Well, obviously... but if he weren’t talkin’ he was runnin’. Told ‘im law duty wasn’t for ‘im,” Ash drawled on. “Don’t y’all feel none bad ‘bout this, it was bound ta happen eventually. Ain’t yer fault he got himself caught in that mess.”

“I tried,” I spoke, “but... I couldn’t get him out alive. I’m sorry.”

“All that matters is ya tried. That’s more ‘n’ most folks are even willin’ ta consider these days.” I nodded. “Well,” he picked back up, “Ah reckon this means we need us a new lawpony. Ah heard the raiders haulin’ their behinds outta the hotel, ‘n’ I won’t ask why, but we got nothin’ ta stop ‘em from just comin’ back in a few days. Or any other group lookin’ fer a weak town ta exploit.”

“Anypony in mind?” Sky asked.

“Hm... ya could get the NCR to help out, take the town under their wing so ta speak. They’ve been pretty useless so far, this branch, but they’d keep the raiders away. Y’all are travelers, a’int ya?”

“I guess,” I answered. It was the closest thing that we were that I could think of. Well, Sky had a home in New Trottingham, but I at least had nowhere to call home.

“Well, if it a’int too much a worry, would ya mind gettin the NCR to help us out? Else, look fer somepony able ‘n’ willin’?”

“If I ever come across anyone, I’ll try to send them this way,” I told him.

“Would be much appreciated, stranger,” he thanked me.

“Can you excuse us for a moment?” Skydive asked suddenly, not waiting for a response before tugging me toward me toward the corner. “If you’re not chasing after that pony in Mirage, why not settle down here?” she questioned. “You could be the sheriff here! You can clearly handle yourself, so long as you’re not being too reckless.”

“And I’m not angry, and there’s only a few of them so I don’t get shot when I freak out afterward,” I added. Sky sighed and nodded. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I don’t think I’m exactly sheriff material.” Sky walked back over and started chatting with Ash, mostly stuff about the NCR and reasons they might have for not having acted yet. I stayed where I was and thought for a while. That voice would be back soon, if what past-me (I had to call him something) had said was right. I wanted to stay here, maybe live alone so I wasn’t dangerous in my sleep. But... what I was still wouldn’t change. I’d have problems with the voice being a jerk, burning ponies, and being an outcast in general. On top of it... past-me had said I would find my names, and I would decide which one was truly mine. The whole of it was fuzzy and far too philosophical for my tastes, but... I couldn’t very well find out my name just by sitting in this town. I needed to look for it.

“Hey, Ash,” I called out when the two stopped in their conversation, “I need to get a few bottles of water for when I hit the road. Got any for sale here?”

“Well, yea. Ah’m sure we can set you up. More than just water too, ya need any bullets or guns? Maybe somethin’ to eat?” He replied.

“Well, Sky said she needed some ammo. Something to eat would be nice as well.”

“Alright, anythin’ else?” he asked.

“Hm... yes, actually,” I answered. “What’s the fastest route to Mirage?”





Footnote: Level up!
Perk added: Travel light: Lightly armored means light on your hooves. You run 10% faster while wearing light or no armor.


| Thanks goes out to Jon “Bazaro”, the only editor in the world willing to tolerate my lack of sanity, and of course, anyone and everyone who reads this story. Seriously, thank you. I know the story has been extremely New Vegas oriented, but I’m stepping away from it for a while. Also, it came to my attention that many people dislike exceedingly long chapters (Coughs and looks at Chapter 2) so I’m going to try and cut down on the word count. Once again, thank you everyone who takes time out of their day to read this. You’re awesome. | ~Nightrein

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