• Published 1st Mar 2013
  • 1,099 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 4 - The Distance We Travel

Chapter 4 - The Distance We Travel
“No offense, but you look like you’ve traveled a long way down some bad roads.”


“Oh, yes,” the shopkeeper chuckled at my bewilderment, “caps for this, that, ‘n the other thing too!” The standard currency... was bottlecaps. Seriously? Why was that a thing? Who even came up with such a dumb idea?

Talley, the general store owner with whom I was now perusing all manner of items with, had scoffed at my offer of “pre-war junk money” when I asked to purchase a set of leather barding. Apparently, it wasn’t worth too much except in bulk. But... how did they get by with bottlecaps for money? There was nothing to back it! And the damned things were everywhere, so it was obviously a weak currency. I resisted the urge to facehoof, settling for a mere sigh.

“Okay... how many caps is it?” I asked, pointing to the leather barding again.

“Eh, it’s in pretty good condition... it’d go for around two-fifty,” he said matter-of-factly. Two-fifty... as in two hundred fifty? That was five times what I had!

“Uh... heh... got anything for a bit less?” I asked. Talley pondered this a moment.

“How much ya got on ya, anyways?” he questioned.

“What can I get for, say... fifty caps?” I put on my best smile. He didn’t return it.

“Ya can get out.”

* * *

I took another sip from the Sparkle~Cola Ash had given me (thankfully for free) as the clock ticked ever onward, second by boring second. Skydive had all those caps she’d found in the Buffalo Chief, as well as all the stuff she ‘scavenged’ from the dead Gangers. If we sold it to the stingy little shopkeeper, we might have enough for that leather armor. Sadly, I had to wait on an old couch waiting for her to come back.

Mirage, it seemed, was a rather long journey from here. Around three days, if we made no detours and kept good pace. Skydive had thus decided to go back to New Trottingham and say her goodbyes, since she hadn’t expected to be gone for an extended period. I refrained from bringing up her theft of Crutches’ pistol again. Unfortunately, that meant she’d be gone for at least another few hours.

“Li’l whippersnapper,” Ash muttered next to me, taking a swig from his flask of whiskey. “Just you wait, when yer mare gets back, Ah got a feelin’ he won’t be so inclined ta try ‘n rob ya no more.”

“I told you, we’re not like that,” I droned for at least the fifth time since he started drinking. I sighed as I realized that, for as nice as company was, Ash wasn’t exactly the best. I ran through my Pipbuck’s item sorting list and looked to see if I had something to read. The book I’d found in the hotel was all that was present. Well... it beat listening to the ramblings of an inebriated old stallion.

* * *

“How’d shopping go?” Sky asked as she walked through the door at last. Her timing couldn’t have been better; the last sentence of the rather short book passed through my vision at that moment.

“Awful,” I answered, “Ever try listening to a drunk guy complain for hours?” She shook her head and gave me a curious look. “Take my advice: don’t.” I pointed a hoof at the now-asleep Ash, lying blacked out on the couch opposite me. Skydive stifled a laugh.

“Did Talley give you any trouble?” she asked, though her voice betrayed that she already knew the answer. I sighed and nodded.

“You could’ve told me that you ponies use bottlecaps to trade! That’s why you were picking them all up in the hotel, isn’t it?”

“Oh, before I forget, we use bottlecaps to trade,” she deadpanned. After a moment, she added, “I thought my picking them all up in the Buffalo Chief would’ve been hint enough that they were at least important.”

“How do you even... you know, nevermind. Just... just help me grab that leather armor from Talley. You only left me with fifty caps.” She rolled her eyes.

“Before we get going, the doctor wanted me to give this to you,” she pulled a small object from a front pocket on her newly acquired barding. I hadn’t quite noticed it until now; it was practically the same leather armor Talley was selling. If anything, it appeared to be in better condition. My attention returned to the strange item she had given me. “It’s a message,” she informed before I could even ask, “you’re supposed to plug it into your Pipbuck. I think... there.” I took the data recorder in my mouth and fit it into the slot she’d indicated.

I followed her out as I read over the message. ‘Sky tells me you are off to Mirage, and she’s decided to come with you. It’s good to know you might get some answers rather than losing your memories forever. Good to see Sky spreading her wings a bit as well; she needs to get out and see the world some. Thank you for giving her the opportunity.

‘I think you should know that I’ve discovered something about those bullets I pulled out of you. All of them were 9mm rounds except for one. Particularly the one I pulled out of your head. It was a revolver round, most likely from the gun I sent you before. What caught my attention was, despite the damage to the bullet, there are inscriptions of some sort clearly visible. It was enchanted. It may mean nothing, but... I’m going to look into it further, see if I can’t find something out. The recorder Sky gave you also made an uplink to your Pipbuck so I can message you from here, so if I get anything, I’ll make sure you know right away. Good luck on your journey. And please, keep Skydive safe. -Crutches’

The thought of my apparent enemies showering me with memory-wiping, enchanted bullets added a whole new level of unease to this whole event. What had I done to draw the attention of ponies with weapons like that? Was I seriously about to do so again? I was about to voice my concern when we entered the shop.

Talley gazed up at me as the bell on the door chimed. “Look, I told ya th-” he cut himself off as he noticed Sky. “S-Skydive! When, uh... when did you drop by?” His eyes darted back to me curiously.

“Oh, a little bit ago. I was hoping to do some shopping,” she replied casually and started perusing the shelves. This seemed to calm Talley, who was now visibly sweating.

“O-oh. Well, I’ve probably got what you’re lookin’ for.”

“Yea... got any barding?” Sky asked casually. He shot me another look, this time one of suspicion.

“Sure. What, uh... w-what kind ya lookin’ for?” he asked nervously. What had Sky done to scare him this much? I really wanted to know.

“Just some plain old leather like mine,” she answered, now staring him in the eyes. He swallowed hard.

“O-oh, uh... l-lookin’ to do some repairs?” he questioned as he fished around for the barding he’d shown me earlier. Soon enough he pulled it out and set it on the counter.

“Maybe. If so, I would have liked to have done it back home. Explain to me, Talley, why I had to come here to get it myself?” she asked dangerously. The look on his face as he once again glanced up to me was priceless.

“H-h-he’s with-” Talley began to stammer as Sky cut him off.

“Yea, he’s a friend of mine. We kinda just saved your town and all, if you heard. Mostly him, really.” His eyes widened a little more at that. “So... why wasn’t he able to buy this again?”

“H-he, uh... he didn’t h-have enough...”

“Not enough caps? How much is it? I swore I gave him enough to buy something around this quality.” Now he was looking quite angrily at me. I smiled and shrugged, eliciting a quiet growl from him.

“H-he had nothing t-to barter with, is what h-he told me. Didn’t even kn-know what bottlecaps were,” he answered semi-truthfully.

“Hey,” Sky called to me, “how much ya got on you?”

“Fifty caps.”

“Toss ‘em here.” I obliged. She pulled out a few bottlecaps of her own. “Here. This should cover it.” She set the small bag of caps on the counter. “I assume he was a little bit short, I’ll take fault. You couldn’t be charging too much more than that, sixty caps seem about right?”

“Ah.. I, uh..” he tried to reply, perhaps haggle a bit. He couldn’t.

“Good! Good to see you still remember to price fairly. Honestly, anymore would be like... highway robbery,” she commented darkly.

“O-of course! Happy to do business with ya, Sky!” he quickly blurted.

“Good to hear. Cya around, Talley.” She picked the armor up in her teeth and gave a wave as she walked out the door. I began to follow her out, barely restraining a bit of laughter, when Talley pulled me back by the shoulder.

“Look,” he hissed quietly, likely so Sky wouldn’t hear, “I don’t care who ya try to sic on me. That was 250 caps of barding right there. You owe me, you hear? I’ve got ya pinned for 190 caps, hear me? 190!”

“Hey, you comin’?” Sky called from outside. Talley quickly shoved me toward the door. I started to laugh as I trotted out. ‘Keep Skydive safe’ indeed. She seemed to handle herself far better than me, Doc... I don’t think you have any need to worry.

* * *

“Okay,” I began as we trotter further south down the old highway, “spill it. What’s up with you and Talley?” We had long since put Prim behind us and were heading toward Mirage. The sun was past it’s height and just beginning to set in the sky, but continued pouring down blazing light and ubiquitous heat. Thankfully, Ash had sold us plenty of water. I took a sip from my half-empty bottle.

“What about him?” Sky called back casually. Even she had not been immune to the baking temperatures. She chose to stay grounded rather than fly, claiming the exertion would leave her worse off despite the cooler air higher up.

“The guy was terrified of you. What’d you do?” I asked again.

“Nothing,” she replied with a sigh. “Nothing good, anyway.”

“Sky, I just beat a griffin to a bloody mess. I seriously doubt you could have done much uglier or worse,” I persisted. “Not like I’m going to think less of you for it.”

“I suppose not. I just don’t like to talk about it. As much as he deserved it, it still doesn’t feel right.” She sighed again and began to tell the story. “A little less than a year ago, Talley was a caravaneer. He did business with whomever he came across; be it other caravans and wanderers, or towns and tribes,” she paused for a second and grumbled, “or slavers and raiders.

“Well, one day a group of ponies decided they liked what he had to offer, but didn’t feel like paying. I was nearby and saw the fight break out. There were at least a dozen of them, and only one of Talley and Gold Rush - another caravaneer he worked with. They clearly weren’t about to keep their wares, or their lives if the robbers had gotten their way. I… well, I decided they weren’t getting their way. I have a… a bit of a thing when it comes to robbers and raiders. Most ponies weren’t quite used to worrying about pegasi coming from above yet then, so I took them by surprise.” She sounded almost disappointed. I wanted to ask, but I didn’t want her to stop speaking the recollection.

“They thanked me for the help, but insisted on continuing about their business. I chose to keep an eye on them, in case any more of that group were still around, y’know? Well, while I followed, they came across a poor old mare who had apparently suffered the same event they just had, only without anypony around to help. She tried to buy a gun off of him so she wasn’t completely defenseless. To my greatest disbelief, he wouldn’t sell it to her. She had 200 caps to her name, and the little bastard decided it wasn’t enough. The gun was in awful condition, too! But he refused to sell it for less than 350 caps.

“As far as I was concerned, highway robbery is still robbery. I told him as much after I trotted over, took the gun out of his brahmin’s pack, and shoved it down his throat. A few minutes of begging on his part and force on mine, the mare walked away with fifty caps to spare, a gun, and plenty of bullets for it. Talley, on the other hand, walked away with a warning: if I ever caught him trying to extort his customers again, I’d repeat the whole event. Only next time, I’d pull the trigger.” Concluding her speech, she looked back at me shamefully, as if expecting me to scold her for being too violent. Instead, I gave her a smile.

“What’s so bad about it? You helped a pair of ponies out of a seriously dangerous spot, and when one of them decided to take it for granted and have no sympathy for somepony not so lucky, you gave him what for. Seems completely fair to me,” I assured her. She smiled back weakly.

“Wish I saw it like that…” she muttered before looking away from me again. I now decided against mentioning the tab Talley placed me on.

“Not to bring up something sensitive, but now I’m curious… if you’ve got a ‘thing’ against robbers, why do you keep stealing Crutches’ pistol?” I asked, not wanting the conversation to die out. We had another day’s journey ahead of us, and it was likely to be boring as well as miserably hot.

“That’s different,” she justified boldly, “I only borrow the doctor’s gun, with the full intention of returning it.”

“When do you intend on doing that?” I questioned. “You’ve still got it on you, and we’re not gonna be back for a while.”

“I asked permission to keep it at least for as long as I’m helping you, and he consented. So the answer to that is whenever I come home.” The last word brought my previous worries back to the front of my mind.

“You know… you’re leaving a lot behind for me. A home, people who care about you… and…” there was a pregnant pause as I searched for the right words and the courage to say them. “We might not make it back.” Skydive kept walking despite that I stopped. After a few moments, I figured she had no intention of doing so and started after her again. She didn’t say anything for almost a minute.

“You’re right. I have a home in New Trottingham. And there’s the doctor and Ice Pack there too. Maybe I’m stupid for risking it all on somepony who all I know about them is that they’re dangerous. But… you don’t have a home. Or anypony who cares about you to go back to. And if that’s what’s waiting for you in Mirage, then that’s great. But if it isn’t, or even if it is, you still need help.” I smiled warmly at the thought that I had earned a friend as compassionate as Sky. “Besides, I’ve been told I need to stretch my wings a bit. This is as good an opportunity as any.”

“You aren’t even flying,” I pointed out with a chuckle.

“Fine, that I need to stretch my legs, then,” she replied, returning the laugh. We continued walking for a bit in silence. I was still concerned that I was going to end up getting her hurt, maybe even killed. I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived in Mirage, but I figured it wouldn’t be a warm reception. It might be more griffins with those wicked napalm cannons. Or it could just be a small town like New Trottingham, a few ponies here and there. Maybe they just decided they wanted me gone like New Trottingham did, only they took more extreme measures. Whatever the case, they likely still had those enchanted bullets. I shuddered at the thought of causing Skydive to lose her memory. At least she was safe while we were on the road.

“So sure about that?” an annoyingly familiar voice asked. Oh, great… he was back again. “I don’t think she’s safe anytime you’re around.” I bit back a retort; Skydive would be confused. I settled for quietly directing my anger at him. I smirked as I recalled my conversation with… well, with myself, knowing that this voice could tell what I was thinking.

“Found him, did you?” he asked in a slightly irritated tone. I simply replayed him telling me about this voice’s limits in my memory several times. “Well… isn’t that annoying.” I just smiled contentedly, knowing there was no real harm he could do on his own.

“Hey,” Sky called from ahead of me. I hadn’t noticed when she put that much distance between us. “Check this out.” I picked up my pace and headed over to her. What had caught her eye was a small, black chest on the side of the road. It wasn’t very well covered by the scraggly bush it was under, so either this road was rarely travelled, or it was placed there recently. It was lined with a silvery metal around all of its edges, and the black color came from some kind of fabric. Sky grabbed the chest with her forelegs and, with several flaps of her wings, pulled it out of the sand and onto the road.

“Hey… doesn’t this belong to someone?” I asked tentatively.

“At some point,” she replied, “but nobody would leave something like this lying next to the road if they had any intent on coming back for it. And if they do… well, let’s just see what’s in here at least.” She turned the decorative container around. Two things caught my attention as she did. First, a large metal symbol that appeared to be some kind of glyph within a pentagram was used as the handle. Second… the chest was unlocked. As Sky opened it, the strange handle fell off the chest and clattered to the ground. The interior was completely covered in velvet, acting as a cushion for its sole content: a pink orb of some sort.

“Well,” Sky muttered disappointedly, “certainly not what I expected.”

“What is it?” I questioned, curious as to what made the little pink sphere so important.

“A memory orb. Unicorns can use them to view the memory somepony stored in them, supposedly. They don’t mean much to you and me. They have to use magic on them or something like that.”

“Must be a pretty important memory to be stored in such a lavish case,” I pointed out, trying to puzzle out what it would be like to be in somepony else’s memory.

“Or not, to have been left unlocked and ditched on the side of the road,” Sky replied. I shrugged.

“Should we put it back, then?”

“Dunno,” Sky answered, sounding a bit unsure herself. “It might be worth a fair bit of caps to a unicorn who collects them. The case is too heavy to lug along with us, but I’m certain it would be worth a small fortune. Even if we put it back, the odds of whoever owns it coming back for it before somepony else takes it are slim to none. Here, up to you,” she said, tossing the the orb at me. “If you want to, you can-” whatever she said afterward was lost as I reached out to catch it… and the whole world collapsed around me!

~oooOOOO~ ~OOOOooo~

What was going on!? What happened? Where was Skydive? Hell, where was everything? Why wasn’t I saying this out loud? Why couldn’t I say this out loud? I tried to open my eyes, and immediately began to panic (further) when I couldn’t. I couldn’t move any part of my body whatsoever, in fact. Okay… really, what was happening to me?

I felt my body shift, not by my own will, and stand up from its position on the ground. My eyes slowly opened as well. Now I was seriously scared; it wasn’t… he couldn’t control me though! It couldn’t be him doing this to me. Could it?

“No, I’m afraid not,” the rasp answered. “I’m as confused as you are.” I didn’t know whether to be relieved or all the more frightened at that. My vision began to clear as I involuntarily stared out at… the wasteland? No, this was different… I was in some kind of ruins. I felt my withers itch and desperately wanted to scratch, perhaps more out of desire to control my own body again than an actual urge to scratch, but I couldn’t. Every muscle and bone in my body had stopped listening to me. As I(or whoever was in control) looked around, Skydive was nowhere to be found. Thank Luna…

I stretched and scratched my itching withers before finally stepping away from where I’d just woken up. As I stepped through what used to be a door, I saw a town lay before me… a town set ablaze. Bodies littered the lone street that passed through the small collection of ramshackle houses. Blood pooled all around the broken forms, and I felt the urge to be sick… but I didn’t even have my reflexes under my own control anymore. Instead, I felt myself… smile? It was brief, but I was certain I felt my lips curl into some wicked grin at the horror I was witnessing.

My legs suddenly shrieked in pain as gunshots rang out from somewhere. My head casually tilted down to see three bullet holes dotting my right foreleg. Another brief, almost unnoticeable grin played across my face. To all the greater horror, I watched as the wounds seemed to melt away. In only a moment, the holes ejected the bullets and closed up. What the fuck was even happening? This had to be a nightmare!

My gaze shifted to the corner of a burning home a little ways down the street. Almost impossibly, my vision locked on an old stallion with a pistol. How had whoever was in control of me seen him? My vision blurred for a moment before readjusting into sharp clarity… almost as though I was looking through a telescope. It had zoomed in and become extremely clear - I could count the beads of sweat on his brow. His face contorted in anger as he fired the remainder of his clip at me. Only a couple of shots hit, but each healed just as the first few had.

I felt myself frown. My vision returned to normal as my assailant clumsily tried to reload. My legs began to move… I was walking toward him. Slowly, deliberately, frighteningly walking toward him. What had happened here? Was this pony a Crystal Ganger here for revenge? And for the love of the Goddesses, why was someone else moving me?

“No…” I heard the voice speak. That tone was unmistakably frightened. “We can’t be… this… no! We shouldn’t be here!” I tried to ask, if only through thought, what ‘here’ was. The rasp never responded. Instead, I was forced to continue watching as I advanced, so slowly advanced, on the stallion in front of me. Why wasn’t he running? He lifted the low-caliber pistol back up and unloaded another clip into me. Being as close as I now was, every bullet hit. There was next to no delay between their impact and the terrifying healing process I seemed to undergo.

“Th’ hell are ya!?” he screamed, spitting the gun onto the ground and beginning to backpedal away from me. I didn’t pick up my pace.

“Me?” I questioned with silky, feigned innocence. Okay, feeling myself talk against my will… not a good feeling. “I dunno. I’d like to say I’m just another pony. But I don’t think I quite fit that description anymore.” The other pony stumbled over a rock and fell. Any distance he had put between us was shrinking. He scrambled to his hooves and began backpedaling again, but only got a few paces before stumbling over again. As I drew nearer, I noticed his hind leg was wounded fairly bad. It was bleeding and burnt. I was now right in front of him; the fear and hopelessness in his eyes should have made my heart wrench. As it was, my brow merely furrowed. “If you really want to know,” I muttered, my voice suddenly malicious and rife with anger, “I’m just plain pissed is what I am.”

I felt myself put a hoof down on the old buck’s throat, but my eyes remained firmly locked on his face. Horror and shock danced across it as he opened his mouth to scream. The effort was in vain, I was already pressing down on his windpipe. I wanted to stop, to look away, or at least just close my eyes! Goddesses above, tell me what the hell was happening!

“Y’know… there’s always one or two of ya.” I pressed my face against his and whispered, “I never get everypony the first time. One or two of ya always remain. But then… you do this stupid shit! You could’ve gotten away! Lived! But you just had to come back and get yourself killed. Why?” He merely tugged at my hoof, hardly able to breathe let alone respond. “Is that just how it goes?” I continued asking, not seeming to care that he couldn’t reply. “When the walls come falling down, you make sure to go down with them. Is that what I should have done? When I lost everything, I should’ve just died right there? Is that what I did wrong?” I felt myself pressing down harder. The stallion thrashed beneath me fruitlessly. “Is it?” I persisted. He could no longer breath; I felt blood spattering across my foreleg as he choked and tried desperately to get air. “IS IT!?” I screamed at him. At the same moment, I felt his neck snap beneath me. I stepped back from him only to see that his throat had been utterly crushed and had blood pooling around him.

I turned and began to walk away from the corpse and out of the destroyed town. “Fuckin’ idiot,” I muttered to myself. “‘No, I can’t just walk away from the pony who just murdered my whole town, I gots ta go get killed too’.” I spat in disgust, the mocking tone quite literally bringing up a bad taste in my mouth. I looked up to see a sign above me: ‘Welcome to Sunshine Valley!’. I huffed and looked back at the road ahead again. “Startin’ to wish I did that…” Darkness suddenly overtook my vision, and reality washed out from under me once again.

~oooOOOO~ ~OOOOooo~

Whatever I was lying on was both uncomfortably hard and very, very hot. My eyes shot open and I jumped to my hooves with a startled yelp. As a test, I blinked my eyes repeatedly and started to trot in place. Thank the Goddesses, I could move again! I started moving, simply milling about, trying to shake off the feeling of whatever just happened to me.

Then I remembered what just happened to me. I turned around toward… the road. This was the road I was travelling with Skydive… the chest was even still sitting here! Sunshine Valley was nowhere to be seen. My head began to ache terribly as I tried to puzzle out how I got from here to there and back again.

“Was it good?” Sky’s voice called from behind me. With a start I turned to find nobody was there. A memory of her following me in the night flickered in my mind, and I looked up to see her hovering over me.

“What?” I asked, summing up multiple questions I had at once.

“Well,” Skydive began as she lowered herself to the ground, “you kinda passed out when you touched the memory orb, so I’m guessing you got sucked into it somehow. Did you?” Wait… that was the memory orb? That’s all that was? I gave a loud sigh of relief and fell back on my haunches. Sky raised an eyebrow at the reaction.

“No,” I laughed disgustedly, “no, it wasn’t good at all. That was just a memory?” Sky nodded. “It was… it was so real…”

“What happened?” she asked curiously. I shuddered.

“Ever heard of Sunshine Valley?” Sky shook her head. I pointed at the memory orb and answered, “There’s a reason.” It took a moment for her to realize what I meant. She looked at me with a somber expression. I just turned my gaze toward the little pink orb that now lay on the side of the road. How could such an innocent looking object hold such a malicious event within it? From the corner of my eye, I saw Sky approach me. She reached a foreleg out as if to hug me. I leaned toward her for a moment before remembering a certain voice.

“Don’t!” I yelped, backpedaling away from her. She looked confused and more than a little hurt. “I-I’m, uh… it’s back. The… burning thing.” I mentally facehoofed at my awful conveyance. She seemed to understand though.

“Sorry,” she mumbled, looking down at her hooves.

“It’s not your fault,” I told her, wishing I could explain the freak in my head whose fault it really was.

“The memory was,” she explained. “I shouldn’t have tossed it at you… you didn’t need to see that.”

“Oh. It’s fine, Sky,” I waved my hoof dismissively, “if I had no idea, you couldn’t possibly have.” She looked up at me with a morose grin. “Don’t worry about it. Seriously, who would’ve guessed I turn on memory orbs too? Hey! Do you think I can charge Spark Batteries too?” I asked jokingly. She gave a small chuckle. “Seriously, though,” I continued, “I could, like, go around like a mobile power supply! ‘Oh, your light bulb went out?’ Tap. ‘There ya go!’” Sky started to laugh, mirth returning to her smile. “I could go fix small appliances all across the wasteland! Re-energizing batteries the world over! Think of all the radios and toasters we could save!”

“Poking memory orbs and sending power into magic batteries aren’t the same thing,” Sky interjected, now laughing hard.

“Aww,” I said, laughing myself, “No repairing toasters for me then.” We stopped laughing after a bit, but the mood had been lightened. “So,” I asked, picking up conversation again, “what were you up to, flying around?”

“Making sure nopony, or whatever else might be out here, was sneaking up on us while you were out,” she answered.

“Find anything?”

“Yea,” she replied, her eyes shifting to what I assumed was the direction she’d seen it, “I found something alright. Come on, they should be down the road a ways.” Now she sparked my curiosity. If she was going toward them, they couldn’t be too dangerous.

* * *

We’d been moving down the road for a good ten minutes, and I was beginning to wonder if whoever it was had moved on. I voiced the concern to Sky.

“No, they were heading toward the road. In fact… I think they should be over there.” I squinted down the road, but couldn’t see anything. I panned my view across the nearby landscape, but nothing stood out. “Here,” Sky said, pointing toward a cliffside, “You might see them from there. Take these.” She fished around in her saddlebags and retrieved a pair of binoculars. That was… convenient.

I crouched a few paces back from the edge of the cliff, the binoculars were a bit of a hassle to work with. I suspected they weren’t made with earth ponies in mind. A pegasus could use both forehooves to hold them while flying, and a unicorn could make them float. Me, on the other hand, had to keep myself steady with at least one foreleg, and had no such magic to help me out. With a bit of effort, I was able to hold them to my eyes with one hoof.

I had to look around a bit before I spotted them. A pair of unicorns trotting perpendicular to the road. Both of them were gray, one with a charcoal coat similar to mine, the other a light shade of it. I watched them for a minute before asking, “Alright, what about them? Is it too uncommon to see friendly ponies around here?”

“What do you see?” Sky asked, ignoring my question.

“A pair of unicorns. What about them?”

“Oh? Is he not there anymore?” I sighed irately enough for her to realize I wanted an answer myself. “They had a pegasus with them.” I was about to point out that wouldn’t be too unusual, but as I backtracked for an example in my mind, I realized Sky was the only pegasus I’d met so far. “And that is rather unusual. Most pegasus ponies aren’t too friendly with the rest of the wastes.”

“Huh.” I acknowledged, still watching the pair. There was no pegasus to be seen with them. I gave the binoculars back to Sky, careful not to touch her directly. Apparently objects I touched didn’t get overheated, which was good. She lifted them to her eyes and scanned around, not seeing the pony she was looking for either. Suddenly, her jaw dropped.

“No… no way…” she muttered.

“What?” I asked worriedly.

“There’s just no way… it has to be something else. She couldn’t possibly…”

What?” I asked impatiently. Sky didn’t say anything, merely passing the binoculars back to me. I sighed and lifted them to my eyes again. “No way in hell…” I echoed Sky’s reaction. The pair had stopped. The charcoal coated one was looking a bit confused and concerned. The light gray one, however, was what had the both of us in shock.

She was staring right at us. And she was waving.

Footnote: Experience required to level up: 50%

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