• Published 6th Feb 2014
  • 909 Views, 21 Comments

Merry Stewed: An Equestrian Fallout - TundraStanza

Tells the tale of an alicorn rendered effectively powerless after losing her horn in the wastelands of Equestria. She'll pick up a gun, a blade, and a few companions. But really, what is the point of telling the tale of a Mary Sue?

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Ch. 10: Holdbeck Faith

Holdbeck Faith

"Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe."



"Hey, I'm back," I say, "I got the power running."

"Ah, yes," Ignitus replies, "and you sent it to the full region. Very commendable." He grabs a couple of printed magazines and a small bag. "While I'm not obligated, I'd still like to give you physical evidence that your effort is appreciated."

"Oh, uh, thank you," I say, hoofing the items into my bags. "I wasn't expecting compensation. Although, now I'm wondering, what will you do now?"

"I must remain here and keep the Anthemius out of N.C.R.'s reach," he explains, "However, if you'd like to continue to support the Followers of the Apocalypse, there are peacekeepers in various locations such as the medical clinic just outside of Camp McCarry-On as well as our base of operations just inside Freewall."

"That may or may not actually happen," I say with a half-frown. "I'd rather not commit to any strange religio- er, I mean any particular faction until I know exactly what kind of enemies I'm going to make by doing so."

"Fair enough." Ignitus nods sagely. "Goodbye."

I turn to Baane before we get to the vertical sliding door. "It's your lead again, Master."

He growls quietly. "I told you not to call me that."

"Sorry." I rub my neckerchief sheepishly. "Oh, before I forget, you could probably use these more than me." I shuffle around my ammunition and pull out eight rounds for a sniper rifle. I swear Host gave me more than that, but I shrug when I can't find anymore.

He shows his acceptance of the bullets via levitation. "All right."

"Anyway, earlier you said you knew a couple of Empire camps you wanted to wipe out."

His smile gives an appearing and vanishing act within the same second. "Yeah, there are a couple of places I've got in mind."
Note: Companions will automatically fire against certain enemies. Choose the ponies that follow you carefully.

Flying while above the top of a hill, I can see some reddish-brown tents and a flag or two waving with the symbol of a flying serpent. According to the information I vaguely recall from Rupee Carbuncle and what Baane said, this is an Empire Raid camp. If I understand what Baane said correctly, these Imperials are expecting Stormcloaks to rain in after the N.C.R. is driven away from the dam. He says he doesn't give much stock into the myth of cloaks and storms. I'm inclined to agree since there isn't a substantial cloud in the sky today and the closest thing to a cloak on anybody is heavy leather armor.

I fly back down to my allies at the bottom of the hill. "I see at least five Imperials standing around. There's also a couple other ponies that look tied up."

"All right, here's the plan," says Baane, "You and the cyber-parasprite go in and draw their attention. I'll head to the top of the hill and take 'em out one by one."

FRED-E takes exception to Baane's nickname for him.

"Simmer down, Frederick," I say while waving a hoof near him. "Let the colt have his moment."

The sprite-bot sparks and beeps with a lighter, but still offended tone. Meanwhile, Baane trots as quietly as he can to the hill's top. His rifle is floating and ready. Without another word, I take to the sky. FRED-E follows at a lower altitude. When my shadow hits a flag, he lets out his traditional war tune. While he's busy wildly firing lasers and Baane fires an audible shot, K.R. rises into my grasp.

*Bzzrt* *Bzzrt* *Bam* *Pow* *Pow* *Pow*

Three of the Imperial-armored ponies fall unmoving. Another one grabs a spear. In an instant, it vanishes from his hoof. I feel a stinging pain in my left wing. I turn to see what the matter is. It's being weighed down by the spear point driven through it.

"Well, that's not gooooood!" I land hard on my side. I grit my teeth as I hold up K.R.

*Pow* *Bzzrt* *Bam* *Pow* *Bzzrt*

The last two Imperials collapse. I holster K.R. before reaching a hoof to my wing.

"Don't pull that out!" warns Baane as he gallops down toward me. His warning falls on ignorant ears as I yank out the spear. I see blood carry several feathers away. "What did I just tell you?"

"Flipping Tartarus." I exhale harshly. "I used up all of my potions at Helium Two."

"Well, a bit of concentrated radiation should fix you up right quick," suggests a new voice.

I whirl my head around to one of the tied hostages. "What? Concentrated radiation is toxic and lethal to ponies."

He shakes his head. "Not your kind, alicorn. I've seen wounds heal up faster than magically possible on an ugly green one. Sure, one of the other guys took that thing down by shoving a stick of dynamite up its *sshole, but that's beside the point."

I scoff in spite of the trickling blood to my left. "Okay first of all, that's completely ludicrous. Second, there's nothing highly radiated anywhere near here. Even if what you're saying is true, it's completely useless info in this situation."

FRED-E beeps a pattern.

I blink and turn toward him. "Well, yeah, I have a plasma pistol with a shot in it. But... I'm not going to shoot my own wing on the slim chance that it would actually have a healing effect. I'm more apt to shoot the wing off with the sheer force of impact."

"Hmm," Baane hums. "Let me see that plasma pistol."

"Don't you go shooting my wing!" I take a step back.

"No, I have a different idea," he says. "Let me see it."

I sigh. "All right, but I still have doubts about this train of thought." I pull out the weird gun that creates piles of goo. Baane holds it in his magic and aims it downward.


The dirt that he shot looks like a big, shiny circle releasing a lot of fumes. "Stand on that spot for a bit. If you feel sick, you can get off and we'll try... I don't know, a piece of Imperial tarp as a temporary bandage or something."

"Fine," I say while taking steps forward. "But I don't think this w-... Whoa..."

What is this feeling surging through my leg? Whatever it is, it's already crawling along my torso now. I can feel it climbing my neck, my wings, and even a little bit of it tickling my tail. At this very moment, I feel no urge to move, let alone vomit. This is actually quite exhilarating. Our eyes focus forward as our lips curl up into a smirk. I shake my head and quickly step back. I blink twice and purse my lips.

"W...What was that?" I mutter. I hear FRED-E chirping something. "Huh?" I turn to see that my wing is in fact better. There's no sign of a blood wound anywhere. It even looks like it has healthier feathers than the ones that I lost. "Well, I'll be darned. It actually worked."

"Told you," remarks the hostage. "Now, how about thanking me by freeing me from my bindings?"

"Hmm," I hum, pretending to think it over deeply. I reach up and rub my head, specifically the missing horn. "I don't know. Your idea didn't exactly heal me up to one hundred percent."

FRED-E beeps a patronizing comment.

"Okay, okay, it's a deal." I pull out my dagger and lightly saw the straps until the stallion can pull his hooves apart. He gallops away from the camp without another word. I trot around and cut the bindings off the other hostage. He looks like he's just waking up from a nap. But his sleepiness leaves no trace when his eyes lock onto me.

"Oh, hell no! Not you again!" he cries out as he attempts a rather pitiful crab-walk. He doesn't get more than five inches away before falling flat on his back.

'Not you again'? I mentally echo in confusion. "Do I know you?"

Some squeaks and murmurs escape his lips. I mull it over for a while. I gasp. I know that whimpering.

Before he can reach, my hoof stomps down. The impact smashes the pistol into unsalvageable pieces. The stallion mutters incoherently while shivering in place. I should kill him, but the sight before me is just way too pitiful.

“Get lost,” I command.

"You're that Powder Ganger that attacked me on my way to Proper!" I exclaim in realization. In the corner of my vision, FRED-E seems to float back a foot or two. Baane’s reaction to the situation is a more subtle hoof gently pressing against his sunglasses. What catches me off guard is the scared pony in front of me throwing his entire body into a groveling bow.

“Your supreme alicorniness, I am your humble servant! I’ll do whatever it is you want. Please, don't kill me!”


It feels like forever while my brain tries to process what is happening.

"Come again?" I ask.

"What the hell was that?" asks Baane.

FRED-E adds his own chirps of confusion.

"I... I just want to live," says the poor colt. "The Powder Gang is gone. My head is at risk from Empire and New Canterlot punks. What else can I do?"

Baane floats his rifle around. "You could hold still and make it less painful."

I hold up a hoof in front of him. "Hold on, Baane."

"Hmm?" His questioning grunt sounds like it would complement a raised eyebrow expression quite well.

I turn back toward the young Powder Ganger. "What's your name, pal?"

"T-Tilaso," he stutters. Far from miraculously, remembering his name doesn't strike me as a hard task.

"Very well then," I say with a nod. In a mockery of knighthood marking, I hold down my stump of a horn and point it toward either side of the colt's head. "In the name of Forte Pianissimo, I dub thee 'Servant Tilaso'. You may rise."

"Th-Thank you," he says. He stands up and bows his head deeply.

"With your new status, you may carry these." I hoof over two sticks of dynamite that I found during my travels. "Don't use them unless it's absolutely necessary."

"R-Right, Your Majesty," he hastily shuffles the sticks into his pockets.

Baane taps my shoulder and whispers, "What are you doing? You don't have any reason to take him with you, much less arm him."

"Actually, I do," I whisper back. "Keep your sharp-shooters close and your potential back-stabbers closer. I figure you and FRED-E are trigger happy. What would this colt gain from killing me when you're around?"

Baane's next grunt is about the closest thing to a chuckle I've ever heard from him. "I'm starting to respect you, Pianissimo."

"Likewise." I then raise my voice so that the new guy can hear. "So, what's that other place you had in mind with Imperial heads to boot?"

He clears his throat. "Yeah, it's some ways out there."


While I follow close behind Baane, he insists that someone stick behind Tilaso to make sure he doesn't try anything funny. The colt insists he won't cause any trouble, but Baane gives him a flat stare. Shrugging, I tell FRED-E to cover our rear as we travel. The sprite-bots chirps in willing agreement.

A mare in a familiar uniform gallops up to us. "Hold up! The road's closed to Milton until we can get the immediate situation with the Imperials taken care of."

Baane grunts. "That's why we're here."

The mare that appears in charge lifts an eyebrow. "We don't normally let citizens take care of our problems. Who exactly are you?"

Here's where Baane does something I never anticipate. He levitates his sunglasses off. It is a bit of a shame that I can't see his eyes from this angle.

"Y-You?" stammers the mare. "You're back in the field?"

"In a manner of speaking, yes." Baane puts his shades back in place.

"Well, that's the first bit of good news I've received in a long while," says the mare, half-smiling. "I wish we didn't have to meet under the circumstances of a hostage situation."

"Hostage situation?" I echo.

The mare whips her head in surprise and pulls out a combat knife. "Oh my sod! Baane, get back! It's an alicorn!"

Baane's magic aura interferes with hers around the knife. "It's all right, Grant. She's tame."

She slowly puts the knife away, but still looks tense. "If you say so."

I take a tentative step forward and bow my head. "Pleased to make your acquaintance."

Grant lets out a low whistle. "Wow, how did you get such a clean cut through her horn?"

"Long story," answers Baane, "and I can't claim all the credit."

Besides, I'd hardly call the jagged stump 'clean', I think as I lift my head back up.

Grant turns her head a little more. "And who's that?"

Baane shrugs. "Some colt that's decided he wants to serve his pale-haired princess." Conveniently, Tilaso chooses that moment to hide behind my leg. I never realized how small he was until just now.

"That's... neat." Grant blinks in uncertainty.

"You said something about hostages?" I ask her again.

"Uh, right." Grant snaps back to the initial topic. "We tried to set up camp in Milton, but it turns out the Empire had sent a mass of their own soldiers and overran us. Most of our troops got out, but three rookies were captured and they've been strung up on crosses. The demands of the Imperials here are to back off from this settlement or they'll kill the hostages." She sighs. "With the current firepower of our remaining recruits, there's little chance of us getting those men out alive. The bigger problem is how the higher-ups want to deal with the situation here. They want the Empire dead, period. If it comes at the cost of a few friendly casualties, they're willing to take the risk." She looks thoughtful. "About twenty-one doses of Dash ought to be enough to put them out of their misery and it'll leave the Imperials nothing to bargain with."

"To hell with mercy killing," Baane spits, "we're getting those soldiers out of there."

"You're kidding right?" I ask Grant. "Why would you turn your back on ponies that willingly served? Sure, maybe they weren't selfless, but that's no excuse to intentionally introduce them to death earlier than necessary."

She looks at me with a skeptical frown. "You have no idea what it's like, alicorn. Just who do you think you are to ask me about immorality? Your kind slaughtered ponies indiscriminately for years! But as soon as armed forces decide to join the practice, it's suddenly not okay?"

I lean back with eyes wide. "W...What?"

"Yeah, that's right," Grant spits. "I know my history. It's your fault that there was ever a war in Equestria in the first place! If you lot hadn't screwed with the zebras, they wouldn't have attacked ponykind back then and we wouldn't be dealing with this kind of screwed up mess we have now."

Monarch stomps my left hoof forward and matches the anger-filled glare with her own. "The crimes of the many cannot be pinned on the one."

"Tell that to the parents and grandparents you stole from me!"

"Molasses, enough!" shouts Baane.

I force Monarch to take shelter in the back of my mind. Grant, still very hurt, looks at Baane.

"Ragic?" she asks in a lack of understanding.

"Hold off on your higher-ups' order, Ranger Grant," he says. "We'll return with backup soon."

There is a collective "huh?" from the rest of us. In FRED-E's case, it's a confused beep.

Baane simply turns around. "We should keep walking, Pianissimo." He trots loudly against the pavement.

"Um, right," I say with a nod. I turn briefly to my followers. "Let's move."

"Yes, Your Highness," answers Tilaso. FRED-E adds his own confirmation chirp.

"Where exactly are we going to get this 'backup'?" I ask after we get a few feet out of Grant's hearing range.

"There's a N.C.R. camp near here," he says, "With any luck, we'll be able to exchange favors."

We trot for several yards. Many hills skew my perception of elevation as we travel up and down. I hear the voice of Tilaso interchanging with FRED-E's beeping every once in a while. I have no idea when they became such close friends. I shake my head lightly. My subjects are allowed to mingle, right? It's hardly unusual to hear idle chatter. Speaking of which, the unicorn in front seems to be rather quiet right now. I shouldn't find this unnatural, but I can't help but feel a tad worried about him.

"Were you ever forced to perform 'mercy killings'?" I ask out of nowhere.

Baane sighs. "The Republic was losing a lot of allies that fell prey to hostage situations or slavery. They didn't like feeling tied up just because a few friends were in danger. Mercy killing was meant as a gesture of kindness, to end their friends' suffering sooner so that there'd be no hesitation in following an attack order." He tips his blue beret forward ever so slightly. "It makes you wonder if it wasn't the Imperials that got them killed, but you following d**ned orders. I guess that was one of the main reasons why I left the military in the first place."

Although I'm still trotting, I briefly scratch my head. "Yet, you're still helping them out... right now."

"It'll be a hell of a lot better if the Mojave gets under N.C.R. protection than letting the Empire march freely across the land."

"I suppose there is some truth to that," I admit.

New Location Discovered: Holdbeck Faith

+7.5 EXP

This camp that Baane mentioned looks much larger than the Imperial Raid camp. But it also looks worn down. Dust and tatters mark the tents. Rust is overrunning whatever metal cabins there are. Some of the sandbags that surround the guard post look like they're marked with urine. I give the place a four out of Fondsprings.

"I almost wish a nuclear winter would overtake this side of the wasteland," comments the pony taking a guard position.

Baane pays her no heed and trots right on through the area. I trot at about my normal pace. FRED-E floats the same, but Tilaso has to scamper just to keep up. It appears that Baane is interested in the largest metal building. Though, I may be insulting the scattered wooden support that holds up the metal building's outside. In any case, Baane pulls the door open and we all head inside.

There are a number of ponies in the New Canterlot outfits. Most appear to be standing around, waiting for something to happen. There's a mare off to the left, fiddling with a radio dial. The stallion on my right stands out simply because he's the only one sleeping in a posture I would consider uncomfortable. Baane trots straight to the center of this tented facility where one stallion is looking over a map and some loose papers.

"I'm looking for the commander in charge," says Baane directly.

The other guy turns his head slightly. "I'm kind of busy right now for social calls. If you're not here to help, stay out of the way."

"Lucky you, we're here to help."

That catches the stallion's attention. He turns his whole body to get a better look at the party. "Oh, well, I wasn't actually expecting... never mind." He shakes his head.

"You weren't expecting what?" asks Baane.

"When I got radioed by Grant about receiving help from a team with an alicorn, I thought she had finally snapped." The 'commander' scratches his neck in embarrassment. "I'm Major Yosephony. Based on that beret, I'm guessing that you were in First Recon at some point. I'm afraid you'll have to talk with the higher-ups currently stationed in New Pegasus if you're looking to get your old position back."

"Duly noted," states Baane without committing. "How are circumstances around here?"

Yosephony assumes a more serious expression. "I've got the Empire breathing down my neck at Milton and not enough stallions or equipment to properly stage a counter attack. I'm going to need someone to talk to the officers and see what needs to be done to get this camp back on its hooves. Once enough of the problems around here are taking care of, I can focus my efforts on taking back Milton." He grabs a mug and sips from it. "The more that gets done around here, the more resources I can place directly into assaulting Milton."

"I didn't follow any of that," comments Tilaso. "Why are all you soldier types so vague?"

A combined effort of my shushing and FRED-E's quiet chirping work to shut the colt up.

"We'll do what we can," replies Baane as if the peanut gallery behind him hadn't said anything.

"Good." Yosephony nods while setting his mug down on the table. "Our main focus should be on resupplying our reserves. Talk to Quartermaster Daze and see what you can do for him." He turns back to his map.

"Got it." Baane says before turning around. "We should get moving."

"If they're short on their own supplies, how are they going to be any help with those hostages in Milton?" asks Tilaso.

"And how will increased supplies be any help without the body support to carry those items?" I add.

"One thing at a time," says Baane while walking out the door, "One thing at a time."

Tilaso half-frowns before turning his worried face to me. "Princess Forte?"

"Let's just keep an eye on him and do what he asks for now," I suggest, "Maybe a little constructive work will do him some good."

"Yes, Your Majesty," says the colt with a bow. While Monarch beams in the back of my mind, I simply roll my eyes at the colt's cheesy performance. I swear I hear FRED-E chuckling, but there's no way to prove that he is.
Note: While the Aura Whisper can identify life forms, it is up to the user to discern friend from foe.

"If you're here for supplies, I'll make this quick and easy for you. There aren't any."

"I fully intend to fix that problem." That's Baane's voice coming from that open tent.

"Oh," responds the other voice, "So you're the new guy that the Major is sending around striking through items on his errand list. Well, beggars can't make choices. Any help we can get is better than nothing."

"Which item on the Major's list is next to your name, Daze?" asks Baane.

"I sent some stallions out to Helium Two to see if they had any supplies they could spare," explains Daze, "Most likely they're somewhere between there and here. Though with how dangerous the way has become on hoof, it's very likely that they were ambushed by an Imperial raiding party. Check the roads or ask the ponies at Helium Two if they know anything."

"Very likely ambushed?" I echo. "Is that how low morale is around here?"

"Yeah, it's certainly lacking," admits Daze. "At this rate, we'll have to rely on chucking rocks for weapons and eating dirt for food."

There isn't enough hard drink or Sparkle Cola in the world to make dirt appetizing, I think in half-amusement.

"Hey," interrupts Daze, "You think you could do me a favor?"

"That depends on the favor." I shrug one wing.

"When soldiers die, it's up to me to re-allocate supplies as necessary," he says, "I want you to bring me any of the troops' dog tags that you can find. In return, I'll give you a little something worthwhile."

"Dog tags, huh?" I idly scratch my neckerchief. "Very well, then. Shall I personally add a cremation ceremony for each fallen pony?"

"That... won't be necessary," says Daze. "Just pick up their dog tags and turn them in here."

"I can do that." I nod. I happen to turn toward Tilaso before looking back at the quartermaster. "Know anypony around here that could use a little helper?"

Daze leans over and briefly stares at the colt. "Is he any good with medicine? I heard from the Major that Dr. Itch Yard has his hooves full with patients coming in a little faster than they can be sent back to the front lines."

I turn my head toward the colt. "Think you'd be up for playing 'Doctor'?"

He suddenly puffs up his chest. "I was the assistant for the doctor back at the correctional facility. I bet I know more about putting bodies back together than all of you combined."

Where did this confidence come from? I wonder. "All right, Servant Tilaso, go see what you can do at the medical center." I turn toward the sprite-bot floating in the vicinity. "Stay around and keep an eye on him, please."

FRED-E beeps an affirmative. The two of them head to another half-metal building with a red cross sign on it.

"You sure you can handle a potential ambush without your pet robot?" asks Baane.

"We'll just have to see, won't we?" I retort.

"Fine," Baane says nonchalantly. "We should head out."

"Watch yourself out there," warns Daze.

-Your status among the Followers of the Apocalypse is currently "Accepted".
-You have gained infamy among members of the Empire. There is a slightly greater chance that squads of Imperials will randomly attack you.

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