• Published 6th Feb 2014
  • 905 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. 11: A Gap in the Clouds Closes

A Gap In the Clouds Closes

"Friends show their love in times of trouble, not happiness."

~Euripides

---

"Wait up here," requests Baane. "It shouldn't take more than a minute for me to have a chat with them."

"Sounds fine," I say as he trots toward the power plant. When I see that Lieutenant pony exchanging words with him, I turn around and stand on this hill. I'll just do a small bit of reconnaissance.

"Laas... Yah Nir."

I see some faint red dots through the hills in the distance. Unfortunately, I can't identify exactly what I'm looking at. Oh, well. We'll deal with them when we get to them. Just as I'm thinking that, two distinctly gecko-shaped red blobs grow very large. Pluck! Quickly, my varmint rifle is out and firing. Four shots take out the red-covered gecko on the right. It clicks when I try to do the same to its nearby buddy.

Grunting, I drop the rifle and swing out my dagger. The tip goes through the lizard's tongue and out the back of its head. As I pull back out, however, I get a few scratches from its teeth. Oh, lovely. More scars. The red aura vanishes as the carcass falls and slides down the hill.

I sigh and sheathe my dagger. I find my rifle right where I dropped it, blow a bit of sand off its side, and go about reloading it. I kind of wish I had something to treat the stinging pain on my right hoof, but I really need to save the Med-X for something more serious than a scratch. After I click my rifle's safety back on and properly stow it, I hold up my hoof to my chest. I inhale deeply. Then, while straightening my front leg out in front of me, I exhale.

"Having trouble?"

I set my hoof down and turn around. "No, it's nothing." I clear my throat. "What info did you gather, Sir Fanny-Mae?"

Baane keeps his tone even. "Ha ha. The ponies here gave Daze's squad a few supplies before they saw them leave. We should keep our eyes open around the bottom of the hills near the road."

"On the ground it is," I agree as we tread dirt.

"By the way, what were you planning on doing before you met me?"

I look at the unicorn and try to figure out where he's coming from. Needless to say, the sunglasses make it difficult to discern his emotional intent. I see no harm in answering him. "I was thinking of working my way over to New Pegasus."

Baane hums. "Not a good idea. You're going to get yourself in some serious s***."

"As opposed to the less serious variety in being an enemy of the Empire?" I ask rhetorically. "What is worse in New Pegasus?"

"A lot of ponies in the strip work independently from the organizations out in the world," Baane tells, "With the Empire, you can at least see their attacks coming from a mile away. But you'd be walking into a death trap if you set foot in the city that can vaporize alicorns on sight."

To this, I raise my eyebrow. "Vaporize?"

"Normally, I wouldn't worry about some pony that could defend herself from every direction simultaneously," he admits. "But I've noticed a lack of shield spells on your part. You're not exactly energy-proof even at your best."

"What about you?" I wonder. "Are you any safer from their 'shoot on sight' mentality?"

"New Pegasus knows better than to shoot N.C.R. troops within the walls," he says, "They've even got a safe house for the head rangers and commanders-in-chief. They'd risk a second Pink Cloud incident if the N.C.R. is severely threatened."

"So... unicorns are under defined protection, then?"

"If that's what you think," he says.

Why is he dodging the question? I wonder.

He's a turncoat. Strike him where he stands.

I shake my head at Monarch's suggestion. If he really wanted me dead, he could have shot me when I brought him Crawdad back in Vacuum. No, his ulterior motive requires me to be alive for some reason. But, I don't know what that secret is.

Maybe he's infatuated with you, oh-ho-ho!

Shut up, Monarch and I tell the third thinker. I don't know what to call it yet. Maybe "Nuisance" will suffice as a placeholder.

A slight glare of light catches my attention from the bottom of a hill we approach. "Hey, what's that?"

I step lively over to the object in question. It appears to be a large, metal bin. I backstep a bit as I realize that there are bodies on either side of the bin. These are N.C.R. soldiers! Are they from the squad sent by Daze? I sigh as I tread closer to them. As per the "favor", I yank the dog tags off their collars.

Baane's rifle clicks. "Company!"

I whirl around in place. Out in front and in the corners of my peripheral vision, I see several Imperials.

Flipping Tartarus.

---

*Blat*

Though I'm standing on a new irradiated spot, I worry that it isn't enough to fully remove all of my new potholes. Sure, all of my bleeding from the cuts and piercings stop. However, I can still see bruises from all of the major impacts. We can't help but pant as the last of the radiation just... vanishes. I look around a little to make sure no more Imperials are showing up. All I can see of the enemies now are their corpses on top of each other.

"Baane, are you still with me?" I ask.

"Ergh," he grunts. "I'm going to need better armor."

"Armor's no good without a body to wear it," I point out.

"Hm... yeah."

At least his legs and magic still work. But it seems he's straining to carry the supply bin. There's a lot of sweat on his face while his aura is thinner than it usually is around objects. I decide to rest the box on my neck and head so that he isn't forced to work as hard. A quick whisper of red shows me no signs of life any closer than Helium Two and Holdbeck Faith.

Nevertheless, the trip back to the camp feels very long. The sun looks rather bright right now. It's either high noon or very close to it. My concern goes out to Baane again and I can't help but sneak a glance at him. His usual shift back in Vacuum is every night. The time now is probably his usual sleeping hour. I hope he can make it to that supplies' tent before he collapses.

And before you start, I admonish my other thoughts, I'll worry about whomever I darn well please. If he stabs me in the back later, that's his decision and problem. Even if it did come to that, you could handle him easily.

I think I hear Monarch spit even though that shouldn't be possible inside my mind.

---

The crate drops unceremoniously near the empty metal shelves inside the tent. Quartermaster Daze takes a look at the contents. He gives a nod of satisfaction.

"Thanks for bringing these," he says.

"Just getting a job done," says Baane nonchalantly, even though I can still see the trails of dried sweat along the side of his face.

I shuffle around my bags and grab a couple thin pieces of metal. "Here, I found these."

Daze sighs. "I know it must be hard to see this, but it's doing good to let us know where supplies can be redistributed." He accepts the dog tags and procures a pouch. "Here's for your trouble. If you find any more, make sure to bring them to me."

I hoof the caps away. "Be careful who you tell that. If it were anypony else, they might feel motivated to hunt down dead soldiers or 'make' dead soldiers."

"I'll keep that in mind," he says. "You should check in with Major Yosephony. He'll want to know about the temporary re-supply."

"Sir," Baane says resolutely, motioning for me to follow him out.

As we approach the center of command for the camp, Tilaso comes scampering up to me. "Princess Forte!" FRED-E isn't floating far behind.

I really wish he'd stop calling me that. I give him an attentive look. "What is it?"

"I managed to help their doc fix up some of their injured, but that's not the problem right now," he answers. "There's suspicion of a Hydra smuggler and I was wondering if you could help me out."

Hydra? I raise my eyebrow and look around. Where in the world would any pony hide a four-headed lizard? ... Oh, wait. There is that accelerative potion that's called... okay. That makes more sense. "How can I help?"

"See, I've got a pretty good idea of who took it, but I'm not exactly the best at talking down to any of these military plot-hats. I was wondering if you could maybe... help him see my point."

I blink and feel uncertain. I quickly turn to Baane. "You go on ahead and tell the Major about the supplies. We'll take care of this."

"All right," he agrees before heading inside the big center.

I turn back to the colt. "If I intimidate anyone around here, they're more apt to shoot me than tell you what you need to know."

"I swear on my life that Your Majesty will not get shot by a sniper rifle if we talk to this stallion," promises Tilaso.

Oddly specific. "Very well, I shall accompany you on your interrogation."

"Great, he's most likely this way!" The little colt scampers along a curved path through the camp.

I trot lively with FRED-E floating by my side. I don't know what we're going to find, but the colt seems eager to solve a mystery. Get with the times, kid. No case that grandiose can be solved and shut with such simplicity that is simultaneously drama.

"Hold it!" Tilaso exclaims. When I look up to see what he's yelling about, I notice some young stallion walking on the tips of his hooves. That makes little sense to me. How can any pony actually expect to sneak around in the middle of the day along the center of a heavily trodden path? Calmly, I trot over to my servant's side.

"You again?" asks the soldier as he's looking down. "Beat it! This is no place for a colt." He slowly looks up at the sound of my hoof steps. His eyes and mouth open wide as soon as he takes a good look at me. "What the...? What is that First Recon's pet alicorn doing here?" His pupils slowly climb up his eyes. The shaking suddenly stops as he smirks. A rifle pops out at his side. "Well, your owner isn't around to protect you. I'm sure the higher-ups won't mind if Private Sandpaper shot out of 'self-defense'."

The warming up of a laser next to me seems to catch his attention. He returns to his wide-eyed panic.

"Don't mind the sprite-bot," I say. I briefly glance toward FRED-E on my right before returning my indifferent gaze to the soldier pony. "He's simply been programmed to completely destroy anything that attempts to take my life, regardless of the circumstances. Besides..." I tap my dagger so that it slides less than an inch out of its sheathe. "You're not exactly in a position to gain from attacking any one of us right now."

He slowly stuffs his own weapon away. "W-What do you want from me?"

I glance down and to the left. "I believe this one has unfinished business with you."

"I recognize the signs of overdose anywhere." Tilaso nodded firmly. "You've been smuggling the doc's supply of Hydra. Here's how it's going to work: You're going to march right up to your bosses and admit your theft of medical supplies. Do that, and I won't have to sick this fraction of the Unity all over your plot."

Suddenly, I miss hearing 'Princess' and 'Majesty', I think, wishing for a subtle sweatdrop to make my point of embarrassment.

"H-Hey now," the stallion stammers, "L-Let's not get hasty. I... I could cut you a deal. I'd share some of the stuff I took. What do you say?"

"Desperation is unbecoming of a Private," I say without a care, "It'll be less damaging for your dignity to just turn yourself in now."

An angry look crosses his face as he stands upright. "Fine! Be that way!" With those parting words, he marches away huffily toward some other tent that I have yet to enter in Holdbeck Faith.

Meanwhile, Tilaso rushes over and... kisses my hoof repeatedly. "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Oh, thank you. That was better than I could have hoped for. Thank you, Princess Forte."

Okay, I'll accept your nickname title for me, I think, but the hoof-kissing is pushing it. I clear my throat. "Please rise, Servant Tilaso. You're making too much of a scene."

He stands upright and scratches his neck sheepishly. "Oh, uh... heh heh. I'm going to go ahead and let the doc know about this." He quickly scampers away.

FRED-E beeps a question.

"Nah, you don't need to anymore," I say, "It's probably best to keep him away from the next battle. Besides, I feel like I'm going to need your help again pretty soon."

The sprite-bot chirps in affirmation.

---

I nudge the metal door open to the command center. Inside, I can see Baane looking over the shoulders of that sitting soldier. It feels a bit emptier in here than before, though I can't figure out why. I head over to the Major, who is standing idly by.

"There you are," Yosephony says in acknowledgement. "Dr. Itch Yard radioed me a while ago and told me about your help. Additionally, your leader just informed me about helping recover supplies. That'll help buy some time here and we should be able to get a few soldiers ready to take back Milton."

"And not a moment too soon," I comment, "With hostages stuck on crosses for who knows how long, they're probably going to need a rescue right now."

"All right," the Major says with a nod. "There will be a small squad ready for orders just outside of camp, unless you can offer some more help around camp and make way for a few more soldiers to join the take-back operation."

"No." I shake my head. "Under these circumstances, a small quick strike will be more effective than waiting until it's too late."

"Suit yourself," he says while picking up a mug. "Keep your eyes and ears open out there."

"Right." I turn my head in Baane's direction. "Master! We're leaving!"

"Don't call me that," he says through gritted teeth. The address is effective, though, as it gets him to march quickly out the door.
---
Note: Alicorns require little to no sleep and rarely get hungry. However, the same does not apply to your allies. Regularly checking on their health is a must.
---

A pony wearing N.C.R. armor, a broad hat, and sunglasses gallops up almost immediately after I exit the door. She levitates up a small device and says, "Word's gotten out that you've been helping the N.C.R. a lot. Here, take this two-way radio. If you ever need us, we'll come sprinting. You're not alone out there." After the radio magically gets stuffed into my bag, the mare leaves as quickly as he arrived.

"Um... okay," I say more to myself than anyone else within hearing range. Did I just get drafted?

"Your Majesty!" calls out a scampering Tilaso. "Are you heading out?"

"Yes," I say. "I'd like you to wait around here until we come back."

His frown indicates that he is miffed. But he nods all the same. "Would you like a quick patch up before you go?"

"Are you offering?" I ask in return.

He shuffles nervously. "Well, I might have... appropriated a few health potions."

I should be mad at him for committing a crime. But for some reason, I can't help but smile wryly at him. Besides, I still have a few bruises left over from that Imperial ambush earlier today.

"One should suffice," I say while holding out my hoof. I quickly drain the small bottle's contents. I breathe a little more easily.

"Pianissimo, what's the holdup?" asks Baane from a few yards away.

"I'll be right there!" I call back. FRED-E floats quickly as I flap my wings and take to the sky.

---

"Major Yosephony told us to wait here for you," says one of the stallions in grunt uniform. "Where should we hit 'em from?"

You can't be serious. I look at the 'squad' and how small it is. Does that pony in charge really think that these three privates, Baane, my robot, and I will be enough to recover an entire settlement? I rub a hoof against my head and sigh. I wonder if someone dared him to make an unintelligent call like this.

I shake my head briefly and gently pull on my neckerchief. "We don't exactly have strength in numbers here. All we're going to get is a brief advantage of surprise before the entire gathering of Imperials comes rushing in to wipe us out. Instead of playing smart and biding our time, we'll have to do something to catch them off guard." I turn to Baane. "What do you say to that?"

"Fine," he says indifferently. "We attack from the north side."

"North it is," reiterates the private. "Let's move!"

"FRED-E, cover Baane," I order. I pull out K.R. before spreading my wings. "I'll give the enemy an extra attack angle to worry about."

Thus, the recovery operation of Milton begins. As I take flight, I watch the three Privates step lively toward their suicide. Baane... is going to come out of this with a new scab. I can just tell. As for FRED-E, most everyone I've ever come across ignores him. I don't know how that works when a levitating robot isn't exactly stealthy.

Now isn't the time to worry about my sprite-bot. This is a battlefield. Within the first ten seconds, I spy with my little eye something that begins with Imperial watch tower guard. K.R. is anxious in my grip.

*Pow*

I see the guard lose a front hoof and a back hoof. They go flying with blood before the rest of his body falls over the ramp's side. I'm not expecting accuracy from up here. However, I'm somewhat pleased that gravity decides to play on my side for dishing out the pain. I clearly see three dots of New Canterlot colors running around and a small blue dot trekking along. I can hear the gunfire popping and see some Imperial colors actually flinching every once in a while. I decide to add to this cluster of confusion.

*Pow* *Pow*

A spear-carrying pony loses his wielding hoof to my shots. The rest of him takes a peppering from the soldiers. The guy behind him suffers a live roast-session courtesy of FRED-E's laser shots. I see a few more Imperials galloping from the west gate. I'm about to shout a heads up, but I get interrupted by another troubling sight. There are three familiar looking crosses with the same number of ponies in uncomfortable positions.

The hostages! I realize just as I feel a nick against my back, right leg. I see a spear falling away to the ground. Luckily, I don't see any severe bleeding from that new cut, but it still stings. I return the favor to the Imperial currently holding his hoof up.

*Pow* *Pow* *Pow*

After that one is down and out, I hear one of Baane's rifle shots. Immediately, I see its handiwork on another Imperial's head flying off the bloody neck. My eyes go wide. I... know we're in the middle of a large-scale fight, but... I have to get down there. I dive to the ground for a galloping landing. I stand shakily over the corpse's open neck. I... can't help myself. I lower my head and my tongue laps up this Imperial's red, iron-rich liquid. Nothing else matters but this wonderful taste.

A zap of laser over my head wakes me up. I gasp as I scramble back a few paces and frantically look around. FRED-E's to my left and a burning Imperial is collapsing a few feet to my right. I quickly shake my head. Focus! That's what I need to do. I have to focus on the fight. I use this brief pause away from the action to feed K.R. some new bullets. I give the chamber a good spin before rushing back into the sky.

---

Our pitiful-sized squad meets up near the center with the crosses. Surprisingly, we only have one casualty within our group. Despite the Empire's insistence that they avoid modern weapons, one of the Imperial's had appropriated disk land-mines over a large area. One of the Privates had galloped straight into the middle of it. Despite our loss of a life, I feel quite happy with the results.

"We really did it!" remarks the Head Private. "Milton is back under N.C.R. control. Head on back to the Major. We'll stick around and secure the perimeter."

I'm not entirely convinced that we got them all. While FRED-E goes about burning through the hostages' bindings, I do a little extra scouting of a nearby building.

"Laas... Yah Nir."

There are some red blobs in the shapes of sitting ponies. Another one appears to be trotting back and forth. With this sight, I know for sure that our group's victory cheer is premature. I take out my dagger as I slowly trot toward the door. It makes a creaky noise as I pull it open. After that, I kind of lose myself in a multitude of spinning slashes I make against the Imperials charging at me inside. Before I know it, they've all turned into decapitated... red... bloody...
---

"Please, I need your help! My girlfriend went up there a while ago and the path is swarming with geckos!"

Wait, what? Why are these words leaving my mouth? And why am I facing Daisy Doe and... an oddly familiar faded blue alicorn?

"Shouldn't you try to save her yourself?" asks the alicorn.

"Also, I don't remember hearing any gunfire aside from our own just now," adds Daisy Doe. "What's the point of that 9mm pistol if you're not using it?"

I pull out a small gun and take out Daisy just as the other me comes rushing with my knife.
---

When I come to, I realize that I am licking a body that is comically in the fetal position while on a bed. I tap my head with my wrist a couple times. Why do I like the taste of blood now of all times? Sometimes, I don't even understand myself. I decide to scour the area for other stuff. There's a footlocker that's been knocked over, but its door opens rather easily. I pull out the only content. It looks like one of those weird computer chip things.

"Huh," I comment as I stuff it right next to Ignitus' gift in my saddlebags.
---
Note: There's very little chance that the Empire's leader Taller-Than-Us will want to speak peacefully with his sworn enemies. Even then, he's probably only interested in placing a slave collar on the poor sucker.
---

"It's a standard procedure to perform a mercy killing," reminds Baane on our trek back. "I'm glad you saw that there was another option."

"You really ought to thank FRED-E," I comment, "He did most of the loosening work. I just happened to pass under them to avoid letting them get crippled by the fall."

"Hmm." He hums before turning toward FRED-E. "Thanks, metal ball."

The sprite-bot's annoyed chirping is hilarious to listen to. But his retort falls on deaf ears as we arrive back at Holdbeck Faith's command center. Baane trots in and coughs to gain Yosephony's attention.

"The Milton settlement has been cleared of Imperial presence," Baane reports.

"Good to hear, soldier," says the Major. "At least that's one less thing to worry about. We'll need that extra morale when we eventually send our aid to the dam."

"I was actually thinking of heading out that way to offer assistance," comments Baane.

"Good idea," agrees Yosephony, "They're going to need every pony they can get. Just don't get yourself killed before then."

"Sir." With that, Baane turns around. As he approaches, I notice his mouth is open. Either he's impersonating a dog, or his fatigue is having an effect on his respiratory system. I side-step into his way.

"What do you want?" inquires Baane.

"You need to stop and rest for a bit, Mr. First Recon," I state bluntly.

"I'm fine, all right?" he snaps back.

"Surely you understand that a worn out target is ripped apart easier than one that is fresh and has tensile strength." I try to use this example. "You think that the Empire is going to do any less damage if you run yourself ragged trying to stop them all? It would be better for you to recover and have a more likely shot of eliminating the problem when you're at the best possible health that you can be."

He sighs. "Maybe you're right." His sunglasses make him look like he is staring long and hard at me. "I just have one request."

"Name it and I might grant it," I reply.

"Stay close to me."

One minute, I'm talking with a red unicorn practically ready to return to the call of duty. The next, I'm looking at a sprawled, snoring mass on the floor. It takes me a few seconds to fully comprehend what is happening here. Baane is asleep. I blink a few times before grasping that concept.

I smile wryly. "I guess I can at least do that much."

With a lot of effort and awkward hoof-holding, I drag Baane across the floor to a bench inside of this command center. I fold my legs underneath myself to lie down next to him. I close my eyes and sigh without thinking. I turn my head around and start leaning it forward and back while clicking my teeth. Without paying attention, I find myself very deep in the process of preening my wings. Well, I guess I should have expected this at some point. Healing potions heal cell damage, but they don't always clean the dirt away. I spit away from Baane.

My neck cranes down just as my eyes close completely.
---

"Boss, what do we do?" Tilaso asks. "The facility's overrun by soldiers again."

"I know that, idiot." I grunt as I continue walking. My eyes catch sight of another me. "Well, look at what we have here."

"Ain't that the Unity alicorn that's destroyed countless other Powder Gangers?" the colt whimpers. "W-We should get out of here."

"Don't be ridiculous," I insist, "See how her horn's all busted like that?"

"Y-Y-Yeah?" he stutters.

"It'll be no problem to double-team her and take those bags off of her." I give my pistol's chamber a good spin. "Fire your shots."

I can see Tilaso following the order very reluctantly.
---

My eyes snap awake. My neck shoots straight up. It takes a couple of seconds before I realize that I'm still in the command center. The outside seems darker through the small windows. I scratch my head and sigh. I hear a yawn to my left. I'm not sure what it is that I see in him, but Baane looks more lively than a few hours ago.

"There, doesn't that feel better?" I ask.

"Hmm, yeah," he replies nonchalantly. He climbs off the bench and adjusts his beret. "We should get moving. New Pegasus is a long way out."

FRED-E lets out a string of beeps.

"Yes, I'll get Tilaso," I assure him, "Don't worry."

He chirps a little more with a stutter in the middle.

"Yeah, you and me both," comments Baane.

"Wait, you understand him now?" I raise my eyebrow.

Baane shrugs. "Kind of. It's more like I get the gist of which sounds relate to which emotions. I'm still not sure about the exact words, though."

I nod. "Fair enough." That's how I learned FRED-E as well.

---

After we gather the group's colt, medic, and explosives' expert (All of which are Tilaso.), we trot along the large, cracked road. A couple of shots from FRED-E set fire to two cockroaches along the way. My knife finds its way to impale a gecko's spinal cord. In other words, it's basically a quiet journey. At least, it is until some random mare comes flying over us, breathing heavily like she just flew the Equestrian 500, and no I don't know what that is.

"Did you see her?" she asks while looking at me. Her eyes dart to the left every five seconds or so. "She looked like she was about to kill me!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down." I wave my hoof at a downward angle in front of me. "What are you talking about?"

"Sorry," she scratches her neck as she flutters down closer to the ground. "I just thought I knew Cirrus better, but she showed me what she was really made of and what she was after." She exhales loudly. "I'm Stratus, by the way."

"Forte," is my introduction. "Why don't you start from the beginning?"

Stratus lands on her hooves and folds her wings. "Cirrus and I were travelling together for weeks. I thought it was a good team considering we were fliers in a land that was populated by very few pegasi. Anyway, we were clearing out a raider camp like usual. As soon as I started examining the place for something worthwhile, she pulled her gun on me." She wiggles her front leg around for emphasis. "She told me to hand over my caps. Though come to think of it, she laughed when I tossed all my money to her. I think she was actually after my necklace."

"Necklace?" I tilt my head and examine the pegasus more carefully. Sure enough, there's a string around her neck. It is piercing through several caps that look like they have a unique star pattern painted onto them.

Stratus holds it up slightly with a hoof. "About a couple months ago, I found a few caps that had stars on them instead of the usual pattern. I thought they were lucky, so I made a necklace out of them."

I half-frown. "Hmph. They can't be that lucky if somepony decides to threaten you just to get them. You should probably get rid of them if you don't want that kind of trouble." I motion toward her with one hoof. "Tartarus, I'd be willing to take them for you and give you some proper spending money for compensation."

"Ho, no," she says with a chuckle. "This necklace and I have been through a lot together. It wouldn't feel right to sell it or give it away."

I shrug. "All right, do what you want. Try to avoid making shady partnerships in the future. Otherwise, you might find yourself in that very same, life-threatening situation."

"Heard that loud and clear," she nods. Her wings open. "I'm out of here." With that, Stratus takes to the sky to the far right.

Something taps my leg. "Your Majesty, wouldn't it have been more advantageous to try to gain her trust as an ally?"

I look down and back at Tilaso. I shake my head. "Now isn't the best time for her. From the sound of things, she just lost her best friend to something as petty as a few caps that look prettier than normal. If some external force decides to play around and bring her back to us later, maybe I'll consider the idea. Right now, she needs to figure out for herself who she can trust."

He tilts his head at my explanation. "But... didn't you put your trust in me even though you work with the N.C.R.?"

For a moment, I am stunned with silence. Is solitude the best place for Stratus to be in, or does she need somepony that she can turn to during her loss? I exhale in frustration before spreading my wings wide. I quickly close the distance between myself and the pegasus.

"Stratus, wait!" I yell.

---
-You have gained fame among members of the N.C.R. One call on their two-way radio will bring in an entire squadron to assist you, provided your position is one that can be galloped to. There aren't exactly a lot of pegasi in this military faction.
-"Wild, Bloody Memories": You're not entirely sure, but you think you experienced a distant memory of some pony that died at your hooves. You gain 0.01 EXP each time you see one of these alternate perspective 'dreams'. However, your sanity has a slight chance of fluctuating. Try to ignore any flying pigs. *wink*

Author's Note:

I'm not sure how that happened. I wasn't even going to try and force in enough members for Forte Pianissimo to forge a FO:E equivalent of the Teen Titans. But, it happened.

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