• 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. 12: Twenty-One

Twenty-One

"I don't know how to feel about this."

~Firestar

---

"This is FRED-E." I point a hoof to the sprite-bot. "I got him up and running by following some vague instructions in an unrelated technical magazine."

Thankfully, FRED-E ignores any implicated insult and simply beeps a greeting.

"Over here we have Baane." I point a feather tip in his direction. "He's an ex-soldier from Vacuum. Anytime we pass by or work with the New Canterlot Republic, he's in charge."

"Hmph." He barely twitches his mouth as he slowly looks up and down at the newbie.

You could at least try to be polite. I trot a little bit and point down to the colt. "That is Tilaso my unexpected, faithful servant. He's in charge of medicine and explosives."

"Yo!" he says in a chipper tone.

I turn around. "And I'm Forte Pianissimo. I'm looking for the shotgun-happy fellow that successfully blew an alicorn's horn off and lived to tell about it. I enjoy long flights, bathing in the sunlight, and slitting the throats of my enemies."

The silver hide, blue-streaked in white mane, and lavender-eyed pegasus pony's attention is squarely on Tilaso. "You seriously let that kid near bombs?"

"Of all that I've said, that is what you find strange?" I tilt my head as I look at Stratus. I shake my head a bit. "So far, we haven't needed that part of his skillset, but I can tell you from first-hoof experience that Powder Gangers know how their dynamite works."

"I... see." Stratus scratches her neck. "Are you sure you want me to join you? You seem armed to the teeth as is. Any additional ponies might just encumber this group."

I cough. "Well, I feel a little bad that Tilaso is doing so much for me already. He wants you to be an ally." I turn to the colt. "Right?"

"Yes," Tilaso states without a second of hesitation.

"But like I told you during the short flight," I say, "it's up to you."

"Aw, what the hell?" Stratus smiles. "I'll give the group ethic a whirl."

I swear I hear something squee when Tilaso grins.

---

This is the most random stop I have ever made. When Stratus comments that she hasn't eaten in forever, two other stomachs join hers in a growling contest. Tilaso's gut definitely wins in volume. But, Baane's stomach gives it a run for its money in terms of low pitch. After shuffling through a run-down gas station that has literally nothing but ancient bubble gum, we continue down the road and find a rusty food shack in the middle of nowhere. There is quite literally somepony managing a shack in the middle of the desert.

While Baane, Tilaso, and Stratus take turns showing disgust at the menu of tumbleweed rings and rat kebabs, FRED-E and I stand on guard. A couple of my whispers of the red aura reveal very few blobs and they're not even approaching us. I slowly spin K.R.'s chamber in boredom.

"Are you sure you don't want anything, Your Majesty?"

I glance over at Tilaso. I guess that he broke away from the 'adult' counter. He holds two tumbleweed rings on top of his hoof. The gesture is flattering, however, I don't really feel empty and in need of food. I shake my head as I holster K.R.

"It just doesn't feel right when I eat if you're going to starve yourself," says the colt.

I look at him in disbelief. You're not going to leave me alone until I chew and swallow something, huh? I take the fried plant and go about the pointless task of 'eating'. It tastes like bland grass, only less flavorful. I swear, if he starts petting me...

He turns around. "Huh? Who's that?"

As I swallow, I look up and see somepony else walking up to Stratus. I know I've never seen him before, but his outfit kind of reminds me of Merchant. Stratus looks up as the stallion says something to her. He doesn't seem like he's about to pull out a weapon, so that's a good sign. I trot over casually with Tilaso and FRED-E in tow.

"Aw... screw it," says the stranger. "Lying just isn't in my nature. Truth is I've been following you for a while."

"Really?" Stratus crosses her front legs on the counter. "Why's that?"

"A while back, you picked up a few star bottle caps. Aside from treating them as a special jewelry piece, I wasn't sure if you really knew what you had gotten your hooves on."

"Are you implying that you actually do know what they are?"

The false merchant nods once. "Rumor has it that there's a secret treasure in the wastes and the star caps are the key to obtaining it, a rite of passage if you will."

Stratus leans in. "What kind of treasure is it?"

"Nobody really knows," he admits, "It was probably something valuable at the time that the star caps were being manufactured. Gold, food, medicine, a water talisman... hell, it could even be a case of pre-war bits for all I know. But the mystery is just enough motivation that some ponies would kill someone else on nothing more than a suspicion of having the caps."

She rubs her necklace idly and chuckles. "Well, I guess this is lucky for me after all."

"Hmm?" Baane tilts his head.

"If these suckers are going to come to me to try and take away my necklace, that'll just give me more looting opportunities after I knock them out." As she punches her hooves against each other, her gauntlets appear to glimmer briefly.

How did I miss those earlier? I wonder as I look at that pair of ballistic hooves.

"Just thought I'd give you fair warning before I never saw you again," says the 'merchant'. On that note, he trots off to who knows where.

"So who was that guy?" I ask.

Stratus shrugs her wings. "I have no idea, but now I feel even better about having this lucky necklace."

I hum indifferently. "Is everyone ready to go?"

"Yeah, let's roll." Baane hops out of his seat.

"Ready, Princess Forte!" Tilaso salutes a hoof across his chest.

"Sure am." Stratus immediately flaps her wings and hovers in place.
---
Note: Stratus is a melee fighter and an aerial support. She inspires you and your team to have 2% more agility just by being around.
---

"The time has come to pay for your sins!"

"Huh?" I turn around at the unfamiliar voice. It's an Imperial. I recognize the reddish tint on their armor anywhere. A crowd of similar armor tramples the ground behind him.

"You're a fallen demon," states the masked stallion. "Prepare for your exorcism!"

"Tilaso, unleash the big bang!" I command.

"Yes, Princess," he acknowledges with a lighter and one red cylindrical stick. He bucks the dynamite and it goes flying amidst the approaching enemies. One of the stallions in the back loses all of their legs. The rest seem to grunt against the explosion.

"You're mine!" shouts Baane as he takes a couple pot shots at an Imperial with spiked shoulder pads.

Stratus loops over. Her left ballistic hoof collides with the head of the rightmost Imperial. "S*** bricks!"

I aim K.R. at the alleged leader that called me out.

*Pow* *Pow* *Pow*

What the hell? I'm baffled at his lack of reaction. I have to flap my wings backward just to get a bit more distance between myself and his quick trotting speed. What is this guy's head made out of?

*Pow* *Bzzrt*

His legs catch on fire from FRED-E's assist, but he's still coming. Something slides out from the Imperial's side and hits me in the wing with a red, burning beam. Since when do ancient ponies shoot laser rifles?

Baane's gun fires a round against this Imperial. Tilaso comically slides under and trips the guy just as Stratus comes in with a brutal hoof uppercut. It's about time that this Imperial's head flies off. The rest of his body falls. It looks a little too clean for a decapitation, though. It doesn't even look remotely worth a lick.

"Well, that was fun," comments Stratus. "I should've tagged along with a couple of N.C.R. ponies sooner. It's been a while since I worked out that hard."

"Lucky you," says Baane as he clicks his rifle's safety back on.

"Princess Forte, here." Tilaso scampers up and pats a bandage against my sore wing. I feel a wave of gentle heat and ice all at once. The soreness soon fades and dulls out. When it does, the small bandage peels off like an old sticker.

"Did you 'appropriate' this as well?" I ask with a slight smile.

"Maybe." The colt shuffles his hoof abashedly.

Stratus gathers a few caps from one of the Imperials' pockets. I wonder what they were planning on buying out here. My self-inquiry is interrupted by a sudden weight tossed against my shoulder. I have to play a quick game of juggle the plasma pistol in my two front hooves. After it's relatively still in my grasp, I turn to Baane in annoyance.

"Mind reloading that?" asks the unicorn. "I'm terrible with exotic ammunition."

"Says Mr. Sniper," I mutter as I shuffle out an energy cell from my saddlebags. "Is the concept of a battery really that foreign to you?"

Baane harumphs. "I've lost some respect for you."

"Was that too touchy of a subject?" I ask rhetorically while stuffing the pistol away.

He remains silent.

---

Along a road filled with the ruins of what was once a village, there's a hastily boarded building with a large white 'X' painted over one of the windows. Considering the number of places I've come across with structures that should be collapsing but aren't, this isn't surprising to me.

"I think I'm going to stay out here," insists Stratus. "It's too confining indoors."

"I could use some air," says Baane flatly.

I look at the two of them incredulously. Finally, I shrug indifferently as I walk to the door.

"FRED-E, keep them straight," I order.

The sprite-bot complies with an affirmative chitter. With that, I gently push my way inside with Tilaso trailing by inches. Contrary to how dark it is outside, the light in here is rather bright. It makes the dark rust on some of the tiled floor more prominent. There's one stallion resting on the couch to the left. On the right, a lone mare in a white coat paces behind the counter. A well-kept plaque that reads, "Dr. Iso-Nami," is displayed.

"I'm guessing you're the doctor around here," I say up front.

She looks up from her pacing and turns to face me. "Welcome to the New Pegasus Medical Clinic. I'm a fully qualified physician and can fix whatever is wrong with you for a reasonable fee."

"You're not also a part-time butcher, are you?" I ask in remembrance of Vacuum's doctor.

Dr. Iso-Nami blinks in surprise. "Excuse me?"

"Never mind, it's not important." I wave a hoof dismissively. "So, what kind of services do you provide around here?"

She smiles gently. "I have plenty of experience in repairing broken limbs and some medical supplies for sale. I also sell a number of implants that can enhance the body's physical attributes."

"Implants?" pipes in Tilaso. "What are those?"

"I'm glad you asked," she says, "After a small attachment operation, each of the implants can apply an effect that is beneficial to the patient depending on its properties. For example..." She levitates up a small pile of flashcards with illustrations on them. The top one looks like a picture of a bullet bouncing off a picture of a generic pony. "There's the subdermal implant that will make you more resistant to damage." She slides that card back and reveals the next card. This picture looks like the before and after images of a reptile's scales. "Another implant induces a mild regenerative effect. Your wounds will practically heal up before your eyes without needing to consume any healing potions."

... or radiation in my case, I think to the side.

"What do they look like?" asks Tilaso.

"Hmm, they kind of look like microchips to the untrained eye," answers Dr. Iso-Nami, "but they have a unique underside that allows them to properly integrate with the nervous system."

Something occurs to me and I dig through the saddlebag on my left side. After a couple of seconds, that strange little object from Milton is on top of my hoof as I pull it out.

"You mean like this?" I ask as I hold it to about her eye level.

She takes it in her magical hold. She flips it over in midair a couple of times. She then pulls out a microscope and looks through it. All the while, she hums and haws.

"This is... huh. I thought the rumors were made jokingly back at the university. But I'm looking at it right now, right here." She chuckles lightly.

"What is it?" I lean in closer.

She looks at me in wonder. "Where in the world did you find this? No, wait... it's probably better if you don't answer that."

"What?" Tilaso adds to the line of confused questions.

She pulls the chip out of the microscope and sets it on the counter. "This is the prototype of the transmogrification implant. According to N.C.R. University, it's the only one of its kind."

"That's... impressive?" I am unsure of what to say to that. "What does it do?"

"The idea was this implant could allow a pony to understand the perspective of the changelings." She glances to the side. "Of course... that was while they were still around."

Tilaso tilts his head. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well, history states that their race went extinct several years ago," she says. Her voice is still gentle, but there's less of a smile. "It's a shame really. I would of liked to have studied them a bit more in depth."

I cough while adjusting my neckerchief. "I'm more interested in that first part. What did you mean by 'understanding their perspective'?"

"Changelings had the power to alter their appearance and mimic the voices of other ponies," says Dr. Iso-Nami. "The implant was said to give any pony a small dose of that power. I heard the project was scrapped when they couldn't get past the obstacle of the one form per chip limitation."

Tilaso scratches his mane. "So, that implant right there lets a pony become a changeling?"

The doctor shakes her head. "Not quite. The theory is that it allows the user to transform into another pony for a limited duration. But since ponies have no way of feeding off of love energy, it doesn't exactly turn them into changelings. Plus, this particular chip already has one unicorn form written into it. Transformation into anything other than what it was programmed for would result in nothing happening."

"How did you get all of that just by looking at it?" I ask.

"I've had plenty of time to study the ins and outs of all of the implants." She waves her hoof around for emphasis. "That includes the unfinished prototypes... or formerly assumed to be unfinished prototypes in this case."

Tilaso hums. "Whose form is written into that implant?"

"That, I don't know for sure." The doctor shakes her head. "We'd have to find someone willing to take the implant and actually try transforming with it to find out."
---

"You'd be walking into a death trap if you set foot in the city that can vaporize alicorns on sight."

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

"If that's what you think."
---

After reviewing mental notes, I step forward proudly. "I'll do it."

There's a small gasp from a colt. "Your Highness, you can't seriously be considering this. Putting in that implant gives grounds for some pony else to mess around inside your body."

"The implant operation is perfectly safe," interrupts Dr. Iso-Nami.

"That's not the only thing I'm worried about," mutters Tilaso.

"Hey, look at it this way, Servant," I say with a wry smile. "Worst-case scenario, you're free to go and the wasteland has at least one less monster walking around."

"You're not a monster," he insists. "You've shown me mercy twice."

"Besides, the alicorns that actually roam these days are hardly a threat," adds the doctor, "After all, the Unity disbanded years ago."

I pause. "Okay, I have heard that term several times now and I still don't fully comprehend it. What is the 'Unity'?"

"Basically, all the alicorns were acting under the conscience of one super-alicorn that called herself the 'Goddess', quote, unquote." Tilaso waggles his hooves for emphasis. "There was a mess with some dipstick called Red Eye and a whole bunch of details that every pony is a bit fuzzy on. Point is, he and the Goddess are out of the picture and the alicorns are mostly wandering lost somewhere in the wastes. My old boss joked about some of the more civilized ones hanging out in the District of Celestia. But I wouldn't know. I've never been that far east."

I hear Monarch growling in the back of my mind, specifically when the phrase 'Red Eye' is mentioned. Surprisingly, Nuisance shares her sentiments. I'm just getting a headache from listening to all of this.

"So, how does this operation work?" I ask in order to change the subject.

"Follow me, please," says Dr. Iso-Nami as she walks around a wall corner.

---

Why do I need this heavy cloth in my mouth? I think as I try to ask the same thing aloud. My question is muffled, however. For that matter, why did I agree to let you clamp down all of my limbs?

"Hold still," insists the doctor's gentle voice. "This will only hurt for a few seconds."

Wait, what?

The edge of my skull suddenly feels like it's being peeled open and exposed to the fires of Tartarus.

Amore Plucking Cadenzaaaaaaa!

The apocalyptic pain fades to a blanket of darkness. For whatever reason, I can't help but imagine some pony out there laughing at my situation. But I digress.
---

I'm back in Proper Town. I see the faded outline of another me escape through the smoke.

"Had enough?" I yell out in the convict's voice. I toss another stick of dynamite down the street and it sails over the exploded car. I feel confident that this will kill the enemy.

I suddenly lose feeling to my everything as my world is literally turned upside down. The other me slashes through what little remains to connect my neck to my head.

---

My eyes crack open. I vaguely hear the sound of ventilation shafts slamming against the window frame. I grunt as I slowly straighten my legs out underneath me. It seems my restraints have been opened for a while. I take a deep breath and exhale before hopping off the table.

Dr. Iso-Nami trots in. "Oh, you're awake. How are you feeling?"

I shrug. "I've been better and I've been worse. I guess that's about normal." It's about right here that I notice that our eye levels are about equal. "Did you get taller while I was asleep?"

She chuckles. "Not exactly."

"Come to think of it..." I mutter as my ear flicks at something else weird. I try coughing the weirdness out to no avail. "What happened to my voice?" I pat my chest a bit. "And I was sure that my armor felt a little too tight before. Now, it feels relatively comfortable." This is making even less sense. What the hell is going on?

"I was pretty surprised at how quickly the implant reacted," admits the doctor. She points her hoof. "There's a mirror right behind you if you want to see your disguise's face."

That's right! The implant... what did it do? I swivel around quickly and stare at... some pony I've never seen before. Slowly, I trot towards the glass. The unfamiliar pony trots closer as well. Off to the side of her, I can see the doctor's reflection fairly accurately. So then... this unfamiliar pony is... me?

Her confused expression certainly looks like my current emotional state. She squints when I squint. She sticks out her tongue when I stick out mine. She even taps the glass at the exact same place that my hoof does without any time discrepancy. I tilt my head as I examine her features more closely.

Her mane is composed of red and black stripes. Her hide is white, almost as ghostly as my normal mane is. Her teeth are definitely flatter than mine, no fangs anywhere. Her eyes are piercing red, contrasting my usual green. But what stands out as the biggest opposites are the extra features on a pony. I have wings and no workable horn. She, however, has no wings. Her horn is intact.

I try giving my wings a stretching flap only to realize that I don't feel anything down there. I almost feel naked in spite of my armor and neckerchief. But then, another thought occurs to me. Instead of reaching to the side for my dagger like I usually do, I just... feel in that direction. I know it sounds the same, but it isn't. My feeling is rewarded with a dagger floating up in front of me in a golden glow.

"Fascinating," mutters the doctor.

I barely heed her any mind. I play around with the glow by willing my dagger up, down, left, right, and twirling. I giggle like a little school filly playing with her new toy. Though, I soon decide to flow the dagger back into its tiny sheathe.

Wait, if this form can't fly, maybe I should double-check everything else.

"Laas Yah Nir," I mutter. I kind of expected a red aura, but nothing happens.

"Did you say something to me?" asks Dr. Iso-Nami.

I shake my head. "No, it's nothing." I pause. "How do I... change back?"

"If I remember my studies of their old nerval cords correctly, changelings could take on the forms that they briefly imagine. Try picturing yourself."

I close my eyes and picture the details. Faded blue hide, wings, white mane, green eyes, sixteenth note cutie mark... I hear something ignite. My eyes snap open. When I look at the mirror again, I'm staring at the same face I did in Doctor Prickard's mirror in Fondsprings. I sigh as I tap the familiar stump of a horn. That disappointment doesn't count the snug feeling that's increased against my armor.

"Can't have everything," I say out loud. "Laas... Yah Nir."

Ah, there it is. I look at the red blobs within myself and the doctor before blinking the auras out of my vision. I turn around and look at her directly, which requires a slightly angled look down.

I brace myself for bad news. "So... what do I owe you?"

She clears her throat. "Normally, this kind of operation has a price of 2,000 bottle caps."

My feathers tense up as my eyes open wide. Two thousand?! I don't think even our whole group combined has that kind of money!

She lifts up a hoof. "However, you brought in your own implant from outside and I got some pretty unique data recorded from this experience. I'd be willing to cut it down to 450."

I let out a huge breath and let my wings reach down. "That sounds more within my budget." It eats up more than two thirds of my savings, but I am so glad that she accepts this smaller dose of jingling.

"If there's anything else I can do for you, feel free to come back," she says merrily.

"Hopefully, that won't be too soon," I say, "but thank you."
---
Note: The Hives are technically extinct. However, there may very well be a few changelings remaining across this land, hiding in plain sight.
---

"Your Majesty, you're alive!" cries Tilaso in relief.

"That I am," I say with a nod. "Come on. I've got something to show everyone."

The doors open and I immediately feel like I'm missing some context.

"I wonder what that would even taste like if it was castrated," says Stratus while flapping in place.

"You sick bastard." Baane shakes his head.

FRED-E chirps up and interrupts their conversation. All of them turn to look at me.

"What took you so long?" asks Stratus.

"I decided to allow the operation of one implant," I say bluntly.

"Wow, really? What did you get?" asks Stratus. "Are you stronger now?" She flexes her front legs. "Can you run quicker?" She air gallops. "Can you see faster?" Her hooves move just above her eyes.

"D*** it, seeing faster is not a real thing," says Baane in irritation.

"Not exactly," I say. I picture that young unicorn. "Now you see me..." I watch the green flame rush around me for that split second. "... and now you see some pony else."

I expected a stunned silence. However, the scared pointing from the silver pegasus and the red unicorn is a bit much.

"The Accursed One returns!" They both fall to the ground with all hooves pointing straight up to the sky. FRED-E turns and looks to either side at the fainted ponies. Tilaso looks at them as well and scratches his head.

"The what?" my disguised voice asks.
---
-One-Size Fits "Changeling" Implant: You now have the ability to alter your form to that of a unicorn. Level one spells are available. However, you don't gain any experience and you lose access to your alicorn capabilities in this form. There also seems to be an uncanny similarity between this disguise and some pony that two of your allies know. Better find out what's going on.

Author's Note:

I've said at one time or another that this would be intentionally bad. Just saying.

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