• 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. 6: The Empire Approaches

The Empire Approaches

"No one is free who has not obtained the empire of himself."

~Pythagoras

---

I give my wings a bit of a workout and fly along the road. It saves me the effort of wasting ammunition on the colony of ants that I can see below. Though for some reason, FRED-E keeps playing a short tune that sounds like the background for a battle cry. Every once in a while, he fires a large red laser at an ant or two. This results in the ants catching fire and burning to death.

What a useful servant, I think with a smirk before returning my line of sight forward.

That's when an odd object takes my notice. I fly in close before trotting out my landing. The object in question is rather large, dry, and pale all over. Sure, that describes a lot of things in this land, but this one is more so.

My sole servant, no.... My ally beeps with confused pitches.

"I'm not entirely sure," I say as I slowly step around the object's side. "But it looks like... a dragon skeleton."

FRED-E beeps a different pattern.

I shake my head. "I don't know why or how. I'm not an archaeologist."

A slower, somewhat forced chirping emits from the sprite-bot.

"Probably." I tap one of the dangling wing bones just to be sure. "Yeah, it's safe."

A crackling noise starts emitting from the skeleton. There is a raging inferno that engulfs the entire skeletal structure. I'm wondering how bones can catch on fire at a completely random time. As I'm wondering, I'm left stupefied as a stream of curled light funnels straight out of the bones into... me. The growling voices in my head return, but with more clarity.

Life is a resource that this one must seek if this one is to survive the hunt.

The light and flames fade as the pile of bones return to their unmoving state. This barely registers to me, however, as I inhale deeply and close my eyes. A firm, yet quiet whisper escapes my lips.

"Laas... Yah Nir."

I open my eyes and scan my surroundings. A strange, red splotch shines around FRED-E. Back up the road, I see a few other red splotches. They kind of look like the outlines of giant ants, but they're very far away. I blink a couple of times and the red splotches fade.

FRED-E asks something in his code.

"Y-Yeah," I stammer, "I'm okay. Actually, I feel somewhat better if that's possible." I unfurl my wings. "Come on. We've wasted enough time playing with bones."

I hear indignation in the sprite-bot's tone.

"Okay, I wasted enough time playing with bones." I take to the sky. "What are a few details?"

It beeps exactly three emphasized syllables.

"What do you mean 'everything'?"

---

That private wasn't kidding when he said that you can't miss it, I think, Those are some huge statues.

I can't exactly determine of what material these things are made, but the intended shapes are apparent enough. Standing atop the mountain on the side of the road are three giants. An earth pony holds her left hoof in. A pegasus has her right wing extended. A unicorn bows her head so that her horn touches both of the others' extended limbs. I land several feet away simply because I'm scared that these giants may decide to move. So imagine my surprise when that isn't what makes me jump up a yard.

"Coming from the north?"

I pat my chest a little while I wait for my stiff wings to calm down. I let out a breath before looking at the speaker directly. It's a mare with a few wrinkles on her head. Though, I can't tell if those are from age or from stress. Maybe they are both. Either way, her outfit matches the standard style of a New Canterlot soldier. She eyes me a bit more closely and warily.

"Alicorn, huh?" Her left eye keys in above my head for an extended moment. "Well, I doubt you'll be able to cause much trouble without that fancy, long horn you NMMs are supposed to have."

My wings finally calm down enough to fold to the sides. Now my only physically obvious emotion is confusion.

"Excuse you?" I tilt my head at her statement.

She shakes her head before switching to a sad smile. "Sorry, dear. I guess the freshly fangled speech has changed again since my youth. Did you get lost from your Unity thing?"

I still have no idea what she's talking about. I stare at FRED-E for a moment before turning back to this old mare.

"Er... I'm actually trying to reach Outpost on business regarding Proper Town," I say.

"Is that right?" she asks. "Well, I can't say for sure what kind of help Command can send." She points over to one of the buildings behind a chain-link fence. "You'd have to talk to Major or Jack-As-Son. Just mind your manners and you should be fine."

"Yeah, I probably will," I say, "By the way, what's up with those giant pony statues?"

"What, them?" She glances over at the statues in question. "A while back, they were built as a reminder of what the E.U.P. Guard stood for." She slowly shakes her head.

"What did the E.U.P. Guard stand for?" I ask.

"The bond between earth, unicorn, and pegasus ponies." She sighs. "But those girls aren't doing much except their paperweight routine these days."

"Right," I agree half-heartedly. I slowly step away. "Well, I won't interrupt whatever you were doing any longer. I need to speak with Major."

"Stay out of trouble, youngin." With that, she resumes an almost mechanical trot in what seems to be a circular path.

"'Enemems'... 'Unity'... What in the world are those things?" I mutter.

FRED-E makes a few quiet beeps.

"I don't know. Why am I asking you all of this?"

I trot past a couple of burning barrels. They smell like garbage. Another soldier on his rounds performs a double-take in my direction before resuming his trotting pattern. I assume the building with a few sandbags piled about three feet away from its entrance is the one I need to find.

---
A high Strength stat enables you to carry more weight without being encumbered.
---

More armored ponies are scattered around the place. A few are pacing around, but they hardly bat an eye at my entrance. Maybe I look like I belong with this basic N.C.R. barding. I suppose this makes my task easier though. I trot right on up to the front desk.

"Excuse me," I address the colt standing on the other side. "Is there any chance I could speak to a guy named Major?"

"I'm Major," says the colt. "Do you need something repaired? I can sign the work order if you've got the caps."

I shake my head. "Maybe later. Right now, I'm here on behalf of Proper Town. They're in need of a new sheriff and I found a suitable replacement. I just need the N.C.R. to give an official pardon for a Mr. Sayer Star from the correctional facility."

"A convict?" Major gives a quick succession of surprised and angry faces. "Why the hell would we want to let one of those guys anywhere near a position of authority?"

FRED-E chirps wildly.

I harshly whisper to it, "Put that thing away."

I sheepishly scan around at the soldiers that have gained a sudden interest in our conversation. I chuckle nervously before forcing out a cough. I turn back to look at Major as calmly as I can.

"Look buddy, you want the N.C.R. to look good, right?" I suggest. "Well, what would look better than an ex-sheriff that has successfully been corrected by an operating correctional facility? It sure would look a lot better for you lot than for word to spread that you lost that facility to convicts for several days on end. Wouldn't it? Give him a chance at least."

Major begrudgingly grunts. "All right. If his sentence was closing up anyway, I can appeal to getting him pardoned. Proper is an important trading point to us anyway. Having somepony there that owes us a favor wouldn't hurt."

Sweet Amore Cadenza, I'm glad that worked, I think. "Good, I'll let him know the next time I can speak with him." I hum lightly. "So, what's there to do around here?"

"Outpost mostly acts as a checkpoint for caravans," explains Major, "It'll also act as one more line of defense if the Empire gets antsy enough to march this far west. If you need a rest and a hard drink, there's a bar outside, second entrance on your right. Like I said before, I take care of the work orders when troops need weapons repaired. Jack-As-Son is in the back if you need him, but make sure to keep it brief. He's got a lot on his mind and very little time to lay it all out."

A busybody, I think, I probably won't even try to bother him right this second. If Commander was any type of gauge, he'll probably just give that whole 'lack of proper supplies' line a couple of uses.

"Very well," I say with a nod. "Good day, Major."

"Watch yourself out there," he says before returning to the writing and administration work.

I turn around and trot for the door.

---
Party-Time Mint-Als give a tremendous boost in charisma and intelligence when consumed. But they carry a high risk of addiction and leave the consumer with decreased perception and a foggier mental awareness when they wear off.
---

"All right, little floating man," I say, "What the flipping Tartarus was that all about?"

FRED-E beeps a sporadic pattern.

"Yeah, well the worst thing he could've done was announce an arrest. You need to learn the difference between self-defense and force that's uncalled for!"

The sprite-bot chirps very quietly.

I press a hoof against my face. What the hell am I doing?

I take a breath and set my hoof down. "Look, I'm sorry for yelling. I do appreciate you helping out this far. Really, I do."

It beeps in a bit more uplifting way.

"Right, I guess we need to head back to Proper and let them know about their change in management."

Before I can take a step, FRED-E pipes in another round of little sounds.

"You have a better idea?" I look at it with skepticism.

It almost sounds like it laughs inside of its own beeping.

"A record function?" I ask. "Hm... yeah. That does sound better. Divide and conquer to cover more ground."

FRED-E chirps slightly before a crackling noise emits from its speaker.

"Is it on now?" I ask before clearing my throat. "Sayer Star? This is Forte Pianissimo. I met with the guy in charge of Outpost and he agreed to pardon you. You're free to take up sheriff duties at Proper. Be nice to the law-abiding locals, okay? I may visit you later when I feel like it. Moderately well wishes to you! End recording."

Another crackle leaves FRED-E's speaker before he chirps a couple syllables.

"Well, I'm not going to give him my best wishes. I've got to save something for me. Head out to Proper and deliver that message. After that, meet me back here. Intuition tells me that I'm going to get involved in recovering some pony's medicine or something equally as tedious that keeps me around this area."

The sprite-bot lets out an affirmative beep before floating on its way back north. Meanwhile, I trot on toward another building in this location.

Hmm, I wonder who is even in the bar at this hour, I think while closing my eyes.

"Laas... Yah Nir."

I open my lids to see about four red blobs blinking from behind the walls of the alleged bar. Only one of them seems to emit a shape that resembles four standing legs.

Three customers and the bartender? I guess. Well, it is the time after a typical lunch break.

My hoof pauses in front of the door. How do I know that? I thought I had amnesia. I sigh. Great, it's selective. Eh, maybe a loose tongue can help me figure out more about myself.

---
Warning: Alcoholic beverages do not improve a 'dehydrated' condition.
---

"What'll it be?" asks the bartender as she leans against the counter. Her eyes aren't even looking in my direction. Is that a layer of crust along the sockets? I shake my head to distract myself from the slightly grotesque image.

"That depends on what you have," I answer.

She sighs as she levitates a small clipboard in front of me. "Take a look."

A few scribbled items cover the one sheet of paper attached to this board. It seems that this bar is strapped for caps if this is all they can spare for a legible menu. I figure it is time to help them out a little.

"One ale, please," I decide.

The bartender still doesn't look at me as the menu gets snatched away. That light orange aura lifts a glass bottle and carries it around her head. Another glow of the same aura lifts a small tool next to the bottle's top. The cap pops off into the bartender's pocket as the bottle is set down in front of me. I shuffle my bags a bit before hoofing over the price to pay for the drink. If it weren't for the glow surrounding her horn, I would've thought she was a talking statue.

I gently hold the bottle and tip a couple of sips into my gullet. It tastes like wet bread. Again, I question the specifics of my amnesia-plagued mind. Though, I doubt this mare who seems more emotionless than a rock can give me any answers. So I say nothing, opting to exhale instead.

"Does it offend you?"

It takes me a few seconds to realize that the monotone voice is addressing me again.

"Does what offend me?"

"Me using magic in front of you," she clarifies. "You've got some working in your head, but your horn is in no condition to be channeling any of it freely."

My eyes go wide. I feel a sudden urge to start rubbing a hoof against my stub. Though, I quickly set my hoof down against the counter.

"What makes you say that?" I ask carefully.

"'How do you know that?' That's what you meant to ask. Isn't it?" She shrugs on her non-leaning side. "You're stupefied right now as to how I can know something that I haven't even seen yet."

The drink sits against my hoof, forgotten in the moment.

"Before you get too worried, know that I can't read your mind," she further explains. "I can sense magical potential in any unicorn pony that gets close to me. It felt like the space that should have been occupied by recent magical use was completely gone. I find it highly unlikely that you're a protester against your own creation. Therefore, the reasonable conclusion is that your horn is actually missing from your head due to circumstances outside of your control."

I blink. "That's... That's... Wow."

"Not really," she drones. "Try living with it for ten or more years and it loses its novelty."

"What is that ability called?" I inquire further. "ESP for magic?"

"Do I look like a kid? I don't go naming my feelings some over-the-top name. It's the same reason you don't give a name to every individual breath of air you inhale."

Well, I guess I wasn't going to leave a tip anyway, I think while gulping down more wet bread.

"If you want to talk to somepony else, go have a word with Host," the bartender says, "That rooftop sniper can talk until your head rolls so far around the world that it'll come back to your neck before she's done."

"A sniper," I echo. "Are you sure that a head rolling won't happen in the old-fashioned way?"

"Unlikely," she says, "Even out of hatred, she won't shoot anypony in a New Canterlot Republic's outfit."

I lean back slightly. "How did you know I was wearing an N.C.R. garment?"

"Because you just told me," she answers without looking at me.

I sigh. Flipping Tartarus! I flew right into that one.

Aside from a moderately exciting game of what looks like Caravan by the other customers, the rest of my moment of drinking continues in silence.

---
Your "three tips per chapter" limit has expired. This inconvenience is a necessary boundary. Thank you for your understanding.
---

"FRED-E isn't back yet," I mutter while spreading my wings. "I guess I wasn't in there for very long."

With about three flaps, I'm high enough to reach the rooftop without trouble. I touch down and trot on over to the one pony sitting next to a propped rifle with scope. I am grateful that it is pointing far into the distance as opposed to my direction. But it looks like her Stetson is preventing her from noticing anything behind her.

"You are Host, correct?" I ask.

The alleged sniper turns around to reveal a face with sunglasses.

"That's right," she admits openly. "And who might you be?"

"Forte," I reply with a nod.

"Nice to befriend you," she says.

"Huh?" I can't help but blurt. "Don't you mean 'make your acquaintance'?"

She waves a hoof dismissively. "Ah, why go through that formal crap? Heck, if you want, we could go straight for the 'I do's."

"W-What?" I stammer, suddenly uncomfortable with this conversation. "I'm not... interested..."

But Host is busy chuckling to herself. "Sorry, just a little joke of mine. But I tell you, the reactions I get are hilarious."

Are Pot and Host related somehow? I silently wonder. They both have a sense of humor that I don't get.

I shake my head. "Anything exciting happening up here?"

Host's mouth suddenly scrunches up in contemplation. "I don't know if 'exciting' is the right word. It's more of an... uneasy turn of events."

"Oh?" I prod for her to continue.

She turns around to face the direction of her rifle. She holds up a hoof and points it straight in front of herself.

"You see that there column of smoke in the distance?"

I look in her signaled direction. I can distinctly see a gray cloud sort of just hanging there, very far away.

"That wasn't there until about two days ago," Host continues. "I want to go check it out." She turns to face me again. "Problem is that Jack-As-Son would get on my case if I left my station. The way he runs things, he'd find grounds to discharge me even if I came back with Taller-Than-Us's head."

"Taller-Than-Who?" I ask.

"The big stallion of the Imperials?" she asks in a way that makes it seem like it's obvious.

"Oh, right, them," I say, though not completely clear.

"Anyway," she continues, "I don't really have a lot to offer. But if you could take a look around that town and figure out the cause of that smoke, I'd be willing to put in a good word for you with the N.C.R."

"No offense," I say, "but nice words aren't exactly motivating me to go firefighting."

She coughs and covers her mouth. "I might also accidentally drop some of my sniper rounds for a finder-keeper."

"Hmm." The potential to 'find' tangible goods is a little more enticing. "Suddenly, I feel like I could use a good word with these ponies."

"Great," she says, "As soon as you can find some clues, get back to me on that. Although, if it's being caused by a dragon or something, don't go killing yourself on my behalf."

I roll my eyes. "Trust me when I say that the last thing I want to hear from ponies is that I died because I was possessed by the strong feelings of a Host."

A slight breeze blows a tumbleweed down along the ground two stories below.

"I don't get it," says Host.

---

I fly lower as I head back down the mountain. Following the trail of smoke is pretty simple. I put a couple big geckos out of their misery via knife slits. Other than that, I keep on moving briskly. As the smoke gets even closer, I decide to land and keep a relative trotting speed. If there are ponies making campfires or a bonfire out here, I feel the need to keep as low a profile as I possibly can. The road is a strange shade of blue as I approach the town. I struggle to stash my armor into a folded state to keep it in my saddlebag. Whoever thinks patches of gold and bronze are stealthy does not know how to keep protection hidden.

"Laas... Yah Nir."

My whisper fills my eyes with a couple random patches of red. One of these patches appears to be getting larger or getting closer to me.

Strap! They already saw me! I frantically reach around and pull out the first weapon I can. I focus my aim at the incoming redness.

*Blat!* *Blat!* *Blat!*

I blink a couple times at the peculiar greenness in my shots. I quickly realize that I just fired one of the plasma pistols. Idly, I pull the trigger again but nothing emerges. It's empty and I don't even have the right magazines to reload the thing. I sigh and toss the now useless thing aside. Cautiously, I approach the... Something isn't right here.

"Where's the body?" I quietly ask to smoky air.

The only thing at the place of the enemy's corpse is a mound of green... goop. I slowly lift my hoof out of it.

"Oh..." I purse my lips. "I wish I hadn't touched that." I watch the stretching material form an artificial channel between my hoof and the road. "Oh gosh, it's like somepony mixed gum with molasses and then let it rot in a puddle of their snot." I hastily rub my hoof against the nearby cracks in the asphalt. "Ew. Ew. Ew."

Of all the bloody, gory messes you've seen this week, this is what you're grossed out by.

Shut up! This is a different kind of disgusting.

... Of course it is.

I don't particularly like how sarcastic my own mind can be toward me sometimes. I shiver involuntarily as I head for a random building's door. I need a moment to regain my nerves. I really hope no one is in here.

---

There's some colt in here. Worse still, I recognize his basic uniform as a group that an army and I slaughtered.

“Are you flipping spitting me?” His eyes widen before lowering to a livid glare. “First, those mother feathers smash three of my legs and then the freaking Grim Reaper of Powder Gangers comes waltzing right in! If you want me to die so badly, just give me fifteen shots of Med-X and I’ll O.D. for you. Tsuaf!”

I'm really not in the mood for having an argument over right and wrong. Unfortunately, I probably need to talk to somepony about what started the fire. Would I rather face a pony that can't get up or face an unknown number of enemies of unknown strength? The choice is obvious as Monarch takes the lead of my voice.

"Tell me what happened."

Wow, that is surprisingly calm for you.

Shut up and listen.

"Hmph," the colt grunts. "The Empire happened. That's what."

"Can you be more specific and detailed?" I ask.

"If you wouldn't interrupt, I could," he remarks.

I nearly bite my tongue just to keep the inner monarch quiet.

"We had a whole great plan going," the colt continues. "We held some of Catnip's townsfolk and even their mayor hostage. There was new territory and everything. Well, out of nowhere, Imperials started marching in and outnumbered us. Before we knew it, karma had turned around and clumped us together with the townsfolk as hostages."

He waves his one good hoof (the front left one) around while he talks.

"Then they lined everypony up and called out a lottery. They started with the lucky losers. I say 'lucky' because their executions were quick and painless. Then, they moved onto crucifixions, but they dragged those out for hours and hours."

Crucifixions? I wonder, You mean like hammering nails into a pony's legs, horns, and wings just to make them suffer until death?

How... inefficient, Monarch silently critiques.

"Second place let me live but at the cost of them whacking a giant mallet against my legs. That bastard that stole first place got to walk away free."

"So... the Imperials annexed Catnip," I say slowly. "Can anything beat them?"

"You wouldn't be doing me any favors," comments the cripple.

I stare deadpanned. "That isn't what I asked." I sigh. "I suppose I have a Med-X that I can offer to help stave off the pain."

"Well then, you're a f***ing miracle worker," he states sardonically. "Cough it up."

"Hey, I'm doing things nicely here," I say as I attach the needle to the bag. "I could still end your pain via metal, but I'm choosing to conserve ammunition. Cost-benefit and whatnot."

The medicine enters his system and some of his stress reduces to a disappointed state of calmness. He closes his eyes. His chest rises and falls in a series of deep breaths.

"I think I'm done here," I say more to myself than to this colt.

---

After slowly trotting the streets, I find the largest source of smoke. It seems that broken pony skeletons are arranged in a giant circumference around a bonfire. I grow bored and head in the direction of what seems to be the largest building.

Really? Nothing?

Nothing more can be done for the dead.

My own reassurance does nothing to quell my unease at what I see next. Several ponies are hung against what look like telephone poles. Some of them are even twitching slightly. If there is life here, then it is in pain. Perhaps I can fly up and at least try to pry out the nails.

As soon as the thought crosses my mind, however, I see a small group composed of ponies and feral wolves. Their armor has a lot of shades of brown and red. Is it leather? While my thoughts wonder what to do, one of the stallions wanders close. His hide is rather pale and large goggles block his eyes from my sight.

"So good that a traveler happened to come by," he says smoothly, "You can bear witness to the aftermath of our demonstration."

"I take it you're the ones that did all of this." I slowly wave a hoof across to indicate the crucified ponies and the bonfire.

"Why yes, yes we are." His small smile, I don't like it. "This town was one filled with many sinners. They needed to be shown through example what was wrong with their lives. It was almost unpleasant at how few were foolish enough to fight us."

"What about the innocent civilians and children?" I ask.

"Innocent?" he echoes. "Hardly. Ponies were advancing and taking advantage of their own. It was time to deliver a proper punishment. We announced a lottery to divide the appropriate sentences. Each held their ticket for dear life, hoping it would set them free. None advanced to oppose, not even for loved ones. Then, we took the rest as slaves."

They probably couldn't oppose because of the wing-chains and magic dampeners I saw on some of those ponies. I hide my fuming anger behind a cold, indifferent facade. Rupee Carbuncle said that these guys don't use modern weapons. I casually slide one hoof through my right saddlebag. I should be able to blast at least a couple of them before they have the chance to rush me with machetes.

I swiftly swing out K.R. At that point, I'll be able to just fly-

*Whiff*

In the instant that I think of all that, something rushes past the left of my head. My eyes go wide as I turn slightly. In the corner of my vision, I see a spear that wasn't there before and it's embedded in a cross. Something red trickles down underneath my left ear and around that side of my head. I turn back to see one of the Imperials holding out his hoof as if finishing a shot put throw.

"Would you be so kind as to tell everyone what you saw here?" asks the leading stallion. "It would be a shame if no pony learned from our little lesson."

These are fast bastards, I think while lowering my eyebrows back to Monarch's comfort level.

"Yeah," I say through clenched teeth, "I'll do that."

"Good, good," he coos, "Then I bid you adieu."

He joins the rest of his men and dogs in a line as they trot off to somewhere else. For several minutes, I just let Monarch stare at them to ensure that none of them are going to pull any fast ones. Thankfully, they leave no trace. A quick whisper of red lets me see that the only ones alive are a few of the hanging ponies along the street.

I quickly fly up to the first live one on my right. I'm not worried about the health of my jaws while pulling out nails. I already have a number of tastes that would give a dentist nightmares. The first stallion limps away from his cross. He doesn't even moan from his pain. The second one is less willing to exercise his right of silence. There is a giant hole in his horn, yet he seems more focused on his tail.

When I pull out the nails of what I think is the last one here among the living, he falls to the ground on his belly and face. He doesn't move and I can't hear his breath.

Flipping Tartarus, he died right this second.

"Man, Host is not going to believe this."

---
Aura Whisper: Three words of power enable you to see targets that are alive and within about five hundred feet of you for about thirty seconds. It is up to you to decide who is ally or enemy. The auras can be removed from your sight early if you blink them out twice.

"It is but a scratch": What? No, this isn't a new perk. You have a little scratch underneath your ear. You might want to get that cleaned up at your earliest convenience.

Author's Note:

And... Bethesda's other properties leak in. You can add that to your "sins" list if you're keeping one for this fic.

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