• Published 22nd Mar 2013
  • 7,913 Views, 529 Comments

Labyrinth of Madness - Speven Dillberg

  • ...

Prologue: This Again

Prologue: This Again

The luminescent colours of rainbows graced the sky in every direction and stayed without fading. The entire sky was no longer a sickly yellow, cleared of its smoggy haze. Even the smoke-filled crater where Megaton once thrived was completely and utterly void of smoke. For once in the Capital Wasteland, there was peace.

Observing this sight were two inhabitants of the Wasteland, Jericho and Aeron. Both knew what caused it, and both couldn't help but gaze at it as if it were a gift from God himself. They were residing on the balcony of Tenpenny Tower, and both were respectively drinking to what they accomplished: saving a lost creature from another dimension and sending her home.

"Isn't it beautiful, Jericho?" Aeron's head turned slightly to Jericho, but didn’t completely take his eyes off the sight before him.

"Yeah. Never seen the sky so... blue. Gotta hand it to that little flyer. She really changed a lot around here." Jericho smiled as he drank his beer - some of it dripping down his bearded chin.

"That she did... quite a lot." Aeron sighed sorrowfully.

"Something wrong, Aeron?" Jericho turned his gaze away from the rainbow and over towards Aeron.

"Using my name for once is one thing." Aeron chuckled, as did Jericho.

"Well, you seem bummed. You should be happy that we don't have to protect her anymore. Least we can keep our supplies to ourselves." Jericho had a big grin on his face as he raised his beer bottle. Aeron brought his own up, and the two lightly chimed as they collided.

After taking another drink, Aeron spoke, "That's true... but, I can't help but wonder..."

"Wonder what?" His companion raised a brow.

"How did she get here in the first place?" Jericho shrugged.

"No idea, kid. No idea." Aeron nodded, and just relaxed in the dimming sunlight.

After an hour or two of enjoying the victory - as Aeron enjoyed calling it - of the month, Aeron went inside the suite and started to take off his battered Talon armour. He unbuckled a strap on his waist which kept the bottom portion together, and it slid off, revealing his undergarments. The top portion slide off almost like a sweater - only ten pounds of extra metal was upon it.

The only reason I joined up with Talon Company was for this armour. Very easy to get into and easy to get out of. Thank God it's comfy. Aeron then walked to his bed and laid down, closing his eyes for some much-needed rest.

Aeron awoke from his deep sleep in darkness. He felt lighter than normal, almost as if he was travelling within a vertibird, and his arms and legs seemed to move more freely than usual. Looking down, Aeron could see that he was suspended in a void, rather than laying on his bed. Confused, he looked around to try and find answers.

"Hello?" Aeron called out, receiving a low hissing noise as a response.

Greetings, Wanderer Aeron. The hiss changed to an audible voice. A feminine one, as well.

"Is there a reason why I'm sitting in--... floating in the void? Is this a dream?" Aeron crossed his arms, amused by the feeble attempts at driving his sanity away.

Simple. I'd enjoy playing a game with you, Aeron. One that will involve you and that filthy rat Rainbow Dash. There may be others involved, too. The voice giggled in its female tone, spinning wildly through Aeron's mind.

"You think Dash is a rat, now? Amusing. I'm pretty sure she's a bit stronger than that." The voice just cackled at his response.

She is a mover, not a thinker like you. She prefers to fly away from her problems and avoid them, rather than face them like you do, Wanderer Aeron. Now, would you like to hear where I'm bringing you to?

"If you stop insulting Dash, I'd love to hear where I'm going," he replied sarcastically to the voice, only making it giggle once more.

I'm bringing you, Wanderer Aeron, Dash, and a few others to play in a little maze I constructed for you. Well, not so much a maze, more of a... labyrinth. The giggle continued and started to annoy Aeron.

"Uhg. I really hope this is a dream. Your laugh is a nuisance." The voice grunted.

You insult me? Pfft. Anyways, I hope you enjoy your fun. I'm giving you a few weapons, but good luck finding food. If you don't escape, you'll just starve. Ta-ta! A snap was let off, echoing in the void.

Aeron floated there as the echo continued. It snapped again. And again. And again. The snapping soon dimmed down to a low hum, slowly raising in its pitch to a screech. It sounded worse than when he was stunned by a shock charge. Covering his ears and closing his eyes, Aeron screamed in agony...

... and then, there was silence.

Luna's night had befallen the town of Ponyville and gently embraced all of the land's denizens by putting them to rest. Within Golden Oaks Library, the newly returned Rainbow Dash was getting more acquainted with her lover, Twilight Sparkle.

"Mmmrmm... Rainbow..."

"Heh... Right there...?"

"Yeah... Oh... Celestia..."

"Didn't think I could do this properly, do you?"

"Not at all... Wow!... Where did you learn to do that?"

"Oh, it's natural. Helped a lot back in the Wasteland."

"Dear Celestia, don't stop... Oh, yes..."

Spike couldn't stand it. Rainbow Dash and Twilight had sex before, he’d heard it; but that's because they thought he wasn't home. This time, he knew they knew he was home, and he had to deal with it anyways. Standing up, Spike made his way to Twilight's door and opened it up.

"Twilight, what are you--"

He was stopped by the sight of Rainbow Dash laying on top of Twilight. Her hooves were pressed into Twilight's back, and her magenta eyes gazing over at him. Twilight whipped her head over to the small dragon.

"Spike! Knock first?!" Twilight glared daggers at him.

Spike shook his head. "Thought you two were... at it, again."

"At wha--... Oh... Wait, how do you know about that?!" Rainbow Dash gave him a look of confusion and inquiry.

"One: you just told me. Two: I've heard it enough. Three: I live in a dang library. You think I haven't read a book or two? Sheesh, it's like everypony around here thinks I'm stupid." Spike grunted, crossing his arms. "Anyways, what are you two doing?"

Rainbow Dash blushed. "Heh, giving Twi a little massage. She said her back ached, and I picked up a few tips and tricks from the Wastes."

Spike rolled his eyes. "Yeah, well, keep it down and get some rest, you two. Some of us have to do a lot of work in the morning and don't want to deal with two mares moaning all night."

With that, Spike closed the door, and left Twilight and Dash bewildered. Twi turned her head to the Pegasus, and she only shrugged.

"Beats me. Getting quite moody. Should we spank him with The Paddle?" Twilight giggled profusely.

"Rainbow! That's our secret!" The mare just laughed at Twilight's response. "But Spike is right. We should get some rest. I have to tell Shining Armour and my family about you tomorrow. Would be awful if I left them out of the loop. Celestia knows what they'll think."

Twilight sighed as she pulled herself from under Dash and rested her head upon the pillow. The Pegasus joined and laid next to the unicorn only to have her roll over and look away.

"What's wrong, Twilight?" Rainbow questioned.

"I'm worried what my family might think. Shining Armour was always one for being a bit... disapproving towards same sex dating and marriage... My parents never cared, but they always thought of me marrying some stallion of nobility..."

A small bulge held in Dash's throat. "Are... a-are you saying I'm not good enough for them?"

Twilight immediately rolled back over and shook her head, "I'm not saying that at all, Rainbow! I'm just worried they won’t approve of our relationship together. I love you, Dash, and I'm really happy you're back. I just hope to Celestia they think the same way."

Twilight's forelimbs made their way around Rainbow Dash's neck and brought the two into a tight embrace. Rainbow returned the gesture and snuggled closely to her lavender lover. The unicorn's horn sparkled gently as the lights in the room went out and the two quietly drifted to sleep.

You two always looked cute together, a hissing voice said from afar.

Dash arose from her slumber to see darkness all around her. Numbers were floating in the air and she felt suspended in the air; much like in the many dreams she had endured before. Her eyes widened and her pupils went to the size of pinpricks.

Ah, remember these things still? the voice asked, sounding feminine to Rainbow.

"Get away from me! I just want to live in peace, already! Haven't I been through enough?!"

Oh, quite the contrary, Rainbow Dash! You haven't! I find that you need more of a beating to truly know what is enough! And I'm not talking about The Paddle, here. Dash let off a blush, but immediately shook her head at the voice’s response.

"Please, I'll do anything! Just let me stay at home! I don't want to go back! Please!" the Pegasus yelled, only receiving a laugh in response.

Oh, please. I'm not sending you back to the Wasteland. That would be far too boring. I'm sending you to a beautifully constructed maze filled with monsters! Great, isn't it?! the voice giggled.

But you are not the only one to join in. Wanderer Aeron will be with you, and a few others that I've dragged from quite a few dimensions as well. I can't wait to see whether you kill each other or not! Howling laughter boomed in every direction and made the numbers vibrate.

"What happens if we get out?"

Answering the inquiry, the voice spoke swiftly, I let you go back to whence you came, no harm done. It's all fair and boring and I'll never bug you again. If you get out.

Now... Let the games begin! The voice let off a sadistic laugh as the sound of fingers being snapped echoed through Rainbow’s ears.

The echo changed to a low whisper... and soon, an audible voice. Constant bickering and echoes of the same pattern that Dash knew far too well...

Four... Nine... Five... Four... Nine... Five... Four... Nine... Five... Four... Nine... Five... Four... Nine... Five... Four... Nine... Five... Four... Nine... Five... Four... Nine... Five... Four... Nine... Five...

...and then, everything went black.

A Deathclaw raised its head up, sniffing at the air when it thought it heard something…


The suppressed anti-materiel rifle roared as a fifty caliber round shot out of its barrel. The left side of the Deathclaw’s face exploded and its whole body began to fall towards the ground. The Deathclaw slammed into the ground with a heavy thud, sending some dust into the air. The woman carrying the rifle quickly reloaded her weapon and kept her eyes open for any more Deathclaws. To her relief, she didn’t see any, but checked her Pip-Boy to make sure. Two vertical, red dashes stood together on her compass.

“Mother and Daddy,” the woman said softly to herself. Rumors of a new Deathclaw Alpha and Mother were floating around in New Vegas, and its leader came to the place where the rumors had told of their new home.

“Well, time to show them the warm-welcoming party.” The women put down her duffle bag, opened it, and started to ruffle through it. She found what she wanted, and pulled out a Stealth Boy. “Too bad they won’t be able to see it.” She strapped the Stealth Boy on and flipped the switch, turning it on. In the blink of an eye, her body and gear vanished into a ghostly, transparent aspect of herself. An invisible smile formed on the woman’s face as she crouched down and headed towards the two Deathclaws.

Her footsteps made no sound of any sort as she hastily tread through the cave she was in, only the dripping of water from what little moisture there was echoing quietly in the darkness. After a few twists and turns she came upon an open cavern, where her two targets lay. The dark tan Alpha was lying next to the dark blue Mother, who was lying next to what looked like a nest of eggs.

The woman frowned at this. The rumor of these two wasn’t even a day old, and yet the two already had time to start a family. It’s a good thing I came when I did. The women removed the armor-piercing magazine and the bullet in her AMR, working in a new magazine of explosive rounds. She made sure not to make too much noise with her rifle, fearing the keen ears every Deathclaw had.

She successfully managed to pull out the old magazine before emptying the chamber, catching the bullet before it hit the ground. She loaded the explosive magazine in and pulled the firing lever back, loading a single round into the rifle. The woman smiled at her progress as she slowly pushed the lever back to its resting position. She then began to squat into a firing position and took aim at her first target.

The crosshairs of her scope began to line up onto the Alpha’s head, with the intersection right upon the Alpha’s closed eye. The woman took in a deep breath, let part of it go, and held the rest in as she slowly put pressure on the trigger. Her body went rigid, and once she had the sight steady and where she wanted it, she pulled on the trigger.

A loud boom echo through the small cavern as an explosion engulfed the Alpha’s head. The force tore his head apart and knocked his body back a few inches. Shrapnel punctured into the Mother as she drew her head up at a ravenous speed, looking at what remained of her mate. She let out a furious roar before her head was also hit by another explosion. The Mother’s body fell not far from her mate, and remained motionless.

The woman let out her held breath and took in a deep breath, recovering her normal state of mind, but she didn’t lower her rifle. The woman was now looking at the batch of eggs that were lying in the nest. Some were already cracked, due to the two explosions that killed their parents. She was thinking of what to do with the rest of intact eggs. She wrestled with the question, but came to a conclusion after a moment. Her rifle came to life once more as it spat out another explosive round, and every egg shattered into a big, gloopy mess.

The woman lowered her rifle and let out a sigh, turning her Stealth Boy off. “Well, mission accomplished.”

And what fun it was watching you. A cheerfully girly voice spoke out from nowhere. Going all sneaky on those animals and taking them out one by one without them knowing what hit them.

The woman drew her rifle up again and rapidly scanned the cavern for the source of the voice.

I mean I knew you were stealthy, but not this stealthy; though you did cheat with that toy of yours. Need to remember not to let you have any, otherwise it’s not a real challenge for you - and that’s boring.

The woman looked at her Pip-Boy, but it said she was the only one in the cavern.

You can stop looking for me, Scarlet; I’m not in this cruddy cave of yours.

Scarlet glanced up from her Pip-boy with an irritated look on her face. She remembered a similar experience of a voice talking to her, but with no one around to be the source of the voice, the only way for something to happen was through magic. “Let me guess, you’re a friend of Celestia’s.”

An amused chuckle reverberated eerily inside Scarlet’s head. Oh, but you are so wrong. I’m friends to no mortal, especially to some stuck-up horse. But I’m glad that your limited mind is able to piece something relevant together.

“So then, who the hell are you?”

My name is Katastrofí̱s, but many of you mortals have just called me Kata.

“I see, so what do you want?”

Straight to the point, I like that. You see, the realm that I used to entertain myself has recently become an uninteresting sight to watch. It’s one of those times where I have to put in something fresh into it to spruce it back up again, and during my search through worlds I’ve spotted yours, and another, and noticed the interactions between the two. That’s when the idea of what I need to do hit me. I’m bringing you along with a few others to bring new life to my realm.

“No,” Scarlet flatly stated. “I don’t entertain others and I’m not going to.” Scarlet got up and started to leave the cavern, but a noticeable pressure started to grow in her head, and she froze in place.

Oh, I believe you misunderstood me. It wasn’t a request, but a statement.

The pressure increased more and more, causing a mind-splitting headache to form beneath her skull. Scarlet winced, gripping her head as she began to lose consciousness. The last thing she heard was Kata’s unholy chuckle of amusement.

A thank you letter, a thank you letter, an adorable picture made by a filly, another thank you letter... ah, here’s that bill. Celestia unscrolled the piece of parchment and grabbed a quill, going back to revising it. It was a long and mentally-tiresome day for her. Only three months had passed since the incident with Cadbury’s return, but it felt as though it had only happened yesterday. The aftermath of his wild scheme was still partly affecting the lower half of Equestria, but from what her top mages told her, they would have it shortly removed in the following two months.

Of course, it could’ve ended a lot worse if it wasn’t for Alpha and Scarlet’s help. Celestia stopped writing. I wonder how she’s doing. While it had been nearly three months in Equestria, Celestia suspected that only a week or so had passed for Scarlet. And knowing the Wasteland from personal experience, a lot could’ve happened during that week. Celestia shook her head. I’m sure she’s fine, she’s too devoted to protecting Vegas to do anything else, so she wouldn’t do anything too risky. Celestia went back to her editing.

By the eternal Void, this is boring. How can you handle doing this all day? a filly’s voice questioned in a bored tone.

Celestia stopped writing once again and looked around her room. “Hello?”

I mean, don’t you miss when you were a warrior, taking down anyone who stood in your way?

Celestia frowned as the filly mentioned a dark part of her past. “No, I put aside those ideals long ago, and I’m no longer like that.” Celestia’s horn flared up in a yellow glow as she magically scanned for the filly.

Hmph, that’s not what I saw three months ago. You looked like a warrior to me.

Celestia’s scans came up with nothing. “That’s because of how limited my choices were, and I regretted doing it.”

Well you better start liking it soon; otherwise, you won’t last long in my realm.

Celestia gave a puzzled look to the air. “What do you mean?”

The sound of a gong ringing filled the room as the air in front of Celestia shimmered into a gaping portal. Celestia eyes went wide when she saw what was on the other side: Scarlet lying on the floor, passed out.

I believe you already know Scarlet... she was reluctant in coming to my realm willingly, so I had to do it the hard way of bring her here. However, I’m giving you the chance of doing it the easy way. So summon your spear and walk through the portal, please.

Celestia didn’t answer right away, but just looked through the portal. She reached out with her magic to the portal, trying to see if she could grab Scarlet, to no avail. “And if I refuse?”

The filly’s voice dropped down several octaves as it threateningly stated, Then I’m going to kill Scarlet in the most vile, inhumane way, and make you watch it for the rest of your life. The filly took in a deep breath and returned to her normal tone. Please don’t be the one who’s going to spoil my fun.

Feeling that her magic was being blocked on the horizon of the portal, Celestia let out a repressed sigh. Her horn flared up once again, and there was a bright flash as her Flare Spear and Corona Shield materialized before her. She grabbed hold of both items and started to walk towards the portal.

Ah ah ah, only your spear, leave your shield here.

Celestia looked once more around her room. She let the shield dissipate and continued on walking towards the portal. Whatever is going on here, it’s not normal and reeks of chaotic magic. Soon, Celestia stepped through the portal and was standing over the unconscious Scarlet.

“Good God, it’s a nice day, Sparky,” Ethan said with a smile as they walked down the cracked concrete road.

The sun was shining happily above them, and there wasn’t a cloud in the Wasteland’s normally-obscured sky. Ethan’s brown duster billowed in a pleasant breeze that also sent his unruly brown hair dashing across his blue eyes. The riot gear he wore beneath the duster was clean and well-repaired as always, although unlike any of his old suits, this one also had a thin layer of chainmail running between the ballistic plates and the inner padding.

His sword, a red-bladed bastard sword that was a gift from a dragon, and his magnum, the Blackhawk, sat on either side of his hips, waiting to be drawn. His Xuanlong Chinese assault rifle was slung across his back, quietly minding its own business. A half-dozen stimpacks lined his duster pockets, ready to assist Twilight if she got hurt. Ethan, for his part, was fairly unworried about himself as far as injuries went; he was hard to kill.

“Tell me about it; this is the first time that I’ve ever seen things look this nice before.” Twilight agreed with a smile.

Her blue robotic eye scanned the area for hostiles as she walked next to the man who was about twice as tall as she was on all fours. Her purple coat was mostly obscured by the green combat armour that she wore, although she’d chosen to forgo the helmet for the time being in order to allow her eye better vision. Her mechanical right foreleg stepped in perfect synchronization with the others as she walked; a small Pip-Boy was attached to the robotic leg, and it glowed with a bright green light.

Twilight’s muzzle had a few scars as well, but at this point they were mostly hidden underneath her fur and were only really noticeable if one knew where to look. A plasma defender was strapped to her waist, along with a standard plasma pistol for the times when she was too tired to use any type of magic more advanced than her telekinesis.

“So speaking of the sun, how’re you and Sunny doing?” Ethan asked her with a small smirk on his face.

“We’re doing great; Tia’s been teaching me so many interesting things,” Twilight replied with a happy sigh.

“That’s not what I meant, Sparky,” Ethan replied with a chuckle.

“I know; I was deliberately misunderstanding the question,” Twilight told him.

“Fine, let me be more direct. How are you and your fuckbuddy doing?” Ethan asked as they continued down the road.

“We’re fine Ethan, and you know I don’t like it when you call Tia that,” Twilight replied with a roll of her eyes.

“Yeah, I know, that’s why I do it,” Ethan told her with a smirk.

“Oddly enough, I’m not exactly surprised about that,” Twilight said with another roll of her eyes.

“Are you implying something about me, Sparky?” Ethan asked with a faux wounded expression on his face.

“I’m implying that you’re an idiot,” Twilight replied evenly.

“You wound me, Sparky. What would Sunny think if she heard you say such terrible, hurtful things?” Ethan asked.

“I think that Tia would find it funny, and then she’d add that you’re also a moron,” Twilight replied with a slight snort of laughter.

“Hmm… you might be right about that,” Ethan replied with a smirk as they wound their way down the ruined street and into the main plaza. “Okay, we’re here, keep a lookout for anyone in black power armour who looks like they want to kill us.”

“Won’t that be everyone in black power armour?” Twilight snarked.

“Good po-” Ethan’s sentence was interrupted as a trio of green spheres of glowing energy slashed through the air inches away from his nose. “Sonuvabitch!” he shouted as he dove for cover behind a nearby bench. Twilight didn’t waste time on words and instead opted to simply dive into cover next to him.

“Why is it that every time I go somewhere with you, we end up getting ambushed?!” Twilight shouted at him as around five bolts of plasma shot into the metal bench and began to melt it.

“Because my personality is so disarming,” Ethan replied as he drew his assault rifle.

“That doesn’t even make sense!” Twilight told him as she brought her plasma defender up to float next to her face.

“Well people always seem to have that problem when they’re around me,” Ethan replied with a chuckle. “You see, they keep losing their arms.”

Twilight just groaned before they both leapt to their feet, or hooves, in her case, and sprinted towards one of the many abandoned stores that littered the plaza. Plasma ate into the concrete as they ran, but Ethan didn’t spare the men firing at them from concealed locations a backwards glance. As one the man and the pony leapt through the empty window frame. Plasma splashed off of the wooden edges of the frame, burning several holes through it.

“The Enclave sure are tenacious bastards, but they’re horrible shots,” Ethan told Twilight as he took cover behind the store’s checkout counter. Twilight joined him moments later.

“It seems like it,” Twilight agreed. “So now what?”

“Well, you see, if we were facing anyone else I’d just charge in, soak up a few bullets, and then kill all of them,” Ethan said with a slight frown. “The problem is that they’re using plasma weapons, and my healing doesn’t protect me against being turned into goo.”

“I could shield us, I’ve done it before.” Twilight told him thoughtfully.

“Yeah, that could - ” Ethan was interrupted as the sound of a heavy incinerator firing filled his ears and several a large balls of fire suddenly smashed into the front of their cover.

A wave of heat washed over Ethan, and he let out a muted curse. They had hellfire troopers; of course, they just had to have hellfire troopers. He wouldn’t have minded them that much before his trip to Equestria, but of course, that was before he’d gotten roasted alive by a dragon…

“This cover isn’t going to last us long, and if we’re not careful the convection will kill us,” Twilight told Ethan frantically.

“Well, fuck that noise. Come on, Sparky, let’s go show them why they call me the Crazy-Son-of-a-Bitch,” Ethan told her with a large grin that he saved for when he was about to do something suicidal, which was usually around twice a day.

Twilight groaned internally but prepared to follow the man without complaint. Ethan had seen her through much worse than this ambush, and she was confident that he’d keep on doing it until she learned better than to follow him into dangerous situations.

Ethan dashed out from behind the cover of counter and dodged around the fire that still burned where the incinerator’s projectiles had landed and leapt back into the plasma. His HUD showed him that there were at least ten enemies spread out all the plaza, all of whom had been taking potshots at them from inside the upper stories of several nearby buildings.

Instead of standing there like a moron, he began to run towards one of those buildings, dodging the searing strafing of plasma and fireballs. Twilight ran next to him, occasionally erecting a quick shield to stop any stray bolts of plasma that were a little too close for comfort. They came to the first occupied building, and Ethan’s steel-toed booted foot smashed into the metal frame, sending it flying open. The bottom floor of the building was dark and windowless.

He was met by a very surprised Enclave officer who was clutching a plasma pistol to her chest. Her eyes went wide, for apparently she hadn’t been expecting for Ethan to get to them so quickly. Ethan’s rifle roared out a quick three round burst and the young woman’s head exploded, sending flecks of brain and skull fragments in all directions.

Ethan didn’t have long to celebrate as the menacing sound of a ripper slashing at his chest forced him to roll to the side. Twilight’s horn glowed purple and she sent a wave of force at the black-clad, ominously faceless figure standing in front of her. Much like a wave in the ocean, the man was picked up and flung into the back wall of the building where he landed in a crumpled heap.

Another power-armour-wearing foe charged down the stairs towards them, this one wearing Tesla armour. Ethan rolled to his feet before unleashing a stream of lead into his metal chest. The first few 5.56 rounds didn’t penetrate, only warping the metal. The Enclave trooper responded by firing a blast of plasma at Ethan, forcing the man to roll to the side in order to avoid it. Twilight’s pistol shot a bolt of plasma at the trooper’s sparking back, and he turned to regard her with an evil, emotionless visage. He aimed his plasma rifle at her head and started to pull the trigger.

Twilight’s eyes widened and she began to hastily prepare a shield spell. It proved unnecessary as the tip of Ethan’s red blade suddenly appeared from within the man’s chest. The tip had stabbed straight through the power armour. The trooper looked down at the sword blade in his chest and had just enough time to curse before he fell to the ground. Ethan pulled his blade out of the man’s back and let out a slight sigh.

“Remind me to thank Jonathan again next time I see him,” Ethan told Twilight as he wiped a small bead of perspiration off of his forehead.

“And Tia, too. She’s still not exactly happy that you have that sword,” Twilight reminded him.

“Yeah, her too,” Ethan agreed with a nod.

The Enclave trooper with the ripper regained his feet and charged at Ethan while his back was turned. On the bright side, it’s hard to run quietly while wearing power armour. Ethan spun and blocked the incoming chainsaw with his sword. The mini-chainsaw’s teeth slapped impotently off of the blade and Ethan’s arm began to vibrate. Twilight’s horn began to glow again and the ripper was yanked out of the trooper’s grasp. He grabbed for it, but Twilight kept it out of his reach; Ethan’s sword decapitated the man moments later.

“Well, that was more difficult than killing raiders,” Twilight told him as she let out a slightly shaky breath.

“Yeah, and we still have around seven of the bastards left to kill,” Ethan said with a small frown.

“Let’s get to it, then. The sooner we’re done here, the sooner we can go home and I can see Tia again,” Twilight told him.

Instead of answering her, Ethan simply nodded and strode over the dead Enclave troops until he stood directly in front of the door. Then, he dashed outside, Twilight hot on his heels. The remaining seven Enclave focused all of their firepower on the pair as they made their way towards the next building, and this time, when Ethan kicked the door in, he was greeted by salvos of plasma from four plasma rifles.

He stumbled backwards as the burning plasma did its best to get at him beneath his armour.

Luckily, his armour held up, and Ethan returned fire, this time using his Blackhawk and the power of VATS. Time seemed to freeze as the man calmly lined up four shots, his magnum ringing out four times, followed by the sound of shattering glass bullets tore through the visors of three out of the four troopers, their helmets suddenly shattered along with the skulls inside of their helmets. The final trooper attempted to blast Ethan again but Twilight called up a small shield to protect her friend, and the plasma spattered harmlessly against the glowing purple barrier.

Ethan nodded his thanks to the unicorn before he holstered his pistol and charged the last Enclave trooper with his sword. The trooper dove backwards in an attempt to avoid the blade, but Ethan swept the blade down and through the man’s power-armoured neck, severing the head in a spray of blood.

“Okay, three left,” Ethan said with a smile as he cleaned his sword and sheathed it. They dashed out into the street and headed for the last building. A dozen fireballs met them on their way there, but surprisingly, there was no plasma fire at all.

When they reached the last building, Ethan prepared to kick the door in, but someone on the inside beat him to it. The door rocketed open, and a large hellfire trooper barreled into Ethan, power-armoured shoulder first. The trooper threw Ethan to the ground, and before either he or Twilight could respond, the trooper brought its heavy incinerator to bear on his face and pulled the trigger.

Time seemed to stop as Ethan’s eyes widened in fear and the trooper’s incinerator began to fire. Twilight’s eyes slammed shut, and her horn began to glow. Suddenly, time resumed as Twilight appeared directly in front of the trooper, horn blazing away with white light. The trooper changed targets and focused on the unicorn as the first ball of flame leapt from the heavy weapon’s fiery maw. Twilight batted away the fireball with ease and sent a lance of kinetic energy out of her horn that slammed into the hellfire trooper’s helmeted head, sending him flying heedlessly to the ground.

“Thanks, Sparky. You know, from this angle, I can see why Sunny likes you so much,” Ethan told her, and Twilight suddenly realized that she was standing on him, her butt above his head.

“Sorry,” Twilight apologized as she quickly leapt off of him.

“Don’t mention it, Sparky, you just saved me from about a week of nightmares,” Ethan replied with a smile. Suddenly, a silky voice assaulted their minds; it was impossible to determine exactly how old the speaker was, other than the fact that it was obviously both young and also female.

Oh, you’ll both do so nicely; I just can’t wait to see how you and the others get along! the voice said.

“Who are you and how the hell are you talking to me in my head?” Ethan asked in annoyance.

Oh, but that would spoil it, wouldn’t it? the girlish voice said mockingly.

“Well then, I’m just going to call you ‘the invisible cunt’, or maybe ‘the inviscunt’. I’ll get back to you on that,” Ethan told her with a slightly forced chuckle.

You’re in so far over your head that you can’t even see the surface! Oh, this is going to be fun! the voice replied casually.

“I am Princess Celestia’s personal student, you’d better tell me who you are and why you’re screwing with us or I- ”

You’re so cute, and this’ll make things even more interesting! the voice all but squealed, cutting Twilight off mid-sentence.

“Listen up, you cun- ” Ethan began.

Save it for someone who gives a damn; you’ll need your energy for later, the voice told him with a giggle. Oh, and I suppose you can call me Kata, if you want; it’s short for Katastrofis, the voice added with a slightly more mature chuckle.

“When I find you I’m going to shove my boot so far up your ass that - ” Ethan began again.

Oh, you’re both so feisty! I really can’t wait to see how you get along with the others.

Before either Ethan or Sparky could respond, their vision failed, and they passed out to the sound of evil, girlish laughter.

Though he loathed to admit it, Thomas was a bit too accustomed to waking up in strange places with no idea of how he even got there. Being so, his reaction to awakening in what looked like an abandoned cave was nothing more than an annoyed grunt. “God damn it.”

Oh, goody, you’re awake! a young female voice happily exclaimed in his head.

“Oh, great, now I’m hearing voices,” he muttered, taking a look at his surroundings. He seemed to be at the very end of a tunnel, and there was only one way to go.

Oh, don’t sound so enthusiastic, the voice said sarcastically. Surely you’re wondering how you got here.

“I either got very drunk, or I got kidnapped. Again.” Thomas stood up, only now noticing what he was wearing. “Why am I wearing my duster?”

That’s not all you have with you. I shall explain later. For now, though, I suggest you get moving. This won’t be any fun to watch if you just sit there the whole time.

“Wait, watching? Where are you?” he asked loudly, looking around. When the voice refused to answer, he took quick stock of what he had with him. It came to no surprise when he found his Sequoia on his hip, but he was a little alarmed to find a brush gun in the sling on his back. “How did I miss that?” he muttered to himself. When he reached over to turn his Pip-Boy’s brightness up, he noticed how heavy his right arm felt. He groped at his wrist with his opposite hand and was a little shocked at the unexpected cold. “Why do I have a power fist?” He shone the light over it and saw how it was blue instead of a normal grey. The Saturnite logo was also visible. “Ah, one of these.”

As he did what the mysterious voice had instructed, he started thinking. This place didn’t feel like anywhere in the Mojave, or anywhere else he had been. And he knew for a fact that he didn’t really like the Saturnite weaponry he had picked up in the Big Empty. So why did he have one now? And both the Sequoia and a brush gun? They used the same rounds, so he had to be careful to conserve his ammunition.

“What was I doing before?” he asked himself, coming to a stop. “Something about Vipers...” The Vipers had taken control of Red Rock Canyon after the Khans had abandoned the area shortly before the Second Battle of Hoover Dam. The few remaining Fiends had decided to join forces with them, actually making them a credible threat to Outer Vegas. There was only so much Raul could do, and the last attack had seen him shot. “Right, I had made camp near Vault 19, and I was gonna - ”

I didn’t bring you here so you could sightsee, you know, the voice interjected suddenly, cutting off his train of thought. Or talk to yourself.

“How about some fucking answers?” Thomas asked calmly, unholstering his Sequoia.

Oh, put that away, it won’t do you any good, the voice said.

“Where am I, who are you, and why am I here?” Thomas was doing his best to keep calm, but the last two times something like this had happened had not been pleasant. A large part of him just wanted to scream and rage.

I am Katastrofis, and this is my realm, the voice answered with a giggle. As for why, well, I need fun.

“If you need fun, why didn’t you take someone from the Gomorrah?” he asked. “I’m not a prostitute.”

Not that kind of fun! the voice shot back. This place has gotten boring, and I need entertainment. So I decided to bring you and a few others here.

“Others?” Now he was worried. If he had been given weapons, he was expected to fight. And if he was expected to fight, he had to be prepared for something big or powerful. Probably both.

Oh yes. I wouldn’t just bring you, though it would be fun to watch you go mad, the voice said, a hint of sadistic glee in its words. No, I brought someone you know.

“Someone I know? This is either very good or very bad,” he muttered, quickly pulling up a mental list of significant people who were still alive. When he saw who the voice was referring to, he could only stare. “Still not sure which this is,” he said carefully.

Luna looked around her room carefully, trying to find the source of the voice. “Reveal yourself.”

Feisty, aren’t you?

“I will not sit here and let you continue to taunt me!” the alicorn yelled, grabbing a large flail in her magic from the other side of the room.

Yes, you’ll do nicely, the voice said.

“Who are you!?” she yelled.

I don’t take orders from angry ponies, the voice retorted, all of its civility gone.

“And I do not take kindly to anyone who has the audacity to even think of hassling me!” Luna raised the flail threateningly.

Not even to tell you that someone you care about is in danger? The voice seemed to smile at the dumbfounded look on the princess’ face. That’s what I thought.

“Tell me who you have taken,” Luna said, her voice low and filled with fury.

Oh, wouldn’t it be more fun to show you? With the sound of tearing fabric, a small void opened in front of Luna, causing her to step back in alarm. Do you recognise him?

Luna peered into the black portal, her brow creased. “Is that... Thomas?” She leaned back, snorting. “Please, you seek to make me believe that he needs help?”

Oh but he does, the voice said. Could you live with yourself knowing that you abandoned him to a painful death?

“He has proven that not only would he prevail, but he would make you regret even trying.” Luna rolled her eyes. “Now, leave. I will not partake in your foolishness.”

I’m sorry, did I say you had a choice? The portal suddenly stretched wider, going from something the size of a hand mirror to easily twice the midnight alicorn’s height.

Princess Luna froze in shock as the tear enveloped her. “Oh fu - ”

When she could see again, the first thing she saw was a strange figure, shrouded in shadows. Instinctively, she swung with her flail. “Back, foul demon!”

“Holy - !” Thomas ducked as the great spiked ball nearly collided with his skull. “Fuck, Luna, it’s me, it’s me!”

The alicorn froze at his words. “Thomas?” She dropped the flail with a clang. “Are you okay?”

“Much better now that you’re not braining me,” he shot back. “Those whackjobs at the Big Empty did that once already, and that was once too many.”

“Where are we?” Luna asked, looking around the darkness.

You’re trapped in my realm now, little pony.

“YOU!” Luna shouted, her voice echoing in the small space. “Why have you brought us here!?”

Just for a little fun. Don’t worry, I’ll let you go, the voice said soothingly. If you survive.

“If we survive?” Thomas asked, looking around nervously.

Oh yes. You didn’t think you had to just walk through this labyrinth, did you? the voice asked. No, that would be far too simple.

“Thomas...” Luna whispered, her ears flat against her head. The man simply clutched his revolver tighter. Further down the tunnel the sounds of something shuffling could be heard.

Have fun, she said as the shuffling came closer.