• Published 24th Mar 2013
  • 2,737 Views, 120 Comments

Fallout: Equestria - False Dawn - Requiem Mori



Equestria has fallen, and the pieces are still being recovered. A mare wanders alone, cold and embittered. Perhaps she'll find friendship, even in these dark times... if such a thing is even possible.

  • ...
14
 120
 2,737

Chapter 9: Ghosts of the Past

Chapter 9: Ghosts of the Past

All in, all in, outs in free.

My life before was full of apathy and hate. It is rather difficult to hang onto rage for a hundred years, especially without a target for your rage. It dies into an ember, flickering and dying slowly. Or does it die, or merely lie dormant, waiting patiently for something to ignite it? When anger burns hot, it quickly flares out, a burst of flame that disappears as soon as it bursts forth... but a fury forged through the years... decades... centuries? Can such a thing truly ever die? Perhaps, perhaps not... I suppose I shall have the misfortune to discover the truth of the matter soon enough.
~ From the Journal of Nevermore

We made it out... back into the Wasteland. I probably did no favors to the ghoul community of Greenvale Heights, but I suppose that I need to do what I must. Besides, most of them should be able to fend for themselves. Those unable to? Well... then they have no business surviving these days anyways. Ghouls were already not favored regardless, with most ponies treating us with a mix of disdain to outright hostility. Perhaps this would encourage some of them to start standing up for themselves. That mare, Marble, at least she seemed like she had a good head on her shoulders. Something springs to mind suddenly at this talk of fending for oneself... there were more of us before. “Star... where are the others?”

She looks over at me as we slow down to a hover. “I told them to be safe, to meet us at...” Though her face is hidden by her helmet, I assume she blanches. “... Greenvale Heights. I was worried for you Nevermore, thought you needed treatment quickly.”

I have never wanted to smack her upside the head as much as I did right then. “You left... those idiots... to wander alone, to head towards that place...” I shake my head. I can tell from her tone that she understood her mistake. There was no reason to berate her further on it so I decide to let the matter drop and move on to more important matters... mostly that of finding them now. “Well... can you see them with your E.F.S.?” Night was starting to fall, and even though my eyes did glow slightly in the failing light, it still hampered my vision. Thus, I trusted her mechanical and magical assistance more, hoping she could pick out their green marks.

Star Racer nods, remembering herself somewhat. “I see... three groups of green... one seems to be a caravan, I am uncertain about the other...” She looks at me, confused. “The last one is moving towards us... but there are three of them... not two.”

Rubbing the side of my head with a hoof, I give a deep sigh. “If those morons picked up another straggler...” Her sudden shift brings my attention. “What is it?”

She starts to bolt towards where she saw the marks, the pegasus a rather fast flier. Chasing after her, I hear her as she calls over her shoulder as I struggle to keep up. “Red marks.”

~~~~~~~~~~

“So what ya say yer name is again there?” Fritter looks at the cloaked figure travelling with them. He didn’t trust him, especially around Zone Control. After all, he had to look out for her, it was a stallion’s job to do that sort of thing, right? Then again, Zone wasn’t exactly the sort to bat her eyelashes and wait for rescue... no, she’s more likely to heft her shotgun and make anything dumb enough to trouble her regret it in the form of a smoking hole in its torso. He never really talked to her... well, he talked to her about now, but they seemed to avoid talking about then... the Stable, why they left... why they had to leave. He watches her passing her gaze back and forth, scanning for trouble. She’s adjusted well to life on the outside it seems, the mare taking on a bit of hardness while still keeping herself the same Zone that he had come to know. Though he was loathe to admit it, even to himself, she was a much better shot than he was... but she was a security mare, he was just a baker... right? Still, he couldn’t help but watch her in her armored barding.

“I didn’t, stranger. Though that’s an interesting question you raise, names. They’re so much, a label, a title. Besides, I haven’t gotten yours yet, and its only fair that way then, right?” The figure’s voice is low yet cheery. Still, he hadn’t even shown his face yet, and he barely spoke about anything of import. Granted, he talked a lot, almost impossible to make quiet, but only about small things, minor things. Like the color of a rock, or the shape of a rusted piece of metal. Just observations and curious musings. Frisky shook his head. It was enough to drive a stallion mad! Zone was polite as always, also giving nothing away. Nevermore’s lesson on not being that trusting seems to have stuck with her. Of course, she was a lot nicer about it than the ghoul. Rather than telling this stranger to sod off, she was smiles and politeness. When asked why she was nice, she just said something about trying to make Equestria a little better place. Of course, she also had the strap holding her shotgun down loose, just in case, and also gave him evasive answers when possible. Though it was only a few weeks ago, the raider that had gotten the drop on her stuck with her. That was something she was very good at. She learned, quickly and forgot slowly.

Zone tenses slightly, her shotgun flying out of its holster in her magical grip. “We have red... quite a bit of it too.” She checks quickly to make sure the safety is off. “Get ready...” Fritter draws his pistol, but the stranger doesn’t move, doesn’t draw a weapon.

“What’s wrong with ya? Draw yer weapon ya looney!” Fritter hisses at the stranger. If he had to defend some helpless stranger from another too stupid to defend themselves properly... The thought that this put him in the position of Nevermore that day was not lost on him, but he just refused to pay it much mind.

“I already did, weren’t you paying attention?” A low and infuriating chuckle, though the statement seems to be in jest as the cloaked figure stretches his neck back and forth. The bags on his back rattle slightly, jars and glasses clinking.

“Cut the chatter... here they come!” Zone’s shotgun bucks, the scorpion burrowing out of the ground turning into a pile of goo as her round shatters it. Fritter’s about to snap a retort before he realizes how many there are. His pistol rattles off, the bullets mostly missing, but a few striking home. “They’re not very tough though!”

The stranger looks over as he steps on one, squishing it underhoof. “I noticed, though they do leave a bit of a mess.” He squishes another one, wiping the remains off onto the asphalt. “I do think they could be a bit more considerate when they die. Quite rude, really.”

“Ha, well lookit this!” Fritter blasts another pair of the small scorpions. “And Nevermore thought that we wern’t able ta take care of ourselves!” Barely had he said that, when the ground begins to shake and the asphalt begins to buckle.

“There you go, tempting fate, stranger... not wise to do that. Fate has a bit of a temper on her, don’t you know?” The stranger seems to be unfazed by the shaking, even as Zone moves her shotgun over to cover.

A massive claw scythes out of the ground, barely missing the stranger as a scorpion bursts from below, easily the size of a sky chariot. Fritter is struck speechless by the size of it, even as Zone’s shotgun roars. The creature looks over as the shotgun picks at its massive shell, the shot glancing off impotently. While the shot was good against unarmored targets, the thick chitin proved to be more than its match. Zone starts to load her shotgun again, pulling out some of the slugs, hoping they’d prove to be enough. The stranger again is missed by a claw, and the tail strikes just to the side. Was it missing? Or was he dodging? His movements were slight, but seemed to be just enough to avoid being hit. He lashes out suddenly with a hoof as the claw retracts, faster than Fritter can see. The scorpion recoils, a crack showing near the claw’s joint from the strike. The scorpion keeps trying to lash at the stranger, each strike missing... or at least not hitting cleanly. Now that he’s looking, he sees that the stranger is taking hits, just not major ones as he manages to avoid the worst of it.

“Well, this is a rather nasty critter, care to join in instead of just observing?” Fritter’s about to retort before he realizes that the stranger was not talking to him. The answer comes in the form of a pair of scintillating beams lancing down from the sky. Star Racer lands in a cloud of dust, her rifles hissing as they start to recharge. Never before was Fritter so happy to see the armored mare despite her constant rebuffs to his charm.

She turns to look at the newcomer, bowing her head slightly. “Thank you for watching my charges...” She shoots Fritter a hard look through her helmet. “Better than they watch themselves.”

There’s a hint of a smile in his voice as he slips past another claw strike. “Oh, my pleasure indeed. Always good to help another.”

“If you are done jabbering, we still have work to do.” Nevermore raises her forehoof as she arrives after Star, the contraption on it firing a bolt at the scorpion, bursting one of its eyes in a shower of gore and ichor. Though she seems to be focused on the monster, her hooded gaze turns to slash at the stranger... apparently she doesn’t like him for some reason. Then again, Frisky figured there’s not much that Nevermore *does* like, even herself, and she doesn’t seem to need reasons either. At least reasons that other good and proper ponies can fathom.

Finally, their combined firepower drives the monster back, shielding itself from further harm with a giant claw. Zone Control moves to pursue, but Nevermore shakes her head, even as Star starts to cycle her rifles down. “No need for that, Zone. She might be going back to her nest, and I do not wish to engage her in such a location.”

“But what if it threatens another pony? What if it attacks them?” Zone is brought up short, not nearly willing to go on by herself, but also not wanting another to get attacked.

“Then they will have to fight themselves, or die.” Nevermore’s voice is cold and harsh. “Besides, we have more pressing matters right now.” She turns, her hoof mounted crossbow pointed at the stranger. “Like what are you doing with one of *them*.” Frisky had thought that he had heard Nevermore be upset before, that he had heard her rage. That is nothing compared to the venom in her voice right now. It is pure, seething, unbridled hatred, carefully nurtured over more than a hundred years.

The stranger shakes his head, sliding his hood back. The striped mohawk and muzzle reveal his origins. “Well, looks like one of you can spot a zebra.” He smiles up at Nevermore. “Interesting greeting you have there, especially from a flying corpse.”

Nevermore’s voice drops lower, her voice akin to a razor’s edge. “Your fighting style... Fallen Ceasar. It is recognizable.” She keeps her hoof leveled at him as she drops to the ground. “Celestia burn your soul, you craven villain.”

Zone tries to put her hoof on Nevermore. “Easy there... he just helped save us... and he hasn’t done anything to-”

“Has not done anything?!” Nevermore glares at Zone. “Look around you, foal. See what they have done.” Her voice is immensely bitter, even beyond the hatred that many reserved for the zebras.

“But that was over a hundred years ago, Nevermore. Surely he didn’t have any part of that...”

“But his kind did, and they committed crimes, crimes that cannot be forgiven. Crimes that pass through blood and are only expunged in blood.” She narrows her hard gaze onto him. “A school...” Over a century of pain flooded her voice.

The massacre at Littlehorn had affected all of Equestria. It had driven a goddess to abdicate, and another to harden her resolve. It had inexorably driven Equestria into its final hours... and it had damaged a Captain. The damages wrought that day had further effects, culminating with a bitter mare performing her duty, taking the scorn of others, doing what had to be done, though others were afraid to do so. Ultimately, it reached through time, with that same mare pointing a bow at a stranger, her heart bitter and broken. The aftermath of that event would not see resolution for a long time, if at all. The pain and loss of that day echoing through the haunted survivors.

“... you killed them all... teachers... visitors.” Her voice is even colder now, a blade of ice held to his throat. “Foals.”

Zone looks at the mare, placing her hoof up on hers. “And what will this do? Did you lose somepony that day? Killing him won’t bring anypony back, it’ll just add to the pain.” Apparently, even stables learned about the Littlehorn Massacre. Memories flood back... ponies I lost... the beginning of the end.

~~~~~~~~~~

I sit on my balcony, the wind teasing my long hair. Gently, almost daintily, I raise the steaming cup of tea up, taking a small sip. I should visit the Captain again... or at least the crew. Truth be told, I can’t bear seeing the Captain like that, ragged, lost, drunk. I shake my head ruefully. Drink is not something that I usually partake of myself, though I can understand what drives a pony to the bottle. But the Captain... I can be mean to him, almost cruel... berating and scolding him over anything. The last time we saw each other still rings through my mind, a bitter and frustrating memory.

Cold fury and a mountain of disdain. He looked terrible, and smelled worse. I honestly doubt that he’s bathed in at least a month, and I think those are alcohol and vomit stains on his shirt. “You are a disgrace, Captain. Time was, we could look up to you before. Though a fool, you represented something that the rest of us could not. You were something that we could not be.” Derision fills my voice, all the pain and sorrow that I’d been storing turning into a rush of venom and hatred. “Look at you now, how you have fallen. There was a time that I could see something in you, that there was more to you than a drunken loser, a failure, a piece of living trash.” I use my wing to hurl one of the half filled bottles at him, the liquor sliding down the wall behind him, the shatter of glass punctuating my diatribe. “If you want to be like this, then do us all a favor and just go away. There is nothing that we want from you now, nothing that you can give us.” My rage fuels my words, toxins that once spoken cannot be held back. “I cannot believe that there was once a time when I thought you might be somepony more than the idiot that you have proven yourself to be.” He opens his mouth to speak, that white coat dirty and dingy with neglect. “If the next words out of your mouth are not that you will buck up, accept responsibility, and be a stallion about all this, Celestia is my witness, ‘Captain’, I *will* wound you.” He stares at me through a drunken haze, either trying to understand my words or to work out if I meant it. “I thought so.” Turning my back on him, I start to leave. “Rowdy lost a parent that day. Do try to not make it two, ‘Captain’.” I understood though... we missed her too. We all missed her.

Truth be told though... before he fell to pieces, there was something in him, something that had him lead the crew, a spark. That spark was dying now, perhaps dead. The loss of his wife had hit him hard, driving him to the bottle. I shake my head. No... I won’t visit him. Not this time. Not until I hear that he has managed to pull himself together... if ever. Being alone was something I was good at. Though today was a special day. I look at the small box on the table next to me, a package wrapped in silvered paper and tied with black lace. A gift, for Rowdy. Not much, just a small toy, a gift from the dour Nevermore. I wouldn’t stay long, just long enough to drop it off, pretend to socialize a bit, then disappear. I hate going to events, but I could do this for Rowdy. It was his birthday, after all. And the crew was the only family he had left. I narrow my eyes. Especially since the Captain has self destructed. No... I won’t visit him, but I’ll drop this off to Rowdy. To my surprise, I get a call... speak of the devil, it is the Captain... and he is hosting a party for Rowdy. Well, at least it sounded like he’s starting to stallion up a bit perhaps, though my voice holds no promise, my mind entertaining no hope.

My tone is cold, yet accepting. Yes, I would be there, no, I would not make a scene. He had some trivial item for me to bring, which I promptly ignored. Rowdy did not need me to bring some party favors. What he needed was his father. The time passed, and I got ready to head to a party, the party of a young foal who had lost much. My dress was somber, the veil covering part of my face. Odd attire to a birthday party for a foal perhaps, but I was not one who concerned herself with fitting in regardless. But... this party, this should be a decent party, something that Rowdy could enjoy in these dark times. Yes... it was time to go to a party for one of the few innocent souls left in Equestria, a celebration.

Which... which was never to be. My heart drops as I hear the sirens go off, standing up to look towards the direction of the commotion, seeing ponies racing to the scene. Luna’s School for Gifted Unicorns. It was a school day today... perhaps... perhaps my somber attire will be appropriate for Rowdy... perhaps I will visit the Captain today after all.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Surely you can forgive after so long... especially since it’s not his fault!” Zone snaps me out of my memories, the lingering hatred still burning in my soul.

“Forgive... no. I cannot forgive. The mare that could have forgiven is long dead.” I lower my hoof, taking the bow off of him. To his credit, he hadn’t flinched, but had just kept a sardonic grin on his face. “But I am not a murderer either.” I glare at him. “But believe me that I will be looking for any excuse to exact my blood price.” Turning from him, I pretend to survey the wasteland. In reality, I’m trying to bring my rage under control. This isn’t like you, Nevermore. Control yourself, harness yourself. Do not allow him to control you. Sins of the fathers, unto the tenth generation...

“She always like that?” His voice, though quite normal, grates on my ears, just knowing who’s speaking. “I mean... she seems to be just a wee bit high strung.”

Zone speaks up, though they’re trying to not let me hear. “Well... sometimes... she does seem a bit more... put off by you though. I’m sorry.” What does she know of my reasons, of my hatred, of the pain and sorrow?

“Eh... that’s alright... I’m used to it. Lots of ponies don’t like me for me... can’t help it, can’t fight it. Though it does make a great ice breaker normally.” There’s a brief pause. “My name’s Vusi, by the way.” I ignore them as they introduce themselves, ending with Zone naming me for him.

“She doesn’t really talk much, but don’t take it too personally. She’s always a bit... distant.” I feel them looking at my back.

Enough of that. “Well, feel free to go on your way then, zebra. We have work to do.” I look at my companions, giving a short sigh.

“Well, I was just travelling, and most of you seem the decent sort. Was thinking I’d just tag along for a bit. I’m no stranger to fighting, and it looks like you could use some poultices and potions.” He looks at Fritter. “Though I’m not sure I have anything for that... well...” He gestures towards Fritter’s face as Star Racer gives a snorting chuckle. Fritter sputters his indignation, but is ignored by the pair.

I look at my companions, my eyes searching them... apparently none of them felt the way I did, all of them willing to give him a chance despite his stripes. The poor, trusting, accepting fools. Then again, I suppose that also is what allowed them to accept me the way I was. Zebras... my heart burns with hatred at the very thought. I blame them for much, possibly unfairly, but that is something that I choose to not admit to myself. They had done so much... to Equestria, to the Captain... to me. No... I could not forgive, not now... not ever. Perhaps in a better time with a better mare.

“Our next objective is to head to the Shadowbolt Memorial. To do this, we have to travel north...” I look at each of them. “Through Ranger lands.” I look at Star Racer. “You... will have to be especially careful, and you two,” I motion towards Zone and Fritter, “keep your eyes on your pipbucks. They are known to desire them.”

Vusi cracks a grin. “What about me? What do I have to watch out for?”

“Do I look like I care if something happens to you?” Snorting, I turn from them and start trotting off through the ruins of the city. “We will be bypassing Tomb Town, there is no reason to be looking for trouble, and that place is nothing but trouble.”

Our hooves clip off the ground, their steady rhythm a constant reminder that we’re moving onwards, ever onwards. Yet it is the past that drives us, that defines us. Star Racer suddenly stops, looking towards a tower in the distance. “I’m... getting a signal... a broadcast. I don’t recognize it.” She looks at me, her armored gaze hiding any thoughts she had. “I’ll put it on speaker, Nevermore... you might want to hear this.”

Words start to crackle from her helmet... was this an old news broadcast? A mare’s voice is clearly heard. "... me is the Captain of Delta Squad 424 flight brigade for the Shadowbolts, a mobile platform unit used specifically for heavy front line support. His crew are as equally crazy as they are diverse. This ragtag bunch are all taken from the lower rungs of civilian and military life. They're the troublemakers, the has-beens, the misfits, and the dumping grounds for the mediocre. Captain, what do you have to say about that? The reputation that your crew has earned?"

My heart stops in my chest as a familiar voice comes from the speakers. A voice that haunts my dreams, a voice that I can never forget. A ghost from the past. "If you underestimate somepony who has nothing to lose and everything to prove, you're always bound to be surprised."

"I suppose so, but is it your leadership that makes your lackluster crew perform so well? How do you get that polish we've been seeing?" Her voice is full of doubt... after all this was a bunch of rejects and misfits, somehow pulling off the impossible.

"There is no polish. My leadership? It's a joke, my own crew will tell you I'm an idiot. It's them, it's all them. Everyday we all work to get better at something, because we deserve the best for each other. That's all them. I don't do anything but rely on them, and knowing they rely on me pushes me to be better."

"So you're taking no credit for your victories?"

"They're not victories."

"What do you mean, sir?"

"I said they're not victories."

"Then what would you call them?"

"Payback."

There’s a moment of silence as his awkward answer hangs in the air before the newsmare moves on to another topic. "Now, how do you respond to the allegations of substance abuse?"

"I don't deny them."

"You don't deny them? So you're admitting that your crew, some of them, use enhancement? Isn't that a bit dangerous? Do you feel bad for setting a bad example for the youth of Equestria by advocating and promoting that stance?"

"Do you know what I do for a living, lady? I get on an old airship with a bunch of other animals. I go to a location, and we kill a bunch of other animals. I kill things. In war. For money. I'm a mercenary. This is my job. I love my job." There’s a dangerous tone to his voice despite the cheery words, a touch of madness perhaps.

"Well, I'm sure the folks at home watching this all agree we're glad you're on our side. One final question, Captain, how do you feel the war is going to end?"

"War? This isn't a war. It's an extermination." Again the silence at his response before a crackle of static cuts off the transmission.

Star Racer looks at me. “That is on repeat, Nevermore... and... it only started playing when we entered the area.” She looks around warily. “On a signal that I was receiving... it’s a bit too much of a coincidence...” Her rifles start to whine as she begins charging them. “I think that was meant for us... someone knew we were coming.”

I shake my head. “Possibly...” The voice of my Captain still ringing in my ears... how long ago had I heard that for the first time? How many decades had past? “But... I need to know... how and where.” I lock eyes with her. “And I intend to find out despite the risk.”

“You know this is probably a trap... but I will defer to you regardless.” She nods. “It is that tower there... we will have to be careful on the approach.”

Vusi and Fritter break in at that point. “Hey, as charming as Nevermore there is, are you sure we should all be going there? Especially if you said its a trap? I mean, far be it from me to stop her from committing suicide, but...”

“Yeah, ya hard ta kill rotter, but what about tha rest of us?”

Zone enters the conversation, her voice calm. “I think we should go. This is important to Nevermore, and she’s been there for us before.” She looks at Fritter. “This is the least that we can manage to do for her.” She looks at me... her disappointment at my earlier outbursts warring with her pity for me. To live so long with so much hate... small wonder I was a burnt out shell of a pony. She looks over at Vusi. “I know you’ve only recently been acquainted with us, so nopony would look down on you if you decided to not join us.

“Nah... it’s not like I have much else to do. Besides, who knows what sorts of things we’ll find, maybe some evil ghosts, or zombie ponies bent on revenge. Or even a ripe mare who holds a chip on her shoulder the size of a tree.”

Ignoring him, I turn to Zone, bowing my head slightly at her kind words. “Very well, I will not try to stop you... and... thank you.” I look towards the tower, my heart full of dread and excitement. A part of my past, a ghostly echo. History repeats itself, and I head back into the jaws of a trap, bringing those who trust me along... Perhaps these ones will leave friendly ghosts.

~~~~~~~~~~

New Companion: Vusi

This Zebra is crafty and quiet when he wants to be, though he’s more at home with a wise crack and a joke. Despite your hostility, he’s oddly understanding, and his medical knowledge will surely come in handy. As long as Vusi is in the party, all members (except you!) gain slight natural healing from his poultices, and the effects of any medical treatment are improved by 10%.

Who could have that broadcast? And how did they know that you were coming?

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!