• Published 24th Mar 2013
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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.

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Chapter 11: Shadows and Memories

Chapter 11: Shadows and Memories

Where we were describes us. Where we go defines us.

I have traveled far, seen many things. It is odd then, that a series of events over a century ago has led me to where I am now. One thing different... one little change, and would I still be the same mare that I am today? Perhaps, perhaps not. Chances are that I would be dead, one of the nameless, countless ponies that died that day. But I did not die, am not dead. I survived all that until now due to a mix of tenacity and ill fortune. I suppose that is what made us so different than others. The crew, I mean. I have a hard time imagining us giving up, giving in. Controversy and opposition just made us fight harder, defying order and the judgment of others. Perhaps that is what got me here. Defiance. Not chance or fate, but rather the propensity to stare death in the eye... then smile.

~From the Journal of Nevermore

I’ve resigned myself to my fate by this point. That doesn’t mean that I’ll go quietly, however. While I doubt my knives would do much to this armored monstrosity, rolling over and dying was not exactly my style for as long as I could remember. After all, I was still up and about. Lashing out, I dig my dagger into a joint in its leg. It’s like stabbing a rock. A rock coated in steel armor. Barely has the tip of the knife punched in, before she moves, snapping the top of the blade off. Either she didn’t notice, or she doesn’t care, for she strides past me, hooves sinking into the thick carpet. <You are trespassing. Leave at once.> Her voice is oddly soft despite the mechanical qualities... and her intimidating frame. <Failure to do so shall be met with necessary force.> The ponies outside turn their weapons on the mare, heavy slugs impacting against her armor, sending bits of shrapnel to pepper me as I was caught in the fire zone. Apparently, that was a bad move. There’s a whine of energy weapons powering up, then a fusillade of brilliant lances of light stab out, completely obliterating the first pony caught in the stream of destruction. The weapons mounted on her side fire at such a rate, that it appears to be a single beam, vaporizing anything foolish enough to reveal itself. As suddenly as it happened, she stops firing, bits of pony ash drifting through the light of the dying day. <Remove yourselves from these premises at once.>

That had apparently proven too much for most of them, the white unicorn mare barely keeping most of her goons from breaking at that display. “Very well... fall back for now. We’ll wait for her to come back out if needed.” They start to pull back, and the armored mare seems content to let them go. That solves one problem, albeit temporarily, but it leaves the overarching question of why?

Turning that hard gaze onto me, she looks me over slowly, as if scanning me. Truth be told, its a rather discomforting look, and I feel myself bristling under her attention. <I am Red Bishop C-1. You are to come with me at this time.> She looks over at my companions as I prepare to reject whatever she’s telling me to do... <Along with the blue unicorn. The others will stay here. Compliance will ensure their safety.>

My eyes drift over to Zone Control as she swallows hard. I’m not exactly pleased by these conditions, but... we did seem to be outmatched. At least for now. I’ll settle for her not turning those cannons onto us for now at least.“Very well... Bishop. But you better not be giving us false assurances...” My threat sounds hollow, even to myself. Maybe if Star could get a clean bead before the mare responded, but that was a long shot regardless.

She chooses to ignore the threat, stepping aside as we enter the elevator. Maneuvering her frame, it’s quite clear that the lift wasn’t quite designed with her in mind, the poor thing whining and protesting with the strain of lifting her. The ride up the elevator is long and awkward. Our host is clearly not interested in talking to us, and Zone doesn’t seem sure if she should break the silence. For my part, I am curious about several things, the foremost being, why did she protect us? Why were we brought here, and what was going to happen? I look at Zone from the corner of my eye. If only one of us were to make it out, I would make sure it wasn’t me.

We pass other machines, these ones much smaller, more pony sized compared to the monster leading us through the corridors. Additionally, they’re not as advanced, their armor and weapons clearly inferior. They also seem to be lacking something... a spark of sentience, blank and mindless bodies following some unheard orders. If this... ‘Red Bishop’ wasn’t the one giving the orders, she at least held more authority and personality than the smaller ones. After a short while, we end up in front of a large machine, towering over me. <This machine... perhaps you recognize it... but most likely not. It is a prototype for a recollector... though not quite as advanced.> She turns her head down to look at me, the faint whine of servos heard over the thrum of the recollector. <This will extract memories from you, Nevermore, to place into a special memory orb.>

My memories? “What do you want with my memories... they are nothing good... nothing right.” Besides, I didn’t want some... machine violating the recesses of my mind. There are secrets in there that I would prefer buried. Buried and forgotten.

“Perhaps I can help explain the request then, Nevermore.” That voice... now it became clear. The puppetmaster, pulling my strings, making me dance to his tune.

“Head Case. You better start talking now, or our deal is off.” Of course, the voice doesn’t belong to a body. I had never seen the elusive Head Case, but he’s already getting on my nerves. His information and machinations made it clear that he knew more than he let on... though there were things I was certain that even he didn’t know. Only a few ponies knew the details, and all of them save one were dead.

“I did mention that I would contact you again, Nevermore, regarding the relics of the lost ages. You have knowledge in that head of yours, dear Nevermore, knowledge that is necessary for our endeavor. You have probably forgotten most of it, lost in the mists of time, yet here we are now, with one of the lost relics of that time.” He’s rambling again, his tone rather dry and monotone.

I snarl my irritation at him. “Relics? What does relics have to do with-”

“No need to be coy, dear... your... new companion there already knows that we are looking for a weapon from a past age... the most dangerous weapon of them all, isn’t that right my dear Bishop?” His voice is rather deadpan, but it seems that he is talking around something...

The machine looks at the terminal that is spewing forth Head Case’s verbal garbage. <Affirmative. The White Queen will be pleased if I find some lost technology for her... as long as it is as powerful as you claim it is, Head Case. She has expressed much interest in expanding her research facilities.>

“Of course it is! I can personally guarantee that it is the single most destructive tool that Equestria has ever seen.” The way he stressed tool made me think that he was referring to something... he was trying to speak around the mare it seems. “In fact, only a fool would not desire such an opportunity... deserving a swift kick to the head.” Now he’s just showing off... Very well, Head Case, we play this your way. If this tool is the Captain... but remember, Head Case, use him or his memory, and I will hunt you to the ends of Equestria and beyond. You will wish that you had never heard the name ‘Nevermore’ if I find that you have played me for a fool.

“You know how my memory is... Head Case.” Games within games... looking up at the machine, I scoff slightly. “Very well, let us get this over with...” I look at the terminal, scowling at it. I didn’t trust old technology, and trusted Head Case even less. “I trust that there will not be anything... permanently lost?” Some days it felt like my memory was a sieve already, little bits of me being lost and scattered across the Wasteland.

<The machine is not set for removal, only recording.> She nods her head slightly. <There is a small chance, less than 5% that the machine will malfunction however.>

Five percent? Well... what is the worse that can happen, right? Kill me? I’ve taken worse odds flying. “Make sure that you do not go digging through whatever this machine spits up. I do prefer my privacy.” I step up to the machine, laying on the indicated spot as the head piece begins to descend. There’s a click as it settles down, a flash of light, and-

~~~~~~~~~~

I watch Nevermore tense up as the machine begins to activate. She twitches slightly, her teeth gritting hard as one of her legs spasm out. “What’s going on? Is it supposed to be doing that?” Something seems to be going wrong as she starts to writhe in the machine, her hooves scraping against the floor.

The large machine looks at the memory machine, then at Nevermore. <She has... a lot of memories. It is overloading the system. It was not designed to operate with one as old as she is. Malfunction rate readjusted to 95% chance without external assistance.> The machine looks at the terminal. <You did not inform us that she was so old.>

Head Case’s voice crackles over the speakers. “I assumed that you would know, since your information is supposed to be quite complete, yes? Especially since I gave you that broadcast to bring her here. But there is quite a simple solution, really, the reason I suggested that you bring the unicorn with you.” Me? He wanted me to be here? “You see, the machine is trying to pick parts of her memories, but the sheer volume is overwhelming it. It requires the assistance of a unicorn to go in and help guide it by activating the orb while it is being recorded. Else, I fear that Nevermore’s memories will be quite tattered, both in the orb and in the mare.”

“You... you knew this, didn’t you? You knew this would happen!” My voice explodes in rage... how could he do something like this purposefully? Wasn’t she trying to help him, and vice-versa? What pony risked damage to a mare’s mind just to get something he wanted done?

“Maybe, maybe not... but I suggest you don’t take too long debating the issue while she’s in the machine... a little alacrity would be advised, that is, if you want to try and help.” That smug, stuck up... whatever he was! “If you choose to help, I suggest focusing magic at the orb, any type of spell will do, though the more common is simple telekinesis, which is...” He seems to have no indication of stopping... I have no idea what this machine does, what the smoky orb is, or what will happen to me... my horn lights up as I focus on the orb to form a barrier on it... and the world fades to black.

~~~~~~~~~~

Something feels odd... wrong. I’m in a body, but it doesn’t feel right. Smaller for one, but... my host ruffles her wings slightly. The sensation is strange... wings... wings?! Easy Zone... they did say something about memories... right? Or was that... what’s going on? My host is apparently having tea, a charcoal hoof lifting up a cup, taking a sip as the slightly bitter tea slides down my throat. Blech... ponies choose to drink this stuff? “Yes father... I understand...” A voice, young and rich, full of sorrow. There’s tones of familiarity, but... wait. Charcoal coat, tea, wings... Nevermore? The voice seems to make sense now as I start to take in the rest of the surroundings. Quite fancy, really. The tea set is quite nice, and the tablecloth looks like it’d be expensive.

A low, gruff voice breaks out, though still filled with pride. “You are the Lady of the Loft now, dear... I know that you were close to your mother... but you cannot mourn forever. I miss her too dear.” A leg drapes over my shoulder, pulling me into a hug as a wing forms a blanket and a shield. I can smell him, the scent of cologne hanging in the air. The dark blue stallion lets me go. “So cheer up dear... go into town, buy something nice. It will be good for you.”

“Will you... will you accompany me there father?” A small, hopeful tone in the voice, quickly dashed at his response, ears wilting ever so slightly.

The stallion shakes his head slightly, a rather handsome stallion, if I do say so. “No... I have meetings this afternoon with some of the others.” He seems to be wearing some sort of uniform, looking quite regal, really. “Perhaps you can take your siblings with you. You know how they look up to you.”

“Perhaps... though I may just go alone today.” She runs a hoof through her mane, pushing loose strands back behind her ear. Reaching over, she grabs a tall hat, bright feathers sticking out of the band of the otherwise somber raiment, perching it jauntily on her head.

The town is small, more like a village really. And its quite clear that it had built up around her home. The houses were built near the walls of the castle, the market bustling with life. The vastness of the sea is clearly visible, the scent of the ocean filling the air. My host didn’t look at it though, apparently not as captivated by the sight as I was. I had only read about the ocean before... so much water! She browsed slowly, her heart apparently not in it very much. The young pony nearly takes a spill as another pony backs into her. “Oh, excuse me there Miss, I... I mean my Lady...”

I straighten my hat, brushing some dust off my dress. “It is no matter...” The speaker is a young colt, a nervous smile on his face. “And please... do not use my title. You may call me Written Verse.” Wait... Written Verse? Who’s memories are these?

“Oh... I mean... of course, of course... um... Written Verse... I’m... my name is... that is... I’m Granite Heart...”

I hold my hoof out. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Heart.” The blush on his face is quite visible, though I can feel some blood rushing to my own cheeks. The grey colt not quite able to hide his emotions, though my host seemed to be mostly collected by her posture. “But... I should be going. I will see you again, I suppose.” My heart racing, I turn from him, walking back towards the castle. She apparently didn’t need to buy something nice after all...

Time seems to jerk unsteadily, speeding up, flowing... faster and faster before suddenly resolving back into normality..

~~~~~~~~~~

“I forbid it! You know that I can’t allow you to marry a pony like that!” Her father towers over her, but her stance is defiant, proud. Streaks of grey are visible in his mane, and he looks older, more tired.

The mare looks up to him, my host apparently older now though still young. “But we love each other, father... I know that his family is not as established as ours, but he works hard, and he loves me. Is that not enough?” Frustration bleeds through her voice, as if she had had this conversation a thousand times, each time receiving the same answers.

“Enough? ENOUGH? Of course it is not enough! You are the Lady of this house! It is not proper for you to associate with one so... low born! Especially since he’s not even involved in the family business!” His voice booms his anger at the mere thought. “It is enough that you are seen in his presence! But this is too far, Verse! We have a reputation to maintain.” My host turns away, hot tears running down her cheeks. “Where are you going? Get back here now!”

“Mother would not have minded. Mother was not as concerned with lineage as you are. She understood the truth about us... she knew about...” Her voice is pained, her tone biting, working to score some points off of him even in defeat.

“Your mother is dead, Verse, my wife is dead! And you are the scion of the house now. You have a duty, a responsibility! You can’t shirk it just because you feel like you can!” His voice lowers slightly, though he’s still apparently angry. “You must do your duty, Verse... you must. It’ll be up to you to lead this house one day.”

My host whirls, strands of her red mane brushing past her face. “Duty... I will do what I need to, father. I do not expect you to understand...” Tears are still running down my face, even as they both seem to work at keeping their emotions under control. This seems like more than just marriage... what duty is he talking about? “But... I will do my duty...”

He walks over, pulling me close to his chest. “That’s my good girl.”

~~~~~~~~~~

The spray of ocean water washes over me as I stand at the front of the boat. Boat, ocean... water everywhere... I feel sick, though my host is fine. So much water everywhere, stretching endlessly. What pony first saw that vast expanse of water and decided to put some wood on it and sail around? “Your first journey out Lady?” My host looks at him, a grizzled earth pony, poorly dressed, but clearly used to being in charge. “Quite an honor, having the Lady of the Loft entrusted to my vessel. Suppose the old stallion wanted you to get familiar with the other side of the family business?”

My host looks at him only barely, feeling the dagger in her dress with a hoof. “Yes... I suppose so.” Shaking her head she turns back to looking over the ocean, off across the horizon.

“Well, it’s your lucky day I guess. A merchant vessel of another House has been sighted. You know how to take care of yourself? The crew will try to look out for you, but it can get a bit messy.” His voice is tinged with concern for his young charge, and presumably, what might happen to him if something were to befall her.

“I can handle myself.” Despite her tone and words, I can feel the nervousness welling up in her... The taste of bile rides in the back of her throat along with the stomach acid fighting its way up. Swallowing hard, she focuses out on the sea again.

He looks at me, nodding his head. “Course you can, you’re your father’s daughter after all. Who knows, maybe we’ll even find something nice for that colt back home. Hear he’s rarin’ to take over the quarries himself soon.” My host murmurs something that’s lost even to her hearing, holding on to the railing as the ship plows through the waves.

Things happen quickly, the ship closing quickly on the merchant’s vessel, cannons booming as they approach. The merchants return fire desperately, but their vessel is slow compared to the sleek pirate ship. Pegasi take to the air, splitting the defender’s attention. My host joins them, but is kept back slightly by the others, apparently trying to shelter her. The pirate ship is brought alongside the hapless merchant ship, and the fighting begins in earnest. Dropping to the deck behind her crew mates, I can feel the nervous energy in her body as she darts her gaze back and forth. Ponies are fighting and falling, though it seems that the pirates have the upperhoof. I slip into an open door as the rest of the boarding party is occupied, heading deeper into the ship alone. Carried along by my host, I slip from door to door, heading towards... something with a purpose. Finally, I reach up, hoof on a door, muscles tensing to push it in. The label on the door betrays its purpose. The Bridge. Before my host can open the door, I hear something to the side, hoofsteps rattling on the wooden floor. Casting my gaze back and forth... there’s nowhere to hide, nowhere to run. My hoof slips in towards the dagger hidden in my dress.

“Halt, who goes there?” A pony comes down the hallway, spotting me instantly. A sword is held in his telekinetic grip, and he seems alert, but not hostile, yet. He looks young, a fine golden mane complimenting his white coat. He’s well dressed, apparently a pony of some standing.

“What is going on? What is all the commotion?” What is going on? That is a fine question, Verse, or whoever you are. My host asks the question, but her voice is jittery, broken up by nerves.

“Just some pirates, ma’am. You should go back to your quarters as soon as possible, it’ll be safer there.” He looks away from me, his glance off for just a second. No, don’t do it! Please don’t do it! But my host can’t hear me, whoever she was and whenever this happened. In a flash, she leaps forwards, dagger aiming for his exposed throat. She’s fast, but he must have caught a glimpse of her, or perhaps some other sense warned him, because he starts to turn towards her, surprise written on his face as his sword comes up. There’s a burning pain and the tearing of flesh as the sword slices along the side of my torso, causing me to wince in pain. My host, however, continues to drive her knife forwards, slashing into his throat, crimson blood pouring across his white coat.

Desperately, his faltering magical field tries to bring the sword up again, slashing at my host, putting a burning line across her jaw. But my host starts to stab, over, and over, and over again, panting heavily with frenzied motions born from panic. Tears streak down my face, mixing with his blood as it falls, my host finally done, the mess underneath her not moving at all, barely recognizable under all the blood.

“First kill, kid. You did good.” A pony pats her on the shoulder, even as she shudders violently, vainly trying to wipe the blood off her hooves. “First one’s always hard, but you did good kid... you did good. Just let it out, let it all out...” My host retches, finally throwing up on an empty stomach over and over again...

Again the world seems to blur as time loses meaning as I sob uncontrollably..

~~~~~~~~~~

I turn, my mouth forming words. “We are approaching Trottingham. We should change the flag back before we are in sight.” My stance is more confident now, and based on the weight and the jingling, I was armed with more than one knife now. I look over to see the pony from before, the grizzled earth pony. He looks different now, for one thing, he’s missing an eye. But he also seems older.

“As you say, Lady Verse. Can’t wait to see your coltfriend, eh lass?” He winks as my host gives a short, barking laugh.

“Perhaps. It has been a long voyage this time too. Father should be pleased by the bounty we acquired and the damage inflicted.” I shake my head, squinting against the sun. “Though... reports from home were...”

“Aye lass... not sure what to make of that... though your Father’s a strong one, not likely to find anypony or anything that can take the likes of him down.” Though his words are tough, I catch a slight twinge of emotion in them... and apparently so does my host.

“Hrmph... well, we can hope at least... but if the crown has begun to move against him...” I shake my head again. “It will be good to see father... and Granite again...” She smiles impishly at the other pony. “Though I need to come up with another excuse of why I was gone again... since he doesn’t know the family business.” I tap my hoof against my chin. “Perhaps a story about trading tea...”

The pony gives a gruff laugh. “Ha, you know he won’t care much, as long as yer back. Though you should probably stop by to see yer father first. Story like that makes sense, bein’ from a mercantile house and all.” My host nods her head, but says nothing. “Almost home...” My gaze turns back over the sea, heart pounding with excitement...

The ship pulls up to the dock, but it is quiet, very quiet. My host finds this odd as I feel her glance flicking around, watching.... waiting, her nervousness betrayed by the tapping of her hoof on the deck. “Where is everypony...” Her voice is a soft whisper, worry filling her tone. The rest of the crew is silent as well, and when I turn around... there’s nopony else there... anywhere. “Hello? This is not funny...”

“No, it is not.” I whip my head around, seeing a group of cloaked ponies, lead by a mare wearing a prominent badge, declaring her authority. The mare’s voice is cold and hard. “And this is the end of the line for you, pirate.” My host freezes at those words. “Do not bother denying it... we have received credible intelligence that it was you and your band of misfits who has been raiding ships. And do not think that your lineage will save you. The Lord of the Loft has already disowned you, his wayward daughter... haven’t you Lord Verse?” Her father drops his hood back, shaking his head silently, face cold and hard, not a trace of remorse or pity showing in his eyes.

My stomach churns as my heart plummets with dread... how could this be happening? “There... must be some sort of mistake...” Her gaze flicks around for her companions, her crew mates. None of them showed at all, nopony was there to help her, leaving her all alone. “Very well... I have nothing to hide...” She glances past the mare, her eyes catching a glint of steel from one of the ponies behind the mare.

The lawmare approaches a pair of hoofcuffs dangling at her belt as she reaches to seize my host. I feel muscles tense slightly, nervous as she approaches. The pony behind the mare lunges forward, his steel sword plunging itself through her chest before she can give more than a surprised gurgle as she falls to the dock bleeding. “The Lady killed the Magistrate! Get her before she escapes!” She turns and dashes towards the skies, wings beating furiously even as she heard hooves hitting the stones behind her. A glance back confirms her fears, she was being pursued. What’s worse is that she recognized the voices. Her fellow crew mates that can fly have taken up after her, wings beating as they take to the sky.

My host reaches into her dress, mouth biting down onto a length of chain. Pulling it out, she wraps the end around her hoof, turning to face her attackers. “Watch the net, watch the net!” She starts to whirl the chain, a heavy metal net falling off my back, opening up as she expertly controls the odd device. Is this a weapon, or...? With a flick of her hoof, she sends the net flying at the closest pegasus, the razor net catching him despite his attempt to dodge. He falls from the air screaming as he’s sliced deeply even as the net envelops him. What a cruel weapon... especially against a pegasus... Attempting to fly would only deepen the wounds, though gravity was a cruel mistress as well. I don’t get to see his fate as my host turns to her other attacker, knives drawn. “Blasted fool... just come along quietly, make it easier on yourself and your family. On all of us.”

She spars with him for a bit, daggers flashing against a sword and buckler, each trying each other, each scoring only minor hits. My host hisses as his blade scores under her eye. Any higher, and she might have lost it. Swinging her body around, I twist my lower body for a kick, even as I feel a dagger between my teeth. My hoof hits his shield, even as I whip my neck across. The throw is true, just missing my own leg, clearing it to catch my attacker in the eye, sending him down towards the ground like a sack of potatoes.

Flight turns to desperation as my host dives down toward the ground. She couldn’t out fly them forever... Ducking into a bush, the sound of hooves can be heard, voices and ponies searching for her. My heart is racing as I try to hide, moving carefully to avoid stepping on any twigs keeping to the shadows when possible. Her hoof raps on a door, a mix of desperation and panic. “Please open up... please open up... please open up...” The window built into the door opens up. “Oh praise Celestia, open up Granite! It is me, Written!”

There’s a moment of silence, an awkward moment suspended forever... then the window slams shut again. “She’s here! She’s here! The fugitive is here!” She backs away slightly, her heart pounding as the love of her life calls for the others. Blindly she turns, running off into the night. Bolts and shot fly past me as I head towards the ocean, wings outstretched. She couldn’t mean to... I don’t know how long she was flying, time seems to blur as pain burns in my wings, pain I didn’t understand. Finally, her body can’t handle any more abuse, pain wracking her system. Not all of the shots had missed. Like a rock, she falls into the endless ocean...

~~~~~~~~~~

Yet... she didn’t die. What would happen if the host died while I was in their memories? I apparently wouldn’t find out yet. I feel hooves pulling me up, pressing my chest as water is forced from my lungs. “Is she dead?” A mare’s voice...

“No, not yet, and I’m not going to let her die... don’t give up on me yet!” The stallion sounds oddly cheerful despite everything. “I know, mouth to mouth!” My host stirs at this, lashing out despite the pain and the weakness. Her eyes crack open as she spits more water out. I see what appears to be a white unicorn reeling away, nose bleeding from where she kicked him.

A rose colored mare looks at her, pushing the goggles up to the top of her head. “Can’t say he didn’t deserve it... but that’s the Captain of the Flickerjack. I’m Nessy.” She offers a hoof out to help me up.

My voice is raw and hoarse from the sea water, from dehydration, from nearly dying. Now I recognize the voice, even as she gives her name... “Nevermore.” I take the hoof, being pulled up by the mare, still weak from hunger and thirst. “My name is... Nevermore.”

More images flash through my mind, faces and names from long ago. Images of a ship, a crew, a war... of death. It’s fast though, faster than I can comprehend, then I can understand. Only glimpses of her long existence slow down enough for me to realize what’s going on, pain, death, suffering... but there’s still more. The world filling with pink, ponies screaming, dying. My host shaking her head even as her body failed her, driving her to her knees... My mind is overwhelmed, unable to process any more... and the world fades to darkness.

~~~~~~~~~~

The connection suddenly breaks, my senses slowly returning to normal. I’m lying on the floor, looking up at Nevermore, the mare looming over me. How long was I out? “What... what did you see Zone. What did you see?!” She sounds dangerous... more dangerous than I had heard in a while, especially towards me.

“J-just... part of... well... your name-” She cuts me off harshly, with a hoof slashing through the air.

“Is Nevermore. Whatever you saw or think you saw, that mare is dead. Long dead and forgotten, lost to time as assuredly if she had drowned in that ocean.” Her voice is cold and bitter. “Perhaps it would have been better if she had.” But... more than anything, she sounds tired. I had only gotten a glimpse of her life, her long and painful life, but what I feel for her now is pity. Pity and respect. Pity for the pain and horror that she’s had to endure. Respect for the fact that she isn’t completely broken. I understand her more now, the harshness, the coldness, the cruelty. Underneath all that lies the remains of mare desperately holding on. She was buried all those years ago purposefully. Holding herself together by sheer force of will, destined to one day die, lost and forgotten.

“Of course, Nevermore... it was just overwhelming. Everything, that is.” I smile to her, even as I see her reign her temper in. “But... I didn’t really see much...”

Her ears go down as she takes a deep breath. “But... I suppose I should thank you.” She takes a sharp look at the terminal. “It seems that the machine was not meant to handle that amount of data... but we have the orb now... which is what we needed... right?”

“Yes, yes, and our mutual friend here has already voiced her displeasure at the damage done to the machine... but I assure you that it will be worth it in the end... eye on the prize and all that.” There’s a cough from the speakers as Head Case clears his throat. “Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering where the... cache is, and thankfully we have the location after I analyzed the data... if you’ll let me upload a map?”

The mechanical monstrosity doesn’t move for a second before she looks at Nevermore. <Very well... though it better be worth it, Head Case...> She seems to be... unsure now? <I do not know what your game here is, Head Case... but you better not be playing me for a fool.>

“Of course not dear... I just want what we agreed upon earlier... and here’s the map, uploading now.” I look over to where the map materializes over the terminal. “Now, it is a bit of a hike, as is to be expected, but I can predict with 93.57% accuracy that this should be the location of the pre-war weapons cache... as for you Nevermore, I need you to go to the end where everything began, got that? And take the orb with you, you’ll need it to get there.”

<The memory orb was not part of the deal. I do not see why I should give it to you... unless this is the ‘one item’ that you were referring to. What is your game, Head Case?> Her mechanical tone is laced with suspicion.

“Just a promise for an old friend. I’m sure that part of you still remembers that sort of thing... so Nevermore, I suggest you act with alacrity and head there now... though I’m sure there are a few other surprises and stops that you will have to attend to before the end.” The terminal crackles slightly, then falls silent as Head Case cuts the connection.

The mechanical mare turns to look at us. <Very well... I shall honor my deal with Head Case. You are free to take the orb and leave. Do not leave a mess in the foyer. But if I find out that you have deceived me...> Her voice cuts off, leaving her threat unspoken. The weapons bristling off of her serve as a fine point to her comments, however.

We have some time in the elevator as it descends, allowing me to try to talk to Nevermore. “Do you want to talk-”

“No, I do not. It does not concern you, it should not concern you. I do not know what exactly happened there, or why. All I know is that there are some things that many do not know about me. You have joined a very small club. I will trust you to keep this hidden from anypony, living or dead. There are things in my past that I do not wish to constantly relive.” She’s holding the orb with her wing, peering at its murky depths. “Though... perhaps it is a relief... somewhat, to know that what I was will live for at least a little bit longer. My journals... do not go that far back. I started writing them during the war, and I never saw need to write before then... but I have grown old since then.” She looks to the side as she drops the orb into her saddlebags. “So... thank you... I suppose...” She murmurs to herself again. “I did not think that this sort of data was transferable though... so how did Head Case get a copy... or did he?”

Any feelings of goodwill were lost as soon as the elevator doors opened. The smell of burnt flesh and blood filled the air, but most ominously was an armored pegasus lying on the floor, not moving, a pool of blood spreading out from her fallen form where part of her helmet was damaged. Star Racer.

~~~~~~~~~~

Welcome to Level 8!

New Perk: Terrifying Presence - Between your unpleasant demeanor and your ghoulish personality, some ponies would rather flee than talk to you, especially after you threaten them. You have the option to skip dialogue and just threaten ponies instead... since you pretty much did that anyways.

What good is the past to you anyways, Nevermore? Why not look to the future instead? A future of pain, death, suffering... for you and those around you. You know that you don’t deserve anything else.

Author's Note:

A very big shout out to Nessy for all her help with this Chapter! Not only is she the drawer of the art, but she also helped keep me on track for this! And once again, thank you to everyone who reads my stories. Ciao for now! Time to sleep! (And get working on Chapter 12)

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