• 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 12: Jagged Haze

Chapter 12: Jagged Haze

Knocking is more polite than explosives.

Like attracts like... opposites attract. I have heard both before, repeated often. The truth of the matter is that I am not certain that either of them apply for most circumstances. Opposites attract, the darkness and the light. A shallow dance, a cold belief that perhaps there is more out there... a hope, an allure. Something that you desire but can never reach. A shadow longing for the comfort of the sun. Like attracts like... a carnival, a madhouse. We are a group of ponies, all broken and shattered in some way. Some more than others. Tragic pasts, forsaken beliefs... lost dreams. Souls longing for a second chance, a new breath of life, coupled with madness. Joy in the joyless, life in the lifeless... we are naught but shadows dancing to the music of the flames. And yet in our dance, we show our similarities and differences more than I care to admit, even to myself. Loose Leaf... a zebra, a blight upon our crew, though he was at least good at making tea. He was kind... I was not. He was accepted... I am not. He cared for others. I do not. Yet... we share a past... a betrayal, a hidden pain. Only for our lives to be saved, directly or indirectly by the crew of the Flickerjack. I cannot tell them this... but in some ways I envy them... envy their friendship. I feel the need to look out for them though... silent, aloof. The outsider willing to do what most of them cannot. Sometimes sacrifices must be made. And if anypony is going to sacrifice... it might as well be the one that is despised by the rest. I will not be missed... and perhaps that is for the best.
~From the Journal of Nevermore

A short time earlier...

I look at the ponies that are under my charge, at least for now. Vusi and Fritter look nervous, Zone and Nevermore having gone with that... whatever it was, leaving us alone in the lobby. “Keep ready. We don’t know what all is going on, but we can’t be too lax about it. It isn’t safe here.” My weapons are on standby, ready to spring to life while conserving power. That is something I didn’t want to think about too much. While I came down with a good quantity of cells, I was burning through them. Soon, I’d have to start rationing... or skies forbid, use one of the guns from down here.

Vusi nods his head slightly. “Of course, ‘Captain’, being the Wasteland and all. I do think that with all of this... scenery and lack of bodies, I clean forgot about the smell of pony ash in the air.” His tone is playful, and not snippy, so I let it pass, not even bothering to correct him on my ranking. He did have a good effect on morale, bringing some joy in his own way. As long as he wasn’t anywhere near Nevermore. The sheer hate that radiated off of her when she saw him...

“Eh, we finally get a break. Them others just ran off, so we can just cool our ‘ooves ‘ere fer now.” Fritter looks over, and up, at me. “Zone and tha rotter ain’t here anyways, so ain’t like we goin’ nowhere.” By the moon, he could irritate me. His lax attitude coupled with blatant disrespect would get him court martialed in a hurry, if he were Enclave. But, he’s not, so there’s no use complaining about it... though he could definitely use more manners.

“It would behoove you speak with some more respect regarding the leader of our group.” I tower over the smaller pony, my powered armor making me more imposing. “After all, she is the one helping to keep you all alive.” I hope that some sort of logic will help him. He does owe her quite a bit from what Zone told me about their travels.

“Eh, she tha one that gets us in all sorts of trouble anyways! Not fer her, and we wouldn’t have all these things happenin’ ta us.” He snorts, spitting off to the side. “Probably better off without that deadhead bein’ around.”

I feel my temper rising, turning from him, shaking my head. Some ponies were stubborn in their own way, refusing to- My thoughts are interrupted as I realize my E.F.S. had a red mark on it. I had been distracted by my argument with Fritter, failing to notice in time. “Watch ou-” Vusi was already moving for cover, Fritter caught in the open... but so was I. There’s a dull clang as something hits my armor. Turning, I see what appears to be... wires? A pair of metallic discs were attached to my armor, wires trailing off to some sort of device. I had barely begun to wonder what the device was, before electricity began coursing through my armor.

~~~~~~~~~~

I see the tall one... ‘Star Racer’ begin to jerk as she’s attacked. That is unfortunate, she seemed to be rather kind if stern. There’s the smell of burnt flesh, smoke rising from the joints in her armor as she falls to the ground with a resounding crash. Arcs of electricity dance across the surface of her armor, leaping between the plates that were supposed to protect her. Other than an occasional spasm, she doesn’t seem to be moving... I don’t think she’s dead, but I wasn’t about to go find out. The rude one, Fritter, looks around wild-eyed, trying to scramble behind one of the columns. I slip further back. Engaging them now would be foolish. Hopefully Fritter would come to the same conclusion.

“Yer never gonna take me alive!” Well... so much for that idea. Oh well... his type didn’t last long in the wastes anyways. His pistol roars, stitching the ground and walls but failing to find pony. Peeking around the corner, I see the same mare and her goons from before. This should be good. Rather than perforating him with bullets, as I expected, one of her thugs tackled him as he tried to reload. Looks like they were trying to capture him? I suppose that it would be good to keep an eye on him, to at least let the others know what happened to him. With a quiet sigh, I begin to pick my way closer, mindful of keeping quiet and hidden. The best way to not get shot is to not let them know you were there.

~~~~~~~~~~

I had passed out, apparently, my body not wanting to respond properly. Pain... pain was everywhere. I could feel the burns on my coat, my breathing weak and shallow. My armor’s insulation prevented my death, but couldn’t prevent the massive amount of damage from the attack. “Well well, it looks like you survived that.” The unicorn mare standing above me was familiar... the one from before. She tilts my head up with a blood-stained hoof until I’m looking her in the eyes. “I have a message for your companion, dear Nevermore.” She smiles at me, the glow of her horn visible as she pulls a large, ornate pistol out. “And you, dear, will be my messenger.”

Staring down the barrel, my voice rasps out. “She will kill you... and it will hurt.”

“Maybe... maybe... but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Keep an eye out for her, will you?” She gives a short laugh... there’s a bright flash, then... oblivion.

~~~~~~~~~~

Back to the present...

I look down at my fallen companion, having rushed to her side. “Zone, hurry, get her helmet off.” I start to rummage in my bags, looking for something... there. I pull out some healing potions, ones that I acquired from the jail in Greenvale. Star is a mess. Quite frankly I was surprised she was alive. Blood was flowing freely from the wound in her head, and burns covered her coat. Zone looked like she wanted to throw up from the smell of burnt fur and cooked pony, even as I started dumping the potions down the pegasus’ throat. “Stop lazing around, Star, we have work to do.” Honestly, I was worried about her, trying to make her feel better with a bit more of a cavalier take on the matter. Potions could only do so much, and without Hydra...

“Help me... get the armor... off...” She coughs, even as the burns start to heal, the wounds knitting up. “I can’t... move.” Zone begins to unfasten the powerless armor, pulling parts of it off Star Racer. Finally, she frees enough that Star is able to try to force herself to her hooves. Despite her valiant effort, her attempt is unsuccessful, leaving her lying in the remains of her broken armor, panting heavily. Her white coat is still marred with scorch marks, though the burns seems to have mostly healed at least. Her dark green mane falls across her face, slick with sweat as she slowly shakes her head.

Zone looks at her timidly. “Star... your eye...” Her voice is small and scared, her heart breaking for her fellow pony.

The pegasus gives a slight snort. “I know... I can feel it.” She reaches a hoof up, feeling the socket where her left eye had been. With her teeth, she tears a strip of cloth from the lining of her armor, fumbling with it clumsily, the mare still not recovered from her injuries... if she ever will be. A glow of magic, and Zone gently ties it for her, creating an impromptu patch for the wounded mare. Even though she was alive, she still looked terrible. The potions were enough to keep her alive, but she’s still not back up to one hundred percent. “That witch came back... they took Fritter. I don’t know what happened to Vusi.”

My eyes narrow as I hear her words. “Zone. Stay here with Star, I will go get Fritter back.” Zone opens her mouth to argue with me, but a harsh glare cuts her off. “No. Tend to Star. I will be back when I can.” I feel my heart burning with hatred, with wrath. Being jerked around by Head Case, having to leave the hapless Short Circuit behind... having one of my companions maimed and almost killed while another was captured... Star’s eye is lost for now, because we don’t have any Hydra on us. I know this, because I don’t like those sorts of drugs, along with Dash, Rampage, and all those things. They were dangerous, both to the users and ones around them. I simmer with barely controlled rage, needing to lash out at at least one group of assailants. Zone can sense it, can feel the coldness in my voice, and she meekly assents with a nod as I step out of the lobby, heading into the Wasteland.

There’s a trail to follow, clearly obvious. So many ponies did not move quietly, especially when they weren’t trying to hide. I stalk them, pulling my cloak around me tighter. There were many of them, but what is fear to the dead? Pain... suffering? I will take it all. I will take it so that others will not need to. Does this make me good? I do not believe so. A good pony would sacrifice for a purpose, a cause, a reason. Me? I do it from spite and hatred, for others and for myself. My purpose, my reason, is atonement and regret. I care not for a brighter Equestria, not now. I care not for the future, not any more. What future can there be now? How can there be any brightness to shatter this gloom? No... there is nothing to redeem this place. All that was good here had already passed. The wind tears at my cloak, grit whipping around me. Desolate and barren, the result of selfishness and greed. Ponies don’t change... they never do. Given a chance, they fall on each other, preying on each other. The raiders were proof of that on their own. Scum and villains, taking what they want, consequences not considered at all. What did they care if they helped to undermine the remains of the corpse called Equestria as long as they got a few caps or shells in the process?

There is something that happens to ghouls, sometimes, something that I do my best to avoid thinking about. Some of us will turn feral, a pathetic fate, a mindless sack of flesh who’s only goal is to kill and feed. But... sometimes, when a ghoul is stressed or overcome with emotion, they will act feral. Perhaps the ones who went feral are the ones who couldn’t bring themselves back from the brink, the edge. Maybe they were the ones who gave up on living. Regardless, it is something that I do my best to avoid, the emotions and desires overwhelming my normally more calculating mind. But... my mind keeps focusing on everything that’s gone wrong, everything bad that’s happening... and I can’t help but feel that it is my fault. If I didn’t feel the need to investigate, then we would not have been brought deeper into Head-Case’s plot. If I didn’t kill Sleazy Slick, his sister wouldn’t be out to kill us. Perhaps the Wasteland was better off without me...

I spy my targets... or at least some of the stragglers, perhaps a rear guard. A quartet of ponies, dressed like that mare’s henchponies. At that moment, my rage erupts, the carefully bottled emotions breaking free. Like a falcon, I descend on them, bolting down the street like a thunderbolt hurled by a vengeful deity. The first one doesn’t even get a chance to cry out, my body slamming him to the ground. As we tumble across the road, I recover first, driving a savage hoof down into his throat. Rewarded with a sickening crunch, I leave him lying there, knowing that my kick had crushed his throat, broken his neck. I don’t see the others, not really. Not now. Not as ponies. All I see is a red haze, regret and hate fueling me into a killing frenzy. Knives drawn, I swoop on the next pony, his pistol taking a piece of my leg out, blood and ichor flying from the hole. Ignoring the pain, the wounds, I scissor my knives in, the keen edges taking him in the throat. Savagely, I twist my knives then rip them out, nearly removing his head in the process. The next pony is a mare, a young one, something lost to my bloodlust. I charge, ignoring everything else in my desire to kill...

~~~~~~~~~~

This was no pony, not anything resembling one! Broken Bottle watched in disbelief as the terror slaughtered two members of her squad. She barely has time to see her decapitate one before the nightmare turns on her. In a panic, she raises her only weapon... a crude spear. Her youth and inexperience didn’t warrant a heavier weapon, so she was stuck with a twisted metal pole sharpened on one end and strapped to her barding. At least it was better than a pool cue. The dark monster doesn’t seem to notice her weapon, flying at her with blinding speed. Broken Bottle didn’t notice, but she had braced the butt of her pole against the building behind her accidentally. The vengeful pegasus slams into the sharpened end, coming to an abrupt stop as she impales herself. Did... did she do it? Nopony could survive getting stabbed through... or into? The pole seemed to be lodged in her chest. Broken Bottle gives it an experimental tug... it does seem to be rather stuck. With a grunt, she tries to pull back, the building blocking her retreat, the mare hanging off the end like dead weight. She gives a sigh of relief as she tries to loosen her barding, trying to get the mare off. She’s not as intimidating now... the ghoul looking almost peaceful in her death.

Then the unthinkable happened. The mare lifts her head up, her mask falling to the ground. Her eyes gleamed a deadly red, as she looks Broken Bottle in the eyes. She gives a howl, one of rage, hate, and unrestrained emotion. The mare shoves herself closer, the end of the pole forcing its way out of her back as impales herself further, blood and ichor pouring out both sides of the injury. Inch by painful inch, she closes on Broken Bottle like a specter of death, forcing herself down the spear toward her waiting target. The poor mare is frantically trying to backpedal from the abomination closing in on her, rotting blood splattering on the ground beneath, trapped by the building behind her. Nevermore’s eyes hold no trace of warmth, of acknowledgment. No, there is only hate and death. Broken Bottle can barely choke out a scream as the ghoul rips into her throat with her teeth.

~~~~~~~~~~

Oddly enough, it is the taste of blood that breaks me out of my rage induced frenzy. For a while there, all I could think of was killing and death. I wanted to kill them all. I needed to kill them all. The poor thing in front of me was proof of that, gurgling out her last breaths through the gaping hole ripped into her neck. I spit, feeling nauseous as the chunk of pony I had bitten off splatters across the ground. Blood is coating my mouth, and I spit again, trying to clear the taste. Now is not the time, Nevermore. The sword has not fallen. You have not met your doom... just remain in control... I take a deep breath, then another, steadying my roiling stomach. The threat of becoming feral always haunted the back of my mind. Of course I have other concerns on my mind right now as well, as I am also currently impaled on a crude metal stick. With a sigh made from irritation and disgust, I cut the rest of the barding free, letting the dead mare slide to the ground, her weapon and part of the barding still sticking out of me like some macabre outfit. Look at this ghoul with her cunning costume. The foals will love it for Nightmare Night. Just like those silly hats with the arrows sticking through them.

I look to the last pony, as he holds his pistol in his mouth, knees shaking uncontrollably. Closing on him, his legs fail him. Instead of running, he just... sits down, pistol falling impotently to the ground next to him with a dull clang. Blabbering incoherently, he doesn’t move as I swing my knife at the side of his head. The flat of the blade slams his head around, drawing his attention. “I shall only inquire this once. Where did you take the prisoner.” The look in my eyes is pure murder, and he obviously takes my threatening tone at face value.

Blubbering, he points down the street. “T-to our base in th-the Green Apple...” The building he’s pointing at seems to be rather run down, the remains of a bar from the older days. “P-please d-don’t eat me... or... or...” He breaks down, crying again, his will to fight clearly extinguished. Now, I am not exactly known for mercy, even on good days. And today was definitely not a good day. My dagger drives into the side of his head again, this time point first. One less pony to deal with later, if nothing else. I did so hate inconveniences. Wiping it off on his coat, I drop to my knees, gritting my teeth against the pain from the spear as my rage induced adrenaline rush leaves my body. Closing my eyes, I grab it with my teeth and begin to pull, forcing it back out slowly, painfully. To my surprise, it suddenly slips out, clanging against the hard floor. But... how? Why?

Opening my eyes, I see a dirty tan mare, the glow on her horn dying as she drops the spear with a disdainful flick of her magic. “I thought I was crazy? But you? You take the cake for that one. Watched you a bit, that was something else!” Her mane is a wild splash of competing colors and spiked up in a crazy manestyle. It looked like she dunked her head into a vat of mane dye and let whatever stick stay. More importantly, I notice a long rifle on her back, and grenades. Lots of grenades. She spits to the side before holding her hoof out to me. “Call me Tik.”

I look her over, the strange mare seemingly cheerful and oblivious at the same time as I slip a healing potion out of my bag. “Tick? Like the insect, or the ‘tick-tick-boom’ sort?” I supposed I owed her some conversation for the help with the spear, though I started walking towards the bar, idly hoping that she would leave me alone. No reason to leave Fritter waiting too long, and I wasn’t in the mood for company. I knew that Vusi was missing too, but frankly, I didn’t really care.

“No... no, Tik. That’s T-I-K, Tik!” How she could remain in such a good mood while covered in dirt, blood, and explosives was a mystery for the ages, though based on the needles I see sticking out of her bags, I have my own suspicions. “I saw you take out those four, it was pretty sweet. And I like that outfit you got going there, you’re like some sort of... fancy pony reaper or something! All knives and stab, stab! Stabbity! Woo!”

My ear twitches, betraying some of my annoyance. Her attitude, combined with the strange feeling of the potion trying to heal me along with my natural, or rather quite unnatural, ghoulish regeneration is doing nothing to improve my dour mood. I’m about to open my mouth to tell her to go away, when I’m interrupted by another voice. “She’s Nevermore, I’m Vusi. Pleasure to meet you, Miss Tik.” I instinctively whirl, knives coming up defensively. I am not used to having a pony being able to sneak up on me, even during the War. Vusi obviously knew a thing or two about moving quietly, on par with me, possibly even better.

“And where were you when they took Fritter?” While I imagine several accusations to level at him, they’re false and pointless, and would not be of any benefit for now. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from imagining. Or from my tone being cold and biting.

“Following them, trying to not get shot or impaled. Looks like you got the first part of that, but you might want to work on the second part.” His cavalier attitude annoys me, even as Tik looks up at him with a giggle at his remark. Ha ha. I bet he thinks he’s funny, doesn’t he?

“Hey there handsome, you two doing something together, or can a third pony join in?” Just like that, her voice drops from hyper-death squirrel to... sultry? What is wrong with her? She brushes up next to him, her wildly colored tail flicking up past his nose as she walks past.

Well, this quickly devolved past the point that I could even pretend to care any more, even as Vusi starts to stammer. With an abrupt turn, I head towards the bar, biting back my irritation as I hear them following me. “Neither of you have an attachment here. There is no need for you to get involved in the matter.” The crunch of their hooves against the loose gravel doesn’t abate. Expected, but disappointing nevertheless. “If you are going to insist upon burdening me with your presence, make sure that you are at least useful, and do not yet yourselves killed. I do not wish to feel obligated to bury anypony today.” I had left my share of ponies to rot under the uncaring sky, but I did try to observe decency for the ones that deserved it.

“Yeah, got it boss! I’m gonna light them up for ya!” I see a violet glow as her rifle raises up. Its actually a rather impressive piece of machinery, and very well maintained, despite being a weapon in the wastes. Impeccably clean, the matte black rifle seemed to absorb the light around it, a dark, efficient killer. “I’ll knock for you!”

“You will... no wait!” My protest is far too late, her rifle booming, slamming a slug through a window. A cry of pain and panic shows that she didn’t miss, though what she hit...

“Come and get me ya stupid meat heads!” She starts laughing maniacally, Vusi and I making ourselves scarce as ponies come pouring out of the building towards her. “That’s all? That’s all ya got?” Her rifle booms again, taking a unicorn mare in the face, removing it. Turning to us, she gives a crazed grin as she re-aims her rifle. “Go get yer little buddy or whatever you’re looking for, these aren’t even worth the effort!”

Well, if she says she wants to handle them, then who am I to object? Flitting past the charging ponies, I see that Tik is falling back, still yelling and taunting the ponies even as bullets fly past her. She is insane. That’s the only explanation for it. But... it’s effective. I take a look back, even as I see her telekinetically hurl several small, metal objects in a staggered line. “Boom! Boom! BOOM!” The grenades go off in rapid succession, even as I slip into the door, leaving the psychotic mare with her explosives outside. Hopefully she doesn’t try to blow up the building as well.

Vusi is waiting for me in the entryway, a pony lying at his hooves, neck in an entirely unnatural angle. Not bother to acknowledge his kill, I step over the body, looking around. Tik’s distraction was... quite distracting, and a majority of the ponies had already left to go after her. There were probably still some remaining, but they seemed more concerned with what’s out there than what might be in here.

The first pair of ponies we come across are standing guard, but their attention is lacking, distracted by the commotion from outside. They don’t see us approach until it’s too late, their cries cut off by a knife and a savage chop to the throat. Lowering their bodies to the ground, I’m struck again by how far Equestria has fallen as I look around.

This place looked like it was rather nice, at one time. The wooden bar was a beautiful thing, and protected from the ravages of time with some sort of enchantment. That didn’t stop ponies from scratching into it, leaving crude marks and rude words. The racks were, quite understandably, devoid of alcohol, but the broken bottles told the tale that not all of it was drunk, but rather wantonly destroyed. Several ancient corpses were carelessly piled in the corner, their clothing and bones used as fuel for the fire warming the room. Desecrated in their finery, their mortal shells being used for naught but kindling now. Why this irritates me more than other things I’ve seen recently, I don’t know. Perhaps I’m getting more temperamental in my age.

Slipping further into the bar, we reach the backroom... where we find our quarry. Apparently, she had sent almost all of her guards out to pursue Tik. The mare is standing over Fritter, a knife held in her telekinetic grasp. The blood was not promising, but he appeared to be alive, for now at least. “You came! You really came! I didn’t think you would! You got my message then? Did you enjoy it? I know I did... that winged can didn’t... ‘see’ it coming!” Apparently, I am a magnet for crazy, and her callous disregard for shooting out Star Racer’s eye is infuriating me further. With a snarl of anger, I lunge for her quickly, daggers out and ready... I barely hear Vusi call out a warning, when something slams into my side. Well... a lot of somethings. The automated turret installed in the side of the room let loose a storm of rounds, blasting me into the wall, sending me head over hooves. Though they were rather small caliber, they stung, my armored dress only partially holding against the barrage. The mare telekinetically flings her knife at me, even as she draws her large pistol. Dazed by the sudden assault and disoriented, I can’t dodge in time, the knife burying itself in my throat. Dark blood pours from the wound, and my mouth, as I spit blood up.

There’s a dull wheeze coming from my throat... that didn’t seem good... the turret slams more rounds into my side before clicking empty... a small relief at least. The mare fires her heavy pistol, the slug ripping into my chest, another fountain of blood erupting. At this rate, she’s going to kill me... then probably Fritter. Howling, I force myself back to my hooves, even as another round crashes into my chest. “Why don’t you go down? Just die you abomination, you murderer, die! Die! DIE!” Another slug tears into my body, though her aim seems to be suffering. Painfully, I open my wings and dash at her, knives extended. Injuries have slowed me down, but she doesn’t move, doesn’t dodge. She lifts her pistol up, aiming it right at my face. I see a flash, a loud bang, and a burning pain searing through my head as something... tears. I barely notice something fly past my head as I hiss in pain and anger, wisps of pink coming past my eyes, finally closing on her, knives flashing. I bury the blade in her chest, before dropping to my knees... then falling over.

~~~~~~~~~~

That ghoul was tough... she may not have liked me, but I can acknowledge her strength. Even as she took the rounds, the last one tearing off her jaw and mask, she forced her way to the mare, taking her down, even in death. There were few like her... the drive behind her... but her body lies still now, blood and ichor pooling around her. Her opponent lay wheezing, slowly dying. I could finish her off... but she belongs to Nevermore, and it is her knife that will end her. “Rest well, Nevermore... may you know the earth’s embrace.” Normally I would try to bury her, do something for the fallen... yet Fritter is still in bad shape. I carefully sling him over my back, making sure to minimize how much I have to jostle him. “Rest easy there, Fritter... I’ll get you back to Zone and Star soon enough. Can’t go off and die on me before you see them again, can you?”

Ignoring his weak response, I make my way towards the door as carefully as I can. Once I dropped him off, then I would come back for her. Yes, that would be fitting. She deserved at least that much, despite her hatred. It was easy to see her scarred soul, this ancient relic battered and beaten by the cruel hoof of fate. Yet she died how she lived. Proud and defiant. Yes. She deserved to be buried at least.

~~~~~~~~~~

Jeers of derision, of scorn, of hate. I stand there, proud and indifferent, though their words cut at my heart beneath my stern facade. What else did they want? What else could we do for them? “Murderers! Foal-killers!” This is part of the war that I truly hated the most. Not the combat, not the fighting, not the death. No... I hated returning home. There were always some of those ponies, objecting to the war, venting their fury and impotence on those of us daring to fight. What right did they have to judge us? What right did they have to pour their ire upon us? I feel my hatred pouring out, a subtle shift as my knives clink gently... it would be fast... very fast... “Don’t do it, Nevermore. They’re not worth it. Just remember that there are other ponies out there not like them.” The rose colored mare pushes her goggles up to the top of her head, her false leg whining slightly as she leans up on the railing of the Flickerjack.

“I know that, Nessy. I can imagine though. They do not know the horror that we see. The war is changing us. Changing the crew...” I look to her for a response, but only see a long memorial to the fallen, a veil hanging from my hat as the memory changes, the world changes. A familiar weight is on my back, my old armored dress, taken out of storage for the occasion. I had not worn it since I had... left.

“We are gathered here to remember the fallen... let their sacrifices not be in vain...” No... no, no, no... not this day, not this day! I’m trapped in a nightmare, one that I have lived for a long time. I see the ghosts of ponies surrounding me, keeping me from fleeing the scene. Ponies that I’ve killed, that I’ve abandoned, that I’ve betrayed. Bodies rotting and decayed, skeletal grins taunting me with what’s to come. They know. They always know, just as I do. A sudden shield forms over the city, the mighty barrier created by the most powerful ponies to ever live. Missiles begin detonating against it, venting their fury against the barrier. I feel a scoff in my throat... was this the zebra’s best? This was their attempt to slay the leaders of Equestria? They would have to do much better than that to threaten Canterlot. It is like the Grand Galloping Gala had come early... the threat seemingly impotent, like fireworks detonating in the sky... but this... I know what is coming, even if I did not then. The bombardment continued unabated, the shield flaring as it held strong... then it happened. My ears flick back as I hear cries... cries of pain and terror. Whirling to look, I see an ominous cloud of... pink? What sort of of weapon is... pink? If I die, it better not be to pink.

Lungs burning, organs failing, I drop back down to a roof, landing heavily, my wings providing no escape from the barrier trapping us with the cloud. The necromantic magic killing me as I fall to my knees. I supposed this is the end, a fitting end... pain and death... now I could join the others... wherever they were. Perhaps they would even be willing to see me again...

~~~~~~~~~~

A hiss of necromantic magic, a feeling of wrongness in the air... I stand up yet again, my wounds sealing up, metal being forced out of my wounds. My jaw starts to regrow, bone wrapped with flesh and fur. It is not a very pleasant sensation... but I was not dead again... Looking around, I spy my mask, slipping it into my pack after removing the remains from my last jaw. It was damaged again, and rather pointless to wear at this time. More importantly, I don’t see Fritter. And based on the fact that I don’t see Vusi either, it seems logical to presume that he took Fritter to the others. And left me behind. Shaking my head, I give an irritated snort, wisps of pink curling up. At least I killed her... the body of the mare was in front of me, one of my knives jutting out of her chest. I nearly trip as I see something out of place. The top of her skull is missing. Some sort of device had sawn it off... leaving an empty cavity where the brain should be. Just like the body of Short Circuit. Something else had come through here.

~~~~~~~~~~

Welcome to Level 9!

New Companion?: Tik

Tik is borderline insane, a wizard with explosives, and a fine shot as well... but something is not quite right with her! She’s a bit of a loose cannon, and will sometimes not really listen to you when you’re telling her what to do. Furthermore, she has a veritable cornucopia of drugs and other performance enhancing stimulants stashed around herself. As long as Tik is in the party, you get +10 to explosives and intimidation checks. Apparently a crazed, grenade-toting mare can be a bit imposing. However, she penalizes any social interactions in any ‘civilized’ setting by -20. Finally, she can identify any sort of normal stimulant or drug that you encounter.

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