• Published 24th Mar 2013
  • 2,745 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.

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Chapter 13: Carnival of the Lost...

Chapter 13: Carnival of the Lost...

Come little ponies, come and dance with me.

We lost Pale Rose and Lemon Twist today... I do not know where the monsters came from, they descended from the skies... they were on us in a heartbeat. It was my fault, I was careless... I forgot something in my long years. I forgot to look up. The others say that it is not my fault... that they cannot blame me... yet why should they not? I am the one who was supposed to look out for them. They were my charges. They are too young to remember aerial combat... I am not. The memory still haunts me, haunts all of us. Pale Rose falling, the roof collapsing under the magical barrage. Twist tried to save her, but he knew that it was too late. He had to have known. They tore him to pieces. The magic they put out was overwhelming. We did not stand a chance against them, we just had to flee... and flee... The loss of those two is devastating, both for morale and personally. Pale Rose was our healer, our medic... we lost more than the supplies she was carrying, we lost her kindness. She was the intermediator, the one that would defuse problems. Twist was a rock... a silent ghoul. We all knew that he cared for Rose... I think she did too. But he refused to acknowledge it, refused to voice his affection, content to follow her at a distance. He was solid, reliable, carrying more than his fair share without complaint. And just like that, they are gone.

The others may not blame me, or they at least say that they do not. But Rose falling to her death... Twist being ripped to pieces by magic. They know the truth, they know who is to blame. The truth is that I killed them, as if I used my knives on them myself. I am Nevermore. I am a murderess.
~ From the Journal of Nevermore

I look down at the fallen Star Racer with concern. Though she’s not willing to admit it, probably even to herself, she’s in a lot of pain. The potions weren’t nearly enough to heal her, just enough to keep her alive. “Hang in there Star... you’ll be fine...” I try to see if there’s anything that I can do to help her, but I have almost no talent with medical ability... and I didn’t want to make things worse.

“It’s alright Zone... I’m just tired right now. I’ll be fine in a bit. Just need to rest...” Her voice is weak, completely at odds with the normally authoritative tone that she usually assumed. Out of her armor, she seems to have lost her edge, not as much Lieutenant Star Racer, but rather just a pony. A wounded pony. Using my magic, I gently straighten the bandage over her eye, eliciting a grunt of irritation from the pegasus. “Guess that’ll be a souvenir from down here.”

Sometimes I forgot... she’s not like us, she’s from the Enclave. The mare’s white coat is covered with marks and burns, though her cutie mark emerged mostly intact, though I’m not sure what the marking is. It appears to be... a trio of flaming cirlces set against a large crescent. Now that I think about it, I’ve not really seen her not wearing something before, from her armor to a simple robe. “Star? What’s your mark? I’ve never seen anything like it.”

She gives me an incredulous look, then barks a laugh. “Right... Stable pony...” I blush slightly, not wanting her to think less of me, though her tone was a bit more biting than I would’ve appreciated. She looks out the doors of the lobby, where the clouds blanket the skies. “That... and...” Shaking her head slightly, she looks up at me. “It’s shooting stars, Zone, set against the moon.” Chuckling, she flexes her wing slightly. “You should see it some time... the night sky. It’s beautiful up there, like a dark ocean scattered with light...” She winces again, settling her wing against her body. “You know... since I’ve come down here, I’ve been shot, clawed at, stabbed, electrocuted...” She gives me a slight smile. “At least I’ll have some interesting stories when I get home again.” There’s something in her eyes as she says that... and I think I know what it is. She’s lying to me.

“Do... do you miss it? Your home? What’s it like?” The conversation seems to be distracting her from her injuries, and I’m definitely curious about where she’s from. Besides, I’d rather not think about the end of this journey. When we left the Stable, I was full of confidence and courage... certain that we could handle anything out here. Now? Now I’m not so sure... in fact, perhaps the best we can do is find a place to survive and try to live as best we can.

“Of course I do Zone... though.” There’s a bitter edge to her voice. “I’m not sure how many there miss me.” She snorts as she sees the look on my face. “My father never returned from the Wastes. Captain Sky Fire, presumed killed in action.” Her face takes on a darker look. “And my mother never recovered from losing him. My brother... I haven’t seen him in years... it’s just me and my little apartment. My squad probably reported me dead by now... probably that moron Midnight Sun took over as lead. That stallion wouldn’t know a good idea if it walked up and bucked his teeth in.” She looks at me, her gaze flicking down to my own mark. “What about you? You miss your little hole in the ground?”

I flick my tail subconsciously, ears drooping slightly. “Well... yes, especially when we’re getting shot at. But... well... we didn’t exactly leave... well...” I hated thinking about that day...

~~~~~~~~~~

“Zone? ZONE. Let him go. He’s useless anyways, you know this.” The stallion’s voice is mocking as I see Fritter bravely holding his head up... marching towards an uncertain fate.

“It’s not fair! There’s no way that he’d survive out there!” My security barding weighs down on me... heavier than I remember. There’s no honor in this... Fritter didn’t deserve this.

“I’m sorry Zone, but you know the rules, you know the consequences. He did too.” There is no remorse in his voice, no regret. In fact, he seems almost pleased that Fritter was being banished.

“He’s useless, he can’t protect himself...” Slamming a barrier in front of the stallion, I turn and dash towards the Stable door, even as it begins to close. “I can’t let that happen!”

“Zone? What do you th- you’ll never get back in here! You’re throwing everything away for him! Don’t do it!” His voice has a tinge of desperation now, and I can sense him trying to break through my barrier, even as I see the door about to close on me. Lowering my ears, I press forward as fast as I can. “But Zone, I lo-” With a resounding clang, the Stable door cuts off what he was going to say, and I leave it behind me... my home, my family... my fiancé. The door seals with the finality of a judge’s gavel, locking me and Fritter out here... to face the Wastes by ourselves...

~~~~~~~~~~

We were so naive about the wastes, not understanding anything really. If not for Nevermore... I shiver slightly, thinking about what might have happened without her. I’m saved from further memories by the sound of complaining. Vusi and Fritter! They’re trading taunts as Vusi carries Fritter back to us, though I can’t hear any malice in their voices.

Vusi dumps Fritter off next to Star, and though he’s covered in cuts and blood, they seem to be shallow and not life threatening. Breathing a sigh of relief, I rush over to check on them, though Vusi seems to be mostly intact. “Where’s Nevermore?” I don’t see the dour mare, and its unlikely that she’d just leave the two alone. “What happened to her?”

Vusi shakes his head sadly. “She fell in battle... bravely against her foe.” He looks at me. “She was truly a warrior... I need to go get her body now... she deserves a burial.” Turning around, he nearly runs into her, deftly avoiding a collision with a nimble dodge. I never understood how she could move so quietly, especially armed as she normally was. “W-what the... I saw you die!”

She gives a derisive snort, wisps of pink curling around her muzzle, her mask partially hanging from her saddlebags. “I got better.” Another pony is dropped off next to Star and Fritter, one I hadn’t seen before. Her wildly dyed mane and tail seemed to be at odds with her shivering and cowering form. “Tik here has Med-X. A lot of Med-X. Get them up, we are leaving. It is not safe here.”

~~~~~~~~~~

The thought of the mare with the top of her skull sawn off lingered in the back of my mind. It was too much of a coincidence that the same thing happened to Short Circuit all those years ago. I didn’t trust it. I couldn’t trust it. Trust got ponies killed, then and now... I look at my companions. Did I trust them? To an extent... I also assumed that they would betray me if needed. Survival did things to ponies, rending bonds of trust and loyalty. I wouldn’t blame them. After all, betrayal is what haunts me to this day. Would I betray them? Could I bring myself to do that again? For the right price... yes. Yes I could. Not bits or caps, or any other sort of currency... no, I do not need such things. But an idea, a concept? I did know about sacrifice... and though it would pain me, I do what is needed as I always have. Narrowing my eyes, I think to Head Case and Bishop. Both had their own objectives... both would use us. Suddenly the well kept surroundings took on a far more ominous tone. “Hurry it up. Get them up, it is not safe here.”

Stifling my distaste, I take some of the syringes off of Tik, tossing them to my compatriots, letting Zone grab them telekinetically. I had found the mare shivering against a wall, the bodies of the fallen around her. Despite the blood on her, her injuries seemed to be rather superficial, though her mane seemed almost wilted. She was mostly unmoving, not struggling as I lifted her up onto my back. I’d rather not leave her to some creature while she’s like this, and the scores of needle marks on her raise my suspicion to what’s wrong. Tik gives a weak whimper, reaching for the Med-X caught in Zone’s telekinetic grip. Snorting, I take another syringe from her pack, jabbing her in the back of the neck with it. The mare gives a pleased sigh as the painkillers flood into her system, her mane and tail recovering as well. “Oh yeah, that’s good!” Her voice isn’t quite as active, but it’s quickly recovering. With a vicious snarl, I toss the empty syringe aside... assuming she had a Med-X addiction and confirming it were two separate things.

Star Racer pulls herself up, the mare moving a bit slowly, but helped by the double dose of painkillers coursing through her system. Quietly, she starts gathering the pieces of her armor, tying them into a bundle to carry with us. I catch a glimpse of her bandaged eye, and wonder if she’s going to be alright... sometimes a serious injury can change a pony. We had barely made it out of Greenvale Heights, and we already needed time to rest and recover, needed a place to hide. I debate bringing us back to the Loft, but that would backtrack us, and send us through Whirlybird territory again. Greenvale was obviously closed to us... which left pressing on, towards Tomb Town. Tomb Town... a dark place with a dark reputation. Not only was it infested with feral ghouls and the like, but rumor abounded of darker things in there, unseen and merciless terrors. My plan was to skirt around it, avoiding entered the cursed place. I want to move immediately, trying to make it to the Shadowbolt Memorial... but I can’t... not now. Not with the others wounded. With a snort, I turn towards the doors, leading back out into the Wasteland... back into a decaying city.

Leaving Zone and Vusi to watch over the others, I scout ahead, looking for some sort of shelter, somewhere to hide and recover. The building we were just in seemed like a good choice, hiding down with Short Circuit even... but I didn’t trust those machines. There was something wrong with them... and the skulls. That’s not a normal injury... no crushing, so shattering, just a very clean cut. I feel my mood slip darker, brooding, reminiscing the pain and injuries inflicted upon my companions... I can’t shake the feeling that this is my fault, that I was dragging them into a conflict that was not their own. Yet they stayed with me. I should tell them to leave... I should go alone. Yes, that’s what I’ll do... it’s better for me to be alone. That way... that way I don’t have to see them fall. That way I won’t lose anypony again. They’ll be lost, but it’ll be clean, and I won’t have to remember their fall... I won’t need to add them to my journal.

There are too many there already. Despite my memories, I still search for shelter, finding an abandoned warehouse. Not perfect, but it would have to do for now. I bring the others over, most of them looking forward for the chance to rest. Settling in, Vusi takes the first watch as I fly up to the rafters, taking the time to rest, to think... the day had been long and exhausting, more than I realised. So I also take the time to sleep... and to dream.

~~~~~~~~~~

Drip... drip... drip... The sound echoes throughout the darkness, the stillness. I’m alone again... alone in the dark and the cold. Drip... drip... “Hello? Is anypony there?” Silence greets me, even the dripping fading to nothingness. My voice echoes back to me empty and hollow, mocking me. Silent laughter rings from the stillness, not mirthful, but mocking... taunting me for what I am, what I was, what I will be. Do you see this, Nevermore? Do you see around yourself? “I see nothing... emptiness... just... emptiness.” Fitting, is it not, Nevermore? A figure is rising from the liquid spread beneath my hooves. My eyes now confirm what my nose was telling me. Blood... endless blood spreading out from my hooves, staining my coat. I look up at the figure, look up at myself, drenched in blood. You have killed them all... all of them Nevermore. Everypony that was close to you is dead by your hooves, everypony that you cared for was driven to the grave by your actions and inactions. This is your reward... solitude, the curse of the forsaken. I nod my head... who am I to argue with that?

“You nearly killed me... you took my eye.” Star Racer glares at me with her remaining eye, the other socket staining her coat with a river of blood and gore, turning her face into a mask of blood.

“You brought me into your past, you subjected me to your pain.” Zone Control doesn’t look at me, tears of blood mixing with the gore spread between us.

“You nearly killed us all, in your quest.” Frisky Fritter spits, blood matting his coat from where he was cut.

“You abandon me to your hate, letting your past rule you.” Vusi lies on the floor, my knife buried in his chest.

“You bring pain and suffering... reminding us of what we’ve lost.” Tik slumps nearby, covered in needles.

They all turn to me, voices chanting in unison. “Killed us... you’ve killed us all. You’ve broken everything and everyone close to you.” Closing my eyes, I hear other voices join in, knowing what was happening, wishing that it didn’t. “Killed us... killed us all. Even with my eyes closed, I can see the others, all the others. The ones that have fallen in my path. Friends, foes... strangers. All of them, drowning me in blood as I choke and sputter, blood filling my lungs. Yet I don’t die, I never die, I keep coming back, again, and again. And again.

~~~~~~~~~~

I open my eyes, blinking away the sleep, the light having faded into a heavy night. Looking down, I see the others are still awake, lamps lit as they huddle around each other. A few are sleeping, like Fritter and Tik. Others are talking, like Zone and Vusi. Dropping down off the rafters, I land next to Star, who looks up at me from where she’s working on her armor. “Nevermore.” Her tone is tired, as if the weight of the world were on her shoulders. She doesn’t look like she’s slept at all, her one good eye turning back to the armor strewn across the ground. Bits and pieces were torn off, melted lumps of technology. She was stripping the armor down, removing a lot of the internal mechanisms, turning it into a fancy, yet inert, suit of armor.

“Star... are you feeling alright?” The mare gives the barest nod of her head in answer, focused on her helmet. “I was thinking... perhaps...” I hesitate, not wanting to say what I was going to say, not wanting them to leave me... but knowing that they should, that they must. “Perhaps I sh-”

“No, none of that Nevermore.” She looks down at me with her single eye, setting the helmet down. “I don’t blame you for this. If anypony is to blame, it’s the one that pulled the trigger. It’s the ones who caused this whole mess, all the way back to those ponies that destroyed Equestria.” She snorts, picking up her helmet again. “Besides, do I look like a Dashite? I promised to stay with you, and so I will.” She taps her chest. “Loyalty.” Setting down the helmet again, she gives a sigh. “Well... there’s not much left to salvage. The armor plating itself is mostly intact, though the helmet is a lost cause. I tried to save some of the functions, like E.F.S. and S.A.T.S., but... well...” She looks at me, shaking her head. “I know I don’t blame you, neither does Zone. Fritter though... I’d keep an eye on him. He seems... almost unstable. Zone’s the only one that can keep him in control it seems. He listens to her, above the rest of us. If we are to fall, I pray that he goes before she does.” She narrows her eye. “We are going to fall, aren’t we. You know this.”

I nod my head slowly. “Yes... I do. The question is not if, but when. If you left me, you could probably eke out a few more years, even a decade or two... but the Wasteland... the Wasteland consumes all. “I do not know where the others can go, what they can do... but... thank you... Lieutenant...” Not wanting to embarrass myself any further, I give Star some general farewell, intending to head back to the rafters, when I’m stopped again.

“Keep it down... it hurts... it hurts so much.” I turn, looking at Tik, her voice surprisingly quiet... and pained. The mare is curled up, as if holding some inner pain in check. “I need... I need more... where is it?”

Pity holds down my scorn as I look at her. “Just hang in there... Tik...” There’s her bags nearby, syringes sticking out of it like a Med-X dispensary. “What is wrong? Where does it hurt?”

Star trots over, the tall mare shaking her head. “I’ve seen this before... Med-X addiction. It’s not as common... but...” Her tail flicks as she looks at me. “Nothing against you, Tik, but can we trust her Nevermore? We don’t know anything about her... and there’s the issue of the Med-X.”

Shaking my head, I head towards her bags even as Tik gives off a weak whimper. “She helped me, Star, though she did not need to. I do not know what her objectives are, but... it would not have been right to leave her there. When she recovers, she can go off on her own.”

“No... don’t leave me here... all alone again.” I stop, looking back at Tik. “Please... don’t leave me alone...” Her voice is weak, the mare clutching her head. “I... I can s-stop I can... really... just... just don’t leave me.” My initial reaction is to declare her a liability, leaving her behind... but she did help.

With a heavy sigh, I look at the others. Star watches me, and even Zone and Vusi are looking over. Fritter gives a heavy snore as he keeps sleeping. Other than him, the rest are looking to me, waiting for my decision. I’m not a leader, I never want to be one. Yet here they are, looking at me, waiting for me. “Fine... you can do what you will. I cannot stop you.” Tik gives a slight smile, a small thing, before curling back into a small ball. “Rest while we can, I shall take the watch now. We continue on soon.”

~~~~~~~~~~

We’ve traveled for a few days, a few days of rare peace and quiet. I would have preferred to move at night, but it was too treacherous. Some places were mined, ambushes were laid. I felt the loss of Star Racer’s E.F.S. more than ever during those times, cautiously looking around, moving slower than we normally did. This was an inadvertent boon for Tik, the poor mare still in apparent pain... but she did as she promised for now, though I keep catching longing glances at the Med-X that Zone was carrying now. Though it was Tik’s, and she could have it back if she decided to leave us, I didn’t trust her to stay off it unsupervised, though Zone would administer small doses as required. We couldn’t cut her off completely, though I hoped to start reducing her obvious over use. I freeze suddenly, looking around, my companions coming to a stop behind me.

“Nevermore, what’s wrong?” Zone looks around nervously as I grimace.

Something is just... wrong... I can feel it. Perhaps it was because we were near the Dead Zone, but... no. Something else feels wrong. “I do not know... but...” I dive to the side as something catches my eye, tackling Star Racer to the ground as a burst of magic burns through the area she was just standing in. Looking up, I see the alicorn, her shadow having betrayed her presence this time, the barest movement alerting me in time.

Yes, run Nevermore, flee. Your time has come. You shall join all those that you betrayed. You shall suffer at their hooves for all of eternity. Even though she has no distinguishing features, I just know that it’s the same one from before. I know that it’s Pale Rose, somewhere in there. Growling, I hurl a knife at the monster, even as my companions open fire. The shells wash off her shield like a gentle rain, and even Star’s cannons aren’t enough to make the barrier so much as flicker. Amusing... you think that you can stop us like that? We expected more from you, Nevermore.



“Run! Run!” Though I hate to turn tail, sometimes there is no chance to win. Just like now, just like then. We barrel through the streets, taking shots as they open for us... yes something is wrong again. She’s attacking, but she’s projecting her deadly assaults. Also, they lack the full force and fury that I’d come to expect from a member of Unity. No... she had something else in mind.



Another furious blast shatters the wall next to us, sending shards of brick and stone scything through the air. There’s a sharp stinging on my cheek as rotting blood flies back, mixed with ichor. “We cannot keep trying to fight her, but she is driving us forward!” I peek around the corner, awarded another near miss of roiling magic for my efforts. But her stance confirms my suspicions. Rather than bearing down on us, she’s perched on a nearby roof, using the vantage point to barrage us with spells. While effective at making it hard for us to get away, it was also harder for her to land a killing blow.

Hiding again, Nevermore? You are quite good at that... hiding. From yourself, from others. You’re still not willing to face up to others, to accept things. Her voice in my head is beginning to irritate me, though I had to focus on other things, like surviving. While I’d be tempted to make a break for it, away from wherever she was trying to force us, my brief glance caught sight of two more dropping down next to her. A full wing. Indecisive, my hoof is forced as a sky chariot is hurled down the street at us, dust and bricks raining down as it barrels through a building. Wordlessly, I turn and run, seeing my companions do the same. Bracketed by the threat of magical annihilation, we’re driven towards the place I didn’t want to go. Tomb Town is right in front of us, and any attempt to deviate away was met with a furious response. Tomb Town’s grim welcoming committee is something I had seen before, but the terrors behind us let my companions not even blanch as we run past.



Ghouls of various levels of decay and death are affixed to the wall or hung in gibbets, a macabre, partially living, warning of the threats inside. The ghouls were bad enough, feral packs roaming and devouring anything they could, but there were darker rumors of creatures, of death. The infamous Deadmares. I’ve never seen one myself, but I had heard about them. Ferocious monsters that feed on death. Killers without peer. As such, I usually did my absolute best to avoid them. Oddly enough, they provided me some sort of boon. Some ponies may have heard of Canterlot Ghouls, and how dangerous we are, but here in Detrot, they have their own monsters, making the tales of us less intimidating.



As soon as Fritter makes it into Tomb Town, finishing our group, the barrage stops. Looking back, I see the trio of alicorns waiting patiently on the roofs, not making any motion to get closer. Still not liking this, I lead my companions behind a building, out of sight. There’s no reason to risk them not deciding to fire another blast at us. No sooner have we turned the corner, when it seems that reality starts to shift, the edges of my vision blurring as I try to look around. Something is terribly wrong, I feel the world seem to twist and fold on itself. Tomb Town is suddenly gone, leaving nothing but darkness around us. “What foul trickery is this?” I’d never seen something like this before, and its worrisome... but... where are we? Where am I? My thoughts feel slow, slower than normal, as if clogged by whatever is affecting us.



Forcing myself to stay on my hooves, I see something start to resolve itself in the gloom, a spark of light, the crimson hue of a unicorn’s magic. The light expands, revealing a beautiful white unicorn, her scarlet and black mane framing her face perfectly. Strangely, she’s dressed well, a dark tuxedo and matching high socks. Something is wrong... is off. I can’t put my hoof on it, but... my head still feel foggy. She takes a graceful step forward, her demeanor poised, her every action refined. Even her voice is pitched perfectly, a siren call on its own. “Welcome to ze carnival. It is our greatest pleasure to welcome you. I am Madame Meneuse De Ryvolte, and zis is ze Cirque du Destin.” She give a smile, even as something flashes behind her eyes. Carnival? What carnival? There was nothing around us, except... no sooner had that thought filled my mind then the world starts to fill in again, slowly, hazily, as if a dark fog were dissipating. There’s a bonfire in front of us, revealing the inside of a circus tent.



The very air feels wrong... it feels like what happens when I revive, the taint of necromancy, the stench of the forbidden... That thought sticks in my head as I suddenly realize something else. My pristine veil drifts past my eyes, no longer ravaged by time and death. My coat is groomed, no signs of decay lingering. Everything is as it were a century ago. I look back towards my companions as they lie on the floor, their injuries and damage also seemingly healed. Even Star Racer has her eye back. “Be c-” I stop, hesitating. My voice is rich and full, no longer the raspy, grating sound that I had been so accustomed to. No, it’s as it were, and for a brief moment, I feel my heart break, desperately wanting this, needing this, but knowing that it can never be. Shaking my head, I sigh. “Be careful. There is something wrong here.” They stir slightly at my words, but don’t waken, my mind worried, though focused on the mare in front of me.



“Wrong? Non... zere is nothing wrong... zis is ze carnival, anything can happen... it is magic, oui?” The strange mare is still smiling, oozing the charisma of an experienced showmare. Her accent is odd, one that I recognize, but hadn’t heard for a long time. My own accent is starting to assert itself, that of my long lost and beloved Trottingham. I had almost forgotten my homeland, considering how long ago it was. Now I’m homesick as well... the green fields and beautiful countryside of my old home calling to me again. I had never gone back, even when I heard that my father had died. Not since the day I left. Thinking back on it, it was... it would have been too painful to return, even if nopony remembered who I was. No, it was a ghost that I had buried in the past, one better left forgotten. I dare not imagine what it looks like now, after the world ended.



“Yes. Wrong. This is not Detrot, nor is this the Celestia forsaken Wasteland. And... this is just...” As much as I know that something is not right, a part of me wants it to be like this, though my senses are screaming at me, warning me of hidden danger. My companions still have yet to rise, lying on the floor.



“But is zis not what you want?” The mare bats her long lashes at me, knowing, coy. “I can give you anything zat you want, is zat not why you came to ze carnival?”



“What I want is to finish what I started, to finish my time, to pay my penance.” My temper rising, I pull a knife from my dress. Though I am no longer festooned with blades, I always had at least one, even back then. “I do not know what your game is, charlatan, but it ends here.”



“Game? Game? Oui... I do like games, zat is for sure, non?” She smiles, even as the bonfire flares up. “Zen let us play a game... winner takes all.” She starts to fade away even as I lunge at her, my blade hitting nothing but air. “Let us see who is ze winner of zis... game is...” Her laughter echoes around me, coming from every direction at once. Gritting my teeth, I glance around, prepared to get my companions up, no matter what, to force them out of this magical stupor. But they’re gone, they’re all gone. “Ze game is afoot... try to be a good sport about it.” Her infuriating laughter cuts through the air again, but something freezes me in my tracks, my blood running cold in an instant. A cry of pure pain and terror rips through the air, even as I spin to face that direction. I know that voice. Zone Control.

~~~~~~~~~~

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