• 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 17: Broken Records

Chapter 17: Broken Records

A little nonsense now and then...

Ponies... ponies never change. They are selfish, greedy, narcissistic, and generally not worth spending time to actually listen to. The vast majority of the teeming masses taking what they can, doing what they can to survive. A fickle bunch. One day venerating their heroes, the next tearing them down. How simple it is for them to change their minds, their whims, and their beliefs. The same headstrong ponies that launched us into the war are the ones now watching the destruction they caused. But the war will end, as it eventually must. The only question is what will be left to pick up.
~ From the Journal of Nevermore

Dawn breaks, the faded light filtering over the desolated city of Detrot. The overcast skies look heavy, as if preparing to weep for the death below it, mourning the fate of what lies below. As if on cue, the skies break open, torrents of rain washing down on us, running down my face as the world cries with us. A small bundle huddles next to me, Taffy, warm and dry under my wing, sheltered against the storm. She snores lightly, her terror from earlier forgotten. Silent, brooding, I stay where I am, contemplating what I have done, what I will do. I can feel things rushing up, the pressure building as something is going to happen. But still, there’s a slice of peace and serenity, a moment of rest. My wing twitches, even as I look down again, Taffy softly chewing on one of my feathers. She was so young, painfully young to be in a place like this. Not the Wreck Center, though I have my feelings about it, but rather the Wasteland. She should have been in the Equestria that I knew and loved. She should have been more concerned with her cutie mark than survival, more worried about colts than drugs and violence. How far have we fallen? How long until we recover? Is such a thing even possible?

Ponies begin to stir below, shaking the sleep from their eyes. Yet more slumber, sleeping past the dawn. It is something that I have watched through countless days, through sleepless nights. Even back then, I rarely slept much, silent and vigilant even in youth. My youth, my past. The halls of my ancestral home quiet and gloomy. It wasn’t always like that... not when mother was still alive. She tried to bring some light and joy into the oppressive structure, but her death... Pointless now. Any pony that I had known from then is probably long dead, rendered unto bone and dust. My home is probably destroyed as well, or rather what was my home. I am Nevermore, the outcast, the forsaken. Betrayer and betrayed. Abandoned by those I held dear, killer of those who trusted me. I look over the weeping city. I watch life struggle below. I remember the past... and I weep.

~~~~~~~~~~

I could not return to Trottingham, I could not stay with the crew any more. By my own actions and the actions of others, I had severed those bonds. So I lived alone, my apartment in Canterlot carefully cared for, even in my sorrow. Yet something was happening even as I drowned in misery, something affecting all of us. He died... slain by treachery. Yet that was not even the end of it. Even in my isolation, I heard as the others began to disappear... began to die. Executed for crimes, or just never seen again. My crew falling, even after he had fallen. Doubts and regret warred in my heart.

There’s a knock on my door, a gentle rapping shaking me from my thoughts. Who could it be at this hour? I was hardly expecting a package, and visitors? Perhaps in different times, in better times. The others had tried to draw me out, to socialize... but that was a long time ago, before everything that had happened. Warily, I undo the locks, sliding the bolt off the door before finally cracking it open. A pony is standing there, dressed like a mail pony, a smile on her face.

“Hey there... Nevermore is it? Sorry about the late delivery, but the mail got lost on the way, so we’re trying to make it up. We have a package for you, but we need your signature.” Her voice is cheery and friendly, though there is an undertone to it that I don’t like, a hidden edge behind the velvet words.

“I am Nevermore.” I consider for a brief second of just letting her succeed, of paying my penance now and getting the entire ordeal over with. Would that not be fitting? Just disappearing, dying in obscurity. Yet... there were two things yet to be resolved. Vengeance, upon the one who had betrayed me, and my promise to the Captain. I never told him this while he lived, and I barely whispered it after he died. He spared my life, and thereby claimed his right to end it. I could not take the easy way out. I could not let my story end here. Moving faster than she anticipated, I duck the pistol shot, the weapon veiled by letters, disguising the magical field. With a vicious lunge, I go for her throat with my hooves, trying to end the fight cleanly. My hooves slam onto a shimmering barrier, even as she smiles.

“Just be a good girl and die. You know too much, Nevermore.” She presses in, her pistol roaring at me. Yet she was expecting a soft target, a pony broken by despair and sorrow. Her aim is careless, letting me evade them, if only barely. One of the bullets graze my cheek, a ribbon of bright red blood shooting from the wound. I hated fighting unicorns. I’d call their magic cheating, but goodness knows that I can hardly be accused of fighting fair. I kick a potted fern at her as I dive into the bedroom. “Hiding? Really? I expected more from you.” Her attitude is cocky and confident as she steps through the doorway.

She barely has time to see me, as I strike from above, my blade slashing down. Her shield parts like paper beneath my dark blade, surprise the last thing she felt in this world. Hissing with irritation, I return Aer Arcanum to her sheath, the obsidian blade seeming to absorb the light around it, even now not marred by scratch, by blood, by wear. The shimmering silver runes etched on the blade start to dim, their hunger sated for now with the unicorn’s magic. Aer Arcanum... the last time I had drawn her in battle... was that day against the Captain.

Ironic, is it not? My best chance to defeat him had been a weapon given to me by him. Blood pools around my hooves as I shake my head, thinking about when he gave me that keen blade. It was rumored to be a cursed weapon, bringing misfortune to those that wielded it. All I knew is that I could somehow understand her. A viciousness, a ruthlessness, a thirst. A dark whisper in the back of my mind. She had slain many, their blood never staying on the blade, her only defeat coming at the hooves of my Captain... perhaps I had not wanted to win that day... perhaps I was not meant to win. I reverently put Aer Arcanum back into her hiding place, even as I start to gather my things. No, she was a relic of the past, one that I had no right to use any more, the trust it was given to me destroyed and broken. No... I would survive, and I would hunt, avenging my comrades... but I would do it alone.

~~~~~~~~~~

Life begins to bustle below as more ponies stir, few rising as early as I do. The hatch behind me pops open as one of the Vipers looks out. He starts at seeing me, but seems to relax a little when he sees Taffy. “Seems like she took a likin’ to ya.” He eases himself out of the hatch, closing it gently so as to not wake the sleeping filly.

I recognize him from the other night, his pale orange coat and shock of red mane framing a scarred face. Gracing him with a bare nod, I ignore the wetness of my cheeks, knowing that others would mistake it for the rain. “Purse Snatch. That is your name, is it not?”

He cracks a grin. “Surprised you remember, miss...?”

“Nevermore. My name is Nevermore.” I look back down to the street even as he stands next to me. I can smell him, even from here, the unwashed masses filling my nose with their smell. “What are you doing up here?” I did not appreciate intrusions on my solitude, my voice having a slight edge to it, already in turmoil from my earlier ruminations.

“Makin’ sure we didn’t lose any of the little ones.” He gives a slight nod down towards where Taffy is sleeping, curled up next to me. “That, and Bruise is cookin’ breakfast, and gatherin’ everyone to come on down.”

I’m about to tell him to go down without me, that I did not wish to partake of this meal with them. The Vipers as a whole seem to be only slightly better than raiders in my book, not lending me to a particular like of them in general. Taffy begins to stir however, curbing my rejection before it’s born. “Very well.” Moving with grace despite the long weight of years, I see Rebel Riot and Star Racer talking as I descend to the main area.

“No kid, I don’t care if you’re supposed to be the best down here. You’re not touching them.” The mare has a screwdriver on the table next to her as she hovers over her rifles, gently trying to shoo the foal with her wings.

“Aw, come on!” He spews as stream of curses and invective, the small foal trying to make himself sound older with vile language.

“First of all kid, enough with the obscenities. It’s just not right from a pint-size like you.” She shoves her hoof into his mouth to silence him as he prepares to launch into a tirade. “Second, these rifles are a little... finicky sometimes.”

“How finicky are ya talkin’ there?” Gangrene looks over from where she was fussing over one of the foals.

“Explosively finicky.” She pulls the rifles back from Rebel Riot with a hoof. “Very explosively.” They bicker for a bit longer, though I no longer pay attention to their conversation. It was something that seemed to happen in groups, when ponies gather, they were inevitably noisy, whether through conflict or mirth.

Gangrene brushes past Star Racer, her greased tail leaving a smudge on the pegasi’s white coat. “So how long are y’all planning to stick around then?” She is positively purring as she coyly presses herself against the taller mare. “Could try ta find some more beds so that Curbstomp doesn’t have to sleep on the floor again.

I look at her, shaking my head slightly. “We will not be staying too long. Just enough to gather some supplies, repair, and heal up.” The mood turns somber as my companions think about heading out into the Wasteland again, having finally felt safe, at least somewhat, here in the Blok.

Star Racer gives Gangrene a gentle thwack with her wing, smacking her flank with her pony feathers. “Of course, we’ll still be here a bit. After all, it’ll take a while to get everything repaired...” She looks down at her rifles. “If there is even anypony I’d trust to repair it right.” Ignoring a stifled protest from the young Rebel Riot, she starts to peel the shell off the rifle to get at its inner workings.

Gangrene smiles at Star, even as she peers at the rifles. “Well, you’re gonna have to get somepony to take care of ‘em, else you’re going to work yourself to the bone. Wouldn’t want that to happen now, would we?”

I can notice them playing with each other, the subtle posturing, the coy looks. Usually nothing too overt, but rather more subtle, easily missed if one was not used to seeing it. The rest of them start to chatter again over breakfast, even as I watch, remembering the older times, the better times.

~~~~~~~~~~

Nevermore... some ponies knew of me, fewer knew me. And to my hopes, only one knew my inner secrets. I see him standing there, dressed in a formal outfit, talking to a unicorn that I recognized, though I do not approach them. The music swirls around us, ponies dressed up in their formal best, small and dainty tidbits offered by formal servers. A ball, hardly where I expected to be, admitted amongst the Canterlot elite. Only some of the crew was here, and as normal, I was off to the side, a forgotten, half-eaten plate lying in front of me. A young stallion starts to approach me, apparently fueled by either drink or peer pressure to bolster his wavering courage. Even before he opens his mouth, my molten glare sends him scurrying back to the titter of laughter from the others with him.

My gaze turns back to the one I was watching, now dancing with a pretty young mare. There’s a hardness to her that cannot be hidden by her silken dress, but also a kindness in her eyes that I would never possess as she looks at him. I do not know when disdain faded, becoming something else. As long as I can remember, I had never particularly liked him, finding him to be a fool, an idiot, a general pain. Yet... somehow some of that faded. It never went beyond that, a personal acknowledgment that in a different time, with different ponies, things may have been. Yet I am too scarred, my soul too bitter. Even as others move closer I pull away. Nevermore, a mare others can be attracted to by appearance alone, then driven away by the barrenness of my soul.

I stay by the side, ignoring attempts at conversation even as I watch them, the mare looking back at me with a touch of curiosity. With the barest tilt of my head, I nod my acceptance to her. Of her. While we may never be friends, I cannot consider her my foe any more. Bad blood was buried between us, our old grudge lost upon her offer to him. Her plans to make him better than he was, something I could never offer to him. Slipping out to the balcony, I leave her to her happiness, and embrace my solitude. No, I do not make ponies better, I only drag them further down into despair.

~~~~~~~~~~

A voice snaps me out of my reverie, bringing me back to the present. It’s something that seems to happen when I’m around others, their words and actions reminding me of past events. Memories that lay hidden and buried until unearthed, better forgotten for the pain they bring me. “Can we Nevermore?” Tik is looking at me with bright eyes, her nose nearly touching mine as she blatantly invades my personal space.

“Can we what?” My rasp fails to hide my touch of irritation, both at her and myself. Her for sticking her mug right into my face, myself for zoning out and not paying attention to my surroundings again. I find myself doing that more often as time passes, definitely more than I used to, during the early years of my cursed existence. I wonder if the years and the deaths are the cause for my unforgivable lapses of concentration.

“Gangrene said there was an arcade nearby, one that we can use! It’d be super nice to be able to go there and rest and have some fun! I’ve never even seen an arcade, but it seems to be super amazing!” Her bubbly excitement is enough to drive a mare mad. Mad I say.

Gangrene chips in. “Yeah, the roads are patrolled by the can heads, so its pretty safe generally.” She grins, looking at Star Racer. “Besides, I’m all the protection you’d ever need. Nothing’s deadlier than a viper after all.”

“Except grenades! And bullets! And bullet grenades!” Tik chips in, her brightly dyed mane was spiked up again, even as I choose to ignore the empty syringes of Med-X that she had. That would explain why she’s all chipper again, though I’m loathe to see her continued drug use.

I give a long sigh, their apparent and immediate hopes tied to attending this arcade. I hadn’t been to one in ages, in times past when I would help chaperone Rowdy. They were too noisy and busy for me, especially since I disdained large crowds and close proximity... but... “Very well... I suppose that it is not a terrible idea to do so.” Ignoring the cheers of the others, I start to gather up all of my supplies, knives finding their homes in my dress’ hidden sheathes. Gangrene’s boasts aside, I’m not going to go walking about unarmed, especially in these times.

Star Racer starts to close up her rifles again, storing them with her armor in Gangrene’s room, hopefully away from prying eyes. I can tell that she feels vulnerable as she is, but with Rangers patrolling the roads, it wouldn’t do for her to keep her Enclave technology on her. She looks back at Rebel Riot. “Remember, don’t touch those. You don’t know what might happen.” She looks up at Purse Snatch. “Keep an eye on them for me?”

“The kids or the rifles?” He grins. “Don’t worry, we’ll make sure nothing bad happens to either.” We all fall silent as there’s a series of hoofsteps getting closer, sounding unsteady. Fritter gets up and dashes towards the sound before being bowled over by myself, sending him spinning to the ground.

Zone Control smiles at me as she leans against me weakly, supporting herself, though her steps are getting a bit stronger. “Sorry to make you all worry...” Relief floods through me as she lives, battered, injured, nearly killed, but not broken. I wouldn’t have to write her into my book yet, the care and medicine provided by Gangrene keeping her with us, at least for a bit longer.

“Shhh... I am sorry you had to endure all that... but I am glad you are with us again.” My voice is soft and full of emotion. We had nearly lost her, we were so close to losing her. I rest my head on the back of her neck, tears falling down my face, washing past the mask on my muzzle.

“‘ey, back off ya rotter, tha rest of us are comin’ through!” Fritter finally manages to shoulder past me to embrace the mare, even as I back away slightly, feeling as if a weight were lifted off my shoulders.

Tik breaks the moment as she jumps into us, tackling the injured Zone Control with a hug, bringing Fritter down again as well. “Yaaaaay! Zoney’s better and we’re going to the arcade!” Some ponies never change.

On our way out, we have to pass through the gates again, the two disgusting ponies still keeping an eye on it, especially the one that tried to... ‘buy’ me for the price of entry. My temper simmers, even as they open the gate for us. Looking over to Star, I nod to her slightly. “Go on ahead, I have something to take care of first...” She looks at me dubiously, but I shush any protest. It’s hard for me to tell the difference between the two, but one was staring at me with a gaze that makes shivers run down my spine, while the other watched the gate, giving me a guess at least.

“Hey, you... yeah... Key was it?” My voice drops to a sultry tone, or at least the best I can manage with my damaged vocal cords and dry rasp. “I do always repay debts, for good or ill...” A smile creases my lips. “And I have been looking forward to... having some fun... for a while now.”

He looks at me lewdly, completely unaware of the danger he was in. “Yeah, been expecting you.” He licks his lips, looking me over as he gets closer to me. “Knew you looked like a little tramp in that dress.” He laughs, a braying and obnoxious noise to my ears. “I’ll take good care of you, at least for right now.”

Finally, he’s right on me, I can feel his breath on my face, a wholly unpleasant feeling. The memories of what these two did, offered, and threatened keep my rage burning. However, they did let us in to this place, something that I owed them for. He doesn’t see me move in time, my knife lashing out, splashing my mask with blood and gore. Howling in pain, he recoils as I claim my prize, leaving him writhing on the floor, his eye stuck to the tip of my blade. “I told you that it would be fun.” Dropping the organ to the ground, I wipe my blade on his coat before making it disappear back into my cloak. Turning from him, I look back, a sneer crossing my face. “Disgusting.” My hoof falls on the broken eye, grinding it into the dirt with an unpleasant sound. As expected, Lock pops out over the side, his face looking aghast even as I sprint out the gate, slipping through before it can be shut. He could either take a pot shot at me or tend to his brother. I would have won a bet, if there was one, as no shots come in my direction, even as I start to catch up with my companions.

“What was that all about?” Gangrene shoots me a worried glance even as we keep walking.

“Do not ask me, then you do not have to lie when you say that you do not know.” I brush past her and Star Racer, making sure we’re putting distance between myself and the Blok. I doubt those two would let me in again, but if all goes according to plan, it wouldn’t matter.

“That’s what I was afraid of.” The raider keeps complaining, muttering at me as we start heading towards our destination.

The journey towards the arcade took us through the streets of Detrot, the building located off the Blok, a short, potentially dangerous journey there. Several of my companions are chatting as we go along, even as I keep a wary eye on the buildings. I hold up my hoof as we come across a choke point, the street cluttered with fallen buildings and debris. This was far too convenient, far too easy to ambush unwary ponies. With a curt order, I reassign Fritter’s pistol to Star Racer, trusting the pegasi’s aim a lot more, and not wanting to leave her unprotected. Fritter can manage on his own, ideally, if worse comes to worse.

“Yeah, this is a popular ambush spot for raiders.” She flashes me a grin. There was only room for one pony at a time, easy prey for lurking threats.

“I do not trust this, there may be an ambush as we are filtering through, we need to make sure it is clear.” I start to head towards the gap, even as Gangrene drops a hoof on my shoulder.

“Yeah? And how are you plannin’ to do that without filin’ through yourself?”

I rudely push off her hoof, not wanting the raider to touch me. “With these.” I glance at Star Racer who nods in assent as we both gallop at the rubble, leaping up, wings opening to carry us over it. As we’re running, I hear more hoofsteps with us, even as Gangrene takes the gap at a sprint, even as a rifle cracks out, hitting the ground under me. They hadn’t expected an aerial assault, it seems. Gangrene takes shelter behind a broken sky chariot, her rifle coming up as she started cracking shots at any raider that dared show their face. She was admittedly a very good shot, though I wouldn’t tell her that to her face.

I descend on a group of raiders trying to flank Gangrene, even as a storm of bullets tear past me, some glancing off my armored dress, the rest missing through agile twists. It seems these raiders were not used to fighting fliers, their aim not compensating for dealing in three dimensions now. Falling on them, I’m in their midst, a whirling dervish of blood and death. This close, they have more risk of hitting their comrades than my quick and agile form. That doesn’t stop them from trying though. Bullets still fly, smacking into ponies even as my daggers lash out. A lucky shot slews my head around, the impact staggering me even as more bullets fly. A burst of pistol fire cuts down one of my attackers, Star Racer being a bit more cautious than I was, especially now that she was unarmored and without her powerful rifles for the time being. Gangrene’s rifle cracks again, even as I bear the last one to the ground, even as she drops her machete, crying out in pain as she hits the ground.

There’s a moment of silence as I straddle the helpless mare, her eyes pleading for mercy. The corner of my eye catches Gangrene swinging her rifle around, even as my knives flash down, nearly taking her head off. “Well ain’t you a cold-hearted one. Thought you might have been tempted to show her mercy or somethin’.”

I growl as I start to wipe my blades off, not wanting the blood to cause them to stick. “I do not like raiders.” I shoot her a glare. “Of any stripe.”

She flashes me a cocky grin and starts to rummage through the bodies, even as I do the same, securing some supplies and discarding some of the junk. Eight raiders, and nary a scratch on us. Poorly equipped and even poorer trained. “You get anything good there?” She noses towards my bag. “Can trade ya fer something if you did.”

With a sigh, I pull out one of the bags I had looted, tossing it to Gangrene. “Give that to Taffy. Well, at least some of it.” The small bag held some mints, perhaps something to foal would like. “Otherwise we should keep going.” We leave the bodies behind us, to rot under the forsaken sky.

The Highscore Arcade was set on the corner of 5th Avenue and Trotsworthy Street, a large neon sign flashing above it, declaring it to be the ‘H-gh-cor- Arc-de’. Well, at least it still had power. The building was a veritable fortress, protected by a heavily reinforced storefront and a pair of automated turrets that tracked us as we approached. Not surprising, really. Any place that brought this much attention to itself had to have some very solid defenses, otherwise raiders or other unsavory ponies would have torn the place to the ground.

Upon entry, we see a series of lockers and a small sign. Printed in bold letters, it read, ‘No weapons in the Arcade. No bad attitude in the arcade. No whining. Make use of communal cubby lockers. Have fun.’ Now my breath could be considered a weapon, and my attitude was always bad, but I had no intention of waiting out here. Gangrene started to strip, shoving her weapons and armor into a pair of lockers, even as she motioned for my companions to do the same. With a sigh, I start to pull my knives out again, laying them neatly into the locker, the growing pile earning a wide-eyed look from a passing pony, and an appreciative whistle from Gangrene. "Nice bite, girl," Gangrene practically purrs. "You into bloodlettin'?"

If looks could kill, I would have struck her down for that comment, though I refuse to dignify the question with a response. The reduced weight is nice, however, letting me move more freely. Unlike her, I don’t remove my armor, though not from choice, but necessity. All those years ago, my armored dress had fused to my body. I couldn’t take them off, even if I wanted to.

Lights and games lined the interior, luring ponies to spend their caps with the siren call of entertainment in this desolate place. Caps for a few hours of blissful forgetfulness, leaving the Wasteland outside. While many of them were in disrepair, some of them were still alive, being used by the ponies around us.

“Aw yeah! It’s working again!” Gangrene bursts past us, heading towards one of the arcade games, the sign declaring it to be Dance Dance Pony: V-Beat Syndrome. The dance pad flashed in enticing patterns, and the mare clearly took pride in this machine, and her name on the scrolling scoreboards. Most of the machines had their first place taken by somepony named Record Wrecker, appropriate, I suppose, so her name on this one was probably justifiable pride. She flashes a wicked grin at me. “Hey, Nevermore, why don’t ya put on a show? Just try ta not embarrass yourself too much.”

Just who did she think I was? While I did not normally partake in arcade games, I did have my pride. Bringing four caps out, I slip them into the machine, scrolling through the songs to find one I wanted, two criteria that must be met. Finally, I settle on one. Perfect.

A silence, a stillness as I step up onto the lit platform. I feel eyes watching me, and I shut them out. Eternity hangs by a thread as I stand on the platform, waiting for it to start. 3. 2. 1. It begins, the soft sound of an expertly played cello, quickly followed by heavy wubs. Octavia’s Lament, one of my favorite songs from the radio from way back then, one that I knew from heart. DJ Pon-3 had done a wonderful job on it, a tribute to my favorite musician. I move to the music, a tune that I had heard hundreds of times. My hooves flash on the panels to the rhythm, my mind focused on the song and the arrows even as the game starts to call out points and combos. Music, one of the few joys that had existed in my dark life. My old headphones are long gone, broken and shattered on some distant battlefield. Now... now I’ll claim a pair when I find them, but they will eventually break or run out of power, being discarded once more. I fly across the panel, moving with all the grace and fluidity that I was known for. The music cuts off as I realize with a start that the song has ended, a cheery voice announcing a new record was set. Ponies in the area stare at us, a small crowd having gathered to watch my performance. Most of them look at Gangrene, as if expecting an explosion.

My eyes flick to Gangrene after I look at the screen, the game waiting for me to input my name. Right above hers. I’m secretly pleased by the shattered look on her face, my score surpassing hers, the other criteria I wanted, to break her score. And even better? I don’t even feel winded. Most ponies would be exhausted after a performance like that, weary from the exertions. My dead body barely felt warm, my brow clean of sweat. Gangrene looked like somepony had kicked her in the throat. “But how did... but... my record!” My hoof taps as I respond to the machine’s request for a name. AAA. Insult to injury on Gangrene’s wounded pride perhaps, but I have no desire to have my name written high in glowing lights. “Hey! At least put your name up there, not something as lame as that.” She brushes past me in a huff, hoofing over the caps as the machine accepts her payment.

The sounds of Octavia’s Lament wubs fill the air behind me as Gangrene gets to work taking her record back. Personally, she was welcome to it if she wanted. It was just a break for me... and dare I say fun? Especially the look on her face at the end.

“That wasn’t very nice, Nevermore.” Star Racer chuckles as Gangrene curses fluently as she misses a section, prompting more caps to enter the machine.

“Perhaps not, but it was fun. Besides... I assume you do not mind watching now?” I’m toying with her, but the sudden start shows that I hit the mark.

“Well, that is, I-” She stutters, even as Gangrene flows across the pad, shaking her hips, her tail twirling in the air.

Barking a short laugh, I leave the sputtering Star Racer behind, the others having dispersed within the arcade. A claw grasps my shoulder, even as I try to draw a knife that was not there. “Excuse me miss, I’m sorry, please don’t be alarmed... I was hoping to talk to you, if you don’t mind.” The hippogryph is spared a knifing and a tongue lashing due to location, and how polite she sounds. She had a painted mare’s backside stuck to the front end of a griffon. A bit odd, but not entirely unexpected. Inter species relations did happen, their offspring usually dealing with unwarranted speciesism because of it. She clacks her beak nervously as she waits for me to respond.

“What do you want?” My tone is gruff as I had a sneaking suspicion about what she was. Few ponies would want to talk to a ghoul willingly, and there was only one group that I could think of that actively searched for us.

Her next words did nothing to allay my suspicions. “I hope that it doesn’t bother you if I ask, but I am very pleased to meet one like yourself. I’m sure you have lots of stories to share, and I was wondering if you would be willing to share?” She blushes suddenly. “Oh, I am so sorry. I’m Keena Keenshot, from the Church of Eternia, and well, I’m just so-”

I cut her off with a harsh wave of my hoof. “Right, Eternite. Few rules. One? No touching. Two? Maintain the personal space, got it? I have dealt with your kind before, and no, I am not going to one of your sermons, no I do not care to share stories, and no, touching me will not bless you or whatever you lot have concocted in your heads. Are we clear?”

Keena seems taken aback by my venom, the meek hippogryph bobbing her head apologetically. “I’m sorry you had a bad experience with some more zealous members of my congregation... I wouldn’t dream of inconveniencing you... I’m sorry miss.”

With a sigh, I look at her. I want to be upset, I really do. But she’s so polite. “Fine... I will give you one story... and only one. Make it good.” As soon as the words leave my lips, I realize my mistake. She was going to ask that question. The question that everypony always wants to ask a ghoul. One that may lead to mass panic in a few minutes.

She blushes, looking to the side, her question considered a touch rude by some, but the primary point of wonder for others. “How did you die?”

~~~~~~~~~~

“But I did not die then... no. As much as I may have wished, I stood back up... does that answer your question sufficiently?” My voice rasps out in irritation and I give her a brief overview of where I was when I died, and how it happened, suffocating in the pink cloud enveloping Canterlot.

The hippogryph chirps excitedly as I wind down my tale. “Oh my goodness, a real live Canterlot Ghoul! We don’t really see many of your kind... I’m sure you have so many stories, so many things we can learn from!”

I snort. “Well, keep it to yourself. I do not wish for others to know of my... condition. There is a certain belief that surrounds us, as you are probably well aware.” Still, the time for frivolity was over now, a long road lay ahead, one fraught with pain and sorrow. I had lingered here for a bit, but I need to leave before it becomes too long.

Even as she nods her head in agreement, I see Star Racer heading towards me, Gangrene next to her, the mare coated in sweat and still looking none too pleased. “So close... I’ll get it, just you watch, Nevermore.”

Sighing, I nod politely to Keena. “Miss Keenshot. I wish you well, though I doubt we will meet again.” I look towards the pair of ponies with us now. “A word, Star Racer?” I flick my gaze to Gangrene. “In private.”

Pulling her to the side, I open my mouth when Star cuts me off. “Just tell me where and when, Nevermore.” She sees the surprise in my eyes, giving a chuckle. “You grabbed all your supplies, and I can’t imagine you sitting around for long, especially with things getting more serious.” She narrows her eyes slightly. “You got that box, after all, and now we’re approaching the end game.” Her gaze flicks over to Gangrene, a wistful look crossing her eyes. “Most of us are too injured to fight much, and it’ll take a bit for us to recover. I’d say you should bring somepony with you, but you won’t listen. Besides, that cry as we left didn’t exactly say that you’d be welcome back there any time soon by those two.”

I nod my head as I look at her. “Three weeks, entrance to the Dead Zone. If I am not there at the time... assume that I am not coming back...” I hesitate. “If you do not show up, I will understand. You deserve your happiness.” I look away from her, even as I see her preparing to protest. “I know... stubborn pegasus pride.” My gaze locks onto hers. “We will meet again, Star Racer. Though perhaps we will wish we did not, afterwards.”

Silently, I slip out of the arcade after gathering all my things, heading out, alone again for the first time since meeting those two helpless stable ponies. It is an odd feeling. For some part of me, it is liberating, no longer responsible for their lives, no longer needing to endure their company or their questions, their incessant questions. On the other hoof though... No. I have to finish this. There is no time for regrets, not any more. One way or another, I will close this chapter of my life.

~~~~~~~~~~

Welcome to Level 12!

New Perk: Silent Running - You’re quite stealthy, and now how to move fast while still keeping quiet. Galloping no longer factors into determining if you can be detected.

Alone again for now... are you sure this is a good idea? While you may have grown used to it, perhaps you have grown soft...

Author's Note:

This marks the 1 year anniversary of the release of my prologue! The end is getting closer, and is now almost in sight. Thank you to everyone who reads this, hope you enjoy my story.

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