Fallout Equestria: Ascendancy

by Psycho Blizzard

First published

When Plasma Storm is forced into the Marejave Wasteland to find his foal, he soon realizes that Equestria isn’t as bad as he was told it was his entire life.

When Plasma Storm is forced into the Marejave Wasteland to find his foal, he soon realizes that Equestria isn’t as bad as he was told it was his entire life. Nor is it much better. When a very unique and strange pony joins him for an adventure, he’ll not only learn that the mythology he taught in the Stable is fact, but he’ll also delve deeper into it than anypony before him.

Stable 72

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“…Equestria is safe another year!”

I closed the old book and looked down at the eyes staring up at me. There were about two dozen fillies and colts gathered on the floor, each sitting on their own foal-sized pillow. All were dressed in the same attire: a blue jumpsuit stopping at their midsection with small saddlebags sporting a large yellow number 72 on each side.

“And that, my little ponies, is The Legend of Nightmare Moon.”

“Ooh! Ooh-ooh-ooh!” A filly in the front row was flailing her yellow hoof in the air and squinting her eyes.

“Yes, Banana Pepper?” She did this at the end of every story.

She inhaled dramatically. “But she was in another story, too! Nightmare Moon! And then she got the princess! And then she got beat by somepony!” she yelled, childishly slurring her words.

“Yes, she did, but that’s another tale for another day. Story-time’s over and you all have an assignment to finish.”

Half of the foals groaned and a few of them sounded like they were fake-crying—trust me, I know the difference. I rolled my eyes and stood up and went to my desk. So did the foals.

An annoying buzz came from the light fixtures, sounding just enough so that you knew it was there. Soft music poured from the intercom speaker; the foals seemed to focus with the music on and that’s all that mattered to me.

But enough about my students and classroom. I’m sure you’re just dying to know my name and cutie mark story, right?

My name is Plasma Storm and I’m a blank-flank. Yes, I’m a grown stallion without a cutie mark.

In Stable 72, when a pony gets his or her cutie mark, they are sent to take the C.A.T., or Cutie-mark Aptitude Test, to determine the job they will hold for the rest of their lives.

A cutie mark doesn’t mean that you’ve discovered that certain something that makes you special. It meant that you had come of age and would contribute to the Stable. We didn’t have to pay for anything down here but we did have to work for it.

If my whole blank-flank situation didn’t make me unique among the ‘average’ ponies, my being a Pegasus sure did. I was the first Pegasus ever born in Stable 72. Imagine the commotion when I had a foal of my own who also happened to be a Pegasus. I know wings are ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’ but they aren’t exactly a blessing in an underground bunker. There’s barely enough headroom to jump up and down, much less fly.

The Overmare must have gotten tired of waiting, since I was a stallion and still didn’t have a cutie mark, so I was sent to take the C.A.T. and scored ‘exceptionally high in all areas’.

Having actually given the test, I can tell you that there are no right or wrong answers but some answers are better than others. My scores meant that the Overmare couldn’t go wrong with placing me in any career. I’ve always been interested in history and Stable Teacher was the only job related to it, so I began my internship to the previous Stable Teacher.

I sat behind my desk while the foals finished their assignment and fiddled with the device on my forehoof.

It’s basically a hoof-mounted super-computer created by a company called Stable-Tec during the great war with the zebras 250 years ago. It’s called a PipBuck, and just a glance at the long list of features is all one needs to know that they are a huge advantage for the pony wearing one. It can tell you exactly where you are or place a waypoint telling where you need to go. It could sort all the gear you are carrying for easy access and can even function as a flashlight.

I eyed the clock on mine; the soft green interface was glowing back at me. The school day was almost over. Just a few more minutes, and…

A bell chimed over the intercom.

“Okay, everypony, turn in your papers,” I said. “And Molasses, please make sure you put your name on your paper this time. I might recognize your writing, but not everypony does.”

The brown filly’s cheeks turned red and she looked at the floor. “I did this time, sir.”

I thanked each foal as they hoofed in their paper. The foals all left to go home or to the cafeteria or whatever it is that foals do after school.

Music was still playing over the intercom. The song was a gloomy but soothing classical piece by a cellist named Octavia from before the war. Hers was the only good music played on the Stable Broadcast. Everypony seemed surprised that I thought so. I admired not only her composing abilities but also how you could feel the emotion in all of her works as if you were experiencing whatever had inspired her to write that piece.

I took the stack of papers in my hooves and tapped them on my desk, making a neat stack. Molasses’s paper was on top; it had no name and sloppy writing, even for a foal. I wasn’t upset. She always tells me that she put her name on it. She almost never does.

I grabbed the quiz and wrote her name on it and began grading, beginning with a five-point deduction for not putting her name on it. I was tired of telling her. Or maybe I was more tired of her not listening.

Question one: What mare was overthrown and banished to the moon by her sister? A) Princess Celestia, B) Discord, C) Ni—wait a minute.

I brought my hoof to my eyes and shook my head. She circled Discord. Discord! He wasn’t a mare. Hell, he wasn’t even a pony. I had to write a small note after every question—yes, she missed them all—explaining why she was wrong. She would never have learned if I simply circled the right answer. She probably still didn’t learn. I felt sorry for her.

The rest of the class scored well, ranging from the C+ to A- range. All except for Radiant Eclipse. She got a perfect score and I expected no less. Radiant sort of reminded me of a mare from one of the books I’d read named Twilight Sparkle. She read almost constantly and if she wasn’t reading then she was studying for any upcoming assignment, be it a pop quiz or an exam. She even tried studying for the C.A.T.

After I finished grading I cleaned up my desk and prepared the curriculum for Monday. I turned off the lights and stepped into the hallway. More buzzing light fixtures. The Stable looked so plain. The only colors down here were different shades of grey. Did ponies not know of another color 250 years ago? Was everypony grey back then?

I headed toward my room and stepped through the automatic door leading into the Living Quarters. The whole layout of the Stable was uniform. Every level was built the same—with few exceptions, of course. The only difference was what you found in the rooms. A dresser here and a bed there made a bedroom look completely different than my classroom despite them having the exact same blueprints.

I stepped through another automatic door and into my home. There was a white pegasus filly curled up on the couch, reading the book lying next to her. She seemed to be in a trance, not even noticing me as I walked up to her. I pulled a piece of paper from my saddlebag and set it on the page she was reading. Her pupils dilated and she looked up.

“I was at a good part!” She flicked the paper off and kept reading. Her pupils shrunk and she was gone again.

I waved my hoof in front of her and she twitched. “Equestria to Radiant! You got a perfect score on your quiz today!” I said playfully.

“I know. These assignments are too easy. Do I really have to sit through all my classes?”

She could tell any stallion or mare in the Stable how to do their job but, after taking her C.A.T., she was placed in maintenance as an intern to the PipBuck Technician. The Overmare said she had to finish her schooling. “Those are the rules,” she said. Rules are rules, I guess, but she had to go at the pace of the other foals.

“I know you don’t need to sit through the classes, but try telling that to the Overmare. Don’t think that I haven’t.”

She crossed her hooves and looked away. “Sure. I’ll probably have better luck getting her to let me leave the Stable.”

Ponies didn’t leave the Stable. Ever. The thought of leaving shouldn’t even cross the mind of a pony her age. 72 did have an incident when I was younger where somepony had tried to leave. He got the door open but Security got him before he could leave. They beat him to death and threw his corpse outside the door then sealed the Stable again. The Overmare placed her duty to the Stable above everything else including the lives of its residents. He had risked the safety of the Stable and she felt he had to pay for that with his life.

I came out of my reverie to the sight of Radiant with one hoof on my face and the other reared back and ready to strike. Again. “Dad? What’s the matter with you?” Her amber eyes glared into mine and she kept her hoof pulled back.

I blinked. “You slapped at my face.”

She flushed and glanced at her hoof before lowering it. “No, I didn’t.” Yes, she did.


“What was that all about?” she asked. “That thing where your eyes went all…” she sat up straight with her eyes wide, frozen in place.

“It’s about what you said. Where did you hear about the outside world?”

She didn’t answer.

“Radiant, nopony leaves the Stable. I don’t even want to think of what the Overmare would have done if she heard you.”

She looked up at me and furrowed her brow. “Wait, you knew we weren’t alone here? And you kept it from me? You want to stay trapped down here?” By her tone, I may as well have stabbed her in the back.

“If that guarantees your safety, then yes, I want us to stay down here. We don’t know what’s out there.”

“You seriously believe what the Overmare says?”

Of course not. “It’s what I was always taught. Why shouldn’t I?”

“Because it makes no sense.”

“It doesn’t matter if it makes sense and it doesn’t matter if Equestria has been safe since the day after the end of the war. We don’t leave until we get the all-clear from Stable-Tec that it’s safe.”

She looked down at the floor. “Fine.” If she didn’t stop there, this argument could go on for hours. Dad was always right.

Poor Radiant. I smiled and looked at the time. The cafeteria would be closing in about an hour.

“Come on, let’s go get something to eat.” I extended my wing down to the couch and she climbed up onto my back.

* * *

The cafeteria was one of the largest rooms in the whole Stable. There were more seats available than there were residents. Seems a real waste to me; it’s not like we got many visitors down there.

Radiant and I stepped up to the lunch line, holding our trays in our mouths. Unicorns sure did have it easy. The lunch-mare slapped a pile of mush onto our trays—the main course was always a disgusting paste—and we continued down the line, grabbing things like hay and an apple.

We went to the nearest empty table—a small two-seater—and sat down. The mush was thick like tar and probably tasted worse. It was nutritious though. Radiant didn’t like it any more than I did and showed it by grimacing as she plunged her fork into the mush. When she pulled it straight out a large wad stuck to the fork, not a bit dripping off.

“Why do we eat this crap?” she asked, glaring at the food.

“So we don’t die.”

“You sure this isn’t what’s killing us?” She got up and carried the tray to the trashcan and took the apple in her mouth and threw the tray into the trashcan.

We sat at the cafeteria table a while longer and talked while I finished my meal. We talked about Radiant’s job as a PipBuck Technician intern. She seemed pretty proud of it and so was I. All Hardware let her do was fix cosmetic damages. Mainly just buffing out scratches and purging viruses—you’d be surprised what some of those ponies were browsing.

We also talked about the upcoming C.A.T. and I teased her about trying to study for it. Only a pony who has taken it would know that that’s a waste of time. I was curious as to what job Molasses would get; she had gotten her cutie mark a few days ago. I couldn’t think of anything that would suit her. She’s a few apples short of a bushel…

It was starting to get late so we headed back to the room; the standard two bedroom, which is what most ponies had. We weren’t allowed more than one foal unless a mare had twins, of course. There was only one three bedroom in the Stable that was for housing ponies. This was the Overmare’s. She didn’t even have any foals. She didn’t have a stallion either and you’d know why if you knew her.

The automatic door opened with a hiss. Ponies walked by the large window looking into our room. I hated that window; it made our place seem like an exhibit. Maybe everypony felt better about it since there was one in everypony’s room. Maybe I thought it was creepy.

I took Radiant to her room to tuck her in. Grown up as she was mentally, she was still my little filly. Her room was always kept neat and organized. There were strips of tape labeling everything, even what was in her dresser drawers. She climbed on the bed and slid under the blanket. I kissed her forehead before she rolled over and closed her eyes.

“Goodnight, Radiant,” I said and turned off her lamp.

“Goodnight, Dad.”

I went to my room. It wasn’t nearly neat as Radiant’s. There were Stable suits lying on the floor around my laundry hamper. I’ll pick them up tomorrow, I thought. That’s what I told myself last night. I crawled onto my bed and looked at the picture on my nightstand.

The picture was of two ponies sitting on a blanket. They were surrounded by the depressing grey of the Stable. The snow-white Unicorn mare was nestled under the wing of a much larger dark purple Pegasus stallion. A soft pink blush was on her cheeks. The stallion rested his chin on top of the mare’s head and she had the most beautiful amber eyes. Radiant had her mother’s eyes.

I don’t know how long I stared at the picture before turning off the light, but I just couldn’t look anymore. Then, it had been the happiest day of my life; the day I found out that I was going to be a father. It hurt so much to remember it now.

* * *

6:58 A.M.

Every single morning, like clockwork. My rear hooves were hanging off the edge of the bed. “Just two more minutes,” I mumbled to my mom that wasn’t there.

7:00 A.M.

My alarm went off, and the high-pitched voice of a mare began to sing.

This is your wake-up telegram, I hope it finds you well

We wrote this message for you ‘cause we think you’re really swell

Open your eyes, let out a yawn, and get up out of bed

Stretch your wings or legs or warm the horn up on your head

I’m sure your friends are waiting, go see if they want to play

So, please, oh please get out of bed, get up and start your day

I couldn’t help but smile at the happiness in the mare’s voice. The same voice came from Radiant’s room; it was singing in unison with mine. Then I heard a low groan followed by multiple thumps and her alarm turned off. There was a louder thump right after.


I rolled out of bed and turned my alarm off and went to check on Radiant. She was lying on her back, spread-eagle, with one wing stretched out, snoring softly.

It was Saturday—she didn’t have school or work—so I picked up the blanket that was currently just warming up one leg of hers, put her on the bed and tucked her back in.

I went to the showers. There was nopony in there—I think I’m the only one who gets up this early on Saturday. I turned the valves and hot water blasted from the shower head and soaked me. The loofah-on-a-stick is a little tough for a non-Unicorn to use but I wasn’t about to ask the first stallion who walked in for a hoof.

After the shower, I went back home. Radiant was still asleep. I went to my room and picked up the Stable suits off of the floor and put them in the hamper. What to do this weekend?

* * *

Monday already.

Today, nine foals would take the C.A.T. The foals all gathered in the classroom and took their seats. I stood before them with my stack of papers and cleared my throat.

“Everypony make sure to circle neatly,” I looked at Molasses, “and put your names on your paper.”

“I will this time,” she said.

“That’s what you said Friday, and you didn’t put your name on your paper. Don’t let that happen again, Molasses, or I’ll have to fail you. You don’t want to know what happens to ponies who fail the C.A.T.” Nothing happens because you can’t fail the C.A.T., but it really makes them focus. “Okay…” I gave them a menacing grin. “Question one…”

* * *

“That’s it, ponies. The infamous C.A.T. Everypony, turn in your papers and I’ll let you know how you scored tomorrow in class.”


I cleaned up my desk and turned the classroom lights off and went into the hall. A big Earth colt was talking to Radiant.

“Yeah, that’s why you’re stuck fixing PipBucks for the rest of your life, loser.”

“You clean the toilets for a living. You don’t have any room to talk,” said Radiant.

The Stable bully seemed to have taken a liking to picking on Radiant. I’m pretty sure he was the son of the bully who picked on me when I was her age. He was the biggest colt in the class but that’s because he was twice their age. I hate to say it, being a teacher and all, but he was flat out stupid; he failed his exams every year and had the intelligence of a two year old.

“What did you just said?” He inched her toward the wall.

“Quit it!” she said.

“Why? Are you gonna tell your blank-flank dad?” He knocked her books to the floor.

I spun him around and backed him up against the wall. “What’s going on here?”

He didn’t answer.

“Dad, he picks on me every day. Can’t you do something?”

“I’m about to. I’m getting tired of you bothering her.” I pulled my hoof back like I was going to hit him.

He threw his hooves up. “No, please, no! I’m sorry!”

“Yeah, you are. Pick her books up.” He did. “Now apologize.”

“Sorry…” he muttered.

“Didn’t quite catch that,” I said.

“I’m sorry.”

Radiant jumped up on my back. “This blank-flank dad has more important things to do. Like tell you to study for your exam on Friday. Too bad you won’t and I’ll see you again next year.”

Radiant shot the bully a raspberry.

He pointed a hoof at her. “You’re dead, loser…”

I came back and knocked his books to the floor. “Littering? Pick those up before I give you detention every day next week.”

Radiant shot him another raspberry. He didn’t say anything that time.

* * *

Sirens shook me from my sleep. I flailed my legs and kicked the blanket off of me and got out of bed. I didn’t know what was happening but it must be serious if they turned on the sirens. I ran to Radiant’s room.

She was gone.

“Oh, shit!” I started yelling for her. She wasn’t anywhere in our home. Maybe the halls?

Maybe not. I stopped to ask a few of the panicked residents. They weren’t helpful at all. They didn’t even answer my question.

I threw my hooves up. “Oh, yes! Let’s all freak out!”

A mare ran up to me. “Don’t you know what’s going on?”


“Somepony left the Stable.”


“I don’t know.”

“So you decided to just freak out until somepony else solves the problem?”

She furrowed her brow. “You’re such a prick!”

“Don’t you think I know that?” Nice ponies only get taken advantage of. Better everypony thinks I’m a prick.

“I didn’t even do anything to you.”

“I… you’re right. Sorry about that. Radiant’s missing and you’re telling me somepony left the Stable.”

She gasped. “You think she’s the one who left?”

“I do now. She mentioned it a few days ago. The outside world.”

“Then you better go check. The Overmare would know.”

“Thanks. And sorry again. You didn’t deserve that.”

“Just go!”

The Overmare was in her office. She was looking at the chaos below from her giant window overlooking the atrium with no expression, almost like she had planned it.

“Overmare, have you seen Radiant? She’s not in her room.”

“Yes.” She turned and walked up to me. “She’s outside. Radiant opened the door to the Stable.”

“What?! No…” I turned to go to the Stable door.

“Hold it!” She stepped up to me again. “Radiant’s life in the Stable is done. She’ll be killed if she comes back. We can’t risk the safety of our home without consequences. You need to forget about her. You are a very valuable member of the Stable and I don’t want to lose you to her mistake.”

“You want me to leave my daughter to die out there?”

“That’s exactly what I want you to do and you will because I told you to.”


Luna, was she pissed then. “I will not tolerate dissent in my Stable.”

“You better shoot me then. I’m going after her.”

Thank Luna that the Overmare was an Earth pony. She reached her head back to draw her Laser Pistol and I slammed my hoof to the back of her head. She crumpled to the floor and I took the pistol.

I made my way to the Stable door. I entered the Atrium just before the exit. There was the corpse of one of the Stable custodians. She wasn’t much younger than I was. Over her corpse stood one of the Stable’s security guards with a bloody baton in his mouth.

“Stop right there! This area’s off-limits until further notice.”

“You killed her?”

“I said this area’s off-limits! Get back to your room!”

I started toward him.

“I won’t warn you again! Take another step and I’ll…”

I shot him. And again. And again. He lit up and turned to a pile of ash.

He murdered her. For simply being here at the wrong time. I remembered the story of the pony who tried to leave when I was younger. It was a gruesome story, but to actually experience something similar? It was another experience entirely.

The Stable door was wide open; the giant cog-shaped opening was beckoning somepony to leave. So I did. I stepped slowly, cautiously, as if I expected a whole team of security guards to swoop in and try to stop me.

Nopony came and the sirens kept blasting.

Just outside the Stable door was a long tunnel and a single skeleton. The air was cool and dry. It smelled much different than the air I’d breathed my whole life. I felt rock under my hooves for the first time.

At the end of the tunnel was a cellar door. I flipped it open and was blasted with the brightest light I’ve ever seen in my life. It was warm too. I reeled back in terror then crawled out onto the rock and took in the vast world before me.

Now, where could Radiant have gone to?

The Marejave Wasteland

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I think it would be putting it lightly to say that the world outside wasn’t what I’d expected. According to the Overmare, the world had been blasted by the mega-spells and the land was broken and scarred beyond repair. “Every sign of life was gone and Stable 72 was the last bastion of ponykind,” she said.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The land showed absolutely no sign of destruction. The mountains around me were bathing in the sun as well. The warm palette of colors were a refreshing change from the infinite grey of the Stable. I couldn’t have even imagined how nice it was out here; I kind of wish I would have humored Radiant in her wanting to leave. It wasn’t so bad out here. Actually, it was amazing. The only sounds were of the breeze and the tumbleweeds it was blowing around. No buzzing lights or gossip from the ponies you knew were talking about you.

I felt the sun for the first time and fanned my wings out to take in as much of its warmth as I could.

But there was a reason I was out here in the first place. I needed to find Radiant.

As nice as it looked, there wasn’t much of anything except rock and sand. The mouth of the passage out of the Stable led to an opening that overlooked a small canyon. Gusts of wind blew sand and tumbleweeds around the canyon below. The former made visible spirals that danced around the landscape and caused the flora to sway as they passed.

The canyon walls were littered with holes of all different sizes. Some were too small for a foal to fit in. Some were five ponies tall. I didn’t want to know what any of them were housing.

After a few hours of wandering, it looked like I had been going in circles. The sun crept behind the horizon and took its light with it. We always had light in the Stable. I didn’t know what to do.

Then the moon was there and it bathed the world in a light the opposite of the sun. This light was cool and pale and didn’t burn my hide if I stood there for too long.

I couldn’t tell you exactly what the sun looked like; it hurt my eyes when I tried to look at it. But the moon… It was a beautiful orb of artistic expression. It’s pale surface was adorned with darker swirls of grey and it radiated a pale light. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and I felt a strange desire to thank Princess Luna even though she doesn’t even exist.

Then I heard a faint clicking noise behind me. I turned around. The monster stood low to the ground on six slim legs and had two giant pincers in the front, slamming shut and making that clicking. A barbed tail was being pulled behind it. I bet that’s venomous, I thought.

I let out a sharp cry and flapped my wings to fly away. There was just one problem: I didn’t know how to fly. Being trapped in a Stable had robbed me of the unique trait of my race. It was enough for a large bound but I plummeted back to the ground.

At first I thought of Radiant, but I figured these things were nocturnal. They hadn’t bothered me until the sun went down. Hopefully she got out of here before dark.

I started firing my Laser Pistol at it. The orange beams hit the carapace and it began to smoke. The monster reared back when I hit it in the mouth. A glow began at the mouth and spread across its body, then it was a pile of ash.

My victory was short lived. I heard a chorus of clicking and a black mass was headed toward me.

“Fuck. That.” I ran.

I took potshots here and there as I ran. The occasional creature would light up and burn to ash. There were so many of them.

I saw a fence in the distance. The large chain-link border had been trampled down and was making a ramp that went up toward me. Clearing the fence was easy.

The landing wasn’t. I went, face first, into a sandstorm. I squinted my eyes as the sand blasted in and landed awkwardly on the steep and uneven terrain. The next thing I remembered was my stomach dropping as I was free falling. I tried to fly but I just started flipping and flailing in the air.

Is it wrong to think that that probably looked hilarious even though it happened to me? I wish I could see it now.

I landed on my shoulders, flipping head over hoof in a very painful descent and fell into a deeper canyon. I did finally get to the bottom, only to land on my back with a sick crunch.

The outline of a Pegasus appeared in my vision and it said that my wing was broken. No shit, I thought.

It sucks out here…

* * *

I awoke to the sun beating down on me. There was a gross pop when I rolled over to get up and a sharp pain shot through my body.

“Agh!” My wing stuck straight out, then halfway up it just went limp like a deflated balloon. “Oh, fuck… I need a doctor.”

I hope Radiant didn’t do that, I thought. I got up and started walking again.

My broken wing flopped as I walked and I felt a pang with every step. The sandstorm had died down. All that remained was the occasional mini-twister that wreaked minor havoc on the shrubbery.

The bottom of the canyon wasn’t barren like the one with the bugs. It was littered with bunkers that were hidden in the ground. They weren’t concealed as well as the Stable but, under the cover of a sandstorm, I doubt that most ponies would have noticed them.

I walked up to the door of the nearest bunker. There were anti-war messages scrawled on every inch of it and surrounding wall. If only everypony agreed with these ponies. I hit the button and the door came to life with parts sliding and spinning before the whole door slid down into the ground. I stepped inside.

It dawned on me that using my E.F.S. would be a good idea. I hated the interface, but I didn’t want to bump into anything nasty down here. I rotated the dial on my PipBuck until the opacity was at 100% and looked around.

No bars. I was alone.

I checked my map to see if my PipBuck knew where I was.

“Whoa…” It did. I was in Hidden Valley and had come from Scorpion Gulch. There was also a marker for Stable 72. Suddenly, I was more impressed than annoyed at the interface and truly appreciated the accomplishments of the ponies of the past.

There was a staircase just inside the door that lead down to a dimly lit room. There was nopony in the room. The only light came from a burning barrel by another automatic door. There was an intercom next to the door like the ones we had in the Stable. I walked up and held down the button.

“Hello, is anypony there?”

No answer.

“Hello?! Anypony there? I need help.”

I heard a clank and saw several green bars on my E.F.S. The door in front of me disappeared into the floor and through it stepped the most badass looking pony I’d ever seen.

He wore bulky grey armor with no helmet and had an eye patch covering an eye that probably wasn’t there. His guns were even more impressive. On his left was a Gatling Laser. I didn’t recognize the gun on the right, but it looked dangerous. It had a long silver barrel that had solid metal discs down its full length.

“You’re going to hand over your belongings and come with us,” he said in a gravelly voice. Not that I wanted to piss this pony off, but I had to find Radiant.

“I’m kinda busy. What happens if I don’t?”

The armored ponies behind the massive stallion snickered and he cleared his throat. He pulled the trigger of the gun on the right and a missile… thing… struck the ground in front of me. The explosion knocked me off my hooves and I was peppered with small bits of concrete.

“I won’t tell you again. Hand over your belongings. You’re coming with us.”

Damn. I slid my Laser Pistol across the floor and threw my saddlebags to them. He stared at me for a few seconds.


“Your suit.”

“It’s only clothing. It wouldn’t even stop a spoon.”

“I said everything, you moron. Now!”

His gun revved up again. I don’t think I’ve taken my clothes off that fast before, but I stopped when I got to my broken wing. There were holes cut in all of my suits for my wings, but it was all twisted and jutting in every direction and I couldn’t slide it out. I heard the metal pony sigh and then I was screaming like a filly, much to the amusement of the others. The bastard ripped the suit straight off. Then his armored hoof smashed my face.

“Put the collar on him.”

I heard heavy steps on the metal. A cold ring snapped around my neck with a click and everything went black.

It really fucking sucks out here…

* * *

Two stallions dragged me across metal floors. My rear hooves scraped along as they pulled me. The smell of rust filled my nostrils and the place reeked of failure. My face was cold and sore. This bunker I was in had automatic doors like the Stable. Two armored ponies stood on either side, guarding from a nonexistent threat.

They brought me to their Elder. She was a middle-aged Unicorn mare wearing robes instead of armor.

“Good morning,” she said. “I am Elder Fancy Script. I’d like to skip the formalities, if that’s all right with you.”

“Formalities? There’s nothing formal about this, in case you haven’t noticed.”

One of the guards struck me in the side with the butt of his gun. “You better not do that again,” I said to him.

“I beg your pardon?” the Elder said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

“You bastards knocked me out, put what I’m guessing is some kind of bomb around my neck, kidnapped me, and dragged me down here.”

The guard hit me again. This time, I slammed my head to his. The flashlight on his helmet shattered and he tipped over from the sheer force of the head-butt.

Head-butting a pony with a metal helmet? Not my best idea. I staggered and another guard touched a forked metal rod to my side and I felt electricity run through my body. I fell to the floor and several ponies piled on top of me and began pounding my head in.

The Elder stepped through the crowd and called them off. She was levitating a small box with an antenna and a big red button on it.

“Ah, ah. You might not want to try that again.” She levitated the box closer. “I press this button and that collar around your neck turns you into the Headless Horse.”

I didn’t reply.

“Good to see that I have your attention.” She turned around and started walking away from me, then stopped. “Now… you’re going to tell me what you’re doing poking around in my bunker.”

I wiped the blood from my lips. “Why should I tell you anything?”

“Because. I press this button… you die. You don’t want to die, right?”

“You’d kill me for not telling you something?”


“Fine. I came out of my Stable to find my daughter.”

Her eyes widened. “A Stable? Where is this Stable?”

“Fuck you.”

She chuckled. “Go on.”

“Okay. I walked through these canyons and these monsters came out and chased me down here.”

“What kind of monsters?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen them before. They were short and had big claws and a long tail with a barb on the end.”

Her interest dropped. “Oh, that’s just Radscorpions.”

“Just Radscorpions? They almost killed me.”

“You don’t have our resources. Killing them isn’t even worth the ammo spent. A nuisance is what Radscorpions are.”

“Well, the nuisances chased me over a fence and I fell down into this canyon. I landed on my wing and now it’s broken.”


“Then I came down here, your fucking Cyclops pony took my stuff, knocked me out, and now I have a bomb around my neck and you are all bigger assholes than I am.”

She didn’t look like she believed me at first, but I guess my story didn’t make all that much sense in the first place.

“That’s quite a tale. I believe you. For now.”

“So when do I get to leave?”

“Who said you were leaving? This is a secure facility and its location is to be known only by the Steel Rangers.”

“I don’t care. I have more important things to do than be your prisoner.”

“You’re not in any position to demand anything.”

“You better kill me then. I’m not just going to sit down here.”

A Steel Ranger stepped up to the Elder and she whispered something into its armored ear.

“Very well then. I’m feeling generous today. I’ll let you leave. But you’ll help me with something first. A wanderer has been sheltering in one of our bunkers. We want you to get rid of him. The security of the Steel Rangers depends on it.”

“You want me to kill him?”

“If it comes to that, yes.”

“I’m not going to kill him.”

“As I said, if it comes to that. If you can convince him to leave then, by all means, do that.”

It was disturbing how low these ponies held the lives of others. Kill them because we want to? It makes me sick.

It took convincing, but they returned my belongings in case I actually needed to kill this pony. They left the explosive collar on.

I wandered back out into the desert and was greeted by the scorching sun again. I reeled back as I did coming out of the Stable.

The bunker the wanderer had been in was identical to the one I had stumbled into. I crept down the stairs and through the door. The wanderer sat beside a fire. He whipped up a pistol the second he saw me.

“Get on the ground.”


He walked up and stood over me.

“Are you going to murder me now? What the hell is wrong with you ponies out here?”

“I could ask you the same thing, stranger. What are you doing down here?”

I figured he might understand my situation. Since he hadn’t blown my head off already, he might have it in his heart to help me.

“Okay. I was kidnapped by some ponies in metal suits. They put a bomb around my neck and want me to get rid of you or they’re going to kill me. Care to help out?”

He examined the collar and pulled a screwdriver out of his bag. He fiddled around with the collar and it clicked open and fell, with a clunk, to the floor.

“Demolition Specialist Blackpowder,” he said, extending his hoof to me. “The audio feed is dead. They heard everything you just said.”

I sighed. “I don’t care. Thanks for the help though.”

He snatched up the collar and put it in his saddlebag and looked at me. “Worth a lot of caps.”

“Caps? As in bottle caps?”


“We don’t use bits anymore?”

He saw my PipBuck. “Stable pony, huh? Pretty much everything out here is money. You just trade whatever you got for whatever you want. Anyways, what’s this about metal ponies?” His expression said he was not a friend of them.

“They dragged me down into their bunker and put that collar on me. They want you gone and sent me to get rid of you. In return, they’ll let me go.”

“Sounds like the Steel Rangers, all right. They aren’t going to ‘let you go’. They’re going to kill you and take that PipBuck you got there.” He pointed at my PipBuck. “They care about one thing: technology. They’ll murder and steal to get their hooves on it, too.”

“Why hasn’t anypony done anything about them?”

“Well, for one, you’ve seen the firepower they’re packing. Add to that they’ve been hiding for decades. We haven’t’ heard nothing from ‘em since we ran ‘em out of the power plant.”

“Who’s we?”

“The NCR. We’re pretty much the Equestrian Military.”

“And you’re the good guys?”

“There’s no good guys out here. We’re not the bad guys, though.”

“Well, I’d love to stay and chat but I’m looking for somepony. I really need to go.”

“Yeah, we need to. It’d be bad if they decided to come solve the problem themselves. They’re mules, but they have the firepower to take the two of us.”

“I’m looking for my daughter. You haven’t seen her, have you?”

“You been looking for her long? I might have seen her.”

“Since last night.”

“Oh, sorry. You’re the first pony I’ve seen in a few days. You should follow the highway. You might find somepony who’s seen her.”

“Thanks anyway.”

* * *

The road seemed to go on forever. I wished I were a white pony; the sun was stifling and I almost missed the cool halls of the Stable. Imagine what it was like for the ponies who had to build this road.

With a small mountain range drawing near, I saw two long wooden barriers. I walked in between them, continuing down the highway.


I jumped and spun around, ready to defend myself.

“Hold up there. You don’t wanna go that way.” The pony that stopped me was a pudgy Earth stallion. He was wearing a yellow hardhat and had a pickaxe for a cutie mark.

“Why not?”

“We were digging through the mountain when we busted through the wall of a cave full of Hellhounds.”

“What’s that?”

“The scariest thing you’ll find in the Marejave, that’s for sure! Two of ‘em came out and killed eleven of my guys in about five seconds. They’re mean as hell and bulletproof.” He pointed at my Laser Pistol. “That little laser light there won’t do nothing but piss ‘em off.”

“Oh. You didn’t see a Pegasus filly come through here, did you?” Please say no, I thought.

“I don’t think so. If she did, there ain’t much you can do for her now. She might make it past me, but not a Hellhound.”

“I didn’t need to hear that last part, you know.”

“Sorry, friend. I won’t sit here and lie to your face. You go lookin’ for your filly down there, and you won’t be comin’ back. I can guarantee it. You’d do best to check Thunderhooves, that way.”

I suddenly felt like hitting myself in the head. I punched in Radiant’s tag and a hollow waypoint appeared on my map. It was moving and in the direction that the pony had pointed me in. I wasted most of the day coming here. But that means Radiant didn’t come this way.

The walk back—I’d say it was more of a trek than a walk—took longer than before. I finally made it back to where I had turned and kept straight. I figured I was going faster than Radiant, so I’d catch up eventually. Just no getting sidetracked again, I thought. Hopefully she wasn’t hurt and at least grabbed water. No, she’s fine. She’s a smart pony.

There were abandoned carriages a small ways off the road. I came to a crater that consumed most of the road. Barrels were piled at the bottom and green ooze pooled around them. The area around the holes the ooze spilled from was covered in sun-baked ooze that had hardened and sealed them shut. A reptilian creature with a wide head fought with a Radroach over the right to bask in the radiation. The roach didn’t last very long.

Thunderhooves was ahead. A large building towered over the small town. I could see the neon sign perched at the top floor. It looked like a massive hunchback pony. Thunderhooves Hotel was spelled out in dead neon letters above it.

The road went under the overpass that led into the town. The left side of the highway was blocked off by rubble and the right side only had a very narrow path through it. I started under it when a voice called out to me from the bridge above.

“Where the hay do you think you’re going?”

It was from a dusty pony bundled in heavy cloth. The metal breastplate on his clothes had a two-headed Ursa Minor etched into it and he wore a hat with goggles.

“I need to get into Thunderhooves.”

“Thunderhooves is off-limits.”

Of course it is. “Why?”

“A bunch of our convicts killed the guards and took over our prison. Most stayed there, but some broke off and came here. They shot some of the civilians and tied up the deputy and hauled her inside. Don’t know if they’re holding her hostage or if they just killed her.”

“Can I help?” I couldn’t just walk away.

“Officially, no. Commander Nightshade would be pissed if she found out we had to get outside help to fix our problem. But, between you and me, maybe outside help wouldn’t be such a bad thing. We’re supposed to sit out here and ‘wait for reinforcements’,” he made air quotes. “They ain’t coming. That deputy’s gonna die if she hasn’t already. She needs help and we can’t give it.”

Someone needed to take back this town. I guess it fell to me. I looked at the moving waypoint on my PipBuck. Sidetracked, yet again.

“Anything I need to know?”

“You know about as much as we do. Since they took this town, you can bet that they’re armed and willing to use their weapons. And remember, they’re murderers. Every last one of ‘em. Don’t feel bad about ending the sorry sons o’ bitches.”

I wouldn’t.

I went to the entrance and stepped inside.

* * *

The stench hit me immediately—why did every building out here smell like carrion? The lobby looked as bad as it smelled. A nearly complete skeleton rested in the chair behind the receptionist desk. It looked equine, but I’d never seen a pony that big. It was like the neon sign outside.

I bit the grip of my Laser Pistol and inched forward. My jaw was tight and ready to end the first pony I saw. I could hear faint voices but they were frequently drowned out by the crackle of small pieces of debris that fell from the ceiling. My heart raced from adrenaline and I peeked into the hallway.


There was a burning barrel about halfway down the hall, casting flickering shadows on the wall. I slipped into the first room, which appeared to be a gift shop or something like that. Bottle caps were scattered on the counter and the surrounding floor. Boxes of food were up on the shelves so I put them in my bag. I saw a safe. I’d probably need what was in there.

I don’t know how to pick locks, but I figured the terminal above the safe had a lock override. They did more often than not. The password was five letters. I got it on the second try: Storm.

The terminal came on and showed three options: Business Ledger, Daily Log, and Unlock Safe. I didn’t have time to see how much money this store made and I really didn’t care about this pony’s diary. I unlocked the safe.

Bits, a title to the hotel, a box of shotgun shells…


A gun case lay hidden under the clutter. I pulled it out and opened it and stared in awe at the Riot Shotgun within. It had a glossy black barrel with a strange red tint to it and a massive ammo drum. The wood of the stock looked charred but was polished to a shine. I looked it over, taking in all of its beauty. That’s when I noticed the word scrawled in letters that looked like blood.

“Perdition…” It was a gun important enough to have a name. It’d be a shame to leave it here. I loaded it with the shells from the safe, it held fifteen, and emptied the safe into my saddlebags and crept back out into the hall.

I continued toward the voices, keeping an eye and ear out for the deputy. My shadow blackened the other side of the hall as I stepped past the burning barrel.

The voices grew louder as I neared the end of the hallway. I could hear at least five or six ponies in a drunken revel and listened in on them. They all sat around a bonfire, laughing and singing, with the bottoms of their booze bottles pointed to the ceiling. The leader of the group was clad in leather barding that was reinforced with pieces of metal and had large gas tanks on his sides. I nozzle pointed forward, past his head, from both tanks.

Too easy.

I lined up my Laser Pistol; I could try to fire Perdition with my mouth like an Earth pony, but the recoil would probably knock my teeth out. One orange beam later and the revelers were showered with fire. I felt bad for them at first, but they deserved it.

Nothing on them was salvageable so I moved on. They were partying outside the kitchen. The refrigerator was stocked full of food and drink but I would get them on the way out.

The elevator was out so I had to take the stairs. The stairs to the third floor was blocked by debris. The second floor was nothing but hotel rooms. All the doors were shut except one; it was cracked. The muffled cries of a mare came from within.

I heard a thud, a whimper, then a stallion’s voice. “Hush now, Deputy. We’re just gonna do a full body search.” Another stallion laughed.

I knew exactly what was going on in there and I knew exactly how to deal with it. Perdition was going to help me.

I burst through the door.

The deputy was on her stomach with her hind legs spread. One stallion was holding her head down and the other had mounted her.

The rapist crumpled to the floor when I slammed my head to his. The deputy yelped when he was ripped out of her. The rapist was on his back, spread eagle. I stood on my hind legs, flapped my good wing for balance, drew Perdition, and turned him into a mare.
The deputy broke free of her startled captor. He pulled something from a strap on his barding and tossed it at me. It beeped then exploded. I instinctively raised my broken wing to shield myself and a second later, the floppy half of it was gone. I fell to my back, screaming in agony. The stallion came up and gave me some new holes in my gut with his knife. According to my PipBuck, I was about to die.

There was a gunshot and the stallion crumpled to the floor.

The deputy was sitting with her back against the wall. A revolver was in her hoof. She was still crying and hyperventilating. It looked like she couldn’t stand. She dragged herself to me. “Oh, please don’t die on me.”

My side was sticky and every breath was painful. She went through my bags. I didn’t know what she was looking for.

“Aha! Ah need ya to stand up so Ah can put these here bandages on ya. They’ll stop the bleedin’.”

I slowly got up, wincing the entire time. Blood poured from my wounds. She looked up at me. She wouldn’t be able to reach over me if she couldn’t stand. “Uh, can you just kneel down then?”

That was even more painful. The muscles in my abdomen strained and pushed the blood out faster. “Hurry… please hurry…” I was about to pass out again.

She threw the roll of bandage over me a few times and I felt the fabric tighten around me. They were quickly soaked but I felt a tingling sensation in my gut. I still felt the pain but I wasn’t bleeding anymore.

“Thanks.” I offered a hoof to help her up.

“No, no, Ah can’t stand.” She looked up at me and wiped her nose. “Wait a sec, what are ya doin’ here? You just wander in on your own?”

“Kind of. The NCR pony outside ‘officially’ advised against it, but I heard that the Deputy was captured. And here you are.”

“NCR? This here’s mah town.” She paused, then smiled. “Well, Ah’m glad not everypony does what they’re told.”

I knelt down to look at her hind leg. It was swollen but the skin wasn’t broken. “You think it’s broken?”

“Probably. Mr. Horny Horse busted it when they brought me up here.” She looked at the gelded stallion who was taking sharp breaths and covering his crotch. “Why didn’t ya kill him?”

“He’ll bleed out, but you’re welcome to kill him now. Or… imagine if he doesn’t die. I don’t think there’s a potion that can fix that.”

“Ya know, Ah rather like that thought. That’s much worse than dyin’.”

“Wait! You can’t just leave me here!”

“Yes, we can,” I said.

“You have to help me! I’ll die!”

“Or worse,” I reminded him.

We left the blubbering stallion and headed for the exit. The deputy rode on my back since she couldn’t walk.

“Watch the wing. It’s broken.”

“Broken? It’s gone, buddy.”

I returned to meet with the NCR trooper with the deputy on my back. The look on his face said he didn’t expect me to walk out, much less with the deputy alive.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” he said. “You killed all those convicts and rescued the deputy?”

“I don’t know. I just got to the second floor. That’s where I found her.”

The deputy nudged the back of my head. “Ah’m still right impressed, stranger. Ah’m sure the rest of us can take care of any of ‘em that’s still up here. Element o’ surprise and all. Ya ever need anythin’, you let me know.”

“There is something I need, actually. I’m looking for my daughter. She’s a Pegasus, only six years old. Seen her?”

The deputy shook her head. “Can’t say Ah’ve seen ‘er. Yer the first flyer Ah’ve ever seen.” She looked at my half-wing. “Shame what happened to ya.”

I wasn’t surprised. I just couldn’t get a break out here. But then the trooper cut in. “We only set up here a few hours before you walked by. Would she have strolled by? Somepony here may have seen her.”

“No, she’s at least a day ahead of me. I got sidetracked.”

“I can file a report and send a notice to our patrols to keep an eye out for her.” He pulled out a notepad. “What’s her name?”

“Radiant Eclipse.”

“Eye color?”

“Why is that important?”

“We’re not going to going around asking every filly for their name. She’s probably the only Pegasus filly out here, but we still need to know what she looks like.”

“Oh. They’re amber.”




“It’s purple with a gold streak in it.”

“Cutie mark?”

“A lunar eclipse.”

“I don’t know what that is.”

“It looks like the moon, except it’s orange.”

“Ah. And she’s a Pegasus?”


He put the notepad back in his bag. I thanked him.

“Not at all. It’s the least I can do, what with you risking your life to help us out and all.” He saw my mangled wing. “Whoa! What happened?”

“One of the convicts threw some kind explosives at me. Like a grenade.”

“Wow.” He looked up in thought. “There isn’t much you can do about it here other than clean it out. You’d probably want to see a doctor in New Pegasus about an injury like that. They hoard the best of everything.”

“The deputy has a broken leg. Can you at least help her?”

“Oh, yeah. We get broken legs all the time. You’ll be good as new by morning.”

The trooper led us into the medical tent. I was hit by a draft of air that smelled of rubbing alcohol and death when I passed under the flap. A patient lay unconscious on a cot in the corner. His head was wrapped in gauze and he had suffered severe burns on his back. The medic was applying a salve to them.

“Afternoon, doc. Got two more for ya.”

The medic looked us over. She was a pretty mare. Her candy-cane colored mane broke off in small swirls and her think-rimmed glasses magnified her teal eyes.

“Wait… you two aren’t NCR. I’m sorry, but I can’t help you,” she said.

“Now, hold up now, doc. These two really helped us out. They only need quick fixes. I’m sure the captain won’t mind.”

She thought it over for a moment. “Um, okay. But it’s your flank if he does mind.”

She walked up to the deputy and gently poked around on her leg. “Yes, it appears to be a fractured metatarsus. A serious injury, but fixable.” She guided the deputy to a cot. “Please have a seat. I’ll begin the operation shortly.”

Then she looked up at me. “What have you got for me?” I turned, revealing the mangled, bloody mess that used to be my left wing and heard her gasp. “Oh… my…” I hadn’t seen what it looked like until now. The bones at the tips of my wing were gone. Bloody knobs sprouted from the wound. One small section was only dangling by a strip of flesh.

“Oh, and I got stabbed a bunch.” I pointed to the blood-soaked bandages.

“Does it hurt?” the medic asked. “Still, I mean.”

“A little bit, yeah. I’ve been walking around with it broken for a while. The nerves are probably dead or close to it.”

“Oh. That’s, um, not good. All I can do is sterilize it for now. The only thing that could save your wing is a dose of Hydra.”

“Oh? Do you have some?”

“No. It’s very rare and expensive. And it’s a narcotic so NCR medics don’t normally carry it.”

“So I have to walk around with my wing like this until I find some Hydra?”

“No, it needs to be cauterized to prevent further infection.”

“But then I wouldn’t get my wing back.”

“Not necessarily. If you did happen to find some Hydra later on, you would just have to re-open the wound.”

“And by ‘re-open’ you mean cut my wing off.”


I shrugged. “Well, I guess it’s better than walking around with an open wound.”

“If it’s all right with you, I’d like to tend to the deputy first?”

“Yeah, that’s fine.”

The medic expertly aligned the deputy’s bones and put a splint on her leg.

“So, stranger, we never was properly acquainted back in the hotel. I’m Deputy Silver Bullet,” she said, extending her hoof.

I extended mine. “Plasma Storm.”

“Just want you to know you’re always welcome here in Thunderhooves. I know you can’t stay, but make sure to visit if you’re in the area. We need more ponies like you around here.”

It made me feel good to see that there were ponies who appreciated what I was doing, even though I’d expect no less from anypony else. I didn’t deserve a reward. I was just doing what’s right.

“Will you be heading out once you get your wing burned shut?” She sounded like she really didn’t want me to go.

“I have to find my daughter. I can’t afford to get sidetracked again.”

“I hate to see you go, but like I said, feel free to come back. We’ll always have a place for you. I’ll make sure of it.”

* * *

I never want any part of me cauterized again. It wasn’t so much the heat as it was the fact that I was tied down. All I could do was flail my good wing around and scream. I was splayed out on my stomach with leather straps around my legs that pinned me to the medical table. They were tight, nearly to the point of cutting off circulation, but they needed to make sure I didn’t move. I was given a dirty chunk of wood to bite down on when the medic brought the white-hot metal to my mangled wing. The hiss of my boiling skin came with the most disgusting smell.

The medic applied the salve to my burns and wrapped my wing in healing bandages. I felt the melted flesh crawl as the magic seeped in and restored my skin.

I didn’t have a stump. I had roughly half a wing. Feathers were charred and twisted in different directions and my exposed grey flesh showed everywhere but at the base of my wing, where my dark purple feathers met my coat. No more pain, but it looked pretty gross.

“Uh, can you just leave the bandages on?” I asked. “It looks better with them.”

“If you want.”

Silver Bullet frowned. “Then I guess you’re leaving now?” She put a hoof on my shoulder. “ I’ll make sure everypony ‘round here knows you’re one of the good guys. Good luck finding your daughter. If she’s anything like you then I’m sure she’s still out there.”

I smiled. “I can’t believe anything else.”

“Well, maybe you two can come back here. I hope you don’t get killed,” she said awkwardly.

Me too, I thought. Me too.

Rose of Sharon

View Online

Off in the distance, at the top of the mountain, I saw two towering figures that looked like they were made from scrap metal.

The one on the right was an Earth pony wearing a cowpony hat and a vest with a badge on the chest and a bandana around his neck.

The one on the left was more imposing. Its face was hidden by the gas mask on its head and it wore a bullet-ridden trench coat over armor that looked like a sturdier version of what Security wore in 72. On its flank was a long-barreled revolver.

They were both locked in a hoofshake.

I continued up the path, wanting a closer look. I had to navigate the wreckage of carriages that created a maze along the highway.

There was a small caravan ahead. The merchant was sitting on the ground wearing a wide-brimmed hat that shaded her from the harsh sun. Standing beside her was a gruff-looking stallion clad in leather barding. He drew his submachine gun when he saw me approaching. I guess I looked a sight after the hotel.

“Not another step, stranger,” said the mare. “Whaddya want?” Her blue eyes glared at me from underneath the hat.

“I’m just passing by. Wanna trade?” I gave the friendliest smile I could. I’m sure it looked creepy, me being covered in blood with a wing and a half.

The mare looked at me with suspicion but smiled back. “Ah guess. It does look like ya have quite the load.”

My saddlebags were getting heavy. She didn’t have any food but she did have a Laser Pistol. It looked like the mountain wiped its ass with it though. I figured that something could be salvaged from it. If not, well, she practically gave it to me. I also got a few healing bandages and potions as well as some Gem Cartridges for said Laser Pistol.

“Whoa, ya wanna trade that there shotgun?”


I was generous and gave her more than her stuff was worth. She didn’t seem as suspicious by the end of our trade.

“What are those things up there?” I asked, pointing to the giants.

“That feller on the right, with the hat, is from the NCR. They’re sorta here to keep law and order. Not that they do, but they try.”

“What does that stand for? NCR.”

“The New Coltifornia Republic. They come from further west. Ah guess it’s more civilized there than it is here in the Marejave. They sure are friendlier than what you’d expect.”

“How about the other one?”

Her expression changed to something like fear crossed with excitement. “That there is the baddest muthafucker you’ll ever come across in Equestria. That’s one o’ them Neighvada Desert Rangers. They got guns that’ll blow a Hellhound apart with a grazing shot,” she said, throwing her hooves wide.

“Really? I’ll believe that when I see it.”

She walked up and poked me in the chest. “Ya just might if you piss off the NCR.”

I rolled my eyes. “Uh-huh… Say, you haven’t seen my daughter by any chance have you? She just a filly.”

“Yep. I’ve seen lots o’ fillies out here.” She gave me a sarcastic smile.

“She’s a Pegasus.”

“Now that does narrow it down. Can’t say Ah have though. Ah’d remember if Ah did.” She looked at my wing. “Ah sure hope she’s doin’ better than you.

I hung my head and sighed. “Thanks anyway.”

“Thank you fer the company. It’s not every day I get to have a civil conversation with somepony other than this clunk over here,” she pointed to her guard. “There’s an NCR building at the top of the mountain, just past the statues. They got patrols all over. If anypony’s seen yer filly, it’d be them, and they’d tell ya. Ya don’t see ponies with wings every day, so Ah’m sure they’d remember her.”

I thanked the mare again for the salvage and started up the mountain. There weren’t as many carriages on the hill. Most of them had slid to the bottom, creating a wall of wood.

Once I reached the top, I approached the giants. There was a plaque in the center, beneath them.

It read: Here marks the site of the signing of the peace treaty and the forging of the alliance between the New Coltifornia Republic and the Desert Rangers of Neighvada.

I guess the mare did know what she was saying.

The Outpost was just beyond the statues. High chain link fences surrounded the two buildings. Sandbags were at the only entrance. Behind them stood two ponies wearing the same barding as the trooper at Thunderhooves. They gave me a friendly glance as I entered the Outpost.

The first thing I noticed was the poster on the wall. It showed a Zebra wearing a helmet made from the head of a Timberwolf. In bold letters, it said: When you fight for the Legion, you are his bitch!


The mare at the front desk was looking down at the stack of papers in front of her. She didn’t even look up as I approached her.

“Weapons requisition… shipping manifest… ?” she asked.


She looked up. “Sorry, I just need something for the log books. The suits want everything catalogued.” She sounded like she hated her job.

“Just passing through. I came here to see if anyone here has seen my daughter. She would have passed through… maybe yesterday. She’s a Pegasus.”

“No, nopony in the NCR has ever reported a Pegasus in the Marejave.”

“Why? Are we supposed to be extinct or something?”

“They used to make up the Enclave. Greedy bastards flew up to the skies and closed ‘em up, leaving everypony else to fend for themselves. Any Pegasus that flew down here was branded a traitor and had their cutie mark burned off. But nopony’s seen hide nor hair of ‘em in about fifty years.” She looked at my wing. “You one of ‘em?”

“I don’t even know what that is.”

“Okay. Anything else I can help you with?”

“Do you have a trading post here?”

“That depends. What are you looking to trade for? We don’t trade our weapons. It’s protocol.”

“I need medical supplies, and some food and water would be nice.”

“Yeah, then you want to see the medic. Go down that hall,” she pointed, “second door on your left.”



I followed her directions and walked into the clinic. The medic had plenty of potions and bandages to trade. I wished I had more stuff. It turned out that my Laser Pistol was valuable. I kept Perdition. I really liked that gun.

“How long ago did you lose your wing?” she asked me.

“Yesterday. The medic back at Thunderhooves cleaned and cauterized it. Say, you don’t have any Hydra do you?”

“I do, actually. One dose. If you know of it then you must know that it won’t come cheap.”

“I don’t have anything else to trade.”

“Then maybe you can do us a favor.”

“Uh… sure. What?”

“There’s a mare in the barracks, named Rose of Sharon, that we need gone. She’s causing a lot of trouble with the troopers. Plus, she’s built up a hell of a tab and probably doesn’t have the caps to pay for it.”

“So… what, you want me to kill her? Find somepony else. I don’t do that.”

“Celestia, no! I’d never condone the murder of a civilian but she refuses to leave and won’t say why. Honestly, I don’t care why. Get her to leave and the Hydra’s yours.”

“It’s worth that much to you?”

“It was my job. I tried and she wouldn’t leave. Almost ended real badly for me, let me tell you. We have serious repercussions for those who shirk their duties, so yes, it’s worth that much to me.”


* * *

I walked into the barracks. It seemed more like a bar. Stallions and mares were in a variety of attire. Some wore the barding of the troopers. Some wore light barding. Some wore actual clothing. There was one stallion that wore metal armor with crude spikes that jutted out everywhere. Not a pony you’d want to get in a hoof-fight with.

Half of the ponies in here were puffing on cigarettes and cigars, creating an opaque veil that snaked around the bar. I fanned the smoke away in disgust and went up to the bar.

“What can I get for ya?” the barpony asked. She was probably an off-duty NCR trooper.


“Just a water,” I said.

She gave me a jug of water with a bendy straw. I drank my first bit of clean water in two days.


I looked over at the tan Earth mare sitting on the adjacent side of the L-shaped bar. She was downing shots like nopony’s business. She had a black cowpony hat sitting atop her roseate mane and was wearing a black shirt with buttons up the front.. My eyes went to her flank. A rose leaning on a bottle, similar to the bottle in front of her. She took a shot.


“Lookin’ fer trouble, Feathers?”

“No, I just…”

“Then what the fuck ya lookin’ at?” She narrowed her eyes.


Then I made the mistake of glancing at her cutie mark again. When I opened my mouth to ask about it, I tasted metal. The long barrel of a lever-action rifle made its way into my mouth.

“Don’t even think about it. You try anything an’ Ah’ll blow yer fuckin’ head off.”

Holy shit! The bar was so quiet I could hear the bystanders breathing. I could also hear the creak of her trigger. That must have been the trouble the doctor mentioned.

“Put the gun away, Rose, or I’ll cut you off.” The barpony reached for Rose’s bottle only to get her hoof shoved away. Rose put the gun away and poured four shots, glaring at me the entire time.

“What the hell is your problem?”

“Mah problem is that Ah’m stuck here. Ah can’t leave because of a piece o’ paper.”

“And sticking a gun in its mouth didn’t work?”

“Hehe. Sorry ‘bout that. Ah just got pissed ‘cause Ah get every other stallion comin’ in here tryin’ to take advantage of a mare that’s drownin’ her sorrows.” She took another shot.


“Rose… wait. Are you Rose of Sharon?”


“Yep. Why?”

“Somepony in the NCR wants you out of here. Why won’t you leave?”

“Ah told ya. A piece o’ paper.”


“That doesn’t even make any sense.”

“Doesn’t it? It’s a contract that keeps me here ‘til my caravan arrives. Ya think these morons would know. But no!” She threw her hooves up.

“So… ?”

“So it ain’t comin’. Somepony burned mah wagon and killed mah guys. Does the NCR care? No. What’re they givin’ ya? They’re nice ponies but they ain’t the charitable type.”

“A dose of Hydra for my wing.”

“Me gone is worth that much to ‘em, huh?”

“That’s what I thought. Why don’t you just sell it? The company.”

“Would you sell yer name if somepony offered ya caps for it? Dad’d roll over in his grave if’n he found out Ah’d sold the caravan.”

“It’s not doing you any good here. You want to stay here forever? That’s what’s going to happen.”

“Ah know, but Ah just can’t.”

“How about a bet then?”

“Maybe… Whaddya got?”

“A drinking game.” She was already trashed. I could beat her.

The most sinister grin broke across her face. “Ya got a deal, Feathers. Ah can drink yer ass under the table.”

“And you’ll leave if I win?”

“Don’t worry. You won’t.”

* * *

I felt like crap. My head was throbbing and my stomach felt like it was going to fall out of my ass. I was outside on a sleeping bag and it was dark.

I was admiring the moon when something shifted next to me. The tan mare was curled up on my leg. Her red mane was messy. I almost didn’t recognize her. I tried to slide my leg out from underneath her and slip out unnoticed.

She chuckled and stretched her legs. “Ah’ll be damned, Feathers. Ah think ya fly better when yer drunk.”

“What happened? Did we… ? Did I win?”

“Ha! Hell no! You got trashed and refused a shot. That means Ah won the bet. Ya fulfilled yer end of the bargain though, hehe. Best night Ah’ve had in a long time.” She rolled on her back and stretched out and gave a sigh of relief. “Ah think they threw us out on account o’ all the noise we was making.”

I know I shouldn’t have been that upset but I was still faithful to a mare six years dead and I wasn’t ready to change that. Especially not for this brand of crazy.

“Why the long face? Ya seemed plenty happy last night.” She put her hat shirt back on.

“You should have told me your end of the bet. I wouldn’t have agreed to take it then.”

“What’s the big deal? It was just sex…”

“It’s a big deal for some ponies.”

Her eyes widened. “Oh… then you must be into the stallions? Whatever turns your wheels, Feathers. Ah don’t judge. Ah figured Ah did all right last night.”

“What?! No! That’s not it.” Two stallions? That’s weird…

“Then what is it?”

“None of your business.”

“Tell me.”


There was a long pause. She stared at me for a while. I was pouting like a filly and I bet it looked pathetic.

“Fine, fine, stop yer cryin’. Have some dignity. Ah suppose… it was wrong o’ me to take advantage of ya like that. Ya really do seem like a nice pony.” She stepped toward me. “Listen. Ah’ll sell the caravan if’n it means ya can get yer wing back.”


“Ah’m comin’ with ya, though. Sellin’ mah name means Ah don’t have nowhere to go. It’s the least ya can do since Ah did win the bet. Besides, it looks like ya could use somepony to watch yer back.” She pointed at my gross wing. “Make sure that never happens again.”

“I don’t know…”

“You don’t have a choice. Ah don’t have anywhere else to go and it’s yer fault. Ah’m comin’ with ya.”

She did seem sincere and sorry. And it couldn’t hurt having another gun on my side. What the hay…

“Okay, fine. But I need to go get my wing fixed before we head out.”

“Yep. Ah’ll go find some clueless clunk to buy the caravan. Meet ya out front?”

I nodded and went back to the medic. She gave me the Hydra and I asked if she would administer it. She didn’t seem all that comfortable with chopping the rest of my wing off. I told them that I needed to hurry, so it would just be sawed completely off—much to my discomfort.

“Bite down on this.” She put a nasty block of wood toward my mouth.

“Don’t any of you medics wash your biting blocks? Besides, I don’t know who else bit down on it.”

“Nopony did.”

“There are teeth marks right there.”

“Fine, it’s the only one I have.”

“Just cut my wing off already.”


I think that was worse than when I broke it and had half of it blown off. She gave me the dose and my wing began to regenerate. It was bald at first but feathers started to sprout from the base by the time it had finished regenerating and, after a few minutes, my wing was back and in pristine condition, just like the Thunderhooves medic had said. I flapped my wings just because I could. It felt alien despite it only being three days since I was unable to move it.

Rose was waiting outside, just like she said. I honestly didn’t think anypony would buy her caravan. She must not have told them that they couldn’t leave the Outpost now, or maybe she’s just a savvy business pony.

She spit out the piece of straw she was chewing on and stood up. “It’s about damn time, Feathers. Ah’ve been out here for an hour.”

“Sorry. Never re-grew a wing before. Next time I’ll know exactly how long it takes. At least you got some drinking money, right?”

“Drinkin’ money fer a day maybe.”

“I think you have a problem.”

We headed back down the mountain and off to the right; a path I had missed coming in. We didn’t say a word the whole way down and of course the cowpony broke the silence.

“So, who are ya? Yer name wasn’t one of the things you gave me last night.”

So much for being sorry.

“No more talking about last night. You know as well as I do that wouldn’t have happened if not for that bet.”

She snickered. “Fine then, gentlestallion. What’s yer name? Unless ya want me callin’ ya Feathers.”

“Plasma Storm.”

“Pleased ta make yer acquaintance. Ah’m Rose of Sharon as ya know. Most folk just call me Rose.”

“Is there a story behind your name?”

“Why would ya think that?”

“It’s a unique name. If you don’t want to tell me…”

“Humph. There’s a story for everything. Once upon a time, mah Dad gave mah Mama a Rose of Sharon flower when he asked her to be his very special somepony and she said yes. The end.”

“That’s such a nice story,” I said with only a tiny bit of sarcasm. “Why do you go by Rose?”

“If you want to say ‘Rose of Sharon’ instead of ‘Rose’ every time ya want to get mah attention then be mah guest. Ah like the name just fine but it’s a bit of a mouthful, ya know?”

* * *

The sun was just coming up as Rose and I trotted down the highway that cut through the desert. I hated to see the moon go; it was so much nicer than the sun. It was still mostly dark but I could make out a building in the distance.

It was missing a wall and most of the roof and had holes blasted in several places. I could see movement here and there inside and there was one pony standing out front.

This pony was… different.

Rose stopped me with a whisper. “Hold up. What are you doing?”

“Uh… walking down the road?”

“Past her?” She pointed at the strange pony. “That’s a raider. She’d blow yer head off as soon as shake yer hoof.”

“Oh…” Good thing I brought her along, I thought. Then the shriek of a younger pony came from inside the building. It sounded like a filly.

“Looks like they got a new toy. Ah sure hope you ain’t the type to sit out on action like this. Let’s go kick some ass!”

She loaded her rifle with the flick of her tail—seriously, it was pretty cool. I drew Perdition and we galloped to the rescue. I remembered Silver Bullet. I’d be doing Equestria a favor by taking out these raiders.

“Hold up. I’ll handle this,” I said.

She shook her head but sat down.

I thought Rose was twigged yesterday. She didn’t have shit on the mare in front of me. She was hunched over grotesquely and couldn’t sit still for a second. She constantly twitched and was muttering something to herself; something about a cactus; I couldn’t really understand her. Her barding looked like normal leather; weird for a raider. Her pupils were pinpricks and were looking in opposite directions.

She didn’t seem to notice the large Pegasus standing beside her. I bucked her in the throat; I didn’t want her calling for help. The others probably wouldn’t have even heard her over their own whooping.

They heard her gun though. She bit the trigger when I kicked her.

“What the fuck was that?” a stallion asked.

“Dumb mare’s probably shootin’ at her own shadow again. I told her not to mix the Dash and Supercharger,” another stallion said.

“Go check on that idiot. I’m not finished with her yet.”

“Take it easy on her, will ya?” a mare said. “They ain’t worth as much when they’re all cut up.”

“Fuck off.”

A few seconds later, two ponies—a stallion and mare—stepped through the front door. They didn’t look messed up like the mare on the ground. The stallion had a sledgehammer. The mare had a pistol.

Oh shit, I thought. Then she shot me in the chest. I hadn’t even hit the ground before the stallion started beating my head in. I heard the mare cackling then it was drowned out by a gunshot. A click then another shot sounded and I wasn’t being hit anymore. The stallion fell on top of me. He smelled like shit. Wait… I thought.

He had to shit before he died…

I felt glass on my lips and a silky liquid poured into my mouth.

“You’ll handle it, huh? Fuckin’ Stable ponies… Yer not very smart, are ya?” Rose had her repeater over her shoulder. “Come on. Somepony still needs our help.”

The mare I’d bucked was gasping for air on the ground. I crushed her windpipe with that kick. She just stared at me with tears in her eyes. “I’m sorry,” I said. Then I shot her. She probably deserved to die, but I didn’t know for sure. What if she had never hurt anypony in her life?

The building appeared to be a small sheriff station. It contained one large cell and an office all in one room.

A stallion was pounding on a filly that was chained to the wall inside the cell. The filly kicked back with little effect until she got him in the groin. He growled and pulled a knife and went to stab her.

I rushed in and bit his mane and pulled, sending him sprawling to the floor and he dropped his knife. He got up and his horn glowed. The knife shot back into his hoof.

“Nope.” I pointed Perdition down to his horn and pulled the trigger, painting the floor behind him with shredded brains and blood.

The chain jingled and the filly screamed. She was back in the corner and trembling.

I walked up to her. “It’s okay. We’re not going to hurt you,” I said, extending a consoling hoof to the filly. The white Pegasus filly.

A single crying amber eye looked up at me.

Zombie Ponies!

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There was no shortage of abandoned, run-down buildings along the highway. As dusk crept closer, we made camp in a grocery store. It—surprisingly—hadn’t been picked clean. There was still food to be found; there was plenty for the three of us. Rose lit a fire under the hole in the roof and sat down and began drinking. I sat beside her.

“Yer filly ain’t said a word all day.”

“Would you be all that talkative if you went through what she did?”

“It’s not like she was raped, Feathers. They were slavers. They was gonna sell her fer caps. Ah’ve been through worse, believe it or not.” She took a pull from the bottle she’d been holding to her face for the last ten seconds.

“When you were six?”

“Well… no, but…”

“Then shut the fuck up.”

“Damn, Feathers! Ya need to simmer down.”

I got up and went to the side and called Radiant to me. One of her eyes was swollen shut from being hit. A minor injury, sure, but I would have used all of our medical supplies if it made her feel better. I grabbed a small bowl and a rag and walked over to Rose, extending the bowl. “Can I have some of that?”

“Sure. It might chill you out,” she said sourly. She poured some into the bowl. I dipped the rag in the whiskey and her expression went even more sour. “What’d ya do that for? Whiskey don’t grow on trees, ya know.”

“It’s for Radiant.”

She raised her brow. “Ah didn’t peg ya as a fun parent,” She smiled. “Yer all right, Feathers.”

I opened my mouth to make a sarcastic and belittling response to my inebriated friend but stopped. “Forget it.”

I sat down in front of Radiant and wrung most of the whiskey from the rag. “This will probably sting a little bit.” She nodded and I washed away the dried blood around her mouth.

She had a gash straight through the skin below her bottom lip, probably from her tooth. She winced with every touch and it began to bleed again.

“This stuff tastes nasty,” she said. Rose snickered.

“I know, but it’s all we have to clean that scrape up.”

“It’s only a scrape?”

“Uh… yeah.” I grinned.

She paused. “It’s not just a scrape, is it?”


I told her to hold the rag over her cut while I grabbed another rag and a healing potion. After a few minutes, the bleeding slowed. I wiped the excess whiskey and blood from her face with the clean rag and gave her the potion. As she drank it, drops oozed out of the gash and it closed before my eyes.

“Is it better?” she asked, licking at where the hole was on the inside of her mouth.

“Yep,” I hugged her, “all better.”

I made Radiant a bed from my saddlebags and she went to sleep. I sat with Rose by the fire.

“She’s a sweet little thing.”

“I know. She’s the reason I’m out here. She left our Stable and I followed her.” I looked over at the sleeping filly. “If I’d been faster getting there…” I glared at Rose. “If I hadn’t taken your stupid bet then this wouldn’t have happened to her.”

She scoffed. “It’s mah fault? Yer a real asshole, ya know that?”

“If I had a cap for every time I heard that…”

“Yeah, yeah, you’d be one rich muthafucker.” She sat up. “Okay, asshole, tell me this. If ya hadn’t took mah stupid bet, Ah wouldn’t have followed ya out here. If Ah hadn’t followed ya out here, who woulda saved yer sorry ass when that slaver was beatin’ it?”

I opened my mouth to say something but nothing came out. She had a point.

“Yeah. You’d be dead. And yer filly probably would be too.”

“Sorry, Rose. I guess I’m just looking for somepony to blame.”

“Then how ‘bout blamin’ the ones responsible. Ah’m not asking fer thanks. Ah couldn’t be happier fer you two, but ya really shouldn’t blame the ponies who actually try to help ya.”

“I’m sorry. I never had to worry about anything like this in the Stable. I don’t know what to do. It’s so fucked up out here.”

“Ya need to learn that the Marejave is a bastard of a place. Any second could be yer last. Or mine, or hers,” she pointed at me, herself and then Radiant. “Ya need to not worry about yesterday or tomorrow. Worry ‘bout right now,” she tapped her hoof to my chest on the last two words.

I didn’t sleep that night. I couldn’t. Radiant was with me again and I watched over her to make sure it stayed that way.

* * *

The next day we came across a town. Smoke rose from every corner and it didn’t look like anypony was there. We went to check it out.

A mare came running out at us. She was hysterical. Radiant ducked down behind my head when she came running up.

“Yeah! Who won the lottery? I did!” she said and broke into a cackle.

“Lottery? What lottery?” I asked.

“You stupid or somethin’? I won it! I won the muthafuckin’ lottery!” She was still laughing and took off the way we came.

Okay, she was twigged. We continued into the town.

What we came across were a bunch of Zebras. There were ponies nailed to large crosses erected in the town square. A horrific and unfamiliar smell was in the air.

A group of Zebras stood in front of the largest building in, which I guessed was the Town Hall. I recognized the Zebra in the front. He approached me. The large helmet on his head was made from the skull of a Timberwolf and he wore black-tinted goggles. Radiant hid behind my head.

He looked at her. “Don’t be afraid, little filly. I mean you no harm.” His voice was so calm that it was creepy.

“What the hell is this?!” I said, waving my hoof to all the murdered ponies.

“This town was corrupt. A purging fire was necessary.”

“Why was it necessary? Were they murderers?”

“This was a town of scum that would sell each other for a single cap. We gave them that opportunity. What they didn’t realize is that everypony was for sale and that they were the merchandise.

He looked up at the only crucified pony that was still alive. “We held a lottery, drawing only one ticket. That lucky pony would get to keep their freedom and perhaps have a greater appreciation for it. The rest were enslaved. Those who resisted were made an example of.

He sat and looked at one of the dead ponies and smiled with a sigh of relief. “I must say, justice is a beautiful thing.”

“Justice? You wanna see justice?” I put Perdition to his forehead.

He didn’t flinch. “Go right ahead. Shoot me. And you three won’t be walking out of here.”

“Don’t do it, Feathers. Ah don’t feel like dyin’ right now.”

The Zebra nodded. “You’d be wise not to anger the Legion. As you can see, you’re outnumbered and outgunned. My death would certainly mean the death of you as well as your companions.” The Zebras behind him drew their weapons and the hounds started pulling on their leashes.

Rose stepped up beside me. “Ah’d listen to the crazy wolf-bastard if Ah was you.”

“So I should walk by and do nothing?”

“If you feel that strongly about it, then attack us and soon you’ll feel nothing at all.”

I had to resist the urge to blow his head off. Radiant could be hurt or even killed if I took it that far. His reprisal would just have to wait. Their hounds watched us, growling as we left.

When we got a little ways out of town, Radiant broke the silence. “Dad, what’s a bastard?”

“A, uh… a bastard is… a mean pony. Yeah, that’s what it is.”


* * *

The highway went on forever. According to Rose, we were heading toward Neighvak, a small town south of New Pegasus. With all this talk of New Pegasus, I was pretty eager to see it myself. I could see the lights at night. I wondered what it looked like up close.

We ran into a party of raiders about halfway there. They attacked us first but they clearly weren’t prepared for a pony that could leap fifteen feet in the air and none of them had guns. They were so weak from the drugs—or maybe from the lack of them—that Radiant could have taken them in a hoof fight.

It was dark when we reached Neighvak. The first thing I noticed was the large dragon statue near the motel. I saw movement in the mouth and a gun barrel stuck out in between two of the teeth.

We went into the motel. Ponies were having drinks in the lobby. I could barely stomach the smell of booze right now. Rose wanted whiskey but they didn’t have any. We sat down and each got a glass of water.

I couldn’t help overhearing the two ponies next to me. They were talking about a pack of Ghouls that were living up at the satellite station near the town.

“What’s a Ghoul?” I asked.


The closest one turned around with his hoof pulled back but stopped. Probably because he saw that I was a lot bigger than he was and I had a Riot Shotgun.

“Settle down,” I laughed. “I just asked you a question.”

He turned red and wouldn’t say anything else. His friend told us what was happening.

“Sorry ‘bout him. He don’t like being interrupted. Ghouls are holed up at the space station up the road. They’re hogging all the salvage and that’s how we make our living. If they don’t get out, this town’s gonna die.”

“What’s a Ghoul?” I asked again.

He smirked. “Trust me. If you ain’t seen one yet, don’t get into a hurry to see your first. You wanna help out? Go kill the Ghouls up at the station. You’ll see plenty there. And you’ll help out this time. You’re a good pony, right?”

Now that I’d found Radiant, I didn’t have anything to do. I suppose I could help these ponies.

We went into the dragon statue. It was a shop. We needed ammo. They didn’t have very much normal 12-Gauge buckshot; they also had slugs that were more expensive. I got Radiant a Laser Pistol and some Gem Cartridges for said pistol and a knife. I also bought us both some leather barding. Rose refused and said she’d never wear it.

“You do know that hat and shirt isn’t bulletproof, right?”

She scoffed. “And here Ah was thinking that it was. Seriously, Feathers? How stupid do ya think Ah am?”


“Smart!” Radiant added, and beamed at Rose.

We went outside and I set up some cans and told Radiant to shoot them with the pistol; I don’t think she’d even seen a gun before then.

“How do I hold it?”

“Can you fly up? Just a little bit? It’s easier to shoot when you fly.”

She flapped her little wings as hard as she could, but her hooves didn’t leave the ground. She looked at the ground. “No…”

“Oh for Pete’s sake, Feathers. Yer embarrassin’ the poor filly and you can’t even fuckin’ fly.” She took the pistol over to Radiant. “Here. Put it in yer mouth.” She did. “Now bite the little block on th…”

An orange beam blasted out and hit Rose in the shoulder. “Oh my gosh! I’m so, so sorry, Rose!”

“S’all right…” she said through her teeth. She patted the hole in her shirt that was smoking. “Try to hit the cans now.”

Radiant lined up the Laser Pistol and bit the trigger. It took her four tries to hit a can.

“Good job, Radiant,” I said. “Now try to hit it in one.”

She aimed her pistol for a solid minute then bit the trigger. Another can was knocked to the ground.

“Did you see that, Dad?! I did it!”

I ruffled her tidy mane. “I sure did. I’m proud of you.”

I let her shoot the last few cans and then we headed toward the Satellite Facility. I told her to use her PipBuck’s targeting spell and she shot each one on the first try.

* * *

It was pitch black; the moon wasn’t in the sky. We walked silently, listening for Ghouls on the road and I wasn’t exactly sure what we were listening for. Rose told me that she had seen a Ghoul before. She said that they looked like ponies that were all burned up and were feral.

It wasn’t long before we heard something. There was a squishy-sounding clop then I was knocked on my side and a pony was hissing and trying to bite my throat out. I pummeled at where I thought its head was and felt cold blood drip down on my face.

“Kill that bastard, Rose!” Radiant yelled. Orange beams were going in every direction, only one of them hitting the Ghoul. Rose shot it in the head and it fell limp on top of me, gurgling. I pushed it off of me.

“Luna-fucking-Faust!” I said, catching my breath. “That was so much scarier than I thought it was going to be.”

The corpse looked like it had been dead for years. It was missing teeth and had spots all over where the skin had rotted, revealing tendons.

“Ha! Ha! You shoulda seen yer face!” Rose was holding her gut.

“It’s not funny, Rose! Dad could have been killed!”

“By one Ghoul? Don’t know if you noticed, Little Feathers, but he has the baddest shotgun Ah’ve ever seen.” She looked at me. “Use it. Not yer hooves.” She shook her head. “Ah worry about you sometimes.”

“Ouch,” Radiant said, wincing at me.

We could see the satellite from a mile away. It sat on top of a small square-shaped building. The parking lot of this station was filled with Ghouls. Some were lying on the ground and some were shuffling around. We couldn’t take all of them. There were a few stragglers.

“Rose, shoot that one.” I pointed to a lone Ghoul.


She inhaled, paused, pulled the trigger, then exhaled. Two seconds later, the Ghoul’s head was violently knocked to the side. The Ghoul flailed as it fell to the ground with a shriek and died. The others didn’t even look at it.

“Whoa…” I said.

I pointed to another straggler. She shot it. No response.

“Ah ain’t doing this shit.”

She shot into a small crowd of them. They looked around and spotted us. Rose brought down all but two. Radiant and I each killed one.

“See? Mah way’s faster. An’ it’s more fun.”

We entered the building. Every table, desk and chair was flipped over—some chairs had been thrown and the legs were stuck in the wall. The air ducts rattled and it sounded like debris was being blown through them. There was a shuffling sound in the maintenance closet. I gestured Rose over to it.

“Fuck that,” she whispered. “You go.”

I rolled my eyes and went over to the closet. I pushed open the door with a faint creak. There was a Ghoul staring out of it. Its eyes shot wide and it screamed. I shot it in the face and it fell to the floor.

The next few we encountered were alone; they weren’t much of a threat. Then I saw a bright green glow coming from an office. It was another Ghoul. I could see ashes and light debris floating around in the dead air. My PipBuck began to click and the little rainbow dial slowly crawled toward the yellow area.

That Ghoul was giving off radiation.

I rushed in and shot it. It charged and died just inches from me. When the Ghoul died it exploded and showered the room in a radioactive cloud that I took full force. The heat spiked and I got out of the room and shut the door. My PipBuck was clicking loudly and the rainbow dial was in the yellow zone and rising.

I was starting to feel sick. Perdition was much heavier than it should have been and every step was harder than the last.

Up the catwalks and into a tunnel, we found an intercom. Rose walked up and pressed it. She started growling into the speaker.

“We’re a bunch of Ghouls. Let us in!”

Then somepony answered.

“Go away. There’s nopony in here,” said the gravelly voice.

“Then where are you at?” Her eyes lit up and she grabbed the intercom with both hooves and put her face right on it. “Ya got any whiskey?!”

I pushed her away and stepped up to the intercom. “Hey, are you hiding from the Ghouls? We got rid of them. You can come out now.”

There was a brief pause then we heard the door unlock. “Come on in.”

We went in. To our surprise, the door led to a lab full of Ghouls. They wore white smocks and were messing around with beakers and tubes on the tables. They smiled and nodded as we passed. The pony from the intercom led us up the stairs. There was a weird Unicorn pony overlooking the lab.

She was like that glowing Ghoul we killed, except that her glow was a pale blue. She wore a smock like the rest of them and on her flank was an hourglass cutie mark. The clicking on my PipBuck was almost inaudible but I tried to keep my distance from the blue mare.

“Hello,” she said, “The ponies from the town sent you, didn’t they?” She sounded like several ponies talking at once, but all with the same voice.


“I just want you to know that we aren’t the ones who killed the others they sent.”

“Killed? They didn’t say anything about ponies being killed.”

“Yes, they sent a few others before you and they were killed. It was the demons, not us.”


“In the basement. We tried to talk to them over the intercom, but they aren’t very nice so we’ve kept them locked down there.”

“Are you stuck here because of the demons?”

She looked confused. “We’re not stuck here. This is our home.”

Damn it. “The settlers need the scrap from this place to keep their town going. They said you aren’t sharing it.”

“That’s not our fault. We’d trade it to them, but what’s left is with the demons. We’re not going to let them out. They’ll kill us for sure.”

“Maybe I can take care of the demons for you.”

“Yeah, maybe you can. We’d really appreciate it.”

We were brought to the door. It had a numeric keypad you had to put the code into and they opened it for us. They locked it behind us and wouldn’t open it until the demons were gone.

* * *

I’m going to give the basement of the Neighvak Satellite Facility the Creepiest Location in the Marejave Award. I think it had its own creepy theme music playing in the background—at least it did in my head. The main thing was that I felt like I was being watched; like something was lying in the shadows, waiting for one of us to break off from the group.

I could hear strange breathing in every room. The breathing sounded suppressed, like whatever was making the noise was trying to keep quiet.

I walked down the halls, keeping a hoof on Perdition’s trigger. It seemed like my heartbeat was louder than anything else in the world. My body shivered and I couldn’t even find the strength to flap my wings.

“You okay, Feathers?”

“Y-yeah, I’m just tired. Let’s just hurry up and kill these things…”

“Ah don’t quite believe ya, but alrighty.”

There was a shuffle.

“Dad, something just moved in the corner, there.” She pointed and I went to look. I leaned in, squinting my eyes. When I got close, I felt something bump my muzzle. It was another muzzle. A mare about the size of me appeared out of thin air and screamed—in fear, it looked like. She had a horn and wings like the Princesses and she looked like she hadn’t eaten in weeks.

Before I could even blink, she blasted me in the chest with some kind of hi-tech hammer and I fell on my back and spewed sour-tasting vomit all over the floor. Rose shot the mare in the shoulder and she disappeared. Her hammer dropped to the metal floor and we heard her run, crying, out of the room and down the hall.

Radiant rushed to my side. “What’s wrong with him, Rose?” She started to cry.

Rose’s eyes didn’t leave the doorway. “He’s sick on account o’ all the radiation. They make stuff for it but Ah don’t think we have none.”

“Will he be okay?”

“Ah don’t know.”

I could barely hear anything and the dark basement was growing darker all the time. I could only sit there and look at my daughter as she held me, both of us thinking that I would die right there. Her warm tears dropped to my face and she looked up at Rose who was digging through our saddlebags. She pulled an IV bag filled with orange goo out of Radiant’s bag.

“An’ we do have some. This woulda been more useful a little while ago. Why didn’t ya say we had it?”

Radiant sniveled and wiped her eyes. “I’m sorry. I thought it was orange juice.”

“It’s all right, Little Feathers. It’s not yer fault.”

Rose tied a tourniquet around my leg . Then I felt a sharp pain as the needle went into the vein. She removed the tourniquet.

Rose looked at Radiant. “Ah need ya to squeeze this here bag real slow like until it’s empty. Ah’m gonna keep watch in case that mare comes back.”

Rose drew her rifle and kept an eye on the door the mare ran through. Radiant squeezed the bag of orange goo into my body.

“You’re going to be okay, Dad. I’ll help you get better.” She brushed my mane with her tiny hoof. “I promise.”

It took all I had but I looked up and smiled at her. If it weren’t for Radiant I think I would have already given up. She was the only thing that mattered to me in the world.

Once she drained about half the bag I was able to see. The rainbow dial on my Rad meter was still deep in the red but crawling toward the yellow. Without more Rad-Away, I’d still be pretty sick. I was just slightly in the red zone when the bag was empty. Radiant took extra care to get every drop. I still had Critical Radiation Poisoning but I could stand, maybe even fight. Probably not.

“Thanks fer not dyin’ on us, Feathers.” She put her rifle away and turned around. “We need ta leave.”

I stopped her. “No. We’ve come this far down already and we can’t leave until we’re done. We need to finish this.”

“That was the only Rad-Away we had. If ya get sick like that again yer gonna die.” She leaned in close and whispered. “Ya wanna do that to yer filly twice in the same day? I’m sure they’d understand. It’s life or death here.”

“It’s not about us. The ponies of Neighvak need that scrap. Besides, my PipBuck says that there’s no radiation near us right now. It came from the glowing Ghouls.”

“Ah know, but are ya gonna not talk to that blue one when we’re done?”

“Nope. You are.”

“What?! Ah don’t want to.”

“Too bad. I’ll die, remember?”

And that was that. We kept searching through the basement, looking for demon—though I’m pretty sure the demons were these winged Unicorns.

The eerie vibe of the basement was even worse now that I knew what was watching us. Or maybe it was the fact that I knew she could turn invisible. Maybe that one had gone for the others… A million questions ran through my mind and it was hard to focus on the task at hoof.

We heard talking. Two ponies on the other side of a water-logged wooden door. I peeked through the hole that had rotted through it. There was the mare that had hit me though she didn’t have the bullet hole in her shoulder. She was the only one in the room. I got a good look at her this time. She was solid white with a black and red and blue mane that was scraggly and the fur around her eyes was black.

“No!” she said in a fearful voice. “We hit it first but it hurt Us. We must hide. Hide until it goes away.” She put her head to the floor and covered it with her hooves.

She shook her head and her voice changed to one of anger; she sounded like a completely different pony. “No. It found Us before and it will find Us again. We will kill it.”

She became excited and started rubbing her hooves together. “Kill it, yes… Kill it and We eat it for dinner. It’s big. Plenty for all of Us.”

She started giggling then shook her head and growled. “Stupid! Shut up! There’s only one of Us.”

Her ears folded back and she gave a timid frown. “But the Goddess will want some too.”

She grinned and then spoke slowly and quietly. “No. No, she won’t. We can’t hear Her… and that means She can’t hear Us. We must be quiet… and eat quiet… and We can have more.” She purred on that last word then started to giggle and then broke into a mad cackle.

She was freaking me out more than the atmosphere of this place. I didn’t want to kill her. She didn’t try to kill me—at least it didn’t look that way. She was clearly insane but that didn’t make me feel better. If I charged in she might’ve tried to kill me. If I got her to surrender, I could find out why she’s here and nopony would have to die. She finally turned away from the door and began muttering to herself what sounded like a plan.

I went inside as quietly as I could manage. There were uprooted trees placed on the floor as if they were growing out of the metal. Some were petrified and glossy. Some were rotten and mushy. Some were in between. None had leaves and all had slightly charred bark. I felt her body jump when I put Perdition’s barrel to the back of her head.

“Lay down,” I said.

She burst into tears.

“You let it catch Us!” She growled and hit herself in the head with her hoof then glared at me with her bright red eyes then looked back at the floor.

“That’s, uh… that’s right. I have you now. And you’re going to tell me what you’re doing down here.”

She looked up at me with large watery eyes. Her ears were folded back and she had the most frightened look on her face. Her eyes were green now. “Or what is it going to do with Us?” That was probably the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.

“Um… I-I don’t know. But it won’t be good for you.”

Her eyes glazed over and faded from green to red and she grinned. “We won’t say anything!”

Green eyes. “No! We must say something or it will hurt Us again!” She hid under her hooves.

“That’s right.” I pressed the barrel a little harder on her head.

She gave a guttural growl and glared at me. “We will say nothing! Leave Our home now!”

“This isn’t your home.”

She gave me a matter-of-fact look. “Oh yes it is! We found it and it’s Ours.”

She started to get up but I pressed the barrel to her again and she laid back down and growled. “Stupid Pegasus! Spoiling Our dinner…” She shot me a short raspberry and a glob of spit splattered to the floor.

I looked around the room. “I don’t see any food here.”

“We were going to eat it for dinner!” she pointed a hoof up at me. “And it hurt us!” She hugged herself and started to cry again. “We must starve!” She held that last word for a few seconds and rolled dramatically on the floor like a filly throwing a tantrum.

Radiant pulled out an apple and approached the mare. She jumped up with a blood-curdling scream. “It has grenades!” She screamed again.

She laughed and gave the mare a friendly smile. “Don’t be a bastard. It’s just an apple. Here.”

She examined it for a few seconds. “It gives it to us… freely? Does it… does it try to poison Us?”

Red eyes. “Yes, We think We see poison on it.”


She pointed to a random spot. “There.” She rolled the apple over to Radiant. “It will take a bite first, then We will.” Radiant picked it up and wiped it off and went to take a bite. “No!”


“On the poison…” Radiant went to bite a different spot. “That’s not the poison!” Radiant pointed to about twelve different spots before she found the ‘poison’, and went to take a bite. The mare watched her with a grin, waiting for her to fall over dead I’m sure.

“See. No poison. It’s just an apple.” Radiant rolled the apple back and it stopped at the mare’s hooves.

The mare looked down at the fruit. “It took a bite and it’s fine… We can eat it now!” The mare smiled and took a bite from the apple and chewed it slower than I’ve seen anypony chew anything. She smiled wider and a little bit of apple juice squeezed past her lips. She threw the core against the wall. “Another!”

“Please?” Radiant said with a smile.

The mare looked at her, confused. Radiant gave her another apple which she ate just as slowly. It’s probably the only bit of real food she’s had in a long time. Maybe now she’d be a little friendlier, though her eyes were red. That appeared to be the mean one. We introduced ourselves and I asked for her name.

“Our name is Harlequin Forest.”

Green eyes. She smiled. “Yes, yes, and our name is…” she shook her head and her eyes changed again.

“It doesn’t care. Nopony likes you. Only me.” Her ears went back and she winced. I could hear her stomach growl and she started to cry again. “We are famished, yes! Famished!”

“Aren’t we supposed to be killin’ the demons, not feedin’ ‘em?”

Harlequin Forest slinked up to Rose. “Cruel pony is so cruel! Does it not care if We be hungry?”

We fed her half of our food before she didn’t ask for any more. She was very polite in asking and I couldn’t say no to her; I felt bad for her condition.

“What are you doing down here?” I asked.

“This is Our home now.”

“Now? Where did you come from?”

Red eyes. “We came here from Canterlot decades ago. Our Goddess ordered Us to flee and We did. We found this place and lived here ever since. We haven’t heard from Our Goddess since then, so We stay here until We do.”

“Is it you who’s being mean to the Ghouls who try to talk to you?”

“They don’t talk to Us! They locked Us down here and tell Us to leave. We don’t want to.”

Green eyes. She pointed to the mushy trees. “And Our beautiful trees have died…” She pawed at the floor and started to cry. “Those nasty ones did it. We must water the trees. Sister told us that’s what We have to do and they won’t give Us any water.” She started to bawl.

She stopped suddenly and looked up and gave me a matter-of-fact look. “We can’t eat them for dinner, you know. Not very tasty. Not very tasty at all…” she purred.

“Would you leave if you had a place to go?”

“No. This is Our home now. We were here first, so they will leave.”

“Would you be willing to talk to them about it? Maybe we can sort this out.”

Red eyes. “No! They locked Us down here for months!” she said, pointing to a spot on the wall bearing at least a hundred marks scratched into it. The first rows were perfectly straight. As the days went on, they weren’t as deep and looked more like S’s than straight lines. “They stole Our home! And We will make them pay…” She calmed down and smiled at me. “As soon as We get out of here.”

The Ghouls sent me down here to kill these demons. The demons were just a single pony; a pony whose home was stolen from her by them. I couldn’t kill them and I rather she didn’t. I got her to agree that they would get a single warning to leave. If not, then it will be out of my hooves. It was her home and she’d have the final say.

I told her to stay quiet while we went to the intercom. I told them that the demons were gone. They opened the door and Harlequin Forest came out with us.

She waited outside the lab door while we were brought to the blue Ghoul. Rose told her of my condition and she agreed to keep her distance.

“So, the demons have been slain?” She gave me a surprised smile, almost like she didn't expect us to come out of there alive. “We don’t need to fear them any longer?”

“Not exactly.”

She frowned. “What? You lied to us?”

“No, because there were no demons to begin with. You locked a pony down in the basement to die and stole her home. How could you do that?”

“It wasn’t a pony. I saw it. It was a demon.”

“Pony,” I corrected, “and you’ll give her home back.”

The blue Ghoul scoffed. “We’ll do no such thing. This is our home.”

I went to reply but the lab door began to warp and fold. It shot violently against the wall and had been crushed into a ball the size of an orange. Harlequin Forest stepped through it. Her eyes gave off a red glow and she was staring straight at the blue Ghoul who was clearly frozen in fear.

“It’s a thief…”

The blue Ghoul swallowed and looked at me. “Why did you let it out?”

“This is Our home! Ours!” The room began to shake.

She spread her wings and red energy began to swirl around her. Ghouls were sucked into the vortex and were twisted and folded just like the door. All the test tubes in the room shattered and glass was blasted in every direction. Cracks spread throughout the metal walls, then explosions came from within them. The blue Ghoul started firing magic at Harlequin Forest. It did nothing and Harlequin Forest grinned. The blue Ghoul was lifted off the ground and she screamed.

I pulled Radiant to me and buried her face in my chest. She didn’t need to see this. Even Rose couldn’t watch. We heard the most disturbing seconds of our lives right then. Ponies screaming for their lives and the sounds of their bodies bending in ways that they aren’t supposed to. There was a sloshing sound from what I guessed was the sound of their insides spilling from their broken bodies as they were suspended in the air.

In the last seconds of this massacre, there was a blue explosion and my PipBuck began to click. Before I had time to react, my legs gave out and the world went black. I heard Radiant screaming for me and Harlequin Forest laughing—I heard both her normal voice and the angry one sounding in unison—and then I heard nothing.

The Baying of the Hounds

View Online

“It will be fine. We’ve purged it of the radiation.”

I opened my eyes and Radiant was hugging the towering winged Unicorn who looked very uncomfortable. “Thank you so much!”

“He’s awake,” Rose said. She looked down at me and smiled. “Ya need ta quit this dyin’ on us, ya know.”

“Aww, I’ll make sure and save you some radiation next time.”

“An’ back to yer old self, too.” She smiled and nudged me with her hoof. “Welcome back.”

“We have saved its life. Very lucky We were here. Consider Our debt to it repaid.”

“Uh, okay.” I kind of did this because it was the right thing to do, but if it made her feel better to think her debt was repaid… “How did you heal me? You had Rad-Away?”

“No. We took the radiation.” I didn’t know what that meant, but it was probably best I didn’t question it.

I sat up and rubbed my eyes. The room didn’t give the slightest clue to the massacre that had happened. Everything was clean and unlike the first time I’d been here, everything looked new.

“What happened to everything? Why isn’t anything broken?”

“We are a powerful Alicorn and We fixed it.”


“Not only do We possess the agility and flight of the Pegasi,” she hovered in the air, “and the magical abilities of the Unicorns,” her horn began to glow, “but We greatly surpass both.” She closed her eyes and put a proud hoof on her chest. “We are the ultimate beings.”

“Alicorns are real?” I asked. The Princesses were the only Alicorns I’d known of and they were made up.

“We are right here,” she said. “Very few of us remain and We are the most powerful.”

After seeing—and hearing—what she did to those Ghouls, I didn’t doubt it in the slightest. I’m glad she was on our side.

“Why did it come here? To save Us?” she looked to the side and smiled. “Yes, yes, of course. To let Us out!”

“Uh, no. I came here to kill the Ghouls so the settlers of Neighvak could get their salvage.”



“Junk?! That’s Ours!” She hugged one of the machines.

I smiled and put my hooves up. “Okay, sorry.”

“We won’t give it away.”

“Then you’ll trade it to them?”

She nodded. “For food.”


“Yes. We can make more machines but not food.” She frowned and rubbed her stomach. “And We get so very hungry.”

“You can’t build a machine to make food?” Radiant asked.

“Nopony can.”

“Yes. Our Stable did it.”

“Not to make real food. You didn’t have real food.”

Radiant shrugged her shoulders and looked at me. “I won’t argue with that.”

* * *

I didn’t know if they’d agree to trade, but I can’t say that they had a choice. They would die without the scrap and I doubt even the whole town would be able to take it by force. Hopefully they didn’t try. She was offering a peaceful resolution.

We returned to Neighvak. That was the first time I’d been to town during the day. There was a Unicorn mare leaning against the dragon statue when we were coming into town. She looked terrified. Or maybe she was on drugs…

“Hey, have you seen my pants?” she asked me.

“Um… no.”

“I had them on earlier…” she gasped, “and now I don’t.”

“Yes, I can see that. But I’m sure you can just get another pair of pants.”

“But these pants were special.” She walked up and waved her hooves in my face. “They were magic pants…”

I never want to be rude but I couldn’t help laughing in that mare’s face. She wasn’t insulted though. She laughed with me, though I don’t think she knew that I was laughing at her. Soon, all of us were laughing. We left her to go to the Mayor. I heard her ask another pony if they’d seen her pants just before we went inside.

The ponies in the city hall didn’t look as ‘official’ as I had expected. They looked just like any other pony in town.

Except the Mayor, of course. He was a noticeably tiny stallion and was wearing a black suit with a red tie. His grey mane was brush back sleekly and he had large glasses. His deep voice didn’t go with the rest of him.

“So, you must be the stranger that’s helpin’ us with our problem.” He extended his hoof and I shook it. “Pleased to meet ya.”

“How did you know that I’m the one who helped you?”

“Had some stallion come in saying that there was a Pegasus that’s going down to the Satellite Facility to kill all the Ghouls. Of course, nopony believed him and he got upset. I had to jail him for disturbin’ the peace.”

“What? He was telling the truth though. He’s not still jailed, is he?”


“Then maybe you should send somepony to let him out?”

“I suppose that’s only fair.” He gestured one of the ponies in the room to let him out.

“It isn’t fair. You jailed him for something he didn’t even do.”

“An honest mistake, but that’s beside the point. You come in here for a reason?”

“Yeah, there’s a pony living in the Satellite Facility. She said she’ll trade you the salvage for food.”

“Can’t say it’s hers to trade. We need that salvage to live.”

“She’s been there for decades, so I’d say it is hers. And all she’s asking for is food. And she’s the one who killed the Ghouls, not me, so you could help her out, right?”

“She killed them all on her own?”

“Yeah, all of them.”

“I don’t know if I want to trade with a pony like that. She seems dangerous.”

“She is dangerous.”

“You’re not really helping her case. What’s to stop her from killing us when we bring the food?”

“She said she would trade the scrap for food.”

“I don’t know. Would you go with the caravan? Make sure nothing happens to it?”

“If she wanted to kill them and take the food, there’s nothing I could do about it.”

“But she might not if you’re there. You helped her out and all, remember?”

“Fine, I guess.”

The entire town had made food for Harlequin Forest. There were three wagons almost overflowing with food. Each one was pulled by two stallions and there were two armed guards on both sides of each wagon. We started toward the facility.

* * *

Harlequin Forest was waiting for us outside. She was lying on the ground and looked like she was sleeping. All of the Ghoul corpses were gone.

The stallion next to me spoke to the one next to him. “It’s only one pony. Why don’t we just take it from her. This is a lot of food.” When he looked back up, Harlequin Forest was looking down at him.

“You will give Us the food and We will give you the metal.”


Her eyes turned red and she scowled. “That was the deal! Or We kill all of you. And We take it!” she said reaching out and grabbing the air with her hoof.

The stallion just nodded at her with a stupid smile. He probably would have shit himself if he knew what she could do to him.

She took the food with an over-excited grin and filled their carriages with scrap. I knew she would. I didn’t know why but I just trusted her. She was obviously insane but she seemed like an honest pony.

“Now leave us! We wish to feast and We will do so in private. Ha! Ha! Yes!” She curled her foreleg in victory as if she’d won a great battle and grinned to the stars.

Her goofy maniacal laughter soon spread to the three of us. After she was finished, she went inside and laughed the whole way in, levitating the mass of food behind her and slammed the front door.

“Well… at least that wasn’t weird,” I said.

“I kinda like her. She keeps me in a good mood,” Rose said.

“Yeah. She’s really funny,” Radiant said.

The door blasted open and Harlequin Forest poked her head down from the top of the doorway.

“What’s it waiting for?”

We stared blankly.

“Come inside!” she said and gestured us in with a smile. We went inside.

* * *

The lab room where she had killed the ghouls was completely renewed before we left but the rest of the station still looked terrible. This time we went in she had fixed everything. There was no clutter on the floor, it looked clean enough to lick. The chair that was stuck in the wall was gone and so were the holes it had made. The air ducts were running great again and making hardly any noise. The air was fresh.

Harlequin Forest melted through the roof like a ghost and came down to the floor, in front of me.

“Come on, We have food! We will give some to all the nice ponies who helped Us.”

Red eyes. “But not the other ones, though,” she growled.

There weren’t any dining areas. We found a break room for the Pre-war ponies and ate in there. The tables were only big enough to seat two. I sat with Radiant and Rose sat with Harlequin Forest.

Harlequin Forest could eat more than I ever thought possible for a pony. I think she ate all the food in one of the carts at that meal alone. That was enough to feed a town for a day.

We all made small talk over the food and any other random things that came to mind, but I was curious about her. There was no way I could leave her here and live the rest of my life wondering why she was the way she was. No thinking pony could. I’d never even heard of anything like her. It was like she shared the same body with some kind of deity and I really wanted to know why.

“You should come with us,” I said. “You could do a lot of good, you know.” It was true. If she fought for the right cause, nopony would be able to stand against her. The Marejave would be a better place than Pre-war Equestria if that’s what she wanted. I just had to make her want that.

“We will not fight.”

Her eyes turned red, then she grinned. “No! We want to fight!” Her hoof slammed to the metal floor. Her drink spilled. “Let Us fight!”

“So… you want to fight? Or no?”

Green eyes. “No. We don’t fight. And We won’t. We are happy here.”

“By yourself?”

“We are not alone.”

“Yes you are. You don’t get bored?”

“No, We have lots of fun in this place.”

“Doing what? Cleaning?”

“That is not fun. We had to do that.”

“Doesn’t seem like there’s much else to do.”

She frowned. “Don’t worry about it. That’s Our fun.”

“What in the hay are you talking about?”

She narrowed her eyes. “Nothing…” she said, almost purring.

“I don’t think you have fun here…”

“It doesn’t even know, okay?”

“Ha! Ha! What? I don’t know what?”

“About Our fun…”

“Why don’t you come with us and you can tell me all about this fun.”

“Oh, and Plasma Storm would like that, wouldn’t he? We won’t be falling for that one…”

Green eyes. She grinned and rubbed her hooves together. “But We want to have fun and now We can have more fun…” She looked at me. “Follow Us.”

We turned I don’t know how many corners. It was like a maze inside there and Harlequin forest knew every hallway, apparently. We came to an automatic door that didn’t open when we stepped close. Harlequin Forest stepped up to the keypad and began punching in the code, hiding what she was doing with her other hoof and looking back at me suspiciously. The door opened.

“This is Our room.”

Her room was decorated with trees like the room I first found her in. None were mushy. They all shined in the light from the ceiling. She climbed up on the bed and looked at me with an excited smile, nodding her head.

Nope. “Listen, uh… I see what you’re your driving at, but I can’t.”

She scowled. “Why not?! It said anything!”

Green eyes. She gave me a matter-of-fact look. “Yes, it did say that. We heard it.”

“Sorry, but no.”

She looked like she was going to cry. “But We get so lonely here.” Her horn glowed green and a large chest floated up beside the bed. She magically opened it and foal toys began to float out. A train, a boat, carriages, little ponies… She grabbed the train.

“Nopony will play with Us.” She pushed the train on her blanket with her bottom lip puffed out.

I stared at her. “Oh… That’s what you wanted.”

“What else could We have meant?” Her eyes shot wide and she crossed her hind legs. “Agh! It’s disgusting!”

Yeah, yeah. You can sit there with a straight face and tell me you weren’t thinking the same thing that I was? She just wanted somepony to play with. I figured that I could do that.

She started by playing with the train. I had a small carriage. Harlequin Forest drove the toy along the bed. She blew a long and low raspberry, imitating an engine. I pushed my carriage along the bed. She squealed and slammed the train into my carriage. It shattered.

“Oh! We’re sorry.”

Red eyes. “Ha! No, We’re not!”

“It’s okay. Oh, would you look at that. My carriage is broken. Guess we better be hitting the ol’ dusty trail.”

“But We still want to play.” I turned to face her. She was making a cute pouty face.

“Fine…” She beamed.

“Yay!” She jumped on my back. I nearly fell to the floor from the unexpected weight. “Pony ride!”

I sighed and began to trot around the room. She just said, “Wee!” over and over again. I kept trotting until I was dragging my sweaty self across the carpeted floor. I tried stopping once, about halfway through the pony ride, and she starting screaming. It was like a filly throwing a tantrum but I’m not even sure it sounded like a pony.

“Can’t we…” I huffed, “play another game?”

“Yes. It’s so slow.” She stepped off of me and yanked me to my hooves with magic. “We want to play hide-and-seek now. It will count.”

“But I want to hide…”

“We hide first!” she screamed.

Nod and smile, I thought. Just nod and smile. I did.

“No peeking. We will see if it does,” she said, pointing a threatening hoof at me.

I went to the corner and put my hooves over my eyes.

“One… two… three…”

I heard hoofsteps.

“Four… five… six…”

I heard giggling.

“Seven… eight… nine…”

I heard a flash of magic.


I turned around to an empty bedroom. “You better be in here.”

“We’re in here,” she said playfully. “But where?”

I dove into the corner, where it sounded like she was, and got a face-full of wall. She snorted trying to hold her laughter in.

“Nope! We’re not over there. Did you see it hurt itself? Yes! Ha! Ha!”

Her voice reverberated off of the metal walls in a way that made it sound like she was everywhere at once.

Unfortunately for her, after years of playing hide-and-seek with Winter, I knew the one thing that sucked about hiding. She was going to find out any minute now, and then I would win. After a few long minutes, I heard her squeak in discomfort.

And there it was.

“Hurry up and find Us!”

“But I don’t know where you are,” I said playfully.

She squeaked again and I saw a shadow on the wall and dove in front of the lamp, where the foot of the shadow was. She reappeared beneath me and squealed and kicked me off of her.

“We must relieve Ourselves!”

She flew through the wall and was gone. It wasn’t long before she came back.

“We are finished playing now,” she said.

“But I didn’t get to hide.”

Her green eyes lit up then faded. “It was going to hide under the rug.”


She nodded. “Yes it was. It’s lying now.”

“Meh, I’ve never been much of a liar.”

“We are ready to fight now.”


We left her room.

* * *

We headed back toward Neighvak again and took the highway north, toward New Pegasus. I could see the towering lights all the way from here. Radiant slept on my back while we walked.

A few hours down the highway, we ran into somepony. A stallion was watching us from behind the billboard on the side of the highway. He stepped out of his hiding spot when we got close. He had a shotgun. I drew Perdition and watched him. The stallion approached us. That’s when I noticed the colt he had with him. The raider and I kept our shotgun barrels on one another.

“Okay, you’re going to hand over your stuff, nice and easy.” His gun was shaking.

Both he and his colt had pinprick pupils. That’s probably why they didn’t think it was a bad idea to mug a group of ponies even when one of them was an Alicorn.

“You’re not getting shit from us. Put the gun away or I’m going to shoot you.”

Harlequin Forest giggled. “Ha! Ha! Kill it now!”

“No,” I said.

She grinned at the stallion. “Then let Us do it. Crush it with this,” she showed him her hammer. “We will kill it…”

He shot her. The buckshot tore into her face and she screamed. Radiant pulled her Laser Pistol. His barrel went toward her. I didn’t think, I just shot him. A meaty crater was ripped into his chest and throat and he was dead. Harlequin Forest smashed his corpse into a pulp with her magic before he hit the ground. Then she sat beside him and hung her head.

“Holy shit…” I said.

I wasn’t amazed by what she just did. I was more impressed with the magic vortex thing she used on the Ghouls. What amazed me was that her wounds had already healed completely. Her face had to have been ripped apart by that shotgun but it looked as if she’d never been shot.

The death of his father shook the colt from his high. He burst into tears and rushed to him and buried his face in his dead father’s mane.

“You didn’t have to… why did you kill him?” I could barely understand him through his sobbing. I should have told him that his dad was a filthy raider and he deserved what he got. I couldn’t, even if it was the truth.

Harlequin Forest looked at me. “But We wanted to kill him,” she pouted.

“He shot first,” I said.

“But… what am I supposed to do now? I don’t have anywhere to go.” He looked up at me with watery eyes. “Can I come with you?”

“No. We’ll take you back to town. Somepony there can take care of you.”

He looked down at his father’s mushy corpse. “I want to bury him. Could you help me?”

“No… Cook him into soup,” Harlequin Forest said. She was grinning and rubbing her hooves together. “It will be tasty. We know it!”

“No,” I said, then looked at the colt. “We’ll help you bury him.”

He wanted to sit by the grave for a while. We sat with him.

“Can I come with you? Please?” he asked me again.


“But I don’t have anywhere to go.”

“That’s not my problem.”

“But you killed my dad. It’s your fault.”

“He tried to rob us, shot my friend, then tried to shoot my daughter. I should have killed him faster. You were right there with him. You’re lucky I didn’t shoot you too.”

“Dad, that’s a little harsh.”

“No it isn’t. I’m letting him live, aren’t I?”

“He’ll die on his own though.”

“Ah agree with her, Feathers. Foals don’t last long out here on their own. You should know that. Let’s at least take him back to Neighvak.”

I did think of Radiant. Maybe I was being too harsh. Leaving that colt to fend for himself would have bothered me, whether I wanted to admit it or not. He would die without our help. I couldn’t say no.

“Fine, we’ll take you back to Neighvak. You’re not coming with us.”

We took the colt back. The owner of the bar we first came to offered to let him stay with her since we solved their salvage problem.

We took the highway north again, towards New Pegasus.

* * *

Rose was getting pissed. She hadn’t had anything alcoholic to drink in four days now and she was taking it out on us.

“Chill out, Rose. You’re being ridiculous.”

“Agh!” She sat down on a rock on the side of the highway. “If Ah don’t get some whiskey soon Ah’m gonna die!” The veins in her neck burst forth and her voice was dramatically gravelly on the last word.

“You mad?” I said, smiling at her. She bent down and picked up a rock and threw it at me. It hit me above the eye. Harlequin Forest started laughing hysterically.

“Agh! What the fuck?!”

She pulled her knife out and stared me down. “You wanna get killed, Feathers?” She looked serious.

“Damn! I was just picking at you.”

Harlequin Forest was rolling on the ground and laughing harder than I’ve ever seen anypony laugh.

Rose pointed the knife at her. “An’ you shut the hell up!”

She gasped and stopped laughing, then her eyes turned red. “Or what will it do?”

“Ah’ll kill ya.”

Harlequin Forest got up and went to Rose. She towered over the Earth mare by more than a head.

“Kill Us…” Then she laughed in Rose’s face.

Rose stood on her hind legs and blasted the Alicorn in the face with her hoof. She fell to the ground and looked up at Rose with tears in her green eyes. She shut her eyes tight then stood up and her horn started to glow red.

“Stop!” I yelled and tackled her. “Stop! Rose is your friend.”

“It hit Us!”

“You deserved it,” Rose said.

“We said kill Us,” she rubbed her muzzle where she was struck. “But it hit Us…”

“Ah swear to Celestia, ya call me ‘it’ again and Ah’ll cut yer legs off!” Harlequin Forest looked even more scared then.

I put a hoof on her shoulder. “It’s okay. She didn’t mean it.”

“Yes,” she said.


“Ah did.”

“You’re not helping. You shouldn’t have even hit her in the first place. She was just messing with you like I was.”

“Ah hit you with a rock, remember? Don’t fuck with me. Ya see Ah’m mad.”

“You might be mad, but we need to move. And you’re really drawing attention to us.”

“Ah don’t care. Ah just want some whiskey.”

“I’m sure they have more whiskey than you can drink at New Pegasus. The sooner you quit your whining, the sooner you get to drink.”

She came up and grabbed me by the cheeks. “But Ah want it now!”

I pushed her back. “Then we better start moving.”

Radiant kept snickering at Rose.

* * *

6:58 A.M.

Even sleep deprivation couldn’t stop the old habit I’d formed in the Stable.

I rolled onto my back and looked at Rose. She had her flank in the air and her front legs pointed behind her. Her black hat was covering her face. A muffled snore came from behind it.

Radiant was curled up beside me.

I closed my eyes, half-expecting the jolly mare to wake me with my singing telegram.

7:15 A.M.

I smelled alcohol. But that was impossible…

I opened my eyes to find a pair of large teal eyes staring at me.

“Agh!” I scurried back across the ground. “What the hell, Rose?! How long were you watching me? Why were you watching me?” She had a bottle of some kind of booze.

She put a hoof on her chin. “Ah don’t rightly know. Guess ya just looked so peaceful.”

I shook my head. “Where did you even get that?” I said, glancing at the booze.

“Ya don’t wanna know!” she said, excited.

* * *

I couldn’t go back to sleep after that. After Harlequin Forest woke up we started walking again. Nothing exciting happened all day. When the sun started to set we started searching for shelter.

We were in the desert so it shouldn’t have been as hard as it was. We walked along the mountain range looking for a cave to sleep in but didn’t find one. We came across a town though. It was looked very unwelcoming. There was an eerie haze over it that reeked of death.

“Damn, Feathers. Ya know how to find some fucked up shit.” Rose was eyeing the rotting buildings.

“Keep an eye out for survivors.”

“Survivors from what? This town’s deader than hell.”

“What makes you think I know? I’ve only been out here for about a week. You’ve been out here your whole life.”

“Ah ain’t seen nothin’ like this though.”

Harlequin Forest opened a door and a cloud of brown fog poured out. She reeled back and threw up on the ground and screamed.

“Agh! It tries to choke Us, it does!” She caught her breath and made a bubble around her head with green magic.

“How about you make some for all of us,” Rose said.

Green bubbles came up around mine and Radiant’s head. I guess she was still feeling bitter toward Rose because she wouldn’t make one for her. Her grin probably upset Rose even more.

“What the hell?! Ah don’t wanna smell that shit!”

“We don’t want to make a bubble for it…”

Rose growled and pulled her knife. “Ah told ya, asshole! Which one do ya want off first?”

Harlequin Forest’s horn glowed and Rose’s knife shot out of her hoof and straight into the sky.

“Damn it! Give me mah knife back!”

“We don’t know where it is.”

“Then ya better get yer ass out there and find it!”

“No,” she said childishly.

I grabbed Rose just as she went to lunge at her.

“Let me go!”

“No. Stop it.”

She put her hoof up. “Ah’m gonna hit her!”

“No, you’re not. We have more important things to worry about than your knife, Rose.”

“But what am I supposed to use in a fight now?”

“You’re trying to get in a hoof fight with an Alicorn and you’re worried about not having a knife for some other fight?”

“But Ah can take her, Feathers.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Ah did last time.”

Harlequin Forest smirked. “We didn’t hit it back.”

“’Cause ya was too busy cryin’.”

“No, We could beat it up.”

“Let me go, Feathers. Ah’m gonna kick her ass.”

“I said no.”

“We can do this every time we talk to each other or we can just get it over with now. Yer choice…”

It didn’t look like anypony was here and I figured it would be over quickly.

“Fine.” I looked at Harlequin Forest. “We’re not trying to kill each other. Understand?”

“Yes, yes, We understand.”


“Ah ain’t gonna kill her, Feathers.”

“So how does this work?” I asked Rose.

She gave me a look that made me feel so stupid. “We fight until one of us can’t. Do what ya gotta do, there’s no rules.”

“Makes things easy,” I said. “Okay, uh… fight?”

Harlequin Forest pulled her hoof back as soon as I gave the word; a red glow was around it. She slammed it to Rose’s face then her hat and shirt were on the ground where she was standing and she was sailing through the air doing more flips than I could count. She was nearly knocked out of the town, sliding at least 150 feet before coming to a stop.

I ran to her. There was a nasty cut under her left eye that was bleeding and her eyes were looking in opposite directions. She was trying to stand up but couldn’t. I helped her up and she fell back down.

“I may be wrong, but I think you just got knocked the fuck out.”

“Ah’m… fine… need whiskey… and a headband… caterpillars?”

“I told you that this was a bad idea.”

“Uh… hat. Hat? Hat!” She was freaking out and patting her head. Radiant had her hat and shirt and put the hat back on Rose’s head and hugged her.

“It’s okay, Rose. It’s over now.” She hugged Rose and looked up at me, trying to hold in her laughter.

Harlequin Forest came over to Rose. Her horn glowed green and she placed it to Rose’s head. The cut had healed into a scar and her eyes were back to normal.

“We told it. We said We could beat it up. And We did.”

“Yeah, yeah, don’t go braggin’.”

“Ah! Ha! Ha! We are the winner!”

I looked at Rose. “Are you done now? No more fighting?”

“Ah ain’t promising nothin’.”

“And you think I’m not smart? You should have seen how many flips you did after she hit you.”

“Ah wish Ah could. It’d probably make me feel better.”

“Trust me. It would.” I helped her up.

Rose didn’t ask for a head bubble but Harlequin Forest made one for her anyways. I was glad she did the right thing.

It was dark but there were no clouds. The moonlight made the clouds of fog clearly visible. A good breeze was blowing but the fog didn’t move. We came to a residential area and I wanted to search the houses.

The fog was in the houses too. We came into the den first. A rotten couch sat next to a broken glass table and an overturned wooden end table. A fallen bookshelf was covering half of the couch and books were everywhere. Some looked in good enough condition to read. Others were brown and mushy. Radiant sifted through them and found two books that were in good condition.

“Can I have these, Dad?”

“Those aren’t yours.”

“But if I leave them here they’ll get ruined for sure. I haven’t found a single book since I’ve been out here. I gotta read something, Dad!”

“Fine.” I knelt down so she could reach my saddlebag and put the books in.

We checked the kitchen next. The sink had dried up grime all over and there were rusty cans and dishes on most of the counter space. I found a first aid kit on the wall. It had a roll of bandage and some antiseptic. There wasn’t anything else.

We went upstairs. First, we found a bedroom. In the middle was a large dark stain—probably blood—but there was no body. Looking around, it was clear that this room belonged to a foal. There were toys everywhere and a small bed that had rotted. The one thing that was out of place was a violin. It had seen better days; it was missing a string and half of the hairs on the bow were broken. There was also what looked like crap on it. It definitely looked playable though. There was a symbol on it that looked kind of like the board in a game of tic-tac-toe.

There was another first aid box in the bathroom with nothing in it.

Next was the parents’ room. A large bed, some old food wrappers, the usual junk.

But there was a noise, a sob coming from underneath the bed.

“Hello?” I said.

“Go away! Leave me alone!” It was a filly.

“We’re not going to hurt you. You can come out.”

“No! You’re lying again! Just leave me alone!”

“We aren’t lying,” Radiant said. “Please come out.”

She poked her head out from under the bed. She was a grey Unicorn and she looked a year or two older than Radiant. “You’re not… Who are you?” She crawled out. Her cutie mark was the same symbol from the violin.

“We’re here to help you,” I said. “You need it?”

“Yes. They killed everypony. Even my mom.”


“We have to leave. They’ll kill us all!”

“Who?” I asked again.

She ran her hooves down her mane, twirling it, and looked at the floor. “I don’t know, but they’re scary.”

“You don’t know anything about them?”

“I know that they’re scary. That’s all you need to know. Can we go now? Can you get me out of here?”

“Sure. Do you have anypony you can stay with?”

“No. Can I come with you?”

“For now, I guess.”

“What time is it?”

“Don’t know. It’s dark.”

Her eyes shot wide. “We can’t leave! They’re out there now!” She hid under the bed again and I heard sobbing again.

“Okay, then how about we stay here for tonight. I’ll make sure nopony comes in here to hurt you.”

“But they aren’t ponies,” she said from underneath the bed, then poked her head out. “They’re monsters.”

“All right. Then no monsters will come in here to get you. Better?”


“Come on out. You’ll be all right.” I extended my hoof to pull her out.


“Promise.” She grabbed my hoof and I pulled her out.

She didn’t seem to trust Rose or Harlequin Forest as much as Radiant and I and I think she trusted Radiant even more than me, her being a filly too.

We all sat down to eat. Radiant offered the filly some of our food.

“Okay,” she said.

“So, we never did get your name,” I said.

“I didn’t tell you because you didn’t tell me yours.”

“Fair enough. My name’s Plasma Storm.”

“My name’s Radiant.”

“Rose.” Rose tipped her hat.

“Our name is Harlequin Forest.”

“Our? Wait, you all have the same name?”

“No. That is Our name,” she said with a hoof on her chest.

“But you’re just one pony.”

She scoffed. “Does it think that We don’t know Our own name?”

The filly cowered down. “No…”

“Stop being a bastard,” Radiant said. “We gave our names. What’s yours?”


“Whoa…” Radiant looked like she was in awe. “That’s so awesome! I wish I had a cool name like that.”

“Adagia? I’m guessing that’s your violin in the room down the hall then? With the tic-tac-toe thing on it.”

“Tic-tac-toe? That’s a symbol you put for a sharp note. It’s mine but the monsters messed up it.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s broken. And they pooped on it.”

“Can I go get it? Maybe we can fix it and clean it up.”

“I guess. Just hurry up. I don’t want the monsters coming in if you’re not here.”

The hall was pitch black. I turned on the flashlight in my PipBuck and started toward Adagia’s room. When I stepped in the doorway, I expected to see the violin where it was. It was gone and in the middle of the room, on the big stain, was a large furry creature. Its back was turned to me and it was hunched over.

I couldn’t even think. I was just frozen there in the doorway, looking at whatever the hell that thing was. It looked like some weird mutated version of those dogs the Legion had.

It was one of the monsters and Adagia was right, that thing was fucking scary. I instinctively reached for Perdition. Shit! I thought. I left it with the others. I considered trying to kill it unarmed but reconsidered when I saw the claws it had. They were long and shaped almost like hooks. I’m sure it had teeth to match too. I went back to get Perdition.

“Okay, Adagia. I have some bad news… and some more bad news.”

She looked scared. “What’s the first bad news?”

“Your violin is gone.”

She almost looked relieved. “And the other bad news?”

I picked up Perdition and checked how many shells I had. “The monsters are here.” I think that as soon as I said ‘monster’ she went toward the bed because she was under it before I finished my sentence.

Radiant and Rose readied their guns and Harlequin Forest wiped off her already-clean hammer. We gathered at the doorway of our room.

“Okay, we need to be quiet. We don’t know exactly what that thing can do.”

“Where is it?” Harlequin Forest asked.

“It’s in Adagia’s room.”

As soon as I said that, she started down the hall casually, hammer in hoof. Why she wasn’t levitating it is beyond me. When she got to the doorway she poked her head in. She gasped, pulled her head back then cowered for a few seconds. Then she looked serious and charged in. I heard a wet thump, an alien scream, and two more wet thumps. Harlequin Forest came out covered in blood.

“We killed it!”

I couldn’t resist seeing the corpse. Unfortunately, its head was smashed nearly to the point of decapitation. Blood was splattered everywhere in the room.

“You couldn’t have been a little more subtle?” I asked her.

“But we killed it! We didn’t run to get a gun like it did. We killed it with Our hammer!” She sounded like a foal who just flew or used magic for the first time. It was kind of cute.

“What is it? I’ve never seen one before.”

“It’s a Hellhound,” Rose said. “Ah ain’t never had to fight one, but ya hear stories about ‘em.”

“Well, never say never,” I said. “Adagia said ‘monsters’ so this one probably isn’t alone.”

We went downstairs to see how it got in. The front door was intact. All of the windows were broken but I doubt that thing could fit through any of them.

“Maybe it came from the basement,” Adagia said. “That’s where monsters hide.”

“There’s a basement?”

“Yeah,” she looked around. “The door is over there.” She pointed to a dresser near the corner of the den. “Behind there.”

I flipped the dresser over and there was a metal hatch. Grey magic opened the door and Adagia looked up at me.

“I don’t want to go down there.”

“I can’t leave you up here. What if another one comes while we’re down there.”

She wanted to stay alive more than she didn’t want to go down into the basement. I went down first, then Rose, Radiant, Adagia, then Harlequin Forest. The hatch slammed shut when we got to the bottom and then there was no light. Harlequin Forest sounded scared.

I heard fumbling around and some light clattering then a lantern lit up, levitated by Adagia. It wasn’t very bright and I could see that it was almost out of oil.

The basement was about the size of the house and there wasn’t much down there. There were old crates full of stuff that probably belonged to ponies before the war. It smelled disgusting down there, worse than anything I’d ever smelled before. It was like rotting corpses and shit and I don’t even want to know what else. I think we were all gagging.

I asked Harlequin Forest for a head bubble.

“We can’t give it head bubbles forever,” she whined.

“But this is bad,” I said.

“And We can’t fight and keep head bubbles. It needs to just get used to it.”

“Ah reckon here’s how they’re gettin’ in,” Rose interrupted.

Behind a stack of boxes, in the corner, there was a hole. Or maybe it was more of a tunnel. It was big enough for me to fit comfortably into. I went to look into it and Adagia stopped me.

“Don’t go in there!”

“Why not?”

“The monsters are in there!”

“We came down here to kill the monsters. How can we do that if we don’t go down here?”

“You can’t kill them if you’re dead.”

“And they can’t kill me if they’re dead.”

“I don’t want to go down there.”

It was a difficult situation. I had to convince a filly to go down into hole filled with monsters that killed her family, friends, and everypony else in her town. She’d probably die if I left her behind and I couldn’t have that on my conscience.

“I promised you that you’d be all right, didn’t I?”

“Yes, but…”

“I promised. Now let’s go down there so I can kill the monsters.”

“Oh, no,” Harlequin Forest said, looking me in the eyes. “We will kill them. All of them.” She sounded like she had a grudge.

“You hate them that much?” I asked.

“We didn’t say We hate them. We just want to kill them.”

“That’s as good a reason as any,” Rose said.

Radiant was the only one who was with Adagia. Radiant is brave for a filly but she didn’t want to go down there any more than Adagia did. Unlike Adagia, Radiant knew that I was going down there whether any of my companions liked it or not. I did just that, and they all followed me.

I asked if that hole was always there. She said yes. I asked her if she’d ever been down here. She said no.

“Not even before the monsters?”

“No. It’s scary down here.”

I couldn’t imagine being afraid of a place that was begging to be explored. Radiant’s mother and I explored every bit of the Stable we could when we were foals just because we could.

We walked through the tunnel that snaked down into the ground. It didn’t split off into other paths for a while. When it did, we had three choices: left, straight, and right.

“Let’s go left,” I said.

“No, right,” Rose said.

Harlequin Forest popped up in between us. “Straight!”

We argued about the direction we’d go until we heard along and low growl. Then we heard a whimper and a trickling sound. It was Adagia. Radiant looked sorry for her. Harlequin Forest laughed at her. I flicked the Alicorn on the horn getting a growl in return.

“It’s not funny.”

“We’ll decide what’s funny, Plasma Storm.”

“I already did. It’s not funny.”

She laughed in my face. I ignored her and went left, which is where the growl came from. Adagia whimpered almost inaudibly as we went toward the noises.

The growls were coming from a Hellhound that was sleeping in the middle of the tunnel. It was moving its legs as if it were running in its dream.

Harlequin Forest leaned close to my ear. “Let Us kill it, Plasma Storm.”

“Sure, go ahead.”

She beamed like a filly and trotted over to the Hellhound. It didn’t wake until she poked it with her hammer. “Wake up, sleepyhead.” It started flailing around, trying to find its footing, but before it knew what was happening, it was dead. “We win again!”

“Shut the fuck up,” I whispered. She came back to us grumbling. We kept walking. The tunnel went on for about fifteen minutes, then we reached a dead end. We killed another Hellhound in the tunnel.

We went back to the split and went straight. The tunnel went on for about two miles and there weren’t any Hellhounds, not even the sound of one. I could smell them though. The tunnel opened to a clearing the had a large group of Hellhounds, seven or eight at a glance.

Harlequin Forest charged.

“Shit! No!” I yelled.

She took one’s head completely off with her hammer. Two slashed out at her, missing by a hair. I thought she was dead then. By the time we charged, she’d killed one and took both legs off of another. Any time she was surrounded, there would be a small explosion of magic and the monsters would stagger back, leaving themselves opened for the hammer.

Rose stayed out of range, aiming for their heads. Radiant hid. I don’t remember seeing her at all. Adagia hid too, but not very good. A Hellhound was staring her down.

I jumped in front of her and went to face down the Hellhound. It felt like one of those moments in the great stories. With time for only a single shotgun shell, I had to wait for the right moment and had to hit just the right spot.

The Hellhound pounced and pulled its arm back and I waited. Once the moment came, I pulled the trigger. Buckshot blasted from Perdition’s barrel and tore into the monster’s face.

It didn’t save me.

I blinked then I was in the dirt. There was an intense warmth all over my body and I couldn’t move—I could barely breathe. All I could think was that Adagia was going to die and it was my fault and I was going to have to watch it happen.

The Hellhound was rubbing at its eyes though I’m sure that they were gone. It wouldn’t have helped me then, but Adagia took the opportunity to hide. The hound began to sniff the air and turned toward me. Blood squirted from the side of its head and it stumbled. I heard the click of Rose’s rifle and she shot it again and it died.

It was quiet again but there was a loud ringing in my ears and my heartbeat sounded as loud as a gunshot. I rolled over and saw Harlequin Forest looking down at me.

“Is it dying?” She looked sad at first but then she smiled. “We will make it better.”

It wasn’t the kind of ‘better’ I would have preferred. She raised her hammer to put me out of my misery and Rose saved my life yet again. After being shot four times, the Alicorn put her hammer down and cried.

“You crazy bitch! He ain’t dead yet!”

“We only tried to help!” she said through her heavy sobs. “To help…”

Rose sat beside me and gave me a potion to drink.

“It’s the last one, Feathers. And it ain’t gonna be enough but it should close you up mostly.

I drank the potion and felt my skin crawl. I hadn’t looked at the wound until that moment. There were three long gashes going from the left side of my neck down to my right shoulder. It wasn’t just a flesh wound; the claws tore straight into the muscle and through every bit of bone along the way. The potion did about half of the job but I’d lost so much blood. Rose tried to help me up but I fell back to the ground each time. She went over to Harlequin Forest who was still crying.

“Yer gonna have to carry him,” she said.

“No, it will shoot Us again.”

“Quit it with the excuses. Ah ain’t feelin’ sorry for ya. You tried to kill somepony who saved yer life. Or have ya already forgot about that?”

“We only tried to help…”

“Didn’t look like help to me.”

I know Rose didn’t feel sorry for her but I kind of did. She didn’t try to murder me. “Just let it go,” I said.

“Fine.” Rose left her alone.

I didn’t want Harlequin Forest to carry me. We waited until I could at least walk again. It probably never would have happened if not for Harlequin Forest’s magic. She wasn’t an expert healer by any means, but being such a powerful Alicorn, it was enough to close me up good.

Rose scowled at her when she was done. “You stupid idiot.”

Harlequin Forest’s ears folded back. “What did We do? We helped Plasma Storm…”

“After Ah gave him the last healing potion! Fuckin’ moron!”

At first Harlequin Forest looked scared. Then she snatched Rose up by her shirt collar.

“Call Us that again!”

Rose was stunned.

“Yes! Say it! You will die! We want to kill you…”

Rose didn’t say another word. Harlequin Forest threw her back to the ground.

“Mess with Us? Oh, no…” she muttered, shaking her head.

Rose looked at me.” She didn’t call me ‘it’…”

By some strange bit of luck, no Hellhounds came to investigate the noise. We’d killed a lot of them but there had to be more, enough to wipe out a town. That still didn’t explain the fog. I wanted to know about the fog and we soon found some. The stench of death, which was faint as we entered the tunnel, was stifling. Radiant pleaded to Harlequin Forest for a head bubble.

“We can’t fight and keep head bubbles.”


“Do you want Us to fight?”

That was like asking her if she wanted to live. Without Harlequin Forest we would have all died back in the house I’m sure. Radiant didn’t ask again.

The fog got thicker the further we went. The floor was starting get moist with condensation which was making the stench even nastier. We all threw up at least once. Adagia set the record at nine times, poor filly.

We heard another growl, this one much lower than any I’d ever heard. We came to a descending slope that lead down into a small chasm. At the far side was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It was like a Hellhound but about five times the size. It was black instead of grey and had glowing red eyes. The fog was pouring from its body like a visible odor and coming out of its mouth with every growl. It moved slowly.

We watched it for a minute. The fog around it began to move, swirling into a small mass, then taking the form of a Hellhound, then one would appear from the fog. They weren’t being born, they were created by the fog, by the monster the fog was coming from. If it died, the fog would disappear, and then no more Hellhounds.

All we had to do was kill it. That’s all…

“Can We kill this one too?”

“I don’t know. It looks different.”

“We’re going to kill it.” She shot down from the ledge, hammer trailing behind her, and smashed it to the creatures head. It was like she struck a shadow. She sailed through it and hit the wall and it turned toward her with a raised claw. I could hear her inhale for a scream from across the chasm. An orange beam shot past me and hit the wall beside the beast.

“Bastard gun! I aimed it perfectly.”

“Shoot it again!” I yelled.

The beams struck the creature and it cried out in pain. Hammers didn’t work but lasers did. Rose’s gun didn’t work but Perdition did. I was beyond confused.

“Rose, kill the Hellhound! Radiant, shoot the Black One!”

Radiant and I shot at the beast, driving it backward with every shot. Harlequin Forest was looking at her hammer. It looked like she was talking to it. I yelled for her to “wake the fuck up.” The beast was what woke her.

Its claws ripped into her hide and she began regenerating immediately. She looked stunned, then her horn lit up. The awesome vortex appeared and began to suck the Black One in. One of its arms was caught and began to warp and it screamed like nothing I’d ever heard. It pulled back and its arm started to come out.

“Radiant, shoot it!”

We both shot it. It lost its footing and was sucked into the vortex. I’ll admit that it was pretty satisfying watching that thing die. It wasn’t a gory death at all, but apparently you can kill a shadow. Pieces of it escaped the vortex and dissipated pathetically into the air. The vortex imploded and the Black One was gone.

The fog began to lift and was quickly gone, along with the stench. It smelled like clean earth.

Harlequin Forest trotted toward us, eyes shut and grinning. “It almost got Us, Plasma Storm. But We were stronger!”

“You really are something,” I said. She grinned some more.

We explored the right passage that we never went down and found nothing. The Hellhounds were gone. We went back up. Adagia’s house was still trashed, but the fog outside was gone to. The sun was rising just as I looked out. The town didn’t look much better without the fog, just less rotten.

Everypony but Adagia and I were digging through the ruin, looking for salvage. She stood next to me.

“Thank you,” she said. “For saving my life. Twice, I guess.”

“You’re always welcome. Just make sure you don’t waste it. I’ve seen some bad ponies out here. They didn’t all start out that way.”

“That stuff’s not for me. I just like music. We never did get to fix my violin.”

“We will,” I said with a smile.

“I can some with you then?”

I nodded.

“Good. I can’t stay here anymore. Everything’s ruined.”

“Maybe somepony will rebuild it.”

“Maybe. It won’t ever be the same though.”

“And that’s okay.”


We started down the road that cut through town, heading toward New Pegasus again. Maybe I’d get to see it before another interruption like having to save a filly from a dead town.

* * *

We stopped to make camp for the last time. New Pegasus was clearly visible against the night sky. It looked amazing.

I helped Adagia fix her violin and she cleaned it up. It was still missing a string but that didn’t stop her from making music with it. She played scores that sounded as if they were written by one of the great composers. Octavia was the only one I knew a lot of material from, but there were even better composers. I might even put Adagia above her as well. What she could do with only a three-stringed violin was fantastic.

“It’s not that great,” she told us. “I just threw that one together,” she’d say after every other score.

“Then I want to hear one your proud of,” I said.

She played the one that she was proud of. It was eleven minutes long, starting kind of fast and very groovy-sounding. The tempos changed so many times you’d swear it was several songs clumped together but it flowed so perfectly. After it was over she looked at us.

“I had to improvise since I don’t have the fourth string.”

Radiant broke our silence. “That. Was. Amazing!”

Adagia rubbed the back of her mane. “Yeah, it is pretty amazing, isn’t it?”

We all nodded.

“It was okay,” Rose said. “Not mah kind of music, but it was all right.”

It looked like that comment stung a little. Adagia bit her lip and scowled.

“If it’s not your kind of music, then how do you know if it’s all right?”

“Don’t take it to heart, little filly. Ah’m just teasin’.”

“I worked so hard on it. For three years!”

Rose put her hooves up in defense. “All right, all right, it was amazing. Better?”

Adagia smiled. “Don’t take it to heart. Ah’m just teasin’,” she said. We all laughed.

We started toward New Pegasus once Rose woke up, which was late. She found a bottle of vodka back at the town. “To help me sleep,” she said before downing the whole bottle.

Her chipper mood soon gave way to being an ass due to the lack of alcohol. I didn’t get hit with a rock and Harlequin Forest didn’t get hit in the face that time. Rose just whined a lot.

“For the love of Luna,” I said, “shut up, Rose. We’re almost there.”

“Fuck you, Feathers. I’m thirsty.”

We all went back and forth with the ‘you shut up’s until we got to the gate. There were two ponies on either side.

“Welcome to New Pegasus, ponies. What’s your business here?”

“Would you let us through if we didn’t tell you?” I asked.

“Yes, just curious, is all.”

“We don’t really have any business. Just wanted to see the city.”

“You you fellers got any whiskey? Ah need some now!”

The guard on the left laughed. “Yeah, Flutterside’s got a few bars. You probably can’t afford the bars in New Pegasus.”

Rose shoved her way through me and the gate. We followed her in.

The Showpony and the Goddess

View Online

Flutterside was nasty. Newspapers blew all over around the entrance. Some stuck to the ground in piles of muck. The buildings were all vandalized by graffiti depicting vulgar messages and images. A Ghoul sat on the ground, slumped against one of the buildings and he was staring straight across the street at nothing.

A dirty green Earth stallion was standing against one of the larger two-story buildings. His mane was black and greasy. It was slicked back, revealing a bushy unibrow. He was watching us.

He spoke to Rose first. “Hello there, Miss. Might I interest you in the finest Dash in the Marejave?”

“Ah don’t think so. Ah’m more of a whiskey gal, an’ Ah really want some right now, so piss off.”

He smirked and looked up at me. “How about you, sir? There’s no finer high than good ol’ Dash.”

“You shouldn’t take that stuff. It’ll kill you.”

He snorted. “Another square, huh? No big deal.” He knelt down to Radiant and Adagia. “How about you, little fillies? Would you like some Dash? Only ten caps for the little fillies.”

I put Perdition’s barrel to his forehead. “Listen here, you little shit. We’re not interested in your Dash. Try to sell it to them again and I’ll shove your whole supply up your ass. You understand what I’m saying?”

He laughed. “You must be new here, stranger. I run the show here in Flutterside and my friends will be hearing about this. Best sleep with one eye open now, friend. Nopony disrespects me in my town.”

“I’m busy later. Tell them now.”

“All right, then. Sodapop!”

A cream-colored colt came out of the building the dealer was leaning against. Sodapop was emaciated and his eyes were almost entirely his pupils. He put a hoof to his forehead in salute.

“Yes sir, sir?!” the colt yelled. He was twitching.

“Go get the boys. We got a square threatening my business.”

The colt nodded about ten times until the dealer threw him a Dash inhaler. He sucked in the drug then rushed inside. The dealer shot me a smug smile.

“I’m guessing you’re going to run away while your buddies fight your battle?”

The dealer spread his hooves. “Looks to be that way.”

“You’ll need your legs for that, won’t you?”

“Wha…” I shot him in the leg. The buckshot tore through his leg and severed it from his body. He tipped over and I shot the other three off, one by one.

A pony popped up in the second story window with the scope of a sniper rifle to one eye. I flew up and put Perdition’s barrel on the scope and pulled the trigger. Buckshot and broken glass blasted into his eye.

Rose hugged the wall outside the door. When a sledgehammer-wielding pony came out, Rose stuck her knife in the side of his head. It didn’t seem to affect him. The stallion started up, only to receive a face full of buckshot from Perdition. He stayed down that time.

Radiant took potshots, disintegrating anypony stupid enough to poke their head out. The fighting stopped after about ten of them died.

The dealer bawled on the ground in a pool of his own blood. He called out to me. “Wait! Don’t leave me here to bleed out!” He sniveled. “Be… be a good pony and put me out of my misery.”

I look down at him in disgust. “Why would I do that?”

“I can’t afford them robot legs. A pony without legs is a dead pony. You have to kill me now. You’re a good pony.” He swallowed, taking deep breaths. “Aren’t you?”

“I can’t be a good pony. A good pony would look the other way for what you’ve done.” I knelt down beside him. “A good pony would put you out of your misery right now. Good ponies are weak. I’m going to let you die.” I stood up and left him to die.

* * *

The next section of Flutterside was much nicer than the entrance. As we passed by the many shops, criers would yell out to us why we should shop at their stores. There was one very young mare dressed in a skimpy outfit promoting the seedy casino down the street. We definitely wouldn’t be going there.

The variety of buildings here was ridiculous. All the buildings were the same but what was behind their glass windows differed about as much as ponies and dragons. One of the buildings had a neon sign above the door depicting the silhouette of a stallion in a pose that just made me think of the word ‘cool’. There were plenty of guns and armor shops but also lots of shops with things ponies would never need. Adagia stopped to stare into one of the windows. There were instruments in the window.

“You want to go in?” I asked her.

“Can I? Yes!”

It clearly wasn’t as visited as the other shops. I guess ponies these days don’t appreciate music like they used to. There were violins, cellos, and guitars as well as tubas, trombones, you get the idea. Adagia only paid mind to a single violin. It was in pristine condition and behind a case that I figured was bulletproof. The strangest thing was that the hole cut into it was the same as her violin, the sharp note symbol. Aside from the condition, it was the same as Adagia’s violin.

A mare came from the back. “I’m sorry, little filly, but I don’t think you can afford that one.” Adagia didn’t look surprised.

“I doubt anypony in the Marejave could afford it.”

“Not any one pony.”

“But I still want it.”

“I want two-million caps for it.”

“A filly can dream. How about a new string then?”

“The newest we have are from before the war.”

“You don’t want two-million caps for them, right?” she asked, almost as if she thought they might cost that much.

“That depends. What are you stringing up?”

She pulled her violin out and set it on the counter. “This.”

The mare looked at it, then the one in the case. “You can’t possibly want to play this!”

“I don’t have another one to play.”

“But this violin is priceless! It needs to be behind glass like that one!” she said, pointing at the new one.

“You don’t think it should be heard? You’d rather it sit behind glass just for ponies to look at? I don’t think there are many ponies who even care what it is. Can I just have a string for it, please?”

The mare clearly wasn’t happy but put a string on the counter. “It’s the least rusted one I have. Take it.”

“But I have caps to give you!” She held up a hoof full of caps.

“Take it. It’s a shame for that violin to be missing a string and I’m happy knowing that it won’t be now.”

Adagia tilted her head and looked behind the mare. “What’s that?”

When the mare turned around, Adagia grabbed the string and threw the caps on the counter and ran out the door, gasping dramatically like a foal who was about to be caught doing something bad. I couldn’t help but laugh.

She was re-stringing her violin just outside the door and was nearly finished when we came out. The tuning peg spun slowly with gray magic as she dragged the bow back and forth across the string—she used the bow with her hoof instead of her magic—until she got the right pitch.

Then she stood up and started playing a song; it was the song by Octavia that was playing in the Stable when I was grading those pop quizzes. It may have been on a different instrument but I recognized the melody immediately. I didn’t say anything. I just listened. You’d never think that, just by looking at her, she could play. A few ponies stopped what they were doing to listen too. Adagia kept her eyes shut and played what came out.

The mare from the shop had been listening too. When Adagia stopped, everypony gave her an applause. The mare approached her.

“I think you were right about that violin. That was the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard.” She should have heard that eleven-minute epic Adagia played for us.

Adagia smiled and thanked her and went back to playing something I didn’t recognize. The mare turned to me.

“My brother owns one of the classier casinos in New Pegasus. I’m sure he’d love to have her play there. Would you be okay with that? She would have a very safe place to stay and would make enough caps for a comfortable living.”

“I’d be okay with that.” I may not be her dad but I wanted what was best for her. Adventuring isn’t a healthy or long profession. And I couldn’t imagine her wasting a gift like she had.

The mare explained the situation to Adagia. At first she looked happy. She probably never thought that she’d make a living doing something she loved, and at such a young age. I’d only known her a few days but, to me, she was a part of the strange family that we were.

She hugged me. “Thank you for bringing me here. I know what would have happened if it wasn’t for you.”

“Don’t think about that. Think about what you’re going to do next.” She smiled at me and nodded. “Remember what I told you.”

She nodded. “Don’t waste it.”

It made me very happy to see that I wasn’t the only decent pony. It was even better to see that there were more than a few. Everypony said their good-bye’s. Radiant didn’t want her to go. She even asked me if she could go with her. I said no.

We kept exploring Flutterside, finding more shops, doing trading for some caps, and found some more weird ponies. Then I saw an interesting pony on the sidewalk, a Unicorn mare, blue with a pink mane tied in a ponytail that hung over one shoulder and a pair of black thick-rimmed eyeglasses.

She beckoned out to the ponies—about what, I couldn’t hear—and would show them whatever she had in her hoof. Maybe it was a deck of playing cards. Each time they would say something that appeared to insult her and she would sit down and hang her head, glaring at them as they walked away. She would peek up and beckon out to the next pony, who would repeat the insults.

I watched her for a minute before Radiant tugged at my mane. “Come on, Dad. I want to see what she’s doing over there.”

The three of us approached the moping mare. She didn’t perk up this time.

“Oh, great. More cruel ponies coming to mock me, huh? Super…” She pawed at the sidewalk, looking as if she were about to cry. I thought she was being dramatic.

“Oh, great,” Rose put her hooves on her cheeks. “Another drama queen.”

“Rose,” Radiant said.

“What’s the matter, drama queen?”

“Rose,” she said, louder that time.

“Got some dust on ya?”


“Chip a hoof?”

“ROSE!” Radiant grabbed Rose’s cheeks.


“You’re being a bastard.”

Rose pushed the filly away. “Ah ain’t bein’ no bastard.”

“Language, Radiant. And yes, you’re kind of being a bastard,” I said. Everypony snickered.

“So,” Radiant looked at the mare, “what do you got going on here?”

“A good question, my little filly.” A pink glow danced around her horn. “I am Flourish the Showpony, wowing passersby with my amazing magic!” Her voice grew louder with each word and fireworks went off in the air above her spelling ‘Flourish’ in elegant pink script.

Rose shot her a raspberry. Flourish smiled and tilted her horn toward Rose. The letters in the air rushed to Rose’s head and vanished in a thin cloud of smoke. Rose’s mane shrunk back into her head and a red beard sprouted from her face.

Flourish slid up and began stroking it. “Magnificent, if I do say so myself.”

Rose shoved her away. Flourish hit her with a wisp of magic and the red beard shrunk back into her face and sprouted on her head.

“Bo-ring. That all ya got?”

“Of course not. You don’t make it very far being a one-trick pony.”

She clearly took a liking to teasing Rose. Another pink wisp hit the Earth mare and, in a cloud of smoke, a stallion stood in her place.

Only… Red mane, cowpony hat, rose leaning on a whiskey bottle…

Mother of Celestia…

A baritone scream came from her—his?—mouth. The rest of us laughed.

“Y’all best change me back before Ah get nasty!”

“All right, but only because you asked politely.” A pink flash later and a wall-eyed Earth mare appeared. Flourish rubbed her chin in thought then gasped. “Ooh, one more.”

There was a bright pink flash. When I looked back, she was gone and there was a large sorcerer’s hat in her place.

“Whoa! She’s gone!” I said.

The hat began to move. Then I heard a voice at my ears, but it wasn’t Radiant’s.

“Ah, yes! One of my favorites.” Flourish was on my back, lying on her side with her rear legs crossed. “Have to admit, it’s pretty cool, right?” She brushed her hoof on her chest and smiled. “Radiant, darling. Do come out.”

The hat flipped over and Radiant jumped out, beaming. “Um…” she looked at the three of us awkwardly. “Ta-da!” she yelled, throwing her hooves wide. I almost had a heart attack from the sheer cuteness of it.

I was impressed. A performance like that had to be rewarded. I handed the mare a bag of caps to brighten her day. “Here. That was the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while.”

She gasped and put a hoof on her chest. “So generous!” She slid down from my back.

“Where’d you learn to do all those tricks?” I said.

“It’s magic,” Flourish said simply.

“You don’t say.”

She walked around my front and flicked my nose with her tail. “I do say. A lady never reveals her secrets.”

Rose laughed. “Ho ho! Somepony’s blushin’.” No way you could see a dark purple pony blush.

Flourish giggled, snatching up the hat. Her horn glowed and the hat turned into a wisp of smoke then vanished. She gave a slight bow. “I’d love to stay and chat, but we can’t deprive the good ponies of Flutterside of my spectacular magic. Good day sir, lady, and um… bastard.” She beamed. “Good day!”

She took her spot back on the curb.

* * *

We needed a place to stay that night. I didn’t want to sleep outside. One of us might not wake up, I thought. We found a hotel. It was as nasty as the ponies inside, but still cleaner than outside. The good thing was that it was cheap. The mare at the front desk charged thirty caps for all of us in a single room. I thought it was fair enough. I figured it would only be for a night.

“Go up to the third floor, it’s the fourth door on the right,” she told us.

We followed her directions and came to a room that was surprisingly cleaner than I thought it would be. The carpet was due for replacement and I’m sure the blankets and all weren’t clean. The windows had grime on them and were opaque. I’m sure you could see better out of them at night.

Harlequin Forest grimaced through her entire exploration of the small room. I thought it was funny.

There were two beds. I’d sleep with Radiant, and Rose got a whole bed to herself. Harlequin Forest wouldn’t sleep on the bed. She said it was too nasty. Rose didn’t argue with her.

“I’ll be back. I’m going for a walk,” I said.

“Can I go?” Radiant said.



That side of Flutterside looked even more unwelcoming than the entrance at night. Homeless ponies gathered around burning barrels doing Dash. One convulsed on the sidewalk, ignored by the others. She probably died that night.

I started down the sidewalk, being watched by the residents. As I neared the spot where we met Flourish earlier, I saw that she was still there. She wasn’t alone this time.

There was a stallion in her face and a mare at her back, boxing her in. I walked over to them.

They were mugging her. She pulled out a bag of caps—the bag I gave her—and handed it to the stallion. She had an unsurprised look on her face.

I approached the stallion in front. “What’s going on here?”

“Beat it, stranger, before you wind up in the gutter.”

“Give her caps back.”

“I don’t wanna.”

“I didn’t give you a choice.”

He furrowed his brow and pulled a weathered 9mm pistol and fired at my chest. The gun jammed. I shot forward with my wings and knocked the stallion out with a head-butt.

The mare jumped on my back and started pummeling me in the back of the head with her hooves, which hurt more than you would think. The world started to spin and I did the first thing that came to mind. I flapped my wings and flipped forward. She was sandwiched between me and the sidewalk.

After she caught her breath she got up and dragged the still unconscious stallion away, leaving the bag of caps. I stared them down until they vanished around the corner.

Flourish stepped up and I handed her the bag of caps.

“Nopony has ever stopped to help me.” She looked up at me. “Why did you?”

“They stole your money.”

She didn’t reply.

“It wasn’t the first time, was it?”

She shook her head. “Afraid not. Those assholes come to take my money every single night. Hopefully not anymore. Thank you.” She nuzzled me then went back to her spot and curled up on her bed, which was a folded pink cape that matched her hat from earlier. The hat lay neatly next to it.

“What are you doing?” I said.

“Going to sleep.”

“Out here? You don’t have a bed to sleep in?”

She shook her head. “You haven’t been out here long, have you?”

“How does everypony get that impression from me?”

“You reek of a Stable.”

“How do you know what a Stable smells like?”

“I don’t. I saw you had a PipBuck.”


She smirked and rested her head on her bunched up hat.

I had to help her. Who would stop those ponies from coming back other than me? “We have a room at the hotel. You can stay with us if you want.”

“With that Earth mare? I’m sure she’d be thrilled with my company.”

“Well, you did turn her into a stallion.”

“I suppose that’s true. Who knows, she might have enjoyed life as a stallion. It was pretty funny though, wasn’t it?”

I laughed. “It’s always funny to see Rose get picked on. She’s a good pony. She just needs to say no to the bottle once or twice a year.”

“Okay, then. I can’t refuse such a generous offer, though I’d hate to impose.”

“It’s no trouble at all, really. I can’t leave you out here.” I nudged her up. We walked to the hotel. Rose was in the lobby—you guessed it—drinking.

“So, the drama queen is staying here too?”

Flourish frowned. “Bitch…”

“Flourish is going to be staying here with us tonight.”

Rose gasped with wide eyes. “Yer sweet on the mare…” she said in drunken amazement.

“It’s not like that, Rose.”


Damned Earth ponies. “The room’s up here, Flourish,” I said.

I led her to the room. Radiant was tinkering with her Laser Pistol on her bed. I saw two scorch marks on the wall in the direction the pistol was pointed. I didn’t say anything to her about them.

“Well, here it is. Luna-forsaken hell-hole,” I said, waving a hoof at the messy room. “You already know Radiant and Rose. Make yourself at home.”

“Wow…” She looked a little disgusted. “I suppose it’s… better than sleeping on the sidewalk.”

Radiant looked up. “Sleeping on the sidewalk? You’re a hobo pony?!” I scowled at her. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean that. You don’t look like a hobo pony.”

She was right. Flourish’s blue coat was spotless. Her pink mane and tail looked professionally groomed. She had the only unbroken pair of glasses I’d seen outside the Stable. Why was she homeless?

“Yeah, I’m afraid that’s a long story… and one I’d rather not share.”

Radiant stared at her for a few seconds, then beamed and said, “Okay.”

“Do you have any snacks?” It was funny how casually she asked that.

Radiant beamed. “Sure! We have Blamcolt Mac and Cheese, Dandy Colt Apples, Sugar Apple Bombs…” she opened a saddlebag to reveal the stockpile we had saved up.

“Help yourself,” I said. “We have plenty.”

“Can I have some too, Dad?”

“It’s your food too, Radiant.”

They each got a box of Mac and Cheese and split a box of apple slices, conversing over their meal.

Flourish saw Harlequin Forest standing near the window. She was staring off into space, probably having a mental conversation with herself. Flourish walked up to her.

“Oh, I didn’t see you there. Hello.”

“Hello!” Harlequin Forest said awkwardly.

“I-I’m sorry. Why are you yelling at me?”

Harlequin Forest smiled and looked at the floor. “Oh, no. No… not yelling.”

“Okay. I’m Flourish, though you probably already knew that.”

Harlequin Forest stared at her blankly.

“And your name is… ?” Flourish asked.

“Yes, you look nice.” She gestured Flourish closer. I didn’t hear what she said.

“Sorry?” Flourish said.

I missed it again.

“You can speak up. I won’t beat you up or anything.”

She looked around nervously then went to Flourish’s ear and whispered.

“Reverie. That’s a beautiful name.”

“Reverie?” I said. “I thought your name was Harlequin Forest.”

“No, Our name is… Reverie.” She whispered and knelt down timidly when she said her name.

“Oh, then the… other one is Harlequin Forest?”

She nodded her head. Her eyes turned red. “Yes,” she turned to Flourish. “That is Our name…”

“Uh… and that is a beautiful name too, hehe…”

Reverie beamed. “Thank you.”

“Well, okay then,” I said, “I’ll just leave you two or uh… three to get acquainted.” Flourish looked very uncomfortable.

I went back to the lobby to talk to Rose. She was sitting with her back against the wall, looking at me with a sly smile.

“Damn, Feathers. That quick?” She smiled and leaned in. “She better than me?”

“I don’t remember. Guess you weren’t all that good.”

She gave me a sarcastic laugh. “Seriously though. That quick?”

“She was being robbed. I helped her. She needed a place to stay. I. Helped. Her.”

She sat up straight and fixed her crooked hat. “Is that what gets you off? Helpin’ ponies?”


“Then why do ya?”

“Because it’s the right thing to do.”

“Some ponies would disagree. The Marejave is a place where the strong stomp out the weak. It ain’t no place for a pony who can’t fend fer themselves.” She seemed to be sobering up right before my eyes. “Ya need to help yerself or yer gonna wind up dead.”

“You wouldn’t help somepony who needed it? We’ve both been on the stomped end of your philosophy.”

“Ya throw innocent around like everypony deserves it. The Marejave makes murderers out of us all. Even you an’ Radiant. An’ don’t even get me started on that Alicorn…”

“You know damn well that I’m not a murderer, Rose. And Radiant? Seriously?”

“Ah’ve seen you kill like ten ponies since Ah met ya.”

“Oh yeah? Name one that I murdered.”

“How about… no… she was a raider, um…”


“Okay, whatever. Ya think little Miss Showpony hasn’t gotten her hooves dirty? I do. Fer all you know, a muggin’ was a slap on the hoof for what she might’ve done.”

“Doesn’t matter. I’ll treat her the way I have until your little theory proves you right about her.”

“Ya know you Stable ponies are a stubborn bunch?”

“Yeah, but if you’re right, at least you can say ‘Ah told ya so’,” I said, imitating her.

She laughed. “Better believe Ah will, too,” she said, then drained her whiskey bottle.

So much for sobering up.

* * *

A loud burp woke me up.

“Ew!” Flourish whispered. “Don’t burp in my face, Rose! You smell like cheap booze.”

Rose scoffed. “Cheap booze? Ah only drink Applejack Daniel’s. Finest whiskey in Equestria.”

“There’s nothing fine about it.”

“Ha! Ah bet ya never drunk a single drop, ya square.”

“You’d think that, wouldn’t you? I’ve had your Applejack Daniel’s. Meh…”

“Careful now. Yer about to cross some fuckin’ lines.”

“You don’t scare me.”

“Ya will when Ah kick yer ass.”

“You couldn’t kick your own ass if it was handed to you.”

“Oh yeah? Fuck you, you fucking fucker,” Rose said, placing emphasis on each fuck.

I heard Flourish chuckle. “Touch a nerve? Go to sleep before you hurt yourself.”

Rose started grumbling something.

“Why are you so mean to me, anyway?” Flourish asked. “I haven’t done anything to you.”

“Ah don’t know. Maybe Ah just don’t like you.”

“Guess it can’t be helped then.” Flourish rolled over and tried to pull the blanket out from under Rose.

“Quit it,” she said.

“You’re not even using it.”

“So? It’s mah side o’ the blanket.”

Flourish tugged again and Rose rolled over and farted on her.

“Oh… Ew! Oh my Luna, it’s stinging my nose!” It sounded like she was trying to blow the stink out of her nose.

Rose laughed. “Ya think that’s gross?” She grinned, strained and let out a flank-flapper that had her tail swishing in the wind.

Flourish’s gagged, covering her muzzle.

“Take a whiff, Showpony,” Rose said, fanning the air toward Flourish.

Flourish shook her head. “Mm-mm.”

Rose pounced on her and knocked Flourish’s hooves from her muzzle. Flourish’s cheeks inflated and she hurled half-digested Mac and Cheese and apples over the side of the bed. Rose fell on her back, kicking her legs and laughing.

Radiant jumped up, flapping her wings. “Agh! What’s so funny?”

Rose pointed at Flourish, hunched over the side of the bed, groaning. “The showpony lost her dinner.”

Radiant looked at Flourish. “It wasn’t spoiled, was it? I’m pretty sure the boxes were…” she covered her muzzle and gagged.

Rose laughed harder. “No way! Ah’m getting’ two ponies? Wake yer dad up. Ah wanna see if Ah can make all o’ ya puke.”

Reverie fanned her wings then put up a barrier around herself. The air in the room smelled worse than the mush we ate in the Stable. I sat up and rubbed my eyes. Flourish was now dry-heaving, Radiant was holding her breath and Rose was staring at me with a smile, hoping that I’d join them.

I sniffed and grimaced. “What the… ? Good Luna, that fucking stinks.”

Rose beamed. “Ah! Ha! Ha! Come on! Throw up!”

“It isn’t that bad. I’ve smelled worse.”

“Yer such a party pooper. Ya know that?”

“And you’re a… a bed-pooping bastard.” Radiant said.

“Yeah, you should check those sheets,” I said as I opened the windows.

“Trust me. You’d know if Ah shit the bed.”

I went to clean up Flourish’s mess. “No, no, I got it. Please don’t look at it.” She levitated the pile of mush into the trash can and put it out the door.

We all went back to bed, only Flourish laid with Radiant and I laid with Rose.

“Psst! Hey, Feathers. You asleep?”


“Hey, did ya almost puke?”

“Can’t hear you. I’m asleep.” I pulled the blanket higher up.

“Ya didn’t? Guess Ah’ll have to try again.” She raised her hind leg.

“If you stink up this room again, I’ll turn your ass into a hat and make you wear it.”

She snickered. “Is it sick that Ah think Ah might enjoy that? Didn’t think you was a kinky pony.” She poked my side with a hoof.

“Uh… yeah. That’s pretty sick. You’d have your own ass on your head.”

She sighed. “Ya know, this is bringin’ back memories. You. Me. In the same bed.”

“Too bad it won’t happen again.”

“Why not? Did the showpony sweep ya up?” She gasped. “Hehe. Ah bet she got you with that little flick on the nose. Ha! Can’t believe Ah thought you was into stallions. Yer all over that mare.”

“Shut up before I kill you.”

“Just admit it already.”

“When you’re sober.”

“That’s not fair. Ya know that’ll never happen.”

“Then I guess I’ll never tell. Shut up and go to sleep.”

* * *

That morning we got up with the sun. Rose slept in as she usually did. Flourish had made the bed she and Radiant slept in. She looked at me.

“Thanks for letting me stay here last night.” She went to leave.

“You’re going back to the sidewalk?” Radiant asked.

“I don’t have anywhere else to go.”

“Why don’t you come with us? I don’t mind and I’m sure even Rose will warm up to you.” I said.

“I don’t know. Where are you going?”

“Wherever we happen to end up, I guess. I wouldn’t mind going to New Pega…”

“New Pegasus?!” She was pulling her ponytail down with both hooves and beaming.

“So you want to come with us?”

“Yes! Yes!” She relaxed and cleared her throat, then chuckled. “I mean… I guess…”

“All right.”

“I haven’t seen you around before yesterday. Where did you get the pass to get in?”

“The what now?”

She frowned in disappointment. “They don’t let just anypony into New Pegasus. You’ll need a pass to get in or receive a personal invitation from somepony important. That’s why I live in Flutterside. I figured somepony would be impressed by my magic and give me a job in New Pegasus.”

“Well, how do we get a pass?”

“I told you. It’s about who you know. A stranger like you probably doesn’t have any friends here. Not anypony who can get you into New Pegasus, I’m sure.”

“Do you know anypony who can get us in?”

“I might…”

* * *

She led us back to the entrance of Flutterside where we killed the dealer. His legless corpse was still there. Flourish recognized him.

“Ooh… Guess he finally messed with the wrong pony,” she said.

“Me,” I said.

She sighed and shook her head. “Oh well… Here’s where we’re looking for.” It was one of the shops. There were Pre-war antiques in the window. For some reason I wanted one of them but I didn’t buy any. We went inside. The door didn’t make any noise when we opened it. There was low light and I could see the dust floating around inside. The door shut behind us and the old mare at the counter coughed. Dust scattered in the air and shot away from her mouth. I thought she was one of the antiques when we first walked in.

“Agh! Customers? Come here,” she gestured us closer, “let me look at you.”

“It’s just me,” Flourish said. “I brought some friends.”

“Paying customers?”

“Well… no.”

“Damned girl! Do I look like I’m getting any younger? I need caps, not friends of yours.”

“They need your help. Me too.”

“You have caps?”


“Hand ‘em over. I say nothing until I see the money.”

Flourish growled and launched her bag of caps in the mare’s face. The bag spread out over her head and caps shot everywhere. Reverie was trying—and failing—to hold back her foalish laughter. The mare scurried across the floor like a Dash-head, trying to find every one of them.

“We want to get into New Pegasus,” Flourish said.

The mare snorted from the dust and smacked her old lips. “Oh, you need a pass to get in there. And one, two, three, four, five won’t be cheap,” she said, counting us with her hoof.

Flourish rubbed between her eyes with one hoof. "I know! How do we get some?”

The mare looked at her, fiddling with two caps between her hooves. “Got anymore caps?”

Flourish grabbed the mare by her vest. “I gave you all I had. Tell me how to get some passes or I’ll make you shit out of your mouth.”

“Please! No! I need the caps!”

Flourish looked at us. “Cover your eyes, fillies. And your ears too.”

What happened next was the nastiest thing I’ve ever seen. Radiant and Adagia shut their eyes tight and covered their ears. Rose and Reverie sat casually, Rose looking amused, Reverie looking curious. A pink wisp of magic hit the mare and she started dry-heaving. I had to say something.

“Uh, Flourish? Are you sure… ?”

“She deserves this, Plasma Storm. Trust me. She’s greedier than those ponies in New Pegasus, you’ve seen.”

“I know, but…”

And then shit poured out of the mare’s mouth in quantities I’ve never seen come out of anything. The smell filled the store in seconds. Rose and Reverie looked astonished. I was disgusted. The mare might have been greedy, but that was awful.

She puked for a good minute. There was a pile of shit about half the size of a pony in front of her and she was gasping for air.

“Make it stop! Please!”

“Do you still want caps?” Flourish said sweetly.

The mare took the bait. “Yes.”

Flourish started her punishment over. It lasted longer that time. She finally gave in.

“Okay! Okay! Listen, just come closer,” she said, gesturing Flourish over. Flourish looked at the pile and grimaced.


“All right. Go to West Flutterside. You know where that is? Don’t you?” the mare said, blowing her breath toward Flourish who was started to get annoyed with her again. Flourish pushed her a step back.


“Go to that building that has the lights.”

“Seriously? That one building with the lights?”

“I don’t know what it’s called. It looks like a casino but it’s not. It’s got pony-shaped lights on it.” She was talking about that building with the cool pony.

“I think I know where she means,” I said. The mare beamed at me, then looked back at Flourish.

“Uh-huh. Go there,” she said.

“And then?”

“There’s a pony in there named Blue Suede. He has some passes.”

“He’s not going to give them to us, is he?”

“Maybe. He’s a pretty nice pony.” She put her hooves on her cheeks. “And so handsome, too.”

Flourish stuck her tongue out in disgust. “Blech! You’re too old to be acting like that.”

“Age is just a number. I feel as young as you, girl.”

“Too bad you’re actually not.”

The mare sat down, smacking her lips. “Yep. Too bad.”

* * *

“Ya know what, Showpony? Yer all right.”

Flourish put a hoof to her chest and feigned flattery. “Aw! And all I had to do was make a mare crap out of her own mouth.”

“Hey! You tell me anywhere else Ah can see that.”

“Well, I’d say it’s pretty complicated, manipulating the anatomy of another pony. I just think nopony ever tried to do what I did with it.”

“And that’s a damn shame. Ah’d have laughed harder if it didn’t smell so bad in there. Don’t wanna be suckin’ in shit air, ya know?”

I was glad to be back outside. As I said before, Flutterside was nasty, but it was nice not having to smell the inside of that shop anymore. I felt bad for that poor old mare. Now I had to listen to Rose’s fanfilly rant to a pony she wanted to beat up the night before.

We went where the mare told us to. The building was probably the least-weathered one in Flutterside. A few ponies were leaning against the wall. They had black leather jackets and had greasy black manes. They were trying to look cool but their lollipops ruined it. We walked up and one of them was looking at Rose. Then he looked at me.

“Hey. I like your cowpony friend.”

Rose turned her head and look at him out of the corner of her eye. “Fuck off…” she said.

“Wanna help me?” he said to her.

“Mah gun does.”


And that was the end of that.

They let us inside. It looked surprisingly classy for a Flutterside establishment. It wasn’t all high-brow, everypony-is-a-snob, nothing like that. It looked formal, but very laid back. There was music blasting out of the jukebox. The music was upbeat with an instrument like a cello, but brighter-sounding and not so drawn out on the notes—a bass guitar, I later found out. It was the bass guitar and the drums that dominated the mix. The guitar was clean and the baritone vocals had a shaky quality at the end of the notes that sounded very good.

The ponies danced mostly in pairs. A mare that was dancing alone gestured me over to dance with her. I shook my head. She smiled and went back to her dancing.

Flourish poked me. “Don’t like to dance, Plasma Storm?”


“Dance with her.”


“Dance with me?”


“Fine.” She went to dance with the mare. Rose danced alone because nopony in there could handle her. Radiant and I pony-watched. She was laughing at a mare that was dancing like an octopus. I didn’t laugh because I knew she must have been on drugs. I didn’t say anything to Radiant about it, I let her laugh.

Rose didn’t dance for very long. She quickly spotted the bar and went over to it. Then she was yelling at the barpony because they had all these fancy drinks and no whiskey. It surprised me too. A tan stallion slid up to her and somehow calmed her down in seconds. I walked over to them. He had the same greased black mane as all the other stallions in here. His clothes were different; he had a suit that was a slightly darker tan than his coat. His voice was smooth and deeper than mine. Everypony seemed to be watching him.

He looked to me. “Howdy, friend.” He had the same accent as Rose, but not nearly as thick. “Name’s Blue Suede,” he said, holding out his hoof.

I shook it. “I’m Plasma Storm. I was looking for you. Me and my friends.”

He looked worried for half a second then resumed his laid-back demeanor, sly smile and all. “You are a friend, aren’t ya?”

“Are you?” Rose asked.

“If Ah wanted ya dead, ya wouldn’t have come in here. Ya definitely wouldn’t have found me.”

“I was looking for a blue pony,” I said.

“Who told ya Ah was blue?”

“Nopony did, I just figured with a name like Blue Suede you’d be blue. Or at least be wearing blue clothes. There isn’t any blue on you at all.”

“Nope,” he said.

“Somepony told us you have passes into New Pegasus. Do you?”

“Mhmmm,” he said coolly.

“Can we have some?”

He shook his head.

“You want something done and then you’ll give us some passes?”


“Why not?”

“Ah don’t need anything done.”

“How can we get some?”

“Don’t know. Why don’t ya just have a good time for now, ‘til ya figure it out?”

Flourish came up just in time to hear that. “Yeah, Plasma Storm! Dancing is so much fun!” She grabbed my hoof and tried to pull me into the crowd but I was too big for her. “Come on,” she grunted, “we might even burst into a random song.”

Hell no. I don’t know why ponies did that back before the war. There were a few ponies in the Stable who did it. Everypony else would somehow know the words to this song and perform choreographed dances on the fly. But not me. I’m taller than the average stallion by a lot more than a head, bulky too, and a stallion that big draws attention to themselves simply by existing; we don’t normally come near that big. I’d probably like to dance if I didn’t feel like everypony was watching me.

Blue Suede gave me a push and threw me off balance and Flourish pulled me into the crowd. I didn’t want to dance. I never liked to dance. But I didn’t want to disappoint a pretty mare like Flourish. She really was. I wouldn’t sing a song for her though.

It wasn’t long before I was actually having fun. Maybe it was Flourish, maybe it was the great music, I don’t know. I was having a good time. Radiant joined in not long after me. There were a few foals in there. It was cute the way they were dressed, all in attire like Blue Suede’s, casually formal is what I’d call it. The only other foal I’d seen in Flutterside was Sodapop. I wondered what happened to him after I killed his friends. Poor colt’s probably dead now. The foals in there made me smile. They were just being foals, careless to the hell that was just outside their door.

Blue Suede made me dance for a while longer before he offered me the passes. Like I initially assumed, he wanted something done. He said he would only tell me. I didn’t care; I was just going to tell my friends when we left. Unless he made me promise not to. He didn’t.

His room was nice. After seeing the lobby of this place it wasn’t that surprising, even for being in Flutterside. It smell of cologne but not too strongly; just the right amount. He opened the drawer to his wooden desk; it looked very high-quality, shined to a dark brown polish. He pulled out a bottle of liquid that was just as dark. He offered me some.

“No thanks,” I said.

“So, first thing you should know is that Ah ain’t just giving you the passes. Ah want ya to find somethin’ for me.”


“Blue Suede’s suit. It’s in a museum, west of here.”

“Your suit is in a museum from before the war?”

“Mah name isn’t really Blue Suede.”

“Then what is it?”

“Just call me Blue Suede.”

“All right. How will I know this suit when I see it?”

“It’s white, maybe still after all these years. It will be the only one in there, Ah know. Bring it to me, Ah’ll get you an’ all yer friends into New Pegasus.”

“It’s worth that much?”

He took a sip, shook his head slowly with the whiskey still in his mouth and then swallowed it and gave a satisfied sigh. “Much more. But you need passes and that’s the most valuable thing Ah can give ya.”

“What’s in the museum? You could have just sent your guys to go get it. Unless…”

“They ain’t mah guys, they’re family. Ah wouldn’t send them over there for a suit. An’ if Ah told ya what was there, you probably wouldn’t go.”

“But you’re still going to send me?”

“Ah know you can handle yerself.”

“What? How could you know that?”

“You are the giant Pegasus stallion that cleared the Thunderhooves Hotel of the convicts all by yerself, right? Killed all the ghouls in the Neighvak Satellite Facility, savin’ the entire town? Word is you even killed some kind of monster that wiped out a different town, and the Hellhounds it brought with it. Ah didn’t believe that one mahself, but…”

“How could you possibly know about all that?”

“Don’t you listen to the radio?”


“Maybe you should. Miss New Pegasus knows and sees everything, and you caught her eye with your justice and heroics. Oh, yeah, she knows ‘bout how you shot that convict’s fun bits off. Ah guess everypony who listens to her knows too. Ah almost wet mahself when Ah heard that one. But don’t let it go to yer head. For everypony that wants to shake yer hoof there’s one that wants to blow yer head off.”

“Well, you already shook my hoof so I guess my head’s safe for now.”

He laughed. “Did ya really kill all those Hellhounds?”

I nodded. “And saved the filly that was the only survivor.”

“That little one in there?”

“No, that’s my filly. I guess I saved her too. She’s why I’m out here.”

“Ah like you, Plasma Storm.” He down the rest of his glass. “So do we got a deal?”

“Uh-huh.” We shook on it. That’s the thing I liked most about Blue Suede. He shook on everything, like that’s all you needed to trust somepony. The ponies of the Marejave just didn’t do that anymore. They’d rather lie.

When I came back to the lobby everypony was still having a great time. Radiant had been watching for me. She rushed over as soon as I came out. Reverie followed her. It took Flourish a minute to spot us. I let her have her fun. Rose might have been ignoring us. I was thinking about leaving her there; that would have been funny. Instead I walked over and flipped her hat off of her head to get her attention. She spun around instantly and hit me in the throat. She put her hat back on.

“Fuckin’ Feathers. Do that again an’ Ah’ll hit you twice. Don’t mess with a mare’s hat. Ever.”

I stared at her while I held my throat and coughed dramatically. She pointed a hoof at me with a glare. I made one last fake cough and we left.

* * *

‘West of New Pegasus’ was pretty vague. He forgot to mention that it was a day and a half’s walk to the museum. Along the way I practiced flying. My wings were big, but they weren’t strong from the twenty-plus years of never being used. They’d need to be strong to get me off the ground. By the time we got to the museum I could hover for a few seconds. Not as much as I wanted, but it was a start. Radiant practiced flying too. She did better than me but still couldn’t fly.

Rose and Flourish were becoming fast friends. What bothered me was how shy Reverie was. She didn’t say more than two or three-word sentences, and that was only when she was answering somepony. I couldn’t get her to shut up when it was just the two of us. When we were all together she wouldn’t talk. Radiant caught on to it and bombarded her with questions just to make her talk. Then she pulled her into an argument.

“Reverie, do you know how the sun and moon come out?”

Reverie was suddenly interested. “Princess Celestia and Princess Luna.”

“That’s not true. They aren’t real.”

“Oh yes they are!”

Radiant hated when somepony accused her of being wrong. I think she inherited that from me.

“Oh, yeah?! Prove it!”

“We don’t have to prove anything. We’ve seen them!”

“No you haven’t. They aren’t real. They were made up because ponies couldn’t figure out why the sun and moon come out on their own.”

“They weren’t made up. We’ve seen them before.”


“In a memory.”

“In a memory? That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Yes! It’s a little ball. We saw into it. We can see what somepony else sees. And felt their feels too.”

“Show me, then!”

“You can’t use one.”

Radiant scoffed. “Of course. Because the little ball is as made up as the Princesses.”

Reverie screamed randomly in Radiant’s ear. The filly jumped up in the air, her wings flapping like a beetle’s. Then they left each other alone.

* * *

The museum was in a fairly large town. An empty town. The sky was darker over it than the rest of the Marejave. I felt like we were going to have another experience like Adagia’s town. It wasn’t quite that bad. Most of the buildings had no windows, probably blown out by the force of the mega-spells, hundreds of years ago. The only sound was the faint breeze whistling through the cracks in the old structures.

“It sure is scary here, Dad.”

“Nah, it’ll be fine.”

It wasn’t fine. A blast of magic shot out at us from the roof of one of the buildings. It struck the ground right in the middle of our group and sent us sprawling in every direction. Harlequin Forest got up looking angrier than I’d ever seen.

“Who did that?! If We find you, We’re going to kill you!”

Another blast came down. She saw where it came from and shot one twice the size at it. It shot straight through the enemy magic and hit the top of the building, leveling the whole structure. We heard moaning.

The pony shooting magic at us was on the ground on the other side of the building. I was expecting a Unicorn. She was an Alicorn, blue with a darker blue mane. She was big but not like Reverie. Her body was broken but was regenerating—much slower than Reverie does, but still at an impressive rate. Her broken wing mended, then the gashes from the magic and the fall.

“Who did that?” she asked. “Who did this to Us?”

“You attacked us first,” I said.

Harlequin Forest looked down on her, smiling. “And We said We would kill you when We found you. Are you ready to die?”

She looked at Harlequin Forest in awe. “Oh… it’s the Goddess,” she said. “Forgive Us, please!” What?

“Oh no! We already said We were going to kill you. Plasma Storm always does what he says, so We will too.”

“Wait,” I said. “She apologized. She didn’t know it was you.”

“But you weren’t nice to that stallion in the city. He was nice after you shot his legs off, but you still weren’t nice. He didn’t even try to kill you.”

“Doesn’t matter. He’s murdered other ponies, I’m sure.”

“He has,” Flourish said. I was really hoping that my assumptions were right. I’d have felt terrible if I found out he hadn’t murdered another pony.

“That was different anyways,” I told Reverie.

“But he was a pony. She is a pony. It’s the same.”

“No, it isn’t. Don’t kill her. Maybe she can help.”

The mare looked at me, then Harlequin Forest. “Oh, yes! Help, we always help the Goddess. We always do whatever the Goddess says!”

Harlequin Forest sat down and stared at the mare. “Yes? Kill yourself…”

The mare hesitated.

Harlequin Forest leaned in closer. “Kill yourself…”

“Uh… Yes, of course!”

The mare started to cast magic. It enveloped her body then erupted in a flash. Her corpse fell to the ground. Harlequin Forest put her horn inches from the dead mare’s and cast a spell. Magic flowed from the mare’s horn to Harlequin Forest’s, appearing very bright at first, then waning after about ten seconds.

“What the fuck?!” I said.

“Don’t talk to Us like that, Plasma Storm.”

“Why did you do that?”

“Because We wanted to.”

“I told you to let her go!”

“We are the Goddess. We don’t have to listen to you.”

“You aren’t the Goddess.”

“She said We were.”

“She was crazier than you.”

“We took her power, Plasma Storm. We are stronger now.”

“You murdered her.”

“No We didn’t! We told her to kill herself and she did. Are you going to kill Us now? Kill Us, Plasma Storm.” She knew I couldn’t kill her, even if I wanted to.

Her eyes turned green. “We don’t want to die.”

She looked around then fell to the ground and covered her head. We were surrounded by Alicorns. There were fourteen of them, some blue, some green, one was red. The red one knelt down and examined the dead mare.

“We told her you were a traitor,” she said to Reverie. She had the voice of several mares in unison. “We only want to be left alone. Why won’t you leave us alone?”

“We didn’t do anything. You leave Us alone!”

The red mare shook her head. “We should have been the new Goddess. We tried to hide from you but you found Us again.” She spread her impressive wings and fanned them. “We don’t know if We’re ready, but you have to die so We can live in peace.”

“No, We don’t want to fight!”

“We don’t want to fight you. We want to fight Harlequin Forest.”

I was sure that the red Alicorn was about to die. All of her Alicorn friends too. The power Harlequin Forest would get from all of them was too scary to even think about.

“Come out, coward. We are strong now.”

Harlequin Forest stood up. “You aren’t stronger than Us. Nopony is stronger than Us.”

“Maybe not, but We won’t kill Ourselves for you. We will fight!”

“And you will die!”

Harlequin Forest grabbed the mare with magic and launched her into the sky. She flipped uncontrollably, going too fast to slow down with her wings. Harlequin Forest flapped her wings, shooting after the mare. The concrete beneath her cracked when she left the ground.

By the time Harlequin Forest reached her, the mare had straightened out and began firing magic at her. They were deflected off of her coat and crashed down to the ground. One struck an Alicorn who was ripped to bits. She didn’t regenerate. Harlequin Forest tilted her head down and drove her horn through the mare’s chest, then shot magic with her horn still inside the mare. She shot away from Harlequin Forest, flailing through the air in a long arc. She bounced off the ground and rolled to a stop. Half of her chest was gone but regenerating quickly.

When she woke up she looked scared. “We aren’t ready…” she said softly. She continued to fight.

She wasn’t ready, not even close. Her spells, while they looked impressive and could probably smite a normal pony, were doing nothing to Harlequin Forest. She would laugh at the mare’s attempts to hurt her.

She grabbed the mare by the throat and magically ripped her head off. The decapitated head started to decompose instantly and a new one began to grow from her shoulders. She was a very powerful Alicorn. Not powerful enough. Harlequin Forest ripped her new head off and another sprouted.

“Stop doing that!” Harlequin Forest yelled. She ripped her third head off, then threw her to the ground when it grew back.

The other Alicorn watched in awe as their leader was killed again and again by what I guessed was the biggest threat to their existence. They knew their place. If the red mare couldn’t so much as make her flinch, what could they do? Watch.

The fight wasn’t going on because Harlequin Forest wanted to hurt the mare. She couldn’t figure out how to kill her. The mare grew weaker each time she was killed, but was always resurrected.

Harlequin Forest tied the mare’s wings in a knot. The sounds they made had my wings hurting. Unfortunately, since they weren’t ripped off they stayed tied in a knot. Now she couldn’t fly, making her even weaker.

The mare was killed at least fifteen times before she finally died. I noticed that sky was beginning to brighten. On her last life she had magic that couldn’t hurt a foal, it looked like she could hardly stand. It was because she’d been killed so many times in such a small amount of time. She sat before Harlequin Forest in defeat.

“Kill yourself…” Harlequin Forest said.

The mare stared at hurt and did nothing. Harlequin Forest stared back for a few seconds.

“You won’t?”

The mare shook her head.

Red magic snaked around the mare’s horn and it was broken from her head. It came toward Harlequin Forest and then the broken end pointed at its owner—it was broken to a jagged point. It shot toward her, sailing through her chest like a hot knife, and exploding out of her back. Blood squirted out of the hole it made. She winced then dropped dead for good. Blood pooled around her. The horn clattered on the ground a hundred feet away. Harlequin Forest put her horn to the jagged stump and took the mare’s power. She didn’t have much after being killed so many times.

Reverie didn’t come back after the fight. I wanted to know how she worked. What made Harlequin Forest leave?

The Alicorns didn’t flee. Harlequin Forest could catch them. They knew it.

Radiant stepped up to her. “What are you going to do with them?” she asked, concerned.

“Nothing.” We all breathed a sigh of relief. As soon as they heard that they fled as fast as they could. They were dots in the sky in seconds. We stood there taking in what just happened.

“What the fuck?!” I said again.

“We couldn’t help that one, Plasma Storm. If We don’t fight, then We die.”

“Yep, Ah’m with her on this one, Feathers. That one there wanted to fight,” she pointed at the dead Alicorn. “Kind of sad. That couldn’t have been more one-sided.”

Reverie blushed. “Oh, stop it, you…”

“Pfft!” Flourish tried not to laugh. “Aww, that’s cute, Reverie.”

“We aren’t cute…”

Flourish stood up and grabbed her by the cheeks. “Why, of course you are! You’re just like a filly, only bigger. I just wanna pinch your li… big cheeks.”

“Meh… stop! Leave Our cheeks alone! Or we will pinch yours. Hard, too.”

“I’m just teasing. The Marejave needs comedy, I think. It’s always so bleak out here.”

Reverie frowned at her.

“Oh, come on now. Smile!”

Reverie didn’t smile. Flourish stood up again and put her hooves to the corners of Reverie’s mouth and stretched her lips into a hideously big smile. Her teeth were surprisingly healthy, healthier than mine, and we had a dentist in the Stable.

“Like that! Ha! Ha!”

“No, Showpony. That’s kinda creepy.”

Reverie frowned again and pushed Flourish down.

We left Reverie alone then because she looked hurt. She was very sensitive, fragile. Even the slightest insult would hurt worse than a shotgun blast—I guess she could confirm that too.

We went through the town, looking for the museum. Radiant, Rose, and Flourish traded small talk. Reverie and I were quiet. The town was quiet now that the Alicorns were gone. Now we only heard the breeze whistling through the cracks again. The sun was starting to set.

“You know,” Flourish said, “I noticed you don’t search every building.”

“We don’t have time to do that,” I said.

“What are you in hurry for?”

“I want to get into New Pegasus.”

“It will be there tomorrow. And the next day, and the next day. Let’s explore a little.”

“You want to sleep in one of these buildings?”

“Remember where I used to sleep?”

“What if the Alicorns come back?”

“You’re full of excuses, Plasma Storm. Were they a problem before? Ol’ Harlequin Forest is the baddest pony I’ve ever seen.” She nudged the Alicorn. “Tell Plasma Storm that you’ll protect us.”

“We can protect all of you.” She stretched out and pulled all of us into a hug. “We are all of your friends, yes.”

“Fine, fine,” I said, wriggling out of her grip, “we’ll look around.”

“I was starting to think you were afraid of the dark or something. A big stallion like you? That would have been ridiculous.”

“Should have seen what we did before we met you.”

Radiant butted in. “Yeah! It was this big monster that looked like a Hellhound! Except he wasn’t grey like them, he was black… and he made more of them. He blew out this smoke and the smoke turned into more Hellhounds. Oh, it was scary all right. But Reverie killed him for us. She flew right through him at first, but then did this magic thing,” she inhaled, “and then it started to get pulled in, but he wasn’t going in by himself, no. Me and Dad shot him because Rose’s bullets weren’t hurting him. And then he got sucked in and then he died!”

“Whoa,” Flourish said. “Cool story.”

“Hey, it was real! You think I would lie?”

“Of course not.”

“All right.”

We searched the first building that didn’t have its doors boarded shut. I kind of wish it did. The floor was alive with roaches. They scattered away from Radiant’s PipBuck light when we walked in. The smell they had given the place had us all gagging.

“Happy now, Flourish?” I said.

“Oh, don’t try to blame it on me. You could have picked any one of these buildings. You picked the one with bugs.”

“Well, if roaches are what you wanted, you’re in luck.”

“I don’t.”

“Then let’s search another one.”

The next one had roaches worse than the first one. We decided not to search any more buildings. We walked through the town guessing how many roaches were in each building to pass the time. Then we found the museum.

It was about twice as tall as the surrounding buildings and built with the same architecture. We went to push open the large front doors. I thought they were locked.

“Nah, Feathers. Ya gotta put some back into it.” Rose walked up to the door, turned around and kicked with all her strength. The door didn’t budge. She fell on her face, laughing.

We all looked at Reverie.

“What?” she said.

“Open the door?” I said.

“We don’t know opening door magic.”

“Well… blow it up.”

“We can’t do that.” She walked up and stroked the door. “It’s such a nice door. We don’t want to break it.”

“What about you, Flourish?”

She studied the door for a moment.

“Uh-huh… Yeah.” She stood on her hind legs and her horn started to glow. She pointed her hooves and the door. “Open, sesame!” Then she stood there.

“Uh…” I said.

She jiggled the doorknob and it opened. “You were saying?”


* * *

I was expecting more out of the museum. I figured that there might be something intact. Nothing was. Any display cases that hadn’t been buried in garbage had been busted open and had its contents taken. Two flights of stairs led up to the next level. A door was at the top and a plaque was above it. North Wing, it read. There were identical doors to our left and right and had plaques that read West Wing and East Wing, respectively.

Three wings, five of us.

“We need to split up,” I said.

“Why?” Rose said.

“Because it will take three times as long if we all search the same wing.”

“Ah call Little Feathers!”

“Yes!” Radiant said. She was excited because she always got picked last in the Stable for the sports because of her size.

“Then I guess you’re stuck with me, Plasma Storm,” Flourish said.

Reverie was insulted. “Why can’t we go with Plasma Storm?”

“Because you don’t need somepony to watch your back, Reverie.”

“Then We will go this way,” she pointed to the North Wing and started walking. “They think We’re alone but We’re not.”

Radiant beamed at Flourish and I. “I bet we’ll find the suit first! Come on, Rose!” They disappeared into the East Wing.

I knew what Rose was doing. And it was working.

“Uh…” I said.

“Uh,” Flourish said, mocking me.

“We should, uh, start looking.”


Nice one…

* * *

I opened to the West Wing. The door ripped away the spider webs that made creaking noise as they were broken.

“Ooh, I don’t like spiders,” Flourish said.

“Hopefully there aren’t any giant radioactive ones.”

That would’ve been bad. Regular spiders were creepy enough.

“No, you don’t have them here in the Marejave. In the east is where the radiation is.”

“We have some here too. I almost died from it.”

“I know, I mean that it isn’t anywhere near as bad as in the east. You can’t flick your tail without hitting something that gives off radiation. All of the water is polluted too. The raiders are nastier, the monsters are scarier. Life is easier here.”

“You sound like you miss it,” I joked.

“Oh no. I heard a story about a mare about fifty years ago that took a huge step towards ending this Hell we live in. She was so close, too. But I guess the ponies of Equestria don’t want to change.”

“Can’t imagine why they’d not want to change.”

“I… wait. Do you hear that?”

I listened. It was in the air ducts above us. Something heavy. The sound of metal scraping metal was trailing behind it.

“Agh! We hate searching for things!” Then the noises were gone.

Flourish looked at me. “Is that Reverie?”

“It wouldn’t surprise me.”

“Is she… all right?”

“I have no idea. That’s why I wanted her to come along. I wanted to know what’s up with her.”

“I’ve never seen anything like her. She’s something else.”

The first room we found looked like an office. Just inside the door was a statue of a pony who I recognized without ever seeing him. He was a tan stallion with a slicked-back mane and a white suit. Blue Suede. I felt the suit to see if it was what we were looking for. It was made of wax.

There were eight desks all with their own terminals. Three of them looked like they exploded. Only one was still powered on. I checked the screen. The words on the screen gave off a faint amber glow.

Journal entry 4:

Had a colt today trying to touch the Blue Suede wax figure. I told him at least ten times to leave it the hay alone. Little pricks, they have no respect for musical history. Some pojb8i

The bastard touched it again. Won’t be seeing him in here again. Well, at least not for a month. If it were up to me he wouldn’t be coming back. Damned management thinks foals should get it easier than stallions and mares. He’s a just a foal, they say. He’s a little asshole is what he is. He’s lucky that wasn’t the real suit.

Flourish laughed behind me. “Foals should get it easier. It’s funny that he called them ‘little pricks’ though.”

“Why is that funny?”

“I don’t know. Prick is a funny word.”

I thought about it. Prick kind of is a funny word. I laughed.

She laughed. “See? Some words just sound funny.”


“Bur… ?” She started giggling. “Uh… mugwump.”

“Ha! Ha! Plebian.” She looked offended, but smiled.

“Cocksmooch.” That escalated quickly…


She opened her mouth, but couldn’t think of anything.

“Oh? What was that?”


“Nothing beats swampdick.”

She stared at me then we both started laughing.

We started actually looking for the suit, still giggling over the funny words. There was a locker over in the corner. I knew it wasn’t in there but checked anyways. There was a rifle in there, a Hunting Rifle, I think. There was also a small cardboard box with rounds for the rifle.

“You don’t carry a gun?” I asked.

“No. I’ve never even shot one before.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. I guess no reason in particular. I’ve never really needed one. Looks like your gun has some kick.”

“Not really.”

“Yeah, but you’re, like, twelve-hundred pounds.”

“Eh, probably more. Do you want this gun?”

She looked at it then pick it up with magic. “Ah…” She awkwardly looked down the sight and shook it. “How do you put the bullets in?”

“See that lever, there?”


“Turn it up, pull it back, now push it back to where it was.” She was good with telekinesis.

I hit the clip release and the magazine fell to the floor. It was empty. “Put the bullets in there. No, wait! That’s backwards.”

“Oh. Like that?”

“Yeah. Now fill it up.” She put in four more rounds. “Put the clip back in.” She did. “Good to go.”

“And now I just pull the trigger?” She pulled the trigger.


“Oh! Sorry!” She came just inches from shooting my wing. “Sorry, sorry, sorry!”

“You almost shot me!”

“But I didn’t!”

“Just… maybe you shouldn’t use that until you practice a little more.”



Poor Flourish. The first time she fires a gun she almost hits one of her friends. I felt bad but I’d rather her not have a gun around me.

There was nothing else in the locker. The only thing of interest in the room was the terminal. We went back out into the hall. The next two rooms were blocked off by rubble.

“Why is there rubble here?” I said. “This place isn’t even falling apart.”

“Maybe somepony goes around with rubble and blocks off random doors to make ponies wonder why the rubble is there.”

“I’m almost willing to believe that.”

The third room was missing its door. We stepped inside.

That was a mistake.

There was a robot inside as big as me. It was black and its single leg split off into four at the ground, like an office chair with wheels. Its head was short and its eyes were blank until we came in. Then they lit up red.

“Intruder in the West Wing. Executing security protocols.”

It raised its left arm and sprayed bullets everywhere. I flipped over a desk and we hid behind it. My rear half was sticking out so Flourish could fit all the way behind it. Then it filled my ass with bullets. The leather didn’t do much to protect me but at least it wasn’t shooting at us with a higher caliber.

“Go, Flourish! Get out!”

I jumped up and aimed my shotgun. Flourish was out the door when I saw something white with a trail of smoke behind it. It was halfway between the robot and I, about ten feet from either of us. I shot it.

It exploded, sending fire and shrapnel everywhere. I shot six more rounds at the robot. Its armor was starting to open up but it didn’t seem like I hit anything important yet.

If I stood up to shoot, it would fire at me with the Gatling gun. If I hid behind the desk, it would ready a missile. I hid too long.

I heard the missile coming. It didn’t head for the desk. It went over and hit the wall just behind me. My ears were ringing and the world was blurry. I saw Perdition lying out in the open. I saw the robot readying the Gatling gun. I saw Flourish’s head in the doorway.

Her horn lit up and a ball of magic went toward the robot. It was strange magic. Like a grenade.

The magic exploded, knocking the robot over. It was still on though. I could see its eyes. Flourish was next to me then, looking me over.

“Oh, shit, shit, shit!” She bit down on the back of my armor’s collar and tried to drag me. “You fat bastard! Hnnnngggggg!” I wasn’t budging until I started to flap my wings. She managed to drag me a foot before I got up myself.

My vision was still blurred. I smacked into the side of the doorway twice, falling down the second time, and dragged myself out of the room. Flourish ran ahead and turned around a ways down the hall.

“Come on! Do you want to die?!”

My leg was hurt from the missile. Every time I stepped on it the pain made it go limp and I would have to catch myself before I fell again. I didn’t notice all the blood. The chest and shoulder of my armor was gone and the skin in the area was burned.

We went back to the first room with the terminal and shut the door and locked it. I collapsed, feeling extreme pain but relief, not only that I was alive, but also that I wasn’t standing on my leg.

“Are you okay?” Flourish asked.

“No. I need bandages.”

“We don’t have any. You don’t scavenge, remember? Are you going to die?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Good thing I was here, huh?”

Instead of Radiant, I thought. “Oh no… What if… no, their fine.” I couldn’t believe anything else. Hope for the best and expect the best. That’s stupid, but I didn’t need to think about the worst. Rose would take care of her.

“Can you heal me?”

“I don’t know how to do that.”

“Then we need to find Reverie.”

“We shouldn’t have split up.”

“No… I’m sorry.”

* * *

I didn’t remember the walk back to the lobby. I lost a lot of blood. I woke up with a pink cape tied around my leg. There was a strong smell of whiskey.

“He’ll be all right.” That was Rose.

“Dad?” I saw my filly.

“Nice work, Showpony.” Rose looked down at me. “You seem to be makin’ a habit out of having your friends save your life.”

“Did you find the suit?”

“Ya almost died trying to get the thing!”

“You didn’t get it?”



“Zombies. More of ‘em than there was at the Satellite Facility. One of ‘em was throwing globs of shit at us that Ah don’t even know what it was. Burned like hell though.” I saw she had burn marks on her side. “Ah sure hope Reverie got the worst of it. At least she can handle it.”

“Yeah,” Radiant said. “I’d be pretty mad if she got the easy one.”

Radiant looked unharmed. A little dirty and scared, but I could live with that. We decided to go back into the West Wing together. Rose said that Radiant was getting to be pretty good shot with her Laser Pistol.

“Yeah. I shot three of them in a row without missing. And I didn’t even use S.A.T.S.”

I figured that she had used S.A.T.S. I was almost glad that she didn’t. I hated everything about my PipBuck. It was big and stupid. I hadn’t used it since I found Radiant other than to check the radiation levels in the Satellite Facility. If she wanted to use hers, I guess was okay with that. I’d rather her be confident enough to hit an enemy, knowing that she had help if she needed it.

The robot was still where it had fallen over. Its eyes were still glowing, but it didn’t move. I asked Flourish what she did to it. She said she didn’t know. It was like she used a grenade just for robots, but made out of magic.

“I just panicked and tried something new,” she said. Good thing, too.

I knew the suit wasn’t in that room either. There was only the robot, the desk I used as cover, and all the desk clutter that fell off when I flipped it. The once-white walls had posters going around the whole room. They were posters of ponies from the past. A few of them were of Blue Suede. He was such a cool-looking stallion. One of them showed him playing an acoustic guitar, but on the others he only had a microphone.

“Mm…” Rose said. “Now that there is a handsome stallion. Better looking than those fools in Flutterside. Yeah. All these guys aren’t too bad lookin’”

All of the ponies on the posters looked like they were from a long time before the war. Their style was different from anything you’d see in the last two-hundred and fifty years. It wasn’t bad at all. Casually formal, like I said.

The West Wing was just offices. There was nothing there. That meant that we had to check the East Wing. I was hoping Reverie found the suit and teleported us out. I didn’t want to fight Ghouls again.

The East wing smelled like the death that walked its halls. We could hear them shuffling around. Rose put her hoof to her lips and mouthed, “Shut the fuck up.”

None of us had a quiet weapon. It was a shame that Rose lost her knife. She didn’t need it though. She knew where the Ghoul was before we did. As soon as it rounded the corner she grabbed it by the head and snapped its neck. She held it as it fell so it didn’t make noise.

She did the same to the next Ghoul but another had spotted us. She brought it down with her gun. We heard screaming, then quick footsteps.

“Damn it!” Rose said.

A small army of Ghouls came blasting out from a single room. We were lost in the crowd in seconds. They knocked me over and started biting at my armor, ripping it off. I shot straight up with Perdition, feeling chunks of flesh and warm mist and pieces of the roof come back down on me. More Ghouls replaced the dead.

I shot again, then kicked as many back as I could. They tried to hold me down but I was able to get up. I shot a trail through the Ghouls and tried to make my way out of the crowd.

As soon as I got out I saw a glowing ball of something coming at me. I ducked it and it struck one of the Ghouls behind me. It started to smoke but didn’t appear to be hurt by it.

The globs of shit that Rose didn’t know what it was… Great.

The Ghoul throwing it looked a little different than the others. It had a breastplate and was a slightly bigger. Boiling flesh was in the middle of its breastplate. That was where it was getting the things it was throwing. It was throwing radioactive pieces of itself. It pulled out another rad-grenade and threw it at me. I thrust my wings and dodged to the side, firing a round at it.

The buckshot tore into its neck and face but it wasn’t fazed. I shot it again, in the leg, and it buckled. The boiling flesh was starting to ooze from the armor.

Rose burst from the crowd. “Kill it, Feathers! Ah don’t wanna get hit by no more of that. Kill it!”

I emptied the rounds from my gun with the trigger as I walked closer and closer to it. It died when I was two from empty but I shot it twice more just to make sure it was dead, then reloaded.

I was one who did most of the killing. Rose’s rifle wasn’t suited for close quarters. She got tore up pretty bad. Radiant and Flourish got it much worse. Flourish’s mane was pointing in every direction and she was covered in Ghoul slobber and blood. Her glasses were gone. Radiant was even worse than that. Half of her right ear had been bitten off. She had cuts all over, her armor shredded like mine.

“Please be okay. Are you okay, Radiant?”

She coughed. “Am I dead?”

“We need to leave,” I said.

“Without the suit?”

“Fuck the suit!”

“If we don’t get the suit, then we all got chewed up for nothing.”

“So? Better than being killed for clothes.”

We heard more shuffling. I stepped in front of Radiant and readied my gun. The shuffling wasn’t on the floor. It was above us. In the vents. I heard the sound of metal dragging on metal and then a screech. A section of the vents fell down, landing on Rose. Reverie rolled out of the section looking stunned. Her hammer came out behind her.

Rose had her front half sticking out from under the vent and she was unconscious. Reverie looked at her. “Oh, We’re sorry!” She grabbed Rose’s hoof and pulled her out violently. It was funny how she flopped around.

“Ope… We’ll… You’ll be okay. There.” Rose was still unconscious. Reverie cast a spell to wake her up.

“Oh, mah head. What’d ya do? Drop a vent on me?”

“Yes. But We said sorry.”

“Humph. Then I guess everything is fine.”

Reverie breathed a sigh of relief.

“Why are you over here?” I asked her. “You’re supposed to be in the North Wing.”

“We’ve been looking for you everywhere. We didn’t know where We were going. So many turns in here.”

“Did you find the suit?”

She beamed and nodded.

“Do you have it?” I asked impatiently.

“We found it. We don’t have it though.”

“Why not?”

“Magic walls. And robots too. About a million of them.”

“Okay. Can you heal Radiant? She’s hurt.”

Reverie nodded and went over to heal Radiant. Her cuts healed nicely. Her ear closed up but didn’t grow back. I didn’t think she knew that half of it was gone.

“Rose, I need you to take Radiant back to the lobby. Wait there until we get back.”

“What about me?” Flourish asked.

“I’d rather you went back to the lobby too.”

“And Us too?”

“Uh, no. You’re going to show me where the suit is so we can get it and get out of here.”

Rose smirked. “And it’ll be that easy.”

“Dad, I wanna go with you.”

“You’re not.”

“Come on!”

“I said no.”

Dad was still always right.

We all went back out to the lobby. Rose and Flourish stayed with Radiant who was still pouting. She got half her ear bitten off and was more hurt by not being able to go with me to fight an army of security bots.

I asked Reverie to heal my leg.

“We already healed Radiant. If we heal you too then We can’t heal Ourselves. Then We die.”

“How long until you can heal me?”

“We’ll try tomorrow.”

“If I’m alive then…”

Reverie and I went through the door to the North Wing.

“How far in is it?” I asked.

“Oh, so very far, Plasma Storm.”