Fallout Equestria: Black Cat

by Rixizu

First published

Break Point is a simple pony that just wants a simple and easy life. That is shattered when she accidentally causes the death of the son of a powerful crime lord. Now she must fight for survival.

Break Point is a simple earth pony that wants a simple, easy, and safe, not dangerous in anyway whatsoever, life. Unfortunately, this is shattered when she accidentally causes the death of the son of Cosa Nostra, a powerful and dangerous crime lord that rules her town with an iron hoof. Now she must find a way to survive in the Equestrian Wasteland, a place that tears weak ponies like her to shreds. Little did she know that she would become the powerful and feared figure known as the Black Cat.

A crossover between MLP, Fallout Equestria, and Jojo's Bizarre Adventure.
Based on Kkat's Fallout Equestria. This is set 50 years before Littlepip started her adventures.

Wonderful cover art by ShimmerKoi.

Thanks to GreyGuardPony , firehawk732, and Starlight Nova for prereading this.

Editing done by the wonderful Starlight Nova.

Chapter 1

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War, war never changes. In this post apocalyptic world, only the strong survive. The weak are crushed under hoof or dominated by the strong. The wasteland shows no mercy to those that don’t have the strength to survive. Those that think that they can ever find a simple or easy life are gravely mistaken.

- - - - -

Break Point yawned as she climbed down the stairs from her bedroom and scratched her stomach. She didn’t want to wake up this early, but the old pinsetter in lane 5 was causing problems again and she wanted to have it fixed before her shift at the cafe. She trotted up to a closet and opened it. In it were old parts, tools, and other miscellaneous things. Break grabbed the toolbox with her mouth and started towards the back area behind the pin deck.

Break lived in an old bowling alley. It survived well even after 150 years after the war when the megaspells ended the world. Break used an old storage room as her bedroom. It was a little small, but it was cozy and she had been using it since she was a foal and old enough to have her own room. Her father claimed this bowling alley as their home when they first moved to Primrose. It was a little empty after her parents passed away, but Break loved it here.

After twenty minutes Break gave up on trying to fix the pinsetter. It needed several new parts that Break didn’t have at the moment. She could get the parts. She knew a scavenger that could get them for her, but it would be expensive. Break sighed. It looked like lane 5 would be down for now. Only lanes 1, 4, 7, 8 still worked and Break was spending her free time and caps trying to fix the rest of the lanes up. She hoped the caps from her waitressing job and the alley’s customers would be able to pay for it.

She left the back area and waved at her cousin Green Mile. She was a green coated earth pony with an orange mane. Her cutie mark was a wooden ruler. She helped Break run the alley and watched over the till while Break was gone during business hours.

“Hey Breaky!” Green Mile greeted. “Having trouble with the number 5 pinsetter again?”

“Unfortunately.” Break confirmed with a sigh.

“That sucks.” Green Mile trotted behind the counter and laid her hooves on the counter.

“Hey, you let me handle the bargaining with Scavenger next time. I think I could talk him into giving you a good deal on any parts you need.”

“Are you sure it’s not just because you're sweet on him?” Break teased. She knew the two had started dating a month ago.

“Oh shut up.” Green Mile shot back, but she was smiling.

Break got a notebook from behind the counter and scribbled something on it with a pen using her mouth. “These are the parts I need.” She placed the notebook on the counter.

“Sure, I will make sure he gets it.” Green Mile said.”I think he should be in town on Friday.”

Break nodded. “That should be fine.” She waved at the two ponies that just entered the alley. “Welcome to Stars & Strikes.”

An hour later Break left for her waitressing job. She loved working at the alley, but the alley didn’t earn enough she needed to keep the place running. The machinery was very old and needed to be maintained and repaired often. So she took a waitressing job to help pay for it. She didn’t mind though as long as it kept ponies bowling.

Break sighed as she picked up a tray of various drinks for her table with her mouth. She was stuck serving those ponies from the Cosa Nostra’s gang again this time including his son Steel Dagger. He was, to put it bluntly, a complete spoiled brat and was allowed to do pretty much whatever he wanted. Nopony complained since the Cosas owned in town. They protected the town from raiders, slavers, and other wasteland nasties. Nopony dared defy them. Break had seen the consequences first hoof and they weren’t pretty. So she put on the best smile she could, adjusted her stained but most clean apron to something presentable, and trotted over to his table.

The Supreme Café was a smallish cafe that resided in a building that used to be a pool hall. The building was still in pretty good shape, and had some decent repairs done to it. Any holes in the brown but faded walls were patched over with wooden boards. The old and nonfunctional pool tables were replaced with normal ones that were salvaged from other buildings. Most of them didn’t match giving a haphazard look make worse by the even more mismatched chairs. A functional pool table could be found on the bottom right corner of the cafe and was popular with patrons. Cone like lights hung from the ceiling, though most of them were broken, but the room got by with the functional ones.

Break personally thought it had a nice atmosphere. Currently the cafe was about half full with various types of ponies. Some locals, some traders from out of town, some griffon mercenaries, and even a pegasus resided in the restaurant. The patrons were obviously trying their best to ignore the loud and rambunctious antics of the ponies she was about to serve. They were laughing, shouting, and seemed to be having a good time.

From the way Steel Dagger was swaying back and forth, she could tell he was drunk and his two buddies looked just as intoxicated. The pony in question had a gray coat with an orange mane that was in a ponytail. The pony on the right had a light blue coat with a purple mane and he had a tattoo of a snake around both of his front legs with each one biting its own tail. The one of the left had a jet black mane with a green grey coat. All were unicorns and were wearing barding. The Cosas employed all the unicorns it could find, something about them being the superior type of ponies in this wasteland of a world. As an earth pony, part of her resented that sentiment even if she wanted nothing to do with them. “Hey! More beer!” He yelled. Break squeaked and rushed to his table.

She carefully placed it on the table. She gave the ponies their orders and put the empty tray on her back. She turned to address her customers. “Is there anything else you require?” She asked as politely as she could.

“Yeah, a sweet piece of flank for tonight!” He bellowed and laughed. “Too bad we got an ugly one this time.” He laughed again and his buddy on the right joined him. The one that didn’t just sat there drinking his water and was just watching the situation.
Break’s eye twitched but she tried to keep her cool. “If that is all you require than I will be on my way.” She turned on her hooves and started to walk away.

“Hey! I ain’t done with you yet!” One of Dagger’s buddies yelled out. It was the one with the tattoos.

Break froze. She heard a gun cocked in her direction. Break felt a pit in her stomach. These guys could gun her down, do whatever they wanted to her, and nopony would or could do a thing. She slowly turned and addressed the pony levitating the gun at her with calmest voice she could manage. “Y-yes sir.”

Break was beckoned back by the goon with his gun. It was a pistol of some kind. “I and my friends here and I asked you a question!” He briefly pointed his gun at Dagger as he said friend before turning it back to her.

“We asked where we can find a sweet piece of flank tonight.” Dagger repeated.

“How should I know?” Break thought, but said out loud, “I’m sorry sir, but I don’t know.”

“Come here.” Dagger ordered. Break reluctantly obeyed. He grabbed her face with a hoof and turned it and right. “Yeah, as I thought far too ugly. Shame. Looks like we gonna have to look elsewhere boys.” He laughed again as he let go of her face.

Break’s eye twitched again. She knew that she wasn’t all that attractive. Her deep magenta coat and light cyan mane were fine, but her face was too long and she had a tall stringy body, but she certainly was not ugly. And her bowling pin cutie mark was quite cute in her opinion, even if nopony really bowled all that much anymore. As annoyed as she was, she decided not to press the issue. “For a good tip.” She reminded herself.

“If this is going to be the serving staff, why did you want to come here again?” The goon on the right asked.

“Hey, Midday recommended it. She says they have the best hayburgers in the wasteland.” Dagger defended. “Said nothing about the waitresses being butt ugly.”

“If that is all, may I be on my way?” She asked politely trying her best to ignore the last comment.

“Yeah, whatever.” Dagger waved a hoof dismissively and started chatting with his buddies.

Break started walk to the back of the restaurant eager to get away from these bothersome ponies.

“Maybe we should go to the casino in Forks.” Dagger pondered.

The one with the gun levitated it towards Dagger. “Heh, I like that answer. The Stones will start whining of course, but it doesn’t matter. You’re the big cheese around here and they ain’t got the strength or backbone to mess with us!” He laughed.

Break ignored this conversation and focused entirely on returning to the back area. She, unfortunately, failed to notice a rock on a ground and tripped over it. She fell right into the thug currently levitating a loaded weapon. There was an ear ringing sound and a spattering sound was heard. The entire restaurant went cold dead silent.

The one that had been holding the gun reacted first. “D-dagger! Dagger! Celestia no! No! No! No! No!” He rushed to his fallen friend and hugged him. He started crying. “Dagger!”

Break recovered herself and looked to where Dagger fell and quickly looked away. Part of his head was missing. Blood was everywhere and she felt the urge to vomit. Break’s eyes suddenly widened. She needed to get out of here right now. She needed to run, or she was dead. They were going to blame this on her. She was just a waitress and a nobody, so nopony would blink an eye at her death. She ran into the back as quickly as she could eager to get out the back door. She needed to get out of town, somewhere where Cosa Nostra couldn’t get her. She was panicking but something with a semblance of a plan was forming in her head until a sharp pain hit her head. She fell to the ground. It felt like something hit her hard on the back of the head. It took a moment, but she was able to compile herself and looked at her assailant. It was her boss Supreme Shimmer.

He was a balding middle aged unicorn with a grey coat and a blue mane with a fork cutie mark. “Get up.” He ordered. He was holding a rifle with his magic. The one he used to fight off unruly ponies and defend his restaurant.

“B-but.” Break protested.

“Move!” The middle aged pony ordered sharply. Break couldn’t believe this. She had been working for this pony for three years.

“Why?” She asked meekly as she got up and started following his orders to get moving.

Shimmer shrugged. “This is the wasteland. You’re an idiot if you think anypony is ever going to stick their neck out for you. I worked twenty years to build this restaurant; do you think I would let you ruin that? Now get moving!” Break lowered her head depressed and continued on the path to her doom.

The pony that killed Dagger was still crying over his friend’s corpse when they got back in the restaurant proper. The pony looked up when they entered the room. The other thug was still where Break last saw him. He glared with hate in his eyes when he saw her.

“Now justice can be done for the poor boy’s murder.” Shimmer said. He gestured with his gun, its range not once leaving Break’s head. She gulped. “We at Supreme Café are always friends of Cosa Nostra.”

The pony nodded and pointed his gun at Break. She flinched involuntarily. “Come with us and we won’t splatter your brains right here.” He grinned maliciously. “The boss will want to meet you.”

Break started to shake in fear. She was dead and nothing could be done to stop it. The other customers didn’t look happy about his, but did nothing. One younger pony motioned for his gun, but stopped, sat back down, and did nothing.

Break was gestured to leave and both thugs had guns trained on her. They walked through town and were given a huge berth by the inhabitants of Primrose.

Primrose was a small town that used to be a largish town and a vacation spot before the war. It was naturally in ruins after the megaspells, but the survivors of Stable 11 were able to make it habitable. Shacks were built over the ruins using whatever they could find. Any building that were still intact were also used. The whole town was surrounded by a giant wall built out of collected scraps of steel and iron. Four guard towers were on each of the corners of the barrier.
The town’s main value was the small but useable pieces of farmland used to grow various crops. Crops that were able to grow despite the oppressive cloud cover in the sky. A mare by the name of Spring Rain specialized in water purifying magic making it easier to grow edible crops and not rely on water talismans. This was one of the biggest reasons the Cosas had such a strong stranglehold on the town. They invested a lot of money and time into making it safe.

The three walked in silence. The one that shot Dagger gave Break a look that wasn’t encouraging while the other thug just glared.

“You try to run and I’ll break all your legs.” The second thug threatened. Break jumped. This was the first time she had ever heard him speak.

“I hope she does.” The other said while grinning. “Oh, I can’t wait till we get back to the base. We have a torture chamber made especially for ponies like you.”

He started going on and on about the various unpleasant things she was going to experience. Break, with nothing better to call them, decided to call him Thug A and the other one Thug B. The Thug B was watching her every movement. Break tuned out Thug A’s rambling and looking for any opportunity to escape. She didn’t seem to have much time left because she could see the Cosas’s home base at the end of the street. Break sighed in defeat.

“I don’t even know why the boss even has that iron maiden thing in his dungeon; it ain’t like he actually uses it.” Thug A chatted. “What do you think?” As he asked this he looked and pointed his gun at Thug B.

Having nothing else to lose, she rammed into Thug A praying to Celestia that Thug B wouldn’t shoot her on the spot. He didn’t and fell to the ground dead as Thug A’s gun accidently went off.

“What the b-“ Thug A was about to say, but Break interrupted him with a kick in the shin as hard as she could. He screamed in pain.

Break darted into an alley not bothering to look back at the carnage she caused. She hoped beyond hope she could find a place of safety before reinforcements arrived.

She could hear Thug A scream “Static no! I’ll get you for this…” and then he went off to half heard obscenities.

- - - - -

Robin walked through the corridor stomping his hooves in frustrating trying his best to get rid of the last vestiges of sleep. He was not happy one bit. He spent all last night hunting down and exterminating a group of raiders that were encroaching on Cosas’s territory. He was trying to catch up on some much needed sleep when he was abruptly woken up to deal with this stupid mess. Honestly, he could care less about Steel Dagger getting killed. He never liked the brat. He stopped in the hallway and composed himself. He was given a job, and he was going to complete it no how trivial it might be to hunt down and capture some waitress.

Robin had a reddish orange mane unicorn with a grey coat. His cutie mark was like his namesake, a robin chirping out a little note. He was one of the boss’s lieutenants. He joined nine years ago to help deal with raiders, rebellious townsfolk, or whatever horror came out of the wasteland.

He straightened himself as he walked into the boss’s office. Two guards opened the door for him. The office was a well furnished room with beautiful and intact rugs from Camellu, a worn but tough varnished deck, and various mishmash of paintings that the boss acquired over the years. Robin didn’t think they were very good, but he wasn’t much for art. He preferred music. The office used to be the office of a high school principal back before the war. Of all the buildings in town, the school suffered the least amount of damage and the Cosas were using it as their base.

The boss was crying. This unexpected action startled Robin. He had never seen the boss this emotional. The brat was a little turd, but family is family Robin supposed. The boss was a round middle aged unicorn with a blue mane and darker blue coat. He was wearing a well maintained suit that fit him well. It made him look dignified.

“Robin, good.” The boss’s voice suddenly rose in anger. “I want you to find this waitress and bring her back. Alive of course, she will learn first hoof what it means to take my son away from me. But, I don’t mind if you rough her up a bit, just get her back here in one piece.”

“Understood sir.” Robin said curtly.

“Good good. I know I can rely on you. Ray Shine will brief you on the current details.” The boss waved a hoof for him to be dismissed and Robin obeyed.

Robin walked into a room that used to be a cafeteria and there was Ray with several other armed ponies. Ray was a rather large Earth Pony with a yellow mane and a green coat. You could see his well defined muscles and they made his combat armor bulge. Ray was one of the boss’s best ponies in Robin’s opinion. Ray gave him a curt nod and gave his briefing. That was what Robin liked the most about Ray, all business.

“As far as he can tell, she’s still in the town. None of our snipers have seen her leave town. We suspect she’s hiding between 15th and 17th Ave.” The town was large and had many little places she could hide.

Robin nodded and suited up in his combat armor and took an automatic rifle with his magic with plenty of rounds. He took a knife just in case and took his favorite, most skilled weapon, a magical powered pistol. Three other armed ponies followed him as he walked out of the base. Sure it was overkill, but they wanted to make an impression on the townfolk.

“There you are!” A voice cried out. Robin sighed. It was the idiot that got the boss’s son killed. “I’m coming with you!”

Apparently the boss decided to give this dimwit another chance. He had been close to both the boss and his son. He would have just shot the moron. The idiot however didn’t seem to notice Robin’s obvious disdain for him.

“Heehaw! This whorse is going to get it now!” He proclaimed waving his pistol wildly. The other members of his group moved out of the way of his gun nervously, not wanted a repeat of what happened to their fellows. “Isn’t that right Robin.” He pointed his gun at Robin’s face. Robin just sighed and moved the gun out of his face with his magic and ignored him. He just wanted to get this stupid job done and go back to sleep.

Chapter 2

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Break peeked out of the trash bin she was hiding in and looked both ways. She had been hiding in it for about ten minutes. She was able to the lose the Cosas that tried to chase her after the incident in the street. The bin smelled something fierce, but she was too scared and preoccupied with her current predicament to care much. She didn’t see anypony. She sighed in relief and opened the top so she could sneak out. She landed on the ground and crouched.

“There has to be a way out of town.” She thought, but how she had no clue. The one entrance into the town was guarded. She also knew about the snipers camped at the guard towers of the walls, the very well trained and skilled snipers that could shoot you at a thousand paces. If she did get out, she would have to walk several miles to reach a settlement and the terrain had monsters, raiders, and Celestia knows what. Primrose wasn’t the only town controlled by the Cosas. A town called Roseway was also under their hoof. There would also be no certainty that she was even going the right way without a map.

There was one way out of town that won’t be guarded, the sewers. They were remarkably intact and drained into a nearby lake called Lake Minnetrotta about two miles away. The problem was that both the lake and sewers were infested with mirelurks. They were a bipedal high territorial crab like race with a thick shell that most guns couldn’t penetrate. Their only weak point was their face. They sometimes caused trouble for the locals and once and awhile found ways out the sewers and attacked ponies. These things always attacked on sight. All the other entrances were destroyed or blocked for this reason. The only way that wasn’t blocked was the lake entrance due to how dangerous the lake was. Not only mirelurks prowled around there. This option seemed a major long shot, but she didn’t have much of a choice.

Break crouched as she sneaked through town quickly galloping from one source of cover to another. She knew an easy way into the sewers. There was a floor in an old building that collapsed a few weeks ago and the hole it created led into the sewers. It hadn’t been fixed yet and it was just covered over with a few boards. It won’t be hard to pry it open and sneak inside.

She froze and jumped into a building as she saw some Cosas guards walking this way from a nearby street, but luckily they hadn’t seen her. She sighed in relief. She recognized one the ponies as Robin, one of Cosas’s key lieutenants. He was known as the Raider Slayer for his ruthlessness in taking them down. Bad news if she ran into him. He was one of best gunponies in the whole Cosas and could no doubt gun her down in seconds.

“Hey, it’s her!” She heard somepony yell. She turned and saw two Cosas stallions using a nearby urinal and another drying his hooves with a towel. Break burst out the stallion’s bathroom that she had inadvertently stumbled into and ran for the nearest alleyway. Break heard cries of “After her!” behind her, but didn’t look back to check.

She rushed into an alley and froze as she saw Robin right in front of her blocking her escape. Next to him were Thug A and several other ponies with guns and armor. They looked like they were ready to fight an army. They still haven’t seen her yet. “There she is!” A pony behind her yelled and Robin turned to look. She could hear ponies behind her closing in.

Break desperately looked around her for a way out. Robin smiled and he and his group casually trotted towards her weapons not raised yet. She was surrounded by two pure high walls that were made of decrepit bricks. She found a small crack in the wall that might fit a pony to her left. Doubtful, but she didn’t have much choice. In a mad dash she jumped into it. It was tight and the wall scrapped her back painfully, but she didn’t stop and squeezed her way through. She was almost through. She heard a pony yell “Hey!” She finally got through, but fell on her face as she felt her leg being pulled by two hooves.

“Got you now, you…” The pony didn’t get to finish as Break kicked frantically at the hooves. She accidentally kicked herself a few times, but hit the hooves that were holding her. The pony that owned those legs yelped in pain and let go. She made a mad scramble to door that was in front of her and rushed out of it. She heard ponies trying to come in the same way she did, but she was already to the front door and threw it open and crashed into an older pony. It was old pony Grape Vine.

“What the…” The older pony cried out, but Break was already around him and running.

“Sorry!” She apologized and ran off.

She was already across the street when she heard old pony Grape Vine yell, “What the hay are you hooligans doing in my house?! Foals these days. In my day…”

She saw some ponies staring at her as she ran, but paid them little heed. She ran across town towards her destination. She ran into another alleyway. She was so close she could taste it. Some Cosas goons appeared in front of her to trap her with victorious smirks on their faces, but Break increased her speed and the goons quickly got out of her way to avoid getting trampled. She took a right then a left and found the building she was looking for. She jumped through the broken window in the front and landed inside. She stopped and looked around. She was in an old shoe factory. Right now she was in the front entrance room. It was mostly in tatters and everything of value was gone and had almost nothing in it. She rushed past the main desk into the back. The hole was in factory area. She ran through a few hallways and found the factory area. With a quick search she located a bunch of boards on the floor. That was her entrance. The hole was created when part of the roof collapsed and fell onto the already weakened cement bellow. Some mirelurks used it as a way in the town using parts of the broken roof to get in the building. It caused quite a stir and few ponies got hurt. The pieces of the roof were removed and some large and heavy planks of woods were currently covering it until it could be more permanently fixed.

Break moved them aside and looked into the hole. In it was blackness, but with the light from the building she could see the ground and it didn’t look like too bad of a drop. It was the darkness that worried her. She had no way to see down there, no food or water, and no way to defend herself. She was too busy running for her life to get anything to help her survival. Her ears drooped at the thought that she didn’t even have time to say goodbye to Green Mile or her uncle. Once she jumped down this hole, she would see neither ever again.

“She’s in here!” She heard somepony yell. She gulped and jumped in. The fall wasn’t too painful and ran to the right hoping that to be the correct way.

- - - -

Robin rushed into the main of the factory area of the old building. It was filled with old machinery, debris, and a large hole that used to be covered with wooden boards. If he looked up he could see where the ceiling collapsed.

“Well that answers where she was going to.” He thought to himself. He thought she might do something crazy and try this when he saw her run in this direction. She had the look of a pony that would do anything to survive. It looked like the mission was over. She was dead. The boss won’t be happy, but he wasn’t going to order ponies to jump in after her. The boss never wasted ponies if he could help it. He would just have to live with the thought of his son’s killer dying horribly to mirelurks.

Robin heard a pony come up behind him. It was the idiot. “Where is she?” He asked. Robin just inclined his head to the hole. “What? Argh! Now there is no way to get her! Static and Dagger will be unavenged!” He growled in frustration.

Robin got a little, nasty thought in his head. “Yes, that is a shame.” He said in mock sadness. “The Boss will never order anypony down there to go after her.”

The idiot’s head and ears drooped. “You’re right. Damn it all to hell.”

“Who knows? She might actually make it. That filly seemed resourceful. Then she’ll escape and run off to Celestia know where.” The idiot stomped a hoof in frustration. “If only there was somepony daring and brave enough to go down there and prevent it.”

The idiot seemed to mull this over in that little head of his. He scratched his head with the tip of his gun. Robin continued. “Shame. Oh well, time to report to the boss. He won’t be happy that he will never be able to properly avenge his son.”

The idiot nodded to himself and jumped in the hole. “What are you doing?” Robin yelled in mock surprise.

“Don’t worry about me. I have a light spell.” The idiot yelled back. “That whorse is going down.” And Robin heard hoof steps until they disappeared.

Robin grinned to himself. That was two problems dealt with. He mused that maybe the fool might come back alive if he’s quick enough. He shrugged and left to tell the other Cosas the situation.

Chapter 3

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Blackness was all Break could see in front of her. The light from the hole was gone. The wall was her only guide. Mirelurks haven’t torn her to shreds yet. That was certainly a good thing. The sewers smelled dank and like raw sewage. She wondered how she would ever find her way without any light. “This was a bad idea.” She thought and sighed. She continued on anyway trying to ignore the smell. She used the wall to guide her way.

Break sighed in relief as she saw a dim light in front of her in the far distance after making a left. She trotted towards it and as eventually able to see the sewer’s interior in proper light for the first time. It was mostly just a long tunnel with grey walls with rancid smelling water running between it. There was a walkway on either side of the tunnel. The light still wasn’t great however and she could see that many of the lights were broken or just out. She was surprised how well intact the tunnels were.

In the distance she could see a door and Break trotted towards it. It was one of those metal door you had to turn the latch to open. She kept her eyes out for any mirelurks that might be walking nearby. So far the coast seemed clear. She could see a branching path to her right, but decided ignored it. She reluctantly approached and opened the door with a hoof and peeked inside. Luckily death was not behind it. She went inside and closed the door behind her. In front of her looked like a metal walkway with lower area beneath. A door could be seen across the room. She could see a shelf full of tools and miscellaneous things to her right and large metal box of unknown use.

Break looked through the various tools and didn’t find much. She didn’t think a steam gauge assembly, a crutch, a pressure cooker, and other junk would be much use to her. She sighed and supposed it would be too much to ask for a weapon. It didn’t seem likely she would randomly stumble upon a gun and some ammo in a sewer of all places. Something white beneath her caught her eye and she looked down. Break’s eyes widened. There were hundreds of mirelurk eggs with each one in a small clutter in a pool of water. She could see mirelurks wandering around down there, but so far it looked like they hadn’t seen her.

Break’s mind raced and she did her best not to panic. Should she risk it and go into door across the room and possibly get discovered or go back the way she came? All it would take is one looking up to see her. She thought about it, but decided to take the seemingly safer route and go back the way she came. She hated taking risks, especially ones that could lead to her being skewered by pincers. Break was about to go through the door when it suddenly came open.

“There you are you whorse!” A very familiar voice said. “You really thought you could escape me that easily?”

Break stared in shock. Thug A actually came down here after her, and he just loudly announced his presence. “Oh crap.” She thought knowing that nothing good could come from this.

Break heard scuttling behind her. She slowly turned her head and saw some Mirelurks climbing stairs that lead up the walkway and were coming towards them.

Break felt herself being pulled by a hoof. The thug gave a small chuckle. “Heh, it looks like they heard us.” He floated his gun to her temple. “Come now, or you will get a bullet in the head.”

Break gulped and nodded. She let herself be dragged out the door. “Close it.” Break was commanded and did as she was told. “It’s not far. Robin will be waiting for us.”

They ran hard through the tunnel though the thug kept a hoof around Break’s leg making it a little awkward to run and he pulled at it painfully. The sound of a door being opened and it could be heard echoing through the tunnel. Break gaped in surprise. Mirelurks can open doors?

“Faster.” Thug A commanded and she did as she was told. She could see the light from hole now.

“Hey, Robin! I’ve got her. Get a ladder already! We’ve got mirelurks on our trail!” Thug A yelled, but no response came. “Hey!” There was no response again. “Darn it Robin! Get your flank down here now!”

Break tensed. She could hear the mirelurks splashing towards them very quickly. She wondered if Robin was just going to leave them down here to die. “Wait, what does it matter? Being rescued won’t help me!” Break thought cursing her luck. She was doomed either way. She could already hear the mirelurks getting dangerously close.

Thug A growled. “Robin! Now!” Break could see at least a dozen mirelurks coming towards them in the dim light. Their chittering echoed through the tunnels.

Break gritted her teeth. She knew there was no way that Thug A could take all these things on his own. She knew she had to do something drastic, dangerous, and stupid. The thug was not paying attention to her at the moment. Not surprising considering that death was coming towards them. She steeled her nerves and kicked him right between the legs. He howled in pain, fell to ground, and screamed obscenities. Break ran as fast as she could down the dark tunnel in front of them. She could see dimly that it curved to the right.

“No! You are not getting away!” The thug yelled.

Break heard a gunshot. She felt something fly past her head. Break didn’t think her heart could beat any faster, but it did. She was almost shot and she involuntarily shook a little. She tried her best to ignore this and made a right turn then another right. She could hear gunshots in the distance, cursing, screaming, and then silence. The thug was dead.

Break’s heart went out for him, but what else could she do? All three of those ponies that she met in the diner were dead because of her. She didn’t pull the trigger, but she might as well of done it. She felt tears trickle down her eyes. She didn’t want this. She didn't want anypony to die. But she ran on and on until her legs hurt. She took a random different direction whenever she met a crossroad. She wanted to survive. She had to survive.

“I’m sorry.” She thought unable to control her tears. She fell into the dirty water beneath her exhausted. Not really caring about the smell of the water at the moment. She crawled up to a nearby wall and just sat there recuperating her strength.

She croaked a laugh. She didn’t know why she did this, but continued on laughing anyway . It was hard to believe a few hours ago she was worrying about getting enough bits in tips to pay the land tax at the end of the month for the alley and buy a much needed part to fix that old pinsetter. That felt so long ago. She just sat there for minutes, maybe hours, Break couldn’t be sure. Eventually she pulled herself together enough to get herself moving. She couldn’t stay here.

She trotted quietly trying not be heard. She peaked around every corner to see if the coast was clear. She made sure to stay clear of any mirelurks she saw or heard walking around. She backtracked and took a different path to avoid any trouble. These sewers were a maze and Break had little idea where she was or how to get out. What she needed to find was a terminal. It might have a map she could use. She found a few doors, but most of them were either broken or had a mirelurk or two behind them.

She eventually came across one door that Break could hear faint music behind. Break immediately recognized as Sapphire Shores’s ‘Get Your Pony On’. The upbeat music lifted Break’s spirits a little. She adored music and this was something she desperately needed right now. Break slowly opened the door. Behind it was a small stairway that went up. She carefully closed the door behind her and slowly and quietly walked up the stairs and went down the hallway. She came into what looked like a break room. It was empty and Break sighed in relief. The break room had a few metal shelves full of books that were destroyed and rotten. Break could see a small table that had a radio that was playing the old prewar music and had few darts on it, a green surprisingly intact couch, a fridge, and on one of the walls was a dart board. Strangely it had a caricature of Cosa Nostra on it. A few darts were piercing it. She could also see a door across the room.

“So does this mean that somepony might live down here?” Break thought. It seemed crazy, but it might be true. Celestia Almighty she wished it to be true. They might know a way out of here. She looked through the fridge. It had a few boxes of InstaMash, canned apples, water that was probably dirty and irradiated, and a bottle of whiskey. Break grabbed the whiskey and a box of canned apples and sat on the couch. She was relieved to finally be off her hooves and the couch was comfortable. She quickly opened the canned apples and chowed down. They were still good and she already felt stronger and rejuvenated. She laid back, closed her eyes, and enjoyed the music. She just sat there for a few minutes and was about the opening the bottle of whiskey with her teeth when her eyes widened. Three mirelurks just walked in. She was too enthralled with the relaxing and enjoying the music to notice. The one in the front pointed at her and started running towards her.

Break dropped the bottle, stumbled over the couch, and fell face first into the ground. She rubbed her throbbing muzzle with a hoof and made a dash for the back door. It opened up to a stairwell that led up. She took it and it ended with a short hallway with a door. She increased her speed as she heard the mirelurks gaining on her.

The second door was a metal one with a button to open it. Praying to Celestia it still worked, she pressed the button and it opened with a whoosh. Behind it was a large room separated by cubicles. It looked like an office building. She turned around and was about to close it when she noticed the mirelurks standing still behind the first door. Break blinked. The crab-like creatures looked reluctant to go in here. Break got a chill down her spine. She gulped and closed the door. She got the feeling that coming in here was a big mistake.

Break’s eyes widened when she got a better look at the room. She could see dark brown stains everywhere. They were on the chairs, on the walls, on the ceiling, and on all over the cubicles. “Something really really bad happened here.” Break thought in dismay. Something about this place felt wrong, maybe even evil. She decided maybe it was better to try her luck back in the sewers but the door refused to open when she pressed the open door button.

“Well, perfect. What now Break? You somehow blundered into something even worse.” Break grumbled softly under her breath.

“You could start by not moving in inch.” A metallic voice said from a distance. “I have a gun pointed at your head. Move and well, let’s say your brains will become a rather fetching decoration for the room.” Break gulped and froze.

Something walked out from behind a cubicle. It hoofsteps hit the floor heavily. Break turned her head to look at it. It was a pony-like robot called a Protectron. From what Break had heard, they were designed for menial work, from gofering to bartending. It was a faded blue color and over its domed head that held its core processor, much to her horror, was the skull of a pony. A gun barrel was protruding from it back and it was pointing directly at Break’s head. Break couldn’t really tell what sort of weapon it was. It looked futuristic so maybe it was a energy weapon of some kind?

“Thank Celestia!” It cried. “You have no idea how long it has been since I’ve seen a pony!” It bobbed it head back and forth happily. It circled her several times. Break tried her hardest not to move a muscle.

“Not much.” It appraised. “But hey! You take what you can get! I’m going to have so much fun! I’m getting giddy just thinking about it!”

“What do you mean?” Break really didn’t want to ask this, but felt she had no choice.

“With your horrible death of course!” It seemed to prance around in glee. It‘s limbs creaked unpleasantly from the long years of not being oiled. Even though she had a good idea this was going to be the answer, she paled anyway.

“Well, what do you expect? I’m an obviously insane robot. It would be a crime if I didn’t kill you in the most gruesome ways possible! Come on! It’s what insane robots do!”

“I have just the thing to decide it!” The thing trotted over to a cubicle on the left. “Oh, it’s just been so long since I’ve used this thing.” It sounded absolutely giddy. It dragged out a giant prize wheel. On it were faded color spaces with text. Text that described horrible and gruesome fates to whatever pony landed on that spot. Lovely things like dismemberment, disembowelment, impalement, head smashing, and, Break’s least favorite of all, being skinned alive. There was also a small space that said ‘Spare’ that was half the size of the other ones.

“Oh, I thought it won’t be very fair if I didn’t give a small chance to be spared.” It said when it spotted her looking the ‘Spare’ space.

“And if I land on it you will let me go unharmed?” Break inquired, not really believing it.

The mechanical pony nodded its head vigorously. “I’ll open the door for you and lead you out myself like a true gentlecolt.”

Break gulped and nodded. She reluctantly grabbed the end of the prize wheel and spun it as hard as she could. It went around and around and Break got even more nervous as soon as it slowed down. The crazed robopony bounced around in glee. Finally it began to slow down. It was clearly on the final spin. Sweat gathered on Break’s forehead.

It slowed and slowed until it came to almost a complete dead stop and it landed on the ‘Spare’ space. It would have stopped there if the Protectron hadn’t suddenly grabbed the wheel and made it go to the next space.

“Oh goody! Burned alive! My personal favorite!” The robot cried in delight.

“You cheated! It was going to land on Spare!” Break said indignantly her fear momentarily forgotten. She actually got in the robo pony’s face.

“Oh, I never said that I would actually let it land on that spot!” The robot laughed mockingly. Break just stood there fuming.

“Don’t be such a poor sport.” The Protectron chastised. “Nopony likes a poor sport.”

“Poor sport? You cheated!” Break yelled. “This is bull!”

“Nopony said life was fair.” The mechanical pony said sagely. Suddenly flames escaped from a tube on its right front leg. Break’s anger was replaced with fear. She quickly recoiled from the flames. It wooshed loudly and lightly singed her coat. She backed away from the flamethrower’s line of sight.

Break took a quick look around the room as she backed away. She finally saw a door with a broken window and through it she saw a hallway. She dashed to the door, opened it, and ran into the hallway. She closed the door behind her with a hard thud.

“Too bad that leads to a dead end!” She heard the robot laugh.

“Oh crap. What if it’s right?” Break thought. She could see several doors in the hallway. She ignored them and focused on the ‘Exit’ sign at the end of the hallway. She could see stairs behind the sign. She rushed towards them and stopped mouth agape. The top of the stairs were collapsed. The top of the stairway was filled with nothing but rubble.

“Yep, like I said.” The accursed robo pony cried out. It had moved to a spot behind the door Break had entered in. She could see the pony skull through the broken glass window. “Oh, and by the way, there aren’t any convenient weapons around for you to kill me with. I’ve checked!” It barked in laughter.

Break looked around back and forth and dove into the closest door to her right. It was a storage closet and unfortunately didn’t have an instant robot killing death ray in it, just useless junk. So she ignored it and opened the door on the other side. This one was a bathroom. It appeared to be a stallion’s one. Break grumbled and realized that maybe she should have paid attention to the signs on the doors first. She could see the robot still standing where she last saw it and it was clearly getting enjoyment at her antics.

Break ignored him and found a door that led into an office. It was furnished simply. It had an aging decapitated wooden desk in the middle. It had peeling striped wallpaper that was seriously faded from age. It had a few odds and ends on it. The most noticeable one was a picture of a pegasus filly with an older earth pony stallion. There was a terminal on the left side of the desk. Behind the desk was an unopened safe. There didn’t seem to be anything else of much interest in the room.

“Are you almost done?” The wretched robo pony chimed in. “I don’t have all day!”

Break look at the rest of the hallway. The only door she hadn’t checked yet was the mare’s bathroom. Break had no idea what she was going to do. Suddenly the Protectron smashed the door it was standing behind and stalked towards Break. She shrieked and dove into the office barely avoiding the fire that was shot at her. She could feel the flames almost scorching her back leg. She closed the door and locked it even though it was rotted and won’t give her much time or protection. She could hear the robot’s loud laughter and it echoed through the building.

Break’s eyes scanned the room again for anything she could use. She could hear the robo pony knocking on the door.”Let me in. I promise not to hurt you!” She looked on the desk and found the one thing that might be able to save her. She ran towards it.

The Protectron’s head suddenly burst through the door. “Here’s…” The robot was interrupted when a terminal flew and smashed into its head. “Gah!”

Break didn’t waste a moment. She rushed forward and picked up the terminal and smashed it against the robot’s head. The robot’s body fell and smashed through the rotten door. Break didn’t stop and continued to whale on the Protectron’s head screaming like a mad pony.

The robot tried to plead for mercy, but Break couldn’t even hear it. She was too scared and frantic to listen. She smashed it again and again for several minutes. Eventually she stopped panting. She fell to the floor exhausted. The adrenaline that fueled her ended. The robot head was smashed to pieces. Bits of its skull helmet were scattered across the floor. It body was equally in ruins. Break sighed in relief and just sat there. She didn’t think she had ever felt as exhausted as she did now, but she was happy. She was safe, and that was all that mattered. Eventually she got herself back up.

She remembered the safe and thought it might be a good idea to see if there might be something useful in there. It had a simple keypad. She not idea what the code might be, but she did have an idea. She looked around the deck and eventually found what she was looking for. Carved on the side on the top drawer behind some junk was the number ‘2008302’. It was faded, but readable. She figured that the owner of the safe might be too lazy to remember the code and hid it somewhere for easy access.

Break entered the code and it worked and the safe opened with a click. In it were some papers that appeared to be ledgers, some prewar money, and an unopened package. It was addressed from the Stable-Tec.

Break felt a bit guilt open and taking a package that wasn’t hers, but they were long dead and she was desperate. She tore it open and gaped at its content. It was a PipBuck, a brand new PipBuck. It’s box boasted it features. “Completely customizable!” “Built in S.A.T.S.for easy targeting of Zebra scum!” “Lifetime warranty!” “Perfect for Stable life!” Next to it was a letter. It congratulated a Harvest Moon for winning their Stable-Tec PipBuck Giveaway Sweepstakes. Break guessed it was for some sort of promotion of the PipBuck to get ponies interested in them.

Break opened the box and held the device in wonder. She never owned one herself, but she had seen some of the older ponies from Stable 11 that still had one. She remembered that her father and mother had one as well. She was never given one because she and her family left Stable 11 when she only four years old. She briefly wondered whatever did happen to those PipBucks. She couldn’t remember. Maybe they were sold to keep Stars & Strikes a float in the early days? Anyway, they were a pretty useful device and was exactly something she needed to survive. It kept well after all these years and still looked brand new. She put the portable mini-terminal on her right leg and started it up. It hummed as it did this. It displayed the Stable-Tec logo. It greeted her and asked her for her name. She entered it with the knob on the left. It then asked her to read the End User License Agreement. She quickly scrolled through it and hit accept at the end. She doubted even anypony back during the war ever bothered reading it.

Break blinked as the next screen came up. It said it was going to quiz her on the EULA and she couldn’t continue unless she scored at least a 70 percent. She tried her best to guess the answers, but she failed and was forced back to the EULA screen. Break groaned and read through the stupid thing. After at least 40 pages of stuff she didn’t care about, she returned to the quiz screen. It took some time, but she was eventually able to pass the quiz. The stupid thing had very hard and specific questions and you had to read the EULA with a fine tooth comb to even answer them.

Finally Break defeated the dreaded quiz only to be faced with a final question. “I will use this PipBuck for the furtherment and survival of ponykind and will use it to preserve yourself and wipe the zelda filth from the face of the earth.” Under it was “A: Yes, B: Yes, C: Yes, and D: Yes.” Break stared at the screen and hesitated for a moment a bit shocked at the blatant racism, but finally answered A wanting to get this over with already and was greeted with a welcoming screen.

It greeted her by name and turned into a screen that showed her vitals. It was represented by a small picture of her in dotted lines. Her vitals appeared to be good and she had a very low magical radiation level. Break played around with it for a bit. She found many useful features like the ability to manage her inventory, store files from terminals, and a map system that automatically recorded her surroundings. Break figured the last one would be key to her survival. She hoped she could find a terminal with the sewer’s map on it. She looked at the terminal she smashed to save herself and sighed. It also had a spell called Eyes Forward Sparkle or E.F.S. that allowed her to see anything hostile. Break made sure to skim through the manual for anything useful.

Break smiled to herself. She found something that will probably save her life. Now she had to see if she could find a workable saddlebag. That would make things so much easier. Her apron had small pockets, but weren’t big enough to hold much of anything. She motioned to leave the office when her eyes landed on the destroyed Protectron. It was still in pieces and Break thanked Celestia for that. The body reminded her that she needed to discover where this thing came from too. She worried she might run into another one of this stupid things.

Break closely examined the Protectron. It looked like it had been heavily modified. She wondered if the pony that did this intended on it going crazy and killing everypony. She shuttered at the thought.

Break did a thorough search of the office building. Unfortunately, the destroyed staircase appeared to be the only way up. Eventually she would be forced to go back the way she came. Break found another terminal, but it contained nothing but spreadsheets and business memos. She was able to find some tools that could be used to modify a Protectron. It was in the desk of one the employees. It belonged to a pony named Daydream. She didn’t find any confession or diary recording his possible grudge of the other ponies that worked here. She shrugged. It didn’t seem like there were going to be anymore crazy robots and supposed her theory was the best she would ever get.

Break found the skeletons of the ponies that worked here. They were piled in a closet. She screamed bloody murder when they fell on her when she opened the door. It took some time to calm herself down after that little incident and she cursed the robot for pulling such a prank on her.

She did find some useful things including a useable spark battery that could fetch a nice price. She wasn’t able to a find a saddlebag. Break signed and left everything useful she found in a pile on one of the desks. She needed to focus on not scavengable goods, but the essentials like food and water. She needed to go back to the fridge back in the employee break room and take whatever she could.

Break was able to find the door control. It was hidden away on a wall close to where the Protectron first appeared. She decided to switched it back on as soon as she got some rest. Even though she didn’t really favor the idea and considered her grizzly surroundings, Break decided to get a little sleep. She was exhausted from her ordeals today and needed the energy to get through those sewers. She put some chair together in one of the small offices and tried to get as comfortable as she could. She fell asleep almost instantly.

Chapter 4

View Online

Break opened her eyes and looked around in confusion not sure exactly where she was. It took her a few moments to remember yesterday’s ordeals. She sighed already missing her old bed and got up and stretched. Her back was killing her. Those chairs weren't very good for sleeping on, and unsurprisingly she had nightmares. That damn Protectron was taunting her, chasing her through a office building like maze with confusing and incoherent paths that led nowhere or were blocked. He chased her around a maze while spewing hellfire out of his mouth always one step behind her. He laughed at her, mocked her, and showed how weak and helpless she really was. He eventually caught up to her to finish the deed with a red hot blade to her throat nearly scorching her skin when she suddenly woke up. She could still hear the laughing echoing through her ears and rubbed her neck instinctively. Sighing in relief that there wasn't any burn marks. It felt so real. She thought she could actually feel the burning heat of the blade. She immediately got doubts about her chances of even surviving the day. She shook her head and tried to put the dream out of her mind and focus on escaping her current situation. This was no time to dwell on doubts. That kind of attitude would get her killed. She had no idea where she would go or if she could even survive the wastelands, but she had to try.

Break used her PipBuck's Eyes Forward Sparkle to see if there were any mirelurks in the break room. According to the manual, non hostiles appear in yellow and hostiles appear in red. Since they don’t know she was there, all the mirelurks should be in yellow. Right now she didn’t see anything, but decided to not take any chances. She slowly crept down and looked down the hallway for anything and still found nothing thankfully. She turned off her PipBuck’s light to avoid any undue attention.

Break entered the break room. She rushed towards the fridge and raided all the food that could fit into her apron’s pockets. She took three boxes of canned apples and a box of InstaMash. She hated InstaMash with a passion, but took it anyway. She couldn’t be picky. She knew that when you are starving, even trash looks appetizing. All the talk about wasteland survival she overheard in the cafe from the patreons was surprisingly coming in handy. She also took the two bottles of dirty water despite having reservations about it. Radiation poisoning was no joke. She thought back to what happened to her parents. She shook her head and got back on track. Now was not the time to dwell on that. She needed to keep moving and focus on her next move if just to keep her fears in check. She mentally noted to get a canteen as quickly as possible.

Break exited the break room staying alert for any trouble. She noted yellow figures coming this way on the E.F.S. She took a passage that completely avoided them. For the next hour that is what Break did. She would avoid any figures that came her way and didn’t care how out of the way it took her. She hid in darkness or whatever she could find when retreating wasn’t an option. A few close calls, but so far nothing had seen her. Eventually her PipBuck was able to lay out a decent map of the sewers, but they seemed to go on forever. Eventually she found another door and opened it since her E.F.S. picked up nothing.

In it was a little work area. It was small dead end room with not much to note aesthetically. Break could see tools on a rusty shelf with one of the shelves collapsed from age. There were various parts scattered across the floor, but nothing seemed useful. On a small metal desk with a peeling blue coat was a terminal. Break almost jumped for joy, but did her best to control herself. She briefly looked through the shelf, but didn’t find anything that would be practical to carry along with her. She turned it on and was greeted with a password screen. Break tried her best to hack it. She pulled the PipBuck manual from her apron and opened it. It had a guide on basic hacking. It was a questionable thing to have in your manual, but Break didn’t complain. She ate some canned apples as she worked, glad to get something in her stomach.

Hacking the terminal presented a screen that revealed the keylog of the last used keys. Break was shown possible key combinations that might be the password. She was given four tries before the terminal’s security would permanently lock her out. Strangely, just exiting out and reentering would give her back her four tries, but it would reset the password. So it was only really a matter of time before she guessed the password and gained entry. Break took a crack at guessing the password. The words available to her were giver, yellow, rain, diver, pacifier, data, friends, and tree. Break took a wild guess and entered ‘pacifier’ since it seemed the most complex of the passwords. Her hacking system told her only 3 letters matched. Break thought about it and hit ‘friends’. Four letters match this time. The only real choice at this point was ‘diver’. She took that and was greeted with the terminals main menu. Break marveled that the user of the terminal choose such a lazy and easy password.

The terminal had exactly what she was looking for, a complete map of the sewers. She downloaded it to her PipBuck and viewed it. Break just gaped. She wasn’t even close to the lake’s exit and was actually going the wrong directions. ”Oh come on!” Break moaned. It would take a long time to walk all the way over there, which made even longer by avoiding mirelurks. The exit was almost a mile and a half away.

Break sighed. She quickly looked through the other files on the terminal but found nothing of real interest. It did have a few journal entries and Break skimmed through them, but contained nothing special and was mostly a pony complaining about their hemorrhoid problem. She turned the terminal off and began the long trek to the exit that led to the lake.

Break used the same tactic as before and it more and less succeeded with a few more close calls. The full map made it easier to navigate. A hour and a half later, she was eventually forced with a real dilemma. She found a door that led to an almost straight path to the lake exit, but her E.F.S. was picking up over half a dozen figures. Strangely, one was red, but Break ignored that for a moment. She couldn’t go around without seriously inconveniencing herself. If she took the door, she guessed she would be out in about fifteen to twenty minutes. If she went around it would take at least an hour or two. The twisty and confusing maze-like paths didn’t give an easy way around.

Break stomped her hoof in frustration trying to think. She really didn’t want to go in there, but freedom was so close she could taste it. There was also no guarantee that she wouldn’t get into a bad situation going the long way. She decided to scope out the room before doing anything. She might be able to sneak around them. She trotted up to the door and slowly and carefully pushed it open a crack and looked inside. There was a large room that hosted several pieces of large worn down machinery of unknown purpose scattered along the walls. The room had a metal staircase on the right wall that lead to a walkway on the second floor.

Break could see some mirelurks milling about. Some were paired in groups while others were just walking about going to a different room or walking upstairs. The mirelurks in the groups were chittering at each other like they were having a conversation. This confused Break, but she guessed she shouldn’t be so surprised they have their own language. She briefly wondered if it was possible for a pony to communicate with them if they were intelligent, somehow learn their language, but Break shook the thought from her mind. It wasn’t important right now, and had no idea where a pony would even start.

Break stared at the room. She might be able to sneak past them if she stayed low and moved quickly. She might be able to sneak behind the machinery to the other side of the room. Break paused and thought about how crazy, stupid, and reckless that would be. “No wait, I could just hide behind one of the machines and wait for them to leave.” She thought. It could work, but she would still have to sneak past those mirelurks and she really didn’t like that idea.

Break thought about it some more, but froze when she heard splashing echoing behind her. She uses her E.F.S. and saw two yellow figures moving dangerously close to this way. “Horse apples!” Break cursed. She gulped and crouched down and entered and closed the door and quietly as she could. So far none of the mirelurks noticed her. To her right she saw two mirelurks clicking at each other and they were right next to a piece of rusty dilapidated machinery that Break guessed was a generator. The back of it looked just big enough to fit her though it would be an awkward and tight squeeze. One in the right was almost but not quite facing her way, and the other had its back completely to her.

Break stayed low and quietly snuck up to them. She didn’t even breathe fearing that it would give her away. Her heart pumped so hard she thought it might beat out of her chest. One almost looked towards her, but she moved out its line of sight and luckily it didn’t notice her. She was almost to the generator when a shoot and rang out and hit the floor next to her right cheek. Break stumbled over in surprise. The mirelurks looked around in confusion and shock and noticed her. Break screamed in terror.

“Dammit, almost had her.” A familiar voice loudly cursed. Another shot rang out and Break just bolted towards the door on the other side of the room deciding to just run for it. The mirelurks nearest to Break turned and swung at her with a pincers. She dodged the best she could. A pincer almost hit her in the head but she ducked under it. She suddenly tripped and fell on the floor painfully. One of the mirelurks swept one of her legs under her. She just barely rolled to avoid a pincer claw grabbing her right front leg. She saw another mirelurk coming towards her and bucked it in the face. This stunned it and Break stood up and felt a sharp pain on one of her back legs followed by another loud bang. She yelped in pain. The thug took another shot at her, but it only grazed her back leg.

She heard another bang but it wasn’t towards her this time. “Damn things! Get outta the way!”

It seemed most of the mirelurks turned their attention towards the gunpony gauging him to be the bigger threat. Break made another dash for the door again ignoring the pain in her leg. She could feel blood oozing down it. She was faced with another claw thrown her way but she dodged under it and to the left and opened the door fiercely when she got to it.

“Hey!” The thug’s voice boomed as she left the room. “Ponyfeathers!”

Break didn’t think and took the right path from her memory of the sewer’s layout. Her hooves echoed through the tunnel and she ran. She took another right as saw a couple of mirelurks right in front of her. She didn’t have time to stop so she prayed to Celestia and jumped. They saw her, but she leaped over them before they could react and she used one of them as a platform as she went over. They chased after her, but Break just increased her speed. She took a left then a right and found a door. Her E.F.S didn’t spot anything. She opened it and closed it behind her and locked it behind her. She collapsed and panted. She was in another maintenance room not unsimilar to the last one she found, though this one was larger and had another exit. Unlike the last one, this didn’t have a terminal and had large pieces of equipment, tools, and parts. She took a few moments to get her breath back.

She checked her E.F.S. and saw that the mirelurks hadn’t discovered where she went yet. Break checked the room and found a first aid box. She opened it and found some antiseptic and some bandages. She applied the antiseptic to her wound and wrapped it tightly. A sewer was the worst place to get an infection, so Break didn’t want to take any chances. There were also two healing potions, but Break decided to save them for later. It seemed silly to waste one on such a simple wound.

She found a tool harness with a bag on it on a shelf with other tools and put it on. She stored the healing potions in it and the entire supply of antiseptic and the bandages from the little first aid box. Break checked the E.F.S. again and saw some red figures in the distance and they were coming this way. She left the other door in the room and went down some more passages. She approached another door and used her E.F.S. to find anything behind it.

Break gulped at the at least twelve yellow figures. Break checked her map and she was very close to the exit into the lake, but the mirelurks were using it as a way in and out.

Break opened the door a creek and looked out. She could see mirelurks walking around the tunnel. Some were just chittering at each other. She could see light from the end of the tunnel to her right. It was grey and muted, but it was still light.

Break couldn’t see an easy way past them. There was no way she could do it without being seen. She quietly closed the door and slumped down. She was stuck and there was no way out. She just sat there for a few minutes. She knew it was wasting time, but she needed it. She needed time to think of something.

She opened the door again a crack and looked through. She visually confirmed the only way to get past them was to become invisible. She sighed and wondered if maybe she should just make a break for it. She could also just wait them out, but that did come with the risk of being discovered. She jumped at the sound of gunfire and distant cursing. The mirelurks turned and looked towards the direction of the gunshots.

Several of them left to investigate leaving only about six to stand guard. She thanked Celestia that the thug was creating such a useful distraction for her. It didn’t seem like the best odds, but Break decided now was about the best time to try. She was about to open the door and make a break for it when she spotted something flying quickly in their direction it was covered in a blue green aura. It took a second for her to figure out what it was. Her eyes widened and she quickly closed the door and moved away from it. It was a grenade.

It went off and caused a huge bang. The door behind her shook from the shockwave and she fell to the floor head first. She could hear a splatting sound then gunfire. Another explosion rocked the door. After a few more scattered gunshot everything suddenly went quiet. She moved up to the door that was tough enough to survive the explosions and cracked it open. The sight made her ill. Mirelurk blood and other unmentionables were splattered all over the walls. It was green, but that didn't make it any less unpleasant. If one looked hard enough, they might see some kind of twisted modern art painting with how random and haphazard it was splattered along the walls. Several mirelurk bodies could be seen slumped on the floor unmoving. Break heard splashing behind her and turned to see a figure coming towards her. It was staggering and looked about to collapse. Thug A had a large gash on his right stomach and he was grasping it with a hoof. It was dripping a lot of blood. He also had a lighter wound oozing blood on his head.

He stumbled along the corridor and used the wall to support himself. He seem to lose all strength in his legs and grunted in pain when he fell and hit the floor. He was breathing hard. He had his gun levitating towards the way he came trying to guard the corridor the best he could.

“Damn, how long do I have until more come from the lake?” The thug panted. He suddenly toppled over and his gun fell to ground out his levitational grip. He groaned and gasped. He looked completely out of it and didn’t seem to have much strength left at all. He was bleeding badly and it looked like he struggled pretty hard to even get this far. Blood stained the wall and it pooled the ground around him.

She saw her chance and opened the door abruptly. The thug’s eyes widened and tried to levitate his gun in response, but it just fell as soon as his magic grabbed it. He had so little strength left. Break didn’t see any other enemies on her E.F.S. or anything in front of her. She had a clean getaway until she hit the lake and outside. She was about to leave, but froze and looked back at the injured pony. She looked back and forth from the exit to the dying pony.

She rushed up to him and opened her tool bag and got out a healing potion. She open it and gently poured it down his throat holding his head still with her other hoof, the thug’s eyes widened in shock. Break sat down the second healing potion and some antiseptic on floor in hooves’ reach and gave the thug another look before rushing outside.

She knew it was a dumb thing to do, but it felt wrong just leaving him there. She didn’t want to be the cause of his death too. Enough ponies have died today she reasoned, and he didn’t seem like a bad pony. He went to rather crazy extremes to avenge his friends. It takes real love to do that, so he couldn’t be all bad. However, she planned to get out of here as soon as possible, and hopefully she would be long gone if he did get ideas of taking shots at her after recovering. She prayed to Celestia that he would somehow survive and get back home.

She exited the tunnel and finally found freedom from the sewers. Sure it the sky was full of grey dreary clouds that eternally blocked any chance of getting proper sunlight when the pegasi closed the sky, but right now it was a truly beautiful sight. She just looked at it in awe for a few moments, but shook her head and reminded herself where she was. She could see the lake in front of her. She could see water that went on for about a mile or two. There was a wall around the piece of land that surrounding the end of the lake and the tunnel she left.

She didn’t fancy taking a swim in radioactive water, so she tried to climb the metal tube that exited the sewer and got to the patch of land behind her. She almost slipped and fell when climbing the tube, but she managed to get over it and get on top of the tunnel. She could see nothing but desolate empty land in front of her. Nothing but rocks, barren earth, and dead trees as far as the eyes could see. It was a bleak and bit despairing. She knew that dangers were everywhere now. She checked her PipBuck for anything on her map. It has nothing but Primrose and the sewer exit.

Break sighed. She paused to think. She remember that settlement Forks was somewhere to the east. So she used her PipBuck compass and traveled in that direction. Hopefully she could come across a caravan that would lead her the right way. She wondered if it would be safe to live in Forks if she kept her head down and changed her name, or maybe she should go to the next town after Forks. Changing her name sounded like a good idea, and she was planning on spending her travelling time thinking up a new one.

- - - - -

“Hey Robin! You won’t believe who’s back!” A pony from a distance yelled. Robin looked up from his cards. He was playing solitaire on a coffee table in a room that used to be a teacher’s lounge. It had been converted into a little room that the Cosas members liked to use in their down time. It had a green torn couch and several tables. Many were occupied by other Cosas members chatting, playing cards or some other game, or just relaxing. The smell of cigarette smoke was thick in the air. Everypony in the room turned towards the intruder.

“Well?” Robin asked.

“It’s Brisk Bolt!” The pony explained. “He survived!”

Robin looked surprised. “Really?”

“He’s down the in the infirmary right now.”

“What happened?” Robin asked genuinely curious. He was sure the pony had died.

“Dunno sir.” The pony said shrugging. “You will need to ask him yourself.”

Robin paused to think. “I think I will.” He got up from couch and left the room. The other ponies in the room followed him.

The infirmary used to be a nurse’s office, but it was expanded into a mini clinic when the school was converted into the Cosas’s main headquarters. Robin could see a few ponies being treated. Doctor Sieve was currently examining a back leg of a mare. The doctor was an Earth pony. He had a strong raspberry coat and dirty green mane and was currently wearing a lab coat that was a bit tattered. The fact that he couldn’t use magic didn’t make him less of a doctor as some newbies seemed to think. Robin thought the doctor’s skills could run with the best of them. The nurse was talking to another patient and only gave them a cursory glance before continuing her chat.

Brisk Bolt was sitting on a bed. His stomach was covered in bandages and also had some wrapped around his head. He looked worn and exhausted like he hadn't slept in days. It looked like he was talking to the boss. It looked like both had been crying. They noticed Robin and the entourage of ponies accompanying him almost immediately. “Robin!” The boss greeted. “I wasn’t expecting to see you hear.”

Robin shrugged. “I was just interested in hearing how Mr.Bolt here escaped those treacherous sewers.”

Brisk laughed. “Barely, those damn mirelurks gave me some trouble.”

“So, what happened?” Robin urged.

“After I jumped in the sewers, I found the filly, but she escaped.” Brisk explained. “She somehow evaded me for hours. The whorse was fast. I tried to fight off those damn crabs, but they gave me no end of trouble and there were so many of them. I had to end up hiding most of the time.”

Brisk continued. “I had almost given up hope when I lucked into finding her.” He paused for a second and looked away. “Then I… took her out. Sorry boss, I couldn’t bring her back alive. I know you really wanted to get back at her for Dagger.”

The boss slapped him on the back. “It’s alright boy. I’m just glad you’re safe.”

“You took her out?” Robin asked. Something about the statement seemed off.

Brisk nodded. “Right in the chest. Then I somehow found my way back to the entrance and luckily Silver Tone was there to help me out.”

Robin was almost sure that Brisk was lying. He didn’t deliver that line with as much gusto as the rest of his story. He thought the pony would be bragging about taking out such a hated enemy. The boss and the other ponies didn’t seem to notice the lie. “Well, whatever. She’s gone and out of our hooves.” Robin thought.

“Mr. Bolt was certainly a lucky one.” Doctor Sieve chimed in. “His injuries were severe, even with the healing potions he took.”

“Yeah. You’re right Doc.” Brisk said in a strange and distant tone. “Luckily I found that medical box!” He laughed.

The doctor faced the group and took on a firm tone. “I’m glad Mr. Bolt has so many friends that care about him, but I would appreciate it if you didn’t crowd my hospital. You can visit him when he’s released.”

The group behind Robin looked sheepish and embarrassed and quietly left. “I better go too.” Robin started to leave with the others. He waved to the boss and left them. He could see the boss and Brisk chatting again

Robin started his way back to the break area. He wondered why that idiot actually lied about killing the filly after everything he went through to try and kill her. Did something happen? He shrugged and supposed it didn’t really matter. It wasn’t like he really cared all that much either way.

- - - - -

Break sat down behind a rock and took out a water bottle. She drank down a little of it before putting it back. Luckily she was able to find a stream with clean, but irradiated water. So she had enough water for now and was able to get her fill. Hopefully she would be able to buy Rad-away at Forks and get rid of her minor radiation poisoning. The thought of being even a little eradicated made her very uncomfortable.

Break just sat their content to just get off her hooves. The last few miles hadn’t been too bad. There was this one part where she was almost killed by a radscorpion that jumped at her from behind a rock, but it couldn’t outrun a pony. Break got out some canned apples and started munching on them. She hadn’t eaten in hours and was starving. She sat there for about ten minutes not really thinking about anything. She just wanted to enjoy this little bit of rest. She screamed when a bullet hit a spot next to her leg.

“Move, and you are dead.” A male voice threatened. Break did as she was told. A scarlet pegasi with a dark goldish mane landed in front of her. She cursed herself for not paying attention to the sky. The pegasi had a battle saddle with a minigun and had it pointed directly at her.

“W-what do you want?” Break shuddered. She wondered if this guy was a raider. On closer inspection, he didn’t look like one. She noticed his battle saddle and barding were painted orange and blue. The colors seemed familiar somehow.

“Dear Celestia!” She thought. She knew where those colors came from. They belonged to the infamous Yellow Star Slavers.

“No questions.” The slaver barked. “Get moving now!” Break nodded and followed the slavers directions dreading every new step.

Chapter 5

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Starburst downed another glass of whiskey. He was having trouble standing up straight right now, but he didn’t care. He shakily tried to pour himself another glass with his magic out of a bottle, but his magic failed and it fell to the ground. It rolled and hit an empty bottle of rum. Whiskey flowed out the bottle onto the wooden floor. Starburst collapsed onto the table in front of him.

It was his fault. All his fault. He had a gun. He could have rescued her from those thugs. But he was too much of a coward and now she’s dead. He was the worst pony in the world. He really liked that mare. He went to that café as often as he could just to see her. Her smile always brightened his day. Now she’s dead. Starburst was filled with self loathing. He just wanted to crawl up in a corner and die.

“What the hay is going on here?” A voice cried out. Starburst struggled to look at the pony that said that, but eventually was able to see who it was. It was his mother Spring Rain. She was an almost middle aged light blue unicorn with a yellow mane that was in a long ponytail that hanging on her left side. Her cutie mark was a trio of water droplets. She had a disapproving look on her face.

“Go away.” Starburst yelled. Normally he would never take this tone with his mother, but now she was the last pony he wanted to see.

“Look at you.” His mother tsked. “And all over some dead filly.”

Starburst glared at his mother. She just shrugged.

“It isn’t like you knew her.” She argued. “So what if she died?”

It was just like her to say something like that. She would never understand. Other ponies seemed to be alien creatures to her.

“Fine, be that way.” She picked up a bottle of whiskey with her magic and took a swig. “You’ve always been like this. Some little thing upsets you and you fall completely apart.”

She became thoughtful. “I remember this one time you lost your favorite teddy bear and refused to go school for almost three days.”

“Honestly, you’re a grown stallion now.” His mother shook her head. “Grow up already.”

She swirled the bottle with her magic. Starburst scowled. “Don’t make that face.” She chided. “I’m just doing what’s best for you. And moping does nopony any good.” When she saw this didn’t have the effect she wanted, she sighed.

“Very well. I’ll let you have your little pity party. It might do you some good to get it out of your system.” She waved a hoof. “I’ll be a little late tonight. There’s an errand I need to run, so just cook dinner for yourself. If you can manage it.”

She walked up behind him and playfully bit his ear. “I’ll be seeing you later.” She winked and trotted out of the room taking the bottle of whiskey with her. Relieved that she finally left, Starburst opened up another bottle of rum with his teeth not trusting his magic and took a swig. By Celestia he really needed it right now.

___

Break trotted down the path she was ordered to follow from the pony that was currently holding her at gunpoint. The pegasus was keeping a very close eye on her giving her no opportunity to escape. Break solemnly did as she was told.

Eventually after ten minutes, Break was guided to a ruined road. It was broken into an innumerable amount of pieces. Broken cars and sky chariots were littered along it. She could see a collapsed bridge in the distance. She was guided towards a cart containing several small metal cages that could hold a pony or two. The bars looked thick and strong with a sturdy looking lock at the door. Currently only one was occupied. The cart was being pulled by a single pony. She was a light orange earth pony with a dark green mane. She was also wearing a battle saddle with same colors. She waved to them was they got near.

“What do we have here?” The mare asked eying Break up and down.

“I found her when I was scouting.” The pegasus proclaimed proudly.

“She doesn’t look like much. You wasted your time.” The mare said simply. “Just shoot her and let’s get going.” Break tensed when she heard this.

“Oh come on! That would be a waste.” The pegasus argued. “She’s in perfect health and looks strong enough.”

The mare rolled her eyes. “And she’s probably a raider. Look at her cutie mark.” She pointed towards Break’s cutie mark with a hoof. “A club. Only raiders get a cutie mark like that.”

“True.” The pegasus agreed reluctantly.

Break was stunned. “It’s not a club! It’s a bowling pin!” Break blurted out.

The mare rolled her eyes. “It’s basically the same thing.”

“No it’s not!” Break argued back. She couldn’t believe this. Didn’t this mare know what bowling was?

“Didn’t I tell you to shut up?” The pegasus barked. Break wilted and suddenly lost her will to speak.

“Whatever. Take her. I don’t care.” The mare conceded. The pegasus beamed in triumph.

“Take everything off.” The mare ordered and Break did as she was told. She carefully removed her apron and tool harness. She realized that she couldn’t take off her PipBuck without special tools, or at least that was what the manual said. She pointed at it nervously and did a halfhearted shrugged.

“Fine, we’ll remove it later.” The mare relented obviously eager to get moving. “Is this all she had?” She looked through the apron and harness carefully.

“Yep.” The pegasus confirmed. “No weapons.”

The mare snorted. “Really? She’s lucky we found her alive then.” Break made a sour face at this remark.

The pegasus got out a set of keys and opened one of the cages. “Get in.” He ordered. Break obeyed and got in. At the bottom of the cage was hay that looked very moldy and reeked something awful. Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as the sewers. Break reluctantly got on it. The door was locked behind her.

“Hello!” A voice next to Break greeted. Through bars she could see a yellow earth pony stallion with a green mane. “I’m Bentgrass! What’s your name Ms. Raider?”

Break was put off by the chirpiness of the voice. “I am not a raider!” Break clarified. “I’m Rolling Pins.” Break made sure to keep her voice low as to not aggravate her captures though it still had an edge to it. She also made sure to use her new name.

“Really? Not a raider? Funny that. Nice to meet you Rolling Pins!” Bentgrass didn’t keep his voice down and kept the same enthusiastic and rather loud tone. “I would shake your hoof, but…” He gestured to the bars.

“I thought I told you to shut your trap!” The mare yelled.

“Yes, yes. So you did.” Bentgrass rolled his eyes. “Some ponies right?”

Break gapped. Didn’t this pony realize that these slavers had guns and weren’t afraid to use them? These two would gun both of them down with a second thought. Life meant nothing to them.

The cart started moving and they were going towards Celestia knows where. It rode alongside the pretty much useless road. It was a bit of a bumpy ride, but Break just sat in her cage depressed. She could just imagine what her new life will be like. She would probably be forced to work in a mine somewhere. They would whip her, feed her barely edible food, and make her work 16 hours a day. She would live like this until she died of exhaustion.

Break was taken out of her pity party by Bentgrass whistling. It was happy little tune and it looked like he was having fun doing it. She couldn’t believe this pony. How could he be so positive when he’s going to be made a slave?

“Didn’t you hear what I said?!” The slaver mare yelled.

“You said no talking. I was whistling.” Bentgrass argued. “Not the same thing at all.”

The mare stopped and stared at the stallion. Break did the same. He just grinned back. The mare started rubbing her head with a hoof. “Do you want a bullet in the head? You’re about to get one if you don’t start behaving!”

“Oh right fine. Sheesh. I was just trying to fill in the boring silence.” Bentgrass relented.

Break wondered if there was something wrong with this pony. He took being threatened with his life like he was being scolded by his mother. It baffled her how one pony could be so oblivious. Now he looked like a foal that had just been asked to sit in a corner and think about what he has done. He was antsy and had trouble keeping still.

Break decided she needed something to keep her mind off of her situation and the dreadfully annoying stallion next to her. Her PipBuck could pick up radio signals. She wondered if her captors would allow her to listen to it. It had an earbloom so she could listen to music quietly without bugging anypony.

Break waved her hooves to catch the pesasus’s attention that was flying to her right. He finally got his attention and he flew over. “What?” He asked impatiently.

Break didn’t say anything and just pointed to her PipBuck. In a moment he got her meaning. “Oh, fine. Just don’t bother anypony.” She nodded her thanks and pulled her earbloom out of her PipBuck and put it on. Her Pipbuck found the station she was looking for, EUPK.

The station was playing one of Sweetie Belle’s songs. Break closed her eyes and listened. The song was almost halfway over, but Break didn’t care. She loved Sweetie Belle’s music. Break could already feel her stress and anxiety cooling down.

Eventually the song ended and was replaced by the DJ known only as the Princess of the Wastelands. She had a thick Whinnyapolis accent. “That there was old Sweetie Belle singing her famous song ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and golly gee doesn’t it just hit your heartstrings every time you hear it?”

Break agreed with the DJ. The heart wrenching ballad got her every time and since the station only had 14 songs; she got to hear it often.

“Yah. Yah, now it’s time for the news.” The DJ said. “There have been reports of raider alliances out north. It seems that the sick so–and–sos are teaming up to fight the Cosas. Mostly out of survival. It looks like the Cosas ruthless hunting has make them desperate enough to do this. Currently their exact numbers are unknown. If anypony has any information please report it to my office in Whinnyapolis. As usual there’s a rather handsome reward for it don’t ya know.”

“Wonderful, that’s the last thing everypony needs.” Break thought her mood turning sour. Normally the raider gangs hated each other, but now they’re banded together to avoid extinction.

“Towns are advised to strengthen their defenses and keep an eye out for trouble. “ The DJ said. Break started to worry for Primrose’s safety. She wasn’t sure if the town could survive a large assault. She prayed to Celestia for their safety, particularly for her cousin. Her heart ached with homesickness.

“In sadder news, a waitress in Primrose was reported killed for accidentally causing the death of son of Cosa Nostra, the leader of the Cosas.” The DJ reported. “Apparently, she accidently bumped into one of his friends causing his gun to go off. She escaped and golly gee she gave them quite the runabout. But, they finally caught the poor dear and killed her.”

The DJ because mournful. “Doesn’t it break your heart to see an innocent pony killed because of the so called necessary evil that’s needed in this day and age.” The DJ’s voice became harsh. “Gosh darnnit, I hope you’re happy Cosa Nostra. You may have avenged your son’s death, but he’s still dead. All you did was add another body to the pile solving nothing.” The DJ gave the impression of shaking her head. “The world we live in. It isn’t such a shame?”

The DJ took a moment and composed herself before continuing. “And that was the news. Next will be Sweetie Belle again singing “I Promise You”. This here was Princess of the Wasteland signing off. Stay safe and stay smart.”

Break was surprised to hear that the thug actually declared her dead. Did he do it because he felt he owed her a debt after saving his life? Like some kind of Thug Code or something? At least she didn’t have to worry about more Cosas coming after her, though she doubted they would actually search the wastelands to get her. It was probably for the best everypony thought she was dead. Green Mile would be sad, but at least she won’t worry about her and was now safe from the Cosas’ wrath. Though she did worry about Green Mile managing Stars & Strikes on her own.

Break continued to listen to music for about an hour until she felt the cart come to a stop. Break looked around and discovered they were at their destination. She looked up to see a giant wall. She looked left and right and found even more wall. It went very high up. The wall was grey and chipped, but sturdy. She looked behind her and saw a wire fence with barbed wire on top of it. There were two ponies guarding a chain metal door.

Break guessed that this might be an old prison. This was confirmed when she noticed an old faded sign that said ‘Foulsom Prison’ on it. It wasn’t surprising. What better place to lock up and store slaves, but a prison? And it looked well protected too. The walls were strong looking and well intact. Barb wire was used to create a barrier around the compound and it went at least 5 hooves high. Break could see a guard tower to her right in the distance. It was situated at one of the corners. It was broken at the top so it was replaced with a tarp to act as a new ceiling. She could barely make out a pony on it. No doubt it was a sniper. She was pulled to the front of a large metal door. It was opened by a pony and they were pulled inside. She noticed that the slavers that captured her looked apprehensive for some reason confusing Break.

The courtyard was spacious with cement cracked from age. In the middle of it was a large brick building. It looked like a giant brick. The years were not kind to it. It was worn down and many of bricks looked decrepit. Break guessed more care was taken to the prison's outside appearance to make it look more formidable and tough. Break and Bentgrass were let out of their cages and were led inside. She had trouble fighting back the dread she felt.

After going through some drab and uneventful corridors, she was eventually led to an office. It was a simple office. Not much furnishings. Behind a desk was a pony with a cigar in his mouth. Break’s hooves were bound with chains. Bentgrass followed behind her and annoyingly still had a chipper smile on his face.

“So these are the new slaves?” A voice called out. It belonged to a burly earth pony with a grey coat and a darker grey mane with a yellow streak in it. He had a thick hoofbar mustache. Break guessed he was the infamous Yellow Star since he radiated confidence and authority. “What happened to the others? I thought you were coming with eight ponies.”

The ponies that caught her looked apprehensive. “Well, about that. You see, well…” The pegasus said trying to avoid whatever he was going to say. Yellow Star gave him a look. “They escaped.” He admitted.

“It was the Cosas!” He suddenly blurted. “They ambushed us, killed three of our ponies, and took the slaves! We barely escaped with our lives!”

Yellow Star snorted. “Is this true?” He pointed his question at Break’s other captor. She looked just as uneasy as her friend.

“Yes, sir.” She replied. “They hit us in the night. We were able to get away. They got the cages with all the other slaves.” She pointed at Bentgrass and he waved back for some reason. “He’s the only one we were able to save.”

Yellow Star nodded. “And her?”

“We found her wandering the wastelands.” The mare replied curtly.

The stallion sighed. “Very well. Bring the new slaves to the doctor.” The other two slavers visibly relaxed. “But don’t think you are off the hook. You lost us a lot of caps. We will discuss this later.”

The two slavers gulped and nodded and guided Break and Bentgrass to another office. It appeared to be a doctor’s office. Inside was a dark brown unicorn with a cream colored mane. I gestured the ponies to come in.

“So there are the new slaves.” He said taking out a clipboard. “I thought there were suppose to be eight new slaves.”

The pegasus looked annoyed and scowled. “Don’t worry about that and look at your new patients.” It looked like the doctor got the hint and he pulled out a stethoscope.

“Alright let me have a look at them.” Break and Bentgrass spent the next hour being thoroughly examined by the doctor. In ways Break would rather not talk about to anypony. He concluded that they were in perfect health. They were forced to shower and then were then given a ragged dull grey shirt to wear and were soon led into the main prison area.

Break could see ponies of all types in the cells around her as she was being led to her new home. They look weathered, depressed, and poorly fed. Unicorns had some kind of ring over their horn. She guessed it probably suppressed their magic. She could see foals amongst the slaves. She gritted her teeth. These sickos actually sold foals too. Foals. How could anypony be that evil?

She had stopped in front on a cell and the guard opened it with a key. The door looked a little rusty, but it opened with no trouble. She entered the cell after a push from the guard. The cell didn’t have much. A rather disgusting looking toilet, a bunk bed, and a window with bars over it were the only things in the cell. She could also see a pony lying on the top bunk. It was a unicorn mare with a royal purple coat and pure white mane. Her cutie mark was that of a shooting star. Her mane was disheveled and unkempt. She had a ring over her horn like the other unicorns.

Break gave a reluctant wave. “Hey.”

“Hey.” The mare replied back dully.

“I’m, um, Rolling Pins.” Break lied.

“Comet.” The mare said in the same monotone voice.

Break walked up to the bed. “It’s nice to meet you.” She held out a hoof. Comet didn’t take it.

“You must be a new slave.” Comet said instead. “The new ones are always this perky.”

Break nodded, though she found it weird she was considered perky. “Yeah, they caught me this morning.” She said crestfallen.

Comet jumped from the bed onto the floor. “Alright, some rules.” She stomped a hoof. “One, don’t annoy the guards. Two, do as you are told. Three, don’t resist no matter what. And four, don’t try to escape. Do that, and life shouldn’t be too bad. Given you aren’t sold a sadist son of a gun master.”

Break winced. She could just imagine being whipped while being forced to push a rock up a hill or something.

“Not all of them are that bad.” Comet explained. “Slaves are expensive. No point in killing your property needlessly. But there are some of them enjoy hurting.”

Break looked closely that her cellmate. She could see faint scars all over the mare. Worse, she had brand marks on her right front leg. Break could see at least ten. “Multiple masters.” She thought. She was not looking forward to being branded. Break shuttered involuntary.

“May I ask how you got here?” Break ventured not sure how far she should probe.

Comet just shrugged. “No big deal. My previous master was killed by some mercenaries over some dispute or whatever. I was captured, and was sold to the Yellow Stars.”

“So, what did you do?” Break asked hesitantly.

“Gunsmith.” Comet replied. Break sighed in relief. She thought it would be worse. “I have done pretty much everything really.”

“How about you?” Comet asked. “What did you do before all this?”

“She was a raider.” A voice replied in the next cell. It was that Bentgrass pony.

Break turned to him angrily. “I was not a raider!” Break almost yelled this.

“You keep saying that, but with a cutie mark like that, it’s a little hard to believe.” Bentgrass said.

Break just grunted loudly in annoyance. “Ok, what then?” Bentgrass asked.

“I worked at a bowling alley!” Break said. “I also worked as a waitress.” Break mentally smacked herself for giving this out so easily. She was supposed to be distancing herself from the past.

“Not many skills then.” Comet commented. “Not good.”

“I do have some repair skills.” Break said trying to sell herself a bit higher. “I did maintenance and repair on the various machinery in the bowling alley. You won’t believe how easily they could break down.”

“That’s something.” Comet said. “Remember to try to impress your prospective owners and make yourself seem useful.”

Break nodded. It was defiantly something to keep in mind. She turned her attention to Bentgrass. She glowered at him. “How about you?”

“Mostly bodyguard and caravan protection work.” He replied.

“Bodyguard?” Break asked confused. “How did you end up here then?”

He looked embarrassed and rubbed the back of his head. “I was protecting a caravan, but I, um, overslept, and they left me. The next thing, I knew I was in that cage.”

Break looked at him incredulously. This was one of the lamest ponies she had ever met.

“But I plan to make up for it!” He said quickly. “I plan to get us out here and bring down this sick operation!” He declared boldly. Break looked at him like he was mad. Comet just gave him a blank expression. Shrugged, turned around, and climbed onto the top bunk.

“Yeah, good luck with that.” She thought. She followed Comet’s example and jumped on the bottom bunk.

“It’s true!” Bentgrass defended. Break ignored him.

“So what happens now?” Break asked.

“Tomorrow some rich ponies are coming around to purchase some new slaves apparently.” Comet replied. “Try to look presentable and attractive. Trust me, you don’t want to end up an unsold slave for too long.”

Break nodded and fell on the mattress. It was a filthy. Break tried not to imagine what might be living in it. Break turned on her radio and put in her earbloom. A soft sad song was playing. Break was grateful, it fit her mood perfectly. She just lied there wondering glumly what the next day would bring.

---

Green Mile grunted as she locked Stars and Strikes bowling alley behind her. The lock was being difficult again, but it eventually gave way and locked. She turned and headed for her apartment on the other side of town. She was exhausted after working here and her teacher job today.

She knew it was a bit dangerous to walk the streets at night these days. There have been some mysterious unsolved murders lately. Pony just died for no discernible reason. Their hearts just stopped, or they died in pain or fear. One pony was found immolated and another was frozen to death. One poor pony was cut to pieces. Despite all this, there was no trace of a struggle or assailant. Ponies suspected some mutated creature was doing this somehow. Green Mile hoped she was going to be attacked. She would enjoy hurting whatever attacked her.

Honestly, Green Mile had no idea why she even opened the alley today. She said to herself that it to honor Breaky’s memory. Some ponies did come by to give their condolences, but it wasn’t a particularly busy day. In the end, the alley felt hollow and empty without her cousin. In truth, Green Mile didn’t even like bowling all that much, but she loved her cousin and helped around the alley to support her. The alley belonged to Breaky’s parents and she loved the place. She worked hard to keep it running, and didn’t even care all that much if not that many ponies came to play. Breaky seemed intent on preserving the spirit of bowling.

“Maybe I should sell the place.” Green Mile thought. “It would be for the best. I can’t support it by myself and well what’s the point without Breaky?”

Green Mile turned another street and went into an alley. She stopped and kicked a nearby trash can as hard as she could. She tried to put up a strong face, and pretend that nothing was wrong. Things were not fine. Her best friend and her only last and living relative was dead. She tried to bury herself in work to avoid the pain, but it didn’t work. She kicked the can again, this time practically bending it in two. She gave out a guttural cry of anguish. She attacked the other bins around her spreading trash everywhere, but she didn’t care. She enjoyed destroying them. She was so angry she couldn’t control herself. She tossed a can against a wall as hard as she could. It chipped the brick and bent the can into uselessness.

Green Mile huffed and continued home. She saw two Cosas laughing and joking with each other in the distance. She was instantly filled with hatred. These ponies couldn’t care less that Breaky was dead. Oh she hated them. Her thoughts filled with ones of revenge. She wanted to hurt them. Kill every last one of them. She decided she would get revenge on every single last one of them somehow even if it killed her. Not like she had much to live for anymore. The whole wretched world seemed empty without Breaky in it.

Her thoughts turned to how she should do it. “Maybe I could get explosives and blow their headquarters to bits.” She thought. She liked that idea. Killing their boss alone would be a boon and would ruin the entire group. She would have to be careful, but she thought she might be able to pull it off. She would kill them all one day.

“My my my, what a face.” A voice from the distance said. Green Mile started and looked around. She spotted a pony leaning against a wall in an alley. Her eyes widened when she recognized the pony. It was Spring Rain.

“You hate them don’t you?” Spring Rain said. “I saw it in your eyes this morning. You want revenge. You want to hurt them like they hurt you.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” Green Mile said simply and turned to leave.

“I can help you.” Spring Rain said and Green Mile stopped in her tracks. Spring Rain suddenly appeared out of nowhere and stuck her face right into Green Mile’s and smirked. Green Mile instinctively recoiled and baked away confused how the mare was able to move so quickly. “I can give you power. Power to get revenge on the whole world. So how about it?”

Chapter 6

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Break stared into the bowl of what suppose to be her breakfast. In typical slave food fashion, it was barely edible green goop that somehow had just enough nutritional value to allow a pony to survive. Maybe. Break took a tentative sip of it and recoiled. Sure enough, it tasted as bad as it looked. It was impossible to tell exactly what is was suppose to be.

“How the hay do you eat this stuff?” Break asked Comet. She just shrugged.

Break and Comet were sitting in the prison’s cafeteria. It was a wide open room with plenty of windows for sunshine, if the sky wasn’t covered in black impenetrable clouds. All it did was create a gloomy mood. The Yellow Star slavers allowed its slaves a little ability to walk around and get out of their cells. Meals were one of them. Of course they were guarded heavily. Break could see guards with sleek black stun rods used to suppress more rowdy slaves. They looked like swords and had an impressive length. They also look painful as all heck. She also noticed that many didn’t have a gun and the ones that did were far out of reach of the slaves.

“I don’t think it’s so bad.” Bentgrass said. He was sitting across from them. He swallowed down his goop with little difficulty. “It isn’t bad as stuff you sometimes have to eat in the wasteland.”

Break took another sip, winced, and set her bowl down. She wasn’t very hungry anyway. She barely seemed to have any energy at all today. She sighed. She had no clue how she could ever get used to all of this. She really was starting to miss home. She would give anything to be back in Primrose back when her life was normal. Break could feel herself at the brink of tears. She tried to force them back, but failed.

Comet put a hoof on Break’s shoulder and pulled her into a hug. Break welcomed the hug and stayed there for a few minutes. “Thanks.” She said quietly.

Comet gave a small smile. Despite her monotone voice and seemingly emotionless, she was a great friend and just the pony Break needed.

“I’ve been there.” Comet said. “Never hurts to give a helping hoof.”

“So, are you going to finish that?” Bentgrass asked obvious to the moment.

Break groaned and sighed. “No, you can have it.” Bentgrass took the goop eagerly and practically poured it down his throat in one gulp.

“Need my strength when I save this place.” He explained in a whisper.

“About that.” Break said cautiously. “That’s a very bad idea. You will just get yourself killed.” Comet nodded in agreement.

“Ha.” Bentgrass laughed. “It might seem that way, but these slavers have no idea who they are messing with!”

Break stared at him. She concluded that he was, in fact, completely out of his Celestia forsaken mind. She sighed and shook her head. There was no reasoning with some ponies. Nothing she said would sway him from this decision. She just hoped the slavers would capture him quickly before he hurt himself if he did try something.

After the meal all the slaves were put in a line for inspection in front of their table. Manes and tails were combed, faces were washed, and they were made to look presentable. No doubt their captures wanted them looking their best for sale.

Break tried her best to hide her nervousness as a well groomed pony and a bunch of well armed ponies walked into the room. He was an earth pony with a red mane and lime coat. His hair was a Jheri curl but he was balding in the top. He was also wearing a white suit. He examined each of the fifty or so ponies present.

After about ten minutes he came up to Break. He looked over her carefully and circled around her a few times. Break tried her best not to fidget. The pony nodded. “This one.” He said simply. The pony showing him the slaves nodded.

Break despaired. She had just been bought and sold like she was a ware in a store. It was a horrible and demeaning feeling. She felt like she wanted to cry again. She was officially property now and there was nothing she could do about it. She hung her head.

When the final slave was picked, the newly bought group was ordered to follow the pony in the suit. The slaves followed two by two. Everypony were forced to wear chains on their front hooves and were connected to the pony next to them by a collar on their neck by a chain. There were about twenty ponies Break guessed. She looked at the other slaves. Comet wasn’t among them. Neither was Bentgrass. No foals either and Break thanked Celestia for that. Something about the other slaves struck her as strange. They didn’t seem like an impressive group of ponies. Most looked haggard, old, or small. Break also found it strange that she wasn’t asked about her skills or what her special talent meant. Break cursed in Celestia’s name. The purchaser deliberately picked the weakest of the bunch. That could not be a good thing. She had a very bad feeling about this.

As she was walking down a hallway, Break saw the two slavers that brought her here watch her as the group passed. The pegasus pointed at Break and spoke to his friend grinning. The mare grumbled and pulled out a bag of what appeared to caps. Break ignored them and continued forward.

The suited pony that was leading them stopped at the front door that Break entered when she first got here. The rest of the slaves followed his example and stopped. In front of them was a guard. He looked the group up and down.

“Is this all of them?” The guard said. The suited pony nodded. “Damn, what could that old geezer want with this bunch?”

The suited pony shrugged. “Beats me. I’m just following orders.” He got close to the guard and said in a low voice. “Though between you and me, I think he’s finally lost it.”

The guard raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

The suited pony sighed. “Yeah, his orders are getting weirder and weirder these days. And now he’s got it in his head that he should listen to this somehow even older crone that supposedly can read the future.”

The guard winced. “Ouch.”

“But orders are orders.” The pony shrugged. “But if he’s paying me this many caps, can’t really complain too much.”

“Any idea what he is going to use them for?” The guard asked gesturing to the slaves.

“Not a clue.” The suited pony shook his head.

“But hey, you got these stragglers off our backs. The boss will be happy about that.” The guard smiled. “I’m sure he’ll give you a good deal.”

The suited pony was about to say something when he froze at the sound of gunfire. “What the hay was that?!”

More gunfire could be heard and a high pitched alarm went off that made Break’s head hurt. Another guardpony yelled. “One of the slaves escaped and somehow got his hooves on a battle saddle with a minigun! He’s wreaking havoc!”

The guard swore. “Horseapples! Keep guard of slaves. I will be right back.” He left behind them several guards followed behind him. Only five guards with rifles were left guarding them. The suited pony looked around nervously.

“Escaped slave?” Break thought feeling a pit in her stomach. “Oh ponyfeathers! It’s Bentgrass! He must of heard I was being sold and is trying to save me!” It seemed the type of insane, stupid thing he would do.

Break looked down. Her heart was filled with grief over that crazy foal that was risking his life to save her. She felt herself being nudged. She looked at the pony that nudged her. It was the pony she was connected to. He was a younger lavender earth pony with a white mane. He pointed his head at a guard that was close to Break. She paled. He was actually suggesting they use this opportunity to escape. Fear and doubt filled Break’s heart. If she did this, they would almost certainly kill her, but if she didn’t there was no way to save Bentgrass.

Break tried to suppress to the terror. She nodded slightly and he picked up on the signal. If she was going to die, it was going to be as a free pony. She hated this, but she didn’t want to abandon Bentgrass. True, she barely knew him, but he was doing this for her and she couldn’t bear the thought of him pointlessly dying to save her.

The pony next to her waved his hoof and they charged the guard. Break put the chain binding her hooves over his neck and pulled. The guard gagged and tried to pull the chain off. Her partner grabbed the gun his was holding which looked like a rifle and fired it at a nearby guard. He clubbed the pony Break was holding with the butt-end of the gun.

Chaos ensued. It all happened so fast that Break wasn’t really sure what happened. The other slaves also charged the guards using their numbers to get the better of them. Some slaves were shot down in this reckless act, but they were quickly replaced by other slaves and the guards were overwhelmed. The chain around their neck have them just enough reach to strike out at the guards. They were only using rifles, so they weren’t able to fire on the numerous escaping slaves quickly enough. The slaves used the guns that they took from the guards and fired at the approaching guards. A firefight ensued. The slaves fired back with deadly accuracy.

“This way!” One of the slaves yelled and the slaves that still had not fallen followed. They went into a door that was thankfully unlocked and ran through a corridor on the right. They ran down the hall and stopped in front of a door with a terminal. It was awkward with the chains, but Break made it there without too much difficulty. Break noted in sadness that only thirteen other ponies were able to escape.

“You, open this quickly!” Break’s partner said.

Break looked surprised at the sudden order, but nodded. She connected her PipBuck to the terminal and tried hacking the door.

“Luckily one of us has a PipBuck.” One slave said behind her.

“What does this door lead to?” Break asked while trying to guess the password.

“The armory.” Break’s partner said. Break nodded.

“Did anypony get the key?” A slave asked.

“Ha! Got it right here!” A cocky voice said. “I made sure to get it.”

“Well pony, get these damn things off already.” A slave ordered.

“Alright geez.” The same cocky slave said. He got to working getting the chains off. He quickly got Break’s chains off first making it easier to work. Break rubbed her neck gratefully and the chains on the other slaves were removed.

Break heard that they were being fired upon again. She lowered her head and tried her best to ignore it and kept working trying her best to control the rapid beating of her heart. A pony next to her fell and she groaned in pain. The slaves fired back.

Break cursed. The terminal wasn’t easy to hack, since it used an 8 letter password. She was starting to panic and scrambled to get the password right. She yelped when she felt a bullet go past her head. She redoubled her efforts and tried to stop herself shaking. Luck was on her side. After exiting out to avoid a lock out, she was able to guess the right password on the first try. The password was ‘grizzled’. The slaves rushed into the opened door. It was a little tight, but they were able to fit inside without much difficulty. One slaves dragged the hit slave in with them. The mare that was hit was unicorn mare with a pink coat and yellow mane and it looked like she was shot in the back leg. Thankfully, it didn’t look too bad. One slave, a green unicorn stallion with an orange mane was putting some pressure on the wound with a grimace on his face.

The room had an impressive collection of guns that were either hanging from wall mounts or laid out on the shelves. She could also see a collection of different types of grenades and a few battle saddles. Sadly, no medical kit was in sight frustrating Break immensely. They had no way to properly treat the hit mare. Break’s companions grabbed for the guns with seemingly practiced ease. The slave that Break noted for being a loudmouth grabbed a battle saddle. It had a large barrel protruding from it of what caliber of gun she could not be sure.

“Do you even know how to use that thing?” A unicorn mare with a yellow coat and green mane asked.

“How hard could it be?” The slave huffed back who was an orange earth pony with a red mane.

The other slave just sighed. Break found herself being hoofed a gun. It looked like a rifle. She took it like she was being given a serpent.

“Do you know how to use a gun?” The slave that gave her the gun asked. It was the same slave she had been partnered with.

“No.” Break said meekly.

“Really?” The slave said surprised. “You never hunted radroaches and mole rats as a filly?”

“No.” Break said flatly. She found it absurd she would ever do such a thing.

The other slave noted how uncomfortable Break was with the gun. After a moment he took the gun back. “On second thought.” He said. “I think we have enough gunners. The situation is too serious to let complete amateurs shoot.” Break gave the gun back gratefully and sighed in relief. She doubted she would be much help and might even be more a danger to her allies than enemies.

“The ammo is locked. “ A brown maned earth pony mare with a silver coat said. The slavers weren’t dumb enough to let anypony that broke in here free access to the power of the weaponry in here.

“I got it.” The slave with a green coat said. He pulled several lockpicks from a small hidden pocket in his tattered garb.

“How did you get those?”Break asked a bit stunned.

“You would be surprised what you can smuggle in if you are careful.” He started picking the locks of the ammo boxes.

“Quickly, we are running out of ammo!” A slave yelled. He fired out of the door. The other slaves armed with guns followed.

“I’m going as quickly as I can Luna dammit!” The slave cursed back.

“What are we going to do after we get the ammo?” Break knew there was no way they could fight every slaver in the building.

“Simple.” The slave Break was partnered with said. “Your PipBuck will deactivate the locking mechanism and free the other slaves. The slavers can’t overpower all of us.”

“And you know where it is?” Break asked nodding. It was a crazy, but reasonable plan.

“Yes. I have cleaned the floors of the prison many times.” The slave replied back. “I know the layout by heart. It’s not far. Only about 30 hooves from here in that direction.” He pointed a direction with his hoof.

Break nodded again, though her heart ached at how many ponies would die today. She steeled herself and resolved to see this through. They were counting on her and she would do this somehow. She just hated the ‘Or die trying’ part.

“Ha! Got it!” The slave working on the ammo box said. It was full of different types of ammo. It made Break’s head spin. She had no idea what went to where. Thankfully. the other slaves seemed to know what they were doing and load the weapons with ease. The lock picker went to another ammo box.

“How do you even know how to do all of this anyway?” Break asked curiously. Some of these slaves seemed a little too familiar with these weapons.

Break’s partner gave an embarrassed look. “Some of us have had a less than reputable past.” He admitted. Break got it. Some of these slaves used to be raiders she guessed. The pony she was partnered with seemed a little short, but rough around the edges in a way. Now was not the time to concern herself with something like that however.

“Ha! Got another one!” The lock picker yelled.

“Oh ponyfeathers!” A pony yelled. “Down!”

Break immediately dropped to the ground the second she heard that. She heard a whirring sound then bullets being fired. It was deafening. She laid on the ground in terror. She could feel bullets flying over her. They were shooting through the walls and pieces of it fell on her. Break felt a bullet hit a spot next to her and she spotted an empty spot under a shelf and rolled under it. She closed her eyes praying for everything to be ok that she wouldn’t be torn to pieces any second now.

After seemingly an eternity, eventually it stopped. Break look out hesitantly. Her eyes widened. There was so much blood. Ponies were ripped to shreds. She stared in horror, before forcing herself to look away.

“That’s it. We are dead. We are going to die. We are going to die!” Break thought. She could feel tears in her eyes. They were going to die and there was nothing anypony could do about it. They were dead. This fight was for nothing. Break quavered and got into a ball.

Break stopped when she felt a hoof on her leg. It was the pony they pushed her to start this and escape. He was covered in blood. Break’s eye widened at seeing a missing a leg. “Please.” He said weakly. He was dying. Break’s heart broke. There was nothing she could do to save him, but the look in his eyes pleaded to her. She realized he was saying not to give up.

The pony went limp and fell to ground. Break knew he was no more. She felt tears prickle corners of her eyes. Break gritted her teeth and resolve. She knew what she had to do. She would do this somehow. She had to, for him and everypony else.

She looked at the other ponies in the room. To her amazement, some were still alive and unhurt. One got up.

“Still alive?” He said. It was the green stallion that had the orange mane.

“Yeah, barely.” Another said. The earth pony’s yellow coat was spotted with blood. It looked like she was shaking.

“Me too.” Said an orange coated stallion with a red mane. Break noticed he had put on a battle saddle.

“Anypony else?” Break whispered. Her heart sank that no other pony was saying anything. The orange stallion cursed at the silence.

“If anypony is still alive give up!” A gruff voice yelled. “We promise not to kill you if you do.”

“Yeah right.” The stallion scoffed.

“What are we going to do?” The yellow coated mare asked. Break could see the hopeless expression in her features. Her whole body seemed to droop.

Break looked around and did her best to not linger on any bodies. Her eyes quickly moved around them. The room was torn to pieces. Many guns that were sitting on the shelves were shot to pieces or fell because the shelves collapsed under it. Break noticed some tear gas grenades on a bottom shelf along with some flash bang ones. Beside them were some gas masks. A light bulb appeared in her head and she grinned. She had an idea.

Chapter 7

View Online

Break spent the next few minutes explaining her idea. Her fellow slaves and comrades nodded in agreement. While discussing the plan, she was able to learn the names of her fellow survivors. The orange stallion with the attitude was Rusty Rivet, the grim faced green stallion that was at least 20 years older than her was Chisel, and the dainty yellow mare was Lemon Heart.

“You have one minute!” The voice yelled with impatience.

Break tied another grenade with a piece of cloth. She had fashioned as many grenades together with a piece of torn cloth from her old slave outfit. They were tied together two by two with a flash bang on one side and a tear gas grenade on the other. She threw 5 pairs of grenades around her neck after tying them all together. She hoped they would be enough. She left another pair untied and had them in her hooves. The four ponies each put a gas mask on.

She turned on her Eyes Forward Sparkle and looked at the door. Break cursed herself for not thinking of using it sooner. In the right hallway were seven red lights with two on the left and five to the right. The ponies in the right hallway were hiding behind a corner. They were surrounded.

Break made a motion and the others nodded. She took a deep breath, counted to three, and pulled both pins of the grenades with her teeth in rapid succession. She counted for a second and threw a tear gas grenade to the right and the flash bang hard to the left out of the door in a single throw while briefly poking outside. The one that went to the right bounced off the wall as she planned and right into their enemies. The one on the left hit right under their hooves. They both exploded before any of the slavers could react. One tried to cry out in warning, but the grenades went off before they could do anything.

Everypony in the hallway were blinded by the sudden bang of the flash bang or were choked on the gas. Break heard the minigun starting up but her allies burst from the door and shot the stunned slavers down. They were unable to fire back a single shot in time. Break pulled free another flash bang and bounced it against the wall at the ponies choking on smoke. It exploded and the howled in pain. It wasn’t hard to take them down after that being caught in such a defenseless position.

Break sighed in relief. She was patted on the shoulder by her comrades.

“Nice work. Though the second flash bang was a bit overkill.” Chisel said.

“I thought it was hilarious! ”Rivet howled. Lemon just grinned widely. Break smiled. She was amazed the plan actually worked. Break was surprised how little she cared about the slavers dying. She guessed it was hard to feel sorry for such horrible evil ponies.

Break threw the dead slavers’ weapons in the armory making sure to re-lock it with her PipBuck and gave it a new password just in case any slaver came here to arm themselves or get more ammo. From what Break could understand, there weren’t many guns around inside the facility since they wanted to avoid guns being around desperate slaves. They weren’t expecting an invasion inside the building, so the amount of armed forces that the slavers could send against them were limited. They had a shot.

The group moved forward. Break used her EFS to watch out for enemies. She saw about six red dots in the direction of the locking mechanism.

“Six.” Break said simply. Her companions nodded.

They moved quietly and kept an eye out for anything as they moved down the hallway. A group of four enemies tried to come up behind them from a doorway, but Break noticed them and bounced a flash bang into their faces when they kicked open the door.

“Nice throwing arm you have there.” Lemon complimented when they finished those slavers who were too stunned and disorientated to defend themselves.

“That was a crazy bounce!” Rivet said. “It bounced off the wall right into the door!”

“Yes, we were there.” Lemon replied back sighing.

Break rubbed the back of her head. She was about to say something about her special talent when she saw two lights coming towards them. “Two.” She hissed and pointed in their direction. It looked like they were coming down the hallway in front of them.

The group hid behind a nearby corner. The two slavers approached cautiously guns ready. They looked around and one pointed their gun in the direction they were hiding. He paused for a moment and suddenly ran back the way he came. “Screw this.” He said.

“Hey!” The other slaver yelled and chased after him.

Break sighed in relief and they continued further on. They finally got to their destination. Break saw a sign pointing to ‘Security’ and guessed that was their destination. On her EFS she saw 7 guards and they were right around the corner. They looked spread apart. She saw more lights coming from the right.

“There are six around the door spread out and reinforcements are probably coming soon.” Break whispered. Break gasped when she noticed two more red lights coming in from behind them. “Two more, behind us!” Chisel cursed. They were being boxed in.

“I’ll get the two behind us.” Rivet whispered before darting off.

“Wait!” The Lemon Heart tried to say, but he was gone before she could finish speaking. She rushed after him.

“Don’t act on your own!” Chisel hissed, but he was ignored. He sighed. He motioned to Break to follow and she complied.

They found the Chisel peeking around a corner. He motioned them to him.

“They should be behind this corner in a few moments. I can hear their hoofsteps.” He whispered. He winced in pain when Lemon Heart smacked him on the head. “Ow, what was that for?”

“What do you think you were doing?” She whispered harshly.

“Hey, I am just trying to prevent us from being cornered.” He replied back.

“Both of you stop!” Chisel barked. “This isn’t the time to argue.”

“Please guys. We need to stay together.” Break pleaded. This was the worst time for a schism in the group. The two ponies nodded and looked a little ashamed. Chisel motioned them for silence.

Break could hear that the hoofstep were almost on top of them. She pointed to a tear gas grenade and her companions nodded. She grabbed on, pulled the pin, and tossed it around the corner. She heard coughing and curses. They rushed in and smashed the slavers in the face with the end of their guns or punched or kicked them as hard as they could. Break kicked a pony where she thought their kidneys might be. She wasn’t sure if she hit the right spot, but the pony howled in pain regardless.

Break used her EFS and noticed that the reinforcement had arrived and were surrounding the security room. They must have guessed their objective. They were even moving to protect the area around the corners as well. She told the group her discover.

“What now?” Lemon Heart asked. Break was also at a loss about what to do.

“We could flood the corridors with tear gas?” Rivet suggested. “A two pronged attack. We flood both sides with tear gas and rush in.” He looked at Break’s remaining grenades of tear gas. “Four are still left. Two should do the trick. The hallway wasn’t that long. This mare here can use her fancy throwing tricks to bounce it all the way down the hallway.”

“It could work.” Chisel said. Break and Lemon Heart nodded. Rivet gave a wide grin.

They moved back the way they came and Break motioned them to stop. On her EFS, she noticed a pony right in front of them right around the corridor. She motioned with her hooves and her companions got the message.

Break could see he was coming this way with another pony. Break eyes widened when she saw a grenade coming this way by a purple aura. It was thrown right at her. Her companions backed away in horror. Break in a split second decided to do something crazy. It was their only chance. She rushed forward and punched the grenade in the air. She directed it at the wall in front of her and it bounced right around the corner back at the ponies that threw it. Break back away quickly. It exploded a split second later. The area around her shook from the explosion and dust filtered in from the corner.

Break collapsed to the ground. She felt like she was going to die from a heart attack her heart was beating so fast. “I am never doing that again!” She yelled.

“That was awesome!” The Rivet grinned. He smacked Break on the back enthusiastically almost knocking her over.

“Nice work.” The Chisel said. He looked at Break in awe and disbelief.

“I doubt they’ll try that again!” Rivet seems absolutely delighted.

“We need to hurry!” Lemon Heart said breaking them out of the excitation. Break and the the two stallions nodded.

“Get into position.” Chisel ordered and the group obeyed. The Lemon Heart followed Break as he moved to the right hallway. The other two left for the left hallway.

Break tensed as they got near to their objective. Her teammates seemed to respond to her tension with their own. With her EFS she could see six red lights standing directly in or near the adjacent hallway. She motioned with a hoof to her comrades and they began their attack. She threw her tear gas grenade into the hallway as hard as she could while Chisel did the same on his side. It bounced on the ground and flew down the long hallway and filled the corridor at the end full of gas.

Things became very sudden and incoherent through the insuring chaos. Break and Lemon tried to go around the corner and rush down the hallway, but they were greeted with bullet fire. They were able to get back around the corner in time and avoided being hit by stray bullet fire. The firing was random. The slavers were firing back blinded or not. This made things difficult. Rivet also retreated back to the hallway.

Lemon fired down the hallway trying to hit any shape she saw through the thick gas. She peeked around the corner to get a better look at what she was firing at. Lemon cried out in pain when a bullet hit her right leg when she got careless and didn’t cover her leg enough. Break pulled her to safety. The slave was crying out in intense pain. She seemed unprepared for the unspeakable agony of the bullet wound and Break’s mind raced on what she could do. She wasn’t experienced in any first aid at all and the rising panic didn’t help.

“Ponyfeather.” Rivet cursed, though it was muffed by the exchange of gunfire. “So much for our ambush.” He pulled back just nearly avoiding getting hit in the shoulder.

“Pressure!” Chisel yelled though the noise. Break pulled herself together and tore off a piece of Chisel's slave garment and put pressure on the wound like the other slave did back in the ammo room. She elevated the limb reasoning it would slow blood flow.

Break stayed like this for a minute keeping Lemon still and not letting up on the pressure. The piece of cloth was now almost soaked with blood. Chisel came towards them surprising Break. It made sense however since nopony was there to protect this side of the hallway. She watched in shock as a slaver suddenly appeared around the corner behind they were suppose to be protecting and he opened fire.

The emerging slaver was a blond unicorn with a grey coat. He fired on Chisel and hit him directly in the chest. Chisel collapsed on the ground in a pool of blood. Break watched in wide eyed horror.

Rivet turned and fired on the slaver, but he was too quick and dove behind a corner avoiding every shot thrown his way.

Break seeing her chance, threw a flash grenade right into the slavers hiding spot. She avoided her eyes when the grenade went off. The slaver cried in pain and sudden surprise. Stunning him long enough for Break to rush in and bash him into the wall. He head cracked the drywall and he fell in a heap. Break grabbed his gun with her teeth and smashed it against his head. He cracked his head into the wall again leaving a huge stain of blood. Break panted in exertion. Break surprised herself with how brutally and ruthlessly she took this stallion down. She put it out of her head and focused on the situation at hoof. She ran back around the corner before she could be fired upon.

She wasn’t sure what to do. Lemon was bleeding badly and she couldn’t protect her and guard to corner at the same time. Her EFS registered 4 red lights. Sudden one of the light when dim. With three foes left, Break reapplied pressure to Lemon’s wound after applying another unbloodied pieces of Lemon's slaver outfit and watched the corner with her EFS. She put a flash grenade near her for protection.

“Three are left!” Break yelled and she saw Rivet nod. She hoped he could finish this soon so her could find a healing potion. Though she knew that would mean Lemon would have a bullet in her, but it would stop the bleeding and it could be removed later.

Rivet exchanged some more shots with the slavers being careful and made sure that he was never too exposed to enemy fire. Break knew they had to hurry before reinforcements could arrive. Lemon's face was wracked with pain. To her credit, she tried not to squirm around too much and bared the pain the best she could. The bleeding started dying down and Break created a makeshift bandage with a new clean piece of clothe tying it as tight as she could.

“I will be back with some aid, just stay here and, uh, don’t move.” Break explained and Lemon nodded.

“Go, he needs your help.” Lemon commanded. She voice has weak, but it had a steel tip edge to it.

Break nodded and used her EFS to determine the exact location of the remaining slavers. It looked like two of them were exchanging fire with Rivet. She decided to check out the situation for herself.

Break walked down the right corridor. She ignored the rubble created by the grenade from earlier. Parts of the wall were blown off and on the right Break could see the ceiling of the next room. She also tried to ignore the two slavers that were caught in the blast. One got the tail end of the explosion and broken his head open when he was hit by the force of the explosion. The other was badly burned and bloodied by the explosion. Break could see exposed pieces of flesh and bone on the slaver. It was horrific and Break felt guilty and horrible for doing this to him. She moved on quickly and got to the end of the corridor.

Break careful peaked around the corner carefully. She could see the two slayer backed up again the wall. They were firing around the corner, and being careful to avoid return fire. She looked up and saw what was making the third light. It wasn’t a pony, it was just a radroach. Break ignored it. She felt a piece of a wall indent itself into her face as a bullet hit the corner Break was hiding behind and exploded a piece of the drywall into her face. She winced in pain and suddenly pulled back behind the corner.

Break decided to use this moment to calm herself and think. The situation didn’t seem so bad. All she needed to do was throw another grenade their way, and her comrade would be able to finish them off. Break thought it over. She would just need to throw it perfectly Rivet would be able to shoot them down. The problem was that the were separated from each other in a way that would make it difficult to hit them both with a single grenade. Throwing two would be the best option and Break decided to go with that. They were probably prepared for her grenades, but she bet they would still have much difficulty defending against them.

Break grabbed another stun grenade from her back, but dropped it when a gun suddenly came into her face. It appeared to be a rifle. A unicorn slaver with a teal coat and grey mane appeared out of nowhere. Break ducked and avoided the shot that came a split second later. Break head butted the gun out of the pony’s magic field and it dropped to the ground. Break kicked it away. The slaver threw a kick at Break’s chest and it connected.

Break winced in pain and was momentarily stunned. She received a punch to face and fell to ground. The slaver was about to deliver another kick to the chest, but Break grabbed his leg and forced him to the ground using her size to get leverage over him. They both fell to the ground. They started wrestling each other. Break’s collection of grenades fell off during the fight. The slaver was trying to pin her to the ground, but Break avoided it with ease.

They grappled like this for about a minute.The slaver tried to grab his gun with his telekinesis, but Break threw him against a wall distributing his concentration and the gun fell harmlessly to the ground. Break tried to slam his head into the wall again, but the slaver punched Break in the chest. Break whizzed, out of breath. The slaver delivered another punch to the chest and Break collapsed in pain.

The slaver created some distance from Break and grabbed his gun again with his telekinesis. He moved to point it in Break’s direction. Break eyes widened and she grabbed the barrel of the gun with her hooves trying to push it out the way of her face. It fired and created a large hole in the floor. He moved it in position again and Break did everything in her power to stop it, trying to move the gun was like trying to move an a brick wall. The stallion’s telekinesis was almost indomitable, but Break refused to give up and let him get another shot at her. She was at least able to keep it from pointing at her.

The gun suddenly became loose and Break threw it against the wall in surprise when the stallion’s magic suddenly released it. The stallion rushed in for another punch. Break was somehow able to dodge it in time. She countered back with a punch of her own, but it was slow and clumsy and it was easily avoided. Break mind raced. She couldn’t beat this guy, she had no experience in fighting and she knew she only got this far through luck alone. She needed a way to incapacitate him right away.

Break rushed to grab the gun for it had fallen not to far behind her. The unicorn slaver responded by grabbing it with his telekinesis again. Break tried to push it away from her, but he slaver pushed back with his magic. Break was losing ground this time, and the slaver seemed to increase in ferocity. It was almost lined up to her head this time and Break knew she couldn’t keep this up. The slaver grinned maliciously sure of his victory. Break stared at the gun in horror. She knew she couldn’t stop it, but then she noticed something about it. Something she could use. She suddenly then go of it. Not expecting this, the unicorn accidentally smashed the gun into a nearby wall with his magic and the badly maintained gun that was already seriously damaged was cracked in half with an audible snap.

The slaver eyes widened. Break used this to grab a tear gas grenade that fell earlier, pulled the pin, and threw it into the slaver’s face. He choked and gagged. Break grabbed the lower half of the broken rifle and smashed into the back of his head as hard as she could with both hooves. The remains of the rifles shattered when it hit his head. He fell to the ground and it didn’t look like he was going to get up any time soon.

This left just that one slaver and that’s it. Break carefully peered around the corner and saw a surprising sight. The last slaver was already dead. He was slumped against the wall and blood was splattered behind his head.

Break checked for any more enemies and found none in the vicinity. She ran back to where Rivet was. He sighed in relief when he spotted her. It looked like he was already coming to help her.

“Thank Celestia you’re okay.” He looked overjoyed to see her.

“I made it somehow.” Break replied. “The coast is clear. Let’s hurry before somepony else comes.” Rivet nodded.

They checked up on Lemon condition, and decided to take her with them. She was in pain, but wasn’t bleeding too badly and could walk mostly on her own strength. She used Break as a crutch while Rivet kept his eyes out for hostiles.

They arrived at the corridor with the security room. Break ignored her bundle of grenades that were still on the floor to focused her attention on the terminal in front of the security room. She gently placed Lemon against the wall and hooked up her PipBuck. Hacking the terminal was tough. She had to exit out of the terminal at least eight times to avoid the terminal’s security permanently shutting down the system from too many incorrect password entries. The password ended up being ‘Aeacus’. The door opened with a swoosh.

All three entered quickly and locked the door behind them. Inside was a control room was several monitors in front of a terminal. The terminal had a microphone in front of the keyboard. Break guessed it was for record keeping and making announcements. A large computer took up most of the room. Break surveyed the monitors and found what she was looking for. Bentgrass was currently fighting six guards while hiding behind some crates in a storage area. It looked like they had him pinned down, besides that though he looked unharmed. Break rushed to the terminal and sat down on the chair eager to help the stallion. She hacked this terminal as well. This one was disappointingly easy. Break was actually really starting to have fun hacking. Unfortunately, this terminal’s password was just ‘Lock’.

Break scrolled through several screens and found the ‘Unlock all cells’ option. Break selected it and confirmed to the computer that she wanted to do this. Break found the intercom button and pressed it. She made sure to remove her gas mask and breathed in and out before speaking into the microphone.

“Um. Listen everypony!” Break closed her eyes and did her best to find to the right thing to say. “You’re free now! All the cells are unlocked! Most of the guards are dead. The nightmare is almost over! Take this opportunity and grasp freedom with both hooves! They’re powerless now! Show them that they can’t hold you anymore! You deserve your freedom like all ponies do. They couldn’t stop me and they can’t stop you!”

Chapter 8

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Break watched the ensuring uprising. The guards responded in shock and horror at the sudden announcement and seemed to very quickly realize just how screwed they were.The slaves were surprised initially, but quickly took advantage of their new freedom. The guards tried to stop them, but most were only equipped with stun rods and were overrun by sheer numbers. Some just dropped their weapon and ran.

Break had to look away at the ferocity of the freed slaves’ wrath. They were not showing any mercy and many of the slavers were being beaten to death with either hooves or whatever the slaves could get their hooves on. It didn’t matter if they were fighting or running for their lives. With the help of the other escapees, Bentgrass was able to escape his predicament. It only took about 20 minutes for the slaves to completely take over the prison. Rivet took Lemon to the medical bay, and the gun wound was treated with no complications. The doctor had no problem removing the bullet and healing the leg. She was currently sleeping to get her strength back. It seemed it didn’t take much for the doctor to abandon his slaver bosses and he rather overeagerly switched allegiances.

When Break wandered into the lunchroom, she was greeted with cheers and applause. Break blushed at the attention. Finding Comet. wasn't difficult. The unicorn immediately grabbed and hugged Break. She was crying. They appeared to be tears of joy.

“You’re something else.” Comet said and was smiling. It was nice on her normally expressionless face.

Break just rubbed the back of her neck. “It’s sorta just happened.”

Comet laughed. It was genuine. She seemed just overwhelmed with emotion right now. Break was happy for her. She finally had her freedom after Celestia knows how long. “Tell me about it. I want to know.”

“There you are.” A familiar voice said. Break turned to find Bendgrass grinning like a fool.

“What were you thinking?!” Break suddenly cried out catching the stallion off guard. “Were you trying to get yourself killed?!”

“Well, somepony had to save you.” Bentgrass said hesitantly. He suddenly gave a triumphant grinned. “Hey, it worked out. So no big deal right?”

Break facehoofed and groaned. Bentgrass just shrugged. She looked him over, and was surprised at the lack of injuries. Somehow the foal got out this mostly unscathed. Comet seemed amused at their antics.

“Hey, stop fighting! It’s time to celebrate!” A pony that walked up next to Bentgrass said. She had a beer in her hooves. Many of other ponies around them were drinking, dancing, and generally having a good time.

“Can I get one of those?” Break asked. She felt like a drink would be fantastic right now. A pony threw her a bottle of beer. Bentgrass and Comet were given one too. Break lifted her drink to her mouth but stopped when she noticed that Comet still had her magic suppressor on.

“You still have that? I would think that would be the first thing you’d want off.” Break pointed at the ring as she said this. None of the other unicorns were wearing one now.

Comet shrugged. “It doesn’t matter to me.”

Break and Bentgrass gapped. “What? But you’re a unicorn! Isn’t magic your thing?” Bentgrass said perplexed.

“I don’t have magic.” Comet explained. The ponies around her did a double take.

“Wh-what? But you’re a unicorn!” Break blurted out.

“Is that even possible?” Bentgrass scratched his head.

“As I said no magic. Been that way my whole life.” Comet pointed at her horn. “Never been able to get anything out of this.”

Break started in wide eyed fascination. She’d never heard of anything like this before. “It must make things difficult.” She said finally.

“Not much different from you.” Comet said blandly. She had Break there. Still, it sounded unthinkable.

Break wasn’t sure what to say next. Not having magic didn’t seem to bother Comet at all. Well, it didn’t bother her too, but she was an earth pony.

“Who cares right!” Bentgrass blurted out. “Not like a pony needs magic anyway.!” Comet nodded. “Anyway, let’s get to the party! There’s one in the courtyard now apparently. The guest of honor hasn’t arrived yet.”

Break wasn’t sure why she would be the guest of honor since everypony pitched in to free them all, but decided not to say anything. The three left for the cafeteria.

The newly freed slaves spent the rest of the night like this. Even though it unclear what their future might entail, right now it didn’t matter. They deserved the right to actually enjoy themselves and they milked every minute of it. Break felt she hadn’t enjoyed herself like this in years.
---

Break awoke with a headache. She didn’t realize she drank that much. She rolled off the bed onto the ground and fell with a thud. Her head ached even more and it took a moment for her to compose herself. When she finally looked around she suddenly felt a twinge of panic. She was back in her cell. The panic subsided when she realized the door was wide open, and she sighed in relief. For a second there she thought the whole adventure had been a dream.

Break looked around the cell and noticed Comet on the top bunk snoring peacefully. Break got up to relieve herself. After a few minutes, Break was feeling a little better and her head didn’t ache as much. Usually hangovers didn’t bother her too much and she quickly got over them. Right now it was just a slight ache. Break felt like she was starving and left Comet to sleep it off.

Break arrived at the mess hall and ponies were chatting, milling about, or eating. Everypony greeted her with a friendly wave. Break found the line and waited to be served. Unfortunately, she was given the same tasteless slop as before and still looked just as appealing. There wasn’t enough food right now to feed the former slaves anything decent, so she was forced to eat the horrible stuff again. The server enthusiastically gave her two portions, and Break was not sure if she was grateful for this. He also gave her a bottle of pure water and she nodded in thanks.

Break sat down at a nearby table and tried to eat her lunch. While eating a familiar orange stallion trotted up to her. “Good morning!” He said in a cheery voice.

Break looked up from her food. “How is she?” Break asked. Despite being assured earlier that she would recover without any difficulty, Break still needed to ask. She also didn’t trust that slimy doctor one bit.

“Lemon Heart?” The stallion asked. “She’s fine. The doc says she’ll be on her hooves tomorrow.”

Break sighed in relief and let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. “That’s good.”

The stallion sat down and grinned. “Some party last night.”

Break smiled. “Yeah, what I can remember of it at least.” She took a drink of her water.

“You can actually remember something? The whole night is a blank for me!” He laughed and Break laughed back.

Break started diving back into her food. She was starving. Well, tried to anyway. She was only partly successful. “So, have they decided what everypony is going to do?” It would be difficult and dangerous for all these former slaves to try and get to the next town, and they couldn’t just start a town right here, or at least not without help.

“Yeah, they did actually. The older slaves had a meeting this morning and most of the other slaves agree.” Rivet grinned. “They decided to ask for help from the Cosas. They already sent a runner to them informing them of the situation.” Break nearly choked on her food.

“Th-the Cosas, but aren’t they, like, gangsters.” Break reasoned.

“True, but they are our best chance. Some slaves are thinking about travelling to Primrose after they get here. Others are actually thinking about making this fort into a town believe it or not.”

“Under the hoof of the Cosas.” Break said evenly with a bit of unexpected steel.

“Ok, fine. It’s isn’t the best option, but they will prove protection and weapons. We’ll be a lot safer with them helping us.” Rivet explained. “Believe it or not, but some slaves actually look up to them.”

Break raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Sure, they have always been good to former slaves. I know some are already interested in joining them.”

Break just shrugged. It made sense she guessed, but if they were coming, she needed to get out of here quickly.

“You don’t seem to like them very much.” Rivet asked curiously.

“Let’s just say, I’ve had a bad run in with them before.” Break vaguely explained not really wanting to get into her past.

“It shows.” Rivet observed and shrugged. Luckily, he let the issue lie.

“What are you going to do?” Break asked. “Are you going to join the Cosas?” Break made a face when she said this.

“Nah, I was thinking about living here and help turn this into a proper town.” He replied.

“After everything?” Break said confused.

He just shrugged. “Good enough place as any. I know someponies want to jump ship as soon as possible, but living here won’t bother me. Besides, they need a skilled technician. The idea of building a town from scratch really appeals to me.”

Break smiled. She admired his determination. “Good luck.” She meant this from the bottom of her heart.

“How about you?” Rivet asked in return.

“You should join the Cosas.” A voice next to Break said. It was Bentgrass. Break gapped.

“Wha-why would I ever want to do that?” Break asked stunned.

“Come on, you led a bunch a rag tag slaves into a den of slavers and beat them thoroughly!” Bentgrass explained.

“That’s not what happened.” Break protested. She started to think that maybe the speech was a mistake. Now ponies were starting to think of her as some sort of hero.

“You have skills. They could use a pony that can kick as much flank as you can.” Bentgrass argued back. He seemed to think she was just being modest.

Break opened her mouth, but Bentgrass just spoke over her. ”And the Cosas are far better than what you give them credit for.”

“Really.” Break said dryly.

“They’re what this world needs!” Bentgrass proclaimed. “They stand up against the evil in this world and protect the weak!” Break looked at him like he was crazy. He continued on.

“You just have to give them a chance. Then you will see how cool they are.” Bentgrass boasted.

“I’m not joining the Cosas.” Break said evenly and with finality.

“Just a week. Give them a chance.” Bentgrass refused to back down.

“I am not joining them!” Break almost yelled. “Not now, or ever!”

“You could do such good with them though.” Bentgrass proclaimed. Break put a hoof on her face and groaned.

Bentgrass looked at Break with a tilted head. “You’re an odd one.”

Break just groaned again and focused back on her food. Break noticed something peculiar. “Rivet, why are there so many guards around?” Thinking back, Break noticed quite a few ponies with guns on patrol. “Are there still some slavers hiding and running around?”

“The leader of the Yellow Stars, well, Yellow Star has gone missing.” Rivet explained. “The same with that older pony that tried to buy us. Almost every other slaver has been accounted for.”

“”What, really? Are there like secret passageways?” Bentgrass asked.

“Most likely.” Revet said nodding.

Break thought about this. She supposed it made sense that Yellow Star would have an escape route if things got dicey.

“We should go find him Pinny!” Bentgrass exclaimed. “We should check the office first. The others might have overlooked something!”

“What, no.”

“W-why not?” Bentgrass seemed absolutely floored that she refused.

“It isn’t my job and the ponies looking for him are better qualified than me.” Break explained. “I plan leaving soon anyway.”

Bentgrass again was completely stunned. Rivet, on the other hoof, didn’t seemed surprised at all.

“I plan on leaving after spending a few hours with Comet.” Break liked the mare, and wanted to hang out a little before probably never seeming her again.

Bentgrass gave a contemplative look before brightening and smiling. “Oh, I get it! You’re the type that moves on to the next adventure! You never settle down because you have a never ending thirst for adventure!”

Break just stared at him for a few moments before sighing. “Yes, that’s exactly it.” She deadpanned.

“Ha, I knew it!” Bentgrass exclaimed proudly.

“I’ll get you some supplies." River said smiling. "We owe you that much. And a gun of course, with some gun lessons. You’ll need them.”

“Thanks.”

Bentgrass stared at Break wide eyed. “You don’t know how to fire a gun?” Break nodded and he looked at her with even more awe and wonder. Break just sighed again.

After finishing her lunch, Break returned to her cell and found Comet exactly where she left her. Break climbed the ladder up to her on the top bunk bed and shook her back and forth gently. “Hey, wake up! It’s almost one.”

With some prodding, Comet woke up and stared at Break blankly.”Hey.” She said simply.

“Hey.” She said back.

“Sorry to wake you, but I am leaving in a few hours and just wanted to chat with you a bit.” Break explained.

Comet nodded. “Sure, cool.” She moved into a sitting position. Break climbed to the top and sat next of her.

“Why go?” Comet asked tilting her head.

Break thought about it for a moment, but decided to be truthful. “The Cosas are coming and I want to be long gone by then.”

Comet nodded and didn’t ask for Break to elaborate thankfully and she was grateful for this. She didn’t want to answer some awkward questions. Break followed Comet as she left to get something to eat.

“Do you have any idea what you are going to do now that you are free?” Break asked. “They’re thinking about making a town here? Maybe you want to stay and help? They might want a pony of your skills.”

Comet thought about it. “Yes actually. Wanted to have my own shop for awhile now. Might go into that.”

“I actually know a pony that could help you.” Break said. Again, this was getting uncomfortably close into her past, but she wanted to do this. “His name is Scavenger. He lives in the ruins of a town named Cypress. You could strike a deal with him. His special talent is finding things. He has uncovered some pretty amazing things over the years.”

Comet nodded. “Don’t tell him about you though?” She guessed and Break nodded. “Thanks.”

Break smiled. Maybe things might work out for her and this new town that she accidentally help create. The two chatted over the next few hours.

Rivet was true to his word and was able to scrounge up some supplies for her in a saddlebag. It included a canteen with fresh water, some canned food, several healing potions, a map, a blanket, 100 caps, rope, and few other odds and ends. He also supplied her a .45 auto pistol and hunting rifle with some ammo for each. He spend the next two hours teaching her how to use them. She wasn’t that good at it, but she was able to hit a few tin cans with some success. He gave her a basic rundown on gun safely including the helpful tip of never pointing a gun at someone that isn’t a target, loaded or not. She wished a certain other pony was told about this.

Pretty much everypony came to send her off when she left at about 5 PM much to her embarrassment. Everypony reiterated how grateful they were to her and she accepted gracefully. Many hugs were given and she left in the direction of Forks. Luckily, it was only about 3 miles away.

The travel to Forks was remarkable uneventful. The landscape was nothing but bleak empty wilderness with only a few rocks and bushes for scenery. In about an hour, she finally saw signs of civilization. In the distance she saw broken buildings and on closer inspection saw a large bright shining building surrounded by a large wall made of scrap and wood. It was at least three times her size.

In front of the buildings surrounding the giant wall were ponies. Many were just milling about. Some were in front of flaming barrels trying to stay warm. It was close to being dark and Break was already starting to feel the chill of the night approaching and the wind was picking up. The ponies around her made her nervous they looked at her with calculating eyes, but luckily none approached her. She guessed they might be ponies that couldn’t afford to live in Forks proper. She thought about maybe she could get a job here, but decided against it. From what she had heard, the Stones, the group running the town, weren’t much better than the Cosas and there were unpleasant rumors about them. Her plan was to spend a few hours here at the inn and possibly leave with a caravan to another town.

After ten minutes she was able to find the entrance of the wall. It was guarded by a tough unfriendly looking pony in heavy armor and a protectron.

“Um, could I enter Forks please.” Break said as in a nonthreatening voice as possible.

A guard looked her over. “On what business?” He said flatly in a bored tone.

“Just to stay a night sir.” Break tried to give her best smile.

“50 caps to enter.” The guard said.

“50 caps?!” Break said outraged.

“50 caps.” The guard said uncompromisingly.

Break thought about it and looked around. Some unsavory ponies were eyeing her unnerving her to no end. Break relented and gave the pony the caps.

The door slowly opened and Break went through a narrow passageway to the city proper. The thing that struck Break the most was how bright the city was. Lights were everywhere. Many buildings had tacky neon signs. Some, oddly enough, had Hearth’s Warming lights over them. It was almost blinding. It was like they were competing with each other for attention. The streets were covered in ponies. On the ends of some streets were mares and stallions dressed in rather provocative leather clothing that emphasized their flanks. Break couldn’t help but ogle some of the stallions working the streets. This one green earth pony stallion was the prettiest pony she had ever seen in her life. She blushed when he waved at her when he caught her staring.

Break left red in the face trying to remind herself of what she was here for. She left the dimmer parts of town. These parts still had a few ponies here and there working the streets but seemed more normal and less garish. Just your typical half ruined buildings. No pony bothered her as she went on her way.

Break decided to check the late night news. She sat on a nearby bench and took out her earbloom and tuned in to her radio. She was eager for news about her friends in Foulsom. This should be enough time for the DJ to have something about it. She had an uncanny ability to learn news very quickly. It didn’t take long for the current song to end and the Princess of the Wasteland to appear on air.

“That was Sweetie Belle singing to old classic of ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’. And don’t it just fill your heart full of warmth and love?” The DJ said after the song ended. “Now for news and golly gee it's a doozy this time!”

“The Yellow Stars slavers are finished! My sources say they were toppled by the very slaves they captured!” The DJ continued. “What happened is still a little vague, but we should know more soon. But what I do know, and you are all gonna love this, remember the waitress from Primrose I told you about yesterday? Yah, her. Turns out she isn’t dead! She actually escaped! She was captured by slavers, but they didn’t realize what a tough little lady she was! She escaped, assembled a small group of resistance, and took the entire facility! Yeah I know! Crazy right?”

“Now Foulsom Prison is in the hooves of the now freed slaves and my sources say that they might turn it into a town! Golly gee I did not see this coming at all. Nice to see that there are some ponies in the world that won’t go down without a fight and do some good in this world don’t ya know. Good work waitress! It’s brave ponies like you that can make a difference in this world. I should have more news about this soon. For now here is Sapphire Shores’s ‘Get Your Pony On’. This here was Princess of the Wasteland signing off. Stay safe and stay smart.”

Break froze in shock. It took a few minutes for her to comprehend what she just heard. How the hay did they know it was her? Implications flew through her mind. “Ponyfeathers!” She cursed. She was suppose to be dead. She wanted to disappear, not to be thrust into this hero role. Break realized in horror that now the Cosas knew she was alive and they would come for her. Terror filled her heart. Green Mile was in danger. She didn’t know if the Cosas would do anything to her cousin. For her piece of mind she wanted to see her at least safe. She needed to get her out and to safety. How she had no clue.

Right now she was too tired to go back. She would have to spend a few hours here to get some sleep and go back. She realized Scavenger could help her. He could get in and out no problem. He didn't live too far from Primrose. She would go to him in the morning. Sleep first, plan later.

She found an inn called the Three Old Kegs. It was definitely an old apartment building made into an inn. The neon sign on the top brightly flashing its name was the only really interesting and colorful thing about the building. She was about make her way inside when two tough looking mares blocked her way. Horror and dread hit the bottom of Break’s stomach. This was emphasized when three also bad news looking ponies came up behind her.

“The Boss would like to see you.” One of the mares said. “You best not keep her waiting.” She was hoofing a revolver strapped to her side as she said this. Break nodded vigorously.

“Good.” The mare said. “Follow me.”

Break followed dreading each step. She knew in her bones that nothing good could some from this.

Chapter 9

View Online

Robin raised an eyebrow as Spring Rain entered the Boss’s office. She had a note that was hovering next to her in a dark blue aura. She did not look pleased. The boss stood up and was about to say something when Spring Rain shoved the note right into his face. “Read.” She commanded.

The boss took a moment to compose himself at such impudence before grabbing the letter in his own purple aura and reading it. ”Mom. I have left to go adventuring. I will follow Break Point’s example and become a great hero just like her. Don’t follow me. Starburst.”

“Can you believe it? He somehow got it in his head he needs to become a ‘hero’.” Spring Rain said peeved.

“Yes, but…” The boss tried to say but was interrupted.

“It’s such a good thing I have such capable ponies to help get him back.” Spring Rain gave a nasty smile.

“What? What makes you think I would do that?” The boss said annoyed. “We have better things to do than look for some foalish boy.”

“I don’t think you really understand.” Spring Rain smile widened. “I know for a fact that the water talismans are wearing down faster than you're anticipating. It would be a disaster if they were to fail while a certain pony with a talent for cleaning water were to suddenly leave town to look for her son.” The Boss grimaced. Water talismans created pure water through magic, but they were temperamental and needed constant maintenance. If one broke you were out of luck. The knowledge to create new ones have been lost to time.

She gestured. “Who knows what could happen to such a delicate pony like her out in the bleak desolate wasteland? Think of what would happen to Primrose if it can’t have clean water anymore. Everything the Cosas have been working for would be completely ruined.”

“Er, well.” The Boss tried to say but stopped when Spring Rain suddenly got into his face. He backed up instinctively.

“You know as well as I do that I’m really the only thing that is keeping the town a float. I would strongly suggest not pissing me off.” Spring Rain glared at him. All jollity was gone. “Or things will get bad really quickly.”

The boss coughed. “Well, it just so happens that I’m sending several ponies to Foulsom Prison to check out the situation and do some missions. I doubt they would mind looking for him while on the way.”

Spring Rain relaxed and backed away from the boss. “Good. I’m glad you understand how important my son is.” She suddenly become dramatic. “I would be devastated if something were to happen to him. I would kill myself for sure!”

“That won’t happen.” The boss promised.

“Good.” Spring Rain started to leave. She suddenly stopped. “You know, I’ve been working here for some time now.” She put a hoof to her chin. ”At least ten years now, and I have been working so hard. I think I’m due for a raise. At least 20 caps more a week should do it.”

The boss started grinding his teeth. Spring Rain waved goodbye and left. Robin couldn’t help but growl as well. He detested that mare. She often acted like she owned the whole town and did as she pleased as if she were royalty. Usually her demands weren’t too bad, but sometimes she would throw them a curveball. Robin suspected that she did that just to mess with them and see what she could get away with. Earning the ire of pretty much everypony in the Cosas. Not that she actually cared. Unfortunately, her skills made her invaluable, so they were stuck with her.

The boss fell back into his chair and sighed heavily. He rubbed his head with a hoof. “Robin. Keep to the plan we made before, just make sure that damned foal gets back safely.”

Robin nodded. “Yes sir. I know just the pony to find him and a certain other pony if you so wish.” Oddly enough, the boss had been quiet about that filly. He expected the boss to order to hunt her down as soon as possible before she got too far.

The boss stayed quiet for a moment before speaking. “Yes, I want you to find her as well.” He straightened himself up and put his hooves together. “But, I want you to just shoot her and make sure she gets a proper burial.”

“Sir?”

“She’s done a great service for us and I don’t want to be ungrateful.” The boss’s face hardened. “But I will never forgive her for what she did to my boy. However, in light of everything, I think just a bullet will be punishment enough.”

Robin nodded. “Yes, sir.”

The boss waved a hoof. “Dismissed.”

Robin left the office to the cafeteria. Before he left he needed to gather the necessary supplies and pony power. When he arrived he found Ray meditating on the floor. He opened his eyes when Robin entered the room. He waited for Robin to say something.

“We’re going on a trip.” Robin said. “I need you to get Nightingale and Rock Guard and some supplies for our journey. It should only be for about a month at most, but pack for two just in case.” Ray nodded. “We leave in the morning. I will explain the mission then.” Ray nodded again and left for the supply room.

“A new mission?” A voice asked. It was Brisk Bolt.

“Yes. I’m sure you’ve heard the reports of what happened to Foulsom Prison and who was behind it.” Robin stated.

Brisk Bolt nodded. “Yeah, crazy stuff.”

Robin agreed with that. He highly doubted that it happened the way the story was told, though he knew the Princess of the Wasteland never gave out false reports so there had to be some truth to that crazy story. Maybe the wasteland toughened her up? They say that it changes ponies.

“So you’re going after her?” Brisk Bolt asked. Robin gave a nod. Brisk Bolt paused for a moment. “Good luck.”

This surprised Robin. He expected the dolt to jump on the chance to avenge his friend. Actually he seemed different after his adventure in the sewers. The experience helped him grow up somewhat. He seemed more serious and less reckless nowadays.

“Just be careful.” Brisk Bolt warned. “That filly is a lot harder to kill than she looks.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Robin said.

It looked like Brisk Bolt wanted to say something else, but stopped himself. He waved and started to leave the room. He suddenly stopped. “What did the Boss order to do when you catch her?”

“Just to give her a quick death and give her a proper burial.” Robin replied.

“That’s good.” Brisk Bolt paused again for a few moments before saying, “I can’t forgive her for causing Steel Dagger’s and Statics's death, but I don’t hate her. She’s not a bad pony.” He left the room.

Again Robin wondered what exactly happened in the sewers to cause such in a change in him. Things looked like they might get interesting.

---

Break was led into the building that was centered in the middle of Forks. It was a giant casino whose neon sign told that its name was ‘The Royale'. It was a shaped like a medieval castle. Rumor has it that it was designed to look like the Castle of the Two Sisters. It consisted of three large towers. Each one had a neon sign of a different cutie mark supposedly representing Equestria’s three princesses. Break was sure in its heyday it was a magnificent building, but age and megaspells left much of the building dilapidated and giving it a spooky feel.

Break entered the spinning doors and was greeted with lights and sounds. All sorts of games and machines were being played by ponies. Ponies were playing dice or card games at tables. Some were pulling slot machines. The whole building was bustling with activity. The staff was dressed in tuxes though the serving mares were dressed in something a little more provocative. Servers carrying tray with drinks or food were coming and going through the casino. Much like the outside, the interior had a medieval theme to it. Hanging from the high ceiling was a large globe of the world surrounded by Princess Luna and Celestia and they were circling it in an eternal cycle of day and night.

The guards were actually dressed in gold metal armor. Some of it looked worn, but it was still shiny and impressive though instead of spears, the guards were holding machine guns. Break guessed that maybe it might have been the type of armor castle guards used before the war to protect the Princesses. They eyed Break with indifference.

Break was led to the second floor and it was wasn’t much different from the first one though on this floor ponies were playing mainly card games. Break was led to a door that led to a corridor. She was led down several long hallways before finally being guided to an elevator that was guarded by two ponies. The guards recognized the ponies leading Break and let them into the elevator. The dread Break was feeling increased by ten when she entered it. She knew that these ponies has nothing good in store for her. She was a little confused why they would even care about her though. She was somehow very good at making enemies.

Break entered a two mahogany doors and entered a nicely furnished office. Despite the apocalypse, this pony was able to buy the best caps had to offer and then some. Break thought that even the leader of the Cosas didn’t live in such luxury. The nice furnishing was not the thing that caught her eye about the room. It was the gigantic portrait of the pony staring at her behind a desk. Break looked at the other pictures in the room, and they too shared the same face. It was surreal and downright creepy.

This pony was a chamoisee colored earth pony mare with a sandy brown mane with a silver streak through it. She was finely dressed with a suit, but it didn’t hide her cutie mark which was a paint brush. The mare was looking at Break with indifference, but she could detect a hint of anger in her eyes. It took a moment, but Break was able to place to her name. She heard it mentioned several times by members of the Cosas. It was Tack Coat.

“This is it?” Tack Coat said with annoyance in her voice. “This is the waitress that led a slave revolt and brought them to victory?”

“It is her alright.” A voice from the pony at Tack Coat’s right said. Break took a step back when she recognized him and gaped. It was Yellow Star the missing leader of the Yellow Star slavers. “I recognize that voice from anywhere.” He had a smug grin on his face. “Did you really think you could get away with what you did?”

Break paled and the pony just laughed in response. Break looked around for any opportunity to escape. Nothing presented itself. Break was pretty sure she was doomed now. Her mind brought up horrible images of what they might do to her.

“You cost me of lot of caps. I put years into help making the Yellow Stars into what they were.” The mare said evenly. Break gulped.

“Thanks to you now, there is no way we have any chance to overthrow the Cosas!” Yellow Star yelled gritting his teeth. The mare behind the desk gave him glare, and he visibly shrunk in response.

“But, I am a fair mare.” Tack Coat explained. “You only played a part in that uprising. So I am going to offer you a deal.” She suddenly made a sharkish grin. “If you can beat my champion in the pit, You will be set free and I promise no harm will come to you while in my casino.”

Break eyes widened and she visibly slumped. They were going kill her, but they wanted to make a show of it. She didn’t know how to fight. They were going to pit her against an opponent she couldn’t possibly beat. There was no way she was going to win against a seasoned champion.

Yellow Star smiled at her clearly enjoying her feelings of hopelessness. With a wave of the boss mare’s hoof. She was shown back to the elevator with Yellow Star joining them. One of her guards pressed the button for the ground floor.

Yellow Star gave Break a toothy grin and she squirmed uncomfortably. “I’m going to enjoy seeing you being torn limb from limb. The champion is good at that.” He laughed cruelly. Break somehow turned an even whiter shade of white.

When the elevator opened, there was a corridor made of old grey stone. Break looked around as she traveled through the corridor. It appeared to be an endless maze of stone pathways. She could see doors that curiously had bars in the window. The whole area smelled of mildew. As she walked past a door, she could briefly see the sight of a haggard looking pony. A wretched smell came past the bars. Slaves, that had to be it. Break guessed they were making slaves fight in an arena for betting and amusement. It made her sick and angry, but also felt helpless. There was nothing she could do to help them.

More cells of ponies were seen as she was taken to her destination. Break could barely fight back her nervousness. She finally presented in front of another door. Through the bars she could see light but it was difficult to tell much beyond that. The door was opened and Break was roughly pushed through it. She landed onto the stone floor face first and winced in pain. She rubbed her face with a hoof.

Break looked around the cell. It was a middle sized room with nothing really in it but a pile of hay. There was a wall of bars on her right that led into a round arena with a wall that was at least twice Break’s height. Ponies were seated above it. Break could see that many of the seats were filled.

“Hello mate.” Said a pony with a strange accent Break had never heard of before. “So you’re the newest contestant.”

The pony was a brown stallion with grizzled black beard and mane. His cutie mark was that of a bear. “Not much to look at, but hey I’m sure you’ll keep the crowd entertained.”

Break made a face. She was tired of being told that. The stallion gave a wide grin. “Don’t be like that. Win 10 rounds in a row and you’re free.”

“That won’t be a problem. I only have to win one.” Break said.

“Really? And why’s that I may ask?” The grizzled stallion asked tilting his head.

“They told me if I beat the champion I would be let go.” Break said in a pessimistic voice.

The stallion laughed. “Did they now? Oh well, it was nice knowing you.” He waved a hoof.

Break was getting annoyed at the stallion’s attitude. “What is this champion like?”

“What and spoil the surprise? Never!” The stallion said with a laugh.

Break had the sudden urge to punch him in the face, but was able to restrain herself. She just slumped against a wall and waited.

“It ain’t like knowing what he is will save you.” The stallion explained. The look turned thoughtful. “I give a minute at most.”

Break decided to just ignore the stallion, but he kept on talking. “Don’t feel bad. Last five minutes and you’ll make quite a few ponies out there rich.” He laughed. “When you’re out there, try to make a show! Might as well entertain ponies before you die right?”

“I don’t want to die at all.” Break growled. She couldn’t believe this stallion’s attitude.

“We all gotta die sometime right?” He explain. “Hey, I think it might be your turn!”

Break turned towards the arena and saw a light brown unicorn with a black greasy slicked back mane and a pencil thin mustache enter a small metal booth in an area above the ring. He grabbed a microphone with his magic.

“Hello everypony.” The announcer greeted. “Sorry to keep you waiting, but I have great news! We are going to have a special fight today! I know you are going to love it!”

The audience cheered. “The famed hero of Foulsom Prison will be pitted again our undefeated champion in a battle to the death! If she wins, she will be let go and let on her merry way!”

The audience roared. Break gulped. The bars in front of her opened.

“Better get going, can’t stop the party without your right?” The unnamed stallion said waving a hoof towards the ring.

Break glared at him before giving an uncertain look at the arena. The door behind her open to reveal unfriendly looking guards with guns. One pointed at the ring fiercely and Break got the picture. She entered into the arena.

“And here she is! The hero of Foulsom Prison!” The announcer declared. The crowd erupted in laughter. Break twitched in annoyance.

“That’s it?” One pony yelled. “My grandmother is tougher!”

“That’s a hero?” Laughed another.

Some ponies started throwing garbage at her. Break growled.

“What a fearsome face! No wonder the Yellow Stars stood no chance!” A heckler yelled.

“And in this corner, our undefeated champion! Otis!” The announcer boomed to an uproarious applause.

Bars to a cell on the other side opened to reveal something that made Break go completely white. She had heard of these things. One of the most fearsome killers in the wasteland. A hellhound.

It stood on two legs and was covered in thick grey fur. Its strong burly muscles were notable amongst the fur. Its face was fierce and cruel. It’s claws were so long that they were longer than its fingers. It smiled at Break and she recoiled in fear.

It started towards Break slow and deliberate savoring her terror. Break found herself backed up against the now closed bars of the cell.

“You can tell this is going to be one bloody match! Now place your bets.” The announcer said. Ponies started place bets, only they were bets on how long she would last in the fight. Most were only 2 minutes or so. The longest was 10 minutes.

“And now…” The announcer began before Break interrupted him.

“Hold on a moment! Don’t I get a weapon or something?!” Break yelled.

“No, we believe in the purity of unhooved combat here at the Pit.” The announcer explained.

“What?!” Break cried. “That’s not…”

“Begin!” The announcer said ignoring Break’s protests completely.

Otio slowly walked towards Break drinking in her fear. Break looked back and forth trying to think if there was anything she could do. She ran to the right trying to avoid being cornered. The hellhound just watched her with his eyes. Suddenly it was on her and crashed into her like a moving locomotive. Break cried out in pain as she crashed hard into the floor. She winced and looked up. Otis was almost right on top of her grinning ear to ear. He extended a claw to her neck and carefully scratched the top of it drawing blood.

Otis was toying with her. Hellhound claws were said to cut through almost anything. It could easy slice her head off if it wanted to. He was chuckling to himself. His voice was deep and malicious. Break, in desperation, pushed with both hooves at his right claw as hard as she could towards his head. This action caught Otis completely off guard and his own claw went right into his neck. Its head severed easily and it rolled across the ring. The body collapsed moments later.

The whole arena went silent. Break blinked. “So...I guess I win?” She hazarded to say completely bewildered at what just happened. The whole audience roared in anger and flung insults at Break.

“That’s it?!”

“She just pushed him!”

“I lost 100 caps because of you!”

“I wanted blood!”

"Otis...no..."

Ponies started hurling trashed at Break and she recoiled trying to avoid a Sparkle Cola bottle being thrown at her head.

“It...looks like the hero of Foulsom Prison is the winner!” The announcer reluctantly said. “Give her a round of applause!” The audience just booed and hurled more insults. The cell Break came from opened and she quickly ran into it avoiding a can to the head.

There were two guards in front of the door. They had a befuddled look on their face. The pony with the weird accent just stared at Break in amazement.

“I won.” Break said with evenly. “That means I’m free and you’ll get me go right? That was the deal.” Break pretty sure they wouldn’t, but it was worth a try.

“I-I’ll talk to the boss.” The guard on the right side and exited the cell in haste.

----

Tack Coat laid back in her chair hooves steepled. Thanks to the disaster at Foalsom Prison, the Stones have lost major ground and funding. Her plans of dethroning the Cosas as the big dog in the Beltneighmi area was completely derailed. The news that the old prison becoming a town under the Cosas’s hoof made it even worse greatly increasing their power and influence in the region.

Perhaps the prudent move would be to ally with the bands of raider that were joining together. Tack Coat knew that Cosas are going to take advantage and put pressure on them and eventually try and take over.”Never!” She thought.”I’ve worked too hard to be defeated now.”

She spent a few moments contemplating her problems when there was a knock on her door. “Enter.”

A sheepish mare entered the room. Tack Coat raised an eyebrow. “Well?”

“Uh, you see...the thing is…” The mare stuttered. She looked ready to bolt at any moment.

“I’m waiting.” Tack Coat tapped a hoof impatiently.

“Otis is dead.” The mare blurted out.

“What.”

“Otis is dead.” The mare squeaked.

“What. I can’t be hearing you clearly.”

“I’m not sure what happened mam! He let his guard down and she killed him with his own claws.” The mare said rapidly. “The whole crowd was in an uproar!”

Tack Coat just stared in disbelief before putting her face in her hooves. “This can’t be happening.”

“We have a hundred ponies demanding their money back!” The henchpony explained

The mare jumped as the door suddenly slammed open. Tack Coat just looked up from her hooves. Yellow Star stomped in the room fuming.

“Is true? Is Otis dead at the hooves at that filly?” Tack Coat asked.

He nodded. He started stomping around the room before stopping and turning towards Tack Coat. “What are you going to do?”

Tack Coat closed her eyes and thought for a moment. “Bring her to me.”

Yellow Star grinned and nodded. He left the room in haste. The henchmare excused herself and left the room.

---

After waiting about ten minutes, Break was brought back to the boss’s office. Break fidgeted nervously not expecting anything good. The boss didn’t look happy, but at least she was foaming at the mouth like Yellow Star was. Break couldn’t tell if this was actually a good thing though and braced herself for whatever horrors that were undoubtedly waiting for her.

“Hello again. It seems I must congratulate you on your victory.” The boss said with a smile.

“Uh, thanks. I was worried you might be mad.” Break said not sure what say.

“Mad? No. It’s not everyday you see a mare kill a hellhound single hooved.” Tack Coat complimented. “I am a mare of my word. So you are free to go.”

Break blinked. “Really?”

“What?!” Yellow Star screamed in outrage. “You can’t do that after she…” He stopped when Tack Coat glared at him. He quickly shut up and let her continue talking.

“Oh course.” Tack Coat smiled again and it did not put Break at ease. “I would never break any promise or deal. That would be bad business.”

Break looked befuddled.”Nice meeting you?” Break ventured.

“Nice meeting you miss hero of Foulsom Prison. This ponies will escort you the way out. I will also make sure all your things are returned to you.” Tack Coat gestured to the two thugs that brought her here. “And please enjoy the casino. Have 30 chips on the house.”

“Thanks.” Break said not believing her luck.

----

“You’re really doing this?!” Yellow Star screamed when the little miss hero left and door closed behind her.

“Yes.” Tack Coat said evenly. “You know I don’t break my word.”

“But!” Yellow Star began before being interrupted.

“But I said that she would be safe as long as she was in my casino.” Tack Coat smiled.

“Oh, right!” Yellow Star gave a devilish grin.

“Please be quick about it.” Tack Coat said. “We have a lot to talk about.” She gave him a fierce look. “And I want that mare out of my way as soon as possible.” She never wanted to see that mare ever again. She somehow invited disaster.

Yellow Star nodded emphatically and left the room with the enthusiasm of a colt on Hearth’s Warming morning.

Chapter 10

View Online

Break did her best to look casual. She tried to display an aura of confidence and self-assurance as she trotted down the halls of the busy casino. She thought she was doing a good job so far.

So far the Tack Coat had kept her word. She was given her saddlebag and stuff back and she had been left alone. Unsurprisingly they took her gun, but said she would get it at the front door when she left the casino. Break still wasn’t optimistic. She ruined their chance of ever beating the Cosas and killed their best champion. She didn’t believe for a second that they would just let her live after all that. Tack Coat said she would be safe while in the casino, but she never said anything about the outside. Break knew that she would be dead if she left the casino for sure.

She could feel the eyes of the guards watching her intently as she passed them. Break was currently wandering the back halls of the Royale trying to think of what to do next. She was able to sneak into them when nopony was looking.

Break decided her best bet was to start with learning all the exits and come up with a plan for escape. So she spent the better part of an hour scoping the place out. She was able to find six different exits. Most of them were fire exits, but they were something. Some weren’t even guarded. She was contemplating using one of the back exits and make a run for it, but that created the problem of getting out Forks unnoticed. That annoying barrier around the town made it difficult, probably why it was created in the first place.

Something caught Break’s eye as she walked in one of the back hallways. It was in an old office. The window on the front door was broken and Break could see an old desk covered in papers. On top of it was a terminal. Break looked both ways and saw nopony around. She decided to check it out. Even though it was a long shot, the terminal might have something useful on it. She snuck into the office and quietly closed the door behind her.

The room was well furnished and expensive looking. The furniture was all made of mahogany and aged really well. A beautiful picture of a sunset hanged behind the desk on the wall. The shelves were neatly lined with porcelain figures of various animals. The desk was just as tidy and had a terminal on the right side. She walked over to the terminal which thankfully wasn’t broken and was able to get power.

Break used her PipBuck to hack it and it was guarded by a hard password. It took Break 15 minutes to crack it. She sighed in relief when she finally got it. Most the content of the terminal were just log entries or notes. There were at least a hundred of them. Break decided to check the last entry. It mentioned that the merchandise would be delayed due to the police getting involved, but it should arrive within the week by an alternate route. Break check the other entries and they too talked about merchandise and other vaguely explained activities. She wondered what the merchandise could be. It might be drugs. Suddenly a thought struck her, the arena underneath the casino and how strange that it even exists. Thinking about it, it looked old and Break was sure that the Stones weren’t the ones that built it. She kicked herself mentally for being too scared to think of this sooner. Break guessed that the merchandise might be slaves perhaps they were zebras.

It made sense. Using deathmatches to entertain the rich and powerful and making money off of the bets being made, not unlike what was happening today. Break clinched her jaw. She thought that ponies before the megaspells were beyond that, but maybe that wickedness had always been there out of sight.

Break wasn’t sure how this info could help her though. She remembered the use of the word ‘pathway’ several times and looked for other entries with that keyword. She could find hints that there might be passageway that connected the casino to somewhere else. It made sense. The casino was surrounded by an active city once. They need a way to surreptitiously transfer the goods here. However, Break wasn’t sure there was any way she could ever find it and that it wasn’t heavily guarded. It was her best bet, and it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.

Break got off the terminal and started searching the desk for any clues or anything useful. After a few minutes, she found something interesting. There was a key taped underneath the bottom drawer. She pulled it off and examined it. On the key tag was the picture of a crescent moon. She put it in her saddlebags and continued looking. Unfortunately, that was only the real thing of note to take.

A search of the rest of the room led to similar results. Break decided the best course of action was to find the door this key led to and go from there. She didn’t have any other leads. She left the office after checking if the coast was clear and made her way to the front lobby. She got herself a room to make her explorations of the casino less conspicuous. If she stayed long enough hopefully they might forget about her and the security outside might lax out of boredom looking for her. Unfortunately, it cost her 43 caps. She gave the money reluctantly, but it was for her survival so she couldn’t complain too much. She got the key to her room and left for it.

Getting to her room wasn’t difficult. It was on the left side of the casino on the third floor. The guards barely paid any attention to her. Her room was 1201. It wasn’t far from her destination. She decided to rest in her room for a few minutes before investigating where this crescent key might lead her. Her room was simple but well furnished. It was surprisingly well intact after all these years but did show it’s age a little. It had two beds, a liquor cabinet that was well stocked, a small kitchen, and a nice view of the city.

Break grabbed a beer out of the cabinet and took a large swig out of it. She retched a little. It was diet. She took another drink despite the taste and laid on the bed. She just wanted to rest her eyes a bit. The whole ordeal in the arena left her exhausted. Her eyes felt heavy and it only took a few moments for her to fall into deep sleep. The bottle of beer fell to the floor.

---

Yellow Star entered the casino in a huff. A guard that was ordered to work with him followed behind him the best he could but had trouble matching Yellow Star’s pace. He had been waiting outside for at least two hours now waiting for that dumb filly to finally come out, but she never appeared. He thought she would run out at the first opportunity. He guessed she wasn’t as dumb as she looked. Now he had to look for her himself. He wasn’t worried, though, she was cornered with no way out.

He approached a guard that was watching a game of blackjack intensely. He coughed to get the guard’s attention. The guard didn’t appear to hear him so he coughed again. Still no response. “Hey!” Yellow Star yelled. The guard glared at him.

“What?” The guard pony asked very annoyed which gave Yellow Star some pleasure. He was a red violet earth pony with a green mane. Black barding covered his entire body.

“Where is the filly you were instructed to watch?” Yellow Star asked.

The guard thought for a moment. “In the northern wing on the second floor. She rented herself a room about an hour ago.” He returned to watching the blackjack game with the same intensity seemingly forgetting Yellow Star existence.

“Which one then?” Yellow Star demanded starting to get very annoyed at the guard’s attitude.

The guard looked back. “I don’t have a clue. Ask the front desk.” He, once again, returned to watching the game.

“It’s your job to know that!” Yellow Star growled. The front desk was at least a ten-minute walk from here.

“I was only told to follow her movements, and I did.” The guard tried to answer patiently. “I have more important things to do than watch some filly.”

Yellow Star scoffed. “You had direct orders from Tack Coat herself. What could be more important than that?”

The guard pointed toward a mare at a blackjack table. She was a silver-maned beauty with a dark gray coat. “You see that mare over there. I suspect she might be cheating. She’s already won over two hundred caps.”

“Okay.” Yellow Star relented. “But that still was an important order!”

“I know where she is, and I know for a fact there is no way she can escape. I did as I was instructed. Besides, that filly isn’t even a threat. The mare that might be cheating is costing us several hundred caps.” The guard shot back. “So she isn’t one of my top priorities at the moment.”

Yellow Star was really starting to hate this pony. Not only was he not taking this order all that seriously, he could tell that the guard was treating him with obvious disdain. “Shows how much you know!” Yellow Star gave a triumphant look. “That so-called unimportant filly killed the undefeated champion!”

The guard’s eyes widened and stared right into Yellow Star’s eyes. He did this for a rather uncomfortable amount of time. “You’re not lying.” The guard said quietly. He looked at the other guard for confirmation and she nodded. The guard’s expression turned from shock to complete seriousness with a hint of fear in his eyes.

The guard turned to the other guard. “Why wasn’t I told about somepony that dangerous running around?!” He growled. “Keep a close eye on that mare while I deal with this.” He pointed at the mare he suspected of cheating and his counterpart nodded. He stormed off in the direction of the front desk.

Yellow Star gapped a little. This wasn’t quite the reaction he was expecting. He was hoping for at least an apology. He sighed. The guard was misunderstanding the situation a bit, but at least he’s taking this seriously. He did his best to follow after the guard and matched his brisk pace.

---

Break awoke to loud voices. She cursed when she looked outside. It was dark out. That means she slept at least four or five hours. She turned towards her door. She could hear some ponies having a rather heated argument.

“You sure this is it?” A mare asked.

“Positive. This is the room the clerk at the desk said.” A younger stallion said.”There is no way the info is wrong, we played big caps for this!” He argued.

Break had a feeling the mare just shook her head in disappointment. “This is why I never let you hold on to the money.”

“Whatever.” The stallion said in defeat. “This is where she is. Are we breaking in or not?”

Break tensed. She doubted whoever these ponies were could ever bring something positive to her. She looked around for something to block a door. She found a chair and used it block the door. She made sure to do it quietly. Thankfully they didn’t seem to hear it. Their talking blocked the sound.

“She hasn’t made a peep. I think she’s asleep.” The stallions said.

“Perfect. That will make this easier.” The mare said.

“So, how are we going to get in exactly?” The stallion asked. “Do you know how to pick locks?”

“Close, I have this.” The mare said triumphantly.

“A fire axe?” The stallion said in disbelief. “You don’t think the Stones will be furious about destroying one of their doors?”

“Come on, how would they even know it was us?” The mare asked in complete confidence.

“The pony at the desk knows we asked where this room is.” The stallion deadpanned.

“Oh.” The mare said stunned by the answer. She suddenly got angry and almost started yelling. “I’m not going to give up! That whorse cost me 100 caps!”

“And killed Mido.” The stallions said mournfully. He sounded on the brink of tears.

“That too!” She suddenly brightened. “I got it! We just wait outside and jump her!” The other one murmured in agreement.

Break sighed in relief. That would give her some time. She decided to see if there was any way for her to scale outside from the window. Stones thugs might be out there, but she didn’t have much of a choice.

She trotted up to the window slowly. Unfortunately, she slipped the beer bottle she dropped earlier and fell to the floor.

“What was that?”

“She’s awake!”

“Oh screw it!” The mare cried before cutting into the door with her axe. Break screamed. She looked around. She saw that the door next to the cabinet had a lock on it. She thought about the layout for room and compared it to the outside and where the door was. It seemed very likely that this door led to the next room.

Break heard the axe hit the door again. She took a nearby lamp and smashed it against the door handle praying this would actually work. It took three sturdy hits to break the door handle off. Break saw a tan hoof go through a hole created by the axe in the front door and move the chair blocking the door. It started turning the door handle.

Break opened the door and rushed in. She exited the front door of the next room beet red. She muttered an apology and rushed out of the room. Break ran down the hall with everything she had. Behind her could hear the pursuing ponies after she give embarrassed apologies. She ignored that and took a left. She screamed as an axe nearly hit her right shoulder and implanted itself in a wall to the right of her. This caused her to tripped over her legs and toppled over right into the wall next to her.

She laid there dazed for a few moments before feeling somepony on top of her. A brown earth pony stallion with a cyan mane had just jumped on her. He grabbed her tight. Break struggled to get free.

“Ha! Got her!” The stallion cried in delight.

“Good work Burnt Creme!” A mare’s voice said behind her. “Keep her still.”

“Gah, hurry up!” Burnt Creme cried out. “She isn’t making this easy!”

As Break tried her hardest to get the stallion off of her back she saw a light green unicorn mare with a purple mane use her magic to pull out the axe in the wall. Break cried out in horror and struggled harder.

The mare hefted it in the air and swung it hard at Break’s face. Break dodged at the last moment by throwing her head to the left. The axe was firmly planted into the ground.

“Damn. Stop…” The mare was able to say before Break kicked her hard in the head mostly by accident. “Gah! That’s it!” She pulled axe out fury in her eyes.

Break was stuck. The stallion was holding her too tight and she narrowly avoided the last attack. She needed to figure out a way out of this.

Down came the axe head right at Break’s head once again. It missed again but took a large chunk of Break’s hair. Break struggled even harder trying to take advantage of the situation.

“You missed again?!” Burnt Creme cried out in frustration.

“Oh shut up.” The mare snapped back. “She isn’t making this easy.”

“Hey you!” A stern voice cried out. “What are doing?! No fighting in the casino!”

All three looked in the direction of the voice to find a guard coming their way and he had a baton in his magic and look ready to use it.

The duo panicked and made a run for it completely forgetting about Break thankfully. The guard took chase. Break used this opportunity to sneak away.

Break ran as far as she could trying to get as much distance as possible. She stopped and panted when she thought she was far enough away. Nopony was in sight and she was grateful for that. She took stock of her surroundings. She was in a hallway not much different from the one that had her room. Her eyes widened in realization. She left her saddlebag and everything she had back in the room. She didn’t have time to collect them when those two crazy ponies attacked. She growled in frustration.

She wondered if it was a good idea to go back and get it or not. She had no idea where those two who attacked her were or if they were apprehended. After a moment’s consideration, she decided to go back. She didn’t have much of a choice considering the room key she found was still in there.

Luckily, Break was able easily able to find her way back and found no sight of that crazy pair. When she approached her room, it was still open. Most of the door’s remains were scattered in the doorway. She carefully stretched over the door fragments into the room. Break gaped when she looked next to the bed where she put her saddlebags a few hours ago. They were missing.

Break looked frantically around the room but found no sign of her missing saddlebags. “You have got to be kidding me!” She cried out.

She banged her head against the bed in frustration. She couldn’t believe this. She was only gone for ten minutes or so. Break had no idea what she should do now. She didn’t have the key with a crescent on it so that idea was a bust.

Break decided her best bet was a explore the casino more. There were some back areas that her PipBuck automap system picked up that she never looked around. She certainly didn’t want to stay here with those two crazy ponies on the loose, and she had no idea if they would be the last to come after her after what happened in the arena. She hoped beyond hope that she would stumble upon a way out of this place. She just might be able to find a way into that hidden tunnel without that key.

Break snuck through the halls carefully. She used her Eyes Forward Sparkle to avoid anyone seeing her. She found a stairway near the elevators and quietly entered it. She went down the stair and found a door that said ‘Employees Only’ in faded letters.

Unsurprisingly the door was locked, but it had a weakness Break could exploit. The door was attached to a terminal. Break connected her hacking system. The password was only five letters long and it didn’t take long for her to determine that it was ‘fuzzy’. She just shook her head and unlocked the door.

After determining the coast was clear with her EFS, she entered the door quiet as a mouse. She found herself in a hallway with plain tan wallpaper that was badly peeling. It was ugly and plain which was a sharp contrast to the casino .Break figured since no customer ever saw back here, why put the effort into making it aesthetically appealing. It was deathly quiet in here unsettling Break a little, but she tried to ignore it. She didn’t see any doors, so she quietly walked through the hallway.

---

Yellow Star was grinding his teeth in frustration. So far their search had been fruitless. The filly was surprisingly adept at making herself scarce. When they arrived at the room she rented, they found the door smashed in and the room empty. Unfortunately, there was no sign of her after she was attacked and nopony has seen her since.

The idiot guard was just standing there thinking. He hadn’t moved for over ten minutes. He started doing this after talking to another guard. Any questions about what he was doing was waved away with a ‘You’ll see’. Yellow Star had to resist punching the stallion. He won’t have talked to him like this a few days ago. He hated this stallion but did his best to control his temper. Yellow Star started pacing. They were wasting time.

Another guard came up and whispered something to the hated stallion. He cleared his throat. “Bring them here.” The other guard nodded.

Two ponies were brought in front of them with an accompany of guards. A mare and a stallion. They looked terrified.

“So these are the troublemakers.” The guard said with a threat in his voice. The two prisoners quivered and they should. The wrath of the Stones was well known. Quick, brutal, and heartless.

“Attacking a guest and destroying property is a serious offense.” The guard said. “Say your peace before I give punishment.”

“We just wanted to get back at that whorse for costing us 100 caps!” The mare blurted out.

The mare nodded so hard it looked like her head would come off. “In the arena! She killed the champion and cost us almost everything!”

Yellow Star’s ears perked up at this. Two more ponies wronged by that damn filly. He could sympathize with their quest for revenge.

The guard threw out a breath. “I see. All the more reason to get rid of that filly. She seems to cause nothing but problems. What was the boss lady thinking letting her run around?”

After two or three moments of deliberation, he decided his verdict. “Cut off a leg and throw them out of town. I don’t ever want to see you around here again.”

The two prisoners froze and turned pale as snow. Yellow Star turned around ready to begin his search again, but he suddenly got an idea.

“I don’t think that will be necessary.” Yellow Star said smoothly.

The head guard raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

“How about this? To make up for their transgressions, they work it off instead?” Yellow Star stated.

“I don’t want them.” The guard said flatly.

“No, no. For me. I am short on pony power at the moment.” Yellow Star said with a chuckle.

“I really don’t think…” The guard started before being interrupted.

“I work with your boss as a trusted partner.” Yellow Star argued.

“That you do.” The guard agreed, but in a manner that made it clear, he thought of Yellow Star as scum. This made Yellow Star furious, but he did his best to control himself.

“So why not help a partner in a hard time?” Yellow Star pleaded.

The guard thought on this and eventually shrugged. “Fine, do what you want with them. Just keep them out of my hair.”

The two grinned and gave their thanks quickly. “You aren’t going to regret this!” The stallion said.

“See that I don’t.” Yellow Star said simply.

“Oh wait. I think I have something that might be useful.” The stallion said. The head guard perked up at this. “I have that damn filly’s saddlebags.”

Yellow Star grinned. He was right about saving these two. It might have a clue. ”Well well.”

The mare, that Yellow Star learned was Iron Clad, told them about asking her cousin to take anything of worth from the filly after they got done killing her to make up for what they had lost.

The cousin was summoned and soon the saddlebags in question were laid in front of them. Yellow Star was about to open them with a hoof, but the head guard, who still annoyingly refused to give his name, stopped him.

“It could be booby trapped.” The guard reasoned. Yellow Star rolled his eyes. The filly was a halfwit, there was no way she did that.

The saddlebags were examined for a few minutes before being declared safe. Yellow Star grumbled that he could have told them that. Inside was food, water, basic survival tools like a compass, some ammo, and few miscellaneous things. But perplexingly, it a pocket in the back had a key with a crescent moon on it.

“What the hay is this?” Yellow Star wasn’t sure what to make of it.

“Huh, it’s a key to the hidden tunnels.” The head guard interjected.

Yellow Star almost toppled over in shock. “What?!”

“No idea where she got this. Not that it matters. The doors that protect the entrance are all locked with a terminal.” The guard commented grinning.

Yellow Star face hoofed. “You idiot. She has a PipBuck. I bet she’s down there right now trying to get in key or not.”

The head guard’s eyes widened in comprehension most satisfactory and his jaw went slack. He turned around and started marching off. “This way. I know a shortcut.” He quickly took off and Yellow Star had to almost run to catch up. Yellow Stars’s new henchponies followed. He was annoyed at that pony taking off again, but was glad he was about to finally find that filly.

---


Break quietly crept through the hallway. After going back and forth through the area, she discovered that they led to almost everywhere in the casino. It even had elevators that led to different floors. Thankfully, she only ran into a few ponies here and there. She hid whenever her EFS picked up anypony. Down here had plenty of supply rooms to hide in.Unfortunately, they were mostly for food, drinks, and other miscellaneous stuff. She couldn’t find one with weapons anywhere. It seemed this passageway was mostly used to move supplies to various parts of the casino.

After a bit of searching, she found a doorway that led to the underground arena. After some hesitation and checking if the coast was clear, she entered the door. She guessed the secret tunnel had to be somewhere near the arena.

She found herself back at the cells used to hold the slave ponies used for the matches. She looked in through the bars in the windows of the cells. She could see ponies sleeping or just milling about. Her heart went out to them. She wondered if she could somehow free them. She couldn’t just leave them. She searched around for a key. She froze when she heard somepony walking towards her.

She looked around and saw nothing but doors and hallway with nothing she could hide behind. She looked at the doors, but all of them were probably locked.

“Hey! Who are you?” The pony approaching her asked. It was a mare with a russet colored coat and a grayish blue mane. She had a gray plain guard’s uniform.

“Me. I am, uh….” Break searched for a good excuse. “New!”

“Where is your uniform?” The mare asked raising an eyebrow.

“Well...they didn’t give me one!” Break said rather pathetically. She was really grasping at straws here.

The mare, oddly enough, actually bought it. She facehoofed. “Figures. We never seem to enough of those damn things. Oh well.”

“Yeah! Funny that!” Break gave a fake laugh.

“What are you even doing down here?” The guard asked.

“I...kinda got lost.” Break gave the best excuse she could.

The mare’s expression softened and made a small chuckle. “It happened to me too. All these darn corridors look the same. I’ll show you to the guard room.”

Break nodded. She was thankful that the guard didn’t recognize her. She guessed they weren’t all told about her.

Break was led down more corridors with cells. Most looked empty, but she could see a pony here and there. Break trying her best to work out what to do and say when they got to guard room. She decided to just pretend to recognize where they were after a few corridors and tell the guard to go back to her duty and that she could handle it from here.

Break turned down another corridor. She could see a red exit sign at the end of the hallway that led to a stairway. This seemed like the perfect spot.

“Oh hey. I recognize that.” Break stopped and pointed towards the exit sign. “I think I know where I should go from here.”

The mare stopped and nodded. “Yah, you should be able to find your way back from here. Just make a left at the sign, go down that corridor, take another left and you should find the guard room.”

Break nodded. “Thanks for all your help.”

The guard smiled. “No problem dear. Always willing to help…” The mare was interrupted by a familiar voice. One with a strange accent.

“You?! But I thought they’d kill you after you killed their precious Mido.” The stallion from the arena cell said. “How the hay did you end up with a job working for ‘em?”

Chapter 11

View Online

The guard pony stared at Break baffled. “I don’t believe this!” The accented pony moaned. “I fight for my life for hours and she gets her freedom and job after a simple fluke!”

The guard pony gave Break a scrutinizing look and spotted her PipBuck on her right leg. Before the guard even had a chance to try anything, Break belted the mare in the face with her PipBuck. The mare screamed in pain.

“What the?” The pony in the cell cried out. Break ignored him and ran for it.

The mare grunted. “Come back here you!” She gave chase. “Hey! I need help!” She yelled at the other guards as Break made a run for it. This was bad. Break heard voices coming from the direction of the guard room. Break decided to increase her speed.

Break made a sharp right and choose to make a run for the way she came in. She came to a stop when she remembered that door only opened by a terminal. She realized there was no way she had nearly enough time to hack it with the guards already on her heels. She noticed a sign that led to the arena. Break figured that could possibly be her best chance and ran towards it.

She took a right at the sign and found a straight hallway. It was familiar one. It was the exact cell she was in before her match with that crazy death dog thing. It looked locked and the metal gate to the arena proper was down. Next to it was a door that said, "Observatory". She ran towards it before coming to a full-on stop. A bullet flew past her head and right into the door blowing a small hole into it. Break fell back on her haunches in shock and a few splinters created by the explosion of wood scratched her face leaving a few drops of blood on the floor. She scrambled for the corner she just came from. Break kept low and felt a bullet whiz past her head. She was able to get behind a corner and panted at the exertion and leaned against the wall.

Break glanced at her PipBuck and gave herself a mental kick in the head. She really needed to stop forgetting she had this thing. She checked her map and memorized what little it had mapped of the area. It consisted of four rows of cells in a grid divided in middle. She was currently behind a couple of cells. She activated her Eyes Forward Sparkle and noticed the two red dots coming towards her. They were coming down a hallway that led to the observatory the same direction those shots came from. She froze and examined her pursuers carefully. She cursed. It looked like guards were now situated in each of the hallways. They were just waiting for those two guards to flush her out. She could see a guard standing still in the hallway in front of her. At that distance, there was no possible way for Break to make a jump on them.

Break was stuck with no way out. She couldn’t turn the corner past the cells to the next hallway or just run forward. She didn’t doubt that the guards had a gun trained ready to shoot at anything that came out in the open. And there was another guard in the next hallway to contend with even if she were able to get past. She looked around. All she could see in her reach was the door that led to that arena cell and there was no way she could get past that.

Break did the only thing that won’t get her killed. “I surrender!” She yelled. She put her hooves up. Two guards came in view guns at the ready.

“I surrender!” Break repeated. The guards approached her with caution.

“Turn around.” One of the guards ordered. Break did what he said. She felt a sharp pain in the head as she felt the blunt end of a gun. Break found herself shoved to the ground and restrained. “Get some chains!”

Break didn't struggle at all. She just stayed on the ground. She was too disoriented to do anything anyway until a guard pulled her to her hooves. With a loud clang, chains adorned Break's hooves.

"Get up!" The guard ordered and Break didn't argue. Five guards surrounded her and one had a black eye. The mare Break hit from before looked pissed. Break gave her a weak smile and was decked in the face for her trouble. The other guards laughed.

The mare cursed and punched Break in the face again. Break could see stars and felt her face starting to bruise. “Get her out of here!”

Break was roughly shoved as she was being led. She was able to get her senses back after a few moments. She sighed. Maybe surrendering was a bad idea.

---

Yellow Star grinned in glee. He rubbed his hooves together in anticipation. They finally found and captured that slippery little whorse. They found her in the cells underneath the casino. She was searching for the secret tunnel but was caught before she could find it. Not like it mattered. According to the head guard, it collapsed a long time ago.

Yellow Star and his cohorts were waiting in a private room waiting for the filly to be delivered to them. The room had simple furnishing with a few chairs, two beds, and a liquor cabinet. Yellow Star was sitting in a chair drinking bourbon celebrating his fortune. His two new lackeys were also drinking with him in high spirits. The annoying stuck up guard refused to drink anything. Well whatever, screw him.

Eventually, the filly was brought in with two guards on her. Yellow Star nodded in satisfaction at the black bruise on her face around one of her eyes. She would be getting far worse soon he knew. He got up and strolled up to them. There was a devilish grin on his face and swung his hoof right into the damned whorse's face. Unfortunately, she somehow saw this coming and ducked. The blow missed and went right past her hitting a guard standing behind her. The guard swore and retaliated with a butt of the end of his rifle right into Yellow Star’s face.

“Gah. How dare you!” Yellow Star gave a venomous glare at the guard who returned it.

Yellow Star heard sighing behind him. The head guard groaned and shook his head. “Now that the filly is finally caught, I want you all out of my casino. Now.” The order gave no room to protest.

Yellow Star’s temper flared. How dare he order him around? Yellow Star swore he would make the bastard pay one day. He did his best to control himself. Now was not the time.

“Fine. This isn’t where I’m going to punish the whorse anyway.” Yellow Star gave a sadistic grin. The whorse wilted at the look like the pathetic piece of horse apples she was.

“Really boss?” Iron Clad tilted her head in curiosity. Burnt Crème perked up at this as well.

“Have you heard of Red River Valley?” Yellow Star asked with a grin directing the question at the whorse. She thought for a moment before giving a noncommittal nod.

"In it is one of the deadliest creatures in the wasteland, the arachne wasp. They are these horrible mutated spider-like wasps that like to lay their eggs in ponies. Usually in the stomach. Worst of all, they wrap the victims in a cocoon alive until the eggs hatch bursting right out of the pony. They say the pain of the babies eating their way out of you is beyond words. Then they feed on the victim. A truly horrible way to die." Yellow Star explained.

"I’ve heard of that.” A random guard piped in. “It was voted the third worst way to die in the Wasteland Survival Guide.”

“Really?” The whorse said weakly.

“Just shoot her.” The head guard pony snorted. The whorse tensed when she heard that.

“Err, what?” The Yellow Star asked baffled.

“Just shoot her. You don’t need to kill her in some elaborate way. Shoot her in the head and be done with it.” The head guard explained.

Yellow Star glared at him. “Do you have any idea what she has cost me?!”

“And shooting her will repay that.” The guard pony replied.

This moron didn’t understand anything. How could he just shoot her after she made him lose everything? He needed to make her suffer first. Suffer a lot.

“No. She needs to feel everything she did to me!” Yellow Star proclaimed. The guard just rolled his eyes and turned away.

“Fine, but I’m not letting you take any guards with you. You’re on your own.” The guard said.

“Whatever!” Yellow Star gritted his teeth. It didn’t really matter anyway. “Let’s go.”

Burnt Creme grabbed the whorse’s chains and pulled her along. Iron Clad make sure to keep a simple hoof gun trained on her the whole time.

“Finally.” The head guard said after they left the room. Yellow Star tried his best to pretend he didn’t hear that. He wasn’t going to let that whorse escape him again.

---

Over the next hour, Break was pushed and shoved outside of town. Break was eventually led to a cliff face. She looked down it. There was a small river surrounded by barren cliffs that stretched upward. She guessed before the war it would have been quite beautiful surrounded by luscious green grass and trees with sparkling blue water. Now, however, all Break could see was barrenness and death.

“Finally here!” Yellow Star proclaimed. He pointed a narrow path. He seemed to know the area well. They went down what looked like an old hiking trail worn down by the years. The path was a bit steep in some areas and Break almost lost her footing a few times, but they were able to reach their destination without too much difficulty.

After about 10 minutes, Yellow Star held up a hoof to stop. He pointed down. The entire group looked in the direction he was pointing in. Break could see something between the rocks walls. They looked at what seemed like a giant white cocoon. It was at least the size of a building. In the bottom was a hole. Break's eyes widened in horror when she saw what crawled out of it.

The thing was at least the size of a pony. It could somewhat be called a wasp. It had the wings and head of a normal wasp, but this thing had eight legs instead of six. They were thick and hairy and were longer than its body. It was covered in yellow fur and had black stripes going across its back. It crawled out of the hive and down the wall to a cavern below.

Yellow Star gave out a sadistic laugh. He took out a rope and ordered them to hold her down. The two goons obeyed. Break tried to struggle, but they were too strong for her. Yellow Star tied her back legs together in a tight knot with rope and did the same to her to front ones as well despite them already being chained.

“Throw her off the side.” He ordered. “The fall won’t kill her.”

The two goons grinned in enthusiasm and did as they were told. Break landed with a painful thud. The fall was at least four or five hooves long. She groaned in pain. She took stock of her surroundings and nearly screamed. She could see skeletons everywhere. Trying to count them all would be dizzying. Break heard angry buzzing and looked up. Two of those arachne wasps saw her and crawled up to her. Break thrashed around uselessly. There was no way to get out of her bonds.

One of the wasp things grabbed her with its legs and started wrapping her in something white out of its whatever the end of a spider is called. In seconds, she was completely wrapped in the web. She was trapped. There no way now she could ever get free. Break started to cry. She was doomed and there was no way around it. She was set gingerly on the ground again.

The two arachne wasp flew away to the hive presumably. Break found herself unable move so there wasn't any way to be sure. She didn't even try to get free. She just started sobbing uncontrollably. Her thoughts turned to Green Mile hoping she was okay and happy. This was the end.

Break heard buzzing again and looked up. An arachne wasp was flying towards her. This is it. She thought already steeling herself for the pain of having eggs laid in her. It landed right in front of her. Break closed her eyes readying herself for the worst when suddenly she heard whistling. Break knew the jolly little tune. It was ‘Get Your Pony On’.

Break opened her eyes and looked at where the whistling was coming from. It was hard to crane her neck but she was able to find the whistler. It was a filly. She was a pegasus with a cyan coat and a pink mane. Her cutie mark was a bee flying with a dotted line as its trail. She had a beaten-up teddy bear on her back. She was jumping from rock to rock enjoying herself.

“Get out here! It’s dangerous!” Break warned horrified to see the filly here.

The filly looked in her direction. "Oh hi, Gladys!" She gave a wave. ‘Gladys' the arachne wasp in front of Break waved back happily. The filly trotted towards them.

Break gapped. Her mouth hung open not really comprehending what she was seeing. “Wha-You shouldn’t be here!” She tried again thinking she just imagined what she just saw.

The filly rolled her eyes. “My friends live here.”

“B-but these things are horrible monsters!” Break argued back.

The filly looked indignant. “They’re only monsters because ponies see them that way!” Gladys nodded in agreement. “They’re way nicer and better than ponies could ever be!”

Break started and gave a horrified and confused look. “She’s going to kill me!”

“No, she’s going to use you to birth her, rather cute I might add, young.” The filly stated rather proudly. “It’s the circle of life! Besides, it’s your own fault. This area is well known for them.”

Gladys buzzed and the filly nodded in agreement. To Break’s amazement, it seemed the filly could understand and speak to the wasp-spider thing. “She’s right. It was voted the third worst way to die in The Wasteland Survival Guide. You would have to be a complete crazy pony to come here.”

“I didn’t come here voluntarily!” Break yelled. “Some bad ponies threw me in here to kill me!”

“Really?” The filly tilted her head.

“Yes, please help me out of here.” Break pleaded. This was her only shot out of here.

"No.” The filly stated simply.

Break blinked. “What.”

“You probably did something bad. Besides, you’re a grown up.” The filly glared at Break. “You’re all bad in one way or another. You’ll probably try to hurt me if I free you.” The filly instinctively rubbed the front of her neck after saying this.

Break didn't get angry, instead, her eyes softened and became sympathetic instead. She felt bad for the filly. Break guessed that the poor girl had gone through some pretty horrible hardships to have such a pessimistic attitude about ponies at such a young age.

“I would never hurt you.” Break said gently and quietly. “I know it might not seem like it, but not all ponies are bad. In fact, I like to think most are good. You shouldn’t let one bad encounter sour your opinion of others.”

The filly scowled. “Yeah right. You’re an adult. They only care about themselves. They’ll do anything to save their own skin!”

Gladys buzzed and the filly turned on her glowering. “No, she doesn’t have a point. Stay out of this!”

“Please. I promise that if you let me go, I will leave and not harm anyp-anyone.” Break made sure to make her voice level low and pleaded with her eyes.

The filly just snorted. Gladys buzzed again. The two moved away from Break and started quietly talking to each other. The filly gave Break more angry glares. “Fine!” The filly threw up her hooves in defeat. “You try anything and my friends will rip you to shreds!”

Break nodded. “Thank you.” She said kindly.

“I am so going to regret this.” The filly said under her breath.

---

Yellow Star watched from a safe distance with a pair of binoculars from a cliff overlooking the valley. His two new minions were bugging him about letting them use it too, but he just ignored them.

He almost danced in glee as the whorse was wrapped in a cocoon by an arachne wasp. He grinned ear to ear as one flew in to finally lay eggs into her. He would be sure to watch the whole thing. Usually, it would take about three days for them to hatch. He would be sure to return just to see her fear and agony. He could already see the moment of the hatching in his mind's eye. He left his revelry and gaped.

Now the whorse was having an argument with a filly and the arachne wasp just stood there. Why wasn’t it attacking them? “What?” Yellow Star blurted completely dumbfounded. He couldn’t believe it. Now the filly was having an argument with the arachne wasp. He shook his head thinking he’s just imagining all this, but no, it seemed this scene was all too real. Soon the filly got out a knife and was started to free the whorse. The supposedly deadly bug just watched in what seemed like approval.

Yellow Star gritted his teeth. He was not going to have this prize taken from him. He put his binoculars in his saddlebag and left to storm down the mountain. His two lackeys gave a confused look but followed after him. He was not going to let her leave this place alive. He refused to allow that to happen.

---

Break was being led down a narrow path between some rock faces following behind the still unnamed filly and Gladys. The conversation was light. The filly refused to give her name and Break thought it would be best to drop it. The filly was very guarded about herself and Break couldn't really blame the filly. So, Break stayed silent as they traveled. She suggested taking a path that led away from the way she came. Call Break paranoid, but she was sure Yellow Star was watching her and knew he would come after her if he knew she was free. She still had the shackles on and did her best to walk with them. She didn't have too much trouble moving around in them, but they did get caught on the occasional rock making her almost fall flat on her face.

Break looked around anxiously for any trouble. She knew deep down that there was no way this situation would end without one of them dead. Yellow Star's hatred ran too deep Break could tell. She was a convenient target for all the anger he felt after losing everything. He would also stoop to anything she knew. Break didn't want to kill him, or anypony really and she hated to be stuck in this kill or be killed situation. But she didn't think there was any other option.

According to Gladys, there was a tunnel they could take to lose him. It only took about ten minutes to find the tunnel in question. It went down in the cliff face. Break didn’t waste any time and rushed inside.

Inside the tunnel was various displays built into the rock itself. They explained various facts about the valley they were in. They were still in pretty good condition and were still readable, but Break ignored them and pressed on.

It only took a few minutes to get to the other side and Break could see through the tunnel exit the muted light outside. She was about to exit when heard something metallic hit the stone floor. It was followed by several more. She looked around for the source of the sound and her eyes widened when she spotted the grenade at the tunnel's exit. Not just one, but two. They looked different from ordinary grenades. In fact, they looked very familiar.

They exploded and the entire area was covered in blinding light. Break screamed in pain as she lost all ability to see and covered her eyes with a leg. Break suddenly coughed and had trouble breathing. Despite her eyes being closed, they burned painfully. She struggled forward and collapsed trying to exit out of the tunnel. She fell down and stayed there unable to do much in her condition. She felt a sudden kick to the gut. She cried out in pain.

“Ha! Thought you could get away? Think again.” Yellow Star mocked. He kicked her again in the ribs. She laid on the ground on her side trying to see the blurry figure her eyes still burning.

It took a few moments, but her eyes cleared enough to see Yellow Star grinning sadistic face. He kicked her right in the ribs again hard once again. Break's breath knocked out of her and she had trouble breathing. She swiftly received another kick in the ribs. Burning pain exploded through her body.

Break could see those two ponies from the casino coming up behind Yellow Star. They grinned maliciously. The mare was levitating the same fire ax from before in her magic. Great, they’re teaming up. Break thought as she tried to get her breath back.

“What should we do with the filly?” Burnt Creme asked.

“Take her.” Yellow Star said. “She’s a pegasus. She’ll fetch a high price.”

Burnt Creme looked hesitant and his female friend shifted around nervously. The quickly complied when they received a furious glare from their new boss.

“No!” Break thought. She had to do something. She was not going to let that happen. Gladys tried to recover and help, but a blow from the ax put her out of commission.

“Gladys!” The filly cried out, only to be smacked in the head with the end of the ax. She crumbled to the ground. Break’s eyes widened and her fear turned to anger. How dare they do this to a filly?

“Shut up.” The mare said coldly. “Don’t move.”

Yellow Star turned to watch and grinned. “Good work, don’t hurt her too bad, but show her what happens if she resists.”

Break suddenly sprang up and wrapped the chains of her shackles around Yellow Star’s neck choking him. He tried to resist and he was very strong, but Break put all her strength in the action refusing to let up for a moment. He coughed out something inaudible.

"Boss!" Burnt Creme cried out. "Don't worry, I got this." He pulled out a revolver from the holster on his side. He grinned and fired it. Break already saw this coming and shifted Yellow Star's body to shield the bullets. The slaver gave out an odd gurgled pained choking sound. His eyes widened in shock. His strength weakened and he lost much of his ability to stop Break's attack.

“You idiot!” The mare cried out and charged at Break with the ax. Break tossed Yellow Star right into the mare and they collapsed in a heap.

After a few minutes, Burnt Creme was able to recover his wits after shooting his new boss and rose his gun to fire again.

Break didn’t give him the chance and dove right into him knocking the gun aside. They wrestled and she already knew that she couldn’t take the stallion. He was so strong and he was trying to pin Break to the ground. She was luckily able to slip out of his grasp and avoid the pin but she needed some way to take him out.

The situation turned for the worse as Break tried to move away only to have her body pushed to the ground. Burnt Creme kept her to the ground with one hoof and put his legs over Break’s. He grinned maliciously and raised a hoof to strike. With a hoof, Break grabbed some nearby dirt and threw it into the stallion’s face. He cried in pain and grabbed his face with his hooves. Break used this distraction to push him off.

Break got up and ran towards the gun. Unfortunately, the other mare was able to get herself free and used her magic to swing the ax at Break’s head. Break saw it coming and ducked out of the way. The mare kept her barrage going and kept swinging. Break was able to avoid the attacks barely, but she had to back up towards a cliff wall to avoid getting hit. This was exactly what the mare wanted, to keep Break pinned down and corner her.

The ax hovered above Break menacingly. She swallowed. “Dodge this! You whorse!” The mare screamed in sadistic glee. The ax swung at Break wildly and she did her best to avoid the blows. She winced in pain as one grazed her cheek. Suddenly the ax went down at her hard and Break fell to the ground. The ax hit the cliff face and its head broke off with a snap.

“What?!” The mare exclaimed.

Break took advantage and bucked the mare with both legs in the face into the cliff face and it knocked her out cold.

"You little!” The stallion picked up the gun and aimed it at Break. She froze in terror. He pulled the trigger but missed thankfully. Break took advantage of this and grabbed the ax head with her mouth and hurled it at the stallion. The stallion took another shot, but Break ducked in time and it only grazed her shoulder. The ax head hit its mark and the blunt end of it hit the stallion right in the head. He cried out in pain and was dazed. Break rushed at him and punched him the face. She wailed at him frantically with her hooves stomping at him. He eventually stopped moving and Break panted when she ceased her attack.

Break looked around for any more trouble. The mare was still unconscious and Yellow Star was on the ground. It didn’t look like he was breathing. Break took a tentative step towards him. With a shaky hoof, she checked his pulse. He was dead. Break sighed in relief. She looked for the filly. There she was trembling against the wall. Break trotted towards her slowly and carefully.

“There there. It’s going to be alright.” Break said soothingly. The filly rushed towards her and gave Break a tight hug. She started sobbing in her coat and Break gave her back comforting strokes.

“Don’t worry. You’re safe now.” Break gave the filly a tender hug.

Chapter 12

View Online

Break laid the last of the dirt on the mound and put a piece of scrap metal as a tombstone. She wiped the sweat off her brow. She painstakingly scratched Gladys’s name on it with a rock. She could hear the filly trying her best not cry. Break put a comforting hoof around her.

“Thanks for doing this for Gladys.” The filly said sniffing.

“I don’t mind. She was your friend.” Break gave a sad smile. The two walked away from the grave.

“I’m Breezy.” The filly said.

“Break Point.” Break replied. Break looked her PipBuck and opened her map. Breezy looked over her shoulder at it.

"You going somewhere?" Breezy asked.

Break nodded. “I need to get to Cypress. I have a friend that lives there.”

“Why would he live there? There is nothing out there.” Breezy asked. It was a desolate place to be sure, but it suited Scavenger.

“True, but it was a big city at one point, and he loves finding useful junk." The old city wasn't on the map, but Break had a pretty good idea where it was. She'd been there a few times during the times she left Primrose.

“Do you need some protection? I have friends that could help you!” Breezy said enthusiastically.

Break thought about it. She knew that they would be some strange and monstrous creature. “Um, no thanks. I think I want to keep a low profile.”

Breezy looked disappointed but nodded. "Oh well. I had some Yao Guai friends that could help.”

“I-I see.” Break knew that would be an interesting thought having those mutated bear things watching over her. Could this filly befriend any creature?

“But, I have to help somehow!” Breezy complained. She suddenly brightened. “I have it!” She rushed away and Break tried her best to follow. Breezy came to an entrance of a cave and darted inside. It was small and very dark, almost pitch black. Break decided to wait outside as it was far too small for her to fit through. The filly emerged with an old PipBuck. It was seriously damaged and was missing the strap that connected it to a hoof.

Breezy presented it. “Here! I found it a few weeks ago, it still works! It has some data on it and a detailed map of the surrounding area!”

Break nodded her thanks and connect her own PipBuck to it. Breezy was right. She downloaded several audio files and it provided her with several map waypoints for at least a few miles. “This is perfect. Thanks.”

Breezy beamed. “Ah shucks.”

---

Breezy and a few of her arachne wasp friends waved Break goodbye. Break waved back and promised to visit again someday. She hated leaving the filly behind but thought it was too dangerous for Breezy to come with her. She went on her way to Cypress which wasn’t hard thanks to her new map data which had the exact location. She traveled in silence alert for any danger. As much as she would like to listen to her radio or those new audio files she found, she feared it would only provide a distraction. Thankfully, she was able to avoid anything too dangerous besides some giant ants. Break made sure to stay clear of their territory and they left her alone. She briefly wondered if they were friends of Breezy.

In a few hours, she came to her destination. It hadn’t really changed from the last time she was here. It was eerily quiet. There wasn’t hide or hair of anypony amongst the destroyed or toppled buildings. Maybe calling it a city was a bit of an exaggeration. It didn’t have any skyscrapers or anything, but it was rather large.

Break kept her guard up as she trotted through the city. Cypress was known to have some dangerous creatures and sometimes raiders hid out here. An action that was actually pretty suicidal considering it was so near to Cosas territory. Any raider that tried to live here soon found out how bad of an idea that was. Break didn’t think she was in that much danger being here, but she wasn’t going to take any chances.

Break soon found herself at an old laundromat. She knew that this was one of the places Scavenger liked to live. He had at least ten different hideouts. He did this for safety, just in case of dangerous creatures or raiders. Break peeked inside.

“Scavenger?” Break cried out peeking her head inside. A figure jumped from the second floor behind Break and she jumped in surprise.

“B-Break! T-thank dear Celestia almighty!” The figure said pulling Break into a rather painful bearhug. He was so excited he started shaking.

"Hey, Scavenger." Break said in strangled tone. The hug was painful. She was let go and gave a sigh of relief.

Scavenger was a short unicorn with a blue mane and a violet coat. He was covered almost head to hoof in light brown rags. His torso was covered in belts. They had all manner of tools on them. Break knew under all that was a cutie mark of a nut and bolt. His special talent was finding and taking apart anything. He was able to make a nice sum selling whatever he could find. He was also unfortunately not so great around ponies and had trouble speaking to them.

“C-come in.” Break followed Scavenger inside the laundromat and he closed the door behind him. He used his magic to grab a nice looking blue la-z-colt and Break sat on it. He grabbed another one and planted himself on it. He placed table between them. “T-t-tea?”

“Sure.” Break said getting comfortable. The chair was a wonder to sit on. It didn’t look all that worse for wear after all these years. The same with the table, the teapot, and the tea cups Scavenger produced. It was amazing what Scavenger could find. No wonder ponies paid him handsomely for what he found.

“T-thank the p-p-princesses you are here!” Scavenger exclaimed. “I-I thought you were d-dead!”

Break sighed. “Sorry to worry you, but...you know...I thought it would be better for everypony if I was thought to be dead.

Scavenger nodded. “So… I-is it true about the slave camp?”

Break rubbed the back of her head. “Well...kinda?”

Scavenger tilted his head back and forth. “I-I see. I’ve heard crazy rumors about it.”

Break sighed. “Yeah, but it's gotten me into a lot of trouble. I’m worried now that the Cosas know I am alive, that they might do something to Green Mile. Is she ok?”

Scavenger looked nervous. He started tracing his hoof along the ground. “W-well you s-see about t-th-that.”

Break stood up heart starting to race in panic and worry. “Is she ok?”

“P-p-p-probably?” Scavenger barely got the word out.

“What do you mean?” Break asked perplexed.

Scavenger became silent and turned his head away. “Vanished.”

“What?” That was all Break could say.

“T-the day a-after we all thought you died, s-she just vanished off the face of Equestria. I l-looked for her, but c-c-couldn’t find any sign of her.” Scavenger’s ears drooped.

Break sat back down heart sinking. “Oh.”

Scavenger started rubbing his hooves across the ground in a nervous gesture. “D-don’t know w-what to d-do. Fraid s-she might do s-something crazy!”

Break did know. Green Mile was a very emotional pony and could hold a very strong grudge. But she wouldn't try to get revenge, would she? Break knew her to not be a violent pony. Hopefully, she just went somewhere to cool off. She should be fine hopefully.

“I see.” That was all Break could say.

“N-no idea w-where she could have gone.”

Break grunted in annoyance. How was she to find her cousin now? She couldn’t just leave her cousin alone and she needed to apologize for making Green Mile think she was dead. In retrospect, that was a horrible idea.

Break spent the next hour just chatting with Scavenger. It felt good to talk with an old friend. She talked about the real events of her adventures and he listened with interest. It seemed to calm him down a little.

Break scratched her head. “I am still at a loss about how we are to find Green Mile.”

Scavenger suddenly brightened. “I-I think I might know somepony that could help us. B-bit of a longshot, but s-she might have spotted something.”

Break nodded and followed Scavenger outside. He led her to a road and Break saw a caravan in the distance. They ran to catch up to it. It was led by an earth pony mare with green mane and jasmine coat. She was dressed in a gray traveling cloak. Her Brahmin companion was a light brown color and was carrying bags full of various tools, supplies, and whatever else one might find in the wastelands.

Scavenger waved to the mare and she waved back. "Hey, Scavy. Long time no see.” The mare greeted.

“D-d-daisies! H-hi” Scavenger waved back.

They caught up to Daisies and her Brahmin. “Ah! I found something you might like!” Daisies pulled something out of one of her packs. It was an old machine part. “Nice, right? It’s perfect for a generator.”

Scavenger nodded in approval and grabbed the part and examined it carefully. “G-good work. P-P-Primrose w-will p-p-pay nicely f-for it.”

Break coughed. Scavenger straightened. “B-Break a friend of mine.”

“Nice to meet you.” Daisies said.

“Charmed deary.” One of the Brahmin heads said. Brahmins were two-headed creatures once said to be something called a cow. Despite being mutated, they were friendly enough.

“Say, I was wondering. Did you see a green earth pony mare walk by here recently? It would be about two days ago?” Break asked. Knowing it would be easier if she asked.

Daisies thought on this. “I don’t know. I don’t think so? How about you Betty?”

“Actually, now I think I did. Give me a moment. What do you think Letty?” Betty turned towards her other head.

“Oh yes, I definitely remember her Betty. She had an orange mane, right?” Letty said.

Break nodded fiercely. “Yes, that would be her.”

“I saw her head towards Forks with a sickly-looking colt," Betty replied.

“He looked like he was going to fall down dead right there the poor thing," Letty said sympathetically.

Break jaw dropped. “Forks. You have got to be kidding me.” Scavenger raised an eyebrow at this.

“I’m not very popular there right now. It’s a long story.” Break explained.

“Y-you are very good at making enemies Break. I h-have no idea how you do it.” Scavenger pointed out.

Break nodded gloomily. “So, about this colt. What was he like?”

“He was very white. Pure white even and had a black mane. And he was a unicorn I think. I didn’t get a good look at his horn.” Betty said while tapping her chin.

“No, no! He was a pegasus. I’m sure of it!” Letty argued. “He definitely had wings!”

“You are just being daft. No, he didn’t.” Betty shot back.

“You’re the…” Letty was about to say but Break interrupted her.

“I think I have it. Thanks.” Break said not wanting to be here all day.

“Sure, thing love. Always here to help.” Betty said graciously.

Break and Scavenger left the caravan and the Daisies gave a friendly farewell. “S-so w-w-why do the S-Stones hate you?” Scavenger asked.

Break scratched her head. “I... may have killed their top champion and completely ruined their designs to take over the region from the Cosas.”

“O-oh.” Scavenger’s ears drooped. “I-I guess I w-will just h-have to go in and s-see what I c-can find out.”

Break brightened up. “Will you really?”

Scavenger nodded. “I-I know a p-place you c-can h-hide out in w-while I look. There i-is a-a gas station n-nearby you c-can use.”

“Okay, sounds like a plan.” Break said nodding.

Scavenger scratched his head. “I-I k-know some p-ponies i-in F-Forks that can h-help me. I-I don’t think a-anypony will bother me.”

“That’s good.” Break felt that even if she went in with the most perfect disguise ever it would somehow enviably end in disaster. Know her, somehow, she would trip and ruin her disguise and at that moment Tack Coat would just happen to be walking by and recognize her and then send the whole town after her. Or some nonsense like that. This seemed way safer.

---

Robin directed his group to a small cabin by a lake. It was a very small one that was made of scrap pieces of wood. It looked sturdy and well-built however and Robin saw it had weathered many bad storms with ease over the years. He walked up to the door and knocked on it.

"So, you really think that this guy can help us find that filly. I figure she must be long gone by now." Nightingale asked. He has a plain brown unicorn with a red mane. He was a little new to the Cosas but was a good reliable pony. He also, unfortunately, had a habit of asking questions. Often too many.

"He is the best tracker in the wastelands," Ray said gruffly.

“You should see him in action Night. He can find anything! You’re in for a treat!” Rock Guard, a gray-maned unicorn mare with a darker gray mane, said cheerfully.

"Yes, he's good," Robin said simply, "just watch and see."

A few minutes later the door opened. The pony that answered was a white unicorn with a burnt orange mane. He had a dusty brown cowboy hat on well-worn with age and simple tan duster.

“So, it’s you Robin? What do you need this time? Got another beasty causing you problems again?” The stallion asked in a southern accent.

“No Spitzer. We are here for you to help us find a pony.” Robin explained.

Spitzer raised an eyebrow. “Ya know I don’t hunt ponies right? It’s boring. Get lost. Not interested.”

“What! How dare you? We’re the Cosas! Show some respect!” Nightingale challenged. He seethed when he saw Spitzer was more amused than threatened.

Spitzer snorted. “Indeed? I don’t waste my time with foals.”

“Easy.” Robin put a reassuring hoof on Nightingale’s shoulder. “We will make it worth your time.”

Spitzer sighed and opened the door wide. “Come in. I see you are going be persistent on this one.”

The Cosas entered the shack and found a surprisingly clean and tidy living area. It was simple, but functional. Nightingale gasped when he saw the number of trophies on the walls. Heads of many different dangerous creatures of the wasteland could be seen wall to wall leaving almost no empty space. Robin could see a deathclaw as one of the trophies.

"I'll bite. Who is the pony?" The hunter asked.

Robin took out a plastic bag out of his saddlebags and presented it to Spitzer. It was full of strands of hair.

Spitzer grabbed the bag with a hoof. He turned and started tapping parts of his left front leg as if it were a keyboard. He looked up and down as if reading something that wasn’t there. Nightingale stared in bafflement.

“I see. Not much to look at. Really, this lass is giving you trouble? Only a few minor scrapes, no major injuries, and has a black eye.” Spitzer turned towards Robin. “You are really after this one?”

Robin nodded. “Yes.” Spitzer turned back to staring in at the air and tapped his leg several more times.

“Is he nuts?” Nightingale whispered to Ray.

“Don’t ask me how it works, but Spitzer learn anything about a creature or pony if he has a piece of it. Appearance, location, strengths, weaknesses, you name it. It doesn’t matter how far away they are.” Ray explained.

“Truly?” Nightingale asked amazed and full of wonder sounding like he didn’t quite believe it.

"Very well, you have me interested,” Spitzer said.

“Really?” Robin raised an eyebrow.

“This one has spunk.” Spitzer grinned. “She has a rare resilience I think.” He used his magic to pull out several things off of a desk and put them in a saddlebag. He opened an ammo box and put some rifle ammo into his armor's pockets.

"She's south of Forks, about a mile and a half," Spitzer said.

“What?” Nightingale asked perplexed. “I thought she would be several miles past Forks by now.”

Spitzer looked at his leg again looking at whatever he thought was there. “I know the area well. Hmm, in fact. I think I got an idea where’s she’s going.”

---

Break and Scavenger approached the old diner warily. It seemed like it used to be a stop for ponies traveling by car. In the front of the building was a pump for gas. It was made of brick with ‘Travel Guide’s Pit Stop’ writing in big letters at the top. Break could see seats and tables for dining through its wide windows. They entered and thankfully there was no sign of anypony intruding since Scavenger had last been there. Scavenger had set small thin almost completely invisible strings throughout the building. The intruder would break them unknowingly notifying Scavenger of their intrusion.

Scavenger led Break to a trap door that was underneath one of the diner’s booster seats revealing a hidden bunker that was larger than Break expected. It lit up when Scavenger hit a button near the door. There were shelves of ammo, knickknacks, food, and whatever else Scavenger found. She could also see a small kitchen, a bed, and a living area. It also had some monitors linked to secret cameras that showed various locations around and inside the dinner just in case somepony came around looking. A perfect little getaway for a few days. It looked like the diner had a basement for storage and Scavenger expanded it, block the old entrance with rubble, and created the new secret entrance. It must have been quite the undertaking to make and that isn’t even including the cameras.

“S-stay here.” Scavenger said before closing the entrance.

Break nodded and Scavenger left. Break sat on the bed. It was a surprisingly comfortable bed and was very clean. The basement was a little dank, but Break didn’t mind. The room was lit by old lamps that sat on various shelves haphazardly in a random manner. It was a nice change of pace compared to the other places she slept in the last couple of days. She decided to lay down.

It reminded her of her home in Primrose. She lived in a small old storage room for years and though it was small, it was comfortable to her. It had a real bed and everything. It pained her to be away from home. Despite being run by bloodthirsty criminals, she loved that little town of hers. She wondered if she would ever see it again. If she would ever see her precious bowling alley again. It was her home.

Break could still remember when she was eight and her father showed it to her for the first time. It was in complete ruin and looked completely run down. Its front sign had collapsed, an entire wall was missing, and all the windows were either broken or gone. She said as much and called it worthless, but her father just laughed and said they would make this into home. And they did, she remembered working her little flank off trying to fix up the place. Cleaning up the trash and rubble inside, painting the walls, and helping her dad fix the electricity. Somehow, their work paid off and Stars & Strikes was up and running and even serving customers. She remembered the look of pride and accomplishment when she and her parents looked on their finished masterpiece for the first time.

She had been so busy running and being scared to get homesick, but now it hit her like an avalanche. She suppressed a tear. She had to put Primrose behind her. She would find Green Mile and they could start a new bowling alley somewhere else. Her father won’t want her to dwell on the past. He would tell her to make a new place for herself and not to mourn too much over what was lost. They were all just things after all. Ponies are more important. As Break felt herself fall asleep, she prayed to Celestia that Scavenger would find her cousin soon so she could put all the horribleness behind her and live a normal and peaceful life.

---

Break awoke to an alarm. She held her eyes in irritation. “Alright alright.” She looked around and found the button on the controls that turned off the alarm.

“What is it now?” Break asked half asleep. She looked over the monitors for anything amiss.

“No.” Break could not believe it. It couldn’t be possible. How did they find her? In the top left monitor was Robin of the Cosas, their head enforcer and one of their lieutenants. He was well known for his ruthlessness and ponies called him the “Raider Slayer” for his fearsome body count of raiders over the years. He hunted them with a singled minded determination so they said to almost fanatical levels. Behind him were other Cosas members she recognized and there was also a pony with a cowboy hat. They were heading this way and talking to each other. To Break’s horror, the pony in the cowboy hat was pointing towards the diner’s basement.

Chapter 13

View Online

Break’s heart was racing so hard it felt like it could beat out of her body at any moment. What was she going to do? On the hidden camera, she saw that the Cosas had already discovered the old entrance to the basement was blocked, and they were looking for another way in. Somehow, they knew for certain she was here.

Break forced herself to calm down. She needed to think this through. Scavenger wouldn't create this bunker with only one entrance, she was sure of that. Creating another entrance would prevent him from being trapped in situations just like this.

Break cursed herself for not asking about such things before Scavenger left. She searched around the bunker for anything that might let her leave this place alive. After ten minutes of searching, she still found nothing. Break panicked. What if she was wrong and Scavenger didn’t make a secret exit to this thing?

When she moved the bed, she found a vent and almost cried with joy and relief. It looked big enough to fit a pony. It was a small dirt tunnel in the wall. Break thought it must provide air to the room and hoped it provided a way to escape. It was too small to fit her saddlebags. It was just big enough to fit her. She hated leaving everything she had, but maybe she could come back for them later or get Scavenger to do it.

Break decided to at least take a gun and found a leg strap among the various stuff Scavenger found over the years and attached it around her right leg. She put the .45 auto pistol (The same pistol Rivet gave her) into it. Break was thankful that she remembered to retrieve it from Yellow Star when he took it from her. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing. Steeling her nerves, she removed the cover and crawled in.

The vent was uncomfortable and Break was too tall for it. It seemed to go on forever. It was pitch black, and she used her PipBuck to light the way. She froze when she heard voices. It was hard to hear from this distance, but she was certain it came from the end of the vent. She crawled faster. Even though she moved the bed back, it won’t take them long to find the vent.

Break found the way out and crawled out into a large cave. She stretched her limbs aching from the small space and the crawling for so long. She looked around and soon found a metal door nearby. It had a terminal next to it. The cave was too dark for her to see anything else. Her PipBuck didn’t provide enough illumination.

Break pondered if she should enter the door, or explore the cave for a way out. She decided to pick the door. There was no way to know for sure if the cave had a way out and she didn’t want to waste time looking around with pursuers behind her.

The terminal wasn’t locked so she opened the door. She gawked when she looked inside. She saw a large round gear like door that was wide open. It had the words Stable 12 written on it.

Break had heard about this Stable. It was the sister to Stable 11 the Stable Break was born in. Break was hesitant to go inside. Stables were said to be very dangerous. They’re odd things and even survivors that used them doubted their safety and security. Her father, who used to be the main engineer of their Stable, often told her he suspected that the Stables were designed on purpose to eventually fail.

There were also rumors that the Stables were also designed as sick experiments for its occupants. For some reason, every Stable differed from each other in the way it operated. Some had a different social structure, others had different technology, and it was all done with no rhyme or reason. It was rumored that the Vice-President of Stable-Tec Corporation, whose name escaped Break at the moment, had gone completely bonkers by the end of the war. Nopony knew for sure why they were designed that way.

Break knew Stable 12 was vacant now with all the inhabitants moving into the wastelands a long time ago, but who knew what moved in. Break had a bad feeling about the place. She grunted in annoyance. Oh, how bad could it be? She thought and entered the Stable door.

Break found herself in the Overpony’s office. She saw that it was well furnished. It had a beautiful C-shaped deck made of the finest wood. There were colorful pictures covering the walls with a couch and a few other pieces of furniture. Break eyes lit up when she saw the terminal on the desk. She wondered if she had enough time to look through it. It might have a map of the Stable. She tapped a hoof in thought. Tortured over her decision and decided to go for it starting up the machine. Break felt the urge to hit her head on the desk when she saw that it refused to start up. She shook her head and got going. There was no time to waste.

It was eerie being in this place. There was something familiar about it, but it wasn’t the Stable she was born in. She had vague memories of living in Stable 11, but she was only four or five when her parents and the rest of the Stable left for the wastelands. Being here was so odd. It was like being in a dream, perhaps. It was familiar, but foreign at the same time.

Break wondered if she could find anything of use like maybe a weapon. She found a sign that led to living quarters and followed it.

Break was unnerved when she looked through the various rooms. It was a mess. It looked like whoever lived here was in a hurry to take anything essential and leave. Break realized that she never learned why the inhabitants of Stable 12 left in the first place. Something bad must have happened, and they needed to evacuate quickly.

A chill went down Break’s spine. Maybe whatever made them leave is gone now? She gulped and hoped that was true. She needed to get to the bottom of this.

In one room was a terminal, and she started it up. She tapped her hoof with impatience as it started up. Robin was right behind her. She had little time. Thank Celestia that it was not password protected and Break looked for some journal entries. She opened the last one and skimmed it.

August 16,

Overstallion Racket says we need to evacuate now. Soon Stable 12 will be completely unlivable. The flooding is getting worse. The first floor is already completely flooded. We still have the backup generator, but the main one is ruined. All our crops are underwater. This is a disaster. There is no way we can live here now. Floor 2 already has shin deep water. The Overstallion says it will only take about a day for that to be completely flooded as well.

Everypony is taking what they can and going to the surface. The Overstallion opened up the secret exit in his office to make the evacuation that much easier. I never believed we would venture the wasteland so soon… But, it must be. It is said that there are true horrors out there, but we will make it. We must. Ponykind must rebuild and begin again. I write this hoping we will build a better and brighter future for our foals. Look at me go on, I’m usually not this sentimental. I will miss this place. Thank you Vault 12. You were a true salvation for ponies.

-Living Tree

So, that’s it. I wonder what caused the Stable to flood? Break’s eyes widen in horror. She realized that if the second floor is flooded, then that means that the way to the entrance is blocked with water. There’s no way for her to get out of the Stable except the same way she came in. If any of the Cosas came into the Stable, then she was in trouble. She shook her head. No, she was fine. The Cosas would spread out to cover more ground. Some would search the cave and the others would search the Stable. It might be tricky, but she could handle that.

Break searched the room for anything useful. Unfortunately, it seemed like anything of use was already taken. She scanned the other rooms through their windows and found similar success. She sighed. It was too much to hope for and continued through the Stable.

Break activated her Eyes Forward Sparkle. She froze when she saw five red blips coming her way. Wasn’t that all her pursuers? Why did they all go into the Stable? That made no sense at all. She scowled. They were also blocking her only way to escape. Now they were fanning out and exploring the corridors. She was completely blocked. Her only hope was to either hide and hope they overlooked her or go further and hope she finds a way around them. This place was huge, but Robin was ruthless when on a hunt so that idea didn’t seem like it would work.

Break trotted forward. She went down a right corridor then a left. Break had some idea where she was going, but she hated using vague childhood memories as a guide. She was wondering if she could get around them somehow in the twisting corridors. She activated her EFS and her eyes widened when she saw that all her pursuers were coming this way. They were trying to box her in. They were already covering the only passageways she could escape from.

Break saw a door nearby and opened it and closed it behind her. It led down another endless corridor. She ran down it and started to panic when she saw the pony with the cowboy hat enter the door behind her. Break saw he was raising a rifle towards her. Luckily, she reached a right turn and made it in time before he could fire. She stopped and her tracks when she saw what was in front of her. She just found the stairway that led to the second floor and it was covered to the top step with water. Her PipBuck made a creaking sound showing that the water was very radioactive. To make matters worse, it was also a sickly brown color.

This was bad. Very very bad. Break could also hear more ponies entering the corridor behind her. She looked at the water and back at the corridor of approaching hoof steps. She winced and dove in the water. It was freezing cold and tasted horrible, but she ignored it and swam down. She hoped beyond hope that she might find a pocket of air somewhere. She winced in pain as she felt something hit her left hoof. Break realized that she was just shot. The pain was unbearable and did her best to continue forward despite the agony. She saw that she was getting near the bottom of the stairs. She swam through a new corridor trying to ignore the horrible pain and finding anything that could help her. It was hard to move her left hoof now, but that just made her kick harder.

The murky water was hard to see through. Break could already feel her lungs burning. She was in a corridor filled with rooms. She looked around for anything could help her.

No, this is crazy. Break thought. I’m dead. Unless there is some way to… Break was stunned to find in the corridor to her right was a staircase and it went up. She swam towards it with all her might. Her lungs and leg burned so much she felt like passing out. Somehow, she made it and breathed in the precious air. Air had never tasted so sweet at this moment. She coughed and gagged relieved to finally being able to breathe in air again. Break shook herself and shivered from the cold. She looked around and found she was in another corridor on the third floor. It seemed that the second floor had multiple entrances.

Break’s leg hurt so much. She wasn’t sure she could handle the pain. Being in that dirty water wasn’t so great either. She looked to her left and found a room labeled storage. She limped towards it. Water dripped from her body to the floor. The room was guarded by a terminal. She hooked up her PipBuck to hack it. It was a very simple password of ‘Finish’ and Break entered the door and locked it behind her.

Break collapsed on the ground as she entered and fought back tears feeling the urge to retch all over the floor. It took all her willpower not to do that. She pushed back her pain determined to find something to help her. She searched inside all the boxes and found nothing but junk and old parts. Her eyes widened when she saw that there was a first aid kit by the door. She couldn’t believe she missed it and threw the door open. It contained little. No healing potions, but it had painkillers, some antibiotic, and bandages.

Break downed at least six pills of pain killer. She was in too much pain to care about the health hazards at the moment. Break found a chair nearby and sat in it examining her bullet wound. She winced at the sight of it. It was an ugly thing and it looked like the flesh of her hoof had been torn off. It was horrifying to look at. It looked like the bullet was still in her hoof and she wondered if it was smart to remove it. Break gave it some thought but decided against it.

Break put generous proportions of antibiotic on her wound and did her best to clean and dry it with the extra bandages before wrapping it with the clean ones. She tried to put some weight on it, but it hurt too much so she decided to just awkwardly walk with three legs for now.

Break looked again for anything that could help her. Something, anything would be helpful right now. Her gun was waterlogged, and she wondered if it would even function now. She decided to at least drain it of water and spend the next few minutes making sure it had no more water in it. Break hoped beyond hoped that it would work right when she needed it.

With some searching, Break found something of use. It was an old jumpsuit for the Vault. She thought it might be useful was a sling for her injured leg. It was a bit awkward to set up, but it defiantly helped. The pain was still pretty horrible, but the painkillers made it at least manageable.

Break activated her EFS and surveyed the areas. She could see red dots walking around. Break growled in frustration. Why didn’t they think she was dead? This whole scenario seemed strange. She still did not understand how they found her in the first place.

Break decided that she would try to sneak around them. They were spread apart, and this place was huge. It might be a long shot, but she might be able to get around them somehow.

Break’s EFS saw none of her enemies nearby, so she opened the door and looked around. Nopony was in sight, so she snuck outside. She continued forward and used her EFS to watch for anypony. She saw that one was coming her way, so she hide behind the wall and stood as still as she could.

The Cosas member sighed as he walked by. “Still alive? How the hay does that filly keep doing it?” The stallion mumbled to himself. “Somewhere around here? How can his power be so useful and useless at the same time!” He continued to mumble to himself and moved on.

Power? What the hay is he talking about? Break thought confused. Was that how they found her? She shook her head and stored that information for later and moved on.

Break crept through the corridor ears perked for any danger gun at the ready. She knew she didn’t really have much ability to run and getting into a gunfight with trained killers didn’t seem like such a good idea. Her only hope was to be careful and quiet.

Break saw on her EFS that a red dot was coming her way. She saw a door to a living quarter open and leaped inside. She ducked under the glass window. Her heart raced as the figure approached.

Break with care peeked over the window and saw a gray-maned unicorn with a gun in his aura coming this way. He seemed to scrutinize every little corner. Break ducked out of the way before she could be seen.

Break panicked as she heard him approach the door to the room she was hiding in. She saw nowhere that would be a suitable hiding place. With a steady quiet hoof, she pulled her gun from its holster and got it in position ready for anything. She did her best to suppress her rising panic and dread.

The stallion entered the room. He made sure to have his gun ready and seemed prepared for anything. He was about to enter when a voice made him stop.

“Y-ou guys better stop or else!” Scavenger shakily said. “I-I have a g-gun!” The stallion turned and started at a sprint towards where Scavenger’s voice came from.

Oh ponyfeathers! Break cursed and followed the best she could without making much noise. It was awkward with only three legs, but she did it without making too much racket. Her eyes widened when she saw the scene. Scavenger had a gun in his aura pointed directly at Robin. Robin, for his part, stared at his assailant calm and collected not showing a single sign of fear. Several other Cosas members watched. Some were outraged, others were just as calm as Robin was.

“What do you hope to achieve Scavenger?” Robin asked in an even voice. “You know she has no chance to survive. If you shot me, you will die and so will she. You do good work. It would be a shame if you died as well.”

“You’re willing to forgive this?” One of the Cosas, the youngest one, asked in disbelief.

“He’s acting out of dedication for his friend," Robin explained, "I can admire that. Besides, his death would be pointless."

Robin stared in Scavenger’s eyes. “I will give you the count of five to put that gun down and leave this place. I promise nothing will happen to you and we can all forget this ever happened.”

Scavenger’s hold on his weapon shook even more in his aura. He was terrified. Two other ponies had guns trained on him. The pony in the hat just watched from the sidelines not particularly interested in the predicament.

Break considered her options. Should she attack? She had the drop on them, but could she protect Scavenger during the firefight? Attacking might just get Scavenger killed. Running was… no, she couldn’t abandon him no matter what. She would find a way to save both their lives somehow.

Break readied her gun. Nopony seemed to notice and for that she was grateful. Break winced. So much could go wrong. What if her gun misfired from the earlier water damage? What if she couldn't shoot two of the Cosas in time? She wasn't that great of a shot. What if she missed? So many variables that could doom both of them in an instant.

Chapter 14

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Break readied herself for anything. She breathed in and out trying to calm herself. Panicking would only make things worse. She wished that she could think more clearly. Her headache was becoming a real problem, and it was getting worse. She also felt weak. Break gritted her teeth. She would get through this.

“Five," Robin said. From his look, Break could tell he was not playing around.

“Four.” Robin continued.

Break moved in closer. Everypony was too distracted by Scavenger to notice her.

“Three.”

Break could see in Scavenger's eyes his terror but refused to back down. She cursed. Being stubborn was helping nopony.

“Tw…” A shot ran out and hit Robin in the shoulder. He howled in pain.

Break’s eyes widened and cursed. She pulled the trigger on her gun at the large pony whose gun was trained on Scavenger who looked about to fire. The stallion winced as the bullet ricocheted off the wall and grazed his eye when Break’s shot went wide. The other Cosas responded in an instant getting into cover. Robin dropped low to the ground trying to stay out of the line of fire. Scavenger used the distraction to run into a nearby corridor.

Break took cover just in time when the wall where she was standing was showered with bullets. She ran down the hallway and tried to take a shot at one of her pursuers, but missed and dove behind a corner before they could put her in their line of sight. In her haze filed mind, she tried to think. Okay, Robin was down and at least one of the Cosas would try to get him out of here for medical help. His wound looked serious and the Cosas help their own. That left her with two Cosas and that hunter after her. Scavenger was an unknown factor. How well could he use a gun and could she count on him in this fight?

Break activated her Eyes Forward Sparkle. She saw a blue dot that was moving away from her position that was obviously Scavenger. He was scared no doubt and not in his right mind at the moment. Two red dots were coming towards her trying to surround her. Break realized she was trapped in this hallway with the two Cosas blocking the only way out. One was positioned right in front of the entrance she came in and the other was coming from around the hallway behind her. Break saw what she thought was the hunter in the distance. Maybe he was planning on sniping her if she got past the two Cosas? She gritted her teeth. If they surrounded her she was done for. Break decided to try to get the jump on one of them. They most likely didn’t know she could track their movements and she would use that to her advantage.

Break ran towards the entrance she came from. She saw the youngest Cosas a few paces in front of her. He was surprised for a second by her charge but fired his gun a moment later. Break twisted her body and took the bullet in her injured leg. She howled in pain. It didn’t hit her leg directly, but it left a nasty gash on the top of her leg. It wasn’t clear if it was the painkillers or just her desperation to survive, but she ignored the pain and fired her gun back. The Cosas wasn’t able to evade in time and it struck him the right part of his neck. He groaned and gasped. Break hit him hard on the head with a headbutt and the thug fell to the ground. She slammed his head into the ground hard just to make sure.

Using her EFS, Break saw the second coming up behind her and she fired at him when she saw his head poking behind the corner. It missed completely, and he fired back, but Break ran behind a pillar to evade the shot. She panted. It was getting hard to ignore how much pain she was in. Her injured leg was bleeding seriously. Keeping her strength was hard, and she felt like passing out at any moment.

If only she had some grenades. Break cursed herself for being in such a rush to escape and not thinking to bring anything besides her gun. The only warning Break had was a faint hoofstep behind her before a huge hole was blown where Break’s head was. She avoided the attack in time and held her head low as she looked for better cover. She found a nearby living quarters and dove into it avoiding more shots fired at her. Break peaked out the broken window and saw the hunter grinning. He dove behind a pillar of his own before she even had the chance to fire.

Break spent the next few moments searching the room for anything useful. Please let there be a secret cache of weapons. She hoped. Of course, there were none. It was just a basic living quarters. Posters of dragons, ponies with pointed ears, and other ponies with medieval weapons covered the walls. She saw a box full of little figures with ponies in various battle forms. There were bookshelves full of books that were mostly fiction, but one of them had something something 3.5 edition. It was fading making it hard to read. She found a sword hanging from the wall, but it was old and rusted and most likely just there for decoration. Nothing looked useful. Why is it she never found anything of use?

Break’s eyes widened as a grenade flew through the front window and landed next to her. Moving out of pure desperation and instinct and moving faster than she thought was possible and threw it over her shoulder back in the direction it came from. She winced at the heat as it exploded a little too close for comfort.

Break coughed at the smoke and her eyes watered. She could barely see anything. A figure appeared in the smoke from the window and pointed a gun down at her. In desperation, she grabbed a nearby box and threw it into their face with a hoof stunning him for a second and throwing figures everywhere. Break leveled her gun at him and fired. The shot hit him square in the shoulder and he collapsed in pain. She moved up to finish him but ducked in time when she saw the hunter in the distance avoiding another shot.

Break heard the Cosas she shot whimper in pain. With caution, she peeked over the window. She could see his hat peek out behind the pillar. Break winced as she was hit with a wave of dizziness again. It was getting hard to ignore the pain now. She couldn't keep on like this. Break heard a shot and ducked low. Somepony screamed.

“A-are you okay?” Scavenger yelled from somewhere.

“Fine!” Break yelled back.

“I-I’ll come get you!” Scavenger said. There was another gunshot. A few moments later he entered from the door. His eyes widened when he saw the state Break was in. “Y-y-y-you’re hurt!”

“I can make it.” Break said weakly. Scavenger put her on his back and they exited the room. Break noticed the Cosas she was fighting laid back against the wall. It was hard to see through his thick red mane, but she could see a bullet wound on his forehead and it dripped blood down his head onto his lap.

“Where is the pony with the hat?” Break asked worried.

“I-I-I clipped him in the s-side. N-not sure w-where he is n-now.” Scavenger said in sudden dismay. He kept his gun in his aura at the ready.

Moving to a better position I bet. Not liking the two on the one odds. Break guessed.

They moved with caution towards the overstallions office. Break used her EFS to find the hunter. He was gone. Break scowled. Not good. What if he was planning on sniping them from a distance? Break already felt her consciousness fading. It was difficult to even hold her gun up, but she refused to let her guard down. After the rush of the fight wore off, Break felt herself getting more tired, exhausted. She didn’t even feel the gun fall from her hoof.

“It’s okay Break, I will look out for you.” Scavenger said with gentleness and stroked one of her hairs off of her face. He scanned the area with keen-eyed precision. "I-I know the area w-well. T-they won't f-find us."

True to his word, Scavenger avoided any trouble, and they were soon far away from the vault. He stayed low and used rocks for cover in case somepony tried to snipe them. Break saw no trouble in her EFS and relaxed after about a half an hour or so. Before she knew it, everything went dark, and she lost consciousness.

---

Break awoke and found herself on a bed. It appeared she was in a tent of some kind. She felt horrible and tired. She shook her head and almost screamed as a robot appeared in front of her.

“Hello!” The robot said in a cheerful tone. “How are you feeling?”

The robot looked like floating silver ball. It had an eyestalk that protruded from its head. Several appendages came out from its bottom with several tools at the end of each of them. Somehow the thing was floating. Break hoped the thing was friendly.

“Um, not great, but doing better I think.” Break said after a moment.

“Grand.” The robot replied. “You were suffering from severe radiation poisoning and a serious injury from multiple bullet wounds in your left leg. The radiation poisoning was cured, but about your leg…”

Break looked at the leg that was shot. She just realized that she felt nothing from it. When she looked at it, the reason was obvious. Break screamed. Her left leg was just a stump.

“Yes, I was afraid of this.” The robot said tilting its eyestalk. “It got infected and had to be amputated. You would have died otherwise.“

Break eyes widened in horror. She could not believe her eyes. This couldn’t be. She used antiseptic. Everything should have been fine. This shouldn’t have happened.

“Look on the bright side.” The robot said. “Robotic limbs are very popular nowadays. I’m sure you could get one and be right as rain in a jiffy!”

Break scowled. Was that supposed to make her feel better? A sound startled her out of the dark mode she was in. Scavenger walked in. He brightened when he saw her.

“B-Break!” Scavenger exclaimed. “Y-you’re up! H-h-how are you feeling?”

“I could be better.” Break said looking down. “I wish I didn’t wake up to this.” She pointed to her stump of a leg.

Scavenger became somber. “W-we tried everything to s-save it. W-we had to c-cut it o-o-off. I-it was the o-only way.”

“I don’t blame you.” Break said. “It was just bad luck.” She cursed that damn Stable and radioactive water. She was never going into a Stable again.

“The d-doc said you will be up and r-ready in a few days.” Scavenger said with hope in his voice.

“Two to be precise.” The doctor robot confirmed.

“Where am I?” Break asked.

“A-a trading post a f-few miles away from Forks.” Scavenger explained. “Y-you’ve been out for t-three days.’

“I see.” Break wasn’t sure what to say.

“C-c-c-ould you leave u-u-us alone p-please?” Scavenger asked the medical robot.

“Sure thing, sir.” The robot replied and soon left the tent.

“B-Break, I’m s-s-sorry.” Scavenger folded his ears back in shame. “I-I-ran after I s-shot Robin and h-hid. I-I was s-so scared. It took f-forever for me t-to get my wits b-back to come and h-help you.”

“I don’t blame you.” Break said with complete honesty. “It was a scary situation.”

“R-really?” Scavenger asked hopeful.

Break nodded and gave a weak smile. “It isn’t like I’m that brave myself and you saved me, so that has to count for something.”

“I-I just wish I c-could have come s-sooner.” Scavenger said.

“You saved me, and that is what counts.” Break said hoping that her friend won’t beat himself too much over what happened. Scavenger nodded after a few moments of consideration.

Break changed the subject. “Did you find Green Mile?”

Scavenger nodded. “I-I did.”

Break stood up straighter. “Did you see her?”

Scavenger frowned. “N-no, she d-d-disappeared.”

“What do you mean?” Break asked.

“S-s-she was seen in F-F-orks proper, but t-then just vanished.” Scavenger said. “N-nopony has seen her leave, s-so she still might be there.”

Break put out a breath. “I see.”

“S-sorry, I-I haven’t been a-able to come up with more than t-that.” Scavenger drooped his head.

“Hey, it’s better than nothing.” Break gave a weak smile. Was Green Mile even alive? No, she couldn’t think like that. Green Mile was alive. She just knew it. She would find her. The Cosas were still on her trail. That hunter could find her wherever she went, but how was that possible? Some kind of tracking magic? Did they use something of hers to find her? She was thankful they still hadn’t made a move on her yet, but they would. They might even call in reinforcements. She wasn’t in much condition to go very far right now. But the same could be said for them. Two of them were seriously hurt, one lost an eye, and one was dead. It would take time to get reinforcements and heal up, but how much?

Where would she go that they couldn't follow? Could the hunter follow her forever? Or maybe his power spell whatever had a time limit? So many questions and problems. She didn’t know where to start. Maybe she should just focus on getting better first.

“So, do you know where I might…” Break gulped. She didn’t like this idea very much, but it might be vital for her survival. “Get a mechanical leg?”

Scavenger nodded. “I-I know somepony in F-Forks that could get you one no p-problem.”

Break sighed. Of course, it would be there of all places. “Is there any place else?”

Scavenger shook his head. “Not anywhere close.”

Break hung her head. She needed that leg right now. It would give her an edge she needed. “I guess we could go.”

Scavenger looked concerned. “Y-you s-s-sure? T-they hate y-you there.”

Break nodded. “I have to.” It would also give her time to look for Green Mile. She hoped that the Cosas won’t cause too much a fuss in the Stone’s stronghold.

“O-okay.” Scavenger looked determined. “I-I find you a w-way in.”

The next few days were uneventful as Break healed up. It was nice to be back on her hooves again. She didn't have her saddlebags unfortunately. They were forgotten after the fight and they had no time to get them. Scavenger promised to get as soon as Break got her new leg. They did have some food and supplies, so that won't be a problem for the moment. Being only able to use three hooves was awkward, but she did her best to adapt. Though, there were these strange times she felt something from her lost leg. Thankfully there were no signs of the Cosas or the hunter. Break told Scavenger about her theory about the hunter’s power. He was skeptical saying he had never heard of such magic before and didn’t believe in anything like special powers, but said he would keep a watch out just in case.

They traveled to Forks without incident and Break soon found herself back in the outskirts of the town. She was wearing a brown traveling cloak with hood and it seemed to disguise her well enough. Nopony seemed to give her much notice. She eyed the front guards of the town proper with trepidation. They seemed to know Scavenger, and they let him and her through without any trouble. She was thankful that they weren’t any ponies she recognized. They barely even glanced at her. She guessed as long they paid the toll, they didn’t care at all who they were.

Forks was just as Break remembered it full of hustle and bustle as before. She kept an eye out for trouble or anypony she recognized. They left the bright and garish casinos for the grayer duller part of the town that held most the town's other businesses. It seemed to Break that the building that businesses resided in rarely reflected the business they homed. She found one bar that used to be a dentist office of all things.

Scavenger led her into a dark alley and Break tried to hid her nervousness and kept an eye out for trouble. He knocked at a door and chatted with somepony behind a slit in the door. Break spotted something in the distance. She could see a unicorn with a cloak just like hers walking across town. She studied him. He was gaunt and looked dangerously thin. His coat was so white it looked like bleached bone. His mane was black, and it hung almost to his hooves. It was thin and greasy. Something about him was familiar then it clicked. Wasn’t this the same pony that Betty and Letty described a few days ago? Break got excited. This was the same pony that Green Mile had been seen with.

“Scavenger! I found a lead!” Break explained. “Follow me!” She made her way to the sickly unicorn at a left pass then another left. Scavenger called after her, but she was too focused on her target to notice.

Break made her way through a small crowd of ponies getting angry jeers her way. She followed him behind a building. The stallion turned towards her glaring.

“Why are you following me?” The unicorn demanded.

“I’m looking for Green Mile.” Break explained. She saw that he recognized the name in his eyes, but he did his best to remain neutral.

“Sorry, never heard of her.” The unicorn said in a flat voice and turned away thinking the conversation was finished.

"Wait please!" Break asked grabbing his cloak. "I've been looking all over for her."

“I haven’t seen her.” The unicorn said his voice hard now.

“Really.” Break said getting annoyed. “I never said Green Mile was a mare.”

The stallion seemed to curse under his breath. “Luck guess. Now leave me alone.” He turned away and started to leave.

“No! Please!” Break pleaded not letting go of his cloak. “She’s my cousin!”

The stallion ignored her and kept going and Break pulled harder on his cloak. It started to tear and before she realized it, it had been completely torn off.

Break gapped at the appearance of the strange gaunt pony. He had wings. He was an alicorn.

An alicorn? What? How? Break’s mind raced. Is he some descendant of the princesses? Wait, no. Something isn’t right. There was something wrong with his wings. It seemed like they didn't belong there. Their color didn't match his coat color. Sure they were white, but not the bone-like white of his coat. Looking closely, she could see the difference in color at the where his wings connected to his body. These wings weren’t his. Break was sure of it. Like he had them surgically attached somehow, but saw no sign of any surgery taking place.

“You shouldn’t have done that.” The stallion growled. “Oh well, I will just kill you and take your cloak.”

“What?” Break took a step back.

In a blink of an eye, the stallion struck. Break almost lost an eye as he pulled out a knife with his magic from his cloak. Break moved to get some distance from her attack. He struck again even faster, but Break was ready this time and it missed again. Her hood fell off her head as she avoided another strike. The stallion grinned, and it unnerved her to no end. Again, he attacked, slower this time putting Break on edge. He moved to her right and suddenly spit something pink at her neck. Break revulsed in horror as it scratched the edge of her neck. She watched the thing he spit out with wide horrified eyes. Whatever the thing was, it was moving. It looked like a putrid piece of flesh, but it was needles attached to it with a blade or claw at the head.

The stallion grunted in annoyance. “Stay still you little…”

Break ran for it. She wanted no part of whatever he was. He shot other of whatever that was at her but she ducked in time. The stallion yelled after her, but she just focused on escaping. She turned into an alleyway. She screamed as she crashed into a pony as she turned the corner.

“Hey!” The earth pony stallion cried in annoyance. He had a red coat with a light brown mane.

"Sorry, it was…" Break screamed as one of those things hit the stallion in the neck as he stood up. It entered his skin creating a disgusting growth that pulsed like a heartbeat. Break yelped as he grabbed her tight with his hooves.

“Nice.” The white stallion said grinning. Break struggled to get free. The red stallion’s eyes were dead, emotionless, and he stared at her with a blank expression.

“It’s dinner time. Eat up.” The white stallion said grinning even wider and the red stallion’s jaws came down at Break’s throat.

Chapter 15

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Break winced as the red stallion’s teeth grazed her neck drawing small drops of blood. She slammed her forehead hard into the stallion’s. He dropped her in pain, and she struggled to her hooves a little dazed. She jumped out of the way in time as another of those creatures was spat at her and it bounced off a nearby trash can.

“Stay still you little…” The white pony growled. It seemed he was getting annoyed at his prey being so unexpectedly hard to kill. The red stallion charged at her and Break grabbed the trash bin and swung it at his face. She didn’t stop to see her handiwork and made another run for it. Break ducked an incoming knife and ran out the alleyway.

Break thought her best bet was to run towards the casino area again. She could get lost in the crowd and find some place to hide and wait for that crazy fake alicorn thing to give up. There was more yelling behind her, but she ignored it focused on just escaping. She dodged an incoming pony, apologized and kept going.

Break found an alley and ducked into it. She stopped to catch her breath. After a moment, she peered out to see if the coast was clear. She saw nothing thank Celestia almighty.

What the hay was that thing and what did it do to that stallion? Break thought. It reminded her of zombies from old horror movies. She realized that she was bleeding a little at the neck. Oh no, that stallion bit me! Does that mean I’m infected with whatever turned that stallion?

Break shook her head. No, that didn’t seem right. She remembered that parasite and how it took control of him. This was insanity. What was that white stallion? He seemed like a pony, but that couldn’t be right. Nopony can do what he did. He must be some type of monster posing as a pony. She stuttered. If he wasn’t unequine enough, he also stole somepony’s wings and put them on himself.

Break felt a pang of guilt for running away. That thing was a monster, and it hurt ponies. She should have tried to stop it. It would continue to hurt ponies not caring who it hurt. She winced. If only she was braver. She didn’t want to fight monsters. Break looked down and felt a sudden wave of shame. She looked down at her gun. She had power. Power to stop that thing before it hurt somepony else. She could just find Scavenger and walk away. If only she was stronger. She hated seeing ponies get hurt.

Break steeled her resolve. She would stop that thing whatever it was. Maybe killing that monster could free that poor stallion from its influence. She couldn’t let something so callous about pony lives exist. You can do this Break. She breathed in and out and prepared herself for battle.

Break was careful as she made her way back to that creature. It didn’t take long for her to find him. She spied him from a distance from behind a trash bin. He looked frustrated and agitated. He said something to the stallion he controlled and shrugged. Before Break could blink, the white stallion tore the parasite from the red stallion's neck. Blood, blood was everywhere. The bleeding stallion collapsed to the ground grabbing his throat. The white stallion pulled out his knife and stabbed the poor bleeding pony in the throat and the red stallion died in a gurgle of blood. The white stallion put the parasite on his tongue and swallowed it grinning a blood tooth smile.

Break put her head in her hooves horrified. How could anypony do that? That was senseless. She shook her head. She needed to stop this monster. The gun shook in her hooves, but she fortified her nerves ready to fire. She could do this. Break aim it at the creature’s head and fired.

The creature screamed when his kneecap blew to pieces. He fell to the ground weeping in pain. Much to Break’s surprise, his blood was red. She was expecting it to be green or something, but that didn’t matter at the moment. The stallion was moving and for reasons that escaped Break, he was dragging the corpse of his victim out of sight behind some rubble. Break cursed her terrible shooting. That was meant to kill him in a single shot.

Break ran forward gun at the ready expecting anything. She looked around nervous expecting some Stones goons to be drawn by the gunfire. Nopony seemed to notice or care. Did gunfights happen often here? Still, she would not fire her gun too much if she has too. One gunshot might not draw too much attention, but several probably will.

Break got to the rubble and peered around it and found the stallion missing. She blinked in surprise. How did he get away so fast? She could see the stallion's victim on the ground and gasped when she looked at the victim's leg. His kneecap was missing. It looked like the flesh had just been scooped off it. How was that possible? She remembered the white stallion's fake wings. He must have taken the dead stallion's kneecap for his own somehow. She underestimated him. Break cursed.

Break looked around weary of danger. Would the stallion run, or try to fight? Part of her wanted him to just run, but she would fight him if she had to. After ten minutes of looking, she found nothing. Break sighed and holstered her weapon. She screwed up hard this time. The one time she wanted to do something heroic, and she botched it up.

Break shook her head decided to find Scavenger. That thing was long gone by now. She made her way back to the busier part of the town. Break stopped and jumped when the familiar looking stallion jumped out in front of her from behind a dumpster. She saw that he did in fact now have a kneecap that didn’t match the white of his coat at all.

The stallion grinned with maliciousness at her. “You really thought you could kill me that easily? I will enjoy making your death slow and painful filly.” He tapped a hoof on the ground and ponies appeared. At least 30 of them and they came from everywhere and tried to surround her. They all had that hideous parasite on their body somewhere.

Oh crap. This was bad. Break did the only thing she could in this situation. She ran. She ran as hard as her three legs could carry her. The zombie ponies tried grabbing at her, but she was too nimble and any attempts to seize her were met with open air. She heard the white stallion curse as she ran for it.

As Break ran, she put her mind to what she should do now. How could she kill this thing? It appeared it could repair any damage to it. Would only a lethal blow stop it? What if that didn’t work? This thing wasn’t a pony so for all she knew a bullet to the head won’t kill it. Break screamed as one of the zombie ponies jumped at her and she avoided it in time. She winced as the pony crashed painfully into the ground. The pony didn’t seem to notice the pain and in no time got up again after her. Could these things not feel pain? Break blinked as she watched the white stallion run with his hoard after her. Why didn’t he stay behind and let his minions do the work for him from safety?

Break turned a corner and noticed something strange. The zombie ponies didn't do the turn well, and they weren't focusing their attention on her anymore, more like they were just running in this direction. This changed as the white stallion was in view again and the zombies redirected their attention on her and aimed for her again. Wait, did this mean he needed a line of sight for his controlled ponies to be effective? Break wondered how much control he had over them.

Break took another turn down a narrow alleyway. She saw it had a rusty fire escape and jumped on the ladder leading up it and climbed up to it quicker than she thought possible with only three limbs. She looked down and saw the white stallion rushing into view.

“Where is she… up there!” The white stallion ordered and pointed at her.

Break unholstered her weapon and fired down at the unexpecting stallion. He cried in pain as a bullet went into his shoulder and right rib. Break’s weapon clicked empty, and she cursed.

The creature went back behind a corner but still ordered his zombies after her. They climbed the ladder with surprising speed. Break climbed the fire escape and broke down the first door she found.

Break found herself in an abandoned apartment building. It looked like the building had been abandoned before the war. It was bare and empty. Break ran across the room and watched the zombies enter the room. She was right. The minute she left their master's sight their movements became awkward and clumsy. Still, a lot of them were coming into the room. They could still overwhelm her with numbers. Break exited the room and ran through the hallway of the apartment. She approached the front door and stop to take a moment to think. The white stallion saw her enter the building. He might try to pin her in by having his zombies enter the front door. She had two clips of ammo still that gave her twelve shots each.

Break first reloaded her weapon and looked for the stairs which she found without much difficulty. She tried to ignore the lumbering behind her and headed down the stairs. She kept low since she didn’t know if the stallion gained a gun before he entered the building. One of the zombies might have had one, and he took it. So far nothing had attacked her so she continued on. Break found a window and looked through it. It looked like she was on the second floor of the building. She found the next staircase down and breathed in and out. She could do this. Break really didn’t want to hurt any of the zombies and was sure killing the white stallion would free them all. Still, he had to prepare herself that it might be unavoidable. Tossing away those unpleasant thoughts, she made her way downstairs keeping close to the ground like before.

Break heard several ponies milling about from the first floor and guessed there were at least ten of them. It seemed she was right. If only she had a flash grenade night now that would end it here and now. She could hear the white creature murmuring to himself and several sounds were coming this way. Break considered her next choice of action. Running all the way down the stairs would only force her to confront the zombie ponies. From his voice, she had a vague idea where the white stallion might be. The room below sounded large. She looked at the staircase. It was a bland gray color with peeling paint. It had a wooden hoofrail at half a body’s length and it opened up into the room below. If one went down the stairs, they would be open to view by everypony on the first floor. It was possible a pony could jump past the railing to room below. That would certainly surprise anypony down there. Break estimated that the white stallion wasn’t anywhere close to the stairs.

Break saw that several zombies were at the bottom of the stairs. She readied herself and jumped over the railing. She hit the ground wincing in pain but rolled as she hit the ground. The white stallion gave out a shock of surprise. She could see he was standing by the front door near the mailboxes. He got his wits back quicker than Break thought he would, but Break already had her gun trained on him and fired.

The stallion screamed in pain as the bullet didn’t hit him straight in the head, but shot the right part of his face tear flesh and ruining his right eye completely. Break wondered if he could just take another eye for himself, but he had no time to do that now. Still, if she was right, and the stallion needed to see to control his hoard, then she made things so much more difficult for him. In fact, they seemed to stop the moment she shot him and just stood there dumbly.

“After her!” The white creature commanded through gritted teeth in obvious unbearable pain.

Break ducked as an earth pony mare tried to jump her. She wanted to get another shot in, but bodies were in front of her blocking any chance of another shot. So, Break turned on her heels and run into a nearby room. Some ponies tried to stop her by jumping at her, but she dodged them and went through the doorway.

Break found herself in another barren apartment. She saw doors, but they only led to either a bathroom or a bedroom.

“Ha!” The white stallion mocked. “All you’ve done is corner yourself.”

Break found a window and pondered if she should jump through it. She was on the first floor, so it should be no big deal. Then she spotted something else. There was a small hole in one of the walls. By Break’s guess, it should lead to the next apartment building. It looked small, but Break was sure she could squeeze through it.

Break winced as she was scrapped in the flank by a jagged piece of wood, but she was able to make it through with little difficulty. She was in yet another abandoned apartment. She could see some cleaning supplies in an open closet, but that otherwise, the room was empty. Break looked again at the cleaning supplies. There were a mop and bucket and various cleaning chemicals. Break had an idea. She grabbed the bucket and filled it with whatever chemicals she could find. She stopped after filling it halfway.

Break grabbed the bucket with her mouth ignoring the smell of chemicals. She ran towards the front door and stopped when three ponies entered the front door. She could see the white stallion grinning in the distance behind the zombies. He had a white bandage red with blood where she shot him. There were more zombies in front of him and Break could hear zombies coming in from behind her though the hole. She gritted her teeth and barreled forward. One the zombies tried to use her magic to swing a 2x4 at her head, but Break was too fast and she ran under the attack before it hit her head. The other two just opted to tackle her. Break dodged to the right of one of them and kicked the other in the face. The kick seemed to barely register, and the pony grabbed onto one of her legs.

Break panicked as more zombies came for her. She slammed the zombies that had her into door frame several times hard and it went limp. She grabbed the zombie by a hoof and threw it into the other incoming zombies. They crashed into a tangle of bodies and limbs.

Break made her way for the white creature again. She could see he was panicking. More zombies came at her, but there were too many of them, and they actually got in their own way and stumbled over each other. The creature is getting too desperate and isn’t thinking properly to coordinate his troops.

Break saw the white stallion making a run for it towards the stairs already making it up a few steps. Break calculated the trajectory of her throw and threw the bucket at his face. Her special talent was throwing, so her aim was true and the contents of the bucket splashed into his face. He screamed. The chemicals soaked into his bandage and his open wound. He fell back on the floor from the stairs he was climbing and writhed in pain. It looked like his agony was unbearable. He was in so much pain tears were forming in his eyes.

Break paused for a moment. She felt guilty about putting this thing in so much pain but shook her head. She didn’t have time for this. This was a distraction she had to take advantage of. The surrounding zombies just froze in place not moving an inch. This was her time to win this.

Break unholstered her gun and aimed. She aimed for the head despite the writhing. The stallion instinctively seemed to realize this, and the zombies moved again, but it their attacks were ineffectual and Break avoided them with little difficulty. The stallion made his way weakly to the front door. Break moved to intercept and fired. She missed his head, but she did hit him in throat. Blood gathered at his mouth and he gargled blood.

Somehow, he pushed past his pain and did a desperate charge at Break. She, in return, fired a panicked shot that hit him the rib cage. He collapsed to the ground. Break took a tentative step forward gun at the ready to see if he was dead. She screamed when his face jerked up in her direction and several bodies jumped her from behind. They pinned her to the ground and there were at least four of them. She tried to jerk her body free, but it was no use. The stallion grinned a bloody smile at her. Break gritted her teeth and struggled harder, all she needed to do is fight the surrounding ponies until he died of his injuries.

The white stallion limped forward and left a trail of blood as he came up next to her. He put a hoof on her shoulder and she winced at the touch horrified what might happen next. The creature sputtered something incomprehensible. He gave a look of annoyance and shook his head. He lurched forward but caught himself at the last second. It looked like he could barely keep himself conscious. The way he examined Break’s body inch by inch making her shiver in dread. He spotted her missing leg and grinned at her. The stallion made his way towards the side missing the leg, but he fell to the ground before he could make it. Some zombies dragged him next to her.

What the hay is he planning? Break thought with dread.

The zombies lined his body next to hers. Much to Break’s horror, one of the zombies pull on his left leg and it detached like he was a cheap action figure. She gaped in equal parts wonder and horror. His leg was put in front of her stump of her missing leg. Break minded raced on what the heck was going on. This made no sense to her at all. The stallion put his other leg on the detached one and Break's eye's widened when the leg grew tendrils that whipped around in random lashes. Break screamed and thrashed doing everything to get herself free anything to get out of this nightmare. The tendrils reached out and entered her stump. She screamed as she felt them enter her skin. The pain was indescribable. It was like thousands of worms were penetrating her skin worming their way through her body. The stallion’s leg was pulled towards her and in seconds it had fused with her replacing the leg she was missing. He grinned at her as the light in his eyes vanished. Break had a bad feeling and tried to free herself. Do something, but it was useless, and the zombies held down tight. She felt dizzy and weak all of a sudden. It was hard to keep her eyes open. Somehow it felt like she was being repressed or caged somehow. That made no sense, but it was growing more difficult to concentrate on anything. Her vision was going black. The last thing she saw as she passed out was the stallion grinning at her his eyes looked triumphant.

----

Vital Care awoke with a stir. It took him a few moments to realize where he was. He rubbed his head only to find a magenta hoof in front of his face. He examined it in fascination. He couldn't believe that actually worked.

Vital examined his body from top to bottom and sure enough, he was in the body of that damnable mare. He could see his white colored leg where that mare was missing hers. It amazed him that putting his consciousness in his leg as a last-ditch effort actually worked. It was only a far fetch theory when he thought it up. If he could control people with his Stand through his flesh, surely it could be possible to take control of somepony completely?

It was difficult, but Vital struggled to his hooves. Everything felt weird and off. Getting used to all the small differences in his new body would take time. Even having new teeth was strange. He realized that he was a mare now. Oh well, that wasn’t something he couldn’t change. And Vital was an earth pony now. He would have to find a new horn and wings for himself. Finding somepony with the same coat color would be annoying though. He hated when the colors didn’t match up. There was also the question if he could even use magic when he got a new horn. The wings on his old body didn’t exactly work out. No matter how hard he tried, flying or even gliding seemed beyond him. Even studying old books on flying didn’t help. It was possible that he might have lost magic for good.

Vital looked down at his old body. It was dead to be sure. It was on the last threads of life before he took this body. He wondered if he should give it a proper burial, but dismissed it. Too much work. The ponies that he was controlling were standing like statues. As far as he could tell, his Stand still controlled them. He was worried losing his body meant losing his power. Everything was as it should be though explaining his new appearance will be awkward. Wait, didn’t this damnable pesty mare say she was the cousin of that recruit? How would she respond to him showing up in his cousin’s body? He would have to do something to not make it so obvious he was in her body. That mare was scary and unstable. He saw a fire in her eyes that scared him. If she knew he… no, he won't let that happen. He would make sure she never learned about this mishap.

Vital still couldn’t believe things went as bad as they did. All he wanted to do was kill a pesky mare that was asking too many questions. Ponies died all the time and nopony would care if she turned up a corpse on the ground. It was bizarre how hard that mare was to kill. From her appearance, it looked like a stiff breeze would kill her. How did things go bad so fast? His Stand, More Than a Feeling, should have handled it no problem. When the others hear about this, he will never let it down. He growled. He could already hear Spring Rain’s mocking comments.

Vital looked at his slaves and wondered what he should do with all of them. This was the first time he had ever attempted to take over so many ponies at once and was pleased that he could do it so effortlessly even if it was a bit awkward at times. He would have to attempt to see how many ponies More Than a Feeling can take over some time. With a thought, Vital had it. He would have them fight and kill each other. That would be pretty amusing and would help cover his tracks about what happened here.

Vital screamed as he was bombarded with a wave a pain in his head. He shook his head to clear it. He clenched his teeth, and the pain subsided. What was that? Some side effect of the body snatch? He sent out the mental order to have the ponies in front of him start fighting, only to be hit the same pain all over again. What was happening? Was that damnable mare fighting back? No way. He had completely supplanted her. She was dead. Wasn’t she? As if to answer him, the pain came back only worse than before. Then he felt something. It was like some presence in his mind. It was weak and small. Vital laughed. This was nothing he couldn’t handle. Some uppity mare won’t stop him.

The question was how to stop her from wreaking havoc in his mind. When Vital used his Stand on somepony, it always supplanted the consciousness of the victim. So, he pushed back on the small presence with a thought. But the more he tried to quiet her, the more she fought back. With dread, he realized that the mare was awake now and would not be quiet. She was getting stronger too. If this continued…

Vital lashed out at the mare with his mind. He would find some way to destroy her mind. This body was his now. He winced. The other mare’s mind fought back when he hit it. Like in life, this mare refused to go down easily. He cursed. Stupid stubborn mare.

Vital almost collapsed to the ground at a sudden burst of pain. The cursed mare was fighting with everything she had now. He panicked when he felt something odd. It felt like he was losing a grip on this body. What would happen if he lost his grip completely? Would he die, or was he cursed to wander the wasteland for all eternity without a body?

He tried to hold on this body with everything he had. He would not let that happen. His mind held fast, and he imagined himself being tied to this body like an anchor. He imagined it being so heavy that nothing could move it. But the mare wouldn’t quit so easily. She fought even harder.

Get out of my body. The mare growled in his head.

Vital gritted his teeth. Make me!

You can’t have my body you monster! The mare screamed. Vital stared wide-eyed as a green figure shaped like a pony appeared above him. It had a white mask with a blue lightning bolt coming down each eye that showed cracked in several areas. The thing was muscular, but the body had a feminine touch to it and was covered with white armor. It was also translucent and was glaring down at him from above the mare’s body.

Vital gasped. A Stand?! But how?! This made no sense! He was pretty sure the mare wasn’t a Stand user. If she had one, she would have used it long ago. How? This was impossible! Impossible! Unless… A sudden realization struck him and he looked down at his arm. His blood was flowing through her now. What if that gave her a Stand? Nopony knew for certain how the arrowhead gave a pony their Stand. Maybe that, was it?

Much to Vital’s horror, the new Stand reached down into the mare’s body and grabbed him. It pulled at him and there was nothing he could do about it. He tried. He tried holding on to her body with everything he had and held with everything he was worth, but the Stand just pulled at him with impossible strength. Much to his shock and terror, Vital actually saw himself leave the body appearing as a translucent version of his normal original self.

“This can’t be happening!” Vital screamed and flailed. How can she be this powerful? He pulled at the Stand’s grip, but it was useless. He tried everything, anything to wrench himself free, but it was useless. The Stand didn’t even flinch when he hit it. He was almost completely out of her body now. No! This couldn’t be happening!

The mare glared up at him eyes full of determination and cold anger. Her Stand’s hoof raised in the air poised to strike. “Get. out.”

Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora-Ora!

Chapter 16

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Break rubbed her head very confused. What happened in the last few minutes was so crazy it couldn’t be possible. But she could see the green figure above her clear as day. The thing stood there unmoving. Break tried and failed not to freak out. What the hay was this thing? Why did it protect her? Or would it attack her next?

“Uh, hi?” Break said with some hesitation. Might as well get this over with. “Who are you? I’m Break Point.”

Much to Break’s surprise. It said nothing or even move. It didn’t even look at her.

“Hello.” She waved her hoof in front of the figure. Still nothing. “I don’t believe this.” She recoiled in shock when she saw the hoof she waved. It was white. She looked down and saw her whole left leg was white. So that really happened after all. Break hoped that was just a fevered dream. She looked down at the white stallion creature thing. He was missing his left leg alright…

This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening. Break muttered to herself. She was at a loss for words. She looked back at the green figure again.

“Please tell me you have an answer to this craziness?” Break pleaded. Still no response.

"Just go away then!" Break said frustrated. With that, the green figure just vanished. Break searched the entire room. It was just gone.

Just… whatever. Break thought with a sigh.

Break looked around the room again. She saw that all the ponies that white creature took control of had collapsed motionless on the ground. Break gingerly touched the neck of the nearest pony and sighed in relief. They were fine, just out cold for the moment. The rest of the ponies were fine too. At least something good was happening today. The white creature’s victims started to stir so Break decided to make herself scarce to avoid awkward questions she couldn't answer, but first, she checked the white creature's body.

It was dead alright. Break tried to avoid looking at its wounds directly. She wasn’t sure why she was doing this, but the logical part of her brain told her that he might have a clue to where Green Mile was. There wasn’t much on him. A few odds and ends, some caps, and a matchbook. Break looked it over and found something written on it. It said, “Zinnia. Lost Lake. 30th 2:30.”

Break thought about this message. Zinnia was a town to the east not too far away from here. She checked her PipBuck and it confirmed her suspicions. She wasn’t sure what Lost Lake was. A bar? A building? Something she would have to check out. The 30th meant the 30th of this month. That’s in 14 days. It seemed enough time to get to Zinnia with plenty of time to spare. Break had to admit that this wasn’t much, but it was still a lead she could work with.

Her new leg felt so weird walking on it. It wasn’t quite the same length as her old one. It seemed an inch or two off. Something she would have to get used to. How the hay would she explain this to Scavenger? She wondered if she was going insane and all that was just a delusion. Won’t it be nice if that was the case? But it was all real, Break was sure of that. Terrific. Like her life wasn’t crazy enough.

Break froze as she saw two of the Stones guards and one she recognized from before. She ducked behind an alley her heart racing.

“Hey, wait a minute!” One of the guards cried out. “Wasn’t that the mare from before?”

"What?" One of the other guards said in surprise.

“Hurry, I think she went that way!” It sounded like he pulled out a gun from his holster.

Break panicked. She was in deep trouble. The alley she was in turned out to be a dead end. There was nowhere for her to go. The only escape she could see was a fire escape, but the ladder was up and too far for her to reach.

This was really bad. What could she do? The Stones would kill her on the spot. They won’t play around this time. Break looked up at the fire escape and cursed. It only she could fly or climb walls that would be nice.

Much to Break’s shock, she flew towards the wall and found herself stuck to it. What the hay was going on? She looked down and found that a can had also flown against the wall. Wait, no. She wasn’t stuck, it was more like the gravity had now changed so that the wall was now the floor. Tentatively, she picked herself up and in bewilderment found that she was standing on the wall facing up. She saw the ground under her.

Break shock her head. This had to be a dream. She tensed when she heard the guards approaching. Deciding to go with the insanity for now, Break walked up the wall. She pretended not to notice how far she was up from the ground and made her way towards the fire escape. Oddly, the can that flew towards the wall with her fell back down to the ground when she moved about two hooves away from it. She froze when she saw the guards enter the alley.

“What? I was sure that the Hero of Foalsom prison entered here.” The guard said perplexed.

“Oh, you were just seeing things.” The other guard said with a shrug.

The guard Break recognized looked around the alley uncertain and a little bewildered. He eventually sighed and gave up. “I guess you’re right.” The two guards left the alley.

Break let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding. She walked over to the fire escape and soon looked down at it from above.

Okay, so how the hay do I get down? Break wondered. With a shock, she fell down onto the fire escape with a thud and winced in pain.

“What the hay was that?” One guard said. He reentered the alley and looked up and saw Break who froze in horror.

“You were right!” The guard said. “There she is!”

Break froze in terror as she saw the right guard pointing at her. She searched around for any way of escape and found a door to her right. Break ran at the door with abandon as she heard the guards call for reinforcement. She tried the door and found it locked and cursed. Break saw that a guard was approaching the alley gun in hoof. She tugged at the door harder. Still nothing. The guard pointed his gun at her and fired. Break sidestepped just in time to avoid a bullet in the leg. She screamed as the guard unloaded more bullets at her. She looked up for an escape. The fire escape she was on went up several more floors, but the stairs to the next floor were broken and there was no way she could get up there. Especially not with somepony shooting at her.

Break realized she was trapped with no way out. If only she could get this door open. She screamed as a bullet ricocheted near her. Her mind raced for any options. If only she could punch the door down. She ideally thought back to when that green ghost thing punched that white stallion freeing her for good from his control. Could there be a way for it to help her again? She thought about the green ghost punching the door down and to her astonishment that is exactly what happened. It appeared behind her and hit the door so hard it flew off its hinges and smashed against the wall across the room. Break wasted no time clamoring inside.

The room was a worn-down apartment. It had spare accommodations, but it looked cozy enough. Unlike the last apartment she was in, this one looked like it was lived in until the bombs went off. Break hurried towards the front door but froze before she reached it. She realized that she might not have a better opportunity to test her powers or whatever they were. She didn't want to face any more thugs until she had a firm understanding what they did. Break still did not understand where they came from, but she could not deny things were different now.

"Okay, so I think and that green thing appears?" Break guessed. Sure enough, it loomed above her when she thought that. It was so bizarre looking at the thing, but it didn’t scare her somehow. It felt familiar, and that made no sense to her. She gave it simple mental commands, and it did everything she said without question. Moving it seemed natural not unlike moving a leg.

Are you a part of me? Break wondered. No matter what she commanded it, it did as instructed. She made it grab a nearby book, and it passed it from hoof to hoof at her thought. It didn’t seem intelligent. It seemed more like a limb than a person.

Glad to figure that out at least. Break wasn’t sure what to make of this. She had powers now and somehow getting that thing’s leg did it. Now she had to investigate that address. It might give her some answers about this green ghost.

Now all she had to do is figure out if she had the ability to control gravity too like she suspected. She walked near to a wall and thought about gravity changing to facing the wall's direction instead. In an instant, it changed like she commanded. It stopped when she ordered it to stop.

Experimenting, Break jumped in the air and made herself fly towards the wall and landed on the wall standing on it like it was the floor. She wondered if she could make herself walk on the ceiling. So, she nervously walked towards the ceiling. When she approached the ceiling, she thought about gravity facing the ceiling and walked onto it. Break laughed in wonder. She looked down and saw the floor under her everything else as it should be. She walked towards the light and kicked it. This was far beyond anything she imagined. She jumped towards the wall and changed gravity that way and she was walking on the wall again.

Break broke out in a grin. It was like being a foal again. She always wanted to walk on the ceiling. As a little one, she wondered what it would be like to walk on the ceiling and now she was doing it! She laughed again. This power was amazing. Her joy broke when she heard a door from a floor below break open causing her to fall with a painful thump on the floor. She needed to learn stronger concentration so things like that won’t happen. The sound of the thugs rushing up the stairs reverberated through the floor.

She figured she had only a few moments before they would be here. Break tapped her hoof in thought wondering if she should just use her powers to jump to the next building. It would be easy enough to jump to the wall of the building next to this one, walk up, and climb to the roof. Break went for it.

Break walked back to the fire escape and jumped to the next building using her power to attach herself to the side of the building and with little effort climbed up to the roof. She ducked and watched the room she came from keeping low. Some goon broke into the room and searched around. They looked everywhere but found nothing. The thugs didn't even attempt to look towards the roof she was hiding from. Break had to stop herself from laughing. She could not believe how easy this was. With her power, hiding and running would be a snap, after all, she could hide in place ponies won't even think to look. She supposed she could have hidden on the roof of the room, and they would have never found her there either.

Break snuck away from the edge. She made a run for it while they were distracted. There was nopony on the other side of the building when she looked. She used her high vantage point to find Scavenger. He was nowhere to be seen and Break sighed. Finding him would be a pain and she didn’t like the fact that the Stones were on to her. They would shoot her on sight and not bother with the whole Colosseum thing again. Her mind wandered to her time being forced to fight that hellhound. She still couldn’t believe ponies would force other ponies to fight to the death for their amusement. Her heart went out to the ponies she saw in those cells.

A thought struck her. No, that was crazy. Powers or not, there was no way she could get away with doing that. She was no hero. But she had power now, and it should be used to help ponies. She could do it though. She could put an end to that monstrosity. Sure, they would just start it up again and she had no illusions about that, but saving even one pony would be worth it. After a moment, Break decided for sure. She would free the Stone’s slaves. Somehow, she would use her new powers to do it.

The building next to the one Break resided in wasn’t far from where she was and did an experiment. She became less encouraged when she looked down and closed her eyes and tried to imagine the frightening heights below didn’t exist.

You can do this. Break told herself. This will be easy. You are just doing the thing you did before, just a little further. She did her best to work up the courage to do this.

Break jumped with her eyes still closed. Her heart pounded like crazy as she fell. She changed the direction of the gravity so it was facing the direction of the building she wanted to go towards. Sure enough, she felt herself change direction mid air and landed on the side of the building with a slightly painful crash. She opened her eyes and laughed when she saw that she did it.

This is so hard to get used to. Break thought. Still, it was fun, in a crazy dangerous way. Break walked down towards the ground and landed on the ground on her hooves. She wasn’t sure if she would ever get used to this sort of thing. It was hard to ignore the natural impulse that gravity would right itself and she would fall despite her powers. She would have to train hard with her powers to overcome this.

Break thought about jumping from the rooftops to her destination using her powers to change the gravity so the jumps would be foal's play, but that would draw too much attention. That and she thought she did enough gravity manipulation for one day. Walking there would be fine. She walked amongst the crowd head down and had the hood of her cloak up to not draw any attention.

She jumped with a start when she realized that her green ghost thing was still behind her. Break panicked worried about what ponies would do once they saw it. Much to her amazement, ponies ignored it. It was like the green ghost didn’t even exist to them. She made it wave its hoof in front of ponies, but there was no reaction. Nopony could see it but her, but how was that possible? If she didn’t have powers and the thing couldn’t interact with the real world, Break would probably think she was going crazy. Still, it was good to know.

It didn’t take Break long to walk to the casino. So far, nopony seemed to notice her and Break kept her hood up. She eyed the building from a few blocks away and considered her next move. Reviewing her mental map of the inside of the casino, Break needed a plan on how she could get the slaves out. There were plenty of ways of exit the building through fire escapes, and nopony ever guarded them since they could only be open from the inside. They might have an alarm or traps Break guessed, but she could deal with that with little issue. Once she got the slaves out of the casino, it won’t be too hard to hide the crowds and slip them out. The guards were more interested in keeping ponies in than out.

Break eyed the guards watching the front entrance. No way she could enter that way. There were plenty of doors into the building, but they were either guarded or only opened from the inside. Breaking a door open was an option, but that would make too much noise. Break wondered if there might be a way to enter from the roof though like a maintenance hatch or something. Somepony had to make sure all the lights on the roof work and do other various cleaning duties. There had to be a way to enter from the roof. Would it be guarded or just an alarm? She decided the roof seemed to be her best option and snuck towards the side of the building that seemed the least watched.

Using her powers, Break climbed up the side of the casino with as much swiftness as she could without making much noise. She was on the roof in a few minutes. There was a door just as Break thought and it led into the building. It wasn’t guarded, but it had a terminal locking the door. Not surprising. Most Pegasi were gone after the war leaving for the cloud cover in the sky abandoning the rest of ponykind to their fate, but they didn’t mean that they were all gone. It made sense to still have some guard against them. Break connected her PipBuck to it and hacked it. The password was difficult, but she guessed it after a few tries. It was “solitude”.

Past the door was a stairwell, and it seemed it went all the way down to the basement. Break made her way down the stairs trying to not make much noise. Soon she found herself in the basement of the casino again, but it was a part she had never been in. She was in the kitchen and she could hear ponies working on various dishes. Break’s stomach growled, and she realized that she hadn’t really eaten anything all day.

Break’s stomach growled again, and she was torn. It seemed like such a stupid risk to sneak in and steal some food. Stealth was the most important thing at the moment and it wasn’t like she couldn’t get something to eat later. Still, maybe she could sneak into a storeroom and grab something? It would only take a few minutes. It didn’t take long for her to find a storage area filled with canned foods. Break gapped and tried not to drool. It was more food than Break had ever seen in her life and she worked at a restaurant once. They were packed neatly on the shelves. Her eyes scanned them looking for some canned apples. It would be simple to eat and she didn’t have time to cook anything.

Break froze as she heard ponies approach her direction. Using her powers, she changed the direction of gravity and made herself fly towards the ceiling. In a quick motion, she was lying on the ceiling. She prayed that the gravity field would be small enough that the passing ponies won’t be able to feel or notice it. Two mares passed talking to each other. They seemed oblivious to her presence, and they picked food off the shelves without any hint on their face that something was amiss. Break tried to calm herself down.

It seemed like an eternity, but the two mares went on their way with the item they entered the room to receive. Break waited a few moments and dropped herself back the ground. This time Break wasted no time. She found what she was looking for and grabbed five canned apples from the shelves and put them in the pocket of her cloak and left the room.

She crept through hallways and went back towards the stairwell since ponies didn’t seem to visit there all that often. She pulled out some of her plunder and dug in. It surprised her just how ravenous she was. She took no time at all to get through three of the canned fruit. Happy and fed, Break turned back to the task she came her for.

Break decided it would be for the best if she walked on the ceiling for now like she did before. It wasn't as weird as she had expected and it made moving around easier. Nopony even seemed to notice her as she passed them. Break found the entrance she used before to get to the slaves’ cells and waited for the all clear before dropping to the ground. It didn’t seem like there would be any matches today which would make this easier. Much to Break’s surprise, they hadn’t changed the password. She tisked. Somepony had been lazy.

Nopony was in sight as she peered through the door. She snuck out into the corridor and sighed in relief. Even with her powers, she really didn’t want to meet any of the Stones. They had guns after all. Shaking her fears away, she made her way to the slave cells. The doors used a simple key lock. Annoying, but she could deal with it. She would just have to find the keys.

Break crept towards the guard’s room keeping her ears open and powers ready. In the guard’s room, three guards were chatting to each other and not watching the door at all. Break made quick work of the guards and rendered them unconscious with a swift blow with her ghost. When she found keys, they were a thick metal thing on a large hoop and grabbed them. She rushed outside to the first occupied cell and opened it. The pony inside eyes widened in surprise.

“I’m here to rescue you.” Break explained. “Hurry.” The slave gave her a nod and scrambled out of her cell.

It didn't take too long for her to open all the cells. They eyed her wary but hopeful. The accented pony approached her rubbing the back of his neck.

“Sorry love for breaking your cover earlier.” He said. “That was dumb of me.”

Break shook her head. “Don’t worry about it. We don’t have time to talk about this. Follow me.”

“Shouldn’t we arm ourselves?” The stallion gestured towards the guard’s room.

“Good idea.” Break nodded.

The stallion stared at her. “Did you even have a plan when you came here?”

“Um, don’t worry about that now.” Break said trying to change the subject. “We need to focus on escape!”

The stallion stared at her again to the point of it becoming uncomfortable then nodded. Soon, almost all the slaves were armed with a weapon. The slaves looked eager, eager for retribution, and Break was questioning if this was such a good idea. This could easily get out of hoof. They could get themselves killed in a desire to get back at the ponies that made them fight and kill for sport.

"Don't fight if you don't have to." Break found herself saying. "Remember that we are terribly outnumbered. It would be better if we just sneak out quietly." This seemed to cull the former slaves a little reminding them of the danger. Still, many looked a little too eager for a fight and more than eager to get back at the ones that made them fight to the death.

Dear Celestia almighty. Break thought. I hope I made the right choice by doing this.

Chapter 17

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Robin took another long drink from his glass. He wasn’t sure what it was at this point, but he didn’t care. The small group of Cosas was in one of the many small outposts that surrounded Forks. The bar wasn’t packed, but it contained at least a dozen traders, travelers, and adventurers that somehow found their way here on their travels. Robin found the drinks helped numb the pain from his healing wound on his shoulder. The wound was healed for the most part, but it still bothered him a little. It wasn’t just the physical pain he was trying to curb. The disaster of his last mission ran through his head. It looked so simple. They had her cornered, and it somehow ended with Rock Guard dead and the rest of them almost killed.

Nightingale took the loss the hardest as he had never lost a teammate before or experienced crushing defeat. He drowned his sorrows even harder than Robin.

“Damn that filly.” Nightingale cursed. “She brings trouble to everypony she meets!”

Robin couldn’t argue with that. At first, he didn't believe all the crazy rumors he had heard about her, his encounter with her in the Stable made him reassess his earlier judgments.

"She's like a black cat!" Nightingale lamented to the room at large. "Bringing bad luck to everypony she crosses!" There were murmurs of agreement. Nightingale blabbed their story to everypony that would listen. Normally, Robin would stop this, but he was too tired and drunk to care.

Ray grunted his agreement next to the young Cosas member. There was a large black eye patch over his wounded eye. The doctors said the damage was permanent, but Ray seemed to take this news in stride. He, as usual, was silent and the responsible drinker. Not once was Robin able to recall a time he saw the large stallion drunk. He wasn’t sure if it was the moderate way Ray drank or the earth pony’s large size that kept him always sober.

Nightingale cursed the filly again and swore he would just bring the whole building down on her next time. Robin chuckled. That might be a prudent course of action given that cornering her and shooting her didn’t seem to work. He swore he would never give her a chance to fight back next time. There would be a next time. Despite this setback, Robin would not let his boss down. He planned on hunting that filly to the ends of the earth if he needed to. Robin always completed his missions.

The door chimed and Spitzer entered the bar. He gave the Cosas members a wave and walked over.

"Find anything?" Robin asked. They charged the hunter with the task of rediscovering the filly's trail. Apparently, the hunter's weird power had a time limit on how long it could track something so the hunter had to resort to more traditional methods of tracking.

Spitzer waved over the bartender and ordered a bottle of whiskey. “I did actually. As luck would have it, she was spotted going towards Forks.”

Robin wrinkled his brow. “Don’t they want her dead there?”

“True.” Spitzer nodded. “But a birdy told me the filly lost her leg. And where better to find an artificial replacement?”

“What?” Nightingale asked confused.

"Makes sense," Ray said, "she was shot in the leg and swam through radiated and polluted water. It got infected and required amputation.” Robin recalled Spitzer mentioning the bullet wound before.

"Right," Spitzer confirmed, "given we’re after her, no doubt she wants a replacement as soon as possible."

Robin tried to think through his alcohol addled brain. Didn’t Forks have a renowned prosthetic limb specialist? The town wasn't too far away from here, about a day and a half travel from his guess. It would take time for her to get the limb attached and receive the psychical therapy needed to gain some proficiency with the new leg. She might be there for weeks. It might cause trouble with Stones, but if they were quiet, they would never know.

"We are leaving as soon as the tab is paid," Robin ordered, "we are not going to let her slip through our hooves again." The Cosas members nodded not perturbed at all from being torn from the bar. Even Ray seemed renewed with energy at this new purpose and it seemed to revitalize the rest of his teammates. Robin stood and steeled his resolve and all his worries and lamentations melted away. He planned on finishing this hunt and she would not get the drop on them this time.

---

Break raised a hoof to slow down the ponies following her in the hallway. There were 21 ponies she rescued in total. She didn't like that she had to take point, but she wanted a cooler head to lead. She suspected and worried that one of the former slaves might try something. The tension was palpable, and they looked ready to exact violence on their captures. Break refused to let this turn into a bloodbath.

Break put on an aura of confidence. She straightened her back, put on a face that told everypony around her she was ready for anything and acted like she was large and in charge. Inwardly, she sighed and hoped she didn't look as ridiculous as she felt. Break opened the door to the back hallway she exited earlier and gave the all clear. She reminded them they needed to be silent, and they entered.

Break winced at the amount of noise they were making going down the corridor. She wasn't used to sneaking around in a group. They tried to stay quiet, but several of the former slaves were fidgeting with nervousness. A smaller mare in the group looked like she would drop dead in fright and nervousness. Another stallion was so big his hoof steps were loud and booming. Every step he took had Break cringed.

Take heart. Break thought. Remember you aren’t helpless. She summoned her green ghost for reassurance and she felt a lot better knowing it was there to protect her. As usual, it appeared to be invisible to all but her. It hit her she never actually gave her power a name yet. It seemed silly to keep calling it green ghost. But this wasn’t really the time to think on that. That was a matter for another time.

“What the hay?” The accented pony exclaimed making Break jump.

Break looked around to any threats her power at the ready. “What is it?”

The accented pony pointed to her white leg in shock. “What in blazes is that? You have another pony’s leg!” The others got a good look at her and also exclaimed various exclamations of shock.

"Quiet down!" Break hissed, and they also seemed to get the clue and watched around wary that they alerted somepony.

“I have to tell you love that I ain’t seen anything like that before.” The accented pony said.

“It’s a long story.” Break said a bit peeved. “We don’t really have time for this.”

The stallion shook his head. “It just ain’t right.” The others looked just as perturbed as he was. They eyed her warily unsure what to make of her now.

Great. Break complained. More complications. Stupid white stallion cursing me with this damn leg.

“What the?” A pony from behind a door in front of them exclaimed. “The slaves are escaping!” He shouted to somepony out of their sight.

"Oh, ponyfeathers!" Break cursed. She gave the accented pony a nasty look, and he wilted under her gaze.

They dropped all pretense and stealth and rushed forward with Break running far ahead of the group. She spotted a red drop coming their way on her PipBuck. Break wasn’t quite sure what to do. She didn’t want them to see her powers, but maybe it would be okay if she used it in secret. She unholstered her gun ready for anything. There wasn’t need for much waiting. A guard appeared in front of her as she turned a corner and aimed his rifle at her. He fired, but Break out of panic used her power to push herself towards the wall and out of the way of the bullet. She made her green ghost punch him the face several times, and the guard crumpled to the ground.

“What the hay happened?” The accented pony exclaimed as the others rounded the corner.

“I just got the drop on him.” Break explained.

"Nice work." One slave nodded. The accented pony gave her a strange look but kept quiet and they moved forward.

` Break knew they weren’t too far from one of the emergency exits. Her plan now was to escape into the city and check the state of the ponies guarding the gate. If they were on high alert, their best bet would be to lie low for a while and escape when things died down. They could leave in small groups or singles at a time and avoid any suspicion with disguises of course. Or if the guards weren’t on alert, they could split into groups and leave right now. The guards only seemed to pay attention to ponies entering. They never cared about anypony leaving. First, however, escaping the casino was their priority.

Break motioned for them to slow down as she approached one of the security doors that led into the underground corridors. She opened the door a crack and peered through to see outside. She froze. At least a dozen ponies were guarding the exit she planned on using. Break cursed and closed the door. She hadn't expected them to move this quick. She didn't want to force their way through so many armed ponies. They probably had guards on the other exits as well and would flood the corridors soon. They must have heard the gunshot. Not good. But, it didn’t seem likely that all the exits were well guarded. There had to be one they could push through. They had to move and get out of these corridors at least. She knew from experience this place was a maze. They couldn't cover all of it, right? She tried to push back her fear. The slaves looked at her and expected leadership and guidance and Break wasn’t sure she was the pony for the job.

“We can’t go out this way.” Break said trying to sound calm and confident. “I know another route we can use.” This was a half-truth. She didn’t know all the Stones’ movements and many of the paths had risk attached to them. They needed to move now before they blocked every exit to the underground corridors or cornered them.

The group turned into a different direction and Break thought to try the kitchen area. She saw a sign that pointed that way earlier. Break saw that red dots were gathering in her Eyes Forward Sparkle. There were a lot of them. It appeared they were planning on attacking from every major entrance. Celestia, even with her powers she couldn’t deal with that.

They approached the door to the kitchen and Break grabbed the knob as soon as they approached it. She discovered to be locked and sealed shut. Break eyed the door. It looked enforced, and she doubted even all their weight and strength could bring it down. There was a terminal, but it contained nothing but a black screen. She tried it, but there was no power.

“Now what?” One of the slaves complained.

Well, they won’t be expecting us to break through this way. Break thought. “What the heck.” She wanted to keep her powers hidden, but no point in hiding it now if she might die. She summoned her power and punched the door with all its strength. The door bend where she hit it. She hit it again and again until it burst open and the door crashed into whatever was behind it. A pony groaned in pain. It seems an unfortunate pony was behind it. Everypony gapped in utter bafflement.

“I have super powers now.” Break explained. “It’s a long story. Not really anything you need to worry at this moment.”

“What?” They all exclaimed. They all stared at her with various degrees of stunned disbelief.

“The door is open.” Break said trying to get them moving again. “We need to get going.” She waved her hoof in emphasis, it didn’t work.

Break resisted the urge to facehoof. “Now.” It was a simple word, but Break put everything she had to make it stern and commanding. They all nodded and rushed in. It was a corridor much like the previous one but made of brick that was crumbling and looked almost unsafe. She pushed them forward, and they soon found a door that led into the kitchen.

Cooks and various other workers panicked at the sight of them, but they ignored the group and focused on their work. They pushed through the group of ponies towards the door on the opposite end. Nopony tried to stop them as they exited into a dining room with tables full of ponies eating or chatting to each other. The room was elegant despite the wear with rich wood tables and a stunning chandelier with sparkling gems. Some of the ponies at the tables were Stones goons.

“Hey!” One of the guards shouted in surprise.

“Take cover!” Break yelled and the former slaves spread out trying to find something to hide behind. The Stones thugs were already taking out weapons, and the slaves fired on them before the Stones were able to do anything. Most shots missed, and the Stones flipped over the tables to use as cover. Break’s shot didn’t even come close and noticed only two of the eleven guards were down. The ordinary ponies panicked and flee the room scrabbling over each other to escape. Break and her teammates took cover with whatever seemed available to them and Break hid behind an overturned table.

Break tried and failed not to scream as the table she was hiding behind got riddled with bullets. It turns out that wood isn’t good at stopping bullets. Thankfully, none of the bullets hit her, but she was showered with painful bits of wood. It was mayhem. Both sides fired on each other and Break concentrated on not being shot. The Stones ignored her for the moment and opted to fire on the ponies firing back at them. She tried her best to steel her courage. When she peered over the side of the table, she saw that she was near to one the Stones. Perfect. She ordered her ghost to punch out the guard, only for it to fade away when it approached the thug. Break tried again to similar results. She noted that while the guard was close, it wasn't exactly near to her and was about 10 hooves away.

Oh, of course. Break thought mentally facehoofing. My ability has a range it can’t exceed. Break wondered if her power got weaker the further it got away from her. Well, shoot. Now what? Break noticed a wine bottle roll near her and she picked it up. She had an idea. She waited for one the thugs to expose themselves and used her ghost to throw it at them. Her aim was true as usual and the bottle exploded when it hit the pony. Break winced at the blood, but it didn’t look like the pony would get up soon. Only five of the Stones remained.

Break used her ghost to pick up another object this time an ash tray. She downed another guard with a blow to the head. Break screamed and ran when the spot she was hiding behind got riddled with bullets. She almost didn't avoid the shots and winced in pain as she felt herself get clipped by one in the back. It didn't seem serious, but it hurt. While she was running, Break's ghost picked up a chair and threw it at a table a goon was hiding behind. The chair burst into pieces and the table fell on top of the pony hiding under it. The thug tried to push it off, but one of her allies shot through the table and he became motionless. Break hiding behind another table one slave was hiding behind.

“Are you okay?” The slave who was a butterscotch mare with a tan mane asked eyeing the wound on Break’s back with nervous eyes.

“I’m fine.” Break replied trying to ignore the blood trickling down her back. She saw a guard poke his head out of his hiding spot and Break grabbed a nearby broken table leg and threw it at the thug's head and he collapsed like a sack of potatoes. The mare next to her eyed her with wide eyes. Break gave back a nervous smile.

“My special talent makes me very good at targeting.” Break answered. This didn’t exactly placate the mare, but she gave a hesitant nod.

Only one guard remained, and she knew it. Instead of fighting, however, she ran for the door getting back up Break guessed. Of course, the gunfight would have already alerted the Stones, but the information she had about them would be dangerous.

Break motioned the other escaped slaves to her. She winced when she noticed that three were missing. The solemn faces gave her the answer of what happened to them.

“We need to keep moving.” Break explained. “Reinforcement will be here any moment!”

The others nodded and picked up any spare weapons they could find from the bodies. Some pocket knives and one of the Stones had a baseball bat on them for some reason and that the eager looking young stallion holstered on his back. Break guessed anything would help at this point gun or not. They moved into a large expansive hallway. Break noticed that it was a fancy one with rich furniture used to appeal to high-class gamblers no doubt, but that didn't matter at the moment. Break EFS spotted some bogeys coming in from several hallways. She pointed towards the three hallways they were approaching from with a hoof and the other nodded. The tension was clear on their faces, but Break could see determination there as well. The quickly moved tables and couches or chair for cover. Break used her ghost to pick up a lamp and readied herself. From her count, they only had a few more seconds. The numbers weren’t promising. Too many red dots to count.

This time Break wasn’t able to fight back the panic. They were dead. Her powers were worthless against so many opponents. What was she thinking? Nopony could pull off the crazy stunt she tried to pull. Break felt herself shaking and tears fell down her eyes. She was no hero. A real hero would charge into the enemy ranks, defeat the bad guys, and win the day with nopony on their side harmed. The reality of their situation hit her hard. Maybe she could run and with her powers… filling Break with shame even thinking like that. She wouldn’t abandon these ponies. Even if it got her killed.

Come on Break Point. You have to think of something! Anything! Her power was fast and could punch at blinding speeds. Could she hit bullet’s out of the air? Or use her gravity powers to move them away from her? That was a start, what else? Maybe creating confusion amongst the thugs might help? Large numbers might not always be a good thing. Time to do something crazy.

Break picked up one of the couches her allies were hiding behind with her ghost and threw into the entrance on the right surprising the ponies behind it. It bowled over the ponies attempting to come through it. Break picked up more furniture and threw it that way as well using whatever she could find. Sure, the unicorns over there would just move the obstacles in time, but it would at least buy them some time. She heard yelps of pain from the blocked entrance.

Break made a mad dash towards the middle hallway. It was packed with more goons than she could count. They fired at her as soon as she came into view. Break jumped into the air and flipped gravity so she flew towards the ceiling causing the thugs to gasp in confusion. Much to Break’s amazement, she could punch the bullets out of the air. They deflected into the walls without even touching her and she landed on the roof of the hallway unharmed. She changed gravity again and dropped into the ranks of bewildered Stones punching everypony in her midst as she fell. Half of her opponents were down as she landed on the ground. The remaining thugs gaped at her with wide eyes. Break didn’t give them a chance to respond and charged them. They barely got a shot in before she dispatched them and the bullets didn’t even come close to hitting her.

“I can’t believe that worked.” Break said out of breath. She thanked Celestia and she stared in disbelief at her handiwork. How could she be this powerful? What did that white stallion do to her? The sounds of gunfire interrupted her reverie. Right, this wasn’t over yet. She reminded herself to be careful. A lucky shot or carelessness would still kill her.

Break ran forward hoping there was a way to get behind the thugs remaining in the left corridor. She changed gravity and landed on the roof. That way she could ambush them since she doubted they were expecting an attack from above and it would reduce the chance of incoming attackers noticing her.

It surprised Break when she noticed the guards still hadn’t reached the end of the corridor yet. They were hiding behind the wall taking pot shots at Break’s companions. She noticed that, while some of ten guards were stone-faced, some looked concerned. They must have heard the commotion and were wondering what the heck was going on. Two of the Stones were arguing.

“I say we stay here and wait for the signal.” An important looking Stones said. He was a green earth pony stallion with an orange mane.

The other Stones member crossed his legs. He was a unicorn with dark yellow coat and magenta mane. “My gut tells me something ain’t right. We should retreat to a better position. You heard the hubbub, who’s to say there’s a pony to give the signal anymore?”

“There’s 34 heavily armed ponies with us total.” The other argued. “You telling me a bunch of slaves with pee shooters can take on that? Come on.”

The unicorn put out a breath. "I know it seems crazy, but I'm not hearing any more gunshots except us."

The earth pony considered this and looked uneasy. “They say the hero of Foalsome prison is behind this escape attempt. With that crazy mare around, any logic seems to be thrown out the window.”

“No kidding, I…” He trailed off when he looked up and saw Break on the ceiling. He pointed his gun at her and fired not freezing like she expected him to.

Break dropped as she changed gravity and fell back to the ground just missing getting hit in the chest. She winced in pain as she hit the ground. The guards around scrambled in confusion for a moment and moved to get some distance from her. The unicorn trained his rifle on her and Break soon stared down the barrel of a gun. He fired, but Break’s ghost punched the bullet out of the air.

The group looked shocked for a moment, but this didn’t deter the unicorn in the slightest and his rifle fired at her again. “Keep firing. She can’t deal with all of us.”

Break tried to hit all the bullets out of the air, but there were too many of them. The unicorn she guessed was their leader was hovering his gun in the air and firing at odd angles making it difficult to counter especially with several other ponies firing at her She howled as one clipped her side. She wanted to fight back, but right now her ghost was the only thing at the moment preventing her from getting shot.

Break knew she had to do something, it would only be a matter of time before one of them got lucky. Her ghost might be pinned down, but she wasn't. Break unholstered her gun a pointed it at the guards. She fired into the crowd of them. As usual, her shots were terrible and didn’t end up hitting anypony, but it was enough to scatter them. This reprieve gave her the time she needed to launch a counter attack. She punched the nearest guard with her ghost and he collapsed in a heap. The Stones tried to fight back, but it was too late and Break made quick work of the rest of them.

“That was too close.” Break sighed in relief. She touched the place where the bullet grazed her and winced. It wasn’t deep, but it sure did hurt. She really didn’t like these close calls.

A bunch of slaves clambered into the hallway. They eyed her then the collapsed goons and viewed her with awe. Break squirmed at their admiration.

One of the slaves, a large black earth pony stallion with a purple mane grinned at her. “Look at her, she took down thirty ponies all by herself! She’s invincible!”

The rest of the slaves cheered. Break didn’t celebrate with them. She didn’t feel invincible at the moment, just tired. Now that the adrenaline had worn off, she slumped against the wall. She really didn’t know if she could keep this up.

“With her on our side, nopony can stop us!” The pony continued.

"Er, what?" Break wondered out loud baffled.

“The lad is right!” The accented pony grinned at her. “I already think I know what he has planned.”

Break had a bad feeling about this. “And that is?”

“I say we should forget about escaping.” The black pony announced. “We should bring down the Tact Coat and take the city for ourselves!”

“Wait, what?” Break’s jaw dropped.

Chapter 18

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Break stared at the black stallion stunned. “You cannot be serious.”

The stallion snorted. “And why not? We’ve got the power and large chunk of the Stones have been killed. Why run when we could crush them here and now?”

The other slaves cheered and gave nods of agreement.

“Listen, when I took out the Yellow Stars, or well, we did, it wasn’t done by a few slaves. Everypony fought for freedom and we used our numbers to overwhelm them.” Break said trying to reason with him. “There are only about 16 of us.”

“But you are the miracle worker!” The stallion said grinning. “With your powers, it won’t matter. Gravity itself obeys you! You defy situations that most ponies would call doomed or impossible. You killed a hellhound with your bare hooves!”

"No, this won't work." Break argued back. "This is a bad idea. The Stones are too strong and I'm not invincible. They are bound to get lucky eventually.”

“You doubt yourself.” The stallion replied. “You will make this work. Think if you don’t. The Stones will just get more slaves and the horrors of that coliseum will never end!”

“Well…”

“Can you live with yourself if you allow those horrible battles to begin anew?” The stallion pleaded.

Break gave a pained look. He had a point, but what he was asking was unrealistic. She couldn’t just solve the world’s problems with a wave of a hoof. Powers or not. “Answer me this, how do you plan on keeping the town after every Stone has been killed?” This would leave a large power vacuum and how would you protect the town from raiders and the like?

“We will work with the townsfolk.” The stallion stood straight. “We’ll work something out with them. It can’t be any worse than being ruled by the Stones.”

Break thought about all those ponies that watched her fight with that hellhound. Would the townsfolks really be so eager to accept this change? Would they happily accept the loss of their favorite entertainment? Her instincts told her this was a bad idea.

"This won't work." Break repeated and shook her head. At least not without a better plan. She thought. “How about we leave and…”

Break howled in pain as she felt a powerful jolt through her body. Somepony had just attacked her from behind. She fell to the ground and saw a slave holding a stun weapon.

“Why?” Break felt herself losing control of her body. The other slaves looked shocked at this. The black stallion stared at her with a cold look.

“This is necessary. For all of us. We will not bow or run again to those Stones bastards!” The stallion promised. Break screamed again as they shocked her again. “You will help us even if it isn’t by choice. Hero.” That was the last thing Break heard before she blacked out.

---

Break groaned. By Celestia almighty, she felt horrible. She tried to open her eyes but found only blackness. It felt like she was being carried. She was confused on where exactly she was or how she got here.

Break screamed as whoever was carrying her tossed her to the ground. Her land wasn’t a gentle one. Break froze in horror as she felt the barrel of a gun pressed against the back of her neck. It dug into the back of her neck and she winced. She wondered if she should use her ghost now, but she didn’t have a clue where she was or what was around her. There could be thirty ponies with guns trained on her and there was no way she could fight blind. Break waited for now. The fact they hadn’t killed her was a good sign. It wasn’t a great sign since that could all change at any moment. Rope bound her limbs to the point of being painful.

“Pull it off.” A voice commanded and somepony pulled off whatever was covering Break’s head and she winced at the sudden brightness.

Break gasped when she recognized the background. It was Tact Coat’s office and the mare in question stared at her on top of a large chair and glared at her hatefully.

“Where is he?” Tact Coat demanded. “Where is Yellow Star?”

Break blinked. That was not the question she was expecting. The barrel of the gun behind her pressed against the back of her neck with a painful jab. From the look on Tact Coat’s face, she was not messing around.

"Dead, accidentally shot dead by the ponies that left with him." Break decided lying might be a very hazardous thing to do at the moment.

Tact Coat growled and smacked Break in the face who recoiled in pain. “You will die for this.” She promised and Break gulped. “That was my brother. He was scum, but still family.”

“Look I…” Break tried to apologize or at least calm down the mare, but only got another smack in the face in response. Break howled. Tact Coat was not holding back.

“Give me a gun.” Tact Coat ordered. A pony next handed her a revolver and without a word fired at Break’s head.

Break almost didn’t stop the bullet in time with her power. It hovered in midair as her ghost held the bullet in its hooves. Everypony stared at her stunned. Break used at as the perfect opportunity to escape. She used her power to punch the pony holding a gun behind her in the throat. He crashed into a bookcase and books collapsed onto his body. Everything moved at once and Break screamed as ponies fired on her.

“Kill her!” Tact Coat ordered over the gunfire. She fired at Break as well with the revolver in her hooves. “So what if she can stop bullets? She can’t stop all of us. Don’t stop for even a moment.”

Break fell down to the ground and deflected every bullet that came close to her. They were not kidding around. All Break could do was fend off the gunfire. There were too many to deal with and trying to get up and move would only provide them a bigger target. Break screamed as some of the Stones pulled out knives and hurled them at her. She rolled out of the way in time or moved her body away in time, but it made deflecting bullets with her power even more ridiculously difficult. Break howled when a knife impaled in her left back leg. It was shallow, but it burned like mad. When Break moved to remove it, another knife hit the same leg, and she almost didn’t avoid another one. She focused on dodging for now, but the two-pronged attack was wearing her down.

“So much for her mysterious powers.” Tact Coat mocked. “Keep firing. She’ll be dead soon.”

If I don’t do something now, I’m finished. She thought and pulling herself to the front door, but it was too far away and there was no guarantee that there weren’t guards behind it. She looked around and found there wasn’t anything near her, she was just on an empty part on the carpet. Nothing around her seemed it was usable as a weapon. She supposed the knives around her were an option, but there were too many of them for that to be effective. Escape seemed like her only option, but how?

She looked back at the door behind her. It didn’t seem that sturdy and was worn down with age. She could use her gravity powered and burst right through it. No, that was crazy talk. They won’t see it coming, but what about the guards behind the door? Could she punch through the floor? No, not with so many bullets flying about. Could she fly towards the roof or at the shooters? Maybe? Again, not promising with so many shooters. Break decided that, crazy plan or not, anything was better than why lying here waiting to die.

Break made her discussion. She closed to eyes and waited for a brief lapse in the shooting. She winced as a knife almost hit an ear. Thankfully, they seemed to be out of knives. She hoped they won’t throw something else.

“There!” Break saw her opening when several of the shooters reloaded and she punched the ground with her power. The aged wood broke sooner and easier than she expected and there was a rush of pain as she crashed into the floor below. She saw that Tact Coat’s office was right over a large suite.

“After her!” Tact Coat ordered. “No, I have a better idea.”

Oh crap. Break knew that couldn’t be good and forced herself to her aching hooves. She limped towards the door across the room. She froze as she heard a strange grinding sound one that sounded familiar.

Break jumped out of way in time as a barrage of bullets from a minigun pierced the ceiling and shredded everything in its path. The bullets moved in a random zig-zag pattern and Break almost lost her head more than once. Moving was getting to be more painful and her injured leg ached something fierce. Only adrenaline and desperation kept her going. She paused for breath and the shooting stopped. Only for a pony dropped from the hole in the ceiling. Break noticed with apprehension the shotgun in his hooves.

"She's 34 degrees to the right!" The pony cried out and unleashed his shotgun at Break.

Break blocked the bullets as they came at her and in sudden sickling horror realized their plan. She jumped to the left and cried out in pain as a bullet pierced her right back leg avoiding the other bullets in time.

“She’s 89 degrees to the right now!” The stallion cried out and fired at her again. Break tried her best to push herself across the room in a random direction hoping beyond hope it would be enough to not get shot. In desperation, she pulled a knife out of her leg and threw at the pony in the room. Much to Break’s amazement, it hit the stallion right in the chest. He wasn’t dead, but it was enough for now. Break heard the minigun was close to firing and wasted no time and used her power to punch through the floor. Bullets shot past her as she fell. Break hissed as bullet scraped her left side, but none of the other bullets came close.

Break howled in pain as she hit the carpet in the room below. It appeared she was in another of the guest rooms. Her eyes widened at the amount of splattered blood around the room. Why soon became apparent. Two unlucky ponies that were sleeping in the room were shredded by the careless minigun fire from above. The bullets pierced more than a single floor. Break growled in anger. Did the Stones not care what happened to their guests and customers? Firing such a powerful weapon around without thinking for a moment of what collateral damage it might cause was monstrous.

Break fought back her anger. She needed to focus on escaping and used her ghost to push herself across the room and out the door. Retribution could happen later. She heard Tact Coat bark something in the distance. Orders to corner her no doubt. Break found a nice employee storage room a few rooms away and hid in there to treat her wounds. The room had shelves of clean towels and sheets along with a broom, mop bucket, and various cleaning supplies. She pulled the other knife out of her leg. It wasn’t a deep cut, but it still burned like fire. She used her ghost to tear up some clean sheets wrapped it around her injured legs as tight as possible. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing for now. There wasn’t a first aid kit or anything suited to clean a wound.

She wondered what she should do with the knives. She had no weapons, and a few knives were better than nothing, but she had nothing to carry them with. After a careful search of the storeroom, Break found pretty much what she expected. No guns, weapons, or anything really useful except for a coat with pockets. It wasn’t her size, but she put it on anyway despite how tight it felt. The pockets could hold the knives, so she pocketed them after cleaning them of blood.

Break found out the hard way that standing was impossible and too painful. Her back legs were useless at the moment. She tensed as she heard ponies marching towards her and readied her power and a knife in her hoof. She sighed in relief when they ran past and knew there wasn’t much time. They would search every room soon. She needed to move and fast. Since she was alone this time, escaping didn’t seem too difficult. All she needed was a window and her powers would get her to the ground to safety. She supposed all she needed was an outer wall too. She could just punch a way out. Not elegant, but it would work. Finding a place to hide and recover would be a different story and she still had no idea where Scavenger was, but one thing at a time. Focusing on escaping should be her number one priority.

After making sure the coast was clear, Break made her way into the hallway. She used her power as a second pair of back legs not daring to put any strain on her injured legs. Though a bit awkward mentally, it seemed to work well enough. She used her Eyes Forward Sparkle to watch out for enemies. Dread filled her heart as she saw that goons were gathering in large amounts on the floor. She just knew that the Stones had some nasty countermeasure for her powers. Break decided not to risk it and avoid them all together.

Break grunted in frustration. These hallways were like a maze making it more difficult to move around than she thought. Worse, each corridor she wanted to go down was getting blocked off by goons. Break was already feeling the limitations of using her power as legs. It took a lot of concentration and she wasn’t able to move at much speed. Getting ambushed or attack would be terrible because she would be stuck in one spot fighting off too many goons. Sure, she could use her gravity powers to move about, but that would just be her flinging herself about which would be painful especially without legs to land on.

Break decided to just skip this and punched through the floor again. She found a nearby room, broke the doorknob off, and punched the floor to pieces creating a way down. Unsurprisingly, it led into another guest room and it was empty thank goodness. There was a commotion in the distance. No doubt the Stones thugs heard her and Break lowered herself down with her ghost trying to not hurt her legs in the process as quick as she could.

Break was out the door in a moment. She tried to run, but it was awkward using her power so she decided to just walk instead. Looking around, she recognized that she was on the main floor now and her heart shone with a hope she would be out of this hellhole. She made her way through the hallway making as little noise as possible.

“You made it!” A familiar voice cried out. Break groaned. It was the accented pony from the slaves.

“What do you want?” Break asked in a cold voice.

The accented pony went pale. For some reason, he seemed to think she planned to attack him out of anger and vengeance for what they did. In truth, she only wanted to never see him or the other escaped slaves again. If only she was so lucky.

“Is she dead?” The stallion asked.

“Who?”

“Tact Coat.” He clarified.

“No.” Break turned to leave. She thought she could remember a fire escape she might be useable.

“Hold on!” The accented pony cried after her.

Break whirled on him glaring venom. “What?”

“I’m sorry,” He apologized and much to Break surprise, it was genuine. “I wanted to stop them, but there were so many and…”

“It’s fine. I forgive you.” Break sighed. It wasn’t like it was his fault, anyway. “Why did you even do that? What happened?”

“You see lass.” The stallion said, “Bolt Cutter, that’s his name, thought throwing you at the Stones would fix all our trouble.”

“What?”

“He told us that since you cause trouble with your mere presence.” The stallion explained. “He thought if he threw you at the Stones, you would bring their downfall like everypony else.”

“That’s stupid!” Break protested. “What is stopping me from just dying at their hooves?”

The stallion rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, he told us you wouldn't win, but since you have powers, you would at least cause havoc and maybe kill Tact Coat."

“Great plan.” Break said dryly. “Where are they now?”

“Hiding in town.” The stallion said with some reluctance and gave Break a weary look. “They are waiting for you to finish off Tact Coat and most of the Stones, then move in and take over.”

“Don’t be so hard on them.” The stallion said quickly. “They all have lost a lot to those bastards. Many were captured with parents or siblings. Those bastards loved making the slaves fight their own family for entertainment.”

Break let out a sigh. “I understand.” Not that it makes them good ponies or anything.

The stallion looked Break with a more careful eye and sighed. “So much for getting back at the Stones. Looks like I will just have to get you to safety.”

Break eyed the stallion wearily. The gesture was nice, but she just had a bad day and didn’t feel like trusting this pony again at the moment.

The stallion held up his hooves. “I get it. You can’t trust me. Understandable considering everything.”

“I’ll find my own way out.” Break said. “It would be best if you leave.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Break’s tone said this was final. Without another word, she left the stallion. She checked her PipBuck and found that her memory was right. She was only several corridors away from a fire escape. The corridor looked safe after Break opened the door a creak and entered the hallway when she heard something that turned her blood cold.

“Hey, wait a minute.” A pony cried out. “Isn’t that stallion one of the slaves that escaped a few hours ago?” It didn’t take long for gunfire to break out.

Break was at a loss what to do. The stallion had done nothing but cause her trouble. Escape was right before her hooves. In fact, this would be a nice distraction for her escape. But, the thought of leaving him to die made her ill. Going back to save him was stupid and might get her killed. The smart thing to do was to just walk away.

“Dammit!” Break screamed and turned to help that stupid stallion.

Things were not good. The stallion was pinned down behind a roulette table in the corner with several thugs shooting at him. The stallion tried to shoot back but his bullets came nowhere close. Ponies were running away trying to get away from the gunfight. It was utter havoc. Much of the casino décor was being torn to pieces by the panicking ponies. Nopony seemed to notice her, thank Celestia, and ran past her.

Break counted eight guards at the moment with others sure to come. She pondered how to best deal with this. Her only arsenal was her powers and two knives. Not the best odds, but she had surprise which counted for something at least and she would use the best of what she had regardless of how meager it was.

As she ran closer, she noticed that three of the guards were close together almost to the point of being lined up. She might hit them all at once if she was fast enough. Break looked around and found some chips on a table where some ponies were playing poker. Not a conventional weapon, but it might do the job. At high speeds, they would be pretty painful perhaps even lethal. She scoped some up in her hooves and moved into position.

"Hey!" The dealer cried out in surprise. "What are you doing?!"

Once again Break cursed her injured legs and wondered to herself why she was doing this again? One guard yelled as she approached, but Break didn’t give them a chance to respond and used her power to fling the chips at the three guards in front of her as hard as her ghost’s strength could throw. Nothing could prepare her for the amount of damage they did to her foes. The chips ripped through their flesh like they were made of paper. One chip pierced the skull of one them and he collapsed dead. The results of her attack were unpleasant, and she turned away to the other guards as an excuse not to see the gore. She hoped at the least the other two survived. Break swore she would learn better control of her powers and not let its strength hurt somepony by accident.

“It’s that damn mare again!” One of the guards yelled ducking into cover. “Get the special weapon!” Another guard nodded and sprinted towards a nearby door. Break tried to intercept by throwing one of her knives at him, but he avoided it at the last second and made it into the door. Break cursed.

"Hey, you!" Break yelled at the accented pony over the incoming gunfire that she punched out of the way. “We are leaving now!” She didn't want to deal with whatever the Stones had planned for her.

“I can’t!” The stallion yelled back. The Stones were shooting at him to prevent them from uniting and teaming up.

“Find a way.” Break replied. This was not good. She couldn’t move much on her own. The front door might as well be miles away. If he didn’t come to help her move, they were in serious trouble.

Break noticed something odd about the gunfire directed at her. It seemed lazy and halfhearted compared to the pony she was trying to rescue. They seemed more focused on killing him than her. The fire directed at her more seemed like a way to keep her distracted than kill her. She cursed again. It must be because they want to hold her off until they reinforcements arrive because they know they can’t defeat her on their own.

There wasn’t much time left. Break realized her only option was to get as aggressive as possible and finish this right away. She tried to put a beat on the remaining Stones with her remaining knife, but they didn’t stay still. They knew exactly how dangerous she was and gave her no opportunity to attack them with any sort of ease. Chairs, tables, furniture, pillars, and any other obstacle to prevented her from doing anything. They only shooting cursory shots at her now some not even getting close. Break was getting tired of this nonsense. She looked around for anything she could use to turn the situation around to her favor. Break's eyes caught something hanging from the ceiling. It was a globe of the world surrounded by the Princess in an eternal cycle of day and night. It was a nice design made of painted stone.

That might work. Break thought. Maybe she could use it as a way to crush one of the guards, or at least use it as a distraction. Seems just a good of plan as any.

Break squinted and saw what held the globe to the ceiling. It was connected by a thick steel cable. A cable looked like it was on its last legs. The years had not been kind to it. Maybe it’s better this way, otherwise, it might end up hitting somepony in an accident when it eventually failed. She found a nearby table and aimed carefully calculating the trajectory. Break flung the table and hit her mark. It snapped easily and fell down and rolled across the casino. One unlucky stallion was crushed when the ball rolled over him. The rest of the Stones ran away in fear.

That solved that then. Break saw the accented pony run for the door and out of the casino. I should really learn his name sometime. Calling him accented pony is pretty silly.

Break jumped when a door slammed open revealing a mare sporting a flamethrower came through with a confident stride. Several more ponies with flamethrowers followed her. Break realized that must be their secret weapon. She can’t punch flames away after all.

"Time to meet your maker so-called Hero of…" She screamed as the globe came right at her. Confused and terrified, she shot flames at the thing coming at her to no effect and it promptly flattened the mare. Her flamethrower was thrown out of her hooves and shot flames wildly at everything in its path lighting walls, tables, or whatever else it hit on fire. The flames spread quickly. The wood of the casino was old, dry, and very flammable.

“Well, ponyfeathers.”

Chapter 19

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“Fire!” Break screamed at the top of her lungs. “Fire!”

If the gunfire didn’t cause ponies to panic, the sight of an open and spreading fire certainly did. It was pandemonium. Ponies fought to get out of the front door. Some tried to put the fire out, but the old building proved to be too flammable. Break thanked Celestia the fire alarm still worked and its ear-splitting blare traveled throughout the building. Many of the guard ponies sent to kill Break ran to safety instead of completing their mission to kill her. Some tried to fire at her, but the spread of the fire kicked their self-preservation instincts and they realized it wasn’t worth it and fled instead.

One guard, a yellow unicorn with a grey mane with a white streak through it, worked to make sure that everypony fled to safety. He directed ponies in a voice that pierced the fire alarm and directed them to a safe exit. His calming presence helped ease down the panic and more ponies were leaving in an orderly manner. Break guessed that he might be one the head guards. He had the aura of a pony used to being in charge.

Break felt guilty about what happened. She didn’t mean for this to happen, and now some innocent ponies might not get out in time and die from either the fire or smoke inhalation. She wanted to help, but with her legs like this what could she do? A part of her wanted to rush upstairs and help ponies and get them out, but the smoke level was already becoming unpleasant and it constricted her lungs. As much as she hated it, her only course of action was to flee.

Break considering just flying through the front door, but that didn't seem like a wise choice. Stones guards were out there, and the last thing she wanted was a firefight in a crowd powers or not. She pulled up a mental map in her head and found the door that led to the fire escape she planned to escape from earlier. She couldn’t use her ghost for it would take too long, so she used her gravity powers to fling herself towards the door. Break grunted in pain as she impacted the door with her shoulder. She didn’t stop the flow of gravity soon enough.

Break hissed and pushed the door open with a hoof. She looked back at the progress of the fire, it covered almost the entire room now. The smoke was getting worse. It made her eyes sting. Break flung herself across the hallway and skidded to a stop a few hooves away from the entrance to the next hallway. She hissed from the impact rubbing the fur that hit the carpet wincing from the carpet burn. She used her power to walk the rest of the way into the next hallway. Break’s heart leaped with joy as she saw the fire escape she was looking for.

Another awkward attempt to throw herself close her objective later, Break pushed herself towards the door and push the door open and froze at the sight behind the door. There were several Stones thugs lounging about waiting for something. They popped up as soon as they spotted Break.

“We found her!” One guard yelled. “She’s over here!”

“Get her!” A voice that Break recognized as Tact Coat yelled from a distance. “Everypony converge on that exit. Don’t let her escape!”

“Oh crap!” Break cursed. Tact Coat must have spread guards at each exit so she wouldn’t escape. The guards fired on her and Break used her ghost to block the bullets.

Break growled in frustration as more guards came towards her and fired at her. She was helpless without her power to move around and stuck there unless she did something. Break changed gravity and tossed herself out of the doorway and back into the casino. She coughed for the smoke was getting worse.

“Get the minigun!” Tact Coat yelled. “Bring the whole building down on her if you have to!”

“You have got to be kidding me!” Break screamed when gunfire almost ripped her to shreds as the Stones fired through the walls. She pushed herself away in time down the next hall, and it tore through the walls easily. There almost wasn’t enough time to deflect the high-speed bullets. Break coughed unable to stop the smoke from entering her lungs. The Stones fired at her with full force now filling almost her entire line of sight with bullets.

Break saw her only hope was to find another exit on the other side or make one herself. She pushed herself down another corridor blocking any bullets coming her way. She used her PipBuck to navigate the maze of hallways. Constantly crashing into walls or floors was painful, but escape was the only thing that mattered to her right now. She saw another fire escape coming up, but Eyes Foward Sparkle showed several red dots near it.

Break winced. Of course, they would run for this fire escape. It was the nearest one. No doubt they would fire on sight the minute she opened the door. This wasn’t working. She needed to escape from somewhere they weren’t looking. She didn’t have much time, and the place didn’t seem to have much life left to it. This building was large so they can’t guard every side, or at least not with a lot of them. She needed a side that wasn’t defended too well, then she could just punch a hole through the wall and fly to safety. If only she had her legs, this would be so much easier.

Break pondered if she should fly to the other side of the building, but she didn't know how long that would take. She saw on her PipBuck that the stairs were nearby, and she could go upstairs and do the unexpected by fly above them unless they knew about her gravity powers. Break growled in frustration and rubbed her hair. There were so many unknowns. She had to stop second-guessing herself. She should just stick with one plan and work through whatever problems show up during it. After some thirty seconds of thought, she went with the other side plan.

There was an audible crack as she used her ghost’s legs to cushion the landing and they smashed right through the wall this time and her face impacted the wall causing a jolt of pain. The last few attempts made her realize that she didn’t have as much control over power as she liked. She tried to fling herself than thrust gravity in the other direction to slow herself down, but that only caused bursts of pain from the sudden jolt. She found that she could make herself float if she changed the flow of gravity up and down constantly, but that didn’t prove to be much of a help at the moment.

It was a relief to learn she could use her ghost as she landed softening the blow. It made moving around easier and almost painless, but she still crashed into walls despite her best efforts. The worst part is that she had to rush like this. The fire was easy enough to avoid being able to fly above or around it with ease, but the smoke was a real problem. It was getting almost intolerable now and she was afraid of smoke inhalation. She used her coat to help block out the smoke. There were audible creaks throughout the building. She just knew there wasn’t much time left. Break cried out in triumph as she saw that she was near the back end of the building and there were only two red dots nearby. All she needed do was punch through the wall in front of her and she was home free.

Break winced again as the building creaked again. She was about to punch the wall at full force then thought better of it out of a lingering fear of bringing the building down on herself. With a few punches of her ghost, she was through the wall. It appeared to be a concert hall. Break was sure that it would have been quite spectacular in its heyday. Despite being on fire, there were signs of it once being lavishly decorated and she could imagine it being ornamented with flowers of various colors and shapes. The stage stood in the back standing tall its stage and curtains covered in flames.

Break eyed the flames in front of her with unease. It was much higher than she thought it would be. There wasn’t a safe spot in the whole room. She yelped in front as she heard a loud crashing sound behind her. The building was, for sure, falling to pieces now. Break thought she didn’t have much choice, but go through this terrible room. If she lingered, it would mean death and she didn’t have the time needed to find a safer room to go through.

“I really hate my life sometimes.” Break said as she prepared herself.

She knew she could fly over the flames, but that would mean going through the thick smoke impossible to see through at all and the heat of the room was oppressive and the smoke was almost too thick to see through. Another crashing sound behind her pushed her forward. Break screamed curses at the top of her lungs, held her breath, and pushed herself into the air with her power into the smoke.

Break eyes watered as she went through the smoke which turned out to be more oppressive than she expected. It already felt like it was choking her. Despite this, she held on and held her breath. She did not want to breathe in what was around her. She feared that she already damaged her lungs from the smoke and didn’t want to make it worse. It seemed like an eternity, but it was most likely only a few seconds when her ghost’s front hooves impacted the back wall. Not wanting to waste time, she punched through the wall and it gave in with little resistance and she pushed herself full force outside as the wall succumbed to her attacks not wanting to waste a second.

Break laughed as she breathed the fresh air around her. Not for the first time she actually felt happy to see the deadened gray sky with its oppressive cloud cover. It was odd considering she saw it earlier today, but she felt electrified at the moment happy to be alive. A fit of coughing interrupted her revelry reminding her that she needed a doctor right now.

Break heard cries of surprise as she flew through the air. She wasn't surprised to hear yells of "Get her!" and "Shoot her down!", but Break was moving too fast for them to do anything flying in between buildings making following her difficult. Break stopped and pushed herself high into the air. Higher than she thought safe, but it gave her a good view of the town. She reversed gravity back and both hoovering her in the air at the moment even if it felt jerky with constant changing of up and down. She needed to find Scavenger and prayed that he would be outdoors at the moment. Everypony seemed like a small dot from this distance, but she recognized coat colors well enough.

"Found him!" Break cried out with glee. She almost broke out into tears with how happy she was at the moment. She coughed again but was too happy to care at the moment. He was in a crowd of ponies watching the fire. No doubt he had a concerned look on his face. The building in question was emitting large clouds of smoke. Then in a blink of an eye, the right part of the casino collapsed into itself. Dust and smoke exploded everywhere making the crowd choke and cough. The rest of the casino didn’t last much longer before it also fell to pieces.

Break wasn’t sure how she felt about this. The Stones tried to kill her, but this casino was the lifeblood of the town and brought in ponies from all over the wasteland. The Stones might be able start up a new one, but it wouldn’t have the old-world charm and décor of the last one. Without it, she doubted the town would have much life after it. Sure, it would still be a settlement, but it won’t have the trade and power it had before. The Stones were most likely doomed to extinction and the Cosas would take over the town.

How in Equestria did it ever come to this? Break asked herself and not for the first time. Can’t change anything now. Maybe it’s better this way? The Stones seemed keen on starting a gang war with the Cosas. I just don’t know. I better just leave. The faster, the better.

“How do I get down exactly?” Break wondered.

She knew she got carried away pushing herself up to this height and wasn't sure if she could get herself down in any safe way. She spotted a nearby roof and flew towards it. It seemed like the best spot for a landing. She made herself drop a few hooves and made a sudden stop in repetition until she landed on the roof with a thud. She did not enjoy that one bit.

Break made a sigh of relief. She should really be more careful about how high she flies. Getting down is a pain. It isn’t like she can just freefall and suddenly stop herself. That would turn her body to jelly.

Break looked around and found that, while the building didn't have stairs that led down, it had a hole in the roof that was usable. The next floor appeared abandoned, so she lowered herself down with care with her ghost doing her best to avoid further injuring her back legs. This appeared to be an office building for some time. She did a cursory glance for anything useful. Nothing of note was noticeable since it was just your typical office building after all except a poster on a wall caught her eye. It showed a heroic Steel Ranger surrounded by evil-looking zebras menacing him. The words “Better Wiped Than Striped! Join the Steel Rangers Today!” were written in bold letters.

I am sure glad I live in a post-apocalyptic world where every day is a struggle to survive! That's so much better than being ruled by zebras! Break thought sourly. She glared at the poster blaming it for all her and her world’s troubles. If it wasn’t for that stupid war.... She had the sudden urge to tear it down out of spite. It was an urge she wasn’t able to resist, and the poster was soon torn to pieces. Sure, it was a petty act she had to admit, but considering Break’s day, she deserved the right to vent a little.

She focused back on the task at hoof, she found a staircase nearby and used it to get to the bottom floor. Most of the bottom floor was in tatters and many of the walls had huge holes in them. From the staircase, a group of onlookers was visible and she found Scavenger with no difficulty. He was near the back of the crowd and had a nervous and worried expression on his face. Break crept to an alley behind Scavenger. Nopony paid her much notice distracted by the fire and devastation of the casino.

“Psst!” Break hissed to get his attention from an alley. “Scavenger.”

Scavenger looked around and almost jumped when he noticed Break. He ran to her scooped her up into a hug.

“Break!” Scavenger cried out. “W-where have you b-been? W-what h-happened?”

He looked Break over and cried out in alarm when he saw her new leg and injuries. “What the hay happened to you?!” His mouth dropped agape in complete disbelief.

“It’s a long story.” Break sighed and coughed. She breathed in and out trying to get as much fresh air as she could. “We need to get out of here! The Stones want me dead, and they aren’t too happy about what happened to their casino. It’s best we leave town, then find a doctor to patch me up. Don’t argue.”

Scavenger opened his mouth, then closed it seeing the logic in her words.

“Put me on your back.” Break said. “I can’t really walk on my own. The general confusion should give us the perfect opportunity to leave town.”

Again, Scavenger had questions, but he nodded and picked her up upon his back. He was a bit lanky, but he had enough strength to carry Break with little difficulty.

Scavenger kept to the shadows and stayed out of sight as much as possible. He kept focused on his task, but he gave Break quick glances sometimes. He stared at her new white leg not really believing it was there. She could understand the feeling. It seemed like almost a dream sometimes that it even exists.

Break grunted in frustration when they got to one of the gates. It was more well-guarded than she expected. Tact Coat must have predicted this and sent her guards the minute she escaped from the casino. It scared Break a bit just how single-minded that mare was about killing her.

“W-what n-n-now?” Scavenger asked eying the guards nervously. “T-there a-are a-a-a-at l-least t-t-ten o-of t-them.”

Break thought about it. Maybe she could fight past them, but the guards were heavily armed and one had a flamethrower.

“Hey!” A pony said yelling at one guard. “I want out of here! What gives? None of these thugs are letting me through! I thought anypony could leave when they wanted!” Some other ponies yelled in agreement.

“Tact Coat’s orders.” The guard replied bored. “Nopony leaves this place until the boss says otherwise.”

“And when will that be?”

The guard shrugged and looked forward. She made sure that her weapon was visible and made it clear it was ready for use. The ponies gathered grumbled, but when one guard pointed a gun at them, the crowd got the hint and left.

“W-w-w-hat n-now?” Scavenger asked. He took her to a secluded alley with nopony about to bother them.

Break didn’t know. They would search the entire town for her not resting until they killed her. Break slapped herself. Why didn’t she think of this sooner? She could just lift herself and Scavenger in the air and over the barrier. Simple.

“Don’t be alarmed.” Break said. “I have an idea.”

“What?”

Break used her powers to change the gravity up. Her body itself was being pulled up, but otherwise didn’t move in the direction she desired which puzzled her. Scavenger stared at her confused since her mane was pointing up which made no sense to him. Break let go of her passenger and sure enough, she traveled up as expected. Break turned the gravity to normal.

“W-what t-t-the h-hay w-was t-t-that?” Scavenger asked startled.

Come on. Break groaned. Don’t tell me I can only use my power on myself! Or maybe I am just too heavy with another pony? Either way, I can’t escape with him in toll. At least I found this out now instead of later.

“Okay, this might sound really strange, but I have gravity powers now.” Break said not sure how else to say it.

“What?” Scavenger said flummoxed. “T-that’s i-i-i-i-i-impossible!”

“I know, but it’s true.” Break sighed. “It’s part of the reason I have this white leg now.”

Scavenger looked lost for words at the moment. “F-fine. Y-you h-have a l-lot of e-explaining t-to do.”

Break let out a small chuckle that was interrupted by a fit of coughing. “That’s for sure.”

“ W-what now?” Scavenger asked. He looked terrified now. Not surprising considering their situation.

“I guess we will just have to hide out for now.” Break said after a moment of thought. “They can’t keep up this constant guard forever.”

I can at least get my legs back to normal for now and find out if I hurt my lungs. There might also be a chance to break through the wall surrounding the town, but she didn’t want to attempt that right now. She just wanted to sleep right now.

“Hey!” A voice whispered, and they both stood to attention. Break relaxed when she saw who it was.

“Who are you?!” Scavenger challenged. He could be tough when the situation demanded it.

“It’s okay.” Break said easing Scavenger’s fears. It was the pony with the accent. "Um…" This introduction was bit awkward without knowing his name.

“Boomerang Jack miss.” He did a bow. “I saw you coming this way and decided to help.” There was another pony with him. She was a unicorn mare with a yellow coat with an orange mane and pink streak through it. Break identified her as one of the slaves she rescued.

“Um.” Break said unsure of the presence of this unknown pony was a good thing.

“Don’t worry, lass. “Boomerang Jack gave a charming smile. “Brights Brightly promises not to bite.”

“Okay.” Break said after a moment deciding to go with it. She turned away to cough.

“Let’s go.” Boomerang Jack said turning to leave. “This place ain’t safe. I got a perfect place to hide ya until we patch you up. Seems the fire might have hurt you. Escape can wait.”

“I have a relative we can hide out at. “Brights Brightly said sheepishly. “He owns a bar across town. He’s no friend of the Stones.”

Scavenger looked towards Break for confirmation and she nodded. It was a good of a plan as any.

“Good good.” Boomerang Jack said smiling. “No time to dawdle let’s get moving.”

The bar they ended up at was called the Silver Stone Bar. The building it used to be before the war was a clinic. The name of the clinic was painted over in red text with the new name. The building was in decent shape and any damage to the building was either fixed or minimized. They entered through the back door and Break was sure nopony saw them enter. It was a tiny storeroom with shelves full of alcohol and foodstuff.

“Silver Stone, I’m back!” Brights yelled and an elderly stallion with a grey mane and a dark gray coat entered to greet them.

“Now what is going on here Brights?” Silver Stone asked with an inquisitive eyebrow raise.

"It's a bit of a long story." Brights said. "This is the hero of Foalsom Prison and she needs medical attention."

Break sighed. “I have a name. It’s Break Point.” For some reason, nopony ever felt inclined to learn her actual name.

“Right, Break Point.” Brights nodded.

“Bring her over here and I will have a look at her.” Silver Stone said. “I’m not a doctor, but I have a nice cache of healing supplies.”

“My injuries are minor.” Break said and a fit of coughing interrupted her mid-sentence. Scavenger found a chair and set her on it. “Just a stab wound and gunshot to my back legs with a few bruises. I also breathed in some smoke and it worries me a little.”

“Oh, no problem then.” Silver Stone brightened. “Removing bullets isn’t too hard. A healing potion should help with any smoke damage you might have gotten. You should be right as rain.”

“And, um, she might be sorta wanted by the Stones for burning down their casino and they are not too happy about it and want her dead!” Brights said all in one breath.

Silver Stone just smirked. “Those filthy slavers got what they deserved then.” He walked towards a back shelf and scavenged through it.

“Don’t worry Break, I will look out for you.” Silver Stone promised. “I’m grateful for what you did. Those bastards killed my daughter and cause my wife to die of heartbreak.”

Break’s ears flattened. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Nice of you to say.” Silver Stone said. “Glad somepony feels that way. Ah, here it is.”

“So, Break, what is the thing about the whole magic ghost thing?” Brights asked. “That is just weird.”

Scavenger gave her a confused look. “D-do you m-mean the g-g-gravity p-powers?”

“Right, that!” Brights confirmed.

“What now?” Silver Stone pulled out a med pack.

“Yes, why do you have those powers?” Boomerang asked. “They aren’t something you would think an earth pony would have.”

Break sighed. “Okay, I swear all this is true, even if it sounds nuts.” Break began her story as Silver Stone began work on her. He removed her makeshift bandages and examined her wounds with a critical eye. The stallion seemed to know what he was doing.

Break was not surprised by the incredulous looks given to her during the tale. She waved her white leg to prove that at least the part about the white stallion giving her his leg was true.

After giving the full story, Scavenger spoke up. “B-Break, o-only y-you c-c-could e-ever h-have s-s-something like t-t-this h-h-happen to y-you.”

“I know.” Break said in a solemn tone. The story of her life.

“That is some tale.” Silver Stone said. It sounded like he didn’t believe even a little.

“You truly are a special filly. “Boomerang said in wonder. “No wonder Milo couldn’t kill you.” Brights just looked at Break with wide eyes and admiration.

“S-seriously, I-I leave y-you for one m-minute and t-that h-happens to y-you!” Scavenger exclaimed.

“At least we have a clue on where Green Mile might be.” Break said and scowled. “I think she might be in bad company.”

“I-I w-was a-afraid of t-this.” Scavenger said sighing. “G-Greens is a f-forceful p-pony.”

Break’s worry for her cousin was palpable. She had to hurry and find Green Mile before she did something bad. Break had a bad feeling.

“What is your power called?” Brights asked eyes sparkling.

“Excuse me?” Break was too lost in her thoughts to hear a word of that. She winced in pain as Silver Stone removed a bullet from her leg with some tweezers and wrapped the leg with a new bandage. He gave her a healing potion, and she drank it in one swig. The potion seemed to improve her breathing and her coughing stopped. Some strength returned to her legs, but they were far from healed. Some sleep and another healing potion would work wonders to return her to normal. Sleep sounded so good right now.

“Your ghost.” Brights clarified. “What is its name?”

“I haven’t really thought to give it one.” Break admitted. Sure, it had a face and a body, but it didn’t have a life or consciousness so she didn’t see the need to give a name.

“Come on!” Brights challenged. “Everything has to have a name!”

“Well.” Break thought about it. She guessed she might as well give it one. She didn’t really know what it was yet, but it was a part of her and every bit as real as she was. Break summoned her power and looked at it. Nopony in the room noticed it unsurprisingly.

“How about, Good Times Bad Times?” Break suggested. She liked the way it went off the tongue.

“Oh! Like how it brings good times to you and bad times to your enemies!” Brights said grinning.

“No.” Break replied. She gave it that name to remind her that life is never full just bad things and to never ignore the good in life no matter how bad things get. What in the world was Brights talking about? Then she understood.

Oh no, she thinks I’m some hero from a comic book or something. Break thought. That is the last thing she wanted. It was bad enough to have her exploits announced over the radio. She didn’t want anypony looking at her like she was a hero. She was just a pony.

“Look, I...” Break didn’t get to finish as another pony slammed open the back door. It was a pony that recognized from the slaves she rescued.

“We need to hide fast!” The stallion announced. He started at the sight of Break, but he ignored her for the moment. “It’s the Stones, they are searching every house and building. If anypony refuses, the building is burned down without a second thought! Tact Coat has lost her mind! She’s on a warpath of death!”

Chapter 20

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Break looked at the newcomer in horror and cursed. Why didn’t she see this coming? Pain and guilt went through her heart knowing this was all her fault. Now the Stones were on a path of destruction. Tact Coat would not stop until she was dead and had no desire to go quietly. If Tact Coat killed her, what would she do next? Run off and rebuilt maybe? What would that mean? Would there be an inevitable bloody war with the Cosas to get her territory back? Break might have only delayed the Stones’ original plans.

Break steeled her resolve as the others around her panicked. Silver Stone was cleaning up so it didn’t look like he helped help patch somepony up a few moments ago. She knew what she had to do.

“How long do we have until they arrive?” Break asked in an authoritative voice.

“Three minutes at most.” The newcomer, a portly earth pony with a light grey coat and purple mane, answered in a shaky voice.

“Silver Stone, do you have any more healing potions?” Break asked. The stallion stopped what he was doing.

“Yes, only one though.” Silver Stone answered. “I don’t think it will be enough to heal you all the way though.”

“Good enough.” Break replied. “It will have to do.” She took the flask in her hooves.

“Do you have a plan?” Brights asked with desperate hope in her voice.

“I think the little missy does.” Boomerang Jack said with a knowing smirk.

“We need to hide.” Break said.

Her first priority was getting everypony to safety, and then she would have to deal with Tact Coat somehow. It seemed unavoidable at this point. She needed to stop this before the situation got even more out of hoof.

“They can only see Silver Stone and Scavenger. I don’t want them to see me or any of the escaped slaves. I don’t want a chance of them recognizing any of us.” Break said.

The other nodded in understanding. Silver Stone started a nervous pacing.

“There isn’t really a place to hide in here.” Silver Stone said furrowing his brow. “If they search the place, they will find you eventually.”

“Come on!” Bright threw up her hooves. “There has to be somewhere we can hide.”

“I’ve got it!” Silver Stone slammed his hoof the ground. “There is a way to the roof. Not the best or safest place, but it should work well enough. I have to warn you. It’s old and I don’t trust that it will hold your weight.”

“It will have to do.” Break sighed.

Silver Stone led them upstairs to a window on the far left of the room. “It’s a climb, but it won’t be too difficult for you to get up there. A pony could walk on outside of the building on a narrow ledge and get to the roof by pulling themselves up.”

Break did a quick search outside and nopony was in sight at the moment. The streets were dead which worried her. She chugged down the second healing potion and her stiff legs felt so much better. She didn’t feel at a hundred percent though and walking was more difficult than it should have been. Break pulled open the window.

“C-careful!” Scavenger warned.

“Don’t worry.” Break reassured. “I will use Good Times Bad Times to get me up there.”

She used her ghost to pull herself up with one smooth motion. The others watched her amazed. She looked down at them.

“We have little time.” Break warned and that got them moving.

In the next three minutes, Break, Boomerang Jack, Brights, and the new slave were all on the roof. They kept low to avoid any detection. Break felt glad that the Stones didn’t have any pegasi members as far as she knew. Not long later, they heard hard pounding on the front door of the bar. Break crawled along the roof and saw that three Stones thugs were at the door. They were heavily armed and one held a flamethrower. Break shivered.

“Well?” Boomerang Jack asked when she crawled back.

“Let’s hope they don’t attempt to burn the place down.” Break replied. She couldn’t see a safe place the others could jump to if the place started burning down. They all gave her a grim nod of understanding no doubt thinking the same thing themselves.

A thug pounded on the back door. After some ruffling, Silver Stone opened the door. Break and the others on the roof stood silent not even breathing fearing that it would give them away.

“We are looking for a certain mare.” The head thug said.

“I can’t say I know what you are talking about.” Silver Stone replied keeping his tone neutral and relaxed.

“She’s a purple earth pony and one of her legs is white. Have you seen her?” There was a threat in his voice promising violence if he didn’t get the answer he wanted.

“Haven’t seen her.” Silver Stone said still keeping cool.

“I see, I hope you don’t mind us checking your bar then.” The head thugs said and it sounded like he pushed past Silver Stone into the building. Silver Stone growled, but said nothing.

“We will be very thorough.” The head thug added. “You better hope we don’t find her.” Break didn’t like the way he said that. The stallion wanted to hurt somepony and didn’t care who.

Break shook with nervousness and anticipation. She fought to steady herself. Panicking would do nopony any good. In the distance, she could see signs of burning buildings and it horrified her to the core. She didn’t think it would go this far. She needed to stop this now. How could she do that though? Even if she killed Tact Coat, what would stop the thugs from wreaking more havoc? Could she even stop all of them if they did? She felt so small right now. So much for having powers. In a way, it felt like they barely made any real difference at all.

Focus. Break thought clearing her mind of her doom and gloom. Protect your friends first, and then stop Tact Coat. Deal with whatever comes next later.

“We found nothing so far.” A thug said.

“I wonder.” The head thugs mussed aloud. “Have you checked all the rooms?”

"Yes, sir." A Stone replied.

“Hey, you in the bar!” The head thug yelled.

“M-me?” Scavenger asked.

“Have you seen a mare with a white leg?” The head thug demanded his voice promised violence.

"C-Can't say that I have." Scavenger kept his stuttering under check.

“Have you?” The head thug asked again and Scavenger yelped in pain. Break tensed scared for her friend and readied for action if things got worse.

“No!” Scavenger yelled. “W-what are you d-doing?!”

There was a snort of disgust and Scavenger grunted in pain when the thug pushed him to the ground.

"Get out of here." The thugs ordered and a few minutes later Scavenger ran out of the door. He gave Break a reassuring look before scampering away.

"As you can see," Silver Stone said through clenched teeth. "Who you are looking for isn't here."

“So, it appears.” The thug said annoyed. “Tact Coat will have my flank if I don’t find her soon.” He muttered to himself.

“If you see or hear anything about her, let us know.” The head thug said as he left. “She has a 5000 cap bounty on her head.”

Break almost gasped and the ponies with her exchanged looks. That was a ridiculous amount of money. Were the Stones giving away everything they had to get at her?

“Okay.” Silver Stone replied. There was a slight hesitation in his voice.

Come on; are you really considering the offer?

“Ha! I knew it!” The head thugs exclaimed in victory. “You do know where she is. I knew I could weed it out of you somehow. A reward like that would make anypony think twice.”

“I, um…” Silver Stone stuttered.

“I smelled blood in your back room.” The thug continued. “And you ain’t that great of a liar. Your face gives it all away.”

Oh, Ponyfeathers. Break cursed.

Silver Stone howled in pain after a gunshot went off. He whimpered. Panic filled Brights’s eyes and she gripped Break so hard with a hoof it hurt.

"I will only ask this once." The head thug said. His voice told of no compromises or mercy. There was no doubt he would kill Silver Stone in an instant if he didn’t comply. “Where is that mare?”

“You have to save him!” Brights whispered tone pleading. Break only nodded. She refused to let this pony die because of her. Steeling her resolve, she jumped off the roof using her ghost to cushion the fall. Break walked through the back door and moved at a hurried pace not wanting to waste a moment.

“I’m right here.” Break announced walking into the bar proper. She saw that the Stone thugs had surrounded the bar owner. They turned to look surprised by her sudden appearance. Silver Stone was on the ground grasping his back right leg which had a bullet wound in it and leaked blood on the floor.

One thug got a shot off, but Break hit it away and came at them. Break attacked them going after the pony with the flamethrower first. She had Good Times Bad Times grab it out of the thug's hooves and bent it in two rendering it useless. The pony that was holding it gaped at her.

“K-kill her!” The head thug ordered, but he was too late. Break dispatched them all before he even got all those words out.

I should have just done this from the beginning. Break told herself. She was so used to hiding it was second nature to her. Not that she wanted to put herself in danger regularly or anything, but it wouldn’t hurt to get more assertive.

Putting this thought out for the moment, she kneeled down to check Silver Stone’s injuries. His face conveyed just how much pain he was in.

“Don’t worry about me filly.” He wheezed. “Those gunshots will no doubt attract some unwanted attention. It is best you just leave and go somewhere safe. “

“Keep yourself safe.” Break said. “I’ll distract them.”

“Hold it.” Silver Stone said stopping her. “I didn’t believe your story at first, but you really are a special one, aren’t you?”

“Well.”

“If you can stop her, do it.” Silver Stone pleaded. “She’s a heartless monster and the world would be a better place without her.”

“I’ll do what I can.” Break promised and ran out the door.

Break jumped in the air, used Good Times Bad Times to latch herself to the side of a building, and walked up it to the roof. She scanned the surrounding area and it didn’t take her long to see some Stones thugs running in her direction towards the bar. There were at least six of them. It would only take them about a minute or two for them to arrive.

Break breathed in and out. She wanted to be as ready as possible when she jumped into danger. For some reason, she felt calmer than usual. She saw that the thugs had run past the building where she was standing. With another deep breath, she jumped off and reversed gravity a split second before she landed making the normally dangerous fall easy and landed with hardly a sound.

“Hey.” Break said startling the thugs who stared at her in momentary shock. With a few quick punches, they went down in moments. They groaned in pain.

“She’s right here!” A thug yelled in a strained voice from the ground and Break ran off.

There was more yelling and Stones converged on her. They came around buildings and aimed their guns at her. They fired at her, but Break used her powers to jump over the barrage of bullets and pushed herself into an open window of a nearby building.

“After her!” One thug yelled.

“What?” Another yelled back. “How the hay do we deal with that? She’s magic or something!”

“I don’t care.” The first thug said. “Just get her. She’s still just a weak thing. One bullet in the head will kill her well enough.”

“Yeah, if we can actually hit her. She’s a monster I tell you!” The second thug grumbled. Some other Stones muttered in agreement.

“Just go after her.”

Break led the group of Stones away from her friends. She jumped from roof to roof moving away from the ponies hunting her. They tried to fire on her, but the distance made it difficult to hit her, powers or not. She did this for five blocks and felt satisfied that this was far enough. It was time to execute the next part of her plan.

Break jumped off a roof and hid in an alley behind a trash bin. Her sudden disappearance confused her pursuers and they tried to coordinate her position made even more confused when she used her powers to jump through windows and emerged on the other side of the building unseen. She sneaked behind them and tried to find a lone straggler standing on the side of a building.

The Stones reluctantly separated into groups of four. It sounded like they were using walkie-talkies to call for backup and talk to one another. One thug lagged behind and Break knew this was a good target for her purposes.

Break fell to the ground and snuck up behind him. He didn’t even seem to notice her. His face was one of panic and worry and too focused on his own troubles to notice her. Crawling up behind him, she pounced by using her ghost to push him to the ground and covered his mouth with a hoof. She commanded Good Times Bad Times to grab him from behind and bind his front legs making it impossible to move them and dragged him into an alley. When she checked it was safe, she began her interrogation.

"If you scream, um, things will get worse for you." Break tried to make herself sound tough and intimidating. She winced inwardly. That’s won’t scare a mouse.

Nice going. Break reprimanded herself.

Much to her amazement, the Stones thugs nodded up and down as hard as he could. His eyes looked frightened and he quavered. Break let go of his mouth.

“Please don’t hurt me.” He sounded on the verge of crying and whimpered. Break fought the urge not to gape at this reaction. This stallion did see her, right? How could anypony be scared of a pony that looked like her so thin and weak looking? She couldn’t imagine even look a little freighting to the tiniest foal.

Break stood up straight and glared down at him. She made her voice sound deep. “Tell me what I want to know, and I will let you go.”

“I’ll tell you anything, just please don’t hurt me.” The stallion repeated. Tears welled in his eyes. Break felt sorry for the stallion. He seemed so pathetic that even if he resisted, she won’t have the heart to hurt him. She planned to make this brief for his sake.

“Tell me, where is Tact Coat now?” Break asked.

The stallion whimpered a little more before speaking. “She’s in the old bank on 15th Street. She’s using it as a temporary hideout. Her new office is in the safe.”

“I see.” Break said. “What is the bank’s name?”

“First Equestrian.” The stallion replied.

“Thank you.” Break let him go and used her powers to launch herself on the roof of the building next to her.

From her new vantage point, Break scanned the surrounding area. It didn’t take her long to find what she was looking for. The First Equestrian Bank stood on the edge of the barrier around town. It was a short and single floor squat building. It looked like the Stones had remolded it into an office building, but she guessed they must still use the safe and the safety deposit boxes to protect caps and other valuables. The building was guarded heavily by at sixteen ponies with four on the roof. Much to her surprise, many of them were using energy weapons. Those weren’t easy to get or find. This complicated things. She didn’t know if her power could block those. Still, Break felt determined to finish this. She would just have to think of something.

Break decided on stealth for the moment. She wanted to avoid a full frontal assault. She watched the movements of the guards for some time. These ponies were vigilant in their guard duty. She couldn’t see any real weak points in their guarding and it was still daytime, so avoiding sight wouldn’t be easy, though her powers would make sneaking easier if she got in. Several options went through her mind. She could wait till dark, then try something. It couldn’t be too hard to avoid the roaming Stones until then. Break wasn’t sure she wanted to wait that long. Smoke appeared from new buildings in the distance. Break winced. Hesitating and waiting was the last thing she wanted to do. The Stones needed to be scattered and leaderless now.

Break continued to watch them. She observed the guards as they patrolled the grounds. She noticed that their rounds weren’t as strong as she first thought. They guarded mostly the front leaving the backdoor exposed and one guard was just lazy and didn’t pay all that much attention to his surroundings. She could see a broken window in the back that a pony could jump through without difficulty. Some of the broken glass was still there, but she thought it wouldn’t be too hard to get through. Break could see several opportunities where she could sneak past their watch into the back.

Break waited for her next moment to strike. It didn’t take long. The lazy guard left the building altogether to take a smoke leaving the back almost unguarded. Break crept in keeping low to the ground as she sneaked around the back. When she got to the back window, nopony had noticed her at all. She peeked inside and saw nopony through the dusty old windowpane. After another look to see if the coast was clear, Break used Good Times Bad Times to push herself at an angle through the open part of the window nearly avoiding the sharp glass and landed on the ceiling.

Break stayed on the ceiling and creped along it as she went down the hallways. So far, nopony was in sight, but she could hear voices ahead. Trying to make as little noise as possible, Break snuck that way. She found herself in the main lobby of the bank; there she could see several Stones talking amongst themselves at vague attention. Tact Coat was nowhere in sight. She could see among the broken and decrepit dividers, a large safe with a door the size of two rooms. She moved closer and could hear quiet voices inside. One was unmistakably Tact Coat. What was being said was unintelligible.

Break made her way into the safe and the voices got louder. Inside the safe, dividers placed to create small rooms. Inside the rooms, she could see desks with paperwork and filing cabinets. There were also smaller safes that no doubt held valuables. There were also rows and rows of safety deposit boxes along the walls.

Break moved closer towards the voices. They were coming from one of the small rooms in the back. Break fell to the ground and almost crawled towards the room. When she approached the room, she opened the door a fragment and peered inside. Only to find it empty. The only thing she would see was a desk, filing cabinets, and a terminal. A terminal that emitted the voice of Tact Coat.

"Oh, ponyfeathers!” Break knew what Tact Coat’s plan was. She cursed herself for not thinking of it sooner.

“Got you!” Tact Coat’s voice yelled from the distance.

Break pushed herself towards the safe’s door with her powers, but it was too late. The door slammed in front of her closed. Break stopped herself before she crashed into it.

Stupid. Stupid. Break cursed. Why didn’t she see this coming? Tact Coat must have planned this all along using the terrorization of the townsfolk as a lure guessing that she wouldn’t stand for it and try to do something. Stupid. So stupid.

Break summoned Good Times Bad Times and punched at the safe door thinking that she might be able to break her way through it. Despite her best efforts, the door held. She could barely even dent the thing. It looked built to withstand a Mega-Spell. Break cursed her stupidity again. She froze when she heard beeping sounds.

Break peered over a divider of one of the small offices and found what she was dreading. The floor of the room was lined with bombs and a lot of them. The sound of the beep echoed through the room from every direction. There was an alarm clock with 4:52 on it counting down fast.

Break broke out into full-on panic. How could she ever stop all these bombs? She was done for! Doomed!

Chapter 21

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“Y-you l-let her do what?!” Scavenger’s jaw dropped in shock and horror.

“The filly had her mind set on beating Tact Coat, there was no way I could stop here.” Silver Stone replied far too calm in Scavenger’s opinion.

“A-and you didn’t tell her to wait for u-us to come back?” Scavenger demanded.

“Don’t worry about it Scavy.” Brights said. “Break can do anything!”

Scavenger threw his hooves into the air not believing this. They acted as if Break was some invincible comic book hero. It was too dangerous for Break to go off on her own. That filly had a bad habit of not thinking things through and he just knew she was in trouble, again. He took his eyes off her for five seconds and she runs off Celestia knows where once again.

“W-we h-have to find her.” Scavenger said in a way that offered no compromise.

“Nah, we would just get in her way!” Brights replied.

“F-fine, I-I w-will just f-find her on my o-own.” Scavenger said.

"Now, hold on," Boomerang said, "you're right, that mare’s probably in a heap of trouble and just running off helps nopony."

“Y-you’re r-r-right.” Scavenger fidgeted in his nervousness.

"Brights dear, I want you to find a doc for your uncle," Boomerang said, "we can handle it from here."

Brights did an exaggerated salute and grabbed Silver Stone by one of his front legs and carted him away.

“Bungalow, I want you to get some weapons," Boomerang said to the red earth pony stallion that arrived earlier, "Silver might have some stashed away somewhere." Bungalow nodded and rushed back into the bar.

Boomerang put a hoof on Scavenger’s shoulder. “Don’t worry mate, we will save her.”

Scavenger said nothing but nodded. He hoped they would not be too late. Knowing Break, she was fighting for her life now with an almost zero chance of survival.

---

I’m going to die! I’m going to die! Break’s brain went into a full panic mode. She was going to die and there was no way around it. She forced herself to calm down. There had to be a way out of this mess somehow. At least, she prayed for this to be true.

“Think think.” Break said forcing herself even harder to stay calm. She had four minutes to devise a way out of this. There was no place to hide from the explosion, so now what? It was impossible to disable all these bombs in four minutes. There were like hundreds of them! They weren’t just along the wall, they were also hidden in the wooden cubicles as well.

Wait, a second. Something turned these bombs on all at once so that meant that there might be a way to turn them off the same way.

Break saw that there was a wire that came from the door to the alarm clock to several other places in the safe she assumed was the bombs. She picked it up and deduced the safe door severed it when it closed. There must be a switch or terminal that activated it on the other side.

Is there a way she could use this wire to turn off the bombs? Was it even possible with the wire broken? She pounded her face in frustration.

A thought struck her. Could she use her PipBuck to turn it off? Maybe there is a way to connect her PipBuck to the wire? It had a cord used to connect to a terminal. Struck with a crazy and desperate idea, she pulled out her PipBuck’s cord. If she pulled the wires’ insulator apart and wrapped the wires together, it might be possible to connect the two of them. No, that wouldn’t work. If she had the time and tools maybe, but not in less than four minutes.

Break slumped to the ground defeated and put her hooves on her face. She didn’t cry because she was too drained to do anything like that. She felt the fatigue of all her battles and fights for her life all at once and sat on the ground accepting death. She supposed she had a good enough life, and she did make a difference in her own small way. It was enough for any one pony. She closed her eyes and waited for death. At least it would be quick.

Break shook as she waited for death and tried and failed to fight back her terror. She opened one of her eyes and saw three and half minutes remained. She closed them again, waited for her inevitable demise, and found that she couldn’t. A part of her wanted to fight to the end, but that was silly. There was nothing she could now, wasn’t there? Yet, she wanted to live. The wish burned hotter and brighter within her. What was this? Some primitive survival instinct perhaps and yet she didn’t want to deny it.

I can stop bullets with my ghost and that’s something that should be impossible. They can move at least 800 hooves per second, and yet I can block a barrage of them. Break pondered this. Was it possible? Destroy all of them in less than three minutes? What if Tact Coat had them set to explode on impact? Whatever, she would die either way.

Break stood up. She decided she would fight after all; she didn’t have much to lose at this point.

I must be crazy. Break chuckled to herself as she pushed herself towards the closest bomb with Good Times Bad Times’s hoof raised ready to strike. She screamed as she punched everything in sight not caring what it was or if it was even a bomb. All she cared about was destruction and not dying. Her ghost’s hooves pulverized everything it touched, and she used her gravity powers to throw herself across the room diagonally.

Break howled when she smashed herself into one of the safe's walls by accident, but ignored it and continued on with her mission. She did this repeatedly almost killing herself as she crashed into wall after wall, but she ignored the burning hot pain. she kept going singled minded on her goal.

The entire room was in rubble as Break struggled to her hooves and winced. She felt sure she cracked or bruised one of her front legs after crashing into that last wall. Her eyes darted from side to side worried that she might have missed one of them. She forced herself to stop breathing so hard and focus on hearing. Her eyes widened when she heard a subtle beeping noise that was getting louder and faster. She had almost no time to react as the bomb exploded blowing debris everywhere. Break howled as the force of the explosion threw her into the wall and everything went black.

Break groaned as consciousness came back to her. She wished that she stayed asleep because her body hurt everywhere. Parts of her fur were burned and her eyes widened in horror at the pieces of wood lodged in her, but they didn’t look fatal. She felt grateful to be alive, but she wished that it didn’t hurt so much. It felt like the pieces of wood were deep in her. She used her ghost to push debris away and off her for she didn’t feel like moving now. Break didn’t remove the pieces of wood in her out of fear of making her wounds worse and she had nothing to staunch the wounds. She needed a doctor.

I can’t believe I missed one! Break groaned in pain. It felt like her body was on fire. Parts of her skin smelled like burnt meat. Still, I did it. Now what? I’m hurt and can’t use Good Times Bad Times to get out of here.

The only thing to do now was to wait for rescue, but what were the odds of that?

---

It turned out that discovering Tact Coat’s position wasn’t as hard as Scavenger first expected. A half an hour after Break disappeared, the Stones gathered in one area, the First Equestrian Bank. They seemed excited about something. Scavenger and Boomerang observed them from an alleyway. It looked like they had stopped their search for Break, which worried him.

Oh no, please tell me they haven’t captured and killed Break. Scavenger thought already worrying the worse.

Luck for them, nopony gave them much attention and sneaking past the Stone proved to be less difficult than they expected. Still, they stayed on high alert. A hush came over the crowd and they found a mail drop box to hide inside. Tact Coat walked out of the bank and Scavenger’s heart drop when he saw the satisfied look on her face.

"It's over." Tact Coat said and Scavenger dropped to the bottom of the mailbox.

Boomerang grabbed his hoof. “Poor mare. Don’t worry, we will avenge her me and you.”

Tears welled up in Scavenger’s eyes and he said nothing. He wanted to crawl up into a fetal position and cry. He didn’t want or care about revenge. Break was dead and nothing would bring her back. He paid little attention as Tact Coat continued.

“We need to regroup.” Tact Coat said. “The Cosas will learn of this disaster soon. I have a stronghold up north we can use for the time being to strengthen our power. We will have to leave Forks behind for now, but we will return and bring retribution!” Her voice became cold and hard, and it sent a shiver down Scavenger’s back. This mare was not kidding around.

“Gather up everything we can use.” Tact Coat continued. “I don’t want to leave a damn thing for those Cosas bastards. We leave tomorrow morning. Got it? Any dissenters will be shot on sight.”

She yelled some more orders, but Scavenger didn’t pay attention. First Green Mile, now Break. He had lost everything. He didn’t have a family anymore. They were everything he had left in this world.

“Excuse me? What?” Boomerang’s eyes were wide and he nudged Scavenger. “Hey mate, you need to hear this.”

“What?” Scavenger replied in no mood for anything.

“Why would Tact Coat order all that cement to the bank?” Boomerang asked. “Makes no sense. It doesn’t look like she wants to build anything.”

Scavenger’s head whirled. Why would she do that? Hope bloomed in his heart as he thought the fact through. Did she have Break trapped and wanted to use the cement so she couldn't escape? No, that made no sense. Break would just hit her way out with that strange power of hers. No, not if the safe made it impossible to force her way out. Tact Coat never said she killed Break and wouldn’t she brag if she did? She would relish in Break’s death.

“B-Break m-m-m-might be a-alive.” Scavenger said with renewed hope.

"Looks like it," Boomerang said with a grin.

Boomerang proved to be right. They overheard some Stones talking about their capture. They laughed about how they lured the unkillable hero of Foalsom prison into the safe and filled it with bombs. Much to their confusion, only one exploded. It didn't matter though if she survived. They planned to seal her in the safe forever ensuring the trap would kill her. Much to Scanveger’s annoyance, they still kept the bank well guarded using eight guards at any one time. Tact Coat refused to drop her guard even a little. It seemed like the Stones were having some difficulty finding cement and some of them argued over the best way to keep the safe sealed. Tact Coat refused to leave until she trapped Break for good. Boomerang and Scavenger left to come up with a plan with the others.

“Fine mess the filly gotten herself into this time.” Boomerang mussed.

“A-as u-usual.” Scavenger said with a sigh. Why did this sort of thing always happen to her? Was she cursed or something?

“Still, we got a chance to save her!” Boomerang said with a wide grin. “I doubt a single bomb could kill her.”

"I-I h-hope so." Still, Scavenger knew in his bones that Break was still alive. Dead or not, he refused to leave her in that damn safe.

---

“We have to go rescue her!” Brights said with hard determination after they explained the situation.

“How do we do that?” Silver Stone asked. “You said there were at least twenty ponies guarding the place. We can’t deal with those odds! And there are still Stones running about!”

"Yes, but they are dealing with the preparations to leave," Boomerang said, "I don't think it is impossible for us to sneak in there and get the filly out with a making a peep."

“Do you hear what you are saying?” Silver Stone showed his bandaged leg. “I can’t do a thing, and there is no way a small group like us can do anything!”

“I ain’t giving up on her!” Boomerang said with some heat in his voice. He looked determined to not back down.

“Face facts, sad as it is, Break is done for.” Silver Stone said. “It is best to move on and not do some crazy suicide mission.”

“No!” Boomerang replied with a growl. “I owe that filly my life!”

"Fine, but that doesn't mean you need to die for her!" Silver Stone replied back and the two were almost in each other's faces now. It wouldn’t be long until this ended in blows.

“I-I’m not leaving her.” Scavenger said in a firm voice. He didn’t plan to budge on this one bit. Break was family.

"See." Boomerang’s face went into a wide grin. "Three against one. You're outvoted, mate."

Silver Stone gave up. “Okay, now what?”

“T-the problem is getting her out of there quietly.” Scavenger said as he mulled over the problem. He wasn’t confident they could do that. Could they even open the door without anypony noticing? How long would it take to even open the door?

"Yeah, the place is crawling with guards," Boomerang said, "hard not to notice or hear a giant metal door opening."

“W-what i-if we…” An idea hit Scavenger, and he smiled. This might actually work. “W-what i-ff we d-draw them a-away? C-create a-a d-distraction?

“But that would take more than the two of you!” Silver Stone pointed out. “You guys are a pretty piss poor threat to a group like the Stone. Unless you suddenly have superpowers now too.”

"No, but I know where we might get one," Boomerang said.

---

“You can’t be serious.” Brights said in total disbelief. “They betrayed Break remember?!”

"Yes," Boomerang replied, "but I might spin it to our advantage."

“This outta be good.” Brights said not happy in the least.

Scavenger was not happy either. He wanted to outright refuse after learning what these ponies tired to do to his friend, but he reminded himself over and over again that they needed them to rescue Break. He would make a deal with the devil if he had to if it meant saving her.

Boomerang led them to a shack on the outskirts of Forks outside of the wall. Nopony bothered guarding the gates after they captured their quarry and they exited the main part of town unbothered. The shack was nothing more than some pieces of wood nailed together with a large sheet of aluminum on top. It wasn't the only one. The slum was littered with them and fearful eyes watched them from doors or windows. It was a sad state, to say the least. While inside the wall there were many buildings intact and usable, most of the buildings outside were little more than a wall or a foundation. The ponies that lived out here couldn't afford to live inside the wall. They lived in these deplorable shacks because of the Stones, while selfish and cruel, offered protection from raiders who almost never approached. Worse, ponies often disappeared out here, and it wasn’t hard to guess why. The setting sun draped everything in shadow making Scavenger nervous. Somepony could jump out anywhere and attack them at a moment’s notice.

Scavenger froze as a gun barrel peeked out of the windows of the shack. He put his hooves up trying to look as unintimidating as possible. Boomerang, on the other hoof, looked less than impressed.

"It's me," Boomerang said not stopping his stride towards the shack, "and Brights of course."

A black earth pony with a vibrant purple mane walked out of the shack. He had a rifle strapped to his back. He didn’t look pleased at all and stomped towards Boomerang.

“Hey Bolt Cutter.” Boomerang held up a hoof in greeting.

“Where the hay have you been and who the hay is that?” Bolt Cutter replied pointing at Scavenger. “You meant to be back over an hour ago! What’s happening in town? It’s total havoc in there and nopony has any idea what is going on.”

“Ah! Just the pony I wanted to see.” Boomerang said with a congenial smile on his face. Instead of putting him at ease, it only riled him up instead.

"This is Scavenger," Boomerang said, "an old friend. He's been helping me. Escaping the Stones wasn't easy."

“What is going on in there?” Bolt Cutter asked again not at all in a mood for games. “What happened to the Hero of Foalsom Prison?”

Boomerang shrugged. “Dead. They trapped her in a safe and blew her to pieces with bombs.” The half-lie left his lips with no difficulty. It was a gamble, but Break’s supposed death played a big part in their plan. Bolt Cutter didn’t even seem to question it thank the Princesses.

A variety of emotions flew across Bolt Cutter’s face, but it only lasted a moment before it became stern again. “And Tact Coat? Did she get her?”

"No," Boomerang shook his head.

“Nope!” Brights said with a little too much eagerness. “Tact Coat was just too good for her!”

Scavenger fought the urge to face hoof. How could anypony be such a bad actor? Brights shrank from Boomerangs annoyed glare.

“Sorry, I’ll be quiet.” Brights muttered. Bolt Cutter didn’t even seem to notice Bright’s bad acting or that little exchange too distracted at the moment.

“Ponyfeathers!” Bolt Cutter went into more curses and paced back and forth. “That foal! How could she fail so spectacularly?”

Scavenger blood boiled. How dare this stallion say those things after he left her for dead in some ill-thought-out revenge scheme? He was about to say a nasty retort blaming him for this mess, but Boomerang stopped him with a hoof on his shoulder and a small shake of his head. It helped calm Scavenger down and forced his expression to be neutral.

"Actually, we can use this to our advantage," Boomerang said with a sly grin on his muzzle.

Bolt Cutter stopped his pacing and stared at Boomerang. “What do you mean? That mare was almost unstoppable. How can he match her power? She had the perfect opportunity to kill Tact Coat and failed!”

"That's it though mate," Boomerang replied, "that's perfect for us!"

“I don’t follow.” Bolt Cutter tilted his head confused.

“The Hero was Tact Coat's greatest threat," Boomerang explained, "with her gone, Tact Coat thinks she doesn’t have any enemies any more. She doesn't even know you exist!"

“You’re right!” Bolt Cutter’s face turned into a wide grin. “We can use this! The damn whorse won't know what hit her!"

“She’s heavily guarded still, but it won’t be impossible," Boomerang said with the utmost confidence.

“How many?” Bolt Cutter asked. “We need numbers.”

“15," Boomerang replied. Their reconnaissance revealed that she was held up in a small inn in the middle of town called the Three Old Kegs on the top third floor. She used it as a hub for all the activity for her organization. It wasn't a fortress-like her old casino. It was also some distance from the bank Break was trapped in so reinforcements would take some time to arrive at both locations.

Boomerang explained the basics of his reconnaissance but didn't mention that Stones were leaving town or why Tact Coat choice that location. Much to Scavenger’s relief, Bolt Cutter was too consumed by his desire for revenge to notice that Boomerang was holding information back from him.

Bolt Cutter clapped his hooves together. “Reinforcements might be a pain, but I think we can do this.”

“How many ponies can you get to help us?” Boomerang asked his tone innocent.

“Eleven easy.” Bolt Cutter replied. “Besides some of the other former slaves, I know some mercenaries that hang around here that might help us. The promise of the Stone’s caps cache will be enough of incentive to join the fight. With you two we will have fifteen. Heck, I might even find some disgruntled townsponies to help us."

Bolt Cutter let out a laugh. “And we’ll all get a nice cut of caps to boot! This day is going to be perfect!”

Scavenger couldn't fight back a scowl. This was a foul pony and the mere idea of working with him was sickening. No wonder Boomerang said that this pony wouldn't help them if he knew this was really a rescue mission. This pony only cared about himself.

Bolt Cutter looked at Scavenger puzzled. “Is something wrong?”

“N-nothing.” Scavenger muttered reining in his emotions.

“He’s just eager to get revenge on Tact Coat.” Boomerang laughed covering for him. “That Hero was a friend of his.”

“Okay.” Bolt Cutter said. “I will get our ponies. Meet me here at 9:00 PM. We will strike tonight in the cover of dark.”

This was not good. That was in 2 hours. It might be too late. Break might be hurt and needs medical attention! A wave of anxiety overwhelmed him again. Boomerang put a comforting hoof on his back which helped ease his tension a little.

“Don’t worry, we will get her back,” Boomerang whispered to his friend.

Scavenger hoped so. He really hoped so.

Chapter 22

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Scavenger hopped from hoof to hoof in his nervousness. When Bolt Cutter said he found several ponies to fight with them, Scavenger had expected three or four more ponies at most. Twenty-seven ponies huddled outside Bolt’s little hut. Most of these ponies didn’t look like good ones. Many carried angry expressions due to some mistreatment by the Stones, but he also found a hint of greed in the eyes of most of them. The Stones had a huge amount of wealth and these ponies wanted a piece.

Scavenger had a bad feeling about this. Some of these ponies looked little better than raiders. The pure greed in Bolt Cutter’s eyes did nothing to ease his worries. If Boomerang and Brights weren’t standing behind him, Scavenger would’ve bolted.

Bolt Cutter stood on a small wooden crate and cleared his throat to get everypony’s attention. “You all know why we are here, so I need not say much more. The plan is simple. We sneak up to the hotel and kill everypony inside.”

“B-but s-some innocent ponies might b-be i-inside.” Scavenger said in protest. This would be a massacre.

Bolt Cutter shrugged. “Not my problem. To avoid detection, we will travel in groups of five.”

Everypony seemed to agree with the plan and broke up into groups as ordered. Scavenger found himself in a group with Bolt Cutter, Boomerang, Brights, and one other pony he didn’t know. The unicorn mare had a pink Mohawk and piercings on her lip and eyebrows with a beige coat. Her cutie mark had a buzzsaw on it with blood on the blade. Despite this creepy cutie mark, her name was Bubble Trouble much to Scavenger’s confusion.

“Let’s do this!” Bubble said howling at the top of her lungs making Scavenger wince.

“C-could w-we keep it d-down?” Scavenger asked. “T-this is a-a s-stealth m-mission.”

“Naw, we can’t do that.” Bubble replied. “We need to strike fear into them so they know what they are up against!” She let out a howl again.

“No, he’s right.” Bolt Cutter said with a sigh. “Please stick to the plan.”

“Fine.” Bubble rolled her eyes. “But I’m yelling after we get into a fight.”

“S-so, I-I have t-to ask. Were you a r-raider by a-any c-c-chance?” Scavenger asked already dreading the answer.

Bubble broke out into a wide grin. "Yep!"

“I-I s-see.” Scavenger replied lost for words.

“My so-called buddies kicked me out!" Bubble said more than a little peeved.

“Really, why?” Brights asked.

Maybe she grew a conscience and couldn't do it anymore?

“Would you believe they said we should stop hanging up our victim’s corpses on the wall?" Bubble replied. “They said some nonsense about health and safety. And they call themselves raiders? Ha!”

Scavenger gapped. “W-what?”

“I know right? They were only in it for the money. I like getting paid and everything, but what are we if we don’t mutilate our victims and display them for everypony to see?” Bubble shook her head. “Just plain old thieves that’s what! It isn’t just a display, but a piece of art. It’s the perfect canvas for self-expression. Painters have brushes, raiders have flayed corpses! It’s so obvious! Some ponies.”

I’m walking with a mad pony. Scavenger told himself more than a little horrified. He gave Bolt Cutter a look, and the stallion shifted on his hooves uncomfortably.

“We need all the help we can get.” Bolt Cutter muttered.

“I suppose it was for the best.” Bubble said continuing. “Things weren’t the same after my husband died. “

“I-I’m sorry to h-hear that.” Scavenger said. He supposed even raiders had ponies they loved and cared for and he sympathized. The Wastelands were a rough place, and you took love and friendship where you could find it.

“He was quite the artist.” Bubble’s tone became wistful. “He knew just how to hang somepony’s large intestines.”

Nevermind. Forgot she’s a complete nutcase.

Scavenger thanked the heavens above when Bungalow approached them providing the perfect distraction from this horrifying and unpleasant conversation. Bolt Cutter accepted the young stallion’s help with no question and Bungalow trotted behind Scavenger.

“The safe still isn’t sealed.” He whispered making Scavenger sigh in relief. “They aren’t making much progress, actually.” He ran off wanting nothing to do with this fight at all.

Thank Celestia. If only they knew Break’s condition. Please be okay Break.

Not much had changed from when he first surveyed the inn from afar. It looked like they hadn’t even changed the guards. They looked bored and distracted. They eyed the ponies moving past them without too much interest.

“This will be too easy.” Bolt Cutter smirked. “I have you now Tact Coat.”

“Y-you n-never told u-us the s-signal.” Scavenger said. He gripped his double barrel shotgun that they gave him hard out of nervousness.

“I have it right here!” Bolt Cutter aimed his gun at one guard and fired. The poor guard never saw it coming and a half of her head exploded horrifying the guard next to her after getting showered with gore.

Shouts erupted all around them and their ally’s charged the inn from their hiding spots. The remaining guard was too slow to react still stunned by his friend dying and Bolt Cutter made quick work of her. Scavenger turned away in disgust just knowing this would be a massacre. He wanted no part of this and he moved with his real allies to the bank. Nopony noticed their departure, and they slipped away with ease.

“What the heck is going on?”

“It’s coming from over there!”

“What? The boss is under attack? We need to get over there!”

“Where did all these jokers come from?”

The Stones made quite the ruckus and just as planned ran to their boss's rescue. The entire town became a war zone. They stayed out of sight of any incoming goons and kept their heads down as they made their way to the bank. Scavenger felt horrible. This whole situation had gone so out of control so fast. He didn't want this. All he wanted was to save his friend. All this bloodshed made him feel ill. Why didn’t he think of this when they came up with their plan?

All that matters is rescuing Break. He told himself this repeatedly. Maybe if he repeated it enough, it might come true.

Boomerang let out a laugh. “Success! Just as we thought!”

When they approached the bank, it contained even less populated than they thought it would be. Just two ponies guarded the front of the bank and even then they looked conflicted about not joining the battle.

“H-how d-do you w-want to d-do this?” Scavenger asked. Should they wait for them to leave, or gun them down right now?

Boomerang shrugged. “It’s up to you.”

“You are the boss.” Brights said looking at Scavenger for guidance.

A million thoughts flew through Scavenger’s head. Should they gun them down and be done with it? Even the thought of doing that made him ill, but couldn’t afford to be squeamish. Break needed them now.

“I-I guess we do it. Just try it without m-making much noise. W-we can't draw any attention to ourselves.” Scavenger said steadying his voice. He needed to be strong right now.

A chilling laugh broke out all around them and they looked from the source of the sound. The guards looked just as confused and tense with nervousness.

"Right here, big boys!" Bubble Burst jumped out behind some rubble and threw a grenade right at the feet of the guards.

“What the? Run!” One guard said and tried to get out of the way, but the grenade exploded engulfing both them.

“That was awesome!” Bubble laughed almost rolling on the floor. “Come out. They’re gone now.”

Holy crap. She knows we’re here? They emerged from their hiding spot and eyed the former raider wearily.

“W-what are y-y-y-y-you d-d-d-doing h-h-h-ere?” Scavenger asked.

“Well, when you guys split up with the party, I had to know why!” Bubble replied. “I was right to do so!” Bubble motioned to the horribly burnt corpses of the guards. “Something fantastic must be in this bank if these guys stayed behind to guard it. There must be like a million bottle caps in there or maybe secret treasures like a super weapon of some kind!”

“I-I see.”

“Oh, and Bolt Cutter is probably dead.”

“W-what?”

Bubble scratched the back of her head. “He got impatient and charged the inn and got a nasty gut wound for his trouble. Pretty bad. Dead in about 10 to 15 minutes without treatment I think. Anyway, what’s in the bank? Tell me!”

Scavenger gapped. He didn’t know at all how to respond to this. He looked at his friends and they didn’t appear to have any better answers. They couldn’t tell her the truth. She was a former raider for Celestia’s sake!

“Just come up with something," Boomerang whispered.

"W-well, you'll s-see." Scavenger said. “W-we saw how this p-place w-was p-protected a-and t-thought this is w-where a-a-all the bits are s-stored.”

Bubble smirked. “How ruthless of you to use Bolt Cutter and his army as a distraction! You steal all the bits while the others are fighting.” She slapped him hard on the back. “I like you! Let’s check the place out!”

She rushed inside with a sawed-off shotgun in her aura eager to face any opposition. Scavenger and the other walked in with more caution. They did a quick sweep of the area and found the building empty much to his relief.

“Cement?” Bubble asked confused. She pointed at all the bags of cement around the safe’s door and Scavenger could only shrug in response.

“Odd.” Bubble shook her head. “Oh well. Let’s get this bad boy open!”

"Right," Boomerang said, "who knows what treasure's we might find in there?"

“Right!” Brights said in a far too loud voice. “I’m sure there’s like a bajillion caps in there. We should open it right away!”

Scavenger rubbed his temple. “L-let’s just get it o-open.”

It turned out to be harder to open than expected. It required a terminal to open and none of them had something to hack it. The thing sat on a deck next to the safe and glowed a sickly green color in the almost complete darkness of the bank. The only light came from either the outside lights or the pocket light Scavenger carried with him. Scavenger cursed. If only they had Break’s PipBuck.

“This is bad.” Brights said nervous. “How are we going to open this?”

“Bombs would work, but I’m not sure where we could get ones powerful enough right now.” Bubble suggested.

Why didn’t I think of this possibility? Scavenger thought. He had the skills to hack the terminal, but not with what he had with him. All his hacking tools were in his bunker a few miles away. The blinking password request text mocked them.

“Obvious.” Bubble tapped the top of the terminal. “We guess.”

“It could be anything!” Brights said.

“M-more than t-three guesses wrong and i-it will lock u-us out.” Scavenger wanted to scream. They were so close and this damn computer stood in their way.

“You’re over thinking this.” Bubble waved a dismissive hoof and typed in the word “password”. The terminal buzzed in the negative.

“What the hay did you do that for?!” Brights said in a panic.

Bubble shrugged. “Most ponies don’t pick good passwords.”

“Password though?”

“You would be surprised.” Bubble typed in 123456. The terminal buzzed in the negative again.

“Stop that!” Brights almost screamed. “We have only one guess left now.”

Scavenger’s mind raced. There had to be a way to guess the correct password. Maybe it would be something simple. In his experience with cracking terminals, the passwords usually were only a simple word. Bubble wasn’t wrong when she said “password” was a common password. Still, it could be anything. He growled in frustration. He hated this so much.

"There's only one thing we can do," Boomerang said, "force Tact Coat to tell us."

“W-what?”

"Think about it," Boomerang replied, "Tact Coat runs a tight ship. I bet you 50 caps she knows all the secrets in her organization just in case. No telling when somepony might try to double cross her.”

“Ah, but the problem is forcing her to tell us.” Bubble said. “I doubt she would tell us even under torture.”

“W-We have to try.” Scavenger stomped his hoof on the ground to get everypony’s attention.

“Either that or we find her accountant.” Bubble added. “It’s our best option.”

Brights sighed. "I hate this plan. Now we have to go back to a war zone."

“I know!” Bubble clapped her hooves together. “Isn’t it great?!”

“I hope she gets herself killed too like Bolt Cutter.” Brights whispered to Scavenger.

"The battle had been going on for some time," Boomerang said, “There isn’t much left of them.”

They made their way back to the inn. It was a bloodbath. Scavenger wanted to hurl. The scene was like something out of a nightmare. Bodies were everywhere. Most of them appeared to be members of the Stones, but with a quick mental count, Scavenger identified almost two-thirds of Bolt Cutter's band were dead. Bolt Cutter himself slumped behind a garbage bin he used for cover. Just as Bubble said, he had a nasty bullet wound to the gut, and he wasn’t moving or even breathing. Despite this, the battle was far from over. Bolt Cutter’s rabble were taking pot shots at Stones hiding inside the building trying to pick them off whenever somepony became venerable. Rushing with numbers didn’t work, so they were wearing down the defenses instead. They were being attacked from almost all sides, but they didn’t let this deter them. Scavenger couldn’t tell how many Stones were still in the building, but he counted seven Stones outside. They used whatever they could find as cover. Three of them were using a broken down building. The others were either hiding using barrels or broken down air carts. Bolt Cutter’s rebels were using another broken down building that looked like it was barely holding together and just breathing on it would cause it to fall to pieces. Scavenger counted nine of the ponies left.

One rebel poked her head out to shoot at an exposed Stones hiding behind a barrel and got shot through the head for her trouble. Judging from the angle of the shot, Scavenger guessed the shot came from a sniper from an inn's window.

“Oh, um, how do you want to handle this?” Brights asked. After seeing that poor girl get her brain blown out, she was in no rush to put herself in danger and even Scavenger was having second thoughts now.

“What the heck is that mare doing?” Scavenger asked.

Bubble was sneaking along the ground almost crawling on her belly, but she moved like a dart and snuck behind a distracted Stone and grabbed him from behind. She wasted no time beating him to death. None of his allies noticed the sound. The gunfight drowned out the noise. She left there sight for a moment and reappeared shooting three ponies from behind with her shotgun. They didn’t even see her coming. She waved at them with a big grin on her face.

"That solves one issue I guess," Boomerang said with a shrug, "let's help them finish the remaining Stones outside.”

“Ambush?!” One Stone pointed at Bubble and opened fire on her. She ducked behind a window just in time and avoided getting hit.

One rebel saw her opportunity and ran behind one of the crouching Stones who Bubbles had distracted with her unexpected attack. The mare was hiding behind a barrel and gasped in surprise when somepony attacked her from behind. The Stone got shot in the throat, but not before shooting her enemy back with a shot of her own. They both collapsed dead moments later.

The two remaining Stones saw their terrible odds and ran inside the inn. This act caught the rebels off guard for the moment and they got to safety before their attackers could respond. They had no difficulty getting back inside with the door being little more than a thin shot up piece of wood.

One rebel, a mare with a cream colored coat and strawberry red mane cursed. She gestured to Boomerang as he approached. Scavenger believed her name was Iron Coat or something.

“Where the hell have you been?” Iron growled and aimed her gun right at Boomerang’s head. Scavenger hid behind a nearby sky car and Brights hid right behind him.

“My friend lost the stomach to fight and…”

Iron poked the barrel of her gun into Boomerang’s nose. “Not good enough.” For a terrifying second, Scavenger worried she might fire. She looked more than eager enough to do it.

“I lost several friends because of you.” The mare continued. Boomerang winced when the barrel dug into his skin. “You have three seconds.”

“It wasn’t…” Boomerang tried to say, but Iron interrupted him.

“One second.” She moved her hoof towards the trigger.

“There’s a bank vault we found we wanted to open.” Boomerang blurted out desperate to save his own skin. “It needs a passcode and only Tact Coat has it!”

Iron stopped moving towards the trigger and thought on this. “Ah, I see. Was that your plan all along? Use us a diversion while you plundered their riches?”

Boomerang screamed when the mare lowered her gun and shot right under his barrel almost hitting him. He shook in terror and couldn’t stop staring at the hole Iron’s gun made.

“I should kill you, but I won’t.” Iron smirked. “Shooting you in the head right now would be too good for you. I think I have another use for you.”

Before Boomerang could say anything, Iron threw a gun into his hooves. “Do your best to clear them out, won't you? Throw him inside."

To Scavenger’s horror, two giant stallions followed her orders and threw Boomerang head first into the inn’s front door.

“If you survive, consider your debt paid.” Iron yelled at him.

“How could you do that?” Brights stared at the mare in horror.

“The weasel deserves it.” Iron replied. They could hear gunfight coming inside the inn. Scavenger thanked Celestia Boomerang hadn’t died almost immediately and was holding his own.

“W-we have to h-help h-him.” Scavenger said. Sure he had not known the stallion long, but he was a friend of Break’s and he fought to save her life. He couldn’t just abandon the guy.

“No.” Iron replied and aimed her gun at them. Scavenger froze in fear. “We’ll wait for the firing to stop, then come in and help him.”

“But he might be dead!” Brights almost screamed.

Iron shrugged. “Not my problem.”

“Talk about cold.” Bubbles said. “Can we go in already? We can’t let Boomerang have all the fun!”

"Oh, we will." Iron promised. “Give him few.

Scavenger looked back and forth between the inn’s door and the mare. So far the fighting inside hadn’t stopped, but who knew how long it would last. Scavenger wanted to run and help, but the mare’s gun made it clear. it would not happen. After a few tense minutes, Iron relented.

“Still not dead huh?” Iron shrugged. “Oh well. Let’s go.”

“Yes!” Bubbles jumped with joy and before anypony could do anything, she jumped into the inn’s door headfirst. Everypony stared at this mouth agape.

“I just.” Iron seemed lost for words for a moment. “Whatever, let’s go in.”

Scavenger tensed. He was not ready for this even a little, but he needed to do this. Maybe the fighting was almost over and they wouldn’t need to fight? Iron ordered them not to go in the front door and went around the back instead using Boomerang and Bubbles as a distraction as they went in the rear. The back door was locked, but one the bigger earth pony stallions broke it down with little difficulty. The wood wasn’t in the best shape to stop him.

They found themselves in a corridor filled with inn rooms. Nopony was in sight. Iron ordered half of their group to split up and Scavenger and Brights ended up in Iron’s group. How wonderful. They wandered the corridors for what seemed like forever until they found a staircase and an elevator.

“Bingo.” Iron said. “Knowing Tact Coat, she’s on the top floor. It’s the best defendable spot.” She motioned them to the stairs, and they crept up them trying to make as little noise as possible.

The stairs were unguarded which wasn’t surprising considering the dwindling numbers of the Stones. They made their way to the third floor with no difficulty. There was nopony to greet them as they entered the third floor. This floor was not much different from the first one. It was your typical low rent inn with walls in bland colors, countless doors, and an ice machine.

Scavenger realized an issue they were facing almost immediately. Tact Coat could be in any of these rooms. If the gang leader was smart, she would make sure it wasn’t obvious what room she was staying in. While under attack, she would make herself as hard to find as possible. They couldn’t check every single room and Tact Coat and her remaining goons would be sure to be heavily armed. Didn’t Break mention something about the Stones attacking her with a minigun? The gun could tear through these thin walls with almost no difficulty. He gulped. If they weren’t careful, the situation could go bad very quickly.

“W-we should try not t-to make t-too m-much n-noise.” Scavenger whispered. “I-I think t-they m-m-might have s-some h-heavy w-weapons.”

Brights went pale, but Iron just shrugged. The rest of her posse didn’t seem too worried. They continued searching the floor and found nothing. There were no guards guarding any of the doors. The whole floor was just empty. So empty it was eerie, and it gave Scavenger a bad feeling. Iron wasn't happy in the slightest at the lack of signs of their enemy. She wasn't too eager at the prospect of checking each room. All the rooms were locked, and they had no way of opening the doors without making noise. Even if they were skilled at picking the lock, he doubted they could do it without getting noticed.

“Wasn’t a Stone sniping from the top floor?” One posse member asked.

“Yes, but he moved around a lot and switched rooms often.” Iron replied. “Not sure how. Maybe they’re connected somehow?”

“The shooting was from the north side of the building right?” The posse member said. “I say we check there and strangle him into telling us where his boss is. We might get lucky and find Tact Coat, anyway.”

“Good idea.” Iron said. “There aren’t many rooms facing the north. I say we bust in them all at the same time. Sure we make some noise, but we will get the bastard.”

There were four northern rooms, and they split up into groups for each one. They tried to pair a pony for each door, but they didn’t have enough for two for each door and they had one left over. Scavenger was the lucky one to get a room all by himself. The others were to come running if any trouble started.

Scavenger gulped as he approached his door. It was hard not to think about how much his comrades didn’t care if he got himself killed. They put him alone because he was the most expendable. Scavenger wanted to turn around and leave but reminded himself of his mission. Sighing, he examined the lock. It wasn’t anything special. If he had proper tools, he would have this open in seconds. Time was good to the lock, and it was in great condition despite the years. The door wasn’t bad either. The door and lock might be a good salvage. Ponies underestimated how valuable a good door and lock might be.

Come on focus. Pay attention.

This minor distraction probably saved his life. A few seconds after he considered kicking the door down, there was an explosion. Scavenger’s ears rung from the proximity of the explosion. He ducked and covered his head too stunned to do anything. That moment everything went wrong, he looked to see a green maned unicorn come out of a nearby door and run towards the other groups. He had a shotgun in hooves and sniper rifle holstered on his back. Shots fired and ponies screamed. Scavenger poked his head out to get a look at the enemy and gapped. The unicorn had used the surprise of the explosion to ambush the other and they didn’t stand a chance. Four of his allies were already dead. Two were shot to pieces while they were recovering from the explosion. The wreckage of the explosion was horrible and there were the charred remains of the two poor ponies that tried to open their door.

From the return fire, Scavenger saw only two other ponies that came up with him were still alive. They were hiding in a corner for the hallway broke into two opposite directions. The Stone used a room with a broken door as cover. Dear Celestia. What was he doing here? He wasn’t Break. He wasn’t strong like her. He could barely hold his gun straight. He wanted to fight back and take down this foe, but he was too scared and shaky. He worried he might end up killing the others by mistake. He put his gun to the side and put his face in his hooves and curled himself against the doorframe trying to become a smaller target.

“Scavenger! Help!” Brights cried out.

Indecision hit Scavenger like a wave. What should he do? Think what Break would do in this situation.

He had a clear shot and all he had to do was stallion himself up and shot the thug as they poked out to shoot. Scavenger wasn’t even sure the pony had even noticed him. He forced himself to steady his hooves and fired when the stallion readied his shoot. It wasn't even close and destroyed a light over the Stone's head and it shattered raining glass on him. He yelped in alarm but got his bearings quickly. He backed into the room disappearing from sight.

Great. Now what? Scavenger didn’t want to dive in after the stallion.

There was a clanging sound and Scavenger yelped in fear and panic as a grenade landed next to him. He ran in the opposite direction grabbing the pineapple in his magic throwing it towards the window on the other side of the hallway. It flew out the window and exploded thankfully it didn’t blow him to bits. However, the whole building shook, and he fell to the ground in fear. He poked his head out of his hooves and his eyes widened in horror as he saw the barrel of a gun pointed right at him from the doorway the Stone disappeared behind. Scavenger rolled out of the way in time just avoiding getting his hoof shot off. He scampered away to get far away from the doorway forgetting his own weapon.

Brights and Iron ran towards him gun at the ready. They approached the doorway with caution and Iron gave him a dirty look and kicked his gun towards him. She gestured towards the door with her head. Scavenger picked up his weapon and nodded. He had no clue if he could even do anything, but decided it would be best to follow this order.

The order proved to be pointless. When they burst into the room, they found it empty. Stunned for a moment, they searched the room and found how he escaped. There was an open window, and the stallion took the leap to the ground below. It would be a little painful, but the jump didn’t look too bad. Scavenger thanked Celestia he hadn’t left more nasty traps for them.

“You have got to be kidding!” Iron threw up her hooves.

“So why didn’t he stay and fight?” Brights asked confused.

“He just wanted to soften us up.” Iron spat on the ground. “Now he can get reinforcements at his leisure. Tact Coat wasn’t even on the floor. She might not even be in the building anymore. “

This was really bad. They had almost nopony left on their side now and who knew what happened to Bubbles and Boomerang. Not that Scavenger wanted Bubbles back, but they were desperate at this point.

Brights looked down downtrodden and defeated. “Maybe we should just cut and run. Sorry Scavenger, but maybe your friend can’t be saved.”

Iron stared at them confused. “What?”

Brights didn’t seem to hear this and continued on. “We did our best. Break won’t have wanted us to die to save her. We should find Boomerang and leave town.”

Scavenger understood the logic, but they had gotten so far and they were so close now to saving Break. They couldn’t just run now.

“I know that look, and I don’t want to run either, but I don’t know what else we can do.” Brights said.

Iron looked down at them with a haughty look. “I’m not leaving without Tact Coat dead. This is my best chance to get at her. You are coming with me. Refuse and I will shoot you dead right here.”

Scavenger couldn’t nod fast enough. Brights followed soon after. What the hay was with this mare? He knew better than trying to cross her.

“S-So what now?” Scavenger asked.

Iron closed her eyes and thought long and hard about it. Scavenger felt tempted to make a run for it, but Iron pointed her gun at him as soon as he moved away from her. He swallowed and made a nervous laugh.

“I wonder.” Iron trotted towards an elevator and hit the call button. A few minutes later there was a ding and doom flew open. She poked her head in and grinned.

“Just as I thought!” Iron said. “There is a basement. That is where we are going.”

“Why?” Brights asked.

“If Tact Coat is still in the building, I bet she is really hiding in the basement.” Iron replied.

Scavenger wasn’t so sure about this. “I-I don’t k-know. S-she c-could be on the s-second f-floor.” There was almost the possibility she actually was on the third floor and the sniper was there as a distraction.

“We are going to the basement.” Iron made her point have no room for argument. Scavenger sighed and followed her down the stairs. Taking the elevator would have been stupid. Hoping they wouldn’t get ambushed along the way. This was such a bad idea.

Chapter 23

View Online

Sure enough, it turned out Iron was right. The basement turned out to be a bunker of sorts. The owners of the inn must have created it to protect themselves and their customers when they feared the war might turn for the worse. Scavenger had no idea how well this bunker might have protected somepony after the Megaspells hit Equestria, but it was a good place for a crime boss to hide. Two serious-looking guards were guarding the entrance to a door in the basement of the inn. They had grim looks on the faces and were on high alert. There was still fighting up above as far as Scavenger could tell, but these guards kept to their job instead of joining in the fight. They each carried a heavy-duty minigun and carried them with a professional air of skill and care. Both were unicorns. The door protecting their quarry was thick and had a circular door, not unlike a vault, but it was clear this only a copycat and not the real thing. It didn’t look nearly as tough or thick.

“So much for Tact Coat keeping her location hard to find.” Brights muttered keeping her voice low to avoid detection. She hid behind a piece of roof that had collapsed over the years revealing the next floor.

Iron said nothing but gave Brights such a glare that the other mare recoiled. “Not a bad location, but now she is cornered, trapped. She won’t escape.”

“Yes, but how are we going to get past those two guards?” Brights asked. “And we don’t know how many guards might be inside.”

“We aren’t turning back.” Iron replied her voice cool and uncompromising.

"I wasn't saying we should," Bright said, "is there anything that will make her rethink things?" She said the last part muttering under her breath.

Scavenger peeked over the corner and examined the door in their way. It looked like it locked from the inside. That would be a problem. If they started a fight, Tact Coat could lock the door and they would be out of luck. However, he noticed, despite the havoc upstairs, the door wasn’t locked. Maybe Tact Coat didn’t want to go to the trouble, or the door wasn’t easy to unlock. Either way, it was imperative they avoid making much noise. They needed to take these guys out with alerting anypony inside the bunker. It would be a good idea to avoid gunfire, they didn’t know if it could be heard inside the bunker and risking it would be stupid. Scavenger told the others about his observations.

Scavenger didn’t like Iron’s smile. “Is that all?” She said.

What was with this mare? Did she not value her own life? Did she think nothing could stop her?

“We need to hurry then.” Iron said. “We have little time.”

Before Brights could even scream, Iron grabbed her with her magic and threw her into the hallway. The guards gapped for a second in surprise and alarm before raising their heavy duty weapons Brights way. The poor mare tried to fight back, but the guards shred her with their miniguns. Scavenger screamed in horror. Iron wasted no time and rushed out and took advantage of the fact it would take a moment for their guns to start up again to fire on them. These Stones weren't dumb however and dropped their oversized guns and pulled out a handgun to fight back.

Iron somehow jumped through their fire in time and killed one with a shot to the head. The other Stone hit Iron in the left shoulder causing her to drop her gun as she screamed in pain. This didn't stop her however and she dove at the stallion and wrestled with him. The Stone used his magic to pull out a knife from his belt and aimed it at her throat, but she also caught it with her magic and the two were in a temporary stalemate.

“What are you waiting for?” Iron cried out to him. “Kill the bastard.”

Scavenger trotted up to the two of them and he gazed at them dumbly as they fought. Brights was dead the poor girl. Kill for no reason at all. He felt numb and dead. So much death and it was for no reason at all. He just wanted to save his friend. Tears welled in his eyes. Why did this have to happen?

“Come on.” Iron screamed when the Stone kneed her in the gut, but she refused to let her aura fade. “Kill him. Remember the treasure dammit.”

Scavenger face twisted with rage. How could this mare care so little about the lives of ponies? She didn’t even blink at using them as meat shields. He glared down at them. This would be over soon. Her eyes widened in fear when the barrel of his shotgun pointed at them both. She yelled at him to stop, but she was dead moments later.

This would end. He would make it end.

---

Much to his surprise, Tact Coat hadn't locked herself in after all that commotion. He guessed she didn't have enough time to do so. The fight happened only about a minute ago. Scavenger tentatively entered the safe house gun at the ready. The mini-vault was bare containing not much more than boxes full of supplies and foodstuff. The owner must have used it for storage. However, in the middle of the room was a chair and there Tact Coat sat with her hooves crossed over her face. She glared at him as he entered.

"I suppose you are one of the insurgents after my life?" She looked him over and scoffed not impressed. "Come and get me if you dare." She didn't have a weapon, but Scavenger didn't put his guard down and watched the mare for any movement.

“N-no.” Scavenger said. “A-all I want is the password to the safe in First Equestrian Bank.”

Tact Coat's look of defiance turned to one of surprise then turned into a scowl. "Oh, so you're one of her friends are you?"

“Please, I don’t want to fight or kill you.” Scavenger kept his voice strong and sincere. “If you let Break out, we will leave and bother you no more.”

“You expect me to believe that?” Tact Coat shot back.

“It’s the truth.” Scavenger replied. “Break and I don’t like or want violence. We just want to live in peace.”

Tact Coat spat on the ground. “Peace. All that mare has done is ruin everything she touches. She killed my brother, ruined my empire, and took away everything I have ever built. She will die for that. And so will you.” Her smile turned cruel putting Scavenger on his guard right away.

“I will die before I ever tell you the password to that safe.” Tact Coat’s smile turned cruel. “If I even know it at all. The truth is I made the password random just in case something like this happened. I will never allow that mare to escape that safe alive.”

"N-no." Scavenger's tongue caught in his throat. He wasn't expecting Tact Coat to be forthcoming about the password, but he never expected this. How would they ever get the safe open now?

Oh, Break, what I will do now? Would they have to blow the door open or cut through it? If he could find some hacking tool he bet he might be able to open it. As Scavenger mulled over his nonoptions, he almost failed to notice Tact Coat pulling a gun from behind her chair and aiming it right at him. He cursed and jumped out of the way almost losing his head.

Tact Coat didn't give him much a chance to recover. Before Scavenger could get back on his hooves, she rushed in and Scavenger froze when she pointed her gun at his head. His gun dropped to the floor forgotten.

“What did you think would happen?” Tact Coat asked contempt dripping from her words. She didn’t give him much of a chance to reply and used her magic to ready the trigger. She stopped when somepony stumbled into the bunker’s door.

“Thank Celestia, when I saw the dead guards I feared the worse.” The pony said. Scavenger recognized him as the sniper from the third floor.

Tact Coat pulled her gun away and kicked him in the head. Scavenger whimpered when he hit the floor.

“I can handle myself.” Tact Coat said sniffing. “Situation?”

The sniper shook his head. “Not good. I wasn’t able to get a solid count, but I believe we only have about seven ponies left.”

“What?” Tact Coat kicked Scavenger again. This time it was in the ribs. “How?”

“They attacked with significant numbers.” The sniper said. “They overwhelmed us.”

Scavenger howled when Tact Coat kicked him in the kidney. “Why? Why does this keep happening to me?” She said.

“The Stones we have left are fighting two of the rebels.” The sniper reported. “It’s a game of cat and mouse. They have avoided everything shot at them somehow. That pink one is something else.”

“Well, we will just have to do something about that.” Tact Coat stomped on Scavenger’s hoof several times. “I think we might be able to use this one. They might care if he lives or dies.”

Scavenger howled when Tact Coat used her magic to pull him by the hair and dragged him behind her.

I’m sorry everyone. I failed.

---

Boomerang smirked as he hid behind a table. They were in a large open lobby that before the war no doubt was impressive with its rich brown wood, but now looked grimy and worn with age. The room had couches and table for the comfort of the guests, but most of them now were shot up, outright destroyed, or turned over. The remaining Stones tried to fire on them from other pieces of furniture, but it was feeble and ineffective. One could tell their morale had been shattered. This, in large part, was due to his compatriot Bubble Trouble. She also had a large smirk on her face. Blood covered her head to hoof in blood and had strapped two legs of somepony on her head with a thick rope making it look like she had antlers. He had no clue why she did this. Won't it make her an easy target? But it did wonders on destroying the morale of their opponents. The mare was brutal and vicious. She mangled and disfigured Stones she got her hooves on. The thugs were terrified to get anywhere near her now.

It was horrifying true, but at this point; it was hard to care when his survival was at stake. He never believed he could survive this time, but somehow things were looking in his favor. An unfortunate Stone poked his head out giving him a perfect opportunity to take the guy out. The stallion crumpled to the floor after a shot from Boomerang's rifle.

“Way to go Boom!” Bubble beamed. Blood from the legs attached to her head dripped down her face.

Scavenger grinned back trying not to pay attention to body parts on the other mare’s head. It was best not to think about that for the moment.

He screamed when a bullet flew by his head from a direction he hadn't expected and tuckered in his hiding place to avoid any more cheap shots. Bubble did the same snuggling up close to him. Their skin touched, and he wasn’t sure how to feel about this at the moment.

Great, reinforcements. How many Stones are left? Boomerang thought grimy.

He looked in the direction the bullet had come and his breath caught. From a hallway was Tact Coat a sneer on her face and another unicorn with a sniper rifle in his hooves. That wasn't what scared him. No, what scared him was in Tact Coat's hooves. She had a battered Scavenger by the hair with a gun in her aura at his temple. His fur was bruised and bloody in several places giving him a grotesque appearance.

"Well, crap." Bubble said when she saw this.

It’s only Scavenger. Does that mean the others didn’t make it? Poor Brights. He had liked the filly. She was always the positive one when they were locked up as slaves and the world was a dimmer place with her gone.

“If you value this stallion’s life, I would suggest surrendering now.” Tact Coat’s voice was loud and clear making it all across the room with no difficulty.

Boomerang winced. He had been expecting this. What were they going to do now? There was no way he would sacrifice Scavenger. Too many ponies had already died today. Much to his surprise, Bubble appeared to agree with him and had a grim frown on her face.

“You better kept your word.” Bubble said with a growl.

Scavenger screamed as Tact Coat hit him across the head with the butt of her gun. “This isn’t a negotiation. Come out or he dies.”

"Tact Coat." Boomerang almost didn’t control his anger but took a calming breath. "I'm coming out." He would just have to play this out somehow and wait for the perfect opportunity to strike back.

“Good, kick aside your weapons. Both of you.” Tact Coat said gesturing with a hoof.

They did as instructed and kicked their guns away from them a moment later. The Stones they were fighting popped their heads out and gathered around their boss confidence restored and jeered at him.

“Excellent. Kill them both.” Tact Coat told her crew. Boomerang moved to get out of the way, but Tact Coat only made a cruel smile. “Move and he dies.” He froze in place and cursed.

He had hoped she would gloat some more to give him time to come up with a plan, but she just wanted them dead. She gave them no opportunity to make a counterattack.

Scavenger squirmed in Tact Coat’s grasp. “N-no, don’t do this! D-don’t worry about me.”

“Shut up!” Tact Coat hissed and hit him over the head again. Scavenger’s body went limp unconscious Boomerang hoped.

Boomerang wasted no time using this distraction as the perfect moment to strike. The thugs were ready for this and opened fire on him as soon as he pulled a revolver from the back of his belt. Bubble surprised them all and let out a feral cry and leaped at her attackers with surprising speed.

One thug tried to fire on her, but Bubble countered by jumping one of them and pounded his face in with her hooves. Surprised by this, the rest of the thugs hesitated for a moment giving Boomerang seconds he needed to shot three of them in the head in succession. He ended by pointing his revolver at Tact Coat’s head who still had Scavenger in her hooves.

"Put him down and I won't put a bullet in your head," Boomerang said.

Tact Coat’s face turned to one of fury. “No, you put your gun down or this one dies.” She glared at him and returned it with his own.

Bubble surprised all of them but jumping on another thug and grabbing his neck from behind. "Shoot him, and this one dies too."

“Like I care.” Tact Coat replied shifting her eyes from Boomerang for a moment. He wanted to take the shot, but she wasn’t distracted enough to risk it.

“Oh, oh well.” Bubble snapped the thug’s neck. Boomerang tensed terrified this would get Scavenger killed, but Tact Coat didn't even blink at the sudden death of one of her ponies. The rest of the Stones backed away and pointed their guns at Bubble terrified of what the mare might do next.

I can use this. Boomerang thought. These thugs were more worried about Bubble than him. No, he was wrong. One Stone did pay attention to him. It was that unicorn that accompanied Tact Coat when she appeared. The stallion had a sniper rifle pointed at him his face calm and impassive.

Tact Coat scowled but remained composed. A thought seemed to strike her and her expression turned cruel. "Are you here to rescue the so-called Hero of Foalson prison too? You can't save her. I made the password to the safe random. Nopony can get her out now."

Break no. This was bad. How were they going to save Break now? Boomerang could tell that Tact Coat wasn’t joking. Damn her.

To his horror, he realized too late that he let himself get distracted giving the sniper the perfect opportunity to fire on him. Boomerang was able to jump out of the way in time to save his life, but the impact of the bullet made his shoulder explode into hot blinding pain. His revolver clattered to the floor and fell out of sight.

Ponyfeathers. I’m such an idiot. He fell to the ground and froze when the sniper pointed his gun right at his head.

“Game over.” Tact Coat said. “Kill them all.”

This is it. I’m sorry Break.

Boomerang waited for death and his eyes widened when he noticed that Scavenger had regained consciousness and so far Tact Coat hadn’t noticed. In fact, she didn’t even have her gun to his head anymore confident she had won. She only held on his head loosely. But did it matter? He would be dead in mere moments. The sniper was already pulling the trigger.

Boomerang howled in pain as the bullet grazed his head blood oozed from the right side of his head. The sniper adjusted his aim and readied to fire again. He never got the chance. Scavenger bit Tact Coat in the same leg she was using to hold him and sniper turned in the direction of the commotion.

All hell broke loose. Bubble charged the remaining thugs and received several bullet wounds for her trouble. But she was lucky that they were only minor wounds. She pummeled the closest pony she got her hooves on and used them as pony shield as the thugs tried to fire on her. The shield died from the shower of bullets.

When she noticed her shield was dead, Bubble threw the pony into his compatriots and they fell into a heap. She picked up a nearby gun in her magic and fired into the heap. They were all dead moments later.

"Look out!" Boomerang tried to cry out, but his voice came out a weak croak. Bubbles ear twitched towards the sound but couldn’t avoid the shot from the sniper as she tried to scramble to safety. She was still breathing though despite her serious looking wound.

“Get off me.” Tact Coat howled and tried to throw Scavenger off of her, but he held on with surprising strength. She tried to grab a small gun from her holster with her magic, but Scavenger used his own magic to push it back. The two were in a deadlock over control of the gun and kicked at each other to break their opponent’s concentration.

The sniper eyed both him and his boss considering. There was no way he could get a clear shot at Scavenger with the way they were all over each other. He turned his aim towards the two helpless ponies on the ground so he could quickly finish them off before helping his boss deeming them more of a threat and to get them out of the way.

Boomerang cursed. Bubble was in no shape to fight and he wasn’t any better. The sniper aimed for him first and Boomerang’s eyes raced to find his gun to fight back. He found it hiding under the remains of a table.

Not good. There was no way he could grab it in time and fire on his opponent. Aiming it would take far too long. He was in no position to find cover. At least not fast enough. He had only one chance even if it was totally crazy and wouldn’t work. He charged the sniper.

This surprised the sniper for a moment, but he recovered and fired. The wild shot grazed the side of Boomerang’s head, but the bullet contacted with his right eye. Boomerang screamed in pain terrified that he might have lost any use in that eye forever. He used the pain and fear from his injuries and pushed himself forward. He pushed himself too close for the sniper to use his weapon in any effective manner and threw a desperate punch into the Stone’s face.

The Stone recoiled from the hit, but seemed more annoyed than hurt and glared at him. He tried to back away, but Boomerang kept close to reduce the effectiveness of the sniper rifle. Boomerang’s movements felt sluggish as he circled his opponent like his body was made of lead.

Ponyfeathers, I must have lost a lot of blood.

Worse was that his opponent was sharp and alert looking for the best chance to take out his foe. Boomerang wanted to collapse and sleep. Would he even be strong enough to do serious damage? If only he hadn’t lost his gun. He wished he had time to look for it.

He gave to brief glance to Scavenger's fight amazed that the little unicorn was putting up such a good fight. Tact Coat sweated as she tried to tear the gun from Scavenger's aura. Yet, Scavenger wasn't even breathing hard. Boomerang never knew Scavenger was that powerful with magic. Tact Coat was almost in a full-blown panic as she failed to push the gun away from her head. Scavenger wanted her dead and won't let anything stop him.

The sniper also noted the exchange worried about his boss's safety. It was obvious he wanted to join in and help his boss but didn't want to turn his back to Boomerang despite his opponent being shot up and half dead. Boomerang saw in the Stone’s eye that he came to a decision. Instead of pointing and shooting at his target as expected, the sniper turned his weapon around and used its blunt end as a club and aimed it at Boomerang’s head.

Boomerang yelped in surprise and ducked under it, only to have the breath knocked out him when the sniper delivered a swift punch to the gut. Boomerang wheezed as he tried to get his breath back. The sniper floated his rifle at Boomerang's head a look of triumph in his face.

“No!” Scavenger cried out, and he floated the gun he was fighting over in the sniper’s direction. It went off and the Stone thug fell to the ground dead a bullet wound in his temple.

This distraction gave Tact Coat the opening she needed to smack Scavenger in the throat and he coughed and wheezed. The gun clattered to the floor. She didn’t stop at this one blow. She screamed and howled with fury as she wailed on her opponent. Scavenger curled into a ball trying to minimize the damage from her blow.

Tact Coat cursed and screamed beyond furious at this point and was almost incoherent. “Do you have any idea what you have cost me? It took me twenty years to build this organization, and all of it is gone because of you!” She held nothing back as she beat on Scavenger’s helpless form.

“Everything gone! Everything!” Tact Coat howled. She seemed barely aware of what she was doing. She didn’t care about winning. No, she wanted to hurt something, and wouldn’t stop until Scavenger was nothing but a bloody pulp.

She breathed hard as her beating slowed down. Scavenger laid there hurting and bloody. He howled when Tact Coat stepped on his throat. She smirked as she pressed down harder making it impossible for Scavenger to breathe.

Tact Coat made an incoherent snarl as she crushed his windpipe. Scavenger tried to push the leg off, but it was no use. He was in no shape to fight her. Tact Coat took delight in the pain she was causing him. She didn’t even seem like a pony anymore. Her face was contorted in a way that shook Boomerang to his core.

He struggled to his hooves but failed to do so. He was so tired even blinking felt like he ran 100 miles. No, he had to do this. He had to save Scavenger. After what seemed like an eternity, he pushed himself up to his hooves. He didn't try anything fancy or tactical. His brain felt like mush, so he did the only thing he could muster. He jumped and fell on Tact Coat who was too distracted with her victim to notice. They fell into a heap. Scavenger's next breath was glorious and beautiful. Boomerang had never heard something so wonderful.

"Get off me." Tact Coat kicked him off and punched in one of his wounds for good measure. She got back on her hooves soon enough and kicked him once more. Boomerang wasn't in any condition to fight back.

“I will deal with you soon enough. “ Tact Coat said before she scanned the room for Scavenger.

Damn, that whore has a hate on for that stallion. He dimly thought on the ground helpless. His blood oozed into a pool around him. He knew that if he didn’t get medical attention soon, he would die.

Boomerang broke out into a grin when he noticed that was in Scavenger’s hooves. It was Tact Coat’s gun. The little stallion had trouble breathing, but he held her gun in his aura.

Scavenger didn’t say anything as he leveled Tact Coat’s gun at her head. He wasn’t smirking nor had a look of triumph. No, this was a somepony that wanted her dead and that is it. He had no intention of making her suffer or making her squirm. He had the look of somepony that wanted this over with. He didn’t say anything at all when he shot her in the head. Tact Coat tried to scream something defiant, but she was dead before she even got a sound out.

Chapter 24

View Online

Scavenger tensed as he connected the hacking tools to the safe’s terminal. He had been lucky to find these tools in one of the empty shops evacuated during all the fighting and craziness of the last few hours the shop owner not wanting to get caught up in the fighting. Scavenger felt guilty just taking it knowing how difficult it is to survive in the wastelands, so he left more than enough caps to pay for it.

He felt like utter crap. His body so blackened and bruised that he looked almost unrecognizable. Still, his injuries were nothing compared to Boomerang’s and Bubble Trouble’s and getting around wasn’t too difficult. The two were being treated by a local doctor. Some bystanders also got hurt during all the fighting, but thankfully none of them died thank Celestia. The death count caused by all the fighting was something Scavenger didn’t want to think about. He wanted to join the other’s and get some much-needed medical treatment, but he wouldn’t abandon his friend Break. Not after everything they had been through.

He prayed to Celestia that Break was still alive. She had to be. All this death and bloodshed couldn’t have been in vain. The terminal showed the key log and all the recent words used on it. He only had one attempt left at the password until the terminal locked itself out. He could unlock it again, but it would take a few days. This terminal had better security than most and the attempt count couldn’t be reset without hacking the system.

Scavenger looked over all the words and prayed again he could find the right one. Tact Coat before her death said she made the password random, and he believed her. She was evil and sadistic enough to be it. The password could be anything at all. Could he even do this? It seemed impossible.

Scavenger blinked and noticed that one word on the screen was just random letters and numbers. Wait, no. It couldn’t be that simple. Tact Coat said she made the password random. Did she mean a random word or…? This had to be it. Scavenger didn’t hesitate as he clicked the random collection of letter and numbers. The safe beeped and clicked open.

Scavenger burst out laughing. It hurt due to his mouth being so beaten and swollen, but he didn’t care. Tact Coat hadn’t counted on someone looking at the key log and finding the password that way. Her cruelty had been her downfall. She should have just made some random word and kept it to herself since there was no way they could have forced her to tell it to them.

Scavenger’s muscles burned as he pushed the safe open, but he didn’t care. He was too excited and giddy and howled in joy at what he found inside. There Break was lying against a wall alive and alert. She had pieces of wood impaled in her flesh but otherwise didn't look so bad. She gasped as she saw him approach.

“Scavenger, what the hay happened to you?” Break asked.

Scavenger said nothing. Instead, he ran up to her and gave her the strongest hug he could manage and she returned it a moment later. He didn’t even try to hold back his tears. This was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen in his life.

---

“How the hay are you still alive filly?” Boomerang asked her for the twelfth time.

Break sighed. She sat next to the Boomerang’s bed. Despite the healing potions and the medical robot, he was still in bad shape. He would be in bed for a while. Her injuries weren’t nearly as severe. The splinters from the explosion weren’t as bad as she feared and with a healing potion or two after was enough to get her back on her hooves.

“Just lucky I guess.” Break replied with a weak smile. She didn’t feel all that lucky after everything that happened to her but that said because it was what he wanted to hear.

"Damn right you are," Boomerang said, "no wonder ponies are calling you the Black Cat. You cause bad luck to everypony else and keep the good stuff for yourself."

Break sighed. Not that nickname again. She hated it so much. Ponies were thinking of her as a herald of doom. How ridiculous. And would it kill ponies to learn her real name?

“I tell you, you are one awesome dangerous mare. Ponies should fear you.” The pony in the bed next to Boomerang said. It was the one they called Bubble Trouble. She beamed at Break who shifted in her seat uncomfortably.

Break wasn't sure what to make of this mare Boomerang made friends with. She was a nutcase much was certain and a former raider. Break wanted nothing to do with her, but Boomerang became fast friends with her. The fact they were becoming more than friends was weird and not something she wanted to ponder on.

Break gave Bubble a weak smile. “Thanks, I guess.” She wasn’t sure what else to say.

"You are so lucky." Bubble said. "During my time as a raider, I never got a cool nickname. Maybe it's the heroing stuff? Hmm, something to think about."

Break nodded and pretended like she knew what the other was talking about.

"Seriously though filly," Boomerang said. "Many ponies think of you as a hero now and an inspiration. That isn't something you should take lightly."

Break groaned with frustration. “I don’t want to be a hero though.” She wanted to live her life in peace not be some avenging hero that rights the wrongs.

"I know," Boomerang replied, "but I think that makes you hero material. You do what is right even if it scares you and don't want trouble."

"I guess." Break said looking off into the distance. Would her life ever be normal now? No, how could they when she had these powers? She called Good Times, Bad Times and looked at it. Was she born for greater things?

What am I supposed to do now? Go out in a mask and cape and fight evil? No, that was just silly. She would just help wherever she could like settling disputes or stopping the occasional raider. She didn’t see how she could do anything more than that being only a single solitary mare and all.

Scavenger interrupted her musings as he entered the room. He still looked beat-up after all of Tact Coat’s beatings, the evil witch. He had bruises all over his face that made his face swell like a balloon. It turned out that healing potions weren’t the best at fighting bruises so his injuries had to heal on their own.

“A-am I i-interrupting anything?” Scavenger asked.

“No, what’s up?” Break replied.

Scavenger hesitated for a moment and Break tensed. It was clear on his face he had bad news. “T-there have b-been ponies a-asking around about you.”

Oh crap, that’s never a good sign. “Is it the Cosas?”

Break hadn't seen them in a while but she knew they were after her after she accidentally got the boss's son killed in an incident that greatly confused her how it even happened in the first place. Its impact in her life couldn't be understated. It forced her to run away from home and started this whole crazy mess. Worse, Robin, their head enforcer, was after her and his ruthlessness was legendary. They also had that hunter with the cowboy hat and sniper rifle with the crazy powers and Break suspected that he had an ability like she did. She didn't feel like tangling with him at the moment.

Scavenger nodded. “R-robin is in town. T-they don’t know you are here y-yet, but it’s o-only a matter of t-time.”

“Best I just leave quietly then.” Break replied. Sure, she had her ghost, but the last thing she wanted was to start another fight in Forks which had already seen enough trouble.

"Oh, come on," Boomerang complained, "why do I have to be bedridden when this happens?"

Break gave him a weak smile. “It isn’t your fault.”

“You said you’re planning to go to Zinnia, right?” Boomerang asked and Break nodded. “I’ll meet you there then.”

Zinnia was a town to the east and possibly where her cousin Green Mile might be. She didn't know for sure if this was true, but the card she found on that white stallion had been her only clue and was a good enough start as any.

"I-I'm coming with." Scavenger stood up straighter and looked Break in the eyes much to her astonishment. He had changed a lot in the last few days.

Break gave him a small smile. “I was planning to.”

“Ah, I wanted to come too.” Bubble complained.

"We will catch up soon enough," Boomerang promised.

Break nodded, and she peeked around the door for any sign of the Cosas. Seeing the coast was clear. She left with Scavenger close behind her.

It didn’t take them long to get to the outskirts of Forks. Since everything was still in havoc and confusion. Only a few token guards were at the gate and nopony paid them much mind. Break’s pace was almost too much for Scavenger to follow and she had to slow down so he could catch up.

“Sorry.” Break rubbed the back of her head in embarrassment.

“It’s fine.” Scavenger replied. “W-we don’t have time to waste.”

Break gave a reluctant nod and continued on but made her pace more measured. She worried about that hunter and his apparent tracking powers. Was it even possible to avoid him? Did he have a time limit?

She felt like such a coward just running like this. She should be stronger. No, what was she thinking? Running away won’t solve anything. Even if they avoided them, they would find her trail again, anyway especially considering how much trouble she tended to cause somehow.

Perhaps I could lure them into a trap? It was so unlike her to think of such things. She didn’t want a fight, but she had no choice. If she didn’t kill them, they would get her in the end. She needed to stop putting off her problems.

“Scavenger, are there any interesting places around here?” Break asked amongst the quiet.

“N-not sure what you are asking.” Scavenger replied.

“It’s like this…” Break explained her idea.

“W-well, lets s-see.” Scavenger gave it some thought. “T-there’s an a-abandoned m-mill n-not too far from here. T-that would make a good a-ambush point.”

Break sighed. She really didn’t want to do this. If the hunter couldn't use his tracking powers to find her anymore, at least they had a place to lay low for a while. “Show me the way.”

---


"What a mess." Robin scratched his head as he looked over the carnage and destruction of the battle from a few days ago. They hadn’t taken away all the bodies yet and rarely in his life had he seen such large-scale bloodshed. Their stench feted in the air giving the entire town an unpleasant odor. Robin covered his mouth in an attempt to keep the horrid stench out.

Nothing about this made any sense and, of course, it involved the filly they were hunting. What exactly this involvement was, was impossible to tell. Everypony he talked to had a different tale of what happened. Some said the filly was around town at the time. Others said she led the battle against the Stones herself. Some even said the filly had magical powers now that gave her the ability to fly and destroy things with her mind like that made any sense. The only thing he knew for sure was the Stones were finished, killed down to the last pony and Tact Coat was dead. How would he even explain this to his boss? The slaver camp mess had spread their numbers thin which the filly also caused somehow. Should they even take over the town? With the casino gone Forks didn't have much left to its name. A small token presence might be enough. Thankfully this wasn't his decision to make.

"Black Cat like I said," Nightingale muttered under his breath as he surveyed the scene.

Ray snorted and shook his head. “Unbelievable.”

At this point, even Robin believed that filly to be a doom magnet that brought destruction wherever she went. Heck, the wasteland might be a safer place with her dead if they could find her. There were almost no clues about her current whereabouts and any clues they got contradicted each other. Picking up her trail would be difficult. Would they have to wait for the "Black Cat" to cause another incident before they could find her again?

"I need a drink," Robin said and his fellow Cosas chuckled.

"Aye my friend, but things aren’t as bad as you imagine," Spitzer said walking up to them.

“And why is that?” Nightingale asked.

"I found somepony that might help us," Spitzer said. The tracker presented a Pegasus mare of all things a rare sight in the wastelands these days. The rumors said they hid above the cloud cover that shrouded the world in darkness like cowards. The mare had a yellow colored coat with a green mane.

“Name’s Banana Twist. “The mare said. “I heard your hunting the Black Cat?”

"Yes," Robin replied. Are we seriously going to start calling her that now?

“I might be of help.” Banana Twist said. “I have sharp eyes and can see for miles on end if I want to. If she’s left town, I can spot her.”

"Okay," Robin said, "and your payment?"

The mare smirked. “500 caps.”

Robin grunted in annoyance. That wasn’t a small fee, but they needed her. Spitzer couldn’t use his strange power to track their target anymore. Its time limit had run out apparently. “For that price you better deliver.”

"Oh, I will." Banana Twist said. "And I want something else. I want you to let me join the Cosas. I've always been interested in joining your little group and with the Stones gone. It looks like your group is about to expand."

“You ask a lot.” Robin didn’t like this mare one bit.

“No way are we paying that!” Nightingale said. “I say screw off. We can find her ourselves.”

"Sure, but you will have to earn your keep," Robin said after a moment, "you have to come with us to kill our target.”

“The Black Cat?” Banana Twist shrugged. “Why not? It’s sure to leave an impression on your superiors. Alright, I’m in. Just make sure my payment is ready when we’ve completed the mission.

"Very well," Robin replied, "but you do as I tell you. If you ignore even a single order, you're out."

The mare nodded. “No need to get so uptight. One minute.” She flew into the air and flew around in a random pattern. After a moment, she dropped back on the ground.

“Found her.” Banana Twist said. “I saw a purple mare and a stallion with a green coat traveling west. I assume that’s the mare we are looking for?”

Robin made a small smile. “It’s them all right.” He furrowed his brow. “I would assume that they would travel south towards Azalea or east towards Zinnia. There’s nothing that way.”

“I saw an old factory or something that way in a mile or two.” Banana Twist said.

“If Scavenger was with them, then maybe they are trying to get some cash by looking for salvageable goods?” Nightingale said.

"Possibly." Robin didn't think so though for this smelled like a trap. It made sense. The two departed not soon after they entered the town. Did the filly and her friend learn about them and flee the town? It seemed likely to him. An old factory would be a good place to launch a trap. If this was true, the filly's boldness surprised him. The two versus his entire team? Was she counting on her strange luck to save her? Usually, she only ran away. Had the fight with the Stones emboldened her?

Trap or not, this wasn’t an opportunity he would waste. The secluded area would be in the perfect place to pin her down and out there had no places to run to.

"Let's go," Robin said, "expect a trap. The filly could be planning something. We should get there before they have much of an opportunity to set anything up or get reinforcements." The rest of his team nodded, and they left for the direction the Black Cat went at a strong, but not too tiring pace. Banana Twist flew above them staying alert for any dangers.

As they walked, Robin worked out battle strategies in his head. He planned to think this attack through. Robin wanted a good look at this factory first and he wanted a general plan worked out. He would not let her slip through his hooves this time. As entertaining as this chase was, he wanted it done over with already and they still needed to find Spring Rain's little brat. He had expected him to be here in Forks, but no luck. No doubt Spitzer would demand more money to look for the foal if he even agreed to the idea at all.

What was he complaining about? This was his job. He was the Cosas’s lead enforcer, but he had to admit it was tiring at times. It was nice to be out of Primrose for once. In fact, this might be the farthest from that town he had ever been. He might have to thank the Black Cat for that at least. This whole trip was at least better than fighting raiders the filthy scum. He thought of one time when he tricked a bunch of the idiots into a cave which he collapsed on them. Quick and easy just the way he liked it. Robin smiled as he got an idea. This time they would get the slippery Black Cat for good.

Chapter 25

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Train Spotter walked through one of the gates at Forks and eyed the ponies with his head raised up high. The town contained an impressive amount of commotion. A wide variety of emotions were on their faces. Excitement, fear, worry, and hope consisted in most of them. The town was growing at an accelerated rate renovating old buildings or making new ones. As the rumors had said, the town was shifting from a casino town to a residential one turning this town of sin to one ponies lived in. The destruction of the Stones and their casino changed the town and many ponies refused to live in slums any longer. The Stones weren’t there to oppress the townsfolk anymore. Forks had the makings of a proper town now. Not that Train cared what the little ponies did being an evolved pony and all.

The general chaos made it impossible to find anypony and these lesser ponies got in the way. One would think the Stones destruction would lessen Forks’s population. Was everypony from the slums crammed in here? How could anypony find Vital Care in this mess?

None of the inns that Train checked gave him any results. Vital said to meet him at a Daisy Inn, but the innkeeper said his ally had never shown up. How irritating.

Train sighed and wandered the town. He checked the bars next decided that to be his next best bet. On his way, he saw a foal with an ice cream cone. A vendor was selling them from a stall. Licking his lips, he pulled some sand from a bag he had draped over his back with a hoof. As the filly passed him with her parents, he threw the sand under her hooves and used his power Fly. The filly yelped in surprise as she lost her hoofing and fell on her face. In the commotion and incoming fall, Train grabbed the ice cream cone from her hooves and walked in the opposite direction. The parent yelled in protest, but he was long gone before they could do anything. The filly looked around for her cone confused. He smiled as he enjoyed his new ice cream cone. Some might call him mean or even cruel, but he was a greater pony so why shouldn’t he take what he wanted from the sheep of the masses?

Each bar came up empty. He asked around, but nopony had seen Vital. He grunted in frustration as he finished his ice cream cone. Did Vital leave for Zinnia without him? Didn’t they have a job to do together? He hadn’t worked together with this pony personally, but he had hoped the stallion would be more professional.

It didn’t matter, from what he had heard the stallion had been a prick and narcissist. So much so he fancied himself an alicorn of all things and used his power to give himself wings. Some ponies. Well, everypony knows what comes before a fall. Hold on, could it be possible he somehow got himself killed in the process of coming here? Naw, crazy idea. The pony was too powerful for that possibility. Still, he supposed it wouldn’t hurt to check.

“A stallion with wings and a horn?” The older pony scratched his head and put down his shovel. “Yeah, some ponies brought him in a few days ago. Got himself shot in a nasty fight and left his body in a terrible state.”

Train held his breath. The idiot got himself killed. What was he doing getting himself into random gunfights?

“What happened?” Train asked.

The old stallion shrugged. “I just bury the bodies.”

Train let out a curse. Now he had to do the mission all by himself. There wasn't time to get a replacement and everypony else had their own job. Oh well, nothing he could do about it. He would have to hurry to Zinnia and work out a new plan since it was a one pony operation now. It would just take some creative thinking. Not too difficult to a higher super intelligent pony like himself. How would he explain this to the boss though?

The old stallion laughed. “Maybe the Black Cat had something to do with it. Craziness seems to follow wherever she goes. They found the body in a pretty odd state. Lost a leg even.”

“Who?”

“You know. The Hero of Foalsom Prison.”

Train waved a dismissive hoof. How could anypony in this day and age care about silly little-outdated things like heroes? They died in droves in the Wasteland. There was no place for ponies like them. Only superior beings like him mattered.

Well, whatever. Vital Care died in some freak murder case. No doubt he got careless and messed up. Who cared how he died or who killed him? It didn’t matter and the fake alicorn only had himself to blame. Turns out he wasn’t one of the great ones after all. With that, Train left without a word to one of Fork’s exits. He had better things to do than bother caring about Vital’s fate.

---

“Are you okay Scavenger?” Break asked eying her friend with worry. He had been trailing behind as they traveled.

"I-I’m fine.” Scavenger replied panting his head dripped with sweat.

"We are taking a rest.” Break gave no room for argument and they rested behind a large boulder.

Scavenger scowled as he laid against the rock. Break tried to ask him questions, but he said nothing in reply. She gave up and just enjoyed the cold stone on her back. Her friend had been through a lot in the last few days. Besides the bruises, he looked emotionally drained and hadn’t been sleeping well. She wanted to comfort him, but he closed himself off to her. Did he think himself too much of a stallion to talk about his feelings with her? How ridiculous.

Thinking about it though, it surprised her how well she took all the horrible things that had happened to her lately. She almost died in that vault and it didn’t even bother her. It didn’t even cause her to blink. She got the occasional bad dream, but she had taken everything that had happened in the last few months surprisingly well. Should she be more traumatized than this? It was crazy how adaptable she was.

She crossed her front legs and scowled. She felt like such a freak and having strange powers didn’t help. Break looked back at her friend who continued to brood and she put a leg around him. There was at least something she could do.

“If you ever need to talk, I’m here.” Break said.

Scavenger gave her a weak smile. “T-thanks. I-I just need time to t-think and be a-alone.”

“I understand.” Break didn’t want to push the issue. Scavenger would open to her in time. Still, she worried about him. Something bad happened to him and it damaged his very soul the poor thing. She didn’t deserve this one bit.

They took a twenty-minute break before moving on again with no time to waste. Break had a bad feeling and knew almost for certain they would soon have another terrible and terrifying confrontation with the Cosas. It was just her luck. She planned to win and wanted to protect Scavenger with everything she had.

Her eyes brightened as the old mill came into view and did a quick scan of the building and found no signs of any life and let out a breath of relief. She feared that it might be a hideout for some raiders, but it looked like no one had even stepped a hoof in it for some time.

“Come on.” Break said. “Let’s see if there is anything we can use.”

---

It turns out the place wasn’t as empty as Break first thought. The place was crawling with feral ghouls that attacked them on sight. Ghouls were ponies mutated by radiation into strange semi-immortal creatures that appeared like dried out husks. Unfortunately, something about them makes them eventually lose their minds and turn feral. Ponies insensitively referred to them as zombies. She used her power to throw Scavenger to a catwalk above them and reversed gravity to join him.

“C-C-Celestia cursed things!” Scavenger cursed and pulled out a sidearm, but Break put a hoof to stop him.

"No, just leave them alone." It was a terrible fate to have your mind regress like that and become a mindless monster, but she didn't have the heart to hurt the poor things. They didn't deserve to die.

“B-Break, they’ve feraled.” Scavenger tried to reason with her. “They better off d-dead.”

Break shook her head. “No, there might be a way to cure them one day.” It was a distant hope, but these ponies weren’t monsters. They were just sick and you don’t shoot somepony for getting a cold.

Scavenger stared at her like she was crazy, but soon sighed and nodded. “O-Okay, now w-what?”

That’s a large number of ghouls. Where did they all come from? She saw at least thirty of them lumbering around down there and more coming out doorways. They tried to climb up after them, but they didn’t have the mind to figure out how to get up here. This complicated things.

“H-hey, we could sick the g-ghouls on them.” Scavenger brightened. “W-we lure them in here and k-kill t-them while t-they are t-trying to f-fight off all the g-ghouls.”

“No way.” Break wanted none of these ghouls to be hurt, and she knew the Cosas would shoot at them given the chance even if they weren’t an immediate threat.

“T-they’re feral g-g-ghouls Break. T-They would k-kill us if g-given the c-chance. T-there’s likely n-no c-cure whatsoever.”

“That doesn’t make it right!”

“F-fine, but don’t h-hesitate to k-kill them if they get c-close.”

Break blinked at him. Why would she do that? Did he forget about her powers? She could just punch them away and that wouldn’t hurt them that much. These things had an amazing ability to heal. There’s no need for anypony to get hurt. Break knew this was a weakness of hers, but she couldn’t help it. She didn’t like seeing anyone hurt. The only reason she was fighting the Cosas in the first place was that they wanted to kill her first. Is it wrong to have compassion in the Wasteland?

After ten minutes of searching, they got a good idea of the condition of the mill. Age had rusted the equipment ruining it beyond repair. Break had hoped to find something they could use in their ambush, but nothing appeared to be all that useful. Something caught her eye, however. When they approached the basement, her PipBuck’s magical radiation detector buzzed like crazy. That ghouls liked the area was a big indicator of a large leak of radiation. The kind that would kill a pony in minutes.

“I wonder what might cause that?” Break asked as she used her power to push any ghouls that tried to attack them away.

“I-I have some a-anti-radiation p-pills if you want to c-check it out.” Scavenger pulled out a bottle from his tool bag.

“Might as well check it out.” Break sighed. “I will check it out. Watch out for ghouls while I’m down there okay?”

She winced at the taste of the bitter pills taking a strong dosage. Even then, these levels of radiation worried her and decided to see a doctor just in case later.

It soon became clear what the cause of the intense radiation was. Break kept her distance as she abandoned it and hid behind a box out of the side of the ghouls milling about. Not that she would dare get any closer even with the pills she'd taken. Her PipBuck’s radiation detector buzzed like crazy showing the reactor as the source of the high amount of radiation. The reactor was a long glass tube with a metal rod inside that spins at a dizzying speed. Finding the crack in the tubing wasn't difficult and the machine glowed ominous green light. Through age or damage, Break found it impossible to tell. The machine was pumping out an insane amount of energy far more than a mere mill would ever want or need. She found it a miracle the thing was even running at all.

The design puzzled Break and she’d never seen anything like it. An experimental new reactor maybe? The thing looked much newer than the rest of the factory. She checked a terminal she found to confirm her hypothesis. After some digging through logs, she found what she needed. They brought the new reactor in a month before the Megaspells hit Equestria. She had to go through at least ten pages of the head forepony complaining about the reactor’s needlessly complicated design and how stupid and pointless adding it to the mill was. They didn't need this much energy, but the higher-ups didn't care about its impracticality. Stable-tech had provided it to them and they wanted to kiss up to the company which in the last days of Equestria was becoming crazy powerful. He also expressed worry about the reactor’s stability and stated more than once the high possibility of it blowing sky high. Any damage to it could be catastrophic.

"Well, ponyfeathers.” They needed to get out of here right now. A surge of fear went through her as she looked at the reactor again. Forget the ambush. She didn’t want to be anywhere near this thing.

Scavenger jumped in surprise when Break tore the door open of the room in a rush.

“W-what’s w-wrong?” Scavenger asked already fearing the worst.

Break explained the reactor situation. She pointed at the door and gestured how they needed to get out of here now.

“W-wait, w-we can use t-this.” Scavenger said getting excited. “W-we can use the r-reactor to kill the C-Cosas. B-blow as soon as they g-get c-close and the r-radiation f-finishes t-them off.”

“I don’t know.” Break replied tensing. So much of this could go wrong. No, everything could go wrong and with her luck, it would.

They argued about this for about ten minutes. Break refused to let go of her running away from the dangerously unstable reactor plan. Her stubborn refusal frustrated Scavenger and refused to back down on his point too. They tensed when the sound of a can hitting a wall sounded through the empty mill. That was the alarm Scavenger had set up if anypony tried to enter one of the doors of the mill. Somepony was here.

---

"Oh, ponyfeathers!” Banana Twist flew down from the top of the building and landed next to Robin at impressive speed. She must’ve feared a booby trap. No explosion came, however, thank Celestia. He hoped they hadn’t the time to make any real traps besides warning alarms. Still, he had to give them that the warning system was an impressive trick.

"Relax." Nightingale made a smirk. "It was just a can."

Banana glared at him. “And now they know we are here. That can’t be a good thing.”

Robin ignored the two’s bickering and examined the building. He found it to be in poor shape and wondered how much it would take to bring it down. Robin had hoped for Banana to sneak in from the top and set an explosive at a few support beams collapsing the whole building and catch the two unaware when it went off.

He checked the windows expecting to see either the filly or Scavenger ready to pick off any intruders or at least scope out the situation, but not even a shadow showed up. He chided himself for being so jumpy. There were only two of them and were only amateurs. Though he knew from experience that amateurs could also be the most dangerous because you could never predict what they might do. On the other hoof, he didn’t think they really had anything set up, but he didn’t feel keen about running around in there to chase them down. The building was huge and finding them won’t be easy. The last thing he wanted was one of his ponies picked off during the search.

Ray was already of the game and peeking into a ground floor window scooping out the place with Spitzer joining in with him. With a shake of the head, Robin knew they weren’t visible at the moment. Ray froze and made a hoof gesture that Robin recognized and cursed. Feral ghosts how wonderful. He feared as much. These building almost always had some life in it. Pony, monster, giant killer insects or otherwise. Another annoying complication. He confirmed the ghouls’ presence when one passed through a nearby window.

Ray sneaked back to him. “The place is crawling with ghouls with some shining ones.”

“What, come on!” Nightingale said. “Can’t the Black Cat pick someplace easy?”

The mission had become more difficult. Now they had to dodge ghouls while worrying about their two boogies sneaking up on them. Robin's instincts told him rushing inside would be a terrible idea.

"Listen up," Robin said after a moment of thought, "we are sticking with the collapsing building plan. They know we are here, but not our plans."

"Right, sneak in stealth like and plant to the bombs with the filly and ghouls none the wiser," Spitzer said, "sounds fun. I should be able to pick the weakest places in the building no problem."

Yes, that strange power of his, but Robin couldn’t deny his usefulness and nodded. “Spitzer and I set the bombs. I want the rest of you to guard the perimeter with Banana Twist watching the sky so they don’t sneak out.” Their prey sneaking away unseen didn’t seem likely with such barren surroundings.

A quick peek through the window revealed that all the doors were booby-trapped, but he couldn’t think of a good way to get around them without tipping off their location. Scavenger knew his stuff Robin had to admit creating such a clever trap. Oh well, they would just have to find another way in. This proved to be trickier than Robin expected, but they made due. They found a broken window to an office with a gap large enough for Robin at least to fit through. Spitzer proved to be too big, but that was fine. Robin planned to open a door for him after disabling the trap. He looked in and found no ghouls and with Spitzer’s help, he got in without making a sound. After a quick peek behind the door to the mill, Robin found the coast clear. Any ghouls in sight were some distance off and not looking in this direction. So, he slipped back and got the door open for the hunter. They hid behind a crate as Spitzer accessed the mill with his power.

Spitzer grabbed a piece of rubble and rubbed it thoughtfully in his hoof. He raised his right leg and tapped in the air like he was trying on a keyboard reading something unseen to his right. After a few moments, his put his arm down and grinned.

“Well?” Robin asked.

"Found something mighty interesting," Spitzer replied, "this building is falling to pieces and never that well designed, to begin with. It's a wonder it hasn't already collapsed years ago."

“Good, where should we hit it to knock it down?”

Spitzer held up a hoof. “One moment, I’m not done. Not only is the building in bad shape, but the building has a serious case of radiation down in the basement.”

Robin furrowed his eyebrows. “Why?”

"Not sure," Spitzer replied. "my best guess it's a faulty reactor. The source is coming from the power room after all."

“You can’t tell? Can’t your power tell us everything about the building?”

“Yes, but only the building itself, not what’s actually in it or I would point you to Cat right away. Too many figures walking around to tell you her exact location.”

“I don’t understand. Wouldn’t the reactor be part of the building?”

"My power is a little complicated." Spitzer scratched his head in embarrassment. "You'd think that, but it only works with the basic construct of the building itself. With my power, I can't even tell how many tables or chairs are in here. It can be choosy about what it tells me."

That makes no sense. Why would it work like that?

“But that doesn’t matter.” Spitzer shook his head. “This faulty reactor worries me. The amount of radiation its spilling is crazy nothing like I’ve ever seen. I don’t think we should be anywhere near here when the bombs go off. Just in case.”

"Agreed. Set the bombs, and we are out and a mile away." Sure, the filly might escape in time to avoid the explosion and fallout, but then they had Banana Twist to look out for her. Worst case scenario, it would only waste some explosives and got rid of a dangerous reactor and some feral ghouls so it wouldn’t be a complete loss and better for everypony.

“I digress.” Spitzer pointed at two support beams on both ends of the mill. “Those two will take the building down easy enough.”

They moved to their objectives. Spitzer proved too skilled at avoiding any trouble and evaded the ghouls without them even seeing him. It was like he could tell where they were somehow. Was this some use of his power? How that worked he didn't know. Like he could sense their movement? Or maybe track them through body heat? Regardless, it impressed him. How might he get a power like this?

He didn't need to go far for his bomb and got there without trouble. He planted the bomb on the bottom of the pillar and used duct tape to secure it. He turned to leave and froze when he heard voices. It sounded like arguing and sure enough, the two fighting came into view when they entered the main part of the mill. They tried to be quiet about it, but Robin's sharp hearing got most of it.

“I don’t care.” The Black Cat said. “It’s a bad plan. What about the poor ghouls? It would kill them.”

“F-fine then.” Scavenger replied. “W-what is your p-plan then?”

“Scope out the place and the outside and see how many are after us. Stay here and wait for me.”

Scavenger didn’t look happy, but he went back through the door. The filly went into a crouch and scanned her surroundings and nodded to herself that the coast was clear. She couldn’t see him at this angle. Robin’s jaw dropped when she flew upside into the air and landed on the ceiling. What the hay is going on? The filly defied the laws of physics and all logic. This was literally impossible, but there it was. The Black Cat let out a small cry when she spotted him and the obvious bomb he was standing over. Robin let out a curse. How could he be so Celestia damned careless? He gave out another cry of surprise when she dove right at him at high speed like a heat-seeking missile.

It took everything he had, but Robin ran out of the way in time and stared when the filly landed on her hooves unharmed despite the height and the speed she fell. When he got a good look at her, he realized that the rumors were right. She had a new leg and its pale white fur stood out from her purple coat. He pushed out the hows and whys until later and used his magic to pull out his sidearm and shot at her as soon as he got a line of sight on her. He thought her dead at this range with no way to avoid the bullets, then pure insanity happened.

The bullets didn’t even touch her. They somehow changed direction and flew in different directions away safely from her. The filly’s face stayed calm and that this craziness just happened not surprising her at all.

No, I must have missed somehow. My aim must’ve been bad. It was the only thing that made sense.

This time Robin’s aimed right at her head his grip on his gun strong and true. The filly didn’t look scared or concerned by this and this gave him pause. But only for a moment, he fired sure he killed her this time. Again, the bullets flew away from her.

“What are you?” Robin stepped back terrified. She had to be some sort of monster. Ponies can’t do these sorts of things.

“This doesn’t have to end with blood. Promise to leave me and my friend alone, and I will let you go.” The Black Cat said her mouth firm.

Robin stepped back again. What should he do? Could he even kill her? He refused to abandon his mission.

“Well well, missy," Spitzer said walking into view and amused look on his face, "I never thought I would ever meet someone like me."

Wait, that's right. Spitzer had a power too, but nothing like the filly's. How could any of this be? Robin took in a breath to calm himself. He needed to calm down and think things through. Panic would help nopony. If Spitzer had a power like the filly’s than she was still a pony and ponies bleed and died. How she got this power didn’t matter. If the hunter had a power, then he could use it to kill her. At least, he hoped so. What he needed now was info on how her power worked. It had to have a weakness and he planned to exploit it.

“I see.” The Black Cat said. “I was right. You do have a ghost like me. It explains a lot.”

Ghost? For a reason that escaped Robin, Spitzer looked past her shoulder. Was there something he couldn’t see? The filly too saw something on the hunter’s right leg and she stared at it stunned.

“Nice.” He nodded in approval. “Your power is a pretty strong one. I liked the way it hit bullets out of the sky. It will be fun killing you."

The filly shook her head. “I guess ponies like us are the only ones that can see ghosts. It makes sense I suppose.”

Spitzer pointed his gun at the Black Cat. “Seems like it. Shame we can’t sit down and talk about it, but I have a job.”

He fired at her with his rifle as he ducked behind some old equipment. She blocked every shot, and the filly circled around to his hiding spot while keeping an eye out of Robin. Robin mentally slapped himself. Why wasn’t he helping? It was possible they could overwhelm her or at least he might get a shot in if he blindsided her. Robin used this as a perfect opportunity to also get some cover and the filly cursed as she lost sight of him in the maze of equipment, selves, and junk.

The filly yelped as a gunshot came from her right from behind a crate, but she blocked it in time. Robin for his part stayed in hiding only moving so she wouldn’t spot her. After some consideration, he waited it out for now. He would stay hidden while the other two played cat and mouse until the Black Cat had almost forgotten about him. Then he would strike when she least expected it. The filly couldn’t block something she wasn’t able to see, or at least he hoped her powers worked that way. Spitzer seemed to pick up on Robin’s plan and lured their opponent away from him. He keeping his distance and took pot shots at her. No matter how close the filly got to him, he somehow avoided her knowing where her approach was every single time. It must be Spitzer’s power at work.

The Black Cat looked around conflicted deciding what she should do. She muttered to herself then decided on her next action. Her whole body flipped into the air and she flew up. In a few seconds, she landed on top of the catwalk and flipped around landing on it. She ran into an office on the top floor and disappeared.

Wonderful, I forgot she could do that. Her plan must be for them to take the fight to her instead.

"Don't be so glum," Spitzer said appearing next to him, "this just changes our plan a bit."

Robin tried to say something, but Spitzer pushed his head down as a pipe rushed at them and almost impaled his head.

"Cheeky thing, " Spitzer said, "now she has us pinned."

Robin looked up and found the Black Cat walking on the ceiling looked right at them. A part of the steel railing bent and broke off and floated next to her like she had a unicorn’s telekinesis. There wasn’t any time to dwell on how downright surreal this was. Robin knew the speed of those projectiles and sweat glistened on his brow.

“Company is coming.” Spitzer pointed at a group of feral ghouls coming this way from an open doorway no doubt hearing the commotion. Worse, one was glowing bright green.

You gotta be kidding me. This was looking worse by the second. Much to Robin’s amazement, Spitzer still stayed calm. Did he have some plan?

"You better have something," Robin whispered. The filly noticed the ghouls too and weighing her options. No doubt she planned to feed them to the ghouls. They ran with hooves raised ready for their next meal. There were right out in the open with no inside cover they could get to without running at least a few dozen hooves.

"Sad to say I don’t think we can win this one with what we have.” Spitzer shook his head. “Her ghost is stronger than I thought. It’s annoying how she can use it fly like that. Do you think I should blow one of the bombs and take her with us?”

Robin snorted. "Yeah, right. And with my team outside? Not a chance. I'm getting out of this alive."

Much to his surprise, Spitzer grinned. “Good pony. I ain’t planning to die today either.” The hunter scanned the floor and shot a spot near a terminal. A chunk of the floor collapsed leaving a giant hole. In a moment, Robin got it. Spitzer must’ve used his power to find that weak spot.

It didn’t take much prompting to dive towards the hole. The filly threw her steel railing at them, but there was some hesitation after the shock of the sudden appearance of the hole. They disappeared in the hole long before she could throw it. Maybe they weren’t out of this yet.

Chapter 26

View Online

Robin groaned as he crashed to the floor below. Falling this far wasn't good for his ankles. The complaining ended a moment later. Every second of this life and death struggle counted, and he took in his surroundings with a single glance. They were in a storage area. Nothing stuck out which suited him fine. He had worried about falling into a pit of feral ghouls, but Spitzer knew what he was doing. The hunter stood next to him also taking in their surroundings.

"Where do we go from here?" Robin knew they only had moments before the Black Cat followed down after them. He had no desire to get anywhere close to her.

"This way." Spitzer ran towards the door as he said this.

Robin hoped he had a plan. This whole situation was out of his depth. He hadn't signed onto this mission knowing there would be ponies with crazy powers. Everything about this was just nuts. But he planned to live and complete his objective no matter what power Black Cat had. He refused to fail.

As they flew down the hallway at top speed, ghouls assaulted them at full force. Robin took them out with a single shot one by one aiming for the head every time. Dear Celestia, there were so many of them. They swarmed like insects ready to devour them whole.

"Spitzer, I hope you know what you are doing," Robin said through gritted teeth as he ducked under a claw swipe and kicked the zombie in the head stunning it. He didn't bother killing the thing. They needed to get out of there.

"I know," Spitzer said as he blew the head off a ghoul with his rifle, "we aren't far. We will be on him in a moment."

Him? Oh right, Scavenger. Did the hunter plan on taking him hostage? Robin's insides turned. This was a dirty tactic, but they didn't have a choice. The Black Cat was far beyond them in power. Still, this was one the last things he wanted to do.

“How long till we get there?" Robin's voice sounded hollow to him.

"Just a little one more room," Spitzer said and pointed at a room at the end of the hallway next to a stairwell.

Robin cursed and more ghouls came out of nearby doors including a glowing green one. It howled when it gained sight of them and ran at them at a frightening speed. He tried to get a beat on its temple, but only grazed the side of its head. Much to his horror, the wound began the heal. He cursed again, they must be in a high radiation area. The creature jumped him before he got another shot off. His gun flew from his hooves out of sight. He tried to push the thing off him, but its strength was frightening. It was like trying to push against a brick wall. Spitzer wasn't fairing much better and found himself surrounded using a spare revolver to fight four ghouls off.

Damn you, Spitzer. Why the hell did you think it was a good idea to come down here? We should have taken our chances with the Black Cat!

Already he felt ill from the radiation in the area. His stomach turned, and his head became lightheaded. A glance to his left revealed the reactor Spitzer mentioned earlier past an open door. He put it out of his mind. Slow death by radiation was the least of his worries. He panicked when he failed to find his gun. He used his aura to pick up a rock to smash the glowing ghoul's head open, but it did little and it only made the creature angrier. Nothing remained of the head wound it received earlier.

The glowing ghoul became more vicious as tried to aim its crooked teeth towards his throat. The scent coming from its breath made Robin gag its smell almost unbearable. He refused to give up and tripled his effort to push himself free. His blood turned cold at the sight of the figure at a nearby door.

Scavenger had a small smirk on his face when he saw their predicament and held Robin's own gun in his aura. He pointed the gun right at Robin's head. He could tell from Scavenger's eyes he would not receive any mercy.

"I-it's because of p-ponies like y-you Break almost d-died." Scavenger said. "Die."

Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap! Robin used his magic to push the ghoul off of him but it was no use. The reactor's radiation was boosting its strength too much. At least the bullet to the head would be quick. The gun went off and Robin knew it was the end, but at the last moment, the bullet changed course into a wall.

"Now hold on a minute."

Scavenger gaped as the ghoul holding him flew off him into the reactor room and the door slammed shut after it. The ghoul tried to burst the door down, but so far, the door held. He looked up to find the Black Cat standing above him and stared dumbstruck.

"Well, that's an interesting predicament," Spitzer said. The stallion had held himself better than Robin had thought and all the surrounding ghouls were dead. He held his gun with a casual ease to his side.

Scavenger held Robin's gun eyes wide in panic and pointed his gun back and forth between his two enemies. "W-what are you d-doing Break?!"

Yes, what are you doing Break? So, Break was her name? How fitting considering how much she broke things around her.

Break hesitated. "I couldn't leave him to die. I thought…"

Scavenger scowled. "Y-you thought. I-if you let t-them go, they'll j-just come a-again."

"I know, I just don't want anypony else to die." Break's ears folded forward.

This wasn't what he expected at all. Scavenger was right. Why should they spare him? It makes no sense. He thought back to Brisk Bolt. Wait, didn't she spare him too? Why save him from a bullet to the head? Was she crazy? Yet, he felt grateful to her for sparing his life.

Scavenger's eyes turned hard as steel. "T-this is the w-wastelands Break."

Break scowled and glared at her friend. He flinched at the intensity of that gaze. "Don't give me that. Too many ponies have used that as an excuse to do horrible things. I didn't buy it then and I don't buy it now."

"Break, p-please." Scavenger looked terrified. "It's the o-only way."

"No!" Break stomped her hoof.

This mare was something else. What she said hit something inside him. He had seen his fair share of monstrous ponies that claimed the only did what they did because it was the way of the wastelands. He also hated that excuse. Ponies made killing far too easy in this world. The fact Break flat out rejected it was refreshing even reinvigorating.

"But I will have to go after you," Robin said deciding to be honest.

"S-see!" Scavenger pointed his gun right at Robin's heart. One glare from Break, however, made him change his mind about firing.

Scavenger leaned against a wall interested on how this conversation might play out.

"Look I spared your life and got rid of the Stones." Break said. "Shouldn't that count for something? Haven't I made up my debt to the Cosas?"

And she got rid of the Slaver Gang the Yellow Stars. Heck, almost everything she did somehow became a benefit for them. He wondered if that made up for killing the Boss's son. The Boss wanted her dead, but that was grief talking. He might just accept this as a peace offering, maybe. Not that he had much of a choice but to accept reality. He couldn't match her power. An idea struck him and he smiled.

"Okay, I have to admit you have done a great service to us," Robin said, "we will forgive you under one condition. Return with Spring Rain's little brat Starburst and we will have a deal."

Break blinked. "What do you mean?"

"Oh, the colt wanted to play hero and ran off," Robin replied, "they charged us to bring him back. Spring Rain has been making a real fuss about it. With your help, I think we will be able to it easy."

"Okay, you have a deal." Break said holding out a hoof.

"B-Break!" Scavenger said in stunned disbelief. "Y-you can't be serious."

Spitzer shrugged. "I guess things worked out."

Robin blinked for he hadn't expected her to accept so quickly. He took her hoof and shook on it. He hoped the Boss wouldn't be too mad at him for making this deal. Sure, if he ran for it, he might hit the unstable reactor and kill them all, but that was stupid. Killing himself to get Break was a dumb idea. Robin was a survivor and Break didn't appear to be a bad pony. Besides the deal stopped all the damn hunting and running around. Win-win for everypony.

Break watched as they disabled the bombs and detached them. Scavenger didn't trust them for a second and watched them expecting betrayal at any moment. The Black Cat, on the other hoof, wore a detached expression watching for signs of treachery but not making so obvious a gesture about it. It took some fiddling, but Break figured out a way to disable the reactor so they didn't have radiation breathing down her throat. Her technical knowledge was impressive, and she worked in the reactor room for a good half hour before the thing powered down for good. The poor thing would need radiation poison treatment even with all the anti-radiation pills she used before hoof. For some reason, she shoved all the ghouls into a locked room instead of killing them. She said they'd gone through enough and gave an overly optimistic spill about a possible cure in the future. Robin didn't buy that for a moment but decided not to argue about it.

Convincing the others that there was a truce, was less than simple. Ray took it in stride as usual. Banana just stared in disbelief. Nightingale threw a fit demanding that they avenge Rock Guard's death. His death was tragic, but he wanted no more deaths on his team.

"But you had her right where you wanted her," Nightingale said for the fifth time, "what's with this deal crap?"

Robin sighed. "We both thought it would be better for everypony if we cut our losses and ended hostilities right here. Besides, she'll hunt Starburst for us. Isn't that a good thing?"

Robin left out the part of Break's crazy powers. They would've never believed it. He would have asked Break to prove them to his gang, but she already left deciding it would be the best for everypony if she disappeared leaving for Petunia. It was a city about 6 miles east of Zinnia. Robin got a tip of a stallion matching Starburst's description going that way and passed it onto Break.

"I don't get it at all," Nightingale said, "fine, whatever. Here's to hoping a Deathclaw gets her."

"Hey, at least it gets the Black Cat out of our hair." Robin was more than glad to see the tail end of the mare. She brought disaster wherever she went. She would bring her blight to somepony else. And hey, why stop her if she kept accidentally helping them?

---

Break sighed and looked back at her friend. Four hours had passed and Scavenger still hadn't talked to her. Hadn't he cooled down already? Did he realize her deal might get the Cosas off her back forever? That was well worth the risk. Besides, everything she had heard about Robin told her he was a pony of his word. And it stopped ponies shooting at her. How was that not a good thing?

I will just have to give him some space. The last few days had been tough for him so it made sense he was so moody.

A look at her PipBuck told her they only had about two miles left of walking left before they got to Petunia. She gave a silent thank you to Breezy for all that PipBuck map data she gave her. Break made a short prayer to Celestia that the little filly was doing well. It was hard not to worry about her being all alone in the world even if she had the strange power to make friends with wasteland creature. Was that a ghost power or something Breezy's cutie mark gave her? After some thought, Break decided the latter made more sense. Cutie marks could do all sorts of crazy things, but talking to creatures wasn't weird enough to be a ghost power.

"B-Break!" Scavenger's voice started her and stared at him waiting for him to explain herself. He put a hoof to his mouth and guided her behind a rock.

After getting to a suitable hiding spot, Break peered over the rock and found what Scavenger had warned her about. There was a dust trail coming right at them some distance away. Squinting, she could see what it was. Her heart sank as she saw at least fourteen Raiders on motorcycles. It looked like they were having the time of their lives and she could hear their howling and jeering as they got closer. All of them were armed with a multitude of weapons and in an instant, she knew their destination. These raiders were about to attack Petunia. Break cursed she should have seen this coming. They were well out of Cosas territory now and were in the wilder parts of the Wastelands.

"Not good." From this distance, there wasn't any way she could intervene. The cyclists were going too fast.

"A-are you g-going?" Scavenger asked.

"Can you get to Petunia by yourself fine?" Break asked hating running off like this.

A small smile crept onto his face. "I-I'll make i-it." Scavenger's face became serious. "D-don't spare t-them, these ponies are m-monsters!"

"I know." Break said and ran towards Petunia using her gravity powers to push herself forward. These ponies weren't like Robin. They hurt ponies for fun. Why would Scavenger think she would be foolish enough to hold back against ponies like these? They would need to talk later about this.

In the distance, she saw smoke coming from the town. One raider had shot a rocket into one building not only blowing it to pieces but starting a huge fire. They cackled as they rode around the town mocking its inhabitants taking delight in their fear and pain.

Too late! Break stopped herself to get a good view of what she was up against. There were fifteen of them each with a gun or a blunt weapon. She sighed in relief when she noticed only one of them had a rocket launcher. That would make this easier. They looked like your typical raider, ugly, lots of a leather, big, and had their mane in a mohawk. They were too busy enjoying their reign of terror to notice her. Some town ponies tried to fire back, but their aim was poor and missed completely.

"Hey Killer Joe, some of these ponies are getting uppity." A raider said to the one with the rocket launcher and all the raider parked with vehicles in a semicircle. "How about we set the whole town ablaze and smoke them out? Then we can have all the fun we want with them when they come out." This got a laugh from all the raiders.

"Great idea!" Killer Joe pointed his rocket launcher at the town. "About six rockets outta do it!"

I need to do something! Break looked around and found a good-sized rock and picked it up with her ghost. This will work.

The raider squeezed the trigger with his telekinesis and Break threw the rock right at his head. Her special talent made the shot an easy one, and it took only a split second to plan the trajectory. At blinding speed, it hit him right in the temple. The raider fell off his bike and the rocket launcher went off. Instead of hitting the town, the rocket hit a spot in the middle of the raiders instead. Break ducked on the ground at the massive explosion. The fire caused the fuel in the bikes to ignite causing a huge fireball that engulfed everything. The raiders screamed as they burned alive. Break's stomach turned at the smell of burning meat.

Break looked up to see all the raiders dead burned to a crisp killing them all. She blinked. How the hay did that just happen? Well, no more raiders at least which was something. She tried her hardest to put out of her the mind the horrible fate that just occurred to those bandits and made her way to town. She hoped it won't take too long for Scavenger to make his way to town.

"W-who are you?" A shaky voice said as she approached the town's parameter. The town was nothing more than a few old buildings with a large wooden fence with barbwire all around it.

"A friend!" Break called out. "You need not worry. The raiders are all dead."

"An explosion?" The voice asked.

"Yes, it somehow killed them all when a raider accidentally fell off his bike and shot a rocket into his friends." Break replied. It sounded so ridiculous when she said it out loud. Well, whatever. That's what happened.

"What?" The voice said in stunned disbelief.

"It's true Calling Card." A voice from deep inside the town shouted. "Saw it myself. Mighty clumsy of them."

"Okay." Calling Card said not really believing it. "You still haven't answered my questions stranger. Answer or twenty ponies will fill you with lead!"

Break put her hooves up in a placating gesture. "My name is Break Point. I'm just a traveler. I wanted to see if everypony was all right after that raider attack."

"Yeah right! You expect me to believe that?"

"Just let her in." The voice in the town said. "She doesn't have a weapon, and she doesn't look like any raider I've ever seen."

"Isn't this a tad suspicious? A stranger comes into town right after a raider attack that turned horribly wrong?" Calling Card replied his voice cool.

Break sighed. "I'll leave if you want me to."

"What? Break is that you?" A vaguely familiar voice said.

"Wait, don't!" Calling Card's voice rose in alarm.

A young stallion emerged and Break recognized him as Starburst in an instant. He used to be a regular at the restaurant she worked at in Primrose. He almost shined when he saw her grinning like a foal at Hearth Warming.

"It's okay!" Starburst said. "She's a friend and the best hero in all of Equestria."

Break squirmed at being called a hero and the blatant hero worship in his face and tone. He grabbed her hoof and shook it so hard her leg hurt. He looked down at her white leg in confusion.

"What happened here?" Starburst asked in confusion and alarm.

"It's a long story."

"No matter." Starburst beamed. "With you here, it solves all our problems! Things have been crazy around here!"

"D-do tell." Break had a bad feeling about this.

---

"Boss!" Terabyte froze as everypony in the room stared at him. As if delivering this news wasn't bad enough.

"Come." A booming voice said.

Terabyte steeled his resolve. If he framed it right the Boss wouldn't kill him right on the spot. Terabyte gulped. The Boss hated hearing about failures. He boiled alive in oil the last pony who gave him bad news. He still had nightmares about it. Why did he have to be the one to pull the short straw when they drew lots? He pushed aside the curtain and entered the Boss's bedchambers. The pony in question was lying on his side drinking a tank of beer with a straw.

Even after meeting him in person several times, Terabyte couldn't get over just how large the boss stood. He towered over everypony at least nine times larger than the average stallion. His purple mane reminded Terabyte of a lion's and his coat the color of polished bronze. His cutie mark was that of a lion's claw tearing the flesh of its victim. From his appearance, all knew this pony nopony trifled with.

"I have news of the attack on Petunia," Terabyte begged Celestia and Luna that he wasn't about to die for this.

The Boss laughed. "Good. That marks the end of the last town surrounding Zinnia. It won't be long until we move on Zinnia itself. It only has a week left to live until it is ours. Then we move on to bigger things. Skinning the Cosas's hides."

About that." Why me? Why me? Why me?

The Boss raised a questioning eyebrow. "What is it?"

"The raid failed."

"What?!" The room shook from the Boss's voice. Ponies ducked for cover or hid under something. "Explain."

"There was a freak accident, and they all died." Terabyte's legs wouldn't stop shaking, but his voice was strong enough at least.

"Is that so?" The Boss's voice stayed calm and Terabyte didn't know if this was a good thing or not. "And the collection of shacks still stands?"

"Yes."

"Damage to the town?" The Boss asked.

"Small. They didn't get a real chance to attack before they all tragically died."

"You at least recovered at least a few of the motorcycles, right? Those things are expensive." The Boss said his patience running thin. "I only lent them to speed up the mission."

Sweat formed on Terabyte's forehead. "Well…"

"Useless! Useless! Useless!" The Boss pounded his hoof against the floor creating a strange sound.

A wave of nausea and dizziness hit Terabyte, and he toppled over almost losing his lunch. It was like his insides were being twisted to pieces. He had heard of the Boss's strange powers, but this was the first time he'd seen it in person. At least the Boss hit the ground this time. Ponies hit directly by it bad came out a bad way ending up as a pony-shaped puddle.

"Nevermind." The Boss waved a dismissive hoof. "We must destroy this Petunia quickly else we end up a laughingstock."

"Yes, sir." Terabyte didn't even attempt a nod. He didn't trust that his stomach could withstand it.

"This is a little premature, but it will show Zinnia our true strength." The Boss said. "I want you to lead an exploitation of 50 ponies to crush this insignificant town once and for all."

Such an important assignment overwhelmed him, but he saw an opportunity. Maybe he could rise in the rank of the Boss's army. "Yes, sir."

Terabyte screamed as an invisible force grabbed him by the throat. It was impossible. The Boss was only an Earth Pony! He gurgled as the unknown force crushed his windpipe and saw spots unable to breathe.

"Take the town, or none of you will come back alive." Terabyte's body floated in front of the Boss and he looked his subordinate right in the eyes. He wouldn't tolerate any more failure. Not even a little one.

Terabyte dropped like a rock onto the ground gulped in wonderful, beautiful air. "Yes, sir."

He had no intention of earning the Boss's ire. 50 ponies seemed overkill for a place with only at best 16 ponies, but the Boss wanted to show off a small amount of their group's 1000 ponies might. What were 50 ponies to that? The Boss wanted to show the wasteland its new master and Terabyte planned to stay by his side.

Chapter 27

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“Oh, this is so perfect!” Starburst jumped back and forth on his hooves. “I knew you would come to save the day! Everypony said we were doomed with no chance of survival, but just like Celestia descending from the sky you came to save us all.”

“Yes, right.” Break’s voice had become tight. She didn’t like being compared to the Princess even a little.

Calling Card fought back laughter. “Is this the one you’ve been going on about? You expect this little thing to save us?” Many of the other ponies in the town broke out into laughter.

Break’s eye twitch. Sure, it did seem a little silly, but did they have to be so rude about it?

“What is going on?” Break asked trying to get the subject back on target.

“Who’s to say?” Calling Card replied. “Raiders are out there to kill us all. Not anything new in the Wastelands.”

“But something has to be a little different.” Break said. “Those raiders were crazy well-armed.”

And how the heck did a bunch of random raiders get motorcycles? Those aren’t cheap or easy to get your hooves on.

“Story of our lives hero.” Calling Card said putting derision on the word hero. "The raiders have been tough lately and hell-bent on killing every town in sight."

“They’ve wiped out two towns already. They’re going on a campaign of death all around the Cosas’s territory.” Starburst glared at Calling Card before returning his attention back to her. “Nopony knows why they are more well-funded than usual.”

“That’s not good.” Break recalled talk about raiders banding together, but never realized it had gotten this bad. Were the raiders starting a war with the Cosas?

“I’m surprised you haven’t already heard about this.” Starburst tilted his head. “It’s been all over the news.”

Break blushed. “I’ve been busy.” She’d been avoiding the radio, so she didn’t have to hear the Princess of the Wasteland gush about her and her supposed heroics. A bad idea in retrospect if big things like this had been happening under her muzzle.

“We need to prepare.” Break said. “Those guys will come back for sure. It would be for the best if we all evacuated to Zinnia.”

Calling Card stood straighter. “And abandon our homes? Look whoever you are. I don’t care if you are some hero. We’ve worked hard to create this town and we aren’t leaving it to some raiders.” The others in the town nodded in agreement.

“But what if they come back in greater force?” Despite her power, Break couldn’t protect everypony by herself. She had no illusions of that.

“We aren’t leaving our homes!” Calling Card replied getting into her face. “We sure as heck aren’t letting anypony from Zinnia fight for our cause.”

“But, I am not sure what else you can do. What if those guys come back with even worse?”

“We aren’t leaving!” Calling Card pointed his hoof so hard into Break it hurt. “This isn’t your business.”

"She's only here to help Calling Card," Starburst said.

“Right, this little filly.” Calling Card said with scorn. “In my experience, heroes do little more than die. You won’t be much different.”

“We’re all friends here.” Break held up a placating hoof. “I want what you want, for everypony to be safe.”

“Right, whatever you say.”

What’s with this guy? Still, Break couldn’t blame the guy for his distrust. She was a stranger, and it was clear he loved this place and would rather die than abandon it. If that’s how it was, then fine. She would work with that. She would come up with another plan.

Her best chance was to devise a way to make it difficult for someone to approach by a vehicle. That would work well. With a shovel and her ghost, making an obstacle for their enemy should be easy. Some pitfall in the ground should do the job nicely.

Break yawned. All this could wait for a few hours. She’d been on the road all day and all the excitement had worn to the point of exhaustion. Her body needed more attention right now. She wanted to get to work right way, but if she didn’t get some rest, she would be helpful to nopony.

"Is there someplace I can stay for the night?" She asked.

Calling Card rolled his eyes. “Very well. It will be a tight squeeze, but I have an extra room at my house you can use. My wife Tool Kit can look after you.”

“Thank you.”

“Come on in already.” Calling Card waved a hoof. “I’ll show you the way.”

Break mentally slapped herself for forgetting why she even came here in the first place. “Starburst?”

“Yes?” Starburst replied hanging on her every word.

“I need to talk to you, not right now though.” Break said sighing at his almost unbearable enthusiasm. “It can wait though, and my friend Scavenger will come up to town soon. Make sure he finds me.” The fact he wasn’t here already was a little odd, but she let him do is own thing. He’ll come to the town when he’s ready.

Starburst did a salute. “Right away!”

Break shook her head and followed Calling Card. She winced as she witnessed the carnage the raiders brought in the attack. Though not as bad as it might have been, the missile created a terrifying amount of destruction. Several houses were on fire and ponies worked hard to put them out. The townsponies used a line of buckets that lead the town well. There was nothing left of the house but smoldering cinders. It pained her heart to see these pony’s homes destroyed. Why were those raiders so callous with the lives of others? Did they not understand the pain they brought to others? It made Break sick to her stomach.

Without prompting, Break joined the line and help quell any of the fire she could. Sleep could wait. Before too long, all the fires were out and Break felt rewarded doing a job well done. The fires weren't as bad as she first predicted and only caused a little structural damage. The townsfolk patted her on the back and thanked her for her service. She saved them goodbye and rejoined Calling Card.

“I’m ready for that bed now.” Break rested herself on a nearby crate. “Those water buckets are heavy.”

“Why did you help us?” Calling Card asked. “It wasn’t your job to do anything. This isn’t your town.”

“It’s the wasteland.” Break replied confused by the question. “Shouldn’t ponies help each other out?”

Calling Card looked at her with a skeptical look. “Most travelers keep to themselves and fight for their own survival. They care little for others.”

Break made a face. Was she wrong to help ponies? “Just show me to a bed.”

Calling Card stared at her for another long moment before moving on to a small two-story house. It had a caved-in roof, and with a tarp used to replace it. It was a quaint little place and there wasn’t any doubt the owners loved this little house very much.

“Come in dear.” An old mare said as Break entered the house. From her voice alone, Break could tell that Calling Card’s wife was much older than him. Tool Kit wore her grey hair in a bun and had a rust covered coat. Tool Kit gave Break a warm smile after giving her a tight hug. It surprised Break how much more of a warm welcome she gave over her husband.

“I saw that you helped put out the fires.” Tool Kit said. “Very kind of you, my dear, thank you.”

Break rubbed the back of her neck embarrassed. “They needed help so why not?”

“Are you hungry?” Tool Kit asked. “I have some leftover potatoes if you want some.”

Calling Card coughed before Break could give her answer. “That won’t be necessary hun, she’s only here for a warm bed.”

"Nonsense, she's our guest don't be rude Call." Tool Kit glared at her husband. "Don't mind him, he's never liked strangers much. We're happy to have you."

“Thanks, my name is a Break Point.”

“Tool Kit. Where are you from? Do you have news? They say things have been hectic out west.” Tool Kit said while pulling leftover instant potatoes from the fridge. It only took her a minute to dig them out of the Tupperware container and put them onto a plate and she sat them in front of her guest. Break gave a nod of thanks and dug in. Not the greatest of meals, but she was hungry so they would have to do. It was more than generous.

“Yes, we hear to lot from the radio, but we would rather get it from a real source. “Calling Card crossed his legs.

“I’ll do my best.” Break didn’t have a clue where to start or what to say exactly and mulled over this as she finished her meal. She gave them the cliff notes version and told them about the destruction of the Yellow Star Slavers and the Stones leaving out her own part in it of course. She also told them about how much stronger the Cosas were becoming. Calling Card scowled at her story.

“The Cosas.” Calling Card broke into some colorful swear words. “It’s their fault we’re in this mess. They’re hunted raiders so fiercely that the raiders have become so desperate they’ve banded together just to survive. The scum hated each other before, and now they have a common enemy.”

“Come on, it can’t be that bad.”

Calling Card glared at her. “Worse, they’ve been gathering in large numbers and been terrorizing local towns. We haven’t heard a lick from Lily in weeks!”

Break’s eyes widened at that. “Could they be… gone?”

“No doubt they are.” Calling Card replied. “They’ll be back no doubt about it.”

Break’s mind raced as she thought of all the implications. Things out here were worse than she thought than anypony thought. If the raiders had an army, then it would be a disaster if they went into open warfare with the Cosas. She needed to warn Robin about this. Primrose and surrounding towns needed to prepare for trouble.

A loud yawn escaped Break’s mouth. All the excitement for the day made her exhausted even with the energy she got from the meal.

“The poor things about to pass out.” Tool Kit said pulling Break from her seat. “Here dear, follow me and we’ll get you into bed.”

“Night.” Calling Card said. He looked troubled no doubt worried about another group of raiders showing up at her doorstep.

Took Kit showed her to a small guest room with a single size bed. Break flopped onto the bed. What a day it had been. Still, she made Robin a somewhat reliable ally and planned to make the best of that. She listened to the sounds of a town getting ready for bed and the other sounds of the night, They always relaxed her for some reason. She planned to wake up early and make those defenses she thought of. Maybe the village had something she could use. In her last thought before blacking out, Break hoped Scavenger got to town safely.

---

Scavenger nodded in satisfaction as he saw Break through his binoculars enter a house and how warmly townspony’s wife greeted her. It was good to see Break integrating well with the ponies of the small village. It made him proud that Break went out of her way to help put out the fires. That mare had a heart like no other.

He wanted to join her and get some shuteye too, but he wanted to check something out first. He needed to search the bodies of the dead raiders for any clues. Sure, the fire didn’t leave much left of them, but Scavenger thought it wouldn’t hurt to look, anyway. Besides, there might be some bits of the motorcycles left to salvage.

It was always gruesome work to steal from dead bodies, but in the Wastelands, you did what you had to for survival. It didn't mean he liked to it though. The smell of burnt flesh made him gag, and he did his best to ignore it. The fireball left one large scorch mark on the earth. Break really did a number on these guys. It was too bad he stood too far away at the time to learn how exactly she did this. He would need to ask her about it later.

The take from his search was more than a little disappointing, however. They had no clues to indicate why they attack the village or who there were. The fire burned up anything useful and even their caps melted to uselessness. Their motorcycles too were too far gone to be any use for parts much to Scavenger's disappointment.

Oh well, worth a try.

Scavenger got ready to leave leaving the clean up to the townsfolk when a glint in the dirt caught his eye. He picked it up and rubbed the dirt off of it. Though black and scorched from the fireball, still readable. The badge had what appeared to be a cutie mark, a lion’s claw tearing into flesh. It wasn’t a cutie mark he recognized and guessed this pony must be their leader.

A thought struck him. He wasn’t all that tired and Zinnia was only about two hours away on hoof. There might be somepony there that knows something about this badge, and he wanted to get some local news. He would there and back before Break would even realize he took so long to arrive. Today was a crazy day for her. She needed the rest more than he did and it wasn’t like he could fight or anything. After consulting a map in his pack, he left for Zinnia.

---

Even from a distance, Zinnia still impressed Scavenger even after the hoof full of trips he had made to it. They made it from an old oil tanker that got accidentally teleported on land. Nopony knew exactly how that happened, but the best most guessed was that the zebras attacked it during the war and some skilled unicorn teleported the tanker to safety. Its protective shell became a town after Stable 54 discovered it while looking for usable shelter. They covered all the holes in the hull and turned it into a viable and prosperous town. Not only did it have a large protective wall around it, but it had only one entrance into the ship from the front. It had seen many battles over the years, but so far, no raiders or warbands had broken their way in.

The guards let him pass the gate of the outer wall without issue or protest and allowed him entry into Outer Zinnia. Outside the great bulk of the tanker were dozens of small shacks and house created from salvaged wood made by skilled and careful craftsponyship. Zinnia was the oldest town in the area and the most developed. Ponies used to only live in the ship, but an influx of settlers from other stables made the town expand houses to outside the ship as well.

Scavenger noticed as he walked through Outer Zinnia how nervous everypony was. No foals played outside, and the town was too quiet. As usual, his old friend stood at the counter of his story and Scavenger hoped he might shed some light on what was going on. He found Freezer Burn reading a book outside his hut and guessed business had been light of late. Burn put his book down as soon as Scavenger got close.

"Hello, friend." Freezer Burn said. "Welcome to Freezer Burn Emporium. Is that you Scavenger? Long time no see.”

“H-hello Burn.” Scavenger replied.

"Haven't seen you around these parts in a long time." Burn stood up and shook Scavenger's hoof. "Have you some parts you wish to pawn off? I'll give you a nice deal."

“N-not t-this time.” Scavenger felt a little strange not coming here with a sack of parts and spending the better part of a day haggling with Burn to get the best deal. It made him feel naked. He shook the thought from his head. It wasn’t the time to worry about that.

“Y-you have you e-ear to the ground, w-what’s been happening around here?” Scavenger asked.

Burn turned crestfallen. "Ah, so that's what you want to talk about. I'd been looking forward to a peaceful day of haggling with you to get my mind off my troubles." It always amazed Scavenger that Burn considered their haggling sessions peaceful considering it usually contained a lot of yelling and insults. Burn lived for that sort of thing though and business was everything to him.

“W-what’s been happening?”

“Everything! The world is ending!” Burn threw his hooves up into the air in a melodramatic fashion. "It's the raiders. They're trying to kill us all. They've been picking off towns one by one. Everypony in Zinnia is scared. There seems to be no end of these guys!"

Scavenger cursed. “How many are we talking about here?”

"At least a few hundred." Burn replied. "Most likely more. An eyewitness told me she saw about 80 raiders attacked Lily a week ago. It didn't stand a chance and you know how well defended that place was!"

Scavenger’s blood turned cold. He’d only been to the town a few times, but its defenses played back in this mind with almost perfect clarity. That place had at least a dozen Protectrons protecting it. The town was built into a cliff face giving it a lot of natural protection from attack. The raiders must have taken ridiculous losses, more than any sane commander would permit, but they took it in the end. If they destroyed Lily, there was no safety for anypony. If they cared so little about the lives of their troops, the Raiders’ numbers must be a frightening number for them to be so wasteful.

Even a hardened soldier would blush at the curses Scavenger threw out. Things were bad and far worse than he could have ever guessed. He needed to get back to Break right away and work out some sort of plan.

“H-have you e-ever seen anything l-like this b-before?” Scavenger pulled out the badge he found earlier and placed it on the counter. “I-I f-found it on a d-dead raider that t-tried to attack P-Petunia.”

“Aye, I’ve seen that cutie mark before.” Burn replied. “It belongs to a pony named Courage Heart. He’s a bit infamous around here. He used to work at a steel mill at the outskirts of town. Big fellow too and scared the dickens out of everypony. He drank heavily and got into many fights. Ended up getting fired at the mill after getting into a scuffle that got one of his workmates killed. Disappeared after that thought rumor had it he joined a bandit gang. He’s been working up in the world.”

“Anything else?” Scavenger asked.

Burn shook his head. “Know little else about him besides what other ponies saw about him. I’ve only seen him a few times and only from a distance. Though I do know strange things happened around him.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I said he killed a pony in a fight, but nopony knows how he did it. The victim's heart exploded. Courage Heart was an earth pony, so he couldn't have used magic. Even though they couldn’t pin the crime on him, they used it as an excuse to get rid of him."

Strange things. Scavenger’s heart raced. Was it possible he has a power like Break’s?

“He's probably back for revenge. Dear Celestia, he’s terrifying us so it is all the sweeter when he surrounds us with his army with no way for anypony to come to the rescue.” Burn put his face into his hooves.

Scavenger put a comforting hoof on his shoulder. “W-we’ll beat t-this. I-I have a friend t-that can h-help.”

“I don’t see how.” Burn replied.

With only Break to fight them. No matter how Scavenger thought about, the more hopeless the situation became. Worse, his friend wouldn’t do the sensible thing and run for it instead. No, he couldn’t think that way. They would find a way to beat this or else it would spell the end of Zinnia and every surrounding town maybe even further than that.

---

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay the night?” Burn asked as they approached the edge of the town.

“Y-yeah, my f-friend is g-going to w-worry about me.” Scavenger replied. He really didn’t want Break to wake up with him not there. The last thing he wanted was for her go out looking for him.

"Go in safety, my friend." Burn put a hoof of Scavenger's shoulder.” Introduce me to this friend of yours sometime.”

Scavenger smiled and nodded. He yawned and Burn gave him a smirk. He had to admit he was getting pretty tired, but there was nothing to it. Lily wasn’t that far away.

“I’ll be…” A loud bell sounded through town.

“W-what is g-going on?” Scavenger yelled through the noise. Ponies packed up whatever they could. Many abandoned everything and running to the safety of the oil tanker.

“We need to get to safety!” Burn pushed Scavenger towards the ramp to the ship.

“B-but!” He tried to fight back, but he was a small stallion and the shopkeeper overpowered him without much difficulty.

In a few moments, they were inside the front entrance of the ship. The guard tried to keep everypony calm and ponies crammed inside. Many demanded to know what was going on. Burn pulled Scavenger aside to a side corridor.

“I hate emergencies.” Burn said.

“C-can we find out w-what’s going on?” Scavenger asked.

“Sure, let’s go up top, I know one of the watchponies.” Burn lead Scavenger through the ship. Ponies filled the hallways and even some griffins were there, but Burn knew what he was doing. They walked up several flights of stairs before finding a door that led to the deck of the ship.

“Loopy Loop!” Burn yelled to a pegasus with a telescope perched on a smokestack.

“Burn, hey!” Loopy flew down to meet them. “Who’s that with you?”

“This Scavenger an old friend of mine. Do you know what’s going on?” Burn asked.

Loopy grunted. “Trouble and lot of it.”

“W-what do you mean?” Scavenger asked.

“Look for yourself.” Loopy hoofed over the telescope and Scavenger took it.

Scavenger trotted over to one of the railings and surveyed the wasteland. He didn't see the fuss was about. Nothing was in front of him besides barren wasteland ravaged by war and destruction. No, in the distance there was something and he dropped the telescope in horror. An impossibly large army of raiders was on their way, but they weren't coming towards Zinnia. No, their destination was the town Break was staying in.

Chapter 28

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Break groaned as something pushed her awake. She fought against it for sleep was far more inviting than the waking world, but whoever trying to do it was persistent. Deciding to humor whoever was bothering her, Break opened an eye to see who it was.

“Wake up!” A familiar voice said. “We are in big trouble.”

That made Break open her eyes up and she found herself wide awake. “What’s going on?”

"We are under attack!" Starburst said in a desperate panic. "A whole army is outside the town. A whole army Break!"

Break let out a series of curses and threw herself out of her bed. She looked out the window next to her bed and her eyes widened at the scale of the forces opposing them. There had to be at least 40 ponies there and they moved to surround the town, cutting it off from any escape. Her heart raced when she saw of most of them carried arms. These raiders weren’t messing around.

No, this is too soon! I didn't even get a chance to prepare! Starburst had an overwhelming look of fear in his eyes and he desperately clung to her to save them all.

“Where’s Calling Card?” Break asked.

"Outside preparing for the war," Starburst replied, "I think he forgot about you."

“Come on.” Break said out the door and down the stairs and Starburst followed her like an obedient puppy.

The whole town was in a terrified blur of motion hiding their foals, barricading exits and homes, and preparing to die. No hope occupied their eyes, but they planned to fight on, anyway. They weren't going to let themselves die easily and Break admired them for this. She found a place on a nearby roof and used it to survey their situation. Dear Celestia, there were so many of them and all this for one small town?

A voice boomed from a loudspeaker in the distance. “I would recommend you surrender. Sure, you’re all going to die, but hey at least we promise to make it quick!” There was an uproar of laughter from the raider army.

“Bite me!” Calling Card yelled back. “If you want this town, then pay for it in blood!” That put a smile on Break’s muzzle as she admired his grit and determination. This reply only seemed to amuse the raiders, and they broke into laughter again.

“I would surrender if I were you.” Another friendlier voice said. “You have a half an hour.”

Extending our torment, huh? Break made a face. Just like a raider to do something like that. Fatten them up with fear before moving in for the kill. Worse, looking into their faces told her that these ponies were eager for the kill. There was a psychotic delight to these ponies if you could even call them that. If they got into the town, nothing would survive.

Break rubbed her face and thought furiously. No way any of them could get out of this without fighting. Reinforcements seemed unlikely with Zinnia too far away, so they were on their own. Still, these ponies didn’t know who she was or her capabilities. It wasn’t much, but it might be a deciding factor in all this. She looked down at Starburst who looked at her with a terrified but desperate hope. In his mind, she was their only hope for survival and Break prayed to Celestia that he was right.

What do we have? Break looked around to see what type of weapons the villagers had. It wasn’t much only a few rifles at most. She would just have to make the most of it. Looking back at the raiders, she realized not all of them had guns. In fact, only about four-fifths of them had a projectile weapon. Some raiders preferred using a blunt weapon like a baseball bat with nails in it instead. Two or three had an energy weapon, but that was about it for exotic weaponry. She just hoped the crazy plan she came up with wouldn’t end with her getting shot. Still, if she could at least take out half of them, it would be something. This might just be doable.

“Starburst.” Break said getting the young stallion’s attention. “We don’t have much time. Tell the villagers to fire at the raiders while I drive them away.”

“What?” Starburst gave her a bewildered look.

“Trust me.” With that, Break used Good Times, Bad Times to float herself into the air and dove right at the raider army. Starburst gawked at her as she left.

Break thanked Celestia that the raiders didn’t notice her approach too distracted at the moment by their mission and she landed in the middle of a group of several raiders slamming so hard into the ground it cracked the ground.

“Ow.” Break’s bones rattled from that landing. Next time she’d have to remember to not land so hard.

“What the…”

“Who the hay are you?” The raiders gaped at her sudden and unexpected appearance.

“Sorry about this.” The raiders didn’t even get a chance to respond as Break used her ghost to punch every opponent in sight and her gravity powers to fly through the army taking out anypony that got too close to her.

In a moment, Break was outside the main part of the army and surveyed the damage she did. A line of devastation cut through the enemy forces as she punched everypony in her line of sight. The horror and confusion Break caused by her powers was short lived and remaining raiders all turned their attention towards her. The pony in charge all directed their attention towards her and ordered his fellows to fire. Thankfully, Break predicted this and flew away to make sure the enemy fire was only coming from one direction. She didn't want to face fire from more than that for she didn't trust her bullet-deflecting power to be fast or good enough to deal with that.

As she expected, the town was all but forgotten as this new unexpected threat appeared. The army turned all their attention towards her and bombarded her with bullet fire. Break sweated from the fear and effort of keeping all these bullets from tearing her to shreds. Thank Celestia that she targeted the few raiders with energy weapons first for they would have proven to be the biggest issue since her ghost was useless against them. She made sure to render them useless so they raiders wouldn’t think to use them against her.

“Watch out!” A raider yelled and Break’s eyes widened as at least ten grenades flew her way.

Oh crap, oh crap! Break pushed herself high into the air and winced when the hairs on both her bottom legs singed from the explosion. That was too close.

The raiders tried to fire at her, but this attitude made it almost impossible to hit her with simple rifles and she didn’t even have to deflect too many bullets from here. Before going back into battle, Break used this moment to survey how much damage she did. Much to her disappointment, only about a quarter of the forces were down for the count and some of the ponies she’d hit were recovering. She hadn’t hit them hard enough. Good news though was that the villagers saw the commotion and opened fire on their attackers and they were scoring some good hits. The raiders turned their attention back to the town, and she decided it was time to split their attention and let herself fall back to the ground.

“Don’t forget our objective.” A raider said. “Get into the town and use force if you have to.”

Never!

Her ghost attacked as soon as she got in range of the raiders on the ground and she landed in front of the town’s entrance taking out several more raiders. The remaining raiders attempted to surround her and peppered her with bullets, but the villagers used this opportunity to thin their ranks. Break held firm to hold her position and she proved to be too much of a wall for them to push through. Her ghost blocked any attempt to get past. The firing at her lessened as the raiders became confused about which target to take, her or the villagers taking pot shots at them. Somepony in the village was skilled markspony and every shot they took downed a raider with a single bullet. Break contented herself with holding the raiders back while that pony did their work.

The raider who gave the orders paled when he saw his forces fall back. “Damn fools! Think of something! The boss will have our hides if we don’t win. He’ll do worse to us than the villagers if we come back empty hooved!”

“If you have a suggestion Terabyte, you better give it.” A raider yelled back.

Terabyte scowled and stared right at Break fear and hatred in his eyes. He charged at her with blind abandon emptying a shotgun right at her. She deflected each shot, but he kept coming. He threw the shotgun away when it came up empty and pulled out a pistol and unloaded that too. The desperation threw Break off for a moment and the rest of the raiders followed him focused firing on her too. They abandoned their retreat and ignored even the fire from the villagers. They wanted her dead at all cost.

Not good. They had her pinned down shots coming from every direction. Break winced when a bullet ran across her shoulder drawing blood. There were just too many of them, but she fought on anyway giving the villagers time to fight back.

"See, she isn't invincible," Terabyte said, "don't let up. Without her, the village ain’t got a chance even if we all die here.”

Oh, ponyfeathers. Break thought. They’re suicidal now. Who knew what they might try?

Break used her powers to fly up in the air deciding the situation was too dangerous and gasped in horror as a grenade flew up with her caught in the gravity well created by her ghost’s power.

Terabyte smirked at his plan’s success. She screamed curses and used her ghost to grab the grenade and throw it away, but it wasn't able to throw it away far enough in time and it exploded with an ear-shattering bang. The heat of the explosion singed her fur and the force of the explosion made her go flying and she crashed in the ground with a bone-breaking crash.

Break screamed in pain certain she’d at least broken a few ribs since breathing became more difficult. From unnatural bend of her leg, Break knew her left leg was broken and her head throbbed from a terrible head injury. Her ears rung and it took several moments for it to at least come back at least somewhat intact. The pain was almost unbearable making it impossible to concentrate. Her head spun and had the sudden the urge to throw up. There was an exchange in gunfire with the raiders focusing on the townsfolk instead of her now. Break feared she might have a concussion.

"Is the thing dead?" One raider asked hiding behind one of his bigger raider friends.

“What the heck was she, anyway?” Another said. “What kind of pony can do those sorts of things?”

“You act that she’s really a pony.” The first replied. “She’s a demon wearing a pony’s skin!”

“Whatever she is, I’m emptying this entire clip in her head to make damn sure she down for good.” Terabyte hefted his pistol and pointed it at Break’s temple.

Break’s eyes widened in fear uncertain if she had the mental capacity to deflect even a single bullet in her state. The pain was just too much. She summoned her ghost, but it moved sluggishly her poor concentration making it difficult to control.

A shot exploded and Break readied her flimsy defenses, but not directed at her. Terabyte screamed in pain and cradled his gut. A raider tried to smash her head in with a baseball bat with a nail in it, but Break blocked with her ghost despite her wooziness. A shot in the head killed him before he could do anything else. Break noticed that the villagers were focusing their fire to protect her. Many of the raiders next to her ran for safety trying to fight back against the more protected villagers. Much to her amazement, Starburst ran out the front entrance with a shotgun in his aura and roared killing a raider in the head with a headshot.

“Don’t worry Break, I’ve got your back!” Starburst said.

Break nodded and used her power to knock out two raiders that got too close. Losing their leader made the remaining raiders lost their stomach to fight. There were only 8 of them left. After Starburst killed another of their number, the remaining bandits each fled into a different. Break leaned on a nearby rock and enjoyed the victory despite feeling like death at the moment. Two of the raiders got shot down during with escape, but the others got away. She couldn’t believe it, it was over. Right now, she felt she might sleep for three centuries. The whole town erupted into one enormous cheer. Many of them began chanting her name and Break’s heart melted at the sound of it. Maybe this hero business wasn’t so bad. The nearly dying part was the only thing she wasn’t fond of though.

“Break are you okay?” Starburst asked coming up to her. “Medic! Please, medic!”

“Don’t worry, I’m fine.” Though Break didn’t fight when a shorter stallion put her in a makeshift stretcher using two pieces of long wood and a bed sheet and pulled back into town. She laid back and closed her eyes unable to fight back her fatigue and let herself sleep. Maybe she wouldn’t feel like death itself when she woke up.

---

“She’s gone Scavenger.” Burn said trying his best to be consoling. “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing anypony can do.”

“But!” Scavenger paced.

Break was on her own and the little town she was in was doomed. He wanted to bang his hoof into a nearby wall until it bled. After all they went through, this is how it ended. No, he had to hope beyond hope that Break could do it. He couldn't panic. What he needed was information.

“L-Loopy, what’s go on?” He asked. The pegasus stoked his chin.

"Not sure," Loopy replied and peered into his telescope, "strange, I expected to see signs of fire by now. Raiders love to burn anything they can get their hooves on."

Loopy cursed. "Stupid cheap thing. I can’t much with this. Lilly itself is too far away.”

“D-do you t-think…” Scavenger was about to say before the other pony cut him off.

“Go and take a look with your mighty wings?” Loop sighed. “Why not? We need intel on these raiders. How many survived, what weapons they used, that sort of thing. If we are to survive, we need that information. No doubt they want out hides next. I’ll get as close as I can.”

“Good luck.” Burn said and without another word, Loopy fly off into the distance flying with everything his wings had with the telescope in his hooves.

Thirty tense minutes passed in silence neither wanting to speak. Scavenger said nothing too caught up in his dark thoughts brooding over Break’s fate. It stunned both of them when Loopy flew back to them his face excited.

"They won!" Loopy grinned in pure naked joy. "Celestia dammit I don't know how, but they did."

Burn blinked. “What, how?”

“Really?!” Scavenger couldn’t believe his ears somehow Break pulled it off again.

“Not sure, but the raider army is defeated." Loopy said, "I'll go down and talk to them soon. First, the city council needs to hear about this." With that, the pegasus flew back inside the ship.

“S-she did it again.” Scavenger said dumbstruck and fought back the urge to cry.

Burn too was ecstatic. “Ha! If I small group of villagers can beat an army, maybe we aren’t doomed after all! Shall we go look? And check up on your friend of course.”

Scavenger didn’t reply and just nodded. Eager and excited.

---

The body of the messenger screamed its final words as it crashed into the wall broken beyond repair somehow thrown by a powerful invisible force.

“What?! What?! What?!” The boss screamed the words at the top of his lungs furious beyond words and even reason. Every raider ran from their leader fearful of becoming the next victim.

“What now boss?” The raider asked in a squeak.

“Burn!” The boss replied. “Everything will burn for this! I will not be humiliated like this when I am so close to ultimate glory! Zinnia and Lily and everything else will suffer my wrath.”

Everypony in the room nodded not daring to voice any objection despite how reckless an action this might be. In this state, the boss was impossible to reason with.

“We are going!” The boss screamed so loud everypony had to cover their ears. “We will match these pathetic villagers at full force. They will see our power and tremble!”

It was time for the bandits 1000 strong to go to war and woe to anypony that got in their way.

Chapter 29

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"H-how is she?" Scavenger asked trying not to fidget.

How is it that Break keeps getting into these situations? He turned his back for a moment, and now she's in critical care in a hospital. Thank Celestia that Petunia had a good doctor in town.

“Ah, well.” The doctor looked over his notes. “She will be fine. The few healing potions we have are doing their job, but she has a serious fracture in her ribs. Moving around will be difficult for her for some time. It will all heal naturally. No need to overdo it with the healing potions. I will give her a painkiller that will help with the pain.”

Scavenger sighed in relief. “T-thank you d-doctor.”

“Just let her get some rest for now.” The doctor said before leaving them to be alone.

Scavenger grabbed Break by the hoof and squeezed it. He sat by her side trying to give her the best support he could.

“How’s your friend?” Loopy said when he entered the room. Despite being nothing more than an old bedroom in an almost broken-down house, but it did its job well enough. It had more medical equipment than one would expect from such a small town.

“S-she’ll recover.” Scavenger replied.

"A big hero she is," Loop said, "one has to wonder if all the crazy stories about her are true. Would you believe your friend is the only one that got hurt in the fight? Unbelievable. There were 52 raiders in that attack party!"

Scavenger gave him a faint smile. “S-She’s good with the impossible.”

Loopy scanned Break with his eyes. He didn’t seem impressed, but he shrugged at the point. “Anyway, your friend better heal up quick. The Mayor of Zinnia is paranoid about another attack. In retribution for the humiliating defeat here no doubt."

The thought of another attack sent a chill down his spine and who knew how many raiders would attack next time?

“W-What are the ponies of Petunia going to do?” Scavenger asked. At this rate, it might be better for them to abandon their homes and flee to Zinnia.

"Not sure," Loopy replied, "some are leaving, but most are staying here. A little attack like this isn't going scare them off. Many of them believe the threat of the raiders is no more. Foals, all of them. This isn't over. They would be safer in Zinnia."

"We should get Break there as well." Scavenger would feel better with Zinnia's ship around Break to protect her.

“Aye, that would be for the best.” The doctor said. “Here isn’t safe anymore. These damn endless hordes of raiders make almost nowhere safe and they say their leader to be an actual monster.”

“I agree.” They loaded Break into a cart and it stirred her awake.

“Uh, what happened?” Break asked her voice weak. She lifted her head and grunted in pain.

“W-we’re getting you to safety.” Scavenger replied.

“Taking our hero, are you?” Calling Card, the leader of the village, said.

"Of course, it isn't safe here and she's hurt," Loopy said a little too defensively.

Calling sighed. "I see. It's for the best I suppose. She can get better treatment elsewhere."

"Calling." Break said and the stallion flew to her side in a moment.

“Yes.” He said.

"Stay safe okay." Break said. "Who knows if they will come back."

Calling looked down at her with tenderness and nodded. "I will, we'll be working hard so they can never threaten us again. Have a few ideas to give any raiders that dare attack us a bad day. Next time we wouldn’t be caught so unprepared. "

Break let out of a sigh of relief. "That's good."

Calling took her hoof. "Just remember that you will always be welcome here. The upstairs bedroom is always open."

Though in obvious pain, Break smiled and gave him a hug. Calling Card's wife also gave her a hug and gave her words of encouragement

"Have a nice trip dear." Calling Card's wife said. The entire town waved them goodbye and the warm farewell felt good. This level of kindness wasn't a common sight in this day and age.

As they traveled across the barren wasteland, Scavenger’s mind turned towards Green Mile. How long had it been since they'd done something like that? It seemed like an eternity or two. Heck, more than that. They were supposed to be special someponies, but she just had to run off after Break disappeared and thought dead. Off to do something reckless no doubt. Well, everything would be right again once she learned that her cousin and best friend was safe. He thought back to happier days as the caravan rode on to Zinnia.

---

The scene in Zinnia was tense as they rode into in. Business went on as normal outside the ship, but everypony seemed to be on high alert ready for trouble. Many ponies worried about yet another raider attack and took the failed attack on Petunia to be a bad sign. Break was admitted into one of the hospital rooms deep inside the ship. She still needed plenty of rest and Scavenger let her be for now. He hadn’t much rest over the last few days and wanted to make the most of this moment of peace. Scavenger fell into a dreamless sleep as soon as his head touched the pillow of the inn room he rented.

He awoke to a banging on his room door. Scavenger looked at the clock and found that he had slept at least 14 hours. Typical. He stretched and trotted over to the door to find his old friend Burn.

“Ah good, they told me I might find you here.” Burn said.

“I-Is something wrong? I-Is Break okay?” Scavenger asked terrified something might have happened.

"No, no!" Burn held up a placating hoof. "Everything is fine. I just got back from down below and your friend is doing fine."

Scavenger let out a sigh of relief. “Oh.”

“I just wanted to ask if you want to do some shopping with me.” Burn said. “There are parts I need to buy for my heater and I thought you might want to join me.”

A smile blooming on Scavenger’s face. “Y-you don’t have some in stock?”

Burn laughed. “No sadly, but I think I know who might. Your skill in scavenging will prove vital for helping me get the best parts.”

Scavenger knew what his friend’s scheme. Burn was trying to put both their minds to rest and have some fun before the crap hit the fan. A day out doing nothing sounded like a treat and Scavenger was out the door in a moment after taking a quick shower. He couldn't wait to put his bartering skills to the test. Zinnia was known for its intense bartering sessions.

Scavenger grinned as his friend and the shopkeeper of this tent screamed obscenities at each other. Both refused to back down on their offered price. Though violent words were screamed, it was all in good fun. These two had been long friends and this more of a game to them than anything hurtful. Not that one could tell that listening to them.

“Did your mom drink herself to a stupor when she was caring you?” The shopkeeper asked. “45 caps and that’s the lowest I’ll go.”

“For this piece of junk?” Brun replied. “Did you get it from an alicorn’s butthole? This isn’t even worth half that you idiot! 13 caps!”

The shopkeeper scoffed. “13 caps? You brain-dead dolt! Some of us are trying to make a profit here. 43 and no lower."

The two argued some more with plenty of yelling and obscenities on both side and they settled on the price of 38 caps. Both looked satisfied by the outcome. Despite Burn claiming the part came from an alicorn’s anus, the piece was a great condition and would do its job well and could tell that by just looked at it. Now that the bartering was concluded, they exchanged pleasant small talk.

“Yeah, like I said.” The shopkeeper said. “It fell right from the cloud cover. Nasty crash with no survivors. It was a real state of the art piece of machinery. Makes you wonder what they’re up to in that cloud cover of theirs.”

“H-Hiding no doubt.” It seemed so stupid to Scavenger that the pegasi above the clouds would hoard so much tech when the world under them suffered so much. Heaven-born pegasi were all cowards and if they didn’t want to help their pony brethren than fine. They didn’t need them.

“No doubt.” Burn said. “Get anything nice from it?”

“A few things.” The shopkeeper replied. “It wasn’t a battleship or anything, but it had an impressive arsenal. Its aft cannons could take out a tank if it so wished in a single shot.”

A thought struck Scavenger. “Y-you don’t still have it around? We might need it if raiders strike!”

The shopkeeper shook his head. “No, sold all of them to a wealthy collector. Said she planned to make her own with a little reverse engineering.”

“F-figures.” Scavenger sighed.

“Hey, you know, it’s fine.” The shopkeeper forced a grin. “We have the infamous Black Cat on our side! I saw them bring her into the ship yesterday. The whole town is buzzing about it. Maybe we aren’t so doomed after all. She brings death and destruction to all that oppose her!”

How in the world did Break get such an overinflated reputation? He’d even heard rumors that she might be Celestia reborn! Scavenger gave the stallion an uncommitted nob and he and Burn went on their way.

“The Black Cat huh?” Burn said in the silence. “Do you think the rumors are true about her? Nopony can quite agree on what she is."

“N-no clue.” Scavenger replied deciding that would be his best answer. The last thing he wanted to do was fuel those rumors.

After a few more hours of shopping, they trotted back to the ship and he lifted a bag full of supplies in his aura. Scavenger felt refreshed and calmer now. He didn’t realize how much he needed this. When Break got better, he promised himself to find a bowling alley for Break so they could play a few sets. It seemed like an eternity since they last bowled together and Break needed so fun time to herself too.

He found her still in a bed, but she was up and talking to a young stallion. Starlight if he remembered corrected. Break brightened as he entered.

“I see you went shopping.” Break said. “Did you have fun? I don’t think I’ve ever met a stallion that liked shopping as much as you do.”

“I-it was nice.” Scavenger replied. “H-how are you feeling?”

“Could be better.” Break grunted when she turned her body towards him. “Get around stinks, but in time I should recover.”

“With healing potions, she’ll fully recover in a week or so.” Starlight said.

“T-that’s good.” Scavenger said smiling. “H-hopefully, t-the raiders will t-think twice before striking a-again.”

Break looked down. "I hope so. Their leader sounds like a real nasty piece of work.”

“If I were him, I would be hiding in a hole somewhere.” Starlight said. “You’ve chased his ponies off two times already. He’d be crazy to try again.”

Break gave a non-committal grunt and quickly changed the subject. They spent the next two hours talking about nothing in particular. Starlight wasn’t that bad of a colt if a bit too earnest. Scavenger and Starlight left Break when it became dark deciding it would be best for her to get some rest. Though lifted by the uneventful day, something still troubled Scavenger as he walked through the ship’s lower corridors. The fight with the Lionheart and his raider gang wasn’t done and he felt that truth in his bone. Worse, Break wouldn’t be there to help if he attacked. She was in no shape to fight.

Scavenger stopped and laid on the cold metal floor his back to a wall. He felt so helpless. It wasn’t fair Break had to do all the fighting. She didn’t deserve this at all. It seemed like everywhere she went, they needed her ghost powers.

How did she even get that power anyway? It made no sense at all. Somehow getting that white fake alicorn’s leg gave her this ability. How did that even work? Was it something in his blood?

Blood. There was a thought. Did it contain magic or a virus? It might be worth looking into. Not that Scavenger knew much about this sort of thing. He was a scrap collector, not a scientist. Besides, this knowledge was dangerous. This kind of power in the wrong hooves would be devastating. All they had to is hold out until Break was better and…

An alarm blared throughout the ship. “Everypony to battle stations. W-we are under attack. Please anypony that can fight to get to the deck. The rest go to your rooms and stay safe. R-Raiders are attacking. Dear Celestia help us.”

Ponyfeathers! Scavenger ran towards Break’s room and found her trying to get out of bed.

“Y-you can’t fight!” Scavenger yelled over the blare of the alarm. “Y-you’re too hurt.

Break winced as she tried to stand. Despite the pain, she moved forward. "No choice. Doomed otherwise. From the announcement, things look bad."

No! What could he do? If she went out there, she would die! Not in her condition. He looked around and found a sedative. Before he even knew what he was doing, he injected it into Break's leg. She stared at him with a hurt look before falling unconscious.

No, why did I do that for? He gently placed Break back on her bed and covered her with a sheet. What if she was right? I’ve ruined everything. We are all dead! No, I can’t think that way.

Blood. He remembered his theory. What if her blood gave ponies powers? No, that was crazy. Besides, injecting a pony with a wrong blood type was dangerous and he didn’t even know her blood type.

The same announcement went over the loudspeakers again firmer this time but with a noticeable tremor in it. Dear Celestia. How many raiders were out there? Was it possible the impenetrable Zinnia was about to fall?

Scavenger grabbed a syringe. Did he have a choice? He was dead either way. He poked her in the leg with the needle and pulled out a generous portion of blood. Scavenger cleaned the injury and put a band-aid on it first before doing anything.

Scavenger readied the needed and pointed the top towards his own leg. His hooves shook as he prepared himself for the injection and told himself several times, he needed to do this.

No, this is ridiculous. Scavenger placed the needle down on a table. I’m no hero and the idea this would even work is crazy.

The sounds of fighting and gunshots entered from above and Scavenger put his face into his hooves. This was it. They would die and no escape for any of them. Dear Celestia and Luna, there were screams now and they echoed through the ship. It would be them next. He looked at his sleeping friend and stroked her cheek.

I’m sorry Break. There’s nothing I can do. I’m not like you. I can’t stare death in the face and laugh.

He thought back to Brights and how he couldn’t save her either. His whole life had been nothing but a failure. His parents abandoned him in a pit in the middle of nowhere as a small foal and survived only by luck when a group of passing scavenger ponies discovered him. Unwanted, unneeded, and waste of life and breath. That was all he was. When his parents looked at him, did they see a failure or worse a worthless coward?

More screaming and Scavenger put is hooves over his ears to make it stop. He jumped when he heard banging on the door and fell to the floor. After scrambling to his hooves, he steadied his nerves.

“W-who is it?” He asked.

“It’s me.” Starlight said. “Hurry, open up!”

Scavenger did as instructed and tore open the door and closed it behind Starlight.

"She's still here?" Starlight asked. He clapped his hooves together, but Break stayed asleep.

“I-I put her to s-sleep.” Scavenger looked down ashamed. “S-she was too h-hurt to fight.”

Starlight sighed. “It was for the best perhaps. No way anypony could fight all that!”

“W-what h-happened?”

Starlight rubbed his hair with his hooves panic and fear all over his face. “That monster brought his whole army. Every single one! They swarmed all over us with more ponies than one could count. Hundreds of them Scavenger! Hundreds!”

“S-so, everypony is dead?” Scavenger asked.

“No, only the ponies that fought back.” Starlight replied. “It was a massacre! They are keeping the townsponies alive for now. To… play with…”

Scavenger paled knowing full well what that meant.

“But this is good.” Starlight said. “With her alive there is hope. What we need is to… ugh, I can’t believe I’m saying this. Getting the Cosas help. This army can’t go unchecked. We need to find Robin and warn Petunia too while we are at it. Break mentioned he was close by. Grab her, but be gentle, please. If we are careful, we might slip away.”

It wasn’t much, but they had a plan. They needed to get Break to safety at least, somehow. “A-aren’t t-t-they swarming the p-place?”

“Yes.” Starlight kicked the leg of a stand. “We need a miracle to get out of this one.”

A miracle. Scavenger looked at the needle full of Break’s blood again. If he gained powers like Break’s then maybe… Before he could lose his nerve again, he grabbed the needle and stabbed himself with it and injected himself.

“What the hay are you?”

Scavenger collapsed to the ground. His entire body felt like it was on fire, no worse than that. Everything around him danced in a random but beautiful pattern. Colors like he had never seen before flitted all around him. His body burned hotter and he worried his body might erupt in flame. He screamed but the pain drowned out the sound. This was it, he was going to die.

No, this couldn’t be the end. Break and Green Mile needed him. If he didn’t do something, his best friend in the world would die. The raider would break in and do unimaginable things to her. He focused on that. It was the only light in all this pain.

“Finally, you found your backbone.” A voice in his head said. “Took you long enough.”

The pain lessened enough for Scavenger to have enough sense to see where the voice was coming from. He saw nopony but Starlight who looked at him with concern on his face.

“Up here.” The voice said. “You really are hopeless, you know that?”

Scavenger yelped in surprise at what he saw. Above him was a green pony like-figure with tough looking green scales with claws instead of hooves. Its features were both pony like and reptilian with sharp razor-like teeth that filled its mouth.

“Whatever, we don’t have time for this.” The figure said with a lopsided grin. “We have work to do.”

Chapter 30

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“What?” Scavenger scrambled away from the creature, thing, whatever it was.

“We don’t have time for this you know.” The thing said. “Bandits remember. You can freak out later.”

“Uh, are you okay, Scavenger?” Starlight looked around confused. What was going on? Couldn’t he see this thing, or even hear it?

As if knowing his thoughts, the creature responded to this question. “Nope, looks like he can’t see me, or hear me.” The thing waved its claws in front of Starlight, but the stallion gave no response at all.

Am I going crazy? Scavenger forced himself to stay calm. He asked for this when he injected Break’s blood. Did Break have something like this thing hanging around her too? It explained why she could punch things without touching them or using magic. He always wondered about that one.

“W-who are you?” Scavenger whispered, so he didn’t appear totally crazy.

“I am you and you are me, obviously.” The thing said with a terrifying grin. Those teeth were not friendly looking. “I’ve been here, watching. I just couldn’t manifest myself until now. I’ve always been there deep inside your mind. Call me Free Bird.”

Scavenger blinked. “F-free Bird, b-but you aren’t a bird.”

Free Bird waved a dismissive claw. “It’s my name. Don’t worry about it. And remember raiders.”

“Scavenger! Get a hold of yourself!” Starlight grabbed him and shook him. “We can do this. Just don’t give up hope!”

“R-right.” Scavenger felt so stupid right now talking to himself like this.

Free Bird clapped his claws together. “Let’s go and kick some raider flank!”

Starlight hefted Break onto his back and took a quick glance outside. “Coast is clear. Let’s go!”

They crept through the empty hallway. So far, nopony had gotten in their way. Free Bird floated above them ready for any threat that might emerge. While Starlight watched for trouble too distracted to pay much attention to him, Scavenger asked Free Bird some questions his voice barely above a whisper.

“S-so, what can you d-do?” He asked. Could he control gravity like Break? That would be useful right now.

“My power?” Free Bird whispered although nopony but Scavenger had the ability to hear him. “Well, I have sharp claws that can cut almost anything and really sharp teeth too. That’s about it.”

“What?!” Scavenger’s eyes widened. “Y-you don’t have g-gravity powers or s-something?”

“Shh!” Starlight put a hoof over Scavenger’s mouth.

“S-sorry.” Scavenger blushed.

“Nope, sorry.” Free Bird looked a little embarrassed. “Well, you know we aren’t Break. I’m afraid we aren’t as strong as she is. But I have my own talents. I have stronger senses than a pony for example.”

“Great.” Scavenger deadpanned.

“And right now, I can both hear and smell something foal coming around the corner. Better hide, now.” Free Bird pointed to a nearby door.

“Starlight, somepony is coming this way.” Already he had the door open. “In here.” Though confused, Starlight didn’t argue.

A few seconds later five raiders passed the door they hid behind. They appeared to be on the lookout for any stragglers. Scavenger feared they would open their door, but they passed without issue.

“You have good hearing.” Starlight said.

“Darn right I do!” Free Bird said smugly. “I can hear a pin drop miles away.”

“Let’s go.” Scavenger pulled open the door when the coast cleared.

Free Bird hummed to itself as it scanned the corridors ahead of them. Its excellent scenes helping them pass unnoticed. Scavenger wanted it to go further and search the surrounding corridors, but Free Bird couldn’t travel far away from him without disappearing. After 10 hooves it became too weak to go any the further from his body a strange limitation of his ability. Starlight didn’t argue with their good fortune too tired and scared to question it. It took them a very roundabout way, but they made their way through the ship unnoticed. It helped the raiders were too drunk on their victory to care much about security. Some were actually getting drunk and causing a ruckus in the halls.

“Ha! Ha!” Free Bird said. “I see we are close to the entrance. Just stay quiet a moment longer. Ah shoot, two guards are there. Getting rid of them won't be too difficult, but it will make some noise. If you get one, I can get the other without a problem."

“O-okay, we need a d-distraction.” Scavenger whispered. “T-there are t-two guards and w-we need to d-draw at least one of the guards away.”

“Risky.” Starlight replied. “Only one of them needs to call the alarm, they will swarm us in seconds.”

“L-leave it to me.” Scavenger said with as much gusto as he could manage.

Starlight stared blankly at him before shrugging. “Okay. I will cause a distraction, somehow. Use this. It’s the only weapon I have. I left my gun in the room. I wasn’t expecting a raider attack.” He hooved over a small pocket knife.

Things just get better and better. How did I get into this? The knife appeared to be sharp and well maintained at least. He guessed it would do the job.

“H-how do you want to do this e-exactly?” Scavenger asked when Starlight snuck away to cause his distraction.

“No clue.” Free Bird replied.

“But!”

“I’m new to this alright.” Free Bird said. “Give me a break.”

Scavenger slumped down to the ground. “T-this is never g-going to work.”

Free Bird did something Scavenger hadn’t expected. It gave him a hug. It was solid and firm, but gentle and comforting as well.

“Hey, we will get out of this.” Free Bird said. “Believe that. For Break’s sake at least.”

Scavenger took a deep breath to calm himself. “Okay.”

Free Bird broke out into a toothy grin. “Let’s do this, partner!”

“Yes, l-let’s do this, partner.”

Scavenger snuck towards the end of the hall keeping to the floor. When he peeked over the edge of the hall, he saw the two guards Free Bird told him about. Like the other raiders, these two were more interesting in messing around than actually doing any work. They passed a bottle of a rum between the two of them laughing as one of them told terrible jokes. The front door was wide open and Scavenger almost cried out in alarm. Starlight hadn’t been exaggerating. An almost endless number of raiders milled about in town. Tents were set up around the outside of town no doubt to house this raider army. Some of them were tearing apart buildings looking for anything valuable. Others were partying or playing games. Zinnia was truly under their control.

How are we to get past that? Scavenger fought back a wave of panic. No, one thing at a time. First, we need to get outside.

“Let’s do this.” Free Bird smacked his claws together. “I’ll take the one the one the right, you left.”

Scavenger nodded. It was good of a plan as any. The distraction they need came soon enough and a clattering echoed down one of the hallways.

“What was that?” Guard 1 said.

“I don’t care.” Guard 2 replied and chugged the bottle of booze. “Let somepony else deal with it.”

“Hey! Share!” Guard 1 tried to steal the bottle before it was all gone, but his companion stayed out of reach.

“What? And share the rest of this good stuff, naw.”

“Why you!” The two wrestled each other and Scavenger was at a loss for words of a moment.

“Well, they are distracted.” Free Bird shrugged.

Scavenger crept towards them a knife in hoof and hid behind an overturned box. It wasn't large and barely hid somepony of even his size, but the two were too caught up in their fight to notice. Before he lost his nerve, Scavenger grabbed the knife in his aura and stabbed the first guard in the throat.

"What the…" Free Bird was on the other with astonishing speed and its claws took his head off with one clean swipe. It rolled away into a corner.

“Nice going partner!” Free Bird threw an arm over Scavenger’s shoulder.

Scavenger nodded and let go of a breath he hasn’t notice that he’d been holding. Starlight appeared with Break on his back relieved.

Starlight stared at the headless raider baffled, but shook it off it not being important at the moment. “Now all we need to do is get through that endless hoard and we are home free.”

“Y-yeah, only t-that.”

“But I do have an idea.” Starlight grinned. “It’s a gamble, but it should get through.”

---

Scavenger held himself up high with an aura of confidence. A confidence he didn’t feel, but he couldn’t show fear. That would get him killed. Free Bird hovered above him keeping watch for any trouble. They walked among the raiders trying to not draw any attention to them.

He had been skeptical when Starlight suggested they take the guards’ clothes and use them to get through Zinnia to safety. Surely somepony would realize they didn’t belong and Break on Starlight’s back would send red flags toward anypony watching them. So far nopony even glanced at them. There wasn't enough for the three of them, so they had to divide the two guards' clothes amongst them. Scavenger and Starlight wore the leather armor while Break had a bandana and an armband. With a little messing of her hair, and she passed well enough as a raider. It wasn’t like all of them wore armor. They still looked too clean for a raider, but no pony seemed to notice them at all.

Their cover story was that Break couldn’t hold her liquor, and they were looking for a tent or building with a bed so she could sleep it off. This proved unnecessary for the raiders were too busy partying to care about anything at the moment and they slipped through the giant crowds of the vagabonds without much difficulty. Once or twice a raider called out to them, but the drunk excuse worked like a charm every time. Scavenger didn’t allow for this amazing change in fortune to cause him to become sloppy and kept on high alert.

“No!” Starlight cried out causing Scavenger to jump.

“W-what is it?” Scavenger asked and saw what his friend was talking about.

A forest green earth pony mare with a brown mane screamed in pain as she was dragged behind a motorcycle by a chain by the hair while raiders laughed and cheered on the show. The mare was bloody and clearly in great pain and cried out when her head slammed against a large rock.

“We have to do something!” Starlight gritted his teeth.

“W-what can we do?” Scavenger wanted to help, but their options were nonexistent.

This wasn’t the only act of cruelty in the camp. They were obvious once you looked for them. He saw a stallion being crucified upside down in the distance and another pony was being beaten to death with a hammer just for fun with raiders each taking a turn with the instrument of death. Scavenger tried to drown out the screams, pain, and blood. It was too much. How could anypony change this? He felt so ashamed. Break would find a way and stop it. He wanted to focus on survival, but the argument sounded hollow in his head.

“I can slit that creeps throat in an instant.” Free Bird showed teeth. “You want to do something right?”

“We can’t!” Scavenger winced when another hit the rock hit the poor mare in the head knocking her out. “They would just kill her, anyway. They’re too many!”

Free Bird snorted. “So what? They can’t see me. Let’s cause some chaos!”

Scavenger wanted to argue, but a strong part of him agreed and wanted to do something anything to these monsters. He wanted them all to burn for what they did to Zinnia and with this power of his, he could do just that. He paused to think this through. True there were a lot of raiders around them, but they were unorganized, selfish, and chaotic not to mention many were drunk. He might be able to use that against them.

“Free Bird.” An amusing idea hit Scavenger and his mouth extended into a grin. “I-I think I m-might have an idea.”

---

“What?” The raider looked down at his victim as he slowed his motorcycle down. “Is she dead already?”

Another raider laughed. “Nah, just out cold.”

The motorcycle raider got off his bike and kicked the unconscious mare. “That’s no fun. Oh well, put her into a cage. If she wakes up, we can have more fun with her. No sport when they’re unconscious.” He kicked the mare again in the hope it would wake her up. It didn’t, and he turned away disappointed.

A drunk raider stumbled up to the unconscious mare to haul her to a cell, only to slip right into the motorcycle riding raider knocking him over so hard he gashed his head on his motorcycle.

The motorcycle raider held his head and winced when he touched the bloody spot. He turned on the one that hit him. “What do you think you are doing?!” He pushed the offender.

“Nutting.” The drunk raider replied. “I barely touched ya.”

“Really?” The other raider pointed to the blood on his head.

The drunk opened his mouth to reply, only to discover his hoof connecting with the other raiders face.

“Why you!”

The drunk raider waved his hooves helplessly. “I didn’t…” The other raider jumped him and put his hooves over other’s throat to choke him and strangled the life out of him. The raiders around them broke into cheers enjoying the show. The motorcycle raider drew his gun and pointed at his victim’s head. Nopony noticed Scavenger pulling the injured mare to safety behind some crates.

“Give me one good reason by I shouldn’t blow your brains out.” The first raider said.

“Please, I didn’t!” Tears of fear poured from the raider’s face. “Please don’t kill me!”

“Wrong answer.” A cruel smile formed on the first raider’s face.

The other raider pleaded for his life. “No please!”

The first raider ignored the plea and the gun when off, but everyone stared in surprise as the shot hit not the raider on the ground, but one in the crowd.

“You shot me!” The raider held his bleeding torso and pulled out his own gun.

“What, I didn’t.” The first raider stared at his weapon like it was an alien creature confused and scared. He shook it off and ran behind a nearby barrel barely dodging the returning gunfire.

Chaos broke out as a huge gunfight broke out with nopony knowing who was really shooting at who and shots missed their targets only to hit other raiders not involved with the fight and the chaos and fighting spread.

It didn’t take much to get these guys to fight each other. Scavenger thought amazed. He examined the injured mare. Despite having a small concussion, bruises, and some torn flesh, she would be alright, and he gave her a spare healing potion pouring it into her mouth. She sputtered and groaned.

He hushed her. “I-it will be alright. Y-you’re safe.”

“W-who are you?” The mare asked terrified. His garb frightened her thinking he was another raider.

“Scavenger. I-I’m not a raider. I-I’m trying to g-get out of here and t-this was the best way h-how.” He gestured to his outfit.

The mare relaxed when he said this. “Lucky Lily. Thank you for saving me.” She winced at the sound of gunfire. “What’s happening?”

A small smile formed on Scavenger’s mouth. “T-they’re having a little fight.”

“I don’t know how you did it.” Starlight said when he crawled towards them. “But half of the army is fighting each other now. We couldn’t ask for a better distraction.”

They stayed low to not only avoid detection but evade any stray shots. Bullets flew in every direction and the whole camp was complete madness. It didn't take much to encourage these creatures to fight and turn on each other. They did their best to help ponies escape their captivity and Free Bird’s claws made quick work of any lock. Scavenger hoped they could find safety and everypony agreed to leave in separate groups to not draw attention. They were almost to the outskirts of the camp when a loud booming voice froze everypony in their tracks.

“What do you think you are doing?” A large hulking pony stood on top of Zinna’s famed ship’s deck. Scavenger gapped at the size of him. How could anypony be that big? He almost towered over entire buildings.

Nopony did anything terrified out of their minds. Scavenger guessed this was the infamous Lion Heart. He was just as bad as the stories said.

“Killing you!” A mare yelled. One of the townsfolk by the look of her and jumped up behind him wielding a weapon almost twice her size.

She fired a minigun close range and Scavenger gapped when a red figure appeared in front of Lion Heart protecting him from the barrage of bullets. The thing was huge like this master with bulging muscles covered in armor like a hoofball player and a helmeted head with a crown of spikes.

Dear Celestia, this guy is a power user just like me and Break. Nopony else saw the thing and instead stared at their leader like he just performed an astonishing magic trick. Can only power users see these ghost things?

"That appears to be the case." Free Bird whispered and hid behind a building not wanting to risk being seen by the Raider leader.

“Foalish.” Lion Heart used his ghost to grab the poor mare that tried to attack him by the head and her weapon fell to the ground with a clang that echoed through the entire camp.

The mare struggled in vain against the invisible force holding her and screamed when her eyes exploded. Scavenger looked away and pushed Lucky and Starlight forward. He didn’t want to see any more of this and tried to drown out the poor mares anguished screams.

“What can we do against something like that?” Starlight said as they caught their breath after running at least three miles after that horror show. He laid Break down against a rock to rest his aching back.

“He isn’t a pony!” Lucky wailed in despair.

“No, he’s a pony.” Free Bird said even though nopony despite being inaudible to everypony else. “Just a big, ugly, and powerful one. We could take him.”

“H-he has a power just like Break.” Scavenger deciding it would be best for him to tell the truth to his new friends. They needed to know. “And me as well.”

Chapter 31

View Online

“Ugh, what the?” Break awoke her head throbbing.

“She’s finally awake!” A strange deep voice said and Break screamed wide awake when it revealed itself and backed away. Some reptilian creature hovered about Scavenger and it smiled at her showing sharp teeth.

“What is that thing?” She summoned Good Times Bad Times ready for an attack.

"H-hold up!" Scavenger said and he moved in front of the monster much to Break's terror. Her ghost moved ready to push her friend to safety, but he held up a hoof. "H-he's a well, friend, really!"

Break blinked. “What?”

“S-so you can s-see him just as I t-thought.” Scavenger nodded to himself. “T-this is Free Bird, h-h-he’s my power.”

“Hello! Sorry to scare you.” Free Bird gave her a smile that made Break feel little comfort.

Why does he have a power? What’s going on? She noticed two other ponies were with him, Starlight and a mare she didn't recognize. In fact, Break had no clue where she even was. It appeared she was in an old abandoned shack. Everything hit her all at once.

“We don’t have time for this!” Break stood up and ignored the pain that hit her. “We have to save Zinnia!” Everypony looked down and Break realized something went horribly wrong.

“What happened?” Break said after a moment. “All of it.”

My blood did all this? The fact it gave ponies powers more than a little scared her. A power that nopony could see or defend against. She worried what somepony might do with this power. Lion Heart was a perfect example of this. This would be something she’d make a deeply kept secret and thankfully Scavenger agreed with her. Besides, she didn’t know if everypony would react the same way to her blood and it might just kill them.

Break stared at Scavenger's ghost in wonder. It thought and acted like a real person which more than a little confused her. Was everypony's power different in some way?

“A-and yours can’t talk at all?” Scavenger asked when Break summoned Good Times Bad Times and he examined like he would an interesting piece of scrap he wanted to salvage looking over every detail with a sharp eye.

“No, it’s more like a limb than anything else.” Break replied. Not once had it even shown a hint of intelligence and this suited Break just fine. She didn’t want a power that talked at all.

“From the dead eye expression, I would say you must be right.” Free Bird waved its claws over Break’s ghost’s face.

"It is like you guys are superheroes or something!" Starlight's eyes gleamed. "With you two and your powers, those raiders won’t have a chance!"

“Maybe.” Break admitted. “But I’m still hurt and I would rather like to have Robin and his gang on our side too.”

Starlight made a face. “Right, sure. I suppose we need them.”

“Even with them, can we even stop them?” Lucky said. “We will need one hay of a plan.”

Break made a small smile. “Robin is good at this sort of thing. He has a lot of experience with raiders.” It was one reason he was so famous in the wasteland. The stallion had a bit thing with killing them.

“So, now we have a plan.” Starlight said and something about his tone Break didn’t like. “If your blood gives superpowers…” Break didn’t let him finish.

“No.” Break replied.

“Come on, think about it.” Starlight said. “Think of how much I could help if I had powers just like you. Those bandits wouldn’t stand a chance!”

“No.” Break didn’t feel comfortable being thought of as a power factory. “It might be dangerous. There’s no guarantee it won’t kill you.”

“Look at Scavenger, he’s fine!” Starlight retorted.

“Think how much better it would be for everypony if they had powers just like yours!” Lucky said. Break didn’t like the look in her eye one bit.

“I-I don’t think this is such a g-great idea.” Scavenger fidgeted. “I-It almost killed me. I can still feel the fire it ran through my body.”

“Yep, unleashing me was not such a safe idea.” Free Bird crossed its arms. “It almost made his blood boil. No joke.”

“If that’s true, we shouldn’t just give it out to ponies.” Break blanched at the thought of what might happen if somepony wasn’t as lucky as Scavenger. She wanted to at least learn the nature of these powers first. Haste seemed reckless and foalhardy to her.

“You worry too much.” Starlight waved a dismissive hoof. “Give it to me and I’ll show you.”

“No, me first.” Lucky pushed Starlight to the side. “I have a score to settle with that raider scum.”

“Nopony is getting powers and that is final.” Break glared at the two and they melted under her fiery gaze.

“Nice going Break!” Free Bird said clapping its claws. “You sure put those two foals in their place.”

“I only wanted to be a hero like you.” Starlight muttered so low Break it was almost inaudible.

Break rubbed the back of her neck. “Well, I’m just trying to look out of you. Being a hero isn’t all it's advertised. Trust me.” Dear Celestia. Why anypony would want a “hero’s” life was beyond her.

“Okay.” Starlight wasn’t convinced but he didn’t argue the issue. Lucky glared at her with unbridled hatred.

“F-focus everypony.” Scavenger said. “W-we need to get to Lily and warn them!”

“Right, if they attacked Zinnia, Lilly will be next especially after a large chunk of their forces died there in a humiliating fashion.” Break remember the battle all too well.

“Can you walk?” Starlight asked. “Do you need me to carry you still?”

“No, I’m good.” Break replied. Her body was stiff and moving hurt, but she didn’t want to burden Starlight with carrying her.

"If I recall, Lily should only be about an hour's walk from here," Lucky said.

"I can handle that." Break replied and lumbered behind her friends as they traveled and used her gravity powers to lighten her body and it made moving around so much easier.

---

The entire town of Lily was in quite the commotion when they arrived. Ponies were creating makeshift barriers or setting up mechanical torrents with nasty machine guns attached to them. It provided little comfort against forces after them and the townsfolk knew it.

“Looks like they already know about the attack on Zinnia.” Starlight said.

“Yes, I suppose it would be hard to miss that commotion.” Break replied.

“H-How did they learn about it so fast?” Scavenger eyes brightened when the stallion noticed a familiar face. “Loopy! Y-You’re alive!”

“Scavenger!” Loopy stared at them with surprise and delight. “It’s amazing you survived without wings, but here you are. You were deep in Zinnia when I last left you. You need to tell me how you got out of there.”

“A-another time.” Scavenger replied. “H-How’s the defenses going? Is there time for an evacuation?”

Loopy sighed and his ears drooped. “Not great. Nopony is all that hopeful. A large force is already on the way to wipe the village out. They aren’t exactly wasting their time.”

Ponyfeathers. Break wondered why they would move out so fast after a big march and battle, but then she remembered how Lion Heart treated his ponies. He probably didn’t care if they dropped dead from exhaustion, the job got done regardless of the cost.

“Do you have an estimated time of when they will get here?” Break asked. “Are we better holding up here or running to safety?”

"Hold up here most likely," Loopy replied, "there's only open ground from here to the next village. I don't think running would do much good and they would probably end up running us down. The attackers are coming at us with motorcycles. I say we have about half an hour before they get here."

Break gritted her teeth. Did anypony have a chance at this point? Her injuries would make this battle tough and Scavenger just got his ghost. No matter, they had to survive this. Somehow.

“I have an idea of what might save us.” Lucky whispered to her. “Come on. If we all had powers like you, the raiders won’t stand a chance!”

“But.” Break hesitated. She saw the logic, but her gut told her it wasn’t a good idea.

“Please.” Starlight grabbed her by the hoof. “It doesn’t have to be everypony. Just the two of us. I can understand your hesitation.”

Break mulled it over in her head but stumbled before gave a definitive answer. "Well…"

“Stop worrying so much!” Lucky sighed and before Break could do anything else the mare pushed her into a nearby building.

“We will see if we can find some more healing potions for Break.” Starlight said to Scavenger too distracted with talking over tactics with Loopy to notice.

"F-fine." Scavenger replied. "J-just don't overwork her. H-hey Loopy, I-I have an idea of how we might make makeshift firebombs. I-I completely forgot about the igniters I bought a while ago."

Loopy’s face brightened. “Did you now? We might be able to use that. I know just where we can dig up some fuel for us to use.”

"Alright, this should work," Lucky said pulling out a syringe from the local's doctor's medical cabinet who thankfully out at the time helping with the defenses with everypony else.

Break tensed as the needle approached her. She’d never liked needles and it only confirmed what a bad idea this was. “Look, like I said I’m not on board with this idea and…”

"Trust me!" Lucky laughed. "With this, I will have the power to crush those raiders with my bare hooves! How lucky can one pony get?!"

“Um…” Before Break could say anything more, Lucky stabbed her with the syringe and pulled out a generous portion of blood.

Lucky laughed again and stabbed herself with the syringe and injected herself with it. "This power! It's unimaginable! It burns like Celestia's sun!"

Break's eyes widened when Lucky burst into flames and recoiled from the heat. Everything flammable around her set on fire and Break rushed to a nearby fire extinguisher and sprayed at Lucky but the flames didn't quench and expanded even farther.

"What's going on?" Lucky said in a terrified panic. "The pain. The fire. It won't stop. Somepony help me!"

“Do something Break!” Starlight said.

“I..”

Lucky screamed and her body exploded only leaving a pile of ash. Starlight and Break started in horrified silence.

“That foal, I told her it was dangerous.” Break’s sounded hollow to her own ears.

“Dear Celestia, this was my fault. I shouldn’t have insisted on…” Starlight put his head in his hooves.

So this power isn't something anypony can use. Break didn’t know this Lucky mare, but her death would haunt her for the rest of her days. Why didn’t she listen, the foal! I will never let anypony use my blood again!

This vow was the only thing she could do. These ghost powers were too powerful to use recklessly and nopony had a clue how any of it worked.

“Lucky.” Starlight sniffed tears in his eyes on the verge of total collapse.

Come on Break stand tall. You need to be strong for Starlight’s sake. She put a hoof on his shoulder and it seemed to help calm him down.

“What the hay happened in here?” A pony with a lab coat said as he entered the room and found the entire clinic covered with smoke, ashes, and fire extinguisher foam.

“Um, well, er, you see.” Break stammered. “Would you believe a patient just spontaneously combusted?”

"What, ponies don't just." The doctor grabbed the two of them and threw them out by the collars. "Get out. I don't have time for this." He mumbled to himself about the possibility of moving the useable equipment to somewhere else.

“Break I didn’t, I was stupid.” Starlight slumped against a wall. “I should have listened to you.”

Break sighed. Not as stupid as me. Another thing you royally screwed up. Good job. What a nightmare. Nopony deserved that fate.

"If it's okay with you, I don't want to use your blood after all." Starlight said after long consideration.

“Might be for the best.” Break replied. Still, why did I and Scavenger survive and Lucky didn’t? There’s nothing special about us.

Break looked at her ghost for a long time. Nothing about this power business made any sense to her. The pure insanity of her world didn’t truly hit her until this moment. Were ponies even meant to have powers such as these? What a terrible burden it felt to her at this moment.

Break used her powers to fly high into the air. Higher than she ever had before. So far up that it became hard to breathe and the cold bit at her coat, but she welcomed it. It gave her a freedom she’d never had before. She'd never been above the cloud cover before. It was beautiful, pure a vast blueness that extended as far as the eye could see. Was this what the world was like unblemished? If she waited long enough, she'd see the stars. The stars. Something she'd only heard about in legends, books, and pictures. She wanted to stay up here forever and be free of the fighting, violence, and selfishness of the world below. It was selfish, she knew, but after everything she'd been through, would anypony blame her?

She knew that soon she’d have to return to the world below and the incoming battle, but just for these few minutes, she wanted to be at least a little selfish. Enjoy herself like she never had before.

“What the hey?!” A pony shouted in alarm.

Break turned to find a pegasus staring at her jaw agape.

Oh, for crying out loud. Whatever, I won’t let him ruin my moment of peace. “Hi, you don’t mind I hang out here a bit, do you? It’s lovely up here. Don’t mind me and go on your way.”

“You’re a mud pony!” The pegasus didn’t hear a word she said. “You can’t fly!”

Break’s eye twitched at the racial slur, but she forced a smile. “Don’t worry. I’m not here to hurt anypony, just enjoying the view.”

“What kind of freak are you?!” The pegasus pointed a hoof at her.

“Clear Skies, what are you going?” Another pegasus said. “You have to get those packages to…” She stared at Break mouth agape.

“Uh, I should get going!” Break said before this got more out of hoof. Who knew how the pegasi up above might react to her? She dropped like a rock to the cloud cover below. She hoped nopony would believe a crazy story from two random pegasi.

Still, the moment up above cleared her head and she knew what to do. It helped her see the bigger picture. She was ready to protect this wonderful beautiful world. Seeing the world without its ugliness reminded her how much this world still had much to protect and it worth fight for. Something like that.

This bandit scourge needed stopping, or all the beauty left in the world would disappear for good. She would stop Lion Heart regardless of the type of power he possessed. She'd stop him for Lucky's sake. Break would make sure that she didn't die in vain.

---

“Yeah, I mean who would have ever thought the bandit problem would ever get this bad? My reports are telling me that Zinnia, Zinnia of all places has fallen, don't cha know! Accounts are contradictory, but I’ve heard that army was a thousand strong!” The Princess of the Wasteland said over the radio.

"Golly gee everypony, I urge you to stay safe and well protected during this trying time and try not to panic. I will report more about this bandit crisis as new information comes in. If anypony had more info, please report it to me as soon as possible. To cheer everypony up, next will be Sweetie Belle again singing "I Promise You" a good old favorite of mine. This is the Princess of the Wasteland signing off. Stay safe and stay smart."

“I see.” Robin crossed his hooves as Sweetie Belle old love song played over the radio and his whole crew was silent for a long time.

Everything he'd feared had come true. Primrose and everything he'd ever held dear were now in deep trouble. It boggled the mind that any raider could amass such a force. The entire wasteland was in deep trouble. To think Zinnia of all places would fall. At least this report would soon be at the boss's ear and they might come up with a way to fix this mess. Robin regretted letting Spitzer go. They needed him right now. His power would be useful.

"Plan, sir?" Ray asked as dutiful as ever.

Robin let out a breath. “I’m not sure. There isn’t much we can do by ourselves. The best we can do is run back to Primrose and come up with a plan there.”

Nightingale punched a nearby box. “Wonderful, Spring Rain isn’t going to be happy about us coming back without her brat.”

Robin winced. That damnable mare would make a huge fuss if they didn’t bring her son back, huge unbeatable raider army or not. There was something seriously wrong with that mare. Worse, he was certain that Starlight was in the thick of it. He just hoped that Break had found him already. Knowing her though, she probably trying to fight the entire raider army by herself right now. If they were lucky, she’ll be able to hold it off until the Cosas could act. If they were lucky, the Cosas’s forces were already mobilizing and preparing for battle.

"Let's go," Robin said, "if we hurry, we should be back home in a day."

“Still, if this army really is a thousand strong, how are we going to deal with that?” Nightingale rubbed at his face. “We don’t have the pony power needed to deal with those kinds of numbers!”

That was a good question that he'd been trying to ignore. He didn't see an easy what out of this situation. The Cosas had, what, 300 ponies or so and most of them scattered across the wasteland. From the reports, he knew that these raiders didn't care about their lives throwing themselves at any defense with abandon. That made them the most dangerous type of foe. Their leader must be some type of pony to drive his forces to that length. Ponies said that Lion Heart was a truly terrifying being that was invincible.

Robin slapped his head at a plan that should have been obvious from the start. “Change of plan, I have an idea. We are going to Zinnia.”

Ray eyed him with curiosity and this statement floored Nightingale.

“Sir?” Nightingale asked.

"We're assassinating the raider leader, Lion Heart," Robin replied, "without him, I bet his entire army will crumble."

Chapter 32

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“I guess that might work.” Break said. She hoofed the makeshift bomb with nervous anticipation. Much to her amazement, Scavenger had made one a little under an hour and working on the second. The raider army was almost at their doorstep. According to Loopy’s intel, there were fifty of them. The raiders all didn't have their own motorcycle. Two even four raiders rode on a single bike. In total, only eleven bikes were on their way. This might work to their advantage.

“If you could cause a catastrophic crash, that might reduce their numbers or at least injure them enough for us to win," Loopy said pointing at a map on the table, "they aren't being stupid and aren't driving all in one pact, but with your powers this might be doable."

Loopy had been surprisingly accepting of her strange powers when she explained them to him. Instead of fearing them, he wanted to use them to their advantage. Calling Card and his wife organized the townsponies in the best positions of cover.

"Of course, they might expect something like this," Loopy said, "pegasi are rare, but not unheard of. Griffons too. So, they will watch the air ready to shoot at anything that even looks like a bird, but I think your talents might give them a shock.”

“This might work.” Break was still far too injured to be much use in a fight, but proving aerial support might just be doable. The raiders would regret their haste and eagerness for bloodshed.

“Good luck Break.” Starlight stoked his rifle nervously, and Lucky’s death still rattled him.

“You too.” Break put a comforting hoof on his shoulder. “Good shooting.”

Scavenger gave her a nod filled with a determination she rarely saw in the stallion. Free Bird floated above him eager for battle. This whole battle might hinge on these two.

Break used her powers to float in the air high enough that she doubted the raiders would notice her or at least not easily. She watched them approach gauging them with a keen eye. The first thing she noticed was how haggard they all looked despite their outward overconfidence. Some of them looked like they hadn't slept for days and only caffeine keeping them going. Many of the raiders had injuries mostly bruises caused by brawling, but two of them appeared to be recovering from gunshot wounds. No doubt much of this damage came from the riot Scavenger created a few hours earlier. It struck Break that these ponies weren’t in any shape to get into a fight and needed rest. Did Lion Heart not care at all about his ponies? Break guessed not. If the citizens of Lily died, he didn’t care how many of his forces he had to sacrifice. Hope bloomed in Break’s heart. This might be doable after all.

Break spent the next few minutes determining the best way to launch her surprise attack. The motorcycles were far apart, but she calculated how she might cause a catastrophic crash if she hit them just right with her bomb. That would be sure to soften them up. These raiders were about to find out that the simple ponies of Lily weren't such easy prey.

Break waited for the best moment to drop her bomb and with a calculated throw, dropped it on the monsters. The raider driving the overpacked bike screamed as he tried to get out of the way throwing off one of his friends. The sudden turn unexpected turn made him accidentally crash into the bike next to him and Break winced as the bike behind them tried to avoid the bike in front of him and crashed into them both. The next two bikes avoided the collision and stopped to see if everything was okay. The crash was a messy sight, but the raiders were fine for the most part their wounds not as bad as they looked. The other raiders stopped to check what was going on too.

“What happened?” A raider yelled from his bike. He was some distance away and squinted to see the situation. He rode in closer to get a better look.

“I’m not sure.” A raider at the crash said. “Flesh Ripper lost control of his…” She didn’t get to finish as the bomb ignited taking the entire crash site with an eruption of fire. The raiders didn’t even have time to scream as they died. It took out three bikes and thirteen raiders.

“What the hay?” A raider said in horrified shock.

"Ride you, idiot! Ride." Another raider said urgency in his voice. “Watch out for hidden bombs. That must be what got’em.”

Each rider got back onto their bike weary and keeping an eye out for danger and exhaustion burned away from the terror of the moment and drove at a slower, more cautious, speed. One tried for a howl of excitement to scare their prey, but the explosion and crash dampened their mood and the raider shrunk when no one else joined in.

Well, there goes my payload. I made a dent in them. I hope it is enough. Maybe there is some other way I could help. What she wasn’t sure, but determined to come up with something. The raiders were on their guard now looking to the skies for any dangers. Break flew up higher to not risk discovery. Despite her reservations, she flew back to town to regroup with the others. Haste and recklessness wouldn’t help her now.

“Nice going.” Loopy gave her a wave as she touched down in front of him. “That should even the odds a little.”

Everypony in the town gave her a grim nod surprised by her powers, but not caring about them right now. She didn't see Scavenger and guessed he was still working on the other bomb. The townsfolk gripped their weapons grim but determined. They would not back down without a fight. Break eyed the raiders over the way and calculated they only had moments until the raiders arrived.

“Get ready, everypony!” Calling Card said. “Shoot on my mark.”

The raiders stopped a small distance away from the down and ponies got off the bike leaving only a single rider on each of them. Break despaired when she saw two of them caring flamethrowers. That would make this more difficult. She couldn’t punch away fire. The others had your typical raider weapons and luckily didn’t have any else fancier.

“I would ask you to surrender, but that’s a waste of time.” The leader said. “Enjoy the last, oh, ten minutes of your lives. You got lucky the last few times, but…” He didn’t get to finish as Break picked up a rock with a hoof and hurled at the pony using her ghost over the town’s protective wall. It flew true and impacted on the raider’s forehead. She didn’t know if he was dead, but he wasn’t getting up any time soon.

The shock of the attack on their leader only lasted a moment and the entire group charged at the town howling in one deafening roar.

"Fire!" Calling Card yelled back, and the townsfolk unleashed their rifles, but it did little to thin the enemy ranks. They only had five ponies with rifles and the townsponies hide their heads as the raiders returned fire triple the amount. The torrents outside the wall did some damage injuring a few of the enemy, but the raiders with the flamethrower made quick work of them and spread fire everywhere leaving a scorch mark on the wall. They threw a barrage of Molotov cocktails with skill and accuracy over the protective wall.

Filled with terror and panic, Break ran towards them and caught one in mid-air with Good Times Bad Times and returned it back over the wall. It was like a juggling act as she raced to catch them all before they hit the ground throwing them back without a care where it landed. One she accidentally threw back up into the air and she caught again before it hit Calling Card in the head. From the screams of pain outside, the raiders didn't expect somepony to use their own weapons against them. One screamed rolling on the ground trying to stop her clothes from being on fire. The townsfolk gave her grateful looks.

The victory was short lived however and raiders rammed themselves against front gate made from a door of a sky truck that they’d blocked with junk for the gate. Every earth pony in the raider’s gang joined in and some of the stallions were the biggest she’d ever seen. Townsfolk tried to stop this and a few push the door and junk back, there were too many of them and they fired ten shots at anypony that showed their head. It would only be moments until they were through for the front gate wasn’t that well made its hinges already bending and twisting. It would be a slaughter.

She looked around for anything that might block the raider’s entry and found nothing. Instead, she limped over to the door and her ghost pushed back with everything she had. The raiders let out of started surprise as they failed to get through. What seemed like an easy to break through was now unmovable. They pushed back even harder, but Break and her power were like solid stone and didn’t budge. Sweat fell from her face from the effort and she wasn’t sure she’d be able to hold this up forever, but she fought on anyway. The raiders gave in first.

“The damn thing won’t budge.” A raider said. “Craziest thing. What could hold us back? Solid steel?”

“Whatever.” Another raider scoffed. “We’ll just climb over these pitiful excuses for a wall.”

“Uh, won’t that make us vulnerable to their fire?” The first raider replied with trepidation.

“Shut up and do it.” The second raider snapped. “They can’t get us all!”

“Right, throw away our lives.” A raider said with sarcasm. “There’s plenty of us to go around.”

"That's right and don't you forget it." The commanding raider replied. "To Lion Heart, we're all instruments of destruction."

"Alright then, you go first." A raider said in a challenging tone. "It's for the glorious cause after all."

The commanding raider groaned and held his left leg. “Ugh, I can’t injuries from the fight in Zinnia. Somepony else will have to go first.”

“I bet.”

“Really, I can’t.” The commanding raider said a touch too defensively. “Also, I can’t believe you guys. This for the glorious raider cause! Soon, we’ll be running the wastelands and nopony will stop us!”

"But with you alive, while the rest of us get a bullet in the head?"

“I’m injured!”

The group of raiders broke out into bickering and Break watched in amazement as the raiders' army fell apart at the seams. Lion Heart had pushed them too far and morale was almost nonexistent. The raiders were tired, miserable, and hadn’t much to eat from their skeletal frames. This might be their chance.

“D-done!” Scavenger said and beamed as Break. He showed her the bomb he’d made in such short notice. “T-this w-will be the l-last one t-though. N-Not enough t-time.”

“Still, we do good work together.” Free Bird beamed. “And just in time. The raiders still haven’t broken through the barrier yet.” It flexed its claws ready for a fight.

“I don’t think that will be necessary.” Break whispered and Scavenger and his ghost blinked.

“W-what do you m-mean?” Scavenger asked.

“I think we can drive them away without a single more shot.” Break replied. “But I will need your help.”

As Break peaked over the wall, the raiders were still bickering almost the point of violence. They shot suppressing fire to stop the villagers taking advantage of this, but morale was dropping even lower if that was somehow possible. It couldn’t be any clearer that the raiders didn’t want to be here.

“Hey!” Break shouted interrupting their fight. The raider looked up at where the voice was coming from.

“Leave now, and we will let you live.” Break said in her most commanding voice.

“Really?” The commanding raider said with mocking laughter. “We outnumber you three to one. It’s only a matter of time until we slaughter you all!”

A smile came to Break’s lips. “Is that so? Two other raider parties attacked this town, and they all died not killing a single one of us. In fact, in this entire attack, you also have killed nopony. But you have faced heavy casualties. You’ve lost what a third of your force already?”

“Well, yes.” The raider said in a tight voice. “But your luck can’t last forever.”

Break laughed. “We have magic you can’t even dream of! Why else do you think every other attack failed?”

“Really.” The raider snorted. “You expect me to believe that?”

“Alright, you’re dead then.” Break motioned to Scavenger crept closer to the wall and Free Bird dropped closer to the wall unseen. His ghost couldn’t travel very far from his body and his ghost faded as it approached its target. It was nothing was a blur by the time it reached the raider, but Free Bird was quick and it vanished as it slit the commanding raider’s throat. He fell down dead much to the shock of his comrades and they paled in terror.

“Oh, and we have this too!” Break waved the bomb Scavenger made over the wall. Thankfully, the raiders didn’t fire at it too stunned by the death of their friend to fire at it. She'd only shown it for a split second, but its presence had a visual effect. The fight drained out of the raiders and they panicked.

“Screw this!” The raiders ran for their bikes stumbling over them. Many of them rode off before their comrades could climb on leaving their fellows behind running after them. One raider shot another rider in the back of the head and stole his bike desperate to escape.

"I can't believe that worked," Loopy said as he approached.

"It was a gamble." Break replied. "But they didn't have much fight left in them, to begin with."

“You did it!” Starlight ran up to her and hugged her. “You’re the miracle worker I always thought you were!” Break blushed at the compliment.

Lion Heart pushes his forces too far. They have no discipline. If Lion Heart died, I doubt anypony would be strong or charismatic enough to keep the raiders together.

Break sat down on a nearby box and rested her weary body. They didn’t have long until Lion Heart retaliated once again probably coming himself to make sure the proper job was done. They had maybe a day until that happened. The deserters won’t go back to their boss after such a spectacular failure so it would take a little time until news got to him. She wanted to use the time to rest and plan. She needed a good night’s sleep. Scavenger conversed with her a little and swore to work on the last bomb while she rested. Did the stallion not sleep?

Calling Card gave her the room that she slept in when Break first arrived in town. It almost felt like a second home to her. If only she could stay for real and have a place of her own again. No, she couldn’t stay. So much needed to be done and she attracted trouble. Stop Lion Heart, beat back his raider horde, then she could go back to her true mission, find her cousin Green Mile. It felt like two eternities since they last spoke. What was she doing now? Was she okay? Though her thoughts troubled and worried, she fell asleep as soon as her eyes closed.

"B-Break." She pushed herself awake, and she groaned. She'd only closed her eyes for a moment. What time was it? She looked up to Scavenger looking down at her his eyes worried.

“What is it?” Break was wide awake in alarm. Did something happen? Were the raiders attacking again? Was Lion Heart at their doorstep?

“Hello Break.” Robin, commander of the Cosas, said. “We need to talk.”

---

“Well, is he ready to see me yet?” Train Spotter said to the raider at the gate. “I have better things to do than wait here.”

“The Boss’ll see you when he’s ready!” The raider sneered.

The other raiders guarded the entrance of the newly created a wall around Zinnia had murder in their eyes ready to do horrible things to him as raiders like to do. Train Spotter paid them little attention for they were beneath even contempt. The wall was nothing more than wood and whatever else they could find on such short notice shoddily put up around the town. It looked like something they made in about ten minutes and he doubted it would take much to get through it. The raiders and their leader wanted to use Zinnia as a launching point to conquer the wasteland. Talk about such small ambition. Why did their glorious leader want to recruit this guy again? Still, he supposed an army might be useful.

A raider ran up to the gate. “The Boss will see you now.”

“Finally!” Train Spotter walked past the guard ignoring their glares as he pushed past them like they didn’t exist.

They took him all the way into the center of the famous ship that sat in the center of Zinnia. Train Spotter hadn't been inside it before only visiting the outside part of Zinnia briefly, but it was impressive. Lion Heart sat in a makeshift throne in the old town council room. Now it contained trophies of his victories with the major in a cage beaten to so badly that he was almost unrecognizable as a pony yet they kept him alive. A symbol of Lion Heart's strength, perhaps? No, Lion Heart wanted to display to everypony just what would happen somepony crossed him. He didn't have the usual raider trophies of pony body parts all over the place, thank Celestia.

“What do you want?” Lion Heart boomed. “They told me you have a business deal. You have a minute to impress me or else you won’t leave here alive.”

Train Spotter had never seen a pony this massive in his life. He filled almost the entire room and had an impressive amount of muscles. His stand floated above him ready to deal out death to anypony that displeased him.

Train Spotter smiled. The rumors were right! Lion Heart was a stand user, and this trip wasn’t a waste after all.

“I believe we can help each other out.” Train Spotter said a wide smile on his face.

Lion Heart’s stand moved like a serpent and grabbed him by the head fast then a blink. A grunt came from Train Spotter’s lips as the stand’s grip tightened any further and his head would pop like an olive. He felt himself being lifted from the ground.

“Quit wasting my time and get to the point.” Lion Heart said his smile cruel. "You feel a presence around your head; it would only take a little squeeze for your head to turn it to mush. You still haven’t convinced me why I should let you live.”

Train Spotter took a moment to compose his thoughts. This would be more difficult than he first thought. No matter, it would be a trifle to convince this one. Still, did the grip have to be this tight? He could barely think.

“Nice stand you have there.” Train Spotter looked the stand right in the eyes. He winced in pain as the force dropped him to the ground.

“You can see Blitzkrieg Bop?” Lion Heart said in genuine shock.

“Yes, I too am one of the gifted.” Train Spotter dusted himself off. “Only our kind can see stands.”

Hopefully, they would get to the niceties now. It was too bad he couldn’t summon his stand like Lion Heart could to impress him, but Train Spotter would make due.

Lion Heart stroked his chin. “Interesting. Fine, what do you want?” He was more on guard now and kept his stand close out of fear of attack. It was unnecessary paranoia, but he couldn’t begrudge the raider for it.

“My associates and I want to change the world for the good of ponykind.” Train Spotter said. "And the only way to do that is with fire."

Chapter 33

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“Robin.” Break gasped in surprise and eyed the stallion wearily. “What are you doing here?”

“I will not mince words here, I need your help,” Robin replied, “Lion Heart needs stopping. His campaign of terror has gone far enough.”

Break looked behind him and saw the other two Cosas he’d brought with him, minus Splitzer thank Celestia. The big one Ray eyed her with his usual stoic look, but the other one, Nightingale, watched her with open hostility. She reminded herself of the earlier deal with Robin. She’d completed it too with Starlight in town ready for pick up. They should have no reason to bother her but Break thought it would be wise to stay on guard. Who knew if Robin’s ponies would keep to the deal?

“I guess we could do that.” Break said after a moment of thought. She appreciated the help and Robin was good at his job.

“That’s good to hear,” Robin replied and eyed her with a thoughtful look, “I heard you had injuries, but could you move out by tonight? We don't have much time.”

Break stretched her limbs experimentally. They were still stiff but otherwise ready to go. The healing potions had done their job.

“I can do this.” Break said. “One condition. Scavenger comes with us and Loopy too. We’ll need their help. If that’s all right, Scavenger?”

“I-I’m coming.” Scavenger replied and his look told Robin there would be no argument on this.

“Must he?” Nightingale whined.

“It’s fine.” Robin gave a grim smile. “He has skills we might need. Loopy is that pegasus I saw earlier, right? Good. We’ll need air support.”

And he doesn’t know about Scavenger’s ghost, that might come in useful if something goes wrong. Part of her was still reluctant to trust him. He tried to kill her after all.

“I’m coming too!” Starlight said bursting into the room pushing back Nightingale who glared at him.

“No.” Break and Robin said together.

Starlight’s ears drooped. “Why not? I know how dangerous it is and don’t tell me this is for my mother. She can rot in a pit for I care.”

Break winced. She never realized how much Starlight and his mother didn’t get along. Oh well, someponies just don’t have a good relationship with their parents.

Break let out a breath. “We need somepony here to protect the town while we’re gone. Besides, we are taking enough ponies as it is. It would be for the best if we kept the group as small as possible.”

Starlight wanted to argue, but nodded and sulked out of the room.

“Well, that’s one less problem to worry about,” Robin said, “rest up. You’ll need your strength. We leave in 4 hours.”

---

They were quiet as walked through the wasteland to Zinnia and everypony kept an eye out for danger. Break always hated the night. With the cloud cover over the sky, neither the moon nor the star could provide much light to the world below. It provided a perfect cover of darkness, but also made the world darker and greyer than usual. Her mind wandered back to the world above the oppressive cloud cover. She resisted the urge to fly up and see the real night sky. She longed to see the stars for herself. She doubted pictures in books would even compare to the real thing. A pang of resentment went over her. How could the pegasi hog that beauty all to themselves? Did they not care about their fellow ponies? Maybe the world wouldn’t be so desolate and hopeless if the sun and stars shined on them. Break might have to pay them a visit some day and give them a piece of her mind.

Break left her musings to return to the task at hoof. Their task filled her with dread. So much might go wrong. If they screwed up, they had a thousand enemies to deal with. Worse, Lion Heart had a power like hers, but they hadn’t a clue what it did. Break knew for certain that the knowledge would mean life or death. Was there some way she might force him to reveal his power? Break dwelled on this the entire trip.

The town of Zinnia had changed since she’d last been here. It didn’t have a crudely constructed wall around it for one. Did the raiders create this from any random junk they found? She doubted it would keep anypony out if they wanted to break in. It had two gates with guards and raiders patrolled around the parameter with riffles.

“What did you find Loopy?” Break whispered as the stallion returned from the sky.

“Almost everypony is asleep, but the camp has a light patrol inside. This doesn’t include the raiders milling about. If we break inside, we should be able to slip through the camp unnoticed once we get past the wall. The raiders are expecting the wall and the patrol to keep most intruders out.”

“And who would be crazy enough to break into a camp of raiders one thousand strong?” Nightingale asked amusement on his face.

“Good,” Robin said a slight smile on his face, “we just need a good spot to break through a wall. Break and her power can get through it with no difficulty, right?”

“Shouldn’t be a problem.” Break hesitated for a moment. “Though, I don’t think many should come with us. A smaller group would be better at avoiding attention.”

“Obviously.” Nightingale rolled his eyes.

“I agree,” Robin said ignoring his subordinate’s sarcasm, “Break, Scavenger, and myself will be the only one to enter. The rest should stay here and keep an eye out for trouble. Make a distraction if you get the signal.” He held up an old flare gun.

“Don’t worry, we will keep their attention.” Loopy pointed to the bomb that Scavenger had made earlier in his backpack.

“Make no unnecessary risks,” Robin said with dead seriousness.

“Yes, sir,” Ray said stoically as usual.

“Got it.” Nightingale waved a dismissive hoof. “Just watch yourselves, okay.”

Robin gave his subordinate a curt nod, and they crept down to one of the side walls. They approached a side that Loopy said was clear from his aerial surveillance.

Dear Celestia, the walls even shabbier than I thought.

Break thought she’d need to use her stand to get through it, but she realized it would only take a little pushing to get themselves through. The wall was literally a collection of junk used to create a wall. It looked like they had to tear down entire buildings to make it. The wall they stood in front was nothing more than a bunch of concrete in a large pile with trash in the middle. The cracks in the structure were big enough that a pony could through with some effort. The problem was not creating enough noise to draw somepony’s attention.

Break pointed this and they agreed to enter one at a time with Scavenger going in first. He and Free Bird would silence any raider that wandered near. Break went last and it took some effort to push herself through. She cursed her long gangly limbs and used her ghost, after all, to widen the space enough for her to fit through. She closed the gap even further in case somepony came around and spotted it.

The camp was dark, but there was still activity throughout the camp. Raiders were talking and drinking and making a mess of things. Nopony was on guard though and most the patrols barely cared about their jobs more interested in fraternizing with their fellow raiders. Break was on the lookout for any raider they might capture to take their clothes. They stood out too much otherwise and Break feared somepony might recognize Robin. The Cosas commander wasn’t exactly obscure. She pointed at three raiders that were going towards a darkened alley no doubt to relieve themselves and they followed keeping to the shadows.

“I’m telling you, Lion Heart is just using ancient zebra magic.” One raider said. From his wobbling, Break could tell the stallion had been drinking.

“You are so smart!” Another raider replied. “That makes so much sense! Those stripeys did all sorts of voodoo things. No magic was too black for them!.”

The last raider crossed his hoof. “I’m just glad he’s on our side. Imagine what he’d do if he tried to play all hero.”

“No kidding!” The first raider replied. “Who knows what would happen? I’m just glad he’s on the right side.” The stallion barely got to finish as Good Times Bad Times appeared behind him and punched his lights out. His friends soon followed. It only took a few minutes for Break and her comrades to strip them of their gear and put it on. Break really wished she hadn’t. It smelled horrible, and she had to fight the urge to gag. It was also very itchy, and she resisted the urge to tear it off. How could anypony live like this? What type of insanity drove a pony to become a raider?

With so many ponies around and about, nopony paid them even a glace, though Robin hid his face. They made their way to the ship with little difficulty. The problem now was getting inside. Four guards were in front that stood attentive if bored. She wondered who they would allow inside and fear what would happen if somepony caught them. She told her allies her worries.

“S-stealth would be our top priority.” Scavenger said.

“I suppose killing the guards in front would be an issue.” Free Bird said. “Bluff our way in?”

“We need to bluff our way in,” Robin said oblivious to Free Bird’s comment, “wait, can’t you just fly us in?” He stared at Break.

Break shook her head. “I can only use my power on myself. I could fly to the top easily, but I couldn’t carry anypony.”

“What?” Robin stared at her incredulously. “You can change gravity. The weight shouldn’t matter.”

“It’s how my powers work.” Break replied annoyed. “It’s one of my ghost’s rules.”

“Yep, we're all different and have our own weaknesses.” Free Bird added. “There’s nothing stopping me from lifting somepony.”

Robins shook his head. “Whatever, we’ll find some other way. I’m not letting you go in alone.”

“I wasn’t planning to.” Break replied. Does he think I’m crazy?

“I-Is that entrance t-the only w-way in?” Scavenger asked thankfully getting them back on track.

“I don’t know,” Robin said, “I’m not from here. It might have some secret entrance used for smuggling or some such, but I don’t know it.”

They thought about spending some time looking for it, but that would only draw attention and it might take hours. There were only a few hours until sunset. Breaking in with her ghost was an option, but it would be certain to wake everypony in the silent dead of night.

Break sighed. “So we need to bluff after all. What excuse can we even use? Say we have an errant and hope nopony challenges it?”

Robin opened her mouth to shoot down the idea, but stopped and considered it. “That might work. It will be a gamble though.”

Break grunted under the weight of the tankard the three of them carried. She considered using her ghost but decided against it. She wanted to make this buff as real as possible and her sweat and pain would add to the illusion. They struggled up the ramp to the ship and they dropped it in front of the guard relieved. It was lucky the raiders believed them at the bar when they said Lion Heart wanted the tankard of ale delivered to him in the ship. Break hoped these guards would be as easy to fool.

“Delivery.” Break said catching her breath. “Let us through. We don’t have all day.”

“And what’s this?” A raider said kicking the tankard. “Nopony allowed through.”

“Lion Heart ordered us to get it; they’re out of booze inside the ship.” Robin gave the guards his best withering glare. Scavenger nodded. He didn’t speak out of fear of his stutter. What they needed was confidence.

“Nopony told me about it.” Another raider peered at the tankard and examined it.

“I don’t know.” Break said irritated. “I just do as I’m told.”

“Can’t say I’ve ever seen you before.” Another raider said glaring at Break. She fought the urge to wince.

“Out of a thousand?” Break rolled her eyes. “No horseapples you haven’t.”

“Let them through who cares.” A raider said and shrugged as his companions glared at him.

“We have a job here and I intend to take it seriously.” The leader said.

“And you expect us to carry this back?” Robin asked incredulous.

“Yes, I do.” The leader said. “I’ve got no orders for this and I‘m not let a bunch of you guys have a wild party in the ship.”

Break sighed in relief. At least he didn’t suspect malicious intent. He thought they only wanted to throw a party. An idea struck her.

“Okay, fine you got us.” Break said and her allies stared at her in shock. “But come on, we’ve won and we’re unstoppable! The guys are bored inside and like I said they’re out of booze.”

“I don’t care.” The leader said. “You ain’t getting in.”

Break pulled out a bag full of bottle caps. “We’ll pay for it. Plenty of wealth to go around.”

The leader hesitated. The bag had at least a hundred caps. Break cursed that she had to waste her savings and the rewards she got from saving Lily twice, but needs must.

“I might look the other way.” The leader said his eyes glinting with greed.

“Hey, you‘re sharing that, right?” Another raider said.

“No, it’s all mine.” The leader replied and the four raiders broke into an argument. They took advantage of this and lifted the tankard inside nopony paid them much notice. This time she used her ghost to make the load easier.

“I-I can’t believe that w-worked!” Scavenger said.

A small smile formed of Robin’s lips. “Always count on a raider’s greed. Let’s store this somewhere and get going.”

They found a nice corner to hide the tankard before getting on with their mission. Scavenger led the way because only he’d been here before. The place was littered with trash and bloodstains painted the walls. Break didn’t want to think about what caused them. They weren’t from simple gunshots. Scavenger used Free Bird to scan corridors for a sign of life for it was easier and more reliable than using her PipBuck. The hall had patrolling raiders, but they were rare and easy to avoid with Free Bird’s help. It amused Break how much this confounded Robin and he asked several times about it but to no answers. He eyed Break with suspicion thinking she was behind this. He didn’t suspect Scavenger having powers at all.

They checked the living quarters, but they only had regular raiders. The top deck was empty as well. Where might somepony of Lion Heart’s size be hiding? With the first three decks clear, they made their way to the bottom deck. The sound of groans hit their ears as they traveled down the stair. Break winced as somepony screamed followed by mocking laughter.

“Don’t die yet Mayor Grand.” A booming voice said. “I still have a need for you.”

Break tensed. That must be Lion Heart. He was so loud that they could hear him from even this distance. The laughter came from the City Council Room. No guards were about so they crept their way towards the room. Robin pulled out his laser pistol. Smart move for his ghost couldn’t block that. At least Break hoped this to be true. They didn’t know his power.

“Stay back and let us handle this,” Robin said to Scavenger, “watch for any trouble.”

“What? Come on! You’ll need our help!” Free Bird said in protest. Robin couldn’t hear it so the protests went on deaf ears.

Scavenger looked to Break for guidance and she thought on it. “Stay here for now. A lookout would be a good idea.”

“B-but.” Scavenger wanted to argue, but Break stopped him.

“We don’t know his power.” Break whispered. “I want to observe and attack his blind spot if this goes bad. Lion Heart need not know about two ghost users yet.”

“O-Okay.” Scavenger said giving in to her logic.

“Fine.” Free Bird said disappointed. “You owe us for this.”

They needed a guard. She didn’t want somepony to raise the alarm and force them to fight 1000 raiders. Plus, Scavenger’s ghost was good at killing silently.

Break almost threw up when she got a sight of what Lion Heart was doing. Through the door of the chamber, she saw the stallion pouring boiling water down a pony’s throat. Lion Heart used his ghost to hold his victim still while he poured the liquid. The victim’s features were almost unrecognizable from the beating and torture. It was an ugly sight, and it horrified Break to the core. Robin stayed calm and stone-faced but she told from his eyes the sight also horrified him.

“We have to do something!” Break whispered. She would be damned it if she didn’t attack him right now. She didn’t care what power this monster had.

“It looks clear. He’s all alone.” A tiny sinister smile came to his lips.

Break nodded then noticed that this wasn’t entirely true. In one corner was an earth pony stallion sleeping on the ground. He acted that somepony wasn’t being mutilated in front of him and slept like a happy little foal. This threw her off, but he didn’t matter. The stallion didn’t have a weapon.

“Ready?” Robin said and readied his weapon. “Cover me.”

“Aim from his left.” Break said. “His ghost isn’t blocking that direction.” It was likely that the laser shots would fly through the ghost unimpeded, but she didn’t want to take any chances.

Robin nodded. He held up a hoof and lightly tapped on a wall counting down. At the third knock, he threw the door open with his magic and dove to the left as Break instructed. Lion Heart stared for a second in alarm and confusion giving Robin the time he needed to fire. The laser bolt hit Lion Heart right in the temple.

Chapter 34

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Lion Heart’s body toppled over in a booming thud that shook the ground. He cried out in pain grabbing his head where the laser bolt hit him. Somehow the shot hadn’t killed him but gave him a terrible burn mark that seared his flesh.

Break hoped that this hadn’t awoken everypony in the ship. Robin rushed in moving to get in position for another deadly blow of his laser gun the weapon floating in his magic aura above him. He pointed it right at Lion Heart’s temple. Moments passed and nothing happened. Break eyed him curiously confused not sure what her Cosas ally was doing. Robin had a reputation for ruthlessness and gunned down his foes without pity and recourse, but now he only stood there wearing a pained expression.

“Is something the matter?” Break asked.

“What’s going on?!” Robin didn’t seem to hear her. “Die, raider filth!” He floated his gun to shoot again, but again nothing happened.

Lion Heart laughed which boomed across the room sending a chill down her spine and he stood up his face scarred and burned but still very much alive. “Having trouble? I don’t know who you are, but you’ve made a grave mistake.” Lion Heart summoned his ghost and punch Robin in the gut. Robin crashed into a nearby wall in a bloody heap and Lion Heart kicked Robin’s gun across the room well away from its owner.

“Robin.” Terror grabbed at Break’s heart. Lion Heart moved in for the kill but she moved between them, stopping him in his tracks.

“And who are you?” Lion Heart looked down on her in disdain. Break wanted to summon her ghost but decided against it. He didn’t know about her ghost powers yet, and she planned to keep that a secret until the right moment.

“Robin.” Lion Heart mulled the name over and his eyes lit up in understanding. “I see. You’re Cosas lackeys. You acted sooner than I expected. Is this the best they have?” He laughed more amused than scared and Break moved to check on her ally’s condition.

Robin looked bad and his leg bent at an unnatural angle. She looked around for anything that might help her and brightened when she discovered a crate of healing potions across the room. Lion Heart must have been using them to keep the mayor alive for more torture sessions. If she could straighten out Robin’s leg, the healing potions would fix it.

She noticed Scavenger and Free Bird hiding in the doorway so far unnoticed by the raider leader. They hid looking for the best moment to strike Lion Heart from behind. They needed that edge if they were to win. Break let out a startled cry of surprise when Robin grabbed at her.

“I couldn’t fire.” He said. “I couldn’t Celestia damn fire!”

“What happened?” Break eyed Lion Heart who watched them amused.

“I couldn’t fire!” Robin said again startled. “His power stopped me!” He was rambling.

“I wonder why that is.” Lion Heart walked towards them and Break took an instinctive step back. “You don’t know what you’re facing. I’ll enjoy tearing you to pieces. I needed a new plaything.” He laughed and gestured to the tortured crumpled form of the mayor. His stand appeared behind him a giant imposing presence.

What now? What could she do? Somehow his power stopped Robin from firing his gun. What did that mean? Break noticed something she’d hadn’t seen before. On his ghost’s chest was a sign that showed a gun crossed out with a red dash. Did this indicate what a pony could do?

Does this mean he can stop actions with his power? How would that even work?

Break made herself look scared to throw her opponent off. A feat that wasn’t that hard and Lion Heart relished her fear and helplessness then at blinding speed, his ghost struck at her. Break ducked under the blow and hit back with Good Times Bad Times hitting Lion Heart’s ghost in the chest. Lion Heart’s eyes widened in surprise and he coughed blood. Break stared in surprise as Lion Heart took the same damage as his ghost. She only meant to knock it away and never realized damage to one’s power also transferred to the user. Break hit Lion Heart’s ghost several more times in the chest before delivering one final powerful blow to his heart. Lion Heart flew back on crashed on the ground in a bloody heap.

“What? Another stand user? Damn you.” Lion Heart stood on two shaky legs and coughed up more blood. His body was in rough shape but still more than ready to fight back.

A stand user? Is that what it’s called? Break didn’t have much time to register this information for Lion Heart’s ghost emerged and struck at her with horrible power and speed.

Lion Heart’s stand punched at her and she winced when her own stand blocked them. This confirmed that damage transferred to the user and Break knew her leg would feel sore for days afterward. She moved to counterattack, but her stand’s leg froze in midair unable to attack. Nothing Break tried would allow her stand to do this simple action. Break’s chest exploded in pain from a direct impact to the chest. Breathing became painful certain she’d broken a rib. She backed away trying to get out Lion Heart’s range.

“Confused?” Lion Heart said with both mockery and amusement. “My power is unbeatable. You caught me off guard, but that will be the only victory you get.”

He stopped me punching him and stopped Robin shooting his laser pistol. Now on Lion’s Heart ghost was a black silhouette of a pony throwing a punch crossed out. Break spared a glance at Robin. He wasn’t doing well his breathing painful and labored. Robin was in bad shape, unable to fight anymore.

“Hey, what’s going on? What’s that commotion? You can’t be here.” A voice said outside the room. “The Boss said this area is off-limits!”

Oh, ponyfeathers! A chill went down Break’s spine.

“More intruders? Kill whoever you don’t recognize!” Lion Heart shouted out the door. “Raise the alarm!”

“Intrud…” Whatever the raider cut out when Free Bird tore out his throat. She hoped this raider was the only one who knew about them, but gunfire erupted outside dashing that hope.

Oh no, Scavenger!

Break didn’t have time to think about her friend’s predicament as Lion Heart’s stand threw a punch while Break’s attention had lapsed. Her gravity powers pushed her out of the path of the attack and across the room out of Lion Heart’s ghost’s range. She made it appear as if she was only moving fast not wanting him to know about her secret ability just yet. Like her stand, his stand had a range only his was much shorter. She tried punching with her stand again, but it froze up as expected. Break tried to throw a punch with her own hoof, and it also locked up.

He can stop me from doing one action period regards how I am doing it. Did his power have a range or a time limit?

“I see you’ve glanced how my power works.” Lion Heart gave her a cruel smile. “It can do other things too.” The symbol on his stand’s chest crossed out a pony taking in breath.

Break’s chest froze up and she couldn’t breathe. Try as she might, it was impossible to get her lungs working.

“My power isn’t just defensive.” Lion Heart smirked certain of his victory. “A pony can, what, survive without air for three minutes?”

Can’t breathe. Can’t breathe! Break’s chest hurt and she scrambled away in terror as Lion Heart loomed over her. No, calm down. This means I can punch again. It has too. I can make a counterattack.

She didn’t know this for sure. If he could ban breathing and punching, she was in serious trouble. His power had to have a limit.

Lion Heart came at her his stand punching at her with a frightening speed his stand just as fast as her own. Break dodged the blows keeping her distance. He would overpower her in seconds if she didn’t do something. Already she felt light-headed and knew she didn’t have long until she died of oxygen deprivation. He didn’t need to crush her to death to win.

The bandit leader changed tactics and kick at her while their stands fought. She reversed gravity and flew to the ceiling before the kick connected. This caught the big stallion off guard as Break pushed herself across the ceiling and fell behind Lion Heart. She didn’t give him a chance to retaliate and punched him in the ribs as he tried to dodge. She delighted that her theory was right and punched at his heart to end this, but her ghost’s hoof stopped inches before his chest. The sign of Lion Heart’s ghost changed back to a pony punching.

Oh, come on! She used her gravity powers to fly across the room just dodging a punch from Lion Heart’s ghost. Much to her relief, she could breathe again. Never had air tasted so sweet.

Lion Heart growled in annoyance. “I see you have a special power too. I suspected you might, but never thought it would be over gravity. No matter.”

Break’s chest tightened again and she couldn’t breathe again. She looked over to Robin’s squirming form and noticed that he couldn’t breathe either. He clutched at his throat in terror.

Oh ponyfeathers, it is a ranged power. Somehow Lion Heart’s power stopped a single action in a radius around his body, but only one. He was limiting her options and forcing her into a fight. A fight he’d stonewall making attacking him impossible. Was victory completely out of their grasp?

With no other options, she used her gravity powers to rush forward increasing her running speed. Despite her spectacular speed, Lion Heart only grunted and punched at her with his stand. Break didn’t summon her ghost and instead used her gravity powers to dodge around his attacks. She wanted to hide the direction of her attacks when they came. Breath returned to her, and she shifted around him no doubt blocking her ability to punch again but that wasn’t her aim. She threw herself in another direction momentarily confusing Lion Heart. To all appearances, she was dancing around him, but this hid her true goal. Another unexpected gravity shift turned her in another direction to Lion Heart’s back and she landed next to Robin’s fallen laser pistol. Lion Heart’s eyes widened as she kicked it towards Robin’s direction and picked it up with his magic firm and ready for payback. Despite his injuries, he was ready to fight again. Lion Heart cursed eyeing Robin wearily not liking the direction the fight had turned.

Good. I didn’t think I would win this alone, but with Robin’s help, I might just win. Still, I wonder why he didn’t turn my gravity powers off when I flew around him. It would have caught me off guard and open me up to attack. It hit her that maybe he couldn’t. His power might only work on physical actions.

Lion Heart looked between the two of them not sure what target he should go after first. He was much too far away from Robin to get to him without Break intervening. If he attacked Break, they would attack him on two fronts. The increased ferocity of the fighting outside told her she didn’t have long. Scavenger needed her help. Her best option might be to force Lion Heart’s actions for him.

Break ran forward preparing her stand and froze her legs locking up unable to move. Lion Heart’s ghost changed it sign to a pony walking and he ran towards his throne and gripped it with his stand. Break realized what he was doing and used her gravity powers to throw herself towards her opponent. Robin fired his gun, but he missed giving the raider leader the time he needed to grab the makeshift throne and hurl it at Robin. Break made it in time and punched it away, then realized her mistake as Lion Heart’s stand threw a punch at her while her ghost was still in mid-punch. The punch impacted in her ribs with a vicious cracking sound following the blow. Blood oozed from her mouth and every breath burned. Robin didn’t stay idle during the exchange and hit Lion Heart in the leg while he tried to dodge. The shot hit square in the knee and the big stallion buckled as his leg could no longer support his massive weight and he crashed to the ground. Robin cursed when his gun refused to fire again.

Lion Heart tried to stand, but it was painful and he limped towards Break. In response, Break slid across the metal floor towards her enemy much to his surprise. He'd expected her to flee instead. She pushed on the offensive putting Lion Heart in an awkward position. Robin only needed a single good shot to end this fight. Lion Heart’s and Break’s ghosts exchanged blows, and she used her powers to float around in the air making hitting her difficult while staying out of Robin’s line of sight.

There. Break broke through Lion Heart’s barrage of punches and punched him right at his heart. She cursed as her punch froze before it hit its target again, but Robin wasted no time and fired. Lion Heart rolled out of the way of the laser bolt in time but screamed in pain as he landed on his injured leg wrong. Break pushed on the offensive during this pushing Lion Heart back. She refused to give him any time to recover or catch his breath.

Lion Heart broke out into a full-blown panic as Break continued to punch at him. He misjudged a dodge, and she hit his injured leg with a devastating punch. A sickening crack echoed throughout the room and Lion Heart whimpered in pain as his leg bent in an unnatural angle. He cried out in pain as a laser bolt hit him in the chest. Break guessed he must be in such pain that it was almost impossible to control his power. His eyes darted for anything that might change his fortunes. He stopped at a stallion that leaned against a wall polishing his hooves.

“Help damn you!” Lion Heart said to the strange stallion that she’d seen sleeping earlier. Break started she’d forgotten he even existed.

“Sorry, superior beings such as us shouldn’t need help.” The strange stallion shrugged.” For reasons that escaped Break, he carried several bags of sand over his back. His cutie mark was a cartoon train engine. He wasn’t just confident; he thought everything in the world belonged to him.

Lion Heart screamed in rage and hate and charged the stallion forgetting everything else. The stallion watched as if a five hoof monster didn’t concern him. He cried in pain as a laser bolt hit him on the back of the head and collapsed to the ground in a booming thud inches away from his hated “ally”. Robin limped towards the bandit leader and put two more laser bolts into Lion Heart’s head making sure the monster was dead.

It’s over. Break didn’t believe this would actually work, but they did it. She cheered only to wince in pain. She had serious injuries. This was no time to celebrate. She looked back to the mayor and saw he was barely breathing. Her injuries could wait.

“Don’t worry, we will get you help.” Break limped over to the mayor and examined his wounds. They looked frightful, and it was a wonder he was even alive.

Robin was already moving and carried the crate of healing potions over to her. “Hurry, we have little time.” He glanced over at the mysterious stallion, but he only watched them with an amused look on his face. Break cursed when she saw only five healing potions.

No, not enough! She cursed. This would have to do.

Break dripped a healing potion with care down the mayor’s mouth. “Drink this.” She knew that healing potions alone wouldn’t help the mayor. The damage was too severe, but it would help and ease the pain.

“I-Is everything o-okay in t-there?” Scavenger peeked into the room. “I-It’s gone so quiet.” Her friend had two gunshots, one in the shoulder and the other in the left leg.

“Yes, Lion Heart is dead.” Break poured another healing potion into the mayor’s throat. “How is the situation outside?”

“N-not great.” Scavenger replied. “I-I barricaded the entrance to this floor, but it won’t be long until the raiders get through. We’re trapped in here.” His ears drooped.

“That will have to do for now.” They’d work a way out of here after healing their wounds. Break poured another healing potion into the mayor’s throat. “Uh, how many healing potions can a pony drink before it becomes dangerous?” Break worried the mayor might overdose on healing potions. She’d heard rumors about how dangerous that was and turned to ask Scavenger about it. He knew almost everything about everything.

Scavenger nodded. “Y-yes, healing a p-pony too f-fast is dangerous to the b-body, and it d-damages the h-heart. I-It isn’t u-unknown for a p-pony to die of a h-heart attack after d-drinking too m-many healing p-potions.”

“I’ve already given him two.” Break tensed. Did she make a terrible mistake?

“O-One more s-should be okay.” Scavenger replied. “T-that’s it though.”

“Got it.” Break gave the mayor one more healing potion. The stallion was doing much better and his breathing was normal again. His throat was healing and the scars on his body were subsisting. She sighed in relief. He would be okay. Now all they needed to do was smuggle him out of Zinna somehow.

“Thank you, young miss.” The mayor said. “Is the monster dead?”

“We got him.” Break replied. There were still about a thousand raiders here, but at least they didn’t have a leader to rally them. The Cosas would deal with them.

Break pushed a healing potion into Scavenger and Robin’s hooves and smiled. She pretended her injuries weren’t serious, and they needed healing more than she did. After more insisting, they agreed reluctantly. Break helped Scavenger straighten out Robin’s leg and gave him a piece of cloth to put in his mouth so he didn’t bite his tongue as they put his leg back in place. After a healing potion, Robin walked on his broken leg with only a little pain. Scavenger’s bullet wounds closed, and he was almost back to normal. Break continued to pretend that every breath didn’t cause her serious pain.

“What now?” Break asked.

“We fight our way out of here.” Robin loaded his laser pistol with a clip.

“We need to get to the roof.” Break’s mind raced. The ship was full of raiders by now drawn to the gunfire and chaos. They’re only hope was for Loopy and the others to create that distraction. Even then, their odds were dire.

Scavenger nodded his look fearful. He was just as optimistic about their odds.

“Well, I might have an idea.” The strange stallion walked towards them. “It will cost you though.”

“What do you mean?” Break asked not killing the sound of this.

“I like you. Break was it? My name is Train Spotter.” Train Spotter gave her a wide grin.

“Break Point.” Break tensed not sure she trusted such a flaky guy.

“I ask little, join the Knights of Heaven and I’ll get you out of this raider infested pit.”

Chapter 35

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“Who are you?” Robin moved in front of Break protectively which surprised her. She’d thought Robin still considered her a bitter enemy despite their alliance. She’d misjudged him again. Train Spotter ignored him waiting for Break’s response.

“What are the Knights of Heaven? I want to know what I’m getting into before anything else.” Break said.

“We’re here to save the world!” Train Spotter slammed his chest with pride.

“By gathering stand users?” Break remembered this same group tried to recruit a monster like Lion Heart. Trust wouldn’t come easy.

“Yep, understand only evolved beings like ourselves can guide the world into a new and better age.” Train Spotter beamed.

Wait, wasn’t that weird white stallion with fake wings also with these guys? Break recalled it was his info that led her here. Her face twisted in disgust. That stallion was pure evil, and they let him join them? Break wanted to refuse, but a stray thought gave her pause.

“Did a mare named Green Mile join your group by any chance?” Break’s tensed fearing the worst. Her gut told her Green Mile went to Zinnia to join this group and prayed she was wrong.

Train Spotter thought for several agonizing moments and then nodded. “I think she did. Spring Rain mentioned something about it. Why, do you know her?”

Spring Rain? She’s caught up with these ponies too?

“She’s my cousin.” Break’s heart dropped. “I’ll join your group.”

“Wonderful! The whole families here!” Train Spotter replied.

“Break!” Scavenger whispered his voice full of worry.

“I know.” Break whispered back. “We can’t trust these guys, but they’re my only lead to Green Mile.”

Scavenger nodded not happy with the situation but knew they had little choice. Robin shook his head baffled by this weird turn of events.

“What’s your plan?” Break asked. Everypony watched him eager to see what he’d say. They were depending on him. A loud boom exploded in the distance indicating the raiders had broken whatever barrier Scavenger had created to block this floor. Who knew how many enemies were rushing towards them. They had only seconds until the enemy engaged them.

“Follow me.” Train Spotter opened the door a crack and saw the corridor vacant. He beamed and grabbed some sand from his bags and scattered it along the floor much to everypony’s confusion.

He’s a stand user, I bet the sand will explode! She watched eagerly to see what would happen next. He motioned for everypony away from the door’s path and they complied.

“There they are!” A raider spotted Train Spotter and motioned his ten comrades forward. Break heard the raiders march over the sand. Break tensed ready for a loud boom. Instead, she heard cries of surprise and groans of pain.

“Well, take care of them.” Train Spotter motioned to the raiders sprawled in a heap in the corridor. The raiders were wincing in pain, but otherwise unhurt from what looked like an unexpected fall. They’d recovered soon.

Did he trip them? Confused by what happened, Break rushed forward and pummel the raiders into submission with Good Times Bad Times rendering them unconscious.

“Let’s go!” Train Spotter walked past the raiders unconcerned scooping up sand and putting it back in his bag.

Robin followed shooting a laser bolt into each raider’s head making Break wince. She wasn’t a killer by nature and even a raider’s death sickened her. She recognized it was necessary, but she still hated it. Scavenger put a comforting hoof on her shoulder and gave him a nod of gratitude. They followed Train Spotter Break’s stand ready for any trouble.

“We need to get to the roof.” Break pulled out the flare gun Loppy had given her. “We have allies that will create a distraction.”

“Simple enough.” Train Spotter beamed and led them towards the main staircase.

They expected ambush as they snuck through the hallways, but the coast was clear. Break saw what Scavenger had used to block the floor’s entrance. He’d used Free Bird to cut steel beams from the staircase and used them to obstruct the door preventing entry. It forced the raiders to use explosives to enter. Break admired her friend’s quick thinking. Robin gave Scavenger another odd look. Did he suspect Scavenger had a stand too?

They followed Train Spotter as they went through the empty corridors. After the earlier ruckus, she’d expected raiders to flood the ship and overwhelm them. The silence was eerie and nopony dared make a noise not even the boisterous Train Spotter. Nopony accosted them as they ran up the spiral stairs though Break kept her guard up and they arrived at the roof minutes later.

This is too easy. What the heck is going on? Robin and Scavenger were just as tense expecting the sky to fall and kill them all. They paused when they heard fighting and yelling. Not wasting a moment they threw the roof’s door open and Break’s jaw dropped when she saw the reason for the commotion.

The entire raider camp was in chaos. Tents were ablaze, and the fire spread out of control. Raiders rushed around trying in vain to contain the fire. They threw what little water they had, but it did little good. One raider tried pouring bourbon on it, but it exploded in his face. Caches of weapons and ammo exploded as the fire engulfed them. Break gapped at the pandemonium. No wonder the raiders had been too distracted to worry about them.

“Not bad eh?” Loopy flew down towards them.

“Report,” Robin said grateful to see an ally.

“Well, we knew things went south when a raider called for backup in the ship,” Loopy replied. “Raiders aren’t fire conscious at the best of times and they always camp far too close together. We strapped the bomb to a motorcycle and drove it riderless into the camp’s square.”

“Good thinking.” Break sighed in relief. Loppy’s distraction saved their hides.

“Is Lion Heart dead?” Loopy beamed at her compliment.

“Yep, Lion Heart is dead as a doornail!” Train Spotter said.

“Who’s this, a defector?” Loopy eyed the stranger with curiosity.

Break looked at Train Spotter not knowing how to respond not know what he was. The more she was with the strange stallion, the less she trusted him. She reminded herself she needed him to find Green Mile.

“He got captured, and we rescued him.” Break lied thinking it the best answer. “But that doesn’t matter, we have injured.”

Loopy recoiled when he saw the mayor and his injuries. “Mayor Road, are you okay?”

“Yes, I will live.” Mayor Road replied.

Loopy turned and bend down. “Get on my back. I’ll get you to Lily right away!”

“Have Ray look at him first,” Robin said, “he’s trained in medicine.”

“But…” Mayor Road gestured to his rescuers.

Loopy sighed. “Sorry guys, I can’t carry you all. You’re on your own.”

“It’s fine.” Break replied. “We’ll find our way back. Mayor Road needs serious medical attention.”
.

“You are dressed like raiders, that should help. Sorry I can’t do more.” Loopy’s ea’s dropped.

“It’s fine,” Robin said, “warn the others first of the situation and prove back up if we need it. Mayor Road needs more help than we do.”

“Well, okay.” Loopy wasn’t happy but nodded.

“You’re brave ponies.” Mayor Road shook the hooves of everypony in Break’s group, except Train Spotter, and got on Loopy’s back. Train Spotter fumed but said nothing. They watched as Loopy flew away.

“Some ponies, I did all the work!” Train Spotter muttered.

Break rolled her eyes. She wanted to tell him they didn’t need him to escape after all but held her tongue. For now, she needed him.

“D-Do you think w-we can escape t-town?” Scavenger asked.

“We have three stand users; I think we cope with the situation,” Robin spoke loud enough only Break and Scavenger heard him.

“W-what?” Scavenger said startled.

“What, you think I didn’t notice.” Robin crossed his hooves. “I saw the raiders you killed while we escaped. You clawed their throats out. Explain that.”

“I-It’s true, I have a stand.” Scavenger looked down ashamed at the deception.

“I won’t ask now how you two suddenly got powers out of nowhere, but when we get to Lily, I want answers.” Robin’s glared.

“Very well.” Break sighed. “Just don’t tell him about Scavenger.” She pointed at Train Spotter.

A small smile creased Robin’s lips. “I didn’t intend to. I don’t trust him ever a little.”

“Alright, ready to escape this dump?” Train Spotter asked.

“How?” Break crossed her hooves and wince when her chest erupted in pain. She chastised herself to be more careful with her injured body.

“With this!” Train Spotter pulled out a grappling hook from his bag. “It’s how I got inside the first time. It beats walking through the front door and facing awkward questions. Sides, superior beings like ourselves are beyond worrying about guards.”

“Right, superior beings.” Break watched Train Spotter attached his grappling hoof to a rail and tested its sturdiness. He smiled satisfied and climbed down without a word.

“Can you believe that guy?” Break said as the troublesome stallion disappeared.

“I don’t envy you,” Robin replied, “but find out what you can about this group. They’re dangerous and trouble.”

Break nodded. So far they didn’t appear too moral which worried her. Worse, she feared what they might convince her cousin to do. Green Mile was a troubled mare even as a foal. Something bad happened to her as a filly which Break had never gotten out of her. Well, once they finally caught up to her cousin, Break would turn her to the right path and everything would be fine. She hoped.

Robin climbed down next and Break used her powers to float down to the surface. Climbing down would be too painful in her condition. No pony had paid them much mind as they landed too preoccupied with putting out the fire or looting supplies. Some raiders just abandoned camp all together surprising nopony. Raiders were selfish and greedy by nature and Lion Hear wasn’t here to rein them in.

Break and her friends stayed on alarm as they walked through the chaos, but Train Spotter acted as if he owned the place unconcerned by the chaos. Even a fiery tent almost collapsing on him didn’t even earn a flinch.

What have I gotten myself into? Break sighed wondering how anypony could have such little common sense. Still, if anypony gave them odd looks, Break’s stand made quick work of them and they made it outside without incident. The makeshift fence stood in ruins as raiders fled to safety and they left the camp unimpeded.

“Phew, I wasn’t sure you’d make it out of there, Boss,” Nightingale said as they approached the rendezvous point.

“Mayor Road is recovering,” Ray said, “I’ve patched him up the best I could. He needs a real doctor. Break blinked. She’d never heard him use so many words before.

“We should make our way to Lily right away,” Robin replied all business, “I fear the fleeing raiders might attack the town.”

“Good, then we can go on our way Break.” Train Spotter walked in the opposite direction of Lily.

“Who is that?” Nightingale put a hoof on his gun.

“It’s a long story, don’t bother him.” Robin sighed.

“We aren’t going yet.” Break said putting her hoof down. “Not until Mayor Road gets to Lily.” She also worried about it getting attacked. Desperate raiders did crazy things.

“Really?” Train Spotter stared at her and she glared back. The fate of Lily didn’t concern him even a little. “Fine, whatever. I love wasting a day’s travel. We spend the night there, and we go post-haste. No arguments.” He muttered to himself about sentimental fillies.

“Most kind young lady.” Mayor Road smiled at her and Break blushed. Much to her surprise, Robin also smiled and gave her a grateful nod.

Mayor Road road on Loopy’s back again and they made the long trek back to Lily leaving the chaos of Zinnia behind them. It wouldn’t be long until they learned of Lion Heart’s fate. What happened then, Break didn’t know. She hoped they would disband, or at least fight amongst themselves for supremacy. She hoped nopony was charismatic or powerful enough to pull them back together.

---


“What are we going to do?” Bloodgood looked down at Lion Heart’s dead body. “The boss is dead and our army is in shambles!” Almost half of their raider army deserted for better pastures.

Murder Machine shrugged. “Dunno. Such is the way of things. We’re raiders. Did you expect anything else? Twenty caps it was one of our guys did the deed too.”

Bloodgood rubbed his face so hard it hurt. “How could this happen? The boss was invincible! Unstoppable!” That stallion had powers mortals could only dream of. How could he die so easily?

“He was a fool, that’s why.” A voice said, and they turned to see a yellow shaggy looking stallion with a navy blue mane approach them. The unicorn dragged a bad leg behind him and his cutie mark was a simple black X. Bloodgood shuttered. Something about the stallion’s dead eyes unnerved him. They were dead, soulless.

The stallion laughed. It didn’t convey joy or even mirth only mild amusement. “He had the army for what? Two weeks and it fell after their first big attack? And all to a little filly? Pathetic.”

“What do you mean?” Bloodgood hadn’t seen this stallion before and he didn’t dress like a raider, but something about his manner made him wary. Bloodgood wanted nothing to do with him.

The strange stallion shrugged. “You didn’t see her? The infamous Black Cat?”

Bloodgood and Murder Machine flinched at the name. Of course, they’d heard of her. Who hadn’t? She was a curse on the wasteland and brought destruction wherever she went. If she was here, it explained much. Only Black Cat could bring a thousand strong raider army to its knees singlehoovedly. His sister had been a member of the seemingly invincible Yellow Star slaves and Black Cat killed them all in one single day.

“You fear her, good.” The strange stallion smiled. “She’ll bring her curse against the entire wasteland one day.”

“What?”

“I’ve read her destiny.” The strange stallion said. “She’s part of the coming destruction. The entire wasteland burnt to a cinder.”

“No.” Bloodgood was a raider, but that level of destruction was unimaginable. Horrible even. Somehow he didn’t question this stallion’s words.

“Blood.”

“Excuse me?” Bloodgood asked.

“Give yourself Lion Heart'sHearts blood and maybe you will change the future.” The strange stallion walked towards the door.

“Wait, what do you mean?” Bloodgood couldn’t make any sense of his words.

The strange stallion made a sickening smile and walked away saying no more. Bloodgood didn’t chase after him. What had the stallion meant? Was the Black Cat a threat to everypony?

“I have no clue.” Murder Machine shrugged. “You think he’s right.”

Bloodgood replayed the previous conversation through his mind again and again. He shook terrified. It seemed silly a raider like him scared of anything. The wasteland was a hellhole, but also his home. He had friends, family, and ponies he cared about.

Bloodgood steeled his resolve. “Get a syringe.”

Murder Machine took a step back. “But.”

“I’m doing it.” Murder Machine words were resolute. “I’m stopping the Black Cat.”

Chapter 36

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“How is she, doctor?” Robin asked Lily’s local doctor. Break slept soundly after taking several more healing potions.

“She has several broken ribs, but otherwise she’ll be fine.” The doctor replied. “All she needs is rest.”

“That’s a relief.” Robin gathered his thoughts. “Did you find anything else strange about her?”

The doctor raised an eyebrow. “No, I don’t think so. Is there something I should worry about?”

“Maybe,” Robin said, “could you do further tests? I want to know if she’s okay.”

“I see.” The doctor gave him a knowing look. “I’ll do a deep scan. Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of your marefriend.”

“Thank you.” Robin winced at the implication but didn’t argue it not wanting to seem suspicious. Something gave Break her powers, and he wanted to know why. He knew she’d never use them irresponsibly, but evil ponies also had these powers. He needed information if he wanted to fight them.

Robin left the hospital letting Break rest. Ponies held their weapon in hoof grim-faced as he walked through town. They feared stray raider attacks after the raider army’s defeat. When he got home, he’d order several Cosas to help them. This whole mess would take an eternity to mop up. Still, the raiders didn’t have an organized army anymore which Robin considered a major victory.

He considered what he’d tell the boss about this incident. Cosa Nostra wouldn’t be pleased about his son’s killer still being alive, but Robin felt confident he’d sway the boss to his side. The filly had a knack for solving problems and everything she did somehow benefited them. Break had a bizarre talent for getting into scrapes. They needed her if they wanted to learn more about these Knights of Heaven.

“Lion Heart cried like a foal as we killed him.” Train Spotter said. “He is a weak loser and no match for great beings like me and Break.”

Train Spotter was again telling everypony how they defeated the bandit army singlehoovededly. Worse, he appeared to believe his own words too. Robin wanted to drag the idiot into an alley and force him to spill everything. The pony had strange powers however and it would be better for Break to infiltrate their ranks. Despite his desire to accompany her, he needed to update the boss about the situation and return Starlight home to his traitorous mother. Robin wanted to return to Primrose so he could monitor her and discover what her game was. He’d keep her betrayal a secret from even the Boss for now.

Somepony should go with Break. She might need backup. Robin knew exactly the right pony to send.

“Ray, I have a mission for you,” Robin said catching the giant stallion’s attention. His friend was reading a book as Robin entered the small camp they made outside of town. Lily didn’t have much room and didn’t trust the Cosas. Robin didn’t begrudge their distrust.

“Yes.” Ray looked up from his book. Nightingale watched the exchange with interest.

“I want you to accompany Break and help her infiltrate the Knights of Heaven,” Robin said, “she’ll need your backup. Learn what you can and report back to me.”

“You’re helping her again?” Nightingale said dumbfounded still angry about the death of Rock Guard. Robin wasn’t too happy about the stallion’s death either, but he couldn’t begrudge Break for defending herself.

“We need to learn about Train Spotter’s group,” Robin said, “we know nothing about them or their capabilities.”

Nightingale wanted to argue but reluctantly agreed. “You’re right. Their freaky powers scare me.”

“Understood.” Ray gave a brief nod. “I will follow close behind when they leave.” Despite his size, the stallion was stealthy when he wanted to be. Train Spotter was a blithering foal and won’t notice if Celestia herself dropped from the heavens right before him.

There, I’ve done my part. He knew Break would appreciate the help. He’d catch her before she left to tell her his plan.

---

“I can’t leave you!” Starlight hugged her again. Train Spotter rolled his eyes and tapped his hoof impatiently. He only allowed stand users to come with them. Scavenger volunteered to reveal his power so he could come along, but Break refused. She wanted to keep his abilities a secret and ordered him to follow behind with Ray instead. Robin was kind enough to offer his assistance and Break knew she could count on Ray. Scavenger reluctantly agreed. Break had no intention of traveling with that creep alone.

“It’s for the best.” Break sympathized, but his mother would cause a ruckus if he didn’t come home. Spring Rain was notorious for her whims and making ponies suffer for her amusement.

“Sides, somepony needs to keep a close eye on your mother.” Break whispered conspiratorially.

Starlight blinked. “What do you mean?”

“Your mother is up to something.” Break replied. “Robin will explain later.”

“You aren’t making this up, right?” Scavenger saw she was serious. “I see.” He stepped away from her stunned and gave a faint nod.

“Come on.” Robin pushed him away. He’s agreed to include the young stallion in their plans. What better spy than Spring Rain’s son?

Scavenger gave her a brief nod pretending sadness at her departure. He did a good job and Train Spotter bought it. The whole town of Lily came to see her departure and Break waved at them as they left. They gave her well wishes and promised to let her return any time she wished.

“I’d thought we’d never leave that dump!” Train Spotter complained again for the eighth time. “Four days stuck in that horrible town. Still, we’re on the road and it’s time for a new adventure!”

I hope they’ll be okay. A few raiders attacked the town after Lion Heart’s fall in the following days, but it seemed the wastelands would return to normal. Break turned on her radio to hear any reports about raider activity. Train Spotter had been tight-lipped about their destination leaving Break with nothing to do.

A classic Sweetie Belle tune played as she turned on her PipBuck’s radio and Break hummed along. ‘I Said I Loved You… But I Lied’ was one of her favorites.

“That was old Sweetie Belle singing the underrated classic, ‘I Said I Loved You… But I Lied’. Jolly Gee, doesn’t it just tug at your heartstrings. Isn’t love wonderful? Remember, there’s always one out there for you, don’t ya know. Everypony can find love.”

“And now, time for the news.” The Princess of the Wasteland continued. “Reports are the gosh darn raiders have been vanquished from Zinnia and their leader Lion Heart is dead. And who done it? None other than the wasteland’s greatest hero, the Black Cat!”

Break cringed. She hated being called a hero and how did anypony even learn about her involvement, anyway?

“Yah, she bust right in there and gave their leader Lion Heart a butt-kicking, don’t ya know? Yah, she’s certainly avenged Zinnia ain’t she?” The Wasteland Princess said with clear admiration. “His whole army has scattered to the winds whereabouts unknown. I’ve gotten letters worried about what the raiders might do next! Remember, this army was a thousand strong! Scary stuff! Well, I’ve gotten secret inside reports telling me the Steel Ranger have finally gotten their sorry lazy hindquarters and plan to do something about this influx of raider activities. Can’t say I’m too happy about it myself. Expect ponies in metal armor to poke their nose about and make a mess of things. Ya’ll know what they’re like. Still, if it gets rid of the raider mess, I’ll tolerate a few muddy carpets.”

The Steel Rangers? Break scowled. They were a military group obsessed with getting lost technology and weren’t too friendly to ponies outside their group. They thought of themselves superior everypony else and were a general nuance. Crazy fanatics all of them. Still, they were a powerful group. Maybe they could deal with the raider issue without causing problems for everypony else?

“In the meantime, stay vigilant with your patrols and keep your door locked at night. Don’t want any unwelcome visitors you hear? And that was the news. Next will be Sweetie Belle again singing ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’. This is the Princess of the Wasteland signing off. Stay safe and stay smart.”

At least somepony helping with the raider problem, I guess. Break hoped Steel Rangers capable of doing good for once. How is it in a fight between Steel Rangers and raiders, I’m cheering for neither side?

She looked at Train Spotter to see his insight into this ongoing situation. He didn’t seem to care and yawned bored.

Just what I expected. She tried engaging him in conversation, but it always ended with Train Spotter talking about himself. Break gave up and walked in silence and pray to Celestia Almighty they would get to their destination soon.

---

“We’re here.”

Break groaned as Train Spotter pushed her awake. They’d taken a ride with a caravan and she was getting some much-needed sleep. They’d been traveling the road for days at a relentless pace and been lucky to come across somepony willing to give them a ride.

“Where are we?” Break poked her head out of the caravan wagon and frowned. She saw nothing but rock and dirt, not a town as she expected.

“Well, come on.” Train Spotter pulled her leg and she reluctantly got out.

“Is anything here?” Break whispered to the Brahmin who’d been pulling the cart.

“Sorry dear, but I’m just in the dark as you are.” The Brahmin’s right head Martha replied. “You?”

“Nope.” The other Brahmin’s head Paula said. “You sure you know where you’re going? The nearest town Aster is miles away.”

“I wish I knew.” Break sighed. She hoped Train Spotter wasn’t putting her on a wild goose chase.

“Well, good luck to you dear.” Paula embraced Break. “I hope you find your cousin.”

“Celestia bless you,” Martha added and the Brahmin and her caravan left on their separate ways. Break smiled she’d always enjoyed hanging out with Brahmins found them friendlier than most ponies. The caravan’s leader had been less friendly and didn’t even acknowledge their departure. Break watched them disappear in the distance.

“This way.” Train Spotter pointed left.

“If you say so.” Break replied and trudged after him.

They approached a collection of rocks and Train Spotter drove his hoof inside. He fiddled around for several seconds before smiling in clear satisfaction. The rocks parted revealing stairs leading deeper into the Earth.

A hidden bunker? Apprehension filled Break worried about entering another Stable. From experience, she knew those places as deathtraps. Train Spotter walked into the darkness and Break sighed and followed.

Break found herself in a dark cave lit by torches and they trotted down a long corridor to a large gear like metal door. Much to Break’s horror, the steel door led to a Stable and it was wide open. A pony greeted them as they approached.

“Hello, sister and welcome to our humble home.” The pony bowed to them.

“Yo!” Train Spotter raised a hoof in the friendliest greeting she’d ever seen from him.

“Thank you for bringing our new friend, brother Train Spotter.”

“Right.” Break gave her best-disarming smile, but it appeared more like a grimace.

“You have nothing to fear, sister.” The pony said. “My name is Wind Whistler. Welcome to our family.”

Wind Whistler was a light purple pegasi with a white mane and his cutie mark was a simple white cloud. There was something magnetic about him and made Break like him, which also put her on guard. She knew all about seemingly friendly likely ponies like him.

“Break Point.” She shook his hoof.

“Welcome. Welcome to the Knights of Heaven. Come inside, we have much to discuss.”

Break followed Wind Whistler and glanced around with some apprehension and stories of Stable horrors played back in her mind. They were death traps designed by madponies. Ponies before the apocalypse boasted them as infallible, a clear and blatant lie. Many had small almost invisible faults in the power system or the water talismans spell matrix had irreversible flaws. Stables were also the perfect gathering place for monsters. She thought it telling nopony even used one to make a town.

“Don’t worry, it’s safe, my sister.” Wind Whistler said interrupting her thoughts. “No monsters or troubles down here. You have our protection.”

Break checked her PipBuck and found no trace of magical radiation. Reactors leaked sometimes flooding the stable with silent death. “I don’t doubt you. I’ve had bad experiences with Stables.”
Wind Whistler extended a hoof and his stand appeared behind him. It was golden with wings twice the size of a normal Pegasus. It had a peaceful face a creature of pure serenity. He smiled when Break reacted to the appearance of his power.

“Ah, so you are one of the chosen.” Wind Whistler said. “Sorry to startle you, I had to make sure.”

“No problem.” Break stayed on her guard. She didn’t know what his power could do.

Wind Whistler gave her a charming smile. “Come, I will introduce you to your new brothers and sisters!”

I don’t remember saying I would join your group. Break followed anyway into a large open room. It was the Stable’s lounge full of ponies relaxing and playing games. The room was colorful and well-appointed with some of the best quality furniture she’d ever seen. Break marveled at the number of ponies finding at least thirty ponies. They smiled at her each giving a warm welcome. She gave them an awkward wave back.

“These are most of our members.” Wind Whistler said. “Though some are on assignment.”

“Uh hi.” Break gave an awkward smile guessing these ponies as stand users too. It made her uncomfortable. She scanned the room and started when she saw Green Mile.

“Break?” Green Mile stared in shock.

“Green Mile.” Break ran and gave her cousin the strongest hug possible. “I thought I’d never see you again.”

Green Mile continued to stare before tears gathered and she cried into Break’s shoulder. “I thought you were dead.”

“It’s okay, I’m here now.” Break stroked her cousin’s head.
Wind Whistler clapped his hooves together. “What a happy reunion! Join our sisters in their happiness!” The other ponies clapped along. It gave Break the creeps.

“What are you doing here?” Green Mile grabbed at Break like she’d disappear at any moment.

“Here to find you.” Break replied. “You wouldn’t believe the trouble I went through to find you!”

“You must tell me all about it!” Green Mile dragged her towards a nearby couch.

“Easy, sister.” Wind Whistler laughed. “We haven’t given her the tour yet or begun initiation.”

“Please, let me be the one to show her around!” Green Mile pleaded.

“Sure.” Wind Whistler replied.

“Initiation?” Break asked. “I’m still a little foggy exactly what your group does. Train Spotter was a little vague on that point.”

“All in due time!” Wind Whistler said not filling Break with confidence. “This way.”

Break followed Wind Whistler through the Stable. Ponies waved at her on the way. It surprised Break how many pegasi were here. Pegasi usually stayed in the clouds, though they were sometimes born among unicorn and earth pony parents. She saw at least a dozen pegasi. She followed Wind Whistler into the Overseer’s office and he motioned her to sit down. Wind Whistler sat behind the desk.

“So, I hear you came here to find your cousin?” Wind Whistler asked.

Why did I say that? She’d meant to keep that fact a secret. Break recovered and gave a weak smile. “She disappeared; I was so worried about her!”

“I am glad our sister has such a loving cousin.” Wind Whistler gave her a charming smile. “You braved the wastelands just to find her. A dangerous task even for us with special powers.”

You have no idea.

“I like that determination.” Wind Whistler continued. “It will serve the Knights of Heaven well.”

“Always glad to help.” Break replied not sure how else to respond.

“Tell me, what do you think of the state of our world?” Wind Whistler asked.

“Things are as they are?” Break replied.

“Couldn’t it be much better?”

“Yes, it not being a radiation-filled wasteland would help.”

“Exactly!” Wind Whistler replied pleased with her answer. “The world is full of crime, slavery,
death, pollution, anarchy, and monster and most of those don’t have sharp teeth.”

“Excuse me.” Break interrupted unable to help herself. “If you care about such things, why did you try to recruit Lion Heart? He was a raider!”

Wind Whistler let out a breath. “You wished to rehabilitate him. Our kind is so rare we sometimes have to work with unsavory characters.”

“For what?” Break demanded. “Many people got hurt because of him!”

“To bring salvation back to the world.”

“How? What are you talking about?”

“What if I told you, I could remake the world and make it pure?”

Break wanted to reply that was crazy, but she remembered her stand powers. She supposed anything was possible. Still, remaking the world seemed out there.

“Ah, you see the possibilities.” Wind Whistler beamed. “You too feel discontented with the world. When I was young, I was a commander in the Enclave. I lived in Cloudsdale a world free of the trouble and horrors of the Wastelands.”

The revelation caught her off guard. She’d heard stories of the Enclave’s brutality and their treatment of traitors. It was a miracle he got away with his life.

“What happened?”

“I saw a bunch of raiders kill a small filly on patrol once.” Wind Whistler looked heartbroken. “I wanted to retaliate with my ponies, but the higher-ups refused. Wasteland issues weren’t our concern. That day made me lose faith in the Enclave. I saw our potential for good, but they never listened. They were content to live in their paradise while the rest of ponykind suffered.”

“Ah, I see from your expression, you’ve had similar thoughts?” Wind Whistler gave her a quizzical look. Break hesitated and then nodded.

“Paradise.” Wind Whistler gave a derisive snort. “It’s little more than a dictatorship. Anyway, I took several of my ponies and we left to help the wasteland however I could. The Enclave is still hunting me, unfortunately. It limits our movements, but we make do.”

“I’m confused.” Break said. “How did you get stand powers? Did you always have them?”

Wind Whistler smiled and pulled something out of his desk wrapped in tattered cloth. “On my travels, came across this.”

Break peered at the item as Wind Whistler unwrapped it. It was a leg bone broken in half with a point. “What is it?”

“This, my sister.” Wind Whistler said. “Is the leg of the Goddess Celestia.”

Chapter 37

View Online

Break stared mouth agape. “What, that’s impossible!”

“Its divine power gave me my stand.” Wind Whistler replied nonplussed by her shock and disbelief. “Divine providence guided me to the bone and made me accidentally cut myself on it giving me my stand powers. It’s all that remains of the sun goddess after she let go of her mortal form and flew to the heavens.”

Break peered at the object in question. It was larger than a normal pony’s bone. However, she herself was larger than most ponies. It was possible this bone came from an unusually tall pony and not an alicorn.

Wind Whistler raised an eyebrow. “You still don’t believe me?”

“Well, it’s odd it gave you powers, but to claim it came from a goddess is a tall order.” Break knew she should just go along with whatever he said. She needed to join this group for Green Miles’s sake, but she wanted the truth of this mysterious object.

“I know it seems difficult to believe in the goddess’s power in our bleak and almost hopeless world, but its power` is very real.” Wind Whistler replied. “Let me show you.”

He stood up taking the bone in his hooves careful not to touch it instead using the cloth to pick it up. Break followed confused. They entered a living quarter and Wind Whistler knocked on a door. A young stallion with a yellow mane and green coat answered the door. His cutie mark was a turnip.

“Wind Whistler.” The stallion said in greeting. “Is it time for initiation already?”

“Yes Root.” Wind Whistler said smiling. “Sister Break Point is here to watch the goddess’s power at work.”

“Hi, Root.” Break gave the stallion a hesitant smile. “What’s happening? What do you mean by initiation? Didn’t he already do the Q&A?”

“This is the true test.” Wind Whistler replied. “You didn’t have to do this part for the Goddess Celestia has already blessed you.”

“Right.” Break replied confused about what he was talking about.

“We search not only for ponies with our gifts but with similar vision also.” Wind Whistler clarified.

“He doesn’t have a stand?” Break asked.

Wind Whistler’s stand appeared and punched at Root’s face with blinding speed. The hoof stopped inches away from Root’s muzzle. The stallion didn’t react or even flinch. It was obvious he didn’t have a stand.

“No, I haven’t gotten that honor yet.” Root said shyly.

“This test will show if Celestia herself has chosen this potential brother to join us.” Wind Whistler sat the bone down on the ground.

Root bent down kneeling before the bone. “I’m ready!” Break watched the ceremony in interest wondering if the bone really granted powers.

“Extend your hoof.” Wind Whistler said and Root obliged with hesitation. “Oh, Goddess Celestia, if this one is worthy, give him your blessing and power!”

Wind Whistler used the bone’s sharp end to prick Root’s hoof.

That’s it? Break had expected a light to descend from the ceiling or a voice booming from the heavens. She stepped back in shock as Root screamed and writhed on the ground. She ran to his aid, but Wind Whistler blocked her path.

“No, this is normal.” Wind Whistler pushed Break back. “Now he’s in the Goddess’s hooves.”

Root screamed in agony like even cell is his body burned. Break sweated as the room temperature increased tenfold. Root’s body expelled heat like a blazing furnace.

“This is normal?!” Break said horror-struck. “He will die!”

“Only if Celestia rejects him.” Wind Whistler said calmly as if he were discussing the weather and Break stared at him horrified. “Not all can withstand her glory.”

Root stopped moved and Break feared he was dead. She backed away as his entire body erupted in flame and she fled outside the room to safety. She looked back and all that remained of Root was a black burn mark on the floor.

“He wasn’t worthy.” Wind Whistler shook his head. “Pity.”

“Pity?!” Break screamed. “He’s dead!” She lost all control and wailed piteously tears flowing like a broken dam.

Wind Whistler put a comforting hoof on Break’s shoulder. “Sadly, the Goddess Celestia didn’t choose him. We can’t know the reasoning of the divine.”

Break wanted to throttle the stallion. Didn’t he realize a pony was dead? How many other ponies died to this foalishness? Nothing could be worth this much death. She turned away from Wind Whistler unable to bear the sight of him.

Wind Whistler opened his mouth and closed it thinking better of it. He said nothing for several long moments then finally spoke up. “I see you’re upset, I too am saddened by Root’s death. How about I show you to your room and give you some time alone?”

“Yes.” Break replied biting out the words.

Break followed Wind Whistler as he led her to another wing of the Stable. He said nothing as they walked giving Break the space she wanted. Green Mile approached them but backed off when she saw Break’s pensive expression and received a shake of the head from Wind Whistler. He showed her a decent-sized living quarter empty except for a bed and a dining table.

“We’ll talk later, sister.” Wind Whistler said with compassion. “Rest for now. You’ve had a long journey.”

He left her alone and Break plopped on the bed. Root’s tragic death played through her mind. What had happened? Why did the bone kill Root, but not Wind Whistler and presumably Green Mile and several others? Had Celestia determined Root wasn’t worthy of her powers? No, that didn’t track with her. She’d never bought Celestia as any divine being. She was another pony only with powerful magic. Besides, Celestia was renowned for her kindness and compassion. She wouldn’t kill helpless ponies like that.

What makes a pony a stand user? Was it magic or a strange virus? What made her different from Root? These questions buzzed through her mind as she stared at the rusted ceiling. A soft knock sounded at the door.

“Come in.”

“Hey.” Green Mil peeked through the door. “Are you okay? I heard what happened.”

“I’m fine.” Break signed. “Just angry.”

“Yeah, it’s tough.” Green Mile walked inside and pulled aside a chair and sat on it. “Our mission has a terrible price.”

“Our mission?”

“Saving the world.” Green Mile replied. “Only we have the power.”

Oh no, don’t tell me she buys into this nonsense. It would be harder to remove Green Mile from this organization than she thought. “What are you trying to accomplish? How are you saving the world?”

“We need to evolve and only Celestia’s divine power can accomplish that.” Green Mile said. “That’s why she left her bone behind. As a beacon of hope!”

“I see.” Break winced. “So, what? Are you going to make everypony a stand user?”

“Oh, we have much greater ambitions than that.” Green Mile stood up proud. “We plan to rejuvenate the entire world. The stand powers will lead the way.”

Could a stand be that powerful? Could anything be that powerful?

“How?” Break asked. “What’s your plan?”

“We still don’t have a solid one yet, but we’re learning much about stands and looking for more of Celestia’s remains. They might have a clue to our goal. Okay, it’s not a solid plan, but we’re making the world a better place.”

“Hmm.” Break didn’t buy it. Why weren’t they using their powers to fight raiders or make the world a safer place? Their goal was too abstract to her.

Green Mile saw her doubt. “We’re doing something! Trust me. I know what I’m doing! We are fighting for the greater good! Besides, they’re helping us destroy the Cosas!”

Break blinked. “What?”

“The leader agrees with me.” Green Mile face became angry and ugly. “They’re sinners needing purging!”

“But, that’s crazy!”

“Break, they tried to kill you!” Green Mile grabbed Break as if to shake some sense into her. “I heard what happened, you only defended yourself and they hunted you like dogs!”

“Well.” Break had conflicting feelings. They tried to kill her, true, but she caused… It was all a stupid accident and Break wanted to put the incident behind her and make amends. Besides, not all the Cosas were evil. She thought of Robin and felt a strange kinship with him. They battled death itself together. Despite everything, she wanted peace. Killing the Cosas would only cause more death and chaos. Break wasn’t angry at the Cosas. She was tired. Tired of death and hatred.

“I don’t want anypony else to die.” Break said finally. “It was my fault Steel Dagger died. I can’t blame them for hating me.”

Green Mile made a face. “Steel Dagger deserved to die. He was a spoiled brat that terrorized the town. Our home is run by criminals, Break!” She grunted in disgust and forced herself to calm down.

“I suppose I can’t force you, Break.” Green Mile said. “You’re a gentle pony who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Forget it.” She gave Break a fake smile and it was clear to both of them their argument had resolved nothing.

“Anyway!” Green Mile said trying to dispel the awkwardness. “Why do you have a white leg? Is it part of your stand power?”

“Um, kinda?” How would Break even begin to explain how it happened? It sounded insane even to stand users.

“Why you even have stand powers?” Green Mile said. “I’ve known you all my life. You haven’t shown mysterious powers before. Did you get them somehow? Did you find a fragment of Celestia?”

“Tsk tsk.” A voice said startling them both. “You know what the boss says. We don’t share our powers. We don’t know who might overhear us. We can’t have an enemy learn our secrets.”

They both turned to discover an earth pony stallion with a magenta coat and bright yellow mane standing at the door. His cutie mark was a moon surrounded by stars.

“I wasn’t asking that Moonlight.” Green Mile scowled. “I only wanted to learn how she became a stand user. She apparently didn’t become one the normal way. You weren’t born a stand user, right Break?”

“No. I somehow got them when somepony graffed this leg on me. That’s all I know.” Break didn’t want to lie to her cousin despite everything.

Green Mile stared at her white leg in wide-eyed astonishment. “That’s incredible!”

Moonlight raised an eyebrow. “Why in Equestria would they do that?”

Break shrugged. She honestly didn’t know. The whole incident was fuzzy and even their fight was a little vague.

“It had to be destiny!” Green Mile said. “They gave your powers for some great mission. Maybe an agent of Celestia?”

“I kinda doubt that.” Break replied. No way that true. That stallion was a monster!

Green Mile rolled her eyes. “You’re such a disbeliever.”

“You’re an interesting one.” Moonlight said. “No wonder ponies call you the Black Cat.”

“The what?” Green Mile asked.

Break groaned. It baffled her how many ponies knew what she looked like. It wasn’t like the radio gave an exact description of her. She gave him a tense smile.

“Your cousin is infamous, didn’t you know?” Moonlight asked.

“It’s no big deal.” Break replied. “I’ve gotten into a few scraps and ponies gave me a silly nickname.”

“Hold on, what?” Green Mile stared at her confused.

“Don’t you listen to the radio?” Moonlight said. “Your cousin singlehoovedly killed the Yellow Star Slavers and the Stones… to the pony. She obliterated them.”

“None of that is even remotely true.” Break sighed and rubbed her temple.

Green Mile stared at her cousin in wide-eyed astonishment. “No way. You? You’ve changed. I never thought you capable. It must be your stand power. You might be the strongest stand user ever! Hold on, you’re happy to destroy the Yellow Star Slavers and the Stones, but not the Cosas? What?”

“The radio overstates my involvement.” Break replied. “Other ponies fought with me. They’re the real heroes!”

Moonlight and Green Mile looked at her not really believing their story thinking her as only modest instead.

“Well.” Green Mile said after an awkward silence. “I’m happy you’re here. We’ll need your power if we want to change the world!”

Moonlight nodded. “I look forward to seeing what you can do, Black Cat.”

“I guess.” Break was too tired to argue.

“Oh, right.” Green Mile said. “I’d almost forgotten. I need to show you around the base. We can talk about your adventures along the way.”

Green Mile gave Moonlight a look. “Alone.”

“She destroyed the Yellow Star slavers! You can’t deny me this!” Moonlight said with surprising passion. Break noticed a small faded burn mark on his left leg and recognized it as an old slaver brand.

“It’s fine.” Break said. She needed to learn more about the members of the Knights of Heaven, anyway.

“Good!” Moonlight put a leg over Break. “I can tell, we will be the best of friends.”

---

“And last, the sporting center!” Green Mile pointed into a window where two ponies were playing tennis together.

The order had converted an old agricultural room used to grow trees and other plants into a gym. It seemed most of the plants died when the previous occupants had abandoned it. Though new plants and trees grew, they were more for enjoyment than food.

“We have a baseball game every Thursday night.” Green Mile said. “You should join us; it’s a lot of fun!”

“This place has everything.” Break said. “I’m surprised you don’t have a spa too.”

“We’re working on it, my sister.” Wind Whistler said laughing as he approached them.

“Oh, hi.” Break said in a neutral tone. The others gave a happier greeting and their eyes light up in joy at his presence.

“Your happiness is our gain.” Wind Whistler replied not put off by Break’s chilly attitude and gave her a wide smile. “Our humble Stable has everything a pony could want.”

“I’m surprised you made this place livable.” Break said. “Stables are notoriously dangerous places after they break down.”

Wind Whistler waved a hoof playfully. “True, it took some doing to fix this place. Brother Frost Haste is a genius in engineering. He figured out how to fix the reactor and empty sections of the Stable flooded with water. Somehow, the water talisman went out of control and it filled half of the Stable with water when we found it. It was quite an effort to fix up and clean.”

It was an impressive feat, but it left her with a burning question. “Why here? Why turn the Stable into this?”

“Because I like a challenge.” Wind Whistler replied. “And we wanted a place for our kind to call our own. A home where us chosen would always be welcome.”

Our kind? You act like we’re something more than a normal pony.

“Are you finding it to your liking?” Wind Whistler asked. “If you need anything, ask. Everything belongs to everyone here.”

“It’s fine.” Break replied.

“Please stay, Break!” Green Mile said. “You’ll love it here!”

Break sighed. This place and its ponies gave her the creeps. Something about it wasn’t right, but she couldn’t abandon her cousin. Somehow she’d make her see sense.

“I’m not going anywhere.” Break said.

“Thank you! Thank you!” Green Mile gave her a hug. Again, she held Break like she was her only lifeline and Break stroked the back of her head.

“Wonderful!” Wind Whistler beamed with unbridled happiness and joined in their hug. “Welcome to the family!”

Did I just join a cult? Wonderful.

Chapter 38

View Online

Break used her PipBuck’s Eyes Forward Sparkle to check if the coast was clear as she snuck through the Stable’s corridors. It was late at night and everypony was fast asleep. She looked around hoping an enemy stand wasn’t watching her. A guard stood at the entrance bored but alert. This pony had a military bearing and wore his mane in a short-cropped cut. From his wings, Break gathered he was one of Wind Whisper’s deserters. He sat there leading on an energy rifle and his stand was nowhere in sight.

Break bit her lip and considered her options. She needed to get outside and check up on Scavenger and Ray. She didn’t even know if they’d arrived safely. It was safe to assume the Knights hadn’t discovered them yet because it would have caused a ruckus. They’d question why her friend Scavenger was following her for sure. Still, it would look bad if somepony caught her sneaking out. Crawling along the ceiling with Good Times Bad Times was a possibility, but this pegasus was a trained soldier probably used to identifying threats from the air. Unfortunately, she saw no other way past him. Break steeled her resolve and used her power to stick to the ceiling. She crawled along it making as little noise as possible. She approached the vault door and crawled along the gear-like shape. The stallion watched the entryway bored not noticing the pony right above him. A sudden voice broke her concentration and she clung to the gear part of the door almost falling to the floor.

“Hello, Skyway.” Wind Whistler said. “Long night?”

Skyway nodded. “Captain. I don’t mind. Vigilance is necessary. I fear the Enclave will attack at any second.”

“Calm yourself, my friend.” Wind Whistler replied. “They don’t know where we are.”

“Small comfort.” Skyway snorted. “They’re still hunting us. The Enclave doesn’t tolerate deserters. And you stole a little treasure they want back.”

Treasure?

“That’s why I have you here to protect us.” Wind Whistler laughed. “It doesn’t matter. We’re close, I can feel it. Soon, not even the Enclave will have the power to threaten us.”

“Glory to Celestia.” Skyway gave a rare smile.

“Glory to Celestia.” Wind Whistler repeated.

“I have a mission for you.” Wind Whistler said. “I want you to take our new recruit, Break Point.”

Break almost lost her perch again at the unexpected mention of her name.

“The Black Cat?” Skyway raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t she a little, green?”

“She can take care of herself.” Wind Whistler replied. “I want to see what she’s truly capable of. I have a good feeling about her.”

“Okay. Where to then?”

“New Cloudsdale.” Wind Whistler gave a sharkish grin. “The Order of the Founders and Patriots of Equestria.”

This news made her lose her gripping and fell several hooves before catching herself with her powers returning to the ceiling. Break sighed in relief. She’d almost landed on top of them.

“A little birdy of mine told me they have procured an ancient artifact that might interest us.”

“Very well. Why bring the Black Cat?”

Wind Whistler’s smile became cruel. “Because of her reputation for destruction. That gift of hers will bring a little retribution.”

“Okay, but she’s an earthbound pony, have you whipped up a spell or potion for the job?

“No need, her stand power makes it perfect for the job.” Wind Whistler replied. “She will have no problem aiding you up there.”

What, I don’t recall giving him my stand’s power. Did the cult leader’s stand give him the power to learn other pony’s powers?

“Leave as soon as possible?”

Wind Whistler nodded. “Yes, I don’t want the Enclave to know how truly valuable the artifact is.”

Skyway saluted. “Yes, sir.”

“Some things never change.” Wind Whistler rolled his eyes but smiled.

Scavenger and Ray need to know about this. Break used their conversation to slip past them and slipped outside. This news changed everything and she couldn’t disappear without telling her allies. Her head spun at the prospect of invading New Cloudsdale. It seemed like an insane prospect. The Enclave had the most powerful military remaining in the world. Still, if they had a dangerous artifact, an aggressive and dangerous group like them couldn’t have it for everypony’s sake.

---

Scavenger tensed as he saw somepony exiting the cave. He feared exposure at any moment not knowing what deadly powers the enemy had. They stood well out of sight so pegasi couldn’t spot them from the sky. He relaxed as Break emerged and saw her expression was urgent. Ray watched with interest with his characteristic silence. They had a tense alliance, but Scavenger like Ray well enough. The Cosas was competent and level-headed.

“H-how was it?” Scavenger asked. He worried all day after Break had disappeared for hours. He shouldn’t have worried. Break was no different from how he left her.

“Well…” Break explained everything she’d seen. It shocked Scavenger to learn about the Stable and how his Green Mile willingly joined this evil group.

“Green.” The news filled Scavenger’s heart with torment. He’d suspected she might do something drastic, but becoming like that was unimaginable. Why had he come all this way? Would Green Mile even want to see him again? Or would he become an obstacle to her insane goal? He leaned against a rock all the strength drained out of him.

“I’ll get her back.” Break said with passion and he hoped it was true. But he feared the Green Mile he knew was lost for good. Ray stern face showed a hint of sympathy in it. Despite not being very expressive, he had more depth than a pony might expect.

“S-s-s-so h-how many a-are we talking a-about here?” Scavenger asked finally. They needed to stop this group. Their powers were a threat to everypony in the world.

“I would say about forty.” Break replied. “But that isn’t including pony on assignment.”

“Hmm.” Ray said taking this alarming news in. It was worse than Scavenger had expected.

“Well, I s-suppose that we c-could turn the S-Stable against them,” Scavanger said deep in thought, “y-you said the place once flooded with water?”

“Yeah, unstable water talisman.” Break replied. “I am not sure how we could destroy it easily. They repaired it well and ponies created Stables to withstand Megaspells.”

“We’ll work on the problem later,” Ray said, “will you go on the assignment their leader wants you on?”

Scavenger started. The situation with Green Mile had distracted him and he eyed his friend with worry. “Y-you can’t go. It’s i-insane!”

“I’ll be fine.” Break replied with more confidence than he’d expected. He supposed it wasn’t her first rodeo.

Scavenger rubbed at his face. “W-what do you want us to do in the m-meantime?”

An idea struck Scavenger. “H-how about if I join the K-knights of the H-heaven?”

Break tensed. “I don’t know.”

“If y-you’re gone, s-somepony needs to h-hold the fort.” Scavenger replied. “I-I can talk with Green.”

“And, we work on a plan to steal the bone,” Ray said.

“Not without me, right?” Break replied. Ray nodded and Break let go of her tension.

“Won’t that leave Ray out here all by himself?” Break rubbed at her chin. “And you can’t sneak out as easily as I can. I doubt you could easily convince them he should join on your word alone.” Her voice trailed off.

“We’ll work it out,” Ray replied, “don’t worry, we won’t act without you.”

“Well, I-I can’t just walk up t-to the front d-door.” Scavenger worked out his plan as he talked. “H-how about I move to the nearby town a-and casually u-use my p-powers.”

“Makes sense.” Break said. “I’m sure they have some ponies over there to get supplies.”

“You best get back.” Ray gestured to the secret entrance. “You will need your rest. You have a tough battle ahead.”

“W-well work out the details.” Scavenger promised. Break didn’t like it, but nodded and after a wave, crept back to the stable.

I hope she’ll be okay. Who knew what obstacles she’d fight against in New Cloudsdale. Going again a powerful military force even with stands seemed insane.

Much to Scavenger’s surprise, Ray put a comforting hoof on his shoulder. “She’ll make it. She’s a strong one.”

Scavenger didn’t reply only nodding. He made a prayer to both princesses.

---

“You want me to what?” Break asked feigning surprise. She did a decent job if she said so herself and enjoyed pulling a fast one on the cult leader.

Wind Whistler nodded. “I need you to infiltrate New Cloudsdale with Brother Skyway. This is a mission of vital import. We can’t allow the Enclave to study the artifact. They would do terrible things with it.”

Break gave a weary sigh. “How? Aren’t their building made of clouds? I’m an earth pony.”

Wind Whistler’s eyes twinkled. “How indeed, Sister Break Point? I’ll let Brother Skyway explain.”

“Thank you, sir,” Skyway said. “It’s true that the buildings are on clouds, but not everything. The facility we’re infiltrating is made completely of metal for extra security. Regular cloud building won’t have sufficed.”

He explained that in the latter stages of the war, pegasi installed buildings made of a special metal that could sit on clouds. Created to counter zebra flying machines and provided extra fortification. The stuff was strong too tougher than even reinforced steel.

“Hold on, and you want the two of us to infiltrate a heavily protected military base?” Break scrunched her nose. “Even with stands, that seems difficult.”

Skyway’s face shining with mischievousness. “True, they will be heavily fortified, but they won’t see us coming and I’ve been to this building before. I can get us in.”

“Okay, but why me?” Break asked. “I’m new here and shouldn’t you be asking another pegasus instead?”

“Not so.” Wind Whistler looked at Break with glowing admiration. “I’ve heard of your many exploits, Black Cat. Facing impossible situations is your specialty.”

“Yeah yeah.” Break made a face.

“And I believe your talent in controlling gravity will prove vital in this operation.”

Break stared in stunned surprise. It wasn’t hard to fake considering she hadn’t expected for him to blurt out the truth like that. She expected him to ask about her stand power first.

“How do you know that?” Break asked wide-eyed.

“The Goddess Celestia tells much to his chosen disciple.” Wind Whistler replied giving a complete non-answer to Break’s annoyance. What else did he know? What if the cult leader knew he couldn’t quite trust her?

“I see.” Break gave an awkward smile. “I must warn you. I can’t use my power forever, if I lose my concentration, I fall.” She winced hating to reveal even that much about her power. Sure, it wasn’t an unexpected reveal, but it still stung.

“Don’t worry!” Wind Whistler clapped his hooves together. “Skyway will watch your back.”

“That’s reassuring.” It wasn’t but Break kept her mouth shut. “What’s Skyway’s power then? The mission might depend on that information.”

Give me something. If this guy turns on me, I want to know what I’m up against. Break wasn’t sure why, but she had a bad feeling about this mission. She needed all the information she could get. Wind Whistler gave his former army buddy a look and Skyway shrugged.

“I call it Candy-O.” He extended a hoof and Break blinked as mushrooms grew from his front leg. They were tiny things with brown flat bulbous heads sprinkled with tiny white spots.

“Your power is to grow mushrooms?” Break asked baffled.

“Yes, they grow fast too,” Skyway replied, “they’re also bioluminescent.”

“Okay.” Break wondered why anyone would have such a power. Great for lighting caves she supposed, but not much else.

“They’re poisonous too.” Skyway expression became scary and deadly. “When they explode, they shoot out spores that infest anything touch. Breathe them in, and you’ll be dead in minutes as they grow in your throat and lungs. Within hours, the mushrooms will have completely devoured a person.”

Break forced a smile taking several steps away from the stallion. “Good to know.”

“You have nothing to fear,” Skyway said trying to placate her, “I’m very careful with my powers. I won’t let them infect you. Follow my lead, and you will be fine.”

“Sure.” Break didn’t feel better, but at least he took his power seriously.

“Good to hear!” Wind Whistler said. “Any more questions?”

“Several actually.” Break replied. “How far is New Cloudsdale, anyway?”

“About twenty miles away.” Wind Whistler pulled out a map and pointed at a point marked with an X. It was in the middle of nowhere. “I’ve already let up a ride for you. A caravan will take you there.”

“And we leave?”

“In an hour. I’m sorry it's short notice, but the caravan owner was insistent to stick to his timetable.” Skyway crossed his legs.

“That will work.” It would give Break time to tell her cousin goodbye. She’d hoped to spend more time with her, but Scavenger would watch over her. She hoped he’d talk some sense into her.

---

Break looked up, but no matter how hard she squinted she couldn’t see anything. The gray haze of night hid much. The cloud cover was too thick for even shapes to show up. She’d expected to see some light at least, but the cover blocked everything. They stood in an empty sandpit, more or less. The ride here had been easy enough. Sure some raiders attacked their caravan, but Break’s stand made quick work of them. Skyway had been more hesitant to use his power sticking to the laser rifle strapped to his back instead. It was a nasty weapon disintegrating the poor raiders with a single shot and the stallion used it with skill. Break fought back her fear of facing such a weapon. Good Times Bad Times couldn’t block it.

“Will they see our approach?” Break asked tensed. She didn’t know what military might the Enclave might throw at them for intruding. Nothing good she expected.

“From this distance, no,” Skyway replied, “they have guards stationed everywhere to keep the masses in check. I know where we might find some blind spots. They won’t be too attentive. Remember, the surfacers have no way to reach the city, and they crush any rebellion with an iron grip. They won’t be expecting an invasion from below. Don’t assume they’ll be sleeping on the job though and they will strike with ruthless efficiency if they discover us.”

Break nodded. “Do you want me to ride on your back or fly up with you?”

Skyway bent down. “I’ll carry you for now. I don’t want you to waste your strength. Besides, I already have the best penetration point planned.”

Break did as instructed and they flew into the air. The pegasus held her weight without issue his military training giving him more than enough strength to handle the job. Good Times Bad Times stood at the ready prepared for anything. The cloud cover appeared like a grey sea before her terrible and ugly. As they emerged from it, everything changed. She gasped as she saw the black sky for the first time. It took her breath away. It wasn’t like the cloud cover all gray dullness, instead it was pure black and blacker than she’d ever seen. Little pinpricks of light scattered throughout it randomly but beautiful. The stories didn’t give it justice. A surge of anger went through her. It angered her the pegasi hogged this all to themselves. Somepony needed a long chat to them about this.

“Pretty, right?” Skyway beamed at her. He allowed her plenty of time to gaze upon the new alien sight before her. After several minutes, she stopped hovering in the air and flew north.

“Is that New Cloudsdale?” Break asked peering at the black blob before them.

“It is.”

It wasn’t what she expected at all. She dreamed the city to be a fairyland of rainbows and color with white fluffy clouds. Instead, it was a drab place with tall, gray buildings with a giant wall around it. Spotlights stood at the corners of the wall. Some ponies flew about, but they had solemn expressions. Light flying crafts flew above their visages cold and harsh and had nasty weapons attached to them. It appeared to her more like a prison than a city. She told Skyway her observations and he laughed.

“That’s the Enclave for you.” He replied. “Color would be against regulations.”

A stab of pity struck Break. The pegasi didn’t have it all that much better than the surface dwellers forced into what appeared as a military dictatorship. Skyway frowned at the conditions none too happy either. She couldn’t imagine grouping up in such conditions. They landed next to the parameter of an outer wall. Bizarrely made of clouds yet looked as tough as steel.

“Can we break it though?” Break asked. “I take it we aren’t entering from above out of fear of being spotted?”

“Yes, they closely monitor all traffic.” Skyway made a brittle smile. “Can’t have pegasi moving around freely.”

“Are all Pegasus cities like this?”

“More or less,” Skyway replied, “the Enclave likes to keep a close eye on its citizens. Can’t have ponies think for themselves, right?”

This was a lot to take in and broke her heart, but Break shook her head. They needed to focus on the mission. Break didn’t want the Enclave to gain any more power.

“How do we breach these walls?” Break pressed her hoof against the cloud wall and found no give at all. Weren’t clouds usually like smoke? She punched it with her stand, but it had little effect.

“I don’t exactly understand the technology or magic involved, but these are reinforced cloud steel. It would take a mortar shell to even chip it.”

Which would be loud and send everypony coming. “But?”

“This is where you come in,” Skyway said, “I’m curious how your gravity powers would affect them. It’s one reason we wanted you on this mission to begin with.”

Break blinked. “I don’t understand. This wall can survive or mortar shell.”

“But it’s still made of cloud.” Skyway’s expression became mischievous. “Did you know that constant maintenance is done on these walls? The wind wears them down over time. Like anything, the elements eventually damage them.”

“And if the wind can damage them, why not gravity?” Break though about it. Gravity is one of the most powerful forces in nature. It moved the planets and stars.

“Exactly!” Skyway beamed.

“I’ll try.” She hoped nopony was behind it when she made a hole.

They flew closer towards the wall and Break put a hoof on it. She concentrated summoning Good Times Bad Times and reversed the gravity around her hoof. Much to her surprise, it created a ripple in the cloud wall. She returned gravity to normal and reversed it again. Several repetitions of this created a sizeable hole. The wall was thick, but the gravity ripples made quick work of it. It took some time, but she’d made a hole a pony could fit through. So far the coast was clear and behind the wall was a dark alley.

“Let’s go this.” They flew into the hole. Hopefully, nopony would notice the breach for some time. Break took in a breath and readied her stand for anything.

Chapter 39

View Online

Ponies bustled as they crept through town. The town was lively as ponies went about their business. Some stumbled inebriated through the street as they exited bars with annoying loud music. Others enjoyed the cool night air or snuggling up to their special somepony. What caught her attention were the fully suited Enclave soldiers patrolling the streets with heavy weapons and everything. Ponies tensed as they got near. It seemed the Enclave wasn’t shy about telling ponies who were in charge. Propaganda posters littered walls telling how noble a pegasus would be if they entered the Enclave military. Yet, ponies did their best to go on their daily lives.

The buildings themselves didn’t seem much better from the ground and arranged in neat rows. Many had small gardens to add color, but they seemed dreary overall. Nopony noticed them as they slipped from street to street and alley to alley. Finally, they approached a district of metal buildings protected by an electrified chain-link fence. Torrents stood on top warning they would shoot any intruders into bloody chunks. Guards made their presence even more well known. Fear stung Break’s heart at the thought of infiltrating such a place. Getting caught might mean instant death. These ponies carried some heavy-duty weapons and not even Break was sure her stand could block them. She saw strange terminals also made of clouds and pegasi tapped on them with their hoofs. Break hadn’t expected for there to be terminals only Pegasi could use. Her PipBuck would be useless.

“This is it, huh.” Break’s voice broke so quiet it was almost impossible to hear.

Skyway nodded. “It’s in here. This is the Enclave’s military district. The building we want is over there.” He pointed to a building a block away. A sign marked it as The Order of the Founders and Patriots of Equestria.

Break made a face and gestured at the numerous defenses. “And break inside a building with even more defenses.’

“That’s why we’re on this particular mission,” Skyway replied, “trust me; we have the skills to accomplish this.”

“Okay.” Break wasn’t convinced, but she’d roll with it for now. “What’s our first step?”

“I need you to hack into those torrents,” Skyway said, “we’ll slip over the wall easily with those out of commission. I need you to make it appear as if they had received a serious glitch in the system. Your PipBuck can do that, right?”

Break thought about it. She’d never tried that before, but it wasn’t out of her skill level. She’d become quite skilled with her PipBuck. “I suppose, but is there anywhere I can connect to?

Skyway motioned her to follow and she did so curiously. He pointed at an unused terminal on the other side of the chain-link fence. It would be tough, but her PipBuck’s cord could reach it. Oddly, this one was a normal terminal and not made of clouds like the others. She told her companion this observation.

“Cloud terminals are expensive and difficult to install especially with this type of cloud metal,” Skyway replied, "they aren’t used for simple maintenance like this one.”

Thank goodness for lazy cost-cutting design. It wasn’t much, and she doubted any valuable had a normal terminal, but it was an edge they could exploit.

Break looked both ways checking if the coast was clear. Seeing nopony, she summoned Good Times Bad Times and it grabbed her PipBuck’s cord. She got a little too close to the fence, but her stand plugged it into the port. It only took a few minutes, and she accessed the torrent controls. Somepony might notice all the torrents going off, so instead, she overloaded them with a simple never-ending looping command. They went back and forth ineffectively unable to register anypony. Skyway congratulated her and Break got on his back and they slipped over the fence while nopony was watching.

Break tensed as her PipBuck picked up a pony coming their way and they hid in a nearby trash bin. He passed them not noticing a thing. They slipped out and went towards their objective. She hoped nopony would notice the torrents acting strangely until they were long gone. They stayed in the shadows and approached the back of the Order of the Founders and Patriots of Equestria building. She’d noticed both sides had a cloud terminal that she couldn’t hack into.

“What now?” She pointed towards the cloud terminal. “You know their codes?”

“All out of date.” Skyway shook his head.

“Thought so, now what?”

“There must be another way in.” Skyway scanned the building with careful eyes.

After some searching, they found a small maintenance hatch built into the roof. A single security camera armed with a terrible-looking machine gun that wound back and forth protected it. A single bolt lock secured the door. The sight of bloodstains made her blood go cold. A maintenance worker must have gotten careless. She guessed these cameras must recognize a pony by a badge. One misplaced badge could prove disastrous.

“Must be a maintenance hatch,” Skyway said.

“Seems like it.”

Break pondered their problem. Destroying the camera would send ponies after them. She squinted and noticed a small port she might use to hack into it. Hopefully, the bored security guards wouldn’t notice any small irregularities. The camera attached to a wall above the hatch and positioned to minimize its blind spot. Break was careful to position her stand, so the camera didn’t catch a cord floating in mid-air. Seconds later, and Break was in the camera’s systems. With some trickery, she caused a glitch that made the camera stuck on its last image. She hoped nopony would notice until it was too late.

They carefully approached the hatch wary of any other traps. Break examined the lock and broke it off finding no other way to open it. She flinched at the loud sound, but nopony came and she sighed in relief. They slipped inside the hatch closing it behind them.

The relaxing smell of electronics filled Break nose as she entered. She liked machines and the cramp corridors didn’t bother her. She saw wires and panels providing electricity to the lighting. They crawled for several minutes until they found a dead end. Break feared this might happen. The shaft didn’t lead anywhere and was for maintenance only. They’d have to create their own way inside.

Skyway shrugged. “No helping it I suppose. Let’s find the easiest location to break through.”

They spent ten minutes examining every point of the tunnel. Their search, however, didn’t provide any useful results. If they wanted inside, they’d need to break through the ceiling. The hour was late, but the racket would draw the attention of somepony. Break announced her conclusion.

“Very well, we’ll make sure nopony gives the alarm.” Skyway readied his laser rifle.

Break winced but nodded. She found a weak point in the floor and used her stand to punch a hole into it. It was fruitless to do it quietly, so instead, she did it quickly. Good Times Bad Time broke through it with ease. Every punch made her wince, but she continued on. They looked down through the light fixture panel finding a bland-looking office through the cheap plastic. Break put her ear to it but heard nopony running towards them drawn by the racket. She removed the plastic panel quietly and set it aside.

After checking for cameras, they dropped to the floor below. Around them were bland cubicles each decorated by the personal effects of the pony who worked there. She spotted a picture of a stallion with his two daughters. Each cubicle had a terminal and she wondered if she should hack into one.

“No time.” Skyway kept his voice low. “Follow me.”

Break stayed on high alert for any sounds and walked in a crouch. “Where are we going?”

“Security room,” Skyway replied.

Break nodded and followed him down the bland metal corridors. Security cameras littered the hallways, but they carefully circumvented them. She monitored her Eyes Forward Sparkle for anypony. So far, they’d seen not even a janitor. After several corridors, it picked somepony up in an upcoming room.

“Our guard I think,” Skyway said, “only one? Perfect.”

“Wait.” Break replied, but Skyway rushed forward and a pony screamed as he entered the room.

Break followed and her face rankled in disgust. The victim held a paperback book with a hole in his chest. She glared at her ‘partner’.

“You didn’t need to kill him.” She glared at Skyway. The pony he’d just killed was a young stallion with a pocket watch for a cutie mark. He was several years younger than Break.

“It was necessary.” Skyway looked over the panel and the multitude of screens depicting different parts of the building. “This is war.”

No, it isn’t. Break fumed and looked down at his victim sadly. He didn’t deserve such a cold-hearted death.

“There. That’s our target.” Skyway pointed at a laboratory. She squinted and saw a thick safe built into the room. He rummaged through some drawers and found a set of keys. He left the room at a quick clip and she followed.

“The Enclave requires guards to call in every hour,” Skyway said, “We have little time.”

Break made a face. Skyway’s callous murder had created a short time limit. Oh well, it wasn’t the time to fight and argue. Not that it didn’t stop Break giving her ‘partner’ dirty looks. They rushed through the hallways towards the lab area and found it locked with a cloud terminal. Break easily broke the door down with her stand. The lab was messy with papers and used food cartons and she wondered how they found anything here. She scanned the documents and her blood turned cold. They mentioned pony experimentation and crossbreeding DNA with other species.

“Found something?” Skyway examined the safe’s door. It looked thick far beyond anything she could break with Good Times Bad Times.

Break wasted no time and hacked into a terminal on the head researcher’s deck. Thankfully, it was only a normal terminal and an old one too. It looked scavenged from the wasteland. A cost-cutting method? She got inside without difficulty and scanned the research.

“Thanks to the Artifact 0100, we have discovered how to increase the power of a pony giving them supernatural powers.” Break winced when she read this. “However, we believe it can push a pony even further than that. Much further.”

What the hay does that mean?

The documents explained the further potential of Artifact 0100 in turning ponies into the ultimate warriors. Truly invincible able to destroy their enemies without them even seeing their death coming. One piece of good news was that they were only in the beginning stages of experimentation and nopony had yet survived exposure to Artifact 0100 expect one pony, Heart Gold the head researcher himself. Several documents were about her demanding more money for research. Break sighed in relief, the Enclave didn’t exactly know what they had yet. Heart Gold had a heck of time convince ponies she had special invisible powers. All the higher-ups saw were ten dead test subjects. Heart Gold was experimenting with ways so anything could get stand powers.

“Seems we came in time,” Skyway said.

“I suppose so.”

“Is there a password in there?” Skyway asked. “I’m uncertain we can enter the safe without it. I have another plan, but it’s risky.”

Stupid cloud terminals. “I’ll check.”

Break searched some files while Skyway kept watch. Security guards could interrupt them at any moment. The terminals lit her face as she worked. After ten minutes of search, she still found nothing. She rubbed at the brim of her nose. They had such little time left.

Skyway sighed. “The hard way then.” He placed small pieces of plastic against the safe.

“Hold on, are those plastic explosives?” Break said backing away.

“Yes, get clear.” Skyway and Break ran outside the room.

“Hey, who are you?” A guard said pulling a gun. Much to Break’s annoyance, it was a laser weapon too.

You have got to be kidding me. She ran into the next room as laser fire came at her. Skyway was nowhere in sight. Break heard an exchange of laser fire. The guard and Skyway were in a fierce laser fight.

“Yes, I confirm an intruder.” The guard said in a comm. “Two of them, but only one armed. Receiving heavy fire. I repeat, we have two intruders.”

“So much for the operation.” Break rolled her eyes. Once again, complete disaster struck. “Blow the safe, I’ll get the artifact!”

“Got it,” Skyway yelled.

Break’s ears rang as a large explosion when off and it filled the room and corridor with dust. She wasted no time and dove into the research room dodging laser fire. After a small coughing fit, she made her way to the destroyed safe its door blown wide open. She peered inside and found mostly papers. One item that stood out was a steel box.

That must be it. She grabbed it and groaned as the laser fire intensified signaling the arrival of more guards. Skyway jumped into the room.

“Ready to do your magic?” Skyway asked.

“What?” Break replied confused.

“Look out behind you,” Skyway said.

Break turned to find two guards pointing laser guns at her head. She used her powers to throw herself behind a desk the shots just missing her. The box made a loud clang as it crashed to the floor. Break backed away as the shots burned through the cheap wood and ran behind a cubicle. One took to the air and fly above the cubicle ready to kill. The pegasi froze when he noticed his enemy was an earth pony and stared at her confused. It was only for a second, but it gave her more than enough time to throw a nearby paperweight at his head with her stand. He collapsed to the ground either dead or stunned. Break grabbed his weapon and broke it if he rose again. Skyway cursed as more guards charged the room forcing him to retreat behind several filing cabinets. They blocked the laser fire, but not for long.

“Skyway!” Break jumped over the cubicle and punched the second guard approaching her with her stand knocking him out cold. This drew the fire of the other guards and she ran for her life.

“No worries, they’re already dead,” Skyway replied.

“Huh?” Before Break could comprehend his words, the guards dropped their weapons and grabbed at their throats. They collapsed unable to breathe terror filled their eyes. Skyway stepped out of his hiding place and shot them dead. Break turned away in disgust.

“I filled the air with spores after I left the doorway, I only needed a little time for them to take effect,” Skyway explained, “come on. More will come after us soon.”

“Right.” Break said scowling and grabbed the metal box which caused all this needless death.

“What happens if they send those flying machines after us?” Break asked as they approached one of the outer doors.

“They’re bound to send multiple ones, actually,” Skyway replied.

“Great.” Break scowled. She remembered that this city was in the middle of nowhere giving them nowhere to hide.

“I have a plan.” Skyway approached the door cautiously. “They’re bound to monitor anypony leaving the city. One of us should run drawing their attention, while the other should stay here and lie low.”

“I suppose, but didn’t the guard report they’re two of us?” Break replied. Another problem, Skyway was a wanted pony and Break was an earth pony. She couldn’t blend in whatsoever and she couldn’t walk on clouds.

Skyway cursed. “Did they? Good hearing. New plan, we steal a ship and ditch it in the middle of nowhere. They have trackers, but I know how to disable them.”

“Wouldn’t they still send ships after us?”

Skyway smirked. “They will, but I’m good with skyships. They’re my special talent.”

Break rubbed her temples but accepted the rushed plan. She couldn’t think of a better one certain hiding wouldn’t work.

“Ready?” Break asked readying her stand. Skyway nodded and loaded a new clip into his laser rifle.

Good Times, Bad Times punched the door off its hinges surprising the ponies behind it The Enclave had surrounded the building the best they could in such short notice, but only a hoof full of ponies were ready for them. The door crashed into one and she groaned as it crushed her. The momentary surprise ended and the guard fired on them. Some had laser weapons and others had chainguns. They wore heavy armor which deflected most of the shots fired at them. This was fine, because Break used Good Times Bad Times to fling herself out of the door at high speeds. Their eyes widened and changed their target to the crazy earth pony with a box in her hooves, but Skyway shots distracted them. One aimed their laser pistol at her, only for Skyway to shoot it out of his hooves. Their armor creaked and dented against Break’s stand’s punches. It protected them somewhat, but its punches were powerful enough to throw them on their backsides leaving them vulnerable. Break ignored them and kept flying and running looking for any sky vehicle they might steal. Skyway ran after her.

“Damn power armor, my power is useless against it.” Skyway lamented.

Not far away, they found a lot filled with unattended sky machines guarded by an electrified fence, but Break made quick work of it with her power. Guards filled in to protect it.

“They’re trying to make their escape!”

“Don’t let them get away!”

The guards fired on them and Break ran for cover behind a nearby barrel. More guards approached from behind trying to get the drop on her. Before they fired, she reversed gravity and flew into the air. The pegasi stared in shock. Skyway smirked and threw his spores into their unprotected face. They choked unable to breathe. Skyway ignored them and fired at the guards protecting the sky vehicles.

“Well?” Skyway gestured towards the guards he was shooting at. “I’ll cover you.”

Break nodded and fly towards the ponies in question. They stared in shock for a moment, before firing at her. Some took to the air trying to attack her from above. She weaved through their laser fire and blocked any bullets coming her way. Skyway stopped giving covering fire distracted by the new batch of guards shooting at him forcing him to retreat.

“What kind of freak are you?” A blue pegasus with a cream colored mane said narrowed her eyes before firing upon her.

Break changed direction and landed on the ground among the guard on the ground and punched them with Good Times Bad Times. They went down in moments.

“A freak! A monster.” The blue pegasi said not believing her eyes. “It shouldn’t be possible. Not even a pegasus can fly like that!”

She gritted her teeth and moved some distance away before firing her laser rifle forcing Break on the defensive. The pegasus flew around Break firing every time she saw an opening. Break flew with her changing gravity before a shot came near her.

“I see.” The mare said. “You can’t fly. It’s like gravity moves to your whims.”

“Please, just let us go.” Break said. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

The mare scoffed. “So the thing speaks. I will kill you, whatever you are.” She resumed her attack.

Break tried punching the mare with her stand, but the mare was careful to stay well out of her range. Worse, the mare’s aim improved and Break barely dodged her shots. The mare had spent over three clips on her, yet refused to give up.

“Oh, crap!” Break misjudged one of her dodges, and the laser shot the metal box she’d been holding in her hooves.

The shot melted the box and crashed into the pavement breaking open on impact. Break stared in horror and froze when she saw what fell out of the protective container. It was a skull, but not anything remotely pony.

Chapter 40

View Online

It can’t be. Break couldn’t help but stare at the unequine thing before her. Its muzzle was vaguely pony-like, but those were the only similarities. Its face was long and pointed and contained razor-sharp teeth. Three horns protruded from its head dagger-like. Was this skull from the same creature that Order used to create stand users?

Didn’t the scientist say this made him into a stand user?

What did it mean? What had she gotten into? The skull gave her a bad vibe. Break wondered what kind of creature this was in life. The blue pegasus Break had been fighting also looked as shocked. Her mouth opened and closed speechless. She regained her senses and fire another laser bolt at Break.

“What is that thing?!” The pegasus demanded.

Break shook her head. “I don’t know.”

“Whatever it is, dirt pony, I’m not letting you get your hooves on it!” The pegasus forced Break to hide behind some barrels.

Skyway was having better luck and flew over the guards spreading spores everywhere. They choked as their lungs clogged and Skyway laughed. Leaving them to their fate, he turned to help Break.

The blue pegasus eyes widened in horror. “Monsters. True monsters.” Instead of firing her weapon, she made a mad dash for the skull. Skyway tried intervening, but she was too quick for him and grabbed it. She saluted and flew deeper into the city.

Skyway cursed. “After her!”

“What was that thing?” Break asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Skyway replied, “the Enclave can’t have that skull.”

He gave chase and Break flew behind him. He flew at remarkable speed and Break had trouble keeping up, but the mare was faster. They darted through town avoiding buildings and whatever the mare put between them. The mare yelped in surprise as a skyship suddenly appeared not seeing her forcing her to dodge at the last minute. She crashed into a building crying out in pain as the window’s glass cut her and smacked into a wall. Her face twisted in agony some inner fire consumed her. Break and Skyway flew into the building cornering her. She landed on a nearby desk that somehow sat on clouds without falling through. The mare shook her head as if confused and raised her weapon towards them only to stare at Break in shock.

“What is that?” The mare said pointing at the figure above Break.

She can see my stand? Break noticed a small cut on the blue pegasus’s leg. Realization struck her. The mare must have accidentally cut herself with one of the skull’s horns. The mare gapped as mushrooms grew over Skyway’s body.

“So you have a stand now?” Skyway said. “No matter. This will end quickly.”

“That isn’t a good idea.” Break knew how dangerous a cornered animal was. They didn’t know her powers were or how they worked.

Skyway snorted ignoring Break’s objections and threw his spores in the mare’s direction. Her eyes widened in terror and a figure appeared behind her and punched the incoming attack. It was thin and sleek with gold armor with black trimmings and its head had a gold visor over its eyes. Much to Skyway’s horror, his spores froze in midair several hooves away from their target. They floated froze for several long moments before falling harmlessly to the ground. Skyway stared in complete shock. The mare used this opportunity to fire her laser pistol. Break used Good Times Bad Times to push him to safety.

The pegasus stared at the new stand in wonder and waved its hooves around. She came to a dawning realization that this power was under her total control. She smiled in childlike wonder before glaring at her two opponents.

“I don’t know what happened, but now I have the power to defeat you.” The mare’s glare was icy and dangerous.

Skyway snorted in derision. “You’re still cornered. So what if you can stop my spores?” He fired several deadly shots at the mare’s head.

The mare’s stand was a blur and it punched the laser bolts as they approached. Like the spores, the bolts froze in midair to Skyway’s utter bafflement. The mare calmed stepped aside away from the bolts and moments later they returned to life and shot into the wall. The mare’s stand hummed glowing with power and sparks flew from its hooves.

“Well, I think I understand my powers now.” The mare ran forward towards her opponent.

With speed Break didn’t think was possible, the mare’s form blurred and moments later, she was next to Skyway pointing a pistol to his head. The stallion responded by jumping aside, but the mare was quicker and she landed a shot in his chest. Skyway howled as the laser left a nasty burn mark where it shot him and he stumbled on his hooves. His armor protected him but still left him wounded. He shot more spores at her face this time in a wider arc, and the mare punched several of the spores before darting away in a flash.

Break jumped over to another desk next to Skyway’s side. “Are okay?” Skyway didn’t respond and only breathed heavily.

The mare stared at her hooves. “This power. Unbelievable. With this skull’s ability, the Enclave will be unstoppable!”

Break used her gravity powers to float protective in front of Skyway and readied Good Times Bad Times above her. She wouldn’t let that happen. The mare stared at her amused. From her appearance, Break wasn’t an imposing figure. Still, the mare studied her and didn’t loosen her guard.

“I wonder why the traitor brought you here.” The mare muttered to herself. “You’re a dirt pony and clearly not a soldier. Your power must be a formidable one. Your gravity power is the only thing keeping you afloat in our cloud city. I wonder if you’ll drop like a rock when you lose consciousness?”

“Stay here.” Break whispered. “I deal with her. If you find an opening, use it.” Skyway gave her the faintest of nods almost unnoticeable.

Break circled around the mare watching her every move. It gave Break time to ponder how her opponent’s stand worked. Her stand froze whatever it touched for several seconds even lasers somehow. If that stand touched her, she’d lose. Did it have any other powers? How much power did her laser pistol have left? These questions meant life and death.

This is bad; I fear even getting anywhere near her. If she touches my stand, does that mean I can’t use my gravity powers anymore? I hate these unknowns. Break studied her surroundings while jumping on anything not made of cloud resting her stand’s power. It exhausted her keeping them on for long periods of time.

She found herself in a small office most likely owned by a higher up pony. It contained a single metal desk and three filing cabinets. Dull looking paintings covered the walls, but otherwise, the room contained nothing of true interest. The mare’s hooves cracked against broken glass giving Break a vague plan and surreptitiously gathered some in her hooves.

Time passed as neither combatants made the first move. The other mare’s stand was defensive giving her no reason to act first and she could afford to wait. Reinforcements would arrive soon forcing Break to act. She used Good Times Bad Times to fling herself forward, only to shift in a different direction as the mare tried punching her. Break kept moving in a dizzying array of movements to throw off her opponent. The other mare tried keeping up, but Break could change into any direction on a whim. They flew around the room looking for the best position to strike.

Break sent a feint towards the mare’s head, only to switch direction as her opponent tried counteracting with her own stand. Using her gravity powers, she circled around the mare using sudden bursts of gravity changes to her opponent’s backside. The mare cried out in pain as she received a powerful punch in the spine. She flew through a cloud wall and Break dove in following her.

The adjacent room was a simple storeroom full of filing cabinets and boxes of random junk. The mare shook her head and picked herself up from the cardboard box she’d crashed into. Random papers littered the floor from the box. Break landed on a box idly wondering how it stood on clouds. It didn’t even sink as it held her weight.

“Such power. It’s unbelievable how fast you can move.” Skyway shot a laser from a hole he’d made in the cloud wall thinking her distracted only the mare’s stand to freeze the beams. The mare grinned and her stand glowed with power. “Now I have the edge I need.”

She flew towards Break again with abandon her stand ready to strike. Break flew in an erratic pattern again but her opponent blurred with unimaginable speed. Break winced as the mare’s stand connected with her ribs. It wasn’t as powerful as Good Times Bad Times, but it at least broke a rib. Her whole body froze and even the motion of breathing was impossible. Her opponent pointed her laser pistol at Break’s chest and fired. Break winced as the bolt flew past her chest leaving a nasty scorch mark. Somehow, despite being unable to move, Break’s stand powers still worked and she flew to safety landing on a toppled over a filing cabinet. The mare fired more bolts, but movement returned to Break’s body and she dodged in time diving into the floor to the room below.

I think I get it now. She absorbs momentum with her stand and uses it to increase her speed. Even lasers somehow. What a powerful ability though her stand’s physical strength is nowhere near as powerful as mine. That’s something I suppose.

The mare dove in after her stand punching wildly. Good Times Bad Time parried the punches, but it was a distraction so the mare could shoot Break at point-blank range. Break caught the motion in the nick of time and stopped her gravity powers sinking through the floor. The laser bolt destroyed a nearby window its glass shattering from the impact. Her opponent shot several bolts through the cloud floor forcing Break to veer left into a desk and she winced from the impact. The mare lowered herself to the same floor gun trained on Break. She couldn’t dodge these bolts forever. She needed to remove the gun from the equation. Skyway watched their exchange from a hole in the ceiling he’d created creating spores hoping to catch the mare unaware from above.

Break covered her ears as a skyship flew in front of the building’s window. It was black, sleek, and menacing. Its canopy pointed a nasty-looking machine in Break’s direction. Break winced when spotlights blinded her for a second. The pegasus mare gave her a nasty grin.

“Put your hooves up and surrender.” A mare over a speakerphone said. “Failure to comply will result in your immediate execution.”

“Better comply, love.” The pegasus mare said. “Or you’re a dead pony.”

Why me? Despite the desperate situation, Break wouldn’t surrender. She refused to let the Enclave have the alien skull. With it, they’d have the power to conquer the wasteland with ease. Skyway looked at her lost certain the jig was up.

Break pointed towards the skyship with a Do Something gesture.

“What?” Skyway blinked.

“Get ready.” Break’s body blurred as she made a b-line towards the pegasus mare stand at the ready.

The skyship opened fire on Break and she deflected the bullets towards the mare as she gave chase. The action caught the mare off guard and she summoned her stand to protect herself. She didn’t expect Break to use this opportunity to throw glass in her face while she froze the bullets coming at her. The mare cried out in pain as they blinded her and screamed as a bullet entered her side. Break moved in to finish her opponent, but the mare used her super-speed to limp away. She must have guessed Break could tag her with Good Times Bad Times even at that speed.

“You idiots!” The pegasus mare pointed a hoof at the skyship. She panted. The wound wasn’t fatal, but it was serious.

“What?” A pony from the skyship’s loudspeaker said bewildered. Break saw in the corner of her eye Skyway creeping on top of the machine.

Keep their attention towards me. Break leaped into another charge towards the pegasus mare.

“Not good.” The pegasus mare looked around the room and dashed into a nearby door deciding to run with her prize instead of facing Break.

Break cursed and changed gravity giving chase. The skyship changed tactics and shot missiles at her instead. Eyes widened in terror, Break extended her stand to catch one and it took every ounce of her stand’s strength to hold it back. The other exploded sending fire and debris in her direction. She released the missile sending it safely away from her and change direction of gravity as the fire blew towards her. The fire blazed singed her fur, but the blast threw her through a wall and several desks. Break winced as her back withstood the impact. Though hurt, she still lived groaning on what remained of a cubical. Fire lit anything not made of clouds. She used the smoke to conceal her presence and escaped through the same door the mare had used.

Break flew down the corridor looking for any sign of the mare. She tensed when the skyship shot more missiles through the doorway and Break used her stand to fly into a nearby open door before they hit her. Pain erupted through her body as she hit a sink and a bucket landed on her head from a shelf above. She’d landed in a janitor’s closet.

“Are those maniacs trying to destroy everything?” Break feared they might tear down the building to kill her.

After reorienting herself and removing the bucket off her head, she peeked through the door. Smoke and dust filled the corridor and Break used a nearby washcloth to protect her mouth. It smelled terrible of chemicals and dirt, but it was better than nothing. Fire spread further through the building and the air burned hot, but she saw no sign of more missiles. Portions of the cloud building were just gone blown to pieces exposing her to the outside. Ponies below watched the scene in concern awoken by the chaos. They gasped as they saw an earth pony in their city. Break pulled herself deeper into the building, not wanting to draw more attention.

The sound of coughing caught her attention and she flew towards it staying low and hoped the maniacs wouldn’t fire more missiles. She detected more coughing from a door leading to a stairwell. After looking down the stairwell, she saw her opponent enter the door leading to the lowest floor. Break jumped down going through the stairs made of clouds stopping right before the bottom floor.

Break careful approached the door leading out. The door flew open as the pegasus mare kicked it open firing randomly into it. Break flew towards the ceiling and her left leg erupted in pain as it received a glancing shot.

“Thought so.” The pegasus mare reloaded her laser pistol training it toward Break floating above her. The strange skull nestled in her hooves.

Break threw herself to safety as the mare threw punches with her stand. Break tried counter-attacking with Good Times Bad Times, but the mare’s stand slip through Break’s stand’s punch and froze her stand again. The punch reverberated through her chest. It didn’t cause much damage, but it hurt. Panic filled her as her gravity power momentary stopped and she fell through the floor into the open sky below. She caught herself before falling any further. She’d a momentary lost a concentration.

Break peered through the floor of the cloud building trying to find her target. After finding nopony, she checked her Eyes Forward, Sparkle and saw the mare running down a corridor and Break followed with caution. She flew under the mare, but her flying wavered because she’d been using her power for so long. In normal circumstances, she used Good Times Bad Times powers for only several minutes at a time. This fight had her using them for over twenty minutes and it was putting too much strain on her. Realizing she had no choice, she flew back into the building a small distance away from her quarry and landed on a desk in a cubicle catching her breath.

The new room contained cubicles arranged in a maze-like pattern. So far, Break saw no sight of her opponent. She scanned the room and observed the two exits. She monitored them in case the mare tried making a break for it and jumped between the cubicles avoiding using her powers. The exertion of using her power made her weak and her legs trembled a little. She opened her E.F.S. to locate her opponent only to freeze when she realized they were right behind her. Break winced as a bolt flew past her ear as she leaped to safety clutching to a desk for dear life almost falling through the floor again.

The mare was breathing hard, but she wasn’t out of the fight yet. She used a handkerchief to stanch her gunshot wound. The strange skull was nowhere in sight instead holding her laser pistol with both hooves.

I don’t want to hurt you.” Break said trying to diplomatic. “Tell me where the skull is and I’ll leave.”

“Why?” The mare peered suspiciously at Break. “What are you after?” She kept her gun trained at Break’s chest.

“I just want to destroy it.” Break said hoping her honest would come through her words. “Nopony should have that kind of power.”

The mare snorted. “It can’t be that simple. You came all this way for that?”

“Well, yes.” Break said awkwardly. “This power is dangerous. Most ponies can’t handle it. It’s lethal to anypony without, well, I’m not sure. It kills some ponies and gives powers to others.”

The mare stared at Break like she was a complete foal. Break had to admit her argument wasn’t the greatest. What determines if a pony got a stand power? Will power maybe?

“Look, this power comes from aliens!” Break said desperately. “That isn’t right!”

“No argument from me.” The mare replied. “This power could change the world! Bring order to this chaotic world. It will allow the Enclave to do some real good.”

Break made a face. “Yeah and put the rest of us under their iron-clad hoof.”

“Better than chaos.” The mare said. “Sorry, whoever you are, but I’m not backing down.”

“Break Point.”

The mare blinked. “Huh?”

“That’s my name.”

“Aurora. Sergeant Aurora.” The mare wasn’t sure why there were exchanging name and neither was Break. She desired to speak to the other mare as a pony tired of fighting.

“It’s nice to meet you.” Break said honestly. The other mare only shrugged returning to a fighting stand refusing to back down.

Break eyes scanned the room trying to discover any sign of the skull. She cried out in alarm as the building shook and dust from debris tinkled on her head. An explosion filled her vision and jumped out of the way pushing Aurora to safety with her using her stand to push them away from the blast. Heat burned at her back as the cloud building dissipated. More explosions filled the building and Aurora cried out as desks and other office equipment burned to cinders. Break pushed them further away towards an exit outside only to freeze in her tracks as a missile flew in her path. She tried reversing course, but the thing exploded throwing them both like ragdolls. The last Break saw before her head impacted a random piece of debris was the black airship from earlier spewing missiles across town.

---

Skyway watched the building’s destruction with a cold expression. He had completed the mission. Several strategic missile strikes had destroyed the building taking the two mares and the skull with it. The skull’s destruction would disappoint Wind Whistler, but he couldn’t let it fall into Enclave hooves. He flew around in his new skyship to make sure nopony escaped the building. Other skyships flew towards him not giving much of a window to escape. After nodding in satisfaction, Skyway flew off towards the center of New Cloudsdale. He fired several missiles into random buildings not caring what destruction he caused. Cloud material dissipated when the fiery explosion hit them. It would prove a nice distraction as he made his escape. It was what the Enclave deserved.

Wind Whistler wouldn’t be too happy at Break’s death either, but Skyway found it acceptable losses. She was weak and compassionate and would only slow the Knights down. Besides, a part of him told not to trust her and he believed it. She was a dangerous pony better off dead.

Yes, they call her the Black Cat for a reason. The voice said. She would only bring death to us all. Killing her was the right choice.

The skyships were torn between search and rescue and pursuing him. This slight hesitation gave him the room to escape. They shot missiles at him, but Skyway was a skilled flier and dodged them with ease. He’d need to ditch the skyship soon. Each one contained a hidden tracker. It’s a good thing he knew how to set it on autopilot and sending the Enclave soldiers on a wild goose chance.

“Mission complete.”

Chapter 41

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“Well?” Commander Blackwing asked as he approached. Ponies gave him room despite how crowdedness of the hospital waiting room. “How’s the prisoner’s condition?”

Aurora stood up from her seat and saluted. Moving still hurt and her body felt stiff, but a healing potion had repaired a majority of the damage. They weren’t an instant cure-all and they couldn’t afford to waste any more on her. The doctors removed the bullet with little trouble and promised she’d make a full recovery soon. "Stable. She received a nasty head blow but is fine otherwise. She was lucky the damage wasn't more serious."

Commander Blackwing paced. “And containment? How the bloody heck will we contain her? She’s more powerful than a tank!”

"There's no chance of escape, sir," Aurora replied, "we’re keeping her sedated until we have a prison cell that can hold her.” The mare's punching power was incredible. They needed a thick solid steel cell if they stood a chance of keeping her. Difficult to construct in a cloud city. Best keep her sedated for the time being.

“Good, make sure she says that way.” Blackwing’s face twisted into a grimace. “She and her compatriot have caused enough damage.”

The hospital's overstuffed occupants were proof enough. Break’s insane comrade destroyed a third of New Cloudsdale and both of the city's hospitals were filled to capacity fighting to handle the injured. Fifty ponies were dead and hundreds injured. It was a disaster of epic proportions.

Skyway, you will pay dearly for this.

“Keep me informed of the prisoner’s condition.” Blackwing adjusted his cap after a nurse bumped into him. He gave the commander a chagrined smile, but Blackwing only nodded letting him pass. “We’ll secure her for questioning. We have many questions that need answering.”

Aurora’s report detailed everything Break told her and their mission to destroy the skull, but several other facts didn’t add up. Like why Skyway attacked the city if his only mission was destroying the skull? Why the attempt on his own accomplice’s life? Were they acting alone or were they under orders? These questions demanded answers and she’d get them. Then they’d hunt the bastards that caused so much senseless pegasi deaths.

“And the mare, Break?” Aurora asked. “What will happen to her?”

Blackwing put his hooves behind his back. “She will become a useful test subject. Test Tubes has been on my flank about examining her. She’s an odd specimen.”

“You won’t dissect her?”

Blackwing laughed. “We have the technology that such crude methods are unnecessary especially when a mere blood test will suffice.” The commander left for his other duties. The entire city was still in chaos.

For whatever reason she didn't understand, Aurora didn't want the mare dead. Break had pushed her to safety instead of saving herself which puzzled her. It was a jarring contrast to her insane, bloodthirsty partner. Why were they together anyway? Break appeared to be a gentle filly with no desire to hurt anypony. The Enclave would get its answers. In the meantime, she’d review the security footage seeing if it provided any answers. It would keep her away from Test Tube and his prying questions and examinations about her new powers.

As Aurora walked through town, she grimaced its devastated state. The attack had annihilated many cloud houses. Many pegasi wore haunted looks their homes or livelihoods stolen away from them in a flash. Foals cried over losing their foalhood homes. Yet, ponies worked hard to regain some normalcy and already working on rebuilding the damage. Civilian ponies worked together in groups accessing the damage and ponies littered the streets cleaning up debris. Ponies with brooms cleaned up glass and trash making it easier for builder ponies. Clouds were being brought in to fix cloud structures. Pegasi had already rebuilt several streets. The noncloud structures wouldn’t be as easy taking many bits to fix. She wanted to help, but her injuries made that difficult. Still, she’d find some ways to help despite the doctor’s orders to stay off her hooves.

“I’m home!” Aurora said as she entered her house. Thankfully, it was undamaged by the attack.

“Good!” Weather Report, her wife, pushed some hot pan into Aurora’s hooves. She used her stand to stabilize the weight. “I need some help with getting these hot dishes to the community center. They’re having a potluck to help feed the volunteers. I’m making my famous cauliflower casserole. I’ve been slaving over the oven all day. An army can’t move on an empty stomach!”

Weather got a better look at her special somepony and gasped. “What happened?!”

Aurora laughed. “I’m fine. Only a little beat up from work. I’ll be glad to help.”

The words helped, but Weather still gave her a look of concern. “If you’re sure. Terrible business. Clear tells me it was a terrorist attack from some earth pony surfacers! She swears to me she saw an actual earth pony last night! Here on a cloud city!”

“No, she was mistaken.” Aurora didn’t want other ponies knowing about Break. It would take some doing convincing civilians they hadn’t seen the dirt pony. “It was a terrorist attack, but the details are still sketchy. They should release an official statement soon.”

Her words placated her wife. She hated lying to Weather, but that was the nature of working for the Enclave.

“Well, okay.” Weather took the hot dish from Aurora’s hooves. “You’re hurt so I can’t have you carrying around such a heavy thing. I know you will protest, so take this instead.” She gave Aurora a bag of chips and plastic cups. “Much better. Now you can keep busy and not strain yourself.”

A smile broke out on Aurora’s muzzle. “Sure. Let’s get this stuff to the community center. I’m starving. I hope Clear brought her potato salad. I’d kill for a plate of some.”

---

Bloodgood looked up and squinted, unable to believe his eyes. Above him stood a real cloud city. Several portions of destroyed cloud cover revealed the blue sky above. It wasn't much, only blue splotches, but still noticeable among the gray dullness. He’d heard stories, sure, but it was something else seeing one in real life. Strange, he’d picture it’d be prettier and not some gray blob. He expected rainbows at least. Debris littered the empty sandy plain. Some appeared still useable to his eye. Did it fall from the sky somehow? He saw pegasi flying around fixing the cloud structure bring in new clouds to repair the damage. How the heck did that happen?

“Amazing.” Murder Machine said. “I’m sure I’ve passed this area a million times and never noticed it.”

Bloodgood snorted. “Those stuck up pegasi think they’re better than us and not worth even showing themselves to.” It was their fault that the world was so screwed up. They had almost limitless power and technology and they did swat to help the surface ponies. He swore he’d make them pay, somehow. His new power made him something beyond normal ponies. The problem was getting here.

A black shape formed among the blue sky and his heart raced when he realized what it was. “Hide!” He didn’t have to speak twice and Murder Machine was already running for cover. They hide behind a rock as a skyship flew towards the ground. Three pegasi exited it.

“Think there’s something is salvable here?” One asked surveying the wreckage.

“That’s the commander’s hope.” The second replied. “He wants to save anything we can. Besides, he wanted it all removed so the surfacers notice nothing amiss.”

“Everything?” The first said incredulously. “It will take hours.”

“Which will take longer if you don’t stop whining about it.” The third added. “We can’t leave any hint that our city is here. We can’t give the surfacers any ideas. Keep your weapons ready. We’re in the middle of nowhere, but we can’t take any chances.”

“Yes, I know.” The first moved over a destroyed couch and struggled to lift it onto his back. The three began working putting anything savable in one pile while putting junk into another for destruction and removal.

“Hey, this is our chance!” Murder Machine grinned.

Bloodgood wasn't so sure. If they stole the skyship, they'd be in a city they couldn't walk on. They also faced hundreds of pegasi. Stand or not, their enemy outnumbered and outgunned them. The strange stallion's words echoed through his ears. The strange stallion had told them this would be the best opportunity to kill her. She'd be vulnerable and easy pickings. But, how could they possibly take advantage of it? They’d dare not waste this chance.

He wouldn't have told me if success wasn't possible. He reminded himself of all the friends that died because of that accused mare. That mare risked the entire world. He couldn’t back down. Was it possible they had places a pair of earth ponies could walk on? Whatever chaos happening above would provide a perfect cover.

Here goes nothing. “Cover me.” Bloodgood moved and activated his stand ignoring the total insanity of his next actions.

“Raiders!” The third stallion said pointing when Bloodgood left cover. He pulled his laser rifle free. The others repeated the action with practiced efficiency.

The first pointed towards his head and fired, and his eyes widened in surprise when his gun jammed. No matter what he tried, it refused to fire. The other two aimed towards Murder Machine who dove for cover. The first threw his useless weapon away and pulled out a combat knife wielding it with obvious skill. Bloodgood kept moving summoning his stand behind him. His stand, Goodbye Stranger, was a green pony-like figure with thick black veins over its body. Its body had sharp angles and a blank face with no eyes or mouth.

The pegasus aimed at his heart with frightening accuracy, only to take a wrong step on a rock twisting his leg collapsing inches from his opponent. Bloodgood smirked and pounded the stallion to death with his stand. His fellows watched with equal parts horror and confusion. They turned their weapons on him, only for Murder Machine to attack them from behind with a pistol. They scrambled to correct their mistake, but somehow they got into each other’s way and Murder Machine ended them each with a shot to the temple.

"Gotta say, Bloodgood, your stand is mighty impressive." Murder Machine put his weapon away. "My stand is downright stupid in comparison."

"Don't say that I'm sure it'll have its uses," Bloodgood replied. His friend's power was an odd one, but he was positive it would be powerful and useful if used creatively. He hoped.

“Whatever you say.” Murder Machine a little glum. He walked towards the skyship. “Any idea how to fly this thing? I can’t make heads or tails of it.”

Bloodgood entered the machine and examined the multitude of controls and buttons. The sheer amount boggled the mind making his head spin. Still, if he got it airborne, he was reasonably sure they'd be set. He searched for a manual but came up empty. Even digging into the seats produced no results. He sighed knowing it forced them to do this insanity the hard way.

“Let’s just try buttons until we get it right.” He sat in the pilot’s seat.

---

“No.” Bloodgood gapped not believing his eyes. The true sky was beyond his wildest dreams. Even Bloodgood, who barely cared about anything, was awestruck by the sight. He’d ever seen anything so blue and clear in his life. And the sun was amazing. Its light was warm and bright burning brighter than any lightbulb.

“The pegs hog this all to themselves?” Murder Machine said amongst the silence.

“So it would seem.” Bloodgood gritted his teeth. The pegasi stole all this beauty and purity for themselves and expect everypony wallow around in the mud? A thousand curses to the self-righteous bastards and their cloud cover. Do they expect everypony else to live in grayness forever? It wasn’t right.

Yet, what can I do? I’m only one pony. Powers or not. He’d change this somehow.

"Oh, ponyfeathers!" Murder Machine said interrupting his dark thoughts. "They're calling us. What do we do?"

They could blast us out of the sky with no issue. He scanned the skycity and remarkably finding sections not make of cloud. Black Cat was there somewhere. But how do we get there?

From the sight of the city’s defensive guns, he doubted he’d get very far. They only option was to bluff and hope they bought it.

“Answer it.”

“What?” Murder Machine gave him an incredulous look.

"Do it," Bloodgood replied, "it's our only chance."

“All right.” Murder Machine scrabbled with the controls before finding the button that activated the comms.

“About time, is everything all right?” The voice over the comm said. “You’re back several hours early.”

"Yeah, uh, several raiders attacked us." Bloodgood did his best impression of one the pesagi he'd killed. "Got injured. We need to land."

“Land at platform 4. We’ll get a response team ready. Injuries?”

"Nothing too serious. One received a shot in the left leg, and the other has some serious bruises from a baseball bat, but nothing some potions can't handle."

He cursed his lack of medical knowledge and prayed to any celestial being out in the heavens the pony on the other end would buy this.

“Copy. A medical team will be ready.” They sighed in relief.

“Any idea where Platform 4 is?” Murder Machine asked.

Bloodgood laughed in merriment. “Does it matter? We’re in!”

The city bustled with activity when they entered the parameter wall. It appeared some considerable damage happened to the city. It was obvious the Black Cat was responsible somehow. Was it because of her stand power? A frightening prospect if true.

Pegasi cried out in surprise as their vehicle barreled through town for Bloodgood’s control wasn’t very good. He had no clue how he’d land the thing.

“Brace yourself, this might get bumpy.” Bloodgood steered towards the nearest empty landing spot. Ponies fled realizing their ship was out of control. The comm flashed demanding attention, but he ignored it. His teeth rattled as they impacted the pavement. His seatbelt prevented him from slamming his head.

“Are you okay?” Bloodgood released his harness and checked on his friend.

Murder Machine winced but nodded. “I’m fine, I guess.”

"We better become scarce before somepony investigates." Bloodgood's heart raced as the door had trouble opening damaged from the crash. He used his stand to pry it open without issue.

“Hide!” They jumped behind some crates as some pegasi flew down to investigate.

“What the hay happened?” The first pegasi peered into the skycar. “It’s empty?”

Another pegasi touched his helmet. “No, I don’t see them. No sign of the injured ponies.”

“What’s going on?” The first said. “The skycar can’t fly itself.”

“I have a bad feeling about this.” The soldier said. “Spread out. Search for anything out of the ordinary. Keep in constant contact. I fear some raiders snuck into the city.” The other soldier saluted and spread out guns ready.

"Oh, ponyfeathers." Bloodgood didn't want to fight an entire army. Murder Machine nodded and they crouched down trying to keep out of sight. Hiding was their best chance to survive.

Why did I come here again? What was I thinking?! Still, they’d made it this far and he refused to give up. The Black Cat was here somewhere and he’d find her.

They jumped into a trash bin as a soldier flew by and his heart raced as she searched the parameter. He cursed as she investigated every nook and cranny and she came their way. It wouldn’t take long for her to find them. He considered killing her. It would be simplicity itself, but they would tip them off there were dangerous intruders. Best remain unseen. The beating of his heart became harder when she walked closer towards them. They needed a distraction, but what? He mentally slapped his head. He’d forgotten about Goodbye Stranger.

Bloodgood summoned his stand stretching it out the farthest it could manage. It got weaker the further it got away from him until it disappeared. Murder Machine tapped him pointing at the mare worried about discovery at any moment. The soldier was only hooves away. Bloodgood used Goodbye Stranger and grabbed a nearby rock. The rock knocked over a trash can in another alley. The mare perked up turning to investigate. They fled the bin looking for a better hiding spot.

“Down this way!” Bloodgood led his friend into another alley and they went flat first against a wall as another pegasi passed overhead.

The noncloud part of the city wasn’t very large. It would be only a matter of time until somepony discovered them. Ponies were dead. He doubted they would relent until they solved the mystery. They needed to find the Black Cat and fast, but how? There were fifteen buildings to search. Should they try a random building and hope they guessed correctly?

No, think. What looks like the best building to find her? The strange stallion had said she was being held captive by the Enclave. For reasons he didn’t understand, they hadn’t killed her despite the insane amount of destruction she caused. A test subject maybe? She cursed the strange stallion for not being more specific on where to find her.

"Hide!" Murder Machine pushed him into an open door just avoiding the gaze of another enclave guard. They were in a bland office in one of the airship hangers. He guessed his friend must have picked the lock.

“We can’t keep doing this.” Murder Machine said trying to calm his beating heart.

“I know.” This whole mission seemed hopeless. He’d screwed the pooch this time. Fear and panic filled him. He didn’t want to die. Murder Machine put a comforting hoof on his arm.

“We can do this, dude.” He gave Bloodgood a small smile. “I have an idea.” He approached a nearby terminal and tapped at the keys. Moments later, he beamed with excitement. “Perfect, the system has a basic map of the compound. Look.”

Bloodgood scanned the screen. The noncloud part of the city contained mostly warehouses for storage for items that couldn’t stand on clouds. How this made sense, he didn’t know, but pegasi are weird. One building caught this eye, one dedicated to mainland research called the Wasteland Research Department.

“What do you think?” Bloodgood showed the building in question.

Murder Machine beamed with excitement. “I think we got a hit.”

Chapter 42

View Online

“We’ve kept these bugs buzzing,” Bloodgood said observing the pegasi activity throughout town. Instead of giving up, they’d increased their patrols well into the nighttime. They used spotlights to peer into every shadow searching for a foe they didn’t quite know existed. He wondered if they’d found the bodies of their comrades on the surface yet. So far, they avoided detection, but Bloodgood didn’t want to challenge his good fortune.

The building they were scouting buzzed with activity and its defensives looked formidable even without the general alarm. High-tech cameras and torrents were everywhere and sported some impressive-looking locks. They would be a challenge even to Murder Machine’s considerable skill. He worried it might require some serious noise to break inside.

“Got an idea.” Murder Machine pointed towards a small vent. A vent that size, only a filly had a chance of crawling through it. This was the perfect job for Murder Machine’s ability.

They waited for the guards to pass and Murder Machine used Bloodgood’s back to reach the vent. With a flick of his tools, Murder Machine had the vent open and Bloodgood stood on his hind legs pushing his friend inside.

Here is where the weirdness happened. The vent was tiny compared to the lanky stallion, but Murder Machine’s joints dislocated allowing him to fit inside. His stand, Born of a Broken Man, allowed him to perform such impossible feats. His bones seemed more like rubber. Misshaping his body didn’t even cause pain or discomfort and he even seemed comfortable crammed in there. It wasn’t easy, but he scooted further into the vent using only his shoulders and back legs. Bloodgood shut the vent. Just in time for a guard passed by moments later.

Minutes passed and Bloodgood waited for his partner to reappear. He didn’t worry about Murder Machine knowing the stallion could take care of himself. Minutes later a side door opened and Murder Machine gestured for Bloodgood to enter. Bloodgood sighed in relief when he entered unnoticed. He was in a bland hallway though this one was cleaner than any he’d seen on the surface and still had paint on the walls.

“See anypony?” Bloodgood whispered.

“Most went home for tonight, but I heard some commotion coming from the lab area.” Murder Machine replied.

Bloodgood furrowed his brow. “At this hour? Come, let’s investigate.”

---

Aurora laughed as her wife told a strange story about their neighbor getting caught inside a window for almost a day. He’d been too stubborn to call for help and spent hours trying to wriggle free. He’d eventually given up and called Weather Report for help. It took considerable effort with plenty of cooking oil, but she’s finally freed him.

“How did he get there, anyway?” Aurora carried some leftovers given to them after the potluck ended. The volunteers had almost every street cleaned of debris and the worker ponies had repaired several cloud houses. They’d all done a fine day’s work. Aurora worked hard serving food to the hungry volunteers and left satisfied she’d done her part despite her injuries.

“I don’t know.” Weather Report said laughing. “I’d never gotten an answer out of him.”

Aurora laughed too. “Is that right?” She froze when she noticed something scurrying through the shadows. Had she just seen a dirt pony? Had Break escaped? She felt certain she’d seen a stallion.

“Is something the matter?” Weather Report asked. “You got that look on your face.”

“I’m not sure.” Her mind might only be playing tricks on her, but she wouldn’t take any chances. Maybe Break and Skyway hadn’t come by themselves.

“I’ll be at home.” Weather Report took the bags from Aurora’s hooves, reading her wife’s mood perfectly. “Stay safe, okay?”

Aurora kissed her wife. “I will.” She took off towards the direction the shadow had gone.

Aurora hid behind a wall and gapped at what bizarre scene stood before her. An earth pony stallion was pushing another earth pony into a tiny vent on one of the science buildings. It was an impossible feat, but much to her amazement, the stallion entered the vent without a problem. What was that pony? Were they even an equine? His companion waited outside and soon the first stallion opened a side door letting his companion inside.

From their appearance, they were raiders, but how did they get into New Cloudsdale? Wasn’t that the building the Break was being held in sedation? She cursed and ran towards a terminal. She needed to report to the higher-out about the situation. The first stallion did something she’d thought impossible. Pony bodies didn’t bend like that. Could it be a stand? If they were friends of Break, that made sense. She accessed the terminal and contacted her CEO.

“Yes?” Commander Blackwing sounded tired, but alert.

“It’s me, commander,” Aurora said.

“Ah, Aurora! How are you? Are your injuries faring you well? Jack tells me he saw you at the community center helping feed the volunteers. Well done! Shame I couldn’t come either, but paperwork you know.”

“Sir, I spotted intruders.” Aurora cut off Blackwing’s friendly ramblings. “They’re both earth ponies. Raiders from their appearance.”

Blackwing’s good mood died. “So there are the intruders. Raiders you say? Where?”

“Wasteland Research Department. Two of them.”

“I see, wait there. I’ll contact Wing Guard. He’s been searching for them all day. Somehow they stole a transport and snuck into the city.”

“They might have stands, sir,” Aurora added, “I saw one of them do something impossible. I fear they’re connected to the earth pony Break Point.”

Blackwing let out several colorful curses. “Sorry to ask you this. But could you help Wing Guard apprehend them? I know you’re injured, but if they do have powers, we need all the help we can get.”

“Understood, sir.” Aurora stood straight her voice determined. “They won’t escape.”

“Good mare.” Blackwing hung up and she waited for reinforcements to arrive. She only hoped they would arrive before the raiders rescued Break.

The response time was better than she’d expected. It took them only four minutes to arrive. It wasn’t a huge force, but it would suit their purposes. Twenty heavily armed and armored pegasi exited a troop convoy. Half wore Enclave issued power armor with laser rifles. A burly stallion in a commander’s uniform exited the ship with a cigar in his mouth. He puffed at it thoughtfully as he approached.

“So, you’re the pony Commander Blackwing told me about? The one with the strange powers?” Wing Guard sized her up noticing her injuries and giving her a doubtful look.

“Yes, sir!” Aurora gave a prompt salute. “I’m afraid we have little time for chit chat. The intruders are attempting to reach a dangerous prisoner. For what exact purpose, I can’t tell.”

Wing Guard nodded and gave his troops commands to surround the building. Some would stay to prevent any escape attempts and covered every entrance. The rest joined Aurora to pursue the criminals.

“Any questions?”

“No, sir!” The troops and Aurora replied.

“Come magic girl; let’s hunt down this raider scum.” Wing Guard followed Aurora as she made her way into the building. She winced when they discovered the blood of two pegasi guards splattered over the walls. It appeared like something had crushed them to death with a tremendous force far beyond any psychical feat of a pony.

“What could cause this?” Wing Guard asked.

“Stand powers, sir. As insane as it sounds, they are very real.”

“Truly?” Wing Guard winced. It appeared he believed the powers business to be nothing by the talk of overeager cadets until now. A position he quickly revaluated. They found more corpses of guards as they rushed towards the lab also beaten to an unrecognizable pulp. There were signs of a fight, but these raiders were beyond these simple guard’s means. Aurora hoped their heavy weapons would tip the scale in their favor. They arrived at the lab to the sound of shouting. Somepony screamed out in pain.

“I’ll ask you only once.” A stallion with a rough voice said. “Where is the Black Cat?”

Black Cat?

“I don’t know who you mean!” A scientist pony replied. He cried out in pain and whimpered when the raider caused him pain. Another scientist cowered not daring to move.

“The purple earth pony mare.” The stallion growled. “She has to be here.”

“Right, make it easier for yourself.” Another raider added. “You don’t want to end up like your friend.”

“She’s over there in sedation.” The scientist pony pointed somewhere across the room. He screamed and the body landed in a bloody misshapen heap against a wall.

The second raider laughed. “Sedation. That weird old pony was right. She’ll be easy to kill! This is perfect.”

Kill? So it isn’t a rescue mission? Is this to silence her? The mention of an old pony piqued her interest. It shouldn’t be possible for any surfacer to have info on the city. These were questions to answer later.

“Hooves in the air.” Wind Guard’s commanding voice echoed through the room. “This is your only warning.”

The first raider, a red stallion with a tawny-orange mane cursed and turned and flipped a table. His cutie mark was two daggers crossed in an X. His fellow, an emerald green stallion with a navy mane jumped after him. His cutie mark was a bloody saw. They were typical raider scum.

The remaining scientist took this opportunity to fly towards the ceiling hoping to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. The Enclave laser rifle burned holes into the table and the raider scrambled to find better cover. A figure appeared over the red stallion floating protectively over him. She was right. They were stand users. Something bizarre happened moments later. A shot hit wide striking one the lighting fixtures causing it to smash into the head of a nearby enclave soldier. The soldier bumped into Aurora so hard she lost her breath. His helmet protected him, but it was a nasty bump and knocked him out cold. Another Enclave soldier ran towards his prey gun raised, only to slip on a spilled glass of water when the table got destroyed. His rifle went off shooting into the skull of a nearby soldier in power armor hitting a weak point on the neck. He stared in horror and got shot in the eye for his trouble. The next soldier took out a grenade and chucked it over towards their target. Everypony waited for it to explode, but seconds passed with nothing happening.

A dud? What the heck? She watched as her troops had their plans ruined by random bad luck. One pony in power armor tanked the raider’s bullets flying towards them, only for the scientist pony to crash his head on the ceiling, and fall into the armored pony’s path right as he had a bead on the red stallion. The raider used his stand to throw a nearby table into both of them at high speed crushing them with tremendous force. The armored pony wasn’t dead only dazed, but the scientist wasn’t so lucky and blood came out of his ears.

This chaos happened in moments. What seemed like a surefire victory went pear-shaped. Aurora stood up and regained her breath. She wasted no time joining into the action, though she hid her stand’s existence for the time being. Instead, she pulled out her laser pistol and readied it for action. Another soldier joined her and they moved to surround the green raider. They’d take out the easier target first. His leg stuck out from under a desk he was hiding under. They froze stunned when they pointed their guns into the hiding space, only to find a disconnected leg lying on the floor. Her partner screamed as a bullet pierced her neck and fell dead. The green raider had somehow hidden in a small cupboard his body scrunched up at impossible angles. His shot at Aurora too but his first shot alerted her to his presence and her stand punched the incoming bullets giving her time to escape. The green raider’s eyes widened surprised by the sight of her stand. She turned pointing her weapon at him giving him no time to react.

The green raider frantically struggled to vacate his hiding spot as Aurora aimed for his head. She winced as an ashtray connected with her hoof knocking the weapon to the ground. She turned to find the red raider wearing a scowl on his face.

“Another stand user?” The raider said. “It ain’t going to matter. You’ll die just like the Cat.” Much to her surprise, instead of facing her, he turned running towards the holding cell containing Break Point.

“After him!” She said commanding the remaining soldiers. She yelped as something wrapped around her neck. It was a pony’s leg, only it moved more like a rope than any pony limb.

“Stop or your commander dies.” The green stallion said coming from behind her. She could smell his rancid breath as his head reached her ear.

Her troops froze unsure what to do. They didn’t want to abandon her. She summoned her stand to fight back, but it disappeared when she lost focus when the raider tightened his body so hard she couldn’t breathe. How did this simple fight escalate so out of control?

“I can crack your neck before you can kill me.“ The green raider said. “It’s pointless to fight, anyway. We’re after the same thing. Don’t you want the Black Cat dead for what she did to your town?”

What is he talking about? Her face turned blue, unable to get any oxygen and the world turning black. She cursed. The soldiers’ inactivity would get Break killed. It might get her killed, but taking down a stand using a raider and protecting Break would be a good trade-off. She refused to be a hostage.

Weather Report, I’m sorry. She summoned her stand where it would be difficult to notice. She winced in pain as he punched her in the chest making her lose any remaining air in her lungs. Life faded from her. Her desperate gambit had failed. He’d seen it somehow and now she’d die for her failure. As she blacked out, she believed she deserved this for her foalishness.

Somepony screamed and soon light returned to the world. Aurora forced glorious oxygen in her lungs gasping and wheezing. She had a nasty bruise over her neck, but she’d survive. What had happened? The green stallion whimpered grasping at his leg which had a nasty bullet wound. An Enclave soldier had used the distraction of Aurora summoning her stand to free their commanding officer. They fired on the prone raider, but he twisted his body and snuck under a table a filly couldn’t fit under. Aurora scurried away on her knees grabbing her gun while doing so.

“Are you okay, sir?” The soldier sent a volley of bullets into the table the raider was hiding under. The bullets shot through it without difficulty but they missed.

“I’ll live.” Aurora regained her composure before going after their enemy. The hiding raider screamed as a bullet struck him and pooled from under the table. She ran after the red raider leaving several soldiers to terminate the injured one.

The scene was comical as she saw the red dirty pony trying and failing to force open the locked examination room. Break sat upon a chair unconscious drool escaping the corner of her mouth. The raider’s stand grabbed at the door attempting to rip it open, but it withstood the pressure only budging an inch. His eyes bulged when Aurora and several soldiers rushed into the room. He searched for cover as the soldiers took aim. The room comprised nothing but the entrances to several examination rooms giving him nothing to hide behind.

“Out of luck this time,” Aurora smirked, keeping her stand at the ready. Whatever good luck he’d had before was about to fail.

“Never.” The raider sweated eying the guns with uncertainty but refusing to give up.

He jumped out of the path of the incoming lasers avoiding them by a hair throwing himself to the ground. He pointed his gun up to return fire, only for Aurora to rip it from his hooves. Aurora had used her power to steal some speed from a laser bolt to surprise their enemy. She ran back towards the protective line of soldiers giving him no chance to use her as a shield. Guns jammed again, but it didn’t stop a bolt from leaving a nasty burn mark on the raider’s back. He collapsed on the ground screaming in pain his eyes fanatic searching for anything that might save him.

His luck power is waning. Aurora figured luck was a fickle mistress and even the best luck couldn’t save you forever. She cursed when several stray shots took out the lights above them drowning the room in darkness.

It didn’t matter. Each soldier had a flashlight attached to their helmet, but it gave the raider enough time to try something. Aurora winced at the sound of a door squeaking open and she cursed. The raider used his stand to force open the door. It wasn’t strong enough to withstand the pressure and he ripped right open. The light returned as the raider limped into the examination room. The soldiers fired, but he was inside before the lasers reached him. Aurora didn’t dottle and used her speed stealing trick again running inside the room before her troops.

There Break was laying a restraining chair with her limbs bound with metal cords. Her head lulled to the side her eyes closed in a dreamless sleep. The red raider pulled out another gun ready to blow the mare’s head open, but Aurora had enough speed to punch the weapon from his hand. The raider stared at his empty hoof in surprise before sending a hateful glare towards Aurora’s way. He sent a punch towards his hated enemy, but Aurora interrupted his attack with a speed stealing one of her own and he froze unable to move. The rest of the soldiers rushed in guns pointed towards the raider and he didn’t move when movement returned to his body.

“Come on, stand power.” The raider muttered. “Anytime now.” But no freak luck came to his aid this time and he sweated fear of the situation hitting him hard.

Strange. Perhaps his stand power only works when his life is in danger? She thought back to their fight trying to piece together the strange random luck that had aided the scum.

“Come quietly, or you will receive a bullet in your head,” Aurora kept her stand in view planning to unleash a paralyzing punch if he tried anything.

“You don’t understand.” The raider pleaded. “She’ll kill us all. The Black Cat is a curse on everything! We need to kill her before she gets free!”

“What?” That was her only response to the crazy nonsense the raider was spewing.

“I’m only doing what’s best for the world!” The raider continued.

Maybe he isn’t with Break’s mysterious group after all and he’s only a crazy pony? How did he get a stand power? Did he use another part of the alien creature, or were some ponies born with stand powers? She hoped this raider would shed some light on this mystery.

A clanking sound caught her attention and she looked down to find a disconnected hoof holding a laser pistol twisting in her direction. She dove out of the way as it fired several shots at her. The red raider tried using this to attack her from behind, but she froze his stands attack before it reached her. Aurora grimaced as her cheek impacted the cold metal floor. The other soldiers watched the disconnected hoof in pure shock giving it the opportunity to fire on them. Thankfully, their senses returned and they dove out of the room for cover. They’d received some minor wounds, but they weren’t too serious.

“He’s behind you!” Aurora cried out seeing the other raider standing on the other side of the room with one leg with another weapon in his hoof. She’d expected him to be a terrible shot with his clearly non-dominate hoof, but his aim was deadly and he scored a headshot on one soldier.

The red raider tried moving again, but Aurora put a quick stop to his attempt. She froze this body with a punch to his body. This gave his stand room to attack her, but she dodged out the way and blocked the punches with her stand. The hoof was focusing on the soldiers giving her breathing room to dodge. Her allies fired at the disembodied hoof and, much to the green stallion’s horror, blew it into bloody chunks. He grimaced in pain and collapsed to the ground. He was lucky and landed inches away from a turned over table and dragged himself behind it before he joined his hoof.

“No!” The red raider cried out in horror at his friend’s loss and instead of attacking Aurora as expected, punched Break’s chair throwing it out of the room. It rolled across the room before landing face-up near the west exit.

The green stallion struggled to his hooves and pulled out a knife diving towards Break’s head. Aurora pointed her weapon at the raider but knew she wouldn’t make it in time. The blade clanked against wood burying itself deep by the power of the thrust. Much to Aurora’s astonishment, Break had twisted her head out of the way moments before impact in a random sleep twist. How lucky was this mare? The green stallion tried and failed to pull the blade free and received a nasty shot to his remaining front knee for his trouble leaving him defenseless. Good. Aurora wanted him alive for questioning.

“Murder Machine!” The red raider cried out in horror sending Aurora a hate-filled glare. A soldier pointed their weapon towards his head, but Aurora stopped him.

“No, don’t threaten his life; it would only activate his power. Secure the prisoner instead.” Aurora said. “I’ll handle him. That’s an order.” The remaining soldiers reluctantly agreed to leave her alone with the lone threat.

“You think you got what it takes to beat me, eh?” The red raider said showing teeth. “I don’t think you know who you’re dealing with.”

Instead of attacking Aurora as expected, he darted out the room pulling out his own knife and drove it towards a nearby soldier. The soldiers raised his guns not realizing their mistake until it was too late. The red raider used his stand to take a soldier’s leg from under him and his shot hit a nearby soldier in the head killing him. The raider pulled the dead soldier in front of him using as a pony shield. Every shot struck the corpse giving the raider time to stick his knife into an eye socket splattering blood everywhere.

Aurora gave chase throwing a punch with her stand in the raider’s direction, only for him to throw the corpse in her path stunning her for a moment. The soldiers forgot her orders and opened fire on the raider. A soldier with power armor readied his laser rifle, only for the raider to use his stand to push another soldier towards his fellows cutting them to pieces. One soldier ran to aid her, only to slip on a pool of blood chipping a tooth on Break’s chair. The raider grabbed Break’s chair with his stand and used it as a shield against a power armor wearing mare. She froze daring not endangering the prisoner. In one swift motion, the raider pulled out another knife pressing it against Break’s neck threatening to slit it if pushed.

“You won’t escape,” Aurora said her voice ice cold.

“Watch me.” The red raider replied. “Are you okay Murder Machine?”

“Been better.” Murder Machine groaned. “Don’t worry about me, go.” He didn’t want to abandon his friend, but Murder Machine couldn’t walk or even stand up.

The red raider used his stand to pick up the chair but kept ready to kill Break if anypony tried anything. Aurora and the other soldiers followed looking for the best opportunity to strike when he least expected it. She waved away one soldier’s attempt to get an unexpected headshot. It would only activate his power. No, they needed to apprehend him nonlethally. Easier said than done. Moments later, the raider was outside looking for any way to escape. Just as she expected, her enemy didn’t have a real plan other than survival. It amazed her that he got this far.

“We don’t care about this Black Cat that much,” Aurora said bluffing, “put her down and surrender and we won’t kill the both of you.”

The red raider gave out a bitter laugh. “My best friend will die soon because of the Black Cat. It might be best if I die with her. Got nothing else to live for. I ain’t interested in returning to the life of a scavenger.”

I’m losing him. Her mind raced to salvage the situation. If only he wasn’t out of her stand’s reach, she’d end this in seconds. Talk, which was her only option, her only chance to save Break’s life. But how did one talk with somepony with no hope?

Moments passed and the raider and his hostage got closer to the end of the solid streets. Few steps more and his hooves would be touching nothing but cloud causing his certain doom. Aurora cursed looking for some way to stop him before he got himself and Break killed. A soldier, True Blue, gestured with his eyes. They were confident and steady? Was True Blue saying he could make the shot without endangering the hostage? There wasn’t much to close, was there? Still, could she make this order? One slip up would cause a death. Darn it, she never wanted this level of responsibility. When she joined the Enclave, she never expected to actually get into real dangerous combat situations. They were safe in the cloud, what could possibly happen?

Aurora took in a deep breath and readied herself. Do or die, she would complete this mission. She would stop this raider's rampage. Aurora looked True Blue in the eyes and nodded giving the order.

Chapter 43

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Aurora took in a deep breath, ready to put everything in this next move. Despite his previous claims, the raider eyed the surrounding soldier with fear in his eyes. He wasn’t ready to die yet. The soldiers raised their weapons. The raider took a step back realizing their intentions and his eyes darted searching for any way to escape. After realizing he had none, he tried dragging Break and her chair towards the cloud street, ready to take her with him.

The raider screamed as a laser blasted his hoof and he involuntarily released Break. In a last-ditch effort, he launched at her with his stand before the chair even reached the ground. Aurora wasted no time launching her own stand. The enemy’s stand froze when Aurora stuck it, unable to match her stand in a speed contest. The raider screamed as lasers pierced his body tearing it to pieces. The soldiers aimed nonlethally, but the damage took its toll. Aurora stopped any attempt to fight back with his stand. The soldier’s stopped when their guns started jamming. Aurora could only stop his stand moving, not its power. She held up a hoof content to let the raider bleed to death.

“Please! Don’t do this!” The raider had tears in his eyes. Already life faded from his eyes. He was dying, and nopony had any desire to save him.

“Talk. Why do you know Break is here?” Aurora asked. “What is this prophecy you keep blabbing about?”

“He only told me what we all saw!” The raider replied. “The Black Cat brings death and ruin everywhere she goes! She killed several hundred ponies only a few days ago, and she won’t stop there. Eventually, she’ll gain the power to destroy the world! That’s why she came after the skull to gain its terrible power and become unstoppable!”

The skull? Surely it only gave stands powers? On the other hoof, it was an alien creature beyond anything she’d ever seen before.

“One day soon, the world will burn by her hoof!” The raider’s agitation increased and Aurora didn’t even need to restrain him, too distracted by his diatribe. It increased the severity of his wounds, but he didn’t care. “The alien skeleton is the key! It will unlock…” The raiders became weaker, but he continued to force out the words, anyway. “Its evil lives on!” The raider passed out collapsing to the floor and everypony released a collective breath.

She spent a moment collecting herself and carefully walked over the raider’s body expecting a sneak attack. She checked its pulse and found him dead, his heat already leaving it.

“Get this one back in a cell.” Aurora pointed towards Break. “I’ll tell the higher-ups…” What would she tell them? She barely understood the raider’s insane rambles and hoped the other would be more coherent. Whatever the case, somepony needed to do something. Aurora’s gut told her she’d uncovered something bigger than herself, and she promised to learn its meaning.

---

“I understand your argument, Sergeant, but this is a tricky situation.” Commander Blackwing said trying to keep this meeting from getting out of control, again. Several bigwigs sat next to him, who eyed her with equal parts reverie and wariness.

Aurora forced herself to calm down. “I’m only saying, sir, that action is necessary before we get attacked again. Two different groups attacked us.” At least they’d learned the raiders were acting on their own. The still-living raider revealed as much. They had him restrained, ready for execution. It was a shame he didn’t know more, but they’d gotten prophet’s description at least.

“We realize this, but an expedition into the wasteland would be unwise.” General Capstone said. “The Enclave doesn’t involve itself with the surface world.”

“But we have real threats!” General Wind Dancer added. “Skyway and this organization shouldn’t go unpunished!”

“I understand your reasoning, but we don’t have the resources. Not after the attack.” Blackwing sighed. The raider’s attack had cost the lives of sixteen Enclave soldiers with four in critical care. It was a significant loss and didn’t count in the ones involved in Skyway’s attack.

The bigwigs argued amongst themselves and it was obvious they’d get nowhere. Despite Enclave’s unmatched power, politics and uncertain leadership clipped it. Aurora should have realized this truth sooner. After much deliberation, they decided nothing.

“What about the Mud-er Earth Pony Break Point?” Wind Dancer asked. “Has she been questioned yet?”

“Not yet,” Blackwing replied, “we’ve placed her in a new secure location and she’ll leave sedation soon. We will get some answers from her.”

“Good. We’ll soon get some answers.” Wind Dancer said. “What shall we do with her afterwards?”

“Will you execute her?” Aurora’s breath caught in her throat.

“She is an enemy of the state. We can’t afford leniency!” Capstone said with steel in his voice.

“Her kind doesn’t belong here.” Capstone’s lips formed a hard line. “We should eliminate her soon.”

“We already have a blood sample,” Blackwing added, “it would be a pity to kill such a unique specimen, but I agree about her ability to cause trouble.”

It’s for the best. She started this whole debacle and yet… Aurora still couldn’t find it in her heart to hate her, but orders were orders. The bigwigs agreed to have another meaning once they learned more about this mysterious organization that had betrayed Break. Afterward, they’d concluded her fate.

---

Break winced as a bright light struck her face. Where was she? What had happened? Her mind was hazy. She recalled a fight, but with whom it was impossible to recall.

“Break Point?” A hard voice said coming from everywhere, and nowhere. Break got better details of her surroundings and found herself clamped to a metal chair in an empty metal room.

“Yes.” Break replied weakly.

“I will ask you some questions.” The pony said. “Refuse or lie, and we will hit you with several hundred volts. Summon your stand, and the same will happen.”

“Stand?” A flash of memory hit Break. She’d been in a stand battle before losing consciousness. The hazy memories returned to her. Skyway had gone insane and betrayed her. Dear Celestia, he’d betrayed her and attacked the city, but why? It made no sense.

And now Green Mile thinks I’ve died a second time.

“Well!” A harsh voice said, making Break wince.

“Are you, the Enclave?” Break voice was weak but understandable.

“That is correct. You are in our custody, as is your fate.” The voice replied. “First question, who do you work for?”

Should I lie? She had no love for the Knights of Heaven. They’d betrayed her, or at least Skyway did. They were an insane and dangerous cult. Should she send the Enclave after them for the good of everypony? But, if she did that Green Mile and Scavenger would get hurt and she couldn’t bear that possibility. She realized they’d given no guarantees they’d let her live if she was truthful. Yet, she didn’t want to get tortured either. She winced as a sudden surge of electricity passed through her body. Her entire body screamed, burned by an intense fire. It left her entire body shaking and her stomach twisted.

“That’s only a taste, Break Point.” The voice said. “We expect your answers to be prompt. We will get our answers. Refusing to answer will only cause you more pain. Understand?”

Break nodded. Should she give up the answers? Did she have a choice? Someone had to stop the Knights of Heaven. Could Scavenger do it alone? No, Break couldn’t answer. As furious as she was at Skyway for betraying her, she refused to allow any danger to her cousin or her friend. She’d take the pain.

---

Aurora bit her lip. Why was this mare being so stubborn? What was she protecting? Otherwise, why take such punishment for someone who betrayed her? Break screamed again as the electricity surged through her body and Aurora’s stomach turned, imagining what it smelled like inside the room. She’d expected the earth pony to retaliate with her stand, anything. Instead, she stayed slumped against her restraints, refusing to speak a single word. After four hours, Aurora was at her limit. The torture session was worse than she’d ever imagined. Without realizing it, Aurora had exited the room.

“Stop the session for now.” Commander Blackwing said following her.

“I’m sorry, sir.” Aurora took in deep gulps of air. “I know this is necessary. I should be stronger.”

Blackwing gave her a weak smile. “I don’t blame you. I don’t find it any more palatable. I can’t believe the stubbornness of that dirt pony. I suppose it’s not surprising given her kind.”

“What will happen if she continues to refuse to talk?” Aurora asked. Commander Blackwing remained silent. “I see.” Break was dead regardless if she talked or not.

An idea flashed in her head. “Break knows me. Maybe I should ask the questions? She might give something up.”

Blackwing scratched his chin. “It’s worth a try, sergeant. She might reveal something, even unintentionally. I agree. We’ll begin the interrogation in three hours; let’s give the dirt pony time to stew.”

---

Break kept her eyes closed; resting from the beating these ponies had given her. They’d given her a brief respite, and she planned to take every advantage. Instead of worrying about her fate, she plotted her escape. The voice said they’d shock her if she attempted using her stand. She figured they had that Aurora mare watching her every move unless they had another stand user. So far, Break had resisted using Good Times Bad Times waiting for the right moment to strike. She found her chair fixed to the ground so her gravity powers were useless, but she figured the restraints holding weren’t strong enough to withstand her stand’s strength. They may have battered her body, but her will and mind remained resolute. Her eyes opened as somepony opened the door revealing the accidental stand user, Sergeant Aurora. Break said nothing, watching as Aurora entered with her own chair.

“Hello, are you comfortable?” Aurora asked after sitting down.

Moments passed, but Break didn’t reply. Undaunted, Aurora continued. “I want to have a chat. They have allowed me to grant leniency if you cooperate.” Again, Break didn’t respond.

“Fine, I see you want to make this difficult. Tell me, why did you save my life?”

“It’s what any decent pony would do.” Break’s voice was ragged but strong. She didn’t know why she replied, but something compelled her to.

“Thank you.” A smile formed on the sergeant’s lips. “Few will risk their lives for an enemy.”

A surge of frustration washed over Break. What was Skyway thinking?

“Is the town okay? Skyway did some serious damage to it.” Break asked, not hiding her anger.

“There were numerous casualties and some serious structural damage, but New Cloudsdale is recovering.”

“Good. That’s something.”

“Why? Why did he do it?” Aurora gave Break a pointed look, which made her wince.

Break sighed, unsure how to reply. “He just did it.”

“He just did it?”

Despite her desire to remain quiet, something compelled Break to offer some explanation. “I don’t know. He was a soldier unafraid to kill, but…”

“But…”

“Nothing showed he was capable of doing that.” Break clinched her mouth so hard it hurt. “It was a simple mission. In and out. What was he thinking?! It’s almost as if…” A strange thought struck Break.

“As if an enemy stand had affected his mind.” Break continued the strange theory. Was she just being paranoid? Stands made many crazy abilities. It made one jump at every shadow, and yet…

“An enemy stand?” Aurora’s mouth hung open, shocked.

“It’s a random thought. A fanciful theory. If you want to know why he turned on me, ask him yourself.”

“Don’t worry, we intend to.” Aurora’s expression turned hard. “But, we need his location. Almost eighty ponies died because of him.”

Break didn’t reply, pain visible on her face. She wanted justice for what happened, but she refused to put her cousin and Scavenger in danger no matter what.

“Did you hear me?”

Break flinched when Aurora slammed her hoof against the floor. “Then why are you protecting him?!”

“I don’t have a choice.” Break replied, her voice weak. She averted her gaze when the other mare glared at her.

She’s got me over a barrel. If she revealed her secrets, the Enclave would probably kill her allies in the Knights. If she stayed silent, Skyway and his organization would only hurt more ponies. Break wanted to scream. If only she could escape, warn Scavenger, anything!

A knock at the door interrupted Aurora’s next scathing remark, and another pegasus greeted her at the door. They conversed quietly to each other, but Aurora kept one eye on Break, believing the earth pony broke, but not helpless.

It gave her two options; choose between saving Green Mile or stopping Skyway. No, she wouldn’t allow it. The Enclave couldn’t hold her, and Skyway and the Knights wouldn’t get away from their crimes. Filled with an unexpected resolve, Break summoned Good Times Bad Times.

Before Aurora could even let out a cry of warning, Break’s stand punched the cable connecting her chair to whatever power source they used to electrode here. They thought they’d cleverly disguised it, but Break was a mechanic and saw through the flimsy grey tube hiding it. It was small and only a slight discolored from the rest of the chair, but she’d noticed it right away.

“Shock her!” Aurora cried out, but it was too late and the cord was severed. Break wasted no time attacking her restraints, her stand tearing them like they were wet tissue paper.

“Close the door!” The other pegasi said. “She can’t break out of the cell.” He moved to close the door, but Break used her gravity powers to throw herself outside. Aurora attacked her with her own stand, but Break had ducked under it with a sudden gravity shift.

Break heard guns being cocked and found herself surrounded by guards with laser guns. They weren’t so careless to leave her unguarded even with their specially made cell, but Break was already a blur of motion as their guns fired on her.

Shots flew past her as she threw herself towards the ceiling, and they flew harmlessly past her. The soldiers realized their mistake and raised their guns, some taking to the air, firing in random directions to catch her off guard and limiting her movement, but Break was already flying towards them. She winced as a bolt clipped her leg, but she was already flying past them.

“Come back here!” Aurora flew after her, but Break didn’t care about fighting, only running, something she excelled at. The soldier fired after her, but she already turned a corner and flew around it.

The soldiers chased after her and she didn’t doubt some would be strong enough fliers to catch her. She dove into the nearest room, closing the door. After searching for a second, she found a heavy-looking table using her stand to block the door with it. It wouldn’t hold for long, but she hoped it would buy her enough time. A startled pegasus mare gaped at her terrified, holding a cup of coffee.

“Excuse me.” Break found a wall hopefully leading outside and used her stand to break through it. Unlike the metal walls from her cell, its flimsy drywall shattered from her stand’s punches.

“What the hay was that?” A voice outside said.

“S-she’s in here!” A pegasus mare yelled back, but Break was already moving, jumping through the gap in the wall into another corridor. Already she heard ponies trying to break the door down she barricaded. Break flew down the hallway and found another room breaking through the closest wall. It led to another corridor, and she found a small window and sunlight filtered in.

Curses followed her as she broke through the small window, and she enjoyed the sunlight’s rays soaking in. To her, their brilliance helped heal the wounds inflicted by the Enclave. Luck was with her and she located a cloud floor nearby and flew over the fence blocking her path. An automated torrent fired on her, but they used bullets which she blocked them without difficulty. More yelling, but she ignored it, flying through the cloud cover to the surface below. They could fly after her, but she wouldn’t make following her easily and it would take time to ready a skyship to chase after her. She spotted a nearby rocky outcrop and flew towards it, hoping it would provide someplace she could hide and lie low.

Chapter 44

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Aurora listened as the big wigs screamed at each other. Break’s escape had rattled them, and they were ready to point the blame for the disaster. Commander Blackwing had taken responsibility for the debacle, which Aurora was eternally grateful for, but this did little to appease the others.

“It’s crucial we send an expedition to the surface!” General Wind Dancer slammed her hoof against the table. “That earth pony mare knows New Cloudsdale’s location! And of our weakened state!”

General Capstone shook his head. “No, we can’t afford it. If you’re worried about the surfacers learning our location, we’ll just relocate the entire city.”

Wind Dancer scoffed. “Move the entire city? You make it sound so easy. Its cost to the Enclave’s coffers would be staggering.”

“The general is right.” Commander Blackwing said. “Except for Break Point and the renegades, nopony else can reach our city easily. Besides, they completed their objective with no reason to return. I doubt she’ll become a threat to us again.”

Capstone didn’t agree, getting into a heated argument with Blackwing. Wind Dancer sighed, annoyed as the conversation derailed once again. Aurora watched the scene awkwardly. They had said nothing about punishing her for Break’s escape, but she’d rather not draw their attention. Unfortunately, she didn’t get her wish.

“What are your thoughts, sergeant?” Wind Dancer asked.

Oh ponyfeathers, he wants my opinion. “About an expedition into the surface world?” She forced a smile.

“Yes, if anypony were to lead it, you’re the best candidate, sergeant. You’re our only combat capable stand user.” A curious smile formed on Wind Dancer’s face. Test Tube wasn’t really an option. His power, while curious, was impractical for combat.

Yes, but Break knows my stand and I’m not confident I could defeat her by myself. “I’m not opposed to it, sir. But I’ll be alone.” Even if she brought along a company of soldiers, they’d proven incapable of combating stand users. Stand users must fight stand users.

“I realize that sergeant, but action is necessary.” Wind Dancer raised her voice to catch the other’s attention. “I have a proposal.” Capstone and Blackwing watched her with interest.

“I say we send Sergeant Aurora to the surface to gain intel on the enemy stand user group. She might even infiltrate their ranks and gain their trust. I doubt Break Point will rejoin them after what happened. Tell me, have you met the traitors personally?”

Aurora considered this before shaking her head. “I don’t believe so, but being a pegasus might draw their attention.” She also feared the possibility they’d seen her in passing.

“You could pass as another deserter,” Blackwing said, considering the possibilities.

“She might even uncover if they have another piece of the alien skeleton.” Wind Dancer said. “For the time being, we shouldn’t worry about stealing it. Instead, we focus on gaining information. Once we’ve learned of its location, we can organize a plan to claim it.”

“Maybe. Its benefit to the Encave would be astronomical.” Capstone wasn’t confident but warmed up to the possibility. “What say you, sergeant? Will you take this dangerous mission?”

Aurora nodded eagerly, more than happy to deliver some payback to those bastards. “Yes, sir.”

“Don’t worry about backup,” Blackwing said, “we already have some agents on the surface who can assist you. You won’t be alone.”

“So, we all agree?” Wind Dancer asked a little smugly. The other two agreed and they began planning for the most ambitious mission into the wasteland to date. Though she hated being away from her wife, eagerness filled Aurora’s heart. This mission might save the world.

---

Break dragged her hooves as she entered the small village. It wasn’t much of a town, home to half-dozen ponies and little else, but seemed cozy enough. Ponies eyed her as she entered but otherwise continued their business. It relieved her to gain rest after her frantic escape from the Enclave. They’d sent several skyships after her and hadn’t slept for over two days. It pushed her past the point of exhaustion. It was a lucky break she’d found this place. Though she wasn’t confident she’d completely evaded her pursuers, she needed rest.

“Excuse me, where can I purchase a bed for the night?” Break asked, pretending she wasn’t as tired as she appeared.

“A bed?” The mare ran a tiny shop with her goods on shelves behind her. “Sure, Here at Rocky Road’s Emporium, we have everything a pony might need, and then some! For the right price, nothing is beyond your grasp! It’s never a rocky road in the Wasteland shopping here!”

Break gave the mare a blank look.

“Need a bed? I have a small tent for a very reasonable price!”

Break froze realizing she didn’t have a single bottle cap. The Enclave had taken everything but her PipBuck, which they couldn’t remove. She sighed, annoyed she might need to find a cave to sleep somewhere. Her stomach growled realizing she hadn’t eaten in over a day and it was still a mystery how long the Enclave had kept her under sedation. Her mouth felt dry, driving by a painful thirst.

“Nevermind.” Break sighed again. “I don’t appear to have anything to pay you. It’s a long story.” She turned, hoping she’d find some empty buildings with some supplies she might scavenge. Amazing stand powers or not, she still was a mortal pony capable of starving to death.

“Now, hold on, friend!” Rocky Road grabbed at her hoof. “It’s clear you have hit hard times and I am a very generous mare.”

Oh ponyfeathers, I don’t like the sound of this. “Do you need help with something?” Break forced a smile and couldn’t help but notice the other mare staring at her strange white leg.

“Well, I have a job that needs doing.” Rocky Road replied. “You seem like a capable mare and I require the services of somepony like yourself. The Steel Rangers have been causing a whole heaping of trouble lately, and they took something rather valuable from me. It was shiny, so they stole it without any consideration for a poor defenseless mare like myself.”

“What did they take?” Break wondered if she had a choice. Fear of dying of exhaustion and starvation filled her, knowing being capless severely decreased her chances of survival. Besides, the Rangers were jerks of the highest order and she didn’t doubt Rocky Road’s story. Get in without detection and stealing the item didn’t sound too hard.

“A piece of pre-war technology.” The mare replied. “I’m not certain what it does, but it’s valuable. Do this favor for me, and I will provide you free room and board for several days and compensate you thirty caps.”

“Eighty.” Break might be desperate, but she wasn’t stupid knowing how risky this favor was. They argued for many minutes and Break whittled her down to sixty caps. After sealing their agreement, Break flopped on a hard mat in Rocky’s sleeping quarters. She fell asleep when her head hit the mat.

---

“I’ll be fine,” Aurora said towards her tearful wife. A stab of guilt hit Aurora. This mission would take her away from New Cloudsdale for many months, and Weather Report would worry and worry.

“I know. I will be here waiting for you. Make sure you stop those horrible monsters that destroyed our beautiful city.”

“I’ll get them, I promise.” The attack had rattled the entire city and many ponies still feared to leave their homes worried about another attack. The Enclave had reassured the public that they were working hard to bring the perpetrators to justice. Regardless, the city required time to heal its wounds. She gripped her special somepony’s hoof tight, reassuring her she’d come back alive from this mission. After a kiss and hug, she left her wife for the final preparations.

Aurora gazed upon what passed for her equipment and sighed. The clothes were basically rags, providing almost no protection against the elements. The weapons weren’t much better, but thankfully they only seemed worn down and rusty. They would prove deadlier and more accurate than they appeared. She changed into her disguise and gathered her saddlebags. It wouldn’t do walking around dressed like an Enclave soldier. Pegasi, while rare, weren’t unknown in the wasteland. Sometimes earth and unicorn ponies had pegasi foals. The reverse was also true for pegasi, of course.

Though not allowed to live in the clouds, the Enclave sent them to hidden villages on the surface. They lived comfortably for surfacers, ignoring the random dangers of the wasteland not forced to scavenge to survive like other surfacers. It originally proved a controversial arrangement, but supporting the foals in the cloud cities was impractical. And they created a stock of superior ponies than your typical surface pony. They also provided vital support for the cloud cities by mining valuable ores and acting as spies. Aurora had a cousin born a unicorn and last year she’d received a letter that he’d just gotten married with a foal coming. She briefly considered going down to visit him, but the city’s location needed to remain a secret for their own protection.

“You will find our agent here, Sergeant Aurora.” Commander Blackwing hoofed over a piece of paper. “There’s some strange activity in the city of Zinnia that might be worth investigating. I don’t know the details, but there have been mysterious deaths. Be careful, it’s run by a criminal organization called the Cosas.”

Aurora saluted. “I’ll do my best, sir.”

A warm smile formed on Blackwing’s face. “I know you will, Aurora. Good luck.”

---

“And here is where those sons of guns are keeping my property!” Rocky Road gestured to the heavily fortified building. The Rangers had converted a school into a fortress. A heavy electrified fence protected the parameter. Guards dressed in full power armor patrolled the premises. Security drones joined the patrols carrying heavy rocket launchers on their shoulders, covering anything the Rangers missed.

“Um, is this stolen property really worth this?” Break forced a smile. When asked to perform this job, she’d expected a small outpost she could sneak into without a problem. And her employer had only vaguely explained the stolen object, some sort of spherical object.

“You’re the Black Cat! You can handle this, no problem.” Rocky Road slapped her back so hard Break almost toppled over.

“Why are they on so high alert, anyway?”

“Raider problems.” Rocky Road replied. “They’ve been causing problems since their army got disbanded. Not like they care about protecting us innocent ponies or anything. You’re not considering reneging on our deal, are you?”

“Going in there is suicide.” Break said flatly. Why had her sleep-deprived brain even agreed to this crazy plan, anyway? Her situation didn’t seem nearly as precarious once she was fed and well-rested. “I’ll do some other favor for you.”

Rocky Road grabbed at her pleadingly. “Please! That was a rare bit of tech worth hundreds of caps! We can renegotiate our deal! 120 caps!”

Break only gave the mare a blank stare.

“160?” The mare gave a hopeful smile. Break’s expression didn’t change and Rocky Road kicked away a stone. “I’m telling everypony how you reneged on your deal! Your reputation will plummet because of this! You’ve messed with the wrong shopkeeper!”

Oh, brother. “I’ll pay you back for your hospitality. You said you were having raider problems, right? I can deal with them instead.” Rocky Road didn’t reply walking away grumbling to herself.

Break only sighed. She’d leave the caps on the mare’s counter and if she refused to accept them, it was her problem. Still, her curiosity burned, wondering what tech the Rangers had taken. They were infamous for hoarding every advanced piece of equipment they got their hooves on, but for what purpose nopony knew. Break looked at the Ranger base once more before turning her attention to some raider hunting.

---

Skyway paced before the door, trying to gather the right words. It’d been days since his mission to New Cloudsdale, and he still hadn’t told Green Mile about her cousin’s death. He wasn’t sure how she’d take the news. Her previous behavior before learning Break was alive had worried him. He’d seen her stand in action once and didn’t want her coming after him in revenge.

Thankfully, the leader had been more understanding. In fact, it had thrilled him how much damage they’d caused to the Enclave. Skyway’s attack would cripple the city for decades. Break’s loss was only a minute price to pay. Besides, Wind Whistler agreed that Break might become a problem one day. The dirt pony was too squeamish about killing. Their group didn’t need this liability.

Okay, here goes nothing! Skyway walked into the common room, wearing a forced genial smile. Green Mile was hanging out with another fresh recruit, Scavenger, a lanky unicorn who spoke with a stutter. They huddled around an old pinball machine based on Sword Mares they’d scavenged. His appearance brought Green Mile to immediate attention.

“You’re finally back?” Green Mile asked, her game forgotten, and the ball fell into the bottom hole. “Where’s Break?”

“D-did s-something happen?” Scavenger’s eyes widened in worry and concern.

“Well, you see.” Skyway scratched the back of his head trying to appear apologetic and hurt. “The mission succeeded, but your cousin…”

“Guys, you got to hear this!” Moonlight ran into the common room holding an old radio in his hooves.

“Moonlight, we were in the middle of a conversation.” Skyway gave the unicorn a glare.

“You don’t understand. It’s about Break!” Moonlight put the radio on the pinball machine, catching everypony in the common room’s attention. He turned the radio’s volume up for everypony to hear.

Huh, has the Princess of the Wasteland already learned of her death? This saves some awkwardness. It would be easier to create a positive spin if Green Mile learned of her cousin’s death this way.

“A lowdown worthless coward!” A voice said. Whoever this person was, it wasn’t the Princess.

Huh?

“And ya saying the Black Cat didn’t help ya in your time of need, Rocky Road?” The Princess of the Wasteland asked.

“Damn right she didn’t!” Rocky Road said. “She promised to help me and then turned her back when things looked tough! It was only a small outpost, she could have handled it no problem!”

“Yah, the Steel Rangers have been bothering ponies of late.” The Princess replied. “They’ve been attacking my radio towers taking them apart for parts. If they keep going, they’ll halt all my broadcasts bringing darkness and despair to the entire wasteland, don’t ya know.”


“Right! The Black Cat stops an army of raiders, but lets the Steel Ranger walk all over everypony, shameful!”

“Now Black Cat, I realize the Rangers are a tough bunch, but you can’t just ignore them.” The Princess sighed. “You coulda at least given them a stern talking to!”

“Yeah! You should be ashamed!”

“Thanks, Rocky Road for having this brief chat with me.” The princess said. “I don’t get enough guests on this program. I think it’s vital for my little show to reach out to the community. Black Cat, I still believe in ya despite everything and good luck out there. And now time for a little music to lift the spirits, Saturday by Sweetie Belle. Now I know what you’re thinking, but give it a chance. It’s better than you think. This is the Princess of the Wasteland signing off. Stay safe and stay smart.”

Skyway stared at the radio in abject horror, mouth agape, unable to comprehend what he’d just heard.

“I know right.” Moonlight said. “I thought the Black Cat wasn’t afraid of anything! The terror of the Wasteland? Please.”

“Whatever.” Green Mile rolled her eyes. “I’m just glad she’s safe. When you came to me Skyway, I feared the worst. No, she’s just getting into trouble as usual.”

“I-I can never b-believe how these t-things keep h-happening to her.” Scavenger shook his head. “S-sometimes I wonder i-if she’s c-cursed.”

Impossible! She still lives?! The implications hit Skyway like a ton of bricks. The Enclave must have captured Break. He’s seen her get caught by the explosion. How did she escape, though? Had she betrayed their group? Yes, that explained everything. The Enclave would never release Break after they got their claws on her. Oh, ponyfeathers! This ruined everything! Both Break and the Enclave would seek revenge!

“Skyway?” Green Mile asked, raising an eyebrow as Skyway suddenly made his way towards the door.

“I just have some business with our leader.” Skyway forced a confident smile.

“Skyway?” Wind Whistler asked as Skyway barged his way into his leader’s office.

“We have a situation!” Skyway spent the next few minutes explaining the contents of the radio broadcast. Their leader remained silent, absorbing every word in his usual calm manner.

“That is an issue.” Wind Whistler said. “But fear not. It’s unlikely Break betrayed us to the Enclave.”

“What makes you so certain?”

“We have her cousin.” Wind Whistler replied. “She wouldn’t do anything to harm her. Break must have escaped the Enclave somehow.”

Skyway calmed his beating heart. His old friend was correct. The Enclave would have dissected her to learn her secrets. They wouldn’t release her regardless of what information Break told them which left a major problem.

Skyway wanted to scream. He’d messed up big time and should have found a better opportunity to kill her instead of pointless enraging the Enclave. He’d been so certain that’s been the best moment to kill her. A confused expression crossed his face. Why had he thought that? Why had he turned to murderous, destructive thoughts right at that moment anyway? It was very unlike him.

Wind Whistler placed a comforting hoof on his friend’s shoulder. “Calm yourself, my friend. You couldn’t have known.”

It isn’t over yet. Another chance will arise. She faces the might of the Knights of the Heavens. A voice said. Skyway’s eyes glazed over, reassured by those words.

“Don’t worry about it.” Wind Whistler returned to his seat. “I will send somepony to take care of her. I want you to remain here and watch over Green Mile. She’s a useful asset, but I fear what might happen if she learns of this. Controlling her is difficult.”

Relief filled Skyway. “Who are you sending?”

“The twins, I think.” Wind Whistler replied. “Together they will deal with her without a problem.”

---

Wind Whistler bit his lip as his old friend left. The news troubled him. How had the dirt pony survived? The possibility of her survival should have been nill!

“Are you bothered?” An old pony said, and Wind Whistler turned to discover Path Finder walking from the secret entrance. He limped his way towards Wind Whistler’s office.

“She didn’t survive as you predicted.” Heat gathered in Wind Whistler’s voice.

“The future isn’t certain.” The old pony said cryptically. “But fear not, the pieces are gathering together. You find other paths to kill the troublemaker.”

“Right.” Wind Whistler said, not convinced.

“In fact, I believe the Enclave might prove useful.” Path Finder replied. “I know another piece’s location, but it's in a dangerous place.”

A smile formed on Wind Whistler’s face. “And they will provide the warm bodies we need to retrieve it.”

“Indeed. We just need to visit a young Enclave officer.”

-—

Path Finder whistled as he returned to his tiny hut. It was inconspicuous, nothing more than a collection of burned-out wood, but it served his purpose. He pushed the curtain protecting the door aside, revealing shelter with decent accommodations. A pony of his age didn’t require much to survive. One his shelf was a skull not unlike anything seen in Equestria or beyond its borders. Despite falling several hundred hooves, it hadn’t even received a single crack. Next to it were several other pieces of the creature’s body, partially assembled. Only parts of the torso, upper left leg, and right leg remained until its completion.

Chapter 45

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“You won’t get away with this!” A raider screamed, pointing a hobbled together rifle right towards Break. The bullets bounced away as her stand punched them away. Yet, the raider refused to surrender after she defeated his fellows. Three others stood unconscious nearby, ready for the authorities. Break didn’t have the heart to kill them despite everything they’d done. It seemed cruel to kill them when they were so outmatched. A single blow to the head rendered the raider unconscious. She used Good Times, Bad Times to load the raiders unto a cart she’d found.

“Forty caps, not a bad haul.” Break recounted them, making sure she hadn’t made a mistake.

It had been lucky finding these ponies while flying across the plains. They’d fired on her on sight, but the distance made it a difficult shot. She needed to show more care while flying. If that raider hadn’t been firing with such a shoddy weapon, it would have gone bad quickly. After salvaging anything useful in the old barn the raiders had used as a base, she loaded them onto the cart and pulled it with her stand towards the outpost she’d discovered earlier. It was a dice toss if Rocky Road would even accept her salvage, but somepony there might want it.

“Hold it right there.” A metallic voice said, and Break froze. She turned to find a Steel Ranger aiming a nasty-looking railgun towards her head. Where had he come from? The rock they’d hidden behind wasn’t big enough to hide that metal armor. Had they used a StealthBuck to render themselves invisible? They didn’t hide a pony completely, but if a pony stood completely still, they were almost undetectable.

“May I help you?” Break asked, more annoyed than scared. It surprised her how little weapons being aimed at her bothered her anymore. It wasn’t something Break wanted to get used to.

“What are you hauling?” The Ranger asked, peering into her cart. His head rose in question when he spotted the raiders. “Are you a bounty hunter? Why are you taking these raiders’ bodies?”

Break snorted. “They aren’t dead. I’m bringing them in to face justice.”

“Justice?” The Ranger snorted with derision. “Do you enjoy wasting your time? The villagers will only hang them later.”

Break fought back her annoyance. “I don’t have any useful salvage if you’re wondering.” She showed the Ranger a random piece of junk from her cart.

Instead of studying the salvage, the Ranger turned their attention to Break. “Aren’t you the infamous Black Cat?”

“Might be.” She made the words a veiled warning.

“The Senior Paladin wishes a word with you.” The Ranger kept their weapon aimed and primed wary of any sudden action. Did they think Break would randomly attack them? Annoyed, Break followed the Ranger and discovered a bunker hidden amongst the rocks. As they approached, two more Ranger moved to greet them.

“Inside.” Her captor showed Break into a small cave containing high tech surveillance equipment. A pony stood at a table overlooking a map. They wore full-body power armor, but this one was painted black and its lens glowed an eerie red.

Oh boy, one of these ponies.

“Black Cat, the demon of the wasteland, correct?” The Senior Paladin said. It sounded female, but with the voice modulation, it was hard to tell. It made their voice sound deep and imposing and was trying too hard in Break’s opinion.

“I don’t know about that. I’m just a simple wastelander trying to make a living.” Break replied, holding back her annoyance. Ponies had such funny ideas about her.

“Really?” The Senior Paladin replied. “I hear you captured an entire band of raiders, by yourself and unarmed.”

How did they know that? Oh, right. They must have a radio built into their suit. Break shrugged. “They got careless and I attacked them from behind.”

The Senior Paladin turned towards their subordinates. “Have you dealt with the raiders, Hazel?”

“Already taken care of, sir.”

Break flinched when the sound of gunshots rang through the quarry answering their questions. A surge of anger flooded through Break. Sure, they were raiders and bad guys, but nopony deserved such pointless and cruel execution. It took several moments and deep breaths for Break to regain her calm.

“Interesting, you care for their raiders’ lives?” The Senior Paladin asked.

Break narrowed her eyes. “Nopony deserves being shot down like a dog while unconscious.”

The Senior Paladin snorted, turning away dismissing her opinion. “What shall I do with you, Black Cat?”

“Look, I have no quarrel with the Steel Rangers.” Break kept her voice even and reasonable. “Release me, and we’ll never meet again.”

“You know what I don’t like about you?” The Senior Paladin asked. “You’re a random factor. You go somewhere, and disaster strikes again and again. I must eliminate this factor to maintain order.”

Without warning, Hazel aimed their minigun and opened fire. Break cried out in alarm and punched the bullets out of the air, redirecting them into a wall. Break readied herself to move towards the door to escape, but the fire abruptly stopped and the Senior Paladin chuckled.

“So, you are a demon as the rumors say protected by some bizarre magic.” The Senior Paladin said.

“I don’t have a quarrel with you.” Break stressed every word, trying to deescalate the situation. She’d been lucky it was only a mini-gun. The Rangers had nastier weapons like missile launchers and grenade-chainguns impossible for Good Times Bad Times to defend against. Several Rangers moved, blocking the door, weapons primed. They weren’t making escape easy.

“Earth ponies don’t have magic.” The Senior Paladin said. “Tell me, is it technology granting you this bullet blocking barrier? Is it some application on your PipBuck? Something else?”

“It’s just something I have.” Break replied, cursing she’d let herself get drawn into this bunker like a total idiot. “Someponies are just born with strange powers.” Steel Rangers learning the secret of stands would be disastrous, deciding to keep her answers vague and unhelpful.

The Senior Paladin stayed silent for several long moments. “Interesting, my instincts tell me there’s something unique about you.”

“The subject is resisting, should we begin the operation, Senior Paladin Edgeguard?” Hazel asked.

“Commence the operation,” Edgeguard said like they were ordering tea and biscuits. “We don’t need her alive.”

Break readied herself for bullets to fly, instead the room filled with gas from a thrown grenade burning her lungs which made breathing difficult. Her lungs burned as she broke into a violent coughing fit. Moments later, she realized how dangerous it made her predicament. Her power couldn’t block bullets if she couldn’t see. The sound of a chaingun winding up hit her ears and she dropped to the floor. It wasn’t a moment too soon as bullets flew past her back. Stars circled her head as a metal hoof collided with her skull. Her head smashed into the icy stone floor and a heavy hoof held her in place. Through the dense smoke, she saw a gun barrel aimed towards her head.

“You have one warning, surrender, or you die.” The pony said. “As the senior paladin says, we don’t need you alive.” Break winced as the metal boot pressed down harder.

Like heck, I’m letting that happen. While the pony had her pinned against the floor, they made a mistake revealing their weapon. Break’s stand punched the barrel hard, bending it at an odd angle.

“What?” The pony stared astounded. They screamed in pain when her power punched them clear across the room.

Break used her gravity powers to fly towards the ceiling. Bullets flew towards her but dodged them thanks to her quick thinking.

“She’s on the ceiling?” A pony said, confirming Break’s suspicions that the Rangers had a device that pierced the thick smoke cover. Before they got a lock on her, she changed gravity’s direction towards the back wall and flipped over the table using it as a makeshift barrier. It wouldn’t provide much protection, but it might buy her time.

“Use more smoke bombs, don’t let her stall them out,” Edgeguard said.

Break fell to the ground, narrowly avoiding the hail of bullets that pierced the table with ease. They swung towards her direction, but her stand punched them away despite Break only guessing where they were. Still, she suspected her luck wouldn’t last. It only took a single lucky hit to finish her and the gas continued to cause fits of violent coughing.

Soldiers cried out in pain and surprise as Break flew forward and kicked the bullet filled table into the Rangers clamoring towards her. She flew toward the ceiling again before they got a bead on her. She fell back down and collected a Ranger crawling from beneath the table. They screamed in pain as bullets clanged against their armor. It hurt them, but the constant flow of painkillers and healing potion healed anything that pierced their armor. Strangely, Break didn’t feel guilty using this Ranger as a pony shield. They were such self-righteous jerks, making it difficult to feel any sympathy towards them. Besides, they still lived, which mattered. Break threw her captive towards the door’s general direction and felt satisfaction as they collided with several other Rangers.

Break flew around dodging and deflecting gunfire and winced as a stray bullet caught the edge of her back leg. As Rangers clamored in her direction, she flew in that direction, punching aside anything she came in contact with. Good Times Bad Times, while powerful, only put serious dents in their power armor. She decided punching a Ranger into submission would waste precious time. Instead, she threw them hard into the wall, momentarily stunning them. More bullets flew and Break used another Ranger as a shield blocking the incoming fire. While powerful, they couldn’t move very fast and their weapons ate tons of ammo. As the firing diminished, she crawled towards the most likely location of the entrance. Several Rangers blocked her path, but she flew under their legs, twisting and turning like a slithering snake. A thick metal door blocked her final escape, which proved harder to punch down than predicted.

“Grenade!” Break heard the clank of a grenade sliding towards her and the nearby Rangers jumped to safety leaving Break dead center in the explosion’s radius. After realizing she’d never find it in the smoke, she threw herself away towards the center of the room and howled in pain as intense heat bombarded her body and something cracked as her body crashed into the wall. Her left shoulder erupted in blinding pain and her ears rang, leaving her blind and deaf. Helpless. Worse, the explosion hadn’t even blown down the door. She laid on the ground playing dead, hoping to buy the necessary time needed to recover. Her hearing recovered but left the world around her indistinct and muffed.

“Is she dead?” A Ranger clanked up towards her. “She isn’t moving.”

“Check if there’s a heartbeat,” Edgeguard replied, “I’m still detecting a heat signature.”

The Ranger pressed some device against her chest and she realized it must be a stethoscope. It would detect her racing heart in moments. Desperate, she grabbed her heart with her stand and squeezed, hoping to slow down her heart rate. Unbelievable pain burned in her chest as she forced her heart to stop beating.

“She’s still alive!” The Ranger concluded. “Her heartbeat is weak but detectable.” Obviously, the monitor was too powerful to fool, but ignored the pain and kept squeezing until they pulled away the monitor from her, keeping up the deception for a moment longer. The weak heartbeat might fool her enemies into thinking Break was dying or unconscious.

“Give her a bullet in the head.” Edgeguard gave an unpleasant laugh. “The scribes can dissect her.”

“That seems needlessly cruel.” The raider who examined her said surprising everypony in the room.

“That’s an order.” Edgeguard snapped. “You forget we’re dealing with savages and this one is a mutant freak.”

Before anypony could react, Break threw her limp body across the room. She painfully rolled over everything on the floor, but she didn’t care. They fired on her, but her sudden movement delayed them enough that they hadn’t the correct timing to hit her. She smiled as she hit the door and noticed the grenade had damaged the door enough that punching it off its hinges was easy. Daylight, clean air, and freedom awaited her and she flew in a random direction to safety. Screams and curses followed her, but the increasing distance making hitting her impossible.

----


Hazel grimaced as the Black Cat fled towards safety. Somehow, despite the overwhelming odds, she escaped. He hadn’t believed the rumors of her luck and prowess, but she survived an encounter with the deadliest ponies in the world. Senior Paladin Edgeguard wouldn’t be pleased. From her silence, Hazel knew this to be true. Several moments passed as they awkwardly waited for the tirade to come. Instead, Edgeguard laughed amused by something they didn’t understand.

“Whatever mutation caused those powers, they were formidable,” Edgeguard said, “gravity itself was her servant. Yes, we must study her.”

“How?” A brave Ranger asked. “Her speed was incredible and she can fly higher than we can ever reach her!”

Edgeguard turned her gaze towards the pony that spoke. They couldn’t see her face but knew the scathing look the speaker was receiving. “She’s also an untrained civilian with no real understanding of tactics or planning. She survived only by luck alone.”

“Besides, she can’t hide from us forever.” Edgeguard addressed the group and the senior paladin stood on the stairs leading outside, looking down on her subordinates. “We can search for her later. Instead, we will focus on learning if more ponies have a similar mutation. Do they have similar powers or different ones? We might have lost the Black Cat, but my instincts tell me there are more of her kind out there. Get moving. I want a full report by the end of the week.”

Everypony saluted and Hazel left to interrogate the bandit prisoners. They’d tricked the Black into thinking they’d coldly executed them, but that had been only a ruse to unnerve her. No, the Steel Rangers still had use for them. Rumors said Lion Heart, the former leader of the 1000 strong bandit army, had strange powers. They would determine the validity of those rumors. The bound and gagged raiders squirmed in fear as Hazel approached and a nearby Ranger freed their mouths.

“Please, let us go!” A raider said. “We promise to never bother anypony again!”

“Yeah!” Another raider waved his head in agreement so hard his head might break off. The other two made a similar gesture, terrified for their lives.

“Were you part of the Raider army led by Lion Heart?” Hazel asked. They’d been lucky Black Cat had routed the army, for he wasn’t sure even the Steel Rangers could defeat them.

“Yes!” The terrified first raider said. “We weren’t that important though, just grunts. Lion Heart spoke and we went.”

“Tell me, did your leader have any strange powers?” Hazel watched his prisoner closely. From their expressions, he’d hit something.

“Well, maybe?” The raider replied. “I saw nothing myself, but I’ve heard rumors.”

“You saw nothing?” Another said incredulously. “He picked up ponies with crazy mind powers and crushed them to death!”

Hazel turned toward that pony. “Explain.”

“Beats me.” Sweat gathered on the second raider’s forehead. “There was no magic light or nothing. They lifted into the air on their own. Sometimes, the pony would stop breathing, like something prevented them from breathing or something!”

A Ranger wrote this information down and gathered everything they could on the bandit leader. Somehow, these psychic powers could crush steel with ease. With a look, Lion Heart froze ponies in place, leaving them helpless. These powers made him gain followers quickly who feared his wrath. They were an unorganized bunch with no other hierarchy except Lion Heart, but still dangerous.

“We’ve told you everything we know.” The first raider said. Please let us go.” The other raiders gave their captives pleading looks.

“Kill them.”

The raiders screamed as Rangers gunned them down, and Hazel felt no remorse. They were Steel Rangers and this was the Wasteland. Mercy was a foals’ concept. The war was still unfinished. Unlike Blues who’d shown foalish sympathy, leading to Black Cat’s escape, Hazel wouldn’t hesitate.

“Give this info to the commander,” Hazel said, “there’s a raider nest nearby. I’ll check to see if their story collaborates.”

---

Aurora adjusted her cloak for the hundredth time, scratching at a spot that particularly annoyed her. It was a wonder the surfacers hadn’t killed themselves being forced to wear such garments regularly. Still, the ponies that passed her didn’t even glance her way as she passed, so she supposed the disguise had worked. Primrose was a busy little town and ponies bustled with their daily business. Cosas thugs patrolled the streets, but their presence wasn’t as bad as she’d expected. It wasn’t hard to learn why. Keeping the peace and protecting their assets had spread the criminal group thin. They’d had a recent surge of fresh recruits, but not nearly enough for the current workload.

It didn’t take long to find the meeting point, a small bowling alley converted into a restaurant. Aurora always found it amazing how the surfacers made use of anything and everything for their purposes. They had removed the bowling lanes to seat more ponies and the place was busy with customers.

“Take a seat.” The proprietor, Supreme Shimmer, gestured to an empty booth which she took. “I’ll be right there.”

The menu had some interesting items but didn’t even come close to what her wife cooked daily. Still, she couldn’t afford to go hungry and ordered baked apples. As she waited for her meal, a pony took the seat across from her.

“Aurora?” The pony said. She only nodded.

“Name’s Wrecking Ball.” The gruff earth pony said. “Heard you’re interested in some work.” This was the code message.

Aurora shrugged. “If the caps are good.”

Satisfied with the response, her contact nodded. “I need a pony to help me build some new buildings. The Cosas need a training area and they pay well. I figure a pegasus would be handy.”

“Sounds good.” It was her cover while she investigated the town. It was easier to spy if she blended in. Besides, pony lips were looser if you were part of the community. Her new employer ordered something for himself and they ate in silence, waiting for the restaurant to clear before speaking more freely.

“Glad to see you here Aurora.” Wrecking Ball said. “Things have been mighty odd around here lately and I would appreciate the help. Is it true you have strange powers? You might consider me a foal for believing this junk so easily, but I’ve seen stranger.”

“How so?” Aurora raised an eyebrow.

“Well, for the last few months, ponies have spontaneously combusted. No sign that any weapon killed them.”

Sounds like a stand power. Wasn’t spontaneously combustion an old mare’s tale, anyway?

Her new employer pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his brow. “It gets worse and even stranger. There have been mysterious murders. A few here, but most in a town nearby called the Yellow Star’s Destruction. It’s a new town of former slaves. Been twenty deaths already with no sign of stopping.”

“How?”

Despite being a large imposing stallion, Wrecking Ball turned green. “Turned inside out. Not even criminal scum like the Cosas deserves that. They’re clueless about solving it.”

“I’ll deal with it,” Aurora swore she’d bring this monster to justice. Just as she feared, some ponies would use their stand powers for no other purpose than senseless murder.

“You make your nation proud.” Wrecking Ball beamed at her. He was a second-generation pegasus born. Though he’d never seen a cloud city, the stallion was a proud Enclave citizen.

Aurora looked around her surroundings and remembered how Break had a bowling cutie mark. Strange she’d find herself in a place like this. She finished the rest of her food before joining her new employer to meet the other ponies she’d be working alongside. They seemed nice enough ponies and they didn’t question her about her background or wings. She promised to go out drinking with them after her first work shift. It would give her more opportunity to learn the ponies of this town and gather more information about the mysterious deaths.