Fallout Equestria: Shooting Star


First published

This is the story of Star Shot, a young and naive Pegasus that recently had his parents killed, follow him as he searches for answers and revenge throughout the world of The Crystal Empire, a hundred year's after war created an apocalyptic tundra

This is the story of a ground born Pegasus. A story of his struggle after he set out on his journey, for revenge.

But that's the thing, life and the world he now finds himself in is much more complicated than his simple farm life. Watch as he learns what it truly means to seek revenge in the frozen wasteland of The Crystal Empire.

As he unfolds the layers of snow and time that bury these land's secrets. Stories of the past and present collide to shape the future of not only him but the very ground he once flew over. As for his revenge, well that you'll just have to find out for yourself.


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"Peace is written in blood."

I awoke laying in the cold fresh snow, looking up into the grey sky above, moon light shimmering down through the dark gaps in the cloud cover. A light powdering of snow falling down upon my dying body. Thankfully, I was numb from the shock and cold as I was badly hurt. But I’d have to say although I hated the grey cloud covered sky, I did love the stars and sky above them. Through the gaps in the roof of the clouds I could see the stars as my vision grew darker.

The snow around me turned crimson with my own blood as the cold crept over my limp body. Unfortunately this wasn’t the first time it happened, dying I mean. But due to the current circumstances, this might be the last. To think I’d lived such a peaceful life once. Well, peaceful considering I grew up in a wasteland. I grew up at the outskirts of a small town called Frost-Crystal, which was more or less in the middle of nowhere in the Crystal Empire.

But where are my manners? My name is Star Shot and this is my story; a story of betrayal, greed and revenge. As for the "Peace is written in blood" stuff, that's irrelevant. Forget about it and just enjoy the story of my suffering and pain and that'll fit in later.

Star's Stats

Level: 1

Strength - 5

Perception - 6

Endurance - 7

Charisma - 3

Intelligence- 5

Agility - 8

Luck - 6

Barter- 11

Big guns - 19

Magic energy guns- 15

Explosive - 15

Lockpick - 15

Medicine - 15

Melee - 30

Repair - 35

Science - 15

Small gun - 32

Sneak - 15

Speech - 15

Unarmed - 24

Magic - 15


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My sister, Sharp Shot, was very manipulative and mature for her age. We’d played it a thousand times over, but it got our blood pumping and minds racing. With the weather today being particularly cold, this was just what we needed. Although I didn’t mind the cold since it made me feel safe. The snow was falling softly from the grey sky overhead as we stood outside our house, face to face.

I smirked at her. "You’re the villain." I proclaimed, pointing a wing at my little sister.

"I don't want to be the villain." She pouted back and sniffled.

The rules were simple: one of us was the hero and the other was the villain. We assumed we were the first to think of this game as we barely knew anyone else. Aside from the first rule, you weren't allowed to leave the area, which was our property with its fictional lines. I guess living out of town away from everypony did have its perks.

I saw her horn start to glow a faint red as she bowed her head, sniffling louder before and letting out a loud sobbing sound. It was loud enough for our parents to hear.

"Star! Don't make your sister cry!" Mom yelled as she leaned her head out of the kitchen window. She was cooking something, I couldn't remember what it was, but I remembered the smell of it. The place smelled like home.

I pouted and slumped, letting my guard down. "But Mom sh-" 'thud' A snowball to the side of my face knocked me over. I should have expected that. She was cunning, using her experience to her advantage. I laid there for a bit, in the cold soft snow, before sitting up and commencing a counter attack.

Getting up was a mistake, since she was already holding three snowballs in her magical grip. I only managed to survive the onslaught by guarding myself with my wings, using them as a shield, but the battle had just started. But I was already smiling, feeling alive as my imagination ran wild. This field was now a war zone; the site of a war between two forces, good versus evil.

We played the day away: me flying around, dodging snowballs, occasionally scraping the ground to get enough snow for a ball or two. She, on the other hoof, was creating an onslaught of snowballs with her magic. The two of us kept playing until something more important than heroes and villains caused a cease fire… dinner time.

Sharp and I raced back home: a very small old shack mostly made out of bits of scrap metal and wood. There were two bedrooms, a kitchen that connected to a living room and a small upstairs attic with a big circular window. That was my room, with an old mattress and a few shelves for my books and toys. Most of the rooms didn’t have much. Mom and dad had a queen size mattress and Sharp had an old dresser. In the dining room we had a table made out of a flippable chalkboard and some old metal chairs.

The kitchen was mainly some stuck together cupboards and drawers with a broken oven that you had to start a fire inside of to cook on top. The whole thing was placed on what was the foundation of a long gone house, which happened to have a basement. The basement was only lit with a lamp and was kinda creepy, so I stayed out of there.

We rushed inside, each carrying a bunch of snow on our heads and in our ears. Needless to say, we were forced to go back outside and shake it off. We came back in and sat on our chairs. Myself, Sharp and mom all looked at dad, still polishing his gun. Mom gave him a cough and a look before he sheepishly put the gun off the table .

Milk, water, rabbit meat and an assortment of vegetables boiled in a soup, which was mom's specialty and our main source of food. Ponies didn't have to eat meat and couldn’t survive off doing so. But nevertheless, I enjoyed the texture of it. It at least had more flavor than the vegetables, the meat juices sliding down my throat as I relished in the savory flavor. I had a roof over my head, food in my belly and a loving family, what more could one need?

Dad struggled to lift the bowl to his mouth with his hooves, one of them being a metal prosthetic. I always felt sorry for Dad, but I knew he didn't want pity since he was too proud for that. The bowl shook in his uncertain grasp, spilling some of the contents onto the table before Mom levitated his spoon with some soup in it to his mouth. Mom’s magic was a pretty white, it twinkled just like the stars. That was when and if you could see them through all the grey ever looming clouds.

She was a charcoal coated unicorn pony with a flaming piece of coal for a cutie mark. But the prettiest part of her was her eyes, a rich gold in color. Mom had a spikey medium length mane, mine was that same, except for the colors. Mine was a light sky blue color, where mom’s was a vibrant orange. Mom was always there for us, loving us and taking care of us. I got mom's heart. Well, that’s what she said anyway.

Sharp was a jet black coated, dark grey maned unicorn with streams of pure gold running through it. Her mane was medium-length and curved into points, while her tail curled two times around. No matter how we tried to restyle it, it seemed like that was its default style.

Despite being my younger sister, she acted very mature for her age, although she was not above using her age to her advantage when the opportunity arose. I on the other hoof was quite immature for my age. Being roughly the same height meant that I was often mistaken as the younger sibling, to my annoyance and her pleasure..

Dad, on the other hoof, was a bit more complex than us. He was a worn old stallion in his mid-fifties, a grey goatee and greying mane that tried to retain its dark blue tone, but it was clearly losing. His coat was light blue, but it had certainly wrinkled, some old scars from his youth still visible. Dad was a great dad, he provided for us, loved us and always kept us safe. Even with his disability, he was still very capable and he never let it slow him down.

But the one part of him unaffected by age was his eyes, his deep blue eyes, the same eyes I had inherited. The most distinctive feature was his metal prosthetic leg though. He didn't like to talk about it.

Compared to the rest of us, Dad was the only one to wear clothes a snow parka jacket with wing slots. The jacket was dark blue with white legs in the back and one side on the front. Its features were orange and its interior was a soft grey material.

According to dad, it was also waterproof. One day, to test it, my sister and I dumped a bucket of water over his head and, sure enough, he was right. The jacket was dry, on the outside, the same couldn't be said for his head. He wasn’t too happy at first, but eventually he embraced us in a soggy revenge hug and we all laughed it off. The jacket also had a dozen pockets all over it, but that wasn't the coolest part, no. It was the fact that despite being with dad forever it still looked brand new. Apparently, it had a self-repair talisman built into it.

After dinner, we faced a tough choice-- the boredom of studying or a dreaded bath. I HATED water in general. If we were meant to be in water we'd have been born with gills. The bathtub was a metal barrel, heated by a fire underneath. Sharp and Dad loved just soaking in the warm water. After mom cleared the table, dad flipped it so it was a chalkboard again. It was cracked and old but still useable.

We were about to start our lesson, when mom walked in with a glass of water and my medication. I had no clue what it was, but I knew without it I'd get bad headaches and have nightmares and visions of a black double door.

I can't even remember when I started taking my medicine, but I knew I needed it. It hurts too much without it. My head would feel like it's being squeezed and it also felt like nails were rattling around inside. But enough about that, it was time to focus on class. If I was lucky it would be a subject on guns or mechanics, the only subjects I'm good at or even like. Dad began to write something on the chalkboard: 'History.' My worst subject, I didn't hate it but I didn't know it very well.

Dad stood on his hind legs and tapped the board to get our attention before falling back down to a normal stance. "The history of the world is important to know, to understand what happened to the world and why it's like this." He gestured to the window and the frozen wasteland outside.

I slouched, my head on the table as Sharp sat up proper on her chair and paid attention. For the next half an hour dad droned on and on about how the world used to be. Apparently it wasn't always a frozen hell. A long time ago, there was a terrible war between ponies and zebras. In the end both sides lost. Zebras dropped great and powerful bombs called balefire bombs all over the world and that irradiated such and such. I didn't really pay attention.

After class Mom hassled us to brush our teeth, and then we all went to bed. Me being a kid, bed meant pretending I was asleep until my parents actually fell asleep before sneaking out. I'd usually just sneak onto the roof and look at the grey cloudy sky, hoping to see a star or the moon.

Dad taught us that the sky was off limits and that I was never allowed to fly too high. He said a group called the Enclave owned it and wouldn't like it if I flew too high, but they just sounded like a bunch of meanies to me. I mean how could they own the sky and why not share with the rest of us; it sounded so unfair.

But being a young kid I slowly began to disobey my dad’s no flying rule. I started with low level flights around the area, no higher than the trees. But as time went on I flew higher and higher, until I was a hoof or less away from the clouds.

During one of my night flights, It was a particularly cold night. Fortunately, I had grabbed a scarf for this midnight flight. It started like any flight before, only this time, I saw a bird. A beautiful blue bird, a rarity in the wasteland. I flew after it, giving chase. The bird seemed to enjoy our little game, we probably played for hours.

We flew over the mountainous terrain and the woods. I loved the feeling of flying, the freedom, the wind; it was amazing. But it was also getting late so I decided to head home. It was then that I noticed two figures following me. They hadn;t come from the ground but above the clouds.

At first, they were just two slightly darker spots in the grey clouds, vaguely in the shape of Pegasi. I panicked and dove down when all of a sudden two metal monsters dove after me. They looked like armored monsters, with powerful wings and long, thin tails tipped with stingers, a eerie green glow emitting from something under their wings.

I looked back to see a green flash of light. I didn't know what it was but I instinctively rolled out of the way as a glowing green bolt shot past me. More and more rushed past. I dodged them all, remembering dodging the snow balls. Unlike snow balls, I couldn’t block them with my wings or allow myself to be hit by them. I don't know why but I suddenly got a light headache.

By the time I looked forward I saw the bird from earlier, it shot up past me and flew into one of the metal monster’s face, forcing it to stop as it attacked its head. I swooped up as I avoided the ground by inches, the monster on my tail tried to slow down but ended up crashing into the ground.

The one being harassed by the bird finally managed to swat it away with a metal limb, before following up with a shot from these weird looking things on its side that glowed an ominous green. It was at that moment I barreled into it with all my force. I quickly jumped off it and dove to the bird’s aid, I managed to catch it before it hit the ground but it had been hurt. Hurt helping me.

I quickly wrapped it in my scarf and bolted for home as the metal monster on the ground stood up and the one I tackled stabilized itself in the air. By the time they gave chase I had a sizeable lead, but they were armed and faster, if less maneuverable.

I flew through the forest as they stayed above the trees, strafing down to shoot at me with their demonic glowing guns, green bolts of what I assumed weren’t rainbows and friendship, rained down. I used the trees as cover but it seemed as if they chose fire rate over accuracy. The trees thankfully seemed to help provide some cover, but it would only be a matter of time before they scored a lucky hit. I peered through the trees and was able to see my house in the distance, but I'd lost sight of the attackers. My heart was still beating a million miles per hour, but I was starting to get hope as home was in sight.

I flew out into the open field straight towards the house when a streak of green bolts forced me to an abrupt stop. I saw the metal beasts hovering above me, their guns pointed at me as they landed in front of me.

"Well well well, what do we have here? A little run away?" Said a robotic voice from within the metal. I was just surprised it could talk.

"Little shit caused me to crash," said the other in a snarling tone, before dispensing a bolt in front of me, scaring me back a bit as I jumped.

I swallowed my fear and asked nervously. "Are you Enclave?" One of them seemed to chuckle at the question. I imagined the Enclave just as normal pegasi, not these demonic metal things.

"So you’re a ground born Pegasus? I take it that’s your family's house over there?" Asked the one with a robotic voice, it seemed as though he already knew the answer and just wanted confirmation.

The other one reloaded his weird looking gun and took a step closer. "Chief Air Sergeant Black ordered us to take any young Pegasus found on the ground up to the sky as a sort of rescue program." I relaxed a bit thinking I wouldn’t be killed but just kidnapped, a slight improvement. But then he charged his weird looking rifle on his side.

"But that’s a lot of paperwork for something I don’t give a shit about, so I think we'll just kill you and your family." I couldn't see his face, but I could tell he was the type to enjoy hurting others. It must have been the vibe he was giving off through this synthesized voice.

I looked to the other Enclave soldier for help but he simply looked away. I shut my eyes in fear, feeling the tears run down my face, stinging due to the cold. I clenched the bird in my scarf, waiting for the impact of one of those weird green bolts from their guns.

There was a bang, but this wasn't the sound of their green glowing guns. No, this was the sound of a gun I knew all too well. Dad's hunting rifle. I opened my eyes to see the Enclave soldier that was looking away fall to the ground dead. It’s piercing yellow eyes shattered into pieces and revealed a normal pony eye underneath. It was then that I realised that these weren’t some metal creatures but, in fact, ponies in terrifying metal suits. I was shocked by this realisation, too scared to look away as gore ran down its helmet and into the snow.

The other pegasus in the suit spun around on high alert as he tried to spot the shooter. I was still too scared to move, as I kept looking at the dead body illuminated by the Enclave soldier’s guns. I did't know how much time passed but I knew I had to get out of there.

I took a step back but immediately stopped as the crunching of snow from my hoof was the only noise around, the wind having died down. I went to slowly take another step when the soldier looked back at me. His metal tail lashed out and twisted around my throat, its sharp stinger inches from my neck.

I whimpered and began to cry, fearing for my life. It was then that I heard another bang, and the soldier’s gun exploded beside him. He let out a yelp as his gun sparked. He let go of me and shot wildly as his tail lashed at his badly damaged gun, but with the green bolts flying around I was able to see the shooter.

It was my dad, standing a few meters away from the house. A green bolt passing closely past his face. he had a unlit cigarette in his mouth. Amazingly, he lit it with the bolt before it hit the house's door and dissipated.

I stared at the small red light of his cigarette, ignoring the bucking Pegasus. At this point, the Pegasus in armor jumped up and away from me before the right side of his body exploded in a green fireball. He screamed as he fell, steaming, to the ground.

I could see the snow sizzling on contact with his hot armor. The armor on the right side was blown away and his fore hoof, wing and skin up to his rib cage was missing along with part of his visor. He gurgled and twitched and I couldn't look away. I could see parts of him were burnt, exposed or completely missing.

Dad walked closer, the red light of his cigarette moving towards us. I could only focus on the soldier dying in front of me. His rib-cage and lungs rose and fell. Somehow, he was still alive, still breathing. The sounds of hoof steps grew closer. I ignored them. Looking into the eye of the soldier before me, I saw fear and regret within his dark purple eye. It was around that time I noticed he was actually a she.

Then I felt a cold metallic hoof on my shoulder. I flinched a little before looking up at my dad beside me, tears running down my face. He looked so calm and collected, even with the rifle slung across his side. I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out. He shook his head and then started to take off his jacket and put it around me.

We just stood there, watching this dying Pegasus that moments ago wanted to kill me and my family. She closed her eyes and coughed as her breathing became more labored. Dad's cigarette burnt out as he spat it out and stepped in front of me.

"Go inside." Was all he said. With that I started walking but stopped a few feet away as I heard a groan of pain.

I looked back to see dad sticking the barrel of his rifle between the Pegasus's exposed ribs and into her lung. She squirmed and groaned in pain. I opened my mouth to speak when there was another bang. Only this one sounded a lot more… wet.

The Pegasus stopped moving, and I began to slowly walk back to the house. I sat in the doorway and watched him. He buried the bodies where they laid then slowly made his way back to me. It was only in this lighting that I could see the now dried blood from the back spray of before, it was all over my face and jacket.

He stood in front of me as we looked at each other. I looked into his calm blue eyes as he looked back into my bloodshot red and blue eyes. I opened my mouth to say something when he suddenly hugged me. My jaw shuddered and I was frozen, an overwhelming feeling of relief and fear washed over me.

I cried into his shoulder for probably half an hour, although it felt longer. By the time I stopped, he sat in the snow in front of me. I simply bowed my head as he sat there. He eventually went to grab the scarf when I moved it away.

There was a small chirp sound from the bundled up scarf. Still too emotional to talk I decided to show him. I slowly unraveled the scarf to show him the injured blue bird. Its wing had been vaporized and the wound cauterized shut, but the bird had survived. Dad grabbed a cloth and cleaned us up before wiping himself off. He kissed me on the forehead and placed the bird on some blankets.

Dad draped his jacket over my shoulder to keep me warm. "Come inside when you're ready." Those were the last words he said to me that night, before he walked back into the bedroom. Luckily mom was a heavy sleeper.

I wasn't scared. I knew that night would change my life; no longer would I be so naive, although the one other change was the fact that dad let me keep his jacket.

I didn't actually come back inside, I just sat in the doorway. I wasn't looking at the hidden graves or the sunrise. No, I was looking at the ominous black door sitting in the field, two silhouettes standing before it. I heard a sound below me. "Psst." I looked down at my shadow in front of me on the ground.

My shadow had a white lined mouth and white glowing eyes. It grinned at me and spoke. "You can't ignore me forever." I didn't know what that was, but it was gone after I blinked, along with my headache.

I gave one last look into the sky, expecting clouds but fearing more shadowy figures coming down to attack me. To my surprise, there was the largest cut in the clouds that I had ever seen. I saw part of the moon, well at least I thought it was, based on stories mom told me when I was younger. It was kind of beautiful. I sat there and watched as the rift in the sky began to close, but before it did I caught a glimpse of one of those stars shooting across the sky.

I don't know what it was but that seemed to give me hope. I muttered to myself. "I wish this world was better." I don't really know why I made a wish on a star, but it just felt right. The next morning when mom found me, she hugged me and pointed out my flank. Apparently I had gotten my cutie mark, a shooting star, although it was little comfort given what happened.

It would be weeks before I would even talk again, months before I would fly again. Mom went to the local doctor, who was a family friend, and got him to double my intake of medicine. But I still saw the black door in that field for a long time to come. The shadows disappeared, but the weird thing was that I didn't have a headache.

I didn't dare approach the door. I was too scared to even leave the house. Needless to say, the lessons stopped and everything seemed to stand still.

Sharp kept asking questions, wanting to know what had happened to me. Mom and dad didn't tell her anything. I believe dad told mom, they both comforted me over the next few weeks.

"I want to become stronger!" I randomly shouted it out at dinner to everypony's surprise. I don't know what drove me to say what I said.

With that dad began to train me and my sister. We learned how to shoot and apply medical aid. Our snow ball fights meant a lot more now than they did before. We began to spar hoof to hoof, even knife to knife with dull, wooden knifes.

When mom and dad told Sharp what had happened to me that fateful night, she became a lot more understanding and motivated to train with me. We pushed each other further and further, not letting up and not holding back. I wanted to become stronger, I needed to become stronger. To protect myself and those around me. Unfortunately, I was oblivious to the cost, annoyed to the moderation mom and dad insisted we have between training.

Then, one day, I woke up to see Sharp covered in bandages. She simply smiled at me, but I could tell she was hiding her pain. In my rush to power I had damaged her childhood. I remembered when I was her age, not a care in the world and no exhausting training either. So I too pulled back on our training, to the point where it was more like a game and less about the fear of being too weak.

During our first gun lesson I was kicked back by the recoil of dad’s hunting rifle. I missed the target he had set up. But Sharp, she was something else, not only did she hit the target and take the recoil, but she also got her cutie mark. It was a red pair of cross hairs with a circle that looked impressive on her black flank. She was a true prodigy, skilled at all the lessons, while I was left to play catch up.

Over time Sharp and I began to fall into our skill groups. She excelled farther at shooting, hoof combat, and strategy than I. But I had the upper hoof with agility, mechanics and I could hold my own most of the time during knife combat.

There were more lessons than that and they were quite varied, but those were our defining skills. It was unfair, she had magic, and magic was much more useful than a Pegasus's ability to fly or an earth pony’s strength. In fact it just pushed me to try even harder, to catch up to her.

Dad had me help him hunt crystal bunnies, little mutant bunnies with a bit of crystal in them. They appeared to be covered in fur, usually white or grey, and they’d have shards, or even full limbs, of crystal growing out of them. A good source of meat and fur, plus you could get a few caps for the crystals.

I still remember the first time I shot at a crystal bunny. At the time I was a pretty good shot, more than enough to hit a bunny at fifty meters. I missed anyway. I couldn’t take a life, I didn’t want to. I living under the protection of my father I didn’t have to. He was a little disappointed in me, but my mother understood, she was so kind. By dinner time my father perked up. As for my sister, she mocked me for it.

With time I was able to kill a bunny. The first time I did, I felt bad. I was scared. Not scared that I’d miss, but scared that I’d hit. Even worse that I’d like it. Luckily I felt sad, and that’s how I hope everyone felt when they first killed something.

I slowly walked over to the bunny, looking at it as it laid in the snow surrounded by its own blood. It was still breathing, looking at me, not with fear but with understanding. I stared back at it with tears in my eyes. It was then that dad walked up to me and handed me a knife.

“Kill it.” He said...

I hesitated to take the knife but I did. Shakily, I took it in my muzzle and bent down to the bunny. I looked up to my father. He just simply nodded, and with that I plunged the knife into the bunny’s chest. It squealed then exhaled its last breath. Its suffering was quickly ended, but my suffering had just started.

I felt as if I was driving the blade into my own heart, as I pulled the knife out of the bunny my tears dried up. It's warm blood dripped onto the white snow, a little on my face. Father brought the bunny in and I walked behind him, looking saddened. Mother looked at me, equally saddened but proud at the same time.

She trotted up to me and said, "You did the right thing, it’s about survival.” She then wiped the spattered bits of blood off my face and kissed me on the forehead.

The pony in my head echoed the word over and over.

"Survival… Survival… Survival…"

Dad smiled and said, “It’ll get easier with time.”

I was shocked at what he said, but it rang true. It would get easier, I wish it wouldn’t. Killing shouldn’t get easier; it didn’t seem right. The pony in my head was crying as my eyes began to glaze. I forced a smile and nodded. Later at dinner I stared into a bowl of grey brown muck, with bits of vegetables dad had bought in town and the rabbit I killed. I couldn’t bring myself to eat any of it.

It was a relatively quiet dinner, I mostly thought about how I wanted to get stronger, but was still so weak on the inside. But maybe that wasn't a bad thing, after all I didn't want to become a monster.

One time dad insisted on getting us armor, but neither me or Sharp wanted to wear it. It felt too heavy for me anyway. Plus it kept snagging on my jacket, even though I wore it opened with the hoody down.

Despite living more or less out in the middle of nowhere, we weren't that far from a small town, known as Frost Crystal. To call it a town was a stretch, it only had a dozen or so ponies as permanent residents.

It, like the rest of the land, lived up the frost part. I guess that’s what happens when you live in a frozen tundra. It was a small settlement within a wall built out of old wagons and train cars, patrolled by guards in make-shift armor, sporting guns made of rusting pipes.

The most noticeable feature of the town was the flag in the middle, along with its symbol painted on the front gate. It was a menacing red horse skull. According to dad's lessons, we lived under a group called the 'Blood Skull.' They built this town and controlled the area. As I stated before I didn't really pay attention in class so that’s as far as I got.

There wasn't much to Frost Crystal, besides duct tape and sheet metal. The town consisted of a few ponies, a merchant whom was a jerk, a bunch of guards and my dad's long time friend, the doctor. He was a unicorn with a white mane, light grey coat and ruby red eyes and a red medical cross as a cutie mark.

He'd always wore an old doctor’s coat that was pretty tattered, and stitched on the front was a nametag that read. 'Doc.' Despite the cold, he always wore it open. He claimed to be as old as my dad but if that was the case, then he must have aged much better.

Every time I saw him he was nice to me, with a warm smile on his face. He was a really friendly pony. His hide showed his scars from his youth. I'd constantly bug him with questions that dad and mom would ignore, but he'd always dodge them, coming up with a different story for each question. He was quite interested in my Enclave attack story, calling me a hero for saving the bird, as well as giving me the nickname 'Bluebird.'

I never bothered to give it a name though, the bird I mean. Despite losing a wing, it was perfectly healthy. It kept trying to fly, although it will never be able to. It was tragic. What was even worse was the fact that one day it got out of its cage and ran away. I never saw it again after that. I did try to look for it, but in the end it was hopeless.

At this point in time, I was in the middle of my teen years and maturing. And by maturing I meant noticing girls. Before this point I hated going into town, I was shy around others. Now I was more confident. Well, at least with the daughter of a traveling merchant.

Her name was Orchid Night. We knew we'd only be together for a day or less, so we made the most of our time together. Playing and talking about stuff I can't even remember. At the end of the day, we said our goodbyes and she gave me a surprise kiss before running off.

Dad teased me about that for days, practically singing about it. "O’ my son is a stallion, kissing all the girls. Soon he'll roll in the hay and run off to play. O’ my son is a stallion." I guarantee you he was a bad singer, cringe worthy.

Everything was good, but the wasteland doesn't like it when ponies live without trouble. One night we were having a nice, normal dinner of cabbage soup, I think. Everything was calm, but that was the same as before a storm.


The air filled with the sound of bullets and gun fire. We barely had time to react. Dad flipped the table as Sharp grabbed our rifles. However I just sat in my chair, stunned by the situation. Mom grabbed me and held my head down behind the table with her. I didn't focus on the noise, the shouting from outside or the bullets. No I was overwhelmed, not with fear, but pain.

My head ached worse than ever. It felt like a crushing pressure on my skull. I didn't hear the noise because of an intense ringing in my ears. I couldn't see because my eyes didn't want to see. I didn't speak because I bit my lip until I drew blood.

My headaches were never this bad or this intense. I felt like I was choking in darkness as I struggled to breathe, my head overwhelmed in pain. There was one thing in my head besides pain, an image of the black door.

The door was rattling, sounding like something was clawing at it from the inside. I felt as if I was floating in darkness. I was unable to move, fear coiled around me like a snake. I knew I could move towards the door. but that just made my fear tighten, every fibre of my being telling not to, as my heart raced. Then I felt something warm drip on my head, my real head.

I opened my eyes as my headache disappeared as quickly as it came. This time my head was full of the fear of death. Not my own, my mom's. I looked up, hoping it wasn't blood. It wasn't. Mom was crying, cradling my head. I looked around, dad and Sharp were shooting at the attackers through the windows. Mom looked at me in surprise. I was about to speak when dad shouted at me.

"Help!" his voice was commanding and loud, louder than the gun fire.

Anyway, that was my life before.

Chapter 1: Revenge

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I was in town one day looking for a gift for my sister, seeing as it was her birthday after all. I still hadn’t gotten enough caps to buy her the present I knew she wanted, a new combat knife. After much bartering with the mean merchant, I’d managed to get him to drop the price by two caps, out of three hundred. So I had to borrow some money from Doc but it was worth it to buy Sharp the perfect birthday present for an eighteen-year-old mare.

When I saw a plume of black smoke coming from the direction of my house, I threw Sharp’s gift in my saddlebags and was off. I flew as fast as my wings would let me, the pony in my head begging it to just be a bonfire. By the time I finally got there the whole house was in flames. No one in sight, I touched down on the snow. Oblivious to the cold and my own tears, I stepped closer, my emotions in a flurry.

My knees were shaking, my eyes were watering, and my mind was filled with too many thoughts to know what to do. By the time I made up my mind, a burning wooden support beam fell down blocking the door.

I ran over to the beam and pushed it, burning my hooves and jacket as I tried to move it. The heat from within the house was intense and the smoke was thick. I was forced to let go of the beam as it didn’t budge. I jumped back, my burns stinging in pain as I pressed my hooves in the cold snow. I screamed, not at the physical pain but at my weakness.

I quickly got up and ran back to the blocked doorway, tears running down my face. Still. I was filled with determination. Suddenly there was a flash and a big bang. I felt a pressure wave of heat and fire knock me away as the house exploded in a huge fire ball. I watched it slowly rise into the sky and illuminate the clouds, my head rang and my body tingled, darkness crept over me as I felt the inescapable urge to sleep.

I had a dream of a memory, or maybe it was just a memory. Me, my younger sister, mom, and dad, all having dinner together. But there was somepony else as well, a shadowy figure that looked older than my sister but younger than me. It tried to speak but no words came out of its mouth, or maybe I just couldn't hear them?

I don’t know when I awoke but all I could do was cry. Some time had passed as the fire began to smolder in a crackling pile of cinders. My head was pounding. I felt dizzy, lightheaded and my ears had a high pitched ringing in them. I looked around and saw I was under a tree. I rolled onto my belly and immediately winced in pain as I realized I had burns all over my body. My legs shook as I struggled to find the strength to try and stand, but once I did I stumbled like a newborn before falling over again.

After stumbling around I braced myself against a tree and used it as leverage to at least get on my rear legs, I looked over to the smoldering carcass of the house before resting my head on the tree and panting. I felt a trickle of something warm running down my nose and wiped it off. It was blood. My blood. That shock wave wasn't very good for my insides. I cried silently before running out of tears. After drying my eyes I looked up at the tree I was leaning against, there was a note stuck to it.

‘Bring us the Pip-buck in the basement or else!’ The note seemed to be made of leather, a sickly brown shade that felt brittle and wrinkled.

This brought back memories of what some raiders said when they attacked my family, this was a while ago and frankly wasn't something I'd like to remember.

But for some reason, I distinctly remember one of them shouting. “We’ll make your hide into leather!” Their voice filled with joy and glee at the sickening statement.

At this point, I backpedalled and fell on my rear as I realized it was pony leather! Shaking off the thought of my family being turned into a belt or bag, I turned it over with a stick to see an image of a map, from my house to their base. I stumbled to the smoldering carcass of the house I once called home. I didn’t bother looking for my parent's corpses, most likely only bones were left anyway, although I did have a small hope that they weren't home or got away before the fire.

After moving the carpet and some wood out of the way I found the door to the basement. Dad said to only go down there in an emergency, I guess this counted? It opened with a creak, darkness in front of me as I walked down the stairs. The smell hit me as I turned on the light. I really wish I hadn’t. It was the smell of burnt flesh and hair. I shakily opened my eyes, to the horror of a charred dead pony sitting up face to face with me, less than a hoof away.

Its skin was crispy black, teeth exposed and eyeballs missing, steam poured out of its mouth, nose and eye sockets, and its hair was gone. I was too scared to scream, I fell over onto my flank as I couldn't look away. My eyes watered as I took notice of the missing front leg. Just like my fathers.

My jaw stuttered and soon did my voice. "D-dad?!" My heart sank as I struggled to say those words, let alone look at his corpse.

Its bottom jaw fell off and I scrambled out of the basement, then out of the house, but not before tripping on a burnt skull with a bit of brittle black skin still sticking to the bone. I assumed it was my mother, there was no way to know if it was truly her, but it was a unicorn skull with a bullet hole in the head. I really hoped it wasn’t her, but I knew in my heart that it was. The disturbing thing was that her body was missing, there wasn’t even any bones left except her skull.

Part of me didn't even want to say it, but I couldn't stop myself. "M-mom!" I felt like I was the one who was dead.

I ran to the tree with the note and proceeded to vomit. I stared at what was my lunch no less than an hour ago, carrots and an apple. Swallowing the bitter taste of puke I braced myself to go back in.

I took a few breaths before repeating. "For my sister. For Sharp."

I got past mom's corpse, or what was left of it, and proceeded to walk to and down the stairs while zipping up and covering my mouth with my jacket. This time seeing a wide patch of dried blood going down the stairs as if someone was dragged or had crawled with a bad wound. Somehow I kept it together at the sight of my dad's corpse. I proceeded to look for the Pip-buck. There was a problem, my dad never had a Pip-Buck, at least that I knew of.

I kept looking around but there was nothing but food, water, ammo and a few destroyed guns. Maybe the fire destroyed the thing I was looking for, I didn't even know what a Pip-buck looked like. I guess I’ll know it when I see it. After I searched everywhere else in the basement I spotted something under my dad's rear. A floor safe, I mumbled to myself.

‘’Fuck Princess Cadence.”

I was going to have to move the body. I was going to have to touch it… him. Judging by the looks of it, it was going to fall apart as soon as I tried. I braced myself and walked over to the body. As quickly as I could I pushed it over. Charred skin peeled from the body’s rear as it fell over and onto the floor. there was a sloshing sound as it fell and cracking as it moved, it hit the ground with a crunch, like a bag of two-hundred-year-old chips.

Some skin was melted to the floor where the corpse had been sitting. The body burst open as the organs spilled out, cooked and steaming. Hot brownish red blood poured out the mouth and nose as well as what I assumed was gray matter coming from the eye sockets and ears. The whole thing released a foul odor of charcoal and odd cooked meat as it laid in a pool of blood.

I would have puked again at the mere smell of it, but instead only gagged as I didn't have anything to throw up. After I calmed myself down, I grabbed a piece of metal scrap in my mouth and walked over to the safe, not wanting to touch it. To my surprise, it was locked. Well, not really surprising seeing as it was a safe. I was about to leave so I could think of something, when I saw what my dad was staring at, written in dried blood was;

'Can't believe…. .killed… .mother… … … … ..Blood Rose… …, crystal… ….'

Some was smeared or burnt beyond recognition, but it was a clue. Rose? I've heard that name before. I put it off for now and checked on the safe again. I wasn’t very skilled in lock picking. I'd tried to learn but just didn't have the patience to do it. I left to go find somepony who might know.

I banged my hooves on the door of the doctor's house. Usually, he'd work the afternoon so it would be unlikely for him to be in at nine o'clock, but to my surprise, he opened the door. He looked shocked as he looked me over, light burns over my body, a nose bleed and I swayed in place as i struggled to stay upright. My eyes were still watering as I leaped at him for a hug. I didn't know him that well, but he was friends with my dad so I was sure he could help.

I choked before coughing out the words. "Doc! They're dead! My parents are dead!" My eyes teared up as I screamed. At this point I was making a scene, so he ushered me inside with a hoof.

We sat down and he grabbed himself a cigarette and me a healing potion, along with a small pill of my medicine. I sobbed on an old leathery chair in front of him as I took the open bottle from his red magical field and proceeded to drink it. Soon my ears stopped ringing and I didn’t feel dizzy. My headache subsided and the light burns over my body vanished. Magical healing potions really were amazing, able to heal almost any wound.

He took in a breath of smoke before speaking. "Tell me what happened." He was so calm. I told him everything that happened after I saw the smoke. He just nodded and followed along while I stumbled over my words, trying not to cry.

Eventually I got to the end. "And then I came here." I sobbed and rubbed my eyes, finally calming down.

His cigarette burnt out, so he put it in an ashtray and grabbed another one before looking at me and saying. "The code to the safe is thirty-two, nine, and twelve. But what are you going to do after you open it?" He tilted his head in curiosity,his mane shifting to cover his eyes.

He seemed to know more than he was letting on, but that was a good question. I sat there pondering what I'd do after I open that safe.

I took another deep breath before blurting out. "I…I'll save my sister!" I stood up, my eyes tearing up and my nose sniveling. I shut them tightly as my body shook.

When I opened them I saw his eyes were firmly locked on me, he didn't even blink before replying. "How will you? They’re bandits. They'll kill you after they have what they want." His composure didn't change one bit.

I shut my eyes at the thought of me dead in the snow. The pony in my head didn't like the idea of that at all. I heard Doc stand up and I opened my eyes. He proceeded to go to an old cabinet draw and open it. I leaned forward trying to see what was in it. he pulled out a gun and a cloth badge, it was a bird icon that was fully blue. I knew what the badge meant, it was a icon of my nickname that Doc called me. ‘Blue Bird.’

I tilted my head and asked, "What's that?" I sat down looking at the gun, it wasn't a rifle or a shotgun, no. It looked like a bulky pistol of some kind.


He levitated it onto a coffee table in front of me, before sighing. "A relic from a bad time." He frowned and lowered his head even more.

I looked at the gun closely, it had its magazine sticking out in front of the mouth grip, it was bulkier than a pistol. The parts seemed to be in good condition and the magazine was fully loaded. The name ‘Sydney’ was engraved on the side. I gave Doc a questioning look, and by the look I got back he had been waiting for that.

It looked like a struggle for him to answer that seemingly simple question, but eventually, he brought himself to do it.

"Sydney is a less painful memory…that's her SMG. Holds fifty rounds and is capable of burst or single fire." It appeared painful for him to mention that name, I saw a single tear run down his cheek. But he seemed to cheer up a little as he talked about the gun itself, even cracking a little smile.

I smiled a little as I looked at the gun, whispering. "Thank you, Doc." I don’t think he heard me. I did have one more question. "Will you come with me to save my sister?" At that point, I was feeling much better.

I even got a little smile back. "I wasn't always a doctor." He stated before his face changed from happiness to pain. It seemed almost painful for him to say what he wanted to say next. "But I promised never to kill again… I promised her." I could see he was lost in thought, so I slipped the SMG into my bag and stood up.

I bore a big smile and said. "I'm going to save my sister and get whoever killed my parents."

He sighed, breathing out smoke, seeing through my act. He smiled at me and said, "Try not to die, kid, I like you." There was sympathy in his voice, before a little chuckle afterward.

“Little blue bird. Ha, guess I can't call you little anymore, huh Bluebird?" He asked as he smiled and grabbed a shovel, I proceeded to walk out.

I stopped in the doorway, remembering a question. "Who is Blood Rose?" I asked, tilting my head. His face shifted to a serious expression.

"Trouble." He answered.

With that, I was off to save my sister. After I opened the safe and got Dad’s Pip-buck.

I rushed home, not liking the idea of keeping raiders waiting with my sister. Yet again I went down to the basement, for what I hoped was the last time. Dad was still laying there, I still didn’t want to believe it was him. This foul, distorted corpse. The smell still hung in the air. I quickly went over to the safe and started entering the code Doc had given me.

“Thirty-two, nine, and twelve”

With a pop and a click the safe unlocked and creaked open. Inside was a bag. I lifted it out and proceeded to get out of the basement. I dumped the contents into the snow and to my astonishment, there it was. Now I remember I have seen similar device on the leg of a lone wondered that passed through town one day. It was a bulky metal thing that went on your foreleg that had a little screen with buttons beneath it.

But that wasn’t the only thing that happened to be in the bag. Three glowing colourful crystal balls fell out as well. I had no clue what they were or what they did but i wasn’t going to leave them behind. After that I was truly off, nothing could stop me.

I lay dying in the snow as some raiders beat the life out of my sister, my body riddled with holes and my sister screaming for mercy. The raiders laughed, as one shot her in the head. They sat on her now a dead corpse, and I stared into Sharp's lifeless eyes. The black door behind them, looming ominously in place, the words survive being repeated, slowly fading away into nothingness.


I shut my eyes as I felt myself falling, quickly I opened them again. I was alive. I stopped my apparent free fall and continued to fly around in this blizzard. Now was not the time to be distracted with fear, I needed to save my sister. But first, I needed to find her, along with the raider base. I flew in the storm, barely able to see. The freezing wind was numbing my wings. The sting of the cold over my body and the chilling of my insides hurt with each breath. I was losing precious body heat by the second.

I became weaker and more tired with every second. It felt as if I was flying in wet cement. I was forced to land or freeze. The random snow storms were much worse when you didn't have shelter, this was the first time I'd been outside during one. Usually, we'd hide in the basement until it passed.

A shiver went up my spine as I remembered the horrors that had been waiting for me in the basement. I shook it off as the pony in my head was too cold to criticize or annoy me. Things seemed grim as I was lost in this damned blizzard. No sign of shelter or the raider base. I kept wandering blindly in the storm before collapsing. The cold and darkness crept up on me as my eyelids became heavier. Just before I was about to give in I was awoken by a growl.

It was my stomach. I was hungry, and I smelled something in the air, the smell of cooking meat. I stumbled to my hooves and slowly trotted towards the smell. Lo and behold, it led me to a building. It was from the old world, but it seemed to be mostly intact. I could see a chimney with smoke rising from it. They had heat and by the smell of it, food too. Above the front door were the words ‘Day care’.

Too cold to care, I fell onto the door and it caved in, crumbling away. I landed in something wet and warm. This place was heated. I stood up remembering I was looking for food. Oh, and a raider base. It was then that I opened my eyes to the horror.

Red everywhere.

Red on the ceiling.

Red on the walls.

A pool of red on the floor.

Red on me.


I trembled as I noticed more and more horrors. The roof had dark crimson icicles, the peeling and cracked paint was the ruddy brown of dried blood. There was a pool of warm blood on the floor, a light mist over the top of it. It was lower than a normal floor. On an old cracked chalkboard on the front of the classroom were the words;

‘Class is in.’ Written in blood.

Along the walls and ends of the floor were intestinal tracts strung up like streamers, and hanging frozen eyeballs made a wind chime next to my head. The air was filled with the foul odor of blood, the smell of copper. I saw the guts move as a rat popped out of the end of an intestinal tract at my hooves. I shuddered in fear at the horror, too scared to even scream.

The floor was a slight incline that now held a shallow pool of blood, just in what appeared to be the main room, a classroom. Some parts were bubbling. There was a light mist over the pool, the cold air clashing with the heat from the pool. I’d no clue where raiders had gotten all that blood, or why and how it was heated but I definitely didn’t want to go for a swim.

But the creepiest thing by far was the ominous black door standing in the middle of the classroom. I felt its overpowering presence of fear crawl over me like centipedes. I tried to move even an inch forward and the door shook, creating waves in the blood. I could have been trapped by the door’s power forever, if it wasn't for the mission I was on to find the raider base and Sharp.

I'd found the raider base.

There was sinister laughter coming from a hallway on the other side of the room. I steadied my breathing and blinked, with that the door was gone. I drew my SMG, biting hard on the grip. I was about to fly over to the hallway when I was kicked from behind. I fell face first into the pool, my weapon fell out of my mouth as I slid along the floor.

In the hallway stood a young earth pony mare with no clothes. She was covered in scars, including her cutie mark. I stood up, now soaked in warm blood, it dripped from my wet mane and jacket. She stared at me, giggling and smiling, bearing sharpened teeth that now resembled fangs. She snarled at me before lunging.

"Meat!" She screamed.

I panicked and looked for my weapon, but it was under the blood. So I grappled with the mad pony. She tried to bite me as I held her a hoof’s length away. I was stronger and had the upper hoof, adrenaline and a will to save my sister. But then I slipped as she bit into my shoulder, through my jacket. The pain was excruciating, stupid dirty fighter.

I flapped my wings to stop myself from falling over, blood spraying everywhere. I then gripped onto her, flying us both upward. We slammed into a blood icicle, impaling her. Then we fell back down into the pool with a splash. She stopped biting me and I slipped out from under her now lifeless body.

It hurt to move my shoulder, but it wasn't bleeding that badly. My jacket was damaged but luckily it had a built in repair talisman and was already repairing itself. It was then that I heard some pony run down the hall, I quickly pulled out my sister’s present and gripped it in my mouth, it still had a bow on it.

I flew above the door frame before a stallion with a pistol ran in. Blood dripped down from me and onto his forehead, causing him to look up. I drove and slashed at his face before he could react, cutting deep into his face, causing him to drop the gun and scream. I landed quickly and spun around to cut his throat. Fresh blood sprayed over me as the stallion dropped down dead, or at least dying.

I finally had the strength to scream, not from fear, but from anger. "AGHHHH!" I screamed in his face as he stopped squirming.

I galloped down the hall, feeling anger and power surge through me. As my heart raced like never before, I felt good. But then there was a flash. My ears rang and my vision was spotty. I found myself on the floor and my front hooves hurt. I struggled to remember what happened. I think I tripped a booby trap.

A shrapnel grenade must have dropped down in the doorway I was running through. I must have dove onto my belly, covering my head with my hooves. I’d read about explosives and traps in magazines, so I knew it was bad, but I think it was more instinct than the knowledge that saved me.

From what I read, you can fill old balls with explosives and stick things you want in them for shrapnel, such as nails and other things to make a makeshift grenade. Pretty straight forward, but sadly I didn’t have the blueprints or explosive skill to even attempt it. But as of this moment I had more pressing things to worry about then how bad I was with explosives.

I tried to stand but the pain was too great, some of the shrapnel was still glowing hot. I heard a thud in front of me, walking up a set of stairs was a huge pony, covered in metal armor and a welding mask; It even covered his somewhat small horn. I mean it looked like a dent in the mask, but he was using magic ,so his horn must have been under there.

I wasn’t a professional unicorn anatomy, but given the size of his body, his horn was tiny. I think Sharp’s horn was almost double the length and hers was the same as Doc’s so at least to me they seemed average sized: I had seen others over time, but I never bothered to measure them.

Yet again I'm getting off topic: he was wielding a bloody cleaver in his brown magical field.

I gritted my teeth and mumbled, “Fuck me to the moon." The armored pony walked to the top of the stairs and dropped the cleaver, before going to a desk and pulling out a chainsaw. How the fuck did a chainsaw fit into a school desk?! "Fuck me to the moon!" I screamed as I crawled back to the other room.

The armored pony proceeded to start the chainsaw after a few pulls. As I kept crawling over my hooves to the other room, the armored pony started walking towards me as he cut the wall, chanting, "Meat, meat, meat, so good to eat, eat, eat!" Tears formed in my eyes as I crawled faster.

I screamed, "I don't want to become lunch!"

I finally got to the body in the hallway and began searching in the blood pool for the pistol, too scared to care about the blood. I panicked as he came closer, but finally I found the pistol. I gripped it in my mouth, the bloody handle was slippery. I quickly rolled onto my back.

The armored pony was right above me, chainsaw raised, he screamed. "Meat!"

I screamed around the handle as I opened fire. 'Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang!'

I emptied the magazine, the bullets just bouncing off his armor. The gun clicked as I kept trying to shoot. He swung down his chainsaw and I thought I was done for, but there was a loud bang, louder than the revolver I'd used. My eyes were still focused on the pony in front of me, he groaned then fell to the side, his body landing with a thud and a splash. The chainsaw fell next to my head, digging into the floor and spraying foamy blood everywhere.

I took a moment to realize I wasn't going to die. I looked down the hall to see my sister, holding a hunting rifle. I shakily smiled at her, still crying, then fell back into the blood, too tired to care. Suddenly I got an intense headache, the strongest one in a long time. I didn't bother opening my eyes, I knew who it was, kind of.

My shadow finally spoke. "You killed two ponies, it was easy, wasn't it?" Although something seemed off about him, his voice was weaker than before.

My hooves ached as I opened my eyes. I felt extremely tired, as my vision came to focus. Sharp stood above me, she was smiling, and she was okay. She levitated some bandages and tweezers into my view. This was going to hurt, a lot. But then there was a flash of magical red energy and my eyes grew heavy.

"Sharp…" I felt myself fall asleep, with a smile on my face and tears running down my cheek. Tears of relief that she was okay.

Darkness all around me. I floated in quiet darkness until I heard a distant voice. "You killed two ponies and it was easy." The pony in my head repeated for the second time, the events of the fight replaying as a memory-dream, visible as bubbles in my mind.

I shakily replied. "I had to, to save my sister." I had some doubt. Not on why I did it, but on how easy it was for me to do. The pony in my head giggled.

"Hehe, excuses, you enjoyed it."

I glared at its smirking white mouth and yelled. "No, I didn't! It's survival!"

The shadow pony simply smiled back at me and replied, "Then why were you smiling the whole time?"

It was then that I awoke. I was lying in a bed, my shoulder and front hooves in pain. I tried to sit up but that made it much worse, so I stayed laying down. There was a smell in the air that wasn't blood. It was soup. Specifically, potato chip soup. I looked over to a fire and there was Sharp, cooking soup and hanging my blood soaked jacket, along with some towels. All this didn't stop the fact that I was worried about what the dark pony said. But at least I could take some comfort knowing Sharp was safe.

I watched my sister clean my jacket, seeing that she had altered it. She’d sewn the bird icon Doc gave me onto the left shoulder. She was placing some guns on a table, along with her present. I was trying to think of something to say, anything, but nothing came to mind. I wonder if she knew that mom and dad were dead. How could I tell her? I opened my mouth but no words came out, so I just watched her.

Looking around, I was most likely in the basement of the day care building. There was a concrete ceiling, walls, and floor. They all had major cracks running through them, but despite the weather and surviving the end of the world, I'd say this building was still doing great. There was some scrap laying around, some supplies on rusty metal shelves and an old wooden table.

I noticed a huge machine that was still running, even though it looked more rust and sheet metal then whatever it originally was. If I had to guess I'd say it was a heater converted into a boiler and it was probably what heated the pool above. An eerie red glow came from its grill as it shook and hissed, still hard at work to keep the cold out.

Sharp looked through my bag and took out the Pip-buck, then she also took out one of the weird colorful orbs and stared at it intensely. She then proceeded to touch the weird orb with her magic and fainted.

I gasped and yelled, "Sis!" I stumbled out of bed and crawled to her, she was still breathing, thank the goddesses. It was then that I saw she had removed the shrapnel from my hooves and bandaged my wounds. I smiled and looked at her. "Thanks, sis."

I pulled my blanket over her, then proceeded to change my bloody bandages. I was no good at medicine but I knew how to bandage things up. I was quite grateful for dad’s medical lessons. Not wanting to sleep anymore I stumbled to the table and sat down.

I was a bit of a gun nut, I enjoyed servicing and repairing guns. It took my mind off things, like my loss. I took the guns apart and proceeded to clean their parts. I used a screwdriver, rag and old oil can to disassemble the rifles.

I ignored the taste that used to make me puke, as I gripped the oily rag in my mouth and cleaned one of the guns that the raiders had owned. After I put them back together again, their condition much better than before. Then, not wanting to let my mind wander, I began working on an old radio I found lying on the floor until my sister woke up.

I jumped over to her, ignoring the pain in my front hooves. "Uhh, brother?" She said in a daze.

I grabbed her with my hooves and shook her, yelling, "Sis! What happened?!" As I looked at her worryingly.

She blinked a few times before replying. "Ummm." She blushed and pushed me off her, avoiding eye contact and my question.

It was then we were interrupted by the static pop of the radio sparking into life. We only got static, but at least it was working. I turned to it, to see if I could keep it running, I was interrupted by my sister. "They're dead aren't they?" Her voice was low and sad, the words piercing my heart like, well, the icicle pierced that raider. I kept trying to find the words to reply. In the end, I could saythe only thing that I could think.


The room went quiet for a moment. I tried to keep my mind from thinking about it, but I still ended up sobbing. I couldn’t tell her the details, that mom’s body was missing and dad was baked alive. The thought of all this made me start to shake. She put her hooves around me and gave me a hug.

"It's okay to cry." Her voice sounded just like mom’s. I remembered a time I hurt my hoof, she bandaged it up and gave me a kiss on the forehead. I held my tears back, trying to be brave, but mom saw right through me.

"It's okay to cry," she’d said.

I hugged my sister back and cried, cried and cried over and over again. I felt her tears hit my back. I don’t know how long we cried for, but eventually, we stopped and she let me go.

I was still rubbing my eyes as Sharp stood up and carried over my now cold bowl of soup. She proceeded to heat it up again.

"You need to eat brother." She was right, but how could I? I mean, I was hungry before I came in here, but the things I'd seen and done. How could I eat after that? How could she?

I had so many questions. Like how she escaped or how they had managed to catch her in the first place. But I decided those weren’t important questions at the time. So I thought of what was relevant.

I was about to ask her but then she interrupted me. "What next?" She asked questioningly.

I raised a brow and replied. "What do you mean, what next?" Somewhat confused at the question.

"What are we going to do now?"

I hadn't really thought about that, I was too focused on saving her to think about it.

But I assume revenge would be a start. "I don't know…have you heard the name Blood Rose?" I asked curiously.

She was surprised by my question, or more so that I was asking it, she shook her head a little and replied. "How do you not know the name?" I was clueless as ever, she simply facehoofed and took a deep breath.

"The wasteland is divided up into a number of clans. These clans control their respective areas and whatever is inside them. Out of all the clans, the biggest clan is called Blood Skull. That has been the clan we have lived under our whole lives. They're the ones that protect and run the towns around here. The leader of Blood Skull is called Blood Rose." This was easy enough to understand, except for the fact that one of them wanted to kill for my dad's old pip-buck.

I tilted my head. "But why would the leader of this Blood Skull clan want dad dead, or this Pip-buck so badly?" I crossed my hooves in annoyance, I didn't like mysteries. She rubbed her chin and thought for a second.

"I don't know, but we're not going to give it to him, right?" She looked at me, wanting reassurance, I just smirked back at her, as if she even needed to ask.

"Right, sis. Although we still don't have any proof it was Blood Rose."

This time, she crossed her hooves. "Wrong, after the raiders jumped me and brought me back here, I heard them say they were getting paid by Blood Rose." She looked away, I could tell she was not happy about being captured.

I looked away for a second to eat some food and by the time I looked back Sharp had put Dad's Pip-buck on her hoof. There was a click as she closed the casing around her hoof and a pop as a green light shined from the device’s little screen. We both looked at it as numbers and letters appeared on the screen, then a loading icon with a cute cartoon mare popped up, it was trotting as a green bar slowly filled up.

I swallowed a gulp full of warm soup and asked, "What are you doing?" Cocking my head a little. She fiddled with it for a bit before replying.

"I couldn't get it to turn on so I decided to put it on… But now… It won't come off." She smiled sheepishly as she tried to pull it off.

I almost fell back laughing, nearly spilling my soup, I face hoofed as she gave me an embarrassed smile. By the looks of it, we had two options. Wait and see what was on the pip-buck, or cut off my sister’s hoof, give it to Blood Rose and run. But we’d already decided. There was no way in hell we were going to let him get away with killing our parents.

Sharp eventually got bored and decided to touch another orb. In the meantime, I finished my soup. That was when I started to notice that Sharp had been out for a while. I tried to wake her up but it was no use, although she seemed to be okay. I mean, she was breathing. I went back to messing with the radio, but I couldn't get a signal, most likely due to the storm.

After that, I tried touching the first orb very carefully, but nothing happened. I rolled it between my hooves, waiting for Sharp to wake up. Then a bad roll sent the orb rolling under the bed. I went to grab it when I noticed a partly damaged book. I put the orb back in the bag and grabbed the book.

Most of the cover was burnt, but I could make out some of it. ‘Survival Guide…, Equestria…’ I was about to open it when Sharp woke up, she seemed a bit shaken this time. I flew over to her as I yelled, "Sis?! What happened? What are those orbs?" She got to her hooves and shook herself off.

She flushed and replied. "Oh, the orbs? They’re memory orbs. Memories are stored in them, as the name suggests."


"Memory orbs? Hmm, okay, how do I use one?" I asked, tilting my head.

"Unicorns only." She giggled.

That doesn't seem fair to everypony else. "Aww but that's not fair, at least tell me what happened?" I begged and whimpered. She rolled her eyes and sat down.

"I swear I don't know which of us is older at times? Ok, the first one was just some pony doing boring paperwork. The one I just came from was…"

The smile she had on her face melted away, I tilted my head again and asked. "Was what? Sis…?" She looked down, then at me, before looking me in the eyes and replying.

"War." The mood turned quiet, only the static of the radio and crackling of the fire was auditable.

I quickly changed the grim subject. "I found a book, a Survival Guide for Equestria, probably not much good here. Somepony should write one for The Crystal Empire," I said cheerfully. Sister tilted her head.

"Why do you call it that? It's no longer an empire." She did have a good point.

"True but it's still not part of Equestria or what's left of it. What would you call it?" I asked questionably. She pondered the question for a moment.

"Hmm? How's the Crystal Wastes sound?"

I rubbed my chin thoughtfully.

"Not bad, not bad." We then both looked at each other and giggled.

Then I remembered, I looked through my bag but couldn't find it. Then I remember seeing it on the table, I stepped on my sore hooves. "OWW." I jumped back on my flank, the pain shooting up my front hooves.

Sharp came running to my side. "Are you okay? What are you trying to do?! You’re still hurt?!" I hid the pain and blushed, having a smug expression on my face. Sister raised a brow. "What?" She asked skeptically.

I pointed to the knife on the table. "Happy birthday sis," I replied with a smile on my face.

The room was silent for a moment then we broke out in laughter. For the night, we'd forgotten about the horrors of the wastes, of what happened to our home and family. But things were still ok, we had each other. Sister immersed herself in another memory orb. As for me, I started reading the book I had found. It was pretty useful. There was stuff about radiation, how it can make your eyes glow and mane itch, to scavenging tips and the do's and don'ts of general survival.

I skipped the locations section as it was no help for us here; Tenpony Tower, Splendid Valley, and Canterlot didn't mean a thing to anyone up this far north. Most everyone in the wasteland thought Equestria and The Crystal Empire were and still are separate, not because of lines on two-hundred-year-old maps. No, mainly because Equestria was worse off.

Apparently Equestria was hit with the brunt of the Zebra wrath. That and most of The Crystal Wastes radioactive contamination was buried by snow. But that doesn't mean it was much better. Most of the creatures in this book I'd never heard of like Radhogs and Manticores. All in all, the book was helpful and informative but not suited for the crystal wastelands.

I muttered out loud. "Somepony needs to make a Crystal Wastelands Version."

There was a crackle from the pip-buck, I looked at it as it now displayed a cartoony mare in a jumpsuit. The words ‘Stable-tech’ written above it in a logo, under that were some words.

Administrator access key required. Locked.

I knew nothing about technology, but even I could tell that wasn't good.

Finally, sister awoke from the memory orb. "Uhh, what’d I miss?" She sounded less groggy than the first time. My eyes darted away from hers as I tried not to answer, but there wasn't any way out of it.

"The pip-buck is locked." She looked shocked, I could tell she was going to blame me.

"You tried entering a password too many times, didn't you." Her voice sounded annoyed, no, disappointed.

Why did it feel like I did something wrong when I didn't even touch it. "I didn't do it!" I stated firmly. She just sighed.

"Doesn't matter now, can you unlock it?"

I shook my head. "I'm only good with mechanical repair, sorry." To think we could have found out the reason behind all this, but now it was locked.

We both thought of ways to fix it, the pony in my head suggested hitting it, but I shot him down before thinking of another idea. "Maybe we can find somepony to unlock it, what's the nearest town, besides Crystal Frost?" I asked optimistically.

She thought for a second before replying. "It doesn't really have a name, folks call it Slave Town."

"Slave Town?" I said sourly. I didn't like the sound of that. She shrugged and kept talking.

"Yep, it's a town made up of slavers. Slavery is its main business. It's in the name."

I'd seen slavers and slaves pass through town before. Didn't seem right that one pony could own another. My dad hated it too, though he'd always look at them with such sorrow and guilt. Doc always gave free treatment to passing slaves, while the fat shop owner gave slavers a discount. I asked my dad why no one ever did anything about it, he simply said. "Because it's legal, and if we did we'd be breaking the law that protects us."

I could tell that was controversial, though I never knew Sharp's opinion on the subject. "Sis, what do you think of slavers and slaves?" I asked.

"I can see how they help rebuild the world and order, they are important and needed in the wasteland," she said calmly and firmly. She could see I didn't like her answer and quickly added. "But that does not mean it is right. There must be a better way than rebuilding on the bodies of others." She sheepishly smiled at me, trying to brush off her first answer.

For all I've thought about it, I've never thought about the good slavers do, although the bad outweighed the good. Sister hopped in a bed next to mine, she had kindly given me the cleanest mattress, it was suspiciously clean in fact. "Why is this bed so clean? I mean it's nice, but it's a raider’s bed, I'd expect it to be a little dirty?" It even smelled fresh, not what you’d expect from a raider base with a small pool of blood upstairs.

I guess she predicted my question as she started talking before I even opened my mouth to ask more questions. "Oh, I used a cleaning spell. I'll use it on your jacket and bag tomorrow, now get some sleep, we have a busy day tomorrow." She then laid her head down and closed her eyes.

I chuckled a little. "I will," I whispered as I picked up the survival book again and kept on reading. Then a question popped into my head. "Hey sis, what was the last memory orb about?" I asked tilting my head.

She groaned and muttered. "Slave Town."

Chapter 2: Slave Town

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Ponies selling ponies, ponies owning ponies, it was disgusting. I didn't know what I was expecting in a slaver town, but it wasn't a shit hole. The town was built atop the ruins of an old long forgotten town, it didn't have a wall or guards, and it was a lot bigger than Crystal Frost. This place was mostly made of wood and cement, no big metal fence made of rusted bus carriages and some of the buildings actually rose more than a single story.

Every pony was kind and there were shops and stores all over the place, it was peaceful and organized, no signs of slavers or any slaves. But still, since I was a Pegasus, I was apparently worth a lot, Sis ensured me there was a law against capturing non-slave ponies in town. But we didn't want to risk it so I hid my wings under my jacket as we walked through the town, eventually we found an old hotel. Unfortunately it was too expensive.

"What do you mean five hundred caps!?" I yelled at the manager/owner who was behind the desk.

"Five hundred caps." he said, unwavering.

Sister put a hoof on my shoulder and said "Let me handle it brother." With that I was pushed aside.

I must admit I wasn't good at bartering, but Sis, she could sell a pack of smokes for one hundred caps. But five hundred caps for a room for one night was crazy, although the room was nicer than anything back home. No holes in the walls, a real bed and bathroom, all with working plumbing and even electricity, all fancy like. Well no point in complaining about it.

Seeing as how I wasn't needed I set about looking for an ammo bench. I'd managed to pick up some scrap on the way here, back at the now ex-raider base we found some ammo but it wasn't for any of our guns, so I was going to see if I could put that gunpowder and lead to some use.

My wounds from the raider base were feeling much better, although I must admit my front hooves felt like shit. They hurt when I stepped on them and they were bleeding a little, I could see the bandages getting crimson spots. But mostly they felt warm and itchy, although touching them invoked a sharp pain, so there was no way I was going to scratch them. So instead of causing a fuss, I decided to ignore it for now.

I more or less avoided everypony as I walked around, I was… uncomfortable meeting new ponies, but eventually after getting lost in town I walked into what I assumed was a bar. Ponies were drinking and playing poker and blackjack, games I had no clue how to play. But a drunken mare grabbed me and pulled me over to her table, with a bunch of their drunken mare friends, they were kind of cute so I just went along with it.

"So how do you play blackjack?" I asked, trying not to blush.

The cute mare with green eyes, yellow mane tied in a single ponytail and a pink coat giggled, she grabbed my head and pushed it against her chest, I tried not to blush even harder as she proceeded to shout. "Bring us the whiskey!"

She then let go of me and moved her head really close to mine, our noses almost touched. She stared at me intensely as I avoided making eye contact, still blushing, the other two mares just giggled.

"Listen up buddy, we're playing go fish." The pink mare said in a drunken slurry.

"Blackjack." one of the other mares corrected her.

The pink mare stared at the other two mares and replied. "My name isn't Blackjack? It's Pink Lily." I tried not to giggle, or inhale as I moved away a bit.

Her breath smelt of whiskey, I was wondering if I wouldn't get drunk just from her talking. She proceeded to ramble, giggling and hiccuping as she explained the rules of blackjack. To be honest this wasn't the first time some pony tried to teach me how to play.

Sometimes when dad would drag me into town he'd stop at Doc's place for a game of cards. He'd tried to include me but I had no interest in playing, I'd usually nap on Doc's couch as the two of them played.

The pink mare then shook me a little as she started to explain how to play. "Get as close as you can to twenty one. Over is bust and you're out. Try to beat the dealer. Face cards are ten and number is as is, ace is one or eleven. Player's choice, start with two cards up for player, one down and one up for dealer. Say hit and tab the table for one card, two taps and you quit and don't lose any caps, hoof on table for stand if you don't want any more cards, you can split your hand into two if you have the same card. Got all that?" My head was spinning and so was the pony in my head, I wasn't the smartest pony, but I might as well give it a go.

"Umm…ok let's play…" I nodded, mumbling.

The three giggled at me, the bartender brought our drinks, a bottle of Jack Pony Whiskey and four shot glasses. The bottle had a grey label and a little outline of a drunk pony on it, but the strange thing was, it was twirling. The little cartoon pony seemed to get dizzy and fall down, before the animation started again, it seemed cute but off. I'd never drank alcohol, let alone seen whiskey. Most of my life I had water or the occasional bottle of two hundred year old soda and it never had a animated creature on it.

One of the three mare's, this one with a green coat, pink mane and yellow eyes and her hair tied into two pony tails, poured four drinks and pushed one over to me.

"Drink up." she said, a big smirk on her face.

"Oh, I never drank alcohol before." I blushed sheepishly, trying to hide my shy expression. All three of them started laughing, and that didn't make me feel any less embarrassed.

"Tell you what cutie, every time we hit, we have a shot." said the Pink mare, trying to sit upright on her chair, clearly she had too much to drink.

"We'll bet caps and bullets." said the Green one, shuffling the cards.

"As well as a kiss for the winner of each round." said the yellow one, giggling. It was cute how they finished each other's, wait what?!

"I um aa ye, oh." I mumbled. The pony in my head yelled. "JUST DO IT!"

In the end all I could do was nod sheepishly, how come I was calmer fighting psychos then talking to girls. With that the game began, the pony in my head cheered me on. We bet five caps each, luckily Sis gave me some money. I picked up the shot glass and gulped it down fast, it tasted like fire and piss, and I coughed heavily and bumped my chest.

"Hehe, you ok, Hun?" the pink one asked, tilting her head.

"You got to drink it slowly." the green one told me.

"Like this." then the yellow one drank slowly and slammed the glass down.

I lost the first round and the dealer switched from the pink coated mare to the yellow coated mare. The next game I managed to win, not just a few caps but a kiss from the dealer. On the lips. It was amazing! It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, or maybe that was the whiskey.

Speaking of the whiskey, the more I drank the better I felt. I was forgetting about the past, the death and the wasteland. The game went on for a while, I won a few caps and lost a few, but more importantly I won some kisses. One time the house won and the two mares kissed house, that raised my barrel. Luckily I was sitting at a table.

"Thank the goddesses." I shouted, or maybe the pony in my head shouted, I don't know.

When I was low on caps so I started to bet bullets. A few bottles of Jack Pony later I fully understood how each of the mares kissed. Pink used tongue, Yellow kissed for a long time and Green kissed with passion. As for me, I was crap at kissing so I let them take the lead. I don't really know what happened next, it was all a blur.

But I remember some pony saying. "Welcome to Slave Town."


My head was pounding like it was being hit with a sledge hammer over and over. The pony in my head was groaning and I felt very cold and strangely very hot at the same time. I slowly opened my eyes, then shut them as there was a flood of light. When I tried again I saw I was outside and it was day time. Never before had the day been so bright, or loud. The sounds of shouting and yelling were all around me. It was then that I finally saw where I was. I was in a cage.

I looked down at the front of my fore hooves to see the bandages stained and dirty. Sickly yellow and brown blotches with black centers covered the bandages. My hooves pulsed with pain and heat as i could smell a sickly odor of rotten flesh coming from myself. Waiting to tell Sharp was definitely a bad idea. I gagged and went to pull my jacket sleeves down over it when i released my jacket was gone.

My clothes had been stripped off me. My jacket, bag and gun were gone. There was something around my neck too. Something metal. A collar. I stood up and looked around for somepony I knew, although most of the ponies are know are far from here or dead. It was then that I saw the three cute mares from the bar, they were armed.

I got a good look at the three of their guns. They appeared to be a M-60 air cooled, chain feed, gas operated, iron sights and bipod attached, heavy machine guns. All identical, except for the color of their carrying belts, one green, yellow and the last was pink. They appeared to be in very good condition, little to no sign of wear. Enough about guns, back to the conversation.

"Hey! Where am I? Why am I in a cage? And why do I have a collar on?" I demanded before breaking into a coughing fit.

Yet again they spoke in unison, this time it was creepy instead of cute.

"You're in slaver town's weekly market." Said one of the ponies.

"You're our slave for sale. Pegasi go for big bits." Said another.

"It's an explosive collar in case you try to escape, boom!" Finally said the last.

Fuck me, an explosive collar? How the hell did they make an explosive collar in the wasteland? I should start a list, I'll put explosive collars right under raider decor, but first a question I could ask.

"How much am I worth?" I asked sourly, tilting my head.

"Ten thousand caps." All three of them grinned sheepishly as they answered in unison. I know why Sis told me to hide my wings. I mean I know Pegasi were worth a lot, but fuck.

I was thinking of my next question when I heard a familiar voice and it sounded pissed. "You fucking idiot! Where the hell have you been?" I tried to hide but that's a bit hard in a cage. The pony in my head finally stopped moaning and started panicking. I saw her face. Oh Goddess she was angry, and the pony in my head had a plan. "Activate the collar!" luckily everypony ignored me as this angry mare stole the spotlight.

I thought it over for a second but chose not to ask them to blow up my head. Too messy. She pushed the three heavily armed mares aside and grabbed me through the cage, choking me a little. Thank the goddesses for the cage.

I shook in her hooves and shakily replied. "H-... Hey… Sister." She slammed my face against the bars, my head rang like a bell, before she started screaming in my ear.

"Don't you fucking ‘hey sis’ me, brother! Why the fuck are you in a cage!"

It was then that the three mares pulled her off of me. I think at that moment I developed full Stockholm syndrome, or at the least a will to live without my sister's wrath. I trembled in fear, my eyes tearing up. It was then that she let go and took a long calming breath.

"You idiot…." Her voice was quiet and sad, but also rejoiceful.

I opened my eyes to see her crying. She’d been worried about me. She was sad and hurt and I wasn't there for her. She’d been strong the night before but that was different. Then, she had been strong for me, I was hurt after all. But she was also hurt, on the inside. She'd let me cry out all the pain of our parent's deaths and I hadn’t let her do the same.

"Sorry... it's ok to cry, you know?" In the end all I could do was dry my eyes, in an apologetically soft voice. She chuckled and whispered in my ear. "I'll cry when this is over." Her voice was surprisingly dark.

It was then that the three mares put themselves back in the conversation. Not liking being pushed aside, all three pushed the barrels of their machine guns to the back of my sister's head. Suddenly, my cold body began to feel like it was boiling over as a heat ran over me. I started coughing and sister let go of me.

"Don't touch the merchandise." The other smiles grew.

"Hehe so your siblings." This time the yellow mare stepped forward.

"In that case, we'll sell him back to you for eleven thousand caps." Their voices snickering as there grins grew larger.

But Sister was perfectly calm, smirking. She replied as she spun around to look down the three barrels. "Trade code thirty two, any open price may not be changed while trying to sell product to somepony." Her voice filled with pride and victory, one of the mares was about to reply, but Sister continued. "Furthermore, rule twelve. All towns and cities are safe zones where one is not allowed to capture ponies and enslave them." I smiled as I felt so happy, knowing my release was guaranteed. But then the mares jumped back into the conversation.

"Wait!" Two of the mares said quickly. "We caught him outside of town limits."

"As for the price, say five thousands caps." the pink mare said, keeping her cool.

Our smiles disappeared and the pony in my head started swearing, Sister’s expression changed to one of curiosity. I was the one to ask what we were thinking.


This time the pink mare stood forward, smirking. "The drunken scam. We'd find a naive traveler and get them drunk until they passed out, then we'd drag them out of town and enslaved them."

The green one was also smirking. "Besides we didn't even get to do our true plan."

The last one shrugged. "What a shame." she said sarcastically.

More secrets, what's with all the run arounds, it's so annoying, and I couldn't help but yell. "What plan?" All three of the mares smiled, looming over me, I couldn't help cowering back in my cage a little, somehow feeling ashamed and embarrassed.

The three of them giggled and replied.


"A little baby for each of us."

"Hopefully a Pegasus, to sell for big caps."

I felt sick in my stomach, feeling chilled all of a sudden. The idea of having a child just to sell it. Those three were laughing at the idea. They didn't give a damn about life, and they were monsters, just as bad a raiders. A mother is god to a child, but there is no gods in this world. Not any more. The world was destroyed by and reborn as greed.

At some point I stopped smiling. "All of you, deserve to die." I said clear as day, it was then that they shut up, I didn't bother looking up at them.

"Shut up! I'll buy him." Luckily Sister jumped in before anything else happened. Wait…

"Wait! You tried to seduce me!?" I yelled before breaking into a coughing fit.

"Yep." said the green one, giggling and licking her lips sexually.

"But alcohol can make it hard to get up." the yellow one said, gesturing a stroking action with her hooves.

"So what do you say? Want to have some fun?" Said the pink one last, staring at me, as she wiggled her hips a little.

Despite their sexy looks I was too pissed to be aroused. I grit my teeth and snarled at them, they were really pissing me off. It was then that we were interrupted by a thud.

"Five thousand caps!"

Sister dropped a few bags of caps. I had no clue where she had got that many caps but I was thankful. The three mares grinned wildly. They quickly let me out of the cage, helped me up and gave me my jacket back, along with my bag. I looked through my bag to make sure everything was there, luckily for them it was. I pulled out my SMG and checked the clip and sights, pointing it at the three mares, they were too busy counting their caps to even notice.

Sis looked at me a shook her head. My breathing grew faster and more erratic, my vision blurred as I began to feel hot again, my strength faded and I dropped my gun in the snow, my hoofs shook as I coughed violently. Sister yelled my name and galloped over to me. My vision grew darker, all the noise faded away too. I felt terrible. The last thing I remember before the darkness was my sister's face.

So cold, everything around me is so cold, so why is my body burning up? I didn't know if my eyes are open or closed, darkness all around me again, at least that annoying voice wasn't here.

"Hello again."

Fuck, he was right behind me.

"What do you want?" I groaned, not in the mood for talking. He floated in front of me and smiled, his white mouth extending across his face.

"I want to know why you smile?" He asked sincerely.

I sighed and decided to humor him. "I smile for others, to make them feel better, but being a part of me you must already know that?" His smile disappeared as I grew one.

"Then why did you smile when you killed?" He questioned.

I opened my muzzle to reply, but shut it as I thought of what to say. "I don't know?"

"Don't know? Or don't want to know?" Suddenly the temperature changed, this time I was cold and everything else was hot, but I was too busy thinking about what the voice said to care.

"W-why are you doing this, before you used to just worry or criticize me?" I said shakily, confused and somewhat scared of his last question.

He chuckled "I'm not the other guy, I'm the guy you buried. So why did you smile when you killed?"

I grit my teeth and replied. "Because I needed to stay strong for my sister!" I shouted as he started to annoy me.

He smiled and began to fade away. "A truthful lie, but still a lie. You enjoyed it. Just like you did back then."

"Back when?" I asked, confused.

A memory bubble appeared, but this we approached the bubble and as we did it grew bigger and bigger, or maybe we just grew smaller, we entered it and the way back to that limbo appeared as a shrinking hole as the memory took shape around us. it was an old memory of back when raiders attacked, but instead of me being in my own body or even as some specter watching my own memory from a different angle. I was in the body of the raider I attacked. I saw myself grab a rifle and take aim, the real me, not the raider me. I hesitated before smiling and taking the shot.


I shut my eyes and gripped my head screaming imagining the bullet tearing through me. I panted and opened my eyes slowly. Instead of darkness I saw a grey and old flaking ceiling. I was in a bed, a wool blanket thrown off on to the floor. I looked around the room, it was empty except for a table next to me, a window, and it was snowing outside. I tried to sit up but my whole body hurt. Mainly my front hooves.

I tried to talk but my throat was too dry to speak. I felt terrible. There was a tube sticking out of my neck, it led to an I.V. bag filled with a glowing pink liquid. I don't know how long I laid there, trying not to think about what the shadow pony had said. Was I really smiling back then? Did I really enjoy killing? There was a click as the door opened. I could hear hoof steps and struggled to move my head to see who it was.

"Good, you’re alive." Said a male unicorn with a blue coat and green mane. He wore a white lab coat, so I couldn't see his cutie mark, he was checking a clip board. I tried talking again but was still unable. Luckily he looked up at me and saw I was trying to talk.

"Don't talk, just rest. You had a very bad infection in the wounds on your front hooves and I had to remove a lot of the dead tissue, had to stick the IV in your neck. I got bit aggressive when removing the remaining shrapnel fragments, but leaving shrapnel in a wound is inviting trouble. You'll still be able to keep your front legs and they should heal fine but there will be permanent scarring. As a result of your infection, you were running a high fever. You were also dehydrated, though I assume that must have been from alcohol." He chuckled and marked some things off his clipboard before continuing.

"I've also got a message from your sister." he then held up a note and I began to read it.

"You idiot! I was worried sick about you! I've gone out with what little cap's I have left and am currently shopping around for stuff, stay in bed and wait for me. Also don't die! I paid a lot of caps for you and the doctor doesn't give refunds!

Love you,

Your sister"

I smiled and blushed. The doctor whose name I still did not know laughed and walked away. Yet again I was alone in that small room with nothing to do, my body still aching and I did not want to go back to sleep. I didn't want to talk to the shadow pony.


I was just lying in bed, very bored, when all of a sudden the door opened. In the hallway stood Sharp. I sat up, ignoring my pain and smiled at her. She did not smile back. She threw my jacket and my bag at me, both bounced off my chest and into my lap. It hurt a little. I swallowed and opened my mouth to speak, but she interrupted me.

"Ten thousand caps!" she glared at me angrily. I gotta shut up or die vibe and let her talk. And talk she did.

"That's how much the stupid mare at the general store wants to unlock the pip-buck. But you had to be an idiot and I lost five thousand to buy you, a thousand for your stuff, two thousand for medical expenses, three hundred for the room, two hundred for food and water, that leaves me with one thousand, five hundred caps!" she was pacing up and down my bed, complaining, I could see she was upset.

I did the only thing I could and hugged her, even with my hooves crying in pain and my bandages bloodied. I still held her close. "I'm sorry, for the caps." I said. She sobbed a little as I held her tightly, my hooves trembling.

"I'm not mad about the caps, I'm mad that you almost died and left me all alone, I need you." She said, sniffling.

Those words hit me like knives to the heart. I was all she had left. I was the big brother, I was meant to be the strong one. I remembered what happened when she found me in the cage, when she cried, and I tried to speak. "It's ok to cry." My voice was dry and rusty but she was hurt.

She slowly pushed me off her and wiped away her tears. "I told you I'll cry when this is over…" She dusted herself off as I laid back down.

"Sis, can I ask you a question?"

She sat on the floor and tilted her head. "What question?"

I looked away, then I looked her in the eyes, she could tell I was being serious. "Did I smile? Back when the house was attacked by raiders?" I was scared of the answer. I was trembling after all, I shut my eyes waiting for the answer, but then I felt a hoof press on my shoulder.

"You remember what happened with the bunny?" I opened my eyes to see her looking down. She then looked at me as if she was very sorry, I slowly nodded and she continued.

"Back then I thought killing was fun. It would get me dad’s approval, but I'd disappoint mom. Before that, mom and dad were impressed when I learned magic, but… When it came time to kill another pony, I was scared. I looked over to you, you were scared out of your mind and dad stopped shooting back to protect you. Your fear made him worry about you when he didn't have time to, so I decided to smile, so they wouldn't worry about me." There was a pause as we both took in what she had said.

"It's true you were smiling after you grabbed the gun, but the reason for your smile is something only you can find out." Her voice was shaking, as if she was scared all over again. She hugged herself. I thought back to the raider base. She was smiling for me. She smiled at me shakily and said. "I was so scared, I'm still scared."

I didn't realize until that moment, but I was crying. I wiped my tears with my bandaged hooves, quickly putting on a big smile. She hopped back onto her hoofs and proceeded to walk to the door.

I shouted out "I love you!"

She froze in her tracks for a moment before turning to me with a big smile. "Love you too, brother."

Her wounds hurt, I could see she was in much more pain than me, she might have been smiling but her pain was clear.

I now knew my answer to the shadow pony's question. I laid comfortably back into bed and went back to sleep.

Soon I was back in the dark limbo, he was waiting for me, grinning as always.

"Got an answer for me?" I smiled back at him as he tilted his head.

"It doesn't matter."

He chuckled. "Of course it matters."

I snickered a bit, waiting for him to stop quiet. "No it doesn't, not right now anyway. Right now I need to be strong. So, for now, I'll push it down." I said with conviction, his grin disappeared.

"You know that’s unhealthy right? Suppressing your emotions. What will happen when it's time for you to deal with them?" He asked skeptically.

I chuckled a little. "Then I'll deal with them, but for now my sister needs Me." He smiled again before fading, this time the darkness faded with him.

"You can't push everything down."


I woke up slowly, peacefully, that was until I saw the doctor standing over me. I jumped a little and screamed, he just chuckled. "You nearly gave me a heart attack!" I yelled.

He smiled and replied. "That's extra." He joked. I hope.

I sat up, feeling much better, only a little pain in my hooves. I tried to side up but fell straight back down. Ok maybe more than a little pain. He sighed and injected me with something, I flinched then relaxed. I felt better, much better. "What was that?" I asked. He threw the empty syringe away.

"It's a drug called Med-X. It's not cheap, but that one's on the house." I sat up and put on my jacket and clothes.

"Thanks doc" He waved me off and with that I began to walk out, fresh magical bandages and no bomb collar. I felt pretty good.

I was just out the front door when the doctor came running behind me. "Wait!" I stopped.

"What's up doctor?"

He caught his breath, before telling me. "Your sister told me to tell you to go to room four-one-five of the ‘Unlucky Bastard’ hotel, around the corner, also don't worry about your wings. Just don't fall for any more tricks and keep them hidden." He snickered, I blushed and nodded, smiling back at him.

"Thanks." And with that I was truly off.

By the time I got back to the hotel it was almost four in the afternoon. I got back to the room but sharp wasn't there, there was however a note.

"Brother, I've gone out to try to find some pony to unlock the pip-buck, don't do anything stupid. p.s. if you can try to earn a few caps that would be great, you still owe me eight thousand, five hundred caps."

I groaned, was she ever going to let that go, it's already been a day. But I was feeling too good to just sit around for her so I decided to go out and try to earn some caps back. I wandered around town, by the looks of it most of the slavers had moved on already, including those three mare's. I’d assumed is must have been an annual market thing.

Eventually I stumbled upon a bounty board. There were some collection quests and some actual bounties, ranging from small ones for a few hundred cap's all the way up to two thousand caps. Then I saw it.

A bounty for ten thousand caps. By the poster it looked kind of old, on it was a unicorn that seemed use two custom revolvers, wore a dark brown duster, had an eye patch, had a yellow eye, dark brown cowboy hat with bird skull on its brim, brown coat, grey mane and tail and grey magic, whose age was unknown and had a cutie mark of two revolvers crossed in a X mark. These wanted posters were very detailed.

Crimes included murder, attempted murder and robbery, wanted dead or alive. I was kind of surprised there was even a justice system, in Frost-Crystal there was no bounty board but we did get bounty hunters passing through every now and then. They seemed so cool, but dad wouldn't let me near them. But this time I could be the bounty hunter. It might be fun.

I took the poster down and put it in my bag, then I went back to the same bar I was at last time. Last time everypony there was chatty, maybe they had some information on this Twin Barrel fella. I walked right in, it was a lot quieter than last time. There wasn’t even any music playing.

But that wasn't the only odd thing. Everyone was sitting at tables and no one sat at the actual bar bench, except for one pony, one rather large pony. I saw all the eyes in the bar stare at me, except the one at the bench. My wings were still under my jacket so it couldn't be that. I trotted up to the pony sitting at the bar bench and sat next to him. Everyone seemed to gasp, some even left the bar, all the others looked away.

But the pony I was now sitting next to didn't even look at me. Eventually the bartender asked me what I'd like to drink, yet again I felt the whole bar looking at me again. "Milk please." It was then that the whole bar broke out into laughter.

I blushed as they laughed at me, but then the stallion next to me turned his head and gave them a look. They shut up immediately. It was then that I got a good look at him, he was a light brown coated stallion with an eye patch, goatee and a yellow eye, he wore a brown leather duster and a dark brown cowboy hat with a bird skull on the brim. He had a cigarette in his mouth and was slowly smoking it. Before I couldn't see his face very well because he had his hat tilted forward.

Eventually the bartender brought me some cold milk, it tasted good, probably brahmin milk. "Mmm that’s good!" The stallion next to me started to chuckle, a deep bellowing laughter, I tilted my head. "What's so funny?"

I saw his horn, it started to glow as he drank a shot of whisky quickly, ignoring me. The bartender leaned in closely and whispered into my ear. "That's the legendary Twin Barrel, he's drinking a venom shot, rad scorpion venom and whisky, our specialty." I smiled, the bartender backed away, put off by my smile.

I stared at the stallion before me and extended a hoof. "Hello, nice to meet you sir. Do you mind if I capture you?" Cue the sound of multiple jaws hitting the floor.

Twin Barrel looked at me with his one eye, his jaw dropped a little, almost dropping the cigarette. The bar was quiet for a moment. Then Twin barrel quickly levitated out a pistol to my forehead. The gun was a magnum revolver with ‘Luna’ written in blue along the underside barrel, a counter balance weighted frame attached to the top of the barrel, and a midnight blue grip with a white crescent moon on it.

I'd say it was a model 500 Colt double action revolver, 10.5 inch barrel, iron sights, five round flat cylinder, topped with a reflex scope. Under the gun was a shaped gun blade in the same style. The whole gun was finished with black chrome. A work of art and it was shrouded in a dim grey magic field.

Back to reality, I kept smiling at him, even as he cocked the revolver. He stared at me, confused but anxious. He finally spat out his cigarette into the empty shot glass. The bar was frozen, not a sound, eventually he stopped pressing the gun against my forehead and spoke.

"Who the hell are you? And what the hell are you doing?" He sounded like a cowboy, his voice was deep and firm, yet it had a rough rasp to it that gave it character.

I smiled and replied. "My name is Star and I need to pay back my sister. I owe her nine thousand caps." I blushed embarrassingly.

He chuckled a little, not lowering his gun, he pulled out another and placed it on the table. This one had similarities to the other gun. But this one was white chrome, with ‘Celestia’ written in gold and a golden sun inset into a light yellow grip. It appeared to be the polar twin of the gun being pointed at my head.

He smiled, then put down the gun marked as Luna, next to the one marked as Celestia. "Let's play a game." he said in a deep and masculine voice.

"What sort of game? Not blackjack."

He chuckled again. "Roulette."

I looked at the gun and back at him, he nodded and said. "Go ahead, make my day." He levitated both pistols and unloaded the guns slowly, leaving one round in each before spinning the chamber. "We ask a question, then fire once." There was a pause before he spoke again. “Choose a gun." I pondered and picked up the Luna revolver. "Good choice kid."

He then picked up the other revolver. I nodded to him to ask first, and he levitated the gun as I pointed the other one back at him.

"Where'd you get that jacket?" he asked.

"My dad gave it to me." I replied, my voice muffled around the handle.

My turn, him asking about my jacket did add some questions to my list, but first I had to ask something I had to ask. "Why do you have such a big bounty?"

He sighed. "Murdered an important pony." He answered, vaguely.

Time froze for a second as we locked gazes and I worked the surprisingly heavy trigger with my tongue. The hammers of the guns both dropped and made was seemed like the loudest sound ever.


I sighed a little, thankful I wasn't dead. Both our pistols weren’t chambered. My turn to ask again. "Who was the important pony?" I muffled.

There was a pause before he replied. "A young mare named Sydney. She was friend of your dads, a unicorn named Red Cross and the current leader of Blood Skull, Blood Rose. "

My eyes went wide, surprised, trying to contemplate what he said, but before I could, he asked his question. "What happened to Straight Shot and Red Cross?" I had to think about that, my dad usually didn't use his name. As for Red Cross, I'd assume he might of been talking about Doc, I'd never heard him go by that name. Back to the questions.

"My mom and dad are both dead….. As for Red Cross, I assume you mean Doc? He's ok." It hurt to answer the first half, dredging up sad emotions.

There was no hesitation, we didn't even blink as we pulled the triggers a second time.


Both still alive, good. I didn't want him to die, he knew a lot. But he also gave me more questions than answers, like sydney and why her name was etched onto my SMG. His go again. "You don't know about their past do you?" I kept getting more questions, but I was getting worried about the chances.

"My dad left a stable, then wandered around until finding his love, my mom, right?" He smiled and replied.

"Right and wrong. He did wander the wasteland, but not alone. He did stop, once he found his love." AGHH more questions.

I thought of my question to ask. "What else happened with my dad?"

"He and three others roamed the waste land in its most dangerous time, they survived and thrived, making a name for themselves. The immortals."


We were both very lucky. My go to ask, I thought through all my questions but found one popping up. "Where did you get these beautiful guns?" There was no way I couldn't ask about those beautiful guns.

My smile grew but his smile faded, I could tell he didn't like that question. "...my son." he said painfully.

Our conversation wasn't very private, only the bravest or drunkest stayed behind. It was his turn to ask. "Who do you think killed your parents?"

The thought of their killer made me angry, I gripped the gun tight in my mouth and growled his name. "Blood Rose!" There was a pause as I took a moment to calm down. Twin Barrel on the other hoof was thinking. After a moment we continued.


We were very lucky. His go to ask a question, our last question. "What will you do now?" At this point everypony was listening.

Without hesitation I replied. "I'm going to kill Blood Rose."

Yet again everypony’s jaws dropped, including Twin Barrel. Everypony laughed at my statement, but not Twin Barrel. this time it was my turn, but I could tell if I asked the question I'd probably be shot, plus I couldn't pick a good question out of my list of ever growing questions right now.

"I'll save my question for later." I said, he simply nodded. We both cocked the pistol before smiling at each other.


Quiet, after that the bar was quiet, me and Twin Barrel sat there smiling at each other, smoking barrels between us, we both missed, both pistols turned to the side, there was a ringing in my right ear, a little pain under my eye as that’s where the bullet grazed me. My shot had whizzed past his head, going through his long grey messy mane, we both started laughing as the whole bar was speechless.

We calmed down and put the guns on the counter, I wiped a trickle of blood off my cheek. Twin Barrel put his guns away and stood up, chuckling under his breath. He proceeded to walk over to some ponies sitting at a table, their jaws still wide open. Twin Barrel picked up a gun in its holster, it was laying on the table atop a pile of chips, obviously somepony bet it.

"Don't mind if I take this?" All the ponies in the table shook their heads.

Twin barrel chucked the gun at me and I caught it in my hooves. "Kid, you’re headstrong and stupid. I like you."

I blushed at the compliment. "Thanks old horse." I yelled, he chuckled and walked to the door.

"Don't push your luck." He said in a joking manor.

Just before he walked out the door he stopped and said. "You can't blame the sins of the parent on the child." I tilted my head, confused, and with that he was gone.

I still had a lot of questions, mainly about my dad's past and his relation with Blood Rose, as well as what happened to Sydney and why Doc use to be known as Red Cross. But all of that wasn't important now, I got a new gun. I felt like a colt on his birthday. I pulled it out of the holster and placed it on the bar It was a lever-action rifle, or shotgun. I checked it's load, looked at its chamber and by the look of it, it was a rifle.

I picked up one of the empty shells from before and put it in the chamber, a bit too small, so it was most likely a .45 Colt lever-action rifle. But this one was different, this one had a much shorter barrel, a wooden stock and iron sights, so it was a Mare's Leg lever-action .45 Colt six round tube feed short barreled rifle. Very nice, too bad I didn't have any ammo for it. Maybe I could ask sister to buy me some, on top of all the caps I owed her.

I moaned. "Why is it so hard to get caps…?”

The bartender chuckled. "I don't know, but tell ya what, seeing as I’d normally kick ya out for having no caps, I’ll Tell you a story, then you can leave."

"What kind of story?" I asked as I tilted my head, getting the sense that this bartender was chatty, although the open mouth cutie mark kinda tipped me off..

The bartender was wiping down some glasses as he smiled. "The legend of Twin Barrel and the Forty Four."

Before I could ask a question the lime yellow unicorn started talking. "Before Twin barrel got his big bounty, he himself was a bounty hunter. A big shot too. Fastest gun in the north. But one day his son was killed due to a misunderstanding with the Rose clan." I sat on the edge of my seat, listening closely.

"What sort of misunderstanding?"

The bar pony shook his head "I don't know. Anyway, Twin Barrel tracked down the ones who killed his son and an epic gun fight broke out. Eventually Twin Barrel killed one of the ponies who killed his son, but it cost him an eye. The only problem was the one he killed was close to Blood Rose. So Blood Rose put a ten thousand cap bounty on his head, and that was twenty years ago."

"That was an interesting story, but I didn't hear anything about forty four?" I said questionably.

"I'm getting there. After the big bounty a bunch of bounty hunters teamed up to try and get him. Forty four of the best bounty hunters tried to bring him in, dead or alive. But he beat every one of them. Most of them died, the one's that lived spread his legend. Some say he even shot a missile out of the air, others say he killed a dragon. I don't know, all I know is you gotta be stupid or brave to go after his head. Looking at you, I say it was most likely the latter."

My eyes were huge as I was captivated by his story, too amazed to care about the insult. "Awesome!" I paid for my drink and grabbed my new gun and holster and ran outside, wanting to talk to Twin Barrel again, maybe ask him if he'd join us, but he was gone.

I looked around town, but there no sign of him, it was getting late so I was going to head back to the hotel when I saw a filly in a cage. She was toying with something in her hooves, I couldn't see what it was or what she looked like but I could tell she was very young, I walked up to her as she shyly backed away from me, clutching the object in her hooves.

"What you got there?" I asked softly, seeing she was scared of me.

She just stared at me with scared blue eyes, before muttering. "Broken."

Chapter 3: Broken

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In front of me was a young pony in a cage. I couldn't see what she looked like because she was wearing a raggedy cloak and hoodie, but I could tell she was scared. Her blue eyes were quivering in fear. I sat down in front of her cage in the cold snow. I smiled at her and she flinched back for a moment before looking closely at me.

"Hello," I said in a calm and peaceful voice, trying not to scare her. She slowly inched closer until she was sitting just before the bars. She looked at an object in her hooves then back at me.

"Broken. It's broken," she said in a quiet, shy voice.

She looked down at the object and lifted it up to show me, it was a little metal music box. I went to touch it, but she pulled it back quickly. "No, it's the only thing that they let me keep… As long as I promise not to resist," she said, her voice fading away as her mind trailed off to a different time.

I waited for her to come back from her memory. She smiled a little, a tear falling on her cold iron cell floor, then another and another. The young filly in the cage was sobbing. My smile faded as I looked down, not knowing what to say. Eventually I got an idea.

"Want me to fix your music box?" I said smiling at her again, feeling bad for her.

She looked up at me in surprise, as if she had just got a cake on her birthday. I think she even started to crack a smile. She lowered her hood and I finally saw her face. She was a young filly with a light pink coat with a brilliant rose red, yellow and light blue striped mane that ended in a spiral.

"My name is Candy Fluff, what's your name?" Her voice was young and squeaky, but then again she was less than half my sister's age.

"My name is Star Shot, nice to meet you." I sat there smiling, my hooves still out in front of me so I could grab the music box. She was just about to give it to me when she pulled it back again. Obviously, she had some trust issues.

"What do you want from me?" Her sweet voice gone, replaced with one filled with skepticism. She looked me over closely before frowning. "You just want to use me, like all the other ponies!" She started sniffing and her blue eyes glazed over.

I smiled worryingly, not wanting her to cry. "No, no, no, I don't want anything, I'm just trying to be nice," I said nervously. She sniffled and wiped her face.

"Nopony does something for nothing." She said under her breath as she blubbered a bit before continuing. "No pony is that nice in the wasteland," she said as her mind seemed to go somewhere else again.

I waited patiently for her to come back again. She seemed to snap out of her daydream and shook her head, blushing as she remembered I was there. "Sorry, I was thinking of better times." I waved her off with my hoof.

"It's ok," I said, I was usually the one daydreaming. She tilted her head staring at me as if I wore a clown’s outfit. I tilted my head as she giggled a little, I just smiled, glad to see she was happy again.

"A storm is coming, I can see it in the sky. You're not from here are you?" She was looking at the clouds in the distance when she gave me that cryptic warning, and was it that obvious? Did I really look that out of place?

"What do you mean?" I asked taken aback.

She smiled and said. "You're too nice to be from around here, I can see it in the way you act. Where are you from?"

It was true, my life before was not the true wasteland. It was a protective world that was so different from the real wasteland that it was funny to a slave filly. I must admit that now that somepony pointed out the differences between my world and the real world, I'm not sure I liked the real world, thinking back to the raiders and slavers, not to mention the shadow pony in my dreams.

Okay maybe the last one was just me, but he only showed up after I entered this wasteland for the first time. It was around this time I realized there was a young filly in a cage waiting for my answer and now I was the one daydreaming. I rubbed my chin and took a deep breath, thinking how to shorten my story while the filly leaned in close in anticipation. It was then that I was forced to recall all the bad stuff that had happened to me in the past two days. My smile melted into a frown as I stared into the white snowy ground.

"Mr. Star, why are you crying?" she asked, tilting her head.

Those words snapped me out of my memories. I looked up at the filly in surprise. It was then that I noticed the tears running down my cheeks. I quickly wiped away my tears and put on a big smile for the filly, but she wasn't buying it. She smiled back at me, her smile seemed bittersweet as she looked past my smiling face and into the sadness hiding behind it. Eventually she broke the awkward moment.

"I'll go first. I was from the sky, I lived with my mommy and daddy. They were really nice. But one day mommy left and daddy became sad… mommy had gone to the surface world, so I... I came down here to find mommy, to make daddy happy again... But bad ponies caught me before I could find mommy." I watched closely as her mood shifted with the story.First, it was happy and she seemed excited but the more she went on the sadder and harder it was for her to tell it.

There was a long moment of silence between us as I smiled and was now ready to tell my story. "One day evil ponies took my sister away and… my parents. BUT, I saved my sister and beat the bad ponies. Now I'm on my way to beat more bad ponies and save the wasteland!" I got so excited telling the story that I jumped up and spread my wings in a heroic pose.

Candy Fluff gasped, and I froze in embarrassment and stupidity. I quickly landed and hid my wings again, and my head as well. I waited for her to yell to some pony, ‘Hey over here, I found a pegasus!’

But nothing happened. I eventually looked up, and to my surprise she was giggling. I tilted my head in confusion and out came a pair of pink wings. "You’re a pegasus too?" I was quite surprised. She giggled and nodded. I didn't know why I was so surprised, she did just say she was from the sky. Suddenly we were interrupted as some pony yelled at me.

"Hey you! Get away from the merchandise!" Said a loud raspy voice. Candy Fluff shrieked and moved to the far corner of her cell. She was shaking in fear, the mere voice of the approaching pony terrifying her.

I heard her whimper under her breath. "Please save me."

The pony walked closer and looked at Candy Fluff with lustful evil eyes. By the expression on his face and fear in Candy Fluffs eyes I could see what he was going to do, what he had done multiple times before.

The voice in my head whispered to me. "You want to be a hero, don't you? This world needs a hero. You can fight the evil of it all."

The voice of the shadow pony was right, the wasteland was fucked up, evil, and cruel. But I could do something about it, even if it meant being an outlaw. I pulled down my hoodie and pulled out the Mare's Leg. Sister still had all my other weapons, as well as their ammo. I looked up at the big earth pony stallion, his gray cold eyes looking away from Candy to meet my cold blue stare.

He ignored the gun in my muzzle and instead asked. "Why are you smiling? Get out of here you little shit." I merely giggled, knowing I was smiling this time. Before I had unwillingly smiled when I killed bad ponies, but this time I accepted the fact that I was smiling, that it was fun, that I enjoyed it.

The voice in my head and I simultaneously said, "I'm going to enjoy this."

I jumped at the stallion, tackling him onto his back.He went to lift his head to headbutt me, but I shoved the barrel of my gun in his eye and pushed it in deep. He howled in pain and thrashed around, the whole time screaming. "Fuck you! This is illegal! You son of a bitch!"

With the gun in my mouth, I mumbled. "I don't care."

He looked up at me with his good, fear filled eye as I slowly pulled the trigger, the grin on my muzzle growing.


He sniffled and moaned in pain and fear, snot and tears of blood and sweat ran down his face. I laughed as he blubbered "I'm sorry." I let go of my gun's handle and put my forehoof on the mouth grip, smirking as I stared into his one eye.

"I don’t forgive you." I pushed my body weight on the gun and with a pop and a crack, the gun pushed through his eye socket and into his brain. Blood, and gray matter squirted over my face, and a deathly last breath wheezed out of him as his body twitched. I looked into his cold dead eye and saw my grinning bloodied face. My smile faded as his eye rolled to the side and I looked at Candy Fluff. In my rage I had completely forgotten about her. She was in the corner, facing away from me, crying.

I bowed my head before saying. "I'm sorry." She was still sniveling, shaking and facing away from me.

"Thank you," she said.

I know what I did was wrong, but killing him wasn't wrong. Killing him in front of Candy Fluff was wrong. This world is broken, that pony was broken, and I’m broken. But right now I had bigger problems than my or Candy Fluff's mental health. I would be wanted for murdering a slaver on safe ground and Candy Fluff would be stuck in slavery again if we got caught.

I flew as fast as I could, well as fast as I could carrying a heavy sack with an army of slavers and security ponies after me. Bullets whizzed past me, luckily no one in this town was a good shot. Some shots came close, grazing and tattering my jacket, but, luckily, nothing hit the bag. I flew down the street as fast as I could. Ahead of me I saw my sister, and she was walking with some bags of stuff.

"Run!" I yelled at her, panic filling my voice.

She had some bags in her mouth so she couldn't reply, she just tilted her head in confusion.

"Run, damn it!" I yelled again, flying closer.

Her eyes widened as the ground shook and she saw the climbing dust cloud as a stampede of angry ponies chased me. At this point she was running next to me, bags afloat behind her.

"What the fuck did you do!" She screamed at me, ducking bullets and lasers.

I thought of some excuse that wouldn't have got me neutered, then immediately shivered at the idea.

The little pony in my head screamed. "Lie!" over and over again.

I wondered where he'd been for the past two days, I lost focus and forgot the original question.

Somehow we managed to outrun a stampede of angry ponies. Well, a blizzard might have helped. Luckily we managed to find a building to hide in. It was an old concrete post office with a thick metal door. The windows were blown in and there was snow on the floor as a part of the roof was caved in. It was completely empty and rather small. The whole thing was one room with the remains of a wooden desk splitting it in half and long empty mail slots along the back wall. We shook off the snow, as I put down the bag.

"Well, that was intense," I said checking my jacket and myself over for bullet holes. To my surprise there were none. I must be really lucky.

Sister glared at me, knife afloat next to her. I knew she was pissed but that wasn't the scary thing. No, the scary thing was that she looked calm. That just freaked me out. I cringed and gave her my best “don't kill me” face. A long silence broke out, but it eventually ended with a ruffling noise coming from the bag.

"What's in the bag…" Sister asked, glaring at me, the knife floating dangerously close to my face.

The bag rustled a bit more before a pony head popped out. It was Candy Fluff. She blinked at the sight of us before slowly ducking back into the bag.

Sister just looked at the bag, confused.

"Explain. Now," sister said in a calm, demanding voice.

I smiled at her, gesturing for her to put down the knife, which at this point was very close to my throat. She eventually did, after staring at me intensely. I never knew she could be so scary. I sat up and walked over to the bag.

"Candy, it's okay to come out, she's my little sis," I said in my calmest and sweetest voice.

She slowly poked her head out of the bag and looked at my sister and me. I smiled at her and she smiled back before hopping out of the duffle bag.

"Hello, Miss. My name is Candy Fluff," she said in a sweet but shy voice.

Sister face-hoofed as she put away her knife and chucked me my bag.

"You kidnapped a filly…" She grumbled, scrunching up her face in confusion.

"What?! No! I freed a slave," I quickly replied, waving my hooves around frantically to express my point.

Sister groaned as she started pacing. At this point, Candy Fluff sat next to me and spread her wings out refreshingly. Sister froze in place and looked at Candy's wings sourly. At that point Candy stopped stretching them and looked down, pouting as if she did something wrong.

"I also killed a slaver and got a new gun," I said in a monotone voice, knowing I'd get in trouble for it, the killing part, not the gun part.

Sister's eyes darted to me as she stood there, staring me down. I tried to look away at the roof, and then the floor. I heard the crunching of snow as sister walked closer to me. My eyes moved to look at something else. Eventually, an old faded poster on the wall caught my eye.

'We are watching you, FOREVER!'

The poster was yellowed and cracked but I could clearly make out those words, they were written in bright pink. In the middle of the poster was an earth pony with a light brilliant gamboge coat, a fluffy dark brown mane that ended in a curl and brilliant chartreuse green eyes.

I had gotten a multi-colour book for my birthday once, I like reading but there aren't a lot of books in the wasteland. Looking back at the poster, the pony seemed to be jumping out of the it, despite the fact he looked kind of old, a gray line in his mane and some wrinkles around his eyes. I focused on his big, happy smile.

Then I felt a cold tingle run down my spine as a warm breath hit my neck. I deadpanned as I remembered I wasn't alone, and that my sister was mad at me.

"He's a hero, he saved me from the bad ponies!" Shouted Candy Fluff, puffing up her cheeks and angrily staring at my sister. Well, as angry as a marshmallow could look.

Sister looked at her with a straight face, the two of them had a stare down, But in the end, my sister broke down into laughter; Candy Fluff's face was too funny. Eventually, I broke into laughter and Candy Fluff pouted even harder, pressing her lips closed tight, her face turning red.

But then bits of laughter broke out of her mouth, and by the end of it we were all on the floor laughing. Eventually, we all stopped and sat up, smiling at each other.

"Hehe, you are a hero," my sister said, with a smile on her face and pride in her voice.

I was surprised, I wasn't a hero. I was just doing what should have been done, no big deal. I blushed, rubbing my mane.

"I'm no hero," I replied sheepishly.

"You saved me from the bad pony and saved your sister from the bad ponies too," Candy said.

"But I killed ponies, in front of you," I said slowly, my mood dipping low.

To my surprise, both of them hugged me into a warm embrace.

"You saved me from raiders,” sister said sympathetically.

"Actually, you did, and how did you get free anyway?" I asked, realizing it had slipped my mind.

"Magic," she replied flatly.

"You saved me from a monster,” Candy said as well.

"You saved me from the wasteland," I said sadly, hugging them back tight.

So far I had seen what I assumed was the worst of the wasteland: murder, mutilation, rape, slavery, sickness and death. I at least I hoped that was the worst. I couldn't handle anymore, not alone at least, but luckily I wasn't alone. I almost had a nice moment, then I heard the voice in my head chuckle quietly.

"Welcome to the wasteland," it said, in my voice.

Sharp pulled out some cookies and gave them to Candy Fluff. She nibbled on the rock hard treat, like a dog with a bone. I, on the other hoof, was sorting out the new ammo sister had bought in town, all standard rounds, some for my 10 millimeter SMG and some for the 9-millimeter pistol we got at the raider camp.

But there was none for Sharp's hunting rifle. I looked through the bag for her hunting rifle but couldn't find any, however, I did find some energy cells.

"Hey sis, where's your rifle?" I asked her curiously, tilting my head.

She was checking out my new gun, the Mare's Leg, and she didn't even look up at me.

"Oh, that old thing? I sold it," she replied, and then held up her new gun.

She’d bought a magic laser musket. By the looks of it, it was a two crank, short barreled, stock laser musket. Not too bad if I say so myself. But that old rifle was from dad. It's the gun she trained with, grew up with. To just sell it without a second thought... But then again I'd not even bothered looking for my rifle. To be honest, I’d completely forgotten about it until now.

After sorting through a low amount of ammo I sat down with Sharp and Candy Fluff and I began roasting a bag of frozen wieners when Candy looked at me funnily.

"What is that?" she asked questionably.

"This? It's a sausage." I held it up out of the fire so she could see it better.

"Meat," my sister said, seeing that Candy was still confused.

"Meat?" Candy said pondering the word.

I ,on the other hoof, shivered. I was still creeped out by the word as it reminded me of the raiders.

"Aren't we meat?!" she asked with a shocked expression on her face.

Sister and I looked at each other before laughing.

"It’s not pony meat," I said, catching a breath as I sat up.

"But, don’t ponies eat plants, not meat?" she still seemed confused.

"Hmm, yeah, but you can survive off meat. Just not forever," I replied, pulling the sausage out of the fire, as it was burnt to a nice brown crisp.

"Plus it's hard to get vegetables and fruit down here," sister said as she popped open a bottle of Sparkle-Cola and handed it to the filly.

She drank the whole bottle down in under ten seconds. It was quite impressive. Candy then burped loudly as she blushed sheepishly, putting the bottle down. We stared at her before laughing.

"Hmm, tastes like carrots and bubbles." Candy smiled, licking her lips.

"Wait? How have you been down here for so long and never eaten meat before?"

"The slaves would feed me scraps of leftover food, aside from…other things…."


"They thought giving a pegasus meat would cause it to turn into a cannibal hungry monster, said that it was biology."

“That’s just stupid.” Sharp added, ending the topic.

"So Candy, what was life like up in the clouds?" I asked, curious to know more about sky pegasi life.

She pondered the question before answering, "Well it's different. The Enclave tell us what to do and what to eat, and they give us food and water they make in the clouds near them towers. But they keep the sky closed. They say the ponies down here aren't ready."

"Towers? Ready?" I inquired.

"You know, the tall towers. You could see one from where we used to live," sister said.

I thought about it, I do remember a tall thin mountain that went into the sky.

"You mean the mountain?" I said, still thinking about it.

"That’s not a mountain, Star. That's a tower, made by ponies."

How ponies managed to build a tower into the sky was beyond me, but how it had managed to survive time and the end of the world was just astonishing.

"So what do you mean by ready?" I asked, tilting my head.

"I don't know. I think that they may think ground ponies aren't civilized enough." She rubbed her chin, thinking about it.

At this point I went back to my bag and pulled out the radio, trying to get a signal. BAM! Vinyl Scratch's single, full volume, right in my ear. I jumped back and was about to get up when Candy used me as a springboard and dived for the radio. She started dancing wildly, forgetting we were even there. Me and sister giggled and started dancing with her. By the end of the song we all fell down, exhausted.

"I. Love. Vinyl Scratch!" she panted and yelled, as we all chuckled. A voice appeared on the radio.

"Hello again, this is Kindly of Kindly Radio, introducing myself. Would you kindly listen to what I have to say? Slavery is wrong, hurting ponies is wrong and being mean is wrong. Every pony could do better if they just tried. So I'm asking, would you kindly do better? Anyway, here's a song about love and fire. 'Ring of fire.'" Her voice broke through the static of the radio and for a second I thought I heard the voice of a goddess. Her voice was so soft and comforting, like a hug from a parent. Yet it still broke through the air with a tone that demanded attention in the way I imagined a lover would whisper into your ear. It was a voice that wanted to be heard and needed to be heard by all. Not to was simply a sin.

When the song stopped she started to speak again.

"Would you kindly lend me your ears and listen to what I have to say? Well, we got something interesting here guys and gals, seems like this 'Blue Bird' decided to completely destroy the Raider camp in the kindergarten, Oakey Oaks kindergarten to be precise. Last we heard up here they were heading up towards Slave Town. Well, I don't know about you, but I'ma give them ALL the cheering I can muster! And to the Blue Bird, if you’re listening, good luck."

I turned down the music as I handed the radio to Candy Fluff. She started dancing in the corner as I sat with my sister.

"Who is she anyway, sis?"

"I have no clue? How did she know all that?" She pondered as we scratched our heads before taking a long disappointed sigh.

Sister and I were so confused. Dad wouldn't let us listen to the radio. He said the radio pony would mess with our heads. At least he'd record the songs and play them back for us.

"So what's the deal with unlocking the pip-buck, sis?" I asked, changing topics.

"Apparently, we can get an override key from an Old Stable-Tec building. Before you ask, they are the ones that built the stables that dad came out of." She said while dead-panning me.

"…thank you, carry on," I said sheepishly.

"But it's dangerous, we can't take Candy with us, we should leave her with Doc."

"No, it's a two-day journey and I'm not going to leave her, I'll keep her safe, I promise."

The music died down and Candy Fluff waddled back over to us, exhausted.

She plopped down next to us and giggled. "Hehe, that was fun!"

"Who was that on the radio, Candy?" Sister asked, tilting her head.

"What? Kindly? She's the northern DJ."

"Tell us about her please?" I asked.

"When I lived in the clouds I'd sneak out with my friends and we'd fly over to the old rainbow factory. There we'd play games like tag and hide and go seek, hehe I'd hide in the chimney and get all dirty, daddy hated that, mommy liked my free spirit," she said remorsefully.

Sis gave her a nudge on the shoulder and she snapped out of her memory, she blushed and continued.

"Anyway we'd listen to Kindly and DJ-Pon3 if we could get a signal. They're wasteland DJs and they play the best music, not the boring old stuff the Enclave wants us to listen to. They also talk about what's happening in the world below; DJ-Pon3 would cover Equestria and Kindly would talk about the Crystal Empire."

"Why weren't you allowed to listen to them?" I asked, not seeing the danger in it.

"Because they'd bag on the Enclave for not helping, for keeping the sky shut, and I think they're right. Daddy blamed them for mommy leaving. Mommy always wanted to help ponies. I wanted to go with her but she said I was too young. After that mommy left and daddy was very sad, he'd work later and later every day, our family was broken. So I decided to come down here and find Mommy to ask her to fix it, but you know the rest…" Yet again Candy was sad.

"Why don't you just go home?" Sis asked dryly.

"Because I haven't found mommy! I'm not going home without her!" Candy yelled, angered by the question.

Sister backed away a little, embarrassed for asking a stupid question.

"Ok then, tomorrow we're going to an old building to look for some codes to unlock my Pip-buck. Stay close to Star and you'll be safe," sister said, changing the subject.

"Ok." Candy said, still a little grumpy from the last question.

"Do you know where it is, sis?"

"Yeah, I got some directions, it's northeast. After we get what we need we'll come back here."

"Ok then," I said with a sigh, annoyed we have to head in the wrong direction.

"We should all get some sleep, we have a long walk tomorrow."

"Hehe, you walk. We're flying," Candy said, cheering up a bit.

Candy and I fluttered our wings and my sister glared at us before laying down. Candy walked over to her and laid with her back towards the warm fire. I stood up and made my way to the bags and pulled out some work tools, then walked back to the light of the fire.

"You should sleep, Star."

"I will. Don't worry, sis."

"Good night everypony," Candy said.

"Good night," sister replied.

"Hehe, good night." I giggled.

I pulled out Candy's music box from my pocket and began tinkering with the gears, seeing if I could fix it, it was then that I saw the name of the song on it.

'Lost Stars.'

I tried changing the old worn out gears with some new ones, but that wasn't easy. I ended up spending an hour on it with no luck. I was about to give up on it, but then I looked over to Candy in her raggedy clothes. She was shivering, the fire was but a smolder and a few embers. I sat up and took off my jacket, placing it over Candy and sister, as I got closer I realized Candy was crying and mumbling in her sleep.


A string of sympathy ran in my heart, as sadness washed over me. I looked at the sad sleeping filly, then walked over to the music box, determined to make it work. I ignored the cold midnight air as I changed the gears over and over, until.


The song from the music box started playing. It started slow and steady, the notes seeming quiet and uplifting, I listened to it note for note as it began to resonate with me. I felt all my emotions of the past come flooding back, all the darkness, anger, and sadness seemed to melt away with every note.

Tears formed in my eyes as I felt hollow inside. Slowly as the music box kept playing the hollow feeling began to fill with hope and serenity, the music moved me and cleansed my soul. I was never moved by music like that before, it felt like it touched my soul.

I looked over to Candy Fluff, her frown turned into a smile and she stopped whimpering and shivering as the music brought her happiness. I wiped my eyes and looked at the little box, then back at Candy Fluff.

"How could such a small thing bring me so much happiness."

I looked out the broken window, into the white out of the storm, then back at Candy Fluff. This is what the world should be like, sweet and kind, innocent as this child. But instead the world was cold and rotten. There was no one left to blame for the end of the world, they all died two hundred years ago with the old world.

How a world that was built upon friendship and kindness could lead to this I did not know, but I was going to find out.

We had been told stories of the old world, when war broke out between two lands and neither won. As for the Crystal Empire, it was just dragged down with Equestria. But it played its part, it was just as guilty. But those were the stories, they missed important details like how and why everything happened.

That was the past and no one can be blamed for other’s past. But they could be blamed for not fixing mistakes made by those ponies two hundred years ago. It's said only by knowing the history will you not repeat your mistakes, but we didn't know our history, not all of it anyway. Mysteries buried by snow and time, were just waiting to be discovered out there.

I mumbled under my breath as I laid down. "I'm going to find the truth."

Before all this, I never really thought about what happened two hundred years ago, or why the world was like this. But I also didn't need to, I had a family and a home. “Why would the past matter?” I thought. But now my family was killed for something on an ancient piece of technology that was most likely connected to the past.


I slept terribly. I kept thinking about the past and all the mysteries, like why Blood Rose wanted this Pip-Buck , or how bomb collars are made. Candy's facial expression when I showed her the now fixed music box was priceless. I don't think I'd ever see someone happier, she literally flew in circles.

Eventually, it was time for us to leave. Outside was a nice and calm day. With no blizzards or snow falling, we trotted through the fresh layer of powder, and by we, I mean my sister, as me and Candy flew behind her. Candy kept playing her music box over and over, I swayed my head with the nice tune, smiling as Sister just groaned.

"It's going to be a long walk." She mumbled under her breath.

She was right. A few hours later we arrived at the huge multi-story building, its windows were blown out and concrete cracked, but it still held. By the looks of it, the first two floors were snowed in.

"You and Candy take the top floor, I'll start with this one and work down."

I nodded, and Candy and I flew up to the top floor as Sharp entered through the third-floor window. The room was dark and lifeless. Broken and flipped tables laid on the floor as long dead terminal monitors sat lifeless above them. Candy stepped closer to me as we walked in, shaking a little.

"I- I don't like the dark," she said fearfully, hugging my leg.

I dug through my bags to find a torch for her to hold on to, before pulling one out for myself.

"Don't worry, I'll protect you," I said, smiling at her.

She nodded and smiled back before letting go of my leg. We checked the room for anything of value but we couldn't find anything. We checked the next room and the one after that. The only thing we found out was that all the rooms had the same horrible checkered floor styling. Eventually, we did manage to find some stairs leading down.

There was a thud as we walked down the stairs. Candy jumped with a little squeak, as a noise had come from the floor below. We proceeded slowly, the hallway too dark to see in, shining our lights across the floor until we found an empty soda bottle pointing to the stairs going down.

I assumed it was from Sharp and proceeded down to the subterranean floor. I glanced in the rooms as we passed them in the hall, they looked the same as the floor above.

The first two floors that we had checked had some outside illumination but the ones down here were pitch black, and we could only see what our torches illuminated. Candy was close to my leg again, even I was starting to get scared, and this place was getting creepier the further we went in.


We froze on the spot, as so many things went through my head. A monster? I quickly looked around, then back to Candy Fluff, she was blushing as she avoided eye contact.

"Hehe... sorry, my stomach," she said, embarrassed by the whole thing.

I fell on my side laughing, she just blushed harder before pouting. Suddenly sis's head popped out of a corner with a gun at the ready.

"I heard a monster, are you two ok?!"

We looked at her with blank faces, I then proceeded to go into a laughing fit. Candy was starting to get mad, and she pouted at me as her face turned red. I on the other hoof was on the floor laughing my ass off, and I even started to tear up.

Sister just looked at us with confusion.

"What's going on?" She asked over the top of my laughter.

At this point, my sides began to hurt and I struggled to breathe. I banged my hoof on the floor as I tried to stop. At that point Candy was too embarrassed to even make eye contact, let alone reply, but eventually she managed to mumble out.

"I... um... My stomach...”

At that point I was coughing and gasping for air. I managed to look my Sister in the eye, well at least my left eye, the other one was still clamped shut.


It took a few seconds for my Sister to piece it together, but when she did she fell over and joined my laughing festival. Candy pouted harder and harder, her face turning from reddish pink to full red, eventually she yelled.

"Stop laughing!" We might have listened if she wasn't so cute, or the fact that her voice was so squeaky.

We stared at her for a few seconds before laughter yet again filled the hallway. Candy dead-panned and sat there, waiting for us to calm down. After a few minutes, the laughter did indeed stop, me and sis stood up, giggling a little as we looked at the annoyed Candy Fluff.

"Hehe, let's go find some food." I rubbed her mane, messing it up.

She proceeded to fix it and then the three of us began to search the rooms on this floor. A supply room held a surprise, a stick of dynamite. What dynamite was doing in a supply closet I had no clue. A male and female bathroom had locked medical boxes. They didn't look too hard but we didn't have any bobby pins to try to unlock them with. Why you’d lock medical boxes in the first place was beyond me.

Eventually, we found it, well my sis did. It was the building recreation room. It had a long table for many ponies and a big kitchen behind that. At the fridge, we found a package of still frozen hotdogs Well considering this whole building was like a freezer that wasn't very surprising. Luckily we had winter wear on.

What I was confused about was the fact that ponies would stock meat products, considering ponies didn't usually eat meat. But either way, it was free food and I wasn't complaining. Sister started a small fire on the floor, using some scrap wood and a fire starter spell mom taught her. We proceeded to defrost the wieners.

"Where is every pony?" I said as I roasted my hard sausage in the flames.

The two of them shrugged as Candy charred her hotdog to a crisp black before biting into it. We all finished eating and were now huddling around the fire, Candy sat under my jacket.

"Candy you should stay here, Star and I will keep going," sister said firmly as she grabbed her gun.

Candy and I were both about to argue when Sister gave us a, ‘don't complain and just do it’ look. I stood up and smiled and nodded at Candy.

"Don't worry we'll be right back," I said, before handing her the stick of dynamite.

"What the hell?!" Sis screeched as she looked at me as if I was crazy.

I tilted my head in confusion. "I wasn't going to give her a gun." Candy gripped it in her mouth and smiled. Sis's eye twitched as I was clearly missing the point, before facehoofing herself and moving on.

"Don't use it if you don't have to," I said to Candy before walking behind sis. Candy gave me a nod and with that, we were off.

Eventually, we got to the stairway that led to the ground floor level. Sister stopped before it and turned to face me, shining the light in my face.

"All the dead are down there. I didn't want Candy to see it."

I swallowed my fear before nodding back at her. Slowly we walked down the cold tile steps, the only noise being our hooves clattering and our heartbeats in our chest. I stepped next to sister as we got to the base of the stairs. I slowly shined my light up the hallway, seeing the centuries-old blood stains that led to the bones of ponies scattered all over the hall.

I froze at the sight of it all. Sister nudged me and I nearly jumped. We started walking past the bones of the dead. Some had clothing on, old and worn. I wasn't watching my step and ended up almost tripping over a teddy bear. I then looked next to the bear to see a small skeleton that could only be from a child, the same size as Candy.

I looked back down the hall we just came from, now worried about Candy. I was about to start walking back when sis whispered.

"Over here."

I caught up with her. She had found the lobby of the building. The doors were all snowed in as the whole entrance was blocked off. Sis checked behind the front desk as I looked around. I saw a crystal chandelier hanging from the roof, frozen in place with icicles next to it.

I focused on a poster on the wall. This one different from the last one I found.

This one said.’Ministry of Science, Advancing the Empire.’ in purple text, a lightning bolt running through the letter O. In the middle was a unicorn mare with a light yellowish-gray coat, a brilliant amaranth mane, a tail with moderate purple and grayish violet highlights, dark purple eyes and a cutie mark of a crescent moon and three stars.

She was wearing a black turtle neck jumper with two pink buttons on them, and she was trotting to the side. Behind her in pinks and purples was lightning and magical energy weapons being shot, as well as spells going off, it seemed a bit overwhelming but powerful.

Sis poked me to get my attention before shaking her head in disappointment, not finding anything. I took the poster and we proceeded to check around before finding a set of metal stairs leading down to what appeared to be a basement.

The stairs creaked as we walked down, there were some boxes in what appeared to be a storage room. Unfortunately, inside were an old water damaged and frozen books and pamphlets, as well as computer monitors and scrap.

I got bored and proceeded to read the front of the best-looking pamphlet.

"Stable Tech Vault Pamphlet, Everything you need to know about stables."

I tried opening it but it was no use so I threw it away. Sis called me over to what appeared to be a security room. There was a dead unicorn skeleton in security armor in a swivel chair. In front of him were long dead monitors. Sis shined a light on a generator next to the desk.

"Think you can fix it?" She asked questionably.

I looked at it and back at her before giving a shrug. With that I went over to see what I could do. Sis in the meantime began to strip the guard of his armor and weapons, before looking at a locked gun locker and swearing under her breath for not having any pins to try to unlock it.

I in the meantime began to tinker with the almost two centuries old generator. It appeared to still have oil, and it must have had antifreeze in it because the pipes appeared to be fine as well.

After a bit of tinkering, I managed to fix the problem. Sis on the other hoof, had found a few bobby pins and gave the locker a crack, failing repeatedly. She was down to one pin and wasn't willing to risk it. In her defense, it was a very hard lock.

I proceeded to start the generator with a good few pulls. The old machine stuttered to life as so did the lights and monitors. The screens displayed green text before starting up.

'Main power offline, backup power online, camera systems offline, P.A. systems offline, private files unlocked, intruders detected, arming turrets.
Turret one, eight and nine offline, arming turret two, three, four, five, six and seven.
start-up in sequence.'

What, wait?! The voice in my head shouted, I just bolted out of the room. There was a thud behind me as I flew down the skeleton filled hallway. I looked back to see a turret fire a red beam from the basement and I kept flying. Another one popped down from the ceiling at the end of the hallway, but I was already past it and entering the stairway before it could even take aim.

The only thing I could think about was Candy as I dashed up the stairway, galloping along the side of the staircase walls as I couldn't slow down for the turns. I pulled out my SMG as I came up out of the staircase, noticing a turret was already down at the end of the T-intersection hallway.

I ignored it as it shot green plasma bolts at me. I jumped off the wall and down the long hallway, the turret shooting a few holes in my jacket. I flew full speed down the hallway, the door to the lunchroom where Candy in sight. Another thud as another turret popped down at the end of the hallway, I opened fire with my SMG.

The gun rattled in my teeth as the SMG sent a blizzard of bullets flying straight at the turret. Green and yellow flashes illuminated the hallway, along with the sound of automatic gunfire. Plasma bolts grazed all over my body, a few hitting me, but I was too focused to care.

My bullets just dented and bounced off the turret, but I still flew forward. There was a bang that washed away the sound of bullets and plasma flying through the air.

The turret exploded in a ball of fire. I assumed in the rain of bullets I must have got a critical hit on it. The thought didn't slow me down as I crashed into the door frame of the lunch room. There was Candy, next to the smoldering fire, hugging the stick of dynamite as a bigger ceiling turret was charging its weapon.

A sickly green light emitted from the end of the turret’s claw-like barrel, a ball of plasma and electricity building up as it aimed at Candy. The turret shot its ball of death with a loud thump sound. I bolted for Candy as she stared in fear at the turret.

I turned my back to it as I tackled Candy aside, shutting my eyes as the ball of plasma vaporized everything in its path. Unfortunately, that was part of my jacket and my side. The death ball flew into the wall at the end of the room and exploded in a green flash of light and splatter of plasma.

I crashed to the ground and slid forward with Candy. I gripped her with my hooves and shielded her as we smashed into the wall. Luckily we were beside the fridge so the turret couldn't target us. Unfortunately, the pain of having a chunk of my side vaporized caught up with me.

I laid against the wall in pain, but Candy was still petrified with fear. She then looked down at my injury then back up at me with an expression of horror. I just gave her my best smile as I held back the tears and screams. Her eyes watered up as she gave me a shaky smile that was as far from ok as it could be.

I probably would have bled to death there and then if it wasn't for the fact that the plasma ball had cauterized my wound. Besides my side, the ball also narrowly missed my wing. Some of my feathers were burnt or had the ends vaporized in a semicircle.

I rested there for a moment, panting and sweating profusely from shock. It was then that I remembered my sister. The thought of her being vaporized played through my head. I grabbed the stick of dynamite from Candy's hooves and thought of a way to light it. I then got an idea, I twisted to light the fuse with the embers of the bowling ball sized hole in my jacket.

Pure pain ripped through my body as my freshly burnt wound began to rip open. I bit down hard on the stick as I struggled to get it to light, and eventually, it did. I waited down the fuse, roughly estimating when to throw it based on the fuse burn speed and how far the turret was.

I turned my body in pain then with a fast twist back I threw the stick. Oh goddess fucking a mountain did it hurt, as my wound tore wide open and blood came pouring out.

'BOOM! Bang!'

Both the dynamite and turret exploded as I fell on the floor. I was in so much pain that I couldn't even swear, all I could do was give a blood curtailing scream. I looked down at the hole in my side. I could see what I assumed was my kidney fall out of my body. In no way did that seem right. Luckily, it was still attached to my innards which were now becoming my outwards.

Candy screamed in shock before panicking, then eventually helping. She grabbed my jacket and tried to apply pressure to the wound and push my organs back inside me. At this point my body thankfully went numb, and noise turned into muffled sound as Candy screamed something at the doorway.

I could, however, feel myself smile as I looked at the hole in my jacket already start to close. I actually felt jealous of a jacket, and then there was a low boom down the hallway.

My head felt lighter as my vision turned from color into black and white, then eventually, it grew darker as I began to tunnel vision. At this point, my head fell to the side and I had no will to move it. I saw a pair of hooves at the doorway before blacking out. The last thing I remembered was somepony yelling out. "This is bad."

Chapter 4: Bad

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Darkness. Yet again I was in shadowy limbo. Surprise, surprise, Dark was there. I pouted and looked away, before grumpily asking. "What do you want?"

He smiled at me and said, "Good job."

"Wait what?" I tilted my head in confusion.

He rolled his pure white eyes and replied, "You heard me."

"Umm, thanks, I think?" I said, tilting my head with a questioning tone in my voice.

He just chuckled. "What? Is being nice out of character for me?"

I blushed and sheepishly nodded. I must admit this was quite strange, maybe it was blood loss.

"You saved Candy's life, nothing there for me to bag on," he said as he put his dark,shadowy hoof on my shoulder, feeling cold on my coat.

"But I put her in danger!" I shouted in anger that was more directed at myself, swatting his hoof away.

He just gave me a sympathetic smile. "But you also saved her."

"Are you feeling alright? You normally aren’t, well, nice?" I asked in a worried tone.

"Hehe, my job is to make you face things you avoid, to bring up concerns. The reality," he said as he floated around me, chuckling lightly.

"Are you really?" I questioned, confused.

He stopped behind me and laughed at my question. "Then what do I need to be concerned about?" I asked as I turned to look at him.

He simply sighed. "I was going to let you off easy, but if you really must know..."

A bubble floated up, within that bubble was Candy's music box. "Let's start with this."

"What? Candy's music box? What about it?" I asked questionably.

"It's a quick fix for your emotions, but it's not a permanent one," he said frowning.

"What do you mean?" I asked, missing the point.

"I mean the more you use it the less it'll be effective. You can't just use it to overcome your emotions, because they're still there." He said

Suddenly there was a dull pain in my chest. A bunch of bubbles began to float up around us, all showing things from the past. "You've accepted the fact you've enjoyed killing."

'Pop, Pop, Pop.'

Some of the bubbles began to pop, flashing in light as they faded away into the darkness. "What else is there?!" I was starting to get annoyed by all these things.

"Many things, much more to come. For example, the fact you're happy to be free, free from your parents." Dark said with a smirk.

"What?! I loved them!" I yelled.

"I never said you didn't, but you hated being caged," he said calmly.

I glared at him angrily, before yelling. "We're done here!" I turned away from him and started to float away but suddenly he appeared in front of me.

"There's still the matter of that other thing?"

"Uhh, fine what is it?" I sighed as I rolled my eyes.

Suddenly the remaining bubbles all changed to images of Candy Fluff, all different moments from my memories. From the first time I met her, all the way to the turret incident. "Candy?! How's she bad?!" I yelled, still very confused.

"I didn't say she was."

"Then what about her?" I asked as I glared at him.

"What do you want for her?" he asked as he began to slowly turn upside down.

I just tilted my head even more, still very confused.

"Why did you keep her with you?" At this point, he was sideways.

"What else was I going to do? Abandon a young filly?" I looked at him skeptically.

Suddenly the orbs changed to when I was helping Candy escape from Slave Town. The slavers and guards shooting and chasing us as I carried Candy in a bag.

"You endangered her."

"I saved her!" I yelled back.

Suddenly the orbs changed to my latest memories, the one where Candy was staring at a green ball of death in fear.

"After putting her in danger," he replied, a sly little smirk growing on his mouth.

"I'll save her again!" I snarled at him.

"You may have been her hero today, but heroes are no good if they're dead! Who'll save her tomorrow then?!" he yelled back, gripping my jacket with his hooves.

I couldn't look him in the eyes as he was staring me down. Eventually, I gritted my teeth and pushed him away with a hoof. With my head bowed I sniveled and yelled, "I'm not a hero!"

"Why not!" he yelled.

I looked up at him, my eyesight blurry as I was on the brink of tears. "Because! Heroes are strong! Brave! And don’t hide behind little fillies!"

"What are you hiding from?" he said as he floated closer.

"M... myself! I'm not brave or strong! I...I c…Can't survive on my own!" I stuttered, not really wanting to say it.

The memory orbs changed to when I was lost in the blizzard, trying to find my sister. I was so scared back then. He placed a hoof on my shoulder and all the orbs changed to images of my sister.

"She can help you survive, so why Candy?" he asked.

"Because." I sniveled and wiped my nose. "She can't help me from surviving after. After this is all over….she can’t fix me." I whimpered, hugging myself.

"But you're not broken?" he said.

"Aren't I?" We both looked down to see my hooves covered in blood. I looked into his fearful eyes and saw my reflection. Behind me was the black door, less than a hoof away.

My eyes shot open, flooding my vision, yet again, with a flash of light. I was staring at the daytime sky. Well the daytime clouds anyway. You could always tell because they'd be a bit brighter than the night time cloud cover. I didn't even try to move my body as I couldn't even feel it. Instead, I looked around to see I was back at where we had set up camp the other day, as well as the fact that I was in a sleeping bag. I saw Candy sadly poking the smoldering remains of a fire. I looked at her, pondering if it was right for me to keep her with us.

I mean we were going to kill a warlord, as well as what other dangerous stuff that would come up along the way. Could I really keep my promise to keep her safe? Especially when I'm the one putting her in danger, and for my selfish reasons. Maybe it would be better to find her a home. I'm sure Doc won't mind looking after her, at least until this was all over. In the end, I couldn't make up my mind. Annoyed by the subject I decided to cough to get Candy's attention.

Her face went from distant and contemplating to radiant as she saw me. "Star!" She yelled as she flew to me, her eyes tearing up with joy. I simply smiled as she cried next to me. "I was so worried about you!"

I waited for her to let it all out. Eventually, she stopped as I caressed her cheek.

"I found something," she said, her voice a little weak. Before I could ask, she pulled out an old piece of paper and began to unfold it. I looked at the yellow stained paper and wondered what it was. Eventually, she opened it and to my surprise, it was a crude drawing of a family of three ponies. A big dark green earth pony with blue eyes and a blue mane, a pink pegasus with green eyes and a purple mane and a little filly pony with an orange coat, green eyes, and blue mane.

I was about to ask if she drew them when I saw the names and text written in the ponies color. Silent Times was green, Last Meal was orange and Pink Pop was pink. Also above the green big pony was the words. 'You got to break a few eggs to make a cake.'

I smiled. "What a cute little drawing. Where'd you find it?"

Candy proceeded to fold the drawing carefully and put it away. "In that stable building. I also found a letter in here a few minutes ago, but I haven't opened it yet. It's rude to open other people's mail."

I gave a light chuckle, that family drawing cheered me up, it also got me thinking about my parents, which made me feel sad. "I miss my parents," I said, on the verge of tears.

"Tell me about your parents? What were they like?" Candy asked, seeing I was sad.

I gave a light chuckle and began to talk. "Well, there's my mom, she was a black unicorn pony with a spiky orange mane, and a flaming piece of coal for a cutie mark. She was good at starting fires to keep us warm. She was always so loving and caring. But the thing I remember most about her was her eyes; they were a rich gold color. Sharp has the same eyes, so every time I see her I can't help but think of mom." I smiled as I remembered all the loving memories I had of my mom, I really did miss her.

Before I could start getting all teary eyed, I asked Candy a question. "Could you please tell me about your parents?" I said as I tried to sit up, my body still completely unresponsive.

"Oh, um ok," She said as she sat up next to the bed. "Mommy had a beautiful lemon yellow mane, a light yellow coat and aqua green eyes. Her cutie mark was a stick of butter and a green half cut lemon. Her name was Lemony Butter. She was the kindest and nicest mommy ever. She loved to help people. So she'd try to get the pegasi to help everypony down here, but that didn't make her popular. I do know she used to work with lasers and gems. Did you know any laser based weapon uses a magic gem that converts the energy from the ammo into a focused superheated beam?” I shook my head, although I had read something about that in a magazine. “She left after a fight with dad."

She went quiet, I could see she was losing herself to her memories, so I decided to speak. “My dad, on the other hoof, was a bit more complex than us. He was a worn old stallion, had a gray goatee and graying mane that used to be dark blue. His coat was light blue. He was a great dad, he provided for us, loved us and always kept us safe." My mind trailed to all the times I saw dad struggling with his prosthetic limb. He'd always try to hide the fact that it burdened him, he was stubborn that way.

Candy giggled. "My daddy on the other hoof was a big, strong, gray coated pegasus with a thick black mane and sharp red eyes. He had a black fighter jet as a cutie mark. He was a General in the Enclave and the strongest, best daddy ever. His name was Jet Black." She seemed happy to reminisce about her parents.

I, too, became lost in memories of my parents. From the times my dad taught me to shoot, to when mom was trying to teach me how to skin a rabbit, both good and bad memories brought about feelings of regret and sadness, but also joy. I loved them, I miss them. There was no way I'd be glad they're gone. But if they were here I'd still be stuck in Frost Crystal and Candy would still be a slave.

Candy and I teared up. We were about to release the waterworks when there was a knock at the door. We quickly wiped our puffy eyes as Sharp walked in, some bags floating next to her. Candy gave her a sour look and proceeded to walk back over to the fireplace. Sister ignored it and walked over to me.

"H...hi Sis," I said as I cringed back. Sharp had an ‘I'm going to kill you’ look.

I was surprised as she hugged me suddenly. Pain shot through my body, but it felt like a numb kind of pain, not too bad.

"You idiot!" She was trembling as she continued to speak. "I was so worried about you!"

I embraced her hug and held her close, ignoring the pain. We just sat there hugging as I didn't know what to say. Eventually, sister pushed me away and smiled.

"I'm glad you're ok, brother. I'll make us some food."

Candy walked away from the fire as Sharp trotted closer. She gave Candy a bad look, and Candy avoided eye contact. I could feel the tension from all the way over at my bed.

"What's going on with you two?" I asked, arching a brow.

They both turned to me with anger and annoyance filled faces and shouted, "Nothing!"

I cringed back into my bed and decided to leave it at that. I had a lot to think about. Like what I wanted to do with Candy. Did I really want to drag her through all this revenge crap? I didn't want to just drop her off at Doc's, and I'm sure there are no orphanages in this frozen hell. Plus I'm not sure if the Enclave would take her back? I pondered on it until I got frustrated and decided to put it on hold.

"Hey sis, what did we get from the ruins?" I asked as I painfully turned to my side.

Sharp put down an old pot she was dicing vegetables into and trotted back over to me, putting out her hoof for me to look at her Pip-buck. "An audio file and hopefully, the key." She said with a slight optimism in her voice.

I smiled at her and proceeded to activate her Pip-buck, this time getting past the locked Stable Tech door icon as it opened up. Yet again a stream of numbers and letters ran down the screen in the green text before ending abruptly.

'Stable Tech administration key accepted.

Civilian level activated.

Syncing to Stable Tech servers, in progress.

Server connection failed, running base programming.

Version 1.01 online.

Welcome to Stable Tech.'

Sharp shivered a little before a green pony appeared on screen, trotting. We looked at it as I turned the nob with my mouth and it moved from one hoof to the other. Hooves, body, and head all showed one hundred percent, above that were some bars stating Stat, Inv, Data, Map and Radio. I clicked inventory and the screen switched to a sub-tab named Weapons. In that tab, was sister's Laser Musket, a 3D image of one on screen next to it and a condition bar under that. By the looks of it, it was in bad shape. I’d have to fix that later. The next tab was Apparel. Within there was my sister's new security chest piece. I double clicked it with my hoof and sis pulled it out of her bag.

"What the?!" She gawked as we stared at the security armor enveloped in her red magic glow. She most likely scavenged it from the guard in that building before. "I didn't do that?" she proclaimed as she put it away.

I pressed it again and yet again her horn glowed and out came the armor. She proceeded to put it away again, and again I pressed the icon. She just glared at me and I blushed as she put it away again.

The next sub tab was Aid, which unfortunately was pretty empty. Same with the next few tabs Misc., Junk, and Mods. On the end was Ammo. By the looks of it, we had a few bullets left over: some 10-millimeter rounds for my SMG and energy cells for Sharp's crank rifle. We skipped Data for now and moved to Maps. There was another loading icon with a trotting pony in a jumpsuit. The pony vanished and more text came up.

'Error, Map program update failed.

Loading version 0.1...

Enabling mapping and naming system.'

We looked at the world map setting. It had an arrow and a small patch of land exposed, although the rest of it was all grayed out. I decided to switch it to area map and the screen zoomed into our location, detailing the inside of the old war post office.

Sharp whistled. "Nice."

I just gave an agreeing nod and we switched to the Data tab. Hopefully, now we'd be able to get some answers. To our surprise, there were two things there. One was an audio file with the title. 'Babs Seed’s audio log one' and what seemed like a program or something titled, '1st Key.' We clicked on it and the Pip-buck made a beep sound, we tried it again and yet again another beep, probably signifying we couldn't access the key program yet?

"Agh, stupid mysteries." I proclaimed and proceeded to sulk.

Sharp giggled and I gave a look over at Candy, who paid us no attention. The mystery of girls, something that no stallion had figured out. I shrugged off her cold shoulder and saw Sharp waiting for me, wanting to play the audio file she'd found.

"Do it," I said, smiling at the chance to learn something.

Static, then cracking and popping noises poured out of the Pip-buck. "Agh, finally some free time to myself," some pony said, in an accent I had never heard before. "These schmucks have been working me to the bone. Every day I'm going to another site, for Stable Tech. Testing and checking to see if it's suited for a stable. Couldn't the Crusaders have sent me somewhere a little more tropical? But it's about time the Crystal Ponies get some stables. Not like anyone would ever have to use them, hopefully. But why Apple Bloom insisted on getting the same building as last time, I'll never know. Probably nostalgia? Whatever."

I had no clue who that pony was, but if I had to guess, I'd say it was probably Babs Seed. But all in all, no big overarching mystery, except for the same building quote. But I'm sure this wasn't really important. I looked over to Sharp, she'd already disregarded the message. We moved over to the last main tab, Radio.

Two channels appeared, one was named Kindly and the other was called Rose. We clicked on Rose and a crackle of static poured from the Pip-buck, followed by a voice.

"Good morning, this is umm Rose Radio? Right? Yes, I think. Umm anyway just letting everypony know that our glorious leader will pay one hundred caps for any sprite bots brought in. Really a hundred? I wish they'd pay me that much, I wish they'd pay me at all." The voice then coughed as the radio pony kept questioning what he said, obviously lacking in charisma and self-confidence.

"In another news, other news, more new. Agh. There was a commotion at Slave Town yesterday. A pegasus was stolen by another pegasus and a unicorn. Hmm, not a lot of detail in the description, umm there must be more. Ah, here it is, yes. The pegasus was wearing a snow jacket and has a white coat and blue hair, and he also had a shooting star cutie mark. Isn't that the pony Kindly was talking about?"

Sis turned it off as we stared at each other, there was a small cough from behind Sharp and we turned to see Candy balancing two bowls of soup on her wings. Sharp levitated a bowl over to me and I held it in my hooves, staring at my reflection in the brown soup filled bowl. None of us seemed like we wanted to talk about anything. Particularly, my bounty.

Sharp and Candy finished their soup before me and were waiting for me to finish. I wasn't eating slowly on purpose, the food wasn't too hot and tasted quite good. No, I was eating slowly because I was watching Candy and Sharp eye each other before looking away as the other looked. I could feel the uncomfortable and angry vibe these two were giving off. Something clearly had happened between the two of them and I was going to find out what.

"What's up with you two?" I asked casually as I drank my warm soup.

Both of them glared at me before giving me a cold shoulder and yelling. "Nothing!" That froze me, and just after I had such nice warm soup. Too bad the meat was soured by whatever was going on between these two.

I shrugged off their attitude and asked out loud. "What's the deal with those posters?"

Both of them cocked their heads at me in confusion, to which I responded by pointing my wing at the 'Ministry of Fun' Poster from before.

Candy stepped forward. "Those are just promotional posters from the ministries."

At my flat expression, Sharp sighed and replied for me. "You have no clue who they are, do you?"

One short little head shake later and an annoyed frown from my sis, Candy began to explain. "Well The Crystal Empire was run by the royal family, but when the war broke out there was too much for them to do and they became overwhelmed. So they formed a ministry system to take over some aspects of the war effort, such as science and morality." She finished, gesturing to the poster.

"This is what you get for not paying attention in class," Sharp grumbled.

Before I could even reply I was cut off by Candy Fluff. "There are schools down here?"

I immediately shuddered at the memory of the 'school' before answering her question. "Home schooled."

"Star here was a slacker, so it's only natural he grew up to be a bit of an idiot," Sharp said while rolling her eyes.

"I resent that." I pouted.

"That was pretty smart of them."

"Actually they just ripped it off of Equestria." She then gave a shrug. "But it worked, I guess."

"Yeah, the world blew up, great job ministries," I said sarcastically. "So, umm, tell us about the Enclave, its history." I must admit this seemed more interesting than dad made it sound in the lessons.

"Oh, um ok." Candy tapped her hoof on her chin as she thought of where to start.

"How about how it was founded," Sharp suggested.

"Ok, well long ago before the bombs fell there was a ministry in charge of the northern pegasi, The Ministry of Badassitude."

"There is no way that’s a real word." Sharp interrupted.

"Is too, now let me finish. Anyway, about a week before the bombs fell the M.O.B. leader and her whole team went missing. Usually, they made a big spectacle about their missions but the last one was secret, apparently. So with no leader and no backup leader when the bombs fell, the northern pegasi decided to copy the Equestrian pegasi and fled into the sky." She finished and simply shrugged off the missing details.

I tapped my chin with my wing and looked up at the gray sky through a hole in the roof. "Why didn't they ever come back?"

Both Sharp and Candy seemed surprised with my question. "I don't know, they always told us it was too savage down here and that we had to wait for things to become more civilized."

"If they tried to force order then there would have been chaos. Too soon and everypony would have been against them, too late and they wouldn't be needed or wanted," Sharp answered, saying it as if waiting to help was a good thing, but I did see her point.

I frowned. "I guess you're right."

The two of them went back to being bitchy at each other so I decided to take a power nap as Candy and Sharp seemed to do their own thing.

Yet again my dreams were of a dark limbo in my mind, and the dark shadow pony floating in front of me, waiting for me to ask him for advice. I didn't really have any other pony with whom to talk. Sis would have said to just leave Candy at Doc's or ditch her. I needed a neutral opinion. Although I'm not sure if asking for advice from a voice inside my head was really the best call.

"What should I do about Candy?" I asked skeptically.

He smirked as those damn memory bubbles began to float up from the darkness. Images of Candy began to appear on the murky surface.

"What do you want to do?" he replied in a cryptic manner.

I pondered the question over, thinking about it carefully. What did I want to do? I knew I wanted to keep Candy safe but.

"I'll-" Suddenly the shadowy pony’s hoof pressed to my mouth to stop me from replying.

"You have a chance, a chance at a new life, a better life. I know deep down in your heart that you're not an avenger," he said with a sympathetic tone in his voice.

"But sis and Blood Rose? Surely I can't abandon my sister?" I countered, doubt in my voice as I was unsure of myself.

"The only reason you're going after revenge is because of her, but are you ready to pay the price of revenge? Even if it's Candy?" He gave me a light smile before continuing. "Your sister is old enough to fight her own battles. So it's Candy or revenge?" He slowly faded away as he placed his hoof on my shoulder.

I was left in the void, surrounded by memory bubbles showing bits from my life. One of them showed the times Sharp and I used to have pretend knife fights with sticks. She always won thanks to her magic. We were so young back then. The rest of the bubbles showed less happy memories, mostly me and my sister drifting apart to the point where she was almost a stranger to me.

I awoke and began to sit up and turn to look at sis. She was checking her laser musket over before noticing me. I gave her a 'we need to talk look,' and she frowned, seeming to have known this was coming.


Suddenly and unexpectedly, the air was filled the sound of machine gun fire and bullets. All three of us dived onto our stomachs as the barrage of bullets seemed to never end. Sharp and Candy crawled to the back open half of the building. I, on the other hoof, did the less smart option and crawled towards Sharp's crank gun. The only problem was the bullet fire had shattered the centuries-old windows.

"Fuck Luna!" I yelled out in my head.

As I crawled belly first over the shards of glass, grunting as they cut into me. Just when I thought things were getting better, a bullet knocked over the cooking pot that was still boiling hot thanks to the fire. I stopped for a moment as I looked at the hot soup pour over my path to the gun and mix with the glass.

"Fuck Luna to the moon and back!" Yet again another one just for my head. Yeah, I know I'm not the best at swearing.

I crawled through this painful mixture, the glass crunched like, well, glass. My pain filled mumbles were held in my mouth by the grinding of my teeth. But none of that was audible to anyone but me due to the loud sound of bullets colliding with concrete.

Eventually, I reached the gun and then I looked over to Candy and Sharp. Candy was shaking as she stared at a gun I assumed Sharp had given her at some point. I then looked around for Sharp to see her standing tall, galloping over to the door. So I crawled to the wall and eventually got next to her. It was then that I realized the bullets were coming through the windows and that the door and walls were still holding. So pretty much as long as we stayed away from the sight of the windows we were ok.

"FUCK!" This time that wasn't in my head, I'd just yelled it out. Ironically I yelled it out just as the machine gun fire stopped, so they knew we were still alive and I'd just sworn out loud.

The reason I was annoyed wasn't the fact we were being shot at. It was the fact that I'd just crawled through the glass and was bleeding through hot soup for nothing. But I had bigger things to worry about than soup in my blood or the soup related burns, although I must admit I smelled tasty.

Sis and I each slowly moved to one of the two windows on each side and peeked out. Outside stood about twenty fully armored ponies, all carrying weapons and wearing different armor. I'd have mistaken them for raiders if it wasn't for the lack of blood on them or the fact that they'd stopped shooting. I froze as I saw who had been the ones shooting. It was the three Lily sisters, their M-60's barrels glowing a hot crimson red. We were heavily outnumbered and outgunned by a group of slavers and bounty hunters, although I did find it a bit flattering that there were this many.

"Come on out! We just want the pegasuses!" Demanded a buck from the crowd. "Pegasi." Somepony from the back of the crowd corrected him.

"We promise not to hurt you too much," one of them said while snorting.

We didn't reply, instead, I watched them as Sharp took and charged the crank rifle. By the looks of them, the three sisters were reloading. I'd assume that if we surrendered, they may do sexual stuff to us and that sis may get away. But there was no way I was going to hand over Candy, plus I really didn't want to be raped by those three she-devils.

I turned to ask sis a question. "Maybe we can negotiate?" By the time I turned to look at her, she was already aiming out the window and just shot somepony. So much for a diplomatic solution.

The other ponies laid down suppressive fire as we ducked behind the walls again. This was bad. I went to get my bag which was in the corner opposite me when suddenly a bullet burst a hole in front of me. I was so close that I got concrete dust on my face. I just stopped then and crawled back to the door with sis. More and more holes appeared through the walls. As for the door, it was vibrating and rattling. It sounded like heavy rain and I could feel the bumps starting to make slowly growing indentations. Sharp wasn't able to even get a shot off thanks to the amount of suppressive fire we were under.

I turned to her and started shouting, as that was the only way we could hear each other over the gunfire. "Get Candy out of here, I'll hold them off!" I knew there was no way all three of us would make it out of here, but I also didn't want to break my promise to Candy. She deserved a better life than this. I'd have chosen her over revenge. What good would taking a life do, if you could save a life instead.

Sis simply nodded and headed back to Candy. She was huddled in a ball, scared out of her mind. Sharp went to comfort her and I closed my eyes. it felt like I was trying to make up for a wrong I had done. Maybe it was me feeling bad about killing or maybe it was the fact that I lived most of my life for myself. Sure I saved my sister, but even that was for myself. I just didn't want to be alone.

I wondered why this was all happening, but accepted I'd probably never know. I found myself coming back to the question of why I smiled when I killed, and yet again I couldn't come up with an answer. I wondered if I was smiling right now. I probably was. Then I felt tears running down my face. Oh goddesses I didn't want to die!

Then I felt something hit me in the chest with a thud and remembered the energy turret, imagining a green ball of plasma shooting through the door and me. My heart skipped a beat as I began to fall, that is if I still had a heart. I didn't really know, my whole body had gone completely numb. I felt my limp body collide with the cold hard cement floor, but something was different to when I laid dying in the Stable Tech building. My body didn't feel cold. I opened my eyes to see my sister standing over me, her horn glowing crimson as she looked at me with no expression.

I didn't know what was happening. I couldn't talk, or move. Sharp lifted me up with her magic and placed me on her back. I could see that I hadn't been shot and in fact was just numbed, like when you've been in the cold too much. Sharp carried me past Candy, I looked at her as she frowned and looked down, avoiding eye contact. I saw what she was looking at, a gun. Oh goddesses no! Not me, take her instead, save her! Sharp lifted me onto the roof through the hole, then proceeded to lighten herself with her magic and jump up. I desperately tried to talk, to scream, to move but nothing happened.

I could see down through one of the holes in the roof. Candy was sitting in the middle of the room, looking down as more and more bullets tore holes through the walls. The fighting had kicked up dust and snow, which glimmered in the air all around her. The door amazingly managed to hold back the onslaught of bullets, but then there was a sound like thunder. It roared above the gunfire, and when it was finished there was only silence. I'd no clue what could have made that sound but it probably wasn't good.

But all of that was irrelevant. The new and large hole in the door was irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was Candy. We could hear the sound of their hooves on the snow as they approached, louder was my heart beat. All I could do was stare at Candy, begging her in my head to not do it. Tears ran down my face as I raged inside. A tear hit her head and she looked up with a face filled with pity and acceptance. I saw her lips move as she said something but I didn't hear it. She simply smiled up at me, with her sweet innocent smile.

I saw the gun under her chin, she held it between her hooves and had her wing tip on the trigger. Time seemed to slow down as I saw her push on the trigger, a single tear running down her face. I screamed and thrashed and raged on the inside. The fact that my body wouldn't respond made me angrier.

But my rage was frozen with the sound of a hammer hitting a round, the click before the bang.


The noise seemed to echo throughout the world as the image of Candy's smiling face was gone. I watched in horror as her body fell to the ground with a thud. She was gone. She was dead and it was my fault. I was stuck in a limbo as I stared down at her lifeless body.

The ponies outside muttered something as they had stopped. That didn't matter now. A magical feeling washed over my body and I felt motion return to me, but I still felt numb. I heard the clink of something being dropped onto glass and the sound of somepony pouring a drink. Cold glass pressed onto my shoulder but I didn't dare to look. The door creaked and opened slowly, some pony remarking the fact that it wasn't even locked.

They all walked in at this point, seemingly displeased about Candy's death. It was around then that I looked up at Sharp Shot, she was pushed back by what I assumed was an angry expression. In her magical grip was a shot glass with some clear drink in it with a small black blob resting on the bottom. She was distant but hurt. I didn't know what she wanted to give me but I knew it had to be relevant. We didn't need words as she could tell that I wanted revenge and she was offering it.

I didn't hesitate as I sat up and grabbed the drink, wolfing it down right away. The drink was alcoholic and burned but it was nothing compared to what came next. The black glob stayed in one piece as I swallowed it, but as soon as it touched my throat it burned. It felt like I had just swallowed flaming glass shards as the substance slid down my throat. My body shook as I felt a choking sensation, an unnatural feeling of pain pulsed through by body.

My stomach turned and involuntarily tried to rid itself of the black substance but instead of it coming up I ended up dry heaving. I covered my mouth with my hooves so the dozen or so ponies wouldn’t hear me. I moved my hoof away and saw a light spray of blood where I had choked. I looked at Sharp with confusion as I wasn't sure if this drug was going to kill me or help me. But she had a sadistic smirk on her muzzle. I began to wheeze as the pain changed into a burning intense stabbing feeling, it emanated throughout my whole body.

I opened my mouth to speak but was suddenly pushed backwards by my sister. I fell in the hole and next to Candy's corpse, my body shaking and sweating. The dozen ponies looked down at me in surprise, but I still looked up at my sister, my vision blurring, and fading. I saw her drop the knife I got her. It landed between me and Candy, sticking into the floor. The ponies around me spoke but I could only hear my heartbeat.

'Thump, thump, thump.'

I didn't know what was happening to or around me. But I felt a smile grown on my face as the world went dark and I blacked out. I wanted to destroy this world, these ponies, myself. Rage... I had so much rage. Rage at myself, rage at my weakness, rage at this world, rage at these ponies, so much rage. Luckily I had the perfect outlet laying right next to me.

My body felt numb, my eyes heavy and my breathing shallow. I tried to think. What happened? What was the last thing that happened? And more importantly, who was I? I groaned as my head felt cloudy. Thinking hurt. Well it was never my strong suit. I decided to just lay where ever I was and just breath. I was content with just breathing this cool winter air. I felt my chest rise and fall, a soft aching pain spread through my body. Eventually, I worked up the strength to open my eyes.

Gray, gray cloud cover. Did I ever mention the fact that I hate the colour gray? It's so boring and overused. It's not even a true colour, it's a tone. Besides the clouds I could see my cold breath. Hehe, I liked my cold breath, it made me feel like a dragon breathing smoke. But despite my cold breath, I didn't feel cold, or hot? Just the feeling of me breathing and a light pain spread out throughout my body.

I decided to watch the sky, seeing as I didn't have the strength to even wiggle my wing. I watched the ever-shifting gray clouds, knowing it had to be night, based on their particular shade of gray. I could see a sliver of silver moonlight break through the clouds every once in awhile, and based on how bright it was, I'd say it was a full moon. It was such a calm night, nothing but the sound of my breath on such a clear night, not a snowflake to be seen.

But like peace, the silence was too ever fleeting. The sound of fresh hooves stepping on snow sounded next to me. The crunch of hooves on snow drew closer and closer. I didn't know why but my heart began to race and my clouded mind turned into a storm. I tried to move but my body refused to budge even a feather. I tried to scream but my voice was a whisper. When I shook my head it simply fell down onto a jacket that was draped over my body.

I forgot about the approaching danger and stared at the jacket. It was a blue, white and orange snow jacket. It felt important and calming. Then I saw it, an icon of a little blue bird stitched onto the shoulder pad. I couldn't take my eyes off the bird, the blue bird. The storm in my head faded as I focused on the bird. Bluebird? Was that my name? No? It didn't feel right?

I thought slowly, where did I see this before? Where did I get this? I felt like it belonged to me, like it was an important part of me? But why? Doc? Red Cross? He gave it to me when I went to save someone important? Who was it I went to save? An important mare friend? A special somepony maybe? No that’s definitely wrong? Probably a sister? Yeah, it was my sister, what was her name? Shark? Shank? Sharp! Her name was Sharp Shot, my mature little sister, we were traveling and I freed a slave… Candy?!

I lurched to my hooves in a burst of energy as I remembered. Candy was in danger! Unfortunately, my energy lasted a moment and I collapsed into the snow in a surge of pain. I groaned on the cool snow covered ground as I looked at the sound of the hoof steps. It was Sharp, she was standing in front of me. As soon as I saw her I got a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Her sad yet distant expression confirmed my worst fears... Candy was dead.

The memory slammed into me like a sledgehammer. Candy looking up at me with that happy expression, tears running down her cheeks as she accepted death. Her lips moved as she said something but before I could remember what, the sound of a bang startled me out of my memory. I didn't want to remember any more than that, so I didn't.

I sniffed and sniveled as my eyes began to water. Sharp came to my side and helped me upright, putting the jacket on my shoulders to keep me warm. I shut my eyes as I felt the warm liquid run down my face, the sound of my tears hitting the snow being the only sound audible. Then suddenly I felt hooves wrap around me in a hug, I froze for a minute before I started sobbing uncontrollably, my pain filled wails destroying the silence.

By the time I was done my throat felt raw, but I felt a lot lighter inside. Sharp pushed a bottle of pure water to my lips and I drank it, the feeling of cold water flowing down my throat was quite soothing. Although I felt weak, my body was doing much better. All sense of feeling was back and my pain physically had all but subsided. Although my mind still felt a little fuzzy.

I looked around, we were on the side of the post office building. I took a step towards the front of the building, where the doors and window were. Sharp placed a hoof on my shoulder and shook her head. "Don’t."

I stood there and looked at the corner, my legs shaking a little, before nodding in agreement. I didn't need to see what happened. I didn’t need to know, or want to know either. I followed my sister's lead as we walked away from the building, up to a hill. I saw our stuff and more, laying at the base of a long dead tree. Sharp most likely scavenged it from the remains of the attackers.

"Blood Rose legalized slavery for his clan and everyone in it. He runs it like a business, making money off the pain of others. He's the reason Candy was in that cage." Her words were simple, yet they angered me so.

We made our way to the top of the hill and I saw it, a freshly dug grave. My anger faded as I saw dirt and snow was mixed together, before a flimsy wooden plank that served as her tombstone. Carved into it were her name and age.

Candy Fluff

Age: 8

To one side of the plank was the combat knife, looking worn but ok, and on the other side was Candy's music box. We didn't say a word, we just sat before the grave and looked at it. I saw the full moon approach the horizon, the only times you get to see the whole moon is when it sets or rises.

Eventually, the silence was broken by Sharp. "Will you settle for the wasteland and run away, cry, to be forgotten in time? Or will you rise to face it and its challenges, making them never forget the pain they've caused?" She floated the music box to one side of me and the knife to the other.

I took both onto my wings and turned around, facing the sunrise as Sharp still faced the setting night. I lowered my wing and let the music box slide into my pocket as I took the knife in my mouth and bit down on it. "They'll remember all the pain they've caused, all the pain the wastelands caused. No more tears. I'll never let them forget the pain they've caused and they'll never forget me. They'll remember me, for centuries."

Chapter 5: Centuries

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Armour... armour is an important necessity in the wasteland. It protects you from things like bullets and lasers; you know, bad stuff. The reason I'm talking about armour is because now I have it, well for my chest and forehoof anyway. I was never really a fan of the stuff. It was heavy and got in the way, but given all that happened and all that's to come, I reckon I'd better wear it. But there was something unsettling about wearing the armour of some pony I had recently killed.

I put it on and to my surprise it fit. I wasn't the biggest pony. Usually, clothes were a bit too big for me, but this armour fit me just fine. Hopefully, that didn't mean its previous owner wasn't too young. Then again, they were the reason Candy died, so screw them. Now back to the subject of my size. I'd like to play it up a bit but I was on the small side of things. Actually Sharp and I were the same height, despite her being younger than me.

I put on my jacket, trying to make sure it didn't snag on a strap or something when a letter fell out of my pocket. I looked at the yellow stained letter, seeing it had to be old, and flipped it over. There were a few stains and smudges which made most of the front writing unreadable. But from what I could tell from the writing, a young pony had written it, based on the fact that the letters were all scribbly and badly written. Like that drawing from Last Meal, but in ink.

This brought up the thought of what had happened to that family before the end of the world. Had they survived, or... I looked out at the empty snowfield, as a wind blew across it. Were they trapped under the eternal snow, like Candy? I shook the thought as my heart felt heavy. No point wondering the fate of those long dead. But like the raider attacks, they just kept coming back. Then I was hit with the worst thought so far... what about the ponies who attacked us before?

I never lived in Frost Crystal, nor did I socialize with the guards. But I knew they had families, and they were only doing their job to feed them. What of the ponies who attacked us? Did they have families? Were they only doing their job? Maybe not as slavers but as guards of Slave Town? I couldn't stop my mind from racing. Did I kill someone's husband or father? Will they starve and die because of me?!

I nearly jumped when sis put her hoof on my shoulder. "Are you ok brother?"

OK, OK? How could I be OK? After everything that's happened? I was not OK. "Yea, I'm fine," I said, putting on a fake smile.

She looked me up and down. "Then why are your legs shaking?"

I looked down to check, she was right, I hadn't even noticed. I quickly put my forehooves together to stop the shaking, before suddenly falling face first into the snow.

Sharp sighed and picked me up, brushing snow off my face before picking up the last of her stuff and putting it on our backs. "What's troubling you?"

I was going to answer with Candy's death and the blood bath I created in the post office and the fact I was wearing the armour of someone I killed. "Nothing," I finally said, my sheepish smile growing. Sharp just proceeded to stare me down until I couldn't take it, with a sigh, I asked her, "Is it OK to kill someone, even if it means hurting their family?"

She didn't even turn to look at me as she kept walking. "If you're willing to kill, then you're willing to die, simple as that."

I trotted up to her, thinking about what she said. "But what about when I killed?"

She suddenly stopped and pulled out a worn .32 revolver from her back and turned around, pointing it at my head. I gulped and looked at the fairly ok condition revolver, seeing no rounds in the revolver, but I couldn't see if there was one down the barrel. "Sharrrp… what are you doing?" I said, emphasizing her name nervously.

I felt a tug at my hoof, I looked down to see Sharp pulling out the knife from its holster in my bandages. "Say I was an attacker, if you killed me to defend yourself, or some other pony, then it would be fine." She then hovered the knife up to my face. "But if you killed me for no reason, then you would be the bad guy."


She chuckled a little and put her gun away and my knife back. "Dad taught me that."

I scratched my chin with a wing, thinking. "Did dad ever tell you about his past? Or why he gave you more training?"

She seemed to ponder the question for a bit. "Hmm, no."

I rolled my eyes as we kept walking before yet again we stopped. This time we were in front of the post office, I looked at the broken door, still hearing the rattling in my head, at least that brain fog cleared. "Sharp, what was that stuff you gave me before?"

"They call it Nightmare Fuel." Well, that sounds just lovely, not. I pondered what the drug actually did, it was then I noticed Sharp was poking me with a bottle of something.

"What?" I said.

"Pay attention, you remember how and what radiation is right?" She asked, looking at me as if I was an idiot. I opened my mouth and she put a hoof to it. "Of course not. Well, radiation is fallout from the balefire bombs, it's invisible and will make you sick and kill you if you have too much. It usually makes things glow green." The whole time I just stared at her with an annoyed expression on my half covered face.

I swatted away her hoof and replied to the question she had already answered for me. "I knoooow," I said, emphasizing the O for effect.

"Good." She smiled smugly. "Take this." In front of my face was a bottle with a label that read. 'RadSafe'. I took the bottle with my hooves and bit down on the lid, trying to turn it, with no luck.

"It won't open! What is that stuff anyway?" Cue the sound of Sharp facehoofing herself.

She didn't say a word as she took the bottle in her magic, showed me the top of the lid and proceeded to take it off. As it turned out, there was a child lock. You had to push down and turn at the same time... Moving on. "It's kind of like RadAway, it helps stop you from getting a lot of radiation. Before you ask! RadAway gets rid of it and it's that stuff mom gave us when we got sick from the black snow, tasted like an orange fart. Anything else?!"

At that point, I shrunk back, mumbling. "I liked the taste." Sharp huffed and handed me the bottle again, turning away from me.

I took it in my wings and looked into the bottle, two pills left. I placed it on my tongue. I always hated pills, I'd always gag. But at least they weren't as bad as needles. I was about to forcibly swallow when the sound of breaking glass distracted me. I looked over to what was left of the post office window. A glass shard had fallen off and there was one whole but cracked panel left, somehow.

I saw something in that panel, it was looking at me and I was looking at it. It was meant to be my reflection, but it wasn't. I knew what it was, I had seen it before. In my dreams, in my head. But it, no, he was out. It was Dark. Dark Star was my reflection. He stared at me with a grin, looking at me with those white empty eyes as I stared back with my mouth open and my tongue out.

"Hurry up!" Yelled Sharp, startling me as I looked forward, seeing her walking away. I put my tongue in my mouth and swallowed, what I expected to be a bitter load. But nothing? Had I dropped it!? I looked on the ground but was pulled away with another yell. Maybe I did swallow it. Either way, I'm sure it'll be fine. I was more worried about my reflection.

Green, glowing wetlands as far as the eye could see. There was something sickening about the green ambiance of the water puddles. Sharp had said radiation could make things glow but I never thought it would have been to this degree.

We walked for ages along a solitary raised road in the middle of this swamp land. The only sound were our hooves and the click-clicking of the Pip-buck’s Rad meter. I wanted to break the silence, but there was nothing to talk about. I didn't want to bring up my growing problems or the fact that I was angry, sad and annoyed all at the same time.

I had only been out here for a few days and I'd felt the loss, killed and nearly died repeatedly. How anyone actually managed to live out here was beyond me. After Candy, I had felt an incurable anger, the urge to unleash all my hate on this world. But there was no outlet in sight. No raider or slaver for me to fight, only my sister. I didn't want her to worry or see that.

I felt a kind of pleasure. It was a dark pleasure from deep inside, and it only came out when I fought. It felt so right at the time. But now I felt ashamed of it. Was it the pleasure of the kill? Was it making me smile at the thought of killing somepony. Was this the feeling raiders felt? Was I turning into a raider?

Even now, after I told Dark it didn't matter why I smiled, I still found myself coming back to the question. But there was something else, a feeling, a dark feeling deep down inside me. It was Dark Star. I could feel him, I could always feel him inside of me. But something felt different, he felt different. I tried focusing on it but was interrupted by the sound of the Rad meter, it’s clicking was increasing. It felt warm, an ambient warmth that felt sick and unnatural that ran through my body. I opened my eyes to see Sharp a few feet away with her gun out and charged.

"What is it Sharp?" She raised a hoof for me to stop talking, I pulled out my SMG and walked next to her. "What?" I looked to see where she was aiming and saw what looked like a pony figure in the distance.

We heard the sound of shifting dirt from behind us. "Clever girl," Sharp whispered.

I suddenly jumped forward into the air as Sharp spun around. Behind us were ponies, no, not ponies, something far uglier. They looked dead, their skin torn and their bodies shivered. I froze in horror at the sight of them. Sharp didn't hesitate to shoot the nearest one in the head before yelling. "Ghouls!"

So that's what these monstrous things were called, ghouls. They, as a group let out a blood curdling howl as they began to charge. I took aim and unleashed a barrage of bullets at the lead ghoul with my SMG. Bullets peppered his body as he kept coming, but then the bullet holes began to freeze over. In a matter of seconds the whole ghoul's body was frozen solid. It proceeded to crumble and break into pieces as it hit the ground.

I marveled at the SMG and its seemingly magical powers. I was certain I'd loaded normal bullets into it. Unfortunately being distracted in a battle isn't a good thing. That, and apparently, ghouls were quite agile. The ghoul far behind us had already closed the distance and had the athletic prowess to jump up into the air and tackle me. Before I even knew what had happened the feral creature had sunk its teeth into my wing.

I screamed as I failed to stay in flight and ended up falling to the ground with a wet splash. My head was underwater. I was in the radioactive marshland with a feral ghoul eating me. I thrashed and struggled as I tried to lift my head up, the ghoul keeping it down with a firm hoof as he tugged at my wing. I didn't know what I was scared of more, drowning or having my wing ripped off.

Then suddenly the pressure of the ghoul on me lightened and it let go of my wing. I shot up gasping for air, out of the hoof-deep puddle. The ghoul was missing its head. I looked to Sharp to see her fighting off at least eight ghouls with her laser musket, melee bashing them back before cranking it once or twice, then proceeding to take a shot.

I was almost content to just watch if it weren't for the fact I was sitting in radioactive water and bleeding profusely from my wing. But then something began to rise from the mud itself, glowing like a lantern. But it too was a sickly shade of green, only more intense.

It too was a ghoul, but this one was different than the others. I watched as it opened its mouth to release a howl that put the other ghouls to shame. Right away I could feel a spike in the magic radiant heat. Sharp’s Pip-Buck seemed to screech as it struggled to keep up with the radiation spike. Eventually, it stopped and the world seemed to go silent for a moment. Sharp and I watched in horror as some of the defeated ghouls began to get back up, seemingly revived by this 'glowing' ghoul’s howl.

Sis tried to get a shot off at him but the horde of ghouls seemed to guard their 'Glowing one.' I was so mesmerized by the fight that I forgot to do anything. That was until Sharp yelled at me to help. I quickly leapt into action with my wings under my jacket, not wanting to give them the chance of an appetizer. Yet again I had dropped my SMG. I swear I needed to get a neck band for that thing. Luckily I still had the combat knife. I quickly drew it and galloped up the bank, all the ghouls seemingly focused on Sharp.

I felt a smile on my face as I took notice of the feeling of excitement, the drive to fight and kill. I lunged at the glowing ghoul with the intent to kill but was suddenly reminded of the post office. Blood, death, mutilation. I reveled in it, I enjoyed it, but I didn't want to. And I definitely didn’t want anyone to see, to see what a monster I was. By the time I snapped out of it I had overshot my lunge and the glowing ghoul proceeded to punch me in the stomach with a forehoof.

The force was so great that I was flung backwards, coughing up blood and spit. I dug my hooves into the ground to stop myself flying off the edge of the road as I slid across the ground. I laid there for a moment, shaking and breathing, looking at the glowing ghoul. Some of the ghouls in the back of the pack were looking at me, but a growl from the glowing one turned their attention back to Sharp. I struggled to get up as my body quivered in pain, but there was something else, something deeper. It felt… good.

I rose with a smile on my face, almost happy that I got hurt, and I didn't know why. But then again I didn't argue with it either. The glowing ghoul looked at me, then at the shrinking pack of ghouls that were attacking Sharp. Yet again he let out a sickening howl.

The disturbing feeling of radiation washing through me ruined my feeling of euphoria. The ghouls who weren't missing their heads started to move again. I saw half a ghoul twitch and move and another that had all its limbs shot off tried to wiggle towards Sharp. But I didn't pay them any attention. No, I was focused on the glowing ghoul in front of me.

We charged at each other, unarmed. I dropped down and slid beside it, spreading out my uninjured wing to trip him up. I could see my knife on the ground. I was just about to reach it when the ghoul bit into my tail and pulled me back. I kicked at him with my back legs and a direct hit to the nose made it let go and reel back. I took this window of opportunity to get up.

The ghoul started to stand back up, so I went to punch it in the face, but it blocked me with a hoof. Catching me off guard, he landed a blow to my chest. I felt the metal armour vibrate as it took most of the force, although it was enough to make me jump back.

I looked at the knife a few feet behind me, then back at the ghoul as he got to his hooves. Hehe, this was fun. With a big grin on my face, I leapt into battle with the ghoul. We traded blows. He was stronger but I was more agile so I managed to dodge most of his attacks. He tried to bite me a few times but every time he did, he failed I got a chance to ring his head like a bell.

He took what seemed to be a breath, before howling again. Fortunately, a swift uppercut interrupted him and sent him on his back. A scream from Sharp drew my focus. She had only three or four more ghouls left, but she had received some bruises and bite marks.


I had never broken a bone, so I wouldn't know whether or not the ghoul had broken one. But when a glowing ghoul kicks you with enough force to cripple one of his own rear legs, I assume the recipient of all that force would definitely have a broken bone or two. It didn't actually hurt, no, it felt like a great amount of pressure on my chest. The pain only came when I hit the ground a few feet away. I would have screamed if it didn't feel like I was choking.

I struggled to lift my head as I saw the glowing ghoul hobbling up on three hooves. It then proceeded to howl for the third time. The radiation made me feel physically sick as I could taste blood in my mouth. My body felt tired and weak and wrong, just wrong. Its crippled leg retook the correct shape and it proceeded to be perfectly fine.

I watched in horror as it walked over to me. Was this the end? I... I wasn't ready to die. It lunged atop me with jaws ready to snap down on my neck. No! I wasn't going to die here, especially after making a promise to Candy. I swung my hoof and blocked it. It didn't get a chance to bite down on my neck. Instead, it was forced to bite down on my hoof. I could see it close up as it growled and proceeded to try and bite down on my hoof armour, teeth scraping on metal.

Up close, I got a good look at it. It was missing the skin from its muzzle and nose, only bone and teeth there. Its eyes were empty green balls. I wasn't even sure how this thing saw and it was completely hairless with skin that seemed like thin leather. I could even see its skeleton, and not just because that’s how skinny it was, but by the fact its internal glow highlighted its very bones. It was drooling and leaking a fluorescent green goo that would burn a little on touch with my skin. It was then that I realized my jacket and armor was splattered in the goo, from the fight.

I started beating its head with my free hoof but it soon pinned it with its own hoof. I couldn't move, being highly irradiated by it just thanks to its close proximity. The weight was making my chest ache in pain, I had to think fast. I had to stop it biting my hoof... wait, biting. Oh Cadence orgy fucking a dragon, I had a bad idea.

I pulled the whole ghoul up over the top of me, so its throat was near my mouth, then I proceeded to bite into it. The taste, the texture, the warmth. Needless to say it was fucking bad. It tasted like tingling warm rotten meat and had the consistency of tough yet slimy meat. All that while its irradiated blood ran down my throat, I had to swallow or risk drowning.

I thrashed my head, trying to put all that out of my mind, trying to rip its fucked head off. It let go of my hoof and I wrapped it around its neck as I bit down deeper and harder, green blood spraying over me. Eventually, I got to it, the spine. I shook my head violently as it thrashed wildly.


It, it was dead. I had snapped its neck. I quickly took my mouth off it and tilted my head to the side and proceeded to puke up ghoul bits, green blood, and my own red blood. I just laid there for a moment with a dead glowing ghoul atop me and my vomit beside me. I felt a little smile on my face. I won.

But the moment of victory was short lived as the ghoul's body began to glow brighter and hotter. Whatever it was, it was releasing a lot of radiation and I was under it. Fuck it was going to explode or cook me, something to spite me and my win. I tried to move but my body was too sore and tired to bother. I shut my eyes, fuck!


Was I dead? Was it instantaneous evaporation? I felt lighter, also I felt a warm dust cover my body. I tried to open my eyes but the dust made it hard, so I shook my head, with much effort. A smoking powder pile covered me, with a reddish glow to it. I looked up to see Sharp, a few bruises and bite marks, but much better than me, with her magic musket rifle barrel smoking.

"Good job, Star."

Oh, this is the point I wish I could faint on command, but no such luck. Sharp bit into the hood of my jacket and proceeded to pull me out of the ash pile. Oh the pain, the aching of my chest hurt so badly. Yet if I had to be honest, deep down, something felt good about it. At least it let me know I was still alive.

"Ghouls are ponies who got balefire bomb levels of radiation and bonded with it, their bodies changed and they then became dependent on radiation. They lost their minds ages ago, so they’re feral and attack any pony who isn't one of them." Sharp proceeded to educate me as she brushed the powder off me. I didn't bother to talk as even taking shallow breaths hurt. I did wince when she started brushing it off my chest and stomach.

"Glowing ghouls explode shortly after death unless you decapitate it or disintegrate it. Glowing ones’ howls also heal ghouls. It can't fix a destroyed limb, but it can heal a crippled one. So go for the legs to slow them down then finish them off by destroying the head, even if they’re dead. That goes for normal ghouls as well." Sharp was now looking to my injuries, removing my chest armour before softly pressing on my ribs with her magic.

I could see the chest plate had a dent in it, probably stopped the ghoul from trying to kick a hole in my chest. Part of our basic first aid training was to check for broken bones. I tried to stay still and not whine, although it was very hard. Mainly I just paid attention to what she was telling me.

"Nothing broken, probably a major fracture. Let’s say two healing potions and a RadSafe. A RadAway when we get out of here. Your wing will be fine, but no flying for a while." Luckily I drank a lot of milk, so my bones must have been strong. Wait, I never took my RadSafe, I wonder what my radiation level was at? Probably not good. Sharp was exposed to less radiation but she seemed fine, more or less. As for me, I couldn't really tell because of the fight.

Sharp lifted my head and popped a RadSafe pill in my mouth and helped me down it with a healing potion, followed by another one. I laid there as it slowly took effect, my chest stopped aching and my bruises and bite marks began to fade. Then she rolled me slowly onto my side and bandaged my hurt wing. I still felt worse than when I was running a fever. My body felt weak and I felt extremely sick.

Sharp then collected my weapons and helped me to my hooves. But even then I could barely stand. My legs were shaking and I was visibly weak. Sharp tried to offer me RadAway but I declined her offer. I knew RadAway was expensive, so the less I took now, the better later on.

"Dad taught me a lot about the dangers of the outside world. Ghouls, raiders, animals. He didn't think you'd be able to handle it out here on your own, so he wanted me to be able to take care of you." Sharp kept talking, as we walked. I was behind her, trying to keep up and not throw up at the same time. I stopped listening to what she said as I focused on staying awake, but I felt so damn tired.

Sharp yelled something out and I could see it, the end of the swamp, and in the distance was a town. She turned around to look at me. I smiled but I couldn't do it anymore. My legs gave out and I fell over onto my hurt wing. I was so tired, I needed to take a nap. Yes, only five minutes.

The last thing I saw was Sharp running over to me, panic on her face.

I was half expecting to be in my mental dark limbo, talking to Dark Star and the fact I was turning into a monster or the interrupted flashback to the post office. But no, I found myself waking up what felt like seconds after I had dozed off. The only problem was it was not a peaceful sleep.

My body writhed in agony as it felt like I had a flaming hedgehog breakdancing in my body. The sensation was disturbingly close to that of Nightmare Fuel. My eyes shot open as my body thrashed around. I tasted blood as I coughed violently, barely able to breathe, let alone speak. I could see Sharp trying to restrain me as a series of red rash marks were all over my body. Sharp was screaming but I didn't take notice. Oh goddesses make the pain stop!

I felt the familiar effect of Sharp’s numbing magic spell hit my body. It eased the pain but the internal pain was still quite raging. I began to choke on blood, unable to cough after being numbed. So Sharp, in a panic, tilted me to the side to keep my airways drained. She also had to help me breathe with CPR. I didn't know what this was or why it was happening but I wanted it to end.

I saw Sharp inject me with two needles of Med-X, which helped douse the pain. I felt Sharp push a hose pipe down my throat, as I was unable to cough up the fluid on my own.. This helped me breathe as the blood flowing out of the hose slowed down, but did not subside. I watched with tears, blood and drool running down my face as Sharp dragged me in the sleeping bag, towards the town.

"Hang on brother, we’re almost to Rad-hoof, almost there…" those were the last words I heard before I mercifully fainted at last. My last thought being of Candy and the ghouls. It struck me as odd that while Candy was so young and was already gone, but ghouls were much older and could seemingly last forever..

I slipped in and out of consciousness. Sometimes I only saw images, like Sharp dragging me through the town with the town's folks. I remember we passed a butchery packed with different meats on display, with a mare in a green dress selling them. Then there were times I could only hear voices. "Just help him doctor, I don't care what it takes, I'll pay for it." Sharp, that was Sharp’s voice.

"I can't help him if you don't tell me what he took, that and you won't even let me take off his jacket!?" I didn't know who this was, but if I had to guess I would have to say it might have been the town doctor.

My condition was getting better, the pain had gone down, but I still felt extremely tired. I opened my eyes to see Sharp and the doctor, a two toned brown unicorn stallion arguing with Sharp. I couldn't hear them properly, everything sounded muffled and I was still so tired. I closed my eyes and fell asleep again.

I was in the dark limbo, but this time what appeared to be a storm of red and gray was moving away from me. "That sucked." Dark. I spun around to look for him. "Up here." He was above me, upside-down, or was I upside down? This stupid limbo was disorientating.

"What happened? Where were you?" I asked him, the thought of him appearing in the window fresh in my mind.

He was in a reclining pose, his hooves under his head like a pillow and his legs crossed. "You nearly died and I was trying to take a nap."

"Wait what? What made me so sick? And why didn't you help me? That is what you do right? Help me with my problems. Like Candy's death or the fact that I might be a raider at heart?" I blubbered on, my voice growing ever more worried.

He chuckled a little and pushed his wing onto my mouth to shut me up. "Shhh, I don't know and I don’t care. I'm not the other guy, now leave me alone." Suddenly I began to fall up, or was it down? So hard to tell without references. "Oh, wake me up if you want to have some fun, you know where to find me."

I opened my eyes, seeing the nighttime clouds. I slowly sat up, my body stiff and tired, like I had just taken a long nap. I stretched and yawned before smacking my lips. I was thirsty. I got up and dug around my bag for a drink, and out came a bottle of Crystal Pop, the Crystal Empire’s answer to Sparkle Cola.

It was a glass soda bottle with a weird shape in the neck of the bottle. The caps had a small hollow tube on them. This was to break the seal and release the carbonated glowing bead into the neck of the bottle. You hold it for a few seconds as it carbonates the drink.

This one was the original flavor of blueberries. But I had known they had other flavors: cherry, grape, orange, carrot, sparkle, and gem, according to the label which advertised them. Although Crystal Pop was the empire’s drink of choice, Sparkle Cola was sold in the Crystal Empire as well.

But the Crystal Empire’s main soda drink was still Crystal Pop. Which according to the label on the bottle, which had a cartoony shiny crystal pony who was named, yet again to the informational soda bottle wrapper, was Soda Pop. This was The Crystal Empire’s exclusive drink.

I opened the drink and popped the seal, holding the cap down as it fizzed up. I then removed the cap and saw the number on the underside of the cap was a nine. Legend had it if you collected numbers one to ten then you could win a prize. Well, that’s what it said on the bottle label anyway. I finished the fizzy blue drink, which tasted like blueberries with bubbles. I looked around to see Sharp asleep. We were on the outskirts of the town on a hill.

I didn't want to wake her so I decided to head down there myself, my jacket on and wings hidden. I had tried to move my wing but it hurt a little, although the bandages were gone and there was only a faint mark left on them. I trotted into town with no particular goal in mind, but finding caps to repay Sharp would be good. Maybe use them to buy some more RadAway, now that I knew how crap it was to have what I assumed was probably lethal levels of radiation.

It was then that I had found a board in the middle of town, just like at Slave Town, a job board. I looked at the jobs on the board but one stuck out like a sore hoof.

'Missing children.
Eight missing children from the town of Rad-hoof. SStrange music was heard at night when they were abducted., Reward: one hundred caps per child found; an extra three hundred for finding out what or who is responsible. Please help us find our children.

I couldn’t possibly turn down the opportunity to help this town and save those children, especially after what happened with me almost dying and losing Candy. It was then that I noticed no one was outside. I knew it was night but it didn't seem that late. Maybe they were scared of the child snatching music.

I contemplated waking up Sharp, but I decided not to since she had a long day. I began to wander around town, looking for clues, but there wasn't anything. It was getting late and I was contemplating heading back when I heard it. An alluring tone, different than Candy's music box. But still nice and I was drawn to it.

I followed the tone all the way out of town to what seemed like the middle of nowhere. There was a strange box playing the music. It was old and rusted but I could make out the words 'Ice cream cart music box’.

I was about to pick it up when a white cloth covered my face. I tried to struggle and breath but the rag seemed to be held there by magic. I quickly felt faint as I could taste and smell alcohol on the rag. As I collapsed I heard somepony say. "Night, night."

It's only when you could use something that you remember you forgot it, like armour or even a weapon.

Agh, I am so sick of fainting. I groaned as I woke up slowly. I could feel chains around my hooves as I was hanging upright. My wings were bound and I was missing my jacket. Apart from that, it was very cold, colder than normal. I opened my eyes but couldn't see. I was blindfolded but I could still hear…static.

....He's hackin' and wackin' and smackin'

He's hackin' and wackin' and smackin'

He's hackin' and wackin' and smackin'

He just hacks, wacks, choppin' that meat.

My heart began to race as I thrashed, but soon I calmed down. It was just a radio song. But where was it coming from and who turned it on? Meat, I could smell the scent of meat and salt.

I screamed for help but heard only the sound of my rattling chains. Something spoke, in a mare's voice. "I should hate pegasi. Up above the clouds, leaving the rest of us down here to rot. But I don't. In fact, the fact that you’re a pegasus is quite thrilling. I wonder what your wings taste like?"

My heart raced as my mind began to panic. Where the hell was I? Who the fuck was this talking to me? I then felt the blindfold slide off my face. I quickly opened my eyes to see. I was in a butchery cold storage locker, there were hanging Brahmin carcasses all around me, slowly turning. I looked around for the source of the voice but found nothing.

Then I saw it, the carcass of a pony, a little pony. It was prepared just like all the other carcasses, ready to be eaten. I fought back every urge to vomit as the realization that I might suffer the same fate kicked in.

"I've worked with meat for a long time. Even though ponies don't have to eat meat, there's still a market for it." The voice was out of sight but the sound of something being grinded was clearly coming from behind a row of carcasses. "The younger the meat the softer and juicier it is, except for newborns. They taste more like fish, have you ever had fish?"

It was a few moments before I worked up the mental courage to answer. "N...no."

A small chuckle crept across the room. "Of course not, you're from the sky. It is a type of meat that falls apart fairly easily and has a distinct taste and smell, although it is riddled with small bones."

The thought of fish and comparison to newborns made me gag, but I eventually calmed down a bit. "I, I'm not from the sky, I was born on the ground."

Yet again another chuckle crept across the room. "Oh, well whatever, it doesn't really matter, now does it?"

I was getting sick of this damn freak’s games. "Who the fuck are you?!"

Laughter. She was laughing at me. A row of hanging meat moved to the side to reveal a mare in a green dress with an apron. She was sharpening a butcher knife on a grinding wheel. She had a light green lime coat and a light brown mane and tail. "Language. Now please let me introduce myself, my name is Berry Butcher and this is my butcher shop." She pulled off what turned out to be a wig, revealing a set of short yellow spiky hair and a horn. It was glowing yellow before stopping. Her, I mean his, coat then changed to a more yellow lime, compared to its previous green lime.

"You’re a stallion?!" I ended up shouting out.

He stuck out his tongue in a smile and twinkled at me, his voice now sounding more like a male’s. "Guilty as charged, and to reward you for making it this far we have a special guest."

His magic pulled some chains and the cadavers on the hooks began to shift and move. One of the missing fillies, maybe a year younger than Candy, was pulled forward from the shadows to his side.

"Let her go!" I demanded suddenly, the filly was crying and gagged, I could tell she was begging me for help.

He proceeded to pick up his recently sharpened knife and brought it close to her face. She squirmed in terror as she saw the knife coming closer. "She's the town mechanic’s daughter. Since she enjoys taking things apart I thought I'd do the same to her.”

I thrashed against my chain. "You're sick! Why are you doing this?!"

He seemed to freeze at the question, pondering it. "Why? Ah, what a strange little question that is, I suppose it's because I enjoy it. The first person I killed was my wife. She was nagging me about something and then without thinking about it, I sliced her to pieces. But then when I saw how finely I sliced her, I wanted more, more ponies to cut up, to reduce them to their most basic building blocks, and I wanted everyone to see. So I put her on special, I think you passed her thighs this afternoon." I remember, seeing the meat shop when Sharp dragged me through town, seeing the meat for sale.

"How can a person murder somepony for such a ridiculous reason?! There's more than enough food for your town!" I shouted, grinding my teeth in anger as I struggled, trying to flex my wings.

"Food? I didn't do it because of food, I did it because I could." He proceeded to slowly trot closer to me, knife in tow. "Given the slightest provocations, anyone can do it."

"Stay back!" I yelled as we were almost face to face.

He proceeded to talk and wave the knife around in an exuberant fashion. "Ponies have morals, but send them to war and they have no problem slaying each other in the most brutal fashion. Why do you think that is?"

I looked to the side, away from him, not wanting to answer. "I have no idea."

Suddenly I found myself staring at my own reflection in his knife. It dug deep into my shoulder, blood soon obscuring my reflection. I whipped my head away and wailed in pain.

He proceeded to pull the knife out of me and kept talking. "Because deep down inside we all want to kill. Most just need an excuse to distance themselves from the idea of being a monster. Even you."

I breathed heavily as the wound bled badly, my body twitching from the experience. I began to open my muzzle to reply when Berry carved a piece of my cheek off. My one eye began to cry as the pain froze me in place. My tongue couldn't help but explore the now open hole in the side of my face. My eye drew to the missing piece of my cheek laying on the cold tile floor.

"The cheeks are usually the sweetest part of the body, that and I hate it when you wannabe hero types try to justify your actions. he matter of the fact is, you’re just as fucked up as the rest of us."

My eyes focused onto Berry with intent to kill, my hooves and wings pushed hard at the chains. The pain from my face and shoulder began to become pleasurable. I could feel that dark sensation deep within me. 'Dark Star.' I embraced it and it felt good.

I spoke as best as I could while missing a cheek. "You’re right. I am fucked up, I am a monster, but I don't enjoy killing...no... I hate it... but for you... I'll make an exception."

He raised the knife for what I assumed was the final blow. "I'd like to see you try."

I screamed and pushed my wings out as hard as I could, with a clang and a thud. My wings broke the chains that bound them and opened wide, startling Berry. I used that window of opportunity to fly up and off the hook. Berry swung at me with his knife, but only grazed my stomach, leaving a small cut. Unfortunately, there wasn't much room in here, so I ended up having to fly forward, knocking Berry over as I tumbled into his table, breaking it as I crashed into it.

I quickly shook off the rough landing and hobbled to my bound hooves, looking around the broken wooden table for a knife. I looked back to see Berry getting up, so I decided to grab a big splinter of wood and run into the meat maze. I could see the filly looking on in surprise as I left her there. I kept repeating in my head, I'll save her.

"Come out, come out, wherever you are little birdy." Berry's voice chilled me more than this damn freezer.

I ended up leaning onto a Brahmin carcass, with the wooden shard in my mouth as I thought of a plan. My heart was racing, my wounds encouraging me. I resisted the urge to smile, mainly out of fear that my lip would split. But my thought was interrupted, a knife cut the Brahmin body almost in half, stopping shy of my neck.

Before he could pull it out I dropped down below the semi-cleaved carcass and went for his hoof. He screamed in pain as the shard plunged deep into his leg. I quickly rolled to the side as he ripped the knife out of the carcass and tried to cleave my head, breaking the knife and the tile. I wiggled away under more hanging bodies.

Frantically I looked for the keys and my jacket. I couldn't do anything with my hooves bound and there was no room to fly. I saw them, hanging on a hook on the wall. I laughed in joy as I began to squirm towards them. But that joy was short lived as I felt something grab my rear leg chains. I looked back to see Berry on the other side of the room, with a normal looking knife floating beside him, his horn aglow as it had a firm grip on my chains.

I thrashed and struggled, trying to desperately move forward. But the floor was too smooth, too wet from blood. I saw something behind me to my side and squirmed towards it, knocking it over to my mouth so I could grab it. It was a rib bone. I held it firmly in my mouth as I was pulled back to Berry.

"You can't escape this cage you stubborn chicken!" Berry quipped angrily, before pulling me all the way to him and flipping me over.

When he did I pushed my top half up with my wings and swiftly stabbed him in the neck, blocking his knife attack with my hoof. We looked at each other for a moment as I watched him die, the rib tip sticking out the other side of his neck. He tried to speak but only ended up coughing blood over me. He fell to the side, limp, dead. I turned my head to see the knife lodged deep into my hoof and probably bone as well.

Pain came flooding in as I just dry cried on the floor next to Berry's corpse. The pleasure of the fight had worn off and the dark feeling subsided, and I could feel my heart start to calm down. Eventually, I worked up the nerve to bite down on the knife handle and rip it out. I threw the knife to the side and writhed in agony, bleeding badly and probably having carve marks on my bones. Plus I was still missing a piece of my cheek.

I knew I had to find a few healing potions or something stronger, fast. After making my way to the key and getting those stupid chains off, I quickly looked around. Luckily I found a box and inside was a drug called Hydra. I didn't hesitate to inject it, rejoicing at the feeling of my wounds closing. Even my missing cheek began to close up back to normal.

Dad told me about the drug Hydra, said it was like a healing potion on steroids. But he also said it could cause mutations because of how strong it was. Apparently, it came from a multi-headed monster, if you could extract it without being killed.

After that, I made my way to the hanging filly and let her down and took off her chains. I asked her if she knew where the others were and she pointed to a door. She just sat there crying. I took off my jacket and placed it around her. She looked up at me in confusion.

"It's over now, I'm taking you home," I said, trying to comfort her as I went to find the others. Four, that’s how many there were in the room the filly pointed out. With her, that makes five, five out of the eight. I tried not to think about what happened to the missing three but I know they were probably hanging from the ceiling like the one I saw before or on a stand in town.

The children looked up at me and I could see in their faces that they were scared, cold and hungry. Some of them were still crying. I thought I saw Candy in the bunch but it was just my imagination. I was speechless before them, I didn't know what to say.

"Please let us go." one of the kids whimpered.


A kid cut me off. "Please, Mr. Pegasus."

I almost started crying. "I... I'm going to take you home." I blurted out. We took things slow. I led the kids to what I assumed was the exit. A filly rode on my back, too traumatized to talk.

Eventually, we found the exit with a terminal beside it and a Ministry of Fun poster beside that. Not wanting to explore this place, we didn’t bother checking the other rooms. As it turns out, we were in the same field I was captured in. I decided to go back in to check the terminal as the kids were still busy going top side. The terminal wasn't locked so I decided to access it.

There were options for the siren controls and five entries on here. Four were dated for this month and the first seemed to be pre-war. I decided to click on the oldest new one first.

Entry one.

'She won't shut up, that mare will find anything to bitch about. Oh Berry the meat's not selling, Oh Berry you don't make enough caps. Oh Berry you’re never home. One of these days that cow is going to get what's coming to her.'

Entry two.

I…I did it, I shut her up, permanently. I don't know what came over me, but I know one thing, she sure tastes better than she acted. I wonder if it'll sell? But even if it doesn't at least I can have some peace and quiet. Besides, it was fun, freeing. I want to do it again, but I have to be smart about this. Becoming a raider will just get me killed. Besides, raider doesn't seem my style. I wonder if I fix up the old music box siren, if it'll work. If it'll really do what this machine says it will.

Entry three.

...it worked, wonderfully in fact. They just come to me. I had tried testing the differences with Brahmin, but with ponies, it's much more, refined, higher quality. This is sure to sell well. This sure is different than killing Brahmin. They would beg and plead but there was always a disconnection because they weren't ponies. But now, killing a pony, cutting a pony, that, that feels so much better.

Entry four.

...too young...One year or younger are too young and too small. They’re just like fish, even have those annoying bones. I paid one hundred caps for a fish once and the thing didn't even taste good. I bought last night's dinner for a much higher amount. But hey, it's not like the wasteland has a lot of places for unwanted babies... Maybe I should open an orphanage... Na, too much work and attention. I barely have room for the ones I have with me now. What's the total I had from the start? Eight from my town, five from travelers and the baby. Six down, eight to go. Hehe, I might have to have a sale.

Entry five: Prototype 'Whippy' Ice cream van siren.

It works, this thing actually works, I can't believe it. A siren only children can hear, most of the time. We did get a few adults, but we're writing it off as them having childlike hearts or some crap like that. But yeah a siren that only kids can hear that plays the near hypnotic ice cream tune. The Ministry Of Fun is going to love this. They'll have to let us into their company now. Even if not, at least the ice-cream companies will pay us big bits for this tech.

I smashed the terminal, startling the filly on my back. "Sorry," I said as I gave her a sheepish smile. It was just, I really didn't want to think about Berry and his victims. I checked to make sure that all the kids were top side, which they were, then I proceeded to follow them. I squinted as it was quite bright outside, probably day time. I saw most of the kids smiling, and some were crying tears of joy.

"Mr. Pegasus, thank you," said one of the colts. I just gave him a smile as we started walking back to town, thinking it was kind of cute.

"Mr. Pegasus, why are you down here? I thought you lived in the sky?" To pass the time, some of the kids started asking me questions.

"I was born on the ground and so the wasteland is my home. I've never even seen what's above the clouds." The children were at awe, being able to talk to a Pegasus.

'Mr. Pegasus, why do my parents hate pegasuses?"

"Pegasi." Another corrected.

I just awkwardly chuckled. I had known about hate towards pegasi. I had understood it myself. They kept the sky and clouds all to themselves. They never bothered to help anyone but themselves, even now. But it was something I wasn't really comfortable explaining to a kid. Luckily fate intervened and an angry beast interrupted our conversation.

"Brother!!!" Sharp, it was Sharp, and she was mad. "You almost die repeatedly and I spend my time and caps trying to keep you alive and you repay me by sneaking off at night to do something dangerous?!"

I just awkwardly chuckled, really not wanting to answer. She eventually sighed and dropped it. "So you tried to do some quest to save these kids and succeeded. Tell me what happened?" I and some of the kids shivered at the thought of what happened back there, some even started crying again. Yet again Sharp sighed. “It’s ok, everything is alright. You take that one back, I'll lead the rest back to town.”

All the kids looked at me for verification. "Ok, kids, you can trust her. She may be cranky at times but she's my sister." I started to fly upward a bit, the filly holding onto me tight. I looked at Sharp, who was still mad, and the kids who were in awe with my ability to fly.

I chuckled. "Hold on." The filly did and we began to fly off. In the corner of my eye, I could see the filly with her head raised up, I swear I even heard her giggle a little. So I decided to take the scenic route. We both giggled as we flew around, we could even see the glowing swamp from up here. I felt something wet hit my coat and looked up but didn't see any rain. It was the filly, she was crying. "What's wrong?"

Suddenly she hugged me, I struggled to regain balance and she whispered. "Thank you, Mr. Pegasus."

"Hehe, my name is Star, Star Shot. Radio calls me Blue Bird." She smiled and looked at my jacket with the bluebird patch.

"Soothing Sound." She mumbled, I almost missed it, but I assumed that was her name.

I looked around when I thought I saw something, a pegasus. Candy. I fell a little as I stared at her, flying in the distance. Before Soothing Sound’s scream snapped me out of it. I chuckled, a little embarrassed. Luckily we were at our destination, Rad-hoof. I landed and all the townsfolk looked on at me and Soothing Sound in surprise. She climbed off and looked at a crowd gathering around us, shrinking back into my jacket. Until a mare's voice sent her off like a rocket.

"Mama!" She rushed into and through the crowd, off to the sound of her mother's voice. The crowd was starting to mumble and murmur, but I still heard the sound of Soothing Sound reuniting with her mother.

I smiled happily, that was until somepony shouted. "Give me back my daughter!"

"They'll be back soon, just wait." The crowd didn't seem happy with my reply, they were mumbling louder, eyes fixed on my wings. I could feel the situation turning bad.

"You took them, didn't you, you pegasus scum?” “Enclave!" They began to shout and yell at me, so I grabbed my jacket and was about to take off when a rock flew out of nowhere and hit me on my head. Within seconds I was mobbed. They pinned me down and kicked me, yelling about how I was some pegasus who should have stayed in the sky. I tried to tell them how I wasn't Enclave, how I was one of them, but they wouldn't listen.

So this is what it felt like to be hated, for being a pegasus. This is what over a century of hate will do. I had promised to be remembered for centuries, but I did not want to be remembered for something I wasn't a part of. I didn't want this hate.

Did I even have a place in this world? The wasteland doesn't want me and neither does the sky? The image of Sharp and Candy appeared in my mind. Home, they were my home. Sharp was my home. Candy knew about this, about what it was like to be hated for something out of your control. She must have experienced it as a slave.

It all made sense. Why dad was training Sharp about the outside. He put me in a cage where the guards of Frost Crystal would protect me from this hate, thanks to dad. If I were to one day leave Frost Crystal then he would have had Sharp protect me. Sharp, I need you.

Through all the hooves I saw Soothing Sound being escorted away by her mother. She was trying to talk but her mother wouldn't listen. I curled up in a ball as I feared that they'd kill me. But then somepony’s suggestion broke through the crowd's fury. "I'll buy that pegasus, five thousand caps!" The mob seemed to freeze and consider the stranger before I felt them begin to tie me up.

My body was bruised and I had a bad black eye that was closed shut. But I could see the pony who suggested putting me into slavery and bought me at the same time. It was a ghoul. I'd thought ghouls were monsters. But this one was wearing clothes and spoke, although he was definitely a ghoul.

He walked up to me and pulled out a club. "Nighty night."


Great, now I'm a slave to a Ghoul slaver.

Chapter 6: Ghoul Slaver

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Do you ever get the feeling that you keep going backwards? Like you have a goal and you take a step towards it but then you end up taking two steps back? Well, that’s the exact feeling I have right now. I'm not even mad, or worried. No, I'm annoyed. Why you ask? Well, let me catch you up. I've been captured by a ghoul slaver and I am tied up as we ride through the radioactive swamp back to a town of slavers, who were pissed off at me.

But on the bright side, I did manage to save a bunch of fillies and colts from a psycho butcher. Plus despite being knocked out, I had no headache, not even a self-given one. I had tried to sleep, even going as far as to request a pillow from the grumpy ghoul driving the wagon the four of us were in. But I was ignored by the grumpy, nameless ghoul, and the second slaver warned me not to chat so much. But he didn't do it in a stereotypical slaver bossing slave around way, he was actually kind.

One thing led to another and we actually started chatting. He was a brown and white coated stallion by the name of Store Stock, apparently he was forced to go into the slave trade when his shop went out of business. Apparently, he used to own a general store in a town called Iron Gem. But due to low sales and high taxes, he was forced to sell his shop and pursue a much more profitable line of work.

I may not have been a slave for very long or known any slavers, but even I could tell he was totally new to the thing. He seemed far too caring, even treating my head wound to the grumpy ghoul's disapproving scoff. Apparently, greenhorn slaver over here was on his very first job. I sat back and politely listened to Store Stock's life story.

"A...and that's how I got into this job." He didn't seem to be very charismatic, stuttering and mumbling some of his words.

"You're not very confident."

He just seemed to stutter and mumble before nodding in acceptance. "Yeah you’re right." He bowed his head in defeat.

"Cheer up, I usually do the same thing. I've been overthinking things and it's been driving me crazy. It almost got me killed crossing these damned swamps." I shivered, rattling the chains, at the thought of those ghouls.

"B... But you seem so confident and relaxed despite the fact that you're our slave?"

"Normally in this free time, I would be thinking up something that would worry me and such. But nothing is right now, well maybe that guy?" I tilted my head to the statue like pony in a set of cloaked leather and a full faced red pony helmet. I could only assume that there was a pony under all that.

"Oh him, yeah, he's the security. He seems to talk less than the boss?" Stock seemed to flinch when the helmet turned a little to look at him. "N...n...not that there's anything wrong with that!"

I chuckled lightly, to the visible annoyance of the grumpy ghoul. "Hehe, so Stock? What's grumpy ghoul's name?"


A kick to the back of the head. I groaned as I fell face first into Stock's crotch. Needless to say, we quickly moved out of such an awkward position and chose to ignore that, both blushing.

My head didn't really hurt that bad. It felt fine actually, or I felt fine with it anyway. Hmm, I was starting to suspect that I might have been drugged. I'm not usually this chillaxed out in the waste. Although at home I usually was, not as social though. "Did you drug me?"

Stock seemed to search for the words to say before just nodding. "Yes, we just gave you a little 'Happy.' But it should wear off soon."

Happy? What a nice name for a drug. "So, what does Happy do?"

He finally spoke again. Grumpy Ghoul's voice was just as I remembered, rusty and raspy. "It's supposed to make you shut up and behave, not chat more!"

I liked it, it felt good, I couldn't help but giggle and smile to the annoyance of Grumpy Ghoul. I heard him groan and take his focus back to driving the brahmin pulled wagon. Stock had pulled a box between us and put out a set of three dice. "Why don't we play a game, you ever heard of Three Dice?"

I bit my lip and pondered his question before shaking my head. "No I have not my good sir, please do explain."

He seemed very pleased, smiling widely as he pulled out a little book and cleared his throat. "Three dice is a game where you have three dice obviously." He poured them onto the makeshift table to let me see them.

"The aim is to get close to ten, vs the dealer." He gestured to himself. "Ones and fours are red and can choose between values. Same number on all three dice is an auto win. Three reds when it's all ones is called ‘Red Eyes’ and is double pay or loss, depending who got them. All fours are called ‘Red Spider’ this is fifty percent plus winnings or loose. Also, you can't switch reds to get a full set, so if you get two fours and a one, you can’t switch the one to get a ‘Red Spider’. It's kinda like blackjack but with three dice instead of cards."

Now after a moment or two of pan facing and thinking it over I finally got it and nodded. With that, our epic game of Three Dice began. We offered the helmeted pony a chance to play with us but he seemed to turn it down by not replying. Despite being simple, Three Dice turned out to be pretty fun. I found it was best to aim low while Stock kept over shooting it.

We chatted as we played. "So Star, why don't you seem worried? I mean you’re a slave now?"

I chuckled and smiled back at him. "Because my sister is going to save me."

"You have a sister?" Stock seemed a little surprised.

Another win for me. "Yeah she's my little sister, but she acts more like a big sister. She can be uptight, but deep down I know she cares."

"So how's she going to save you? Is she going to buy you? Pegasi aren't cheap."

I wiggled a little, forgetting that I had my jacket on. "She already bought me a few days ago. I’m embarrassed by the story, but she's probably going to catch up with us and..." I shrugged as I left it there.

Stock seemed to get visibly worried. "What?! But I... What did you even do to piss off Slave Town so much?"

I laughed a little, yet again to Grumpy Ghoul’s annoyed expression. "Hehe…I killed… and killed some more." My face grew a sinister expression.

You could cut the tension with a knife as the sound went quiet, only the sound of the brahmin marching on and the wheels creaking as they turned was heard. But that became boring fast, so I spoke. "So Stock? You don't seem to have a misplaced hate for me because of my wings? Why?"

He scratched his scruffy dirty blond mane as he pondered the question, his blue eyes avoiding mine. "Ah. Well, what's the point? Besides, you don't seem like an Enclave Pegasus. Maybe a stable pony?"

"Oh, my dad was from a stable. Maybe you heard of him, he was in a group called 'The Immortals'?" The wagon suddenly came to a sudden halt as our table fell over, dice and me falling on the wooden floor of the wagon.

"Something I said?" I looked up to see Grumpy Ghoul was turned around looking at me. Even upside down and in the light of the sky, he was still ugly. He glared at me, not knowing if I was serious or not. I looked to the others who just looked on in confusion. Even Helmet Head was looking at us. I wonder what he or she looked like? Maybe they had an eye patch or a nose ring.

I stared at Helmet Head. "Can I see your face?" A soft kick to the head from Grumpy Ghoul quickly brought back my attention. "Oowh, what?"

"That jacket, where'd you get it?" He seemed to ask, as he stared at it with intent.

"My dad gave it to me."

Stock muttered again before working up the nerve to talk. "Umm… who were The Immortals, boss?"

The ghoul rubbed what was left of his chin before speaking. "A while ago there was a group of four, they called themselves The Immortals. They were a famous group during the war of thirty-two. They would do crazy things and not just survive but thrive, they became legends. They were said to only have four members but those four were big shots, one of them is the current leader of Blood Skull."

I pushed against my restraints as the thought of Blood Rose made me angry. I scowled at nothing in anger. But I was being ignored for a story, so no one noticed. "What about the others?" asked Stock.

"Little is known about them. I never had the fortune or misfortune of bumping into them. But it's said one wore a doctor's coat with a big red X mark on it and another wore a blue snow jacket that could repair itself." His attention turned to me with great interest, I got a bad feeling from him.

He loosened my chains and I tried to bolt away but a hoof pinned my wing as he used his size advantage over me. I really wasn't that big. I struggled and kicked before landing a blow on his back leg. I heard him wince in pain before whacking me over the head with something, probably his slave beating club. I laid there breathing, seeing my jacket in the mouth of the ghoul.

Apparently, slaver ghouls don't like it when you resist. So as punishment he bound me in barbed wire he had happened to have with him. He also gagged me with a ball and some rope. But none of that mattered. I didn't even care that the wire's barbs were stabbing and cutting into me as I squirmed and groaned loudly. Because that grumpy slaver ghoul had my jacket. I wanted it back and really wasn't okay with him touching it. I couldn't help but start to get worried that he might try to damage it. I guess that meant the Happy wore off.

I death stared at the ghoul as he trotted to the back of the wagon and threw my jacket on the muddy ground behind us. He turned back to look at me with a smug look on his rotten face, his blue eyes looking me over. I looked over the ghoul's body, as I had not done so before. He was a rotten earth pony ghoul with an unknown coat, maybe green, almost no mane hair left at all, only a few strains of blue left.

He was wearing a battle saddle. I never used them. I always shot how dad taught me, with a stance on my hind legs and my forehooves to hold and aim my rifle, or a prone form. But I knew about battle saddles, earth ponies used them to hold their weapons, the Lily Sisters had used them. On the side of his battle saddle was a rusted old hunting rifle that I was sure was older than him and never seen any care, ever.

I thrashed and screamed as I saw him take aim at my jacket. Stock was off to the side looking away and Helmet Head was watching me squirm. I could feel the barb wire dig deeper into me, as it easily drew blood, but I didn't care. I wanted my jacket back and I wanted to beat the crap out of this ghoul.

'Bang, Bang, Bang.'

I had squirmed over to look at my jacket. It had received three noticeable holes in it. But as I knew and the ghoul had hoped, it started to repair itself. Even though I knew it would, it still really pissed me off that he had my jacket and shot it.

"Interesting, you just became much more valuable. I~" "AGHH~!" The ghoul screamed as I brushed the barbed wire against his leg, I couldn't help looking smug as he kicked me across the wagon, barely missing Stock.

"S…Stop, he's losing a lot of blood, you'll kill him!" Stock stood between me and the pissed off ghoul as I just laughed at him, this just seemed to piss him off even more.

He scoffed at me and proceeded to pick up my jacket out of the mud and throw it on the wagon floor before walking over it, towards me. Stock moved out of his way in fear and respect. We stared each other down before he undid my mouth gag. I smiled at him before spitting on his decayed face. He replied with a swift hoof to my cheek.

"Listen to me, Pegasus piece of shit, you're going to give me some answers and I'll decide if you’re either worth all this trouble or not." His raspy voice clearly protracted the fact that I had managed to annoy him. "Your father, is he alive?"

My smile dipped a little and he clearly took notice of my answer. "Shame, but we can still sell you for more now."

"Your fu~" 'Whack.' Another hoof to my brushed cheek, I tasted blood and spat some to the side.

"You speak when spoken to, slave."

"I'm not your~" 'Whack.' I fell onto my side as I was punched yet again, I could see Stock nervously approach but I shot him a look to back off.

The ghoul set me up right again and continued to speak. "You're going to shut up and behave. Now you may speak."

I chuckled a little, I didn't know why but I felt happy. "I'm going to break free, then I'm going to achieve my goal."

"And what goal is that?"

I felt my smile grow, unnerving the seasoned slavers before I spoke. "I'm going to destroy this world."

That seemed to surprise everyone, as they all just looked at me with disbelief and shock. I couldn't help laughing a little. I know the drug they gave me must have passed, but damn it felt good to not overthink things. Morality, morals, that's what I was so concerned about. Morals in the waste? It's laughable.

The ghoul cracked his hooves as he looked down at me. "You're crazy, too high-spirited. I guess I'll have to fix that." He proceeded to place the gag in my mouth as I smiled at him, looking forward to it. "You got to break a few eggs to make a cake."

Those words, that catchphrase. I couldn't help but laugh as he proceeded to pummel my face with his hooves. The blue strands of hair and what I assumed was a dark green coat. His cold eyes, they were the same as that ancient filly drawing. Oh the irony, the humor... the wasteland, who said it couldn't be funny. After a few minutes of having my face beaten into a bloated and bruised mess, he finally stopped.

But I wasn't done, I was still laughing, smiling. I couldn't stop staring at him, which just pissed him off even more. It even caused strange looks from Stock. I had said a while back that I was afraid I was going crazy, that I was afraid I was becoming a kill happy raider. But looking back on it, I think that was wrong. This world that I was thrust into was crazy and I was just along for the ride.

After another few minutes of driving and me laughing, the ghoul stopped the wagon again, clearly having enough of it. "What's so damn funny?!" The ghoul yelled as he lurched over me and removed my mouth gag.

I breathed and laughed a little before calming down enough to talk. "Hehe. Ah...Your name...Silent." His hoof came swinging so hard that I flew through the cloth cover of the wagon and fell into the mud.

"How the hell did you know that!" The ghoul demanded as Stock and the helmet head fella watched on in awe.

I wiggled up and rotated my jaw before feeling something rattle around on my mouth. I spat it out, what do you know, my tooth. Despite the pain, I still couldn't help but chuckle a little. The ghoul jumped out of the wagon and bit my tail and proceeded to drag me to the back of the wagon in full view of the others.

"I asked you a question! I never told anyone that name! So how do you know it?!" I tried to sit up but he bucked me back down.

I coughed a little blood before smiling at him. "Silent Times, Pink Pop and~"


The ghoul's rifle barrel had smoke pouring out of the end of it, a fresh bullet casing fell down into the mud. I could see him biting down on his battle saddle mouth trigger. Stock looked on in horror as I slowly looked up to the ghouls face. He was on the verge of tears, fury filling his eyes. I slowly looked down at my chest, past the barbed wire and lines of blood they had created.

My coat might have been dirty but it was still snow white in most areas. The lines of blood elegantly and boldly showing over the white like blood on snow. But between the lines of crimson was a hole, a hole that grew a crimson patch. I had been shot. This was the first time I had ever been shot, I've been cut and even stabbed, by accident, but never shot. The closest I came to being shot would have to be the shrapnel I was hit with when I was trying to save Sharp.

The pain hit me a few seconds afterward. It was sharp and hot, seeming to come in pulses as I felt sick to my stomach. I screamed loudly as I fell forward onto my face, my eyes watering up. Unlike the barbed wire wounds, the blood actually felt hot. I squirmed and thrashed as I instinctively wanted to apply pressure to the wound. But I was still bound in barbed wire so I couldn't do anything. I slowly looked up at the ghoul, my face begging for help. But I stopped when I saw his cold uncaring face.

He wasn't going to help me, I provoked him and I was being punished. I held back the tears and tried to sit up slowly, trying to overcome the pain. That’s when it started to happen, the pain turned into pleasure. It was a pleasure that felt taboo, forbidden but I couldn't help but indulge in it. I started smiling again, then laughing, then chuckling.

Silent Times took a step back as he was confused and scared. Stock looked the most afraid, but the helmeted pony just seemed to watch on. That was until he jumped down off the wagon next to Silent Times.

"What are you doing?" With a swift motion of his hoof, out came a blade attached to the end of it. Everyone looked at the blade in the air, it seemed to have an energetic red glow to it as if it was coated with a thin layer of magic.

I felt my barbed wire restraints loosen and looked down to see them cleanly cut, the cut ends seemed to glow red as I could feel their heat. I quickly spread my wings and threw the restraints off. Blood coated my body and wings. I slowly stood up, the bullet wound hurting and dripping blood.

"What's the meaning of this?!" Silent Times rasped, turning to face the red helmeted pony. But in another swift motion, he seemed to cut the ghouls old hunting rifle in half, before pulling out a hunting rifle of his own.

No wait, that wasn't a hunting rifle. It was a sniper rifle, a .308 bolt action military green plastic framed long scoped clean steel sniper rifle. I don't care how badly hurt I am, I will always gawk at amazing guns and no gun had ever looked so new or well kept. I could even see a sheen on the barrel from a fresh oiling. No scratches were visible on the stock or barrel, it looked brand new. It was held up in a red magical glow, not unlike Sharp's own magic. But the problem was it was pointed at me, I guess Helmet Head is a unicorn then.

The helmet pony only said one word. "Fight." Although his voice was distorted and robotic, it still was heard clearly by everyone around.

"What do you mean fight?!" yelled the ghoul in his increasingly loud raspy voice.

I, on the other hoof, knew exactly what was going on. I took up a battle stance on my hind legs with my wings out. I ignored my wounds as I even felt the bullet inside me as I got in position. The ghoul sighed and took off his battle saddle and club and tossed them to the side.

"I'm going to beat answers out of you Pegasus, like how you knew those names."

I simply smiled at him as I knew this was going to be fun. We charged at each other and started battling, I was more agile than him and he was more powerful than I, being an earth pony and all. I punched his ribs as he missed a blow to my head. Despite being almost like a rotten corpse, he was still pretty tough. We traded blows as Stock and Helmet Head watched us without saying a word.

Soon it became a dance almost, as we kept fighting. In between blows we even found time to talk as we focused on each other. "You fight like a zebra!"

I chuckled a little before blocking a buck from him. "Agh, is that a compliment?"

I swept low and went to kick his hooves out from under him when he jumped back before charging at me again. "What motivates you? Why? Why do you fight?"

His question caught me off guard for a moment and he was able to kick me to the side. I quickly dug my hooves into the slopes of dirt and mud to stop myself from falling into the radioactive water. I jumped back onto the road and grinned at him. "A few days ago I was fighting a ghoul on this very road and I nearly died. But it felt so good, it was exhilarating. I felt alive."

We went back to clashing hooves, but I was getting tired and he was showing no signs of fatigue. I was forced into blocking more than dodging. "Do you know how I managed to stay sane all this time?"

I was being pushed back but I wasn't giving up. "No."

"I have an anchor, a virtue. I've seen your type before, you have no focus, you’re a wild card. You'll drive yourself mad and turn into just another raider because that's what this world does." I saw an opening and went for an uppercut. We froze on the spot, I punched his head upward as hard as I could and it was barely tilted up, he just looked down at me. I wasn't even hurting him, he was just toying with me.

"The radiation from the swamps strengthens me, allows me to heal faster. You lost this fight before it even began. Now tell me how do you know those names." He was calm, uninjured and angry.

My smile wavered as I felt how hopeless my situation was. "I…I found a drawing… from Last Meal."

I let my guard down, when I saw him it was too late. He pounced atop me and proceeded to yell and beat down on my face hard. I had infuriated him, he was killing me. I was going to die, but I didn't want to die.

The void, nothingness, limbo. I was floating in it, I felt no pain, no pleasure, nothing. Was I dead? I decided to curl up into a ball and started crying as I felt a great sorrow overcome me.

"Do you want to die here?" It was Dark Star.

I looked around for him but couldn't see him. "No!" I screamed out into the darkness.

I looked up to see my tears float up and form a mirror, reflecting me, except it wasn't me. It was Dark Star. "Then get up and keep your promise to Candy!"

My eyes were closed and I felt my head was in water, so I did as I was told and rose my head out of the water and took a breath. "I'd promised no more tears, yet I feel I need to elaborate, what I meant was no more being a crybaby." I said in a serious manner, no longer smiling.

The ghoul was standing on the road as he looked down on me in surprise and bafflement. "I'd promised to make them never forget the pain they caused me, yet I'd only been out here for less than a week."

I spread my wings and flew swiftly back up onto the road. "I couldn't even imagine what pain one would go through if you lived for centuries."

He charged at me and went to headbutt me but I dodged to the side and tripped him up, making him skid across the ground. "Before I was afraid I took pleasure from killing, but no, I actually hate it, because it ends the fight."

He got up and shook it off before charging at me again. "I love the thrill of the fight and the chance to feel alive through its pain." I dodged effortlessly to the side and snapped my wing out into his throat.

I moved to his side as he gasped for air, coughing. "I promised they'll remember the pain they've caused, not just to me but to others as well." I then gave him a right hoof to the face that sent him stumbling to the slope.

He growled and tried to buck me, and I let him. I slid back on my rear hooves and used my wings as air brakes. "I'll draw strength from that pain." Breathing in, embracing the pain in my body as pleasure.

"Yes, pain. This is why I fight, this is my nature." A smile began to grow on my face yet again, to the horror of Silent Times. "My virtue."

"What are you?!" The old ghoul yelled.

I just chuckled and swooped down at him. "I'll channel that pain beyond rage, into power."

I tackled him over the slope and into the swamp. "I'll bathe in the pleasure of the pain during the fight." We both proceeded to get up.

"Where pain and power are exchanged between enemies." We proceeded to punch each other, with no attempt made to dodge or block as we traded blows.

I was growing tired and started panting a little. "For this pain lets me know I'm truly alive."

"So let me share with you the adrenaline of the fight and the pain of being alive." We charged at each other one last time.

He went to stomp down on me and I dodged, before wrapping a hoof around his neck and using my momentum to flip him on his back, over my shoulder. "I'll take all the world's pain and use that power."

"Wait!" He screamed as he realized what was going to happen.

"To destroy this world!" With my hooves locking his head over my shoulder I gave a hard heave and used his body weight to snap his neck.


I dropped his lifeless body into the mud and water. His head fell into a puddle and I stared down into his lifeless face. I could see my reflection in the water. My face was bloodied and bruised, but that’s not what caught my attention. No, it were my eyes. They had an ever so light purple tint over them. I blinked and thought I saw Dark’s smiling face for a second. I limped back up the slope, not wanting to get any more irradiated.

I began to slowly trot toward the wagon, toward a scared Stock and an unchanged Helmet Head. When I stumbled and almost fell over, my body’s sense of pain was back and, fuck Cadence with a dragon's horn, did it hurt. Besides the pain, I felt the nauseating sensation of radiation in my body and a bullet in my gut. I looked to Helmet Head and Stock for help.

Suddenly a bright red ball of energy flew past me and hit Helmet Head in the chest, knocking him over. I knew it had to be Sharp, and I knew she'd probably shoot Stock next. So I tried to yell to the stunned Stock to get down, but it was too late. A second red energy ball flew over me and hit him square in the head. I saw his surprised face as he began to glow with the crimson energy.

"Don't overthink." Those were his last words, to me. He turned into a pile of glowing ash before me.

I crawled up past Helmet Head and pulled myself up the wagon to Stock's ash pile. But a gust of wind blew it away before I could do or say anything. I slumped there in the wagon feeling terrible both physically and emotionally. Store Stock was a good pony and good ponies shouldn't die. I looked at where he was and saw it, a pack of orange anti-radiation juice, RadAway.

I decided to pick it up and sit up slowly before pressing it to my lips and flicking my head up to drink when suddenly the packet exploded and RadAway went all over my face. I tilted my head to see Sharp blowing on the smoking hot focusing lens gem of her Magic musket rifle as she had just, apparently, shot my RadAway. I glared at her with my now orange face as she eventually trotted up to us.

"Why did you shoot my RadAway?!" I yelled at her as she came closer and checked up on Helmet Head’s corpse.

"Good to see you too, Star."

I groaned and held my stomach and smiled at her. "Good to see you too Sharp."

Sharp put her rifle to her side and came to my aid. "What happened?"

"Agh, the town sold me to slavers because I was a Pegasus and such." I slowly moved my hooves away to let her see my gun wound.

"I know that they were really ashamed after I returned with the children and explained what had happened. They even paid extra." She pulled out some items from her saddlebags as she instructed me to lay down, which I did.

I considered telling her about the slavers and the drawing but decided against it, that and I didn't want her to know she shot a good pony. "So what's the debt at now?"

"Hehe, still a lot." She started cleaning the wound as I tried to remain still and not wince. "Weren't you worried when they sold you?"

"Hmm, A little, but I knew you'd come and rescue me," I said smiling at her.

"I'm your sister, I'll always look out for you," she said smiling back at me as she floated some tweezers into view. "I need to get the bullet out."

I was about to reply when we heard the sound of shifting dirt. We looked out the back of the wagon to see Helmet Head standing up. Sharp dove for her rifle but the red helmeted unicorn pulled it away with their own magic. I looked at the pony’s gun wound. It appeared to be stopped by a crimson metallic armor that was under a now destroyed metal scrap chest piece. Sharp and I stared at him as he stood there.

"What are you doing?" I asked, a little nervous after seeing his skills.

"Leaving." That's all he said before trotting off towards Slave Town.

Sharp and I just looked at each other and shrugged it off, before Sharp went back to my wounds. Digging around in a box we found a single Med-X which was very welcome and some Happy. But before I could take the Happy, Sharp pulled it away from me, giving me a lecture about how it's highly addictive. So any hoof, after the Med-X had kicked in, Sharp began surgery. Luckily the bullet wasn't very deep, I still bit down on some wood to stop myself from screaming. Afterward, I was exhausted and fell asleep in the wagon, but not before Sharp checked Silent Times’ corpse and found an envelope marked with the number six.

I awoke to find myself bandaged up and covered in my jacket. My wounds ached but I was feeling much better. I groaned and sat up slowly, looking around. We were out of the swamp and along a road somewhere cool, still snow as far as the eye could see.

"Hey Sharp, where are we?"

"We just passed Rad-Hoof. Fifty minutes ago." I looked over Sharp to see the Brahmin replying to my question.

When I first heard a brahmin talk it freaked me out, but in time you get used to these things. I actually felt kind of bad, being reminded of the butcher again. "Thanks..." I said, trying to hide my discomfort.

"You need to make up your mind. I saw you out there, your power. Your indecision and self-doubt are holding you back. That I saw during your fight with the glowing ghoul a few days ago." Sharp didn't even look at me as she spoke. I could tell this was on her mind for a while, but given the past few days, we were unable to talk about it.

"You're afraid of your power, you have every right to be. But out here power is key, the power to survive, to change the world. If you can't accept your power then you should head home." She carried on, I felt it best not to interrupt. "This world corrupts everything. But so does power, if you let it. If you want to do something about this world then you can't hold back."

I slumped down next to her. "Does this power make me a monster?"

She gave me a light smile. "No. Actions do. You're scared, of what you can do and how it's changed you, how this world is changing you. But I'll let you in on a secret you already know. You need an anchor, a virtue to help and protect you, and a mask to hide what you're too scared to show others. But be warned, choose carefully because masks can rub off on you. Fake it till you make it."

I thought back to my old life, to mom, to when she had us smile to reassure others that we were ok and not to worry. I wonder if that could be my virtue? Before I declared it was pain and maybe that's true. But I needed a virtue for my mask, a virtue people can know about. Smiling? Maybe, maybe not. But it could be my mask.

"Ok, I'll do it. I'll try to find my anchor and I'll try to stop overthinking things," I said, giving her a reassuring smile. From now on I'll try to be more relaxed and charismatic, or at least fake it. Ok, maybe it was the Med-X talking a little.

An uncomfortable question entered my mind. "Hey sis, do you wear a mask?"

She seemed to stop for a moment, before looking back at me with a smile. "What do you think?" Her tone played on the edge of sarcasm, but it wasn't really an answer. This lead me to wonder what was Sharp's core, or if she was even wearing a mask.

Now that I thought back to it, I didn't really know my sister. She was usually out hunting or in the real world outside Frost Crystal. When she was home she always seemed reclusive and distant, like she could see the cage around us.

Sharp was always smart, deceptive and cunning. She knew how to get things and manipulate others. I went to town with her one day and not only did Frost Crystal's resident cheapskate salespony give her a discount but he also didn't even try to argue with her.

Besides being the most charismatic pony I knew, when she was cool-headed, she also lived up to her name. She was very perceptive, able to seemingly sense danger. But what I knew about her above all was that she always had a plan. Not just a short time plan but long term as well, as evidenced by her saving her caps.

I knew her qualities and that she loved me but I didn't really know her as a pony. I didn't know her goals, what she liked or didn't like. I didn't even know why she was so intent on killing Blood Rose. Revenge seemed too petty for her. Sure he was the reason our parents were killed, but she was fairly independent, so why?

Sharp suddenly stopped in front of me. "Ah, my virtue, you want to know it." Before I even replied she spoke again. "Commitment."

"Commitment?" I asked, a little confused, although I knew the meaning of the word.

"I commit myself to a thing or plan and no matter how much it hurts, I follow it through to the end." She coughed a little after saying it. Her words were firm but I could hear it break down just before the end, the cough masking what seemed like pain or sadness.

"Before, when I was fighting that slaver...did you hear what I said?" Even though she wasn't facing me, I still looked down in what felt like shame.

Sharp turned around to face me. "No... I was too far away." Her voice filled with concern.

I took in a deep breath to calm myself, smiling to try to play it off as nothing. "I said my virtue was pain, but I don't know why?" I said, shrugging and exaggerating my body language to play it off as no big deal.

"...pain? What do you mean by that? Inflicting pain on others? Sharing pain or enduring the pain this world throws at you?"

From what I remember from the fight, I might have said all three. but if I had to confess or at least commit to one then it'll have to be the latter, endurance. "Enduring."

"Enduring?" She seemed to ponder that for a second before smiling at me. "So you promise to endure whatever happens and keep going? No matter what?"

I thought about it, could I really endure the pain I said I could? Could that be my anchor? My virtue? Why not? How hard could it be? "Yea sure, why not?" I said smiling back at her.

She gave me a light chuckle and carried on driving. I rummaged through a box that contained all my stuff: guns, check, ammo and other stuff, check. Then I saw it, the drawing Last Meal drew. I picked it up and flipped it over. Just as I expected, there was a number, number one. I asked Sharp for the envelope with the six on it and she tossed it to me. The six was red and drawn crudely. I contemplated skipping to six, it was unlikely I was ever going to find the missing ones, if they even existed. But in the end I chose to wait and see.

I began to feel a little sickness come on, then pass and decided now was a good time to get some RadAway. To my luck I found a pack in a box and was about to open it. That was until we came to a sudden stop, right when I was finally getting to a pack of RadAway. "Don't drink that!" Sharp yelled.

I didn't feel irradiated, probably because I assume Sharp gave me something in my sleep. But I still didn't know what demanded such a strict reply, so I put down the RadAway.

"Why not?" I asked, raising a brow.

She bit her lip thinking, before replying. "You're allergic, to RadAway. I think it might have been the Nightmare."

"...Well..." I pondered on what she said. I had RadAway in the past with no ill effects. But RadAway was the last thing I took before becoming heavily sick.

"For some reason, you are now allergic to a key compound in RadAway."

I thought back to my fever, then back to when I almost drank some a while ago. Thank goodness Sharp stopped me. There's no way I wanted to ever go through that again.

"So if I can't take RadAway, then what should I take?" She proceeded to pull a tin out of her bag and slid it over to me. I sniffed it cautiously. "What's this?"

I jumped back as she suddenly stabbed the tin with my knife. "Medicine, I believe it is a local prewar version of RadAway. Apparently one of the old clans that joined Blood Skull didn't like post-war medicine or something." With a creek, she peeled the tin can's top off, revealing a mix of gray, brown and green that I was sure wasn't edible.

I stared at it, then back at her, then back at it. "I don't think that’s..." Oh goddess fucking a fire hydrant that smelt bad, I don't think I'm getting better at these. "...food." I gagged and coughed, suddenly remembering and was glad I had not eaten in two days.

"You haven't eaten in two days and this stuff wasn't cheap. Besides it’s not that." It was at that moment she knew she fucked up, for at that moment she made the mistake of smelling it. I proceeded to look away as Sharp threw up a line on the road as we kept moving.

I scooted the monstrosity in a can away as I tried to comfort her, patting her back and holding her hair away from her mouth with a wing. "There, there, it's alright."

I left her as she stopped puking. It haunted me, that can with the 'Medicine.' Never did one of mom’s old sayings live up more than this moment. 'The best medicine tastes the worst.' I trotted over to the can, trying not to breathe as I couldn't take my eyes off it. I contemplated between taking it, or RadAway with a near lethal fever, or even risking the radiation I soaked up while in the swamp. What was the worst that could happen?

Sharp wiped her mouth with some cloth and sat down, still looking sick and pale, almost gray. "I…I was wrong. But you have to, you probably have a mild amount of radiation, you might feel fine now, but soon you'll feel tired all the time, you'll get stomach cramps and coughs and feel sick. But then there's a chance of a mutation, like growing an ear on your face, or having a tentacle for a hoof.

I sat beside her as I thought about what she said. She was right, as usual. I had to take it, things would only get worse if I didn't. Although the things I could do with a tentacle for a hoof... One swift hoof to the side of my face brought my mind up from my crotch and reminded me that I was in a wagon with my sister, although I was still blushing a little.

To avoid any further beating for dirty thoughts and to hide my blushing as I realized I almost started pervertedly drooling next to my little sister I did the only thing I could think of. "I'll eat it!" I dared to look up, fearing the look she gave me when she had found that Playpony magazine Doc had given to me as a gift that I had hidden.

I still remember the beating she gave me and the talk my mother gave me as dad just laughed. I also remember the speech Doc madewhen he gave me the thing and the speech he used when he sold me out when my parents made me go talk to him. It was then that I realized, I was procrastinating, out of fear.

I crawled to the can, Sharp staring me down from behind. I shook as I gripped it between my wings as I brought it closer to my face. I think this was the single most nerve-wracking experience of my life, my jaw quivered as I opened wide and took a deep breath before tilting the content of the can down my throat.

Now, this is the part where you'd expect me to tell you how horrible and foul it tasted, how it tasted worse than chewing through a ghoul. Well, you'd be wrong, actually, despite the smell, it tasted pretty good.

As soon as a drop of its juices hit my tongue, I knew. This was the best stuff I've ever tasted. It was so sweet and juicy, fruity too. I didn't know what flavour it was but it was amazing. It was syrupy and defined. Before I knew it I forgot about the smell and was busy muzzle deep trying to lick the bottom of the can. I knew then that I had to find the recipe for this amazing, this amazing what? Umm? I didn't even know the name of this amazing medicine.

I only stopped when I saw the bewildered face of Sharp, the kind of face you make if you don't know if someone has brain damage or purposely wears a tin foil hat. Long story short, it was the latter and no it wasn't me, it was a merchant that passed through town.

My face still in the tin can, I answered her look. "It’s. Not that bad." I blushed and shook the can off as I licked my lips.

"Riiiiiiiiight." She said,nodding slowly.

The wagon came to a stop, followed by one of the brahmin speaking up. "You have arrived at your destination. Iron Gem."

We popped our heads out to see a huge gate and some guards. Between us was a cart. This one looked like it carried an important pony of some kind, but I was too focused on the guards. They looked different than the ones at Frost Crystal. They were armored with what looked like thick bulky metal armor and worn mining helmets.

Their battle saddles looked professional, sporting clean assault rifles, magical laser rifles and one auto-magic laser rifle. I resisted the urge to whistle or get hard as I couldn't help but stare at their guns. The only thing was, they had the Red Skull clan icon painted onto their chest armor with what I hoped was paint.

The guards were arguing and yelling at some pony on the cart. Before long the doors opened and steam and smoke poured out, one rolling to the frozen ground and the other rising into the air. Out stepped something I never expected to see in the wasteland or ever for that matter, a zebra.

He was wearing a top hat with an ace of hearts and queen of diamonds playing card stuck in the belt of the hat. He had round glasses with smiley faces on them, with glowing yellow eyes that seemed to peek over the top of them through his messy gray mane. His right front leg had a brace on it and he had a fancy wooden cane with a weird handle in his mouth to help him hobble along. I could see his char black coat with its white stripes that gave away the fact he was a zebra.

The guards shut up as soon as they saw him, seeming to be as surprised as I was. Hell, even Sharp was surprised. We leaned against the cloth to try and get a closer look when we slipped and ended up falling out of our wagons in a heap. We stared at them as we laid there for a moment before getting up and turning around.

"You two, come here!" One of the guards demanded.

We turned back to them and approached them, I looked to Sharp who I knew could talk us out of this. Hopefully, they don't recognize me, I mean I did attack Slave Town a few days ago. I made sure to keep my wings hidden and my head down as we trotted closer. I couldn't help but look at the zebra, who in turn did the same.

"Gentle stallions, my brother and I were just~"

"Shut it! We'll deal with you after this striped bastard." The one guard yelled, interrupting Sharp.

"What are you doing?! He's~"

"I don't care! He killed her! Amber." Whatever was up between this guard and this zebra, I clearly didn't know.

The zebra smirked and mumbled. "A is for Amber who drowned in a pool." His voice was exotic and smooth, yet demanding for attention.

"Damn you, zebra scum!" The guard charged forward, bit in his mouth and ready to fire. The zebra smirked and the length of his cane fell away as he pointed it at his attacker. Everyone knew what it was as the guard skid to a halt just an inch from the barrel of the gun. "W~wait." The zebra just smirked as he pulled the trigger.


There was a green flash and the distance sound of a plasma shot. Even after, I could still hear the plasma's hiss. Even with the helmet, the zebra's strange gun had shot right through the guard's helmet. He fell to the side with a large hole in his head, green light, smoke and gray matter pouring out. I looked up to the zebra and saw the same smoke pouring out of the barrel, illuminated by a dying green glow coming from within the crude round barrel.

We all just looked at the zebra with shock and surprise. He was still smirking as he flicked his head down and the barrel of the pistol opened up. He reloaded it with a round I wasn't familiar with. In fact, I wasn't even familiar with the gun all together. He snapped it shut again, so it was a break-action pistol like some revolvers. I wanted a closer look, and by not thinking I decided to stand up and walk over to them.

"H~halt!" the last guard demanded as he revved up his auto-magic laser rifle.

I stopped in my tracks. The zebra looked me over and gave a little chuckle before stepping in. "You wouldn't be threatening my champion? Now would you?"

The guard quickly took his mouth off the bit of his battle saddle and took a step back, shaking his head vigorously. "N, no sir! I… Umm please head right in." The pony stumbled to reach for a radio on his side and contacted someone to open the gate.

"Good, take care of their wagon." The zebra turned to Sharp and I. "You two can ride with me from here on."

I was a little confused but that wasn't anything new. I opened my mouth to speak when Sharp jumped in. "Thank you, sir. Go on brother." She practically pushed me in the cart. The unknown zebra stepped in and the door slammed shut.

I looked around the plush interior, with purple velvet seats and a mini chandelier with tinted black windows. It was heated and in the middle sat what I assumed was the zebra's smoking pipe, smoke still pouring out of it.

I opened my mouth to speak when the zebra spoke first. "Welcome to Iron Gem."

Chapter 7: Iron Gem

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Iron Gem, the main town of Blood Skull. This is where our target was: Blood Rose, the clan leader who had my parents killed for unknown reasons. This was meant to be a serious moment, but the fact that we were riding in a pimped out wagon with a weird zebra was kind of ruining the mood.

The zebra with the top hat and smiley glasses started smoking his pipe, before defusing the building tension. "First time to Tri-Hole?"

Sharp just kept staring at the zebra, so it was up to me to speak. "Yes actually, although wasn't the town's name Iron Gem?"

The wagon began to move again as we entered the town. I looked out the window and saw that we were actually on a metal bridge. On our sides were massive cliffs that seemed to get swallowed by a black abyss. I looked forward and saw the town. The whole settlement was suspended over the giant abyss by wires and bridges like the one we were on now. I’ve never seen anything like it, I couldn't help but to gaze at its amazingness.

I looked up the bridge to the actual town entrance, it was another gate. But unlike the last, we weren't first in line. We soon came to a stop in the middle of the bridge as we were behind at least a dozen other carts and wagons, all on this massive one lane bridge.

"Tri-Hole is the name of this place in total. It was built as a mining platform during the war. They apparently dug out three whole mountains and decided to just keep going." He pointed his pipe to the right and we looked in that direction.

There it was, not as big as Iron Gem but still quite large and more like a castle in shape. Another platform strung up above the abyss by four massive bridges. Three were connected to the land and one joined it to Iron Gem. There was no need to ask what or whose it was; a giant banner proudly bore his clan's symbol. Blood Rose's Headquarters. If the banner wasn't obvious then the guards swarming around it were a dead giveaway.

We stared at it for a bit, before the zebra moved his pipe to the other side and yet again we followed. This time it pointed to a bridge, much like the one we were on. But this bridge was broken and warped, leading to nothing.

"I don't get it? It's just a broken or incomplete bridge?"

The zebra chuckled a little before blowing a puff of smoke in my face. "No, it was finished and it had a name, Iron Coat. The twin city of Iron Gem. Like the platforms before you, repurposed into large towns or cities, even a castle. Only this one was destroyed during the War of Thirty-Two." He blew another puff of smoke up and made a mini mushroom cloud that soon dispersed.

"Who are you and what was that at the gate?" Sharp interjected.

The zebra just seemed to smirk before giving us a little bow. "Name's Mr. Luck and I am the most important zebra in the north. The right hoof of the mighty Iron Palm, leader of the Iron Fist clan."

I looked to his actual braced right hoof then back at him. "Who?"

"Remember how I told you there was a bunch of clans before? Well I guess that Iron Palm is the leader of one of them," Sharp said, answering my question.

"Hehe, that's right." The way he said that gave me chills as his accent made certain things sound creepy. "Iron Palm owns an arena near the center of the land. I am his adviser, spoke zebra and announcer at his arena."

I tilted my head, thinking. "Arena? So if you run an arena then why are you here and why did you let us come with you?"

"And why did you call us your champions?" Sharp added.

He smirked at us, bearing his teeth for the first time. They were rectangular in shape and looked rather sharp. Sharp and I stared at them before moving back a little. "Listen kiddies, I'm rather good at spotting when someone has the 'it' factor and one of you has a lot of it."

He then proceeded to pull out two bottles of Crystal-Pop, both blueberry flavour. We happily took them, popped the beads and drank them. Crystal-Pop really was thirst quenching. Sharp handed me her cap, a nine star, and I checked mine, also nine. We thanked him and put the caps in my pocket.

"Wait!" Sharp interjected. "Our stuff, we left it in a wagon at the gate."

Mr. Luck waved his good hoof. "Relax, it'll be there when you leave Iron gem. Speaking of which, what are you two doing out here?" His piercing yellow eyes looked us up and down, searching for an answer.

"We're here to K~" I would have finished my sentence, but Sharp's hoof in my mouth made it kinda hard.

"Business, with the clan leader. Just boring trade stuff," Sharp said, trying to bluff the zebra.


The zebra made the weird sound with his mouth as he shook his head. "You got a good silver tongue. But that one over there ruined it," he said, nodding to me, Sharp's hoof still in my mouth. "That and you may be the most charismatic pony I met, but you are not as charismatic as me, my little pony."

Sharp pulled her hoof away and smiled, reading the zebra. "We are here to kill Blood Rose and throw this world into chaos."

My jaw dropped a bit as my eyes were on Sharp, then back to the zebra, who was starting to chuckle. The zebra soon calmed down and we started to move again, slowly. He was still smiling, but no words were spoken.

"Hmm, chaos you say? Just by looking at you, I can tell you’re above petty revenge for whatever Blood or his clan has done to you. No, you are a pony who has a reason and a plan." He put his pipe down and pulled out his pistol type gun as we tensed.

"Now, I should just kill you both and be on my way, business and what not. But I must be honest, you have caught my interest."

The two of them stared each other down as I was seemingly forgotten. That was until the zebra turned the gun to me. I swallowed whatever spit I had and looked at him, trying to intimidate me. This was completely different than Twin Barrel. I could sense that he wasn't going to shoot me. But this zebra, I couldn't get a read on what he was going to do. He suddenly flicked his head and I flinched. He had opened the gun onto an empty chamber.

"Relax kid, if I wanted you dead then I would have just told the guard that the infamous Blue Bird was at their gate." Even around a gun, his words were still devilishly charming. Neither Sharp nor me spoke, so he spoke for us. "If you want to look at my gun, simply ask."

My jaw dropped a little as I didn't know what to say at first, so I just blurted out “yes”.

I went to reach for it and even gripped it with my teeth when he stopped me with his good hoof. "But first, you must impress me."

I tried to think of the most impressive thing I could do or say and it came to me. I scooched over to the side and pulled out one of my wings. He smirked as we looked at it. You know, it's been awhile since I actually looked at myself, but just by seeing my wing, I could see how I was changing. The burnt off ends of some feathers from plasma. The bite mark from that ghoul. It was also filthy, my white feathers were dirty and even had some blood drops on them, both ghoul and other.

He gave a light chuckle. "Impressive, a Pegasus. Here I thought the radio called you Blue Bird because of that badge on your jacket."

I slowly put away my wing, giving Sharp most of her space back. "Yea, it was my dad's." I didn't feel too happy as I reminisced on the past, the very thing I said I'd try to stop doing.

"Straight Shot, the stable pony junkie of the Immortals."

"Yea the stable, wait what?!" I began to say when his words hit me, and my sister. "Junkie?!"

Mr. Luck proceeded to pick up his pipe and slid his gun over to me with his hoof. I slowly picked it up as I was still a little stunned at what he had said.

"Tell us what you know," Sharp demanded as I began to look over the gun.

The gun, in fact, was smaller than a pistol and seemed to feature a smooth bore barrel, and a spark plug hammer that was connected to a small battery in the handle. By the looks of it, when the spark plug hit the metal pan it could complete an electrical circuit that would activate the ammo of the gun. It looked like the ammunition was plasmatic and disintegrated the casing upon firing. The gun chamber barrel focused quite a large amount of power.

When I first saw this gun it was in perfect condition. But after firing once I could see that its condition had dropped considerably. By design or side effect, this weapon didn't seem like it could handle more than four or five shots before breaking. This one also appeared to be a high-quality make, even being engraved and constructed out of high-quality material. So I assumed low or cheap variants would struggle to last more than two shots.

"They take one-third of a plasma cartridge. If you break one open carefully, you'll find that there are three mini plasma cells connected. They decided to make plasma cartridges because then you got twelve shots instead of just four. The guns are called Plasma Locks and they are a post-war zebra invention from the Zebra homelands." Mr. Luck's words were quite informative as I kept looking over this fascinating gun, and here I was afraid the only post-war guns were those crappy pipe weaponry.

"Why did you call my dad a junkie?" Sharp repeated.

Mr. Luck picked up his smoking pipe and began to smack his lips around it. "My dear, that is a long story. But seeing as we still have some time till we get into Iron Gem, I will tell you. Although I must mention it's usually much quicker to get across than this."

I finally finished looking over the gun so I put it down. "Why is it taking so long? Is it rush hour?"

He gave an annoyed eye roll. "Well, Iron Gem was always Blood Skull's main trade hub. But over the past year or so its amount of trade has quadrupled. Blood Rose usually sold slaves and what not, but lately, they've been arming themselves. Buying up all the ammo, armour and guns they can get their hooves and talons on."


"Star, I want to hear about dad's past."

I must admit I am curious about that too, although also the present. "Fine."

Mr. Luck cleared his throat and blew a puff of smoke. "During the early days of the war of thirty-two, I was a part of one of the less favorable clans, a name which was been forgotten to time and losses."

"You forgot your own clan's name?" I interjected.

"I chose to forget it, along with everyone who was in it. After it was destroyed, I became the last member of said clan." He coughed and continued his story. "Back then I was a simple chem dealer. One day I met a pony wearing that jacket and a stable suit. He was fresh out of his stable with nothing but a 10mm pistol and eight rounds to protect himself. At the time he had no caps, so he traded me his stable jumpsuit for some Dash and Med-X. Said he was going to try and earn some caps and needed it in case, well in case he did."

"What Stable was he from?" Sharp asked, curiously.

"It wasn't a number like a normal stable, but in fact a letter 'X'." He blew an X shape out of smoke. "I didn't expect to see him again. But to my surprise, he made it somehow, even got a few caps. So in time, he bought more from me, but I was mainly a drug merchant. He began to buy more and more Med-X and Dash. Before he knew it, he was an addict and a regular. He was so much better than the other addicts, he survived, he had 'it'."

The cart jostled as we drove over something and I looked out the window and saw that we were entering the town. All the buildings were made out of metal welded and patched together with more metal. The ground was concrete. We seemed to be on the main road of the town, with dozens of wagons and ponies moving around as they made their way through the city.

"But one day he overdosed on some Dash in front of me. Normally I'd have walked away. But besides being my best customer, he was also starting to make a name for himself. So I took him to the nearest doctor and left him there. Think the doc's name was Red Cross. Next thing I heard he and the doctor joined forces to save Red Cross's childhood friend."

The carriage came to a sudden halt as the driver announced, "We have arrived at the center of Iron Gem, sir." before opening the door.

I squinted at the light and sound as I realized how dark it was inside the carriage. I began to hop out but I stopped. Before I could ask my question Mr. Luck nudged me out. I turned to wait for my sister, but after she got up Mr. Luck placed a hoof to stop her.

"I'd like to have a conversation with the lady, if that’s alright?" He asked, with his smooth oily voice.

Sharp sat down and nodded at me to go.

"Oh and little birdy, as per your suicide quest. I recommend finding a pony by the name of Armour Wall, look around the bars. And if you manage to survive your mission then feel free to come by my arena any time. I can make you a gladiator and a star."

I gave a light chuckle, barely audible over the noise. "Thanks, but I'm already a Star."

"I'll find you in the bar after I'm done here," Sharp said, as the doors closed and the carriage began to pull away.

It looked like we were in some round warehouse. Wagons pulled by groups of ponies and brahmin were being lowered down and raised up by huge elevators. Filling the air was the sound of ponies and brahmin wagons full and empty, moving in and out, getting on and off the elevators as they were instructed by guards. I chose not to linger in this place and moved along with the crowd, soon finding myself outside the building.

There I was in one of the biggest, most crowded places I had ever seen. It was more active than Slave Town on the trading day and moved twice as fast. I struggled to move through the crowds of ponies and avoided the rushing carts. But in all that chaos I found myself surprised. There was a traffic light, stopping carts and letting ponies walk when it turned red. It turned green and ponies made way for dashing carts as they moved on the road, a lane for carts going one way and a lane for carts going the other.

The roads and sidewalks then split at a four-way intersection. I was becoming disoriented and confused by all the motion so I decided to try and move away from all the chaos. Soon I found myself in the massive market, dozens of ponies shouting and yelling, trying to get my attention and caps. I tried to move away but the flow of the crowds kept pulling back towards the markets.

I really wished I didn't need to hide my wings, otherwise I would fly to get away from this crowd. So I hoofed it to a less busy part of town. Eventually, I found a billboard with a map on it. The town, which was huge by the way, had multiple districts and even lower level slums. But the bars were close by on the surface level. This place was more like a city. According to the map it had a middle residential layer and a post-war third layer which were the slums.

I made my way into a designated elevator section and discovered that it too was a bar. It was at the edge of town, but in truth it was over the edge. The building sat elevated Past an open gate and a few hooves out along what I assumed was the bridge to Iron Coat, or what remained of it. I could hear the sound of Blood Skull’s radio playing from the bar, showy and uplifting tones played and thankfully the “self-confident” DJ wasn't on.

There was a big neon sign that read ‘Three Stories Bar’. It was clearly a post-war building, but it seemed to be in good shape. I walked into the sound of laughter and music. There were dozens of ponies sitting around playing games and drinking multiple types of drinks together. I avoided them as I looked around, seeing what looked like guards looming on the second-floor balcony.

They had a fully stocked bar, a stage where a band was playing and a few games going on. Neon tubes illuminated everything as it even had slot machines and an indoor water fountain. All of that was on a smooth marble floor. The whole thing looked like what I imagined the old world must have been like when it was new. Even the tables were made of some polished see through glass.

The bar itself looked to be made out of glass, with a light, fully stocked booze wall behind it. I trotted up to the bartender, a slender olive unicorn wearing a white and blue striped shirt, red tie and a straw hat with a red cloth around it. Although that wasn't the first thing that grabbed my attention, no. It was his red and white candy cane hair and handlebar mustache.

"What'll ya have fella? We got whiskey, apple cider, and even Jack Rabbit." He spoke fast and charmingly, overwhelming me with words and spunk.

He grabbed a black bottle with his magic, which was green by the way. I couldn't believe what I saw, a Jackalope on the label. But it was moving, with some kind of magic spell placed on it. It had a bottle, similar to this one. It drank that bottle and spun around drunk and fell over. Its eyes were spinning lines and little bubbles came up after it laid down, before getting back up with another bottle and repeating the animation.

"The name is Jack Rabbit, see, the colors mean the flavor and type, there is Black, White, and Grey. There's also Jack Dragon, which is a vodka. Jack Rabbit is the wine of the group. Jack Jackalope which is a champagne and the rare Jack Griffin, which is a beer." He grabbed me as he held me close and pulled out some more bottles with the matching creatures on them. They all had the same matching animation as the first bottle, but with their respective creature instead of a Jackalope.

"Now, what will I put you down for? A bottle? Why not three, I'll even throw in a glass of beer." He just kept fast talking me and I just froze up.

"Elevator!" I yelled.

He froze and let go of me as I backed up a little. "Oh it's over there. But before you go would you like to know about our great deal on.~"

I bolted for the elevator as I couldn't take it. Luckily it had just gotten there and I jumped in. I shook that off when a surprise almost made me jump.

"What floor, sir?" A synthesized male robotic voice asked.

There was a pony shaped robot operating the elevator. It stood on metal hooves, its body looked like solid metal. It had a glass dome for a head, that showed its array of sensors. Two red gems connected to a sensor box and there was an audio sensor that spun around. It seemed kinda bulky and I'd imagine it wasn't very fast, although it seemed to have a decent amount of armour. The grill under its dome lit up when it spoke. No weapons were visible on the robot, but it could have internal weaponry. Best to be careful around it.

"What floor, sir?" it asked again.

"Um, I'll try the second floor." I stood up and relaxed a bit.

The elevator began to move down, to my surprise. I guess the floor numbers were reversed. Looking at the elevator, I'd say it was a re-purposed supplies elevator. I could see past the grates as we were lowered down. I was a little confused until I saw we were on the third floor before. We arrived at the second floor, the elevator making a 'ding' sound as we came to a stop.

"Second Floor. Mid quality booze and gambling. Residential area for topsiders," the elevator robot pony said.

"What are you?" I asked curiously.

"I am a mark two Ponitron built by Robronco."

I didn't take my eyes off the robot as I exited the elevator. That was until I was startled by a voice I had already heard.

"Ah, a new face around here. Welcome to level two, residential area for those who live in Iron Gem." I hadn't even taken a step out of the elevator when a familiar face appeared. Well, it wasn't the same face, this one had a goatee as well as a handlebar mustache.

I took a step back as I was worried about being overwhelmed again. Clearly, the similar looking unicorn to the one above took notice of that and stopped talking.

I slowly took a step out of the elevator and cleared my throat. "I'm looking for a pony by the name of Wall."

I looked around the bar, comparing it to the one above. It wasn't nearly as luxurious as the first floor. The floors were wooden, as were the walls. But it was solid, no holes or rot whatsoever. There were a few wooden tables and even a few gaming tables. This area was most likely lower class than the one above. But it held more ponies and more tables for drinking and playing games.

Unlike the first floor, the second floor bar was not as well stocked and the room did not have a balcony to an elevated section. Also different were the guards: the upper-level guards were wearing suits and glasses, whereas the two guards by the door and others scattered around were wearing simple armor and visibly carried pipe pistols and batons on their side.

"Ah, would that be Armored Wall? As in the recently fired chief of Red Skull's security force Armored Wall?" The nameless pony, who was dressed and sounded just like the one upstairs said, before stroking his goatee.

"Yes, I think that’s the one."

"I know where he is, but It'll cost ya," he said with a smirk.

It was at that moment that I knew who these ponies reminded me of: the mean merchant back in Frost Crystal. What was his name? Coin Sack I think it was. He was so greedy and fat, the only thing he cared about was making a profit. The owners of this bar/casino were no different. Even if they did do it using fancy machines and their oily tongues instead of a demand.

I groaned and dug around my pockets, remembering that I had left most of my supplies in the wagon. I then pulled out all the caps I had on me. "I have three caps."

The snake-tongued charmer seemed annoyed at the low number, but took them regardless. "Third floor. Lucky for you the elevator ride is free." He then seemed to walk off, knowing I wasn't a wealthy customer.

I on the other hoof trotted back into the elevator and went down to the third floor.


"Third Floor, lower class slums. Get out," the robot said in its monotone voice.

I was a little baffled by its demand, but nevertheless, I proceeded to walk out into the third-floor room. I wasn't very descriptive of the bar back in Slave Town. That bar was housed in an old saloon building kinda like this one. It was similar to the second floor of this place, albeit, in a worse condition. Well, the third floor was kind of like that, but even worse.

I walked on old misfitting wooden floor planks. They creaked and moaned and some even appeared to be broken as others had holes in them. There were bits of sheet metal nailed and tied in spots to provide extra support, even if they seemed to be more rust than metal. But despite them, I could still easily see through the floor into the abyss below.

The walls weren't much better, or thicker. Unfortunately, most of the rotten and damaged tables seemed to be broken. I didn't see one working chair or solid pillow. The patriots of the bar seemed to be in even worse condition. They looked like they were starved and dying of thirst, despite being in a bar. I swear there was a dead pony in the corner and what looked like sleeping ponies atop a few tables. Most of them were, in fact, drinking or gambling though, acceptant of their condition.

Over at the bar was another pony identical to the two above in appearance, except for the fact that he had no facial hair at all. He was cleaning a dirty glass with a rag, paying no attention to me. Behind him was level three’s drinking wall. More broken bottles than whole ones, filled with the cheapest booze caps could buy, including a few jugs full of water. One seemed like it was scooped straight from an irradiated river, all murky and dirty, things seemingly floating in it. Another jug held crystal clear, pure water, with no signs of dirt or contamination.

Water, something to quench your thirst. That was one of, if not, the most important things in the wasteland. You will die within a few days if you don't have water. But with food, it tends to take much longer. Whenever dad would go into town to buy supplies, he'd always spend most of our caps on bottles of purified water. Now, living in a frozen tundra, you'd expect water wouldn't be an issue.

Well, you'd be wrong. Melting ice and snow into water takes a lot of time and energy, doing so with one's own body. By say, ingesting snow would in fact help cause dehydration. That's because it would require more energy to melt then it would return. The other problem was the fact that snow wasn't high in something dad called minerals. When making water from snow, mom would always add bottled water and sometimes some other stuff.

Another problem was the high demand for water. Right now it was the middle of the summer cycle, so the weather was as warm as it was going to get. It was the main reason why a few, Sharp included, walked around without snow gear. But come winter, the temperature drops to freezing levels. When you wear full winter gear, you tend to be fairly hot and sweaty. That and any task tends to be harder and require more energy. This, in turn, makes you hungrier and thirstier faster.

I stared at the water, knowing it must have looked like gold to these ponies. Then I noticed why they simply didn't rush over and take it. On the roof were small turrets, similar to those in the Stable Tec building. But those weren’t shooting plasma bolts that burned and evaporated. Looking at the holes in the floor, they seemed to bebullet holes, meaning these turrets fired ballistic rounds. I looked around and saw there were four turrets, one near the elevator, two at the bar and one near the door. That would explain the lack of guards.

I trotted up to the bar, the turrets taking notice and aim. I stopped as I saw their red targeting gems focus on me. The bartender looked up at me. "What do you want?" Unlike the other two, he didn't bother with any smooth talking, he actually seemed annoyed.

"I, um, paid a pony upstairs to tell me where I could find Armored Wall," I said, not taking my eyes off the turrets.

The bartender pony sighed and did something with his magic, turning the red targeting gems green. "Blim or Blam, one of my brothers. My names Blom by the way. I'm one of the famous Blim, Blam, Blom brothers." He still seemed disinterested in me, but at least he noticed me.

"Right... So where can I find Armored Wall?" I nodded a little, obviously never hearing of these brothers before.

"Agh, I have level three shifts. So boring, no caps down here," he mumbled. "He is the fella currently passed out on that table over there." He gestured to a pony at a table before going back to cleaning glasses.


I trotted over to the pony and sat opposite to him. His mane was a long straight mess of cobalt blue that was all over his face. He had large grey hooves with a veil of fur draping over them. His coat was a dark orangey rust color and his flank sported an iron wall cutie mark. But besides the ugly color palette, the first thing I noticed about the earth pony stallion was the fact that he was rather huge.

Unfortunately, he was out cold and waking someone was rude. That and I didn’t want to anger a pony that looked like he could turn me into a pancake with a single hoof. Also it’s bad luck to wake a drunk person. So I slumped over the table and began to wait. I contemplated asking the bartender for a story or two but assumed he'd try to charge me for it. So I let my mind wander, remembering to avoid self-hating.

My mind just kept going back to a few events. One being the post office, Dark Star, the numbered letter found on Silent Times and how I didn't really know what happened. Another was the illusion of Candy and the last was what Mr. Luck had said, about dad being a drug addict.

Out of those three, Candy was the strongest, but I chose the info Mr. Luck provided. After thinking about it. It really didn't matter anymore, it was in the past. It wouldn't change how I felt about him or what an amazing father he was.

As for the post office, that is just something I hope to remember in time. Even if I don't really want to remember it. Dark Star had changed after I took Nightmare, so I wasn't sure if taking more was a good idea. Although I knew it was Nightmare's power that saved me at the post office. Even now I could feel him, but he seemed to want to be quiet, instead of before when he kept trying to bring up topics.

Another thing I wasn't sure about was whether or not the fight with Silent Times was right or not. During the fight Dark Star and I felt like one being, we felt whole. It felt really good, but I am not sure I like that version of me. The way we fought and acted it scared me afterwards. But what I was really scared of was how others would think of me after seeing that. I probably should refrain from doing whatever that was during that fight.

I sighed and rolled my shoulder as I stared at the snoring Armored Wall, wondering if he could really help us. Him sleeping there reminded me of Candy, how she looked sleeping peacefully. I didn't want to but I felt like crying. My eyes began to water up as I kept thinking about what Sharp had said, about only crying when this was over. For now, I just have to hold off on grieving.

At some point, I ended up nodding off. My dream was uneventful and over in an instant. I groaned as I felt someone nudging my shoulder. I slowly opened my eyes to see it was Armored Wall. I stood up and wiped my eyes.

"Are you~" He gripped his head and groaned as he pushed a hoof to my mouth. I could see his tired face and his seemingly blank emerald green eyes.

"No talking, hangover, heading home, follow me." He blurted out as he began to walk out the door.

I followed close behind, not saying a word. As we trotted along I got a good look at the slums. This place was built on the underside of Iron Gem. It was literally made out of hanging wooden beams and scrap metal. Everything creaked and groaned as we trotted along. Ponies slept wherever and huddled together near burning barrel fires. As for the housing, that too was scrap. Most places were missing doors and were barely big enough for two ponies. But some had what I assumed were families of six plus squished in.

I was cautious about placing my hooves on the wood and metal floors. The fact that I could clearly see through them with the rust and number of holes was off-putting. I thought of how many must have died to build this post-apocalypse slum and how much more died because of it now. I came to an abrupt halt as I heard a screaming echo from nearby. Then I saw it down an alleyway, some ponies huddled around a barrel fire.

Although they weren't staring at the fire like the last. No, they were staring at the pony sized hole in the floor where their buddy must have been sitting. At that moment I was very grateful to have wings, even if they were the cause of which I was discriminated against.

I looked ahead to see Armored Wall had paid no mind to the unfortunate pony and kept walking. I quickly and carefully ran to him, to catch up.

"What is this place?"

He groaned and shushed me when I asked, clearly suffering from a hangover. "No talking."

We eventually got to a little hanging shack on the edge of the slums. It appeared to be much larger than a lot of the other homes down here. It was made out of sheet metal with no holes and even had a door. He unlocked the door and we trotted in. There was a table, a turned off radio, a carpet, a few shelves and a mattress all in this large room. The floor didn't creak or groan as it appeared to be much more sturdy than the rest of the slums.

Armored Wall proceeded to pass out drunk onto the only mattress in the house. So I was left there with nothing to do. Not wanting to be rude, I took a seat at the table and got comfy. I was starting to get a little worried about Sharp, but she was a big girl, so I was sure she was fine. Either way, I decided to get some rest. Despite the fact that thanks to all the times I've passed out, I was probably rested up enough.

'knock, knock, knock!'

The sound of someone at the door awoke me from my uneventful slumber. I groaned and sat up, wiping some drool off my face and stretching my wings. It was then that I recalled that I went to sleep in a stranger’s home. I looked over to the bed to see it was empty.

"Huh. Interesting." Armored Wall was staring at me and my wings as he had just finished brushing his teeth. He picked up a lollipop from the counter and put it in his mouth.

'knock, knock, knock!'

Before I could retort, whoever was at the door decided to knock again. I, however, was preoccupied, slipping my wings back down under my jacket. I stood up and was going to make my way over to the door when Armored Wall whistled and commanded me to sit.

I don't know why but for some reason I complied and sat back down. He then trotted over to the door and opened an eye slit, peering through.

"Who are you and what do you want?"

"Is my brother in there? Wearing a jacket." I knew it was Sharp right away.

I chose not to say anything, wanting to know how Armored Wall would react. To my surprise, he unlocked and opened the door.

"Hey, sis."

"Hey Star." Sharp trotted in as Armored Wall Closed the door behind her. Everypony took a seat at the table.

"So I take it you two are here for some kind of revenge?" Armored Wall asked as he made himself comfortable. His voice sounded tired and even his body movements seemed kinda slow.

"Yea, pretty much."

Armored Wall sighed as it seemed like he knew this was coming. "So him I understand, being a Pegasus and all. What about you little girl?"

"How did he know about your wings? What have you told him?" Sharp asked, glaring at me.

"Nothing, he saw them when I woke up. But how did you know we wanted revenge?"

Armored Wall chuckled a little. "The chief of security for Blood Rose gets fired. I know I've made a lot of enemies in my line of work. If I had to guess, I'd say escaped Blood Skull Pegasus and his big sister."

"No, actually Star and I are~"

"I'm the older brother! By four years!" I interjected, interrupting Sharp.

"But you look so small, even for a Pegasus," Armored Wall replied.

"That's beside the point," I said as I crossed my hooves in frustration.

"So you're not a Blood Skull Pegasus?"

"No, I don't even know what that is?"

"Oh, well would you like me to explain?"

Sharp sighed heavily as she shook her head in annoyance. "He won't pay attention until you do."

I smiled. "Thank you."

"A Blood Skull Pegasus is a Pegasus slave that the Blood Skull clan has bought for the sole purpose of flight of transport, either for the leader or for the Ninety Nine. These Pegasi are trained and beaten to do as they’re told. They have their wings and faces dyed red to mark them as clan property. A while ago one of these Pegasi escaped and being as it was part of my job to prevent that, I assumed you were that Pegasus and that you had come for revenge."

"We're getting off topic. We need your help."

"We want to kill Blood Rose."

Armored Wall didn't even flinch. He just rolled his lollipop around his mouth a bit before speaking. "A lot of parents want revenge against Blood Rose for what he did to their kids. A lot of kids want revenge for what he did to their parents. I don't think there is anyone in this frozen hell who could actually pull it off. Then again, I was the main reason for them not being able to."

"So you'll help us?" I asked optimistically.

"No," he replied as he laid his head on the table.

"No?" Sharp said, questioningly.

"Why not?!"

Armored Wall looked over to me with his tired eyes. "Prove to me you are worth helping, then I'll help you." He then closed his eyes and fell asleep before we could even reply. I groaned quietly. Sharp got up and tapped my shoulder to follow. We left the small house and closed the door behind us.

"Can't we just request a meeting with Blood Rose, shoot him in the face and fly away?" I asked, getting annoyed with all these sub-tasks.

"I could list a dozen reasons why that wouldn't work. What we need is something that'll warrant Blood Rose meeting us, or at least letting us in the door. Like a tank."

"Hmm, I'm good at fixing things, but I think a tank is a bit out of my skill level."

"What we need is power armor."

"What's power armor?" Sharp gave me a genuine look of concern.

"Seriously? Dad taught us about amazing post-war technology and you didn't pay attention?"

"…I often slept through those classes, sometimes I'd just paint eyes on my eyelids."

Sharp groaned in annoyance and started trotting. "Hey, sis, where were you last night?" remembering she only found me in the morning, afraid she spent a night with Mr. Luck. My mind tried to go to a bad thought of Mr. Luck getting lucky but I eminently shut that down.

"Oh, well I chatted with the zebra for a bit. He told me he had a business meeting with Blood Rose, offered me a well-paid job after all this. Also told me if we wanted a meeting with Blood Rose in person, then we'd need to show up with something that would impress him. After that, he went off to his meeting and he gave me the keys to his apartment at a high-class hotel. I took a warm shower and came looking for you in the morning."

"Oh, what about the room?" I asked, a little envious of the idea of a warm shower.

"He rented it for the week, but left right after his meeting was done."

I followed behind, I was still curious about what power armor was? Was it armor with weird rare effects? Did it give you superpowers? I thought about what power I would want. Maybe the power to stretch like rubber or the ability to eat and spit fire like a dragon!

"No, power armor does not give you superpowers and I'm not telling you what it is."

With the mood killed we just walked in silence, eventually getting back to the bar. which oddly enough was empty, except for the bartender. We did our best to avoid Blim, Blom, maybe Blam. Whatever his name was. We got back into the elevator and as usual, the robot asked what floor.

"Top floor, one hundred caps. Second floor seventy-five caps."

I scrunched up my face. "What?"

"Oh for the love~" Sharp was cut off by that ever so annoying candy cane maned stallion.

"Got a problem folks?" He asked in his cheerful and up toned voice. The turrets above him now pointing at us.

"We want to go back to the top floor."

"Ah, yes well that'll just be a simple fee of one hundred caps, each." I looked over to Sharp, who was clearly annoyed. She shook her head as we didn't have enough. "Well, I could always interest you in a drink instead. Just two caps for an unfiltered glass of water. Ten caps for a filtered glass. Medicine varies depending on what you want. I got RadAway for twenty, Happy for fifteen and~"

"Stop!" Sharp yelled, to the owner's annoyance. "Isn't there another way?"

"Why of course, you can do grunt work for the underworld caravan service. In which you must perform a run from Iron Gem to the city of Metallicus and back. If you survive then you are free and allowed on an upper floor. But I couldn't possibly list all its dangers, it would take far too long."

"May we talk in private?" she asked, stepping out of the elevator.

Blim, or whoever he was cleared his throat. "Right this way ma’am." The two trotted around the corner, out of earshot.

They eventually trotted back over to me, I was still waiting in the elevator. "You young lady have a deal. You may use the elevator at a discounted fee. In exchange for three RadAway packets upon your next venture to this humble establishment. But I will need something to hold until the transaction is complete. How about that pip-buck?"

"Do you have the tools to take it off?" Sharp lifted her hoof and examined it.

'No, but I have a bone saw out back," the bartender said, a greedy smile on his face as he stared at the pip-buck.

"No! Take my brother's jacket, it's got a built-in repair gem." Sharp gestured to me.

"No!" I yelled, warranting a look from Sharp and the pony.

"You'll get it back, Star."

"The jacket stays, then I stay," I said firmly as a trotted out of the elevator and sat next to, umm, Blom? Stupid similar names.

Sharp facehoofed and proceeded to hand over some caps before the elevator started moving. He leaned over and opened his mouth. "So you~"

"No! No more talking!" I yelled as I sat next to umm. "What was your name again?"


"Can you tell me about the caravan service, just what it entails."

"Ah yes I can. You see for those who can't pay the fee, they can always go to the central caravans and become a puller for the Underworld. If they complete a run there and back or from here to Metallicus and anywhere in the north where the caravans need to go. Then they are free to go and even get compensated for their troubles. It's quite lucrative and cheap for the Diamond Clan who own everything in Underworld. They are known for moving caravans filled with goods all over the Crystal Empire through tunnels. The problem lies with actually getting to Metallicus, a lot of spooky and dangerous monsters in the darkness of Underworld." He prompted to wave his hooves and cooed at me to try and add creepiness. But I just kept a straight face, not scared of whatever was lurking in the abyss. Although I would still happily stay out of it.

Blom eventually trotted back over to the bar and instructed me to sit next to it as he turned the radio on. It cracked as it lit up and seemed to be an accurate representation of the slums. Held together with rust and victims of greed. Luckily for me, the radio was in the middle of a song. Unfortunately Kindly and that other radio jockey seemed to share most of their songs. This song was an awfully slow one that seemed to fit the mood perfectly, boring.

"Hey, what's power armor?" I asked Blom, not sure of his answer.

"Tell ya for a cap," he said, checking his wall of booze.

I rolled my eyes and rested my head on the counter. I would have slept again, but a rumble woke me up. Blom looked over to me with a raised eyebrow. It was my stomach, I was hungry. The last thing I ate was a can of local anti-radiation something, I never got the name.

I rummaged around in my pocket and pulled out three nine star crystal pop caps. "What can I get for these?"

Blom trotted over and examined the caps. "Hmm, half a sandwich."

I was about to argue when my stomach answered with a growl. I simply nodded in defeat. Blom pulled out a whole sandwich and pulled it cleanly in half with his magic, before proceeding to eat it. I followed suit and ate the sandwich happily, even though it was a little dry.

The song finally ended after what felt like an eternity. I was hoping it would go straight to another song, but instead, the least confident DJ decided to speak. "I, um, I have something important to tell you. News, I, umm, where is it? Ah yes, um, I found, yes the message. Blood Skull wishes to announce a message about, umm, about the panic at his, his place. Although with the reason, reasoning f~for the mobilization of the Ninety Nine. It~ i-it was an, umm, security drill. Yes, umm, in light of that, the chief of security has been fired. T~there is expected t~ to be heightened security until a new chief of security is selected. So please just, umm, go about as normal." There was a click and static before the radio started to play another song.

The happy and upbeat song, Undecided, filled the air. I didn't mind that song, despite having heard it a dozen times in my life. The sound of the elevator ding interrupted the start and Blom and myself got up to check the elevator. Sharp finally came back. She had three bags of Rad-Away in her magic as she stood on the elevator. We stood opposite her as the doors opened and she floated the three bags over to Blom. He took them in his magic and I began to walk towards the elevator.

But before I could, he gestured for me to stop with his hoof. "Change of plans," Blom said as the two elevator turrets turned to us, one focused on Sharp and the other on me.

"I brought you the RadAway. What more do you want?"

"Your brother. He's that wanted Pegasus who caused a fuss in Slave Town. He's worth a lot more than three packs of RadAway."

I thought of our options, but with turrets over our heads, that was kind of hard. I looked to Sharp, a little worried that I'd go back into slavery. Sharp looked annoyed, but she was also thinking of a plan. She had to be?

"So you plan to turn in my brother for the one thousand cap reward?"

Blom chuckled a little. "Yes, yes I do."

"What if I could offer you something much more valuable?"

"Not interested." Blom's horn glowed and the elevator-robot beeped.

"Joke program activated; A neutron buys a drink at the bar, he asks, "how much?" and the barkeep says, "for you, no charge." No laughter, not funny.

"What's a neutron?" I asked, confused by the science joke.

"Stupid thing is buggy, activate the D."

There was a click, suddenly the floor of the elevator dropped open. "Sharp!"

Before she even started to fall, Sharp veiled herself in her magic. She floated above the gaping hole into the abyss. But it was clear to see that this feat was not easy for her to do or maintain. I was about to rush to her when a burst of turret fire in front of me halted me.

"Let her go!" I demanded.

"Oh my, very impressive. Hmm, tell ya what. You got as long as you can hold yourself to pitch your sale to me. A minute or two by the looks of you."

Sharp groaned as she struggled to keep afloat, not being able to move to safety under threat of being shot. "I know about your business. The part where you sell illegal goods to those in Iron Gem. Agh… I took a peek inside your terminal."

"Hmm, I must say, you're not really helping your case." Blom proceeded to point his gun at Sharp.

"I, mhh, we can get you a lot more caps than his bounty. Power armor." Sharp began to bob a bit.

"Power armor is worth seven hundred plus caps. Not exactly one thousand on the bounty. Besides, I doubt you actually have power armor."

"Agh… I know, but that’s not where all the extra caps are going to come in. Mr. Luck of the Iron Fist clan offered me a position in his ranks. Offered to pay me three thousand caps up front and five hundred a month with commission. But I have to get a meeting with Blood Rose first." Sharp’s magic began to waver, she couldn't hold on much longer.

"I'll need to check to see if your story pans out." Blom chuckled to himself before the elevator floor swung closed. The robot was still there, probably welded to the floor panel.

With a groan, Sharp dissipated her magic field and fell onto the floor of the elevator. Blom gestured for me to go to her and I did. She was sweating and panting as she rested there. I gave Blom an angry look, but he still had us at gunpoint so there wasn't anything I could do.

"If your story checks out and you really could be one of Mr. Luck’s ponies, then we'll be able to do some great business together."

Chapter 8: Great Business Together

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'Great Business Together' He said it like we'd be willing to do business with Blom or his brothers after what they pulled. Not only did they try to kill Sharp and sell me, but they also extorted us for a debt of three thousand seven hundred caps. Kind of hard to say no, when you’ve got a gun in your face. But no, the thing that ticked me off the most was the fact that Blom made us wear radio controlled explosive collars, apparently, he could detonate them at will with a remote signal.

Unlike the mares at Slave Town, Blom actually explained how they worked. The collar had a built-in explosive charge that would detonate if triggered, tampered with or if it stays out of range for more than twelve hours. Luckily the range easily covered the area of Iron Gem.

On the bright side, if we lived, at least Sharp had an idea of what she could do after all this was over. As for myself, I didn't really have much of a clue what I wanted to do, maybe take up Mr. Luck’s offer. In the meantime, Blom took my jacket to spite me and had given me a blue fabric hood to cover my wings. It was comfy, but not very warm or clean, it had a smell that I had yet to identify. But I knew I definitely didn't want to think about where it came from.

Now back to our current predicament. After Sharp had passed out on the elevator floor, I took her back to Armor Wall to rest as I went topside to search for a lead on power armor. He seemed fine with letting her rest there for a bit as I went back to the elevators.

This time around Blom let me use the elevator free of charge. I bumped into one of his brothers on the way up, but luckily he paid me no attention after seeing the collar. Who knew there were upsides to explosive necklaces. I made my way back to the building board and proceeded to look for something marked as the Red Light district.

Blom said to look for an establishment by the name of The Rodeo. He rushed me out the door before I could ask him what a “Red Light district” was. According to the billboard, the Red Light district was on the opposite side of town, through the markets.

I made sure my wings and collar were hidden as I ventured into the swarm of ponies all trying to buy or sell something. Everything moved too fast and there was far too much noise. I soon became disoriented and lost. I really wished I could use my wings. To be above all this chaos and noise, but I had to keep them hidden. After an unknown amount of time, I got tired and decided to just sit in the middle of the crowd.

I looked up and to my surprise, there was someone flying, but not a pony. This creature was bigger than the average pony, had more distanced wings, like birds. The light day clouds silhouetted it so I moved to the side as best as I could as I watched the creature. It flew down an alley and I gave chase, pushing past other ponies.

It was fast but it was clearly waiting for me to see before it turned a corner, so I wouldn't lose it. I almost used my wings to give chase as I wasn’t used to running very much. But luckily I remembered. I was getting tired when it flew into a building, I ran in after it without ever checking the building.

I panted with my head down as I looked up to see the creature. It had the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle's talons as its front feet. The only reason I knew what those parts were was because of some children books.

It sat in front of me, looking down at me as I was still lower to the ground panting. It had a white feathery head and a small beak. The feathers on its head faded to a light blue while tilting back, it had matching blue rings around its dark blue eyes that faded back to a point. Yellow talons, a few diamond shaped blue marks on its feathery chest. The rest of its body was a light gray and its massive wings were a few shades darker. The end of its tail also had a long spiky bushel of dark gray hair.

I slowly got up as we stared at each other, I realized we were the same height. It was then that the realization hit me, it was super sexy. I felt my wings tense and almost spring out, from the sear amount I was turned on by this creature. It was hard to restrain myself as I was sure it was a female, otherwise it would be one of the best looking guys I ever saw. We just looked at each other as I didn't know what to say, I didn't even know what this stunning creature was or why it brought me here?

"What brings you to The Rodeo stranger?" Said a pony I didn't even notice sitting near the entrance.

"I umm…" I was speechless as I couldn't help but stare at the creature in front of me.

This beautiful creature pulled out a notepad and turned to a page with a single word. 'Selen.'

I stood there, clueless to the meaning of the word. But thankfully the pink mare with the green eyes at the entrance helped me out. "It's her name, dear. She's mute"

"Oh, that's a nice name." I smiled at her as I really hoped I wasn't blushing.

The entrance pony laughed at me. "Hahaha, Selen dear, why don't you go play with this fetching young buck, on the house."


Before I could turn to ask what sort of game, Selen grabbed my hoof with her claw and pulled me upstairs into a bedroom. She locked the door behind us as I looked around the room. A balcony, curtains, dresser and a bed. Everything was bland and stoic, white walls and a simple mattress with a thick blanket thrown on top, although there was a full body mirror on the headboard of the bed.

"So umm my name’s Star Shot, I um..." I couldn't stop blushing as I tried to avoid looking at Selen, but when I did take a quick look I noticed she was scribbling something down on her notepad. "What are you writing?"

She finished and showed me. 'Come and play.' was written on the notepad.

"Play what?"

She suddenly brought her face really close to mine. I blushed as I moved mine back a little in surprise. She pushed her beak to my lips as I froze up. I didn't even notice when she pulled away a few seconds later to start writing again.

'Are you a good pony?' She smiled at me as I pondered the question. Was I a good pony?

"I try to be." Before I could dive into my head with self-doubt of which I swore to avoid, Selen kissed me again, yes I counted it before as a kiss. This time she kept kissing me until I pulled away. "Umm not that I'm complaining, but why me?"

She gave a silent giggle and she started to write. 'Cute, young and good.'

Cute, I'll take it. "So umm what are you?" I asked curiously as I looked over her body, blushing more. Although my eyes kept getting drawn to her wings.

She moved her wings a bit as she walked over to the bed and sat down. "I'm a Griffin." She patted a spot next to her for me to sit at.

I swallowed nervously and proceeded to sit next to her. "So umm I was meant to ask about~" Before I could finish Selen pushed a feather to my mouth, she proceeded to write.

'Let me help you, talk after.'

"Help me how?" I asked as I looked at the notepad.

Suddenly her wing pushed me onto my back on her bed and pinned me there as she wrote more. I didn't struggle as I just watched her. She dropped the notepad and pencil on a stand next to the bed, a few notes in her claw. She turned to me with a note in her mouth. 'Sex.'

I blushed brightly as she dropped the note and slowly began to move closer with a lustful look. I closed my legs to hide my physical reaction to her seduction. She moved over the top of me as I was speechless and powerless at the same time. She stopped as we were eye to eye. My white face turning pinkish red as I stared into her exotic dark blue eyes.

She smiled and held up a note. 'First time?' I stared at the note as Selen waited for a reply. But I was far too embarrassed to reply, so I just nodded. Another note. 'I'll be gentle.' She proceeded to pull off my hoodie, but we both froze as she then clearly saw my collar. In the heat of the moment I had forgotten about it, as well as my wings.

Luckily I was laying atop my wings so they were still hidden, but I still needed to tell her about the collar as she stared at me. "I umm…" I was speechless.

She grabbed the notepad and wrote. 'Slave?' on it.

"It's a little more complicated than that, but yeah kind of," I answered sheepishly, rubbing my head and laughing at my own stupidity.

I was about to get up, knowing a bomb collar to be a mood killer. When suddenly she kissed me, I didn't question it and wrapped my bandaged hooves around her in an embrace.

Our passionate kiss had brought back the mood, as I slowly parted lips from her beak, she grabbed another note. 'Relax.' She placed her beak on my chest and slowly began to move it down my body as she also slid her claws down my sides. The feeling of her slowly moving over me sent shivers of pleasure down my spine and right to my growing erection. Unfortunately, it also sent blood rushing to my Pegasus parts and resulted in a phenomenon known as a Wing Boner.

Selen jumped back off of me in surprise. I had a split second to react. So I did the one thing I didn't want to, I dove for the balcony and tried to bolt for it. But as it turned out, Griffins also had good reaction time. Selen grabbed my tail and pulled me back onto my back and onto the bed. This time she pinned my wings and glared at me for an explanation.

"Ah… I'm not an Enclave Pegasus, I was born on the ground and I do not know or even care for the Enclave, please don't turn me in!" I blurted out as I covered my face and shut my eyes.

When I did open them I saw Selen atop me with a note in her mouth. 'Do you want to stop?'

I blushed even more as I shook my head. She smiled and proceeded to continue where she left off. I looked over to my wings, her claws were holding them down to keep me in place, not that I wanted to move away. I couldn’t help myself to let out a light moan as she got lower and closer to my erection. She removed her claws from my wings and proceeded to use her wings to spread my legs. Her face was inches away from me as I could feel her breath on my exposed shiny black penis.

I watched as she inspected it for a moment, cupping the black family jewels in her claws as she began to rub them. I couldn't help but moan as her tongue made its way up my shaft and stopped at my medial ring. Her other claw began to rub my tip with her palm. It was hard yet smooth, although the same could have been said of me. Soon her palm was soaked in the natural lubricant as she pulled away. But her wings remained in the same position.

She smirked at me as she licked her beak and grabbed a note. 'Wing Job?'

"Y~yes please." Admittedly I have touched myself with my own wings before. I had found them to be more gentle than my hoof and more pleasurable, if harder to clean. Luckily I was white coated.

Selen began to move her feathers over my shaft. Although not as firm as her tongue and beak or her claw, it was still quite pleasurable. I instinctively began to thrust my hips up and down and Selen compensated by cupping the top half of my erection with both her claws. I moaned as I thrusted into her wings and claws, getting great joy out of it.

I could feel the pressure and pleasure building inside of me as I couldn't stop moving my hips, moaning aloud. I began to lose control of my body as I placed my hooves on Selen's head and with one final thrust up into her mouth. With my bell in her firm yet smooth beak and her tongue lavishing it I couldn't hold back. My erection turned into an eruption as all that pent up pleasure exploded in Selen's mouth. I laid panting as my penis throbbed in exhaustion.

I looked down to see Selen swallow as much of my seed as she could. Some leaking out the side of her beak and onto me as she pulled off. I just laid there panting as the euphoria washed over me, my mind went blank as it felt like I was sucking on Happy again, but a thousand times stronger. My mind was calm and my body relaxed. I smiled at her reveling in the afterglow.

Selen tapped my rear hoof and I looked over to her standing at the base of the bed with a few notes in her mouth. On the first note, of which some of my semen had dripped was written. 'Round two?' I chuckled and looked down to see my body was in fact up for another round. She then proceeded to drop the note, revealing the second one. 'Top or bottom?'

I got to my shaking hooves next to the bed as Selen prompted to get on the bed and get on all fours. She raised her lower body as she smirked at me, giving me a full view of her genitals. I trotted behind her and placed my forehooves on her lower back as my bell began to run her pussy. Her tail wrapped around my waist as I began to move my cock up and down her slit. It felt warm and wet as every fiber of my being wanted to simply thrust into it. But I restrained myself, wanting to pleasure her as well.

After a few seconds of teasing and making sure I was lined up, I slowly began to thrust into her. Even before I was fully in, I could feel her body trying to suck me in, into its warm and silky wet embrace. Her wings twitched and moved as did mine. I could see her face filled with pleasure in the bed mirror as her insides wrapped around mine in the most pleasurable embrace.

After passing my ring I prompted to thrust the rest in faster. Hitting something deep inside her. When I did her insides convolved, giving us great pleasure. I proceeded to batter her insides as we got into a rhythm. I began to thrust with more force as she began to bounce her hips, giving a little wiggle as I reached her deepest point. The room filled with the sound of our wet passion and my pleasure filled moans.

Her insides began to throb as she clawed the bed in a building pleasure. I too was close and soon too did I begin to twitch and throb within her. I picked up the pace as I was close to coming. But it was her who came first. Selen's face contorted and she stuck out her tongue as her insides twitched and spasmed around my cock. Her juices creaming around my cock and leaking out over me.

A few seconds later I gave one last loud moan and thrusted as deep as I could with all my might. Groaning as my cock shot its load deep inside her. We both collapsed onto the bed, me still inside her, as we started to relax. I could feel her insides still sucking and pulsing as our mixture leaked out onto the bed. We panted heavily from satisfaction as we gave way to the ecstasy and the warmth it brought us.

She mustered the strength to roll onto her back. Pulling my now flaccid penis out of her leaking vagina. I laid atop her in her embrace as she wrapped her arms around me. Looking down I could see her smiling up at me, a beautiful afterglow on her face as we laid there. Soon she rested her head on a pillow and I rested my head atop her feathery chest. It was so soft, I soon closed my eyes and drifted to sleep. Feeling all my troubles melting away.

The light of the next morning woke me as it shined through the balcony and reflected off the mirror. I groaned and sat up, remembering where I was and what had happened. My blush growing as I looked down at Selen asleep below me. I slowly got up and put on my blue hoody, trotting to the night stand.

I saw that Selen had left me some notes. 'Had fun.' said the first, the second was double sided. 'Friends?’ I flipped it over ‘With benefits?' I chuckled lightly at that. Then I saw the last note. 'Good ponies are usually Slaves or dead.' That was unsettling, I flipped it over. 'Be careful XOXO.' I put the notes down after writing one myself and trotting out of the room.

I proceeded downstairs, looking for the mare at the entrance. When I heard the sound of a familiar voice. "Good to see you again Pink Thing."

"You too Wall, so I take it you’re here for business, not pleasure?"

"Yes indeed, but first, have you seen a white pony in a jacket or hoody. I sent him your way a while ago."

"Do you mean the cutie with the blue eyes? Well if he came here for business then I'd say he got distracted with pleasure." She gave a light chuckle before continuing. "He and Selen had some noisy fun and ended up sleeping through the whole day and night. Always nice when Selen finds herself a friend."

"She always did enjoy her work, making others feel better in the wastelands, even if it is only for a short time."

"Caps isn't half bad either when she charges folks. Speaking of which, I didn't catch your name dear?"

"Sharp Shot."

As soon as I heard her name and voice I froze, only moving to finish one more step down the stairs. Unfortunately, the step creaked very loudly. I prayed they did not hear that as I ever so slowly tried to back up the stairs. A knocking sound from behind startled me and I ended up jumping forward. While midair I saw that it was Selen, looking at me funny from atop the staircase.

I tried to stop myself with my wings but the hoody constrained them, although I did hear and feel a ripping sound. My hoof slipped on the next step and I ended stumbling down them. Coming to a stop at the base of the stairs, the top half of me laying in the doorway. I slowly looked up to see the three of them.

Pink Thing smiled at me, her curly mane covering half her face. Armored Wall tried to contain his laughter as a few snickers escaped. But I wasn't paying attention to them, no, I was completely focused on Sharp, her face, no, her eyes, showed contempt.

The next thing I knew, all five of us were sitting around the table having tea. But Sharp still had that look in her eye every time she had to look at me. I just wanted to melt into goo and hide somewhere.

"So how was the sex? You two were quite noisy you know," Pink said, looking at me. I didn't dare reply as it felt like that question had shattered me. I slowly creaked my head over to see Sharp death staring me, I felt so small, so tiny, so insignificant.

Selen wrote on her notepad and proceeded to show everyone. 'six/ten good fun, for the first timer.'

Although to the others Sharp must have looked perfectly calm, drinking her tea. But to me she was ablaze with anger and disgust. I looked over to Armored Wall in a plea for help, but the rat bastard chuckled at me.I could see him, looming over me with an evil look in his eye and a snake tongue sticking out between imaginary sharp teeth.

"So Selen, why don't you tell us what you and Star got up to? So Sharp and Armored Wall here get an idea of the service." To my horror, she started to write and write and write.

I laid my head flat on the table as I was crucified in hatred. Every note only intensifying Sharp’s stare at me. I swear I could feel it burning a hole in the back of my head. Every note only made it worse. I wished, no prayed for a second coming of the apocalypse, just to get me out of this situation.

Eventually, after far too many notes in far too much detail, Selen stopped. Getting up to go brew us a second pot of tea, Pink Thing's magic proceeded to glow from her horn, but I was too destroyed to bother to look anywhere. That was until I felt something cold and metal tap me in a recently used place. I shot up straight. That's when I saw Sharp with a dinner knife being held to her throat in a green magic field.

I sat still as I now knew what had touched me. I gulped and remained frozen out of fear of it being cut off. It was then that I noticed Armored Wall also frozen in the same position as me. It wasn't hard to figure out we were in the same situation. We all looked over to Pink Thing, she was sipping tea as her horn glowed green.

"Now you three and I are going to have a little chat sugars." Her words were as calm as ever, tea cup still close to her face. "And if I don't like the answer then I'm afraid pieces of you won't be leaving this building." She was in total control, calm and collected.

Armored Wall was the first one to speak. "Pink, what is the meaning of this? You and I have known each other since Rosenblatt placed a brothel here."

"That we did, and you were one of my most regular customers. But seeing as you got fired for reasons unknown to me, I don't know how trustworthy you are? So I want to know, why? Why were you fired and what's all this ruckus about?" She swung the empty teacup around for emphasis, waiting for his reply.

Armored Wall groaned in displeasure as he thought of what to say. "A week ago the only daughter of Blood Rose, Silver Rose, stole his most prized possession. A Star Core. It's a magical sphere that bestows its user in a demonic rage, giving them untold power. A boiling blood red aura surrounds them as their body rives in pain, only increasing their rage and their power. With this weapon, a single pony could take on a tank, or a clan. The downside is that it strains the user, those who use it generally lose control and die under its effects."

There was a pause before Pink Thing spoke again. "What happened next?" I would have asked more about this Star Core, but with a knife to my balls, I didn't want to risk it.

"Three days ago it seemed that Silver was recaptured by bounty hunters. Although the Star Core was not retrieved. Seeing as I'm not currently being hunted for helping her, I'd say it's safe to assume Blood Rose had yet to find out about that. Even though she is his daughter, I wouldn't put it above him to have her tortured for information. If I had to guess why the Ninety Nine were sent out, I'd have to say they are going to search the area she was captured in. They'd probably be back in a week."

I saw Armored Wall sigh and he relaxed a bit, Pink Thing then turned her attention to Sharp. "Your go dear, what business were you hoping to discuss?"

Sharp remained just as cool and collected as ever. "I was hoping you could point us in the direction of some power armor?"

Pink gave a little chuckle. "Why of course I could, but I'll be needing to know why you wish to proclaim it?"

I looked to Sharp, wondering how much she would proclaim. "I wish to procure some power armor so I may complete a trade agreement and purchase back my brother from the Blim, Blam, Blom brothers."

Pink Thing looked over to me and proceeded to pull the neck on my hood down, revealing my collar. Armoured Wall gave a little chuckle, to which I groaned.

Pink Thing also gave a little chuckle at me. "Hehe, Selen did always have a kink for slaves. Sweet and all seeing as you're helping your brother."

Pink lowered the knife away from Sharp’s throat. "So you'll help us?"

"Certainly, right after I finish interacting with your brother." Pink turned to me, eyeing me with her one uncovered eye. I gulped nervously. "What are your intentions with Selen?" before her tone had been friendly and calm, but towards me, they were much more threatening and hostile.

A light tap of cold steel and I started to talk, saying whatever popped into my head. "I don't know! But she said she wants to be friends!" I calmed down as she pulled the knife away and smiled at me.

"Good, just don't make the mistake of falling in love with a prostitute. Cadence knows so many have made the mistake of seeing love where there isn't any."

"Ok, I'll keep that in mind," I said, sighing in relief.

Pink leaned back and checked my back before a knife swatted at me in a blur of green. Luckily I leaped back instinctively, my wings trying to spread out to help me, but there was a loud ripping sound as one of my wings had broken through the hole I had forgotten about. I dove for the door when a knife shot into the frame in front of my face. I could see my eyes' reflection in it.

Pink shouted. "Pegasus!" her horn flaring up for another knife shot. But nothing came. I looked to see Sharp’s magic holding the knives firmly in place.


A sudden and unexpected crash from the doorway leading into the kitchen got our attention. Selen stood there on hind legs, looking quite mad. A broken teapot laid on the floor, smashed to get our attention. Sharp released her magic and everyone relaxed a bit, even Pink Thing. Selen walked over to me and stood between myself and Pink Thing.

"You knew?!" Pink Thing said, confused, yet angry, glaring at Selen.

Selen nodded as she glared back at Pink.

"But he's a filthy Pegasus?!"

Selen just pulled out her notepad and wrote a reply. Although from where I was I couldn't see it, I was not willing to risk moving.

"Good Pony? Friend? But he's a Pegasus!" Pink Thing groaned and shut her eyes in annoyance, before opening them. "You three get out, I have to talk to Selen in private."

Star and Armored Wall prompted to stand up and wait outside the building. I too was about to leave when Pink Thing walked over to me, Selen keeping an eye on her. She pulled out the knife in front of me and whispered into my ear. "If she wasn't here I would have made myself a Cap pouch from your ball sack. Now get the hell out of my building and don't come back."

With that motivation I prompted to leave, looking back at Selen for confirmation that she'd be ok. She smiled at me and nodded. I was almost through the door when I stopped. "What about the power armor?" Selen passed me a note she just finished writing and I left, the door slamming shut behind me.

Outside, I slipped my wing back under the hood and read the note out loud. "Stable fifty-one, Minute-Mare raiders"

Armored Wall groaned, obviously knowing who or what it was. "This is not going to be easy."

"Why not? Who are they and what's Stable Fifty-one?" I asked.

Armored Wall groaned as he facehoofed before going through his bag and pulling out a lollipop and started to suck on it. "She's my Ex."

"Are you two on good terms?"

After a long pause, Armored Wall replied, "No."

Armored Wall groaned and started trotting back towards the Bar/elevator. He seemed more annoyed than before, so we stayed quiet. Unfortunately, after getting into the bar and back down to level three, we ended up bumping into Blom, literally.


"Watch it, Oh it's you." Blom stood up as he blocked the elevator exit with his skinny frame.

The impact didn't even faze Armored Wall or his mood. "Move," he commanded in a strict voice.

Blom glanced up and down Armored’s figure, taking note of his serious mood, before moving aside, allowing us to pass. We followed Armored wall back to his table. It was occupied, but that was past tense. With an angry glare, they quickly got out of Armored Wall’s way. All three of us sat around the table as the bitter mood soured the air. But at least it kept the annoying pest known as Blom away.

The mood got so bad that I found myself moving over to the bar, slouching over onto it. Sharp stayed with the grumpy stallion as Blom decided to trot over to me. We ignored each other, but I found myself watching as he poured himself a drink from an unlabeled, strange looking green bottle. He promptly put it away and began to drink, an expression of disgust on his face as he clearly struggled to keep it down.

Once he finished, coughing lightly I asked. "What was that?"

He wiped his muzzle with a hoof and smiled at me. "An elixir."


He grabbed my face, squishing my cheeks. "Why not just any elixir, but the elixir of life." Blom pulled out a different bottle, this one was a funny looking green bottle, it had a label that read 'Elixir Of Life' printed in fancy writing.

Blom grabbed me and sat me down in front of a wooden wall before dimming the lights and going over to a light on the wall. He pulled it and the wall fell in, revealing a stage. There was a flood of light as three spotlights illuminated the center. Blim, Blam, and Blom stood next to each other.

I groaned. "I no… A song."

Music started to play from a speaker at the back of the stage as the brothers started their choreographed dance number.

Blim: "Thank you, one and all, for your attendance, and we guarantee that your time here will not be spent in vain!"

Blam: "In fact, we think it will prove to be the most valuable time you've ever spent!"

Still at their table, now in the dark, Sharp and Wall decided to voice their opinion. "The Blim Blam Blom Brothers. This should be interesting." "Eeyup."

Blim: "Allow me to give you a demonstration"

Blam: "A demonstration of a better life!"

Blom: "A demonstration of a better time! And if we haven't captured your interest just yet, by the time we've finished, an unfortunate phenomenon practically guarantees that we will!"

Blim: "A phenomenon? What's that?"

Blam: "Tell us, Blom."

Blom: "It's a circumstance perceptible by the senses, but in this case, it's a simple fact that:
There are ailments all around us in everything we touch and see."

Blim: "A sickness that lies waiting there with every breath you breathe."

Blam: "Disease will up and grab you as it crawls from land and sea."

Blom: "It's amazing how infected that the natural world and all its things can be."

Blim: "Now I understand that some of you don't think you're sick."

Blam: "But twisted hooves and broken joints don't heal all that quick."

Blom: "And let’s not forget radiation or taint."

Blim: "Consider just how dangerous this world is! You might…"

Blam: "Slip and fall, break or sprain something."

Blom and Blim: "But luckily for you, we've got the thing you need
And it's easier when all you need's the cure
The Blim Blam Blom brothers’ Miracle Curative Elixir
Is just what the doctor ordered, I'm sure."

Blam: "Now I know our claims seem fantastical."

Blom: "Impractical."

Blim: "Improbable."

Blam: "Impossible."

Blom: "Mysterious."

Blom and Blim: "And magical!

Blam: "So we welcome every suffering pony."

Blom: "No need to cower."

Blom: "We're here to help"

Blim: "And we're proof of our elixir's effectiveness."

Blam: "We drink it every day."

Blom: "And we don't look a day over thirty."

Blim: "I'll wager you wouldn't believe us."

Blam: "But it's really true."

Blom: "After all we have twenty-year-old daughters."

Blim: "Not bad for ponies in their fifties."

Blim appeared next to me and nudged me.

Blam and Blom: "That's why you're so lucky we've got the thing for you
Just seventy-five caps a bottle or ten caps a shot."

Blom: "Of the Blim, Blam, Blom brothers’ Miracle Elixir."

Blim: "You won't need those bandages."

Blim pointed to my bandaged hooves.

Blam: "Now some may suffer from feelings of despair
You're old, you're tired, your legs won't work, there's an irradiated glow in your eye.

Blom: "Just listen and I'll tell you that you don't need to fear
Your tainted sore will vanish, your muscles will tone, your eyes will see so clear."

Blim: "Luckily for you, we've got the thing you need
The answer to our problems in a bottle

Blim, Blam, and Blom: "The Blim Blam Blom brothers’ Miracle Curative Elixir
Is the greatest ever miracle by far!"

"Elixir... Elixir... Elixir…"

Blam: "It cures fevers, the Spurs, and the dreaded mutations of taint."

Blom: "Radiation and horsentery cured in just a night."

Blim: "You've got swollen hooves and hindquarters or terrible bridle-bit cleft."

Blam: "Saunter sitz and gallop plop will give your tail some heft."

Blom: "Mane loss, hay fever, or terrible liver pain."

Blim: "You heard it from the horse’s mouth- this is the only place in all of the Crystal Empire you'll find it!"

Blam: "It can make you shorter, taller, or even grow old."

Blom: "But who'd want that?"

Blim: "When with one drink.

Blim and Blom: "You can be cured of all that ails you–"

"Shut up!" I yelled.

I jumped up. "I'm broke and I'm not going to buy your elixir crap! Besides, there's no Cadence fucking a chandelier way that you three have kids!" I yelled at them.

It was only after seeing their shocked faces that I realized I had yelled at ponies who held my life in their hooves. I looked around to see everyone, Sharp and Armored Wall, looking at me. I simply sighed and sat back down. Two of the brothers simply left as quickly as they appeared, leaving Blom and me at the bar. He proceeded to pull out a photo from under the counter.

Cadence orgy fucking crystal dicked dragons. It was a fucking picture of the fucking Lily Sisters as foals with fucking Blim, Blam, and Blom. Fucking fuckity fuck, fuck, FUCK! I just slammed my face into the counter as I screamed in my head.

"Yep, they're our girls. Daughter of one Grand Lily, love of me and my brother. Rest her soul, Cadence knows her hips didn't," he snickered as I tried not to gag. "We're so proud of them. I think they're Slavers in Slave Town." He raised an eyebrow as he looked at me. "You met them when you tore through there? You better not have hurt our babies? Did you?"

I just stumbled over to Sharp, having more than enough of this brahmin shit. "Hey, Sharp did I kill the Lily Sisters?"

"The ones who tricked you into slavery and then had to buy you back from?" she remarked.

I just groaned. "Eeyup."

Sharp scratched her chin, thinking. "Hmm, No. They left the post office after peppering it with bullets."

"That's my girls!" Blom exclaimed from the bar.

I looked to Armored Wall, seeing his mood has improved. "Can we go now?"

The large pony, who had now finished three more lollipops, stood up. "We need to grab some things from my place if you're going to see my Ex."

Back at his place, Armored Wall collected a variety of things, screws, bolts, wires and so on. "You know how to build and fix things kid?" Armored Wall asked me as he was focused on collecting what looked like weapon parts.

"Um well yea. If it’s a gun I should be able to assemble and repair it?" Sharp and I just watched the large dark orangey rust colored stallion move gracefully and swiftly through his small home.

He dropped a big glob of white clay on the table. "How about bombs?"

I cringed a little, remembering my scars and sickness brought on by a dirty bomb in the raider base. "Uhh, I'm not a fan."

Armored Wall snorted and prompted to dig through a drawer and pull out a blue piece of paper. "Read this, then build it," he said as he pushed it to my chest.

After reading it I saw that it was in fact a blueprint for a magic explosive clay bomb. It appeared to be just two parts, explosive magic infused clay and a magic gem that would detonate the clay when triggered or broken. It looked like the gem was made to activate when it received a magic wave signal from a detonator. This would then start a timer in the gem or just detonate it, depending on the magic in the gem itself.

"Magic clay bombs?" I asked.

Armored Wall just grunted what I assumed was a yes, as he seemed to have almost all the bits and pieces of a weapon of some kind. Sharp began to build bombs as I realized that Armoured Wall was assembling the pieces of a missile launcher, albeit a hot pink missile launcher. After gathering all the bits and pieces he prompted to pull a missile out from under his bed.

Sharp grabbed a bag and was heading for the door before Armored Wall joined her. "Star, I want you to build as many bombs as you can." Sharp stated.

"Where are you two going?"

Armored Wall groaned as he spat out a lollipop-less stick from his mouth. "Out, now I want that missile launcher assembled by the time we get back."

Before I could ask further questions the two of them were out the door, the last thing they said was, "Don't blow up the place."

The two of them took far too long. I was finished in under an hour. Only breaking one gem after dropping it on my head when I tried to examine it against a light. Thirty-two magical clay bombs molded. One pink missile launcher assembled and restored to peak working condition. Although I was very tempted to test it with the ominous missile just sitting next to Armored Wall’s bed.

I looked at my hooves and wings. They had small clumps of magic clay stuck to my bandages, turning them into casts, while I had larger clumps sticking in my wings. I even had little bits of detonating gems in my mane. To be honest it were days since I washed up and given all that had happened, a shower would have been lovely, hell I would have even begrudgingly accepted a bath at this point. Especially when you have explosive in your coat and its detonator in your mane.

I recalled Sharp saying she had the keys to a fancy room in some hotel on the top. But I had forgotten to ask so I decided to look in Armored Wall’s bathroom. A sponge on a stick. With a bucket filled with what I could only assume was water, although it looked dirtier than me. I decided to pass.

It was now sunset, Sharp and Armored Wall finally returned. Armored Wall was carrying all the bags as the two walked in. Before I could even ask what was in the bags, Armored Wall dropped them, glaring at the pink missile launcher with annoyance. I, however, decided to look in the bags. One set of leather reinforced blue and yellow jumpsuit with the number fifty-one emblazoned on it.

"What's this?"

Sharp picked it up in her magic for me to see. "It's a Stable fifty-one barding, the key to our plan."

I tilted my head. "Mind filling me in on this plan?"

Sharp gave a light chuckle before shaking her head, "You'll just have to trust me."

I groaned as I sighed and sat down. "Fine."

I checked through the other bag and found ammo for Sharp’s rifle, my SMG and lever rifle, as well as a small tin of pills. I took out the container and held it in my wings as I inspected it. Party Time Mint-als, refresh your breath and your mind. Was written on the pink tin, the images of bits of some smiling zebra long since faded off the metal.

"I want you to take that before we start the plan, just in case something goes wrong," Sharp said as she picked up the ammo bag.

"How will fresh breath help me?"

"It's more than just a dumb mint, it’s a drug that's meant to help one with their charisma and intelligence," Armored Wall said as he picked up the explosives and the missile launcher. "Now let's go, time is of the essence."

“If we don't get that power armor and back before the Ninety Nine return, we won't have a chance of getting to Blood Rose," Sharp stated, at this point, all three of us trotted back to the bar and were about to ride the elevator up when we were stopped.

Blom stood in our way. "Don't forget, you leave the city and your collar will activate. You'll have twelve hours to get back in range, or boom," Blom said, a little smirk on his face, as he moved out of our way.

The streets of Iron Gem were a lot less busy in the afternoon. As we made our way through the city and roads, I couldn't help but look to the sky, hoping to see Selen again. Eventually, we trotted across one of the great bridges, this time it was back over the one we had come from when first entering the city. I couldn't help but look at the abyss between the gaps in the metal bridge.

I thought I saw something staring back at me. I slowed to focus on it when a beep from the collar broke my concentration. The light had turned orange. We all stopped to look at it, then back at Iron Gem. Before continuing on our journey to Stable fifty-one. Before we reached the end of the bridge Armored Wall gave Sharp some magic explosives, as well as the missile launcher and a missile. Sharp didn't seem to have an issue carrying it, but I still took the kinda heavy missile launcher off her.

Missile launchers tend to be quite powerful. But the treasure thingy Armored Wall talked about before sounded way more powerful. "Hey Armored Wall, what is the treasured item you were talking about before?"

We got from the end of the bridge to the outer gate. Armored Wall was stopped at the exit of the bridge by two guards. "You are to remain confined in Iron Gem under orders, Mr. Wall, Sir."

"What's this about?" I asked, looking at the armed guards.

"Don't worry about it, I'll wait for you two back at my house." Armored Wall turned around before looking back at us with a tired smile. "I'll tell you about it when you get back if you do. Try not to die out there kiddies."

Sharp gestured for us to go forward, so we did. The guards paid us little mind, ignoring the pink missile launcher. We proceeded to our wagon, which was next to the gate. It seemed that the guards kept it safe, although the brahmin that pulled it seemed to have vanished.

We jumped into the wagon and proceeded to grab all our stuff from the wagon. The knife, crank rifle and SMG. It was then that I saw it, Candy's music box. But next to it was a point thirty-two snub-nosed revolver, a dried red stain on it.

The gun candy…

I bit my lip as I grabbed the music box and the rest of my things. Then Sharp jumped in to grab a few things. Off we went to go to a Vault full of experienced mercenaries to ask them for a set of power armor. With a load of explosives and a missile launcher. I really hoped we wouldn't have to use any of them. Hopefully Sharp will be able to negotiate with the Minute-Mares and Armored Wall's ex-girlfriend.

I followed Sharp as she lead the way. Sharp trotted through the snow as I flew behind her, having to rip wing holes in the blue hoody. I was actually cold, mainly because this stupid hood wasn't designed for snow, unlike my jacket. My mind wandered into nothing as we kept moving, when a sudden gunshot snapped me out of it.

I looked to see it was Sharp with that gun, Candy's gun. She held it in her magical field as she pointed it forward. I couldn't bring myself to take my eyes off that gun. I dropped to my hooves as tears began to run, remembering Candy. I brought myself to look in front of Sharp.

Candy… she sat there with a hole in her face, blood and gray matter pouring out of her mouth, eyes, and wound. "S~star… why?"

My lip trembled as I felt my heart sink. I blinked as I took a step forward. When I opened my eyes she was gone. In her place laid a crystal bunny in a pool of blood, contrast to the snow. Its fur was as white as the snow. But it turned crimson as it bled from a glowing red hole in its side, as a reddish white smoke rose from its wound. It was dead.

I looked back to see Sharp holding, not a point thirty-two revolver but her crank magic rifle. "Brother? Are you ok?" She asked as she looked at me with concern.

I quickly wiped my tears away and replied, "Yea, just bad memories." giving her a big smile to try and reassure her. She glared at me before pulling something out of her bag. Candy's music box. I froze as I just looked at it. She began to turn the little handle with her magic.

"…don't…" I whispered under my breath as it started to play its soothing melody.

My body began to quiver as my eyes welled up and I began to ball my eyes out. Falling to my rear as I just sat there and cried. Sharp walked over to me, still playing the music, and hugged me.

"It's ok to cry," she said as I just let it all out. I only stopped when I felt something damp my hoody’s backside. Sharp hugged me tighter and repeated herself. "It's ok to cry."

I remained silent as Sharp, my strong independent sister began to cry. I embraced her as she cried louder, burying her face into my shoulder. I stroked her mane to comfort her as she let out all her bottled emotion. Like Dark said, bottling your emotions like that wasn't good. Eventually though Sharp stopped and pulled off of me.

She mumbled, "Sorry." as she looked down.

I wiped my eyes as I gave her a genuine smile. "There's nothing to be sorry about."

She just started trotting forward, head low. Apologizing again. "…Sorry." before proceeding to pick up the dead rabbit before putting it in her bag.

The next hour or so was a fairly quiet trip as nothing was said. To help break the silence and lighten up the mood, Sharp decided to turn on her Pip-Buck radio. She switched it to Kindly's radio channel and we listened to the music.

Mr. Kindly’s soothing voice played through the speakers. "Would you kindly listen to what I have to say kiddies. I have a report of that little blue bird swooping into Slave Town and tearing it up. Now while I don't condone slavery, it was a legal business under the clan of Blood Skull." A booing sound played.

"That being said, our little blue bird has a target on his back now, so please be careful. So I'll leave the rest of my listeners with some words of wisdom before our next song. Would you kindly try to stay safe and help others? Remember slaves are living things, not property. Here's Octavia and Piano Keys with 'Moonlight Sonata.'"

I'm not the biggest fan of classical music, but there is something sad about Moonlight Sonata. It seemed like a story with aches. Like it was trying to tell a tale of sadness morphed into chaos.

Two hours later, we arrived at our destination. A dark looking cave, although down in the darkness we saw a light illuminating a door in the distance, squinting I saw that it was a giant gear with the numbers fifty-one on it. I was about to step forward when Sharp stopped me.


"What? The doors right there, let's go," I said, pointing to the door.

"I need to get ready, wait here," Sharp said as she proceeded to walk behind some rocks.

"Agh, don't take too long." I ended up sitting there waiting for Sharp.

Eventually Sharp came back, this time she wore the skin tight jumpsuit Armored Wall gave her. "How do I look?" Sharp asked with a wave of her hair.

Ahh, Stupid sexy jumpsuit. Why, why did you have to be on my sister?! "A… fine," I said as I looked away, not wanting her to see me blush.

Sharp picked up the missile launcher in her magic and began to load it. "Ok, everything's ready."

"Ready for what? You still haven't told me about the plan."

Sharp then proceeded to take the explosives and detonator. "I need you to knock on the door then surrender to them."

"What? Can I get a little more info."

Sharp pointed at my explosive fashion statement. "No time, remember we only have nine hours to get back and it’s a three hour trip. So you're just going to have to trust me."

I groaned and picked up the pink missile launcher and walked a bit closer to the door. I then smirked as I stood on my hind legs and took aim. To think before I would never have done something so risky. I would have been worried and overthinking things. But my faith in my sister gave me strength and although brief, my meeting with Stock also helped. Although deep down I was still a little worried.

"Knock, Knock." I fired, a light kick and the rocket whooshed down the cave. It left a trail of smoke before there was a flash and a thunderous boom.

Chapter 9: Boom!

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The whole cave shook as dust blew everywhere, blinding me. The dust started to settle, but the rumbling and shaking didn't stop. I heard ponies running around, as there were figures in the dust, shouting. I just stayed put, following Sharp’s unknown plan. Eventually, the dust settled and revealed that I was surrounded by ponies in armor and fully armed.

I slowly looked at them as they all pointed rifles and shotguns at me. They all looked rough and tough, but they looked like mercenaries in blue jumpsuits with leather armor patched in and a clock painted on it over the fifty-one insignia. They weren't as dirty or bloody as raiders and their weapons were of an okay standard. Also, they hadn't killed me yet, so yeah, I don't think that they are raiders.

I sat down and snickered, a little embarrassed at all the attention. "…Parlay?"


A knock to the back of the head and I fell forward as my vision dimmed and dipped into darkness. Some ponies grabbed my front hooves and began to drag me towards the Stable. I looked at the door and saw it wasn't even scratched, just charred. The huge door was moved to the side, the entrance open. I saw that the door was a full pony length thick. They dragged me inside and I saw a huge machine contraption hanging from the roof. That must be the thing to open and close the door.

I was in, I got into the Stable, although it wasn't under my own power. The dozen or so ponies huddled in as an alarm sounded and the massive machine gripped the door before closing it. Lights flashed as I lost my hearing and soon my vision went dark.

A tapping sound, I heard the sound of metal being tapped on metal. I groaned as my head ached, but I still stumbled to my hooves. There was something on my hind hoof. I opened my eyes to see I was chained to a bed. I looked around to see I was in a stripped out concrete room, nothing remained but the bed and a silhouette of a desk long gone. That wasn't the only thing that was gone, my blue hoodie was gone too and I was fully exposed.

A pony tapped on bars in the doorway of my cell. "On your hooves prisoner." A stallion stood there with a baton.

The stallion had a gray coat covered in battle scars, a dirty tattered blond mane and deep green eyes that seemed to have seen some shit. He dressed the same as the ones who surrounded me. A blue Stable-tech jumpsuit modified with thick, yet light leather armor. His barding was also adorned in spikes and other pointy bits. I got a raider vibe from him, but he was more like a soldier. He branded a clean and well-kept nine-millimeter pistol in his muzzle.

"Iron Hoof has some questions for you, Pegasus," he muttered around his gun, before holstering it.

I wrapped my hooves around my chest. "Pervert, stripping a pony in their sleep."

I smirked as I saw him blush a little before mumbling and stuttering. "A...I... What?! You shot our door with a missile!"

I shrugged. "I was knocking. Besides you’re changing the subject."

"I'm the one with the gun and you’re in a cell. So I choose the subject!" The pony yelled, annoyed at my relaxed demeanor.

"Fine, but I want my hoodie back first."

I watched as he ground his teeth in annoyance. "Fine!" He then stormed off mumbling insults under his breath.

Shortly after I heard a pony approaching, I pushed my face to the bars and saw a pony figure in blue approaching. I quickly went back and sat on the bed, expecting the guard pony. No, it wasn't him, it was Sharp. I quickly ran up to the door.


She shushed me as she placed the Mint-al tin in front of me. "Take this before they take you to their boss. I need you to buy me some time." I simply nodded as Sharp trotted away, her barding now matching that of every other pony in the Stable.

I sat back down and hid the Mint-als behind me. It wasn't long after that, did the guard pony return with my blue hoodie. I smiled at him and he simply threw it in my face.

"There! Now tell me what you were doing knocking at our door!" I pulled the hood off my face and placed it atop the Mint-als.

"Would you believe I was selling sugar apple bombs?"


He growled at me as he held a smoking gun in his muzzle. "Truth!" He grumbled around the grip of the gun.

I looked behind me as I saw a bullet mark next to my head. "Fine, fine. I need your group’s Power Armor so I can sell it to buy my freedom. I was captured at a bar and made a deal with the barkeepers to sell a set of power armor so I could get a job as a salespony for another clan."

The gun fell to the ground as his jaw dropped a little. I spoke before he gripped it firmly again. "I said the truth."

"That’s enough Grumpy," a young voice said.

He quickly holstered his gun. "Mr. Sonata? What are you doing here?"

A young colt trotted up to him. He must have been five or six. He was an earth pony with a teal blue coat and a fluffy yet chaotic mane that was almost as large as his head. His tail followed suit, also outrageously large in proportion to the rest of his body. He stared at me with deep green eyes. The colt wore no barding, except a white collar around his neck. He had a cutie mark, musical sheets, surprising given his apparent age.

"Iron Hoof is out at the moment, so mother asked me to ask some questions to our winged guest," he spoke with a fairly classy tone to his voice.

"Hmm, what if I don't want to answer your questions?"

The colt smirked a little as he pulled a wrapped up towel from his tail, before laying it out in front of me. Knives, razors, clamps, drills, hammers and needles, a bunch of torture tools. I gulped and looked up at the colt, seeing a malicious grin on his face and an evil look in his eyes.

He spoke quietly and ominously. "I hope you don't, oh I really do."

I actually moved back a little, slightly afraid of this demented colt. "Okay... But you have to answer my questions."

The colt, Sonata I think his name was, pondered on this. "Seems fair. Not as fun though. I'll go first."

"I'm out of here." Grumpy, a very fitting name, grumbled and trotted off.

"What is your name?"

"My name is Star Shot, from Frost Crystal," I said, getting comfortable. "When will Iron Hoof be back?"

"An hour or two, I'm not at library to say why or where she is." Sonata proceeded to pack up his tool kit.

I groaned and tapped on my collar, still slowly pulsating orange. "I'm kind of pressed for time."

"I'd offer to remove it, but it appears to be quite an advanced model. But that does bring me to my next question. What's with the slave collar, are you a runaway?"

I chuckled a little. "Not quite, I am an infamous pegasus who is being hunted by Blood Skull. Long story short, I got captured and they recognized my skills."

He looked me up and down. "You don't seem very skilled... or smart for that matter. Wait? Are you the one who slaughtered Slave Town’s security force?"

I physically shivered as I had flashbacks to the post office and of Candy. "I don't want to talk anymore." I turned around and laid on the bed, cuddling up to my hoodie.

"Don't make me grab the torture kit again."

I just stayed there, huddled up to the hood and the tin of Mint-als. "I want to talk to Iron Hoof."

"I told you she's not back yet."

I sniffed as I tried to keep the memories down. "I'll wait."

The pony groaned. "Fine, but you're coming with me."

I wiped my eyes and looked back at him as he left. I just laid there, alone. When I heard him return, he had Grumpy pony with him. I looked at them and saw they were pulling a small cage wagon. Grumpy hooked up the small cage to the door of my cell and opened it.

"Get in featherhead." His usual friendly, polite tone, not.

I glared at him, then shut my eyes and looked away. Sonata stepped forward, "Please get in the cage, mother would like to see you."

I opened an eye to look at Sonata. "Is she Iron Hoof?"

"No, her name is Moonlight, she's second in command." Sonata smiled a little before gesturing for me to proceed into the cage.

I looked at Sonata, grabbing the hoodie and Mint-als before proceeding into the cage. It was kind of small, but at least I wasn't in that boring cell. Now in a cage in the hallway, I could see a plaque that read 'Pip-Buck Technician Stall.' I couldn't imagine how boring it would have been to have been stuck in there day after day, looking at the same blank wall.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Stable wasn't any different. The walls all the same dull gray. The same unnatural light flooding the halls and worst of all the buzzing of said lights. It irritated me so much. How could anyone live like this? I couldn't even keep track of what I saw or where I had been because it all looked the same. But then we suddenly turned a corner that neither myself or Sonata expected.

"What are you doing?!" Sonata yelled as he was forced to gallop to keep up with Grumpy’s increasing pace.

"I've had enough of this fucking feather head!" Grumpy yelled as he turned a corner and ran us down a flight of stairs.

I bounced around the cage as we flew down the stairs. "Ow, ah, fuck! Slow down!" I yelled and swore as it hurt.

My hoof hit my mane and started to burn. Through all the battering, I kept focusing on my hoof, spotting a glowing smoking spot. Right away I remembered the explosives I had gotten on me. I was about to react, but it was too late.


I screamed as a small chunk of my hoof was gone, the wound bleeding profusely. I looked to see Grumpy hadn't even noticed. I grit my teeth as I calmed down, trying to stay still as I kept off the hoof. Although given our pace and ride quality so far, staying up was easier said than done.

We suddenly came to a halt as Grumpy panted. "I'm going to down you, fucking pegasus."

I sat up and shook my head as I looked around. I saw we were on a much lower floor, there was water all over the floor. I looked behind us and saw we were in front of the next flight of stairs. Except it was completely flooded, yet oddly still illuminated by lights under the water. Leave it up to anyone who builds a door like that to build lights that survive flooding.

"What are you doing?" I said, looking at Grumpy as he unhooked himself from the cage wagon.

He started chuckling. "HAHAHA, finally, I get to kill a pegasus! That one’s been on my bucket list."

"Wait?! What? But you were ordered to-" He bucked the cage wagon and it slowly began to roll down the stairs, into the water.

"I can't swim!" I proclaimed as I looked back into the water.

He chuckled at me. "I don't think that'll matter."

"Please! No!"

I looked at him with worry as he stood back and smirked at me. "Bye bye featherhead."

I pushed on the cage and flapped my wings, trying to slow the wagon’s building momentum. "We can talk about this!"


Another step, closer to a watery grave. "Stop!" A small voice yelled from atop the stairs, Sonata.

"Tsk~ bug off brat." Grumpy stared up the flight of stairs around the corner.

I used this time to think of an Idea, I bucked the cage door.


Another step, the door didn't even budge as water rushed into the bottom of the cage. I tried to stay out of it as it was freezing cold. Blood dripped into the water as I still tried to keep off my hoof. Lightbulb. I turned away from Grumpy and began to unravel my front hoof explosive clay ridden bandages. I froze and stared at my scarred and mutilated hooves. A reminder of the differences between my world and the real world. I became lost in thought, remembering my past, my family, and my pains.


“Agh!” Sonata came tumbling down the stairs and soon grumpy came trotting down, laughing.

The wagon lunged backward, into the water more, three more steps. The water rushed to my knees, almost half was in the water. I stumbled back, trying to stay out of the water. I looked back to see Sonata groaning in pain as he was laying in front of the wagon, in the water. I remembered Sharp, thinking and hoping she'd save me.

Grumpy smirked as he lowered his rear legs, having bucked Sonata at me. "I told you to fuck off brat. But now you are going to be next"

"Bastard! Leave him alone!" I yelled, forgetting my situation.

Grumpy trotted over to us, gripping Sonata's mane and chucking him out of the water. I heard him land and scream as he landed harshly on the floor. "Save your breath, you'll need it." Grumpy began to push the cage.

I growled at him before turning around and continuing with my idea. I huddled the cloth in my hoofs and began to bite and pull on my feathers, pulling a few out as I didn't stop. I began to chew the content as the wagon cage sank lower. I sat with my head in the shrinking remaining gap of air. The bandages and my body now underwater. I took a breath before dunking my head underwater and spitting the glob of clay and feather into the bandages. I prayed, hoping it wouldn't dissolve or wash away.


The gap of air remaining all but vanished, barely enough for my muzzle. Through the water, I saw Grumpy walking away. I grabbed my last breath, hopefully just for now. Stuck underwater, I furiously brushed my wings through my hair. Despite being in a death trap, I found myself worried for Sonata's well-being. Even if the kid seemed to take pleasure in torture. Creepy.

My gut contracted as my lungs began to burn. One final thug and the wagon sat on the mid layer. My vision blurred and lungs gave way, releasing my last breath. As the bubbles passed my face, I saw it. A single piece of gem, the size of a tooth. I grabbed it in my teeth as water flooded down my throat. I pushed the shard into the clay ball and wrapped it in the bandages.

My head felt light as my vision darkened. I pushed the ball to the cage door and held it there with my right hoof. Begging and praying it would work. I saw something in the water, a figure, no, multiple figures. One smiled at me, his teeth bearing and pin prick purple pupils outlined by white eyes shining, Dark Star. A figure stepped out of the dark, Candy! It was Candy, she tried to speak as her mane floated around and blood mixed in the water.

I didn't want to die here! I didn't want to fail Candy and I wanted to save that colt. I wanted to see Selen again and most of all, I wanted to live! I felt the ball heat up and bubble before there was an underwater blast. I was sent flying to the back of the cage by the pressure before I dashed out and scrambled up the stairs as fast as I could. My head broke the water and I coughed and gasped for air.

I went to take my next step when I fell short. I looked down, to my horror the water had turned red. I slowly lifted my right hoof out of the water. To my dismay, my hoof now ended just below the knee. Muscle, meat, and flesh were stripped back, leaving a broken bone sticking out sharply at the end. I just stared at it as blood kept running down it, even squirting out a little. It was then that I noticed I kept drooling water, except it wasn't water, it was blood.

I felt no pain, just shock. It didn't even feel like it was gone. A sudden dull sounding scream snapped me out of my daze. I looked forward, seeing Grumpy beating down on Sonata, pummeling the colt over and over again. I limped out of the water, already feeling dizzy from blood loss and trauma. Grumpy stopped pummeling Sonata as he took notice of me, shocked.

We both stared at his holstered gun, before looking back at each other. My vision tunneled around him as this turned into a showdown. He reached for his gun but it was too late, for him. My bone spike his impaled shoulder as I flew into him as fast I could. I knocked him onto his back and slid across the shallow water floor. Blood sprayed over me as water flew everywhere.

We soon came to a stop and I pulled out my bone from his shoulder. I looked at him, groaning as he soon passed out. I then looked down the hall to Sonata. He stumbled to his hooves slowly. I sighed before collapsing, for obvious reasons. Before my vision blacked out, I was left staring at my blood-covered face. Into purple eyes.

"I didn't want your help," I whispered into the darkness.

"But you needed it," Dark said.

I looked down at him, below me, separated by a thin dark glass floor. I stood up and stomped down on the glass, cracking it. "You sweet poison!"

He chuckled. "Fine, next time you'll have to beg."

The glass cracked more and more. "You're too dangerous."

"I'm the one who isn't afraid to hold back." The glass shattered as I fell through. I watched Dark as I fell past him, before falling into darkness.

I lunged up, knocking my head on some bars. I was in a cage, again, like the fourth time. But this one had pillows. My hoodie and Mint-als were gone. I groaned and rubbed my head with my hoof, feeling something sticking into my right hoof. I opened my eyes to see my right hoof, it was back to normal. My old scars on that hoof were gone, except for a new scar that ringed around where it was blasted off. I saw and followed a little tube, finding a bottle of some liquid I never saw before.

I went to pull it out when a voice spoke out. "Don't do that."

I looked around, not having yet taken notice of where I was. I saw we were in a fairly large room with red carpet, a chandelier and a piano in the middle. There were also old oil paintings and candles lighting the room, although it was fairly poor lighting. The slender, tall figure stepped forward from the shadows.

It was an earth pony, she had a light pink coat and a matching blue mane to my own. Although her eyes matched her mane, while my own eyes were darker than my mane. Her cutie mark was that of a white pony head figure with a well-kept long mane matching her own mane's shape and color.

She smiled at me and trotted over. "My name’s Mane Care, I'm Sonata's adopted mom."

After a little pause to think, I replied,"I'm Star Shot. What happened to my hoof?"

She paused, before checking the strange medicine bag. "It was blasted off. We had to use our only Hydra to save your limb."

"What's Hydra?"

"It's a powerful medicine harvested from a multi-headed monster. It can heal almost anything to great effect."

"It greatly accelerates the regeneration rate of one's cells," said Sonata, stepping through the doorway, bandages covering his face almost completely. "It runs the risk of cancer growth if the wound or injury use too little or too much of the healing power."

Mane Care ran up to Sonata and hugged him in her embrace. "Oh, my poor baby! Are you okay? I was so worried when they told me you were injured."

Mane Care smothered Sonata, meanwhile, he just groaned. "Mother please, control yourself. I'm fine, just some bruises."

Mane Care teared up. "I'll heal you with my kisses and love! Now let me kiss those boo boos." Mane Care tried to forcibly kiss Sonata's face as he resisted.

"Mother, please! Behave yourself."

I couldn't help but chuckle at the cute affectionate show. But a beep broke the mood as my collar's light turned a shade closer to red. I think it meant I had reached the half-time mark and considering it was a three-hour trip back, I had three hours left.

"I hate to break up this happy family moment, but I need to talk to Iron Hoof," I said, a little worried about losing my head.

Mane Care looked to me while cuddling Sonata. "Oh, she should be back within the hour." Sonata then began to whisper in Mane Care's ear. "Oh, that's a great idea! Are you sure you're okay enough to do it?" Sonata just smiled and nodded.

The two of them moved over to the piano and sat down. The lights when out before a spotlight highlighted them. The duo soon started to play, classical music. These notes, these sounds, I heard them before. 'Moonlight Sonata.' The two of them played it perfectly, the soothing music relaxing me as I laid back and relaxed. Soon I found myself dozing off to the music.

I groaned as I slowly got up, wiping some drool off my face, before wiping my eyes. I looked around the outside of the cage, seeing I was no longer in the music room. I tried to look around but a bright spotlight on myself made it impossible for me to see into the darkness. Suddenly I heard pony noises coming from above.

"Who's there!"

A second spotlight flashed into life. This time illuminating a mare lying in a bean bag chair. She was laying on her back, looking at me upside down. She had deep purple eyes, a flat white and purple mane and a gray steel coat. She looked to be the same size as me, although a few years older. She was wearing my blue hoodie, she also had my tin of Mint-als in her hooves.

"So, you’re the infamous Blue Bird? You're smaller than I expected."

I glared at the expressionless mare's upside down face. "So what if I am?"

"Nothing really, just that I have so many questions and, I assume by your necklace, you don't have a lot of time."

"I'm in a hurry, so I'll cut to the chase. I need your power armor." I stated.

Voices in the dark muttered and mumbled. "That explains the Mint-als, coming here to talk." The mare proceeded to pop open the tin and dry swallow the Mint-al. "Hmm, minty."

"Are you Iron Hoof? The leader of the Minute-Mare raider group?"

She groaned. "Yes I am and that's the fourth time we've been called raiders." Somepony whooped from above. "Shut it!" She groaned and rolled to her belly. "We're the Minute-Mares, mercenaries, civil soldiers, and protectors of the people. Or at least we were at one point. We have fallen on rough times, peace and all."

I cocked my head. "So you're not raiders?"

She remained silent for a moment. "We tried to get work as caravan guards, but work has been scarce with the clans, Iron Guard and other groups around. We had to resort to robbing the very caravans we wished to protect."

"So you are bandits?"

"Kind of, we had to lower the quality for ponies we're hiring. Some of the new ones even call themselves raiders." Some ponies in the dark cheered, Iron Hoof just ignored them. "But thanks to discipline and authority, I manage to keep them in check. But I will admit, it's been getting worse."

"Why not call it quits?"

She chuckled. "What? Hell no! Times may be rough now, but the world needs us more than ever. The Blood Skull Clan is up to something, preparing for a war that doesn't exist. Possible going to start that war anyway. The bastards have been stockpiling ammo, armor, weapons and whatever else they can get their hooves on. Somepony needs to protect the innocent when the shit hits the fan, again."


"You are pretty young. The War of thirty-two. Everypony against one another, no one giving a shit about their towns or settlements. We were there, we guarded defenseless towns from meaningless assaults from both raiders and rival clans. Unfortunately, near the end of the war, we were all worn out and on the verge of collapse. We reached out to the settlements we gave our lives for. But they all turned their backs to us, forgetting all we did for them." She growled and crushed the tin flat in her hooves.

She cleared her throat. "But enough about history, I have a few questions for you." I nodded, seeing this mare was stronger than she looked, given the fact she was average-sized. "Sonata already filled me in on what he knew, as well as what happened. Oh and I need to thank you for saving him, be assured Grumpy is alive and will be punished."

"I...Okay." I didn’t really know what to say.

"First question. The slave collar."

I tilted my head up to give her a better look. "I got captured by the Blim Blam Blom Brothers. Let's leave it at that."

Iron Hoof laid on her side. "Fair enough. What's a pegasus doing knocking on our door? In quite a grand manner I might add."

I couldn't help but chuckle a little. "Have you seen that door, I doubt you would have heard me if I used my hooves."

She chuckled lightly before her face went serious. "Then why do you have this!" Another spotlight came on, highlighting Armored Wall's pink missile launcher.

Before I could even reply Iron Hoof bolted over and bucked the cage, indenting the bars. I shrieked and jumped back in surprise at her speed and power. "TALK!"

I quickly complied. "He gave it to me to use!"

Her eyes seemed to glow red and she seemed to grow bigger as I shrank. "How is he?"

"H~he got fired, rejected by Pink Thing and is now a possible alcoholic bum in the slums!" I blurted out at once. She froze for a moment, before flipping the cage and me end over end. I screamed as I rattled around inside.

"Is he still seeing that whore?!" She screamed as it seemed like she breathed fire. I feared for my life.

But then somepony dumped water atop Iron Hoof. She seemed to steam as she cooled down, shaking off the water. I couldn't help but blush as I saw her wet body as she stood on her rear hooves. Some of the ponies above whistled. My hoodie was soaked through, sticking to her coat as it became see through. Through the blue, I could see her body was coated in scars. She dropped down and turned around.

I stared at her rump, blushing a little. I took note of her cutie mark, a square iron bar. She took off the hoodie and threw it to the side, before facing me. It was then that I saw it. Her front hooves had solid tribal tattoos of centipedes wrapped around them. But the tattoo’s legs and jaws twitched and moved. I couldn't help but stare at them.

"You like them? They are proof of my power, given to me by a tribe of zebra during the war of thirty-two. Magic endowed tattoos, we all have one." She turned around and lifted the wet mane to the side, revealing a clock tattoo with working hands, ticking silently along.

"What does that mean?" I said as I moved to the front of the cage, getting a closer look.

"That my dear little pony is the icon of the Minute-Mares, both stallions and colts are allowed to join too. Speaking of joining, we'd like to invite you to join us," she said, looking back at me, before letting go of her hair. Suddenly the darkness burst into a roar of complaints and shouting.

Iron Hoof remained calm, things such as pens and rocks began pelting my cage. I blocked them with my wings, looking at Iron hoof. She simply raised her hoof and the anger died down to a ramble and muttering. "My fellow Minute-Mares aren't a big fan of pegasi."

I gave a light chuckle. "Few are."

"Care to tell us about yourself?" Iron Hoof asked as she went back to the bean bag chair.

"Well my name is Star Shot, I came from Frost Crystal. I'm a ground-born pegasus. I met the Enclave once and they tried to kill me and my family. But my dad, one of the three immortals, Straight Shot killed them." As soon as I mentioned the three immortals Iron Hoof's face changed to one of interest.

"Keep going, dear."

"Blood Rose hired raiders to kill my parents..." I paused for a moment, my head dropping, fighting back my sadness. "So I'm going to kill him..." I ended out mumbling the last bit.

I quickly realised what I had said. I looked up to Iron Hoof, seeing her now smirking before everypony started laughing. "You, the son of Straight Shot? Him? Killed by mere raiders? You kill Blood Rose?"

"Yes?" I said, confused by her sarcasm.

She and everyone else eventually stopped chuckling. "Haha, ok, I met the immortals, they helped the Minute-Mares defend the town of Frost Crystal back during the war of thirty-two. I may have just been a filly back then, but I still remember them. You have to prove to me that you’re one of their kids."


She stopped and scratched her chin, pondering. "Hmm, maybe I'll tell you another day."

I sighed, disappointed that I'd miss out on a story. "So whats next?”

"I need to punish two of my ponies for breaking my cherished missile launcher. A custom blue glitter coated one. As well as other more serious crimes." I looked over to the pink painted missile launcher that was Armored Wall's. "It was an anniversary gift, we exchanged customized missile launchers." She smiled at the pink missile launcher.

Soon her face turned sour, thinking of the past. "I'm going to shoot him with it. Tell me, does he still suck those lollipops?"

Not really wanting to reply, I just nodded. She chuckled a little, looking down sadly. "Happy Pops, a pre-war drug to help one feel happy and relaxed."

"I've had Happy used on me before," I said, a bitter smile on my face.

"Shits addictive, the more you use it the less it works, the more you want to use it to compensate."

There was a moment of silence. "He ate three at a time."

Iron Hoof gave a sad chuckle. "Damn junkie..."

We sat there in silence before Iron Hoof jumped up. "Anyway! Time to punish Grumpy!"

Her sudden burst of enthusiasm startled me. Before I could react there was a flash and all the lights came on. I covered my eyes with a hoof as my eyes began to adjust. I looked around to see that we were in fact on the first floor of a large hall. On the second floor were dozens of other ponies, the ones I had heard. They were all looking down at us from a balcony. Between the first floor and the second was a chain net separating us.

I looked around the first floor, seeing an iron chair a few feet away from me. In it was a restrained Grumpy staring at me. He was roughly bandaged up, his shoulder bandages sporting blood stains as his back remained coatless. He seemed to shake and glare at me with anger. Beside him was a table with a black box, two jars and something that looked like dental equipment.

Sonata and Mane Care came down through an open door. They remained calm and straight-faced as they trotted over and grabbed the pink missile launcher. Iron Hoof dragged her bean bag chair over to Grumpy’s chair. She jested to Sonata to come over. The crowd was a bustle of noise and talk.

Iron Hoof opened Grumpy's cage after making sure he was firmly restrained. "Sonata, if you'd kindly check his mind."

Sonata nodded as a blue magical aura unlocked the cage and pulled the door open. I watched, wondering whose magic that was. Then I saw Sonata pull back his hair, revealing a horn buried inside. He was a unicorn, that was a surprise. I remained silent as Grumpy struggled as Sonata pushed his horn to Grumpy's head. Sonata soon pulled his horn back, a blue thread of magic staying connected to Grumpy's head.

Iron Hoof smiled and spoke loudly so the crowd could hear. "The fear reveal spell. It searches one's mind for what they fear most. Now I have on record what every one of you fear most. To join us you must conquer your fear, but I'll give you something else to fear if you break our rules."

The crowd cheered and began to chant. "Centipede!"

Iron Hoof Smirked. "That's right! The centipede!" She gestured over to Sonata as the threat pulled out a magical ethereal Centipede from Grumpy's head. "I see he's seen somepony being punished before, now the centipede is his greatest fear!" She chuckled. "He's right to fear the centipede."

Grumpy seemed to scream and cry at the sight of the ethereal Centipede, although his screams were muffled by the mouth gag. Sonata stepped back as Iron Hoof trotted up to Grumpy, taking off his mouth gag.

As soon as she removed it he started begging. "Please! No! I'm Sorry! Not the Centipedes!~"


His head whipped to the side as Iron Hoof slapped his face. He coughed and spat blood. A tooth fell out of his mouth as his lip was split open. "Silence." Iron Hoof demanded.

The crowd cheered, enjoying the blood. I watched as she grabbed some of the dental equipment. She forced it into his mouth. It kept his mouth pried open, she then pushed his head back and strapped it to the chair, keeping his head up. He tried to struggle, but Iron Hoof easily overpowered him.

I glared at the show as she trotted over to the black box and opened it slowly, staring down into it as the crowd went silent. "Did you know centipedes are poisonous, their venom causes severe pain, swelling, redness, swollen painful lymph nodes, headache, palpitations or a racing pulse, nausea, vomiting, anxiety and a local itching and burning sensations? But not death, in most cases."

Iron Hoof grabbed some tongs and pulled something out of the box. A bug, a big black centipede with an orangey red head and dozens of white limbs. Iron spoke around the tongs. "The Red-headed Centipede, imported from parts unknown, sold to me by a merchant zebra long ago. It can grow up to eight inches, but this one is only three inches."

Grumpy stared at the bug with absolute horror, while I myself was creeped out by it. Iron Hoof opened the jar filled with a clear substance. "Centipedes can hold their breath for a long time. They also like warm moist spaces, like stomachs."

I couldn't help but gag as she held it above his pried-open mouth. Grumpy's screams of terror shot above the crowd’s cheering. Iron Hoof slowing lowered it, causing Grumpy to panic. She then stopped and pulled it back. "Centipedes are tough, but I think stomach acid might be a bit much for them."

She trotted over to the open jar and dipped the squirming bug into it. "Accid-Off, harvested mucus from Bloodleech to protect one from, well, acid, a must for anyone going to Underworld. Bloodleeches are a highly common threat for anyone forced or willing to run the Underworld caravan route."

She pulled the now slime coated centipede out of the jar. It dripped as it squirmed, seemingly mad at its gooey bath. Sonata trotted back to Iron Hoof and grabbed the second jar. He opened it and held it above Grumpy in his magical grasp. Iron Hoof once again held the bug over Grumpy's mouth. "Deep breaths."

I didn't want to see, but I couldn't look away. Grumpy's panting slowed, his rapid breaths soon grew bigger. She dropped the slimy centipede in his mouth as he took a deep breath. Sonata then poured the content of the second jar down his throat, water. Grumpy swallowed, water and bug. I saw the long bugle in his throat as the bug went down.

I couldn't help but imagine the feeling of all those legs scratching at his throat. Iron hoof pulled off the restraints on his mouth and pushed his mouth shut. The crowd went wild as their comrade thrashed and spasmed in horror. Forced to keep the bug down or risk choking to death. Iron Hoof stared into his fear filled eyes. "Squirming makes it bite more."

I could hear the moans and screams of terror as Grumpy struggled to breathe from his nose. Soon his spasms and shaking stopped and his eyes went blank. Iron Hoof let go of his head, letting it fall to the side. Water dripped from his mouth as he was motionless. Iron Hoof sighed. "Was not the bug that killed thee, nor the water. But the fear that stopped ones heart." I couldn't help but throw up as the crowd loved it.

Then Grumpy groaned as he breathed through his nose, closing his eyes. Iron Hoof chuckled. "Oh, nevermind, he just passed out." The crowd burst out into laughter. Iron Hoof then grabbed the ball gag and put it back into his mouth. "One day. He can remove it tomorrow."

Sonata and Mane Care packed up the equipment and began to wheel away from the restrained unconscious Grumpy. The lights dimmed as a spotlight highlighted Iron Hoof. "Well my little ponies, was it a good show?" The crowd yelled as one, 'yes!'

Iron hoof gave a few bows, smiling and enjoying herself. "That is why you follow the rules! So now that you've all been reminded what will happen if you don't, will you behave."

As one organized voice, they all replied out of fear, respect, and joy. 'Yes, Ma’am!'

A spotlight hit me, Iron Hoof trotted over to my cage. "Now, as for the feather head, it's time to see if he has what it takes to join our ranks."

The crowd booed and yelled, clearly unhappy with my invitation. I went over to Iron Hoof. "I don't want to join. I just need your power armor."

Iron Smiled at me. "If you survive and join I might see fit lending it to you."

I crossed my hooves. "Fine."

A spotlight shined on Sonata as he walked over to us, Iron then promptly opened my cage, to the displeasure of her fellow Minute-Mares. "All you have to do is survive your greatest fear, then you're in."

I stepped out and frowned, nervous as I thought of what my greatest fear might have been. I thought of pegasus soldiers, point thirty-two revolvers, even of centipedes. But the thought that pushed passed all of them was the door, the black door. The crowd yelled insults at me, I could feel their hate. I closed my eyes and took and breath and thought of Sharp, remembering she had a plan, choosing to look past all my worries and believe in her.

"Okay, I'm ready." I opened my eyes, seeing Sonata in front of me, looking a little worried.

Iron Hoof whispered in my ear. "Don't worry about them, if you impress them then they'll lay off you."

I nodded and kneeled down. Sonata placed his tiny horn to my forehead. "Good luck," he said before he began to cast his spell.

"Be careful in there," I said, closing my eyes.

I felt my mind slowly flood with thoughts of fears, images and shapes began to conjure up in my head. Soon we hit the image of the Door. Dark Star stood in front of it, blocking it. I opened my eyes to see Sonata standing a few steps back, the blue magic threat connected to my head. I watched as Sonata's face turned sour. The threat began to turn purple.

My head started to hurt greatly, as I gripped it, groaning in pain. Soon Sonata started screaming, I struggled to look up to him, seeing tears running down his face. His horn flared and changed to purple. His eyes shot open, they were a strong purple glow. Iron Hoof gasped in shock as the onlookers watched in confusion.

"My baby?!" Mane Care came running out of a doorway, but Iron Hoof went and held her back.

A ball of magic began to form in the middle of the theater.


Both me and Sonata screamed as the ball of magic exploded, knocking us both back. I stumbled to my hooves, looking through the dust to see the door, the black door. I evidently froze. Dark Star was standing between me and it. Both he and the door looked so real, yet slightly see-through.

Everyone was silent. But then I heard Mane Care yell out to Sonata. I looked to see him lying unconscious on the floor, his horn and mane smoking and charred. Dark Star looked around. "What's this? Oh Star, what do you want?"

I swallowed my fear. "N-nothing Dark, you can go away now."

Dark shrugged. "If you want me then you're going to have to beg, remember that." Dark then smirked at me before he and the door disintegrated into nothing.

My head felt light, but the sensation soon passed. Mane Care took Sonata away, while the crowd didn't know what to think. Iron Hoof began to chuckle, which only added to the confusion. "Hahaha, you crazy bastard." She laughed.

"You actually took Nightmare, didn't you?" As soon as the dark crystal was mentioned the crowd began to talk among themselves.

I started at Iron Hoof and her amused face. "How'd you know about Nightmare?"

Iron Hoof pointed at a pony in the crowd. "You there! Go get my little lock box under my bed, the key is under the lamp." The pony just nodded and followed his leader's orders.

I stepped forward. "I asked you a question."

Iron Hoof smirked. "One day one of my best ponies tried Nightmare, believing it would give him great power, as did many during the war. He went mad for an hour, although it indulged him with great strength and a drive like a monster. I recall while I fought him was that his eyes changed to purple. Nearly beat me too."

I sighed. "Yae, it's true, I took Nightmare and survived. But it changed me, or at least changed the voice in my head."

The pony whom Iron Hoof sent to go get the box had returned. He came downstairs and placed the box in front of her. "Thank you, dear." She opened the box and brought out a single piece of Nightmare in her hooves.

I glared at it, a bad feeling growing in my gut. "What's that for?"

Iron Hoof smirked at me. "You."

I took a step back. "What? No!"

Iron raised her hoof before pointing it at me. Everypony then proceeded to pull out their guns and point it down at me. "Don't make me kill you Star, I just started to like you." Iron hoof walked over, pushing the crystal to my lips.

I took it into my mouth, it turned into its glob-blob form as it touched my tongue, tingling. Iron Hoof patted my cheek. "Swallow."

I begrudgingly did as instructed. It slid down my throat smoothly, not burning or hurting nearly as much as last time. When it hit my stomach it started to give me painful cramps. I grunted and dropped to my knees. Iron Hoof promptly left the ground floor, going to the rounded window overlooking the area.

The stable intercom system crackled and sparked to life. Iron Hoof's voice broke through, all crackly and fuzzy. "Mares and stallions, ladies and gentlemen. The main event is about to start."

There was a loud thudding sound coming from either end of the ground floor. The automatic metal doors slid open, revealing a green wall. I looked back to the second door, seeing a teal wall behind the door. I watched as the walls seemed to bend down. They weren't walls, they were ponies. Two huge ponies twisted and turned to get their massive bulk through the doors.

"Bulk Build and Buff Body, two ponies who broke my missile launcher. Along with also slaughtering caravaners after they surrendered. Also stealing provisions." The two ponies eventually got through the doors.

I thought Armored Wall was big, but he had nothing on these two. The pair of them much have walked with their heads lowered in the hallways. Because their manes were pressing against the underside of the second-floor balconies, which itself was raised higher than the hallways. Their whole bodies bulged with muscle upon muscle as their mere steps made the ground shake.

"Proof that I don't play favorites, even with lovers." Iron Hoof smirked down at us from her window as the crowds watched in excitement. I must admin, Iron Hoof certainly had a type.

That notion would have made me laugh. But the Nightmare in my gut was taking effect. I gritted my teeth as the edges of my vision darkened. My breathing became shallow and my head felt like it was about to split open. I could feel the darkness creeping in around me. I looked to the green behemoth, trying to distract myself by taking in his appearance.

Over his body, I could see many scars, including a prominent neck wound across his throat. His face was what you'd expect, battle-scarred. He wore a plastic white shade glasses, hiding his lime eyes. His mane was in the shape of a teal mohawk brushing the roof. I got a glimpse of his cutie mark, it seemed like a small spot on his massive frame. A pair of dumbbells.

I groaned as I began to cough. I looked over to the teal stallion, seeing the two were more or less the same. Except the second one was, in fact, an inch shorter with short green dreadlocks and lime green eyes. He also had a metal ring through his nose. His body bore fewer scars, but still, far too many for a pony to have. His flank bore a single larger weight on it than his green counterpart.

"Now my fellow Minute-Mares, I think it'll take a lot for you all to accept a Pegasus as one of our own. So why don’t we make this indisputable? How about a death match?" Iron Hoof smiled methodically as she stared at the three of us.

The crowd went wild, chanting, 'Death Match.'

"Hello, Star."

All my pain and discomfort suddenly disappeared. Dark. "What do you want?"

"Would you like a hoof?"

I groaned and stood, looking around. I saw that we were still in the atrium, but time seemed to stop. "What is this?"

Dark stepped out from the shadows, this time instead of his normal shadowy ethereal body he had mine. Except his eyes were aglow with purple. He smirked at me. "I thought I'd give you a moment to think."

"Did you stop time?" I looked closely, before noticing everything was moving very slowly.

"No, time is flowing normally, this is just adrenaline slowing your perception of time, allowing you to think faster." He trotted over to me.

I still looked around skeptically. But then I noticed what was in the position I was just at. "My Body?" My body was where I was, clutching its, I mean my, stomach.

"I want you to stop resisting me, it'll only hurt more if you do."

"No! I don't want your power." I began to march away from him as I took note of the approaching bulky ponies.

"But you need it. Trust me, I’d rather be taking a nap. But you have to admit it felt pretty good when we worked together when you accepted me. Besides, it's not my power, it's yours." He chuckled and smiled at me with my own face.

I turned away from him and crossed my hooves. "Fuck off."

He sat down. "Fine, but just ask. Now, how about we talk instead."

I looked back at him over my shoulder. "About?"

He pointed a hoof towards me, finally stopping smirking. "That."

I turned around and almost jumped back as I saw the black door. "AGHH!" I panted as I tried to calm down, feeling my heart racing.

Dark chuckled lightly. "Hehe, would you like a hint of what’s behind it?"

I couldn't help but lean away from it as every fiber of my being told me to get away from it. I was so scared I almost didn't notice Dark asking me. I thought of it for a second, before against all my fear I nodded.

"Hopefully after I tell you, you'll never want to open it." He trotted over to me and placed a hoof on my shoulder, causing me to flinch."

"I...I never even wanted to open... it."

He came in close and whispered into my ear. "Your original sin."

Pain, my ribs exploded in pain as I was kicked across the floor. My eyes shot open, I gasped for air and slid across the ground. I came to a stop, gripping my side with my wings and hooves, groaning in pain as I struggled to grab my breath. I looked around to see time had returned to normal. Bulk Build had swatted me to the side, snickering.

He then proceeded to pump his muscles for the crowd. "You like that!" His voice, oh Goddesses. I gripped my muzzle as I tried not to laugh. His voice was so high pitched and squeaky.

"You laughing Bro?" Buff Body's voice was low and stuffy, it sounded like he had a cold. Although that nose ring probably didn't help.

I burst out laughing. "HaHAHAHA! Your voices are soo dumb!" The whole crowd went silent, only one pony was laughing. Iron Hoof.

Buff Body stepped forward. "You done fucked up."

I stood as my rib pain died down, but the nightmare continued to harm me. "Crap."

The fight was on. I used my small yet total average stature to dodge and outmaneuver them. But the pain and darkening vision made it increasingly difficult. I flew behind Buff Bodys after digging a broad hoof swipe and bucked the back of his head. He just proceeded to chuck as it had no effect.

Bulk Build swatted me off Buff's back before the two bro-fisted as they stood above me. My body shook as I struggled to get up, my perception almost completely gone. My bruised body ached all over. I did manage to stumble to my hooves and stare down the two massive ponies. One under hoof uppercut sent me flying into the chain net.

I remembered the impact and much more after it. But when I came back I was on the floor again, a large black and purple swell on my chest. I struggled to breathe, followed by multiple smaller bruises over my body. I could barely see, let alone hear. But there was a dull cheering sound as the crowd seemed to revel in my struggle.

I could hear one of the ponies speak, but it was distorted and hard to hear. "This is boring, feather head doesn't even make a good soccer ball."

"Give him a weapon or something, not that it'll do him much good in his condition." My body felt heavy and numb as I didn’t even have the strength to move my head.


Something laid in front of me, it took me a moment to focus on it. It was a knife, my knife. "Star, if you don't give me the driver seat then you're going to die here." Dark.

Thoughts of Sharp popped into my head, thinking about how she'd save me somehow. "You know she isn't coming, right?"

I opened my mouth to complain, blood seeping out and a low groan came out instead. I was too broken to speak. "Star, if you die here then you'll not only fail Sharp, but you'll fail Candy."

With all remainder of my strength, I wiggled my head to the knife, trying to get it into my mouth. "Sharp can't save you, but I can."

I struggled to pull the knife into my mouth with my tongue. "What are you afraid of Star? Me?"

I mumbled out weakly. "Them... Seeing...You..."

Dark chuckled. "Is that all? What a bunch of raiders think of you? Are you really willing to let everypony down just for something as dumb as that?"

I bit down on the knife harder. "Let me share our pain, let them feel the same fear Candy felt!"

My eyes watered up as I stopped fighting the darkness and gave in, knowing I was dead without it. I felt my body stand as feeling returned to it. But something was different, I felt disconnected from it. It felt as I was cradling myself while hiding my head in my wings. I could still hear everything though.

I could feel Dark smiling with my mouth. "Sombra Deus vult dolor."

Chapter 10: Sombra Deus vult dolor

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I am weak. I had given into my darkness. I wasn't strong enough to win the battle. Me versus two massive ponies. I let Dark take control as I simply shut my eyes and blocked my ears. Trying to forget, like I forgot the post office. But unlike the post office, I didn't simply wake up after this was over.

The only sense I had left was my hearing. But I really didn't want to hear what Dark was doing. One of the two ponies screamed, followed by a thud as his bulk hit the ground.

There was silence from the crowd as that pony screamed in pain. "I cut the ligaments to all your limbs," Dark's voice echoed around the darkness as I could practically feel his sadistic smile.

"You bastard!" It was Bulk Build, which meant the other pony, Buff Body, was still standing.

There was the sound of rushing air, followed by more screams. "Five cuts."

"What the hell are you doing?!" a low voice screeched.

"Tsk, tsk, tsk. You better wait your turn."


There was the sound of rushing air again, followed by a grunt. "Stand Still!" Buff Body was on the attack.

More screams. "Four cuts."

I whimpered to myself. "Please stop."

"Allow me to educate you all." Another scream from Buff Body. "What you are experiencing is called lingchi." The sound of flesh being severed, sickening.

"Stop please!" Bulk seemed to cry out. Another thud resounded.

"It's a foreign term, but its nickname is death by three thousand cuts." I recalled briefly reading it in some old book. More screams snapped me out of my thoughts. There was also the sound of wet things hitting the floor.

Buff yelled out, "You fucking bastard!"

"Wait your turn." A symphony of screams started. I tried to block it out as it was the only thing I could hear, aside from the sound of the knife cutting into a pony.

"Stop! You win! We surrender!" Buff Body cried over a gurgled wet cough.

The P. A. System crackled to life once again. "Too bad, this is a death match. That is what the ponies demanded." Iron Hoof, even through a speaker, sounded as malicious as ever.

"Please stop Dark..." I pleaded, knowing he could hear me.

I could hear the crowd mumble and look down on us, confused by the turn of the battle. But then some pony started chanting and cheering, for me. “Star! Star! Star!”

"How can I stop now?" His smirk and sadistic ego grew.

There was a groan and a wet gurgling sound as the crowd went silent again. I then heard Dark fiddle with something before there was a pop and a whistling sound. "You're not getting out of this that easily."

"Bulk! What did you do to him?!" Buff's voice was filled with panic.

I could still hear the whistling sound, reverting up and down. "Relax, I just saved his life." The whistling sped up. "After all, it belongs to me."

The crowd started to chant my name again, but suddenly stopped. "Give me a hook and chain." Soon there was a clank followed by the sound of chains rattling.

There was the sound of a gargled whistle filled scream, as I could hear the sound of meat being torn. "Now pull him up."

I could hear the chain shake as Bulk Build thrashed. I tried to keep out the thoughts of what might be going on, as I just mumbled, "Stop." Over and over again.

I could hear Buff Body weeping as he watched his friend being hoisted up. "Please stop."

Dark chuckled. "You should be begging me to give you the same mercy, after all, you’re the one getting a slow death."


Hooves collided with flesh. The crowd’s chanting revved up, chains rattling.


It began to repeat in a rhythm.




The crowd quieted down as I could hear Dark pant a little, the pounding and cracking finally stopping. The chains slowly creaked as the whistling of Bulk Build was much slower and lower. "I am Dark, The Angel of Death." A stomp of a hoof accentuated his title.

The sound of a blade cutting meat was followed by a disturbing large wet sound. The crowd erupted in cheers. I could even hear some threw up through the ovation. But most of all, the whistling stopped. I knew Bulk Build was dead. I couldn't help but cry in the darkness, hugging myself tighter.

Somepony growled at me. "You bastard!" Buff Body. I heard him shift his large bulk, before falling down. Failing to stand up as he was too injured.

The sound of something wet and squishy being moved was eerily close. "If you don't shut up, then I'm going to gag you with this as well." I could hear Buff Body whimpering as Dark did something with something. "There, now the cuts will be a surprise."

The screaming started, but this time it didn't stop. It felt like hours of screaming as the crowd's enthusiasm didn't let up. All of them cheered for more blood and pain. All the while Dark sliced slivers off of Buff's body. No matter what I did I couldn't block out the sound.

Dark chuckled. "Don't pass out now, we're only at two thousand two hundred and twenty-two cuts."

Buff Body whimpered softly. "Please... Kill...Me..."

"What do you think I've been doing for the past hour?" Dark lightly chuckled. The crowd fell silent as I heard the door open. Dark growled. "What do you want?"

"Time's up." Sonata?

This sound, this song. It was Lost Stars, Candy's music box. I felt the darkness melt away as I slowly stood up, opening my eyes. I saw Sonata standing in the doorway, his horn and hair burnt. He looked at me with an expression of sadness and understanding. In his hoof was Candy's music box. I then began to look at my body. It was covered in blood, I was soaked in it.

I slowly began to turn around. "Don't!" Sonata shouted.

But I couldn't help it, I was too curious. I screamed and jumped back toward Sonata. Bulk Build was hanging from the second floor by a chain and hook through his chin. He had a pen sticking out of his neck as there was a stream of blood pouring out of his mouth. He must have tried to choke on his tongue. His limbs had deep cuts on his ligaments.

His chest and ribs were broken. I knew because his body was forced open, sliced from pelvis to the base of his neck. In a near medical manner, in the shape of a horizontal H., His organs hung from his body, connected only by each other. His heart kept on beating, but all his blood was either on me or the floor.

His guts were laying on the floor as well. A section of them was pulled and cut away from the rest. I looked over to Buff Body, finding the missing guts. They were tied around his face, like a blindfold. He had varying depths of oval-shaped cuts carved out of his body. The removed meat and flesh laid in thin slivers around him. Despite the fact that there were thousands laying around the room, he was still alive, well breathing.

The level of Dark Star's sadistic violence was just monstrous. To make things worse, it was all on show for a bunch of worsening mercenaries. They ate it up like bloodthirsty dogs, savages kept in check by fear of Iron Hoof. If she were to vanish then this group would turn raider in less than a day. True that she may be clinging to a dead militia's name. But their ideas and future were fast fading.

"Sonata?! What are you doing!?" A voice screamed from down the hallway. Soon Mane Care rounded the corner and ran towards the room. "It's not safe!"

I groaned as I was about to slowly get up. All my body sensations returned. I screamed as I collapsed in pain, all of my injuries stinging and throbbing at once.

"He needs help," Sonata said, looking up at Iron Hoof, in her little window. Mane Care ran up and stood next to him.

The P. A. buzzed. "Well, folks? What do you say? Has this Pegasus proven himself?"

The crowd burst out in cheers of praise, chanting my name. 'Star... Star… Star...'

Sonata moved forward to my side but Mane Care held him back, shaking her head. Some ponies carrying a stretcher ran in, injecting me with Med-X, before picking me and placing me on it. I groaned as they carried me out. I saw another group with a stretcher walk over to the barely alive Buff Body.

I looked at Sonata, clutching the music box.

"Thank you," I mumbled

I was carried over to the medical station. I was patched up with bandages and two healing potions. After an hour of them forcing me to sit back and let the healing potion do its work, they redid my bandages and helped to wipe off most of the blood.

There was a poster next to the bed. One from Ministry of Love. 'Love and time are nature’s medicine.' was written in white over a mostly green poster of an orchard. It looked like one side was a pear orchard and the other side was an apple orchard during sunset. In between them were two trees twirled together, separating and joining together again at the top, forming a heart. Both trees bore apples and pears, together. I could see the heart shape and the lovingness, but I felt that there might have been a deeper meaning to the poster's design.

Afterwards they brought over a needle gun with some magical ink in a tube. Despite my complaints and arguments, I was forced to get a tattoo. Stupid thing hurt, but I ended up getting the Minute Mares’ clock tattoo on my left shoulder. I looked at it in a mirror, seeing it tick. Unfortunately I was now a part of the Minute Mares.

I was finally allowed to get up and leave. I was told to go to the Overmare's office right away. Not being familiar with the Stable’s dull maze-like layout, I was in need of a guide. I got to the automatic sliding door, it opened, on the other side was Sonata.

"Sonata?" He had a bald patch around his horn, all the burnt hair was cut off and his horn was cleaned.

"Oh Star, I was hoping to catch you." He smiled up at me.

"Why?" I asked inquisitively.

He turned and waved a hoof for me to follow, so I did. "I've been asked to take you to see Iron Hoof. That and I wanted to talk."

Some ponies passed us, still talking and muttering about the fight. They stared at me and my wings. "There he is, the Angel of Death." They chuckled and walked away. I just tried to shrink down, ashamed of my wings and my new nickname.

"That wasn't me..."

Sonata came to a sudden stop in front of me. "I know, I've been inside your head."

I just stared at him for a moment. "Sorry."

"It's..." There was a pause as he thought of the words to say. "Messed up in there."

I gave a light chuckle. "I know."

We kept walking again. This time Sonata pulled a paperclip out of his tail and held it in his mouth. "Mane Care doesn't want me near you. But I know about your pain, the demons you carry. Besides, she's busy helping stabilize Buff Body."

I trotted up next to him. "Will he live?"

Sonata's horn sparked as he concentrated on the paperclip he held in his mouth. "Don't know." A small blue aura bubble emerged from the tip of his horn. His magic enveloped the paperclip and held it out in front of him, shaking and bobbing up and down.

I cocked my head. "What are you doing?"

"Magic training." Slowly but surely the paperclip began to twist out of shape. "Shaping paperclips demands focus and precision."

"Oh, interesting." I gave him a light smile as I saw him hold his breath and concentrate.

Sonata soon exhaled and panted slightly in exhaustion, dropping the paperclip. We stopped as he picked it up. "Here."

I took it with my wings and looked at it. He had shaped it into a star. "Hehe, thanks."

"I use to be able to shape multiple paperclips without a problem. But now I struggle to even shape one." He looked kind of down but chuckled to himself a little. "Come on, let's go."

He started to trot faster. We broke out into a light canter, both of us laughing a little. We eventually ran into a room, the one with a piano. "Why are we back here?" I asked as we caught our breaths.

Sonata made his way to the piano. "Take a seat."

I looked around, finding the pillows and sitting down where I had last time. I gave a light chuckle. "All I'm missing is the cage."

Sonata giggled. "Hehe, sorry about that." He gave me a sheepish grin.

I laid back. "Now what?"

Sonata pulled out some musical sheets. "Just sit back and relax." He threw something at me and I caught it in my wings. Candy's music box.

My ears perked up as I recognized what he was playing after just a few notes. Lost Stars. I sighed, relaxing as I let the music wash over me.

The song seemed to end as soon as it started, it was a short song indeed. Still, it really helped to wash away my anxiety. "Star, what's behind the door?"

I didn't even look at Sonata, I just kept blankly staring at the ceiling. "I don't know and I don't want to."

"Oh, okay, sorry."

The question kept nagging me. "Do you know?"

Sonata gave a light chuckle. "No, I don't think I want to know either." He sighed. "We should probably go see Iron Hoof."

"Yea." We both got up and I followed him once more, looking down at the little star he gave me, as well as the music box.

We got to the Overmare's door, Sonata stopped before it. I nodded, thankful, before stepping forward. The door slid open. I didn't expect what was inside. Sharp was talking and laughing with Iron Hoof. They were having tea as they sat around a table. There was an empty seat for me. Sharp was still wearing that Stable suit, while Iron Hoof still wore my blue hoodie.

"Star! Are you okay?" Sharp shot up and hugged me.

I hugged her back. "Umm yea? What's going on?"

Iron Hoof took a sip of her tea before waving a hoof. "Have a seat, let's chat."

I looked to Sharp and she nodded, so I complied. "So what's going on?" I asked.

"We're having tea," Iron Hoof said as she poured me a cup.

Sharp sat down. "I prefer coffee, but they only had tea." The two of them took a sip of their drinks.

I looked down at my cup, still a little confused. "But why are you here? What about the plan?"

"Plan? What plan?" Iron Hoof asked, putting her cup down.

Sharp took a sip of her tea before putting it down. "I planted explosives throughout the stable. I was then going to use that to get Star and the power armor out of here. Star was meant to distract you, but I never expected him to join you."

"I never agreed to join them, besides, did you... umm... see?" I asked, avoiding eye contact.

"Wait, go back to the bombs," Iron Hoof interjected.

"I didn't see your fight, I was too busy placing the bombs throughout the stable."

I sighed, relieved by that slight comfort. "Good."

"Where is the detonator?" Iron Hoof asked, still wanting to know more.

"I have it in my bag." Sharp finished her tea and stood up.

"Give it to me." Iron Hoof demanded.

"Once we're safely outside." Sharp wiped her lips with a napkin, smiling.

I followed her lead. "Thanks for the tea. I would like to stay a bit longer and ask some questions about my dad. But we're a little tight for time."

Iron Hoof sighed. "Very well, next we meet hopefully we'll have more time to chat." She moved back and pulled my hoodie off over her head. It was then that we saw a prominent abdominal scar. "The power armor is waiting for you at the entrance. Also if you ask about that scar, I'll kill you." She pulled off the hoodie and handed it to me, smiling.

I smiled back at her, a little unnerved. "Noted." I then proceeded to put it back on.

"Oh, before I forget." Iron Hoof went over to a table and pulled out my knife and handed it to Sharp. I just stared at it as Sharp put it in her bag.

We then got up and walked to the door, Iron Hoof following behind. We stepped out of the office, seeing Sonata waiting for us. "Ma’am?"

"Sonata, lead them to the exit. Oh and don't forget to grab the detonator off Sharp once they leave." Iron Hoof instructed, nodding to my sister.

Sonata smiled at us. "Right this way."

We passed a few ponies on the way to the entrance. All of them seemed to have a word to say about me or Sharp’s flanks. I didn't know which annoyed me more. We walked along the second floor of the atrium. I couldn't help but look down to the arena, looking to where Bulk Build was hung.


Hanging where Bulk once did was me, well, my body. "Why didn't you open your eyes?" it said around the hook in its mouth. I just stared at my mutilated body, just like Bulk Build's body was, except my body’s eyes were closed.

"Star?" I jumped a little as I spun around, staring at Sharp. She had placed a hoof on my shoulder, I could see the concern on her face. "Are you okay? You look scared."

"W~what no I'm fine, let's go," I mumbled, smiling at her before quickly turning away and walking forward.

The next few minutes were spent in awkward silence as we went to the Stable door.

Power armor. It definitely lived up to its name. I saw it standing just before the open door, two ponies standing around it. But I didn't care about them. The armor looked massive, like a pony-shaped tank. Even its tail was armored. The body bore a white non-magical insignia. On the back between the massive shoulders was a hole for something. The helmet seemed to have pipes for a built-in breather, a built-in lamplight, and black visor eyes. The legs have hydraulics sticking out of them. The whole thing seemed to have a few scratches and dents, the metal slightly worn and rusted, but it seemed to be in perfect condition overall.

"Wow, hold your horses," one guard said as I approached. The other guard hugged the one who was talking. The one talking just groaned. "What are you doing?"

"Holding my horses." He chuckled. He was a slim lemony yellow stallion with a cream colored long spiky mane and emerald green eyes.

The other one sighed. "Not now Cream Lemon." This guard had a steel grey coat, brown hair, and brown eyes.

Cream Lemon giggled before walking to me. "So you’re the one they call the Angel of Death?"

I sighed and avoided eye contact. "Yeah, I guess?"

Suddenly I found myself being kissed by Cream Lemon. I froze and blushed as a few seconds passed, he pulled off my lips, licking his own. "Kiss of death, pretty good."

"Lemon!" The guard shouted.

Cream Lemon sighed and proceeded to walk away, swaying his flank, but not before saying, "Fine, I'll go polish some poles or something."

After a moment of silence, awkwardly blushing, Sonata cleared his throat. "Anyway, here is the power armor."

The one guard stepped forward. "Yes, yes. T forty five power armor, repaired by our engineer, Billy. Rest his soul."

"What happened to him?" Sharp asked.

"Billy was eaten by ghouls," The guard replied bluntly.

I was still just frozen in place, too shocked to move.

The guard opened the power armor. "So... umm, yeah the armor is powered by a magic core."

"I thought power armor had built-in generators?" Sharp asked.

"That's what the old books say, but I dug around and found out why they changed to this obsolete method. Apparently, the Crystal Empire had a law limiting power armor usage time span. They simply replaced the generator with a magic core that could last just for a while. Also, the armor had its self-renewal matrix removed."

"That doesn't seem very smart. But for something without a repair function, this one looks to be in great condition," Sharp said as she inspected the armor. The body seemed to have the heavy metal armor attached to an exoskeleton frame made of metal, wires, and hydraulics.

"Yeah, this one doesn't seem to have seen combat." The guard pulled out a large cylindrical thing from his bag. "This here is the magic core that powers this bad boy. It should last you about ten to five hours, depending on how much you move."

I silently got into the power armor, finding the exoskeleton adjusting its diameters automatically to fit me snugly. The guard put in the magic core and the power armor started to close in around me. I looked to find it unobstructed, but then lights turned on and a heads-up display, lit in a translucent orangish yellow, appeared before my eyes.

"But watch out, the magic core is a fundamental weak point. They can even explode in a spectacular fashion if damaged. Could make a good grenade too, I suppose." The guard chuckled, I on the other hoof was a bit worried about blowing up.

There was a little blocky power armor icon standing in the left top corner. I supposed it indicated the condition of the armor’s individual parts. Under it was a general power use meter, which was currently at zero. Next to it was a small Rad gauge. In the bottom middle was a compass, currently pointed north-west. On the right side was a core level gauge indicating the current core condition as one hundred percent. The last gauge was in the right corner, it was something called A.P. Within that was a box to display ammo, but it was empty at the moment.

I tried to speak, but nothing got through, it seemed like the mic or whatever this thing used for audio was broken.

"Audio issues still persisting? Oh well." He shrugged and went on to explain more about the suit. "Self-powered spell matrix helps run all your standard functions, courtesy of Stable-Tech. You got your inventory, organizational controls, maps, S.A.T.S., self-monitoring systems, E.F.S. and such, just like a Pip-Buck." The guard walked around, inspecting the now powered power armor.

"What's E.F.S. and S.A.T.S.?" Sharp asked, looking at her Pip-Buck.

"You mean to tell me you have a Pip-Buck and you don't know?" the guard asked, cocking his head.

Sharp shrugged. "Technology has never been my thing."

They couldn't see it but I was rolling my eyes. The guard chuckled. "You might as well have worn it as a necklace. E.F.S. is the name of the stuff you two should be able to see. Eyes Forward Sparkle."

"So that's what the display is called," Sharp said as she adjusted some setting on her Pip-Buck, her hud light changed from a green light to a more fitting red. “So if something is in range it will show up on the compass as a marker?”

"Correct, also if it switched colors then it means that thing means hostility. Next is S.A.T.S., Stable Assisted Targeting Spell..." The guard was cut off.

"I do believe we are pressed for time. You are wearing a bomb collar after all." Sonata, I'd forgotten he was here.

"Right, right, well umm you should be good to go. Just take it slow and get used to it, most ponies get training time. But I guess the crash course will do." The guard began to walk off.

"Who was that anyway?" Sharp asked.

"Pip Tech, he joined so he could help us with technology. He was rather annoyed to find no Pip-Bucks in the Stable, as well as the technician's room converted to a jail." Sonata moved to Sharp and pulled out a memory orb out of his tail. "Here."

"What is it?" Sharp asked as she put it in her bag.

"Some history on the Stable," Sonata replied.

Sharp thanked him and nodded too.

"Oh and your stuff is in a duffle bag outside the Stable door." Sonata pointed.

I moved my head, hearing the armor’s hydraulics work and signaling that we should go. Sharp nodded and walked in front of me. I went to take a step and fell forward on my face with a thud. Everything shook as I groaned in more annoyance than pain.

"I guess the crash course was literal." I could hear Sharp and Sonata chuckle.

I stumbled to my hooves like a newborn. "Not funny." Oh right, I forgot they couldn't hear me. I began to slowly walk forward.

"Wait." Sonata, I turned around and looked down at him. He avoided looking directly at me. "Star, we're friends, right?"

Knowing he couldn't hear me, I simply nodded.

"So will you come back and visit? Promise?" He looked up at me, with tears in his eyes. I saw my reflection in his big deep green eyes.

I couldn't help but tear up, I swear I even heard Sharp sniffle. I nodded and smiled, he smiled back. With that, we were finally off. We trotted out into the tunnel, but stopped and watched as the Stable door closed. We turned and we now were officially off, after getting our gear.

Fog, a dense fog and a light sprinkling of snow rolled in. Luckily for me, this armor was heated, I even figured out how to operate the lamplight. I looked to Sharp next to me, seeing her shiver a little. We were at least halfway to Iron Gem, making great time, despite visibility being quite poor.

"I've seen your other side before," Sharp started. I looked at her, a little puzzled. "The darker side, back in the post office."

I stopped in my tracks, shaking my head slowly as I felt shame wash over me. "Star I don't mind, it saved your life. As long as it doesn't hurt you. You're not a monster, you’re my brother and I love you."

I wanted to tell her. Tell her about the visions, the door, Candy, and Dark. The way he made me feel, that sickly pleasure I felt when I accepted him. I knew what she was trying to say, that I shouldn't be holding myself back and putting myself at risk just because of somepony’s opinion of me. But that wasn't the only reason I rejected Dark. No, I also didn't want his power because it scared me.

I didn't know what Dark was, but I knew he was connected to the black door. I didn’t know how, but I did know that neither of us wanted to open it. Maybe I was just overthinking things, or maybe I was going crazy. Either way, I knew that I couldn't accept Dark, even if Sharp was willing to. Besides, even if she said she didn't see me as a monster, I couldn't help but think she was lying.

We started walking again, although I was a few steps behind Sharp. I was in my own little world, thinking about Dark and what to say and who to say it to. Despite being my sister, Sharp didn't come to mind first, Selen did. I barely knew her, but I felt more connected to her than to Sharp. Not just physically, she just seemed friendly and caring. Not that Sharp wasn't friendly. Well, she was just kind of serious and distant most of the time.

A hoof to my armored chest brought me to a halt. I looked down at her hoof, then upward. I stopped when I saw a power armor helmet laying a few hooves in front of us. I looked ahead of us to see the rest of the suit lying next to a damaged wagon. The only problem was that there was a pony inside it. But their head was clearly still in the helmet.

The armored pony had a huge grenade machine gun on the right side of their monstrous battle saddle and a large box filled with missiles on the left. Both seemed to be heavily damaged, but they looked to have a shot or two left in them. Two dead brahmin lay at the front of the wagon, large gash marks over their bodies. All these corpses looked rather fresh, still bleeding even.

The wagon, which was missing two side wheels was itself a full cloth covered type, like the one we were traveling in before. Some of its boxes, which appeared to be full of food and drinks, were spilled out the back. There was a light on the other side of the wagon, things on the other side cast a shadow over the cloth cover.

Silently, a large powerful shadow rose up. It was hard to make out what the slumping figure was, but it was clearly taller than a pony or Griffin. Large long arms hung down its sides, as it stood higher I could make out some horns on its head. I even saw what seemed like a tail, swaying just above the side of the wagon. The thing seemed to have spikes all over its body and down its back. I didn't know what it was, but it scared me.

I took a step back, my metal hoof sounded like thunder among the quiet atmosphere. I saw the shadow’s head turn a little before it released a soul-crushing howl that shook me to the core. The ground itself seemed to tremble as well. Before we could react the beast threw the wagon at us. We dove to the side as the wagon and brahmin slid out of sight. I stood and looked to my side, seeing sis rise as well.

We looked forward to see the beast. A bipedal monster with short, curved, forward facing, thick dark-ringed horns and external yellow dulled teeth. Glazed yellow eyes stared at us as a forked snake tongue flickered out its maw. Its powerful tail dragged on the ground behind it. Muscle bulged under its dark brown leathery skin, with thicker darker patches all over its body. Its hide was protruded by black simple smooth spikes along its back, elbows, tail, and shoulders. I could see the condensation of the creature's breath coming out of its two small nose holes.

I could hear the beast’s shallow breathing as its chest of leather and muscle rose and fell. It walked forward, its tri-toe claws piercing the ancient road, as the whole ground seemed to shake with each step. Its innermost toe claw was larger and more curved than the rest. It spread its arms open and held its fingers, I believe that’s what they're called, out straight.

"I don't think it wants a hug," I quipped nervously, forgetting for a moment that I was mute to everyone outside my suddenly inadequately feeling suit. Especially because I was unarmed.

I could feel its low growl reverbing in my bones as it approached. It stepped on the now downward facing decapitated power armor wearer. The metal creaked and bent under the weight of the beast. Its toe claws scratched at the armor as the inner claw pierced right into the suit. I then looked to the death-demon's hand claws, seeing the three middle claws slowly protrude outward more, seemingly getting longer.

Behind it were three more pony corpses, ripped to shreds. Entrails were strung around a still burning campfire. It appeared that the monster had gotten the drop on them. There were a few bottles of whiskey laying around, rags of cloths stuffed in them, Molotov cocktails. One pony in destroyed leather barding had a ten-millimeter pistol. But his mutilated buddy, laying in two pieces, had something interesting.

A partial power armor frame. The shoulder blades, whole right front hoof, and half a chest piece were attached to his body via leather straps. The only armor on the frame was a shoulder plate not unlike mine. But on his framed hoof was a large heavy hoof shaped weapon, with big heavy hydraulics on them. Three magic ammo cartridges were attached to it, possibly powering it, indicated by a full light bar.

Next to the campsite was a large hole in the ground. A grunt from the beast drew my attention away from it, I watched as its chest inflated. It was taking a deep breath for another roar.


A red laser bolt struck the power armor’s back between the monster's toes. It looked down as the red glow intensified.


There was an explosion of color, literally. I stumbled back as a rainbow fireball rose and the air roared, my radiation meter spiking for a second. Soon everything calmed down as dust filled the air. I couldn't even see Sharp due to it. I took a step forward, certain the clawed demon was dead.


I felt claws scrape across my chest before I could move back. But after I did I looked down to see three prominent claw marks shredded easily through the power armor’s chest piece. I wavered as I felt the stinging and bleeding of a deep wound. A hard shadowy figure moved towards me and I dove back again, barely avoiding another swipe of its deathly claws.

'Cll Diff~!

I moved in and gave it a power armored, hydraulic hoof to the side of its face. Its head whipped down for a moment before it rose it back up. Things went silent as we looked at each other. I slowly put my hoof down. It spat out a tooth from its mouth and glared at me angrily.

"I'm sorry."


Another red laser bolt flew out from the dust, striking the monster. It knocked me away with its tail and growled. I got up, a few meters down the road, looking over I saw the intensifying red glow of Sharp's charging magic crank rifle. I ran forward, remembering the downed ponies’ weapons. Scrabbling forward, a warning popped up, saying something about a built-in auto-doc. It stated that I didn't have any stim packs in my inventory, I ignored it.

I ran over the new small crater in the road, my radiation meter not liking that. It must have been two hooves deep and five hooves wide. How the monster survived it was beyond me. Getting to the camp, I struggled to pick up a Molotov in my hoof, breaking one. I decided to try the powerful looking hoof-like weapon.

I was able to get it off easily, looking back. I saw the dust had settled and Sharp was dodging the monster. It was missing a foot, bleeding black blood, but it still stumbled and crawled after Sharp. Luckily it couldn't keep up with her, as she took pot shots at it, only angering it more.

I quickly put the device on my hoof, surprised to find the frame automatically adjusting to fit over my power armor. Strapping the power pack with the three cartridges on, as well as the light bar sensor on my upper leg, I then grabbed another Molotov and threw it at the crippled monster.

"Burn to d~ash you demon!" I yelled, my chest wounds aching as I did, causing a stutter. A message popped up as I did. 'Applying drug, Dash.'

I felt a needle stab into me as the armor injected me with something. There was a surge of energy throughout my body as time itself began to slow. I was able to watch the world move many times slower than it normally was moving. I watched the burning Molotov turn and tumble through the air, the liquid inside sloshing around. The label was different to most generic whiskey's I had seen.

This one was similar to Jack Rabbit wine. Same font and writing, although it read 'Jack Pony, White Whisky.' It also was a white labeled bottle with a magically animated cartoon, of a pony this time. It had a jug with three X's on a label, as it too drank the bottle and spun around drunk. Before falling over, its eyes were spinning lines, little bubbles came up after it lay down. It soon got back up with another bottle and repeated the animation, just like the rabbit wine counterpart.

I hit the beast right in the back, fire washed over it in a beautiful manner, seeming to crawl over the monster. It just froze, slowly turning to look at me and roaring again. I charged at it as it rapidly dragged itself forward, time still at a crawl. It flung itself up into the air as it lunged at me. I jumped up towards it, hoof at the ready. Its arms and claws shot forward, ready to attack me, still on fire.

I could feel its claws ripping into the sides of the power armor as the metal screeched. I swung my weaponized hoof around, aiming for the side of its head. I felt its claws touch my sides, just below my wings, as my hoof made contact with its jaw. A moment after, as I felt its claw tips break my skin and draw blood, the hydraulic punching power of the large hoof weapon kicked in.

'Vid Dishh~!’

Claws scraped along my sides as the monster was sent flying, along with some of its teeth. But not before it almost shredded me and the armor. I dropped to my hooves, feeling the shallow cuts along my side. The dead clawed creature tumbled and rolled across the ground, the flames going out. It scampered around me, giving me a wide berth. It crawled back down its hole.

I panted as the Dash wore off, my heart still racing as I felt exhausted and overheated. There were damage warnings and the pony icon was orange and red all over. I could feel my blood that coated my chest and hoodie. I wanted to lay down, but I was surprised to see Sharp galloping up to me.

"Run!" she screamed.

Why was she in such a rush? The danger was over. "Oh shit!" I burst into a gallop, the armor creaking and my wounds aching as I dripped blood. I had forgotten about the damn bomb collar.

'Beep, beep, beep!'

I had ran ahead of Sharp, through some more fog, through the open gate to Tri-Hole in sight. The collar was going crazy as it kept beeping faster and faster, threatening to pop at any second. I didn't give the stunned guards a second thought as I ran past them and onto the bridge. I could hear gunfire and alarms as they must have been shooting at me. But all that was drowned out by the panic-inducing beeping.


The collar let out a single long warning, indicating my time was up. I shut my eyes, lunged forward and prayed I'd make it.

'Beep, Boop.'

I landed on the floor of the bridge and slid a little bit, the sound of metal scraping on metal. I soon came to a halt and panted an exhausted sigh of relief. Cadence being anal-hoofed with whatever-the-fuck-was-on-my-hoof, I had made it back. I could hear commotion around me, but I just wanted to lay with my head down, panting, a little bit longer. Eventually, I caught my breath, the alarms dying down as I knew I was probably in trouble.

"Get up, slowly." A gruff voice demanded. I looked up slowly, seeing I was staring down a long barrel.

It was an old worn anti-machine rifle. Able to easily punch through medium to light armored war machines and robots, including power armor. A long barrel was followed by a large block muzzle break. The scope was fixed at an angle on the side. From what I remembered from old world war magazines was that the gun was often semi-automatic, box loaded. But this one seemed to be an impractical, fully automatic modified version, with a belt-fed adaption connected to a strapped on ammo box.

They didn't have standard rounds in them either. This weapons rounds had silver and red rings on its ammo. I remember reading about these too. If memory served me right, red ringed ammo means it's an incendiary tracer round, while silver was armor piercing. Unique ammo for any gun was extremely rare, to the point where I thought it was a myth. I hadn't even come across it, until now. Unfortunately, it was pointed at me.

But even more striking than the gun was the wielder. Not a pony but a Griffin. It, however, was a lot more butch and robust shaped then Selen. A grey and black coloring with white eyeliner ring. Its dark wings open as it towered over me, glaring at me with sharp yellow eyes. The Griffin wore thick leather armor, the logo of Blood Skull branded on its leather chest piece.

"Rise, slowly." Its voice was deep, gruff, manly. I guess this really was a male Griffin.

I looked around, seeing I was surrounded by not only armed guards but also by dozens of Griffins flying stationary above us. All their weapons were trained on me, even a missile launcher. The one pony I didn't see was Sharp. I tried to comply, the armor groaning as the metal screeched. I managed to get on my front hooves, but ended up collapsing as I was hit with a sudden dizziness, blood loss.

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" The Griffin demanded as he got closer, pushing the barrel to my head. Although due to technical difficulties, I was unable to answer. "Are you with the Crystal Brotherhood? Or perhaps Steel Brotherhood? Wait, that’s an Iron Fist weapon?"

I slowly shook my head, a little worried about their reaction. "Hmm? Can't talk?" This time I nodded slowly.

"I think he was wounded, I saw damage to the power armor, there's also a steady blood drip trail," Somepony said, probably one of the gate guards. I started to get a small trickle of blood, that ran out beside me, for them all to see.

Two ponies from my side came and pushed me, struggling to roll me onto my side, then back. I groaned as I could hear some of them gasp as they saw the damage. Someone mumbled 'Death-Claw.' I just lay there, shallowly breathing as they checked the damage. At this point I was admiring the boringly dull grey cloud covered sky.

"Remove his weapon, core, and helmet, with those wounds he shouldn't be any trouble," the nameless Griffin squawked orders, clearly being the leader.

A few of them pushed me, leaning me up. Two stuck their gun barrels through the claw holes in the armor, pressing it on my wounds. I groaned as it hurt, shutting my eyes. There was a click and a hiss before I felt the helmet being pulled off my head. I opened my eyes to a sight to behold. Not the dozen or more ponies and Griffins pointing guns at me. But rather the fog rolling off the edges of Iron Hole, flowing and falling just like a waterfall into the abyss.

"Wait a minute, I remember you!" It was the guard from when I first entered Iron Hole, the one Mr. Luck didn't shoot.

"You?" I muttered.

"So you can talk? Guard explain," the Griffin said.

The guard stepped forward. "Sir, he entered here with a mare, escorted by Mr. Luck after the incident a few days ago."

"Mr. Luck informed us about a possible client. A unicorn and her brother," another guard said.

'Yes I recall, I was there after all." The Griffin lowered his head towards me.

The crowd started to mumble. "Take me to Blood Rose," I said, to the shock of the crowd. They all started laughing, all except the male Griffin before me.

"Okay," the Griffin said, shocking everyone, including me. The crowd erupted into arguments. I couldn't help but snicker at their lack of discipline. But all that came to a sudden stop with the sound of an anti-machine round going off, followed by the round whistling through the air. "Quiet!"

"But…" someone mumbled.

"I am acting chief of security Grumble, you will do as I say! Now, bring a cart, we will bring him to Warlord Blood Rose." I watched as most of the Griffins and guards dispersed.

They loaded me and my stuff onto the back of a wagon and started heading toward the exit gate of Iron Hole. I looked past two armed guards on the back as I saw Iron Gem at night from a distance. It was like an iron wonder strung above darkness. The city seemed to glow with shades of yellow and white, glimmering from candle and bulb lights strewn over the top.

Its middle layer was dim, more organized and methodical, only light when and where it was needed. However, it was hard to see the underside, which remained the darkest. Only a few fires in barrels kept it alight. Other exceptions were two lights on each side, one being the bright three-storey bar and the other was a small house hanging over the edge, Armored Wall's place.

But despite all that it really was a gem in this bleak wasteland. I looked over to the Blood Skull headquarters.

The Griffins flew under the base, taking refuge in the dark underside, out of sight but close by. I was being carted away from Iron Gem, my collar reactivating, twelve hours back on the clock. I was being taken south along the cliff edge, towards the fortress.

We got to the outer bridge gate connected to the fortress. Unlike Iron Gem's eastern gate, this one had four guards in similar gear, although they stood behind scrap barricades with sharpened metal pipes and shards protruding from them. Two watchtowers were built out of metal on top of the bridge's supports. Guards with pipe sniper rifles stood watch in them, glaring at the approaching wagon.

I had to turn my head around to see, although it was quite uncomfortable. We slowed down and Grumble proceeded to squawk orders to open the gate. Soon his command was done, the large gate slowly opened and we proceeded to cross the bridge. The bridge itself was wide open, although that also meant anyone on the bridge was wide open to any snipers hiding behind the numerous open windows of the fortress. I could just imagine them in the back of a dark room, looking down their scopes at my head.

Needless to say, I chose to not move my head. But the closer we got the more I felt the presence of the building. A shiver ran down my spine as we entered the last stretch of the bridge, entering the shadow cast by this place. I felt the cold iron dominating, an ever standing aura surrounded it. Its refusal to fall through war or time. The banners and guards meant nothing, for this building was itself a symbol of Blood Skull's intimidating power. A power that grew stronger the closer I got to the mouth of the building.

"Welcome to Iron Fortress," Grumble muttered as we passed through a lifted portcullis. It was made of large shards of metal welded together. It looked more like teeth in a monster's mouth than a gate.

We were in the courtyard of the Iron Fortress. By the looks of it, the courtyard was ringed around the large central circular building. A chain net was strung up just below the walkway of the outer wall. Multiple guards looked down on us from the outer wall, standing next to large turned off spotlights. The courtyard itself had dozens of ponies training with rifles, bare hooves and melee weapons, while others just mingled over the noise.

"Impressive," I muttered, genuinely impressed by the clan's feats.

Grumble, well, grumbled at me. I took his interpretation as a 'be quiet' kind of thing. Our escort ponies took me off the cart, leaving my stuff. They started dragging me across the courtyard. But as soon as they moved me I felt light-headed and dizzy, the blood loss catching up to me. They dragged me to what appeared to be the only entrance to the main building.

This door was definitely out of place, this was a Stable door. The number of the giant gear door was painted over in the icon of Blood Skull. A terminal sat on the outside. Grumble approached it and I tried raising my head to watch, despite my condition.

Just before he started using it, a black bag was put over my head. I heard the unmistakable sound of a Stable door opening as I was soon dragged inside. We were moving, although after a few turns we eventually stopped, oddly though we ended up going down some stairs instead of up.

"Grumble, to what do I owe the pleasure?" somepony or Griffin said, in a very masculine voice.

"Can it, cow face. It's Acting Chief of Security, Mister Grumble to you." The Griffin, who really seemed to prefer his title name, squawked.

"A yes, my apologies. Mister Grumble, Acting Chief of Security and Grouch of the Featherheads. To what do I owe the pleasure?" I could practically hear the smugness in his voice as Grumble growled.

I had to bite my lip to stop myself laughing. Meanwhile, those two seemed to get heated up, I could practically smell the burning anger between them. Wait a second, I could smell something burning? The shroud was lifted from my eyes as I saw it was, in fact, a blow torch that was burning.

It was being held by a large roughed up looking Griffin. He was much harder than Grumble, looking more botch and less curved than Grumble or Selen. The bulky Griffin wore a heavy black apron over his grey and black body. His eyes were a vibrant red as they examined me, but his reflective shiny welding goggles truly caught my eye.

"This one requests a meeting with our warlord, leave the armor on and see if you can patch him up before then." I could see a smirk grow on his beak as both of them looked to me with devilish eyes.

“What of the bomb collar? Should I leave it on or off?” The rough looking Griffin said as he raised the collar with a talon, looking at it.

“As long as it’s not set to go off in a few hours, leave it on,” Grumble said, shrugging.

“Slave probably belongs to those damn brothers, seems like something they’d do. I’ll go inform them of the trouble therein after he meets with Blood. Now get to work.” Grumble proceeded to pull out a flask.

The large Griffin revealed his other claw, some sort of staple gun in it. A frosty shiver ran down my spine as he reached for the blowtorch, I feared it wouldn't be cold for long. "I should warn you, my job is not that of a doctor but in fact a torturer. Although just like a doctor, I too need to keep my patients alive, most of the time."

"I'll go inform Warlord Blood Rose of our guest, have him ready shortly." The two of them exchanged a shallow chuckle as Grumble left me alone in this simple concrete room with this Griffin and his tools.

Pain, I had never felt pain like this before. The pain of staples piercing my flesh as they pulled my wounds shut, I couldn't help but want to squirm. However, that would have ripped my wounds open. That wasn't the bad part, no. The bad part was when he used the blowtorch, watching the beautiful yet dangerous blue flame.

I couldn't help but watch the flame as well, reflecting off his welding goggles. I screamed as I felt the overwhelming kiss of heat. He had moved my tattered hoodie out of the way as he cauterized my wounds closed, wielding the blowtorch with precision as it was just the right distance away. But I only realized all that after the crippling pain had died down.

The first thing I noticed was the smell of burnt hair and flesh that seemed to smolder from my chest. I felt exhausted as I was panting shallowly, barely able to stay awake after that. I was still groaning and drooling when he tapped my cheek. I looked at him, my eyes watery as my wounds felt like an every changing pain, relentlessly giving me no chance to grow accustomed to the feeling.

"Second-degree cauterization burn, it'll hold your wound shut and keep it clean. But if you move too much then the wound will rip open, although it will definitely scar." He didn't even look at me as he was packing up his equipment.

I managed to blurt out. "Staples?" My head was pounding, but I could still think straight. If one cauterizes the wound shut, then staples become redundant.

"I'll remove them in a few hours. Although the fact that they are under melded flesh means I'll have to go digging." He actually chuckled. "Oh and some medical advice, on the house, a healing potion and or magic won't do much for that wound. So don't do any vigorous activities in the next few days, if you live that long."

The door creaked open, I looked over, seeing a male Griffin silhouette. "Ah Grumble, welcome back, he's all patched up."

Grumble stepped towards me and leaned in close, although I found it hard to focus my vision. "So, you still want to meet Warlord Blood Rose? Or would you rather talk to me?"

I groaned and managed to mumble out. "Blood."

I was dragged down the cold metal, concrete halls, right by buzzing flickering lights. Occasionally we passed a speaker or an intercom, but that was about it. I just let my head bow down as two large armored ponies held me up, my rear hooves dragging along the floor. Grumble lead the way as we got on a large elevator of some kind. The thing groaned and creaked as it slowly moved upwards, displeased by the weight, but more than capable of handling it.

Eventually, after a few floors, we seemed to reach our destination, the highest floor. Then down some more hallways and around a few corners, we arrived at Blood Rose's office door. There were two sturdy metal doors and an intercom in the middle of the hallway. Grumble proceeded to walk up to the intercom, it crackled with static as he pressed the button.

"Warlord Blood Rose, I brought you a visitor." Grumble didn't take his eyes off me, a sick smirk on his face sending chills down my spine.

"Bring him in, alone and unshackled. He is a guest after all." The intercom system was rather crackly, so I was unable to get a feel for his voice.

"But sir, what if he tries something?" Grumble looked a little scared. But as soon as he questioned the warlord the two escorting guards began to mumble in disobedience.

There was a strict silence in the air before a beep broke it. The large doors began to retract into the walls, I could see they were a hoof thick. Grumble went to take a step in when he froze and quickly bowed, letting me be dragged into the room first before the guards opened the mangled power armor suit. I fell on the floor, the guards and Grumble quickly left.

I couldn't help but wince in pain as I landed on my forehooves, my chest in agony. I looked back, seeing my tattered hoodie still covering my wings. The large doors then slid shut.

"Welcome, welcome, it's a pleasure to meet you. I am Blood Rose, but you may call me Blood." His voice was so energetic and happy, not at all what I was expecting.

When I looked up I was even more surprised. Leaning forward, smiling at me warmly was a dark pink coated earth pony with vivid red eyes and a rich rose red mane. It was rather large as it bulged forward atop his head, rose patterns all throughout it. But the fact that he had a glass of milk ready was also surprising and unnerving.

"I took the liberty of pouring you a glass of milk. Please do help yourself. I could get cookies if you like?" He had his front hooves crossed as he leaned on them and smiled at me.

I sat up slowly, trying to take my mind off the pain by looking around the room. Outlining the room was a bed of red roses. Above them on the walls were painted portraits of previous warlords of the Rose Clan. Stab Rose the first looked like a big pointy raider, but the further down the line I looked the more civilized they seemed to have become. Twenty-One Rose was the one before Blood Rose himself.

"Maybe later. For now, you seem to be admiring my family’s portraits." He looked upon them with a comforting look. "I hope to be worthy of having my portrait up there."

I took note of Twenty-One's lack of a death date. The portrait was that of a unicorn with a rose hair shape similar to Blood's, although he had a white coat, a red and black colored mane and yellow eyes as well as a pair of black and red chips with rose symbols on them as a cutie mark.

"I see you're admiring my father's painting. A great stallion who helped the Rose clan to not only survive the war of Thirty-two but thrive during it. Although he was a great leader, his true love was blackjack. I'm more of a poker pony myself." I was a little worried he knew who I was, given the milk and all. But that worry was quickly dying down.

"I prefer Go Fish," I muttered out.

Blood Rose fell back into his chair, clapping his hooves. "Ah, so he can talk! Goody!" He was extremely cheerful, swiveling in his chair, before coming to a stop. "So tell me, what is your name?" he asked, grinning at me.

"Uhh…" I closed my mouth, more confused by him. Was this really a warlord? Was this really the pony who was responsible for killing my parents?

I tried to stand, forgetting about my pain and injuries. Big mistake. I groaned as I fell to my knee as my wounds exploded in pain. Before I could do anything Blood Rose ran over to me, giving me a shoulder to lean on.

“Thanks.” Did I really just thank Blood Rose, the pony I imagined to be an evil warlord raider pony like his ancestor? Clad in blood covered, large spiky armor with impaled animals and organs on them? The artist who painted that first portrait must have had the biggest balls in the world.

Blood helped me sit back down before he went to his desk and pulled out a syringe, Med-X. “Take this.” He pushed it towards me on the table. "I insist.” Hoof fuck Cadence with that mega hoof weapon thing twice, he was nice.

I begrudgingly administered the painkilling drug, feeling its effects within seconds as the roaring pain in my chest died down, but was still present. Although I still felt a little dizzy and lightheaded. I knew if I tried to stand that I’d probably fall over.

“Well, what is your name then?” Blood Rose asked, tilting his head a little. I, however, chose to stay silent, the fact that he was the Rose Clan’s leader made me less than chatty. “It’s rather hard to have a conversation if I don’t call you something? And I do wish to have a nice chat if you wish to just listen then that’s okay too.”

Blood Rose slammed his front hooves down on his desk, shaking the milk. “Oh I know, I’ll just give you a little nickname? But what?" Blood then proceeded to rub his chin, looking me up and down. "I like Blue, but it doesn't seem to fit. Maybe bird? But I can't see why?" And now I was nervous again, did he know who I was? What I was? Was he just messing with me?

He suddenly stood on his chair, on his rear legs. "O bingo! I got it! I'll call you ****."

Chapter 11: ****

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I've been captured by Blood Rose and was currently having a chat with him. Turns out, he's rather friendly and energetic. In said chat, during which I couldn't tell if he knew who I was or not, he proceeded to give me a nickname. But I was unable to hear it due to a sudden and painful headache which send me writhing in pain on the floor, hooves to my skull, eyes closed, screaming.

The pain was indescribable, images of some triangular shapes flashed through my head before fading away again. The pain seemed to vanish as soon as it appeared. I slowly opened my eyes, feeling wet. I really hoped it was water. Nope, it was blood, I tried to stand, but a dizzy spell had me fall back down as my vision dimmed, going out.

There was a dull prick as I felt something stick into my neck before something warm flowed into me. I groaned and opened my eyes again, feeling slightly better. I saw a tube sticking out of my neck, red blood flowing through it.

"I used to travel with a doctor in my youth." Blood chuckled to himself. "I had a crush on his sister once."

My eyes followed the tube, twisting and turning, all the way into Blood's hoof as he sat before me on his desk. Blood's blood was flowing into me. I felt sickened by the very thought of it, I wanted to rip it out, I wanted to end it before my doubt grew too big, I wanted this revenge trip to be over.

"I want to kill you and destroy this world…" I muttered out, staring at him intensely as I kept recalling my dad's corpse and mom's skull.

He looked down at me, his smile dipping as he sighed. "What did I ever do to you? True, I have done terrible things and terrible things have been done in my name. But everything I've done or had someone else done, has had a purpose. Being the leader, I'm often used as a scapegoat for blame when it comes to my clan's actions.

But I am but one pony, I can't dictate everyone's actions. So are you sure it is me who is to blame? Do you have proof of whatever fuels your anger is indeed my doing or will? Or am I just someone to blame due to my position?"

The only thing I had pinning Blood Rose to my parents’ murder were my sister's words. Those were enough. But it was more than that now, Candy. "Slavery," I grunted.

"Ah, yes that debated subject. There are many factors to slavery, including the benefits of slavery." He put a glass of milk down near me.

I stared at it for a bit, my strength slowly returning. "Go on," I said

"True slavery is a terrible thing, but I'd say this world without it might be much worse. Unlike Equestria in the present day, we in the Crystal Empire have been able to rebuild a semblance of a society on the back of slaves. Thanks to so many clans using slaves as a cheap, strong workforce were we able to rebuild. A free pony won't help rebuild the world for free, they may work for caps or food and water. But being free, they will ask for more than they're worth, in which case they'll leave and progress will be halted."

"So it's just for progress?" I asked, still not convinced.

Blood smiled again. "Not just progress, safety too. A slave is protected, a slave is kept alive. Not everypony can survive in this world. Through desperation, hunger and a need for a purpose, a free pony may easily become a raider. Why work together when you can take everything for yourself? Weak ponies of this mindset will gather through their weaknesses or state, usually poor or addicted to drugs, when society threw them out. Why work with ponies that rejected you when you can take what you think you are owed."

“Minute-Mares, they wanted to join society, but weren't welcome. Instead, they ended up taking what they believed was owed to them.” I slowly rolled onto my belly, looking up at Blood. "Why not accept them, show they are welcome?"

"Because they are not, they are often a danger or drain to a community. Would you feed a killer, give your last water to a junkie, waste caps on inferior guards, hug a cannibalistic ghoul? The weak and failures are sometimes better off under the guidance of the strong, as a slave or even a civilian. As I said, if they are not under supervision, they will die or become burdens in other, often dangerous, ways."

My mind jumped straight to Silent Time and Last Meal. There was no way I'd ever hug him. But Stock, he didn't want to be a slaver, he wanted to run his shop in Iron Gem but failed. I could easily imagine him as a slave or dying out in the waste. "This world is crazy."

Blood started clapping his hooves slowly, happily. "And we're just along for the ride."

I bit my lip, thinking of Candy in a cage. "What about kids?"

Blood sighed, a little saddened. "Unfortunately, we're all equal in the eyes of the wasteland, it does not see age or gender, just victims."

I groaned in annoyance, he had a point. After all, I've seen and experienced it, I couldn't deny that despite it being wrong, it, in fact, was right. But that didn't mean I had to accept it. "I still hate slavery," I said as I took a sip of the milk.

"And that's okay, as long as you don't oppose it by freeing a slave or killing a slaver. In time slavery will be faded out, most existing clans have already done so. But they can only do so at the cost of strength and safety. Whereas my clan still has the so-called barbaric act of slavery. The Rose Clan has the lowest number of raiders in its territory because of this very fact."

I couldn't think of a retort, so I did the next best thing. "And what about the approaching war I've heard about?" I asked, drinking more milk.

Blood rotated and flexed his hoof. "All rumors, true though. I plan to go to war with the world, I'd actually be fulfilling your second desire. ‘Destroy this world.’ I believe that's what you said?" He started laughing at me, holding his free hoof to try and cover his chuckles.

"What's so funny?" I asked, cocking my head.

"You have a milk mustache." He blurted out. I blushed a little, licking my upper lip and wondering how dirty I was for my white coat to show milk. To think I had taken a bath a few hours ago, kind of. "So what do you say, want to help me destroy this world?" My jaw dropped, everything was silent as he just kept smiling at me.


"Warlord Blood Rose, it's me Mister Grumble, Acting Chief of Security." Grumble's voice burst through a speaker.

Blood Rose sighed and picked up a mic at his desk. "Grouch of the Featherheads," he said with a snicker, before answering, "Yes? What is it? I'm busy."

"Sir, you wished me to inform you in regards to your daughter~" Blood's mood seemed to have a massive polar shift as he let go of the receive button. Suddenly Blood Rose gave off a dark and angry aura, it intimidated me, and it scared me. He wasn't looking at anyone or doing anything, but his simple tension and his facial expression changing to an almost blank anger was very alarming, considering what he was like before.

He did eventually press the receiver button again. "…So sorry, Warlord Blood Rose, my mistake. Do... do you wish to still hear the report?" Even though it was a static-filled radio, I could still hear the fear in Grumble’s tone.

Blood Rose pressed the button and spoke one word, rather blandly and monotone, "Report." But that one word was filled with anger and a demand for no mistakes.

"Y~yes sir." The quivering and stuttering in his voice was clear. "Silver, the traitor who stole your prized treasure has passed out after three days of intense interrogation. As expected, she has yet to crack. We shall continue in a few hours. Also, sir, the Ninety-Nine have been unable to find her accomplice in Neighbourton or the treasure. They will be returning tomorrow afternoon as ordered. That's all sir. M~may I please be excused?" He rushed through his report as it was clear he didn't wish to be trapped by Blood Rose's intimidating presence emanating from the silent radio.

"Very well, you may go," Blood said as he hung up, putting the microphone down.

Silver Rose, I remembered Armored Wall saying she was captured and being tortured. Pour mare, what kind of pony could hand her over to a monster like a burn victim fetishist Griffin in leather. There were also the ponies sent to Neighbourton, Armored Wall said the Ninety-Nine wouldn't be back for a week, whoever they were. The treasure must also have been what Armored Wall mentioned before, the star core or something of angry power.

I was about to ask him, but his displeased aura froze that thought. I watched in slightly growing fear as he looked over at me. At this point, I'd jump in the hooves of the first Rose Clan leader. He slowly raised his head to look at me. Suddenly, like a light switch, his mood and aura switched back.

"Oh, sorry about that," he said, smiling happily again.

I actually sweated a little. "It's okay."

"Where were we?" He rubbed his chin, I was about to remind him of his off-putting job offer. At this point, if he didn't know who I was, then he must have been a psychopath. "Oh yes, I was about to tell you a story of my past."

"Uhh." I was short of words and ended up just nodding.

"Oh, goody, well it all started long ago." He moved his hooves in the air like waves.

Nothing happened. "Are... are you going to tell me?" I asked, a little confused.

"Oh yes, I was doing that stereotype fade into a flashback thing, with wavy images fading out and a weird sound effect."

"Okay..." I said, increasingly confused.

"Long ago, I was an orphan in the wasteland, roaming around with my best friend and his sister, just surviving. But our safe little birdcage didn't last long. Sure, the slow raider attacks weren't too bad. But it was the outbreak of war that really shattered our simple life. Before that, there were only small squabbles between clans.”

Blood sighed. “But I digress, the war started slowly, wasn't too bad for us. The next big event was meeting a stable junkie, little did I know said junkie would become a great friend. The four of us managed to make a name for ourselves, The Immortals. A name that will become ironic later on." He actually seemed happy, reminiscing about the past, well the first part anyway.

"It all really went to Tartarus when my dad showed up. From there, I went from an orphan to the son of a warlord. Ripped away from my self-made family. At the time I was even dating our medic’s sister, my first love. But my father..." He tensed up, his darkness showing for a moment before he sighed. "There was an incident and Sydney was killed, after that, I put my focus on being a warlord, better than my father. I even fell in love again, but things didn't work out."

I shifted slowly, my chest throbbing a little. "What happened next?"

"I fell in love a third time, and a third time I was struck with a tragedy. It was then that I decided I had enough of this broken world, I'm going to take over and try my best to make it a better place. I'd like you to join me, but there's no rush, answer me when you're ready."

I groaned, I had so many things to think about. "I... I need some time."

He unhooked the needle. "Very well, you’ll have to rest up until we get this little slavery debacle sorted out first."

Blood then proceeded to go to his intercom, but I spoke up before he got to it. "Why me?"

He stopped, chuckling lightly. "Why not?" There was a beep and the door slid open, two large guards stood outside before coming in, picking me up carefully. "Take him back to a cell, one of the more comfortable ones, with a good bed. Give him some food, drinks, and medical supplies and wait for Grumble. Give him back his armor after that."

As I was being carried out, I smiled at Blood. "Thanks."

The guards proceeded to take me down the elevator, un-bagged this time. This place seemed to be rather large, a huge main central elevator, similar to Iron Gem's four main elevators, although they extended to the abyss below. I was taken back to the lower level, past the area I was last put in for torture. Taken into some kind of prison cell area. Quite a few cells contained ponies, sheets of paperwork attached next to their cell with crimes and punishments written on them.

Some were for stealing and slated a few days, while others had 'interrogate', ‘punish’ or 'execute' written on them. Under a multitude of crimes. None of the small concrete cells had natural lighting and some didn't even have a bed, just a skeleton bed frame. I saw a bucket with the word ‘toilet’ written on it and another next to it marked as ‘water’. We soon passed a deck with a Griffin guard sitting at it, looking at a magazine, a dirty magazine.

We passed him soon, but not before the guards stopped to inform him of the situation. I in the meantime managed to get a good look at the Griffin's naughty magazine cover girl, blushing. Selen looked better. The three of them chuckled, noticing me and my blush. We then proceeded to move again, to the cells on the end of the hallway. There was a large bared balcony, a porch for the Griffins, I assume. On the side was written A-8, hallway eight. There were eight of these prison hallways with dozens and dozens of prisons cells, I couldn't help but wonder how many prisoners were in here.

I turned and looked at my cell, it was bigger than my house. There was a queen-sized bed, a drinking fountain, a bathroom with a curtain, sink, and mirror. There was also a barred window. If it wasn't for the bars, I wouldn't have guessed this was a prison cell. I limped in, having gotten enough strength to do at least that. I made it to the bed and lay down, feeling it was firm yet soft. Oh Goddesses, it even smelled clean, not a stain in sight.

I couldn't help but shut my eyes for a few moments, feeling tired. I didn't have any intention of falling asleep, but I did anyway. I stretched, groaning, as one does while waking up. I yelped as I quickly brought my hooves to my chest, it was bleeding slightly as there were small tears in it. I winced in pain, forgetting I had the wound and wishing the Med-X hadn't worn out.

I got to my hooves, bumping into a cart. Wait, there was a cart in my cell? There was Rad-Away, water, cooked meals, Sugar Apple Bombs, strawberry flavored Crystal-Pop, Happy and, I quickly grabbed the syringe, jabbing it near my wound and injecting myself with its pain-numbing solution, Med-X.

I sighed as my pain dimmed, although my head felt light. I decided to crack open a box of Sugar Apple Bombs, eating the sugar coated apple treats which were probably more sugar than an apple. I then proceeded to look around, seeing a cell across from me.

This cell appeared to be burnt, almost nothing in it, except for a mare curled up asleep on the floor. It was hard to make her out due to the lack of lighting, but she was a unicorn with a silver rose as a cutie mark and what appeared to be an eyepatch over her right eye.

That might have been Blood Rose's daughter, the one that betrayed him. I remember her name being Silver Rose, another point to cutie mark naming. I swear parents have a sixth sense for that. I leaned forward to get a better look when suddenly a Griffin with a black leather apron stepped in the way.

"How's my handy work doing?" It was the torture Griffin, smirking at me, tools and blowtorch hanging from his side.

I glared at him. "What are you doing here? Come to admire your handy work?"

The Griffin chuckled. "No, no, well kind of. I've been ordered to deliver some medical supplies and inform you of where you may find a doctor in town who would be happy to help. Looks like I might not get to burn you up, shame. I love being an executor."

I glared at him harder, rising an eyebrow. "What, you have no in-house doctor?" Would seem pretty odd for them to be lacking one considering the number of ponies here.

"There are quite a few doctors in the Iron Fortress, but you haven’t been permitted to any. You’ll have to find your own in Iron Gem. But we have arranged your mangled power armor repair, there’s a mechanics shop who agreed to repair it. Arrangements have already been made and they have been paid, courtesy of Warlord Blood Rose. They are the only one in town who can deal with power armor"

I finished my Crystal-Pop, checking the cap, a three. "Why is Blood being so nice to me?"

The Griffin placed the medical equipment in my cell. "That's what we'd all like to know."

I threw the empty bottle at the Griffin, who proceeded to catch it in his talon. I smirked at him as he looked at me, a little annoyed. "I'm going to kill you," I said, with complete confidence.

He put the bottle in front of my cell and stood back, chuckling lightly. "I'd like to see you try." He then proceeded to walk off.

Soon after that, Grumble, Acting Chief of Security, showed up, looking displeased. "I heard you threatened our top torturer. I also assume I'll be getting the same threat."

At this point I was lying in bed, so I slowly sat up to look at him. "Yes and no, I threaten to kill him because he deserved it. I don't have any desire to kill you because at this point you’re just doing your job."

He chuckled. "He was just doing his job as well."

"True,” I said

“Isn't that a little hypocritical. Not like I'm defending him, but he was doing his job after all." He shrugged.

"I'm still going to kill him," I said.

Grumble unlocked my cell. "Well isn't that petty. Come on, let's go."

I trotted out of the cell, grabbing the medical equipment. I looked over to Silver’s cell, sighing as I proceeded to follow Grumble. We boarded the elevator, proceeding to go up. It looked like we were on the second lowest floor, the prison. Below that was something called ‘The Bird Cage’. We passed a floor called ‘Fort guards’ on floor negative three. Then there was negative two, ‘Storage and production’.

Negative one, Griffin area, and runway. Runway? Did the Griffins transport things? Or could that be the job of Pegasi slaves? Armored Wall did think I was one after all. What else would you have Pegasi slaves do? If they could fly then you'd use them for just that. Of course, all this was guesswork, I could have asked Grumble, but the silence seemed better.

There was a ding as the elevator stopped. Some mundane guards entered the elevator, level zero, ‘The Courtyard’. All of them nodded to Grumble as he gave them an ever so slight nod, seemingly annoyed at the company. The group was chatting among themselves, mainly about how their day's training went. It was all rather mundane until one of them mentioned Slave Town and a friend of his who was killed working there.

I couldn't help but try to shrink back, wondering if it is was my doing. Grumble seemed to pick up on it as he stared down at me, watchfully. I looked away, not wanting to show the guilt on my face. Curse this slow elevator. We eventually stopped just above the courtyard. The group of ponies got off, leaving just me and Grumble, alone.

I stared at the rest of the buttons on the console. One read ‘Mess hall’, I assumed it was for everyone to eat at, which we were just at. ‘Living quarters’ were next, I wondered if the Griffins lived with everypony else? Probably not. The private floor was above it, which I assume was for Blood Rose and whatever else he wanted up there. Then there was the roof, which we were heading to.

"You wouldn't happen to know about the massacre at Slave Town, would you?" Grumble asked out of nowhere, not even looking at me.

I bit my lip, trying not to remember. "No."

"Okay, because whoever did it made widows and orphans of quite a few ponies. Shame really, not everyone can choose their employer, like me. I wonder how many of them were undertrained greenhorns who just wanted to put food in their family’s bellies." I could hear his voice’s judging tone.

I stayed silent for a whole floor as my head drooped low, before muttering. "Yay."

"Then there was this small, yet known slaver ghoul. Who out of the kindness of his heart, takes on a greenhorn pony who failed in Iron Gem and had nothing else to turn to. They have been missing for a few days." I flinched as I recalled Silent Time's past and Stock's face before he turned to dust.

There was silence again, only the sound of the elevator moving as we kept going up. I didn't want to talk, I didn't want to hear any more. But Grumble leaned closer to me, almost whispering in my ear, little rhymes. "I know who you've been sleeping with. I know what keeps you awake. I know if you've been bad or good. So you better be good, for Selen’s sake."

I was about to spin towards Grumble and attack him when a poke of a knife blade on my right wing stopped me. I opened my mouth, but Grumble cut me off. "Let's keep this a secret between us, okay, Star Shot?"

I gulped, opening my mouth. "Does Blood know who I am?"

Grumble pulled the knife away. "Hmm, maybe, I'm not sure. But I do know that if you cause me any problems, then I'll deal with you myself. No Blood Rose to protect you, no witnesses to stop me."

"What do you want?" I said.

"There was a light snowfall while you were asleep. Reports say there'll probably be a blizzard straight through until tomorrow morning," Grumble said, implying this was important to know.


The elevator doors opened up, letting in the cold. The natural light blinded me for a second. When my eyes adjusted, I saw there were ten or so guards, both pony and Griffin, surrounding Blood Rose and a landing pad. There was a metal chariot on one of the few landing pads. It was loaded with my wrecked power armor, mega punchy thing and other belongings. On the ground was a light sprinkling of snow, like Grumble said.

But in front of the chariot were two meek and scared-looking Pegasi, bruises and whip marks apparent on their bodies. They wore a bridle in their mouths and blinkers to control their sight. They also had slave collars around their necks, their cutie marks were burnt off and replaced with a brand of the Blood Skull clan. I pitied them, but couldn’t do anything to help them now.

"Just in time," Blood said, looking towards Iron Gem as a second sky chariot with an escort of two Griffins approached, also pulled by Pegasi slaves.

We stepped out into the open, after I picked up the medical bag. I couldn't help but feel bad for the Pegasi. These were ponies that looked like my age. Whether they were born in the sky or on the ground was unknown to me. But I did know none of them deserved this. I wanted to free them, I had to. I will, in time.

The second chariot landed, Blom stepped off of it. "Not every day one gets summoned by our local warlord, it’s quite an honor. All be it a sudden and unexpected honor that is." Blom looked around, smiling. He stopped, staring at me.

"We caught this one trying to break the power-armor-belly-slide record on the bridge," Blood said, chuckling to himself, the rest of his guard seemed to forcibly laugh at his joke.

Even Blom gave a light chuckle. "Ah yes. Wel,l you see I recruited this slave here to retrieve said power armor for me in the hopes of selling it to you, Warlord Blood Rose, sir. But it would seem he delivered it to you before we were able to clean it up. You know, add some polish and shine, sir." Blom seemed to act like everyone else around Blood, scared, intimidated in fact.

Blood took a step forward and Blom took a step back. "Well as that is the case, I do rather look forward to meeting a certain young unicorn that Mr. Luck mentioned on his visit."

"A yes, the slave’s sister I do believe. I have yet to see her return, but I’ll send her your way, when she does." Blom was actually sweating, his large worrying smile actually giving out to Blood’s small calm smirk.

Blood took another step, looking up to Blom as he was the taller pony. Despite that, it was obvious Blom had to look up to Blood in terms of charisma. "I wish for you to release this pony from your services. As well as your bomb collar, his sister and all said belongings, including the remains of the power armor." Blood's hoof gestured to the second cart.

Blom pulled out a napkin and wiped some sweat from his brow. "Yes, Warlord Blood Rose. Right away. Although am I to assume I will be compensated for my losses?"

Blood's smile dipped, as he tilted his head. "Your losses?"

Blom gulped. "Ah, well yes, sir. The high value of the slave who managed to obtain said power armor, the armor in of itself, minus the uhh, damage. Also, other expenses spent on said endeavor."

Blood sighed. "I would assume my overlooking of your shoddy business practices would have been enough. Tax evasion, selling defective drugs and extortion of the poor with your monopoly of Iron Gem's elevator services." Blom opened his mouth, but Blood spoke again, albeit in a darker mood, "Do not take me for a fool who simply sits in his castle. I know a great many things, Blom. So keep your mouth shut, or else."

Blom stumbled back into a guard, who, to his credit, remained calm. Blom opened his mouth. "But sir, he's not just any slave. He is-"

Blood grabbed a pipe revolver off of one of his guards. Crudely made, cheap, even in the best condition it would be considered crap, but effective and easy to maintain. Blood shoved the barrel into Blom's big mouth before he could even finish speaking.


Blom's body hit the snow-covered metal and concrete floor, the pipe revolver falling next to him. The guard behind Blom remained perfectly still, even after being covered in blood and gray matter, a bullet was logged in his armored chest piece. Blood returned the gun to the guard's holster and a Griffin handed him a napkin to wipe off the back blast. After which Blood smiled and hopped, yes I mean literally, towards me.

Filled with his happy smiley cheerful demeanor, he said, "Well then, I'll have my chief Griffin here escort you to freedom. Then I hope to see you and your sister back here very soon," Blood said before grabbing and shaking my hoof.

"Uhh, sure? But you still never told me why?" I asked, confused by his hospitality and offer.

"You'll have to come back and find out. Oh but when you, do we'll have cake." He jumped in the air, squealing a little.

I chuckled, amused by his antics, but I had to ask. "Before I go, I have to ask about your daughter, Silver Rose?"

As soon as I said her name the mood in the air shifted. I knew it probably wouldn't have been good for me to ask. But how or why would a father despise his daughter so much. I could feel everyone's fear as said anger emanated from the pink earth pony before me. Time seemed to slow as his smile dipped, his head drooping down. I felt frozen, colder than the actual air. Every part of me wanted to run, but I stood my ground.

He slowly moved towards my side. My eyes and everyone else did as well, some looking back at me with anger as if I broke an unspoken rule. I kept waiting for him to say something or do something, the sound of his hooves crunching on the snow the only thing to be heard. But no, he just calmly walked past me and into the elevator. Closing the door and leaving, alone, without saying another word.

"What the hell is so special about you?" Grumble asked, still looking at the elevator doors.

"I don't know," I retorted, picking up my medical supplies and boarding the chariot, trying to avoid eye contact with the Pegasi slaves and the guards who were watching me.

Grumble stood next to me, alongside the chariot. "If anyone else asked him about her in that manner, they would be dead."

I really didn't know what was going on. Blood knew something, but I didn't know what. He was planning a war, yet he also invited me to openly join him. I seriously didn't know if he knew who I was or if he was just a psychopath. Either way, I had made up my mind, I was still going to kill him. But the reason why was in question. Did he really kill my parents?

The chariot began to buzz a little as we took off. I decided to put my mind off of it and look out the window. In the distance I could see one of those towers, apparently, they weren't mountains. It appeared like a blizzard was swirling at the top of it, growing larger as it threatened to eventually sweep over Tri-Hole.

We flew over Tri-Hole's abyss, over Iron Gem, till we got to the large central building Mr. Luck dropped me off in. I looked out to Iron Gem's streets. The same streets I had got lost in. I could see some prominent buildings rising above the others, one even having a radio tower atop it.

From up here, I could see at first what I thought was chaos turned out to have some order. All the wagons flowed to and from the building, heading west, east or down. The north main road and south where large markets were set up, buying and selling goods. Looking at the cluster of buildings that took up the rest of the space, I could see they were mostly motels, entertainment buildings, and general stores.

We proceeded to land on top a few landing pads. We were surrounded by guards, all of which paid me little mind. They were all too busy looking at a Griffin who was carrying the corpse of Blom. We proceeded to move to a flight of stairs on the edge of the building, my power armor was loaded onto an elevator and taken below.

"Here it is. The most profitable location in the crystal wastelands, second only to Yellow Bee's Smelt city," Grumble said, with a slightly happy tune in his throat.

"I don't know what that is?" I said, leaning on the railing, looking past Iron Gem and at the storm.

"If you try to fly away, I'll catch you. Remember, I have wings too," Grumble said, before jumping off the edge and gliding down.

I on the other hoof was escorted down by the armed guards. We got the bottom where Blom and my armor were loaded into a wagon, Grumble at the head of the group. We began to trot towards the Three Stories Bar. The market and torrent of ponies moved out of our way like water before quickly reforming behind us, cautiously giving us a wide berth.

I looked onto the market stalls. Guns, ammo, food and more. Although luckily there were no slaves. I kept looking at the stalls, the merchants nervously smiling as they waited for us to pass, hopefully in peace.

"AHH!" I screamed and backpedaled.

This was followed by a shriek from the merchant. The convoy stopped and all the guards spun around to point their guns at what I screamed at. It was a merchant mare who was selling canned foods. A ghoul merchant mare. She half-hid under her stand, the Griffins’ and ponies’ guns still locked onto her. All the ponies around her stand gave a wide berth, not wanting to be in the crossfire.

"What's going on here?!" Grumble squawked, guns still on the mare.

I looked at the scared ghoul, blushing a little at the scene I caused. "Nothing," I muttered, looking away.

Grumble and the others snickered. "First time seeing a ghoul?"

"No." I blurted out.At this point ponies in the crowd began to giggle, even the ghoul. I just groaned and started walking again. "Let's just go." I said, who knew only meeting a feral ghoul and a asshole ghoul would make me un-ease about meeting another ghoul?

We arrived at the Three Stories Bar, entering with a clatter and a thud as Grumble kicked the doors open. I entered behind him, the entertainment and music screeching to a halt. All eyes were on us, including the armed guards on the balcony.

"Listen up, you rich scum bags! I am here to deliver a message." Grumble stepped out for a moment, leaving everyone staring at me and two guards. I sheepishly smiled as I tried to keep my head down.

Grumble stepped back inside, with Blom on his shoulder. He then proceeded to throw the well-groomed corpse onto the floor. "Don't mess with Blood Rose."

The bar/casino resounded with a collective gasp, I swear I also saw some mare faint. The guards and Three Stories Bar security staff tensed up. "Brother?!" Two voices shouted out from the bar, before running over towards us. It was Blim and Blam.

They ran to their brother's body, Blim hugging it. "What have you done?!" Everyone brandished their guns, pointing it at us, as we pointed back. Well when I say us, I mean the Griffins.

The guards pulled out pipe pistols and SMG's, pointing them down at us. While the Griffins pointed their rifles, anti-machine guns and missile launcher back at them. Unlike the Griffins, the guards didn't seem to be wearing armor, probably to remain subtle.

"Calm down, we're just here to get the kid's collar off," Grumble said, smirking at the distorted brothers.

Blam glared at me with an intense hate in his eyes. I took a step back as I tried to avoid looking at anyone. But then Blim’s horn began to glow and he pulled out a trigger to, what I assure you, was my collar’s detonator.

Things became tenser, Grumble even stopped smirking. "Release him, so far you haven't broken the law."

Blim held out the detonator, flipping the safety cap on the trigger. I could hear the sound of guns being cocked as I gulped. "Blim. Stop!" Blam yelled out, as he finally stopped hugging his brother’s corpse.

Blim still held the detonator, glaring at me. "But, brother… they killed Blom!" He pressed the trigger and the collar started beeping. I groaned nervously.

The beeping slowly grew faster, but everyone remained calm. I was ready to panic, but then Blam stood up and grabbed the detonator in his own greenish magic and pressed the trigger repeatedly. There was a click and the collar fell off my neck and onto the floor.

"There, now leave us," Blam said, tears rolling down his face.

Grumble nodded and we began to slowly back out of Three Stories Bar, guns still pointed at us. "Wait!" I yelled, everyone turned to look at me. "I want my stuff back."

Everyone froze for a minute before Grumble began to chuckle. Blim and Blam growled, before one of them went off to the back, coming back a few minutes later. "Not there."

I rolled my stiff neck, before looking at them. "What do you mean not there?"

"It means they're not there. You can keep the hoody, you seem to have ruined it anyway, now beat it!" Blam said, glaring at us.

"I was told to free you, not help you get a jacket, that's your problem." Grumble and the others began to leave.

“You were ordered to get all my stuff back. That includes my jacket.” I said, standing my ground.

Blim grunted and went to the counter, pulling out a bag filled with caps. He walked over to me. “Here! Now leave!” He put the bag in front of me, still glaring at me. I grumbled in annoyance and took the caps.

We left calmly, feeling the eyes and barrels on our back. I was glad that dilemma was over, but now I had the problem of getting down to the third level. I mainly wanted to check in with Armored Wall, to see if Sharp had returned yet. Flying was out of the question with my wound. The ponies pulling to power armor and my gear unhooked themselves.

"Hey, hey, what about my power armor?" I said.

One of the earth ponies in Blood Skull gear turned and said, "Find the mechanic we paid. Pulling it is your problem now." before leaving.

With that I was left to drag the cart through Iron Gem, remembering Mr. Luck had given Sharp a hotel room. I wasn't an earth pony, so strength wasn’t my strong suit. That and I had to go slow with my injuries, my chest ached with every pull of the cart.

But after trying and failing to find somepony who would tell me where the hotel was for free, I ended up trading some of my medicine for the information. It turned out to be on the south east side of Iron Gem. I still had to pull the cart across the town and through the busy markets and tight streets, passing many local businesses and shops along the way.

The top floor of Iron Gem was for traders, stores, and businesses. But there was a hotel on the surface level, by the name of Eleven-Pony tower. Apparently, it went through the first floor to the second. Being one of the tallest buildings in Iron Gem, the one with the radio tower on it. It was also the home and workstation of Rose Radio.

The hotel looked rather nice from the outside, a simple, yet clean white concrete design. I left my cart and gear outside as I stepped inside. The interior was by far the cleanest of any place I had ever seen in my life. It was all white marble, a royal rich purple and gold carpet on the floor. At a central desk before two elevators was a unicorn with fancy hair and in a suit, looking at me with a stink eye.

He glared at me as I approached the front desk, four laser turrets popping down behind him. "Can I, uh, help you?" He raised his nose, looking at the dirt I tracked in.

"Yes, I'm here to check into my room," I said, smiling up at the stuck up pony.

He tried to hide a little snicker. "You? Have a room? This establishment was built by a previous inhabitant of the famous Ten-Pony Tower. I doubt you could afford it."

"Never heard of it, but maybe you have heard of Mr. Luck?" I said, my smile grew as his sunk.

He proceeded to deactivate the turrets and grabbed me a key card. "Top floor penthouse, do watch the carpet."

I took the keys. "Thanks, please store my things."

He bit his lip. "Right away, sir."

I then proceeded to trot to the elevator with my head held high. By the looks of it, we were on the sixth floor, with five floors above us. The fifth floor was marked as storage and the floors below that appeared as regular rooms. The highly decorative elevator also had three steps and a button marked as 'Spa.'

I couldn't resist pressing it. Water, warm clean water began to fill the elevator's chest high indent, stopping just before the last step. The water began to bubble as it was illuminated by underwater lights, classical music began to play. I took a seat on one of the waterproof seats as the elevator began to slowly move up, being careful to keep my chest wound out of the water.


The elevator doors slid open and I begrudgingly got out. There was a set of clean towels in the hallway. I began to trot to my room, checking the key card, number six dash six. The room on the right at the end of the hall. I was about to enter it when I froze and saw the room across had a name plaque, Rose Radio.

I had only ever heard it once. But I found it to be one of the most annoying radio channels I had ever heard. I grunted in annoyance and decided to just go into my room. I pushed the key to the lock and the gem turned from red to green, enabling me to push the door open. To my surprise, the door was pretty thick. Ample security.

Inside the room was a mix of black and white marble, with platinum. Purple, red, black and gold carpet in some areas. Magical floating lights were all about, with adjustable color controls nearby. There was a kitchen with a stove, sink and a relatively well-stocked fridge. Along with a price chart on the cost of everything, hopefully on Mr. Luck's tab.

I trotted over to the window before looking down onto Iron Gem. Such a beacon of hope, too bad it was fueled by slaves and bullets. This town stinks. Speaking of stink, I needed to take a proper bath and wait for Sharp. I took off my tattered blue hoodie and began to unravel my bandaged hooves. The bandages served no purpose, only hiding my scars. I looked at the chest, contemplating bandaging it up too.

I got into the hot shower, carefully and slowly letting my scars both old and new be washed over. I looked down to see my chest lightly bleeding from its scabbed and stapled wound. I washed my mane and tail, trying to ignore the bits of dry blood coming out, blood that wasn't mine. I spread my wings, cleaning out my feathers.

I hadn't been allowed to fly in ages, I was starting to miss it. But I couldn't help but think of how the ponies of Rad-Hoof reacted when they first met me, a Pegasus. I had never met an enclave Pegasus, except for Candy, and the ones who attacked me when I was young. Hopefully, it was the exception and not the rule.

I tried to let my mind wander to something nice, a mint condition gun, Sugar Apple Bombs, Selen. I smiled as my hooves drifted lower, my mind thinking of her soft parts making my parts go harder. I finally put my wings to use, on everything below my ring. My hooves got the rest covered.

It now felt inadequate compared to Selen, her wings were firmer. Fingers, well in this case claws. They just couldn't compare to hooves, hooves were just disappointing. Touching one's self and being touched is very different. But that was okay, because at this point my erotic de-stressing session was fueled by fantasy more than action. This persisted for a while, three rounds to be exact, white ribbons coating the shower wall, the rest dripping out.

Also unlike after, I felt an emotional and physical connection. Instead of the usual hollow self-pity that comes from one touching themselves. Although there was euphoria, it was barely comparable to the pleasure of Selen. But what I think I wanted more than the physical connection, was the emotional one. I wanted to be able to tell her about all my worries and troubles. Including Dark and Candy haunting me.

After I cleaned the wall, I sat in the shower, letting it wash over me. I closed my eyes and relaxed, drifting to sleep under the warm shower.

At some point, I had used up all the hot water and the shower turned cold, which woke me up. I then proceeded to turn off the water and hop out, draping a towel over my shoulders. Dripping wet, I walked back over to the thick, tinted windows. The city’s rooftops were covered in white powder, a steadily increasing snowfall signified the large storm was approaching slowly.

I went to the counter and turned on the built in radio, pleasantly surprised to find a surround sound audio system set up. "Ah~ I-it’s Rose Radio. Report? Oh yes, the report." I groaned as I tried to change the station, but was unable to.

I then decided to instead go get some grub, as I was hungry. Leaving the radio on to play Rose Radio, hoping it'll improve or they'll go to a song. "There was a commotion on the... umm... the bridge. No information on what, but more importantly the brothers. Blim, Blom, maybe Blam, their names always confuse me... well anyway, one of them is dead."

I opened the fridge, finding an extra item with a note. On the tin was the crudely written word, 'Medicine.' I jumped in joy, realizing it was, in fact, the same scrumptious radiation remover I had before, of which I still didn't know the name.

"The Ninety-Nine are expected to... Uhh... return sometime tomorrow afternoon. S-so music, umm... what do we have? Love Me As Though There Was No Tomorrow. That’s the song, not a request, although I wouldn't mind." Rose Radio started playing the song as I sat down and opened the tin and began to eat it.

The juicy, tasty medicine was sublime. But I was rather distracted by the song. It was a slow love song that mainly repeated the same thing, but with a draping of violins and a smooth voice. I think you can guess what the song was about from the title. For me, that seemed all too true, given what we were planning. Suddenly it hit me, if today was possibly my last day, then I should do something with it.

I don't know if it's pathetic or stereotypical, but I was in love with Selen. Given the wasteland and all the things that wanted to kill one in the said wasteland, one must take what they can get. After all, I probably didn't have time to take things slow. So with that spurring thought, I quickly finished my meal and proceeded to open the note. Determined to go see Selen.

"Dear Brother,

I was worried when I heard you were captured, but was relieved after hearing about your release. I took the power armor and all our gear to get fixed up. I saw your injuries while you slept in the shower, so go get healed up. Armored Wall and I will be back at the hotel room at midnight, so be ready by then.

Love, Sharp,

P.S. I'm glad you're okay."

I looked at a clock, seeing it was only seven o’clock. I grabbed the towel and dried off, carefully. Then I went to a medical cabinet, seeing it also had a price chart for an in-house doctor. I proceeded to bandage my hooves, again. Once that was done, I put on the wrecked hoodie and grabbed the caps. Before going over to the phone and ordering a room visit from the doctor.

Shortly after, there was a knock on my door. I opened it and an old green unicorn mare walked in with a doctor’s bag. Once inside, she looked me up and down. "Um, hello?" I said, trying to be polite.

"No signs of sickness, radiation and your wounds appear to be fine, as long as you give them time to heal," she said abruptly.

"I don't have time, I need to be in good condition before midnight. But thanks to this damn chest wound I have to be very slow and careful." Straight to the point.

She sighed and put down her medical bag. "Castrated deep wound with staples, I can fix it. But it'll hurt, even with Med-X."

I gulped. "Do what you have to."

She opened her medical bag and started pulling out equipment. "Take off your clothes and lay on the counter."

I opened my hoodie but kept it on to hide my wings. "I'll keep it on, thanks."

The doctor pulled out some sharp looking tools, along with pliers and cloths. "Take one Plasma pill, then I'll have to remove the staples hidden under the scabbed flesh. I'll have to remove said flesh and any debris, cleaning the wound by direct touch. After which I’ll have you take another Plasma pill and a Hydra potion."

I had hydra before, it was the stuff that regrew a large chunk of my hoof. But I haven’t had Plasma pills before. "What are Plasma pills?" I asked.

She pulled out a packet of little red pills. "They help one produce more blood cells, should stop the effects of blood loss from being too serious." She then put the pill in my mouth, getting me a glass of water to wash it down with. "Go lay down on the counter."

"Yes, ma’am," I said, laying on the marble counter.

She injected the Med-X into my chest and got to work. The urge not to look down was unbearable, as I could hear the dry crunchy sound of my burn flesh being broken. I grunted as I felt a sharp pain, followed by a little ting on metal. "One down."

Fuck Cadence with a death-claws arm sideways, this hurt, all the more the urge grew. At some point, I think she was annoyed with all my grunts of pain. I could tell because she shoved a cloth in my muzzle. I could feel warm liquid running down my side.

"That's a deep one," she said.

In the end, I counted thirty-one. Thirty-one painful Cadence fucking staples. I lay there, my eyes watery, as I just focused on panting and breathing through my nose. I almost relaxed but was racked with pain when I felt a blade cut deep into me. I screamed through the towel when the blade got stuck and she had to move it back and forth, cutting through the blockage.

After what I would consider far too violent and long, she eventually stopped. Before pouring medical cleaning agents in my wound, although you may know it by the name of vodka. I squirmed as it burned intensely. “I think I see bone? You’re very lucky it’s not broken.”

I didn’t feel lucky, in fact I felt dizzy, cold and hot at the same time. I looked at the doctor, who had blood on her face. "One down, two to go."

It took three hours, two for the surgery and one just for me to recover. I'll tell you, hydra really does work. Although I was left with three prominent diagonal scars on my chest. I ended up giving her the whole bag of caps as payment. But at least I could move without worrying that I'll tear myself open.

I decided to head off, after rinsing out my hoodie. Wouldn't be very nice if I showed up covered in blood, even if it's my own. This time I did not use the elevator spa, as my chest was quite tender, aching a little. I ignored it and went to go see Selen, still having two hours of free time. Although I'd likely have to avoid Pink Thing, if possible.

I got to the brothel and after making sure no one was around, I flew up to Selen's balcony. "Selen?" I whispered, peeking my head in.

Her room was empty, all the lights were off. I slowly entered the room, cautious of Pink Thing.Suddenly the door swung open, Pink Thing stood in the doorway with a bottle of whiskey. I froze, she stared at me in confused shock as I stared back blankly.

"You?!" She yelled, I jumped and tried to do a one-eighty as I bolted for the window. "Wait!"

I hit the air breaks, stopping before the window. I looked over to Pink Thing, she was a mess, her face was flushed, eyes watery and mane was rugged. "I don't like you." She swayed side to side and her speech was slurred. "But Selen does, she's at the main residence, go find the G-Spot." She was drunk?!

I simply nodded and proceeded to move past her, going down the stairs. But not before asking. "Where is that?"

"Bottom floor, the door on your right. Go to the building in the back and tell ‘em I sent you." Pink Thing then proceeded to swig some more booze, before closing the door.

I went through the large double doors, finding myself in a street. There was a sign, but that wasn't what I noticed first. No, what I noticed first was the noise. Moans and groans of a sexual nature could be heard emanating from the row upon row of apartment buildings. The sign said 'Welcome to Moaner street, watch your step.'

I turned a new shade of pinkish red, I think it was cherry blossom. I slowly and nervously trotted forward, but almost came to a halt when I saw a mare and stallion doing it in the window. The further I went the more eccentric it got, mares with stallions on open balconies. Mares with mares in the doorways of buildings. I even had to awkwardly go around two stallions going at it in the middle of the street.

One of them winked at me, which made me bolt off in embarrassment overload. I eventually reached the end of the line, right after passing a supply/toy shop. The building on the end of the street was huge, large heavy, yet decorative doors were on display. There were in a rather precarious shape, along with a large changing magic neon sign.

'O-Spot.' There was a weasel or ferret-like creature with yellow and brown fur. It was rather long, its rear was raised up, as it was on its back. But its top half sat up, pushing a glowing green object in and out of its lower half, one in its pussy and another in its ass. Its little legs hanging the air, its tail was bent back. Its cute cartoon screen face had round ears, black whiskers, with eyelashes, looked down at its self-pleasure with a happy open-mouthed smile.

After a few seconds, the ferret changed, no longer holding the object to make an 'O' Shape. But instead, it was now just the one in its ass. This time she was definitely was a He. It had a large erection sticking out horizontally, it wasn't in a pony shape, but rather more of a long curved bullet shape. He had a set of small round balls sticking up between his legs. His hands were also being used to stroke his cock, his eyelashes were also gone. 'Spot.' was written next to it. It was in the shape of a ‘G’, G-spot. Guess I found it.

I went and knocked on the… Door. A little eye slit opened and a voice asked. "Who are you? What do you want?"

"I'm here to see Selen, Pink Thing sent me," I said.

The doors creaked open, light flooding out. "Step inside."

I couldn't see, but I stepped forward. To my amazement the inside was huge. There were two staircases, a fountain, a second story balcony and a large metal chandelier. I looked around, seeing the wooden pillars and hardwood floors. This place rivaled Eleven-Pony Tower. Although where Eleven-Pony went for fancy high life marble, this place’s decor took the hardwood route for sexual worship.

That fountain I mentioned before displayed a mare that was quite wet. Along with two others depicting a stallion's cock as a fountain. I looked to see no one around, so I went to one of the pillars. It was carved with instructions on multiple sexual positions. I couldn't help but look at some of them, for research purposes.

"Hooow! Yay! Welcome to the house of Rosenblatt, Baby!" I jumped away from the pillar. There was a bombastic and loud voice coming from a painting at the base of the stairs.

Suddenly the painting swung open like a door, a figure jumped out. It wasn't a pony, ghoul, Griffin or Death-claw. Its legs were Brahmin-like, its body was very large and muscular. It had horns and stood up straight on two legs. The bulky creature had white fur, covered in black patches. The thing wore pointy sunglasses, a bow tie, cufflinks and a red speedo.

Oh Goddesses using a Griffin as a butt plug, I could see it jiggle. I avoided looking at him, looking up at the balconies instead. Ponies and such exited the rooms and looked down on us. Most of them wore socks and panties, in vibrant colors. Although most of them were stallions. Some had their tails tied up or cut short. There were mares and stallions in belt straps and others in dresses.

There was a cute pony booty in short shorts and top. It was only until the pony turned around did I realized it was, in fact, a stallion. Stallions wearing dresses and mares wearing rough baggy clothes. Although most wore very little. All these sexy ponies and such were making it hard for me.

Some had a marker tied to their necks, with tallies and slander wrote all over there body. Ponies of all sizes, some large and others small. Unicorn and earth pony dressed in multiple outfits and fetish. One unicorn had a book with the words, 'Sex Spells.' written on them. Really? A whole book on sex spells? But all this smut was just a blood-pumping distraction.

Some of them were using the aforementioned ‘toys’. Probably from the Toy shop outside. Dildos and vibrators, anal beads and butt plugs. Strap-ons and gags, paddles and clamps. Of course I never found a porno magazine illustration with said sex toys depicted in use, in great detail. I also never used that as clopping material. Hiding it from my family by wrapping it in plastic and placing it in a tree. It was never struck by lightning one night. To the confusion of my family, I never seemed to have cried over a random tree being destroyed. No, nope that definitely didn’t happen...

The doors slammed shut, snapping me out of my memory, I mean fantasy. The creature then struck a pose, showing off its muscles. "Hey! Yay! Little Pegasus, if you wanna see Selen, you gotta go through me, yay!" it spoke, in a rather bombastic manly voice.

I groaned, not just annoyed at him knowing I was a Pegasus. How did he even know? I had a feeling Pink Thing wasn't being too kind. "Did Pink Thing put you up to this?"

The thing snickered, before striking another pose, the wrong bit still jiggling. "Sure did, hooow! Yay! You can’t leave until you do. So bring that booty to daddy!"

A shiver went up my spine as I took off my hoodie, seeing the paperclip. That, I wanted to give that to Selen, but this big oaf was in the way. "If you're in my way, then I'll, fuck!" I said, blushing deeply, everyone was watching me. How do you fight with an erection?!

"Oh, don't tempt me, Hooow! Yay! I was told to make a purse from your balls, but maybe I'll milk ‘em instead." He smirked at me.

I tried to stay low, as I spread my wings out. "I don't really know what's happening, but bring it on!"

The creature dragged a hoof on the floor as everyone cheered. "Yay! This is gonna be fun. It's Show Time!"

Chapter 12: Show Time

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Before me stood a large, hulking monster, something that has been happening to me a lot lately. The two-legged brahmin-like beast with hands was also wearing a speedo. It had locked me in this sexual brothel, standing between me and Selen. Ponies of all kinks watched as this sexual beast either wanted to kill me or fuck me. Either way, it wouldn’t be easy to fight such a large opponent with a boner.

"Let's go bare hands, wooo! Yeah! Or in your case bare hooves." He proceeded to pull out two rippers and drop them to the side.

Rippers, a cross breed between a knife and a chainsaw. Sharpened serrated teeth on a chain ran around the large knife blade before running into the handle. Inside the knife's hand guard was a built in magic talisman. It enveloped the chain and teeth with magic, rotating them at high speeds. Although these rippers were larger than the ones advertised in magazines.

I was allowed to use my wings, given the fact that Pink Thing had let everyone at the brothel know, so I didn't have to worry about keeping them a secret. We charged at each other, although I had to look away as I begged for that speedo to stay on. I took to the air, matching his height with flight. He swung a focused and fast punch, I was barely able to dodge it.

Luckily that didn't stop my momentum and I gave him a blow to the face. A head flick nearly squared my side, but I was able to jump back in time. I gripped my hoof as it hurt, damn his face was hard. I looked up at him, seeing his glasses were cracked as I stood up, getting fired up.

We charged at each other again, but I stayed low this time. Dodging a lethal blow that went right through the floorboards, I attempted a sliding kick to his legs, only to be stopped by them. He looked down at me, as I was uncomfortably close. "You might beat me that way." He chuckled.

I rolled onto my rump and with one powerful flap of my wings I slid away from the pervert. "No! No, no, no, no," I said repeatedly.

He flexed and posed again, mares and stallions cheering. "Woooo yeah! Code seven and six!"

I stood up, shaking it off, only to see something unusual: two dozen ponies acting sexy on the stairs behind the beast. Rubbing their privates, moaning and exposing themselves to me. "What the hell tactic is that?!" It worked, I was embellished with a throbbing shame.

The smirking bastard charged at me, I was barely able to roll out of the way while still hiding my erection. "Wooo! Yeah! You trying to hide something? Let me see."

I blushed furiously, before barking. "No!"

He smirked and jumped high into the air, I was quite surprised by the height he managed. He dove back down towards me horns-first after kicking off the ceiling. He was like a missile flying towards me, causing an explosion of dust and splinters at he touched down. I lay on the floor, his horns perforating the wood around my neck. With his horns on either side of me, I was unable to escape as I was pinned down.

"Wooo! Yeah! You look pretty good for your age." I blushed so hard, trying to hide it with my legs. "Oh no, you don't." He grabbed my rear legs and spread them apart with much ease.

"Pervert!" I started slapping at his face with my wings frantically.

He grunted and pulled his horns out of the floor. Concrete dust coated the top half of them as he must have penetrated a fair way to the ground. I, no longer pinned, managed to break free of his hands and put some distance between us. He stood there and gazed into my eyes. His face appeared to be fine, those black curved up horns on his head remaining undamaged however the floor now had more holes in it.

"We want to see!" "Show us!" Ponies from the balcony began to shout and plead in order to see my junk.

I growled out through gritted teeth and shouted up at them, "Shut up, all you perverts!" and all they did was laugh.

Blushing profusely as I sighed loudly, I looked up towards the ceiling, whispering under my breath, “Chandelier…” I began to smirk as an idea started coming to mind. I took off towards the big pervert with a flap of my wings, moving in low once again. He tried to smash me down with both of his fists. I sped up and outflew his punch as his fists went into the floor, quickly flying up along the stairs, then the wall and ceiling. I landed atop the large metal chandelier, managing to hide my erection. I saw that the chandelier was held up by a pin.

The pervert looked up at me. "Crud." I pulled out the pin and the chandelier fell down atop him with a thud.

I covered myself with my hooves as I landed before the wreck I made. The crowd was silent as all eyes were on the twist of metal. But a slow chuckling began to emanate from below the metal, growing louder. "No," I said as I took a step back.

The bulk of metal began the creak and groan as it rose up. The beast was lifting the large metal chandelier upon his shoulders, gripping it with his massively powerful arms. "Hooow! Yay! Nice try baby, but it'll take more than that to stop Bronco!" The beast, Bronco, threw the chandelier to the side, laughing.

I growled in annoyance, charging forward at high speed. I repeatedly punched his rock hard abs and sides, before swooping behind him and kicking the back of his head. I then used my momentum to give the side of his face a spinning kick, followed by a reverse spinning kick to the other side. Quickly landing behind him, I headbutted his lower back.

"Are you done?" I was stunned, he wasn't affected at all. His mood also changed to more of a board one.

At the moment, I lowered my defenses. His tail wrapped around my neck. He brought me to eye level, as I struggled to break away from his tail. "This is the power of Bronco, one of the three enforcers of Rosenblatt's Iron Gem branch. You will not see Miss Selen in her time of hurt," he said firmly.

Bronco began to spin and twirl, bringing me along for the ride. The world was a blur, but I kept thinking about what he said, Selen was hurting. He flung me and I went flying towards the door. I used my wings as air brakes but still ended up slamming into the doors, hard. Feeling blood run out of my nose, I opened my eyes to see Bronco's fist flying towards me. I was able to flip myself up before the impact.

The doors shook as Bronco's fist made a huge dent in the thick metal. I placed my hooves on the door and was about to kick off it when time itself seemed to stop. Everything turned black and white as all the color drained into the floor. Then large rainbow bubbles began to float up through the floor. I looked into them, seeing my memories.

"Dark," I said, feeling my body was frozen in its position.

"Correct, you seem to be in a pickle, Star." I could hear him, but couldn't see him.

"I'm going to win, then I'm going to see Selen," I said, still looking for signs of Dark.

"Tell me, Star, why not just leave with her? Forget this suicidal plan of Blood Rose." I found him, well his eyes.

"Because I want to do this." I looked at his eyes, my eyes in the reflection of Bronco's glasses.

"Why didn't you leave with Candy?" I heard him laugh. "Do you want to die?"

I stared into those purple eyes. "I am going to see Selen."

"You didn't answer my question." Dark sighed. "But regardless, I'll help you."

"No killing," I stated firmly.

It was a few moments before Dark replied, "Killing them isn't the fun part, it’s the process that we enjoy. Anyway, let's work together."

I bolted forward, headbutting Bronco in the face before somersaulting between his horns. He stumbled back a few steps before we turned to look at each other. I stared into his red pinprick eyes, his shades broken.

He stared back at me. "So, you are one of them. I take it this is a deathmatch then?" He was tense, lowering his arms to his sides with fists clenched.

I, I mean, we smiled at him. "Oh, I'm not allowed to kill you. I'm just gonna hurt you. Really, really bad."

He turned to attack, but we moved behind him. Multiple blows to his lower back, where his kidneys might be. He dropped to his knee, shielding his back and sides with his hands. We then dodged a grab attempt by his tail and dashed upside down between his horns before grabbing them with our wings and using our momentum to swing down and kick his throat.

He dropped down, gasping and coughing as he struggled to catch us or his breath. A sluggish wide arm swing left his under arm exposed for a bucking. He grunted as we moved back. He stood up slowly, wheezing as he gripped his shoulder. We didn't know if it was broken or dislocated. No, it was probably just a bad sprain. We readied our wings as his feet scraped the ground, scratching the wood.

"That was much better, but still not good enough." He charged again.

Yet again we dodged, this time kicking off the back of his head. This made him stumble and crash into the staircase. We landed gracefully as there was an explosion of wood, carpet, and testosterone behind us. We looked back to see Bronco stand up, sporting just a few scrapes and bruises, although he had a large panel of wood stuck on the top of his horns. We tried not to laugh, as we imagined the perverts on the balcony were doing the same.

We were about to look up when we got an idea of how to finish this fight. We slowly trotted to the side as Bronco brushed off some dust and wood chippings. Before doing the same. We moved parallel, until we stopped, of which Bronco did too.

Rather predictably, Bronco charged. We on the other hoof waited for him to get close. Waiting for him to bow his horns at us, we flew back inside the twisted wreck of jarring metal that was the chandelier. There was a terrible noise all around us, as metal screamed and flesh bled. We looked to see the chandelier was pushed a few feet back, pushed by Bronco's impaled body.

We gulped as his horns were inches from our throat. But the twisted metal stopped him as it was forced clean through his shoulder. As for his other wounds, they were varied, from scratches to cuts and bruises. There wasn't a sound from anyone, we watched as blood ran down his body. We weren't sure if he was dead or if he just fainted.

We heard him groan as he put his strong hands on the metal, slowly pulling it apart. We saw a large enough opening for us. We dashed through as we landed in front of the door and looked back at Bronco. He pulled the metal off himself, freeing himself from the wreck, except for a warped metal bar protruding from both ends of his shoulder. Everyone, ourselves included, watched as he walked to the remains of the stairs.

Dripping blood as one arm was limp at his side, he kept his down. "Code seven, activate."

The moaning from everyone on the second floor increased from a background noise to a war moan. We looked up to see the ponies put their genitalia through and over the guardrail. They were in ecstasy as they vigorously stroke their public privates. Some stallions untied bands and string from the base of their cocks. The perverts released their reproductive juices, shooting it towards the center of the room.

This display of this place’s perversion de-synced Dark and myself, as I was embarrassed for just seeing it, where Dark was disgusted by the vile act of lust and self-pleasuring. Only the centerline of the room was left clean, literally. At this point I did regret having a white coat, I would only know if I was hit after it soaked in. I shut my wings as I tried to stay small, looking away.

My eyes sank to the floor, but over the moan, we heard a noise. We looked up to see Bronco chuckling, waving at me to come at him. I knew charging head-on wasn't wise. But there was no way I was going to risk getting hit by their sticky white 'fire'. I galloped at the injured creature, getting ready to get behind him again. I looked at him as I started my slide, my glare melted as I saw him smirking.

I looked down as I was passing under him, seeing his tail in a loop. I tried to stop, to grab his hooves, but it was too late. I slid right into his trap, ensnared by his tail. He pulled me around to his front as I tried to fly away, but his tail was stronger than my wings. It held my waist tightly as he brought me close to him. We growled as we gave him a headbutt.

I exhaled as his fist went into my gut, winging me. I drooled a little blood as it felt like I couldn't breathe, the blunt pain came after that. I gasped for air, feeling like I was going to pass out. Yet I was still able to breathe a little through large gasps for air. He then took his fist out of my gut, surely leaving a mark. He turned me around, for all to see my loss. I groaned slightly as I heard him chuckle.

"Ladies and gentlecolts, I will now show you a Pegasus cock. A rare and possibly once in a lifetime experience, so take a close look." His voice didn't wane at all, still highly charismatic.

I yelped as his wounded arm grabbed my hoof. His other hand moved to his side, I looked down in horror. He pulled his thong off. His cock was limp and brown, it was at this point Dark simply left. I tried to squirm, but this caused it to grow and grow. I shivered as it almost touched my tail, luckily I held it to the side. It was about half as long as my body, but even so, it was thinner than mine.

"You like?" he whispered into my ear. I shook my head as I shut my eyes.

The crowd cheered as Bronco put the thong around my neck, causing me to shiver and whimper.

"Hope you’re still hard." He grabbed my rear leg and forcefully opened my legs. "Oh, yes he is!"

I blushed and tried not to cry in embarrassment. I could hear everyone's enthusiastic joy at seeing my junk. I tried to ignore them as I tried to get my boner to calm down. But unfortunately, it was to no avail. I peeked an eye open as I breathed slowly. The sight of them made me release a quiet 'meep.' I saw some pony drawing the scene.

"Bring me the ball tie," Bronco said with a chuckle.

Finally having caught enough of my breath, I managed to speak, "W-what's that?"

Bronco breathed into my ear, sending chills down my spine. "A remote-controlled metal wire device. We put them around male troublemaker’s ball sacks, their cock as well, sometimes. They work for us, till their debt is paid off. If not, then it grows tighter and tighter."

I saw a pony bring a strange clamp device and a controller. "No, please," I whimpered.

He let go of one of my legs and grabbed the metal clamp device, squeezing it to open up the metal wire loop. It had a device on the end, a metal ball with a green and red light. I tried to cover myself with my free hoof, to little avail.

"If you try to cut the wire, the device will blow up. Not enough to kill you directly, but the blood loss of having your junk blasted off will kill you if you're lucky." I could hear him snickering as I shut my eyes tight.

There was a metal clang, followed by the sound of metal hitting the floor. But I just kept my eyes shut.

"Miss Selen?!" somepony said.

I opened my eyes to see Selen standing on the balcony. She had bandages around her waist and wing. "Selen?!" I said, squirming.

"Let him go," the pony next to Selen said, reading off a note she gave him.

"But Selen," Bronco began before Selen's speaker interrupted him nervously, "Bronco."

Bronco groaned in annoyance. I looked at her, as her angry glare changed to one of a plea.

"Fine." Bronco dropped me on the ground.

I immediately moved away from his hard-on, before throwing off his thong and covering my violated body with my hooves and wings. I looked to see a strange disc sticking out of the ground, next to the now cut in half ball tie clamp. I slowly stood, my legs shakily holding me up. I was battered and bruised, but my pride was hurt more than anything.

"Hey, good fight, kid." Bronco chuckled. "You really did a number on me, well I better go to the med bay, again. But before I do." He leaned down, face to face with me. "If you hurt her, then I won't hold back next time."

I went and picked up the strange weapon Selen had used. It was a circular steel blade, double-edged. It had a straight handle at the bottom, with three claw finger triggers built in. connected to those triggers was a three-piece like pistol device. On the right was a revolver, on the left was what looked like a spring-loaded marble shooter. Between those two was a flat spring launcher, maybe to launch bits, the old world currency. At the front of the blade was a break for the barrels, followed by two large spikes.

I was about to head upstairs when another announcement stopped me. "Star, go to the medical bay. You can see me after."

With that, Bronco and I were escorted to the medical bay. I decided to walk in front of him, deciding it slightly less awkward. Although a worry of him poking my hide urged me to peek back. To my comfort, he had calmed down.

We reached the medical bay, just outside was a poster. It portrayed an Earth pony with an off cream white coat, two-tone light blue cyan mane and tail. She wore a white-bordered lavender sailor collar with a scarlet tie and a lavender floppy hat, which had a scarlet feather on the side, the same as her cutie mark. She was just standing in the middle of a featureless white poster.

But as I began to walk closer to the poster, the mare faded away. She was replaced by a silver eye, of which the pupil was following me. I stopped and blinked, looking at it. The text, 'Ministry of Views, We got an eye on you' was written in the same angled silver, bold, blunt font.

I started trotting again as Bronco got closer. We then proceeded to enter a relatively clean white medical room. There was a silver spherical robot I had never seen before. It seemed to have three bulb robotic eyes on joints and four long multiple tooled limbs around a glowing gem at its base. It had a grabber claw, buzzsaw, mini flamethrower and a syringe with a bunch of needles.

"Hello there, I'll be your doctor, sirs," the robot spoke in an upper-class accent.

"Oh, a robot doctor, cool," I said as we then proceeded to sit on the edge of some clean beds. I looked at my bruised and battered body, tasting the iron of my blood.

"I am what you would call hip. The mark two Mr. Handy unit, from Robronco. Now I'll be tending to Master Bronco first." The robot went over to the minotaur and started patching him up.

I lay back, before chuckling lightly. "Sure, I'll wait."

"What's so funny?" Bronco asked, looking at me.

"I actually had fun, except for all the sexual harassment," I said with a smile.

Bronco laughed deeply. "Trust me, it's worse for the janitor."

"No!" a cry echoed from down the hallway.

Bronco chuckled. "That would be him now."

I laughed a little, before sighing and looking at the star-shaped paper clip. "What happened to her?"

"She was servicing a client at the front house, a slave. She has a soft spot for sobs, as you'd know." He smirked as the robot bandaged him up.

"Hey," I retorted.

"Anyway, Pink Thing was busy and the slaver burst in on them. He beat them both while they were compromised, broke a few of her ribs and took his slave back." I saw him clench his fists in anger. "I was about to go after him when I got a message from Pink, told me to mess with you."

"Hey, you guys won't tell about my wings, will you?" I asked, looking over at him.

"In our line of work, we are least known for our best skill, information gathering. But our most known skill is tight lips." He snickered.

I groaned at his humor, before standing up. "Sir, your really should let me treat your wounds," the robot said, looking at me with its eye.

"You can when I come back, first I need to kill someone," I said, zipping up my hoodie.

"Kid wait, we need to talk about what you did back there." I looked back at him. "Those purple eyes."

I smiled a little as I started to walk out. "Maybe tomorrow, I'm kinda busy now." In truth, I wanted to know more about Dark and the power he provided. But given everything going on, it wasn't that high on my list. That and I was really strapped for time, given the fact we were assaulting Iron Fort tomorrow.

The walk through the hallway was preceded by lustful looks and cheeky bird whistles. I even saw the aforementioned janitor, who seemed to growl at me in anger. I gave him a cheeky smile as all this was making me blush, although this was better admiration than the Minute Mares'. Soon I was back onto the sticky street, arriving at the front building shortly after.

"Oh, you're alive, what a surprise." Pink thing was waiting for me in the doorway to the building.

"Tell me who hurt her," I said.

She pondered my request, before shrugging. "A zebra slaver, slave said he was in pen four, seven, eight. Claimed his master gave him permission to roam the city for a while. It's a thing some do to keep their slaves happier. Considering his head was still attached, we didn't have a reason to turn him down."

"I'm going," I said.

"You'll need to use Three Stories to get down there unnoticed. Unless you got a license to use the Blood central elevator?" she said, smirking at me.

I sighed. "I'll manage." I felt blood running down my cheek from my mouth, the internal bleeding starting up again.

She tossed me a box of Party Time Mint-als and a healing potion. "Good luck. You'll need it."

I caught it and drank the potion, before putting the drugs in my pocket. "Thanks," I said, walking past her.

I went to Three Stories Bar and proceeded to the elevator. I was then able to get to and out the second floor without an issue. This was my first time on the second floor. Everywhere I looked I saw slaves in chains, muzzles and cages, being led around and put in group storage containers, before being shut in the dark. This was the core of Iron Gem, the core of Blood Skull.

Both slaves and masters were watched by guards as hundreds of ponies moved around a maze-like area. Ponies and slaves alike were stored in shipping containers. As high as five containers were stacked to the top of the second level's ceiling. Walking around the chaos of wagons, whips, and cages, I managed to see that, in fact, free ponies did live in the containers as well. Although they had it all to themselves and theirs were lavished with furniture and lighting, even plumbing.

Some containers were actually used for storage of various goods, such as gear and food, while others contained water purifiers and generators, most likely keeping Iron Gem running. All the containers had two things in common. Every container or group of containers had a guard or two from mixed groups watching their client’s goods. The second thing was every container was numbered.

I proceeded to follow the numbers, and, eventually, I found my target. It was next to a guard and slaver who had a water hose connected to a fire hydrant, blasting high-pressure cold water at their slaves. The slavemaster was yelling at them about hiding things. Apparently, one of the seven slaves had hidden a sketchbook in a fless and was drawing sketches when his master wasn't looking.

At pen four, seven, eight was a generic mercenary standing guard over a barred container with a few dozen ponies in it. Although the flamethrower on his back and side was not very commonplace. I took out the Party Time Mint-als, before taking one. I then proceeded to walk up the container, feeling my mind clear up a bit.

"You, stop," the guard said, pointing the flamethrower at me.

"Pen four, seven, eight. Heard a zebra slaver was looking to hire an extra hoof?" I said, looking at the hungry, dirty and scared collared slaves.

The guard stammered, "I... first I'm hearing of this."

I saw a stallion with fresh bruises and wounds in the back of the container. "Where can I find him? I'm looking for work and need to know if he's still hiring."

The guard looked me up and down. "He is a she, and I shouldn't say, she wouldn't like to be disturbed."

I walked up to the guard. "I'm looking to gain experience in the slave trade, so I'm willing to work for free on a few runs with someone with knowledge."

The guard sighed. "Pen number nine, two, one. She'll like that tongue on you."

I smiled at him. "Thanks."

Pen number nine, two, one. It turned out to be near the edge of this maze of containers. I knocked on the container door. "Akira? Is that you? Give me a clue?" The unmistakable, exotic accent was definitely a zebra.

The container door opened a bit. "No, my name’s Star Shot."

The zebra opened the door, sticking her head out. She was kind of old, scarred and wrinkled as she looked at me. She had a gold earring, a ring of metal jewelry around her neck and her mane was short but raggedy, despite being shaped like a mohawk. Her eyes were a rich brown.

"You I do not know, perhaps you should go," she said, rhyming.

"Um, I heard you were looking for an extra hoof? I'm willing to work for free," I said.

"This I have no recollection, but I would like to chat at our discretion." She proceeded to open the door and invited me inside.

I stepped in, noting that there was a table, a large bed, a light, a toilet, and a sink. "Thank you for hearing me out."

She closed the door behind me. "One who works for free, that would bring me great glee. But first I must know your plea." She moved to the bed, sitting on it.

"You hurt my friend and innocent ponies," I said, standing at the door.

She glared at me. "I deplore that whore for giving him her back door."

I lowered my head in an aggressive stance as I glowered. "I'll make sure you can't hurt anyone again." My wings shot through my hoodie.

She gasped, "So you are a Pegasus, this I will rectify," before she took a zebra fighting stance.

We clashed hooves in the tight space of the container. Trading and blocking blows, for an old girl, she was quite nimble. She deflected one of my strikes and came in close, getting a few quick light hits into my gut, before backing up. I coughed a little blood, remembering I had yet to get my wounds both internal and external properly treated.

I went to strike again, yet again she went to defect it. I got a wing punch under her hoof joint, followed up by another to her other side. She landed a hoof slap to my face before jumping back again. But she hit the back of the container. Letting her guard down for a second, I took the opportunity.

A duel wing slap to the face stunned her as I then headbutted her metal neck rings. Being against the wall meant the force couldn't be transferred back and instead her neckwear bent inward. She dropped down, gasping and grabbing at the large neckwear as the indent pushed against her airway. I looked down at her, watching as she was choked to death by what I assumed was a traditional necklace.

I panted and sat, wiping a trickle of blood off my cheek. I felt nothing. I then proceeded to grab the slaver’s pen key and a bag of a dozen caps. "Mother?" I froze as the door creaked open slowly. I saw eye to eye with a young zebra colt, but he wasn't looking at me. No, he was looking at his mother, the mother I murdered.

He bolted off before I could say a word. I gave chase, hiding my wings again. I stumbled as I ran after the young zebra, he was crying. I felt his tears hit me as I got closer. My chest felt heavy as I was filled with a hollow sadness, choking me from within. At this point we were starting to make a scene, slavers and guards alike were taking notice of our scene. During all this, I noticed the zebra colt had a saddle bag.

I swallowed my sadness. "Thief! Return what you stole, you striped rat!"

The zebra nearly knocked me off balance when he looked back at me with tear-filled ruby eyes. I bit my lip and I swayed, but kept up the chase. We moved down the second floor's ground level, now near the outer rim of Iron Gem. The snowstorm was at Iron Gem's doorstep as snow began to blow in sideways, collecting on the ground.

At this point, we had the attention of some Blood Skull lackey, who proceeded to help give chase. "Catch the zebra scum! Thief!" they yelled.

"You killed my mother!" the colt cried, trying to run faster.

"Liar!" I quickly retorted, knowing if I could brand him as such that I may not be questioned.

We ran across the sleet and snow, avoiding the dark spots of frozen ground and ice. A guard or two behind me slipped and came to a sliding halt. "Akira!" I yelled his name, stunning him.

At that moment he misstepped and tripped. He began to slide rapidly towards the edge, where a chain fence was meant to stop ponies falling off the incline and edge. But time and a need for resources had seen this rather mundane safety feature, long stripped away. The zebra screamed as certain death was closing in.

I, on the other hoof, jumped forward and gripped his mane, before trying to slow us down with my hooves. We hit the edge and began to go over when some pony gripped my tail. The kid and I landed on the side of the incline. He screamed as he looked down into the abyss, before fainting from panic. I panted as I held onto him as we were pulled to safety.

It was then that I saw this zebra colt was also wearing a strange pitch black charm on some string around his neck. It looked like a sphere threaded through with string was attached to a smooth long diamond shape bit. Both seemed to be made of crystal or glass. I let go of Akira's mane, panting as I lay next to the fainted zebra colt on the ground.

A few guards came over, along with one who pulled us to safety. "What's going on here?" he said.

I sat up. "This little one stole something from me." I then proceeded to open his saddle bag and pull out the only item inside it.

"A Rarity Statuette?" one of the guards retorted in question.

I looked at the little statue of a white-coated unicorn mare with a fancy purple mane and tail, along with three diamonds as a cutie mark. She struck a striking yet fashionable pose as the item itself seemed flawless. On the pedestal of which she stood atop were the words 'Be Unwavering.'

"Yes," I said.

"What's that?" another guard asked.

The guard who saved us then answered. "It's a statuette of one of Equestria's Ministry Mares, a genuine one is quite rare."

"Yeah, we get it, you're from Equestria," another guard said in a mocking tone.

The original guard sighed. "Whatever, we can take the thief off your hooves if you like. But first, we need proof you belong here."

I proceeded to pull out the slaver pen key and showed it to one of them. "Four, seven, eight. Yep, that checks out."

"Mind if I take the brat? He could work off his crime to me," I said, putting the statue in the saddle bag, before picking the zebra up and placing him on my back.

The three guards shrugged and proceeded to leave. I took Akira to a bench by the edge, out of sight of the crowds. I saw a clock, it was almost ten. I let him rest, knowing it would cut into my time with Selen. But I did just kill his mom, but she was a slaver who hurt Selen and others. I groaned as this dilemma made me feel like crap. She wasn't trying to kill me first, I was the one who attacked. This whole situation was heavy.

I decided to take out the Rarity Statuette and looked at it. 'Be Unwavering.' Such a simple request. I lied about my virtue being endurance, then pain. But what if like Dark, it too was actually another side of me? I had somehow endured the pain of others and my personal loss. Could I endure to survive? I knew I was going to be unwavering in my mission tomorrow. But after that, would I want to live? Did I want to die?

"Mother?" Akira groaned as he slowly sat up. He looked at me and the statuette before his memory set in. He teared up, sniffling.

"I'm sorry. I know you and your mom were probably forced into the life of slavers," I said, remembering Store Stock.

He wiped his tears. "Is that why you murdered her, my mother?" That word was like a dagger to my heart. "You're wrong, we chose this life."

I handed him back the Rarity statuette. "Why?" I asked, trying not to look at him.

He took it and held it tight. "Why? Isn't that what I should be asking you?"

I looked out to the imposing cliffs. "Your mom hurt a friend of mine and enslaved innocent ponies."

Akira gripped the statuette tightly in anger. "Innocent? No, every one of our slaves was sentenced to their punishment for crimes of murder, rape, thievery and more. The one who went to the brothel was permitted to roam the town. But he was forbidden to feel physical pleasure after he raped and killed a filly that was younger than I."

I swallowed my sorrow at learning this fact, I bowed my head. "Sorry, I didn't know."

"How could you? Mother knew that this life might get her or myself killed one day." He smiled a little as he looked down. "Do what you think is right. Face whatever comes later. Those were the words she lived by.”

I slouched on the bench. "But it this world, how do you know what's right and what's wrong?"

"One must do what they feel is right, then face whatever their consequences come after." He sat back and looked up at the storm above, snow falling upon us. "May I tell you a story?"

I sighed. "Sure."

"Mother and I were a part of a clan that was one of the first to fall in the war of thirty-two. Others feared us due to our worship of Sombra."

"Who was Sombra?" I asked, taking pity on the zebra child, my mind still lingering on what he said before.

"It is said Sombra was the ruler of the empire at one time, but was defeated by the combined power of Luna and Celestia. But he returned and sought to retake the throne. But he was too impatient and weak, this time the fragment of himself was defeated by a dragon. It's believed that this god returned a third time as the drug known as Nightmare. Choosing to give dark power to the worthy as he too grows stronger from them. As for the weak, well they are thought of as insults and punished with insanity before death." His voice was distant.

I was intrigued by this mythology, so far it was the only explanation I had gotten to Nightmare. Although the blood of some dark one did seem a bit far fetched. Bronco also seemed to have knowledge on Nightmare, but I was in a rush and unable to ask him more at the time. That and from all the history lessons dad taught me, I never recalled any ruler by the name of Sombra.

"Why tell me all this?" I asked.

"Do you hear it?" he asked.

"Hear what?" I replied.

"Vocationem ad vacu."

"What?" I said, cocking my head in confusion.

The zebra kid stood up and kissed the black charm on his necklace. "I am doing what I think is right, Mr. Pegasus. The only question is if you'll do the same and catch me?"

"What?!" I looked at the zebra, only to see him jump off the edge of Iron Gem with his eyes closed.

"Sombra deus volt dolor," he said, biting into his charm. I didn't even think before jumping after him.

I grabbed him as we fell down, holding him out in my hooves. I saw the sphere part of the charm break off as he turned the long diamond and began to suckle it. It must have been a small hidden flask. I was pretty sure I knew what it contained. Akira screamed in agony as we still fell, I put out my wings to slow us. But the biggest problem wasn't the ground. No, it was the fact he had just taken Nightmare.

I could feel Dark with intrigue. I on the other hoof was vary of the power it would give him and whether he would survive. The kid flung his head back in a scream before a pop overtook it. I watched in horror as his jaw opened up one hundred and eighty degrees. Blood began to pool in his mouth as bubbles gargled up. I quickly stopped our fall and looked at him in fear, was it rejecting him?

I let my guard down as I looked up and began to fly. When all of a sudden I felt dozens of long needles dug into my shoulder, before being clamped down. I screamed and began to fall. When I looked I saw it was, in fact, Akira biting into my shoulder. But it didn't feel like normal teeth. I tried to pry his jaw open, but it didn't budge, instead, the movement made whatever it was tear up more of my shoulder.

Akira's eyes shot open. Gone was the rich red, only purple remained. I screamed as the purple eye had the complete attention to kill. But in the abyss, I knew I had to stop our fall, as it surely couldn't be bottomless. I spread out my wings as our rapid descent slowed. But suddenly my body began to feel drained, all my strength leaving my body as my eyes felt heavy.

I focused all my attention on my wings, making sure they were stiff to slow our fall, even resorting to sexual thoughts of Selen. But my mind grew tired as I felt myself drift away into darkness. I was about to give in when I felt Akira ripped off my shoulder, literally. There was a pain as whatever he dug into my shoulder shredded and tore my flesh as we parted. After a split second later I crashed into the ground hard.


I opened my eyes, to my horror, in front of me, impaled through his back on a stalagmite was Akira. His eyes were still glowing purple as they were wide open. His mouth was gaping open beyond any natural amount as his teeth were now long crimson needles. The very same that dug into and shredded my shoulder open. Some of the teeth were broken and I presumed still in my shoulder.

I tried to stand, expecting blood loss and pain. But despite my shoulder’s looks, I felt fine. I took a step towards Akira. but stopped when a quite synthetic, multi-layered laughter began to emanate from his mouth. I saw blood come out his throat and reshape into new needle teeth, before hardening into a crimson crystal. His eyes then blinked and looked at me, before growling and snarling at me like a monster.

It was then in the horror did I notice he was not bleeding or had bled from his impalement. His hooves grabbed the stalagmite and he slowly but surely began to pull himself up and off of it before landing on his hooves. There was a massive hole in his midsection and I could see right through him, literally. It made me a little queasy as he moved at me, his movement janky and stiff, like a puppet.

It was then that I heard the same demonically multi-layered laughter coming from the shadows. I looked to see dark figures swirl around, a darkness darker than the dark. They took shape, the silhouettes of everyone I ever killed. Fifteen raiders that I had killed, some for attacking my family and home. The smiling one was included with them, as well as the one I impaled in the school and the other one I struck down.

"What have you got us into?" I looked down in front of me, surprised to hear Dark. His shadow body was that of a colt, a little younger me.

"Dark? Is that you? What's going on?" I asked him.

More shadows formed as Akira took a step closer. Some ghouls and crystal bunnies formed, one ghoul was glowing. But it was with darkness, not radiation. Then the figures of Berry Butcher and Candy's slaver manifested. Next to Akira formed the shadowy figure of his mother. They slowly surrounded me as they all looked at me blankly, except Akira, who was more like a savage animal.

"Enough of this, you need my help," Dark said as he opened his eyes. His white eyes had purple pupils the size of a ping-pong ball, much bigger than the pinpricks they used to be.

"No," I said, looking down in shame.

"No?" he asked.

"Why should I endure? Why should I be the one to survive when others don’t? What’s the point?" I sat down in the shadows and Akira slowly approached.

Dark raised his hooves and suddenly shadows formed around us, protecting us. "Because if you’re dead, then I'll die too. Never getting to have any fun or kick back and relax."

I couldn't help but chuckle at his selfishness, which in term made him smile. "You ass, fine. But if you survive the next few days, I'm gonna need a drink and a vacation. I'd love to be able to watch the clouds at night, maybe I'd be lucky and spot a cloud."

Out of the shadows around me stepped seventeen guards and mercenaries of Slave Town. Then Bulk Build and Last Meal formed next to Dark. None of the ponies were armed, but they faced the shadow ponies siding with Akira. The shadows screamed in silence as they charged at each other. I joined them in my charge, punching a shadow raider, wondering if the hit'll connect.

To my surprise, it did connect. His muzzle cracked and glowed with purple light and embers. I let down my guard, in surprise, shadow Berry Butcher took the opening to tackle me to the ground. I wrestled him on the ground, before hitting him in the sides with my wings. He flinched and recoiled, I used this opportunity to headbutt him, knocking him off me.

I then got up, smiling. "You were right." I started beating down on him, before the cracks spread over his body and he crumbled into dust.

I stood, before noticing blue and white light coming from my side and forehead. I was cracked, but I didn't care. I had an amazing battle to get back to. Both sides won and lost fighters as more and more shattered. Dodging, punching and most of all, flying. I picked up the smiling raider and put him in a flying suplex drop.

"I'm sorry," I said to him before letting him go and pushing away. He was still smiling as he shattered.

Something slammed into my wings and back, biting into me. I screamed out of instinct but didn't actually feel pain. I then looked back to see crystal bunnies clawing and biting at me, barely making a scratch on me. I flung them off and they broke like glass. Akira's mother was responsible, she had thrown them at me. I went in for a flying kick, but was blocked by three shadow raiders. Instead my kick connected with one of them and they broke.

The other two gave me a double punch as their buddy shattered. I blocked them with my wings and was sent flying back. My wings shattered as I slid back, cracks all over my body. I went to stand up, but the cracks spread, so I stopped and watched the battle. Dark was winning, the raiders were gone and we had more guard shadows on our side. But Akira was tearing through them as he was barely cracked, the hole seemingly having no effect on him.

Despite his small stature, Dark was handling all three ghouls with ease. I was worried when I saw the dark ghoul heal the others. But that worry was short lived when Last Meal stepped in and took out the dark glowing one. Akira's mother approached me, staring at me with her blank expression and empty eyes.

"I'm sorry, but I did what I felt was right at the time. Now I have to face the consequences that come after." I swung my arm up at her. My arm shattered along with her.

Akira screamed, his angry howl washed into the darkness. He then quickly dispatched the remaining guards, biting and tearing through them. He charged at me. Leaving Last Meal with the ghouls, Dark went to try and stop Akira. His flat open mouth snapped shut, its needled blood teeth locking together as Dark's head disappeared. Last Meat and the ghoul managed to shatter each other in a final blow.

Then there was only two left. Just me and Akira, he was barely cracked and I was down my wings and a limb. He growled before pouncing at me, opening his mouth wide. I blocked his bite with my remaining forehoof, it crumbled with ease. His mouth now shut, I went in for a final blow. Our heads connected with the sound of shattering glass as there was a large flash of light.

"I'm sorry."

I groaned as I felt pain, I smiled as I felt Dark was happy too. "We won," Dark said.

I opened my eyes, seeing Akira, dead on a stalagmite, back to normal. I went to get up when I stopped, seeing the needle shredded wound of my messed up shoulder, bleeding lightly. I sighed, taking a deep breath. That’s when it hit me, the cold air. Now, this was coming from someone who lived in a frozen tundra and had to take baths and get out in the said cold.

No, when I say the cold air, I mean it. My lips stung before numbing from the chilling air filling my lungs. This was dangerously cold air, in my hoodie, I probably wouldn't last twenty minutes down here. I stood up, shivering as I saw my breath. I looked up to see Iron Hole and was quite surprised to see it was even higher than the cloud layer was from the surface.

I turned away from Akira and said, "I'm sorry."

'Bang, Bang, Bang!'

Loud gun fire rained down around me, incendiary rounds encircling me. In the new light, I saw large, thick worm-like creatures sliver back into the dark. I looked up to see Chief security Grumble, his anti-machine sniper machine gun pointed down at us. Smoke poured out of the barrel, a red glow emanating from them. Grumble looked down at me with a smirk as he moved above Akira's corpse.

"Quite the situation we have here, Star," Grumble said, before perching on the tip of the stalagmite.

I heard Dark whisper in my ear. "Go." We were one, again.

We rushed forward, spreading our wings. Grumble opened fire with his AP and incendiary rounds. Rounds hit the ground around me, peppering me with stone fragments. We dashed up the side of the stalacmite, flying past Akira's corpse. Bullets flew past us, some scraping against us and through my hoodie. We lunged at Grumble, hooves out and mouth open as we tackled him.

We wrapped our forehoof around Grumble's back. He pushed his claws into our chest, trying to push us off. We opened our mouth wide, feeling the blood from our mouth moving and shaping itself into two upper fangs. We bit down into Grumble's feathery neck. He screamed and clawed at our chest as we drew blood. Grumble's blood flowed into my mouth, seemingly wanting to move to my crimson fangs, even after I pulled away. Strings of blood from the wound moved like rivers, through the air, and into my mouth.

The world darkened and time seemed to slow until we were alone in a dark limbo. Blood stopped flowing from Grumble to me as he froze in time. Then out of the darkness, ribbons of images and memories rose from the void. These weren't the memory bubbles that Dark showed me, no, these were Grumble’s memories. Distorted noise and chatter came from the one memory as we reached out and touched it.

There was a flash when we touched the ribbon. We found ourselves in a warehouse. We were floating in an ethereal state. It was dark, there was a weird noise coming from the roof as we looked around. Water was leaking and dripping from the roof as the wind howled. There was a makeshift sleeping area consisting of a few mattresses and a few shelves with various stuff on them. The standard wasteland squatter set up in an old world building. We looked around to see a Griffin sitting in the warehouse with ponies and the likes around him, in a little community.

All of them seemed like scavengers. They brought in scrap and salvage as they cleaned and repaired it. Grumble, a young Griffin at the time seemed to be cleaning some scrap he had collected. He seemed to be an outsider as ponies his age were playing together or sticking with their family and friends. A gruff looking stallion trotted up to Grumble with two bowls of soup.

"Put that thing down, kid," the stallion said.

Grumble put the trinket down and stood up. "Dinner time? Already?"

The pony sat down and handed a bowl to Grumble. "We managed to buy more food from some of the other groups."

Grumble took the bowl and started eating. "Lucky, maybe the rain will even let up."

The pony chuckled. "The rain hasn't let up since the old world died."

"True, the metal devils giving you any trouble?" Grumble asked as he licked his bowl.

The pony put down his bowl. "We tried tracking their patrol patterns, finding were they resupply, and searching for their remaining manufactory locations. But still, we haven't had any luck."

The two of them seemed to sit in a disappointed silence. The bustle and noise of the community washed over them. But then a loud wailing noise roared throughout the warehouse. The noise hurt everyone's ears as panic ensued. The sound whined as it rose and fell, screeching, as it was made to be heard.

"Sentinel!" somepony managed to yell above the noise.


A fireball blew into the warehouse as a large thing with glowing red eyes stood outside the new large hole in the wall. A whining sound came from the beast before bullets streamed out from his chest. Mini gunfire ripped through the community as the barrel flashes revealed what a sentinel was.

A hulking robot with a vaguely ponyesque shaped head with four glowing red eyes. It had a chest mounted mini-gun and a missile launcher turret on its right. There was an empty, damaged slot on its left for a missing weapon. Its body was a large bulky metal hull, which was banged up with scratches, bullet scraps, dents and blast marks.

The robot rolled into the warehouse as ponies shot at it with small arms. The rounds didn't seem to affect the robot as they bounced off with ease. The sentinel's legs were, in fact, four large spider-like legs with ball rollers for feet. It moved forward as it turned and looked around the warehouse as ponies tried to flee.

"You are trespassing on Robronco property. You will be shot, then fined," the robot spoke, its mechanical voice booming from its head.

The stallion grabbed the young Grumble and started to run. The sound of missiles whooshing through the air was soon followed by their imminent explosions. Grumble shielded himself with his wings as they rushed out in the stampede of ponies. The sentinel remained behind as it slaughtered any pony that failed to escape.

"Scatter! Before it gives chase!" the stallion yelled.

As we watched, everything became more fluid and wavy. Time began to slow and the color bled away as the world slowly became grey, then black. We blinked and found ourselves in mid-air with the present day Grumble. We were falling in darkness, Grumble seemed frozen in his expression of surprise.

Ribbons began to sprout from the darkness as we looked and listened to them. We then spotted more recent memories. These were the memories of Grumble and all of Iron Fort's defenses, protocols and patrol roots. Everything, all of the new and old defenses Grumble had set up or changed after Armored Wall's expulsion.

We learned everything ee needed to. Griffin flight paths, blind spots, guard locations. There was even the fact that Iron Fort used to be some industrial elevator in a ring around the platform. Apparently, it was retired before the bombs fell, due to a drop in productivity. This left in function only the now destroyed town of Iron Coat, which was built atop the first elevator platform, operational back in the old world. The elevator was locked in place by welding two dozen metal joiners from the ring to the elevator.

We also found what Grumble's true intentions were. Apparently Blood Rose had a safe in his office that contained a star core. Similar to the one Silver had stolen from her dad, but this one was different. Grumble didn't know what this one did, but whatever their star core things were, they were powerful. We then kept looking for more information.

We found the code to Blood Rose's office. After that we found out where the Pegasi and chariots were being kept. At this point, we were looking for an evacuation plan or some situation that would draw out as many guards as possible. We were still looking through Grumble's memories, but were knocked out of one involving attacks on Iron Gem. We opened our eyes, finding myself and Grumble on the floor of a color-filled world.

Dark and the darkness was gone as I was awake again. I stood up, feeling my body shiver with uncontrollable tremors from the cold. I looked down to see Grumble paralyzed on the floor, groaning and staring at me with malicious intent. I then looked up to see Akira still stuck dead on the stalagmite. I proceeded to take Grumble’s weapon before I heard movement in the dark.

"S-Star," Grumble managed to mumble, still seemingly paralyzed by my bite.

I slowly took flight, hearing faint screams as the things in the dark got a live feast. Using my new knowledge, I was able to get back to Iron Gem. I landed at Armored Wall's shack but found it to be abandoned. I decided to head back to the second floor for some unfinished business. The ponies on the third floor all seemed to avoid me, probably because I had an anti-machine rifle on my side. Although I was unable to use it without a battle saddle, unless I wanted to fly, stand or lay down.

I proceeded to enter Three Stories Bar, trying to avoid the two remaining brothers, again. I managed to make it to the elevator when I was spotted. "Stop!" Blim ran over to me, anger in his eyes. Luckily the doors closed and started moving up before he got to me. I sighed as I moved up.

I got to the second floor and the doors opened. I took a step forward but was stopped by the sound of cocking guns. "Freeze!" Blam was in front of me, along with a dozen of his armed security ponies.

I took a step forward and Blam pulled out a fancy engraved .357 magnum revolver. The barrel, frame, and cylinder were made of a smooth black metal decorated with ornate gold etchings. A polished ivory handle was inlaid with the symbol of clubs. The word "Lucky" was engraved on the silver plate on the ejector tube. This elegant gun had its barrel pushed to my forehead.

"What do you want?" I said, looking down at Blam, seeing tears and anger in his eyes.

Blam cocked his gun, pulling back on the hammer with his magic. "My brother is dead because of you!"

I leaned my head into the barrel, pushing it back a bit. "So what? You're going to kill me?"

"Yes!" he screamed, growling in rage.

"No. You. Are. Not," I said with a large smirk. "Blood Rose wants me alive, to kill me would be the same as disobeying him. Just like Blom did."

"I don't care!" Blam yelled, his gun shaking a little.

"Oh, but you do. If you disobey Blood, then he'll be out for your blood. We both know he could destroy you with ease if he wanted."

Blam dropped his gun as he started crying. I just walked past him with my head held high, the guards putting away their guns as they were all powerless. I walked out into the second floor, making my way back to Akira's mom's container. My heart ached with pain as I saw her corpse laying there. But I didn't want to cry, not yet anyway.

I proceeded to look around the container, eventually finding the guard’s contract and the ownership papers for the slaves and the files on them. After reading through all the files, I left, closing the door behind me. Akira was right, all their slaves were monsters and scum that deserved to burn.

I made my way to the storage container, number four, seven, and eight. The guard with the flamethrower battle saddle was still diligently standing guard. I was getting strange looks as I assumed they were looking at my unnatural bite mark through my bloody hoodie. The wound had already stopped bleeding, although it still hurt as I trotted around.

I popped another Party Mint-al in my mouth and swallowed as I approached him. "Hey," I said.

"What the hell happened to you?" the guard asked, surprised to see my condition.

"Not important." I then pulled out his contract from my pocket. "But I'm here to tell you your job is finished."

He looked me up and down. "Why do you have that? What's going on here?" He was getting suspicious of me.

I sat down. "Akira had been kidnapped by thugs on the third floor. I was sent to rescue him, as the thugs knew you were here and threatened to kill him if you came. But they didn't know my face."

The guard sat, listening to my story. "But why kidnap a slaver kid? They're not rich by slaver standards?"

I raised a hoof. "As it turned out they were buddies of a slave, this one in fact." I proceeded to pull out the slave's file, the pedophile that slept with Selen. "Young Fun."

"That troublemaker." He seemed to know of the nuisance Young Fun was.

"I saved Akira, got this nice anti-machine rifle. Akira and his mother decided to flee Iron Gem right away, in case any more thugs were around. So they gave me the slaves as thanks and asked me to pay you, with a bonus to make up for the inconvenience." I pulled out the bag of a few hundred caps I had gotten from the zebra's belongings.

The guard took the caps and looked like he was thinking, wondering if I was lying or not. "Hmm, okay, they are all yours.”

He was about to walk off, after hoofing me the keys. "Wait," I said, he turned to look at me. "May I have that flamethrower? I'll give you this auto-machine gun in exchange."

He looked at the large gun on my side. "Kid, this flamer's not anywhere near the worth of a gun like that. It even has AP and incendiary rounds."

"So you don't want it?" I said firmly.

He shrugged and took off his flamethrower and fuel tank from his battle saddle and back. "Sure, whatever."

I put the rifle down and he began to put in on. I trotted to the barred up shipping container, seeing the skinny and meek ponies looking at me with fear and curiosity. I unlocked the cage and opened the door, looking at of all them and remembering the collected crimes of the ponies before me.

"Young Fun," I stated his name, in a demanding tone. The ponies before me moved and parted, making a path right to him. "Get over here," I said.

He did as he was told, keeping his head down as he limped out. His one eye was still swollen shut, bruises peppered his body with new and old marks. His tail and mane were raggedy and dirty, his coat roughed up. I could see his ribs, he and many of the others were malnourished. They all wore the same slave collar, a simpler version of the one I once wore. Regardless, I knew what it meant to be a slave, if only for a short time.

I closed the doors to the makeshift cell as the guard stood close to Young Fun. I then picked up the flamethrower, stood on my hind legs and pointed it into the cell. The ponies inside whimpered and cried in fear.

"What, you're not going to-" I cut the guard off with the roaring gush of a flamethrower.

Before my eyes I saw ponies engulfed in flames, screaming and burning as they all tried to move further back. They couldn't, they pounded on the walls of the containers and some tried shielding themselves with others. The flame engulfed them and everything around them as their screams soon died out. Corpses still burning littered the floor, as smoke began to flow out of the top of the containers.

I turned off the flamethrower and dropped in as I fell back to four hooves. Everyone around me looked shocked, but none more so than Young Fun. The ponies in the pen next to ours quickly put out the fire with the aforementioned fire hydrant. Black sludge, the mixture of ash and water poured out as the flames were put out. The sound of water steaming and sizzling could be heard as the water hit hot metal.

Everyone looked at me angrily. I ignored them as I opened the cell doors. "Young Fun, get in," I said, glaring at him.

He whimpered in fear, but did as he was told, after a shove from the guard. "Go on."

Young Fun walked into the charred container, head low as he tried not to look at the blackened heap of smoldering ponies. It reminded me of dad and his fate. I shoved Young into the pile of corpses in the back, he screamed and cried as they crumbled and burned him. We were at the back of the container, in the dark, out of sight. Only the soft smoke and glowing smolder of the corpses could be seen from the outside.

I felt Dark return to me as our top canine teeth felt like they were growing. Young cried and whimpered as we were covered in ash and burnt flesh. He refused to look at us as he pushed up against the wall so many had tried to escape from. Through the dim red glow of embers, we could see the glistening of our blood fangs. We plunged those fangs into his neck as he screamed in pain.

The world around us went dark again as he froze in his scream. Yet again, the sound and color bled away as we were no longer in reality. His memory ribbons flowed up through the charred corpses. We focused our mind, looking for the guilty memory. Surely enough, we found it. It was not one, it was many. I looked through them, seeing memory after memory of this stallion taking, hurting, fucking and killing colts and fillies.

By the time we had finished two memories out of dozens, we were filled with rage. The darkness of the world shattered as we looked down at Young Fun laying on the hot pile of demented slaves. His eyes were filled with fear as he was powerless to move, paralyzed by our vampiric memory bite. We growled at him, before striking him with a hoof, then another and another.

He started screaming again, but at that point, it was too late for him. Eventually, the sounds of his screams stopped and the only sounds were the bones and embers cracking as we beat a dead horse. By the time we were done, we were exhausted. We trotted out of the ceil, feeling the floor wet with blood. Outside the ponies gasped and looked at us with horror. We were coated in blood, ash and blackened skin flakes.

The crowd gave us a wide berth as we walked past them, the guard included. We made our way back to the bench and sat down, seeing the statuette still there. I looked up at the clock, it was almost midnight. I blinked and felt Dark was gone, the dark pleasure leaving my body as I hugged the figure in my gory embrace and started to cry. I just wanted to go back to my peaceful life, to lead a simple life, for all of this to end.

Chapter 13: End

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Snow, it fell atop me and melted on my coat. Some of the blood and ashes washed off in lines. I just sat there with my eyes closed for a moment, trying to decide what I should do next. Time was almost up, but I still wanted to talk to Selen. I got up and left, after cleaning myself off under a leaking water pipe. Now soaking wet and freezing, but clean, I made my way back from the second floor of Iron Gem to the top floor and the brothels.

Snaking through the alleyways, I avoided the market and crowds as I eventually got back to the entrance building. I strolled through, seeing Pink Thing looking at me in the kitchen. She seemed like she was about to ask how it went, but she stopped when she saw my tired expression. I then made my way through the alleyway of smut and knocked on the presumptuous doors of the main building.

An eye slit slid open and a pair of green eyes looked at me. "Oh hey, it's the feathered stallion." The slit shut and the doors began to open.

A stallion invited me in with a wave and then proceeded to try and hug me. But he stopped, sensing my brooding aura. I trotted past him, into the warm building, heading upstairs as I looked for Selen. The doors and rooms had names on them, so I just kept looking for hers. By the sounds coming from most of the rooms, this place was still quite active. Still, I didn't care as I trotted along.

Eventually, I found her room. I knocked, but there was no answer. I then tried opening the door, it was unlocked. I entered quietly, seeing the lights were off. There was, however, one light on, by her dresser. It was next to her bed, of which she was sound asleep in. I smiled as I looked down at her, contemplating whether or not I should wake her. But a glance at a clock it the room reminded me that I didn't have time.

I looked at the dresser, surprised to see my snow jacket laying atop it with a letter. I took both after I slowly look off the hoodie I was wearing. I looked at it. Three large rips across the center, the right shoulder was missing a huge chunk. The thing was worn out, stained, dirty and broken. Just like me. I sighed, looking at the Star-shaped paperclip zipper, it was fine.

I then looked at myself in the mirror, the prominent scars on my chest sticking out. The fresh deep shoulder wound wasn't bleeding, but looked very bad. The burnt mark on my wing from the plasma turret, as well as the ghoul bite mark on my other wing. The bullet mark in my gut was healed over but scarred. My hooves, one front side promptly scarred and my other with a scarred ring, showing where it had regrown.

I sighed and put the ragged hoodie and paperclip on the dresser. Before putting on my old jacket, it felt warm. Feeling something in one of the pockets, I chose to ignore it. This jacket would heal, I wouldn't. I took one last look at Selen before leaving, careful not to wake her on my way out. It was then when coming down the main staircase, I looked at the hole Bronco had made, chuckling a little as I was about to head out.

"Star," Bronco said, stepping into the doorway of the exit. His expression and body language were serious, he seemed like he already knew.

I looked away from him. "I need to go."

He stood firm. "Why didn't you talk to her?"

Still looking away, I replied, "I'm not a good pony, I don't deserve to."

Bronco sighed and stepped aside. "Nightmare will turn you into something you're not."

Trotting past him, my head hung low. "All it does is bring out what's already inside of me." Those were the last words we spoke before leaving, back into the cold.

Managing to get to the hotel room in Eleven Penny Tower, this time I opted not to use the spa feature in the elevator. I felt hollow and heavy and only warm thanks to the snow jacket, as well as the building’s active heating. At this point, I had dried off naturally. I froze before the door, remembering what Sharp said to me.

"Smile, that way others don't have to worry about you."

Well, that wasn't it exactly, but it was true. We didn't have time to worry about me, we still had a plan to pull off. All I knew about it was the fact it involved me, power armor and that we had to finish it before some group returned. So I put on a smile and stepped through the door.

"Oh ye,s Armoured Wall~! Harder! I've been a naughty girl! So make it hurt~"

"Ahh, you sure this is your first time, Sharp?"

In front of my smiling face was my sister and Armoured Wall. She was hugging a pillow while lying flat with her legs spread. Her face glowed with pleasure as her tongue hung out and her mane was a mess, while her tail was raised. Armoured Wall was atop her, on the couch as he thrust into her. He too was moaning and groaning as he moved his large body.

The couch creaked and shook as the room was filled with less meaty sounds and sexual noises. All of that came to a halt when they simultaneously noticed me. No one said a word as we just stared at each other. Only the audio of the radio was playing, Rose Radio. I slowly backed out of the room, closing the door in front of me.

I knocked on the door across from ours, the radio jockey for Rose Radio. The door opened a little, although a security chain kept it from opening all the way.

Through the door, I could see a stallion wearing a shirt with the Blood Skull’s icon. A baton hung from his side. "What do you want?" he asked.

Before I could answer, the door unlocked and opened.

(Center)"Help me!"(/center)

The pony turned to look into the apartment, yelling. "Sex Beach?!"

I tackled the stallion into the dimly lit apartment, the door shutting behind us. Once inside, I saw it was a mess of technology and tapes and notes. Cables ran around everywhere and there were multiple screens showing feeds from all across Iron Gem. But I had a stallion to knock out. I moved behind him before he could get up and wrapped my forehooves around his neck, while I used my hind legs to keep his forehooves from letting him get up.

He gagged as he thrashed around. "Ahh, what the fuck?!" His hind legs kicked around as he began to panic.

I pulled out my wings and wrapped them around his face to block his sight and repeatedly said, "Go to Sleep. Go to Sleep. Go to Sleep."

After one last desperate gasp, the stallion was choked out and fainted. I slowly let go of him and got up. I began searching throughout the surprisingly small wire and cable filled apartment, before coming upon the source of the distress. It was an earth mare, with a seafoam green coat, golden orange eyes and pale turquoise mane with a low number of hair spikes. She wore white and light pink striped stockings on her hind legs. Above them were pink panties with a yellow star on them. Her cutie mark was an orange-y to mango colored fruity-looking cocktail with a cherry on top.

My jaw almost dropped as I saw her shirt, it was a white tank top that read "There is a Star inside me." But the 'is a' was crossed out and above it was the text 'will be.' She also had a pair of semi-circle rose colored glasses on. The mare wore a leather collar on and was chained to a terminal, a souped out terminal. The hot mare's terminal seemed to be connected to all manner of screens and other such things by a slew of cables.

She smiled at me as she was on her rump with her legs spread. "My hero." Then she moved a hoof over her panties slowly. Her panties stuck down to her damp crotch, leaving a transparent wet mark on the fabric. I could see her seafoam green pussy lips, they were soaking wet.

That word, hero. It made me choke up a little. "No," I whispered, "I'm not a hero." I blushed and looked away.

She took off her collar and sat up straight, tilting her head. "Why not? You seem to fight for what's right?" She stood up and led me to a living room with a couch, television and camera on it. There was also a weird device with a gem in it, on a table in the corner.

I pouted and looked down as I followed her. "How would you know?" I said.

She smirked and trotted over to the odd device with a gem atop it and a sphere at the base. "Through this, I'm still looking into it. It was meant to be a magical high definition television unit to replace an inferior low-resolution model. However, it seemed to also be designed to record one's memories with a stealthy short range spell, when in use as a television. This is why some ponies complained about headaches, but the Ministries blamed it on eyesight and lighting issues. Once it reaches its quota, it’ll send the data off as a sub-level signal, it can even stream live..."

"That doesn't explain anything," I said, but then the mare, I think her name was Sex Beach, kissed me, with tongue.

She pulled away slowly, licking her lips. "The last update I did on you was less than twenty-four hours ago, from the television in your room across the hallway."

It was obvious she was in the mood, but I was not. "I was barely in the room for a few hours. I was also in the bathroom most of the time? I don’t even know what a television is?"

She went over to the television and turned it on as she seemed to be setting things up. "They have a pretty good range, as well as a high-quality fast speed stealth memory extraction spell." She seemed to be wiggling her hips at me.

I tried not to stare. "I don't know why, but there's a top priority monitoring order on you and your whole family."

I jumped forward. "Do you know what happened to my parents?! My dad wrote a message, but I couldn't read it."

Static popped up on the large screen. "Tell you what, you help me and I'll answer all your questions I can." She raised her tail, swaying it.

I couldn't help but smirk as I got her hint. "I'm not really in the mood, but I suppose I could. But you can't call me a hero."

She plugged a camera and sat it atop the television, displaying an image of us. "Okay, but I want to talk about it afterwards."

I took off my snow jacket and put it to the side of the couch. "But I need to notify my sister, but she's..." I paused for a moment. "Busy."

"Give me a moment, I'll get us some time." She trotted back to her super terminal and connected a mic. " I hope you all enjoyed that song. I kind of forgot what it was called. But it's getting late, so, um here, enjoy half an hour of songs. Oh yes, I almost forgot. Sharp, you have umm, thirty minutes, mm, no an hour."

Sex beach came back, blushing a little. "So you are the voice of Rose Radio? Why so nervous on air? You certainly seem outgoing," I asked.

She trotted up to me, smiling. "Sex on the Beach, a drink that features vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice and either grapefruit juice or orange juice. The flavour is sweet and fruity, but not overwhelmingly so. Sex on the Beach is one of those drinks that’s easy to take anytime, anyplace. I think it’s perfect for relaxing and refreshing on a hot afternoon, but it’s also great for a night out dancing. The fruit juice gives you a little bit of sugar and hydration."

I tilted my head. "What does a cocktail have to do with anything?"

Sex Beach kissed me, but this time with her tongue swimming into my mouth. "Another question, you still got to help me. Remember?"

I rolled my eyes and kissed her back. "Let's get started then."

She smirked as she pushed me on my back. Standing atop me as I lay on the floor, she slid her hooves down the side of her body. She swayed her hips and soon her panties slid down her legs before she took them off completely. I couldn't help but take a look at the mare's wet slit. Juice ran down her thighs as she too looked at my privates. I rose to the occasion as she sat atop my mask, my head rubbing her slit.

"I would have liked to be your first, but I'll settle for the first mare," she said with a luscious smile.

I moved my wings out from behind me and held her rump with them. I instinctually wanted to move upward but resisted. "So you know about that too?"

I ground my head on her exposed swollen clit, causing her to moan out. "Yes!" She took a moment, breathing, before regaining her composure. "I know almost everything you know. Except for a few memories shrouded in static. As well as your life beyond a certain age. I think the latter is classified, but couldn't find out, yet."

We shuttered together as the head of my penis went into her pussy. She was tighter than Selen, but from just the entrance, I could feel she couldn't willingly make herself tighter than Selen. I know it was kind of horrible comparing two people I've made love to, but I couldn't help myself.

My feathers rubbed and pressed into her fine rump as much as they could as I let her take the lead. "So why tell me about a drink? One I assume you are named after?"

She smiled down at me as her tail swayed from side to side, brushing my balls as it did. "Correct, it was how I was conceived. As well as what I was named after, the drink and the act." She slowly lowered herself, taking more of me in with a happy moan from both of us. "I'm timid around multiple ponies, even speaking on the radio makes me nervous. But alcohol calms my nerves, and that one just happened to be my favourite."

I gripped the floor with my forehooves, as she was almost halfway. She was taking it nice and slow, savouring the feeling for both of us. "Mmmh, why do radio then?"

"I'm a slave of Blood Rose, I'm also smart. So I made myself useful and learnt about technology. One thing led to another and now I'm a radio jockey. I'm forced to be the voice of Rose Radio as punishment for arrogance." Sex Beach was quite composed when talking, but her insides were the thing quivering now.

I tickled her rear hole with a feather. It made her squirm and tighten, which made us moan. "So why me? I'm nothing special?"

"Ahh, but you can be. You can be something we all need." She paused as she smirked, squeezed her insides, slowly rose, her insides sucking on me tightly with a vacuum grip.

I let out a loud moan as I moved my other wing to her side and moved a feather to her clit. I was careful not to block my view as I smirked. "I get it, but I doubt I'll survive the next day." I moved my feather on her clit and asshole in circles. "So do you know what my dad wrote as he was dying? Or why Blood Rose had my parents killed?"

She then slowly lowered herself, taking even more of me in. This time pussy juices began to run out of her slit and down my shaft. "There is a memory device in your home, been there before you were ever born. But it looked like something happened to it a week before the attack on your home."

"What do you know about my parents?" I gripped the floor as I bit my lip in pleasure.

She giggled as she stopped moving. "Nothing really, aside from rumours and stories about your dad. I was only allowed to watch and record your family’s memories up to a certain time, anything before that was blocked or removed from my records. I tried accessing it remotely, through your memories. But like I said, some weird static blocked your older memories from me. The focus was on you and Sharp, with general monitoring of your parents and Red Cross." I looked up at the television and saw it displaying us. "Do you know anything about a black door or nightmare?"

"No, sorry. But I have a question for you, Star. What happened in the post office? On the way back to Slave Town and in the Minute Mare's stable? Those memories seemed to be hazy or corrupt by the same static as your distant past." Sex Beach sunk lower and lower.

Dark, nightmare, all these instances were the same. It seemed like they were all connected, distorting my memories from these machines. "So who else do you watch?" I said, smirking as I avoided her question as she opened her mouth, panting.

Her insides began to move as she moaned out loud. "Oh, I'm close. I want it rough and hard."

I gripped her hips with my wings, smirking as I looked at the bulge I made in her stomach. "Brace yourself. Because I won't stop till you tell me everyone by name and title."

Sex beach giggled. "What? Is that a challenge?"

I bit my lip and braced myself as I slammed her down, hard, after saying. "Yes."

Her insides clenched tight as I felt myself hit something inside her. I could see my bulge poking in her stomach as she squealed in ecstasy. "Yes!" Her insides pulsed and throbbed as I felt her orgasm and convulsed lightly.

I chuckled as I lifted her up and slammed her back down, moaning. "Start talking." I slowly picked up the pace, not lightening up on the strength, pounding her womb.

"Agh, I just." She screamed as her tongue hung from her mouth, drooling. "Cumming!" I felt her orgasm again as I hit her womb, as deep as I could go.

I moaned out loud as I moved her up and down quicker. She forcibly bounced on my cock, but didn't resist at all. I myself was getting close as her vagina convulsed and my penis drilled her womb. "Agh, you better start talking. Before both of us lose our minds."

It was a few seconds and bounces before she managed to blurt out an answer between orgasmic moans. "Your family, Red Cross, Twin Barrel. Oh, Cadence's glory hole on Heart’s Warming Eve, yes!" Her pussy sputtered as her eyes watered up. "Some data on the city of Mare Crystal, mainly their leader."

I groaned as I began to lift her off me, as I was about to blow. "I'm going to!" Sex Beach slammed herself down, taking all of me in.

"Fury, Smelt City if possible. Any other clan leaders we could find. Oh, I want your seed in me!" Her velvety insides had a vice grip on my member as it throbbed.

I felt myself shooting hot white ribbons right into her womb. We groaned together as she creamed on my crotch. "Inside?!" I grunted in worry.

She fell atop me, embracing me in her hooves. "So warm," she said, panting as I flowed into her.

"What if you get...?" She kissed me, with tongue, again.

Our tongues swirled around for a bit before we pulled apart to breathe. "I'll answer that if you answer my question. The one about being called the thing you didn't want to be called." She rolled off of me, standing slowly as she held in my semen.

"Maybe. You know I don't know half of the names and places you told me." I stretched out a bit, feeling much better.

Sex Beach turned off the television camera and opened a drawer. "You wanted answers, I wanted the best ride of my life. I don't know about you, but I'm satisfied. Even got a great sex tape out of it."

I blushed as I sat up, before slouching. "I feel much better, but after what I did, I shouldn't."

Sex Beach tossed me a cloth to wipe myself off with, before pulling something out of the drawer. "Want to talk about it? I got something that'll help." Sex Beach pulled out two lollipops. Happy, the drug.

I smiled at her, normally I wouldn't do recreational drugs. But what did I have to lose? "Sure."

I took one and unwrapped it. Looking at the red lollipop, it reminded me of blood and my past few hours. To no surprise, it was cherry flavoured. I sucked on the lollipop, feeling better already. My mind eased and a wave of calm bliss washed over me as I smiled and relaxed. Everything felt better, even I felt better. I looked over to see Sex Beach take the other before we sat on her couch.

"I did what I thought was right, but ended up doing something horrible." I sighed as I relaxed, feeling unaffected by talking about it.

She leaned back and sighed. "I used to be a slave at Mare Crystal." She chuckled a little. "I was conceived on the beach, hence the name. Although I prefer to claim being named after the drink."

"That doesn't explain why you let be cum inside?" I asked.

"There is much use for slaves, labour, servants, sex." She paused on the word before sighing. "But not every master wants a slave to be encumbered with pregnancy."

Her words were heavy but numbed by Happy. "I fail at being a hero. A hero would be able to save people, wouldn't take pleasure fighting, wouldn't have killed a kid."

"The fact you’re trying is enough. I know you can live up to my expectations," Sex Beach said as she rested on me.

We sort of just lay next to each other as we rested and enjoyed the bliss, but it was starting to wear off. I sat up and hopped off the couch and put my jacket back on. Sex Beach stretched and stood up, before checking the time. It was a few minutes before I had to return to Sharp and Armoured Wall. But I looked over to Sex Beach's radio control terminal.

"Can you do me a favour?" I asked.

Sex beach smiled. "Round two?"

I chuckled. "No, can you send a message on the radio for me?"

"Sure thing, just let me know what it is." Sex Beach got up and went to her still knocked out bodyguard or captor, whatever his role was supposed to be. She tied him up and dragged him into a closet and locked him in.

I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and began to write down what I wanted Sex Beach to broadcast and when. After finishing that, I left it on the table and was about to leave. But Sex Beach bit my tail and held me back.

I looked back at her and asked. "What is it?"

She let go of my tail and looked down nervously. "Star, be careful." She paused. "I don't trust Sharp. She would often go on long hunts, but she also avoided monitoring. I think she knows more than she's letting on."

I stood there, thinking for a bit. I knew Sharp, she was my sister, after all. I knew dad allowed her to go on long hunts, while I was restricted to Frost Crystal. I trusted her with my life, so I was going to stick with her until the end.

I turned around. "I trust her, which should be enough." I kissed her cheek, smiling.

Sex Beach blushed, before sighing, turning around. "Fine, but ask her about Watcher."

I sighed. "Okay" I then left and she closed the door behind me.

I gulped as I knocked on the apartment hotel room door. I got no reply, so I tried opening the door. It was unlocked, so I entered slowly. The shower bubbled behind the wall, Sharp must have been using it since Armoured Wall was sitting on the couch opposite to the recently used one. I cringely smiled at him as he looked back at me and sipped on some tea. I sat down next to him as I saw he had two more cups set out.

I took a sip of warm berry tea, before breaking the awkward silence. "So, tell me about Sex Beach."

He almost choked as he coughed up some tea. "How did you? Never mind, I guess you found out about her?" He groaned. "I know her, I know it's her job to monitor high-value entities and run the radio. I also know she's obsessed with you, I've seen her shirt."

I blushed as I avoided his judgemental gaze. "Why didn't you tell me my family was being watched? I know my dad was part of the Immortals."

He took a long sip of his tea, before answering me. "Because you didn't ask. That and I didn't think it was important. Although I do know a good place to bunker down in case all this goes south."

"Oh, what do you have in mind?" I asked, curiously, letting him avoid the subject of surveillance.

Armoured Wall smirked at me. "I know of a place, Wild Rabbit Vineyard in Iron Palm's territory."

"Vineyard? As in wine and stuff?" I said.

Armoured Wall let out a long, "Eeyup."

I looked at him, he was grabbing a Happy lollipop. "Might as well drink when you bunker down. Because whatever happens tomorrow, it'll never blow over."

"Interesting, think there'll be peace after all this?" I said, optimistically.

Armoured Wall chuckled. "Ha-ha, you really are naïve. Let me tell you something, kid. Peace, peace is written in blood."

I rolled my eyes at his answer. "What you expect from someone who lived in a cage? Anyway, about the Ninety-nine? Tell me about them."

He chuckled lightly. "The Ninety-nine, a small army of warriors wielding katanas and executioner semi-automatic pistols. They wear tuxedos, are shaved bald and all their katanas are crafted by the clan's blacksmith in the north. Luckily for us, they were sent out two days ago and won't be back for three."

My eyes went wide with sparkles. "That sounds so cool."

"Won't be so cool if they cut off your head," he said with a cheeky smile.

"Fair enough." I finished my tea and placed it down. "So what's so special about a vineyard?

Armoured Wall sat up. "Well, aside from a lifetime of alcohol, it's also heavily guarded by turrets. Luckily I know not only a way past them, but the access code for the security system."

"So if this place is so heavily guarded, then how do we get in?" I asked.

He rubbed his chin. "I left it in lockdown. So the storage and booze are safe, turrets are on though. But if you use the code eleven, four, two, then you can get into the facility without worrying about turrets."

Good to know Armoured Wall had a plan form himself in the aftermath of all this, but I wondered. "What happens to the Crystal Wasteland if we fail?" I asked.

Armoured Wall rubbed his chin for a moment. "The Blood Skull clan supports the eastern three out of four clans with protection. In fact, that’s where most all the slaves go as the forge houses multiple old-world rock farms. They'll submit to Blood Skull."

"Rock farms?" I asked, confused by the concept of farming rocks.

Armored Wall rolled his neck. "Eeyup, they generate crystals for weapons and tech use, somehow."

I rose an eyebrow. "Okay? So no war?"

Armored chuckled. "War is inevitable, the only thing Blood has been waiting for is some super weapon key that's locked away. Blood is obsessed with it, although he would never admit it."

I shrugged and moved on. "I want to ask about Iron Hoof."

Armoured Wall slowly finished his tea. "No," he said firmly.
The shower stopped and soon Sharp came out with a towel around her head, all dried off. "Star, welcome back," she said, smiling at me as if nothing happened.

"Hey, Sis," I said, smiling at her, as best as I could.

She sat on a lounge chair. "How did you manage to get a message on the radio?"

I blushed a little. "I’d rather not say."

Armoured Wall chuckled at my answer. "So is question time over? Because we are still on the clock."

"I have one for Sharp." She looked over at me in surprise. "Who is Watcher?"

Sharp seemed to be taken aback by my question. "Where'd you hear that name?"

I leaned forward as I looked at her. "So you have heard of it?"

"Watcher," Armoured Wall interjected. "I know of him, or her. Someone who hacks and talks through sprite bots, little flying speakers."

"So Sharp, what's your connection to Watcher?" I said, pressuring her for an answer.

She sighed. "Some voice on the other end of a sprite bot. We talked every now and then, he had a lot of advice that helped me get so charismatic. It's no big deal."

"But why not tell me about it, or the fact we were being watched?" I said, glaring at her.

She raised an eyebrow. "What? Being watched? What are you talking about?" she said, quite surprised. I couldn’t tell if her confusion was genuine.

Armoured Wall cleared his throat. "I think we should move on, you know, time limit and all."

Sharp's gaze shot over to Armoured Wall. "Did you know about this?"

We both stared at him. "Yes, okay. I don't know why, but yes, your family was being monitored. Can we please move on?"

I groaned. "Fine, what's the plan?"

Sharp pulled out some blueprints of Iron Fort and markers. She then circled parts of the bridge connecting to Iron Gem with a red marker. "Star, we need you to plant the explosives we made on key locations."

Armoured Wall grabbed a blue marker and began to draw lines, along with time stamps. "This is the Griffin patrol flight pattern. But they are most likely changed by now. Although the blizzard might help."

I looked out to the raging storm. "And how am I meant to fly through that without being weighed down by heavy snow gear?"

"I've got you covered," Armoured Wall said as he grabbed something. It looked like a ripped up orange herb in a little bag.

I learned in and smelled it before rolling back and shaking my head as the smell of strong spice hit me. "What is it?"

"It's Burn, a natural herb made from a plant called a fire flower. It'll make you feel like you’re on fire. Helps make you stronger, resist fire damage, resist hypothermia and makes your heart pump blood faster. It's relatively safe, in short uses, low addiction rate too," Armoured Wall said.

"Where'd you get it?" Sharp said as she covered her nose with a hoof and closed the bag with her magic.

"Made by some fire loving clan that Blood Skull assimilated during the war of thirty-two. Blood Skull still grows the plant. Mainly uses it for slaves working in cold areas, or cheap labour pulling wagons in the underworld," Armoured Wall said.

"What about frostbite?" I asked, knowing frostbite and hypothermia was not the same thing.

"It's a cheap solution to those who don't have the right clothes. I mean, it helps prevent frostbite, but not by much," he said as he looked at my jacket.

"Okay, guess I'll have to work fast. Anyway, I know the current flight patterns, as well as the gunner positions and blind spots," I said, thinking of what I learned from Chief Head of security, Miss Grumble. Although they weren't my memories, I still remembered them crystal clear. Armoured Wall and Sharp sat forward as they looked at me, I avoided their eyes. "Trust me."

Sharp sighed and smiled, but Armoured Wall wasn't satisfied with that answer. "How? Only Grumble would know that?"

I looked out the window at the cold stormy night. "She's dead." I saw her shadowy figure in the corner of the window. Next to her was a figure of Akira, staring at me, a large hole in the zebra's body.

Armoured Wall groaned as he took another Happy lollipop. "Fine, it shouldn't affect plans too much. The protocol is to wait for twenty-four hours before they lock down Iron Fort. Then they'll try to find answers, as well as impose a temporary Chief of security, again."

Sharp picked up a satchel that must have been behind her chair and dropped it on the table to draw my attention. "Carrying on with the plan. Star will plant explosives to disable the bridges."

"What about the guards stationed in the fort?" I asked.

Sharp pulled out a large container. "Nightmare."

Armoured Wall and I perked up. "How did you get that?" I asked.

Sharp smiled. "A girl has her secrets."

Armoured Wall smirked. "You're going to poison the water with something that a water purification gem can't remove."

I stared at the container. I didn't know what it was, but I still wanted to take some. The thought of just letting Dark run the show was tempting. "Won't they go into lockdown if some ponies go crazy or worse?"

"Worse?" Armoured Wall asked in confusion. "Don't tell me you believe in the legend of Nightmare?" he said, before chuckling.

"Anyway," Sharp interjected. "No, I got the nightmare magically frozen with a preservative spell. It's set to de-activate and release consumed nightmare particulates. It was actually hard to find a merchant strong enough to do it, cost a lot too." She picked up the container and put it next to her.

"There's a hatch to the underside of Iron Fort's water tanks." Armoured Wall then grabbed something from the side of the couch and placed it on the table.

"Where did you find one of those?" Sharp asked, with stars in her eyes.

I had never seen this thing before. It looked like a boxy bag with a flap and clip. Inside said brown bag was a technological device with a counter, gems, some buttons, and switches. "I give up, what is it?"

Sharp leaned forward to look closer at it. "That is a Stealth-buck, some of Equestria's finest technology. It generates a stealth field around the user for a certain amount of time."

Armoured Wall swirled his lollipop around for a bit. "Perks of an old job."

I looked at it and nodded. "We still need a distraction to draw the attention of the city guards and Griffins," I said, leaning back and feeling something in my pocket.

Armoured Wall pulled out a lollipop-less stick and put it on the map. "I have a big robot and some fireworks, so leave the griffins to me. But I'll need one of you to lower a private elevator into the underworld for me."

I unzipped my pocket and pulled out what Selen left for me. "What's that?" Sharp asked as I set some kind of trigger down on the table, thinking about pressing it.

"I'm not sure?" I pulled out a note and opened it up and began to read it aloud. "Dear Star, this is a gift for being such a good pony." My heart panged as I read that, knowing it wasn't true. I chose to skip over the sex joke. "When I got your jacket back, I left a naughty present in the bar’s safe."

"A bomb?" Sharp suggestively asked.

Armoured Wall smiled. "Guess we have distractions all set."

I picked up the letter and left the detonator on the table. "So what's stage two of the plan? You know, the part where we get inside.”

Sharp took the detonator. "Let's just get through stage one first, then we'll talk."

"Okay," I said as I grabbed the satchel of explosives, Burn, Stealth-Buck and Nightmare container and was about to head out the door.

"Star, be safe," Sharp said as I left.

A strong blast of icy wind blew into the elevator as it opened up on the roof. I only now zipped up my jacket with a wing and pulled down my hood. The cold was too much for my natural resistance from growing up in this climate.

I used my wings as guards as I left the elevator and stepped into the blizzard. There was a fair amount of snow on the roof as I walked to the edge of the building. Visibility was quite poor and the wind was hectic, snow and ice pelted me as I was about to stupidly fly through a blizzard.

I began to shiver as the cold sank through my jacket and up my exposed lower half. Turning my back to the wind, I pulled out the Burn herb. Even with the frigidly cold air, I could still smell its heat.

I took a breath of cold air before digging my muzzle into the pouch of Burn. Taking a large bite and pulling my mouth out of it as I chewed on it. Gagging as a blaze of heat hit me. But I quickly swallowed as my eyes teared up.

My mouth felt like it was on fire as my tongue was melting. I no longer felt the cold, in fact, I felt like I was on fire. My insides burned as I panted heavily. Every part of me wanted to strip off my jacket and eat snow. But I knew that I was not actually burning and in fact needed to stay dressed for protection.

I turned to the wind and stood my ground, opening my wings as I braced. Sliding back a little, before stopping. Trotting forward slowly and taking off. I shook in the air as I fell forward, not feeling cold at all.

Making my way towards Iron Fort, above Iron Gem. Flying down as I could make out the bridge and then followed underneath it to Iron Fort. I planted a few bombs on the rough location I was told to, making sure they were out of sight.

I then approached Iron Fort, mindful of the many gun and guard placements. Some of them had thermal optics and others had night vision. Not that either of those would be much help.

I stuck close to the building as I waited to see the silhouettes of what could only be a Griffin patrol. The patrol routes were in sync with each other. So with this information, I should know where the Griffins would be and when.

I proceeded to avoid detection as I planted bombs on the rest of the bridges. But I must have been too slow. On my way back to Iron Fort I saw two shadows approaching me. I quickly activated my Stealth Buck and stuck to the underside of the bridge.

The device made a low buzz sound before I began to tingle. I watched my body and clothes become transparent as I stayed quiet. Not that noise in a blizzard was a real issue, with the whirling howls of the wind and all.

Two armed Griffins in heavy snow gear flew under me and stopped right below me. "I swear I saw something," one of them said.

"It's just the storm playing tricks on you. Let's hurry up and get back on route, or Grumble will be pissed," the other said.

"Yae, wherever that high horse riding bitch is, I bet it's warmer than here." With that, the two continued with their patrol.

I moved to return to my mission. Now no longer concerned with being visibly detected, I moved to the lower level and past some more Griffins to the water tank. This was the main water tank, providing water to the whole base.

I got to the hatch and opened it. The tank was connected to a water purifier gem device. From Grumble’s memory, the fort would use bottled water and canned food in the event of a lockdown. They had enough supplies to lockdown indefinitely. Iron Fort was essentially a Stable.

I took out the Nightmare, looking at the content with a thirst. I slowly poured it into the tank and closed the hatch. Then I disposed of the container.

I saw the stealth field grow patches of uncloaked areas. It was out of time as the display read low power. I was also feeling the cold return as my body chilled once again, as Burn wore off.

So flying low, I made my way back to Iron Gem and the roof of Eleven Penny Tower. I entered the elevator in a shiver as I returned to the hotel room, it had only been less than two hours.

I knocked before entering, feeling exhausted. I entered the room, finding no one inside. There was a note on the table, so I trotted over and read it.

'Star, gone to bed. You should too, love, Sharp.'

I yawned and took off my jacket, too tired to question it. I trotted over to the bedroom, sliding the door open a little as I saw Sharp sound asleep in the single queen sized bed.

I decided to let her have it as I trotted to the couches. I turned off the lights and lay down on the couch on the left. But shortly after I did I groaned and remembered what had happened on this couch.

So I got up and moved to the other double couch. I groaned during a final yawn. "I guess tomorrow is the day." I was aware that it was in fact about two thirty in the morning, but I didn't care. I dozed off into a black slumber, fearful of my nightmares.

My world was black static filled with otherworldly screams. Then I saw them, my victims. They were outlined in white scratch-like lines as they smiled. Their eyes and mouths hollow voids as tears streamed down their faces. They opened their mouths to speak as one, they said something inaudible as it crippled me.

I awoke in a sweat and flustered panic. My eyes shot open as I tried to move, but was paralysed. I saw two eye holes, seeing white in front of me. I calmed a bit and realized I was in fact not paralysed, but contained in something. I could hear the sounds of a cart, it seemed I was being taken somewhere.

I was about to yell for help when I saw Sharp appear in my view. "Shhh, this is part of the plan, stay quiet." I went to nod but was unable. "Good," she said.

Eventually, the wagon stopped and I heard an announcement from outside. "The guests of Mr. Luck have arrived, open the gate!"

There was a rumble as I assumed we moved into the courtyard of Iron Fort. I watched as a guard opened the back of the wagon. I could see the countless guards in the yard, practicing and standing guard. They watched as I was unloaded on a smaller wagon, down a ramp. I could see them, but thanks to the one-way black visor, they couldn't see me.

Guards from the top of the wall looked down at us through the chained net ceiling. They moved us to face the fort’s Stable door. Sharp stood in front of me, to the side. The guards stood in line as the door groaned and opened slowly with a hiss of steam. It rolled into the courtyard floor, before being sucked into the warm building’s inners.

Four guards in painted heavy armour with anti-machine guns stepped out, a pipe pistol on their side. The guard with the bullet dent from Blom’s execution was in the group. Blood Rose stepped out of the Fort, his presence flooding the courtyard. Everyone tensed up, myself included. The only one unphased by his aura was Sharp.

Blood Rose wore an old military black and silver cap with a rose on it. This managed to impressively hold down and contain his hair. He also wore a red tie, clashing with his dark pink mane.Behind him were four heavily armed Griffins. They walked out in unison as they encircled their leader, keeping an eye on us and their surroundings.

The front two guards stopped and let Blood step forward. "Welcome, Miss Sharp. I've been expecting you for quite a while," Blood said with a smile.

Sharp bowed her head. "Pleasure to meet you, Sir Blood Rose.” Blood trotted over to the power armor and looked closely at its eyes, into my eyes. Luckily these visors were one-way bullet resistant glass. "Oh, please, call me Blood." He started trotting around the armor. "T-45 power armor, recently repaired, built in mega power hoof on the right fore-hoof. Very impressive."

"Thank you, Sir, it was quite hard to obtain," Sharp said.

Blood Rose rubbed the claw marks on the chest of the armor, "Quite ingenuitive, you must take after your father. Speaking of family, where is that brother of yours?"

"He's around, shall we step out of the cold?" Sharp suggested.

Blood rubbed his chin. "No, I'd prefer we stay out here."

Suddenly, out of nowhere, there was a rumble like thunder. Everyone pointed a gun at us in panic. Blood Rose's guards surrounded him in a protective circle. "Report!" Blood yelled out.

"There's been an explosion in Iron Gem, looks like Three-Stories Bar is on fire!" A guard from up top yelled out.

Blood and his posse stepped towards the door. "Half of you, support Iron Gem's division, stop the blaze! Lockdown Iron Gem and~" An exploding sound and rumble ran through Iron Fort. Before it even stopped, Blood Rose gave another order. "Griffin division, investigate the source of that explosion!"

They stepped into the doorway and the door began to close. "What about the guests, Sir?" The guards who were pointing a gun at us asked.

"Keep an eye on them, you just say still while we sort this out," he said to Sharp, as the two stared at each other. "We'll meet again, soon." The large Stable door closed and locked shut.

A siren began to blare throughout the fort. Explosions and rumbling shot into Iron Fort as Armoured Wall commenced his part of the attack. Sharp stood next to me and pulled out a power core from her saddlebag. "Any second now," Sharp whispered to me.

"Hey! You there! What are you doing?" a guard said as the gate rumbled and closed shut.

Sharp put the power core into the armor and dove behind me as the guard opened fire with a pipe rifle. The shots bounced off the armor but got the attention of the rest of the dozen or so guards in the courtyard. With our backs to the shut gate and the guards encroaching on us, things seemed bad. The power armor Hud lit up as the system was booting on, a logo of M.W.T. appeared on screen.

Five guards approached us, one less than two hooves away from me. "Step out, slowly."

All the icons of the E.F.S. Lit up and dozens upon dozens of red marks indicated the enemies around me on the bottom compass bar. The armor relaxed as I was in full control. I looked down at the guard in front of me. "Oh Shit!" he said before I jumped up and my mega power hoof and weight came down onto him.

'Vid Dishh~!

His body turned into a pancake, as blood, bone, and gore shot out. It was like stepping on a juicy Tato, red splattering on the guards around him. A light indicated that I had used one out of five charges of the mega hoof.

The guards were stunned as they looked at me with horror. From the back of the wagon, Sharp stepped up and pulled out my SMG and mare rifle. She swept the guns around the field as she opened fire on them. The guns held firm in her magic as the guards dropped dead. She lowered the guns to her side, but before she hopped down, the sounds of dozens of guns cocking ran through the courtyard.

I looked around to see everyone on the wall pointing guns down on us. Unlike the five that went to surround Sharp, these ones had guns that could penetrate power armor. "Sharp," I said, nervously.

"Any second....now," she said as more guards on the courtyard approached.

"AGHH!" All the guards screamed and dropped to their knees as they gripped their heads.

Sharp hopped down. "Bingo." She then went to grab something from the wagon I was on. "I hid our gear and weapons under here." She then pulled out her crank rifle, a bag of EMP grenades, a bag of explosives and a detonator with two out of three lights on.

I looked to the thriving, screaming guards. "How long till they succumb to the drug?"

Sharp pushed the detonators trigger and one light went out. "Anywhere from five minutes to a few hours." There was a loud blast as the whole fort shook violently.

Sharp attached my mare rifle to my power armor battle saddle, after the shaking had stopped. I could see mushroom clouds rising around Iron Fort as Sharp put some ammo in for me.

She then went to attach the SMG, when I put a hoof out. "Sharp, you take the SMG," I said.

She pulled out a holster and attached it to her side. "Sure, we better hurry. I’ll get in the security control room and deactivate all the turrets. I need you to free Silver. "

We trotted to the stable door and I started entering the code to the stable terminal. "Do you have the code to the security system?"

The door began to hiss and groan as it once more began to open. "I've got it covered, I'm going to fry the system whole."

I was about to speak, but then a pony jumped on my back. I bucked her off with ease, seeing some of the guards standing and growling in a psychotic animalistic state. "Inside. Now."

We stepped inside and the door began to close, but not before the guards charged at us like feral ghouls. Sharp started taking shots at them with her crank rifle as I started punching the ones closing in. With the added power of hydraulic hooves, I send them flying out. A feral guard lunged at us and I gave him an uppercut with a power hoof.

'Vid Dishh~!

He went flying into the mesh wire ceiling. Three charges left. Half his body turned to a pulp as he splattered onto the ceiling. His body didn't fall down, instead, his lower half just hung from the wire mesh. Distracted by the demonstration of the guard, we didn't notice another lunge attack. He tackled into my side, but I didn't budge. Instead, I pushed the crazed guard onto his back and the stable door pinned his lower half under it. He screamed in agony as his lower half became flatter than paper.

He screamed and cried in agony, yet he still wanted to attack us as he flailed his hooves at us, trying to bite us. I put my armored hoof on his head and began to push down. I could hear the creaking on his skull as blood started to leak out. With one hefty step, I put my weight down onto his head. With a wet pop, his head splattered across the floor, his forehooves still twitching.

I looked over, having forgotten about Sharp. She was taken aback at what I had done. But if she could see my smile under this armor, well, then she would be horrified. Turning, we saw the elevator was on the top floor. After pushing the button, nothing happened. Sighing, we looked at the stairs.

"Oh hush, you're in power armor. Anyhow, the elevator on the bottom floor should be able to be remotely controlled from the security room. I'll be able to let Armoured Wall up and the prisoners out. He'll enter the courtyard and plant the rest of the explosives."

I'd forgotten about the prisoners, we couldn't let them just die, some mustn't have been that bad. I was glad Sharp had that in mind. "Sharp, won't shutting down the fort’s system lock Blood Rose in his office?" I asked.

"No, his office is on a closed system, separate from the fort’s. We need to move, they'll send a distress signal out. We'll meet up at Blood's office. I'll activate the central elevator, the code will be four-seven-nine-zero," she said as she cranked her rifle up.

We made our way to the lower levels together, until we had to separate. The first floor we had to pass through a heavily populated Griffin area.

The building was on emergency power. Only red low power lights lit the halls as a siren echoed throughout. As we moved through the area, we noticed a lot of dead Griffins. Some were groaning, on the verge of dying. The whole place had an eerily creepy vibe to it. I couldn't help but wonder how many we had killed in search of vengeance.

We stopped as we heard noises coming from what seemed to be a mess hall. We entered it, it was completely dark, only the crank musket illuminating the way. I turned on my headlamp. There was a dozen feral Griffins on all fours in the dining hall. "Shit," I said as I turned off my lamp before we slowly backed out of the room. We got a few feet away before the crazed Griffins gave chase. I slid around a corner, ahead of my sister.


A light showering of what I assume was a nine-millimeter round peppered me from a small dome turret.


I heard Sharp's crank rifle go off behind me, as I took aim. I entered the S.A.T.S. Before targeting the turret's gun, a ninety-five percent hit chance. Taking the shot with the Mare-leg rifle, the turret exploded and bits and pieces raining down onto the floor. Sharp ran around the corner behind me and when I looked back, I saw one Griffin simply drop dead. The group was, in fact, closing the gap, but a few sweeps of SMG fire managed to mow them down.

With that, we got into a rhythm of me taking on turrets made for non-power armored invaders, while Sharp guarded our back. On occasion, I had a few Griffins and ponies ahead of me, which we gunned down together. Sometimes the crazed feral Blood Skull soldiers managed to accidentally shoot randomly.

Managing to make it through the storage level, I was quite surprised with the amount of stuff down here. Supplies, material and junk, shelves upon shelves of food, water, Rad-Away, drugs and so on. Unfortunately, we couldn't stop to fill our bags, moving through to the third lowest level.

We stopped, managing to find an unlocked armory, with a four-barrel missile launcher and some ammo inside. I had Sharp help me equip the new weapon, avoiding all the fresh corpses. We got to the point where Sharp and I had to split up. We didn't part with words, but just a simple nod to each other. Although not before she gave me the bag of explosives to deliver to Armoured Wall.

I got to the prison level, finding that most of its occupants were in fact still locked up and alive. They were quite noisy as they demanded to be let free, or to be told what was happening. I went down the hallway, to section A-8. Passing the torture room, I stopped and back treaded as I saw the torture Griffin hurled up in the corner. I smirked and walked in slowly.

"My head, my body, it hurts," he whimpered as he still faced the corner. There was a small pool of vomit and blood on the floor in front of him, running down the wall.

I chuckled as I approached him. "It'll only hurt for a moment."

I grabbed the Griffin and pulled him towards his chair. He thrashed and struggled, to no avail. "No, let me go! It hurts! I can feel it! Their pain!"

I strapped him into his chair, restaining his body and head as he thrashed and struggled. I saw that his eyes were, in fact, purple now. I wondered if this was the power of Nightmare, or simply his madness. I myself wasn't too sure if my fight with Akira was in my head or not. Although the ability to view other's memory was definitely not a figment of my imagination.

I took off my helmet and put it down, looking at the scared Griffin who had scarred my chest. "After all, I have a promise to keep," I said, as I went to his work table and looked over the tools before stopping at the blowtorch. "Luckily for you, I'm short on time." I grabbed a cloth and some tape and gagged the Griffin.

I then picked up the tool and turned it on. A steady strong blue flame came out of the end. I could feel the heat on my nose as I smirked and trotted over to the Griffin. He shook as he tried to escape, fear filling his face. He groaned and whimpered in pain as the jet of burning gas drew closer to his feathered neck. His neck feathers soon smoked and blackened as the flame was close.

Tears rolled down his face as I could hear his muffled moans of pain. The feathers on the side of his neck caught fire as I moved the flame across his throat, before burning out. It scorched through his feathers and flesh, as he was ravaged by the pain of the flame. The jet slit his throat in one slow movement. His flesh crisped, before giving way to the flame, deepening and crisping again and again.

It took a few seconds to move across his whole neck, the jet cutting into it slowly. The sound of sizzling flesh hung in the air much longer than the Griffin’s gag-filled scream. Smoke coming off his flesh, foul smell filled the room. The wound was fatal, not just in the amount of pain, but the fact I had cauterized his neck in two. I simply turned the torch off, as I put it down and grabbed a machete, swinging it hard into his neck's crispy deep wound.

Blood sputtered and sprayed as I hit an artery and severed his head. His head came flying off, landing in the corner of the room, in the vomit. The spray of grime hit the ceiling, before setting down to a drizzle. Blood rolled down his body in great amounts, as it extinguished the burning embers on his body. I wiped the fresh blood off my face and put my helmet back on, turning off the light and leaving the door open as I went on my way. That was how I left him, before heading deeper into the prison of Iron Fort.

I shot down another turret before I ended up finding the Griffin guard from last time. He was at a little midway desk in the hall. The Griffin seemed to be unaffected by the Nightmare. He was hiding behind his desk of dirty magazines, a pipe rifle pointed at me. "You there! Halt!"

I did not in comply, instead trotting right up to him. His rifle fire did little to no damage as the rounds bounced off me. I backed him up to the wall and placed my mega hoof next to his head, leaning in close. "Open the cells," I said.

He blubbered nervously, "W~ which ones?"

I smirked inside the helmet. "All of them."

We moved to the control room of the prison, finding the guards dead. "So why did you not drink the water?" I asked as he went to the terminal.

He accessed the terminal as I watched the screen. "Water? I thought they just contracted some brain disease, like Curt. They use to say, C is for Curt with disease in the brain. There was a whole song about it."

It was then that the P.A. System in Iron Fort cracked to life, Blood Rose on the other end. "Attention Iron Fort, we are currently under attack by unknown forces. Any soldier not currently crazy is to report to the lower levels, we have intruders! Also, there is no report from the Griffins. We are to hold out until reinforcements arrive." After that, an emergency siren sounded.

I chuckled, amused by the frozen wasteland’s humor. "Nope never heard of it, anyhow, we poisoned the water supply. But by the sound of it, prisoners don't get access to your water."

He paused at the release all cells option. "Prisoners are only given water once every two days."

I poked him with my rifle. "Interesting, now let them out."

Once again the P.A. system came to life, the sounds of Blood Skull laughing could be heard. “Star Shot, Sharp, children of Black Pot. If it is indeed you assaulting my home, then I must say, well done! I knew you were coming for me, I even set up some fresh glasses of milk in my office. But as fun as this was and as much as I’ve allowed your little pointless crusade, it’s time to stop. Both of you are currently about to cross the final line. Surrender and be forgiven, or else.” The P.A. system returned to the emergency siren sound yet again.

The Griffin looked at me and gulped. "Are, are you sure you want to do this? Some of these prisoners are dangerous?"

"Do it," I said firmly, Blood’s message had done nothing to deter me.

There was a beep as he pressed the 'Open all cells' button. A secondary alarm began to sound as orange lights in the halls began to flash and spin. He moved to the side as I stepped up to the terminal. I saw that there were dozens of files on the various inmates, but I didn't have time to read them. I found a P.A. Option and activated it, unsure how well I'll sound through the helmet.

"SKREE~ Attention!" Audible, a bit of feedback, but good enough. "Attention prisoners, this is a breakout. Please make your way to the lowest level. There will be an elevator waiting to take you to the Underworld, from there you can take the elevator up to Iron Gem." After my speech, I raised a hoof and began to smash the Stable-Tech branded terminal screen. To Stable-Tech’s credit, it took more than one power armoured hoof strike to break it.

I went to the door, looking back at the scared Griffin. "I'd recommend locking the door behind me." He nodded nervously as I closed the door.

Most of the prisoners were, in fact, heeding my advice as they ran past me and down the stairs. The fact that no turret was gunning them down meant Sharp had succeeded in her end of the plan. Some prisoners were fighting with each other, but none seemed to be stupid enough to get in the way of their power armoured saviour. I made my way to the end of A-8's hallway.

I saw three stallions enter the cell opposite of the one that was mine. I stopped as I watched one fly out with a pillowcase over his face. There was a scream and the sound of a scuffle. Stepping forward quickly, I was quite surprised at what I saw. One pony was dead on the floor, what appeared to be a spoon sticking out of his neck as he twitched.

The third stallion was currently being strangled by a rolled up bed sheet, by who I assumed was Silver. The mare with the eye-patch on her right eye and a silver rose cutie mark currently stood on the stallion’s back, her magic, hoof, and mouth working to choke the final assailant out. She held his head down as she pulled the sheet tighter. The stallion's eyes watered and rolled back as he succumbed to the lack of oxygen.

"I'm nowhere near weak enough to be messed with by you fuckers!" Silver yelled, before letting go.

The pillowcase stallion pulled the bag off his head. "Bitch, we were going to just fuck~" It was at that point he realized his comrade's predicaments and simply ran.

Silver stood and regained her composure. "What are you? My knight in powered armor?" she said as she walked out of the cell.

My jaw dropped as she was quite impressive. "I guess so," I said.

She smirked and took the lead. "Good, let's go."

Less than five steps after that, she collapsed. "Silver?" I said in a panic as I came to her aid.

She groaned. "Guess Grovis took a toll on me. I'll be fine, just tired."

I picked her up and put her on my back, by her grumbling, she found it annoying. "Your knight in powered armor is here to help." I mentally facehoofed at the cheesy line.

It just made her groan louder. "You are worse than quesadillas. So cheesy." She chuckled.

When we got to the end of the prison section, we found a few ponies surrounding someone. "Out of my way, I've got to get to Miss Silver!" Armoured Wall? He was fighting some of the prisoners.

'You’re the reason I'm here!'


They threw insults at him as they tried dog piling the massive pony. But he simply stood with them all on him, shaking them off easily. His eyes lit up as he saw us. Well more at seeing the mare than me. "Silver!" he yelled out in joy.

"Armoured Wall!" Silver cried as she leaped off my back and into Armoured Wall's embrace.

The two of them hugged each other with tears of joy, it brought a smile to my face. But a prisoner lunged at them with a shiv, so I shot him down. Armoured Wall put Silver down and she shakily leaned against him.

"We need to go." More and more prisoners stood up against us. I handed him the explosive saddle bag.

Armoured Wall nodded, picking up Silver and put her on his back. "We need to get to Silver's room before meeting up with Sharp."

Silver looked to the torture room's closed door with pain and anger. "He's dead," I said as we passed it.

She sighed and spoke out, "Grovis? Good." Her pain seemed to diminish and she even smiled a little.

We managed to get to the stairs with minimal effort. I shot any pony foolish enough to try and mess with us. I did see a few ponies heading upstairs. I sighed as I knew not everyone would listen to us. We stepped around a corner and found ourselves under fire by some prisoner behind a barricade. Armoured Wall took a step back and I obliterated the nuisance with a well-aimed missile.

"What's going on here?" Silver asked, looking at the inactive turrets and dead bodies.

We kept moving forward until I stopped at a weapon cash room, yet to be looted. "We're assaulting Iron Fort, we've already dealt with the guards."

Armoured Wall put Silver down and he look for some armor to don. Although there was nothing fancy here, just scrap metal armour. He then turned to me. "I used EdI, my brain bot sentinel and some fireworks to wipe out the Griffins." I was surprised that there was armor in his size. But more so about the concept of a brain bot.

Silver put on some armor as well, although she went for leather. "Impressive, I take it that the Ninety-Nine went to Neighbourton?"

"Eeyup," Armoured Wall replied, getting a new Happy Lollipop.

I reloaded my missile launcher. "What's a brain bot?" I asked, imagining a brain robot.

Silver strapped multiple combat knife holsters to herself, all with knives in them. "What? Are you new to the wasteland?" she said.

Armoured Wall chuckled. "He may as well be, but damn if he and his sister aren't capable."

I sighed. "Yeah, I get it, I don't know much. Now, what's a brain bot?" I asked again, rolling my eyes.

Armoured Wall pondered the answer to my question. "A robot that's primary control unit is a living brain in a dome."

I stopped. "That's horrifying."

Armoured Wall stopped as Silver shrugged. "Try not to think about it."

It was at that point we made it to the elevator. We had to throw off two rowdy prisoners, hardly noteworthy. I then proceeded to enter the elevator code Sharp told me to use. After unlocking the elevator we made our way to the private floor, bypassing an assumingly crowded mess hall and living quarters.

"So, what's the plan?" Silver asked.

I looked to Armoured Wall, letting him answer her. "We're going to retrieve the item from your room. Star here will meet up with his sister, then we'll all regroup at your father's office."

The plan seemed to trouble Silver. "Why not simply escape? I'm sure the prison escape will distract the guards. Speaking of guards, it seems like you did well to disable the security system."

"My sister and I aren't here for a rescue mission, our goals simply aligned. We're here to kill your father and avenge our parents," I said firmly.

A sad smile crossed her face as she looked down. "Blood Rose stopped being my father a long time ago." She then chuckled lightly. "Besides, you'll need to polish your armor a bit more if you want to make a good hero."

The word almost made me choke up. "I'm not a hero."


The elevator doors opened as we reached our destination. I stepped off first and began to walk to were Sharp was waiting and Blood was hiding. Armoured Wall and Silver went their own way to retrieve some item from her room. I soon saw Sharp standing in front of the Stable door of Blood's office. Almost all of his guards were dead, some had the bullet wounds from the Sydney SMG and others from the crank rifle. There was even a pile of glowing pink ash on the ground.

"What took you so long?" Sharp said, smirking at me.

"Just a little personal matter," I replied.

"Ah, little colts’ room? Or did you found out that power armor has a built-in filtration system?" she said sarcastically.

I chuckled and shook my head. “What, no, I just, never mind."

"Anyway, glad you made it. I take it Armoured Wall and Silver will be along shortly." She walked over to the intercom system, before pausing. "Star, I need you to trust me."

"Trust you with what?" I asked, tilting my head.

"I need to talk to Blood, alone." She pressed the intercom button before I could reply. "Blood, it’s Sharp Shot, open up."

"Sharp, I don't think he'll just~" I was interrupted by the door’s rumble and groan as it opened. My jaw dropped inside the helmet.

I could see Blood sitting at his desk, unarmed and completely open. I took a step forward, but Sharp put out her hoof to stop me. "Please Star, this is something I have to do, alone."

I begrudgingly accepted as I gave her a nod and watched as she entered the room with only the SMG. The door closed behind her as I was left behind. I was worried, not really worried about Sharp or Silver or Armoured Wall, no I was more worried about how we were all going to get away. Everything seemed to be going according to plan, but we still had to worry about the Ninety-Nine and the fact time was running out for us to escape.

Shortly after that Silver came hobbling around the corner, alone. She appeared to be doing a little better, some of her wounds were healed while others were bandaged up. Probably found a medical kit. She pulled out a knife with her magic and threw it at me. I was quite surprised but didn't have time to react.

The knife went flying past my head. I turned to see a now dead feral guard a few feet behind me. "You told me everyone was dead, not fucking crazy." She hobbled over and pulled out her knife, before sitting next to me.

"Where's Armored Wall?" I asked.

Silver put the knife away with the dozens of other ones. "The south bridge didn't collapse, he's currently holding off a wave of reinforcements." I stood up, wanting to help, but Silver stopped me. "He'll manage, besides, he has the item with him. So where's your sister?"

Silver wiped the knife off on the dead guard. "Where's your sister?" she retorted.

Resting a bit on the wall, I said, "With your father."

I pointed a hoof to her father’s Stable tech security door. When I did she went to stand up, but I stopped her. "She'll manage, besides, she is the daughter of Straight Shot," I said.

Silver leaned back, resting her head on my shoulder. "My father.” She said, scoffing. “Armoured Wall is the closest thing I have to a father. Blood Rose stopped being that a long time ago."

I looked at her. "Why? What happened?"

She sighed. "There was an accident, well, an attack really. My mom, Blood Rose's second wife, died. After that, he's kept everyone close to him at an arm's length." She gave a little chuckle. "Before that, he was a great dad. Silly and full of cheesy jokes, so childish." Her fond smile faded.

"I'd seen how intimidating he could be, towards others. But he never used to be towards me. Now, I'm looked at with disgust." Silver pulled out a knife and began to carve something on the floor.

"I found my parents dead and a cryptic message. Everything keeps pointing to Blood Rose, but everyone says it wasn't him. Would he really send raiders to kill my parents and kidnap Sharp?" I asked, not sure if Blood was the real culprit.

Without even looking at me, Silver replied. "No, not his style to hire raiders. What did the message say?" she asked.

I had to think back a bit, remembering dad, the image of his corpse unfasing to me now. "Can't believe…. .killed… .mother… … … … ..Blood Rose… …, crystal… … There were a few words destroyed by the fire."

Silver was still focused on her carving. "Crystal? Maybe the Crystal City. Blood Rose has been obsessed with the post-war settlement for ages, believing that it would grant him power. But there is no Crystal City anymore, just a giant crater and hole where it used to be….” Silver seemed to pause for a moment, in thought. “Although I heard rumors of some legendary post war vault deep in the Underworld. Those same rumors drive some to delve into the darkness, seeing fame, glory and post war treasures."

I looked at her, confused by her sudden off-putting transition of dialogue, failing to see the connection. “What does that have to do with the Crystal City?” I asked, a little confused.

She seemed to have a adventurace smile for a second. “A while back a group made there way down the hole left in the Crystal Empires heart. It’s said that they found a lumisesant forest at the bottom. But beyond that was darkness and cold, but also a dream for something. Few who return from the darkness reported death-claws and other monsters. But one, one returned with a legend.” I was on the edge of my hoofs as she smirked like a mad mare.

“Go on!” I said, impatiently waiting to hear the rest.

She posed herself, clearing her throat. “A stable door unlike any seen before. This one was black and gold with four gold stars on the front. Instead of a number it was blank, but even odder then that was the fact it allegedly spoke. It demanded four keys, before breathing a column of flame.” She started snickering. “But that’s just a mad ponies wild dream.” Her smile soon sank. “Or so I thought. Until I found a very special Pip-Buck.”

I thought back to the house and any relating information. "My dad's Pip-Buck, the raiders who killed my parents left a note demanding I bring it. It has a program called '1st Key.' My dad kept it hidden in a safe. It wasn't even the Pip-Buck he used to wear, could it be connected to this legendary vault?" I said, scratching my metal chin.

Silver leaned down and blew away some dust from her carving. "Blood doesn't like telling me things, but he once had me retrieve a locked Pip-Buck. Later I managed to find out it contained a program called '4th key'. That fucker was in Fun-land." She almost growled as she said that.

I was going to ask what the key’s unlocked, but based on her expression, Fun-land sounded rather interesting. "Fun-land? That doesn't sound so bad?" She looked at me like I was an idiot.

She then went back to carving up the floor, a bit more aggressively. "Fun-land was an old world amusement park. Now it's a haunted death trap filled with uncountable robots. We raided it with the pretence of finding a key, best guess is that it unlocks some super weapon."

My mind recalled the fact that Blood was building a army. For what I assume was the desire to conquer the frozen wasteland. "Even with an old world superweapon, Blood Skull isn't strong enough to take over the Crystal Empire, is he?"

Silver took a deep breath, before. "Steel Teeth, a blade fanatic psycho filled clan. The pill, a bunch of drug obsessed chemists. Brainpower, the creepiest in my opinion, they somehow make Robo-brains. Finally there’s White Snake, a clan that uses slave labour to farm crystals from rock farms.” She paused to catch her breath.

“All of them are to the east, most or all of them would willingly give themselves over to Blood Skull. Blood Rose does provide them with their slave work forces after all. With their combined might, they can conquer the frozen wasteland or most of it. But a super weapon would all but guarantee victory, from the remaining clans in the west." Silver explained.

"Wouldn't the other clans be able to stop Blood Rose? Why not just band together?" I asked.

She chuckled. "You don't know about the clans, do you? After the war of thirty-two, there is currently." She paused to take a big breath. "Blood Skull, Steel Teeth, White Snake, Yellow Bees, Black Hawk, Boom, High Gear, Iron Fist, Diamond, The Ghoul Alliance, Arrow, The Pill and Brain Power remaining."

I was taken aback. The wasteland, well the crystal wasteland at least, was bigger than I expected. "I've only heard of a few of them."

Silver chuckled. "What are you, a stable dweller?"

I shook my head. "Nope. What was that item you and Armoured Wall had to get from your room?"

Silver pulled out a note from her pocket. "We tricked Blood Rose into sending the Ninety-Nine to Neighbourton. The Star Core was hidden behind my mirror in my room. Now Armoured Wall has it." Sharp proceeded to hand me the folded piece of paper.

It was a drawing from Last Meal. I froze as I saw it had a number two. I now had one, two and six. I opened it and looked at the drawing. It was another child's drawing, this time it was of Silent time with a stick figure gun and Last meal and her mom to one side. 'Daddy has to go away to fight the bad stripes. Mommy is sad, but said it’s to keep us safe.'

"Why give this to me?" I asked, remembering Last Meal’s fate.

Silver shrugged. "Armoured Wall said he saw one in your bag, thought you might be collecting them? I just happened to have stumble upon this in the past, saw it was numbered and thought I might as well keep it."

I looked at it and smiled. "Thanks." Then I put it away.

I proceeded to pull out the radio I had grabbed. It was banged up, but it seemed to be working. "Rose Radio, this is my last broadcast. This is a message from the ponies who just killed Blood Rose, the head of the Blood Skull clan." She cleared her throat. "You may not know me, but my name is Star Shot. I am the son of Straight Shot and." She paused. "That can't be right? I'll just skip ahead."

Sex Beach cleared her throat and kept reading. "I alone have just killed Blood Rose, as revenge for the murder of my whole family. So now that I've had my revenge, all I can say is: catch me if you can." The broadcast ended. A song was left to play on loop, titled, 'Sit and Dream.'

Chapter 14: Dream

View Online

The door to Blood Rose's office began to beep and hiss as it opened again, as Silver and I sat outside it. We saw Sharp step out of the office, her saddlebag filled with stuff. Behind her we saw the fresh corpse of Blood Rose. Next to his big fluffy rose hair was a pony skull with a hairdo I swore I'd seen before. The stallion on the Ministry of Fun poster, that was his hair.

Silver stepped beside me as she stared into the room, before muttering, "Is he dead?"

Sharp, now standing next to her as the door began to close, replied, "Yes."

After the door had finished closing, Silver finally replied coldly, "Good."

My sister looked around. "Where's Armoured Wall?"

Silver shook it off. "Outside, one of the bridges failed to crumble."

"We can pick him up during our escape," Sharp said as she led the way.

I looked back at Silver’s carving, it was a message. 'Do not trust Sharp - A.W.' It must have been a message from Armoured Wall. That was the second pony who told me not to trust Sharp. But Sharp herself never gave me a reason not to trust her. She is family, she saved me, I trusted her. I wondered why Armoured Wall and Sex Beach both seemed to harbor distrust for her, what did they see that I didn't?

We proceeded down the corridor, before stopping at a window as we could hear gunfire from down below. We looked at Armoured Wall at the gate of the south bridge, where dozens of guards tried to push forward. He was holding out, but he was slowly being overwhelmed. I stepped forward and aimed down at the bridge with my missile launcher, opening fire.

My four missiles shot down and exploded in the herd of the enemy. Armoured Wall waved at us from below, the smoke clearing as most of the Iron Gem guards were obliterated. The bridge was, however, still intact, damn you post-war construct! In the distance, I could see dozens of guards assembling at the end of the bridge. We rushed over to the elevator to help Armoured Wall.

Boarding the elevator yet again. "What is the plan?"

Sharp hit the lowest button on the elevator, the Bird Cage. "Why the Bird Cage? Shouldn't we help Armoured Wall?" Silver asked.

Sharp pulled out a detonator. "We're going to hijack Blood's private sky carriage," Sharp said.

Silver looked at the detonator with one charge remaining. "Where are you going to get a Pegasus or Griffin to pull it? It'd be pretty unlikely to find one you didn't drug?" Silver stated.

I snickered. "We'll be fine, trust me."

When we got to the fifth level, I was surprised the elevator walls went away. We were now being lowered into a mostly open space. There were only two walls, the rest completely open to the elements. Looking up at the roof, I saw a few dozen or so turrets. These ones weren’t the five-millimetre self-defence turrets, but in fact anti-machine gun turrets. Luckily Sharp deactivated them, or they would have turned me into a cheese grater.

Down below I saw some sky wagons with guns and bombs on racks on one side. A few of the racks on the other side held spark batteries and wagon parts, including armour. Now empty cages were there too, where Pegasi were previously being held like animals. A few dead Griffins lay about the place as well, seemingly having failed to close some kind of chain net barricade for the hangers.

Looking below us,I jumped back when I saw a Sentinel robot. But this one was different that the one I had seen before, it had a brain in a dome for a head, unlike the other one, who had a vaguely pony esque shaped head. Well, it was similar anyway, it in fact was bigger than the one I knew from a memory. Just by looking at it, I could tell the difference between a Sentinel and an Ultra Sentinel, size and weapons.
"Up. Now," I said quickly.

Silver leaned forward and had a look, before smiling back at us. "It's okay, it's just Edi. Armoured Wall's private robot."

Sharp then proceeded to look over the edge. " A Customized Robonco Ultra Sentinel unit with a brain control system. Heavy anti-air flak cannon, grape mortar, chest minigun, flechette missiles, and a tri-barrelled nine-millimetre mini-gun. A hulking anti-air behemoth with four large spider-like legs with grip ball rollers."

I swear my jaw made a ding as it hit the bottom of my helmet. Silver smirked. "If Armoured Wall didn't send it to Brain Power for maintenance and reprogramming, then it would have been patrolling the Smelt with its dragon incinerator and seven mini-guns." She gave a chuckle. "That sucker could melt power armour."

"Lucky us," I said, the elevator stopping in the floor.

We stepped forward and Silver hugged the robot. Me, well I couldn't stop looking at the brain. "Where did they get the brain?"

Sharp placed a hoof on my shoulder. "Do what the old world did. Don't think about it."

The four of us followed Sharp as we made our way to a fancy carriage. The carriage was black with gold trims, a metallic red Blood Skull icon on its side. Its windows were thick, possibly bullet resistant glass. Sharp entered a code on the back of the carriage and it began to open. The inside of the carriage was lavished in pillows and comfortable seats.

I looked at the armoured door of the carriage, seeing it was almost a hoof thick. I then looked under the carriage, noticing a row of spark batteries powering something. The carriage had beefy, yet small off-road wheels, more for take-off and landing, not travel. There was a speaker system on top and a duel harnesses out front. The harnesses didn't offer any protection, so I assumed the fliers must worry about their own protection.

Silver and Sharp hopped in. I was about to enter with the armour when Sharp stopped me. "Might be too cramped."

The Sentinel whistled, beeped and turned. I turned around and followed it as Silver and Sharp watched through the window. It stopped in the front of the Pegasus cages, I saw the filth and a floor of hay. I heard whimpering, so I turned on my lamp, there was a shriek and a figure moved back at the sudden light. In the back of the cage was a male Pegasus that was nothing but skin and bone.

I pointed a hoof at the robot and proceeded to attempt to order it. "Go help Armoured Wall at the bridge," I said, not really knowing if it'd follow my commands.

After a short silent pause, the robot turned and went to the carriage. I turned off my lamp and tried to speak to the stallion. "It's okay, you can come up." Only after saying that, did I realize my voice was rather loud and scary through this armour.

I activated the armour's open function and it began to shift and move. As soon as the back opened up, I slipped my wings out of my jacket’s wing slits and stretched them. I then proceeded to climb out of the power armour.

The scared Pegasus crawled forward slowly and spoke softly. "You're a Pegasus?" he stuttered.

I snickered as I could hear Silver yell the same thing in surprise. "Yes, I am."

To my surprise, he mustered a burst of energy and hugged me. "Thank you!" He started crying. "I knew the Enclave wouldn't leave us here! I'm so sorry for breaking the laws and coming down here! The others said we'd be killed if we went back, but I knew they were wrong!"

I patted him. "It's okay, you're going to be alright. But I'm not with the Enclave." It was then that I saw his wing was in a makeshift cast. Regardless, he was definitely unable to fly at the moment.

He sat back and wiped his tears. "But where will I go? How will I survive?"

Silver and Sharp walked over with Edi. "You never told me you were a Pegasus," Silver said, somewhat annoyed.

I shrugged. "You never even asked my name. It's Star by the way."

I looked to the power armour and tapped it. "This might help."

"What? That was a pain in the ass to get," Sharp said, also seemingly annoyed by my suggestion.

"What? We're not taking it with us." I watched the Pegasus look at the armour in awe.

Edi beeped. "Edi says she can't get to Armoured Wall unless she goes the long way," Silver said in Edi's place.

"You can understand robots?" I asked, looking at Silver now.

She shook her head. "No, just Edi, she can't operate elevators or open doors. Edi would have to go down to Underworld, up through Iron Gem and all the way around."

The Pegasus hopped into the armour and it closed around him, which made him yelp. "Relax, it's okay. You'll get the hang of it."

He moved his now power armoured head side to side. "Okay, I'm okay. How do I use this thing?"

I walked over and took off my mare's leg rifle. "Crash course." I then walked over to a dead griffin and grabbed a Pipe-shotgun.

"So, what's your name?" I asked as I looked over the gun. Yet again, another crude weapon made ineffectively, albeit cheaply and potentially customizable. Wood and metal fused together to simply fire rounds designed for better guns. This one was however for twelve gauge shotgun rounds, of which it came with a drum load.

"Name? It's been a while. It's, um... Velvet Chaser," he said as I installed the Pipe-shotgun onto him.

I then turned to Edi. "Edi, I want you to stay with Velvet Chaser until you can regroup with Armoured Wall."

Edi looked over to Silver for confirmation. "Edi, do it. We'll pick up Armoured Wall and meet up with you later."

"Thank you so much, you guys saved my life." Velvet Chaser tried to take a step forward and face planted.

I couldn't help but laugh, even Sharp couldn't contain herself. "You better get moving, we're going to blow this place soon."

Silver and Sharp hopped onto the second elevator and were lowered down into the Underworld. Silver walked over and punched my shoulder. "Ow, hey!" I retorted.

Silver and Sharp walked back to the carriage. "We better hurry, Armoured Wall needs out help."

I harnessed myself to the wagon, tugging at it a little. It was surprisingly light for its size. Although it had two Pegasi puller slots and harnesses, hopefully, one will do. The weight probably had something to do with some built-in old world technology, that would explain the spark-batteries. I began to gallop and beat my wings as I ran to the abyss, hoping I could manage it. The carriage began to bounce a little as it started to get airborne, of course, I went along with it. I felt like a large, slow-moving bird, as we were now off.

I flew up in a long circular pattern, before stabilizing in a tight circle above the east gate. I could see more troops approaching down the bridge. They didn't open fire on us, possibly assuming we were Blood Rose, given we had his private carriage. Unfortunately, we seemed to have missed a crucial detail. We couldn't land, even if I knew how. I was left simply circling Armoured Wall's location.

"Armoured Wall!" The P.A. System on the carriage blared out Silver's voice. "Hang in there!" she yelled into the microphone as I clenched my ears and tried to focus on flying upright.

I looked down at Armoured Wall, only to see him waving us down and shaking his head in disagreement. He then seemed to signal us with his hooves, showing something expanding?


Explosions ripped through Iron Fort's underside in a ring. The snow-covered courtyard birthed red flowers of fire as the bridges waved like long hair in the wind. The blast pressure blew us around. I struggled to regain control as the air roared. I opened my eyes as the explosions died down, I was shocked to see all of Iron Fort obscured in thick black smoke. My eyes darted for any sight of Armoured Wall.

The plumes of smoke were pushed to the side by the wind. Iron Fort, it was still hanging above the Underworld. The bottom half of the building was on fire, as was the courtyard. At first, I thought I was flying at an angle, but it wasn't me, it was Iron Fort. The whole megastructure hung from the east bridge at a forty-five degree angle. The single bridge was bend under the weight.

I heard crackling coming from above me. I then saw the speaker system had been damaged in the blast. Silver and Sharp were looking down in awe as they searched for Armoured Wall. Through the fire we saw something, it was a large mass of bubbling red semi-transparent liquid flame. It took the shape of some bipedal creature with large horns.

In the centre of this mass was Armoured Wall, floating within the energy. Bright red lightning lined his body as it seemed to converge and seep out of his eyes, a primordial red and white energy emanating from them. His strange power aura looked like a minotaur, with its massive muscular arms at it’s sides and its hands clenched into fists.

Guards and soldiers who managed to stay on the bridge began to move forward. Armoured Wall moved up the sloping bridge, I could hear and see the bridge shake with each step he took. When some guards came in sight, they mostly ran. But some were brave or stupid enough to attack Armoured Wall. He simply ignored them as they were not affecting him at all. He walked to the middle of the bridge and stood on his hind legs.

Armoured Wall’s aura brought down its arms, slamming its fists into the bridge. The whole bridge buckled and broke with explosive force as it sent out a shockwave. Iron Fort fell down into the Underworld, along with Armoured Wall and half the bridge. His aura dissipated and his body looked heavily burnt, his flesh almost completely missing.

I dove after him, Silver opened the back door. I flew past him in the increasing dark, before slowing down, trying to let him fall into the carriage. The ground was becoming visible, fast. I pulled up hard, dodging large bridge wreckage as I felt it get colder. I could feel the extra weight in the carriage as I pulled us out of our dive and back up. Flying away, I looked back and saw Iron Fort, now a small burning spot in Underworld.

It was strange to look at Tri-Hole without Iron Fort there. I looked back to see the window steamed up, still being unable to talk to Sharp or Silver. But we had to leave, so I decided to fly east. There was no real reason to it, just the direction we were pointing. We were now finally free, we escaped, we won?

After about an hour of flying, I decided to land. It was a bumpy, yet satisfying landing on a road in the middle of nowhere. I stopped and unbuckled myself, before having to go and knock on the carriage door. After waiting for a moment, the door began to open. Heat poured out of the door, just before it touched down. Armoured Wall was laying on his back Sharp and Silver on each side of him. Silver sobbed onto what was left of his chest. All of his muscle was exposed and burnt, his blood had soaked into the cushions of the carriage. Armoured Wall was dead.

Sharp made her way out of the carriage, before taking me to the front of it. "How could you do that?!" Sharp yelled at me.

I avoided looking her in the eyes. "I couldn't land."

She pushed me back. "No, how could you take all the blame for what we did! Do you have any idea how many will come after you now?" Sharp started to hit my chest in frustration. "Why?!" she cried out.

She stopped and rested her head on my chest, panting. "I did it for you. They don't know about you, they won't come after you. Sharp Shot is gone, you're free to become someone else and get away from this all." She sighed and backed off, saying. "We need to bury Armoured Wall."

We then went back to Silver and Armoured Wall, she was still weeping above him. I went and touched her shoulder, but before I could blink, a knife was being pressed up to my neck with a magical hold. Silver stared at me with anger, before sniffling and lowering the knife. She looked at something embedded in his chest. I hadn't noticed it when she was above him, but now I could see what it was. It was a spherical white orb with a keyhole in it.

Silver pulled at the thing in Armoured Wall's chest, his muscle seemingly attached to it. "The Star Core, a device that can turn your rage into physical power. Most who try to use it burn away or explode in seconds, after succumbing to maddening rage. But the fact Armoured Wall managed to control it is a testament to his strength," Silver said coldly as she began to cut it out.

She wiped it clean. "I hid it from Blood Rose, planning on having Armoured Wall sneak it out later." She took off her eye-patch and looked right at me with her one eye. Her other was an empty socket of scar tissue. "I was born with a tumour that enveloped my eye. Thanks to the hole it left, I was able to sneak the star core as far as my room. Blood Rose didn't like or trust me, had me searched whenever I left or entered Iron Fort." I was left petrified as Silver pushed the star core into her eye socket with a pop, before moving it around so the hole faced forward.

She then put her eye-patch back on. We didn't need to say anything, we knew what had to be done next, the three of us got out of the carriage and headed over to a nearby dead tree.

We all began to dig a grave, leaving it up to Silver, who had stopped crying, to decide when it was done. We then proceeded to climb out of the grave. Silver began to carve into the tree as Sharp and I grabbed Armoured Wall, after wrapping him up in the blankets of the carriage. We gently laid him down before we all silently filled in his grave. After which we all stood around.

I looked to Armoured Wall's tombstone.

'Armoured Wall
Age: 52'

"When my mom died, Armoured Wall comforted me. He treated me like the child he never had. In all that time, I never told him what he meant to me." Silver's eyes began to water up again. "He was like the father I lost long ago. Armoured Wall, I love you." She sniffled and wiped her tears.

Sharp stepped forward to speak next, but to our surprise Silver just turned around and started walking away. Sharp opened her mouth to speak out to Silver, but I placed my hoof on her shoulder, shaking my head to let her go. I looked at Armoured Wall's grave, it should have been me. I was meant to be the martyr, the scapegoat. I was the one who wanted to die now that this was all over.

I looked to Silver as she stopped in front of the carriage, picked something up and continued walking away, no longer choosing to travel with us. In the short time with Armoured Wall, I barely got to know him. But if it wasn't for him, none of this would have been possible. If he hadn't destroyed Iron Fort then I wouldn't have been able to clear my sister of Blood Rose's fallout. So I know exactly what I needed to say. "Thank you."

Sharp turned towards the carriage. "We have work to do."

I turned to her, confused. "What? I thought we were finished?" I wanted it to be, so I could simply go out in a blaze of glory, like Armoured Wall.

Sharp didn't even look at me as she boarded the sky carriage. "I know the reason for all of this. But we have to go to a special place before you can understand the true meaning of it. Fly East to a huge hole and head to the centre." Before I could reply, she started closing the door.

Maybe it was curiosity or the fact I had nothing better to do, but I decided to go along. It was a steady uneventful flight, until it wasn't. Physical pistol fire shot at and around us as the Ninety-Nine had caught up with us. At this point, it was high noon and the aforementioned hole was visible on the horizon. I simply flew as fast as I could, but this vehicle was made with double the horsepower in mind.

I took a quick look back, seeing the Ninety-Nine for the first time, kind of. They had sixteen armoured sky wagons pulled by Pegasi in light pre-war military armour. The Pegasi all wore visors to keep them looking forward as a pony whipped and steered them from above their carriages with reins. On the helmet of the Pegasi was the word “Engine”, followed by a number painted on it.

It made me sick to see them use Pegasi as simple tools. But there wasn't anything I was able to do about it now. I got a good look at the ponies at the reins. They were stallions and mares, unicorns and earth ponies. All of them had their hair cut down to a military buzz cut. Their tails were cut short and tied up. They all had square black frameless glasses, along with something in their right ear.

Their clothing was also the same, a black waiter vest with a white long sleeve button down shirt under it. They had a blood red tie on the outside with a Blood Skull logo at the bottom. On their left side was a holstered pistol and on the other in a straight wooden sheath was a guardless katana. There also seemed to be a number burnt on the bottom of their sword handle.

To my amazement, that number was the same that was on their right flank, which seemed to have had their cutie marks removed. On the other side was a black equal sign, but no sign of scarring. Oddly enough their coats also seemed to be faded of colour. The sky wagons themselves seemed to be patched with thick sheets of metal, with Blood Skull's icon painted on the side. While on the other was the number ninety-nine. The reason I could see all this was because they were closing in.

I looked to the ground and saw a growing ring of rubble, before it suddenly gave way to black earth. There was no snow on the rubble and ground before it. The closer I flew to the centre, the the smoother the ground became. There were a few square pools of misty warm water near the rim of the ring, streams running from them down towards the hole. That's when I realized what this was.

It was rumoured, well, more like a legend. The capital of the Crystal Empire was hit with the biggest bomb of the end time. So big in fact that it was thought to be a second sunset, a green sunset. This whole circle of black ground was a still warm crater.

The crater was a shallow slow incline to a hole rivalling one of Tri-hole's. But where Tri-Hole had cliffs that ranged thousands of feet before Underworld, this place had a shallow incline that spanned all the way to Underworld. From what I could see, the hole was a lot more rough and spiky. Probably because of pieces breaking off the thin ground.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to take it all in as I was still under fire. After flying past the boundary of hole I saw something in the centre, above the original ground level. But there was one thing I noticed. I was flying towards a large orb shaped sphere. Looking at it, I saw my own reflection. Unable to talk to Sharp and unwilling to turn around or enter the Underworld, I flew at it.

Reluctantly, I was about to fly head on into my own approaching reflection. When all of a sudden there was an explosion from underneath the carriage. Suddenly it got a lot heavier, just before we flew into the sphere. I screamed as we entered it, feeling heat and electricity run through and over my body. There was also a bright green light so intense that closing my eyes did little to block it. But as suddenly as that all started it seemed to stop.

I opened my eyes to see a city of crystal floating in a place I could only describe as not fucking anywhere like the Crystal Empire. It seemed to be in a limbo of energetic strong rainbow lightning storms. The Crystal City, I assumed. It was, in fact, a city made of crystal. It had twelve large roads that led to the towering castle in the middle.

The castle and buildings, and even roads in the city were made of crystals of different hues. Most of the buildings were between two to eight stories tall, rising as they grew closer to the castle. The castle itself would have cast a shadow all the way to the rim of the city. The city was built as a sundial, used to tell time with shadows, according to Dad’s history class. But there was no shadow, just light from everywhere, unlike the wasteland’s dimly lit cloudy sky.

I aimed between a crystal gate with three floating crystals, managing to fly above it and over a park-like area as we went down. Before we flew down a main road, avoiding builds. Oddly enough these buildings were a lot more rigid in shape, compared to the square nature of old world homes in the wasteland. Then again, I was the pony wondering about old world architecture during mayday.

The wagon bounced once before sliding and taking me along with it. As I spun around I saw everything was solid crystal, trees, wagons, houses, and even ponies. Wait, ponies?! The wagon flipped before landing on its side and came to a screeching halt in the middle of the road. That was probably the worst landing I have ever had with a sky wagon.

Hanging from the harness of this wreck, I struggled to unbuckle myself. Dropping to the ground with a thud, I stood slowly. Immediately regretting my decision to stand as I fell to my side, not from injury, but dizziness. Worrying about my sister, I got up and slowly made my way to the back of the carriage, leaning against the warped roof for support.

The door slowly began to open with a few groans and creaks. The bottom of the wagon was burnt and sparking as the batteries threatened to explode any second. Sharp stumbled out of the wreck, her head bleeding. I quickly let her lean on me as she still had her saddle bag with her. Her knife still holstered at my hoof, I pulled out my mare leg rifle and readied for a fight.

We moved to the street, away from the carriage, just before it went up in an explosive electrical fire.
Sharp steadied herself, before turning to face the castle. I watched as the dozen Ninety-Nine carriages entered and landed in the park-like area. I wasn't hopeful of our odds, I wasn't even sure where we were. I tried to pull out my wings, that's when it hit me. My right-wing burst in pain as I just now realized it was broken and misshapen.

I was so pumped by the chase and crash that I failed to notice till now. I screamed in place as my wing bent in ways it shouldn't have. I wasn't even able to put it back under my jacket. I groaned and went to take a step towards my glorious death when I was stopped. Sharp bit my tail, before letting me go and standing.

"Run, we have to get to the castle!" she yelled, already galloping away.

I looked to the approaching Ninety-Nine in the distance and gave chase to my sister. As we ran I saw a semitransparent pony made of crystal. The stallion seemed to be frozen in place. I really had no clue what this place was, but it wasn't natural. A stray bullet hit the crystal pony and he shattered like glass. I wasn't sure if he was alive or ever was in the first place. But he did have a Cutie Mark and real looking eyes.

We passed many more crystal ponies but didn't have time to look. Managing to avoid fire by using side paths, we entered the hexagram-shaped road. But the Ninety-Nine opened pistol fire at us yet again, in the open road. I shielded Sharp with my one good wing as we ran as fast as we could in a beeline. I even used the mare leg to take unsuccessful pot shots.

The castle doors were in sight and open, but a visible magic barrier blocked the entrance. The castle had multiple legs and entrances, all the same. Above us was a balcony and a banner. A purple flag of many hues, with a ringed snowflake in the centre, the flag of the Crystal Empire. The palace was made out a blue-white crystal decorated with gold, its towers coming out of large square bases.

“Almost there!” I yelled as we ran over a snowflake shaped road, we then got to a door at one of the legs of the castle. I spun around at the top of the steps to the castle.

At the base of the steps were a dozen Ninety-Nine. I holstered the mare-leg, before drawing the combat knife. In unison, they all drew their katana. They all took a step forward. I took a step down one stair. I had ninety-nine problems, but fear wasn't one of them. But just before I was about to charge, I felt magic pull me by my tail, making me fall down.

There was a tingle up my body. Before I knew it, I was through the magical barrier at the door. I looked at the Ninety-Nine as they charged into the barrier, only to be repelled by it. I blinked as I looked at the pinkish-purple hue. Slowly I stood, realizing I wasn't going to die. I looked to Sharp, she had pulled me in. She was still bleeding from her head lightly and wavering in her stance.

I looked back at the Ninety-Nine. They all sheathed their soulless metal silver blades that looked clean and sharp, reflecting their surroundings like a steel mirror. Then they drew what seemed to be identical huge muzzle held pistols. If I had to guess, I'd say they were fourteen-millimetre semi-automatic pistols. A bulky pistol that had a metallic black finish over it. Iron sights and a wooden mouth grip connected to the body of the gun. Under it all hung a magazine in the middle of the pistol.

I flinched back as they opened fire on the barrier, but to no avail. Now that they weren’t a iminiate threat, I turned my attention to Sharp. "Sharp?!" I rushed over to her, but she put out a hoof to stop me.

"I'm okay, we need to get to the throne room." When she said that the castle doors swung shut.


A giant white bear fell down from the ceiling. I slowly looked up at its body. Thick strong short legs connected to narrow long rabbit feet. Black pads on the paws were obscured by long black claws protruding from the tips of its fingers. The snow white fluffy creature’s bulk was barrel-shaped. Its massive arms and paws were a good half of its height. Its head was that of a rabbit, ears and all, but with the addition of razor sharp alongside its buck teeth.

This twelve feet tall bear-bunny thing looked down at us with red eyes. Its pink nose twitched as did its whiskers. I looked at its fluffy white fur, large blue shards of crystal protruding from its arms and back. The crystals seemed to glow a light blue hue. The creature dropped to a knee and bowed its head to us as it placed one of its massive paws on its chest.

Before I could ask Sharp what it was doing, four more dropped down from above before kneeling. One had an arm completely made of light blue crystal showing the bones inside. It was able to even move a crude crystal claw. Unlike the others who had a few crystals on their back, this one had a whole nest of sharp thin crystals all over its body. This distinctive one also stood first.

"Welcome, royal descendants," the thing spoke but also didn't. I could hear its voice in my head as it looked at us.

"Royal descendants?" I blurted out.

There was another, much softer 'Thud.' I spun around to see Sharp lying unconscious on the floor.

"Sharp!" I ran over to her, she was still breathing.

One of the big bunnies moved me to the side and picked her up. "We will provide what medical care we can," it said, before walking off with her.

I sat down and panted, the exhaustion only now hitting me. "Where is he taking her?" I asked.

The crystal-armed bunny stepped forward. "He is taking the young princess to rest and recover. He will then return with medical supplies for the young master."

I rubbed my sore throbbing wing, before looking at him. "Before you said we were royal? What did you mean?"

He put forth his crystal arm, which had a light glow. "Only Royal Guards such as ourselves and royal blood can pass the barrier. Also, we feel and glow when in the presence of a royal bloodline member."

I had so many questions buzzing through my head. I took a second to breathe before asking, "Where is this place? What is this place? Why is this place? What are you? What about the ponies outside? What about the crystal ponies? How are we royalty?" I stopped to take a big gulp of air.

I was about to speak again, but my stomach growled in hunger. The bunny chuckled. "Perhaps you would prefer to eat first, my Lord? May I prepare a bath in the meantime?"

Now normally I hated baths, but given my day, I couldn't argue. "Yes, that would be lovely."

He stood up and I promptly followed him. I looked around the crystal palace, heading upstairs as I looked out a window. Even that had a magical barrier over it. I looked out to the weird sky in disbelief. A flash broke my gazing and I almost fell back, but not before the bunny caught me in his magic. Looking out a glass window, I saw the Ninety-Nine were in their sky wagons, shooting at me, to no avail.

The bunny bear growled. "Permission to destroy them, my Lord?" he asked in my head, angrily.

I steadied myself. "Yes," I said firmly.

He put out his crystal arm and it began to glow with a magical aura. Suddenly one of the wagons came to a sudden halt as it was enveloped in magic.

"Wait!" I ordered, looking at the Pegasi. "Free the Pegasi, kill the rest."

The rabbit flicked his middle claw finger and a slash of magical energy shot out from just outside the glass. It cutting right through the metal beams holding the Pegasi to the wagon. He then proceeded to crush the armoured wagon and pony atop it into something the size of a watermelon, before dropping it.

Despite that display the other near dozen wagons still attacked. The royal guard bunny proceeded to cut another Pegasi loose. The wagon fell but was engulfed in magic. It didn't stop like the other one, no, this one sped up. It hit the ground with such force that once the dust cleared, I could see a crater in the street and a pancake thin wagon.

The magic around his crystal arm began to move to his claw tips, almost touching the glass and its barrier. His four claw fingers shot out magical bullets harmlessly through the glass and shield. I said bullets, but it was more like cannon fire. It sounded like plasma fire as the magical orbs shot right through a carriage. It left holes bigger than my head. The driver was now just a pair of hind legs. The wagon soon began to fall down.

I gasped, worrying about the Pegasus. But the bunny bear simply remained calm as he pulled the Pegasus out of his harness, without harming him. The wagon then crashed into the street. The three free Pegasi flew away, looking around due to their restricted sight. Soon the remainder of the Ninety-Nine began to retreat to what appeared to be the same portal we all entered through.

I patted the bunny on the back, not that there was much that wasn't spiky crystal. "Impressive." I had to mentally stop myself from moaning at how soft his fur was, although I had to be careful to avoid the protruding patches of crystal spikes.

I could hear him purring lightly in my head. "Do you wish us to pursue, my Lord?"

I stopped petting him and cleared my throat. "No, that shouldn't be necessary."

We then proceeded up the stairs, reaching a large room with high ceilings and crystal pillars. There were a few comfy sofas and more than a few doors leading to who knows where. The whole room was lit by crystal circles on the ceiling, illuminating the room evenly. I saw the door to the balcony that I saw from the outside, the curtains were closed. I think my whole house could have fit in this room.

Coming through one of the many doors was another bunny. He carried some Med-X and a few healing potions. "My lord," he said inside my mind, "Lady Sharp is stable and is currently resting in the castle infirmary." He placed the medical supplies before me and bowed.

"Thank you," I said as I injected myself with Med-X and felt the pain and throbbing in my wing dull, before drinking a healing potion.

I moved my wing slowly under my jacket to rest and recover, assuming it to be just a sprain. . The medicine healed my wounds, but I felt it best to rest it a bit longer. Although I couldn't help, but worry about Sharp and her injured head. I was unsure how she had known about this place, or how we managed to pass through the shield.

I looked up to the doors and saw signs. Staircases, library, throne room and many more rooms a castle would be expected to have. The head bunny lead me to a room, well a bathroom, or more like a spa. Water fountains flowed and smooth crystal floors shone, the water steaming warm and bubbling. I took off my jacket, resting it on a hook as the bunny waited outside. I moaned as I stepped a tired hoof into the water.

I walked in and lay back into the warm water with a sigh, relaxing my worn muscles. Many questions still buzzed through my head. I held my breath and sank to the bottom of what seemed more like a pool than a bath. Royalty? You'd think that would be the prominent thing on my mind, but it wasn't. I resurfaced, looking around to see some bath controls.

I trotted through the wing high water and pressed the ‘Bubbles’ button. Soon soapy slime dripped down from the ceiling, mixing with the frothing water. A foamy, neck high bubble layer formed on the surface of the water. The bubbles made me feel a little better, but it was not realy what I sought.

I set a timer to something called a rain function. I then went back to the centre of the pool and lay back, sinking below the bubbles and the water. Once again I lay on the bottom, the foamy bubbles blocking the light. I closed my eyes in the dim light under the bubbling water. I felt the warmth flow and bubble move around me.

I had a second chance to live. I had gotten away with killing Blood Rose and wound up in a palace. But you know what? I didn't want it. I wanted to die, to escape the guilt. I killed a foal, I failed Candy and I had a darkness inside me. Sharp could use whatever power the royal status could provide and make a better world.

I could feel the air bubble out of my lungs. I wondered if I was able to will myself to drown? The sounds of bubbles and rushing water stopped, replaced by utter silence. The bubbles melted away as the roar of rain battering the water surface filled the room. My chest ached and I instinctively squirmed, before breaching the water as I gasped for air.

I sat up, panting heavily as I slumped over. I stood up and turned off the water, slowly drying off, before hopping out. I decided to not put my jacket on, not wanting to dirty myself now that I was clean. My jacket draped over my shoulder, I stepped out of the bathroom. The bunny was waiting outside for me patiently. I proceeded to hand him my jacket as he held out his paw for it.

"Dinner is ready, my Lord, I shall have your clothing cleaned in the meantime," he said with a bow.

We proceeded to a dining hall, where a banquet was spread out. There was more food than I had ever seen. The long decorative table had two seats at each end and three chandeliers hung over it. There were cakes, patisserie, fruits, sandwiches, stews, crystal corn, pies, soups and many more spread out for dinner. A few of the more extravagant items I didn't even know the name of.

The head bunny, accompanied by four more bear bunny things, entered the room and pointed to the feast. "Today we have Marzipan Mascarpone Meringue Madness, Exquisite Éclairs, Donutopia, Chocolate Mousse Moose and the Crystal Empire Rainbow Crystal Blizzard cake."

I began to dish out my food, but had to ask, "What are you?"

Five of the six bunny bears stood at the sides of the table as the leader stood at my side. They all seemed to be smiling and trying to sneakily take a peek at me. "We are known as Royal Doom Bunnies. I am the captain of the Royal Guard, my name is Fluffy."

I almost choked on my food as I tried not to laugh. After calming down, I then took my time eating the food, after having been stunned at the fresh and flavoursome taste. "Tomorrow I want you to fill my sister and I in on everything. For now, I need to get some rest," I said with a bit of a yawn.

The captain, I still couldn’t bring myself to think of him as of Fluffy. "As you wish, my Lord."

After that, I prompted to fill my belly with more food than I ever have. I almost had to waddle behind the captain as he led me to my bedchamber. There was a queen-sized bed adorned with pillows, a canopy, and curtains. There was a chandelier, dresser, wardrobe, and bed stand with a fancy vinyl record player on it in the room. I decided the best thing to do was to back dive onto the soft springy bed.

I sighed as I sank into the soft bedding. To think I came from two hundred-year-old stained mattress to a two-hundred-year-old spotless royal bed. I smiled and nodded to the doom bunny, seeing a smile on his face. I then closed my eyes as he turned off the lights and left my room. It was only then did I let my smile sink away. I didn't want the doom bunnies, who, despite their professional demeanour, seemed delighted to have us here.

I went to hold my paperclip. But felting my zipper with my feathers, I was surprised to feel that it wasn't there. I sighed and closed my eyes, just something else to go wrong today. I guess I'll hold off my new found death wish for a little while longer. For now, it was time for me to sleep, I expected a dark dream to be waiting for me.

I slowly sat up after falling asleep who knows how long ago. I rubbed my eyes as I stretched my wings, yawning. I then opened my eyes to see the bed and I were floating in darkness. I was going to hop out of it, but something bumped the bed. I saw some hooves grab at the base of the bed, one pair, then two and more. Ponies crawled towards me, groaning. Their eyes were hollow and pitch black.

One of them I recognized, it was the pony that was cut in half by a stable door. His head was missing, but the body was still moving. I quickly moved to the side of the bed to see a mountain of bodies climbing each other to get to me. Screams, groans, and cries echoed and emanated from the mound of bodies. I tried to take flight, flapping my wings, but nothing happened.

I began to kick and push the slow-moving corpses off the bed, but more just kept coming. Soon they overwhelmed me, pinning me to the bed. Then all of a sudden, they froze in place like statues. The roof fabric of the bed began to blacken and move, molding itself into a pony shape. The pony of black velvet cloth blinked its purple, shining eyes. The figure smiled as it moved close to caress my cheek.

"Star, you have been busy." Dark, yet another one of his forms in ever-changing dreams.

I groaned, not wanting this. "What do you want."

Dark’s fabricated smile dipped. "I know you want to die."

The statue-like victims of mine moved ever so slightly, I ignored them and looked to Dark. "What's it to you?"

Dark's smile grew yet again. "Why not give in, let me simply take over."

The figures grabbed my wings. "What happens to me then?"

His clothed smile grew as wide as ever. "You'll get to stay here, in your mind. You can do whatever you desire in here. Although right now you desire three things."

In a split second my wings were ripped from my body by my victims. I let out a loud scream as I thrashed under the hold of hooves and claws. Teeth sank into my hide, through my jacket as claws ripped it off my body. I was lifted off the bed as I saw the towering horde rip it in shreds, making their way towards me. The square canopy of the bed that housed Dark, cloth edition, floated above me, apart from the bed.


I saw griffins and ponies of all race bite into my body, taking chunks that turned to dust within their mouths. No blood bled from my wounds, but the pain and feeling was certainly real. There was a pop louder than my screams as my forehooves were pulled off my torso by the gravity-defying horde. My tears floated weightlessly as I saw my dismembered hoof burn with no fire or heat, blackening and turning to ash.


Dark’s words rang through my screams and cries with surprising clarity. Looking at him through the encroaching masses, I saw his woven body gain a more defined imprint of certain body parts. Behind the sheets was something amassing, something I thought that was previously attached to me. Blood began to stain through the cloth and began to drip down towards me. But it evaporated before hitting me or the corpses.


They ripped and scratched at my flesh, pulling more limbs off my body. A swift claw disembowelled my entrails while a mouth ripped into my neck. A swift hoof hit my ribs and broke them before they were pulled away. Even as my lungs were popped like balloons, I still managed to breathe. My screams were silenced as one consumed my cheek, ear, and tongue in a frenzy.

Did I really want purpose? Was the punishment of being consumed by my victims enough? Peace? Could I find peace in my mind? A pair of claws and a set of pony teeth ripping my heart apart brought me out of my mind, within my mind. My right eye was pulled out of my skull, still attached by the optic nerve, before being yanked out. My one eye watched Dark as the bloody cloth's chest began to beat and a purple light shone through one eye hole.

Soon I was nothing but an eyeball, pieces of broken skull and some scraps of flesh. I was about to be finished, brought to peace in an oblivious limbo of my own mind. My punishment of being devoured whole while being denied death seemingly was enough. A new purpose born, the purpose of Dark, using his power and skill set to punish those who deserve it. It's bad when your inner demon is less monstrous than you.

The bloody cloth was ripped asunder in seconds as Dark had my body, albeit stitched together, missing only the last bit of myself that I still had left. But I remembered the bathtub, I chose to resurface, to live. It's true, death was what I wanted, what I still want. But for now, some part of me wanted to keep going, just a little longer. I wanted to endure life and watch over Sharp, just a bit longer.

"No," I said, almost a whisper. But it was enough to freeze the bodies in their tracks.

Dark looked perplexed. "No? What do you mean no?"

The corpses began to move back, back into the darkness. I just stared at Dark, seeing his stitching slowly unravel. "Your offer sounds great, I'll certainly keep it in mind. But I don't want to give up just yet."

His body, I mean mine, began to turn to ash. "Very well, Star. But if you ever wish to work together, just ask." My body began to be restored by the ash until I was whole again. I sighed and closed my eyes in the ethereal dark void.

I slowly opened my heavy eyelids, seeing I was back in bed. Well, I kind of was, hanging over the side of it as the blankets were thrown everywhere. I slowly righted myself, stretching and yawning. It felt unnatural to have slept on a clean soft bed, but it sure was nice. I contemplated just staying in said bed forever, but begrudgingly opted to get out. I shakily stood on my hooves, rubbing my eyes with my wings.

I then fixed my crooked jacket, seeing that the paperclip decoration was in fact missing. I trotted to the bathroom, happy to see a toothbrush and toothpaste after so long. I solemnly stared at myself as I brushed my teeth, still a little drowsy. Once I was finished, I trotted out the chamber doors, pausing as I saw the head doom bunny standing post. I opened my mouth to ask him if he was there all night, but I could tell by his smile that he was.

He led me to the throne room with a wave of his hand. "Is Sharp awake yet?" I asked as I followed.

"Yes, my Lord, she is currently waiting in the throne room. There is much we must discuss," he said as he hopped along, his tail wagging in joy.

We entered the throne room, two doom bunnies opening a set of huge doors. This room was even longer and taller than the dining hall. The ceiling of the room had hexagonal skylights, filling the room in pure light through blue windows. Along the pillared crystal walls were windows and curtains with mosaic windows depicting scenes I assumed were from history. Along the smooth clean floor ran a long rug, all the way up to the throne itself.

I saw Sharp standing at the base of the throne with two doom bunnies and ran over to her immediately, "Sharp!" almost knocking her over with a hug.

She winced in pain, causing me to lighten up at her. But as I looked at her, she smiled and patted my head. "Star, it's okay. I'm fine."

I released her and sniffled a little, standing back. "Good, I was worried about you," I said as I smiled at her.

The head doom bunny cleared his throat to get our attention. "My lords, shall we explain the history of the Crystal Empire?"

I looked to Sharp, who nodded. To which I turned to the head doom bunny and said, "Yes, go ahead."

He then led us over to a mural window on the left of the throne room. It depicted a pony atop a dark black crystal, looking down on ponies off all types in chains, sad enslaved crystal ponies. The pony atop the crystal tower was a grey unicorn with metallic hoof armour and a metal chest piece with a royal red short robe with a black and white dotted fur frill.

His mane and tail seemed to melt into a storm depicted above him. Sideburns and a strange darkness covered the sides and centre of his face. A fanged barely white smile was plastered on his grey face as his eyes had a devilish glare of sin.

Speaking of his eyes, they were rather abnormal. The whites of his eyes were not, in fact, white, but green. His blood crimson pupils peered down at the enslaved subjects. A purple wisp smoked out the side of his eyes as a strange magic emanated from his horn. Speaking of his horn, it was grey at the base, but grew even redder, curved and smooth all the way up.

From the tip of his horn emanated a strange magic, it was solid purple with a green outline and black lightning. it seemed to bubble in solid spheres from the tip of his horn. This was rather odd and off-putting, as a normal unicorn's magic was more ethereal and smooth with sparkles of light.Just from the mural, I could feel the dark and uneasy presence this pony brought.

The chief doom bunny gestured to the mural. "This is the previous ruler of the Crystal Empire, King Sombra. Little is known about his reign before his darkness, it's unknown if he was always evil or fell into darkness. But it is known that he was cruel and sadistic to his subjects, haunting their minds and lives for unknown reasons. But it's believed that he had desires of world domination." He seemed to glare at the mural with anger.

The chief then gestured us over to the next mural, but I couldn't help but wonder about King Sombra, never having learned about him. "What happened to King Sombra?" I asked as I was still looking at the mural.

"Please save all questions for the end," the chief said, now pointing at the next mural, which also answered my question.

The next mural depicted two alicorn shadow figures, one of white with gold trimming, one of midnight blue and black trimming. They joined their horns together, forming a blast of rainbow light. King Sombra was once again on his crystal tower, although this time he was cracking up under the light. Below him was a depiction of what I assumed was the Crystal City, although it seemed to be falling into a white oblivion below it.

The crystal bunnies all around seemed to all look down with a sombre sadness. "One thousand years, the Crystal Empire disappeared under King Sombra's last spell for one thousand years. The rulers of Equestria managed to defeat the dark king, but that was the price the kingdom paid." Despite not having been there, I assume, the doom bunnies seemed saddened by the transgressions.

I trotted over to the next window as Sharp and the doom chief followed. The next mural was much more heroic, a large green and purple dragon was breathing fire on a dark evil faced cloud. There was a depiction of the Crystal City with a large crystal heart above it. The dragon held the heart in its claw as it faced the face that was on the other two murals, Sombra. The dark king screamed as the darkness was consumed in flames.

The chief smiled, taking a breath as he looked at this mural. "A dragon from the neighbouring nation of Equestria defeated the evil King Sombra and freed us." He took a moment to wipe a tear from the corner of his eye, before exhaling happily.

He lead us to the next historical window, before he kneeled down and placed his crystal claw on his chest. After a patriotic moment, he proceeded to get up and show us to the last windowed history on this side of the hall. Tragedy and tension. A zebra was having a stare down with a pony, a boat floating between them. Below them was a pink Alicorn, looking saddened by the growing tension. Beside the zebra and pony were caravans of gems on one side and black rocks on the other.

He clenched his fist in anger at the sight of the zebra, before relaxing it. "Zebras and ponies used to trade valuable resources. But there was an incident involving hostages and a boat. Both parties blamed the other for the disaster and lost livest. This was the beginning of trade embargoes and withering peace." He then proceeded to escort us across the room, after a lingering glare at the zebra in the mural.

The Crystal Empire’s capital city was depicted in the middle as its rulers were handing out what looked like crystals to the surrounding ponies. Fluffy then spoke once more. "Although Equestria was not in fact short on magical gems and crystals, being raised in Equestria, both our king and queen decided to help by contributing the Crystal Empire’s natural and abundant resource." I was a little confused by the need for crystals, but thought back to Blood Skull and how they were stockpiling ammo and equipment for war.

I raised my hoof as if I was in school. "Was it so they could build an army to attack the zebra?" I asked.

Fluffy smiled at me. "Not quite, my Lord, both sides built their militaries in response to the threat of their need. But I do not believe either side wished to actually go to war." He then moved onto the next mural.

This window was more like a clear image, depicting a scene from a massacre. In front of a moon crescent building were ponies and zebras fighting each other, a pink cloud pouring from the building.

"This, this is what started the war." Fluffy suddenly punched the mural and it shattered. Sharp and I were both taken aback by his anger. But he just walked over to the next mural. As I looked back I saw the smashed mural begin to repair and regrow itself.

The next mural contained a depiction of a city, but not the Crystal City. This city seemed to be of wood and stone. Although half of it was on fire. Above it was a zebra and a pony fighting, guns beside them. On the very bottom were crystals, but they were fading as they grew higher. This was by far one of the more information-rich murals here. Despite that, I couldn't really make much of it out.

Fluffy walked right past it, only muttering, "When we ran out of crystal, we were abandoned." Whatever the last mural was about, it seemed to anger him even more than the mural of the massacre, so neither Sharp nor I decided to push him for more information.

This was the last mural on the wall, it depicted a sea with blackness, the pink Alicorn that I assumed was Princess Cadence, above some buildings that seemed to suck at the ocean. The sky was golden and coins seemed to rain down. Out of the three buildings drinking the black sea came guns, armour, ammo and other vehicles and tools of war. Fluffy stopped sharply and spread his arms open wide in praise.

"Behold! Our great nation was saved from poverty by the black primordial ocean beneath the sea! Oil! With oil, we gained wealth and power! We rose up and manufactured the weapons of war out of our very crystal we sold. With that our place as the suppliers to the greatest war was founded. We were saved." Fluffy seemed to be swept away in his grand gesture as all the doom bunnies began to clap, only quieting down as he lowered his arms.

"You mean The Docks, The Smelt and The Forge?" Sharp asked, seeming to know more about this than me.

"Smelt? Like Smelt city?" I asked, interjecting.

Fluffy looked confused, but Sharp turned to me. "Smelt city is just a small area of The Smelt that the Yellow Bees clan managed to get under control after having managed to overcome the robotic and turreted defences of The Smelt itself."

Fluffy rubbed his chin. "I do not know of the outside world, but The Smelt, just like The Forge or The Docks, is a large mass of factories, heavily defended against attack or invasion.

As we were talking, Fluffy made his way to the throne and raised his crystal claw to it. He then used his magic and began to move some crystals away from the wall, revealing a ninth mural. This one was by far the most simplistic, a black diamond symbol in a white circle with a crimson red dot in the centre of the tall gem. The outside of the circle in the square window frame was bright scarlet red.

Before I could ask about the ominous symbol, Fluffy's eyes began to glow. The white magic glow coming from his eyes and crystal claw turned into sickly purple spheres with a bright green outline, black lightning dancing around his claws. Even more worrying was the fact his eyes became that of Sombra.

He shot a beam of magic that seemed to make Sharp step back in horror. The beam hit the diamond mural and in turn, shot a light on the centre of the floor. The floor soon began to vanish as a dark and descending spiral staircase was revealed. The light faded and Fluffy blinked a few times, reverting back to normal. He then gestured to the staircase as the other doom bunnies stood watch.

"Shall we go see the princess?" he said, as casually as he asked if we wanted a snack.

Sharp and myself slowly approached as we looked into the dark hole and at the staircase that led down into it. We were about to take our first hesitant step, when our path was blocked by his claw. "My lords, I must warn you, you will have to overcome a difficult trial to reach her majesty. But it is not one of physical danger."

I looked to Sharp, giving a little nod as I wanted to see where this was going. She then turned to Fluffy. "Step aside, we can handle it." We began to make our way down the stairs together, Sharp’s magic lighting the way. Fluffy and some other doom bunnies followed us down. I could have flown ahead, but chose to stay with Sharp.

Not a single word was spoken as we descended the stairs into the depths of the castle. After a point where the entrance was but a pinprick of light, we reached the bottom. There was a smooth crystal floored room with a single black wooden door and a black crystal above it. Sharp and I stood in front of it, the doom bunnies stood at our sides, facing away from the door, except Fluffy.

"Her Majesty is behind this door, but to pass one must first face their worst fear," one of them said.

Fluffy rolled his shoulders in anticipation. "I'm the only one amough us to pass through the door, the rest of the royal guard had failed. So shall you attempt it then?" He looked at us in worry and conviction. We both nodded firmly before the door began to open.

As soon as he opened the door, the crystal above it began to glow with the dark magic the doom bunny had used. I turned to look at Sharp, feeling the same. But it was only when I did, did I realize the magic's effects. I was in the middle of Frost Crystal, it appeared to be sundown on a calm clear day. Not really understanding how this was my fear, I began to explore my hometown.

There didn't appear to be any guards around. I had also yet to see any of the residence. Trotting through town, there wasn’t any snow build up, so it wasn’t like the town was empty for more then two days. I went to Doc’s place, finding the door unlocked, however the house was abandoned. I did find it oddly untouched, all his belongings right where they should be.

I tried the general store and bar, finding them to be unlocked and abandoned. I was usually annoyed at the rude owner, although this time I was more concerned to find it empty too. I even made my way to the town's main building, its town hall and barracks. But just like all the other places I had visited, it too was empty, not just of ponies, but weapons and gear. The town’s food and water supplies were also completely ransacked.

I made my way to the towns mayor's office, a pony my dad had known. I only met him once, when we were in town trading supplies. If I remembered correctly, he was also the chief of the Blood Skull's garrison guarding the town. Neither he or his stallions cared for my family, leaving us to defend ourselves from attack. We'd never been welcome to live in Frost Crystal, the reason unclear to me. Even now with the information about Blood Rose and The Immortals, it was still unclear why my family wasn’t welcome and Doc, formally known as Red Cross, was.

But regardless, the mayor, an old scarred stallion, was nowhere to be found. This place was rather creepy for a ghost town. It was when I looked out the window of Frost Crystal's only second story building did I realize the sun had still not set. It, in fact, was in the exact same place, but that was not the correct spot. The sun normally sets in the west, but this was setting north of Frost Crystal. I looked around and failed to see any moon rising.

So I decided to fly into the setting sun. After only a few minutes of flying, Frost Crystal disappeared behind me, swallowed by a falling sky cover of grey clouds. Ahead of me, outlined by the sun, was a building, a familiar building. It was a house, my house. I gulped nervously, before landing at the undamaged building, hearing faint screams and groans coming from within.

Slowly I reached for the door handle, before pulling back hesitantly. The door creaked open a hair, letting the cries from within out. I steadied myself, before entering slowly. The world behind me faded to darkness as I entered the house, looking down. I could hear my heartbeat thumping in my chest, it was then that I felt a hoof on my head.

"Star." Dark, he was talking to me as he held my head down. "Do you want me to do it? I don't have any fear. Because you definitely can't do this."

It took a great deal of effort to swallow the fear in my throat, but I managed to. "No, I have to try." I felt him remove his hoof from my lowered head.

Although I was now free to raise my head, every fibre of my being didn't want me to. Once I did look up at the house, the fear and screams stopped suddenly. But this strange feeling compelled me to head to the basement, having looked around, seeing no one home. I pulled the rug away, revealing the hatch to the basement that was once our raid shelter and storage area.

As soon as I went to pull the handle, the screaming and fear returned. I bit hard into the handle as I was in a cold sweat. But I was determined to keep going. I got the door open, looking down into the small dark room. I took the first step and was hit with a new level of fear and screams from below. I could feel a wave of heat as I smelled burning coming from below. One step down, twelve to go.

With each step, the heat, fear and screaming intensified. Smoke even began to rise from the floor. I groaned in agony as it felt like my hooves were on fire. I tried to use my wings, but the fear kept them locked firmly against my body. I pushed forward still, in a sweat of fear and heat. As I got closer to the bottom of the stairs, my sweat began to sizzle as it dripped on the step ahead of me.

The darkness broke as the concrete floor of the basement cracked, releasing smoke, steam, and light. It was a raw red glow, like fire, but liquid, magma I believe. The smoke collected on the wooden roof, spilling out of the gaps in the wood. What couldn't escape out the wood fast enough left through the open cellar hatch. The screams were piercing my skull. To step on the floor was pain, my hooves felt like they were cooking, which they probably were.

A brick on the opposite wall to the stairs began to shake and rattle, before falling on the floor. The second that brick shattered, all the heat and screaming stopped. But my fear only grew, as now I was frozen in place. For behind that brick wall was a door, a black door. Brick after brick began to fall out of the wall, shattering into rubble on the floor. Soon the door was the only thing that remained. I tried to run but was unable to move.

Suddenly, against my internal begging, the double doors, as black as night and cold as steel, swung open. My eyes would not shut, no matter how much I willed them to. Tears kept them moist but did not blur my vision. My mouth would not stop screaming, in conjunction with my mind. My heart raced in panic as I found myself wishing death before what was behind those doors. I stared into the abyss and the abyss stared back at me.

I suddenly found myself able to move, to which I did. I looked around in a panic, seeing faces, before looking up and seeing light. I flew towards it at full speed, screams still thrashing my throat raw as they were my screams. I blinked rapidly, tears running down my face. My whole body was shaking as my heart raced in a panic. I had a split second thought that I was no longer in the basement, now, in fact, being in the real world once again. Of course, that thought came just before I flew at high speed into a thick crystal ceiling skylight.

I awoke in bed, bandages on my head. For a few seconds, I had the bliss of contemplating what had happened. But then I remembered, causing my stomach to clench uptight. Although I didn't have any memory of what happened after I took the final step in the burning basement. I did, however, remember the fear I felt and the crash into the skylight. My head ached and throbbed as I looked around the dark room. I found some food on the nightstand, probably left by Fluffy or one of the other doom bunnies.

I groaned as I sat up, rubbing my head, eating the flower sandwich. I took off the bandages and proceeded to leave the room, finding two doom bunny guards outside my doors. They bowed to me, before standing up.

"Your Majesty, are you all right? You were unconscious for a whole day," the Doom Bunny on my left said.

The one on the right then bowed to me. "Miss Sharp is waiting for you in the throne room. We still need to fill you in on some important information, but I'll leave that to the chief."

I nodded and proceeded to be escorted to the throne room, seeing the stairway down to the door was gone. Sharp and Fluffy were at the base of the throne, talking. I flew over and they smiled at me before Sharp patted me.

Sharp chuckled lightly. "I'm glad you're okay, brother."

Fluffy nodded at me. "Sorry, Your Majesty, the dark magic on the door is rather strong. I should have warned you better."

I shook my head. "No, it's okay. How did it go for you, Sharp?"

Sharp smiled largely. "I managed to get through the door, although it wasn't easy." I could see Sharp trying to act tough, but deep down she seemed a little shaken by what she saw.

I decided not to ask her about what she saw. "So what's the princess like? Why hasn't she come out?" Fluffy lowered his head in sadness, as did every other doom bunny in the room.

Sharp placed her hoof on my shoulder. "Star, she's trapped in crystal, fuelling the spell keeping this place stuck here."

Fluffy looked to the empty throne. "The spell was meant to last for one hundred years, to save the capital at the very least. But the spell has still not dispelled and we have no way of saving her majesty. So now we need a new leader."

I looked up at him. "Is this what you were waiting to tell me?"

He took another second to look at the throne, before looking down at me and Sharp. "No, well not right away. What you need to know are the side effects of staying within the Crystal City’s spell zone." He put a paw on my shoulder and a crystal claw on Sharp. "Have you seen the ponies within the Crystal City?"

Sharp looked at me and we both nodded before I replied, "Yes, the crystal pony statues?"

Fluffy solemnly nodded. "For those who stay within the zone for seventy-two hours, they will start to grow cancerous crystal. After another eight hours, those crystals will envelop and replace any biological components. Then after four more hours, one will lose all movement suddenly. The only way to stop these effects is to leave the Crystal City. But this won't reverse the crystallization."

It was at this point I raised my hoof, before asking my question. "What about the creatures in the wasteland with crystal in or on them?"

Fluffy nodded in response to my question. "I have no clue, I wasn't even aware about that."

Sharp spoke up, "Does the time limit reverse if you spend time outside of the dimension?"

Fluffy shook his head. "No, this has not been the case. Some small group calling themselves the Enclave tried to invade us. In the battle, they managed to kill and capture one of our own. But the grave losses we inflicted on them seemed to discourage any future attacks. We were able to capture the survivors and learned much from them. Unfortunately their scientists were unable to develop a cure in time to save themselves, or the others."

While I was caught up in the idea of the doom bunnies fighting an army of flying armoured Pegasi, Sharp proceeded to continue the conversation, "So basically we can only stay for another day?"

He then proceeded to place his claw on his chest. "We, the royal doom bunnies will stay by your side. But some must remain for the princess. But that brings me to case of who gets the throne, along with the rules of ruling."

"Can't we share it?" I asked, not familiar with the rules of the throne.

Fluffy shook his head. "No, to avoid conflict within ruling, only one royal is allowed to rule at a time, excluding marriage. But other royals are allowed one un-detested challenge to the throne. After that, the ruler may decline any follow-up challenges."

I looked to Sharp, then at the empty throne. "Sharp can have it," I said with a smile.

"What?" both Sharp and Fluffy said as they stared at me, their jaws dropping open.

I couldn't help but blush a little, being put on the spot. "I think Sharp would be the best to rule. Without her, I wouldn't have gotten this far anyhoof. Besides, I’d rather just stay back and help advise her in any way I can."

I looked up to see Sharp almost in tears. But Fluffy interrupted this touching moment, "Unfortunately per the rules, you two must compete for the throne before you can pass the throne to another royal."

Sharp wiped her face, before backing up from me. "Let's settle this with a fight, my hooves and magic versus your knife and wings."

I had some reservations about fighting my sister, but memories of us training and fighting each other with smiles on our faces brought me at ease. "Sure, I, Sharp Shot, accept your challenge." I then pulled out the knife that was once Sharp's birthday present and dropped it on the floor. "But I want to do this the old-fashioned way."

Fluffy and the other doom bunnies gave us a wide berth before Fluffy raised his crystal claw and his arm and eyes began to glow. "The first one to admit defeat, get knocked out or get completely pushed out of the harmless ring is the loser." A white ring of flame encircled us, all the way from one side of the hall to the other.

Sharp took on a defensive stance, her horn already aglow. "Are you sure you don't need the knife? You know I was always better at hoof to hoof combat."

I smirked at her, crouching down low with my wings extended. "I want to see how badly you want this."

I bolted towards Sharp, a hoof extended towards her. But a sudden smooth motion of her forehoof deflected my blow to a skimming miss. A second punch to my face followed, luckily I was also able to block her attack with my other forehoof. Following all the momentum from my dash fly, I pulled out my rear legs to attempt hitting Sharp's chest as I moved along her side.

But surprisingly I came to a sudden stop, feeling magic yank my tail. I fell down next to her, having to roll out of the way of a stomp from her. I tried to pull away from Sharp, but I was yanked back by my tail. Now on my back in front of her, I held my hooves up to shield myself from her stomping attacks on my head, luckily she was light. When she reared for a duel hoof stomp, I braced it, before pushing her hooves aside, causing her to lose her balance. I then used my wings to springboard myself up and headbutt her in the horn.

She fell on her rump, in a daze, her magic fizzling out. Now somewhat airborne, I backed up, feeling a slight sting as I had cut my forehead on her horn. I looked at her, a big grin on my face as I saw she had a little laugh and was enjoying herself. A little wobbly, Sharp stood up on her hind legs and waved a hoof at me to come at her. I stood up on my rear legs as I then dashed forward yet again.

I advanced with a raising flying kick. While Sharp used her upper body in a twist to gain momentum in a counter-spinning rising kick. "Have you forgotten what dad taught us, Star?" We both stood on all fours, my rear leg aching. Sharp was most likely feeling the pain as well, I could see her leg tremble.

"Defending is better than attacking," I said, shaking my leg to stop the stinging.

Yet again Sharp took a defensive stance. "Correct, use the flow of forces to minimize the damage you take. Dodge when you can, deflect when you can't and block if you must." She then egged me on with a hoof once again.

I was about to charge at her, yet again, but stopped. "Then that's what I'll do."

She smirked at me, her horn sparking before igniting in a glow. "But you shouldn't let your opponent regain themselves by missing an opportunity." Three magic bolts shot out at me, I was able to dodge two, but one hit my chest.

I grunted as it stung and bruised my chest. "Care to remind me how to attack?" I said with a little laugh.

Sharp rapidly approached me. "Certainly brother. One must be patient, waiting for the right moment to strike."

I went to punch her with a hoof, but she anticipated my blow. She used her front hooves to push my hoof the opposite way from my knee. Then her other hoof punched my knee inward, in a direction it doesn't bend. I let out a yelp as the strain hurt, although the constant pressure locked me in place. I tried to move back, but Sharp simply pushed my knee a little.

Sharp smiled at me. "I could have broken your hoof." She then let go of my forehoof, before backing away from me. "But when you must attack, you need to be precise. Your first strong blow should be your last. Follow up with rapid light attacks on organs, such as the kidneys. Disable your enemy by targeting joints and, or gaps in armour. With that, you can use pressure, weight and, or flow to help amplify damage. You could also follow with blows to the head to stun your opponent, just don't forget armoured spots require more force."

I wiggled and flexed my hoof and knee. "You almost sound like dad. Not that this catch-up lesson hadn't been wonderful. Shall we take this battle for the throne that I am willingly giving you a bit more seriously now?"

The look on her face, she wasn't going to hold back anymore. I couldn't even get a yelp in before a magic blast almost knocked me out of the ring, luckily the diamond mural stopped me. I didn't have time to dodge or deflect, so I blocked. Managing to stop Sharp's double hoof attack, the mural wasn't so lucky. I ended up flying out of the window and the ring.

Both Fluffy and Sharp proceeded to catch me with their magic, pulling me back inside the crystal castle, before the mural began to repair itself. Out of sheer luck, no glass embedded itself in me. The white harmless ring of magic flames extinguished as the surrounding doom bunnies cheered in joy. Sharp was already trotting towards the throne as I was chuckling lightly, having enjoyed the competition.

Some of the doom bunnies brought out a box decorated with gold and jewels. They opened the box to reveal a crown, a royal crown. It was a gold banded crown with four stars connected to a diamond, the same as the one in the mural, by jewelled gold bands going up and out, before dipping back in and down. Under those bands in the empty space was a rich purple shiny cloth and at the very bottom of the crown was a white furred rim.

Next to that was some glass sphere with a gold band around it. In the centre was a small black sphere just floating steadily. Next to that was a sceptre of gold and platinum, one jewel of white atop and markings along the length of the shaft. Both of which floated up to Sharp's side, enveloped in her magical glow. The fellow doom bunnies floated the crown atop her head, before kneeling in front of her.

Fluffy, now kneeling to Sharp, next to me, raised his head. "Your Majesty, all doom bunnies are magically obligated to follow any order given by the royal they recognize as the monarch. Not that there would be many if any orders a loyal doom bunny would not wish to follow." Even I decided to kneel before my little sister, smiling as she stood up.

Although there was an unsettling blank expression on Sharps face as she spoke. "I order you to restrain Star Shot."

"What?" I was the only one to say that.

Magic enveloped my body as the royal crystal doom bunnies’ eyes smoked and glowed with dark magic. I could barely move my limbs, but my body as a whole wasn't moving at all. I could only watch as Sharp walked past me without so much as a glance, only stopping to pick up the knife. I tried to speak, but no words came out of my mouth, not that it was easy to even move my muzzle. From there I was painfully dragged down the castle, only Fluffy coming with the three of us.

After an awkward short walk through the castle, we reached the centre ground floor of the Crystal City. My rump hurt from being dragged down the castle steps, I also still didn't know why Sharp was doing this. Sharp approached me as I squirmed, getting annoyed by this little prank. But whatever this was, it became a whole lot more serious when she held the knife to the tip to my throat.

"Let him speak," Sharp said before the magic around my head let me go.

I gulped and looked down to the knife, before looking up and Sharp. "Sharp, what are you doing?"

"Funny. That's what mom said before I cut her head off." She said that completely seriously.

Her words shook me to the core, taking me a moment to even usher out a single word as a whisper, "What?"

A slow sadistic smile grew on her face. " I slit moms throat, before shooting Straight Shot in the gut with his own gun. Before I soaked him in fuel and set him on fire, alive. I then cut mom’s head off after I finished killing Straight Shot."

I struggled against my magical restraints with my whole might as I growled in anger. "Stop! Stop lying!" I yelled through gritted teeth.

Sharp sighed, waving the knife around, expressing her disappointment. "Let me show you my virtue, conviction. Bow him over." Fluffy arched my top half down to bow to Sharp. "I am not the daughter of Straight Shot, well, not that one of the four Immortals anyway." I was warned about Sharp, multiple times by multiple ponies. But be it ignorance or disbelief, I didn't heed their warnings.

I groaned as I found my anger clouding my mind as I couldn't focus, only managing to growl out in hate. "Sharp."

I froze as I felt a cold metal tip move down my spine from the base of my neck. "Spread his wings out," Sharp ordered Fluffy as the knife I paid for with months of saved pocket money threatened to cut me. But worse than that, my wings were forcibly spread against my will. My muscles tensed and throbbed as they couldn't pull my wings close. But then I felt the serrated teeth of the knife's spine.

In a cold sweat of fear and panic, I shuttered and spoke. "Why? Why did you do all of this?"

Sharp chuckled to herself, before bending down to my ear, her breath on my neck. "Power. I was aiming to rule Blood Skull, but ended up reaching heights I never knew about." I screamed out in horror as the blade’s teeth cut into the base of my left wing. Once the blade had finished moving up, it then slowly moved back down, cutting yet deeper. "So I don’t need you anymore, brother."

My body trembled as I howled in pain, barely hearing Sharp's confession over the sound of my tendons and muscles being shredded. "Stop!" I screamed out in a blubbering drool. Tears ran down my face. This was the greatest punishment I could receive.

Sharp stopped the blade, causing me to stop screaming for the moment. "Fluffy, shut him up." The magic holding me moved to the lower half of my face. Unfortunately Sharp soon continued her methodically sadistic slow cutting once my agony was silenced. "Now Star, I wasn't sure I could keep up the loving sister act. But I must say, I did great."

Just because my cries were silenced, didn't mean I had stopped. Through the torment in my head, I begged for Dark, but got no answer. Once again Sharp began to speak, "Although you didn't make it easy. Getting captured, a few times in fact." For a second it felt as if lightning had struck my wing and gone into my very soul. The pain was so intense I blacked out, only for a few seconds.

I awoke by the horror of wood cutting teeth grinding on bone. I most certainly had defecated myself by now, but that wasn't on my mind, no. What was currently flooding my skull weren't screams or even pain, although those would have been better. It was the sound of my bones being cut into, the deafening internal grinding sound. All while I felt the vibrations travel throughout my body.

"As it turned out, one of our parents was somehow a descendant of royalty. That was the very power Blood Rose and the Blood Skull clan had spent over two decades and three generations looking for." I felt a snap and a loud crack as my bone broke to the blade. I felt my wing hanging on by a little bit of flesh and muscle. It was only then as a Pegasus, did I realize the true horror of losing a wing.

She laughed, before continuing her speech. "I mean Fluffy did admit to having repelled the might of the Enclave. Now I don't know if you know this, but they are most likely the largest organised, powerful group in the known world." This was hell for me. The short few seconds of hope vanished as I felt the wing separate from my body. But even that was surreal, no, it only hit me when I saw my wing on the floor as my head was raised.

I was frozen by disbelief and terror, but what came next, Sharp spoke yet again. "You even got that dead weight Pegasus filly to join us. Luckily a tip-off to the Slave Town guards. Plus a convincing talk is all it took for me to convince her to kill herself, freeing us up."

I pushed forward with more strength than was my own, my eyes filled with the desire to kill Sharp. But she just laughed at the prospect of my hate-filled wrath. "Glad to see Nightmare also had the desired effect. You know after the first display I just had to see it again. Amazing what a few words in a stable can do. But they didn't disappoint, I did get to watch your avocation yet again."

Despite my anger, my vision began to be encroached by darkness. I assumed it was due to blood loss from my wing and its now remaining stump. Sharp herself was covered in sputters of my blood, the droplets joined and ran down her in lines. My eyelids grew heavy as I felt cold, the last thing I was looking at was Candy's killer.

But before I could slip into unconsciousness, a bolt shot me wide awake. My eyes shot open to see a needle of some injector in my chest. I looked up at Sharp, feeling my anger grow even more. Yet again, she was simply smiling happily. "Amazing what a little Rage can do." She then ferociously pulled the drug pack and needle out of me, before throwing it aside.

Sharp then walked out of my view, but I saw she had one more very large syringe with her. She commanded Fluffy. "Follow." With that order, I was dragged across the ground behind Fluffy, my wing left behind as I stared at it. Blood skid marks remained on the road as we moved along one of the main roads, away from the castle. I was still in great pain, but now I was wide awake and quite hot.

Soon Sharp barked out another order like the bitch she was. "Keep going ahead." With that Sharp was now walking along the crimson red trail I was leaving behind me, as I was being dragged across the ground backward.

Sharp smiled at my scowl sweetly. "Brother, let me tell you a story." I was turned away from Sharp, seeing Fluffy's white fur covered in my blood as he was still being controlled. His magic still held me, turning me to see, we were at the edge of the city. I looked into the dimensional void, all its psychedelic colours like a distant storm as I was held slightly over the edge.

"There once was an earthbound equine who crafted wings of wax and feathers," Sharp spoke yet again. But she also started cutting yet again, this time my remaining wing was to be the next to be amputated. "As a hubris to nature and Pegasi, this equine flew in the sky." My agony and screams began once more, as I was powerless to stop her.

"Spitting in the face of those who were born with such a gift." I was unable to tell through my raw dry screams and still flowing tears if she was going faster, or simply talking slowly. "But this equine, known as Icarus, flew too close to the sun." I threw up, my vomit falling through the magic as I had to listen to the sounds and feel this pain a second time.

"The heat melted his wings of wax and feathers." Yet again, it was like lightning coursing through my being as the nerve to my remaining wing was shredded. "As he fell, no Pegasi nor creature of flight came to Icarus' aid." Oh Cadence, Celestia, Luna, whoever zebra pray to, even Dark. Please, I beg you, make it stop. The sound and the feeling of bone being cut and broken reverberated through my soul.

It was gone, my remaining wing was no longer mine, no longer a part of my body. "Thus he plummeted to his death." The magic holding me slightly over the edge began to let me go. At this point I was catatonic, drooling and crying steadily as I was happy to die. But life is cruel, as is Sharp. Before I could fall away, but after that sensation had washed over me, I was caught once again by magic.

This magic turned me around, after which I was stabbed in the chest with that large syringe. I could see Sharp slowly inject me with it. Although I couldn't see what it was, I knew based on the feel. It was Nightmare, a lot of Nightmare. Only after she had finished injecting me with it and pulled it out, did she let me fall. After which I blacked out, feeling cold, no more pain, just cold.

"Peace is written in blood"

I awoke lying in the cold fresh snow, looking up into the grey sky above, moonlight shimmering down through the dark gaps in the cloud cover. A light powdering of snow falling down upon my dying body. Thankfully, I was numb from the shock and cold as I was badly hurt, but I’d have to say although I hated the grey cloud covered sky, I did love the stars and sky above them. Through the gaps in the roof of the clouds, I could see the stars as my vision grew darker. The snow around me turned crimson with my own blood as the cold crept over my limp body.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time it happened, dying I mean. But by the circumstances, this might be the last. To think I’d lived such a peaceful life a week ago, well, considering I grew up in a wasteland. I grew up at the outskirts of a small town called Frost Crystal, which was more or less in the middle of nowhere in the Crystal Empire.

I wasn't sure how I wasn't even strong enough to really even think about it. But somehow I was lying in a shallow snow grave. Looking around with only my eyes, I saw a wasteland style wooden board tombstone. One on my left and another on my right, they read as followed:

"Black Pot
Age: 40"

[centre]"Straight Shot
Age: 41"I was faintly remembering my parents and my life. Sharp, not really being my sister, but instead a half sister. Anyway, here I was, seeing my life before my own eyes, getting stuck on a few loose ends. For me, however, my life wasn't flashing before my eyes, no, more like slowly playing out before them.

I remembered saving the radio pony. I remembered my first time having sex, Selen. I remembered saving the fillies and colts from the butcher. I remembered how happy they were when they got home. I remembered Soothing Sound's joy when I flew with her. I remembered my first kiss with a filly named Orchard Night. I remembered my loving and caring parents. I remembered all the best parts of my life.

I felt myself drift away. But then. I remembered. I remembered the Black Door and Dark, the dread I felt, the guilt. I felt like I was sinking, but I also suddenly remembered all the worst parts of my life. Losing my wings, Akira, Akira's mom, Stock, Candy, my parent's death. Sharp. The anger inside me began to boil and bubble as I felt rage and hate grow. I want to make this world feel my pain, I want Sharp to feel my pain. We. Weren't. Done.

I felt something hit my face as I had my eyes closed at this point. But as soon as it did, I lunged up and forward. My body shivered. The only warmth I felt was the blood entering my mouth as I bit down onto a hoof. My body about to give out, I looked up to see Doc, Red Cross, holding a shovel in his magic and cigarette in his mouth. Our eyes looking into each other, my face one of anger, reflected in his glasses, along with my purple eyes.

Still biting down on his hoof, I mumbled, "We're. Not. Done."

Chapter 15: The Immortal's Death

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Bright, everything was blindingly bright. I squeezed my eyes as I held up my hooves to try and block out the flood of light. But it slowly died down, allowing me to see that I was afloat above a makeshift campsite. Looking through the embers of the fire, I saw three ponies sitting around.

My mind was hazy when it came to what happened. The last thing I remembered was a sparring match with Sharp for the crown. I didn't recall who won. But given the fact I was here, I’d say it was safe to assume I had lost.

Once my eyes reconfigured to the lighting, I saw that the ponies at the camp were a unicorn stallion and two earth ponies, also a stallion and a mare. The mare, a light grey coated horse with rather striking features sat to the side. Her mane was neon green with a purple highlighted mohawk that ended in a braided ponytail. Although her flank was much more eye-catching than her hair.

Her cutie mark was surrounded by a tribal tattoo made out of vivid, single solid colors. It appeared to be a snake with a thick outline, crude patterns in segments within it and soft smooth shapes. Some segments were colored and others had more creative patterns within them. Around the snake were red dots of various sizes. But moving up her back was another animal, this time a frog, just as detailed as the snake. A lizard with an earthier brown-red color scheme ended off the creature chain.

But back to her actual cutie mark. It appeared to be a grinding tool of some kind. Some green drops seemed to be splashing out of it, which could suggest poison, I wasn’t sure. Under the animal trail was a name made up of what seemed like a brand mark: 'Sydney'.

That's when it clicked who this group of three ponies were. Three of the four Immortals. Red Cross, Sydney and my father, Straight Shot, back before I was ever born. I didn’t know how or why I was here, but it didn’t seem I have been noticed yet.

Either way, I eagerly looked around and saw what was a younger version of Doc. Seemingly still wearing the same coat, just with fewer bullet holes. He looked distant, staring at the flames and embers. Doc seemed to be in thought, an expression of contemplation on his face.

"It's been a month." That voice, younger though it may have been, I recognized it.

I looked over in amazement, seeing Straight Shot, my father. My eyes began to water as I looked at him. His mane, which I had only known to have been losing a battle with time, was now a dark blue. His coat, although tattered with much fewer scars, was unwrinkled. His eyes were the same though, a blue that mine mirrored.

He was wearing the same snow jacket I was. The dark blue and white jacket, with its orange lining. It was still in peak condition. But my father was different, he didn’t have a metal prosthetic hoof. Instead he had a flesh and bone limb with a PipBuck on it. I felt tears running down my face.

"Daddy!" My words echoed out like that of a little colt, but I passed right through him. I was a ghost in a memory, although whose and why was still unclear. But I didn’t care, I just wanted a hug.

I slowly got back up and wiped my face as I sniffled. I turned to look at the group from the past when I saw Doc speak. But not before glaring at my father.

Doc spat at the flames. "A month since your last fix, junkie."

My dad grimaced and rubbed the back of his right forehoof, avoiding eye contact. I was about to yell at Doc, despite being a ghost in memory. But Sydney beat me to it.

Although she started by slapping Doc across the muzzle with a hoof. "Red Cross, how dare you!" Tears filled her eyes as Doc looked almost as hurt as her.

Dad sighed and looked at Doc. "It's been a month since Blood was lost," he groaned.

Sydney wiped her eyes. "Straight," she began.

But dad cut her off, continuing, "My growing dependence on chems had nothing to do with it. But he made me promise not to take any combat or recreational chems without him. So I'm being a good friend during this shitty month." He started vigorously scratching the same spot with his hoof.

Doc trotted over to him and stopped his friend’s insistent scratching. "You are right, I'm sorry. Going cold rad-hog mustn't have been easy. I'm still upset about that young bounty hunter last week." The whole mood of the camp was low.

Sydney moved close to Doc to comfort him, resting her head on his shoulder. "It's not our fault, you saw the false bounty poster he had." She nuzzled the distant Doc, taking a long sighing breath. "We can't keep doing this, the adventure needs to stop."


Straight Shot looked up, eyes widening as there seemed to be a bottle of Wild Pegasi in a magical field above them and the open flame. Straight yelled for every pony to move as the bottle exploded and its contents showered down. The moment the flames licked at the whiskey, the whole area went up in a fireball. I blocked my ears and eyes as the overwhelming explosion.

I saw the three Immortals, having managed to jump back, they were not seriously hurt. Their bodies burned and scraped, they all composed themselves, grabbing their gear as they quickly readied for battle. Straight checked his PipBuck and armed himself with a pipe revolver. Sydney was bleeding from one ear, so Red Cross grabbed a healing potion in his magic. Sydney drank the potion that Red Cross brought over to her, before equipping the SMG I had once wielded.

Straight turned west, gun at the ready. A shadowy figure stepped out from behind a tree and opened fire. The shot flew true and hit my father's pistol in his muzzle. The pipe pistol was destroyed, as fragments shot back and peppered dad's face. He stretched out his legs, about to gallop, when a gunshot rang out from the figure. I recognized the sound of this weapon, a model 500 Colt double-action revolver, 10.5-inch barrel, five rounds.

A second shot hit past my father's forehoof, exposing bone, grounding him as he recoiled back. Sydney dove to Straight Shot and pulled him behind the cover of a standing wall as Red Cross went for a laser weapon of some kind, pulling it out of his saddlebag with his magic. Before he could turn the rifle in his white glow, a third shot went out and tore through his weapon.

Before Red Cross could react, a fourth shot rang out and struck him in the chest. Blood shot out of the hole as he simply fell to the side, speechless. Sydney screamed around her SMG, turning her head around the corner of the wall and opening fire blindly. The fifth round's shot washed out the noise from the SMG. The bullet pierced the corner of the wall and embedded itself in the SMG's magazine, warping it, jamming the gun.

Sydney, throwing the gun to the side, dove out of cover and towards Straight Shot's burnt saddlebag. She pulled out a sniper rifle of some kind, shielding it with her body. It was only a moment, but that was enough for the shooter, her neck moved. The sniper rifle’s barrel was exposed for a moment.


The revolver’s round shot the rifle's barrel in twine. I watched as Sydney was out in the open, the figure approaching the now unarmed group. The figure was about to step into the light. But from behind the wall, my father popped out, covered in blood. In his wounded muzzle was the SMG, a single manually loaded shot in the chamber.


A dud, the round was a dud. The shadow pony turned and pointed his white chromed revolver with a goddess’ name on it at my father's head. He turned the gun and fired it through the wall, the sixth shot blasted clean through dad’s hoof, just above his PipBuck. He screamed as he clenched his right hoof, bleeding badly as it hit bone. The figure then moved into the light; it was a crying Twin Barrel.

Sydney started sobbing, shivering as the dread of the situation sank in. "I'm sorry," she muttered as she still held onto the ruined rifle.

Red Cross groaned and coughed blood, to which Sydney and I looked over to him. Red Cross held a gaping wound with his magic, his shredded insides visible. Somehow he managed to survive the chest shot from what I assumed was one of the world's most powerful guns. Twin Barrel pointed his gun at Red Cross, his face contorting in anger. His magic slowly squeezed the trigger, the hammer pulling back.

"No!" Sydney swung the ruined sniper rifle at Twin Barrel and blindly pulled the trigger. It fired before exploding in her hooves.

Shrapnel shot shallowly into her body, fragments of wood and old metal embedding themselves into her hoof and chest as the small wounds bled. The round she risked so much for did shoot out, but missed Twin Barrel, at close to point-blank range. He was unhurt but had taken note of her desperation. Twin stopped aiming at the wounded Red Cross, now walking over to Sydney.

Twin wiped tears off his face. "You killed my son, so now I'm going to get my revenge." He then aimed his gun at my dad, who was still squirming at the bad leg wound. "I have three bullets left, three kills." He looked at her, his yellow eyes firm and serious.

Sydney shook, but stood up, bleeding. "Three, if I can take them then you leave the Immortals alone. I am the one who killed your son, not them." Sydney stood between Twin Barrel and my dad, the gun still aiming at Straight Shot behind her.

Straight groaned, sitting up. "Sydney, don't." He was in no shape to move.

The mare was now crying softly, looking at Straight Shot and Red Cross. "Straight, there is a hydra potion in my saddlebag, give it to Red Cross." She then turned to look into Red Cross's eyes, seeing he didn't have the strength to focus on anything but his wound.

Despite his injury, blood pooling in his lungs, he managed to cough, getting a word out, "Sister…"

She smiled at him. "Red Cross, I know you hate killing. But you only do it to keep us safe. I want you to stop, both of you, settle down, the adventure is over.” She took a short pause, before continuing, “Also, Blood Rose, tell him I believe in him, he has the opportunity to do so much good in his position." She smiled bittersweetly at the two of them.


Twin’s white chrome barrel smoked as a large hole in Sydney's lower chest appeared. Crimson shot out across the snow, the large hole gushing blood. She didn't seem to react, besides wavering a little. Time slowed down as the only thing any pony seemed to be able to do was watch. Sound itself seemed to have vanished, all but the crackling of the fire.


Time began to flow yet again. Sydney's smile faded as she fell to the side, a new hole in her chest. Fresh red liquid squirted out as she held her hooves to the new holes. She tried to stop the profuse bleeding as she coughed and screamed in pain. This bullet, just like the first round, pierced straight through her body. Blood began to pool under her as she was close to death.

Twin Barrel just firmly looked down at her, before pointing his two revolvers at Straight Shot and Red Cross. "Get up." His look of cold judgeless death glared firmly down at Sydney.

Both Red Cross and Straight Shot looked pale and faint, with Red Cross's magic flickering on and off. Despite her injuries, Sydney rolled onto her belly and pushed her hooves to the ground, shaking as she struggled to stand. She raised her head to the barrel of the midnight Luna revolver. Panting and groaning as she bled out rapidly, her smile returning to her face once more.

Twin Barrel had a tear run down his cheek. "I forgive you," he said in an almost silent voice.


There was a flash of blinding light, forcing me to flinch and shut my eyes as the world filled with sound. But when I opened them, I was in a dark void. There were spheres of magical memory bubbles floating in front of me. I couldn't tell what was inside them, but I had to cool down after the heavy emotion that I just saw.

After taking a breather, I thought about the scene I just witnessed. The death of Sydney, Doc's sister, the end of the Immortals. The weight of the SMG Doc gave me, I didn't know the history behind it. This must have been the reason for Doc to swear off violence. But why did Twin Barrel attack them? What did he forgive them for? Where was Blood Rose?

I still didn't know how or why I had these memories. All I had was more questions. But there were two more spheres in front of me, so I touched one.

A slow white grey haze overtook me. My ears were overwhelmed by the sound of static as my nose filled with the smell of roses. Being an equine, we ate flowers. Although being a wastelander, that was a rare delicacy. Yet, to what I imagined, I could taste roses. Eventually, the haze began to clear.

Before I opened my eyes, I could feel the familiar cold of an eternal winter’s night. I opened my eyes to see myself out in a wide-open snowfield, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. A slightly darker night, the cloud-coated sky ever looming above.

I looked down from my vantage point in mid-air, seeing a group of ponies surrounding a smaller group. Flying down with my ghostly body, I stopped when I could tell who they were. It was the Immortals, all of them. This included a younger-looking Blood Rose, then again he still looked younger than me, despite being around my dad and Doc's age in the present.

The Immortals seemed to be surrounded by the Ninety-Nine. Somepony stepped out of a cherished black and gold-trimmed armored sky wagon. One that was pulled by slave pegasi. It was encircled by the Ninety-Nine's less ordained sky wagons.

The pony that stepped out was a unicorn with a rose hair styled similar to Blood's. Although he had a white coat, a red and black colored mane, and yellow eyes. As well as a pair of black and red chips with rose symbols on them as a cutie mark. I had seen this pony before. Twenty-One Rose, Blood Rose's father.

A pungent aura poured out of him, masked by the scent of roses. His yellow eyes scanned the scene before him, somewhat unfocused before they stopped on Blood Rose. His eyes seemed to physically shrink, focusing intensely with their needle like gaze. A brambly wicked grin grew on his cheeks, complementing his pinprick eyes. He looked maniacally twisted, his white magic pulling out a briefcase.

One of the Ninety-Nine stepped between the group and Twenty-One Rose. The pony from a group of duplicates bent down as Twenty-One put the case on his back as a makeshift table. The case clicked as everypony other than the Ninety-Nine watched closely. A gold light shone out from it as he slowly turned it to the group.

Without saying a word, Blood stepped forward. The case opened, revealing a lightbulb and a deck of playing cards. Blood was quite serious, although he still had an aura about him, it was nothing like when I met him. Dad went to step up to Blood's side, all but the table Ninety-Nine drawing their blades a little. It was more than enough for him to stay put.

Twenty-One began to shuffle the deck of cards in his magic, cutting and folding the cards. "Five." That was the only word Twenty-One said, in his clear, yet chilling voice.

Blood simply nodded with them seemingly coming to some agreement without words. The game began, the dealer with his phantom aura making me see a dealer of death for a second, instead of cards. The first two cards were dealt to Blood, who looked nervous before even seeing them.

He picked up the cards, before presenting them. He held a nine of hearts and an ace of spades, for a total of twenty. The dealer turned to show that he held a Queen and a three of clubs. Blood's twenty beat his father's thirteen. Blood sighed in relief, before Twenty-One's mouth opened. "Twenty."

He pronounced it, but seemingly at no one. That was when twenty random Ninety-Nine members drew their swords. The Immortals took a combative stance. But this was met with no retaliation, unlike before. That's when everypony not in the know would find out how this game worked.

The unlucky twenty held the tip of the blade to their throats, their hilts in the snow. They then leaned forward and fell in unison onto their blades. Their faces hit the ground as they lay dying. This was it, this was the power of Twenty-One, the leader of the Rose clan.

Although the Immortals were in shock, they still stayed silent. Blood turned his gaze from the dead to Twenty-One, who snickered as he shuffled the cards. "Maybe it should be a shovel instead of a spade." The death was nothing to this dealer. He simply kept playing.

The player got his two unmarked cards, as the dealer drew his two cards. Twenty-One then drew a third card from the deck. Blood, seemingly shook at the coldness from his father settled for his cards. Eight of hearts and a seven of diamonds. Without any care or hesitation, Twenty-One revealed he hit twenty-four and lost, again.

Twenty-One began to smile, licking his lips before he spoke, "Fifteen," again with the single empowering word which carried an order for death. An order his Ninety-Nine carried out without any hint of emotion. He simply watched Blood and his reaction of dread.

The Ninety-Nine once again drew their weapons, this time their signature firearms.Bulky black pistols, probably semi-automatic. The size suggested a large caliber, so fully automatic would be unlikely. Regardless, they all pointed their guns to their chin, before a sequenced gunshot rang out throughout the wasteland.

Fifteen more pony corpses lay on the ground of the wasteland. If left there, they would be buried by the snow till next summer. But scavengers devouring or looting the corpses were more likely. But that was the future, their future, not the Immortals’.

Twenty-One began to deal the cards for the third game after shuffling the deck. The cards in Blood's magic must have been heavy, he was shaking slightly. The blood-soaked cards he had played were staining the deck and his mind. But he still had to play, he couldn't afford to know what happened if he lost.

Blood gulped and spoke, "Hit me." His words were hollow and scared. But Twenty-One dealt him his third card.

They each played their cards. Twenty-One held a pair of nines, one of clubs and another of hearts for a total of eighteen. But Blood presented his three-carded hoof. Eight, seven and six of a set of diamonds. A perfect score victory for Blood, a total of twenty-one.

Not that I felt too bad for Twenty-One. But for his allegedly favorite game, he sucked at it. Still, the pointless and cold way he disposed of his loyal soldiers was villainous. Speaking of which, he smiled warmly, before, just like I had once seen with Blood in the present time, he seemingly switched to his foreboding aura.

He opened his mouth and ordered their deaths with a number. "Twenty-one."

At what appeared to be random, the allotted number of suicides commenced. They put their forehoof on their chin, while their other forehoof held the back of their heads. Like synchronized swimming from Tartarus, they snapped their necks with a push and a twist before falling beside their brethren.

The fourth match had now begun, three straight victories for Blood. Twenty-One had lost three times in a row. But Twenty-One dealt him his cards, not a care in the world. Blood took his two cards, looking at them and seeing Twenty-One take another card.

"Hit me," Blood said, after looking back at his friends. They gave him a smile and a nod, an encouraging look on their face.

Twenty-One then drew another card. He sighed and showed he overshot twenty-one. I felt hopeful for Blood and the Immortals. That hope faded as I saw that this round was a draw. One with a twenty-four and the other hit twenty-six. Blood looked nervous, not knowing what would happen next.

There was a tense feeling in the air, but it melted when Twenty-One shook his head. "Round five." There was no punishment for a draw, but no reward either. That was if you could call death a reward in a game like this.

Three victories, one draw, and zero losses. The final game of blackjack had now begun. The cards were slowly dealt out, one after another. Blood took his cards, as Twenty-One held his two cards. Blood then asked for another card. Although his face turned pale when he got the card.

Twenty-One revealed his cards, scoring a soft seventeen. This would have been a great opportunity for Blood to have won. But his cards scored a total of twenty-three. Twenty-One smiled.

Both Blood Rose and Twenty-One Rose looked at their cards. Neither drew another card, simply showing their final cards to each other. Twenty-One had won. Blood was quite nervous as he looked to Twenty-One, waiting to see what the Immortals’ punishment would be.

Twenty-One looked to see he had lost fifty-six of his Ninety-Nine, only forty-three remaining. He then turned and looked at Blood and the other Immortals. Twenty-One cleared his throat, gathering the cards from Blood, before shuffling them once again.

Without a word, Twenty-One began to deal the cards once again. Before he spoke. "Practice is over, now we play for real." He smiled as he dealt the cards a sixth time.

Blood didn't even ask, as he knew it meant his friends were in danger. But there was no way the Immortals could fight the Rose clan. Even if the Ninety-Nine was cut in half. He simply played the game. Taking the cards, as did Twenty-One. They each played their two cards.

Blood held an ace of diamonds and a nine of hearts. But a twenty wasn't enough, for his opponent had blackjack. Ace of hearts and a king of spades meant he had won. I felt my heart drop as the horror of the unknown sunk into Blood's face. All eyes were on Twenty-One.

His aura and smile grew cold. "Which one do I get?" It was at that point the Ninety-Nine drew their blades.

Sydney, Straight Shot, and Red Cross all looked at each other before they began to fight over who got to give their life for their friends. But before even saying a word, the aura I knew Blood for washed over the land. They all quieted down as Blood stepped forward.

Without any fear, he spoke to Twenty-One, cutting right through his aura. "I'm the one you want, father." Their tension and presences clashed, almost visible in the air.

Without missing a beat, Twenty-One turned and began walking back to his wagon, taking the cards and case with himself. "Say your goodbyes." Some of the Ninety-Nine were collecting their dead at this point as well.

Blood sighed and swayed, seemingly exhausted by the confrontation. But he turned to his friends, for what I unfortunately knew was the last time. "I'm sorry, I knew this would happen someday." He looked almost ashamed.

Straight Shot went up and hugged Blood. "Why, why didn't you tell me you're the son of a warlord?" He was in tears.

Blood sighed, patting his friend. "It wasn't hard to figure out, I did eventually. The same hair, cutie mark type and the ability to project this aura." He stopped petting Straight when Red Cross and Sydney put a hoof on my dad's shoulders.

"Straight, it's just part of their traditions," Red Cross said, trying not to look at the crying earth pony.

Sydney gave Straight a somber hug before she sat next to both Straight and Blood. "He'll be safe and alive. Besides, we can just go free him later." It was illogical but comforting.

Blood at this point stared at Sydney. "I know Red kicks our ass whenever Straight or I hit on you. But I have to know--" Blood was cut off by a kiss from Sydney.

She blushed and looked away. "That's not an answer or anything. So you'll just have to find us one day to know." She looked over to the pouting Straight.

But he let out a chuckle, sensing he was killing the mood. "What about me?" he asked Sydney with a cheeky smile.


Straight was knocked face-first into the snow by Red Cross's hoof. "Just because I can't beat up Blood for that now." He was very adamant with that part. "Doesn't mean I won't kick your ass for hitting on my baby sister." He stood on his hind legs as he flexed a hoof, his other on his bicep, a cocky smile plastered on his face.

Sydney giggled, then the whole group began to laugh. But a stomp from the Ninety-Nine, who had just finished collecting the dead, meant it was time to go. This was the end of the Immortals, but not the end of their friendship. Or so they thought.

Blood began to walk to the sky carriage but stopped and turned around, looking at Straight Shot. "Promise me, Straight, promise you won't do any drugs without me?" The words were heavy and filled with concern.

As was Straight's expression. I could tell he was an addict, just by the amount of discomfort this promise brought him. But he swallowed the distress and promised.

"I promise."

The memory faded slowly, the last image was Blood boarding the sky wagon. I may not have known him, but he wasn't that bad of a pony, at least in the past. But what I did know about the present was that Twenty-One was alive. But Blood was Sharp's father, so he did follow the Rose tradition. But that also didn't explain Silver Rose. I don't know, I was still missing too much information.

All I did know was that there was one more memory sphere. So in this void, I did the only thing I could do. I activated it.

Model 500 Colt, double-action revolver, 10.5-inch barrel, five-round cylinder. A stainless steel magnum revolver with ‘Luna’ written in blue fancy script along the barrel. There was also a counterbalance weighted frame attached to the underside of the barrel, and a midnight blue grip with a white crescent moon on it.

The weapon was topped with a reflex scope, a slight amber tint with a red dot in the center. The whole gun was finished with black chrome. A work of art shrouded in a dim white magic field. Smoke poured out of the barrel as the cylinder rotated around to it’s next loaded chamber.

The bored lightweight trigger was squeezed, pulling the hammer back. It was thanks to the slow time flow that I noticed it had the word 'Son' on it. Soon that hammer struck down on the back of the cartridge, sending lead down the bored barrel. A stream of burning gunpowder screamed behind it before exiting the gun.

I ended up following the solid lead round as it flew through the air. It spun slowly as the air compressed in front of it, before decompressing off it from the sides. It even hit a snowflake as it was falling. The delicate ice construct shattered into things too small for me to see.

The mass of supersonic lead hit a tree. It took the brunt of the round, its white horizontal bark barely breaking. The round embedded in the hole of the tree, a rich red-purple syrupy sap proceeding to bleed from the wound.

The trees themselves seemed familiar. I had seen them along the frozen bank on the lake I use to live at. I looked around, seeing red energy bolts flying between the trunks. Some flew off into the distance, others hit the trees, scorching them slightly. I couldn't see where either of the shooters were, even the revolver was now out of sight.

Suddenly without warning, I was pulled to a magic rifle. It was the one that Red Cross used. The barrel of the gun was segmented into an upper gap and lower part, reconnecting at the main ammo housing by a metal railing. Within the upper gap was a set of three mini magical conversion blocks. A small magical beam flowed through the centre between the three blocks.

Energy is drawn from the magic gem powder or crystal within the cartridge. From there it travels into the conversion block which changes the raw energy into a focused band width. The front of the converter then shoots it out. Depending on the muzzle, one could even have different magic beam trajectories.

But that was for the Equestrian standard magic rifle. This new model seemed to shrink and duplicate the converter housing and spin it for cooling. The older single housing model had a much slower fully automatic fire rate. Although the high fire rate and low recoil are great, the problem with it was that it would rapidly chew through ammo.

Below where the cylindrical spark battery went in was the name 'Red Cross' spray-painted on in red. The format was in the military-style of text. Above the weapon was a reflex sight, not unlike on the 'Luna' and 'Celestia' revolvers. Although Red Cross's gun had a blue tinted reflex sight with a red dot.

Energy weapons, while under the subject of weapons within my homeschool curriculum. I found them both fascinating and somewhat confusing. I never did get a chance to look at Sharp’s laser musket. I wasn’t sure, but if I had to theroiz, the rotation of the chambers and the cranking of the musket was the same principle of firing. Although the musket contained the shoots and condensed them into one large shot, where the automatic laser rifle simply fired.

Ten-millimeter rounds flew through the air next, breaking my theorizing on energy weapon mechanics. Although these rounds were different, their metallic bullets looked like they were smoking. A white heavy frost of cold air followed behind the round in its slipstream. When the round hit a tree, the sap didn't leak out. Instead, it appeared to be frozen solid.

Sydney's SMG, a weapon I would recognize easily. A bulky grey metallic ten-millimeter automatic pistol with a full auto and burst fire mode. A little worn down, a few scratches and scuff marks. But no rust. The only attachment that made it distinctive was the most likely extended fifty clip magazine and the name scratched into the metal crudely. 'Sydney.'

Everything was in slow motion. But for this next round, things were quite different. Time itself seemed to turn to a crawl as this round flew past the others. The pressure cone was much bigger than the regular supersonic rounds. It was probably hypersonic, which, according to an old-world science magazine, was fast.

Straight Shot's sniper rifle, I assumed. It was rather odd looking, just like the bulky ten millimetre SMG, this wasn't a firearm I knew from my limited education or books. The barrel was hexagonally shaped, with a smaller barrel protruding out the end. Some form of guide rails on its sides. At the tip of barrel was a heavy-duty ‘V’ shaped muzzle break, usually found on fifty caliber and up rifles.

Under the barrel was a long makeshift metal water bottle, connected to the barrel. Above the barrel was a long-range scope that would spring out and to the side, for battle saddle use, which it was in. The magazine was a half-open box design, holding ten rounds.

The back of the weapon seemed to have a bolt action chamber system that was made for a spark battery. The final part of the gun was the stock, which appeared to be a normal wooden stock from a sniper rifle. My dad's name was carved into one side, the other held his cutie mark.

I wasn't sure how the gun worked, but it wasn't something in mass production. The parts were high quality, albeit had that hoof-crafted look. It was something I had never seen before, not even remotely.

But to my delight, the gun fired. I got to watch in slow motion and up close as the bolt held the spark battery in place. The magical electrical energy flowed between the two rails within the hexagonal barrel. The metal round served as a bridge as the electromagnetic forces pushed the round. The friction caused massive heat build-up within the barrel.

Vents on the back sides of the barrel near the scope opened up and steam came screaming out. The front of the barrel pushed back onto the barrel housing moments after the round left, a fireball of dust and particles followed behind. This cooled the front of the barrel and shut the cooling vents. The pressure change then refilled the barrel as the water in the container was sucked through a one-way valve, acting as a heat sink for the bulk of the barrel.

I hadn't noticed before, but when the barrel retracted into itself it also released the bolt and ejected the now spent spark battery. There was a dial on the stock that read, 'semi-auto M2' and 'single fire M7.5'. It was set to M2, which if I had to guess, was Mach two. So it must be shooting ten rounds at Mach two with one spark battery, or one round at Mach seven for one spark battery.

I was forced to follow the new round as the battle saddle reloaded both the projectiles and the spark battery propellant. The round flew through a tree, straight through as the tree got a huge hole blown into its side. It wavered and threatened to fall.

It was only as I was being pulled away, did I notice some cloaked pony had been behind that tree. I unfortunately didn't have time to see their condition as I was back at the impressive weapon. Before it fired again, I noticed it was on 'M7.5'. I only caught a glimpse of the gun firing before the round dragged me away.

The round flew through the air so fast, it caught on fire. It was glowing white as it flew like a shooting star. The pressure wave for the projectile was bigger than my head. Whatever this round was made of or enchanted by must have been strong to not have burnt up yet.

Any snow in the pressure wave was melted by the heat on the wave and the trail behind it. The projectile barely missed a tree, but the wave hit the tree. The whole trunk flexed before splintering and breaking under the force. A near circular chunk of the tree just blown away as it fell from an indirect hit.

I saw the round and wave miss the cloaked unicorn with the revolver. But it ended up striking the frozen lake at about a ten degree angle. A column of water and ice shot up higher than the trees before it came showering down on the unicorn, soaking him as he had his back to a huge hole in the thick ice.

He dropped his gun as he panted bouts of warm breaths in the cold air. Pulling off his soaked cloak with a built-in bag. I finally got a look at him. It was a young unicorn, he had a stringy messy light aqua green mane, steel-silver eyes, and a light blue coat. His cutie mark was that of a single revolver, same as the Luna revolver, albeit less detailed.

The young pony threw his cloak forward, which pulled me away, finally allowing me to see where everypony was. Sydney was rather close, more than I had expected her to be. The cloak landed on her face, blocking her view of him. She was moving her SMG to shoot at the young unicorn blindly, still at close range. But he punched her in the face, she dropped the SMG. From there the pony pulled Sydney in front of him with a tug of his magic, the cloak now wrapped firmly around her head.

He held her before himself like a shield as the magic auto rifle opened fire at him in a short burst before stopping. All of the beams struck Sydney and she began to glow with red energy. Red Cross had stopped firing too late, dropped his gun, and slid forward on the ice as his horn glowed strongly.

When magical weapons energy synchronizes with a target, it causes a cascading cellular disintegration. The living organism's body is charged with the energy and it builds up with consecutive hits. When the total energy absorption hits critical mass, the life form is destroyed as the energy activates like a full-body energy meltdown.

The whole process takes seconds. There were also other things happening that I could see, now that I was free. Red Cross had dropped his gun, sliding towards Sydney's SMG as he kept his eyes on the struggling Sydney. Behind her One Barrel was trying to grip the gun in his magic. At first, I thought it was a two-way race, but then I noticed my dad.

His body twitched, seeming to tremble in the slow motion. That familiar mane, now a stringy mess. While patches of thinning coat showed his skin underneath. The eyes I once had, they were red and full of tears, while the pupils were dilated. But under those eyes were dark rings, from an obvious lack of sleep. Biting a blistered that ignored a runny nose, sweating in the snow, my father looked like a sick horse. But still, he finished reloading his strange rifle and was aiming to take a quick shot. He had missed at least twice before, now though, Sydney was unwillingly shielding One Barrel.


Just by the combustion of the round, I could tell the projectile was a Mach seven point five shot. The bullet flew straight and true. It missed Sydney with both its body and wave. As it passed her, I saw Red Cross cast a spell on Sydney. A clear sphere appeared above her head.

Speaking of heads, the shot missed One Barrel's head too. But the pressure wave washed close enough to his horn. His magic glow went out like a candle, the round having indirectly broken his concentration. Blinded, Sydney jumped away, feeling she was free. While the magical sphere seemed to turn red and vanish.

The young unicorn soon shook off his magic failure, reigniting his magic and gripping his gun once more. But it was too late, he looked down to see Red Cross holding Sydney's SMG on the ground. He closed his eyes as Red Cross opened fire.

One Barrel was riddled with freezing ten-millimeter bullets, his body pushed back as he dropped his revolver.

His whole body began to freeze before it even hit the water. His freshly chilled corpse sank as he entered cryostat, not a drop of blood was left flowing. The only sign he was even there was his cloak, his bag, and his pistol.

Sydney pulled the cloak off her head and proceeded to throw it to the side. Some papers flew out of its pocket as it hit the ground. A ‘Wanted poster’, all with the same bounty, three thousand caps each. Wanted dead, every remaining Immortal member. Crimes include murder, thief, arson, and torture of both mares and younglings. There were clear artistic renderings of Straight Shot, Sydney and Red Cross, along with their cutie marks. There were also full descriptions on their looks and defining features. These posters branded them wanted criminals in the Rose territory.

With that, the memory began to fade slowly. It all made sense. What destroyed the Immortals and why Twin Barrel was wanted by Blood. Although the only answer I had left was, why did they have a wanted poster?

I took a deep breath, trying to take in all that I had learned. But when I opened my eyes, I saw that there was a small orb in the distance. I glared at it, before noticing it was approaching me, rather fast. I tried to move, but it was quicker.

I tried to dodge it, but it just kept pace with me. No, that was wrong, it was gaining on me. I tried to outmaneuver it in the void. But every move I tried, it simply copied or outperformed. So as a last-ditch effort, I slammed on the air breaks using my wings, hoping it wanted to play chicken.

It slammed into my gut, causing me to gasp for air. As I did, the sphere of what appeared to be dark faces sunk into me. My wings began to burn up and catch on fire before they were cremated to the bone. But I didn't scream, no I wasn't in pain. I was simply remembering the missing chapter in my life. What Sharp did and was responsible for. The long drag.