Fallout Equestria: Misfits

by DancingOnTheAshes

First published

Trown back out into the Equestrian wasteland, a lone healer finds his body irrevocably changed.

Snakebite Tourniquet was quite content to work as a healer on a merchants caravan, but then he finds himself alone in the desert with his body changed beyond recognition. He tries to find out why this has happened to him and eventually this leads him back home to the Neigherra Madre Mountains.

This fan-fiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Ask Blog: Ask Snakebite Tourniquet

Chapter 1: Beginnings.

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Fallout Equestria: Misfits

By DancingOnTheAshes

Chapter 1: Beginnings.
"Celestia help me, I was only nineteen."

"Snakebite! Are you done dealing with that ghoul yet?" My boss hollered from outside the store. The tough stallions impatient voice sounded like he was about to pull my legs off if I didn’t hurry.

"Urrgh. Sorry about that Ditzy," I said to the shopkeeper as I levitated out the last of the bottle-caps and laid them on the counter. "Next time I'm in the area I’d like to buy some more Buck Flower and Canter Root if you've gotten a fresh supply in."

The odd wall-eyed, ghoul pegasus nodded and scribbled on her chalkboard. 'Won't be a problem at all.'

I nodded and stuffed my newly acquired medical supplies into my saddlebags. As I exited I gave a hoof-wave. "You take care now, Ditzy,” I raised my voice slightly to address the ghouls... adopted? Daughter. “You be careful too, kid."

The mute ghoul gave a silent wave and a smile. The young lavender, unicorn filly stacking shelves almost lost her balance as she shouted back to me. "I will. Come by again soon, mister."

I closed the door behind me as I trotted down Absolutely Everything's front steps. ‘Trader’s Caravan’ waited for me in New Appleloosa's main street. It was made up of three big, armored wagons drawn by two equally armored brahmin (a two-headed, mutant cow) each. The caravan was defended by armed guards on the roofs and two griffins flying overhead. The convoy carrying its owners name was one of the most secure trading caravans in the wastes. Its crew was in the last stages of packing and almost ready to roll out. As I neared a large, grizzled, khaki stallion with a cigar in his mouth wandered up to me.

"Luna dammit, Snakebite,” He yelled at me. “I was just about to leave you and hire somepony else to act as sawbone for this trip."

"Right, and I bet you'll find somepony capable of mending gunshots and making healing brews from weeds just meandering about," I answered as I gave him a cool look. "You aren't ready to leave without a healer and you know it, Trader. I don't intend to leave without adequate supplies, but since I have them now I won't hold you up any longer." I finished.

He gave me a stony glare and turned back to his caravan. "Damned fuss bucket" I heard him mutter as he trotted away.

I gave a huff and wandered to the second wagon, my medical bag floating beside me in a levitation field. We were bound for the Shattered Hoof Detention Center. Apparently some kid, fresh out of a Stable, had fucked up the power structure and ruined their supply lines. And now the new boss, some griffin named Gawd apparently, was in need of all manner of basic supplies. This was a merchant’s wet dream; because if we could get the goods there first Trader’s caravan could rake in quite a bit of profit in raw gemstones.

I tossed up my satchel and doctor's bag on my own designated storage shelf.

"Now you ladies just give me a call if you need help with something during the trip." I called over to the pullers. Four affirmative “Moos” came from the front. "Same goes for you." I bellowed to the four pulling the other wagons. The collection of heads nodded out of sync.

I spent some time making sure my magical beam rifle and gear were secured properly before going to the cook in the third wagon. She gave a wave with her ladle at my approach.

"Are you all done packing or do you want some help, Trail Mix?" I asked as the yellow earth pony mare hauled a bag of cans and vegetables up into the wagon.

"All done," She replied. "but you keep away from my cooking pot now, ya'hear? Next time I catch you messing with the soup I'll brain ya." She made a threatening gesture with the ladle she held in the corner of her mouth.

I gave her an innocent look. "Who, me?" She lightly whacked my horn with the ladle.

"Yes, you. Now go make yourself useful." As I turned away I felt her slap my cutiemark with her ladle. I smiled to myself. "and if you manage to keep out of messing with the food this trip. I might feel generous." She said. I gave her a sideways glance and she replied with a wink.

Now there was something to look forward to.

*** *** ***


We fled, picking a direction away from Maripony. Our young wings beat furiously as we felt the urgency of the command.


We did just that, flying as fast as we could. We could see other parts of us flying past, and sometimes some would lag behind a little. But we didn't stop, and soon we were flying alone.

And then the Goddess left us. Cold ice spread through our veins as we were shaken free from Unity, a necrotic light flashed behind us moments afterwards. We did not look behind us.

*** *** ***

We had been flying for hours, numb to all but the workings of our body. ‘Keep flying.’ It was the last command of the Goddess, and we would honour it. We passed the Everfree forest and flew over the surrounding mountain range. As we entered the desert on the other side, our left wing seized up. Succumbing to exhaustion we started to wobble in the air and lose altitude. We struggled to stay airborne, but we only sank faster. We cursed the rigid limb as we desperately sought a place to land.

Finally we spotted a small shanty hut standing unobtrusively in the empty waste. It was surrounded by scrub and an old railway could be seen in the distance.

We came in low but slightly too fast. In our haste we didn’t see the little stone in our path as we landed on all four hooves. It was under just enough sickly scrub brush and dead grass for us to trip and slam our head into an old fence post.

*** *** ***

"Celestia bugger me with bale-fire!" I exclaimed as I held my head in my hooves, wondering what had just happened. I had fallen in a rather unflattering heap after banging my head on something and now I was in mind-numbing pain. Thankfully nothing felt broken and my horn had made it without damage. I tried to stand but fell over again. Something was seriously wrong with my brain. It felt unfamiliar and strange, as if somepony had shoved a collection of wires into it and plugged them in haphazardly. Come to think of it my entire body felt alien to me.

Laying still and keeping my eyes closed against the vertigo I started to magically check myself for injuries.

Head? Concussed and a bump was growing on my forehead next to my horn.

Legs? Unbroken, a few scratches but nothing serious.

Tail? Flip Flip Where it should be.

Wings? Ruffled but inta... back up!

I turned my head and opened my eyes. My coat had gone from a light brown to an ultramarine blue. But that was nothing compared to the pair of large wings growing out of my back. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My breath caught in my throat as I touched the feathery appendage with a shaking hoof. Through the limb I could feel my hoof touch the feathers, and I wanted to puke. When the hell had I grown wings?! I shouldn't have wings! I was supposed to be a unicorn not a bloody alicorn! Sweet Celestia, let this be a dream.

I experimentally extended one for study and felt my skin crawl as it responded to my commands. It looked like I had imagined Celestia's or Luna's wings would have looked like two hundred years ago. I folded it against my back again and gave a shudder of revulsion. This was so wrong.

As I gave the wing a final look I saw something that almost made me scream out loud. My cutie mark! It was missing! I quickly reached down and started to rub my flank with a hoof. Maybe it’s just painted over. I desperately thought to myself. I began to scrub the area, hoping that if I wore the paint away my cutie mark would show itself.

The minutes ticked by and all I managed to accomplish was bleeding sores that stung in the dusty air. I began to weep silently to myself as I stopped scrubbing and mourned the loss. The beautiful image of a tourniquet made of silk that mirrored the name ‘Snakebite Tourniquet’ was gone, maybe forever. I wanted to pound the ground until my hooves cracked, and I briefly contemplated ripping my new wings from their sockets.

With an effort I pulled myself away from thoughts of self-mutilation and instead I tried to remember what had happened that could have caused this.

The big gap I had in my memories was distressing. The last thing I could remember was leaving with Trader’s caravan traveling from New Appleloosa to the Shattered Hoof Detention Center. Then things got muddy. I vaguely recalled something about a green sludge and other alicorns. They had been spotted all over the Equestrian wastes over the last ten years or so with increasing regularity and ponies were often pretty jumpy about them. It was also rumored they kidnapped ponies. The wandering priests advocating The Goddess and Unity weren't helping much either.

I must have been kidnapped and turned into the same type of winged unicorn that the priests were gushing about. But how was the ten thousand cap question. If I could find one of them I might get some answers, if I didn't throttle him with his own robe first that is. I cursed myself for never stopping to hear one out about the subject at least once, I must have trotted past dozens when I traveled with Trader.

I finally calmed myself down somewhat and I slowly rose from the sand, fighting for balance. My body was awkward and... bigger? Yeah I was definitely taller than before. I wobbled again as my vision blurred. Not good. I needed shelter. Where was I anyway? I took a look around.

Nothing but wasteland around me and the eternal gray cloud cover above. No specific landmarks for miles. The only things I saw were cacti and the ubiquitous orange rock formations native to the desert. This told me little except that I might be in the vicinity of Old Appleloosa and that could spell trouble.

A little shack made from corrugated iron sheets stood about a hundred feet in-front of me. It was small and felt out of place; probably some prospectors hideout.

The sound of tubas caught my ear. I looked to my right and saw a Sprite bot flying around randomly. They were annoying but harmless. I remembered that my hometown's guards used to shoot at them for target practice, mostly because moving targets that didn’t fight back were scarce; that and the music got really old around your tenth birthday, so nopony wanted them inside the town walls.

With a shiver I realized that I had no weapons at all. Not good. That was like saying that you were a free lunch with mustard. I was actually without any supplies. My beam rifle, saddlebags, barding and doctor’s supplies, gone... dammit all to the moon!

I gave the shack a glance. Might still be something useful in there if I was lucky.

Whelp, might as well relieve the pressure on my bladder first before I go into somepony’s hut and rob him blind. I spotted a good looking bush and moved behind it out of habit. Then I focused on relieving myself.


I'm ashamed to say that my scream was somehow even more emasculating than the fact that my body had changed from a buck to a mare.

I shakily stretched my magic to my hindquarters for a complete checkup. Being a healer meant I had some familiarity with a mares posterior. I sometimes had to treat fillies with trauma or 'uncomfortable itching' when I was in the more rowdy parts of the wasteland, so I knew a uterus when I felt one. Ahem, so to speak.

The fact that I was a relatively healthy...mare...didn't make me feel any better. The thought that I might be fertile got strangled and dumped in a back alley of my brain faster than you can say ‘Does this make my rump look big?’. Things just kept going from bad to worse. But compared to losing my cutie mark, me changing from stallion to mare was only window dressing.

I finally got to my hooves and decided to check the shack out. Mare or buck, I had to find a weapon and supplies. And hopefully some time to help me fix my head because I almost walked right into the door as I approached the shack. I telekinetically grabbed the handle, turned and pulled. Ripping the door out of it's frame.

Ooookay, that was new. I hadn't used that much force. I took a look at the hinges... rusted almost to dust. Figures. No-pony had been here for decades. At least I don't have to rob somepony, thank the wasteland for small favors.

The inside was gloomy and smelled slightly of mold. After standing in the doorway for a while, letting my eyes get used to the gloomy atmosphere I spotted a row of metal lockers against the far wall along with a lock-box on the floor. A table stood in the middle of the room with an aging, ham radio resting on top. A bed and an old fridge completed the furnishings. Nothing was moving, hissing, or shouting so I figured there was no immediate danger so I trotted in.

Two of the lockers were unlocked but didn't contain anything worthwhile. The third was locked. After rummaging around for a while, only finding two sparkle colas and a hoof-full of bottle-caps I found the key. It was sitting on the radio, in plain sight. I gave it a deadpan look and mentally kicked myself before levitating it into the keyhole and turning.

On the locker floor sat a duffel-bag and a collection of clothing hung from hooks. I opened the duffel-bag first and was to my delight greeted with an assortment of items; a semi automatic pistol in a leg holster, a few boxes of ammunition, an assortment of health potions, a blanket, a decent looking skinning knife and a bottle of whiskey. It looked like somepony’s travelling kit and it reinforced my impression that this was the hut of a prospector. Or scavengers as they really were.

I levitated up the weapon for inspection. It wasn't really my thing because I preferred magical energy weapons to conventional firearms, but I could cope. The weapon used 12.7mm ammunition and was in fair condition. It looked like it had been cleaned right before it was left.

A large duster caught my attention, putting down the gun I levitated it of the hook and floated it up for inspection. The large coat was a dark gray. And when it was worn it would show the image of a grinning pony skull on the flanks. I looked around for some more clothing in the locker. I had found a slouch hat and a pair of goggles when I was done. The hat was for earth ponies, but I could simply ram my horn through.

A mirror was fastened to the inside of the locker door. I took a quick look, and a stranger stared back at me. A blue mare with a sickly green mane striped in light blue stared out at me from the mirror. Golden eyes with slit pupils met mine, and her expression of astonishment mimicked my own. Even with the proverbial uterus staring me in the face I hadn't been completely convinced earlier, like something in my head had been refusing reality. There was nothing I could do to refuse this.

"Dammit." I whispered through clenched teeth; the mare in the mirror did the same.

The duster fell to the floor, my magic fading as I slammed a hoof into the mirror, making a dent in the metal door behind it as the glass shattered. I pounded the door a few times fighting back tears before I finally calmed and let out a great sigh, falling to my haunches.

And because the wasteland loathes my existence, I landed straight onto a coffee cup. I stood back up so abruptly that I slammed my rump into the table, knocking it over. The ham radio made a great cacophony of noise as it fell to the floor. Great, just fucking great! Now I have to make sure I haven't hurt myself.

"Ain't this bloody amazing!” I bellowed after taking a moment to scan myself. “I get kidnapped, I have a great big hole in my memories, some horse-apple nails a couple of wings to my back and now to top it all off I have gotten my nethers bruised!"

I raged at the world in general for a while before deciding to fix my head and get some sleep.

*** *** ***

By the time I had sorted everything out the sun was already setting. I had closed up the doorway as best I could and tried to get some sleep in the old bed. Fixing my concussion was tricky but in the end I managed; my healing magic had become much stronger when my body changed.

Now I just wanted to sleep. This proved harder than I had expected. I rolled over again and opened my eyes, studying the inside of the shack for maybe the third time. That’s when I saw a blue flickering coming from the remains of the broken ham radio.

I rolled onto my hooves and trotted up to the wreckage. There in the remains was something quite unusual and my horn glowed as I levitated it up to eye level. It was the size of a cereal package and made of metal.

The front had a large screen covering about half of it and a series of buttons, levers and scroll wheels covered the rest. A small dial marked 'Rad' sat in the corner, it's dead needle pointing towards the zero. Flipping it over I saw the back-plate had come of and the connections to the spark battery had come loose and the magical power cell itself looked damaged. This appeared to be the source of the flicker I had seen earlier. I pulled out the dying battery and tossed it aside.

The words 'PipBuck P.R.A' met my eyes from the upper part of the little terminal and I wondered what it stood for. Why would somepony hide it inside an old radio?

At the moment it was non-functional, but it could be useful if I could get it repaired. I slipped it into the duffel bag with the rest of my spoils, went back to the bed and slipped into it's warm embrace. After another couple of hours I finally got some well needed sleep.


I was being dragged on the floor through the corridors of some sort of building. The walls were old and decaying, the floor littered with debris and covered with dust except for my drag mark. Many others like it littered the corridor, some showed violent struggles others were smooth and almost tidy. And through all of this a constant whisper of hundreds, no thousands of voices echoed in my head.

Soon the corridors gave way to a railing situated over a series of large, open topped, tanks containing a green sludge. Here and there on the floor between them was pools of the stuff mixed out with water, giving it a rainbow sheen. Taint.

A great resonating voice sounded in my mind. IT WILL ALL BE OVER SOON, YOU WILL NEVER BE ALONE AGAIN. And I was lifted, almost lovingly and lowered into one of the tanks.

I tried to scream as the unnatural mutagen seeped into my body and started to warp it, but all that happened as I tried to cry out was that the viscus fluid flowed into my lungs. Creeping fire spread through my innards like an army of ants. My mind went haywire as new nerves swam through my brain seeking connections.

My back arced as bones, cartilage and muscles started to form and force themselves through my hide splitting it. Feathers grew and sprouted from the new limbs like leaves.

My bones groaned and creaked as the fluid worked it's dark magic, forcing them to grow and to stretch the muscles and sinew almost to the breaking point before they themselves caught up. My horn lengthened and it felt like it would split my skull with its growth.

The changes done to my body slowed, and my mind started to open and bloom like a flower, yet in doing so it let in all the whispers in a way I couldn't imagine. I attempted to protest as I felt myself bleed into a great consciousness large and terrifying in its glory. I could feel my sense of self slipping away and meld with others and tried to fight back, to stay myself. Don't fight it. We are your family now. We are unity, and now you are a part of us. Then a voice above them all proclaimed.



I woke with a scream. The nightmare caused me to fall out of the bed, and I almost dislocated a wing as I landed hard on the dirt floor. I could do nothing but hold myself and cry into my wings as I tried to get a grip on myself. The soft blue feathers felt smooth to my muzzle and comforting, if alien. Oh sweet Celestia, what had happened to me?

*** *** ***

The sunrise burned through the clouds, and I had managed to pull myself together somewhat. During my few hours of sleep almost all of my small cuts and bruises had vanished. I use healing potions all the time and I have even operated a magical healing booth once or twice, but this just felt unnatural.

I shook my head clearing it, worrying about what had happened constantly wouldn't help.

I spent the morning going over what I could take from the shack, sipping a sparkle cola while working. The carrot taste of the soft drink was a welcome distraction; it meant my tongue still worked like it should. The duffel bag was filled with a mishmash of stuff, the PipBuck P.R.A, some spare clips for the gun, a few healing items and some odds and ends worth taking.

I strapped the leg holster for the pistol to my right foreleg before dropping the gun into it, after that I shrugged into the duster. It hid my wings rather effectively and if I was just a bit lucky I might just be mistaken for a larger than usual unicorn. I doubted I would be able to use my wings off the bat without some practice, and I had grown up on four hooves that served me well.

Last things to go on was the goggles and the hat which I skewered on my horn after taking careful aim, making a neat hole in just the right place. I was ready to move. I grabbed the duffel bag and removed the barricaded door.

As I exited the hut and got the lay of the land, I spotted the signs of an old railway in the distance. "All roads lead to Canterlot." I said to myself and started to trot in that direction, starting my search for Traders caravan.

Footnote: Level Up
New Perk: Survivalist - You are an experienced citizen of the Equestrian wastes. This Perk improves the ability to survive in hostile environments. You get a +20% bonus to your survival skill.

Thanks to Kkat for creating one of my big time favorite stories. Shout-out and big thanks to The Jack, Kashin and ErrantIndy for helping me with polishing this chapter. Chapter quote brought to you by: Redgum - I Was Only 19
Official proof-reader: NeverKnown

Chapter 2: Innocence lost.

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Fallout Equestria: Misfits

By DancingOnTheAshes

Chapter 2: Innocence lost.

The main problem with traversing a desert is this; There are no distractions, whatsoever. So when you spend a whole day walking it, you can't help but to think about all sorts of things. Somepony wandering a desert might figure out some new theory of mathematics, or write a book, or even figure out how to end world hunger.

Me? I found out that my altered equipment made me walk funny. I must have looked absolutely ridiculous as I trotted over the dunes as if a stick had been shoved up my tail-hole, that hooves aren't made for sandy terrain added to the aggravation.

Had this been a normal desert; one with scorching sun and rocks you can fry an egg on, the majority of its inhabitants would probably have been hiding out from the heat right now. Alas the persistent cloud cover above made sure that the sun could not pummel the sand like it should, therefore the desert could charitably be described as lukewarm, even if it still had enough fight left in it to be almost completely barren.

So, of course, that’s when I stepped right into the path of a radscorpion (an insect mutation deriving from the arachnid family, about the size of a dog). I was so caught up in getting my trot just right that I didn’t notice the large bug until I almost stepped right on it. It made an angry chatter and waved its large claws at me before charging. "Oh crap!" In my startled confusion I instinctively cast the first spell I could think of. My horn gave of a blue spark and a shimmer enveloped me.

The scorpion halted and gave a confused chirp, before running around in circles a few times. I didn't move a muscle as I silently levitated the 12.7mm pistol out, aiming, but not pulling the trigger. Finally, managing to look non plussed, the bug wandered off.

"Weird." I muttered before scratching myself on the side of my head with a forehoof, I gave a start when I couldn't see it. I waved it in front of me a few times and after a few moments I finally understood, an invisibility spell. That could indeed be quite useful. The only problem was that I had no idea how I had just performed said spell.

After making sure I was alone again I, with the same mental relaxation every unicorn knows instinctively, dismissed the incantation. Keeping a better eye on potential threats this time I continued towards the train tracks I had seen earlier, spending the time attempting to recast the spell I had just used.

*** *** ***

After half an hour and at least a dozen attempts at going invisible I finally managed to use my new spell, I arrived at the tracks at about the same time. The two-hundred year old railway looked worn and rust pitted, it was a miracle it still was usable. That the inhabitants of New Appleoosa used to trade with Old Appleoosa using this railway was common knowledge. If the tracks extended beyond was unknown to me, and I did not know which side of the slaver town I was.

I shot the blurred sun a glance and then spent quarter of an hour making a primitive compass using a stick and two pebbles in the sand. I gave a silent thank you to my father for spending the time teaching me this.

After that I had the rough position of North. Now I just had to continue along the track eastward for a couple of days until I hopefully arrived at New Appleoosa, then cut northwest along the old roads for a day or so, after that I should be within spitting distance of the Shattered Hoof Detention Center. Once there I could start my search for Trader’s Caravan and hopefully some answers.

*** *** ***

As I wandered the rail, collecting the occasional usable herb and plant I saw growing in its vicinity, my mind kept going back to what had happened and what I was going to have to deal with. Most ponies feared and mistrusted the few alicorns that had been seen in the wasteland, and often with good reasons. Steel Rangers would probably shoot at me on sight if I showed my wings or if something else tipped them off.

And when I found Trader’s Caravan, what then? Could I convince them of who I am? I still wasn't sure what had happened after New Appleoosa, did the caravan even still exist? Had it been wiped out and all survivors turned into what I had become? So many questions and no answers.

With a pang in my heart I thought of my sister, living in the machine shop in my hometown. She was more accepting than most about the shit the wasteland throws at ponies, but after the slaver incident she had been distant. Dammit, that was not something I wanted to remember.

*** *** ***

I had been wandering for most of the day when I arrived at the zigzagging rise worming its way up the mountainside. The loose sand gave way to a gravelly soil that was much more compact as I wandered the rail up the hill. By some stroke of luck I had started on the right side of Old Appleoosa and completely bypassed the slavers living there.

The tracks slithered up the cliff in a series of sharp turns, and when I had finally arrived at the top of the cliff I thought I could make out what appeared to be the wreckage of a train at the bottom of the other side. “Somepony messed up.” I commented out loud.

That turned out to be a big mistake and the loud angry screech coming from the rocks beside me informed me that I should have kept my big yap shut. When I finally saw what I had just pissed of by my mere existence, I nearly felt like fainting.

The radscorpion working it’s way around the boulders was enormous, nearly the size of a brahmin and with a black carapace similar to tank armor. The massive stinger oozing venom, and the equally massive razor sharp claws looked like they could give a hellhound a run for its bottle caps. The arachnid loomed over anything I had ever had the misfortune to encounter in my travels across the wasteland.

When it finally got clear of obstacles and started to pick up speed I bolted back along the rail. Never mind casting any invisibility spells, this thing could probably kill me by sheer momentum alone.

I galloped for all I was worth, desperately thinking of anything I could do to get away. Shooting at it would do nothing at all; my gun was good for soft and lightly armored targets and it wouldn't even scratch the onyx behemoth working its way along the rail after me. Finally I got an idea, the idea immediately turned sour as I remembered that I had not tried them out yet.

The massive lump of sharp black chitin that slammed into the ground, nearly hitting me, convinced me that if I could think of nothing else I was dead meat. I made a mental note to try and make some proper holes I could stick my wings trough as I moved the duffel bag from my back to my mouth. Then I lifted the hems of the duster and unfurled my wings.

The scorpions massive stinger stabbed the air beside my head so close that I was convinced I could see my reflection in its surface.

Raw terror is an amazing teaching aid, and as the stinger pulled back and prepared for another lunge I beat my wings as hard as I could against the ground. I felt my body lift slightly as I galloped and I gave another series of beats, this time my hooves rose from the old wooden boards crisscrossing the railway. Working my wings furiously I cleared the ground, and as I looked down I saw the radscorpion reach for me a last time, grabbing my hind leg above the hoof. I came to a screeching halt in the air but kept myself aloft on pure self preservation.

I shrieked in pain as I felt the bones groan in protest. I kept beating my wings as I strained against the pull of the scorpion. Twisting my body and struggling to keep aloft I levitated the pistol out of its holster; aiming the gun was tricky and after a couple of moments I finally got a beat at the eight red eyes staring malevolently up at me. I emptied the clip into the things body and managed to hit one of the orbs, this luckily proved to be enough. The arachnid screeched in agony and fury as its claws grip gave just enough for me to bloodily twist free.

I shot upwards a dozen feet out of range, and then worked a healing potion out after I had moved my bag to my front legs and my pistol to its holster. The gigantic radscorpion chattered in disappointment and anger as it futilely trust at me with its sharp stinger. I gulped the bottled red liquid and felt my tattered hind leg stitch itself together, it wasn’t broken thank Celestia, but I wasn’t going to boogie for a day or so.

Once the mind crushing terror had evaporated I was thrilled. Flying felt great! I gave a whoop as I hung the bag back in my teeth. My body knew how to do most basic maneuvers instinctively, if a little wobbly, and I reveled in the sensation. My goggles was back over my eyes and I was ready to take on the world. It was a freeing sensation that almost made up for loosing my masculinity. For the moment I simply marvelled in the sight of the wasteland as I climbed higher into the sky, the endless vista spread before me and I could see many of Equestria’s landmarks.

Canterlot Castle, sitting like a pearl-white cat on the side of its majestic mountain, a pink cloud surrounding it like smog; Manehatten, resting on the ocean side, a river bisecting it; and the Everfree forest, its green foliage filled with dangers that would make a Steel Ranger soil himself. I was pulled out of my reverie by the plume of smoke rising from said forest. Who could be burning it?

Then something else caught my eye, several large black shapes moving around in the sky. Squinting I saw that they were huge and triangular, and with storm clouds somehow fastened to both sides.

I decided to find shelter. I knew nothing about these aerial intruders, but since they could just as well consider me an intruder, I thought it best to not tempt my luck more than necessary today. I decided to stay out of their way as much as possible.

*** *** ***

I flew lower to the ground, fatigue from the day setting in and I was searching for a place to hunker down, the adrenaline backwash was taking its toll on me as well. I was studying the same mountain range I had just escaped for any decent, and hopefully bug free, cave or old dwelling.

After thirty minutes or so I saw what appeared to be a small settlement wedged into a ravine, steel sheathing made up a lot of the hovels with a single road worming its way between them. The small road ended in a two story building of salvaged concrete and metal built in the wedge at the end, probably a bar or local meeting hall. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was constructed around the mouth of a cave. A metal barricade could be found at the mouth of the settlement.

I landed behind a bend in the cliff someways off and started to walk back to the settlement. My wings were back under the coat and the bag slung across my back. I hoped that I could pass for an unusually large unicorn and be let in. Solitude like this didn’t agree with me much and some company and a warm bed would be very welcome.

A minute or so later I was closing up on the entrance to the ravine and I saw that the barricade was a wedged in train cart, some scrap and concrete was added to the sides for protection and to make sure that there was no gaps. The loading door on the cart side served as entrance and I suspected it also doubled as a type of airlock. On the top of the wall was a railing, and a teal earth pony stallion operated a scoped hunting rifle fixed to said railing on a swivel-mount.

I raised a hoof in greeting when the guard saw me and he trailed my progress after giving me a go-ahead wave. When I was within shouting distance I called out to him jovially. "If I come any closer, will I get shot at!?"

"Depends," He shouted back. "you a slaver?"

"No." I answered, a little miffed at the implication.

"Prove it." He challenged me.

Without missing a beat I shouted, "Red Eye is a foal fiddler!" and earned a bark of laughter from the guard.

"Okay, that'll do." He chuckled. "Come on over so we don’t have to shout; horn and mouth away from any weaponry. You know the drill."

I gave a low whistle as I trotted closer and got a good closeup look at the barricade. "Very nicely done, I must say. Must have taken a lot of work to get that wall built.” I complimented.

"Thank you big lady." The earth pony sentry said around his mounted hunting rifle and I gave a small wince at the word lady, it stung more than I had expected. "This here, for want of a better name, is Nowhere Canyon." He added with a grandiose gesture of his hoof, then he spent a moment studying me.

With a narrowing of his eyes he asked. "You seem awfully large for a unicorn, you mind enlightening me on why that is?" Without putting his mouth on the bit he nudged the rifle, aiming it directly at me.

This was the part I was dreading, how could I explain my height without sounding suspicious? "Magical accident," I lied, trying to look embarrassed. "it messed with my hormones."

"Right," he gave me a look that said 'Don't bullshit me'. "and I'm the leader of the Enclave."

"The what?" I asked, not knowing what he was talking about.

"What? You haven't heard of em?" He asked, momentarily derailed. "Pegasi hot-shots left from before the war, they swooped down out of the clouds just yesterday and has most of the ponies in the canyon scared out of their minds. Anyways," He pointed at me. "you still haven't given me a satisfactory answer."

So that’s who those black ships had belonged to. They had some serious pre-war tech at their disposal.

"Okay, just don't shoot at me out of reflex." I sighed. Then I lifted the edge of the large coat and unfurled a large blue wing.

"Celestia’s mane!" The guard swore. "And what do one of your kind need in here so badly that you are prepared to disguise yourself?" He asked with a scared look on his face. The weapon on its mounting was completely forgotten.

"A roof over my head and some warm food," I said simply as I refolded my wing and dropped the duster back down. "and a lot of liquor." I added as an afterthought.

"Don't you..." He floundered for a polite word, finally settling on. "ponies have that Unity thing?"

“Yeah. But going by what I can remember, and that’s not much mind you, I’ll rather dissect myself by hoof than go back to that.” I explained to the stallion. The feeling of loosing my sense of self in the nightmare last night had been worse than dying.

“Well, to be honest,” He visibly calmed down and I was glad that he didn’t seem to be on the verge of shooting at me. “we have been wondering about that. There is a priest of The Goddess living here and for the last two days he has done nothing but crying and trying to drown himself in a bottle of whiskey.” He thought a bit at that and corrected himself. “Scratch that; by use of several bottles of whiskey.”

“I would like a word with the priest, we have something to talk about,” I said. “in great detail.”

“And I can’t just let you in. You’ll make a lot of ponies nervous.” He pointed out, then got a thoughtful look. “Unless...”

“Out with it please, I don’t have all day.” I deadpanned.

“You would do us a small favor.” Then he gestured to the north. “A mile or so in that direction is a camp of raiders, about half a dozen of them, and they have been harassing us for the past week. Most scavenging and hunting has stopped and no-pony dares to travel while they are in the vicinity.” He leaned onto the railing, and added. “I’ll even send one of our hunters with you to show you the way.”

Small favor? As if. But I didn’t have much choice in the matter because I did not want to force my way in, I wasn’t that kind of pony. To be completely honest I wasn’t big on the whole ‘slaughter a bunch of ponies for bottle-caps/favors’ either but there you go, got to break some eggs to make a cupcake.

“Okay, I’m game.” I said finally, and added. “If you have any energy weapons I can trade this gun in for.” I levitated the pistol up for inspection, bit up and barrel down. The sentry grabbed it gave it a critical once over.

“Sure, I think we have a magical plasma gun lying around in the armory somewhere. Got any ammo for this baby?” I levitated up the spare clips and half full box of bullets to the stallion. He grabbed it and placed it on a small out of place coffee table next to his post. “I’ll leave it here while I go get your blaster.” I nodded at that and he disappeared down what I assumed was a plank or something on the other side. At least he was prepared to give me a fair deal. I took that as a sign of encouragement.

After a couple of minutes he reappeared with a cloth bag in his mouth. “ceff.” He mumbled around the cloth then tossed the bag over the rail. I caught it effortlessly in a telekinetic net, then a spark of panic washed over me; there could just as likely be a mine in this bag. But when there was no beeping I calmed slightly and carefully opened the bag.

Inside I found a plasma revolver, its round crystal barrel and four magic capacitors in almost mint condition. With a whoop I noticed that there was several modifications done to the gun giving it’s plasma ball increased strength and speed. I checked the rest of the bags contents and found to my delight at least seventy shots worth of diamond filled, small spark batteries.

“You drive a fair bargain.” I said before aiming at a rock away from the gate and liquefying it. The revolver shot straight and true. I almost gave a squee of joy before I caught myself.

“Well, it’s kind of an investment from our part too.” The guard informed me. “Besides, nopony ever wanted to use it. Too creepy for most folk to handle,” He gave a shrug and added. “and if you get your rump back in one piece there is some more ammo for it too. Oh, and I almost forgot.” He smacked himself on the forehead. “Runs Wild is on her way, she’s just gathering her gear and finishing up. Should be down any minute.”

I nodded and slid the arcane revolver into my leg holster; a little loose but a decent fit. Then I sat on my haunches and waited while I rearranged my pack, most of the ammo went into the duffel bag and three spare batteries I put into my coat pockets, each battery good for ten shots of destabilising magic.

*** *** ***

After a while the gate opened and I saw that I had been right, it did act as an airlock. Maybe so that potential miscreants could be disarmed before they were let in.

First I thought that she was an elderly mare; but the snow white, gray maned, female that stepped out was actually younger than I was. She was barely an adult, really. She was properly attired in black leather armor that covered her entire body and a large machete with a mouth-bit handle was sheathed at her side. She was also shod in iron hooves that sported tree wicked, tiger like, claws. Her movements betrayed a catlike grace as she exited the settlement.

She halted when she saw me and her eyes widened, then she turned to the guard overhead and exclaimed. “You really weren't kidding? I thought you were talking out of your tail-hole again.”

“Very funny. Get your rump in gear and show her where the camp is.” The guard answered and shooed her on with a hoof before kicking a lever behind him; the gate slid closed.

She gave me a wary look and trotted closer, I finally got a proper idea of how huge I had grown; she was of average height and I towered at least a head and a half over her when I stood up. She slowed, visibly intimidated. I gave her a relaxed smile and said calmly. “So, you’ll be my guide then? Lets get going so we’ll be back by sundown.” The earth pony relaxed a bit but still kept a small distance between us as we walked towards the raider camp.

*** *** ***

After walking a while I started to think, I might as well expose my wings here and now, and make the holes in the coat that I had planned on before we got into any trouble that might make them necessary. When I had been flying earlier the coat had bunched up along my back in a very annoying fashion, so I asked Runs Wild if I could borrow her machete for a second before I stopped and shrugged out of my coat.

She gave an ‘eep’ and answered. “O-okay.” Then pulled out the blade, I gripped it and levitated the blade towards me. I took a minute to figure out where my new appendage was on the coat and then made a slice, then I mirrored the act on the other side. During this the earth pony looked on in fascination.

“What are you...” She then silenced as I re-donned the coat and pulled my wings through the new holes.

“Much better.” I stretched and flexed, turning my wings this way and that to make sure there was no pull from the coat. I then gave a couple of flaps, rising slightly and hovering while Runs Wild looked on in stunned silence. I suspected that she hadn’t seen many flyer's while living in the small ravine settlement. “Yes this will do nicely.” I finished to myself before I landed and levitated the blade back to the mare, she grabbed it and slid it back into its sheath.

“If you don’t mind me asking, why did you have them covered in the first place?” She asked, not really daring to meet my gaze. I gave a sigh.

“Because I wanted to appear to be a normal pony.” I answered simply as I resumed to trot. “This, sadly, seems to be out of my reach because your guard saw through me immediately.” I continued as we dodged a few cacti standing in the way.

She dismissed this with a casual. “Oh, Farsight? Pff, he can see a hellhound two clicks away in a sandstorm. A disguise like yours shouldn’t be a problem for him.” Then she caught herself and looked away. Of all the settlements to land in I had to pick the one with a lookout worth two bottlecaps, just perfect.

“Great.” I commented out loud as a sour expression wandered onto my muzzle. I kicked a stone aside. “And you don’t have to be afraid to talk to me. I wont eat you.”

“It’s just... you know.” She said a little lamely.

I interjected with; “I’m a horrifying abomination that one half of the wasteland fears, the other worships, and Red Eye uses? I hadn't really noticed.” I immediately regretted biting her head off and apologised. “Sorry, but I have been a bit on edge since yesterday.”

“Its okay.” She waved my outburst off, still not looking me in the eyes, before giving our surroundings a once over. “We are getting close.” She then gave me a tense look. “Uhm, we should sneak in to take a quiet look-see first, but you don’t look all that...” The mare searched for words.

“Stealthy?” I submitted calmly, suspecting where this was going.

“That’s the word, yeah.” She answered as she started to creep closer to a hill further ahead “You can wait here while I scout ahead.”

“That wont be necessary.” I said in a smug tone as I calmly casted my invisibility spell. Her eyes went wide as I disappeared from view, then she started to look around a little worriedly. “Lets see what we can find.” I said as I silently walked up past her, the little white mare jumped a bit but regained her composure amazingly quick.

I studied her as I quietly walked up to the summit, she slowly crawled up on her belly to avoid notice. The earth pony was good, I’d give her that. Still there was something off about her behavior, more than just my presence. “Have you ever actually killed a pony?” I quietly asked as we neared our lookout spot.

“I’ve killed geckos, hogs and radscorpions. I am one of the town hunters you know.” She answered me.

“That’s not a yes. Killing a pony is a very different bushel of apples.” I had almost expected that, being a hunter was not like being a gun for hire and I was starting to doubt having her along. The familiar weight of my new plasma weapon had given me a lot of my old confidence back, so I was at least going to give this a try. The question was if I should just send her home right now?

We finally came to the top of the hill, I hunkered down despite my invisibility and started to study the camp as Runs Wild crept up beside me, or rather, she crept up beside the marks I had left in the ground as I had laid down. Clever mare.

The camp was divided into two areas; first was a cook fire, a bench and a smaller tent, presumably this housed their leader or supplies; next to this was an area with a smaller campfire and a lot of rolled out mattresses and burlap sacks laying about, I guessed these held personal affects. About the camp was indeed six ponies, four were playing cards and drinking, while the last two were shamelessly busy making the beast with two backs.

If I still had my old scoped rifle those two would have been my first targets, two birds with one stone, but my new revolver was sadly lacking in range and the liquefying orb could be dodged at that range by simply leaning aside. So I had to get in quietly and at a medium range. The two lovebirds was still my first targets and I figured that the other four could be taken out with a well levitated grenade or mine.

With a chuckle I realised that I had gone into the same type of planning mode Trader had taught everypony in his caravan, it was rough and dirty and I didn’t like it much, but the old fox knew how to stay alive. And he taught his crew how to keep each other alive in the wasteland. ‘Over, under, around or through.’ had been his motto.

“You don’t happen to have a grenade on you?” I asked my companion. Then I got a good look at her, she was shaking. Dammit, I was sending her home. No arguments.

Before I could tell her to go home, she answered, “Y-yeah, I have an old grenade.” She pulled open a pouch in her armor and pulled out a metallic apple, then laid it at the ground. I levitated it up to eye-level and gave it a critical once over. It looked in good shape, for all I knew of explosives that is.

“Okay, here’s the plan. I go down there invisible, and lob the grenade at the group playing cards. After that I take out those two there who are doing each other, then I try to take out anypony left standing” I looked at her, she nodded during the pause and I continued. “If this goes south you run home. No, don’t argue. I can see it on you, you are not up for this yet.” I could see the disappointment in her eyes. She wanted to stay and fight but kept silent.

“I had agreed to take this on but you were only supposed to be my guide. If I manage this you can help me get any spoils back to the settlement.”

*** *** ***

I was now on my way around the camp to get a better angle. I could feel my vanishing trick fading a little as I silently walked to my spot, I still figured that I had another ten minutes or so before I ran dry.

As I came withing earshot I could hear the couple’s enthusiasm and I felt myself blush a little, the sounds were making me very self conscious. I wrestled my hind brain into submission by imagining my old boss doing a striptease in mare’s lingerie. There we go, now I just needed to rub the rest of my brain in turpentine to get the filth out.

As I finally got into position I took out my new grenade and gun, I had promised to compensate Runs Wild afterwards for the explosive device, and prepared to lob the bomb towards the card players. I aimed, pulled the stem, and tossed. I then immediately aimed for the couple and fired of three shots, two of which caught the stallion in his neck and hind leg, killing him pretty much instantly, the mare below him dissolved into a glop of slightly iridescent goop. As the stallion splashed into the puddle I considered the vast amount of alcohol I was going to have to imbibe to get the disgusting image out of my head.

Then I caught a sound, or rather, a lack of sound. In dreadful certainty of what I was going to find I turned my head and looked at the four card players. They were absolutely fine as they stared at me in utter astonishment, apparently my invisibility spell had decided to run out of energy at that exact moment. The metal apple lay in a pile of old cardboard boxes next to the campfire and gave off a thin trail of smoke, a dud.

“Fuck!” I cursed as I swung my weapon towards the filthy band of raiders, they were all male so the mare I had dissolved had been the only female of the group, as I aimed at them they dove to their own assortment of weaponry.

Two unicorns levitated up a revolver and a double-barreled shotgun respectively, while an earth pony grabbed a baseball bat and another earth pony tried frantically to shove a box of ammo into his battle-saddle’s re-loader. I aimed and opened fire at the one in the battle saddle first, as he was currently the weakest link.

Two balls of plasma flew at him, one partly dissolving the body of the rifle he had equipped to the saddle and another burned away a large part of his left front leg. He was temporarily out of the game as I backpedalled and tried to find some shelter, I aimed and fired twice at the second earth pony, missing with a hairs breath just as the two unicorns started firing.

The idiot with the shotgun managed to do my job for me as he ventilated the head of the melee pony coming at me, bits of brain and skull flew past me and I dove towards a pile of metal rubbish, a revolver bullet caught me in the flank as I landed in the cover. “Bloody hell.” I swore, the bullet stung like a mothers rebuke.

I took a glance out behind my cover. The two unicorns were circling around on either side, trying to flank me. The surviving earth pony was a gibbering pile, his leg dangling in a manner not proper for something supposed to carry the weight of a pony.

I was deep in the manure pile. But the shotgunner had to get into the proper range to get a killing shot, and thankfully he looked a little shaken from killing his buddy, so I figured he might be easiest to take down.

Time was up, they were in flanking angles.

Firing a decoy shot at the revolver pony, making him flinch, I went for the shotgun stallion. He flinched as well as I bowled into him, the second and last shell went off as I pulled the barrel askew, I felt part of my right ear vanish and my hat tore in half. “Raaaagh!” I roared in pain and fury as I pressed the barrel to his head. My remaining two shots took away his skull as I felt two more revolver slugs enter my shoulder.

I was out of ammo, and I frantically pulled the limp body around me as a shield while my front leg gave way. I worked my new gun, reloading the weapon with a fresh battery from my coat as I heard the unicorn stride closer. Just as I pulled up the magical plasma gun to fire I stared right into a floating barrel. Game over.

“You fucking slut!” He yelled at me. I felt rage flare in me at the insult but I did not move, hoping for any type of opening. “You come in here and you kill my buds like they were cattle! But now I fucking have you!” He smiled a smile to chill hell as he continued. “And since you made our only fuck toy a pile of slush its only fair I get to use you before I frag your stupid arse.” I felt utter revulsion at the thought and I considered just eating my own pistol rather than allowing him to do that.

“Now, drop the energy blaster and kick it ov..HURRRGH!” His jaundiced eyes bulged and he started to spasm, I didn’t hesitate before pulling the barrel of his revolver towards the ground with my magic, a half second later the gun went off as his magic went momentarily haywire then died, the bullet sprayed sand as it hit the ground.

As the raiders body dropped lifelessly to the ground I saw Runs Wild standing there. Her eyes were wide and she was shaking like a leaf. The claws of her horseshoes were bloody and I could see that she had thrown her fore-hooves around the raiders throat and pulled back, slitting it at six different points.

I pulled a healing potion out of my bag before I started to magically pull the little bits of lead out of my body, the bullets making tiny thumps against the sand, accompanied to my grunts. I then downed the potion as I pulled myself up on three hooves and staggered over to the trembling mare. I felt my ear return to its proper shape and walking became easier by the second.

I sat down exhausted on my haunches next to Runs and hugged her tight with both a foreleg and my wings. “It’s always hardest with your first kill,” I soothed her, she started to cry into my coat, great hulking sobs that wouldn’t end. “always the most difficult.” I started to rock her gently as I felt a part of her grow cold and die. A precious little piece of innocence fluttered away on the wind.

Footnote: Level up.
New Spell: Trixie’s Vanishing Act (Rank 1) - This spell, a left over from the Great and Powerful Trixie, allows the caster a set amount of invisibility per day and cannot be cast on somepony else. The time invisible is equivalent to 10 minutes multiplied by the current endurance of the caster. This field will include any small items currently held/levitated by the caster, but will have the risk of failing if it interacts with other types of magic, like the magical beam of an energy rifle or a shield.

Official proof-reader: NeverKnown

Chapter 3: You are not alone.

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Fallout Equestria: Misfits

By DancingOnTheAshes

Chapter 3: You are not alone.

"Thank you for saving my life, kid." I told the crying mare as I gently rocked her in my hug. I felt like a filly consoling a crying teddy ursa, a teddy that had just slit a raiders throat from ear to ear.

I could make out the words. "You're welcome." Between sobs, and I felt a little bad for getting her into this, but I was still thankful that she had saved me.

I held Runs Wild while she cried herself dry; and gently, but respectfully, aimed her away from me when the smell of the raider camp hit her like a brick, and she lost her dinner. There must be considerable work put into the stink emanating from the former raiders laying about us, it was the sort of odour that made your tooth enamel corrode and your sense of smell to throw in its towel.

I had gotten used to the smell a long time ago. Trader had a vengeful streak and there was a reason why few bothered to assault the caravan, raiders were usually the only ones crazy enough to try. So I occasionally ended up patching bullet wounds and cuts in the middle of raider camps. It wasn't unusual for ponies to throw up when first confronted with the fetid odour.

When she had finished I asked her if she was okay, she nodded and sighed then started to gag again. I chuckled at that. "Breathe through the mouth." I advised her.

Then I remembered something I had completely forgotten; I haven’t told her my name yet. That was more than a little embarrassing, the question was if I should use my real name or make one up? I thought about it for a while and settled for calling myself Curatie, an olden-pony word I once found in one of my grandmothers old lexicons. She had been a stable librarian and had brought a lot of old books with her when the stable broke down, at least that’s what that generation told us, nopony had been able to find Stable 10 and the older generation had refused to say where it was located.

"By the way," I told Runs Wild, she was cleaning herself up and trying to master the art of not breathing at all, she wasn’t making progress. "I haven’t told you my name yet. I’m Curatie."

"Pretty." She said around a water bottle, she swirled the liquid around in her mouth and spat it out. "What does it mean?" She continued before downing the entire bottle.

"It roughly translates to 'Healing'." I told her while I started to go over the camp. I made sure to stay away from the unexploded grenade and told Runs Wild to do the same, just in case. Then I came upon the raider with his leg shot off, he was unconscious and dying.

“So you’re a doctor?” She was rooting around in a couple of old ammo boxes, giving of the occasional ‘Snrrk’ as she tried to clear her nostrils.

“Yes.” I was still staring at the dying raider, a lot of old memories were being dredged up from the bottom of my rewired brain. One specific came up to the forefront, it was of the first time I took a life.


The healer in my hometown at the time was an old zebra mare, she had lost her mate a decade earlier and she had never had foals of her own, if this was by choice or because she was barren I cannot say, but I'm leaning towards the latter.

So the day I got my cutie mark and showed an aptitude for healing I was assigned to be her apprentice. She never approved of teaching me and I guess she would have preferred to tutor another zebra instead. Alas, since she was the only zebra within a hundred click's, and starting to get on in years, she didn’t have much of a choice.

And she never gave me an easy ride, kind words were as rare as charity and messing up while mixing a brew or preparing a procedure often earned me a hard rap on the head and a cussing out that could make a sailor blush. Thankfully she was never unfair and every time I solved a complex problem correctly, or could recite a list of herbs without mistakes, I earned a stiff nod from her. This was usually the equivalent of a fanfare.

It was a number of years later, and I was maybe a year younger than Runs Wild when it happened. Our village had a couple of spots within a days trot where taint could be found, these were clearly marked and everypony gave them a wide birth. But one day a new family of prospectors had apparently thought that one of the markers was fake for some reason, or they missed it, or they were just unlucky, and before they could get safely away their daughter was heavily exposed to the green mutagenic fluid.

Exposure to taint in large amounts without a swift cleansing spell results in a terrible fate, your body slowly morphs and mutates into something that can only be described as nightmare inducing, new limbs grow and the body twists into eldritch shapes.

Needless to say I did not know the cleansing spell, one of the few places in Equestria where there are practitioners capable of teaching it, is Tenpony tower. That was a two weeks journey by hoof, provided that you could afford the airship trip across the Neigherra Madre Mountains.

And it wouldn't have mattered anyway, because by the time the young mare was brought in she had begun to mutate so badly that I had to go out the back and say farewell to my breakfast.

*** *** ***

Later that afternoon me and my mentor was sitting around the dinner table in the old, run down, clinic kitchen. I was staring at the table surface and she was working with her alchemical set, distilling a clear liquid that I hoped, but not expected, to be a cure or something similar.

When she was finished she casually filled a syringe, she then gave it a halfhearted tap to remove a couple of bubbles before depressing the plunger until a small stream of liquid shot out, she took care to lean away from the tiny fountain.

Then she placed the syringe on the tabletop and pushed it towards me with a hoof.

"Whats in it?" I asked while at the same time I really did not want to know. The mixture and her solemn expression did not bode well, and I was a little scared.

"I am now going to teach you a very important lesson." And at this her expression showed the shadow of something. Sorrow? Regret? I could not tell. "Sometimes, the only way you can help somepony is to make sure that they do not suffer any longer than they have to." She then pointed at the syringe and added. "What is in that needle is a poison. One strong enough to kill a brahmin in a matter of seconds.”

I could not believe my ears, was the striped old nag telling me what I thought she was? Did she really expect me to do something like this? I glared daggers at my teacher as I growled. "Are you telling me to trot in there and murder her, just like that?"

"No!” She struck the table with her hoof. “I am asking you to help your young friend out of a fate worse than death." Her expression was unreadable as she explained to me. "And I am specifically asking you, my young lad, because you need to learn when this act might be necessary in the future. Because sometimes we cant help in any other ways, the wasteland is an unforgiving place. It’s filled with dangers that a healing potion or a poultice cant help. That even a megaspell cant repair, this is such a time."

The colors of the world faded and died, until there was only me and the syringe left. Me and a piece of metal and plastic containing liquid death. I felt the hoof of the reaper pony land on my shoulder, and I felt a lump form in my throat. I turned and looked into the operating room across the hall.

On the operating table was my friend, she now had far too many limbs and only remotely resembled a pony. A day or so ago she had been as normal as anything; she had been vibrant and proud because she was going on her first scavenging trip with her parents, and she was so exited had almost bounced on all four hooves around me and my sister.

I remembered the redness of her coat, and the leafy green of her mane, both of which was only visible in patches among the scales and scabbed skin. We had good-naturedly teased her and nicknamed her ‘Strawberry’ when me and my sister had met her the first time.

Now she was never going to smile again, never play roughhouse with us again. I’d never ki...

I stood up without a word and took the syringe in my mouth, then I walked across the hallway into the operating room. I’m unsure how long it took, the corridor seemed to lengthen while I walked.

When I finally stood by her side and looked into her eyes I could only see a creature of fear and pain, something that had suffered so horribly that it wasn't a pony anymore. Even if we had a miracle cure here and now there wasn't enough of her left, she was gone. And my heart cracked a little.

While standing out of range of the tentacles, I floated the syringe over to Strawberry and jabbed it close to where her heart was, I felt the same pain in my own chest as the needle pierced what once was skin. While tears streamed down my face I whispered loud enough for only her to hear.

"Goodbye, and please forgive me."

I gave my friend the only help I could give her.

*** *** ***

When it was done and life had ceased in the poor thing I slowly walked out, as I passed the door to the kitchen I magically flipped the syringe into the room there it stuck, point first, in the table.

"I'm going out, and I'm not coming back until tomorrow." I told my mentor, the old zebra had not moved an inch since I had picked up the tiny bringer of death, and now she looked at me with understanding filling her eyes.

"Of course." She said simply.

I walked out of the clinic and then trotted towards the bar across town. On my way I was stopped by my victims parents. "How is she?" Asked the weeping older mare.

"Not in pain anymore." I muttered, I could not look at them because of the shame that burned in me.

"Did you... was it swift?" Her husband asked, sorrow etched deep in his rugged voice. I could only nod.

My throat had cinched tight and now pained me as the knife twisted in my heart. I did not want to stand here, I knew what I had done was the only option left but I still felt like a killer, and standing here before Strawberry's parents was the worst sort of torment anypony could subject me to.

I started to walk around them; aiming for the bar again. When I passed the pair, Strawberry's mother whispered. "Thank you."

*** *** ***

I entered the old bar that smelled of alcohol and dirty hay, and walked up to the barmare. The barmare was middle-aged, with a muzzle like a hatchet, and the general demeanor of a battered grenade; ready to explode at the smallest provocation.

"Ah told ya Snakebite, y'all are still to young to drink here. Out with yeh." Her hoof edged towards the bat she kept under the counter for bar brawls and philosophical arguments, she was ready to chase me out with force if necessary.

I turned my golden eyes up at hers and she stared for a moment at me. "Oh, so it went like that, eh?" Some things travel at speed in small communities, and almost everypony knew of Strawberry's condition. The look in my eyes had confirmed her fate to the bartender. "Well only this once and first round is on me." Her face softened somewhat.

"Thank you Shot Glass." I managed to squeeze out before I trotted to the furthest corner of the bar top then sat down on an old pillow, I did not want to be disturbed.

And for the whole night I was left alone. Even Broken Bottle, the town drunk, didn't approach me to beg for a bottle cap. But this was probably because Shot Glass waved the baseball bat at him when he started to get close to me.

*** *** ***

The next day, after I had been brought down from the top of the radio tower where I had passed out, I returned to the clinic. My mentor had spent the night cremating the corpse and was leaning on her cane as she waited for me.

"So, Did you understand your lesson?" She asked as she studied the cooling ashes in the old furnace.

"Perhaps." I said as I sat down heavily beside her.


I relived the memory when I took care of the raider, breaking his neck was quick.

I had forgotten Strawberry’s real name, it was so long ago, and I had long since forgiven myself for the coup de grâce I gave her, but the memory still stung.

When we were done picking over the camp I levitated the corpses into the center and piled up anything that would burn, and somepony else who was less fortunate wouldn't want. Then I poured a bottle of apple whiskey over the pyre and set it alight with a log from the existing campfire. When I finished the sun had set and it was time to move back to the canyon.

"You ready to go?" I asked my companion as I pulled off my goggles, the slight tint in the glass made them unsuitable for the night but they had protected me well from the flash of the buckshot.

"Yeah." She murmured as she got onto her hooves, then she looked me straight in the eyes for the first time and blurted out. "Does it get easier?" I knew exactly what she was asking me.

I sighed before I answered with. "Yes it does, unfortunately." I started to walk back to Nowhere Canyon, she followed by my side. "But its when you start to like it that you should worry." I sure didn't like it one bit. But many times killing was a question of necessity or survival in the wasteland.

“It’s when you start to like it, when you start to lose who you are, that you become like them.” I nodded to the pyre. “To be fair not every raider choose that. Some are forced into it and learn to like it over time.”

Then she surprised me. "You have strange eyes." Okay, that came out of nowhere. I suspect that she wanted a change of subject and I was slightly relieved to talk about something less macabre.

I snickered before asking her. "I'm a big, winged, unicorn and you tell me my eyes are unusual?" I was happy that she was making small talk with me. A little bit of what passed for normality around here returned.

"Well, when Eulogy told me about The Goddess and the alicorns he has met, he mentioned that their eyes were usually ruby red." She informed me before apologising. "I'm just trying to get my mind off what happened earlier, sorry."

I dismissed the latter statement with a wave of my wing. "Don't be. Asking questions isn't a sin, no matter what some ponies say." Then I started thinking; my eye color was actually the only thing that hadn't warped, I had been too caught up in my changes that I hadn't noticed the one thing that stayed the same. Even my pupils had changed, to that of a reptile of all things, but not my iris.

"Golden eyes are pretty common where I come from. But I don't know why I still have them, everything else changed." I told her, the subject was starting to get uncomfortably close to home.

"What was it like to change?" She almost whispered.

I didn’t answer her, I pretended that I hadn’t heard the whisper. The vats of taint still waited behind the veils of sleep.

*** *** ***

We were nearing the gate again, our haul rattling in my pack and Runs Wild's saddlebags. I needed to get myself a proper pair, the duffel bag wasn't meant to be a permanent solution and started to annoy me a little.

"Our heroes return I see." Farsight was leaning against the railing while smoking a cigarette. "We expected you a little earlier, did something go wrong?" He looked from me to Wild, before understanding dawned on him. "Ah, I see you got your hooves bloody. First time for everything." He then kicked a lever behind him and the gate slid open.

"Taking care of the raiders went well." I informed the stallion. "Anything useful we brought with us and I burned the corpses as well as I could manage under the circumstances."

"Good good, then get yourselves some sleep," Farsight flicked some ash from the end of his cigarette down into a tin on his little table. "you both look like you could use it." He turned to Runs Wild. "If anyone bothers the lady about being inside the walls you tell them I gave the say so."

Great, I'm a lady now am I? I grumbled silently in my own head as I followed the white mare into the little settlement.

*** *** ***

The walk up the narrow street, if you can call the muddy road that, was pretty much what I had expected; Ponies slunk into small debris filled alleyways to avoid us and a few parents pulled their foals inside by their tails before slamming the sheet metal doors to their one story hovels.

Then came the shout of. "And stay out until you can pay for yourself!" As a dark brown shape flew past us out of a door then rolled several times as it hit the muddy road. The door belonged to a small bar with a flickering sign overhead that simply said 'BEER' in large, multicolored letters, although the R shifted color randomly and looked like it was about to break any time now.

"What was that?" I asked nopony in particular, the thing that was thrown out of the bar had taken me by surprise. I walked up to it, and it turned out to be a dark gray earth pony in a grubby brown robe.

"I think it's Eulogy." Runs Wild said uncertainly as she walked up beside me, then she took a closer look. "Definitely him." She concluded.

"Finally some luck." I floated the stallion up and shook him for a bit, when he failed to respond aside from some loud snoring I gave up. "Hmm, any cold water barrels around?" I asked for the sake of asking. The white mare looked a little startled at my actions.

"No." She frowned as she caught the sour beer and whiskey smell from the sleeping priest. “Why do you want to talk to him so badly?”

“I want to know everything he can tell me about Unity and The Goddess.” I shook him again a little harder. No reaction.

Runs Wild gave me a worried smile. "You could go in and ask the bartender for something, the refrigerator usually has a bottle of water or two."

I agreed with her. "That might work. Keep an eye on him." I said the last part over my shoulder as I dropped the priest and walked into the bar.

I had to duck my head to avoid hitting my horn in the low doorway when I entered. Then I stood for a second and got a good look at the interior. Nothing surprising about the bar's decoration, it was dark, grubby and smelled of sour beer and even sourer memories, a couple of prewar posters adorned the metal and wood panel walls. A lavender unicorn moved the dirt around on the old bar top with a filthy rag, presumably the bartender. I hoped that the rag wasn't used to clean the glasses or else I was going to drink directly from the bottle, thank you so very much.

What little noise that existed in the bar got strangled as the dozen or so patrons turned in their seats to look up at me. Most simply sat in astonished silence and the stallion nearest to me started choking on his beer when he saw me standing just two feet away from him.

Before I could give him a thump on the back to clear his airways, a small mare in the back drew a revolver in her mouth and aimed directly at me. Her face was a mask of terror as she sighted at me over the weaving barrel, she would probably slay the nearest poster rather than me but I did not like to gamble so I stood still, hoof raised and slightly worried.

"Put the blasted gun down Flour, before you shoot yourself in the hoof." The bartender growled at her. "This is the gal Farsight told me about." He turned at me with a mildly disapproving look on his face before continuing. "You and that little wraith cleared that raider camp out in the desert didn't you?"

I nodded, the stallion next to me was still choking and I was getting really worried that Flour wouldn't let me help him. "Oh just give the poor guy a thump will you. She cant hit a barn door with that thing." The bartender waved it off like it was an everyday occurrence.

I nodded and gave the choking stallion a calculated strike with my hoof, beer sprayed over the table he was sitting at as his throat cleared. This also caused the mare in the corner to twitch and fire.

Everypony in the bar checked themselves before we found the bullet hole; the bullet had struck right in the head of a cartoon zebra on one of the old Ministry of Peace posters, said poster was foot away from me, cold sweat ran down my sides under my duster.

"Luna dammit." The bartender growled as he walked up to the mare and wrenched the gun from her teeth. "That was the last damned time you fire this gun in here. Out with you before I start to get angry." If this was him being calm and collected I’d hate to see him pissed off.

"But my gu.." Flour started to plead with the unicorn before he cut her off.

"I'll take it as payment for your drinking. It'll cover your tab anyway. Now get out of here." He walked back to the counter and floated the revolver out of sight as he settled back down. "And don’t let me catch you with another weapon in here again!" He yelled as Flour slunk out.

She hugged the wall so tightly to avoid me that I thought that she would flatten completely, to spare her organs the discomfort of deforming I walked to the counter. The stallion I had given a thump on the back muttered a low thank you before silently walking out.

"Now, cant say that I approve, but Farsight said you were civil enough when you talked earlier so I'll take his word for it." The bartender reached out with a hoof, I shook it. "Now, as far as I understand it, you and Runs Wild went out to clear that little raider camp that has caused us so much trouble the past week. Everything went well I take it?"

"Yeah, everything went well." I lied, I wasn't going to mention that I, the big bad alicorn, had nearly gotten killed.

"Where is the little ghost anyway?" An eyebrow elevated itself as he asked the question.

"Just outside keeping an eye on that priest, I want to ask him a few questions and I could use something ice cold to help wake him up." By now most of the patrons had returned to their drinks, one or two was eyeing me suspiciously.

"Dunno why you want to talk to that drunk." The bartender said as he turned and opened a refrigerator behind him. I got a good look at it and saw that the appliance had been hooked up to an old spark battery.

"Here. On the house for services rendered." The stallion said as he levitated out four sparkle colas and a bottle of water then put them on the counter. The cold glass moistened in the air and small droplets ran down the bottles, the sight made my mouth water.

"Thank you." I levitated the bottles of cola into my bag and the water bottle floated behind me as I walked out. "I wont disturb you any more and wish you a good evening." This apparently didn't go over all that well but nopony specific spoke up.

*** *** ***

I unceremoniously poured half of the water bottle over Eulogy’s head as he lay slumped against a cliff wall behind a shack, Runs Wild stood in the entrance of the little one way alley. I had gotten a good look of his face and thought that he looked familiar.

"You are not going to hurt him, right?" She asked me. I heard a note of pleading in her voice.

"I'm not planning on it, but I might shake him up a bit." The grubby preacher started to sputter and grumble to himself so I have him a light telekinetic slap across his face, I had to concentrate to keep it light, because if I had just hauled of at full force I was afraid that I might take his head off. He woke up.

"Huh? Who? What?" His speech was lightly slurred and his eyes had problems focusing. I hauled him up to a sitting position before giving him the bottle to drink. He took it in his hooves and took a swig as if it was whiskey, then he spat it out and said in an irritated manner. "I ashed for vodka, not water." He then tossed the bottle aside, I deftly caught it as it tumbled down to the ground and levitated it above his head before pouring the rest out.

"Aaahh! Stop id!" He waved his hooves around to fend of the offending stream of liquid. He strained his eyes and tried to focus in the dim light. I levitated out a small, spark battery powered, lamp I had looted from the raiders and sat it down beside us before lighting it. He jumped when he took in my wings, and my horn.

"Hello." I said cheerfully. "We are going to have a little chat." I waved the whiskey bottle I had found in the desert in front of the priest. "Starting with The Goddess and everything you know about alicorns."

It turns out that what he knew wasn’t much when the layers of worship and blind faith had been peeled away and by the time he was done I was seething with anger. Mostly because everything he had told me was pretty much what I already knew. One big piece of news was that The Goddess’ presence had faded from his mind and he feared that she was now dead.

How he could still see her as a goddess I did not know and the pathetic pile of shit was crying as he told me this last part, crying because he feared that The Goddess was dead.

“You are telling me that this bitch of a Goddess paraded around like she owned the place and just forced ponies to join this unity crap?” I was struggling to not loose control.

My hard earned place in the caravan, my lively hood (because I doubted that many ponies would let me close enough to let me treat them), my cutie mark and my appearance was all lost to this unity crap, and now the whore was dead and it was all for nothing?

“It was for the greater good.”

I was tired and sore, and I couldn't help myself any longer. I snapped and pinned him to the wall as I exploded in his face.

"Greater good? Greater good?!” I roared less than a hoof in front of his face. “Look at how well that turned out, I can’t walk down a street without terrorising an entire village. I look nothing like how I used to. My hard earned place in Traders Caravan is most likely lost, and my sister wont even recognize her own brother anymore!"

I froze and my blood ran cold, my eyes widened as I mentally replayed the conversation and in horror realised what I had just said out loud. Runs Wild wasn't stupid, she could put two and two together. The priests eyes widened in confusion, as he struggled against the force holding him to the wall.

"Curatie?” She asked slowly.

Don’t say it! I begged in my head.

“Are you saying...”


“...that you used to...”

Please merciful Celestia don’t let her say it out loud! I was now pleading as my magical grasp on Eulogy faded and he slumped to the ground.

“...be a..." I was now panicking.

“DON’T SAY IT!” I screamed. And my stupid high pitched voice made it a female shriek.

My wings flared and with the aid of as much self levitation I could muster, I shot up into the air, my greatcoat whirled around me as I sped past the rooftops. Just the thought that somepony suspected I had been a stallion, that my body had been so violated, was enough to make me burn with shame as if acid had been poured down my throat. And here was a pony that outright knew. Eulogy was too snookered to actually work it out, but that I had blurted it into his face was still mortifying.

I had started to like Runs Wild, she was clever, competent and the sort of pony I would have loved to have at my back, more so by the fact that she had saved my life. I wasn't in love with her, or really attracted to her since I liked my mares to be more bodily mature and ‘rounded’ in the flank department. But I cared for her in a ‘little sister’ kind of way.

What would she think of me now, would she hate me? Would she loathe me? Laugh at me? Would she run around the settlement telling everyone?

She would probably not say anything to anypony, but my head was so far from clear that mud was transparent in comparison. I had panicked and fled to avoid her reaction and to avoid myself.

In the lone desert I had been unobserved by other ponies and because of that I had been able to bear it, to ignore it. But now my altered body shamed me beyond compare, tears streamed past my face now that nopony could see me and I shot past the canyon walls and landed awkwardly on a ledge. I slumped to my haunches and felt the pressure of the ground on that damnable place between my thighs. It was humiliating.

I wanted to scream and beat myself, but most of all I wanted to know why? Why me of all ponies? I had just been a nondescript healer from a little settlement on the far side of the Neigherra Madre. What would The Goddess gain by kidnapping me? If it had even been planned in the first place? Maybe I had just popped up when it was convenient, and an alicorn had just snatched me up during a break in the travels. Or it needed to fill a quota. I didn’t know.

*** *** ***

It was some time later and I had spent the time wallowing in misery, staring at the starless sky, when I heard a polite cough behind me. She was really good.

“Yes Runs Wild?” My voice was hoarse and cracked because of my crying and I didn’t turn my head. I couldn’t look at her and I could barely handle being looked at.

“How did you? Never mind.” Her hoof steps became audible as she walked up to me and sat down. How she managed to sneak with those iron hooves fascinated me, I suspected that taking down Radscorpions and Giant Geckos with only hoof claws and a machete required a frightening level of stealth, the bartender had even called her a ‘little ghost’.

“Why did you follow me?” I asked her when the silence had become deafening. I was still looking at the cloud cover, I looked up at least, the dark made it hard to see anything.

“Because you sounded hurt, and lonely.” There was no mention of what I had blurted out earlier in her answer.

Like a foal prodding a loose tooth I pressed with. “And what about what I said?” It was some sort of sick masochism I was subjecting myself to, yet I could not help myself from commenting on the elephant in the room, or rather, the ledge.

“Well, I had wondered why you talked like an old stallion.” I almost fell on my face then and there. “So when you said that your sister wouldn’t recognise her own brother it wasn't that big of a surprise.” I finally looked down in astonishment at the mare through my red rimmed eyes, she just looked out over the dark landscape spreading out beyond the little town below us. I was starting to feel really, really tired.

“Come on.” She said as she stood up and gave me a smile. “Let’s go get some sleep.” She started to walk off, aiming to go round the canyon and re-enter trough the gate.

I felt so grateful to have met her, and for her to not make a big deal of things. So it was perhaps because of that I lifted her up with my telekinesis and laid her down on my back. She squeaked and flailed frantically. “Watch that or you’ll nick something vital.” She calmed a little but still acted like a startled cat.

“What are you doing.” Her voice trembled as she reached around my throat to hold me tight.

“Ever flown before?” I was grinning like mad at her, and her eyes widened like dinner plates. Before she had the opportunity to hop off I stretched my wings and leaped into the air. She screamed as the wind hit us and I soared into the sky for the third time in my life.

This was bliss, or rather, this was choking. “Not so tight.” I tried to tell her as I flew over Nowhere Canyon, her eyes was shut and she didn’t seem to notice until I gave her a hard poke in the side.

“Huh?” Se looked at me. I repeated myself and she turned her attention to her front legs. With an embarrassed smile that didn't quite reach her frightened eyes he loosened her grip a little.

When I could breathe again I started to speed up, flying over the mountains and balancing on the desert winds. “I’m sorry for startling you, but I really wanted to show you this view.” Up here there was no complications, nopony looked at me. I almost did a leisurely barrel roll before I remembered I had a passenger, and combining her with the loot made flying a little sluggish.

Below us the silhouette of the mountains were visible and a thousand small lights from campfires and small settlements could be seen from all over the land. I pointed out New Appleloosa to her and gestured towards the Everfree forest where the fires still burned. She was transfixed by the view and drank in the dark landscape below.

“I wonder if the real night sky is as beautiful?” I heard her wonder, I didn’t have the heart to shatter the illusion and tell her that a lot of the campfires was undoubtedly raiders and slavers. Still, all good things has to end.

“Where is your house?” I asked as I started to descend. Trying to not wobble in the air.

She pointed out a small shack wedged behind two bigger buildings near the big two story building I had seen earlier and I landed easily and laid down so she could flop down on the ground.

“If you ever do that again without asking me, I’m going to tell on you.” She said angrily, this was somewhat spoiled by the huge happy grin on her white muzzle.

“Didn’t you like it?” I grinned back. “Anyway, I need to go and see if I can rent a room somewhere, thanks for the help today.” I said as I laboriously stood up.

“Don’t be stupid.” Runs Wild admonished me as she rooted around in a leg pocket and brought out a small key. “There’s room for you in here. Just kick off some mud before you get inside.” She unlocked the door and stepped inside.

I felt a bit awkward at that but did as she asked. The shack was small and only had room for a mattress, a footlocker and a table. A few old pillows lay around the table. I had to sit down to avoid taking up too much space.

“Doesn't look like there is enough room for the both of us.” I commented as I shrugged out of my duster and hung it on a hook welded to the wall. I looked around, searching for a spare mattress or something similar.

Runs wild was working her way out of her own armor, using her teeth to open buckles, straps and knotted strings, when she was finished I got a good look of her young body. She was slim and athletic, and her cutie mark showed the black silhouette of a running pony with three speed lines behind it.

Then as I sat there on the floor, swaying slightly, she tried to push me towards the mattress. I didn’t fully comprehend what she was doing. “Isn’t that your bed?” I asked before standing. Her small physique couldn’t even budge me.

“I’m grown up enough to share.” She said as she bullied me towards the bed, I flopped onto it and scooted up against the wall. “Now get some sleep.” She yawned when she had crawled onto the bed beside me, curling up in the hollow my body left. There wasn’t much room and pre-war mattress makers clearly didn’t expect something as big as an alicorn to use their wares.

I didn’t have enough energy to protest and soon I drifted off to sleep. The last thing I could make out before I drifted off into oblivion was my new friend muttering. “Big sis.” In her sleep.

While I slept, the vats of taint was there to greet me once again, but I wasn't alone this second time.

Footnote: Level Up
New Perk: Egghead – You will add +2 skill points each time you gain a new experience level.

Thanks to Rippedshadow for giving the thumbs up while I was working.
Official proof-reader: NeverKnown

Chapter 4: On the road again.

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Fallout Equestria: Misfits

By DancingOnTheAshes

Chapter 4: On the road again.
“So, what happens now?”
“You know, everypony asks me that.”

I awoke to loud banging.

I groggily lifted my head and took in my surroundings, at first I didn't quite recognize where I was, then it came back to me and I looked down on my new friend, with whom I was sharing a mattress.

And I immediately wanted to sink into the earth, because I was clutching Runs Wild like she was a stuffed animal. I felt my face fill with blood and in horror I saw that I had nibbled on her ear. Celestia, just kill me now, it would be faster than slowly dying from embarrassment like this.

The banging on the shack door continued and I started to disentangle myself from the little white mare, she was also waking up and looked around sleepily, her slightly dazed expression was very much like a concussed duckling and she asked me blearily. "Who's at the door?"

I wondered the same and it felt like no more than an hour or so had passed. I stepped over her and shouted angrily at whomever was doing the banging. "Can it! We are awake."

I fiddled with the lock, almost ripping it to pieces before getting a grip on my magic. My spells and telekinesis had continued to become stronger, like my body was still maturing from it's changes or something similar and it started to worry me a little. I finally got the door open and ducked my head as I looked out.

Outside of the small shack stood Farsight and I noticed that strapped to his foreleg was the same 12.7 caliber gun I had traded away earlier. Behind him hid Flour and further back stood a gathering of towns ponies. One earth pony had a lamp saddle on him and a spirit lamp dangled from the pole that held it up above his head, illuminating the surroundings. And in my sleep deprived state I wondered what the hell one of them was doing with a pitchfork in her mouth.

"Is there something we can help you with?" I asked Farsight. The sentry started to speak but Flour cut him off.

"Are you just going to stand there? Drive that thing off or something. Shoot it." She hid behind Farsight and acted much like a small yapping animal, the entire time she refused to even look at me.

Farsight closed his eyes and it looked like he was mentally counting to ten before he spoke. "Flour here seems to be under the impression that you murdered Runs Wild, and that you are now breaking into her shack. She claims to have heard Wild's yelling and ran immediately to me." He looked like he didn't believe a word of it but had to do his job.

I was taken aback by this and at that moment Runs Wild poked her head out between my forelegs. "You're hogging the doorway." She told me before she wriggled out, but I was still making the mental calculations and didn't move.

"Wait a minute, are you talking about the shout of surprise Runs Wild did when I took her flying?" I was at a loss for words. That was hours ago, was this mare really this stupid?

"What? What are we talking about?" Runs Wild looked around and took in the scene, then her eyes fell on the mare hiding behind Farsight and she narrowed her eyes. "Oh, hi Flour. Rats in the food stores again?" Flour didn't look at anypony and only mumbled something, the ponies in the audience looked at each other and started to disperse now that the drama seemed to be over, the lamp pony stayed to give us some light.

I explained the situation to Runs Wild and the white mare glared at Flour when I was finished, meanwhile I had moved outside proper and I was sitting on my haunches against the wall, thinking about sleep.

"Really? That shout I made was hours ago. Do you really think that Curatie would have stayed here for that long if she had really attacked me?" Runs Wild was fuming and Flour didn't look up while the little hunter ripped into her, she only mumbled again.

"Speak up please, we can't hear you." Farsight sounded more than a little miffed at Flour's waste of our time and her lying to him, or at least not telling him the whole story.

"That... thing!" Flour suddenly got a lot of courage and pointed at me with a hoof as she stared defiantly at the guard pony. "Is an abomination! And I don't know what you were thinking letting it in like that!"

I had gotten enough, I was tired and mentally worn from the encounter with the priest. My horn glowed as I turned her head towards me against her will and gave her a golden glare. She became fixed on me as her courage faded away like mist, to be replaced by terror when Farsight did nothing.

"Do not talk about me like that. I am a pony, just like any of you and I did not ask for any of this." I gestured with a hoof to one of my newly unfurled wings.

I shifted my focus to keep her mouth shut when she started to interrupt me. "Just a while ago I was a normal unicorn, and I was forced into this against my will. So I'd appreciate of you'd just leave me alone, and in return I'll leave you alone." I released her, and she shot off into the night.

I sighed. "I hope she doesn't do anything as stupid as that again." Then I looked towards Farsight, he was digging around in a pocket of his barding.

"Sorry for causing all the trouble." I said to him. And I really was, it was probably best if I left after getting some sleep and supplies.

"Hey, you didn't cause anything. Less forgiving ponies might have started to kick her around for doing what she did." He finally pulled out a small pouch and held it out towards me in his teeth, I took it in my magic and floated it towards me. "The rest of the batteries I owe you."

"Thanks." I opened the bag and shook out four small spark batteries into my hooves, I had completley forgotten about those. "I'll leave tomorrow after I have done some bartering, you do have a trader or something similar here I hope?"

"Sure," Runs Wild piped up. She looked quite satisfied at Flour getting put in her place and I guessed there was some bad blood between the two. "Receipt has a store in the big house, I'll follow and tell him you're alright."

She yawned and walked back into her shack, flicking her ear. "Ear's itchy." She muttered and I felt my face flush. "Night Farsight."

When she was out of earshot Farsight said in a low voice. "She wants to leave you know, explore the wasteland." He shook his head. "Doesn't tell anypony, but we've seen it on her ever since her sister died."

He gave me a solemn look. "You'll take care of her, right? You're a good pony. With wings like that you could have just flown off, didn't need to help us with those raiders. "

Great, put more pressure on me why don't you? I still answered. "Of course. If she wants to travel with me I'll look after her." A companion would feel welcome, though I'd have to watch the ear chomping.

*** *** ***

"Where'd you find this?" Receipt asked from behind the counter. He was holding my duster in his hooves while his horn patched holes and reinforced the wing holes so they wouldn't tear.

I stood in a small shop in the main building, we had walked here after waking up. The shop shared the first floor of the big building with a meeting hall and the town armory.

The walls were stacked to the ceiling with shelves and these were stuffed with all sorts of miscellaneous items, everything from rolls of gecko leather to lunch boxes and ancient magazines. The store would normally have felt quite cozy, but I was a little cramped.

An aged earth pony sat by the door, smoking a corn cob pipe while keeping a close eye on me, Runs Wild was trying on hats over by the clothing shelf.

Upstairs was the office and living quarters of Farsight, who turned out to be the closest thing to the law in the little settlement. This was obvious when I thought about it, no wonder that he had such weight in the community and I had learned that he was filling out for a mare who had broken her leg when he guarded the gate.

"I got it from a shack out in the desert. About a days trot from here." I answered the owner. I was looking over the store's collection of mercenary bardings; nothing in my size but I liked to browse while waiting. "Got the gun Farsight is using from there too." I added.

"Looks like the duster that..." He searched for a name. "oh why can't I remember." Receipt turned to the stallion sitting my the door and asked. "What was the name of that stallion with the golden eyes?" My ears perked up at that. "You know, the big bastard, wore something like this about twenty five to thirty years ago."

"No idea." Said the guard simply.

I made a mental note of that.

"Well, anyway. Guess you'll need some proper saddle bags instead of that duffel." Receipt sized me up with a merchants practiced eyes. "Lets see what you have for trade."

*** *** ***

I was trotting down the street, heading towards the shack that belonged to the mare with the broken leg. My new saddle bags hung securely by my sides and were filled with newly bartered goods. I had insisted that Runs Wild kept half of what we got from the raider camp.

The bags were leagues better but felt slightly awkward with my wings.

Wild was now trotting beside me, intent on smoothing the way.

I came up to the right door and tapped it with a forehoof. After a while a small colt opened the door and stared at me with huge eyes.

"Hello, is your mother in?" I assumed that this was her kid.

The colt slammed the door in my face and I heard him yell on the other side. "Mommy mommy! Princess Luna's at the door!"

"Wut." I stood there in shocked silence for a moment. "But I'm not..." Then I gave it some thought.

It wasn't implausible for him to get to that conclusion; there wasn't very much to go on regarding Princess Luna's actual appearance, other than big blue winged unicorn. But a real princess like Luna would have, I dunno, stars or something for a mane. Not a sickly green and light blue travesty like I had.

Runs Wild was rolling on the ground laughing her hooves off. "What?" I asked her when I snapped out of it.

She had trouble breathing and could only squeeze out. "The look on your face. Priceless."

I harrumphed just as the door opened again and a midnight unicorn mare with her front leg in a medical brace looked on me in astonishment, then she narrowed her eyes.

"Not Luna. Who are you?" She looked me and my wings over. "I heard Farsight let some alicorn in yesterday, I assume your the one?" Then she caught sight of Runs Wild, she was picking herself up and waved happily at the mare in the door.

"Hello, me and Curatie came to take a look at your leg." She gestured at me as if I was on display. "She's a medic."

"Really?" The black coated mare gave me a thorough inspection. "Doesn't look like a medic."

I turned my flank towards her. Surrounding the skull on my duster, holding on to it, was now three pink butterflies. The pink butterflies still held a strong connection to the Ministry of Peace and anything having to do with the healing arts, even two hundred years after the megaspells, and I had asked Receipt to change the image on the garment.

"Oh," She turned to Wild. "well if you trust her I do too." She limped on three legs back inside while saying over her shoulder. "Just don't drag the street in with you, I have enough trouble with Kite."

I assumed that Kite was the little colt who had slammed the door in my face... and called me a princess. My ear twitched.

The main room was nothing special, a moth eaten couch, a table and a crooked shelf plus a locker, the shack had a feel of being a single parent's home.

The mare rested on the couch while we sat on the floor around the table, I saw Kite peeking around the edge of a doorway that led further inside. I made a silly face at him and he disappeared.

"I don't have much to pay with, trouble enough to make ends meet." She looked slightly worried, as if I'd stand up and walk away just because of that. "I do have a shield spell I can try to teach you if you have the aptitude. I met a buck a while ago who taught it to me."

She gave a smile towards the door where Kite had been. “I was very fond of him.”

Seemed fair enough to me. "Sounds good." With a gentle smile I asked. "Can you please show me your leg?" She stretched it out to me and my horn glowed as I gave it a magical inspection, I didn't like what I found.

After a minute of thinking I said matter-of-factly. "I have bad news and I have worse news." Her eyes closed, waiting for the verdict. "The bad news is that the leg isn't set properly, and there is a large chance that you'll develop a limp later on."

"Did you do it yourself?" She nodded to my question. "The worse news is that I'll have to re-break the leg to fix it properly, but there should be significantly less chance of a limp after that." I would not enjoy doing that.

I was starting to pull out medical tools that I had bought in the shop earlier as I talked. "I guess you did it by hoof?"

"Yeah, I'm a guard not a doctor." She was looking downcast.

"The decision is yours, but in my medical opinion, it's for the best. I can also make it almost painless, although the sound will still be ugly." I was ready to proceed at any moment, I gave her a reassuring smile. I didn't want to force her. "You don't have to."

"No, but I want you to go ahead anyway." She gave my friend a nervous glance. "You do trust her, right?"

The gray maned mare gave me a reassuring look. "Yes."

I closed my mind to the surrounding world. Right now there was only me and my patient.

I started to remove the brace and the bandages underneath and the old bandages flew over my shoulder on a cloud of magic as I set the brace aside. Underneath the bandaging the leg was clean and well looked after.

To her credit the mare was good at first aid, I couldn't complain about anything other than the bad setting of the bone.

I poured a powder I had prepared earlier into a water bottle and set it aside, then I magically rolled the leather pouch into a tube and levitated it between the teeth of the mare. "Bite down."

Then I cast a pain numbing spell on her leg. I poked it hard with a hoof. "Feel that?" She shook her head, Runs Wild had moved up beside her and held her free hoof.

I closed my eyes, focusing on what I was doing as I probed the leg and felt my way up the offending bone. I held the leg in my hooves as I concentrated, it felt small in my grasp.

I found the old break, half healed and looking wonky to my magical eye. This was going to hurt, even with my best pain-numbing spell.

The bone separated into two.

I was amazed that she didn't cry out. There was only a tensing of her muscles as I broke the mares leg with focused magic.

"Didn't that hurt?" I asked her, a little distracted. She shook her head.

Right, alicorn. I thought bitterly.

I returned to the matter at hoof. I guided the ends towards each other properly and magically cleaned the surrounding tissues before pouring healing magic into the bone, fusing it together, much better than if it had healed on its own.

After that I cleaned and rebandaged the outer wound, it was almost definitely from the accident, with some proper magical bandages and refastened the medical brace.

When I was done, and she was as good as new, I flopped down on the floor. Sweat was pouring down my muzzle. "Keep that brace on for a week, just in case."

I levitated out a sparkle cola and gulped it down in one long pull. "Drink this before you go to bed tonight, and you should be okay to work the day after tomorrow." I floated the water bottle with it's powder mixture to the black coated mare.

"Mommy?" We all turned to the doorway. "Are they hurting you?" Young Kite looked like he didn't know whenever to cry or charge me as fast as his little hooves could carry him.

"Mommy's okay sweetheart. She just made my leg better. Nothing more." She looked like she was completely drained from the experience and I didn't blame her; even while painless it wasn't pleasant.

The little colt rushed across the room and hugged my leg before rushing off just as fast into the other part of the house. That hug made my day.

Runs Wild was looking at me with a thoughtful expression.

"What?" I asked her, still slightly fuzzy from the hug.

She didn't say anything as she walked up to me, at first I thought she was going to hug me too, then she bowed down and grabbed my coat in her teeth and pulled it back. My breath caught in my throat and a lump grew there.

I couldn't believe it, I didn't dare believe it. I reached a hoof down to my bared flank.

And touched my cutie mark. It was back.

The tourniquet of white silk shone like a newborn star in the ultramarine blue of my flank.

I couldn't help myself, I started to bawl like a foal. Tears of pure happiness streamed down my face and I was blubbering thanks to Celestia like a simpleton. My patient just looked on in confusion and Runs Wild explained while I hugged the white mare for dear life, not daring to let go, just in case the wasteland would wake me up.

"She's been without her cutie mark since she changed. I think that her first act as a healer brought it back." I felt her squirm a little, and I was probably crushing her a bit.

"I saw the flash of light from under your duster while you were putting back the medical brace." She told me as she attempted to work her front legs free.

"I'm really happy for you but I can't breathe." The mare in my grasp squeaked and I finally managed to lighten my grip.

*** *** ***

It was an hour later.

I sat on the floor practicing the shield spell I had just been taught. Runs Wild looked on while drinking out of a juice box and the mare, who's name I had found out was Shelter, slept on the couch. Kite was nowhere to be seen and we assumed that he was in one of the back rooms.

I was working on making the shield assume different shapes when the spell did an odd lurch and shifted.

The wall of protective energy that was floating in the air between us like a sheet bucked and heaved. Then it closed up on me before I could stop it and started to increase in force, finally forming a big bubble around me.

"Bloody hell!" I exclaimed and Shelter shifted on the couch.

"You okay?" My companion asked me when she had gotten her breath back. The spells shifting had startled us both, and I was no better off than she was. I gave the barrier a nervous poke.

"Doesn't feel any different than the first spell I cast, other than I cant move it around now." I started to concentrate again, feeding power into my horn. The spell resisted me but eventually gave way and was again malleable.

I made it into a cube then a seven pointed star before letting it do what it wanted, the shield powered up again and reformed as a bubble around me. Wild looked on over her juice box, she looked slightly blurry when I looked on her through the wall of energy.

"I think it's more powerful when it's in a bubble." I studied the spell again before dismissing it. "I wont really know until I’m getting shot at." I said as I stuffed the items I had used back into my new saddlebags.

"Are you leaving now? Shelter was the only one who had any real injury here." She sounded like she really wanted to ask if she could follow me. I took pity on her.

"Do you want to travel with me?" I sat in front of her and looked her earnestly in the eyes. "I can't promise that it will be safe, or that it will be pleasant. But I can at least explain what I'm doing and why."

She steeled herself and said. "Tell me."

So I did, I told her of the caravan, and my fears for it. That I wanted to go look for it and the first place would be Shattered Hoof. I also told her that from there I didn't know where I was going and I was going to have to wing it.

*** *** ***

I sat on the train cart wedged into the entrance of the small canyon. An earth pony, different from Farsight, stood by the rifle mounted on the walls railing. He gave me the occasional glance but didn't say anything.

I was waiting for Wild, she had agreed to accompany me and I had drawn a sigh of relief at that. She was now packing and making her goodbyes to the town ponies she knew. She also had to give the key to the shack back to Receipt, apparently her home had just been a rental. The more you know.

We were going to fly to the Shattered Hoof Detention Center, I had figured that flight would take us the least amount of time, even if I didn't know how far I could travel with a passenger on my back. I had also advised her to get her own pair of goggles to protect from the wind.

There was only one condition of hers before she joined me; that I let her brush and braid my mane so she wouldn't have the mass of hair in her face while we were flying.

When I was a stallion I had kept it short and had suggested that to Wild, she had just looked at me in horror and told me I was crazy before brandishing a worn brush like a holy sword.

She had spent a considerable effort working out the tangles I had gained from what wasn't just a few days, but what seemed to be at least several weeks worth. Another reminder that I had memories missing. I did enjoy the experience but the thick braid made me feel like I looked a bit silly, my tail didn't escape unbrushed and unbraided either.

After she was done I returned the favor, it reminded me of combing my sister mane and I fell into a pit of nostalgia for a moment or two while the comb floated in my magical grasp.

I felt a tug on one of my wings and my musings died with a pop. I looked down from my study of the wasteland.

Kite was sticking something under my left wing and gave me a smile before running off down the plank. I unfurled the limb and caught a folded up piece of paper in my magic. It looked like a page from a ruined book and I unfolded it.

On the page was a crayon drawing of me, Shelter, Kite and Runs Wild. Under the image, badly spelled, was a single sentence. 'tank yu prety princesss pny for fixxin mommy'

I looked up along the road, Kite was sitting further up it and was waving at me. I returned the wave with a big dumb grin on my muzzle. The colt ran off.

"What was that about?" Runs Wild asked as she walked up the plank that lead up to the roof of the wall. She hadn't just bought a pair of goggles but a headband too.

I showed her the drawing.

"Aww, isn't that sweet." She smiled and poked me in the side. "You deserve it, you did a good job."

I stowed the drawing in my bag. "Ready to go?" I asked her.

"Sure, just a moment." She dug around in her left saddlebag for a moment and brought out a new slouch hat in her teeth. This one was roughly the same size as the one I had lost to buckshot yesterday and the same gray as my greatcoat. She reared up and shoved it down on my head. "I thought you looked quite good in your last one and I asked Receipt to make the hole for the horn."

"Thanks." I adjusted the hat around my ears with my hooves. "Ready?" I laid down on my knees and let her climb aboard.

"Giddy-up." She said playfully as I stood.

I gave her a deadpan look. "Don't push it." But I couldn't quite keep the smile from my face.

She waved goodbye to the current guard as I spread my wings and sprang into the air. Heading towards Shattered Hoof.

*** *** ***

"Don't you ever eat anything?" Runs Wild asked when I figured that we were at least three quarters of the way there, she had to raise her voice to be heard. To be honest, I was feeling like a break would be a good idea, flying long distance with a passenger was hard work.

The trip had thankfully been uneventful, I had kept low to avoid the attention of the Enclave ships and only had to dodge the occasional raider bullet. The problem would be later during the night when bloodwings would wake up. I shuddered at the thought.

I spotted an abandoned building with a collapsed roof that led into a big attic and aimed for the structure. It looked abandoned and after landing in said attic there was only a few radroaches to greet us.

After some bug stomping we prepared to eat. Runs Wild did so at least, I wasn't hungry, I was almost never hungry. There had been the occasional soft drink and cactus apple these past two days, but not much more. Wild was eating from a box of apple cereal, spearing them with her claws and eating them one by one, while I told her this.

When I was done she gave me a sour look. "I know you're new to being a mare but if you tell some filly about that, especially an overweight one, she'll probably try and tear your ears off."

I was about to ask her where in the name of Celestia's heavenly mane, you'd find somepony who was overweight in the wasteland, when the creak of a rusty hinge interrupted me.

I turned my head towards the far off corner, from an open hatch we had missed rose a figure from a little foals nightmare. A decayed head, bare of any fur and mane, turned towards us from the opening. The dead eyes glowed with an eerie yellow light and the rotted hinges opened, displaying decayed teeth like ancient tombstones in an abandoned graveyard.

Here it comes. I thought as I prepared to levitate my plasma revolver out. That hellish, nails on the chalkboard, howl of...

"What the hell are you ponies doing in my attic?" The ghoul said indignantly, he sounded like he was gargling gravel.

My train of thought was derailed so hard that the train carts must have stacked at least three stories high in the pileup.

"Uhm, eating?" I finally said. I looked towards Runs Wild, she sat frozen to the spot, a piece of dried apple halfway to her mouth.

She started to squeeze out. “"Z...z...zom..." Before I put a hoof on over her muzzle.

"He's not a zombie, he's just a ghoul. And it seems like we are trespassing." She still looked scared but was calming visibly from the shock.

"Your darned right." The ghoul said. "And I’ve lived in this house for the past fifty years." He was working his way up into the attic. "How did you get up here anywa..." He had caught sight of my wings when he was all the way into the roofless room and stopped dead...um... deader.

"Sorry, we were just having a food break." I kept my tone civil and amiable to avoid any screaming and firing of weapons, although it looked like he wasn't armed. He just sounded offended at finding intruders and it was bad enough that I had almost pulled a gun on him, I didn't want to make the situation worse.

"Y-y-you’re like Ditzy, right?" Wild finally said as she managed to find her voice.

"Yeah, I am." He looked us over. "You know her?"

"S-sure. I have met her a few times when she was exchanging goods with Receipt." She explained as she put her box of cereal down and took a swig from a canteen of water.

"Receipt? You know that old fox?" Runs Wild nodded and the old ghoul lightened up and sat down on his haunches. "How's the old scoundrel nowadays? Still cheating hard earned scrap from prospectors?" He sounded quite jovial when the situation had been defused and I drew a sigh of relief.

"He looked quite good as far as I could tell," I broke in. "and he did spare me a few caps when we were done."

The ghoul gave me a corpse light gaze that sent shivers down my back. "Heh, getting soft in his old age I bet." He chuckled. "Listen, if the two of you wants to stay the night here in the attic, you're welcome to it." The undead pony's joints creaked as he stood. "Where are you heading anyway?"

"Shattered Hoof." Wild said.

"Looking for some old friends of mine." I added as I considered sleeping here. It had become late and we might as well, we could leave at first light. As worthless as first light was with the never ending clouds.

"Well, I wish the both of you luck." He walked down the stairs again and closed the hatch. A moment later he opened it again. "I'm Blighthoof by the way, say hi to Receipt for me next time you see him."

After telling him our names he disappeared again down the hatch.

"So whats the plan for when we arrive?" Runs Wild asked.

I had actually thought about this and spent a while explaining it.

"If you don't want to I can think of something else." I said as I finished and prepared to get some sleep.

"No, it's fine." Wild said around a yawn. Damn she was cute when she yawned.

We curled up in a corner that still had a roof and drew a couple of blankets around us, mostly to preserve body heat.

*** *** ***

That morning Runs Wild gave me a crash course on stealth.

She gave my very lacking technique a dusting off and polish and helped make sure that nothing rattled or made any noise when I moved by tying it down with string. I squirmed as she climbed around me with the ball of string in her mouth.

The plan was simple; She goes in with me invisible behind her, then she asks the guards about the caravan while I whisper any necessary directions in her ear. If things should go south I grab her, throw up my shield, and fly away. I cringed as I thought about field testing the shield like that.

I had halfway expected her to tell me to jump in a lake but she had no problems with the plan. We just needed to find out if Trader had passed through here and if he had, where had he headed, then leave.

We were nearing Shattered Hoof now, walking on the dusty road leading down to the old prison. Matching our pace.

The collection of old prison buildings were surrounded by a large sturdy fence, this was topped by razor wire and a large metal net was suspended over the entire yard. A large hole could be found in one corner of the net, over what looked like a large cargo lift leading down into the ground.

On each of the four corners of the yard stood a large metal tower topped with a guard post, like a metal bird nest. I thought that I could make out the spread wings of a griffin in one.

Two smaller towers stood on each side of the large gate. Each of the smaller towers had a pony and a griffin respectively, and they operated mounted light machine guns. Two earth pony guards, one blue and the other a light green, guarded the gate on the ground. The grounded pair were both equipped with dual-rifle battle saddles.

They became alert when Runs Wild came into view.

"Halt." The blue said loudly. "What are you doing here and why?"

The white mare glanced at my hoof marks before drawing a deep breath and saying in a clear voice. "I'm looking for some information about Traders Caravan. Have they come through here?"

The green guard waved her closer to avoid shouting. I followed as silently as I could just beside her.

"Trader? Ain't he the big khaki colored bastard with no temper?" The green asked his companion as we drew closer. The two above us lost interest and the griffin gave a yawn.

Blue nodded and turned to Wild. "That's the one. Yeah they came through here. I can ask the boss where they went." I nearly let out a woop of triumph.

"Pff," Dismissed the griffin up in the tower. "no need to ask Gawd you nimrod. I was there when they came by." The half eagle made a graceful leap and landed with a heavy thud beside the two guards.

"Hey, you aren't supposed to leave the tower." The green earth pony said indignantly.

The griffin simply gave the guard a flick on the muzzle with her tail as she walked past. "Don't mind the bore." She told Runs Wild. The earth pony looked like he was about to say something but the other guard gave him a kick.

Her black talon armor creaked as she strode towards the two of us, stopping just in front of Wild. I didn't like how close she was.

Then she inspected Wild and gave her a poke in the breast with a talon. "Whats a mare doing out here alone anyway?" Sweat started to trickle down my back. This could go bad real quick.

"I'm good at keeping myself unnoticed." My friend stated simply. Well, that wasn't a lie at least. She had managed to escape my notice in the attic earlier when she showed me some of her moves.

The griffin gave a harrumph and clicked her beak. "Well little shadow, as to where that puffed up old stallion went."

She gave a lazy wave of her claw in the general direction of Trottingham. "The caravan went that way, intent on selling some of the gems they got in Trottingham Hole."

She smirked. "He talked about finding a new medic too, apparently the old one just walked off in the middle of the night."

I was torn. On the one hoof I was relieved that they were apparently somewhat okay, on the other I wanted to kick something. I had to stand still though, the griffin was too close for comfort.

"Alright, thanks." Wild said before turning and walking away, I did my best to match her hoof steps but it was awkward with my longer stride.

We had the info we wanted, now we just had to get away safely.

"Hey, kiddo!" The griffin yelled as we had gotten someways off and we both stopped and turned our heads.

"Yeah?" Wild called back.

"Tell your friend with the stealth buck that he needs to work on his sneaking!" She yelled to us while flying up to her perch.

The two earth ponies at the ground looked at each other, then back to us.

"Time to go." I said before scooping up the mare and holding her to my chest as I flew, I dropped my invisibility spell as I heard gunshots behind me. The griffin was howling with laughter as a few bullets flew past.

They were too far away to be accurate and they missed us completely.

After flying for a while Runs Wild asked me. "Do you think she lied?"

"About Trottingham?" I shifted my grip slightly while thinking. "I don't think so, Trader has an old bunker outside of the city that he uses as base." I explained.

"Oh, I guess we are going that way then?" She pointed in the direction we were going. "Onwards."

I rolled my eyes before putting on more speed.

Getting to Trottingham this way would take us at least three days and I pondered taking a slight detour around to Red Light Crossing. The ponies in Red Light Crossing would let in anyone with caps.

All sorts ended up in the pits of that place. Mostly ponies and a collection of zebra lived there but there were also a few buffalo and even a donkey or two.

It started to rain. Perfect.

*** *** ***

The day was drawing to a close and it had started to darken even more with the rainclouds adding their weight on the skies. The increasing darkness made me fear that bloodwings would attack.

I was cold and soaked, but intent on reaching Red Light Crossing before we got to sleep. Maybe not the smartest choice but it was becoming personal between me and the rain.


I started to slow. That was not a thought of mine, it felt familiar.

My blood started to freeze as I recognised the feeling; I had felt it in my dreams, It was the feeling of unity. I tried to ignore it.

~~...Sister... please...~~

The forlorn tone of the invading thought made me hesitate.

"Something wrong?" Runs Wild asked from my back.

~~...Sister...I'm dying...~~

Oh Luna dammit. Now I had to check it out.

"Just checking something out, it probably wont take too long." I fervently hoped that anyway.

I stopped and flew in place. Listening for the call again.


There it was, just ahead and to the left.

I set out towards the mental call.

"What is it?" Wild asked me as she shifted position. She was as worn by the days flight as I was.

"Something." I answered.

~~...Sister...~~ There it was again, just ahead. I was on the right track.

"Very helpful." She said sarcastically.

"Look, It's an alicorn thing." Oh crap, I was getting snippy with her. I did not like that.

She just got silent and settled down.

After three more calls I finally found the source of the voice. I stopped dead in the air.

"Oh bugger." I swore as I hovered.

"What?" Wild asked as she looked down. "Oh..."

"Yeah." I agreed as I looked down on the devastation below. Too gobsmacked to do anything else.

In the center of a smoking crater lay a dark green alicorn, so dark green coat almost looked black in the gloom. She was covered in cuts and tears, one wing was badly damaged, missing most of its feathers and the other didn't look much better. But she was still moving, barely.

The source of her wounds lay around her in a widening circle. There must have been at least two dozen of the black bloodwings laying around. The bodies were all broken and twisted, the charred flesh was smoking.

The stench of ozone lay heavy in the air, along with the smell of blood.

"Should we try to help her?" Wild hesitantly asked in my ear.

That snapped me out of it. I took a breath. "Yeah." I agreed and started to fly lower.

"Keep an eye out for more of these." I warned Wild. "They are way too dangerous for my liking."

Runs Wild was working herself loose from my back, flexing stiff limbs while looking around. "Sure, although I think she has taken care of most that live in this area." She jumped down as I landed beside the dying alicorn.

~~...Sister, you came for me...you wouldn't let me die alone...~~ I heard her, but her lips didn't move.

Goddesses that voice in my head felt creepy.

"I'm here. I think I can help you." I couldn't do anything else, for all I knew this pony had been abducted, just like me. "Just hold still."

The dying alicorn smiled. ~~...too late...already dead...~~

A spasm shook her and I started to cast my pain numbing spell across her body, it would be less effective over her whole body but lower her agony in general. I examined her with my eyes as I went over her body parts one at a time, lessening the pain.

She was indeed dying, it was a miracle that she was still conscious.

~~...thank you...just don't want to die alo...~~ Her eye finally managed to meet mine.


Okay, that was not the reaction I had expected.

Runs Wild was looking on, casting the occasional glance at the sky, looking for more bloodwings. I wondered if she could hear the mental speech.

"What about me?" I asked the alicorn.

~~...memories...fragments...tuch my horn...I can tell you...~~

Very helpful. I thought to myself as I lowered my long blue horn to meet hers.

"How is this supposed to..." But my sentence died on my lips as my world fell away.


At first I thought that I was blind, but there was simply nothing to see.

An endless blank vista spread out before me and it felt like I was levitating because there wasn't even anything that could be called ground, I just stood on nothing.

My wings flared as I nervously turned around, looking for anything at all to rest my eyes upon, but there wasn't anything in sight.

"Hello." Said a sad voice behind me and I spun.

Behind me stood the same green alicorn I had seen broken on the ground just a moment ago. She didn't have any wounds but she looked tired and... old? Yeah that was it, she looked aged. With lines around her red eyes and old worn feathers on her wings.

"Uhm, hi." I answered hesitantly. "Where is this?" I was getting more than a little worried.

"This," She said as she showed off the nothingness around us with a spread wing. "is just a blank space I created for the purposes of talking to you." She had a kind but tired voice, like a grandmother educating her grandkids. "When out horns are in contact, communicating is much easier."

"And why did you want to talk to me?" I asked.

"Because you want to know why you were taken, right?" She had put her hoof right on it and the knowing smile made it all the more creepy.

"Yes, I do." I answered. "I want to know why just I was kidnapped and not the whole caravan."

She lay down on what, for lack of a better word, could be called the ground and motioned me to do the same. I wasn't sure but she looked like she was aging before my eyes. Was this a mental representation of her slowly dying from blood loss?

When I had laid down she looked me in the eyes for a second or two. I felt a fluttering in my mind, like somepony flipping all the pages of a book at once. After that she made a humming noise and the nothingness shifted.

Into a scene of carnage. Dead alicorns and mutilated hellhounds lay everywhere, craters from exploded mines were scattered across the ancient blacktop that lead to a big building. We were floating over the devastation and the sight of the slaughter turned my stomach.

"That." My floating alicorn said as she pointed a wing towards the building. "Is where you and I was born." An image of the vats filled with taint flickered before me and I felt nauseous.

"And at this moment." Another image, this time of a fleeing group of ponies, a little unicorn girl in the front. "Littlepip is on her way to set off a series of events that would, in the end, result in the death of The Goddess."

I had no idea who Littlepip was but I didn't interrupt the alicorns explaining.

The green alicorn shook her head. "Trixie was powerful, and she had a great deal of knowledge." She sighed. "But she lacked wisdom, and she was arrogant."

"But no matter. That isn't the reason she chose you." She waved off her ramblings with a hoof.

"Right at this moment, our forces had taken massive casualties by an hellhound ambush." She motioned to the carnage. "And The Goddess needed more of us to replenish the ranks."

I was astonished, a group of hellhounds had done this much damage to a hoard of alicorns?

The Alicorn floating over the ground with me continued to explain while I saw gray creeping into the color of her mane and tail. "We had captured one very exceptional pony a couple of decades ago, she showed great promise and a magical potential quite unlike that of our ordinary ranks. So The Goddess decided that we should hunt for every pony we could find with those same characteristics."

Oh no, please don't tell me that she was talking about what I thought she was.

"This showed up as golden eyes once she had been reborn, alas, we didn't know where exactly this pony originated from. All we had was a Stable number, and this eludes me." She shook her head irritably. "Memories are tricky when you have been bound to Unity as long as I have."

Yep, there it was, those fucking golden eyes. Then a couple of cards started to flip into place in my head.

A Stable, golden eyes, my home town, a generation originating from a Stable. I groaned.

"You're talking about Stable 10, aren't you?" I asked her and she lit up.

Her mane and tail had lost almost all its color by now.

"That's right. That was the number." She said, then she deflated a bit. "And it didn't go anywhere, you were the only pony who fit the criteria that we could find on short notice; Unicorn and golden eyes." She thought a bit then added. "At least I think so, I don't really remember."

"And you had barely opened your wings before Maripony was destroyed." She gestured again to the building. "Littlepip had snuck in a balefire bomb under the facility. This was just three or four days ago."

She settled down and the landscape under us shifted back to the previous void. She seemed to somber and I guessed that she didn't have much time left. If time even passed normally here.

"I could have tried to help. I'm not certain that I could save you, but I could have tried." I told her. She gave my offer a sad smile.

"No, I've been too long in Unity, one and a half century at least." I was taken aback by her statement, she was that old?

She continued. "Alicorns of my age are far too likely to go insane when we have been separated from Unity. The option is to recreate it and there is a collection of alicorns intent on serving Red Eye, but I guess that isn't an option for you. Not with what happened to your son."

"Don't talk about that." I said hotly. She must have learned about that when she went over my memories, if that fluttering in my mind had been what I suspected it was.

She shook her head but didn't say anything more on the subject.

"Serving a self righteous monster like that isn't an option for me either. And I had started to feel the first tendrils of madness when I got attacked by this swarm of bloodwings."

The void shifted again to the same location we were standing on. I looked down at the still landscape where my body was standing, my horn and hers glowing at the point they touched. Runs Wild stood just beside me, frozen, with an expression of worry on her face.

"I think its for the best," Her voice now sounded a little sad and tears started to flow down her ancient cheeks. "that I have the chance to die as myself, not a raving mad pony."

I stood up, ignoring the scene below as I walked over to her on nothing. I laid down beside her and draped a wing over her. She felt brittle and her rapidly aging body slowly started to deflate.

"I guess this is a confession of sorts." She said. "From one dying pony to a young one. I just didn't want to be alone."

"I've done bad things in my long life, some knowingly, others reflexively when commanded." She confessed. "Ugly things, like taking ponies from their homes to swell the ranks of Unity."

I didn't say anything, I just let her pull this poisoned barb from her heart by herself without interrupting.

"I so miss my grandchildren." She sniffed. "But I cant even remember their little faces, not even my own name." I just hugged her tighter, holding her together as her body slowly stopped to function.

"But I can do one last thing." She turned and looked me in the eyes. "I can leave you a teacher, someone who can educate you and be a friend." She looked down at Runs Wild. The still image hadn't moved since I looked down last.

"Everypony needs friends." And as she said that I felt a tendril of thought enter my mind.

I jerked and tried to resist. "What are you doing?" I asked as I tried to stand.

"I'm leaving you a confidant, a teacher and a friend. Someone who can help you when you are in dark places." She explained as something was dropped into the back corners of my brain.

It was black and egg shaped. How I knew that eluded me, but it felt partly familiar and part alien.

I staggered away from her and glared at the alicorn as her coat too started to lose color.

What is it? I wanted to ask but the thought couldn't form properly. The surroundings faded and the void was starting to shatter and fall away. The dying alicorn was mummifying before my eyes and I felt myself slowly falling backwards.

The last thing I saw was her body shattering into dust and a young unicorn with a yellow coat picked itself up from the dust.

She waved goodbye to me as a shape moved up behind her and took her away.

I fell back into oblivion.


"Curatie? Curatie!?"

I started awake and Runs Wild was shaking me.

"What happened?" I asked her groggily as I rolled over on my stomach and pulled my legs under me.

"I don't know." She sounded scared. "You touched her with your horn and then you stood still for a minute." She explained as I forced myself to my hooves. “You didn’t react to anything and I couldn’t move you.”

"Then you just collapsed on your side." She finished as she dropped to her haunches. "What happened to you?"

"We had a long talk." I answered her. It felt long anyway and I was tired.

I shook my head and the black egg rattled around in my mind. What the hell was this thing anyway? She had said that it was a companion but how was this a companion. I just hoped that it wouldn't break something in my head. I was messed up enough.

I looked down to the alicorn, she was dead. That didn't come as a surprise.

Then I looked over the corpses of the bloodwings and got an idea.

"Lets take a few teeth with us, I have a plan for when we come to Red Light."

"Another plan? What sort?" Wild asked me dubiously and I remembered how well my last plan went.

"Oh nothing big, just a little something against pick pockets." I told her. "But we better find a safe place to sleep. I can explain what happened while we walk.”

After finding an abandoned sky wagon we could hide in, out of the rain, we got some sleep. We would arrive at Red Light Crossing by noon the next day.

Footnote: Level Up
New Spell: Alicorn Shield (Rank 1) - This Shield spell, sturdier than most, will resist most types of kinetic force up to a certain point. It wont be able to fully resist attacks with damage exceeding 20% of your total health. This spell is also immovable in relation to you and wont take any other forms than a sphere around your body.

Quest Spell: Shelter - This shield is not as sturdy as your normal Alicorn Shield but its far more maneuverable and can take on different shapes at your command. This spell wont resist attacks above 10% of your total health.

Official proof-reader: NeverKnown

Chapter 5: A wretched hive.

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Fallout Equestria: Misfits

By DancingOnTheAshes

Chapter 5: A wretched hive.

The dream was dark and I was cold, lonely.

A feather landed by my hooves. It was large, onyx, and made of shadows.

It faded away.

I stood in a hall of mirrors, endless, and narrow. Each mirror held a new face, each face had the same color eyes. Golden eyes.

I walked slowly down the hall, taking in each face as it passed by. They were the faces of ponies in my hometown, there was Shot Glass, Broken Bottle, Lemondrop, Lighter Fluid and my sister, Socket Wrench.

Then, without transition, I walked over the catwalks overhanging the vats of taint, my hooves clanged against the metal mesh. I was dragging Socket Wrench behind me, her curly tail in my mouth. She was begging, pleading, but I had my orders, my commands, The Goddess' commands. And refusing her was as unthinkable as ceasing to breathe.

"Snakebite!" She screamed my name as I threw her down into the waiting green fluid. Her eyes were pleading as it swallowed her.

A raven called.

I was sitting on my haunches. I was in the old clinic in my hometown. The corpse of my son, my little boy, clutched to my chest. The corpse of a slaver with its head caved in lay on the floor by the cabinet my son had hidden in. A bloody mallet was on the floor beside him.

Sorrow flowed in my veins like poison, a flesh eating poison that dissolved my heart.

"...Bitter Drink..." I couldn't cry, and I damned myself for that.

Then an ice cold fury welled up in me, a hatred so dark I could only surrender and be swept away. I looked up to the Energy rifle that rested on the wall above the doorway. The door led into mine and my son's living quarters.

"They will burn." I growled deep in my throat.

The rifle glowed in tandem with my horn. It flew towards me and I took the rifle's bit in my mouth, supporting the familiar weight of it with my magic. This was personal. I would pull the trigger myself, no magic, no spells. I adjusted the power setting as high as it could go.

After leaving the body of Bitter Drink on a roll of old blankets in the cabinet, where he would be safe, I walked to the stairs leading to the roof. As I walked up the stairs, my mind tormented me with every happy memory I have ever had of my son. Every bright spot these past years. A mounting feeling of hatred rose in my chest, gripping my heart and squeezing it.

I arrived at the landing in front of the door to the roof. I spun and bucked, the door ripped from the rotted frame and spun out onto the flat steel sheathing of the roof like a playing card. I walked out into the rain. Thunder cracked in the sky, like Celestia herself was bucking the firmament that held it together. Smoke and the stench of blood hung so thick in the air I could taste it. I ignored the falling rain.

The sound of the small artillery cannon that the slavers had used to blow down our gate and wall still reverberated between the mountains, picking up speed with each new shell as they came screaming down. They had their hole, their entrance, now they just wanted to rub our faces in it by obliterating the rest of the wall.

I walked up to the edge of the roof and laid down, my fathers rifle now resting on the edge of the building on its flip-down stand. It was old, and had been rebuild with a scope, multiple hardware modifications and numerous add-on’s. I had never used it for other than practice before.

A black feather landed beside me and faded away like smoke.

And the slaver downstairs was my first murder in anger, not somepony dying agonisingly on a slab while needing release from unspeakable torment.

"Strawberry" I whispered around the bit, remembering the mare dying of taint. I had beat the slaver to death with the mallet I used for home repair. I had snapped when I saw him standing over my son and attacked him blindly with the first weapon I could get my horn on.

"My little boy." My voice was hollow. His little neck had been twisted and he looked over his shoulder in an unnatural manner. "They will burn." I repeated, venom filling my voice.

I took aim. The first slaver in my sight. A raven called and I pulled the trigger.

The zoorch of the blue lightning lit up the night. Towns ponies looked up to me when a charging slaver mare fell to the ground, shuddering in electrical spasms. Over her death-howls I could hear one buck cry out. "Come on folks! Even Doc is fighting! LETS GIVE 'EM HELL!"

His war cry was answered by a resounding boom from the artillery cannon. My attention turned to it. It was a long way away, at least two kilometers. Sitting on a small ancient camping ground halfway up a mountain.

I aimed, prayed the first earnest prayer in my life, then tongued the trigger. Blue lightning shot out from the muzzle of my rifle. I missed and the bolt struck the side of the mountain. Again and again and again I fired. Adjusting my aim each time. Finally hitting.

A small spark could be seen through the night-vision scope on a pile of boxes beside the cannon. It started in the center of the pile before expanding and making a crackling net around it, a second later it exploded and turned the munitions dump into a massive fireball that shook the mountain, finally dislodging the camping ground. The cannon tumbled to the valley below in an earth slide, pony shaped blobs could be seen tumbling after the large weapon.

An unkindness of ravens flew up from the forest below.

This gave the towns ponies their second wind and they charged the army of slavers. I turned down to the carnage below. The towns ponies were fighting back, my sister in the forefront with a large wrench in her teeth. I was so proud of her.

I had work to do.

Zoorch. There goes another slaver.

An onyx raven landed beside me, it too was made of shadows, but it did not fade. It just looked at me and crowed as I kept pulling the trigger.

Zoorch. Another pony spasmed on the road below and the air stank of ozone.

Each dead slaver was punctuated by the call of the raven.

In the darkness, tears streamed down my face, hidden by the rain.


When I woke up I walked off in the night, to avoid waking Runs Wild with my sobs.

*** *** ***

I now sat on the floor in an ancient diner, a collection of small items littered the tabletop before me. Runs Wild was looking at me work. I felt numb.

We were about an half hours flight from Red Light Crossing if I was any judge. Signs of previous occupants were everywhere, especially from the three dead raiders I tossed outside earlier. The diner had been occupied when we arrived and I had taken down two of the charging, foul smelling psychos by myself.

They were easy to handle. Their cheap-ass low caliber rounds couldn't even scratch my shield as I floated my magical plasma weapon outside the barrier. I had taken care to draw the attention of the only two with firearms.

Wild had fared less well with her first fight against another pony and acquired several cuts and some bruising before taking the buck down. Afterwards she just stood there panting, her machete was covered in blood and the bucks head rolled to a stop several yards away, a knife still in its teeth. She said she was okay but I didn't believe it. The way she had shook for the next ten minutes was anything but okay.

It made my heart ache, but for good or ill she needed to know how to fight other ponies, not even a medic and his companion was safe from raiders and bandits.

I was working on a small zebra fetish while last nights dream nagged at me until I wanted to scream. The little fetish wasn't anything big, barely a party trick really, something most ponies could learn with a lot of training and patience. My mentor and teacher from my youth had taught it to me one night when we had both been bored out of our skulls.

This was after what happened to Strawberry, the old nag had gotten a lot more respect for me after the lesson and a tenuous friendship had grown. I didn't blame her for anything. What was the point of it?

"Old coin to represent valuables," I muttered as I worked. "string made from somepony's mane to represent the owner," The string we had made minutes before flew up into a complicated knot. "tooth to give it some bite." I tied the bloodwing tooth to the pre-war coin.

"And that's zebra magic?" Wild asked astonished.

"Nonono," I dismissed with a wave of my wing. "this barely qualifies as zebra magic, real zebra magic is pretty much impossible to us ponies." I floated up the little fetish, examining it and finding it adequate. "This is what zebra foals play around with." It floated to her left saddlebag.

"What does it do?" She asked as she relocated it to the sown in pouch that held her bottle caps.

"Bites." I said dispassionately. "It will bite anypony who doesn't have your permission to root around in either of your saddlebags."

"Really?" She said dubiously as I started on my own.

"Yeah." I said bruskly as I began to work on my own, trying to concentrate. The dream knocked on the edge of my perception with a big grin on its face. I bucked it. Hard.

"You have been very quiet today." Wild said meekly.

I didn't look up. "Nightmares." The knot was giving me lip, I untied it and made a new attempt.

"Was it something she told you?" I stopped working when she asked me that and simply sat and looked at the piece of string.

She had figured out that I hadn't recounted the whole conversation. I had left out mentioning Bitter Drink to her. "I don't want to talk about it. Not yet, but thanks anyway." She seemed to accept this.

I continued to work on my fetish, trying not to think about that night. Failing spectacularly. Bitter Drink wasn't my biological son, but I had raised him from birth and he was mine in all the ways that mattered. After his death I spent the next three months mourning, and at the beginning of the fourth I had packed my saddlebags and left. I had tried to put it all behind me.

I'm ashamed to say that I fled. I fled my responsibilities as a healer and abandoned the town, not my finest hour.

But there was one thing that was new during the last part of the dream. The ravens, there weren't any ravens in the vicinity of the town at that time and they were an anomaly.

The knot finally surrendered and I felt the tiny surge of magic leap into the little anti-pickpocket fetish. It floated into my money pouch. "Done. Now we can continue towards Red Light." I started to dispiritedly pack my things back into my bags.

"Just a minute, I want to try something out." Wild said and I followed her with my eyes as she walked to the old bathroom, as soon as I was done packing I followed, slightly curious.

She stood in the old bathroom examining the old first aid box riveted to the wall, the rest of the bathroom was a waterlogged mess, the tiles cracked and the sink in pieces on the floor. Then she reared up and put a fore hoof to the wall beside the box. I had no idea what she was doing, the old medical storage unit was locked and inaccessible. Wild rooted around in a foreleg pocket and took out a small bobby pin in her mouth, the pin was bent to an L shape.

"What are you..." But she shushed me.

"Need to concentrate." She mumbled and stuck the pin in the lock, then she put one of her claws into the remaining space and started to feel her way around the lock, rotating the bobby pin slowly this way and that as she gently applied sideways pressure with the claw. Where had she picked up lockpicking? That was something that took immense training and dedication and wasn’t easy to learn without precise levitation.

The only one I knew who could open locks was Tripwire, the half crazy, ghoul weapons expert in Traders Caravan. Although, when he opened a safe or lockbox he uses dynamite and other home cooked stuff and half the contents were usually destroyed, except when he opened doors of course. I swear the ghoul was tethering on the edge of zombie-hood, always going on about someponies called 'The readers' watching our every move.

Her tongue hung outside her mouth in concentration as she prodded the pin and after about a minute and a second attempt when the first pin broke, the lock clicked open. I sat in the hallway with my mouth open, then I clopped my hooves in applause. I was very impressed.

She took a bow. "Thank you." Then gave the box a glance. "Can’t do it with most locks, but this one seemed easy enough."

I nudged the the lid open with my magic and levitated the contents out; two more bobby pins, some rad-x, a healing potion and a water bottle. The water looked dirty and I tossed it aside but the rest I saved, I gave the pins to Runs Wild. "I have no use for them. You better hold onto these." She held out her foreleg and I tucked them inside the pouch there.

"You know, that's pretty impressive. The only other pony I know who can open locks levels half the building in the process." I said as we walked outside.

Then hell itself eventuated.

"RAAWWR!" Came the feline roar of a manticore. It must have heard the previous gunfire and come to investigate. It was big, bigger than normal and surely an old male that has been forced out of the pack.

I barely got my shield up before the giant paw slammed into it, making me slide on my hooves along the ground. I didn't lose balance but the force of the blow moved me at least a pony length to the side. My shield held, barely.

"Bloody hell!" I yelped in surprise, my head ringing with the force of my displacement. I tried to get my bearings when the paw fell on my shield again, making me groan as the shield protested. I started to pour energy into the barrier to repair the damage the manticore's ramming caused. The damned beast hit like a freight train. Stress testing my shield like this was not my idea of a good time and I searched desperately for a way out but the damned thing wouldn't even let me move.

I looked around, trying to locate Runs Wild. I saw her making a circling motion to get behind the beast, her eyes glowed like a hunting cat and she had drawn her machete. As I took a third pounding she started to run towards the hindquarter of the beast, aiming for the thick segmented scorpiontail. Oh no, she wasn't planning on that... was she? Sparks flew off the blacktop as her claws gave her purchase and she leaped.

The manticore reared and brought its full weight down on me, almost shattering the shield and making me drop to my knees. While my shield held, the force of the stomp got transferred straight through me. I groaned, I couldn't shoot it without dropping my shield and if I did that it would surely rake me before I could get the arcane revolver out of its holster. I couldn't take flight either, it would just swat me out of the air like a bloatsprite.

As I desperately worked to keep the barrier between us I saw how Runs Wild flew through the air and hit the tail straight on. But instead of falling of it she started to climb up the tail, placing her claws between the segments and scurrying up it like a squirrel.

"Get down from there!" I yelled. I couldn't figure out what she was planning on, and holding the shield up took all my concentration and efforts. The beast kept pounding, swatting my shield repeatedly.

The manticore now started to circle. The gigantic creature stood taller than me and the wings on its back looked strangely inadequate for its size. It didn't seem to notice Runs Wild as she climbed its tail. The thick chitin and her low weight made her unnoticed, and the beast was concentrating on how to crack my shield to get to the yummy center.

I figured that all I could do now was to keep its attention and make sure that Wild knew what she was doing. "Hey!" I yelled at the monster when I've regained my stance. "Whats wrong? Cant get into my shell!" If I survived this I would never, EVER, taunt half a ton of pissed off carnivore again.

The beast roared again and pulled back its fore paw, preparing to bowl me to the next continent. "Well fuck you too!" I had nothing to lose by yelling back. I figured that I could at least try and fly away when I've slammed into the nearest building. Unless me and my shield would just pass through it like a wrecking ball.

Just as the manticore prepared to strike it halted and screamed in pain. The stinger from its tail landed point first in the ground just outside my shield. I looked up. Runs Wild was holding on to the end of the beasts tail as it weaved back and forth, spraying blood from the stump. The machete in her teeth was again coated in blood. Okay, it was out of one weapon. But what about the two on the ends of its legs? And the teeth?

But it was distracted, and I had my opening. Flaring my wings inside the shield I jumped. The shield, strangely, didn't mind me flying and the wind just flew past me while it held, battered but intact.

When I was out of range from its paws I dropped the shield and drew my revolver with my horns magic. "Clear!" I roared at Runs Wild and she leaped like a cat from the tail, landing on the edge of the diner roof and scrabbling up. I took aim at the trashing, extremely pissed, half ton of furious manticore.

"Eat this." I pulled the trigger, pouring all of my nights fury into the orbs of magic plasma. The beast got into the air at the second hit but faltered and fell when the fifth orb liquefied parts of its skull. It crashed into the diner window, collapsing into the counter inside and falling silent.

I panted as I hovered, adrenaline was starting to wear off... or whatever alicorns used. I started to fly down to the ground, Wild had already jumped down and picked up the severed stinger in her teeth.

"What the fuck do you think you were doing back there?" I was fighting to keep my voice level and calm. "Just jumping onto its tail like that?"

She dropped the stinger and placed a hoof on it, a few drops of ichor dribbled out of the tip. "I wanted to collect the poison sacs from it before you turned the beast into slush with that plasma gun of yours." Her voice was as level as mine and she didn't shy away. "I might not be good at fighting with ponies, or like it. But I'm damned good at hunting critters and I knew what I was doing." I almost wanted to smack her, that manticore was a critter?

"It was an old male." I almost yelled. "At least a third as big as normal and more than twice as aggressive." I wanted to shake her, I wanted to... I calmed myself when I saw Runs Wild start to shy away. I sighed and my hind legs gave way with the loss of my anger, I dropped to my haunches. "Look, I'm sorry for raising my voice, but I just got played with like a ball of yarn by that thing."

My horn glowed and the same glow enveloped Runs Wild. I pulled her close in a hug, she returned it cautiously. "Heh," I chuckled. "it did distract it enough to let me get away, thanks." I gave her a few thumps on the back and felt her genuinely hug me back.

We separated and I asked her. "What did you want the venom for anyway?" I levitated the stinger towards me while she rooted around in her pack.

"If I dilute it first, I can coat my claws in a solution that will paralyse most creatures." She gave me an apologetic shrug as she held a bottle in front of her. I filled the bottle by squeezing the stinger with my hooves. I was impressed, this was a good idea and if it worked on ponies we could at least try to avoid the unnecessary killing of somepony.

*** *** ***

Getting into Red Light Crossing wasn't a problem; a slow friendly approach, a small exchange of bottle caps and a salve for one of the guards who's 'friend' had developed an uncomfortable itch after an encounter with a prostitute. That had been the main reason for me stopping at the diner, I needed a cooking plate and some work space to make medical supplies out of the herbs I had gathered so far.

We were now walking down Manestreet, about halfway up this road the town was intersected by another major trade route, this made Red Light a four way trading outpost and a lot of caps moved through here daily. Sadly, a lot of the slag got left behind, caught up by the net of drug dealers and prostitutes.

We walked past dilapidated buildings and empty walls, junkies peeked out at us from empty frames and shied away, presumably from me, into dirty alleys. It was still in the middle of the day, so most of the nightlife laid low. The only ones to be around were merchants, their guards, occasional wagons and brahmin. These kept resolutely away from us and aimed weapons at me if I so much as glanced at them.

"So what's the plan now?" Asked Runs Wild as we arrived at an old sky wagon repair shop, its walls were hidden beneath piles of scrap that threatened to cover the entire building.

"First I'm going to get an old friend to look at something." I glanced down at Wild. "He won't recognise me now so don't tell him I called him an old friend." She nodded and I magically opened the oft-repaired door and moved inside.

A wave of nostalgia rolled over me as I entered the repair shop, old gutted machines leaned against the walls, nuts 'n bolts littered the floor and rolls of cable hung from hooks in the ceiling. I took a deep breath, it even smelled the same; Grease, oil, turpentine, burned out arcane components. I wanted to be myself so badly at that point I could taste it... but that wasn't going to happen. I had to suppress a shudder so strong that my body hurt from the effort.

"You okay?" Runs Wild asked me. She just stood beside me, a hoof on my shoulder and I could feel the warmth radiating from it, Luna bless the mare.

"Gimme a minute." I croaked out.

And that's when Meshing Gears walked in from the storeroom. His familiar gunmetal gray coat was streaked in oil and gray seeped into his mane, his utility barding hung heavy with tools. He stopped when he saw us, his jaw fell to the floor.

"What in tarnation?" And there it was, his old familiar drawl. I wanted to run and tell him who I was, ask him if I could borrow the workbench to do some maintenance on my rifle, chat about old times. I dragged my feelings down into a deep dark place in my mind and locked them down there along with the black egg the green alicorn had placed there.

I cleared my throat. "Sorry for bothering you," I levitated the Pipbuck P.R.A out from my bags. "but I wanted to know if you could help me fix this?" I knew he could, the earth pony was a genius with most types of old world tech.

I knew him so well, as soon as Gears caught sight of the Pipbuck all thoughts of being afraid of me vanished. "Where'd ya'll get one of these things?" He said excitedly as he cleared a workbench by the simple method of raking the junk onto the floor. He could barely contain himself as he pulled tools from a wall that was filled with hooks and scribbled outlines for said tools.

I laid the device on the bench and Gears practically jumped at it. "Haven't seen one a these in years." He said as he started to go over the P.R.A. I chuckled inside and a smile escaped my lips.

"I found it in the middle of the desert, believe it or not." I said as he went over the connectors to the missing battery, muttering serial numbers to himself.

He looked up towards the storeroom and bellowed. "Geri! Get me a zap battery! Type C!"

"On it boss." Returned a voice I didn't recognize, had Meshing Gears gotten an assistant? That wasn't like him at all. The voice was low and gruff but at the same time very young. The sound of somepony searching through boxes and containers echoed back to us accompanied by a slight clanking as whoever it was moved around the room.

"Your assistant?" I asked innocently.

Meshing nodded as he hooked up the P.R.A to a terminal, probably to do a diagnostic or something. "Well," He added. "the lil' critter is good at machines so ah let him help occasionally." He swore at whatever he saw in the monitor. "Dagnabbit, ah'll have ta completely reboot the spell matrix."

A thump was heard from the other part of the shop. "Found it!" The voice called out to us and entered. I gasped, for a frightening moment I almost mistook him for a hellhound, but he wasn't. To be completely honest I hadn't seen anything like the creature before me in my life.

The doglike youth stood hunched on a fore-paw, with grossly disproportional arms to his hind-legs. Short bristly fur covered his body and he had a club like tail with spiky protrusions, a network of small scars could be seen under his fur. His eyes were emerald and he had a pronounced under bite with sharp fangs visible.

He wore a brown leather vest with pockets and worn-down tools hanging from it, much like Gears utility barding. Under his left arm hung a messenger bag and around his throat he had a brightly polished collar with small arcane components affixed around it.

In his right paw he held a battery similar to the one I discarded in the desert shack, his left rested on the floor and was artificial, it started down from his elbow and looked more like a claw than a paw, hydraulic components peeped through and a cable ran from it, up along his arm and in under his vest.

I realised that I was staring. "Done looking, ponee?" He asked me bruskly and knuckled over to Meshing Gears, making a clanking noise as the claw struck the concrete. He seemed completely unconcerned with my appearance.

As Geri and Gears worked on the small terminal, Runs Wild leaned over and whispered. "What is it?"

I leaned down and answered. "I have no idea, I haven't seen anything like him before." I saw Geri's left ear turn to us and I shut up. He probably had very good hearing.

I magically cleaned an area of flooring for the both of us and sat down to wait.

After about half an hour Gears walked up to me, balancing the P.R.A. on his nose. "Ah'm done, ya'll can just boot the thing up now and let it register ya as owner."

I grasped it telecinetically and gave it a perusal. "Just one thing, what the hell is it?" Meshing Gears and Geri had done a good job on it and it sparkled, the back plate was back on proper and a small button marked 'power' blinked idly.

"Acronym stands for Pony Research Assistant." He said as I pressed the power button. "Ah had to completely reset the spell matrix ta get it up an runnin', wiped the whole memory."

Dammit, and I had hoped that it would hold some info on... woah. My train of though was interrupted as a cartoonish image of a unicorn in a lab coat walked into my vision, I turned my head but the little pony kept fixed to the same spot relative to my skull. I took a look at the little screen on the device and it poured out a blinding torrent of data, too fast for me to comprehend.

-Hi.- The little pony said in a text bubble over its head. -This is your automated Pony Research Assistant.- She was small and lavender under the lab coat, with a cute little bookish mane. -I'm here to help you in your workplace.- A cartoon book and terminal on a little table appeared.

"What's happening Curatie?" Wild asked me and I turned my head, I hadn't been concentrating so I probably looked straight into space when the little cartoon talked to me. As I turned to look at Runs Wild, the little unicorn helpfully teleported herself and the table into the corner of my vision with a little 'poof' to get out of the way and started to read to herself. Probably a function to let the user talk to others in peace.

"Well, I'm seeing things." I told her and at her perplexed expression I added. "There's a little cartoon unicorn wandering around in my vision."

"That'll be the EFS, or Eyes Forward Sparkle." Gears added. "T'aint a proper EFS since ya'll don't have a Pipbuck on yer leg." He made a gesture to my foreleg while me and Wild listened to his Explanation. "These things were built ta automatically interface with them leg terminals and make work easier for research folks. Only a few hundred of the things were built to mah knowledge."

"Now, how will ya'll be paying for yerself." He said, rubbing his forehooves together.

*** *** ***

After giving him a full checkup, free treatment of some back problems he was starting to develop and giving up half of my bottlecaps, we were walking down Manestreet again.

"What now?" Asked Runs Wild.

"Well, first I'm going to spend some time down in Kickback alley to earn some caps back after repairing the P.R.A." It was actually a quite useful tool, but effectively crippled without working in tandem with a pipbuck. It now rested in my saddlebags and ticked over quietly, drawing maps and absorbing all sorts of data from the ether. The little lavender unicorn had wandered off out of my vision for the moment and would return when needed, she responded to vocal commands but spoke only in text.

"Kickback alley?" Wild asked. "What kind of place is that?"

"A place for back alley medics such as myself. Ah, here we are." I arrived at an alley much like any other, but the road sign on the building beside it could rotate, it was now the right way up. I turned it upside down. "Should tell most of the less fortunate that there is a low price medic in here today and they tell more." I walked in and heard the sounds of a scuffle.

In the end of the alley, a collection of emaciated ponies were kicking and stomping repeatedly on a familiar shape. "Geri?" I shouted. "Hey you assholes, get away from him this instant!"

One buck turned and started to say. "Oh yeah..." But as soon as he saw me his face fell. "Oh Celestia fuck me." The rest of the bullies looked up and froze.

I simply stood aside to give them room to bolt and growled. "Leave." The gang of junkies did so in a hurry. Sometimes, being a monster is useful.

"You think he'll be okay?" Wild asked as soon as they were gone. I didn't answer, I was too busy to run up to Geri, medical bandages and a healing potion already floating out. Geri lay curled into a ball, and as soon as I got up to him he started to try and get away.

"Don't be afraid, its just me, from the shop. I'm just going to take a look at you, make sure that you are okay." He stopped trying to move away but didn't uncurl. Broken rib? I started to scan him, most of what I found was minor; small lacerations and bruising. But he did indeed have a cracked rib, I started to gently knit it together magically while Wild stood beside us, looking nervous. "You’ll be okay, just a cracked rib and some nicks and bruises."

When I was done I gave Geri the potion bottle. He just held it in a paw, looking at me in confusion. "Ponee give whole bottle to Geri?" He narrowed his eyes, looking like he expected a trick. "Why?"

"Because," I started as I picked myself up. "You are hurt and bleeding, that bottle will put you back in perfect health." The cuts were too numerous and to small to bother bandaging when a healing potion would do just as good and faster.

Geri just looked at me for a moment, those emerald eyes narrowing. Then he swiftly popped the top and drank half the bottle, re-corking and putting the half full bottle in his bag. When I started to protest he waved for me to follow as he walked over to a ponyhole cover at the end of the alley.

"Geri was on his way home when bullies came." He answered the unspoken question as he lifted the metal lid, his claw gave him easy grasp of the edge. He made a motion for us to follow as he slunk underground.

"Think we should follow?" I asked Wild. She shrugged and nodded.

I entered last, having to wriggle a bit to get into the narrow entrance (stupid big alicorn rump) and slid the lid back. The ancient flickering lighting still worked down here and we had no problems seeing.

Suddenly the EFS sparked to life. -Sewer detected. Would you like me to provide you with a minimap?- The little unicorn silently asked as she teleported into my view.

"Yes Sparkle." I answered and as soon as I said that a small map appeared in the upper right hoof corner of my vision. I had named her Sparkle because the little avatar needed a callsign in order to properly respond to user input without me having to dig the damn thing out of my pack every time she asked me a question. I just fibbed and named her after the heads up display.

The path was winding and I noticed that he led us in circles a few times, I wouldn't have noticed myself but the little map helpfully made a breadcrumb trail as we walked. This wasn't the primary function of the device, I just ran the operating matrix on survival mode. This was according to Sparkle a function in case of a Stable breakdown to help and aid those stable dwellers who had gotten out.

I strongly suspected that this particular Pipbuck P.R.A. once belonged to the same somepony the alicorn referred to, the one who's shack I had woken up outside and who's duster I now wore. Its a small world. And it was way too convenient to be entirely by accident.

Finally we arrived outside a heavy metal door, and I have gotten a suspicion of where we were. "This is The Cistern, isn't it?" Geri nodded while Runs Wild looked at me in confusion. "The Cistern is an orphanage," I supplied. "and the home to many of Red Light's children."

I didn't know that there was an actual door. The rumor was that the young ones used narrow sewer pipes, too narrow for adults, to get in and out. I glanced at Geri while he was busy tapping a code on an access panel. He was definitely too big to use the pipes but also very young, I guessed that he was barely past the age where ponies usually get their cutie mark. Hence him taking the long way round. The door opened and Geri walked inside and around a bend, me and Wild followed.

Into a small mote of paradise.

The room was huge and resembled a cathedral. A vaulted concrete ceiling rose high above us and thick pillars rose from the floor. Whatever the room had been used for before the megaspells certainly needed some serious space. At the far end of the room a metal door lead further inside, presumably to the access pipes used by the children to get in and out.

Screaming foals rushed past as they played and roughhoused, others were drawing on old book pages with charcoal. Toys were spread everywhere around old but clean mattresses. It was a little place of innocence and I felt my craggy and jaded heart yearn for it.

A little filly immediately spotted Geri and ran up to him, jumping onto his back and yelling excitedly. "Ride! Ride!" He gave the two of us an apologetic look before running off with the foal squealing with joy on his back.

That's when I noticed the only other adult in the room walking up to me. He or she was fully robed and dressed in shawls and bracelets to the point where it was impossible to identify the pony. Until the female ghoul bowed low and spoke.

"Many welcomes to friends of Geri, he usually only bring visitors when they have proven themselves friendly." She had a matronly voice under the rasp and when I looked closely I could see the corpse light of her eyes from under the hood.

I returned the bow. "Greetings matron," Something about her demanded an elaborate tone. "My name is Curatie, I'm a healer and this is my friend and traveling companion, Runs Wild." Wild was still looking over the room in awe and didn't pay attention as I gestured to her with a wing.

We had by now gotten quite the audience of foals, young ponies and zebra youths. They looked mostly on me and my wings, they had probably never seen a pony with wings before and certainly not a big one with wings and a horn. The attention was making me a little uncomfortable. The matron noticed this and shooed most of them away with a hoof.

"Shoo, don't you young ones know that its impolite to stare. Haven't I told you enough times." She turned back to us. "Pardon the interruption, as I said: Welcome to The Cistern." She sat with a creak of old joints, me and Wild did the same.

"This place is incredible." Wild said in awe and I was inclined to agree.

"Thank you child." The matron nodded to the playing children, many of which had stopped to look at the two newcomers. "It does have its problems but many of the older children help out greatly."

"Like Geri," I agreed. "I must ask though. What is he?" I gestured to the youth, who had by now amassed quite a collection of foals riding on his back.

The matron followed his progress. "I am not entirely sure. My memory isn't exactly what it once was," The old ghoul confessed. "but I suspect that he is a descendant of the old race once called Diamond dogs." She shook her head in irritation. "Two hundred and fifty years is a long time to amass memories young lady, and they don't always fall correctly into place."

At my scowl in reaction to the use of lady, she took on a perplexed tone. "Did I say anything wrong?"

I just shook my head and tried to not let it irk me. "No, don't worry about it."

Then I felt something climb up my.. ow! I turned my head and saw that a creme filly had climbed up my back, pulling out several feathers in the process. My horn glowed as I lifted her up to eye level. "Be more careful next time. Pulling out feathers like that hurt." Then I levitated one of the loose feathers up and tucked it behind her ear. "Now go play somewhere." She rushed off as soon as I set her down to show off her prize to her friends.

I felt calm here, at peace. Naturally, it couldn’t last.

The sound of the main door opening and a voice interrupted us. "Took forever to find the damned place, about time too. Let's shoot it up and be done with it."

For a precious lost second I could do nothing, then I roared to the oldest kids. "Get the foals out, NOW!" They scrambled to obey, out of fear for me if nothing else.

"Fuck, I told you to be silent you asshat!" Somepony BIG yelled as he started to run and I heard heavy steel-shod hooves round the corner in the entrance tunnel to the big room. I heard the telltale sound of a minigun revving up and I turned, starting to weave my weaker shield around the entrance to the big room, the malleability of it would make it a useful barrier.

The male earth pony was huge, as big as I was and dressed in salvaged steel ranger armor with no helmet. The armor had been partially gutted, probably missing its repair talisman and had an odd gleam, as if its been obsessively polished. He also wore a minigun battle saddle. Mercifully only one weapon, but the mass of ammo boxes balancing the weapon on the other side didn't make me feel any better.

He stopped just at the other end of my shield as most of the foals had gotten out through the passages behind me. I stood firmly in the middle of the large room, between the mercenaries and the orphans. There was four more behind the big buck. All in mercenary bardings made for combat and all but one sporting single automatic battle saddles.

The last, and only, unicorn had a SMG strapped to his foreleg and was tucking away what looked like a mess of wires and tools. So that's how they had gotten past the door. The unicorn walked up to the shield and made a disappointed sound. "Guess that the caps are gone now."

The big stallion just grinned at me. "Fuck the caps, this is better." Then he looked sideways at the minuscule unicorn beside him. "By the way, you fucked us over back there." Before the unicorn could react an armored hoof crushed his skull against the wall, killing him instantly.

Then he turned to me. "I always wanted to kill one of you lot." He tapped the shield. "Too bad on the little kiddies though, The Don was going to pay us three thousand bottlecaps to exterminate most of the little varmints." He smashed his hoof on the shield, making it flicker slightly. Fuck.

"Why?" I asked. Wild had moved behind one of the pillars to remain unseen and was dipping her claws in the bottle of manticore venom. The matron had moved away to safety in her slow old gait and the room was empty of kids. There was one surprise though; Geri stood behind another pillar, holding a duct taped tin can in his paw and with a big wicked grin on his muzzle.

"He was under the impression that one of them stole from his pocket somehow." He shrugged. "I don't really give a fuck, he was paying good caps to us for killing the rats." Now he reared back and slammed his hoof on the shield barring his entrance, this time much harder and the shield gave. He started to walk inside.

I drew my gun. I was enraged, fury building in me like wildfire. They took payment for killing children? That was low even for mercs. I aimed straight at him and fired two shots. One missed and the other just glanced off his armor and was diverted behind him, helpfully caving in the head of one earth pony behind before the smaller earth ponies could spread into the room.

-Gunfire detected.- Sparkle now dove behind a small pile of sandbags, a green helmet on her head. -Emergency S.A.T.S. protocols initialized.- As she said this, a red outline with a percentage in the middle appeared over the mercenary leader. Giving me a nice clear target to aim at.

Moments before he started to rev the motor of his minigun, I threw up my shield. Keeping my gun outside so I could fire. Then I wanted to slam my head into the floor repeatedly. The battery only had three shots left. Stupid stupid stupid!

But before the leader could fire, a big explosion turned both of our attentions to the pillar where Geri had hidden. The earth pony that was going for him lay in a mangled heap with a big hole in his side. The tin can Geri held earlier was a bomb? Holy skyfucking Celestia.

"Fucking hell. Now I'm starting to get pissed." The big buck growled. Then he bit down on the reins of his battle saddle and fired. The draconian roar of the minigun overpowered any other noise in the room.

I groaned as the hail of rounds slammed into me, no single bullet was strong enough to break my shield but it was getting worn down, fast. I poured power into the shield to keep it up while I ran to take cover behind a pillar, firing as I went. The orbs of magical plasma only slid off his damned armor. That's why the bastard polished it like that, to keep energy weapons from getting a solid enough grip to damage.

I leaped and slid on my hooves behind the pillar just as my shield gave. I threw the old battery aside as I dug in a coat pocket after a new battery. I looked towards Wild, she was leaping and sliding like a circus pony to avoid coming into direct line of fire with the earth pony's battle saddle, she was slowly closing the distance. I suspected she only wanted to rake and paralyze him. I also saw that the merc had gotten a few grazing hits in. I was soo going to throw his naked ass into a pit of zombies if he survived.

"Come out you cunt! Let me get a good line of f... ARRGH" The leaders call was interrupted by another explosion and he roared in fury. Geri was playing peek-a-boo with him while I was reloading. I smiled, then twirled around the pillar to get a few shots off at his unprotected head while raising a new shield.

I managed to get off two shots before he strafed my position with minigun fire. I missed his head completely hitting his shoulder and flank instead, but his armor was dented and blackened, giving my plasma purchase but not much penetrating power.

"Okay that is IT!" He yelled in fury and I heard him stomp closer to the pillar. At the edge of my vision I saw Geri gesture to me and as soon as I laid eyes on him he tapped his left shoulder. I nodded and threw up my invisibility spell, vanishing from sight, then I turned to the right and left my cover.

The big mercenary leader was indeed stomping around the thick pillar on the left side, but as I walked up behind him in order to get a point blank shot at his head, I felt my breath leave me. I collapsed in pained gasps as he put his armored hoof down. "Think I'm a complete moron?" He roared as he twisted. "Do you think I haven't heard of that particular stunt you bitches use?!"

I couldn't breathe, his rear kick had taken me by surprise and it had landed right in my sternum. Tears welled up in my eyes and Sparkle was silently yelling something about crippling injuries. I couldn’t make the text out.

~~Down, just like that?~~ A voice asked me as the armored form stomped around on the ground, looking for me. ~~Get your ass up right now.~~ I had no idea where it was coming from.

"Hurts." I managed to croak out and the armored stallion stopped stomping, listening for me.

~~Life fucking hurts.~~ The strange voice said without warmth. ~~Now get your dumb ass up before I drag you up.~~ I did so, I don't know how but I managed. I staggered away from the mercenary leader, trying as silently as I could to gain some range. My gun was somewhere on the floor, I could look for it later.

Then another explosion made the stallion stagger. Geri was digging for another grenade and leaped back behind the pillar to escape the stream of five millimeter ammo coming his way.

I searched for Runs Wild. She was nowhere to be found, but the still statue of the mercenary she had fought was a testament to her success and I was relieved to find no body among the scattered and destroyed toys, she was okay... hopefully.

But I had no weapons and no offensive spells at all. Then I saw my plasma gun; It lay next to the pillar behind the searching stallion. He was still convinced that I lay somewhere on the ground and truth to tell, all I wanted was to have a lie down on something soft.

I focused my magic and floated my gun towards me. But as soon as the weapon passed the stallion and he spotted it, he turned straight towards me and strafed the room with minigun rounds. I howled as several bullets punctured my skin from my flank to my shoulder. My magic died with a pop and the gun fell.

"That's right! Scream for me you whore!" He roared as he sprayed the room again, thankfully I had collapsed as the first rounds struck me and the second volley went overhead, missing me by inches. I was in bad shape, my horn ached from the strain I had put it under and my body was bleeding badly.

~~Use this, it might help.~~ There it was again. As I heard the voice say this, a new spell started to take place in my mind, the strokes of the horn and pattern of the magic utterly alien to what I was used to casting. I had nothing left to lose. I floated out a healing potion and downed it, feeling the worst of the damage dissipate.

I staggered to my hooves and cast the spell, hoping that it was something useful. I had my doubts and I didn't expect it to be an actual harming spell, that would completely go against my talents as a medic. Although since I became an alicorn I could cast a shield and an invisibility field, both of these were outside of my normal capabilities, what more could there be?

To my surprise, my horn didn't glow blue like normal. Instead it seemed to suck in light like a black hole, darkening in the upper edge of my vision and gaining a onyx look. Then I heard it; The call of ravens.

To my dismay the merc leader seemed to finally locate me, getting an evil grin on his face and walking towards me. I looked down on myself and saw that my cloaking spell had stopped working. Was it interference between two different spells that caused it to stop working? He bit down on the rains of his battle saddle and prepared to fire, only for my spell to finish first.

A dark cloud made entirely from dark birds shot out from my horn and rushed against the stallion. Enveloping him in a swirling mass of black cawing ravens. He yelped in surprise and anger as he started to spray the room randomly with minigun fire, trying to kill of the birds that now surrounded him. It was to no avail, the mass of ravens were probably only an illusion, like my vanishing trick and completely incorporeal.

Again I had drawn up my shield to try and stave off the worst of his fire. But now my horn actually started to hurt. I was on the edge of my magical abilities and if I didn’t watch myself I would have a burn out. I ran towards my plasma gun, praying that both Geri and Runs Wild had the sense to stay away from the mercs random bursts. I skirted the swirling tornado of ravens and was almost at the weapon when a random volley of rounds hit my side.

I staggered and fell, my shield held but I was too disoriented from the fight and the adrenaline to keep my balance against the kinetic force. Until something held me up on the other side of my shield. I turned and saw Geri, his paws pressed against the shield, supporting me. "Get gun stupid ponee!" He yelled. I was now only meters from it and I made it fly with my horns glow.

Then I walked up to the tornado. The merc was still trapped inside as it followed his stumbling efforts to escape. Vile curses flowed out and all were directed to me. The magic charge was dissipating and the cloud of ravens were becoming less and less solid as I neared. When I was near enough to his outline to locate his head I reared to bring my fore hooves down on his thick skull. I dropped my shield and my hooves.

He fell like a clubbed brahmin.

"What the fuck are you?" He panted out as he lay on the ground. I didn't answer, I just stepped up on his chest to see into his eye as I emptied my gun into his unarmored head.

“I need a drink.” Was all I said as I fell down on my haunches.

Footnote: Level Up
New Perk: Stonewall - You gain +5 to your Damage Threshold against all Melee Weapons and Unarmed attacks, and you cannot be knocked down by any means in melee combat (explosives can still knock you down).

New Spell: Unkindness of Ravens - This spell will conjure up an illusory flock of ravens to befuddle and blind your opponents for a short time. This flock can be divided to cover multiple opponents, although this will cause the blinding effect to lessen proportionally.

NeverKnown is away until Friday so Shadowstep helped me edit.

Chapter 6: You cant go back.

View Online

Fallout Equestria: Misfits

By DancingOnTheAshes

Chapter 6: You cant go back.

Alicorn... Abomination... Monster... Mare... Somehow the last stung the most when it shouldn't. Maybe it was because of my love for flight that I could accept my wings but not... that place, the place between my haunches that told the world that I wasn't a stallion anymore.

Some part of me wondered why? There are a lot of ponies who had gotten worse off. Especially after being dunked in a tank full of taint. I was alive, healthy, I could fly and my magic had improved considerably. So why did it annoy and bother me so?

I'm such a fucking mess.

But I had my priorities; Find Traders Caravan. Return home to see my sister a last time. Find stable 10 and hopefully some answers as to why I had briefly been so damned important to The Goddess.

I sat on the floor just beside the huge armor of the mercenary leader; his body was liquefied and poured out of the neck of the suit. I was tired, the adrenaline tidal wave from the fight was receding and the pain started to creep in. I was fairly certain that my breastbone was busted, because I had trouble breathing.

Then cold sweat started to flow down my back and sides as horrible realization dawned on me. I just attacked somepony who was using a bloody minigun! I yelled in my own head as I started to hyperventilate. My heart beat like a jackhammer and I felt like I was going to faint. Pain speared my chest and I almost fell over.

~~Calm down right now before you have an aneurysm!~~ The same voice that taught me the raven spell ordered. I stopped breathing altogether in shock. ~~You're alive, that's what matters. While taking on that big bastard was stupid, he didn't give you any choice.~~

That last part was true at least, the mercenary had seen me as a prize, a trophy. A pair of wings and a horn he could nail to the wall and brag about. I just stared at the emptying suit of armor as I tried to breath calmly again. "Who are you? Another alicorn?" I asked out loud as I started to breathe again.

~~Hardly.~~ The voice chuckled and I felt the black egg wiggle pointedly in the back of my mind, almost making me panic again. ~~That should answer your question. Now I need to get back to sleep.~~ The voice actually sounded exhausted. ~~Teaching that spell took more out of me than I like to admit.~~ Now the egg settled down and seemed to grow slightly cold.

"Who ponee talk to?" Geri asked behind me. Of course, nopo...one else would be able to hear whatever lived in my head talk.

I groaned to myself and held my head in my hooves. Great, now I could add multiple personality disorder to the list, even if the voice was planted by somepony else. Add to that Sparkle, and my head was starting to get really crowded really fast.

"I'm not talking to anyone, just rambling." I started to go over myself slowly, not wanting to strain my aching horn any more than necessary. Then my breath caught. "Runs Wild!" I had for a moment completely forgotten about her.

"I'm okay." She stepped up beside me, silent as a ghost and almost gave me a heart attack. "I'm not as well protected as you and you seemed to have the situation in control so I stayed back." She sat down heavily as I took out bandages and disinfectant, they were light enough that I didn't need to worry about straining my horn unduly.

"Is the last merc alive?" I asked quietly while I worked, her wounds were all superficial; one graze was close to her throat and I took care about that one first. I didn't like to waste potions when only few meters of healing bandage were needed. Geri had been another matter since his bruising and small lacerations earlier in the alley had been so extensive that the bandage needed would have cost more than a potion with the same effect.

I myself was just worn, the earlier potion had me at relative health even if I felt shaky. I had a lot of heavy bruising and a broken breastbone. Nothing that a few minutes of careful magic can't fix, Wild was more important. Besides, the bruising would be mostly gone by tomorrow anyway.

She nodded. "Yeah, stiff as a board but alive."

Geri came up to us and started to inspect the battered steel ranger armor while taking out his tools. "Geri sealed the door, only open from inside now." He said before unstrapping the minigun battle saddle, I saw that his artificial paw jerked erratically while doing so. It had probably taken a hit during the battle. It was no wonder, not with those visible hydraulics.

"Geri," I asked softly, not looking up while I worked on Wilds neck. She was stripping off her armor meanwhile so I could get to the remaining wounds later. "why did they come here?" I strongly suspected that Geri had known that the mercenaries were on their way. Had he been jumped by the junkies when he tried to rush back home?

That little stiffening of his body that I picked up from the corner of my vision told me plenty. He didn't slow in his work on the battle saddle as he unslung the shoulder bag and tossed it at my hooves. "Big pocket. Ponee deserve to know."

I gave Runs Wild a look and she stopped in her task to open the bag. The inside was a mad bombers toy chest. There was a multitude of homemade explosives and parts for same, I was no expert but I had watched Tripwire enough to know what parts might be useful, even if I didn't have a clue as to how to put them together.

In the big inside pocket, closest to the body, was a thing of beauty. A wonderful collar in thick red leather and studded with gems in a rainbow pattern, it had a tag hanging on the front that read 'Accalia'.

"Who..." Wild started to ask but Geri broke her off.

"Was mothers." Was all he said. Geri had finished removing the battle saddle and laid it aside, the heavy minigun still looked like it had more than enough ammo to take out a small town. He then swiftly got into the task of dismantling the suit. Examining servos, arcane components and armor plates and dividing them into piles.

The raspy tisk of the matron came as a small surprise. "I found him as a young pup in the wasteland, his mother and kin dead. The only thing to name him was a small copper plate with 'Geri' engraved on it." She simply stood, somberly surveying the devastation as a few of the oldest orphans started to clean up. Geri didn't say anything as she explained. "I didn't notice her collar at the time and eventually it found its way here, to The Don's collection."

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. The Don. The merc leader had mentioned him. The Don was a sadistic collector of curios and the stallion that ran Red Light. If Geri had stolen from him, no matter how noble a cause, The Don wouldn't stop at anything to see the youth's head stuffed and mounted on a wall. And rumor has it that's not a hyperbole.

Her voice took on a sad tone. "I'm sorry Geri, but after this I cant let you stay here. You'll just endanger the other children." Geri simply nodded to this. He was well on his way into dismantling the armor and had started to work on his artificial paw, stripping it of damaged hydraulics in favor of the more advanced Ranger servos.

The matron turned to the two of us, I was finished with Wild's wounds and was very slowly mending my sternum. My horn had regained its usual blue glow. "Thank you young ladies for protecting the children. I hate to ask of you, but can you take the bodies away as soon as you are able?" I nodded in agreement. Then I caught sight of the remaining merc.

He still stood like a statue in the corner he and Wild had fought. Right, I had promised to throw him naked into a pit of zombies earlier and I wanted to follow up on that... but couldn't, I was still going to strip him to his underbarding though.

"Wild, can you strip that guy down please?" At her shocked blush I clarified. "I just don't want to leave him with any weapons or gear as I kick him down Manestreet." As she went to work I proceeded to strip the dead, using my mouth just as much as my aching horn.

First my gaze fell upon the minigun battle saddle Geri had put aside. The long weapon was chrome plated and looked in excellent condition, it had a plate on its motor that read: 'Ironshod Firearms CZ-57 Silver Sword'. I was lousy with saddles but I could ask Geri to strip the minigun out of it. A minigun would be a nice deterrent even if I wouldn't be able to hit a barn door.

"You want to keep this?" I asked Geri, it was as much his as mine or Wild's. He shook his head as he hunched over his work on his bionic limb.

The battle saddles and all ammo except the 5mm I left with a zebra youth who would sell them for food for the orphanage, I did the same with most things me and Wild, either had no use for, or interest in. So far Geri had only taken interest in the tools from the Unicorn and as much parts he could salvage from the old Ranger armor, he left the rest to us.

One thing caught my eye though; the dead unicorn had a rather nice copy of The Big Book of Arcane Science. Only ten pages lost. Yoink.

After making sure that all the kids were okay, me and Wild shoved the corpses outside the door. Geri had taken it upon himself to dispose of them as soon as his left paw functioned. I didn't argue. I was tired enough and I had more work to do.

*** *** ***

I now stood before the single surviving earth pony. Only the merc's eyes moved around and he looked rather frantic. We had dragged him outside into the sewer, well away from The Cistern and just under a pony hole leading up to Red Light. The chrome minigun was strapped to my back and we had left Geri and the orphanage matron alone to talk, they had thanked us for any help but would handle the situation with The Don themselves. I wanted to protest but was shot down.

It wasn't like I was in any condition to anger The Don anyway, I needed rest to regain my full magic and even then I wasn't anywhere near strong enough... who was I kidding, I'm a doctor not a vigilante. I couldn't go around like an avenging angel. Still, that strange calm I entered when I was in a fight was troubling. I shook my head to clear it.

Now to show why I was named Snakebite Tourniquet. Almost without having to think about it I blasted the manticore poison from his body, he collapsed in a panting heap. While breathing was possible, I cant imagine that it was pleasant while paralysed like that.

"You took down Shining Armor." He panted. Well, the big guy was aptly named. "Holy fucking Celestia you actually killed him." He sounded disbelieving, like I had just had a punch out with Luna or something.

"So? Just another merc." He had been anything but another merc. Still, I didn't want to show just how amazed I had been at actually succeeding to kill Shining Armor

"Just another merc!?" He screamed at me! "Shining Armor was a well known and feared bounty hunter, known for taking on any and all jobs that bring enough caps." That was news to me, it had to have been three years since I was in Red Light last and I had never heard of Shining Armor before.

"Well, not anymore. Scram." I gave him a kick towards the ladder leading up to the street. More to point the way than to actually hurt him and he scrambled away up it.

"I'm probably going to regret this." I prophesied.

"What now?" Wild asked beside me.

"First, I need to get some proper rest." I tapped my aching horn with a hoof. "A bar or something that rents out rooms, because a bath wouldn't be amiss either." I smelled of blood and sweat, my feathers were ruffled and I had the distinct urge to preen my wings. Something I haven't tried yet.

*** *** ***

We were trotting down Manestreet again. It was dusk and the nightlife was coming awake. The towns ailing spark generators were pumping out a low current that made the surviving streetlamps give off a weak glow. The occasional scream sounded far off in the night. Lights came out from bars, taverns and nightclubs, one we passed had somepony who was strangling a cat... oh wait, that's a violin... a very badly tuned one. I was no musician but I could make better music than that.

I thought for half a second. Nah, I couldn't remember the spell.

Drunks and dashheads were lounging in doorways and stumbling down the road. I plowed down the street like an icebreaker, nopony wanted to be within ten feet of me and Wild. I must look like a mess, bullet riddled duster and half covered in my own blood. Wild looked a little apprehensive as she walked beside me, not used to the throng of ponies littering the street.

Then a voice sounded from an alley. "Hey little ghost mare! Wanna ditch your girlfriend and hook up with a real stallion?" Goddesses that line was cheesy. The gang in the alley were dirty and grubby, empty stampede packs lay around their hooves.

"Just ignore them." I said to Wild, I was trying to do the same myself.

"Oh come on big girl. Just let us sample your little slut." One chuckled and felt red creep into my vision. "Or are you jealous? Don't be, we can give you what you want if you like." I was fighting to keep my temper, my teeth were clenched and I unconsciously put more force in my stride. Just walk a little further and they would be out of earshot.

Then one yelled loudly. "You wouldn't be any fun anyway, a big bitch like you would be so loose that it'd be like trying to screw a doorway."

I snapped.

I was tired, sore, and I had just butted heads with a maniac in magical power armor. So I wasn't going to take any more shit from anypony.

I twisted and flared my wings, practically flying back to the alley while the gang just stood with big grins on their drugged out muzzles. "Changed your min..." One started but got no further. I slammed him aside with a swipe from my foreleg, the junkie I was after was backing away fast, apprehension battling with the artificial courage of the combat drugs in his system. Sparkle automatically started S.A.T.S. and red outlines blossomed around all of the junkies.

The stupid bastards had even helped me by picking an alley with no way out. I swatted and smashed them aside with my forelegs and the edges of my wings as I strode forward. One large earth pony even tried to buck me to make me fall over. He was pathetic, after being a punching bag to a manticore and getting a kick from Shining Armor I knew how to keep myself upright in a fight. I lazily twisted, and struck him a blow straight down on his back using a forehoof, making him collapse and gasp for air.

The bastard I was after had backed into the far wall, terror starting to get a winning hoof on the combat stimulants. I hauled him up the wall to eye level with my magic, making a supernova of pain blossom in my head. I ignored the developing migraine as I placed a hoof on his chest and started to squeeze. For a moment I wanted to see the light die in those eyes.

As he struggled for breath and beat at my foreleg, making nothing more than bruising hits that I ignored, I leaned close to his face. My slit golden eyes reflected in his and he was trying to yell as I slowly increased the pressure.

"CURATIE!" Wild yelled right in my ear, making it ring. That snapped me out of it and I lost my grip on the druggie, he fell gasping to the wet muddy ground. I turned my head. She was standing on my back, glaring into my eyes. "Don't you think that's enough?"

I glanced down on the offending pony. "Yeah." I sighed. Goddesses I had been furious, but now I was just tired and my head ached worse than before. I noticed that my braided tail hurt at the root and there were the drag mark of four hooves on the ground. Had I dragged Wild all the way while she held on and tried to stop me?

I needed to get a drink and a bath before I started to break down completely. I walked back out of the alley, balancing both Wild and the minigun on my back while I stepped over the groaning junkies. Nopony was seriously injured; stampede made ponies notoriously resilient and I had mostly just hurt their pride. One started to insult me but I 'accidentally' stepped on his fetlock joint, making it creak loudly as I walked past.

Then I looked around a bit. Somewhere without stallions would be welcome. After a moment I spotted it. 'Mare-only bar and hotel.' There we go, and I'd be a liar if I said that I didn't want to see how the inside of an mare-only bar looked like... Probably like any other bar but hey, its the thought that counts.

As I walked up the steps Wild jumped down from my back and asked. "Are you serious?" With an incredulous look on her face.

I actually managed a grin as I walked inside. "Oh give me this at least." The bouncer at the door simply stood there, stunned, she looked like she had just seen a hellhound walk by wearing a top hat, frock coat and skull cane. I chuckled silently to myself.

The inside lobby was much like any other hotel, flaking wallpaper and minor water damage to the roof. At some point somepony had been ambitious and tried to paint over the walls with cheap paint to little success. But the floor was clean, wastepaper baskets were empty and most lights worked, indicating that there was at least a little effort put into keeping the place decent. I've seen a lot worse.

A large sign over the front desk proclaimed: 'Management would like it if any weapons larger than small mouth weapons are left at the main desk.' Seems fair enough, I doubted I would need the minigun when ordering drinks. Unless the bartender was going to be a complete prick.

I walked up to the clerk and started to unstrap the large weapon from my back, she was a green earth pony engrossed in what looked like a faded and sleazy romance novel. Not until I plunked the heavy weapon onto the desk, making an indentation on the wood, did she react.

At first she was startled, then when she looked up at me she nearly wet herself. The shocked expression and signs of hysteria was starting to become a common and very tiring sight. I took pity on her. "Look, I just want to go in and have a drink, then me and my companion are going to rent a room. Two beds please and a warm bath ready, preferably a large tub."

After that I left Wild at the desk as I took a trip to the little fillies room for a brief cleanup. I stared at myself in the mirror for the second time since I woke. I looked like a demon of war with the bullet holes and blood. Those slit eyes peeking out from under my hat and those female facial features was still unfamiliar. I wondered if I would ever get used to them.

Still, after cleaning myself I had to admit I didn't look all that bad. Sure, I wasn't by any stretch normal but I wouldn't say bad looking either. Put aside the freaky eyes and unusual facial structure and I was actually somewhat attractive, in an odd sort of way. I shook my head and walked back out into the lobby, then Wild joined me as we entered the bar proper.

*** *** ***

The bar was medium sized, with about a dozen and a half number of tables including a stage. Most were empty apart for three; Around one sat two large bucks drinking beer, they were probably the nights entertainment and waited for the bar to fill properly. Around another sat four mares, playing poker. At the last sat an orange earth pony, drinking for herself. Along the wall, opposite to the stage, was one long bar. A large cracked mirror covered a quarter of the wall and it shared space with shelves filled with booze.

And of course, everypony had a shitfest as soon as I walked in. The bucks readied themselves to charge, the poker players pulled revolvers and one of the two barmares pulled out a shotgun. I started to crumble, it was getting too much for me. I had nearly been killed twice today, I've had to relive the death of Bitter Drink and I had nearly killed a dumb junkie with my bare hooves because of a silly insult.

"Sweet Celestia and lovely Luna, will everypony just fucking calm down?! All I want is to have a drink and to be left in peace! Please?!" I wasn't sure but I think that my voice was cracking slightly at the last part, then I sat down heavily. My migraine was coming on strong and while whiskey wasn't the best remedy, it was what I desperately craved.

This was also what stopped everypony cold. Apparently the big bad alicorn wasn't supposed to have a nervous breakdown when you point a weapon at her. The bucks looked at each other in confusion and the collection of guns lowered.

"We've had a bad day." Wild simply said as I tried to make my way to the bar top. Wasn't that an understatement. I sat down on a worn pillow and rested my nose on the lacquered wood, staring straight down.

"A bottle of whiskey and a glass please." I leaned my head to the side and asked Wild. "What do you want to drink?"

"Some cider please." She said as she sat beside me. Wise move, she wasn't too young but if she didn't have any drinking experience, going slow was the smartest choice.

"R-right." Stammered the barmare before scurrying off.

Then the second barmare walked up as the first fumbled with a bottle. "This is a first. Not only do you walk in only desiring a drink but you are also fully clothed." She leaned on the bar, crossing her forelegs. She was a pretty fuchsia with clear blue eyes. "I guess the stable dweller did some good when she took out maripony." She then cocked her head as the other barmare placed the bottles on the bar and hastily found something else to do.

Wait... didn't Littlepip kill The Goddess? Or were they one and the same? The fuchsia barmare continued as Wild flicked the cork out of the cider bottle. "Of course, those Enclave a-holes claims maripony was their work. Hrmph." She snorted the last part.

"Huh?" I gave her a questioning look as I poured my glass of ambrosia. "Sorry, but we haven't had access to a radio. What was that about the Enclave?"

Then she explained to us that the Enclave had taken credit for the bombing of maripony, scattering the alicorn forces and turning them into a leaderless mass of vermin. (Enclave words she assured me.) Then she explained further that they had taken hold of Tenpony tower's broadcast system, sending DJ-P0N3 on the run pretty much as soon as they arrived and as soon as they had control of Tenpony they started to broadcast their own goose stepping, marching band swill.

There was a high note though; P0N3 was still broadcasting and had managed to get some of the truth out while evading the forces of the enclave.

I'm slightly ashamed to say that what I was most annoyed about wasn't just that P0N3 had been shut down, it was that he had been shut down just before I had gotten the opportunity to listen to the dozens of new songs that had arrived at the station. Just my luck, I manage to get kidnapped and mutated just when DJ-P0N3 gets his repertoire of music quadrupled.

I groaned as I tossed back the fourth glass. It wasn't doing much, you'd think that drinking whiskey on an empty stomach would get you sloshed pretty fast, but not me. Probably my freakishly fast metabolism and greater body mass that messed with the alcohol content in my blood. Now I was getting really depressed.

"Don't worry," The barmare said. By now most of the patrons ignored me and Wild as we sat by the bar. "we still have some of the new songs recorded. We'll start playing some just before the entertainment."

"Entertainment?" Wild had gotten slightly tipsy by now and at the fuchsia mares gesture to the two bucks asked. "What? Are they going to dance or wrestle or something?"

This amused the barmare to no end. "Something like that young lady. Something like that." She chuckled, then she gave me a knowing wink that I failed to decipher.

I ordered another bottle and then we relocated to an out of the way table to make way for some of the more timid guests that started to trickle in, many new mares got quite intimidated by me and didn't dare order drinks until I had moved away from the bar top.

*** *** ***

About an hour later the music started playing in the background. Soft tones that reached down through my ears and down past my throat to squeeze my heart. Velvet Remedy was an amazing singer.

After about another hour, which me and Wild spend talking about everything and nothing, the bar was full. The lighting started to dim and the music stopped as an ash colored mare wearing an old tailcoat, worn purple bow tie and frayed top hat walked onto the stage accompanied by several spotlights. The two bucks had moved backstage long ago and I had finally started to get a buzz, it only took two bottles of whiskey and three quarters of a large tequila bottle. Yay.

"Fillies and mares," Granted, her proclamation wasn't all that flowing but what could you do with a mare-only audience. "soon we will get to the main entertainment," Half the room hoof stomped in excitement. "but first I would like to draw your attention to a very special mare that has decided to grace us with her presence tonight." Oh no... please don't tell me...

She swept a hoof grandiosely across the room and finally it landed on me. Of course it landed on me! What is next? Torches and pitchforks? A spotlight swung around and landed on mine and Wilds table as the ash mare continued. "our fair lady not only took out Shining Armor, the vile mercenary known for taking on the most abhorrent and vile tasks if the caps are good enough. She did so while protecting the orphanage known as The Cistern.”

The entire room had turned to stare at me and my friend. Some were disbelieving, others showed a faint admiration and a few showed open animosity.

"Don't believe me?" The mare on the stage said then addressed me. "If you'd be so kind as to go fetch the Silver Sword please, we wont take offence." Of course, it has to have been that merc I left alive. I was right in that I was going to regret it.

Bugger, I didn't have much choice in the matter now. I rose on slightly unsteady hooves and walked out into the lobby to get the minigun, eliciting worried mutters from some in the audience. "Did she really?" "Cant have, he wears ranger armor." "Even alicorns cant be that powerful, can they?" etc.

In the lobby the clerk had already taken out Silver Sword and laid it down on the counter with the ammo cage empty. This was so planned. What were their angle? Just as I took the big handle in my mouth and supported the weapon magically as best I could without aggravating my migraine, the mare behind the counter whispered. "Our mistress grew up in The Cistern. The room and bath is on the house." She gave me a tenuous smile and handed me back the bag of caps I had used to pay for the room.

When I returned I sat Silver Sword down on the floor and leaned it against me. Many of the mares started to whisper to each other excitedly. The orange earth pony I had spotted when I walked in, still drinking alone, looked particularly happy and gave me a wink.

The stage mare called our attention again. "You see, even among these creatures, many of whom we have feared as evil monsters, there are those few who are noble of heart. Those who would keep the weak from harm." She was clearly getting into the spirit of things and wouldn't be stopped by anything short of a half-brick.

Turns out that a soft cough from the right pony was enough. The orange mare that I was now convinced to be the owner waved a hoof. "Get on with the show please." She said in a voice that dripped with dark chocolate.

The mare on the stage gave a indignant huff at the interruption but bowed deeply to me. "Very well." I returned the bow before going back out into the lobby to return Silver Sword to the clerk.

Then as I was halfway to our table I got interrupted, I was passing a table with a collection of particularly boisterous mares when I felt a hoof smack me on my flank, hard. I froze. Cold sweat flowed down my sides and I almost felt like screaming. Luna's lacy lingerie I could feel my rump jiggle!!!

"Good job mate," A grinning puce mare, reeking of spilled beer slurred at me. "taking down that bastard did us all a favor." I just stood there for a moment, fighting the urge to flee... and to shake her like she owed me caps. I could still feel the minor tremors.

"No... problem..." I managed, Wild had seen everything and was fighting paroxysms of laughter. I got moving again and thankfully didn't encounter anypony else eager to thank me.

I didn't catch the names of the two bucks on stage as I returned to my seat but my bets were on a wrestling match or pole dancing. Neither of which I was interested in at all, but the audience was clearly exited as the collection of mares hoof stomped and wolf whistled loudly.

Wild was clearly interested as well as the two well muscled bucks started to oil one another. I ignored the stage as I attacked the tequila with vigor, trying to desperately drown the memory of my butt jiggling. With little success.

Wild jabbed me in the side. "Oooh oooh. They're start... oh my." Her hooves shot up to her face and she started to blush furiously, turning an interesting shade of pink. I noticed that while she was covering her eyes, she wasn't covering them enough to miss anything.

Oh my indeed. "Huh? Well, I guess they are wrestling... in a sense." I said as I tilted my head. Then I shrugged and stood up. "I'll be going up to our room to have a bath. Have fun." She nodded mutely while I stood and walked to the stairs, the cat calls and cheering of the audience almost, but not quite, overpowered the grunts.

The stairs creaked slightly and about halfway up, as I avoided a loose board, I was met with a midnight blue mare that was simply gorgeous. Her mane was long and black, her eyes a seductive rose, and those flanks had just the right amount of bounce. I was a lost cause as I stopped and ogled her openly. She gave me a seductive wink as she strutted past me down into the bar.

I turned to watch her and was startled when one of my wings swept a picture off the wall, apparently my wings had flared all by themselves and it took conscious effort to fold them back down. I hastily continued up to our room.

We had been allotted room five, it was in fair shape. The mattresses were decent and it didn't smell of mold. Off to the right was a door that opened to a bathroom and I could see that the tub was in my size.

I started to strip down, taking off the hat, saddlebags, duster, holster and goggles. I almost felt a little naked, not that ponies usually had any compulsion about clothing.

There was a knock on the door and an apricot colored, unicorn maid shyly walked in, followed by several levitating and steaming buckets of water. She was obviously dressed to gain attention in that faded but cute little outfit. I sat down in the middle of the room to let her do her job while I took the ribbons out of my mane and tail. I slowly tossed my mane and flipped my tail to get the braids out.

I felt an interest in the maid creep into the back of my mind like a thief in the night. Goddesses how long ago was it? Three months? More? I could remember that Trail Mix had an offer on the table if I left her cooking alone, now there was a mare that was sexy beyond compare. I felt things happen down below and my heart stopped.

I shook my head to clear it, I wasn't ready for anything like that, not just yet.

"Finished soon?" I asked the maid and she gave a high pitched meep.

"A-a-almost." Oh, this was not fair, this was torture. That short skirt that showed off frilly underwear and her shy attitude combined to make me more frustrated than ever, and this body was making it deeply discomforting.

"Do you mind fetching a cold bucket of water when you are done please?" I asked conversationally and she nodded.

I started to go over what I knew about the water purifying systems of Red Light to distract myself. They were simple earth pony things, deep in the sewers and hailed from before the war and before water purifying talismans became commonplace. The best water was completely rad free and made for decent drinking water if you could afford it. The slightly less rad free water that came from the less preserved facilities made for good bathwater as long as you weren't planning on a seven hour bubble bath.

"Done." The maid said timidly as she sat by the door. I snapped out of my reverie and looked up into the bathroom. The bath tub was filled with steaming, hot, dirt scouring water and a couple of buckets stood beside the tub, hopefully holding cold water.

"Thank you." I said as I stood and started to make my way to the cleansing paradise that awaited me. I looked sideways and the maid was still sitting by the closed door. I stopped. "Oh, sorry. Did you want a tip?" I had some caps to spare so it wasn't a problem, especially considering the room was free courtesy of the owner.

She shook her head mutely and started to shakily undress. My heart pounded at the arousing sight. "I-I-I was sent to help you wash and... u-unwind." I could feel myself craving the company, and dreading it. She looked scared and I wanted to calm her, to soothe her, tell her not to be frightened and by Celestia I wanted to hold her close, hold her tight, kiss her slowly down that soft apricot coat and run my hooves down...

I felt my body react further to my arousal and steeled myself. "That won't be necessary, I can wash myself." I said brusquely as I turned and continued towards the bathroom in a clear indication that I wanted her to leave. "You can let yourself out." I also didn't want her to see on my face how much I desperately wanted to take her up on the offer.

As I stepped over the threshold into the bathroom, I heard the door to the corridor close with a click. I gave a brief glance to make sure that she had left and magically turned the lock. Wild had a key of her own.

Then I sat down heavily and took deep shaky breaths for a couple of minutes to calm my nerves. I felt like crying. Goddesses I wanted the intimacy, that feeling of connection. The big problem was that I wanted it as a stallion, not as a mare.

I started to smell my own privates at work, my legs didn't want to stand. I grabbed a bucket in my hooves and upended the cold water over my head. That calmed me down somewhat, but far from enough. The second bucket met the same fate and now I felt secure enough to stand at least. This day was getting worse and worse.

I slipped down into the warm embrace of the bath and laid on my stomach with my legs folded beneath me, in here my body could do whatever it damned well pleased. I started to relax, my muscles started to unknot and tension left me slowly. I lazily unfolded my wings and laid them on the edges of the tub as I did the same with my chin. I just soaked for a while, the hot water was slightly tingly but I assumed that was because of the old soap.

After soaking I spent several minutes wondering how the bloody hell one went about preening. Did I just go over each feather with my mouth or should I try and scrub first or something? Not for the first time I felt that my new body should have come with an instruction manual. I decided to go with the former option first, it felt right as I slowly let feather after feather slip between my lips. I also felt my saliva take on an oily feel.

I spat experimentally in one of the little pools of water on the floor. The glob of saliva was indeed oily. Protection for the feathers against water and wear? I mentally shrugged and continued on my task, preening my wings slowly as I levitated a brush to clean the filth out of my mane and tail.

Much later I simply soaked and enjoyed the water. I knew I shouldn't because of the slight rad count but the small tingle of the water was just so enthralling. Like having a full body massage literally all over your body.

With a start I realised that I was really, REALLY horny. The raven maned mare in the stairs and the maid earlier combined with the drink made me wriggle in the water.

Then again.. why fight it? A small voice in the back of my head suggested to me, I magicked the door closed and turned that lock too. Just to be on the safe side.

I got maybe ten minutes of exploration done before I had to stop. It was just so damned alien compared to what I was used to. My intimate parts felt wrong, even if there weren't anything medically wrong with them they weren't... right, they just weren't really mine. I felt filthy, almost as if I had sneaked in on a sleeping mare and taken advantage of her. To my shame I couldn't completely stop either, now that I had started I had to get the pressure out someway before I went crazy.

I fumbled my way slowly forward. It felt awkward and I made several wrong starts that just crashed and burned. And by Celestia did I feel embarrassed and ashamed of myself. Finally, after many dark curses aimed at The Goddess, I arrived at some sort of climax. But it felt like such a stuttering and incomplete affair that I just wanted to scream.

I settled for angry and bitter tears instead. I glared at the wall through my tears and in a fit of anger drove a hoof into the discolored tiles, leaving a clear imprint and making whoever was in the bathroom adjacent swear loudly.

Yes, the rest of my fucking life like this. Wonderful. Yay, lets throw a bloody party. Another thirty years spent like a ma... hang on.

Cold horror started to flow down my veins. The green alicorn we had encountered yesterday had been at least a hundred and fifty years old, add to that her mention of grandchildren and you could tack on another sixty or seventy. The body itself didn't look any different than I did age wise. A vague feeling that the pony you looked at was in some undefinable way ageless.

How long could I expect myself to live? Another hundred and fifty years at least. Celestia and Luna had lived for... millenia...

A sob worked its way up my throat. I tried to fight it down but another came after it, then another, and another. Before I knew it I was crying my heart out in the rapidly cooling bathwater. I was never going to become normal again, and I had a long life ahead of me as a mare, as somepony else. Snakebite was now truly dead, in almost every sense of the word. I just held his memories and what were those worth? Not much.

I tried to stand but my legs wouldn't support me and I collapsed, bending my left wing backwards painfully on the edge of the tub. I just didn't have any energy for anything else than lying here and wallowing in grief. Maybe that would be better, lying here until the low rad count ate my insides and killed me.

I raised a hoof to wipe some of the tears away and felt that my bruises from the fight in the alley had vanished. This wasn't fair! Did the radiation in the water affect me like radiation did ghouls?

Now I did scream. A sobbing wailing temper tantrum that had me banging my hooves against the edge of the bathtub, cracking the already stained enamel.

"Curatie! Whats wrong?" Wild shouted outside the bathroom door. Then she opened the door with the same key that opened the door tho the hall.

"Don't. Please, just go away." My voice was terrible to hear, a broken and miserable thing best left to die. Just like I felt. I shielded my face with my right wing to avoid her having to look me in the eyes. But she walked closer, I could hear the slight unsteadiness as she stepped carefully over the wet floor. She was probably slightly tipsy.

She was relentless, placing a hoof on my wing and gently sweeping it away. "Please, tell me whats wrong." And the gentleness in her soft voice broke me completely.

I explained it all, my frustration, my fumbling attempts at relieving myself and how vile they made me feel, and my realisation that I had a long life ahead of me as something I simply wasn't supposed to be. I poured it all out into her gray mane as she sat at the short end of the tub and hugged my neck.

After a while I ran out of steam and she helped me out of the tub, then wrapped me in several old towels. I felt like a joke; the big and fearsome alicorn cries her heart out like a filly without her ribbons and then has to be helped out of a bath tub.

"I cant pretend to know what you are going through, but I'll try to help as much I can." Wild said after a while as she leaned up against me, wrapped in one of my now dry wings.

"Thank you." Was all I said.

Footnote: Level Up
Proof-Readers: NeverKnown and Shadowstep AKA Shirley MacBadassface

Thank you for your help.

Chapter 7: He who fights monsters.

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Fallout Equestria: Misfits

By DancingOnTheAshes

Chapter 7: He who fights monsters.

I was trying to get some sleep, I honestly was.

"So... who was it?" Wild asked from the other bed.

"Was what?" I gave up on sleep and pulled myself into a sitting position, making the weak bed springs creak.

"Well, you said you were experimenting." That made me wince slightly but I nodded. "Sooo... who did you picture?" Her tone was a little mischievous and she sat up too, hugging her hind legs. Her cheeks were flush and she was still under the influence.

"...The maid." I answered in a low voice, feeling blood flow to my cheeks.

"You know, you get this interesting color when you blush." She said and there was nothing but friendly teasing in her voice, I almost wanted her to rub my muzzle in it, to admonish me, but knew it would not be fair to expect that of her.

"...Not funny." I said, but my heart wasn't in it.

"A little actually." She countered, then she got serious. "Curatie," I looked up. "its okay, really. I don't think any less of you and you shouldn't be ashamed."

"...I know..." And I did, but I couldn't quite shake that feeling of having played with another's body.

"To be honest, I'm a little surprised that you hadn't taken yourself for a ride before." Then she got a speculative look on her face. "The maid... Was it that apricot colored one?"

"Mhmm." She had put her hoof right on the spot.

"Cute, but a little too timid." She waved it away, then asked me. "...did you find the button?"

"What?" For a moment I didn't understand what she meant until she clarified.

"Oh you know, the clit." There was nothing in her voice but polite inquiry while she waggled a hoof tip at me.

Okay, that had me blushing quite a bit and for a moment I was speechless. "I-I...Yeah... its not hard to locate." I mumbled and looked down on my fidgeting fore hooves. "I payed attention... when I was a stallion." Oh goddesses, I'm in my early thirties and I'm acting like a post cutie mark teen.

"Oh my, a male who pays attention to his partner in bed. Catch me, I may faint." She did a mock faint with the back of a hoof to her forehead and fell on her back to the bed.

"Drama queen." I managed to deadpan at her.

"I'm just trying to lighten the mood." She smirked and stuck out her tongue at me.

"Hrmph...Thanks." And the thing was, I actually felt better. True, I didn't feel sunshine and rainbows just yet but so far the conversation had me in better spirits.

"...how different is it? Between doing it as a buck and a mare I mean." She asked and at my brief silence added softly. "You don't have to answer. I'm just curious."

"Its... a lot different... I don't think I'm getting used to it anytime soon." I sighed and laid back on the bed, wriggling to accompany my wings. "And I really think you should ask me later, when I've... adjusted."

"Well, if you want any tips... just ask." She had rolled around on her stomach and had her head in her hooves. I just looked at her for a moment then realised. I had been acting like she was a complete innocent, but really she was only ignorant of the wasteland at large, she has had a lot more time as a mare than I had. Had I been slightly condescending to expect her to be the fair and innocent maiden?

I chuckled, both at my own silliness and the idea of her giving me a masturbation 101. "Oh yeah, because that wouldn't be infinitely more awkward."

"Just laying it on the table."

~~It wouldn't hurt to ask her you know.~~ The strange voice said unexpectedly, making my face drain. Oh right, I'm not alone in my own head.

"Is anything the matter? You've gotten very pale." She said worriedly.

"Nothing, just a stray thought. I'm going to bed." I dismissed and pulled the blanked over my head while I magically tapped the light switch.

"Night." She said a little uncertainly. I didn't like cutting off the conversation like that but I had an even more important talk with something else waiting.

"Good night Wild."

*** *** ***

Okay, I could do this. While wrapped in blankets and lying on my side in the dark I prepared to speak with the black egg residing the back of my head. "What are you?" I thought, trying to make the words as clear as possible.

~~Just a piece of thought and memory given structure.~~ The voice said calmly. ~~And I do apologise for butting in on your conversation earlier.~~ The tone suggested the voice was scratching the back of its head in embarrassment.

"Thought and memory? What is that supposed to mean?" To say that I was confused and a little scared was an understatement.

~~It means; That I'm made up of parts of your personality and parts from both the green alicorn that spawned me and remnants of Unity.~~

Cold sweat started to form. I had parts of that horror called Unity in my head? Once again I remembered the cold hand of that great beast stretch my mind and individuality into a thin thread. I shuddered and asked. "Why? Why Unity?"

~~Oh, don't worry, nothing substantial. Just enough fragments to make sure that I'm not just a carbon copy of you.~~ Okay, that makes sense, if it was just me Mark II it wouldn't make much of a teacher or confidant like the green wanted it to be.

"But you're still in my head." What kind of privacy could I expect now? One where something constantly peeked over my shoulder, one were every move, every action, every thought was monitored by this alien personality. Oh goddesses could I get a break please? Just one?

My head was quiet for a while then the voice said. ~~You know, it really doesn't have to be that bad.~~ A feeling of being cuddled enveloped my mind, like somepony was hugging me tight from behind. ~~We're kind of in the same boat, in more sense than one. So it wouldn't hurt to try and get along. You can call me Shade, nice to meet you.~~

I sighed. Well, Shade had a point. "Nice to meet you too Shade."

Then. ~~You know, giving it another try wouldn't hurt.~~ A chuckle followed and I got the feeling that my ear was nuzzled.

"Giving what another try?" Oh hell, how much access to my... Celestia! Spectral hooves ran down my back and settled just above my rump before going back up to start circling my wing joints. Shade could actually touch me? I shuddered and pulled the blanket around me tighter, making the ghostly hooves stop moving.

~~Not ready huh? I wont pressure you.~~ The nature of the hooves motions changed from suggestive to a purely platonic back rub. ~~Go to sleep. It'll do the both of us good.~~

Once the feeling of immense discomfort had faded I asked. "Shade?"

~~Mhmm.~~ It was continuing to rub my back and my sides; where the big flight muscles were. Boy were those tense, two straight days of flying had done me good but left me too stiff for even a warm bath to soften me up completely.

Okay, lets get this over with. "Were you watching while I lay in the bath?"

Shade was silent for a while before it answered. ~~I tried to give you what privacy I could... but I still have access to the memory. To you it would be like remembering something that happened yesterday.~~

"No privacy huh?" I thought miserably. Then before I could wallow further I felt a mental hug envelop my mind that would have been bone crushing if Shade had been physical.

~~I'm sorry about that, but I am part of you after all and while I bossed you around earlier I do care about your well being.~~ Shade's tone was soft as it continued to work the tension out of my back.

I didn't say anything after that, I just let Shade massage me to sleep, glad that I at least had someone besides Wild who knew what I was going through.

*** *** ***

I woke up some time around sun up, feeling the need to pee. That was the only real bodily function I felt was somewhat regular. Then again, I did drink Sparkle Colas regularly. I still had a faint headache but now it was like the headache from drinking the evening earlier, my horn felt fine.

Shade was dormant again and I was glad about that, I could at least be alone when I went to the bathroom. As soon as I was done I washed up and re-braided my mane and tail (It gave me a sense of identity, that I was different from other alicorns), I simply sat by the window, surveying Red Light. The dull throb of the still struggling nightlife and the odd scream in the night was familiar music.

I was still a little melancholy from last night but not much. My back felt good and relaxed and I was properly rested in a normal bed. That alone was luxury enough to make me feel better. My mind wandered to what had happened last night.

I would probably adjust somewhat to being a mare... eventually. And I had to admit; touching myself, while discomforting, wasn't unpleasant. I probably just needed to get over the feeling that I was touching somepony else's body, familiarity with myself and my new private parts would be something that needed time. I started to blush and shook my head to clear it.

A soft tapping on the wall beside the window drew my attention. I opened the window, ready to throw up my shield in case this was something preparing to jump at me, and peeked out. On the ledge that ran the entire length of the building balanced a zebra filly, standing on her hind legs in that easy way zebras did. She held a paper in her mouth and gestured from it to me.

"To me?" I asked and she nodded. I levitated a hoof full of caps from the saddlebag that hung on my bedpost and exchanged them for the paper.

"Thank you keeper." She said silently and ran back along the ledge on her hind legs. Keeper? What was that supposed to mean?

I shrugged and closed the window before opening the piece of parchment. I spent some time staring at the words before panic overcame me.

Oh we were so fucked! How could I have been so stupid!? We should have killed the merc or at least left Red Light asap. Leaving him alive alerted The Don that his little pest clearing squad had been destroyed and now he was going to come down on me and Wild like a ton of bricks.

Sure I hadn't been at the top of my game yesterday but I must have lost all sense of self preservation to think that somepony like The Don would have just ignored us.

"Wild! Get up now!" I yelled, causing Runs Wild to fall out of her bed as she flailed in sleep addled panic. I was already pulling on my duster and hat. If we hurried we could take off from the roof before his hit squad got to us.

"What what? What is happening?" She was struggling out of the grasp of her blanket, sleep muddling her face.

"The Don knows. We need to leave now, before his thugs get here." I had already gotten my arcane revolver strapped to my leg and was working feverishly to sort out Wilds armor and pony shoes to get her clothed quick. Moping around could wait and I could feel Shade stir in the back of my head, reacting to my panic.

"So what?" She said sleepily as she defeated the blanked and stood. "What's he gonna do?"

"Nail our heads to the wall." And at her disbelieving frown I hoisted her in the air with my rejuvenated magic to dress her like a mannequin. "I'm not mucking about, he'll try and kill us for messing with his plan to regain that collar."

"Yes yes I get it, set me down." I did so, and took the opportunity to run down to the lobby to get my minigun.

While down in the lobby I explained to the clerk that The Don's thugs might pay a visit and that they should keep their heads down. Then I strapped Silver Sword to my back and got back up to the room, where I spent a minute or two to explain the situation to Wild.

"Now, lets get going." I said hurriedly as I opened the door, ducked my head and walked out.

Straight into a large mare dressed in what looked like a very well preserved pre war suit and sunglasses.

"The Don would like to invite the two of you to breakfast." She said in a stern voice that told me that this was not a request. The four bucks in heavy, full auto battle saddles on either side of the corridor indicated that she meant business. Shade whistled softly in admiration.

I reacted instantly, my horn turned obsidian as I filled the corridor with a dark cloud of ravens. Then I ducked back in through the door and slammed it behind me, shutting the swearing thugs outside.

"Brace yourself!" I yelled as I grabbed Wild in my fore legs and, running briefly on my hind legs, covered the length of the room and smashed through the window. I had managed to create a cone shaped shield just in time to avoid the worst of the cuts but my flanks still got shredded on the window frame pretty badly. Wild swore and struggled in my grasp as I flared my wings and took into the air.

The adjacent roof was just high enough that I struck my hind hooves on the edge, messing up my balance, nearly dropping Wild. This wasn't good, as I caught the air current and lifted I scanned the rooftops for snipers, I saw one or two track us as I turned in the rough direction of the town wall and fled.

"Bloody hell!" I swore as several bullets zipped past us. My cuts were bleeding badly and I swiftly levitated a potion bottle out of my pack to treat the bleeding. I was starting to run low, I had lots of other stuff but nothing that worked as swiftly or as good.

I threw up my bubble shield to avoid getting shot as I aimed at the small switching station that Geri had mentioned in the letter; The letter had stated that Geri would flee Red Light with the red collar visible, this was to distract The Don's attention from The Cistern and onto him instead.

My concentration was broken by a small explosion on my shield. I looked to my right and saw an earth pony in a gray duster, equipped with a .50 caliber anti-materiel battle saddle. My heart caught in my throat. He was using explosive ammunition, if he changed his ammo to armor piercing we were screwed.

But instead of firing again, he just got a puzzled look on his face and studied me through the scope... wait. Was he checking out my flank? As I continued to fly, keeping an eye on him, I caught sight of a very curious thing. The duster he wore were of the same color and design as mine. Coincidence? Nah, cant be, but I have no idea why he didn't fire again as we left the town walls behind us.

We didn't get far, after only half a mile or so from Red Lights walls the report of a rifle was heard and I felt my body jerk. It wasn't the report of a .50 cal, but a brush gun. As the ground came up to meet me I felt myself loose consciousness, shock was setting in and the big bullet had torn right though my body. I desperately held onto my shield to avoid splatting on the hard packed earth below.

The hard slam of the grounds impact against my shield and my subsequent short fall to the dirt when the bubble disappeared made me drop from the world of the living.

*** *** ***

~~WAKE UP!~~ Shade yelled in my head, jerking me awake. I didn't hurt, which meant that I wasn't injured anymore, somepony had healed me while I was unconscious. I opened my eyes.

The room I was in was dark and grubby, likely a cellar of some kind with a surprisingly tall ceiling, the walls were damp and moisture dripped down them. The only suitable word for the room was 'Dungeon'. But what really caught my eyes were the large table and wall covered with torture instruments and... other items I could only describe as 'of an erotic nature'. This did not bode well.

I struggled briefly but settled down when I found myself crucified to a table. I was naked and without any of my gear. My front and hind legs were spread to all four corners of the table. I felt vulgarly exposed to the empty room and tried to cover myself with my wings but they were also spread out with heavy clamps and chains. My braided tail was held up to the ceiling with a piece of rope. Giving anypony behind me an unobstructed view.

I gave an experimental tug, the chains didn't seem very strong, just heavy. I prepared to try and wrench the spikes holding them out of the table. ~~NO! DO...~~ Shade's warning got cut off as I magically grasped the chain and prepared to pull it from the heavy wood of the large table.

But no sooner had my horn started to glow than blinding electricity shot through my body and both me and Shade screamed in pain, my body jerked and I painfully tore open my legs around the shackles. The pain was unbearable and originated from around my neck, where a heavy metal collar rested.

The shock treatment ceased and my body stopped its spasmodic dance. I collapsed panting to the rough surface and just lay there. When I felt that I had control of my body again I tried to examine the collar and the wires that lead from it up to my horn. It wasn't easy, but from its feel and the effect that I had felt when I had used magic it meant only one thing. Magic suppression collar.

~~I tried to tell you.~~ Shade chided me. ~~We have been fitted with a collar tha...~~

"That prevents me from using magic." I cut Shade off. Okay, I was a little testy but being electrocuted does that to you.

"Wild!" Goddesses, how could I have forgotten bout her. I twisted and turned, but she wasn't here. I was all alone on the big room, that didn't comfort me at all. She could be anywhere. The sound of voices cut into my awareness. I looked towards the doorway, it lacked a door and the sounds from the hallway echoed down to me.

"I cant imagine why she would be of any interest to you." The voice was... portly, it spoke of a buck with way too many jowls and probably of a girth that would put the average walrus to shame.

"She was wearing one of our dusters. That is unusual and I'd like to know why and how." This voice was gruffer, speaking of the kind of pony who could subsist entirely on whiskey and not even get really drunk or even hungover. That distinct rasp that spoke of a lifetimes consumption of whiskey in the last fifteen years.

They arrived around the bend and I finally got a good look of them, one of them was certainly the unicorn known as The Don, his massive bulk stopping by the door... eventually, as there was a lot of him to stop. The other buck was gaunt and thin, but had the deceptive sort of movement that said to anypony experienced that he certainly had the muscle power and skill to take someponys head off if he felt so inclined. I assumed the latter was the one with the whiskey voice.

He strode forward as I glared at him. "Leave us, please." He told The Don and the sadistic fuck left us alone. The gaunt buck sat down, he was dressed in the same type of duster I owned and I could see that he had the same image that adorned mine; the image of a grinning pony skull minus the pink butterflies that I had added. He also looked to be the earth pony that had shot at me from the rooftops.

My angry glare met his calm gaze for a few minutes until he looked away and studied my bindings. I felt naked, very naked. With my normal clothing gone there were nothing between my female body and other ponies stares. Being spread out like a bondage victim didn't help. Shame and humiliation battled for supremacy.

He sighed. "I didn't shoot you, if that's what you are angry about. It was one of the fat bastards hired griffins." He shrugged and brought out a whiskey bottle in his hooves. Why wasn't I surprised about that. "Now, what were you doing with an Undertakers Duster?" I could hear the capital U.

"I'll only answer that if you answer one of my questions; Where is Runs Wild?" I was working desperately to keep my voice calm and to not betray the feeling of mounting dread.

"The little mare you were carrying? Honestly, I have no idea. She wasn't there when you were found and dragged in." That was a relief, if Wild wasn't there she had survived and gotten away, hopefully safe and relatively unharmed.

I drew a big sigh of relief. "Right, as for who the... wait? Did you say Undertakers?" The buck nodded. I froze as I lay there on the table. The Undertakers were a group of bounty hunters operating around Trottingham and Neigherra Madre, there were twelve of them normally. They wore gray dusters above whatever armor they usually wore and were highly regarded as skilled professionals.

Celestia horn-fuck me where the sun don't shine. "Eehhehe." I laughed weakly. "That was one of yours?" I really wasn't aware that the skull was a hallmark of theirs, gray dusters were common enough. "Well, I found it in a shack out in the desert, in the vicinity of Old Appleloosa to be precise."

The buck thought for a moment about that. "Hmm, Old Appleloosa. Musta been that big bastard that retired twenty five years ago." He shrugged. "No wonder it fits you, big gal like you." Then he stuffed the now half empty bottle away and rose to his hooves. "If you survive this, look us up. We're down one member and an alicorn would be an interesting addition to the team, I'll even leave the duster here."

As he started to walk away I called after him. "Cant you help me out now?"

Just before he rounded the entrance he looked me straight in the eye and said. "If you cant survive something like this you don't deserve my help." Then he vanished.

Great, I was fucked... scratch that. In fact, never ever think that thought again. I told myself.

~~So, I hope you've got any ideas. Cause I've got nothing.~~ Shade sounded beaten, resigned.

"I thought that you were supposed to help me?" I countered. In fact, if Shade couldn't help me, what good was it?

~~Well, we cant do magic, we aren't facing another alicorn, and I don't have any memories from an escape artist.~~ Shade's tone suggested embarrassment.

Then I heard hoof steps. Okay don't panic... screw that, PANIC! I struggled as much I could, pulling on my cuffs and chains and drawing new blood where the old had dried but to no avail. They were built sturdier than they looked and I suspected that they had been sharpened too.

"Well well well." The portly voice of The Don interrupted my struggles. "There's still a little fight in you, I like that." The fat bastard was waddling around me, inspecting me from all angles. My face burned with embarrassment and shame when he stood behind me and took a deliberately long time to visually inspect my privates.

I haven't even taken a real look at them yet and here was this big tub of lard treating me like a prize brahmin. To be honest, I wouldn't even treat the dumbest of brahmin like this.

"Now, I spent a lot of caps and most of the day to get you healthy again. So I'm going to take my time with you." Now the fat unicorn was walking up to the rack on the wall. "I rather liked that collar, and I was very annoyed when I heard that some bitch decided to disturb my plans. I was especially annoyed to hear of the death of Shining Armor. The brute was as dumb as a bag of hammers but very useful."

I kept silent as The Don went over several whips of varying length. So far he hadn't actually asked me any questions and the pair of ball-gags hanging next to the whips waved away any illusions as to what he might do to me if I started to speak out of turn. He selected a short whip with a wide tip.

"Now I'm going to start asking you questions and every time you lie, don't answer, or when I just plain feel like it, I'm going to whip you." The lecherous grin on the big bastard made me shudder.

As he started to walk around me I fought rising panic. When he stopped by my flanks and levitated the whip into place I was almost hyperventilating.

"Who!" Whap! "The fuck!" Whap! "Sent you!" Whap! Each lash of the short whip sent a bolt of agony through me but I sternly resisted the urge to cry out.

"Nopony sent me, just passing through." This earned me another couple of lashes.

"Wrong answer!" Whap! "Was it Red Eye! That asshole has always had a soft spot for the little shits in that orphanage!" Whap! I was biting my lip so hard I drew blood, he was defiling me, deliberately aiming for my cutie mark to get me to crack.

"Just passing through!" I shouted in between lashes. He wasn't holding back at all and I found it harder and harder to keep my shrieks of pain bottled down. Tears of pain and humiliation flowed down my face. Shade was holding my head and whispering soft encouragements in my ear to help hold me together.

"Lying slut!" And now he twisted the whip and aimed the tip across my rump, making it brush against my genitals. My body gave a spasm and a small whimper escaped my lips. I could hear his grin as he gleefully said. "Got a reaction outta you there. What if..." And now he gently caressed the outline of my privates with the tip of the whip. I shuddered in revulsion. "I'll ask you once again; Who sent you?"

I was crying on the inside as I clenched my eyes and teeth. "Nopony sent me." I managed to croak out. Then I braced myself for what I knew was coming. My breath came rapidly and my heartbeat thundered in my ears, sweat from the ordeal lay thick on my coat as I awa... WHAP!

"Aaaaaaahh!!" I howled and arced my back as much as the chains would allow. The pain was unbearable as I lost my grip on my silence and then collapsed to the wooden surface. I was openly sobbing as I lay on the table for all of Equestria to see. Then I heard the fat asshole chuckle as he walked over to the wall of torture instruments and in that instance I swore that I would kill him.

"A tough one, been a while since last." I opened one tear encrusted eye to watch him. "Noooow, what do I have that could make this interesting..." He was tut tutting as he walked the row of instruments. "Aaah." He made a pleased sound and his horn glowed as he brought out the biggest phallus I have ever seen. "This is a bit big, leaves most mares bleeding and shell shocked, but I figure you are big enough to take it."

Now I was hyperventilating, I couldn't avoid the look of horror that settled on my face like a toad in a stone. "Please... don't." I whimpered. "I really wasn't sent by anypony." I was pleading now. My body was shuddering from my fear and I was instinctively trying to crawl away.

Then the sound of a small explosion was heard and the lights went out.

"Goddesses dammit!" The Don swore in the tiny corona of light from his horn. "I swear, I'm going to collect that repair bucks spleen for this." Then he wandered away out the door, discarding the phallus into a corner and simply lighting the way with his horn.

I lay there for a minute, savoring this reprieve. I knew that at any moment as soon as he had fixed the lights he would return and follow up on his sick games.

Then I heard the voice of an angel. "Curatie?" My tears of pain and humiliation became tears of relief and gratitude. Wild was alive and she... wait.

"What are you doing here?" I asked of the darkness. "Its not safe." Being here only put her at risk of being discovered. Then my muddled brain retroactively caught the tears in her voice. "You okay? They haven't hurt you or anything?" A lamp lit up and Wild stepped into view with it in her teeth, I recoiled at the pain in her eyes. "How much did you see?" I asked her.

"All of it." She replied softly as she put down the lamp and started to pick the locks of my shackles. Tears were streaming down her cheeks and landing in the dried blood around the shackles. "I arrived just ahead of the fat one but didn't have time to do anything else but hide."

She started to shake as she worked and nearly broke the pin before the lock clicked open. "Shhhhh, its okay." I soothed. "Did Geri blow the fuse box?" I asked her to keep her mind from what she had seen. She nodded.

"I went to get him as soon as we crashed and two griffins flew in." She started to shake again, probably from shame. "I wanted to fight, but they were wearing armor and.. and..." She strangled a sob.

"Wild" I interrupted and she looked up. "Just get me out of here and I promise everything will be fine. You did everything you could." Wild nodded mutely and returned to picking the locks of my remaining limbs.

Soon she had freed me and cut the rope holding my tail to the ceiling. I tried to ignore the pain in my legs as I walked up to a box by the door. Opening it revealed my gear. All of it was accounted for and I drew a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness." I started to dress as fast as I could without magic.

The collar I wore around my neck and horn couldn't be opened by anything other than the right key, anything else would electrocute me to death. I gave my hat a sad look as I stowed it in my saddlebags, I couldn't wear it with the rings and cables around my horn. Silver Sword was a no go, I couldn't operate it without magic and thus the minigun was useless unless it was affixed to a battle saddle.

Thankfully my arcane plasma revolver was still usable. Using the mouth bit wasn't what I was used to but I'd have to make do.

I felt in my head for Shade, it was shaken but alert. Good, now I could focus on important matters. I walked up to Wild on shaky legs and very carefully sat down. "Come on, we need to move."

She was weeping silently and the sight was making my heart break. I wrapped her in my wings and forelegs and started to rock her silently. "I couldn't do anything as he... as he..." She made a strangled sound and clutched at me. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" She pleaded. "I'm sorry for not helping earlier, I should have done something."

"Its okay, really, no permanent harm done." That was wrong in every respect but a lie that needed to be true for a little while. Then I grabbed her head in my hooves and kissed her on the forehead. "Thanks for saving my useless hide once again."

She gave a weak chuckle. "Your mane is dirty again."

I laughed a little. "Lets get a move on, Geri is waiting."

*** *** ***

We were in the basements of the only mansion in Red Light. The sole residency of The Don himself. Wandering the well preserved and oft repaired corridors was harrowing, it was tight and claustrophobic. Having to fight The Dons goons didn't make things better but the outline from my S.A.T.S. made thing a little easier.

We had met up with Geri a while earlier and were fighting our way up. Apparently he was quite the digger and had taken the both of them inside of the mansion via the sewers by bypassing the walls at weak spots. He had taken one look at the collar around my neck and shaken his head. We needed the key The Don had to open it.

I hated to fire around corridors with the gun in my mouth like this but it was mediated by Geri's occasional home made grenade. I also took the opportunity to teach Wild what I knew of conventional firearms. We had picked up a snub nosed .357 that I was orientating her around. It wasn't my speciality, as I have said, but I knew the basics with simple guns like these.

We finally arrived at a small clinic. I drew a sigh of relief when I saw the medical cabinet and it wasn't long before I had downed a healing potion, fixing two gunshots and taking care of the bruising from The Don's whipping. I sank to my now mended haunches. "Are the two of you okay?" I wasn't, I felt like shit and I had to constantly fight the urge to curl into a ball and whimper but I was channeling the feeling into rage, into a burning star of fury deep in my own chest, it kept me going but for how long I couldn't say.

I had plans, plans for what I was going to do when I found the fat walrus. I was going to make him pay dearly for whipping me. So far I had collected a grenade, a ball of string and some needle and thread. But first I had to pay a little visit to his collection, I hoped that I would find the last thing I was looking for.

Wild nodded morosely. She was still not over what she had seen in the cellars and would not be okay for a while. Geri waved his metal paw to show he was alright. The bionic limb had been fitted with a steel ranger shoulder plate on the back to protect the delicate innards, this also served as an impromptu shield when needed and could, according to him, be removed when he needed to work with something that required dexterity.

"Right, lets get moving." I had looted the place of the tings we needed. I missed using magic but I liked my nervous system intact.

*** *** ***

"Woah." Wild said in amazement. I had to agree with her, as long as you didn't look too closely at the things that hung from the walls.

I entered the big museum and took a look around. Ancient paintings and statues shared space with old weapons and miscellaneous rare objects. I soon found what I was looking for. The wide box lay almost forgotten next to two marble busts of Celestia and Luna. I bowed to the effigies of the goddesses before I took the box and put it into my pack.

"What is that?" Wild asked. Geri just stood watch at the door, the youth had some serious communication problems.

"Its a box filled with hoof-made buffalo beads. Trader sold it to him a while ago." I answered, then I ignored her questioning expression, some things she did not need to hear about.

Then we got moving again. Slowly making our way to The Dons office. The way was difficult and harrowing, I nearly got my hoof shot off by a shotgun blast and Geri caught a rifle bullet through his shoulder. The power was still out but thankfully it was still daylight outside, what existed of it when the suns rays had passed through the cloud layer.

At last we were on the far end of the last corridor. Before us was the door to the office. I prepared to limp across when I caught a shadow on the wall and ducked out of sight of the windows. Griffin. Fuck, this wasn't good, the aviator outside were keeping an eye on this corridor and the big bullets from those brush guns hurts like hell. It had brought me out of the sky like a pigeon hit by a curve ball.

"Well, shit." I muttered while waving for Wild and Geri to keep down. "We need to distract that griffin somehow." I said mostly to myself. Then I felt Wild tug on my duster, I turned my head and saw Geri walking away. Where the hell was he going?

"Hey!" I called after him. "Where do you think you are going?"

"Geri distracts griffin soon, you get key." Was all he said as he rounded the bend. I swore to myself and prepared to go after him but Wild stopped me.

"Look." I followed her pointing hoof, the circling griffin was taking off after something and I groaned.

"He's going to get chilled." Well, there was no helping it. He told us to go get the key to my collar and I was going to do just that. Then I was going to get myself a little alone time with The Don.

I kept an eye on the sky outside as I limped forward but no more flyers were visible. I stopped and listened with my ear to the door to try and pick something up. I heard the fat prick chide somepony. "Hurry you little shit! Get that turret up and running before I feed you to a manticore!" I smiled to myself. That was sweet music indeed.

"Do you have your claws prepared?" I asked Wild and she promptly took out the bottle of manticore poison. I didn't want to get the repair pony in the middle of this if I could help it. When she was finished I asked. "Ready?" And at her nod I spun and bucked the doors, sending them flying off their hinges into the big room.

"Where are you you asshole!" I yelled before I bit down, pulled the revolver from my foreleg and briefly scanned the room. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Wild slink off to the right. Good girl, take advantage of my entrance to get up close and personal.

The room was built like a library, with worn shelves lining each wall and a big scuffed desk in the middle, The Don was trying to hide behind it but failed miserably. Two turrets flanked the mahogany desk on each side, both were inactive and a young buck were working feverishly to connect one to a battery. He dropped his tools in fright and dashed for safety through a door to the side.

Two ponies, one unicorn with a levitated revolver and a earth pony with a semi automatic, double rifle battle saddle were still in the room apart from The Don.

"Get her! She cant use magic!" The Don yelled from behind the desk.

A thump interrupted the earth pony before he could bite down on his battle saddles reins. The unicorn mare stood still as a statue beside him wearing a wooden expression, her revolver lay on the floor, dropped when her horn got paralyzed. "Sweetie?" He said weakly.

"Get out of here and bring her with you, that's just manticore poison paralyzing her." I mumbled loudly around the bit. I could recognize a pair of fuck buddies just trying to earn a few caps when I saw them. No need to get too nasty, I was saving that up for later.

He looked from me to The Don and decided that the pay wasn't worth it. After hoisting the mare onto his back he ran off.

Right, lets put an end to this. I strode forward, murder in my eyes. ~~Is this really necessary? I can understand killing him but... doing that to him?~~

I ignored Shade, it should understand. It shared my memories after all.

The Don brought up a shotgun with his magic. In a flash Wild was there and raked it out of the air, making sparks fly as the bolt got bent out of alignment. The gun got off one shot into the floor before jamming. I didn't even change my pace as I forced the fat unicorn to backing into the shelves along one wall.

The spineless prick started to blubber in fear, here was an opponent he couldn't bully, who he couldn't hide behind mercenaries from and who wasn't going to give him any quarter. Just like he didn't give me any quarter in the dungeon. I raised a hoof. And aimed at his horn.

The crack wasn't enough to break it, but enough to make him scream. "The Key!" I ordered. And he rifled in his mane and brought out a small key with a gemstone set in it. Wild immediately took it in her mouth and reared up to my throat and unlocked the collar. Several jets of hydraulic steam shot from the collar and it clicked open, the rings around my long horn snapped open too and the whole thing dropped from my neck.

I drew a long sigh of relief as I levitated the thing from the floor. "Now its your turn." The Don struggled briefly as I clamped the infernal instrument to him. Then I grunted a bit as I hauled him up into the air like a large bag of meat and hurled him towards the open door leading to a small office.

"Wild, stay here, I need to have a word with the fat prick." I proceeded to roll and kick him into the room and closed the door behind us.

"What the fuck! Haven't you had enough!" He squealed.

I grinned evilly. "Not by a long shot." And levitated the things I needed onto the small desk. The big box of beads, needle and thread, a grenade and a ball of string. I then tied the string to the stem of the grenade, making sure that the knot was tight, and threaded the needle. Then I took a minute to select the first bead to sew to the sadistic unicorns carcass.

The door opened. "I told you to stay outside, Wild." I did not look up as a familiar voice, dripping with chocolate, corrected me.

"I'm not the young girl in question. What are you planning, m'lady?" It was the orange mare that owned the bar and hotel we had spent the night at.

"He hurt me, I'm getting even." I looked up and saw her take in the scene. She was flanked by two mares in what seemed like battle saddles salvaged from the dead goons downstairs. Wild peeked from behind them, so did Geri. I was relieved to see him okay.

"Hmm well, if that's the only reason you can get in line. You aren't the first." She looked at the threaded bead levitating in the air. "And I have to ask; would it really be worth the price to do what you are planning?"

Put on the spot and under the collective stares I stopped to think for the first time. Was it worth it? The pain, the humiliation, the shame. Nothing he hadn't visited upon countless other ponies. Would I be any better when I was prepared to do to him what he had done to me?

I stared uncomprehendingly at the floating needle and bead for a time, then dropped it as if it was something filthy from under a stone. What was I doing? I'm a medical pony for Celestias sake! I tossed the key to the collar at the wall and staggered from the unicorn still laying at the floor. Goddesses, what was I turning into?

I exited the office and entered the big room beyond. The fire burning in me was petering out and despair was settling in like an old friend. I dropped to the floor and rocked form side to side. I could hear an argument in the room between The Don and the orange bar owner that ended in a gunshot.

Wild came up and sat beside me, stopping my rocking.

*** *** ***

It was much later and I was soaking in a warm bath, the now dead unicorn had a rather large bathroom with a large tub that could almost be called a swimming pool built into the floor, the prick had also a large cistern of pure water just for bathing purposes. I took advantage of the opportunity, it couldn't make me feel worse about myself than I already did.

My leg was properly mended and everypony had been looked after. At the moment the new mare in charge, who’s name was Cinnamon Cheesecake, was settling in. I had no interest at all in running Red Light and she could have the place with my blessing, but she had insisted that I took the masters accommodations as long as I was staying.

Wild was somewhat okay and had already finished cleaning herself. Geri was actually unhurt because he hadn’t even gotten the chance to fight the griffin flying outside. Cinnamon had figured out what was happening pretty soon and had taken care of the aviator and met up with Geri as she entered the mansion to take it over.

I think that the main reason to my roaring rampage of revenge had been that The Don had reminded me of how helpless I had been when The Goddess had taken over me and twisted my body. The same feelings of shame and being used had intertwined the two incidents. Now I just felt drained and disgusted with myself because of what I had almost done.

The door opened and the beautiful midnight blue mare I had encountered in the stairs yesterday evening walked in. My heart jumped up into my throat as she walked up the the edge of the big bath, swaying her hips and giving me a flirty look. “I know you turned Feather Duster away yesterday,” She said as she sat on her haunches and dragged a hoof through the bubbly water. “but I recognized that look on your face. Mind if I join you?”

My mind was a jumble of conflicting emotions. I wanted to be alone, to punish myself for almost becoming like The Don and to... to...

She gave me a pleading look and fluttered her eyelashes at me.

I wanted to avoid this, to send her away. To be alone... “Please do.” My treacherous tongue said. She gave a pleased sound and slowly slipped down into the soapy water opposite me. I rummaged around in my mind but Shade was dormant, it was as exhausted as I was and had drifted off to sleep.

“Aaahhh.” She moaned and I swear I almost bit through my tongue. “Do you mind scrubbing my back? I’ll do yours next and... oh my goodness.” She leaned forward. “What has that brute done to your lovely long mane.”

I just looked away. “Don’t want to talk about it.” I felt like a sullen foal.

Then I felt her scoot closer and take my mane in her hooves. “I’ll have to do something about this.” She said speculatively. I didn’t look at her, I was still unsure about the whole situation and was almost thinking about climbing out of the large bath. But as soon as I started to move away she tugged at my mane and kept me where I was.

“Oh no you don’t. You’re not leaving until I’ve cleaned your mane.” Then she started to brush with long strokes.

“Why do you care?” I asked morosely as I sat trapped with my back to her.

“Because you are a kind soul.” She purred. “Saving an orphanage, helping ponies...”

“Killing guards only out to earn some caps.” I interrupted, I had torn though the mansion guards like a meat grinder with no regard for the ponies I was killing. Sure they were out to kill me, but I could have just fled, I didn’t have to go through the entire mansion. Then again I did need the key to the collar. Urgh, why was nothing ever easy.

She nuzzled my ear from behind and if I had been standing I would have collapsed. “Not every choice is easy, but I heard you made the right one in the library. That is admirable.” She returned to brushing my mane and I slowly melted under her kind administrations.

It wasn’t the way I wanted it, but perhaps it was something I needed at the time. We spent some time in the bath and eventually relocated to the big bedroom. I didn’t feel all that comfortable with her touching me but I managed to not make it show, besides, I had always heard that it was better to give than to receive and I gave as best I could.

Footnote: Level Up
New Perk: Toughness - Certain experiences had toughened you, granting a permanent +3 DT
Quest Perk: Novice Undertaker - After passing a test, qualifying you to enter the ranks of The Undertakers, any duster you wear over your normal armor grants you a +1 bonus to agility and unique dialogue options with certain ponies.

Proof-Readers: NeverKnown AKA ThatGuyWithTheMustache

Shadowstep AKA Shirley MacBadassface

Chapter 7.5: A night of Passion. [nsfw]

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Fallout Equestria: Misfits

By DancingOnTheAshes

Chapter 7.5: A Night of Passion.

[Authors Warning: This chapter is NSFW and has more explicit language than previous chapters. If you don’t want to read it that is fine, this chapter is not essential to the story, but it is outright clop. You have been warned.]

Once the beautiful mare had finished brushing and cleaning my mane she started to knead tension out of my back. By Luna that felt good and I started to slowly stretch my wings to prepare for a good preening.

"My my, they sure are big." She said in wonder. "Like that long horn of yours." Her tone was so suggestive that if this had been pre-war she would have been arrested for sexual assault.

I blushed a little and chomped down on a big flight feather. As a former unicorn I was well aware of the phallic nature of the unicorn horn, but it was usually bad taste to openly comment on it... except in... Oh my, was she seriously interested in getting close?

There was no mistaking it when she reared up to place her forelegs around my neck and to whisper in my ear. "You know, I asked Feather Duster to change the sheets in the big bed." Then she bit down on the ear, making me whimper around the feather in my mouth.

I felt my heart beat faster and a heat to gather in my lower belly. She really wanted to... well, there was no avoiding the words; fuck me. And I really wanted to have sex with her. Still, more than a touch of apprehension was fighting its way to the reasoning part of my brain. I was male, or I at least still thought of myself as such and should not so easily just chuck my male pride aside for something like this.

Then a small voice residing in the reptilian part of my brain piped up. You want it though, you cant lie to yourself about that. You really want to know what its like to do it as a mare. Yesterday was just masturbation, rubbing one out. This is full blown sex.

I squirmed in the bathwater as my ear tried to free itself. "I don't even know your name, I figure you know mine though."

She stopped nibbling and rubbed her cheek to mine, I returned the nuzzle. "Yes I know your name Curatie, mine is Midnight Rose."

"A beautiful name." I said in a low voice. The apprehensive part of me was rapidly losing the battle and I turned my head to give her a kiss. She returned it eagerly and I noted the sweet taste of her, it wasn't just her eyes that hinted of roses, but her lips did as well. I wondered if her lower lips also tasted as sweet.

Without breaking the kiss I turned my big body towards Rose and experimentally ran a hoof along her back. She was still standing and rested her hooves on my chest as I laid back towards the edge of the bath. She moaned and her eyes fluttered as I started to softly massage her cutiemark; a flower made of small stars.

I enveloped the both of us in my big wings and pulled her close, then I gently brought up a knee for her to sit on as we continued to exchange kisses. The smell of our arousal was starting to penetrate the bathwaters surface and float over it like mist. I started to stroke her raven black mane, marvelling at the softness of it.

I broke the kiss with a gasp when I felt her hoof run down my belly and settle above my slit. Part of me tensed, I could still feel the phantom echoes of the whip that had struck me across my labia earlier. To cover the brief interruption I kissed Rose down the neck while still massaging her rump. She moaned and ground her hindquarters against my knee.

"So," She whispered hotly in my ear. "Wanna relocate to the bed?" I lifted my head from her neck and gave her a peck on the muzzle.


*** *** ***

Midnight Rose languished on the big four poster as I prepared a couple of glasses of Berry Punch Acres Finest Wine. I was nervous, in a sense this was my first time all over again and I was as nervous now as I was so many years ago when a barmaid pulled me into one of the back rooms. I chuckled inwardly, at least I didn't have to be worried about blowing my load too early this time and this time Shot Glass wouldn't hunt us around the town because she caught us mid-coitus.

Silently, as I cleaned the minibar, I floated the worn wineglass over to Rose who took it in her hooves. The wine would probably not do me any good apart for its flavor, it was the mood I was after.

Rose smiled and lifted an eyebrow when I sauntered over to the bed, towing a glass of my own. "Wine? Too bad we don't have music or candlelight." I smiled at her comment and magically turned a knob I had seen near the door earlier. The lights in the room lowered down to a pleasant glow, one light winked out and died. "Well, I guess two out of three is not bad."

"Could be worse." I agreed as I climbed up to join her on the bed. It was so big that three other alicorns could have joined us and still have room to spread out. Rose smiled and scooted close to me, holding her glass easily in one hoof like all earth ponies can.

I enveloped her in my left wing when she came close enough and bent down to give her a passionate kiss. I was surprised when I felt her share a mouthful of the wine, we swirled it around a little before parting. I got the better of the deal at her insistence, it was that or have it spray out to the sides. We stayed like that for a time, sipping, cuddling and sharing when the mood struck us, which was almost every time. Not much was said, it didn't need to be.

Then, when the glasses were empty and levitated to the bedside table, we picked up the pace again. An insistent part of me protested at being the one on the receiving end so I unconsciously took the lead. I held her in my lap, her back to me and ran my hooves down her soft belly. After finding her slit, I softly started to tease it open, making her writhe against me and make little moaning sounds. I laid my head side by side with her head and rubbed my cheek against hers.

Over the course of fifteen minutes of so I gently teased her to a climax with my hooves, my horn glowed softly as my medical diagnostic spell did its work. I kept an eye on breathing and heart rate to find the right spot and method to bring her orgasm around. It was something I had done many times and I grudgingly considered it cheating of a sort.

Rose's breathing became ragged, her tongue lolled and she started to curl all four of her hooves. A deep moan clumsily escaped her lips as her body started to shake and spasm. I smiled to myself and caught her mouth in a deep kiss that she returned like her entire life and sanity depended on it. After a while her orgasm ebbed away and only the occasional twitching of a hoof remained.

I broke the kiss and Rose gave me a slightly dazed smile. "My turn." She said and I almost winced. This was what I had been dreading, self satisfaction was one thing, but her touching me? I had problems enough being ogled at. Granted I almost only had a problem when I was ogled by males, still.

"Give me a minute." I said and gave her a quick kiss and rubbed my nose to hers. Then I fled to the bathroom.

Oh goddesses Celestia and Luna. I prayed as I sat on the tiled floor. Please let me get through this without breaking down. I don't think I can survive if I cant get through this. I needed it, I needed the feeling of being solid, that I was real to another pony. But could I do it with this body?

I looked at my blue hooves, so different from when I was a light brown stallion. It had only been four or five days since I woke up in that solitary desert and I didn't know exactly how long it had been since I was taken from Traders Caravan.

I managed to muster up some courage and stood up, all the while trying to ignore the wet patch on the floor. I could do this. I repeated to myself as I returned and climbed back into the bed.

Midnight Rose pounced, bowling me over on my side. I gave an oof and met her eyes, they burned with a deep desire to get even and I gulped. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. I felt her kiss me down my side and started to protest. "Rose, maybe..." But I got cut off when I felt her hoof gently touch my lower lips.

"Maybe what?" She asked in mock wonder. Her hoof made soft massaging motions and I felt my heart race.

"Nothing." I squeaked. Then felt slightly disappointed when she briefly stopped rubbing me, only to eep when she placed a foreleg under me and levered me around onto my knees. She had to be strong and experienced to lever my weight around so easily. I briefly felt myself react negatively to the ponyhandling and had to bite my lip to keep those emotions down.

Then I felt her tongue stroke my slit and I nearly cried out. My forelegs scrambled for a pillow and I buried my face in it, goddesses lovely Luna and sweet Celestia let nopony hear me. Rose's rough tongue passed over me again and again, slowly parting me with each pass as she kept licking. I felt my wings flare and my hind legs straighten on their own, until Rose had to stand with her forehooves squarely on my rump to reach.

Oh please, oh please. "Aaahh!" I yelped into the pillow when Rose found my clit and circled it. All my years with other mares and I had no idea just how damned sensitive it was when somepony else was touching it. My breathing was ragged and I had trouble drawing a proper breath, every time I made an attempt Rose did another pass and I yelped the air out.

Then my stomach clenched, and I started to shake. I could feel it, a roiling, boiling climax working its way through the early stages. I cried in the pillow and muttered nonsense words to myself, this was it. There was no denying it I was about to cum, hard.

Then, as I bowed there on the bed with my face buried in the big pillow, my rump in the air and the fluttering beginnings of the orgasm bearing down on me like a ton of bricks. I heard a voice. It wasn't a real voice, physical or otherwise, it was what self-loathing would say if it could speak.

You have been a mare for barely a week, and here you are getting your pussy eaten out. There are ponies that would have some choice words about what you are, none of which are suitable for decent company. I clamped down on that voice, shutting it out.

Then it hit. This wasn't the stuttering climax of yesterday evening. This was a mind shattering sledgehammer blow to the pleasure center of my brain. My vaginal walls clenched, my wings stood out so rigidly that I almost feared that the bones would shatter under the tension and I screamed in ecstasy into the pillow.

Once the aftermath of the orgasm had faded my shuddering hind legs collapsed and splayed to the sides. My wings lost their rigidity and flopped down, in my weakened and panting state I didn't even have the energy to fold them up.

I felt Rose crawl up the bed under one wing to cuddle up close to me. "I didn't expect you to be a screamer." She said as she nuzzled my neck. I was already flush from the orgasm and wouldn't be able to blush anymore without bursting a blood vessel in my face.

"Neither did I." I panted. Still, for all the pleasure I had felt, there was something off about the whole experience.

Footnote: Quest Perk: Royal Canterlot Voice - You're a screamer, who knew. Outside of combat, you'll sometimes have access to unique dialogue options when dealing with the same sex and your voice can shatter wineglasses.

Proof-Readers: NeverKnown AKA ThatGuyWithTheMustache

Shadowstep AKA Shirley MacBadassface

Chapter 8: The world through different eyes.

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Fallout Equestria: Misfits

By DancingOnTheAshes

Chapter 8: The world through different eyes.

It wasn't the same. If you put aside the obvious differences the whole experience just wasn't the same, yet I thanked Celestia that I at least didn't have an anxiety attack afterwards. Still, this was what I really wanted; to lay side by side with somepony, the warmth, the slow movement of her chest and the soft beat of her heart. If it wasn't for the drastic difference in body size I could almost feel normal.

Midnight Rose lay beside me on the big bed and covered by my wing. Say what you want about the feathery appendages, they were damn good for hugging and cuddling.

She gave a deep and satisfied sigh. "I've never been with a goddess before, cant say that I was disappointed." She purred and nuzzled my ear. Okay, so I used my diagnostic spell to cheat, it wouldn't be the first time. Still, making her feel good was balm for my soul, it paid a little for the pain I had been prepared to inflict on another. I'm not a nice pony, I try to be a good pony but I'm not nice.

I groaned slightly. "Please, I'm no goddess. Just a mutated pony." Being put anywhere close to the same tier as Celestia and Luna made me deeply uncomfortable, not to mention thinking like that would be a slippery slope to dangerous ground.

Rose gave me a curious look and a smirk. "You didn't look mutated down there, everything felt normal to me." I blushed when she pointedly licked her lips.

"Yeah, well. I mean I used to be a normal unicorn before I got dipped." I hugged her closer and rested my chin on her fore hooves then closed my eyes.

"Dipped in what?" Rose asked and blew softly in my ear, making it twitch.

Well, that was the question. The taint in my dreams couldn't have been like normal taint. Perhaps there was some other factor; either the taint itself, Unity or The Goddess that made it different from the normal 'twists-you-into-a-horrible-tentacled-monstrosity' variety.

"Well, never mind. I'm just saying that I was a normal pony a little while ago." I didn't want to talk about the nightmares I had about being pulled into the vats.

I felt her rest her head on my neck. "Oh, and what would you call yourself now if goddess doesn't qualify?"

I thought for a minute. Well, what was I? At its most basic I was no longer just a unicorn, but a winged unicorn, going further than that seemed wrong. "Alicorn is as good a word as any." I finished.

I felt a hind hoof stroke my belly and work its way towards my hindquarters with large circling motions. I didn't feel ready for more just yet, the sex had been weird enough so far.

"Why?" I asked, making her hoof motions stop. "I mean, most ponies either cover in fright or immediately distrusts me. So why join me in the bath?" I really wanted to know why she even gave me the time of day, not to mention sharing a bed with me. Sure, she had said that she found me to be a kind pony, but that cannot be the whole story.

She sighed. "Well, to be completely honest its partly because Cinnamon asked me," This didn't surprise me, in fact, I had figured as much. But what she said next did surprise me. "but mostly because I find you attractive."

I lifted my head and looked at her for a second, too stunned to say anything. I didn't really expect that because I felt that my eyes took too much away from my appearance. "Attractive?"

She must have mistaken my surprise for something else because she squirmed and looked embarrassed. "Well, actually." She wavered then whispered. "You know that bust of Luna in the museum?" I nodded, she blushed and lowered her voice even more. "Well, I kind of... had a crush on her when I was a filly."

Well now, that is interesting. "Care to elaborate?" She had piqued my curiosity, and for the moment I just wanted to talk. I supported my head on my hoof and listened.

"Well," Rose began. "I grew up with my father in an old chapel a long way away. The inside was shaped like a cross and on opposite ends were these big stained glass windows depicting Celestia and Luna respectively. At least that is what I assume, because the window of Celestia was blown out long ago, Luna's window had survived though." And here she got a wistful expression and bit her lower lip. "Luna taught me the pleasures of being a mare."

Well, that was... kinky. And I had to admit, kinda hot. "And then you arrive, statuesque, blue, with those large wings." Her horny smile was like a half brick to the primal part of my brain. I felt a second wind.

Somewhere in the dusty attics of my mind, Shade smiled in its sleep.

*** *** ***

The sun was creeping into the afternoon if I was any judge. Both me and Wild had decided that staying a few days in Red Light couldn't hurt so I had decided to set up shop in Kickback alley, after breakfast I had set up a proper awning and two tables. Word had gotten around and I had quite a few people, ponies and otherwise, willing to pay a few caps to let the alicorn healer help them.

Wild had gone off to hunt rats, something she said calmed her down. A respectable job in a town where the rats are the size of terriers. I didn't object because she looked like she needed some time alone to think after yesterday.

At the moment I was dealing with a particularly difficult foal, she couldn't have been more than three or four and she had a nasty case of split hoof.

And she was yelling her head off. At this point it was just to drive home her point because I had long since anaesthetised her. Somepony walked up to me and asked me something, I didn't hear what he or she said because my ears had long ago shut down to save themselves, and the foal was fidgeting so much that I had to keep my concentration on holding her still to properly mend her hoof.

"You'll have to wait in line like everypony else, I cant give anypony privileges right now." I said, or rather, I was sure I said it. My ears were out to lunch. The shape moved away and I gave it a glance when I had a second to spare and nearly choked. It was the gaunt Undertaker I had met in The Don's dungeon, and he was trotting obediently to the end of the queue and waiting like anypony else.

The hell did he want? I mentally shrugged when Shade turned my attention back to the filly and I got back to my work. I finally lost patience and shoved a snack cake in her mouth, that only made the filly realise that yelling would get her food. Her mother stood useless to the side. I didn't comment.

*** *** ***

I had just finished treating a buffalo's bad back when the Undertaker came up to me. I sat and studied the big turquoise that Blue Thunder had payed me with. There was something about the gem that wasn't right. First of all, gems shouldn't smell like candy. I sniffed it again. Definitely a rock candy smell to it.

"You'll break your teeth on that." The Undertaker said in his hoarse whiskey voice and I looked up before placing the gem in my bags.

"So, what do you want?" I asked with an edge in my voice. I started to prepare my work area for the ones later in the queue. I really wanted to throw a punch at him, but knew that he'd probably end up breaking my leg or something if I tried. And to be honest, last night had mellowed me out more than a little.

"Well, I wanted to know if you were interested in joining us? You managed the situation yesterday wonderfully." He said while sitting down, I bristled.

"Join you? Join you?!" I stood, my outrage building towards fury despite my efforts to keep it contained. I advanced until I stood muzzle to muzzle with him. "You left me there!" I gave him a hard prod in the chest. "You left me in that damned dungeon to be tortured, raped and possibly killed!" I didn't care who heard me and my voice kept climbing until I narrowed my eyes, glared at him and lowered my voice to a dangerous growl. "Give me one good reason not to carry you up to the cloud cover and let go."

"I might land on somepony." He said calmly and I snapped. I managed to pull the punch enough at the last second to not break something. I was stumped when he just took the punch without flinching. He just sat there looking at me, blood leaking from his nostrils.

I looked up to the motley collection of patients, some of them looking worried despite the general apathy present. “Give us an hour.” I told them and they alternately walked and limped out of the alley, leaving me alone with the gaunt buck. I walked back to my table and sat while magically pulling out a sparkle cola.

“Feel better?” He asked and I nodded, not looking at him.

“Is it generally Undertaker policy to leave ponies like that?” I asked coldly. I got a shrug in response.

“For some anyway. I dare say that the twins would have pulled you out of there, same with Little Sister. Shriek would have spat in your eye before doing the honors herself, but she is a bit of a bitch.” I assumed that he was talking about other Undertakers. “I myself wanted to know what you were made of. You didn't disappoint.”

I sighed, being angry at him wouldn't amount to much, he knew why I was angry and he wasn't trying to wheedle out of it. “Tell me about them, the other Undertakers I mean.” I said around the bottle.

"Well, there is ten more apart from me at the moment. I'm Iron Sights." He brought out a rag to wipe his muzzle of blood, I noticed it had stopped bleeding, which was way too early considering the force of my punch. "Then there is the head honcho; Mort, he oversees and keeps a sort of order between us. There is the twins; Tombstone & Piledriver, they work together on all jobs and I haven't heard of anyone that has managed to show them up in melee or hoof to hoof combat."

Okay, that was four so far. And I had heard of Mort earlier, even met him, Trader has had words with the ghoul several times when I was with the caravan. Nice fellow.

Iron Sight continued lining them up. "Lets see, we have Little Sister, a little pegasus girl born on the surface so she haven't been branded a dashite or anything. Big Sister, she on the other hoof is a dashite and extremely protective of her younger counterpart... Odd really, considering Little keeps a manticore and a yao guai as pets and its others that need the protection. Shriek is a tall mare and the nastiest piece of work you've ever laid eyes upon, just a fair warning."

Oooh, that was interesting, two pegasi. I wondered if they can give me any tips about my flying or general wing care. Provided they even wanted to talk to me. I was calming down and just sat there, sipping the carrot flavored soft drink while listening.

"Roadblock is pretty much what he sounds like; big, strong and can be used to stop tanks. He almost never speaks to anypony except for maybe Mort. Ranger is and odd one though, he..."

At that moment Shade roared. ~~DUCK!~~ In my ear

The only reason I didn't end up with a spear in my head is that I was turned towards the entrance of the alley and Shade had kept an eye out when I was listening. The eight hoof long wooden spear passed my head as I hurled my body to the side and buried itself halfway into the brick wall behind me.

I looked up from my prone position on the ground and saw a collection of five adult female zebras in the alley entrance. One mare stood on her hind legs with a weird contraption on one front leg. One other zebra slotted a spear into it and the mare took one step forward and hurled the spear with the front leg towards me. It reached an incredible speed and I barely avoided it as I rolled, crashing into my worktable and spilling many valuable medicines, the spear buried itself deep in the asphalt where my head had just been.

I looked up again as I wiped healing powder from my face with my hoof and took them in. I knew them; Marked Mares, an amazonian tribe of female zebras that engaged in ritual scarring and cutting. They were seen very rarely and I knew little more than that.

The mare that had hurled the spear stepped forward, still walking on her hind legs. She was marked with a crude image of a pair of wings on her face that spread from what I assumed was a depiction of a horn. This image was surrounded by lines, like the spokes of a wheel or rays of a sun. The lines seemed to be kill tallies for alicorns if the rest of the brand meant what I thought it meant.

She opened her mouth and growled. "Starspawn." There was a deep hatred there, deep, bitter and ancestral. The type of hatred that would keep somepony alive even when all else had failed. It seemed to burn in her eyes like the dark fires of hell itself. Hatred burned in the eyes of all the mares present.

Oh bugger, this was definitely not good. I stood and looked around for Iron Sights, he was leaning casually in a boarded up doorway, odd really since I had no memory of him actually moving. He gave me a wolfish grin. "So, how will you handle this?"

I shot him a cold look before turning my attention back to the zebras. The alicorn hunter was walking into the alley casually. Damn, there was something creepy about the way she was looking at me. She crossed her forelegs across her body and slotted them into what looked like some kind of hoof weapons that she unsheathed. One big blade made of what looked like a hellhound claw now adorned each foreleg.

She opened her mouth and spoke in the zebra language. "I shall take the horn of this abomination myself, you stay back."

I pointed a hoof towards her and spoke in broken and heavily accented zebra myself. "Why do you defile your ancestors by attacking me in this place of healing?" I had none of the flair in my speech and it was highly formal, there hadn't been much time for me to learn to speak zebra properly, but I had no problems understanding.

Her eyes bulged and her mouth sprayed spittle as she shrieked. "Blasphemy! How dare you defile our language with that abominable tongue of yours!" She lunged. I reflexively brought up my shield and leaped back. The claw passed through my barrier like a hot knife through butter and scored me deeply in the shoulder. My rump bumped against the back wall. Bugger.

Okay, I was cornered, my shoulder hurt like a bastard and I was facing a mad mare with blades that passed through my shield like it wasn't there. I was so dead.

Then, as she lifted her right claw for another swipe Iron Sights kicked the limb with a roundhouse that sent the weapon flying. "We were having a conversation! Don't you know that it is rude to interrupt others when they are talking?"

"You dare interfere with my sacred task?" She roared in Equestrian at him. I took the opportunity to cast my raven spell at her. She gave an indignant howl as the tornado of black birds enveloped her. Iron Sights leaped back, a shadowy raven perching on his hat.

~~Eat the gem you were given by the buffalo.~~ Shade ordered. I was momentarily stumped. Eat the turquoise? What would that accomplish aside from busted teeth? In my panic to get my plasma revolver up I told Shade as much.

~~You wanted to know why Trixie wanted you and others like you so badly? Then eat the damned turquoise!~~ Shade snapped at me.

I was in an agony of indecision. On one hoof I needed every edge I could get, on the other I had serious doubts about doing something like that. I looked around, the four zebra mares who had been told to stay back guarded the entrance to the alley as if I couldn't just fly out of here. The alicorn hunter was still wrapped in my cloud of ravens, instinctively trying to shield her eyes and face. Iron Sights was standing calmly to the side taking in the situation, just like me.

I could just fly away, but what would that accomplish? Not much, they would probably just hunt me down again. They all looked the type, fanatical, obsessive. The type to use companions and friends to lure their prey out. As much as I hated the thought, I had to try and take them down. Iron Sights seemed willing enough to help me.

Luna dammit. I looked in my pack and levitated the big gemstone out. It was a medium blue and knobbly, more like a rock than a true gem. I caught the scent again, rock candy. I stood there for a second, not sure what to do. I saw the tornado of ravens start to dissipate.

~~What are you waiting for?~~ Shade asked me hurriedly.

"Dammit all to hell, I just want one day without everything turning to shit!" I shouted angrily, then I shoved the gem in my mouth and bit down.

To my surprise, the blue turquoise didn't hurt my teeth. It shattered dutifully when I bit down and it made a crunching sound like breaking glass when I chewed. I swallowed, expecting at every moment to feel the sharp shards tearing deep gashes my throat and fill me with pain. Instead it went down smoothly, leaving behind the sweet taste of fossilised sugar.

"What did you just make me do?" I asked Shade, dread stacking up in my mind like cord wood.

~~Wait for it.~~

Oh, he... woah. I could feel it, like a great sugar rush. But that wasn't all, Iron Sights and the mare in the waning tornado of ravens both did a double take as I felt energy flow though my body. I drew a deep breath, letting it out slowly. To my amazement a twin tongue of flame was expelled from my nostrils, making me take a few startled steps back, bumping the wall again with my rump.

"What?" I asked Iron Sights, momentarily forgetting the murderous zebra, thankfully she seemed to be as stunned as he was.

He gestured to his own medium length dark mane with a hoof and I took a glance at my long thick braid. At first I thought it was on fire and almost panicked even more, until my eyes shifted focus and I saw that the strands of hair weren't burning, they were literally strands of green and light blue fire.

I looked up again. The zebras in the alley entrance were looking at one another, doubt evident in their eyes. The alicorn hunter snapped out of it. "Your magical trickery will not help you, starspawn!" She challenged and charged, her blade low to the ground as she closed the short distance in her usual two legged run. Riding the sugar high, I danced to the side while preparing to cast my invisibility spell. Moving felt easier, more natural, and... I belched.

Something about belching grated on my soul, not because it wasn't ladylike. I really didn't care about such bullshit because what a mare should or shouldn't do didn't matter much to me. Besides, I wasn't a lady to begin with. But something haughty in me thought it was beneath me.

The large green fireball that escaped my muzzle and roared towards the charging zebra took us both by surprise. Her more than me since she had gotten close enough to be unable to duck in time. She still managed to twist with the fireball to avoid taking the blast full on. She just got severely scorched as she landed awkwardly after an impressive back flip.

Okay, I knew the source of her hatred, I got hints about it from the insult she had spat at me. I pitied her, so much hatred and anger, but I suppose some people need someone to blame. And many zebras blame the stars for almost everything.

As the zebra mare steadied herself I heard a grating sound. The ponyhole cover that lead down into the sewers had opened and slid to the side as several foals poked their heads out. Iron Sights leaned nonchalantly to the side and didn't interfere, he probably figured that I could handle this. Hrmph, at least he had helped me by relieving the crazy zebra of one of her weapons.

Years of training by Trader started to take over. 'Take advantage of every little thing you can, fighting fair only ever got ponies killed. Cheat, bite, kick privates if you have to. Whatever is necessary to survive, that's what fighting is all about. Survival.' I levitated out my revolver as steam flowed out of my mouth. Don't think about how or why, that can be done later. Take advantage of everything. Survive.

I took a deep breath that made my ribs creak. I could collect more herbs later and the ponyhole cover was out of line of fire. As I levitated my revolver into line with the mare I prayed like hell that my body knew when to throw fire.

With a mighty 'Whooosh!' a cone of green fire was expelled from my lips and I fired several times. She ditched her hellhound blade and did a smooth cartwheel away from me to make herself as small a target as possible. I didn't hit her but I did advance, hoping I could drive her into the rest of the marked mares and group them together.

I had to stop throwing what I was rapidly starting to suspect was balefire when the marked alicorn hunter turned in her cartwheeling path and scooped up a filly from the group of spectating foals by the sewer entrance. She did a complicated flip in the air and landed standing, holding the filly around her little waist and keeping a hoof against the foals head, ready to snap her neck.

Iron Sights swore and spat. "Taking a foal hostage? Filthy cunt."

"Lower your weapon starspawn and prepare to die, or I will have this filthy creature killed." Hatred and black insanity danced gleefully in her eyes. There was no question that she would kill the little filly if I didn't do as she said. The question was, was she insane enough to do it anyway?

I started to freeze up, the filly in the zebras fore legs was the same little creme filly I had given a blue feather to when I visited The Cistern. She still wore it in her mane. I looked into the foals eyes, there was no fear there. She met my gaze with the complete assurance of a child that big sister alicorn could do anything, that I would without a doubt save her. I couldn't do anything else.

I started to lower my revolver. ~~What are you doing?~~ Shade asked indignantly.

"Saving that foals life." I answered in my head, then shot Iron Sights a glance. "Make sure the foal is safe." I whispered. He nodded almost imperceptibly.

As I laid the revolver on the ground the marked mare gave a loud command in the zebra language. "Spears!" The four zebras in the alleyway entrance stood and slotted spears in their spear throwing contraptions.

"Let her go first!" I shouted back, my horn still glowing because I still hadn't completely dropped my revolver.

She gave me a triumphant smile that made the brand on her face crawl like it was alive. Oh please Celestia full of grace don't let her hurt the filly. I heard her yell: “Throw” And in the little pause between her yelling and the grunts of the four other zebras as they threw their spears... a tiny snap.

I roared in denial. A huge gout of green fire escaped my mouth and incinerated the flying spears, showering me with ashes. My world was filling with red mist and I charged. The mare looked startled but threw the tiny body aside and readied herself in a fighting stance.

I closed the distance and tackled her head on, making her fly backwards as I roared obscenities at her. Fire escaping my mouth at every syllable. My world was shifting, I wasn't entirely sure what my body was doing but I knew what I was seeing. The slaver. The slaver that had killed Bitter Drink, that had taken my son from me and made me leave my home.

I was holding something in my horns magic, the hammer. That had been a mistake, using a hammer on him when my own hooves would have been much more satisfying. I tossed it aside as I closed the distance and drove my horn through his shoulder. Why was he standing on his hind legs like that? I slid to a stop. Making the slaver slide off my horn and pile into copies of him. That was good, I could kill him repeatedly, take eight years of frustration and hate out on him in so many ways.

I started to stomp on the struggling bodies and to pour fire from my mouth. The flame soon stopped and I felt my insides cool down and still. No matter, he was getting up. I punched, kicked, stomped and bit down on his ear to tear it off. I could feel things going wrong with my body, bleeding start and bruises form. Half my vision faded in an explosion of starlight and one of my forelegs snapped out of its joint.

I felt these things happen distantly, I didn't feel the pain. I was too busy to kill him again and again and again. Soon there was only one of him left. I tried to grab his head in my fore hooves but failed because my leg was dislocated. I grabbed the limb in my magical embrace and popped it back in its socket. Barely feeling the pain that normally would have had me in a crying heap.

I grabbed at him again, holding his head in my hooves and glowering at him through one black eye. I saw him, battered and bleeding, but he was also The Don and a light blue unicorn mare at the same time, the images fighting for space on the same face. I remembered them all, although the mare was hard to place. They were all the ponies that had taken control from me, in one form or another, that had raped my body by warping me into this thing I was now, that had tortured me on that slab in the dungeon.

But most important of all, I held the head of the slaver, the foal killer. He who had taken my adoptive son from me, caused me to flee my home and now had killed another innocent foal. Far off my body was screaming in pain, that was distant, as distant as the little nagging voice that was telling me to come to my senses. I ignored it all.

I started banging his head on the black top beneath us, cursing him and loosing what sight I still had when tears started to flow from my damaged eyes. I hated him, I hated him so much, and I would take payment here and now for what I knew he owed me. I felt his head crack under my hooves and soon I was trying to bang mush to the asphalt. I started to stomp on the ground, trying to make sure that no part of his head was whole.

The red mist started to dissipate and I could hear myself screaming. "Why did you have to kill her! I would have gone freely you monster!" I stopped stomping on the ground. My chest heaved and shuddered, sobs was wracking my entire body and pain slammed into my consciousness, I was certain that I was bleeding from several cuts and deep lacerations, I also felt several busted ribs and my entire body was battered and bruised.

I heard Iron Sights rough whiskey voice say in a kind and gentle tone. "Here you go, drink these, it'll make you able to see at least." I felt the lip of a bottle against my lips and grabbed it in my mouth, tipping my head back to drink it. My sight slowly returned to me and some of the damage was disappearing. My left eye had just taken blunt trauma and swollen shut, there was no permanent damage done. I was still tired and battered, most open wounds had closed but the loss of blood made me fight for an upright position.

I couldn't collapse, no matter how much I wanted to close my eyes and sleep for a fortnight I couldn't stop just yet. I looked around. The five corpses on the ground around me were torn to shreds, heads caved in, chests collapsed and all burned deeply by fire. With dark satisfaction I saw through my tears that it was the foal killing marked mare who's head I had beaten to a pulp with my bare hooves. I wouldn’t ever regret killing her.

I winced and brought a hoof to my face. I felt around until I found the place that felt wrong. I could feel an angry cut tracing a diagonal line from above my right eye down between them to my left chin. My muddy mind threw up a card; enchanted blade. I cursed and sorted through my knowledge of zebra enchantments and the ground, there were a few I had heard of that were used on weapons to make wounds that would never heal properly or leave scars akin to those left by energy weapons.

After a second I found what I was looking for, a carving knife with a gem for a pommel. Bugger. It was probably used for the ritual scarring and similar, I was almost sure that if I continued to search in their packs I would find a branding iron too.

"I'm sorry I couldn't save the foal." Iron Sights apologised. And I felt my back stiffen, causing pain to shoot through me. "There wasn't any time for me to do anything." There was regret in his rough voice. I closed my eyes.

"I'll meet Mort when I have the opportunity. I'm on my way to Trottingham anyway so we'll stop by The Field of Fallen Feathers when we are in the vicinity." I didn't want to talk to anypony for a while, and I had a corpse to lay out.

"You know of the old graveyard?" He asked in mild surprise. I nodded and pulled myself staggeringly to my hooves. I remember throwing my gun away and soon located it lying against an old cardboard box. The capacitors were scuffed where it had struck the ground.

"I know of the place, I've visited it once." I walked up to a group of crying foals, gently moving them aside with my head. "Come on kids, she needs to be prepared for..." I saw her, had I not already been weeping I would have burst into tears at the sight. She lay in a puddle of dirty water where she had landed. At the sight of her neck I whimpered. I pulled out my blanket and gently levitated her up, wrapping her tiny lifeless body in the fabric.

"One of you go tell The Matron, the rest of you can show me the way to whatever place you have where the dead are prepared for burial." One colt took my braid in his teeth and led me on, I followed on shaky legs like a newborn lamb. My mane had returned to its normal state. I had to ask Shade about that later. As it was I couldn't find it anywhere in my mind.

*** *** ***

Eventually I was lead to an old glassblowers workshop, where an ancient mare worked. I could see hoofmade earthenware pots and containers. I guessed that the old glassblowing oven had been modified for cremation.

"What's going on here?" She asked in a brittle voice as I entered with the bundle on my back, accompanied by half a dozen foals.

"I have last rites to administer." My voice was hoarse and worn as I gestured to the little bundle of cloth on my back. Again I looked like a mess and I slowly shed saddlebags and duster, bundling them together and stowing them on a shelf. I wasn't entirely fair to the old nag, I had managed to down a few more healing potions on the way and now I moved with self assurance as I walked to the back rooms. I knew what to do.

"You cant ju..." She started to protest but I shut the door in her face.

The back rooms were like I had expected them to be. An old workshop turned mortuary, I walked over to the table set with taps and a sink for cleaning the dead and placed the filly on it, then gently unwrapped her body. Such a little thing she was now, her body had almost shrunk when it was no longer filled with the life force of a child. I gently closed her eyes and started to clean her, using the water from the taps and several scrubbing brushes.

I wasn't squeamish about dead bodies. It was something to expect when you were a medical pony, sometimes things just went wrong. The water wasn't clean, barely the bathing sort, but filtered enough to clean a dead body properly. I took the opportunity to clean myself as well, the tingle of radiation felt much stronger now. It practically brushed my bruises away as I watched, I also fixed three broken ribs with my bone mending spell.

I started to hum to myself as I cleaned her soft mane. "Sweet Celestia, full of grace." This was answered by a familiar rasp.

"Help us find our rightful place." It was The Matron. She walked into the room, closing the door with a hindhoof.

"Help us grow up big and strong." I continued. Wishing this was so for the little filly I had failed to save today.

"Laughing and singing all day long." The ghoul matron was pulling off her many layers of hoods and scarfs. Behind it was what once had been a lovely face even if it looked like she was ghoulified at an old age, the wisps of mane still clinging to her scalp were two tones of pink and the glow from her green eyes was kind.

"Show us how we should be kind." I floated over a ratty towel to her so she could help me dry the filly.

"Teach us beauty and peace of mind." She started to dry the creme body gently while singing her parts softly.

"Sweet Celestia, full of grace. Show us your gentle, shining face." We finished the verse together as I retied the blue feather to the dead foals mane.

I sat down with a thump and put my head in my hooves, wincing as I felt the still open wound on my face move. "What was her name?" I asked silently. I felt like shit, my outer appearance was fine apart from my face. Where things were still flashing warnings were on the inside my body. I needed to find either an extra strength restoration potion or new potion ingredients, if I didn’t I was going to piss blood for a week.

"Her name was Trinity Creme." The Matron said sadly while stroking the little head. "I heard from my little pony when he came to fetch me what happened, your workplace has been cleaned and what can be salvaged from the wreckage and bodies has been collected."

"I'm sorry." I felt the lump form in my throat and I hugged myself. "I should have ordered them to close the lid when I first saw them." Laying out foals always struck me hard. I hadn't done it since Bitter Drink, but it had happened twice before him. Sometimes, things just didn't work out.

"We all have our regrets." I heard her muse, she sounded like she was far away, in time as well as space. "I should have done more for them, fought more for a different solution." She turned her attention back to me. "Who were they?"

I owed her that at least. "Marked Mares. I don't know much about them, but from what happened today I am guessing that they are hunting alicorns. Certain tribes of zebras has always had a gut wrenching fear of the stars and by extension Luna, whom they accused of being an agent of the stars." I rubbed my temples. "Some turn their fear to hatred, its easier to get up in the morning that way. And from Luna I guess it wasn't that far a leap to include all alicorns."

I pulled myself to my hooves. I pulled out the blanket again and wrapped the now cleaned body of Trinity up in preparation for cremation. Before I wrapped her head I leaned down and whispered in her cold ear so The Matron wouldn't hear me. "I'm so sorry Trinity. When you arrive, please tell Bitter Drink that his father misses him."

"You know, you remind me so much of them. The Princesses." I turned to look at the old ghoul, not comprehending. "I was there, a very long time ago, when Luna was freed from the clutches of Nightmare Moon." She was studying me, taking in my wings and stature. She seemed to be far away once again. "Hard to think that such an old mare acted like a teenager for so long." She gave a raspy and sad chuckle. "Hard to imagine that the same mare I once saw prank somepony by hiding in a tub of water during Nightmare Night, turned so cold when the war took her school from her." She looked back to the bundle. "But something similar happened to you, didn't it?"

I nodded. "I lost my son in a slaver attack, this was a long time ago. It never really stopped hurting, the wound eventually closed, but the scar remains." I felt the slash across my face. That would leave a scar too. My eyes stayed dry, they were too worn to show my sorrow anymore.

There wasn't much else that needed to be said after that. I wrapped her up and walked back to the room with the big oven. The ancient mortician gave me a stiff nod when I gave her the little bundle. Then I collected my gear and left, carrying several weeping foals on my back as I returned them to The Cistern. Burial wouldn't be until tomorrow.

*** *** ***

While magically wrapping a healing bandage across my face to cover the wound, I stepped into a mansion in uproar. Ponies in battle saddles and assistants towing papers scurried around in the big entrance hall. I stretched out a tired wing, making a young mare carrying several rolled up maps thump into it and sit down hard.

"Ow! What'cha do that for? I need to get these to Cinnamon right away." She admonished me. I felt a little bad, but not much.

"What is the emergency?" There was certainly something big going on.

"Haven't you heard? The enclave attacked New Appleloosa and Shattered Hoof a few days ago and there's a big disturbance above the Everfree Forest. We just found out today, the fat asshole had kept this hidden from most of us." She then picked up her maps and rushed away, not giving me a second look. I followed closely.

We eventually arrived in a conference room. Cinnamon sat at the end of a big table, shifting through papers and maps. She looked up when I arrived. A pair of reading glasses sat perched on her muzzle and her graying mane was in a tight bun. "Ah... yes, M'lady we could use your help..." She faltered slightly but rallied. "What has happened to you?"

"Zebra fanatics attacked me while I talked to Iron Sights the Undertaker. One of the orphans got killed." I sat down by the table at a free space and looked at the others around the table. Midnight Rose sat to the left of Cinnamon and gave me a worried smile that I returned.

A few of the other ponies I recognised; two doctors who wouldn't meet my gaze, probably the ones who had fixed me up yesterday. Meshing Gears and another buck, both covered in oil, the second buck was the overseer of the local spark generator, battered as it was. The big mare in a suit from yesterday sat on the right side of cinnamon and glowered at me, still pissed at me for the cloud of ravens I had shoved in her face. After that there was maybe a dozen other ponies that I guessed held high positions in Red Light.

"The offending zebras have been taken care of. I’ll be borrowing the medical room later if that’s okay." I rubbed my temples again as Cinnamon nodded. I wanted to go to sleep.

"Right, as I said, I sent the two talons out early this morning with a telescope, and they say that shit has hit the fan. There is an outright battle between the Enclave and Red Eyes forces above that Cathedral place he has squirreled away in Everfree. Fillydelphia is like a kicked anthill and Stern is probably out for blood, so we are officially closing down the gates tomorrow. Any caravan and merchant willing to stay is allowed to do so, but no one is going to enter or leave after sunset tomorrow." She turned to the big mare to her right. "I want you to get every junkie you can to fortify the walls, debris and girders, whatever you can find not attached to a standing building."

"Wont be easy, the lazy fuckers." The big mare muttered. I was impressed, Cinnamon was clearly getting into her right element and taking to it like a fish to water. I approved of her assertiveness, if she could survive this she would have no problems running Red Light in the future. A baptism by fire if I ever saw one.

"Just confiscate any and all the drugs your guards can get their hooves on and use that as payment, it's a little cruel but they have to pull their weight just like anypony else for a few days." She shifted to another map. I peeked at it curiously and saw that it was a worn map of most of Equestria. Sure it was out of date by two hundred years but amended frequently with changes scribbled in.

"Do you have any advice you can give M’lady?" Cinnamon asked me. I started to get really tired of the honorific, but somehow bent my fizzing mind to the task. Red Light was the biggest trading hub between Shattered Hoof and Trottingham, nothing good could come of that in these circumstances.

"Well. For a start, the sewers are a weak point. Geri managed to get into this mansion by digging through a few weak walls, so somepony dedicated with shaped charges could just wander into this place."

She nodded. "I shall ask the Matron and her orphans to help us seal the sewers, they know it well, I should know. Anything else?"

I wracked my brain, beating it into submission, this wasn't the time to mope around, not just yet. "Enclave pegasi can’t be good news."

"Right, snipers on the roo..." Cinnamon started.

"Remember," Interrupted the mare to Cinnamon's right. "we have nowhere near enough armor piercing ammunition to deal with pre-war tech like that."

"And," A deep rumbling voice cut in and a big talon griffin walked up to the table. His great bulk was covered with black griffin power armor and a large brush gun was holstered to his side. He gave me a dismissive glance over his twice scarred beak and continued. "the Enclave are hardly the only with flyer's. Stern and Red Eye's generals in Fillydelphia has griffins of their own. Shattered Hoof can be assumed to be allies depending on what side you take." He tapped the map with a claw. "There are many factions to consider. The Steel and Applejack's Rangers are fighting each other and will probably take any excuse to barge in here, Steel will certainly do it just to trash our generator. Applejack's might do it in order to keep Steel from resupplying, but that is way less likely." I had no idea who the Applejacks Rangers were and was fighting to keep up to speed.

He tapped another part of the map. "And remember, we have the Trottingham Rangers just behind us, they have so far left us alone because we don’t have anything they might want, with them having their hooves full and all, but they would most likely take Steel's side, they are more liberal than most chapters but not entirely like the Applejack's." Good old talon mercenaries, as long as he was paid he didn't give a damn who ran this place.

"Provided they even fight one another." Rose piped up, then paused when the entire rooms attention turned to her. "I mean, they might decide to bury their differences if they are up against both Fillydelphia and the Enclave." The griffin merc nodded in agreement to her.

I stood up, my kidneys were kicking my spine for attention, reminding me I still needed to fix myself up. "Sorry everyone, I'm not feeling well. I'll have to come back to this later, I'll be in the medical bay."

As I turned, Cinnamon asked me. "Will you be staying? We could use a medical pony with your skill." The two doctors on the other side of the table nodded emphatically, clearly wanting to get into my good graces.

"Maybe, I can't say for sure." Then I walked out, leaving the group inside as they started to bicker and plan.

*** *** ***

I walked in on Runs Wild who was calmly tying on a strip of bandage on one of her fore legs. A bottle of disinfectant stood on the bench. Looks like one of the rats got in a lucky hit.

She looked up and gasped. "What happened to you?"

I told her everything while I spent the time mixing up several batches of mending tinctures from ingredients the orphans had managed to salvage, and other stuff I had picked up from a few nervous merchants. I told her of the attack, about what happened to Trinity Creme, and about Bitter Drink.

"So after a few months I left, I walked away from my home and left everything." I was not looking up from my work, not even when I heard Wild blow her nose.

"So, the funeral is tomorrow?" I heard her say and I nodded. The brew was almost done and I carefully lowered the heat. Then I felt her lay a hoof around my shoulders, my body sagged a little.

"All over a damned falling rock," I muttered. "thousands of years of anger and fear over a damned falling piece of stone." My anger against the insane Marked Mare was dissipating slowly, replaced by pity. I wasn't sorry for killing her or her companions, but I didn't have the energy to justify it to myself.

I had to focus on other things, something was clearly going to hell around Everfree and Fillydelphia, and it was going to ripple out across the wasteland. I felt it in my core, something big was waiting around the corner.

"Things are going to escalate, Wild. Something is happening and I think we might have to settle down here for a while. Just until things have calmed down." I lifted the finished potion from the hot plate and waited for it to cool. "After things have settled, I’ll to continue searching for Traders Caravan. After that’s done, I'm going to go home. I have put it off for far too long." Stable 10 loomed at me from out of the shadows. "I'd love it if you'd want to travel with me that far, I can show you the Neigherra Madre Casino, Scrap City, and perhaps even Machine Mountain."

"Can I ask you something?" I looked down and nodded at Wild. "What is your real name?" I smiled to myself, she was still as perceptive and clever as ever.

"My name," I began and downed the potion, instantly feeling my kidneys stopping their kicking for attention. "is..." I thought for a while. Yes, it was a part of me now, as much a part of me as my wings. "Snakebite Curatie Tourniquet."

Footnote: Level Up
Quest Perk: Eating Gems - Due to some oddities in your physiology, you can eat and digest gems, leading you to breathe fire for a short time. Although, this might just be the tip of the iceberg.

NeverKnown AKA ThatGuyWithTheMustache
Shadowstep AKA The Grammar Nazi

'Sweet Celestia, full of grace.' Belongs to Somber, writer of Project Horizon.

Tumblr: Ask Snakebite Tourniquet

Chapter 9: Last Respects.

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Fallout Equestria: Misfits

By DancingOnTheAshes

Chapter 9: Last Respects.

What am I? Why did Trixie want me? What, in the end, happened in Stable 10?

A couple of hours ago I ate a big piece of turquoise. My mane and tail briefly metamorphosed into living flames and balefire flowed out of my throat. What in the great name of the moon will come next?

At this point the hows about my abduction started to wane. How or when I was taken from Trader's Caravan wasn't as important as the need to know what happened in Stable 10, and what, in the end, I ultimately was.

Of course, I wasn't stupid. There is only one type of creature in the wasteland that eat gemstones and belch balefire... and what was one of them doing in a stable?

*** *** ***

"Snakebite Tourniquet..." Wild was rolling the name around in her mouth, then she gave me a hurt expression. "Why didn't you just tell me?"

I sighed at myself. Well, eventually you have to pay the piper. "Because I felt ashamed, I still do. I'm unsure about myself and what I am, and I didn't want the complication of somepony I knew finding out... then you figured out that I used to be male, and it kinda fell apart. Yet I still kept my name secret, I'm not sure why, but I do know that there really weren't any good moments to bring it up."

I mutely shook my head. "I'm sorry."

"Its okay." She said in that special tone that translated to; 'Things are not okay, I feel hurt and this is going to come back and bite you in the rump later.' I knew the tone, my sister used it on me often enough. Hell, I've used it.

*** *** ***

He slammed his hoof on the big table. "I am telling you, we need to send a message telling Stern and Red Eye we give our support!"

Cinnamon roared back. "Not going to happen!" She was almost standing on the table and Midnight Rose was barely holding her back.

It was bedlam. It was a taste of what was surely about to come. Ponies were yelling to make themselves heard and we were barely two steps away from throwing things at each other.

One of the doctors raised his voice. "But what about refugees? Surely ponies will try and get themselves away from any fighting?"

A buck who's voice was much like a bleat answered. "Well, that wont matter if we close the gates tomorrow evening."

"Wont ponies be left to the dangers of the wasteland if that happens?" Midnight said as she was trying to keep Cinnamon from gutting the slaver supporter.

"Well, yes." He answered. "That's the whole point. And it prevents infiltrators once the real fighting starts."

"Well, we don't know that." The other doctor said uncertainly. "This might just blow over."

"Hah, that'll be likely." A blue earth pony buck with a face like a sack full of hammers and a supernova red mane barked. "Tain't gonna blow over, this will go the distance and end in misery, I can promise you that. But let them try and take us, I'll give 'em a face full of dandruff if'n they try."

I had been sitting silently, just observing since I came back. Now I raised my voice above them all, they didn't stand a chance against me, I could muster more volume than them all combined and still keep a normal tone. "Battering Ram is correct." All heads turned towards me. Okay, I took the plunge, lets see how deep the waters were.

I turned to the doctor that had hoped it would blow over. "Red Eye and The Enclave are butting heads, this will end in a full on war between almost every conceivable faction in the wasteland." I started to count them out while tapping my hoof on the table.

"Red Eye and Stern's slavers, The Enclave, Twilight Society up in Tenpony, both the Steel Rangers and Applejack's Rangers, the Talons, and that's just here. What will happen in Hoofington? The Collegiate and Society? The Reapers and the dozen or so little raider tribes? Anarchy wont even be the half of it." Then there was Stalliongrad, Trottingham, a dozen more places just waiting for the power structure in Equestria to flicker. Ceaser's Legion for example.

Not to mention back home. The Royal Flush Gang up in the Casino. The dozen or so airship captains and the few pirates. Goddesses help us, I hope this will not wake up Machine Mountain. That' s the absolutely last thing anypony needs.

The doctor pointed an accusing hoof at me. "And what about your kind then? Hmm? Aren't you lot working with Red Eye?" Ahh, I had expected that sooner.

"The wasteland alicorns you mean?" I shrugged. "I have no idea what the rest of them are doing, some will no doubt turn back to work for him and some might even be helpful and friendly." I remembered the old green one. "And some will be hostile, mad beyond belief once Unity isn't keeping them sane, but I think most will just be bewildered and confused."

I myself had been scared out of my mind. I still was, now I just had a better grip on my situation.

Cinnamon gave a cough, and we all turned to her and settled down. "Right, lets get back on track. Syringe and Splint." The two doctor ponies sat up straight. "I want you and Curatie to do a full inventory and get a firm idea of what medical supplies are available, this includes everything the merchants are willing to sell to the town clinic." Splint raised a hoof. "Yes?"

"Are we really going to work with thi... her?" He asked uncertainly. Right, he was not making friends with me at the moment.

"Yes." Cinnamon said coldly. "And if I was you I'd start immediately. Curatie is a respectable healer, I saw her in action yesterday, and will do a good job." I admit to straightening just a little out of pride.

The three of us left while the others continued to talk about the walls, and where to strengthen them most effectively.

"Right," I said as we walked down the hall. "I'll have to make up a list of herbs and ingredients for healing potions that could be useful." I already had a list of prioritised potions and poultices ready in my mind.

Syringe looked up at me over his steel rimmed glasses. "Herbs? Like a zebra potion?"

I nodded. I could see the disdain on his face and sighed. "I was trained to it, okay. It gets the job done, and more than that."

Splint, the more jittery of the two piped up. "But the war? The bombs?"

Before he could get further I spun on him, making him back into a wall and nearly fall over. "What of it?! Do you know why they did it? Do you know the circumstances?" I advanced, prodding him in the chest with a wing. "Do anypony have any idea of their history? Or care?" I stomped away. "Lets get this shit done, I have a funeral to attend tomorrow."

I sighed inwards, of course they don't know. It wasn't talked about and I only had a muddy picture at most of what had happened in the past, and I only had that because I had lived with a zebra for almost a decade.

I felt something look over my shoulder. "Hi Shade."

~~Hello.~~ Shade sounded meek. Like a cat that knows it will get a boot thrown at it as soon as it sticks its head in the door.

"You okay?" I asked as I walked down the stairs that led to the street.

~~I will be... it wasn't easy, keeping together... the raw emotion hurt.~~ And Shade sounded genuinely hurt, or sick. It was hard to tell.

"Go to sleep, you sound like you need it." Shade didn't object and settled down and went to sleep. Good, because I had a lot of screaming at it waiting, and I wanted it to be awake and alert. I didn't want to unleash seven kinds of hell on Shade while it was weak and sickly.

*** *** ***

I walked down the street and was interrupted by a question from the open door to a garage, it looked like it had been rebuilt into an armorers shop. Disassembled and modified weapons and armor of all makes and models hung behind sturdy mesh to show off the armorers skill, but dissuade thieves. A scarred and old gray griffin female sat turned to the street behind a grinding wheel, a strange blade in her claws.

While not taking her eyes from her work she asked me. "Looks like you could use some armor? Heard you got shot down yesterday." She tsked while checking the edge of the blade, it was long and segmented and looked hollowed out on the back. She glanced up at me. "Not good, you could use some padding under that duster of yours... Undertaker."

I looked at her for a minute while she just grinned back at me. Then I relented, the doctors walked past me and continued, clearly trying to ignore me as much as possible. "So," I asked the griffin. "you aren't a Talon?"

She shook her head, making her blue tipped black crest sway. "Haven't been in nearly twenty years."

"I didn't know you could quit." I mused. "Anyways, what armor do you have that would even fit me?" Proper protection was welcome, but my unusual body type made getting fabricated armor difficult. And relying on my shield spells all the time was... unpredictable at best.

She measured me up and put the blade aside. "Well, I don't have anything in stock." She rested her head in her claws. "Your legs are too long to fit normal pony’s armor for a start, but maybe I could modify some metal armor, that only requires that the underbarding is changed." She stood on all four. "First though."

She took the weird blade in a claw and walked tree legged towards me. "Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you, you big cub." She said irritably when I started to back away. "Right, stretch out your right wing."

I did so and she studied it critically with practiced eyes. Then sat and took it in her claw, turned it, and measured the thickness and size with a professionals eye. I felt a little uncomfortable with the examination. "Looks to be in roughly the same size as ours, not like those itty bitty pegasi wings." She muttered under her breath. Then she placed the blade on my wing, edge out.

"Flex." She commanded. And I did so. Then I did a number of different moves with my wing under her orders. Turned, folded and unfolded while she used a tool to adjust the length between the segments. When I've had enough and was about to ask her what she was doing she did something to the blade and it clamped down.

"Ouch, its pinching." I tried to back away but she held me fast.

"Stop fidgeting you overgrown chicken. I'm just checking the fit." She was clearly used to this and soon the blade stopped pinching and sat comfortably on my wing edge. "Now, try it out on that dummy." She motioned towards a training dummy made out of logs.

I raised an eyebrow but did as she asked. Then promptly decapitated the dummy with a well placed swing... or that was what I had in mind. The blade stuck and I looked ridiculous as I tried to pull myself loose, until I simply used magic to pry the blade from the thick wood.

"That... was pathetic." The griffin armorer commented dryly.

Right, that did it. Without a word I pulled my plasma revolver out in one flying magical arc and liquefied the training dummy with one shot. "Okay. Now, why did you put this ridiculous thing on me if you aren't even going to bother asking if I can use it?"

She didn't say anything for a minute, then answered calmly. "Because my son wants to get on your good side after shooting you." And at my suspicious stare added. "He's out back practicing, let me get the other one on you, and get your measurements for some metal armor. It wont be free but my boy has fixed a discount if you are willing. Then go out back and ask him for some help on how to use the blades."

After some posing to get the proper measurements I walked through the workshop and out the back. The yard behind was surrounded by run down buildings and had several steel cables strung in a criss crossing pattern. Several training dummies of pegasi and griffins hung in the air and were beset by a young lad with a pair of swords in his fore claws.

He saw me, goggled at me for a second, then flew into a wire and got tangled. The swords fell and got stuck in the ground. I looked on for a while until he asked in a high voice, still not entirely out of puberty. "Uhm, can you give me a hoof?"

I studied the tangle of wires, then located the right one and pulled it with my magic. The griffin youth thumped down on the ground and rolled on his back. I walked calmly up to the groaning lad and placed a hoof on his chest, then lowered my face to meet his.

"Listen closely, kid. Next time, make sure you kill whoever you are shooting at, because they might not be as forgiving as I am." I had no intention of hurting him, there had been far too much of that today.

He gave me a sickly grin for a few moments. "Eh-heh, mom told you, didn't s-she?" I nodded, not reacting to the sound of a hammer being pulled on a gun behind me beyond stiffening a little. Then I took my hoof from his chest and stepped back.

"You can take your claw off the trigger ma'am, I'm just giving him some sound advice." I looked back to the shop and saw the armorer holster a very large revolver. Then she nodded to me and walked back in.

"Eh-heh," The lad had a very nervous laugh that he seemed to precede most sentences with. "S-so, what happened? Didn't s-see that bandage on you yesterday." He said as he picked himself up. A slight stutter too I noticed.

"Got cut up by a zebra today." I said dryly. I was studying the yard, it was a decent place to train close combat. I wasn't in the mood for small talk so I got straight to the point. "Look, kid. Granting a discount is very generous, but I have a lot to do right now. So I'll spar with you for an hour then I'll get back to doing what Cinnamon asked me to, I might come back tomorrow."

"Eh-heh, r-right lets do that." He looked a little dejected.

I sighed and rubbed my forehead where the slash itched. "What's your name, kid?"

"Hervar S-silverfeather." He bowed to me. "My mothers name is S-sorva S-silverfeather. Eh-heh, s-she must have told you s-she isn't a Talon anymore. I am though, I work for the leader of R-red Light, no matter who that is... personally I think mom s-shafted me on that contract to make s-sure I s-stay here." He gave a nervous grin.

And that was the general impression of the lad, nervous, a little jittery... and this was apparently the same griffin that had shot me in the back with no warning. I had to be careful so that I didn't start to underestimate him.

"R-right, you ever used those things?" Hervar asked, then went on as he went to a hooflocker and picked out a par of wing blades of his own, stuffing his two swords away. "Nah, probably not. They aren't used much by anyone aside from griffins, the enclave pegasi have their own type of blades, but they are smaller." He fastened the two blades to his own wings. And I noticed another thing, when he went on a lecture his little stutter completely vanished.

"Now, normally griffins either use swords or wing blades, wing blades are preferred because you can hold a rifle or guns at the same time. I like swords though, they have a reassuring feel in my claws." He chuckled. "Haven't tried to use both at the same time, it gets a bit confusing, heard of one guy who apparently managed to decapitate himself, I never found out how he did it."

He walked over to, and around me, appraising me. "Well, you aren't a brawler, I can see that. Maybe you have the makings of a swords pony. You certainly have the grace for it." I hadn't thought of that, sure my body felt more agile and sure hoofed then it had before, but I hadn't thought much about it to be honest.

Hervar placed a claw on my side and gave me a push. I steadied myself reflexively and glared at him. "Hey, no ill meant, I'm just getting to know your type of movement. Go for a run around the yard." I sighed and rolled my eyes. Fine.

After cantering around a few laps he stopped me and then explained a bit about the blades uses. They were useful to griffins for the extra weapons they added to a fight and the ability to swiftly switch between a ranged fight to close up combat. And they were much better for blocking incoming blows than risking damage to a firearm.

Then we sparred for a while, at first I wondered why we didn't just use the training dummies, but Hervar explained that it was always advantageous to fight a live opponent when possible. A dummy was fine when you had no other option, but a real live opponent moved about, fought back, could pressure you and force you to learn. Sparkle and the red outline I got from my EFS was very helpful.

And I had to admit, using the blades felt much better than just pummeling at somepony like a brute. There was some finesse to it even if using wing blades wasn’t much farther from just striking somepony with the bare edges of my wings.

And most importantly, as I slashed and trusted, never once getting a clean hit but constantly being pressured by Hervar, I could forget a little. There was nothing but the two of us as we danced and spun, our blades clanging and striking sparks as we traded blow after blow. I could forget the horrible feeling that I had failed the trusting little filly, I forgot the blinding red mist that had made me blind to everything but killing five zebras in an unstoppable rage. My mind went white, blessedly so, and I didn't hesitate to follow up into the air when the young griffin jumped up in the air to fly the complex aerial training course.

We swirled and dodged the faux pegasi and griffins, flying with the blades attached to my wings was a little tricky, but I managed. It was just a question of adjusting to the circumstances, like when I had flown several days with Runs Wild on my back. She had gone back to taking care of the rodents in the sewers, that was necessary anyway since it was going to be sealed up from the outside and needed to be empty of vermin for the workers.

I didn't know where Geri was, he wandered off this morning and had probably found something to occupy his time with.

I flew, I twirled, losing myself in the joy of flight. Once or twice Hervar made a pass to test me, forcing me to twist to block his strikes. A few times I nudged the wires, resulting in the large dummies to shift their positions, often into my path. I laughed, for the first time that day a sound like crystal bells escaped my mouth. By the goddesses I loved flying.

Suddenly, the alarm I had set on my pipbuck went off, aborting my joy into the cold hard floor of reality. I had to go and help the two doctors inventory Red Light's available medical supplies. And tomorrow...

I landed, panting and sweating, but with endorphins flowing in my blood like a tide. I gave the griffin lad a smile that he returned. "That was pretty fun." I said, a little out of breath.

"Eh-heh. You know, you're quite nice, no matter what r-rumors s-say about alicorns." Then the young griffin did something that made my brain short out. He twisted his head to the side, reached up, and kissed me before I could react. It was weird, oddly hard, and the tip of his beak scratched my cheek. He pulled away, uncertainty in his eyes.

He kissed me. Kissed me. Male, and he kissed me. He was male. Kiss. Me.

Well, I was female... on the outside. Couldn't really blame the guy, young, endorphins in his blood, a lot of hormones. It wasn't like it was a taboo, not as such.

I don't know where they came from, I didn't think I had any left. Tears fell from my eyes down my cheeks as I stared blankly ahead of me. I couldn't think, my brain felt like it was filled with treacle.

"Oh, by The Egg! I'm s-sorry, I don't know what came over me... a-are you okay?" He floundered.

"I... I got to go." I said in a disjointed voice. I needed to leave, to get out of here, be anywhere else but here. I started to scrabble with my magic at the blades attached to my wings, I needed to get them off. Hadn't payed for them yet, couldn't just take them.

"Oh, I'll help you with those." Hervar walked forward, reaching out with a claw towards my right wing.

"Don't touch me!" I shrieked on auto pilot as I raised the other wing to strike. Making him back away. "Please, don't touch me." I pleaded, my voice was low again, broken.

"Hervar!" Sorva commanded from the doorway to the workshop. "Go and see if your boss needs any help up in the mansion."

"But he gave me th..." Hervar started.

"You do as I tell you right now, boy or I'll have you haul scrap for a week, no matter what your wing commander says!" Sorva roared at the youth and he scrambled to obey her, rushing to a brush gun standing against a wall and taking off into the air like his tail was on fire.

Sorva walked up to me while I tried to get the blades off my wings. "I swear, sometimes that boy doesn't have the brains of a beetle. Here, let me help you." I gave up on my attempts and let the old griffin female take the blades off. It was okay, she was safe. She wasn't male.

When she was finished she took my head in her fore claws and looked me in my streaming eyes. "Ahh," She said understandingly. "lets get you inside, it's past sun down anyway and you could use a shot of brandy." She shooed me inside. I was too scrambled in the head to object.

*** *** ***

"Right," She said once we sat in what had been the break room and office, and now was the living quarters of Sorva. She had placed two mugs on a counter and held a big earthenware jug of brandy. "I do appreciate you giving my lad a tip or two, and I thank you for not ripping him to shreds over a kiss." She topped both mugs up all the way to the brim. "But you really mustn't blame him, he takes after his sire. He was an impulsive oaf," She gave what was almost a girly giggle. "but very good in the sack."

I stared at the mug, not doing anything. She sighed. "He's a good lad with edged weapons and a good shot, but he has no real experience with females."

I prodded the mug then took a half hearted sip from it. It was smooth and smokey, it helped grease the cogs of my brain a little. "Not angry." I mumbled.

Sorva laid her head in a claw. Studying me from the top of her mug. "I've heard of a few things that happened up in that dungeon The Don had. So I wont ask." She reached out with her mug and I tapped mine to hers half heartedly. "Cheer up, you're a big healthy girl, and not sore on the eyes neither." She chuckled. "As far as ponies go anyway."

That helped a little, while at the same time being completely unhelpful. I sagged down and put my chin on the counter. "Very helpful." I muttered to nobody in particular. Then I downed the mugs contents, relishing the smooth burn flowing down to my stomach.

*** *** ***

I awoke, the taste in my mouth filling my world. It tasted like something foul had died and rotted on my tongue. I lifted my head from the surface it had rested on, and felt the gentle rip as the fur on my cheek parted company with the sticky surface. I tried opening my eyes but to no avail. They were glued shut by something filthy. What in the seven hells happened last night? I remembered the kiss Hervar gave me and shuddered at the memory. It wasn't that I had been kissed by a male, that had happened before when I had been drunk enough or once when I had lost a bet, it was the fact that I had been kissed by a male that assumed I was female that had upset me.

I brought up a hoof to clear my eyes, blinking stupidly at my surroundings. I was in the same room, but now it was the obvious ground zero to a drunken girls night out. Several mares lay sleeping around the place and Sorva lay in her bunk, hugging a road sign. What had I been drinking? My liver and metabolism was strong enough to process rocket fuel for Celestia’s sake. I looked around the former office, bottles lay everywhere and several decks of cards were spread on the table, along with a lot of bottle caps and other currencies, a few gemstones too I noticed.

I looked down at a big jug standing on the table next to me, then peered at the label. 'Balefire absinthe' was scrawled on it. "Oh goddesses." I groaned, that stuff was made from scorpion venom, spark battery acid, and an apple. Usually a thimble-full of the stuff was enough to knock you on your rump, it could be used to dissolve metal. I guess it was one of the few things strong enough to really affect me.

I asked Sparkle for the time, and got a little clock in my vision. Eight in the morning. Well, that wasn't too bad. Then my memory center started to play the first reel of 'Horrible Recollection' and I nearly screamed.

Oh goddesses, going invisible to pull the barding off of bar bouncers? Singing 'The Drunken Raider' at full volume? And me at full volume shatters windows. And... I looked down at my side, Midnight Rose had cuddled up beside me, snoring adorably with her mouth open. I remembered her arriving and wondering indignantly why I wasn't with Splint and Syringe doing an inventory, and... and I had swept her up on the bar top with me and stuck my tongue down her throat. Oh sweet Luna, I had been dancing on the bar top... again.

I rubbed my temple with a hoof, trying to think past my hangover, dislodging the bandage around my head in the process. I winced when the cool air hit the open cut, it wasn't bleeding but it still stung like a bastard. While I retied my head with fresh healing bandages Rose woke up. She blearily looked around the dingy room, spotting the mares around us and the old griffin armorer on her cot.

Then she looked up at me with a sour expression. "I'm going to be in such trouble with Cinnamon over this, and I swear; I'll drag you down with me." She snuggled closer and I laid a wing over her. "I had fun though."

"That's good at least." Now I just have to find Runs Wild and see what she is up to and... oh crap. I scrambled to my legs, causing Rose to fall to the floor with an 'oof'. I briefly considered covering my mouth with a wing but then decided against it, I didn't want sick all over my feathers. Damn, why was all buildings so damned small.

I finally got inside the bathroom just in the nick of time. Putting my head over the toilet, which is no errand for the faint of heart, and letting go of the contents of my stomach. I hated puking.

~~I go to sleep and you end up getting hammered... brilliant.~~ Shade commented wryly as I heaved.

"Fuck you, Shade. I'm still angry with you." I shot back. Shade sounded fine so I wasn't going to hold back anymore.

Shade became confused. ~~What? Why are you angry at me?~~ Oh please, like it couldn't put it together. I pulled myself up, magically flushing the toilet.

"When were you going to tell me that I can eat gemstones and breathe fire?" I asked Shade coldly as I tried to wash my face somewhat.

~~When we had a gemstone to eat.~~ Was Shades equally arctic reply. I halted in my train of thought, it had a point. What good would that information have done me when there were no gemstones to eat? I couldn't work up a proper response, my hangover was way to vicious for a competitive argument.

I sighed. "Sorry." I whispered meekly in my own head.


Okay, don't think about this now, you're not in any condition to handle this at the moment. Lets see, what needs doing today? There was the funeral of Trinity Creme, and I was going to help inventory Red Light's medical supplies. And get some doctoring done, hopefully without any interruptions like yesterday. I walked back into the main room.

Into a sea of general smirking, most of the nearly half dozen or so mares and Sorva had woken up and they were looking at me with knowing grins. "Goddesses, what did I do last night?" I asked weakly as heart-stopping scenes played across my imagination. I hoped to hell that I hadn't announced to the world about my predicament.

"Do you want any specifics?" Asked one of a pair of twins.

"Or just the general picture?" Asked her sister.

"The embarrassing parts, to get the pain over with." I sighed as I sat on my haunches next to Rose. She sat up and snuggled close.

The twins grinned evilly and gave each other a confirming glance then nodded to each other. "Well,-" Started the light blue one with a yellow mane.

"-when Rose here joined us you pulled her up on the counter and made out for like, five minutes in front of the whole bar." Continued the other twin, she was yellow with a light blue mane and tail. Five minutes? Luna help me, if that was just the start then the rest was going to be painful.

Blue picked up the thread with hardly a beat. "Then came the body shots." I groaned. Yep, definitely painful.

"Eventually you dragged Rose into a broom closet and pronounced your intentions to-" Yellow started and then tagged her blue sister.

"-eat her out in a most vigorous manner." It was starting to become confusing as they juggled the conversation back and forth. Rose was blushing furiously and I could practically feel the heat from her cheeks. I think I was blushing too, but I was too occupied with screaming internally to take notice.

"After closing the door you made what sounded like a love making session of epic proportions." Yellow was grinning like a foal and seemed beside herself with schadenfreude. Then both twins piped up together in a clear imitation of Rose.

"Oh sweet Luna! Yes! Yes! Yeeess! Oh, right there Curatie. Oh, please don't stop, don't stop!" They chorused in a sing song voice, they were both too into it to stop for anything short of a hellhound attack. And I... yes, I think I could actually remember that. Rose had gotten a waxy look and her grimace of fascinated horror was a sight to behold.

"You should have seen it," A green mare laying under a desk said. "the entire bar was totally quiet, you could hear a pin drop." I put my face in my hooves. Oh, how I wished that something just ran in and killed everyone, starting with me.

"Mind you," Murmured a timid unicorn from a moth eaten couch, she was tapping her hooves together shyly. "it sounded like you two were having a really good time."

"Cinnamon is going to kill me..." Rose said in a faraway voice.

I tried to order my thoughts. Okay, names, names are good. The earth pony twins were Topsy and Turvy, the timid unicorn was named Satin. I wasn't sure about the mare under the desk, but I think her name was Hydroponic.

"~Curatie and Midnight sitting in a tree; kay eye ess ess eye en gee!~" Sang Topsy and Turvy in unison.

Then Sorva spoke up for the first time that morning. "That's enough you two, leave them be." She ordered the twins to my never ending gratitude. "Lets get this place cleaned up." And we got to work.

It took maybe half an hour to get the place into some kind of order and I found out to my happy surprise that I had gone at least two hundred bottle caps plus on the card game, including a small pouch of gemstones. Those could be useful.

*** *** ***

"So, do you still want the blades and armor?" Sorva asked me when there was only me and Midnight left. The other girls had left for various degrees of work.

I thought about it. The wing blades were definitely an option, I enjoyed the feeling of grace they provided, it was infinitely better than pummeling ponies like an ogre. I had to see what type of armor she had in mind for me though before I made a decision on that. I said as much and Sorva showed me into an inner workroom.

"I thought about it and decided that this might be best for you." She gestured with a claw to a suit of armor, mid assemble, laying on a big worktable. "At first I thought about a full suit of metal armor, but that would be counter productive; the weight would slow you down too much." She waved a wing. "For us flyers that is always a problem."

I looked at the armor laying on the slab. It was mainly a very dense, black, bulletproof vest with wing holes in the process of being cut out, probably with a cold blowtorch. Laying under it was the pattern of a thick suit of under barding made of faded blue denim. A set of four, long, leg guards made from light weight ceramic steel was laid out on their respective limbs. I peered at the collar of the vest, on it was stamped; 'Staff Sgt. Candlewick' in white and worn letters. I was extremely impressed, and felt like a little colt in a candy shop.

"The vest is from an old suit of Canterlot combat armor, I have no idea who Sergeant Candlewick was. Candlewick probably died in the war, but he or she was almost exactly the same size as you around the chest. I take care in my work and it should fit you like a sock when I'm finished with it." Sorva sounded proud of the armor and I didn't blame her.

We started to haggle, this went on for a minute or two and ended in quite a steep price before Sorva slapped on the discount. The set of armor and the blades would be expensive but in as good a condition as she could make them. Me and Rose left after saying our goodbyes and thanking her for being a good host. It was only good manners.

*** *** ***

As we walked I took in the feel of the settlement, there was an air of activity. Ponies ran back and forth with building materials, everything from bundles of planks to re-bars and steel sheets, others had tools and one ran by with a H&H Tools nail gun, a nasty thing when aimed at another pony and unmatched when nailing planks together. One earth pony buck trotted past with a wagon filled with wonder-glue, scrap metal, duct tape, railway spikes, and a couple of sledgehammers. In the distance I could hear what sounded like the collapse of a building, from the muffled cheers I assumed that it had been pulled down for building materials.

Rose seemed to have something on her mind as we walked towards the mansion, and only when we were a block away did she speak. "Curatie," She asked in a careful tone. "do you like me?" Warning bells immediately went off in my head. My first thought was; When the hell did this happen? We have only just met. My second was; Oh shit.

"Yes," I said guardedly. "I do like you." Perfect truth all the way; she was attractive, we got along well, she was intelligent, and there was the cord of mutual attraction tying us together. But, and this was a big but, I wasn't sure I liked her in the way she probably meant, and if something more starts to form between us, where did that put me? Because I would probably have to tell her sooner or later.

Rose started to walk closer, and leaned her head up against me, while walking she couldn't reach very high, but it was the thought that counted.

I caught the glimpse of the flying bottle just in time. I shielded us with a wing and the bottle bounced away against the big flexible feathers and shattered against the street, thankfully not showering anypony with shards.

"Freak!" An auburn buck yelled at me before he scurried away into an alley. I was tempted to follow but decided against it. It wasn’t worth it.

"Brute." Rose hissed. "I'll have the guards hunt him down and..." I put a hoof on her shoulder.

"Don't, just leave it be, no real harm done." I scooped up the shards magically and deposited them in a trash bin standing against a nearby wall.

"But he threw a bottle." She sounded offended. No wonder.

I sighed, then spread my wings, displaying myself. "Is it any wonder? Look at me, I am an alicorn, we do not have a good reputation." I refolded my wings. "It's not worth going after just one buck trowing a bottle."

"But... I..." Rose just looked a little sad. Then I got it. Stupid stupid.

I bent down, giving Rose a soft kiss. "I have some stuff to do today, I guess you do too. Tell Cinnamon that I didn't mean any disrespect, I just had an upsetting day yesterday, and tell her I apologise for dragging you into it." Rose was blushing a little, I was too. I added. "I'm going to go and attend a funeral, then I'll catch up on the inventory based on how far Splint and Syringe has gotten. I'll see you tonight."

"Yeah, see you." Midnight Rose said before hurrying up the stairs to the mansion. I watched her until she went inside, then I left.

*** *** ***

The Matron was waiting for me when I arrived at the little plot of land that served as impromptu graveyard, due to space concerns it was located outside the walls, between Red Light and a cliff. It wasn't much, mostly a lot of engraved pipes or re-bars with little name plates on them, ponies were too busy with surviving to do much more than the bare minimum for the dead.

There was a small crowd of the orphans old enough to be allowed outside and the oldest had simple revolvers and cheap battle saddles in case of critters. They surrounded a two hoof square hole dug in a free spot.

"I hope I haven't kept you waiting too long." I apologised. I regretted boozing last night but couldn't do anything about it now. Besides, tell me a better time to drink your worries away, than after a day like yesterday.

"Don't worry about it, we just arrived ourselves." The matron assured me. I didn't quite believe her, but didn't try to make excuses.

Then we got underway, the hymn started slowly, hesitantly. A lot of the younger foals didn't know the words and hummed along at first.

"~Sweet Celestia, full of grace. Help us find our rightful place.
Help us grow up big and strong. Laughing and singing all day long.
Show us how we should be kind. Teach us beauty and peace of mind.
Sweet Celestia, full of grace. Show us your gentle, shining face.~"

The Matron showed a young unicorn lad to the hole, he had just one saddle bag on his back. I didn't have to guess what was in it. We started on the second verse when he gently levitated the much too small urn out of his pack and into the embrace of the earth.

"~Dearest Luna, soft and strong. Keep us safe all night long.
Under your soft and watchful eye. Let your stars fill up the sky.
Know our hearts are always thine. Protect us with strength sublime.
Dearest Luna, soft and strong. Let us honor you in song.~"

A real undertaker, wearing a dirty and stained greatcoat walked up to the grave and started to respectfully fill the hole using a shovel clenched in his teeth. The still smoking dog-end he had been holding in his mouth now sat behind his ear, surrounding his head in a small cloud. The unicorn lad picked up a grave marker from his back and stuck it at the head of the little grave, just before he went to join the crowd, he gave me a baleful look.

"~Sweet Celestia, we sing to thee. That our worries be set free.
Dearest Luna, we praise your skies. Delight us with night’s surprise.
Know you’re in our fondest prayer. Mighty Princesses sweet and fair.
Sweet Celestia, full of grace. Dearest Luna, our song embrace.~"

The last verse finished and the song died away, little by little. "May Luna and Celestia wrap you in their manes and rock you to sleep child." I added softly to the little marker that simply said; 'Trinity Creme'.

I was still crying when I re-entered Red Light.

*** *** ***

It bloody figured, of course they left it to me... twits. Then again, I spent the night boozing so I don't have much to complain about when I'm given the grunt work.

"For the last time, sir." I said in a kind voice and floated up the clipboard, trying to ignore the bladder emptying terror on the wandering merchants face. "We are just trying to keep a general idea of the healing items that are available in case the situation turns sour, I'm not going to force you to do anything."

Slowly I managed to tease the details out of the terrified merchant, and hopefully, for his sake, he would stay in Red Light until this blew over.

I spent most of the day and afternoon wandering the merchants quarter of Red Light, taking inventory, and trying to not seem intimidating. Around noon my hangover broke and I felt a little better. Even though I hated it, my body had its good points.

Much of the construction was centered around the four gates, reinforcing them and building proper machine gun nests. I also saw Meshing Gears and Geri setting up the turrets from the mansion on top of the gates, they had dug up two more from somewhere to cover all four of the entrances to Red Light.

By now most of the inhabitants of Red Light had gotten used to my presence, except for the newly arrived. I had some problems with these, but not a lot.

By the time the clock was five in the afternoon the gates were about to be closed. I stood there atop the south gate as five earth ponies chained to each massive door were dragging it closed.

"Please! Wait!"

I turned my head to the wasteland, and squinted. A group of worn down wastelanders dressed in rags were running as fast as they could to get in, one was dragging a run down apple cart. I set my jaw when I saw the young in the cart.

"Hold the gate open a few minutes more." I shouted back to the ponies below me.

"We have our orders." On of the draggers said stolidly. None of the ponies below me was going to stop their sealing of the gates.

I made a decision, then flared my wings. I jumped into the air, flying towards them. They faltered a bit but ran on. I lowered down, flying alongside them.

"Just get to the walls and I'll levitate you inside." I shouted down.

"There is something after us." A mare panted as she ran. "Please, just make sure the kids get inside." Her eyes were pleading, the others just focused on running.

I looked back. Something was indeed running after them, three somethings. I did a loop and settled down on the ground, between the fleeing wastelanders and their hunters. I carefully unslung the beam rifle I bought from a caravan owner earlier today. Healing services were at a premium and he had only been only too happy for me to help patch up his crew in exchange for it.

I inserted a spark cell and aligned the sights. I really needed a pair of binoculars or a sight.

The three dots were closing the distance. They were low to the ground and burly. I squinted again in the waning light. No... they couldn't be...

Timberwolves. They were pursued by three damned timberwolves. The burly elemental creatures were howling and snarling, their glowing eyes incredibly creepy in the low light, and their wooden bodies seeming to strain in their effort to get to their prey. A shiver crept along my back, the shiver of prey sensing death on four paws approaching.

I looked town the holographic sights, tracking the first wolf slowly. Come on. I slowly squeezed the trigger with my magic, sending a pink beam like the finger of death rushing towards the leading wolf.

With a yelp of pain the timberwolf fell and tumbled forward, one of its legs burned off. Its siblings ran around it. I took two more shots at one, missing twice before they were close enough to jump. I dodged to the side and sent a cloud of ravens to meet one of the jumping wolves.

The other thumped down beside me and tried to go for my wings, I instinctively pulled it close and shoved my rifle down into its throat, then pulled the trigger as many times as I could. The wolf disintegrated into fine pink ash, but not before making bite marks in the body of the rifle. Its teeth were wood, how the hell could they be so hard?

I saw a collar thump into the ash just as I turned my attention to the one I had veiled in ravens. These were owned by somepony, and presumably trained by them too. That cant be a good sign.

The second wolf snarled, bit and swiped at the ravens flying around it, I saw that it too had a collar around its neck. The claws and teeth looked sharp indeed. I lifted the rifle, sighted and let it rip. The brilliant rays of killing light speared forth, punching holes in the wolf and sending it yelping and whining to the ground. I advanced, these creatures were tough and I had to shoot it at least a dozen times before it gave up and disintegrated.

I ejected the spent spark cell and sighed in relief, only to freeze when I heard a low growl behind me.

I screamed in pain when the heavy weight thumped down on my back, the claws dug into my back and it bit down on my neck. I howled and started to buck and kick out in an attempt to get the heavy wolf off my back. "Get off, get off, get off!"

Finally I got the timberwolf to let go and thump onto the ground. How the hell did it get on its paws again. I glanced down at it, it was by far the biggest of the tree and no doubt the pack leader... and its leg was regrowing in front of my eyes. I stared. Vines were growing and twisting into a new leg as I watched in stunned wonder.

It scrambled to its paws and took a flying leap at me, I put my rifle in between us. It made a crunching sound as I drove the butt of the rifle deep into the wooden throat. Paws scrabbled for my face and I simply changed my magical grip and hurled the creature away from me. It immediately got onto its large paws again and went for my throat. I got my shield up and the wolf slammed into it with a force that almost sent me backwards.

I was starting to feel a little woozy from the bleeding sores on my neck. I had a bottle of water saturated with healing powder on me but not much more than that, it would do the job but leave me tired. Not an option just yet.

I looked down at my new rifle, it was fizzing and the 'Ready' lamp was dead. I had just gotten this rifle too. I glared in anger at the wolf. It was circling me and growling deep in its throat. Fine. Just beating it to death was not an option, it seemed that it would sooner or later regrow unless I burned or disintegrated enough of it into ash.

I lifted the pouch of gemstones up from my pack, and selected a fat ruby. It looked big enough. It made a splintering sound as I chewed, it tasted spicy.

"Right, lets try this again." I said as my mane and tail once again flowed like bound fire in my braids.

The wolf must have understood some of what I had said and lowered itself, its glowing eyes fixed on my mane as its growl got lower in pitch. Good, it knew enough to be scared.

The second my shield dropped the big wolf flew like had been a coiled up spring. I reared up to meet its teeth with hard hooves, I managed to beat it back with the crunch of splintering wood. Then I released the fires from my stoked inner furnace.

The wolf howled but only seemed to get angrier, I took the flying fireball head on and tried to beat it back with my forehooves, afraid to use my wings with their flammable feathers. Flames flowed from my mouth and seared and burned the wooden creature as it swiped at me, leaving scorched gashes in my flesh.

I swore and finally took to the air, where the wolf flew like a comet at me before I could get away. We landed in the hard dirt and rolled around, it snapped at me and I gave it a lung full of fire straight into its face. My braid had long ago loosened in the face of the wolfs frenzy. I drove a hoof into the side of the beasts head as it scrabbled at my belly with its hindlegs, trying to disembowel me.

The body finally keeled over and I got to my hooves, the caved in skull was slowly reforming and burned limbs was shedding large patches of coal like dead flesh. I walked up and stood over it as it twitched. Then I opened my mouth and let my flame slowly burn it to a crisp.

It took all the flame I had and soon I simply stood over ashes. I pulled out my bottle of healing water and gulped it down in one long drag, sighing in tired relief as the biggest gashes in my belly and neck slowly stitched themselves together, aided by my own rapid metabolism.

I was about to go pick up my damaged rifle and return to Red Light when I saw something in the black ashes, slowly revealing itself as the ashes was blown away in the wind. I bent down and peered at the round object.

It was a seed... it was gray, about half the size of a sprite bot, and reminded me of an acorn.

I stared on wonder for a minute, I knew that seeds were notoriously tough and resilient to fires, but I was still awestruck. I levitated it up for a closer look. Close up it also had faint veins of green that pulsed regularly like blood vessels.

It must be some type of seedling, maybe... I looked down on the ashes being blown across the ground, and sighed. I gave the seed a kiss and placed it in my saddlebag.

"I'll take care of your cub." I somberly told the pile of ashes. Then I walked back to Red Light, my damaged rifle in tow, and my head full of questions.

I swiftly helped the group of refugees and their cart over the wall. Then I walked slowly back to the mansion. I needed to sleep. Maybe a lifetime would be enough, but I doubted it.

*** *** ***

"I wonder if it will hatch?" Runs Wild said in wonder as she held the little seed in her hooves and studied it. It seemed to pulse a little stronger in her hooves, probably because she was an earth pony.

"I don't know." I answered around a cup of black coyote coffee. We were in the kitchen around one of the tables and eating a slow dinner. "I think it will, but I don’t know if it needs to be planted or not."

"I don't think so." Runs Wild said slowly. Her stare was focused, and she seemed to almost be trying to will it into hatching.

I shrugged to myself, why not. "You can keep it if you want to, I just hope you will be careful."

The look on her face was like a little ray of sunshine in the drab kitchen. "Sure." Wild said, then gave the seed/egg a hug before carefully placing it in one of her bags.

I spent the rest of the evening with a beam weapon repair kit, finally getting my rifle working again after much swearing.


The sun.

It needed the sun.

The land was howling for it, every wizened blade of grass, every gnarly tree, every flower and plant and the dirt itself was shouting in an earsplitting cacophony for the warmth of the sun.

I stood in the center of a great battlefield, the dead was everywhere, and so was the ravens. They congregated and fought each other for the choice bits, the eyeballs and the soft tissue. Cawing and shouting at each other, as buzzards flew lazily above, content in waiting until the bodies had rotted to their tastes.

I turned my head, in every direction was endless fields of the dead... and him.

He moved slowly from pony to pony. His black cloak and hood covering his bony frame. After a while of me studying him he turned his head in my direction. Two blue lights sat deep in empty sockets. He let his scythe do a last lazy swing and cut a blue thread before he walked slowly up to me. Sheathing his tool by his side.

YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE. His voice was like the slamming of coffin lids and the echoes in crypts, yet as soft as the sigh of a dying pony. It didn't arrive in my brain through my ears but I still remembered him speaking.

"Where is here?" I asked in bewilderment. I didn't feel dead.

Death looked around. Then back at me, for a long uncomfortable moment. He was a large pony, taller than me when up close like this. His eyes, or what passed for them, flared for a second and he tilted his skeletal head.

OH, JUST A DREAMER. I SHOULD HAVE FIGURED. He turned away, walking off to another patch of dead.

"Wait," I shouted after him, then followed. "wait, where is this?" I didn't understand, this skeletal pony was obviously Death, and this felt like a dream, but more than that, part of it was real.

Death unsheathed his scythe, the blade folding out by itself. THIS? IT ISN'T REALLY A PLACE, MORE LIKE A MOMENT IN TIME. YOU ARE JUST RECEPTIVE TO IT.

A moment? "Then... when is this?" I asked hesitantly, dreading the reply.

Death raised a bony hoof, and pointed at the sky. I looked up.

The sky was clear of clouds. A brilliant clear blue.

I had never thought much about it, I almost never looked up because there was never anything to see aside from the ever present cloud cover. Unless you were looking for flying enemies, and even then you didn't look at the clouds.

Now I was looking, I was staring, there weren't any words. "Is this real... will it be real?" I asked in a weak voice to nopony in particular.

WHY DON'T YOU FIND OUT. Death said, then he gave me a push. I staggered away, not able to take my eyes from that amazing blue.

Then I heard something, a note that was rising and falling. Rising and falling.

I woke up.


"The sirens!" I heard Rose exclaim as she woke up beside me on the normal sized bed in the ordinary mansion room we had chosen for my stay instead of that gigantic suite.

"What?" I asked blearily, I was still halfway in the dream, not really awake. What had it meant, the sky? Something about the sky. The dream was rapidly turning into gibberish.

"Its the town siren, we are under attack."

Footnote: Level Up
New Perk: Living Anatomy - You have an eye for measuring the health of your enemies, and an eye for knowing where to strike for the best result. You automatically know how healthy any enemy is, and you do five percent more damage with all attacks against people and non-feral ghouls.

NeverKnown AKA ThatGuyWithTheMustache “Put together the Fan art page”
Shadowstep AKA The Grammar Nazi

'Sweet Celestia, full of grace.' Belongs to Somber, writer of Project Horizon.

Ask Snakebite.
Fan-art page.

Chapter 10: Under attack.

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Fallout Equestria: Misfits

By DancingOnTheAshes

Chapter 10: Under attack.

*** *** ***



Rose and I ran down the corridors of the mansion. I was bringing every weapon I had; My arcane revolver, my beam rifle, the minigun ‘Silver Sword’. I would probably need all of them.

We rounded a corner and joined up with half a dozen more ponies, bleary eyed and halfway in the throes of sleep, but all determined. Up ahead I heard orders being bellowed.

"Get moving you sacks of shit! I want to double check that the machine gun nests are fully stocked!" The large mare, whom I assumed was the guard commander, was no longer in her large suit, but in a pristine set of combat armor with two M60 light machine guns fixed to her battle saddle, making her look truly formidable.

Just as we entered the large hall, Hervar came up to us with a pony sized bundle on his back. "I can’t s-stay to talk, mom told me to give this to you." He sat down and unstrapped the package, laying it on the floor. Just as he turned to leave, he looked me in the eyes and said. "S-sorry about... you know."

"Don't worry about it." I waved the matter aside. He ran on, full pelt, after his commanding officer, the power armored Talon Merc, the both of them ran out the main door.

I lifted up my package and unwrapped it and smiled to myself. Sorva had replaced the sergeant's insignia with a little skull with three butterflies clinging to it. She had left the name of Staff Sergeant Candlewick on the collar. I didn't mind.

"Rose," She looked up at me, worry filling her brilliant rose eyes. "be safe." I bent down and kissed her, separating reluctantly after a few seconds.

"I have to go help Cinnamon." She said, swiftly hurrying away.

I looked around, soon locating a janitors closet and entered it to don my new armor, after realising that the enclosed space was way too small for me to comfortably dress, I left it and searched for something that could accommodate my large size better, I settled on an empty conference room.

The underbarding was snug and comfortable yet very tough, the vest felt solid and safe, it even had ammo pockets I could fit my gem batteries and spark cells into. Then I put on my new leg guards and draped my duster over the whole ensemble, after that I put on the wing blades and adjusted them to fit. Then I re-donned my hat and strapped my saddlebags and weapons back on, my revolver went into its holster, the rifle under my wing and Silver Sword lay across my back.

As I entered the main hall again, setting out to look for Runs Wild, I heard the voice of the massive commander. "Hey you, alicorn." I turned to face her, she was looking me up and down. "Bitch got style." She mumbled to herself, then glared at me. "I want you to come with me after you've found your sneaky little friend."

"Why?" I asked suspiciously. Ever since the first war council we had just tried to keep out of each others way, it was less likely for something to come to a boil that way.

"Because," She said tiredly, like she was talking to a foal. "we are being attacked, and you are one of our strongest fighters after Wing Commander Steelclaw and myself." I was about to argue that I wasn't really under the command of anyone but she cut me off. "Don't you even think about it, you are a bloody alicorn, we need the morale you'd grant us. If we are incredibly lucky maybe this won’t go south and we’ll survive this.”

A vision of the foals in the Cistern lying in pools of blood, cold, dead eyes staring vacantly up at me, and the matron asking me why I did nothing flashed across my mind, and my heart set. "Where do you want us to meet you, miss...?"

"Commander Garnet. Meet me outside in five." Garnet stormed off in the direction of the armory and medical bay.

I turned and ran towards Runs Wild’s room, the sirens still blaring in the weak, gray morning light.

*** *** ***

I slammed the door open and burst into the room. “Wild?” She was already up and pulling on her leather armor. We needed to find her something better than that, but there just wasn't time now. Maybe my ghost armor would fit her once we'd found Trader's Caravan.

She cursed and fell over. "Hey, what gives?" She exclaimed indignantly. "Not like I would still be sleeping with this racket."

"Red Light is under attack, get ready, we are meeting Garnet, that big guard commander, outside in four minutes." I aided Wild in dressing, fastening her machete and .38 revolver to her side and foreleg respectively. After she slung her saddlebags across her back we got moving.

*** *** ***

We ran down the steps leading to the street, meeting up with Commander Garnet as we reached the bottom.

"This thing says it’s a friend of yours." Garnet waved a hoof dismissively to her right.

"Hello big pony, ghost pony." Geri waved his cybernetic left paw at the two of us. He was dressed in a trench coat made from crudely sewn together gecko leather, the gold and green scales creating a camouflage effect, one sleeve was entirely missing to accommodate his artificial arm and shotgun shells could be found in shell holders sewn all over the front of his coat.

He held a twelve gauge lever-action shotgun, which had been shortened down to the point that the barrel was barely longer than the loading tube, in his real paw. The stock had been almost entirely removed, leaving only a pistol grip. Shotguns like these had originally, like all lever action weapons, been made for the use of griffins. Aside from unicorns, only they and diamond dogs had the forelimb and claw dexterity to use them.

"Hello, Geri." Wild replied cheerfully.

"Right." Garnet cut the reunion off. "Its just as well that...” She seemed to have problems with Geri’s presence, it was really no wonder since he looked so much like hellhound, even if he was a teenager. “He came around, we need to move fast."

The power armored griffin named Steelclaw thumped down on the ground next to us. "Its a big force, the army is at least two hundred strong and they fly the flag of Baron Zeal." He informed Garnet while he un-holstered a large bore revolver to check its load. "I've got the kid up there keeping an eye on them, but it looks bad ma'am."

“Fucking balefire take them all.” Garnet swore to herself.

"Who is Baron Zeal?" I asked Steelclaw.

Steelclaw looked at me, and seemed to decide that I should be in the loop. "Baron Zeal is one of Red Eye's generals, he must have cut his losses when the Enclave fell upon the Cathedral. Zeal is a nasty piece of work, I figure the timberwolves yesterday were his: tough forward troops to soften the opposition, and to sweep aside what isn't big enough to bother the main forces with."

"Well, I'm going to get me an eyeful, I'm heading to the south gate. Follow me." Garnet set off, her hooves raising sparks off the blacktop.

We followed, Geri keeping good time with us, shotgun slung across his back, as we passed the central building zone and entered the ring of shanties surrounding the pre-war parts of Red Light. Most of the shacks here were no more than a story high, made from whatever anypony could scrounge together and keep to themselves from other scavengers. Lean too's and sheds covered the last block before the gate.

"Report!" Garnet shouted to a teal pony up on the wall.

"Ma'am, most of the army have settled there, outside the south gate, but they have sent runners around us. They seem to be laying down mines in order to pen us in." He saluted.

"Fuck it all to hell, how can they have enough explosives to surround us." Garnet swore.

"Easy," Geri submitted, not flinching when the commander turned a hard eye on him. "cloth bag or pouch, sensor module, powder'n scrap, some wires." He listed off on the claws of his metal paw. "Makes good boom, only need to have dust kicked over it. Cheaper'n a mine."

"Fine, good point." Garnet twirled to face the guard up on the wall. "What's their set up?"

He saluted again and took a look over his shoulder, swallowing nervously. "A lot of ground troops, Ma'am. They don't seem to have flyers. Of course, they don't need them." He waved her up onto the wall, Garnet and the others got up via a stairway built into the wall while I simply flew up on the thick concrete and scrap metal construction.

I gasped, this was all kinds of bad. Stretching out across a wide plain of shrub was a large army. Massive supply wagons were dragged by entire teams of brahmin, and what looked like slaves. The grunts were already settling down and starting fires, a varied mix of earth ponies and unicorns with more timberwolves chained to heavy posts. A large minotaur walked patiently between long wooden stakes laying on the ground. Holding them upright with one hand and shoving it down to make sure that it was secure, then driving the post deep into the earth using a sledgehammer in each of his radhog sized fists, they were not much more than ordinary hammers in his grasp.

As soon as the minotaur was done a group of five ponies per wolf chained up the snarling beasts, four earth ponies and a unicorn were necessary to control them. The earth ponies held the chains taught and the unicorn levitated a fifth chain in place to the long stakes the minotaur had set up earlier.

Further along the camp was a large screen of ready built metal sheathing, blocking our view of whatever was behind, the screen looked like it had been constructed out of old tank armor, bits of a turret could be discerned in the mish mash of metal. Something was being erected on the other side, I couldn't make out the details, but it felt...

"AAAHHHH!!!" I clutched at my head, she was here! I fell to the battlements, unable to focus enough to keep upright. Far off, I heard voices, they were small and unimportant next to her presence. I curled up, attempting to gain some form of grip on myself. I didn’t know who she was, but her presence was slamming into my awareness like a halfbrick; heavy, obtrusive, and taking up all of my immediate attention.

"I HAVE FOUND YOU AT LAST, SISTER!" A grandiose voice proclaimed above me, I was still rolled up and twitching as the thump of a great weight was heard from the direction of the gate.

"Sorry about this sister dearest, but I tend to make a forceful impression upon other alicorns whether I want to or not." The voice was majestic and regal in every sense of the word.

I started to regain my footing and hesitantly stood on shaky legs, I looked up on the largest dark lavender alicorn I had ever seen. True, I had only really seen one other alicorn before, but in her vision I had seen plenty of alicorn corpses. They were all dwarfed by this apparition. She stood on the arch that was constructed above the gates. She was humongous. There seemed to be no words to properly describe her, almost as tall as the two story wall.

She was clad in a flowing black robe that ignored such petty things as wind and her head was crowned by a grand, gem studded tiara. She radiated royalty and blind obedience. Her mane was a billowing mass of fire in all imaginable shades of purple and pink. My heart stopped as I looked into her eyes, two slitted orbs in the most brilliant gold, my eyes... She had the same reptilian eyes as me.

"Now, sister dearest, I have come here to-" Suddenly one of the guards decided to fire at the grand alicorn standing regally atop the arch, the last mistake he would ever make.

The bullets from his dual automatic battle saddle seemed to only mildly annoy the huge alicorn, who was already in the act of raising her shield. The rain of lead fell, unable to pierce, down upon the arch and bouncing down to the ground. Once he had stopped firing she calmly lowered her shield and aimed her horn at him.

The twisted shaft flared obsidian, just like mine did when I cast my raven spell, and unsurprisingly a black cloud of ravens shot out of her horn, enveloping the guard. He started to scream in surprise and terror. His screams soon turning into shrieks of gutchurning agony, the sound eventually fading to gurgling and bubbling noises. We couldn't see anything from our position but it sounded horrific.

I dared not move and slumped into a sitting position as I pulled Wild, who was shaking in terror, close. Geri stood on the ground below, barely five pony lengths from the soldier, pale as a ghost as he looked on the grisly scene, too horrified to move.

After half a minute of terrified silence, in which nopony dared to move a hoof, the cloud dispersed and the shadowy ravens flew off and perched on street lights, roof edges and signs. The only thing left on the ground where the unlucky guard had stood was a pile of bones covered in gristle and the scraps from his battle saddle and barding.

The huge alicorn daintily lifted a forehoof and delicately covered a small burp. "Oh, do forgive me. That was terribly rude, not ladylike at all." She gave us all a brilliant smile, which held for just a moment before it turned into a mask of fury as she roared in a voice that must have been loud enough to carry to the camp outside. "IF ANYPONY ELSE INTERRUPTS ME I WILL MAKE SOUP FROM THEIR BONES!"

I shuddered inside, what she had done was simply vile, and what that little belch had implied was even worse. Although, she could have done it simply for the shock value. I looked with concern at Geri who was pressing his paws against his head, whimpering as he did so. That roar must have hurt his sensitive ears.

The mass of spectating towns ponies all promptly turned tail and ran, the collected guards all took several steps backwards. Except for Garnet who stood defiantly before the large alicorn, not moving a hoof.

The large, dark lavender alicorn started to walk along the wall towards where I sat, cracking the already worn concrete under her massive hooves. Garnet stood in her way but she just swiped her wing at the guard commander in a leisurely fashion, sending the armored pony flying to eventually come crashing down into a shed after being airborne for quite a respectable distance.

"Sister, dearest." She beamed at me like a sunrise just as she stopped before me, I looked up at her from my sitting position. "I do believe that we haven't been acquainted yet. Allow me to introduce myself." She took a courtly bow that sent broken bits of wall tumbling down when she shifted her weight. "My name is Calculare." She flourished a wing and stood up straight.

Then she focused her attention on Wild, who was still in my forelegs. I instinctively hugged her closer, despite the acrid stench of urine coming off of her. Wild was shaking like a leaf and I could practically taste her terror. I was near wetting myself as well, the raw power coming from Calculare was making me shiver in fright like a rabbit in a spotlight.

"I do hope you intend to housebreak that thing?" Calculare stated while pointing a contemptuous wingtip at Runs Wild. I bristled at that. How dare she? How dare she talk like that about my friend!?

I fought for control of my voice. "My name is Curatie, and Runs Wild is not a pet, she's my friend." My voice was still shaky but I managed to speak clearly.

Calculare shrugged. "Oh well, if you insist sister." She then looked up at the army massing outside like it was the first time she had seen it. "It would appear that Zeal can't even wait for five minutes, the impetuous fool. Clean your... friend up so that we can get moving." She gracefully jumped down from the wall after her condescending remark and frowned at the hovels and shacks before her.

I looked down at Wild, only the whites of her eyes were showing and tears were flowing down her cheeks. I hugged her tighter and started to rock her a little. "It's okay. It's okay." I whispered in her ear. Luna damn me, I had taken her away from Nowhere Canyon and into this. She had gone from hunting geckos and radhogs to standing barely eight hooves away from something as bloodcurdlingly terrifying as Calculare.

I looked down at Calculare, guards were backing away and a few had even fled her presence. "Where?" I asked her, then added. "And why?"

Calculare turned her attention towards me and I cringed a little, my ears laying flat against my skull. "Why, away from this, sister dearest." She unfurled a wing, indicating the collection of hovels. "Away from this pathetic collection of muck dwelling animals, and back to the Neigherra Madre, our home."

So it was her, or rather, him. The unicorn that had lived in that shack in the desert, that had owned this duster, the PipBuck P.R.A, that had preceded me by twenty years as an alicorn born from the descendants of Stable 10.

I shook my head. "I can’t leave, not yet. There are still things I need to do here." I had to stay, I couldn't just abandon Red Light. I had no illusions about being some great savior... but I might make a difference.

Calculare narrowed her eyes at me. "Things to do here?" She looked hurt. "You'd deny your very kin for groveling animals like this?" Right, there was no point in asking her if she would help, she didn't seem like the type to do that. Also, she seemed to be very accepting about her alicorn nature, she too had been male once. What had twenty years with The Goddess and inside Unity done to her head? I won’t lie, Calculare scared the shit out of me.

I hugged Wild closer, she still wasn't out of her shock. "I have to do what I can to help against Zeal."

Calculare narrowed her eyes again and her tone got deadly. “I can kill her you know, it would be the easiest thing in the world.” Around us the flock of ravens all turned their heads and focused their gazes on the shivering Wild in my grasp, I unfurled my wings and wrapped them around her protectively. I wasn’t going to leave, nor let go, not without a fight, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself.

Calculare’s horn flared and the gate flew apart in a big explosion that sent me and Wild tumbling down to the ground, where we bounced slightly, because of the shield I wrapped around us, when we connected with the ground. "Very well then, be that way, see if I care!" Calculare roared, the flock of ravens all flew up and swirled around her as she lifted herself on her enormous wings. A flash could be seen inside the tornado and the big birds faded away, leaving only empty space. She sure knew how to make an exit.

I lifted my head and looked at what remained of the south gate. Nothing was left but the mangled remains of the steel frame and the sheared off pillboxes outside. Bloody fucking perfect. The hole was big enough to admit half the army.

I stood up, helping Wild do the same. The young mare was still shaking, and with the disappearance of Calculare some of the shock was vanishing. "Come on, lets get you cle-" I was interrupted, go figure.

"Where did she go?" Commander Garnet roared as she limped back into the area, bits of shack still clung on her. Still, she looked fairly okay for someone who had just been punched across a block.

~~She teleported away.~~ Shade supplied calmy. Well, that was fairly obvious.

"She teleported away." I repeated for the benefit of everyone present.

*** *** ***

The next couple of hours were frantic, first I helped Wild get cleaned up, then I left her in the care of Satin and the twins Topsy and Turvy. They all worked at the same bar, Satin as a bartender and the twins as dancers; they had no problems with looking after Wild after hearing what happened.

I didn't like just dashing off, leaving Wild like that, but I was needed elsewhere. I spent some time helping repair the wall with a team of unicorns, levitating big chunks of concrete and piles of sandbags to seal the gigantic hole Calculare had made.

Garnet was pissed, barking orders and rallying the guards, most of whom returned when word got out that Calculare had vanished.

Thirty of the guards spent two hectic hours digging a long trench just inside the wall to use for cover, this was the main source of materiel for the makeshift repairs and the contents of the sandbags me and the unicorns were piling up. In the end the hole had been reduced to a thirty hoof hole with machine gun emplacements, with the entrenchments behind it.

Zeal seemed to be biding his time for now, although, when he had an entrance like this, he didn't exactly have to worry about how to get in, it was more a question of when he wanted to stroll through.

*** *** ***

The bomb came screaming down and demolished another shack in an eardrum shattering boom. We couldn't get a beat on it in time. The barrel of explosives was too small.

A fucking trebuchet! They had constructed a fucking trebuchet behind that big metal shield. I narrowed my eyes and sighted down the beam rifle, the bite marks on the casing were still very noticeable and I had engraved 'Woodcutter' on the side; It seemed to be appropriate.

I fired again, this time managing to hit the flying barrel of explosive death and turning it into a brilliant fireball far above. I was aided by two other sharpshooters with beam weapons, the only two in the whole of Red Light who could use them. Zeal was aiming for the makeshift repairs we had done to the wall and coming closer and closer to making a perfect shot. Something needed to be done soon, because we only shot down a fraction of the explosives tossed at us.

"Geri!" I shouted while I left my cover. "Geri, where are you!" His head popped up from the lip of the long trench, as soon as I located him I rushed over. "Look, if I ask Garnet for something that'll give a big enough boom, can you dig your way over there and set it off under the trebuchet?"

Geri jumped out of the trench to get a look at the construction, I keept close behind. "Geri think so." He scratched his jaw, and made a measuring gesture with his paw, judging the distance to the encampment and the trebuchet.

The repairs we had managed to do were not enough to completely fix the wall and gate, but we had done enough to give any attacker a real hard time of it indeed. We stood behind a pile of sandbags while Geri measured the distance.

Getting the big package of C4 was hard, but I finally managed to make Garnet realise that it was necessary and that it would pay off. Garnet was still angry about what Calculare had done and distrusted me deeply over of the alicorn’s claims to be my sister, only Steelclaw's input convinced her that despite her suspicions, my idea was a sound one.

Once I had been given the explosives necessary to do the job, I brought them to Geri. I was about to levitate the detonator to him when he waved it off. “Don’t need, have my own.” He then opened a panel on his wrist and displayed a built in detonator. Geri then stuffed the big lump of plastique in his messenger bag, closed the panel on his arm and started to dig.

Just when he was about to vanish I told him. "Don't get yourself killed, if things turn sour, come back fast." Geri just grinned back at me as he disappeared. Damn, he worked incredibly fast, it almost looked like he was swimming through the dirt.

"Right, diamond dog." I said to nopony in particular. Now for my part in the plan. I levitated Silver Sword free from its harness and made a last second check of the weapon. In total I had at least one thousand two hundred and fifty, five millimeter rounds for the minigun. Shining Armor had not skimped on his armament.

My part of the plan was simple, harass the bomb crew behind the screen as much as possible to give Geri time to get under the catapult and place his gift. The reason for mine and the griffins involvement was simple; we had to make sure that the crew's attention wasn’t on detecting sappers. I looked to Steelclaw and Hervar. The lad was wearing standard issue black Talon armor, but Steelclaw, he had power armor.

The powered suit looked awesome on him, covering his entire body and the top of his wings while leaving his legs only slightly less protected, yet still supported by mechanical aid. His front claws were uncovered for him to use his brush gun, a more ornate and sturdier version than the standard issue, and his eyes were covered with a visor attached to the helmet, leaving his yellow beak free. Even if the armor isn't as elaborate as a Steel Ranger’s, focusing more on raw utility, it still looked cool.

"Ever flown in formation before?" Steelclaw asked me calmly. I shook my head and he chuckled. "Good, because we don't want to be a predictable target, follow me and try to not get shot." He unfolded his black wings and leapt into the air, followed closely by Hervar and myself.

As soon as we had covered half the distance to the front lines of the camp, we started to come under fire. We took the route that had the least amount of resistance between the three of us and the trebuchet. When enough bullets started to come my way I raised my shield and held the chromed minigun in my forehooves. I didn't want to exhaust myself too early, the weapon was heavy after all.

As we arrived above the trebuchet, Steelclaw banked and dove like a hawk, Hervar following suit. I beat my wings hard, for a moment flying vertically upwards, staring straight into the cloud cover above. The clouds were important for some reason... The shadow of a forgotten dream flittered briefly across my memory, gone far too quickly for me to get any sense of it.

I closed my eyes, rolled backwards in the air and folded my wings. I shot like an arrow towards the ground, letting my shield fall for just long enough that I could get Silver Sword outside the protective bubble, taking a grazing hit by a rifle bullet in the process.

We split off to avoid getting in each others way and opened up. The siege weapon was at least as high as the wall built in front of it, two wooden towers with the arm in the middle, a large lump of scrap iron functioned as the counterweight. The entire structure was covered in ponies on gangways, most armed in some way or another.

Silver Sword let out a deafening roar that overpowered the cracks of the rifles, bucking and fighting back like a pissed off radhog. The heavy weapon was only marginally under my inexpert control, and almost broke my horns hold several times.

I paused firing as I circled around on the outer side of the big shield, the iron wall blocking my line of fire. I saw in passing that Hervar was getting out of the fight, a trickle of blood ran down his hind leg and splattered down on the ground below. Only myself and Steelclaw remained.

I got a clear view of the massive wooden structure again, we needed to completely destroy it, explosives could be shot out of the air, fire could be put out. But a big load of plastique underneath couldn't be dodged and would reduce the thing into matchsticks.

A hail of bullets plinked and struck against my shield, a few of them actually punching through, but most fortunately missed me. One heavy rifle slug did slam into me, bypassing the shield but losing so much momentum that my new vest easily caught it. It still felt like being hit with a re-bar.

I had been forced to reload Silver Sword twice when the timer on my P.R.A. went off, and Sparkle emerged from her bunker to announce that the time was up for Geri to leave his load of C4. If he wasn't on his way back by now then he was on his own, both me and Steelclaw were spent.

I whistled hard and we both broke from our harassment of the catapult crew and flew back, the ponies below were cheering and obviously believed that we were fleeing. I noticed that Steelclaw was flying rather jerkily and closed in on him as we travelled back to Red Light.

"Are you okay?" I shouted over the rifle fire below us.

Steelclaw only grunted in reply. He looked focused on returning to Red Light. I watched in concern as we flew, then touched down behind the safety of the wall.

I let my shield fall and laid Silver Sword on the cracked pavement, then looked over at Steelclaw, whose legs promptly folded up and he silently fell on his side.

"Commander!" Hervar yelled in alarm as he limped towards us, his hind leg covered in bandages.

I rushed over to Steelclaw. He was groaning and scrabbling at clasps on the sides of his power armor. He found them and pulled at both, causing the suit to split itself open along the sternum, like he had just been gutted by an imaginary blade.

There was a lot of blood.

I slipped immediately into my doctor mentality, distancing myself and trying to think calmly. My horn shone blue and the results made no sense at all. Straight through the body? Even with his power armor? Whatever, that could wait.

I returned to the task at hoof, bringing out several medical supplies from my newly stocked saddlebags, and getting to work. The bullet had passed straight through his body, missing most vital organs, nearly puncturing a lung, and splintering two ribs. The bullet's path had been heart-stoppingly close to the aorta, hence the blood.

"Not good, not good." I mumbled to myself.

Steelclaw coughed and rasped. "You sound... confident, doc."

I wasn't. "You'll be fine." My mouth lied.

My horn worked fast, first numbing the pain and setting his ribs, after that I fed him a healing potion in small increments, holding wads of healing bandages to both the entry and exit wounds as I did so. As soon as possible my intent was to place poultices between the wounds and the gauze that I’d wrap his entire torso in.

I wasn't thinking, not precisely. My hooves and magic were reacting to a decade of learning under a strict teacher and several years in the wasteland. I hoped it would pay off, and feared that this was only the beginning. My brain barely registered when the trebuchet and its crew went up like a balefire bomb.

When I was done Steelclaw unceremoniously closed up his armor again, not even bothering to clean the inside of the suit. "Zeal won’t wait now." He grumbled. I quickly looked over the armor exterior as I sat there. Lots of dings and pock marks, most of them new, but no entry hole where there should be.

The drawn out and deep sound of a horn from the encampment outside blared over Red Light, proving him right. I frantically returned my supplies to their place in the saddlebags. As soon as the horn was silenced I heard the expected baying of wolves.

I didn't wait. I brought out and upended the leather bag containing my poker winnings, and ate the lot; half a dozen mixed gemstones. I stood for a moment, shaking, now certain that I had made a mistake. It was probably way too much in one go. Nevertheless, I remembered how hard the wolves were to kill.

I hardly registered the run towards the machine gun emplacements. Suddenly I was just there, blood boiling, my guts on fire, smoke escaping from my nostrils and mouth while guards looked upon me fearfully.

Red was creeping into my vision as I unslung Woodcutter from under my wing and aimed down the body of the magical beam rifle. I was grinning wickedly as small tongues of flame escaped from between my clenched teeth. Prey was coming.

Geri walked up beside me while reloading his shotgun with yellow shells bearing a red band, grinning as wide as I was. He looked me in the eyes, his green eyes reflecting the flames from my breath.

~~I swear to the goddesses that I’ll give you such a headache if you let yourself be consumed by the same rage as when you killed those zebra.~~ Shade sounded sullen and weary.

I didn't listen. I needed to help protect ponies. It was more important than my life, to heal and save others. End some lives to make sure that the more important lives were spared, just for a little while. I was making penance, trying to make up for those I couldn't save. Friends and innocents I had to bury in the past because I wasn't a good enough doctor.

My thoughts were jumbled, a great mess, but one with a purpose.

They came over the plains; A slavering pack of timberwolves howling for blood. Back in the distance the minotaur was egging them on with a long whip and stopped to return back to the camp when the pack had cleared half the distance.

Around Geri and I several guard ponies with flamethrower battle saddles walked up to help hold the line. A grizzled green stallion in the front levitated his cigar out of his mouth and barked loudly. "Lets have at them fellas!" Then he laughed.

I didn't hold my fire. Relishing the fury, the wild abandon of the battle. This wasn't some bar room brawl; this was combat, a pure and simple fight for survival. Shade was beating itself against the walls of my perception, I hardly took any notice.

The fight wasn’t nearly as neat as we had intended. As I and the other magic weapon users worked on thinning the numbers, SAW gunners behind sandbags made sure that we were not hit by the charging mass all at once, chopping off limbs and slowing the wooden beasts down just enough that firebombs and flamethrowers were effective.

“Die motherfucker, die.” One machine gunner beside me mumbled into his mouth bit, the pony beside him feverishly ensuring that the long belt of ammunition was fed into the gun properly.

Soon the wolves were on us and most of my attention was focused on beating them back, I only had a hazy idea of what was happening around me. Flamethrowers stopped spewing fire temporarily, the users weren’t willing to cook their own, and ponies with shotguns tried to keep the wolves back while I, those with flamethrowers, and the two others who could use energy weapons, carefully took care of the bodies.

Geri did good work with his shotgun, shielding himself with his cybernetic limb and spraying the wooden beasts with enchanted flame. He’d fire, then twirl the sawn-off weapon, in doing so the lever arm would reload while he held wolves off with his sturdy steel arm. The youth was grinning all the while, apparently unconcerned when bitten or clawed at.

Smoke and gunfire were everywhere and through the swirling mass I saw a buck being savaged by a snarling wolf, it had a grip on his left foreleg and was worrying the limb, tearing it up badly. I advanced, planted my forehooves, spun, and bucked the beast away. Sending it broken to the ground.

I was about to step over the lad to beat the timberwolf into submission when I looked down at him. He was quaking, terror written all over his face, but not because of the wolf. He was looking at me... That bone deep fear I saw in his eyes wasn't directed towards the creature that was savaging him just a moment ago, it was reserved for me.

What did he see, a pony, or a monster? What looked back down at him from my eyes? Well, the answer was obvious really.

I was smudged in ashes and blood. Smoke and fire escaped from my mouth and nostrils with every breath. I wasn't bothered by it, even though my lungs should by all rights be ash by now. My braids had long ago come loose and my mane was now a flaming corona of green and blue.

~~This is where you choose.~~ Shade whispered, pinching my ear hard. I had almost forgotten Shade could do that. ~~Are you a doctor? Or a savage?~~

"I... I..." I wasn't sure what to do anymore, my head was a mess.

My world seemed to shrink and time slowed, there were only me, the lad, and the timberwolf. The chaos and noise of the battle lay behind me, the young guard before me, the wolf ahead.

I wasn't sure, so I took both options.

I sighted along my beam rifle, fired several times and burned off big chunks of the timberwolf’s body, a flamethrower pony then walked up to deal with the remains while I proceeded to get the lad out of there.

The injured buck screamed in terror as I levitated him out of the heat of the fight.

Something within me had started to crack. What was I doing? I charge into a fight like it was the most normal thing in the world, while wearing some ridiculous suit of armor and knives on my wings. This wasn't me. I had lost interest in fighting, let others deal with it. I was going to do the one thing I felt sure about; heal ponies.

A part of me just wanted to go home.

Deep in my soul I felt tired, but my body was wired beyond belief. I swallowed the flames down, and, slowly, the smoke coming from my mouth cleared, instead of using the energy I gained from eating those gemstones to breath fire, I felt it could be put to better use supporting me through the coming night.

I looked around the battlefield that surrounded the hole in the town wall; maybe a dozen ponies lay still, never to move again. What had I done for them? Nothing. Nothing at all. I would change that, for the ones still living at least.

“Please, anyone, Sarge!” The young buck in my telekinetic grasp shouted, calling me back to here and now.

"Oh shut up." I hissed. He was just floating along, but acted as if I was savaging him with razor wire. Wearily, I levitated a tin of powder out of my bags, blowing a small measure of it into his face. That calmed him down and made him go limp so that I could prop him up against a wall and get to work on his leg.

My bedside manner was horrible, I knew that. I try to be a good pony, but I'm not nice.

The fighting calmed as I worked on the dazed buck’s leg. Zeal had probably not expected us to be as prepared as we were, If he knew he would probably have charged in just after Calculare blew the gate away.

*** *** ***

When the timberwolves were dealt with Zeal decided that he was not going to play around anymore. The army outside hit like a tidal wave, we were quickly overwhelmed and forced to retreat. Garnet swore and spat every time the line of battle had to be pulled back towards the center, and another bit of the shanty town had to be abandoned to Zeal’s forces.

I myself fought not for the sake of ending lives, but for their salvation. I waded into the thick of the battle to drag wounded out to Syringe and Splint, not as a brawler like usual, but as a field medic surrounded by my shield and equipped with a trauma kit and extra supplies. Geri had my back while I tended to those I saved just enough so they could be rushed to my fellow doctors back in their tents. They’d nearly burned themselves out by nights end.

Deep in the night, when the fighting bled into the urban areas, and the two of us were taking a breather at Splint’s tent, Runs Wild joined us. She showed up so suddenly and quietly that I nearly jumped out of my skin, she startled me that badly. Her eyes had a somber look and they were puffy and red from crying.

She did brighten up when she saw my mane and tail, both of which had stubbornly refused to return to normal even when the flame in my gullet had long ago run out, and nearly gave off a squee when she ran her hoof through the thick green and blue fire and it didn't burn. She seems to be unhealthily obsessed with my mane.

Still, looking at her broke my heart. I was supposed to take care of her, and seeing that empty look in her eyes was worse than getting shot, much worse. Yet the fact that she wouldn't let up, that she was still willing to fight and to help, made me proud to call her a friend.

Together, we set out to help those we could.

*** *** ***

As morning broke the three of us were bone weary, we had worked all night, eventually beginning to evacuate buildings and homes of junkies that were too stupid to get that this was turning into a battlefield. The fighting was slowly creeping closer to the center of Red Light. Garnet and Steelclaw held Zeal's forces at bay for now, but the shanty town was a lost cause.

We were wandering between the buildings along the line where the urban sprawl met the shanties, looking for any sign of ponies that hadn’t gotten it into their heads that remaining here wasn't healthy. The sound of gunfire was everywhere, and further out you had to deal with crisscrossing lines of fire with the occasional grenade.

I passed a makeshift barricade, just a pile of junk and furniture, behind which a group of guards huddled while taking pot shots at the enemy barricades. One unicorn sat in a corner, hugging her assault carbine and staring at nothing. I left a roll of healing bandage in her lap, I didn’t know what else to do for her.

I walked over one of the pony hole covers that led down into the sewers. Most of them had been welded shut from the inside and they required more than a dozen landmines and a lot of patience with a cutting torch to get through. The ones not sealed up were much closer to the central Mansion, these were left for us in case Zeal did deem it necessary to get down to the sewers, and nearly all those were rigged with traps. I was far from worried about the orphanage down in the sewers, because the spark generator and the water purification plant were both far more desirable hostages.

I looked around a corner into an alley, seeing three of Zeal's soldiers, all stallions. They were busy going through the pockets of what had once been a pony, now just a bullet ridden corpse. I felt the red mist of rage rise within me, but quickly calmed myself.

I gave the digital charge counter on Woodcutter a look. Ten shots, that was all I had left for the beam rifle, after that was gone I had only my arcane revolver fall back on. Silver Sword had been left behind in one of the medical tents, I was considering selling the cumbersome minigun, it was too much of a hassle to lug around something I could barely aim, despite the deterrent factor.

"Three, end of the alley." I whispered loud enough to be heard by Geri and Wild. Geri nodded and replaced his double ought buck with slugs for the extra range, over the course of the night I had learned the meaning of the colored bands. Wild melted into the background, impossible to locate.

I crouched down, keeping silent and unnoticed. I wasn't nearly as invisible as Wild could be, but with the chaos and noise just a few blocks away I was stealthy enough to get the first shot in. Using up my invisibility spell felt like a waste.

I sighted along my rifle, aiming for the largest target. I steadied myself, and started to squeeze the trigger.

Suddenly, the group of three enemy soldiers turned into a manticore... I blinked. My brain came to a screeching halt, reversed, and replayed the moment again. They hadn't turned into a manticore, it had pounced on them so quickly that it almost hadn't registered, and so hard that one of the stallions had split open, pouring out several internal bits that I was not happy knowing the names of.

I stood up, intending to fire again, and was interrupted a second time as the head of a young mare poked out of the manticore’s bushy mane. She looked around, located me and smiled.

"Hello!" She shouted, her hoof waving frantically. The manticore started to slowly turn around in the narrow alley to face me, while it did so I got a good look at filly it carried. She was small, a pegasus, and perhaps a year younger than Runs Wild. Her coat was orange and her wild mane shone in a brilliant red, several twigs and leaves were stuck in it. I also noted that she was wearing a gray duster similar to mine.

"Little Sister I presume?" I asked as I lowered my rifle and waved for Geri and Wild to come out with a wing, the pegasus seemed amiable enough.

"Yup, and you are Curatie, am I right?" She responded, I nodded back and she grinned.

Holy hell that was a lot of teeth! I took a couple of involuntary steps back. Those were some sharp chompers, and way too many of them. I once saw a picture of a shark in my grandmother’s old encyclopedia, Little Sister had the same type of grin. It had to be some sort of mutation, either inherited or something she developed when she was a foal, it didn’t look like she had filed her teeth down. Either way... creepy.

Another pegasus landed in front of the manticore, this one also in a gray duster. I assumed she was Big Sister; Iron Sights had said that she and Little Sister travelled together. Her body was encased in a worn, black, insectoid suit that I had seen many times on posters around Equestria: pre-war pegasus power armor. Two antennae protruded from beneath the duster, green gems adorning the tips. I knew a pair of magical energy weapons when I saw them. One thing stuck out though, the skull on her duster had the image of a cloud with a thunderbolt behind it, the image felt oddly familiar.

"This the one?" Big Sister asked, her voice slightly tinny because of the armor’s mask. The manticore sniffed her once then gave her a fond lick, prompting her to wipe her face to get her compound goggles clean of saliva, she seemed used to it.

"Yeppers." Little answered, still grinning. I kinda wanted her to stop doing that, I was beginning to feel very uncomfortable. Beside me Geri and... where was Wild? I looked around, finally locating Wild behind me. She too looked very uncomfortable with the feral grin of the little pegasus. Geri was... well, he was himself, leaning towards one wall, ignoring the all female get together.

"So," I said, my voice slightly shaky. "were you just in the neighborhood?" It was quite the coincidence that the two of them had shown up in the middle of the conflict... okay, three if you counted the manticore.

"Mort sent us." Big Sister answered shortly. "Wanted us to help out."

That sounded a little suspect, how could Mort have the time to respond by sending these two even if he heard about the attack well in advance? Trottingham was close, but not that close. "Really," I mused. "he must have quite the network of informants."

Big Sister sounded amused. "You have no idea. I better get moving, I want to have a talk with whoever is in charge here, get the lay of the battlefield before we get to work. Lil' sis, give our potential new member the low down, will you?" And with that, she jumped into the air and disappeared from view over the rooftops.

"Sure thing." Little said as she waved goodbye to her older partner, she then urged her mount out of the alley, forcing the tree of us to back out of the way to give her room. The manticore was amazingly well behaved, only taking a polite sniff at me in passing.

"So, I heard you have a yao guai companion too." I said trying to get a conversation started. While her manticore was unusual as a pet, the mutated bears weren't nearly as rare to see as a merchant's or scavenger's companion.

"Yupp, but she's at home." Lil'sis said brightly, then she threw her fore legs wide and reported happily. "She had babies."

That caused Wild to come out of her shell a bit and she peeked out from behind me. "Really?"

"Indeedily, and they are super cute, all small and wrinkly and... and..." Lil’sis hugged herself and squee'd happily, then remembered herself. "Ahem, I better get to it or big sis will be cross with me. How much do you know about us Undertakers?" She inquired.

"Lets talk as we move." I began to trot along the street, continuing to check buildings and alleys for towns ponies who hadn't gotten out yet. "I know you are bounty hunters, and that you operate out of Trottingham, specifically, out of The Field of Fallen Feathers. There are twelve of you normally, and Iron Sights wants me to join."

We encountered another group who were patrolling the streets. “Holy hell!” A puce stallion exclaimed and levitated up his assault carbine, intent on firing at the big manticore.

I placed myself between them and Little Sister’s mount, raising my wings placatingly. “Hey, it’s okay, she’s with us.” I waved, indicating the little pegasus sitting atop her animal friend. That calmed him down, and the patrol passed us, giving the large beast wary glances as they did so.

I was starting to become tired, and the day was just getting started.

Footnote: Level Up

NeverKnown AKA ThatGuyWithTheMustache “Put together the Fan art page”
Shadowstep AKA The Grammar Nazi