Fallout Equestria: Changed Fates

by Sanguine Eyes

First published

What remains of the past will always haunt Equestria, but very few know just how much this is the case

When the bombs fell, many ran to the stables, many died in balefire, many entered undeath as ghouls. However, not very many simply fell asleep, and not many are really suited to survive the wasteland.

Equestria already had many ways to keep life living through the ages with technology or magic, but this doesn't stop Stable Tech's experiments. Lexicon, librarian and researcher for the ministry of wartime technology enters the wasteland desperate to recapture the past she once knew and was torn from knowing full well it is fruitless, but perhaps she can find others with the same goal... others who are not quite as helpless as her, perhaps their dark wasteland fate can be changed.

Cover art by Nick Valentine of Equestria amino

Reading by Plagen Shiki

Chapter 1: Slight Issue

View Online

Slight Issue

She groaned loudly pushing her door shut. The ministry of morale just launched their 20 something’ith surprise investigation this month. Everypony was on edge already, she wasn’t sure how much more of it she could handle, not that the MoM cared.

Bumbling about in her apartment her hooves poked lazily at the keypad on her safe room. A few moments later she placed her books on the table inside. It was a cozy little safe room. It was no Stable tec stable, but the Ministry of wartime technology had bought them for all the apartments here, it was cheap enough considering Stable tec was just going to scrap them as a failed project. They were built like tanks and had a durability enchantment, they were a ‘failure’ due to their lacking in radiation protection. But the Ministry was able to throw an easy repair talisman on top linking each room to the landfill the facility was built on top of for cheap experimental repair in case somepony decided to force their way in. The whole scenario wasn’t a common thing, but it allowed researchers like her to take their work home and have it still technically secured all the while letting the Ministry of Technology try out some experimental security measures. It was perfect for the non classified but still confidential work she and her coworkers had been slammed with for the past five months.

She grumbled wiggling out of her work clothes before tossing them onto the floor and stepping out of the safe room. She needed a bubble bath and a nice snack before a 6 hour sleep then another grueling 18 hour shift. She didn’t blame the rest of her coworkers for just crashing in the break room.

Something caught her eyes as she slowly bumbled her way to the bathroom. A small flashing light on the answering machine. She looked to the bathroom and shrugged. Coming over to the machine she checked to see that it had come quite literally seconds after she got off work, the short distance from the facility and the apartments told her that she likely missed it by about 90 seconds. Without much care she pressed the button only half listening.

Alarms sounded in the recording which earned it her full attention, but the voice she knew so well was even, as if it had once been filled with fear but now only regret remained. “Honey, I know I was never around, and I know I won’t be around. I am so sorry Lexi, I-I can’t even blame this on the war. I was not cut out to be a mother, I never was and I never will. I am so sorry, I… I don’t know what else I could possibly say. I failed you, I failed myself, I failed the princesses, I failed that stupid Twilight, I failed Equestria. I know you’re labeled a VIP for the stable due to your project, so listen to me. Get to your stable. Don’t wait, just get to your stable. Drop everything and just go!”

The answering machine kept going, but a sharp noise rang out and the call was cut. Whatever happened in the recording was unknown and combined with the warning it left a haunting sinking vibe Lexicon shaking. Rushing to the radio she flicked it on and all she could hear was emergency broadcasts.

*...as far as Filidelphia and Manehatten… At this time we have confirmed Megaspell detonatio-* She smashed the radio off with her hoof, not waiting to hear all the rest of the details and bolted out the door where others were already gathering in the street as a panicked jumbled mess. Heavy sirens and alarms began to blare telling her the war was about to end the bad way and she needed to get to safety.

Her heart beating out of her chest, all she could do was whimper and panic as she jumped into a full gallop out of her quaint little apartment in her quaint little town used to house workers and members of the ministry research center. Like usual, running for about 20 seconds and she was terribly out of breath. By the time she reached the line to the stable, she noticed that all she had with her was her ID badge which she basically had glued around her neck. She cursed herself, thinking of going back for her books, maybe some of her research and her reading glasses, but then the gravity of the situation roared at her like a manticore and she facehoofed.

“Ma’am?” The light blue Unicorn mare off to the side holding a checklist nudged her. “Lexicon, level two clearance on project Bubonem?”

“Oh! Yes, yes that is me! I'm sorry.. I.. I ju..” A commotion caught her eyes, even as one of the soldiers practically yanked her out of line and pushed her to the front trying to get her through the gates.

“Please! If not me then please, at least my son! Please, there is room, I know there is!” A mare was practically on her knees begging the soldier in front of her to let her through. She was indeed correct, two whole research groups were over in Canterlot, the stable had an abundance of room at the moment.

The soldier shook his head with a cold and stoic glare, it was clear he did not like this but this stallion had seen war a dozen times over. This was another day in “the life”. “VIP first! Get back in line ma’am, I am not going to tell you again!”

The soldier glanced Lexicon’s way only for a moment as the unicorn mare pushed her through the gate. She had to duck to one side to avoid running into the large triple barrelled gatling gun off the soldier’s battle saddle. Another soldier pushed her firmly up the path pointing wordlessly as Lexicon could see the mare’s little colt looking around scared. The little thing had no idea what was happening, though in his defense, even Lexicon was unsure, or rather she knew full well, only she was in such a state of shock she was not really capable of grasping it just yet. She made her way up the path trying to do just that when she suddenly flinched at the loud sound of four or five rapid gunshots. She clenched her eyes shut and tried to force herself to believe everything was ok, but she choked and went cold when she heard a little colt scream ‘Mommy!’

Going numb she slowed, she felt cold and awkward in her own body. Whatever was going on her mind refused to believe it, and she did not want to. Her stomach sank and her limbs were like unfeeling rubber. No matter how much she breathed in it was not enough. Light headed and with blurry vision she barely noticed being shoved onto a metal platform. She could hardly focus on the massive green light going up in the great distance, her every sense was slowly vanishing.

The light began to fade and she felt something noticeably painful and cold on her cheek. She could not tell how much time had passed, but in a few moments she could hear again. “This one goes into pod 4472E, Don’t worry about stabilizing her. The pod will do everything we really need.”

The pony holding her flinched a little in surprise when Lexi stirred.
“Wh...what what happened?... is.. What?”

“Calm down, we just need to get you into your designated pod, it will cleanse you of your radiation levels. You came down just in time. If you were even a minute later you would not have even woken up. Just sit back and relax, the vault has everything you could possibly need, just relax and enjoy your time here. It's going to be a very productive life, trust me.”

Not only did she not feel the need to disagree but she did not feel the ability to. She was still in the tail end of what she did not know was a panic attack. All the eggplant colored earth pony was capable of doing was nodding weakly and simply allowing herself to be dragged down a hallway, through many twists and turns, to a room full of large egg shaped containers. She could already see ponies inside sleeping peacefully.

“Don’t worry ma’am, you spend the night in one of these, and you are clean and fit as could possibly be. No worries at all! Just lay down, keep calm, and try to get some much needed rest." The technician smiled at Lexi, trying to reassure her.

She nodded, still shaken, but she tried to focus on literally anything else. As the mare who helped her into the pod closed the door Lexi pulled up her petty disgruntled feelings towards leaving her library at home, but that only made her feel worse. She could still hear the little colt screaming for his mother. It sent a cold shock through her body However, it was oddly too cold. Something else was going on. She could feel it even more cold than such an emotionally chilling experience could give her, something from the edge of her mind called to her. She was not a scientist, she was a historian, just as her cutie mark showed, an ancient scroll and a magnifying glass. She may not have been a scientist but she was plenty smart. Sure, there was a chance of radiation but not nearly enough for what they were saying for her to need some sort of isolation pod, furthermore everypony present was being herded into one. Her dazed attention caught ice crystals forming on the glass of the door. Her heart skipped a beat, this was not a recovering chamber. She could identify talismans in the pod, none were for cleansing radiation. These were like slow release spells enchanted into talismans, elemental, healing, life support, and a few others. It was not a medical pod or a recovery pod. “Cryogenic suspension!”

She felt too cold, she tried to fight it, her hooves hammered on the glass weakly, far too weakly. She knew she was not strong, but this was far too weak, her adrenaline was keeping her awake but only just barely. She watched the icy screen get more and more clouded and dark, her eyes fluttered, and she tried with her best futile efforts to do anything other than just lay down and be frozen. These were her last actions before darkness claimed her.

It felt like it was just a fitful sleep, she had no idea what was going on. She only knew that she was waking up and was not very happy. It felt like somepony twisted her stomach into a knot and then proceeded to beat it with a stick. Every inch of her was sore and in ten different kinds of pain at once. She woke up fully, coughing and retching. She saw nothing but the frost coating the pod she was in.

Shaking with more than just cold, she scraped her hoof over the frosted window, it didn’t do much to help. Instead she worked to try and figure out how to open the pod, this too was fruitless. That is, the efforts were pointless, the pod soon opened on its own, apart from anything she controlled. She came to the logical conclusion that she had woken up because the pod was programmed to wake her up at this specific time.

Spilling out onto the filthy floor she coughed and hacked, her heart racing as she opened her eyes wide. She could feel something attached to her flank. Swiping a hoof across her flesh she quickly located a what felt like a small box attached to a small set of tubes and wires firmly stuck to her left flank. Letting out a yelp she tore it off and whimpered. It was filled with needles, this combined with the racing and pounding in her heart lead her to believe it was the machine's wakeup call.

“Hello?! Anypony?!” She sat with her chest heaving while she waited for her vision to clear fully. Unfortunately this was just not in the cards for her. No matter how much she wished for her vision to clear it remained vaguely blurry. It was like she needed her reading glasses. “Great, no longer just far sighted. Hello? Anypony?... anypony at all?”

She stumbled around feeling with her hooves, something was very wrong. Not only was there nopony to assist her, but the very floor itself just felt extremely dirty. No medical personnel to help her or anypony else up and out, and there was nopony around to sweep the floors. The first conclusion she came to was that her pod had been moved into deep storage and it just failed, safety protocols would wake her up to prevent her death.

“No problem… I’ll just find an alarm to activate and they will know that somepony is here. And I can get a moon damned explanation of why I was stuffed in a freezer!!” She growled hoping that a moderate leveled researcher had enough authority to make such a demand.

She continued to feel about until she found something she suspected to be useful. A metal surface moving upward like a podium. “Ah! Hello there… “ She continued feeling it up until she found what she was looking for. A switch, she could see it was a bright blurry red, even in the darkened state of the room. Without much hesitation she pulled on the switch and instantly she saw flashing lights, though she heard no alarm. She hoped for at least something a little useful.

Going back to the floor she continued to feel around trying to find more noisy things to make a ruckus with. Had they given her even a little warning, she would have been a little more content just setting one alarm off. She was nothing if not 110% dedicated to her projects, the ministry and Equestria, she did not deserve to be stuffed in a freezer without any sort of consent for Celestia knew how long. Lexicon was a very calm pony, she was rather proud of her temperament. Even when being treated very unfairly she usually remained calm and level headed, even when the next pony over was foaming at the mouth in rage. However, this was a bit much.

Her hooves smoothed over the ground until it bumped something that she could see wobbled a bit, it was a dull white color and had a soft ‘clackity’ sound. Poking around just a little more she nearly squee’d with joy as she noticed something of great benefit. Glasses, right there on the ground. perching them on her nose and tilting her head back, she blinked, it was still a bit off, not her exact needed prescription but she could see well enough, even with a small crack through the left lens. She looked back down where she had found it and her heart stopped dead.

The dull white ‘clackity’ thing was a pile of bones, not just bones but very clearly, a pony’s skull and ribs. She let out a screech and fell back. Her head was fuzzy and she was back on the brink of another panic attack, what really pushed her over the edge was a hoof smacking into a window above where she now lay. Passing out, she only stirred again when she was shaken awake.

“Wake up! Damn it!” She came to with a shriek and huddled into the fetal position shaking. “Hey! Calm down it's alright…” The voice was male and strong, it took a few moments but she recognized it. She did not know it by heart but she knew it from somewhere.

“Y..You.. you're with the ministries! The… um.. You are with the Ministry of Magic! The … um… whatever it was project!” Lexicon spluttered, fear and generally how she was feeling clogged up her ability to remember. Looking at him she took in his features as best as she could, his pale blue coat, the kind of unicorn that most certainly got picked on when he was a colt but now did good work for the ministries. If her memory was accurate enough he was actually one of the more higher ranked individuals in the area, it was likely he worked with her mother and maybe even directly under Twilight Sparkle.

“Yes, Wax Seal is the name, what happened? is anypony else here?”

She rose shakily to her hooves and looked around, the room was in utter ruins, the only thing of note to see was the broken and worn Stable around them and the two open pods. But her eyes caught something. The red lever, the one she pulled, it was connected to the other open pod. She did not trigger an alarm, she opened another pod. Luckily it looked to be one of the only other functioning pods with somepony inside. “I have no idea! I just woke up and stumbled around until I found these glasses so I could see again! They froze us!”

“Yeah… I noticed.” Wax grumpily replied before looking back and the pile of pony bones. “We have been put away for a very long time.”

Swallowing the fright in her throat Lexi nodded. “At that state of decomp it has to have been at the very least a decade, I mean you could get bones that clean in about a year but not that dry. And the floor. This place has had to have been dead for about that long… but WHY?” She did her best not to full on freak out but he seemed to be in the same boat as her, just a little less squeamish about it.

“Well, it depends, we were frozen when the bombs fell, it is likely that this facility was damaged in the blasts or something quickly proceeding it. We need to get out of here and find out just how much of equestria is left, how much damage was done, we know it's been at the very least ten years. Maybe the vault didn’t protect everypony and only the pods survived… well most of the pods. We will only know by poking around and finding out ourselves.”

She nodded, but on the inside she was screaming. She did not want to go anywhere or do anything. She wanted guards and stable tech workers to show up and help before she could sip a nice, hot cup of tea and then shout at whoever was in charge. But somepony else was here to take charge, so choosing not to deviate from the usual, she fell in line.

After about ten minutes of searching they both came to the conclusion that this room held nothing else of value. There were two unopened pods but the readout displayed that the occupants had died years ago. So stepping back she let Wax Seal lead the way out of the room.

The only noteworthy thing they found was more pony skeletons. The events were a little disturbing though, They were mostly in small groups in the corners of the rooms with one or two further away from the others as if they had died trying to move away from the group. The annoying part was that each door was sealed tightly. Wax Seal had to open each one with magic just so that they could pass through. There was an odd sensation as they came out of the large rooms into the equally large halls. It came to her rather fast, they had left the big room and gone into a hallway, found a two way split, going right instead of straight, they then came out the far right of a three way split. She distinctly remembered going straight down the three way path. However, she paused long enough for a facehoof when she saw a pod in one of the hallways. It was empty but very clearly connected to a forklift. These things could be moved anywhere provided somepony had the right equipment. Poking around a little more she gradually found the courage to look into one of the piles of bones. Unlike the others these bones looked very thoroughly damaged, as if they were chewed on by something small. Shifting the bones a little more she found another pair of glasses that were even less suited for her, and the big score of the day.

“A pipbuck! Oh! It's still in working order… I think.” Lexi shook it clean of bones, hesitating quite a bit before putting it on, which was surprisingly easy to do. The normal locking mechanism was gone, filed off and replaced with a simple latch. Eventually she powered it on and looked it over as it began to hum to life.

“Oh! That’s not a standard model. Look at that, it's been modified, looks like it was modified by somepony other than a proper Stable Tech technician .” Wax Seal tapped the side to show her some of the exposed elements, it was hastily and messily rigged up for a few interesting new bits and tricks, though nothing she could recognize as immediately useful. However, the device let out a very soft beep and she could read the program updating right before her eyes. As if projected directly onto her vision she could see it. ‘Eyes Forward Sparkle’.

She smiled and gave a soft giggle at the name. She had not seen or heard of it before, but then again, she was far too busy to even take notice of a pipbuck back before the balefire, which still haunted her. She was about to ask Wax Seal what they should do next when red lights blasted into existence across her vision. The Eyes forward sparkle lit up red like a solid bar.

“Hey… what’s the red for? Did I break something? Is it malfunctioning?”

They barely got out of the hall before sealing the door shut. Lexicon hammered on the lock despite the threat obviously not being able to open the door. Wax struggled to remain upright, blood gushing from the large chunks missing from his back, barrel, and his left foreleg, but he still did his best to buck the vent, trying to warp it so that they could not get through there. He let out his breath watching bloody spittle speckle the ground before he collapsed.

Lexicon shivered began to hyperventilate. “W..what was that? What were those?!”

“I’m pretty sure those were parasprites… but..” Wax Seal paused, coughing up a wet bloody mess. He grimaced, looking over his wounds. The thing had literally eaten halfway into his chest. He was confident he was going to die without a healing potion in the next few moments. Normally he would have been utterly terrified, but at the moment, it was an odd peace that flowed over him. It was like the normal fears and pains of his life had vanished. This was it, nothing else to worry about. “They were changed somehow… This is probably not an isolated incident. There is likely to be dozens of related terrible mutations, which would imply either the radiation from the balefire bombs was much higher and much more intense than before or it's been a LOT longer than a decade.” He let out another torrent of bloody coughs and fell into a rail along side the wall. He looked away from her into a badly broken lab with no lights.

Lexicon turned and opened her mouth to speak, instead watching in horror as something shot out of the darkness like a cartoon frog’s tongue, catching Wax seal and yanking him back into the shadows. There was a sudden messy loud gulp and something shifted in the dark.

The fight on Lexicon’s ‘fight or flight’ meter was broken, it seemed as though the ‘fight’ was thoroughly replaced with ‘faint’. However, Celestia smiled down upon her at that moment and flight was the only thing left. She took off like a bat out of hell, pounding the buttons on each door so hard that her hoof began to crack by door two. Her vision narrowed and she only saw the next door and the next. Bursting out she finally came to a stop where the Stable walls were torn ajar before her. Just beyond the heavy breach in the wall there was an elevator, a broken elevator. But thankfully the air was filled with the sound of rushing water, and in the corner of the room she spotted a heavily rusted metal plate clearly leaking water. Plowing into it the moment she reached the wall it crumbled into nothing. She rushed in at full gallop through the water until her gallop became a rapid panicked swim.

She rushed and rushed until it was unlikely whatever killed Wax could even follow if it was interested. Rushing forward was foolish in her state and she had no idea just how badly it was about to backfire. The large bubbling underground river she was forcing her way down had very little room left in it that had any form of air, and the current was rushing fast and hard. Her panic had not gone, but her adrenaline was beginning to fade, her ragged breath was playing against her as there was less and less room for air in this near pitch black cave. It did not take long before she was forced under by the current and even with her efforts she did not get the chance to pass out from oxygen deprivation. Her vision was filled with darkness of the cave as she was sucked under. She could not tell how fast she was going, she could only see things zoom past her. She whipped about to see an outcropping of stone within the current, she saw nothing but stars when she smashed into it. She barely felt the second impact as the current tore around the next corner taking her limp form with it.

Sputtering and coughing then finally vomiting up a fair amount of water, Lexi opened her eyes. She felt bruised and battered, which made sense because she had been ravaged by the raging water that she could vaguely see spurting from a cliff side. Now out of the water and not outright bursting with fear and panic, she could clearly hear the click click of her new pipbuck.

Leaning upright she pushed her glasses further up on her nose, thanking Celestia that she somehow still had them. She shakily got to her hooves and with no real direction to go she just began walking. Wherever she was, the land looked utterly destroyed. Nothing was growing and unlike the world she grew up in and until just about an hour ago knew so well, this land was dark and cloudy.

“Where are all the pegasi? And… oh hell, this is the worst case scenario isn't it?” She asked nopony. She kept moving, seeing only more of the same. She knew that the clicking of her pipbuck meant radiation and she knew it was wise to move away from areas like that. However, she was quite shocked at how often she found radiation so blatantly everywhere.

On the verge of simply curling into a pile and giving up, she suddenly found her light in the darkness. She poked through the bushes into a clearing, only to see three ponies. Her heart nearly leaped at the sight. “Equestria is not dead afterall!”

Quickly she dashed up shouting and calling for their attention. She was just within ten yards when she noticed they had turned bearing weapons, but the middle one smiled at her, a smile that brought a terrible chill to her heart. She slowed, instinct rather than logic screaming at her. "Hello there...you are a tad too cute to be out here in the wasteland.."

The center Stallion stepped forward giving that frightening smile again. Lexi's mind screamed at her, this was all kinds of wrong. They looked like they just climbed out of a documentary on the darkest streets of Manehatten. These ponies practically looked like they were auditioning for a chance to serve life in Hightower. Lexicon could not find words to say, she just slowly and fearfully began to back away.

"Oh... no no no you are not leaving... " The stallion to her left licked his lips with a dirty smile coming closer. He did not stop that smile. "Boss... we can have some fun first right?.."

The center stallion chuckled and nodded, then quite suddenly his head exploded like a ripe tomato against a hard surface. She shrieked and began to backpedal at top speed but did not look away in time to avoid seeing the remaining stallions scatter and start taking pot shots into the treeline. Though even this stopped as the stallion on the right took three rapid shots to his barrel. Each round tore a bloody fleshy hole and turned his insides into a puree. The last stallion took off quickly before he lost a hoof and before he hit the ground or even had a chance to scream a large bullet plunged through the back of his head and shattered his front teeth as it continued.

Shivering and rapidly looking too and fro trying to at least see where the shots came from, the primal desire to know where the hunter is as the need to run the other way was screaming in her head. However, despite her desperate fears and panicked heart she managed not to lock up and pass out when a somewhat small griffon landed two feet from her as if she did not even exist. Flinching so hard that she literally fell over the mare stuttered and gasped before distancing herself from him with a quick few scoots.

“You know…” He began without so much as sparing her a glance. “You won't live very long out here if you come running to slavers.” He casually made his way over to the dead ponies without a care in the world.

She shook her head trying to comprehend the words he spoke. “Slavers?” Even the word ‘slave’ was one she heard of only in the most ancient of history lessons that always referenced the most absolutely evil of tyrants and primitive of ages. Her mind was so taken back by the use of the phrase that she did not notice the griffon walk up to the downed slaver pony and draw a machete.

“W… well then my.. Well my savior… I am in desperate need of h-” Her eyes went wide as he brought the large blade down on the neck of the dead pony and collected the head. Lexicon promptly vomited, collapsing and shivering. “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING? THAT WAS A PONY!” She screamed hoarsely.

He glanced back at her almost confused. “It was a slaver, and I was hired by a mare down in Pasternville who was his private slave about two years ago. She survived, escaped, and hired me to kill him, now ‘I’ as requested am bringing back proof that I did the job just as hired. And finally when I turn this in and get the bottlecaps I will have come full circle… wait no, I’ll get the bottlecaps, go get drunk and THEN I will have come full circle.”

She honestly had no words. The poor earth pony just stared vacantly at the griffon as he gruesomely looped a string through the severed head’s mouth and out its neck before tying it off. Trying to calm herself she slipped into a simple logic default. Realizing that this griffon was currently the only living sentient thing she was aware of existing and it was not currently trying to murder her she pushed aside everything she could manage and came up quickly. “Griffon! You.. p.. Please you have to help me!.. I need to ge-”

“Croce!... not Griffon unless you want me to shoot you, names are important, or should I call you mud pony?”

She took a step back and swallowed trying to further calm herself. “Croce then...please… I need to get back to Canterlot… or wherever the center of civilization is… Equestria, if it still exists may very well need me.”

He looked at her quizzically for a moment, taking in her caution laden words, she did not try and hide that she didn’t know, but in those words she made it clear that she was lost and needed help. “It doesn’t exist anymore. Head that way and you will find what you need, I need to turn this in before it starts to smell... well, smell worse.”

His blatant response on the status of Equestria shook her from her solid logical mindset. “Wait! No please no take me with you! I need help, I have no idea where I am or what is going on! Please you have to take me with you!”

“...No. I have plenty of better things to do than not fly from here to Shanty town with some whining mare.”

She could feel her chances of making it anywhere alive quickly slipping away, panic started to tickle in the back of her throat, she rushed up to him and he noticeably changed his stance. “Please you HAVE to help me, if you let me just go like this it's practically killing me! You have to help me! Please! PLEASE!!!”

“Stop that. That is going to get you killed faster than my not going with you.”

Her logical calm was all but evaporated and she only had the ability to panic left. “PLEASE!!!”

He sighed. “One help coming right up.” His talons seized her shoulders and his head drew back. The last thing she saw was a feathered head of Croce the griffon rushing up to meet her forehead before her senses plunged into a pained darkness.

Footnote: no level up. You might want to do something other than freaking out.
Quest perk added.
Pathetic, individuals in the Wasteland are far more hesitant to open fire on sight. Your diminished physique and open fear of just about everything labels you as not even worth the bullet.

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes
Chapter editor - Currently N/A
Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.
Nick Valentine: Artist

Chapter 2: Reasoning

View Online


She woke, panic shot through her, not the nightmares of Equestria consumed in balefire but rather the feeling one gets when they have slept through their alarm and are certainly going to be late. Her hoof swiped desperately for her alarm clock and by the time she was awake enough to see she was holding a rock she remembered the world ending.

“...oh… ohhhhh… Celestia damn it…” She cringed as the fear returned along with the aches and pains. It felt like just yesterday that she had come home from work to find the message on her answer machine. Like it was just yesterday that she heard the burst of gunfire and the little colt scream for his mother. Just yesterday that she saw balefire rising from the south, felt the heat searing against her before they were lowered into the vault.

She froze, her mind glancing back at the image, she had not seen that. She was unconscious for that event, or so she thought. Her logic shot up front and center in her mind telling her that she was not unconscious but in shock, this let her see the event and record it in her memories without realizing what she saw. She got to the stable elevator somehow. Obviously she was stronger inside than she knew and it just took a little bit of shock and head trauma to bring it bubbling to the surface.

Head trauma. “That feathered little jerk hit me!” She rubbed her forehead with a hoof, clearly she could feel the swollen lump and feel the pain. She had no doubt that both her eyes were blackened from such a heavy strike. For such a small Griffon he hit very hard.

It may have seemed like yesterday but it was clear by the stable she just climbed out of and the state of the dead world just outside that it had been at the very least ten years. Her mind spun as she winced the moment she pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose. Another miracle that they were not broken. The panic inside stirred but didn't take over, she just needed something to focus on, and the logical part of her brain quickly stepped in. “Depending on how many megaspell detonations, the disbursement of the impact zones, and other smaller variables. With this much radiation just about everywhere it could have been anything from ten to 400 years… Give or take… if the rumors were true on numbers vs viable targets, with this much radiation it should have been about 15 years… yes.. That does sound right..”

She clopped her hooves together. Logical Lexi was her favorite Lexi, especially when she needed to take her mind off things like the war, MoM inspections, and now the world ending, she was always happy she was a smart pony and these little habits made life just a little easier. Just as she had the 'logical Lexi' she kinda hated, scared Lexi, it was her least favorite, she hated feeling helpless. She was never a fighter, and never intended to become one, but sheer logic and strategy always gave her a leg up and a hoof in the door over anypony else. Had she been a unicorn like her mother she would have been at the heart of the ministry of magic, she knew that much at the very least. She had always been confident that she didn't need to be brave, or strong to have power, her mind was all the muscle she needed. That is until the world ended, but confidence was still very helpful.

Standing up, she still felt all the soreness combined with the pain in her face. However, what caught her attention was a note that fluttered in her face with her bangs. Somepony or some griffon had pulled her bobby pin out and used it to secure a note to her now loose mane. It took a fair bit of time to get her mane back into its simple high pony tail, most of that time was spent envying all unicorns and their magic vs her own annoying hooves. Once she was yet again up to her own standards she opened the note. “For a creature with opposable thumbs that griffon has terrible hoofwriting.”

She cleared her throat and peered over the messy writing. “Dear stupid mud pony, I would say that I am sorry for headbutting you, but I am not a liar. I am not sorry because you are annoying, but sorry feels like something you would want me to say so sorry I guess. Now firstly, I am assuming you have brain damage or have been living under a rock to not know your way around which is why I took the time to write this note. Please note that headbutting you was better than shooting you. Go south for shanty town, west for Pasternville. Pasternville is further but you will have everything you need there. However, in shanty town you should be able to get the general layout of who is who and what is what so you don't die horribly after the first night in the wasteland like the stupid mud pony you are. PS, if you got bottlecaps, next time start with trying to hire me rather than appeal to my sense of morality.”

Lexicon grumbled and crinkled up the note in her hooves before tossing it to the ground. She was so upset that she almost did not hear the beep from her new pipbuck. Looking it over she could clearly see the two locations show up on the map.

She blinked. She knew how advanced the magic was within these things, but she did not quite grasp what kind of magic could possibly pick the location of a place from just its name being said or read. Such things usually require a great deal of pre programming. Like the technology knowing the information ‘before’ listing it. It was little impossible things like this that drove her up the wall. But having her division been inspected by the Ministry of Moral a few times already, she had seen the downright frightening powers of its ministry mare. She could deal with the mystery. Hell she could and would rather deal with just about anything over spending even 12 seconds around the old pink mare. Even the most illogical nonsensical garbage chaos filled impossibilities seemed easier to accept than half the crap that came out of the infamous ministry mare of the Ministry of Moral.

She swatted herself remembering to focus. She needed Logical Lexi at the moment. Grumbling and trying to focus she killed the panic with remembering that with the number of logical targets and the amount of residual radiation left over, clearly there had to be something left of Equestria. She just needed a few things first.

“Ok… Pasternville was a decently sized city… not huge but it's ok in size. Not big enough or important enough for a balefire bomb and…” She grinned eagerly. “I can check on home, sure a few years with desperate looting ponies might leave it a little rough. But nopony can get through that lock to the safe room, to my library.”

Despite everything, logical Lexi left her feeling like she was on top of the world, or at least what was left of it. The trip to the Stable was just about five minutes by hoof back when the world ended, she was a little unsure where to go from here but she had faith that-. Her Pipbuck beeped and she took a look at the map where something tagged ‘home’ just showed up. She growled, remembering the oddness of that old pink pony in relation to the all knowing technology of the pipbuck. In the end she just let out an explosive sigh and started towards her home. The map said it was just a half hour walk from Pasternville and only a two minute walk from her current location. She had quite a plan though, assuming that her neighbor was not still alive or nopony else came by and looted all of what she needed for her plans.

The walk was difficult, not because the terrain was rough or she was ill equipped, but because the very moment her new pipbuck gave so much as the slightest click Lexicon would let out a sharp ‘EEP’ and go ten steps back trying to mentally map out the radiation. This cycle of forward and backwards ended up turning a two minute trip into a half hour trip. Her mind was brimming with all manner of thoughts and fears. The complete disarray of the world around her could mean very few things, either her calculations were off which were unlikely or Equestria as a nation had been set back in quite an extreme to not have teams of ponies actively engaged in some sort of clean up.

“Then again… Canterlot was sure to be one of the primary targets for a megaspell detonation. Perhaps the Princesses are inured… or Celestia forbid… no longer with us…” She gave a shiver as she continued on with caution. “Well obviously, regardless to their status, they would not be able to restore anything so far north within the first few decades, I can't think of any other reason why slavery would be allowed to become a thing again unless that stupid bird was lying. And that note did say he wanted bottlecaps perhaps it's a griffon currency… I imagine that with Equestria so horribly damaged in the war… Bits have fallen out of fashion. Not to mention rather rare. Then again everything Equestrian should be rather rare after a dozen or so megaspells and the hoarding which would occur after such an event. Something as common and generally worthless as bottlecaps would make for a great impromptu currency. But if anypony got the old sparkle cola factories up and running they could just mass print money… oh! Unless the current Equestrian efforts are spent maintaining and guarding the factories… that would explain a lot. After all its smartest to expand slowly and surely. Can't have another resource problem by expanding rapidly. Just take care of our nation slowly…” She giggled with glee at logical Lexi’s reasoning despite the aching feeling that she was ignoring a few factors for her own comfort.

She smiled happily feeling quite accomplished. Regardless to the situation, she knew she needed to get her hooves on some bottle caps and stay low. Perhaps she could get to Pasternville, and from there she would learn just how things had progressed in equestria and how to get to civilization. This far up north she was sure to find not much in terms of civilization. There had not been much up here before the war, and honestly aside from a few trade routes and cities or research centers the northernmost parts of Equestria was still just a little wild.

She continued gingerly until things started to look a little familiar. Groves of dead trees and crumbling buildings. Though logical Lexi seemed agitated, yelling at her from inside her own head. Something about the place seemed to disagree with her. However, that went right out the window when she saw what could only be salvation.

Right there, just outside her old housing district, there was a fresh camp, not only a fresh camp but an icon she knew very well. An apple, gears, and sword. “Ah! Applejack’s steel rangers. At last, somepony civilized” She had some level of experience with them before the bombs fell, she was after all in the ministry of wartime technology and they came through the research facility all the time. “Finally I can see some civilization and decency… not to mention I can get into my library and salvage what I can in preparation for the trip.” She knew project Bubonem wasn't likely to be very useful with the world in its current state, but it would be useful eventually.

It did not take long to get further into the apartment complex. It was in total ruin, to the point where she began to have some slight doubts on her time in the Stable theory. The math did not lie but there was certainly a chance her statistics were compromised by outside variables. But she still wanted so badly for there to be an Equestria left out there somewhere for her to return to.

She pushed the doubts and her theory into the back of her mind as she continued, searching for Applejack’s rangers. Her mind burned with eagerness hoping to finally get out of this horrible wasteland and getting back into her library where she could study and continue strengthening Equestria with her work into the ancient past.

Nopony was at the campsite but she held up her hope. There were signs that the area was being searched. Door frames were broken and not weathered along the fractures, so the doors had to have been destroyed or broken down at the very least recently, and the camps had not been cleared up yet. But there had to be a reason that the rangers were not currently here. If she remembered correctly, she had never seen less than two of the armored soldiers in an area at a time, and each of the present encampments had to be for at least five. Considering how the amount of gear present it was more likely double or even triple that just to ensure that they would have one shift sleeping at all times and they would need more able bodies to move everything. However, the tents were empty so it was more likely just double, or something important was happening.

She smiled happy again with her logical breakdown as she continued her slow trot.

“Hey…” The griffon said nonchalantly from inside his cage.

“Oh hey…” She continued to trot but then stopped. She rubbed her head and looked back. “Oh… HEY!... wait.. What are you doing here… and why are you in a cage?” She pointed a hoof at him, needing to take a moment to realize that it was the same young griffon from before. “Croce!”

“Well, I tried to sneak a little too close, but the Steel Rangers caught me and threw me in here, but as for what I am currently doing, honestly, I am waiting for you to be caught so they will open the door to throw you in and that will give me a chance to stab them in the throat so I can try and fly away… but you know… Waiting can take a while… How about you mud pony?”

She facehoofed and composed herself before resorting to a few short questions. “What do you mean the Steel Rangers put you in there?... are you working for the Zebras?...” She felt odd letting the question roll off her tongue. Throwing around the Z word always prompted a surprise MoM visit.

His chest twitched as if he almost let a laugh escape. “Zebras?... are you joking?...”

“Then explain why you are in a literal cage! The Ministry of Wartime Technology is not some comic book supervillain organization. The Steel Rangers would not put you in there unless yo..”

She was promptly cut off as a sharp pain exploded in her head and everything went dark. Everything seemed hazy and there was a tremendous amount of pain in the back of her head, she could tell she was being pulled on and picked up before being placed gingerly back down. It took a just a little longer before she mumbled and looked up at the Griffon. Lexicon rubbed the back of her head, wincing at the pain.

Struggling to her hooves she glared at him angrily. “Why did you hit me?!”

The 'you're stupid' smirk behind his beak made her suddenly stop and ask herself ‘how’ he hit her. It was then she noticed there were currently no bars between her and Croce. She whipped about and adjusted her glasses to see a rather large pony in power armor. “Ah! Hey… over here! Let me out!”

She did not quite notice at first but after a few seconds she took in a few more ponies in the area, but only one was wearing the armor. The others however were plainly wearing dingy uniforms. Most of them were young but those who were not were clearly not fit for combat. Long deep potentially crippling scars over their bodies or very old age.

A younger mare spared her a worried look but she was firmly pulled back to face front by the armored Ranger. “Don’t pay the Tribals any attention. You will never make it to knighthood if you let your emotions conflict with your orders…” His voice was deep, almost agitated sounding, and clearly male.

Lexicon took notice of her Pipbuck in the mare’s hooves but was more concerned with what the armored stallion had said. “Wait… what?..Tribals?” Lexicon tried to make sense of it but defaulted to a more reliable choice outside of internally debating what somepony’s words mean. All this was nonsense, so she would use the only thing she knew that a civilized ministry pony would respond to.

“Ministry of wartime technology level two Librarian department, project Bubonem, serial number 29093010491860-L-M! Let me out of this damned cage!” She huffed, and stared out, she never had much authority, but knowing what to say to security usually got them to leave her alone.

All the older ponies and the armored one turned around at that causing her to smile with some hope. The armored Stallion came closer and stared down at her. He towered over her making her knees weak with a spike of fear. “Where did you learn that?...”

“At work… It’s my ministry ID code. Lexicon 29093010491860.. I’m with the ministry of Wartime Technology.” She felt confident but every second she stared up at the empty steel face of the ranger’s helmet she could feel that confidence melting away.

“That’s impossible which means you are lying… so tell me how you came to know that information..” A very very large minigun at his side leveled with her face and began to spin up.

Croce took two quick steps to the side with a sigh, the look on his face just said ‘I don’t want your insides getting my armor dirty’. Lexicon’s ears folded back and her pupils shrank as she quickly tried to find a way out of the situation. “I..It’s true!... I was just coming here to get to my safe room. I have supplies and my books in there!”

The minigun stopped spinning but remained leveled at her. “Number 278 of building 15?..” His cold emotionless mask of a helmet stared down at her and she did her best to nod. She did not want to question him on how he knew the exact number of her home. The others behind the ranger murmured in surprise but went silent when the ranger contiued. “What is the code to get in?”

Lexicon did not like this at all but giving up her library was a lot less painful than getting turned into paste. Maybe after this they would know she was telling the truth. “LTG35772A…” She shivered unable to move from her spot likewise unable to take her eyes off the minigun barrels.

A sudden flood of relief shot through her as the barrels moved away from her. “Scribbles!... watch them… and do NOT talk to them…” The stallion's bulk moved briskly away from the cage.

The young mare from before set Lexicon’s pipbuck on a nearby table and nodded. All the others gathered a few things and quickly made their way towards building 15 which despite how much had changed or become ruin, she remembered was just around the corner. But it didn’t matter to her now. It was all just too overwhelming. She slowly just curled up and pouted in the cage.

“Project Bubonem?... you were a part of project Bubonem?... how?” Lexicon looked up and nearly jumped back seeing the mare’s soft violet eyes looking at her.

“Wh..what do you mean how? Its…” Lexicon paused looking over the debris and damage to the area. It could not have been 15 years. It had to have been longer. Maybe something like 30 or 40. That could account for the degraded surroundings and more. But that would mean there would have been many more bombs than she thought. “It’s been more than 15 years hasn’t it? What is left of Equestria?”

The mare looked at her with wonder and a shade or two of sorrow. Her lips parted and she was about to speak when she flinched, her eyes trailing up and she began to step back in fright. A paw landed firmly on Lexicon’s head pushing her face into the dirt and metal of the cage. Talons shot out and quickly wrapped over the face of the mare called Scribbles. There was a sudden quick twist and a wet snap before she fell to the ground twitching.

Lexi forced herself to her hooves heaving and shivering. She had nothing in her to throw up but none the less this was something that would haunt her forever. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?”

“Shut it mud pony… you’re lucky I’m here.” Croce grumbled as he pulled Scribble’s body in close and rifled through her saddlebags. It did not take him long before frustration spread over his features, then fear showed up in his eyes. “She… she doesn’t have the key...FUCK!... Shit shit shit!”

His talons raked across the bars in frustration. He continued even when his talons began to bleed. Though Lexi's outrage over the death fed her a little courage and she spouted out. “... A key?... you killed her for a key?”

“They key to this cage! Without it we can’t leave, and they will come back and find her dead. They won’t keep either of us along very much longer after that. Damn it all!” His paw kicked the steel bars. He was too angry to complain about the pain in his toes.

Piecing together the logical outcome, Lexicon could only agree on the death part. Soon, the panic just like from the minigun returned. She whimpered looking back and forth before she looked at the lock. A flood of hope filled her and she pulled one of her bobby pins from her hair then swiped a small shard of metal off the ground. It was very difficult with just her hooves and mouth but she twisted the metal into the lock to keep up tension and inserted the slightly altered bobby pin into the lock.

“Wait!... you know how to pick locks?” Croce tried to see what she was doing with a fair amount of renewed hope.

“No… but I have a very good understanding of physics and I know how locks work.” She twisted and pulled at it but quickly fumbled and dropped the pin. “Dang it!... ok… I think I have.. Um..”

He pushed her aside and grabbed the pin, electing to use his talons instead of the piece of metal. “Walk me through it… You can’t unlock it from this side using your mouth mud pony! Now hurry up… they will be out any minute!”

She didn’t like it but she breathed a little easier. “This is a really cheap lock. It’s only got three tumblers. You can tell by the length of the barrel. Just picture three poles that are all different lengths. Right now they are resting inside of holes. In order to unlock the lock, you have to push each pole up until it’s flush with the outside of the barrel, and keep tension on the lock in order to catch the pins when they pop out.”

“That is lock picking?” The griffon asked skeptically, as if wondering why he never tried it before.

“That’s physics. I know how a lock works. After that it’s just knowing how to manipulate the moving parts in your favor to substitute the key! Just remember that it will be under pressure, so you will hear a click when you get a pin up.”

It did not take long at all before Croce’s talons rotated and he laughed. “Well look at that!” He opened the door and quickly rushed over to rifle through a small crate and pull his pistol and the rest of his gear.

Lexicon too quickly exited and grabbed her pipbuck, she strapped it in place and shivered looking back at Scribbles. “I still can’t believe you killed her!”

“Welcome to the wasteland mud pony… that’s just kinda how things go.” The griffon chuckled and fed a magazine into the handle of his weapon, quickly racking the slide with a grin. But his grin vanished with a twitch and he rapidly threw himself back as a stream of death shot out at him tearing the spot he was just standing into smoldering ruin.

Lexicon dove and hid under a nearby table set up for what looked to be some sort of service station for power armor. Looking around desperately she tried her best to find a way to either escape or stop the conflict. Which in her own personal opinion would have been much easier if her legs were not petrified with fear.

After having leaped under the table, all the poor mare could hear was rapid gunfire punctuated by a heavy caliber pistol returning fire. Before the bombs dropped, which for all she had experienced was might as well not even been yesterday, she had never even been within 10 yards of a gun going off. The effect of the event exploding onward around her was a tad stressful and at the moment she found her legs unwilling to move. In fact the only thing she managed to do is pout, blubber and try not to make noise loud enough for the Ranger to hear her.

Wallowing in fear and paralysis did not get any better as a loud ‘thump’ sounded, it was followed up quickly as she watched the cage they just escaped from explode flying high then crash down just out of her sight. The thing that drove her even further into fear was that Croce had stopped firing. He was not so much her friend, but she knew that if he had wanted to kill her, he certainly would have a dozen times over, before and after the cage, which she couldn't say about the rangers.

Heavy armored hoof falls sounded. Closer and closer they came. Lexicon struggled to even breath. She flinched at every step she could hear the ranger take. There was a loud clack and whirl of the minigun reloading. Huddling up she clenched her eyes shut demanding of herself that she not make a single sound, but that went out the window as the large ranger pivoted on his front legs and delivered a powerful applebuck to the table she was hiding under. The armor servicing station uprooted and was tossed away like if it was a toy.

She did the only thing she could, the one thing she had been trying not to do since the gunfire had began. She screamed.

The motor purred as the minigun began to spin. She refused to look, she could feel the heat coming off of it. Not even logical Lexi wanted to tell her just how far away that meant it was. She just sat there smelling the cordite and listening to the whirring and clicking. The ranger did not say anything. He just stood there as if waiting to see if she had any plans or last efforts. Clearly, she didn’t.

A torrent of gunfire sounded and she was unable to even flinch. But when the sound of a wet meaty splatter accompanied by a heavy metal thud of the ranger hitting the ground filled her ears, she finally opened her eyes.

“Oh hell yes… Whoever made armor piercing bullets I could kiss you….”

Croce was pinned under the metal remains of the cage, but he had one arm free despite the excessively limited range of motion he had he got his chance and just emptied his pistol into the back of the ranger’s head.

Lexicon was still in shock just staring in fear. Croce did his best to try and clear his throat to spit a bloody loogie and then speak as loudly as he could. “You little fuckers wanna avoid becoming like your metal buddy here I highly suggest you leave!...”

The others did not stick around at all. All the unarmored scribes quickly dashed off as fast as they could. Clearly if they knew he was pinned and out of ammo they would not have even considered leaving. But off they went, it was another thirty seconds or so before Croce called out to her.

“Hey… mud pony… a little help?” She looked back over at him. She could barely even move, but still she barely managed to get to her badly shaking hooves. Even more embarrassingly she made the discovery that she had wet herself in the fight. Quickly as she could move, which was not very fast she came closer hardly able to pry her eyes off the dead. The ranger’s head was a bloody pulp inside the spaghetti strainer of a helmet he wore. “A little faster please… There is a whole lot more of them.. I have no idea when they are coming back.”

She took another step and felt something wet on her hooves. She cringed and tried not to fall over again when she noticed by the rags on the bloody mess that she had just stepped in was what remained of Scribbles even more torn up in the firefight. “W...why?...”

“Because when they first captured me I had to make up some BS about being able to break into a nearby Stable. A lot of us know it's around here somewhere, but no one has the codes to get through the door. I convinced them I had the code so they sent most of their paladins off to the vault and only sunshine here and his scribes stayed behind.” Despite being trapped and bleeding under the rubble and debris he seemed rather cheerful.

“N...no.. w..why… why did they have to die…” Slowly she felt something stronger getting a hold of her. The same feeling that she had when she saw him cut off the ‘slaver’s’ head and break Scribble’s neck. It was more outrage than despair and fear. “Wh..why did you have to kill them? Couldn’t you have just knocked them out or something?”

“Mud pony...I would LOVE to have this talk with you right now… but sadly we can’t. We have much better things to do, we have to get going quickly. Now help me out of this hole and we can part ways… I’ll never bother you again… probably…” He chuckled but she shook her head, pain still clear in her eyes. “Look! I’m sorry. I don’t know what rock you’ve been living under but this is the wasteland! You either learn how to kill and run or you die. There is a billion and one things out here that will kill you, whether it’s because you might have loot, might be dangerous or because it gets some raider’s rocks off. They will kill you and not give a damn. You have to learn when to kill and when to run. That is just the wasteland.

She leaned in looking at him. Her eyes still watering from the emotional overload. She stepped to one side and pointed with a hoof at what used to be the Scribe Scribbles. “You… you killed her for a key. A key she didn’t even have. She just wanted to ask me questions… Questions that would have given me answers… she was even younger than me!... and you just killed her outright! She didn’t even have a chance…”

“Perhaps… but that is just the wasteland…” He shrugged with the one shoulder that was not pinned

“The wasteland?... she died just because it was convenient? just because you thought it might benefit you? Just like how you are currently inconvenienced?…” She gestured to all the debris pinning the young griffon.

Croce’s face clearly displayed that he did not like where this was going. “They put me in a cage!... they put YOU in a cage! They took our crap and caged us. They might as well be raiders. And they were going to kill us both the moment they confirmed whether or not we had anything valuable. Just let me out from under this crap! I’ll even take you to Pasternville, first class bodyguard, I’ll get you there in one piece, and you can do whatever you want once you are there ok?” He looked at her, into her eyes but saw only the shock she was neck deep in. She looked practically hollow.

“But… then that would not be the wasteland…” Her response was slow and sluggish. Her eyes teared up more and she slowed only to look away and slowly begin turn to walk away.

“Hey! No you don’t! You won’t last a day in the wasteland, hell it’s a downright miracle you lasted this long. Get me out and I’ll protect you for a month!” His voice became more desperate as she continued to walk. “Don’t leave me here damn it!” She continued, sniffing and moving forward. Logical Lexi was very faint in her heart but demanded she turn back. Other Lexis was well told her to go back, the only thing that kept her walking away was the realization that Equestria was gone. Whatever this horrible nightmare was, it most certainly was not Equestria.

“A year then! Damn it! Don’t leave me!... you bitch! If you do this I am dead, you are killing me! This is why your stupid country died! You ponies could not get your own heads out of your asses! Screwing off until you die! Stubborn assed pieces of s..” He erupted into coughing and blood sprayed out in a fine mist from his breath.

He didn’t see her stop. He didn’t see her fall to her knees and start to cry. Something along the lines of philosophical Lexi nudged her, yelling into her ear. ‘He’s right. This is not the Equestria we lived in, it’s not the Equestria we loved. This...' what she was doing, if she kept walking she could not truly call herself Equestrian. She had no right to be pained by the loss of the world she lost if she would just turn around and embrace this wasteland in some vain attempt to get back at it. This horrible wasteland was not something she could punish, and just leaving somepony to die was not how a pony acted. Her mother always told her the stories of six brave mares who acted with honesty, generosity, kindness, and more, those stories and that culture was what made Equestria. She stopped and wiped her eyes.

Croce had only just finished coughing and resigned his futile struggling. He slumped forward, even though his arm was free he had very limited range with it, he even needed to really stress the limits its mobility to aim low enough to hit the ranger in the back of the head. And this was why he opened his eyes in confusion when his talons hit the ground in front of him. Lexicon had pulled the rock away and rolled it over to use as a fulcrum to a large tree branch which she struggled to get into position. It took a bit but she got it into position.

Croce stared over at her many emotions clearly running through him. Surprise and anger were pretty high up on the list. “Well I’m quite happy you changed your mind…” His voice still showed he was a little more than just angry at her.

She sniffed and rubbed an eye before wiping her nose. “W...well a year with a tough griffon mercenary as my servant… that sounds like it’s worth some time…” She did her best to laugh even though it was still going to be a little while before she was at 100% again.

With a quick heave the smaller earth pony hopped up on the makeshift lever and the wreckage lifted a fair amount. The griffon let out a yelp and crawled out as fast as he could manage. As quick as he could, the moment he was out he pulled two bright purple bottles from his bags and drank them down. She hadn't noticed or even thought about it at first but having a large cage fall on you would likely hurt a you in more than just the way of pain. She watched as Croce’s left paw turned and contorted back into what looked like a proper shape for a griffon’s paw.

“That looks pretty bad… you sure just a couple of potions will do it?” She gave a concerned look and he laughed.

“Oh I am fine, I’ve had worse and I’ll have worse. It’s just part of the job.” He stretched and his joints popped loudly. “I am pretty durable and as you should know, a griffon is always up to the job… speaking of which. I won’t lie and say I’m not pissed off at you, I could claim that you forced me into a contract against my will... but I did say a year, so until that time passes, I guess I’m your fucking bodyguard you stupid mud pony…” He snorted, something between annoyance and relief over his features. "Hell, maybe you will die before that and I'll be free. You mud ponies always seem eager to get yourselves killed."

She wanted to tell him to stop calling her that, but with the knowledge of her nearly leaving him to die literally seconds back in her mind she decided against it. And from the look of his face she felt he might not accept if she apologized at the moment either. She would have to wait until such a time where he thought she was not just saying to get him off her back.

Still rather put off from her own actions and thoughts she needed to say something, though Croce appeared to take the lead. “We have to get out of here fast. That stable is not very far away… I am honestly surprised that they have not figured out I was lying and came back yet… “

“But I have to get into my saferoom. There is stuff in there I need.” She looked at him, then seeing his 'are you serious?' stare she stamped her hooves like an upset filly. “

“Well you gave them the code to get in, and more than just that one of them heard it. They will come here, they will kill us both and they will take your shit. Or…. we both leave now, and they only take your shit… ok?” He stared down at her but just as her mind was teetering on trying to reason with him and submitting, the young griffon’s eyes shot wide and he let out a groan. “Orrrr we can wait around too long…”

There was a soft ‘schffffffff’ and instantly Croce tackled Lexicon and just as fast dashed away from the camp. She would have asked about the sound but his actions rather spelled it out for her and she nearly expected the heavy booming explosion that enveloped the ground right where they just were. But with how fast they were blasting through the ruins she felt confident that they would get away, even if she was strangely a little more upset at not getting to her library.

“Fuck!” Croce stopped hard letting Lexicon plow into his rear hard enough for her to pitch forward and roll over him, however he took the opportunity to roll with her, then with a firm kick of his paws and a rapid flapping of his wings Lexicon watched in horror as she was propelled into the air right in front of a Ranger whose dual miniguns were already spinning and beginning to fire. Thankfully the weapons were aimed solidly at where they were going to be before Croce pulled his maneuver and not yet adjusted for the griffon’s quick thinking.

Before she even touched the ground, Croce’s pistol pinged off of the ranger’s thick front facing armor and dug tiny holes in the ranger’s joints. It did relatively little until a hole popped through the visor. The Ranger’s guns went wild but quickly died as they fell to the ground. There was an annoyed grumble from Croce as he patted himself down and cursed silently, finally he slammed another magazine into the handle of his pistol and racked the slide. Almost instantly he was upon her and pulling her along again, but he stopped to look at the ranger again and smiled.

“Sweet!!! We are going to make it! Look at his back!” He gestured with his pistol at some severe damage to the Ranger’s rump. It was mostly repaired but it was clearly combat damage. “They didn’t get back till now because they were fighting something. Now whether that means they still are or not is undetermined, but it does mean that it makes sense that only one struck at us and only one is here. They must have taken casualties. Their numbers are reduced! We can probably even take our time leaving” He chuckled happily and Lexi still breathed heavily, frightened half to death of the fighting and death. Not to mention that she was still completely overwhelmed by literally everything.

“Can we go to my library?” She asked, still shaking. She wanted to have something familiar around her badly. Even if she knew it was a lie, she wanted to sit in her chair, hug her books to her breast and pretend Equestria was still out here and this was all a bad dream.

Her focus and the very beginning of Croce’s repeated ‘no’ was interrupted by a torrent of gunfire just a ways away. Croce looked to be ready to haul her off again but nothing around them appeared affected by the weapons discharge. He paused and listened carefully. “Only one ammo type…” There was a mare’s scream of pain that was cut short and Croce gave a wary smile. “Melee fighter, and it sounds like they are tearing the rangers up with eas…”

Half a Steel Ranger landed like so much tin covered wet meat just a yard from them.

Croce turned a bit pale. “Let’s get the hell out of here right now. That’s not a pony fighting them… It’s gotta be a pack of hellhounds or something bigger.” He grabbed onto her again and quickly took off, dragging her along as fast as he could go. However, a shadow passed overhead and as if by instinct he threw Lexicon into a nearby shed and instantly joined her. Popping out his clip and feeding another with orange banded bullets. His eyes looked panicked but he seemed to hold himself together pretty well.

Lexicon eyed him over, still in shock of course but this was the first time she really got a good look at him. He was quite young, he easily had some growing to do, and on top of that he seemed extremely focused. Scared out of his head but very focused. This put her off even more, despite his lack of losing it and freaking out she still did not like to see this young griffon so scared. He didn’t even look like this when she was leaving him to die, he just seemed angry and a little desperate then.

She watched as he stood on his paws, his eyes straight as ever, glaring down the barrel of his heavy pistol gripped in both of his talons. It was leveled so perfectly at the door to the shack. The years had not been kind for the small rusty shack They stood inside silent as a tomb save for both their heaving chests and Lexicon’s shaking legs. There was barely any light at all filtering through the pocked rusty holes of the sheet metal shack.

“C..Croce?...” She squeaked hoping that he could say something to calm her fright.

“Shhhhhhhh!” He nearly hissed as his aim faltered. As if second guessing himself.

She didn’t want to be quiet. She wanted to scream and cry. Cry until she woke up from this terrible nightmare. Her mind reached for anything it could to calm herself down. She settled on being thankful for the young Griffon for pulling her along. He could have been long gone by now if he had just flew off and left her to die.

She chewed her bottom lip in fright hoping and praying that he would say something, anything. But he stayed still as death, aiming at the door. It was only now that he seemed to have one paw hold all his weight as the other paw was barely touching the ground as if waiting for something. That something came a lot faster than it appeared he was ready for.

A hole exploded through the rusty sheet metal directly to his right and a massive set of claws wrapped over Croce’s chest and one of his arms. In one swift motion whatever it was, tore him clean through the wall and squeezed him like a toy. There was a loud wet crack of his arm snapping followed by what almost sounded like firecrackers which she could imagine was his ribs. His scream only lasted for a second before the beast threw him into a tree and reached back into the shack. The massive claws tightened around her head and tore her out as well. Though it was now that she could see clearly through her glasses, still miraculously resting on her nose. They were not claws holding her, it was a set of talons. She looked up at a gargantuan creature, a griffon with piercing brown predator like eyes. Easily 8 times the size of Croce, its dark brown feathers barely hid its excessively bulky muscles. Muscles that controlled the talons now wrapped over her head. She watched in terror as the tendons under the thick scaly talons came taut and the pressure over her head began to grow.

Lexicon the librarian did the only thing she could, through instinct of being basic prey and little else in a fight. She screamed.

Footnote: level 2 achieved

Perk added: Smarticles, You may not know how to hack terminals, pick locks, or upgrade guns. But you can certainly understand how such things would be approached. +5 to all intelligence related skills

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber ; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes
Chapter editor - Currently N/A
Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.
Nick Valentine: Artist

Chapter 3: Mistakes

View Online


The massive talons tightened over her head, the pressure building and the talons digging in. She knew what would come first, the second talon on his grip was pressed against the base of her skull, it would sever her spine and cut out all feeling. The rest of the death would be felt only above the neck.

Tears streaked down her cheeks as she clenched shut her eyes and her mind went into a fury of what ifs and thoughts of the afterlife. Was it darkness that awaited her? She never did anything bad, would there really be a paradise? She never got to fall in love or have a family of her own, she never even got to find a Stallion friend. She imagined Wax Seal smiling at her in front of an altar, or maybe somepony else at work. Borealis Bolt was very cute, sure he had a reputation for fooling around a bit too much, but she always thought he would look good in a tuxedo or something.

Her mind continued until she realized the pain was no longer present. Still crying and blubbering she waited for a sweet release from the nightmare of this dirty painful world. She looked in desperation for a bright light but found only darkness. Cold fear shot through her and she only cried more.

“This one is not with the Rangers…” The voice was deep, but surprisingly soft. She opened her eyes and through her tears she could see those same eyes, only they looked soft and filled with regret.

“I don’t care… kill it and let’s move on.” The other voice came from a little further away, it was cold but oddly relaxed and more than anything it sounded annoyed.

“She’s unarmed and unarmored. She is not with them…" He hefted her up a little looking at her closer. "I don’t think she’s ever been a threat to anyone…”

“Is this the face of a Griffon who cares?” The massive griffon looked behind himself for a moment before turning back peering into Lexi’s eyes and to her surprise he set her down. She couldn't even stand. All she managed to do is hiccup and whimper as she lay there, her heart thundering and testing the full limits of any healthy pony's body.

“I am not killing her.” He turned his back on her and faced towards the other voice.

“Fine fine fine… I’ll kill it…” She could see from beneath the massive griffon, one normal sized gray griffon. The only real features of his body was that he had an eyepatch and what looked to be two large grenade launchers holstered at his sides secured to his body with straps that also held a variation of knives and boxes that looked like something akin to saddlebags on his hind quarters.

“No, I am not letting you kill her. She didn’t do anything wrong, and she is obviously not in any condition to do anything wrong either…” He stared down at the other griffon. While still being twice the size of the young Croce this gray griffon was still easily a third the size of the massive dark brown beast of a griffon.

“Holy shit Oso… this is why our missions take so damned long. You keep finding some ‘poor defenseless’ thing and try to pamper it and bring it home…” He jutted a talon out aggressively at the massive griffon.

Lexicon was still plenty terrified and stiff with fear but she was put a little at ease seeing noticing that neither of them drew weapons or closed in on each other. Neither of them seemed ready to fight over it, they just seemed annoyed and willing to argue over it.

Suddenly a third voice joined. It was odd and indescribable. Lexicon could only note that it sounded male and possibly old. “Oh dear… well it seems you cleaned everything up pretty fast… oh? A survivor? Tyrin I’m proud of you…”

“Shut the fuck up…” The one eyed griffon growled. Lexi felt safe labeling the angry gray one as ‘Tyrin’.

Finally she could see at least part of the latest voice. But it was like she could not focus on him. Her shaking hoof adjusted her glasses on her nose but still she could not get a clear look at his face. She could only see green and a sandy brown. But clearly it was a griffon. And she felt she was right on her guess, he did sound older. “Oh… I see, Tyrin… let us continue. Don’t worry about Oso, let him do as he wishes. Honestly you did not even need to kill the Rangers. Just retrieve the package and let us move on.”

“No!... if he wants to spare every little thing that gives him puppy eyes then he can finish up here. Oso, you get this site cleared and gathered, then because you are such a pain in the tail… you go to the Susi and debate the terms of the contract... again. But do NOT sign anything unless our terms are met! I’m not giving those fur balls a damned thing they have not earned.” He glared at the massive griffon and spat before taking to the sky giving one last glare at Lexicon. “When that thing finally dies or whatever, get your crap done and meet us at the castle…”

The green griffon turned towards them but still she could not see his face. He just let out a soft chuckle and tossed a bag to the large griffon that Lexi labeled as ‘Oso’. Then at a brisk pace he started off on all fours. It was a little confusing why he did not fly but he did not seem so bothered, he just continued on without a care in the world.

Finally the griffon Oso turned about and stared down at her. “I… I am sorry. We thought that only Rangers were here, we aimed to clean them out entirely. They are already hostile to us.” He offered his massive talons down to her and she struggled to get up even with his help as he was trying to be as gentle as possible. But quickly one thing rushed to her mind and she hobbled after it desperately on unsteady hooves.

“Croce!..” She ran to the tree where he had been thrown against. Even reaching him, she did not quite know what to do. He was hardly breathing and his mangled arm hung limply to one side. She rummaged through his pouches and found one healing potion like the one before, but a large form shadowed over her. Stepping in, Oso calmly opened Croce’s beak and popped a few berries inside crushing them against the roof of his beak, he then took the potion from her and poured it into a sturdy looking syringe, he pressed the air out of it and gave it a firm tap before jabbing it into the smaller griffon’s neck and firmly pressing the plunger. He then with a fair amount of finesse, pulled his broken arm until the bones aligned, allowing the limb to set fairly cleanly. “

“Quickly pony… breath into his lungs.. They are likely collapsed, and as you can see… he is not breathing much at all.” He gestured to her then to his own beak “I have no lips…”

She flustered a little but put it behind her. Quickly she mouthed his beak and exhaled into the young griffon. It did not take long at all before he woke coughing and wheezing. He quickly swallowed and shivered. His eyes blinked rapidly and he took in the sight of the massive griffon, flopping about like a fish out of water he struggled to find his pistol.

Despite his unusual size Oso was clearly not some lumbering oaf, watching the revived Croce flounder about for his weapon Oso pressed the ‘lost’ pistol into his own bags, he would return it to Croce when he was sure the little griffon would not be openly hostile.

“Wh...what… where am I?.. What hit us?... it...its it was a … a hellhound right?... did I kill it?” He continued to cough and struggle to find his pistol.

“Calm down little one, there is no hellhound. That was me… and I am sorry. I thought you were with the rangers…” He offered his massive talons to Croce as to help him up.

Croce however, swatted away the offer angrily. “We are not with any fucking Rangers… they don’t take griffons and the mud pony is too stupid for the rangers to recruit.”

It was about this time that Lexicon stopped cradling his head and let him hit the ground. “He said he was sorry, and moreover he spared us when he noticed we were not his enemy, even when his friends told him he shouldn’t…”

“Then he’s stupid and an asshole!” Croce growled up at her now rubbing his head. "And you! He spared YOU" He grumbled painfully.

“Like I said, I am indeed sorry, the Rangers attacked on sight and we have had conflict with them in the past, so we just started taking them out." He stood back a little awkwardly. "But so long as you are ok… I really have to get going. My friends were not lying. I have to finish up here and then move on to keep my schedule. We have a lot to do. You can follow if you like, but I would suggest you move along soon. I go to some pretty dangerous places” He stood up and his wings stretched a bit, unintentionally showing off what looked to be some sort of melee weapons under them. They were long and appeared to have a bulbous head with a simple single edged curved blade coming off at a 90 degree angle. It was something like a club mixed with a sickle.

Whether it was curiosity or just her need to try and repay his mercy, Lexicon did her best to smile as she asked. “What is your job here?”

Croce rolled to his paws but cringed and lay back down waiting for the potion to finish its work, he was unaware of the berries but Lexicon wondered if they were some alternative healing method.

While Croce mumbled angrily under his breath at the pain of his mending limb Oso put on a smile and sat down. “You see, a few weeks ago, we heard of a pre war ghoul who lived in this area when the bombs fell. We were poking around for a few items and books, books containing details we need to know. This location was some sort of research facility, at least that is what our intel says. We set up a meeting with the ghoul and we were saddened to see that it appeared he did not want to sell the information exclusively to us. But here in the wasteland, some ponies are all too happy to agree to a deal then just kill you instead of paying you. We arrived on scene to find him dead. So we had to try and figure out where it was he was mentioning and to keep his killers from our prize and simply to take what we had payed for, thankfully he had the information stored nearby. I mean we did pay for it, but alas… the Steel Rangers were the ones who killed him and thus we had to contend with them. Thankfully most of them were at some old stable. Separated, spread out and looking for a way in. So taking them on was relatively easy. What remained from our initial attack came here and we moved in to finish them off. Now we are here.”

Lexicon nodded taking it all in then asked. “What’s a ghoul? I mean.. I know what a Ghoul is but… I somehow feel it’s unlikely that an evil spirit was going to sell you information..”

Oso arched a brow at the pony but then chuckled. “Undead pony… other creatures can be ghouls too but.. Basically when someone soaks up too much magical radiation they die and become a ghoul. Most, other than looking like a piece of jerky are pretty normal, but some of them become feral and just eat whatever or whoever they can get their mouths on. Around here, you're more likely to run into feral pony ghouls… But heck, you will know a ghoul when you see one… but I assume there is a reason you do not know this?”

She nodded quickly finally happy to explain. “I was actually here… when the bombs fell. I got ushered into a stable and frozen. I woke up and found the stable in ruin. Everypony was dead in there. Well… there was one survivor.. But…” She shivered remembering the tongue shoot out and drag Wax Seal into the shadows. He was swallowed and gone before his life even ended. “There are monsters in there… so many monsters..”

She shivered an Oso nudged her with a wing. “Don’t worry. It’s all ok. You and your friend will be fine. I mean it is astounding that you are alive and actually, I am indeed finding a little hard to believe that you are an actual survivor of the end of the world… but don’t worry it does not change many things at all. So long as I am here you and your little friend will not come to harm. Now I have work to do, and technically you have been here on site longer than me… I don’t suppose you can tell me where I can find room 278? It should be in building 15..”

Lexicon blinked and stared at him blankly, prompting Oso to speak again. “It’s ok if you don’t know…I can find it on my own. I just need to get through a locked door and search it for a book or two..”

“...W..What do you mean by you don’t believe me?” Logical Lexi’s gears were turning, grinding and getting ready to break really. She would deal with the coincidence of her safehouse in a short while. But at the moment, she was burning to find out just how accurate the estimation was.

The big griffon’s feathers fluffed up and he gave a light shrug, more at her behavior than her words. “Well… It’s been just over 170 years. I can say it’s impossible for you to be telling the truth… but it just seems unlikely and your flesh seems to be rather pristine to be a ghoul…”

“... O..One… one hundred and seventy years?!?!” Lexicon’s eyes widened in shock. “Well no wonder everything is so run down!!” A small part of her nearly broke in panic. There really wasn’t an equestria out there somewhere anymore, not to mention that if this level of radiation still existed then the nuclear assault must have been unrealistically extreme. Even with the defenses in equestria there must have been enough balefire bombs to destroy every last square inch of Equestria. And hundreds if not thousands or tens of thousands of them made it through. “Please tell me that you are joking… that is a very long time and now nopony EVER that I know is still alive…”

“Well.. did you know a stallion named Rusty?” Oso leveled an eye at her.

“Rusty Hammers? I think he was the Manager of the apartments… kinda a creep… but he never bothered me…” She thought back at the older stallion, remembering the dark brown earth pony, he was always watching ponies as they went about their lives. Either he was a stalker or one of the MoM's spies, she didn't know which was worse.

Oso watched her reaction slowly but continued. “He’s the one who sold us the details of this location and the possible materials here.”

Croce laughed still clenching his beak in pain as he finally pushed himself to his paws. “So some stupid greedy pre war ghoul tells you where to find a treasure and the owner of the treasures coincidentally wakes up at the same time and comes looking to reclaim them?”

Oso’s feathers fluffed again. “Reclaim?... you own apartment number 278? Wow… that is a coincidence.” He did not seem very put off by it but he did not look like a griffon that would be scared or disturbed by much at all, despite his apparent eagerness to talk and help, he seemed oddly calm, almost empty. “Well this makes our job much easier.

Croce hacked and spat what Lexicon hoped was the last bit of blood he had misplaced through the brutal attack. “Honestly I am eager to see if she really is telling the truth. It seems pretty far fetched but this will give me some answers… and you your crap or whatever.”

Lexi was just happy that they finally decided to focus on getting to her library. Today was easily the worst in her life. She made a quick note that ‘today’ counted as her own personal perception of the last waking 24 hours which included the end of the world and her introduction to the wasteland. “Well.. come on… let’s go, I have a lot down there. And I think there is a few things you would like down there too. Assuming that the other safe rooms have not been broken into.”

Oso nodded happily following her, Croce followed as well with a fast paced limping stride. He tilted his head wondering what she was talking about. The way she had said it made him hopeful, especially since the mare was unlikely to be able to successfully lie to save her life.

“It’s just in here.” She opened the door with some relief. Nopony was inside and she could see that the safe room was tampered with but it clearly had not been opened in a very long time. She happy walked in despite Oso saying something that was muffled by the walls. And instantly her blood ran cold. She was scared spitless at first, seeing a corpse just propped up like that. But then the rotting pony turned and looked her dead in the eyes. Her legs went limp and her blood cold. Her lips parted and she was not sure what happened next just that Croce was standing over her rubbing his ears.

“Holy balls you crazy pony. I have never heard such a high pitch pathetic scream. If there were still windows I am certain they would have shattered.” He offered his taloned grip to her which she hesitantly took.

He easily got her to her hooves and she let out a pitiful whimper. “W...where is.. Where is the zombie?” She hated to admit it but due to just a few too many books and the occasional movies she had discovered her immense fear of the undead. She could still see her mother gaze down at her telling her that zombies were not real. She sniffled and shivered. “Of course, the world ends, the Steel Rangers turn evil, the world is full of slavers, why not have undead monsters?”

“Ghouls…” Croce stared at her trying to hold in a fair amount of some rather condescending laughter. “That was a ghoul. And I mean, I don’t care at all but they usually take offence at reactions like that, mind you that you basically deafened him before you wet yourself and passed out.”

“I.. is it still here?” She looked around frightened and Croce laughed loudly again.

“He’s outside with the turkey about a thousand feet up. In the wasteland if you have wings it's usually a good idea to take conversations with unknowns up high, so if things turn south all you have to do is let go. I was actually tempted to do that with you when I first saw you, but then your obliviousness made it obvious that you could not possibly be a threat to anything.” Croce pulled out his pistol once more, he seemed pleased to have it back, and it was only afterward that Lexi recalled that it was gone when Croce woke up and recovered. The obvious conclusion was that the big Griffon returned it while she was not paying attention, or when she was unconscious.

The mare still shook and shivered and even let out a soft audible ‘eep’ when Oso came in, ducking under the door frame. He looked her over and shook his head with a deep laugh. “He was just hiding in here, he lives here, the poor guy just needed to hide until the Rangers left, he came in from the upper floors through the chimney.” The huge griffon gave her a sturdy pat on the back. “Hes gone now, he's going to wait until we leave.”

He gestured to Lexicon and the door, she calmly came over to the door and put in the code and the door fizzled before weakly smoldering. “Oh! The power probably is out.. I mean it's been awhile without any real maintenance, and the repair talisman is dead.”

She stared at the lock housing before Oso stepped in and with an iron like grip simply tore the casing off and after a short amount of rummaging through his bags he produced a spark battery and rammed it into the door. Instantly it opened just a hair and he yanked the battery out before prying the door open the rest of the way and looking down in the extremely well preserved room.

“Ah! Perfect! Nothing has been touched!” She let out a happy Squee as she rummaged about taking everything she could not go without. Two changes of clothes, a fair amount of books and a few trinkets. Oso however, began shoveling books into his bags while clearly looking for something very specific. “First edition history of the Crystal Empire, first edition starswirl the bearded’s world’s artifacts and ponies, second edition Supernat..”

Oso’s talons gripped a book and pulled it out of her bags. Before she had a chance to even say a word he quickly began to sift through the pages. “This is it, this is what the rangers and we were here for. Aye, pack up all the books you can, we will keep what we can and sell the rest. In the right hooves you can make a boatload off of any book. Especially books this well preserved.”

Lexi seemed a tad worried, she had checked out Starswirl’s guide from the untouched library. Mostly just books untouched by the Ministry of Image which was really the foundation of project bubonem. She thought about asking for it back but she rolled the thought around a bit and decided against it considering that he was only here for it, it was his own kindness that made him not kill her, but he did seem to be the kind that was still under orders, she did not want to see if he was more loyal to the goals of his group or her, a mare he literally met less than an hour ago.

“So mud pony… where is this thing you said I would want?” She looked over at him as he picked through the books only taking a few things and chuckling at how neat and tidy the room had been set.

“Oh! Next door.” Lexi was so lost in the feeling of suddenly being back home that she had almost forgot for a second that the world had ended. “I’ll show you, um Oso? Can you lock the door when we exit?”

The massive griffon nodded once and gave another sweep of the room before coming out and helping her lock the door once more. He slid the metal cover over the locking mechanism and bent the steel into place ensuring that nothing but his talons or explosives would remove it again, and anyone who knew enough to blow that part off would know that if they did so they would never get into the room.

The next stop really was next door, though a heavily rotted out floor made certain that making their way across the room to the saferoom door was not easy for Lexi. However, much to her dislike, Oso just picked her up and flew across the ruined floor, his wings crashed about brushing and knocking either side of the room with his enormous wingspan. Reaching the door she could see that it had an immense amount of scratches over its surface and a few blackened marks. But, soon Lexicon was able to happily punch in a code and was overjoyed to see this door open without any trouble.

“Ok guys, this place belonged to a total dunce. All he did was drink Sparkle Cola and rant about the end of the world and conspiracies. Well, the end of the world did come but he was wrong about everything else. I hope.” She smiled pushing into the room followed closely by the two griffons. Every wall had a dozen and a half shelves and boxes full of sparkle cola, but what really caught Corce’s eye was a result of the prior resident not knowing just how valuable bottlecaps would become. There was a hefty mound of bottle caps in the corner and dozens upon dozens of untouched Sparkle Colas on the shelves.

Croce instantly went for the pile and began his thing, she didn’t mind, she was here for two reasons. And she found both reasons just inside. A small 10mm side arm and a supply of emergency military rations. MREs she remembered them being called. She didn’t want to take the pistol but she felt that she would have to be armed at some point. She did her best to stock up on everything she could then logic, not so much survival, but logic told her to eat and drink to her heart’s content. The extra calories were a good thing considering she had no idea when next she would eat despite what little dandy lady Lexi said.

Oso and Croce both happily done with their looting, the exited this room just the same as the last. With everything they could carry she looked to the south and sighed happily before Croce pulled her to the side. “Hey, um, I don’t suppose we can go with this guy until we have a clean getaway. I mean, so long as he's not killing us ten feet from him is like the safest place you can get. But I want you to remember, if he decides to attack or anything for any reason, I do NOT want to fight him, which I will have to if you piss him off. So… yeah. Don’t piss him off please.”

She shook her head. “No worries, pissing off anypony is not on my to do list. Right now, I just need to know where to go and how we should get there.”

“No need to worry little ones, I won't kill you unless you give me a valid reason to…” He pulled a magazine to Croce’s pistol from his bag and offered it to the much smaller griffon. “Quick tip, don’t just assume someone cannot hear you. I was not and to some level am still not convinced you fear me enough to not try something.”

Croce quickly checked his gun to notice that the magazine he had in his pistol was empty and with a grumpy growl he swiped the magazine and swapped it out.

Oso did not seem affected. “You can’t blame me, and honestly I am surprised you didn’t notice, I mean I don’t even enjoy guns, but I can tell a loaded weapon from an unloaded one easily.”

“Shut up you overgrown turkey!” His body language truly did betray his fear of the massive griffon.

Oso just chuckled and turned about ducking out of the doorway and into the open cloudy sky. “Well, my group has certain interests, and as of now, I have go to the far north. You are welcome to come, I could use the company and honestly if you can stomach it, it’s a valuable experience. You might not even need your little bird here after we are done. And I am certain that if we succeed then my friends will offer you a place to live, safe and sound for the rest of your life.” The massive griffon gave a happy smile and a calm gesture with his talons, had he not been so clearly intimidated on ten different levels Lexicon would have called the gesture pleasantly inviting.

Croce’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not little, and about your… friends. You’re not with the Talons, I certainly would have heard of you and you don’t have any marks.” He looked to Lexicon and nudged her softly. “ They were all griffons right?”

She nodded quickly. “Yes, him, a one eyed male named Tyrin and I think and older brown and green male… I think, and they operate out of some sort of castle.”

Oso’s feathers fluffed up as he regarded her. “You have good ears little one. But in case you meet people like this in the future, don’t openly speak of such thing, they might take it as you knowing too much about them.”

Lexicon paled but Croce stepped in again. “So what is your group? No one I have ever heard of before, and the way you cleaned up those Rangers would imply that your group is really something to take note of.”

Oso just chuckled and shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. I doubt you would know of us anyway.” He began to walk at a brisk pace and Lexicon quickly followed him, soon after so too did the still frustrated Croce.

After only a few minutes of silence Lexicon’s curiosity prompted her to annoy the griffons with questions. Though unlike Croce, Oso seemed happy to answer the questions. For the most part the questions focused around political figures, cities and more or less just how much of the world was left. Surprisingly Oso was rather well versed in the last 170 years of Equestria history.

“There are still Zebras running around doing their thing, but honestly I haven’t seen them myself. The only thing that can be considered as a proper leftover part of the old world is the Enclave, and they are a whole new type of ugly.”

“Yes, the Pegasus right? You touched on them a little earlier.” If the state of the world was not so far down the drain already she would have been smiling at such a wealth of new knowledge.

“Yes, aside from taking the skies from us, they have a little tyrannical dictatorship up there. In the last few years especially we have seen a few of their exiles. Dashites they call them.” He gave a look to say that this affected him at some level.

“Dashite? You mean like the Ministry mare of the MoA? Or is that just a coincidence?” She looked over the next hill only to sigh at the visual ‘treat’ of more hills.

“Yes actually. Rainbow Dash was the only ministry mare known to survive the bombs, but she pissed off the group that eventually became the Enclave and… well, it’s safe to say that they showed just as much love and tolerance to her as they do to anything else that manages to get up there.”

Croce yawned loudly rolling his eyes as he bolted up to the tops of the trees. It was clear that he was just annoyed with the constant chatter, but his constant glances back down reminded her that he had sworn to protect her. Lexicon however was more than happy to continue popping off question after question.

“So, what’s north? You going to the Crystal empire? Oh wait, what happened to the empire?” A small glimmer of hope welled up within her but it flickered out when she saw the look on his face.

“Sorry, it just up and vanished after the bombs, the only thing known was that the prince and princess did not make it out, but at least one of their children did. We don’t know who or what happened to them. They had a vault or two over there, but nopony knows if they made it or if they died in the bombing. However, there is a surplus of rumors. And of the many times I’ve been up north, I have seen a lot to suggest that the area is simply far too dangerous to snoop around. Though, we are not going to that area, in fact we are taking a four or five day detour to try and avoid that area. We are after something where Yakyakistan used to be.”

Lexicon blinked and looked back up at him. “Where it used to be?”

“Yes, when the war started to hit its peak, the Yaks thought it would be a good idea to try and do some fighting on their own. Sadly, when the bombs fell, they tried to ambush a small trade caravan of Susi. You don’t attack the Susi, not even Equestria in all its desperation even thought about trying to squeeze them for supplies. Not to mention, their lands are beyond just frozen death.” He shook his head and chuckled. “Sorry, I get side tracked from time to time. There is a small group of Susi who live there now. It’s a complicated story, but they do business with me and my friends. However, they are a little at odds with us at the moment due to a disagreement.”

“I get that impression that your friend Tyrin is to blame…” She gave a worried smile and he chuckled.

“Yes, I think it would be fair to say that he is the disagreement.” Oso’s chuckled turned into a deep laugh but he shifted his attention upward as Croce descended, landing firmly before him.

“Pasternville is just ahead. We can sell off this garbage and pick up a thing or two we will need.” He looked the griffon over before continuing. “And I do hope you plan on carrying her. I don’t want to walk that distance. Walking to stupid Yak land will take forever.”

Oso laughed again. “Of course, however, there is a fair stretch you really won’t want to fly though. There is a system of caves, just few beasties to get rid of and it’s our safest route. Unless you want to traverse the glowing tundra”

Croce cringed and Lexicon tilted her head in question. “I take it that it’s glowing for a reason?”

Croce shook his head. “The intense level of magical radiation is a huge threat yes, but the biggest problem is that the tundra USED to be a place with a ton of wildlife. Lots of big predators, now they are even bigger and plenty mutated. Each one unique and exceedingly powerful. It’s not impossible to get through without dying of radiation, however, chances are that you will be eaten near instantly the moment you get to glowing snow.”

“But what is up there that needed to be bombed? If I recall correctly, just about everything up there aside from the Crystal empire is just frozen wasteland.”

“Well for the most part it’s just weather patterns that brought the vast majority of the magical radiation to that spot. Also, about fifteen balefire bombs were thrown at the empire. The fallout from all of those, most of which were diverted or destroyed before impact, still got swept up in the tundra’s weather. There is talk that something out there is preventing the storm from dissipating and releasing that massive amount of radiation and filth into the rest of the north. But honestly, we don’t know everything, and even the things we do believe cannot be fully proven, they are just incredibly likely.”

Lexicon mumbled a little in worry and quickly started up on trying to form more questions for the large griffon. But her train of thought was derailed as they crested the next hill and she took in what currently passed for a city. Pasternville she remembered was a relatively new city, but this was a ruin of a ruin put back together with tarps and rotting plywood. What little stone structures had not been reduced to rubble were so cracked and crumbling it reminded her of the story about the three little Fillies and the big bad timber wolf, she was so tempted to just walk up and blow on it to see if it would collapse. The only thing that kept her from doing so was her fear that it actually would.

“This way… We can dump off most of the useless stuff down here…” Oso hefted a heavy talon down one of the back alleys. A back alley that she would have never gone down even if there was ten royal guards within shouting distance, however, as the hulking griffon advanced the shifty looking types skittered away like roaches. She quickly noted the usefulness of having a giant griffon on her side. “Come on now… “ He waved and she nodded following closely.

Croce too followed but remained extra vigilant. She took in how vastly different they acted but she was confident that Oso was able to afford the ease and calmness he walked with, he seemed uncaring about what could possibly be around the next corner, all the while Croce checked and rechecked every corner, every dark spot, every door, and every window. Being so much smaller and younger, he had to be relying on training and excessive caution.

Lexicon’s focus crumbled when she heard a very annoyed grumble. Croce looked over and chuckled.

“What’s wrong big guy?... can’t do doors?” He chuckled louder but silenced himself and looked away when Oso stepped back and turned around letting Lexicon see the small door he could not possibly fit through.

“Um… I suppose we can just go to another shop…” She hoped her suggestion would not offend Oso or continue Croce’s giggling.

“No… This is the place that buys this sort of merchandise… here… just go in with Croce, I’ll be at the door… if anything happens… I’ll remove this wall and enter to help…” He tapped the poorly constructed wall but looked back when somepony cleared their throat.

“I’d really appreciate it if yeh didn’t do that…” A pair of annoyed eyes leveled across the alley. Lexi was a bit startled but not nearly as much as Croce who stumbled and almost fell over when he jumped at the sudden appearance. The stallion was a unicorn, soft gray and even softer blonde hair with dull blue eyes, his voice was thick with an accent Lexi couldn’t quite place. He was dressed in a very well worn open trench coat. “Wassa matter bird?... Did I scar yeh?”

Croce growled as the unicorn laughed but came to the door and fiddled with the lock before entering and abruptly closing the door behind him. Oso starred for a moment, raising his talons to knock on the door wondering if the Unicorn was going to just ignore them. But quickly there was a loud click and the entire wall slowly scooted to the side giving more than enough room for Oso the enter the shop.

“I remember yeh big bird… where’s that knobhead of a one eyed bird?” He grumbled as he nodded to Oso then to Croce. “Did yeh trade em in for this plonker?”

“Oh I only wish…” Oso chuckled and laid his bag on the table quickly sliding about all his supplies and books he aimed to turn in. Likewise Croce also did so, it took a few glances from Croce before Lexicon followed suit. She didn’t have anything in her bags that she wanted to trade.

The business ritual began, Lexi had seen it before and even now, over one and a half centuries later the unicorn looked over everything and did a pretty good job at looking unimpressed, but she could see his eyes shift and focus, his irises contract slightly whenever he saw something that looked a little more in tact than the other stuff. But all of that changed when he looked over her bags. His eyes froze, locked onto one of her books, he wasn’t even trying to hide his amazement, or perhaps he couldn’t.

“I don’t suppose yeh would be willin to part with this one? I’ll give yeh a good price for it love… a really good price.”

Instantly her hooves scooped it up. She had easily followed his eyes to the book, it was one of her favorites. Implementations of Earth pony machines and magical prowess, it was a part of a larger series, personally written by one pony who had spent a great deal of time wandering around and experimenting since long before the war. It really was a one of a kind and she had to pay five months earnings for it. It wasn’t exactly the pride of her collection but it was one of her favorites.

“N.. no… sorry.. This one’s not for sale… I can sell just some of this stuff and some of those… and…” She looked over her gear but a set of talons slapped down at about half way through the pile.

“All of this… Trust me mud pony… it’s not anything you can’t get more of. You move like a slug, and if you have to run you’ll lose all of it or your life, so either half now, or all and or your life later…” Croce gave her an annoyed stare.

Grumbling she nodded but kept her books close, at least all the first edition books. Oso smiled and gave her a soft pat on the head. “Don’t worry little one… Just sell what you can, You have a big choice ahead of you, and you will certainly want to be ready for whichever you choose.

“Seriously love… I’ll give yeh new extra large saddle bags and fill em with anything yeh want in the store… Just need that book there…”

Oso gave a firm stare at the unicorn then at Lexi, reading the look in her eyes. “It’s a good deal…” He looked over her reaction and smiled. “Sorry buddy… looks like the book isn’t for sale.”

The unicorn opened his mouth again but before so much as a peep escaped Oso rolled his head softly from over one shoulder to over the other releasing a disturbingly loud wet set of pops as he flexed his talons quite literally gouging the concrete floor. The point was made and the shopkeeper cleared his throat with a smile. “Anythin else?”

Oso looked at Lexi and smiled gesturing to the rack in the back. “Three boxes of 10mm. One armor piercing, one high explosive, and one Hollow point. Oh… and a cleaner’s kit”

The unicorn nodded and grumbled as he fetched the rest of the supplies and cashed them out. Oso glanced at the pile of caps and supplies for what was being traded before tapping twice on the counter. The Unicorn looked a little unsure but tapped once. Oso then tapped twice again, this time the tip of his talon digging firmly into the counter with an apparent ease. He gulped and nodded pushing a little more caps onto the counter with a sigh.

Oso scooped up and distributed things among the three of them giving a surprising amount to Croce and Lexicon before heading a ways away from the shop. He sighed and sat down firmly before looking them both over.

“Alright… I have given you enough in reparations for our less than pleasant introductions. Now… if I am right, you have to make a choice little pony. You can come with me… or you can try and survive with this little one here..”

He patted Croce who angrily swatted away the massive talons before spouting out. “What do you mean enough in reparations? You nearly killed me!”

“I also saved your life, escorted you to the nearest city and helped you make a good profit on your loot. If I’m being honest, my services are exceedingly expensive normally. And getting Tyrin to not kill you is actually very risky for me. So it would be fair if I took everything you owned and left you without a cap or scrap of clothing to your names… But I am nice… so I am calling it even. Now, I am being even more nice and offering you not only continued safety within my presence but the possibility of finding a good home. You can come with me, prove yourself worth the effort and we will give you a place to stay until you die of old age. Your little Griffon friend here can come as well but I have the feeling he wants to get out of here asap. It’s up to you… The road ahead is not easy… but…”

He looked at her and spoke three words which she could not help but to at a very high level both fear and believe. “...It’s worth it…”

Croce scoffed loudly. “Oh yeah… let’s get right on being your personal servants or whatever… Hey! Cannon fodder, cheap! Call today!” He laughed and looked to Lexicon.

Lexi however, simply stared, she couldn’t place it but something was calling to her. The way he said it. The wasteland called to her in the voices of the millions who died that day when she ran for her life to a Stable. There was something going on that she could not quite grasp. Her lips moved silently working the words out again. ‘It’s worth it’.

She didn’t know if it was the promise of safety afterwards or something within her seeing more in his words. She knew for certain it wasn’t a thirst for adventure.

A talon repetitively tapped her head with increasing speed. “It’s taking too long for you to give the obvious answer...”

She looked at him for a moment then looked back at Oso and surprised herself.


Footnote: No level up. Try fighting more.

You may now travel with Both Croce and Oso as your companions.

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes
Chapter editor - Currently N/A
Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.
Nick Valentine: Artist

Chapter 4: North

View Online



Oso looked back at Croce lazily as he offered his talons to help Lexicon up the next set of jagged rocks. “Well you probably shouldn’t have sworn a contract to her… she said you didn’t have to come…”

“Fuck you turkey! You know I can’t just back out of a contract!” Croce spat angrily, slipping and barely catching himself as his wings flapped to reduce his weight. Fortunately the winds were not as harsh in this location so he was not torn from the cliffs and thrown into the air as Oso had previously warned may happen if any griffon or pony spread their wings on such a climb.

Lexi struggled to keep up, it was only two hours and already she was exhausted and chilled to the bone. The barbed horse shoes she got certainly helped her on the icy climb, but they were made of iron and combined with the full body suit which Oso did his best to convince her was not leather and fur, both combined were more than enough to drastically increase her weight. Lexicon was not exactly a star athlete to begin with.

The North in general was never a warm place, and as Lexi had come to learn, it was fall and temperatures were plummeting. Heading north was going to be very cold, even colder as the last of the sunlight had faded away just a few moments earlier, but they had certainly geared up for it. Annoyingly, aside from insisting on heavy clothes, Oso had been very stern that they had to eat an odd salty preserved food. She found that it was not terrible but she was very reluctant to eat it simply because of what he explained it was for. Apparently this extra tough foodstuff was designed to drastically add weight to whoever ate it. Lexi wasn’t a vain pony, but she did at the very least try a little. She always ate healthily and maintained a good and mildly flattering weight. However, when Oso explained the massive amount of calories that would be burned in the climbing and trekking, not to mention the frigid cold they would have to combat, she reluctantly agreed and began munching.

Croce, still cursing under his breath pulled himself up after Lexi and tugged his coat tighter around him. He grumbled more flapping his wings uncomfortably with the supplies Oso told him to keep under them. Bottles of water to keep from freezing with his body heat, and a small pack fastened to his chest filled with a mixture of Radaway, healing potion, Sparkle Cola, and just a touch of whiskey. They all had one of these pouches and were to sip gingerly once Lexicon’s pipbuck began clicking.

Lexi huffed and struggled with her climb looking up at the massive Griffon leading the way. “So… why aren’t we taking the old rails? The mountain is cut up specifically to give easy access.”

Oso’s massive talons dug into the cliff side and tore a small boulder free before tossing it down the cliff, for a moment he looked like he was aiming at something but he quickly gestured to the spot no longer occupied by a massive stone and helped Lexicon up and over the next ridge. “Because that is where all the critters settled. They were there before the bombs fell and now they are there, larger and not just in number… and anyway, that is where anypony sinister would be waiting… if you get my meaning.”

“You have got to be fucking kidding! Sinister? Who the hell is going to set up an ambush way out here? I can kill a few woodland critters… hell I can even kill a few bigguns, I managed to bag a hell hound once…”

Oso gave him an unsure look which caused the smaller griffon to grumble even more.

“It was already injured… and.. Well I don’t quite know if I actually killed it or it just ran off.” He pulled his pistol from its holster and stuffed it into his coat hoping he could keep it from freezing further up into the mountains.

“Well… I wouldn’t mind a few good fights or some adventure, but despite my intimidating appearance, I don’t quite enjoy hurting animals. The real point being, it is a lot easier, safer, and faster to go around rather than use the old rails. And anyway, you know that the little one here would be gobbled up instantly.” This brought out a laugh from Croce and a shiver from Lexicon.

“Yeah… I don’t want to be eaten… or to die in general.” She struggled up the next ridge and beamed with a relieved smile seeing nothing but an open plain, relatively flat terrain and without a sign of a living thing for miles. She hated leaving anything close to civilization, but if she had to go on this trek, she was going to be happy to have the smallest amount of climbing and trekking as possible.

She turned back to see in the very furthest distance, the dot that was Pasternville. The trek was long and hard for her, but she looked at it all and figured that an unladen earth pony other than herself could have made the trip in one fourth the time without much effort. She could only imagine how fast it would have been if it had just been Oso, she could imagine him simply plowing up the small mountain in just a few leaps and bounds, or tearing through the breezes with the utmost ease instead of going a few yards and hauling her up the steep climb then going again and again almost like an inchworm climbing up a tree.

“Alright, the sun is down and so is the temperature, you two will likely freeze to death up here unless we put together a shelter.” Oso prodded the snow and ice before starting further away from the cliff and continuing.

“More bullshit! It's not that cold out. And on top of that even when the sun sets we still have a LONG ways to go before it gets cold enough to kill.” He flapped his wings until his paws barely came off the ground, crossing his arms as he glared at Oso.

“That would be perfectly true if not for that…” He gingerly gestured to the northern horizon. Where Lexicon could only see white. “There’s a massive storm and if you can’t tell, the wind is blowing south almost directly. So we need a good spot where we can take shelter. And anyway… If you can’t tell, the little one is drenched in sweat. Did you ever wonder what happens when sweat snap freezes over your body?”

Croce just groaned and Lexi gave an affirmative nod looking for a place that looked at least a little nice to set up camp. She actually knew exactly what would happen, and she was not too keen on dying of hypothermia. She would have much rather be back home to bathe and try again some other time, preferably years or decades from today, or never.

“We wouldn’t have had this problem if we stayed the night in Pasternville.” Croce angrily gestured to a small shallow cave almost as if the shelter was a passing thought.

“No… That would have been very stupid. The book I got from the apartments was very highly sought after, not to mention the others in this one’s collection. No telling just how many clients Rusty Hammers sold his information to. My friends and the Rangers don’t have much to fear except each other, but there could have very well been a few others who would only strike when they were confident that eyes were closed and darkness shrouded their actions. To put it plainly, they would have to be insane to follow us.” He chuckled as he prodded the snow a with his talons.

He didn’t flinch when the monster of a bright red centipede burst from the snow snapping its jaws at him. As if it was an average Tuesday he slipped out a bladed pick from under his wing and planted it firmly in the creature’s head before giving it a twist to scramble the giant bug’s brain and drag its body out of its hole, still thrashing in its death throes he didn’t seem concerned.

“Um… is… is it...um…” Lexi inched closer but Oso gave her a firm look.

Oso's arm shot out and gave her a firm nudge back. It was only then that his beak opened and he spoke.“Even if I seem confident, don’t trot up on things like this, no telling when something will come back, even if just for a moment and tear you in half.” He tossed the giant bug over the cliff side and began pushing into the monster’s hole. It wasn’t long before he came out and ushered them both in just as a new layer of snow began to fall.

Flustering just a bit at Oso throwing orders around at her, she couldn't help be feel the hair on her back stood up straight as she shivered at the mass of bones and messy evidence of a mutated predator having taken up residence within the hole. “Is this really safe?” She looked about and shivering she sat down between a few of the larger dry bones.

“As safe as you’re going to get for tonight… now.. You two snuggle up I recommend sharing bedding to fend off the cold, but you will still survive if you don’t” He chuckled planting a lantern between them and cranking it up. The soft hiss filled the air and though its light was dim, the heat was much more important. “Get some food in your belly, warm up some tea on the lantern, use the little mares room, and get as much sleep as you can. Tomorrow we are up and out as soon as the sun rises.”

Lexicon looked down and tried not to blush at the thought of sharing bedding with anypony at all, but she looked up in both relief and insult flooded through her. Croce planted himself as far as he could away from her as he grumbled something about ‘mud ponies’. She was certain he said something about how fine an ass had to be before he took interest but she was tired, not to mention still frightened senseless.

She put a little tea on the lantern when she noticed that Oso planted himself upright in a sitting position facing the entrance that he had messily sealed off with snow. His weapons were out and handles up in the snow easily within reach. She saw the soft glint of gold lost within his talons before the powerful digits closed like iron jaws to a trap. She was no expert by any means but she had the distinct feeling that he noticed her staring and whatever it was, was something he did not want to share. So she turned back away and pulled her tea from the lantern sipping gingerly as her eyelids became heavy and her joints sore.

Unrolling her bedding she looked over it, old waterproof military issue bedroll that Oso had grabbed back in the store. It felt unnatural. She only once ever camped out anywhere. Her mother’s back yard, she thought it would be fun but even then as a filly her expansive knowledge of things that could possibly go wrong drove her back inside crying for her mother.

“Mother….” She rolled the word around in her mouth and the thought around in her mind. Her mother always had looked out for her, but she was so critical about what she couldn’t give. Lexi’s teeth clenched tight at the repeated realization that she was gone, they all were. Snuggling up in her bag she noted a spot where her rear hoof popped the seam, the bag was after all over a hundred years old, so she didn’t go into a tizzy about it, she just continued letting her mind blaze.

Croce propped up on one of the larger bones and draped his sleeping roll over himself hugging his pistol to his chest. Lexicon didn’t watch for long, she did her best to suppress the giggle mentally linking his appearance to her first pet. She could remember the kitten falling from her mother’s magical grasp into her waiting hooves.

The warm fire in the fireplace, a quiet happy little hearth's warming celebration, her mother smiling from her desk as Lexi cuddled the napping kitten to her side as she read Daring Do out loud. It was perfect, but what made it all the better was the warmth of her mother as she smiled cuddling up with them both bringing hot chocolate and scooping the book up.

She loved hearing her mother read, it was like nothing else existed. Her voice was reality, Daring Do always sounded so brave in her mother’s voice, the bad guys so evil, so cunning, Daring Do must have been so smart to outwit them. She must have been so brave to stand up and continue when the monster’s roared. They roared so loud.

Her mother’s grasp on her tightened and the roar came again. Her mother’s voice acting was so good, so believable. So…

The roar didn’t just echo but boomed and shook the icy cave. Lexicon’s eyes snapped open only to see Croce’s eyes wide and full of fright as his pistol leveled at the entrance of the cave where an ear splitting roar repeated again and again, answered only by a booming powerful screech.

Words failed her as Croce, her own mercenary stood shaking and trembling, eyes locked forward. She started to get up but he quickly pushed her back down. Not being used to anything remotely close to battle this just made her panic more. She wanted to be back in her dream, she wanted her kitten, she wanted her mother, she wanted anything but this.

The next roar cut out half way with a loud boom. Nothing but the sound of the wind howling filled the air, even the hissing of the lantern was deafening. Croce tensed as thudding steps sounded off and Croce almost fired off a shot when Oso stepped back in. His left wing hung limply to his side, dragging on the ground. It wasn’t until he rammed the snow back to cover the entrance that Lexi noticed her pipbuck clicking.

Croce stepped back but didn’t put away his pistol. His voice was shaky and unsure. “The fuck was that?”

Oso opened one of his pouches and popped a small pink berry into his mouth before washing it down with a healing potion. He reached back and wrenched his wing into place and pulled a rope around it before sighing. “I think it’s called a Maulwurf. Damned durable, but easy to evade… I had to kill it before it dug up the cave.”

“How the shit did you do that?” Croce starred with eyes that betrayed a sense of suspicion.

“Balefire egg. Which sucks because I only had two… these suckers are impossible to find.” He grumbled as a steady crackling sound came from his wing. “I had to chuck it into his mouth… had to get really close… I hate doing that with something so big.” He flexed his talons but looked over at Lexi as if he was only just now realizing how much terror the roaring had caused.

Croce still didn’t put his gun away and Lexi herself poured over the knowledge within, she knew that Maulwarfs were extremely durable and exceedingly dangerous, even before the bombs dropped. Everypony and especially every griffon kept leading her to believe that everything in Equestria went from worse to much worse, she could only imagine the badlands being filled with mountain sized mutated dragons that could melt half of Equestria with the slightest sigh.

“This… this is … it's just too much…” Lexi shivered and swallowed staring up at the massive griffon. He had a calm smile but it was not enough to bring back her mother and Hearths warming night. She could see Croce was still on edge, as if he couldn’t tell if Oso was a monster or just a really big griffon. She got her answer as he slowly slid his pistol back into its holster.

She didn’t think she could ever sleep again, her face must have shown it because of how Oso reacted. His massive talons gently pat her on the head and he whispered sweet nothings to her which she barely heard before two of his digits closed on either side of her neck, there was a dull pain but her vision dimmed and quickly, the world swirled away into darkness. It wasn’t Hearth's Warming with her mother but it was certainly unconsciousness.

Her eyes opened, but she felt sore, sore and cold. However, the thing that was most odd was that she could see a bright light shining in her eyes. Groggily she mumbled and opened her bag and rolled over hoping to get up and out to use the little filly’s room. And that is when she entered freefall.

It took her a few moments to realize the ground was a good two thousand feet below and quickly rushing up to meet her. She could not tell if she was dreaming about falling or this was some sick joke. Either way, her scream would most likely be heard for miles.

“Fucking mud pony! The shit are you trying to do?!” Croce’s talons wrapped over her forelegs and just barely managed to slow down her descent.

She did not stop screaming, even as a much larger set of talons scooped her up and Oso’s eyes pushed into her face as he brought them both into a hover. Croce mumbling as he hovered off the the side. “Be quiet… and listen little one… I’m going to put you back up on my back… just don’t piss on me or scream into my ears ok?”

Her heart was beating so hard that it almost drowned out his words. Swallowing and shivering she just stared into his eyes shivering for about half a minute before she finally barely managed to nod. He let out a loud sigh and tossed her onto his back as all three slowly began to descend.

“I told you we should have just walked” Oso grumbled at Croce but the smaller griffon shook his head firmly.

“I stand by the judgement… we covered a thousand times the amount of ground we would have covered just flying over that damned storm…” He waved his talons dismissively at Oso who scoffed.

“There could have been an Enclave presence up here… it's a big risk we took.” The tone of his voice made it clear that the Enclave was something he was familiar with in a not so friendly way.

“This is way too far north, and they are stupid flying ponies, what could they possibly have on us?” He cast a watchful eye at the pony frozen in fear whom he had sworn himself to protect.

“Well, your optimism is promising little one, but they are the strongest military force around… have you ever been chased after by a full squadron of laser spewing power armored ponies? It gets old pretty damned fast.” Oso’s tone softened as they touched down.

The moment Oso’s talons and paws thudded to the ground Lexi pounced off his back and onto the ground shivering and shaking in fright. However, she did not have very much time to celebrate her new found safety. The moment she touched down, her pipbuck began to steadily click and she hopped right back up on Oso’s back.

“Oh for the love of all that is holy!... this is why I gave you that packet… get dressed and SLOWLY…. Sip on the medicine.” Oso’s wings brushed her back off and unloaded her gear as well. He had unceremoniously strapped it to his underside and equally unceremoniously dumped it into the snow.

Croce just laughed as he watched her panic in the snow trying to find anything to get out of the radioactive fluffy substance.

It was another ten minutes before they were back on the road. Oso had to swat her over the head three times to keep her from panicking and gulping down the medicine. Her panic seemed to increase for every click off her pipbuck.

“You are just going to exhaust yourself. Relax and just focus on something else.” Oso gave her rump a nudge making her jump. But she didn’t seem to calm down at all or stop focusing on the clicking.

Fortunately Croce came to save the day, most out of his own annoyance of her panicked breathing than an actual desire to know. “What are these Susy things you were talking about that we are going to meet.?”

Lexi’s attention perked a little and Oso smiled. His soft deep voice chuckled before he began. “Yeah… I figured I was going to have to explain that… Um… lets see. First off, its the Susi. They are… well um.. Lets just say they are the very VERY distant relatives of diamond dogs.”

“Oh… great so something like Hell hounds?” Croce mumbled almost to himself but smiled when he noticed the attention in Lexi’s eyes.

“Oh… well, kind of. You see, the diamond dogs are their own kind of pathetic, and taint turned them into hell hounds. Susi on the other hand. They have always been very… um.. Intimidating.” He gave a nervous chuckle.

“Taint?” Lexicon’s inquisitive tone actually brought ease to Oso’s mind.

“Yes, it's a kind of magical byproduct to experiments by the Ministry of Arcane sciences or something. Radiation can get you, but you can always drink some radaway… but taint… there’s no cure, no cure and just a little bit… it changes you at a fundamental level. Incurable mutations near instantly. Like a poison that has no cure, almost nothing is immune.” He grumbled in thought before continuing. “Its kinda rare though… thankfully. But no, the Susi are just extremely powerful and skilled warriors. They don’t use advanced weapons though. They have their own… um.. Interesting warfare tactics… but let’s just say nopony… or nothing at all really picks a fight with them. Hell their staple food for at least two thousand years has been a special breed of dragons that lives in the far north. They are isolationists and just keep to themselves. Even when the war came around, they stayed clear out of it. Not many knew they existed before the war and even less know they are alive now, kinda like the Breezies.”

“The shit is a Breezie?” Croce wore a face that made it clear he was 100% certain Oso was just making it up as he went along. “Sounds like a crock of shit…”

Oso’s eyebrows raised with some level of happiness as it was Lexicon who answered. “No… they exist, we even launched an investigation on the breezies for shields or something. They had some sort of magical way of separating themselves from the rest of the world, but the investigation team came up empty hooved so it got passed on to the M.A.S.”

Oso grinned. “Yes, like that only less well known. The Susi were thought to be EXTREMELY territorial, willing to kill anything that breathed for coming within ten miles of their borders. However, their violent reaction was due to an odd religious doctrine. The only Susi that Equestria encountered save for very few incidents were actually old Susi trying to find a worthy death in combat. Needless to say, Equestrian research and political envoys did not give them the challenge they were looking for, and thus they were only known as vicious slaughtering barely sentient animals.”

Lexi’s attention had fully been captured making Croce chuckle as she tumbled on rocks and ice almost as if she didn’t notice. “So… how did you find out about them?”

“Actually, that is quite the story. It was Tyrin who found out, even now we don’t know if he went to them to try and get them to enter the war or so he could die. He’s kinda… complicated. But he went there and did some sort of battle ritual with them. Ever since then he’s been accepted amongst their kind. However, due to a philosophical divergence… They are not quite on speaking terms. In fact, this will be about the fifth time we’ve come up this way to try and get over this problem. Now that he’s not here I think we actually have a chance.” Oso’s voice erupted into a happy laughter giving Lexicon the feeling that though they traveled together, Oso and the old Tyrin just did not get along at all.

“He sounds like a dick…” Croce spat out the words as comfortable as possible on the icy tundra.

To her mild surprise, Oso responded with a laugh. “Oh… he is… but you get used to it…”

Eager to learn more about a race she was very surprised to have never heard of and less interested in two griffons trash talking a third, Lexi chirped up. “So… what exactly did the Susi do during the war and why are we seeing them now?”

Oso gestured to her baggy and she took a moment before she realized she had to gulp down the horrid tasting medicine. Only when she had taken a mouthful did he continue. “Well, the weird thing is that they even at the north pole had an obscenely powerful military united under this warrior king or something. But once the war started he ordered them to stay out of the war and then vanished, the whole nation fell under the control of his daughter I think, but even that didn’t last long, their seers began to go crazy and proclaim the world was doomed and tainted, this lead to some infighting that the king would have otherwise been able to stop. Sadly, a revolution rose and was violently put down with so much excessive force that the nation basically just split into tribes. Shortly after the bombs dropped, the tribe we are on our way to see had already killed and eaten the yaks then they happily made Yakyakistan their home.”

Lexicon shivered and looked up at Oso who did not seem too phased. “Eaten?..”

“Yes… they are wolves after all.” The massive Griffon slowed his stride and smiled. “Ah… I think this is the place….”

Lexi saw nothing but endless tundra. The skies far above were calm enough but the ground to the north looked like fragmented glaciers and low mountains. “I suppose you are saying that despite this obviously not being Yakyakistan for a reason?”

“Yes of course...If we want to go any further just over the snow… we will run into the glowing storm… and even if we make it through that, the wildlife will likely eat us.”

“Glowing storm? You never mentioned that” Lexi fidgeted in place as she looked further to the north.

Croce grumbled and looked about as if searching for something. “The glowing storm is the storm that never dies up in the north over the glowing tundra. Glowing tundra glowing storm… same thing really… but the storm always existed, well almost always… “

Croce’s attention was diverted as Oso fished around in his bags, but as if to distract them he picked up where Croce left off. “Yes… the Crystal empire had their heart artifact which kept the storm at bay and even completely lifted it from their lands when properly fueled. But as you can see… that’s not the case here… take a look…” He calmly gestured outward as he pulled something from his bag

Lexi could see nothing but the distant wall of snow and wind, as if it were a magical force field that barely contained the raging storm. However, she could plainly see it expanding and guessed that it let off waves of bad weather much like the storm she slept through as Oso carried her. She even took notice that the storm seemed to glow ever so slightly, however her vision spiralled as Croce tackled her to the ground and a deafening boom echoed across the land.

“THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM TURKEY?!?” Croce pulled himself out of the snow and Lexi looked up to see the green mushroom cloud just a ways off.

However, Oso seemed fixated on watching their surroundings. With a happy ‘aha!’ he started in one direction. “The storm buries the entrance so the way we find it with a large concussive blast… it sends up a little plume of frost from the shifting pressures and we just go on over…” He pointed at where the air had a fair bit of white powder still fluttering away.

Lexi was frightened and very concerned about the minor nuclear spell going off so close to her. But Croce was more angry, she could safely say it was probably being pulled in on the trip. She could only venture to guess, Croce had always fought for himself, if he wanted something done he would do it himself. The more she thought about it, the more it made sense. It didn’t come to her right away because she never really had that kind of ability. Even at work, her authority was only conditional to her field of work. She never really had power, Croce was used to having power and authority within his life and wasn't taking too well to having none in this ‘adventure’. Her mind then rolled in the opposite direction and she wondered if maybe his on edge outbursts were because he was used to responding to everything with violence and anger.

“Onward… these tunnels can be hard to navigate but it should be easy enough… there are markers which me and my friends have followed many times…” He happily stood on the edge of a large opening which would have been nearly impossible to see from the ground or the sky unless they had been very close.

Oso happily started on his way down the tunnel and Lexicon followed closely. It was dark and echoed menacingly. However, her biggest problem with it was the bones littering the floor of the massive tunnel, it reminded her far too much of the centipede's lair. Not wanting Oso to leave her in the frozen wasteland she quickly followed after his steady pace and just as fast she could hear the loud cursing and griping of Croce.

“D.. Do I want to know about the bones?... more victims of the wildlife?” Lexi did her best to keep her voice from echoing off the walls which even in the quickly fading light seemed more and more smooth.

“Yes and no...” Oso calmly spoke, his every stride seemed confident and calm, it seemed to be in a lot of contrast to Lexi’s and even Croce who’s every step was filled with

nervous and suspicious ticks and glances. It was very clear he was not a fan of the location, his suspicion never stopped for anything and Lexi’s only relief came from Oso continuing his explanation. “...Back when the bombs fell, a lot of ponies from both the Crystal Empire and northern Equestria fled the radiation, this is kinda a place away from the bomb sites. They just didn’t expect the storm to quadruple in intensity nor for it to pick up all the radiation in the area. They all died here… and the critters kinda cleaned up. That’s why no skeleton is complete or undisturbed.”

They continued in relative silence, until Lexicon nervously sipped on her rad pouch and heard the unbearable sound of a straw slurping at an empty container. Her eyes wide and slowly slipping into panic she raised a hoof but Oso was already there. “Here… take mine, I have the berries anyway.”

She gave him an odd look as he undid the straps and swapped the bag. She was not one for noticing things, but his bag was entirely full, he hadn't even started to sip on it. Listening carefully she could hear the sloshing of Croce’s bag. “Um.. Oso?.. Did you…”

He laughed giving her nose a soft poke. “Yes, we use these tunnels often, we cleared em out and we almost never have to fight anything inside, no worries, but stay close all the same…”

“No, I mean did you drink any of this?” She gestured to the bag and looked up at him for any hint that he would not be telling the truth.

Either he had no reason to tell a lie or Lexi as she already knew, was terrible at reading people.

He grinned and chimed. “Nope… I have the berries.”

She tried to think of a way to ask while being a little less nosy, but Croce chimed in with the question that Lexi was thinking at 90 decibels.

“So the shit are the berries? Not much grows out in the wasteland… I’ve heard rumors about the Enclave having crops, and possibly berries but what is this crap, you pop them at least once every few hours.” Croce’s much keener eyes panned over Oso’s features and picked out something that made him look like he wanted to ask more questions.

“Well, the red ones are healing, the orange ones are for radiation, the pink ones are a special medicine specifically for me… there are few others like the blue one… It’s just a sweet berry, they last a long time and don’t spoil easily.” Oso’s talons waved about easily in the dim light as he spoke.

“And where the hell do you get something like that?” Croce’s eyes panned over him eager for any reaction which would hint at a truth.

“I hate to say it little one… but that’s something I just don’t feel comfortable telling you yet. Succeed in this mission, and stick around, then you will likely find out.” Oso’s eyes shifted from his calm and almost kindly relaxed state to a narrowed glare which gave off an unnerving amount of what she could only label as violent capacity.

Croce was clearly suspicious and extremely uncomfortable. Even if they had a massive sky overhead for him to try and out maneuver the larger griffon, he was very uncertain of his chances if he tried to challenge the massive bird.

“S..so what about this tunnel? I’m clearly no expert but this does not look like a natural formation.” Lexi tried to push herself between the two and breathed a lot easier when Croce strayed back to watch their rear.

Oso yet again gave her nose a poke and chuckled when she recoiled. He reminded her of a stereotypical older brother. She never had any siblings but he reflected the same stereotypes she enjoyed in her fiction back before the world ended. She scrunched her nose but let him have his mildly playful moment.

“Half right… These were originally just caves that coincidentally ran through the area, first the Yaks tried and failed to use it to mine iron, then sold it to the Crystal Empire who tried to sell it back as it was too difficult to cut through solid granite for a hundred miles and the idea of having a subterranean railway leading around up here while appetizing for Equestria and the empire, the natural tunnels just didn’t go where the ponies thought they did. In the end, they figured they would build tunnels along the main areas, then a hub in the center which would double as a military installation and a Stable then just spiderweb out to have a literal bombproof city.” He chuckled and came up alongside a tattered tarp covering something littered with rubble. When he banged his heavy knuckles over it Lexicon could clearly hear steel.

She looked over the pile covered by the tarp judging the length, width, and depth as well as the sound of the banging. “Railway rails?”

“Bingo! You’ll find em all over the place down here. The bombs dropped before the rails could be put into place.”

Lexi could see Croce’s features backing up as if he wanted to ask more intruding questions, but before she could distract any further Oso seemed to notice something and pick up the pace before stopping in front of a small formation of rocks.

“What is it?”

Oso grinned before giving what looked to be a salute of some sort then turning back to her. “The next leg of our journey… This is the grave of a Vanhat Susit… he died here in the mines… his brother buried him… I think…”

“Giant turkeys… mysterious, historians, and spiritual mediums! Why don’t you make shit up that sounds more believable.” Croce spat and grumbled looking over his shoulder at Oso with his usual grumpy scowl.

Lexi was beginning to wonder if Croce even could smile. But Oso’s next words at least got him to stop frowning. “His name was Kari, he came through the tunnels hoping to find a worthy death. It was my first experience with the Susi, I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t like the idea of just up and killing some poor old wolf… But despite his advanced age… that sucker was harder to put down than a hellhound pumped on Stamped. I was lucky and ripped open his throat. Tyrin was laughing his ass off reminding me that every single Susi, from the oldest and frailest of elders to the youngest and smallest of pups need to be treated and acknowledged as warriors. It was humbling, I mean I wasn’t a warrior but I’m not a small guy, I’m not used to not being the most powerful one in the room.”

Lexi starred in concern, Croce couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. But Oso gave a soft nod and started to clear out a spot. “His brother… or his son, I can’t remember… Thanked me, and buried him right here. His grave now serves as a marker for me and them, I know I’m on the right track and they don’t let their Vanhat Susit seek death beyond this point.”

Lexi had questions, but one thing jumped into mind first. “Um… what are you doing?”

He didn’t even look her way as he shoved a large boulder out of the way and gathered some spare lumber from the crumbling scaffolding. “We are camping here. We can keep going, but, your body is likely to quit halfway through the night.”

Croce gave a confirming look and started to set up camp. Lexi herself felt like she could keep going, even though her body felt like it was on fire. Her every joint and muscle burned and ached, but the cold numbed her just barely enough to ignore.

Lexi gave it a little more thought before she too started to set up camp, but then was promptly sat down by Oso. “No offense little one, but the less you move now, the easier it will be for us in the morning, and again… no offense, but you are not the best at setting up or taking down camp…”

He gave her a firm pat on the head which she scowled at. She knew she wasn’t exactly physically strong but she had at least some pride. Clearing the stones from a small portion of the camp, she rolled out her bed and set one of her books out but then began to notice her legs felt almost rubbery. She couldn’t help but feel a little panicked, her legs were numb and very weak, increasingly weak as she continued to set up. She looked herself over to see if she could spot any bites or stings from local wildlife. It wasn’t until her rear legs gave out and she simply fell back into a sitting position that Croce sighed.

“Are you serious?...” She looked over at him, his words echoing at her and with a little bit of panic she started to speak but he cut her off.

“It's called exhaustion. You and everyone else holds it off until it's time or getting close to time to rest. Nothing is wrong with you, you are just tired and will be extremely sore in the morning. Have you never exercised or even worked in your life?” Oso Grinned a little gesturing to her calmly.

“I.. um… well… I…” She stuttered and fumbled with her words but Oso gave her a soft bop on the nose as he passed.

“Just go to sleep, no reading, no complaining, I’ll make your tea, just get to sleep.” He continued to work and she did her best to wriggle into her sleeping bag but looked over at the two griffons. She was an earth pony, she was supposed to be strong, these two griffons were so easily outdoing her. She found herself mumbling angrily but stopped in thought. She couldn’t think of a reason why she was angry, but here she was.

Her book dropped on her head and she looked up at Croce, his picking on her seemed to be the only thing that would bring a smile to his face.. “You ok there mud pony?... you look like you’re going to strain something thinking too hard.”

Flustered and exhausted, she was surprised she hadn't broken down mentally and simply been incapable of recovering. But something in her burned, she couldn't put her hoof on it but nevertheless, there it was, just poking her and screaming. “We should have kept going…”

Croce let out a sharp laugh trying and failing to suppress it. “Aye't, look mud pony, if you kept going you wouldn’t be able to move when we pack up. And that means that either me or the Turkey would have to carry your sorry ass…”

She grit her teeth and glared at him angrily, though despite the fire in her heart and as much as she tried to put it in her eyes for him to see he just casually glanced at her with raised eyebrows as if to remind her that she would get winded trying to think of a clever line to get him thinking before a sucker punch. This seemed to only burn in her brighter. “I’m stronger than you think.”

“No… you really aren’t.” Oso’s tone was clear even from the other side of the cave. Oddly, even Croce nodded in agreement. She figured he would just grumble about the ‘turkey’ interfering in his conversation.

“I hate to break it to you mud pony… but you aren’t all that durable. Hell, we might have overdone it as we are now. Just get your sleep and we will pick up tomorrow.” He rolled out his bedding and got out his cleaning kit before he began on his pistols.

Lexicon sat up in her bedding angrily and even grumbled when Oso came along with her tea. She snatched it up and didn’t make eye contact.

“You’re discovering you are not necessarily as independent and powerful than you thought.” She looked up at him with angry eyes, but instead of scoff like Croce, Oso’s eyes were kind.

“No one likes to be humbled…” He struck flint against steel and brought the wood he had gathered to a flame. “If I had to venture to guess, there isn’t much you’ve ever tried and actually failed is there? Granted you haven’t attempted many physical things… but you aren’t used to not being able to do things…”

She opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. Logically it made sense but something in her didn’t want to admit it. But the look in his eyes told her she didn’t have to.

With a heavy talon he gestured to the grave. “He was old… very old. But never before had I felt such a strike. I had gone my whole life believing the world was made of glass, that if I wanted to, I could just destroy everything. It was just one thing in a long string of events that made me realize how small I was.”

He sat down next to her and he poked at the fire. “It was Tyrin actually, he ordered me to fight the wolf, I had initially refused because I didn’t want to feel like I had just murdered some poor old wolf. But when he told me he would do it if I wouldn’t, and trust me, if he says he will, you can guarantee that it will be done with the maximum amount of force and the most minimal amount of mercy ever recorded. It was only afterwards when I came to realize he was showing me the world was much bigger than I had known. His son was endlessly thankful, which just confused me more.”

Lexicon’s eyes showed her anger was lost in his story, he didn’t feel like bringing back grumpy Lexi, so he continued, but his voice had an odd sorrow to it. “Griffons have a very long history and culture surrounding honor. Honor, and unfortunately greed, but honor was always a big thing. Give us something to fight for and we will die without a single word or twitch of defiance. But the wolves, the Susi, they are something else. From the moment they can stand, their mothers place weapons in their little paws and they follow their fathers on hunts. They believe it a shame to die from old age. It was my ignorance and my overconfidence, my faith in my own natural strengths and talents… my pride which almost cost me my life, just like your pride and faith in your ability might cost you yours.”

He gave her a nudge and with a smile he stood up and walked to the far side of the cave, intently staring in the direction they had come. His eyes looked so focused, as if he was absolutely certain he was warding something off. But Lexicon spent very little time focusing on such details.

It was hard for her to take his words in. She didn’t like the idea of having a pride problem. But the more she thought, the more she realized, at the very least he was right on her disposition. She didn’t want to call it pride and she certainly didn’t want to be humbled. But she had never failed before, never naturally. Even before the world ended, the only time she had failed was when she was assigned to a research team and the lead had intentionally ignored her. She guessed it was because she was young, but he did give her a look that made her feel rather uncomfortable.

Croce caught her attention as he reached into her bags, but before she could object he showed her what he was withdrawing. “If you shut up and go to sleep, I’ll clean and repair this sucker…” In his talons dangled the 10mm pistol she had taken what felt like years ago.

She thought for a moment and remembered that devices of all kinds needed maintenance of some sort and that weapon had been rusting for over a hundred years. She knew that she knew just as much about cleaning and maintaining firearms as she knew about using them. So with a nod she grumbled and snuggled up in her bag. She found it odd that she did not impulsively take off her glasses. But they had stayed perched on her nose thus far. Part of her didn’t want to tempt fate by taking them off. She closed her eyes and instantly felt like her bedding was sucking her into sleep.

Croce’s ticking and fumbling with her pistol sounded like beautiful music in her drowsy state. She could hear nothing but the constant drowning dulled noises pulling her deeper and deeper into sleep. She just hoped that when she woke up, she wouldn’t be under attack or be free falling. She needed something she could do or say that would push her the final distance to sleep. It felt odd but she found it by whispering another mild regret she knew she would never be able to settle, but it felt good to say.

“Goodnight mom…”

Footnote: Level 3 Achieved.

Perk added: Carefully medicated, drugs are substantially more effective with your close eye watching endlessly on your stats. Healing, Radaway, and any other drug is now 20% more effective.

Quest perk added: I'm sure you cheer pretty hard, You may not be a fighter, but you are surrounded by those who have had their fair share of combat. You gain 10% of the XP when your companions fight. Still not a very fast method of leveling.

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes
Chapter editor - Currently N/A
Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.
Nick Valentine: Artist

Chapter 5: Wolves

View Online


Stirring in her sleep she snuggled up closer nuzzling into her pillow, her brittle pillow, her hard brittle pillow. Lexicon opened her eyes and after only four seconds of her sleepy eyes staring through her glasses still perched atop her snout directly into the empty eye sockets of the pale and stained pony skull in her forelimbs.

Oso practically burst through the debris and even the wall, through century old equipment with fire in his eyes and his odd pick like weapons in his talons. At about the same moment Croce rushed in from further forward along the path, pistol drawn and leveled as both griffons scanned the cavern with piercing eyes ready to utterly delete the offending party from existence.

The skull rolled across the ground as Lexi continued to shriek hiding behind Croce. It wasn’t until talons wrapped over her mouth and a paw kicked her into the back of her knees and forced her into a sitting position. “Holy fuck mud pony… if the capacity and potency of your lungs didn’t downright amaze me I would be dying of laughter…. Well, at least after my ears stopped bleeding…” Croce's tail twitched in aggravation as did his eye as he refused to take his talons from her mouth.

Oso sighed and sat down, sliding his weapons under his wings again. He appeared to be a griffon with impressive patience, but the way he rubbed the point where his beak ended and his feathery face began told her that this patience was stretching rather thin. “Well… since you're up. Get ready, and it looks like you’re not crippled by all the strain yesterday, so pack your stuff.”

Lexi shook off Croce’s talons and whimpered up at him. “It’s not funny!” She sat for a moment before Oso threw her bag down in front of her.

“Ready up girl, we don’t have forever.” The big griffon turned away as if he had everything better to do.

With a great deal of mumbling and complaining she packed everything and with a little more help than she would like to admit, was ready to go. The fringes of her mind told her what was obvious to them and what she didn’t want to think about, they would already be there if she wasn’t with them, and they had to protect her life, her freaking out and shrieking, while she personally felt she had very valid reasons for doing so, they obviously didn’t like having to forge a warpath, rushing in ready to fight every time she saw something that scared her and made noise about it.

Strapping the last of her clothes into place to keep out the frigid cold, she mumbled and winced as Oso pulled the straps on her back tight. “Listen… Lexi, I know not being scared is not exactly a strong suit of yours, but I'm asking kindly to just toughen up a little, your life might actually depend on it someday. We should at the very least see one of the Susi today. Their culture has a practically religious, near biological opposition to weakness.”

The little pony opened her mouth then promptly closed it again. She didn’t know what to do or say. She settled for trying to opt out. “I don’t suppose you guys can just leave me somewhere while you do the meeting.”

It was sometimes a little hard reading the face of a griffon, especially as they had no lips. But the corners of their mouths usually showed their opinion and emotion. “That would get you killed even faster. There is not a single lump of flesh in all of the north that the Susi cannot find.”

Lexicon did not like the thought of being referred to as a lump of flesh, but the point got across easily. “So.. What’s the plan?” She raised her eyebrows but had a good feeling that she didn’t want to know the answer.

He sighed, almost as if he was hating his own words. “I have to give you a makeover…”

Lexi whimpered and Croce groaned clenching his talons harder and dribbling blood into the upturned and broken skull pulled from the ground, it was a handy makeshift bowl. Oso’s eyes remained very focused as he carefully spread the blood below Lexi’s eyes. He had already tied bone fragments into her mane and now he worked to very carefully place fine, even bloody streaks and marks over her face and on her neck.

“I don’t buy your whole bullshit about your blood not being any good for this.” Croce was still very disgruntled as Oso explained that it had to be his blood and not any from the massive griffon.

“Sorry, but my blood might hurt her.” He rubbed a swath of blood from under her eyes, streaking it down like bloody tears.

“How the fuck is that even a thing? What do you… heh.. Have some rust on your birdie harpoon?” He smirked and Lexi tilted her head a little unsure of what Croce was asking.

Oso did not sound entertained. “No little one, I do not have STDs. But I do have a condition less embarrassing, but just as, if not more dangerous to her.” Lexi opened her mouth but Oso’s talons clamped down softly shutting it. “And no, I’m not going to tell you, I’d rather just keep that to myself.” He popped another berry before reaching under his wing and plucking a feather. With a little bit of effort, he buried the long feather into her mane and tangled it up as to not let it fall out. Croce chuckled at the action but mostly just remained quiet.

“Um… by any chance can you at least explain what all this is?” She grumbled, still extremely uncomfortable using literal blood as face paint. It was almost too much for her as it was, but she needed to know more.

“The Susi have some cultural codes. Strength and combat prowess is extremely important, even among the children. However, there are few of their kind who simply can’t fight. I forget the exact historical and cultural reasoning… but its something along the lines of ‘I cannot shed blood, so there are others who shed it for me, and my value lays in my efforts to support them.’ That’s what the blood is for, and the hair, but the hair is more to let them realize you are female. They usually wear their hair a bit like this, and with those markings they will take to it easier.”

She nodded, still not liking it at all, but it was better than dying to whatever these wolves would do. ”And the feather?”

Croce chuckled a little again, it was unclear if he knew or he just had a general guess. Oso shot him a glare and the smaller Griffon went quiet. “It’s nothing.. Don’t worry about it.”

“It’s not nothing… come on, I know I’m not the most reliable for these situations, but I really need details to put myself at ease.” It almost reminded her of school, the other fillies always tried to keep things from her, or worse, give her misinformation just to laugh later.

“Look, these are all precautions. They might not even be necessary. They thrive off being able to test their mettle. If they see us all, they will in all likeliness attack me and Croce first. I just want to be sure this goes smoothly, without you dying.”

“Then can I go without the feather? She flicked what little mane she had loose, trying to keep the feather from annoying her.

“As soon as we are somewhere safe.” He sighed and shot another glare at Croce who looked as if he was going to burst out laughing.

“Can I tell her what it means in Griffon Culture?” He smiled and Oso growled under his breath.

“It basically means the same thing. Just not as blatant…” Now Lexi was very curious and Croce stepped closer still looking at Oso giving him a look that just screamed that he was going to tell her the moment he turned his back. Oso groaned and with a loud sigh he opened his beak again. “My feather in your mane or decorating you where everyone can see it implies sexual or at the very least romantic submissiveness to me.”

Lexi squinted still expecting a little more of an explanation before Croce spouted out. “It means he’s a pony fucker!” He exploded into laughter and Lexi went even more rigid with embarrassment.

Oso promptly conked Croce over the head shutting him up quickly. “The wolves love their mates and family more than anything, they will even turn on their leaders instantly without a moment’s hesitation if he or she harms or demands harm upon their family or lovers. Within the Susi, it is believed that love makes a warrior very powerful, as it is, they have a cultural taboo against killing their enemy’s lovers when they can just fight their enemy. It's kinda seen as cowardly and dishonorable, also they would want to avoid sending their enemies into a blood rage of vengeance. The feather combined with the markings, its a certain way to make sure they won't kill you when we aren’t looking or in the initial rush. In the end, it’s not against their laws, it's just something that’s frowned upon.”

Croce picked himself off the ground and despite the welt on the crown of his head, he still chuckled. “Oh! Right… and here.” He stifled his laughter as he held out the 10mm pistol to her.

She was still overwhelmed and still not sure how she would even pick up the pistol. “Ah.. um..th...I… wh…”

Oso’s talons swiped over Croce’s open palm and snatched up the pistol. “NO!... We are not giving her a weapon. I don’t need her freaking out and shooting someone… hell she’s most likely more dangerous to us than the wolves are.”

“Fine… but I’m not letting you live this down..” Croce chuckled before Oso stepped past nudging him hard enough to send him stumbling.

“Aye… just remember I am five times your size, and I think we have already established how a fight between the two of us will go.” He turned and began his way down the path through the cave.

Lexi still sat with wide eyes looking very uncomfortably at the feather hanging from her hair. Croce didn’t seem to mind the aggression from Oso, he had been trying to push his buttons for a while. He seemed more pleased that he finally got a reaction than fearful that the massive griffon just gave the warning. Instead of calling out or nudging her, Croce opened his talons and gave a firm slap over Lexi’s tush as he followed Oso. “Come on turkey concubine, we have some wolves to meet.”

The small speechless pony had to force herself to practically stumble down the path after them.

It was another few hours of walking before Lexi noticed snow on the ground mixed with icy deposits over the walls, then looking up she was relieved to see the cloudy sky above them again showering them with a fine powdery snow through the small openings in the ceiling. Another thirty minutes before she felt comfortable saying that they were not technically in the cave anymore. She still flustered and worried over the feather in her mane. She could barely handle something so distracting even if it did not have such a meaning. But she put some thought into it, if she was going to attack someone and noticed something implying her target was in a relationship with somepony as intimidating as Oso was, she wouldn’t even begin to think about going through with the attack.

Lexi’s train of thought was derailed as Oso gave a slight gesture and immediately Croce took to the air. She entertained the idea of asking what was going on, but she was pretty sure at this point she sounded like a toddler asking questions every half second. These birds were warriors, nothing about her and the way she thought was considered even remotely helpful to them in combat. She didn’t know what they were doing, but if it was important she didn’t want to interrupt them or break the silence, especially with these two not speaking a word as they positioned themselves.

The snow had significantly narrowed the channel they had been walking through. It was like somepony had shaved off the top of the cave and continued to make the road more and more shallowly set in the ground. Every step forward was like another layer of snow clinging to the walls, it made sense that the more exposure lead to thicker snow, but the snow build up on the walls quickly revealed to have another purpose as a white furry set of arms exploded outward from the snow and wrapped over Lexi, but before she could shriek out and possibly even deafen her assailant, clawed fingertips covered her mouth firmly. To her terror, she could do nothing and didn’t seem to realize that the large figure was simply holding her and nothing else. So in its arms she flailed and let out muffled shrieks and whimpers. She fully expected Croce at the very least to come charging.

The moment her panic dropped to just low enough of a level for her logical side to take over, her eyes darted about looking for the griffons. She quickly spotted Oso trading titanic blows with a creature that stood head and shoulders above him, which was unthinkable with how massive he was. But she couldn't spot Croce, she could only see what almost looked like wolves deeper in the woods throwing rocks, but instead of rocks, fire and lightning shot up into the sky.

Plowing into him, the heavy wolf roared into Oso’s face, who in turn let out a booming screech right back at the massive bipedal wolf. “Hesin er ein draugr...” It growled out while looking fiercely into Oso’s eyes.

Oso in turn clearly struggled and stumbled over the words but spat out. “Veren järjestys lähetti minut. Stìr av Blóð sent meg.”

The massive wolf seemed to regard him for a moment before letting go and stepping back. Holding what looked to be a small stone high. He gave it a noticeable squeeze and it let out a barely audible crackle, near instantly Lexi was released. She couldn't fathom what the device was, but logical Lexi mumbled something about wolves having better hearing and secret signals.

Plopping into the snow she quickly scuttled back until she was practically under Oso whimpering loudly within seconds. She looked back at the wolf who had held her and to her surprise it looked rather feminine. It regarded her softly, its movement was slow and fluid as it peered over her and Lexi noticed the gaze was not into her eyes but just to the left, at the feather. The wolf raised its eyebrows, its eyes drifting from her to Oso and back. The fact that she was under him and cowering into his figure did not help the awkwardness.

“Oso… can I take the feather out now?” She blurted out very uncomfortably, wanting dearly to move away from him and at the same time not wanting to be more than a half inch from him.

“Sure, but keep it on you, It might come in handy later.” He scooted the pony out from under him with his hind paw almost as if she was just a stone he wanted out of his path. But just as quickly, he redirected his attention to the wolf in front of them. “Is my comrade in the sky alright?”

The wolf looked him over and in a gruff voice he grumbled back. “Yes… he is fast… our Shamans could not pluck him from the sky, but they have tried.”

Lexi rested a little easier hearing that. She was not certain he was saying what she hoped he was, but she was confident enough they were talking about Croce. She quickly pulled the feather from her hair and stuffed it into one of her bags. The feminine looking wolf chuckled and stepped back into a stray ray of light peeking through the shadows and rocky cliffs. But to her amazement, the wolf seemed to utterly vanish the moment she touched the light.

“I assume, you will want to see head oracle, yes?” The bigger wolf before Oso grumbled.

“Yes, but I would like to wait for my comrade.” Oso gestured to the sky with remarkable calmness, remarkable only to Lexi who was only just barely not hyperventilating. She was confident that she would be fine, and though it was no real accomplishment to frighten her, she partially marveled at how calm and collected the big Griffon was, especially after trading blows with the hulky beast of a wolf there with them.

More wolves started to show up, Lexi found it rather frightening to see how fast they seemed to simply appear, almost as if they simply popped up right out of thin air. They muttered and spoke to each other as they waited for Croce to return. She had no idea what they were saying, and they seemed very on guard speaking without inflections in their tone nor facial twitches or any such tells. Even if she was any good at reading faces she would be utterly lost. Watching Osos’s features she was something similar to relieved to see that she could read his face, and she was not the only one lost.

If she had to guess, he was not suspicious or wary, but completely lost in the speech. She would watch him listening intently, but she would watch him seemingly phase out then snap to. She didn’t know much about reading people but she knew languages. He was trying to listen, and it was clear that he did not know the language fully and he would be lost in the gentle splashes of words that rumbled like a small guttural ocean. Then she noticed something. She couldn’t be positive, but the way the wolves were speaking, it almost seemed like it was two separate languages. One was much longer and spoken more artistically, as the other seemed to flow and blaze like a calm fire.

Lexi swatted herself. She was putting way too much thought into something so unimportant. She grumbled and fidgeted before she noticed some of the more feminine wolves giggling and chuckling softly at her. She felt very uncomfortable. Especially having that feather in her bags. She could still feel the spot where it was attached to her mane.

Her mind began to fuss again before the wolves noticeably became more active, and just as fast Croce landed in the clearing, fuming angrily he leaned in closer to Oso and spouted off. “You didn’t say I would be dodging fucking Lighting and fire!”

Oso raised a set of talons calmly. “I told you what you needed to know….”

“A shot that I will hear and never see, just run and turn quickly at random?” His jaw was so tight his beat was making an audible noise from the stress.

“Yes, and you’re alive. Congrats… you followed the instructions and weren’t killed. These wolves may not be able to fly, but make no mistake, they own these skies, they own all the north.” He smiled and gave a firm pat on Croce’s head. Croce looked to be just about done with it all.

“Croce?” Lexi’s tone was calm but she had a feeling that while he was very angry about his situation, he had followed her of his own accord. Honestly, she was extremely surprised that he was still with them. His oath, contract, or whatever it was must have been extremely important.

Croce looked back at her and relief flooded through her as he didn’t even look back at Oso, he just made his way to her side and stood silently. He was young, but he seemed like a model soldier, and just as concerned about the wolves as Lexi was.

“Aye, now that you all are prepared. Let’s go, the Oracle is surely waiting for us all.” The wolf smiled and turned about.

Lexi’s pipbuck let out a beep and she checked it, confused she watched the device spew out a line of words. [Mission with the big birb, find the wolves/part3] [Go see Oracle]

She whispered to the device with a great deal of frustration. “I hate you, why can’t you just make logical sense?”

But it was at this time she noticed the small red bar indicating that she had a bit of radiation buildup. Almost panicking she rifled through her things and sipped quickly on the bag of fluids, checking and rechecking every few moments and only began to relax as she saw the levels begin to drop. Luckily it had not been very high, but she saw what radiation did to the wildlife, and she had received some training about radiation back before the world ended, she did not want to start mutating.

Now calmer and with Croce following close, watching the wolves like he knew for a fact that they would turn on them all any moment, they shuffled through the snow along a seemingly barely existing path with surprising ease. The wolves lead the small group along and as they made their way, the snow became deeper and deeper, but thankfully Oso took to walking in front of Lexi. Even taking in his massive size he was irregularly powerful and seemed to take no effort plowing through the snow and ice, creating a path for those who followed.

The more she traveled the more she came to notice that more and more wolves were beginning to show up. They even took up residence in the dead frozen trees before seeming to vanish as she blinked. Lexi stirred wanting to ask questions but as her logical mind whispered to her, Oso still looked very stressed, Croce was still very angry, and as the less than logical Lexis wailed into hear ears that wolves were scary.

And so it was, she quietly walked the path being carved through deep snow until she saw it.

“...Whoa….” Was all she could say. She had seen pictures of the large plain wooden wall filled with run down huts. Filled with Yaks and the ritualistic smashing of various objects.

This was nothing like that.

The walls had been risen another 40 feet and what looked like giant dragon bones reinforced the walls. Massive crystals held in place by runed bindings and much to her displeasure, the walls appeared to be very thoroughly decorated with Yak bones. Other than that, there was what she guessed to be a large tree with deep blood red leaves just barely peeking over the top of the walls. The village that was once called Yakyakistan was now a fortress that utterly dominated the landscape.

“Yeah… that was my first reaction too.” Oso slowed, he breathed deeply and grumbled. Reaching back he picked Lexi up with a single outstretched grasp. She let out a sharp ‘eep’ but he ignored her as he looked directly at Croce. “Don’t touch the red tree, its sacred to them and they will kill you instantly.”

He hefted her and climbed over the snow setting her down. As she sank halfway into the snow she came to the conclusion that while it was quite useful to have somepony that strong around to just pick her up willy nilly, she kinda hated it. She had been completely been at the mercy of literally everything in this land ever since she woke up, getting manhandled by a griffon ten times her size was just rubbing in her weakness making her feel significantly smaller.

“Speaking of making me feel small…” She muttered as they approached the massive gate. Two things caught her eyes, the first made very little sense at all and the second made her blurt out something she hoped would not be taken the wrong way by the wolves.

She quickly noted the the massive dragon like bones supporting the walls looked quite literally metal. She guessed by the level of oxidation that it was raw iron. Then there was something she could not quite ignore. Being a pony, naturally she was not very keen on eating other animals, and thus she was quite put off by the massive multi wheeled cart hauling in what she could only guess was a skinned and gutted monster from the wastes.

She recoiled from the sight but something caught her eyes. The cart itself was very old, and extremely well crafted with fire hardened wood that appeared to be extremely durable even without treatments. The wood had various treatments but she could plainly see from a great deal of other objects laying around, the heads of the spears, and any other bladed weapons of which the wolves pushing and pulling the massive cart had in abundance, their level of technology was more extensive than this. They likely had at the very least steel ball bearing axles and reinforced joints for something like this, even without a factory in sight, but a quick glance as they passed she could see heavy friction burns where the axle met the wheel.

“Hey, this thing needs lubrication, if it continues like this the axle will likely fracture.” She gestured lightly at the wheel in need.

The wolves slowed quickly taking note to her words. Her heart sank, other than the very few wolves that had met them and of the few that still were there with them, she hadn’t heard many speak at all. Not to mention despite there being a team of about twenty wolves, other than grunts and growls, they had been very silent. She just hoped they wouldn't see her as a nosy pony telling them what to do.

One wolf made his way over, she took in his oddly fluid like movements, he was covered in scars and appeared to have a mild limp but oddly his head stayed perfectly level and did not bob or stagger at all. His stature was nothing like what she would expect for his appearance. “Hrmm…. Thank you pony…”

Even his voice took her off guard. Equestrian was clearly not his first language but he spoke it remarkably well. She half expected some sort of shrill guttural growling and mumbling. But despite his looks, the wolf practically spoke like a poet with a deeper and somewhat mysterious voice. “Y..You’re welcome… I mean, I don’t know your supply situation but I would recommend a synthetic oil, but a simple upgrade to the axle would do best for the cart.”

“No, we can just use some lard.” He smiled kneeled next to the wheel. “Thank you though, I can forget to service my carts sometimes.” She stared with wide eyes as the wolf grabbed an exposed hunk of fat hanging out of the dead creature on the cart and began liberally applying it to the axle.

Croce nudged her and she continued forward and she moved trying to get back up close to Oso. Again, she recoiled at the sight and even the thought. Not only did these wolves eat meat and decorate their walls with bones, they used the fat of their enemies to lubricate their machines. She found it oddly terrifying that they could do all of this and still speak so civilized.

Moving past the gate she gaped at the massive size of the tree which she quickly noted was entirely blood red. It was not just red leaved, but it had red bark, and red everything. She quickly noted that it appeared to have been magically grown. She remembered her science class growing watermelon into odd shapes by restricting the growing fruit inside a shaped container. But this tree had dozens upon dozens of flawlessly squared pedestals that had grown in at perfect right angles horizontally from the trunk. Evenly spaced on top of many were wolves, old, young and very young. They all stood, eyes closed, a vague chant coming off their lips as they seemed to whisper softly, it was like a sweet and sad song as they all remained still, perfectly in sync with each other.

Other than the soft chant, the city was eerily silent. The wolves went about their daily lives without a word. Even the little market she could see in the distance was being shopped at, no words, a wolf just walked up, pointed, and then the other wolf handed her what looked to be a wrapped basket, the wolf then dropped something on the table and they parted. It baffled her. But she thought for a few seconds and decided it wasn’t too odd. She was born and raised in Equestria, she couldn't go outside without hearing at least ten ponies talking in the street, on a busy day they might even break into song. With how silent the wolves were, perhaps their culture was simply not one for small talk, or any talk.

Suddenly then there was a sound she knew by heart. Laughter, the laughter of children. She watched the little wolf pups rush through. Despite the large teeth, she couldn’t help but look at them with a smile. They were so adorable. She took a moment with an observation that made them even cuter. From the looks of them, she guessed that they grew into their tails.The adults and children basically had the same sized tail, and looking at them scamper about with those large fluffy tails almost made her want to try and pet one.

But then there was something that made her heart sink. As the children ran past she watched the colors of their coats which ranged from black and white, to mostly browns, dark grays, and very rarely a pure white. But she spotted eyes following the small group, staring longingly at the other pups. The children themselves did not seem to even notice the pony and griffons but these eyes froze on her. She looked close and noticed the cold fear stricken eyes. Three of them. Solid black fur of two young pups, but to her horror they were horribly scarred, so much so that one was even missing one of its eyes. She could see by the little paw it raised that it was missing two digits as it looked at her with mistrust and fright. She didn't know this culture, and she didn't know how it would be taken if she questioned why the pure black furred ones looked so abused and didn't mix with the other more diversely furred pups.

“Ikki veruligt…” The little pup uttered the words and the other repeated it. The words drove a cold shock through her and she felt extremely uncomfortable even fearful at the little one’s foreign words. She simply stared uncomfortably. But a pure white wolf moved forward ushering them off speaking too soft to hear to them. But they could not look away. All three eyes from both pups were glued to her until they had fully passed through a door and out of sight.

“Oso… w..what does that mean?” She swallowed, very put off by the event, she couldn't even repeat the complicated words the pups had uttered if she had to.

“I have to be honest little one, I have no idea, I learned their language just barely, but then they came along with some whole other dialect which I barely learned. I think they merged the island tribe into the main tribe here. I really don’t know.” He didn’t bother looking back, he just sighed and continued forward. “Sorry, I am just not used to having to explain and baby sit ponies through this gods awful land.”

She nodded and clamped her lips shut only glancing back at Croce for a moment. She felt a little upset as he looked relieved that she had made the display of being quiet. Grumbling but not actually speaking she followed Oso who seemed to be following the wolf who had lead them to the city and Croce followed her. All the other wolves had appeared to have simply peeled off or vanished as they made their way forward.

They closed in to the base of the tree where she took note of even more bones. A large high ceiling building made of wood and more bones stood firmly. Yet, the doorway was constructed of chiseled stone and open wide, veiled only by what she in near terror identified as what was most likely yak pelts. Something inside her spoke loudly and she found herself not wanting to go close to the building, but as she was clearly not the decider of her own fate, she reluctantly followed Oso and did her best to move fast enough for Croce to not bump into her.

She was quite thankful that a wolf on the inside pulled back the pelts. They entered calmly and Oso looked to be about ready to give some sort of ritualistic greeting as he bowed low. But something odd happened. A wolf, pure white with a very feminine figure hopped off a throne made of carved and runed bones. Very unlike the wolves of the city, this one hopped right up to Oso and oddly hugged him. It apparently took the big bird by surprise too, in fact he looked very uncomfortable.

“Oh! You do care, you came after all, and you didn’t bring the grump… but who is this? This is not Tyrin… and this is not Earl, or Yin… did you make new friends?” She moved closer, looking and even sniffing at Croce who let out a grumble trying to look like he was not trying to lean away from her. She quickly moved on and again Lexi did not know what to do as the wolfess was almost immediately in her face with deep blue eyes that were so beautiful it almost hurt to look at them.

“H..um..hi… I… um.. You see… I am… uh…” Lexi fumbled with her words as the wolf circled her smiling sniffing and even poking.

“Books, diminished physique, discomfort… Oso… you left the grump and the scholar behind but you still brought a grump and a scholar…” She laughed and made her way back, seeming to almost throw herself into the large stone chair.

“I was expecting Elder Oracle Kylmä Kauhua..” Oso rubbed the bridge of his nose. Lexi could tell that at the moment, these actions were more annoying than her presence, at least for the moment. Lexi could happily settle for being second worst on her friend’s nerves.

“Sadly it was her time, mother went to join the great hall. You should have seen how many Cursed blood she killed before she was finally felled, we are still celebrating.” Oso looked left then right seeing the stoic honor guard standing firm and the wolfess corrected. “Well, ‘I’ am still celebrating. What is the point in life if you cannot be happy, and a leader must be happy, happy for the people. It is my place.”

Grumbling quietly Oso took a moment then spoke softly. “Very well then elder Ruusu, we are here to try... again, to bargain for your assistance in the…” he paused looking back at Croce and Lexi before sighing. “... the Project…”

A look of disdain and annoyance spread over his face, and if it was any indication of his previous experiences, then this would take a very long time.

“Ok, you have our assistance, and please just call me Rosie.” She chimed happily as she leaned back in her throne.

“How about no… and….wait… WHAT?” Oso’s eyes went wide and Lexi could have swore she heard him squawk. “D..don’t take my confusion for disappointment, but… um… what makes today any different from the last… I don’t know, 50 times!?”

The white wolf called ‘Rosie’ smiled and with a single playful motion she levied a pointed finger at Lexi. “Because of her.”

Footnote: No level up. While your companions do most the heavy lifting and you are doing quests, you could certainly do more.

You are now liked by the Southern Clans
You are now Neutral with the Island Clans

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes
Chapter editor - Currently N/A
Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.
Nick Valentine: Artist

Chapter 6: South... please?

View Online

South... please?

“You ready to go back?”

Lexicon nearly jumped at the sound of Oso’s voice. But nearly at a whimper she answered with the fullest extent of her heart. “Yes please… No more wolves… no more confusing nonsense…”

Oso chuckled and looked back at the the hall containing the overly talkative Oracle. “Well… if it’s any comfort, I don’t know what the hell she was talking about either.”

Lexi grumbled looking up at him. “Was at that crap supposed to make sense? You are but you aren’t? You are something but simultaneously you are not? Are all wolves this… um… weird?”

Oso grinned and shook his head. “She is pretty strange, her mother was much easier to deal with… But on another note, we have their assistance on my group's project. We have been trying for this for a very long time. But they will only help us if you are involved… I do hope you don’t have any changes in heart… This is pretty important.”

Lexi poked at the ground grumpily trying to figure out why the snow was ten feet thick everywhere but inside the city. The massive tree didn’t have so much as a single flake of snow on it. Checking her radiation often, she had discovered the surrounding area was strangely free of that as well. But one thing dug at her mind, and she knew the answer she would get, but she needed to ask. “Oso?... what is this project?”

Oso smiled and just like she knew he would, he shook his head. “Sorry, that’s not something I can just up and tell you. Maybe you can convince Tyrin when we meet back up.”

Despite the oddities all around, if she agreed and went along with it, she would be a part of something bigger again. And with the world ended, she didn’t really have anything else to go back to. “Ok… but… I am owed an explanation eventually."

Oso paused for a moment then nodded and Croce landed just a little ways away. “Can we get the hell out of here? These furballs are weird as shit. They don’t even have ammo or weapons for sale… Hell, they won’t even sell me food.”

Oso chuckled. “They won’t take caps and they don’t like outsiders. Here…” He stood taller and started off towards the market. But he slowed and looked back, waving for both Lexi and Croce. Lexi hurried to his side and Croce grumpily moved to follow Lexi.

They moved through the markets until they came upon an old wolf at a forge. What looked to be either his younger sister or possibly his mate stood beside him carefully working on something at a table.

Oso approached and said one or two things in the odd guttural tongue and the old wolf smiled sticking his hand in the forge. Lexi’s attention was fully on the wolf and her mouth dropped open when he pulled out a white glowing hot hunk of iron with his bare hands. He placed it on the anvil and fetched a hammer as well as some shaped tongs. Hammering the item and applying various different treatments, eventually he dropped it into a small bowl where it hissed loudly and bubbled whatever fluid the bowl held. He then passed it to the wolfess.

“Croce?... may I see your gun?” Oso’s talons extended and Croce stared almost in mistrust but he sighed and ejected the clip and cleared the chamber before handing it over.

Oso in turn held the item out to the wolfess who smiled at him then frowned at the gun. But she looked over at Croce and Shook her head. “No… I will make new weapons, or armor, but we do not service coward weapons.”

Croce looked cocked his head and stared at the old wolf and Oso promptly returned the gun to Croce before wolfess pulled a knife off the shelf and fiddled with it thoroughly and handed it to Oso, Oso tossed it to Croce who looked it over.

He hefted it's weight and inspected its edge before grinning. “It’s a bit big, but I won’t say no.”

The old wolf handed off the small trinkets still cooling to the wolfess and she started up on them as well. Oso watched with a soft smile on his features and muttering. “Nothing beats Susi steel…”

“I can name a few Griffons who would disagree…” Croce leaned in with his voice low.

“Birds build good armor, and complicated coward weapons. But none have finer steel than the Susi...” The wolfess chimed in almost with a growl as she worked.

“Coward weapon?” Croce asked as he looked over at her fitting the magazine back into his pistol and finding a place for his new knife.

Oso nodded, but the old wolf answered. “Yes, do not take it personally… it’s just what we call it. One can master the blade or magic. Takes decades of power and focus. Infant can use coward weapon and kill anything. No mastery, death of art, death of beauty.” He grumbled. “We do not work on coward weapons.”

Croce looked to be willing to say more but he just surrendered the thought. Finally the wolfess handed the small trinkets to Oso who made his way over and slipped them under Lexi’s collar. “Don’t lose them… those suckers are very valuable.”

“But what are they?” She placed a hoof on her collar where the little pieces of metal rested between the clothing and her fur.

“Don’t worry, if ever you actually need them, you'll realize pretty quick what they are for.” He turned and gave a soft bow to the to wolves and held out a handful of what looked to be metal cubes. But they shook their heads and turned away, going right back to work. Oso smiled and gave another bow, a little deeper this time and turned back to Lexi. “Ok.. now we can go.”

The trip out was surprisingly fast. Lexi was certain they would have to check out, or be guided or escorted. But they just left, the wolves seemed busy with their daily lives and Lexicon couldn’t place it, but it simply felt odd. The wolves were so dedicated to escorting them like they were criminals, all the way to the oracle, but now they were all but ignored as they left the city.

“I have to say…” Croce’s voice was steady as his wings carried him softly through the air behind them, his eyes locked on the blade he had received. “Despite how weird those guys are, its refreshing to see plants and trees with leaves, a steady community and… oh that’s right, how the hell do they keep the radiation out?”

Oso shrugged. “I think it’s some sort of ritual combined with influencing the weather patterns. But I honestly don’t know.”

“Weather patterns? They can manipulate that? How? I assume it’s something different from Pegasi.” Lexicon smiled thinking of little winged wolves dancing around in the clouds pushing them around and frolicking about. Then they all turned at the distant sound of screams and roaring, in the distant treeline she could just barely make out something large bursting from the trees covered in wolves who repeatedly stabbed at it trying to bring the beast down. The image in her head flashed to them prancing over blood stained clouds and she just shut it down.

“Their Druids have some level of control over the weather, it’s not flawless but it’s a good grasp. Granted, no bombs dropped up here, but the glowing tundra and that big storm should have killed everything up here. Amazingly while most of the trees are dead, you still find a lot of them alive, even if they are buried mostly in snow. And if you haven’t noticed, the snow gets more and more shallow the further away from the city we get.” Oso dragged his talons through the snow to show the depth.

Croce slashed at a low hanging branch and smiled at how easily the new knife passed straight through and the wood fell easily. “Still, the wolves are weird as shit and kinda spooky. I mean, what they hell do they even do up here?”

Oso laughed softly as he picked up the pace. “Live.” He paused and helped Lexi up a larger snow bank. “They have their own problems like rival clans, the cursed blood, wildlife… that kind of stuff. Ever since their king left just before the bombs they split into various clans. I don’t rightly know why, maybe it was a power grab, maybe it was religious differences, maybe it was just what they do… whatever it was, the clans are picky about which other clans the deal with, and even then usually they don’t get along with each other very well and the cursed blood all rebelled basically the very moment the King of the North vanished.”

“Cursed blood?” Lexi didn’t quite like the thought of something with that name. It was not the first time it was said, but she still didn’t like the sound of it.

“Don’t worry about it. They have a blood feud with the Susi, they won’t likely attack us, no point in it.” He trudged through the snow ensuring he left a heavy trail for Lexicon to trot through.

“But what are they?” Croce sounded off a little curious himself as he slid his new very large knife into place beside his machete.

Oso sighed but answered nonetheless. “Smaller crossbred Susi. They don’t have the same durability or size, and unlike the Susi, they use guns. But you don’t have to worry very much. They are usually sickly weak and not very intelligent. They used to have an actual position in the culture of the north. But when the king left, the Susi took up some old grudges. The Cursed blood all have one common ancestor who was… well let’s just say not very well liked. And well, with the king gone, they were not too afraid of stepping up and complaining about being second class citizens of the north. Now they are more or less raiders that won’t attack unless they have overwhelming numbers.”

Lexi looked to him hoping for more information but frowned when he didn’t continue. But she flinched heavily when he tossed something to her. There was a short laugh from Croce and a sigh from Oso as she fumbled and dropped the item, digging it out of the snow only to find the 10mm pistol.

“What?” She wasn’t too sure of herself, holding the weapon in her hooves.

It wasn’t until Croce nudged her playfully. “Aye mud pony, keep up and I’ll teach you as we go along. But just so you know, with that Pipbuck you have a MASSIVE advantage over most others in the wasteland.”

She raised an eyebrow as she struggled to walk and hold the weapon at the same time, she elected to hold it in her mouth as she moved to catch up. Though Croce swiped it from her mouth quickly. “Hold up! No doing stupid shit aye? I don’t want to get shot in the ass because you don’t know what the safety is…”

There was a short lesson in the anatomy of a pistol before a rundown on her pipbuck. She had almost forgotten about the bars at the bottom of her vision. Most things outside the influence of her glasses were just a blur anyway. Pushing her glasses up she peered at the bottom of her vision to see two blue bars and a small hoof full of yellow bars all over.

“Aye, its a handy tool, though you have a powerful tool right here. SATS…” He gestured to the Pipbuck. “I don’t know what this extra shit on the side of your pipbuck is, but you should be able to figure this shit out. I mean, you’re not too bright but I think you aren’t completely retarded.”

She glared at him but he just chuckled. “So what’s this SATS thing?”

He peeked at the screen, trying to get a look at the menu more trying to dig for answers which escaped him at the moment. “It's something like um… strategic … something ass something strategy…”

“Stable Tech Arcane Targeting Spell…” Lexi’s eyes were tied to the screen and Croce peeked back in again to see she had it pulled up on the Pipbuck. She felt she was useless in combat, but if it came down to reading and knowledge, she felt like taking on the world and a half.

“Yeah… just fucking do that then…” Croce sped up ahead a little poking around ahead of them all as Lexi read more and more.

After getting a quick rundown of the basic systems on her Pipbuck, her eyes couldn’t help but to peek down at the bars. Watching some very slowly move around, others bobbing left and right quickly. Something teased her mind and she looked back but saw nothing. With a soft sigh she picked up the pace and caught up to Oso in the bitter cold only to wait for Croce to return. She was sure that Oso could answer her questions, but she didn’t want to annoy him more. Croce, no matter how odd it was to her was still more or less bound to her by his self imposed contract. And she didn’t mind bugging him back after all the teasing and mockery she endured. “So… About the pistol?”

Croce looked her over and sighed. “Read your shit and find out SATS and once you get that crap figured out, I’ll teach you how to fire and maintain the sucker. He looked over at a small bird and gestured to it. “Here… shoot that.”

“The little birdie?” Her heart sank and she earned a nearly disgusted look from Croce.

“If you can’t kill a single pest, how the shit are you going to defend yourself from a slaver or raider? Hell, how are you going to fight at all? SHOOT THE DAMNED THING!” One set of talons swatted on the back of her head and the other pointed at the bird perched on a small branch.

She winced and quite suddenly the world went still. She opened her eyes to see the bird highlighted and marked with a simple 23%. She found herself unable to move or even to speak. She just fiddled around with the spell linked to her before finally she built up what she could only guess was a small queue of shots. There was an odd sensation and her whole body went tense as if somepony was puppeteering her every action. What little muscles she had went taut and her teeth tensed over the grip of the pistol, her tongue toyed the trigger and she popped off three shots in quick succession. But the bird remained untouched as it fluttered and took off.

Oso smirked. “I’m not usually a gun guy, but hey, at least she got close.”

“Close only counts in horseshoes and grenades.” Croce spat out before he sighed and drew his knife. Marking a tree with a simple circle he stepped back. “Ok Mud pony, just aim at the circle. Line up the sights and hit the trigger.”

Nervously looking to the circle she lined up the sights. She had just fired with SATS, how could this be any different? She made sure it lined up and clenched her eyes shut before hitting the trigger. But she promptly yelped as the gun went off and simultaneously flew out of her mouth.

Croce looked over the unmarked tree and sighed loudly. “This is going to take a while…”

“My teeth hurt!”

Oso chuckled and Croce was on the verge of just starting to yell at the young Earth pony until she finally followed his instructions properly. “Clench your damn teeth over the grip then! If your grip is loose then the recoil will get you.”

It had only been an hour, they had been casually popping back and forth through the woods, stopping for a few minutes at a time. Oso was trying to find the entrance back into the caves. He remarked that it was significantly easier than searching on the other side, but at least he could casually go about it knowing the Susi patrols were very unlikely to attack them in any capacity.

Lexicon whimpered and spat out the gun wanting something to wipe her tongue off on. The gun had been cleaned and worked on but it was still unnerving for her to stick 170 year old rusty pistol in her mouth. It was bad enough that she hadn't had a bath in 170 years, but this was just a little too much. Firing in SATS was pretty easy, her whole body tensed when the spell took over. But whenever she fired it without the spell it rattled her jaw and chipped her teeth.

“First chance we get, we are getting a harness for her!” Croce’s beak made an audible sound as it grinded in his anger.

“And a suppressor. I would be just a little more comfortable knowing less potential enemies hear gunshots as we make our way around.” Oso looked back over the horizon. He knew that this was still Susi territory, and they very clearly did not like guns. He didn’t want to offend any more than he had already. Though, he also knew that there was more than just the Susi here, but he was keeping an eye on it.

“Can we stop now? I mean, I’m thankful for your help, but I just think that guns aren’t for me…” Lexi huffed rubbing her jaw, almost tempted to down a healing potion or at least sip some so her teeth would stop hurting. On the bright side she got decent with SATS, especially since it did everything for her.

“Mud pony?... Do you know what happens to ponies that can’t fight?” Croce fluttered up and rested on a tree branch. “You remember those slavers right? Do you know what will happen to you if you run into them again and CAN’T fight them off? Chances are they will rape you, then they will sell you to someone else who will do the same thing over and over and over again until you either die of some disease or they kill you for fun.”

Lexi’s heart sank and just the thought of such a fate made her sick. She shuttered with dread at the thought, it made her want to be quiet and keep training, but it looked as though Croce was not quite done putting the fear into her.

“And that’s just what the slavers will do. Raiders will probably put a few bullet holes in you first. Hell, I’ve seen more than a few raiders turned cannibal. And I’m sure you’ve thought of what a mutated monster will do. Just eat you, tear you to pieces and swallow you whole. Mercenaries will likely kill you for any little thing you might have. Hell, I’ve had fellow mercs try and kill me in my sleep just for the possibility I had some spare ammo, and while its rare for Griffons, I’ve seen a few who will eat pony meat if it's convenient. There’s a thousand and one things out here that will kill you… unless…” He glared at her even though she had already basically been scared into a shivering little pile of earth pony on the floor. “Pick up your damned gun and learn to fucking shoot!”

Lexi popped up and desperately fumbled with her gun, clenching it in her teeth as hard as she could she whimpered as Croce came down and pointed just past her from behind, designating the little carved circle. Closing an eye she watched the iron sights of the pistol sway back and forth until the front sights lined up with the rear. She clenched her eyes and hit the trigger. There was a loud pop, but her teeth clenched tighter and when she opened her eyes, there was a hole in the tree. Certainly not the center but at least it was on the target.

“FINALLY!... Well, there you go mud pony. You can shoot almost accurately.” Croce shook his head and grumbled. It was a success, but it had been quite testing to his limited patience and something he did not want to have to repeat.

“Croce…” Oso’s voice was almost a surprise to both Lexi and Croce. Lexi just flinched, her adrenaline still blasting through her. Croce though looked over and grumbled even more.

“Hey, I got her to shoot without knocking any of her teeth…” He grinned and added. “Also, the recoil didn’t crack her teeth.

Oso was not smiling, this sent a puzzled look across Croce’s face. They were very different, but so far they’ve been able to enjoy a joke or two at Lexi’s expense. “Pack it up… for the past 20 or so minutes the Susi have been fighting something down there. Whatever it is, its running this way. I figured nothing down there would be interested in us, but they are coming this way and fast.”

Croce looked over at Lexi and her heart shot up into her throat. “Please don’t tell me you’re going to make me follow you into battle…”

“Hell the fuck no!. I wouldn’t do that even if you were literally my only hope.” He drew his new knife and his pistol. “See that shit over there?” He gestured with the blade to a dying thicket next to a short cliff. “Go over there, they will have to bottle neck in order to get to you. If any of them come after you, use SATS every chance you get. But overall, just put bullets into them until they stop moving.”

She looked to Oso who just nodded and reinforced her confidence simply by pointing at the small confined area. She slowly started in the direction but let out a yelp and ran when Croce’s open talons swatted her on the rear. “FASTER MUD PONY!”

She bolted for the little hiding spot and didn’t look twice before pouncing into the spot off the somewhat beaten path, she was quite surprised as she sank into the snow up to her shoulders. She remembered making snow forts with her mother when the neighborhood fillies and colts refused to play with her due to her less than stellar ability to throw snowballs and or run. Though, the general idea she went with was to stomp out all the snow she could to give her just enough room to duck low and move about while still having both line of sight with the bottleneck and a way to stay generally out of sight.

She nearly whimpered just standing as still as possible in the frozen snow. But to her surprise the cold didn’t really get to her. She could even feel her ears and the tip of her nose. It was surprising to her, but she only spent a few seconds marveling at it. Her attention was elsewhere as gunshots rang out and the sound of battle being joined by two griffons filled her ears.

Chewing her lip she listened carefully. She had seen how ungodly terrifying Oso was in battle with his bare talons, but she knew he had weapons. The odd bulbous weapons affixed with a bladed pick. She was confident that she would be safe. But unfortunately her heart sank and fear shot up inside her as she heard voice.

“There! See see tracks? The birds bring fight to our brothers, think we won't search behind them. Small tracks, maybe child?” The voice was higher pitched and just felt slimy. Like it belonged to a cartoon bad guy’s minion.

And so did the other voice. “Will be food. Take it yes, take it before the birds come back!”

Lexicon’s heart thundered in her chest, she really didn’t want to move, she didn’t want to use her gun. She didn’t want to fight, but the feeling bubbling in her chest told her that she didn’t really have a choice.

“Is pony… is female pony..” She looked up at what looked like a very small Susi. Clearly a wolf, but half the size. It was sickly thin with patches of fur clearly missing and armed with a sharpened stick and armored with scrap metal. But the look on her face told her she would likely lose more than her life if they captured her.

“Ah! Fun then food!” The second one grinned wide easily explaining to her what ‘fun’ meant.

She leaped up and clenching her eyes shut she fired wildly. She didn’t want to kill, but far far more than the desire not to take a life, she really didn’t want to get raped and eaten by whatever these creatures were.

The first few shots missed, but she got two hits in. Granted, they were grazes, but the smaller wolves shrieked and backpedaled before the one behind her raised a weapon she didn’t expect. A VERY large rifle rested in its hands and the weapon was leveled right at her. Instantly the world froze as she fired up SATS and she queued up the maximum number of shots she could on his head.

She activated the spell and watched in a flurry of emotional pain and confusion as the pistol fired digging a bloody furrow into the wolf’s cheek, then again once in his neck at the close range, then again dead center of his head. His lifeless body flew back like a rag doll. But then came the rushing scare of her young life.

The first wolf pounced on her, striking her square in the jaw. The blow knocked her pistol free, dazed and still full of fear she backpedaled desperately as the creature continued advancing.

She turned and tried to flee, but the wolf’s claws caught her by the leg and his hand forced her head into the snow as he forcefully peeled back her snow clothes. “Stupid pony… you learn.. You learn now!”

A desperate thought crossed her mind and she queued up all the SATS attacks she could. It was just one, but she really couldn’t miss as she looked back to ensure she had eyes on her target. She triggered the attack and could feel her hoof kick savagely into the wolf’s groin.

She watched in slow motion as the creature howled, but oddly the slow motion didn’t stop. She really hoped that she would get a chance to run. But something else surprising happened the wolf’s head popped like a zit, it simply exploded in a rain of viscera. From under the wolf she could just barely make out a figure dressed in a trench coat, a heavy revolver floating in his magical grasp.

A shower of blood, brain matter, and tattered skull rained down on her as time returned to its normal pace. Panic already blasting through her, she rapidly scooted back, her head whipped back and forth looking for the unicorn that had just saved her. But unfortunately not only could she not see him, but her gaze shot skyward and she felt the sickening tingle of freefall.

She had scooted herself off the cliff.

Falling with a loud scream, she flailed and tumbled all the way down before to her great surprise she landed face first into a heavy snow bank. The fall had been incredibly short, but now she was head first stuck in the snow.

Still very much overwhelmed she pouted and squirmed. She couldn’t wrap her head around what had just happened, she had killed another living being, she almost got raped, and someone had just barely saved her, then she survived falling off a cliff. Now, she just wanted to go home.

Doing her best to scoot back and forth she suddenly went still, renewing the shock in her heart as she felt something. She very very clearly felt something, or somepony touching her. Touching her butt.

Clenching her eyes tight, she screamed and bucked as hard as she could, thankfully her hooves made full contact and she could hear something exclaim loudly before there was nothing else.

Struggling for a few more moments she popped out of the snow and quickly pulled up her snow trousers. She didn’t know if it was the adrenaline or that she had just gotten used to the cold, but she didn’t feel even a single tremble, even with snow practically stuffed up her nose. Though, it was a little more surprising to her that her glasses were again, still resting on her nose.

Blinking she pulled them off and not surprisingly the world fell into a blur. She quickly put them back on and shook her head, almost trying to brush them off. But they remained right where she had set them. It was a delightful distraction from the hell she was currently in.

She desperately kept her mind from racing through the events that had just unfolded. She remembered a young griffon telling her ‘...that’s just the wasteland…’

“Distractions, is that really how you live with it? Is that how everypony deals with this hell?” She pushed the glasses up her nose and looked down at the hole in the snow she had just pulled herself from. But she shook her head and let her mind wander before turning around to survey the surroundings looking for the unknown person she had kicked for grabbing her tush.

A shock ran through her as something landed right behind her. She turned and swung her hooves and to her terror and fright, it caught her hooves and tumbled her through the air before planting a paw on the back of her neck driving her face first into the snow. “None of that mud pony… How did you get down here?”

Instantly she teared up as his paw came off of her. She pounced and wrapped her forelegs around him. “CROCE!!!”

“Get the fuck off!!” He pushed her back and grumbled loudly.

“I’m sorry! I… I just… it's..” She floundered with her words and he pinched her mouth shut.

“I know. I saw the tracks and the dead wolves. Congrats, it looks like there is some sort of hope for you.” He held up her pistol and popped the magazine out, swapping it out he handed it back and she gratefully took it.

“Where’s Oso?” She looked around only noticing that Croce had the wolf’s rifle over his back.

“He’s wrapping up what’s left and chasing them back towards the Susi.” He pointed back towards the village where they had come from.

“What… what are those things?” She looked up at the cliff where she had fallen from, she didn’t want to see one of those little wolves again.

“Oso calls them ‘cursed blood’. Apparently they were the peasant caste in the north back before the war. Some sort of legendary event which left them eternally stuck as the peasants. But when the bombs dropped, they rebelled and the Susi hunt them for sport or something like that. But on a side note, I know why they call guns coward weapons now.” He unslung the rifle and popped open a large hatch leading directly to the chamber from the top of the rifle. “These cursed blood are stupid cowardly. And these guns fire something really close to an anti-machine rifle round. Hell, the rounds look identical, save for the fact that these are crudely made. Still, freaking sweet find.” He flicked the hinged door with a happy grin and pushed an old and certainly home made looking bullet into the chamber then snapped it shut. “I think it's called a trapdoor rifle, I’ve heard of them… but… yeah…”

His voice trailed off as he looked at her as she nearly blubbered. She was extremely happy that he was here. It felt odd to her seeing such a rude griffon as the highlight of her day. But she couldn’t help it. She knew that whether he intended it or not, he had saved her before, and now he was saving her from her own trauma.

The moment was interrupted as Oso landed with a massive thud, his weight forcing his talons through the snow and into the rocks below. His armor was scuffed and Lexi could see rapidly closing holes on his chest and arms. She couldn’t tell if healing potions were fixing small or very large injuries. But there was no blood, so she felt, it was more than likely small wounds. “You all right?”

Lexi nodded, the fear was ebbing away and Oso looked her over, as well as the snow around her. He paused as if thinking deeply, but just shrugged. “Aye, lets go. We have to get home to deliver this news.” He reached out and picked her up before flying back to the top of the cliff.

Squirming the whole way up Lexicon closed her eyes as they passed over the dead wolves, but she was reminded. “Ah! Oso, a pony was here!... He helped me, but he ran off.”

“Oh… is that so?” He put her down right where she had seen him, the snow was shallow on the path but still, she couldn’t see any tracks other than their own that they were currently making and some general disturbances.

“Yeah, he was right here... He shot that wolf over there.” She pointed and Oso just gave her a firm pat on the head.

“More of a reason for us to leave. Just be thankful you are lucky enough to get that kind of help.” He gave her a firm push and they started to look for the cave again.

They moved with purpose, wanting to avoid that kind of combat again. And in their search, Lexicon regaled them of the details. Croce seemed interested, despite her leaving out the part where the wolf was trying to get into her. He didn’t ask many questions, but he had plenty of advice for the ‘next time’. Oso however was relatively silent. He moved sternly and his eyes remained sharp. It was unclear on whether or not he was just in a fowl mood for some reason or now that he had the Susi’s help he didn’t want to lose it by losing Lexicon. Either way, he seemed on edge and perhaps even a little grumpy that she had been attacked while he was away. The Oracle did say that she would help Oso’s group because of Lexicon, and best as she could figure, it took ages for him to get this deal, long enough that he was expecting to show up, get turned down, and then leave all in the same go.

Her mind continued to race as the sun began to set just as they came across the trail leading to the cave. She could not wait to get out of the snow, despite how used to it she had gotten.

She slowed with the group just twenty minutes into the cave. Slowly beginning to set up camp, she took note to push away all bones and set up in a nice area nestled into a corner, she took a lot of time walking about and looking at the point from every corner she stood trying to make sure she would be the last thing noticed in the cavern if anything entered while she slept.

She grumbled and settled in. Today had been hectic. But she was surprised to see that the panic in her heart was gone. She didn’t know if she was succeeding with her distracting thought or if she was still somehow in shock. But the more she thought about it, the more she just felt like she it didn’t matter, she was safe and had not been violated.

She snuggled into the bedding and spared a last look at Oso who looked to be taking the first watch this night as well. Croce sat in an up high location servicing his new rifle with a smile. She set her lantern up and rested the cup of cold water from her supplies on top, but she couldn’t find any tea. So she settled on a hot cup of water as she coiled up with nothing but her thoughts.

Tempting fate, she closed her eyes rerolling the thoughts and events through her mind. That she had almost been raped, and that she had killed. But to her surprise panic did not raise up in her heart. She seemed utterly indifferent to the whole event, she just felt tired.

She rolled the thoughts around in her head and finally nuzzled into her pillow. “Goodnight…”

Footnote: Level 4 Achieved.

Perk added: Mysterious Stranger. You have gained the attention of a mysterious stranger, a stranger who may jump in to help you in combat during SATS.

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes

Chapter editor - Currently N/A

Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.

Nick Valentine: Artist

Chapter 7: Make it back

View Online

Make it back

"How the fuck are you not cold?" Croce's beak chattered as he shivered trudging through the shoulder deep snow in the fierce biting winds, he sounded almost too tired to complain. The weather had picked up quite a bit. Ever since they had left the cave, it was almost a battle to move forward at all.

"I told you that you can hide under my wings if you really are that cold..." Oso's massive wings opened and he chuckled. Even Lexicon smiled, though despite the fact that he had answered the query, Croce was not talking to the Oso. This was made even more clear with Croce's angry grimace at the big Griffon.

"I don't know, honest... I remember it being horribly cold coming up..." Lexicon smiled suckling on a new batch of anti cold/anti radiation medicine that Oso had whipped up just before they came back out of the cave. It was going to be a much longer walk, though she was willing to consider a trip through the skies once the winds calmed down a bit, at least if they let her know first this time.

Oso's wing remained open and he waited, but Croce despite the bitter painful cold sneered and barely managed to spit out a response. "I'm really not into dudes..."

"Neither am I... but I would rather not see you die, especially from something so trivial as cold weather." Oso shrugged and lowered his wings tightly compressing them against his body. "Well, I'm sure if you ask nicely, Lexi will snuggle with you to keep you warm..."

Lexi's ears perked and a blush spread over her face. The suggestion had seemed so much more innocent the first time she heard it. Still, she looked over at him just in time to see him chuck a small piece of snow at Oso.

"Shut the fuck up turkey! I'm not into fucking ponies!" Lexi couldn't tell if he was blushing or the cold was just making his face awkward, but considering it was Croce she guessed it was the cold.

Lexi trudged on through the furrow in the snow, plowed through by Oso. Croce for some odd reason preferred to try and walk over the fresh snow, and Lexi just grew more and more concerned at his slower speed and lower energy. Thankfully, his grumpiness always chimed through.

Lexi lifted her glasses for just a moment, as if bored test, and instantly snow caught in her eyes. Oddly, she didn't much feel the discomfort of cold stinging ice, but rather the discomfort of something in her eyes before instantly, it was gone. She mumbled and grumbled and kept moving forward.

Sparing a glance up out of the Giant griffon powered ditch, she exclaimed softly in concern as Croce wasn't there. But she turned to see him finally on the path with her. "You ok?" She looked over at him and he seemed to just angrily grumble.

Oso glanced up into the storm, he seemed stuck in thought. She never saw him shiver but he turned and addressed the cold. "The storm doesn't look like its letting up. We better find a spot to rest at least until the storm passes."

Lexi nodded, still comfortably cozy in her little snow clothes. She looked over Oso's features as he searched for a spot. There was not much to find and she remembered the length of the trip. They were only a few hours away from the cliffs they had to go up to make it to the tundra on their trip to the wolves. She was fine, but the more she heard Croce shiver and his beak clattering the more she began to understand that waiting was the better choice.

She waited for Croce to come alongside her before she continued at his pace, but he seemed a tad aggressive at the gesture. So she turned her head pretending to do anything else. But she caught sight of Oso, he looked to be mumbling something to himself as he poked about at the base of a large rock popping out of the snow. Without warning he hopped up and plowed face first into the fluffy white powder, and then like a whirlwind he tore into it digging deep very quickly.

Lexi sat looking at the hole for a moment, noticing that Croce had stopped too. It was just a few seconds later when Oso popped out and shook off the snow, holding in one set of talons, a wooden pallet. But something changed quickly when he looked back. She could barely see him squint then he quickly set the pallet to the side and broke into a full sprint back towards her.

Lexi watched him in confusion as he ran up almost desperately. To her surprise he pushed past her, to Croce. An unconscious Croce. With full urgency he scooped up the small griffon, slinging him over his shoulder and just as quickly he jutted a talon back to the hole he just came out of. "In the hole! NOW!"

Oso pushed her quickly and quickly she hopped in followed by Oso with Croce. In a flurry he pushed her forward and fired up the lantern. To her surprise she noticed that the hole lead straight to a buried sky cart that had to have crashed ages ago. He put the lantern down and lay Croce on the floor of the little chariot. Lexi took notice of crates and old pallets which she guessed were filled with something that rotted away naturally.

"Set up your sleeping bag! And get his!" Oso barked at her as he wrenched off his clothes. To her surprise she heard the other layers of his clothes nearly clack and clang on the metal floor of the cart, they were nearly frozen solid. "Stubborn little ass... he should have told us it was this bad..."

Lexi quickly spread the blankets and rummaged through Croce's pack to get more. By the time she had it laid out Oso was facing her. "Ok... this is going to be a tad uncomfortable, but we have to do this and do this quickly..."

Before she could pop off an answer he pulled on the collar to her coat and pulled off one of the small metal trinkets he had placed there before. Instantly as if she was hit with a sledgehammer of cold, she began to shiver. "Wha! What in Celestia's giant ass!?!? IT'S FREEZING!!!"

Oso placed the trinket on the blankets and lay Croce onto it. "I know..." He didn't look away from Croce, quickly pulling a healing potion from deep within his bags. It was still almost a slurry of half frozen purple. He quickly let out an annoyed growl and set it on the lantern watching the ice crystals melt.

"Then why didn't I feel it until.... wait... is that what that thing does?" He nodded and she spouted off again. "Then what does the other one do?"

"Doesn't matter, get into bed with him. He will likely be ok, but without him being awake and able to move around he needs as much warmth as he can get. And without the sun token, you're next on the freeze to death list." He gestured to Croce and with a bit of concern and a touch of blush she hurried into the blankets and Oso covered them tightly. He cranked up the lantern keeping it near. "Rub up on him. The more warmth the better." He grabbed the potion and shook it thoroughly before pouring it down Croce's throat.

She blushed but nodded pushing up against her griffon friend. A little shock pushed into her and she was authentically concerned as he really was ice cold. She began to snuggle into him trying desperate to warm him, but when she looked up she noticed Oso standing up and begin to leave. She nearly stood up. "Wait! Where are you going?"

He didn't look back. "Someone has to keep their eyes on the storm, The moment there's a break in the weather we will have to rush out its still in the fall, if we don't get out soon, we might be stuck until spring... or until you both die. But we will leave the moment it's clear, hopefully he will be better before then. Just keep him warm and get some rest." He popped a berry and headed back out into the storm.

Lexi writhed in the blankets, still desperately trying to keep him warm, thankfully she could feel the little heat charm working even as they were, which meant it was working on Croce too. She snuggled for several more minutes even started to get a little too warm. He leaned against Croce and felt his body heat at a comfortable level. And with that, she slowed and let herself rest, turning to face away from her first wasteland friend. She struggled with that thought, she was confident that Croce wouldn't be around if he didn't have the odd fascination of following through on his little oath. She felt he was a friend, but she was certain she was an annoyance. Still, she was happy he was warmer now, and still concerned about him.

Again, she couldn't hear Oso above them, she could just barely hear Croce breathing from over the raging storm. Sleepily she closed her eyes and remembered to try and get some rest.

Sleep came a little easier for her this time around, but the dreams didn't bubble up. Just flashes and images of Wax Seal, and other stallions she knew. She would have wondered if her head was trying to tell her something, something important. It was cozy but there was an odd feeling in the pit of her stomach, it wasn't fear, pain, or disgust. It was something else entirely.

Her eyes snapped open, feeling the strong talons over her mid section. Even over the storm she could hear the Croce's heavy breathing, it was confusion that washed over her. She felt a tad chilly and noticed his rubbing and intense snuggling. It made more sense then. He woke up and was trying to get warm again. She couldn't tell how long it had been. But she guessed it was only an hour or two.

She moved slightly, and he seemed to hardly notice, flinching and slowing but as she rubbed back trying to get the warmth, he continued vigorously. But that same feeling rushed through her, oddly making her shiver. She closed her eyes and focused, she was still tired, the trip had been long and she didn't even know how long she got to sleep. She was quite happy that Croce was moving again but still, something ate at her. It bothered her tremendously but oddly in a good way.

Her mind churned and she came to the realization that the feeling wasn't bad. But the sensation was certainly something else. She slowed and something happened, something which made her heart leap into her throat and the sensation multiply exponentially.

She felt it so clearly, his talons slid under her snow trousers, while simultaneously his beak closed down on the back of her neck.

It didn't hurt, she could feel the pinch, teasingly on the verge of pain as she felt the talons draw the trousers down. Her heart fluttered, she didn't know what to do or what to think. Her racing mind tried to figure out what she was feeling, she brought in memories of the wolf just before they hit the tunnels. But something rejected it. This was nothing like it, that feeling was fear, and a fair amount of horror. But here and now, feeling the trousers slowly slink down her flanks she wasn't scared.

Beet red blush flooded her when she identified the sensation. It was excitement.

Her mind raced at a thousand miles a second. She felt the talons draw the trousers down to her knees and she bit her lip not sure what to do. She felt more than just warm, she could practically hear her heart thundering deep inside her. Her mind picked out anything she could to try and place the feeling. She remembered nothing that could of use. Her mother hated Stallions after her father ran off, but she always held that curiosity and desire. She always entertained the thought of somepony special, but as she felt the trousers go past her hooves, she realized that she had never gotten even to first base with anypony. She was always busy with work or even reading. The closest she had ever gotten was quite literally steamy romance novels and her mind burned with the details from those a thousand times over.

He bit again, on her ear as he pulled her in. Logical Lexi was simply out of order, and a gaggle of other Lexis yelled and fought with eachother. But mostly, she could hear one or two of them cheering. Her breathing picked up even more, was this why Croce always picked on her? Was this why he always acted like he was disgusted at the concept of sharing bedding?

She gasped feeling him grasp the base of her tail and pull her into his lap, her rear flush with his hips. Her mind continued asking questions and trying to figure this out. 'Throw him off!' Some Lexi shouted before she was dogpiled under impulsive Lexi, romance Lexi, and the rare sight of horny Lexi.

'Nu! This can't be your first time!' The smooshed Lexi protested before an unrealistically large cherry was pushed into her mouth and her jaw bucked to splatter it by what she guessed was symbolism Lexi.

Her breath hissed through her teeth and she whimpered as he seemed to command her body. Biting harder on her lip as he grasped her mane with an iron grip, her excitement was tempered with hopes and fears but she felt like she might be ready. She could feel it, she could feel him prodding, positioning. She didn't know what to make of it. Parts of her were scared, a lot of her was excited, and still parts of her worried. She didn't know what to do, she knew she might regret it, she knew Croce was probably just crazed by the cold and getting caught up in the moment. But a part of her wanted it. She wanted the pleasure.

She felt him in position, she closed her eyes and breathed in deep, she felt him tense, she felt his grip on her mane and hip tighten, she heard him breath in heavily, she felt him start to pull on her body and the fringes of him thrusting with his hips, she felt the pressure building down below...

"I just said keep him warm... but I guess you can do that too..." Both Croce and Lexicon's eyes snapped open wide and in unison they turned to see Oso staring down at them.

They both went rigid and as if frozen in place they simply stared. Oso stared back, but clearly lacking their shock and utter embarrassment. She could hear a Lexi inside screaming 'The end of the fucking world and STILL I can't get laid!!'

Lexi felt the talons gripping her hair let go, the pulled hair fell into a messy bunch. The pressure down below went away as his thrust froze and he popped off course, but Croce for the most part remained frozen.

Oso still stood there, almost as if he was a living cold shower on a fantasy she never knew she had. They both watched his beak open as he started again. "I mean, not that I'm not happy for you... but get up, there is a clearing in the storm, if we hurry we can get down back into Equestria. But we have to leave right now!" In one motion, Oso grasped the blankets and pulled them out from under Lexi and Croce. Tumbling them onto the frozen metal, Croce erupted into violent cursing as he turned away hiding himself and struggling to find his clothes.

Lexi too, even brighter red, nearly on the verge of a heart attack struggled and found her trousers, pulling them back up she stood paralyzed looking into Oso's eyes.

"Don't just stand there, get everything packed up!" He reached behind the lantern to retrieve Croce's clothes and armor, now fully thawed out and dry.

Lexi moved and did everything she could to help put things where they needed to be. Croce too scrambled before finally getting his stuff put away.

There were no words as Lexi and Croce followed Oso out of the little snow tunnel into a clear night sky. It was instantly freezing cold again, but Lexi nearly didn't notice it with the encounter just minutes ago. She and Croce didn't dare make eye contact, she was basically in a daze, she almost didn't notice when Oso opened her collar again and placed the Sun token back in her clothing.

"Up!" Oso motioned to Lexi for her to climb onto his back. "And hold on tight, this is just a small reprieve of the storm, we have to get down there fast, and that means flying." She looked him over and glanced back at Croce. She swallowed and clambered on.

She held tightly, extremely tightly and in a sudden fit of desperation to check and see if Croce was there, she looked back just in time to see the ground rushing away right after the sudden lunge. But for just a moment, she caught Croce's eye. And just as quickly, he turned away, she could see his blush. He rushed off to the side but turned to follow at a distance. Lexi finally clenched her eyes shut. As good as it was that she had a quick and safe way down the mountain, flying still scared her spitless.

A flash of memory hit her, she could see the ground rushing towards her from the first time she flew like this. She clenched, holding on tighter as the memory lingered. As usual, she distracted herself with another train of thought. The sensation of her trousers being pulled on returned and she shook her head near violently to push the image away. She had almost as it were, indulged in the temptations of the flesh as it were. She had no moral obligation to object, even thinking hard she couldn't find anything in her that told her it was bad, but again, her mind was racing as she was blocking current events with distractions the best she could.

Her memory turned back further, feeling not talons, but claws on her rump. She didn't know what part of her demanded that these two should be similar but she couldn't make the connection. She was authentically frightened, almost traumatized at what had happened when those wolves found her. Not only did they fully intend on molesting and killing her, but she had actually killed them. The sensation was filled with sickness and disgust, it was quite literally painful to think of. Just as quick, she pulled up the sensation of talons, feeling him bite, the aggressive authority in his actions as he pulled her over. Again, she only felt a spark of excitement, perhaps a little guilt, but nothing else. Her mind chewed on the comparison, she didn't get it. But a small touch of some Lexi deep inside figuratively arguing with Logical Lexi told her simply. 'You're upset that you can't make the connection, you feel like you should be outraged, but are only upset because you're not.'

She wanted to ask why, but she was kinda fine with her imagination personifying the concept of thought and problem solving, but she drew the line at actually talking to herself, especially while in the company of others. She grumbled at the thought and gripped tighter at the sudden shaking of turbulent icy winds catching under Oso's wings. She was just moving on, drudging up another mentally shelved note when something more familiar touched her senses. A heavy thud.

Her eyes cracked open, she still saw snow, but only a little bit of it. Her eyes opened wider and she hesitated slightly, even as Oso shook her off. Her rear hit the ground and she stared about, almost in a daze. She looked about and spotted Croce land just a little ways off. She turned, and her emotions boiled inside of her. On impulse she started in his direction, but he turned away and started off away from her. Just as fast Oso's talons with surprisingly gentle grace, closed over her shoulder.

"Let him go... I'm sorry about all that, but, well... lets talk..." Oso looked her camly in the eyes and she swallowed loudly.

She sipped on hot tea right off the lantern peeking back to see Croce glance her way just once before going back into the woods. She sighed and looked back at Oso. "I... I don't know what to say..."

"Honestly, I don't either." Oso smiled with a soft chuckle. "Look, the cold brings people together sometimes. He was likely just caught up in the moment, don't take it too seriously."

"But... wh..why did he...did..." She looked up at him and he sighed.

"I don't know if you've noticed, but he's probably even younger than you. I mean, physically. He's barely an adult, much like you... sometimes kids do stupid things. Sometimes it comes out in fighting, sometimes like today it comes out in sexual frustration... Sometimes its just angst. I'll talk to him... just want to make sure you're ok.." He calmly sipped on his own tea as he looked her over.

"I'm... I'm ok, I just... I'm confused... and kinda... ok... REALLLLY embarrassed." She couldn't help but to avoid eye contact, Oso still felt like a family member, this time like the stereo type of father, which made her desire to leave out the part where she was angry at the lost opportunity even stronger.

Oso smiled again downing his tea. "I'll talk to him, just stay here."

She nodded and chewed on her lip as he made his way over. She was very grateful that he was with her, but at the same time, something about him bugged her to death. She couldn't figure it out, but something about him was driving her crazy. She knew he was an odd one, huge for a Griffon, but that wasn't it. She pondered as she watched him close the distance between him and Croce. It wasn't his mysterious goals which she still didn't know. Or how aloof he was with everything about his friends and details of himself.

She watched calmly, but a spark of concern showed as she could see and hear Croce swearing. She watched, hunkering down and nibbling at her hoof, finally off the mountain she was a bit more comfortable out of her barbed horseshoes. Lexis inside babbled on about what they could be saying, but all that stopped and her heart rate skyrocketed as Croce whipped out his pistol, but was promptly introduced to the ground by Oso. She stood up with fright watching intently, but she could see Oso's beak moving, he was speaking very calmly into Croce's ear as he pinned the smaller griffon under his weight. She fidgeted, trying hard to resist the urge to rush over and get involved.

Just a few moments later she loosed a held breath as Oso let Croce up. They exchanged some words but slowly, Croce started to nod and together they began walking back. But Oso stopped just a little ways off and Croce closed the distance still struggling to look Lexicon in the eyes.

"H..hey..." He seemed nervous, it was certainly not what she had ever expected.

Swallowing and blinking she looked at him and they eyes met firmly. "H...hey..."

They broke eye contact and he grumbled. Scratching the back of his neck for what felt like hours he finally spoke. "I... I'm sorry. I just... I woke up, you were so warm, you woke up too, and... well, you didn't pull away. I... I didn't hear or feel a 'no'...Griffon girls tell you very quickly, usually with violence if your actions are wanted or not."

She blushed, a flurry of emotions rushing through her again, she almost wanted to ask to try it again, she just wanted to feel his talons pulling her hair and his warmth, but in the excessively awkward silence he spoke up again. "I'm sorry, I'm really not into ponies... I... I just got super caught up in the moment. So much cold, so much warmth, a girl just... there, and... well you seemed into it." He flustered, the feathers on his neck puffing up, she couldn't tell if his statement on ponies was true or if he was just trying to convince himself. "I'm still your body guard, nothing will change that. Just... all of that was a mistake, a HUGE mistake. I'm sorry, and it won't happen again."

The words hit her like a skybuss. Her stomach sank and her eyes fell to her hooves. "I... I understand." She wanted to say more, her guts were writhing inside her. She couldn't place all these flustered feelings. Part of her wanted to ask him to reconsider, to scream to him she was into it, REALLY into it. But most of her felt embarrassed, she came so close and now he was outright telling her it was a mistake. But slowly, she remembered Oso, '... He's barely an adult, much like you...'. She pawed at the ground and did her best not to tear up. The realization hit her hard. She had been caught up in the moment as well. She felt his touch and instantly equivocated it with some sort of affection. She wanted it because she was screaming at herself that it was romance, perhaps even love. She felt so naive, so stupid. "I... I understand..."

He nodded and turned away, going back to Oso. But the emotions flared inside of her again. She couldn't place it at all, so instead she just peered inside and let the little Lexis argue. They had split up into five groups, the loudest was just yelling that sex is sex, and she had been through enough, she's been nothing but loyal and hard working, for equestria, and now climbing mountains, fighting monsters, getting scared half to death every hour from some new crime against nature. She deserved something. The second group was yelping and whining that it wasn't special, her first time needed to be more than just exhausted spontaneous frustration sex. The third group whined about what ponies would think, sex with a griffon? A griffon she met just days ago? The same griffon who killed so easily and relentlessly teased and mocked her?

Interestingly, those three groups were the only active ones, the other two either hid under a table blushing or were in silent denial. She still didn't know what to think of comparing the wolf and Croce. It still bothered her that she didn't feel a similarity. Even now, she couldn't put them on the same level. Even if it was just in the moment, in that moment, she wanted it, she wanted it badly.

"You ok?" Oso nudged her and she flinched hard. "You're really red, you getting a fever?" He reached out to her and she recoiled.

"N..no! I'm fine... I'm just... I've just got a busy mind... that's all." She forced a smile and looked about. She saw Croce, she saw Oso, but not much else. "S...so... um... what's next?"

Oso sighed, the sound was oddly caught between comfort and annoyance. "Now... Now we go back to see my friends. Hopefully, you won't be bothered much. Tyrin is probably back at the castle. We will figure out our next steps from there." He gestured not to the south, but the east.

"Ok... so... where's the castle?" She looked him over watching him grin as he remembered her knack for remembering these sort of details.

"Outside of Equestria. It's a bit of a trek but we can make it in a day or two." He stretched his wings and sighed. "You still got those MREs?"

Lexi blinked. "Yeah... some of them. Croce made me sell the rest."

"Aye, good. Eat them sparingly, me and Croce will find our food as we go along." Oso gave her a nudge and started off.

Croce grumbled but waited for Lexi to start off after Oso before following.

It was mostly a silent trip. The first few hours were calm, despite Croce angrily grunting. It wasn't until about the fifth hour that Lexi spoke up. "Why aren't we flying? I mean, I'm terrified of flying, but why aren't we?"

Oso looked back only for a moment. "The Enclave. Its a little safer far up north, but this is technically inside Equestria, we should be safe, but its not a risk I want to take. Hell, even if we don't run into a patrol, there could be lightning traps up here."

"Bullshit!..." They both looked to Croce. "I've been up there a dozen times, no lightning, and I've never seen any Enclave. And even there was, we don't have to go above the clouds to go a thousand times faster than this."

"Fair point, but there are a few other reasons." Oso turned about and sat down. "But I take it that you asked because you're tired?"

It was Lexi's turn to grumble. "Yeah... so..." She hesitated a bit pretending she wasn't waiting for him to answer.

"Alright, we'll set up camp here. You two get some sleep." Oso quickly plucked Lexi's pack off her back and started to set things up.

Even though he didn't say it, immediately 'get some sleep' sounded like get into bet in her head quickly bringing up the warmth in her and making her squirm. She wanted to be able to put it behind her, but the mention just brought it right back to her mind. And just on queue, she looked back at Croce and caught the him nearly violently turning to face the other way. She guessed the vague request to set up camp reminded him of the sky cart as well.

She didn't see where Croce went, but she knew he would be close. Oso again, sat up to stand watch. She was legitimately wondering if he was just a giant robot or something. She never saw him sleep, and the more she thought about it, the only actually biological thing she had ever seen him do is eat berries and grunt in pain, even then he didn't do either or those much anyway.

She set that conundrum aside and picked up her tea off the lantern. Sipping carefully, she was grateful that she wasn't making camp in a dozen feet of snow, or a long dead cavern filled with pony bones. But at he same time, she was a little more concerned about others showing up. Other than the wolves, the deep north was basically barren and void of life. She was happy to be in slightly warmer weather, but she wasn't too thrilled with the concept of dealing with slavers, raiders, and the more nightmarish remains of her once rather structured and happy Equestrian life.

Her hooves ached, but she had to be honest with herself, as she looked about the little camp, she knew she could keep going. Finally out of the snow travel was rather easy. Sure her whole body ached, but she knew she asked to stop simply because she wanted to sleep and hope all her mental stress went away for the day. It was the two dozen Lexis in her head screaming, whining, pouting, and even protesting which she needed to escape from, not the physical stress of the trip on her unready body.

Snuggling into her bedding she listened carefully hoping to catch the sound of Croce's voice, even if it would feel guilty now, she hoped for at least somewhat pleasant and possibly naughty dreams. But when she heard the now almost iconic ear splitting screech of Oso on the attack, she was almost not surprised.

Popping off her pillow she dug her pistol out and threw herself into a bush flashing her SATS on and off rapidly trying to pick out what was being engaged.

She could hear the clatter of gunfire and screams of what sounded like ponies. She flinched at the shadow of Croce flying overhead. But he shot her a glance which told her what she already knew.

"Staying put..." She grumbled leaving SATS alone as she scanned her surroundings from the sights of her pistol tight in her teeth. Her eyes peered at the red bars as two blue bars dashed and danced about between them, red winking out quickly.

She took in a breath stepping out of her bush as only two red bars remained. She didn't want to think about death, but she knew that there was probably not much out there that could stand up to Oso or Croce, much less both of them. Mumbling she honestly wanted to pretend nothing was going on and just get back into bed. It was odd catching herself in such a mood but she went with it. Logical Lexi mumbled something about how much easier it was when it wasn't in her face and when she was already mentally exhausted.

She mumbled and stepped just a little ways towards her bed and she noticed something, it caught her eye but didn't hit her brain just yet. The two blue bars remained vaguely still as the second to the last red bar winked out. But the last red bar moved quickly. She stopped, and turned towards it, stepping softly left then right. And the bar moved exponentially more than the blue bars.

It hit her the very same moment that the raider burst from the bushes in full sprint. The distance of bars wasn't displayed on the eyes forward sparkle, but she could see it in how the bars moved in relation to each other and her own movements.

In a panic she whipped about and watched through her own crosshairs as the raider, a filthy looking stallion, radiation burns, scrapped together armor, open sores on his skin. It was all a shock to see, as she had not seen many ponies since waking up. Even traveling through pasternville, she didn't even see enough of the shady types to tell if they were actually ponies. But the icing on the crap cake that was this interaction was that he was just as surprised to see her, and while she froze, looking into his eyes, her pistol leveled at his face, he didn't.

Almost in slow motion, she watched the weapon raise, a rifle in the magical grip of this raider pony, she hadn't even noticed he was a unicorn. He was still in mid gallop as the rifle raised, bobbing slightly as it was brought face level with her. Seconds went on like years as she watched this simple panicked raider. She didn't know what happened first, but she flinched, closing her eyes tightly, there was an explosion of pain accompanied by a loud bang.

Footnote: No level up. If only awkward almost sex was worth experience.

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes
Chapter editor - Currently N/A
Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.
Nick Valentine: Artist

Chapter 8: Unfriendly

View Online


There was so much pain. She never quite felt anything like this, she couldn't open her eyes, there was just unbearable pain and the vague feeling that her body was being moved around.

The dull murmur of words touched her ears but felt like cold iron blades scraping against her skull. The little earth pony finally managed to open her eyes, and despite the glasses still perched on her nose, she could only see a blurry mess. But as things began to shape up. The dark blurry vision was a more brighter blurry vision and while she could basically only groan and whimper in pain, she was confident that Croce and Oso were there with her.

"At least she's alive..." Croce's voice still sounded dull and distant to her, but despite the pain, she was overjoyed to hear it.

She reached up to try and embrace her own head but massive talons pushed her hooves back down. "No... stop that. Just drink."

She barely noticed something being pressed to her lips, all she saw was blurry purple. Her mind concluded it was a healing potion. She tried to ask what had happened, but all that came out was a long painful whimper.

Thankfully, Oso either understood or gave the answer coincidentally. "Stay still... you've been shot."

"But seriously though, can we go back to the wolves, I want one of those talismans." Croce chuckled flipping something about in his talons.

Sipping the purple potion as fast as she could, slowly she began to feel a bit better, but she could clearly tell just by opening her mouth and closing it that her head was quite swollen. But the confusion was still there, her face and head hurt like nothing she had ever felt and she was swollen.

"Yeah, well... it's a good thing I got her the iron token, otherwise she would be extremely unbelievably gone right now." Oso swiped the object Croce was toying with. "I'm still quite surprised it broke... I mean hell, these things are crazy effective. The hell did the raider shoot her with?"

'Blurry' Croce picked up a weapon off the ground. "Eight gauge tungsten slug." Croce whistled happily as he pulled a small bag up with the gun and slung it over his shoulder. "And its an auto shotty... shit condition, but shes a pretty girl." She could hear the clacking and clicking as he fiddled with it.

"Tungsten... well I guess that explains the damage, I'm surprised she's still alive." Croce pushed the potion to her lips again and she sipped painfully.

"Well, it's not just the material of the slug. You gotta take into account the type of propellant and the amount, then the make of the gun, the length and even weight of the barrel, all sorts of stuff. I'm surprised you don't know this stuff. How old are you?" Croce poked at the much larger bird and earned only a loud sigh.

"I don't like using guns. I will if I have to, or if it's super convenient, but I prefer to use melee weapons. I got a lot of mass, I prefer to use it in a more flattering way than just being a flesh tank lugging around some 40mm cannon." He squinted at Croce who leaned in waiting for the answer to his other question. "And I am none of your damned business years old."

There was a loud pop which shot a cold shock down Lexi's spine. Her vision swam even more but the pain started to die down. Oso looked over and his rather stoic features betrayed a touch of relief. "Aye... up little one... I'm going to be carrying you for a while."

She started to protest until the very moment she started to really move. Instantly she doubled over as the pain shot back to life like fire and she vomited.

"Stop thrashing... Your skull just barely knitted back together!" She could feel Oso's talons over her midsection as he lifted her. The pain was extreme but with a sudden soft prick a numbness shot through her and she became even more dazed.

She noticed Oso's voice, but she couldn't make out what he was saying, just that he was angry. And she felt she barely placed Croce's retort. There was some back and forth before everything faded so much that she couldn't tell what was going on. Everything was just one massive blur. The last touch of sensation was her body coming to a rest before things began to get dark.

Lexicon sputtered awake. Head aching like no other and her body felt numb and tingly, but she moved just a little before she felt something VERY uncomfortable. She pushed the blanket she was tucked into away to find a catheter had been placed into her. She was a little shocked and a bit more embarrassed. But she took quick stock of her situation.

Her forehead was heavily bandaged, her vision was back, but her glasses were stuck to her snout with blood. She still hurt horribly and she started to panic a little. But a set of talons landed on her shoulder and she looked up to Croce. "Gah!... wh... what happened?!"

He grimaced a little and cleared his throat. "You were shot in the head. Damn... right between the eyes. But you're alright... I think."

She blinked, recalling Oso's blurry voice spouting that off. But she turned and looked him in the eyes. "How?"

He blinked and ducked his head slightly looking back behind him. "Well, you remember those things we got from the wolves? They are some sort of Talismans, one keeps you warm, and the other apparently makes your flesh as durable as iron. So instead of killing you instantly, the tungsten slug just cracked your skull and broke the talisman." He fidgeted a little and raised a talon. "You were in so much pain that I just shot you full of Med-X... Oso yelled at me because apparently there was something about not pumping someone full of drugs when they have a severe head injury. But I just didn't want you thrashing about while he was trying to carry you."

She recalled something about such precautions, but she had to be honest, she was just happy to be alive. Then she remembered the horrible hell she was in and while her opinion did not pull back she did rethink the thankfulness. "Wait!... what about the raider who shot me?"

She vaguely recalled pulling the trigger, but she didn't know what had happened. Focusing she remembered Croce talking about the shotgun used against her. A sudden pang of guild shot through her. She wasn't certain, but as her near vacant glare dropped she questioned it. Did she actually kill another pony?

She bit her lip as the thoughts ran through her. It really was him or her, but in this case she guessed it was both. But it gnawed at her insides. She had killed somepony.

"Oh. I shot him..." Croce spoke in his usual carefree nonchalant tone.

She jerked her head towards Croce hard enough for the pain to shoot through her again. Holding her head she looked at him glancing at her like she was stupid.

Relief ticked at her and she sighed. But something still gnawed at her. She shook it off and looked up blushing uncomfortably. "An... and... the catheter?"

He rose his talons and backed up. "Nope! That was Oso, you can't pay me enough to touch your coochie."

She huffed at the words and struggled to fight back the blush again remembering how eager he was back under the snow. She shook it off and winced at the pain once more. "Ahem... so... what now?"

She did not want to try and fall back asleep after sleeping for who knew how long. So she looked to Croce who calmly walked away, only looking back as he got to some trees. "Get some rest, the sun's up in about an hour or two."

She watched him walk into the shadows and she felt a touch of loneliness. She felt safe at least, but she was just extremely stressed. She grumbled and pulled her blankets up as she poked about her bags. Mumbling under her breath she flinched as her fidgeting tugged at the catheter. Still blushing she focused for a bit and pulled it free. The image of Oso putting it in sent a flush of heat into her and she buried herself into her blankets.

She flustered and pulled out one of her books and pushed through it reading through the pages quickly. But as she flipped pages, she couldn't tell if it was disinterest or her fluster, but she felt impatient. It was as if her reading was getting in the way of something. It was more than a little frustrating but soon she simply pushed the book back into her bag and reached for another. But she couldn't bring herself to pull another out.

Flustering and gritting her teeth, she near frantically looked left and right before ducking under her covers. Biting her lip she reached low and took in a deep breath imagining Croce back under the snow. She flinched as her heart raced, imagining the possibilities, what if Oso hadn't interrupted? What if Croce didn't turn her down? She had felt him literally milliseconds away from actually doing the deed, the rush, the excitement, it made her shiver just thinking about it.

Her hoof slowed as her memories of his rejection flooded in and started to taunt her. She swapped out Croce for Wax Seal, imagining him for some odd reason getting involved with her back in the stable. But the moment she tried to put some plot to her fantasy she remembered his death and even more flustered she dredged up the thoughts of other stallions before she thought of Oso. The acknowledgement that he had put the catheter in was just barely enough. In order to do that he would have had to gotten pretty familiar with her business downstairs.

She knew the feeling of his impossibly strong talons picking her up like she was a kitten. She imagined those same talons gripping her hips. She winced at the thought of somepony that size having his way with her. But somehow she shivered in pleasure, sure it would be difficult, and probably painful, but something about an act that required so much... force.. made her excited. she winced playing on the fantasies weaving them into her mind. Picturing herself in a pretty collar, being herded about on command. She could almost hear Oso's deep voice rumbling telling her to present to him. A slightly more intense urge shot into her and she pictured him making her beg, walking her on a leash even showing her off and things that nearly made her squeak just passing through her mind .

She was so close, her teeth nipped into her lip and she just barely drew blood, her mind a flurry she imagined him more and more, anything she could to add to the fantasy, ordering her to be "a good girl'. The rush, such dirty and nearly taboo thoughts roiling about in her. She was teetering on the edge and bit down hard imagining the wolves who had caught her. She could almost hear their voices, imagined the scrawny creatures pinning her and...

The thought died where it sat, she had to stop. The pleasure and desire for such pleasure was very strong, but the last thought was almost too much. Self loathing Lexi screaming in her ear as shame bubbled about drowning out even Horny Lexi. A touch of self disgust hit her like a sky bus and she buried her face into the blankets hating herself. "That? That's what I ... errrg!!"

She mentally beat herself up as two dozen Lexis argued and or retched within her. Her mind screamed, demanding why she would want that in her mind, even at the apex of her fantasy.

She paused and slapped the label of 'Shameful private time' onto that section of her memories. Logical Lexi shouted at her that it was just a reaction, she had just yesterday came so close to something she never had, it was just natural to explore with fantasy and scenarios. Another Lexi told her she should be ashamed, other Lexis clobbered her for that as even others offered anything from excuses to criticisms to theories. But she ached and fought the guilt mentally. But it wasn't very long before she found herself reaching beneath the covers again despite the gaggle of angry Lexis.

She forced herself to stop. Her mind on fire with all the issues on hoof. Even if she needed sleep there was no way she could at the moment. But then it hit her, all the flustering and grumbling, she was likely at the beginning of a heat. Without questioning it, she latched onto the explanation and dumped the blame on the chemistry cycle. She remembered her first heat. She was clever, but her mother was always on top of things. She got the talk that first time, but it was her mother's talk. After her dad whom she still had never met, her mother was explicitly misandrous. She remembered what little other ponies she may have been able to call friends, many of them spoke of their heat troubles, they always talked about having phallic toys or objects, some even had coltfriends. But like always, she was a bit behind the curb. She once saved up and purchased something for herself when she was younger, but her mother thoroughly objected with an extreme livid persecution of everything phallic shaped. Prior to the world ending, her sole relief from heats were her romance novels.

She pushed the blankets into her face and groaned loudly, but she shot upright like lightning when something cluttered just a little ways off. She viciously seized the opportunity to escape her own thoughts and whipped about to see Oso starting to pack up.

Noticing her, the giant Griffon set aside his current task and slowly began making his way over. But he hesitated looking at her making her even more uncomfortable. She couldn't help but to cringe at the idea of him possibly knowing of her fantasies just minutes ago. But to her relief his words were a very welcome distraction. "You're ok?"

She nodded quickly and started to stand up, but looked about for the trousers. It wasn't exactly so cold that she needed to wear them, but she wanted something, anything to cover her rump at least. "Y..Yeah... I woke up just a little while ago... Croce told me what happened. I'm ... I'm feeling a lot better."

He nodded with a half satisfied and half relieved look about him. "Aye...So long as you're up and about you can get your stuff packed up. We've got just a little ways to go."

She looked up at him and questions bubbled. But the desire to hide at least for the moment made her remain quiet. She didn't really know where they were going, but she figured it was a long way. She bumbled about sliding on what clothes she had and pushing items into her bags when she flinched, she noticed Oso was looming over her. Turning about she blinked at the large Griffon. The look on his face told her he wanted to speak with her about something that he was hesitant to request. Her mind instantly fell back on her fantasies and a mixture of hope and horror shot through her.

But the Lexis within all went silent as his features showed a touch of worry and sorrow. "There is something... I REALLY shouldn't give you the option, we've been trying to get our project running for a very long time. And well, my original offer has to change. You helped us a lot... but I wont force you to help us with this project. So I'm going to offer you this one chance..." He looked her over and a great deal of uncertainty washed over him.

"Wh..what?" Part of her beamed with curiosity and hope that he would tell her more, but the rest of her noticed something was a tad wrong.

"You can leave now if you want to. With Croce... I wont stop you if you decide to go..." His eyes looked distant and pained. But Lexi gave her best 'I have no clue the hell you're talking about' face and Oso shook his head. "Originally, the offer was that if you help us, I'd let you hang out around our base, you could come in for food and safety. You would ideally spend the rest of your life there. But... The Susi's conditions for their assistance changes everything. Look... I will be overjoyed if you stay. But if you do, you will be going with us, everywhere we go. I don't think Tyrin will put you in danger intentionally, unless you anger him. But if he knows you are the only reason we got the Susi to help, he will not let you go."

She shivered and Logical Lexi looked to caution Lexi who both hummed and grumbled as they passed whispers to eachother. But both flinched along with Lexicon herself as Oso's talons caressed her chin and pushed her to look into his eyes. "If you try to leave after this, Tyrin is very likely to kill you... Make your choice, if you leave, I'll tell him the truth, you were shot in the head on our way back..."

He yanked the bandage off prompting Lexi into a soft yelp. She couldn't see the injury , but she was certain from the hefty scab and still horrendously aching skull that it was going to be a rather impressive scar. But scars aside, the whole idea terrified her all over again. She never wanted to hear gunfire again. But even with Croce at her side for a year, she had seen just a touch of what the wasteland held. Even Croce couldn't defend her fully. But she couldn't be asked to be on the battlefield again.

She was wrenched out of her thoughts as Oso turned about and started packing up again. A touch of panic teased at the edge of her mind. She had no idea what to do. This Gods awful land would take her at the drop of a hat, but what would she do? Her mind buzzed and Logical Lexi practically frothed at the mouth trying to make a choice. She remembered very clearly how little Tyrin cared about the lives of those around him, quite literally referring to her as a thing and that he would kill her simply for convenience. She shuddered at the thought of having to spend time near the old Griffon. But she blinked as she felt Logical Lexi tugging at her attention and pointing at a part of her mind she was neglecting. "Oh... the hell am I going to do if I don't go with them?"

She grumbled and shoveled the rest of her gear into her bags. Sure she could probably make it for the first year with Croce helping her out, but after he left, and she knew he would leave. As much as she fantasized about the Griffon sticking around for her, the more and more she got to know him the far FAR less it seemed he would do anything close to that. There was so much in the air, but if she was the only thing keeping their project going, then maybe someone as mean as Tyrin would be willing to keep her safe and not hurt her.

Clamping her eyes shut she hissed through her teeth grinding the options against her mind. But she wasn't fooling herself. Even the Lexis inside were already getting ready. She took up her bag and slung it over her back and struggled up to Oso. "I'm coming with you..."

He looked to her, almost with a touch of sorrow. But he nodded and as he slid the last of the gear into his pack he made eye contact. "I can't be there to protect you all the time, and Croce will likely get a little roughed up once or twice, but I will do everything I can to keep you safe..."

Then came something that surprised her a bit. His talons rested firmly on the top of her head. A simple pat. But when he turned away, a flurry of emotions washed through her ranging from embarrassed to downright naughty as the majority of the Lexis went hunting for horny Lexy to tie her up beat her senseless and throw her into a closet. But alas, her heat gave horny Lexi special logic defying powers. Unable to find Horny Lexi and wreck bloody vengeance upon her, logical Lexi dropped a shell to try and snuff it out entirely. 'He sees you as a kid! He's patting your head because he's literally your foalsitter!'

"You make some weird faces little one..." Oso chuckled and turned about. Almost instantly, Lexicon snapped to and grumbled.

Together, they started to walk as she started to wonder where Croce had gone off to, but in mere seconds he seemed to just pop up to her side and walked with them.

"Why aren't we flying?" Croce's tone was firm and pointed at Oso who simply glanced back lazily.

"Because I'm a pretty damned big target, and perforated eardrums are better taken in shifts..." Oso jutted a thumb at Lexi who struggled for a moment to think before she took offense. She was still plenty blurry and wobbled about from her head injury.

"Oh come on, just gag her and tie her up... Hell... I'll help." Croce poked into his bag and without even thinking about it, a thick blush covered Lexi's cheeks. She caught herself and forcefully thought of literally anything else.

"Tell you what... there's an Enclave station just a few miles ahead. You fly in and out to show me it's safe, and we'll fly... I'll even carry Lexi." He reached over and scooped her up.

"Gah!! put me down!" She squirmed and Oso glanced at her curiously before his eyes widened ever so slightly and he set her down. That one vague sign shot blush over her as Logical Lexi screamed 'HE NOTICED!!!!'

She scooted back and did her best to not look him in the eyes, but Croce's grumbling saved the day. "That would be suicide you dipshit!"

Oso looked away from Lexi and nodded. "Exactly. And that's why I'm not flying up there... I might be pretty fast but I'm still 900 lbs of bird...And if you didn't know... they are quite trigger happy with their little cannons." Oso stepped forward between Croce and Lexicon, Lexi quickly attempted to compose herself as the two Griffons chatterd.

"Well, we can just fly low." Croce did a quick looptiloop weaving in and out of the dead tree branches.

"Yeah... there's a problem with that too little one..." Oso snapped his wings open to their fullest span and actually knocked over one of the nearby trees. "I might be sneaky when I need to be, but at high speeds I don't really do obstacles."

"You have a fucking excuse for everything!" Croce's words began to fill with anger as he glared the giant Oso down.

"No... I have a plan for everything, a plan based on reality and experience. Exactly how do you think someone my size has survived all this time?" He stepped closer quite literally looming over him to the point where he nearly had to look directly down to make eye contact.

"In fucking Dr. Frankenpony's lab you giant fucking turkey!" Croce looked about ready to start swinging and while Oso didn't look angry or concerned he did look like he was ready to pluck the little Griffon up and knock him out just to get some peace and quiet.

"C... can we just go forward? I don't really want to fly but we are wasting time not doing anything..." Her voice was nearly a squeak at first but the more she put into it the more she felt relieved as she was getting her mind off her heat and onto anything else.

And to her surprise Croce squinted at her still fuming but he grumbled and turned about walking slowly as Oso looked to her and smiled but did not speak. The trip was relatively quiet, the only excitement was in form of a few raiders who spotted them but ran for the hills when Oso uprooted a boulder and hurled it with quite some impressive range. At least the big Griffon would spare her from the terrors of the raiders.

The sun sagged in the sky behind the impenetrable clouds. Lexi's head was still aching and her joints were stiff, but this was about the time they started looking for an easily defendable spot to hunker down for the night. But to her confusion, she saw no hints of Oso slowing down. Even Croce seemed a little concerned, but all together they continued until finally Oso stopped and cleared his throat.

"Aye... you see that down there?" He gestured to a small thicket of bushes.

"Yeah?" Croce scoffed. "What? Are we hiding in the bushes for the night?"

Oso chuckled. "Well, I don't blame you for not noticing, it has a pretty strong enchantment on it." He smirked and Lexi looked over at it, but for some odd reason she felt like she couldn't be bothered. Staring at the bushes was not only boring but noticeably annoying. She looked over at Oso and he smiled a little brighter. "Look around... no other living bushes for miles, just go through and wait for me..."

"Wait for you? What are you doing?" Croce seemed a bit unsure but he inched closer to Lexicon.

"I have something I normally do at this place." He gestured for them to continue and didn't seem like he was going to move until they left.

This played on Lexi's nerves, but she did trust Oso far more than she trusted most people. Even Croce had showed he could be trusted very slightly less than the big Griffon. Looking back she nodded and started forward. Croce grumbled and followed. Pushing into the bushes she noticed very little other than it seemed like a tremendous waste of time. The feelings running through her made complete sense. Despite the fact that it was the only living plants for miles she never would have noticed it if Oso hadn't pointed it out, and even going through it flooded her with emotions and opinions that it was just a bad idea or a waste of time. Truly, this was the perfect way to hide something. Quite literally, nopony but those who knew how to find it would get into it.

They continued along making a few observations, there was another entrance just a little ways off, and one up in the ceiling, she could even feel the magical repelling emotions as she stared at these other entrances. The area itself was something like a dimly lit cavern made from what looked like a collapsed bridge, a crashed airship, the crumbled ruins of a building and a cliff side. Even stranger, she saw absolutely no sign of such things on the outside, or at least she didn't remember such.

"Maybe there's magic hiding the outside too..." Lexi's gentle strides continued with Croce at her side, she didn't slow down until she spotted what she figured they were there for. But she still had no idea what she was looking at. It was an old oak tree beside a wide circular clearing of cobblestone arranged with an odd symmetrical design. "Is this where we are going to camp?"

She looked at Croce who shrugged, but her next step sent her sprawling with a yelp. It took her a moment to realize it but she had tripped over something living. Croce quickly drew his pistol but slowed a bit as a gray one eye'd Griffon stood up and mumbled. It leaned in at her and she nearly had to cover her nose at the extreme stench of vodka.

Looking at the drunk Griffon a little closer she could see the lines under its eyes. He was old, not ancient, but easily in his mid to late fifties. And as her eyes dropped low at the clinking of bottles she spotted at least four bottles of vodka. She was able to tell two things right away. If her memory was correct, this was Oso's companion Tyrin, and he was completely and utterly drunk off his ass.

"Um... Hello?" She nervously spoke but froze when his talons came up and seized her head with a mild grasp. He tilted her back and forth before turning her around. Her face lit up bright red as he lifted her tail, and just under a second later he shook his head and grumbled.

"Naww... pass..." Tyrin let go rolling back and went to fumbling for another bottle.

Lexi fumed blushing so bright that she almost didn't notice Croce rolling over laughing.

"It's official mud pony!... You're unfuckable!" Croce nearly choked as he rolled about. Lexicon nearly snapped at him but she was still in shock as well as all her injuries. She just wanted a place to hide until Oso came back, and it didn't help that the Lexis inside were crying or frothing at the mouth in utter livid rage.

Hope sparked to life in her as She noticed Oso striding in, he seemed like he was in a bit of a hurry. But oddly, his weapons were stuffed into his bag, even popping out of them, instead of under his wings. Though, she grimaced at the reason he was hurrying. She could plainly hear movement and shouting outside.

"Aye, everyone onto the... Tryin? The hell are you doing?" Oso paused in front of the drunk Griffon.

Tyrin stood and blinked, squinting at Oso before grumbling and clearing his throat. "Earl kicked me out of the castle, said if I wanted to get fit shaced... I had to do it somewhere else..."

Oso groaned and finally the voices outside made their way in. A small group of Pegasi fluttered down into the little cavern from the hole above, at their lead was a Pegasus dressed in a very fine slender suit of power armor. The two to her sides had something akin to half a power suit on with heavy energy weapons attached to battle saddles, and two more had mounted laser rifles mounted on battle saddles. Lexi had to guess this was the Enclave Oso had been speaking and warning about. The power armored mare at their lead looked extremely impatient and levied her gaze directly at Oso. Despite all his talk on how little a threat the Enclave was and why they shouldn't be afraid to fly everywhere, Croce seemed a touch worried, taking out his Susi rifle and popping a round in as he seemed to step back and orbit near viable cover.

Lexi took a second to wonder how they had gotten in, but it was logical to assume that if anypony saw someone go through the entrance, it would be enough mental stimulation to power through the wards. One look at the lead pony and she easily guessed the mare had more than the needed amount of mental stimulation to follow Oso, she looked very angry.

"And now I've finally caught you... To think you've been so damned illusive this whole time. This was pretty damned easy." Lexicon only vaguely could read the insignia on the mare's armor, if she was reading it correctly and if they used the same or similar ranking insignias from before the war, the Enclave mare was a lieutenant colonel. But the way she walked and the way the soldiers followed her showed a great deal of confidence but at the same time, uncertainty among her troops. Either she was known for doing unsavory things or she was somewhat new on the job and the others hadn't quite taken to trusting her yet. She had seen such things when her division got a new chief of security. The guards would follow orders to the letter, but always seemed a little unsure, as if trying to test the water to see what kind of a leader they had.

However, the mare's words grabbed everyone's attention, even the drunk Tyrin. But by the way Oso had come in and his constant fussing over the Enclave, she felt safe assuming he was at fault somehow.

"Pissing off the mentally feeble army upstairs Oso?" Tyrin chuckled before standing up straight. "You can have these two... I don't even know who the fuck they are or whatever... but I need the big guy..."

The lieutenant colonel did not look amused, but to Lexi's surprise and the lieutenant colonel's anger, it was Oso who got in the next word. "Actually Tyrin... We need them..."

"Bullshit... and I'm not in the mood for it..." He picked up a bottle and shook it before smiling at the light splashing noise.

"No... We NEED them... We have the Susi's help, but they'll only help if she's on the project, and he's her bodyguard..." He raised a set of talons as if trying to calm him down.

Tyrin seemed to think for a moment before grumbling clearly annoyed and even personally insulted that he had to deal with Lexi and Croce. "Fine! But if I get pissed off I'm killing the body guard..." He shot a glance at Croce and Croce seemed at a loss of what to do, with his bravado, Lexi swore he would have talked back, but he seemed to just sink back a little.

Tyrin squinted his one eye and stood upright. "Ayet... So we're keeping em all... you guys can go fuck off or whatever..." He stumbled about, swaying from side to side before bringing the bottle to his beak and with a complete lack of grace, he knocked it back draining what little he could down his throat. But in an act that made Lexi jump, the impatient lieutenant colonel fired a bolt of energy through the bottle shattering it. Lexi was a touch surprised at the lack of a speedy reaction from Tyrin, she would think he would at least flinch, but all he did was turn ever so slightly and glare at the fuming lieutenant colonel.

It was about this time Lexi took notice of something else, the others at her side seemed very nervous. And she got the reason why when one of the lieutenant colonel's men spoke up. "Ma'am! This Griffon matches the description and known locations of a level five threat. In fac..." He swallowed, sweat beading up upon his brow as he sputtered out more. "In fact... I happen to know for certain this is the exact Griffon. We need to just let him be."

The mare glared daggers at him and turned about, fuming as she growled out her next words. "You are mistaken, and I don't care. We are have power armor, and five soldiers, he's a drunk, his stench is likely the most dangerous thing about him. You could probably smell the vodka all the way back at thunderhead."

The soldier fumbled with his words. "He'll kill you fast... He'll kill us all..." He seemed almost delusional with fear. It made Lexi stare at the drunk Griffon with a great deal of confusion, he was still struggling to stand upright, not exactly the image of something that earned that much fear.

Tyrin grinned and dipped low as he swayed on his paws and talons. "Oh little feathered buddy... if I wanted to kill somepony..."

"You would have done it already? How cliche can you get? Screw it all, arrest them all and ready them for transport!" The unamused lieutenant colonel growled but went silent when she blinked and Tyrin was already in front of her, as if he had teleported without a flash, he was simply there, his talons gently caressing her visor, but simultaneously gouging deep gashes into the protective material.

"Oh my little pony... you need to let grownups finish when they speak. I mean, I might be a little cliche, but that doesn't mean I don't like to have my fun." He smiled pressing his forehead against her visor closing his eye as he muttered. "Now... if I wanted to hurt somepony.... There is literally nothing within your capability that could keep me from doing so..." His eye snapped open and instantly an odd glowing black tar began to drip from his socket.

The mare threw herself back and unloaded her energy weapons at him, but he vanished, trailing a darkness like smoky ink through water, he plowed through the soldiers, the two lightly armored ones simply tumbled, screaming in pain with hyper extended legs or a fractured jaw, but the two armored personal escort to the lieutenant colonel fell to the ground with gaping wounds in their necks and heads, their bodies twitching and spasming, their armor cracked like the shell of a walnut.

The lieutenant colonel spun about and unable to lock onto Tyrin levied her aim at Oso who actually looked like he was caught in a panic, but even with a slew of power armor guns aimed at him, he didn't take to the air. He just bolted for cover, but it was unneeded as Tyrin plowed into the mare and his talons, trailing sickly black ink latched onto her visor and tore away at the armor like it was cardboard. Exposing the left side of her face and neck. "Oi... if you're done being an obnoxious cunt... and you want to be a good girl... I'll let you leave with just the flesh wound."

He grinned but she squinted in confusion at his remark as she tried to struggled and squirm free of his oddly powerful grip, other than being a little battered and her armor decimated, she was relatively untouched. Until Tyrin's talons rested on her neck and began to apply pressure, digging into her flesh. The mare broke into a scream as Tyrin pulled back his grip tearing off a bloody chunk of her body. Lexi staggered back with wide eyes before she doubled over and vomited, even Croce looked put off, but the younger Griffon didn't vomit, not until Tyrin dropped the bloody chunk of meat into his open beak and swallowed with a happy sigh.

"Nice and sweet... Now... You ready to fuck off or do I have to rip off more body parts?... I bet I that eye would pop out easy, blue eyes do taste best after all..." Tyrin reached for her exposed face but stepped off of her allowing her to do a severely panicked fumbling dash to the exit desperately holding onto the hole in her neck currently gushing blood. The other Enclave soldiers followed in an equal panic flying as fast as they could as their legs had a few rather serious injuries.

Lexi simply stared, speechless, mouth agape in disbelief. The only thing that snapped her out of it was Oso slowly walking up and patting Tyrin on the back. "Their gone now..."

Tyrin all at once went limp and fell to the ground in a grumbling pile. "Aye... drag me to the nearest bottle please..."

"No!" Oso grabbed the old Griffon's tail and dragged him to the cobblestone circle before gesturing for Lexi and Croce to follow. "They will come back soon and they'll be looking for their dead comrades. They'll find you before your power returns..."

Lexi raised a hoof with a still confused look about her, Oso raised a single talon to her and grumbled. "Not right now... I'll explain it later."

Lexi slowly lowered her hoof and Oso leaned in and as if speaking to the cobblestone he spoke loud and clearly. "Yin... Six!"

Lexi waited patiently but squirmed, nearly dancing like she needed to pee. The whole scenario left her with endless questions she needed to ask. Curious Lexi was practically having an aneurysm. But all that curiosity went to dread as the ground beneath her hooves gave way. A harsh green glow exploded outward and everything on the cobblestone was sucked down. The hungry earth sucked them in and her vision filled with blinding green light, but oddly it smelled like a vast forest untouched by industry or even primitive hooves. There was an eerie primal fear, and oddly a comfort as well. Then a cold shock of an endless darkness grabbing at her.

Footnote: Level 5 Achieved.

Perk added: Character analysis: You're getting better at reading faces and sensing motives, unlocks unique dialogue options and gives you a bonus when trying to convince or bluff.

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes

Chapter editor - Currently N/A

Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.

Nick Valentine: Artist

Chapter 9: Blood and Happiness

View Online

Blood and Happiness

The world came rushing back to her, Lexi's screaming voice cut short as her face impacted a cobblestone floor. She teetered before falling back and rolling about feeling dry air hit her lungs as she shivered feeling the power drip off her body. She vaguely took notice of Croce who also fell in the same manner smooshing his face into the cobblestone. But he was up much faster waving his gun about trying to determine the source his pain.

Lexi groaned and teetered back and forth like a turtle turned on its back. The tingle of power still rushed through her. It was like being held by her mother for the first time in years, but something oddly much greater. The power was near overwhelming but dripped away like water in her fur as she sat on the beach. She blinked thinking about the beach. The air felt arid, it was chilly but not cold. The way her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth, the way her saliva dried on her lips. They weren't in northern Equestria anymore.

She struggled and got her hooves under her. She looked to Oso who gently nudged Tyrin who nearly looked like he was thrown like a javelin directly face first into the ground. He was so scrunched up and smooshed that she wondered if he was even still alive. A thousand and one questions burned through her head, watching Tyrin's limp form slop over like a stuffed animal filled with meat. She could see his one eye blink calmly, seeing this she directed her attention back to Oso.

"S...so.. this?... this is your... your house?" She blinked and scooted her glasses up on her snout. Actually looking at it, she guessed it was a very old fort made almost entirely out of limestone, very old but very sturdy.

"Kinda... This is the castle... welcome to the Ordos Sanguinius little one." He smiled before pointing up at a door in the distance. "Go find Earl, he will help explain things to you."

Lexi blinked and swallowed slowly. "Ordos Sanguinius?" The name was very familiar. Her research and even her love for history had told her it was a group of griffons so old that it even predated the formation of Equestria, but the order had gone extinct over a thousand years before the war began. Claiming that it was still alive today was ridiculous. But she had another question. "Earl? Is he another Griffon?"

"There are no Griffons in the Sanguine Order...." The voice was calm and to the point, almost seeming emotionless. Lexi turned her attention towards the source, spotting not a Griffon but a pony. Gray fur, a brown mane and tail. An old book floated next to him, held aloft by a soft blue magic. The pony looked to be in his late 30s and she could not tell if he was not in the mood to be amused or if he simply always looked like that.

"Um... what?" Lexi swallowed stepping up but the one known as Earl ignored her stepping past her in a slow and steady trot.

His stride was calm and carefree, his every motion seemed oddly fluid and by the time he got near Oso, blue magic scooped up Tyrin and deposited him head first into a small garbage can. "Well?... did you get everything?" He looked up into Oso's eyes, Oso nodded and Earl gestured to the floor, and just like that Lexi got a few questions answered.

Oso's wings opened and two little Pegasi fillies fell to the ground from under his wings. Instantly the little winged ponies scampered under Oso whimpering and crying. But Oso stepped back and scooted them forward. Earl looked over them sternly but gave a soft and honest smile. It felt oddly special seeing emotion from the pony.

"This way little ones. I'll get you into bed. You come too." He gestured to Lexi who flinched. Panicking for a moment she simply lowered her head and followed the older pony. She didn't want to leave Oso's presence but if he trusted this pony then she would too.

Earl calmly lead them through various corridors until he stopped at a large wooden door, before he even touched it, it opened to a young Pegasus mare who happily greeted the two young and nervous fillies ushering them into the room. Looking in Lexicon felt a surge of something odd. It was a mix of sorrow, and hope. It felt like a piece of old Equestria washing over her. It was an orphan edge, it had to be. Bunk beds lined the walls and healthy but nervous fillies and colts all stared from their beds. Each and every pony within was healthy, young, and Pegasi.

"Get them to bed, we will show them everything in the morning..." Earl gave firm direction and the young mare nodded happily before nervously looking at Lexicon and closing the door. "This way!"

Magic tugged on Lexi's ear promoting her to follow with a yelp. She almost asked to stop and wait for Croce, she was a bit worried about where he was. But she settled for being pulled along by Earl. Guided firmly the pony didn't stop until they entered a room with tables. There was an awful amount of shuffling about before Lexi was left blinking down at a cup of tea having been seated at a table, she looked up from her tea at Earl who gently floated a cup of sugar cubes towards her.

Earl popped the small wire frame glasses from his snout and his magic rubbed them clean against a heavy cloth before seating them back on his nose. "Ahem!... Welcome... You have the books?" He looked Lexicon dead in the eyes and a little overwhelmed she nodded and opened her bag. But before she could take them out, the books floated out and stacked neatly but not perfectly in front of Earl and one by one they opened in front on him and he flipped through them quickly before finally settling on the final book. "First edition starswirl the bearded’s world’s artifacts and ponies...Not a book on Ponies he met, or even a list compiled by Starswirl himself... But an idea by Starswirl to register and keep track of important and powerful magical ponies, artifacts, or entities and anything inbetween... It even keeps track of old Starswirl's artifacts... Well, some of em. This is what he brought you here for?"

Lexi just stood there, her mouth agape and still not quite sure what to do or say. But Earl's eyebrows raised with a touch of impatience and Lexi nodded but then corrected herself. "N.. no... not all I'm here for. The wolves up there said that they would help you guys, but only if I am involved..."

She licked her lips, the dry air having made her just a little thirsty, it took her a few more seconds before she remembered the tea just under her nose. She scooped it up and happily sipped. Earl just stared with tired eyes. "I see..." Was all his response. She had many things to ask, but she could easily guess that it would be much harder than getting answers out of Oso, Oso seemed to actually want to tell her but couldn't. Earl seemed like he didn't want to talk to anypony, and he wasn't supposed to tell.

"Is... is there anything else?" Lexi sipped her tea and fidgeted uncomfortably in her chair before Earl.

Earl in turn, very slowly blinked. His lips parted and he breathed slowly, his horn lit and a magical aura scooped Lexi's glasses off. She could vaguely see a blurry Earl fiddling with them as he began to speak. "I'll get the exact details from Oso, but I guess for now you're a part of the team. If one of the orphans asks for help, give your help, don't go into any doors with talon marks on them, you and your friend can sleep in the library, if he breaks anything in there I'll kill him... make sure he knows this. Ahem! Don't bother Yin, don't wake me up unless it's important, don't talk or make eye contact with Tyrin while he's sober, if you want to explore anything that's off limits, ask Oso and ONLY Oso. These rules are for your safety not ours." After a few moments Lexi's glasses plopped down on her snout bringing back her vision, and Earl opened the book from her library, his eyes silently coasting back and forth across the lines.

Lexi blinked, staring at the odd unicorn, the way he just sat there and read his book seemed like he legitimately forgot that Lexi was sitting at the table with him. She looked him over and softly cleared her throat. His eyes shot up without his body so much as flinching. There was not so much as a single degree of movement wasted as he looked up from his read. The exactness put Lexi just a touch on edge. "Um... I.. uh.. where do I sleep?"

"In the library... I told you this already." He gave her a soft wave off with his hoof. But she stayed put still not sure what to do.

"Um... Where's the library?" She also wanted to know where Croce was and where the castle was, and where in the castle she was now.

"It doesn't matter, start walking and you'll get where you need to be. Give it a few days and you'll start getting lost." His magic flipped the page and he continued reading, Lexi simply didn't quite know what to do. She raised her hoof again as if ready to ask another question but Earl was nose deep in the book. Her hoof dropped and she slowly sat back, sipping the rest of her tea.

It was an odd few seconds before she decided to try and find Croce, what was even more odd was that she simply started walking. She had no idea where she was going but she just started down a hall that felt right and she just kept on going. She would have rather been following Earl, or Oso, more Oso than Earl. But she continued on her path and happily trudged along. At least until she found herself in the room they had all arrived in. The walls looked to be made of trees, but the cobblestone circle was still there. Tyrin was gone, Croce looked to be asleep on the ground and Oso was standing and talking calmly with what looked like a green and brown Griffon. But a chill shot through her when she blinked and Oso was standing alone next to a sleeping Croce.

Oso turned to Lexi with his usual soft smile. "Oh... Earl done explaining everything?" Lexi looked to Oso and back to the spot where there was another Griffon. Her gaze shot back and forth until the heavy snap of Oso's talons in front of her eyes brought her back. "Calm down, that was just Yin. He doesn't like being bothered or watched by people he doesn't know."

A few things started falling into place. Nothing she was willing to wager her life on, but she was fairly confident that she was starting to figure a few things out. "He's the one who's doing all the magic around here, isn't he?"

Oso's feathers puffed up and he looked like he was going to shrug when a soft old sounding laugh came from all directions. "She's clever, I figured she would be special."

Lexi's eyes narrowed and she fussed a bit trying to locate the source of the voice. "You're using perception magic. The entrance to this place made to look dangerous and or unimportant so no one can find it unless they are specifically looking for it. Then the halls here. Earl implied that I can't get lost, does that mean that I am being shown all the right ways, or are all the 'wrong' ways being hidden? And finally... I can't see you, I couldn't see you back then either." She beamed with happiness having put so much together. Logical Lexi even puffed out her chest, overjoyed at her findings.

Again, the voice came from nowhere but seemed rather happy. "Such a keen mind. I quite enjoy such ponies. But alas, we have things to do. I'll introduce myself later. We have things we need to take care of."

Lexi was about to speak again but a fit of tired and comfort hit her like a wrecking ball. Like the coziest driest, and snuggliest bed on the coldest and wettest night ever. An ease as if she was just given a week off from work, all her worries washed away, even the end of the world seemed so very long ago, even as if it had yet to come. She could practically feel her mother's heartbeat. Needless to say, she didn't even feel her body hit the floor.

The sleep was more than just pleasant, it was amazing. When she opened her eyes she felt so overwhelmingly well rested, her every last bump and scratch gave her no pain. It wasn't until she opened her eyes that she felt incredibly uncomfortable. She was laying atop a pile of books at a painful angle. But to her amazement and relief, she didn't feel an ounce of pain, it was all comfortable until she tried to move.

She put her hooves under her and hoisted herself up. Looking about she noticed that the room was not dark, but plenty dim. She could see light coming from a window, but two steps towards it and she got a surprise.

Croce squawked loudly, popping up from under a pile of books and pushing Lexi over to grab his tail which she appeared to have accidentally stepped on. "FUCKSHITDAMN!!" He growled loudly before he too looked around. Clearly he had not awakened yet, but he hummed with a tired and low concerned tone. "Where the hell are we?"

Lexi shrugged. "I think this is the library. I guess it's where we sleep." She looked about still confused but a book ricocheted off her head.

The book hadn't hurt but it got her attention, turning she spotted Earl holding a hoof to his lips. "SHHHH!" Almost the very moment he shushed her he lay his head back down on his desk and closed his eyes breathing calmly as if he had been woken up and he was going right back to sleep.

Rubbing her head she leaned in and tried to whisper. "Maybe we should find Oso."

Croce grumbled and nodded standing up and following Lexi as she bumbled down a hallway. Oddly, she felt like she knew exactly where she was going, but didn't know that what she was looking for would be there.

Their trip came to a stop when they entered what looked to be a kitchen. "Hello?" Lexi stepped in first and Croce followed closely.

"Oh! Hi!" A cheery voice answered back, it was the young mare from the door the previous night. "Just a sec, we'll set a place for you two as well."

The mare happily bustled about the kitchen and plucked two bowls from a cupboard and placed them at the table before plucking literal fruit from vines growing off the walls and some oatmeal from a pot. She threw it all into the bowl and stepped back with a warm smile. Lexi was overjoyed to see such a simple and friendly offer, Croce just stared at the food suspiciously.

"The fuck is this place?" Croce growled still suspiciously glancing about as he sat at the table with Lexi.

The foals noticeably flinched at his language, but the mare chewed her lip a little and smiled through the discomfort. Clearly the inhabitants of the castle were held to a standard of some sort and cursing was at least a little taboo. "This is the Castle." The mare sat in her chair as the younger Pegasi ate their oatmeal and fruit. "Mr Yin and Earl keep us safe here."

The mare spoke with an odd fondness, almost as if she was just the age where she was growing a little too attached to older ponies, but the way she looked down into her bowl showed that she had been very clearly refused at least once. She looked like she was going to speak again before a little colt spouted happily. "Mr. Earl is a God!"

The mare looked at the little one and chuckled. "No... He's a good guy, but he's not a God." Lexi listened fully while she started into the oatmeal, but Croce seemed to be a little put off.

"Gods don't exist kid... they would have never let the world fall into this kind of hell..." He glared at his oatmeal but redirected his eyes to the mare who giggled looking over at him.

"You just haven't been here long enough sir... We all find comfort in believing what we need to. The world is only as terrible as you let it be." She chuckled. But turned to the little colt again when he spouted off once more.

"Nuh uh! I seen him! He killed a hundred raiders all at once!" The little colt raised his hooves. "Just BOOOM! And they were gone!"

"Colbalt calm down, that was just the castle's defenses. Finish up and go play, that goes for the rest of you too. Go on. I'll meet you all in the courtyard." She gestured and half the fillies and colts scooted their empty bowls forward and the others quickly finished their meal before they all flooded out into the hall. The mare smiled looking at them scamper off before turning back to Lexi and Croce. "We don't really know what the Griffons do, but while their out, Earl and I take care of the little ones."

Lexi nodded raising her eyebrows a little as she tried to word her next question without offense. "An orphanedge?"

The mare smiled and shook her head. "Yes and no." She stood up and flapped her wings gently as she picked up her bowl. Draining the contents she put it in the sink. "All our parents are still alive, at least we think. They just really didn't like the Enclave. I still remember when Oso came to pick me up. My parents and the agents sent to help them get me to safety took me from the big cloud city and took me to the surface. Oso put me in a bag and smuggled me out of Equestria. And I've been here ever since. They've been doing this for a very long time. I was the youngest ten years ago, and I've seen everypony before me leave east. Earl says that the first of the Pegasi they saved built a city or something in the clouds out there."

"Wait..." Lexi's brain was close to overheating. "Smuggled you out of Equestria? We aren't in Equestria?"

"Oh! yes, I don't really know how it works, but they have this sort of long range teleporter that Mr. Yin operates. They use it to get from here to Equestria."

Croce squinted as he scooted closer. "And where is here?"

"Oh we are somewhere north of Griffonstone. Kinda out of the way, it's some sort of old castle that Griffons used a long long time ago." The mare collected the bowls from the table and moved them to the sink.

"The Ordos Sanguinius?" Lexi nearly whispered the name to herself, but the mare seemed to notice.

"Yes... I don't really know about them, and Nopony really talks about them... oh!" She nearly dropped the bowl in her hooves, but fumbling a little she put it in the sink and turned around. "I'm Cherry, I'm Mr. Earl's helper, until next year when I go east like the others. Who are you guys? And what did you have to tell Oso to bring you?"

Croce turned away, going back to suspiciously poking at his oatmeal while Lexi smiled. Cherry's cheerfulness was something Lexi sorely missed. "I'm Lexicon, and this is Croce. Technically he's my bodyguard. We kinda ran into Oso and Tyrin out in Equestria. He brought us up to the far north and we found out that there's some sort of deal that Oso and Tyrin need to make or something. But the wolves up there only want to be a part of it if I'm involved. I don't know why, but it's way better than dodging bullets."

Cherry seemed about to speak when there was nearly an explosion of slurping and gulping. Both Cherry and Lexi looked back to see Croce fiercely scarfing down the oatmeal. "Slow down Croce, you'll choke." Lexi raised a hoof towards him but the bowl didn't even clatter to the ground before he zoomed up into Cherry's face.

Lexi felt a sudden flashback to watching him snap the scribe Scribble's neck prompting a great desire to try and tackle him or otherwise stop him from touching Cherry. But despite his rushing in and Cherry's clear spike of fright, Croce only spoke. Granted he spoke without any real decency, oatmeal still stuck to his beak. "Where did you get these oats?!?"

Cherry stuttered stepping back clearly uncomfortable. "Mr... Mr. Yin gets them for us. He gets us all our food. Is there something wrong?"

"Something wrong?! Hell... I've NEVER tasted food so damned good! Where in the bloody wasteland does this guy get this shit?" Croce looked to the large pot where the oatmeal had been cooked, he looked at it then to Cherry who gestured for him to help himself.

The Griffon practically pounced into the pot eating as much of the oatmeal as possible. It took a moment for Lexi to understand, and watching his legs flail about as he eagerly ate as much as he could made it harder to think. But she was quite used to this kind of food. She had been out in the wasteland just barely a week if she really had to guess. She did spend long periods of time unconscious and or unable to see the sun. The point was that she had eaten food freshly developed from companies and farms, the majority of the food she had since the world ended had been preserved for 170 years. It was very likely that most Ponies and even Griffons had to eat radiation soaked highly preserved foods, eating that for your whole life and then eating actual food for what could be the first time, she didn't blame him for reacting like that.

The conclusion let her chuckle a little before stepping up next to Cherry. "Hey... about Mr. Yin... um... I don't suppose you could answer a few questions..."

Cherry smiled and shook her head. "No... one of his rules is that no pony is allowed to talk about him. He really likes his privacy." She fidgeted for a little bit but looked Lexi in the eyes practically whispering. "He might really need his privacy. At night, sometimes you can hear him crying... But if you went through whatever he did... you probably would too..."

Again, Lexicon desired a little more clarification but Cherry flinched and clamped her lips together as if she noticed she had said too much. Thankfully Croce was able to provide a distraction.

"Gah! Holy balls... that is some good shit..." Oatmeal stuck to his feathers and fur, but he seemed very content. Cherry even chuckled a little.

"You should take a bath. There's hot springs down near the bottom. But stay far away from Tyrin's room. It's down there a ways. If you see him in the hallway, just look the other way and keep walking. Oh, and don't go all the way down. Just look for the springs. The charms should keep you away from the stuff you're not supposed to go to, but just make extra sure..." Cherry actually looked a bit concerned talking about the off limits areas.

"Ok... I guess I really could use a bath. I was looking for Oso though..." Lexi looked about almost expecting him to show up just from mentioning his name.

"Oh, he usually goes down there in the mornings, if he's not down there he will be soon most likely. Just make sure to not go anywhere you're not supposed to." Cherry chewed her lower lip and went back to washing the dishes.

Lexi still felt awkward, almost as if she was bumbling about in somepony else's home. But she really did want a bath, so she started off and Croce followed. She hadn't really mentioned or even thought about it, but Croce did smell a bit foul. She never gave it thought because he was a mercenary who spent his time out in the wasteland his whole life.

She gave a sigh and started off to find the bath. Though, she also took the time to look for things she wasn't suppose to notice. Right away, she caught herself spacing out as she walked. She forcefully paid attention to every little detail she could no matter how boring it felt, no matter what emotions flooded in and made her feel other ways. It did not take her long at all to notice several doors marked with talon scratches in various numbers and even short words in old Ponish, or first century Equestrian. It sparked curiosity in her and she got a little excited but still remembered that she wasn't supposed to go through any doors with scratch marks on them. She was still very happy to take note of such things. The doors looked absolutely ancient and tantalizing, but she knew she would be able to get her fill of mysteries and curiosity sated when she got back to Earl's enormous library. She loved books after all and honestly, despite her current events, she felt downright giddy about a chance to poke through a library she never got to see before.

She buzzed down the hallways trying to take in the castle despite the magic trying to keep her from paying attention. Croce followed her nearly in a daze, either unaware of the magic or not caring to try and figure it out. But it was a short trip, she ended up in a humid hot hallway with a door leading into a wooden room full of boxes an baskets. She bumbled about until she found a few bars of soap. "Ah... Croce... this is far more than I ever hoped!"

She giggled happily knowing that a place like this would likely have been crazy expensive before the world ended. Croce just sighed and put his armor and a few pieces of clothes into a box before grabbing a bar of soap and going through the door. Lexi's ritual was a little more deliberate. First her saddle bags went into the box, then carefully she pulled out each of her bobby pins from her hair letting her ponytail down. She started to fiddle with the pipbuck but after a precious few seconds of thought she left it on.

Taking some soap and a few scrub brushes, she carried everything out in a basket. She was even more in awe as she noticed the only lighting was odd and very bright bioluminescent mushrooms shedding a mild yellowish light throughout the room. The walls, floor, and even the ceiling was a mixture of smooth stones and beautiful vines. The stones and vines mixed on the floor to make a series of large tubs mixed with varying degrees of hot spring water. She could see Croce in the far corner, a part of her wanted to go over there but she knew what he would do and say.

A little sad, Lexi made her way over to a tub and poking a hoof in first, she ended up easing her way in. Submerging herself it was a sensation she sorely missed. Bumbling with the soaps she took the time to see how each tub overflowed into various streams which lead to the furthest side of the room. She grumbled feeling the soapy scrub brush over her back, it was a invigorating feel. Her sore muscles being caressed as days of grime scrubbed away, even the soap felt like a unique and expensive brand from before the war.

She oo'ed and ah'ed at the near massage level of scrubbing and heat. But something felt off, the bath was just a touch too relaxing. And that was when she noticed, her mouth and her hooves were empty, who was scrubbing her back?

She turned about quickly. Something was clearly there but she simply couldn't recognize it. She tried hard, focusing but it was like she was trying to remember a secret password on a bad day. It was just on the very edge of her mind, but she just couldn't get it. She nearly growled. "I know you're there... come on! If you can do all this what could you possibly have to fear from me?"

There was a touch of silence before a voice answered, it was the same older. "I really am impressed. But don't mind me... I'm just trying to figure you out..."

Lexi squinted a little unsure what he meant, she struggled with the idea that he was in the tub with her but nothing was coming up, it simply didn't feel sexual in any conceivable way. And such was even more odd with how crazy her hormones were at the moment.

She stared, trying to focus on the spot where he would be, the magic near forcefully pulled her eyes away, but with a single blink she was looking over a tan and green griffon sitting on the edge of her tub casually, his tail holding the scrub brush. But even then he seemed out of focus, it was still hard to look directly at him. "You... You're not a Griffon are you?"

He grinned, but oddly she didn't quite see it, she just felt it, she felt a small level of interest, happiness and amusement, as if he radiated the feeling rather than showed it with his blurry features. But there was an odd feel to it all, like the calm of an old authority figure, somepony that everypony respected. She didn't even know where to start thinking with something that could control her perception so thoroughly.

"No... I'm not... but I figured it was appropriate to hold the form. So many birds about, I might as well." The tail whipped the scrub brush about giving her snout a little boop.

It made a little more sense now, but her mind went ablaze with what he could possibly be. If he was a shapeshifter then he wouldn't need to hide himself with perception magic, and if he was then it made even less sense. She thought back to the first time she was near him. How the Oso and Tyrin had flown in and Tyrin had flown out, but Yin came on foot. She remembered Changelings, but not only would a changeling not need to block perception or even perhaps be able to, but Changelings could fly, or at least so she read.

Almost as if he took notice to her thoughts his whole form shifted. As if he was a ball of yarn that all at once unraveled into a single impossibly complex string, it reformed into a vaguely pony shape. "Is this better?"

Other than the transformation being utterly fascinating she also found it mildly terrifying. "Y..yes... Just... please let me know before you do something like that again..."

He chuckled again and shrugged. "No promises... I'm not here to amuse ponies. But you, I can see why the wolves were told...." He paused and smiled as he slowly stood up. The blurry look vanished and the figure before her was a indeed a touch terrifying but most certainly not a Changeling.

"I am Yin..." His vaguely pony was constructed entirely of vines, wood, and just a few stones. He was a wooden pony with goat like swirling horns.

Immediately her thoughts went to the timber wolves she learned about in school, but this while similar was very different. He looked to be not several pieces of wood held together with magic but a single plant, a living piece of wood.

"I don't show myself very often... especially to new comers. But you... I guess you're a special case." He lifted a wooden hoof which extended an unnaturally long set near blade looking wooden branches offering the scrub brush to her. She had to be honest, the claws absolutely terrified her. He shrugged and small vine like tendrils whipped the scrub brush out of his grasp and the claws folded in on themselves becoming a hoof again.

"I... um..." She squirmed in her tub sinking lower. He seemed to frown as his eyes focused for a moment.

All at once his image looked like a normal pony. "That... is one reason I don't like talking to normal ponies... The world isn't really all that open minded."

Lexi gnawed her lip before popping out of the water. "OH! I'm sorry... I didn't mean to offend, I'm just not ... not used to it."

He nodded. "I know, no one is." He seemed to stare down into the water before his image turned fuzzy again. "It's not that big of a deal, I just miss the days that no one asked, no one feared..."

"I'm so sorry... I.." She had so many questions but she could feel the mood he seemed to be emitting, like an old sadness. She couldn't even start to guess what who or why he was. Maybe he was a pony who mutated from the radiation and possibly the taint that she heard of.

"Oh... Hey Lexi..."

Lexicon whipped about to see Oso making his way over. She looked back to Yin but he was completely gone, even more than just hidden. She could fully see the room and didn't feel her perception being pulled or stretched. He was simply gone. "Oso? Where?..."

"Oh don't mind Yin, he's just a little oddball. A good guy, but he's very slow to trust and complicated. You'll offend him a few times before you really get what he's about..." Oso slid into the tub next to hers and surprisingly sank in down to his neck.

The thoughts tore around in Lexi's mind as the dozens of Lexis made demands ranging from information on him to solve the enigma of his existence to his exact location so she could try and apologize again. She ended up asking a simple question despite how rude it felt. "Oso... What... what is he?"

Oso opened a single eye, and despite his usual kindness he didn't smile, but he did answer. "I'm not going to tell you. That is for him to explain if ever he does. He has his own secrets, everyone is allowed to have secrets."

Lexi slumped into her tub. She stared at a small bar of soap until a heavy set of talons pat her over the head. She looked up feeling a lot better seeing Oso's smile. "It's ok, you've been through a lot... just calm down and enjoy yourself while you're here."

"Everyone's been through a lot turkey!" Croce grumbled on his way out. "I'm going back to the library... if I can find it."

Oso looked at her then at Croce as he left. "Get finished up here, I'll meet you in the library. We have to get some stuff figured out, and we have to get you some barding."

Lexi blinked. "What? Why?"

"Well, we're likely going right back out, and you're coming with us. And both myself and Croce are likely to not want you to get shot while we're not there to save you." He dipped under the water and picked up the scrub brush left behind by Yin.

Lexi sighed and dipped under the water before popping back up and exiting the tub. She didn't quite know what to think, but that was nothing new. She just hurried over to the wooden room just catching Croce fitting the last of his armor into place and heading out.

She fussed a bit but carefully fit her hair pins in place and started back up the hall towards the library. The feeling within her emanated until she could practically hear it's mere existence, a single lonely confused Lexi deep within, scared of the future, feeling her circumstances pushing her around like she was a helpless child. And just like a helpless child, one thing came to mind as she walked alone up the stairs ignoring the doors and just letting the magic lead her.

"I miss you mom...."

Footnote: No level up.

You are now Accepted by the Ordos Sanguinius.

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes
Chapter editor - Currently N/A
Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.
Nick Valentine: Artist

Chapter 10: The plan...

View Online

The plan...

She tried to follow as best as she could, but so far the meeting appeared to be almost entirely reliant on previously known material from missions and conditions of the Ordos Sanguinius in the past. She could follow a bit of the briefing but overall she just felt extremely out of place as Earl prattled on with the details. Not to mention, that she seemed to be abnormally distracted with every little detail of the library.

Earl stood up front and center with various papers and books open on his desk, talking about where they were at as far as supplies and what they would need when the Griffons went out again. She could spot Tyrin staring angrily down from a perch up high in the library, his one eye death glaring down below, it was almost physically painful for her to look up at him as he seemed to instantly know she were looking and she would catch his glare.

Oso stood beside her happily apparently listening and catching everything pouring out of Earl. Yin was there too, or so she thought. She could feel a strange discomfort whenever she looked around. She couldn't pinpoint it but something was keeping her from looking at something in the room. Other than that, Croce sat in the corner picking his talons with his new Susi knife which practically looked like a sword in his grip.

"So... Other than the minor supplies list, we will want to intercept the gangs looting that Flash Industries building. The gear will make for a good bribe for the ghouls." Earl flipped through a few more pages as Oso looked a little uncomfortable as he raised a Talon.

"Earl, I don't suppose we can try and trade instead?" The big bird already had a look on his face that showed he knew he would be shot down.

"Those cunts don't trade, raider gangs generally don't. Plus, I've heard some reliable stories about them... Mostly or all mares, and they tend to be a little aggressive to males. Lots of stories about them wearing stallions out before killing them. Even if we tried, we would not succeed." Tyrin muttered from his perch but then added with a tone that was just a touch sharper. "But you know that..."

Earl sighed and Oso grumbled. "Yeah, I know, I just don't like killing females."

Tyrin hopped down from his perch with a heavy thud. "...I noticed... But they're raiders.... It doesn't matter if their Stallions, Mares, Hermaphrodites, or whatever... We see them, we kill them..."

He glared into Oso's eyes and he nodded, not out of fear but something that looked like a reminder of duty. "Aye..."

"We don't have long, those mares work pretty fast and if the information is accurate they are heading to Hoofington as soon as they clear that crap out. We need it before then, or Tyrin will have a fit." Earl poked at the map. He seemed on point with his words but she just couldn't get over how his expression seemed to imply that he wanted to be literally anywhere else. The most uninterested Pony she had ever seen.

Croce raised an eyebrow. "Why not Hoofington?" Tyrin just shot him a glare and Croce did his best to just remain calm and avoid his eye.

"Now, there's a few other items, but I'm sure you can figure that out on the go as I neither know how to do it nor do I care." Earl dropped the last of the papers on a table and almost instantly picked up a book as he rolled back into a chair as if to shut out the world and get lost in his book.

Oso grumbled, picking up the papers he began to shuffle through them, but a single talon plunged through the papers and pinned them to the table, Tyrin's eye leveled with Oso. "I'm not foal sitting, if that thing needs to survive for our plans, I want it plated in steel or bubble wrap or something. I half expect her to die falling down the stairs or choking at the dinner table, I don't want to lose the progress we've made two minutes out of the castle.."

Oso looked from Tyrin to Lexicon before looking back at Tyrin. "Noted..." He yanked the papers letting Tyrin's talons cut through them like a knife through butter.

The one eye'd griffon did not walked but seemed to aggressively push through the room giving the death glare yet again at Lexi who instinctively cowered.

"Well shit... at least someone here has some sense...I'll get the bubble wrap... where do you guys keep that?" Croce chuckled poking about as if actively searching. Lexi gave him the stink eye but he just laughed at her. "What? Are you going to try and tell me he's wrong?"

The odd sensation of Yin's perception magic faded, Lexi had been trying to figure it out so much that she noticed the sudden lack of the magical feel. She figured he was simply uninterested now that the briefing was done. But his leaving sparked a little more activity in her and she carried on as if she hadn't noticed. "I don't want to be strapped with a ton of armor..."

Oso gave a firm flick to the small still vanishing scar from her gunshot wound. Either he knew just how to hit it or it really didn't take much, but the same aching pain shot through her. "Yeah, I don't want you clanking around behind me either, but I don't want to risk losing you the moment I look the other way. Come on, we are going to the armory."

Croce's eyes snapped open and his attention sparked. "Armory? You guys got goodies in this place?"

Oso sighed and waved him over. "Follow me, we've been stocking up on supplies for a very long time, and this place was a military installation before the bombs dropped. We've got a lot of stuff, normally it's just for the Pegasi when they leave the castle. Don't want to send them off defenseless."

Lexi had already been terrorized by Croce's marksmanship lessons, she really didn't want any more to do with it. "Do we have to?"

Oso's response was short and very stern. "Yes."

"I mean, like, do we have to right now at this very moment?" She looked up at him as she followed at a short distance. She would do what she needed to, but she could certainly use a day or two off before she had to indulge in such unsavory duties.

"Yeah, we have to do it now. We are likely heading back out in a few hours." He pushed open a door and started down the hall.

"A few hours?! I thought we would be here for a few days, or weeks." Lexi slowed but got a nudge from behind as Croce apparently was very happy to get moving and didn't want her stalling.

"Yeah, normally we would spend a day or two unwinding, but as you should be intimately aware of, we just made a huge breakthrough on our project, we need to contact another group and let them know, and try and convince them to help." He smiled looking back at her with seriousness in his eyes. "I can't really even put into words how big of a deal it is that we got the Susi to join us."

They continued for a bit longer as Lexi pouted and fumbled. But finally, they reached a large door with several marks on it. Griffon talons had carved the old Ponish word for armament into the door.

She gulped and shook herself before stepping inside with the Griffons. "Goodness, I hope this is easier than the first time."

Sweat dripped off of her and she whimpered as her body bucked hard with every passing second.

"You want a turn?" Oso's voice called out down the hall just a little.

"Naw... I had my fill." Croce called back, his figure stretching just behind the corner.

"Back to it then..." The massive Griffon stepped forward again. Lexi always thought he was so kind and remembered how at ease she felt hearing his voice, she never knew he could be so rough. "Come on... up up... assume the position..."

She whimpered struggling to at the very least get her hind legs straight. Spreading them at least a little so the force of the buck didn't knock her over again. "Can we stop? It's so tight... it hurts... and I can barely feel my hips... They're shaking so much..."

He loomed over her. "Not a chance... now... let's try this again, maybe I can go to sleep tonight knowing the job has been done and done right..." He gave her a firm swat on the rear as he closed the distance.

His talons on her shoulder he leaned over her and smiled. "Now Lexi... lets do this... I know it hurts, but just bare with it... hold your breath if you must, focus... and lets get in there..."

She clenched her teeth and prepared for the shock, drenched in sweat, her hips shaking, she clenched her eyes waiting for that moment when it all began again.

"Now!" Oso pushed her forward and Lexi bolted forward almost clumsily into the little gallery they had set up. She instantly rounded the corner, the battle saddle biting into her sides as she tensed and bit onto the trigger.

A spray of .45 pocketed the sandstone in a rapid spray, It took about two seconds but finally the Sparkle Cola bottle broke and she whipped about activating SATS to put two semi auto rounds of 5.56 into the bottle on the far end. She queued five but hit the bottle on the second bullet. Then quickly turning about she heaved onto her forelegs and bucked as hard as she could.

The steel armor over her hind legs covered her hooves pretty well and despite her pathetic physical capability she knocked over the sandstone and did some rather severe damage to it as it came to pieces once it hit the ground.

Panting and whimpering Lexi's legs wanted nothing more to do with all this and all but gave out, but the armor's strength enhancing rotors took note of her excessive exhaustion through her Pipbuck and froze refusing to let her fall over.

"Much better... I'm honestly surprised, now if only you could do at least that good every time without freaking out." Oso smiled coming over and pulling the pin keeping her straps on. Almost instantly she simply fell out of the armor which continued to stand.

She just lay there on the ground whimpering until Oso scraped her up and cradling her like a foal he held a healing potion to her lips. She desperately drank it down before just whimpering again. "I don't wanna go into that armor ever again!"

He chuckled slinging her onto his back. "That's too bad, we aren't going to risk you dying out there, and at least with this armor you can carry your share of gear."

"What about the other options?" She fussed on like a foal on his back but he just laughed and kept walking.

"Croce, you can continue, just don't use more than the ammo here, I'm taking the 'princess' back to the baths."

"A bath?" She wanted to say something, even if just to pretend she had some say in what she did and where she went, but she had to be honest, a bath sounded wonderful.

"Yeah, Yin mixes some of his stuff into the baths, it has a minor healing effect. You'll be up and ready to go after a quick soak." He moved along the halls carrying her. She couldn't help but to sit there, so tired her mind started to wander, it didn't help that the perception magic in the halls pushed her to space out even more.

She chewed her lip and caught herself smelling into Oso's fur, he didn't seem to notice but it just made her blush and curse her hormones. She pulled back in her head and allowed Logical and Common Decency Lexi duke it out with Horny, and impulsive Lexi.

What snapped her back to the present, was the shifting doors and the sudden sensation of steam hitting her. She curled up just a bit, the healing potion in her at the very least gave her some basic movement back, but having Oso and Croce running drills with her for two hours would have probably done some pretty serious damage to her muscles had they not given her healing potions twice during the practice. She really was happy to get a little more familiar with weapons and armor, but she had to be honest with herself, if she never saw that armor or a single bullet again it would still be far too soon.

Oso carefully placed her on the floor and she started to undo her hair, her saddle bags were still down with Croce, she hoped he remembered it when he came back up. She really didn't want to go back down there.

Her thoughts were distracted as Croce took something that gave off a soft glint of gold from under his armor and hid it in the box where he placed the rest of his armor. Lexi blinked but Oso didn't appear to notice her noticing. She would ask when she wasn't in terrible pain, for now she would just take a long hot bath.

She put her things into a box and this time she dropped her Pipbuck in the box as well. She felt comfortable and started limping towards the bath as Oso dropped one last item into the box, a small sack of something, it looked like small boxes of ammo. She remembered him grabbing a bunch of stuff from the armory before hoof but she didn't quite see everything before he strapped her into the armor.

They came out together back to the same tubs as last time. A small thought passed through her head as she looked up at the tall Griffon. "Hey... why are you here?" Her heartbeat quickened hoping she could detect any hint of romance.

To her dismay he just smiled at her and responded flatly. "So you don't drown in the bath."

Grumbling loudly she spouted off. "I'm not a foal! It's not too hard to take a bath!"

He chuckled and sat just outside of her tub. "Ok then... go in..."

It was a very short trip, just heaving her legs over one at a time and she could get in. But she slowed angrily as she kicked her leg out but couldn't get it over the ledge of the bath. "Wh...what? just... why wont you..."

She snapped back glaring as she heard Oso chuckle. But her head came back front as he scooped her up and helped her back into the tub.

The hot water soaked into her muscles ebbing away at the pain and soreness. She was in so much pain she had practically gone numb. But this was heaven to her destroyed body.

Oso sank into the tub next to her with a happy sigh closing his eyes and calmly breathing. She faced forward as lewd thoughts hit her brain. She chewed her lip before as casually she could she looked into his tub but she couldn't make out anything with the steam and lighting. She looked down at herself before clenching her eyes tightly, more lewd fantasies flooded into her head nearly trampling Logical Lexi who screamed at her, but she didn't want to stop.

Breathing in deep, her heart thundering she cringed and her lips parted as she put her urges forward. "O...Oso?"

"Hrmm?" He almost didn't register her words, but he certainly stirred. "Did you need something?"

"C...can I ask you something?" She looked over at him as he barely lifted his eyelids. He gave a soft nod and she shivered pushing her jitters back. "Um... I... I was wondering, and... It's ok if you don't want to, but... do you think... maybe me and you... c..can um.. we can..."

His talons smoothed over her head, softer than she ever thought possible. She near instinctively moved into it, savoring the physical touch. His other talons came to the back of her neck, but just as her jitters began to turn from fear and uncertainty to excitement.

That excitement died right there as his talons came down to rest on her shoulders softly pushing her back. "I'm sorry little one... no..."

She looked up at his very serious eyes and a small touch of shame hit her as she spotted the fringes of tears in his eyes. She opened her mouth, ready to speak, ready to say anything, ready to plead with him to change his mind, ready to apologize, ready to say she was joking, anything. But a talon came to her lips.

"I'm sorry, you're plenty beautiful, and I'm thankful for everything you've done, but... I'd hurt you..." A flare of naughty excitement started to bubble in her but didn't go anywhere other than more shame. "And... I'm... I'm sorry I just can't."

The rude awakening was like the coldest of cold showers, she felt rejected, but she understood at least for the most part he had let her down a little easier. Than Croce or Tyrin, despite the latter being something she didn't even go along with.

A spark of pain shot into her as Oso stood up from his bath and slowly made his way out. "If you need help, just call for Yin."

He started out and she trembled, she felt guilty. Looking at him leaving, she watched him open the door and something hit her. The golden glint, she vaguely recalled seeing it before back on their trip up north. Suddenly, as Logical Lexi began making theories she didn't feel as rejected. The thoughts poured through her and she seized one that didn't make her feel bad. It was possible that it was a locket of sorts, perhaps an old lover or something to represent a promise he made.

Her mind went into overdrive trying to focus on the possibilities, anything to cloud up the shame and rejection. But watching him leave, Logical Lexi's voice went silent as Impulsive and Horny Lexi spoke up. 'Hey, you're alone....'

The evening trudged along surprisingly slow, and despite Oso's warning that they would likely be leaving in just a few hours, the hours passed and day turned to night. The bath and events during left Lexi feeling rather guilty and tired, but very relaxed. The moment the sun touched the horizon Lexi found a relatively good spot in the library to lay down. She figured that Earl had something to do with it as there were blankets and pillows nearby.

Her wide yawn marked the beginning of her night's rest. She would have loved to have a cup of tea, but not sleeping outside was a good step in the right direction, but the thing that sealed the deal was the old smell of books. Before the war, she had fallen asleep in the library at least three times a week growing up. Even her mother's house smelled like nothing but books, the little house in Canterlot was surely dust or something by now, but it was the birthplace of great memories and some perhaps not so great ones.

She loved her mother so much, Lexi always saw her as so powerful, so smart, so capable. But the older she got the more she realized that her mother was dangerously introverted and angry at the world, most likely because of her father. Still, she was Lexi's mother and that to Lexi made her a good mother, even with the difficulties growing up.

Lexi sighed, breathing in the sweet scent of the musty books. As her eyes fluttered closed, she saw Earl sleeping happily at his desk, a book draped over his face. She smiled wondering what kind of a pony he was once he opened up. Fading into sleep she barely took notice of a small feature, she couldn't really tell if she was just seeing things but she could have sworn he had no cutie mark.

She hummed happily but something forcefully shot her eyes open wide. She blinked and stood upright confused. "Oh goodness... Either I'm dreaming or... Yin has some repairs to his spell to do..."

She took a single step forward and looked back to see a blurred image of herself following in a stream of movement. A long sad howl touched her ears, something that confused her but she swore it was the sound of Yin, he was weeping. She licked her lips, her eyes darting to and fro unsure what to do. The sorrowful cries seemed to seep into her very soul, pained and all but surrendered to a fate he wanted nothing to do with.

She sneakily moved through the library, taking notice that Earl was gone she peaked at his desk. Scrawled in ink over and over the bold near angrily written words. 'Order to the chaos, I am the resilience.' She dug through the papers when another voice touched her ears.

She turned to see Croce, whispering to himself softly rocking back and forth. She closed the distance and touched his shoulder, but recoiled as he was near painfully cold to the touch. "Afraid, I'm so afraid. But not weak, please tell me I'm not weak, I will be strong. I must be strong! I HAVE to be strong. Mother was weak, she didn't hide the fear, mother... mother...."

Lexi inched closer before she noticed something, she wasn't in the library anymore. This was the shooting range where Oso had trained with her earlier. "You shouldn't be here, you don't belong."

She whipped about to see Oso facing away from her. Opening her mouth to speak she found herself unable to. She came closer and reached out to him, but his painfully cold talons wrapped over her foreleg like a vice grip. When he turned to her, she saw his rotting face, his feathers only vaguely attached, his bones poking through his skin. "You don't belong here.... hell, none of us do."

Her mouth opened in a silent scream and she yanked her hoof back, tumbling and hitting her head on the ground before getting up and bolting down the halls. The sorrow filled voice cried out again, making even less sense. "She's gone, she's gone. Why won't you wake up?" The very halls felt like they were slithering as she ran for her life down them, the images before her blurring to such a degree that she couldn't tell in the slightest where she really was until certain aspects of her surroundings would snap at the focus before vanishing into the blur once again.

The screams of the fillies and colts resounded alongside her, screaming for their mothers and fathers, screaming that it was scary, that they felt so alone, so scared. Above the cries she could hear Cherry whimpering, see the poor girl sitting right there in front of her as Lexi ran as fast as she could. "He doesn't love me, he doesn't love anything but his books. He knows, but he refuses to speak to me. I don't want to go, I don't want to leave, it's safe here, I know here, I don't want to go."

As if the floor itself was yanked out from under her she tumbled down into a pit filled with slick slimy roots and almost instantly, the sweet sticky scent of mashed berries hit her nose. Her heart thundering in her chest she didn't want to know what was next. She tried to cry out again, but again, nothing.

"Damn... it's taking so damned long." Lexi slowly turned to see an old earth pony. She blinked and looked closer and corrected herself. This pony was downright ancient. He looked like he was 90% wrinkles, but she recognized the voice despite how much aged wheeze it included. Earl grumbled in his absolutely ancient age as his eyes leveled at her. "You're too noisy!"

She would have let out a yip if she could make any sound at all. Backpedaling quickly she found herself in free fall. Landing as a pile of scared purple pony, the shrill sounds of screams and gun fire chased her upright and forward once again. She continued as fast as she could, the path ahead was nothing but constant dead underbrush she blasted through until she spotted a pony. Shivering with a pistol in her mouth. Lexi slowed, blinking as she stared at the pony with the little ten millimeter pistol in her mouth. But she heard it loud and clear. "I don't belong here, I don't belong anywhere..."

Another pony rushed in and she could see the panic in both of their faces. The crack of the shotgun and flawless shot of the 10mm going off. The shotgun slug impacted the mare's forehead with a sickening crunch, but the slug clearly bounced off as what looked to be a magical reverberation echoed across her body. Both ponies fell to the ground having clearly shot each other right between the eyes.

Coming closer, horrified she looked at the filthy mare and her level of horror doubled. It was her.

Almost the very second she realized it she could hear Croce chiming in as if it was nothing at all to him, the way he always regarded her. "Oh... I shot him."

Mixed feelings shot through her, she knew it had to be a dream, but why would her own mind be showing her this. It was painful, all of it. She just wanted it to stop, and so she desperately tried waking up. But something seized her shoulders and she found herself staring into a single hateful eye.

Her hooves fuzed to the floor and the single eye practically engulfed the room as he gripped her violently. "You don't belong here pony! I don't care what they said. You DON'T belong here..." Tyrin's talons dug into her and her mouth opened in a silent scream.

But in one sudden jarring moment, Tyrin's face twisted with confusion and surprise as he was torn away and quite suddenly she felt oddly tense. She felt extremely confused as she was in an office, an office that looked vaguely familiar. But a whole new horror was laid out before her as she was nearly nose to nose with the Ministry Mare of the Ministry of Morale.

She looked just as horrifying as usual, but oddly she looked a touch younger than the last unfortunate time she saw her. "Do you know why you're here?"

She felt herself about to speak, about to answer the question, but the nightmareish pink mare raised a hoof. "You're here... because you gone done...." She took in a deep breath with a happy smile before it all turned to rage. "BUCKED UP TOO MANY TIMES!!!"

She felt the absolute horror flooded through her as she leaned back in her chair, but then something hit her. She felt the chair tightly around her midsection. The odd feeling of her hide gliding about over plump features. She tried to look down but couldn't move in any way other than what felt like a predetermined set of actions.

"I tried! I'm sorry, I thought I could get him to talk by being nice!" She wanted to blink, those words came from her own mouth, but they sounded oddly uncomfortable and alien.

"Yeah, but you know what happens when you try to play good cop ALONE with a confirmed spy?" Pinkie Pie leaned uncomfortably close.

She felt herself gulp and lean back trying desperately to put some distance between them. "They... ahem... they kill thems.."

"THEY KILL THEMSELVES WITH THE GLASS OF WATER YOU BRING IN!!" Pinkie Pie was absolutely furious and the moment a soft knock on the door sounded, she shot a glare back that Lexi was honestly surprised didn't knock the door off it's hinges.

She felt herself look back at the door as it creaked open, the mirror on the back of the door flashed her an image of what should have been an eggplant colored earth pony instead showed a fat light brown middle aged earth pony stallion. The brief glimpse filled her with more horror, but what came through the door practically brought her to orgasm.

An unnaturally tall pale stallion, his eyes were the very textbook definition of 'come hither' His horn was long and curved, he walked with a near absolute authority of inconceivable physical attraction. It was like Luna herself dug through every steamy romance novel she had ever dreamed about and hoof crafted the perfect stallion for her and her alone.

"Pinkamena darling... I just needed the slightest touch of your time. Lexi nearly squee'ed herself, even his vague body language was too much. She could even feel a strong emotional flare coming from the Stallion she was at the moment, even he was attracted.

"NO! I don't have the time, and I am damned busy! And I know your tricks!" She threw an accusing hoof at him and he seemed simply aghast, but in an overly dramatic and playful way which seemed to just add to how fabulous he was.

"Pinkie... such slander! And you didn't even follow it up with any teasing... you can't just wind me up and leave me here like this..." He seemed to nearly throw himself against the wall in an overly dramatic fashion.

"I SAID NOT NOW YOU FFFF…” Nearly hissing through her teeth, her head jerked to the side and she glared at Lexi. “TICKER!" She slowed and very aggravatedly cleared her throat. "Ticker... go home... and come back in the morning... we will finish this later..."

She felt the fat stallion she was quickly get up and waddle right out the door fuming with relief, pain, and fear, just looking back for a moment but getting an odd almost knowing and seductive smile from the tall fabulous white pony.

Slowly making her way out, she felt the chubby pony move along at a slow and steady pace, but the very moment she exited the building she picked up the pace, almost nonchalantly she came to an alleyway and the very moment she stepped inside she bolted forward galloping as fast as she could, which was pitifully even slower than she could outside of this strange dream.

She felt herself horribly out of breath, sweating profusely as her heart thundered dangerously in her chest. Her body hurt, her heart felt like it was caught in a vice, but the thing that caught her attention was the irregular details of this odd dream. This was canterlot.

She watched as she bolted through the back allies until she could just barely see the train station, she felt her body redouble in effort as she bolted forward. But then pain erupted through her body as she was tackled and plowed into the ground. She instantly identified the M.o.M. badge on the shoulder of the pony who tackled her.

"Oh Ticker... why did it have to be this way?" She felt her hooves forcefully wrench back until there was a wet pop and she screamed along with the fat pony she was inside. They had just broke his right front leg at the shoulder, popping it clean out of it’s socket and wrenching it even further away from it’s point of origin.

"YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND!! I'M NOT A TRAITOR! I'M JUST TERRIBLE AT MY JOB! THAT CRAZY BITCH WILL NEVER BELIEVE ME, YOU HAVE TO LET ME GO!!!!" She felt the fat pony start to blubber and whimper as the pony with the ministry armor hefted what she was pretty sure was a high voltage taser.

"Doesn't matter, it was a test, and you failed.... goodnight Ticker..." She saw the taser swing at her face.

She woke up screaming but almost instantly a rolled up newspaper stuffed in her mouth and another repetitively swatted over her head. "Goodness gracious shut up!!"

She coughed, sputtered, and finally spat out the newspaper. "Wh.. what?!?! What is going on?"

Earl swatted her again over the head. "You were screaming in your sleep so I put you in a memory orb... but you kept screaming... holy shit you are noisy..."

Earl rubbed the bridge of his nose and she looked about, Oso was there, and so was Croce, but Croce looked almost like he had fallen down the stairs.

Despite how he held his left arm at the shoulder he still smiled and laughed. "I've been telling her that for a while, I don't think she can help but be annoying."

"Oh goodness, shut up." Earl's magic popped something off the back of Lexi's head, it almost felt like a band aid. He dropped it in front of her with a grumble. "Here, I had it in storage, and it works with all that junk attached to your pipbuck, keep it for now."

Lexi blinked looking at a small cable leading from her pipbuck to a small metal box then off to several electrode looking contact points. "Wha?"

Earl didn't even look back as he spoke. "It's a recollector... it lets you use memory orbs. Kinda a compact one, Not the most reliable, but hey, it's portable." He went through a door and closed it firmly.

She looked to Oso and Croce. "D...did I seriously... did... did all that really happen?"

Oso looked at her a little unsure of what to say, and his feathers fluffed up on his neck. The last time he did that he was playing dumb to try and direct the attention away from Yin. But Croce stepped in still rubbing and holding his shoulder. "Yeah... basically. But don't think about it, it was time for you to get up anyway. We're heading out."

Lexi blinked, looking up for the window on the far side of the library, but she couldn’t see any light. “What time is it?”

Croce shrugged and Oso chimed softly. “Morning… the sun should be up soon. Come on, we have some things to work out and we have to get you set up.”

Lexi shivered at the thought of ‘getting ready’ and her fears were realized as she followed them down into the cobblestone circle room. The armor was there waiting for her.

“Can we go without the armor?” She tried her best most charming ‘please don’t make me’ smile.

But her answer was surprisingly Tyrin’s talons swatting her over the head. “No! You’re lucky I didn’t have you actually bubbled wrapped.” He passed her taking a long pull off a bottle. She was surprised to see the smell coming off of him was so strong that it almost hurt. He smelled like rubbing alcohol.

The slightest touch of sensation on her mind told her that Yin was here somewhere. But to her relative surprise, cherry and two slightly younger pegasi were present as well helping with supplies and boxes as well as some mild cleaning.

Her attention was wrenched away when Oso held up the harness. But she could see a few changes. “Ok little one, I reshaped it here and there before setting up padding all the parts that dug in. Now it should be much more comfortable, but still you'll need to wear this suit." He hefted a small patched up onesy. "It works as mild barding but it’s mostly just stuff to keep the suit from rubbing or scratching uncomfortably. And we adjusted a few things. Here.. let’s put you in it.”

She really didn’t want to get back into the harness but she didn’t see any way out of it. That and Croce seemed very happy to see her using any armor at all. To her surprise, the barding fit extremely well and the harness went on just as if not then even easier. It still felt hard to move and she was clumsy even just walking.

“Aye, now let me turn this thing on…” Oso fiddled with the harness, she did notice it was slightly heavier and clunkier. But with a soft click her eyes opened wide as the harness seemed to stand for her all on it's own. She could basically relax entirely and the harness would hold her up.

“Ok now, you have enough batteries for about a week. But if you need a boost, it’s this little switch on the trigger bit.” He tapped the bit in front of her and she took note of a few new switches and buttons. “Just be careful, activating it makes you burn out batteries pretty quick. The power draw is pretty high, and the battery casing I had to weld onto the harness isn’t meant to handle power at that level. I’d give it ten minutes of being overloaded like that before it burns out, so don’t do it unless it’s a very real emergency.”

She nodded, much happier with this setup despite how much she didn’t like the armor. Croce poked in and flipped a switch which popped a small metal hood over her head, a bit like a folding helet, but it didn’t look too durable.

“Cool… He can I get one?” Croce circled her admiring the armor.

“Sure, if you can find one for Griffons. I had to weld together Enclave, raider, and Ranger armor with a bunch of old skycart pieces. So yeah, if you can get all the pieces then I’ll get something up and running.” Oso happily explained as he double checked the dimensions.

Croce grumbled and Lexi happily pinged the button over and over again feeling the hood pop and slide back and forth rapidly. But to her fright, a nearly empty bottle shattered over the hood, glass shards even pinged off of her glasses.

She let out a squeak and fumbled about before falling over. There was a soft whirl as the joints of the armor popped loose allowing her more flexibility so she could stand up. But the moment she did, the armor popped back securely. It was a neat feature, but she was a little more concerned with the flying bottle. She looked up to see Tryin clearly gesturing for the room’s attention.

“If you’re done, we have shit to do.” He held up a map and indicated three red circles. This right here is where the Ghouls live, and we have go here to this location and ambush the flash gang for one of their shipments so we can bring it back to the Ghouls. Now, this third location is to be our basecamp. I’ll be heading there first to clear it out and set the mines, approach ONLY from the ground and from the southeast. All other entries points will be very VERY heavily trapped. You all will be securing the gear, stop by base and then all together, we will head off to the Ghouls.”

Croce leaned to Oso and whispered. “Why do you need a bribe? Do you not have contact with them?”

Croce ducked fast as a rock flew through the air where his head just was, there was no reaction from Oso as Tyring growled. “NO! We need a bribe because they are stuck up miserable cunts who refuse to listen to reason!”

Lexi marked the reasoning for the bribe as ‘Nopony likes Tyrin’.

The old gray bird grumbled as he cleared his throat and continued. “That’s our mission for now, keep this dumb bitch alive so the Susi will stay doing business with us and get the shit for the ghouls.”

Croce nodded and Lexi still felt a little unsure, but Oso gave a soft nudge. She smiled back at him hoping that he had already forgotten all about the last time they spoke, he seemed very friendly and didn’t seem to have anything to say on the subject, so she figured she was in the clear.

“Hey!” Lexi turned about as Earl floated a bag to Oso and he poked in, popping a berry into his mouth from the bag. He smiled and gestured a thank you to the pony. Lexi chewed her lip and leaned just a bit to try and inspect Earl’s flank. To her surprise it really was blank, but she didn’t get the chance to say anything before Earl’s hooves closed on either side of her head and near forcefully pulled her to look into his eyes. “Listen… very carefully. If you find very specifically a red scarf out there… bring it back. It’s mine.”

Lexi’s face scrunched up in confusion. But before she could speak a word, Earl stepped back and a bright green flash consumed her vision. Instantly, she couldn’t see anything but the vague shapes of three griffons vanishing into the bright lights as the ground beneath her gave way.

Footnote: Level 6 Achieved.

Perk added: Intensive training: Being run through the ringer, healed and run through again with a crash course on combat has given you +1 to strength and endurance as well as +5 to guns and armor skills.

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes

Chapter editor - Currently N/A

Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.

Nick Valentine: Artist

Chapter 11: Cogwheels

View Online


She had to be honest with herself, she was nearly 100% certain that she wet herself when the first laser impacted her armor. Everything had been going so well, and she was so sure the whole plan would go off without a hitch. And to everypony's immense surprise, it wasn't her but Croce who spoiled the ambush.

Now he was pinned down on top of a small rooftop as Lexi shouted into the short wave radio to tell Oso what had happened, and apparently Pony's still had ears, ears that could hear a scuffling Griffon ready to pounce. It was mere seconds before three of the Raiders were shooting up at Croce, throwing grenades up barely leaving him time to push them back, another two were blasting lasers at Lexi as she whimpered behind a corner.

"Just sit tight... I'm on my way, but I'm konking Croce for this one..." Oso's voice like always was rather calm. Lexi nodded, not quite remembering that Oso couldn't see her nod over the radio.

But just as Oso signed off moving from the primary ambush point to them, Croce growled into the radio. "Shit! How the fuck did she see me? I just knocked like a single pebble, this is bullshit!!" His talons raised waiting for the next grenade. It popped up and he instantly swatted it back down nearly catching just a touch of the blast. They were carefully timing them, trying to get them to detonate just as they cleared the rooftop. Lexi was just happy they weren't throwing grenades at her.

"Mud pony! Listen very carefully! I need you to shoot at them, just fire up SATS and get back in cover quickly I can't get out of here without that big one turning me to ash!" He grumbled readying for the next grenade, but he really didn't want to wait. They had already been getting very close, they'd have it any second and if he left without a distraction, the large earth pony mare down below with the duel gatling laser battle saddle would dust him in an instant. "Just get a shot or two in! Aim for the big one!!!"

Lexi spared precious seconds hyperventilating before she clicked her armor into overdrive and popped into the alleyway and activating SATS. She didn't care what was what or who the 'big one' was. She just went from left to right queuing a body shot for each enemy until the spell didn't have any more juice. Still panicking and nearly losing her mind, she executed the attacks. In slow motion she watched the bullets fly. The Raider mares were not all wearing armor, but it didn't really matter. The bullets almost all missed, save for two, and the first of those just had the bullets ping off of thick armor on her rump, the second just barely grazed the mare, taking off a bit of her ear.

She could already see Croce in slow motion just barely taking off. But panic started to seep into her as the slow motion didn't stop. She wanted nothing more than to pop back behind the corner and never pop out again, but just then she saw something that surprised her.

It was him again, she didn't notice him slipping in, but the same unicorn in his dingy trench coat, his heavy revolver aimed straight up arching down, leveling just inches away from one of the mare's heads. Lexi was overjoyed that she had somepony on her side , but she was also absolutely horrified as the revolver went off and the mare's head exploded into a burst of splattering blood and gray matter.

She blinked and he was gone, and just as fast she kicked herself back behind the corner, triggering the armor to return to its normal power draw. Only having it active for mere seconds. And less than a second after that Croce came bouncing and flailing around the corner, his wings smoldering and a bloody red and charred mark on the joint to his left wing.

"Balls that hurts!" He cringed digging through his bags for a potion but the loud clinking made him seize Lexi by her armor and spring forward as the grenade went off. The armor was heavy, even for him, and especially for him while he was injured. He only got her about five feet away and behind some crates. Luckly for them both, Lexi landed with her back to the explosion and Croce in front of her.

The old crates might as well have not existed as the blast decimated them and showered her armor with heavy splinters that thankfully did close to nothing. "Can we go home now?" Lexi barely managed to whimper, she would look back on the day and likely be surprised she even managed to whimper that.

"Come out little birdy... Don't worry, we'll clip your wings and you can be our pet!" To Lexi, the raiders didn't sound crazy, just very disgruntled.

"Fucking ponies..." Croce downed the healing potion and hefted a grenade. Unlike the mares around the corner, Croce's talons gave him the finesse that hooves lacked. Pulling the pin, he counted carefully perhaps a little too accurately as Lexi's heart rate went up even more watching the apple shaped grenade sit in his palm for what seemed like hours before he finally hurled it at the mares. "YEEEET!

The grenade bounced off of the wall at a good angle and Lexi swore she heard a mare yelp as if it hit her in the eye before it went off. She made a mental note to not go around that corner again. Her body felt numb and distant, even when Croce grabbed her and practically yelled at her, apparently he had asked a question, then again, now he yelled at her and she still didn't hear it. His open palm smacked her over the head bringing her back.

"Does your pipbuck show any more of them!?" He growled as Lexi blinked, just barely dropping out of her stupor.

Looking down at the display she noticed a bar still around the corner, then two more. She turned until the bars were in front of her. Croce cursed loudly as Lexi's pupils shrank. The bars were in front of her, and so was a very heavy set mare in armor with two gatling lasers mounted on her battle saddle. Just behind her there was another mare, a mare missing her ear with a very angry expression on her face.

"Oh we are going to have some fun with you!" The heavy mare smiled down at Croce who visibly cringed. Lexi could see the internal conflict, like a little Croce named Pride Croce squabbling with Survival Croce over what to do next. But what was just as scary for Lexi, despite how much she scooted back as the heavy mare's hoof inched forward smoothing over her chin. "And you... we are going to have a lot fun with you..."

This was one very small moment where Lexi almost preferred to just get shot. But as she watched the same hoof pull back, ready to knock the daylights out of her, a shadow cast over them and she saw exactly how and why they had noticed Croce when the ambush was spoiled.

The shadow had barely even been the slightest of things to notice in that slight moment, but the now one eared mare shot her gaze skyward and began to unload with the one beam rifle attached her battle saddle. But the flash of brown was just a little too fast, and far too durable. The beams of red lanced forward and burned into the bulk of the giant Griffon, but Oso rushed in, barely skimming over her and then somersaulting upside down into her. The one eared mare was astoundingly fast and escaped Oso's first grasp, then barely ducked under his heaving horizontal swing which pinned the much larger mare against the brick wall with the bladed end of his weapon, but the third arcing swing resulted in his grasping talons seizing her by the neck. She was fast, but had not expected something as big as Oso to be so relentless in his movements.

As if it were a toy, Oso tore the beam pistol off her saddle and then as she started to savagely scream and swear some sort of vengeance on him, he grasped her face clenching her jaw shut. He gave a sad sigh, despite the many laser bolts that had burned into him, he looked into her eyes with a distant sadness. "I'm sorry..."

Lexi's eyes widened and she jerked her vision away at the wet loud pop. She could hear the body hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. Swallowing, Lexi barely managed to open her eyes and seeing the twitching and spasming body on the ground as well as the one pinned to the wall with the bladed scythe like pick through the heavy mare's head made her clench her eyes shut again.

"There might be more..." Croce started and Oso nodded.

"Secure the payload, I'll see to the little one." Croce nodded and took off as Oso nudged Lexi to her hooves and helped her away from the bodies. "You ok?"

Lexi could still feel her shivering, but she nodded. "Y..Yeah... I just... I ... I don't think I'm going to get used to it."

"Yeah... but you did pretty good all things considered... at least from what I can tell." He tried to smile but a single pop of Croce's pistol and the small red bar on her Eyes forward Sparkle blinking out sent her back to clenching her eyes shut.

Oso just sighed and looked about. Popping a berry he gave a sigh, patting her head he stood up. "We'll be back in just a moment, we will need to move fast." She heard him trot down the alley until his wings spread, the first flap almost hid the sound of his weapon pulling from the mare's head and her body rolling to the ground. She didn't see him wiping the blade clean over a patch of armor on his leg. Oso was large, but he was very efficient.

It took her another few minutes to stand up. She utterly refused to turn around and look back down the alleyway. She had to do a lot of pretended not to see things as she made her way out to where Croce was standing. She instantly spotted something she was almost certain she had seen earlier but not been sure of. The cart the mares were guarding was being pulled by two very heavily bound stallions. Their manes cut short, a series of burns and scrapes, it was very clear that they had been extremely mistreated, and perhaps been through some other rather degrading mistreatments.

Lexi sat mostly in a daze as Oso cut the stallions loose, they didn't stay for long. From the looks on their faces before they bolted, they looked to be surprised that Croce and Oso didn't just kill them, and the way they looked at Lexi seemed to imply they would never really want to lay eyes on another mare ever again.

"This haul of garbage is going to make a bunch of ghouls like us?" Croce poked at the crate. Everything around it on the cart was just burned out only barely salvageable garbage.

"No, that garbage is going to hopefully help them forgive us for being on the same side as Tyrin..." Oso seemed a bit stressed just thinking about it, so Lexi decided against asking.

However, Croce either didn't pick up on the stress or more likely, didn't care. "What did he do?" Croce didn't look up from the junk as he asked.

Oso grumbled to himself near angrily. "Tyrin is very opinionated.... scratch that.. EXTREMELY opinionated. He said something they took exception to and we haven't been able to return in a long while..." He looked over to Croce and shook his head before tying the severed binds from the cart to his armor and he quickly began pulling it. "Same problems we always have..."

Lexi popped up next to Oso keeping up easily. She was very happy with the armor, it wasn't nearly as tight and uncomfortable as before and she accurately felt like somepony else was walking for her. "So... I mean.. I don't want to make it awkward, but... um... how long have you guys been doing this?" Lexi leaned in trying to catch Oso's eye.

He spared her just a second of eye contact, the wheels of the cart were horrible and he was more dragging it than pulling it on its wheels. "Most of my life... most of our lives... well, accept for Yin..."

"Oh? Is he new to the group? Or... well.. heck, what is he?" She kept pace with him but the way he sighed and slightly picked up the pace showed that perhaps today wasn't a good day for talking. After all, Croce did ruin the ambush and ask questions that Oso didn't want to answer. But she was asking questions too, but she figured her questions were a little less aggravating. She sighed and slowly sank back, letting the cart pull further ahead.

"You should probably ask him, and not me." Oso continued forward, the tone of his voice clearly stating he was trying not to be angry. But something was eating at him more so than normal. But she found something to take her attention away from it and give him some space.

She spotted a small case wedge between two pieces of the burned garbage heaped up on the cart. Snagging it she happily looked it over. It looked like a small case for glasses, her hopes went up, until she opened it to realize it wasn't glasses, but identifying the contents made her hopes skyrocket again. The container really was a glasses case, a very fancy glasses case, it even had a silk interior, nearly two hundred years in the wastes did little for its exterior, but it was still in one piece.

She looked them over, four of them two blues, a pink and a yellow. They just sat there looking pretty, as if they were waiting for her to pick them up and try them out. She peeked back then forward, Oso steadily pulled the cart and Croce flew overhead. He still looked like he was struggling a little, the feathers had not fully returned from where he took a beam or two. Picking up the pace she nudged Oso who looked down at her. "Hey, um... I don't wanna bother you too much, but can I sit on the cart and use one of these?"

She hefted the box and he looked closely before shrugging. "Sure, but if you wake up in a hole or gutter, stay low until we come back, it probably means that I threw you there for cover."

She flinched, thinking of him simply chucking her across the street. But in the end, she nodded and climbed the cart and sat firmly on the crate. She fiddled with her bags and finally managed to pop out the wires and tangled mess that was the recollector that Earl had given her. She took a bit longer to fit it into her pipbuck but when it was fixed into place she lay on the box looking over the little spheres. That was when she noticed a few things, firstly the box was in terrible shape. Despite the excessive aging damage to the case, she could still identify another fabric, the patterns of damage suggested that the case was inside a bag which was torn open on debris which effectively trapped pieces of the fabric of the bag into the soft fuzzy fabric over the case. It wasn't important, but she did like finding such things out.

She tilted the case and noticed smudged writing on the underside. She could only just barely make out what was very likely 'If found please return to:' Then she could only just barely read off an S and P as the first two letters of the name. It was extremely elaborate fancy calligraphy, but the ink had clearly gotten wet. More than likely it had been dropped on the ground and rained on for dozens of years. She plucked up the pink orb and plugged it into the recollector. There was a soft buzz and the world whisped away.

She wanted to blink, to pinch herself to see if it was real. But he was there, just staring at her with possessive bedroom eyes. She knew him, she knew him shamefully well. Her heart raced as he leaned forward and planted a kiss on her lips, had this not been a memory her nose would likely be fountaining blood, not just because of the kiss, not just because of how handsome he was, no... Because she knew him very very well. All the mares she worked with knew him very well, he was Lexington Steel a VERY famous adult entertainment star.

She felt her body move, embracing him and going with the motions. But her mind was on fire. Finally, horny Lexi was winning, logical Lexi was just standing there with a blank unregistering face, there was literally nothing that she could do or say, this was happening. She didn't know who the pony was who put this orb in here but she was extremely thankful. She remembered hearing news of the entertainment industry talking about such programs to use the memory orbs, she never thought that they would succeed with the overwhelming majority of unicorns across the nation being drafted or hunted down for research jobs. She never thought that there would be anypony left to make memory orbs for the entertainment industry much less specifically the adult entertainment industry. Not only that, but the owner of the orbs must have been extremely well connected to simply get an entertainment orb so easily, especially one with Lexington Steel himself.

As the act began she could feel herself look over at a mirror, almost as if for a better view. She instantly spotted another famous pony, the pony she was for lack of better words 'inside' was a mildly famous pegasus mare in the same business. But she couldn't remember the name and she didn't notice the wings, and she had to be honest, she didn't care in the slightest, finally she could just sit back and let something good happen to her.

She sighed, extremely happily, her eyes fluttered open and panic shot through her. Her mouth was taped shut and she was in a very dark room. She instinctively struggled to find that her armor was not on her, but confused she quickly found that her 10mm was still strapped to her back and her legs weren't bound. Clearly Croce and possible Oso had done this, looking about she quickly noted that the orbs were all gone as well. She tore off the tape with some effort and was about to shout up a storm when she heard voices.

She leaned in to hear the heated words. Clearly she could hear Tyrin, this implied that they were in the fort. But she would ask later why she was gagged and thrown into what she guessed was a closet.

"They are fucking cowards and you know it!" Tyrin sounded very angry, angry enough for Lexi to not want to leave the closet.

"I don't care, if we do this you can't come. No matter how right or wrong you are, your mouth gets us in a lot of trouble that your crazy powers can't get us out of. That's probably why the wolves jumped at the chance to deal with us through Lexi instead of you." Oso's words were surprisingly forward, she had never heard him so assertive towards Tyrin.

"If you want me to stop calling them what they are, try telling them to stop... and you!" She heard a loud crash, far too loud to be a simple bottle or chair smashing about. Tyrin had apparently thrown something very heavy at what she was convinced was Croce. "Wipe that fucking smile off your face. This is fucking private!"

"Hey! I'm just here to protect the stupid mud pony... Me listening is just a coincidence." He chuckled then let out a yelp as a massive boom echoed and Croce's squawk was followed by a panicked "The literal fuck?!? You just shot at me with a fucking grenade!"

There was the distant sound of chugging before Tyrin growled again. "It was a warning shot you little shit!"

Oso's voice pinged in with what actually sounded like annoyance. "Tyrin! Go drink more, Croce, go check on Lexi. I'll get the wagon ready."

She could hear Tyrin growling and complaining as he went off further away, the sound of empty bottles shattering and heavy objects crashing about got further and further away before she could just barely make out the sound of Oso's voice in a near whisper. "Just let him get drunk, he'll pass out and we'll go, we just got to get Lexi. It's been two hours, she's got to wake up soon."

Croce shuttered, not so quietly grumbling. "I just hope she's done, I couldn't take all the moaning and whispering. The hell was in that memory orb?"

Lexi went stiff and bright red, not even able to squeak, even as Oso answered. "Oh you know damned well what was on the memory orb. Don't pretend it's something else."

"Sure... but can we like... throw her in some water first or something? I'm NOT carrying her after that." As they closed the distance she swore she could actually could hear him making a disgusted face.

"Of all the souls present, you are literally the only one qualified to carry her, remember what you WOULD have done had I not interrupted." Oso's chuckle was nearly cut short when Oso grunted, obviously throwing a punch at him which he easily ignored.

"I was almost dead! I didn... I.. It was... SHUT UP!" Flustered Croce clearly wanted to forget that day in the snow.

The argument would have continued had Oso not opened the closet and both Griffons stared blankly down at the little earth beet red pony staring up at them. "Oh..." They both seemed to say in unison.

She shifted just barely. "C... can I... um.. can I have the memory orbs back?"

Oso's surprised features turned to a scowl. "No... no more memory orbs unless we are out of the field and you are somewhere very private for an extended amount of time."

He almost had trouble looking at her as he grumbled the new rule. Croce nodded and nonchalantly added. "You squeal very loudly..."

Oso glared at him as if he just didn't want to remember it, but more than anything Lexi's cheeks burned bright red and her eyes forcefully glued to the floor. Logical Lexi forcefully tried to push any other thought into her mind than her tossing and turning loudly enjoying a first class ride on the Lexington Steel Express while her friends had to literally carry her to wherever they currently were and were so bothered by it that they had to tape her mouth shut.

"We don't have time for this... go get ready, your armor is over there. We are heading to the ghouls in an hour, be ready or we are putting you in a box for the trip." Oso grumbled as he turned about. Croce too left but he didn't go far. He fluttered his way into a small makeshift nest of boxes and small amounts of loot he appeared to pick out from the building. Lexi scuttled over to where she found her armor. She felt like she had been shot, this was far more than just a little embarrassing, the day had gone from amazing and stress relieving to a very high degree all the way to the horribly embarrassing realization that her friends were likely carrying her with no choice but to listen to some VERY private moments.

Scooting under the armor she stood up into it and hooked her Pipbuck up letting the armor close around her. Mumbling and not exactly ready to go talking to the Griffons just yet, she sat down next to her shame cupboard as some of the Lexis began calling it. But as she sat pushing a small rock around with her armored hoof, something caught her eye. It was no real cause for alarm, but the cupboard had a bobby pin in it. Curious she pulled it out.

"Maybe they had to pick it to stuff me in there..." But then she thought, Oso was more likely to just rip the door off and cram it back, and all Croce knew about lock picking was what he learned through her, which wasn't all that much, and Tyrin? She shivered, Tyrin would have rather thrown her off a cliff or shot her rather than even look at her longer than two seconds much less help open a door.

The little mystery confounded her for a few moments but she stood up and started around the camp as Oso tied the 'gift' for the ghouls to a better cart. It looked as though he had gone through and sorted out all the garbage, even cleaned up some of the gear. The little team they seemed to have going was very efficient, but she felt it was most likely all Oso, she never figured a creature as big as him would be so dedicated to his work, but everything did seemed to be done with so much attention to detail, it almost reminded her of her mother. But then again, he didn't seem that anti social, and Tyrin was the alcoholic of the group. She started to think of all the Griffons as different parts of her mom, but stopped. The whole idea just made her sad and angry.

"H..hey.. Croce?" She didn't look up at his little nest, but she could hear him constantly tinkering with his guns.

"What?" His answer was a little aggressive, but that wasn't irregular.

She chewed her lip, almost as if she didn't figure she would get this far. Almost as if she only spoke his name to see if he was willing to speak to her, she didn't quite know what to say. "Um... What were your parents like?"

Looking up at him for a moment she saw him just scoff and roll his eyes. "They were like parents, raised me and booted me out of the house at 12. Nothing special..."

There was an odd aggression in his voice, she didn't want to focus too much on it. "It's ok if you don't want to talk about it..."

"Ok, good... I don't." He grumbled and started scrubbing at his gun with a small brush.

It was disappointing to see him so unwilling to talk, but she didn't press it. He was already rather angry at her for possibly a dozen and a half reasons she wasn't yet aware of. So she just sat looking back down and pushing the same rock with her armored hoof.

"We are ready, let’s go!" Oso's voice gave her a bit of a jump. But she got up and started towards the cart. Oso had replaced the reins with a push bar and a small shield of scrap metal. But the space between it all was too small for him.

"Who's gonna pull the cart?" She looked it over and noticed Croce already leaving the building.

Oso walked beside her giving her a firm pat on the back. "Have you ever heard the phrase 'Being Voluntold'?"

Easily putting together the words told and volunteer, she grimaced. At least she had the partial power armor. It took only a few seconds for Oso to get her into the little cart to pull it, other than having to do manual labor, she did feel a little better knowing that even if it was mostly the armor, she could actually perform manual labor. Poor pre end of the war Lexi would have died of exhaustion just getting into the harness without the armor.

"Cheer up little one, we all have our parts to play in life. Right now, the little cog in the great machine that you are is just to pull the cart and not get shot." He chuckled and gestured for her to follow.

As they left, Lexi couldn't help but look back and wonder what kind of a role Tyrin had in the 'great machine' Oso mentioned. All he seemed to do is make big decisions for the group and get really angry between getting drunk. Her mind rolled over the group trying to line it up and take a look from other perspectives, But she didn't have much to go on. How long had they been doing all this? Tyrin himself looked like he was somewhere around 50 or 60 years old, Oso looked to be in his mid thirties, Yin was a tree and she couldn't even start to guess at Earl. With no cutie mark she wondered if he was even a pony.

The group seemed to have a specific drive, something about their plan was bigger, much bigger than just surviving. She remembered back at the big Griffon saying the those three words that drug her into the group. 'It's worth it'. The look in his eyes didn't just convince her to join the group. Looking into his eyes, she really believed it, in that short moment, a strange hope had entered her and she really believed it. She didn't know what their plan was and it wasn't that she doubted them, but it was almost like if they were building a 'fix everything' button and they could just miracle the last 200 years away.

She snorted feeling the wagon's wheels clunking about, getting caught on various bits of debris. It wasn't a problem for her with her armor, but she did wonder if between her and Oso they could program the armor to pull the cart without her. But then she stopped, imagining getting attacked when she wasn't wearing it. Every battle was terrifying to her, but with the armor, battle was just a little less terrifying. She quite liked the armor, it felt more than a little protective. She smiled looking back at how it covered her. The inside was contoured to her figure, cupping her hips as the outside was shaped to deflect bullets and shrapnel away from her at various angles without creating a weak point in the armor.

She squinted, something was off. Slowing down she tested what she figured the problem was by jumping. It wasn't an impressive jump, But sure enough. The harness clanked loudly. "How did you get undone?" She struggled to reach up to fit the harness back into place but was having a bit of trouble.

"Hey! Oso, the harness popped open, can I get your help?" She squirmed as she started forward a little faster. Oso was just a little ways off and turned about when he heard her.

He trotted up slowly, looking the harness over. The thing connected to her armor in three places with rings hooked over small points in her armor before a larger flexible piece of material folder over her rear clasping at her sides over her flanks nearly smooshing her bags. The flexible piece had popped free and was riding up. Oso looked it over and shrugged before securing it.

"It should be good, but if it gets loose again, you'll just have to get used to it for a while, I'm going to get up there for a bit and scout out the path ahead with Croce, you should be fine, there's nothing in the area, and if we see anything we will come rushing back ok?" He gave her head a pat and shot off before she could answer.

Huffing she mumbled, not quite sure about what but started going again. Pulling the cart as she watched the massive Griffon fade as a spec in the distance against the cloudy sky. Oso was more than just muscle, his every action showed a small kindness, even if he had a set amount of patience that ran out a little faster than she would have liked. He had other talents and seemed to be a decent guy, even if he had his secrets.

She pouted loudly. Every one of them had secrets, she would have had secrets if she wasn't so boring. 'Then step up! be ambitious'. Lexi slapped the ambition label on that Lexi, she hoped to see more of her. As she watched the little Lexis in her head bounce about and debate, she nibbled her lower lip. She thought of Logical Lexi, the core and more dominant part of her personality. Logic, it was the hinges and joints of the universe, or rather the understanding of the hinges. She remembered her mother taking a carefully folded piece of paper, repetitive flawlessly symmetrical folds. Watching the paper fluctuate and implode on itself within her mother's magic. 'This... this is the universe. It's so complex and can do almost anything. But...' Her little eyes widened as she watched the paper practically crumple up. '...Chaos, disorder can be intimidating, it can throw you for a loop certainly. I mean look at this... but then... look.. look closely. not a single new fold is made... No matter how scary chaos is, the universe will always follow it's own laws, just like this paper will always default to it's own pre grooved folds.'

Lexi smiled, her logical side was nearly as old as she was. Logical Lexi was something she depended on a lot, a true gift from her mother. She smiled picturing the interior of her mind, as the Lexis squabbled and debated, Logical Lexi stood on a pedestal above the rest. Others would speak and step up, but Logical Lexi was queen of the castle.

She smirked picking up her trot when there was a soft pop. She looked back at the harness having come loose again. "... Well screw you too!" She grumbled wondering if she should stop and fix it. Such an effort would require her to stop and get fully out of the harness before getting back in little by little, much more difficult if Oso wasn't there with her.

"Maybe Oso is more muscle than brawn..." She hummed looking back. He was rather knowledgeable, he always had an answer of some sort, but for all that, his talon made harness apparently just sucked.

She picked up the pace and grumbled as she felt the harness sagging looser and looser. "Everypony has their spot, Tyrin is... I don't know.. the angry drunk soldier? Oso, the heavy hitter support, Yin... um.. tree I guess, Croce..." She gnawed at her lower lip trying to keep her memories from reigniting her heat. "Yeah... Everypony... bu..." She stopped and blinked. The question did not inspire confidence. What was her spot in all of this?

The Susi said they needed her. Oso had offered her a spot, but was that out of pity? Why was she here?

Her trot slowed and she fretted. Logical Lexi within her was split in dozens of directions, but mostly trying to figure out if she was allowed along for pity reasons, or if she really was needed.

"No!" She shook her head aggressively. Oso's words, he meant it. 'It's worth it.' She was here because she could in some way make a difference, she just didn't know what yet. She huffed and grumbled as the stress built. Her mind rolled along, annoyed by the now flapping harness tugging annoyingly at the spots in her armor.

"I want my memory orbs..." She grumbled looking down at the metaled hooves as she trekked along. She wanted another ticket to the Steel express. Her eyes clenched shut and she quivered, she really really wanted the memory orbs.

Her eyes snapped open at the soft sound of weight on gravel just barely audible over the sounds of the cart. Something was just a little ways away out of sight. She froze, all her thoughts flew out the window and she floundered for a weapon. But strapped into the harness she would have to turn not just her body but the whole cart just to get her battle saddle guns aimed. She started to panic as she struggled to get the cart detached from her armor.

A part of her screamed that it was just a noise, nothing to worry about, but Logical Lexi hounded and pounded it into her mind. 'Rhythmic movement, four separate sources of noise, close together, off set by only foot or two, consistent almost exclusively with a full sized quadruped creature, no repeating noise means it either stopped moving or noticed it's own sound and is being more careful.'

The tension in the air was almost too much, it was like the world was holding its breath with her. She struggled with the harness until she moved to struggling to get her pistol out, wanting so badly for Oso or Croce to just jump out and rescue her.

"You just don't give up do you?"

Lexi blinked at Croce's voice, then flinched as gunshots rang out streaking just over her head and hitting the ground beside her. Oso burst from the underbrush, his charge was so direct and powered, he quite literally back handed an old transport cart out of the way before smashing and rolling about as if he was just rolling around in the dirt before he heaved and smashed his talons into the wall, and right there. A pony took form out of nothingness. A trench coat and fedora wearing unicorn, hissing through his teeth at the excessive force being thrown into him as he was pushed into the wall by the giant Griffon.

"Easy there mate, I didn't mean no harm to the lovely little dove..." His hooves raised even as the magic of his horn began to glow before Croce popped down and forcefully reached into his coat and pulled the Mysterious Stranger's revolver from it's holster.

Cramming the barrel into the Stallion's eye, Croce squinted almost as if he really wanted a reason to pull the trigger. "Really 'mate' then why all the sneaking and stalking?"

Oso nodded silently as slowly, his talons began to constrict over the Unicorn's chest making him audibly wheeze. But with a sudden blink, Lexi's mouth dropped open in a moment of realization as she looked at the pony who had saved her at least twice.

"It... it's you!"

Footnote: No level achieved

No perks, but the Griffons kinda look at you weird now.

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes

Chapter editor - Currently N/A

Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.

Nick Valentine: Artist

Chapter 12: D.E.R.P.

View Online


He gave a smile, an odd smile, especially for having his own gun crammed into his own eye socket. The smile looked genuine, but oddly it was not the unnerving psychotic sort of smile, he just seemed like somepony she had bumped into at the market and he was apologizing for the trouble. The whole scenario seemed so very odd, even Logical Lexi was stuck shouting out guesses and then countering herself. But all in all her brain was just blazing in an inferno of confusion as to why this specific pony was here.

“He’s from the shop! He’s the pony who wanted to buy my book!” Lexi nearly stumbled and fell forward as she popped out of the harness finally.

“Yeah… we know. He’s been following us ever since we left Pasternville” Oso’s grip tightened just a hair making the unicorn wheeze, but he refused to stop smiling.

“Ey! I had to. The fine lass has something that belongs to me, I offered to give her a bloody lot fer it.” He chuckled and Croce drew back the hammer to the revolver.

“It’s not yours, You followed us all across Equestria for nothing. I hope it was worth it.” Oso’s eyes narrowed and his talons tensed.

“Oi! Wait!.. Ye won’t want to be doin that boyo…” He squirmed uncomfortably, clearly having trouble breathing under the iron like grip of Oso’s impossibly strong talons.

“Ok, I guess I can just shoot you instead of the turkey crushing you.” Croce’s talons tensed on the trigger but Lexi popped up with some urgency.

“Wait! We don’t really have to kill him do we?” She squirmed knowing the pain and pressure those talons could exert. She was also caught up in not wanting to see the Unicorn dead, additionally her own curiosity on his claims tugged on her mind tantalizingly.

“Lexi, I know you’re not used to this, but you can’t be soft in the wasteland.” Oso grumbled suddenly a little uncomfortable killing the pony in front of her.

“Can we please just hear him out?” She looked at both her Griffon friends who looked at each other.

Croce shrugged. “Sure, if we can drop him from cloud level afterward.”

Lexi flinched and chewed her lip, but a touch of ease flowed through her when Oso sighed loudly and loosened his grip, but he clearly was not ready to let the stallion go.

Coughing his smile remained, it even brightened a bit when Croce feeling the group’s choice pulled back and took the gun from his face. The Unicorn breathed a little easier before clearing his throat. “Thanks love… As I was sayin, the book. It’s mine, kinda a long story…”

“It would have to be, it’s been locked in my library for 170 years.” Lexi sat, making eye contact as the Pony shifted as best as he could within Oso’s grip.

“Indeed, it’s a wee bit of a difficult thing to explain, but more or less lass… I’m suppose’t inherit it. I’m directly descended from the author, and we was supposed to get the bloody thing back from the Ministries…” He grumbled, his smile fading just a touch. “The family never got it back due to the world ending and all that.”

Lexi hummed, she had bought it, the book had not been borrowed from the Ministry of Wartime Technology. But it was not impossible that it had been misplaced or stolen from the MoT only to end up in the shop where she bought it, such theft was far from unheard of.

“Come now, it’s not all that big’o deal, I don’t even need to own it, I just need to read it fer long enough.” He smiled looking at her with a sly almost suggestive grin which faded when Oso glided his face between them.

“You still surprisingly successfully stalked us, proving quite the security risk. And you didn’t take the hint every damned time I tried to scare you off.” Oso’s talons tightened just a little causing him to grunt uncomfortably.

But Lexi’s mind churned, if he had been following them the whole time, that meant he went up north which was where she first found him. But the way Oso was talking, he knew that they were being followed. This made more sense and she could hear the Lexi’s bringing up the several times that Oso had been doing odd things and or staring off into the distance behind them at the path they had just come up. But why he hadn’t said anything was another question. The big thing dominating her mind at the moment was that this was the wasteland, Croce was willing to snap the scribe Scribble’s neck for the mere possibility of her having a key, clearly the world had gone to a very shoot first, ask questions later culture, but this pony had followed them, even helped defend her when she was in danger.

She breathed in deep and asked a single simple question. “Why didn’t you kill me?”

He looked at her and frowned. “Love… I’m just not that kind of pony… Sure I don’t got any problems with lift’in the book off ye when yer busy or sleepin, but I’m not in the business of offin poor naïve lasses who can’t barely fend fer themselves.”

Lexi had always been intelligent, but the Unicorn was right, she was naïve, she was desperate to find ponies to trust. She was certainly cautious since waking up in the Stable what felt like years ago, but here and now, looking this pony in the eyes, she couldn’t help it. “Can… can we let him go?”

Oso frowned and Croce laughed. But much to Croce’s sudden disapproval, Oso turned back to the pony and spoke firmly. “How did you get past the wolves?”

The Shop keeper chuckled shaking his head. “Do I look stupid to ye? I didn’t set one single hoof into their territory. Just waited fer ye to come back to the cave. But I came runnin when I heard the shots. Almost got the bloody thing, but the lovely lass kicked me right in the todger. Can’t blame her after what I saved the lass from… but I backed off and waited.”

“And the green?” Oso tightened his grip on the pony.

“Can’t say I know what the ell yer talking bout..” He grunted, nervously trying to shift under the pressure. “But I gather yer talkin bout where I lost ye trail. All I know is ye lot went ahead and after I checked around the corner, ye were gone. Then a bloody Enclave patrol came in. I dug in and waited, but ye didn’t come back. I had to pick up yer trail when ye came back out, but that grizzled ole bird… I found em first, and I learned pretty quick like that I didn’t want to follow em. But I found ye lot shortly after.”

Oso tightened his grip just a little more as he breathed in deep, and with a little more aggression than Lexi thought he had in him, he growled one last question. “And how exactly did you follow us?”

He laughed and shook his head. “I aint tellin ye that until I get yer honest to holy word that ye wont kill me. And trust me mate… yer gonna want to know… yer REALLY gonna want to know.”

Oso glared and very clearly tightened his grip. Lexi stood and raised a hoof in concern, only to be met to the enormous palm of Oso. The Unicorn’s smile faded into a grit toothed pained expression as he struggled to breath. “Are you certain you want to risk my temperament?”

Nearly changing colors and gasping for the air being forcefully squeezed from him, the pony wheezed. “Are .. are ye… certain ye wanna risk not knowin?”

And with those few words the pony clamped his mouth shut glaring Oso in the eyes. Both stared firmly as slowly Oso’s crushing grip tightened more and more, but the pony refused to say a word, even as his eyes began to involuntarily wander as he consciousness began to fade.

Lexi was nearly on the verge of trying to futilely push and pull on Oso to free the pony. She knew it would be beyond useless, but she was nearly desperate at this moment. She honestly did not want to see him die. Biting her lip, Lexi finally clenched her eyes shut and turned away, so very certain that Oso was just about to finish the Unicorn.

There was the sound of hooves on the ground and loud desperate gasping. Lexi’s eyes opened and Oso stood over the pony pushing him onto his back. “Very well. As much as I dislike this… you have my word, I won’t kill you for this. I trade your life for the information.”

Gasping, his chest heaving the pony tried to roll upright, but Oso kept him from doing so. Eventually he simply lay back and caught his breath.

“I’m not technically following you lot…” Panting, his eyes never left Oso who cocked his head as if reconsidering sparing him. “After you lot left my shop. I scrambled, tryin to put together supplies and follow ye. But somepony else came up and started askin questions. They asked about ye three specifically, dropping plenty’o caps on my counter. I told him only what ye looked like and what ye bought. He seemed right pissed off. He left in a hurry, but he made quite a mistake, the tosser whipped up one of em fancy invisible cloaks as he turned the corner. But his cloak set off one of my devices, ye see… I got lots of little doo dads left over from me pop, one of em monitors sub variants of radiation, I think his cloak been damaged, my little sensor picked up his cloak for miles. I figured, he’s followin you lot… I’ll follow em, and I get a chance to nab meh book, nopony gets hurt…”

Oso narrowed his eyes, a very clear look of concern crept across his features, but he stepped back and the Unicorn put his hooves under him.

Croce seemed a bit angry, but he was at least a little used to the fact that he didn’t get to make all the decisions.

Oso's eyes narrowed on the unicorn and he spoke very calmly. "An invisibility cloak?" As if his ribs were still adjusting after nearly being crushed he breathed slow deep breaths, but he looked up and nodded. Oso in turn grumbled. "Well, I guess Tyrin wasn't pissed off enough already."

"What is it?" Croce looked over a the big Griffon. His curiosity perked when Tryin was mentioned. "He's not a fan of invisibility?"

Oso shook his head. "He doesn't care about tech or magic... he just cares about who makes the stuff..."

Lexi blinked and the thought hit her, after all it was a rather well known and talked about subject in some of the other project groups. "He's worried about Zebras?"

Oso glanced over with an odd look, as if he were to shake his head and explain her naivety. "No... He hates them, almost more than anything..."

This time Croce was a little more interested. "Oh? There's gotta be a story there. What did they do to piss off the perpetually pissed off bird?"

Oso's only answer was shaking his head as turned back to the Unicorn. "You have a name?"

Lexi let out a breath she was unaware she was holding, if Oso wanted his name, it was unlikely he would just off him. Clearly, by the way the Unicorn smiled, he believed this was the case too and responded firmly. "The name's Fobwatch! Pleasure and all that..."

Again, Oso looked him over as he spoke calmly. "How much do you know about what we are up to?"

An odd smile spread over Fobwatch's face. "Well, yer headin right towards the Ghoulies up that way, and ye got lots of tech. So I'd wager ye have business with em. And yer in luck lad... I can help ye out right fast. I've got me a few little doo dads I don't need that I can add to yer pile if you let me at least read the book. Don't even need to have it... just need to read the little thing. I'd wager it's almost a guarantee that ye'd be let in with a wee bit of me charm and goodies."

There was odd grumble in Oso's throat, as if he would prefer to kill Fobwatch, but instead was willing to put up with him. "Talk to Lexicon about the book, if you can win her over then sure, but you're not getting your gun back until you leave, and if you're out of the group we will kill you on sight if ever we see you again outside of your shop. Consider this your short leash... if Lexi is hurt for ANY reason, we will kill you, if we think at any time that you are putting us, our goals, or Lexicon in danger... we will kill you. If you piss off Tyrin even by existing too close to him... he will kill you. Any further involvement with the group will depend VERY closely on whether or not the other members feel like we can trust you, it's entirely possible that Tyrin will just kill you for safety sake. So... make your choice now... leave or stay."

Fobwatch didn't even pause, he just smiled and looked to Lexi. "Well lass? my help for a chance to read a good book?"

Lexi, oddly finding it hard to look into his eyes nodded with a shaky smile and Oso turned to the road as a grumpy Croce fluttered in place over and behind the Unicorn.

The trip was rather uneventful, mostly just a few moments when gunshots would go off in the distance and then nothing. Only once did Oso have to go and scare off a few desperate scavengers. But here they were, in the full might and beauty of possibly the most in tact building Lexi had yet to see after the war.

Rebar reinforced concrete and the vague signs of slightly fading magical wards. The whole structure still looked brand new, only one little spot had taken a touch of damage and looked to be suffering a repair talisman malfunction showing off a very small gash in the concrete and revealing the thick rebar within. Even the door looked like it was made of flawlessly polished and ready to go tempered steel.

It was all refreshing and impressive, almost inviting. Until that was, the voice started up.

"You're not allowed here bird! We made that clear last time!" The voice was prim and proper, old fashioned Canterlot as Lexi knew it, but something sounded very wrong with it. It sounded much more like an alien or monster trying to imitate the old fashioned Canterlot tone. Raspy and wheezing, if pony flesh was capable of rusting, she imagined this was what a fancy Canterlot noble would sound like after their throat suffered 100 years of rust.

"Yeah... that's kinda why we're here. To patch things up..." Oso calmly gestured to the box Lexi pulled inside her armor.

But all at once, two very large turrets unfolded from the building and leveled at Oso. Very VERY large turrets, weapons that looked like nobles bought them after being spooked and went to Ironshod arms and asked for the biggest scariest thing that could be created. "You aren't welcome here bird!"

Oso sighed. "Please don't make me break your guns... we just want to talk. To make up for the... problems in the past, and make sure they remain in the past..."

There was some sort of uproar in the background, barely caught as whoever was pressing the button to talk had caught a tiny amount of the feedback. "I'D LIKE TO SEE YOU TRY BIRD! These puppies can turn a whole pack of hellhounds to a fine red mist at 200 yards, they fire so fast that you can't even..."

Oso reached out and grasping both of the turrets he tore out a piece at the base and both went limp. "Please... let's just talk..."

There was a moment of silence before a very VERY angry voice just garbled in the microphone. Lexi was certain it was supposed to be words, but she had heard nobles in Canterlot get that angry before. She didn't feel very good about this mission so far.

Under the flinching twitching and over eager watch of Croce, Fobwatch moved forward and cleared his throat. "Let's see here lads, L-12 series power crystals, might need a little charge but easily could reinforce the power issues your repair talisman is having on the south side and no doubt any other issues deeper in. Flash industry shield lenses, no labels but I'm positive they look to be at least from the series 5 heavy shields. Armored power actuators for your turrets, so big birds can't just tear em out like that. Oh goodness.. there's a lot of good stuff in this box. Sure, some of it needs a wee bit of work, but surely some fine civilized folk with minds great enough to hold a fine pre war building like this would be civilized enough to at least speak face to face with somepony willin to give so much just to patch up a rocky relationship." His accent wasn't completely covered, but it was clear that being a shop pony left Fobwatch with just enough conversational ability to smooth over at least some problems.

Oso looked a little annoyed that Fobwatch had spoken up but his eyes held some hope at the odd silence from the speaker phone. They were left in silence until the same raspy sandpaper voice spoke up. "T...Tyrin isn't there is he?"

"No... we specifically made sure to leave him behind." Oso looked a little nervous, even looking behind him as if to make sure that the old gray bird wasn't sneaking up on them.

Again, there was some silence before the doors loudly clacked and an inside door rumbled open. "Come in then... but DON'T EXPECT EVERYTHING TO JUST BE FINE!"

"Goodness gracious... What did Tyrin do?" Lexi was almost uncomfortable asking, as she too looked over her shoulder as if to check for the old Griffon.

"Don't ask..." Oso shook his head and they moved inside.

As they entered more turrets whirled and clicked, tracking their movements through a long hallway. Lexi nearly had to bite her tongue as she spotted a shriveled up husk of a dark pony with grotesque protrusions from his back that gripped at the machinery he worked on. He only gave them a passing glance and it took Lexi a moment but she came to the conclusion that she was looking at what used to be a bat pony of some sort, the leathery membrane of its wings had simply been removed, leaving long frightening limbs that looked like they belonged in her darkest nightmares.

Wordlessly, Oso lead them past the various displays and half constructed works before they entered a much larger room and a voice came out, almost as if it were some dark and ominous creature, but the unicorn who strode forward was a bright pink. Despite the missing patches of mane and severe damage to his undead flesh, the ghoul smiled as he spoke.

"You've brought some newbies." Oso looked left and right before nodding.

"The gray one is just coincidentally with us, if he breaks your rules, you're free to punish him any way you like." Oso gave Fobwatch a soft glance and the Unicorn shrugged.

"I see.... well then fillies and gentlecolts... Welcome... to the Dependable Equestrian Reclamation Project!" The ghoul stood tall and proud as he gestured to the many other ghouls, almost all exclusively Unicorns who spread over the room, most at work and very few turning to acknowledge the guests.

Lexi blinked. "DERP?... You named your group DERP?"

The Unicorn paused for a moment before whipping around and throwing a glass from a small table at another ghoul. "Damn it Sandbox! You said that nopony would notice!"

"No, I said nopony would care!" The other ghoul grumbled and scooted back. "Our goal is more important than a name, if we succeed or even make progress, literally any progress at all... nopony in this world or the next will care about how odd the name is..."

"Goal?" Both Lexi and Fobwatch spoke in unison.

The Ghoul unicorn glanced at them both then at Oso. "Do they know?"

Oso shook his head. "Not yet, and as much as we can agree Tyrin is a bit of a hindrance to the plan with his stubbornness, he is adamant that they don't know unless it's absolutely necessary."

Lexi blinked. She was so certain that she was so very close to being told. For something she knew so little about, the little project was horribly tantalizing to her. She felt a little betrayed that her mere existence seemed to be more than enough for the old Griffon to deny her the knowledge, especially since the wolves only agreed to help because of her. But then a possibility tickled her senses. Perhaps he was guarding his plans, the griffons had been at odds to some degree with both the ghouls and the wolves, probably a problem exclusive to the stubborn and very angry Tyrin. Maybe the troubles boiling up between them was easier to hide small details in.

"Well... as physically painful as it is, for now I agree." The ghoul looked to shudder very clearly painting how much he did not like Tyrin. "Well... I suppose we can speak, Sandbox can see what you have to offer. Just keep your ponies away from anything important..." The ghoul glared at Lexi and Fobwatch but looked to Croce as if he hadn't noticed him before. He looked like he was going to say something but just shook his head and gestured for Oso to follow him up the catwalks and further into their little headquarters.

"...Sooo.... What's DERP exactly?" Lexi's words were rather quiet, adopting her old work tone. Back in the Ministry of Technology, most ponies were always busy working and glared if you uttered a single word louder than a whisper. This place seemed to be similar. Despite the living dead tapping about on computers and monitoring systems it felt oddly familiar, almost safe.

The pony from before, Sandbox turned with a surprisingly happy smile, but it was not him who answered. "Old ghoulies left over from the ministries working on trying to preserve old Equestria and probably doing some secretive stuff'n such to make Equestria a thing again." Fobwatch mumbled the information almost as if he wasn't paying attention.

Sandbox blinked and nodded. "Well... yes, how did you know?"

Fobwatch smiled and shrugged. "Ponies remember things, and ye lads didn't always exclusively bring ghouls into yer little group. I've met more than meh fair share of ponies who recall invitations into your group. And while it's rare, yer group does have those who leave it. Ponies talk... even ghouls who were a part of a semi secret group."

Sandbox grimaced and looked back to the box of salvage. "It's just odd that you know so much and have such knowledge so readily available."

Fobwatch helped him pop the lid off the container and start sorting through the gear. "It's nothin really, I'm just aware of groups around and I got me a good memory. I'm just a good pony to ask, that's all, plus the name kinda gives it away even if I didn't already know. I mean... hell, try as ye might, but Equestrian Reclamation Project can't be much else..."

They pushed through the gear and cataloged the salvage, there was very little conversation, Lexi was simply enjoying the aura of the place. The soft sound of silent ponies going about their daily work, it was like taking a bath for the first time in ages. A work space for the intellectual and cultured, even if they were all undead monsters. Lexi nearly whimpered and quickly slid the hood to her helmet down when she closed the distance and caught a few eyes from the local ghouls. She had come a long way from screaming, wetting herself, and passing out from when she saw her first ghoul back at her old apartments. But they still drove a cold shock down her spine. At least the talkative Sandbox seemed rather easy to endure, even if he like all ghouls was hard to look at. But the way he looked over each item, the way he smiled as he went about his business, she felt an odd warmth just watching him. She had spent the best years of her young life learning from professors just like him.

"Excuse me..." She raised a hoof, watching her volume but happily she only gained the attention of Sandbox. She struggled looking into the decayed face, but she took relative comfort in the kind open eyes. "You're from one of the Ministries?"

He smiled and to her comfort the image didn't haunt her. "Oh yes... I was in the Ministry of Morale." He beamed rather happily but almost instantly Lexi's reaction was a little more than noticeable. "What?"

Lexi forced a smile, but couldn't help the dread in her heart. She was pretty certain he wasn't one of the Ministry Mare's enforcers or agents, and even if he was, which she highly doubted due to the way he poured over the parts and spoke back and forth with Fobwatch, and even if he was, they were out of business for the last 170 years. But the number of times Lexi felt like she was just one stuttering misspoken word from being thrown in the 'friendship dungeon' or simply being disappeared during an interview with any member of the M.o.M. was beyond counting. A sudden new voice erupted in her mind, she didn't quite know what to call it, but it appeared to be birthed from her logical and cautious sides. 'He doesn't know how old you are, he doesn't even know who you are. Keep it that way, it's a valuable ace in the hole'. She shook herself and cleared her throat.

"I've... um... I've read some journals. Scary stuff from the Ministry of Morale, sorry... I just kinda got spooked. I have a very vivid imagination." She sheepishly rubbed her hooves together trying to find a way to ask questions without revealing her past. She didn't mind telling the story, but watching the Griffons she was starting to understand the value in not giving her life story to every stranger she met.

Sandbox laughed, it wasn't malicious or mocking. He just genuinely seemed amused. His old eyes showed an equally old and kind soul, despite his decaying body. "I'm an engineer... Chief researcher of the Ministry of Morale's branch in Salt Cube City, I was not one of Pinkie's spooks..."

This did a lot to calm her nerves. It was a little intimidating to spend time with somepony who outranked her by so much, but appeared to be on the much more relieving 'birthdays, music, and entertainment side of the M.o.M. "Ah, so you probably did a lot of work on those pre wartime projects..." She paused as her new Lexi glared at her and quickly she added. "The journals and books say a lot about that stuff."

"Oh yes, certainly I was working on the Friend Force One and most of it's incarnations." He happily picked up a small piece of the equipment they had brought in and looked it over before setting it to the side. "Well, as much as I love a little chat, I think we got it all cataloged and I'm actually kinda impressed. I really hope we work things out. I could really use this stuff to fix a lot of stuff around here. And when the project is finished, I can bring a lot of this back where it will be even more needed home in the dome..."

"Salt Cube City still..." Lexi cleared her throat remembering the whole bit about hiding her origins. "Sorry... how is the city?"

He chuckled. "Well, things are pretty good, us ghouls aren't treated very well, but that's pretty much common no matter where we go. And yeah... still a megaspell locked into the salt cube... that hasn't gone off yet." He chuckled and Lexi smiled a little awkwardly happy he didn't seem to catch on to her awkward attempts to hide the fact she was from the past.

They shared a moment of silence before the doors up above the catwalks opened and Oso ducked through the doorway and exited the small room. There was another few awkward moments as Oso struggled to come back down. His size made the short trip more than a little difficult and if he took to the skies he would have simply created so much wind that everypony present would have to hold down their paperwork and even their computers.

"You're asking a lot Oso.... a whole lot... but nopony ever said that the path forward would be an easy path..." The Unicorn ghoul following Oso out seemed a bit distressed. "Sandbox? What did they bring."

Sandbox stood upright and smile. "It's some really good stuff, I could really put this to good use."

The ghoul Unicorn grumbled and he paused for a moment, his eyes seemed to float gently across the room. He was very unsure, but then something clicked. "I think I know... look, I'm not going to pretend any of our little groups has any love for each other. And one such required artifact needed for the project..." He paused looking to Oso who scowled knowingly. "Yeah... that artifact... we're going to need it eventually. And I don't want to send two dozen of my ghouls only to get three back... if any. Retrieve it and bring it back, and we'll not only put up with the fleabags... but we'll even work with that insufferable ass Tyrin..."

"That's a pretty big undertaking... I'll look it over, we don't even know where it is..." Oso's low grumbling voice almost sounded like he was losing his patience when he could not afford to.

The Unicorn grinned from leathery decaying ear to leathery decaying ear. "It's last known location was the Crystal Empire..."

Oso's eye twitched angrily. "The Empire is gone, nopony has even seen it since the bombs dropped, and it's physical location if it even still exists is a frozen wasteland that even I can't survive. You're asking the impossible."

"Our goal is impossibility itself, and you know full and well we need that scroll... we aren't going to get very far without it. And after last time I'm pretty sure you owe us big... somepony has to make the trip, has to do the mission. You're the only ones with your super soldier oh so much better than ponies non coward Griffons..." His grin started to scare Lexi, but the more she thought about it, she would likely be the same if she got such a massive advantage on somepony who had angered her as much as Tyrin appeared to have angered this one Unicorn.

Oso answered through a beak clenched in anger. "I'll speak to the others.... come now ponies... we have an old Griffon to piss off to a degree never before seen..."

Lexi let out a soft 'eep' at the massive talons nearly scooping her and her armor up and pushing her to the door. Hearing the remark on Tyrin, she wasn't quite sure she wanted to go back, even if it meant staying with the rotting ghouls.

"Sandbox! Get that gear packed up for distribution and use, then help our friends out. Then I want those damned turrets back up and working before sundown, and I want them armored!" The unicorn disappeared back up the catwalks and into his office.

Sandbox groaned, but at least he had already prepared the parts. "Come on, and I know I don't have to say it, but sorry... Old Artie is still bent out of shape from Tyrin's last visit... Look, that trip is close to impossible, just come back next year or at least when summer is going on, then maybe Arctic Star won't be as angry and we can make a joint effort. A year or so does wonders in calming ponies down."

Oso sighed loudly. "Yeah, but you still have no idea how long Tyrin holds his grudges. I might have to leave Lexi and Croce outside for a bit while Tyrin throws his tantrum... it's damned impossible to get to where the Empire was.... perhaps not impossible to get in... if you have Tyrin on your side. But Even I would die on that trek..."

"It's not impossible." Oso and all ponies present turned and looked at Croce who at first looked uncertain, but then upon closer inspection he just looked VERY uncomfortable. "It's not impossible, I know a guy... a guy who's done it before, and so long as we pay, he'll take us there and help us survive."

"Is he expensive?" Oso's voice almost sounded in relief, but the look on Croce's face was just a little too uncomfortable to ignore. Even Fobwatch looked in, he might not have been welcome, but for now he was a part of the group and his curiosity had been piqued as well.

Croce broke eye contact, almost as if he really did not want to talk about it. But with a sharp sigh, he looked back and answered firmly. "A little, but... he's... well... he's more of the problem than the price..."

Footnote: No level achieved

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes

Chapter editor - Currently N/A

Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.

Nick Valentine: Artist

Chapter 13: Don't fear the Reaper

View Online

Don't fear the Reaper

"This should be the place." Oso stepped up but grimaced at the pumping and bumping of the music within.

Lexi chewed her lip looking back at the camp, this had been the first time ever that Croce had ever willingly chosen not to go where she was going. "It probably is, let's just get in and finish this. I'm not too enthused about Croce's instructions."

Lexi was visibly worried, as was Oso and the still present Fobwatch. Fobwatch had been told he could leave at any time, with the previous warnings, but he seemed extremely enthused about finding the Crystal Empire. So, all together they started into the old building.

The music felt odd, booming loud but strangely pleasing noise. She of course recognized but despised it. Back before the war ended with the world, this music was rather popular. Popular for clubs and parties that is, clubs and parties she never went to for reasons she totally convinced herself that were her very own choices. Rarely was there any vocals or actual instruments, it was all magically and electronically created sounds with music that you felt more than you would hear.

The ponies not dancing were completely vegetated on different assortments of chems so Oso's questions did not get any useful answers. Everypony they talked to just wanted help trying to figure out if it was as possible to be freaked in as it was to be freaked out, or if knees could talk, what would they say? One did bring up the inevitable destruction of the universe through the war between the god of snuggles and the god of cuddles for the throne of kanoodles. Needless to say, Croce's tip was not paying off just yet.

“Well this was a complete waste of time. How are we going to find this guide?” Lexi just mumbled and scrunched her nose at the music. Oso seemed completely unaffected. Fobwatch however appeared to bob slowly with the beat but stopped rigid and turned the other direction when Lexicon gave him a quizzical glance. She figured it was possibly a guilty pleasure of his. Suddenly the music didn't seem so bad as the odd urge to see him embrace it and possibly dance took root in her mind. Whatever Lexi within who came up with it had to hide quickly as the other Lexi's glared. Honest Lexi would say that she didn't dislike the music, but rather she was making up for something by trying to prove to herself that she disliked it.

Honest Lexi was promptly bopped on the head and thrown in the time out closet.

All at once things changed. A tune turned on and almost everypony who could stood upright, those who could, left in a hurry. Even those who were close to wasted on chems ran leaving just a few asleep or oddly interested ponies alongside Lexi and her friends. The music was extra bouncy and flamboyant, the sort that usually got the crowds on the tips of their hooves ready to start bouncing with the beat.

Suddenly the music climaxed and from the curtain on stage bobbed and weaved a cherry red Pegasus. Her mane whipped about in a dazzling show of flare. Lexi’s eyes went wide as she corrected her brain after seeing what little clothes the Pegasi wore betrayed a sex. HIS mane whipped about. Luscious golden blonde with an electric blue stripe, then the words burned into the music as he danced perhaps a little too enthusiastically to the beat.

*when I trot on by… mares be like ‘damn he fly. I pay to the beat, trottin down the street in my new lafreak, yeah… This is how I roll… cheetah prints, pants out of control… it's the red fool with the big ass flow…*

The music continued as the sleek stallion on stage whipped about in surprisingly acrobatic displays on the stripper poles up on the stage. Lexicon couldn’t help but to just stare, her eyes tracing the excessive gyrations of the cherry colored hips. Though Fobwatch let out an uncomfortable sigh as Oso groaned.

“Lexi… I think we found our guide…” Oso spoke through his talons in which he buried his face.

Lexicon could only let out a soft "huh?"

Oso looked into her eyes and grumbled. “Remember what Croce said the name of our guide was? ‘Flaming Reaper'?” As if he spotted it just at that moment Fobwatch pointed a hoof and though it took a bit with the stallion dancing so thoroughly and grinding so hard on the stripper poles that they all half expected him to start a fire, Lexicon spotted it.

His cutie mark was a skull with red flames licking up on top and blood dribbling below. “Ohhhhh…. no….” Was her only response.

*ahhhh, mare look at that body! Ahhhh, mare look at that body! When I trot in the spot this is what I see! Everypony stops and is starin at me! I got passion in my pants and I ain't afraid to show it! Show it! Show it! Show it!!!..... I'm sexy and I know it!*

The beat exploded once more and the stallion on stage whipped about and what passed off for a pair of flankless elastic pants shot off of the Pegasus and flew across the room hitting Fobwatch in the face. With his reaction the pants might as well have been a swarm of flesh eating parasprites, oddly his crazed desperate flailing as he attempted to free himself of the stripper clothes stuck to his face, almost matched the new bassey beat that kicked up as both Fobwatch and the Stallion on stage bucked and heaved for very different reasons.

Lexicon now fully understood Croce’s reaction and reluctance to go searching for the guide. Apparently he was quite familiar with this pony’s style and decided to spend the least amount of time possible with the flashy stallion. But this was something she figured was a problem for Croce alone. A thick blush over her face, Lexi got more than an eyeful of what started as dancing and quickly turned to a very adult display.

Twirling and spinning like a top on stage had any of the group asked him a question, they were confident it would go unheard. Instead they collectively made their way to the only pony not strung out or cheering at the stage. A dull gray earth pony stallion with a scruffy black mane and grayish purple eyes. As if he felt the tap before Oso could manage the task, the pony turned about and looked up at the big Griffon. He smiled, almost purring, the hat topping his head read with a single word across it like he was wearing a billboard. The word was rather simple 'gay'

"Didja need something birdy?" He smirked and Oso did his best to politely shake his head.

Leveling a talon at the stage he cleared his throat and kept uncomfortably close so the pony could hear him over the booming bass. "Is that 'Flaming Reaper'?"

The pony laughed. "Yes, but there are better choices big birby..."

A sudden interruption broke the tension of the two to Oso's relief as the Pegasus on stage still riding the poles leaned so far back he came eye to eye with the Earth Pony. "Aye gaylord! You've been boasting a bit much, how about you get up here and put your money where your mouth is?" He leaned in and stuck his tongue out playfully.

"Bitch... don't even try me..." He grinned back, looking deep into the Pegasi's eyes with a playful rivalry. "Oh... and the big bird is here to see you..."

The Pegasus smiled and narrowed his eyes. "Oh mai...." He seemed to purr as he hopped down from the stage. "Does somegryff need a pony ride?"

Oso stepped back and to Lexi's great surprise he seized her by the shoulders and put her in front of him. "Go ahead Lexi, you give him the details, I'll secure us an exit." And with that, the enormous Griffon stepped out leaving only Lexi and Fobwatch with the Pegasus.

"Spoil sport...." He sighed and whipped his hair about before sitting down and looking over Lexicon. "Sorry, not really my type... you though..." He looked at Fobwatch. "What's your name?"

He coughed nervously but as if he wanted to prove himself useful to the group he stepped forward. "I'm Fobwatch... Just tryin to help the lass..."

"Mmmmm... Fabwatch..." He purred playfully.

"Fobwatch... 'Fob' watch..." Fobwatch corrected.

"Honey... I know what I said..." The Pegasus smiled and kicked back in his seat. "Well, you're not here for a pony ride... what do you need from the fabulous Reaper?"

Lexi cleared her throat. Still a touch red from seeing so very much of the flexible and showy stallion, she wet her lips and finally managed to speak. "I have a friend who recommended you. He said you know how to get to the Crystal Empire."

Reaper's eyes widened. "Not many know that story... and it's not an easy trip, not a cheap one either..." He looked up and to the left as if he was holding the idea in his gaze and playfully juggled it before turning back. "You know it's a wasteland right? Glowing snow, only the wraiths are out there... can you guys even pay?"

She recalled the library, the resources at the castle, she was 100% positive that the Griffons had more than enough to pay him. "I am certain of it... And it's very important, even if there's nothing there, we need to get to it."

He laughed. "I'm not kidding, it's literally just an empty nothing, a place where you can barely tell that a city once was. And still, all kinds of spooky... and dangerous... did I mention dangerous?"

"Yes, I'm sure of that..." She still wasn't exactly clear on what was what, she didn't want to promise something the Griffons weren't willing to surrender, but if this is what needed to be done, she would strike the deal. If it was too much, the Griffons would only have their lack of trust in her to blame. "We are convinced of the danger, I myself have already come pretty darn close to it within the past few weeks. If you can get us there, you're hired."

Reaper smiled. "Alright cherry pone..."

"Lexi... My name is Lexi." She corrected him a little unsure why he was calling her that, but he did not at all seem fazed by her momentary confidence.

"Sure Cherry pone..." He grinned and leaned in close to the gray Earth Pony. "Octave? Get my stuff, and don't you go redecorating until you see a damned corpse, not one damned thing better be out of place when I get back! Even if I come back as a bag of ash."

The Earth Pony laughed and made his way out. Reaper in turn looked to Lexi. "How many and are we expecting any troubles?"

Lexi slumped a little. "Well, it's at least me and two Griffons, Fobwatch wants to join too. And there might be a very angry third Griffon who comes as well. I'll have to ask. Troubles... I'm not sure."

As if fate itself was just trying to shaft her, there was a tap on her shoulder. She turned to see something she swore was more alien to her than anything she had ever seen. It was a mask, an armored mask. It clearly wasn't power armor, but it was fully sealed armor, from ears to tail, this pony was not showing a single hair. "Come with us..."

Lexi blinked, not quite sure what was going on. She couldn't even guess what this was, a prank, a message, or...

The shotgun in her face answered it quickly. "...Now!

The voice was hauntingly familiar, but not in a way that she knew, but in a way that felt like she should know. Fobwatch stepped forward as if to tug on the newcomer's shoulder and let him know how many guards were present in the corners of the little post apocalyptic club. But he didn't even get a single syllable out before the disturbingly amazing acrobatics of the armored pony whirling in the air ended with a very solid kick to Fobwatch's chest sending him tearing through the air.

The shotgun came to a stop on course for Lexi's face again to reiterate the point he was making on the abduction, but a simple red hoof and confident grin kept the weapon from making it full circle. "You're starting shit in my house... you don't want to start shit in my house, especially with my clients..."

The armored pony glared, he did not course correct the shotgun he wanted in Lexi's face. "Move aside, I have no quarrel with you."

"Bitch... you do now... But I'll let you leave before I work your ass over." The growl coming from the Pegasus was something between seductive and aggressive.

Lexi didn't see what happened next as she went tumbling back over Reaper's shoulder and onto the stage as he and the newcomer flew into a blur of melee combat. Lexi barely managed to get her hooves under her and the overdrive to her armor flipped on when Reaper took to the air. Seeing him clear out of the way, she entered SATS. If she could move at normal speed, she would have gawked at the very low percentage chances of hitting the armored pony. She toggled half a dozen low caliber shots with a 14% chance to hit center mass. Certainly not surprising herself, she missed them all. But a good surprise, SATS didn't end with her shots. Just as quick as her shots rattled off, a flurry of broken shards of debris flew from Fobwatch as he telekinetically threw everything he could at the Pony. Unlike Lexi, Fobwatch's attacks hit, but did little to nothing against the heavy armor.

The locals took cover and started popping off shots which just like the previous attacks simply bounced off of the armor. But the bouncers ducked low and lowered the weapons when a red streak plowed into the armored foe. Lexi couldn't follow it. She could barely even keep up what was going on, she just managed to pop off the opposite side of the stage and listen to the thrashing and occasional blasting. She nearly jumped away when Fobwatch faded into existence next to her. Breathing hard he pulled open his jacket to look at a heavily dented steel plate. "Stay down! I think that's the guy who came lookin fer yeh."

Despite the warning she poked a nose around the corner to see the two engaged in vicious , scary acrobatic combat. Locking in close Reaper leaned in with a grin. "You're good... hot damn you must be an animal in the sack..."

This only earned an angry growl as he redoubled his zeal and pushed against Reaper.

Lexi paused for just a moment as she swore she heard fighting other than in here. As if there was also a scuffle just outside, and her eyes widened with fear as she remembered the armored pony's words. 'Come with us'. Us implied multiple, and if they'd been following the group the whole time then it would make sense to attack the moment Oso was not present, but they'd need to keep him busy. It all drove panic into her, she always loved a well thought out plan, it was the ultimate weapon to her, and the thought of a perfect plan against her scared her a lot more than she wanted to admit.

Her heart leaped into her throat as the armored pony finally took Reaper's hooves out from under him and with a touch too much force held him down with a hoof to his throat. Straining in effort he looked down at the Pegasus and uttered sternly. "You can live, just step aside."

Despite the hoof to the throat, Reaper gurgled and waved, gesturing as if he was desperate to say something. The armored pony hesitated and as if playing with the idea of just snuffing him out slowly relented and let Reaper speak.

"Harder daddy!" Was all that escaped Reaper's lips. The Armored foe almost fell over, there was simply a pure second of confusion as the figure remained motionless. And it was this very moment that Reaper broke into a death roll. Blasting the foe off of him and coming to a stop in the air, his eyes swept the area and his hoof came out, just in time for an odd object like a red case with swiss cheese pattern carvings peppered about it fly out to meet the outstretched hoof. He grinned and messed about in his mane before pulling out a small pen like object and jabbing it into his shoulder before hissing sharply through clenched teeth.

The armored pony looked up and his stance made it clear that he would no longer pursue Lexi for the moment. But that didn't stop Reaper.

"Stampede...." The word was almost gurgled as the Pegasus whipped the red case he had been thrown out like a toy, spinning and whirling in his hooves. It was roughly two and a half feet long and quickly unfolded and clicked loudly to a full five feet, then another much more recognizable shape began to form as another piece of it folded out and clicked loudly into place.

"Ah... this is probably why he's called the Reaper..." Fobwatch noted from his hiding spot beside Lexi.

Reaper hefted the scythe and blasted forward ten times as fast, froth building at his lips as he swung the weapon gouging heavy furrows into the impossibly dense armor and sending the pony toppling. Sparks flew the armor just barely held as Reaper tossed the poor soul about like a toy. Into and even through walls. Everypony in the bar was hiding, it was very clear that they trusted Reaper to take care of this, or more likely, they were simply afraid to move while Reaper was doing his thing with what Lexi was very confident was extremely potent chems.

"You fucked up my bar! I will wreck your shit you little bitch!" Reaper's words seemed rather collected for somepony on extreme combat stimulants. But whether by design or luck, Reaper's next golf swing with the scythe both managed to draw blood and send the armored pony through a window. Reaper glared down at the ponies who miraculously survived what felt like a clash of titans just before he tore off through the window after the armored pony.

There was an odd eerie silence as even the fighting outside sounded like it stopped. "Don't worry, he's ok... why don't you tell me what happened?" Lexi looked up at the Gray Earth pony from before, she was pretty sure she had heard Reaper call him Octave. Fobwatch beside her struggled to stand up, rubbing his chest and rummaging about in his bags for a potion. The whole bar looked to be slowly piecing itself back together.

"I'm sure it's not your fault, but Imma need some answers and very soon..." Octave hefted his little sawed off shotgun as he looked down at Lexi and Fobwatch.

There was a touch of worry when Oso came back in, he looked like he was ready to just kill everything. Thankfully he listened before he acted and by the time the local ponies started cleaning up Reaper came back. But he said nothing as he stormed angrily past everypony and locked himself in his own room behind the stage.

"Is... is he going to be ok?" Lexi looked over to the Earth Pony Octave, she wanted to do something, anything but she was in a strange place full of strangers. There was very little she would likely be asked to do even if she offered.

Octave shook his head with a laugh. "He'll be fine. He's top bitch around here... You don't get to his level without being resilient. He's just grumpy that they tore up the bar... but this gives me a chance to redecorate!" Octave giggled rubbing his hooves together near fiendishly.

"I will straight up gnaw off your balls!" Both Octave and Lexi turned about to see Reaper glaring down at Octave. "I told you... not one damned thing!"

Oso noticed the red Pegasus and scooted up. His stress was clear on his face, but his face portrayed duty more than aggravation. "I hear that you agreed to work for us? I do hope you still plan on it?"

Reaper's sour expression turned to an almost flirty condescending look. "Oh... big boy... Reaper never quits... no matter what it takes... I finish... satisfaction guaranteed." He leaned in close but quickly met Oso's extended talon pressing against his snout.

"I just need a guide... not a blowjob..." Oso's frown matched his scolding voice.

Reaper smiled his rear giving a soft playful wiggle. "Can't it be both?"

Oso groaned but Lexi saved the day with a question. "What is your price exactly? I mean... I'm confident we can pay it. But you never told us."

Fobwatch's ear twitched, he also seemed to want to know. "Oh... normally that's a 2k job... half now, half when we get back. But I'll take off 20% due to the big boy's fight outside... in my bar's defense... and because my guards seem to have forgotten how to do their jobs!" He glared and the various bouncer ponies either shrugged or stepped back. "If you were high as a damned kite maybe you would have noticed them... hrmmm? You listening? Brushes?" He glared particularly hard at one guard who seemed to just slink back and sit down out of sight behind the bar.

"That's still a lot... a whole lot...." Oso grumbled loudly as he looked through his bags.

"Well, tell you what... This place you want to go to is empty... completely dead... literally nothing but radiation and blizzards... well.. and wraiths... Buuuut..." Reaper smiled looking them over. "I'm a sucker for adventure... and a sucker for big strong birbs..." He purred and rubbed up against Oso who quickly took a step back letting Reaper plop onto the ground. But instead of standing back up he rolled over playfully. "If you show me something awesome down that way... I'll waive the return fee... But it's gotta be awesome!"

Reaper groaned and reached into his pack. "Does it have to be caps?"

The Pegasus smiled from his spot on the floor. "No.. of course not.. weapons, medicine, chems, food... or ... favors..." He purred the last word playfully sticking out his tongue at Oso. But Oso simply pulled out a small brick of solid gold and dropped it on the floor in front of him.

Reaper blinked and picked it up before hefting it to Octave he gave it a soft bite and close look. "It's real... and pure... very pure..."

Reaper smiled. "This is more than enough... consider me fully and properly hired... I mean... wow... hee ... ok then... it's a bit late... would you like to stay the night? Leave immediately? Or perhaps I'll just meet you in the morning? Regardless, I will lead you all to your location and protect your booties and this sweet cinnamon roll!" He hugged up Lexi before dropping her near carelessly on the ground.

Oso cleared his throat and gestured to Lexi and Fobwatch. "You two head back to camp... Tell Croce what happened and make sure he's ok. I'll be here to give him the lowdown on what to expect then meet you out there." He turned back to Reaper who batted his eyelashes happily, putting on a dreamy 'lost in each other's eyes' look.

Lexi and Fobwatch stepped out, but Lexi was nearly 100% certain Oso was still glaring untrustingly at Fobwatch as they left.

They found Croce in a tree glaring down at them. He seemed to scan the skyline before finally coming down. "Did you find him?"

Fobwatch nodded with a twitching eye. "Yes... and we got attacked... I'm going to need my revolver back..."

Croce scoffed but looked at him as if expecting he was joking, then he looked to Lexi who looked up at the Griffon. "It's true... we were in deep trouble... it would have been a LOT better if he was armed... Can you just give the gun back?"

Croce grumbled and hesitantly tossed the heavy revolver to the ground in front of them, but it didn't hit the ground. Floating in Fobwatch's magic he holstered it with a sigh and Croce looked to Lexi. "So what's this about an attack?"

"Oh... We found your guy, hired him, and... well this armored pony came out and attacked us. It looked like he was going specifically for me." Lexi pawed at the dirt but when she looked back up Croce had a look that she didn't expect. He looked almost ashamed.

"Aye... But you're alright?" Croce's beak clenched and he breathed a little easier as Lexi nodded. "Alright, but from now on stay close ok? I can't have my record being stained by you running off and getting yourself killed."

The heavy thud behind them had them all whip around with wide eyes and nearly drawn weapons. But as Oso towered over them they slowly relaxed. "Yes... we were careless, Fobwatch even told us we were being followed, and we still spread out giving them a very clear method of attacking."

Croce looked behind Oso then again scanned the skies. "He's not... here is he?"

Oso rolled his eyes. "No, he's going to meet us in a predetermined location once we pass on information to Tyrin. And you!" He glared at Croce. "Next time you tell us EXACTLY what we are looking for and you're coming with us!"

"Hey!" The smaller Griffon growled. "Isn't it enough we have to take him along? I mean, If there was literally any other way..."

"Can you guys really not find it on your own?" Lexi started to unplug from her armor as she spoke, but Oso stopped her with a firm grip.

"Well... 'I' can't... and I don't know how to get you guys there alive... But I think Tyrin and Yin can find it."

"Then why don't we go with them?!" Croce's voice strained in anger. He very clearly did not want to spend time with Reaper.

"Because, not even they can get me there alive. They... they're special, I can't really describe it. But as tough as I am, Tyrin is way above me in combat, and Yin... goodness... Yin is..." He looked down at the bright curious eyes of Lexi and shook his head as he patted her and chuckled. "They're just special... we need a way for us specifically."

"Well..." Croce pushed himself between Fobwatch and Lexi. "Let's get back to base... I'm eager to get all this crap done."

Fobwatch stepped back and nodded. "Indeed, the sooner this part of yer mission is done, the sooner I might get a bit of reading done on a book our fine lass here might be able to provide fer me."

"Aye... Pack it up.. we're heading out immediately." Oso gestured to Croce who with some eyeing at Fobwatch moved to pack up camp.

It was a short few minutes before they were off back towards their little base where Tyrin was no doubt drinking his angry self to sleep. Oso paused for a moment and looked back at Fobwatch. There was some frustration in his voice as he slowed a little to come along side the Unicorn.

"Thank you... for keeping her safe. I'm still not sure I can fully trust you, but I feel at least I can trust you with her. But if you betray that trust... I'll give you to Tyrin, and he will likely kill you very VERY slowly... ok?" Oso's words were calm and cold, but to Lexi's surprise Fobwatch simply nodded, he didn't seem concerned at all, he just patiently listened even as Oso continued. "... and on that subject. Stay out of Tyrin's way. If he asks anything, don't make eye contact and just tell him that you're with Lexi, apologize and get out of the way. He's not the safest to be around."

Fobwatch nodded. "Understood. I'll keep to me’self."

The rest of the trip was relatively silent, and eventually as they came close to the basecamp, they ran into someone familiar. Or rather, Oso did. It took a few moments for Lexi to overcome the familiar trance before she could tell he had stopped and started talking with Yin. The perception masking magic was something she recognized so quickly but it still felt utterly alien to her.

She grumbled at the odd magical command Yin seemed to have over her perception. She looked to Croce who looked drunk with the perception blocking magic gunking up his senses and leaving him nearly docile and helpless. But unlike Croce, Fobwatch looked far more aware and squinted at Yin as if he was fighting against the magic. But the biggest thing on her mind was that the magic wasn't just blocking Lexi's ability to see him clearly, she also couldn't hear either Yin or Oso. In fact, she was still not entirely sure it was actually Yin. She felt safe assuming it but as she couldn't actually see or properly hear him, she only guessed it was the odd wooden pony and his strange magic.

She blinked and noticed that it was night. It had been a few hours away from Reaper's bar, but there was at least another hour or so of sunlight left. The inability to see through the magic infuriated her. "What's up? Where is Tyrin and Yin?"

Oso shook his head and sighed. "They're already on their way. Tyrin was in a very bad mood so... we decided to skip introducing him to Fobwatch or telling him about Reaper."

Fobwatch raised a hoof and waited patiently. It brought about an odd silence before Oso nodded to him and he pointed at Yin with a squint. "Yeah... what the hell is that?"

Yin chuckled finally letting himself be heard. "We have another sharp one... Don't worry... I'm just a tree..."

Fobwatch inched forward still squinting, obviously focusing very hard to try and see through the perception magic. But before he got too close, suddenly the magic and Yin were gone. Fobwatch grumbled and came to the ground where Yin was and looked about frustrated as if he expected to find the tree pony creature just hiding somewhere in plain sight.

"Don't bother, he's not someone you can just find." Oso gestured up north and started walking. It didn't take long before Lexi scurried along to catch up and was followed by Fobwatch and Croce.

"What exactly is that guy?" Croce mumbled as they continued along.

Oso smiled and shrugged. "Honestly... even I don't know..."

Lexi's mind churned, she really wondered too. But she was pretty sure that Oso was intentionally misleading them all when it came to Yin, and possibly when it came to himself and the others. It certainly bothered her, but like with the MoM before the bombs, and like the world now, there was nothing she could do about it. So, with her armor powering her up the path, she caught up to Oso, and soon the pattering noise of Croce and Fobwatch caught up as well.

The trip was surprisingly silent, a few glances back at Croce and Fobwatch made Lexi's stomach sink. She knew that Fobwatch clearly didn't like Reaper fawning over him and making advances, but she knew Croce was very prideful, and he had outright refused to go with them when they had gone to see Reaper the first time. It was his idea to begin with, and he was opposed to it.

She grimaced hoping deep inside that fights wouldn't break out, she didn't want to see it and she figured that Oso would have no patience for it. He always seemed very orderly and calm, but she had seen his reaction to violence. He was extremely efficient, but not gentle. She could easily see Reaper getting konked a few times a day.

She sighed, the whole ordeal was still so surreal. It hadn't been all that long since she last saw the world full of ponies with deep blue skies in old Equestria. So much had changed so very quickly, and more than just the world ending. She could feel the muscles in her legs burn, despite the armor doing most of the work. She had honestly never felt such strain before and she was almost certain that if it was before the world ended she would have given up ten times before noon today alone.

She flustered, not sure whether to be concerned about how much she had changed even if it was for the better or to be happy that she had survived so far. If she was being honest with herself, she was extremely surprised she was alive, but she attributed it almost entirely to her new friends. The whole thing made her stomach sink, thinking about her own death and her minuscule chances of survival without her friends. She shook her head and fussed more.

"Ye alright love?" She felt a hoof on her armored shoulder and she flinched. Looking to Fobwatch who smiled warmly.

She couldn't help but to smile warmly right back, but flustered and nearly fell off balance as she was about to answer, only to have Croce stand up between them glaring Fobwatch down.

But Fobwatch stood back and blinked before remarking with a soft gesture. "Yer hittin that?"

Lexi went beat red and Croce sputtered nearly grabbing his gun before to Fobwatch's surprise, a massive set of talons gripped over his shoulders and physically placed him on the other side of Oso.

"I'm not your mom... but I will separate you two if you don't play nice..." Oso glared ahead flaring his wings to keep them from even looking at each other.

"I'm not an enemy, at the very least, until I can read the book at least once, I'm along for the ride and I'll help in every way I can." Fobwatch's tone was soft despite having been so forcefully been moved so quickly.

"I'm her bodyguard, I keep creeps away from her!" Croce spat angrily, but instantly jumped back as a set of oversized talons reached for him too only just barely missing him.

"Go scout ahead if you have that much energy." Oso's talons shifted to a commanding finger as he gestured ahead. But Croce didn't get to answer before he nearly dove under Oso at the sound of the singsong voice.

"Oh BIRRRRRRBYYYYY" A red form dove from above and Oso caught Reaper with an open grasp. Why the Pegasus had chosen trust fall from so high to someone he had only just met hours before was a mystery, but as he made kissy faces to Oso, he was promptly dropped.

"I see you made it... You couldn't have waited where we agreed?" Oso looked down at the red form prone on the ground.

"I went to the meeting place... but I got bored and there was other things I needed to do. I had a few supplies to gather and I really wanted to see.... oh!... OH!... Birby boy..." Reaper's eyes shifted from Oso to Croce who cringed and staggered back as if the Pegasus was a hellhound that vomited acid and lava. "It WAS you... Oh, I'm so happy..."

Croce slowly started to backpedal. "Don't you say a damned thing! We didn't have a choice, we needed guide... that's ALL we needed..."

Reaper smirked and fluttered his wings. "But you remembered me... and methinks you should remember your debt..."

"I don't owe you shit you little fruit..." Croce was now backpedaling hard as Reaper pounced playfully forward in the chilly air.

"Oh... you lost the brawl fair and square, you owe me a kiss..." Reaper began each playful pounce forward with a cat like wiggle of his rear.

"It was 50 caps not a fucking kiss!" On the next pounce Croce finally broke into a half run half flying break for some cover.

"You said some mean things and you never gave me the caps... so with interest... it's now a kiss..." Reaper simply gave a loose glide with occasional leaps to follow Croce.

"FUCK YOU!" Croce started a full retreat.

"Oh? If you insist!" Reaper spoke with a loud purr as he started after the fleeing Griffon

But like lighting Oso snatched Reaper out of the air, his talons gripping at a metal harness he seemed to be wearing along with his folded scythe. "You can get that nonsense later.... you're our guide, how do we get into the glowing sea during winter without dying?"

Reaper fussed and made his best pouting face before he answered, not objecting at Oso simply manhandling him off the ground. "It's a special chem I made... literally just antifreeze safe to drink... but it will only protect you from the cold, it won't save you from the wraiths..."

"Ok... Probably one of those questions that sound obvious... but what's a wraith?" Lexi's question seemed to break some of the tension.

Oso set Reaper down and introduced his talon to his snout to keep him from trying to kiss. "I don't really know, I don't think anyone knows exactly. To my knowledge, they're some sort of Ghouls, but they are likely caught forever between sentient and feral. They are very clearly highly intelligent, very resourceful and almost always wearing advanced pre war gear. But they attack on sight, at least within proximity. And they are absolutely relentless. High levels of strength and speed, crazy high regeneration. And it's just a rumor, but they're all supposed to be the remains of various royal guard special forces."

Reaper nodded. "They are unique to the Glowing Tundra. And they are the LAST thing you want to fight. I've seen one tear a pony in half... power armor and all. And that was AFTER I cut two of its legs off." He paused before fluttering his eyes at Fobwatch who uncomfortably stepped back. Oso however planted a hand on his back to keep the flirtatious pony still. He grumbled and sat. "We never do what I want to do."

"Did you bring the chems with you?" Oso spoke very straight forward and Reaper nodded.

"I have enough for myself and five others for a complete round trip plus five extra days... it's some potent stuff. The only thing you need is extra water... this stuff's kinda hard on your kidneys." Reaper smiled and hefted a small bag full of inhalers.

Oso nodded and sighed. Closing his eyes he seemed to focus for a moment before finally opening his eyes and leveling his gaze at Reaper. "Ok... how do we start?"

Reaper giggled and grinned near maniacally. "That's the fun part... we're using that!" He pointed over Oso's shoulder and everyone present turned to look. "I wasn't here ONLY because I was waiting for you..."

Croce looked uneasy, Fobwatch almost looked like he was rethinking following them at all, and Oso just sighed. "If it works..."

Footnote: Level 7 Achieved.

Perk added: Duck and cover. You are now more well versed in the simple act of taking cover, you gain +5 damage threshold when you have full cover.

Perk evolved: Mysterious stranger has evolved. Every time you activate SATS, Fobwatch enters with you.

You may now travel with Fobwatch and Reaper.

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes

Chapter editor - Currently N/A

Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.

Nick Valentine: Artist

Crimmharmony: Artist

Chapter 14: The deep North

View Online

The deep North

She simply could not stop screaming, Fobwatch was plenty frightened, but Lexi was close to deafening him with the screaming. They couldn't even hear Reaper's laughter over the high pitched screeching.

"Damn it mud pony! Fucking breath!" Croce's voice too was drowned out in the screams even if it wasn't nearly muted by the rushing wind and hard to come by with the thin atmosphere.

Fobwatch's magical aura covered her mouth nearly the moment they started off, but it wasn't enough. He was now dedicating more energy to covering his own ears while clinging on for dear life as they came down from the climax of their trip. The peak of their climb had ended and now they were heading down.

The frail clanking skycart did barely anything, mostly due to its only power coming from connecting it to Lexi's armor. But with all the team's flyers pulling it along it took off fast. The trip wasn't easy though, even Oso showed signs of getting tired up towards the top. Then just as quickly, the thought to be fearless Oso a fair amount of concern that the cart was not letting them glide back down. "... Oh... balls..." It was all the massive Griffon could say as the hum coming from the skycart's 170 year old motors sputtered and died letting them all fall like a rock.

"You have my attention..." Reaper grinned fluttering his eyelashes at Oso as they began to free fall. He earned a quick swat over the head just as Lexi redoubled her screaming and all three flyers began a torrent of flapping before Reaper looked back at Fobwatch. "I know this might sound stupid... but unplug her armor, kick it into overdrive and plug it back in... oh then hold on tight... it'll be rough, but everpony's first time is rough..." He giggled and turned away once Fobwatch began frantically pulling wires and trying to work through Lexi's screaming and the loss of gravity.

Lexi's mind was blank, even from the start. Logical Lexi simply huddled into the fetal position and recited her hatred of flying which was now multiplied by the clanky rust covered junkyard trash that Oso practically glued together before inviting her aboard. With Logical Lexi busy, panic Lexi, fear Lexi, and a few others she had not quite named yet were at the controls. Had Oso not zip tied her armor to the cart and zip tied her into her armor she would have very likely fallen out or had choked one of the others trying to hang on.

Fobwatch struggled with Lexi's armor in desperation and though she could not see it, Oso's face twisted into genuine concern. He was not a Griffon who had much to worry about usually, but this was bringing out the slightest touch of panic in him. Still flapping his wings and struggling right beside Croce and Reaper as the ground raced up towards them. There was moment where his beak clamped shut in concern, very quickly he reached back and his heavy talons gripped the harness. Fully prepared to tear all three of them free and scoop up their only two members who couldn't fly, he was met with extreme relief as Lexi's armor let out a strained hum and the cart fired back to life.

All three flyers gave it their all and miraculously they barely managed to pull out of the dive. Oso let out a powerful growl as he struggled to keep the front end high. The cart impacting the snow rattled violently as if it were ready to come apart, which was not a hard thing to imagine, or even suspect.

The impact was extreme, but it didn't last. As violent as it was, the cart turned like a badly dented sled and finally came to a stop. Lexi's senses only just barely came back enough for her to notice Fobwatch clinging to her tightly. She was about to speak when what sounded like a fight broke out between the flyers.

The harnesses violently pulled off and practically soared skywards away from the giant Griffon. Lexi barley managed to struggle in her armor to see Reaper arc over Oso in his grasp before smashing into the snow, Oso's aggressive voice was nearly at a war cry level.

"What the fuck were you thinking?" His iron like talons pinned the cherry red Pegasus into the snow as the big Griffon glared into his eyes with the wrath of a God. "Me and my team survive by being careful, we DON'T take risks like this!"

Fobwatch worked at the zip ties and Lexi fell into a pile of steel and pony. She wanted to pop the armor off and rush over, but one or two zip ties still held on tight. Instead of freeing herself she scrambled like a foal wearing a heavy winter coat for the first time, struggling to get to the other side of the skycart. Fobwatch followed close and they both came to a stop next to Croce who watched, he didn't seem concerned or surprised.

Reaper coughed and shifted in the snow a little. "Hey hey birdy... I got us here..." He smiled but visibly cringed when Oso pushed him further into the snow.

"You almost killed us all!" Oso's grasp seemed more than just wrathful, Lexi detected the slightest touch of worry in his words.

"You guys hired me to get you here, and my job ain't done. And remember, I was the first one to strap in big boy... You paid for this, and I put my life on the line just like you...and on another note... lower your voice... There's much more dangerous things than falling into fluffy snow around here." They remained locking eyes for a moment, Reaper's smile only widened even with a suggestive tone before Oso let him go.

"Next time, we talk it through!" Oso looked over the massive dented wreck as if wondering how they were going to get out again. The initial trip was to get over the first part of the storm which was especially rough, the blizzard here was rough as well, but at least they could see for about 100 feet.

Oso turned about and took a quick survey of the area and Lexi came to Reaper's side. She intended to comfort and support him but he seemed oddly happy. And something else stole her attention away. Her eyes wide, she stared at the readout of her pipbuck and the horrifying clicking made by the geiger counter. Her panic was interrupted when something touched her tongue.

"Sip sip sip silly..." Reaper's hoof budged her radiation pack making the straw scrape her tongue softly. Oso had made a fresh one for everyone and there was more in the back of the downed skycart. "If you're having trouble with things in your mouth, just remember to relax your throat, make eye contact and..."

Lexi covered his mouth with her hooves. Blushing and fidgeting she stammered and didn't really manage to say anything.

Reaper chuckled stepping back. "Well, fine. I'll share my experience with someone who appreciates it. Fobwatch?" The Unicorn's eyes widened as he went stiff as a board. But just as quickly he disappeared with a soft waver of light. "Well fine! Crocie! Birby boy!" Reaper happily pranced in the snow towards the young Griffon who pulled out his Susi knife.

"No! Fuck you!" He scrambled over the snow bank waving the massive blade at Reaper.

"Oh yes please! I brought my thigh highs and I have to use my lube before it freezes!" The red pony playfully pounced forward a little at a time but went dead silent and froze in place. It caught more than just Lexi's attention. His ears rotated like a radar dish, pivoting and turning softly. His harness gave off a soft click and hiss. The fold out scythe at his side came loose but still held on by a small folding arm. The odd clack of the unfolding melee weapon hung in the air as Reaper's eyes panned left and right.

Lexi's lips twitched, she wanted so badly to ask what it was, but sadly never got the chance. Her vision spun as something struck her in the breastplate. Even through an inch of tempered steel she swore, she felt ribs breaking. She only felt her heart kick into overdrive as she stared at some sort of suit of power armor. She would have gotten a good look at it if her face wasn't full of a cold cyan blue visor leaking what looked to be an eerie smoke to match. What she swore was an armored paw came up and cat like crystals claws at the end of what she only had a brief moment to realize was a hoof leveled at her throat.

She watched in horror as the crystals hummed to life and began to sink into her armor as if the steel was made of butter. That is until the booming screech followed by an 900lb Griffon plowing into the creature. Again, she had only a brief moment to see the armor more clearly. It had a vague catlike appearance to it, but there was not mistaking the shape of a pony inside the armor.

Oso pulled his weapons from their holsters and began a very fast and brutal dance, bringing the bladed tips down in surprisingly fast arcs which the cat armored pony dodged and dipped just barely avoiding each of the lethal swipes. Oso pushed against the armored foe slashing with surprising grace. Each blow seemed to move into the next until he finally pulled a brutal overhead strike which left him rather open. The armored pony capitalized on the opening with a firm pounce, crystal blades first. But what he had not seen soon enough was that the overhead strike dug into the snow and ice, not as a result of an attack but for leverage in the slippery environment. Oso's wing's flared to pull his heavy paws off the ground and with the weapon in the ground like an anchor he forced his paws into the foe knocking him back where a blurring red flash of Pegasus drove the blade of his scythe into the armor.

Reaper threw his weight into an over the shoulder swing to try and pin the pony like a Entomology's display. But to Lexi's absolute horror, the cat armored pony still flailed and rapidly scratched out, slamming it's hooves into the ground to try and force it's way out despite the full scythe blade through his back and out his chest.

But the struggle was cut short when a blur formed beside the pony and a heavy caliber revolver round popped through the armored helmet. Finally, the pony went still, but Reaper didn't seem satisfied. Wrenching the blade out of the armor he raised it high and drove it into the pony's head.

"Hey, doctor fabulous...I think we got him..." Oso stepped forward grasping the mangled head as Reaper pulled his weapon out.

"You've never fought a Wraith before have you? I'm not surprised... But we do need to dismember it quickly." Reaper Twisted his blade as if to try and scramble the brains within the armor as he pulled it out and slid it under the Wraith's neck before placing his hoof over the back of the thing's head.

Lexi stumbled forward coughing and retching, something deep inside hurt badly and she tasted copper. She couldn't tell what she was feeling, but she was pretty sure it was pain peaking through the shock of the Wraith tackling her. All their voices sounded dull and distant, all sparked a touch of fear in her. But it all amplified as she heard them speaking faster about the Wrath. Reaper pressed and groaned trying to cut off it's head until Oso grasped the thing and held it upright. One massive iron like set of talons gripped into the helmet and he began twisting.

Then it woke up.

It made no noise, it just twitched and plasma erupted from it's shoulders into Oso's face. She couldn't see it, but she could only imagine his pained grimace before he turned and hurled the creature into the distance grasping at his face.

"Oso!" She stumbled forward still feeling an intense grinding pain in her chest. But as she came closer, she was noticed a sort of spark of concern in everyone's faces. Thankfully not at her, but at their surroundings. She turned and the fear hit the bottom of her stomach like cold sludge. There was more of them, she quickly counted four but she had no doubt the others could see proof of more.

"Fabs! follow us on the ground with Lexi!" Reaper nudged Croce and together they both shot into the sky, narrowly dodging the fifth armored figure as they climbed skyward. Oso too took to the sky leaving Lexi with a horrid feeling of dread as she saw nopony else on the ground with her save for the Wraiths, of which two turned and started advancing in her direction.

Lexi opened her mouth to scream as they started barreling towards her. But a hoof clamped over her mouth and she was yanked back and down a hill sliding and tumbling until she came to a full stop. Again she felt hooves on her, but she still couldn't see anything. Even as whatever it was wrenched her pipbuck leg up and slammed something into it.

"Stay quiet and follow closely! If we get separated, look up and follow them!" The sensation was more than a little odd. She couldn't quite place it but she pushed through nearly getting yanked along. A quick glance upwards showed her a flash of red in the distance she was confident was reaper, but the flashes of bright green slashing through the air at him didn't help her worries, nor did the silent armored figures following their tracks in the snow. But something else happened quite suddenly. A massive explosions sending heat and a shock wave that nearly knocked her off her hooves right where the Wraiths were. In the green fireball she could barely make out an armored figure struggling to stand, and one other pulling itself out of the hole filled with boiling water and bale fire in the frozen hellscape. But just as quickly, Oso plowed into them both hammering with his weapons before taking off again and swooping low to slash and attack as invisible Fobwatch pulled her away.

It took her a shameful amount of time to figure out she was invisible. Fobwatch and Lexi both were gasping for breath despite Fobwatch being in much better shape, and Lexi's armor doing most of her running for her.

"Balls! it's bloody fookin cold!" Fobwatch finally let her go and winked into existence. There was quite literally ice hanging off his snout and frost on his skin. She barely knew just enough to know that this was a sign that he had moments to get somewhere warm before he would need a tremendous amount of skin grafts and amputations to prevent gangrene.

He rubbed his skin breaking the ice and scraping the frost off. Lexi quickly rushed over rubbing him as well trying to help. His reaction was instant. "Oh hell! Yer warm!"

He almost instantly hugged onto her and her blush quickly started to spread. "Hey! Wh..what?"

"Sorry love... yer just... holy ell! How ye so damned warm?" He was shivering badly as he hugged into her, and despite the sun token she could actually feel the rigid cold off him and knowing what she would do in his position she snuggled right back into him trying to keep her mind from nosediving into the gutter.

There was a flash and the sensation she figured was the invisibility was gone, but the sensation of Fobwatch's rubbing was still VERY much so still present. So many things rushed through her head. Fears of the Wraiths they left so far behind, excitement of a handsome stallion so close with so much contact. The physical contact was amplified by the memories of the last time a male companion was freezing and needed physical contact.

She could feel his touch and she bit her lip. A spark of hope and excitement touched her mind as he pulled her in spooning her fully. She didn't know if he was intending for it but it certainly felt like he was going for the same approach as Croce had. But then it all changed.

"Room for us?" Reaper was snow white, even his armor. But so was Croce who chattered and shivered near violently.

Lexi nearly tried to pop off of Fobwatch but he hugged her close almost forcefully making her blush twice as hard.

"Tho.. those... fu..fucking... clouds... holy... fucking....fucking balls!" Croce sounded like he was close to dying, and while Reaper was smiling, he made an occasional shudder and gasp but was still all smiles.

"It's useless Fabs... The medicine is keeping you alive right now, but not keeping you warm. All it does is prevent you frying dying from cold. That's all. You're gonna be cold no matter what you snuggle, but hey, if you're really in need, I'm pretty sure without lube we can make some pretty hot friction." He advanced and still snuggling, Fobwatch put Lexi between them.

"I'll di...die alone.. th..thank... thank you..." Croce's voice sounded but instantly he shot worry into Lexi with the soft comment. "I.. H..hope th..the big guy... is ok..."

Lexi popped up worried and fearful. She saw him dive in to fight the Wraiths, sure he was doing a lot more than that, but he was still really fighting them all alone. "We need to go back for him!"

Reaper shook his head before pausing a moment to look over his frosted body with a smile. "No... he's a big bird, he can handle himself. Plus, I'm sure he'll find us. I'm pretty sure he was just doing hit and runs to keep them busy while we ran. I'd be more worried about the radiation."

Lexi's worry took a moment to rest as she pondered what he meant then her worry returned with reinforcements. "Oh balls!.." She borrowed the more popular phrase she kept hearing.

"Ah.. yes... mmmm balls...." Reaper smiled looking to the snowy heavens before laughing and standing up. "Yeah, all our radaway and a lot of our medicine was in the skycart back there."

"Not all of it!" Lexi looked down at the baggie around her neck then to everyone else who had one. "We'll have to ration it all. But, what do we do now? Should we wait for Oso?"

Reaper shook his head and pointed a hoof upwards. The wind was dying down a bit, promising conditions for spotting a giant Griffon but Reaper's face was one that was about to explain something she didn't like. "We most certainly wont make it if we wait for him. We can walk shoulder to shoulder to make sure we leave a big trail for him to follow, he'll certainly see it if this lucky weather break keeps up. But yeah, if we don't go forward, we'll die. Hell, we might even die on the return trip if my antifreeze wears off."

The faces around were grim, only Reaper seemed to be in good spirits. But Lexi suspected it was possibly from the amount of chems he used.

"Th.. then let's get moving, the turkey can handle himself, and I doubt he'll not catch up." Croce started forward trying to force himself not to shiver gasp or let his body shiver.

"Then follow the bouncing red tush!" Reaper near playfully started off in a direction everyone hoped was north, Lexi was certain he was intentionally letting his rear giggle with how he seemed to hop about instead of just walking.

Progress was rather slow through the snow, made even worse with the severe cold. Not even the sun token kept Lexi's limbs warm. It was an odd feeling, like being so cold she couldn't move, only she could. The sun token seemed to be struggling to keep her warm and actually failing, she could only imagine how the others felt. So cold that if they did not have Reaper's chems they would likely be long past frozen to death. The mission was looking bleak, even her armor was starting to stop up. Thankfully Reaper stayed close, and whenever the joints of her armor started to stutter, he would pop the limbs with his folded scythe to break the ice free.

"Fuck!" Croce's voice seemed annoyed and worried, drawing everyone's attention he clacked his pistol against his armor trying to get it to get it to free it of ice. "My weapons are fucked... if we run into trouble we ain't gonna last long."

Fobwatch hefted his revolver and tried spinning the chambers before frowning at the non moving cylinder. Reaper just nodded. "Yup... get used to it and keep moving or our bodies will do the same... speaking of which"

Reaper dug into his saddle bags and pulled out a set of inhalers. One for each of them, Reaper took his and bit firmly before inhaling sharply. Fobwatch magically dragged one over to him and inhaled deeply before struggling to keep from coughing. But he took the time to levitate one over for Lexi, leaving only Croce hesitating to get close to Reaper, even for the literal life saving drugs.

"Dawwww come on now birby... I only bite when I have time..." Reaper purred teasing the inhaler.

A heavy thud sounded and a heavy set of Talons swiped the inhaler from Reaper's outstretched hoof making him jump and fall on his back. "I do bite!..." Oso desperately inhaled the medicine holding his breath as long as he could trying desperately to get as much as he could into his system as he struggled and shivered.

"Oso!" Lexi moved toward him but slowed looking over grievous wounds, heavy burns and even a fair amount of what looked like cracks in his skin. The damage to his body seemed more than was possible, even as he was still moving, still upright.

"Damn..." Oso looked over the group as Reaper wordlessly passed Croce one of the inhalers, staring at Oso with amazement as if he truly did not expect, but despite the miraculous return, something else was wrong. "It's not enough..." Oso stared down at the empty inhaler. "I'm simply too big, too much mass, not enough drug."

"Well... I do have two more doses for the group left." Reaper dug into his bags and held out Oso's second and third dose. "I mean, you'll die before we get back, but hey... maybe we'll get lucky..."

"Gah!!! COLD!!!" Everyone turned to see Lexi holding up the sun token. "Ta..ake it!.. y..you'll l...live."

Oso grasped the magical token and quickly fitted it under his armor just as Lexi inhaled on her medicine. She hoped dearly that it would be enough. The biting cold physically hurt and it felt like the air itself was nipping at her viciously, drinking her body heat greedily, but she didn't feel like she was slowing down. She just felt ungodly horribly cold. But at least the pain in her chest was slowly ebbing away as the cold robbed her of the ability to feel it.

She almost flinched feeling his talons over her head. "Thank you little one... I honestly forgot all about the sun token." Quickly he pulled out a few berries and quickly popped them into his beak. "Hopefully it will be warm enough for my flesh to regenerate. But... oh hell, we have to get going quickly."

He looked to Reaper and pointed north. Reaper skill bawked and took a moment before starting forward. "Don't get me wrong big birb.... I'm happy you're alive... but holy sweet salty balls I thought you were long gone dead.... how did you survive?"

Lexi's ears perked, she had been so hopeful with Reaper's comforting words, and yet again she found herself displeased that she had been lied to in order to keep her from worrying. She didn't know whether she should be offended or not. She would have certainly been distraught and worried and it most certainly would have effected her performance. Still, she felt like she was being treated like a child. She huffed, a little disturbed that her breath no longer steamed. She would think about it later.

Psychological Lexi pushed it all into a closet and locked the door before selecting an idea to clog her mind. "Reaper?" She tried to lick her lips but the sensation felt too odd, but odd was nothing new. She had just started to get used to the cold and her voice had stopped stuttering as her body simply refused to shiver.

"Hrmmm?" Reaper slowed up a bit, staying close. "What cha need Cherry pone?

She grumbled at the nickname and spouted out. "How did you get to know the drug? I mean, you know which way you're going and you have the drug? How many times have you been up this way, how did you get it all done?"

"Oh... the first time we went up this way, we had a team, I joined on with about 20 other ponies and a zebra... oh he was a fighter... he's the one I learned the recipe from. He was very adamant on keeping it to himself, but he was so very happy about me liberating him..."

"Liberating?" Croce interrupted.

Reaper grinned ear to ear before popping up on his hind legs and pointing down. "With my penis!" He chuckled and plopped back to all fours. "He was REALLLY deep in the closet, I showed him a good time and eventually he showed me a good time, taught me how to make all the good stuff. Even gave me his life's work. Sadly fate caught up with him, you can't run from your troubles forever... still, he was a fun playmate and I learned a lot before his head ended up decorating a pike... oh right, the mission. The twenty ponies were all lead by this one guy... old gruff earth pony. I couldn't tell if he was just REALLY ugly or a ghoul. He had a map, and said there was a downed airship up here in the wastes. We never found it, and we only managed to come back with like 8 of us, Wraiths decimated us on the third night. We made a break for the south and tried again the next year. 15 of the meanest and grumpiest straight mercenaries I've ever seen... the whole trip was boring as hell. And half of them died on the first night. Canceled again. The next year that same ugly pony tried numbers again, ole Xanny already got offed so it was up to me to make and distribute the antifreeze. But yeah, we made it all the way to where the Crystal Empire was supposed to be. Came back with nothing still, old ugly died on the way back. Wraiths got em. But yeah, I met Crocie when I got back. Celebrated and everyone who was in the group split up old ugly's gear and sold it."

Breaking from his story despite how finished it sounded, he pointed to a large cliff face with a smile. "Been here before, we're close to the circle... won't be long now."

"The circle?" Lexi's question almost seemed to echo as Reaper held a hoof to his lips.

Almost quietly he responded. "The biggest, meanest Wraith you've ever seen... well... not the biggest, but we call him the weeper. Listen as we come over the next hill and around the corner into the clearing. Just whatever you do, don't go into the circle, he'll kill you instantly."

The words from his frosted lips caught everyone's attention and as they trudged along, the howling wind mixed with the saddest coldest sound Lexi had ever heard. It was crying, something out there was crying, loudly.

Just as Reaper said, over the hill and past the cliff then into a clearing, and there it was. A ring of stones roughly 15 feet apart, and just around 50 feet beyond them, a figure sat. Covered in the same cat like armor adorned with crystals and faded insignias. Pushing her glasses up, Lexi could only just barely make out a faded blue shield insignia on the flank of the armor. But the most concerning thing was the dozens of long since rotting bodies littering the area. Skeletons, picked clean by the few individuals who had come up this way littered the outside of the circle, and many many more corpses fully armored and armed lay within the circle, some literally just a single foot inside the circle.

"He kills anything that goes into the circle, I seen him tear a fully power armored Griffon in half... that one see?" Reaper pointed at half of a Griffon's armor just barely inside the circle. "He doesn't look it, but he's got crazy powerful defensive magic."

Croce grumbled, looking almost greedily at the piles of lootable bodies within the circle. "Shame to leave it all there..."

Reaper laughed but hushed his tone. "Yeah, that's what the power armored Griffon said. How about you don't do stupid shit that will get you killed, it would just wreck poor cherry pone's heart..."

Lexi focused for a moment, activating SATS for a closer look. And to her surprise, the Pipbuck showed a 0% chance to hit, even as the armored figure had its back to her and was holding very still. She wondered if it was working correctly, or perhaps it was just the angle. She switched it off and followed Reaper as he lead them far away from the stone markers around the Wraith. She flicked on SATS once or twice again to test her theory, but each time it came back as 0%.

She grumbled as they started up the path out and away from the clearing, one last SATS glance through the distant snowy cold air. But as she turned it off, she swore she saw something. A very old corpse, a pile of bones directly beneath the weeping Wraith. She couldn't be sure, as there was what looked like golden armor, but she was so certain as the closer frozen image that she saw a horn and wings.

She blinked and shook her head as she followed them up the path and left the weeping Wraith behind.

"Holy fuck are we there yet?" Croce grumbled angrily, his joints starting to stick and slowly grow too solid. But he was not alone, everyone's limbs were becoming far too heavy. Even Lexi with power armor somehow still working found it difficult to keep walking.

"Almost, but this doesn't bode well..." Reaper stressed his limbs trying to work the stiffness out. "We're going to need another dose..." He dug around in his bags.

Oso gave him a look over, he was surprisingly doing the best. The sun token was not enough to fully keep the cold at bay, but it was just barely more than enough to let Oso stay alive with so little of the drug and so much body mass. Everyone took their share and never before did Lexi ever feel so much dread knowing that so little of a precious resource remained. Before the world ended, she never once had to worry about anything running out. For a country at war, she never really had to struggle to get her hooves on anything other than rare books. Then again, her mother was fairly high ranking in the Ministry of Arcane Sciences. For just a moment, she wondered if her life would have been harder if her mother hadn't been in such a position.

She shook her head and pocketed the dead inhaler. The shake made her freeze as she was very certain some of her mane just broke with such a sudden movement, she hoped it was still there. Thankfully Reaper took her mind off of it.

"Yeah, just up here... But don't let me lead the way... I'd far rather stay back here. The view is way better." Reaper chuckled earning a glare from Fobwatch and Croce both who tucked their tails and tried to move to the side.

"Oh don't be such a poor sport! We might not come back, good excuse for a last minute orgy" Reaper smiled just as he ducked a stone thrown by Fobwatch's magical grasp.

"Not even if it meant surviving...." Fobwatch hefted another stone.

Croce too picked up a rock and looked to Oso. "You sure you don't need one of us to scout ahead, I could be like WAYYYYYY over there... or dead... either would be better..." Oso blinked looking into his clutched talons before Croce too looked at the stone. "Wait... what the fuck?"

They all looked down to see only about a half inch of snow. Looking back they could see the endless slopes of snow. Even Reaper looked confused. "This is... new..." He fluttered up to the only feature in the area worth noting.

Within the area of extremely minimal snow, crumbled ruins and a simple leafless tree stood. Reaper looked around and shrugged. "Ok... I have no idea what happened... but... We’re heeeerrreeee!” His sing song voice echoed as he playfully perched on the tree. But he flinched when the tree moved.

Toppling off he slammed his scythe to the ground to knock the ice free and like lightning it unfolded and he swung it but blinked in awe as the blade was caught in a pair of gnarled talons as if it had been stopped by sheer indomitable will. His copper eyes gleamed curiously until he noticed that he could only see down the barrel of a 40mm weapon.

“The hell is this?....” The old Griffon glared as he flexed his jaw grinding his lower beak against his upper in a sharpening motion.

“I believe it’s called a Pegasus… and you know you didn’t have to…” The tree mumbled calmly walking forward on four wooden hooves.

Oso plucked Reaper up with a soft grip which earned him a flirtatious giggle, the Pegasus seemed to be in a much better mood with strangers around.

“Oh my hero! Away to thine castle to consummate your rescue mine fine prince?” Reaper batted his eyelashes but only earned a soft toss over Oso’s shoulder.

“He’s our guide… we needed him to find this cursed place… How did you find it?.. And moreover, not that I'm angry but how did you get here before us?” Oso extended a set of talons pushing Reaper back again as he came back for post rescue snuggles.

“Wait… this handsome old bird is that friend you were talking about?” Reaper’s scythe clicked and clacked back into place as his eyebrows danced at Tyrin.

Completely ignoring the Pegasus, Tyrin holstered his weapon and pulled out his flask gingerly tapping his eyepatch with the capped end before popping it open. “I remember everything… and the north is my bitch…”

Yin sighed and Reaper giggled. “Oh?... is that just restricted to the north?...” He cooed and came closer looking at the flask and extending his hoof which was firmly grabbed and twisted to one side. There was no yip, instead he purred admiring the brute strength.

“Touch my vodka and I’ll drink it from your skull you fruit…” He pushed him back and grumbled.

“Oooo… I like him… so dominant….” Reaper’s singsong voice sounded off despite his keen eyes seeing this was one Griffon he didn’t necessarily want to tease too much.

After getting a full round of hooves and talons to their respective faces, it was Yin of all those present who broke the silence. His wooden lips pursing with that calm zen like smile. “Well, we are here are we not? One or two souls more than I thought we would have.. But we are here… shall we begin?” He looked a touch uncomfortable with so many eyes on him and quickly his features became blurred. Those who had never seen him before were very taken back, especially Fobwatch who's face betrayed great interest.

Reaper blew a raspberry and collapsed into a giggle fit. “Oh… I honestly forgot that was why you guys needed my help finding the place… But this I got to see… And remember, it's gotta be epic!”

Oso extended his open palm downward and promptly seated the Pegasus before gesturing to Tyrin.

“... You told him?.... Whatever… I don’t care… Look… I open it, you go in, grab the shit, get out… done!”

“Wait… us? Not you?” Lexi sputtered. She wasn’t the only who noticed that she was constantly thrown into the fires of Tartarus while much more capable ponies and griffons were present. “Aren’t you like some sort of super death god or whatever?”

Reaper was about to speak before Oso pinched his snout shut and Tyring grumbled, his shadow oddly seeing to engulf her. But that was just about normal and she had come to expect such from him and how creepy the old Griffon always seemed to be. “Do not blaspheme…” His eye glared at her before he reached up gingerly as if he was grasping at nothing but the air. “I am the gatekeeper in this venture… anyways.. There are some things in there that you really wouldn’t want me waking up with my presence.”

Reaper’s eyes went wide and blank as he witnessed the Griffon heave and appear to dig his talons into the very fabric of space before tearing it open. There before them all was a shapeless hole in the air, a nothingness opened wide.

“Wait… what?...” For the first time, the Pegasi was wordless.

Lexi sighed loudly and grumbled. “This is what we are here for… there is something that apparently we need in there, I'm kinda surprised we have to do... whatever this is… So if you really want to see something crazy, then... onward… We are going to explore the Crystal Empire…”

She beamed with glee, it was not very often that she ever got the chance to make anypony look at her with that sort of wonder and bafflement.

“Got to admit love… Even I kinda figured he was fibbin and this was going to be a waste of time…” Fobwatch stared into the inky sparkling hell that Tyrin had opened. However, seeming for the most part unphased he gestured to her and hopped in.

Oso chuckled watching Lexi hop up and cannon ball her way into the blackness.

“Fucking crazy ponies…” Grimacing, Croce jumped in after her.

Oso closed the distance and waved to Reaper. “You coming? Croce might lose his ass if you don’t keep up your watchful gaze…” He laughed and plunged in.

Reaper gazed at the darkness then at Tyrin who lazily stood holding it open for him with a deadpan expression. “Well… I guess that ass isn’t going to watch itself…” He chuckled figuring that he would regret it later. Kissing his hoof and blowing it to Tyrin he hopped into the darkness.

Still holding the hole open, Tryin grumbled. “.... I hope they come back without that one…”

“That isn’t nice Tyrin…”

“I’m not a nice Griffon…”

Footnote: No level achieved. Good progress, but no level.

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes

Chapter editor - Currently N/A

Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.

Nick Valentine: Artist

Crimmharmony: Artist

Chapter 15: Fallen Empire

View Online

Fallen Empire

Yet again.... She screamed.

Or rather, she was pretty sure she was screaming. It sounded distant, and up close. Everything looked blackened with darkness but she could see clearly for what seemed like miles. She couldn't even tell if it was freezing cold like outside or burning hot as she felt short on breath as if the air was arid and hot to a point that it was hard to breath. Mostly, what concerned her was that they had just taken their medicine, and they hardly had anything left, She hoped that they did not just waste the dose.

She really couldn't tell what was going on, but it scared her more than just a little, it took her a while before she calmed down enough to realize her hooves were off the ground and she was simply floating. She started up again before a soft glow over her pulled her towards the ground. But as her hooves closed the distance to a flat surface, something seemed to overcome her. An odd sensation, as if she was just starting to wake from a bad dream, things began to clear and she could smell the familiar scent of home.

A sting touched her senses, she could only just barely hear a familiar voice calling out to her. It was something she needed, she couldn't get any closer as something was wrenching her away. She could feel the world shifting, as if the waking world was struggling to pull her back. She could hear the voice calling her name, calling her back. She flailed with her hooves trying to get back to it, she knew the voice, there was no other like it.

"Mom!!!" She thrashed savagely before something violently grasped onto her and held her down. She could hear blurred noises as her mother's voice called for help just out of reach as she was dragged further and further back. Crying out to every pony and griffon she knew, an overwhelming force of emotion pounded her mind and soul. Her mother's voice vanishing as she was forcefully held down, a sharpened point held against her forehead. Finally, she surrendered.

"Holy hell, why can't she fight like that when it's not against us?" Croce's voice sounded like an endless echoing distant noise.

"Yeah, she's stronger than she thinks... but at the same time, not so much.." Oso's voice as well, but even as the seconds passed, it sounded like they were leagues closer.

"I'm not surprised, this lass got a mean kick... she nearly popped me berries back up north... but she'll be alright." She could feel a hoof smoothing her bangs out of her face as the impossibly strong talons holding her down released. "Ah... well maybe the lass is more durable than ye think lad."

Her vision didn't clear, it just got darker and grainier. "Wh..what happened? Where are we?"

"Oh Cherry pone! We're in hell.... no really, all the worst memories and things you're afraid of just popping up and nomming your little hoovsies. Should have heard you, squealing like uncle bad touch was coming after you." She could easily identify Reaper's voice despite the odd echo which seemed to infest every sound she could hear.

"It's a fear ward, a VERY powerful one. More like a fear field, it's odd. I almost didn't get through it." Oso's eyes lingered on his heavy talons, his face betrayed extreme concern.

"Aye, thankfully, I was able to counter it eh laddie?" As Lexicon struggled upright, she could plainly see the odd glow over their eyes. Especially on Fobwatch who stared closer into her as if inspecting her. "Should be fine love, the counter ward is workin like a charm."

"Wh..what?" Her mind churned as she put it all together. Defensive magic or something similar had to be protecting this place, which while she looked around she decided was likely a pocket dimension parallel to Equestria's real time and space. It explained the odd shape of what she remembered the Crystal Empire looking like looming about in the darkness. The Empire was stuck in here as likely some sort of horrible botched defense mechanism. She did remember a lot of tech ideas passing over her desk she had to research for. Entire spacial disrupting fields to drop solid objects out of real space and hide them for short periods of time. But she never got a good look at them as her only job was to determine if there was anything similar mentioned in Equestria's legends and ancient history and to let them know. This was likely the result of that research, probably the result of it being rushed and used before it was ready. She mentally nodded a thank you to Logical Lexi who saluted her. "Never mind... I think I got it. But... how did you know how to counter the effects?"

Fobwatch chuckled. "Not my first rodeo love... I've been around, I've done and seen things."

"Yeah, you keep saying that... and you keep pulling shit out of your ass to save us in rather unique and randomly coincidental ways..." Croce glared, rubbing his lower beak as if it had been hit very hard, or perhaps kicked by a squirming scared mare he was helping to hold down.

"Let's not question it now... We have a very dangerous and important mission." Oso's words were as usual direct and calm. Jealous Lexi grumbled in the back of her mind, and Ambitious Lexi pushed the idea of Lexi being that brave and confident as a goal instead of a contrast she would use against herself.

The direction they needed to go was easy, but travel was painfully slow. They would constantly run into unstable patches of the pocket dimension where the laws of physics changed slightly. Lexi warned them of the ungodly terrible amount of things that could go wrong, but in the end they just did their best to avoid them simply because no gravity or odd tingles was annoying. She fumed at the idea that they were just going to ignore the fact that they could hit a time anomaly and simply age a thousand years in a quarter of a second or disintegrate, the theoretical nonsense that was possible when the laws of reality decides to take a nap were unthinkable, and while she knew how to look at it, it was infuriating that they wouldn't blink twice at the impossible anomaly of science and magic.

The looming city in the distance however, seemed a little too ominous and dark to be the effects of a pre war defense tool. But she did take a moment to consider that almost everything in the entire world seemed to go to hell in the most unique and direct ways. She half expected to see a Changeling hive growing out of her mother's house in Canterlot as it constantly rains thunder and hellfire in the background or something overly cartoonishly bad. But this whole area seemed specifically designed extra to be spooky. She really couldn't tell what was really there due to the odd aura within the pocket dimension which seemed to twist and contort her perception. Unlike Yin's perception which just seemed like a gentle distracting breeze where one would feel it but almost never notice. This was darker, like a bully holding reality just out of reach as you can hear but not see something unspeakable just crawling and scraping it's way over the floor behind you.

It brought out a half chuckle half whimper before she looked to the others. Self reflection was always helpful for her, but she knew she wasn't the only one in this specific frying pan. She peaked over at the groups newest number, she couldn't really call Reaper a member of the party. They had only just met and he was only tagging along as a guide. Though actually looking him over now made Lexi a touch jealous. It wasn't his as if he was some sort of hyper aware or highly intelligent mind, he was as her mother always said 'smart, but not intelligent'. Reaper's lack of caring, his constant smile, He was something Lexi wasn't sure she could have. He was happy.

She furrowed her brow looking him over. She noticed small crudely healed scars and pockmarks from things she couldn't guess at, he was likely just barely older than herself but he looked like he had already had so many adventures and while he was good at what he did, he seemed to get his joy from his experiences even with the horrifying terrors that came with it. His smile was genuine, it felt like he simply jumped into the adventure and submitted to the idea of just having his fun and the horrors and dangers were just the currency he paid to have those fun adventures.

She struggled with Lusty Lexi as she inspected his sleek features and how his harness contoured to his body. She could feel herself nearly licking her lips but stopped and followed Reaper's intense gaze all the way to Croce's rear. It gave her a soft chuckle but soon she too decided to watch playfully.

She still didn't really know what to think of Croce, she was sure there was something in him that made him stick around other than his little griffon oath contract thing. Her jaw tensed remembering those moments under the snow but she quickly shook it off. He was loyal, not the strongest but he was more determined than anypony she had ever met. She was sure he had no problem lying to her, but she saw why. Even if it hurt, she looked at him, wondering about his perception of her. He knew how weak she was, but she felt he treated her as if she was twice as weak, she didn't know if he was cautious of losing her or just condescending and doing his job. Regardless to his reasoning, he had a hard time expressing himself and he clearly had conflicting feelings.

She blushed thinking about Croce but turned to see Oso and couldn't help but to bite her lip. He was so distant, but everything about the giant Griffon was something she wanted, not just in a naughty way, but for herself as well. He seemed so fearless, so powerful, so keen. It was like he knew so much and he could do no wrong. Warm and bubbly feelings flushed through her but something dug at her. She looked over his features, his weathered feathers and massive size, she was right, he did seem like he could do no wrong, as if he was just perfect. She knew nopony like that existed, no Griffon either. Something about him just felt too alien. He just seemed too surreal to exist. Even his physical size didn't seem real. She had never seen a Griffon like him before, granted before the world ended she never really saw much of any Griffons, but even in magazines or other media. It made her think of the possibilities. Maybe he was mutated or happened upon some sort of pre war experiment he stumbled upon that made him huge.

As she stared she noticed him turn to look her way and quickly she looked forward trying in vain to pretend she was thinking of something else. She breathed a little easier just hearing the faint dismissive laugh, it did feel a little like he was rejecting her, but it didn't hurt all that much. She just shook her head and looked for the last member of their little party, but could not seem to find him. She almost stopped in her tracks, her head darting back and forth trying to find Fobwatch.

"Somethin wrong love?" Lexi nearly fell over in fright as Fobwatch simply appeared to the side of her.

"How do you do that?" Her armor clacked and whirled as her legs flailed to keep her upright.

He smiled playfully and slowly pulled back his jacket to show the chest plate. But she quickly noticed that there were pieces spot welded into the armor, pieces of electronics that looked familiar. "I made this sucker out of an ole worn down Pipbuck. I've got access to things like SATS, EFS, and most of all... I can use stealth bucks." He pulled back the old trench coat even further to show a small collection of items plugged into his armor. She didn't know which one was which, but she did notice that it looked relatively well put together. Nothing close to MoS work, but it was impressive if he had done it all himself, especially if he had done it in the wastes. "I'd be confused if ye didn't notice me joinin in every time ye use SATS. Whenever ye activate it, it activates on me too. I linked them when I followed you guys up north. Sadly, there's a programmin bit that's keepin me from using that feature to find your location, but whenever my SATS goes off, I know you're within 15 meters. Speakin of that programmin bit, ye think we can fix that lil bugger? If we get split up, I'd like to be able to find ye."

She blinked, looking down at her pipbuck nearly fully enclosed in her armor. With a soft shrug, she held it out for him and he smiled pulling a small cord from his armor to her leg and with a little effort from his magic he made the connection and slowly started his work. It was an odd sight, his magic toyed with his own armor and she could see his eyes darting back and forth in a deep focus. Thoughts purred through her mind, he was attractive, but in an odd wholesome way. She couldn't really figure him out, he was kind but, obviously he had been in the wasteland for a while. The coldness showed in his features, but his actions spoke clearly of a more civilized time, a time she dearly missed.

He was confident, like the others. But his confidence was one she hadn't really seen before. Croce's confidence was immense and she couldn't tell if it came from arrogance or an over dedication to his Griffon mercenary code or whatever he called it. Reaper looked like his confidence came from simply not caring and wondering when he was going to have fun next. Oso's confidence was clearly from experience and being the biggest and most dangerous thing around even if it was toned down by his odd calm. But Fobwatch's confidence seemed to come from an unnatural ease and dozens of fallback plans, his adaptability brought him this confidence. How he followed them, how he gathered so much information, every time he helped them along the way and how casual it all seemed to him. He had to be the kind of pony who just sat around and thought of excessively redundant backup plans, this was oddly alluring to her.

"There we go love..." The plug came free and whirled up back into his armor from what she guessed was a coil spring like on a retractable key chain. "Now if ye get lost or stolen, I can find ye. And ye bet yer lovely tush I'll bring the cavalry.."

She smiled, looking into his eyes, he was certainly just a little flirty, but unlike Reaper it seemed harmless. Even if she didn't really want him to be. He just struck her as someone who took charge and molded his life to give himself a lot of options and redundant support structures. It was a smart and very careful thing she always tried to do herself. She found herself smiling, and for once, almost all the Lexis were smiling with her too, even Logical Lexi. From a logical standpoint, he was a safe pony to romantically pursue, and if things got too dangerous, he would likely break it off for himself but it would still be keeping her safe ish.

He chuckled and patted her head. "Focus a bit love, yer droolin..."

She turned red, quickly reaching up to see if he was teasing or not. But in that moment as he laughed, his image blurred and the light bending stealth buck hid him from view. She pouted wishing she could bring him back to talk, but she knew he didn't vanish for no reason. And so she grumbled as she walked along, surveying the area until Croce's voice called them all in.

"Get over here, this shit's too weird to not to be important." She hurried along and found Croce and Oso both looking over what she figured was likely a pony. Reaper was on his way but his odd prancing gait made her feel like he wasn't going to take it seriously.

"What is it?" Lexi looked the stallion over, he was relatively young, clearly a Crystal Pony, but what made this so odd was of course that he was frozen and his eyes burned with an odd green energy that seemed to waft away from him. She'd researched several things like it, but none matched exactly. "Does this have something to do with why Tyrin didn't come in?"

Oso nodded. "I'm surprised you don't know right away... aren't you a historian?"

"I'm a librarian and researcher of artifacts." Lexi huffed as she shot a hoof out at the frozen pony. "I have no idea what this is. I mean, I do love history, but I have no idea."

Oso pointed to the wafting green energies. "It's fear magic... a sort of off brand Order magic designed exclusively to drudge up severe fears and phobias. It's creative, the power belonged to the old king of the Crystal Empire. King Sombra."

"Sounds like a difficult dom..." Reaper calmly commented looking over the frozen pony and poking at the frozen look of absolute horror on his face. "No fun at all... Not even whips and chains..."

Spitting aggravated, Croce mumbled something that Lexi didn't want to think of. "Are we going to have to fight this fucking creep?"

Quick to answer, Oso proved to be just as hesitant as Lexi to think about it. "Hopefully not, the fear ward when we first found ourselves in this place is a sort of blanket ward, it didn't attack to us individually, it was just a trap we walked through. If he really is still alive, or whatever passes for alive in here, then he's likely asleep. But more than likely, he's dead and his essence is still just stupid powerful here. You at least know what the Crystal heart is right?"

Lexi nodded having done her research on specifically artifacts and Oso continued as he looked over the frozen pony hoping this would be easier. "The artifact that gathers love, or more or less positive emotions... It's really complicated but when he's in power, the heart has to be hidden away. He's an avatar of fear which can tear away at the mind and disrupt it. it's a powerful emotion which must be countered by a powerful emotion... or by magic designed to do so. If he died or is still alive, doesn't matter, the heart isn't being used and clearly his fear power bled into this strange pocket dimension. If we fail to hold back the fear, we'll become like this." He waved at the frozen pony and Lexi wondered if the poor thing was even still alive but her mind snapped back to Oso's words as he concluded. "...Tormented by fear until we mentally break. Stuck forever in endless torment. But again, we can't be reckless. If he's not dead we could wake him just powering through his barriers or disrupting his magic. Hell, just activating his traps might wake him. Each step has to be careful, so don't go anywhere alone and stay with the group as best as you can."

He looked about to get a lot of nods and some weird probably sexual gesture from Reaper. Lexi took note and stayed close to Oso and with the explanation the others kept close as well. She did have to assume that Fobwatch was staying close simply because he seemed smart enough to desire a safe way through the mission, but with him invisible she couldn't tell for certain.

Their trek forward towards the center of the horribly nightmarish realm started to appear much more clear. More and more ponies were visible, many of them carrying bags or luggage as if they foolishly tried to grab things and escape the city when they were frozen. She could feel a horrible sensation seeping into her as she continued forward it all seemed so familiar, the massive blurry horizon started to come into view, best she could tell was that they had officially entered the city. As blurry as it all was she could see the details in their surroundings and the amount of frozen ponies was extreme. They were starting to have trouble getting through the crowds of frozen ponies, and the deeper they got the more the sensation gnawed at her senses. It wasn't until she lifted off the ground and found herself looking directly into Oso's eyes that she realized what it was as Logical Lexi screamed into her ears after Oso's words escaped his beak.

"Calm down.... whatever you're thinking... stop!... " She blinked before Fobwatch appeared and his horn flared making the sensation retreat. She could hear little Logical Lexi squawking. 'It's too familiar!' There was a sudden cold shock and she swore she could hear a little colt call for his mother after a short burst of a minigun.

The sensation battled with Fobwatch's magic as her heart rate continued to climb. It all made sense, the fear on these ponies, the position they were frozen in. She had seen it before, she lived it. "Th..the ... bombs...." She uttered out trying desperately to grab onto reality and pull it back into her grip. But it all made sense, these ponies, this fear, these ponies froze right where they were and were pulled into this place the day the bombs fell, the same day she was frozen for 170 years. The screams started to touch her ears, she could hear the sirens, feel the fire in her lungs as she ran for the Stable, hear her mother's voice over the answering machine. Logic fell away and like sinking deeper and deeper into an all consuming feeling, she started seeing it, she was never close enough, but there it was in front of her. The begging mare trying to push past the soldier to get into the Stable, the bullets ringing out, the puffs of red mist painting her little colt's face with her pulped insides.

The terror began to fill her and her mouth slowly opened to scream as her body slowed to a grinding halt. But something changed, something fought to catch her senses, and quite suddenly she could feel something she recognized, she didn't know how she knew what it was mostly because it was her first time feeling it, but it was something that kept her heart racing, but nearly obliterated the fear and she could hear the whooping and hollering of oddly, both Logical Lexi and Horny Lexi.

Somepony's tongue was in her mouth. She was nearly thrown back into the romanticized grasp of Fobwatch, hanging in his forelegs as he balanced her, dipping her nearly to the ground as his lips, open pressed against hers, his tongue exploring the inside of her mouth. It felt so oddly smooth, so wonderful, so exciting. She blinked as his hoof scooped up her rear leg as if he was going to mount her right there bringing her absolute full attention. But then the possibly the second most coldest blue ballingest moment of her young life. He dropped her.

"Wha wha?!?" She floundered and flailed as the hinges of her armor popped letting her legs bend enough to get her hooves under her and allowing her to stand up straight.

"See?... I told you it would work..." Fobwatch calmly commented as he wiped his lips. "Sorry for getting fresh love... the fear got you... I had to motivate your senses and spike your mind with a distraction."

Her mind was a blur of confusion and embarrassment, especially with Croce staring. "... um... I ... I don't mind..." She could practically hear a gaggle of Lexis screaming for her to pretend the fear was getting her again so he would continue.

"Good... let's continue, Fobwatch... you and Croce stay VERY close to her... I don't want her slipping away when our back is turned."

Croce grimaced. "Why is she even here? She doesn't belong here, you should have gone alone!"

Reaper poked up behind Croce. "I'll watch birby just in case he starts dropping too..."

Croce shut up and stood on the other side of Lexi as they shared an awkward silence before Oso rolled his eyes and started to the center of the city again. It was uncomfortably silent as they continued forward, Lexi's mind refusing to let go of the possibility of more. Logical Lexi knew of course it had to be done to bring her mind back, but she wanted to listen to Horny Lexi. She hardly even took notice that they had all stopped at a large building and the others started to talk. It seemed so distant but the voices carried on until something poked her. To her surprise it was Reaper.

"Oh... um.. h...hi..." She seemed to stutter out as he smiled playfully. She could see Fobwatch just ahead as if he was keeping watch but she couldn't see Oso or Croce.

"Hello hello Cherry Pone... I have to keep you company... But don't get any ideas unless you wanna pay me..." He chuckled as he waved his rear about in front of her.

Something in her throbbed, she felt sick but in her mind, as if she needed something badly, it wasn't the fear, the best she could tell it was some sort of extreme frustration, she didn't really know what she was doing, but she looked him in the eyes and surprised herself. "How much?"

He looked at her and chuckled leaning in. "... I don't know... I'm pretty good at my craft... and while I'm not really into mares... hrmmm... a thousand?"

She chewed her lip and looked back at Fobwatch who seemed completely and utterly focused on something else just a bit away. She opened her saddlebags and threw a bag of caps down, she didn't know how much it had or if she was even allowed to spend it, but it had to be at least close to a thousand. The Lexi's in her mind were at war, she didn't even know what she was doing, on one hoof her heat was blasting her with hormones she was only not acting on due to the danger and almost dying every other moment, on the other hoof she was almost dying every other moment. Fobwatch's measures had stirred her up quite a bit and the Lexi's in her mind were all whining about one thing or another, but she heard above them all. She didn't want to die without having fun at least once, even if it meant losing her virginity in some meaningless shameful way.

She saw the red hooves scoop at the bag and she waited, her eyes locked onto the ground in front of her, she could hear the bottle caps clinking as if he was looking through them. She closed her eyes and faced forward, not sure what to think or do, She flinched as a hoof went to her neck as if to pull her in, flustering and unsure she opened her mouth clumsily attempting to be ready for whatever he would do to her, but she wasn't ready for what came next.

The hoof pulled her in closer and the bag of caps pushed back into her hooves. "Sorry Cherry Pone... I was trying to be polite... sure I really wouldn't have much problem doing you a solid and tossing a quicky your way, especially for a good hunk of change... but I have a rule about virgins... and about mares... and these rules go double, even quintuple when I have to travel with the pony involved."

She looked at him blubbering hearing the outraged Horny Lexi cursing the skies, fate, and Celestia herself for her inability to lose her V card. "Bu...but... I..."

He pushed his hoof to her lips and shushed her. "Sorry... you're just going to have to be somepony else's emotional baggage... Pop that Cherry and maybe for a hundred or so I shoot some cheap thrills your way... I just can't have you drooling at me... only the boys are allowed to do that... But give me a shout if Croce needs a pony ride..." He chuckled patting her head to her utter despair.

Thankfully a distraction pulled her out of it. Gunshots rang out and she could hear the booming screech of Oso tangling with something. But it didn't end quickly which meant there was a lot to do or whatever they were fighting was tougher than usual. She looked to Fobwatch he was keeping watch but the moment she took a step forward, the cherry red Pegasus kicked her legs out from under her.

"Nope!... you're staying here. Not an inch in that direction." He hummed with his now annoyingly playful tone.

She struggled to look up at him as she rocked back and forth getting her armor to pop and creak as she got to her hooves, her fluster and sadness turning grinding its way into anger. She looked back to Fobwatch who spared a look back at her for just a moment as if Reaper was simply doing his job. "Well... can I at least know what's going on?"

Reaper looked back and shrugged. "They spotted something while you were busy with your thoughts, guards or something... spoopy types... don't really want anything to do with them, but the birbs went after them to clean up and get us into whatever the building is." He waved off in a direction lazily.

Stress already fairly high, the world around her, here and back in whatever the real world was outside this nightmarish blurry hell, it all just seemed to fuel something she never really gave much credit to. Lexi was not too angry of a pony, she never had any real way to act on anger. Yelling or trying to pick intellectual fights with her mother would always lead to her getting stomped in an argument or debate, real fights with literally anyone in Equestria would do just the same but in a far more physically painful manner. But she could feel it, it was like a new Lexi being born, a new Lexi feeding off of what was already there and emerging.

'Screw logic, screw fear, screw all of you little bitches!' The tiny little Lexi inside screamed as it struggled with the other Lexis for control, demanding violently to be heard and taken seriously.

Her mind boiled with the presence of this new Lexi as something finally happened to let the newborn Lexi do what she was destined to do.

Through concrete and stone, an armored form in the heavy rending grasp of Oso blasted into place between Lexicon and Reaper. Half flapping and half limping, Croce came fast behind him, it was clear that this scuffle had not nearly gone as well as they had hoped. The enemy almost looked like a Wraith, only it looked to be soaked in gore, eating away and rusting at it's armor.

The thing flailed violently, and Oso, even in all his strength looked like he could only just barely hang on. As if the thing had been so fast, so brutal that he only just barely managed to get a hold of it and was hoping he could hold it still until someone else helped him finish it off.

Lexi screamed, but unlike all the times before, this was not fear, it wasn't pain, it wasn't anything other than the new Angry Lexi.

The world seemed to stand still as she bit down on the trigger as hard as she could drowning the thing with all the 45 ACP and 5.56. She was left heaving and angrily fuming, her weapons at either side clicking dry. The thing in front of her smelled like rotting meat and it's helmet was a mashed up spaghetti strainer.

The whole group stared in an odd fascination and awe. But as the other Lexis started to catch up and realize what was happening, there was nothing. A simply lack of emotion. The Lexis inside babbled and made declarations, trying to find something revealing about what had just happened. She just killed a pony, sure it was probably the second time she did, but this was different. The Lexis surged and tried again and again to apply something, anything to it. Guilt, pain, fear, anything. But there was nothing, simply nothing. It was as if she just popped a balloon, a balloon that was hers to pop. She did nothing wrong and owed no one.

She blinked as the others looked on rather surprised. Almost by instinct, she straightened herself and fiddled with the reloading mechanism until her weapons chambered rounds. Oso, Reaper, Croce and even Fobwatch who had popped out of stealth all blinked as if close to dumbfounded at her.

Her lips pursed as she looked over the others and finally words escaped her lips. "I... don't know what to think about this... hrmm... is the door unguarded?"

Footnote: Level 8 achieved

Perk added: Nerd Rage. When things are tough, you surprise yourself by rising to the challenge, when low health or particularly emotionally charged, you gain 10 Damage threshold and do a full 20% more damage.

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes

Chapter editor - Currently N/A

Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.

Nick Valentine: Artist

Crimmharmony: Artist

Chapter 16: Do not disturb

View Online

Do not Disturb

It was oddly silent, but that was the only part that troubled her. She felt like she should be in some sort of outrage, but everything seemed so normal, more than normal. The walk to the building was short, but she could have sworn that she saw something new in their eyes. Not fear, not some other negative emotion one would give a killer as she now technically knew herself to be, it was oddly something akin to respect. She was finally pulling her weight, or something akin to that idea.

The building was one that she oddly recognized, not because she had seen it before, but because she had worked in the MWT, and their buildings were all rather similar. It was MWT research center, they always stood sturdy and tall. A pure testament to the ability of Earth Ponies and their grasp on the material world, the shaped metal corridors and heavy doors ready to snap shut in case of an emergency made her feel mildly at home.

Oso approached and tried the door, despite his talons capable of rending tempered steel, he couldn't get the doors to budge and while it was unclear as to what motivated her, Lexi found herself wedging herself past him even nudging him out of the way and putting in her personal code.

"29093010491860 requesting permission for entry, code LTG35772A." She didn't need to say it, but it felt good to say it, the machine just had a keypad and she had to put in the codes separately so the computers could track who came in, when and depending on how certain parts were entered it could set off alerts. Entering the numerical part of her password backwards would alert security so that you could lead a spy holding you at gunpoint into an ambush with security, adding the additional emergency segment would set off all the alarms possible initiating a lockdown. It was all so impressive to her now, it was all boring and worrisome back before the world ended, but now she actually felt like she was contributing and showing up the others at least slightly, she allowed herself the smallest smile before she looked to Croce. "THAT... is why I'm here..."

He looked mildly annoyed but let the facial expression be washed away with a bit of relief. It didn't hurt her feelings but it was clear he was happy that she was 'finally' worth keeping around. That appreciation secretly warmed her on the inside feeding into proud Lexi.

The door opened and with little hesitation they all made their way in, the doors were only slightly larger than normal, but it was made to be a place for many ponies at once, so while it was a tight fit it was indeed big enough for Oso to enter as well.

"So... what are we looking for?" Lexi slowed to a halt at the main hub looking over the options. It looked nearly identical to her work place and she was confident that things should be relatively close to where they were in her work center.

"It's a scroll, but a VERY important one. So, library or vault. Probably both if such a place exists." Oso grumbled and tried looking over a slightly too small 'you are here' guiding map of the building.

"There's usually a vault at the back of the library, if it's not there, we will find similar secure locations in deep storage in the basement. Library is two floors up at the center of the structure." An odd feeling washed over her, she was finally not in charge but rather the one leading, the one with all the experience. But even with them all following her, she didn't know what to think about it. It felt natural but at the same time, being the solitary voice of experience felt like it should have been utterly blindingly alien to her.

Stuffing her beaming pride down she focused her memory of the map and the halls, double checking and then moving with the others in tow. As her eyes panned back and forth she made each turn with confidence, it had less to do with the fact that she was comfortable here, even in the nightmare hellscape and being in the Crystal Empire, this place was still a MWT building and more than anywhere else in the run down world, she felt solidly that she belonged here. She paused at the elevator and decided against it, she had legs and was feeling rather indestructible, with all the unneeded sensory input she couldn't be sure that the elevators were working until a very long wait, and she didn't want to know if the independent systems were all at once up. The security and doors were supposed to be fully functional so long as you had the codes, but she did remember something about the elevators shutting down automatically when the emergency systems turned on. She didn't know what this place exactly went through the day everything came crashing down with the bombs, but it would simply take far too long and have too many variables to simply trust the elevators.

Pushing up the stairs she watched the color coding and for the library, it was the place she practically lived in for most of her adult life. She could see herself busy at the company tables, tracking the vaguest mentions of artifacts in Equestria's books untouched by the Ministry of Image. She had seen so many things in the pages available to her and the MWT research team. It always made her feel special, she could feel it even now with the odd distorting haze and occasional frozen screaming pony frozen forever in this horrible hell.

"Alright! This is the place, just gotta get into the vault in the back. But that's about where my expertise kinda falls away. I've got no idea how your going to get into that thing." She gestured to the far end of the library, the high shelves still filled with books, she was tempted to start digging into the shelves once they started to work on the vault. She had never even once had even the slightest authority to access the vault and even if she had the security teams would have gotten into the vault for her. And finally, unlike the personal security codes allowing workers to change locations and use their own personal codes, security teams did not share such privileges. Even if she knew the codes for her work center, they would not be the same for specifically the security team's security systems as they were separate from recorded files belonging to individual workers.

Just as she rounded the corner, right the Lexis inside her started to debate whether the team would mind her digging through the books she spotted it just about the same time as everyone else.

"Oh... um, this is a whole new problem..." Lexi's words tumbled out of her mouth loosely as they all approached the vault.

Fobwatch was the only one who looked like he understood and wasn't worried, and he was the first to approach. "Go figure, bugger was open when the place was sealed away.... now we just gotta get these frozen in time ponies out of the way. Errr... well at least this one..." He poked at a female unicorn in the center of the group who looked to be one of the brass of the place, Lexi figured she was likely the leader of the entire Crystal Empire branch due to the clothes. Most workers had to wear some sort of uniform, she was thankful that her job required very little outside of her security badge which was almost exclusively just an official ID.

The door was only a few inches open, the big problem was the pony in question was frozen into place just in front of it. Oso's iron grip scooped under the pony and Lexi's eyes practically bulged as she saw his muscles tense as he hefted as hard as he could, yet still nothing happened. Most ponies had a general shape and some level of soft tissue which made their form slightly softer, she noted that when Oso strained himself, the muscular tissues became astoundingly clear and tense. The bird really was built as Croce would say, like a brick shithouse. But slightly more of note, the pony still didn't move.

"Fascinating, it's like the lass is frozen literally in place at a spatial level... just a tick..." Fobwatch's horn glowed and the door highlighted with his magic. "Oh dear... that's not... yeah, we have more than just problems with the lass... The door is frozen too."

"Wait... how?" Croce grabbed at the door to see if it would swing the few inches of clearance they had on it and he grumbled angrily as it didn't work. "Then how did we get in here? The front doors worked, I don't like this shit..." He took to the tops of the shelves as if he could just find a magical 'remove magic effect' button.

"Calm down boyo... I think I can jerry rig somethin up right quick..." Fobwatch grumbled looking over everything his magic swirling about wildly as he looked over everything.

Oso watched carefully pulling Reaper away from the frozen guards mostly just to keep him from distracting Fobwatch by very closely inspecting the male guards still frozen in place. Scooped up like a kitten by an uncaring foal, he sat upside down under Oso's arm, purring and batting at the big griffon. But he was ignored until he let out a harrumph and squirmed uncomfortably. Alas, he could not break Oso's grasp so he went on to grumbling and other audible noises which seemed to be halfway born of boredom and half from just trying to get a rise out of the male side of the party.

Doing his best to focus and fight through the magic which effected everything in this darkened world, Fobwatch focused his magical energies, churning the very fabric of the space to feel the magic. Soon his eyes snapped open and through gritted teeth he stuttered out. "We need to hurry, this place is responding to us, to our presence." He cleared his throat and holding the strain in his features and voice he stood up, gesturing to the door. "Say when... and hurry..."

Oso tossed the playful Reaper behind him and nodded. He was ready, or so he thought.

The air crackled and peeled back as if the color was draining from the space in a perfect sphere, only the color was returning, it was still dark and cold but it felt oddly clear. And all at once the frozen ponies, all moved. Half the guards simply fell limp and did not move, the others staggered and slowly curled into a ball not responding to anything. The only pony who did anything beyond laying down was the mare originally in the way.

She didn't address them, she didn't even change the direction she was facing. She just whispered something under her breath and her magic flared, seizing one of the fallen guard's sidearms she hefted it in her magic. Oso moved in just in case she was going to turn aggressive, but she turned, looking him in the eye and even Lexi was halted in her tracks. The look in her eyes, of complete and utter despair, pain beyond knowing. Oso only managed to make a just a second too late lunge for her as she tilted the side arm up and over, the barrel gently laying over her tongue.

The pop was fast and sharp, but her body hitting the floor might as well have been earth shattering. All of Lexi's confidence fell away. Watching this mare take her own life, seeing her eyes. It was unlike anything she had seen so far, even killing ponies was easier than that.

"We need to move... We'll worry about it later!" Fobwatch, pushed on Lexi and Oso, but Oso didn't move. It was something deep inside that triggered, it had metaphorically floored him. "OI! Big guy, we can't waste time, we don't have long at all."

Oso's eyes looked on at the dead pony and just shivered. It hurt Lexi as well, but seeing Oso like this hurt as well. But she did pop back just as Oso did, when Croce pistol whipped the much bigger bird in the face. "MOVE IT TURKEY!"

Oso shook and cleared his throat. "Aye, let's go... we're looking for a scroll. Should be a pretty simple scroll, and with the time sensitive bit... we don't have time to read it, just shove everything in your bags and keep going."

Lexi dove into the room and instantly started searching, anything to keep her mind off of the splattered head of the unicorn mare just behind them. But she was fairly surprised at the size of the vault. She had never been in one or even seen the plans, it was all security's business. She poured over the tables and glass cases, there were several pieces of paper, even books and some scrolls, she just threw everything she could into her bags. She had big bags and a quick look at the tables and she knew that if they all had the average of the table she was currently at she could easily fit at least all the books in her bags. And with all the others here she could easily fit everything. She just started shoveling everything into her bags.

going on a bit, a loud crash alerted her just as she was about to meet up with Croce also shoveling anything and everything that looked at least moderately important into his bags, a quick look showed that he seemed to be taking a lot more than just books, scrolls, and paper. As they both looked back at the crash, they were happy to see it was Oso who appeared to have simply hefted up a massive display and crushed it. Needless violence from an extremely powerful griffon somehow made Lexi feel like Oso was getting better, like if he was simply venting.

Watching the angry griffon sift through the remains of the case he quickly pocketed something and stood quickly. "Aye! we've got it, let's get out of here quickly." He stormed out looking back as Lexi slowed casting a very worried glance at the guards who still shook and shivered refusing or unable to get up or move. She flinched as he growled. "Leave them! We can't do them any good and we have to move now or never."

Lexi's thoughts churned and the Lexis inside her head shot back and forth with worry vs comfort. 'Maybe he's just trying to hide his pain.' 'What if this is more his real self?' 'We don't have the time for this.' 'But what if he...'

The thoughts died out in her mind, oddly they almost seemed to be choked out as she looked in the direction Oso was facing. He oddly shared her worry, Oso worrying yet again drove even more worry into her.

"Where's the exit?" Croce's works echoed Lexi's only real thoughts. But they all saw it, where they had come in from was filled with some sort of dark flowing sickly energy.

"Damn!" Fobwatch lowered himself, drawing his weapon. "Keep your eye out, I knew I didn't feel an adaptation matrix in the magical weaves of this place. The place didn't change due to programing, it changed because someone changed it!"

"Aye, the smart ones are always fun..." The voice was oddly cold and distant, ringing from all directions.

"Who the fuck is that?" Croce too drew his pistol and stood ready, his eyes darting about.

Lexi was pretty sure she knew, but she was in utter denial, she just waited until Fobwatch continued. "You really don't know your history do you, there's not many entities that can do this. It's... gotta be..." He grit his teeth and just as the darkness seething around them started to bubble into a face, the creature answered.

"Sombra... Lord Sombra... the true and rightful ruler of the Crystal Empire..." The seething from protruding from the darkness was far more predatorial than Equine, long teeth characteristic of predators who slashed and tore their prey to pieces, sunken glowing eyes like the most horrendous of magical beasts. "In the.... well... not flesh, but close as we're going to get... nearly two centuries of undying fear, the death of millions, and seething dark magic along with enough balefire to extinguish an entire nation... I'm a little lacking in my looks, but... I feel it's better this way. There's just so much more power. Endless... power...." He seemed nearly in the fits of ecstasy as the power swirled over his visage.

Everyone stood ready, still concerned and unsure. The tension was thick in the air, even as the presence of the long gone monarch filled the vacant air. Fobwatch's effect seemed to bubble away slowly like a melting wax statue. The colors were drowned out and the energy seethed it's way back into the world.

"So then, how long ago did you find us?" Oso's words were firm as his gaze stayed frozen upon Sombra's giant floating shadow head.

"The very moment the door opened... the door into my realm, but don't get me wrong... I'm not angry, I'm overjoyed I get five whole new toys. And look at you all. You stood up to every challenge. Physical, mental, and even your will power matched... you'll be so fun to break..." He grinned unnaturally wide as if he was trying to inspire fear, Lexi wasn't sure about everyone else, but she was most certainly terrified.

"It doesn't have to be like that... there's a whole world out there... and the door is open." Oso's answer was firm, despite his slow retreat as the darkness snaked and slithered in.

"Oh, now why would I leave? I can leave at any time, do you know what kind of power I have in here? and why not just accept the gift of new toys to play with and call it a day?" The tendrils moved forward and Oso's eyes narrowed as he looked to be digging as fast as he could for a reason for the ancient king to leave them alone.

"I don't believe you can't leave. Make a deal with us and we'll get you a way out." He slowly backed away from the encroaching darkness but was rapidly losing room. Lexi didn't like the thought of loosing this horrid thing upon the world, even as it was now, but she didn't see much of a choice if they were going to leave. She just pushed it to the fringes of her mind and backed up with Oso.

Sombra's voice just deepened with a hearty chuckle. "Oh, what you have to offer is irrelevant, firstly your value as my plaything is more than any proposed offering you could have. Second, your help is unneeded. Third... they all tell me their secrets, they all break eventually and they tell me literally everything they know, every deed they have done, every word they have ever uttered. There's NOTHING you can give that I wont have after a few weeks of your darkest of fears."

The darkness tendrils formed and lunged forward. Reaper who had been quiet for a bit too long swallowed and grumbled. "Well this blows... and not in the fun way, just like the tendrils, why can't it EVER be fun tendrils? Fucking cock sucking fuck!" He seemed to grow extra frustrated, his usually bubbly suggestive personality faltering showing the uncharacteristic fear in his voice. It almost seemed like he would hold up, but quite suddenly all at once, he bolted. The majority of the tendrils leaped for the main group and the rest intercepted him, swallowing the red Pegasus within the whole of their seething mass. But the other tendrils smashed against a shield of Fobwatch's making.

"Yeah, we need to figure shit out fast... I can only hold this for so long, and it's hard enough making the damn thing..." The Unicorn focused as hard as he could trying to maintain the shield even as the dark power beat upon it relentlessly before shifting to a grinding shredding like movement trying to put the maximum amount of pressure on the shield.

"Seething pain, your greatest fears, your greatest pains... delicious... Fresh toys for my collection..." The rumbling voice of Sombra seemed in an odd happy trance, but the ghostly visage of his face twitched slightly in annoyance, almost as if his thoughts were being interrupted as he sought to enjoy the moment.

To say fear was up at the top of her mind was an understatement, Lexi's mind was ablaze with fear to the point where she barely seemed to be able to thing otherwise, the only thing that seemed to touch her senses was the surprisingly soft massive talons gently on her shoulders as Oso pulled her in.

"Aye... Lexi... Croce, and you... unicorn... listen carefully... I need you all to get as far away as possible, I'll try and hold him off with everything I've got. Don't wait for me, just run... get to where we came in at and don't look back. Tell, Tyrin to just shut up and deal with it. If he puts you in any real danger, bring the scroll to the wolves or the Ghouls and just try to finish the project..."

Fobwatch grunted, both in effort he was putting into the shield as the many tendrils battered and forced their way into it, and his dislike of the situation. "I don't think we'll get very far without you. And I am pretty sure you won't last against that thing."

"Well..." Oso's voice seemed dark and pained as he looked over the situation. "I'll just have to do, unless we get a different distraction..."

His Talons scooped up Croce Lexi and Fobwatch as if he was going to simply throw them as hard as he could at a moment's notice, but quite suddenly the visage of Sombra changed, he looked downright in pain, like he had accidentally just drank a bottle of bleach with a side of broken glass. And just as suddenly, bursting from his chest a cherry red Pegasus lashed out frothing at the lips in the fits of chemical induced rage. His blazing scythe slashing back the tendrils as he screamed and flailed at nearly impossible speeds.

She wasn't quite sure what happened next, only that in the time it took for her to blink all four of them were halfway down the hall and not far behind, Reaper was flying backwards slashing and hammering at the darkness that perused them. She couldn't very well tell what was what in this foggy nightmare realm, but even less now, Lexi's mind just whirled as adrenaline flooded her. She could hear logical Lexi declaring 'FEATHERS!!' and it took her a moment to tell what the voice meant. Other than the nightmare chasing them, and Reaper high as a kite slashing back at the monsters of her worst nightmares, all she could see was Oso's dark brown feathers. She clenched her eyes and listened, she could hear and then feel the steady bounding rhythm of Oso's full sprint.

As usual her mind was processing information to distract her, but she preferred this distraction. 'He stuffed you under his wing!' She could hear the little inner voice shout. She opened her eyes at the sudden change of lighting, she could see the building starting to shatter and split apart, Sombra's angry attempts to capture them was giving them an avenue of escape. But even with this distraction, she closed her eyes again to distract herself from the nightmare nonsense in his hellish realm. Focusing on the rhythm of Oso's legs and mentally comparing them to a Pony's trot. Trot, gallop, canter, in comparison, a Griffon's gait seemed more of a bounding lunging predatory stride. She pictured the way Griffons would run, their talons opening forward as if to give themselves a chance to grab whatever was ahead of them. A feline like stance and movement designed to let them chase down foes rather than flee.

She opened her eyes to see if her calming distracting thoughts helped them at all and nearly wet herself. They were inside Sombra's mouth.

She screamed and clamped down on the trigger of her battle saddle all but emptying the magazines into the mass of darkness, this however did seem to cause a fair bit of dark brown feathers to shred and leave a tattered trail through the air.

And quite suddenly something blasted Sombra back, his shadowy figure sprawled out as it impacted the ground, a giant mass of pulsing darkness which started to swirl into an upright form. But something she hadn't seen before impacted it once more. Massive skeletal talons, plunging into Sombra's neck as a beaked skull the size of her mother's house and growing pulsated with a sickly tar like darkness as it's second set of skeletal talons grasped over Oso and Lexi.

She had no idea what she was looking at, only it seemed to be even more angry than Sombra, It screeched with the echo of tens of thousands of screaming voices crying out for mercy and death. The mournful and pained voices weaved together like strands of hair in a braided head.

"Heathen!... Anathema to her holy night, perish beneath mine rage and know it was a mercy!"

She blinked, the words he spoke were not in Equestrian but she understood them very clearly. It was as though they were not spoken but projected, and with a kind of hate she could not place. It was a seething superiority, almost sickly hatred. The kind of hate that would poison the soul so horribly that it would cause actual harm to the body.

She shook her head trying to shake free of the nightmare effect of the realm to understand or at least see past whatever this was. But she didn't have the time to do so. The skeletal talons almost felt like they were suddenly shrinking as they tore them all from the realm all until the painful biting cold of the deep north dug into her flesh like a thousand needles looking to drain every ounce of life from her.

As the nightmare effect cleared and the freezing hellscape returned, she saw the rapidly approaching bare stone and ice. She nearly lost a toon as she bounced off her face and skidded to a stop. Oso landed next to her as did a very not invisible Fobwatch. Into the air out of the horrible portal darted Reaper and Croce as Tyrn pulled himself from the portal still spitting hate and anger, but very surprisingly, as the portal closed a strange light left his eyes, as if his strength evaporated.

He took three steps looking as if he was going to start screaming at them, but he simply vomited a beakful of horrifyingly dark coagulated blood which nearly froze solid upon impact with the artic ground. He shivered and went limp only to be caught by the dozens of waiting tendrils, a wooden hammock of roots as his limp and spasming form was pulled closer to Yin who looked over the old Griffon almost passively.

"I must leave with him... He was not supposed to help..." Tyrin's form slung over the wooden pony and Lexi couldn't stop herself.

"Wait! bring us with you, we are straight out of the anti freeze potion... we'll die out here" She looked to the wooden creature with some level of hope yet twinged in pain as it looked back. The wooden face did not look like it was very capable of showing emotions, but just the aura she felt from him told her the answer.

"I'm sorry, there are rules... limitations on what I am allowed to do. I know it might not make sense... but have faith... I won't lie and tell you it'll be easy, but you WILL survive..." He looked them all over before she couldn't see him anymore.

She growled trying her hardest to force herself to see past his perception manipulation but she couldn't. She was left there panting and aching as the cold started to bite at them all.

"That's it? he's fucking leaving us here to die?" Croce seemed to be taking it better than Lexi who only felt the slow sinking despair. She almost envied his ability to respond with rage, she learned long ago that her rage was near pointless as she had no power to back it up, that was possibly the largest difference between her and Croce, why he had survived so long in a place she would have likely died on her first day if he hadn't come along.

"Nay, he said we will make it, there's got to be something behind it... a way out." Fobwatch's eyes locked to the ground as he fought to come to a logical plan.

Reaper still coming off the stampede sputtered and shivered. "Well... if we're all going to die... let's have a pre death orgy?." He chuckled, his slightly darker sense of humor shielding him from the cold already closing in on them.

Oso remained silent as he popped some berries and looked at his wide spread wing, the flight feathers had a fair amount of damage from Lexi's guns, and while it was clear he was feeling the pain of the fading antifreeze, the sun token and his abnormal toughness seemed to be doing him favors.

"If... if he said we'd make it then we'll make it!" Lexi struggled to resolve herself and nearly flinched when Croce scoffed.

"He said YOU would make it, and he's a fucking tree! We are FUCKED! If I had to take fucking advice from a fucking tree my first fucking step would be to stop eating shrooms!" It looked like he was going to say more but he didn't get the chance to. With the odd 'chuff' sound of springs and possibly compressed air, a net shot out and knocked him our of the air.

To his credit, he bounced only twice before his Susi blade flashed cutting through the steel cable net with relative ease. The whole group followed his gaze and lunged into action as not Wraiths but armored figures darted from the snowy abyss at them.

Lexi froze up both mentally but not before she made the world freeze up literally with her SATS. She quickly recognized the armor, it was the same as the enemies at Reaper's club. The ones that were after her. There was at least ten of them, she could see them on her EFS. She struggled not to panic, pushing through the options she had, but not only did her every option have single digit chances of hitting any of these attackers, but she had two rounds in only one of her weapons.

She would have pouted if she hadn't been frozen in time. But as she was, she frustrated flipped as fast as she could between her options when she noticed something. There was ten enemies, but she apparently didn't have an angle on three, but had eight available targets. Straining to look at the mystery target she would have grumbled at her miniscule chances, but she did marvel at the odd chance that the storm had barely parted enough for her to see it from this elevated spot. She queued up her shots and sent a prayer to any god that would listen. She was a touch concerned as one of the figures was already nearly a single yard from her and soaring through the air at her in a tackle. Even if she chose him as a target, he would pound her into the ground before she could turn and fire.

She let SATS do it's thing and the world leapt back into action. Her guns fired off only a single shot before she was plowed into the ground. She could hear a muffled voice issuing what almost sounded like commands behind the pony's mask, but she couldn't place the words even if she could hear it clearly through the storm. But her mind was on something else, even with hooves smashing her down and an armored visor glaring into her soul, she smiled.

"I hit it! I can't believe I hit it!" She was almost giddy with joy at the shot. But a hoof in her throat brought her back to the moment.

"I am still alive fool... you should rethink yo-" He exploded into a squall of gore and viscera, his armor cleaved like butter and his entrails coiling and steaming over the landscape as they splattered about. The sound of catlike power claws tearing through ice and stone made most the assailants turn and look before they opened up on the figure blasting through the snow.

But they were nothing nearly ready to fight him, to fight the weeping Wraith with a simple soft dent over the left side of his visor from a long range miraculous shot.

"I can't beat you guys, but he can."

Footnote: Level 9 achieved

Perk added: Nat 20. Not just weapons, but things tend to go your way when the chances are near non existent. There is a 5% chance you will simply succeed even if the task is all but impossible.

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes

Chapter editor - Currently N/A

Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.

Nick Valentine: Artist

Crimmharmony: Artist

Chapter 17: The... plan?

View Online

The... plan?

It was a nightmare, blood and entrails splattered everywhere the weeping wraith touched. Every blow was filled with so much rage it was like he magically turned them inside out and then exploded them. The claws on his hooves hummed with power as if they would explode flesh only after they sliced into the body. Thankfully, the majority of Lexi's friend's were flyers. But even then, they were not entirely safe. Aside from the claws which this wraith favored immensely, over his shoulder there was a heavy plasma weapon of some sort. It looked to splatter and cook flesh all at once. Blood splattered and turned to glowing ash before sloughing to the ground, the plasma superheated armor into a glowing white near liquid state before the primary mass slipped past and detonated to pop living beings like a pimple.

Then there was his armor, even the small dent where Lexi's bullet impacted lasted mere seconds, it was the first and almost only injury he seemed to sustain .Slowly as the soldiers pelted him with automatic fire and as much melee as they could manage as he tore through them, the Wraith's armor began to hum with energy. Lexi swore she even saw it crack rather than dent or scratch. Dozens of possibilities flowed through her mind but she teetered over the possibility that trauma to the armor was somehow converted into a different energy, perhaps thermal energy. The heat waves coming off of it in stark contrast to the deathly frozen landscape it had rested in for untold decades seemed to imply this, but there was no way to tell for sure and it still didn't explain the dent from her bullet that quickly repaired itself.

Her mind hummed with activity until a more refined logical Lexi proudly spouted. 'Redundant defense systems! Being able to convert physical kinetic energy of weapons into thermal energy and disperse it through the armor as if the entire thing as a vent would be efficient, but it would cause rapid overheating at at possibly lethal level for the armor's user, so a repair talisman keeps the armor together like normal power armor and the energy conversion turns on and off as often as the armor can handle it. Perhaps even a third defensive ability is present if the energy conversion is off until combat begins. The cracks in the armor which seal quickly is all but proof of energy conversion. Frozen armor quickly heating will always have the danger of shattering no matter what the substance, and the heat off the armor is obvious and... oh dear... is he looking at us... yes.. yes he is... oh.. and he's charging... oh dear... have we reloaded our weapons? oh, no of course not, we've just been sitting here thinking about his armor... don't worry we have armor... oh right, those claws... hrmmmmm'

Another Lexi pushed over logical Lexi and let loose with her tiny lungs. 'WERE GOING TO DIEEEEEEE!!!!!'

A tungsten slug from Croce's new shotgun impacted the Wraith once, twice, and then the third time came around a massive magical shield Lexi swore would have been able to block a Megaspell formed, practically cutting the battlefield in half. Thankfully Oso was on her half. Unfortunately she only discovered this as she was torn from the ground and caught up in a panic as everything nearly vanished in the storm before the she could complete her thoughts on such a powerful magical shield being implemented into the function of the armor could be formed.

It took a moment but soon she turned about in Oso's grasp and noticed that Fobwatch was there too. Unceremoniously scooped up upside down and simply waiting out whatever Oso's plan was. And eventually Croce too met them high up in the clouds, and she didn't see Reaper until her head was yanked to the side.

"Oh you fabulous fast thinking bitch!" In a very aggressive odd almost uncomfortable moment, all she could tell was Reaper's tongue was pulsating down her throat.

She coughed and spasmed unsure of what to do. If she was prepared for it, she might have enjoyed it, Reaper was oddly caught between the gorgeous half feminine and noble handsome look, she liked it, but at the moment, her neck hurt from the angle he held her.

"We are all happy, let her breath..." Had Oso's talons not been occupied his intent would have likely been an action rather than an order.

"Oh you spoil sport!" Reaper playfully rolled back. "She saved us all the way!"

"Not so fast ye fruitsickle! We still don't have our fucking antifreeze! We're still fucking FUCKED!" Croce's stance implied he was juggling killing Reaper or at least trying seeing they were all truly damned.

"Not so fast birby boy!!! She's saved us there too! Those dung lickers down there who attacked us came here too...and they're not dead.... well not frozen to death, this means that they have the medicine too, or something close to it..."

Oso's eyes lit up with some hope. "That's true! and there's ten of them... let's hope that their medicine was well protected in their bags, not much is left of them after that Wraith, and even aside from what this one did to my wing, it's getting kinda hard to fly with the chems fading..."

"True, but just wait another five minutes, the Weeping Wraith doesn't stay outside that circle for long. if he can't fight us for more than about a minute, he goes back and starts crying again... poor guy, I wonder if we can bribe him with a BJ... I mean he earned it..." Reaper chuckled licking his lips but then seemed to regret it as the fading chems made his bodily fluids able to be frozen again and his tongue began to bleed. "Oofles... oh boy... we should go down and start searching quickly... probably right now... let's go... fast!!"

Lexi nodded, her whole body hurt, and her skin felt raw. But she didn't need to tell her friends, she could see the joints at various wings beginning to crack, as if the skin was made of porcelain and the blood was starting to sludge up at these joints.

Together, they slowly lowered, and Croce swooped below the cloud cover only to pop up again. "He's not there!"

Reaper too popped in and out before going off a distance and coming back. "He's back at his sobbing spot... poor boy...."

"Good, let's search the corpses, everyone move quickly! if you find anything, bring it to Reaper and hopefully it's the right stuff, don't instantly take it. Move quickly and don't complain... and DON'T SUCK OFF THE WRAITH!" He pointed an impatient talon at Reaper who giggled.

The second they got to the ground, they scrambled about, Lexi held back the urge to vomit as she pushed through the slop of rapidly freezing organs and coiled entrails. The entire area had been softly powdered with layer of red snow. The explosive force of the Wraith's claws had nearly evaporated the blood which quickly froze and floated back down.

Lexi scrambled about turning her armor into overdrive mode, not for the extra strength but for the heat it generated. Logical Lexi tried to warn her against it but the other Lexis drowned her out with their worries, and discomfort. A lot of pain started up as with every blink of her eyes she could feel the fluid in her aqueous humor cracking. Practically scampering along her failing eyes caught something, and she had never been so happy in her life to see so much gore. The bottom half of one of her attackers.

She quickly rushed over, practically having to crawl down part of a cliff to get it, she whispered a prayer of thanks that the saddle bags were in tact. Whether it was the claws or the plasma, the Wraith had hit this poor soul in the upper chest or at the base of the neck. Only the very beginning of his barrel and down was left.

She struggled with the bags and only just barely got them free, but blinked at a revelation that no doubt was one of those details Oso and the rest of the group already knew and just didn't tell her. As the bags tore free, the armor fell back and she saw it. Stripes. These were not Ponies but Zebras.

She was baffled, but she would ask Oso, and be rather stubborn about it as well, not stopping until she had an answer as to why Zebras wanted her when nopony in the world outside of their little group should have even known she existed. She was tired of being in the dark and she wanted answers. But logical Lexi metaphorically pounded on the side of her head from the inside. 'FREEZING TO DEATH ISN'T GOING TO HELP GET ANSWERS!!!'

She took the belt and looked up the icy cliff the way she came, half wanting to sit and pout waiting for Oso to come find her, she angrily stuffed whatever Lexi that was into the closet and leapt as hard and high as she could.

She forgot she was wearing power armor. Up the cliff over and back onto her face she went. Not stopping for that, she quickly got her hooves under her and called for Reaper who came quickly.

"Oh! Cherry Pone saves the day again! Keep this up and I might give you what you wanted..." He grinned looking deep into her eyes as she blushed and held out the bags with her hooves. He finished his smirk and pried open the bags. Quickly he took several bottles and syringes. They were all still liquid which was a good sign, but they were mostly different colors. So quickly he sampled them orally. "Stampede, medex, don't know this one, forgot this one, oh! here we go!"

He jammed one of the needles into his flank then repeated with another on Lexi. He held up more as the others came in. There was a single dose for each of them and two for the large Oso. Croce too brought a saddle bag, half of one anyway. Between the lot of them they had just enough to at least get back to the sky cart and hopefully dig it out. But then that posed another problem, if they could even get it started.

'One miracle at a time.' Mumbled Logical Lexi as she rolled her eyes.

It took hours to but they were clearly closing on the last known location of the Skycart, and yet again she was troubled. Lexi's attitude had changed drastically. It was such a short time, but she felt like a whole different Pony leaving this horrid place than she did when she was coming in. She didn't even cringe or panic knowing that she had intentionally drawn the Weeping Wraith to her enemy and gotten them utterly and brutally slaughtered. The transformation bothered her a lot more than the fact that she intentionally got ten Zebras killed without a second thought. Logical Lexi and some other Lexi she would probably label psychology Lexi babbled on in her head about what it could all mean, but she at least let it pass the time for her.

'It's a good thing... she's maturing and adapting to her environment. It's a powerful sign of survivability and her own intellectual prowess...' A choir of Lexis chattered back and forth as logical Lexi prepared her retort.

'Nay, such would be accurate if she had time to adapt, but she is taking to it far too quickly, no warning signs of combat stress or post traumatic stress. It's like firing a cannon at a building and not being able to find so much as a scratch, it's not only unlikely, it SHOULD be impossible. We are of course very proud of Lexi, but the mere fact that these mental traumas are not downright overwhelming her and utterly destroying her is a grave concern!' There was a slow chatter but it went silent as psychological Lexi raised a hoof.

'Nonsense! She has had many of these symptoms, but this is clearly a form of natural durability she never had to rely on before. If a frog never has been submerged in water, does that mean it doesn't still have webbed toes and remain aquatic? Sometimes when the world throws a pony in the water, the pony sinks... and sometimes... like with our Lexi here... the pony swims....'

Logical Lexi sneered and dug around for another reason to be concerned but all at once the Lexis clattered to the ground with a yelp as Croce knocked Lexi over the backside of her head.

"Hey! Mudpony! pay attention! We're close... and for the fourth time... LOOK!" One talon poked at her chin as he guided her snout to follow another talon at a set of lights upwind in the blowing storm. And her EFS showed three small red dots. Her eyes moved from Croce's eyes to the red dots and she slowly cleared her throat.

"... there's three of them, they're not moving. Likely inside tents or some temporary structure. If they know we're here, they're not reacting. But they are marked as hostiles..." The Lexis started a slow happy applause at her reading the situation and responding so well.

"Keep this up and you'll graduate from Mudpony to 'almost tolerable'." He chuckled and drew his Susi blade.

Oso nodded to Fobwatch who sat beside Lexi as he and the other flyers took to the air with some difficulty. But as they waited uncomfortably she found a concerned murmured from the Lexis as she didn't so much as flinch as each red light winked out one by one. She knew they were dying, but she didn't seem to care. The more concern she heard from the Lexis the more she dug into it. Slowly she turned to Fobwatch.

"Does... um... does it bother you?" He blinked and turned to her in question. "The... killing I mean..."

"Ah..." He wore a quickly fading smile as if he wanted her to know he understood but it wasn't supposed to be something to dwell on. "It's.... necessary. Ye'd be sick if ye enjoyed it... ending the life of another. But, the sad truth is love..." He paused almost as if he was conversing with the little Fobwatches in his head but he breathed a little easier and continued. "...No matter how much ye want to deny it, a value can be placed on a life. Raiders, they rape, murder, and do nothing other than destroy... is their life worth more than a farmer? a loving father or mother? What of a doctor?"

He shifted in the snow and chewed at his lip. He clearly didn't like talking about it, but he continued as if he had to. "Many foolish Stallions and mares will preach of how every last life is sacred... but it really isn't. Show me somepony who believes there is good in everypony and I'll show ye a fooking liar. I've met dozens, hundreds even of ponies who would slit yer throat or rape ye then kill ye when they got bored, sell ye into slavery or anything worse their foul minds could come up with... it's not some temporary madness, or something you can cure, teach out of them. Ponies... Griffons... Zebras... we all.... have a darkness in their soul, a part of them that never comes up unless it's nurtured by the world around us... it's a balancing act. Stay 'civilized', ye're a victim. Lean into the darkness and accept it, ye'll be gutting fillies and colts for fun in a week... ride that razor's edge... and the world is yers.... still shite... but it's a shite world, what can ye do eh?"

She fidgeted at this, her eyes glued to her armored hooves in the snow. But she blinked as he lifted her chin. "Yer in transition love... it's a delicate place... but ye've got lots of safeguards. Yer doing fantastic, don't worry so much. If ye start to falter, we'll all be here for ye...." He smiled and instantly warmth spread through her.

"Hey! get a move on! We're getting out of here and we've got a way out!" Croce called out to them as Oso hefted the bodies into the snow out of the way. In passing Fobwatch paused clearly noticing something about the dead.

Lexi took a look and was thankful it looked like it was quick. Stab to the throat and two broken necks. One was clearly a Zebra and the other two were a dark red Griffon and a rusty red Pegasus.

"Damn..." The word fell from Fobwatch's mouth in such a defeated way. "Rust Buckets and Gael..."

"Did you know them?" Lexi came closer, she wanted to be careful not to upset him.

"Aye... I did. Poor sods ran goods between the towns. They had to have been paid a LOT to come up here..." He shook his head and continued into the shelter which quickly revealed itself to be heavy tarped tents and metal framing buried deep into the snow.

"We can rest up here, there's a stockpile of antifreeze and a few extra goods." Oso struggled to fit in the tent but he found a relatively empty area and settled down.

"Ah! so that's what it was!" Reaper's voice chimed happily as he dug through the medical supplies not exactly hiding the fact that he was pocketing most of the chems. "This stuff I couldn't really identify, it's a sort of transition drug to make it much less harsh on the body when you are starting and coming off of the antifreeze. Especially coming off... that's a bitch and a half..." He giggled digging in deeper.

"I assume their cart is here?" Fobwatch gestured to the door.

"yeah, there's a cart down there should easily get us back to town." Oso bit down onto some preserves of some sort he found in the tent.

"No..." Fobwatch coughed and stretched his no doubt sore muscles before he continued. "Old Rusy and Gael were really well known and well liked. If we are even seen with their cart and not them, we'll be blacklisted and probably have bounties on our heads."

Oso sighed. "Aye, get all the rest you can, Reaper keep us aware of when we have to medicate, and as soon as we are good and ready, we gotta get out there, find our cart, and scavenge off of this one to make ours operational. Being able to move between towns without being assaulted is kinda important..."

Lexi settled in and closed her eyes, but as if the Lexis were loudly clearing their throats in her ears her eyes snapped open. "Oso?"

He cocked his head towards her. "Yes?"

".... I need some answers..."

"I'm not sure it's wise to tell you everything... and I KNOW I can't tell him" Oso's talons moved to Fobwatch he looked to the door.

"I can leave if ye want... it's important to her and the last half hour of trying to talk yer way out of having to explain it doesn't help. If you like lad... I can tell the lovely lass what I personally think yer up to..." He didn't get up but he certainly portrayed himself as upright and competent as he could.

Oso's eyes narrowed and he clearly plunged himself deep into thought. "You know you'll be putting yourself in the crosshairs the more you let us know you know?"

Fobwatch smirked. "Of course lad, this isn't meh first rodeo..."

"Oh just shut up and kiss!... no wait! TONGUE! Lots of Tongue!" Reaper's eyes betrayed his utterly silly obsession with sexuality, his tail even wagged as he propped up his head by the chin on his hooves.

"You shut up...Honestly none of you are supposed to know... we've kept this stuff secret for a very VERY long time." The massive Griffon grumbled but as he looked over the others he knew that it would put a lot of strain on the functionality of the group if he completely forbade it. ".... very well. I won't tell you, but why don't you tell me what you think, and I won't confirm or deny. And depending on how it goes, I will or won't tell Tyrin and he may or may not kill many or all of you for security reasons."

Instantly Croce got up and moved to the exit. "I'm hella curious, but it's not fucking worth dying over, and I don't even want to roll those dice with that freak Tyrin..."

An awkward silence passed before Oso gestured to Fobwatch who nodded and slowly his lips parted. "I struggled with this for a LONG while... I've known the goals of D.E.R.P. for a long while it's projects and more, but I've never known it to work with the wolves, ell... I barely even knew anything about the wolves other than that they were terrifying and stupidly dangerous. No reason the ghouls would ever work WITH them, and ye lot... never heard of ye ever... and I'm rather well informed... very VERY well informed. For the longest time I couldn't figure out why ye would do what ye lot of been doing... but then... I saw the scroll. Ye were quick, but I saw it... and I know of it..."

Instantly a look of concern showed over Oso's features. "How much of it do you know?"

Fobwatch sighed almost like he knew this was likely digging his grave. "The book that our lovely Lexi here owns and I need to read... it's listed in there, and I at least know what is written about it in there..." He looked to Lexi then back to Oso, chewing at his lip. "If my assumption is correct, ye lot are damned fools... what yer tying is impossible and utterly foolish. You could do a LOT more harm than good. My father would know, I know and he barely even touched on the subject with me..."

Oso's talons dug into the ground, through the tarp, into the compacted ice and deeper. "That will be enough... I will need to converse with at least Yin before I let you say another damned word... and as for the goal... your concern is noted and the reason why there's so much division between us, the Susi and the Ghouls. Everyone has their own theory and 'ways past the dangers' but no one can agree... and with something this big... you CAN'T just let bygones be bygones.... this is something we have to be absolutely certain on..."

Lexi felt relatively small, very unsure of what to do. But she did not like the massive tension in the room, she could see the look in Oso's eyes, he did not want to kill Fobwatch but it looked like he was measuring whether or not he would have to.

"Get some sleep... we move out as soon as the storm breaks." Oso lay his head down and relief flooded Lexi. At least for the moment, her friend would not be killed.

She closed her eyes even when Reaper vocalized as he was likely let down by his very inaccurate predictions of Pony on Griffon gay sex. She pushed it all away and listened to her memories. But she felt a twinge of worry as her mother's voice became harder to remember. She pushed it aside and remembered the Lexington Steel experience. She trembled at the memory of her first hoof experience in the memory orb of such a famous stallion blessed with so much... girth.

Thankfully, sleep came a little easier.

No words were exchanged between Oso and Fobwatch. When morning came, Oso stood up and walked out to go watch the weather. It was completely unclear if he even slept, or if he ever slept. Reaper and Croce got to work looking for the Skycart, and Lexi just stayed with Fobwatch. Very little was said, but she did get some of her emotional baggage off her chest and was rather happy that Fobwatch was willing to listen, even if he remained mostly silent. She found herself mostly complaining. Her worries about her combat encounters, some sexual frustration, but some of it stayed private. She wanted more than anything to say everything she could and then beg him for what he knew of the Project. But there was nothing she could tell herself to convince her to bring it up.

It wasn't long before a loud coughing engine was heard outside. The skycart appeared to at least function. There was some talking and some loud bonking of Reaper's head but eventually Oso entered the tent and called to clean up.

"Take everything of value to us, the longer the Zebras don't know what happened to their soldiers the better." He as usual moved to scoop up Lexi but she stepped back.

"I can do some work, I'm not totally helpless..." He nodded almost approvingly, but frowned when she continued. "I still need some answers... things have been bugging me, I won't ask about the project, but can you at least tell me about the Zebras?"

Oso grumbled. "Well... it's complicated, and really tied up in the project... but mostly what I can tell you is it has to do with Tyrin."

Lexi nodded almost afraid to ask about the old bird. Oso clearly picked up on this. "Tyrin is older than he looks... a lot older. Everyone in the Ordos Sanguinus has something special about us... it's not a requirement, it just kinda happens that way. He belonged to it long before I did..."

Slowly as he spoke he packed up everything he could see and soon they were in a fairly well functioning skycart looking up at the mildest part of the storm she had seen in as long as she could remember. It was still nothing she ever wanted to fly in even if she ever wanted to fly again. But locking her armor in place like last time she strained to listen to Oso continue.

"He's a veteran of many MANY battles... and I don't really know the exactness... the real cause of it, but I know he utterly hates Zebras, and they show up wherever they can confirm he's been. Which isn't very often, but it's still too damned often. As to why they are after you?" He paused as he put in the majority of the effort to get the cart off the ground and into the air. "I have no idea, maybe they think you're important to him, maybe they'll try and use you to get to him."

She noted a very mild tone in his voice. He wasn't lying but he was intentionally not telling the truth. It bothered her but at least he was telling her something and when concerning a subject seemingly taboo as Tyrin she was glad to get literally anything from the big griffon.

Up in the clouds it was very difficult to keep talking, not just because of the rushing winds due to the speed they traveled, but also the thin air and the biting cold. But slowly they crossed out of the storm and upon request they came to ground to use the transition drug for a less harsh experience coming off the antifreeze.

But another six or so hours and the large D.E.R.P. building came into view. They put the cart down and Oso grumbled, stretching after the long flight and popping a berry. "Aye... Croce, and Reaper, you two stay here and guard the cart. We don't need scavengers messing about and taking it."

Croce let out a soft laugh. "Ha... no... after the last time I didn't accompany her, the dumb mud pony almost died... where she goes, I go..." He crossed his arms and stood very 'matter of factly'.

"Fine... Reaper, if scavengers come..." Oso gestured but Reaper interrupted.

"Kill don't blow, got it big boy..." Oso rolled his eyes at the flamboyant Pony's response.

"Well.. let's go."

It was a short trip, and again the guns came out, this time very heavily reinforced right where Oso had last torn them apart, clearly Sandbox had followed his orders and at least tried to make the turrets 'griffon proof'. It didn't take long or much for the doors to open, Oso just looking into the camera and nodding seemed to do the trick.

There was a bit of talk back and forth, lots of excitement and awe in the air with the Ghouls of D.E.R.P. The return of the giant Griffon and his friends seemed to be a surprisingly good sign. And somehow, a happy and excited looking ghoul was even more frightening than a normal one, keeping Lexi a little closer to Oso and Croce.

"Ah... that took you a bit less time than I expected..." The surprisingly smoother voice of the head of the ghouls grumbled as he smiled wide enough for his leathery rotting lips to crack and split slightly.

"It was a lot worse than we thought... but it was still doable, which did surprise me... at least a little." Oso grumbled right back. "But we got the scroll Arctic... now I assume we have a deal?"

The ghoul, Arctic Star as Lexi vaguely remembered nodded and held out a hoof expectantly. Oso in turn reached into his bags but hesitated.

Arctic scoffed. "It's going to us for your big plan anyway... no need to be so hesitant with it."

Oso sighed and pulled from his bag a small scroll and tossed it up to the unicorn who gracefully caught it in his magic before opening it and looking it over. The delight on his face was clear and he quickly pocketed the scroll after very carefully rolling it back up.

Lexi squinted and adjusted her glasses to try and see if she could at least steal the slightest glimpse of what was on the near ancient scroll. But by the time she was starting to see something mildly familiar in the scribbles it had been rolled up.

"Very very good, I am very pleased. We shall send a party to the wolves as soon as possible to work out a location and a proper security detail. No doubt those fleabags can keep my workers safe, but I do want at least some of my own security there. I won't be having them making changes to something they barely understand. Only D.E.R.P. is competent enough in Equestrian magics to pull this off. Their strange voodoo nonsense can't be allowed to interfere..."

Oso grumbled before standing tall. "They are a part of this whether you or we like it or not.... We need them and we aren't going anywhere without them. I don't like it much either, but their magic is quite powerful and accurate. Just because it's not Equestrian doesn't mean it's invalid and useless. This is a group effort here..."

Arctic Star rolled his eyes. "Of course... of course... but I still need my security. I'm not letting them or you take complete control of this project. Either we have at least some say or no one has any!"

Again, Oso grumbled, as if the words were causing him actual physical pain. "Aye... that's the plan... but just remember, this is the closest we've ever been. We can't afford to mess this up. We all work together and once it's done we won't ever have to bother with each other again."

Arctic Star grinned and nodded. "Do they know yet? I mean, if we're this close, it's just a matter of time..." He gestured to Lexi who's attention piqued.

Oso followed his gesture but shook his head. "We're.... working on it. At the moment, I too feel it's inevitable. But I still need permission to tell her or any of the others. You know just how.... odd the circumstances are."

"Pfff... that's an understatement." The ghoul's laughter seemed like something out of a horror story, and the authenticity of it only made the experience worse. "But will it really matter if we succeed? The whole damned world could know."

Oso took a quick step forward. "Yes and no. There's more than plenty of ponies, zebras, griffons and many more who would object. And we don't need an army.... or armies kicking in our doors before we actually manage to get this shit done."

There was an uncomfortable silence before Arctic finally sighed. "Perhaps, but if you can't trust them they simply don't belong here. Either way, they went with you, they helped and it sounds like they've earned it. But you do what you do. I'll do everything on my end just make sure that you lot do everything on your en.."

A loud crash brought everyone's eyes back just behind Arctic as a pony appeared to drop a large load of electronics.

Arctic twirled about and nearly shouted in the ghoul mare's face. "Damn it Moondancer! that shit is fucking fragile and rare! Be fucking careful you absolute fucking... Moondancer?"

The old rotting Mare was staring just past him, she took a few steps, her face was one of shock and emotional overload. "Lexi?...."

Lexi heard the rough voice, but felt a sudden ping of recognition as she beheld the rotting figure before her. She was missing patches of her mane and even flesh over her body. But she saw just enough to answer.


Footnote: No level achieved

Your relationship with D.E.R.P. is now "Liked"

This fanfiction is based on Fallout Equestria by Kkat, Fallout Equestria Pink Eyes by Mimezinga and Fallout Equestria Project Horizons by Somber; a familiarity with the source material may aid your understanding.

Author - Sanguine Eyes

Chapter editor - Currently N/A

Earl: Concept artist, Proof reader.

Nick Valentine: Artist

Crimmharmony: Artist