Fallout Equestria: Lines

by Keanno

First published

A telling of the events of the Great War through the thoughts of the soldiers that experienced it.

Mint Chip, a Scribe with the Vanhoover Steel Ranger Expedition team, was conducting a routine exploration of a Ministry of Peace office complex. Inside, he discovered an archive of memory orbs containing the thoughts, feelings, and actions of soldiers as they suffered and dealt with War-Time Stress Disorder during the Great War. Can Mint Chip hold on to himself as he relives the lives of these soldiers with haunted pasts?

Prolog: The proposal

View Online

Fallout Equestria: Lines

Chapter 0: Dr. Winter’s Proposal

TO: Ministry of Peace head office, Ministry Walk Canterlot

Hello Miss Fluttershy,

It is good to see that your first year as Ministry Mare of the Ministry of Peace has been successful. My name is Dr. Winter and I serve under your command. As you know, Equestria is suffering from a new epidemic, though not viral or bacterial. There is a whole new type of disease that is affecting ponies not only at home but also abroad. The name “Wartime Stress Disorder”, or WTSD as most ponies are referring to today, was proposed in the wake of the battles which occurred during the first few years of the war. My colleagues and I believe that there is enough evidence to show that this is an increasingly worrying issue that needs to be carefully researched and assessed.

Currently the treatment options have been kept to a minimum, counseling and rest in most of the cases, in hope to return ponies to active duty, or at the very least to insure they would be able to function normally when they return home . As you can see from my reports which aren’t alone in pointing out the trouble. This psychological illness has been increasingly difficult to document as with multiple cases where the cause of the WTSD was unknown. Furthermore, we have been seeing a steady increase in the use of our most drastic treatment options: This, of course, is the removal of the pony’s affected memories. It has had the highest success rate so far despite many reports showing that the patient is not the same after treatment.

I have figured out a way to analyse the causes of WTSD, and with consent of the patients and the Ministry, I would like to submit this project for approval. I would like to use a recent technologic innovation known as memory orbs to store the memories of my patients. From there, I will be able to start to build an archive of my patients for further review and research. I have included a list of several patients that are volunteering to have their memories removed, including patients that had suffered from terrible traumas since the beginning of the war, which often led to harmful behaviors. With your approval, this will allow me to analyse the events that triggered this pathological disorder. My research aims at finding ways to cure the future patients differently from the drastic measures we have been using so far.

With your blessing, I would like to set up a Memory Orb Archive in my home office in Vanhoover. If approved, we will create an initial database and archive of the volunteering patients, which will not be restricted to just Equestrian soldiers. As you’ve no doubt already noticed, we’ve begun seeing an increase in cases of WTSD from multiple cities, and not just among the army, especially after the tragedy of Little Horn.

I believe that we need to stop this epidemic as quickly as possible before we start losing more ponies to this strange and devastating illness. I fear that if we do not find a solution to this growing problem, Equestria’s health and morale may begin to crumble. Thank you for your consideration, and I await your quick response.

Thank you, Miss Fluttershy

Sincerely, Dr. Lilly Winter, Vanhoover Department of Health head psychologist and grief counselor.

System Online

View Online

Fallout Equestria: Lines
Chapter 1: System Online

With a loud pop and a shower of sparks, the turret exploded under a barrage of well aimed shots. As the battle saddle mounted light machine gun attached to my Steel Ranger companion. I peeked up from behind an overturned desk.

“Not often you see a turret in a Ministry of Peace office,” I said as I stood. The Paladin named Peach Fuzz visually scanned the rest of the room for any other hostile signs.

He looked over at me. “Elder said that this was a special M.O.P office that may have some advanced pre-war tech.”

I levitated some papers that were lying on the ground from when I overturned the desk to use it as cover a few seconds ago. “Hope so. I’d rather not get shot up only to find more files on the nutrition suggestions for Equestria’s schools.”

Paladin Apricot callout down the hall. “Mint Chip, Peach Fuzz we could use some help with these turrets!”

I turned to Peach Fuzz with a smile. “Ahhh, my maiden awaits!”

I could hear the heavy sigh from Peach Fuzz. He’s not a fan of me dating his sister. However she and I have Elder Corncob’s blessing; ‘Steel breeds Steel,’ as the saying goes.

I still wish I could’ve seen Peach’s face under his helmet the day when the Elder cleared our actions. He still respects the Elder’s decision and loves his sister, so he hasn't crushed my head in. Yet.

Apricot does enjoy torturing us both about it. She set up a ‘private’ room for the two of us to spend time together, and she made sure that the bed is next to the wall were Peach Fuzz’s bunk is. Her torture for me was just to remind me that I should not cross her, or let her catch me looking at scribe Strawberry Swirl’s flanks again.

Peach and I reached the hallway overlooking a large office area with an armored door at the end of the hall. Apricot, with scribe Melon Seed, pointed out the two turrets above the door.

Peach looked at his sister. “What about them? There’s only two of them and they can't punch through our armor.” He took a closer look, realizing that a few rounds almost breached Apricot’s armor. The angle and thickness saved her neck from being hit.

Even though I wanted to make sure she was okay, the fact that we were in a combat zone brought me back to the present. Pure emotions cloud judgment and weaken focus. I stayed calm and assessed the turrets position in relation to the only opening to the room. The turrets were in remarkably good condition considering their age, and were quick to track targets.

Scribe Melon Seed looked at the door. “There’s gotta be something good in there for the M.O.P to use high-end turrets.” I had to agree with him, it was strange to see the M.O.P use high-end turrets at all, let alone in a remote office complex in this suburb of Vanhoover.

Our team had been searching for days for something good. Senior scribe Mustard Seed noted a MOP office in this area, figuring it had medical supplies. However when we got near it, it was clearly just an office. The only medical supplies we found were in the staff first aid kits, and those were the most basic. The turrets guarding this door, as well as the fact it was an armored door, told us there might be something nice in the next room..

Peach Fuzz looked through the bulletproof glass that prevented Apricot from just removing the turrets. The desk option was not useful against rounds that can punch Steel Ranger armor. He looked at a terminal that was on the wall near the entrance to the room. However no one would be able to get inside and work the terminal without being shot up.

Peach Fuzz looked at Melon Seed. “The wall that supporting the terminal: you think we can burn through it and back door the terminal wiring from behind it?” he asked.

Melon Seed looked at the wall and said, “Probably. There’s a metal plating behind the plaster, we can cut throught with a torch and not damage the terminal’s wiring. No idea why a MOP office needs the extra armoring though.”

Melon Seed and Apricot hurried back to the troop crawler that was parked outside. The crawler is a nice piece of old tech from the war that helps us be able to cover more area in these remote locations. It can take many hits and with a top mounted heavy machine gun it provides good cover if anypony or anything try to attack us.

Peach and I stayed behind and walked down to where the opening was. We stayed as close to the other side of the wall in the hallway as possible to stay out of the arc of the turrets. We then proceeded to remove the plaster around the area that was going to be cut. I always kept hoping that it would be Apricot and I that would team up to check out a building, however, by order of the lead paladin and scribe, they feel it’s best to keep us separate during missions. The only reason I was put on this mission was of my experience with M.O.P terminal networks. Also I think the elder suggested to them that, since this was a long mission, that we could have some time together. Apricot seemed to be getting annoyed with guard duty, and I’d been sitting behind a terminal setting up a net trying not to stab myself with my own horn from the boredom.

After a few minutes, Apricot and Melon Seed returned with the torch.

Peach Fuzz looked over at Apricot. “How are the guard dogs doing?” He said, jokingly referring to the two paladins that were standing guard by the crawler.

Apricot rolled her eyes. “They are setting up a remote link through that Com array East of us to send an update back to the bunker,” she replied. With this mission being a long distance and time away from the base, we needed to send out reports every few days. Luckily a Com array at Snowy Mountain provided a good line of sight relay to the base back in the center of Vanhoover.

Melon Seed was able to set up the torch and fuel line quickly, and began work on the wall. Within a few minutes he cut a large enough hole for me to do my work.

Using my levitation magic and a special spell that I created that allows me to summon a temporary magical wire that can be connected to existing wires without breaking the connection. I connected the magical wire to the remote terminal link on my pipbuck, and access to the turrets was established. Most of the time it also allows me to not have to even hack the terminal, since I just bypass it anyway. The times that I need to hack it is when the terminal is just the access point, not the programing point. Luckily for me, this turret system, although well made, did not have a system I needed to hack into. I attempted to add us into the targeting system so that we can use the turrets as a defence if we needed. However, the targeting talisman was corrupted, and it was defaulting to target anyone.

With that, I shut off the turret and listened to them power down in the other room. I stuck my hoof into the room to see if they were truly disabled. No shots were fired and the turrets made no sounds.

“Okay, it is safe” I said.

With the job done, the magical aura around my horn disappeared, and the magical wire connecting the wire to my remote link evaporated.

Peach Fuzz and Apricot stepped into the room and looked around for any other hazards that we all might have missed.

With the room cleared, Melon Seed and I stepped in. At first, I picked up some papers and looked at them. Apparently M.O.P wanted to create a new brochure about the dangers of unprotected “physical activity” while deployed. I glanced at the door that once was being guarded by some nasty turrets, hoping that we had not just found the M.O.P condom factory.

I heard Melon Seed snickering to himself. He levitated over a paper for me to see. On the page, it showed Fluttershy, the head mare of Ministry of Peace, showing proper use of a condom with the aid of a carrot. Based on the history we read, the sight of one of the shyest ponies to ever live letting somepony photograph her doing this tells me that somepony in the office was good at editing images, and probably spent the last days of the war in a unemployment line.

Peach Fuzz walked over to the still closed sliding metal door, and placed his armor covered hoof on it. “Well, power’s dead to the door, and I don’t think there were any employees left in the room that might have an employee ID key to open it,” He said He looked at it more closely and tapped on it. “Doesn't seem too thick. I can probably force it open.”

Melon Seed looked over at me. “Well, you're the one that gets to catalog this place. It’s your call if you want the door forced open. I advise that we don’t know what’s behind it, and whatever it might be may be upset that we damaged its front door.”

I looked over at Peach Fuzz and nodded to him to force open the door. This office was near some raider territory, and I was not in the mood to spend a lot of time at a office trying to find employee ID that would allow access to what looked like a high security level area.

Peach Fuzz turned around and reared up his back legs. With a forceful kick, he broke the locking mechanism on the door and bent it inward enough for him to get his hoof in, and started to slide it open.

The door slowly slid open, revealing a dark room. Peach Fuzz kept his body behind the door while we backed away from the front of it to avoid anything that might not have liked how we knocked. Peach Fuzz finally pulled the door completely open, and turned on his flood light. Inside the room was not the dreaded condom factory I was fearing, but a small room with a large wall-mounted terminal with one chair and the bones of a long dead operator. Around the terminal in a crescent shape were glass covered shelves with memory orbs sitting in protected pockets.

I stepped into the room and looked at the computer terminal. “Looks like a memory catalog. Maybe a interrogation block? Though thats more Ministry of Moral work.”

Melon Seed stepped in and looked around while Peach Fuzz and Apricot stood outside. “Maybe its a catalog of medical treatments?” Melon Seed said.

“Good point. It would also explain why it’s more protected. They might not have wanted the zebras to get ahold of more advance medical treatments.” I stepped over to the chair and slid the lab coat wearing unicorn skeleton off onto the floor. No real point for mourning a 200 year old skeleton that I never knew. I sat down and looked over the terminal more closely. It seemed to be in working order, and it had a standard keyboard setup. Looking around, I was able to find the on switch and, with a quick flick, the green glow of the terminal screen came on. On the screen, system data started to appear.

:System boot-up active:
:Running system check:
[Check complete]
System Processor [ok]
System backup processor [ok]
System coolant [ok]
Interface link [ok]
Memory orb retrieval [ok]
Recollector connection [ok]
Memory bridge link [ok]
Memory orb excelerator [ok]
External abort system [ok]
Local database link [ok]
M.O.P datalink [error: unable to connect to host. Contact admin]
Orb AI interface [ok]
Voice ID system [error: files corrupted]
Voice command processor [ok]

Voice ID system FAILURE
Please insert employee ID to continue with operation.

“Well thats a problem. Without a employee ID, let alone a probably high level ID, I wouldn’t be able to access the system,” I said. I considered back hacking the system, but with it not being a familiar design and the sensitivity to intrusion it might have, I felt that hacking it would be a poor choice. That’s when I glanced down at the skeleton that I’d moved onto the floor. If she was in the room, she may have the ability to access the computer system as well.

I searched through the lab coat. The employee ID was in the chest pocket of the lab coat. I removed it to inspect it more closely. ‘Dr. Winter, Lead Psychologist.’ The ID seemed to be in good shape, and with a quick glance at the terminal desk, I found a slot that would fit the ID. I placed the ID into the slot, and screen displayed ‘ID accepted.’

The speaker crackled to life as the AI began to speak. “Good evening Dr. Winter. Are you working late tonight?” I looked over at Melon Seed, who just shrugged and watched over my shoulder.

I turned back and looked at the terminal. “Yes. Describe the primary function of this terminal and the purpose of it.”

The AI replied, “This terminal is a fixed system recollector with a prototype orb interface system with AI and databank support.”

Fixed terminal was what I expected, however the other items were new. “Explain orb interface system.” I said to the AI.

The AI responded. “The Orb Interface System or O.I.S. is a prototype spell matrix that allows the user that is observing a memory orb to have access to additional information. Additionally, it allows the user to leave a memory orb at anytime they wish.”

“Okay,” I said then asked. “And the AI and databank support?”

“This system has an interactive AI support system that allows a user to give verbal commands to it and have the AI perform a task. AI support can process through memory orbs, looking for keywords indicated by the user. The AI draws information from a databank system. This allows access to data that been stored by ministries. It also runs an automatic update link with ministry databanks.” the AI replied through the crackling speakers.

Melon Seed spoke up. “This seems to be an interesting item we’ve found. I wonder if the interface and data bank system works for any orb, or just these in the cases?” He looked at the orbs surrounding us in a crescent shape.

I look back at him. “I don’t know, but I think I’d like to know what this thing is for.” I turned back to the terminal, “AI what is the purpose of all this?”

The computerized voice replied, “this project was design to help Ministry of Peace determine the effects of War-Time Stress Disorder on soldiers in combat. Memories were copied from soldiers after engagements in battle; or when an incident occurs. Would you like to continue with Memory block C?”

Apricot interrupted before I could answer. “Hey guys? They got the link established. You need to give your reports.”

Melon Seed and I look over at Apricot, who was standing at the door. We nodded and I shut down the terminal, removed Dr. Winter’s ID card, and placed it in my field bag.

We stepped outside onto the cracked concrete of an intersection. Back during the war, this area seemed to be a well traveled spot. Across the street was apparently a famous restaurant. When we checked it for supplies, we found old, damaged photos of popular ponies eating at the restaurant; including the goddesses themselves! Apparently it had been somepony’s birthday. On the other side of the intersection was a collapsed store. Whatever valuables that were inside were crushed or had been scavenged already.

The last building of the intersection was a bank. Normally we don’t spend too much time and effort trying to crack a bank safe. However, this one was different. Apparently it was a newer type of safe, and Melon Seed thought there might be something more than just pre-war bits in there. It seemed from the documents he read that it may contain a technology that a scientist was working on.

In the middle of the intersection was the crawler. It seemed that before Tea Leaf and Donut Hole set up the link, they’d piled up some rubble to create a protective wall around crawler and us. With the addition of a large canvas tarp over the crawler and walls, the small base was protected from the elements.

Tea Leaf had the link sitting outside of the wall, and Donut Hole had zeroed in on the Com Array.

Melon Seed and I approached the terminal that was set up. I stepped aside to let Melon Seed give his report first to Head Scribe Mustard Seed and Star Paladin Pinto Bean.

“Sirs, I have located a bank that may contain some old world tech. It contains a safe that is more advanced than the standard bank vaults we’ve seen. I’d like to try to crack the safe and gain access to the possible tech inside.”

The scribe and paladin look at each other. “Do you know what the tech might be?”

Melon Seed levitated a piece of paper to his side. “It looks like it might be a prototype heavy battle saddle. It looks like the scientist was trying to use different gems mounted on the battle saddle to magnify different spells.” A smile was building on Melon’s face as he explained what he’d found. “If the battle saddle is in the bank vault, then we can figure out how it works and apply it for our unicorns to use.”

Mustard Seed and Pinto Bean nodded in agreement. “Proceed to crack the vault and see if that tech is inside. Document any other useful items that might be in the vault.”

I approached the terminal screen as Melon Seed acknowledged his orders and finished his report. He stepped aside so I could give my report. “The Ministry of Peace building is not a hospital.” I said. “Its a office complex. No medical supplies were found. However, after dispatching some turrets in the main office, we found an experimental recollector that seems to have memories dating back to the war.”

The head scribe raised an eyebrow. “This is unlike the M.O.P. They don't normally take memories. Have you figure out what it is used for?”

I nodded as I replied. “It seems to be a psychological study of War-Time Stress Disorder and its effects on soldiers during the war.”

Mustard Seed and Pinto Bean seem still confused. “What is special about this room that they needed to guard it with turrets when all it is just memories?”

I thought about it for a second. “It might be due to the sensitivity of the information on the orbs, or the fact that this is not just a normal fixed wall recollector. It’s equipped with an advanced spell matrix that allows the user to observe the orb without touching it and being drawn in. It allows you to leave the memory at anytime, and provides additional information based on user commands. If there a piece of tech in the orb, I can ask the AI to explain what that tech is, and it goes through the databank to try to identify it.”

A smile seemed to form on the head scribes face. “Have you tried the system out yet?”

I shook my head. “No sir, I stepped out to make my report before I was able to observe an orb.”

Pinto Bean and Mustard Seed look at each other. “Very well, Mint Chip your orders are to observe some of the orbs in the system and test out the AI support. See if it will be as useful as I think it will be.” Pinto Bean said.

Mustard Seed looked back to Melon Seed and I, who was standing to the side and behind me. “Take good notes and follow what I teach you. Focus on your duties, and bring strength and wisdom to our chapter.”

Melon Seed and I nodded our heads and saluted.

Then Pinto Bean step forward. “Tea Leaf, make sure you have a good perimeter set up. I want your teams to stay in the crawler for the night, then tomorrow move your camp to the inside of the M.O.P office. Also reposition the crawler to use as a combat support platform if the Locals show up.” The Locals, as they are called, are a gang of raiders that seem to enjoy terrorizing the areas around Vanhoover. They tend to not to mess with Steel Rangers, Harbor Town, or Zed’s Caravan; however from time to time they get a little edgy and try to go for one of us.

With the report finished, the link was disconnected and the terminal put away back in the crawler. The crawler was a beautiful machine, and a blessing for us. Though on long search mission like this it gets crowded. It’s designed to transport two Steel Rangers, and eight fully armored pony soldiers with one driver. So with six of us, it shouldn’t be a problem; however on these missions we needed to bring enough supplies to last awhile, along with storage for some of the tech we find. Normally, if we find a big haul of tech, a recovery team is sent out while the search team proceeds to the next target. But small amounts of tech can be stored in the crawler.

All this made it a very uncomfortable place to ride, let alone sleep in. “Its going to be nice move our base into the office tomorrow.” Peach Fuzz said as he unloaded a box of cooking supplies.

Melon Seed and I nodded from the hastily constructed workbench formed from a slab of broken concrete and rebar. Everypony had a duty to do, no matter what. Donut Hole was performing some maintenance on the crawler. Apricot and Tea Leaf were taking watch while Peach Fuzz started to cook; and Melon Seed looked over a schematic of the vault door he’d found on the manual of the vault. We were trying to determine if the cutting torch we had would be effective enough to open the vault. It looked like it would work, but Melon was going to be working at it for awhile.

We were both excited about our missions. Me, with the hopes of finding a better way for the Steel Rangers to observe memory orbs, and Melon, for the chance of finding a prototype technology.

The smell of what Peach Fuzz was cooking caught our attention. Somehow he was able to make two-hundred year food taste only fifty years old. Though there had been a few times we’d wondered if he mixed in some radroaches that had gotten caught in the crawler’s grill.

“Dinner Time!” Peach called out.

Melon Seed and I trotted over to the crawler and grabbed our mess kits. Today, it was two-hundred year old canned corn, mixed with some freezed-dried carrots. Peach always says that all you need is a pinch of salt. I’m not sure if a ‘pinch’ would be enough to make two-hundred year old food taste good, but maybe if he used a whole salt cube, he could pull it off.

Donut was in line first. I’m not sure if his stomach is a bottomless pit of despair and digestion, or if he has the greatest metabolism that ponies have ever seen. He eats so much and is still just bones with armor wrapped around them.

For a while, I wondered if he was a unicorn ghoul in disguise. Peach Fuzz walked over to Apricot and relieved her of guard duty so she could eat. Peach was an honorable cook, and only ate when others had eaten.

Donut quickly ate his food and relieved Tea Leaf so she could eat. While Apricot was getting some food, I set up some rubble to resemble a table. I even placed a bent tin can onto the newly-fashion table. Bent tin cans were the dandelions of the wasteland. They are everywhere, for every one you clean up, three more take its place. Apricot sat down at the makeshift table and looked at the bent can.

I looked at her asking, “Too formal?”

She laughed a bit and took off her helmet. She was a very lovely, light green mare with a medium cut purple mane. In our chapter we have a lot of Paladin and scribe earth ponies, but of all of them she had to be the best of them. ”No, the rust gives the broken concrete a lovely shade of red,” she said with a smile. “What do you think these War-Time Stress Disorder orbs have on them?”

I had no real clue. “I’m guessing probably just statements by soldiers during the war. Something similar to M.O.M interrogation orbs. Just less interrogation, and more sit in this couch and tell me your problems about the war.” I watched her take a bite of her brothers cooking. She seemed to enjoy the two-hundred year old salty food. My guess is Peach was the cook of the family before everything happened that brought them to the Steel Rangers. We continued to eat and talk about how we were going to try to get us assigned to search teams on a permanent basis so we could be out and see the wasteland together.

Suddenly Peach called out. “We got a bunch of ponies approaching us!”

Everyone stood up from there meals and quickly went to work. Apricot put on her helmet, and approached one of the barricades. I climbed up onto the crawler and readied the heavy machine gun. Tea Leaf looked through the other side wall after checking the back wall for any surprises. It was clear there was only this group that were approaching.

Everypony readied themselves. We weren't in the Locals’ territory per se, but we were close enough that they might try to strike at a search team. A few tense seconds passed before the striped flag that waved on the cart that the now visible zebras were pulling could be seen.

Donut called out, “Its Zed.”

We stood down and allowed the Caravan to approach. Zed and his brother unhitched themselves from the caravan and approached Tea Leaf. “Hello again Tea Leaf. I hope the new firing pins I traded you are still working effectively.” he said.

“They’re doing fine.” Tea Leaf replied as she turned her attention back to the area around them.

I approached Zed’s brother, Zid. Though twins, Zid had stripes opposite from his brother, which was the only way I could tell them apart. I’d asked once about why they were like that, and he had only explained it as a birth defect. I whispered to him, “Do you have any Mint-als?”

Zid first looked over to Apricot and back to me. “You do remember that Apricot doesn’t like them.”

“Yes, yes I know, but I’m going to be working on a large project and might need the extra edge.” I replied. I gave him a pleading look.

Zid dug in his pack and careful pulled out a pack of Mint-als. “Ok, that will be fifty caps.”

“What? fifty caps? Last time it was twenty-five caps. Don’t you start doing that drug dealer crap with me.” I said and gave him a stern look.

Zid didn’t flinch. “The extra twenty-five caps is for hazard pay. You're not the only one Apricot will come after me if she finds out you have these. She might spare you more since she loves you but she’ll use my tail as a duster if she finds out I sold them to you. So fifty caps.”

I conceded and handed over the caps. I placed the Mint-als into my field bag that was sitting nearby when Apricot wasn’t looking. She was busy talking to Tea Leaf and Zed. I then removed a scope from my bag and walked over to Xjuan and Zdora were standing guard by the wagon looking out into the waste land. “Hello Zdora I hope you’ve been keeping everyone safe,” I said as I approach them. Zdora smiled and nodded. He was the lead guard and Xjuan was his apprentice. “Xjuan I hope Zdora has been keeping you out of trouble. I was able to replace and add the new lenses to your scope for your hunting rifle.” I said as I handed him the scope.

“Thank you.” Xjuan said.He stepped away and started to mount it onto his hunting rifle. I noticed the scorched hair on his back. When Zdora approach me and handed me some caps.

“Consider this a thank you from me. Xjuan is good at long range combat however his close range and situational awareness still needs some work,” he said. He then noticed that I was looking at the scorch marks on Xjuan back. “Don’t worry, it’s only a small burn. Xato was able to heal most of the burns. A Mr. Handy caught him by surprise and set him ablaze. I think he learned on that day to careful check around corners instead of blindly walking around them.”

I looked over to where Xato was. She was talking with Melon Seed and he was picking up a small package. I thanked Zdora again and waved goodbye to Xjuan and walked over to where the two were talking. “Good evening Xato, any new brews you been working on?” Xato was the caravan shaman and wife of Zed.

“Not lately my friend. Too busy with the usual orders of medicine that are needed.” She said as she place her bag of potions back into a trunk.

I noticed Tea Leaf walking towards us. When Melon Seed saw her he quickly moved off to go talk to Zid.

“Hello Xato. Have you seen any Locals in the area?” Tea Leaf asked.

“No. We traded with them the other day. About a half days trot south from here. They purchased my special brew and left us be.” Xato said.

Some of us believe that Zed the only one that can keep the Locals down from straight up attacking one of us in a drug-withdrawal fueled rage. Zed was good to try to not sell weapons to them, only the drugs that keep them mostly mellow.

There wasn’t much for us to trade. Zed was a fair trader and sometimes gave us deals, but he was still a trader and had to make a living. We were only able to get some spare old MREs and some rounds for Peach’s machine gun. We offered them a place to camp for the night in the outpost for protection, but they wanted to keep going.

Donut Hole marked on their map a building that we cleared of traps and pests about two hours up the road that they could camp out in. Wasn't perfect cover, but it was still better than what they normally had, which was camp outside in the middle of the road.

After Zed disappeared over the hill north of us, we settled in and got ready to sleep. Tea Leaf and Apricot were going to take first watch. Then Donut Hole and I had second watch, and Peach Fuzz and Melon Seed had third watch. So I get to stay up an extra three hours and watch the wasteland. Yay.

The crawler was a cramped spot to sleep. Only Melon Seed had a nice seat to sleep on, but since he was the driver, and leader of the crawler, he got that perk. Peach and Donut Hole laid near the door ready to respond to anything. A downside to the Paladins in a possible combat zone is they get to live in their armor. Even though Steel Ranger armor does have quick release and they can hop in and power up in about fifteen seconds, it’s considered wise by the Elder and Star Paladin to stay in them and be ready. I was sprawled out near the supplies. Sleep was an ok adventure, but at times it can be difficult.

Later on, Apricot woke me up in time for the changing of the guard. She took off her helmet and gave me a kiss on the cheek. “Have fun at work.” She whispered. She then laid down where I’d been sleeping and curled up.

During my shift, Donut Hole stayed at the front opening of the makeshift concrete slab walls, while I walked around the inside perimeter, looking thru the openings that we’d made with the windows. I alternated my patrol method to make sure no pony was sneaking around while I was on a predictable path. The three hours passed without incident.

I stepped back into the crawler and woke up Peach.

“Time for your shift.” Peach asked if I saw anything interesting.

“I think I saw a star through a small opening in the clouds,” I said.

“You get to have all the fun in life.” Peach said back to me.

I walked over to where Apricot was sleeping, and gave her a kiss on the forehead before laying down next to her. Sadly, her armor was cold, and not comfortable to lay next to, but it was still the closest to her I could get for the night. I drifted off to sleep wondering what I would be seeing the next day in the memory orbs.


View Online

Fallout Equestria: Lines

Chapter 2: Boot-up

I was standing in the great hall of our Chapter. Me, Apricot, Peach Fuzz, and Melon Seed. “The Children of Boulder Junction,” as they called us. We had all joined the Steel Rangers at the same time. Boulder Junction was only a few hours trot from the Chapter. We were some of the last residents left. After a major attack from the Locals. The town had to disband and what was left of our friends and family were somehow able to convince the Elder to allow us to train and become Rangers. He agreed and told us that if we failed one task, they will cast us out. We trained hard fearing that if we failed we would all be thrown back into the wasteland. We had put our all into it and here we were standing in the hall taking our oath. To protect our brothers and sisters, to protect our Chapter, to protect and find our past and to bring it back to the present. The hall faded away as I awoke to the dim light of the morning. I looked to Apricot, who was still asleep and resting her chin on my foreleg. I glanced at the time on my pipbuck and knew that I should get up and start to plan out how the camp will be set up. I nuzzled Apricot. “wakey wakey I want eggs and bacey,"

Apricot slowly open one of her eyes and look at me . “You hate my cooking remember,” she said with a growing smile. “You were stuck in the bathroom for hours afterwards,"

I returned the smile and said. “That’s because you used two day old scavenged radhog and eggs from an animal we didn't even know could lay eggs. Now come on get up, I need my foreleg back so I can start work,"

She grabbed onto my foreleg, placed her chin back on it and closed her eyes saying,"No, its my pillow leg and I’m still sleepy,"

Even though I was enjoying the playing she was “doing..." Celestia knows we haven’t had a chance to have too much fun on this trip while living in the crawler. My ears perked as I realized how I could win this battle. “Sooner I can get in the office building and figure out what the outpost will be the sooner we can get out of sleeping in the crawler,"

She lifted her chin and looked at me. “You win this round,” she said. She then let go of my foreleg.

I gave her a kiss on the forehead again and stepped out of the crawler. The morning air was cooler than normal, the sign that winter would be arriving soon. I walked into the M.O.P office and looked around for places to set up defence points and places to cache our supplies. I noticed on the floor an old basic map of the building showing the floors and office space. I levitated the map over to me and looked at it. The office was a three story building. The first floor had a small lobby that from the looks of it, was the main entry point for employees, it also had a few small cubicle spaces for workers. The second floor had the main office areas, along with a lunch room. It also had the memory archive that I would be spending my time looking through. On the third floor was the main administrative office and a large room for meetings. As I looked over the map I heard hoofsteps behind me. I turned to find Apricot had walked in, now wearing her helmet.

“So what is the plan?” she said.

I looked back at the map and said. “I’m thinking we can use the first floor for a defensive position incase the outer area is over run. Then we can use the second floor for bunking and cooking. Then the third floor can be a observation post since it’s the only high standing structure around for a good five hundred meters,"

Apricot looked at the map. “We could park the crawler up front and build the walls that we are already using around it. I think we should angle them so the entrance for the wall is pointed at the bank so me and Melon can make it back to the outpost incase something happens,"

I nodded my head in agreement. “Alright lets do that. I know that Tea and Donut are going to hate me for this, but can you tell them to rearrange the walls to be placed in a crescent shape around the front of the building. Also to park the crawler facing out so if we need to evacuate we can. Then if you can start to set up quarters for us all there should be enought office rooms that we all can have our own rooms. I think it be nice for everypony to be able to sleep in privacy for once. I’ll ask Peach to set up the kitchen area while I get started on the archive and when you're done with the bunks you and Melon can start on that bank vault,"

Apricot nodded and stepped outside and headed towards Donut and Tea leaf who were setting up the stove for Peach Fuzz. From the look of it today’s breakfast would be oatmeal. Even though they made me sick I could really use eggs and bacon just... something other than oatmeal. I approached Peach Fuzz. “Good morning. Did you see any stars?”

Peach looked up from the pot he was filling with some water. “Like I said you get all the luck. All I saw was clouds, dirt, and a tumbleweed,” he said.

“Well at least you got some plant action,” I said with a smile. “We’re moving everything into the office today. Can you set up the kitchen on the second floor lunchroom, then after that take watch on the third floor. The lack of standing high structures in the area will give you a good vantage point,"

Peach Fuzz nodded as he started the fire. “ Do you know how long we are going to be in the office area?” he said.

“I’m not too sure. They want me to do a full report of the archive so I guess I’ll watch that memory block the computer mention yesterday. We got about a ten day supply of food and water so we should be okay and if anything we can shortwave Zed and get him to head back over with some food and water. “ I said as I picked up a bag of oatmeal and passed it over to Peach.

Peach opened the bag of oatmeal and dumped it into the pot. “Are you enjoying being able to order everypony around?” he said as he stirred the pot.

“Hey you know the procedure. We found some tech command, that goes to the Scribe while they secure it. If combat starts up the Paladin takes command. Normally there one Paladin on these missions but since this is a long run they want the most experienced search team and thats us. So I get to pick the Paladin that will command in combat and that will be you. I think you can keep us all safe if the tumbleweeds start a revolt against us," I said with a smile.

Peach look at me and said. “I will keep you safe from the evil flora, and from anything else that will threaten this outpost,"

I nodded to Peach. “Well I’m going to go relieve Donut Hole and let him get some food before he and Tea Leaf move the walls," I walked over to where Donut Hole was standing. “Good morning Donut, did Apricot pass on your orders?”

“Yes, and a reminder to you that you are an outsider and even though I’m bound to these orders; that doesn’t mean that I like how and you and your fellow outsiders are able to command me or Tea Leaf. I know the rules that allow you to stay in this chapter; but I am watching you,” he said.

I look at him with determination. “I will not fail my mission or my brothers or sisters in this chapter. I know where I come from and I know what keeps us here. I took an oath and I will stay true to it," Donut nodded at me. “Good now take a break before your shift. I’ll cover your watch while you eat," I said as I turned and looked out into the wasteland.

I covered for Donut and Melon covered for Tea Leaf while they got something to eat. After a while it was our turn to get some grub. After everyone ate we began to move equipment into the office building. I headed upstairs to start work on the memory archive. It had been a long time since I stepped into a memory orb, let alone an unknown orb. The nervousness started to build up. In training we viewed practice orbs that were safe, with known contents. Most of them were just old training films. That was all we really had. I still remember the titles of them. How to clean and set-up a machine gun battle saddles. Proper Steel Ranger power armor maintenance. How to avoid The Clop and other sexually transmitted dis- Whamp.

I fell over and grabbed my head. Apparently I didn’t notice the chunk of metal I had hit. A suspended pipe from the old sprinkler system was the foe. When I hit the pipe with my head it clanged into the duct work echoing my error around the floor. Apricot stepped out from the 2nd floor stairwell to see me sitting there rubbing my head.

“Let me guess; you were deep in thought again?” she said with what sounded like a snicker.

Fun fact about being this close to somepony. They tend to learn every little thing about you. All your secrets and all your flaws. Apricot knew most of my secrets, and to my knowledge, she knew all my flaws, including not looking where I'm going when I'm thinking. I continued to rub my head and looked up at her. “Ya, was thinking about memory orb training,” I said. Another fun fact about spending a lot of time with a very special somepony. They tend to know when something is bothering you.

Apricot walked over and sat next to me. “What's bothering you?” she asked.

“The last time I orb dove into a unknown memory was back when I was a colt and was digging around my dad’s closet," I said.

“What was on it?” she asked.

“Well..." Great she getting another one of my secrets I thought to myself before continuing. “it was of my parents. You remember how my dad had that old recollector and was recording all of us?”

“Yep, I still remember when they showed you as a little colt in the bathtub. You were so cute," She said with a snicker I could hear even under her helmet.

My eyelid twitched a little bit.Okay, another secret she would know. I took a deep breath. “On it was a memory of my parents together. The night they conceived me," I said with a growing red on my face.

Apricot stood there in silence for a second or two. Then took a breath and started to laugh. She almost fell over on top of me laughing so hard. Then she suddenly stopped. “Wait, did your mom look like she was really enjoying it?”

“W..What?” I stammered.

“Well I read in a old magazine that if the mare really enjoyed the experience of her stallion and they conceive a foal. The foal would be a great love maker," She said tapping her forehooves together innocently.

“I...I..I didn't... I don’t remember what my mom looked like... during. I was trying to find ways to crawl out of my own brain to escape that orb,” I said with shock in my voice. “Wait a minute, are you saying I’m not doing my duty when we’re together?” I said with a more insulted tone.

The metallic giggle coming from her helmet told me she was just messing with me. “You have never underperformed in your duties. But I think I got your mind off your worries,” she said.

I just gave her the stink eye.

From behind us at the stairwell to the first floor stood Peach Fuzz. “You two going to sit in the middle of the floor all day or would you consider getting back to work?” He asked.

Apricot stood up and said. “Ya, ya I’ll head back upstairs," She leaned in to whisper in my ear. “I tell ya what. When I’m done I will check in on you and make sure you’re feeling ready to go. And if you're already in a orb. I will make sure to wipe the drool off your chin," She said with probably the biggest smile she could make under that helmet.

“I don't drool," I said and stood up. I then proceeded back down the hallway to the memory orb archive as Apricot headed back up to the third floor and Peach Fuzz headed to the lunchroom.

Stepping into the office area that led to the memory archive. Ahead of me was the metal doors that still showed the damage that Peach made. I stepped through the door into the memory archive. I shouldn't be nervous or scared, these were just memories of ponies. Just bones in the wasteland. I took a deep breath and sat in the chair. Using my magic I lifted the Dr. Winter ID that was sitting on the console and inserted into the terminal port.

The speaker crackled to life once again, “Good morning Dr. Winter, I hope you slept well," The A.I. said.

“Fantastically,” I said. “Bring up memory block C and prepare to activate interface,"

A robotic arm similar to the old grab machines we’d seen back in some of the blown out shops appeared out of a housing inside the glass covered shelf to my left marked ‘Block C.’ The arm moved over to one of the memory orbs sitting in its protective sleeve. It lifted the orb out of the sleeve and moved back towards the housing it came from. A few seconds later the screen displayed a prompt asking if I was ready to view the orb. I selected yes. A red button lit up next to the terminal. The button said EXTERNAL ABORT. Then the black screen on the other side of the terminal showed a horseshoe like symbol and said PLACE HOOF HERE. I compiled and placed my hoof on the screen. The terminal screen then displayed ‘Stand By.’

The terminal screen began to fade away. For a split second I thought the chair I was in was being pulled away but then I remembered my training and how the sense of the world disappears when you enter an orb. When the world faded to black I was confused. Usually the memory would start up but there was nothing. I started to wonder if the orb or the machine was broken. I suddenly had a feeling of panic, thinking I might be trapped in this black void forever. The fear passed when a shape started to appear at the bottom right of my view. Then more shapes appeared. It resembled the Eyes Forward Sparkle my Pipbuck used. The shapes became clearer and I started to notice that they look like file tabs that were forming at the bottom right of my view. On the tabs, letter were starting to show up. One said orbs the next one said field notes, and the last one said audio logs. On the bottom left I saw writing saying ‘Block C, Orb 1’ and a bar appeared below it.

“Loading Block C, Orb 1, Section 1, Subject Orange Harvest,” A.I. said. “Do you wish to use the Memory Orb Accelerator?”

A prompt appeared in the middle of my field of view. saying ‘Memory Orb Excelerator Yes/No?’ I did not know what it was or how to select an answer. “What is Memory Orb Excelerator?” I said.

“The Memory Orb Accelerator allows the observer of a memory orb to experience the events in the orb at a much faster rate. Instead of a second to second ratio of time a user can set it up to second to hour ratio. Allowing for less time needed to view a memory," The A.I. said.

The prompt on my Eyes Forward Display as I figured I would call it, was still asking me yes or no. “Yes," I said.

“Warning when using Memory Orb Accelerator the danger of mental confusion or damage is increased if external abort is used. Do you wish to continue?”

Another prompt appeared asking yes or no. “Yes," I said.

“Order confirmed activating Memory Orb Accelerator system. Please specify ratio or length of time you wish to view orb," The A.I. said.

“um..." I looked at the clock at the top right of my E.F.S. “Can you set the first section of the orb to play its length in the span of three hours?” I said.

“Yes. This system is able to sync section or orb length with a real world timeframe. Do you wish to set section one to three hours?” The A.I. asked.

“Yes, three hours will put the end of the first section around the time of the first break," I said.

“Confirmed. Loading Block C, orb 1, section 1, four months since declaration of war, with subject Orange Harvest... Stand-by,"

System Load..............

Memory Orb Accelerator set for three hours.

Loading Orb................................................ Complete.

<=======ooO Ooo=======>

I was... well my host. If the system was correct, I was a pony named Orange Harvest. From the feel of it I wasn’t a stallion. Apparently Orange Harvest was a mare. The strange feeling passed quickly as my training started to kick-in. I had to remember that in a orb, you may not be in the same gender or species. My host Orange Harvest was looking up at the sky. A color I have only seen peeks of through the gray. She then looked down to many green blurrys passing by. I think they where trees. Orange Harvest seemed to be trying to grasp what was going to happen to her. She kept looking around. The different objects seemed to blur just a bit.

“A.I. what is causing this blurring effect? I have never seen this before in any other orb," I said.

“The blurring is caused by memory distortion due to the memory being recorded to a memory orb much later then when the memory was experienced. Most early memory orbs in this project will have some distortion due the less complex memory spells that were in use. In addition with the Accelerator active it will cause some distortion from time to time. The O.I.S. uses the database to help build more of the background elements of the memory to help reduce blurring and distortions," A.I. said.

I never though about the concept of a memory being too old that only pieces of it could be recovered by a memory spell. I tried thinking to some of my earliest memories, I could remember faces, but that was about it. I remembered my parents and my friends when we were kids, though.

“What's your name?” a voice asked.

The question snapped me out of my thought. I tried to say Mint Chip but all that was said was “Orange Harvest," I then remembered that I was in a memory orb and I was not paying attention to what was happening. Mustard Seed would be very upset with me right now.

“Let me guess you work on a orange farm don’t you,” the voice said. The voice was coming from an earth pony stallion sitting in the seat across from her. He had a green coat with a white mane. What was different was his face was less distorted than some of the others. My guess is he had more interactions with Orange Harvest than the smeary, blurred faces.

“Nope, I’m a banker in Canterlot” Orange Harvest said.

The stallion cocked its head and looked at me, well, her. Damn orbs always mess with your head.

“Why is a banker from Canterlot signed up to join the military?” he asked.

“I’m not in the habit of telling my life story to a strange pony. What’s is your name?” my host said.

The Stallion placed his hoof on his chest, I wasn’t not sure if he was insulted or had indigestion.

“I would think you would've of heard of me. My family won the Garden Fall competition three years running, now. However my name is Grassweed,” he said.

“I’ve heard of you," A voice from Orange Harvest right side said. “You and your family design those winning floral arrangements up in the mountain areas around Fillydelphia. I loved last year’s entry, with that ocean design on the mountain! The blue flowers you used with the lighter blue to create that glare when the sun came up was beautiful!”

My host looked over at the pony who was talking. It was a light yellow earth pony mare with a long orange mane. Her face was also much clearer than the others in the wagon we were in; but something was different. Her pupils were smaller than a normal ponies would be. It was like she was in shock or had been looking at the sun too long. Also her mouth always seemed slightly open, even when she wasn’t talking. I wondered if she was just surprised to see this garden artist in the same wagon as she was. She also had what looked like a birthmark on her neck.

“Hello, my name is Sandy Shore,” she said her pupils still not changing sizes. It was starting to creep me out. “I’m from the eastern suburbs of Fillydelphia and I always look forward to what your family makes each year. Why did you up and leave and come out here?”

“As the filly sitting next to you said. I’m also not in the habit of telling my life story to every strange pony," Grassweed said.

“You two are just no fun. I mean come on we all have our reason for signing up. I wanted to help out other ponies. Equestria hasn't had a war and I don’t think the zebras really want to fight one. So we do a few little helpful missions and the zebras will see that we are not bad ponies and peace will be declared,"Sandy Shore said.

A loud noise was heard and the wagon jolted when it hit what I was guessing a ditch in the road. I heard something fall to the left of Orange Harvest. She turned to look at a brown coated tan, maned stallion pick up the book that he dropped in his levitation field. His face was not as clear as the other two but much clearer than the other ponies I could see in the wagon.

Sandy Shore spoke up from behind my host. “Oh, what are you reading?”

“Daring Do," He said, then placed the book in his bag that was sitting on the floor of the wagon. He then looked at my host. “Hello my name is Coco Leaf , and I joined because I feel the same as Sandy Shore. Also I like to adventure, just like Daring Do here. I mean think about it, in the zebra lands their animals are feral. I might even write my own story for Daring Do from what I experience in the army," Coco Leaf said. “Why are you looking at me like that... It was Orange Harvest correct? At least I said more about my life history then you did. What made you join?”

“Ya,”Sandy Shore said. “I mean we’re going to all be stuck together for... I think the recruiter said a month or two? So come on, why did you join?”

Orange Harvest turned and looked atSandy Shore. For a second I thought that I would find out why Orange joined the Equestrian Army, but she then looked up at the gate that the wagon was passing through. “Looks like we’re here, so we should get ready to get off,"

Sandy Shore looked disappointed. “Fine keep your secrets, just makes things more fun when we find out later," She then picked up her bag and slung it onto her back.

Orange Harvest used her levitation to sling her bag around her shoulder. When the wagon stopped she stood up and looked behind her. Standing on the ground was a stallion with a short cut blue mane, looking back at her with an absolutely furious expression. If I remembered anything about my instructor in basic Steel Ranger training, that’s the look of ‘I just found my new chew toy.’

I didn't think me or Orange Harvest would be liking this memory.

“Ok ponies get out of the wagon the free ride is over. Time to work!” the blue stallion ordered.

I thought to myself, he’s being a lot nicer than I was expecting. If this was my trainer he would already be yelling at me twice for standing there looking stupid and then not showing respect to him. I started to think none of these ponies had any idea what they were in for.

“I don’t remember asking to take your time, now get off that wagon now!” the stallion yelled.

Now that starting to sound more like it. My host and the others jumped off the wagon as fast as they could. Orange Harvest landed on the ground and almost stumbled. Unfortunately Grassweed had a lot more problems and promptly face planted into the ground when he landed.

“Do you have the legs of a newborn foal? Get up and stand in line. You heard me ponies get your flanks in line right now!” the blue stallion raised his voice again.

Yep, now he’s starting to sound like a trainer. Now all he has to do is punch the gut of one of the initiates or whatever they called these ponies in the army and he’ll be my trainer. The ponies began to stand in line with my host in the middle. and the angry blue stallion was staring at her and Grassweed, who was get up off the ground. The voice of Sandy Shore came up to the left of my host, however she did not turn to look at her talking. Orange Harvest was already in the crosshairs of this stallion and she seemed to know not to look away. However, it looked like Sandy Shore was about to learn that lesson.

“Hello, I’m San.," then she was interrupted in mid name.

“I don’t care what you call yourself. I call you what I call all my new recruits. Foals! Nothing but foals! I train ponies. When you graduate to ponies, then I’ll call you by your name. So right now be a good foal and be quiet or you and your friends will regret it," He looked over at my host and Grassweed.

“I’m not her friend,” My host said.

I wonder if my real body just facehoofed at the massive error that my host just did.

“Not friends you say, well I guess I was wrong. No wait, I’m in charge of babysitting you foals and guess what? In any combat zone your fellow ponies are your friends and without them you might as well shoot yourself right now because you're wasting my time," He yelled staring down at my host as she start to sink down more and more . “Well not friends, guess what you get a lot of time to become friends as you will be cleaning the stalls. Now report to Instructor Scotch. She will be happy to help you understand how working together will let you survive longer,"

Grassweed spoke up. “Ummm... Sir what about our bags?”

The blue stallion turn sharply looking at Grassweed. “Do I look like a damn bell hop. You're taking your stuff with you. NOW MOVE!!”

My host, Grassweed, and Sandy Shore grab their bags and started to run to the area marked as stalls. As we approached the stalls I over heard Grassweed running behind my host saying in deep breaths. “Why did I get screwed like this?” We arrived at the building marked stalls outside was a tan mare standing with a hat saying ‘Ins.Scotch’ next to her where brushes and buckets.

“Oh good my volunteers have arrived," Instructor Scotch said.

The voice of my host spoke up. “Ummm.... We didn't volunteer, Instructor Scotch,"

“Oh? Are you saying Instructor Bluemoon is wrong?” Scotch said.

Before my host could put her hoof in her mouth and say something stupid. Sandy Shore and Grassweeds hoofs appeared and covered my host’s mouth before she could say it.

“No ma’am, Bluemoon was very much right," Sandy Shore said.

I could see out of the corner of Orange Harvest eyes that Grassweed was nodding frantically.

“Well good to see he pick the right volunteers now you will be cleaning the stalls. We want them as clean as possible since so many of you will be using them throughout your time out here,"

Grassweed removed his hoof from my host’s mouth and looked at her sternly. We all walked over to the buckets and brushes. My host lifted the bucket with her levitation then Scotch step forward.

“No magic," Scotch said. I could tell that my host was about to say something when Scotch interrupted. “I’ll make this simple. There may be a time that you can't use your magic. So we train our recruits to work without it. If you use magic without permission from one of the instructors, stall cleaning will be a gift in comparison to the punishment you will get,"

My host nodded in agreement. Picking up the bucket with her mouth, she followed the others into the stall room.

When she stepped inside, she saw the face of Sandy Shore curl up as she dropped the bucket. “Oh dear Celestia what is that horrible smell," she asked.

My host put down the buck. “You never camped out anywhere, have you?”

“There are no real places to camp out in the city the size of Fillydelphia," Sandy Shore replied.

“You're telling me your family never took you out camping?” Grassweed asked incredulously.

“Nope. My family spent all our energy working in the bakery. Besides I tend to enjoy the beach more," she said.

“So you're a baker that wants to be a beach pony?” Grassweed said.

“Yep. The ocean is always calling me. I hope to be able to build a house near the water someday," Sandy Shore said as she started to scrub the walls.

My host and Grassweed began to scrub the doors and floor. I had a feeling they were trying to avoid the less than fun part of the stall seats.

As time ticked by, I was starting to get a bit worried that I have to experience these long dead ponies cleaning this long forgotten bathroom. The door suddenly opened, and a white unicorn mare with a light blue puffy mane walked in holding a bucket and brush in her mouth.

“Um... Hello. I’m Snowplain. I guess this is where they send the trouble makers," she said sheepishly.

“Nope. This is where the send Equestria’s finest!” Grassweed said with a snort and continued to scrub the floor.

Snowplain laughed a little bit and started to scrub the wall. A flash of light occurred and the room seemed to get distorted. The room reappeared, but my host was standing in a different spot.

“What just happen?” I asked.

I could hear the voice of the A.I. replying. “That was a memory flash. The whole element of that memory was not able to be recovered by the memory spell, nor effectively rebuilt by the databank,"

The memory flash seemed weird and disorienting, however the feeling quickly passed, and I returned to paying attention to the orb.

“Ok, so we can’t play rock, paper, scissors to see who has to clean the seats. What else should we try?”

Behind my host a voice said. “Well why don’t you all work on it together,"

My host and the others turn to look at Scotch standing there looking at them.

“You know this was a punishment for talking back to your superior officer, but also a lesson for you four to learn. That lesson was working together. When you're out in the field, your fellow soldiers will be the ones to save you. The more you work together, the more you learn to rely and believe in your fellow soldiers. So instead of trying to making somepony else do the work, just do it together and get the job done," She said.

My host and others looked at each other and nodded.

“Good. Get it done and get to the barracks. You need your rest. Because scrubbing some stalls is the least of the suffering you’ll all be going through," she said with a bit of a laugh as she stepped out of the stall room.

Everypony looked at one another, then began to work on the seats in the stalls. The bright flash happened again, and the scene changed to my host looking at a cot in a dark room. I guess this is the barracks.

“Well looks like we get the last four bunks. They are as far from the heater as they can be," My host said.

“Yep. But at least we get to be bunk mates together!” Sandy Shore said with a bit of a giggle.

“So I’m going to be stuck with you there for the time being I guess. Why do I have a feeling that Bluemoon set this up for us?” Grassweed asked.

We all seemed to fall into our bunks at the same time. The room was very quiet, except for the coal power heater at the far in of the barracks. It seem I might be experiencing the host’s dream, but the familiar flash of light of a memory flash occurred.

My host was standing in the rain, and she seemed to be jogging in place in a field made of just mud. Three other lines of ponies jogged in place ahead of her, including Snowplain, who was in front of her, and to Snow’s right side in the front group was Sandy Shore. The oh so soothing sounds of instructor Bluemoon yelling at the group of ponies to ‘keep jogging!’ and ‘don’t be the one they have to go back for!’ Such encouraging words.

I heard Grassweed’s voice from the right side of my host saying. “So what you think?” his breath was not as labored as it had been. My guess is this wasn't their first workout session. “I mean, really! She keeps complimenting me on how great the work we do on the floral arrangements is. She must have a thing for me. Maybe when we get back, I can see about designing a ocean view for next year's arrangement. Just think! Phillydelphia will look like it has a ocean to the east and west,"

My host, still trying to jog in place, looked over to the smiling stallion and just shook her head. “We been training for only three weeks. Don’t you think it’s a little soon to be asking her out? Let alone asking me for relationship advice?” my host asked.

Grassweed just smiled and nodded, trying to keep attuned with the other recruit’s jogging pace. Then we all dropped down when Bluemoon called out “Push-up thirty five NOW!” Even I instantly tried to drop and start doing pushups.

“Well first.. what makes... you think... she will.... date you?” My host asked in between push-ups.

“Well she... keeps...complimenting... me on my...... family display...." Grassweed replied.

“Sounds... more like... you have.... a fan filly...." My host said. She then stopped doing push-ups. “I think your falling in school colt love with her. You notice that she spends more time talking with Snowplain than you or me?”

Grassweed stop doing push-ups as well and said “Yes, but I figure she just shy,"

“No. Sandy anything but shy. Remember last week when she told us about the time she got gum caught in her hair and other spots? I don’t think I’m going to go back to chewing that stuff ever again," my host said.

“Well true by maybe she just thinks I’m shy and is waiting for me to feel comfortable enough to make a move," Grassweed said.

I could tell my host was about to say something when suddenly a blue hoof step right in front of them. “Hello there, foals. I see that the other fillies and colts are being good and doing push-ups. Care to explain to me why you two decided to stop and talk?” Bluemoon said.

If I could jump back into the past and buck Orange Harvest in the face for what she said, I would.

“It’s personal sir,"

Well, at least she was wise enough to say sir, this time. I guess she had learned something. I think I could hear Grassweed falling over into the mud from what she said.

“Personal you say? Well, I’m sorry. I did not mean to interrupt you two gossiping whose sticking what into whose hole. I got a great way to help you think of who's doing what. Let's first try some simple math to get your brain firing a little faster. Lets see..... can you two count to fifty?”

My host and Grassweed nodded fiercely in fear.

“Good! Because thats how many more push-ups you're going to do for me; and since thinking requires no talking I’m going to stand here and help you not talk by telling how to do push-ups better. Now.....GET....STARTED!” Bluemoon shouted.

My host and Grassweed started to quickly do push ups as Bluemoon started to count.

“One....Two.....Three......Four.........Five...........Six.........Seven. COME ON! I seen non royal guard pegasus do push-ups with their wingtips. Are you telling me your four hooves are weaker than two wing tips? FASTER! Twelve...thirteen...fourteen....fifteen....sixteen. There! Now you're getting it. See? You get better results when you don’t talk about whatever passes through your heads. Twenty One...twenty two...twenty three.....twenty four.......twenty five. Why are you slowing down? Do you want more push-ups? Or would you like to go to mess? These other ponies want to go to mess, but right now they have to stand here and wait for you. Thirty One..thirty two...thirty three..thirty four," Bluemoon continue to shout.

Even I was starting to feel the stress that he was putting on Orange Harvest and Grassweed. Orange Harvest’s eyes started to get a little bit blurry. I was thinking it was going to be another memory flash, but this was her starting to pass out from the workout. Sweat was splashing into the mud puddles around Orange Harvest’s hooves as she continued to complete her task.

“Forty Seven..........Forty Eight........Forty Nine.......Fifty!” Bluemoon shouted.

As soon as the number fifty was reached, I felt my host hooves collapse. Before she fell into the mud, she was caught in a magical blue field. She looked over to where Grassweed was. He was also in the same magical field. My host looked up to see that Bluemoon had caught them.

“Good job, no point getting any dirtier over this mistake," He looked over to Cocoa Leaf and Snowplain. “Help these two to the mess so they can get something to eat," Bluemoon said in a more calm and helpful voice.

Snowplain’s horn glowed as she wrapped a magical field around my host as Cocoa Leaf did the same for Grassweed. Bluemoon stepped aside and droppped his magic. My field of view started to fade. The moment when she was about to pass out from doing push-ups finally caught up to her as my view went to black.

When my field of view returned, I saw that they must of moved Orange Harvest and Grassweed into the mess hall. I could only see the tired stallion’s head as he rested his chin on the table. Orange Harvest’s friends were sitting around them. I could see Cocoa Leaf sitting next to Grassweed, and he seem to be talking to Sandy Shore, whose voice I could hear to my right. Also I could hear Snowplain talking to another pony to my host’s left. I look at what they had for food. From the look of it, it was steamed alfalfa. It look amazing. I haven’t seen fresh non-preserved alfalfa in years. I found myself fixated on the steaming green pile of glory. Though Peach Fuzz was a great cook, you can only take two hundred year old ingredients so far. My fixation was broken when Grassweed spoke up.

“I thought they said we will have exotic foods to eat," Grassweed said with tiredness in his voice.

“Maybe it’s later on when we are,” Sandy Shore raised her hooves and made air quotes with them and said. “‘Ponies,’ they will move us up to more exotic foods," she smiled.

My host looked at her food and picked up a fork with her levitation and poked at the steaming mess of green deliciousness.

Behind Grassweed, Bluemoon stepped into the view. “Well, I can see you’re both broken for the day, so you are ordered to the barracks for the rest of the day to rest,"

A voice from a nearby stallion asked. “Wait, why do they get the rest of the day off?”

Bluemoon facehoof and turn to the stallion,"What is with you foals and questioning my instructions today? The reason is simple. My job is to push you beyond your abilities so you get better. However, if a foal is pushed too far beyond, they are broken and are unable to work. I’d rather have two foals needing a nap for the rest of the day then them being down for a week. But if you like to get an early nap, I’d be happy to help you get to that stage,"

The stallion did not say anything else. Bluemoon turned back to the table that my host and her friends were sitting at. “Finish eating and get some rest. Next week, you start harder training with hoof to hoof combat," Bluemoon said, then stepped away from the table.

Cocoa Leaf leaned in. “You two are lucky you don’t have to do anymore work outs today,"

My host look over to him. “I be happy to trade the feeling of my limbs for your workout," she replied. Then my host turn back and watched Grassweed try to move to pick up his fork.

“I just can’t wait to start hoof to hoof combat training. I heard they are bringing in some zebras from a nearby town to teach us some of their arts," Cocoa Leaf said with excitement.

Grassweed gave up on trying to pick up his fork and said. “I thought we were at war with them. So why are they helping to fight against their own?”

“Well, not all the zebra’s are after us. Really just the ones that are more zealously loyal to their leader. And, well, I also heard that some of them are jealous of how our lands are. I mean we don’t have to deal with feral animals like they do well unless you go to the Everfree forest," Coco Leaf said.

“Have you seen zebras fight, Co?” Snowplain ask.

“Nope I heard they got two primary styles though. One is the secretive and highly disciplined Fallen Caesar style, and the other is Tribal style. Though I would love to learn the Fallen style, I think they’re going to teach us Tribal style. From what I read, its more countering moves than attack," Coco Leaf said.

My host looked back over to Grassweed, who was trying again to reach his fork. Above my field of view, a light yellow light shined, and Grassweed’s fork had the same color to it as a levitation field formed around it.

“Okay, I’ll help ya out," My host said as Grassweed’s fork picked up some steaming alfalfa and placed it in his mouth.

“Awww! How cute! She’s feeding him” Snowplain said.

My host turned and looked at Snowplain, as she had the biggest grin on her face. Orange Harvest turned back to Grassweed and pushed his plate closer to him. Enough that he could reach it with his mouth.

After watching for what seemed like a hour of my host and her friends eating and idling chatting. Nothing useful for a scribe one hundred and seventy years in the future. My host started to stand up and almost fell over. Snowplain helped her up, and Coco Leaf helped Grassweed up. As my host and Grassweed walked towards the mess hall door, they seemed to try to support each other. If she looked in a mirror, they probably would look like two ponies trying to win a six legged race. As they approach the door out of the mess hall, my field of view started to blur: the sign of a probable memory flash occurring. I was right; the scene flashed away...

When my field of view returned, I was watching Grassweed being slammed against the ground. Bluemoon walked over to the now on his back buck.

“I think you're done, foal. I suggest you step aside. I know you have a lot of earth pony pride, but sometimes it’s better to know when your done. It keeps you alive longer," Bluemoon said. Then he turned and looked over at the other ponies in line.

“Okay, who wants to go next? Remember, if you can beat me, you get out of exercise for the day. Any takers?” Bluemoon asked as he look from left to right. “No? Well too bad. I was hoping for more of a work out. Okay foal, back in line”

“Sir! Yes, sir," Grassweed said as he stood and trotted back into line.

My host started to giggle a bit. “Tried to get out of excursies again. You should know by now that Instructor Bluemoon is not going to let you," she said.

Grassweed rolled his eyes and formed up in line next to my host.

“Ok foals. Today you will be learning some of the moves that zebras use to survive in their native lands. I know some of you are wondering why these zebras are helping, since we are at war with their native nation. It’s the same reason why the villages we will send you to when you're done with your training. These zebras are good natured and not loyal to their Caesar. Your job will be to patrol Equestrian borders to keep everything stable, and keep an eye out for some of the more fanatical zebras from trying to breach the borders and cause havoc behind our lines. However, one of the problems you ponies being on the border will face is the fact that a lot of the feral animals live in the wooded areas. Today, these kind zebras will be teaching you hoof to hoof combat skills to survive," Bluemoon said.

Behind Bluemoon, five zebras stepped forward. Four of them stopped while one stepped forward more, and began to speak.

“Hello. I’m Zexton. Today me and my friends will be teaching some of the combat moves we teach other ponies that want to adventure into our lands. However, we will also be teaching how my kin may turn your own combat style against you. Though we lived in peace with ponies, we have also learned your kind of style of hoof to hoof combat. Bluemoon, could you be kind and find a volunteer to show the primary form of pony hoof to hoof combat?” Zexton said.

Bluemoon step forward. “All right foals, its show and tell time. Which one wants to step forward and show us how to kick?”

I heard Cocoa Leaf speak up. “I will sir. I been studying different ar-”

Bluemoon interrupted him. “I don’t need your life story. Just get over here and kick this hay bail,"

Instructor Scotch wheeled over a bale of hay suspended on a rope connected to a pole. Cocoa Leaf walk over and looked at Bluemoon.

“What are you waiting for? Just attack it like it was a tree of apples or a bully whose teeth you wanted to buck in," Bluemoon ordered.

Cocoa Leaf stepped back from the hay bale then lower his head and charged at it at a full gallop. Just before he collided with the hay bale, he turned on one of his fore hooves causing his body to turn. He sharply kicked with both hind legs at the hay bale, causing it to get knocked back. He returned to a normal standing pose and turn back to Bluemoon.

“Good job you know how to kick something,” Bluemoon said. “Now do it again,"

“Sir yes sir," Coco Leaf said and step back and ready himself. He lower his head and charge at the hay bale again. He turn to deliver a kick when a magic field wrapped around him, stopping him in mid kick. The magic field was from Bluemoon. Cocoa Leaf look surprised, and stared at his Instructor.

Zexton stepped forward. “Yes, I agree. Great form on your kick. There is a lot of strength put into it. If you were attack another pony, they probably be unconscious or wishing they were. However against a zebra or a feral animal, you might find yourself at a disadvantage,"

Zexton stepped around in front of Cocoa Leaf, who was still being suspended by Bluemoon’s magic. Zexton pointed to Coco Leaf forelegs. “See? This is where you will find your disadvantage. You have all your strength being put into your hind legs your fore legs are just supporting,"

“I...I knew that,” Cocoa Leaf said. “I have read up on zebra combat arts and traditions,"

“Oh? Well, then surely you be able to beat me in a duel," Zexton said.

“Well ummm..... I read about your combat arts years ago," Cocoa Leaf said while biting his lip nervously.

“Hey, you’ve been bragging about how much you know about zebra fighting all last week, Co!” Snowplain yelled out.

Bluemoon turn and look at Snowplain. “You foal! Twenty-five push-ups, now!” he barked.

“Awww! Come on!” Snowplain said.

“Thirty-five! Now start!” Bluemoon shouted.

Snowplain did not say anything else, but started to perform her push-ups.

Zexton turned back to Bluemoon. “Instructor Bluemoon, could you release our volunteer please?”

Bluemoon released Cocoa Leaf who then place his hind legs onto the ground and turn to face Zexton.

“Now Co is your name?” Zexton asked, stepping in front of Cocoa Leaf .

“No sir. It’s the nickname my friends gave me. My name is Cocoa Leaf ” Cocoa Leaf replied. “But its true. I been studying your culture and martial arts styles. I always wanted to take part in one of the traditional combat competitions. But well the war started and...yeah..." He trailed off.

“Well maybe after the war you can visit the arena and take part in it. But for now, let us teach you how to survive this conflict. Now. Please charge and attack me like you did that hay bale," Zexton said as he stepped back and made sure the rest of us could see. He then took what looked like a loose pose. I was expecting him to take a steady defensive pose to block the kick. Zexton looked at Cocoa Leaf and asked: “Ready?”

Cocoa Leaf charged at Zexton in the same attack method he’d used before. He turned to do his kick, raising his hind hooves into the air. That’s when Zexton countered.

Zexton ducked down and dove under Cocoa Leaf, using his forehooves to connect with the back of Cocoa Leaf’s joints, causing them to buckle, dropping Cocoa Leaf onto Zexton’s back. Before Coco Leaf even had a chance to try to recover, Zexton threw him off his back and onto the ground, back first. Cocoa Leaf was now defenseless as Zexton turned and moved in to strike. The zebra stopped just before hitting Cocoa Leaf . There was just silence. No sound from any of the recruits. The zebra’s speed and planned counterattack worked perfectly.

Cocoa leaf lay on his back, shaking his head. “What the hay just happened?”

Bluemoon stepped over to him and looked down. “You're dead,” he said. “If this was a real animal or zebra attacker, you be slashed or stabbed to death," He then turned to the rest of the recruits. “This will happen to each of you if you don’t pay attention and learn what these moves can do,"

Zexton offered his hoof to Cocoa Leaf . “Thank you for being a effective volunteer Mr. Co,"

Cocoa Leaf reach up and took Zexton hoof and started to stand up.

Zexton pulled helping Coco Leaf up. “Now let me show you a standard kick from one of my kin," Zexton walked over to the hay bale and looked at it. He then spun almost completely around but stopped just short. His front hooves lowered down and one of his hind hooves kicked sharply up at the hay bale. It got knocked back, but not as far as when Cocoa Leaf kicked it. “My kick was not as powerful as Co’s here. However, I did not leave myself open as much for an attack," Zexton then took the same pose and kick the hay bale again. This time he maintain the pose of the kick he made. “Now, if this hay bale was able to block my kick, I would be at a disadvantage if I did not have a free hind leg to work with," he said. Then he brought up his other hind leg in a spinning kick right to the side of the hay bale.

My host and all the other recruits just stood there in surprise at how fast the zebra was with his attacks.

Bluemoon stepped forward again. “Now, for the next two weeks you be training each day on how to use and counter these moves and others. After that, you will begin weapon training,” He said. “Now pair up and get ready to start,"

My host and Grassweed looked at each other. “Care to spar?” Grassweed said.

“I’ll try not to knock to many of your teeth out," My host said, laughing.

Grassweed leaned in closely to my host. “Let’s do this in a spot that Sand can watch me, okay?”

She whispered back. “Grass, are you still trying to impress her? I told you last week, and I even told you this morning that she has no interest in you! Can’t you see that?”

Grassweed frowned. “I’m not giving up on a beautiful mare like that, Orange," He turned and look at her, starting to blush.

My field of view spun as I realised that my host just rolled her eyes. “Come on. Let’s see how well you can impress the ladies. I’ll try to let you keep your pretty smile,"

Grassweed and my host were staring at each other, standing about three pony lengths from one another. I heard Bluemoon voice from the right side. “Alright foals, begin!”

My host charged at Grassweed. Before she reached him, the familiar blurry and bright light of a memory flash began. Just before she delivered a kick, my field of view went white.

When my field of view returned, I found my view of a pony looking down the sight of a rifle. It look like a very early semi-auto rifle. My host was pointing the rifle at a Manticore shaped target down range. I heard the voice of Instructor Bluemoon behind me.

“What you are holding is the SAE1 rifle. This is the latest in earth pony rifle making. The earth pony that designed it made a new feature to it with the autoloader. When you fire, the spent round is ejected and a new round from the magazine is place in. This will allow for faster fire, but remember, it’s accuracy that is going to win you the day. A lot of these animals will have tough hides. It’s better to make one precise shot, than to try to fill it full of lead. So remember breath, aim, and fire. Now group one, start your practice," Bluemoon ordered.

As soon he finished, I heard cracks of gunfire. Some of the ponies must not have follow the instructions. Though my host did not fare much better. Her first shot hit the right paw of the Papercore when she was aiming for its head. Her second shot did a little better hitting right side of its stomach. She then concentrated and was able to finally place a shot in its head. Well more in its left eye. It was enough for a kill though. To my left side I heard the voice of Sandy Shore.

“Nice shot! I think you're catching on quickly,” She said. “Lets see if I still got it,"

She fired three times at the target each one hitting some part of the chest or head: all of them kill shots. My host looked over at Sandy Shore, who was still looking down the site of her gun. At least I think she was. Both her eyes were still open and pupils small. It’s the same eye position every time I’ve seen her. It was starting to really freak me out. I thought to myself ‘why hasn't anypony asked her about it? Or why did they even let her in?’

By my knowledge, this early in the war there was no need to bring in every recruit. They needed numbers, but a lot of ponies join. Hey, most of the ponies I’d seen looked like the adventurous type. Even Cocoa Leaf, himself he doing it to be like Daring Do. So why did they let this pony in?

The crack of the gun knocked me out of my mental rant. I wasn't even sure why I was dwelling on this. She is dead. They are all dead. I should be paying more attention to the weapons they are using, but they were just antique early guns. Uncommon in the wasteland, yes, but mostly because they were junk and replaced later on with better models. How can she fire with her mouth open like that? Mint Chip: stop thinking to yourself and over analyzing this silly thing. They let her in because she a skilled shot, and maybe they just didn't have standards at the start of the war.

“How the hay are you that good with that?” My host said, knocking me out of my ranting mind again.

“Well, I may live and work in Phillydelphia, but my Uncle and Grandfather live and work on a farm. They used guns to scare off the critters that kept sneaking in and stealing food. When I visit, they let me practice shooting it. My father did not approve of it, but my Grandfather thought it was good to teach me. My Uncle just loved sticking it to his brother whenever he had a chance," Sandy Shore replied, chuckling.

“Wait, I though all the animals in Equestria are tamed and such?” My host asked.

“Tame? Yes, but doesn’t stop them from going back to some of their past instincts. Before we settled here, these critters foraged for food just like we did. The instincts are still in there heads, and even with all the taming we can do, they’ll still take a chance to grab a free bite to eat," Sandy Shore explained.

“Well I give up. I just don’t know what's wrong with your weapons. I mean, I figured that’s why you two stopped and are discussing the ways to fix your weapons, but I’m not sure why a history lesson on why we have these guns is going to help. I guess I’m just not cut out to be a instructor. Maybe I should turn in my hat; or maybe you two are just gabbing your gums and not learning a damn thing," The ever rising voice of Bluemoon growled behind my host and Sandy Shore. I could hear the swallow of my host as she realised she was screwed. Again.

“Really now? Well, I see that she is a good shot, but looks like you need to practice more," Bluemoon said.

“But sir, I hit the target in the eye! That should put it down right," My host said turning to Bluemoon. I started to wonder if Instructors throughout history ever smiled.

“Yep you hit it in the eye which would kill it, but what shot did you get it in the eye," He said staring down at my host, making me wonder if he kept staring, would he be able to see me?

“Third shot, sir,” My host said.

“Well, that’s nice, but its wrong! If that was a real Manticore, it would of already torn out your spine and brushed its teeth with it!” Bluemoon yelled directly into my host face.

My host was showing great progress of not saying dumb things to the Instructor laterly. “Brush its teeth with my spine? I don’t think that possible," Well I guess I spoke too soon.

Bluemoon stared directly into her eyes. I could see the reflection of my host’s eyes in his, and they were full of fear. “Are you questioning my analogy?” He asked.

“Sir! No sir!” My host quickly replied. I guess she got her head back on.

“Good. Now you keep practicing till I get three headshots in a row. You got me? Group two you're up," He ordered.

My host started to stand up till Bluemoon hoof was place on her back.

“Not you, foal. You're now part of group two and group three and every group till I get my head shots," Bluemoon said.

My host look over to Sandy Shore, who was getting up. She look at my host and said. “Hang in there, Orange. Just keep practicing, and you’ll get it," She walked behind the rope line while Bluemoon moved to start to filing in group two.

Wait, now I think I know where I’ve seen her face before! That ghoul in Rot Station she has that same face. The ‘I’ve died but can’t accept’ it face. That must be her! Next time we go to Rot Station, I should ask her. Wait. Most of them either forgot their names or just up and changed their names to forget their past. My mental thought on Sandy Shore was broken again by Grassweed, who was apparently part of group two. He laid on the ground station next to my host.

“Your mouth seems fairly accurate. You hit Instructor Bluemoon’s button right in the piss off mode. Nice shot," Grassweed said.

My host just looked at him. I could hear the annoyance in her breath.

“So what did you and Sandy talk about? Was it me? Did she like how I was doing in close combat drills yesterday?” He asked.

“What? When I threw your flank over my shoulder and onto the dirt. Yeah, we were talking about that," she shot back. I could almost feel the smile she was forming.

“Yeah, yeah... You kicked my flank. Nice job. I thought I had you, but you got me in the end. Now come on tell me what did you two say about me?” Grassweed said with a what seemed to be enthusiastic face.

My field of view spun as my host rolled her eyes. “Fine, we’ll talk about that adorable little color patch on your sack. You know, that one shaped like a rubber ducky” My host said. That line made me chuckle a bit.

“Wait. How you know that I have that?” He said with a now very surprised look on his face.

For a split second my host look down in what I could think of maybe an embarrassed face. “Well I kind of peaked when we all were in the showers about two weeks ago. You're like the only station that is not try to show themselves off while they clean themselves. I figure you were hiding something, so I just had to have a peak," My host replied in a slight embarrassed voice.

“Celestia! I hope you didn’t tell her that” He said in a more frantic voice.

“No I did not. She wouldn't of cared anyway. As I told you before, you’re bucking up the wrong tree. She would care more at what's under Snowplain’s tail then what’s under your belly. So stop asking before I do tell her about your mark," My host said.

“Well you did say it was adorable, so maybe that will get me a chance to buck that tree," He said with a smile.

“Uhhhhg," My host replied slamming her head into the dirt. She then quickly raised it when she heard Bluemoon order everyone to being practice.

My host look down the sites of her gun as the scene started to fade out. The crack of her gun was distorted at the memory flash started.

My field of view returned to my host sitting with her friends. The ground was covered in white. I’d seen snow before, but the snow of the wasteland looks sickish. This was nice, clean snow, and in an even amount everywhere. Equestrian wasteland snow just piles up in spots, depending on which way the wind decides to screw you. I wanted to just watch the snow for hours, but my host had other ideas as she look at the ever so oddly looking Sandy Shore.

“So when we get done with training and get our orders, we get a week off before we are deployed?” my host asked.

“Yep! Gives us time to see love ones and wrap up loose ends before we are away for a long time," Sandy Shore said.

“I hope we get a good Lt...... I think they are called Lts right?” Cocoa Leaf asked.

“Lt is short for Lieutenant. He will lead our squad of ten ponies," Grassweed said picking up a cup from the table and pouring some coffee.

“So basically we are going from one loud jerk telling us what to do to another?” Snowplain grumbled.

“Yep. But this time we be in a combat zone, so there is a chance for us to die," Grassweed said before he took a drink of his coffee.

“We are not going to see any combat. I mean, yeah, the zeebs are being jerks and not listening to reason, but still! They won’t take it this far. Celestia won't allow it," My host replied.

From behind Grassweed, I could see Bluemoon walking towards them.

“Crap. Here comes Bluemoon what the hay did we do now?” My host whispered ducking down a bit.

“Don’t know. He seems to like picking on you, Orange," Sandy Shore whispered back picking up a cup trying to look busy.

“You five foals. Front and center!” Bluemoon barked.

“Sir, yes sir!” The group of ponies said and stood in line in front of Bluemoon.

“Report to warehouse seven there you will receive orders from Instructor Scotch. You understand me?” Bluemoon said.

“Sir, yes sir!” the group replied in unison.

“Quit standing around and get going," Bluemoon shouted and walk off.

My host and her friends proceeded to the storage area of the base. The sound of walking in snow finally was something to enjoy rather than fear as they walked. The crunching sound, and not just sinking knees deep in it wondering if its covering a mine or some horrible radioactive source. When they arrived at warehouse seven, the main door was not open neither was the service door. They looked at each other.

“Warehouse seven right?” My host said.

“Yeah. So who wants to try the door?” Snowplain asked.

The group of five stood there for a second till Cocoa Leaf stepped forward and, with his magic, opened the door. The room was dark, except for a light shining down on the middle of the floor.

“Well this doesn’t look right," Grassweed said as he stepped back a bit.

“Maybe its some kind of torture test to see how well we can take it?” Sandy Shore offered rather unhelpfully.

Cocoa leaf was the one that step through first. “I really don’t think they will torture us,"

Grassweed was the next to enter, then Snowplain, then my host. Sandy Shore seemed to be the one that did not like any of this. They stood in the tight circle; my host watching the shadows for anything. I could not see a thing with the light overhead, so I assume she was having the same problem. The lights suddenly shut off with a loud clank. The room went completely dark.

“Okay, now I’m starting to believe your torture concept," Cocoa Leaf said.

Over head a light turn on but not pointed at the group but at the catwalk above the group. The light shone on Instructor Scotch.

“Good afternoon my little ponies” she said with a rather dark smile on her face.

This may have happen almost two hundred years ago but even I was starting to feel fearful of what Scotch was doing.

“I think some of you remember back when you first started here eight weeks ago on your first day. I told you that cleaning the stalls was a lesson for you to learn to work together as a team. Well today we get to full test your team work. A dear friend let me borrow her critter friends to help test you. There is only one rule, and she made it clear not to hurt them, and my rule is they can’t cross that line behind you.

My host turn around to see a light shine on the floor that made a line.

“If they cross that line you will have to start your ten weeks over again. You understand your orders?” Scotch said.

My host turn back and look at her and nodded. She look at the others they were standing in a defensive stance. She joined in.

“Okay then lets get started," she said as the light dimmed around her and the room lights lit only slightly.

In the distance, there was a gate that they could see by now. The gate began to open, revealing shadows that I know all too well, and what seemed to be a mystery to my host and her friends. From the gate walked a Manticore, Timberwolf, and a Cockatrice. I could hear the panicked breathing coming from Sandy Shore.

The fearsome creatures started to walk towards my host and her friends none of them moved. It seem they were panic stricken. At this rate it looks like I be revisiting her training again. I was not looking forward to it. As they approach the voice of Cocoa Leaf stood out as he took charge.

“Quick! Sand, cover Snow. And Grass? Cover Orange. Give them time to get their spells ready!” Cocoa Leaf said.

Grassweed stood directly in between My host and the Manticore that was starting to run at us. The Timber wolf charge at Snowplain but Sandy Shore step in its way.

“Orange, Snow use your telekinesis to push them back!” Cocoa Leaf ordered.

My host’s response was fast she formed a wall a pony length ahead of Grassweed. The Manticore ran right into it. Snow’s telekinetic shield also formed ahead of Sandy Shore: blocking the Timber wolf.

Grassweed watched the Manticore bite at the shield he just stood there. I was unsure what he was doing. The light started to flicker above my host head. The Manticore was starting to overpower her magic. That when Grassweed spoke up.

“Orange! Drop your shield quickly!” Grassweed shouted.

My host responded quickly and dropped the magic wall. Grassweed charged in and shoved the manticore right in its chest with his head, knocking it back hard. He stepped back and took a defensive stance.

My host looked over to Sandy Shores’ spot. Snow seemed to be doing better with the wall compared to my host. Sandy quickly stepped around, grabbing the Timberwolf with zebra like agility, and was able to throw it back down the room. I could see that the manticore and timberwolf both noticed that the shield wall with my host was the weakest, as they both charged at Grassweed. He stood strong and readied himself while my host tried to put a shield back up, but was already having difficulties.

Around my host’s shield, another formed from Snow. Then a third one formed, this one looking like Cocoa Leaf ’s magic. Both creatures slammed into the reinforced wall. Both Sandy Shore and Grassweed darted around the wall, and were able to toss the manticore and timberwolf back. It seemed my host and her friends had learned teamwork and how to help one another. I noticed something my host seem to be missing. The cocktrice was just standing there, doing nothing. Why is it just standing there?

The flickering light of Cocoa Leaf’s magic drew my attention back to the wall as it faded. Grassweed turned to look at Cocoa Leaf and his mouth dropped open. My host turned to see Cocoa Leaf was a turned to stone.

“Co down!” Grassweed shouted.

“We need to get that thing to turn him back!” Snowplain shouted as she created another wall, this time with more force in it, pushing the two attacking beasts back.

“Right! Sand follow me. Orange, can you give me a boost up?” Grassweed said as he charged forward along with Sandy Shore; both running around the manticore and timberwolf.

My host seemed confused in trying to figure a way to give him a boost as he requested. Then the light around her horn glowed as some kind of platform formed in front of the charging Grassweed.

Sandy Shore was about to reach the cockatrice, but it took flight. Grassweed was ready, and lept onto the platform, then at the cockatrice. They both came crashing down. The beast stared into Grassweed’s eyes. He froze and started to turn. Snow was quick and aided by casting a snowball and plastering the cocktrace in the face, covering its eyes in snow. She then helped pin the bird’s head down so it could not stare at anypony. The only problem now is that my host was the only one defending the line.

My host stood her ground as the manticore and timber wolf charged at her. She lower her head and started to charge back using what was left of her magic to grab hold of the timberwolf throw it back. She reached the manticore. It raised up both paws to strike her. She responded quickly and dove under the beast, using one of the zebra moves she learned. Quickly knocking the hind legs out of the beast, causing it to fall onto her back. She quickly used her strength to throw it off her and away from the line.

However, the timber wolf recovered quickly and was charging at her again. She tried to raise a spell around it, but it was too late. In my field of view and in her eyes was the face of a timber wolf as it tackled her, sending her back. She landed and slid back. A whistle was heard, and the snarling timberwolf that was in my host face suddenly started to pant and seemed to be happy. It then step off my host and walked back over to the room it came out of.

My host looked over at the others. The manticore was already walking back to its room and the cockatrice seem to be nuzzling Snowplain.

Cocoa Leaf, who apparently returned to normal, walked over to my host. “What happen?” he asked.

My host jump up and turn to see him standing there looking confused. “You were turned into stone," she replied.

“Did we win?” he asked, rubbing the back of his head.

“Ummm... I don’t think so. The timberwolf kind of got past the line with me in his arms," My host said.

Overhead the light on Scotch light back up. “Well they got past you," she said.

The others gathered around my host as they looked up at Scotch.

“So we have to repeat the ten week course again?” Grassweed asked.

“Well no. You made it past your timer. I just let you keep going so you can have more practice working together. Also, it’s a good motivator for you to conquer your fears. I figure staring down these critters is a lot less terrifying than facing another ten weeks with Bluemoon. However take this to heart. If this was a real fight, your friend would been the next to fall after you. Keep yourself strong and each other strong. Next time, you won't be facing friendly manticores or timberwolves," Scotch said.

My host vision began to blur a bit. Another memory flash? No there was no light.

“Looks like he gave you a nasty bump on the head. The rest of you take her to medical. Also, Bluemoon is behind you he will give your last part of your debriefing," Scotch said, then walked towards a room in the warehouse.

Everyone turned to see Bluemoon standing there.

“Do not tell any other foal about the test you just took. If I find out that some foal that has not taken this test finds out about it. All of you will be punished. Now get her to medical. She looks like she has a concussion," Bluemoon said. At least I think it was Bluemoon. His voice started to fade.

My field of view dropped to black. It seemed that my host had passed out. The black slowly turn to white as a memory flash occurred.

The white scene was replaced by a winter morning and my host standing in a line behind another group of ponies. Ahead of her was a stage and podium. On the stage was Bluemoon and Scotch, along with several ponies dressed in armor. My guess it was the royal guards. Above them was the Equestrian flag.

Bluemoon stepped forward and stood behind the podium. Bluemoon seemed different. When he looked at the rows of assembled recruits, he did not look down upon them, but seemed to have the look of pride at what they had accomplished. When he spoke, it was the first time I could hear him speak calmly and clearly. The last time I heard an Instructor speak that way was during my graduation from training. So it look like my host and her friends made it through.

“Centuries ago, Equestria was hit by great evils. One took a great city to the north, the other took one of the princess away from us. When the evils were removed, Equestria needed to be healed and be protected. Celestia ordered the Royal guard to expand. No longer protecting just a small city, but Equestria as a whole. Over time Equestria grew and allowed for new towns and cities to be built, and new families to grow. The Royal Guard were their protectors," Bluemoon said. He pointed over to the royal guards standing on the stage.

“Decades ago, a great evil returned and new defenders of Equestria were needed. The bearers of the Elements of Harmony. They represented the spirit of Equestria and all of us. With them, the many great evils were defeated. They were also defenders of Equestria,” He said. Now looking at the Equestrian flag.

“Months ago, a new evil entered Equestria. That evil is War. New defenders of Equestria are need to fight this darkness. You are the new Defenders. You are the sword and shield of Equestria. You all carry the strength of the Royal Guards from the past, and the spirit of the Elements of harmony now. You represent what Equestria is. You carry a part of each element in you. Use it to protect your home, your families, and yourself.

Show those that want to use war the Generosity of your self: both to your fellow pony and zebra. The Kindness in your hearts to aid their suffering. The Loyalty to all the ponies of this land. The Honesty of ourselves and to others. The Laughter and joy we bring to others as we help them and protect them, and our spirit is our Magic. That will protect all of Equestria. “ He said pointing at the group of ponies in front of him.

“For the last ten weeks, I have called you foals. I no longer can. I am proud to call you ponies, and prouder to declare you as part of the Equestrian Army," He said. Then saluted the now soldiers of the old Equestria.

The now pony soldiers saluted back to their former Instructor and in unison, turned left and marched back to the barracks. The quiet crowd that was behind them cheered as they marched. I could tell these ponies were proud of what they have done. Even my host seem to walk with her head higher than normal.

When they were away from the crowd of ponies, they started to break marching formation. My host trotted faster to catch up to her friends. A sign was posted on the wall of the building that my host and every other soldier walk behind to get away from the crowd. It read ‘All Equestrian Army soldiers report to your barracks to receive your assigned orders. Then pack your stuff and head outside to meet your families and congratulations.’

My host and her friends entered the barracks. There were already ponies looking at their orders and packing their things. One seemed to be throwing everything into his duffel bag. I guess he really wanted to see his family. My host walked over to her bunk. On it was a scroll seal with a royal seal. She picked it up with her telekinesis and looked at her friends. “So what do you think our squad going to be called?” she asked.

“Maybe we get to name our own squad. They even might of made Co here our leader, since he did really well at that test," Sandy Shore said picking up her orders with a hoof and started remove the seal so she could read it.

“I can see it now Cocoa’s Renegades," Grassweed said holding his front hooves over his head and spreading them out like he was revealing a sign.

“What about The Sand Dollars!?” Sandy asked, dropping her orders onto the floor.

Grassweed was the first to read his orders aload. “Grassweed you are ordered to report to Lt. Oakwood of Ruby Squad of the shield regiment, second battalion, fourth company, first platoon," he read aloud.

“Wow they like to subdivide themselves a lot," Sandy Shore said yet again dropping her scroll as she tried to talk and open it at the same time.

Cocoa leaf caught the scroll and unrolled it for Sandy Shore. He began to open his while Sandy read hers.

“Sandy Shore you are orer to reprot to Lt.Oakwood of Ruby Squad! YES! I got me a squad buddy!” She gave Grassweed a big hug.

Grassweed had the a rather love struck smile on his face as Sandy Shore hugged him. She then look over at Snowplain and her smile dropped.

When my host look at Snowplain she had tears in her eyes.

“Snow what’s wrong?” Sandy Shore said.

Snow began to read her letter allowed struggling to hold back the tears. “Snowplain you are order to report to Lt. Cederwood of Silver squad in sword regiment of..." She just stopped reading and began to sob.

Sandy Shore walk over to her and hug her. Tears started to form in her eyes. “This is so stupid they tell us to work together as a team. Tell us to embrace friendships and when we made our friends, they split them into different squads. What the buck is this shit!” She said as she started to cry.

Grassweed spoke up. “Orders signed by the Captain of the Royal Guards,"

Sandy Shore looked over to Grassweed with tears running from her eyes. “You mean that bucker with the purple armor. I going to go give him a piece of his mind after I crack his head open with a brick," She started to move towards the door.

Cocoa leaf step in front of her and spoke in a softer voice. “Don’t worry, Sand. I will keep her safe. I’ve been assigned to her squad as well," Cocoa Leaf said while placing a hoof on her to help calm her down. “Besides cracking the Captain of the Royal Guard head won't help you be assigned to our squad. I think that will just end up getting you placed in chains," He said giving Sandy Shore a hug

Sandy Shore look up at him and said. “Thank you Co. I know you’ll keep your word," She then looked over to my host. “W.wh..what does your say Orange?” she said while wiped tears from her eyes, sniffling.

My host look down and removed the seal from her scroll. She took a deep breath and said. “I have been assigned to......... Oakwood squad," she said.

Sandy Shore smiled a bit. “Well at least they didn't split us up too much," She wiping more tears from her eyes. “Well our families are probably waiting for us to see them," she said as she walked over and started to put her personal belongings into her duffel bag.

My host and her friends started to do the same. Even with some sadness in the air, they seemed to be enthusiastic as they put their bags together. Even if my host did not really like her family, she seemed to be in a hurry to see them. When her bag was packed, she waited for the rest of her friends to finish. They walked out of the barracks and back into the light of the afternoon. The beautiful, perfect snow was still all around them.

“I think our families will be waiting for us in the parade grounds. We should hurry I haven’t seen my brother in weeks," Snowplain said as she started to run back towards the grounds. My host and the rest of her friends followed.

As they reach the parade grounds, I could see the groups of ponies hugging, talking, and sharing stories and introducing friends. Still their faces had a blurry quality to them. I could tell that some of the ponies that were talking to the soldiers were colts and fillies. Saying hello to their older brother or sister, I assumed. I could hear crying and cheers from left and right of me.

Cocoa leaf was the first to find his parents. His father seem to have a mustache and beard, or he just had an off color nose from his gray body.

“Hey Orange! I’d like you to meet my father. Dad this is my friend, Orange Harvest. She lives in Canterlot and works at one of the local banks," Cocoa Leaf said.

“Well hello there Orange Harvest. I’m glad to see you helped my son survive training. Thank you for helping him keep his head on his neck," Cocoa’s father said.

“Ummm thank you Mr...?” my host said

“Oh sorry. You can call me Silverline. I run the main steel mill in Phillydelphia," Silverline said.

“Wait. You live in Phillydelphia, but Co here lives in Canterlot?” My host said looking over at Cocoa Leaf .

“I run the logistics for my father’s company with the Royal Guard," Cocoa Leaf replied.

“Run with the Royal Guard huh? Guess that explains why you were able to take charge during the test," My host replied.

“I manage a lot of ponies back at work, and I picked up a few tricks from the royal guards I’ve worked with," Coco Leaf explained.

“So you took charge and saved your friends? Thats my colt," Silverline said placing his foreleg around his son and shaking him a bit, then giving him a bit of a noogie.

“Ah stop! Hey I see Snowplain! Come on! Let’s go meet her. She will be my squadmate," Cocoa Leaf said, trying to get out of his fathers grip.

As they walk towards Snowplain, my host turn to Cocoa Leaf. “Why are you giving up and joining this again?” She asked.

“I told you. I am adventurous, like Daring Do. I don’t like just sitting around an office telling somepony where to file a paper, or sit there with a officer of the guard trying to decide how much metal they need this month,"

My host then turn to Silverline. “You’re letting him do this?”

“I can’t stop him, nor would I want to. It’s his choice to sign up. Besides, it will work out for business. He will be in the field and be able to tell me what he thinks this Equestrian Army will need, and we can have an up on the other competitors. Sales dropped from the embargo on the zebras. So this will give us a chance to kick up production and put ponies back to work," Silverline said.

“You sold to the zebras? What do they need steel for? Aren't they tribal?” My host asked. I could see out of the corner of my field of view Snowplain waving for us to hurry and get over there to meet her family.

“With the trade of coal for gems, the zebras had a chance to expand. They did, and we helped by selling steel to them. I figure the market won’t last forever because they were starting to get there own mills rolling, but it was a nice boost to production. Now I think I can get another boost from this army. It won’t last long hopefully, but by then I think I’ll have some additional contracts, given how Equestria is expanding,” Silverline said as we walked up to Snowplain. “Hello dear. Snowplain is it? I heard you’ll be working with my son. Try to keep him out of trouble," he said.

Snowplain smiled and laugh a bit. “I’ll keep his head on straight, sir. I’d like you to meet my little brother, Snowball," she said.

“Snowball?” Cocoa Leaf asked with a confused expression.

“It’s a family thing," Snowplain explained.

“I figure that but I mean where is he?” Coco Leaf said pointing to the ground around her.

“Oh he is on my back, apparently trying to hide. Come on little brother. Say hello to my friends," Snowplain said looking behind her. She turned back and smiled at my host and Cocoa Leaf.

“No!” a small colt voice behind Snowplain said.

Snowplain turn her head around again. “Please," she said with what I guess was a big smile.

“Nuuuuu” is all I heard back. I guess the kid doesn’t want to see these ponies.

Snowplain turned around and smiled at us. Then her horn light up and I could see a magical field form behind her.

“he-hehe- HEY! hehe- Ssstop that! hehahe You know hehhhe that I’m ticklish to hahagic!” Snowball said as he was floated upside down, now laughing in front of my host and Cocoa Leaf . Snowball look like a smaller and colt version of Snowplain. He had the same colors of his sister, and was a unicorn.

Snowplain placed Snowball right side up on the grass. “That’s not fair sis. Stupid unicorn magic," He said sitting down crossing his forehooves.

“Hate to break it to you ,little bro you're going to have stupid unicorn magic too," Snowplain said flicking her brothers horn.

“No, my magic is going to be awesome. So much better then yours," Snowball said, sticking his tongue out.

“There you are Orange," Grassweed said, walking up with two other ponies following him. “They were looking for you," He said as the two ponies that were following him stepped forward.

“Hello dear. How have you been?” The mare asked.

“Doing okay. The Instructors kick our flanks a few times, but we pulled through," My host said sitting up proudly.

“I can tell,” The stallion said. “At this rate you be able to kick over some of our younger trees back at home,"

“I said I was not going to work at the farm anymore," my host replied, stomping a hoof down.

“I know I was kidding. Though it’s sad to see you go. We are glad that you are able to find work in Canterlot, but are you sure you want to do this?” the stallion asked.

“Ummm Mr....." Grassweed said stepping forward.

“What? Oh ,sorry! I’m Maplestock, and this is my wife Orange Blossom," Maplestock said. Placing a hoof around the mare.

“Maplestock? Odd name for a orange farmer," Grassweed said.

“Not everypony needs to be named after what they do," Maplestock said offering his hoof to Grassweed.

“Sorry. In my family, seems like everypony is named after some kind of plant," Grassweed said, shaking Maplestock’s hoof.

“Hey guys! I found them!” The voice of Sandy Shore was behind my host. When my host turned around, Sandy Shore had both her hooves around two ponies.

“These two lovely ponies are my parents. Jampuff and Bakeroll," she said wiggling her hoof around the shoulder of the mare and then the stallion.

Seemed like everywhere you looked, ponies started to form into large groups. Guess a lot of friends were made in training, and now everypony was talking to everypony else. It’s something you don't really see in the wasteland anymore.

“Yeah, these are my friends from training; the ones I wrote you about. They helped me survive through this crazy thing," She said, returning to standing back on all four hooves.

“Hello! You must be Orange’s parents, and you are ummmm.... Co’s father and,” She looked down at the Snowball standing behind one of Snowplain’s forelegs. “Hello! You must be Snowplain’s little brother. I hope you’re having fun seeing your big sister again," Sandy Shore said.

The group of ponies seemed to talk forever about different things from their respective cities. I started to zone out a bit looking more at the snow on the ground. I really wished I could see snow like this again. I was finally snapped out of my daze by Sandy Shore looking directly into my host face.

“Hey Orange, are you ready to go?” she asked.

“Yeah. Sorry, just a little tired and started to space a bit. So the army’s paying for our tickets for a visit home?” My host asked.

“Yep. Grassweed’s parents are going to take us all to the skyport. That’s why we haven’t seen them yet. We should head over to the lot and see if they have arrived," Sandy Shore said.

“Okay I haven’t been in one of the large sky chariots, let alone one of the smaller ones," My host replied and started to walk with the group.

Grassweed spoke up from behind my host. “Hey Sand, can I talk to you for a minute?”

Sandy Shore stopped and turned. “Sure what's on that mind of yours?” she asked passing my host.

My host continue to walk towards the lot with different chariots, wagons, and even a few skycarts parked in it.

“Hello. You must be Grassweed’s friends and family. I’m Rosestem, and this is my husband Birch. Where is my son?” Rosestem asked.

“Oh he is,” Orange Harvest turned around and looked back into the crowed of blurry ponies. She seemed to take a few seconds to spot them. Even though, to me, they stood out due to the fact they were not blurred by the memory. Sandy Shore seem to talking quietly to Grassweed, and he had the face I’d seen on Meleen Seed’s face before when he asked Knight Lime out on a date. The look of rejection. I guess he’d just learned what my host had been telling him this whole damn time. “Ummm... give me a minute. I’ll go find them," My host said, walking back into the crowed.

She could see Sandy Shore slowly walking back towards her with a lowered head. When she reached my host she just looked up at her.

“I’m Sorry Orange” then lowered her head again.

“It’s okay. He’d have to learn sooner or later. Go back to the rest of the group. I’ll go talk to him. Okay?”

She just nodded, and started to walk past my host. Grassweed was just sitting there, poking at the snow with his hoof, trying to hold back tears.

My host sat next to him and placed her hoof around his shoulders. “I’m sorry that she had to tell you this. I tried to help you early on," my host said.

Grassweed just lowered his head. “I know. I guess I was just holding out hope," he said. “I really wanted to show her my design I have been working on back at home,"

“I tell you what. We get a week off, and my family starts the harvest in three days. I’ll go home and spend sometime with them. Then head to Phillydelphia and see your family’s display, and your design you have planned," My host said.

Grassweed looked up at my host. “Are you sure you want to leave your family so soon and on a harvest?” he asked.

“I’m not needed for the harvest, so I’d rather spend some more time with my friends," My host said, patting Grassweed gently on the head.

“Okay. I will get the guest room set up. If you like, you can stay on the mountain so you won't have to travel too much,” Grassweed said, now with a small smile.

“Deal. Also, you're going to find me the best restaurant in town. I want to try some of this Philly food I hear about,” My host said.

Grassweed stood back up. “You know, those of us who live in Fillydelphia don't like it when ponies call it that. Makes us sound like we eat fillies or something,” Grassweed said.

“I know, but its all in the context. Now lets get going. I still haven’t said hello to your parents yet," My host said as she started to walk back towards their families.

<=======ooO Ooo=======>

My field of view went dark as the interface display receded. The voice of the A.I. came up.

“Section one complete. Outside time lapse is three hours. Would you like to shut down?” the A.I. asked.

“Yes,” I replied back.

“Shutting down system.Stand by,” The A.I. replied.

Everything faded to dark and then I felt my eyes opening. I was sitting in the chair with my hoof still on the black square. The feeling of confusion passed quickly, but I almost could not believe where I was. Just a second ago, I was in old Equestria, seeing pure snow and now I’m looking at a gray terminal. I did see a note left on the screen. I picked it up with my magic and read it.

‘Hey Mint. I checked in on you like I said I, would but looks like you were able to conquer your nervousness and start in. I knew you could do it. Oh, by the way, I did wipe the drool off your face. From your Apricot.’

I smiled as I read then frowned.

“I don’t drool."

Saddle Tail Forest

View Online

Fallout Equestria: Lines
Chapter 3: Saddle Tail Forest

I stepped out of the memory archive room still a bit dazed. Even with training, reliving a pony’s memory was still causing me some wooziness. I stopped and took a few deep breaths; then walked out of the office and headed to the lunchroom. Inside, I found that Peach Fuzz and Tea Leaf had their helmets off and were sitting at one of the lunch tables looking over an old coffee maker.

“See! The heating element just needs to be cleaned,” Tea Leaf said while holding up a heater coil to Peach Fuzz’s face.

“Okay, fine! You win. I’ll give you the fifteen caps when we get back,” Peach Fuzz said, sounding quite annoyed.

I pulled up a stool and sat down at the table. “What, no coffee?” I was being genuinely hopeful. “I’ve been saving the coffee mix I found in that old market down the street for a few days now; I was hoping to try it out,” I continued.

Peach Fuzz just looked at me and raised an eyebrow. “Are you going to really drink that decades old shit?”

Tea Leaf also looked at me with a questionable look. “Do you even know if it’s still safe?” she asked.

“Yes, it’s fine. Just like the other food we have, it only has small amount of rads in it. I could go outside and lick the dirt and get more radiation in my system than drinking this pack of coffee,” I replied.

“Huh, well it doesn't matter anyway, I've got a better brew for you to try. I got it from Xjuan when Zed was here yesterday,” Peach Fuzz said.

“Wait, Xjuan makes coffee blends now?” I asked, half surprised, half apprehensive.

“Well, he said he made a special one from an old recipe he found in that cafe over on the west side of the town hall. He’s been wanting to sell it for a bit to earn some extra caps and I figured I’d give it a try,” Peach Fuzz said.

“I’m still not sure if that means it's safe. Remember the last time Zed was at the compound?” I asked.

“No, last time Zed was there, I was out on patrol. I had to ask Apricot to try to get some spices from Zdora... which reminds me! I need to write out what we will need to sustain ourselves for the next three months. I’ve been wanting to try a few recipe ideas that have been floating around in my head.” Peach Fuzz said, now looking around the room for something to write on.

Tea Leaf looked over at Peach Fuzz. “Xjuan tried some home made dash that didn't set well with him at all. Luckily Apple fixed and detoxed him, but Zed was not happy that he had to pay quite a bit to heal him up,” Tea Leaf said.

Peach Fuzz covered his snout, trying to hide his smile. For once, he did not have the helmet to help him. “Well I think it’s ok. I’ll brew some up and have Melon Seed check it before we drink it. Well, whenever I actually get this thing fixed that is.” Peach Fuzzed said holding the heating coil up again.

Tea Leaf looked over at me. “So how was the dive?” she asked referring to me entering a memory orb.

I rubbed the top of my head, trying to put all the images that I saw back together. “Well... I had to kind of relive basic training again, which was nice to not feel the pain of doing fifty push ups, but I sure as hay don’t miss all the yelling. Their instructor’s name was Bluemoon, and I think he was actually related to our instructor. The voice was the same and his... methods of encouragement were somewhat similar.” I explained.

Peach Fuzz regained his composure and went back to work trying to get the heating element clean. “So basically, you got a refresher course on basic training,” he said, blowing the dust off component.

“Kind of... I mean it is interesting to see what was going on back then. So in a historical manner, it might work out. I think the scribes will like it; but so far I have not seen any special weapons or location of anything useful. The weapons I seen so far are those silly basic rifles the Initiates use, nothing noteworthy at all.” I said as I watched the dust cloud float over to Tea Leaf.

Tea Leaf covered her nose and looked at Peach Fuzz, irritated. “You know, you could have aimed away from me. I’d rather not breath in century old dust from goddess knows where.” she said.

“Yeah, but then I can’t get you back for screwing me out of fifteen caps, now can I?” Peach Fuzz shot back while placing the heating element back into the coffee maker.

I glanced at the clock on my pipbuck: the break was nearly over. “Either of you seen Apricot?” I asked.

“I think she is still up stairs, probably still setting up your room. I think it’s in the medical director’s office,” Tea Leaf said.

Peach Fuzzed looked quickly over to Tea Leaf. “Wait! The director’s office is above my room! Tea, trade me rooms please!” he begged, a desperate look on his face.

“Nah, Apricot is right! It’s fun to watch you squirm.” Tea Leaf said, laughing a bit.

“At least trade your watch shift with me!” he said, placing his hooves together in a begging pose.

“Okay, okay, I’ll trade you. Just please stop begging.” Tea Leaf said.

“Hey, are all of you even okay with me and Apricot setting up in the medical directors office? I don’t want you guys to feel like I’m abusing my authority.” I asked, looking at Tea Leaf.

“Nah, It’s good to see you two finally getting time to yourselves. I know the elder hasn’t approved for you two to change to the family quarters yet. So I at least understand, and I know Apricot has been looking forward to this.” Tea Leaf said with a smile.

“I wish he would just approve her and I for a family quarters already. He seems to want us to quote ‘steel breeds steel,’ so why hasn’t he just... you know, let us?” I asked.

“Remember, we let you into our chapter. The Elder was never too thrilled with it, but apparently you four tugged at his heart just enough to get it to beat again. When I was a little filly, before you four joined that is, the Elder was strict about interactions with the outside. About the only group he let in was Zed’s. That was mostly for the fact that Zed was able to bring in news and supplies that we needed. So I’m not too surprised that he’s still holding back on you two switching over to the family quarters.” Tea Leaf said, placing a hoof on my shoulder in support.

I rubbed my head, trying to figure out what to do. It seemed like every time Apricot and I tried to convince him to let us switch to the family quarters, he said we were not ready yet, or that he was busy. “Do you have any suggestions on how we can convince him to let us switch?” I asked.

“Well, maybe humping Apricot on the Elder’s desk, but I think that might get you kicked out or shot. I’ve never really seen any ruling on what kind of offense that might fall under.” Tea Leaf said with a smile.

“Insubordination, I would think,” Peach Fuzz said joining back into the conversation while placing the coffee maker upright on the table and rigging the spark battery to power it.

“Insubordination sounds about right, I think that would be the safe bet. So I guess if you DID hump her, then you'd either get just a hard talking to, yourself shot, but I don’t think he could justify it.” Tea Leaf said.

I raised my eyebrow at her remark. “You’re not being too helpful here,” I said.

Tea Leaf leaned back and shrugged. “Well, no I’m not, but you need to get it through your head. You four have gotten this far, and that's a feat in itself! I mean Peach Fuzz and Apricot alone making Paladins is something that’s kind of amazing on it's own as well, but you guys pushed yourselves and got rewarded for it. In the end though, there’s still some of our brothers and sisters that think it was a bad idea to have let you in at all."

Tea Leaf sighed and watched as Peach Fuzz reassembled the coffee maker. "You already know that Donut Hole wasn’t too thrilled by it, though I think his dad was a bit of a dick towards outsiders, and I think that dickishness might run in the family. I hope not though. His daughter Lemon Drop is a cute filly. Hate to see her be a dick towards your foal when you and Apricot have one.” Tea Leaf got up and placed her helmet back on. “Time to get back to it. Peach, I’ll see you at the front door at 2200 for your watch.”

“Right. I’ll see you then. And thank you so much for the help, I’ll give you a little extra radhog in your stew tonight,” Peach Fuzz said, plugging in the coffee maker.

I stood up from the table and headed out of the lunchroom, stopping for a moment as a thought jumped into my mind. I poked my head back into the room and smiled at Peach Fuzz. “I promise I'll try to wear us out before your watch ends; that or she and I can wait a bit. You know, share some small talk and romance,” I said with a smile as I turned and walked down the hallway.

I walked back into the memory archive and sat in the chair, noticing that the terminal was already loaded up and ready. “Okay, A.I. load up section two of the first memory orb,” I said.

“There you go, starting up work again without saying hello." The familiar and lovely sound of Apricot’s voice came from behind me. "Shame on you. I expect better from you next time mister!” Apricot walked up and looked over my shoulder at the terminal. “Seen anything fun in there yet? Maybe my who-knows-how-many-great grandmother or something. I think she served in the military so she could get her kids into a stable easier.” she said.

“Ummm... do you remember her name?” I asked, turning my head to look at her.

“Hmmm... I use to know it. My parents wanted us to remember the family members that made sacrifices to protect our line. Hmmm... Dad would be pissed with me right now if he was still alive,” she said with a bit of a sad chuckle.

I gave Apricot a kiss on the forehead. I remembered her father taking care of us and telling me stories of the sacrifices his family made to protect each other. He pointed out that as his daughter’s friend, that if I kept her safe, he would in turn keep us both safe. He lived up to his sacrifice, dieing defending the town against incursion, and now I have to live up to my promise and keep Apricot safe. My train of thought was broken when Apricot spoke up again.

“Oh, before you go orb diving, I wanted to tell you I set us up in the executive suite upstairs.” she said, smiling.

“I heard about it from Tea Leaf. The Medical Director's office sounds spacious. It sounds a whole lot better than a broom closet.” I giving her a wide smile back.

Apricot leaned in and whispered in my ear. “It also has a sturdy desk for us.”

I almost started to laugh a bit thinking back to the earlier conversation I had with Tea Leaf and Peach Fuzz. That though was quickly derailed when Apricot playful bit my ear.


“What was that?” Apricot asked in her best teasing voice.

“Umm... that was my knee hitting the desk,” I said, trying to put up a convincing smile.

“Knee huh?” she asked, smiling. “Well, when you’re done with your shift tonight, come up to the directors office and I will kiss it to make it feel better,” she said, turning and swaying her flank a bit while walking out of the room.

Apricot was the only mare I knew that can make walking in power armor look sexy. I looked down at my pipbuck and noticed that I only had six hours left in my shift... That cock tease! “Not fair!” I shouted out the door.

All I heard back was “I love you too!”

Great. Now she had me all worked up and I can’t do anything about it for six hours! I just shook my head and turned back to the terminal screen. The screen asked if I... well, Dr. Winter, was ready to begin again. I placed my hoof on the black square and said “Ready.” The terminal screen faded away as the connection was made to me again. The E.F.D interface display slowly faded in and the bottom right bar showed 'Block C, Orb 1, Section 2, Subject Orange Harvest, 5 months from start of war'.

“Set Memory Orb Accelerator to two hours,” I said. That would place me around lunchtime.

The A.I. spoke up. “Order confirmed, loading memory block... please stand by.” I watched as a few lines of text scrolled up my vision.

System Loading...............

Memory Orb Accelerator set for two hours.

Loading Orb.....................................Complete.

<=======ooO Ooo=======>

My host was standing inside what looked like an old military tent where I could see her lifting equipment into a saddlebag. I noticed on the cot next to her was her rifle as I heard the voice of Grassweed start up behind her.

“Almost ready?” he asked.

“Yeah, I got most of my stuff packed, and I think we will be issued our ammo before we go. Have you seen Sand out there anywhere?” My host asked.

“No, not yet.” Grassweed said.

My host placed the last of her equipment into her bag, which, as it turned out to be, was some canned corn. She picked up the saddlebag with her magic and placed it on her back, then slung the rifle around her shoulder. “This rifle feels weird like this. I’m used to just shooting the thing, not wearing it around.” my host said.

“Come on, lets get going,” Grassweed said. “Sand might be at the staging area, and if we’re late Celestia knows what our... Lieutenant will do? I think that’s what we’re supposed to call him. Either way, if we don’t report in time, we might get extra screwed or something.”

“Oh no, he’ll make us do fifty push-up. We did about a million of them in training, so I think we can handle a few extra push-ups,” my host said sarcastically, looking up at Grassweed.

Grassweed was wearing an old Equestria Army combat armor that looked like it was one of the first production models. Most of the early armor did okay against shrapnel and lighter bullets, but in the wasteland however, they were just another cap a dozen. They’re really only good if you were a pony that wanted to travel light and enjoyed being shot at; or maybe a pony that liked the lack of camouflage look to them. Grassweed’s armor had no camo pattern to it and was just polished metal and gold. I guessing the military went with looking good over hiding. On his chest piece I could see a patch that was the color and shape of a ruby. Embroided on it was the mark of Celestia inlaid with a shield.

“I think they can do more to us now, seeing as we are no longer trainees. We are Privates, and I guess that means we actually have responsibilities other than to drop and give somepony twenty.” Grassweed said, now strapping on his combat helmet.

“That’s a stupid name for a rank,” my host replied, sounding more snarky. “I mean, can’t they come up with a better name like Defender or Guardian? Something better than Private. You know, I went to a shop the other day and had someone ask me about the uniform I was wearing. I told them I was a Private, and they just looked at me funny. One of the shop employees even pointed to a private restroom thinking that’s what I needed.”

Grassweed started to smile, then snickered before outright laughing.

My field of view spun as my host rolled her eyes. “Really... you done?” she asked.

“Nope, not even close.” Grassweed said in between a laugh, then started back up again.

“Come on, let’s go,” My host said walking toward the tent flap. Grassweed laughter died down to a snicker as I heard him fall in behind my host. My host lifted the tent flap into... snow. It was not as perfect as it was during training camp, having been trotted on fairly well, but still better than the irradiated snow we have in the wasteland. My host proceed to walk towards a large, flat open area that I guessed was the parade grounds.

She stopped abruptly by the flag pole and looked around, almost as if she was lost. I was no better off as I looked around with her, viewing the mess tent and a few scattered others, most of them looking like living quarters or officer tents. “Okay, I give up where the hay is the meeting point?” my host asked, turning to Grassweed.

“Not sure. I thought it was near the mess tent but well...” he said, looking around.

“Hey!” A distant voice shouted. Grassweed turned towards the voice, along with my host. I could see it was Sandy Shore wearing the same body armor as Grassweed and my host. She was also wearing that creepy blank look she always had on her face, just sitting on her haunches waving her forehooves trying to get their attention. Now that she had, she waved for them to come over to her.

“I'm starting to think that Sand’s got the best eyes between us.” Grassweed said as he started to walk towards Sandy Shore, my host following closely. When they reached her, my host looked behind her and saw the sign marked with the same symbol on Grassweed’s armor.

“Oh good, our assembly area is behind the bathrooms. That’s a great start for us.” Grassweed said drolly.

“Finally you guys show up. I was getting worried that you two got lost.” Sandy Shore said, standing up and starting to walk towards the sign.

“To be honest, we kind of did for a minute.” My host replied while the trio of them walked together to the sign where a pair of ponies were standing. The new ponies were both wearing the same body armor, and I could also see one of their shoulders had a circular patch on it.

Sandy Shore approached the two ponies first. “Okay, this is Seastar and Aloebloom, and these are my friends Grassweed and Orange Harvest.” she said pointing to each corresponding pony as she said there names.

Seastar was an earth pony mare who could blend in with the sky, as her light blue coat was nearly the same shade as it. Even her white mane could be mistaken as clouds, even if it was cut shorter than most. I could even see streaks of teal in it as she extended her hoof to shake my host’s hoof.

Aloebloom however, seemed to almost look like a sister or cousin to Grassweed. There were both earth ponies and their coats were the same shade of green. The only real difference was in her mane, for the fact that it was light blue and longer than both Grassweed’s or Seastar’s.

“Hello,” Seastar said, my host shaking hooves with her before turning to shake Aloebloom’s hoof as well.

Grassweed did the same, looking at Seastar curiously. “Where are you from? I’m guessing VanHoover or some area near it. You seem like you'd be a pony from the west.” he said.

“You’re quite a bit off on your guess, Grassweed. I’m from Hoofington, which is rather north on the map.” Seastar said with a smile.

“Hmm... I was so sure too. Ah, well really do I need to work on my guesses." He remarked before looking over at the other mare. "And you... Aloebloom?”

“None of the big cities, I'm afraid. I’m from a small town called Cantel. We are kind of tucked behind Saddle Ridge, so nothing ever really happens there. Everypony knows every little thing you did, and I’m just glad I finally got out of that mind numbing place.” Aloebloom said.

“So at least I’m not wrong in guessing that you signed up to get out of that town?” Grassweed said, shaking Aloebloom’s hoof.

“Oh Celestia, yes I wanted out of there! When they came around and were passing out recruitment fliers, I jumped on it. I quit my job at the market and filled out the papers the same day. Told my family and the town folks I was doing it to help support Equestria, but all I really just wanted was out. I figure since I worked in a market they’d put me with supply or something, but I guess they think I will do better at shooting then setting up supplies.” Aloebloom said, shrugging.

My host started to laugh. “Yeah, I was thinking I'd be placed in accounting or payroll, at least something like that since I worked in banking in Canterlot. Unfortunately for me, even with not being that good with a rifle, they think I need to be out here.”

“Hey, at least you’re here with friends, right? That ought to count for something.” Sandy Shore said with a smile.

“Well, this is true.” My host replied. "It's not ALL bad."

“Orange Harvest? That seems more like a farmer name then a bankers name.” Seastar said, as she seemed to be looking to the side of my host.

“Well, I came from a Orange farmer family and... wait, what are you doing?” My host asked noticing that Seastar was staring off to her side.

“Sorry, I was just trying to see your cutie mark.” Seastar said with now a blush.

“It’s a stack of oranges. That’s my mark,” My host said.

“See! Sounds like your talent is picking oranges, not mortgages.” Seastar smiled. Her smile drop when my host focused on her. Apparently my host was not happy with what she said.

“No, I’m not good at picking oranges.” My host said, sounding sore.

“Okay, I’m sorry Orange Harvest.” Seastar said, now ducking down and crossing her left fore hoof with her right.

Grassweed seemed to sense the tension and stepped forward. “By the way, I'm Grassweed, I live in Fillydelphia; and yes my mark matches what I do. It’s nothing too special though, just some flowers. My family runs the--” he said before being interrupted by Seastar.

“Your family does the flower displays each year! I remember reading articles about your family’s work, and it’s nice to finally meet a pony from that family. Thank you so much for your beautiful displays!” Seastar said with a big smile.

“Um, you’re welcome? I glad you like our displays.” Grassweed said.

“Oh, Orange how was the visit to Grass’ family garden?” Sandy Shore asked, stepping forward.

“It was great. Grass’s family was rather kind and great hosts.” My host said, looking over at Grassweed.

Grassweed seemed to start to blush a bit and cleared his throat. “Well, my family wanted to make sure you had a great time.” He explained.

“Yep, it really was! I even got to try some Filly food, though the ponies at the restaurant seemed to not like me using that word.” my host said looking at Sandy Shore.

“I told you before, some ponies just don’t like that because it sounds like we eat fillies.” Grassweed said.

“Oh come on, that’s just stupid.” My host said, sounding annoyed.

“Well, what restaurant did you take her too?” Aloebloom asked.

“I took her to the finest restaurant in the city, it's called El’Grills! It has some of the best Fillydelphia style food around.” Grassweed said, placing a hoof on his chest, standing with a bit of pride.

“El’Grills? That place is no better than the Pear’s Farms Pig Troth! I’m surprised you didn’t give her the trots.” a voice from behind my host said.

Grassweed's proud stance broke when he heard those words, both my host and him turned to see two new ponies. One, a short white unicorn with a blue long mane was twitching her head towards her right, pointing our attention to the other pony. He was a large gray earth buck with a yellow short mane, standing there with what looked like Grassweed’s previous smug smile.

“If you really wanted to take her to get some good food, you should’ve of gone to Hay’s Street. That’s real Fillydelphia cooking right there,” The buck said.

Grassweed stepped forward. From the look on his face, he seemed to have taken offence to his selection of fine one-hundred and seventy year old food. “Hay’s? Really? I’ve been to that place. The Joe’s Donut shops have more authentic Fillydelphia food then Hay’s.” Grassweed said, snorting in annoyance.

“Are you serious? Have you tried Hay’s Tomato Pie? Best thing this side of Equestria. I bet if we gave the Zebra’s Hay’s pies they would just give up and ask for more of them,” The buck said.

The white unicorn spoke up. “I’m fairly sure the war didn't start over food choices.” she said.

“Well, even so it wouldn’t hurt. They are some damn good pies.” The buck said.

“I think you lost your mind there bud.” Grassweed said, now sounding more annoyed that his taste was being question. He started to remind me of Peach Fuzz with his taste in cooking, though Peach was the cook and Grassweed seemed to be just the one to find a restaurant. Though, they both had the same face when someone insulted their taste in food.

“It's Sir, not bud.” the buck said, sounding more than a little aggravated.

“Oh, are you in Oakwood?” Sandy Shore asked.

“What? No, I’m Private First Class Moonrise. I am a higher rank than you, so therefore you will address me as sir.” Moonrise said standing proudly.

“What’s a Private First Class?” my host asked.

Moonrise rolled his eyes. “You did read your pamphlet about Equestrian Army ranks, didn’t you?” Moonrise asked.

“No, I didn't want to know how low on the pay scale I was.” My host replied.

“I looked through it,” Seastar said. “It was cute how they used Celestia’s cutie mark as the ranking system and they made it look like it was rising.” She said digging through her duffle bag, pulling out the pamphlet and handing it over to my host.

Moonrise stepped forward and pointed out the graph of the rankings. “See? Right there!" He pointed to the lowest picture. "You are a Private. You can see your rank mark right there on your armor.” He tried to explain.

Sandy Shore walked to the side of Moonrise and looked at his armor. “You’re a Private, too. See? You have the same circle as me.” she said pointing to the patch on his armor.

“No, it’s different. Yours has only one circle, while mine has another circle behind yours. See the difference?” Moonrise asked.

“Not really, it kind of looks the same to me.” Grassweed replied joining into the conversation.

“Well, you are both wrong.” Moonrise said, grabbing the pamphlet out of my host’s telekinetic field. He then looked at it and cleared his throat.

“The Equestria Army ranking, symbolically represents the sun rising, and showing that our soldier’s hard work and responsibilities towards themselves and their fellow pony.” Moonrise said. “So I am a Private First Class, or a PFC. Therefore I have more responsibilities, and I know better then you Privates,” Moonrise said looking down at my host and the other ponies.

“Well I'm a higher rank then you, Moon,” the mare next to him said.

“That's only a technicality Seed, you got that rank because you're a nurse.” Moonrise said.

“Okay, so we listen to... Seeds orders?” My host asked with her normal.

“Seedshine, sorry I did not properly introduce myself. Me and Moonrise both attended the same camp up near Hoofington. I got the rank of Specialist because I worked as a nurse and they felt I would be a good Medic... or at least I think that's what they're making the term for a medical pony.” Seedshine said.

“Anyway, I got the rank for PFC because I had the best time on the obstacle course. I was able to easily outpace and keep my breath while other ponies where winded. The base doctor said it was most likely because I could hold my breath for a long time.” Moonrise said pounding on his chest armor proudly.

“Wait, so were you a spa pony in Manehattan?” Sandy Shore asked.

“What?” Moonrise asked back, now looking at Sandy Shore.

Sandy Shore continued to talk, “Well I read in a magazine about some spa ponies that can hold their breath for a long time. They said they were the best in the business. So since you have-”

“No! First, I’m not a spa pony, I work at Pear’s farm. Second, if I did work at that spa, I would not have used my talent for that.” Moonrise said in a stupefied tone.

My host and the other ponies started to laugh. I wondered if Sandy Shore was just messing with him or she didn't know what she was talking about, mostly because her face still had no emotion and no pony said anything about it. I'm really glad I never will play a game of cards against her, she has a perfect poker face.

“Still, I got the best time on the final obstacle course run and made PFC. From the look of the rest of you, I think none of you would even have come close.” Moonrise said.

“We didn’t run an obstacle course for are final test, we had to fight feral animals.” Sandy Shore said.

“Animals? What the hell kind of test is that?” Moonrise asked.

“Well... I think they were testing to see how we’ll respond to pressure and danger, I mean that manticore had some nasty claws and I think that timber wolf almost got you, Orange,” Sandy Shore said looking over at my host.

“Don’t remind me. I had a splinter in my shoulder all day from it tackling me,” My host replied.

“Wait... you had to fight a manticore and timber wolf?” Aloebloom asked in surprise.

“Well, yeah, but they were kind of easy. I mean, we had them held back. I think the team was really only in trouble when the cockatrice turned Cocoa Leaf to stone,” Sandy Shore replied.

“You fought a cockatrice too?” Seastar asked jumping into the conversation.

“Yeah, I figured all the camps had to do this. Our trainer said that we will be probably facing feral animals, and wanted us to be as prepared as we can be.” Sandy Shore replied.

“No, we had to beat are fellow trainees in the defense of a mock town.” Seastar said.

“Really? We had to run this extremely difficult obstacle course.” Seedshine replied.

“Okay, So we all don’t have the same training. The fuck kind of insanity are they running here?” Grassweed said loudly.

“It’s simple,” a unicorn mare said walking up from behind Moonrise. She was almost as short as Seastar and could easily hide behind Moonrise. Though her body would give her away, can't really hide with a pink coat and a red mane. “The training is base off the Royal Guard. There, trainees have years to learn all the elements to defend Equestria, but we don’t have years to teach all you ponies everything you need. So they figure that each camp will teach a element of what a Royal Guard pony needs. The one with the mock town defense was how to protect a location, the obstacle course was about physical training, and the one with the feral animals was more for facing fear and danger. I think its bullshit, but I’m just a year one trainee,” the mare said.

“Ummm... Hello, I’m-” Sandy Shore said before being interrupted by the mare again.

“You ponies are louder than you think, and I could hear you over by the wagon; so Moonrise is basically one step above you all. So his high and mightiness is more horse shit then he thinks. However, he does have a higher responsibility than you Privates; and if Seedshine, the Sergeant, the Lieutenant, or I are not able to give orders, I expect you to listen to him. Oh, and Grill’s and Hay’s are shit for Filly food, next time, Private Grassweed, take her to Le Buc-Kin. That’s the place that put Fillydelphia food on the Equestrian map. Lastly, what the hell is wrong with your face Private Sandy Shore?” the mare asked in an authoritative tone.

“My face?” Sandy Shore replied.

Finally somepony noticed Sandy Shore’s face! I was starting to think they all got a note saying ‘don’t point out her face, she’s sensitive and it is rude.’ My praise of the pink unicorn did not last long when she spoke again.

“Didn't you get any sleep last night? I think I could hang my helmet on your baggy eyes,” the mare asked.

What! Oh come on! That’s not the face of a tired pony. I’ve seen tired ponies. I’ve seen Peach Fuzz’s face after a fifteen hour patrol. Her face looks like the faces of Radhogs in the headlights of the crawler. Before I could continue my internal rant, Sandy Shore spoke.

“Sorry I was up late last night, was kind of too excited about today to fall asleep. It is nice to meet you..,” she said.

“Oh, I’m Corporal Gumball. I’m your squad leader and second fire support leader,” Gumball said.

“Squad Leader? I thought Oakwood was our squad leader.” Seastar said.

Before Gumball could say something Aloebloom spoke. “No, no, I read in the pamphlet that ummm... that Oakwood is our Commanding officer, or CO for short. Then it’s the Sergeant who is second in command, then the Squad Leader.” Aloebloom said.

“Yes, that’s right. So when Oakwood or Applecore, who is our Sergeant, is not telling you what to do directly, they’ll be telling me what to do and I’ll be assigning you the task.” Gumball said.

“So like my Lead Teller at work. Kind of the middle management I think she had called it.” My host said. Gumball did not seem to like that comparison. She rolled her eyes and look back over to two ponies that were approaching.

“Shit they're here. Okay, get your gear together and make sure you are ready to get on the wagon,” Gumball said, quickly picking up her gear in her magic and placing it on her back.

My host and the rest of the squad quickly pulled their equipment together as the two stallions approach them. Both stallion’s coats matched their manes. The only difference between the two was one was wearing old Equestrian Royal Guard armor, and the other one just wore the same combat armor that my host and the rest of the squad wore. I had forgotten the last time I’d seen a pristine set of Royal Guard armor. In the wasteland, that kind of armor is more valuable as a collectable to the right pony. However, the plating did serve as a decent defense from small arms fire. If you were truly lucky, you could find a set that still held its magical gems.

“I am Lieutenant Oakwood” the stallion in the Royal Guard armor said. “Ruby Squad has been given the task of patrolling the Saddle Tail woods south of here. Equestria has been in dispute with a zebra tribe that lives near the woods who claim that Equestria gave up the rights to the woods when we let them go feral. Our job is to go there, re-secure the woods, and show that Equestria is strong.”

All the ponies around loudly said “Yes sir!”

“Good, Sergeant Applecore, get these ponies in the wagon and be ready to move out,” Oakwood said. Then he turned around and walked off towards a nearby tent.

“Yes sir!” The stallion who must have been Applecore said. “Okay you heard the LT, get your gear and flanks into the wagon!” Applecore said.

My host and the rest of the squad moved toward the wagon with their gear and boarded it. I could see that my host was sitting between Moonrise and Sandy Shore. Across from her sat Grassweed, who in turn was sitting between Seastar and Gumball. Soon after Oakwood boarded the wagon.

“Sergeant, is everypony onboard?” Oakwood called out.

“Yes sir,” Applecore replied.

“Good, wagon team, we are ready to go.” Oakwood called upfront to the ponies that had strapped themselves in.

“Yes sir, we’ll be in Saddle Tail in about two hours,” the lead pony said. The wagon pulled forward. It felt like the same view I had seen before, with my Host sitting across from Grassweed, the only differences were that now snow covered trees in the background and Sandy Shore was the first to speak.

“Oh, that's right, I got a letter! Snow Plain sent it to me a few days after she left for her mission,” she said then pulled out a letter from her breast pocket on her armor. “Orange can you hold it up for me please?” she said looking over to my host. My host nodded and wrap the paper in a magic field and held in place for Sandy Shore to read.

“Dear Sandy. Cocoa and I made it to our squad, and everything here is fine. They even made Cocoa a Private First Class, at least I I think thats what they called it. He looks so happy that he’s already gotten more responsibilities. Oh, and it looks like my squad going to try to capture a few of the gem pirate’s ships for our first mission. The Lt. said that we shouldn't say anything about our mission in letters, but I don’t think I've really said anything that going to cause problems. Tell Grass and Orange I said hello and I hope you'll all be safe and happy. Oh and Sandy, when we meet again lets try page fifty-six in th-” Sandy Shore stop reading and started to turn a bit red. “Darn it, I keep telling myself I can’t read that part and I almost did.” Sandy said.

Grassweed started to laugh a bit. “So, what page from what book Sand?” he asked.

“None of your concern, ya nosey colt!” she replied sticking out her tongue at him.

“Foals.” I could hear Gumball said under her breath. My host ignored the comment or just did not hear it as well as I did.

“Well, from the color of her face, and I going to say it was Hay Positions. I think that page is part of the mar-” Moonrise was saying before a magic field from my host closed his mouth shut.

“I think we can guess what its about Moon so lets save my friend the trouble.” My host said.

“Your other friend is in a lot more trouble, than Private Shore here.” Oakwood said. My host and her friends all turned to Oakwood, who was looking back at us with a scowl.

“Umm.. sir how is she in trouble?” Sandy Shore said.

“Because she wrote out what her mission is, even though she herself stated that it was against the orders of Lieutenant Cedarwood.” Oakwood said looking at Sandy Shore directly. “You could be captured, and that letter will alert the zebra pirates to what your friend’s mission is. Though I think she should be more worried if Cedarwood finds out. He is not one to have his orders disobeyed.”Oakwood said.

“Well, she said that it should be okay. The letter doesn’t say what ships they are going after, see?” Sandy Shore said before grabbing the letter and holding it out to Oakwood. He placed the letter in magic field and brought it over to him, looking at it closely as he read down the lines.

“Ummm... Sir can I have my letter back now, there's some personal stuff on it.” Sandy Shore said.

The Lieutenant look at her and then levitated the letter in front of him. “This letter is a violation of standing rules and a risk to a fellow squad.” Oakwood said then with his magic he rip the letter up so it could no longer be read.

I could not tell if Sandy Shore was shock or angry because of her face being all... how it always was; but her words made it sound like she was shock. “Sir why did you-”

Oakwood hold out his hoof to stop her from talking. “I doing this because now we don’t have to worry about this letter getting to the zebras. Now, next time you send your marefrined a letter, make sure it doesn't mention anything about our mission and remind her that she should not do the same; or both of you will be reprimanded. Understand?” Oakwood said narrowing his eyes on her.

“Yes sir.” Sandy Shore said as sat back down.

The rest of the wagon trip was quiet with the only exception being that Aloebloom was talking in her sleep. Sandy Shore remained quiet and Grassweed was just looking forward on the road, all the while, my host seem to just be staring up into the now cloudy sky. After a while her eyes started to close as she fell asleep.

The memory flash happened as my host was woken up by Gumball. “Hey, we’ve arrived. Get your flank up,” Gumball said. My host looked around, seeing that the small trees from where she’d fallen asleep where now towering and thicker. The snow seem different here, too. Before it was uniform and perfect, but now it looked more like what I seen in the wasteland. Sandy Shore and Grassweed were already putting their packs on, while my host seemed to lazily sit up and try to stand.

She reminds me of how Apricot gets out of bed. Well, not really 'gets out' more so than she just drags herself out of bed. I started laughing at the idea that Orange Harvest, my host, was the great grandmother to Apricot since they both share the same waking habits. My host, after some quick and loud coaching from Gumball, put her pack on and hopped out of the back of the wagon. Though the snow was not as uniform, the sound of it crunching beneath the hooves of my host and others was a enjoyable sound. Ash covered, irradiated snow makes the same sound, but maybe the fact that this snow is not laced with two-hundred year old ash and death just makes it sound a little better.

“Grassweed,” Lt. Oakwood called out. “You will be taking point for the start.”

“Point...” Grassweed started to say then he thought. “Sir, yes sir.” Grassweed said as he walked towards the roadway leading deeper into the forest. My host and Sandy Shore assembled behind Grassweed as other ponies filed in. Grassweed proceeded forward onto the forest road as they started the patrol. I can’t wait to see what happened.

Dear Celestia, please kill me. Or at least make something interesting happen! I now know why Apricot and Peach Fuzz always seemed excited when they get to blast out a raider nest, or take on the Locals when they are on patrol. The amount of boredom this forest was providing was agonizing. Yep, same type of trees over and over and look! The same uneven snow, over and over. I think I'm starting to hate snow now even more than I already did.

So far, I think the most interesting thing I had noticed was that Sandy Shore might be coming down with something. She kept coughing every now and again. I couldn’t tell because her face is always the same thing when my host looks at her. Maybe it’s time for a break. I bet it’s time for my second break and, I know there is some coffee waiting for me, or at least the machine is waiting for me.

“A.I., how long has it been in real time since I started this orb?” I said.

“One hour and six minutes,” the A.I. replied


Okay, I guess I get to enjoy more amazing tree passing action. The action continued for another life time before finally...

Lt. Oakwood called out “Fifteen minute break.”

Sandy Shore was, again, the first one to break the silence. “Are you enjoying your first job as a soldier?” she asked, looking at Seastar.

“It’s... a new experience.” Seastar said back sitting next to a tree on the side of the road.

“Same old experience here.” Aloebloom said sitting next to Seastar.

“Oh? How so?” Seastar said scooting over a bit so Aloebloom could rest her back on the tree.

“When I was just a filly, I thought it was really silly that my family wanted to follow the old path that our grandparents took when they moved out to Cantel. I guess they figure it would be a great experience for us to keep to our heritage. Especially with how times were changing as my grandpa had said.” Alobloom said resting her back against the tree. “Really it was nice to be out camping, but the walking was the worse part. You only can sing one hundred buckets of oats on the wall before you just wish it to stop. Only difference now is I’m not with family, this is barely a road, and silence is rather creepy. I miss the springtime when the birds would sing.” Aloebloom explained with a sigh.

My host listened to Aloebloom talk about the old roads that her family used to take back in, as she mimicked her grandmother's voice about ‘The good old days.’ Out of the corner of my field of view, I could see Grassweed approaching my host.

“How’s it going?” Grassweed asked.

“Doing okay, lot more walking than I’m use to. How about you?” My host asked, stretching her forelegs a bit.

“I’m fine. We got strong legs in my family.” Grassweed said standing by my host. As my host looked around the side of the road where they were taking a break, she saw Oakwood and Applecore talking to Gumball. Oakwood had what looked like a map out, and was pointing out a location on it. I guessed they were deciding where to set up camp for the night.

Gumball walked over towards Grassweed and my host. From the looks of it, she was about to tell one of us that they would be taking point. Most likely my host; however she passed us telling Grassweed, “Good job on being point pony.” She turned towards Aloebloom, Seastar, and Sandy Shore, who were still talking about the good old days of travel.

“Seastar, you will be taking point when we start up again. We will be trotting for about three hours and then set up camp a fair bit off the road.” Gumball said, looking at Seastar and Aloebloom.

“Ma’am, yes, ma’am.” Seastar said back and proceeded to get up and sling her rifle around her back.

“I going to find a private bush really quick.” Grassweed said to my host.

“So both strong legs, and weak bladders in your family? I’ll keep that in mind.” My host said with a laugh.

“Let me guess, your bladder is the size of my field pack, huh?” Grassweed asked.

“Not really, but it’s really useful when standing in line for the new Adventure Filly toys.” My host said.

“Oh Celestia. You're one of the Adventure Filly collectors aren't you?” Grassweed asked.

“Yep!” My host excited seem to grow. “I have all the comics and action sets that they've come out with.” My host replied.

“You’re not like the other ones I’ve seen out by toy stores.” Grassweed said as he turned to walk towards a bush on the other side of the road.

“Well I’m just better at hiding it. I figure everypony around here heard enough of it back at their homes, so I would just keep quiet. But I figured I would tell you since you're a friend, and you now know what to get me for my birthday next month.” My host said with a devious smile.

Grassweed stepped behind the bush. “I figured I’d just take you to dinner again, I know a nic-” Grassweed said before being interrupted by my host.

“Are you seriously talking to me while peeing? What is wrong with you?” My host asked louder then she may have intended. I could see to my host’s left that Moonrise and Seedshine were laughing a bit.

Grassweed looked up from the bush and was about to apologize when he suddenly dropped behind the bush and we heard him sliding down an incline.

My host and the others trotted over to check on him. I was expecting, when my host looked over the bush and down the hill, to see a green body half buried in the snow with his white tail stick out of a ground. Something like some of the old irradiated carrots I had seen in the wasteland.

Me and my host where surprised when she looked over the edge of the hill and saw Grassweed laying on the ground, holding a hoof out and a gun pointing at him. The gun was held by a zebra. I then looked around my field of view and saw several zebras standing around, some grabbing their rifles from behind there backs. I also saw a family of ponies near the back with two zebra mares that seemed to not have any weapons. My host and the rest of the squad quickly grabbed their weapons and pointed down at the zebras. The zebras pointed theirs back at the squad. The standoff began, but this was not really much of a stand off. My hosts squad was at the top of a hill and below was little cover for the zebras to use; also the zebras rifles seem to be even older than the ones the ponies had. Hell, some of the zebras only had swords and spears. At best the zebras may be able to claim Grassweed as a casualty.

“I’m Lieutenant Oakwood of the Equestria Army,” Oakwood said.

“I’m Xeko,” The zebra who was pointing his rifle at Grassweed said.

“You are in Saddle Tail Forest which is under control of Equestria. Even though we are at war, I have no want to harm you. If you return the ponies you have captured and leave this forest, I can assure you that no one will be harmed today.” Oakwood said in an authoritative but diplomatic tone.

I’m guessing he wants to stick true to his order of avoid casualties. I knew that the war made ponies more aggressive to the point of designing a massively destructive weapon, but here Oakwood seemed to want to avoid the fight altogether. Maybe he thinks he won't win if it breaks into a fight. My train of thought was interrupted when Xeko spoke.

“You let this forest go feral, which endangers my tribe with predators that use its roads to travel with no obstructions. These roads lead them straight to our village. If you will not take care of this forest then we will, and we didn’t take these ponies as prisoners. They were endangered from the forest and the roads. We were escorting them back to your lands,” Xeko said still holding his rifle at Grassweed.

“This is not a debate Xeko. I don’t want to see any pony nor zebra hurt today, and you don’t either. How much more will your tribe be endangered if I decided that you have threatened the safety of those Equestrian citizens and one of my soldiers and force to open fire,” Oakwood said in now in a very authoritative tone.

Both side continued to stare down while Grassweed sat in the snow, trying to not to make any aggressive moves. The pony family seem to be hiding behind the wagon with the two zebra mares.

“You have us ponies. I know that we can’t win this fight, and I too don’t want to see bloodshed. We will leave these ponies to your care; however, be warned: the roads are dangerous and this forest is no longer like the ones you have in your lands. You will not survive if you stay,” Xeko said as he lowered his rifle away from Grassweed, and offered his hoof to help him up.

Grassweed grabbed ahold of Xeko’s hoof, and was helped up. Grassweed nodded to the zebra and started to walk back up the hill. The two zebra mares walked with the family: a stallion, mare, and two colts towards the hill. One of the colts had a limp to his foreleg, and was covered with what look like a makeshift bandage. When they reached the top of the hill, one of the zebra mares walked over to Seedshine and said something to her that I could not hear. Then the zebra mares walk back down the hill to join the others, who turned around and walked away from the squad.

Moonrise was the first to speak after the zebras disappeared over another hill down the forest. “Well that was different. I figured they were going to put up a fight, but they walked away. Sir, shouldn't we have taken them as prisoners?” Moonrise asked.

“No point in taking prisoners, and if we did they would have attacked us. I know what village they were from, and I know that they respect an authoritative voice. But I also knew that they are quick to defend what they think is a threat to the village. You should count yourself lucky they knew that we were not going to do anything to their village, but if we had tried to take them as prisoners, they would consider that a threat, and opened fire.” Oakwood said, watching the last zebra pass over the far hill.

“Yes sir,” Moonrise said.

My host walked over to Grassweed who was trying to readjust his field pack that became loose when he fell down the hill.

“You left a little yellow snow at the bottom of the hill,” my host said in an amused tone.

Grassweed turn and look at her. He seem to be still trying to calm down from the experience. “I’d rather leave a little yellow snow back there than be laying there in a lot of red snow,” Grassweed said.

My host seemed to have nothing to respond to him with. She just nodded and turned and walk towards the family who were talking to Seedshine and Alobloom.

“So your family moved to Saddle Tail?” Aloebloom asked.

“Yes, but we had to move near the zebra tribe when the timberwolves started to get more and more aggressive.” the mare said.

“Let me see that leg, Apple Slice is it? I know it hurts, but I can help you okay?” Seedshine said to the colt with the hurt leg.

The little colt was hiding his hurt leg and looked away from Seedshine, probably too scared to answer her.

“You need to stop towering over the kids Seed. I told you back in training when we met White Frost’s family. His little brother was hiding from you because you stood over him. You have to get down to their level.” Moonrise said walking up behind Seedshine.

“Here, I will show you,” Moonrise said kneeling down to the ground till he was eye level with the colt.

“Hello! I’m Moonrise and I heard you’re Apple Slice. Is that because you help your family with apple trees?” Moonrise asked.

“No,” Apple Slice said.

“Oh? Could you tell me why they call you Apple Slice?” Moonrise asked with a smile.

“I really liked cut up apples when I was younger. Mom said that it was my favorite treat so they called me Apple Slice.” Apple Slice said smiling back.

“Well, I have some apples with me, and I’m sure we can get them cut up for you, but first we should get your leg looked at. Seedshine is a good friend and she can help make your leg feel better.” Moonrise said.

Apple Slice nodded his head and held up his hoof to Seedshine. My host turn to the stallion. “What made you pack up and return to Equestria?” my host asked.

“Well, besides the war, the forest has been getting worse and worse. I figured we would brave it now before it got worse.” the stallion replied.

“You look like you barely have anything with you. Just your packs. I would think you would brought more supplies, or at least family things.” my host said.

“We had a wagon full of our belongings and supplies, along with family heirlooms. However, the zebras told us the road was unsafe to travel and they would escort us back to Equestria. I had really no choice, they would not let us pass.” the stallion said.

Before my host could say something more. Oakwood spoke up.

“I am Lieutenant Oakwood of the Equestria Army you are safe now.” Oakwood said.

“Hello Oakwood. I am Pine Leaf. My family and I were trying to make it back to Equestria wh-” Pine Leaf said before being interrupted by Oakwood.

“I know. I heard it all. Tomorrow we will go and get your things. I will not have Equestrian civilians be ordered around by zebras in Equestria lands.” Oakwood said in an annoyed tone.

“Sir, are you sure that is a good idea? Maybe we should just get them back to Equestria.” my host said.

“Umm, I would like it if we could go back to get our stuff. There are some treasured items that we had to give up back in the wagon.” Pine Leaf said.

“Orange Harvest, Seedshine, Sandy Shore, and Sea Star will keep close with you and your family while we head back to the wagon tomorrow.” Oakwood said.

“Tomorrow? We should be able to make it to the wagon tonight. I think we our only seven hours trot away and its only mid-day.” Pine Leaf said.

“True, but we need to set up camp, and if it is true that feral predators are using the roads to travel, I don’t want us near them while we’re trying to set up camp.” Oakwood replied.

Oakwood then turned to the where most of the squad was standing.

“Okay, we know the zebra’s are here in the forest. We are going to keep moving into the forest and set up camp. Then tomorrow we will get to the main road retrieve the Leaf family’s wagon and escort them out of the forest.” Oakwood said.

The squad replied with “Yes sir.”

“Okay, let’s keep moving. We will travel for three more hours, then set up camp. Gumball, you are up front. The rest, keep watch on the forest. Pine Leaf, you and your family will be in the middle.

The squad responded again with “Yes sir,” then started to form in line. My host stood behind Grassweed, who stood next to one of the colts.

“Mr. Leaf, I think it be best if you carry Apple Slice. His leg is not too bad, but it will be hurting for a little bit.” Seedshine said as she stepped behind my host.

“Okay, I will try to carry him. I couldn't carry him before with all the supplies I had to pack from the wagon.” Pine Leaf said.

“Sir. I could carry him for right now if you want. I don’t have that much in my pack” Moonrise said, cutting up an apple for Apple Slice.

“Yeah, dad can I please? I can help keep an eye out for forest monsters.” Apple Slice said.

“I not sure if I like this idea.” Pine Leaf said looking at Moonrise.

“Sir I will keep him safe, and if something happens I will give him to you and I will keep your family safe.” Moonrise said.

Pine Leaf pondered the idea while the other members of the squad got into formation.

“Okay, keep him safe, and Apple Slice? Don’t bother him and let him do his job. If you're good when we get to camp, I’ll cut you up some more apples, okay?” Pine Leaf said, placing a hoof on Apple Slice’s head.

“Yes sir,” Apple Slice said, giving a salute to his father.

Pine Leaf smiled and stepped into the line of ponies between his wife, my host, and Grassweed.

“Okay, let’s get moving.” Oakwood said.

Gumball started to walk forward, followed by everypony else. So now I get to enjoy more exciting patrol action. Whoohoo...

After about what felt like three times three hours, Oakwood called out. “Hold up, we will set up camp here.”

My host and everypony stopped walking and looked around the area. The area the squad stopped in was a small clearing with a few downed trees half buried in the snow. The snow was even more broken up than before, and the trees looked like they were downed by some heavy winds or a buildup of ice.

“Orange Harvest, Grassweed, Sandy Shore, and Aloebloom, start digging out this snow and set up in a ring around the camp. Then dig a fire pit and set up the tents. Gumball, Moonrise, check around the camp area make sure it looks alright and bring back some fire wood. Seedshine and Seastar, set-up for cooking. Applecore and I are going to go over the map and decide where we will go tomorrow. Mr. Leaf, if you could help us by marking where your wagon is on the map.” Oakwood said, distributing orders.

The squad said “yes, sir” and each of them started to work. My host placed her bag down and found the shovel buried in it. Grassweed and Sandy Shore shortly found theirs and then Aloebloom. With that, the excitement of trotting was replaced with the excitement of digging.

The late afternoon passed by into evening as my host’s squad continued to work and complete their tasks. I yet again, just was a passenger to the excitement. When my host and her friends finished digging their fox holes, my host stepped out of the hole and walked up the embankment that the dug out dirt made. I could see what the camp looked like. It seem like nothing I had ever seen before. They built a small camp around a central fire pit with a circular wall of dirt, and what I could guess where the fox holes. Though their design seem insane. They could not see over the dirt mound they dug up, and Oakwood seemed to be happy with what they made. I wanted to just ask them what they were thinking. However I was just there to see what they did and not get to ask why they did it.

My host walked back down the dirt hill to where Oakwood and the mother of the family were standing.

“Don’t worry Ms. Curl Sky, we have the camp secured and we’ll be keeping watch throughout the night.” Oakwood said to the mare.

“Thank you, Lieutenant Oakwood.” Curl Sky said. She smiled then nodded to my host as she walk over to the cooking pot that Seastar was stirring.

“Sir. How do you want to do watches?” My host asked.

“Good question, Orange Harvest.” Oakwood said then turned to where Gumball was standing, talking to Grassweed. “Gumball!” Oakwood called out.

Gumball ran over to where my host and Oakwood where standing. “Sir?” she asked.

“We will be doing three pony watches every three hours. Moonrise, Orange Harvest here, and I will take the first shift. Applecore, Seastar, and Sandy Shore will cover second shift. You, Grassweed and Aloebloom will cover the last shift. I suggest you get some sleep now before you have to be up all night.” Oakwood said.

“Yes sir,” Gumball said giving a salute and walking off.

“Aloebloom, Grass: we are on third watch so let’s get some sleep now.” Gumball shouted.

“Orange Harvest, I want you to watch out from that corner over there.” Oakwood said pointing to the side with the setting sun. “Keep an eye open for our zebra friends and anything else that moves.” Oakwood said.

“Yes, sir,” my host replied, and turned and trotted up the hill of dirt. When my host reached the top of the pony made hill, I could see the dense trees that shrouded the clearing. Snow drifts covered the base of the trees and most of the ground. Only some piles of sticks seemed to escape being covered.

Yet again, time seemed to slow more and more as my host looked into the forest, watching for any movement. The only movement she could see was a rabbit moving around the snow, trying to find some food. It wasn't until a while later, I could hear somepony walking up the hill from behind. My host turn to see Seedshine ambling up with a bowl suspended in the magic field from her horn.

“Hello Orange, how is it going? I figured I’d bring you something to eat.” Seedshine said, holding the bowl of what look like celery and carrot soup.

“Thank you Seedshine,” my host said, taking the bowl in her magic.

“How goes the watch?” Seedshine asked as she finished walking up the hill. The mare looked over the area that my host been staring out over for what felt like forever.

My host took a sip of her soup. “Trees, snow and sticks. Oh and I saw a rabbit earlier.” My host said.

“Was it a threatening rabbit?” Seedshine asked.

“What?... Oh no. It was a rabbit running around. You know, doing rabbit things,” my host replied. “I got a question for you, Seedshine. When we were all digging, you seemed to not talk at all. I hope it wasn't from me and my friends talking to much,” My host said.

Now that I thought about it, my host was correct. During the slog of digging and listening to Grassweed and my host talking about making displays of their squad on the hill at his home. Or listening to Sandy Shore talk more about what she and Snow Plain did, most of which I think my host and Grassweed chose to drown out. I was already worked up from Apricot, and I did not need help from Sandy Shore telling more about her marefriend then any pony needed to hear. However, Seedshine had just kept digging and did not say a word.

“Oh no, you were fine. I just like to listen. When I was training at the hospital we learned to listen to our patients. So I was just listening to everyone talking and just only stepped in when I needed to.” Seedshine said with a smile.

“What hospital do you work at?” My host asked after taking a drink from her soup.

“I worked at Tender Hearts Hosptial. Mostly in the ER for adult ponies. It’s kind of the reason why Moonrise had to help me with Apple Slice. I’m kind of not good with kids. “ Seedshine said with a blush on her face.

“Then why you join the army?” my host asked.

“Well to kind of get away from kids. The ER was starting to see more and more colts and fillies. With all the earth pony inventions, colts and fillies are starting to play around with more and more dangerous things or near construction sites. I had such a hard time working with them that I just decided to sign up and escape them. Though it seems that I can’t really get away from them.” Seedshine said.

“You seemed to jump in and help the family when they made it up the hill,” my host said, now focused on Seedshine more than her job as a watch pony.

“Well, I am still a medical pony and I still going to do my job. Filly, colt, mare, or stallion. Pony or zebra it doesn’t matter, but Moonrise is right, I tend to just treat them all the same. I have to remember that colts and fillies tend to be more scared of a pony towering over them,” Seedshine said.

“Were you and Moonrise friends during training or before?” My host asked.

“Not really at first. He asked me to patch him up when he pushed himself too hard on the obstacle course. In turn, he helped me with making runs on the course. After a while, we became friends. One of the reasons I think we both made it through training and reached a higher rank.” Seedshine said.

“Well, I guess it’s nice he’s good with kids, but he is still a dick,” My host said, laughing a bit.

“Yep, he is still a dick, but he is proud that he earn a higher rank. Now what about you and Grassweed? You two were talking a lot to each other while we were digging,” Seedshine asked with a smile.

“Well, Grass has a nice place. You should drop into Fillydelphia sometime and see. I enjoyed my time wit-” my host was saying before being interrupted by the angry loud voice of a pony I haven’t heard before.

“Private Orange Harvest!” the voice barked.

My field of view jump up then fell straight to the ground as my host jumped and fell. She then turn to see Sergeant Applecore standing behind her.

“Pay attention to your job, not your friend,” Applecore said.

“Sorry sir! Seedshine was just bring me something to eat,” my host said.

“Well you have your food don’t you private? So Seedshine, why are you still up here disrupting a pony on sentry duty?” Applecore asked looking crossly at Seedshine.

“Sir! I was just making conversation with Orange Harvest she asking me about where I came from.” Seedshine ask stepping back a bit.

“You two can have your conversation after Orange Harvest done with her duties. Orange Harvest, I will reminded you so Oakwood won't have to: when on sentry duty, you pay attention to what's around you. We are in a war and we have already spotted the enemy. Oakwood may have spared them, but that does not mean they will spare us. Keep your eyes open and your mind on task.” Applecore said in a stern voice.

“Yes sir,” my host said looking back out towards the trees that she been watching for goddess knows how long.

“Doesn’t matter now. I am here to relieve you. Go down to the camp and warm up by the fire,” Applecore said, stepping forward and turning towards the same woods my host was watching.

My host turn and looked down into the camp where the fire was. I could see the other squad members in the camp somewhere still eating and talking with each other and the rescued family. Sandy Shore was walking up the dirt embankment to take over sentry duty from Moonrise. Seastar had already relieved Gumball, and she was walking down the embankment toward the fire. The rescued family were sitting at the fire with the parents helping the two colts stay warm. Then my host focus fell onto Oakwood. He was standing there looking at my host and signaling that he wanted to talk to her. His face seemed to tell that my host was going to be regretting something.

My host walk down the dirt embankment towards Lieutenant Oakwood. The Lieutenant stood a few yards from the campfire.

“You wanted to see me sir?” My host asked.

“So I over heard that you made a mistake on your sentry duty,” Oakwood calmly said.

“How did you know sir?” My host asked. I yet again knew that my host had a problem of asking foolish questions.

“I have good hearing, private. Now because you seem to not understand how sentry duty works you be pulling double shifts tomorrow night to help you understand the task more.” Oakwood said.

“Uh yes sir,” My host said. I think she starting to figure out what to say to the higher ups.

Oakwood stepped aside to let my host pass. She stepped forward towards the campfire. I could see Moonrise sitting with the family, drawing pictures in the recently de-snowed earth. My host sat down on a log that was placed near the fire where she could see the drawing that Moonrise was making. It looked like a Phoenix in flight.

“It’s very rare to have one as a pet. Only other I know that has one is Celestia herself. But my dad worked hard and was able to tame one, and is now a great pet and mascot for his business,” Moonrise said.

“Wow, I never seen a phoenix where we lived. I heard they look really cool,” Apple Slice said, looking down at the picture in the dirt.

The flickering of the fire did make the drawing seem to flap its wings.

My host looked up from the drawing and laugh a bit. “Telling fairy tales to the colts, Moonrise?” my host asked in a jokingly mader.

“Nope, My dad owns Phoenix Glass and Crafts. He even uses Gold Feather as kind of an artist when making work. Gold brings a nice touch to the shaped glass when she heats it up,” Moonrise said.

“Next time you're in Fillydelphia and are not being lead around by Grassweed, who has no idea what good Fillydelphia food nor art is. I will show you my fathers shop. I can even have Gold Feather make you one of her special wing crafted necklaces,” Moonrise said giving my host a smile.

I was starting to think that Moonrise was hitting on my host. Though my host seem to not notice or care as she sat down on one of the logs by the fire.

“I enjoyed Grassweed’s choice in Filly food and art; but I will be happy to stop by you family business to see this Gold Feather. I still think you're spinning a fairytale to impress our guest,” my host said.

“If you want a fairytale then I'll tell you a scary story,” Moonrise said raising his hooves above his head and waving them around. Then he look at the colts parents “If that is okay with you two.”

Both Curl Sky and Pine Leaf nodded in agreement. As they help there colts back onto the logs and sat with them.

Moonrise lower his head and look around. “Okay, I’m going to tell you the story of the most horrifying pony to ever exist. A pony that chases you down and will take your legs so he can replace his own. Yes this is the story of the legless pony.” Moonrise said in a creepy voice.

The noise of the crackling fire seem to indicate that his scary story was not starting out too well. I have never heard of a legend of a legless pony; but I’d heard weirder stories, so why not this one.

My host was the first to break the momentary silence. “Legless pony? That’s not very threatening.” my host said.

“Not till you see my grandma chasing you in her wheelchair after she caught you stealing cookies,” Moonrise said.

“Legless pony means it has no legs; so I don't think it could get around,” my host replied.

“Are you kidding the legless pony had two sets of wheels to move. That means he probably went faster then my grandma,” Moonrise said looking over at my host.

“Last time I checked, a pony in a wheelchair tends to need a set of hooves to get around. Now the legless pony might be a threat if you are at the bottom of a hill or something, but really not that much of a threat,” My host countered.

“My father had a wheelchair and he was fairly fast. He even caught me a few times sneaking a peek at my birthday presents in the closet,” Oakwood said sitting down on the log next to my host.

“See! The Lieutenant agrees with me, and he is in charge, so this story is true,” Moonrise said, sticking his tongue out at my host.

The two colts start to giggle a bit, enjoying the scene that was playing out.

My host turned to Moonrise.”I don’t want to sound offensive to the Lieutenant, but just because he is our boss does not mean that your story is true. It just means his dad was fast in his wheel chair,” My host countered. “Let alone the fact that even if this pony had two sets of wheels to get around with, how the hay did it get ahold of your legs? I guess he could use his mouth, but I don’t think even a skilled earth pony could get around and be able to remove your legs,” My host said.

“Maybe he is a unicorn,” Apple Slice said.

“You’re right, Apple Slice. The legless pony is a unicorn, a powerful and evil unicorn trying to fix his mistake and get his legs back,” Moonrise said waving his hooves in an attempt to look scary.

“How did he lose his legs?” the older colt asked.

“He evilly enchanted his hedge clippers, and they turned on him,” Moonrise said making slicer motion with his hooves.

“That’s insane, Moon,” My host said standing up from the log.

Moonrise walked over to my host and whispered into her ear. “You're right it is a silly story and the colts are laughing, you need to learn to play along with a story sometime. Oakwood did. That or he has a strong legged father.” My host closed her eyes, and I heard a thump of her hitting her hoof against her head.

“Now where was I,” Moonrise said walking around the fire. “Oh yes. On snowy nights like this you can hear the sound of a squeaking wheel and crunching snow. When you hear them, you must hide your legs under the snow or in a blanket. If you don’t then he will get you.” Moonrise said then started to do a evil laugh.

I could see Oakwood roll his eyes and stand up. “I going to get some more firewood,” He said.

Pine Leaf stood up. “Umm, Lieutenant Oakwood? I will go get the firewood. I still feel I need to repay you and your squad for helping us,” Pine Leaf said.

“It’s ok, Mr. Leaf. It’s our job as Equestria Soldiers to aid citizens,” Oakwood replied then started to turn around.

“Please Oakwood, I would like to do something more. It’s how my family works,” Pine Leaf said.

Oakwood turned around and faced Pine Leaf, then smiled. “Okay. I understand, but please, do not go too far from the camp, and please stay in site of one of the watch ponies,” Oakwood said.

“I will. I saw some just over one of the sides of the camp,” Pine Leaf said pointing to the side of the camp that my host was watching earlier.

Oakwood nodded and step aside for Pine Leaf.

“I’ll be right back everypony,” Pine Leaf said and started to walk toward the embankment.

My host watch him walk over the embankment to the other side as he nodded to Applecore who was standing watch. My host then turn back to Moonrise. “So legless pony? Do you know if he ever got anyone you knew?” My host asked.

“Yep, He kind of got my grandm-” Moonrise said then he was interrupted by the scream behind my host.

My host turn towards where the screaming was coming from. I could see Applecore raising his rifle and started to fire down at something behind the hill.

“Come on get up over the embankment!” Applecore shouted firing another two shots.

My host seem to be frozen trying to figure out what to do. She look behind her seeing Moonrise already had his rifle out and was standing in front of the colts while there mother cover them with her hooves.

My host turn back to see Pine Leaf reach the crest of the embankment. Applecore seem to turn his rifle towards Pine Leaf and was looking like he was going to shoot him. That when I saw it.

The timber wolf came over the embankment just as Pine Leaf made it over. The Timber wolf collided with Pine Leaf and they both tumble down the embankment into the the dugout hole. I could see a magical field form around the timberwolf as Oakwood step forward into my field of view. His levitation lifting the timberwolf and slammed it into the campfire. The campfire erupted in flames and embers as the timberwolf hit it. My host turn to see Oakwood begin to sweat as he held his grip on the wolf in the fire.I could hear gunfire from Applecore position again.

“There’s more of them!” he shouted.

Soon after, I could hear more gun fire from the ponies standing watch. I could see Seastar firing down on something in the forest. My guess it was more timberwolves. She then started to fall back into the camp. She was halfway down the embankment when two timberwolves appeared. She was able to hit one of them. The bullet dug into its belly but seem to do little to no real damage as it began to charge forward down the embankment. My host quickly readied her rifle and turn to where her friend Sandy Shore was. She was already down the embankment, trying to put another clip into her rifle. My host raised her rifle and open fire on the approaching timberwolf. The round clipped one of its legs, causing it to yelp and slide down the hill into a dugout at the bottom.

Before my host could turn and fire at another one that was ready to jump on Sandy Shore, I could see in the right side of my host’s view a timber wolf charging at her. My host seemed to notice it as well and began to turn and ready her rifle. However I could tell she would not have enough time.

The timberwolf leap at my host as she was ready to fire. It almost made it to her when Grassweed slammed into the side of the beast sending it to the ground hard. Grassweed then ran over to the confused creature and stomp down on its head. The loud snapping coming from under his hooves told me that he crushed the timberwolves head.

My host turn to Grassweed who looked back with a bit of fear in his eyes. He then turn his head and grab his rifle pointing it past the left side of my host. He began to fire. I could hear wood splintering as a round struck a timberwolf behind my host.

“Everypony! Around the campfire, NOW!” Oakwood shouted pulling the burning timberwolf out of the fire and telekinetically throwing it at another wolf that was trying to grab onto Sandy Shore as she ran down the embankment.

I could see the other members of the squad stepping back forming a circle around the campfire. Grassweed was standing next to my host, along with Sandy Shore, each of them aiming at timberwolves on the top of the embankment. I started to notice that the squad was hitting their shots, however the damage seem to be minor. Moonrise and Seedshine were standing near the mother and colts. Seastar and Gumball stood behind my host on the other side of the campfire. My host did not look to where Applecore and Oakwood where standing, but she could hear Oakwoods orders clearly.

“Keep firing and cover each other,” Oakwood ordered.

My host levitated her rifle up and look down the sight at a timberwolf running over the embankment. She fired three shots from her rifle. The first two struck the timberwolf in the back, sending splinters out while the last shot dug into the dirt. The timberwolf stammered a bit and then started to run down the hill again, only momentarily impeded.

“Sir! They're not going down!” Gumball shouted.

She was right. I could see several rounds hitting the timberwolves and only a few seem to be dead or out of commission. One timberwolf’s hind legs that was shattered by a shot from Grassweed was already starting to pull itself together from the splitters around the ground. I could not see the whole scene from the view of my host. However the timberwolves seemed to respond more to the load sound of the guns then the bullets striking them. Every time one got close, the sound of the ponies rifles caused more fear than any of the bullets that struck them. I then realised that this was the only thing that was preventing the wolves from overrunning them. However, that advantage seemed to be disappearing.

Three more wolves came over the embankment. My host quickly grabbed one in her telekinesis and immediately slammed it into one of the other ones that came over the hill. The force of the impact caused them to shatter into twigs, which rolled down the embankment into the dugout. As the sticks of the once a snarling beast were rolling down the hill, I noticed that one of the sticks glowed a green color. My host seemed to notice it as well as she looked down her sights at the stick and open fire. Three shots were fired with only one striking its target, causing the still falling stick to shatter, its glow dissipating as it landed in the dugout.

My host used her magic to quickly eject the empty mag from her rifle and loaded another. “I’m getting low on ammo!”

I did not have the advanced tactical training as my mare nor the other Paladins; but I could see the end of this fight was going to happen soon. Only a few timberwolves were dead or out of commission. The campfire behind my host light up brightly as I could hear Oakwood placing another Timberwolf into the fire. Even if all the unicorns started to use that tactic they would not survive.

“Help!” Moonrise screamed.

My host turn to see him trying to protect the mother and colts. He fired at one of the wolves coming out him. The shot stuck into the open maw of the timberwolf causing it to drop to the ground immediately. It was a well place shot however the second wolf got its advantage and was able to strike the weakest member of the group.

“Ahhh Help!” Apple Slice cried out as the timberwolf grabbed his bandaged leg and dragged him away from Apple Slice mother’s grip.

My host quickly raised her rifle at the wolf, but she stopped. She could tell that she did not have a good shot and might hit the colt. The timberwolf was trying to escape quickly with his prize, but had trouble trying to get through the field kitchen that was set up nearby.

Moonrise also did not have a shot, but that did not stop him. He ran and leapt at the wolf while it was trying to navigate the kitchen setup. His body slammed into the wolf as all three of them rolled through the cooking pots and a small box marked as hay. They stop near one of the dugouts as Moonrise continue to try to hold onto the timberwolf and tried to free Apple Slice.

“Grassweed keep them off my back!” my host shouted as she turn and raised her rifle at timberwolf that was approaching Moonrise. She fired two shots both struck the head of the beast causing it to collapse into a pile of sticks.

I could see Moonrise reaching for one of the small shovels that they used earlier to dig. He was finally able to bite down onto the handle of the shovel and with a quick jerk of his neck sent the blade of the shovel into the side of the head of the timberwolf. He then turned the shovel, causing a cracking sound as the eldridge wood inside the timberwolf snapped. The now pile of sticks collapsed to the ground, freeing the little colt. Apple Slice quickly stood up and hobbled back to his mother as Moonrise got back up, grabbing his rifle and returning to protecting the family by the fire.

My host turned herself back to where Grassweed was shooting from. He was loading a new magazine into his rifle right when a timberwolf attempted to strike. My host quickly responded, wrapping the timberwolf in her telekinesis, and attempted to throw it into the fire like Oakwood was doing. My host was unable to hold on to the timberwolf, dropping it to the ground in front of Applecore.

Applecore was busy helping Seastar and did not see the creature jump on him. His telekinesis fizzling as he was slammed against the ground, the Timberwolf that he had been holding back from Seastar became free and tackled her to the ground. My host tried to use her magic again but she was to strained from trying to lift the beast. She raised her rifle to try to get a shot, but she hesitated again from the risk of hitting her squad member.

Out of the coner of my field of view a bright green light appeared. My host turn to see a green mist move over the top of the embankment near Grassweed. The mist moved quickly and spun around itself and I could see eyes appearing in it along with a large jaw. It open its mouth and let out a loud scream.

Everypony and timberwolf seem to stop to look at this new threat. The timberwolves started to run away from the creature. The squad raised their weapons and open fired. The shots seem to just pass threw the green monster with no harm being done. It continued to scream for a few more seconds then just stopped and disappeared.

Then everything was silent except for the heavy breathing from the squad members and the sobbing from the colts and mother. My host look around her. Everypony seem to be okay. Seastar and Applecore where standing up and Seed Shine was already looking at Apple Slices leg that was bitten.

“Orange are you okay?” Grassweed asked trotting up to the side of my host.

“Ya I am fine, what about you?” my host asked, looking herself over before turning to him.

“Other than my head hurting a little bit from hitting that thing, I’m fine. I’m going to go check on Sandy,” Grassweed remarked with a smile before walking over to Sandy Shore. She was still holding her rifle pointing up the embankment where the green monster was.

“Dad?” the old brother asked looking around him.

“Dad?” Apple Slice said joining his brother in his search.

In the sudden chaos everypony seem to forget about Pine Leaf falling into one of the dugouts. Applecore was the first to find him. He was under the remains of one of the timberwolves, bleeding and unconscious. Applecore laid Pine Leaf on the ground next to the dugout, his family running over to his side as his colts were shaking his hoof to try and wake him. Seedshine quickly grab her medical bag and ran over, looking over Pine Leaf and then her horn started to glow as a magical field cover Pine Leaf.

“Is he going to be okay?” Apple Slice asked with tears in his eyes.

“Yes hes going to be fine. He's just unconscious, and his bleeding is nothing a few bandages won't fix." Seedshine remarked calmly as she looked over her shoulder. "Moon, can you get that small glass bottle from my bag?”

“Umm.. sure,” Moonrise replied, quickly trotting over to Seedshine’s bag and rummaging through it. He shortly trotted back over to Seedshine with a small bottle in his mouth.

Seedshine picked it up out of his mouth with her levitation and brought it over to her. “Thank you,” she said then look at the colts.

“When I was young, my brothers and I just wanted to sleep in rather than go to school. My mother used this stuff to help encourage us out of bed, and I never like the smell, it should wake him. ” Seedshine said with a smile. I could tell that she was helping the colts calm down by showing that she was relaxed while levitating the vial across Pine Leaf's snout. The effect was immediate as Pine Leaf opened his eyes and almost shot up, but Seed Shine’s magic held him down to prevent him from hurting himself.

“Oh Celestia! That stuff is horrible,” Pine Leaf choked out before his eyes went wide, remembering what happened. “Kids, are you okay?” Pine Leaf asked grabbing one of the colts and pulling him close.

“Ya dad we are fine. Mom and the soldiery ponies kept us safe,” Apple Slice said.

Pine Leaf slowly stood back up and shook the dust he was covered in. “I guess thank you again, Oakwood, for saving us,” Pine Leaf said.

Oakwood and Applecore approach everypony that was standing around Pine Leaf. “Mr. Leaf can you tell me what happen?” Oakwood said.

“Well, I walked over the hill to get some more firewood, and there were some branches just laying on the ground. I reached out to pick them up and that’s when I realized it was a timber wolf. I dropped what I had and tried to run, but it raised up and tried to attack me. I am extremely fortunate that Mr. Applecore here is a good shot.” Pine Leaf said reach a hoof out to Applecore.

“No problem, Mr. Leaf sir, I'm just glad everypony’s alright.” Applecore said shaking the stallions hoof.

“Alright, so we need to check branches before we set up camp tomorrow night so we won't have a repeat,” Oakwood said looking at Applecore.

“Yes sir,” Applecore said saluting and walking back up the embankment.

“Sir, we still need some firewood. The fire is starting to die down,” Aloebloom said walking up to Oakwood.

“Well, timberwolves are made of wood and we have a few of them dead in the camp. We should be okay for the night,” Oakwood said pointing to the pile of sticks that was once a vicious beast.

Aloebloom tilted her head “Umm sir are you sure? That seems kind of wrong, don't you think?”

“I’m not going to send ponies back into the woods to look for firewood while there are timberwolves nearby, let alone whatever the hay that green monster was. Timberwolves are only alive through the living wood inside them, and when that wood is dead, they are just sticks and twigs and therefore something to burn. No more questions, get to it.” Oakwood said turning to Aloebloom. She saluted and quickly started to gather the remains of the timberwolves.

I could hear my host sigh deeply as she walked over to one of the dugouts and jumped in. She then sat back and look up at the sky. I notice a few breaks in the clouds similar to what a normal night in the wasteland is like, however the stars seemed different. Even though seeing the stars in the wasteland was rare, I knew what they should look like; but these stars looked amazingly different. They seem to shake.

As I payed closer attention, I slowly realized that it was not the stars that were shaking, but that it was my host that was. I could hear her starting to take deep breaths. It seems the stress of what happen was starting to get to her, and she was doing everything she can to keep it held in. I started to wonder what she was thinking about, but was interrupted when I could hear a pony stepping into the dugout next to my host. She turn to see Grassweed sit down next to her.

“Hey Orange how you doing?” Grassweed asked with a slight smile. I could see the fear he was trying to hide. His smile just seemed to be painted on as he was trying to be supportive to my host.

“I’m fine, Grassweed. Thanks for the clever use of your head back there,” My host said.

Grassweed seemed to smile a bit more. “Well, it was the only idea I had at the time.”

“Well, you keep using your head as a battering ram, so I'm not really surprised that was your only idea,” my host said lightheartedly.

Grassweed laughed at that. “So what do you think? When we go on our break from the squad, you want to come back with me to Fillydelphia and we all can work on the display I have in my mind,” Grassweed asked.

My host seemed to think about it for a second and took another breath. “Sure, I’d be happy to help out,” my host said.

“Are you sure you are okay?” Grassweed asked, tilting his head.

“Well besides almost being ripped to shreds, and watching my friends nearly ripped to shreds as well by aggressive foliage. I'm doing fine,” my host said, trying to laugh a bit.

“Yeah... that was well,” Grassweed began to say then paused. “Exciting in some ways. I mean, how many times working at the bank did you wish you had to fight off some robber just to not be bored?” Grassweed asked, trying to lighten up my host’s and, I suspected, his own mood.

My host seemed to stare at Grassweed for a few seconds. His face shifted from a forced smile to an awkward stare with a forced smile. I now know what I looked like when I was caught trying to steal something from Crate Boxes’ store back home.

“Okay Grass, I've known you long enough to see when you're scared and you're trying to hide it. Last time I saw it, you asked me out. So if you're trying to be all big stallion to impress me, you're not doing a good job. I think I am at the same level of scary as some timberwolves in your eyes.” my host said. Though how she said it, I think she was starting to calm down and joke with him back.

Grassweed seemed to think about it for a second and looked down. “Okay yes, I was scared and I’m still scared. I think we gotten in over our manes. I mean, did you see how they moved? I was scared that you were going to be carried off into the woods.” Grassweed admitted with a strained voice. “I want to make sure you’re safe, Orange. I care about you, and I want to make sure I can take you on many more dates,” Grassweed said still keeping his head down.

“Grass, I’d be happy to go out with you more, and to help you with your design. Thank you for keeping me safe, and I will try to keep you safe as well,” My host said hugging Grassweed. “Tell me about your design for the display,” My host said, laying back in the dugout.

Grassweed moved close to my host. I was starting to get worried that I would be stuck in the body of my house while she had sex with another pony. Though, with my experience with Apricot, my host’s eyes will be closed or staring at the dirt... and why am I thinking about this?! Great! This is not helping my mood, and I don’t know how much longer I really have sitting through this memory. I should ask the computer, but I think seeing it said ‘hours’... I don’t want to think about it. I was lucky though when Grassweed lay next to my host. I could see him place his muzzle next to her cheek. “I will tell you tomorrow, lets just lay here and enjoy each other’s company. I have watch in a few hours. I’d like to enjoy my down time just being next to you,” he said.

My host closed her eyes. “Thank you, Grassweed,” my host said as the familiar signs of a memory flash occurred.

My field of view returned when my host opened her eyes slowly. It was now morning. My host looked to where Grassweed was when she fell asleep, but he was not there. She sat up and looked about, as she scanned around her, I could see Gumball standing on one of the sides of the embankment around the camp. The campfire was still burning, with Oakwood and Seedshine over by the field kitchen and hard at work preparing a meal. Applecore was standing by Pine Leaf and his wife, talking, while Moonrise was asleep near the two colts. My host could then see Aloebloom on another side of the embankment. She turned back and looked up the embankment she was sitting by to see Grassweed standing at the top, looking out into the forest. My field of view changed as my host stood up and started to walk up the embankment.

“Orange Harvest!” the voice of Applecore said behind my host. She turned to see him walking over to her. “Go help Oakwood and Seedshine with breakfast,” Applecore ordered, pointing to where the two ponies were working.

“Yes sir,” my host replied, turning back to look up the embankment to Grassweed who turned to look down at the conversation. He just smiled at my host and turned back to the forest. My host walked over allowing me to see Oakwood stirring a pot with his magic while Seedshine diced some potatoes. “Ummm... Sir? I am here to help,” my host said, looking at Oakwood.

“Good! You can help Seedshine dice the potatoes and apples,” Oakwood said.

“Yes sir, but why are you preparing breakfast? I would think you would order somepony else to make it,” My host said.

“Old habit of mine. When I was just newly commissioned royal guardspony, we were put on expeditions to patrol the outer areas of Equestria. I was always the cook since I got up before everypony else at the same time every day. So with my years of practice, here I am, making breakfast for everypony, same as every morning.” Oakwood said. My host, satisfied with the explanation, ambled over to Seedshine, who was still dicing potatoes. She picked up a knife in her magic and started to cut into another potato.

The morning mist continue to move over the camp as members of the squad started to wake-up and trot over to the kitchen to eat. Oakwood's breakfast consisted of oatmeal with sliced apples and with potatoes on the side, informing us that the potatoes would help the platoon keep their strength for the patrol. After each pony got their meal, my host finally had a chance to eat for a short period before being assigned to clean the pots. Apparently Oakwood liked making breakfast, but hated cleaning up afterwards. So that was ordered to somepony else, which lucky for me, was my host.

After the thrilling adventure that was cleaning, the camp was promptly packed up. Everypony was ready to continue to the wagon that Pine Leaf’s family had to leave behind.

“Moonrise, you’re up front,” Oakwood called out as the ponies assembled around, now standing outside the embankment. I could see some bullet holes in the trees nearby from last nights battle. My host stood behind Gumball, who was behind Moonrise, but I could also tell that my host was standing next to the family who was in the center of the patrol group. I could see Seedshine to my host’s right side, who in turn stood next to Apple Slice and was helping him onto his fathers back.

“Okay, let’s move out. Everypony keep an eye out for anything. Remember, the Zebras may still be out here, let alone the timberwolves that probably want to get back at us.” Oakwood said. I could see Moonrise start to walk forward, followed by Gumball, and immediately I knew where this was going. Oh good, more hours and hours of watching ponies walk. I really hoped that the orb was going to be completed soon. I knew I need to be watching for useful information, but so far I had learned was that ponies in the past could walk in a line.

As the morning continued, we made it to the road and started trotting along it. The mist that covered it was starting to break away, revealing that the road still had a light layer of snow on it, but even so it was much easier to traverse than the ground they were traveling on before.

“Sir, I see a sign,” Moonrise called out, turning to look back at Oakwood.

Oakwood trotted forward to where Moonrise was standing. When Moonrise stepped to the side, I could see the sign he was talking about. It was a small wooden rectangle with ‘Beware’ written across it.

“Guess the zebras want to make sure we know that the road not safe for travel,” Moonrise said, looking up at Oakwood.

“Seems like it. Doesn't matter. We already took care of a pack of timberwolves. We can handle anything else.” Oakwood said returning to his spot. “Keep going forward. We should only be about twenty minutes from the wagon.”

“Yes sir,” Moonrise said walking forward past the sign.

We all proceeded forward. My host kept looking to her side of the forest, my guess was that she was looking for any signs movement. Everything seemed quiet, no movement, nor sound. When my host turned to look forward, I could see the wagon in the distance. Almost immediately, a cloud of snow, dirt, and rocks erupted around Moonrise, who fell back on his hind legs then collapsed to the ground. Everything around me was quiet as I realized that my host had lost her hearing from the explosion by Moonrise.

My host’s hearing started to come back as I heard the muffled sound of Seedshine, shouting “Moonrise!”

I could see her out of the right corner of my field of view. My host seemed to not be paying attention. She seemed to be trying to figure out what just happen. Another cloud erupted in front of Seedshine she collapsed to the ground a meter from Moonrise. Again everything was silent as my host collapsed to the ground, closing her eyes. She slowly reopened them as her hearing returned. I could see several gashes in Seedshine’s pelt as blood pooled around her. Moonrise’s body was not much better. He simply lay there, the explosion having torn into his underbelly. Both were dead, and the squad was in a lot of trouble.

“No pony move!,” Oakwood shouted.

Those were the first words my host heard when her hearing started to come back. The next thing I heard was the crying of the colts. My host raised her rifle and was looked into the forest, trying to see the attackers. The mist was still thick enough to hide their attackers from a distance, but I did not think that whatever it was could be thrown. They could be in the trees. I wanted to be the inner voice in my host’s head, telling her to look up. Check the trees! The zebras might be in there, but she continued to look around her.

“Sir, we need to help Seed and Moon! They look badly hurt, and they’re not moving,” Sandy Shore said.

“Keep your heads down and keep the family covered,” Oakwood ordered.

“Sir, we need to get off the road. The zebras must be hitting us with something,” Seastar said.

“I didn't see anything get thrown in front of Moonrise,” Gumball said keeping her weapon trained to the forest.

“Anypony see what hit us?” Applecore asked.

“No,sir,” Grassweed said.

My host turn and looked at Applecore. “No, all I saw was a cloud of snow and then Moonrise was on the ground.” She then turn her head back to the forest watching for any movement. The sobbing of the colts was getting loader. My host keep her eyes to the forest with her rifle raised up.

“Maybe it’s a dragon that hit us?” Sandy Shore asked.

“If it was a dragon, we’d be burnt to a crisp. There are no dragons this far south,” Aloebloom replied back.

“Well, maybe the zebras offered a teenage dragon to take care of the beasts, and you know, us,” Sandy Shore replied back.

“Enough guessing. We are falling back off the road until we figure this out. Everypony step back slo-” Oakwood said before being interrupted.

“Sir. I see something,” Gumball said ahead of us.

“What is it?” Oakwood asked.

“Not sure let me get a hold of it,” Gumball said.

My host turn to see Gumball horn light up The ground in front of Gumball glowed with her magic. She did not see it, nor my host when it exploded, but I did. Something erupted out of the snow covered ground, then exploded ahead of Gumball. The squad had walked into a minefield.

Gumball collapsed to the ground, grabbing her face as she screamed. She continued to scream as she curled herself into the a ball. I could see lacerations on her legs and what looked like a brown object sticking out of her armor barding. Her armor seemed to keep her protected from the shrapnel, however her exposed face was injured from the hit.

I knew what injuries the wasteland's mines leave, so this was something different. I could finally do some research. I knew the system has a database of weapons and equipment used in the war to help the researcher so...

“A.I., send the information related to that explosion to the field notes.” I spoke out in an almost excited voice.

“Request confirmed,” The A.I. said.

I turned my attention back to Gumball, who was still screaming. She seemed to have turned herself back towards the my host.

“Gum! What happened? What did you see?” Oakwood asked staying, where he was.

“I can’t see!” Gumball shouted sobbing now.

“Gumball. Calm down. We will get you out of there. We haven’t left you, but I need to know what happened,” Oakwood said.

“I don’t know sir, all I saw was something in the ground. I tried lifting it with my magic then everything went dark now. Are my eyes open?” Gumball asked in a panicked voice. She moved her hooves away from her face. Shrapnel from the mine had ripped across her face. Her eyes were bloody and swollen shut.

“Just stay there Gum. We will get to you, okay?” my host said.

“Okay, everypony listen to me!” Oakwood shouted. Everypony was silent except for the sobs of the colts behind my host.

“Orange, levitate Gumball to you and then slowly back up. Try to keep to your same footing. Applecore, you get Moonrise and I will get Seedshine,” Oakwood ordered.

“Yes, sir” my host and Applecore said.

“Pine Leaf, Curl Sky, carefully step backwards and keep your colts on your backs,” Oakwood said.

My host levitated her rifle back onto her back, then concentrated on placing a new levitation field around Gumball.

“Okay Gum? It’s me, Orange. I've got you in my magic field and I’m going to lift you up, okay?” My host said in a slightly strained voice.

Magic fields appeared around Moonrise and Seedshine, who still where unmoving. When they were lifted from the ground their bodies slumped over. I could tell they were dead, the ground around them was just pool of dark blood, slowly melting the snow around them.

My host looked away from Moonrise and Seedshine and concentrated on Gumball. “Okay Gum, I’m going to bring you over to me and place you on my back,” my host said.

“Please hurry! I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to go home.” Gumball said, sobbing.

My host lifted Gumball to her. “Hey Gum, you're with me now. I’ll get you out of here,” my host said, placing Gumball gently on her back.

“Sir! I think I see something coming this way!” Grassweed call out pointing into the misty part of the forest.

“Shit, everypony back up quickly and carefully,” Oakwood ordered.

My host started to back up as quickly and carefully as she could. She levitated her rifle back out and pointed towards where Grassweed was pointing his rifle. I could not see anything in the mist. My host continue to back up.

My field of view jolted a little bit as I release that she bump into some pony.

“Sorry Orange,” Sandy Shore said.

Then I heard a hoof slip in the snow. Suddenly my field of view tumbled everywhere as my host was thrown into the air. Everything went dark. No sound. No sight.


I figured the memory was going to end with the death of this pony, but that did not make sense. Recollectors were not made at this stage of the war, and the memory spell would not have been able to pull a memory from a dead pony. A flash of light crossed my screen. I knew it was a memory flash and that my host was still alive.

My host slowly opened her eyes. I could tell that she was laying on her side and her left eye was partially buried in the snow. My field of view focused in and out as she tried to stay conscious, the snow turning red around her field of view. My host had been hit by a mine. Everything was muffled again and She seemed to be unable to move her head, but was looking around the best she could. I could see Grassweed’s hind leg in the uppermost part of her vision. She tried to turn her head to see him, but couldn't. He’d made it out of the field. She then look down and saw Sandy Shore laying there.

Sandy Shore was laying there with her same face she’d had since the first time my host met her, and that when I released what her face was. She lay there, eyes staring forward, small her mouth open. She was dead and my host burned her death mask into her memory. My host just stared at Sandy Shore’s blood flowing out a massive wound on the mare’s neck.

My field of view started to get wavy as was my host began to tear up. That’s when I could see the figures stepping out of the mist. My host’s eyes slowly closed as the zebras stepped into her view.

Field Note:
Weapon I.D.: ZebAPM01 “Party Popper”
Weapon Type: Anti-Personnel Mine.
Explosive Type: Alchemic
Blast Radius: 4 meters
Danger level to Steel Rangers: None


View Online

Fallout Equestria: Lines

Chp.4: Ward

My field of view returned to the E.F.D. as the A.I. notified me that section two was completed. As I had requested, only two hours had passed during my time in the orb. Though, for me, it had been hours and hours.

“Item added to field notes,” the A.I. informed me, highlighting the field note tab at the bottom of my E.F.D., a small, flashing number one displaying next to it.

“A.I., bring up the field notes and show me the new entry,” I said, curious to the information it contained.

The display changed, displaying the mine that Orange Harvest and her squad had stepped into. I quickly started to read through the details. The archive system seemed to be able to pull information from many different reports about the weapon, and there were A LOT of reports. I had spent about twenty minutes just reading through all the files when I realised that I still needed to go have lunch.

“A.I. shut down,” I said, finally ready to take my break.

The A.I. confirmed the order promptly, and my world returned to me staring at the control console of the Memory Orb Archive. I step out of my chair and headed for the lunch room.

“Nah, I think there is something really good behind that main vault door. I can just feel it in my coat,” Melon Seed said sitting back in his chair in the lunchroom.

Melon Seed was talking to Donut Hole across the table from him, while Tea Leaf was sitting on the other side of a steaming pot set between Melon and Donut. From the looks of what she was eating, lunch would be steamed noodles.

“Well I think we will need to head back after we get this test run of the archive done,” Donut Hole said looking over at me.

“That might not take too much longer, as it looks like I just finished up the first subject that Dr. Winter was examining,” I said pulling up one of the chairs and sitting in it.

“How many subjects are there?,” Donut Hole asked curiously.

“Don’t know, I just going to go through Block C and hopeful have a good idea of how useful this techknowledge will be. I think Block C has about six orbs each side so about twelve. Though with what looks like a massive compression that could have one or two subjects in the orbs; But I do think this thing will be very useful for us even if it’s this far out. I have already learned something about a weapon that was used at the start of the war.” I said, staring hungrily at the pot.

Tea Leaf finished slurping up some noodles that she had hanging from her mouth. “Oh! was it an early battle saddle?” she cocked an eyebrow as she asked.

“Nope, it’s a mine. The squad that my host was with back then stumbled into it. Caught them by surprise” I replied stirring the pot with my magic.

“A mine?” Donut Hole asked looking up from his bowl of noodles. “I thought mines where not used to later on in the war.” he said.

“Maybe ponies designed mines later on in the war when it was used as a tactic; but it seems that this mine was originally used as a deterrent for feral animals in zebra lands.” I said adding some of the noodles from the pot to a bowl. “The reports I read in the field notes did not mention if it was a staple in the zebra military, or just something this tribe had in the forest where my host’s squad ran into it.” I said.

“Is it like the ones that are used nowadays?” Tea Leaf said before going back to her noodles.

“No, it was a very basic design,” I said looking over to a empty bottle of sparkle cola. I levitated it over, along with an old straw that was next to it. I then placed the straw inside the cola bottle and flip it upside down. “This design works in a rather sloppy way. First they had to bury the thing in loose earth and hope it did not just go off in their hooves. Then the victim has to trot into the area and cause enough of a depression in the earth to snap the component that made up the first stage of the mine.” I used my telekinesis to bend the straw a bit, the brittle tube snapping in my magic. “When that happens a chemical charge is ignited to throw the mine up, all whil..” I said before being interrupted by Donut Hole.

“Okay we don’t need to know how the mine is made we just need to know is; A if the archive can give you detailed information and it seems it can, and B if this weapon is a threat or asset to the Steel Rangers,” Donut Hole said.

“Well, really the mine is just a clay jar that explodes and throws chunks of it everywhere, so to Steel Ranger armor it’d be a joke. I don’t even think you notice it going off. To a non armored pony however, it could kill them. Most of the mines that were buried during the war should have detonated for some reason or another by now. Though some of the wood supports they used in the later models, might have made them last longer, depending of course on the decay of the wood.” I said placing down the sparkle cola bottle and straw.

“So, then there could be still some around?” Tea Leaf asked with a spark of interest, slurping up the last of her lunch.

“Yes, and there was no real easy way to detect them. With zero metal or magical components, they are all but invisible. A few spells were made to detect them, but seems that all they could do is find where one is buried and then try to cause enough of a disruption in the earth in the area to set off the mines.” I said.

“Were they the size of that sparkle cola bottle?” Melon Seed asked, pointing his hoof to my makeshift demonstration.

“No, they’re about the size of the jugs that Dry Core used to bottle his Mooncider.” I replied back take another bite from my noodles.

“Oh ya. I love the Mooncider Core made,” Melon Seed said.

“Really? Don’t you remember how he made it?” I asked as I looked over to Melon Seed, not thinking that I’d ever forget when I learned.

“Yeah, I know it was made in his toilet, but that was the only source of freshwater in town.” Melon Seed said. “Completely understandable in his case.”

Donut look up from his noodles. “Wait how did you think he got a source of fresh water in Boulder Junction?” he asked.

“Not sure as he keep it his trade secret. Only shop in town that sold fresh water... even if I know it is from the toilet.” I said.

“As is the best Mooncider to ever grace the wasteland,” Melon Seed said jumping back in.

“Wait... Dry Core?” Donut asked.

“Yeah?” Melon Seed replied, a confused look flushing over his face.

“When did he move into the town?” Donut asked slowly, obviously trying to put something together in his head.

“Ummm... I think about five years ago maybe more. What you think Mint?” Melon Seed asked looking at me.

“Yes, five to six years ago sounds about right. We were still young when he moved to our town, and He mostly kept to himself, only interacting with anypony when he was selling water and his cider,” I said putting another set of noodles into my mouth.

“Then Dry Core is Dry Applecore, a wash out from our chapter.” Donut said.

“Wait, Dry was a washout?” Melon asked.

“One of the worst on record. He was a old boozer before he moved to your town. He first tried to hide his drinking from the instructor but he was caught. They figured corporal punishment would work, but even after twenty lashes he still went back to drinking. So the Elder had him place in confinement, but I think that’s exactly where he learned how to make his mooncider. When they open the door he smelt of booze, they promptly threw him out.” Donut Hole said.

“Well he may have made a crappy Steel Ranger, but goddesses be damned, he’s still a great brewer,” Melon Seed said with a smirk.

“Yeah, I drank his stuff for a bit until I learned about his memory problem.” I said before slurping up the noodle that was hanging out of my muzzle.

“Why would you stop solely from a memory problem he had?” Melon asked.

“Well... If drinking that stuff caused memory problems for him, then I definitely don’t want to drink it.” I shook my head slowly. “Also, he made his Cider in his toilet. I’m sure that on more than one occasion he has forgotten to flush.” I looked Melon straight in the eyes. “Have you ever had a batch of cider that tasted odd?” I asked.

“Yes, but...” Melon began to say before he stopped, just blankly staring forward as his muzzle scrunched in realization.

“I love this part about him.” Tea Leaf said looking up from her bowl with her own smirk.

“Gah!” Melon Seed stuck out his tongue and tried to heave out his lunch. I would have thought that he was overreacting had I not done the same when I had learned.

“No! Not on lunch!” Donut Hole shouted, nearly throwing himself over the pot of noodles to protect them.

Melon ran out of the lunchroom down the hall, disappearing around the corner on his way to the bathroom.

“Still fun when he does that.” Tea Leaf said, calmly returning to the broth in her bowl.

“Still have a crush on him?” Donut Hole asked hesitantly as he sat back down.

“Yes... and it’s not your concern anymore Donut,” Tea Leaf snapped back.

Oh crap, I thought to myself as I watch the argument start. Of course this had to happen now. I couldn’t just have had a nice relaxing lunch, could I?

“Hey I just looking out for-” Donut Hole said before be interrupted by Tea Leaf.

“No, you’re looking out for your second choice in a mate. Don’t start that concerned friend crap with me...” Tea Leaf said before I began mentally drowning out their argument. I don’t know and I don’t want to know what those two had before Donut got put in family quarters. I should know, but nope don’t want to be a third leg in a bad argument. No pony wins as a third leg, so I quickly finished my bowl and hurried out of the room.

I walked back into the Memory Archive and settle back into the chair. I placed my hoof back onto the control screen, clearing my throat before speaking. “A.I. Start. Load section three of the current memory orb.”

“Order confirmed, stand by” the A.I. replied promptly as the computer screen faded away and I was again looking at my E.F.D. “Loading Block C, Orb 1, Section 3, 6 months from the start of the war. Please indicate desired acceleration.”

“four hours,” I replied, the E.F.D. scrolling a line of text in front of my eyes.

System Loading........................

“Four hours, confirmed. Please stand by.” The A.I. chimed.

Memory Loading...................................Complete

My E.F.D. Faded away as the memory began.

<=======ooO Ooo=======>

My host slowly opened her eyes, as I figured she would. If she hadn't survived the mines, I’m sure this section wouldn’t be here. I also figure that so early in the war, the zebras wouldn’t hurt her, and that she would most likely have been put into a hospital. I had been expecting it to be a zebra hospital at a prison camp; but the earth pony wearing a old nurses outfit while pushing some pony down the hall in a wheelchair showed me I was mistaken.

My host did not seem to want to move her head too much. I thankfully could not feel the pain she was probably in, but I assumed it was quite a lot. She lifted her left fore hoof, observing that it was covered in bandages and tubes running out from under them. I could see somepony walking up from her left side, the medical curtain covered the ponies face before a magic field covered the curtain and pulled it back. It revealed a pony wearing a stethoscope and holding a chart, most likely the attending doctor. She look at my host and smiled.

“Hello Orange Harvest, I’m glad to see you are awake again.” She said in a soft tone.

“Again?” my host asked. “But… last thing I remember…”

The doctor cut her off, “Yes, you’ve been slipping in and out of consciousness for nearly the last week. It seems like you’ve finally managed to get your motor functions back, seeing as last time we talked, you could barely moved your lips. Today you're giving me a smile.” the pony said.

I took a closer look at her medical barding; barely making out the tag on it that read Dr. Fruitcake. I thought it to be a strange name for a doctor, maybe a doctor Heartbeat or Mend or maybe doctor Pill. Fruitcake seem like a very bad idea for a name for a doctor, but then again, the wasteland has had no shortage of strange and bad names. I wonder if Donut Hole was made fun of as a colt?

My train of thought had started to pull away my attention before I was snapped back into the memory by my host.

“I... I remember... dreams?” My host asked, rubbing the back of her head with a fetlock.

“Yes, the nurse said you been having some bad dreams lately.” Dr. Fruitcake asked as she looked over a clipboard that was hanging on the wall. “Do you think you can recall them now?”

“I... think I do but... I'm not sure. Everything feels like a blur.” My host said hesitantly.

I was starting to get confused, this was a memory orb. Her dreams should have been recorded in here, right? Maybe it wasn’t something that had been extracted, but you would have thought the dreams might have been important.

“A.I. Are there any memory recordings of this subjects dreams?” I asked, watching as the memory paused with the doctor holding my host’s hoof as the A.I. voice spoke up.

“Only written documents of descriptions of dreams prior to the start of this memory orb. Analysis indicates there is a mention of a dream in the orb itself however that event has not occurred yet. I can send a copy of the written documents about subject Orange Harvest dreams to your field notes or you can stop the orb now and review them if you wish.” the A.I. said.

“Ummm, no thanks, I’ll just keep observing. I don't really need to know what a dead pony was dreaming about, I was just curious.” I replied, still surprised that the system could stop a memory orb so somepony could review information that they found. This could be a very valuable tool for us I remarked as the memory started up again.

“Does your foreleg still hurt?” Dr. Fruitcake asked placing My host left forehoof back down onto the bed.

“Not as bad. It's still sore, but I think it’s getting better.” my host replied.

“Well thats good Ms. Harvest, however, it will still be sore for a month or two. The object that exploded and injured you did a good number on your legs. You were lucky it was only minor injuries you sustained, but that bump to your head did the worst of the damage. Gave you damn near one of the nastiest concussions I’ve seen in my career. It was in fact bad enough that when you came to, you didn’t really even know who you were. Speaking of, do you recall that event?” Dr. Fruitcake asked.

“No... last thing I remember is laying on the snow and... dreams,” My host replied.

“Okay, well lets have you get some more rest then,” Dr. Fruitcake said as she gave my host a soft smile. “Does that sound nice?”

“Yes... wait I remember that my other squad members were hurt and... were they brought here as well?” My host asked now turning her head fully to the doctor.

“Oh good, you do remember that they were brought here. Yes Grassweed, Aloebloom? and Gumball were brought to the hospital as well. Aloebloom was released two days ago infact, full recovery.” Dr. Fruitcake said.

“What about Grassweed and Gumball?” My host asked.

“Well, I’m sorry I can't tell you that due to doctor patient confidentiality.” Dr. Fruitcake responded with a bit of a frown.

“Miss they were my friends, please?” My host pleaded, the sorrow in her voice was clear as day.

“I'm sorr-” Dr. Fruitcake was about to say before being interrupted by the voice of Gumball coming from my host right side. My host turn to see another hospital current cover a bed where I could see the outline of a pony behind the curtain.

“Doctor Fruitcake, just tell her. Or better yet, just pull back the curtain and let her see for herself.” Gumball droned.

“Are you sure Ms. Gumball?” Dr. Fruitcake asked as she looked to Gumball’s sectioned off bed.

“Yes, and Grassweed is her friend, too. I know he will want to see her as well. Don't need to hide all of us from each other. I mean that figuratively in my case, but at least those two can see each other.” Gumball said,

“As you wish Ms. Gumball,” Dr. Fruitcake said before turning back and looking at my host with a deep frown on her face. Her look gave a hint that my host was not going to like what she was about to see, but I was actually curious as to what had happened. One semi-injured victim was good, but the more data I can observe on the damage the mines could do would be useful to the Rangers. Written reports of the capabilities were one thing, but seeing it was a whole other thing.

A magical field formed around the hospital curtain that Gumball was behind, slowly being pulled back to reveal Gumball laying in the hospital bed with bandages covering her eyes. I could see bruising and areas of shaved off coat around the bandages, but her eyes seemed to be the most severely damaged.

“Hey Gumball,” my host said weakly, her eyes only really focusing on the large bandages over Gumball’s eyes.

“Yeah, hello Orange Harvest. Glad to see you back up!” She spoke with mock enthusiasm. “I was getting tired of the doctor and nurses asking each other how many times you woke up during the night or opened your eyes. Actually, speaking of nights, can you please stop having nightmares every night? You woke me up three times in the last five days with your crying. You still got everything working, but your brain just got knocked around. Sort it out and get over it. At least you can still...” Gumball said with an increasingly sharp tone till she stop in mid sentence.

“Still see,” she finally managed to whisper out, this time more sadness in her voice than anger.

My host turn back to Dr. Fruitcake to hopefully get some context for why Gumball just said that. However the doctor had already stepped away and behind the hospital curtain on the other side of the room. My host turn back to Gumball as I could tell she was trying to think of exactly what to say.

“Orange you still there? Or did you pass back out?” Gumball Asked.

“No...No Gum, I was just thinking. I trying to remember the nightmares that I been waking you up with.” My host said. “I’m sorry about having them.”

“No, I’d rather have you not remember them at all. You keep waking me up like clockwork also every single night.” She grumbled out. “I’d like for once to have more then one night of good sleep in a row.” Gumball said in a short tone.

“I'm... sorry Gumball.” My host replied sadly.

“I know, just talk to Grassweed and have him cheer you up.” Gumball said. “I don’t need your pity, I just want to get some sleep for once.”

My host turn forward to see a nurse pony standing outside of the hospital curtain that was across the room from my host. She nodded her head and then pulled it back letting my host see the green stallion with his white mane laying in the bed. He looked at my host with a soft smile.

I don't think my host noticed his injuries before I did, because her eyes were lost in his gaze. However I saw it, the shape of his body did not look right under the blanket. He looked as if he was only half of a pony. As my host looked down his body, she now realized what had happened to him.

Grassweed’s face changed from a smile to a more neutral expression. “Yep it got my back legs,” he said with a frown. “Got them both actually... but I lived. Lucky you made it too, and with not much of an injury from what the Doc said. Just that bump!” His muzzle formed a small smile again. “I guess you have a harder head they you thought,”

“Yeah, lucky.” Gumball said in agitation, making my host turn to back to her.

“Gum, please don't tell her,” Grassweed said. “It won’t help her.”

“No real point in hiding it. Yeah it won't help her, and she probably scream again tonight when she sleeps,” Gumball said. “But it might as well be because she knows what happened.”

“Why would I scream? What are you keep back from me? My host asked in more alarmed tone.

“The reason you survived that blast was that Sandy Shore took most of it. Her body shielded yours and is the reason you only have a few scratches,” Gumball said. “But Sandy didn’t make it. They said she died instantly.”

“Gum why’d you have to tell her? You're not the only one that has to deal with annoying pony.” Grassweed raised his voice as he spoke. “We get it you lost your sight we are sorry for you. But you’ve got to stop. Its not helping you or anypony else here!” He was practically yelling by the end.

“Shut up!” Gumball shouted back. “Don’t you get it. I can’t see anymore!” She raised her forehooves to her bandaged eyes.

“And I can’t walk!” Grassweed strained his voice as he shouted back.

With all the shouting that was going on, for a moment I felt like I was back in the lunchroom between Donut Hole and Tea Leaf.

“So what if I can walk down a hallway; at least you can see what the hallway looks like!” Gumball shouted raising out of her bed with her head turn towards Grassweed. “For the rest of my life, my world is nothing but darkness! Imagine if you could never see your families flower arrangements EVER again! THAT’S WHAT THIS IS.”

“ENOUGH!” Dr. Fruitcake shouted. “I will not have ponies act like this in this hospital. You are not the only ones in this hospital, and most certainly are not the only ones injured. If you keep this up I will sedate the two of you in order to keep you civil.” Dr. Fruitcake said angrily.

A long minute of silence ensued, both Gumball and Grassweed looking as if they were calming back down.

“Okay, its past visiting hours and time for all little stallions and mares to go to sleep. If you need help that does not involve yelling at eachother, then don’t hesitate to ask a nurse.” Dr. Fruitcake said now with a calmer voice. My host turned forward and looked at Grassweed who just laid there with a frown on his muzzle. I assumed it was due to the fact that he was still upset on how the news of Sandy Shore was given to his friend. He looked back at my host and turned his frown into another soft smile before laying back and closing his eyes.

My host layed back in her bed and was now staring at the ceiling as it started to fade. Her eyes closed as a memory flash took hold. My field of view returned as it shot up and was looking at Grassweed’s bed. The Stallion was trying to sit up as best he could while I heard the hoof steps of a pony running towards us from the hall on my right.

“Shut up Orange!” Gumball shouted while I could hear the deep breathing of my host, her body starting to shake a bit.

“Orange, you okay?” Grassweed asked groggily while looking over at my host, his tired eyes forcing themselves to stay open.

“I can’t seem to get the whole thing out of my head Grass. I keep seeing the road and everypony there...” My host said with strain in her voice.

“Yep same old thing, Orange. Here come the nurses to put you down so we can all get back to sleep.” Gumball said snarkily.

My host turn to a pony shaped shadow at the door entering their room. I know she could see a syringe hover in a levitation field that was coming from the nurse who slowly walked toward my host.

“Please, I’m sorry, I just don’t like these dreams.” My host said sobbing at the nurse.

“It’s ok Ms. Harvest, this will help you sleep.” the nurse said softly.

“No, I don’t want it! I just want to think, to remember it.” My host said now crying, making her vision particularly annoying to observe.

“Okay, let me get a chair to sit down with you and we can try to figure out what you remember. Will that help you feel better?” the nurse asked.

“Yes, thank you,” My host replied, wiping her tears away with her forehooves.

“Hey nurse, if your not going to give her the shot and keep me up with your chattering, do you think I can at least have that dose so I can get some damn sleep?” Gumball suggested in agitation.

“Ms. Gumball, are you sure?” The nurse asked. “Sedatives are not a substitute for actual rest you know.”

“Oh Celestia, yes I’m sure. I haven’t had a full night sleep in days,” Gumball said with a sigh. “I don’t care if it’s not real sleep. I’ll take any sleep that doesn’t involve me listening to you two go on and on.”

“Alright then.” The nurse spoke as she turned and walked over to Gumball, injecting the contents of the syringe into a small container under her I.V. bag.

“There you go. That should help you get some rest.” The nurse said to Gumball.

“Thank you.” Gumball said in for once a lot nicer tone, the mare turning onto her side and away from Orange as she relaxed.

“Okay Ms. Harvest,” the nurse said then pulled out a notepad and a pen. “Please tell me what you have been dreaming about.”

My host squinted as she tried to recall them. “I can only remember little parts of it. I just keep remembering the road and Timberwolves, as well as Sandy just looking at me in such a strange way.” She said slowly.

“That’s a good start. What do you remember about the road?” the nurse asked, writing down things as she spoke.

“The road was white and red, and there were loud noises coming from below my hooves. Then… I remember Timberwolves erupting from the ground.” My host said as she looked up to the nurse.

“So, the Timberwolves came out of the grown and attacked you?” The nurse asked again, writing a few more lines on the notepad.

“Yes... They just leaped out of the snow, I remember they sent it flying everywhere when they did.” My host paused as she rubbed her right fetlock nervously with her left hoof. “One of the timberwolves grab... grabbed... Moonrise and just threw him into the red snow.” My host said as she started to shake.

I have seen my share of traumatized ponies in the wasteland, but this was so much different. Possibly because life in the wastes has always been full of fighting and death, where this had been new to the ponies of the past. Were us wasteland ponies so numb to everything around us to be so far separated from this type of mental instability?

“Okay what else do you remember after Moonrise was grab?” the nurse asked, pulling me back to the conversation.

“One bit Gumball in the face, and when I tried picking her up, everything just became silence. The only thing I could hear was the breathing of a timberwolf.” Oranges shaking got worse as she continued. “Then I just saw one standing over... over,” My host started to say then started to cry. My field of view became distorted from the tears.

“One of them was standing over Sandy with blood dripping from its mouth,” My host cried out as she broke into loud sobs, tears streaming down her face.

“It’s okay now Orange Harvest, you are away from the road and your friend Grassweed is here to help you.” the nurse said.

“Yeah, but not Sandy! She’s gone!” My host said loudly. “Sandy’s gone!”

“Yes, and I’m very sorry that your friend died, but you are still here to remember her.” the nurse said with a smile I could barely make out through my hosts watery vision.

“I know Sandy would want to see me happy and alive, but I didn’t want it to cost her life! Why could I just lose my legs or eyes or something! I would have given up anything to keep her alive,” My host said sobbing again.

“You can’t think that way Ms. Harvest Sand-” the nurse said before being interrupted.

“I don’t want to talk about it anymore!” She cried out as she buried her face in her hooves. “Please, can I just have a sedative so I can get back to sleep?” My host spoke softly through her hooves as she sobbed.

“Yes, I will give you a light sedative to help you sleep,” the nurse said, stepping away from my host bed to retrieve another syringe of the drug. My host turned and looked at Grassweed, meeting his eyes as he looked back at my host.

“Get some sleep Orange, and I’ll see you in the morning, okay?” Grassweed said with a smile trying to show reassurance that everything would be alright.

My host nodded to Grassweed, watching as he laid back down and closed his eyes. My host laid back as well, staring up at the ceiling. Time seem to slow down as both me and my host waited for the nurse to return with the sedative. I had actually gotten so bored that I started to count the small holes in one of the ceiling panels.

After I got half way done counting the panel I was looking at I heard the sounds of the nurse walking back to my host. My host turned her head to look at the nurse. Shit I lost count!

“I’m sorry Ms. Harvest, but the doctor says you can’t have anymore sedatives. You have had too many this week already.” My host gave a small nod in recognition. “Though, she told me that she contacted a colleague of hers to see if she can help you.” The nurse said with a smile. “I know its hard to sleep but in time your body will naturally sleep. Just close your eyes and relax. I’ll be by in the morning to check in, but if you do need me, I’ll just be down the hall.”

My host looked back at the ceiling and closed her eyes, leaving my field of view in complete darkness. I just laid there with her as she tried to sleep, listening to the dripping of the I.V. bag and the nighttime sounds of the hospital, nurses walking and ponies breathing, the occasional cough or moan of pain.

After a short time, the sight of a memory flash occurred and my view returned to normal when my host open her eyes. The sound of hooves walking around caught her attention as she turned in time to see a nurse walking up with some food.

“Good morning Ms. Harvest, I hope you slept a little better after our talk.” the nurse said, levitating a plate of mash carrots and peas over to my host.

“I guess.” my host said sadly, looking over at Grassweed who had his face covered in mash carrots. Apparently he enjoyed the hospital food enough that he didn’t care about being messy.

Grassweed stopped chewing and look over my host and nodded.

“I don’t remember waking up again, but I still remember the road and Sandy’s face.” My host’s hooves shook slightly as she continued. “Why can’t I get her face out of my mind? Did that bump to my head mess with my memories? You said I couldn’t really remember who I was when you brought me here, is that why this is happening?” My host asked in an alarmed voice.

“Perhaps, but you will have to ask the doctor later when she checks on you. For now, eat your breakfast. You won’t start getting any better if you starve yourself.” the nurse said with a smile before turning and walking over to Grassweed who was still messily eating.

“Mr. Grassweed, although I’m glad to see that you have your appetite back, please remember that we should still have some level of manners. Besides, you all have a guest that should be showing up soon, and I assure that you will want to look your best for her.” The nurse said as she wiped some of the carrots from Grassweeds muzzle.

Grassweed nodded and began to eat slower as my host turn to Gumball. She was sitting there eating her food as normally as anypony would. Which was remarkable because, for being a pony that just lost her eyes, she seem to be adapting to it well. Unfortunately, the look on her face told me that she was still angry about having to adapt at all.

After sitting through my host eating her breakfast, I heard gasp from outside the ward doors. My host turned her gaze to the right and could see a somepony behind the frosted glass of the ward’s double doors. I think it was the shape of a pony, but it did not look like any pony I had ever seen before. Behind its head it had a slightly transparent shape, waving as if it was caught in a breeze.

Wait... that shape, I had seen it before. As the doors opened it It dawned on me, the identity of who I was seeing. In training there is one memory orb of Princess Celestia addressing a crowd of ponies. In it there were bows exchanged between ponies, along with royal guards and other ceremonial activities having to do with the Equestrian elite.

I did not recognise her when it was just her, but as the door opened, I could see Lt, Oakwood and a older pony wearing glasses holding a clipboard. Most scribe recruits were in awe when they saw an orb with Celestia or her sister Luna in it, but to me it was just a memory of when somepony saw them not Princess themselves. I was more amazed there was little fanfare for her arrival, let alone any royal escort that could be accounted for. Just her, the Lieutenant and what I guess was her assistant. That or a very well disguised royal guard.

The more I looked at it, the more it seemed that Celestia’s smile was just as painted on as Grassweed’s was back in the dugout. Lt. Oakwood looked over at my host and nodded with a smile. I could also see out of the corner of my eye that Grassweed was quickly wiping his face off again to make sure that there was no food left on him. Gumball did not notice that her ruler was in the same room as her, but she at least had a good reason why.

As Celestia walked more into the ward, she looked over to Gumball. The forced smile seem to drop a bit as she saw what had happen to one of her loyal soldiers. She began to walk towards Gumball but Grassweed spoke up first.

“Your majesty, I can’t believe I am meeting you,” Grassweed said with a smile on his face. I could see some mashed carrots still stuck in his teeth. Gumball stopped eating and was just quiet raising her ears up to listen while Celestia seemed to sigh in relief a bit at Grassweed’s interruption. She apparently wanted to avoid talking to Gumball; maybe just not knowing what to say to her.

“Hello Grassweed, I hope you are feeling better today.” Celestia said.

“I am feeling alright your majesty. Thank you for visiting us. I figured it would just be the lieutenant again today, and am honored to meet such an esteemed individual such as yourself.” Grassweed said with a more believable smile then Celestia had.

“You’re welcome. I have wanted to take the time to visit all the injured soldiers coming back from the front lines. Equestria has asked a lot from you, and I wanted to see if there was anything I can do to help give something back to those fighting for us.” Celestia said.

Gumball ears perk a bit to that statement and I could hear her mutter under her breath. “Then you could be at negotiation table, or just dropping the sun on them. I’m sure that would help alot too,”

This is why Celestia was painting a smile on her as she had been visiting other soldiers. If the sight of her subjects injured did not phase her, which I doubt, then at least all the travel and negotiations would have an effect.

“I can’t really complain your majesty, I mean the food is not bad. Sponge baths are fun except for when the weekend nurse is doing it. He scrubs a little too hard,” Grassweed replied with a lighthearted laugh.

Celestia chuckled a bit. “I heard that your family makes those beautiful designs in the hills over by Fillydelphia.” Celestia said now with more of a real smile on her face.

“Yes your majesty. I had a design plan out for this fall, but... well, it’s going to be a lot harder seeing as I don’t think a wheelchair can get around the hills so well.” Grassweed said, this time with a bit of a frown on his face.

“You are right Grassweed, and I think I know something that will help you out.” Celestia said.

“Pegasus wings?” Grassweed asked jokingly.

Yeah, as if you could just give a pony wings, I thought to myself.

Celestia chuckled again. “No, Mr. Hayseed has been the lead groundskeeper at Canterlot Castle for several years and is finally retiring. I would like you to take over his job. Celestia said, pausing for a moment, her smile as genuine as could be. “That is, If you would like to.”

Grassweed eyes widened at the request. “Yes your majesty! I will be happy to take on the task, and promise to make the Royal Gardens as beautiful as they can be.” Grassweed said with excitement in his voice.

“I am glad you accepted Grassweed. When you are well and ready to travel, we will send someone for you.” Celestia said.

“Thank you again your majesty,” Grassweed said reverently, bowing his head slightly.

“You are very welcome.” Celestia said softly before turning and looking at me and Gumball. It looked as if her talk with Grassweed had cheered her up instead of she cheering him up, but I don’t think Grassweed had ever been that sad in the first place.

“Sir?” Grassweed said looking at Lt. Oakwood.

“Yes?” Lt. Oakwood asked, walking up to him slowly.

“Did your second team secure the forest in our stead?” Grassweed asked. Second team? There had been no mention of this earlier, so they must have gone back to a conversation that they had while my host was out of it.

To my surprise Celestia turned and responded to the question before the lieutenant could. “No, I have left the forest to the the zebra tribe. I don’t want to see anymore ponies hurt trying to hold a few trees. We will gain back Saddle Tail at the negotiation tables instead.” Celestia said as she turned back towards me and Gumball.

I could see out of the coner of my eye that Gumball seemed very agitated at what Celestia just said. She started to walk towards Gumball, Her smile fading a bit as she approached. “Hello Gumball. I hope you’re feeling better.” Celestia said.

Gumball just stayed quiet. Only her ears turned to where Celestia was standing.

“I’m sorry for what happened to you,” Celestia said placing her hoof on Gumball’s bed.

“It’s fine your majesty.” Gumball said in a low and emotionless voice. “I knew when I applied to be a royal guard I will be at risk of being injured or killed in the line to protect you and Equestria. I also knew I was at a higher risk of it when I volunteered for the Equestrian military. But to hear that you just gave up the forest to that tribe... I just can’t believe it.” Gumball said, her tone rising as anger filled her voice.

Celestia looked surprised at the sudden increase in Gumballs anger, her smile dropping immediately.

“My squad... my fellow ponies... your subjects. We were nearly wiped out for those few trees. I would think it was worth more to you then just somthing like a good will gesture to a tribe of zebras that used dirty tricks to kill and injure us. Their trees are still sitting there your majesty, as well as our blood.” Gumball said in a angry tone. She seem to be holding back something. “I just can’t bring myself to believe that you threw it away like that!”

I could see a doctor frantically singling at a nurse for something.

“I’m sorry that you feel that way, but I don’t want anymore ponies or zebras hurt for this forest.” Celestia said. “If I had know about the dang-”

Gumball cut her off. “Then why were we there! Why did you send us if it wasn’t even needed? Why was it that the last thing I got to see of this world was the body of Moonrise? Why... why is it that when I want to cry over it, I can’t?” She was breathing heavily as her scathing tone tore into Celestia’s resolve. “Wait, I can answer that one for your majesty. I lost my tear ducts. I want to cry, but I can’t. I want to look into your eyes and have you tell me why Moonrise and Sandy had to die, but I can’t. I want to hit you because you let this happen to me but I can’t! That last one is because I’m still a royal guard in training, and I know what I can’t do.” Gumball said with shivers in her voice. “So, tell me if giving those trees back were worth the cost.”

The look on Celestia’s face was in a way, spellbinding. In the memory orbs I had seen of her, she was always standing proud and tall. Here she seem to shrink down, wanting to just hide from the pain of what Gumball was saying.

Celestia brought her gaze up from the floor, about to say something, but was interrupted again.

“You don’t have to answer your majesty, as I don’t really care anymore. My eyes are gone, and there is nothing that can be done. I think there are other ponies out there that need to be cheered up by you, so just go. I’ve gotten enough sunshine from you in my lifetime that I think I’ll be alright if I never see it again.” Gumball pointed, waving her hoof at the Princess dismissively. “I know its disrespectful to royalty, but I'm sure in your want to help me that you will at least grant me this. If you could just step away and let the doctors give me sedative that they probably have waiting for me, you can consider yourself as having helped me and just... leave.” Gumball said, laying back into her bed and turning her head away from everypony.

She was right. The doctor had been holding a syringe of what I had guessed was a sedative. Most likely in case Gumball wanted to go through with her attempt to physically attack the princess. Celestia just stepped back and nodded to the doctor, who stepped up and injected the needle into the I.V.

“There you go Gumball, I hope you sleep well,” the doctor said calmly.

“I hope so too Doc.” Gumball said as she let out a long sigh, relaxing as the drug took effect.

After a few seconds Gumball was asleep. Celestia place her hoof on Gumball’s shoulder and nuzzled her. “I’m sorry you lost your sight, and your spirit Gumball.” Celestia said with sadness in her voice. “One day I hope you can at least feel the sunshine.”

Celestia remained still for a few more seconds before turning and looking at my host. Her painted smile fell across her face again as she walked towards my host. “And hello to you Orange Harvest. I glad to see you are feeling better as well. The doctors said you been in and out a lot since you were brought in.” Celestia said.

“Yes your highness. I still don’t really remember what happened when we hit whatever that hit us.” My host said before sure turn to see Lt. Oakwood stepping forward.

“They are calling them landmines, Miss. Harvest,” Lt. Oakwood said.

“Thats a weird name for... whatever it is.” my host said back.

“Well when they bury one of those, the land becomes theirs, thus it we are referring to it as a ‘landmine’.” Lt. Oakwood said.

My host seem to look down a bit as her eyes darting back and forth, trying to put everything together. “I remember hitting the ground hard and seeing Grassweed and... and Sandy Shore laying there.” My host said, trembling slightly.

“Yes, after you were thrown by the blast, most of our squad was down. We would probably not have survived the night if the timberwolves attacked again, but luckily Xeko and his zebras found us before then.” Lt. Oakwood said.

“But, being their forest, weren't they the ones that put those land mines in the road?” My host asked.

“Yes, it was there way to ‘protect’ their land. I had to surrender to them just to get help for everypony. In another stroke of good luck, Xeko had taken my earlier kindness into consideration and brought us back to one of our camps.” Lt. Oakwood said, his voice betraying that his remaining anger at what had happened.

Celestia remained quiet, merely listening to Oakwood and my host’s conversation before rejoining. “Yes, and thats why I made the decision to let them hold the forest for now,” Celestia said.

“I’m sorry we could not hold the forest for Equestria, your majesty.” My host said sadly, lowering her gaze.

Celestia raised her hoof and placed it under my host’s chin, lifting her vision back up to meet her soft smile. “You don’t have to apologise, my little pony. You did your job well, and that was all that Equestria could ask from you and the other brave soldiers.” Celestia said.

“Thank you for helping Grassweed out.” My host nodded. “I was worried what would happen when he went back home, and I am glad he can still do what he loves.”

“I was glad I was able to give him that gift, though I do worry that I won’t be able to do such things for my subjects much longer.” Celestia said, turning her gaze back toward Gumball. “If things don’t improve soon, the toll it takes on everypony might be too much to be paid with such gifts.”

“Is there anything you can do for Gumball?” My host asked. “I know she may be a bit hot blooded, but she needs help too.”

“I know dear, but I can’t give her back her sight and I’m afraid no gift that I could give would be able to heal her from what she suffering,” Celestia said sadly. “Now Orange Harvest you said you had some bad dreams?” Celestia deftly changing the subject. She did seem to want to avoid the thoughts of how the war had been escalating.

But the mention of her dreams brought me to sudden, but obvious thought. Apparently rulers of Equestria can bypass doctor patient confidentiality. As wrong as it seemed, who would refuse an inquiry that came from royalty?

“Yes your highness. Forgive me for questioning, but why do you ask?” my host asked back, mirroring my own curiosity.

“Your hospital is not the first hospital I have visited dear, and I have seen many of my subjects who have suffered as you have in this war. I’ve seen some of them saying that they too have had bad dreams, just as you say you have. A lot of these poor ponies have lost more than just their friends, or had injuries where they lost a part of themselves. I fear you have been suffering with the same affliction as the others have.” Celestia said placing her hoof on my host foreleg.

“But, I feel fine your majesty. The dreams are just bad memories,” My host replied back in slight confusion.

“That may be the case, but with Doctor Fruitcakes permission, I have asked a… special doctor to see soldiers like you. To see what she can do to help heal your mind as much as your body.” Celestia said as she glanced over again. “And I hope someday that this treatment will be able to help Gumball.”

“Do you really think she can help?” my host asked. “I don’t understand, can she help me get rid of the dreams?

“It is my hope that she can. I don't want to see anymore of my subjects suffer like this. It’s already hard enough on them, suffering their injuries in the first place.” Celestia said, lowering her head. She then pulled her hoof away from my host and started to turn around.

“Thank you for visiting us your highness,” My host said.

“You’re very welcome, Miss Orange Harvest. Get well soon, and thank you for all you have done for Equestria.” Celestia said, continuing to turn around. She could see Grassweed waving his farewells, and I could see the smile return to her face as she started to walk out of the ward.

Grassweed look back over to my host with a smile. “So I guess now you get to show me around your city. You think Canterlot has any good restaurants?”

My host couldn't help stifle back a laugh. “Capital city of Equestria and the home of the pony that just gave you a great job. You bet we have more than our share of good restaurants.” my host said with what I knew was a smile on her face. Grassweed’s expression growing as he seemed to be very excited for what lay ahead for the two of them.

A few minutes later the ward doors open again. I could see a mare I didn’t recognize wearing a doctor’s lab coat. She was levitating a clipboard next to her and she looked at my host with a smile as she approached. “Hello, Ms. Harvest, my name is Doctor Winter and I like to talk to you about your dreams. Would that be okay with you?” Dr. Winter asked.

“Yes that is fine,” my host replied.

I then notice something appearing at the lower right side of my field of view. The text ‘Session 1 of 35’ flashed a few times before fading.

“A.I., what is this session one of?” I asked

“This is the start of the counseling sessions that were recorded from subject Orange Harvest.” the A.I. replied.

“Okay so just a bunch of talk about my host’s feelings? Let’s skip this I really don’t need to know those.” I said, thinking how I really didn’t need to know most of what had been shown on this orb, but for testing purposes I had to watch it. Though, thirty-five sessions recapping what I had just watched actually warranted a pass.

“By passing counseling sessions, it will reduce the time remaining of this section below time set by the acceleration of the memory orb. Are you sure you wish to bypass the remainder of this section?” the A.I. asked.

“Yep, don’t need it and don’t care... Wait! This system can pull up keywords in memory orbs, correct?” I asked.

“Confirmed. Do you wish to search for keywords or events?” The A.I. asked.

“Yes, look through the remainder of this memory for any information related to this system, or this subject’s memory removal process.” I replied.

“Order Confirmed, please stand by.” the A.I. said.

“I keep just seeing a blank face on her...” my host said before my field of view started to brighten and the familiar form of a memory flash started. However, this time it was different. The brightness was more extreme, and seemed to be lasting much longer than a standard flash. Another thing that was different was that I could also hear words. Though only a few and some of them badly jumbled, I could still make some out.


Her face...


We had a fight...

Why can’t I stop crying...

I’m worried about our foal...

I though you can help me...

The flash ended, the brightness receding until I could see a pony looking back at my host. I could also see a pony that look like a slightly older Grassweed slouched in a wheelchair that sat in the corner facing my host. I then saw Dr. Winter walking up behind the pony sitting before me. My host’s eyes focused on Dr. Winter and I saw that the pony that was staring at my host look up a bit. Then I realized that the pony was my host looking into a mirror. She was a dirty orange looking unicorn with a bright green mane.

“Okay Ms. Harvest, please look into the mirror and state your intentions,” Dr. Winter said.

“My name is Orange Harvest, and I would like the memories of the events I experienced in Saddle Tail forest to be removed. I don’t want to remember it anymore. I’m tired of always seeing one of my friends dead night after night. I just want to go on with my life and help raise my family,” My host said to herself.

“We can remove the memories of that event along with and mention of it when you spent your time at the hospital. The counseling sessions that you had previously will also be taken.” Dr. Winter said.

“Thank you, but is there a way you can leave memories in so that I can remember my husband, Grassweed? I don’t want to wake up and not know who he is.” my host said looking up at Dr. Winter.

“Yes, we can implant a false memory in you. You will remember the both of your leaving the military and his injuries as the result a training accident, and the memories of different events related to you and your husbands relationship will be left. I ask a few colleagues to leave the hint in your mind that any memories lapses are due to when you were injured. Is this agreeable with you?” Dr. Winter asked.

“Yes please,” my host replied.

“As you wish.” Dr. Winter nodded before turning looking at Grassweed. “Mr. Grassweed, are you okay with this plan as well? You will need to make sure to keep your story straight if she ever asks any questions, and explain away any doubts she may have.”

“If this will help my mare, then yes. I would do anything for her.” He looked over to my host with a loving, but sad smile. “Please proceed whenever Orange is ready.” Grassweed said.

“Very well, Ms. Harvest are you ready?” Dr. Winter asked.

“Yes, Thank you Dr. Winter.” My host said as a over glow formed around Dr. Winter horn, her gaze drifting over to Grassweed as he cried softly. “I love you Grassweed...”

The overglow grew brighter, taking over my field of view and hearing until there was nothing but silence and white light.

Rotten Melon Swamp

View Online

Fallout Equestria: Lines

Chp 5: Rotten Melon Swamp

The bright light faded as my Eyes Forward Display brought up text saying that Subject Orange Harvest memory orb was complete.

“Dr. Winter, would you like to leave your final report for Subject Orange Harvest?” The A.I. asked.

Not sure what I can say that would help a pile of bones nearly two hundred years old. I don't see what good this machine could even do with any notes that I could provide, so there's little point in actually logging any information onto it. With nothing else to do, I gave it my answer. “No, I won’t be filing a report.”

Then I thought about it some more and realized that Dr. Winter was the pony the system thought I was. She would probably be fairly detailed about subjects while learning about WTSD, and would have made a final report. Remembering an inferior system in a weapons lab, I don’t know if this system has security that checks for behavior of the ponies that are using it. Back then, I was almost able to break into a system, but unbeknownst to me, it was checking my behaviors to make sure I was who I was identifying myself as. It ended with a total system lock out and a very unhappy Elder fuming over my shoulder. He spared us from being kicked out, but I've made sure since then to try to act like the pony that I am posing as. With that thought in mind, I revised my command.

“No, I will not be filing a report at this time. I want to study more of the subjects. Load up the next subject, and keep my choice in compression rate the same as the last set that I ran.” I said.

“Order Confirmed, loading next subject. Please stand by,” the A.I. droned.

The bottom-left box of my EFD changed from ‘Block C, Orb 1’ to Block C, Orb 2. I saw an image appear of a similar arm to the one that retrieved the first orb. The image showed the arm putting the orb back, then grabbing another orb.

A few seconds later, the A.I. spoke.

“Loading Block C, Orb 2, Section 1, two years, five months since war was declared, with Subject Archer... Stand by.” After a few seconds, the A.I. spoke again. “Unable to compress Section 1 into time remaining in session without risk to user. Do you wish to extend the session?”

“No; run for as long as it is safely possible,” I replied. Hopefully, it didn’t run too long, I don’t want to be stuck in here for hours on end.

“Order confirm, continuing process... Stand by,” The A.I. said

On my E.F.D., I could see the familiar text of the orb loading.

Accessing New Orb...Complete

Memory Orb Accelerator set to remaining time.

Loading Orb...Complete.

<=======ooO Ooo=======>

My field of view returned to something I knew well, and that was the joy of riding in the back of a wagon. Oh good, now I get to sit through this pony's training experience... or not? I took notice that the pony in front of my host wore armored barding from earlier in the war.

“Well, just think about it, Ink.” Somepony said to my host’s left.

“What you mean?” Another voice to my host’s left said.

“You should be in Sky Guard, not trotting into a swamp with us.” The silver-coated earth mare said to a gray-coated pegasus stallion sitting across from her.

“Most Sky Guard just do recon missions.” The stallion said, waving his hoof dismissively. “I want to write a book about my experience, and it’s better to write it when you're on the ground then in the air. Clouds and treetops have already been written about, I want it from this perspective.” The pegasus -I was guessing his name was ink- said.

“Oh yeah, because bubbling goo is more fun to write about,” a dark blue mare sarcastically intoned, rolling her eyes.

Ink lifted his chin and put his hoof under it, taking a stoic pose. “As I trotted into the muck and mud of the swamp, I prepare myself for the unknown that I will face.” Ink said.

“Oh you're writing a work of fiction. Can I be the damsel in distress?” The dark blue mare jokingly asked.

“You're not much of a damsel, North.”.

“I take it you two attended the same training camp?” An orange earth stallion across the row butted in.

“Yep. I had to help Ink Jar here get over The Wall” North said, shooting Ink a cocky grin.

My host’s attention fell fully to Ink Jar, the pegasus who could not apparently get over a wall. My host had the same question on my mind, finally speaking up before I could find my own answer.

“Why did you need help getting over a wall when you can fly?” My host asked. From the pitch and tone,I could tell that I was occupying a mare.

Ink Jar didn’t seem to enthused by the question. “Trainer said if I was going to be working with the other unicorns and earth ponies, then I should learn to trot like them. Basically he said I needed to get around without my wings. North Star here happened to be the one who helped me when I had trouble getting over The Wall.”

“So the trainer let you pass with help getting over The Wall?” The orange stallion asked.

“Nope. Had to work on my leg strength for a few weeks, but North Star showed me a few tricks on getting over walls.” Ink Jar said as a smile crossed his muzzle. “After a while I wasn’t half bad on my own.”

“Wait, what tricks?” My host asked, turning her attention back to North Star.

“Well, I learned to climb over the walls at Celestia’s school so I could sneak into parties that were above my age range.” North Star said. She was doing her best to keep from looking like she was gloating, but I could tell she was proud of her actions.

“Wait, you went to that fancy school for unicorns and yo-” My host started to say before being interrupted by a pony to the right of her. When she turned to see who it was, I found it was another gray-coated unicorn in Royal Guard armor. By the way they all fell silent, my guess was that he was their Lieutenant.

“Okay, listen up. We’re nearing our staging camp. When we arrive I want everypony to hope to it and get the camp set up A.S.A.P.” He turned toward the pegasus, “Ink Jar, I want you to gather up a cloud or two and use it for a spotting platform for yourself. Get your gear together.” the stallion said.

“Yes sir,” Everypony said in unison.

“I still want to know later what a fancy-schooled pony like you doing running around in the muck with us.” My host said, pulling the strap of her bag around her back.

Other ponies in my host squad pulled their packs together as the wagon continued down the road. My host looked forward to where the Lieutenant resumed sitting, and I could see the wagon team was pulling us into a clearing amongst the vine covered trees of the forest around us.

As the wagon entered the clearing, I could see that the swamp was rather inhospitable for both ponis and zebra. I was unsure how well a group of pirates could operate in this kind of terrain, or even how my host squad was supposed to go about looking for them.

I could see the bed of the recently drained pond nearby still had some spots of mud, but most of it was dried and cracked. The depth of the pond provided a layer of concealment for my host’s squad, and the edges of the pond sharply rose, creating a natural barrier for them to take cover behind incase they were attacked.. It seemed that the Lieutenant had the same idea, and had chosen this spot for that reason.

“Apex, North Star, Archer. You three set up the tents near the south end of the pond, and make sure that the openings face to the south. Silver and Coffee Bean, start piling dirt near the front of the tents so we can stay behind them if we find ourselves under attack. Make sure it’s enough that it gives some good cover, in case we get pinned down on them. Ink Jar collect some clouds and set yourself above camp. Keep watch while we get set up down here and call out if you see anything. I don’t want us caught off guard.” The stallion said, before turning and jumping out of the wagon.

Ink Jar nodded, then flew up into the sky, while the rest of the squad stepped off the back of the wagon. Apex began to pull the poles from the back of the wagon, while North Star levitated the canvas and my host pulled the stakes from the back. Silver and the coffee-colored mare named Coffee Bean were already digging in their bags for the shovels stowed in them. Great, so it wasn’t a wagon ride that I got to watch now, but basic camp set up. This orb just keeps getting better and better.

My host walked over to where Apex was setting up the frames, making sure each one was facing its opening to the south. North Star was busy putting the canvas over one of the frames that Apex had already set up, turning to him as she worked so she could talk to him at the same time.

“Why did the Lieutenant order us to set up the tents like this? Shouldn’t they be pointed with the openings towards the camp fire?” North Star asked.

“Yes, normally it should. This set up lacks efficiency, and no pony will get easy access to their tents, nor to the camp fire itself. It disgusts me that I’m setting this area up in such a uniform manner.” Apex replied back in a rather annoyed tone.

“Why does it bother you Apex?” My host asked.

“Before I joined, I was an architect. Setting up the tents in like this? It’s too boring and predictable. Bothers me.” Apex said.

“Good point, however the pirate camp is south of us and we need to make sure we can fight them quickly if we need to. That’s why Lieutenant Maplewood wants them pointing south; but make sure to spread them out a bit. I don’t like them being so close.” My host said before she grabbed the first corner of the canvas and tied a stake to it.

“Why would you want to spread them out? Who ever gets to be at each end won't even get the warmth of the fire during the night,” Apex said.

My host shook her head. “I agree with the Lieutenant. This reminds me a lot of when we were fighting the last batch of pirates. They got the jump on us and our tents were too close together and they were easily able to start concentrating their fire on us. It’s also why Maplewood wants the dirt piles set up.” My host said, turning and looking at Silver who was bringing over a shovel full of dirt.

“Oh okay, that makes since now.” Silver said, dumping the dirt in front of one of the freshly completed tents before sticking the shovel in the ground and using it as a stand to rest on.

“Ya, do you remember the news article a few months back declaring the capture of Xinto, one of the pirate commanders?” My host said before placing another stake into the ground. She started to hammer it into place as I started to wonder if this Xinto was someone important at the time.

The ponies around her said yes.

“My squad, well our squad now; we’re the ones who captured him, but he put up a nasty fight.” My host said.

“Really? I heard most zebras were, well, kind of friendly most of the time. Even on the battlefield, I think the worst I’ve heard about them was from that battle at Soot Ridge.” North Star said.

“Ya, Soot Ridge was a stupid choice to fight. I figured even before this war started that it would be a bad idea to mess with the zebras on their own lands. Seemed that the general of sword battalion wanted to take Soot Ridge and hold the coal there, taking the ridge and cutting a lot of resources from the zebras. My guess is that he thought that it would end the war sooner by just holding a large stack of coal, and therefore reducing the ability for the zebra’s to increase their industry while increasing ours.” My host said before grabbing another corner from the canvas.

“I read in the news that the zebras pushed right into the camps.” North Star said.

“Pushed into the camps and over ran them. Luckily, they capture most of the ponies as prisoners of war and return them. We really only lost all the supplies we sent down there.” My host said. “But with the zebra pirates, it is a different story because they are more aggressive. I knew a zebra in my home town, so I figure most of the zebras were like her, but when we fought that commander, he was just mean. He pinned us in our camp and happened to catch some of us in our tents. Copper and Lime Drop I remember could not get out of their tent. They had no chance to flee with the amount of gunfire that they poured into the camp, and there was nothing we could do.” My host said looking down at the ground.

“I almost got killed when they surrounded and pinned me down while I was getting water for the cook. Maplewood and Yellow Cherry were able to save me and most of the other ponies in our squad. We barely survived, but Maplewood was able to help us set up a defence and fight back. He wanted to take that commander and make sure he could not hurt any other pony again, and he and I believe that if we take out the pirates the zebras will have a more positive feeling towards Equestria when we are negotiating peace.” My host said tieing the new string to a stake.

“I guess you guys were able to capture him in the end.” Silver said picking his shovel back up.

“Well, it’s why we know where this Pirate Commander is.” My host said with a shrug, walking over to another tent.

“I knew we were going after a pirate leader, but they never told us how they knew where he was or what his name is.” North Star said.

“Maplewood will explain more of our mission later, but the zebra we’re taking out is Xur. He’s not well known on either side, but he’s been operating in this area frequently, and was the one that hit a trade ship that was headed to the griffin kingdom last week. On top of that, the top brass also thinks he’s been launching some of his own attacks in support of the zebra empire.” My host said.

“I thought the pirates just do their own thing and aren’t helping the Zebra empire?” North Star said.

“I thought so too, but that’s the thing. I think the Zebras are turning their own pirate problem into a way to help themselves out. Pirates are more armed per member than most of the zebra forces are right now. So I think they are using them to hit us take our resources so the Empire can get armed faster and cheaper. With the truce, the Pirates get only one side to fight, plus some extra income from whatever they take.” My host said.

“Seems like a dirty trick. Using their problems on us.” Apex said, setting up another frame a few meters away.

“What did you expect? They’ve been using dirty tricks since the start start of the war. They got those party poppers, and I heard they even use the local animals to their advantage. They possess and tame them to fight their battles for them.” Coffee Bean said placing more dirt on the pile outside the first tent.

“I knew about the poppers, but I didn’t think they had control over animals in their lands, nor even our lands. I’ve only seen one pony in my town pull that off, and even she had trouble at times.” My host said.

“Well you said it yourself, they pinned you down in your camp and killed two of your friends.” Coffee Bean replied.

“Well Copper and Lime weren't really my friends, however I was sad that we lost Ginger Ale when we attacked the pirates’ camp. It... it was more my fault than anypony elses’. I told him to search a building and there was a zebra inside that shot him just as he entered. I was able to drag her out, and even capture the zebra in the end.” My host let out a sigh and paused in her work. “I kind of wish I just shot her instead. She didn’t even care that she killed my friend, but that’s the thing. I think if we get rid of the pirates that are doing most of the dirty tricks, then we will start gain the upper hand in the negotiations.” My host said, walking over to the next tent.

The others didn’t respond at all, instead they let almost a minute of silence pass before my host continued.

“Then we can stop this silly war and go home. You know, get back to things we enjoy doing in life, and not seeing friends full of...” My host said before stopping herself and going back to tying the tents down.

It seemed that Ginger Ale still haunted Archer, and the death of her squadmate was probably why she ended up with WTSD and having her memories removed. I knew this had to be the case when I started this, but it didn’t make it any less horrible to think about. The silence was broken by a stallion’s loud voice behind my host.

“What are you ponies standing around for. Get in gear. I want this camp up before the sun reaches the tree tops.” A different stallion said.

My host turn quickly to a white-coated light blue-maned earth pony. “Yes sir!” My host and the other ponies said. It seemed I just saw the sergeant of the squad, and by the tone, I could tell he wasn’t the type to sympathise with sad stories. My host turned back and quickly grabbed another corner the tent, attaching a stake to it and getting back to work. The other members of the squad quickly returned to their work as well, not uttering another word in the process.

It took to where the sun was starting to touch the tree tops before the camp was finished. Blue Leaf was working on a campfire and finishing setting up the kitchen area while Maplewood and the squad’s sergeant were looking over a map. Both Silver and Coffee were huddled close together at the fire. They were resting near me and the rest of the squad, neither of them caring about the fact that they were utterly covered in dirt.

“Apex, nice work setting the tents apart like that.” North Star said.

“Ya, thanks. I still think it looks like crap, but if thats what the Lieutenant wants them, I guess I can’t say no.” Apex said.

Coffee Bean looked up from where she was resting. “Why did you even join the Equestria Army if all you do is complain about how things are set up? You don't seem like the adventuring type, and I think a lot of ponies join up to adventure” Coffee Bean said.

“I’m not some young foal trying to find some excitement in life. I am a skilled architect, and I join to protect my greatest work. The town of Saddle Hide will make it through this war, I promise you that.” Apex said, sitting up from where he was resting.

“Did the zebras attack it? Wait, have the zebras even made it into Equestria yet?” Silver asked, looking at bit surprised. “I try to keep up with the newsreels, but with work and training I never really stayed up on the news.”

“No, not yet Silver…” Apex winced at his own answer. “Though, a zebra attack would at least give the town a much better death than what its going through now. See Saddle Hide is... was a gem mining town that I designed and help build. It’s at the edge of Ruby Canyon, a great place back when we had the gem boom with the new trade in the zebra lands. Now all this bullshit with trade disputes, pirates, and a war went and ruined it. The boom fell and now my beautiful town is being eroding from the dust and winds coming through the canyon. Nearly every pony has left it.”

Maybe it’s the wasteland, but everywhere being a ghost town now doesn’t bother me. Granted I’d rather be back at the bunker than out here, little towns like this one are relaxing. The worst we’ve got to worry about are caravans and bad moon cider. Then again, their problems were of a different caliber than ours are.

“See, I’m not here to play, I’m here to save. I want to end this waste of time and get the trade routes back. I want to see my town survive the test of time, just like Ponyville.” Apex said looking directly at Silver.

My host looked at Apex. “Then you rebuild it. Turn it into something new. You can always find ways bring the ponies back there. What about turning it into a recreation town? I heard Ruby Canyon is an amazing place to go camping and hiking.”

“You can’t just up and rebuild a town,” Apex snapped back.

“Are you kidding me? The town of Ponyville, my home town, has gotten trashed Celestia knows how many times. Wood eating bugs, dragons, the great pink storm? You name it, we had to rebuild from it, so don’t tell me it can’t be done.” My host replied back.

“The great pink storm?” Coffee Bean ask looking up from the small drawing she was making in some of the crack dirt.

“Long story, needless to say we had to rebuild a few of the buildings from that alone. It was kind of crazy for a few years when I was a filly.” My host said.

“Only a few buildings doesn’t count for a whole town, let alone you have the advantage of being an old town already. Oh, and lets not forget you’re close to the capital. If you weren't so lucky, your town wouldn’t have survived the years.” Apex said, now more noticeably agitated.

“Oh come on Apex, Ponyville had a hard struggle just going from a little trading town to its own culture hub. It’s not my fault you built your town during a trade boom.” My host said back now speaking loader and little more aggressively as she walked towards Apex. He butted heads with my host I could see my host eyes reflecting in his.

“I built that town to be a cultural hub for the southern areas of Equestria like Appleoosa and Dodge Junction. Its design captures the desert style and the light reflecting off the gems from the canyon would put the simple forest and waterfalls of Ponyville to shame. Your town won't have to suffer from this war, so why the hay are you even here? Adventure, boredom, or is it you want to win the admiration of somepony back at home?” Apex said voice nearing a shout.

“I joined because they asked me to. Carrot Top’s farm didn’t need me anymore, so I decided to join up to try something new. So yeah, ‘Pex, I joined for the adventure. Something new and something exciting. I kind of miss the days when I wasn’t sure if we would have to rebuild the front porch or replace the chimney. It gave life to my day to day, and it gave me something to look at in a interesting way every time it happened. The best thing was when a building did get destroyed, the whole town came together and we all helped out one another. Each and every building we restored had a piece of us all put into it, so I don’t need a set of buildings to tell my self worth.” My host matching Apex’s volume.

“SELF WORTH? YOU THINK THAT TOWN IS MY SELF WORTH? IT WAS EVERYTHING TO PONIES WHO LIVED THERE AS WELL, NOT JUST TO ME!” Apex Shouted, glaring down into my host eyes. I could tell they were pushing into each others head trying to show strength, and I was waiting for the bucks to start flying.


Apex took a step back. I could see how deep that remark must have cut, and I thought for sure he was going to lose it and buck my host right in her face. Something even I felt she quite deserved for taking it too far. Fortunately, the familiar voice of the squad sergeant broke their focus on one another and redirected it to him.

“Well I’m guessing you two want to give the pirates a heads up?” The sergeant said. Both my host and Apex stiffened up and turned quickly to answer the sergeant.

“Sir, no sir.” My host and Apex said in unison.

“Well, I seemed to have forgotten to pack the ‘Welcome to camp’ banner back at base.” The sergeant said, his anger only rising as he spoke. “So maybe you two can put aside your petty argument, shut up, and not tell them we are here!”

“Yes sir, sorry sir.” My host and Apex said in unison again. At least they can work together on answer their higher ups.

“Good. The Lieutenant wants you two on first watch. Apex, you're on Southeast side and Archer, you're on Southwest side. Stow your attitudes and be at your post in five minutes.” The sergeant said.

I was a little surprised when my host spoke up. I’ve made this same mistake a few times, and even I knew better. She seemed to me the more trained and experience one, but I guess everypony has lapses in judgement.

“Come on Yellow Cherry,” My host said in a bit more of a whiney voice. “You know I hate first watch. Give me third watch, I want to get some sleep before staring into a bunch of trees.”

“Yep, and I hate first watch as well. I was on it, but since you decided to argue with Apex, I figure you two could use a timeout and the best way for you two to be punished.” Sergeant Yellow Cherry said.

“No, I can see it in your eye you just don't want to do first watch.” My host said back.

Yellow Cherry smiled. “Yeah, that too. Enjoy your free time, because you’ve got about four minutes until you need to be up there.” Yellow Cherry said then turn to see the two ponies laying on the ground. “Go wash up, you two are starting to look alike.”

Silver and Coffee Bean replied quickly with their own “Yes, sir.”

Sergeant Yellow Cherry trotted back over to where the Lieutenant was standing. He was by the kitchen that was being set up by Blue Leaf, and by the looks of it, having as much fun as I was watching this drama play out. Lieutenant Maplewood looked at my host with what seem like a slightly disappointed look on his face, frowning before going back to talking with Blue Leaf.

My host sighed. “Well thanks, Apex. With your ranting, I’m not only stuck on first watch, but I also disappointed our Leutianet.” my host said, turning and looking at the annoyed Apex shot to her.

“I didn’t start the argument. You insulted my town and my craft.” Apex said.

“No you insulted my town, I just insulted your craft.” My host said back. I could see North Star facehoofing out of the corner of my eye. To be honest, I felt like doing the same.

“You two should stop now. You’ve got about three minutes left before you’ve got to be up there, and I don't think you want to anger anypony else.” North Star remarked. Apex only huffed and turned towards the position where he was to stand watch, only stopping to pick up his rifle along the way.

My host shook her head and started to walk towards her spot in the dried out pond. Though she seem to make the mistake to argue with her superior, she seemed to be the only one wise enough to keep her gun on her. She grabbed at her rifle that had been slung on her back this whole time, and kneeled down at the edge of the pond. From there, she just sat and watched the treeline around the pond.

She seem to quickly settle into the watch, and sadly so did I. Thought staring at trees is a bit nicer than the twigs back in the real world, but both the lack of useful information and the overall boredom was quickly getting to me. As I watch the treeline I started to think of a better way to do this, or if there could be another way to test this system. I thought back to something Silver said about newsreels. I remember seeing a few when I was in training, but this might be more useful than I first thought.

“A.I. is it possible to skip all memories of ponies performing on duty watches? Or any event similar to what is being experience right now?” I asked.

“This system is able to detect similar events to what is currently happening and bypass them. Please specify guidelines.” The A.I. prompted.

“Ummm, only display watches where a change occurs. Something like a conversation being overheard, or a few seconds before another event takes place.” I commanded. I realized that this would be a much better idea than to experience hours and hours of watches where nothing useful happens. I’m just sad I didn’t think of it sooner.

“Parameters Set.” The A.I. announced.

“Wait…” A thought jumped into my mind. “Can you include watches that have… oh, I don’t know, unique views? Not just trees, or sand. Something with a view?” I asked. Hoping the system was advanced enough to even understand what i was asking let alone what I hope it was able to do.

“Guidelines must be specified.” the A.I. replied back.

“I don’t know... how about a non-uniform landscape? Is this system able to detect changes in landscape in the memories?” I asked back, hoping that this line of questioning didn’t seem too out of place for the doctor I was masquerading as.

“Negative.” the A.I. replied. Killing the hope for me to see some unique views. I took a moment and thought about it some more. Even though It is nice to see old Equestria, I thought it would be quicker and more efficient to skip these kind of memories altogether.

“A.I., skip watch events in memories and replace with newsreels or any other information that is connected to the memories that were recorded.” I stated plainly.

“Available reels that are currently stored in the database are Equestria News and Flim-Flam Productions.” the A.I. said. I knew some of the Equestria News, but Flim-Flam Productions was something new.

“Both items, please.” I commanded.

“Order Confirmed. Events that are noted as watch events will be replaced with informational reels from Equestria News and Flim-Flam Productions. Please note that if no reels are related to current events, then the memory will automatically skip to events that are not similar to watch events.” The A.I. stated.

Great now I can get something useful out of my time. “Okay, let’s skip ahead,” I said.

“Unable to complete command,” The A.I. replied back.

“What why?” I asked.

“Memory has reach the set time in accelerations,” The A.I. replied back.

Before I could say something, a flash filled my field of view as the system pulled me out of the memory. I open my eyes to a blank screen with my hoof placed on it and I felt a little disoriented. My E.F.S. showed only a few hours passed, but to me it felt like many hours. I sat up and stepped out of the chair that I was sitting in, clumsy moving towards the door while trying to get my hoofing back. Thankfully after a few deep breaths, I was able to walk forward with little staggering. I felt hungry and was ready for something to eat, and the best part was that I could smell carrots. Apparently Peach Fuzz was already cooking dinner.

I trotted into the lunch room and could see the steam coming up from some cooking pots in the corner. Even better, I could see the steam coming from the water on the coffee maker. It was fully fixed and ready for us. With how the simulations are going, I will probably need it tomorrow for the excitement of waiting for the ponies to say or do something that be of any true noteworthiness. So far, I’ve learned that I might have to watch my step if any of the old Party Popper mines are still active under the ground, but that’s it. Not a total loss, but nowhere near a major, or really even a minor success. I dismissed my disappointing train of thought when could see Melon Seed writing notes on to a floor plan, the old building layout was spread across the table in front of him.

“How goes the safe cracking?” I asked.

“Terrible. The damn thing’s made of a high-end reinforced steel.” Melon Seed said not looking up from the map.

“Well it is a safe, so I’m sure it would be built to be protected from safe crackers like you.” I replied back with a smile and looked at the floor plan from over Melons shoulders. It was a floor plan of what look like the bank across the road. I could see notes written around the vault area, indicating that he seemed to be trying to find a weak point. I also saw some notes about the security system inside the vault, as well as possible locations of the password and possible bypass points. Melon was noting everything he could, and it made me think he should be the one in the archive instead of me. I may know more about the history, but he was always the better note taker.

“I could think better without you standing over me.” Melon Seed said.

”Oh, sorry. I was just thinking on the fact that you could find some flaw with the bathrooms in that building and make a hundred notes on it.” I said laughing a bit.

“Well this safe is not made out of the standard stuff. This metal’s similar to our Steel Ranger armor, except it’s much thicker. I can get the torch to the right temp, but it will take hours, if not days to cut through it.” Melon Seed said, placing his hooves on his head with a sigh.

“I’m not sure if we have several days,” Donut Hole said, having apparently walked into the room while Melon and I were talking. Since when was he that sneaky?

“What do you mean? We are here for a week at the least. I should be able to bust into the vault by then… I hope.” Melon Seed said finally looking up from the floor plan.

“Well, I’m not to sure on just how long it will take me to observe all the orbs of Block C.” I said.

“When I was on the upper floor doing watch. I saw a fair amount of dust being kick up in the distance, along with it came some echoes of gunfire. It might have been Zed’s group fighting something, though the locals have a large camp out that way, so I can’t really see Zed taking his family up that way. Either way, I’d us rather not be stuck in a holdout situation if we are attacked.” Donut Hole said.

“Why not?” I asked. “I mean we’re in a fairly fortified position. We got the Crawler parked out front with the machine gun ready. Not to mention the upper part of the building makes for a great position to return fire. Besides, I think we should keep this archive safely in our hooves.” I said.

“Did you learn something useful from it?” Donut asked.

“Well not yet, but it is early in the war so I think I find some more useful things much later on.” I answered.

“How far have you made it so far?” Melon asked.

“Little over two years now, but this is so early in the war not much had happened. The cases of WTSD were low at this point, and it’s more or less simpler things that have cropped up. I have a feeling it going to ramp up more and more the farther in to the block I go, and there will more than likely be something of use to us soon.” I said.

“Well, just skip ahead or tell the A.I. to find the good parts.” Donut said taking his helmet off. “Don’t waste your time on things that won’t help us.”

“The system can only filter so much. I got it to skip events in the memories of the ponies on routine patrols and replace it with old newsreels, which has been a good chunk of the time so far it seems. I am hoping the reels will give me some better information.” I replied back.

“What’s the point of the old newsreels?” Peach Fuzz asked bring over some bowls of carrot soup. “The ones at home were nothing special.”

“I’m hoping that it will give me more on the events between these ponies memories, let alone the chance for some useful information.” I said moving the floor plans from my spot on the table before sitting down.

“Hey, you could have asked.” Melon Seed growled in an annoyed tone. Though he was acting a bit hypocritical as he also quickly moved the floor plans again in favor of his own bowl soup.

“At best, I could try ramping up the compression a bit instead of just fitting a section to the time that I have between breaks. With the adjustments I made, I was able to get all of the last section of the first orb and part of the next orb done before my shift was over.” I said before taking a drink from the hot soup.

“Fine, but we still need to report this to the Elder tomorrow during our check in. We will let him decide if this archive has a use to it, let alone the possible contents of a bank safe.” Donut Hole said before he too took a drink from his soup.

From over Donuts shoulders, I could see Apricot looking at me through the small window from the stairwell in the lunchroom. She was giving me the best look in the wasteland, and I knew it was time for bed. Oh, how I was so much looking forward to bed.

“Okay, ummm... hey Melon, can you and Tea Leaf setup the transmitter tomorrow on the roof?” I asked.

Melon ears perked up. “Yes I can.” He said.

“Good well...” I said before pausing and finishing my carrot soup. “I’m going to go to bed, so have a good night everyone I see you in the morning. I’ll even make the coffee for everyone.” I said before torting quickly towards the stairwell.

Peach Fuzz caught the hint of what was going on. “You know, I think I’m going to go relieve Tea Leaf. I figure she could get something to eat, and her watch is almost finished anyway.” Peach Fuzz said while heading out the main door in the Lunchroom.

Opening the door to the stairwell I could see Apricot looking at me from the next floor up. “You almost seem desperate today Mint.” Apricot said in a teasing voice.

“Just happy for us to get some time together,” I replied with the widest smile I’d worn all day.

I began to follow her up stairs, trying to catch up to her. Normally I could catch her, but she had taken her armor off already and that was allowing her to move quicker than normal. She beat me to the top floor and into the office area, and as I made my way into the administrator’s office, I could see a large desk that had been converted into a bed. Our sleeping bags were set up to be a mattress while an old, patchwork blanket was serving its sole role once again.

“You like it? I had some time to set up the room in between watches.” Apricot said.

“Lovely. So much better than the floor in the Crawler. We even have space to stretch out our legs,” I said, walking up to the makeshift bed and placing my hoof on it.

“And we get some privacy with this penthouse suite.” Apricot joked. “Still, no room service, but I don’t think you’ll mind.”

“Not at all,” I said taking a healthy look at the mare I so adored. It’s not often on these missions that I get to see her out of her armor, and when I do, it’s a truly beautiful sight. I trotted over to her and nuzzled along her neck.

She sighed happily and looked into my eyes. “So, do you still want me to kiss your knee to make it feel better?” She said, giving me a warm smile in return.

Melon's Pond

View Online

Fallout Equestria: Lines

Chp 6: Melon’s Pond

The morning graced me with its normal opening. Even though Apricot found a nice room with honest to Celestia windows still intact, the cold breeze of winter was approaching. The early morning cold still seeped through the cracks and ruined parts of the building, pulling me out of my sleep.

Turning over, I laid on my back and stared at the ceiling. I tried to formulate what my plan for the day would be, but soon realized something. With me mostly locked into memories, I more or less wondered what my host would be doing with their day instead. I've been used to diving into a memory orb for an hour or two, but this was totally different. This was hours, if not days worth of memories. That's even after you account for the parts the system sifts out. Credit where it's due, Dr. Winter had been proficient enough to pull only what was asked or needed from a pony's memory.

The thing that didn't help was that I already knew what was going to be on them. There was no part of me that wanted to re-live the hell that these ponies had gone through. Unfortunately for me, that was the mission the Elder gave, and I'll be damned if I don't follow those orders.

With that though, I rolled out of bed and checked the clock on my pipbuck. It was early in the morning, and Apricot would have to take watch soon. I wanted to get something to eat before going back into the archive. Maybe if I was lucky, I could get her to join me.

I walked over to Apricot's side of the bed and leaned in. “Good morning” I said.

“Ehh...too loud.” Apricot placed a hoof on my forehead and pushed me away. She then turned over and pulled herself under the covers more.

“Come on,” I said. “Get up. You're going to want to eat before you get to stand around and stare at buildings.”

“If I become Elder, I’m going to abolish morning watch. That, and send a message to our enemies telling them they can only attack after launch.” Apricot mumbled out from under the covers.

“I don’t think they will follow that rule.” I said.

“Well they should. It’s a better idea than to wake up at this un-godess hour.” Apricot said.

“Well, you're not the Elder, so you’ve still got the morning watch.” I said poking her with my horn. “wakey wakey, time for oats and hay.”

Apricot rolled out of bed and stretched her legs. “I hate getting back into that armor; you’re lucky.”

“I don’t know. You got all that protection while all I’ve got are some robes.” I replied and picked up my scribe robe from the ground.

“Really wish you’d keep your clothes off the ground. You get them all dirty just leaving them there.” Apricot said, picking up her cloth cover that she wore under her armor.

“Hey, you can tell me to do that back at home. But we are in a ruined office building. I mean, our bed is a old oak desk. I’m sure the robes are fine on the floor. Besides, these are just the standard issue robes. I’m not too fond of them anyway. Though, I am glad that you keep that cover cloth I got for you off the floor.” I said.

“Of course I do. I am a mare of grace and cleanliness,” She said, placing her hoof on her chest and raising her chin. It was a similar pose to the one I saw Ink Jar strike in the memory the other day.

“Ummm, you’re the one that wasted a Local nest last week. Not sure grace is a great word to describe yo-” I said, quickly realising my word choice was poor. Clamping my muzzle shut, I hoped she’d just overlook the last ten seconds.

Disappointingly, she did not. The look I got from my mare said I was in trouble, and it wasn’t going to be pretty. The worse part was, I was going to be in memory orbs for several hours today, and she likes getting ponies back.

I lowered my head. “Okay, I know you're going to get me back for this, but please dont use permanent ink this time.” I said, pleading with Apricot.

“I promise nothing.” She said playfully as she slipped into her armor.

Yep, today I’m screwed. Maybe I can get that lock working on the door that was pulled open by... damnit.

I finished putting on my robe and placed my laser pistol in its holster. When I looked up again, I saw Apricot holding a black marker in her teeth. She winked at me as she put her helmet on.

“Ummmm, hun? You know you can’t eat with your helmet on, right?” I said in a bit of a confused voice.

She just turned her head to me, speaking in a more muffled metallic voice. “Going to grab something quickly and relive Donut. I forgot that I was going to relieve him earlier. That way it would give me more time tonight.”

Damn, I was really hoping to have a nice breakfast with her this morning. Oh well, we want to keep on Donut’s good side. Elder Mustard Seed seemed to show a bit of favoritism towards Donut. This was mostly due to the fact that Donut was ‘born of steel’, and well, me and Apricot were’nt.

“You coming?” Apricot asked, standing at the edge of the stairs as she looked back at me.

“Yes.” I replied quickly as I trotted up to her. When we reached the bottom of the stairs, I could hear the voices of Melon Seed and Tea Leaf in the hallway.

“Ya, we got caught stealing Metal Sheer’s bread, so we had to work in the scrap yard for the whole month just before the cold snap hit.” Melon Seed said, referring to the time that both me and him were hungry back at Boulder Junction. We thought it would be a good idea to take Sheer’s bread. Turns out we’d been wrong. The only good thing that came out of that whole ordeal was that Melon got his cutie mark of a blow torch, and I got to eat some bread.

“And thats how I got my cutie mark. We learned that I have a knack for cutting through metal.” Melon Seed said. Apricot and I stepped out into the hallway. I could see the two of them near the lunchroom.

Tea Leaf started to laugh a bit. “I’ve heard this story before, Melon. I noticed that you start to talk a lot when you're nervous. What's got you all worked up?”

It seemed like the jig was up for Melon. It will be better for him anyway if he just admitted his crush on Tea Leaf, but I figure that he’s afraid of what Donut Hole might do to him.

“Well, I’m nervous because...” Melon Seed began to say.

Before he could finish, Apricot jumped to his rescue. “Oh course you’re nervous. I don’t know why you agreed to go on the roof to help set up the transmitter. I thought you got over it, but guess your fear of heights is still around.” Apricot said.

Fear of heights? I thought to myself. I remember a crane in Boulder Junction that would cry foul to Apericots claim. Melon had been the one who had to climb up there and help one of Glass Weave’s colts down.

“Afraid of heights, are we?” Tea Leaf asked, looking over to Melon Seed.

“Yes, I am afraid of heights, but I’ve been trying to get over my fear. I think this will help me out.” Melon Seed said in rushed voice.

“Well, don’t worry, Mel. I’ll be right there with you to keep you from falling off.” Tea Leaf said.

“Mel is a nice nickname. I’ll have to remember that one.” Apricot said. I could bet that she had the biggest smile under that armor again.

“Th-thanks you guys.” Melon Seed said, flashing a nervous smile.

“No problem.” Apricot said.

“We should get some food before we head up on the roof, or do you think that’ll make you sick?” Tea Leaf asked.

“No no, I should be okay.” Melon Seed said and proceeded to head into the lunchroom.

Tea Leaf looked back at Apricot. “I almost had him Apricot.”

“Ya, but now you can play with him more.” Apricot replied as she opened the door for Tea Leaf.

Tea Leaf walked into the lunchroom, swinging the door closed.

I turned to Apricot. “So, why did you dig Melon Seed out?” I asked.

“Because I’m a friend. That and its also going to be more fun watching those two dance around each other for a while.” Apricot said.

“Ya, but wouldn't it have been better just to have him tell her?” I asked.

“Well yes, but then Tea Leaf might want a private room for themselves. In case you’ve forgotten, there’s only one private room in this building. I don’t want to lose my room, especially since I already owe her.” Apricot said, looking through the window that peeked into the lunchroom.

“What do you owe her?” I asked.

“That is something you’ll learn on your birthday. In the mean time, I’m going to go relieve Donut. Hopefully I’ll have some time to think of more ways to have fun with the two of them.” Apricot said as she turned and walked toward the front.

“Oh, I was hoping to have breakfast with you.” I said with more than a pang of disappointment.

“I didn’t think you’d even want breakfast. You did see what Peach cooked, right?” Apricot said, turning and looking back at me.

At first I didn't notice, but then I sniffed at the air. Oh good, it was Pre-war surprise. I guess Peach didn’t have much time to cook this morning. It was the only item that Peach Fuzz made that well was more a crime than anything that qualified as food.

I guess I’ll go get started in the archive then. Hopefully when Peach Fuzz woke up, he’d cook up something other than that poor excuse of a meal.

“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll just get started on the archive. See you at lunch then?” I said waving to Apricot.

“Okay, I’ll see you then.” Apricot said, waving back as she proceed down the hallway.

I quickly walked away from the lunchroom area. My stomach gurgled at the memory of the one time I made the mistake of trying Pre-war.

I stepped into the hallway that lead to the office with the Archive door. It’s placement was odd. The archive room was kept dark and locked off in its own little world. I guess it was a bit fitting when you considered what I was doing. I couldn't help but laugh a little bit as I walked down the stairs into the office area. With another few steps, I was in the Archive room.

Dr. Winter’s skeleton was still laying on the floor where I’d placed it. Though, this time I looked at the skeleton a little more closely. Now that I did, it looked like the skull had a hole in it. Mind you that I had no real medical skills, but it seemed wrong. If Melon was here, he’d probably tell me what happened and maybe even what Dr. Winter was eating when she died. For me, all I can tell was it looked like she was shot in the head. Really the only reason I’d even got to that conclusion was the old revolver that was on the floor near by.

I guess either somepony here didn’t like her. More likely than that, was when the bombs fell, she was trapped in this room and took the quick way out. The thought of Dr. Winter shooting herself because she was trapped faded out of my mind quickly when I could hear my stomach rumble.

“Ehh, I should get started.” I said allowed to a empty room. Quickly, I sat in the chair and placed my hoof on the screen. Being set in a memory should keep the hunger away from me. At least, I hoped it would.

I realized that I’d left Dr. Winter’s ID in the system last night. Not sure what will happen because of that, if anything. With a shrug, I placed my hoof onto the black screen on the console and spoke up. “A.I.?”

“Yes, A.I. system is online. Please remember to remove your Employee ID from the console. This is the third time you have left the ID in the system. Continuation will require a class on maintaining security during wartime, and a notice being sent to the Admin.” The A.I. said.

It didn’t sound like they’d restrict access to the Archive, but I still didn’t want to risk it. One thing I was sure of, was that I didn't have to worry about a letter being sent to a dead admin whose desk currently served as my bed. However, I wasn’t sure if the system will try to force me to take a class on security or something. I don't think anyone here will be teaching it this long after the war, so I’m not sure how I could pass it. However, luckily it seemed that Dr. Winter was forgetful about her ID as well, and now the A.I. would think I was her even more.

“Uhhh... Sorry about that. I’ll have to remember to remove my ID next time. Please resume last memory and set accelerator to its max available setting. However, please stop the memory orb after four hours of view time.” I said thinking that I would just forgo my break and go straight to lunch. By then I think Peach would be awake and will have had time to make something that qualifies as food.

“Order confirmed, please stand by.” The A.I. said.

My visale pulled away. The growing familiarity of the E.F.D and the text of the archive loading the orb displayed as expected. As my stomach grumbled once more, I was really hoping the feeling of hunger would disappear when I entered the memory.

<=======ooO Ooo=======>

My field of view returned with the sight of my host looking into a dark swampy forest. Though when I ended the memory it was still daylight.

“A.I. did you skip ahead?” I asked.

“Confirmed. By request, ‘watch’ events are skipped unless specified information is given or related films are found. As of this time, no related films were found to be in place of this subjects watch, so that section was skipped.

Great! I wouldn’t have to sit through being bored for hours on end as I’d hoped to avoid.

I could hear a voice come from my hosts right side. “Okay, its my turn.” The voice of Sergeant Yellow Cherry said.

My host turned to see Cherry walking up to her. “I thought you were going to take third watch?” my host asked.

“I was. But then I said something stupid to Maplewood, so I got the crap watch as punishment.” Yellow Cherry said with a bit of a sad look on his face.

“Oh. What did you say to get you stuck with second watch?” My host asked with a bit of amusement in her voice.

“Nothing I care to repeat. Head on over to the camp fire and warm up.” Yellow Cherry said and he stepped in front of my host and looked out into the forest.

“Oh come on, Cherry. You can tell me.” My host insisted.

Yellow Cherry quickly turned to my host and scowled. “No. Now move back toward camp. You are interrupting my watch, and I’m sure you don't want to help Blue Leaf tomorrow morning with breakfast.”

“Yes sir.” My host said. She then trotted over to the camp fire with the other ponies around it. I could see Apex was already sitting down. When my host walk up, I saw everypony was here but Coffee Bean. Apparently, she’d been the other pony chosen to go on second watch.

My host took a seat next to Silver and Lieutenant Maplewood. My host locked eyes on Apex, who apparently had a rather scarrow look on him. I guessed my host had the same face, seeing as he looked more upset when their eyes met. That, and the fact that North Star sat next to him with a hoof over her mouth, seemingly trying to hide her face.

I guessed they were still upset with each other over insulting each others towns. Town pride seemed to be big during this time of Equestria. Which was strange, since some of the books I’d read and training orbs we used, talked about how towns were united in the fight. Either the books and orbs were lying, or something eventually ended up pulling the ponies together.

Though, it definitely wasn’t happening right now. However, it seemed Blue Leaf picked up on My host’s and Apex’s anger. In a move to lighten the atmosphere, she broke the sudden silence.

“Hello Archer and Apex, enjoy the fire and warm up. Silver was just telling us about his career as a dancer. Apparently, he’s a well known dancer in Baltimare.” Blue Leaf said.

Oh Celestia, please don't let this break into a fight over which town can out dance the other. I really don't need to listen to a bunch of old, long dead, bickering ponies.

“Well, its more of a start in a career. I mostly worked as a background dancer. You know, the ponies in the back of the leads making the performance seem bigger. I was hoping after this experience that I’ll be able to addition for better rolls.” Silver said. Then he started to laugh a bit. “I mean, the way I figure it, if I can survive being yelled and maybe shot at, then I could survive being a center stage pony.”

My host looked over to Lieutenant Maplewood. They both seemed to share the same look that Silver didn’t know what he was in for.

“Private Silver,” Maplewood said. “You do know that you're in a sword squad right?”

“Yes, sir?” Silver said in a questionable voice.

“Sword squads are the ones that take on the more aggressive mission against the zebras. So odds are, Private, you will be shot at. So you know, I have yet to meet pirates that haven’t fired a shot at us first. They are aggressive and dangerous. Keep that in mind, Private Silver.” Maplewood said.

“Yes sir.” Silver said.

I notice my host was just staring into the fire now. She seemed to be in a rather deep though that I was not privy too.

“Well, I just hope after all this I’ll be able to take center stage.” Silver said.

“I’m fairly sure you will Private Silver. Maybe when I get some time off, I’ll stop in to Baltimare and see a show. I been wanting to get a few performances.” Maplewood said.

That statement seemed to snap my host’s attention back to the Lieutenant. “Sir? I never thought you be one to see plays. Or at least, as a royal guard you’d only see plays that Celestia or Luna visit.” My host said.

“I told this story before, Corporale Archer. Remember? Back at Clover Cove around the campfire? It was after Copper told us about his farm.” Maplewood said.

“I think I was on watch, sir.” My host replied.

“Oh thats right, you had first watch and I went to bed early.” Maplewood said.

“Most of everypony went to bed. Ginger Ale relieved me, and no pony at the fire was really talking. So I went to bed. Then, in the morning we got attacked.” My host paused for a moment. “Nopony was in a mood to really tell me your story after that.” My host said.

Maplewood was silent for a second. His eyes were cast into the fire similar to what my host was doing just a little while before. “Ya, you missed the story. I came from the Pearl district of Canterlot. It used to be a rather upscale area of the town. Before you ask, yes, I was part of an upper crust family. Since my parents worked at the castle, it was natural for me and my sister to work as well. My sister worked with the diplomatic staff, and I decided to join the guard. My father was the one that commissioned my armor. Do you ever wonder why I keep my armor polished, Archer?”

“I figured you just had too. You know, since you are the command pony.” My host replied back.

“Nope. You should see Lieutenant Seedwoods Royal Guard armor. It’s scuffed and tarnished, but it’s just plain old standard issue Royal Guard armor. When he joined into the military ranks, he didn’t keep up with maintaining it. However, mine is special to me because my dad got it for me. It’s even got our family seal on it.” Maplewood said pointing to his chest plate.

On his chest plate you could see half of what I think was Celestia mark. I wasn’t really sure, only having seen it in books and in my first subjects memories. I didn’t really ever need to see what her mark was before. The second half of the seal was a crescent moon with the tips of it touching the half circle of the sun mark. In the middle in the empty space was a... windmill? A windmill with what looked like a horseshoe shrouding it.

My host had the same question I did. “Windmill?”

“Yep my great great grandfather was the one that invented it, so he made it part of the family crest.” Maplewood said.

“Odd, most family crest’s are well...” Ink Jar started to say, but then stopped. It was either out of a lack of knowing what to say, or he was worried what would happen to him if he said anything.

“Yes, most family crests have something more interesting.” Maplewood said looking over at Ink Jar. “That’s what I’m going to assume you were going to say.”

“Yes sir.” Ink replied back.

“No. It’s not a powerful or or majestic crest, but it is symbol to me and my family all the same. I am proud to wear it.” Maplewood said.

“Isn’t it extremely hot under all that armor, especially out here?” North Star asked.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a river under this gold plating, but It is a bit uncomfortable.” Maplewood replied back

I could hear a few of the ponies laugh a bit under their breath, Including my host.

“Well, I guess I got one of my questions about you answered sir.” My host said.

“There are more questions?” Maplewood asked.

“Ya, like do you guys dye your mane? Or how about answering if your armor is enchanted, or maybe your families ar-” My host began to say before Maplewood raised his hoof. My host stopped talking quite quickly, the and whole of the group around the campfire fell silent.

“Mind what you say. The next sentence is were Yellow Cherry got into trouble.” Maplewood said as he looked at my host.

“Why would he ask about the dye in both your mane and tail? Is it mandatory in the guard?” my host said.

“He knows why most of the guards hair is the same, but didn’t stop him from trying to make a joke of it.” Maplewood said.

“Cherry forgot that I outrank him out here, so I got to get him back for once.” Maplewood said,

“Isn’t that abuse of power?” Ink Jar asked.

“Kind of, but it’s all in good fun. Besides, Sergeant Yellow Cherry’s been dumping second watch on the rest of the squad to long. I figured that it was about time that he should give it a try.” Maplewood said with a bit of a chuckle in his voice. “Besides, I remember a question you had about another unicorn in the group back in the wagon. The more I think of it, even I’d like to know the answer as well.” Maplewood said.

My host seemed confused at first. I guessed that she forgotten. Not surprising, seeing as even I’d forgotten, and I have the short version of her memories.

“Private North Star, you said you climbed out of her majesties school. I know a lot of the guards that patrol the halls and walls in Canterlot and at the school. I’d like to know how you as a filly got around them.” Maplewood said.

“Well ummm... like I said sir, I stuck to the walls and climbed them every chance I had. I’d been climbing the walls of everything even before I was a student.” North Star said before laughing a bit. “My parents said they couldn’t even keep me in my crib. So when I found my love for astronomy, I wanted to look at the stars all the time. But you know how Canterlot is sir. Small residential houses next to towers and spires. I could not see the sky to well from my own roof, so when my parents were asleep, I snuck out and climbed up the nearest spire as high as I could.”

North Star seemed to have a nostalgic look to her face. “The first thing I climbed was the tree outside my room. It was a good spot for me untill a limb snapped and I fell. Dad got mad at me, so he cut the tree down thinking that I would stop. Nope, instead I climbed the gutters. Then our neighbors roof, since it was higher up, and so on, and so on. Finally, my parents saw my dream of being an astronomer, so they submit an application to the school and I got in.”

“But, I thought that school was for magic?” Blue Leaf asked.

“No, it says school for gifted unicorns. We have other gifts besides magic. My magic’s never really been that strong, but I knew the stars and every dot in the night sky.” North Star said proudly.

“So? How’d you get around the guards?” Ink Jar asked.

“Oh, well I might have been in a school that will teach me more and more about the sky, but I couldn't do that at first. I had to do all the boring classes. You know, learn how to write and read and all that. Math was a kind of fun, but I just grew tired that I couldn't watch the night sky. So I got out. Walls and spires of the school made for excellent hiding places and observation spots, and on cloudy nights I was able to sneak into a few parties as well. Every night, I watched the guards with how and where they’d walk. Lieutenant Maplewood sir, you know that royal guard armor has a unique sound to it when a pony is walking in it. Because of that, I always knew when a guard was walking by. Thats how they never could find me.” North Star said, looking completely proud of her self.

At that moment I could only hear the crackling of the campfire.

“Sorry sir, I mean, you royal guards are really good at your job but...” North Star started to say. She stopped when she couldn’t find the right words to dig herself out of the hole she was making.

“It’s okay Private. You were able to best the royal guards and not cause any problems. That is, except attending parties you should not of had.” He smirked as he spoke. “But as long no pony got hurt, it’s all fine. It seems that even with the distractions, the school still managed to get your head and tail put in the right spots. I’m happy to take this ego hit if you’ll show me where you snuck out too. Just so we can keep an eye on the area. I’d rather see the next pony have to come up with their own way to get around us.” Maplewood said.

“Yes sir,” North Star replied.

“Well, now that my ego taken a bit of a hit, I think I’ll be going to bed. I want this fire out both before the sun comes up, and the moon sets below the trees. I dont want to give off too much light before dawn. Remember, keep your rifles with you. I know its against the safety rules as well, but keep a magazine loaded. However, I advise that you keep a round out of the chamber. I don’t want any of you to accidently shoot yourselves while sleeping. Be up at dawn for breakfast and briefing. Understand?” Maplewood said.

“Yes sir.” All the ponies around the campfire said in unison.

Maplewood sat up and walked over to one of the tents. “Night everypony.” He said before dipping inside.

“Night sir.” Silver said, now standing himself. “Well I think i’m going to be getting to bed as well.”

“Really?” My host asked.

“Ya, I want to get some good sleep. We’ll probably have to do a bunch more walking tomorrow, and I’d like to be well rested.” Silver replied, walking towards one of the tents.

“Well this is just great fun. My family used to sit around the campfire for hours telling stories as well.” Ink Jar said.

We might be a bit like a family, Ink. I know you, but I don’t really know too much about everypony else here.” North Star said.

“No time for more stories anyway. Lieutenant Maplewood wants the fire out and most of us are fairly tired”. my host asked. “Ink, can you rain on the fire to put it out?”

“I shouldnt. It’ll put up a whole lot of smoke and steam. Might just give us away if some zebra were watching.” Ink Jar said.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got it.” North Star said as she walked over to the fire. Her horn began to glow shortly before a field formed around the fire. The rising smoke quickly became trapped, filling the bubble and smothering the fire out.

“Neat trick.” My host said.

“Ya, my family did a fair amount of camping as well. I learned to do that fairly early on.” North Star said with a smile. She then turned and walk towards one of the empty tents.

“Have a good night, North. You too, Archer.” Ink Jar yawned out as he took flight back up to the cloud he made.

“Yeah, have a good night.” My host said quietly as she proceeded to one of the few remaining empty tents.

My host opened the flap to the tent and settled in. She placed her rifle near the side she was sleeping on, checking that it was ready before letting her head hit the pillow. She closed her eyes and after a few seconds, the familiar memory flashes began.

When the bright light faded, all I could see was darkness again. I waited for my host to open her eyes or to hear a sound but nothing. As the darkness persisted, it felt like my eyes were closed. I could somewhat feel the rest of my host, but she refused to look around. I could even see the little fades of light and dots. I figured my host was just laying there trying to sleep, but I should hear her breathing or something shouldn’t I?

As I continued to watch what was the best way to describe as the inner part of my host eyelids, I started to notice something. Some of the little false lights formed into varied shapes and shadows. They drifted around slowly, disappearing and appearing almost at random. For just a moment, I could see one that seem to be in the shape of a pony. The shape quickly faded away and was replaced with just curved lines.

A few seconds later my host eyes sprung open and she quickly started to breath heavily, reaching for her rifle on almost instinct. I didn't think she heard a sound or I would of heard it as well. She looked around, holding her rifle while peering through the flap of her tent. I could see a pony laying on their back a few feet away on one of the dug up dirt mounds.

My host slowly opened the flap and looked at what seem to be Blue Leaf. She lay there looking up at the sky. My host then to pulled herself up and out of the tent, strolling slowly towards Blue Leaf.

“Blue, are you okay?” My host asked in a whisper.

“Ya, Just watching the sky. North Star said I should do that more since I live in a big city. Truth be told, I find it fairly calming.” Blue Leaf said.

“Oh, okay” My host replied back.

“Archer, is there something wrong? You’re sweating an awful lot, and you’re breathing pretty heavily.” Blue Leaf said sitting up and looking at my host. “Feel sick or something?

“I uh... kind of... I had a nightmare,” My host said.

“Oh, I know nightmares.” Blue Leaf said scooting over a bit so my host could lay back and relax. “Sit down and tell me what you dreamed.”

“Well, it was about when my old squad was attacked a few months ago.” My host said laying back and looking at the sky. “I keep seeing it happen over and over.”

“The Ambush you suffer?” Blue Leaf asked.

“Yes...” My host said.

“It’s okay. Silver told me what you’d told him.” Blue Leaf said with a sigh and an understanding nod. “I’m sorry about your friends.”

"Copper and Lime weren’t really my friends, we just worked together. The thing is, I remember when the fighting was over, and the zebras had been pushed back by another squad that was working in the area. Me and our squads medic opened up the tents to Copper and... and it was just the look of surprise on his face. Lime almost made it out of her tent but... a lesson I learned out here is that it only takes one bullet to kill you." My host said. I noticed as my field of view changed a bit, fuzzing up slightly. After a moment, I realized that my host seemed to have tears in her eyes.

"Yes, one bullet can kill you." Blue Leaf said, agreeing to my host’s statement. Her voice made her sound still a bit confused as to why my host had said it.

"No, I mean it was the first time it had made since to me. I... I don't know why it was that moment; but now I dream about the moment that one shot that hit Lime. Only in her place, it would be me that would get that one shot. I see it in you new guys. You don't have that fear yet." My host said.

"I'm scared as well. I’ve seen ponies hurt and killed." Blue Leaf said with concern in her voice.

"Really? When? This is your first station." My host said looking over to Blue Leaf.

"I don't know if you read the papers or not, but do you remember the train derailment a while ago in Manehattan?" Blue Leaf asked.

"I... I kind of don't read the papers anymore. I enjoyed reading a school paper, then it got weird and mean, so I just stop reading it. I guess I never really got back into reading the news after that." My host said.

"Well, a train derailed near the harbor in the city. It came off the tracks fully loaded and plowed right into a nearby restaurant full of ponies having lunch. When we responded to the scene, there were just parts of ponies everyone. What ponies survived were twisted and pinned by the metal beams. We could only cut a few out. Some like Coffee Bean were lucky and were out of the building." Blue Leaf said, now starting to feel sad as well.

"Coffee Bean was there with you?" My host asked.

"Yes. One of the good things that came from that event was meeting Coffee and us becoming friends." Blue Leaf said.

"What was she doing there?" My host asked.

"Coffee worked at the near by dock loading ships. She told me that she tooked an early lunch that day. It’s what saved her life probably. The train went right through the restaurant and killed nearly everypony in it," Blue Leaf said, placing a hoof on my host shoulder. "I know what nightmares you're talking about. See the faces of the ponies that never saw it coming. They didn’t know what was going to happen to them. Even now, It’s hard for me to get those dreams out of my mind so I can go back to sleep." Blue Leaf said.

"Then what do you do to stop these dreams?" My host asked pleadingly

"You can't. At least, I haven't heard of anypony who’s seen these kind of event's and is able to get rid of them.” Blue Leaf said. "I guess you could ask a counsellor, or maybe you’ll be lucky and Luna will visit you in a dream. I’ve heard that happens from time to time. Even so, I don't even think she can stop these nightmares, only help you understand them. As it sits, all we can do is try to place them somewhere else in our heads and just try to go back to sleep."

"I'm not sure what to replace it with." My host said.

"Maybe think about your friends. Silver said that Lieutenant Maplewood and Sergeant Yellow Cherry saved you. That seems rather friend worthy of them." Blue Leaf said while smiling at my host.

"I'm kind of already friends with them. I admire what they did for me and how they saved me and the others. They even helped to get me promoted..." My host said before abruptly stopping. She seem to be looking up into the sky. Lost in thought perhaps? "I guess you’re right. The more I think about it, the more I realise that even in that horrible event, I was able to find something good that came of it. Though, I wish Copper and Lime didn’t have to die for me to gain friends." My host said in a sad tone.

"I don't think there was anyway you could’ve stopped that. Just be happy you made friends and do your best to move on. I couldn’t stop that train when it's brakes failed, and I couldn’t save the ponies that were trapped in the wreckage. What I was able to do, was to help as many as I could, and I was able to help a pony with the trauma she saw. With that, I was able to earn a friendship, and that is the part I try to focus on so I can go back to sleep." Blue Leaf said as she sat up and offered her hoof. "So lets both try to get back to sleep."

"Okay," my host said, wiping away a tear that had been distorting my view of Blue Leaf.

My host climb back into her tent and wished Blue Leaf a good night’s rest before turning over and closing her eyes. I was stuck in her moment of peace and quiet as I waited for her to fall back asleep. I thought about how some ponies seemed to be quick to suffer mental trauma from death. I’d forgotten that for them, it wasn't a day to day event unlike it was for ponies in the wasteland. Now and again, even I had nightmares of my friends being killed in an ambush or something. By far though, the worse dreams also have me watch Apricot get killed while I’m rendered helpless and unable to help her. I remember one time I woke up nearly screaming in the back of the crawler, only to stop my self and see Apricot laying next to me still asleep.

My thought was interrupted by my host falling asleep, which caused the memory to flash. This time when my host open her eyes, I could tell that the sun was up and I could hear birds singing, while some of the squad members talking while the crackle of a campfire.

My host stretched and slowly got out of her tent. She picked up her rifle and slung it around her back as she walked over to the newly built campfire. Blue Leaf was sitting by a large cooking pot stirring it, while Yellow Cherry was busily adding carrots into it.

"Good morning." my host said as she looked over at Yellow Cherry.

Both Yellow Cherry and Blue Leaf replied back with their own cheer. "Good morning."

"Lieutenant Maplewood will be going over are mission in about half hour, so wake up fully, get some of these oat and carrots, and get yourself ready." Yellow Cherry said.

"Yes sir." my host said.

My host quickly moved back over to her tent and grabbed her mess kit. When she turned around, she could see Ink Jar floating down on his cloud. He smiled at her through holding his mess kit in his mouth.

"Good morning Ink Jar," My host said.

Ink Jar placed the mess kit in his hoof and said "Good morning."

Breakfast came and was over with fairly quickly. With Yellow Cherry’s statement for everypony to quickly eat, breakfast conversations were mostly absent. Only Blue Leaf and North Star were talking, and all they spoke of was the stars that Blue Leaf were looking at during the night.

After Breakfast had been finished, I could see Maplewood walking out from his tent with a map in his magic field. "Good morning, all." he said.

"Good morning, sir." The ponies replied in quick unison.

“Today we will be attacking the pirate camp south from here. Our job is to take their leader and bring him back for questioning. We’re hopeful he’ll disclose where other pirate camps are. Even if he’s uncooperative, this mission will show that their behavior will not be accepted in Equestria or the Zebra Lands.” Maplewood said.

Maplewood unraveled a map onto the table. My host moved closer to look and I could see Square section on the map with smaller squares inside it marking where both this camp, and the enemy’s were located. Maplewood had already noted lines of attack on the map, and it seemed like he’d wanted to come around the side of the cove where the land juts out into the ocean. I’m no tactical genius, but to me, it seemed that he’d wanted to cut off their chance to escape by ship.

“We will hit them on the east slope of the cove. Ink, I want you to drop in and hit the ship with lighting. Damage it as much as you can without endangering yourself. Understand?” Maplewood asked looking at Ink Jar.

“Well, yes sir, but if you remember my lighting isn't really that accurate.” Ink Jar replied back in a concerned tone.

“I’m sure you can hit the top of a ship, Ink.” North Star said as she patted him on the back.

“Agreed. Archer, you and Coffee Bean will move to take up a shooting position at the tip of the cove. We will be offering them a chance to surrender, but I want to make sure we are ready on the account that they tend to reply unfavorably to that notion. Cherry you, North, and Silver will push into the camp itself. Only shoot the zebras that are being aggressive. I know a lot of you are afraid and might make mistakes, but we’re not here to wipe them out. Remember, we want prisoners. I’d rather not have to deal with another Salamander Bay incident, is that clear?” Maplewood said looking around at the other ponies.

I could tell that some of them were confused on what had happened at Salamander Bay. Though, from what I could figure, is it seemed that the zebras were put in a similar situation, didn’t surrender, and it ended with a lot of blood.

“Me and our Operative will be covering Blue Leaf, and will assist with any casualties and interpretation.” Maplewood said.

“Operative?” a few of the ponies ask quizzically.

“Yes, you all will be meeting Xec later today. He was one of the prisoners taken last year. He’s turned to our cause and is willing to help us stop the other pirates.” Maplewood said.

“Sir, is it safe to trust a zebra pirate?” Apex asked.

“He’s a young zebra and got in over his head by joining the pirates. The counselors and the higher ups trust him, so I will give Xec the benefit of a doubt. If he turns out to be uncooperative, he’s looking at going back to prison or worse,” Maplewood said.

“Yes sir.” Apex replied back.

“When will we be meeting up with him?” My host asked.

“About a hour from now. So I want the camp packed and ready to go before then, for now, Ink, please take lookout up on your cloud. Blue Leaf, Apex, and Coffee Bean, you three break down the tents. Silver, North Star break down the kitchen. Archer and Yellow Cherry, you two are with me. I still have a few more things to discuses with you two. Everypony understand?” Maplewood asked looking at everypony.

“Yes sir.” ponies said in unison. The squad quickly trotted off to their ordered spots, while Ink Jar return to his cloud. My host stayed with Maplewood and Yellow Cherry as they gather around the table.

“Archer becareful on this slope, you need to make sure you stay behind it. The maps and skyguard noted that it is a steep slope, so you’ll need to be sure you don’t fall in or fall over. Also, be quiet. I don’t want them to hear you. You will be the first group to move into position. Keep a close eye on Cherry's group. There going to be fairly exposed in that position. I’d rather not let them be in any more danger than what they will be in.” Maplewood said.

“Yes sir,” my host replied

“Cherry, we’ll cover your flank and make sure that no zebra gets behind you while enter the camp. Remember, be firm with them. Make sure they understand that their only choice is to surrender.” Maplewood said.

“Yes-” Yellow Cherry spoke, but was quickly interrupted by a loud noise.

The loud crack echoed around my host. It took a few seconds for my host to register what happened, and to notice the red splotches with white fur that landed on the map. My host turn to Maplewood who seem different. His left eye seemed to be staring blankly at the table while his jaw seem out of place. My host looked up to see that his right ear was gone. Before my host could full registerd that Maplewood was shot. Yellow Cherry grabbed her and threw her up against the side of the pond.

She looked back at Maplewood. His body collapse to the ground, and his blood spilled from the hole in him, filling the cracks in the dried pond.

“Blue Leaf!” My host screamed before having her mouth covered by Yellow Cherry.

Blue Leaf started to step out of one of the tents. A shot rang out and she dove to the ground for cover.

“Blue Leaf stay put. Everypony take cover!” Yellow Cherry yelled.

The dirt next to my host was sent up in a puff as another crack rang out. The shooter, who was somepony or probably a zebra was shooting from one of the trees.

“Is everypony else okay?” Yellow Cherry called out.

“I don’t know sir. I don’t got a lot of cover here!” Apex shouted from behind a small hill of dirt. I could tell he was curled up into a tight ball, just trying to keep his body in the cover.

My host turned to see Silver, North Star and Blue Leaf quickly moving from where the tents were set up to the edge of the pond.

Coffee Bean tried to join them. She started to run from the cover however she was knock down quickly to the ground with a crack and a loud metal clang.

“Coffee!” Blue Leaf shouted, nearly leaving her cover to help her friend she was only pulled back by North Star and the fact that shooter was trying to hit her now.

Coffee bean layed there for a second, but I couldn’t see any blood. She shook off the hit and rolled over to one of the holes we’d dug in the pond bed.

In a pained voice, she called over to us. “I’m... i’m okay.... I think. My head is ringing, but I’m... i’m alright!” I could tell it was Coffee Bean. Her helmet seemed to have saved her.

“Sir, what the plan?” North Star said in a panicked voice.

“Ink Jar, can you see who shooting at us?” Yellow Cherry shouted while another spot on the ground sprayed dirt up as a round struck it. I could tell that they must have been under attack by a amature sniper at best. The shooter seemed to only try to keep them pinned down, and not to draw them out.

“I can’t tell sir! I don’t see anypony!” Ink Jar called back. However this now made him a target.

My host looked up and perked her ears to hear what Ink Jar was saying. I could see now the cloud was being shot at, as little tuffs were ripped away while the rounds zipped through it..

“Sir, Ink’s In trouble.” my host said.

“Yes, I can see that Arch.” He cupped his hooves around his muzzle to yell up to him. “Ink get ready to get down here. Everypony else, give supporting fire into the woods. Try to keep that shooter’s head down!” Yellow Cherry ordered.

“Yes, sir!” The ponies of the squad called out.

“Ready! Three, Two, One!” Yellow Cherry called out as a shot rang out.

My host turned and brought her weapon up. She started to fire into the forest, taking quick shots. Both her and Yellow fired into the branches and leaves of the trees, while the others fired at the base of them. They worked well as a team, covering a lot of the places they could have been getting shot from.

I could see the shadow of Ink Jar drop from below.

“I’m here!” Ink Jar called out.

My host quickly dropped back behind cover. The other ponies followed in short succession.

“Okay, We’ve got everypony here. Now we can focus and take care of that zebra.” Yellow Cherry called out. “North Star, I want you to create a magical field around the campfire. Collect the smoke, but don't put out the fire. Ink Jar, get behind the smoke and create a gust to blow it towards the forest. Everypony else, keep your ears up. Get ready to mass your fire at whatever starts coughing in there.”

Another shot hit near where my host was, causing her to flinch and turn away. She could see the North Star was concentrating on the fire while Silver was re-loading.

A crack from the shooter rang out again, but this time instead of the normal sound of it hitting the dirt, this one was quiet before the sound of gurgling. I could hear from my host’s left, as she turned to see Yellow Cherry pulling himself back to the bank of the pond. He struggled to move, and covered his neck with his hooves. Yellow Cherry was hit. His crimson blood was streaming from between his hooves. He turned to look at my host with shock in his eyes, shortly before slowly collapsing over. His blood was slowly flowing over to where my host was sitting.

My host quickly tried to back up, nearly forgetting about the zebra that had just shot Yellow Cherry. He was still taking shots at them when she quickly slip back down into the bank.

“Ahhh!” my host cried out.

“Archer are you okay?” Blue Leaf called out.

“NO! Yellow Cherry’s been hit, and I think its really bad.” My host yelled back.

“What are we going to do?” Silver called out.

“Help!” Apex screamed as his cover took two shots in quick session.

My host seem to freeze and close her eyes. I could hear Apex cringing as the dirt mound he was behind was hit again and again.

I could hear the sound of my host helmet hitting the dirt behind her. She opened her eyes and looked up. Everything was so fuzzy, I could tell she had tears in her eyes. She quickly blinked them away and took a slow, deep breath. She tensed herself slightly as she sat there.

“Ink Jar, get ready!” My host called out and an authoritative voice.

“What?” Ink Jar called back.

“We sticking with what Cherry planned!” My host shouted. “North are you ready?”

“I’m having a hard time keep the smoke together, ma’am!” North Star called back.

“Blue, help her out. Silver, Coffee get ready. Apex stay in cover.” My host yelled as she looked over to North Star and Blue Leaf. I could see that Blue Leaf’s horn had started to glow while she concentrated on the fire. My host turned again to the now growing smoke screen.

“Ink are you in position?” My host said as she looked for where Ink Jar was.

I couldn’t see him in the smoke, but I could hear him calling out “Yes ma’am!”

“Coffee, Silver, listen for the coughing before you start shooting.” My host ordered. “We don’t want to screw this up.”

“Yes ma’am.” Silver and Coffee called out.

“Okay...NOW!” my host shouted.

The cloud of smoke swirled towards my host, quickly passing by the entrenched ponies before it entered the tree line. Everypony fell silent, listening for a sign of where the zebra was. After a few seconds of waiting, a light cough came through the air from the trees. The ponies didn’t fire. Instead, they waited a little more, trying to get a bearing on exactly where it had come from.

My host quickly popped over the bank and pointed at a spot in the trees. She steadied her gun and then opened fire. The other ponies in the squad quickly to joined in, and I could see leaves and twigs breaking from the trees.

A figure drop from one of the trees, and as quick as it was, I could tell it was equine shaped. My host quickly turn and fired at the shape the first two shots miss however the last one seem to strike the equine in the leg. My host quickly zeroed in a kill shot. As she pulled the trigger, I could hear the clicking sound of her now empty rifle. My host quickly tried to load a new magazine into her rifle, but the shape was gone before she could take another shot.

“Stop firing!” My host shouted.

Shots slowed and then ceased altogether. The area was in a cold silence. No birds were singing, and even the wind seemed to have died.

“Lieutenant, is it safe to come out?” Apex shouted. From his voice, he was still curled up and didn’t seem to have known what happened.

“Lieutenant Maplewood is dead, Apex.” North Star said, kicking at the dirt. “So is Sergent Yellow Cherry.”

Blue Leaf ran over to where Sergeant Yellow Cherry’s body was laying.

“He… he might be okay.” Blue Leaf said, carefully rolling Yellow Cherry’s body over.

My host looked at Yellow Cherry. His muzzle and chest was covered in dirt and blood. She followed the trail of Cherry’s blood that had pooled into a small hole that my host unknowingly dug while trying to stay in cover. When her gaze turned to at her forehooves and flank, she leapt up and fell backwards. In a panic, she pushed herself as far away from Yellow Cherry as she could. My host clamped her eyes closed, and all I could hear was her breathing heavily.

She opened her eyes again to see Blue Leaf now standing over where Maplewood laid. She had splotches of drying blood on her but didn’t seem to care about that. It seemed that her past made her focus on trying to help, rather than worry about what's on there body. My host seemed to have the opposite effect.

My host closed her eyes again and continued to breath heavily. After a few seconds, I could hear her breathing beginning to slow.

“Archer, what do you want us to do?” A voice asked. The voice seem a bit distant. I at first thought it may of been an error in the memory orb system, but thinking on it, I realised that my host was experiencing a new trauma and the memories where becoming distorted.

“Leave Archer alone. let her think.” This time I could tell it was the voice of North Star. “Come on, Silver, help me watch for another attack.”

My host’s breathing was still deep, but it slowed more and more as the seconds crawled by. She opened her eyes again, looking down at the ground. Her hind legs was still covered in dirt and blood. She took a moment to collect herself, taking several deep breaths before she stood up.

“Is everypony okay?” My host asked.

After a moment, ponies started to reply. Coffee Bean had given a hesitant yes in her reply. She seemed to be completely shaken up from what just happen. Then again, anypony would be if it were their first taste of losing a comrade and friend.

Blue Leaf was already looking her over now giving up on any chance that Maplewood or Yellow Cherry had survived.

“Coffee are you okay?” Blue Leaf asked.

“Ya, I’ve got a headache, but I think the shot hit my helmet.” Coffee Bean said. Taking her helmet off. The helmet was deformed from the hit, but it did its job and protected Coffee Bean’s head.

Blue Leaf then walked over to my host. “Are you okay, Archer?”

“Ya, I... I just got... spooked is all.” My host said, trying to compose herself.

“It’s okay. Lets get you cleaned up really quick, alright?” Blue Leaf said, quickly grabbing some water and a rag. She then began to wipe the dirt and blood off my host cleaning up her coat. “There this will help you,” Blue Leaf said.

“Thank you,” my host replied.

“Okay, I think we are safe,” Silver said.

“Good.” Apex said, walking over to my host. “Archer, Ma’am.” He said with a bit of hesitation in his voice. “We should leave. Head back to base.”

“Or maybe we should have Ink Jar go get some reinforcements. We aren’t far, they can be here in only a day or two.” Coffee Bean said.

“I don’t like the idea of staying here even another day.” North Star said. “I think we should head back.”

“What do you want us to do, Archer?” Blue Leaf asked with concern in her voice.

“I... I think we...” My host began to say. She paused for a moment, looking at the two dead ponies. “I think we are going to finish the mission to capture that pirate leader.”

“What?” Was the reply from many of the members

Apex was the only one to ask, “Why?”

“We need this leader captured. With him taken out, this war will end sooner. We need it to end as soon as we can so we wont have anymore of... this.” My host said pointing over to the bodies.

“But they killed the Lieutenant and Sergeant! We’re down two ponies and they were the ones that were in the Royal Guard.” Apex said in frustration. “They knew what they are doing.”

“I know what I’m doing as well, Apex. Maplewood wanted to remove this camp, and I will keep to his wish.” My host said with resolve building in her voice.

“We don’t have enough ponies to go threw with the Leutients plan. North Star said. “Let alone the fact that we don’t know if that zebra Xec will be waiting for us.”

“Hell what if this Xec was the zebra who was shooting at us? I mean, he or she knews where we’d be camped out at.” Apex said.

“Maplewood trusted Xec. I know zebras, and they hold honor above all else.” My host replied back.

“Zebra’s in Equestria are honorable, sure. But Xec is a former pirate. I don’t think that will give him that much credit.” Silver said.

“Doesn’t matter anymore. I have command of the squad now, and we are finishing this mission. Silver, Coffee please dig two graves for the Lieutenant and Sergeant. I don’t want to leave them out in this heat.” My host ordered

“Yes, Ma’am.” Silver and Coffee Bean replied as they quickly trotted off.

“North Star, you and Apex continue to break down this camp. We need to get it done quickly. Xec will be here soon, and if we can, I want to have a quick service for our squad mates.” My host ordered

“Yes, Ma’am.” North Star replied back quickly. Apex was more hesitant on his reply.

“Blue can... can you prepare the bodies for burial?” My host asked. This time she didn’t use an authoritative voice, more a regretful one.

“Yes, Ma’am. I will get them cleaned up.” Blue Leaf said.

As most of the ponies trotted off, my host walked over to the table. Blue Leaf followed behind her.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Blue Leaf said. “A lot of the ponies are scared and confused.”

“I know Blue. They are not used to see all this. I don’t think I’ll really ever get used to seeing this.” My host said sighing.

“We aren't really used to it. It’s just, we know what the shock feels like and we can respond to it…” Blue Leaf said. “but I think we should go with Apex’s idea of going back.”

“No. The zebra’s think they beaten us, and we can use that to get them back. We lost due to surprise, but I think we gain our own advantage with it.” My host said as she looked at the map. Her voice was sounding both more cold and more confident.

I knew she was still traumatised by what happened, it’s not something you could just shrug off. She was focused on the clump of fur that lay on the map from where Maplewood stood. She stared at it for a few seconds before quickly whipping it off the map.

She studied over the map, keeping her focus on the different areas around the enemy camp. I watched as her sight to always drifted back to a hill near by the enemy camp. It seemed to me, that she had found the location of her attack. However I was unsure if she noticed the message on the map that displayed the warning ‘mines’.

She grabbed a nearby pen in her fetlock and marked up the map, circling the hill. My host continue to look at the map for several more minutes it seem she was pulling her thoughts together. She was finally interrupted by Blue Leaf.

“Ma’am, we are ready.” Blue Leaf said.

My host looked over to Blue Leaf. Behind her, I could see the two graves that had been quickly dug for Maplewood and Yellow Cherry. Their bodies were already set in side the holes, covered by the rolls they’d used for bedding.

“Okay... Give me a minute.” My host replied.

Blue Leaf just nodded and join the others that were gathered around. My host stood there in contemplation of what she was going to say. She then took two deep breaths, and walk forward.

“I worked... served with Lieutenant Maplewood and Sergeant Yellow Cherry, for six months. In that time, I’d gotten to know just how great of ponies they were. Maplewood had always treated us with the respect and understanding we’d deserved. Sergeant Yellow Cherry was hard on us from time to time, but I knew that in his heart, he wanted to make sure we stayed safe. I knew that both of them would step into the line of fire to save anyone of us. Cherry showed this courage for us today. He guided and looked after us, even though it was only for a short time...” My host said before starting to choke up and sob a bit.

She took another deep breath, looking down at the bodies. “I... We, will continue to follow in what you taught us, sirs. We will continue to fight and protect Equestria. We will see our mission through, I promise you that.” My host said before saluting and standing there in silence.

Each pony join in the moment. All that could be heard was the wind and distant birds.

After the moment passed, my host picked up the shovel and piled dirt onto the shallow grave. One after another, the other ponies join in. A few moments later, the graves had been filled in. Blue Leaf walked over and placed two tent stakes in the ground above the graves. She then placed Lieutenant Maplewood’s Royal Guard helmet on one stake, and Sergeant Yellow Cherry’s helmet on the other.

“When we can’t take the ponies that have passed on with us, we mark the spot where they fell, and place a personal item as a marker to show who they were.” Blue Leaf said.

The ponies stood around in silence, trying to figure out what was need of them next. While they knew their mission, my host had seemed to have lost that all determination she had minutes ago.

“Archer, look.” Ink Jar said pointing over to a figure stepping out of the tree line.

The figure cleared into the shape of a zebra. He walked at a steady pace towards them with a rifle slung on his back.

“Hello my name is Xec,” the zebra said. He looked down at the two grave markers, and to my surprise, he lowered his head. “I see you have already meet my kin.”

Muddy Cove

View Online

Fallout Equestria: Lines

Chp 7: Muddy Cove

My host and her squad seemed to stare at the zebra for an awkwardly long time. Even Zec seemed to feel the eyes staring at him, visibly shrinking on his haunches a bit. If that many eyes were on me back at the base, I’m pretty sure I’d look like that as well.

“Ummm... Hello Zec.” The awkward silence was finally broken by Blue Leaf. “It’s nice to meet you.” She spoke in a timid voice. It was very strange to me how everypony was acting. The shock of seeing their fellow ponies killed put them in a state of near denial it seem.

“Yeah, we meet your kin Zec. They killed Maplewood in cold blood.” Apex said in a growing angry voice. “Or maybe it was you who did it.”

Zec tooked a step back, edging back a bit from Apex. It’s a smart move to make when dealing with somepony who just accused him of betraying the squad and killing two of their squad mates.

“No, I did no such thing. I did not betray you nor kill your kin,” Zec said defensively.

“I don’t believe you.” Apex grabbed his rifle and held it tightly. “You betrayed your own kin and your own faction. So I think its rather easy for you to betray us to get back to your kin,” Apex said raising his rifle and pointing at Zec. “Once a traitor, always a traitor.”

“Apex! Stop what are you doing?” Blue Leaf said.

“This stripe bastard knew where we were camped.” Apex looked over to Blue. “We heard sounds from a rifle like the one on his back. You had to have heard it as well. I’m damn sure he is probably even a skilled shot with it.” Apex said as he looked back down his rifle sight.

“I did no such thing! I may have given up on being a pirate, but I am here to stop my kin from killing more ponies.” Zec snorted finally standing his ground. “You may not trust me, but I will not betray what I know is right. Stopping the pirates from pushing this war forwarded is the right thing to do for both my kind and ponies.” Zec said.

“Your full of Horse Sh-” Apex said before being stopped by My host. It was the first thing she’d done, this whole time other than being very quiet.

“That’s enough, Apex!” My host yelled. “If you’d stop to think for a moment, you’d realize that he’s not the zebra that shot them.”

“How would you know?” Apex said with a snarl. He seemed to drop the military formality in favor for his blind hatred of the stripe equine in front of him.

“Because the zebra that killed our friends was shot in the hind leg.” My host said, pointing to the hind legs of Zec. “If you’d taken a second to look, you’d have noticed that Zec has no holes in his back legs.” A tense moment passed as the two of them stood there. Apex just stared at my host for a few seconds, his expression softening before he lowered his rifle.

“Yes, Ma’am.” He muttered, now regaining his military formality.

“Ok, Zec. Welcome to camp, but we’re on a timetable, and will be leaving very soon.” My host said as she gave a short nod to him. “Everypony... and zebra gather around the table.”

“I can assume you are this group’s commanding pony.” Zec said as he looked at my host.

“Yeah.” My host paused for a moment. “... Kind of got the promotion about a hour ago during the firefight. If I had a choice, I’d give it up just to have my friends back,” My host said looking down a bit. “But that isn’t the world we live in.”

“I am sorry for what my Kin have done,” Zec said. “The work we will do will make their deaths worthwhile, I assure you.”

“Thank you, but save it for now. We’ve got a lot to do and I’m just trying to get it all done.” My host said. I could kind of hear her tearing up a bit.

“As you wish.” Zec said stepping around the side of the table.

My host tooked a long breath before looking at the map, then up at the squad.

“Okay, I know what Lieutenant Maplewood wanted to do, but we don’t have the numbers to do it. We can’t let them know that we are there.” My host said pointing to the hill with the words ‘mines’ written on it. “So we are going to sneak in on the South West side of the camp.”

“Ummm... Ma’am?” Silver said. “You know that says mines, right? I don’t think we supposed to stand or walk on them.”

“Yes, I know Silver and I know what we are going to do about them. Well I think I know what we are going to do about them.” My host said with a waver in her voice.

“You think?” North Star asked with a nervous fidget.

“Depends on what Zec can tell me about the mines,” My host said turning to Zec. “You want to help? Now’s your chance.”

“What do you wish to know?” Zec asked.

“Are they the same as they were last year? Are they just the stander Party Poppers?” My host asked back. “Or should we expect a different model?”

“Yes they are the same,” Zec replied back.

“Good. Okay, we are going to set up on the top of this hill and when I give the single we will roll large rocks down the hill setting off the mines.” My host gestured at the map as she spoke. “At the same time we will open fire on the zebras in the camp. While Ink hits the camp with lighting, and after the mines are set off, we’ll head down the path that the rocks cleared. If we can take down at least a few of them, we can force them to surrender. ” My host said with a firm tap of the map.

“Uhh, this plan seems kind of...simplified.” Coffee Bean said, seeming kind of confused. She scrunched up her muzzle trying to find a better word that what she wanted to say.

“Yes it’s simple, and this way we’ll be able to surprise the zebras.” My host replied back.

“But they will know where we are coming from,” Blue Leaf said. “What do we do when they start massing fire against us?”

“Not at first. They’ll be confused in the first few moments, more so if we each take down a zebra. Then the odds will be in our favor, let alone we will be on the hill looking down at the camp. Even if we lose the advantage, and we are forced back, we can use the hill for cover while we retreat.” My host said before turning to look over at the zebra. “Zec what do you think?”

“I am not a strategist.” Zec said looking down at the map. “But your plan may work. I remember when you attack our first camp, and were able to confuse most of us quickly.” Zec said. “They might not expect it to happen again.”

“Okay then, that's what we are going to do. When we get to this stream just before the hill Apex, Coffee, Zec and I will find some large boulders to roll down the hill.” My host ordered looking at each pony when there name came up. “North and Silver, I want you two to keep watch while we work. Blue, you set up in this little patch right here in case some pony gets hurt.” My host quickly tapped out the location on the map. “Ink, when we are pulling the boulders together, that’s when you go off and collect clouds. You need to get them ready as soon as possible.”

“Yes ma,am,” Everypony said.

“Okay then, lets head out.” My host said as her muzzle pulled into a confident smirk. “We’ve got to get a lot of swamp covered to reach the camp, so let’s get to it!”

Everypony stepped away from the table and grabbed their gear. They all tooked a moment to pull them onto their backs before they turned away. After a moment, my host and the others were all assembled at the end of the pond where the swampy forest started. My host looked down at the hole she dug herself in earlier. The blood in the cracks had already dried, and it seemed to almost blend in with the darker pond bed.

My host and her squad proceeded into the tree line. Not far from the pond I could see trees with bullet holes in them from the battle earlier. It seem their wild shots hit everywhere they could. As my host began to walk, she notice a crimson red on some of the leaves and dirt. It was most likely from the now injured zebra that had attacked them. My host stared at the blood for a few seconds. Then continued to trot into what I figure would be a tense march.

The squad was quiet for the first part of their trip. The sun had already reached the top of the sky, and the forest seem to light up a little bit more in the sunny weather. I figured the ponies were trying to be quiet to hide their position, but the several sticks and brush that cracked under hoof seemed to hinder that. Maybe they were all lost in thought of the battle with the camp that would come shortly. Or they were still slightly shocked from the last one, and that two of their squad mates were no longer with them.

The snapping of dry twigs soon moved to a soft squishing sound as the forest trek turned into trotting through marshlands. The trees seem to look less like the perfectly shape trees I saw when they entered the forest. The trees around them now were twisted with roots poking out of the mud and puddles.

The only thing it was missing was smell of ash and clouds and it would be the wasteland. With each hoof step, or squish to be more precise, the swamp seemed to get more and more inhospitable. It seem like a rather good idea to me that the zebras place there camp in the deep parts. The swamp provided a natural barrier for them.

From behind I could hear North Star slip in the mud. I knew it was her when she yelped. She slid down a small hill next to a slightly less muddy path that the squad was walking on. My host turned just in time to see North Star fall face first into the mud. She quickly popped her head out and started wiping her face off.

“Bleh... This mud smells horrible.” North Star said, scrunching her muzzle in disgust. Blue Left quickly slid down the hill carefully. She helped North Star back up to her hooves and got her moving again.

“Ya, its not like the mud at the spa,” Blue Leaf said with a giggle in her voice. I could hear Silver and Coffee Bean laugh as well. It was good to see that the tension of the trip was broken for a bit, I was sure they’d needed a good laugh.

“I forgot that spas do mud baths for some ponies.” Silver said as she trudged through the field of brown slop. “Though I don’t think they would like using this muk,”

“Really? I would think ponies like you would love this stuff.” Coffee Bean replied back, seemingly undaunted by the mud. “It’s supposed to do fancy things, like make our coats look great, or at least that what they say outside the spas. Funny though, because I would think you be a pony that visited the spa frequently.”

“Why? Because I work in theater?” Silver asked with a bit of snark.

“Well kind of ya. I mean, usually I see those kind of ponies when I pass by Crystal Coats Spa,” Coffee Bean replied back. Though sounding a bit embarrassed it seem. Maybe because she was implying that all the theater ponies go to spas. I had no idea what pre-war ponies did to relax, so I was just as lost as her.

“I would like to relax at a spa or something similar.” Silver said. “I see Rose Stem, our lead, and most of the front stage performers all go to the spa. When she comes back, she always looks amazing. Though, usually the more front stage ponies need to look that way.”

“So? All that means is when you get back and get a front stage performance, you can go to the spa.” North Star said joining in the conversation after reaching back up to the path with the help of Blue Leaf. .

“Well at least then I could afford it.” Silver said looking back over at North Star. He then started to laugh again. “Trying to live in Baltimare as a small time actor is rather hard.”

“Yeah yeah. Covered in mud, very funny. You're not much better off,” North said pointing to Silvers legs which were covered in mud as well. “Only one here that been clean and clear is Ink.” North Star said then turn to the hovering pegasus who was about a pony length above the ground.

“Hey, only natural for a pegasus to fly.” Ink Jar said. “Or at least hover above a mess.”

“Why aren’t you down on the ground with us?” North Star said, still removing a stick that got stuck in her mane. “Don’t you want to know what it’s like and write about what's down here, not above the trees?”

“I can easily write about my experience from a meter off the ground. It’s not needed for me to get messy to write a good story.” Ink Jar said.

“Have you thought about what you are going to write about?” Silver asked. Trying to hold back another bout of laughter as North Star continued to whip the mud off of her.

Out of the corner of my host’s eye, I could see that Zec was starting to get a bit ansie. My guess was that he didn’t like standing in one spot talking about mud. Sitting in a wide open area that kept you moving a hoof a minute did seem like a perfect place to get ambushed again.

“Ya a bit. I mean I going to write about all of use and the mission where on. I know I’ll have to try to remember everything that happens when we attack the pirate camp. That should make more an interesting read.” Ink Jar said.

“What are you going to write about us?” Coffee Bean asked.

“Well maybe a little story about each of you and what you experience here,” Ink Jar said.

“What are you going to say about the lieutenant and sergeant?” North Star asked. Ink Jar paused a second, nearly dropping to the ground. Everypony else also seemed to stop and wait for the answer.

“I don’t really know.” I could tell he was trying to find a way to be respectful. “I mean, I didn’t see them go down. I heard the gunfire, and then yelling soon after my cloud was being shot at.

“North, you got the gunk off of you, so lets keep moving.” my host said. Her tone was lower and more neutral than before. I could tell she wasn’t in the mood to discuss the death of her commander. From what I could see of the expression on Blue Leaf’s face, it seemed that she noticed it as well. “Keep your ears perked. Could be more damn zebras ahead of us. No offense Zec,” my host said looking at Zec.

“Non taken,” Zec replied.

“Yes ma’am,” North Star said and quickly gathered herself. Without much trouble, she got back in line. The other ponies quickly follow suit. Soon the Squad was back trotting towards the hopefully unexpecting camp. If the zebras knew they were coming, then even I expected the squad wouldn’t survive.

The silence had started to get to me again. I was here to learn, not just watch ponies walk around. At the very least, it would be nicer if the terrain was better. Maybe a nice field here or there, or even some of those trees from that Saddle Tail Forest. Come to think of it, it would also been nice to see Vanhoover before it was a destroyed.

After the squad passed through another stream, they had to stop and remove various leeches that had been waiting in the water. Clear of the pesky parasites, Blue Leaf went around to each pony and checked on the wounds. After she cleared them all, she walked up to my host and sat down next to her.

“I think we should take a break. A lot of the ponies are exhausted, and the fact that we have to keep pulling these annoying leeches off isn’t helping moral.” Blue Leaf said as she reached behind my host. When she pulled her hoof back, it had a leech in it that had presumably been on my host.

“We need to get to the camp before sunset.” My host replied back. “I don’t want us out here for another night. The last thing we need is a chance for the zebras to figure out we are still in the area.”

“yes ma’am, but I really think they need to be rested.” Blue Leaf said pointing to the squad. My host tooked a good look at each of them. Even I could tell that they looked worn out and a bit frail. Silver and Coffee were sitting together, propped up against one another just to stay upright.

“I know you were able to pull them all together for the mission after what happen, but they are still traumatized from it.” Blue Leaf said. She reached over and put her hoof on my host’s shoulder. “Remember, me and you have experience with dealing with this; they don’t.”

“I understand,” my host said then sat up. “Okay five minute break everypony. Then it’s back to walking until we hit the camp.”

The other ponies in the squad where rather excited to hear that they get a break even if it was a small break. You could almost hear their collective sigh of relief as the ones who were still up slumped down to give their legs a break. Zec had been the only one that seem to remain standing. I didn’t know if my host could tell, but to me he looked ansiey.

It didn’t take Apex to long to note Zec’s anxiety. “You seem to be in a hurry to get to your brothers and sisters Zec,” Apex said walking up to the zebra. “Any reason why?”

“I am not in a hurry,” Zec replied back. He seem to pause for a few seconds looking at Apex questably. You would have had to be blind to see he wasn’t telling the truth.

“Are you sure? You have the look of a young foal waiting for the school bell.” Apex said in an accusatory tone. “I don’t think you're in that much of a hurry to shot your own kind.”

That statement in that tone seem to upset my host. Without a word, she got up and walked over to them. However, she was not quick enough to stop Zec’s response.

“They are not my brothers and sisters. We share the same stripes but I make my own choice,” Zec replied back, sounding more than a little offended. “and unlike them, I know what is right.”

“Apex come here,” My host ordered.

“Yes ma’am,” Apex trotted over quickly. “What can I do for you?”

“I understand that you don’t trust him, but you need to leave Zec alone.” My host said in a quieter voice trying to not let the others hear. “You’re not helping moral around here, and I know that he is not here to cause trouble for us.”

“But,” Apex replied back in a similar quiet voice. “you’ve seen him just wanting to keep moving. Doesn’t that strike you as even a little bit strange?”

“Normally, I would say yes.” My host said with a much sterner tone. “However, what I know about zebras is that they tend to not want to be out in the open to well. You know about their lands and what the animals out there do to a hapless creature, right? Now, on top of that fear of being out in the open, for him to receive some rather unhelpful statements from others like you has got to make you feel pretty shitty about helping.”

“Well I’m referring to this zebra here ma’am.” Apex spoke in a way that would make my superiors kick my flank out of the rangers in a minute. “I mean think about it. A pirate strikes a deal with ponies to fight other pirates, and before he arrives, our sergeant and lieutenant are killed. Then he just shows up as soon as we’re done getting our flank’s kicked? A bit convenient in a way don’t you think.”

“We talked about this already, Apex.” My host said. “I thought we’d put the issue to rest. Now, what is your problem with Zec?”

“I have already told you my issue.” Apex glared at my host and pointed to Zec. “I don’t trust this zebra.”

Blue Leaf stepped towards Apex. “Apex I understand you’re scared, but accusing Zec of being the one that attack us is not going to help. We all know he did not attack us. It was just bad timing that he showed up so soon after the fight.”

“I’m not scared, Blue Leaf. Hell, I even have more determination now to stop these zebras,” Apex said.

“And Zec here is doing the same thing, so you two should be friends or at the very least temporary comrades.” Blue Leaf said. “He is here to help keep us safe and to stop the pirates.”

“I think he more than likely he will try to turn us over to the zebra camp so he’ll be able to join up with them again.” Apex snapped back.

“I will not betray you.” Zec finally step in to the conversation that he was the center of. “I may have worked with zebra pirates, but I know my loyalties. I am loyal to my nation, and I know that these pirates must be stopped in order for my lands to survive.” Zec said.

“Loyalty? Really? Look at you.” Apex said, increasing in tone. “You’re telling me that you're loyal to your nation, but your nation is fighting my people you're on the wrong side of the street.”

“Loyalty is not just on the uniform you wear. If you carried more stripes on your back and live in your lands, I think you would understand. These pirates are only worsening the problem. You ponies are winning the war, and all we’ve been able to do is push you back out of our lands. I know it only by the fact that we don’t kill each other, but one day I fear it will change. When that happens, I’ll see my brothers and sisters dying.” Zec said as he lowered his head.

“What do you mean we are not killing each other?” Apex said. “You... your fellow brothers and sister just got done killing two of my colleagues!”

“Yes, your friends were killed, and soon we will be killing some of theirs. But this is not what I mean. I fear that one day, our two nations will no longer kill as a last resort; or as part of forcing a group to surrender.” Zec sighed and gave a sad look. “You offered my camp the chance to surrender, and some did, while others did not. Their own foolishness saw them dead.” Zec said. “When we truly start killing each other, then no kindness or courtesies will be given. Only death and blood will be offered across the street, as you put it.”

Apex seemed to pause for a second at Zec’s statement. “Then why not just return to your home and stay out of the fight?” Apex asked this time with less anger in his voice.

“For the same reason you are here to fight.” Zec said. “To save my home. My village is near the northern desert. You ponies call the badlands.” He shook his head sadly. “If this war grew, then my village will certainly be destroyed.”

“But my town is already in danger.” Apex replied back. “You are just guessing at what would happen.”

“As are you.” My host said as she stepped forward.

“You said your town is in ruins, but all you really need to do is turn it into something new. When we left for the swamp didn't you say that you could build a town anywhere?” My host asked.

“Yeah, its my job to figure out and design to fit the land that I have,” Apex replied back. “What are you getting at?”

“Could you build a town in this swamp?” My host asked.

“Might take three or four tries but I could get a building to stand in this muk.” Apex said before looking around. “Though nopony would live here.”

“There are some swamp towns out there,” My host replied back

“Ya, but i'm not getting your point here ma’am,” Apex said. “how does this relate to a village in the middle of nowhere.”

“My point is that you're the same as Zec. You are just guessing what’s going to happen to your town, but you’d be able to turn it into something new if you wanted.” My host said.

Apex open his mouth to say something but then closed it, accepting defeat. After a few seconds, he spoke up.

“Maybe, but I still think your nation is full of foals for letting this war start.” Apex said looking at Zec.

This time, Zec had to pause before he responded. “I can’t argue with you much on that Apex. My nation has made some foalish choices. However, measure those choices on the zebras that made them, not zebras that have to live by them. Nor the one standing in front of you. I did not decide on how we value coal or gems, nor did my village kill your grand flying team. We both are suffering from this war, and these pirates are our common enemy.” Zec said. “So let us work together to solve our common problems.”

Apex smiled a bit. It seem that Zec may have convinced him that he is on Apex side, or at least that he understood Apex’s reasons.

“Ma’am, I think we should get going. I want to make sure we get there in time,” Apex said turning and walking back into the formation.

The quick break had lasted a bit longer, but Silver and Coffee Bean didn’t mind. They were sitting down using each others backs to support one another. Sadly that had to get up and assemble. When everypony assembled back into the formation they begin to trot toward the pirate camp. The squad seemed more whole now, and that was something they desperately needed.

The squad continued to trot down the ever increasingly muddy trail that borderline stopped being a trail what felt like hours ago. The sun was high above the squad, but you could not tell from where they were. Every now and again, small conversations broke out in the squad. Coffee Bean and Silver seemed to have become better friends during their trot. Silver was talking to Coffee Bean about the shows he had work in.

“In one of our shows, the main set piece collapsed. Sometimes its nice to be a background performer, seeing as we got off scot free. Wind Shoes fared the worst of us in the collapse though. He tooked a nasty fall, but thankfully he wasn’t hurt. We joked about the ego of his cutie mark breaking his fall.” Silver said laughing a bit.

“Ego of his cutie mark?” Coffee Bean asked looking confused. “That doesn’t make sense.”

“If you worked with him, you’d know.” Silver chuckled. “He toted his mark like a badge of pride all the time. Made sure it was always visible. He always said that its how he became a big name.” Silver sighed and shrugged. “But I think he just loved his mark so much. It had a lot of shine to it; however I think it was more due to him anding sparkles to his coat.”

“Why would he do that?” Ink Jar asked from above.

“My guess was to show himself off more,” SIlver said looking up at Ink Jar with a smile. “If that didn’t make you turn to look when he came into a room, I don’t think anything would have.”

“Would make sense for a show pony to show off,” Zec said.

Zec joining in the conversation surprised even me. Not only that, but it seemed from the way my host stiffened up, even she was surprised. She turned to look at Zec and found him walking along with the two other ponies.

“I guess,” Silver shook his head in nostalgia. “It’s probably why he is a lead all the time, but he just totes it around so much. Its annoying. He walks in, turns, and then sticks his flank in everypony’s face. The only pony that can really do that is Celestia or Luna, and even they aren’t that self absorbed.” Silver said.

“Maybe you should get a bit flasher, Silver,” Coffee Bean said.

“Na I don’t want to get front stage by being like that jerk.” Silver said. “If I want to get there, I’m going to get there on my own. That starts by doing what we have to today.”

“So your plan is to kill to gain the strength to be on the front stage?” Zec asked. From my view, I couldn’t tell if Zec was serious, or if that was a joke.

“What oh Celestia no.” Silver replied in disgust. “I don’t want to kill any pony.”

“You don’t have to kill ponies you have to kill zebras,” Zec said.

“Thats not what I mean. I don’t want to kill anypo... any zebra?” Silver asked wonder if that was the right term to use.

“I think you just use people to mean everyone,” Ink Jar said. “or better yet just say anyone.”

Their conversation was getting weird. It was just leading into semantics, and I had enough of those conversations back home to fill up a memory orb of my own.

“You don’t want to kill, why are you here?” Zec spoke up through the confusion. “If you are in the military, you know you may have to kill.” He looked over to silver and canted his head. “We have to kill in order to get rid of the pirates,”

“I kind of hoping… that they will surrender first.” Silver replied softly.

“That idea is foalish at best. They will not surrender without fighting.” Zec said. “We... I mean, the pirates will try to push back, I guarantee it. You have already been shot at, they have already seen their kin die. It will take time to convince them to surrender, if it happens at all. Even when my old pirate camp surrender. It required some of them to be killed in order for the surrender to even be considered.”

“Oh.” Silver said as he lowered his head. “I guess I will have to hurt someone.”

“Did you ponies not get trained on how to fight?” Zec asked.

“Well, yeah.” Silver replied. “but I try to imagine not having to kill anyone.”

“Then what are you doing in a sword squad?” My host asked, turning to Silver.

“I was a good shot. Easy to hit a target drawn on a bail of hay,” Silver said, getting defensive. “but trying to kill another is wrong. I shouldn’t be shooting to kill, just to get them to surrender.”

“I didn't want to kill either Silver, but we are here to stop these pirates and I really need everypony and zebra for this.” My host said. “They won’t be shooting to wound, or to make you surrender. The moment you think that, our mission will fail.”

“I understand ma’am. I will do my job,” SIlver said hesitantly.

Zec hold up his hoof and single to my host who turn to see him pointing to his ears. My host noded and raised a hoof to her mouth. My guess is to tell everypony to shut up. My host then quickly and quietly moved over to where Zec was.

“We are outside their camp I think.” Zec whispered into my host’s ear. “I can hear them.”

My host raised her head up. I could see in her shadow that she had perked her ears, swiveling them about to listen for the slightest sound. I started to hear combination of conversations amongst the sound of running water and other things. My host then shifted and pulled her map out. She looked down at it and then looked around at the surrounding area. After a moment, she traced her hoof to a treeline and stream just outside of the Zebra camp on the map.

I realised they almost walked right into the camp because they were distracted with their conversations. Watching this was a reminder of wasteland 101. If you’re scouting somewhere, keep your muzzle shut.

My host waved for everypony to move over to her. I watched as she studied the map, probably deciding on how to get everypony ready. Without using words, she pointed to the mined hill on the map. With a group nod, slowly everypony started moving along the waters edge.

From across the stream, she began to talk softly. I realised that she was being smart and using the stream to council there voices and movements. It seemed risky, especially when North Star almost fell in. They were lucky that Ink Jar was able to catch her quickly, or the sound would have surely given them away.

Once they’d past the stream, they moved a bit more confidently. The area they were in was still a bit mud covered, however they were able to move a little more quickly to the hill that had the mines.

“Zec, do you think they would buried mines on this side of the hill?” My host asked.

“Doubtful. They would want to catch the attackers coming down the hill into the mines. They are probably just as scared of these things as you are.” Zec said as he looked at the map. “This is more of a Northern Tribes weapon, and very few of us really understand how they made them.”

“Okay; me, Zec, and North are going to go up to the top and take a peek.” My host whispered. “Apex and Coffee, I want you two to look around and see if you can find any large round rocks that you can move up this hill.” My host turned to Ink. “Ink, now’s the time to go gather clouds. Stay low on the tree line once you have them just wait. When I see you are ready, I’ll give the single to attack.” She looked back around to the others. “After we start, Ink will bring his cloud around and start to hit them with lighting. Silver and Blue, you two stay down here and keep watch for right now.” My host ordered.

Silver seemed confused and it took me a second to realise why. Earlier in the day, when my host told them the plan, she was going to have Silver and North go up and look. Now, she’s changed it probably because of how he felt.

Everypony nodded.

My host turned and started to careful walk up the hill. Zec and North Star followed close, keeping an eye on the others as they did. At the top of the hill, my host slowly crept up and peeked over the edge. I could see what look like scrambled together structures. They were made out of the junk, from old ship parts and wood to scrap metal even. There were about 6 small structures in a half circle around two larger buildings. In the middle was kind of a court yard. A few zebras worked on different things in there, too far to see what exactly though. My host seemed to start to focus on each of the zebras that she could see, possibly noting their locations. I notice that she was looking at the hind legs of each one. My guess was that she was trying to find the zebra that attack them earlier.

“Okay, North.” My host whispered. “Stay up here and keep an eye on the zebras. We will bring up the boulders and get ready to attack.”

“Yes ma’am,” North whispered back.

“Zec, lets head back down and get ready.” My host whispered to Zec. He simply nodded and began to move back down the hill. My host followed slowly, her vision lingering on the village as she did.

Part way down the hill Zec turn to my host. “What are you going to do about Silver?”

“What do you mean?” My host asked back.

“Silver does not want to kill any zebra down there, but he must in order for us to survive.” Zec place a hoof on my host, causing her to stop sliding down the hill. “I know he has hope, but we need all the shots we can bring down on them.” Zec said. “They will not relent unless the threat is absolute.”

“I know, he should be fine.” My host replied back. “I’m having him push the rocks down with Coffee. That way if we need him, he can join in if it goes south.”

“No, that is a bad idea.” Zec whispered sternly. “Silver said he was a good shooter. We will only have a few quick shots at the start, so you will need all the good hits we can get.” He glanced over my host’s shoulder to what I assumed was Silver. “He will also be able to get shot in turn. With his attitude toward violence, do you think he will be able to fight if he was being shot at? Could he pull the trigger and end a life if forced to?”

“Maybe thats all he needs.” My host sighed. “I was there once. I know that all you need is to have some zebra wanting to shoot you.” My host replied back in a somber tone. “He doesn’t need to make that choice if everything goes smoothly.”

“It won't.” Zec said as if it were as plain as day. “You’ll need his accuracy. I can’t, nor won’t force you to change your plan, but you need all the clean shots you can get.” Zec said then moved his hoof off my host and started sliding down the hill again. “Make your own call.”

At the bottom of the hill, Apex and Coffee Bean already found two, pony sized round rocks, and had already began moving them up the hill. Blue had quietly cleared a small area and set up some of her medical pouches. As she did, Apex seemed to look on disapprovingly.

“That’ll bring bad luck if you set up like that,” Apex said. “It implies we’ll get hurt once we start.”

“Rather have a nice spot ready to treat you if I need too.” Blue Leaf said laying out a thin pad on the ground. “Hopefully, all I’ll be treating is some bruises or scrapes from the bushes around here.”

My host, stopped and looked at the others. She watched as both Coffee and Apex strained to move the boulders up. Even from inside a memory orb, I cringed at the thought of how hard that must have been.

“Okay Coffee, Apex can you two get these rocks up the hill or do you need help?” my host asked.

“We are earth ponies,” Apex said between heaves. “We can easily get these up the hill.”

“Okay, then get them up the hill and get ready.” My host said, looking up at Ink Jar behind a veil of clouds. “I can see Ink already has some clouds ready.”

Everypony proceeded up the hill, while Coffee Bean and Apex pushed the rocks up as slowly and quietly as they could. When they reached the top, they held the rocks just behind the edge, ready to push them over on command.

“North, Zec, Silver, and Me will open fire on the zebras as soon as the rocks start to roll.” My host said turning back and looking at the camp. “Apex, Coffee soon you done pushing the rocks over open fire on the camp. Blue stay up here and grab anypony that gets hurt.”

After a moment, everypony had their rifles unslung and at the ready. I could feel my hosts heart beat faster against the dirt. She scanned the camp again, looking over the zebra’s flanks.

“Okay, pick a zebra and get ready to fire.” My host said.

I could see Silver on my host right side shivering a bit. He seem to be fighting a urge to run. I was starting to wonder if he was even going to fire or not.

North, Zec, and Silver raised their rifles over the hill. I could tell my host was zeroing in on a zebra mare working on a wooden carving in the middle of the court yard area. As one of the first targets in the fight, she would never see the pony attack coming. I could’ve only hazarded a guess at what my host was feeling at this time. Knowing it or not, she was in the same position that the zebra sniper had been in. She sat on the edge of a moment that could become what happened to her squad back in the camp. As she paused, my thought was that she must feel horrible about it.

Either that, or vengeful.

All my host said was ‘now’, and everything started. Apex and Coffee Bean pushed the boulders over the hill. Within a few seconds, the mines hidden under the plants and dirt on the hill erupted. My host shouted ‘Fire!’. The zebra that my host was targeting turned and was jolted back. Her chest ripped open from the shot that my host planted square on her. A second later, another shot hit the zebra mare, this one taring a gash in her left foreleg.

Another shot struck the ground next to her. My host seem surprised by that, but I knew what had happened. I released that she did not cornate on who would shoot what target, and the others target the same mare. Instead of taking down three zebras in the opening. Only two were removed. Zec pick off a zebra that was cleaning a rifle. The moment of realisation faded as she turn her attention and crosshairs to a zebra running across the courtyard towards one of the shacks. My host lined up and fired a shot. Striking the speeding zebra in his chest. He stumbled and tripped with enough force to cause his body to somersault over its self, landing on the ground in a spreading pool of crimson.

Apex and Coffee quickly join in firing down at the camp. Both of them targeting a zebra that was trying to take cover behind a tree. For as great stealth opponents they were, this zebra was not successful. I could see out of the corner of my EFD, the body of the zebra bouncing off the tree and collapsing to the ground.

My host lined up on another zebra, and fired. The shot struck him in the hind leg, causing him to collapse. She raised her crosshairs onto the chest of the zebra but stopped short of pulling the trigger. It seem she did not want to kill this zebra; probably feeling that he was incapacitated enough. The dirt next to my host was sent up in a spray as a bullet struck it.

The zebras were starting to fire back. One was firing at my host from one of the ships that was pulled up on the beach. The zebra continue to fire at my host, forcing her to duck back away from the ledge.

A flash of light erupted from the sky, and a bolt of lightning struck near the zebra. Ink Jar was able to maneuver into positions and start to hit them with lighting. Unforchantly it was true his aim was not that good. The bolt struck near the zebra but not on them. However it was enough to cause the zebra to drop behind the ship. When he poked his head out again, my host had set up again and lined him up for a shot.

The round struck the zebra in the head. His black and white mane erupted with gore, and he slumped backwards next to the boat. After that shot, my host seemed to pause for a second. I could see what look like a blurry after image of the zebra collapsing again, but the zebra seemed to be wearing the royal guard armor that the Lieutenant was wearing earlier. Was the system glitching? Maybe it something with the host.

That train of thought was interrupted by Ink Jar hitting one of the boats again with lighting, but this time, his bolt set the boat on fire. The zebras wouldn’t have a chance to escape now.

My host glanced over to the squad it seem she was checking to see if they were okay. All but Blue Leaf were firing down at the zebras. Even though he was shooting, Silver did seem to have tears rolling down his cheeks. I had a feeling that he was not going to come out too well from this event. If anything it seem he should been the subject more since this was a study of the WTSD and he seem to have the signs of it. Maybe one of the next orbs in the machine will be through his eyes even.

My host turn back to the camp and targeted a zebra setting up in one of the windows in the large hut. I could see the rifle barrel sticking out of the window. My host quickly took aim and fired. The shot was low, and instead struck the window frame. She then lined up another shot, but the gun did not fire. The gun clicked on an empty chamber, and my host quickly hoofed the bolt open. It was out of ammo.

Quickly, she pulled back and raised her rifle up. I could see her hoof grab onto a lever that stick out on the bottom, pulling it back to release the magazine. She quickly placed another one in, and return her rifle to the hill. The dirt next to her erupted again as the window zebra was now taking shots up at the hill. Now, Silver and Coffee were also trying to hit the shooter in the window.

Zec began to fire at the wall near the window. Bullet holes formed in the wood where he aimed every shot. My host glance over to Zec to see why he was missing so much. He was focused, and looking through his gun sight correctly. I did not see any blood on him, or any reason he should be missing, but he was completely focused on that wall.

“Zec, what are you shooting at?” my host did her best to yell over the raging gunfire.

Zec did not respond. He just kept carefully aiming shots. Then, without warning, he called out to Apex.


My host turn to see a figure moving from one side of the window to the other. But before the figure could make it, a bullet struck the dark figure. It caused them to drop to the ground, and the rifle to fall back into the shack window. I realized then that Zec was only shooting the wall to spook the zebra into trying to move to the other side. In doing so, it gave the perfect shot to Apex.

I could see more flashes of light coming from above. Ink Jar was starting to get his rhythm, and he was now scoring some good hits. I could see the smoking remains of a zebra slump over a fallen log by the campfire. Some of the zebras were firing at him, but he was moving his cloud around far too quickly for them to get a good shot.

Return fire from the camp start to diminish quickly. Two zebra mares had their hooves up in surrender. There were still a few stray shots from behind one of the ships, but with little resistance, the squad would easily mop it up. My host tooked aim and waited for the zebra to stick its head out. When his head finally poked out to shoot, the shot my host sent ripped his ear clean off. With a fading scream, he collapsed to the ground. My host seem to shutter again. I started to release that she seem to have hit the zebra the same way that the Lieutenant Maplewood was.

After that there were no more shots coming from the camp.

“Stop firing,” my host shouted. To my amazement, the squad quickly followed the orders and held off from firing again. My host looked over at the squad. Each one of them were breathing heavily, with mud caked onto their armor and coats. Next to them, my host saw several magazines on the ground, along with numerous spent casings.

“Everypony still have ammunition left?” my Host asked.

Each pony nodded, as well as Zec. Coffee and Silver both reloaded their empty magazines.

“Okay lets move into the camp.” My host said as she pulled her rifle close. “Stick to the path the boulders made, and keep an eye on those huts.” She turned her gaze back down the hill. “Blue Leaf, you can start moving your equipment up.”

I could hear Blue Leaf call up “Yes ma’am.”

My host turn and looked back down at the zebra camp. She raised her rifle up and started to trot down the hill. I could hear the other members of the squad slowly get up and follow.

The camp was full of smoke now, and fire was rising from the burning ship. One of the zebras that Ink Jar hit was fighting was still smoldering, it’s face locked in an eternal scream. Ink Jar stopped darting his cloud around now, and was peering over it’s edge to keep watch.

I could see the zebra that my host shot in the hind leg. He appeared to have sucome to his injuries and died, his lifeless body lay in the courtyard surrounded by a pool of his blood.

“Ahh, damn ivy,” North Star said from behind me. My host turned to see her hoof was tangled up in a some ivy that had been blown off one of the trees. She struggled for a few seconds, then her belly burst open followed by a crack from the camp.

North Star screamed from the shock of being hit. She quickly collapses to the ground and rolled on her side, curling up.

“Shit! Blue Leaf, North been hit!” My host shouted, turning towards the town. “Coffee, Silver, go cover Blue and North!”

I then saw the small puff of smoke come up from the boat. I release what it was before my host did. It was the smoke from a fresh shot. The round hit the tree near Blue Leaf as she came running down the hill.

Apex raised his rifle and fired down at where the ship was. My host turned back and took aim, placing her crosshairs on the zebra. For a moment, she hesitated. It was the same one that she’d shot in the head. Even I though that he’d died from the shot, but it seemed that her hit was only a ear ripping flesh wound. However, this time my host made sure he was going to die. She fired two shots, both of which struck his chest. He slumped over and stopped moving.

North Star was still screaming and whining in pain when Blue Leaf got to her. She quickly grabbed her medical pouch. As she did, she placed a hoof on her and rolled her over to inspect the wound. After a moment, she looked up at my host with what looked like fear in her eyes.

Zec quickly ran over and open up a pouch that he wore slung over his gear. He dug out a small jar with some strange brown goop in it. He held it out to Blue and spoke quickly. “Quickly, you must place this over the wound to stop the bleeding.”

Blue Leaf looked at the jar and grab it firmly. Without hesitation, she began applying the goop onto the grievous wound. It seemed to be working, and the bleeding looked to be stopping. With that, Blue Leaf gave a soft sigh of relief. Her hooves slightly trembled as she thinly wrap bandages around North Star, who’s scream diminished to weak moans and whines.

With North stable for the moment, my host looked around in a panic. I think she released that they were far too exposed, and needed to get out of there. The longer they took to secure the camp, the more at risk they’d be from another shooter somewhere.

My host looked back towards the camp, focusing on a hut. “Apex, go and make sure there no zebras in that hut.” She then looked up to the solitary low cloud overhead. “Ink Jar, I want you down here to help Blue Leaf.”

He nodded and spread his wings. Quickly, he floated down and in the direction where Blue was.

My host turned again. “Zec and Coffee, keep Blue and Ink covered while they move North to that hut.” Her voice was cold and authoritative as she gave these orders. I know that seeing any one of my friends hurt would probably galvanize my want to finish the mission. “Silver, you and me are going to check the two huts next to it. Lets move,”

“Yes ma’am,” The others replied back.

Ink Jar flew past my host and softly landed next to North. “Hang on North, I’ll help you out.” He spoke as he quickly wrapped his fore hooves around North Stars hindhooves.

Apex rushed down the hill and looked threw the window of the hut. He swept the inside with his rifle, pulling it back when he pulled his head out. “Its good!,” he shouted back.

“Alright, one, two…” Blue Leaf grabbed onto the forehooves of North Star and lifted along with Ink Jar. “...three!”

My host and silver walked around the hut Apex had cleared. The both of them lined up and checked the two different huts. My host looked into the window and saw only a small dwelling with a few items some looking like they were from different lands.

She looked over to Silver, who had already finished checking his hut and was already starting to step back towards the one that they were taking cover in. My host shortly follow suit.

When my host enter the hut, North Star was laying in the middle of it. The wound she had was covered in the odd goo that Zec had provided. It seem to be doing its job and preventing her from losing more blood, however it appeared that she’d lost enough that she’d become unconscious. Both Zec and Apex were looking out the window keeping an eye on the now oddly silent camp. Most of the zebras were either dead, or had fled it seemed.

“Blue, how is North?” My host asked. “Will she make it?”

“Stable, but she is out cold. I can’t tell too much about the injury without the chance to make it worse. Whatever it is that Zec provided stopped the bleeding, but I don’t think it’s protecting it from further damage and I can’t make an assessment of the injury. Besides, I don’t dare remove the stuff either. I think its the only thing keep North’s wound together at the moment.” Blue Leaf said as she placed a cold pad on North’s forehead.

“Well, I guess that some good news.” My host said with a sigh.

“This whole operation seems like a bust,” Apex said looking out the window. “I don’t think there are even any zebra’s left to talk too.”

My host turned to Apex, “We need to finish securing all the huts. It’s not a bust until we finish our search.” My host said pulling out her map. “Okay we are in this one right now.” She moved her hoof to a square next to the one they were in. “Silver and I will check the large huts.”

“I think we should head back.” Apex grumbled. “This camp is trash and their ships are burning. I think we should get out of here before they return with friends and we get shot at again.”

I had to agree with Apex. It seemed every time this squad got into a shooting fight one of them was killed or in North Star case severely wounded. I knew it wasn’t really relevant, as this recording was from so long ago, but Apex might have had the instincts to have made a decent wastelander.

“We got the zebras dealt with, so the best we can do is at least search the huts for some useful information. I don’t think North would be too happy to find out that we let her get shot for nothing,” My host said with her authoritative tone on the rise again.

“We are down two ponies, and North is hurt. There only seven of us left and one of us is not in any condition to fight.” Apex said. “Do those sound like winning odds if they come back?”

“Apex, I know we’re at a disadvantage, but my order is still the same. Whether you like it or not, it’s got to be done. We will work in two pony Search groups. Silver and I will search these huts here like I said.” My host said pointing again to the two large huts that were nearest the group. “Apex and Coffee, you two will check the smaller huts around the corner, also swing by and check the small dock just next to that area. Look for any information that might tell us what the pirates were doing or who they were in contact with recently. Ink and Zec, you two stay here and protect North Star and Blue Leaf.”

“Yes ma’am,” The ponies and zebra replied, even Apex.

“Okay, Silver. Let’s get moving.” My host said slipping out of the hut slowly. Silver followed with close steps right behind my host.

It was only ten meters or so until my host neared the first of the large huts. It was mostly made of scrap metal, hastily tied together with wire and loose plant fibers. She climbed up on to the small deck that ran around the base, and moved past one of the windows toward the door. Silver follow suit, but in the other direction to approach from the other side. My host placed her hoof on the door and pressed against it. From the way it stiffly held, it seemed to be locked. With a quick spin, she turned her back to the door and bucked the shoddy thing right off it’s hinges. With the door open she quickly turned back around and raised her rifle.

Inside the dark large room which looked like a mess hall was three zebra bodies. One zebra mare seem to had been hit from stray fire that had been put into the room to try to stop the window shooter. The body of the shooter himself was laid out on the floor by the window, his muzzle gaping and a sizable chunk of his head blown clean off.

The other, final zebra seemed different. The zebra had more ceremonial garb on him, far outdressing any of the other bodies in the camp. Was he an officer? It didn’t seem to be any sort of normal military uniform, it was too eccentric for that. The only other interesting thing about this zebra, was that a pistol still lay in between his jaws. The hole in his head that it lined up with was more than enough evidence to show that he had taken his own life rather than fight.

Silver stepped into the building, first sweeping the room for any zebra else. “It’s only these three, and unfortunately, they are dead.” Silver said.

My host slowly stepped in and looked around for herself. She started to check the zebra that tooked his own life, searching the pockets of his outfit. She seemed to be looking for any intelligence; however all she could find was different medical pouches. “I don’t get it. He might have just been a shaman or something, but I don’t know why he’d have been here.” My host said rolling the body of the zebra over. “Nothing useful here regardless. Let’s check the next room.”

The rooms did not connect to each other on the inside. My host and Silver had to step out and go around the building to another outside door. When they approached the door, the sharp cracks of gunfire started from behind them. My host and Silver quickly turn and raised there rifle. I could see Coffee waving us off from one of the windows in the one of the small huts. “We got her, don’t worry.”

My host and Silver approach the second door of the first large hut. This time Silver was first too the door. He did not wait for my host, simply spinning to buck open the door, then raising his rifle to step in. My host approached the door, but as she did, the door frame erupted into wooden splinters. At first I thought it was a grenade or something, but more and more splinters ripped off. It tooked both my host and I to a second to realize that it was infact enemy gunfire striking the wood all around her. Before my host could react Silver’s bullet riddled body fell out the door and onto the deck. His silver coat was turning red from his blood.

My Host seem to just stare at the blank eyes of Silver. The rasping of breath slowed quickly, then stopped completely as my host went rigid in fear. My field of view became distorted from the tears in my host eyes she dove down below the deck, and approached the door from her better hidden angle. She swung her body and rifle up above the deck and fired wildly into the room.

I thought I could see something moving in the room, but the smoke from the gunfire had obscured everything after just a moment. My host emptied her entire magazine into the room in the frame of just a few seconds. My host ducked down to reload quickly, before she turned and pulled herself onto the porch. Slowly, she stepped over Silvers corpse and into the room. Inside the dust and smoke from the engagement created a silent fog. All I could think to myself was she going to get herself killed. I could see her sweep the room with her rifle firmly ready.

As the smoke cleared, a figured appeared sitting upright by an overturned table. My host pointed her rifle right at the figured, ready to fire again, but paused as it simply lay still. She looked at the figured as it became clearer, and then she let out a soft gasp.

“Xur…” She spoke with quiet words. The pirate leader sat before her at the table. At first he looked like he had surrendered, as he was just sitting there. However, as more of the dust and smoke cleared, it became obvious that her shooting had felled him. His body had slumped up against the overturned table, propping him against it. Several bullet holes spotted his chest and belly, each with thick lines of blood drained out of them.

Silver!” Coffee Bean shouted from outside. “Blue! quick we need you!”

I could hear the deck creek as some pony ran up it and entered the building. Who it was went unknown to me as my host simply just stared at Xur’s lifeless body.

“Ma’am?... Ma’am... Archer are you okay?” Apex asked from behind my host.

“I should've just listened to you Apex.” My host said, her watering eyes hazing more with each moment. She turned to look at Apex, who was standing at the door way. “I’m...I’m going to finish checking the last hut. Search this room for any information,” My host said walking towards the door pass Apex.

“Ma’am?” Apex said, hesitation heavy on his words. “Maybe you should wait.”

My host did not respond to him. She simply stepped out of the room and onto the deck. Coffee Bean sat there before her, crying into Silvers mane. She grabbed onto Silvers hoof and pulled him to hold his body against hers as she wailed. Blue could only stand there and watch. He’d died almost instantly, and her regret was written across her face that she couldn’t help him. Zec stood near by, keeping a watchful eye to protect everyone. Ink Jar seemed to have stayed behind to protect North Star.

After a minute, my host walked over to the last large hut. There was only one door to this one. On the door there was a dented sign hanging on the door. The symbol on it looked like a red plus sign with writing under it that said ‘Emergency room’. My host looked down at the door of the hut, where small drops of blood run under it along the deck.

I could tell my host had a lot on her mind. Her body movement was sluggish, and her vision was still clouded by tears and unfocused. Still, she pushed open the door and took what felt like an eternity for her to raise her rifle up. She raised the sights to her muzzle and pointed them at the zebra laying in the makeshift bed in the corner.

The zebra’s eye grew wide at the sight of my host. She could not move to hide, as her left hind leg was suspended up above her in a sling. The bandage around her leg was red with her blood, and obviously held a nasty wound under it.

My host just stared at the zebra. The only one alive they’d found, so she also happened to be the prisoner they could claim. Even I could tell though, that she wasn’t even a good prize. She seemed like a low level pirate, maybe cabin colt...well filly.

The zebra did not move, rather she just layed there silent. She knew she could not escape. Still, she trembled at the sight of my host.

My host began to focus on the bandage leg. The blood seemed fresher than it would of been if it was an older injury, and I know that they had already killed the medic of the zebra group. Through this, I believe she had been treated before the battle.

It had to be her then, seeing as her wound fit the time and place. The shooter that killed Yellow Cherry and Maplewood was sitting right in front of my host. It hadn’t taken long before my host looked to have the same realisation.

My field of view blurred again as the tears welled up from my host. My host started to cry. It seem the moment of everything that had happened today came to her all at once. Three of her squad mates were dead. Two of them were her mentors and who saved her before. The other was a pony who died following her orders, orders that she herself gave to another squad member that got them killed..

“You cost me everything.” my host said.

Through the haze of my host’s vision, the zebra mare chest exploded. As the ringing from the shot fell from my hosts ears, it took me a second to realise that my host’s rifle was smoking.

My host memory flashed away into a small room.

Text appeared on the lower right side of my E.F.D. Session 1 of 15 for subject Cpl. Archer.

It had seemed that I’d reached the end of the events that caused her to suffer through W.T.S.D. Though I was confused by why she’d said. ‘You cost me everything’. While I was stuck on that thought, I didn’t realise the session started to play.

The scene in front of me was not that of a memory, more like a recording. I could see my host and Dr. Winter both seated in a room.

“Hello Archer I happy to see you again. I know last time we meet you were not feeling well, but I know that with a little help we can get you back on your hooves,” Dr. Winter said.

“I hope you can.” my former host said with a tired smile. “I’m tired of it all. All the things I’ve seen and the stuff I have done, I just want to be done with it.”

“I understand. First I would like you to tell me the story of what happen. As much as you can remember of it.” Dr. Winter said. “I know it hurts, but the more you tell us, the better the treatment will be for you.”

“Pause” I said.

The video paused.

I don’t really have time to listen to her say everything that I just saw. I’d spent quite a bit of time on this memory already, and outside of my own curiosities about her experience, there hadn’t been anything useful for the rangers in here.

“A.I.?” I asked.

“A.I. ready for command,” The A.I. replied.

“Please fast forward again. Also same as the last subject, please pull up any information related to this system or memory removal process,” I said.

“Order confirmed, please stand by,” A.I. replied

This time instead of a bright memory flash. The video on screen just moved faster and faster. I started to notice that each session my former host Archer seemed sadder and sadder. Then, just as I wondered how long this would go on, the video slowed down and resumed play. I could hear their conversation.

“This is a very powerful process, I know you been dealing with these memories for years, but are you absolutely sure you want to go through with this?” Dr. Winter asked.

“Goddess yes. I’m tired of panicking at all the simple noises in my life, let alone when my foal runs thru a doorway that I dont know whats on the other side.” Archer said with a groaning sigh. “We were on a play date three weeks ago. Even though I been to the Iron’s family house many times, when Cinder ran threw the door I almost screamed.”

“I understand, but that just one example and there are ways to deal with the situation that may be a bit tougher, but are much safer.” Dr. Winter said in a concerned tone. “The process of Memory Removal and re-write can be hard, and being a relatively new process, it could have unintended side effects.”

“Fine, I’ll give it a few more sessions,” Archer said. “So far, I can’t say that it’s helping me, doc.”

I already knew that she would end up choosing to lose the memories. Not like it mattered to me anyway, as these ponies had all died long before I got here. Still, it’s been hard to watch innocent ponies go through what they had to back then. Even harder is knowing that it was all for nothing. For all their hard work and sacrifices, Equestria still became the wasteland it is.

The video fast forwarded again and a few seconds later it faded away.

My field of view returned with My host looking at a mirror. Similar to what Orange Harvest did. “My name is Archer I would like the memories of Rotten Melon Swamp removed, along with everything related to it. I have no desire to keep any memories related to this event. I only ask to have memories related to my family kept intact. I love my family, and I don’t want to ever forget them.” My host said before she lowered her head and looked down at the floor.

“As requested I will begin the process of removing the memories.” Dr. Winter said. “Please relax and concentrate on the events that happened at Rotten Melon Swamp.”

A light appeared behind my host, and I could see the silouate of Dr. Winter on the wall. The light got brighter and my field of view began to phase into a singular, bright light. Then, it faded to black.

<=======ooO Ooo=======>

Text appeared on my E.F.D. ‘Archer Memory complete

“Dr. Winter, would you like to give your final report on subject Archer?” The A.I. asked abruptly. I became worried that the A.I. might question who I am, but I really didn't know what to say.I had no clue about anything an old world doctor would say about it.

“ummm... Subject Archer suffered greatly from the lost of her colleagues and...” I began to say, but stopped when I thought about what happen as a whole.

I was still stuck on her saying ‘you cost me everything’. They were the last words she said to that zebra and they made a point to include it in the orb. I thought more and more until I realized that Archer found that she’d changed and lost who she was before that day.

She’d shot the zebra purely for vengeance. Lieutenant Maplewood and Sergeant Yellow Cherry died to that zebra. She also witness the death of Silver, who died the same way as one of her friends in the story she told to the squad the night before. I could understand and, in her hooves, would have done the same. With little to no after thought. Then again, the wasteland makes you cold to death and suffering. It was different back then, back when Equestria was still green. Archer, my host, had lost what made her a citizen of Equestria. That was the cost of the war to her.

This was the first memories were I felt like I could see part of the wasteland before the bombs fell. “Subject Archer lost what she felt was her soul. In the end it broke her down and forced her to seek treatment, end report.” I said.

“Report filed and stored. Thank you Dr. Winter.” The A.I. responded without any comprehension to what my ‘final report’ even meant. “Would you like to take a break?”

“No, load up the next orb” I said.

The next orb began to load. The subject was a pony named Pvt. Fire Tail. the memories came from the 3rd year during the 12th month of the war. I noticed something interesting in the files that displayed. There seem to be a film attach to this memory. Maybe it was like the recording of the sessions? However I did not see a film attach to the last memory.

I had to ask. “What is this film?”

“Film is of a newsreel covering the events related to this subject’s file.” The A.I. replied.

“You mean a news story about the subject?” I followed up.

“No. Subject Private Fire Tail is not mention in the newsreel; however events that were related to subject events are covered.” The A.I. said.

“Okay, Then load the film and lets get started. Please maintain the highest level of compression.” I ordered.

“Order confirmed, please stand by.” The A.I. said.

Supply and Demand

View Online

Fallout Equestria: Lines

Chapter 8: Supply and Demand

My field of view slowly changed from a black screen, to a hazy gray with a circle around the number three. The circle moved clockwise, counting down like when a film would start. When it reached one, the hazy gray was replaced with the logo for the old Equestria News Correspondents. Below that it gave the opening topics of: Broken Ceasefire, Parasprites, Rationing, Recruitment. The date on the newsreel indicated it was made about one month before the time the system said that the memory experienced by Private Fire Tail had been.

The title card changed to just the big words of Broken Ceasefire, setting it as the first topic. I then heard a voice startup, distorted by poor recording equipment they had at the time. The image that appeared along with the dialogue, was a zebra hoof stepping on a scroll.

“The hope for an expanded ceasefire today, was crushed by zebra force launching an attack across the southern plateau of Equestria. The zebras moved quickly, and captured several of our bravest stallions and mares across the front lines,”

The image changed to a old map of equestria, showing an arrow moving up the south west section of Equestria.

“Though it was a fierce and surprising attack, the Equestrian armed forces state that only a few casualties occurred among the fighting, and the ponies who were captured have since been returned. However, the zebras were able to grab and keep hold of many of the supplies that had been sent down to that region.”

The scene return to a gray as the word “Parasprites appeared on my E.F.D.

“Along with the push from the south, several Zebra infiltrators yet again entered across Equestria’s northern borders and released dozens of parasprites among the rural farmlands. Their attack struck the large farm lands North of Mainhatten, causing catastrophic damage to the main crops in the area.”

The gray faded away and was replaced with images of rows and rows of destroyed corn, and strange creatures that looked nothing like any sprites I have seen. The ones I have seen had been a bloatsprite or a sprite bot. They looked nothing like what was in front of me, a far cry from the ugly things flying around the wasteland now. To me, they were kind of cute creatures of famine back then.

“However, the quick thinking from the Saddle High marching band prevented this from becoming a massive crisis. The school band successfully lead the swarm away from the fields and into a location where they could be dealt with accordingly. The quick actions of the young ponies have yielded them as young equestrian heroes, and the young heroes will even be receiving honors from Princess Celestia herself.”

Ah..a marching band? My mind pulled up a image of the brass section chasing down the small creatures and swatting them. The truth made less since. The image that appeared on my EFD was of the marching band trotting in formation down a dirt road playing their instruments to some song that was not recorded. While the small sprites just hop along happily following the band.

The title card changed again to Rationing. Which I had a feeling was caused by the previous story. The title card faded away and was replaced with ponies standing in single file lines in front of shops.

“With the recent farm attacks, the Equestria government has been forced to do something that has not been done in many many moons. Strict rationing has been ordered for all citizens across Equestria. Each market and shop has been instructed to reduce the amount of different foods sold in order to ensure that nopony goes hungry in this time of strife. Please, contact your town government to find out which items are limited, and how many can be purchased per month. The image shifted to Princess Luna standing in front of Canterlot Castle. Luna spoke in front of the Royal Palace yesterday, saying that the rationing will only last a few weeks while the farms are replanting and existing food stocks are tallied and organized. She was quoted as saying. “I praises the citizens of Equestria, for enduring the inconveniences of this crisis during such troubled times.”

The image of the old Princess faded away and was replaced with the final title card, Recruitment. The text faded away as images of ponies marching in uniform lines took it’s place.

“Last month, the recruitment for the Equestria Army had fallen experts say. Mostly due to the ceasefire and peace talks, however officials believe that due to the ceasefire being broken, and the recent attacks on Equestria food supply, the numbers of new recruitments is expected to once again increase. Even with the lowered numbers from last month, the Equestria military has created their first official troop divisions as they are calling them. Formed to support the increasing range of the war, one Lieutenant reportedly was quoted in saying that they were happy with this idea. Saying “It’ll be nice to see other squads within trotting range, instead of just me and my ten ponies trying to hold a whole Manehatten’s worth of land.”

The image faded away to the dull grey again, with the Equestria News Correspondents being brought up in front of me.

“Thank you for watching this ENC news update. We’ll see you again next week for more news around Equestria.”

My EFD returned to it’s original black, with text appearing in white saying “Newsreel complete...Loading and activating associated memory orb.”

<=======ooO Ooo=======>

When my senses returned, my field of view was still black. Even so, I could hear my own slow and rhythmic breathing. Or, wait... no, it is my host breathing. I then started hearing hoof steps coming towards my host. My field of view began to brighten as my host opened their eyes. Both my host and I started to take notice of a mare with a green body and brown mane standing imposingly over us.

“Hey Fire Tail, wake up. It’s time to get up and get ready.” The mare said, not using a forceful voice, but something still stern enough to consider friendly.

“I don’t remember asking to be woken up.” My host replied groggily.

“You kind of did when you told me those exact words last night. Remember? After you had watch, you said that you wished you’d gotten up earlier so you could get something to eat.” The mare said with the same voice accompanied by a smile. “So, time to get up and have something to eat. Then you’re on watch again.”

Oh great, I get to start a memory on a watch. Let’s hope the system remembers to fast forward through that section.

“That wasn’t asking, that was commenting.” My host snapped back. I could tell my host just wanted to flip over and fall back to sleep. “There is a difference, and you should learn it.”

“True, but it’s better to get something to eat before work then going to work hungry.” She said back, losing the smile and assuming more of a motherly tone. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

“You’re not my mother.” My host replied in a rather childish way.

“Nope, but I am a work pony. Oh, and a manager of a bunch of bucks back home, so that’s kind of like a mother,” The mare said, now wearing a devilish smile. “and, as you know, mothers know best.”

I would have to say, I’d hate to have her in the squad. Mornings already suck enough to have this mare telling me to get up. At least Apricot is a lot more gentle at waking me up usually.

“Also,” She continued, “you have to wake up because I’ll just keep talking to you ‘till you get fed up enough to move.”

“That’s... that’s really evil of you.” My host said slowly sitting up. “Fine, I’m up. Happy?”

My host sat up onto their hooves and slowly moved out of the tent that he was sleeping in. The land around my host was a lot different from the other two memories, and this area was much more empty than the others. From what I could see, they were camped out on a hillside that opened up into what looked to be the old badlands. Stretching out on the the horizon, mostly desert areas met my host’s eyes. It seemed they were on one of the few hills that just happened to litter the immediate area.

Without another word, the green mare pushed my host out of the way and climbed into the the tent.

“Wait? what are you doing?” My host asked.

“Well, since I did my job and had watch a few hours ago, I’m going to get some sleep.” The Green mare replied as she climbed into her own sleeping bag, “Besides, it’s really cold today.”

“You kicked me out so you could have the tent to yourself, didn’t you.” My host said in a annoyed tone.

“Well, it is true that you should get something to eat before sitting staring at a tree line…” The Green mare replied without so much as trying to hide the lies in her words. “but, if you already happen to be awake, I can enjoy a nice, quiet rest. You know, you snore really loudly and it makes you a pain to sleep next to.”

Wow, she dropped the niceties quite fast there at the end. Yeah, I think I’d go insane if somepony like her came out here on a trip like the one we’re on.

“I should just go back to sleep but... I can’t now.” My host said turning. I could see the campfire to my left side with some ponies sitting around it. “On top of that, now I gotta go.” However my host started to walk down the hill and away from the camp fire.

“Where are you going?” The mare asked through a yawn.

“Same spot I always go to when somepony wakes me,” My host replied, not bothering to turn around.

I could tell he was headed towards a small structure that sat behind a well worn wagon. When my host passed it, I could tell that it had some supplies in it. However, from the quick glance I had, they looked to be in a bit of disarray, and a lot different from what I seen given to the soldiers in the memories before this one.

My host circled around behind the wagon, and quickly approach the small crudely built wooden structure. It took me a few seconds to realise what it was, and when my host was finished with his business inside, I’d learned that he was a stallion.

With my host’s bladder empty, he headed back up the hill side. I could see the camp was a bit more spread out than I’d thought it should be, with about six tents and a campfire all perched on the hillside. Next to the campfire, I could see the small kitchen area that had been set-up. Above them at the highest point, I could tell the ground been dug up. It looked like they might have set up some trenches or something, but I couldn’t tell from where I was.

My host soon approached the campfire, the four ponies sitting around it. One of them was wearing the same royal guard armor I’d seen before, and I figured that it was their lieutenant. It seemed that the officers were still wearing the gold armor, and had yet to be equipped with anything that might actually be useful in combat.

Alongside of him, was a pink unicorn mare with a Aqua mane. I could see a red cross knitted under her squad patch, and she looked less like a soldier at first glance. If I remembered correctly, some of the old training orbs we had been required to watch back home reminded me that she must have been the medic of the squad. Along with the cross as a dead giveaway, I could also see a small medical pouch slung around her neck.

Directly across from them sat a rather prim looking unicorn stallion. I was unsure how he could keep his white coat looking so clean and shining out in the field. Even stranger, was how he could keep a single large curl sticking out from his lime mane. At the very least, he wore standard combat gear, so there wasn’t any guess as to what his job here was.

To my surprise, next to him was what I thought was the old comic book character of Hyper Mare. Amazingly, she even had the light blue body and white mane of that character. The sleek, pulled back style of it made her look even more like the her, but I doubted that she was one and the same. On top of being real, with how out of it she seemed, I don’t think she could take down that cybernetic minotaur villain from the comics.

On that topic, I wished I could remember his name. Maybe I could convince the Elder to order a clear out the old comic shop of our town. I’d love to go back to my old stomping grounds and reminisce in the times before it became infested.

My train of thought was broken when the Hyper Mare looking pony spoke up.

“That was the annoying thing. If he forgot his lunch, I’d have to call a skycab to come pick me up and run me all the way up to his office.” She definitely didn’t talk like Hyper Mare. “Took me forever to figure out exactly what window was his.” The mare said with an annoyed snort. “I wish I could just walk in and give him his sandwich, but they’d rather have me fall to my death.” She shifted nervously seemingly just at the thought.

“I’d think your husband would’ve met you at the bottom floor.” The stallion next to her said. “Not just make you have to find his office in that non pegasus deathtrap they call Stratosphere scrapers.”

“I know, but he needed to work more and more to earn us as many bits as he could get. Even with that, we still don’t have enough to make the necessary expansion to our house.” She dragged her forehooves down her face in exasperation. “You wouldn’t think it from out here, but wood is not a cheap commodity out by Las Pegasus. It’s mostly farmlands or shaded grass since the city is so big.” Hyper Mare or whatever her name was replied.

Her story made no sense to me, from what I remember Las Pegasus was a cloud type city. At best, maybe a unicorn or two with the right spell could live up there, but it would be dangerous. Her body shape suggested that she was an earth pony, at least, she didn’t look like she had any wings. The pegasus in the last memory had his wings exposed, but maybe she had hers covered by her uniform. My train of thought fell off when the shiny stallion spoke.

“Maybe you two should just move to a different city? I bet your husband can find a easier banking job on the ground anyway. I know the Applewood City bank was hiring before I left, and usually it takes them a bit of time to find themselves a new pony for any position.” The stallion said.

“Oh no, I love Bridle Hill. We have so many friends there, I’m not sure it would be the same if we moved. I mean, it's like going from Ponyville to Cloudsdale. We got some great pegasus friends, and besides, I don’t think my husband would want to work at another bank. Sure his job is annoying, but I think when I get back I will just have to try to talk to him more about it.” The mare said.

“Wait, Rain Heart, you never told us why you’re even here in the first place.” The Lieutenant asked.

“Oh? Sorry sir, I mentioned it to Soothing Wave and Wheat Grain on the wagon ride here. I guess I kinda figured that since Wheat has a big mouth, he would just tell everypony.” Rain Heart said, lazily pointing at the medic pony who I guess was Soothing Wave.

“Anyway, Bridle Hill is were Earth ponies like me and Unicorns can live under the city. Lets us be close to the are love ones who work up there. Its nice most of the time, except when it’s weather training session. I’d never thought I would see a sunny hail storm in my life.” Rain Heart said with a giggle.

Both Rain Heart and the stallion who I soon learned was a private named Crown Gem, continued to talk about their hometowns. It seems they both lived near the old city of Las Pegasus, with her living in ‘Bridle Hill’ and him living in a place nearby called ‘Applewood’. Both were places I’d never heard of, however, since Applewood was supposedly near to this Bridle Hill place, it was probably another little town with a corner store and a library. In other words, they were unremarkable towns of little importance to me.

Before my host could take a bite of the watery mush, a loud metallic clank met his ears. I recognized it as the sound of a tool striking a tool box, like if some pony dropped it. I only knew this because Melon Seed had a bad habit of getting distracted and dropping his tools when we were colts. At least he had the excuse that we were trying to figure out our magic at the time, or some filly had been walking by. He was always the more ‘go get her’ kind of pony, anyway.

I wonder how he is doing right now. To me, it had been hours, if not days worth of memories that I have experienced. All in the time span of what, a few hours, maybe that? I was about to ask the A.I. how long the session has been running, but I was distracted by a question from Crown Gem.

“What in Celestia are they working on in there anyway?” Crown Gem asked, pointing to a tent near by. My host turned to look at the drab, standard issue tent. It was closed up, but I could tell there were at least two ponies in the tent working on something inside.

“Not sure,” My host replied turning back and looking at Crown Gem. “All I know it supposed to help stop swamp attacks.”

My host turn to the stallion in royal gold armor. “Sir, you should know what it is, right?” My host asked casually.

“I don’t even know much about it,” The Lieutenant said with a light shrug.

Me and my host mirrored the same response of, “What?”

“Yes I know about it, but I can’t say what it is.” The Lieutenant said as dismissively as possible.

In a foalish response from my host he replied with, “Why?” Even I knew when to keep my muzzle shut, and my host should have had the common sense for it as well.

Leutitent Elmwood raised his eyebrow at what I could figure was a rather inappropriate responses to a pony of his rank. Still, he seemed to try to answer to the best of his ability.

“As you said, it is designed to help stop swamp attacks. Field Commanders have been complaining that they wanted a new defence to stop these attacks, and Equestria has been hard at work.” Elmwood said. “Their answer to our problem is in that tent.”

What are ‘Swamp attacks’? I asked myself. Unfortunately for me, no one in my hosts squad wanted to ask that particular question. I only wanted to know because finally I have something new to put into my report. I knew that swamp attacks have not been mentioned in our training routines, but I guess maybe it could be a lost tatic. Still, no pony asked the question which started to annoy me.

“So why the sec-”

“Pause!” The system stopped Crown Gem in mid sentence. It was strange having such a ability for a memory orb. Crown Gem was just now sitting there in my field of view mouth open and the flame of the campfire stood still.

“A.I. what is a ‘swamp attack’?” I asked.

“A ‘swamp attack’ is a early zebra tactic that was designed to demoralise and overwhelm pony forces in the early years of the war. A large number of zebra forces would perform a coordinated and timed attack in mass. The goal is to overwhelm an entrenched pony squad, with the end result usually being an immediate surrender of the encampment with little to no casualties. This tactic was effect at securing land and supplies at little cost to themselves in supplies or zebra fighters. This tactic was replaced when counter tactics and equipment were implemented.” the A.I. responded.

I could see why this tactic fell out of favor, especially when more advance weapons were implemented. Though such an attack nowadays could be dangerous due to the fact that even us Steel Rangers only have so much ammo supplies to spare for a mission. I thought of the locals launching a swamp like attack they could overrun us if we were not careful, and I doubt they’d accept a surrender.

“A.I. is there a way that the swamp tactic file be sent to another system?” I asked, only then releasing that my question may give me away as to not being the pony that design the memory archive. The paused time did not help me anxiously expecting that any second the system will kick me out accusing me of not being Dr. Winter.

My fears were ended when the A.I. simple replied with “File sent to transfer port and ready to be downloaded when this session is complete.”

“Umm...Good thank you. Resume memory, please.” I added the please thinking that maybe Dr. Winter was a little nicer to the system since she made it.

“-retes about this thing?” Crown Gem finally said as the memory resumed.

“Apparently, there may have been some sabotage done to a few of the parts that make up the weapon, including the one sent to us. So now Smith and Light are in their tent trying to make a replacement part. Hopefully soon, seeing as Green Log told me about more campfire smoke coming from the treeline. I fear that there are more zebras out there, and they may try to swamp us.” Elmwood said looking at Crown Gem.

I could see my host lifted his spoon up to his mouth and took a sip of the hot soup. I was surprised when he immediately spit it out.

“BlAAA! Crown what in good taste did you make?” my host asked.

“Dinner.” he replied simply.

“This is just salty water posing as soup!” my host snapped at him.

“Hey, I’m working on what supplies that we have, not what supplies you wish. If you want more then a can’s worth of carrots and corn, then go ask the zebras. Or, better yet, find one of the parasprites that ate half of Equestria's crops and add that for flavor instead.” Crown Gem snapped back.

“Eww, why would you even mentioning eating a parasprite?” Soothing Wave spoke, scrunching her muzzle in disgust.

Lieutenant Elmwood laughed a bit. “Probably be better than what I had last mission.”

“Weren't you on a diplomatic mission? I would think the griffins would give you good food,” Soothing Wave asked.

“Oh they did. The problem was I wanted to look tough in front of the griffin guards. So, during my break I joined them for one of their meals. They offered me what they called a delicacy in their land,” Elmwood said.

“Let me guess parasprites,” my host said.

“Nope parasprites would have made a little more sense. It was chicken.” The Lieutenant replied. “Well a chicken leg,”

The look of disgust on the other ponies probably mirrored my host. “Why would they eat chickens? They are birds, and aren’t griffins part bird? That be like me eating a goat or something.” I could tell my host shuttered at his own though.

Soothing Wave just looked at my host with a rather strange look of this pony next to be just suggested cannibalism. Maybe the first time in Equestria that such an idea had even been mentioned in passing.

“I thought the same when they showed me the cook chicken leg. Looked strange, almost like a maraca, except greasier.” Elmwood said drawing out the shape of it with his forehooves in the air.

“Gross.” Soothing Wave said with matching face. Even so, another look slowly crept across her face as everypony seemed to nod in agreement. “What did it taste like?” She said, her curiously obviously peaked.

“Chicken, I guess. I can’t think of anything that I’ve ever eaten that be able to compare it in taste. I took a bite, chewed it, and swallowed. The griffins look impressed for about five seconds before I threw it all up.” Lieutenant Elmwood said with a slight shudder.

The ponies around the campfire started to laugh including Elmwood. However the laughter soon stopped when a pony called out from on top of the hill. “Sir, we got zebras!”

“Shit.” Lieutenant Elmwoods smile dropped, and I could tell he was switching to a combat mindset. “Ponies, to the line!.”

Crown Gem and Rain Heart quickly stood. My host follow suit dropping his bowl of soup into the fire causing a puff of steam and smoke. He turned and followed the others to a wooden rack nearby with rifles resting on it. My host collected his rifle and charge up the hill to where the other pony had called out.

At the top, I could see that the hill was slightly dug up in a trench. The pony that was on watch was a Earth stallion with Tan body and Yellow mane. My host quickly laid down on the dug up embankment, pointing his rifle down the opposite side of the hill.

I could see a sparse hillside leading down to a rocky brush area. There was a small area down at the bottom of the hill to the left of my host that had tall grass sprouting up in a tight clump. It seemed almost unnatural among the barren hills. A fair bit beyond the odd, rocky brush ground, was a forest. It seem to be a good distance to run between the hillside and the forest, so I could see why this was a good place to set up a defence. On top of that, this hill was the only high ground in the area.

The Lieutenant had finally made it up the hill. I could hear him talking to the watch pony he asked in a harsh whisper. “Wheat Grain what did you see?” he asked.

“Sir. I saw about five zebras running across the field into the tall grass.” the stallion apparently named Wheat Grain said.

“Only five? Well not a swamp attack, but what in Celestia’s good grace are they doing?” A mare spoke up. I could hear her running up the hill behind us.

My host turned to look at her. She was near mirror image of the Lieutenant, maybe a sibling? From what I could tell when she reached the top of the hill and laid prone, the two were indeed almost identical. The rank of three sun rays on her shoulder seem to indicate that she was the Sergeant of the squad.

“Sir, Rifle in the grass!” Wheat Grain called out. Before anypony could respond, Wheat Grain aimed his rifle and fired down the hill toward the attackers.

Other squad members joined in retaliating, including my host. I could see the grass get pushed around by the shots, whooshing through them and breaking some of the stalks apart. The zebras then returned fire. From the sheer number of strikes in the dirt around my host, he seemed to be the favored target by their opponents.

My host ducked down and wiggled back a bit behind the dug up dirt. He seemed to close his eyes for a few seconds, either fear getting the best of him, or he had some dirt in his eye. Shots continued to be fired. The sound seemed louder than it had been before, almost to the point of being deafening.

“Come on, Fire, get up!” The voice of the Sergeant said in the stern way only an leader could.

My host’s eyes opened. I could see the Sergeant standing next to my host. Her name was Sugarcane, at least from what the name written on her armor said. She had a hoof on my host and was trying to help him get back on his hooves. Her face was covered in some dirt that was probably kicked up by the zebras gunfire.

“Yes ma’am.” my host replied back in a bit of a fearful voice, but he began pulling himself back up. Pressing himself forward again, he pointed his rifle over the ridge. This time, all I could see were four silhouettes running towards the forest. My host held his fire, and it seemed that most of the others did as well. Only one rifle kept firing, one of the shots striking one of the fleeing zebras in the neck. It’s body quickly collapsed onto the ground. After a few seconds the zebra staggered back on his or her hooves and try to catch up with the others who had already made it back into the tree line. The zebra made it a few more hoof steps before collapsing back onto the ground and remained motionless.

“Wheat Grain!” Lieutenant shouted, trotting up to Wheat Grains face. “What kind of pony are you? You don’t shoot a retreating enemy! That is not how the royal guards, nor Celestia would have it!”

“Sir, Celestia want’s us to protect Equestria. They are part of the zebra military and should be stopped.” Wheat Grain replied back with a stiff salute. I would have expected another pony in his horseshoes to be quivering in fear, or perhaps humbled. However, Wheat Grain seemed to stand his ground under the lieutenant's anger.

“We do not shoot any pony, zebra, griffin, or anything in the BACK! You got that, Private Grain?” Elmwood shouted, this time loud enough that I think the zebras could have heard him.

“Yes, sir.” Wheat Grain replied, but the look on his face was more of just following orders. I could tell that he had more he wanted to say, but he knew better than to run his mouth. It seemed that Equestria’s military training was starting to take a better hold on the ponies during this year of the great war.

Everypony was silent, simply watching the two stallions having their argument. My host and Crown Gem seemed to look at each other for a second. The silence was broken by a moan. The moan was loud, and wasn’t the kind of moaning anypony wanted to hear. It was the sound of pain.

I could see Soothing Wave looking around, trying to see who was hurt. The nursing side of her was kicking in. She looked up over the hill, catching the lieutenant’s gaze. “It’s...it’s coming from the grass,” Soothing Wave said.

“Sir, only four zebras ran out of the grass.” Green Log said. Apparently, she’d joined the battle without me or my host noticing.

“Green Log, Fire Tail, and Sugarcane. You three escort Soothing Wave down the hill and retrieve the surviving zebra.” Lieutenant Elmwood said.

“Sir, I’d like to check on the other zebra as well.” Soothing Wave said adjusting her medical bag.

“No, they are too close to the tree line.” Elmwood replied back. “ I don’t want you to get caught that far out.”

“But sir, I have these three with me.” Soothing Wave said back pleading with her Lieutenant.

“I don’t want any of you that close to the tree line. With more enemy campfires in the distance, and no idea how many of them are actually out there, I don’t want us to be more at risk then we already are.” The Lieutenant said, placing his hoof in front of Soothing Wave. Even though I could see the disappointment on her face, it ended her plea to help the probably dead zebra.

My host and the others slowly travel down the hill. Each pony holding their rifles out, ready to open fire at any sign of an aggressive move by the wounded zebra in the grass. From the sound of the moans, I was doubtful that the zebra was even able to stand let alone fight. Surgarcane pulled Soothing Wave to the side and whisper something into her ear I could not make out what it was but the glance at my host from her told me it may have been something about him. When my host and the others entered the grass, I found it was surprisingly thick. So thick in fact, that I could barely see Green Log, who was only a few hoof steps ahead of my host.

“Hey, I found him.” Soothing Wave called out. My host turned to what he believed was the direction of Soothing Wave’s voice. Pushing his way through the tall grass, he nearly bumped right into Sugarcane.

After a few more seconds, Sugarcane pushed away some grass to reveal Soothing Wave standing over the zebra. The injured fighter was laying on the ground in a pool of his own blood. He’d been shot through the left shoulder, and it seemed to have shattered the bone underneath. The bullet itself looked like it had continued and passed through the underside of him, and out of his left fore leg. Green Log was standing nearby with one of her hind hooves holding down the zebras riffle to make sure he could not get to it. Though, with the fact that his left fore leg was nearly blown off, I wasn’t expecting him to have fighting at the forefront of his priorities at the moment.

“Hang on, I need to stop the bleeding.” Soothing Wave said, speaking down at the zebra. “Do you have a medical bag by chance?”

“Why are you asking him?” Green Log asked in surprise, mirroring my own curiosity.

“Zebras have a very good compound to stop heavy bleeding. I’m not sure I could stop a wound like this with only my pressure bandages.” Soothing Wave picking up a bag that was around the zebra.

“Third pouch from opening.” The zebra said. Pointing with his good hoof weakly at the bag.

“Okay hang on, What's your name?” She was trying to be friendly to the zebra. However it seemed that he was starting to pass out from the blood loss. “Come on can’t fall asleep yet, you still got to tell me who you are and where you from. Hard to get a family history when you're asleep.” She then found what she was looking for. A small bottle with a few zebra gliffs on it.

“Sooth, how do you know what that even is?” Sugarcane asked.

“I’ve seen it a few times in the past, and it was mentioned in my medical training.” Soothing Wave said opening the bottle and pouring the contents onto the wounded. “They have one of the best compounds to stop massive bleeding. Hurts a lot unfortunately, but it works really well.”

The zebra shrieked in pain, waking him. Soothing Wave placed her hoof on his forehead and kept him pinned as he whined and tried to thrash about. ”I know it hurts, and I’m sorry, but this will save you.”

“Third pouch from opening,” The zebra said again.

“I already got the bottle to stop the bleeding.” Soothing Wave replied back confused. “Blood loss must be getting to him.”

“No, there another bottle two lighting bolts.” The zebra said in between heaving and whining breaths. “Stops the pain.”

Soothing Wave dig threw the bag again finding the bottle. She open the bottle and was about to pour the contents onto the wound.

“No I need to drink this.” The zebra said grabbing on to the foreleg of Soothing Wave.

“Hey, don’t let him get that! We have no idea what it does!” Sugarcane said, leaning down to the zebra. “We just saved your life, so you can deal with the pain for a short time.”

“He knows what it is, and I think it will help him.” Soothing Wave said, pouring the bottle into the mouth of the zebra.The painful moans of the zebra slowly drifted away, and he started breathing much more slowly again.

“Well I think he’s comfortable, but i'm not happy with his breathing.” Soothing Wave asked. “Fire Tail can you help me carry him back up the hill please.”

My host nodded and stepped forward, pulling the zebra's body onto his back before he turned and started to walk out of the grass. I could hear from behind my host that Sugarcane asking Green Log a question.

“So you think this is natural grass?” Sugarcane asked.

“You know, as I told you on the cart ride here, that just because I work at a logging company doesn’t mean I know every plant in Equestria.” Green Log replied back snarkily. “But, it doesn't seem right, I’ll give you that. This area is kind of too dry for this much grass, let alone all in just one spot.”

“You just kind of proved my point from the cart ride, you know?” Sugarcane replied in a bit of a jovial tone.

“Shut up, ma’am.” Green Log snapped back.

“I could bust you for saying that, you know.” Sugarcane replied dropping the happier tone with more of what I would expect from a Sergent. “But, you are already a private, so I’m just going to give you the third watch tonight.”

My host counted trotting stepping out of the tall grass and back up the hill with Soothing Wave trotting at his side checking on her patient. When my host made it to the top of the hill, he stopped. Elmwood and Crown Gem had been busy talking. However, with the arrival of my host he halted his conversation and walked over toward him.

“I see you found him.” The Lieutenant asked as he looked over the injured zebra. “How is he Soothing Wave?”

“I’ve stopped the bleeding with one of his blood clotting brews. He also seems to be in little or no pain with the help of a second brew.” Soothing Wave said with a note of hesitation. “But, I am worried about him after I gave him that second brew. Something in it slowed his breathing, and I think that without help it’ll only get worse.” She placed her hoof on the zebra's head, trying to give some comfort to him.

“Okay take him to your tent and proved treatment. When the supply waggon arrives, I’ll ask if they can take him to a hospital.” Elmwood nodded before looking over to my host. “Fire Tail, stand guard make sure he does not try to hurt her or try to escape if he recovers enough to do so.”

“Yes sir.” My host replied, trying to salute but stopping short to avoid dropping the zebra.

“Sir, I don’t think you really need a guard for him. I'm not even sure he’d be able to walk with his leg like that.” Soothing Wave said sternly. “I’m sure the better equipped ponies at the hospital will be able to mend his leg, but before they do, he’s not going to be able to even use it.”

“Doesn’t matter.” Elmwood said. “This is a warzone, so we are going to have to have a guard on him.”

“Yes sir.” Soothing Wave replied back. “Okay Tail, let's get him down to the tent.”

“Right.” My host replied, stepping over the trench and walking down to the camp and towards the medical tent. Entering inside of Soothing Waves tent, there was what I could guess was her sleeping bag, but it seemed to be more of a mess than anything else. Next to the sleeping bag was a spare bed roll with medical supplies next to it.

“Okay, Fire, lay him down I want to get a better check on his heart.” She called out, entering just after my host.

“Uh sure.” my host replied, kneeling down and turning so that the zebra slid off of him and onto the bed roll.

“Thank you.” Soothing Wave said, walking over to the zebra and kneeling down next to him. She turned around and pulled one of her medical bags close, rummaging through it. “Here we go.” she said as she pulled out a stethoscope from it. She began examining him, checking for other injuries.

After a few minutes she sat up from the zebra. “Okay, so beside the nearly missing leg and slow breathing, he seems to be okay.” She gave out a sigh of relief and sling her stethoscope around her neck. “His motor reflexes are still a bit slow, and his eyes were not responding too quickly either. But, I think that was more from what I gave him then the injury.”

“Arnt you doctors supposed to know all this?” My host asked quite bluntly.

“Again, I’m a nurse not a doctor. Even if I was one, I would have to do blood test to be one hundred percent sure. Even then, I’d have to have an idea of what I’m looking for.” Soothing Wave replied.

“If you don't know, then why would you give him that stuff?” my host asked, pointing the pouch still strapped around the injured zebra.

“I told you I’d known of their blood stopping goop. On top of that, I’d also heard rumors of some powerful painkiller that the zebras can brew, but they were just that. Rumors. I’d never really seen or gotten to read that much about it, but I figure that was the stuff he wanted.” Soothing Wave said, holding up the empty bottle with the two lighting bolts on it. After a moment, she looked back down at the zebra. “I don’t think he’s going to be able to respond for awhile.” She sighed as she sat down and looked up to me. “So, what about you, Fire Tail? What's bothering you?”

“Ummm, nothing.” My host replied back hesitantly. “I wasn’t hit in the fight.”

“True. But Sugarcane told me how you… oh how did she phrase it?” Soothing Wave paused, looking for the right words. “You froze up during the firefight.”

“I didn't freeze up.” My host spoke up defensively. “And when did she tell you?”

“When we were walking down, she pulled me to the side and asked me to check on you.” Soothing Wave replied back. I was correct about what I saw. I was surprised that my host seem to have missed the look that Sugarcane gave.

“I’m fine... mostly.” My host’s tone wavered enough to where even I didn’t believe him. “Okay, so the noise got to me.” My host replied back, looking down with what I could guess was an embarrassed look across his face. “The rifles are loud, and I just wanted to cover my ears.”

That didn’t sit well with me. The rifles are loud I agree, but there was something else to it. The rifle sounds I heard were near deafening, but that was because of their design. Maybe he’s more sensitive to the sound than the memory machine can relate too, but it didn’t make sense to me even then. The sound would be constant but the gun shots got louder and louder like one of the ponies were shooting right next to my host head.

“Is this your first mission?” Soothing Waved asked, grabbing a bandage from her medical bag.

“No, this is my second one. Helped guard supply runs that were running from Appleloosa to Soot Ridge. We keep the bandits from wanting to try to take out the supply teams.” My host replied back.

“So, you never fired a shot, in all that time?” Soothing Waved asked placing the bandage over the zebra’s leg. She seemed to be trying to keep the shredded leg attached as best she could.

“No, as soon as they’d found out that Equestria’s Army was protecting the wagons, they just sort of left us be.” My host replied back.

“Okay, so this is your first combat then.” Soothing Wave said, looking up and smiling at my host. “You might have just gotten startled by it is all.”

“Startled? No. Surprised, maybe. But I mean it was the first time I’ve ever been shot at. All I remember was seeing the dirt pop up left and right of me. They were trying to zero in on me, I know it. Then just seeing Wheat Grain shoot that one in the back like it was nothing…” My host paused. “I mean, I couldn’t help but imagine myself as that zebra. How painful it’d be to have been shoot in the back.”

Soothing Wave’s smile became a frown and she seemed to grow angry. “That idiot. What the hay was he thinking?” She looked down at her patient. “They were running away, and now there is another dead body on the field. That zebra didn’t need to die.”

“I don’t think Wheat Grain is a idiot, he just over reacted.” My host replied back. “I mean, they were shooting at us, and they could've hit one of us.”

“You don’t think I know that? I was part of the medical team at fort tumbleweed. All the casualties from Soot Ridge came right to us.” Soothing Waved said with tears forming in her eyes. “The zebras pushed in hard. They tried to swamp the ponies on the Ridge, but they held. They held that place for a full day and a night before they could get reinforced. Only then did they pull back the wounded and dead. I saw so many ponies worse off than him.” Soothing Wave cried out pointing to the zebra. “One of ponies who came back told me that there was so much blood spilled that the Ridge turned red. Its not the point of it Fire Tail. We’re suppose to be better.”

She wiped a hoof at her cheek as tears rolled down it. “As foals, we didn’t even have to think about something like war. Life was just about having fun, and try to be the best pony you could be. And now? I see all these lives lost.” Soothing Wave shouted as she really began to cry. “That zebra that Wheat Grain shot was a colt or filly once too. All they did was grow up just to die out there on that field. All Wheat had to do was let them go, to let them get back into the tree line. Maybe they would have left, or if they did attack, at least it would be self defense… not murder.”

Sergeant Sugarcane opened up the tent flap. “Whats going on in here? Is everything okay?” She asked.

‘Yes ma’am. I’m sorry, I was just reminded of some bad memories I’ve had.” Soothing Waved replied, quietly wiping away the rest of the tears from her eyes.

“Okay...umm, the Lieutenant wants to know the condition of the prisoner. He would have come in personally, but he is currently arguing again with Wheat Grain about what he did.” Sugarcane said, looking out the tent flap. “I’m surprised he hasn't bucked him from duty for insubordination.”

“Hope he knocks his stupid flank back into place.” Soothing Wave replied back at a grumble.

“Maybe... Wheat really trying to get busted from what he is saying. Anyway Fire Tail the supply wagon is coming in soon go out and help them unload. I don't think Wheat Grain’s going to be helping with that this time. I keep a eye on the zebra” Sugarcane said, looking at my host.

“Yes ma’am.” My host replied. He got up and stepped out of the tent, walking down the hill towards one of the large clearings. My host sat there and waited several minutes later Green Log joined him. About ten minutes later my host could see a pegasus flying over a hill towards the camp.

My host looked up to see a light brown pegasus with a white mane flying down. He seemed to have what my dad used to call a three thirty shadow on his chin. Attached and flying behind him, was a single pony wagon. When he landed in the clearing, there was something even more different with him that I noticed. All the ponies I’d seen so far in combat armor had their cutie marks covered. This pony's cutie mark of an open wooden crate, was exposed from under the overcoat he wore. The pegasus was wearing what I guess was a lighter model of the armor underneath the overcoat. At least, it looked lighter and smaller than the standard model. All over, he was a far cry from the look of the other soldier's I'd seen in the memories so far.

“All right, I’m behind schedule, so let's get your stuff off the wagon so I can get back in the air.” The pegasus said with an annoyed sounding rough voice. “Got two more squads to resupply before it gets dark.”

“Yes sir.” My host and Green Log replied back. I didn’t notice at the time, but apparently this pegasus was a sergeant. However, the squad patch he had on didn’t have a gem on it, instead it had a stack of crates on it.

My host and Green Log began unloading the crates of different supplies into the clearing. Though something seem wrong, and my host had noticed it as well. The crate he was moving said Summer Gear. However, it was winter time by the time indicated in this memory orb.

“Hey why are we getting summer gear?” my host asked.

“I don’t know.” The pegasus responded, even more annoyed than before. “Look, I just deliver what’s on the order form, I don’t make the selections. I leave that to the four rays to make these choices, gives me less headaches,”

“Four rays?.” my host asked.

“You know, the Lieutenants? The rank with the four sun rays on their uniforms?” The pegasus replied back pointing to the three rays on his rank patch.

“Oh... but still, I mean what the hay are we supposed to do with all this summer gear?” My host asked.

“Don’t know, and it's not really my problem.” The pegasus replied back raising his nose in a bit of a snooty way. “Take it up with your four ray if you care that much.”

“Umm... Lieutenant?” Green Log shouted up the hill. “We’ve got a problem!”

My host snickered a bit “I think my friend just made it your problem too.”

The pegasus just snorted.

Elmwood walked down the hill, followed by Crown Gem, “So then, what seems to be the problem?” Elmwood asked.

“Supply sent us all this summer gear...” Green Log said then started looking around one of the crates that was pulled off the wagon. “and no food sir.”

“What, you mean no food?” Crown Gem said alarmingly.

“Calm down, Gem.” Lieutenant Elmwood said before turning to the pegasus. “Now, why is there no food, and why are we being sent summer gear when it's the middle of winter?” The Lieutenant asked.

“Just like I told your squad members, sir. Its what's on the order form.” The pegasus said, pulling out a clipboard and flipping through the pages to one of the order forms. With an annoyed look, he showed it to the Lieutenant.

“There has to be a mistake. Can't you see that?” Elmwood replied.

“Probably, but those are my orders.” The pegasus said reading off the sheet. “Your squad gets a set of summer gear and ammunition.”

“Well, at least we got the ammunition that we needed.” Green Log snarked.

“You do understand it’s winter right?” Elmwood asked.

“Why yes sir I do. That’s why I’m wearing this state of the art winter coat. Its light, but still keeps out the air when you fly. It’s quite fantastic.” The pegasus replied, sitting up a bit to show off the winter coat.

“So you wearing a winter coat, and you're delivering summer gear.” Elmwood said with a facehoof. “Do you not see the problem?”

“I’m not an idiot, I can see the problem. But as I keep telling you, there is nothing I can do about it.” The pegasus replied. “Don’t know what to tell you other than the order form is the order form.”

“Well, how about you take this gear back with you and get it fixed.” Elmwood said, pointing to the creates. “Tell command that I ordered you to return so we can receive the correct supplies.”

“Sorry, no can do. This is only a delivery run, not a return to sender run.” The pegasus said back. “Like I said, I’ve got other orders to fill, so I need to keep going.”

“So what the buck are we suppoesed to do with this stuff!?” Crown Gem exclaimed with a heated groan.

“Well, I might be able to trade it at one of the next camps for something your squad can actually use.” The pegasus replied slowly. “If you’re up for that, that is.”

“Wait, so you can trade this stuff away?” Crown Gem asked in shock. “What about all that order form junk you just fed us then?”

“Order form is the order form. It doesn’t cover secondary trades.” The pegasus said with a sly tone. “How you think I got this coat.” Wow, even before the wasteland, ponies were still trying to rip each other off.

“Okay, so let's trade this summer gear for some proper winter gear.” Green Log said. “What can we get for it?”

The pegasus started to laugh. “Are you kidding me? There is not enough light uniforms in that box to equal one insulated one right now. Try back in the summer when that stuff is in demand.”

“But, we won't need it then.” my host replied in a annoyed voice. At this point in time, I expected someone to shoot him for being this much of a idiot.

“So what can we get for this stuff?” Green Log asked.

“Hmmm. I got a squad up north that could use this stuff.” The pegasus replied.

“Great what will we get?” Green Log asked with a smile.

“Mosquito netting.” The pegasus replied back. “That’s the best I could offer.”

Green Log did what I wish I could have in this machine, and just face hoofed hard at that. Honestly, I was surprised that none of these soldiers had outright murdered the pony yet. However, that was probably just wasteland living leaking into my own thoughts.

“Okay, okay, forget the supplies. We’ll just keep them.” Lieutenant Elmwood said with a flat expression and a groan. “Can you relay a message to forward base?”

“I'm not a courier, I’m a supply delivery pony.” The pegasus said with a frown.

“Oh come on!” Elmwood said now starting to lose his calm. “Can’t you just deliver this one message to the base?”

“Can’t. I won't be returning to command anytime soon.” The pegasus replied back.

“Oh for Celestia’s sake.” Elmwood said almost losing his control. “Listen, I don’t care if it’s not in your job description. I’ve got an injured zebra that needs treatment somewhere that has better medical care than here.”

“Ah zebra? Aren't we supposed to be fighting them?” The pegasus asked confusingly. “Ya’know, like all the radio’s and papers are talking about and such?”

“Yes, that’s why I said he was injured. Now I order you to run him to a hospital immediately.” The lieutenant ordered.

“You're not my boss.” The pegasus said starkly. Now I was only guessing, but this pony had to be insane, or just beyond stupid to be acting like this. “Listen, I got my four rays getting yelled at by their field commanders about supplies arriving on time and you're putting me behind. I would consider helping ya if it was worth my time...” The pegasus continued, letting his words drift off.

Okay, now I believe he genuinely had to have been insane.

The lieutenant just looked shocked at what he was seeing. I was waiting for his sidearm to come out, but again, that was probably just how the wasteland worked.

”Okay...okay fine how about a trade.” Elmwood said grinding his teeth. “You take the zebra to the field hospital, and you can keep this summer gear for yourself.”

“Not for that gear, it’s not worth enough for that.” The pegasus said. “But I tell you what since I know you’ve been kind of screwed over by command...”

“Kind of!?” Green Log interrupted, flailing her hooves in annoyance.

The pegasus just looked at her. “As I was saying, you kinda got screwed, so I tell you what. For the summer gear, I can run your zebra friend upto a courier that is set pass by my next stop up at Slim Hill. If I take off now, I have a good shot of getting there before he leaves.”

“Fine.” Elmwood said. “Fire, load that summer gear back into the wagon. Green, I want you to go tell Sooth that we got the zebra a ride to the hospital, but he needs to be down here right damned now.”

“Yes, sir!” my host and Green Log said. Green Log ran up the hill back towards the camp. While my host quickly loaded up the wagon with the summer gear.

“Okay, how about one more trade.” Lieutenant Elmwood said, keeping his voice down as my host inclined his ear to listen in. “I’ll give you two bits if you pass a message to Lieutenant Spruce up at Pearl squad.”

“Eh sure, why not,” The pegasus replied back.

“Good.” Elmwood said, grabbing two bits from a small bag under his armor and throwing them over to the waiting pegasus. “Tell him Spruce the Moose.”

“What in Equestria does that mean?” The pegasus asked quite loudly.

“Code phrase. Can't tell you, but I need you to pass it along. Please, it is very important.” Elmwood replied back in an authoritative tone.

Green Log and Soothing Wave came down the hill with the zebra lying limply across Green Logs back.

“Okay here he is. He is stable and ready to go,” Soothing Wave said. “Be careful with him. Stable doesn’t mean healthy in the slightest, so treat him gently.”

“Hey he's not going to get up is he? I mean he is the enemy and I don't want to get hurt by him if he ends up waking up midway there.” The pegasus said with a concern in his voice.

”He’s got a point.” Lieutenant Elmwood nodded before turning around to my host. “Fire Tail, bind the zebras legs so he can't try to escape.” He ordered sharply.

“But sir, he can barely walk.” Soothing Wave said in alarm of the treatment of her patient. “There is little reason…”

“I understand your concern,” Elmwood said, cutting Soothing off while still sounding very annoyed that he had to say that the pegasus next to him was in the right. “However this supply pony is correct. He needs to be secured.”

Soothing Wave looked like she wanted to say more but then stop and then walk over and nudge my host out of the way. “Fine. If you wish to do this, then I will bind him so we don't risk causing any more injuries.” It only took her a moment to do, but she bound the zebras hind hooves very careful to his good fore hoof, and then secured the rope to his body. She did a once over, making sure she did not cause him any pain before stepping back from him again. “Okay there, he's as ready to go as I can make him.”

“Are you sure?” The pegasus said. “Looks like you did not tie him down that hard.” In response, Soothing Wave simply gave him a rather angry look. With a sigh, the pegasus simply pointed to his cart. “Okay fine, whatever. I should get going, as I don't want to be late. Got deliveries to make and trades to do. See you all in three days time when I swing down this way again.”

“Fine. Get going.” The Lieutenant ordered with a grunt.

“Yeah, we sure don’t want Jasper Squad to be without their...” Green Log began to say, looking over the clipboard that the delivery pegasus was still holding. “Snorkels.”

“Yeah, that one did seem a bit weird. Must be for an upcoming water mission or something.” The pegasus replied scratching his head.

‘You’re a pegasus.” My host grumbled in annoyance. “You seen any lakes around here while flying? At all?”

“No. So I don’t know why they’d need them then.” The pegasus said then spread his wings and took flight pulling the cart with him. “But that’s command’s problem. The order is the order. Can’t change it.”

“Who in Celestia’s name is running requisitions these days?” Green Log shouted up at him. The supply pegasus did not respond and simply flew off to the east, all too quickly disappearing over one of the hill tops.

“Does anypony want to tell me what in the hay just happened?” Green Log asked.

“Not everypony has a generous spirit.” Elmwood replied.

“Not much common sense either.” Crown Gem said with a snort. “Sir, we still have the problem of food. We’ve used up almost all our rations, and I’m not confident we can make it stretch another three days to see if command gets it right for the next delivery. On paper, we still have the right amount, but we gave some to Topaz squad when we relieved them last week, so we’re running on almost nothing.”

“So how much do we have left then?” Lieutenant Elmwood said.

“Well, really only about a day's worth.” Crown Gem said. “and that’s only a maybe if I can find some way to stretch it.”

“Nothing we can do about it, Crown. Food stocks are low for everypony in the army, and we’re all paying for it. Lieutenant Elmwood ordered. “Make do with what we have, even if it means no pony gets to eat tomorrow.”

“Sir, that’s just not going to be enough.” Crown Gem said with a sigh that I could almost feel the disappointment resonate off of. “What we have left is about a can and a half of corn. That’s it.” She kicked at the ground before looking back up at the Lieutenant. “I was hoping we could be restock for Heartswarming Eve. I even had a great meal planned. But it seems we just going to have to have watered down soup again.” Crown Gem said giving a salute and walking back towards the camp. “I’ll make it work, sit. You can count on me.”

“Sir I don't think we can last on such little food.” My host said. “I mean, we have barely eaten anything since last week to begin with. How long are we supposed to go on like this?”

“I agree with Fire Tail, sir. We should be pushing command for a food supply. With it getting colder, we’re going to be need more to keep us warm and active.” Soothing Waved said sounding more like a nurse then a soldier. “From what we’ve been eating, we are getting to dangerous levels of malnutrition. None of us are going to be in fighting condition soon if this continues.”

“I understand. Everypony on the line out here and everywhere is suffering from this damn parasprite attack. Equestria needs to be strong, and so that’s what we’ll be. Am, I understood?” Lieutenant Elmwood said, sounding more the commander than ever to counter Soothing’s pleas. “If we have to go with only a single can of corn for dinner, then we will enjoy it together. Being together and being strong together, that’s what Heartwarming Day is about.”

“Yes sir.” Soothing Wave said, sighing in defeat before turning and slowly walking back toward the camp.

“Sir, why don't a few of us go and try to scavenge some food? I mean there has to be some fruit bearing trees somewhere in that forest,” My host said slowly, seeming to test the waters when it came to the Lieutenant.

“No. I don’t want anypony leaving the line.” Lieutenant Elmwood said. “I don’t need the zebra's seeing us with less ponies to defend it. We’d be giving them the perfect opportunity to attack. Let alone the risk of them taking you while you're in the forest.”

“Yes, sir.” my host replied back, giving a stiff salute before heading up the hill to join the other ponies assembling at the camp fire that Rain Heart was building.

The mid day turned to evening as the temperature seem to drop more and more. Out of the corner of my host eye I could see a jug of water had been slowly freezing. My host finally had some of the water down soup that was passed around. From what I could tell about all it did for him and the rest of the squad was keep them a little bit warm, but it seemed to not help that much. I could hear teeth chattering and stomachs growling.

Rain Heart moving some wood around trying to make the fire warmer. “How can they let it get this cold?” Rain Heart said, poking the fire weakly with a stick.

“What you mean?” my host asked, looking up from his now empty soup bowl.

“Well, the pegasus control the weather, why don't they just keep it warm on the front lines? I mean, it's hard enough to fight with no food but now it's getting colder.” Rain Heart replied back, rubbing at her shoulders with her hooves.

“I will ask the courier pegasus during their check in tomorrow if they could run some warm air in, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up. We are almost out of the influence of the pegasus magic, and they’ve been trying to keep a lot of the cold air they brought down earlier this year out of Equestria proper so they can allow crops to grow,” Lieutenant Elmwood said.

“I don’t know what's worse, the cold or the lack of food. I could probably deal with the cold if I could have a hot bowl of oats or something with substance. Not this water soup that I’m forced to make. I mean it's Heartwarming Eve tomorrow and I got nothin,” Crown Gem said with exactly zero effort to hide the resentment in his voice.

“Look at it this way, we get to re-enact the Heartwarming Play a lot easier this way. We’re already cold and near starving, that’s two parts of it we don’t have to try to recreate!” Elmwood said with a shivering laugh. He then stood and walk towards one of the tents. “Well, I’m turning in. I suggest you all do the same. Might be warmer in your sleeping bags.”

“Good night, sir.” My host said in unison with all the others around the fire.

The conversation quickly grew quiet around the campfire. Nopony really wanted to talk they just wanted to stay warm. After a bit Crown Gem stood.

“I can't stand this cold. I’d rather freeze in my bag where is at least uniformly cold. Not this annoying ‘one side of me is almost warm and the other is a brick of ice.” Crown Gem said before heading off towards one of the tents.

“Maybe he’s right. We should turn in as well.” Rain Heart remarked before getting up and following Crown Gem.

“You go ahead, I think I will check in on Green Log. She’s taking third watch and I want to make sure she has a blanket.” Soothing Wave said with a yawn.

Wheat Grain just sat staring at the fire he seemed to be in deep thought.

“I think we should do it, Fire.” Wheat Grain spoke up oddly.

“What?” My host replied looking over at Wheat Grain, who was now staring at my host.

Soothing Wave turn and look too. She seem to have the look of confusion I’m pretty sure I’d have been wearing if I were there. She hesitated to say anything, almost looking torn if she should give my host and Wheat Grain some private time, or to sit and listen to what he had to say.

“Your idea about going into the forest, we should do it.” Wheat Grain spoke in only a low whisper. “But instead of trying to find some fruit trees in the dark let's, just go to where we know there some food. The zebra camp.”

“Thats crazy!” My host said back in his own sharp whisper. “The Lieu-” my host began to say, but then lower his voice when Wheat Grain raised his hoof to his mouth. “The Lieutenant said we can’t go into the forest it's dangerous.” my host said now in a softer whisper than before.

“I know it's crazy, but we’re starving here! Am I right Wave?” Wheat Grain said turning to Soothing Wave.

Soothing Wave seemed to want to not reply. I could tell she was still upset with Wheat Grain’s proposal. Any good soldier would have given pause at that idea. It was pretty much outright going against orders, and it was incredibly risky. However, after a moment, she finally gave a quick and simple response.

“Yes.” She said simply with a quick nod.

“See, even Soothing knows we need to get some food.” Wheat said before turning his gaze back to my host. “Besides, we might be able to steal some other supplies from them, or even find some information about what they are planning. Look, we’re going to be stuck here a while, and with all these new campfires, we might be attacked any day now. We need our strength to defend ourselves, and we’ll only have it if we get some food to eat.” Wheat Grain, stood up, but still kept to a whisper.

“But how are we supposed to get into the zebra camp?” My host asked pointing his hoof off towards the forest.

“Simple, we just sneak in.” Wheat Grain replied with a smile. “You’ve played hide and seek as a foal, it’s just like that.”

“I don’t think this is a simple game of hide and seek.” My host replied back. “We could really screw ourselves over if we get caught.”

“True, but we need the supplies, and we only be gone for a little bit.” Wheat Grain said with a quick shrug. “We be back before dawn, the Lieutenant will never even know we left at all.We can just said a pegasus patrol flew by after raiding a zebra supply stash.”

My host though about it for a minute. “Fine I’ll go. But only because I don’t want to eat that slop soup again.” My host smiled as he spoke. “I would like something resembling a good meal, even if it’s zebra food.”

“Fire, I want to remind you that this is a really dangerous and probably horrible idea.” Soothing Wave said, giving more of a voice to my host then Wheat Grain.

“It’s been dangerous since we got here. Being shot at I think I can take. Deadly cold I think I can take. But starving is just one too many things on the stuff we have to deal with list.” My host said standing up and walking over to where the riffles were being stored. “We just need enough food to last three days, that’s all.” As my host picked one of them off the rack, Wheat Grain walk over and collect his rifle as well. “You should come to Soothing,” My host said, throwing me for a loop.

“What?” Soothing Wave and Wheat Grain asked at the same time.

“We need the extra back to carry stuff, and we might be able to get a few of their medical supplies as well. Hell, maybe you find it, you could snag the recipe for the goop stuff you were talking about before.” My host shrugged as he slung his rifle around his shoulder. “If we are going to be in a big battle soon, we will need that stuff, so we might as well grab it when we’re there.”

Soothing Waved thought about it for a second. “Fine. Let's get going.”

My host, Wheat Grain and Soothing Waved walk up the hill to wear Green Log was standing watch. I could see ice crystals on the dug up hill side. Even the simple log barriers now had a distinct layer of frost on them. Green Log was laying on a tarp in one of the dugout spots. She had place the rest of the tarp over herself trying to keep the frost from forming on her.

“Hey Green, how are you doing?” My host asked.

“It’s freaking cold out.” Green Log replied back sharply, rubbing her hooves together before blowing on them.

“Yeah, listen, we're going to go into the forest and find some food. We’ll be back by dawn.” My host said.

“The Lieutenant let you do that?” Green Log asked, looking somewhere between confused and suspicious.

“Yeah, of course.” Wheat Grain said interrupting my host.

“Um... yeah. He said it was okay, we just need to be back before dawn.” My host replied as well, rubbing at his mane nervously.

Soothing Waved just remained silent. Good for her. I still have problems keeping my muzzle shut with the rangers when I need too sometimes...

Green Log look over my host. “Okay then, I trust you’ll be back on time then.”

“Thanks, Green. We’ll single with a flashlight if we run into trouble, okay?” Wheat Grain said. Again speaking up for my host who was now silent.

“Okay, be safe out there.” Green Log said with a light wave before going back to rubbing her hooves together for warmth.

My host and the others walked over the embankment and quickly made their way down the other side of the hill towards the forest. They crossed the field the zebra had been shot in earlier with ease, even though it was nearly pitch black out. Only Soothing Waved tripped a bit on one of the rocks strewn about, but she kept her pace with my host and Wheat.

Towards the tree line, we could make out the body of the fallen zebra mare from earlier. Soothing Wave ran over to the mare shining her flashlight into the mare’s eyes hoping to see some life left in them. I could see as my host approach that Soothing Waves hope was gone. The mare’s eyes were blank. Her body already had frost from the cold night forming on it. The flashlight illuminated the spot where the zebra was shot. It went straight threw her neck. Blood had pooled and dried under her. Soothing Wave sat up and lowered her head. “I wish I could have saved you.” She then careful closed the zebra’s eyes and turn back to the group.

“Was there anything you could have done to help her?” My host asked quietly.

Soothing Waved just shook her head “No. She was gone as soon as she was shoot. It just took her body a second to realise it, was all.” Soothing Waved said with sadness in her voice. “We should take the body with us and leave it outside the camp so they can find her tomorrow.” Soothing Wave said softly.

“We don’t have time and it’d be too risky to carry her around with us.” Wheat Grain said. “They snuck up on us once already out here, they can do it again to retrieve her on their own time.”

Soothing Waved nodded and sat up from the zebra, turning her flashlight off and plunging us all into darkness again.

“Okay let’s get moving.” My host said.

Stepping into the treeline it was once again nearly pitch black. My host and the others had to hold onto each others tails to keep together. There only guiding light was the light of a campfire somewhere in the distance, presumably from one of the zebra camps. I had to remark about the way these three moved into the forest. This time, the ponies were much quieter than the other ponies from the other orbs. It seemed that they learned a few tricks in training, and were taking lighter steps in the forest.

After about an hour of slow travel, they were standing just outside the edge of the zebra camp. I could see several tents around a large campfire with one tent having the zebra empire flag standing outside of it. Around the the other tents I could see crates and barrels of different supplies. Now that they were this close to the camp they had less darkness to take cover in and the guards were much closer.

“Okay, is there anything that looks like a supply tent or maybe a kitchen area?” My host asked, looking back to the others.

“Over there,” Wheat Grain pointed to one of the tents. “In there I’d bet.”

“Are you sure?” Soothing Waved asked softly.

“No, but we gotta start somewhere. We can't just stand out here and hope that a zebra puts up a sign that says ‘supplies are in here’.” Wheat Grain said. “Even if they did, we couldn’t read their scratch worth two bits anyway.”

“Fine. Let's just start checking their tents instead. There are about... eight tents, at least that I can see.” my host said looking back over at the camp bobbing his head as he counted the tents. The others grunted in confirmation, and the three of them turned to get moving again.

My host and the others slowly creeped towards the camp. Approaching closer and closer to the first tent. It was the easiest one to approach, as it blocked the campfire and let them see better around themselves slightly. They had to stop and drop down at one point to avoid a patrolling guard walking by, but they successfully remained undetected.

Wheat Grain was the first to reach the tent. He quietly lifted the flap and peaked under it. After a second he lowered the flap back down and shook his head. He then pointed to one of the zebras and then held his hooves up to his head and close his eyes. It seem he was telling the others that the tent was where some of the zebras were sleeping.

The next tent was only a few meters away, but required them to wait several minutes behind some barrels to avoid the patrolling guards that were nearby. My host took a few seconds to see what was in the barrels, hoping for some food. Only to be disappointed as it was only filled with water.

At the next tent, Soothing Wave was the one that leaned and took a peak. She quickly closed the tent flap, almost making an ‘eep’ sound. She had red blush across her face, and blinked a few times in shock. Wheat Grain and my host look confused by why she was blushing but it then became apparent by the sounds that were coming from the tent and the vagueness of the nearby tent flap that was moving back and forth. Everypony wanted to get out of that spot but were stuck till a patrolling zebra walked by.

The third tent was just on the other side of the outhouse that the zebras had set up. It was the easiest one to get to so far, as it seemed that no zebra wanted to be stationed near it. My host stepped forward and lifted the flap to peak in. It was a supply tent, but from the look of it, it only had crates of ammunition. From what I’d seen back at the camp, that was the one thing the squad already had plenty of.

There was now a problem. The other tents were on the other side of the camp, and that required them to sneak back into the forest and walk around to the other side. It had already taken far too long to get to this point, and going over there would take up more of the time that I knew they were running out, but there was no other way. The three of them slowly moved back out into the forest area and tried to move as quickly as they could but they were forced to stop and wait as my host step on a stick that he was not paying attention too and caused a guard to investigate. After the zebra walk off they were able to continue their progress. Soothing Wave made to the tent first. They finally hit something useful It was the medical tent. My host and Soothing Waved slowly slid under the tent while Wheat Grain stayed outside to kept watch saying he would tap on the tent incase a zebra approached.

Inside the tent it there was a dim light from the campfire outside At best I could make out the some of the boxes that were in the room along with a table that might of been used as for injured soldiers.. The light also revealed what was going to be the real difficulty for moving around undetected, only a meter away on another table,was a sleeping occupant. It was a zebra who had been shot. The injury seemed fresh and may had been another zebra that was injured in the fight earlier during the day. The bandages were lit up enough to show that she was shot in hind leg. Sitting on a tray next to the mare, I could make out what looked to be a few empty bottles that were roughly the same shape as the brews that Soothing used on the zebra earlier.

Soothing Waved slowly moved over to a shelf that had several papers sitting on it. She began to quietly look threw the papers carefully reading each one.

With a low hiss, Soothing got my hosts attention and waved him over. My host slowly crept across the tent and leaned into her. She put her muzzle up to his ear to keeping as quiet as possible.

“I found what we need but we need to find the plants and roots we need to make the goop,” Soothing Wave whispered and then pointed over to the boxes in one of the corners.

My host nodded and slowly crept over to the corner with three boxes sitting next to a empty table. Soothing Waved joined him careful nearly bumping into a box. She then began to look at each one careful inspecting the symbols on the box. She then pointed to one under one of the boxes it had what looked like a root symbol on it. Soothing leaned into my host and whispered “Help me move this box, I needed to get to the ingredients under it.”

Most host grab onto the box above and along with Soothing Wave they both careful and quietly lifted it and moved it over to the empty table. Soothing Wave then quickly but quietly rummage through the now exposed box. Inside had several different plants and roots. She pulled out some roots and what looked like some kind of berry.

Even from here, I could make out her smile in the darkness. Stuffing the ingredients into her medical saddlebag, she then turned and grabbed onto the box on the table again. My host followed suit, and they carefully placed it back on to the create without much of an issue.

As they were leaving, the zebra groggily woke up. I could feel the sudden tenseness that occurred between my host and Soothing. It must of been a very strong feeling, because that it was one of the first feelings I’d even felt from this host. The spells used to record the memories must have been getting better by this point, so that strong feelings were starting to get through to the viewer. My host turned to face the injured zebra. Soothing Wave was half way around the table when the zebra woke up. The look on Soothings Waves face was near terror

The zebra eyes stayed closed, but she began to speak in the zebras native tongue. Both my host and Soothing Waved look at each other. Not knowing what the zebra was saying. Soothing then notice the zebra pointing over to a canteen hanging from the table she was laying on. She grabbed the canteen and slow bringing it up to her own muzzle before sniffing softly at it’s contents. She seem satisfied that it was water, and placed it carefully in the hooves of the bandaged zebra. The zebra mare tooked a soft drink of the water and gave it back to Soothing Wave. The smile on her face seem to show enough thanks to Soothing Wave for her kindness. She then joined my host as they slipped under the tent flap to where Wheat Grain was hidden by a create.

“What took you so long?” Wheat Grain whisperd.

“Shhh,” My host replied back in a whisper. ‘There was a zebra in the tent.”

“I had to give her some water.” Soothing Waved whispered back. “Got recipe and ingredients for there bleeding goop.”

Wheat Grain looked surprised for a moment, then just shook his head.

The next tent to search was another bulky one. Much like the medical tent, it was large enough that multiple zebras could fit inside at once, so it was at least promising that it would have some sort of supplies inside if. It was Wheat's turn to look in it seemed, as he stepped up ahead of the others and gave a quick peak inside. The smile that graced his muzzle when he pulled it back out meant that he had probably found what they were looking for.

My host and the other slip inside the tent he stopped dead still to take in the sight before him. Fresh food nearly lined every table that had been set up inside here. Even I was jealous of the stacks of fresh grain and carrots that sat out, waiting to be taken. My host quickly sat his rifle down and grabbed a nearby bag and started to load some carrots and grain into it. Wheat Grain grabbed some cans of fruit as well as slid a whole platter of potatoes into the sack he’d grabbed. Soothing Wave simply collected some corn, carefully placing each ear into her medical bag.

“Okay, while you two were tucking in and reading bedtime stories to the zebra in the other tent I think I found the camp commander's tent. Though i'm not too sure how we are going to get to him.” Wheat Grain said placing another can into my host bag. “We’ll have get really close to the campfire, but I saw a workbench that I think one or two of use can fit behind and wait for the guards to pass. Actually, maybe you two should wait here while I go and see what we can steal from there.”

“No. We got what we needed.” Soothing Wave said. “We should get out of here. This is too dangerous now.”

“We need that information, Wave.” Wheat Grain replied in a harsh whisper. “It could help us!”

“I know bu-” Soothing Wave began to say but was suddenly interrupted.

The tent flap pulled open and a zebra mare walk in. They all looked at each other. My host glanced over at his rifle sitting there where he’d left it.

In that moment, everypony and from what I could tell the zebra whispered out the same statement.


Wheat Grain charged the zebra, shoving her out of the way as he shouted back at us. “Come on let's go!”

Soothing Waved followed suit, stepping over the shocked zebra mare who was still too out of it to get back to her hooves in time to do anything. My host began to follow as well, but by the time he’d started to move. the zebra had grabbed the standard issued sword that was sheathed on her side, holding her hoof out at my host as he slid to a stop.

“Place the bag down and surrender” the zebra ordered, glaring at my host as he simply stood there. My host had no real choice in the matter, and followed the instructions. The zebra mare angrily stepped up behind him and shoved him quite forcefully out of the tent.

Outside, I could see that Soothing Waved and Wheat Grain did not make it too far either in their escape. They both had their hooves up in the air, and were surrounded by five zebra guards pointing their rifles at them.

My host and his squad members had been captured. This was going to be a very interesting orb from here on out...