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My frends got me addicted to the stuff some time ago, so I'm sharing the love to all of you. here you can share, talk about, and make. I'll go first




This I just found it's called "Fallout: Equestria" and it is epic here is the intro, prolog and first 5 chapters




Mpl fall out intro 


Once upon a time, in the magical land of Equestria...

…there came an era when the ideals of friendship gave way to greed, selfishness, paranoia and a jealous reaping of dwindling space and natural resources.  Lands took up arms against their neighbors.   The end of the world occurred much as we had predicted -- the world was plunged into an abyss of balefire and dark magic.  The details are trivial and pointless. The reasons, as always, purely our own.  The world was nearly wiped clean of life.  A great cleansing; a magical spark struck by pony hooves quickly raged out of control.  Megaspells rained from the skies.  Entire lands were swallowed in flames and fell beneath the boiling oceans.  Ponykind was almost extinguished, their spirits becoming part of the ambient radiation that blanketed the lands.  A quiet darkness fell across the world...

…But it was not, as some had predicted, the end of the world.  Instead, the apocalypse was simply the prologue for another bloody chapter in pony history.  In the early days, thousands were spared the horrors of the holocaust by taking refuge in enormous underground shelters known as Stables.  But when they emerged, they had only the hell of the wastes to greet them.  All except those in Stable Two.  For on that fateful day when spellfire rained from the sky, the giant steel door of Stable Two swung closed, and never re-opened.

Fallout: Equestria





Prologue: Of PipBucks and Cutie Marks

If I’m going to tell you about the adventure of my life -- explain how I got to this place with these people, and why I did what I’m going to do next -- I should probably start by explaining a little bit about PipBucks.

What is a PipBuck?  A PipBuck is a device, worn on a foreleg just above the hoof, issued to every pony in a Stable when they become old enough to start work.  A blending of unicorn pony magic and science, your PipBuck will keep a constant measure of your health and even help administer healing poultices and other medicine, track and organize everything in your saddlepacks, assist in repairs, and keep all manner of notes and maps available at a hooftap.  Plus, it allows you to listen to the Stable broadcast whenever you would like as it can tune into and decrypt just about any radio frequency.  And that’s not all.  A pony’s PipBuck generates an E.F.S. (Eyes-Forward Sparkle) that will indicate direction and help gauge whether the ponies or creatures around you are hostile.  And, perhaps most impressively, a PipBuck can magically aid you in a fight for brief periods of time through use of the S.A.T.S. (Stable-Tec Arcane Targeting Spell).  Oh, and a feature not to be forgotten: it can keep track of the location of tagged objects or people, including the wearers of other PipBucks.  So if a pony somehow got lost -- don’t ask me how you could get lost in a Stable, but it does happen on occasion -- then anypony who knew the lost pony’s tag could find them instantly.  

It can even be made to glow like a lamp.

So yes, PipBucks really are a testament to unicorn pony arcane science.  And yes, having a PipBuck is a big advantage.  So with how wonderful and miraculous all that just sounded, it’s hard to impress upon ponies who never lived in a Stable just how ordinary, how pedestrian, a PipBuck was in the eyes of the ponies living in Stable Two.   And why I was disappointed to have one as my cutie mark.

Every pony in Stable Two had a PipBuck. All that stuff I mentioned?  Most ponies don’t use even half of that.  They just used it to tune into the Stable broadcast -- listened to the sweet, sweet voice of Velvet Remedy in the evenings or the latest school singing competitions during the day.  The Stable had two soccer leagues, one which allowed S.A.T.S. and one which prohibited it.  Otherwise, most ponies paid their PipBucks almost no attention at all.  The Overmare issues each pony their own PipBuck on the day of their Cutie Mark Party -- usually a day or two after you get the mark on your flanks that tells everypony what makes you special, what you’re destined to be good at.  Once it shows, the Overmare knows what work to assign you; you know your place in the Stable.  So no, I was not thrilled that what made me special was something that everypony had, which was a lot like being told I wasn’t special at all. Sure, getting a PipBuck as my cutie mark could have meant I was destined to become an awesome PipBuck repair filly or something, but in reality it was like getting a cutie mark of a cutie mark.

Didn’t help that I was the last pony to get her cutie mark.  Not surprising in retrospect.  Kinda tough to find what you’re supposed to be good at when what you’re supposed to be good at is something you don’t get until you’ve found what you’re supposed to be good at.  So I tried everything.  I even tried to invent new things.  As a unicorn pony myself, my innate magics allow me a level of fine manipulation that earth ponies don’t enjoy.  Any pony can hold a key in their teeth and open a lock, but using multiple tools in a very delicate operation?  That requires precision levitation.  So I decided to learn to pick locks with a bobby pin and screwdriver.  And I was even getting pretty good at it.  Unfortunately, it didn’t get me my cutie mark.  It just got me into trouble.  

I even, to my humiliation, went through the C.A.T.  (Cutie-mark Aptitude Test) in the hopes it would guide me to what made me special.  But no.  My C.A.T. was utterly average, with only marginally higher scores in a couple areas, indicating that I might be suited for work as a PipBuck Technician or a Stable Loyalty Inspector.  Two options, I should note, that were even less impressive when you considered that it was generally expected that unicorn ponies would go into either technical or administrative work.  That is, except the unicorn ponies who are natural artists, like Velvet Remedy.  As I said before, our inherent magic allows us the sort of fine manipulation that technical work demands.  Likewise, the Overmare and her government were always unicorn ponies.  It is the Overmare’s unicorn magic, after all, that creates the false sunlight used to grow our underground apple orchard.  And while our apples might not look like those beautiful red things in the old books, they are what keep us alive.

It was only because they let me try my hooves at both positions that I gained access to a PipBuck before receiving my own, otherwise I might never have gotten my cutie mark.

Oh, my name is LittlePip.  Go figure.  I was given the name because I was the youngest and the smallest, and even my mother had the good sense not to call me “Pipsqueak.” (Not that I don’t love her, but when a filly’s cutie mark is a glass of hard apple cider...)  Anyway, funny how names like that turn out sometimes.


non-euclidean fuck machine

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Chapter 1


Chapter One: Out of the Stable

“Because in Stable Two, no pony ever enters and no pony ever leaves.”


The walls of the maintenance stalls were all a very monotonous, dull grey.  The particular wall I was staring at had the merit of being a very clean grey.  PipBucks were notoriously hardy and reliable, so being the Stable’s PipBuck Technician meant that there were long periods of nothing to do.  Being the PipBuck Technician’s apprentice meant that I was assigned all the mundane daily chores while my trainer took extended naps in the back room.  Chores like cleaning the walls.

“This wall needs a mural.”  

I let myself fantasize, picturing the Overmare agreeing and ordering Palette herself to turn our entire stall into one of her brightly colorful masterpieces.  Palette was the greatest painter in Stable Two, and like every skilled artist, that made her a stable treasure.  Life in Stable Two inevitably began to eat at your spirit -- you were born in the Stable, you lived your whole life in the Stable, you were going to die there, and the course of your life was largely laid out for you to see by your Cutie Mark Party.  So the Overmare insisted that a new song be added to the Stable broadcast’s repertoire each week, that public areas were brightly painted and adored with uplifting and motivational murals, that regular parties were planned in the atrium… all in an effort to distract and stave off depression.

Reality came crashing back as I stared at the eternally blank grey.  Beautifying maintenance areas was tragically low priority already, and the PipBuck Technician stall was one of the least trafficked parts of maintenance.  I felt my ears droop as I started to realize that I’d be staring at this same grey wall nearly every day for the rest of my life.  

“Oh dear.  Is it really that bad.”

And there she was.  Velvet Remedy, the gorgeous charcoal-coated unicorn with streaks of color in her white mane and with a voice as smooth as silk and rich as finest chocolate, was standing in the doorway of my stall.  I felt immediately grateful that I had finished the cleaning and simultaneously ashamed that the room was so beneath her.  

I couldn’t believe she was standing there.  I’d seen her on the stage above us at late parties; I’d listened to her songs incessantly, recording every new one on my PipBuck so that I didn’t have to wait to hear it again.  I’ll admit it now, I’d had a crush on Velvet Remedy for years.  Me and at least three hundred other ponies.  My mother used to laugh at that.  “LittlePip,” she would say, chortling with her friends, “Velvet Remedy’s barn door doesn’t swing that way.”  It took me a couple years to understand what my mother had meant by that.  And took me several seconds to process that Velvet Remedy had just asked me something.


Wonderful response, LittlePip.  So elegant.  I wanted to dig my way through the concrete floor and pull the chunks over the top of me.

She smiled sweetly.  She smiled at me!  And in that amazing voice, “You looked so heartbroken when I came in.  Is there anything I can do?”

Velvet Remedy offered.  To help.  Me.

I was shocked back to my senses.  Velvet Remedy must have some reason to be down here.  Some PipBuck reason.  It wasn’t like she would just go wandering around maintenance, after all.  Looking around, I realized that I was the only pony on duty.  My teacher was, as usual, asleep in his office.  

“Oh… no, it was n-nothing.”  I tried to regain composure.  “How may I be of assistance?”

Velvet Remedy’s expression was both compassionate and unconvinced, but she lifted a forehoof, raising her PipBuck up to my gaze.  A more elegant model than mine, with her initials and cutie mark (a beautiful bird with wings outstretched and beak opened in song) embellishing it tastefully.  “I hate to be a bother, but it’s begun to chafe.  Could you replace the padding?”

“Oh, absolutely!”  I was already levitating the special keys used to unlock a PipBuck from a pony’s foreleg (as an apprentice PipBuck Technician, I had all manner of special precision tools in the pockets of my utility barding).  “I’ll have it done in right quick!”  The PipBuck came off with a click.


Velvet Remedy chuckled hesitantly, lowering her hoof.  “Oh no, that’s all right.  Take your time.  I’m going to put some salve on this leg back in my room and rest up for the afternoon.”

That’s right!  Velvet Remedy was performing at the Stable Two Saloon tomorrow night!  I would have to polish it up, make it worthy of being worn above her hoof.  If I spent all night on it, I could give it a full tune-up, have it running as smoothly as the day she got it, and still have it back to her before the show.  

“All right!  I’ll have it back to you by this time tomorrow.  You won’t be disappointed.  I promise!”

She smiled at me again, and all the grey in the world couldn’t darken my day.  “Thank you.”  And then she turned to go.  I watched as her cutie mark disappeared around the doorway.  Then she was gone.

***     ***     ***

The next day, I was whistling one of Velvet Remedy’s songs as I walked down the halls towards her room.  Her PipBuck was hovering along beside me in a field of magical levitation, freshly padded with the best lining I could find, looking shiny and new.  I was tired from a long night or work, but in high spirits.  Velvet Remedy was going to be so happy with my work!

Turning the corner, I was startled out of my reverie by the mass of ponies gathered outside Velvet Remedy’s room.  Damn, I was going to have to battle my way through hoof-print seekers and paparazzi.  Levitating the PipBuck higher, I started to shove my way into the crowd.

“She’s gone!”  “How could she leave?”  The hushed voices and panicked whinnies around me grew alarming.  “Why would she abandon us?”  

Gone?  Velvet Remedy was… gone?  

And then the words that stopped me cold.  “I didn’t think the Stable door even could open!”

She was gone outside?!?

“Don’t worry, everypony!” boomed the voice of the Overmare from somewhere in the crowd.  “I have the tag of each and every pony in the Stable.  I will personally send out a rescue party.  We’ll have our Velvet back by the end of the day.  Worry not.”

I felt I was drowning in cold, wet cement.  My gaze slowly moved up towards the PipBuck floating above me.

I lowered my head, slowly trying to back out of the crowd, curling the floating PipBuck close.  When the Overmare brought up Velvet Remedy’s tag, it would lead everypony not to Velvet but to her PipBuck sitting in the maintenance…

With a thump, I backed into somepony, startling me enough that the levitation field evaporated in a poof and the clean and shiny PipBuck clattered to the floor.

Turning, I found myself eye-to-eye with the Overmare.  

She didn’t speak, her gaze turning to the PipBuck on the ground.  Velvet Remedy’s initials and cutie mark clearly visible.

“What.  Is.  This?”  The Overmare spoke slowly, dangerously.

All eyes turned to me.  I could feel every pair of eyes.  Nobody spoke.  The silence bore down like a lead blanket.  My mouth went dry.  I couldn’t find my voice.  

I didn’t need to.  I could feel the wave of loathing.  Dozens of Velvet Remedy fanponies, and I was the pony holding the reason why their idol was lost to them.

The Overmare’s voice was low and surprisingly gentle.  “Take it and go to your room.  Swiftly.”

She didn’t need to tell me twice.

***     ***     ***

I lay on my bed that evening, poking at Velvet Remedy’s PipBuck as the radio in my own played yet another re-iteration of the tragedy of the day.  

I couldn’t believe it.  Velvet Remedy was gone.  I couldn’t understand.  How could she leave?  Why would she go?  

The door out of Stable Two was closed and sealed.  Only the Overmare knew the secrets to opening it, assuming it even could open.  Which, obviously, it could.  

But why?  Nobody really knew what was outside, if there was anything out there at all.  Historical books suggested the world outside was blasted, lifeless and poisonous.  That was, at least, the common and logical assumption.  But a ghost story somepony told at my first (and only) slumber party had given me horrible nightmares and still lurked in the shadows of my head: a tale of a pony who somehow got the Stable door open and stepped outside… only to find out that there was no outside!  Just a great nothingness that whisked the pony away, devouring her soul so that she was nothingness too.

Empirically, I knew that wasn’t the case, but the mental image still haunted me.

The two things I did understand was that Velvet Remedy had gotten me to remove her PipBuck so the Overmare couldn’t track her with it, and that I was screwed.

Being the smallest pony my age, and the last to get my cutie mark, did not facilitate building friendships with my peer ponies.  Mother honestly didn’t help either.  Nor did waking up screaming at my first slumber party.  So I was used to being alone.  But I’d never had enemies before.  I’d been beneath the notice of other ponies, but I’d never had one hate me.  

I really couldn’t blame them either, even though it totally wasn’t fair.  They were upset and hurt and needed a scapegoat.  The news hadn’t mentioned me by name, just “Velvet Remedy’s custom-decorated PipBuck was found in the possession of a PipBuck Technician pony”, but with a whole two of us, it wasn’t hard for everypony to figure out, even without the scene outside her room earlier.  

The Overmare was speaking on the radio.  “We are all feeling this loss.  But I want to remind everypony that Velvet Remedy chose to do this.  She chose to leave her home.  To abandon us, her family.  She betrayed my trust and she betrayed yours, just as she betrayed the trust of the pony who she tricked into removing her PipBuck, ensuring we could not find her.  I know many of you are angry or hurt.  I urge you to direct that anger where it truly belongs…”

As thankful as I was for her words, it wasn’t going to change the resentment that I would face every day, even if every pony kept it to themselves.  It hung in the air like old smoke.

I distracted myself with the errant PipBuck, taking note of an encrypted file.  I had spotted it yesterday, figuring it was probably an unfinished new song.  I didn’t want to open it then, both out of respect for Velvet Remedy’s privacy and a dislike of spoilers, but I guessed it didn’t matter anymore.  The song would never be played.

Opening a pouch on my utility barding, I withdrew an access tool that would allow me to remove the encryption safely and easily.  It was a sound file.  I played it.

“The override code for opening the door to Stable Two is… CMC3BFF.”

I shot up in surprise at what I had heard.  Swiftly, I turned off the radio and played it again.

I didn’t recognize the voice.  It was female, kinda sweet, and had a strange accent that didn’t sound like anyone in the Stable.   But now I knew how Velvet Remedy left.

I must have sat there for hours, contemplating what I should do.  But finally, I made my choice.  

I was going to go outside after her.  I was going to bring her back.

***     ***     ***

I stood there, staring at the huge steel door that sealed Stable Two away from the horrors (or nothingness!) outside. And at the two guard ponies who blocked my way.  I had my saddlebags packed with apples and necessities.  Even a Big Book of Arcane Sciences for something to read.  I had two canteens around my neck.  I was ready to go.  But the Overmare was making sure there were no follow-up acts.

Insistence and glowering looks weren’t getting me anywhere.  My horn was glowing, but they stood their ground, unimpressed.  They weren’t going to let me anywhere near the control panel.  

“Hey, aren’t you the filly who let our Velvet get lost outside anyway?”  one of the guards inquired daringly, taking a bullying step forward.  The other guard looked away in disgust.  I’m not sure if he was disgusted at me, or if he felt like the Overmare seemed to about ponies wanting to take it out on me.  I was kinda hoping it was the former, considering what I was about to do to them.


The metal footlocker above them dropped onto their heads, knocking both out cold.  Earth ponies -- they never see that levitating-something-up-behind-you trick coming.

I was at the controls, entering the passcode from Velvet Remedy’s PipBuck when the Overmare’s voice boomed through nearby speakers.

“Stop!  I order you to stop this instant!”

Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen.

“Guards!   I want every guard pony at Stable Two door!  Stop that filly!”

Oh crap!

My hooves flew up to the main switch for the door, and I prayed to Celestia that the code worked.  Then, with all my strength, I threw the switch.

A loud clanging filled the air, followed by a hissing of steam and a great rumble that shook the room.  As I watched, the massive bolt that held the door from Stable Two shut slid back.  A huge hinge-arm swung down, attaching itself to the door, and with a teeth-hurting squeal, pulled the massive steel door out and away.

Randomly, I found myself thinking in my mother’s voice “Stable Two’s barn door doesn’t swing that way.”  The door to Stable Two wasn’t supposed to swing at all.  Even though I threw the switch, I was stunned to see it actually open.  

“You don’t have to do this… LittlePip, isn’t it?”  The Overmare’s voice kicked me out of my stupor. I could hear the hooves of galloping guards drawing near.  

I took a step towards the door.  “Don’t worry.  I’ll bring her back.”

“No you won’t!  If you leave here, you’ll never be let back in!”

For a moment, the unfairness stung.  The Overmare was willing to send out a search party to bring Velvet Remedy back.  But then, Velvet was special, and I was… not.

Part of me wanted to turn back right there, crawl back to my room and my dreary but safe life.  

Drawing myself up, I stepped out the door.

***     ***     ***

With a final hiss and clang, the steel door of Stable Two closed irrevocability behind me.  

I don’t know what I expected to find just beyond the door, but it certainly wasn’t this long, dark hallway that smelled of rotting timbers and sepulcher air.  I was no longer in the Stable.  But I wasn’t outside yet either.  I was in limbo.

I turned on my PipBuck’s light, and recoiled with a gasp at the skeletons of long-dead ponies which littered the hall.  The outside of the Stable door was marred from where ponies had slammed on it until their hooves cracked and shattered, trying to get in.Moving forward quickly, I discovered that the hallway opened into an old room with stairs leading up to a horizontal door with a shattered lock.  The entrance from the outside world into Stable Two had been cleverly disguised as the door to a humble apple cellar.  And by disguised, I meant that the person who built it had been building an apple cellar.

Taking a deep breath, I trotted up the stairs, swung open the cellar door, and stepped outside.

Footnote: Level Up.  

New Perk: Cherchez La Filly -- +10% damage to the same sex and unique dialogue options with certain ponies.



Chapter 2


Chapter Two: Equestrian Wasteland

“What world do you live in?  Out here in the real world, blood flows, little pony.  Blood flows...”


My first several seconds outside were a heart-bursting eternity of hoof-pounding terror!  The story had been right!  All that was outside was a great black nothingness!  It surrounded me, suffocating.  If I had been able to draw breath, I would have screamed.

And then my eyes started to adjust to the darkness.  I began to calm, gasping, feeling weak (and not just a little foolish).  In my defense, I had never experienced night before.  Not really.  Sure, I’d always turned off the lights before curling into bed, but that darkness was small, confined to my little room.  And there was always the glow from under the door.  The hall lights of Stable Two were eternal.  

This was different.  A cool air, quite unlike anything within the Stable, tickled my coat and chilled my skin beneath.  It bore smells that were dank and rotting, dusty and alien.  I could hear the sounds of night insects, creaking of wood and a far-off sloshing... but I was struck more by what I couldn’t hear -- the constant low hum of the Stable’s generators and the ever-present high whine of the lights were gone -- so powerful in their absence that I first mistook the outside as silent.  I could feel dirt and broken stone beneath my hooves, so unlike the smooth and sterile floors I had trotted all my life.  And though I could not see much or far, I could see further than I had ever seen before, and there were no walls to mark the end of the room.  I was staring into a horizontal abyss that stretched out from me in every direction.

An entirely new panic began to form within me.  My hind legs went out from under me and I sat, stunned.  I turned my gaze to the ground, breathing deeply, thanking it not only for holding me up, but being a visual endpoint.  Then I made the mistake of looking up into the sky, and the absolute endless up-ness of it sent my head spinning and my stomach lurching.    Great masses of clouds rolled over most of the sky; but there were gaps through which soft light poured and through those I could see the up went on forever.  Insanely, I thought of the clouds as a great net, made to catch me if I fell from the earth into the yawning gulf above; but if I slipped through the holes, I would just fall up forever.

I clenched my eyes shut and tried to keep from vomiting.

The fear and queasiness was intense but passing.  Once my faculties returned, I began to notice those things that had escaped me in my initial panic.  The surrounding  terrain was becoming evident.  The world around me did not stretch out evenly; the ground heaved and rolled -- hills creeping towards mountains.  The earth was punctured by the upthrusting black fingers of long-dead trees.  Along distant hilltops, I could see the swaying, leaf-shrouded branches of healthier woods, but the living trees near Stable Two were few, scattered and sickly.  

Second, I noticed that my PipBuck was flashing with a host of alerts.  The map-maker was already beginning to do its work on my new and unfamiliar surroundings, and to my surprise had already pulled a label from the ether: Sweet Apple Acres.

Turning around to get my bearings, my eyes were drawn to the large, hollowed husk of what I assumed had once been a magnificent house.  Now, it creaked and swayed in the breeze as if threatening to collapse.

Looking to my PipBuck again, I noticed that it was picking up several radio transmissions.  The radio broadcast from Stable Two was dark, but new stations had taken its place.  My heart leapt, for it was the first indication that there might be pony life out here after all.  I nudge my PipBuck to start playing the first station on the list.

“...still sealed up.  There is no way inside.  My son, he ate one of the apples from those damned apple trees up near the Stable, and now he’s terribly sick.  Too sick to move.  We’ve holed up in the cistern near the old memorial.  We’re running out of food and medical supplies.  Please, if anypony hears this, help us...  Message repeats.  Hello?  Is there anypony out there?  Please, we need help!  I was bringing my family to the Stable up near Sweet Apple Acres when we were attacked by raiders.  Only my son and I survived.  We made it to the Stable, but it’s still sealed up.  There is no way inside.  My son, he ate one of the apples from those damned apple trees up near the Stable, and now he’s terribly sick.  Too sick to move.  We’ve holed up in the cistern near the old memorial.  We’re running out of food and medical supplies.  Please, if anypony hears this, help us...  Message repeats.  Hello?...”

A voice was filled with a terrible resignation, as if the pony had already given up hope and was just going through the motions.  Shaken, I turned it off.  I didn’t think I could bear to hear it again.  That is when I noticed the soft ticking from my PipBuck.  Checking it over, I discovered that its radiation detector -- a feature I had never known to be used, had self-activated.  The cute little rainbow dial had always been planted firmly in the green.  It was still there, but edging discreetly towards the yellow.

I couldn’t just stand here beside what had long, long ago been the door to a simple apple cellar for the rest of my life.  Well, I could, but it would be a relatively short and miserable life.  A realization was dawning on me: with so many directions to go, what was the likelihood that I would chose the path that Velvet Remedy had followed?  Even though she only had a few hours head start, the prospect of finding her was bleak.  

But I had to start somewhere.  And the best chance I had was to get up high and have a look around.  The ruins near me rose higher than any of the nearby trees, and the sheered-off roof of its upper tower was probably the best vantage point I could hope for.  I closed my eyes, steadied myself, and went inside.

***     ***     ***

What was left of the Sweet Apple Acres building proved sturdier than it looked (or sounded).  It was also almost barren, anything of value that had survived had been looted, leaving only scraps that nobody wanted but that time itself seemed unable to erase.  Rusted shoes, boxes of soaps for cleaning dresses that no longer existed, a pitchfork with a shattered handle, a rake.

I began up the stairs.  My eyes were alerted to a feeble glow, the soft green color of a poisoned apple, bathing the room above.  The glow came from the screen of an old terminal, a device of arcane science identical to the ones used throughout Stable Two. It seemed miraculous that it still worked after centuries on the outside.  When Stable-Tec built something, they built it to last.  

Curiosity lured me to it, and my wonder was quickly replaced with understanding.  It was no coincidence that this particular terminal was live, for on it was a fresh message:

To any pony who has left Stable Two in search of me:

Please, go home.  I am doing what I have to do.  The Overmare understands, even if she can never agree, and I hope one day you will to.  I will not be back.  Do not look for me.  Do not endanger yourself further for my sake.  Please forgive me.

Velvet Remedy

I searched the terminal for more, but all the other messages were ancient and corrupted save for one.  And that one had a rather unique encryption, something I had heard of but never seen before -- a binary encryption such that in order to decrypt it, I would first have to download the message into my PipBuck from both the terminal which had been used to send it and the one upon which it was received.  

Having nothing better to do with the vast amounts of storage my PipBuck was capable of, I downloaded it.  In reality, I knew that the chances that I would ever come across the companion terminal, much less that it would be functional, were overwhelmingly against me.  Nor did I have any reason to believe a message centuries old would be of any significance.  

More importantly, I now had to face that outside was my new home.  Even if I found Velvet Remedy, it was unlikely that she would accompany me back.  I’ll admit, I had been subtly entertaining a fantasy where the Overmare would be so delighted with Velvet’s return that she would embrace us both back into the herd.  Maybe even throw me a party.  Now, I was forced to admit how foalish that vision was.

Thinking upon this made my head fill with black clouds.  But as I reached the top of the ruins and looked out over the wasteland, a bright light, feeble as it was, flickered in that darkness... just as the light from the campfire, not half an hour’s trot distant, poked an orange hole in the night.

***     ***     ***

As I approached the circle of firelight, I knew something was off.  Something about the way the dusty beige unicorn was laying on his mat of straw, legs curled up under him.  Some tenseness in his body language.  But it wasn’t until I stepped hoof into the light and got a good look -- a warm “Hello” dying on my lips -- that I saw he was gagged, and caught the glint of the flames against a few expose links in the chains binding his hooves.

“Well lookee here!  Walked up all nice and pleasant, didn’t she?”  A large earth pony emerged from the shadows of a nearby rock.  His hooves clacked metallically against the rocky ground, shod in cruelly spiked ponyshoes.  Two more ponies slid out of hiding on opposite sides -- one another earth pony holding a shovel whose blade had been lethally sharpened, the other a unicorn whose glowing horn levitated towards me a short instrument of wood and metal with two barrels.  Each pony wore barding made from thick hide.  Much like night, I had never seen a firearm before, save for pictures in books.  But those books were more than explicit enough for me to recognize the mortal threat.  

The bound unicorn on the mat shook his head with a sad yet derisive look and began trying the scrape the gag away with a forehoof, no longer making effort to keep the chains secret.  The three ponies menacing me spared him only the occasional glance.

“Might as well have trussed herself up for us,” the gun-wielding unicorn snickered.  Then, addressing me, “You wouldn’t mind, would you?”

Laughter.  “And another unicorn too.  She’ll fetch a pretty price, this one.”

Fetch a price for what?  And from whom?

The one holding the shovel-spear in his mouth mumbled something incomprehensible.  Then, apparently deciding the gun was sufficient deterrent, spat out his weapon and re-iterated, “By the Go... I mean, look at her!  I think she’s taken a bath!”

I was suddenly and bizarrely aware of how filthy all four of the ponies were, and how foul they smelled.  I managed to cover a gag with a sneeze.  

“What’s going on?” I asked.  Of the emotions battling for supremacy in my head, confusion had clawed its way to victory.

The captive unicorn finally succeeded in pulling the filthy gag free.  “They’re slavers, you idiot.”

***     ***     ***

Monterey Jack, the dirty beige unicorn with dour expression and a cutie mark that looked like cheese, followed behind me as we trudged alongside our captors, walking a broken path that once was a road.  My legs were in chains, making walking difficult and anything more speedy than a trot impossible.  My PipBuck had stymied the slavers efforts to bind my forelegs, eventually forcing them to chain me above the knees.  Had the one with the shovel-spear not been holding its point dangerously against my throat, the other two would have gotten a few hooves to tender places for their efforts.  As it was, they made short work of me.

I was not gagged, but Monterey had convinced me early that unnecessary chatter from the slaves-to-be would likely result in the loss of my tongue.  Not that I had much to say to these brutes anyway aside from my repertoire of colorful metaphors.  I didn’t expect they would answer my questions, even if my tongue should survive the asking, and they were being chatty enough with each other to suffice.

“Hate thef fart,” grumbled the earth pony through the spear clenched in his teeth.

“Well then, if you would just learn to swim, we could take the long way, couldn’t we?” suggested the unicorn with poisoned sweetness.

“Hate fuffen sweffey.”  By his smell, decidedly more pungent than the others, I guessed he just hated water in general.

“How about you stop complaining and I’ll let you sample one of the slaves before we get to the forest.”  Their leader, the earth pony named Cracker with the spiked shoes and a cutie mark that looked suspiciously like a whip (or maybe a snake?), turned back towards Monterey and I with a filthy smile.


I looked away.  They laughed.  

Through their disgusting dialogue, I could hear a liquid sound ahead.  Not like a burbling water fountain but closer to a sloughing muck.  And... something else.  A distant sound, getting closer.  Music?  Yes, music.  Slightly tinny yet... triumphant?  Regal?  I couldn’t put my hoof on exactly what feeling the music was trying to inspire, but it was brightly out-of-place.

Cracker took note of my expression and smirked.  “You look like you’ve never heard that before.  What, did you live your life in a Stable?  If you’re hoping for the cavalry, that ain’t it filly.  That’s just one of those sprite-bots.”

The music cut out with a sharp twang.

The unicorn slaver, Sawed-Off, trotted ahead a bit, peering down the path ahead.  Turning back to the rest of us, he smirked.  “Think one of the radigators got it?”

Cracker suggested it flew into somepony’s booby trap.  The other earth pony suggested a mouthful of spear-mangled mumbling.  The unicorn turned forward again and the glow from his horn illuminated the machine -- a metal ball about the size of a foal’s head floating on four silently flapping wings – hovering silently right in front of his face.  No arcane science this, I could tell; it was pure earth pony engineering.

 “FUCK!”   Sawed-Off leapt back a full pony’s length in surprise.  Then swung his shotgun to bear and fired it at the sprite-bot.  The sound was like a metal plate falling from the ceiling, and it echoed through the night-darkened hills.  Sparks specked the metal ball as it was peppered with scattershot.  It let out an electric whine and darted into the darkness.

The unicorn almost took off after it, but Cracker’s voice cut the distance between them, “That’s enough, Sawed-Off.  Save your ammo.”

“Dammit, I hate when they pull that stealthy shit.  It’s a flying fucking radio; it’s not supposed to sneak up on ponies.”

My ears were burning from the free flow of crude profanity, but I didn’t mind.  I was mulling over what I had just seen.

“Idiot,” muttered Monterey Jack under his breath.  “They heard that all the way in Ponyville...”

Unlike my fellow slave, I was pleased to have witnessed the unicorn firing off his weapon.  Because now I knew how it worked.

“...What kind of damned fool,” Monterey grumbled, “announces his presence this close to raider territory.”

***     ***     ***

A river slithered across our path, its waters slipping and oozing along its banks, half-stagnant.  The water lapped and sucked at the supports of a bridge, making the wet sounds I had been hearing.  Beyond the bridge lurked the shattered remains of a pre-war town.

The bridge was a maze of barricades.  Dark shadows of ponies moved about it.  Briefly I may have made the mistake of hoping for rescue; but my eyes were drawn to the spiked poles that lined the bridge, and the still rotting heads of decapitated ponies that adorned two of them.  

I tasted bile.  The sight was horrific.  

“Cager, stay here,” Cracker said, finally putting a name to the spear-wielding slaver pony.  “Sawed-Off, let’s go hear what the toll is this time.”

Monterey Jack lowered his head and looked balefully towards the bridge.  I moved closer to him, following his example, and hoping that I had positioned myself so Cager couldn’t see the faint glow from my horn as I slipped my screwdriver and a bobby pin from my stable utility barding.  Like all of the slavers’ equipment, the manacles on my legs were crude and of low quality.  As Cracker and Sawed-Off argued with the bridge ponies, I focused on picking the first lock.  I was rewarded with a soft click as it sprung open, releasing my PipBuck foreleg.  The manacle fell to the ground with a little thump.  

“Hhu!”  Cagey’s ears had shot up, and now he moved around to see me.  Swiftly, I cut the magic, dropping the screwdriver and bobby pin into the dirt, and hoped that in the darkness the slaver couldn’t see the change in my chains.  

“Wuf hoo uf foo?”  Cagey growled dangerously.  The nasty sharp edge of the shovel hovered inches from my eyes.  


Cagey turned abruptly, the spear-shovel slashing close enough to my face that I shrieked.  The gunshot was from the bridge.  It didn’t sound like Sawed-Off’s shotgun.  But the second shot did.

It took Cagey a breath to recognize that crossing the bridge had become a bloody affair.  Glowering back at us, his posture threatening, he started to say... something.  I suspect he was warning us to stay put, but I’ll never know.  His head exploded, showering me with gore.

I stood there, eyes wide, shaking with shock.  Blood, warm and sticky, ran down my forehead and into my left eye, oozed into my coat and mane.  

In the growing list of things I’d not seen before this night, the death of another pony ranked at the top.  I blinked, feeling the blood on my eyelid.  Cagey was dead!  And I had Cagey all over me!!

The urge to throw myself into the river was overwhelming.  But I wouldn’t get to it like this.  Pushed by something more than determination now, my horn once again glowed and I and began to unlock the rest of my manacles.

I spared a glance towards the bridge, seeing Sawed-Off hunkering down beside one of the barricades as he magically pulled his shotgun open, stuffing in more ammo.  Two shots, I realized.  One at the sprite-bot, one just now.  Two shots, and then reload.  Closing the weapon, he levitated it up above the barricade and shot blindly into the violent milieu, spraying an already wounded raider pony with scattershot.  The pony staggered and fell.  

Unfortunately for Sawed-Off, the raider behind him had a different kind of shotgun, one that was faster and not limited to two shots, that fired slugs which tore great holes in the unicorn slaver’s body the moment he looked up to see the results of his effort.

I turned away, cringing from the nightmare playing out before me.  I focused on the locks.

***     ***     ***

I had freed myself and was beginning to free Monterey when two raider ponies trotted off the bridge towards us, stepping over the battle-mutilated corpses of Cracker, Sawed-Off and the raiders they had taken down with them.  One of those approaching was the unicorn raider wielding the devastating combat shotgun.  The other, an earth pony with a sledgehammer in its teeth.  The unicorn was laughing.  Not the mean laugh of Cracker, but a crazed laugh that sent chills down the back of my neck.

“Looks like we got ourselves some prizes!”

The earth pony chortled behind the sledgehammer as the unicorn looked us over appraisingly.  The two were somehow even filthier than the slavers.  The unicorn bore jagged scars across her face and flanks, one of them tearing through her cutie mark, several freshly bleeding.  The earth pony was hairless and painfully burned over much of her left side.  Both wore barding that looked ragged and cobbled together.

“help us?” I suggested weakly.

“Oh, I’ll help myself to you, all right!”  The unicorn reared up and gave me a kick, her hoof striking hard into my side.  Pain exploded and I dropped, gasping.  Rearing up again, she brought her full weight down on me.  I howled.

Near me, Monterey let out a wet grunt of pain as the earth pony gave him a taste of her sledgehammer.  Leaving me in a crying huddle, the unicorn also turned her attention to the still-chained Monterey.  In moments it became clear they intended to beat and bludgeon him until he was another lifeless corpse.  And probably not stop then.  

“Hold his leg out.  I’m gonna shoot his hooves off!”  The unicorn raider floated the combat shotgun a foot from Monterey’s splayed left hindleg, the only one I had freed from its manacle.

Ignoring the pain, I leapt up, closing the distance and spinning as I gave a fierce back-kick.  My hooves connected with the shotgun, sending it flying.  It clattered onto the bridge beyond.  A moment later, I was levitating the shovel-spear at the two raider ponies who stood facing me with gleeful expressions.  Two against one, and both of them were experienced fighters.  The one with the sledgehammer stepped closer, as if eager to see if hammer beat knife.

Monterey was on her in an instant, throwing his forelegs over her head, pulling the chain between them across her neck.  The sledgehammer fell from her mouth as the raider pony choked.

The unicorn turned, surprised by the sudden change in odds.  I could have attacked her then, but threatening a pony is much different than actually attacking one.  I wasn’t sure I had it in me to slash at another pony, to draw her blood.  To maim, or possibly kill.

The unicorn kicked up the fallen sledgehammer and turned to face me with it, murder in her eyes.  And suddenly, I found it easy to thrust the shovel-spear forward.  I was no longer struggling with following through on a threat; this was survival.  Self-preservation is instinctual; it clears away the moral hesitations.   And while I did not have the fighting skills of my opponent, I did have an advantage all my own.   S.A.T.S.

Aided by the targeting spell of my PipBuck, I sent the spear slashing across her knees, hobbling her.  A second slash, this time across her face, relieved her of her weapon.  The third would be a killing blow...

...except I wasn’t ready to do that.  Not yet.  Instead, I swung the spear around, cracking her across the head with its handle, hard enough to splinter the wood.  The unicorn raider fell at my feet, unconscious.

I looked up.  Monterey was standing, chest heaving, over the body of the earth pony raider, the life choked out of her.  He was staring at me quietly.  Then finally raised a forehoof, only for the chain to clank tight before he had it more than a few inches off the ground.

“Oh!”  Dropping the shovel-spear, I turned on the light of my PipBuck and searched about for my screwdriver.  I had lost the bobby pin; there was no chance of finding it in the dirt at night.  But I had more.

Once we were both free, Monterey limped slowly over to the bridge.  A moment later, he returned, his horn glowing a gentle beige.  Sawed-Off’s shotgun followed him.  Before I could react, he aimed it at the head of the unconscious unicorn raider and fired.  

Her blood began to seep across the ground towards my hooves.  I watched in stunned silence as he turned and began prodding at the bodies, tugging items from them.  

Finally, I found my voice.  “What are you doing?”

He looked at me as if I was stupid.  “Checking to see if they have anything valuable on them.  With luck, food.”  I nodded, watching him move to the bodies at this end of the bridge.  Looting the bodies of the dead felt wrong; but a cold, rational part of me murmured that it was a qualm I would have to get over in order to survive.  And imagine how embarrassed I'd be if I starved to death out here because I'd been too shy to check a dead pony's bag for a pouch of oats or a can of old applesauce?  I moved a bit further down the bridge.

I looked over the body of a dead raider pony, his face bloody and torn from Cracker’s ponyshoes.  I started to go through the pockets of his barding, but my stomach rebelled, and I flung myself to the railing, heaving my lunch into the foul river below.  A large break in the clouds brought a soft and silvery light to everything, and I could see my reflection in the water, still covered with Cagey’s drying blood.  

Then I saw Sawed-Off’s shotgun hovering in the air behind my head.

“I’ll be taking what you have too,” Monterey Jack informed me with a bored drawl.

“w-What?”  I turned slowly to see him standing on the bridge, bathed in moonlight, his horn glowing a soft beige light.  The shotgun floated between is, pointed at me.  

“b-But I just saved you!”

“Yeah.  And for that, I’m not going to kill you.”  His eyes narrowed.  “Unless, of course, you do something stupid right now.”

“But I just saved you!”  

“Aren’t you top of your class,” he said snidely.

“We should work together!  Travel together!”

Monterey snorted.  “And split our limited provisions?  Go to sleep with one eye open each night, hoping to catch you when you try to stab me in the back.  No thanks.”

My righteous disbelief stopped short of denial.  Suddenly, I was so very weary.  Nodding, I lowered my head and let my two canteens slip free.  I then backed up so he could approach them.  I turned my head to start unclasping my saddle bags.  

I saw it on the bridge just beyond my tail.

Turning back to Monterey, my own horn was glowing.  And the combat shotgun whipped into the air.  For a long moment, we stood there, two unicorn ponies on a bridge, surrounded by bodies, shotguns floating between us, aimed at each other.  Moonlight shone down on us from the break in the clouds.

Monterey Jack broke the silence, “You’re not going to use that.  I saw you spare that raider.  If you couldn’t kill a pony like that, you don’t have it in you to kill me.”

I narrowed my eyes.  “I’m a quick study.”

He huffed, but didn’t move.  “Do you even know how to use that thing?”

I forced a smile across my face.  “Do you know that you only have one shot left?  And judging by the sprite-bot, that gun is in such poor repair I’ll survive being shot with it.  Will you survive being shot with this as many times as I can move the trigger while you try to reload?”

Monterey Jack took a step back.  And with that falter, my smile was no longer forced.  “And I’ll be taking my canteens back.”

***     ***     ***

Ponyville.  I wondered just how my PipBuck knew the names of places before I did.  It even named the wreckage of a building that I had just slipped into.  Ponyville was raider territory.  I just hoped this place, this “Carousel Boutique”, was not crawling with them.  

Monterey Jack and I had barely parted ways when the railing of the bridge exploded next to me.  A sniper!  The same pony, I presumed, who had turned Cagey’s head to applesauce.  I fled into the town, keeping to what cover there was.  Few of the buildings were intact enough to hide in.  This was the closest.

Fortunately, I was alone.  I waited for nearly an hour, curled up in a shadow near the door; but the sniper pony seemed uninspired to follow me.  No, she or he could just wait until I came out.

Fatigue washed over me.  I had stayed up all the night before, and this night’s events were a strain on both body and spirit.  My muscles were weak and achy.  My body hurt from the kicks I had taken. I felt emotionally played-out.  I needed to sleep.  Sleeping here was probably a horrible idea.  If I woke up at all, it could be in the hooves of slavers, raiders or possibly worse.  But going back outside, finding someplace better, it just wasn’t on the table.  I was in no shape to test my wits against the sniper pony again.

Carousel Boutique was quite similar in condition to the building up at Sweet Apple Acres, only the looting was more destructive.  The walls had been painted with crude images of violence and cruder swear words.  A pile of torn-up cloth rotted in a corner, smelling foul, like ponies had urinated on it repeatedly.  There were two beds, one of which was stained deeply with blood (and probably more vile things).  The other was smaller, a foal’s bed, nothing but a mattress on a crushed frame.  In my state, I felt it would do wonderfully.

The Carousel Boutique offered two more treasures, a locked chest and another terminal, identical to the one at Sweet Apple Acres.  This one too was still functional, again to my surprise.  It was locked; slipping out my access tool, I went to work.  These terminals were crafted by some of the same ponies who later made the PipBucks, and the encryptions and locks were similar enough that my tools allowed me to get partway through the security.  What remained was a puzzle, finding the password within strands of code that my access tool laid bare.  In my fried mental state, it was probably a small miracle that I was able to parse the code and find the password.

Or possibly not.  The password was “apple”.

I laughed aloud, catching myself when I heard the volume of my own voice in the stillness of the decrepit boutique, as I realized that, beyond all realistic chance, this was the computer that the message had been sent to.  With an unwarranted feeling of accomplishment, I downloaded it, and let my PipBuck do the rest.  

Age had damaged the recording, but there was enough audible for me to recognize that same female voice, kinda sweet and with an odd accent, that had many hours before revealed to me the code that lead me out of my old life and into this new and horrible one.

“...special instructions for Stable Two...  ...that’s muh family down there!  Until the poison is gone from up here, that door doesn’t open for anypony!”  


The voice faded in and out of static.


“...know you hate this, Sweetie Belle, but you’re an Overmare now.  The Overmare of the most important Stable in all of Equestria.  I need you to do this for me...   ...to keep them safe...  ...best friends forever, remember?...”  

The sound file died with a whimper.  I had been right -- there was really no value in a two-century old message.  I left the chest for the morning, curled up, and went to sleep.

Footnote: Level Up.  

New Perk: Horse Sense -- You are a swift learner. You gain an additional +10% whenever experience points are earned.


non-euclidean fuck machine

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They call me Snake. They call me Es Rake. They call me Srahkay. That's nahmaname. That's nahmaname. That's not my... name.

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Chapter 3


Chapter Three: Guidance

“Books!  I’ve read several on the subject.”




I had never seen the sun before, and it was fair to say I still hadn’t.  But the power of its light filtered down through the thick angry, cloud cover, turning a sickly color yet still brighter and warmer than the humming lights of Stable Two.  The air itself looked somehow wrong in the light, off-color.  But everything was illuminated. I could see motes of dust and ash floating about the room (I wondered how healthy it was to be breathing it), and for the first time I really grasped the expanse of the outside.


It made me want to hide under the window.


While working up the nerve to step into the (very, very big) outdoors, I preoccupied myself with opening the locked chest I had discovered the night before.  It took two of my bobby pins, but it was worth it!  Inside was the most beautiful dress I had ever seen!  Such lines, such folds of fabric, and the colors -- elegant and regal -- yet the fabric was light, breezy and did not sag!  It was a dream!  Sadly, a dream for another, taller pony.


Joy and disappointment mixed in equal measure.  But even if I could not wear it (at least not without some major tailoring), it was the prettiest and most cheerful thing I had seen since leaving the Stable.  Carefully folding it up, I slipped it into my saddlebags.


Mindful of the sniper pony from the night before, I stood back, behind the cover of an overturned table, and used my magic to open the door.  A tarnished bell hanging above tinkled cheerfully.  Muted sunlight poured in.  The sounds of outside flowed into the room.  The twitter of birds, the far away sloshing of the river.  Fresher air pushed back the stale.


Cautiously, I moved into the doorway and looked about.  Post-apocalyptic Ponyville was a rotting skeleton of a once homey little town.  Between collapsed buildings and burned homes, the streets were littered with rubble and refuse.  And everywhere, garish paints of depravity and grotesquery.  The graffiti was not limited to outside; the raiders had defaced the Carousel Boutique with an almost ecstatic fervor.  I turned from the doorway, my gaze following the lines of profanity that curled up the walls towards the rafters.  And shrank back, choking in revulsion at what the sunlight revealed above me -- dozens of dead and desiccated cats had been hung from the ceiling like decorations.  I had slept directly beneath three of them.


I took an involuntary step back, one hindhoof out the door.




What was that?




I turned and spied the half-buried orange disk in the ground just outside the door.  A little red light was pulsing on it.  BEEP.  BEEP.  BEEP.


“CLOSE THE DOOR!”  The voice came out of nowhere, tinny and mechanical but somehow full of urgency.  My heart lurched and I jumped back inside, slamming the door hard.


The explosion just outside tore the door off its frame, hurling it and me back into the room!  I crashed through a tattered vanity divider, the smoking door landing over me. “Ugh!!”


I was more shocked than hurt as I slowly dragged myself out from under the door.  My ears were ringing.  A trap.  No wonder the raider ponies hadn’t invaded while I slept.  They had left a present instead.


“Hurry.  There are more on the way.”  I could barely make out the voice; my ears felt like they were stuffed with cotton candy.


“Who are you?” I queried, but moved to throw my canteens over my neck while magically drawing out the combat shotgun.  I had been dismayed to learn that it had only had one shot left; but if a raider pony stepped through the door, I intended to make it count.


An entirely different voice replied.  “Come out, come out, whoever you are!”  The head of a raider pony slid into the doorway, grinning maniacally with something in her teeth.  It looked like a metal apple.  She tossed her head, it flew into the room at me, but the stem stayed behind in her teeth.


A memory flashed through my mind: I as a younger pony, trotting to the Stable schoolroom when an older pony stepped out of a doorway and heaved a water balloon at me.  It had burst against my horn, soaking me and my homework.  “Hey, don’t look so sad, blankflanks!  I was just tryin’ ta help you.  Y’know, in case your cutie mark is supposed to be a target!”  The older pony had laughed and hurried off to class, leaving me dripping and miserable in the hall.


Lesson learned: when somepony throws something at you, don’t let it hit you.  Don’t even let it hit near you, because it might splash.  The combat shotgun clattered to the floor as I focused my magic on the metal apple, catching it and hurling it back out the door.  The grenade barely cleared the doorframe when it exploded.  Dust and splinters of wood few at me, getting in my eyes.  A tinkling erupted at my feet.  Looking down, blinking the debris from my eyes, I saw the little bell from over the door had landed, mangled, at my hooves.


My eyes hurt, and I kept blinking to clear them.  Cautiously, lifting the combat shotgun again, I edged towards the door.  I could barely see the foreleg of the raider pony around the edge of the door frame, completely still.  With a second thought, I levitated the table so that it formed a barricade over the lower half of the doorway, and crawled up behind it.  Quickly popping my head up, I looked to see if the raider pony was still conscious.


The leg wasn’t attached to the rest of the pony.


It took me a moment to spot the rest of her torn body, mercifully dead.  I dropped back under cover, feeling a strangeness pass over me.  I had just killed somepony!


***         ***     ***


Sneaking out of Ponyville had been harrowing.


I realized early that I had been neglecting my Eyes-Forward Sparkle.  Once I had brought up my E.F.S., it was far easier to determine where the raider ponies were, and to avoid them.  Despite actively looking for me, the raider ponies proved less than adept hunters.  Using my magic to bang a mailbox lid down the street or break an empty bottle against a freestanding chimney several yards away provided sufficient distraction to get past them.  I had almost made past the last house when the sniper pony started taking shots at me again.  The closest shot grazed my flank -- a slash of burning pain and a flowing blood.  Fortunately, the wound looked far worse than it was, and even my meager medical skills were enough to stop the bleeding and bandage it.


I crouched in a little gully, sheltered by trees, and fought to catch my breath.  Somewhere in the distance, I heard music playing again.  The rumble from my stomach was much louder, reminding me that I hadn’t eaten in almost a day.  I floated out one of the apples from my saddlebags while I un-corked one of my canteens.   Of course, I had no more than taken a sip when my PipBuck threw a dancing red light into my E.F.S. compass.  Not coming from the raider town, but from up ahead, deeper into the hilly wood.  Of course.  Something else was coming to get me.  Because the wasteland clearly hated me.


I re-corked the canteen and stood up, wincing at the flair of heat in my wounded flank.  I lifted the combat shotgun, still with its single shot, and perked my ears to listen.


My surroundings were quiet.  Even the music was gone.  Then I started to make out a faint buzzing.  I lifted the gun to eye-level and focused down the top of the barrel, lining it up with warning mark of red on my E.F.S.  At first, I saw nothing.  Then I spotted it, an ugly little flying creature, bloated and grotesque, hovering between the trees.  It spotted me too, and shot a spiny dart through the air at me.  It missed me (mostly, getting tangled in my mane).


I aimed, but hesitated.  The damn thing was so small, and could jerk about so erratically, that I had almost no chance of hitting it.  I didn’t dare waste my only shot.  So I did the next best thing.  I dodged behind a tree and prepared to gallop.


Another mark appeared on my E.F.S. followed by a zortching, crackling sound quite unlike anything I’d heard before.  The red light winked out, leaving only the new one, which my PipBuck had divined as “friendly”.


 “I’m really sorry about what happened back in Ponyville.  But that raider didn’t give you any choice.  She would have killed you.”  It was that same mechanical, tinny voice that had shouted out the warning that surely saved my life earlier.


With a mixture of relief and bewilderment, I watched the sprite-bot fly up to my hiding place.


“Who are you?”  (‘What are you?’ was the question that wanted to escape my muzzle, but I suspected it would be rude.)


“A friend.”  I raised an eyebrow.  “Okay, a passing acquaintance.  But one that doesn’t mean you any harm.”  After a pregnant pause, “Call me Watcher.”


I regarded the sprite-bot critically.  “Watcher.  Okay...”  I slipped out from behind the tree and started looking for where my apply had rolled to when I dropped it.  Not far away, near where the flying creature had been, I spotted a glowing pile of pink ash.  “You do that?”


“Bloatsprites.  That’s what you get when you mix parasprites with Taint.  Can’t stand ‘em, myself.  Glad to help.”


Finding my apple, I levitated it up.  “Thank you.  And thank you for the warning about that... thing in the ground.”




I blinked.  “Y-you want my apple?”


The sprite-bot laughed, which was very weird to hear since the artificial voice didn’t have any inflection.  “No.  That’s what it was called.  The explosive in the ground.  It’s called a mine.  It triggers when you step close.”


“Oh.”  I took a bite of the apple.  “That’s a very stupid name for a weapon.”


The sprite-bot laughed again.  It was a little unnerving.  Then, strangely, I found myself chuckling as well.  “I really thought you meant my apple was yours.  I’d share it if you wanted, although I don’t know what you’d do with it since you can’t eat.”


“Huh?”  For having no emotion in its voice, the sprite-bot did a good job at conveying confusion.


“You don’t eat.  Food.  Because you are a robot, and you don’t have a mouth.”


A third time with the laughter, although this was more of a slight chuckle.  “Oh!  You mean the sprite-bot.”  Well, at least I wasn’t the only one this conversation had managed to confuse, although I was more confused now than ever.  “The sprite-bot isn’t actually me.  I’m somewhere else; I just learned how to hack into these things to communicate.  And look around.”


I was beginning to get the picture.  “Then that music...”


“Oh gosh no.  I turn that crap off the moment I hack into one of these.  You have no idea how old that music gets.”  As an afterthought, the hacker-in-the-sprite-bot added, “Yet.”


I finished my apple. My stomach felt much better now.  As did my spirits, thanks to finally having a civilized (if utterly bizarre) conversation.


“Oh, time’s almost up.  Look, there are a few things you’re going to need if you want to survive out here.  A weapon (or at least a lot more ammo for the one you have), armored barding, a bit of guidance... and most importantly, you need to make some friends.”


Armor, at lest, shouldn’t be too hard, although I shuddered hard at the thought of putting on a dead pony’s barding.  Still, that grazing shot...  I’d been outside less than a full day and already I’d come terrifyingly close to death.  I could probably slip back around to the bridge and strip it off the corpses there.


A weapon?   If the idea of stripping armor from the dead made me cringe, the idea of possibly killing again stopped my heart.  And friends?  I’d had no luck with that as a foal in the Stable.  What chance did I have in a world where saving a pony from raiders and slavery didn’t get you a friendship welcome mat?  If this was what I needed to do to survive, I wasn’t sure I was up to the task.


“What do you mean by guidance?”


The bobbing sprite-bot was silent a moment.  “I’m going to take a shot in the dark here and guess you like books.  Am I right?”


“Well, yes.  I...”


“There’s a great book for people traveling through the Equestrian Wasteland.  I’m pretty sure there’s a copy in the Ponyville Library.  Give me just a second...  Okay, I’ve sent the tag for it to your PipBuck.”


My eyes widened in alarm.  “The Ponyville Library.  You mean, that place I just barely escaped from?  The town full of sick, psycho ponies?  Are you trying to get me killed?”


“Look, you’ve got to trust somebody.”


The memory of Monterey Jack surfaced in my mind.  “Why should I trust you?  I’ve never even met you.  You’re hiding behind a robot radio.”


“Oh, I dunno.  How about the me-saving-your-life part?  If I was trying to kill you, why would I have done that?”


The voice, Watcher, had a point.   Before I could say anything to that effect however, the sprite-bot burped static and began playing music again.  (The music featured multiple harmonicas and trombones.)  It flew lazily away, as if it didn’t care I was there.


***         ***     ***


The Ponyville Library was in a tree.  Not a treehouse, but literally inside a tree.  A massive, gnarled tree bigger than most buildings had been grown in the middle of the town, clearly the project of magic, and hollowed out to be the public library.  The south side of the tree was scorched black and dead.  But there were still a few leaves clinging to life on the opposite branches.  The tree was surrounded by a wide open space with absolutely no cover.


Any hope my luck at the Carousel Boutique would hold out here was dashed when I looked up to the highest balcony and finally spotted the sniper pony – an earth pony armed with a powerful-looking rifle.  The rifle was attached to the balcony railing with a gliding swivel mount, allowing the raider to aim it wherever she could see.  The only safe approach was from directly behind her, where the door to the balcony and the narrow top of the tree beyond blocked her line of sight.  There were surely more raider ponies inside.


Sneaking up carefully from the only direction that wouldn’t mean instant death, I was trembling with nerves by the time I reached the door.  As swiftly and silently as I could, I slipped out of Ponyville... and straight into pony hell!


Pony corpses everywhere!  Not like the bridge where ponies had fallen in battle; these ponies had been mutilated, desecrated and put on display!  Some poor pony’s body hung from the ceiling, head and hooves severed and flesh sliced open and pulled back to reveal the meat and bones beneath.  Heads and limbs hung from chains like sick party decorations.  The rotting body of a pink pony with a violent mane was mounted, spread-eagled over a bookcase with railroad spikes.  Two had been driven into her eyes.  On another wall, a torso had been skinned and sliced open, the pony’s entrails pulled out to decorate the shelves like streamers.


Blood and gore were everywhere, dripping from the ceiling and painting the walls in equal parts with the graffiti that had somehow gotten even more mocking and cruel.  Between the bookcases, pre-war posters were mounted in shattered frames.  Some raider pony had painted over one of them (“Reading is Magic”) with a crude but effective depiction of a megaspell detonation.  Another (“The most beautiful ponies have beautiful minds!”) was covered over by a painting that was simply pornographic.  The books had been burned in piles.  The floor was layered in ash and filth.  The stench was unbearable.


The room was dominated by three cages, two large square ones, and a smaller one hanging from the ceiling which was barely big enough for a pony.  Captives -- filthy, beaten and misused -- were curled up inside, their hooves tied together with stained ropes.  The two in the nearest cage looked at me pitifully and my heart wrenched painfully.


My eyes kept going wider until I had to clench them shut and bite my own hoof to keep from screaming.  I backed against the door, heaving, unable to breathe properly, not wanting to breathe this air at all!  The horror of the room flooded over me, drowning me.  I pulled my hoof away barely fast enough to avoid vomiting my apple all over myself.  The stench of it mixed with the reek of the room, assaulting me further.


“please,” a whisper from one of the ponies, terrified to raise her voice, “help us.”


This was beyond horror!  I pressed my eyes tighter and tighter... then opened them as a wave of brutal determination cut through the sickness.


“please... help!”


That was no voice, disembodied and trapped in an eternal loop, coming from some radio signal floating through the ether.  These were living ponies; they were right here in front of me, and they needed help.  And I was as damned as these rotten raiders if I was going to make them beg again.


The screwdriver and bobby pin slipped out and immediately began working on the nearest lock.  With a click, the metal cage door swung open.  Inside, two ponies, bound and laying in their own filth.  I realized uncomfortably that I had nothing to cut the ropes with.  I tried to untie them with my magic, the first pony’s ropes were so wet with blood that I could pull them apart, but second pony’s were bound too tightly.


“Are... are you for real?”  The first pony stood shakily.  “I-I’m free?”


I nodded, then glanced to the other ponies.  I had no idea how I’d reach the one in the hanging cage.  “If you could help me with...”


The pony blanched and shook her mane.  “Oh no, I can’t stay here any longer.  But, here, take these supplies.  I managed to squirrel them away...”  The pony dug into the floor muck with her hoof, revealing the utterly pathetic pile of scraps laying on a dirty rag that amounted to her entire worldly possessions.  A can of diced carrots, a box of pre-war single-serve cake, a handful of bottle caps.  It broke my heart.


“No, you keep it.  You’ll need it more...”  I paused, my eye catching a single shotgun shell in the pile.  “Actually, I’ll take this shell.  Thanks!”   I magically opened the shotgun and slid it into place.  Now I had two.


The pony had already folded up the rag, picked it up in her teeth and slinked rapidly out the door before I could say anything else.  I sent up a prayer to Celestia for her and focused on saving the others.  I looked over the second pony, who hadn’t said a word, and recoiled as I saw the blood caking the inside of her flanks.  What had these raiders done!?!


Looking around, I took in the shape of the room, trying to blot out the horrors everywhere I turned.  (Above the front door was an aged fresco of a beautiful white winged unicorn -- Celestia? -- unusually large and graceful, a book floating in front of her, her wings outstretched over a rainbow of foals as they smiled up and listened to storytime.  Not only had the ponies been painted over with images of blood and knives and violence, the fresco had been used for target practice, everything from bullets to flung excrement, and was now shattered and stained unspeakably.)  The room was oddly shaped, with balconies and rooms branching (literally) off in all directions.  I could hear the voices of raider ponies in the other rooms.  And, judging from the décor, knives wouldn’t be far behind.


“I’ll be right back,” I promised with a whisper.  Then, levitating the combat shotgun, I moved towards the nearest interior door.


I jumped back as the door swung open at me.  A raider pony stepped through and stopped, staring at me blankly.  His coat was dark black under his makeshift armor, his mane wild.  Holsters were strapped to his flanks, one with a small gun, the other holding a blade whose edge was jagged like a saw, ensuring the most grievous of wounds.  In stark, horrified disbelief, I saw that his cutie mark was actually a splayed torso.


The raider pony recovered quickly, swinging his head around and drawing out the small gun in his teeth (what, was he going to pull the trigger with his tongue?) just before S.A.T.S. helped me pump my two shotgun rounds into his face.  I felt no remorse as his head turned into spaghetti sauce that splattered over his instantly lifeless body.  I hadn’t just killed a pony -- these raiders had given up any right to the title!  These were not ponies, they were sick monsters that needed to be put down!  And Celestia help me if I wasn’t going to do just that.  I didn’t realize it until that moment, but I was mad!  The pure evil of this place had shaken me to the core... and my core was furious!


Collecting knife and gun, I dropped the empty combat shotgun to the side.  The smaller weapon was not going to be as powerful, but was fully loaded -- six shots in a revolving barrel.  And that was good, because there was no way the noise wasn’t going to bring every raider pony running.


The first three raider ponies galloped into the main library almost immediately, one of them crying out thrilled insults.  S.A.T.S. helped me fire three shots at her head.  The first two missed, but the third found a home in one of her ugly red eyes and down she went.  A second started firing another small firearm at me (what do you know, they do shoot with their tongues!), bullets impacting the door frame.  One shot punctured one of my saddlebags, but didn’t pierce flesh.


I crouched and poked my head around, levitating the revolver in the open doorway.  I fired two shots at the second pony, but my PipBuck’s targeting spell was refreshing, and without it I might as well have been aiming at the ceiling.  Still, the gunslinger raider skittered away, using one of the captive ponies for cover.  The dishonorableness poured gasoline on the fire of my anger.  I stepped fully into the doorway, looking for the third, spotting him on the far end of the main room.


The third raider pony lowered his head, a pool cue clenched in his teeth, and charged at me.


I blinked.  “Really?”  I took a single step back.  The pony rushed at me full-tilt, and was nearly on me when the ends of the pool cue struck the doorway, snapping him to a stop.  I fired the revolver’s last shot point-blank into his neck.  Even I didn’t need S.A.T.S. at that range.


“Shouldn’t you ponies be smarter than that?  You live in a library!”


As the body slumped to the floor, bleeding from the gaping wound through it’s neck, I saw the gun-wielding raider standing in the open, aiming through the door.  I dived to the side as shots rang out, and screamed as I felt a bullet sink into my side.  It hurt!  More than I had thought it would.


I fell against the wall, leaving a bloody smear as I collapsed next to the doorway.  Pain seared my side, flaring with each breath.  I could hear the clop of the raider’s hooves as he approached cautiously.  I tried to focus my magic to close the door, but the body of pool-cue pony was in the way.


I cast about the room.  It was a kitchen.  On a table, surrounded by knives, was the body of a fearsome creature of scales and teeth.  The raider pony with the splayed torso cutie mark had been carving it up to cook.  A refrigerator.  And oven.  There were scattered books, but all ancient, destroyed and unreadable.  (I was beginning to doubt the Watcher’s assertion that there was a book here like he described.)  Then my eyes fell on what I was hoping for.  In one corner, mounted on the wall over several metal boxes of ammunition, was a faded yellow box with a pink butterfly symbol on it: a medical box!  Double luck: the box looked to be locked.  There were knife-scrapes all over it where the raiders had attempted to get it open.  It should still have a few medical poultices, and maybe even a healing potion!


But I had to survive the raider pony first, and I was wounded and out of bullets.  Crossing to the ammo boxes would mean moving across the open doorway.  Scooting back, I looked around again.  And focused my magic through the pain.


When the raider pony stepped in, he was met by a swarm of knives flying at his face.  “Gah!!”  He turned and fled back out.  The knives all either missed or struck uselessly against his armor.  I was even more pathetic with melee weapons than I was with guns.  But it got him out of the way long enough to make for the ammo boxes.  Luck was with me again.  While one box had ammo in large clips for a type of gun I had yet to see, the other had bullets designed for the revolver.


The raider poked his head around again, calling out “You’re all out of knives, missy!  Why don’t you just come on out.  I promise I’ll let you die, eventually.”


His head turned in my direction his eyes went wide.  I don’t know if it was the look in my eyes or  the revolver.  S.A.T.S. was with me again, and this bastard wasn’t going to get another chance to use raped and beaten captive as a shield.


***         ***     ***


One more dead raider, a picked medical box and a healing potion later, I trotted quietly back into the main room, serrated knife floating by my side.   I moved to the open cage and sawed away the ropes binding the poor pony.  “Go.  You’re free.  Get somewhere safe.”  With a blink, I remembered the sniper pony, and quickly told her which direction to sneak away in.  She nodded mutely and began to slink out.  I moved to the next cage.


What I saw sickened me.  A pony had been locked inside along with a decaying corpse.  The pony was whimpering in her sleep, and had her tail wrapped around the ghastly body like a teddy ursa.


Unlike the other bodies, I couldn’t tell how this one had died, for it wasn’t carved apart.  The body had lost all its coat, it’s skin was a sickening blotch-work of red and grey, flaking away.  Its eyes were open, dry and staring in wrong directions.  Its teeth were horribly yellowed, matching the few strands of hair left in its mane and tail.  Odd, fleshy growths hung from its sides.  At first, I mistook them for mutations, but then I realized I was looking at the pony’s wings!  This was the body of a pegasus pony.  Stripped of feathers and hair, the wings looked strange, even repulsive.


I screamed, a full-throated cry of terror, when the corpse shifted position and sat up, it’s eyes sliding around until they both focused on me.  It was a zombiepony!


The zombiepony blinked at me, then tried to get up, only to fall over onto one winged side as it’s hooves were bound in ropes like the others.  It... she stared at me plaintively.


My mind was reeling.  Of the scattered half-thoughts that flitted through my brain, “untie the nice zombie so she doesn’t get mad at me” managed to be the most coherent, if not the most sane.


Swallowing, I moved the knife down to her ropes.  “Hold still.”  I looked at her eyes and was quickly forced to look away.  One of them was sliding again.  Her breath was fetid.  “Now if I let you go, and you try to eat my brains, we’re going to have harsh words.”


***         ***     ***


I had freed the second two captives, including the zombie-pony, both of whom slipped away without an offer to help (although the zombie at least smiled at me, which was... deeply unpleasant), and was trying to figure out how to get to the hanging cage when two more raider ponies appeared on a balcony above.  One of them was a unicorn pony with a very scary-looking firearm.  I dove into the shelter of a stairwell as the raider opened fire.  The gun let out a terrifying cacophony of rapid-fire cracks as it sprayed the main room with bullets.


At least I knew what type of gun the large clips were for now.


I waited until I heard him reloading, then dashed into the room and spun to face him, focusing all my magic... not on my own weapon nor on him, but on the bookshelf behind him.  The glow of my horn stood out brighter and brighter as he lifted the reloaded assault rifle and took aim for my head.




The bookshelf came down on top of him, knocking him unconscious.  The assault rifle fell to the floor in a rain of dead books.  Something else showered down as well, thrown from the falling bookshelf.  Knocking away a book that had fallen over it, I saw that it was an ancient, dusty pair of pre-war binoculars.  At first, it struck me as extremely odd that someone would need binoculars in a library -- that would require some really bad eyesight -- but the silly thought passed.


I couldn’t see where the other raider pony had gotten to.  Swiftly, I added the assault rifle to my growing collection, and the binoculars for good measure.  Then I looked back to the balcony, considering it as a way to get to the cage pony hanging from the ceiling.  If I could get up there, I thought, I could leap from it to the cage.  That would get me close enough that I could see what I was doing while I picked the lock.


The second raider pony appeared back at the railing, a wicked grin on his face.  With a hoof, he shoved forward an ammo box, then tilted it over.  The lid sprung open and half a dozen orange disks poured out into the library below.









Oh fuck!


I dashed as fast as my little legs could take me, leaping over the body of pool-cue pony and under the kitchen table, using my magic to toss it over as a shield.  The carved-up radigator slid to the floor with a meaty thump.


Behind my shield, the world became blinding light and fire!


***         ***     ***


When I emerged, the main room was a wreck.  Fresh blood dripped down into my mane.  Looking up, I saw the blast-torn remains of the pony in its twisted metal cage.  Oh, Celestia damn them to hell!


More determined than ever, I stripped the raider bodies (what little was left of them now) of their armors.  The armors were in shredded tatters, but with some effort I was able to use the best parts of each to patch together something that would give me better protection than my stable-issued utility barding.  The resulting outfit had almost no pockets, so I would have to dig the utility suit out of my saddlebags to get at most of my tools, but it was a fair trade.


Putting it on was gruesome.  My hooves were darkened with blood just from working on it; every inch was covered in the flash-fried gore of dead ponies.  I almost lost my nerve and abandoned the awful thing.  I slipped it on; my stomach rebelled, but I didn’t have any more to throw up.


A last look around while I figured I still had time.  The raider above obviously assumed I was dead.  (I would have assumed I was dead too.)  Looting the bodies garnered me a little more ammo.  The gun from the earlier raider had been in bad shape to begin with, and was damaged beyond repair by the explosion.  Several ponies apparently collected bottle caps, which struck me as an absurdly odd thing to horde.  I left those alone.  The kitchen’s refrigerator had a small stockpile of food: cooked radigator meat, a few skewers of barbecued fruits and what the PipBuck identified as bloatsprite meat, a box of pre-war cake (because nothing says healthy eating like two-hundred-year-old food) and some water that looked like it was bottled straight out of sludge river.  I took everything but the cake and water; apparently, splayed-torso cutie raider was a rather decent cook.  With a second thought, I looked over the ingredients on the cake box (filled with enough preservatives that your stomach will still be intact long after the rest of you rotted away to dust!) and took it too.


The raider pony was in the main room, looking over his handiwork, when I returned from the kitchen.  One look at me (and my growing pile of weaponry) and he fled up the stairs.  I galloped after him, revolver zipping through the air in a cloud of levitation magic that matched the light around my horn.


He went through a door on the level above.  It took me only a moment to reach it, but caution made me skid to a stop before barreling through.  If that had been me on the other side, I’d be waiting just to the side of the door, ready to take the head off of the raider who rushed through.  With positions reversed, I was not going to make the same mistake.


A filly’s cry from inside, “aaah!  Help!” changed the scenario.


Standing to the side, I threw open the door.  When there was no attack, I darted in.  And stopped short.


The room was lined with more destroyed books on either side, and ended in a large window that opened onto a balcony.  This room was decorated as disgustingly as the last, but filled with stained sleeping mattresses.  Near the open window, a filly too young to even have her cutie mark lay on a mattress stained with so much blood it was nearly black.  She had been brutalized and raped repeatedly, and her flank was covered in small burns where her cutie mark would have eventually appeared.


Her ropes were on the floor nearby, looking chewed through.  And between myself and her, the raider pony stood with a shocking hostage: the zombie-pony!  It took me a moment to realize she must have flown in from the balcony; and (if I was allowed to believe there was any decency left in the world) it would have been her who gnawed the filly’s ropes free.  Now, she was against a wall, with the blade of an axe to her throat.


A small part of my brain insisted on distracting me by wondering how the zombie-pony could have flown when her wings didn’t have any feathers.  As if that was a more significant mystery than how she could be alive (by some definition) in her decayed physical condition.


My distraction was distracted by a nearby table.  An ashtray with a smoking cigar told me just how the filly had gotten those burns.  Rage welled up in me until I felt it would burst through my eyeballs.  Next to the ashtray, two familiar metal apples rested on top of an (only lightly stained) book with a stylized pony skull on the cover.  A second book, this one showing a revolver almost identical to the one floating next to me, had slipped to the floor where it rested against one leg of the table, along with several pencils and a filly’s lunch box.  A smiling, gentle white unicorn with a beautiful lavender and pink mane stared back beneath the Stable-Tec logo.  It felt wrong that something so innocent-looking should be in this place.


My eyes turned to the earth pony raider with the axe in his teeth.  For a moment I just hated at him, the room quiet except for the filly’s occasional whimpers.


When my voice returned, my words surprised me.  “By Celestia, you’re stupid.  Hard to tell a pony to back off, or surrender, when your mouth is full of axe, isn’t it?  Maybe if you spent some more time reading these books rather than destroying them, you’d be smart enough to come up with a plan that actually allowed you to negotiate a way out of this.”  The grenades levitated off the table; I dangled them between us.  “One that doesn’t end with me shoving one of these up your tailhole!”


The raider pressed the axe blade tighter against the zombie-pony’s throat, enough to cut flesh, which split and pulled back as if it had been strained taut.  Ichor that might have once been blood oozed from the wound.  The zombie-pony didn’t flinch or whimper, but the filly did both.


“Right.  Kill her.”  The revolver floated forward next to the grenades.  “That way, there won’t be anything to block my shot.”


I could see the raider considering his options and not liking what he was finding.  Dropping the axe from his mouth, he whinnied pathetically “I don’t wanna die!” and dashed for the open balcony, leaping over the cringing filly.


S.A.T.S. send four shots right into his ass.  It was a pathetic way to die.


Looking to the filly and the zombie-pony, I smiled grimly.  “There’s one left.  I’ll be right back.”


I turned and continued up the stairs toward the upper balcony and the sniper pony.


***         ***     ***


Better equipped and a lot more confident, my heart still flickering with righteous fire, I made my way carefully out of Ponyville.


Up ahead, I spotted a huge gazebo surrounding a marble statue of a rearing pony girded with combat barding, a sword in his mouth.  The gazebo was relatively free of grafitti... and peeking through the binoculars, I could see why.  The field of weeds around it were teaming with radigators.  My E.F.S. was filling with red marks as I drew closer.


Slipping out my newly acquired sniper rifle, I picked off a few.  Their meat, I knew now, was safe when cooked (at least, relative to other food source in the Equestrian Wasteland).  Slipping the sniper rifle back into its harness (another “gift” from the sniper pony), I slid out the serrated knife and crouched up towards my kill.


An alert flashed on my PipBuck.  Checking it, I discovered that it had labeled the gazebo in front of me: The Macintosh War Memorial.


Curiosity pulled me closer.  Careful of radigators, I neared enough to read the inscription beneath the statue through my binoculars.


“In honor of Big Macintosh, hero of the Battle of Shattered Hoof Ridge, and his noble sacrifice for all of Equestria.”


As I lowered the binoculars, I caught sight of something else.  A concrete circle sticking up from the ground, roughly halfway between myself and the gazebo, with a ponyhole cover.  Remembering the night before, I turned my PipBuck back to the first radio broadcast on the list.


“...from those damned apple trees up near the Stable, and now he’s terribly sick.  Too sick to move.  We’ve holed up in the cistern near the old memorial.  We’re running out of food and medical supplies.  Please, if anypony hears this, help us...  Message repeats...”


Pulling out the revolver, wary of radigators, I crept towards the cistern opening.  I was almost there before one of the beasts charged at me, its huge maw opening to reveal rows on rows of razor-sharp teeth.  I fired twice into its mouth.  Horrifyingly, that wasn’t enough to kill it.  But it did make the beast think twice.  The sound, however, brought more of them down on me.  Abandoning the revolver in fright, I used my magic to pull open the ponyhole and dived in, sliding the cover over behind me.


***         ***     ***


In the wake of my anger, I was exhausted.  In the aftermath of the library battle, my whole body ached from exertion.  My nerves felt frayed from the content adrenaline.  Eating a bloatsprite skewer, I looked over the small underground chamber once more before curling up on the upper bunk of the pair of bunk beds built into the wall.  I tried not to think of the colt skeleton on the bed below me.  The skeleton of his father was by the door.  A sip from my canteen took the edge off my thirst.  It was almost empty; I had to conserve.


I reflected how, when I had come back downstairs after dealing with the sniper pony, the zombie-pony was already gone, and had taken the poor filly with her.  I hoped it was to someplace safe.  I found it strange that the most decent pony I had found in the wasteland was already sort of dead.  I also noticed that the assault rifle pony was also gone; he had woken up and freed himself from the crushing bookshelf.  That meant there was at least one more raider still in the wastes, but I wasn’t the sort of pony to kill somepony while they slept.  Not even a raider.I figured that if I slept here tonight, that would give the radigators time to wander away from the exit.  If I was lucky, I would even spot where I dropped the revolver.


Until then, I would preoccupy myself with my two new books.  Slipping them out of my saddlebags, I looked the first one over, the one with my lost revolver on the cover.  Guns and Bullets.  Very straightforward.  I set it aside for now.


The second book, a grey tome with a black pony skull on the cover, was the real prize.  Opening it to the first page, I began to read:


“The Wasteland Survival Guide.  By Ditzy Doo...”



Footnote: Level Up.

New Perk: Bookworm – You pay much closer attention to the smaller details when reading.  You gain 50% more skill points when reading books.


non-euclidean fuck machine

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Chapter 4



Chapter Four: Perspective

“I don’t know why it took an interest in you, but I’d be careful. It’s never helped anyone before.”




A blast of lightning fired past me, shattering an old clock at the back of the overview office I was cowering in.  The Wasteland Survival Guide was full of all sorts of helpful tips.  Scavenging guides.  A whole chapter on mines.  And more!   And then there were the not-so-helpful ones.  After having read the chapter on “Making Pre-War Earth Pony Technology Work For You”, my first thought when I came across the ruins of Ironshod Firearms was to take a peek inside and see if there was any technology I could make work for me.


Instead, I got myself trapped in a maze full of ponicidal robots and automated turrets, fleeing until I managed to back myself into a corner here in an office box high above the factory floor.  Almost out of ammo.  If I hadn’t found that medical box in the employee bathroom, I would have died trying to get across the second floor.


How could I possibly have been so very stupid?


Below, three of those robots were rolling about, looking for me.  They were tracked things, built to somewhat resemble ponies, with clear domed heads that housed real brains.  I refused to think that the ponies who built them might have used other ponies’ brains in the construction.  The thought was just too horrible.  Even doing that to an animal’s brain was awful.  And clearly, two-hundred years of continuous operation had done nothing for their sanity.


“Come on out.  We only want to kill you for trespassing!”


Case in point.


The fact that the voice sounded like a young filly, despite being clearly artificial, just made them that much freakier.  Fortunately, the railing on the catwalks leading up to this office were too narrow for the brain-bots to get up here.


A much deeper, authoritative voice boomed across the room.  “Surrender in the name of the Ministry of Technology, zebra scum!”


I cringed behind a line of metal filing cabinets as the room filled with a rush of flame!


Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the other type of guard robot I’d crossed paths with in here.  The multi-limbed things looked like giant metal spiders, many of its arms seemed to end in weapons, including a buzzsaw and a flamethrower.  And worse, the damn things could fly!


I slipped both of my grenades out of my saddlebags and waited until the flames died away.  The metal cabinets were beginning to get unpleasantly warm against my back, and the heat in the air seared my lungs.  The second the flamethrower cut off, I turned my head around the corner and levitated them both right up to the metal monster, pulling out the stems on the way.  The moment it saw me, the robot raised a pulsing green weapon that looked like a unicorn’s horn.  Eldritch fire erupted from it, shooting past me close enough to singe my cheek.  The blast struck an old fan sitting on the desk behind me; it glowed green for a moment, then melted!  I ducked back as I dropped the grenades.


The explosion rocked the office.  I heard a fearsome twang as part of the catwalk outside gave.  Looking back, the robot was in a non-functional heap.  The walkway outside was still mostly intact, but sagging badly.  I wasn’t sure it could hold my weight.


Stripping what I could from the fallen spider-bot, I considered my options.  I couldn’t stay up here forever.  If I moved very fast, I could run the walkway without the brain-bots below getting me.  Their weaponry did not seem very accurate.  But the first few yards of the catwalk had partially torn free, and sagged alarmingly.  The more I looked at it, the less I wanted to put a hoof on it.


I’d never tried levitating myself before.  In theory, it should work, but I’d never seen a pony do it. Focusing, I tried.  I could feel the glow from my horn stretch out to envelop my entire body.  Brighter it glowed as I tried to lift myself.  I was shining like a dozen lanterns when I felt my body lift, just slightly, from the ground.  I was sweating.  This was as far as I could go, but I was doing it.  Now one step forward…  and another… and another…


I was halfway across when the brain-bots started firing lightning in my general direction. One of the bolts struck the catwalk, arcing along it.  I felt very lucky I wasn’t actually touching it.  But I was also almost spent.  Ahead of me, the catwalk stopped right before the huge windows that let twice-filtered sunlight (once by the clouds and once by the dirty glass itself) onto the factory floor, supplementing the light from heavy fixtures hanging above.  The catwalk shot off in both directions, running parallel to the wall.  One was the direction I had come from.  The other lead to a door which had been locked.  Only that door didn’t have a lock to pick.  Instead, it could only be opened by command from a terminal.


Another shot of lightning missed cleanly, shooting through one of the shattered windows of the observation office and frying the terminal I had just used, not five minutes ago, to unlock said door.


It was a lot of metal catwalk.  And the damn bots beneath me shot lightning.  I grunted with the effort that kept me aloft, feeling my vision darken at the edges.  I had to stop, or I’d pass out.  And that would be the end of me.


Releasing the magic, I dropped onto the catwalk.  It wavered, but held.  I let go of a breath I didn’t realize I was holding, and started to gallop.


“Don’t run!  We want to be your friend!” 


More blasts.  I tensed, expecting to feel paralyzing electricity rip up my body, starting at my hooves.  Instead, I heard a crash a loud pop and a twang from somewhere above.  Looking up as I ran, I saw that one of the bolts had hit the hanging lamp above, causing its softly buzzing light to explode.  And that, freakishly, was the last straw: it snapped loose from the badly aged, cracked ceiling above and swung down, crashing into the catwalk behind me.  The whole walkway shook.  And then the section behind me tore away with a rending scream of abused metal.


Oh fuck me with Celestia’s forehooves!


I’ll admit, my repertoire of colorful descriptions had grown more profane from my experience with the raiders; but as I galloped down the walkways at heart-tearing speed, trying to keep ahead as the sections of catwalk began to fall down onto the factory floor like a thunderous, lethal game of dominos, I felt the sentiment entirely appropriate.


I was almost to the door when the metal walkway dropped out from under me.  I threw myself forward, carried only on momentum, and caught the final section with only my forelegs.  I hung there, my hindhooves dangling several stories over an ancient rifle assembly line that had been crushed by the fallen catwalk.  I struggled, trying to inch myself up.  I used my magic to try to tug on my saddlebags and drag myself forward.  My heart was pounding.  I fought to keep visions of falling from dominating my imagination -- tried not to think of my back breaking as I landed on the conveyor belt below.  At least the damned brain-bots weren’t shooting at me anymore, having scurried for cover.


It seemed to take forever, but inch-by-inch I pulled myself onto that final section of catwalk.  It wobbled threateningly beneath me, sticking out from the wall like a diving board, held in place by bolts that wiggled in wear-widened holes.  Cautiously, I got my hooves under me and stepped lightly towards the door.


A blast of lightning hit the catwalk, shooting up my legs and sending me into painful convulsions.  I collapsed, shaking, on the walkway, my mane and tailhairs standing on end.  The walkway responded with a metallic cry and tilted several inches, threatening to dump me into the gulf below.


I struggled shakily to my feet.  Another blast shot up from almost directly beneath me, missing the walkway by less than a foot and striking the ceiling above.  Bits of singed plaster rained down.  I gave the door a push, and was vastly relieved when it swung open.  Then the catwalk gave further.  I lurched, wrapping my forelegs around the door frame to keep from sliding down the now quite steep metal platform.  A third electrical blast ripped through the air, striking another strip of industrial lighting whose light also exploded, making it swing perilously.


Grunting, I pulled myself into the room.  I turned and sat in the doorway, looking down at the brain-bot rolling in circles directly below, trying to figure out how to get me.  Then, with a strong kick of my forehooves, I knocked the last of the catwalk loose.  It fell, scraping down the wall, until it smashed through the robot’s brain-case, pulping the organ inside and continuing down, ripping the machine roughly in half.  I must admit that I found the crunch immensely satisfying.


***         ***     ***


I realize that if the room I had successfully accessed at such great personal risk had not offered another way out, I would have been in deep trouble.


Closing the door behind me, I felt immediately more comfortable.  The room had been painted in what had once been a bright orange, and the paint had not lost all its warmth over time.  The wood paneling probably brought a pleasant, homey feel to what I believed was clearly the factory overmare’s office.  Now that wood was rotted and crumbling.  On the back wall above the desk was an oversized logo in deeply tarnished bronze:



How do you like them apples?


I didn’t get it.


Ignoring it, I looked around.  Large, fancy desk.  Chair.  Filing cabinets.  A poster in a backlit frame -- the same poster I had seen several other times in the factory, but this one in better condition, showing graceful pegasus ponies soaring through the sky, rainbows exploding behind them as they shot down on dark, demonic striped figures with evil, glowing eyes.  (Better Wiped than Striped!  Join the Equestrian Forces Today!)  A wardrobe.


My eyes barely touched these, moving to the important things first.  The office held a terminal I could hack, a wall safe I could pick, and a personal elevator that, if it worked, would get me safely to the first floor and out of this deathtrap.  There was an ammo box under the desk.  Then my eyes fell on something unique.  Mounted on the opposite wall was a glass case.  And in the case was a beautiful and perfectly preserved revolver.  A similar model to mine, but crafted with what must have approached love.  It had a scope, and an ivory bit molded for extra-comfortable fit in the mouth and ease of trigger.  On the handle was an emblem, three apples.


I tried my hoof (so to speak) at the safe first.  It was tough, taking a few attempts, but after breaking one bobby pin I learned better how to prevent further losses.  The safe opened with a generous click.  The impressive amount of objects made me wonder if my excursion into Ironshod Firearms hadn’t been worthwhile after all.  I started sorting the treasure from the rubbish.  Inside was sack full of pre-war coins, a copy of Equestrian Army Today, a whole bunch of finance papers that ceased to mean anything hundreds of years ago, a box of what looked like bubble gum (I couldn’t decipher the writing on it), a Spark o’ Magic battery and finally an odd hoof-strapped arcano-tech device that looked like it was meant to interface with my PipBuck.  Curious, I slid it on and let my PipBuck analyze it.


StealthBuck.  Invisiblity Spell.  One charge.


Hot damn!


Next was the terminal.  Pulling out my utility suit, I slid out my access tool and started to work.  This terminal was tougher to crack than the previous ones.  Even with my tools, I had to abort several times to avoid getting locked out.  I pulled another apple from my bag and bit into it, intent on the screen, only to hit something painfully hard.  Levitating the apple up to eye level, I saw a bullet embedded in it.  Looking down at my saddlebags, there was indeed a small hole, although it took me a few minutes to remember when that had happened.


Once in, I discovered a whole mess of old notes and messages.  In addition, the terminal had a shutdown key for all the robotic security.  And it could remotely open both the safe and the display case.  I rolled my eyes, thanking the universe ever so much for giving me this potentially life-saving option only now that I’d already fought my way to the finish and no longer needed it.  I also realized that I could have saved myself a bobby pin if I had worked on the computer first.


I told the terminal to open the display case.  Doing so triggered a message.


“Cousin Braeburn, Ah know we ain’t talked in some time, but the war effort’s takin’ a twist for the scary, and Ah might not have a chance t’ see ya again.  Ah want t’ mend fences.  Now, Ah ain’t gonna muck this up with words.  We all know how well that went last time.  Instead, Ah’m sendin’ ya Lil’ Macintosh as a gift and as an apology.  T’show you I’m sincere.  Keep ‘im safe for me, will ya?”  


The accent was very much like that of the voice I found on Velvet Remedy’s PipBuck, although this time it was clearly not from the same pony.  But it was the earnest tone of the recording that made me pause.  Two hundred years ago, some pony had given this gun as a token of apology and as an effort to reconnect with family.  And that some pony’s cousin had done just as she asked, preserving the weapon for generations after his own death.


I wasn’t going to leave it there, untouched by anypony until the building collapsed on it.  But when I took it, I removed it respectfully.


All that was left was going through the rest of the office.  The ammo box held bullets for Little Macintosh, and not a shy amount.  In the wardrobe, I found some old maintenance suit that I could use to repair the holes in my own utility barding, and other garments that I left behind.


Eventually, I turned to the elevator and pushed the button.  Nothing.


Of course it didn’t work.  The wasteland just couldn’t give me a break.  Pulling out my tools, I opened up the side panel and tried to figure out what was wrong and if I could fix it from here.


To my great relief, I could.  The elevator proved to be in impressive condition, particularly considering the rest of the building.  But the battery for the interface was dead.  As Celestia’s mercy would have it, there had been a replacement in the safe.  One swapping of batteries later, I was on my way.  As the doors slid shut, the thought crossed my mind, “Macintosh?  Wasn’t that…”


***         ***     ***


I trotted between the collapsed buildings that littered the area around Ironshod Firearms, not having any particular direction to go.  Aimless.  I hadn’t found any signs of civilization… civilized civilization, mind you.  I had kinda given up on finding Velvet Remedy.  For now, I was satisfying myself with random exploration, although that had just proven exceptionally dangerous.


In Stable Two, I knew exactly what my future would be (as unbearably dull as it would have been).  Out here, in the huge open outside, I was struggling with just the opposite.  I never considered that having an assigned place might be as much a relief as it was a burden.


My ears perked at the sound of overwrought, triumphant music.  I watched as a sprite-bot fluttered down a cross street.   Running up to it, I drew myself around in front of it.  “Watcher?”


It just floated by.


I dashed in front of it again.  “Hello?”  The music just kept playing.  I waved a hoof right in front of its lack of face.  It danced around me and kept going.


Well, that was helpful.


I picked a random direction and started trotting again.  I thought of Watcher’s advice.  Armor, check.  Weapon, double-check.  Guidance?  I looked back at the Ironshod building.  A bit iffy, but check.  Friends?


“It’s kinda hard to make friends where there doesn’t seem to be anypony around!”  My exasperated voice echoed off crumbling walls of concrete.  If this was a quest, it was a lame one.  I seriously needed to find something to do.  Preferably other than “dodge” and “duck”.  In Stable Two, I felt painfully ordinary.  I yearned to be special; now I yearned to be anything.


My downcast eyes chanced upon a Red Rider scooter amidst the ruins.  Reaching out a hoof, I flipped it back onto its wheels and prodded it back and forth a few times.  Three of the wheels were locked with rust; but to my surprise, one still turned.


Looking up, I found myself at the edge of a playground.  The swings and slide jutted into the oddly-colored air, blackened by ancient spellfire, like bones of a great dead beast.  The merry-go-round was warped and canted.  The skeleton of a baby pony was still curled at one end.


Sadness and immense shame flooded me.  I had been feeling sorry for myself in the midst of all this!?  Another tiny skeleton lay against the burnt husk of a tree, three roller skates in the dirt near its hooves.  The fourth?  I doubted anyone would ever know.


I plodded on, moving through the silent impromptu graveyard.


At the far end, sheltered by walls that were mostly still intact, I found an old vending machine.  “Sparkle~Cola” the machine still advertised through the years of grime.  It featured a backlit emblem of stylized carrots.  Surprisingly, the machine still looked functional.  Fishing out a few pre-war coins, I fed them into the machine.  I didn’t actually expect that it would still have soda after all these years.  I was astonished when a bottle rolled out dutifully.  I suddenly realized how awfully thirsty I was!


The Sparkle~Cola was luke-warm, but actually rather delicious, with a delightfully carroty aftertaste.  The clicking of my PipBuck warned me that I was ingesting trace amounts of radiation with each swallow, but not enough to be harmful.  I’d taken more harm standing around at Sweet Apple Acres.  And besides, if it reached a point where my radiation intake began making me sick, I had a couple RadAway potions -- the only supplies from the Ironshod medical box that I hadn’t needed to use just to survive the building.


I spotted a bench just around the side of the building and decided to take a load off my legs, possibly read some of the Equestrian Army Today book I had picked up.  As I turned the corner, my gaze fell upon an old, torn poster affixed to the wall.  The image was the face of an elderly pony of almost obtrusively pink coloration.  Her mane was streaked with grey.  (On some ponies, grey hair makes them look distinguished; on most, it just makes them look old. Hers made her look like a candy cane.)  Her eyes were huge, staring.  I could swear, poster or not, that she was looking right into me.  Some pony had ripped the poster right through the middle; I had no idea what her expression was supposed to be, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was doing something wrong.  Bold words above and below the image, now deeply faded, announced: PINKIE PIE IS WATCHING YOU FOREVER!  There were additional words, very tiny, beneath, so small and faded that I had to lean close and strain to read them.


“…a happy reminder from the Ministry of Morale.”  I stepped back, tilting my head as I looked at the poster again.  “What’s the Ministry of Morale?”


Watcher’s voice erupted from over my shoulder, making me jump high enough my horn whacked the ceiling.  “Another well-meaning idea that was so much better on scroll.”


I gasped, willing my heart to beat regularly again, and felt a fleeting empathy with Sawed-Off.  The sprite-bot was hovering right next to me.  Celestia, those things were silent when they weren’t playing music!  “Are you trying to give me a heart attack?!”


“Oh.  Sorry.”  I gave the flying orb a glare.


I forgot about the bench and started walking, trying to enjoy the rest of my Sparkle~Cola.  The sprite-bot followed.


“I see you’ve got some armor…”  The mechanical voice seemed hesitant.  I didn’t ask why.  Watcher either didn’t care enough to explain or thought better of it.  Maybe the fact that I was walking through the Equestrian Wasteland in an outfit coated inside and out with drying blood gave it pause.


I could probably go up to any Stable pony and go “I am evil, bad, nightmare pony.  Arrrr!” and, even despite my size, they would take one look and flee.


I sipped my cola and wished desperately for someplace decent to bathe.  Problem was, any water clean and radiation-free enough to take a bath in would be too precious to pollute.  One of my canteens was empty and the second nearly so.


“Maybe the reason you’re having trouble finding your place is that you haven’t discovered your virtue yet,” Watcher offered out of thin air.


I stopped.  “What?  How did you know… oh, nevermind.”  Then, “What do you mean, my virtue?”


“Well,” the flying ball began, “The greatest heroes of Equestria, ponies with lifelong bonds of unbreakable friendship and strength, were each known for exemplifying one of the great virtues of ponykind.  Kindness, honesty, laughter…”


“Laughter is a virtue?” I asked dubiously.


“Roll with me on this,” the sprite-bot continued without breaking stride. “Generosity, loyalty and magic.  They really didn’t know themselves, or each other, until one pony came to realize that her friends represented these virtues, and together they grew to live by them.  Now, I’m not saying those are the only virtues, they are just a…”  Now the bot paused as if searching for words.  “…particularly important set.  I’m just saying that perhaps if you learn to recognize the dominant virtue in your own heart, you will find yourself.  And you won’t need anyone or anything else to tell you your place in the”  Watcher’s voice cut out with an abrupt pop and music once again poured from the bot.


“Brilliant.”  I watched as the sprite-bot slowly sailed away.


Well, if that wasn’t a load of ponypies, I didn’t know what was.  Finishing my soda, I tossed the empty bottle amidst a pile of others.  Empty bottles littered the Equestrian Wasteland like weeds.


A new thought was occurring to me.  About Watcher.  The Wasteland Survival Guide had to be written after the megaspells rained down.  Long after, considering its sound advice on scavenging.  So that book wouldn’t have been in the Ponyville Library as part of the original, pre-war library.  It found its way in there later; from the lack of being burned, defaced or covered in blood, I was guessing recently.  Which made me wonder: did Watcher know about those poor ponies the raiders held captive?  And if so, is that why I was talked into going there?  Was I manipulated into walking into that horror because Watcher hoped I would free them?  I couldn’t be sure.  And considering that Watcher saved me, I should give the benefit of the doubt. But I couldn’t help the niggling sense that Watcher had played me, and I don’t like being tricked.


My ears perked as the music stopped again, replaced by a voice.  But this wasn’t Watcher’s voice.  This was somepony else.  This voice wasn’t metallic.  It was the voice of a smooth male pony with a greasy charisma.


“Friends, ponies, rejoice!  Although the world about you is bleak, scarred and poisoned by the war of honorless, thoughtless, inferior ponies of the past, we do not have to live in the shadow of their greed and wickedness.  Together, we can raise Equestria back to its former beauty!  Together, we can build a new kingdom where all live together in perfect unity!   It’s already happening, my good ponies.  Already, the foundation for a new and wonderful age is being built.  Yes, it’s hard work, but don’t we owe it to ourselves, and to future generations of ponies, to be better?  No, to be the best we can possibly be?  I’m telling you now, as your friend, as your leader, that we can.  We must.  And we WILL!”


What in a fever dream was that??


The music had resumed -- not popping back in the middle of a song like when Watcher seized control of a sprite-bot, but at the beginning of a new song, like this was how the bot was supposed to work.


Wait, ponies have a leader now?  That was serious news to me.  As far as I could see, we didn’t even have a country.  Hell, I’d settle for a town!  Even just a few shacks built within vague proximity of each other, so long as they had ponies living there in peace.  Or as close to peace as the wasteland allowed.


If we had a leader, we had to have at least one town, right?


Trotting faster now, I found a ruin with enough intact stairs for me to get up to what was left of a second floor.  I brought out the binoculars and looked about.  Sure enough, in the distance, I saw smoke.  Enough plumes, close enough together, to suggest some sort of settlement.  I prayed to Celestia that the smoke was from cooking fires, not raiders burning it to the ground.


There was a path leading out towards the settlement.  That would keep me from losing my way.  And there was movement on that path.  My horn glowed as I focused the binoculars, bringing a small group of ponies into view.  Two of them were pulling a heavily laden wagon.  A young pony rode on its back, apparently talking with two others who were guiding equally-burdened two-headed beasts.  The group was headed towards me, away from the theoretical town.  But they didn’t look like they were fleeing, and none of them were wounded, all of which I took for a good sign.  A very good sign indeed.


I looked up into the thick, broiling clouds, up to where the disk of the sun made a brighter spot in the cloudy ceiling, and sent a prayer of thanks to Celestia.


***         ***     ***


The path wasn’t a road, exactly.  Rather, it was a long, arcing swath cutting through the Equestrian Wasteland.  Two parallel metal lines reinforced with badly-aged cross-planks of wood.  Half-an-hour back, it had crossed over a gully on a rickety bridge.  After my fun with catwalks, I chose to brave the gully rather than put my hooves on something else that was surely holding off its inevitable collapse until it could take me with it.


It turned out to be a good decision, despite the wounds.  The gully had been home to a bunch of large, bloated pig-things with extremely nasty front teeth.  One of them got ahold of my left hindleg, biting clean through my armor and cutting a deep gash.


Little Macintosh is neither quiet nor subtle.  A single shot from that sweet little gun tore the head clean off the pig-thing attacking me!  And it fires quickly enough that I was able to slay the three others before my targeting spell ran out.


Beneath the bridge was somepony’s camp.  It had a long-abandoned feel to it, but there were scattered supplies, including a few cases of shotgun ammo, a single can of food amidst a litter of tin cans (“Magical Fruit” the label boasted, but it turned out just to be beans), and a locked medical box.  I picked the lock easily, finding a healing potion which I swiftly drank, breathing a sigh of relief as the nasty gash mended gently, the pain ebbing away.  There were magical bandages, nowhere as powerful as a potion but good for flesh wounds, and a box of… mints?  (“Mint-als!  Refresh your mind and your breath!”  I had been surprised to see a smiling zebra on the front of the box, the first depiction of a zebra I’d seen that didn’t look like a storybook villain.)


Now I figured I was over halfway to the settlement, maybe two-thirds.  I tried to keep myself from imagining what I would find.  (A whole city of civilized and happy ponies, maybe.)  I didn’t want to to set myself up for a letdown.  “Even a few shacks” I told myself.  I picked up the pace of my trot.


I heard a gunshot shot in the same instant that I felt a bullet tear clean through my right hindleg and another clang off the metal casing of the sniper rifle strapped to my back.  I screamed in agony, collapsing to a skidding halt on the rocky ground, clutching at my hindleg.  I was bleeding profusely through the hole torn through it.  The bullet missed the bone, and I could tell that sickeningly because I could see it!  I tossed my head back and screamed again.


Desperately, I dragged myself around a large mound of rocks, trying to take shelter from a shooter I never saw.  Focusing as much as I could through the terrible pain, I pulled the magic-laced medical bandages from my pack.  I tried wrapping my bleeding hindleg, but the bandages were meant for cuts and gashes, not gaping holes.  It was soaked with blood and sliding off almost before I had finished wrapping it.  I tossed the bandage and tried again, this time pulling the bandage much tighter.  It too soaked bright red, but at least it stayed.


Shaking with fear and pain, knowing from the sudden chills that my body was going into shock, I looked up and tried to spy the pony who attacked me.  I looked all around, but no one was there!  And there wasn’t a whole lot of cover to be hiding in; these hills of dirt and rock were mostly barren.  I felt like my heart swallowed an ice cube when the image hit me that there was a pony out there with a StealthBuck!  She could be right next to me, pointing her gun at my head, and I wouldn’t even know!


But then I looked upward, and there in the sky was a rust-coated pegasus pony with an orange mane under a black desperado hat, and what looked like two rifles, one strapped beneath each wing.  The pony had just finished circling back around and was aiming right at me!


With panicked instinct, I levitated a large rock in front of my face as a shield.  A crack rang in the air, two rifles fired simultaneously!  The first bullet struck the rock, sending chips of stone flying, and ricocheted, lodging in my canteen.  The last of my water burbled out at my hooves.  The second punched through my armor and embedded itself in my left shoulder, sending me reeling.  Again, I collapsed, the pain peaking and then beginning to bleed off, which I knew wasn’t a good sign.  This time, I didn’t think I would be getting back up again.


So, this is what it was like to die?  So overrated.


My eyes felt heavy.  I closed them, I don’t think for long.  But when I opened them again, I spotted the ponies drawing their wagon, coming over the hill.  Behind them would me more ponies, guiding pack... two-headed cattle-things.  I remembered the young pony in the back of the wagon.


I doubted any of them would be looking up.


Forcing myself to my hooves, I began dragging myself into the open.  If I was going to die, it wasn’t going to be laying down, watching these people get slaughtered!  My body screamed agony into my head, but I kept going, marching myself on lame legs until I was standing in the path right in front of the approaching group.  Turning, and focusing through the hammering in my head, I lifted Little Macintosh into the air and pointed it at the rust-colored pegasus who had whipped back around and was again flying right at me.


I stood directly between him and the travelers.  My vision was blurry from tears and trauma.  I wasn’t sure, even with S.A.T.S., that I could hit him.  And I stood no chance against his aim.  He was an amazing shot; technically, he hadn’t missed me yet.


Putting every ounce of me into it, I growled as menacingly as I could.  And hoped that a pony who had survived four shots would be mistaken for a pony to be reckoned with.  “Shoot at me all you want, but if you attack that family, I will! End! You!”


To my surprise, the pegasus’s eyes widened, and instead of firing, he backflapped his wings, coming to a halt in front of me.  “Whoa nelly!”


Levitating Little Macintosh was getting really hard.  I’d lost all feeling in my shot leg, and fell onto my haunches without realizing.


“Ah ain’t the one attackin’ that caravan!  You are!”


What!? Black was seeping into my vision from all sides.  My head was swimming.  The conversation wasn’t making any sense.  But at least he was conversing rather than killing me.  Weakly, “…not attacking.  You shot me.”


“Well of course ah shot you!  Ah see a raider headin’ at a caravan, ah’m gonna perforate her till she ain’t movin’ no more!”  The rust-colored pony glared at me.  Then, with a strangely proud look, “It’s muh policy.”


I felt my forelegs beginning to give.  I was near collapse.  But the words of the pony caused a fire to flash in my head.  Little Macintosh had begun to sink towards the ground, but now it swung back up, pointed right between my attacker’s eyes.  “I’m not a raider!”

The pony pointed at me argumentatively.  “Y’sure look like a raider!”


Seemingly from out of nowhere, the colt from the wagon galloped into view.  I tried to raise my voice in warning, but nothing came out.  The blackness fighting to overtake my vision finally won, and I collapsed, sinking into what felt like a deep sleep.


The last thing I heard was the colt whinnying, “Calamity, what have you done?!”



Footnote: Level Up.

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


non-euclidean fuck machine

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Seriously. A link would suffice. SO ANGRY!

Anyways, I had just recently got back into fan fiction... bout the same time as ponies. But that won't be on the test. I also recently started writing... about ponies. BUT THAT ISN'T IMPORTANT EITHER!

They call me Snake. They call me Es Rake. They call me Srahkay. That's nahmaname. That's nahmaname. That's not my... name.

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okay, yea char limits, i posted it to my blog. (i rarely post there, so it's probably useless to check on it. lol)


if this is good enough, i'll delete your previous posts and replace your first one with the above link.

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Wait what? Why don't you just post the link to where you copied it from?

They call me Snake. They call me Es Rake. They call me Srahkay. That's nahmaname. That's nahmaname. That's not my... name.

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oh, yea. just post the link you're getting these chapters from(i haven't slept in forever, lol) and i'll replace the 1st post with that and delete your previous posts.


Edit: it's not a secret blog. XD


i don't even know how to use the damn thing! lol

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I, too, read this fan-fiction, and think it is amazing for reasons I don't feel like writing a wall of text about. Its one of only 2 that I read, the other being "Through the Eyes of Another Pony" ("Past Sins" is next on the list, among others). I am very cautious of reading fan-fictions, and only read those that have been very, very highly recommended. I avoid any with a [sad] or [shipping] tag, if anything just to narrow down the huge amount of them there are.


And while I agree this would too greatly narrow the discussion in the pony thread, perhaps we should have some fan-fictions other than ponies?



"Anything I can do to help?"

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I have just finished the fan fiction Fallout Equesrea, I am writing this whall I can still feel, for lak of a better word the "afterglow" I feel when I finish a really good story, book, game, movie...etc. This is one of the best books I have ever read, and I have read over 300, this is easily in my top 5. It is not perfect but it is as close to it as any thing can be. It is the kind of book that when you finish it you will let out a long deep slow breath and for a time all the stress of life ar gone, yet it also motivates you to do good whale giving you some food for thought. About now you might have notest that inhave said nothing about the story or characters, that is because I don't whant to deprive you even the smallest shock or joy that I felt reeding it. Over all I recemend this book, strongly I give it a 10/10 it is that good.




PS. NO spoilers in this thread

non-euclidean fuck machine

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Welp, I write my own damn Fan fiction. Though I have no intention of reading Fallout: Equestria until this summer, being as it is one of the longest unofficial works ever created (6,000,000 words). Otherwise, have some of my shit:



Life is just a time trial; it's all about how many happy points you can earn in a set period of time

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Pardon my guffaw but 6,000,000 words is the equivalent of quite literally eight Study Concordances of the King James Bible.

This is a nice metric server. No imperial dimensions, please.

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That's better.

This is a nice metric server. No imperial dimensions, please.

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Oh, derp. Didn't think that one through. Oh well... my research paper says the same thing. Crap, i turned that in already,

Life is just a time trial; it's all about how many happy points you can earn in a set period of time

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