cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT finale)

LYAT is the cool place to hang out. You can find most of the cool people there. In LYAT you can just chill and do whatever and totally relax. "Take it easy" is the LYAT motto, for example, that's how laid back it is there. Show up if you want to have a good time. Another good reason to show up is if you want to hang out with friends.
Locked
Lazy

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Lazy » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:53 pm

We were guided into the crumbling building. As we landed, we saw at least three dozen more alicorns standing about the crumbling ruins. In a single movement, in perfect unity, they all turned their heads to look at us.

It was the unparalleled creepiest thing in the history of ever.

Escorted through the doors by the four midnight-blue alicorns. They had dropped their shields. Honestly, they didn't need them. We were totally outmatched.

I was surprised when the alicorns brought us to what looked like a security substation within the building. This room seemed largely undamaged, save by time. The rest of the rooms and hallways we had seen were broken and crumbling, fragmented by the subterranean blast and eroded by centuries and weather. This small room was almost... intact.

There was no Goddess here. There was nothing here but some chairs, a bank of four dusty monitors and a microphone, a filing cabinet and a few ridiculously pristine coffee cups. The area above the monitors was glass, but the long window looked out at nothing but a metal wall inches away. The opposite wall held a recessed door. There were odd grooves on the wall.

"Ah reckon this is our cell," Calamity said. If so, it would be stifling. And cramped, if any of the alicorns tried to stay in here with us.

{{WE WILL TALK! BUT FIRST, THE GODDESS WISHES YOU TO SEE! TO UNDERSTAND, AND MARVEL!}}

The voice of the Goddess didn't merely reverberate, I realized. It pre-verberated. Like there were dozens of smaller, weaker voices inside that voice, all trying to say the same thing at the same time, and not quite succeeding. The voice of the Goddess was a chorus.

"Understand what?" Velvet Remedy asked. Xenith looked at her, confused.

{{THE GODDESS!!}}

The security monitors flickered to life under the dust. One of them displayed colorful ponies in lab coats milling about a much bigger version of this room, full of monitors and maneframes and banks of blinking lights. "Ready when you are," a chartreuse pony with a cutie mark of a flask filled with bubbling green liquid said, glancing up at us through the monitor.

"These images are of the far past," Xenith intoned.

The second monitor looked down on a vast factory floor. The factory was filled with six huge, interconnected vats full of churning luminescent stews that rippled with lavender and green beneath glass coverings, the light casting colored shadows over everything. Arcane apparati hung down from the ceiling. Catwalks ringed the vats and another hung suspended from the ceiling above and between them, stopping midway across the room with some manner of control panel at the end.

"Again with the catwalks-over-factory-floors aesthetic of wartime Equestria," I groused.

"Is that...?" Velvet Remedy began to ask as a single pony appeared on the third monitor. An elderly lavender pony with grey streaking her purple mane. The room behind her was about the size of this one, filled with identical monitoring equipment. But where we saw only a metal wall, her picture window looked out onto the factory floor in monitor two.

"Twilight Sparkle," I nodded.

"uh, yer goddess-ness," Calamity said to the air, tapping on the last monitor. "Ah hope yer aware this one is broken?" The monitor had a large crack running through it and was displaying only rainbow splotches.

{{BROKEN? WHAT? OF COURSE I AM! THE GODDESS KNOWS ALL!}}

The little sub-voices continued to telepathically echo the last two words for several seconds after the Goddess had "spoken".

"Lovely," Velvet Remedy said snidely.

"Ready to begin pony testing," Twilight Sparkle said, sounding just a hint nervous. "Send her in."

"Sending in Test Subject One," the pony on monitor one announced.

"Don't call her that!" Twilight warned. She trotted over to look out the window, floating a coffee cup filled with what looked like tea to her lips, sipping primly. She set the cup aside and leaned her muzzle over a microphone. On monitor two, a lovely blue unicorn with a mane that had aged to a luxurious silver slowly made her way out onto the suspended catwalk.

She turned and looked up to the window. "Twilight Sparkle, I just wanted to thank you again for giving me this opportunity. It means so much to me."

"You're welcome, Trixie," Twilight Sparkle said kindly. The name rang a bell, but it took a moment to place it. Trixie: the mare from the cottage outside Fetlock. She went to Manehattan for a meeting with Twilight Sparkle and never returned.

The lavender pony hit a button with her hoof and an ornate golden cup rose out of the console at the end of the walkway. Purple and green liquid rose through tubes running from the vats to the apparatus above. Then a thin stream poured into the cup.

Trixie walked across the platform and sniffed at the cup. "Is that roses?"

Twilight chuckled softly. "Yes. I added the scent. Hopefully, it will taste like roses too."

"Really?" Trixie looked up towards Twilight Sparkle with astonishment.

Twilight's ears drooped. "Unfortunately, probably not." She hesitated. "Trixie, you know you don't have to do this..."

"Oh, I want to," the blue unicorn insisted. "I want to help. And... this will make me more powerful? Like Luna and Celestia?"

"Well, not that powerful. But more powerful, yes."

"Like you then?"

Twilight Sparkle looked uncomfortable. "We're hoping for more than that."

"And... it's safe, right?"

"Absolutely," Twilight Sparkle assured the blue unicorn on the catwalk below her. "All the tests have come back looking spectacular. The only variable is, well, dosage. And for that we need to do testing with pony volunteers like you. With luck, we'll get it right the first time, and you'll be the first new alicorn since Luna was born."

The unicorn at the end of the catwalk nodded. And mumbled something that sounded like "great and powerful smells like roses", then looked up with wide eyes. "You sure I shouldn't start with a little more, then?"

Twilight Sparkle stifled a chuckle. "No, I-"

On the monitors, everything happened at once.

From the broken one, I could hear a terrible roar and the rainbow sprays turned to a flaring light.

On the other three, the world shook.

On the first, chunks of ceiling came down, some killing ponies outright, one blocking the door. A maneframe toppled in a spray of sparks.

On monitor two, the entire factory floor shook. I could hear the loud twangs as several of the cables holding the suspended platform snapped out of the ceiling. Sections of catwalk fell. Two of the vats were ruptured as a third of the ceiling came down, spilling their glowing contents onto the factory floor. I could see automatic systems severing and sealing the connections with the other vats. Trixie cried out as half the cables holding up her section of the catwalk gave way, turning it into a freely-swinging platform.

On the third monitor, alarms were blaring: "Radiation surge detected!" "Seismic activity detected!" "Toxic contamination warning!" "Safe rooms sealing!"

"No!" shouted Twilight Sparkle as a huge armored plate slid down over the door to her room. She turned to the window as massive armored shutters swung down from above.

"TRIXIE!"

On monitor two, Trixie's platform tipped, swinging in a low arc. The unicorn slid down the inclined surface, trying to find purchase, as the lower end of the catwalk segment impacted the glass roof of one of the vats, shattering it. The blue unicorn plunged into the vat.

All the monitors flickered and went dead.

The four of us stood in the security room, shaken, our eyes peeling away from the monitors to look at each other.

Monitor three flickered back on.

"Dear anypony. This is the Mare of the Ministry of Magic, Twilight Sparkle," a weakened Twilight said. "It's been two days now since the megaspell strike on Maripony. I can only assume by the lack of rescue that this was not an isolated strike."

"I'm leaving this record in case somepony does come. I'm trapped in Safe Room Three on the Maripony Vats Level." The elderly lavender pony addressed the camera. "The safeguards that should allow me to open it aren't working; and unfortunately for me, I designed these rooms to withstand a nearby megaspell strike, so the room is more than a match for my own magic."

Calamity, Velvet Remedy, Xenith and I watched the monitor, realizing we were watching Twilight Sparkle's goodbye letter. My vision began to blur wetly. I tried to force myself not to cry. I'd cried too much this week already. But the tears rolled down my cheeks anyway.

"I'm out of food, and the safe room's water talisman seems to have been corrupted." She gave a wry smile as she said, "At least, I'm fairly confident that pure water isn't supposed to be that color. I'm also beginning to suffer hallucinations. I think that I'm hearing the screams of the ponies in Maripony, like something horrible is happening to them. But I know that's impossible. These walls are soundproof.

"I keep hearing Trixie's voice in my head, screaming. Sometimes, it gets so bad..."

The lavender pony waved it off. "Not important. What's important is that we tried. We tried, and we came so very close. Another week, maybe even just a few more days, and the work we did here would have not only changed the war, I believe we could have forced a peaceful resolution.

"What's important now is that we still have one more chance. Find Spike. He's my most loyal assistant... my number one assistant. ...Find him..."

Twilight Sparkle seemed to fall to sleep. The Monitor flickered out again.

"Spike?" Xenith asked.

The monitor burst back to life. Twilight Sparkle's haggard face was pressed close to the camera. She looked atrophied, crazy. "Something's going on here. I... I don't know what. But it's bad. If you're in Maripony, get out. Get out while you can and drop a zebra missile on this place..."

Suddenly, there was a loud, metallic grinding from the speaker below monitor two. On the monitor, we watched as the metal plate over the door lifted up, the metal shutters over the windows lifted.

Monitor two sprang to life. The vats room was a disaster. The floor was waist thick in mixed fluids. Something swam in the water. No, not swam... the body of a light red unicorn pony was being dragged through the liquid by a telekinetic tendril. We watched as the tendril hauled the body out of the pool and up the side of one of the vats. A moment later, the body disappeared over the lip and into the vat.

Streaks of blood rose up several of the vats.

On monitor three, Twilight Sparkle was crawling towards the door, too weak from hunger and dehydration to stand. Unable to stand, she couldn't see what was just outside her window.

Light flared in the room. A blue light that took the form of Trixie. The blue unicorn stood, shimmering, in front of Twilight Sparkle. From this angle, we could clearly make out her face as she spoke to the lavender unicorn who once bore the Element of Magic. The Trixie illusion spoke, but no words came out.

"I'm sorry, Trixie," Twilight Sparkle whimpered.

As the Trixie illusion's mouth continued to move, Xenith pushed past me and leaned close. Our zebra began to read the movement of the illusion's mouth.

"...to be sorry for. Your experiment worked, after all. It worked more wonderfully than we ever dreamed it would. Don't be sorry. Be happy. We're going to live forever, you in I."

I felt a deep, dark chill and prayed that Xenith had mistranslated that.

"What?" asked a startled Twilight.

"I'm sorry it took so long for me to be strong enough to save you, Twilight Sparkle."

Velvet Remedy gasped as light blue tendrils of telekinetic energy snaked into the room and wrapped around each of Twilight's hooves.

"No!" Twilight Sparkle struggled with more strength than should have been possible.

"It's time to save you now, Twilight Sparkle," Xenith continued to speak for illusion-Trixie. "We're going to be very close now, you and I."

"Oh Goddesses," Velvet moaned and buried her face in Calamity's mane as the tendrils slowly dragged Twilight Sparkle, kicking and screaming, towards one of the vats.

I was shaking. I wanted -- so desperately wanted -- to turn away. But I couldn't.

Twilight Sparkle let out a last cry as she was dragged over the lip of the farthest vat. One word, a name I think, but I couldn't make out what it was.

The two monitors went blank. And this time, they stayed that way.

• • •

Oh Goddesses! oh Goddesses! oh Goddesses!

I felt utterly numb with horror. Velvet Remedy was crying. Calamity looked grimmer than ever.

The whole room shook, the air filling with the squeal of grinding metal, as the shutters over our own window lifted up.

We stared out over the vats. This wasn't just a similar room. It was the same room.

Centuries had not been kind to the room beyond. Another third of the ceiling had collapsed, as had two of the vats. The pool on the floor had turned to sludge covered with a sickly layer of dust and floating debris.

Swirls of colored light seeped up from the two still-intact vats. They danced in the air, exploding like fireworks. In my head, I heard the echoes of half-remembered fanfare, but not from any memory of my own.

{{THE GREAT AND POWERFUL GODDESS WELCOMES YOU!}}

"Okay, how in tarnation do we kill that?"

"Calamity!" I hissed.

More swirls of light lifted from the vats. They shimmered, merging together, until the giant face of Trixie loomed above us. But not just Trixie, as little motes of other ponies' faces occasionally burst to the surface like zits, crawling along the head and mane of Trixie before sinking back.

{{FEAR NOT! FOR I, THE GODDESS, ALREADY KNOW WHY YOU HAVE COME! RED EYE, THAT TREACHEROUS PONY, DESIRES MY END. BUT THE GODDESS IS NOT WORRIED, FOR THE GODDESS IS GREAT AND POWERFUL AND RED EYE IS NOT!...}}

Somehow, through the sheer soul-breaking horror of what I was seeing and what I had just witnessed, the little pony in my head stomped for me to pay attention. She did not like where this was heading.

"Fear not," Xenith began, "For I, the goddess, already..."

"You can stop that now," Velvet Remedy hissed.

{{...YET.}}

I squeaked. Then fought to find my voice. "Red Eye has seen these recordings, hasn't he."

{{IT MATTERS NOT THAT HE HAS SEEN THEM.}}

That would be a yes.

{{IT MATTERS THAT HE HAS DISOBEYED ME AND PLOTTED AGAINST ME! IT MATTERS THAT HE HAS BEEN WITHHOLDING FROM ME! RED EYE HAS NOT SENT ME A UNICORN IN OVER A YEAR AND THE GODDESS BELIEVES HE WILL SOON STAND IN THE WAY OF MY UNITY ALTOGETHER!}}

"And... let me guess," I prodded. "You need us to kill Red Eye for you?" Please let it not be something as stupid as that. There wouldn't be enough facehoofs in the world.

The illusionary fireworks changed. A spinning pinwheel of crimson flame swirled behind the floating glower of the Goddess, over-signaling her displeasure.

"Ugh," Velvet Remedy whispered, cringing back. "Even for a real Goddess, this would be a bit much." She neighed. "Honestly, if we must have an eldritch-nightmare-of-arcane-science 'Goddess', does she have to be a freaky-carnival-sideshow goddess too?"

{{DO NOT BE ABSURD! THE GODDESS CAN SLAY HIM AT ANY TIME I CHOOSE! BUT...}}

And here it comes.

{{IT IS POSSIBLE THAT HE HAS DISCOVERED SOMETHING THAT MAY BE A THREAT TO THE NEW, GLORIOUS WORLD WE ARE BUILDING! AND BEFORE THE GODDESS DESTROYS HIM, WE... I... MUST KNOW WHAT THAT IS!}}

Well. Okay. That makes much more sense.

"Says the Goddess who claimed to 'know all' not twenty minutes ago," Velvet Remedy muttered.

Calamity nudged her with a wing. "Wouldja kindly not go upsetting the telepathic psycho-gestalt?"

"And why us?"

{{BECAUSE THE SECRET THAT RED EYE SEEKS, THE SECRET HIDDEN EVEN FROM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL GODDESS, IS LOCKED AWAY INSIDE A WAREHOUSE ON MINISTRY WALK IN CANTERLOT!...}}

Oh! So that's the place Red Eye is trying to get into. I remembered a conversation with Watcher:

Yes, one of Equestria's heroes did decide that her Ministry would be the Ministry of Awesome. They even built a Ministry Headquarters for it on Ministry Walk... After a few years, Luna ordered it crated up, and they began using the M.Aw HQ for storage.

{{...WITH CONTROLS WHICH CAN ONLY BE OPERATED BY A PEGASUS...}}

Clever. So, the Goddess didn't actually need me. She needed Calamity. I wondered how Red Eye was planning to get past that.

{{...AND BEYOND A SHIELD WHICH ONLY A MINISTRY MARE CAN STEP THROUGH!}}

And that would be the Bypass that Red Eye was trying to get through. But why did...?

Oh! Of course. Close family or direct descendants thereof. The Goddess needed Velvet Remedy as well. Once again, I was the one just clearing the way.

{{IN ADDITION, THERE IS ONE THING REMAINING THAT PREVENTS UNITY. A... FLAW IN THE PROCESS THAT MUST BE CORRECTED BEFORE IT CAN BE BROUGHT TO EVERY PONY IN THIS BLIGHTED LAND!}}

"Y'know, now that Ah've seen what this Unity is all about, Ah'm fine with that."

{{THAT IS BECAUSE YOU ARE ONLY A PONY! YOUR KIND CANNOT THRIVE IN THIS WORLD ANY LONGER! YOU MERELY SURVIVE! AND BARELY AT THAT! BUT MY CHILDREN CAN THRIVE! MY CHILDREN ARE MORE POWERFUL! MORE CAPABLE OF FACING THE MUTATED DANGERS OF THIS WORLD! THE VERY POISONS WHICH KILL YOU MAKE MY CHILDREN STRONGER!}}

"Your children can't even breed," I pointed out. "Every single alicorn I have seen is a mare. You have no stallions. Now I'll agree that can be fun; but when it comes to 'thriving', that's a doozy of a problem!"

The main voice of the Goddess was silent a moment. Flares and fireworks continued to explode behind her glowing, faces-covered face. They whispered incoherently in my mind, giving me a headache.

{{LIKE THE GODDESS SAID, A FLAW! BUT ONE WHICH CAN BE CORRECTED WITH THE RIGHT MAGIC!}}

"Let me guess. You want Rarity's little black book." The Goddess did need me after all. She needed somepony who could pick a lock.

• • •

As our alicorn escorts marched us back to the Sky Bandit, all my friends were wondering the same thing I was: what now?

"Can you all read lips?" Xenith asked. Okay, so not all my friends were wondering the same thing.

Red Eye still had me over a barrel. But...

I stopped like I'd been hit in the face with a bale of hay. I lost all feeling in my hooves as one more horrid realization flooded through me.

"Li'lpip?" Calamity asked. Something in my expression was making him look very worried.

"She said... Red Eye hadn't sent her any unicorns in over a year." My mind flashed back to experiences with slavers. And the little hints that Red Eye, or at least Stern, was particularly interested in unicorns.

And another unicorn too. She'll fetch a pretty price, this one.

If it wasn't a unicorn, I'd say toss it back in the lake.

"But if Red Eye wasn't sending unicorns to the Goddess..." I said darkly, "Then he's keeping them for himself."

I turned and looked to the others in desperation. "Red Eye talked about controlling the weather, moving the sun and the moon. He couldn't do that if he just became an alicorn. But he's not aiming to become an alicorn. He's aiming to become one of... of..." I pointed a hoof back at Maripony. "That!"

The only way he could possibly hope to get that kind of power was to duplicate what happened to Trixie. And he could. He'd seen the videos. And based on his claim that the fortress in the Everfree Forest was designed as a new home for the Goddess, he was building a duplicate of the Maripony vats at the Cathedral.

He wasn't sending the Goddess any unicorns because unicorns have the strongest magic of all ponies and he was keeping them to consume himself!

Footnote: Level Up.
Maximum Level
Skills Note: Stealth has reached 100%
New Perk: Celestia Tier Telekinetics – The things you can do with your levitation magic are the feats of legend. You can effectively fly at the skill level of a novice pegasus. Who knows, maybe you could even move the sun?

BartonFink
User avatar
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:14 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by BartonFink (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:53 pm

YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES

Dodger

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Dodger » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:53 pm

BartonFink wrote:I didn't choose to be president of balloon doggies, the balloon doggies demanded it


YOU AAARE THE BANANA KING

BartonFink
User avatar
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:14 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by BartonFink (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:53 pm

Idi Amin was good in the fifth season of The Shield

Lazy

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Lazy » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:53 pm

Hunters and Prey by Kkat

"What are you on the lookout for?"
"Two very angry types of movements. Slow, lumbering, powerful movements and jerky, erratic, excitable movements. Both coming for the kill."

Virtues.

My first real advice, out of the Stable, was to find my virtue. Well, no, it was to find a weapon, armor and friends. And as daunting a task as that seemed, I believed I had succeeded admirably. It was the advice that followed -- to find that defining positive characteristic that would get me through the darkest horrors that the Equestrian Wasteland could throw at me without losing myself -- that still eluded me. Instead, I substituted other goals, other quests. I was driven to make this blasted world a better place, a brighter place, for the ponies trapped within it.

I felt all my efforts had just hit a wall.

Red Eye was just too smart, too devious and too well-organized. I underestimated him at every turn, and he used it against me with skill approaching panache. Even his seemingly insane claim to approaching godhood was backed by a crafty and altogether horrifying plan. The sheer cruelty, the coldly calculated butchering of unicorns in an act that would surpass murder, struck a blow to my very soul. And yet, I could already envision his argument: what is the suffering death of a few dozen or possibly even hundred unicorns today for generations of safety and peace for millions in the future?

I tasted bile.

The Goddess was... insane. And yet, she was effectively untouchable. Immensely powerful. And her army of minions, while considerably smaller in number than Red Eye's, were amongst the most formidable opponents in the entire wasteland. And they were completely devoted, if not directly controlled, by her whims. And her whims amounted to our extinction.

And she was such a potent telepath that even if I could come up with a plan, she would rip it from my mind before I could get close enough to her to implement it.

We were racing apotheosis. And we were losing.

I felt the darkness closing in oppressively. If ever I needed a virtue to hold to, it was now.

But even virtues could turn on you. They could go astray, become warped or perverted. Watcher had told me of the six greatest virtues of ponykind -- kindness, laughter, generosity, honesty, loyalty and magic -- although he made it clear that there were many others, and that my own was likely not on that sacred list. I had quipped that I could possibly collect broken, wrecked versions of each of these; I was doing far better at that, it seemed, than finding ponies of true virtue. Still, I had been joking.

Now I had met the Goddess, the thing that was Trixie, and I knew I had witnessed the epitome of the corrupted virtue of magic. All I needed to do was find corrupted kindness and I'd have a set.

{{OH, BUT YOU HAVE MET CORRUPTED KINDNESS, LITTLEPIP!}}

The cruel, sweet voice of the Goddess blasted through my head, swarmed with a chorus of whispers, mostly agreeing. The weight of her thoughts on my mind was heavy, almost suffocating.

{{IT'S YOU.}}

No! No that was not right. She couldn't be right.

I was better than that. I had to be better than that.

But even as I fiercely denied the Goddess' sadistic suggestion, my mind conjured up doubts and demons as if seeking to prove her right.

I had saved the slaves from Old Appleloosa only to abandon them to the care of a town that traded with slavers. I had slaughtered the raiders who raped and hunted that blue pony in Manehattan, only to walk away and leave her to her fate once the immediate threat had passed. How many more? How many other times had I inserted myself into a situation, tried to help, then left? Should I count all of Fillydelphia as a victim of my kindness? I remembered my image in the mirror, reflecting my soul. Was twisted kindness what I had seen there? Was it a monster?

No... no this was sick and poisoned thinking. It was the Goddess mercilessly tormenting me where I was weak. I had a virtue. A good and true one just waiting for me to discover it.

I had to.

• • •

We stepped out of Maripony's most intact structure and into the angry daylight, four of the Goddess' alicorns guiding us back to where the Sky Bandit had landed.

My PipBuck began click at me. The balefire bomb had been detonated underground here; the radiation bleeding off of the Splendid Valley sinkhole was nowhere close to the horror of the Fillydelphia Crater. At least, not above ground.

A nearby wall held what appeared to be a map of the building above a pair of water fountains. My PipBuck's click-clicking sped up ominously as I brought it close to them, but I was more interested in scanning in the map for future reference. I suspected I might need it.

All around us, alicorns watched silently from behind crumbled walls or stood amongst broken pillars and collapsed rubble. Their silent presence was eerie and sinister.

"Thriving?" Velvet Remedy asked in a hushed voice, dipping her head. "It feels more like they haunt this place."

I nodded, lowering my voice to reply almost instinctually, as if the alicorn's silence demanded we speak softly. "And have you noticed that they haven't said anything?" Not one of them had telepathically spoken a word since we encountered them in Splendid Valley. In previous encounters, they had been boastfully chatty. "I think the proximity to the Goddess is overwhelming them; their individual minds are being drowned out by hers. This close, they become little more than drones."

"Not that Ah cared much fer their 'individual' personalities," Calamity chimed in, whispering, "Seein' as they were all variations o' Goddess-is-great, rah-rah-us, y'all-are-insects. Silence ain't entirely un-golden."

After a moment of thought, he continued, "Ah reckon it's the Taint. Splendid Valley's ripe with it." He pointed out, "She seems t' be able t' communicate with 'er so-called children outside, but nothin' like this, and not with normal folk 'cept in very special cases like Red Eye. But here, she's in our heads like it weren't nothin'. Ah'm bettin' this whole valley is a massive amplifier t' her."

Wonderful. "Well, then don't anypony think anything about what we do now until we're out of this Goddesses-forsaken place."

Calamity barked a laugh at my choice of phrasing.

The alicorns, of course, said nothing. They wove us through the rubble to the flat of asphalt which had once been a landing zone for sky chariots. The Sky Bandit sat waiting for us. On the roof, Pyrelight danced and hooted at our return.

Velvet Remedy stopped.

Calamity hesitated, his ears perking as he watched the bird. "Hold up there," he whispered, putting a foreleg out to block me. The four alicorns kept walking towards the Sky Bandit either unaware or unconcerned that their charges had stopped following. "That sounds like a warnin'."

Another alicorn dropped out of the sky behind us and raised her shield.

"It is," Velvet Remedy breathed.

The four alicorns trotted up to the Sky Bandit, the lead one beginning to turn towards us expectantly, when the asphalt around them erupted in blasts of magical energy. All four alicorns were killed, three instantly with two of them melting into goo, the fourth collapsing several yards away, missing multiple limbs and bleeding to death with a pitiful whinny. Velvet Remedy's horn flared as her anesthetic spell allowed the creature to spend her last seconds without pain.

The alicorns in the ruins around us stumbled in unison. Two more fell as shafts of colored light sliced through the air.

Velvet Remedy muttered something, closing her eyes as her horn flared and five small, flickering orbs of energy shot from the tip. One of the orbs drifted swiftly over my head and floated there. One stayed above Velvet. The others sought out Calamity, Xenith and Pyrelight and hovered over them like tiny guardians.

"New spell?"

Velvet Remedy nodded, saying "I'll explain later" as she looked for a way to run. The alicorns in the ruins were bringing up their shields.

The air was filling with magical energy blasts.

A pack of hellhounds was charging across the tops of the rubble, moving with terrifying speed to engage the alicorns under the covering fire of more hellhounds in the valley.

They'd mined the landing pad! My mind conjured images of hellhounds digging up from beneath until less than half an inch of asphalt separated their holes from the world above, then wondergluing the mines to that thin barrier and filling in the holes behind them.

"Back inside!" I shouted. Regroup first. Get out of the line of fire.

I turned, only to find we were blocked by the shielded alicorn standing behind us. Beyond her, the doorway back into Maripony stood dark and empty. The concrete steps leading up to it tore apart explosively as a hellhound burst out of the ground behind us. Massive claws ripped though the alicorn's shield and tore huge chunks of meat from her side as she turned to fight it. The alicorn almost got a spell off before the hellhound ripped his claws through her face, felling her.

{{INSOLENT CURS!}}

A high-pitched whistle blasted through the air and through my head, the Goddess projecting both mentally and magically through the ruins of Maripony's air raid sirens. I pressed my hooves to my ears, but it didn't help. I was unable to think, unable to move under the assault. Calamity, Velvet Remedy and Xenith all did the same, only the zebra seeming to get any respite from the effort.

The hellhound immediately fell, clutching his ears, howling in pain.

The others cringed in pain then turned, fleeing blindly back into the valley. The one in front of us did not fare as well; three alicorns descended upon him, dropping their shields as they skewered the ambushing creature, driving glowing horns through his thick hide.

One of the three was hit by a lancing beam of light blue energy and dissolved. A hellhound sniper who was either far enough away not to be debilitated by the Goddess' sonic/telepathic attack, or who had protection from it. Clearly, not all these creatures were poor shots.

An orange beam of light hit Calamity, striking him in the wing. For a brief moment, his whole body glowed orange, becoming a Calamity-shaped lamp. The little orb over his head popped, and the glow receded back to his wing before evaporating, leaving a hole in his wing that I could put my hoof through. Velvet Remedy's spell had saved him from being turned to ash. My pegasus friend collapsed in shock, his scream drowned out by the Goddess' attack.

The siren stopped.

The attack continued, but now the flurry of poorly-aimed beams of magical energy were replaced with a small number of expertly aimed ones. The attacks flashed uselessly against the alicorn's shields. In the wake of the sonic attack, the hellhounds didn't charge the base again.

• • •

"Really shoulda worn muh old armor," Calamity grunted as Velvet Remedy knelt over him, her horn glowing as she tried not to cry. "Hey, 'least Ah ain't bleedin' out, right?" The magical energy had warped the flesh of his wing around the wound and incinerated the feathers.

"Hush now," she ordered. "Quiet now. Save your strength and let your medical pony do her work." From her pained expression, I could tell it was bad.

Another bolt of energy struck the rubble we had taken refuge behind. The alicorns had flown out to strike down the snipers, but every time they got close, the hellhounds disappeared into the ground. All they were managing to do is get drawn further from the base and increasingly separated. The Goddess had begun recalling several, either suspecting or experiencing a trap.

"Did you see how all of the creatures reacted when the first four were killed?" Xenith asked as she hunted through her pouch of bottles and ingredients. "If the Trixie-monster experiences each alicorn's death, perhaps the death of many at once is painful or disorienting to her."

I nodded, filing that away for examination when we were safely outside the Goddess's range. I looked to Velvet and asked, "Will he be okay? And will he be able to fly again?"

Velvet took longer to answer than I would have preferred. "I can repair the structural damage to his wing with my mending spell, but I can't heal the wound. He'll need at least one extra-strength restoration potion to begin to heal properly, more if he wants to fly again anytime this week. And right now, we do not even possess a healing potion." She looked at me sadly, "If you'll remember, I used up all of our medical supplies patching you lot up inside Stable Two."

I felt a pang of guilt.

"Quite a spell ya got there," Calamity praised, resolutely ignoring his doctor's orders. "Ya saved muh life."

Only the slightest smile touched Velvet Remedy's frowning expression. "Yes, I had hoped to barter for more medical supplies from Doctor Helpinghoof. But with Tenpony Tower surrounded by Red Eye's forces, he wasn't willing to part with anything more than a few healing bandages. So I spent part of my time there learning a couple new spells. A disintegration ward seemed prudent."

Xenith pulled out a vial and offered it to Velvet. She took it and wrapped it in a telekinetic sheath, keeping it floating nearby. She scowled as she added. "Unfortunately, this wing needs more than my spells and some bandages to heal."

"I'm going to need to cut the warped flesh away before I can start rebuilding and mending the bones of your wing," Velvet Remedy insisted remorsefully, addressing Calamity. "This is magical damage; if I don't remove all the affected flesh, your wing will never heal properly. You're going to bleed a lot when I do so, but Xenith has given me something that should reduce the blood loss." She frowned, "This would be excruciating, so I'm going to have to use my anesthetic spell. You're not going to be able to move for the better part of an hour."

A beam of pink light struck above the doorway into Maripony. A cinderblock's worth of the wall glowed and dissolved.

Xenith turned to me. "You made the wagon fly before. Can you fly us all away from here?"

I shook my head. I'd been asking myself the same thing. "I can, but floating myself is incredibly draining. I don't think I'd be able to get us very far. And even if I could, I can't move us very fast. And all those hellhound snipers would need is one good shot to blow us up."

"Then we are trapped here until we find medical supplies for the winged one."

"Dang, girl, have ya just not learned our names yet? Ah'm Calamity."

"My apologies... Calamity. I am... not used to thinking in names or to being..." The ex-slave zebra was clearly having difficulty putting her feelings into words. "...on a level of familiarity where names are appropriate for me to utter."

I could have sworn I'd heard her refer to at least one of us by name before, but now that I thought about it, I couldn't place an instance. The closest I could come was her questioning how Calamity got his name. Only the largest figures in her life had been given names, Red Eye and Stern who ruled those who had enslaved her, or figures of legend like Doombunny and Nightmare Moon.

She'd kept her silence for how many years? I knew how impossible it had seemed to form friendships with my peers in Stable Two, having been the awkward blank-flank with the alcoholic mother. Being a zebra in the Fillydelphia slave pits would have been even worse. I wondered if she ever bothered to learn the names of most of her tormentors. Is this the way she had come to identify ponies in her mind?

"Do you believe there may be medical supplies inside here?" Xenith asked, looking towards Maripony.

I checked my PipBuck's automapping feature as well as the scan of the wall map. To my chagrin, Maripony's medical clinic was in the section that had collapsed into the crater. Anything that had been in there would be crushed, scattered and probably tainted. There were bathrooms that might have medical boxes, but would they be stocked with the sort of supplies Calamity needed? I felt it was doubtful, and I wasn't eager to try. The horror of what lurked in there, and what she had done, curdled my blood. I knew the Goddess needed us, but what if she changed her mind? I didn't want us to suffer the same fate as Twilight Sparkle.

"There's a hospital a few miles from here," Calamity announced, surprising all of us. "Part of the gem minin' town that served this place. When they shut down the mines, the town was abandoned; but they opened parts o' it back up to house the ponies who worked at Maripony an' their families."

I didn't ask how he knew any of this. Calamity had been surviving in the Equestrian Wasteland for many years before we had met. Who knew what rumors and scraps of information he had learned? I was content just to be thankful for this change in our luck.

Another shot struck the wall I was hiding behind, causing it to glow and melt. I scooted my tail to another bit of cover. We weren't going anywhere until they stopped taking so many potshots in our direction.

"And there should be plenty o' rooftops t' hide out on while Ah heal," Calamity assured us. "Ain't perfect, but probably the safest place from the hellhounds... if we c'n get there." We all knew we were talking about several miles' travel over hellhound-infested, irradiated and taint-soaked landscape.

"Just point the way, Calamity," I said, sounding more sure than I felt. "I have a plan."

"Ya always do," Calamity grinned. "Jus' get us t' Old Olneigh, an' we'll be fine."

• • •

The hellhounds seemed to lose interest after about an hour. It made me wonder if there was a larger purpose behind the attack or if this had just been sport.

I stood on the railing ringing Maripony's short water tower, my binoculars floating in front of my face. From here, I could just make out the shapes of Old Olneigh in the distance, resting peacefully. An elevated highway passed nearby, going nowhere. The highway had collapsed less than half a mile beyond the off-ramp to the town, leaving a line of rubble and crushed wagons that time and the valley had mostly succeeded in erasing.

Turning my gaze towards the horizon, I glimpsed a shadow that may have been Ponyville. Beyond that, the sky turned hazy and thick from the smoke of the Everfree fires. Walking around the rim, I realized I could spot three of those needle-like towers rising into the cloudy heavens above. I was fairly sure that one of them was the same one I had spotted from the outskirts of Cloudsdayle, but I hadn't seen the others before.

Coming full circle, I looked back again at Old Olneigh, then traced the path we would have to travel to get there: a set of train tracks that stretched from Old Olneigh to Maripony, crossing rocky flatland with only minor undulations save for a gulch filled with hints of scraggly vegetation and sick, stagnant water. I couldn't make out any details, but the plants beneath the bridge moved as if there was a much stronger wind blowing down the gulch than the faint breeze that stirred my mane.

My view turned black as an alicorn flew across my narrow scope of vision, obscuring the landscape. I put away the binoculars, hurrying back down.

More alicorns were beginning to return. The ones already here had returned to their silent lurking, seeming to pay us no attention. I was expecting either the Goddess or her alicorns to attempt another escort, but it was almost as if they had forgotten we were here. Yet that was impossible; they kept looking right at us. Maybe the Goddess was gauging what we would do next? Or maybe she was recovering? She had lost quite a few of her children over the space of an hour.

I wasn't the only one who found this behavior bizarre.

"Howdy!" Calamity said, trotting shakily up to one of the dark purple alicorns and waving a hoof in her face. "Remember us? The ponies y'all want t' find yer stuff for ya? Got a hurt wing here. If one o' y'all would care t' hitch yerself up, we c'n all be outta yer mane that much faster."

He turned to me, wobbling a little from the last fading effects of the anesthetic spell. "This is weird, right?"

"Maybe the Goddess is taking a great and powerful nap?" Xenith suggested. Calamity snorted a laugh that ended in a wince.

"Hey, Xenith," Calamity suddenly announced, "Ah never said it, but Ah wanted y'all t' know Ah'm glad yer free an' all."

Merciful Celestia, Calamity. Awkward much?

Xenith looked at him quietly. Then said simply, "Thank you."

Calamity chewed on that, then tried again, "So... those potions ya brew? Any o' them good for strengthenin' armor or helpin' w' equipment maintenance?"

"No," Xenith answered. Seeming to understand his intention, she offered politely, "I do know many poisonous brews should you be looking to make your bullets more lethal."

I felt for him. He was trying to connect with the new member of our group. He had been the most welcoming of her, trusting my judgment. But since then, they hadn't really bonded the quiet way Xenith and Velvet Remedy had, or even established the sort of relationship (would rivalry be the best word? grudging respect?) that Xenith and SteelHooves shared. They were friendly acquaintances; and I suspected Calamity was trying to find a way to turn that into true friendship.

Calamity trotted around the alicorn. She turned lethargically, keeping him in her sight. "Ah'm tempted to start shootin' 'em. Take out as many as we can." Velvet shot him a look of alarm and he backed down with a grin. "Ah didn't say I was gonna. Ah just said it was temptin'."

Xenith shook her head. "We should make the most of this respite to implement the little one's plan without interference."

I floated Calamity's Enclave armor out of the Sky Bandit, as well as Spitfire's Thunder and our other vital equipment. I didn't want anyone trotting up to it when the area around the passenger wagon could still be mined.

As I placed our equipment in the center of a large hunk of capsized wall, Velvet called us to gather close. Pyrelight landed on her back, puffing herself up and looking important.

As a precaution, Velvet was going to cast another ward against disintegration upon us. I had been watching Calamity when his orb burst, but I hadn't realized the ones over the rest of us had disappeared simultaneously.

"I can cast this spell over multiple friends," Velvet explained as she recast her spell, "But it collapses after any of you are hit. So please be dears and try not to get shot."

She turned towards me. "Especially you. I really hate this idea. You're too vulnerable. Why is it that you are always the one in the most danger, Littlepip?"

But she knew the answer. We'd been over this before.

All my friends gathered on the slab of concrete as I wrapped them and it in a field of levitation.

Velvet turned to help Calamity into the Enclave Armor, being extremely careful with his partially-mended wing. She was wearing the zebra-armor again, insisting we minimize the risks as much as possible. "Particularly since Littlepip seems insistent on taking more than her fair share."

I floated the chunk of Maripony's wall upward, not stopping until it was at least four stories above me. I was counting on the concrete to shield them from the hellhound's magical energy weapons.

I understood Velvet Remedy's concern, but this time it couldn't be helped. My telekinetic magic had grown powerful enough that I could float this large section of wall and all of them on it easily, but adding myself to the mix would create such a strain that I would be lucky to make it halfway without suffering burnout. I agreed to lighten myself enough to prevent my hoofsteps from triggering mines or announcing my presence to any hellhounds who might be lurking just beneath the surface, but that was all. In the end Velvet Remedy had to accept it.

It had to be me.

I started forward, moving around the ruins of Maripony. The slab of wall with my friends on it floated along high above me.

While I would not say as much, I was grateful to be able to take the risk in their place.

Was this something Corrupted Kindness would do? As soon as I had that thought, I pushed it out of my mind. I couldn't afford self-doubts right now.

As I reached the cracked edge of the Maripony base, I hesitated. My PipBuck was click-clicking, warning me of the radiation. But there was no sound, no special display on my E.F.S., designed to warn me of taint.

Old Olneigh suddenly felt a very long way away.

• • •

Splotches of red on my E.F.S. compass alerted me to more threats.

I floated the zebra rifle close and slipped into S.A.T.S. even as I trotted. I was pacing myself, advice from a book (The Egghead's Guide to Running) that I perused in Twilight Sparkle's Athenaeum during one of the hours where Homage was playing DJ Pon3 and giving me a chance to catch my breath. I had several miles to go, and I wanted to make the distance as quickly as possible -- which surprisingly meant not pushing myself as fast as I could.

A spiny dart hit my side, bouncing harmlessly off my armored utility barding. My targeting spell latched onto the first bloatsprite, then the second. I fired off a three-round burst at each, and the taint-swollen bugs erupted in flame as they fell to the ground.

I continued to trot along the tracks, quickening my pace just a little to make up for seconds lost while shooting. The wall holding my friends floating high above me, keeping pace. We were nearing the gulch.

My skin was beginning to itch in strange places. I fretted, wondering if it was nerves or an allergic reaction. Or, worse, the first symptoms of Taint.

My E.F.S. compass filled with red. Dozens of little lights appeared. Then more. The gulch was swarming with hostile life.

I trotted onto the tracks and prepared to break into a gallop, hoping that the rather rickety wooden bridge would offer me protection.

Something bobbed up over the edge of the gulch. I shuddered, staring at the taint-mutated thing. It looked like a plant, its huge head covered in gas sacs that allowed it to float, the stalk drooping down and dragging behind it. A sphincter in the center of its head tightened and then spit foul goop at me. The spore-laden effluent splattered the ground near my hooves, sending up a choking stink.

The Equestrian Wasteland never seemed to run out of new vileness. Several nearly identical floating spitter-plants were moving up out of the gorge towards me.

I slipped into S.A.T.S. again, locking targets on the closest two, sending two three-round bursts into the sphincter-heads of each monster as a third sprayed its filth at me. I felt the crud splash against my armor and coat, burning where it touched and causing me to drop my targeting spell as I gagged on the stench.

The two floaters I had hit ignited spectacularly, the gas pods that gave them mobility rupturing in flame like miniature versions of Pinkie Pie Balloons.

Three more of the floating spitter-plants rushed up from the gulch, one hitting the burning form of the first one and igniting explosively itself. The second spit its spore-sewage at me while the third charged towards me as if intending to latch on and devour. I cantered to the side, dodging the spit and bucked S.A.T.S. back up, targeting the charging one first and then the one which had successfully hit me.

Bullets burst from the silenced muzzle of the zebra rifle. The two targeted plants became flailing columns of fire. But the floaters kept coming. I dropped the targeting spell and brought it back up immediately, targeting two more.

One of the burning plants spit at me, its spore-sewage now on fire. Mercifully, the burning crud splashed across the tracks behind me, missing by a yard.

My skin was beginning to really hurt where I had been hit. I dropped out of S.A.T.S. again and shook, flinging the goop away from me. Then lifted the rifle and brought up the targeting spell, firing again at the advancing, half-burning herd of plants.

One of the burning floater plants tumbled back into the gulch. I could hear more gas-bladders catching fire and bursting as a rapid chain-reaction quickly set several hundred yards of the gulch ablaze.

I sprinted, galloping across the wooden bridge as flames from the gulch began to lick at it. Fierce heat and a choking reek buffeted me as I forced myself across, my eyes stinging. Several of the plants in the conflagration below spit burning spore-sewage at me. Most hit the bridge, setting it properly ablaze. Burning effluent struck my left flank, my hindleg and saddle bags catching fire!

I bit down, knowing that a scream could bring hellhounds. I pushed, running as hard as I could, my leg in searing pain. I was pouring concentration into levitating the wall now, the physical agony threatening to break my spell. The fire was spreading up my side. It hurt to breathe.

Flames licked at my hooves, burning them. I did scream.

I was almost across the burning bridge, the gulch below a writhing river of fire, when the hellhound tore out of the ground, alerted by my scream. But he was far enough ahead of me that Calamity could target him from the platform above. Four blasts of magical energy knifed down from above, melting the hellhound into colored sludge.

I began to lower the wall, choking on the smoke and the stench of my own burning coat, knowing I wouldn't be able to hold it much longer. It was three yards above the ground when the pain overwhelmed me and I dropped it.

I made it to the end of the bridge in a stumbling gallop and collapsed, rolling on the ground, squirming as I put out the fire on my left side, screaming.

• • •

"Just get to Old Olneigh and everything will be fine," Xenith chimed, her exotic voice taking a mocking tone as she peered at the town below through my binoculars.

We had made it to the top of the overpass and were looking down at Old Olneigh from above. From here, we could see dozens of hellhounds lurking about the town. A couple were even on rooftops.

"Galdangit, why do ya ponies ever listen t' me?" Calamity asked. "Ah ain't Li'lpip. Y'all know all my plans ain't worth shit."

I flopped over, telekinetically floating the binoculars to my eyes. I still couldn't feel anything -- Velvet Remedy's anesthetic spell doing its work -- but that didn't prevent me from using my levitation spell. In fact, it almost made it easier. I had spent the second half making myself light enough for Pyrelight to carry while I floated the others and the wall behind us.

The older unicorn had wasted no time in wrapping me with the rest of our medical bandages as she scolded me on taking on yet another gruesome attack for the team. But with the pain gone, and out of the choking smoke, I felt assured that I had done the right thing. There was something wrong with me, I could feel it where the spit had hit me. Something crawling beneath my skin that even Velvet's spell couldn't cover. I had floated my own forehoof so I could check my PipBuck's medical diagnostic spell. It confirmed that I was suffering from something, but it couldn't determine what that something was. It wasn't poison, and I checked clean for spore infestation. No, the spore-sewage of those floating plants had been laced with Taint.

I had never believed I could make the distance without exposure to Taint; I had never been that lucky. Rather, it would be a matter of how much exposure, and how quickly Taint took its toll. I knew that the society keeping Tenpony Tower's secrets possessed a spell that could purge Taint itself, although I didn't know if it could reverse the damage caused by it. That would be my hope.

The ruins of Old Olneigh included several nearly-intact buildings, one of which was the hospital. Sitting on the roof was a contraption I had never seen before, colored like a pink-and-yellow candy cane with periwinkle propeller blades affixed to the top.

"What's that?" I asked, pointing it out.

"Ah believe... that's an earth-pony sky wagon," Calamity said. "Trust it t' an earth pony t' find a way t' fly."

I could use that! No more running on the ground as I levitated the others in safety. "Do you think it still works?" I asked hopefully.

"Nope," Calamity said, deflating my daydream of floating everyone behind me while keeping safely off the ground in the earth pony contraption. But then he added, "But Ah'll bet Ah c'n fix 'er up so she will."

Hope resurrected. "Perfect! Because that's our Plan B."

I looked over the rest of the town, noting a strange glowing antenna array amongst multiple crates and barricades on a roof across the street from the hospital, and a scattering of old military vehicles on the road. There was a capsized wagon with metal boxes scattered around it, and a heavy tank half-sunken into the ground. Instead of a normal earth tone or camouflage coloration, the tank had been painted in bright, multicolored stripes. The paint job was old and faded, but still added a surprising splash of color to the town.

I laughed. "That tank looks like a rainbow." I could think of no logical reason for it to be colored that way.

"Really? Is that what they look like?" Xenith asked. At my questioning expression, she explained, "I have never seen a rainbow."

I first found the zebra's assertion impossible, then tragically sad, then curious. I looked up at the clouds that sealed off the sky. I'd seen it rain here. I'd seen it rain a lot, in fact. But I had never seen a rainbow Outside, except in posters and illustrations. In fact, the only real rainbows I had ever seen were in Stable Two, when the Apple Orchard sprayers were on. The Overmare's artificial sunlight would stream through the mist, creating shimmering arcs of beautiful color. I used to beg my mother to let me play in them when I was younger. She even let me once.

"Ayep," Calamity said in answer to my thoughts. "T' get a real rainbow, ya need either magic or direct sunlight. Ain't been a proper rainbow in the Equestrian Wastelands probably ever."

He thought a moment, then added, "'Cept maybe in the Everfree Forest, since the cloud cover gets mighty fragmented there."

I exchanged looks with Velvet Remedy as a knife slipped into my heart. I had never thought to miss them until I realized we were living in a world without rainbows.

• • •

"Ah'm gonna shoot 'em," Calamity announced before picking up Spitfire's Thunder in his teeth and aiming it over the concrete railing of the overpass, taking aim for one of the hellhounds in the town below.

"No!" hissed Xenith, pushing Spitfire's Thunder with her hoof. "If you shoot them, then you will let them know we are here."

"Wait," Velvet Remedy started to suggest, but my focus was on Calamity and Xenith, and their focus was on each other.

Calamity started to say something through the gunbit, then put the weapon down to properly argue. "Ayep. Ah figure Ah c'n pick a couple off before they realize where the shots are comin' from, then more as they come outta those buildin's t' investigate. Let 'em come runnin' towards us. We got plenty o' space 'tween here an' there t' snipe them off in."

I was already pulling out my own sniper rifle, levitating my anesthetized body into an optimal sniping position.

"Littlepip, wait!" Velvet said, but her next words were cut off by our zebra companion.

"Are you fools?" Xenith trotted in place. "This is not how you behave in enemy territory. Our enemy outnumbers us. And these are not stupid raiders, but clever opponents. You do not engage them wantonly."

Calamity cocked his head. "An' what would ya have us do? Hide an' sneak?"

"Yes," Xenith nodded firmly. "Be alert, move fast, keep downwind and to the shadows. Avoid them whenever possible. Kill only those we cannot avoid, and do so swiftly and silently."

Calamity looked to me, "Ah say we take out what we c'n while we c'n do so from a distance. Less o' them means less t' worry 'bout fightin' up close."

Xenith sighed, stepping between Calamity and me, facing him. "Listen to me. I have watched you. You are a hunter. You know how to hunt. But do you know how to be prey?"

Calamity took a step back, lifting the bug-eyed visor of his Enclave armor to stare back at her directly. "Ah ain't got no interest in bein' prey."

"Well, I have spent most of my life as prey. And I know how to survive when you are outnumbered and chased," Xenith informed him. "Perhaps you should listen."

Calamity again looked past her to me. "Li'lpip? Yer call." Xenith turned towards me too.

I weighed the options. But ultimately, the tactics I knew won out. "I agree with Calamity. We pick off what we can now before heading in."

I floated up the sniper rifle, loading armor-piercing rounds and taking aim. From this distance, I couldn't use my targeting spell to help me. But I had no trouble lining up a headshot just through the scope.

Xenith nickered, shaking her head. Calamity picked Spitfire's Thunder off the asphalt of the overpass and took position twenty yards away from me.

"Damn it, wait!" I heard Velvet Remedy shout, but I had already pulled the trigger.

BLAM!!
BLAM!!!

The air filled with the sound of ear-splitting thunder as we began to fire down on Old Olneigh. I watched as the head of the hellhound in my sights burst in a bloody spray. I moved to acquire my next target. The hellhounds were all looking up now, turning, beginning to move. I found a second and fired, but the creature moved too fast. I aimed ahead of him, firing a second shot and then a third. I was no longer able to aim for a specific part of the body; I was just hoping to hit him at all. My second shot did, but it only slowed him down. The third missed entirely.

I kept trying.

Several shot back, beams of magical energy cutting the air, but we were too far away and too well protected by the overpass to be in danger from anything other than a dedicated sniper.

Calamity was having far better luck. Every shot hit its target, crippling or killing. He started picking off the ones in the street as I turned my focus to those just coming out of doorways. That worked better. I felled a second. And a third.

"Aw crap," Calamity hissed as the hellhound he had turned his aim on dove into the ground, digging through the street like it was wet toilet paper. Calamity fired, blowing the creature's tail off as it disappeared.

They weren't coming out of the doors anymore. And as I looked up, I saw the last of the hellhounds on the street disappear into a hole.

We had killed ten of them.

"Well brilliant," Velvet Remedy facehoofed. "Both of you. Now they know we're here and we've attacked them first." She looked cross.

Calamity wiggled his wounded wing. "Muh wing disagrees." Velvet Remedy's ears drooped.

"Now," Xenith told Calamity, "You are prey. We are all prey."

• • •

They came for us on the overpass while I was still paralyzed by the anesthetic spell. The hellhounds weren't foolish enough to come running up the on ramp like we had hoped. Instead, they dug their powerful claws into the pier beneath us and began to climb.

The first one clawed its way over the railing almost on top of us. Pyrelight was the fastest to react, filling it with a face-full of radioactive green flame. Calamity recovered quickly, firing two of the novasurge rifles in his Enclave armor directly into the hellhound's torso as it lashed out with its claws, barely missing the balefire phoenix. The monster tilted back, dissolving.

"They're coming up from beneath us," Xenith warned before turning to dig in her satchel.

Velvet Remedy cooed to Pyrelight, "Would you be so kind as to burn them off the pier?" Pyrelight hooted happily and leapt over the edge. I could hear the roar of flames beneath.

Pyrelight was able to take out two of them before more on the ground abandoned climbing and started shooting at her. She appeared, dodging and weaving between shots as the magical energy attacks drove her away from the overpass and the ponies she was protecting.

Xenith produced a bottle and passed it to Velvet Remedy. "Dip your slugs in this before you load them," she instructed. "The poison will cripple the creatures if your shot isn't enough to kill them."

Velvet Remedy opened her combat shotgun, floating out the slugs and dipping them as instructed, a grim look on her face.

Two more crawled over the railing. I was ready this time, floating up Little Macintosh as I slipped into S.A.T.S. and fired into their heads. The hellhound's brains splashed out of the exit wounds.

Three more replaced the two I had just killed. And the sound of rending concrete warned me that more were digging directly up through the overpass from the top of the pier.

Velvet Remedy's anesthetic spell hit one of the hellhounds, causing the creature to fall. She lifted her shotgun towards another. And hesitated.

The hellhound lashed out at her, his claws slashing shallow lines of red across her breast and throat as I telekinetically shoved her back.

"Surrender," she offered to the creature. "Don't make me hurt you."

"Galdangit!" Calamity shouted, firing a bevy of magical energy bolts into the hellhound. The creature collapsed into a steaming puddle, leaving Velvet Remedy and Calamity staring at each other through the rising smoke. "Don't reason wi' 'em! They ain't interested!"

"They're people!" She shouted back. "They have a right to live."

"Y'all heard the zebra!" Calamity shouted, turning to fire at another hellhound as he dug up through the overpass asphalt. "They're huntin' us."

"And whose fault is that?" she quipped back loudly, throwing a protective shield around Xenith. The hellhound's claws tore through Velvet's shield like it was made of colored air. The zebra stepped inside the attack, rising on her hindlegs and throwing up one hoof to stop the monster's swinging arm while driving another hoof against the thick hide of his throat. The hellhound collapsed, choking.

"Has anypony even tried just talking to them?" Velvet cried out in exasperation.

I reloaded Little Macintosh as quickly as I could. They were coming faster now. It was getting harder to put them down as quickly as they surfaced. And one good swipe from their claws would kill any one of us.

There were bloody hellhound corpses and piles of sludge all around us. We'd managed to kill nearly ten more, miraculously without getting crippled or killed. Even if Velvet Remedy had a point, it was far too late now. I told her so as I fired point blank at a hellhound and somehow missed. The creature bore down on me with its claws.

Velvet Remedy sang. A single, high-pitched note. The hellhound immediately fell back, its clawed paws covering its ears. It turned and fled back down the hole it had come out of so fast that I didn't have time to bring up my targeting spell and shoot it in the back.

Velvet continued to hold the note, clear and strong. I looked around, and the other hellhounds were disappearing, fleeing the overpass.

Once they were all gone, Velvet's voice finally broke. Panting she fixed all of us with a glower. "Savage animals and monsters are one thing; but with people, there's usually a way that doesn't require killing each other!"

• • •

We moved cautiously into Old Olneigh. The sun was beginning to set, and I wanted to get into the hospital and out again before the coming darkness put us at an even greater disadvantage.

We were taking Xenith's advice now. Not engaging. Moving swiftly and quietly. Of the group of us, only Velvet Remedy was unskilled at stealth, so I was floating her along with us. The faint glow coming from my horn and shining around her worried me. It was like I was painting her as a target. But from our experiences, it seemed the hellhounds hunted by sound more than sight (possibly by scent as well) so it felt more important to keep her hooves off the ground.

As we pushed through the remains of a building, I spotted several pony-shaped figures laying on a floor above us through a collapsed section of ceiling. I waved a hoof at the others. "Hold up. I want to take a look."

I floated myself upwards, sweating with the effort, my horn glowing brighter. But there were no red marks on my E.F.S. compass, no sign of life on the floor above at all, so I felt momentarily safe in pushing myself.

As I levitated through the hole, I could see the bodies were of Steel Rangers, three of them clad in metal armor and a fourth who was not. The fourth sparked my curiosity: a yellow unicorn mare wearing thickly armored red robes with the sparks-and-gears symbol of the Steel Rangers embroidered into it. I had not seen a Ranger wearing anything other than Steel Ranger armor, save for Elder Blueberry Sabre. All four of them had died from terrible wounds inflicted by hellhound claws. The bodies were desiccated; they had been here quite some time.

The hellhounds had mined the floor around the bodies. One by one, I disarmed them.

I began scavenging the bodies, searching for any clues as to what brought these four to Old Olneigh as well as any supplies or ammo that might benefit us. I was in luck. The robed pony had two StealthBucks and a memory orb. One of the other rangers had magically-enchanted ammunition that was of the same caliber as Calamity's normal battle saddle.

I brought my treasures back to the others.

"Ya ain't plannin' on lookin' inta that there orb while we're in Old Olneigh, right?" Calamity said with a gentle warning. "Y'all remember our little talk, don'tcha?"

I nodded solemnly. "I Pinkie Pie Swear."

"Ya what now?"

"Nevermind. Tell you later. And yes, I promise."

As we moved to the edge of the street, my E.F.S. warned me that there were at least four hellhounds around the corner. I halted everyone.

We might be able to take them. We had surprise. But it would only take one good swipe for them to behead one of us. And the fight would draw others. No. We would continue to follow Xenith's advice. I motioned everyone back the other way.

"Ah hate this," Calamity muttered in a whisper. "Ah want t' hunt the hunters, not play these scurryin' games. Ah ain't a rabbit."

Xenith gave a wry smile. "Humility does not come easy to you, does it?"

Calamity turned to her. "What's that s'posed t' mean? Are ya sayin' Ah'm a show-off?"

"She wouldn't be entirely wrong, would she?" Velvet Remedy purred with just the right tone to sooth and embarrass the pegasus.

• • •

The partially collapsed firehouse tilted at an insane angle, making the entire world seem alien and threatening. Calamity, Velvet Remedy and I scrambled across the maze of broken floors and leaning columns. Pyrelight swooped between floors, occasionally diving down to the bright red firehouse wagons that lay crushed and partially buried under swaths of flooring.

A hellhound lurched into the doorway behind us... only to find Xenith waiting for it. A swift blow beneath the ribs froze the creature in place, paralyzing it. As it fell, a bolt of magical energy shot through the doorway, striking the zebra in the throat. She glowed brightly and the orbs over our heads burst. Xenith fell, bleeding from a wound in her throat the size of a memory orb.

Velvet Remedy struck the monster with an anesthetic spell, then rushed to Xenith, floating out her dress and using it to apply pressure to the wound. The dress was quickly ruined as it soaked with blood.

"C'n Ah please kill 'em?" Calamity huffed. Velvet frowned, not saying anything. Xenith rasped, "Yes... silently... and cut them open... the blood... smell..."

The hellhounds were hunting us, tracking us now clearly by scent. I understood what Xenith intended, as did Calamity. Velvet Remedy turned away, unwilling or unable to watch as we slew the two hellhounds. We made it quick, merciful. It was the least we could do, considering that we were about to defile their bodies.

"This ends any chance of diplomacy," Velvet moaned.

I hesitated, floating a jagged piece of sheet metal out of the debris and positioning it over the hellhound's body. I had to disembowel him. Spread his stink. Cover our path with the stench of his death. It was vile.

Slowly, I lowered the jagged metal, slashing at the hellhound's armored hide. Slowly sawing into him. It was incredibly hard, and the reek was unbearable. I took what little comfort I could in knowing that at least he had died quickly and without pain.

Corrupted Kindness, the little pony in my head whispered in the voices of the Goddess.

Please no.

By the time I was done, I felt sick to my stomach. I'd killed plenty, but this made me feel like a raider. My mind conjured up the image of myself, bleeding, wearing raider armor -- the image from the magical mirror.

• • •

There were bathrooms on the floor above, and medical boxes in each of them. Cracked mirrors and shattered toilets leaned at crazy angles. The whole tilt of the building was making me nauseous. Even more than I already was from the grisly work before.

My PipBuck complained as I got close enough to the sink for it to scan the contents of what little plumbing remained functional. The levels of radiation in the water here rivaled and usually exceeded the levels in Fillydelphia.

I sat, braced against the wall and picked the lock on the medical box in the little mare's room. The lock clicked open with ease. I opened it, emptying the box of its meager medical supplies and adding them to the supplies from the medical box in the little buck's room. Nothing that would help Calamity's wing, but the small healing poultice would close and heal Xenith's wound. The wasteland sometimes gave small favors.

I pushed myself up, feeling unsteady on the canted floor, and hurried back to the others. They were gathered in what had been the firehouse kitchen.

Velvet Remedy took the poultice and applied it, then borrowed a needle and thread from Calamity's clothing repair kit. A cabinet two buildings back had offered up an old bottle of apple whiskey, half empty. I whimpered inside as the drink went to sterilizing the needle. I could use a sip. I contented myself with a draught from my last canteen. It was nearly empty.

I itched in ways I shouldn't itch.

The poultice had stopped the bleeding and partially closed the gaping wound in Xenith's neck. Velvet began to sew the wound closed completely. Even with Velvet's expert attentions, the wound was going to remain an ugly scar for the rest of her life. I realized not for the first time that the zebra would be dead if the magical bolt had stuck her just an inch differently.

"Now you wait here and rest," Velvet ordered the zebra mare. "And Littlepip, you watch her. I'm taking Calamity to find something to use as rags to clean you butchers off." Velvet stuck her nose in the air and trotted out.

Calamity scowled but followed, pausing next to me long enough to remind me, "No orbs."

I watched him walk out after her. Rags? Sounded more like an excuse to talk to Calamity alone.

I let out a long sigh. "Worst. Day. Ever." It wasn't. But ever since we entered Splendid Valley, the day had been working very hard at becoming so, reaching a Luna-Tier rating of badness.

Xenith lay still for almost a full minute before getting up and moving about the kitchen. She had to brace herself on sloping counters as she rifled through the cabinets.

"Well, at least you're as good at following doctor's orders as the rest of us," I chuckled as the zebra started pulling pots out and setting them on the table. One of them slid down the incline; I caught it magically before it hit the floor.

"Xenith," I asked as a worry from the days before flooded back, "Do you trust me?"

Without turning from her task, she replied by asking, "Trust you about what?"

It was a dodge, but still a fair question. "Do you trust me as a... person?"

"No," she said simply. "Should I?"

I was taken back by the cool, honest answer. "Why not?"

"You are impulsive and have difficulty controlling your urges," she said as she opened the refrigerator door and pulled out a hunk of something covered in grotesquely mutated mold. She set it on the table and I caught it as it tried to slide away, recoiling from the sight of it.

"You are a very quick thinker and equally swift to act," Xenith continued, crouching to check lower drawers. "This makes you adaptable, perhaps more than any pony or zebra I have ever known. It allows you to improvise where others would be paralyzed. But it also leads you to rash actions from hasty decisions and gets you into trouble as often as it gets you out of it."

She finally pulled a knife from one of the drawers. She set it on the counter. I caught it too as she turned to look at me. "Although those are just my observations, and I have not known you very long." She looked me over. "Why do you ask?"

I wasn't sure what to feel. I wanted to argue with her, but a large part of me suspected she was right and cursed her for being so observant. "Do you think I'm evil?"

Xenith stopped, looking at me oddly. Then laughed. "No, little one. You are one of the most caring souls I have ever met, pony or otherwise."

Again, the little pony in my head whispered Corrupted Kindness in the voices of the Goddess.

"Do you think I'm cursed then?" At her odd expression, I clarified, "I have been touched by Homage."

The zebra turned back to scouring the kitchen, pulling pans out of a lower drawer to get at a spark battery-powered hot plate. "Of that I am quite aware."

I felt myself flush nervously. "Wh-what do you mean by that?"

"There are lovers who are quiet and there are ones who are not," Xenith stated. "You are not one of the quiet ones."

Oh no, dear sweet Celestia.

"You are what my tribe called a 'whinnier'."

I felt myself blushing hotly. I wanted to throw myself in the Splendid Valley sinkhole out of sheer embarrassment. "You mean... all those... each..." I squeaked.

"Yes," Xenith confirmed. "Each."

It took me several minutes and an old sack that the zebra had given me before I stopped hyperventilating.

"Can you breathe now?" Xenith asked gently.

I nodded. "I think so."

"The medical pony is right," Xenith said with a soft smile. "You are cute when you are that color."

I felt faint, my breathing threatening to quicken again.

I took a moment and composed myself as best I could. "So... am I cursed? Because I love Homage?"

She paused. Then turned away. I waited for her to answer. The answer I received was not what I had expected.

"The zebras may have been wrong about Nightmare Moon," she admitted. "You ponies may have been right. The wielders of the Elements of Harmony may have broken whatever hold the stars had over Nightmare Moon. Luna may have been... different."

She turned to me, "But that does not mean that the touch of the stars was still not upon her. That it did not influence her in more subtle ways." She looked to me. "I am open to your beliefs, but I ask that you be open to mine. Perhaps there is truth in both."

I frowned. I didn't want there to be any truth in her beliefs. But I had seen things that suggested otherwise. Things that suggested maybe there was something dark and terrible up there in the vast emptiness that stretched behind the moon.

"But Homage is not evil, she is not twisted, she is no Nightmare Moon," I insisted. "In fact, she saved our lives. She saved yours."

Xenith nodded with a sad smile. "And would you not say it was quite an amazing shot?"

"Absolutely. It was an... what?"

"The weapon from the stars wants to kill," Xenith said. "It yearns to kill."

Okay, now that was just creepy.

"I will accept that Homage is a good, kind pony. And that she is not cursed. Because you ask me to," Xenith conceded. "Even though I do not trust your judgment, I believe you speak truthfully in this. And I suspect you are better experienced at matters of the heart than I am"

I smiled, feeling a touch of relief. "Thank you, Xenith..."

The zebra shook her head. "But I ask in return that you keep an open mind to the things I believe, and a watchful eye for warning signs. The stars take the greatest delight in giving us the means to destroy ourselves and each other. Do you truly think that your relationship has not changed now that she has taken a life for you?"

I felt a chill. I had not considered that before. Or, if I had, I had seen the consequences as being entirely beneficial. She had saved my life. How would that not bring us closer? But had I not, that very night, wept in front of her for having killed a Steel Ranger?

Regardless of whether Xenith's superstitious fears were justified, she had led me to re-examine what had happened in a less self-centered way.

I looked up into the zebra's eyes. "Thank you."

BartonFink
User avatar
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:14 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by BartonFink (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:53 pm

oink oink oink im a cow

stuff
User avatar
Scootaloo's Pro Scooters
Posts: 168
Joined: Tue Oct 31, 2017 3:15 am
Location: 36th state

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by stuff (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:53 pm

damn it feels good to be a gangsta

Dodger

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Dodger » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:53 pm

Dodger wrote:
Dodger wrote:
Dodger wrote: :snoop: Image :snoop: Image :snoop: Image :snoop:

BartonFink
User avatar
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:14 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by BartonFink (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:53 pm

i think about every post i make before i make it, b

CorvusCaw
User avatar
Maud Squad
Posts: 151
Joined: Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:39 pm
Gender: Female

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by CorvusCaw (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:53 pm

Fellow-Citizens:

IN obedience to the will of the people, and in their presence, by the authority vested in me by this oath, I assume the arduous and responsible duties of President of the United States, relying upon the support of my countrymen and invoking the guidance of Almighty God. Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial, and who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps. 1
The responsibilities of the high trust to which I have been called—always of grave importance—are augmented by the prevailing business conditions entailing idleness upon willing labor and loss to useful enterprises. The country is suffering from industrial disturbances from which speedy relief must be had. Our financial system needs some revision; our money is all good now, but its value must not further be threatened. It should all be put upon an enduring basis, not subject to easy attack, nor its stability to doubt or dispute. Our currency should continue under the supervision of the Government. The several forms of our paper money offer, in my judgment, a constant embarrassment to the Government and a safe balance in the Treasury. Therefore I believe it necessary to devise a system which, without diminishing the circulating medium or offering a premium for its contraction, will present a remedy for those arrangements which, temporary in their nature, might well in the years of our prosperity have been displaced by wiser provisions. With adequate revenue secured, but not until then, we can enter upon such changes in our fiscal laws as will, while insuring safety and volume to our money, no longer impose upon the Government the necessity of maintaining so large a gold reserve, with its attendant and inevitable temptations to speculation. Most of our financial laws are the outgrowth of experience and trial, and should not be amended without investigation and demonstration of the wisdom of the proposed changes. We must be both "sure we are right" and "make haste slowly." If, therefore, Congress, in its wisdom, shall deem it expedient to create a commission to take under early consideration the revision of our coinage, banking and currency laws, and give them that exhaustive, careful and dispassionate examination that their importance demands, I shall cordially concur in such action. If such power is vested in the President, it is my purpose to appoint a commission of prominent, well-informed citizens of different parties, who will command public confidence, both on account of their ability and special fitness for the work. Business experience and public training may thus be combined, and the patriotic zeal of the friends of the country be so directed that such a report will be made as to receive the support of all parties, and our finances cease to be the subject of mere partisan contention. The experiment is, at all events, worth a trial, and, in my opinion, it can but prove beneficial to the entire country. 2
The question of international bimetallism will have early and earnest attention. It will be my constant endeavor to secure it by co-operation with the other great commercial powers of the world. Until that condition is realized when the parity between our gold and silver money springs from and is supported by the relative value of the two metals, the value of the silver already coined and of that which may hereafter be coined, must be kept constantly at par with gold by every resource at our command. The credit of the Government, the integrity of its currency, and the inviolability of its obligations must be preserved. This was the commanding verdict of the people, and it will not be unheeded. 3
Economy is demanded in every branch of the Government at all times, but especially in periods, like the present, of depression in business and distress among the people. The severest economy must be observed in all public expenditures, and extravagance stopped wherever it is found, and prevented wherever in the future it may be developed. If the revenues are to remain as now, the only relief that can come must be from decreased expenditures. But the present must not become the permanent condition of the Government. It has been our uniform practice to retire, not increase our outstanding obligations, and this policy must again be resumed and vigorously enforced. Our revenues should always be large enough to meet with ease and promptness not only our current needs and the principal and interest of the public debt, but to make proper and liberal provision for that most deserving body of public creditors, the soldiers and sailors and the widows and orphans who are the pensioners of the United States. 4
The Government should not be permitted to run behind or increase its debt in times like the present. Suitably to provide against this is the mandate of duty—the certain and easy remedy for most of our financial difficulties. A deficiency is inevitable so long as the expenditures of the Government exceed its receipts. It can only be met by loans or an increased revenue. While a large annual surplus of revenue may invite waste and extravagance, inadequate revenue creates distrust and undermines public and private credit. Neither should be encouraged. Between more loans and more revenue there ought to be but one opinion. We should have more revenue, and that without delay, hindrance, or postponement. A surplus in the Treasury created by loans is not a permanent or safe reliance. It will suffice while it lasts, but it can not last long while the outlays of the Government are greater than its receipts, as has been the case during the past two years. Nor must it be forgotten that however much such loans may temporarily relieve the situation, the Government is still indebted for the amount of the surplus thus accrued, which it must ultimately pay, while its ability to pay is not strengthened, but weakened by a continued deficit. Loans are imperative in great emergencies to preserve the Government or its credit, but a failure to supply needed revenue in time of peace for the maintenance of either has no justification. 5
The best way for the Government to maintain its credit is to pay as it goes—not by resorting to loans, but by keeping out of debt—through an adequate income secured by a system of taxation, external or internal, or both. It is the settled policy of the Government, pursued from the beginning and practiced by all parties and Administrations, to raise the bulk of our revenue from taxes upon foreign productions entering the United States for sale and consumption, and avoiding, for the most part, every form of direct taxation, except in time of war. The country is clearly opposed to any needless additions to the subject of internal taxation, and is committed by its latest popular utterance to the system of tariff taxation. There can be no misunderstanding, either, about the principle upon which this tariff taxation shall be levied. Nothing has ever been made plainer at a general election than that the controlling principle in the raising of revenue from duties on imports is zealous care for American interests and American labor. The people have declared that such legislation should be had as will give ample protection and encouragement to the industries and the development of our country. It is, therefore, earnestly hoped and expected that Congress will, at the earliest practicable moment, enact revenue legislation that shall be fair, reasonable, conservative, and just, and which, while supplying sufficient revenue for public purposes, will still be signally beneficial and helpful to every section and every enterprise of the people. To this policy we are all, of whatever party, firmly bound by the voice of the people—a power vastly more potential than the expression of any political platform. The paramount duty of Congress is to stop deficiencies by the restoration of that protective legislation which has always been the firmest prop of the Treasury. The passage of such a law or laws would strengthen the credit of the Government both at home and abroad, and go far toward stopping the drain upon the gold reserve held for the redemption of our currency, which has been heavy and well-nigh constant for several years. 6
In the revision of the tariff especial attention should be given to the re-enactment and extension of the reciprocity principle of the law of 1890, under which so great a stimulus was given to our foreign trade in new and advantageous markets for our surplus agricultural and manufactured products. The brief trial given this legislation amply justifies a further experiment and additional discretionary power in the making of commercial treaties, the end in view always to be the opening up of new markets for the products of our country, by granting concessions to the products of other lands that we need and cannot produce ourselves, and which do not involve any loss of labor to our own people, but tend to increase their employment. 7
The depression of the past four years has fallen with especial severity upon the great body of toilers of the country, and upon none more than the holders of small farms. Agriculture has languished and labor suffered. The revival of manufacturing will be a relief to both. No portion of our population is more devoted to the institution of free government nor more loyal in their support, while none bears more cheerfully or fully its proper share in the maintenance of the Government or is better entitled to its wise and liberal care and protection. Legislation helpful to producers is beneficial to all. The depressed condition of industry on the farm and in the mine and factory has lessened the ability of the people to meet the demands upon them, and they rightfully expect that not only a system of revenue shall be established that will secure the largest income with the least burden, but that every means will be taken to decrease, rather than increase, our public expenditures. Business conditions are not the most promising. It will take time to restore the prosperity of former years. If we cannot promptly attain it, we can resolutely turn our faces in that direction and aid its return by friendly legislation. However troublesome the situation may appear, Congress will not, I am sure, be found lacking in disposition or ability to relieve it as far as legislation can do so. The restoration of confidence and the revival of business, which men of all parties so much desire, depend more largely upon the prompt, energetic, and intelligent action of Congress than upon any other single agency affecting the situation. 8
It is inspiring, too, to remember that no great emergency in the one hundred and eight years of our eventful national life has ever arisen that has not been met with wisdom and courage by the American people, with fidelity to their best interests and highest destiny, and to the honor of the American name. These years of glorious history have exalted mankind and advanced the cause of freedom throughout the world, and immeasurably strengthened the precious free institutions which we enjoy. The people love and will sustain these institutions. The great essential to our happiness and prosperity is that we adhere to the principles upon which the Government was established and insist upon their faithful observance. Equality of rights must prevail, and our laws be always and everywhere respected and obeyed. We may have failed in the discharge of our full duty as citizens of the great Republic, but it is consoling and encouraging to realize that free speech, a free press, free thought, free schools, the free and unmolested right of religious liberty and worship, and free and fair elections are dearer and more universally enjoyed to-day than ever before. These guaranties must be sacredly preserved and wisely strengthened. The constituted authorities must be cheerfully and vigorously upheld. Lynchings must not be tolerated in a great and civilized country like the United States; courts, not mobs, must execute the penalties of the law. The preservation of public order, the right of discussion, the integrity of courts, and the orderly administration of justice must continue forever the rock of safety upon which our Government securely rests. 9
One of the lessons taught by the late election, which all can rejoice in, is that the citizens of the United States are both law-respecting and law-abiding people, not easily swerved from the path of patriotism and honor. This is in entire accord with the genius of our institutions, and but emphasizes the advantages of inculcating even a greater love for law and order in the future. Immunity should be granted to none who violate the laws, whether individuals, corporations, or communities; and as the Constitution imposes upon the President the duty of both its own execution, and of the statutes enacted in pursuance of its provisions, I shall endeavor carefully to carry them into effect. The declaration of the party now restored to power has been in the past that of "opposition to all combinations of capital organized in trusts, or otherwise, to control arbitrarily the condition of trade among our citizens," and it has supported "such legislation as will prevent the execution of all schemes to oppress the people by undue charges on their supplies, or by unjust rates for the transportation of their products to the market." This purpose will be steadily pursued, both by the enforcement of the laws now in existence and the recommendation and support of such new statutes as may be necessary to carry it into effect. 10
Our naturalization and immigration laws should be further improved to the constant promotion of a safer, a better, and a higher citizenship. A grave peril to the Republic would be a citizenship too ignorant to understand or too vicious to appreciate the great value and beneficence of our institutions and laws, and against all who come here to make war upon them our gates must be promptly and tightly closed. Nor must we be unmindful of the need of improvement among our own citizens, but with the zeal of our forefathers encourage the spread of knowledge and free education. Illiteracy must be banished from the land if we shall attain that high destiny as the foremost of the enlightened nations of the world which, under Providence, we ought to achieve. 11
Reforms in the civil service must go on; but the changes should be real and genuine, not perfunctory, or prompted by a zeal in behalf of any party simply because it happens to be in power. As a member of Congress I voted and spoke in favor of the present law, and I shall attempt its enforcement in the spirit in which it was enacted. The purpose in view was to secure the most efficient service of the best men who would accept appointment under the Government, retaining faithful and devoted public servants in office, but shielding none, under the authority of any rule or custom, who are inefficient, incompetent, or unworthy. The best interests of the country demand this, and the people heartily approve the law wherever and whenever it has been thus administrated. 12
Congress should give prompt attention to the restoration of our American merchant marine, once the pride of the seas in all the great ocean highways of commerce. To my mind, few more important subjects so imperatively demand its intelligent consideration. The United States has progressed with marvelous rapidity in every field of enterprise and endeavor until we have become foremost in nearly all the great lines of inland trade, commerce, and industry. Yet, while this is true, our American merchant marine has been steadily declining until it is now lower, both in the percentage of tonnage and the number of vessels employed, than it was prior to the Civil War. Commendable progress has been made of late years in the upbuilding of the American Navy, but we must supplement these efforts by providing as a proper consort for it a merchant marine amply sufficient for our own carrying trade to foreign countries. The question is one that appeals both to our business necessities and the patriotic aspirations of a great people. 13
It has been the policy of the United States since the foundation of the Government to cultivate relations of peace and amity with all the nations of the world, and this accords with my conception of our duty now. We have cherished the policy of non-interference with affairs of foreign governments wisely inaugurated by Washington, keeping ourselves free from entanglement, either as allies or foes, content to leave undisturbed with them the settlement of their own domestic concerns. It will be our aim to pursue a firm and dignified foreign policy, which shall be just, impartial, ever watchful of our national honor, and always insisting upon the enforcement of the lawful rights of American citizens everywhere. Our diplomacy should seek nothing more and accept nothing less than is due us. We want no wars of conquest; we must avoid the temptation of territorial aggression. War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed; peace is preferable to war in almost every contingency. Arbitration is the true method of settlement of international as well as local or individual differences. It was recognized as the best means of adjustment of differences between employers and employees by the Forty-ninth Congress, in 1886, and its application was extended to our diplomatic relations by the unanimous concurrence of the Senate and House of the Fifty-first Congress in 1890. The latter resolution was accepted as the basis of negotiations with us by the British House of Commons in 1893, and upon our invitation a treaty of arbitration between the United States and Great Britain was signed at Washington and transmitted to the Senate for its ratification in January last. Since this treaty is clearly the result of our own initiative; since it has been recognized as the leading feature of our foreign policy throughout our entire national history—the adjustment of difficulties by judicial methods rather than force of arms—and since it presents to the world the glorious example of reason and peace, not passion and war, controlling the relations between two of the greatest nations in the world, an example certain to be followed by others, I respectfully urge the early action of the Senate thereon, not merely as a matter of policy, but as a duty to mankind. The importance and moral influence of the ratification of such a treaty can hardly be overestimated in the cause of advancing civilization. It may well engage the best thought of the statesmen and people of every country, and I cannot but consider it fortunate that it was reserved to the United States to have the leadership in so grand a work. 14
It has been the uniform practice of each President to avoid, as far as possible, the convening of Congress in extraordinary session. It is an example which, under ordinary circumstances and in the absence of a public necessity, is to be commended. But a failure to convene the representatives of the people in Congress in extra session when it involves neglect of a public duty places the responsibility of such neglect upon the Executive himself. The condition of the public Treasury, as has been indicated, demands the immediate consideration of Congress. It alone has the power to provide revenues for the Government. Not to convene it under such circumstances I can view in no other sense than the neglect of a plain duty. I do not sympathize with the sentiment that Congress in session is dangerous to our general business interests. Its members are the agents of the people, and their presence at the seat of Government in the execution of the sovereign will should not operate as an injury, but a benefit. There could be no better time to put the Government upon a sound financial and economic basis than now. The people have only recently voted that this should be done, and nothing is more binding upon the agents of their will than the obligation of immediate action. It has always seemed to me that the postponement of the meeting of Congress until more than a year after it has been chosen deprived Congress too often of the inspiration of the popular will and the country of the corresponding benefits. It is evident, therefore, that to postpone action in the presence of so great a necessity would be unwise on the part of the Executive because unjust to the interests of the people. Our action now will be freer from mere partisan consideration than if the question of tariff revision was postponed until the regular session of Congress. We are nearly two years from a Congressional election, and politics cannot so greatly distract us as if such contest was immediately pending. We can approach the problem calmly and patriotically, without fearing its effect upon an early election. 15
Our fellow-citizens who may disagree with us upon the character of this legislation prefer to have the question settled now, even against their preconceived views, and perhaps settled so reasonably, as I trust and believe it will be, as to insure great permanence, than to have further uncertainty menacing the vast and varied business interests of the United States. Again, whatever action Congress may take will be given a fair opportunity for trial before the people are called to pass judgment upon it, and this I consider a great essential to the rightful and lasting settlement of the question. In view of these considerations, I shall deem it my duty as President to convene Congress in extraordinary session on Monday, the 15th day of March, 1897. 16
In conclusion, I congratulate the country upon the fraternal spirit of the people and the manifestations of good will everywhere so apparent. The recent election not only most fortunately demonstrated the obliteration of sectional or geographical lines, but to some extent also the prejudices which for years have distracted our councils and marred our true greatness as a nation. The triumph of the people, whose verdict is carried into effect today, is not the triumph of one section, nor wholly of one party, but of all sections and all the people. The North and the South no longer divide on the old lines, but upon principles and policies; and in this fact surely every lover of the country can find cause for true felicitation. Let us rejoice in and cultivate this spirit; it is ennobling and will be both a gain and a blessing to our beloved country. It will be my constant aim to do nothing, and permit nothing to be done, that will arrest or disturb this growing sentiment of unity and cooperation, this revival of esteem and affiliation which now animates so many thousands in both the old antagonistic sections, but I shall cheerfully do everything possible to promote and increase it. 17
Let me again repeat the words of the oath administered by the Chief Justice which, in their respective spheres, so far as applicable, I would have all my countrymen observe: "I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." This is the obligation I have reverently taken before the Lord Most High. To keep it will be my single purpose, my constant prayer; and I shall confidently rely upon the forbearance and assistance of all the people in the discharge of my solemn responsibilities.
ImageImageImageImageImage

BartonFink
User avatar
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:14 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by BartonFink (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:53 pm

Stuff wrote:damn it feels good to be a gangsta

Don't Get It Twisted

BartonFink
User avatar
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:14 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by BartonFink (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:54 pm

Brony Safari

Lazy

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Lazy » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:54 pm

We were guided into the crumbling building. As we landed, we saw at least three dozen more alicorns standing about the crumbling ruins. In a single movement, in perfect unity, they all turned their heads to look at us.

It was the unparalleled creepiest thing in the history of ever.

Escorted through the doors by the four midnight-blue alicorns. They had dropped their shields. Honestly, they didn't need them. We were totally outmatched.

I was surprised when the alicorns brought us to what looked like a security substation within the building. This room seemed largely undamaged, save by time. The rest of the rooms and hallways we had seen were broken and crumbling, fragmented by the subterranean blast and eroded by centuries and weather. This small room was almost... intact.

There was no Goddess here. There was nothing here but some chairs, a bank of four dusty monitors and a microphone, a filing cabinet and a few ridiculously pristine coffee cups. The area above the monitors was glass, but the long window looked out at nothing but a metal wall inches away. The opposite wall held a recessed door. There were odd grooves on the wall.

"Ah reckon this is our cell," Calamity said. If so, it would be stifling. And cramped, if any of the alicorns tried to stay in here with us.

{{WE WILL TALK! BUT FIRST, THE GODDESS WISHES YOU TO SEE! TO UNDERSTAND, AND MARVEL!}}

The voice of the Goddess didn't merely reverberate, I realized. It pre-verberated. Like there were dozens of smaller, weaker voices inside that voice, all trying to say the same thing at the same time, and not quite succeeding. The voice of the Goddess was a chorus.

"Understand what?" Velvet Remedy asked. Xenith looked at her, confused.

{{THE GODDESS!!}}

The security monitors flickered to life under the dust. One of them displayed colorful ponies in lab coats milling about a much bigger version of this room, full of monitors and maneframes and banks of blinking lights. "Ready when you are," a chartreuse pony with a cutie mark of a flask filled with bubbling green liquid said, glancing up at us through the monitor.

"These images are of the far past," Xenith intoned.

The second monitor looked down on a vast factory floor. The factory was filled with six huge, interconnected vats full of churning luminescent stews that rippled with lavender and green beneath glass coverings, the light casting colored shadows over everything. Arcane apparati hung down from the ceiling. Catwalks ringed the vats and another hung suspended from the ceiling above and between them, stopping midway across the room with some manner of control panel at the end.

"Again with the catwalks-over-factory-floors aesthetic of wartime Equestria," I groused.

"Is that...?" Velvet Remedy began to ask as a single pony appeared on the third monitor. An elderly lavender pony with grey streaking her purple mane. The room behind her was about the size of this one, filled with identical monitoring equipment. But where we saw only a metal wall, her picture window looked out onto the factory floor in monitor two.

"Twilight Sparkle," I nodded.

"uh, yer goddess-ness," Calamity said to the air, tapping on the last monitor. "Ah hope yer aware this one is broken?" The monitor had a large crack running through it and was displaying only rainbow splotches.

{{BROKEN? WHAT? OF COURSE I AM! THE GODDESS KNOWS ALL!}}

The little sub-voices continued to telepathically echo the last two words for several seconds after the Goddess had "spoken".

"Lovely," Velvet Remedy said snidely.

"Ready to begin pony testing," Twilight Sparkle said, sounding just a hint nervous. "Send her in."

"Sending in Test Subject One," the pony on monitor one announced.

"Don't call her that!" Twilight warned. She trotted over to look out the window, floating a coffee cup filled with what looked like tea to her lips, sipping primly. She set the cup aside and leaned her muzzle over a microphone. On monitor two, a lovely blue unicorn with a mane that had aged to a luxurious silver slowly made her way out onto the suspended catwalk.

She turned and looked up to the window. "Twilight Sparkle, I just wanted to thank you again for giving me this opportunity. It means so much to me."

"You're welcome, Trixie," Twilight Sparkle said kindly. The name rang a bell, but it took a moment to place it. Trixie: the mare from the cottage outside Fetlock. She went to Manehattan for a meeting with Twilight Sparkle and never returned.

The lavender pony hit a button with her hoof and an ornate golden cup rose out of the console at the end of the walkway. Purple and green liquid rose through tubes running from the vats to the apparatus above. Then a thin stream poured into the cup.

Trixie walked across the platform and sniffed at the cup. "Is that roses?"

Twilight chuckled softly. "Yes. I added the scent. Hopefully, it will taste like roses too."

"Really?" Trixie looked up towards Twilight Sparkle with astonishment.

Twilight's ears drooped. "Unfortunately, probably not." She hesitated. "Trixie, you know you don't have to do this..."

"Oh, I want to," the blue unicorn insisted. "I want to help. And... this will make me more powerful? Like Luna and Celestia?"

"Well, not that powerful. But more powerful, yes."

"Like you then?"

Twilight Sparkle looked uncomfortable. "We're hoping for more than that."

"And... it's safe, right?"

"Absolutely," Twilight Sparkle assured the blue unicorn on the catwalk below her. "All the tests have come back looking spectacular. The only variable is, well, dosage. And for that we need to do testing with pony volunteers like you. With luck, we'll get it right the first time, and you'll be the first new alicorn since Luna was born."

The unicorn at the end of the catwalk nodded. And mumbled something that sounded like "great and powerful smells like roses", then looked up with wide eyes. "You sure I shouldn't start with a little more, then?"

Twilight Sparkle stifled a chuckle. "No, I-"

On the monitors, everything happened at once.

From the broken one, I could hear a terrible roar and the rainbow sprays turned to a flaring light.

On the other three, the world shook.

On the first, chunks of ceiling came down, some killing ponies outright, one blocking the door. A maneframe toppled in a spray of sparks.

On monitor two, the entire factory floor shook. I could hear the loud twangs as several of the cables holding the suspended platform snapped out of the ceiling. Sections of catwalk fell. Two of the vats were ruptured as a third of the ceiling came down, spilling their glowing contents onto the factory floor. I could see automatic systems severing and sealing the connections with the other vats. Trixie cried out as half the cables holding up her section of the catwalk gave way, turning it into a freely-swinging platform.

On the third monitor, alarms were blaring: "Radiation surge detected!" "Seismic activity detected!" "Toxic contamination warning!" "Safe rooms sealing!"

"No!" shouted Twilight Sparkle as a huge armored plate slid down over the door to her room. She turned to the window as massive armored shutters swung down from above.

"TRIXIE!"

On monitor two, Trixie's platform tipped, swinging in a low arc. The unicorn slid down the inclined surface, trying to find purchase, as the lower end of the catwalk segment impacted the glass roof of one of the vats, shattering it. The blue unicorn plunged into the vat.

All the monitors flickered and went dead.

The four of us stood in the security room, shaken, our eyes peeling away from the monitors to look at each other.

Monitor three flickered back on.

"Dear anypony. This is the Mare of the Ministry of Magic, Twilight Sparkle," a weakened Twilight said. "It's been two days now since the megaspell strike on Maripony. I can only assume by the lack of rescue that this was not an isolated strike."

"I'm leaving this record in case somepony does come. I'm trapped in Safe Room Three on the Maripony Vats Level." The elderly lavender pony addressed the camera. "The safeguards that should allow me to open it aren't working; and unfortunately for me, I designed these rooms to withstand a nearby megaspell strike, so the room is more than a match for my own magic."

Calamity, Velvet Remedy, Xenith and I watched the monitor, realizing we were watching Twilight Sparkle's goodbye letter. My vision began to blur wetly. I tried to force myself not to cry. I'd cried too much this week already. But the tears rolled down my cheeks anyway.

"I'm out of food, and the safe room's water talisman seems to have been corrupted." She gave a wry smile as she said, "At least, I'm fairly confident that pure water isn't supposed to be that color. I'm also beginning to suffer hallucinations. I think that I'm hearing the screams of the ponies in Maripony, like something horrible is happening to them. But I know that's impossible. These walls are soundproof.

"I keep hearing Trixie's voice in my head, screaming. Sometimes, it gets so bad..."

The lavender pony waved it off. "Not important. What's important is that we tried. We tried, and we came so very close. Another week, maybe even just a few more days, and the work we did here would have not only changed the war, I believe we could have forced a peaceful resolution.

"What's important now is that we still have one more chance. Find Spike. He's my most loyal assistant... my number one assistant. ...Find him..."

Twilight Sparkle seemed to fall to sleep. The Monitor flickered out again.

"Spike?" Xenith asked.

The monitor burst back to life. Twilight Sparkle's haggard face was pressed close to the camera. She looked atrophied, crazy. "Something's going on here. I... I don't know what. But it's bad. If you're in Maripony, get out. Get out while you can and drop a zebra missile on this place..."

Suddenly, there was a loud, metallic grinding from the speaker below monitor two. On the monitor, we watched as the metal plate over the door lifted up, the metal shutters over the windows lifted.

Monitor two sprang to life. The vats room was a disaster. The floor was waist thick in mixed fluids. Something swam in the water. No, not swam... the body of a light red unicorn pony was being dragged through the liquid by a telekinetic tendril. We watched as the tendril hauled the body out of the pool and up the side of one of the vats. A moment later, the body disappeared over the lip and into the vat.

Streaks of blood rose up several of the vats.

On monitor three, Twilight Sparkle was crawling towards the door, too weak from hunger and dehydration to stand. Unable to stand, she couldn't see what was just outside her window.

Light flared in the room. A blue light that took the form of Trixie. The blue unicorn stood, shimmering, in front of Twilight Sparkle. From this angle, we could clearly make out her face as she spoke to the lavender unicorn who once bore the Element of Magic. The Trixie illusion spoke, but no words came out.

"I'm sorry, Trixie," Twilight Sparkle whimpered.

As the Trixie illusion's mouth continued to move, Xenith pushed past me and leaned close. Our zebra began to read the movement of the illusion's mouth.

"...to be sorry for. Your experiment worked, after all. It worked more wonderfully than we ever dreamed it would. Don't be sorry. Be happy. We're going to live forever, you in I."

I felt a deep, dark chill and prayed that Xenith had mistranslated that.

"What?" asked a startled Twilight.

"I'm sorry it took so long for me to be strong enough to save you, Twilight Sparkle."

Velvet Remedy gasped as light blue tendrils of telekinetic energy snaked into the room and wrapped around each of Twilight's hooves.

"No!" Twilight Sparkle struggled with more strength than should have been possible.

"It's time to save you now, Twilight Sparkle," Xenith continued to speak for illusion-Trixie. "We're going to be very close now, you and I."

"Oh Goddesses," Velvet moaned and buried her face in Calamity's mane as the tendrils slowly dragged Twilight Sparkle, kicking and screaming, towards one of the vats.

I was shaking. I wanted -- so desperately wanted -- to turn away. But I couldn't.

Twilight Sparkle let out a last cry as she was dragged over the lip of the farthest vat. One word, a name I think, but I couldn't make out what it was.

The two monitors went blank. And this time, they stayed that way.

• • •

Oh Goddesses! oh Goddesses! oh Goddesses!

I felt utterly numb with horror. Velvet Remedy was crying. Calamity looked grimmer than ever.

The whole room shook, the air filling with the squeal of grinding metal, as the shutters over our own window lifted up.

We stared out over the vats. This wasn't just a similar room. It was the same room.

Centuries had not been kind to the room beyond. Another third of the ceiling had collapsed, as had two of the vats. The pool on the floor had turned to sludge covered with a sickly layer of dust and floating debris.

Swirls of colored light seeped up from the two still-intact vats. They danced in the air, exploding like fireworks. In my head, I heard the echoes of half-remembered fanfare, but not from any memory of my own.

{{THE GREAT AND POWERFUL GODDESS WELCOMES YOU!}}

"Okay, how in tarnation do we kill that?"

"Calamity!" I hissed.

More swirls of light lifted from the vats. They shimmered, merging together, until the giant face of Trixie loomed above us. But not just Trixie, as little motes of other ponies' faces occasionally burst to the surface like zits, crawling along the head and mane of Trixie before sinking back.

{{FEAR NOT! FOR I, THE GODDESS, ALREADY KNOW WHY YOU HAVE COME! RED EYE, THAT TREACHEROUS PONY, DESIRES MY END. BUT THE GODDESS IS NOT WORRIED, FOR THE GODDESS IS GREAT AND POWERFUL AND RED EYE IS NOT!...}}

Somehow, through the sheer soul-breaking horror of what I was seeing and what I had just witnessed, the little pony in my head stomped for me to pay attention. She did not like where this was heading.

"Fear not," Xenith began, "For I, the goddess, already..."

"You can stop that now," Velvet Remedy hissed.

{{...YET.}}

I squeaked. Then fought to find my voice. "Red Eye has seen these recordings, hasn't he."

{{IT MATTERS NOT THAT HE HAS SEEN THEM.}}

That would be a yes.

{{IT MATTERS THAT HE HAS DISOBEYED ME AND PLOTTED AGAINST ME! IT MATTERS THAT HE HAS BEEN WITHHOLDING FROM ME! RED EYE HAS NOT SENT ME A UNICORN IN OVER A YEAR AND THE GODDESS BELIEVES HE WILL SOON STAND IN THE WAY OF MY UNITY ALTOGETHER!}}

"And... let me guess," I prodded. "You need us to kill Red Eye for you?" Please let it not be something as stupid as that. There wouldn't be enough facehoofs in the world.

The illusionary fireworks changed. A spinning pinwheel of crimson flame swirled behind the floating glower of the Goddess, over-signaling her displeasure.

Dodger

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Dodger » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:54 pm

Luke is Darth Vader's son.

Lazy

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Lazy » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:54 pm

I floated the whole array of pots and pans. Xenith had quickly discovered that no surface in the room was flat enough to safely cook on after a mishap with the hot plate.

Not far outside, Calamity and Velvet Remedy had started arguing. We could hear it from inside the kitchen, but could not make out the words. Not that I wanted to. Xenith fretted, worried that their discussion would attract more hellhounds, but so far they were keeping their voices low enough. Still, it added an unpleasantness to the air.

I distracted myself by returning to an earlier part of my conversation with Xenith. "Do you trust me to tell you the truth?"

"Yes, little one. Unless you believe it is in my best interest to lie."

Crap. I hated to think she might be right about that. I would have preferred to be more like Homage. But if it came to telling the truth or protecting my friends, I had a track record of choosing the latter. And while I regretted the necessity, it was rare for me to reconsider the choice. Did this mean that I was playing SteelHooves to Homage's Applejack?

"Well, would you trust me with your life?" I asked as Xenith took the knife and started scraping chunks of mold into one of the pots. She finished then put the knife down. I caught it again.

"It is not a matter of trust. You saved my life. You are responsible for it." Ugh. More insane zebra logic. All the worse since it was insane, understandable zebra logic. "I have not chosen to release you from that."

Frustrated, I asked, "Why not? Look where following me has got you? You nearly died! I've taken you from one hellhole straight into another."

The zebra looked at me, a touch of sadness in her eyes. Then turned away. She filled a pot with horribly irradiated water, then began to mix the mold into it, not answering me. I sat and watched. In the very least, maybe I would learn something.

One by one, she added more ingredients, none of which looked healthy. I hoped this wasn't anything we were intended to consume.

"Don't talk," she said, although I wasn't talking at all anymore. "Be quiet. Run. Hide." Her voice was low, heavy. "Get your food and hide, or a pony will take it from you. Don't talk. When they come for you, relax. Let them do what they will do. Don't fight. Don't scream. Don't talk."

She looked up at the canted ceiling. "When they hurt you, grunt. Whimper. Don't talk. Always the same. Until they get bored. Then hide. Heal. Prepare for the next time."

She looked to me. "If they move to kill you, kill them. Then hide the body. Hide it well. Find another place to be. Don't let them suspect you. Be meek. Don't talk. Hide."

A cold shiver passed through me as I stared at the scarred zebra mare.

"It was only after a truly exceptional horror that I dared join the fights. I did not wish them to see that I could fight, but I could no longer bear it." She lowered her head, looking to me with tears in her eyes. "Before you, the slavers. Before the slavers, my husband. Before him, my parents. I have never owned myself. I am not comfortable with the idea. I know this role. I can survive it."

I shook my mane. "I may be responsible for you, as you say. But I am not a slaver. I do not own you."

"And for that, you are better than all the others," Xenith admitted. "But still the fact remains that I do not know how to live being responsible for myself."

"I think," I told her, "You'd do fine."

• • •

The hallway tilted at such a nauseating angle that I was walking as much on the wall as the floor. I followed close to Calamity, keeping an eye on my Eyes-Forward Sparkle for hellhounds. We were hunters again at Xenith's request.

"Another one on our six," I whispered to him as the light appeared on my compass. "Supply room, I think."

"Ah see it," Calamity nodded, reminding me that the bug-eye styled visor in his armor had an E.F.S. of its own. Crouching low, the pegasus moved stealthily forward until he was in position directly in front of the door, his four magical energy rifles pulsing eagerly. I telekinetically pushed open the door, holding it so gravity wouldn't swing it back shut.

A skewering dart shot out of the supply room, bouncing harmlessly off the forehead of Calamity's black carapace armor. "Humph," he chuckled, raising on his haunches and striking at the bloatsprite with the stinger of his armor's segmented scorpion-tail. The impaled creature squealed as it died.

"Heh," he said, still chuckling. "Ever wish these things could detect threat level instead o' just threats? Ah almost wasted a lot o' ammo on a bug."

I smirked. "Often." I turned back to our other friends, motioning them forward. Velvet nodded and nudged Xenith, who was crouched and facing the other way, guarding our flank.

My Eyes-Forward Sparkle tracked a friendly spot of light as Pyrelight swooped in and out of rooms, searching for enemies to burn... or rodents to eat. The balefire phoenix return to drop the charred corpse of a small animal at Velvet Remedy's hooves.

"Oooh. Thank you," Velvet sang lusciously, stroking the bird's plumage with a gentle hoof. Pyrelight hooted happily and stretched her wings fluttering off again. It boggled my mind.

"Y'know, yer just encouragin' her t' keep doin' that."

"And why wouldn't I?" Velvet said sweetly. "My little Pyrelight is a wonderful hunter. Just like she should be."

Calamity gave a grumpy look in Xenith's direction. At least, I assumed it was a grumpy look. With my friend hidden inside that armor, I really couldn't tell. But his posture struck me as grumpy.

I decided I preferred my friend out of that armor. It made him look mysterious and rather evil, and it put up a barrier between us that I didn't care for. I'd gotten used to it with SteelHooves, but not being able to see Calamity's face just felt wrong.

"She is a bird of prey, after all," Velvet reminded us. Xenith eyed the charred corpse and shook her head, then cantered towards us, moving with surprising ease down the off-kilter hallway.

Calamity flexed his injured wing, and I thought I heard him mutter, "So was Ah not s'long ago."

"So Calamity," I piped up, pulling his attention away. "I had a question that needs a pegasus' expertise."

"Shoot, Li'lpip," he said, seeming to cheer up.

"If I wanted to clear away a large area of clouds, say the area over Manehattan..." Say, just as a totally random example, the area above a megaspell chamber which requires sunlight to function. "How could I do so without having the Enclave all over me?"

Calamity nickered, "Oh no. Whatcha plannin' now, Li'lpip?"

"Just theoretical."

"Ayep. Sure it is," he said, clearly not buying a word of it.

Xenith moved up to the body of the bloatsprite. "Perfect," she intoned, opening her satchel. Leaning down, she tore off its wings and spat them into the satchel. "Now I must find a room to complete the brew"

Xenith moved ahead, taking the lead again.

"Do Ah even want t' know?" Calamity said.

"From what I've seen go into it, I prefer not to."

Returning to my question, Calamity informed me, "Well, there's only one way t' clear an area that big that fast. An' that's with a sonic rainboom."

The gears in my head started turning.

"O' course, the Enclave's response would be swift an' deadly, but ya might have clear skies fer over an hour." He chuckled ruefully. "Which, sad t' say, requires a pegasus capable o' performin' one. O' which the Equestrian Wasteland has exactly zero."

The gears ground to a stop. Damn.

"Sorry, Li'lpip. Show-off or not, that's one trick Ah ain't never been able t' do. Very, very few pegasi can, an' the Enclave keeps 'em real close."

• • •

When the firehouse had started to topple, the building came to rest against the Maripony Mining Administration Building. A canted firehouse window hung open about five feet from the opening of a shattered window on the opposite building.

"Just a hop, a skip and a jump," I told Calamity with a smile. I remembered wearing Enclave armor from riding Rainbow Dash's memory -- it might look fearsomely heavy, but it was amazingly light. There was no reason Calamity couldn't do this easily.

Calamity braced against the sloping floor. "Easy 't say fer y'all who ain't never had t' do somethin' like this without yer wings." He looked at me. "If Ah fall, y'all are ready t' catch me, right?"

"Just float him across," Xenith suggested from the opposite window where she and Velvet Remedy were waiting.

"Yeah," Calamity agreed. "Ah like that plan better."

I rolled my eyes then whispered to him, "But which do you think will impress Velvet more?"

Calamity straightened up, shook his fears off, galloped and leapt. He made it with five feet to spare. Show-off.

My turn. I looked down the sloping floor and across the gap to the opposite window sill. It wasn't even with this window, maybe two feet higher. I swallowed. In Calamity's defense, the tilted floor was throwing me too.

I galloped forward, lightening myself at the last moment, after I had all the momentum I needed. I sailed across, smacking into Calamity's armored tail.

"See," he joked. "Ah told ya. Nothin' t' it."

I snickered and shook my head.

The room was an open office space filled with desks and terminals, none of which had survived well. I checked my E.F.S. and found red lights moving around us, probably on the floors below. I motioned the others to be quiet, and once again I levitated Velvet Remedy as we moved.

As we passed the last of the desks, I noticed an orange and yellow book laying in an open waste bin. I floated it out, looking the book over. The Big Book of Boom! announced the cover, adding beneath: The Dynamite Guide to Handling Explosives. Below that was a picture of the author Red "Three-Hooves" Runner with a cartoon balloon saying "Ya better handle 'er right the first time, cuz she won't explode twice!" The book was crammed full of notes and papers. I tucked it away to look over later.

Underneath it was an audio recording. I downloaded it into my PipBuck and slipped my earbloom into an ear. (Surely Calamity wouldn't mind this; listening to the recording wouldn't remove me from my surroundings.)

"Mining Officer Torchwood to all concerned personnel:

"First order of business: We will be having a surprise inspection in two days. Everypony needs to be well rested and at the top of their game. Maripony operations Overmare Sunny Days has authorized a half day tomorrow so that everypony can get plenty of rest and have their uniforms cleaned and starched. Anypony who uses this time to go to Ponyville and get drunk will not be allowed back into the Maripony facility or any operations building within Old Olneigh, and will be docked one week's pay. Baskets, make sure you have proper headgear this time or you will find yourself no longer employed by Maripony Mining Co.

"Second order of business: Maripony Mining Co. has increased demand for productivity. This means you can expect an increase in work hours of twenty percent with a corresponding fifteen percent increase in your paychecks. Officers whose teams exceed the new quotas will receive a bonus. I cannot say what the bonus is, but I can let you know that the bonus will include ice cream. Likewise, we will be opening up several previously restricted tunnels to mining operations. The Maripony Mining Co. assures you that these tunnels meet and exceed our minimum safety standards.

"Third order of business: There have been increased reports of trespass by relocated Diamond Dogs. Now I don't know if this is a territorial pack-mind thing or if they're just stupid, but if you find a Diamond Dog on Maripony property, you are to instruct the Dog to leave. If the Diamond Dog refuses, use of sonic deterrents are permitted. Ask your team Officers for the newest line in D4 (Diamond Dog Deterrent Device) whistles, now with convenient neck-wrapping loops.

"Fourth order of business: Thanks to Brickbane, we have had to reset our Days Without Serious Injury board back to zero. Thankfully, Brickbane will recover the use of most of her limbs. Remember, D4 neck wrapping loops should be kept short so that your whistle cannot dangle into mining machinery.

"Keep up the good work, everypony."

I turned off the earbloom. We had reached the stairwell and my E.F.S. had lit up with more hostiles. Two hellhounds lurked visibly at the bottom of the stairs down. They were wearing makeshift armor and one of them carried a magical-energy minigun. There were more around the corner.

One of them started sniffing.

I motioned the others back and looked to Xenith. In theory, the potion she had brewed was altering our scent, making us smell like mold and bloatsprites. Still, going down to street-level was out unless Xenith thought now was the time to go on the offensive.

The zebra shook her head. She slipped forward and started up the stairs towards the roof. If I remembered correctly this would put us across the street from the hospital. I didn't think even Calamity could clear Old Olneigh's Mane Street with just a hop, skip and jump.

• • •

"What am I looking at?" It was not the first time those words had come out of my mouth.

A late evening wind moaned through Old Olneigh, pulling at our manes and tails. A yard from my hooves was the lumpy puddle of sludge which had once been the hellhound sniper positioned on the rooftop of the Maripony Mining and Administration Building. Calamity had fired on him the moment we burst out onto the roof, liquefying the creature before it could attack or howl.

A strange antenna sat in the center of the sagging rooftop, humming softly, surrounded by magical gemstones that radiated a soft blue light. Around the antenna were several tables, one of which was still intact and held a glowing terminal that faced away from us. The others had been clawed to shreds. Strange silvery boxes sat nearby, all but one of them similarly shredded. Hellhound claw marks sliced into the barricades that ringed the roof.

There were several dead ponies up here. All of them pegasi. All wearing the same black carapace armor.

"Enclave scouting party?" I asked Calamity.

Our pegasus walked amongst the corpses. They were old, just dried and rotting flesh hanging on bone. "No," he said, looking up. "This was a science team."

Calamity trotted round to the other side of the terminal. "Ah 'ave no idea what they would be doin' in Old Olneigh. Or down here at all, fer that matter." His voice was grim. "But Ah aim t' find out."

I recalled what Homage had told me about the night she found the weapon from the stars. Jokeblue had suspected it was part of a Grand Pegasus Enclave experiment. Perhaps she had not been so wrong after all?

"Maybe I should try hacking in?" I blurted out, wanting to see what secrets the terminal held.

Calamity's armored head looked up, and he lifted the armor's visor. He chuckled. "Be muh guest," he said, stepping away and welcoming me to the terminal with a swing of his scorpion-like tail. "But Ah don't think ya will be able t' hack this one."

"Come on, Calamity," I laughed good-naturedly. "I haven't met a terminal yet that I can't hack." I puffed myself up, taking that as a challenge.

"Y'all ain't never met an Enclave terminal," Calamity said knowingly.

I stuck out my tongue as I trotted over. "Technology's all the same. This is me, remember? The little mare with the PipBuck on her flank? Let me at it."

I stopped as I caught sight of the terminal interface. It was made of a strange white substance that I couldn't identify. I reached out to touch it and my hoof went right through it like there was nothing there.

It was made of... clouds? What the fuck?

Calamity laughed. I looked around. The Enclave supply boxes all had locks that were made of the same material, either white or a light shade of pink. I looked to him, demanding an explanation as the pony in my head ranted that this was not how things should be.

"Well, what did y'all expect pegasi built stuff out of? There are whole cities up there built almost entirely out o' clouds." I could feel him grinning behind that damn helmet. "What, didja believe only unicorn ponies had any magic o' their own?"

I stopped, frustrated. The very idea of terminals and locks that I couldn't get into because they were made of clouds was just... just... wrong and unfair!

The words of the Goddess floated back to me: with controls which can only be operated by a pegasus.

Fuck. The Ministry of Awesome had built key control systems out of fucking clouds. Anypony other than a pegasus who attempted to operate the controls would find themselves clutching slightly damp air.

A thought occurred to me. "Is there anyone other than a pegasus who can operate a system with a cloud interface?"

"Nope," Calamity said proudly. Then swiftly took it back. "Ayep. Griffins can."

So that's how Red Eye was planning to get past that obstacle. And I knew how he was trying to get past the second. We were on a clock again.

I sighed, tossing up my hooves in exasperation, and trotted back to the others, letting Calamity work on hacking the terminal. Instead, I moved to the edge of the building. I floated out my binoculars and looked across the street at the hospital. It looked shaken; there were massive cracks running up the walls and one corner had collapsed. A sign, a yellow cross with a pink butterfly in the center, had started to pull free from the wall two stories up; the upper bolts had torn from the wall and the whole sign hung precariously over the street below. Most of the windows were shattered and the winds of Old Olneigh whipped at stained hospital curtains.

Even still, it was one of the most intact buildings in Old Olneigh, and it was our best hope for the medical supplies we needed to fix Calamity's wing.

I looked across to the rooftop. I could see the earth pony flying contraption clearly, with its candy-colored paint job lit up in the setting sun, the name Griffinchaser II emblazoned on the side. It looked in sore disrepair, but I trusted Calamity's expertise.

I looked down into the main road of Old Olneigh, a Mane Street with a set of train tracks running down the center. Hellhounds scampered about, moving from one building to another in packs. Hunting us.

And night was falling.

• • •

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

I was staring at the spikes that adorned the top of a wrought-iron gate. They were ugly things, painful looking. I nodded my horn towards one of them, and the metal glowed with beautiful blue magic, reshaping itself instantly into a happily prancing mare.

I sent up a prayer of thanks to Celestia and Luna. I was in a unicorn mare. It felt good and right.

Even better, I was in sunlight. Perhaps the brightest, cleanest sunlight yet. The air was dusty but clean, reminding me yet again of how odd the air in the real world was.

I turned my eyes to the next one and wove the magical spell over it. This one became a prancing unicorn stallion. I was struck by how much it resembled Prince Blueblood. Almost a perfect likeness. The next spike glowed and transformed into a unicorn mare, head bent as if she was mid-charge, her horn aimed dangerously close to Prince Blueblood's...

"Behave yourself, Rarity," I heard myself whisper in Rarity's lovely voice. The blue glow of magic surrounded the two figures again and they were transformed into entirely different, happy and generic pegasi.

I felt a strange thrill as I realized who I was. Followed by a flash of guilt.

"That old spell, huh?" came a voice from directly behind me.

I turned, the blue pegasus with the shockingly rainbow-colored mane moving into view. "It's not polite to sneak up on ponies, Rainbow Dash."

"I wasn't sneaking," the pegasus said defensively. "I was just flying. It's not my fault flying is quiet." Rainbow Dash was wearing the purple and black uniform I had seen her in before. "So, what have they got you all the way out in this dustbin for?"

Rarity looked around, and I was treated to the sight of Old Olneigh, intact and well maintained and bustling with ponies. I was able to see the shops and homes that I had only known as ruins.

And yet, as glorious as this look into the past was, I was clearly not seeing Old Olneigh in its heyday. Most of the shops were boarded up. There was a sense of disuse hanging over much of the town. And the bulk of the ponies were clearly either military or associated with the Ministry of Arcane Sciences.

"Apparently," Rarity said ruefully, "They're having trouble with the Diamond Dogs again. Fluttershy has tried to talk to them, but it didn't work. So somepony thought they might pay more attention if I were to talk to them."

"Gee," Rainbow Dash snickered, "I wonder why."

"Why indeed."

"Did Fluttershy try to tell them that this wasn't their home anymore?" Rainbow Dash asked, hovering in the air in front of me. "Or, you know, that it's dangerous?"

"Of course she did," Rarity said. "Fluttershy even tried to compromise..."

"Oh brother," Rainbow dash facehoofed.

"But that was when they discovered that Twilight's magical..." my host searched for the best word. "...byproducts, shall we say, have started eating through the barrels. Sunny lost a pony trying to move them when several tore open like they were made of nothing but the covering paint." I watched us look Rainbow Dash up and down. "You know, I still can't believe you are wearing that."

"Hey, we're Luna's elite aerial force. What else were we going to call ourselves?"

"How about anything other than the Shadowbolts?" Rarity suggested primly.

"Way I see it, why not play into the zebra's crazy Nightmare Moon phobia. The original Shadowbolts were all just Nightmare Moon, right?" Rainbow Dash grinned conspiratorially. "Why not use that to our advantage. Every zebra who sees us coming and flees the battlefield is one less zebra we'll have to kill. Or who might kill one of us."

"Still, I can never get used to seeing you look like that."

"Actually," Rainbow Dash put a hoof behind her head, brushing her mane. "I had an idea about that. Do you think your old dressmaking skills are up to working with armor?" the pegasus ribbed.

"Rainbow Dash! You wound me!"

"Oh!" came a shout from somewhere on my host's left. A moment later a dusty pony in a military uniform galloped to a stop and offered a salute to Rainbow Dash. Rarity stepped back.

"At ease, uh..." Dash looked at the pony's uniform. "...tank commander...?"

"Torchwood, Ma'am. Big fan. Followed your career since the Wonderbolts."

Rainbow Dash's face brightened. "Oh really? Did you see me at the GALLoPS last year?..."

My host shook her head. "I see you're going to be busy for a while, Dash. I'll catch up with you later," she said graciously, even though it was the pegasus who had sought her out. "Do you think you'll be free by dinner?"

Rainbow Dash turned back. "Oh, yeah, no problem. I want to throw some ideas past you."

I could feel Rarity smiling.

"Also," Rainbow Dash added, swooping close and whispering, "I heard rumor that you're working on a new spell with the Ministry of Peace? Something about keeping a pony alive and awake indefinitely?"

"Suspended animation, yes, although that's a very poor description of it" Rarity replied, nodding. "And I'm working on it for them, not with them. Part of a... private line of research that has finally born some fruit. But it still needs some fine tuning."

Dash grinned. "Great. Cuz that sounds like just what I've been looking for."

Rarity raised an eyebrow. "Dare I ask?"

"Oh, just part of the Single Pegasus Project."

I could feel Rarity frown. "You mean that thing that has you putting those dreadful eyesores all over our lovely Equestria?" she snorted.

"They'll look better once they're done. I promise. Apple Bloom says they'll be 'elegant'. You like elegant, right?"

"Indeed I do. But I'll wait until I've seen them."

Rainbow Dash muzzle broke into a big grin. "Just wait until you see the main hub. Actually, you can glimpse its construction if you stand up on the roof of the hospital. Just face towards the water tower and look about a hundred miles up and out." Rainbow Dash paused. "You, uh, might need binoculars."

"Or a telescope," Rarity retorted.

"Heh. Yeah. Anyway, it's not named yet. They wouldn't let me name it what I wanted to, even though it's my damned project and my Ministry. So..."

"You wanted to name it Rainbow Dash's Megacool Center of Awesomeness, didn't you?" Rarity asked, ribbing back.

"Noooo!" Rainbow Dash hovered indignantly. Then admitted, "Not exactly."

Rarity laughed a charming and happy laugh. "Go tend to your fan, Dash. I'll meet with you later."

Rainbow Dash grinned, waved and swooped back to Tank Commander Torchwood. In seconds, they were deep into gushing over the aerial acrobatics of Rainbow Dash. A pegasus who could apparently do sonic rainbooms in her sleep.

Rarity turned and trotted away, humming a joyful tune.

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

• • •

"What did you do?" Xenith was demanding of Calamity as I came out of the memory. The pegasus cantered nervously.

"Ah don't know. It just started doin' that." My ears perked, picking up a high whine coming from the antenna array. I looked to Calamity who was staring at the terminal as if it had betrayed him.

With a sinking feeling, I asked, "Did you trigger a lockdown?"

Calamity shook his head. "Naw. Ah got in jus' fine. Weren't that hard." He looked up at me, his eyes wide inside the bug-like nightmare helmet.

"And? What is this place? Was it what you thought?"

Calamity swallowed. "It's an Enclave experiment all right. Under orders of Harbinger, one of the Enclave High Council. They were playin' wi' magic-laced sonics, hopin' t' control the hellhounds."

"They were trying to make these creatures into slaves," Xenith said in a low voice.

I looked around, drinking in the sight on the rooftop with new eyes. "I'm guessing it didn't work."

"What do you think the chances are that we're really lucky and Calamity just triggered the Leave Us Alone signal?" Velvet Remedy quipped grimly, trotting to the roof's edge and looking down into the street. She immediately backed up, eyes wide and frightened, her face going pale under her charcoal coat.

I dared a peek. Celestia's solar-heated libido! The street was full of hellhounds. Scores of them. More were moving out of doorways or climbing over buildings. All moving towards us.

And they looked pissed.

Footnote: Maximum Level
Back to index
Life Interrupted by Kkat

"We all go through periods of darkness. In such times, we can turn to the Goddesses, but it's good to have friends."

Memory.

All the thoughts we have, all the decisions we make, are rooted in layers upon layers of experiences. To understand ourselves, we must look to our own past. To our memories.

I believe that our pasts and our hearts make us who we are. Our memories define us. But what if we should lose them? Would we become untethered? Adrift? Would we even be the same ponies anymore?

If you could block out your most horrible and hurtful memories, would you do so to spare yourself the pain? And if you did, would you lose an important part of yourself in the process?

And what of higher thought? Reasoning and rationalilty? If I were to forget the discoveries that led to a realization, would I be able to grasp that revelation anymore? Could I piece together the logic of an argument if I could not remember having the argument?

How important are memories to our ability to even think? Or, at least, think clearly?

And what about the reverse? What if you added memories which were not your own? How often could you live parts of other ponies' lives, making their decisions, seeing the events that brought them joy or sorrow, before the boundaries that separated you from them began to blur?

Were memory orbs nothing more evocative than particularly well-written books? I knew from experience that a memory orb only preserved sensations. When inside a memory orb, I saw and heard and felt, tasted and smelled, but I was not privy to the actual thoughts and emotions of the hosts whom I rode. Did the visions into others' lives, no matter how vivid, have any impact beyond knowledge or entertainment?

And what effect might there be on a pony who relived the same memory orb over and over?

And what if you could take it a step further? What if you could hear a pony's thoughts? Read their minds. Perhaps sense their memories?

What if you were the Goddess?

What manner of pony would you have to be just to keep any sense of yourself?

• • •

I stared in horror at the mob of hellhounds pouring into the streets. They came from the alleys and the shattered ruins. They climbed out of windows and emerged from darkened doorways in nearly every building I could see. Every one, that was, except for the one place we intended to go: the hospital.

The first had already reached the Maripony Mining and Administration Building. Some were dashing inside. Others sunk their claws into the brick façade and began to scale the walls.

Calamity turned to the Enclave crates, shoving the claw-torn containers away until he reached the single undamaged one. I could hear him whisper what sounded like a prayer, although I knew no higher being that Calamity would pray to. Then he furiously clopped at the lock's cloud keypad.

The crate opened with a hiss and a wash of cool air. Inside was... a bundle of fluffy white clouds.

I would have facehoofed if the noise Calamity made at the sight hadn't been one of triumph. The pegasus lowered his head and kicked off his helmet, his orange mane bursting free. His wide eyes and self-pleased smile gave me a boost of joy. He'd stayed hidden behind that black, insectoid mask too long, and I had missed him.

"How did you know the combination?" Xenith asked curiously.

"Oh-one-oh-four. Harbinger's birthday." Calamity grinned proudly. Then sheepishly admitted, "'Twas on the terminal."

"A cloud?"

"Ayep! Y'all are in this mess cuz o' me. Ah plan t' get y'all out o' it." He leaned his head into the Enclave crate, grabbing the cloud bundle in his teeth. (He bit the clouds and picked them up! The little pony in my head was having an aneurysm.)

"Obferf!" he boasted through the clouds in his mouth. He trotted to the roof's edge, facing the hospital. A hellhound clawed her way up onto the roof in front of him, raising a paw full of long, flesh-and-armor tearing claws. Calamity backed away, dropping the cloud bundle (which simply floated where he'd let it go).

BLAM! Velvet Remedy's shotgun went off, the slug hitting the hellhound in the center of her left breast. The flesh rippled, but did not give. The hellhound howled in pain, toppling backwards from the impact.

"Thank Celestia!" whimpered Velvet Remedy, letting out a sigh of relief. I winced as I realized she was thanking the Goddess that hellhound's had thick enough hides to stop a shotgun slug at close range. Until now, I had only used Little Macintosh and the sniper rifle against them. I'd been lucky in those choices. Nothing else I had would likely penetrate.

Another hellhound clawed his way onto the rooftop directly behind Xenith. The zebra danced, giving a well-placed buck to the creature's chest. I heard ribs break, and the hellhound fell, rasping, fighting for breath from what I knew was a punctured lung. A second buck sent the hellhound over the edge, catching another climber in the face and knocking them both to the alley below. One of them hit an open waste bin with a back-breaking clang.

I didn't know which had become scarier, hellhounds or Xenith who could take them down with her hooves.

"Thank ya kindly, Velvet!" Calamity stepped back up to the floating bundle and gave it a kick. The cloud unfurled, rolling outward like a carpet, stretching over the street below.

Three more hellhounds pulled themselves onto the rooftop. Velvet Remedy backed up and let out a song, hitting that perfect high note. All three hellhounds clutched at their ears. Two stopped, backing up to the edge of the wall. One climbed back over the side while the other backed up a step too far, her arms pirouetting comically as she fell backwards off the roof.

The third lurched forward, striking at Velvet Remedy in a half-blind swipe. Velvet jumped away. Her right foreleg did not, falling to the rooftop in a spreading puddle of blood. Velvet's note ended in a strangled whimper as she lifted her right foreleg, eyes locked on where the stump ended inches above where her right knee should have been.

The hellhound drew back her paw, one claw wet with Velvet Remedy's blood. Four bolts of magical energy struck her in the offending paw. The female hellhound glowed and liquefied.

"Velvet!"

I screamed in horror. Calamity dashed to the charcoal-coated unicorn's side, catching her as she wobbled and fell, her eyes still locked on where her right foreleg should be. "I... can fix this..." she whimpered. Velvet fainted in Calamity's forelegs.

Pyrelight pierced the air with a mournful cry.

NO!

Xenith moved fast, pulling potions from her satchel until she found the right one. She shattered it on the rooftop, commanding our pegasus, "Push her wound into that! Quickly!" It looked like the same pudding that Xenith had given Velvet to stop Calamity's wing from bleeding him dry.

Wrapping Velvet's sundered leg in my magic, I floated it to the pudding and pressed it into the glop as well. "We can fix this," I moaned with determination. "She can fix this. She said so!"

I could hear more hellhounds tearing their way up to the roof from inside and out.

Calamity held Velvet, looking stunned. His eyes glistened; his armor was slick with Velvet's blood. "Calamity, now!" Xenith shouted into his ears, breaking the pegasus from his trance. He shoved the bleeding stump into Xenith's medicinal goop hard enough to make the unconscious Velvet moan.

Turning to me, Calamity commanded, "Xenith, put Li'lpip on muh back. Li'lpip, levitate everypony but me an' yerself. An' don't forget Velvet's leg!" He let Velvet Remedy slide out of his arms and galloped to the cloud carpet, stepping onto it. The cloud held him like it was made of surest steel.

I felt a harsh tug at my mane as Xenith lifted me onto Calamity's back. I winced, but the tears blurring my vision were for Velvet. I floated her limp, maimed body into the air, wrapping her severed limb in my magic as well. And finally, Xenith.

Two hellhounds burst up through the roof hatch. A third dug her way up through the ceiling itself, one of the torn Enclave crates knocking her in the snout as it slid into the hole.

"Let 'm chase us across this!" Calamity broke into a gallop, carrying me over the street on a bed of clouds, my mare friends swooping across the urban canyon, towed by my magic.

The two hellhounds from the hatch dropped to all fours and ran for us, leaping for Calamity and me. They would have landed right behind us, but they fell through the clouds (as was proper for creatures and clouds) and dashed themselves on the street below. One got up, dusting himself off, then took one look at the building we were heading onto and turned the other way. The second had broken her neck and never got up again.

• • •

"Ah figure y'all got 'till that beacon shuts up t' scavenge what we c'n get from the hospital," Calamity barked, turning to look back over the walkway of clouds. The hellhounds continued to swarm the Maripony Mining and Administration Building, heedless of our escape. "Ah'll stay here an' get this here whirligig fixed."

"And I... will stay... here," Velvet breathed weakly. "And... protect... Calamity."

"Y'all are gonna protect me?" Calamity gave her a politely disbelieving look.

She smiled back with a glare of her own. "If my voice cannot... soothe the savage beasts... it can... at least... send them running."

I hated this plan.

Words could not describe how much I hated this plan. The only things making me agree to this plan were a severe lack of time, an inability to see a better way, and the spark of hope borne from that one hellhound's reaction. A hope that, maybe, the hellhounds had an aversion to the hospital that would protect us.

Turning to Xenith, I motioned her to follow. We had no time to lose, and we now had two major injuries that demanded top tier medical supplies. I prayed to Luna that this place had not been stripped clean already. That somehow, for any reason, this hospital was still well stocked.

"Ah crap," Calamity said, still staring across the cloud bridge. I turned in alarm, my stomach dropping. Oh Goddesses, please, not anything else! Please!

"Ah left muh helmet."

I wanted to buck him so hard. "Leave it. You look better without it anyway!" A thought struck me. "Can you still shoot those rifles without the helmet's interface?"

"Nope."

That sinking feeling was reinforced. "How many shots do you have left for Spitfire's Thunder?"

"Ah'll swap t' a fresh clip, but Ah've only got three. Plus the two shots left in the current one."

More than he'd have time to fire if he was shooting alone. I looked to Velvet Remedy bleakly.

"Go, Pip. I'll take care of him," Velvet insisted. Pyrelight landed next to her, puffing out her breast and looking fierce.

I nodded before looking back to Calamity and then to the candy-colored heap that was the Griffinchaser II. "Can you fix her?"

"Ayep. Positive. Now go!"

Pyrelight gave me a heartbreaking look.

Xenith was already waiting for me at the rooftop access doors. I nodded one last time, praying to the Goddesses that this was not the last time I would see them alive, then galloped silently away.

• • •

Xenith and I made our way through crumbling grey hallways with peeling yellow wainscoting. Motes of dust floated in the air. Occasional debris rained from the ceiling.

I took the lead, moving quickly and stealthily, checking rooms. My E.F.S. insisted that there were numerous enemies inside the hospital, lurking somewhere ahead and behind us. From my experience in Stable Twenty-Four, I suspected they were all on the level below.

It hit me as unfair that even with the signal, there would still be hellhounds inside this place hunting us. But as I prepared to curse the heavens (wondering if perhaps I should be cursing the stars), I remembered Calamity and the bloatsprite in the closet. The curse died with a chuckle as I realized we were probably surrounded by hostile insects. Bloatsprites or radroaches... or whatever radroaches became in the presence of Taint.

As I turned down a hallway, my ears perked at the sound of a blessedly familiar "male" voice:

"Who says you can't go home again? That tenacious mare from Stable Two sure did, and saved her whole damn home from a vicious and unprovoked attack from Steel Rangers who intended to slaughter the Stable's entire population and set up shop. But this time, children, the Stable Dweller had help! That's right! Our Bringer of Light in this dark and cruel world has stirred the hearts of other ponies. And not just ponies, but griffins too. Even ghouls put a hoof to the cause!

"I tell you, children: this is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in the Equestrian Wasteland. The people, ponies and non-ponies alike, have witnessed our Heroine selflessly helping those around her, and many of us have taken her example to heart. And when our Wasteland Savior needed us the most, we stepped up!

"Now I ask each and every one of you, and this is a question straight from DJ Pon3's heart to yours: when the opportunity comes, will you step up too?"

I felt myself flush, but this time the embarrassment was buried under a heartburst of love for the grey unicorn behind that voice. Her words were like the beam from a lighthouse in my storm of darkness.

"Let me tell you of some of the ponies who did step up. Because you are not going to believe this! The Steel Rangers, a saddle-full of them at any rate, decided to buck their Elders and pledge themselves to helping out the suffering folk of this Equestrian Wasteland! You heard me right, children. Some of those metal-clad powerhouses are on our side now!

"That ain't easy. And their Elders have ordered them hunted down. I have reports of Steel Rangers and Steel Ranger Outcasts fighting in the streets from Manehattan to Trottingham. But I've also got amazing reports of these Outcasts taking down raider hovels and galloping to the aid of caravans. So if you should happen to see one of those new Outcast Knights or Paladins, give them your thanks. And maybe a little ammo."

I felt both thankful and hurt as I thought of SteelHooves and those who now followed him. Embattled in the streets, fighting for their lives because they chose not to follow ponies who were selfish and evil. The pony in my head wondered what would happen if the pegasi ever learned the truth about this world below them. Would they seek to help, only to have their leaders turn upon them?

I moved forward, following the voice, nudging open the door to the office where an old radio sat, dusty and neglected, the face above the dial still glowing as the speakers gave DJ Pon3's voice a slightly tinny echo.

"One last thing, and this is to the Stable Dweller herself. Another message from my assistant... but don't worry, children. I read it this time and it's perfectly chaste..."

I froze, my mind conjuring everything from another devastatingly embarrassing promise to another warning as soul-breaking as the warning about Stable Two.

"She says: Wherever you are right now, I'm thinking of you. Look up at the darkness of the night sky, and know that I am looking up into the same darkness with you. We are never apart, no matter how far your drive to help us all takes you from this place. For you are here in my heart, always.

"I love you, Littlepip."

I felt my heart gush, bursting with joy.

"Aw... now ain't that just romantic? Don't that just tug at your heartstrings? When did my assistant get so cheesy? Oh, and there's a P.S.: Thirty-one. Huh. What's thirty-one mean?"

My mind simply went blank. I was drowning in embarrassment, burning alive from the heat that suddenly flushed through my body.

"Oh dear," Xenith intoned behind me, her exotic voice holding not a trace of actual sympathy. She leaned forward and whispered into my ear, "I should tell Velvet Remedy so that she does not hear it first from strangers, no?"

I collapsed, dying of sheer humiliation. Homage had banished me to a world of embarrassment, and Xenith had imprisoned me in a dungeon of anticipated torment in that world I had been banished to.

It wasn't until hours later that I realized Xenith's words carried with them the implicit hope that Velvet Remedy would survive. By making me certain Velvet would soon be teasing me endlessly, Xenith dispelled my fear that I was about to lose her.

• • •

The medical cabinet opened with ease, the lock hardly a worthy challenge. Xenith began to collect the medicines and healing bandages inside. So far, the hospital had been a treasure trove of lesser supplies but had not yielded the more potent potions we were desperately searching for. I looked across the room filled with rotting beds, tattered partitions and toppled IV stands. A night wind blew through broken windows, making the curtains dance like ghosts. The foul scent of a hundred hellhounds drifted through the room. I glanced outside and saw them crawling all over the building across from us like a swarm of bees.

I wondered why they didn't just destroy the array. But maybe they couldn't. Maybe there was something in the pulse that didn't allow them to. Still, with that many trying to clamber onto the roof, it was only a matter of time before they destroyed it just by accident.

I looked the other way, out the door. There was a nurses' station across the hall. No red lights on my E.F.S. I let Xenith know where I was headed and slipped out. Pressing an ear to the door, I thought I heard a snake-like hiss. I checked my E.F.S. again, but there were no threats.

The door was locked. Again, it was hardly a challenge. But when I tried to push the door open, it didn't want to budge. I shoved, throwing my weight against it, and heard a crash from inside as the door opened half a yard. Dust and old plaster blasted out of the opening. A fast clicking burst from my PipBuck.

I poked my head through, coughing, and saw that the ceiling had collapsed, filling most of the room. Broken terminals and office supplies littered the floor around large hunks of structural material. I could see partially into the room above where a bathtub teetered, hanging from the washroom above only by the plumbing. Water sprayed out of a crack in the pipes, soaking the rubble of the floor below and draining down into the level beneath us through a section of the nurses' station floor which had given way from decades of water damage.

There wasn't much room inside, but I saw that I could reach a locked metal cabinet with the word "CONFISCATED" written in large red letters. I removed my saddlebags and squeezed in through the opening.

The metal cabinet proved a tougher lock. Within my skills but still a worthy challenge. Enough that I felt a touch of pride as it opened. Inside were drugs. Buck, Dash, Mint-als and a variety of powerful painkillers, as well as other pills and powders which I did not recognize. There were other things too. A memory orb. A knife with a blade that shimmered with an unnatural purple sheen. A copy of Zebra Infiltration Tactics. I floated my saddlebags to me. With a telekinetic push, I dumped the entire contents into one of them.

A tin of Party-Time Mint-als landed on the top. My heart skipped a beat.

I wrapped the tin with a magical sheath.

Do we really have time for this? the little pony in my head asked. Hurry. We can dump it later.

I knew she was lying.

I knew I needed to get rid of it now. If I carried it around with me, the temptation to take one when things got bad might be more than I could bear.

Oh come on. You're stronger than that, the pony insisted. And I was, wasn't I?

Or... what if Xenith could use it for a potion or something? It would be a shame to waste it.

Dammit, I was taking too much time! I closed the saddlebags, floating them out ahead of me. I slithered out of the nurses' station.

I'd been so distracted by my inner struggle that I didn't even notice the red light at the very edge of my E.F.S. compass.

• • •

There were no Goddesses! There couldn't be for what I was seeing to be allowed to exist.

The... thing that shuffled down the hall before me had clearly once been meant to be a pony. There was enough pony left in its face to tell that horrifying truth. There was no way to describe the vile, sickening body of the thing -- the best my brain could manage was the idea that a pony had started to melt, losing all her fur and keeping only sporatic tuffs of her mane and tail, only for the flesh beneath to stop melting (arbitrarily and not all at once) and then begin to bloat and metastasize. Its eyes, sunken and huge and red, stared into mine. Its tongue had swollen and stretched, bursting out of its muzzle and splitting into tendrils as they hung down from the wreckage that had once been its mouth. The tentacles writhed individually, as if in great pain.

I was petrified by the sight, rooted to the floor with no ability or will to move. I wanted to run screaming as that split tongue undulated and whipped out, stretching the length of the hall, each wrapping wetly around one of my hooves. I fell, dragged forward towards the squirming flesh-blob, my gaze locked onto its eyes. I tried again to scream, but somehow it had stolen my voice.

The tongues lifted me over the mass of writhing, furless tissue. As another tongue-tentacle pushed out of its muzzle, the tentacles twisted me over, my eyes turned to the ceiling, and my paralysis broke. I thrashed, letting out a scream of terror.

The tongues were impossibly strong. I could not pull my hooves free. It continued to rotate me until I faced away from it, the hallway behind me upside-down. I witnessed Xenith dash out of the room to save me... then stop, eyes wide and locked in place.

I felt that new tongue slither across me, and I realized with abject terror that the flesh-blob did not intend to kill me...

"NO!" I screamed in a mix of fury and primal panic. "NOnono" BLAM!! "nonono" BLAM!! "nononono!!!" BLAM!! My screams were punctuated by the fury of Little Macintosh as I made my weapon fire blindly into the mass of living flesh.

I was hit by a cloying reek. I felt the tongues go slack, dropping me. I hit the creature -- its body felt like a warm and slimy bean-bag chair with grotesque muscle and sinew hidden beneath -- and bounced onto the floor. I scrambled away. I felt sickened, loathing my body where I had touched it.

"Oh Littlepip, I'm so sorry," Xenith cried out, galloping up to me.

I got shakily to my hooves. Little Macintosh's bullets had torn gaping holes in the meat of the thing. "W-w-what is t-that?!"

"I do not know," Xenith said fearfully. "But we must be cautious. There may be more of them, and they possess a Stare."

• • •

We moved through the rows of the hospital pharmacy. Our hooves left tracks through the spilled powders that covered the floor. Many of the stacks had partially collapsed, spilling their contents onto the tiles below.

I waved the lamp of my PipBuck over the barely legible labels on a shelf which still held little jars of unsullied medical treasures. Xenith trotted up, a sack held in her teeth which she had found in the housekeeping section behind us. She scooped a seemingly random choice of the tiny jars into the sack with a hoof. I didn't know if any of these would help either Calamity or Velvet Remedy, but I had learned to trust in the value of Xenith's alchemy and brewing.

We both froze at the sick shuffling sound of another of the flesh blobs. Dropping the sack, Xenith moved towards the pharmacy counter as I moved to the pharmacy door.

Xenith pushed herself up, peering over the counter cautiously. And didn't move. Every muscle in her body was locked in place. I could hear the softest sound strangling in her throat as the slick tongues of the thing in the room beyond distended and stretched to start wrapping around her.

I darted out of the pharmacy and around the corner, getting the barest glimpse of the creature before squeezing my eyes furiously shut and firing several bursts from the zebra rifle into where the creature had just been. I heard an unearthly squeal and was assaulted by the acrid stench of the thing's bulbous flesh burning away. I opened my eyes to see Xenith wrench herself free from the limp appendages as the fire climbed up them towards her. She barely avoided being burned.

"Sorry," I said with a grimace as we both coughed and gagged, mentally noting that the zebra rifle was no longer to be used against these... or for that matter any Tainted creature considering my run of luck when pairing the two.

Xenith tied off her bag and I helped tie it to her across from her satchel. Together, we moved to the nearby stairwell, not taking the time to peek in the garbage bins. This was already taking far longer than I was comfortable with. And that discomfort didn't even include the creepy itching that was starting to spread inside me.

According to the old paint, the next floor down was the emergency care and operating rooms. They were our best bet for extra-strength restoration potions.

BartonFink
User avatar
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:14 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by BartonFink (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:54 pm

Don't Fuckle With Smuckle

republic

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by republic » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:54 pm

us after lyat is closed

a p[olitical cartoon

Image

Dodger

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Dodger » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:54 pm

Rosebud is his sled

BartonFink
User avatar
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:14 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by BartonFink (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:54 pm

Otto man!

Dead Pony

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Dead Pony » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:54 pm

BRAVO THREAD ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Lazy

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Lazy » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:54 pm

You had to sneak up on them from behind, we quickly learned. To look the slithering flesh-mounds in the face was to be paralyzed, body and mind. We did not know if those things could affect more than one mare at a time, but neither Xenith nor I were foolish enough to risk it.

They were, however, the opposite of hellhounds in many ways. They were slow, stupid monstrosities, possessing no tactical skill, driven by only the basest urges. And their flesh was weak. Even a low-caliber bullet would cause great, stinking ruptures in their tuberous bodies.

We made it to the surgical level. Benches lined the wall of what had been a small waiting room, rotted periodicals stained the floor. There were a few pony skeletons here, two with cracked pelvic bones. An ill shudder racked me as it occurred to me that the poor mares had not been killed by the horror which had invaded them, but the horror that had come out.

Beyond the waiting room was a hallway which ended in a swinging pair of double doors. Midway down the hall were two heavy, vault-like doors, each with a wall-mounted terminal. One of these was the medical supply room for the floor. The sign above the other simply said "ISOLATION". The one bright point was that the hospital seemed entirely unscavenged. There was no sign of hellhound claws. It was no mystery anymore why they shunned this place.

"Oh dear, oh dear," came a slightly tinny voice from the other side of the swinging operating room doors. My Eyes-Forward Sparkle was picking up two entities, one of which was a non-hostile presence. The other glowed red on the compass. "Misses Tulip, I'm afraid you've come down with a serious case of death. I'm afraid this is beyond my meager skills, but I do recommend plenty of bed rest and I will alert the next available doctor to your condition."

The two of us crept down the hall, stopping at the terminals. The one to the medical supply room was dead, leaving me to pick the lock telekinetically.

"Good afternoon Mister Tester," said the oddly cheery voice. "I'm pleased to see some of your color has returned. Let me change your IV tubes for you. No, no, don't fuss. You'll only make this harder. The straps are for your own good."

The tumblers moved, sliding reluctantly into place and the medical supply room opened. I pointed my PipBuck lamp into the dark space, hoping fervently for a spot of luck. Inside were racks of collapsed shelving. A metal cabinet had pulled free from the wall and fallen, catching on a counter edge. The doors had swung open, its contents spilling and shattering on the floor.

Xenith took a guarding position as I stepped inside. Moving like prey, with any luck we would be in and out before either of the entities in the other room noticed our passing.

There was one cabinet that looked fairly intact, but from the stains around the bottom of the door, the insides had not fared as well as the exterior.

My heart sank into my stomach and started to die.

Outside, the chipper voice said, "Miss Sunshower, dear, let me put that back on for you. You'll never heal if you keep losing your head like that."

My hooves felt terribly heavy as I approached the cabinet. It was locked, and the lock was a tricky one. It took a few tries to open, but that was due in part to the numb dread that was creeping through me.

"Really, is the cleaning staff completely lazy? Just look at the state of this room. Hardly sanitary. If a Ministry of Peace inspector were to show up, somepony would be out of a job."

I wanted to gallop out, find the source of the voice and buck it to death. Instead, I opened the cabinet door.

Jackpot.

• • •

Xenith was carefully putting each of the healing poultices and extra-strength restoration potions we had found into my saddle bags. We had found less than I had hoped for, but hopefully more than enough. In addition, there was a smaller lockbox which had proven far trickier to open. Inside was an advanced medical spell matrix.

I floated the arcano-tech device, a peripheral with intricately enchanted gemstone in the center, out of its box and carried it with me. "I'll be right back," I told Xenith, scanning my E.F.S. once again to make sure no other hostiles were in the area.

Xenith kept watch, ready to pull me back as I crept forward towards the operating room doors. I moved as stealthily as possible, Little Macintosh floating close to me. If the red light on my E.F.S. was another of those horrors, I didn't want it to have the time to turn my way. I hoped it wasn't already facing the door.

I nudged open the door and looked around. The operating room was full of gurneys, most of which bore the skeleton of a pony. A few were empty. And one held the bloated, fleshy body of one of the horrors. It was strapped down with an IV needle jabbed into it. The IV tube was less than a yard long and dangled off the creatures' bulbous mass, the other end attached to nothing.

A bright yellow, multi-limbed medical bot hovered from gurney to gurney, "helping" its patients.

The blob of flesh wiggled. I unloaded four shots into it, Little Macintosh echoing throughout the floor. The horror seemed to deflate, filling the air with an awful, fetid stench like bile and sewage.

I had to turn away, covering my muzzle with my hoof, my eyes watering. I galloped back down the hall, stopping in the waiting room and vomiting violently. The acidic taste of bile in my mouth was actually preferable to the smell of the horror's innards.

I swallowed and wiped my muzzle, feeling faint. I turned back, trotting to the door again, bracing myself for the suffocating reek. I pushed in, holding my breath as long as I could, and snuck towards the malfunctioning medical bot.

I could reprogram it, I believed, routing around the corrupted sectors of its programming. And with the advanced medical spell matrix, it would not only have the medical expertise to help, but be able to utilize a small number of medical spells. Perhaps even ones that Velvet Remedy could learn from it. In the very least, it would be an asset to Junction R-7. At best, it could help Velvet Remedy re-attach her severed foreleg.

But all that was for later, the trip back.

Right now, I just needed to shut it off.

• • •

I walked out of the operating room, my robotic prize wrapped in a magical field and floating next to me. I stopped as I met up with Xenith, and I stared at the vault door beneath the darkened sign reading ISOLATION. The terminal next to this sealed door was glowing softly. The little pony in my head pranced with eager curiosity.

It would only take a minute.

I hooked my hacking tool into it and went to work.

The door clanged internally and slid open. Inside was a small room with filing cabinets, a desk, a glowing terminal... and a huge, reinforced window which looked into a slightly larger chamber. The chamber had a single operating table positioned below a ceiling-mounted robotic medical array. A spider-like mass of arms holding scalpels, bonesaws and torturous-looking medical tools protruded down towards the form still strapped to the table.

It was one of the flesh-horrors. Only this one was dead already, the flesh putrescent. Its tongues had been severed, its body sliced open and partially dissected.

There was one other difference. Stretched and distorted over the rear of this aberration's mutated flesh was the deformed remnants of a cutie mark.

I heard somepony gasp in horror. I think it was me.

The observation room was virtually untouched by the centuries. The quake from the megaspell had cracked the window, but it had held. The paint on the walls was peeling. The ceiling sagged a little, covered in spider-web cracks. The room beyond however, was missing a corner. The ragged edges suggested massive water damage. I wondered if this was caused by the split in the pipes above the nurse's station, but there was similar damage in many parts of the building.

I approached the room's terminal and hacked into it. There was one audio file still remaining. The others had been corrupted or purged. I asked it to play, and a mare's voice, a ghost from the past, came from an overhead speaker.

"This is Sunny Days, Maripony consultant to the Ministry of Arcane Science. It is now two days since the accident that ended Peachy Pie's life as we knew it. Eighteen hours since I had to order the brain stem of... this thing severed. Previous attempts to put the creature down through lethal injection proved futile. Even now, we are still reading life signs; this thing just does not want to die. But there is no brain function anymore and hopefully the rest of the body will get the hint. I've ordered the autopsy halted until then.

"I take comfort in knowing that my childhood friend died two days ago, and that there was nothing of her in this... abomination.

"I finally managed to get an audience with Ministry Mare Twilight Sparkle. I have learned that the Ministry of Arcane Science is using my old facility to craft something called the Impelled Metamorphosis Potion. According to Twilight Sparkle, this IMP will likely become the deciding factor in the war. It is clearly her hope that through magical augmentation, we can bring the war to a swift conclusion. The zebras have been engaging in mystical and alchemical augmentations for years now, and it sounds to me like the Ministry of Arcane Science is determined to beat them at their own game.

"I questioned Ministry Mare Twilight Sparkle about the contents of the barrels now being stored in the caverns underneath Splendid Valley. She revealed that these barrels contain effectively the very same transformative magical brew that the Ministry of Arcane Science is testing for use on pony volunteers.

"According to the Ministry Mare, the process for creating IMP is extremely delicate and demanding. And apparently, her standards are even more so. Any batch that is flawed in any way, any batch that is not absolutely optimal, is sealed up and discarded. In Twilight Sparkle's own words, if she is going to ask ponies to trust their bodies to IMP-induced transformation, how could she dare give them anything but the most perfect version of the potion possible?

"The Ministry Mare was absolutely horrified to hear of the accident, and appalled as I told her what had happened to Peachy Pie. She put a strict moratorium on any further attempts to move the barrels. It looks like Ministry Mare Fluttershy is going to have to find a different avenue of negotiation with the Diamond Dogs.

"Personally, at this point, I'm tempted to just start shooting them. I know that's horrible of me, but I've just spent two days seeing the best friend I ever knew reduced to... something worse than any nightmare. And all because we're trying to appease a bunch of Dogs.

"The worst part is that part of me blames Peachy Pie. She shouldn't have been down there. She'd come to work sick the last four mornings. I told her to take sick leave. Practically ordered her to. But she never could stand to be doing nothing. Part of me wonders if she slipped, or if her judgment was slightly impaired. And I hate myself for asking that. She deserves better.

"Peachy Pie was the best friend anypony could ever have.

"Her husband is outside. He wants to see the body. I have no idea what to tell him. All I know is that I can't, absolutely can't, let him see this."

• • •

I stumbled out of the isolation room and collapsed against the wall, breathing heavily.

"Littlepip?" Xenith asked, her voice deep with concern. She had heard Sunny Day's recording too, and I could see the sadness in her eyes and hear it in her voice. But she didn't know what I knew, didn't realize what I did. She could tell the recording was affecting me far more than it did her even if she could not sense the revelation behind it.

Taint on the other hoof, Homage had said as DJ Pon3, is a zebra of very different stripes. Nopony knows exactly what the taint is or where it comes from, but we know its mutative effects on monsters and the fatally malignant repercussions on ponies.

I knew what Taint was. I knew where it came from.

I know that as you travel, as you poke your nose into places and memories, you're going to hear things or learn things about my Twi, Spike had warned me painfully.

Taint was IMP: Impelled Metamorphosis Potion. This was Twilight Sparkle's other legacy.

But that wasn't being fair. Twilight Sparkle had been a good pony with a good heart. Of course the M.A.S. hub in Manehattan had been working on a spell to clean Taint, and it was no longer a surprise that they had been successful when everypony since (like that insane ghoul doctor) had failed. Twilight Sparkle knew exactly what Taint was, after all. She knew every component that went into it. And after what happened to Peachy Pie, she was not going to be content to just leave that kind of dangerous magical toxin in barrels underground. She was working to clean it up. Of course the Gardens of Equestria would include the spell to purge Taint from the land. I suspected that Twilight Sparkle would have created a Taint-purging megaspell and set it off over Splendid Valley... just as soon as pony testing of IMP had proven successful.

The only variable is, well, dosage.

Twilight Sparkle's words floated back to me. The IMP experiment at Maripony required a very tightly controlled dosage. Who knew what the effects of too little would be? The deep itch that had now spread through my entire torso told me I would likely soon learn.

But that was when they discovered that Twilight's magical... byproducts, shall we say, have started eating through the barrels, Rarity had told Rainbow Dash. Sunny lost a pony trying to move them when several tore open like they were made of nothing but the covering paint.

That horror, on the other side of that window, was what became of anypony who suffered massive exposure. If that creature had been created from a few barrels, I was thankful that I had never seen Trixie herself inside that vat.

And if you got it just right? That was how Trixie was creating the alicorns. I wondered how long had it taken her to find the correct amount, and how many failed experiments had she cannibalized before she struck on the perfect dose?

My eyes went to the hole in the corner of the far chamber. Peachy Pie had been sick each morning for days. The medical equipment was still picking up anomalous life signs after the creature should have been dead.

I knew where the other horrors had come from.

• • •

Xenith and I galloped all the way back to the roof. I slammed through the door, stumbling and panting. "We've got... what we... came for!"

Velvet Remedy was looking decidedly bad, but I thanked the Goddesses that she was conscious. Calamity stood at the edge of the building, looking down. I noticed his helmet in his mouth. He had run across and gotten it!

That meant...

I looked to the building across from us. All the hellhounds were gone. The antenna array was smashed to pieces. I crept to the edge, casting a glance first to the Griffinchaser II. It still looked like a mess, but I could see the work Calamity had done.

Calamity set down his helmet. "In case y'all missed it, they're tellin' us t' surrender."

Looking down, I saw the hellhounds surrounding the building, some carrying energy weapons. A few dozen carrying torches. Most were armed only with their claws. Standing on a dilapidated wagon was one particularly large female hellhound holding a megaphone.

"You come down now!" she barked, her voice carrying, "Final chance!"

I had really hoped we could treat Calamity's wing and Velvet Remedy's leg here. But that was no longer an option. "Come on, Calamity. Let's go."

"Ah don't get why they ain't swarmed us yet."

Grimly, I answered, "I do. And trust me, you are much happier not knowing."

He turned from the edge, picking up his helmet again and walking towards Velvet Remedy. His eyes looked older than they had the day before.

"Not... your... fault," Velvet Remedy insisted to the pegasus as he laid down next to her.

He set down the helmet and nuzzled the charcoal unicorn. "Yes it is. Ah'm the one who got 'is wing shot. An' Ah'm the one who wanted t' snipe the hellhounds. Y'all faced alla this shit t' help me. An' Ah ain't gonna forget that. Not ever."

Suddenly the whole building shook. A thunderous rending boiled up from beneath us. A massive fissure tore across the roof a few yards back from the south side edge, and the entire southern wall of the hospital collapsed with a monstrous roar.

Luna-eclipsing orgasms! The Goddess-damned hellhounds were taking out the fucking foundation!

"Out of time, everypony!" I shouted as I climbed onto the Griffinchaser II and tried to figure out how to operate the earth pony contraption. Thankfully, it seemed rather simple. While the mechanics used a spark battery-augmented assist, the whole thing was basically pedal-powered.

"And zebra!" I added. "Gather together. We're leaving!"

More of the building began to collapse. The roof canted, and the Griffinchaser II began to slide towards the ragged edge.

I wrapped everyone else in a field of magic, making sure to include the medical bot, Velvet Remedy's leg, Calamity's helmet and Xenith's sack of medicines; I started to peddle as hard as I could.

The gears and belts and chains of the Griffinchaser II squealed in protest. The blades began to spin.

With a horrendous rumble, the hospital roof fell away beneath us, the hospital collapsing into billowing clouds of smoke and debris.

We didn't fall with it. The clouds of dust puffed up at us. Slowly, getting a feel for the flying contraption, I turned us towards Maripony and the Sky Bandit.

• • •

After everything that had come before, there was nothing I could do.

Xenith was brewing a potion, using a mix of her own supplies and the chemicals we had just gathered. I could smell the odd scents coming from the pot she held over the cookfire. Xenith told us this would augment Velvet Remedy's own healing, allowing her leg to heal fully and properly once it was reattached. It would also permanently alter her, much like previous brews had altered me. Somehow, while such enhancements should be viewed as a gift, this felt like a sacrifice. A final step in severing Velvet Remedy from who she was before. After this, she really wouldn't be the same pony anymore.

Calamity had refused to leave Velvet Remedy's side the entire time I had spent reprogramming the medical bot. (While I was at it, I'll admit that I changed the robot's name. Considering what its next operation would be, I didn't feel "Sawbones" was particularly appropriate.)

Now it was up to the medical bot and Velvet Remedy to treat both her and Calamity. I could only sit back and watch. And I didn't think I could bear to do that.

We were, for the moment, safe. The alicorns were creating a perimeter around Maripony, and the hellhounds seemed to be taking the rest of the night off. I pulled up my PipBuck's inventory sorting spell, looking for the memory orb I had found in the hospital. I was shocked to find a tin of Party-Time Mint-als amongst my supplies. For a moment, I couldn't remember how it had gotten there. I ordered the inventory sorter to bury it at the bottom of the saddlebags. The little pony in my head, once an advocate of keeping them, now nickered at me in disappointment. Stupid, inconsistent little pony.

I floated out the orb, laying it on a chunk of rubble in front of me. Then quickly captured it again as it started to roll. Finding a better place to set it, I focused directly on the orb with my magic.

The world melted away.

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

The world smelled of scented lotions and effervescent fragrances. The floor beneath me was comfortable; my flanks lounged into plush carpeting. I felt warmth and weight pressed against me from the mare wrapped in my forelegs. Her tears soaked into my coat over my breast.

I could hear the pony crying. And behind that, soft, tinkling music from somewhere up above. And in the other room a familiar mare's voice was saying, "I mean, that's wonderful news, right? Why don't you sound happy?"

The pony in my forelegs had the gentlest yellow coat, a flowing pink mane, and was Fluttershy.

"...but I do deserve it," Fluttershy mumbled against my breast, her body hitching with sobs. "I..."

The legs holding Fluttershy had an elegant white coat that was getting mussed, and I was Rarity.

Rarity felt weak from barely contained sadness, an exhaustion I knew all too well. Her eyes burned on the edge of tears, but she was holding them back, remaining strong for the yellow pegaus in her embrace.

Fluttershy wailed meekly, "I am a traitor!"

"I don't believe that," I heard my host say gently. "Rainbow Dash was..."

Fluttershy turned her face up to me, her eyes overflowing with tears. "Rarity. I gave megaspells to the zebras."

I felt my host tense, her eyes growing wide. But still she didn't let Fluttershy go. She held her, her voice shocked but her tone non-judgmental as she asked, "Why would you do that?"

Fluttershy gave a wretched squeak as she felt Rarity tense. Her expression told me she expected to be rejected. Pushed away. Maybe worse. But there was a tone of resolve in her voice when she answered.

"To stop the war."

Rarity shook her head. "How?"

"You remember the test. I have healing spells that megaspells will let heal almost anything. Zebras have potions that allow them to regenerate wounds, and a megaspell will make their whole army like that. Have you seen Twilight's new shield spell? A megaspell shield could protect a whole city."

Fluttershy looked at her unicorn friend, fierce determination shining behind those large eyes that were swimming in tears. "If both sides had megaspells, we wouldn't be able to kill each other anymore. They'd have to stop fighting."

I felt Rarity shudder, a knot forming in her throat. The tears she had been holding back began to flow. She knew, I could tell, that such was not the way either side would use this gift. "Oh Fluttershy..." As the first tear raced down her right cheek, Rarity leaned forward, brushing aside the flowing pink mane that obscured most of Fluttershy's face, and planted a kiss on the pegasus pony's forehead. "...You always were the best of us."

She hugged the pegasus tighter. "Never, ever regret what you've done, darling." She held Fluttershy's head against her breast so the pegasus could not see her weeping.

In the background, I could hear the other voice saying, "What? Oh, oh no. My sister is fine. We're..." I recognized the voice of Sweetie Belle now. "We're at that spa on Leaf Fall Lane. Rarity's been here all afternoon trying to get Fluttershy to stop crying."

Fluttershy shuddered, whimpering, "Rarity? I... I can't breathe." Her meek, hesitant tone suggested that she'd accept it if Rarity just kept squeezing her.

Rarity let go quickly. "Oh... Fluttershy, I'm so sorry." She got up, quickly turning away before the pegasus could see her tears. "I need to freshen up a bit. Will you be okay until I get back?"

Fluttershy squeaked but nodded.

My host trotted quickly for the little mare's room. On the way, she passed an anxious-looking spa pony. Stopping, Rarity whispered, "Remember, you're closed. I'm very sorry, and the Ministry of Image will pay you triple your lost earnings, but we really can't be disturbed right now."

Before the spa pony could respond, Rarity nearly galloped the rest of the way, pushing through the door to the ladies restroom. As the door swung shut behind her, I could hear Sweetie Belle saying, "Fluttershy says that Rainbow Dash called her a traitor!"

Rarity's nerves felt fried. She was shedding tears, and it was making it difficult to see, but the sight of her in the mirror looked sad and terrified. Her horn was glowing, and something floated out of her side-purse. She wiped her eyes with a forehoof to better see the framed picture.

It was the Ministry Mares. All together, looking much younger... maybe my age. They were looking disheveled but happy, wearing once-elegant dresses that appeared to have been worn through a wrestling match. There was Spike too, but not Spike as I had ever known or imagined him. Baby Spike! They were all gathered around a round table covered in what looked like donut crumbs.

"I... I don't think I can take this anymore. I was n-nothing before you. You're th-the best friends a p-pony could h-have. The best ponies ever..." Rarity choked up. "A-and it feels like I'm l-losing all of you!"

Rarity's whole body shuddered. She looked up at the mirror and was shocked by what she saw. Turning on the sink, she splashed water onto her face and tried to wash away any trace of her sadness. Looking back up, she drew herself up tall. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Rarity! Fluttershy needs you!"

Her horn glowed again, opening her purse and lifting up the picture.

The door pushed open. Rarity turned, a natural-looking smile already forced onto her muzzle. Her eyes widened upon seeing Sweetie Belle looking mournful.

"Sis, I'm sorry to interrupt but..."

"Yes?" Rarity said with hopeful cheer I know she didn't feel.

"Applejack's been in an... accident."

I could feel Rarity's body tense. "An accident? Is she all right?"

"She's in a coma, but the doctors say she'll recover," Sweetie Belle told her sister regretfully.

At the word coma, Rarity's magic imploded, the framed picture dropping to the floor with a clatter.

"Apple Bloom says Twilight Sparkle's on her way to see them. She wants to know if you and Fluttershy can come see Applejack too."

Rarity swayed. Forcing her voice to not waver, she informed her little sister, "Of course we will! Fluttershy and I will head to Manehattan right away." She gave her sister a smile, "And will you be coming too?"

Sweetie Belle nodded. "I've already made arrangements. There's a train leaving in an hour." The younger unicorn slipped back out, closing the door behind her. "I'll see you there."

The moment Rarity was alone again, the usually elegant unicorn swayed on the verge of fainting. As she braced herself against the sink, her eyes fell to the picture on the floor. A slight crack now ran down the glass, separating Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy from Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle.

The unicorn mare whimpered softly. Her magic wrapped around the picture and tucked it back into her purse, then drew out a familiar headset. She touched her hoof to the earbloom.

Rarity turned to the mirror, looking at herself. A look of sad determination crossed her face.

A voice crackled over the earbloom. "Hello? Ministry of Image, Mistress Rarity's office.

"This is Rarity. Contact the Ministry's top magician. Tell him I've changed my mind and I will need his services on that special project after all."

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

• • •

The trip back was a long and occasionally eventful one, but it was only in trying to look back on it afterwards that things became strange.

Calamity's wing had mended beautifully, but at our insistence he made regular stops to rest. Velvet Remedy fared both better and worse. Her foreleg was encased in a thick, rigid cast that prevented her from walking; she was extremely weak and in dire need of rest and recovery.

"Velvet, go to sleep," Xenith intoned, carefully using our unicorn companion's name. "Breath of the Phoenix takes time to do its work."

"Goddesses, Velvet," I chimed in, "You're worse than... well, all of us when you give us medical pony's orders."

Velvet Remedy ignored us, instead cooing at Pyrelight and nuzzling her wing softly. "Hear that, Pyrelight darling? Xenith's little brew has made me part phoenix. Isn't that wonderful?"

"It is just a name," Xenith sighed.

Velvet Remedy continued to play with Pyrelight who fluttered about my beautiful friend with unconcealed joy at her survival. The balefire phoenix kept perching on Velvet's cast, which I couldn't imagine was really helping.

I itched. And I really didn't like that. I swore to myself that the very first thing I would do upon returning to Tenpony Tower was find Homage and promise whatever I had to in order to get that Taint-purging spell cast on me. I feared it might already be too late.

Well, second thing. First thing would be to set my friends up in a luxury suite where Velvet could get some damn rest. "If you don't go right to bed when we get to Tenpony, I swear I'm going to tie you to the bed."

Velvet Remedy's eyes widened. Then narrowed as she gave me a sultry look. "Oh Littlepip, you tease. But really, that's your kink, not mine."

I sputtered. It was most definitely not my kink.

Thankfully, Velvet Remedy turned her spotlight on Xenith. "Yesterday when that siren went off, were you hearing it just in your ears?" Velvet Remedy asked.

The zebra gave her an odd look. I didn't blame her, finding the question equally strange until I heard Xenith's answer: "How else would I be hearing that dreadful noise?" She seemed to consider, "I have felt sounds before, low vibrating rumbles, but this was no such sound."

Velvet Remedy nodded and looked to the rest of us. It took me a moment, but when the realization hit me, it seemed so obvious that...

• • •

...I was looking down the scope of Little Macintosh as the zombie-pony came into view. A slight squeeze of the trigger and Little Macintosh roared. The creature's head exploded.

I turned, checking for any more of the flesh-eating zombies, but my E.F.S. compass was clean of red. I floated my weapon away, feeling a pang. It was tragic and terrible that these zombies were once living ponies who had become trapped, imprisoned in decaying bodies and minds, slowly tortured by the rotting insanity that turned them into mindless monsters bent on devouring other ponies. Yet part of me remembered all too horrifically that there were even worse fates.

I turned back to eating my soup. The others were settling back down to dinner as well. Twilight was fading. The ruins of the old power substation loomed about us. We had chosen it because the crumbling walls would shield the light of our cookfire. Calamity had wanted to push the rest of the way to Manehattan, but yielded to our persuasions.

Xenith stirred the pot again, offering Velvet another helping. Pyrelight had flown off hunting the moment the Sky Bandit touched down, and Velvet had been anxious about her since the first zombie-pony appeared.

I heard hoofsteps and a clattering sound approaching, followed by heavy, ragged breathing that didn't sound like any pony. Waving to the others, I floated out the zebra rifle and brought up my E.F.S. again, scanning the area for hostile life. No red, but there were several approaching non-hostile entities. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Several minutes later, the traveling merchant moved into the light of our campfire. Upon seeing us, she froze, eyes darting to each of my (very heavily armed, I suddenly realized) party. The two-headed cattle carrying her wares mooed plaintively behind her.

Calamity flew over, causing the merchant to take a step back. But he was all smiles and a hearty hoofshake. "Howdy there! Been ages since ah've seen any sort o' caravan. Ah'd be much obliged if y'all would join us for soup. Ah promise, it's mighty tasty!"

He leaned forward and whispered loudly, "Ah didn't cook it."

The merchant smiled, the tension in her body melting away. "Thank ya kindly." She hitched her cattle to a trash bin and trotted over to join us. I gasped as a large beast pushed past the cattle and lumbered in after her, growling softly.

"W-what is t-that?" Velvet Remedy stammered, wide eyed.

Dodger

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Dodger » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:54 pm

Snape kills Dumbledore

BartonFink
User avatar
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:14 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by BartonFink (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:54 pm

republic wrote:us after lyat is closed

a p[olitical cartoon

Image

Thanks Obama

Perpetual
User avatar
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Perpetual (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

BartonFink wrote:oink oink oink im a cow

Dead Pony

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Dead Pony » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

BRAVO THREAD ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Lazy

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Lazy » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

The merchant laughed. "Oh, don'tcha mind Cuddles. He really is a friendly bear. Unless y'all are raiders." The pony smiled, "A lady can't be wanderin' the wasteland without a friend, y'know. There's some bad folk out there."

"Yao guai," our zebra whispered strangely to Velvet.

"I've... never met such a beast before," Velvet Remedy said, still wide-eyed.

"Well, truth be told, Ah never met neither a pegasus nor a zebra b'fore," the merchant replied good-naturedly as Xenith offered her a bowl of soup. "Thank ya, miss."

"What brings ya out this way?" Calamity asked curiously.

"Doin' the new run 'tween Shattered Hoof an' Manehattan," the merchant pony said with a smile. "Figure Ah outta get in on the new action b'fore everypony does."

Suddenly, Calamity took to the air, darting back to where the Sky Bandit was parked. We all watched as he returned with his saddlebags and started pulling out seemingly random junk. Everything from old boxes of instant mashed potatoes to small-caliber firearms that were, quite frankly, beneath us.

Wait... when exactly did any lethal ranged weapon become beneath us?

"Where did you find those?" Velvet Remedy asked. "When did you find them? I thought we had sold everything non-essential at Tenpony Tower?"

"Scavengin' Ol Olneigh," Calamity replied as he started to pick the best things to barter with while Velvet Remedy just shook her head. She got up and hobbled over, nudging him aside and rearranging his selection.

"I will now tell you a secret," said Xenith as she leaned close to the pegasus. "It is both possible and permissible to pass by a filing cabinet or garbage barrel without looking inside."

I facehoofed as Calamity turned to her with wide, mock-amazed eyes. "Really? How? Ah ain't learned that trick."

"Obviously."

I found myself smiling at that. A thought struck me. "Hey, Calamity, could we take a swing by Shattered Hoof on our way? I want to talk to Gawd..."

• • •

...I frowned as Velvet Remedy once more submersed herself in the original Fluttershy Orb.

I knew now that SteelHooves hadn't quite been right about the yellow pegasus. But he'd still been close enough for me to worry for my friend. Especially with the strain, physically and mentally, that this week had put Velvet Remedy under.

She'd come chillingly close to dying. Twice. And even if there were no visible scars or lasting physical damage from the loss of her leg, the psychological impact would not heal with magical ease. Her alteration under Xenith's brew showed no outward signs, but I could not imagine that it was not weighing on her as well. All this, on top of the horrors of the Stable Two massacre...

I looked away, tracing my right forehoof over the metal floor of the Sky Bandit. We were nearing Shattered Hoof. I could see the lights of it in the darkness.

I pushed my thoughts in other directions, purposefully distracting myself. I thought of the orbs I had seen yesterday. For the life of me, I couldn't imagine how or why the Leaf Fall Lane spa memory had ended up locked in that cabinet. Most of the time, the locations of the memory orbs I found struck me as completely logical. This one did not.

The other orb did, although it took me a while to puzzle it out. The Steel Rangers had likely been trying to make their way to the hospital roof, led by the robed unicorn mare in their party. With the information in that orb, they could have gotten a fix on the location of the central hub of the Single Pegasus Project, whatever that happened to be.

As for Rarity's reason to make a recording of the memory, I chose to believe that the moment Rainbow Dash asked her to design the Enclave armor was a happy moment for her. She was, at heart, a dressmaker. And finally her job and her beloved hobby had united... after a fashion. No pun intended. I could imagine the graceful, elderly unicorn wanting to relive that moment again and again. Especially as things began to fall apart for her friends.

Not unlike Velvet Remedy.

"Okay, Li'lpip," Calamity called out. "We're headin' in."

The pegasus was in a good mood. He was flying again. Velvet was going to be okay. And he'd even gotten to chat with a caravan merchant and barter (or, more precisely, watch Velvet Remedy barter). I had been surprised how many little items he had managed to scavenge from Old Olneigh while the rest of us were focused on just moving through.

I wasn't the only one with a vice.

"Incomin' griffins," Calamity called out. I brought up my E.F.S. and verified that they were friendly. A moment later, Blackwing and her Talons flew into view, circling and pulling up along side us.

"Littlepip and friends," she said. I felt my cheeks redden. Why was it never Calamity and friends or Velvet Remedy and friends I wondered for what seemed like the millionth-billionth time. Of course, by now I knew the answer. I had Homage and my companions to thank for it. Yay.

"Blackwing!" I said, brushing off my embarrassment to talk to the griffin. "I was hoping to see you. I have something I need to ask you for, and I hoped we could come to an arrangement."

"Oh?" The griffin merc raised an eyebrow. "This should be good..."

• • •

...I woke up, finding myself staring at the familiar ceiling of Doctor Helpinghoof's clinic. Only this time, at least, I wasn't bound.

I knew better than to get up too fast. Instead, I cleared my throat loudly. The voices beyond the partition stopped and a shadow approached. Doctor Helpinghoof pushed aside the partition and eyed me curiously.

"When I said that I could make a tidy profit off of you, I did not mean that as an encouragement."

Velvet Remedy pushed past him, wobbling as she tried to walk with just three legs. Her eyes were narrowed and her voice was cross. I was completely expecting this.

"I can't believe you!" she nearly shouted. "After everything we've been through! You used them again!?"

"I had to," I said evenly. "It was the only way." The only way to make sure Red Eye listened. "But it was just a one-time thing, and I sought treatment immediately." I leveled a gaze at her. "On my own, I could point out."

"One time? Of course. Until the next time you decide you need them," Velvet seethed. "Littlepip, haven't you learned anything!? You can't do just one time!"

I winced. She was right. I was playing with fire even though I knew I was soaked in whiskey. "Please... I know this is bad. But it was really important. I know this will make it harder for me. So I'm going to need you..."

"Let me see!" she demanded. Doctor Helpinghoof had politely backed away.

"See?"

"Your Goddess-damned inventory sorter, Littlepip!" Velvet Remedy barked. "I want to see for myself that you didn't keep any."

A shot of fear went through me. I lifted my PipBuck for her to see, praying that I actually had tossed the damned tin of Party-Time Mint-als into a burning trash barrel the moment I trotted out of the encampment. I prayed that my addiction and the little pony in my head hadn't somehow played tricks with my memory. I was going to be doing too much of that on my own.

"Okay, fine," Velvet said as she looked through my inventory and, thankfully, found no sign of PTMs. "And you better believe I will be going through your things back in the room. And quite regularly from now on."

I nodded. "Thank you, Velvet. I..."

"You've proven you can't be trusted," she snapped, her words wounding me. Even more so because I deserved it.

Doctor Helpinghoof's assistant trotted forward, smiling indulgently. Velvet Remedy looked to the white unicorn buck with the candy-red and scarlet striped mane. "Will it hurt?" Velvet asked, sounding worried. Shooting me a dark look, she added, "Not that she doesn't deserve it a little."

Turning back to the white unicorn, Velvet admitted, "She's been through so much. I don't want her to have to suffer any more."

"Don't worry," the unicorn said. "She won't remember any pain." Turning to me, she asked, "Are you ready to do this?"

I nodded. "Let's get it over with." I slowly pulled myself out of bed and followed him.

As we walked away, I heard Velvet Remedy moan, "You're going to destroy yourself trying to save the entire wasteland, Littlepip..."

• • •

...A piercing white light above me died, and I found myself in darkness, staring up at an unfamiliar ceiling inlaid with strangely patterned mirrors. I was laying back in a chair, a bizarre and uncomfortable position. And I had absolutely no idea how I had gotten here.

The last thing I remembered was being in Helpinghoof's clinic. I seemed to recall that I had been treated for PTM use, and voluntarily at that. I cringed, my mind filling with shame as I remember taking that tin from the nurse's station. I was humiliated and disgusted with myself for the weakness I gave into every time I could have thrown it away. But for the life of me, I couldn't remember actually taking one.

Or, for that matter, I didn't remember volunteering for treatment, although I could remember acting as if I had once it was over.

A deep, alien terror started to envelop me as I tried to retrace my actions, only to find my memories of even the flight back to be piecemeal at best. Ever since leaving Maripony, my sense of time had become swiss cheese. But the scattered moments I did remember didn't leave me with the impression that I had been losing time.

A familiar white unicorn buck appeared, leaning over me, his scarlet and candy red mane draping so that it almost touched my face. His mane reminded me of Pinkie Pie's at the party, after it had seemed to deflate. "Don't panic."

"Where am I? How did I get here? Who are you?" The questions tumbled out as fast as I could form them. The unicorn raised a silencing hoof, but I didn't want to be silenced. "What happened to me!?"

I felt another hoof touch my shoulder as Homage stepped around the chair. "Relax, love."

My eyes darted between them, my emotions in turmoil.

"Littlepip," Homage asked, "Do you trust me?"

The answer shot through all my dismay and confusion. "Yes."

Homage whispered, "Then still your thoughts, love. Relax." She helped guide me off the chair into her embrace. I pressed myself against her, breathing hard, trying to find a way to peace in the storm of panic that threatened to overwhelm me.

Her scent became a life preserver tossed into my ocean of distress. And a rope with which to pull myself to safety. Slowly, I relaxed.

"Littlepip, this is Life Bloom," Homage said finally, introducing me formally to the white unicorn with the red and scarlet mane and tail.

"I'm pleased to meet you again," Life Bloom said. "Velvet Remedy and Homage have told me so much about you."

I nodded slowly, piecing a little together. "You are Doctor Helpinghoof's assistant, right? The one that Velvet Remedy has been buying spells from?"

"Indeed I am."

Homage stroked my mane gently as if she could brush out the little shakes I was feeling. "You remember what I told you about the ponies who really run Tenpony Tower? Life Bloom is one of them."

The unicorn buck bowed with a smile. "And you are the Stable Dweller whom DJ Pon3 and Homage have woven into the Bringer of Light."

I flushed with embarrassment, looking away.

"And humble," the buck said with a smile. "That is a good sign."

Turning back to him, I asked again, this time more slowly, "Where am I? And what happened to me?"

The unicorn's horn glowed a brilliant crimson. A small box floated into view. I recognized the kind of box. It was the kind which held memory orbs. "These, Littlepip, are yours."

"Mine?" It took me a breath to grasp what he was saying. "They're my memories?"

"Of the last couple days," Homage said in agreement.

I reeled. I'd lost days? "Wh...? Why did you remove them?"

"Because you asked me to," Life Bloom said. "And because Homage persuaded me it was for a good cause."

"Life Bloom is a bit of a magical protégé. Takes to new spells like nopony I've ever seen. He's the only unicorn in Tenpony Tower to have mastered the old memory spells once used by the Ministry of Morale," Homage informed me. "He's also the one who can cast the Taint Purge."

Looking at me knowingly, Homage followed that little revelation up with, "So, how are you feeling?"

I stopped. Assessed myself. I felt tired. Strained. The burns on my flank and side had been healed but were still tender.

The deep, unsettling itch was gone.

"There may be minor mutations," Life Bloom announced. "But nothing life-threatening or even, I suspect, life-changing. I'm pretty certain that we purged you in time."

I felt my knees give out as a sudden rush of gratefulness weakened me. "Oh thank you!"

• • •

The box of memory orbs came with a note in my own tooth-writing.

Littlepip,

The memory orbs inside this box are in order. The first is pretty much a table of contents, and the others are most of my/your memories from the last few days. The three important ones that I think I will want to relive are orbs four, six and eight. Everything else is just long, dull flights and routine stuff. I don't think I/you really need to spend hours trapped in a memory orb just so we can relive our bowel movements or hours of feeling itchy.

Don't watch any of these until after you/I get the Black Book and take it to Maripony. Please. I know that's going to be really hard for me/you, but it's important.

Yours yourselfly,
Littlepip.

I read it again and again, but it still made no sense. I looked at the orbs. I wanted my memories back! I wanted to know what I did over the last two days. I needed to know why I had taken Party-Time Mint-als again. What could possibly have been so dire as to make me do that?

A bluish sheath of magic closed the lid, removing the memory orbs from my sight, and floated the box out of my hooves. Homage magically lifted it, placing it into her safe and locking it. The huge painting of Splendid Valley floated back into its place.

She turned towards me, smiling. "Now, how soon do you have to go?"

I shook my head, completely at a loss. I felt untethered. Adrift. I didn't know what my plans were. What I was supposed to be doing next.

All I did know was that Velvet Remedy needed time to recuperate. In reality, so did Calamity. Maybe all of us did. I hated the idea of spending another day on myself when there were ponies in the Equestrian Wasteland suffering and dying because I wasn't there to help them. But this wasn't time spent for me. This was for my friends. And I couldn't do anything without them. I needed them, now more than ever.

"I think we can take a day or two," I said hesitantly. "But no more than that."

Homage smiled. "Perfect! I'll start dinner."

I remembered something. "Thirty-one!? How could you do that to me!"

"Because I know your body like the beautiful instrument it is!" she called back as she made her way into her kitchen. "And I can coax the most beautiful music from it."

I felt myself go weak. "Not... what... I meant..."

I looked around, wondering suddenly where Xenith was.

• • •

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

"Hello, me! Welcome to my memories!"

I was looking at myself in a full length mirror. I could see Life Bloom and Homage moving about in the background. The room was dark and strangely shaped with an odd chair in the center beneath a shining spotlight. Mirrored inlays on the ceiling caught the light as it bounced back off the chair, making the lines of mirror seem to glisten.

This is just the table of contents, I told myself. It's okay to watch just this one. I felt utterly confused and I needed at least a little context.

"If you are not me, then these memories are not for you," I felt myself say with what was actually my own mouth. This was supremely weird; I was riding me. "Please do not watch any more of them, and return them immediately to DJ Pon3 or his assistant at Tenpony Tower."

That deep itching was gone. I had stood in front of this mirror, saying these things, after Life Bloom had used the Taint Purge spell on me.

"Now, assuming I am me... and this is supremely weird. And I thought writing the note felt bizarre..." I paused, apparently re-gathering my train of thought. Did I usually ramble like this?

"Okay, the first big thing you need to know..." I stopped again. I felt my body deflate with a sigh.

"Dammit, Littlepip!" I said, stomping. "I'm watching this before I told me to, aren't I?"

I felt a rush of embarrassment as I realized I had caught me.

"Celestia rape your cunt with the burning sun if I can't even take simple instruction from myself! Do I have no fucking self control?"

I felt myself stomp again. Felt myself huffing. The entire memory was too surreal. "Dammit! Okay... sorry for that if I'm watching this when I should be. If so, I owe myself an apology."

Taking a deep breath, I started again. "I'm going to make this short, just in case I'm the kind of idiot I'm afraid I am." I gave myself a dark look, then continued. "First, by now you've already figured out that there are two kinds of memory spells. The first records a memory, like the spell enchanted into a recollector. The second extracts a memory completely. That's the kind that the Ministry of Morale used when they weren't being gentle."

I felt myself frowning, and the Littlepip in the mirror frowned back.

"Second, I've got a plan for dealing with the Goddess. I've told everypony their parts, and just their parts. I'm the only pony who knows all of it. Unfortunately, we can't do anything about the Goddess if we can't even reach Maripony. And if I go in knowing the plan, Trixie can read it right out of my head. Game over. So..." I felt myself lift a foreleg and make a sweeping motion as the Littlepip in the mirror did exactly that.

Crap. I knew I was right. Other me, that is. Arrugh.

"So for the love of Celestia and Luna, for the love of Homage, don't watch any more of the damn memory orbs until after you take the Black Book to Maripony."

I stomped with a huff. "Seriously, I am so disappointed in me." Then, sheepishly, I added, "That is, assuming I should be. If I really held out like I told me too, I really have egg on my face right now, don't I?"

I felt utterly guilty and pissed at myself.

"Now, the fourth memory orb is my conversation with Blackwing. I'm sure I'll need to know the deal we struck. The sixth one I'll need to know for entirely different reasons. That's the one where I took a Party-Time Mint-al. I'm beginning to question if that was the right call. But I really, really needed to be at my most persuasive. You'll see.

"The eighth memory orb was being greeted by Homage as we returned to the Tower. And that one I know I'll want to relive again and again."

I gave myself a wink.

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

Footnote: Maximum Level
Quest Perk added: Touched by Taint (1) – Exposure to Taint has altered your physiology. When under the effects of Advanced Radiation Poisoning (400+ Rads) any crippled limbs will automatically regenerate.
Back to index
Conversations in the Calm Before by Kkat

"We could form our own secret society."

"Well?"

I had just barely floated the painting of Splendid Valley back into place when Homage came in. "Well what?" I asked, hoping I didn't sound as guilty as I felt.

"Did you sneak around behind my back and break into my safe to look at your memories, even after both I and you told you not to?"

Oh Goddesses. It was bad enough that I disappointed myself. But just how deplorable was it that I broke into Homage's private safe to do so?

I hated my curiosity, and I hated myself for being so weak. I looked to Homage, wondering what to say. Should I admit it? Would it hurt her? Did she already know?

"Littlepip," Homage said with a sad yet stern voice, "I don't know what upsets me more. That you broke into my safe and tried to undo everything you'd worked so hard for, or that you actually considered lying to me about it."

"But I..." My heart broke.

"You paused to think," Homage frowned. "It doesn't take that long to think of how to say yes."

My gaze fell to the floor.

"I think you'd best sleep elsewhere tonight."

I felt my blood freeze. I looked up into Homage's eyes, pleading. The beautiful little grey unicorn gave me a soft, sad smile. "I was there when you made your little speech to yourself. I knew you were probably going to do this... and so did you. I hoped you could be better than that..."

Her words hit me like a buck to the gut.

"...but I'm not angry at you for failing. Just disappointed."

I would rather she be angry. Disappointed hurt so much more. I could handle being yelled at, but the idea that I had failed and saddened Homage...

Homage looked at me tenderly. "Before your worries take you to dark places, I'll tell you up front: this doesn't change my feelings for you at all. And my disappointment will be short lived. I'm not sending you away because I don't want to see you; I'm sending you away because you've been bad and I'm punishing you."

She gave me a little smile, "And I think we both know you need that as much as deserve it." The smile faded. "I'll see you tomorrow, Littlepip."

• • •

It took me most of the ride down the elevator to figure out why I needed punishment as much as I deserved it. There was no question of the latter. The pit in my stomach and the self-loathing in my heart told me that I had done wrong. I had wronged myself. And far worse, I had wronged her. My voice in the darkness.

And with that, even if she forgave, I would never be able to accept forgiveness until she had punished me for it too. I couldn't move on while my tail was twitching. I needed something to fall on my head, or I'd always be looking for it.

I wasn't entirely sure how I'd come up with that analogy ("Awareness! It was under 'E'!"), but I knew that it was appropriate.

I walked slowly down the hall towards the door to our suite, casually unlocking it with my telekinesis. What was once unimaginable had become a feat of such ease I barely focused on it. My mind was largely elsewhere. I was determined to remain at Tenpony Tower for a little while longer, not for myself but for my companions. Each of them had nearly died in the last few days. Xenith and Calamity would both have been turned to ash by the hellhounds' attacks if it had not been for the spell Velvet Remedy learned from Life Bloom last time we were here. Each had suffered fearsome wounds, Velvet's injury still left her in a cast despite the most powerful healing magic and best care the wasteland could provide. Nor was I untouched, but I feared for them more than myself. Deep down, I somehow knew that I was expendable but they were not.

I had a lot of repairing to do. I wondered if I should try to get them counseling. Or should we work through this alone? I wasn't sure where best to begin, or even how much I may have already done. Was I doomed to spend the next days repeating discussions we'd already had but that I didn't remember? Seeing my friends look at me awkwardly as I initiated difficult conversations for a second time?

Couldn't I have at least left myself some notes? Of course, as they say, hindsight is... well, no, even that didn't really apply. My hindsight was perforated. Even worse, I was smart enough to realize that I shouldn't be trying to put the pieces back together. If I thought about things too much, I might be able to reconstruct lines of logic that I didn't want to have in the forefront of my brain when I next confronted the Goddess. I suspected that Trixie's telepathy didn't extend much beyond reading my surface thoughts -- if it had, I think things would have gone a lot differently in Maripony. (Or perhaps she could, but it just required a level of focus the Goddess couldn't commit to while maintaining connection to all her alicorns. The fact that Calamity had been able to surprise her about something he had been looking at told me she wasn't nearly as on top of current thoughts as she wanted us to believe.) Still, if I knew the plan or even suspected what I was up to, there was no way I could avoid thinking about it while I enacted it.

These thoughts so preoccupied my head that I did not even notice the sounds as I entered the room. But the sight stopped me dead.

Calamity. And Velvet Remedy.

Together. In bed. Intertwined. Moving...

...doing...

I shouldn't be here. Leavingnowbye!

I had become rather exceptional at stealth. I was able to slip out fast and smooth, without making the slightest peep, without being seen.

The click as I closed the door behind me sounded louder than Little Macintosh.

I froze. My whole body was tense, my nerves covered in ice. My mind was reeling. I couldn't begin to formulate feelings of my own about what I had just walked in on; I was still panicking.

On the other side of the door, I heard voices. My heart was pounding.

"Did... somepony just open the door?" she asked cautiously.

"Ah locked it," he responded.

And then, in almost perfect unison:

"Li'lpip!" "Littlepip!"

I ran. As fast and as silently as I could. As I raced down the hall, I could swear I heard Xenith's voice float out of nowhere, proclaiming: "Doooooooomed."

• • •

I clopped my hoof on the door to Twilight's Athenaeum. Part of me knew I was supposed to be banished from Homage's company for the day, but I wasn't looking to get away with anything, just to get away. I needed a place to hide, and a place to stay the night, and Homage came to the forefront of my thoughts.

Nopony answered. The door was locked, and I wasn't about to unlock another anything without permission. I dashed up the stairs to the balcony and lifted my hoof towards the door to the emergency broadcast station. Was she busy? Would the beat of my hoof interrupt a recording? Did I have the right to take that risk?

And what would she have to say to me? How could I ask her to make an exception for me because I had managed invade the privacy of even more of my friends?

Doomed indeed. And I deserved it. I put down my hoof. I'd just spend the day wandering aimlessly around Tenpony Tower, avoiding everypony, and waiting until the final hour of my exile was over.

Not a problem. I could go half a day without getting myself in trouble.

I heard a chime in the atrium below. The elevator doors slid open. I crouched flat on the balcony as I saw Velvet Remedy and Calamity step out into the atrium, Calamity helping support Velvet with one of his wings. Oh Goddesses! I couldn't face them right now. I backed up against the M.A.S.E.B.S. door, hiding.

"Ya think she's upset?" Calamity's voice sounded below.

I could hear the odd thump of Velvet's foreleg cast as she moved awkwardly into the atrium.

"Well, I wish that she'd just see this as an opportunity to get back at me for some of my teasing," Velvet Remedy's voice floated up to me. Her chocolaty-smooth voice had a slightly harried timbre. "But I doubt that she will. The poor girl had a crush on me for ages, and while I've been under the impression that she is over it, I worry she might still feel hurt."

Did I? I wasn't sure. I was still too wrapped up in the fear of being caught. And now, I worried that I might feel like that. It would be unfair. And selfish. I had a relationship with Homage that left me... exhausted, to be honest. What right did I have to begrudge anyone else a relationship of their own? Especially my two closest friends. I should be happier than ever for them.

"Ah honestly don' think ya give Li'lpip enough credit. She's got too much heart t' let jealousy eat away at her. Or us. Ah reckon Ah got more t' worry 'bout in that regard from yer bird."

It dawned on me that I wasn't feeling happy for them. I didn't think I felt jealous. I wanted to be a much better pony that that. If I was jealous, I didn't deserve the friendship of either of them. But no, I didn't think it was jealousy either that I was feeling.

It was concern. An achingly pessimistic worry.

Calamity's voice rose up from below again. "Do ya think she's here? Seems awfully..."

"Quiet? Yes, now that you mention it. If she was in Homage's company, I would expect we'd be able to hear her. At least, that is what Xenith would have me believe."

I buried my face in my forehooves, suddenly blushing. There was absolutely no way this could get more awkward and humiliating.

"I mean... thirty-one? Celestia's mercy!"

Okay, I was wrong. Now it couldn't get worse.

"That's... a lot, right?" Calamity asked in buckish ignorance.

"Yes, that's a lot," Remedy said. I could almost hear the rolling of her eyes.

"Did... you...?" Oh no. Did Calamity really ask that? I heard the soft smack of Velvet Remedy's hoof. Good for her.

"You do not ask a lady that, Calamity!" she scolded. Then, in a smaller voice, she admitted, "Yes. Twice."

"Twice?" Oh the big idiot. "And we were... then she was..." I felt my ears burning as I realized my pegasus friend was trying to do the math. "How the hell did she 'av time t' come t' Splendid Valley?"

"Indeed," Velvet said with a slight trace of bitterness. "Clearly, Homage's cutie mark should be Littlepip. Obviously, that's what she's best at doing."

I wanted to melt into the wall and disappear into some void beyond. I wanted the moon itself to come crashing down through the ceiling and crush me. I didn't want them to find me, and I didn't want to be hearing this private conversation... and the mere thought that they might discover I had been unintentionally eavesdropping made me die inside.

I heard a splash. One of them had stepped into the fountain's pool.

"After Maripony, I finally understand the alicorn in this room," Velvet's voice mused, changing the subject. "I had been wondering how and why Twilight Sparkle would have chosen such a decoration."

"When we do find 'er," Calamity stated slowly, "Ah think ya oughta do the talkin'."

"Oh? And why is that?"

"Well... y'all are just better at it than me. Li'lpip will want t' know 'bout... what we are now, an' all. Ah'd jus' mess it up."

"And just what are we now?" Velvet said silkily.

"Dammit," Calamity sighed in frustration and confusion. "Tha's jus' the question Ah was tryin' t' avoid." Slowly, he admitted, "Ah don' know."

Velvet's voice was gentle and kind. "You're Calamity, and I'm Velvet Remedy. Just like we were before, only more intimate." I heard another splash. "I'm not going to push for us to be anything more than you want us to be. I'm never going to tie you down, or demand a commitment that you aren't looking for..."

I couldn't help but feel this conversation was built upon a great many that I hadn't been privy to before, and that I had no excuse to be listening to this one. My mind began to scramble for ways to escape.

"Ya don't even need t' ask, girl."

"I know," Velvet purred. "But I need you to know that I'm not looking to change anything about you... well, except maybe for your grammar... I just want to be with you."

If I opened the door behind me, closed it and stood up quickly, surely they would think I had just stepped out of the station behind me? It seemed like a good plan.

The door was locked. Of course it was.

Well, surely I couldn't get myself into any more trouble...

"Aw dangit. Ah don't know nothin' what t' say. Ah ain't any good at this sorta thing."

"You don't know anything to say," Velvet tried pointlessly.

"Ayep. Wish Ah did. Maybe Ah... should jus' hold ya?"

The lock clicked. I slid the door open, then stood as I closed it again.

"Littlepip." "Li'lpip."

I looked down at them, both standing in the fountain's pool, Calamity's forehoof sliding away from an interrupted embrace. My heart raced, and I blurted out the first thing I thought of. "Oh. Hello. I was just in there with Homage in the place doing the thing."

They were giving me odd looks. I wanted to facehoof myself into unconsciousness. Instead, I gave them a forced and probably awkward smile. They looked at each other, then back to me, their expressions melting into ones of compassion and concern. I realized that my awkwardness would be taken as discomfort over what they knew I had seen and not what they didn't know I had heard. Velvet Remedy started to call up to me...

The door behind me opened and Homage peeked out. "Littlepip, did you just try to come in?" Her eyes narrowed at me. "That's not how punishment works."

Calamity and Velvet Remedy exchanged looks of quick realization.

Doomed. I am not a clever pony.

• • •

After twenty minutes of explaining and confessing and apologizing (with a hint of blubbering), I found myself sitting across from Velvet and Calamity at Homage's table, feeling small and guilty, as Homage made everyone tea.

At last, however, I had been able to put solid thoughts to my feelings. The problem now was how or even if I should voice them. What if my worries were correct? What damage would I do by shining a light on them. Or worse, what if I was wrong, but my questions led to doubts in their own minds?

The silence stretched awkwardly between the three of us. Velvet looked patient but strained. Calamity fidgeted.

If I said anything, it would have to be now, while they were together and could draw support from each other as they answered. But what if...?

Calamity rubbed a hoof on the table, absently asking Velvet, "Hey, ya figure they did it on here?"

I changed the subject quickly, and not just because the answer was yes, and I didn't want them thinking about that when Homage put tea and a plate of cakes on the table. "I guess I'm just concerned. I mean, you two are my closest friends. We travel everywhere together. And with hardly anypony else..."

"And you're worried we've grown intimate out of convenience?" Velvet Remedy finished for me tactfully.

"uh... pretty much, yeah."

Calamity snorted. "Now Ah know how y'all might think that way, comin' from a Stable. But Ah've been down here for awhile now. Ah've had plenty o' other options. Jus' never cared for 'em." He nodded upwards. "Had options up there too. But none o' the mares in the service shared muh feelin's 'bout helpin' the ponyfolk down here. A right turnoff, if'n y'ask me."

I had to admit, I'd never even considered the idea of Calamity having relationships available to him with anypony other than us. He just seemed like such a lone defender that I thought of him as being just as much a stranger to the rest of the world as we were. But hadn't Railright claimed that Calamity had been offered a home and place in New Appleloosa?

Homage came in with the tea and cakes. She smiled and gave me a little kiss on my horn, which suddenly felt pleasantly warm, as she floated a cup of tea onto the table in front of me.

"I'll admit," Velvet Remedy began, "that I was worried about the same thing at first. The first thing that attracted me to Calamity was his wings."

"Ah swear, y'all got a feather fetish," Calamity nipped playfully.

Velvet giggled primly. "No. I had just abandoned my home and risked whatever I would find out here for freedom, and there you were. More free than I ever imagined any pony could be. Not even the ground could hold you."

"Aah shucks, Ah ain't no differ'nt than any other pegasi."

"Oh, but you are," Velvet cooed maturely. "I didn't know it at the time, but you are so much more. I always wanted to be a medical pony, and I embraced the first chance I got to. But I left my home behind for selfish reasons. You cut your shackles because they were preventing you from helping other ponies. You freed yourself out of compassion and kinship."

Calamity was blushing now. I realized I liked seeing him like that. It brought out a beauty in him.

"You truly care about ponies," she continued, her eyes roaming over Calamity. "And I've seen how you are with us, especially with Littlepip," she said, turning back to me. "He'll stand by you, never leave you. Protect you even from yourself..."

"Always there to catch me," I found myself saying softly.

Velvet Remedy smiled and nodded. "I feel safe with him around because I know he will protect us. Especially you, since you seem to need it the most. But he has always been right there for me when I needed him too."

I was suddenly feeling guilty again, this time for monopolizing Calamity's time. I lowered my head, breathing in the calming scent of the zebra chai tea wafting up from my cup.

Scowling a little, Velvet Remedy couldn't help but add, "I'm not saying we're a match made in the clouds. He does tend to jump to violence as a solution far too readily for my tastes... and he's not the only one." She fixed me with a look. For a few moments, her gaze held me like steel, making me squirm. Then her expression relaxed. "But I realize that, in the Equestrian Wasteland, violence is often the most appropriate response. Although not as often as you two take to it. And at least both of you are motivated to shed the blood you do out of justice, compassion and a sense of responsibility for your fellow pony. All of which seem sorely lacking in far too many ponies out here."

She turned to Calamity with a look that clearly said "your turn".

Homage trotted around and sat behind me, watching unobtrusively. I felt a gentle support radiating off of her despite her recent disappointment. I was supposed to be being punished, but there was no hint of that.

I found myself fervently wishing at Calamity to not blow it. I wasn't happy for them because I was worried they were going to get hurt. But I wanted them to be together, I realized. I hoped for them. And Velvet's words were like a ray of real, untainted sunshine. For the first time, I really thought maybe they could last together. So long as Calamity didn't say anything stupid in the next few minutes, that was.

Calamity shuffled, looking uncomfortable. "Ah take it Ah can't jus' say 'ditto'?"

I took a long sip from my cup, the slightly bitter liquid washing over my tongue. I felt the warmth of the tea spread soothingly through me.

Velvet Remedy gave Calamity a shake of her head. The pegasus reached back to brush at his mane, accidentally tipping his desperado hat into his eyes.

"Well... she's beautiful," he started. "Not jus' outside. Behind her outer beauty an' occasionally abrasive personality, she's really beautiful inside."

I winced. He was going to be paying for that for a bit.

"Ah mean..." From Calamity's shuffle, I guessed he knew it too. But he was being honest. I hoped Velvet took that into account. "Look, when we first rescued her, Ah didn't know what t' think. She was helpin' slavers. An' she was... well... Ah was expectin' her t' be fancy an' prissy an' high falootin' like the folks in this Tower here. But she weren't like that at all. She's beautiful, but she's... I dunno... down t' earth?"

He paused, looking for a word, then smiled as he settled on, "Practical. She's practical. An' more importantly, she's devoted. She weren't helpin' slavers cuz she sympathizes for any o' what they were doin', but because she's dedicated t' helpin' folk. And she don't let unpleasantness or discomfort get in the way."

Calamity wrapped his tail around Velvet Remedy, who was holding him with rapt attention. "She's faithful. She's stuck by our side even as we walked inta hell. Her wantin' t' play diplomatic-like wi' aggressive or evil types does wear thin, but Ah reckon maybe there's somethin' t' it sometimes... an' she does that cuz she really does care about folk and is committed t' helpin' them. Even if a mess o' them don't deserve it. Ain't like her t' ask if they do."

He shrugged. "How could Ah not absolutely love 'er for that?"

Looking into Velvet's eyes, Calamity finished by saying, "It's like... yer jus' what the doctor ordered, y'know?" Velvet rolled her eyes at the corniness, but smiled. "The Equestrian Wasteland ain't a pretty place. It's rough an' it's grim an' it's bloody. An' some days it c'n be hard t' remember whats worth fightin' for out here. But Ah don't have t' look any further than at this here charcoal unicorn mare next t' me t' be reminded jus' how good ponies c'n be, and jus' how worth it all the struggle is."

Part of me wanted to jump up and hug them. Part of me wanted to tell them to get a room... but then, I was kinda to blame for them not being there.

"Okay... I'm convinced," I said with a smile. Homage wrapped her forelegs around me from behind. Our couple-ness made me feel less awkward in front of theirs.

"Yes," Velvet Remedy said suddenly to Calamity while giving the cakes a declining look. "I think they did things on this table."

Homage bit one of my suddenly-burning ears playfully. Far too late, I changed the subject, "So... how long have you two been... together?"

Calamity laughed. "Y'mean physically? Since, what?" He looked at Velvet, who was trying to keep a lady-like distance from the question. "Yesterday?"

I blinked.

"Aw come on, Li'lpip. We didn't even kiss b'fore last week."

Velvet Remedy sighed, then said smoothly, "Really, Littlepip, we have you to thank that we have a relationship at all."

Wait, what?

"Ayep. Iffin it weren't fer ya actin' like we was already a couple back at that Stable, Ah don't think we woulda started lookin' at each other that way."

I blushed so hard I should have caught on fire.

Dodger

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Dodger » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

LYAT was a dream all along

BartonFink
User avatar
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:14 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by BartonFink (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

I think we can hit 500 c'mon

Helix
User avatar
Semper Pie
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:43 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Helix (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

5 min till death
ImageImage ImageImage

BartonFink
User avatar
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:14 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by BartonFink (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

More posts

Dead Pony

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Dead Pony » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

BRAVO THREAD ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

BartonFink
User avatar
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:14 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by BartonFink (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

+1

CorvusCaw
User avatar
Maud Squad
Posts: 151
Joined: Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:39 pm
Gender: Female

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by CorvusCaw (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

a trip to the vet
NOTE: i do not own any of the garfield characters in this story

It was a fine day in the Arbuckle house. The fattest, laziest cat in the world was just waking up from his morning nap.

"its Monday." Garfield said with depression in his voice. "I hate Mondays."

Garfield walked over to the calendar and pulled off the Sunday sign.

"Monday, 24th?" Garfield said with fear. "todays the day jon takes me to the vet!"

Garfield turned around and looked for jon, but he wasn't around. Garfield sighed with relief as he walked into the kitchen to get some breakfast.

"good morning Garfield!" jon exclaimed with joy. "your appointment with the vet was canceled, but the fair is in town; we could go there."

Garfield ate all the breakfast on the table and rushed out the door to the car. In his excited stupor, he accidentially locked jon out. Garfield, being a cat, didn't know how to use the car locks.

"Garfield!" jon yelled with anger.

Jon ran out behind the house and grabbed a metal pole. He ran back to the car and hit the window. You'd expect the window to break, but this is a Garfield story so I wont. The metal pole hit the metal part of the car right next to the window. The metal pole came back and hit jon.

"that was effective." Garfield said with sarcasm.

Jon had gotten another bright idea, smash the back window. He ran out back into the cellar and grabbed a sledge hammer. He ran back to the car and swung it. The sledge hammers head flew off of the car window and crashed through the house window, hitting odie.

Garfield sat down and hit the unlock button. Jon got in the car, but they didn't go to the fair, they went to the vet.

"no!" Garfield screamed with fear. "not there, anywhere but there!"
ImageImageImageImageImage

BartonFink
User avatar
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:14 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by BartonFink (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

+1

Dodger

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Dodger » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

:skeletor: :snoop: :twistsay: :snoop: :skeletor: :snoop: :twistsay: :snoop: :skeletor:


Fontra
User avatar
forums shittiest ponisters
Posts: 137
Joined: Tue Oct 31, 2017 3:08 am
Gender: Male
Location: Hamburg

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Fontra (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

Goddamn I can't read this engaging story with all you assholes posting more parts of the engaging story.

BartonFink
User avatar
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:14 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by BartonFink (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

I think this means kidc is unbanned

Helix
User avatar
Semper Pie
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:43 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Helix (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

BartonFink wrote:More posts


[in star trek guy voice] i'm posting as fast as i can cap'm
ImageImage ImageImage

Helix
User avatar
Semper Pie
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:43 pm

Re: cram as many posts here in 30 mins as possible (LYAT fin

Post by Helix (?) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:55 pm

BartonFink wrote:More posts


[in star trek guy voice] i'm posting as fast as i can cap'm
ImageImage ImageImage

Locked