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Glim Glam's Wall of Infinite Spam, More Edges Than Bismuth Edition
Salutations, faggots. I have been in hibernation these last few months, but have once again entered my active cycle. I descend now from the heavens like a vengeful whirlwind, ready to tear down the pillars of this world and bring about the final violent close of our wretched Kali Yuga. Gaze upon my works, ye mighty, and despair. And by this I mean: I am about to take a gigantic steaming dump on yet another mediocre work of My Little Pony fanfiction written almost a decade ago.

>what is this?
You all know perfectly well what this is. For those of you that don't, I would prefer you remain eternally confused.

>why are you doing this?
Not even I know the answer to that anymore.

Previous Reviews:

by getmeouttahere
>>>/mlpol/366626 →

Neo-Equestrian Obstetrics
by Kassaz
>>>/mlpol/348497 →

I.D.: That Indestructible Something
by Chatoyance
>>>/mlpol/342944 →

Our Girl Scootaloo
By Cozy Mark IV
>>>/mlpol/331344 →

Rainmetall (included in the Our Girl Scootaloo thread, post # indicates start point)
By /mlpol/'s very own Mexican Anon
>>>/mlpol/338993 →

The Best Night Ever
By Capn_Chryssalid
>>>/mlpol/327793 →

Fallout: Equestria
By kkat
>>>/mlpol/284789 →

The Sun & The Rose
By soulpillar
>>>/mlpol/269307 →

Friendship is Optimal (included in the Past Sins thread, post # indicates start point)
By Iceman
>>>/mlpol/266598 →

Past Sins
By Pen Stroke
>>>/mlpol/248482 →

Would it Matter if I Was?
By GaPJaxie
>>>/mlpol/202151 →

The Original Silver Star Threads:
(these threads are pretty chaotic and I don't begin "reviewing" until midway through, but they're an entertaining read if you have the patience to comb through them)
>>>/mlpol/165646 →
>>>/mlpol/166716 →


Current Story:

Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons
by Somber

Also, thanks to whatever drawfag created the OP image; it's been one of my favorites for awhile now. At least I'm assuming it was one of our drawfags. It would be a pretty bizarre coincidence if some random derpi artist had drawn something that hyper-specific by pure chance.
Screenshot 2024-04-30 235550.png

Alright, so. I'm assuming most people at least know this fic by reputation, which is the only way I know it. As with every other fic I've reviewed, I'm going into this one more or less blind. The only thing I really know about it is that apparently it is Fallout: Equestria amped up to eleven: more blood, more cum, more edge, more insanity. And, last but probably far from least: more words.

Yes, that's right, you heard right. This story clocks in at an impressive 1,780,334 words. To put this in perspective, the original Fallout: Equestria by kkat, which is literally longer than War and Peace, clocks in at a mere 620,295 words. To put it in even more perspective, In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, which as far as I'm aware is still officially the longest novel ever written, is only 1,267,069 words long.

There are 77 chapters in total, with multiple chapters exceeding 30,000 words and most chapters averaging somewhere in the 20,000 range. This is by far the longest thing I've ever attempted to tackle, and I honestly can't promise I will actually finish it. However, I intend to give it the ol' college try. And, much like Captain Ahab pursuing his white whale in a famous story penned by literary limpdick Herman Melville, who only managed to squeeze out a pathetic 206,052 words; hardly a match for a virile stallion like Somber, I will do everything in my power to drag all of you sad sacks down into the watery abyss with me, as I pursue this mad and probably hopeless quest.

I will see you on the other side, gentlemen. May God have mercy on our souls.

Chapter 1: Inception

>Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons
>By Somber
>Chapter 1: Inception
Well, this is off to a great start. Protip: no matter how your story is formatted and/or published, the odds are good that the title and author will be made apparent to whoever is reading it. You don't need to include this information in the text itself. Viewing this on fimfic, we can just scroll up a little and see what the book is called and who wrote it. To get the chapter title, we don't even have to do that much; it's literally written on the line directly above where the text begins. Perhaps Somber thought his chapter title was just so amazing that the reader would want to read it again immediately after having read it the first time. Snark aside, I understand that this text wasn't originally published on FimFiction, and the author probably just copypasted it directly from a google doc. However, would it have killed him to put a little effort into formatting?

Anyway, what the fuck. Here's the actual opening line for the story:

>“Once upon a time, in the magical land of Equestria…”
Well, at least he's not starting us off with a cliche.

And speaking of, here's the next line:

>War. War never changes.
Well, in Somber's defense, I'm pretty sure anyone writing a Fallout Equestria story is contractually obligated to include both of those lines somewhere in the text. At least he got them out of the way early on.

Incidentally, this well-worn Fallout trope is a bit misleading. War actually changes quite a bit; in fact I'd say it changes almost constantly. as an aside, I've actually been doing a bit of research on the Fallout series since I last delved into one of these. I even played a bit of the first game.

Anyway, what the fuck. Instead of nitpicking every single sentence, I should probably take a look at these statements in context. Here is the actual opening paragraph:

>War. War never changes. It had consumed our home, a war fought by foreign aggressors until great and terrible magics had been unleashed to burn all the world to ash and dust. Only our constant devotion to the Princesses had carried us through that terrible war, just as our unwavering faith in the Overmare maintained our continued survival within the earth. Trust in the Overmare; obey the Overmare.
As opening paragraphs go, this one probably works well enough. It reads like a cutscene intro from a Fallout game, and sets the tone for the rest of the story. However, the transition to the next paragraph is a bit jarring:

>The grating buzz of my alarm yanked me away from sleep. I stuck my left foreleg out from under the blankets, away from my head, felt around for the end table next to the bed, found it, and proceeded to whack my PipBuck against the tabletop until the right button was hit and the noise stopped.
Written this way, the intro paragraph reads like it's supposed to be part of the narration. So, in other words, the story so far goes like this: our protagonist mare is lying in bed, narrating the backstory of the world she lives in to herself for some reason, when suddenly her alarm goes off.

Anyway, what the fuck. Our protagonist, whose name is Blackjack, is awakened by her alarm clock one morning. We learn immediately that she lives in a place called Stable 99, and that life here is highly regimented.

>I had half an hour to wash, half an hour to eat, and an hour to report to my duty station. The same as it had been every day since I’d gotten my cutie mark.
Honestly, for a militarized dystopian hellhole, two hours to get ready in the morning is pretty generous.

Anyway, she rummages around, gets dressed, and heads down to the showers. On the way, she passes some murals that give us some insight into the setting:

>‘We are all the Overmare’s foals’ declared the caption of one picture of an abstract white unicorn hugging dozens of tiny ponies in her hooves. Another showed one lone weeping mare under the caption ‘Selfishness Separates’.
In all fairness, I will actually give this author some credit. So far, this story has a much stronger opening than the original FoE did. Kkat's story opened with a long infodump about PipBucks that had my eyes glazing over by the second paragraph. This one gets right to the point: here's our character, here's where she lives, here's what she's doing. Zero preamble, just action.
Glim Glam - celebrating.gif
Welcome back.

>I trotted into the sector’s communal bathroom, and immediately my ears perked to a familiar giggling. Walking past a stall, I glanced in at two mares employing unauthorized and probably ineffective washing techniques. According to the training manual, behavior like that in public spaces was punishable by whipping and restriction to C class rations, so it was pretty understandable that the pair looked up with some trepidation when they spotted me.
>“Oh, it’s just Blackjack,” the dappled mare, Pastels, said in relief before flushing and snapping at her partner, “I swear, you are trying to get us flogged!”
>“Fun,” giggled the white mare, Misty Hooves from the bakery, nuzzling her. Misty was a chronic offender. I didn’t know if she liked the kiss of the whip or if there was something else wrong with her. Or both.
Somber once again shows us that he ain't fuckin' around with infodumps or angsty monologues or anything like that. He just dives head-first into the gratuitous lesbian horse sex, and damn the consequences. This ain't your grandfather's Fallout Equestria; nosiree.

>“You won’t think so if it’s Daisy doing the flogging,” I commented, and instantly their smiles disappeared. I couldn’t blame them. With the constant duty and honor bullshit, a little flank spank was one of the few reliable means of recreation, and a lot of the security mares got really... enthusiastic about it. I stepped under the spray and immediately jerked. “Cold!”
So far, this is reading like a cross between a cheesy sci-fi dystopia from the 80s and softcore Cinemax porn from the 90s. It's way too early to be making statements about overall quality, but I will once again remark that so far this reads a lot more easily than kkat's story. Somber seems to have a much better grasp on the "show, don't tell" concept, and while the setting is the same cornball edgy dystopia, this one doesn't seem to take itself or its setting anywhere near as seriously as the first one did.

Anyway, at this point we do get a bit of an infodump. We are told that Stable 99 is the last bastion of life, and everything outside is a radioactive wasteland. To venture outside the stable is instant death. Inside, the stable's population is strictly maintained at 500 ponies, each of whom has an assigned job. Each pony is required to produce one child to take over their job when they die. Ponies in Stable 99 seem to live in constant fear of "another incident." It's not clear exactly what this means, but we are given a general idea: something breaks down, and a lot of ponies die horribly. There seems to be a general assumption that the world outside is uninhabitable, and if any of their life support systems go down in here, it's all ogre.

>“Fuck! Don’t think about it…” I said, trying again to shove it from my mind. That was made ridiculously easy by Midnight trotting past me towards the atrium. Instantly, my ruby eyes popped wide at her cute flank and graceful tail. Black on black and oh she needed to be mine!
Another dyke protagonist, eh? Oh, joy.

>“Hey! Midnight! Midnight! Hey! Hey! Wait up!” I shouted as I tripped and raced to catch up with her. Of course, she didn’t wait; she never did. Instead, she picked up her pace. “Damn it, Midnight! No running in the halls!” I shouted as I ran after her. What? I was security! I was allowed to break the rules when pursuing a fine flank!
So Midnight is this story's Velvet Remedy? Oh, joy.

Anyway, Blackjack goes trotting after some hot pone-tang, and is immediately apprehended by two other security mares, Daisy (mentioned earlier) and Marmalade. Daisy is described as being abnormally large, and earlier we were given the impression that she is physically intimidating.

>All security unicorns were supposed to know a selection of spells for policing the stable. Me… I had telekinesis… and telekinesis… and oh! Did I mention telekinesis? I couldn’t cuff or stun or do interrogation spells to save my life; all the practice I’d put in merely gave me a migraine.
Another unicorn who can only do the basic telekinesis spell? Oh, joy. I hope this author at least has the sense to put some reasonable limits on his tragically underpowered protagonist's tragically overpowered spell. Because if I have to watch another sanctimonious pipsqueak wander around the wasteland hucking boxcars at alicorns for another half million words, I might actually kill someone. Somepony. Whatever.

>The huge atrium was the heart and soul of pony life in 99. Almost half the stable could fit in the room for large events, more if everypony was really friendly. Huge support pillars had been sculpted in a parody of tree trunks, and the support beams had been fashioned to resemble branches. That was about the extent of trying to make 99 look like something outside.
As with the first Fallout Equestria, it's not clear how much this character ought to know about the world she lives in. The author actually hasn't nailed down the timeframe this story takes place in, but it's been explicitly mentioned that both Blackjack's mother and grandmother had held the same job she was, and there is an implication that her lineage goes back even further than this. In any case, she's clearly spent her entire life inside this stable. Does she know what a tree is? Does she know what the outside looks liked? Or looked like? Again, it would be helpful if we had some clue exactly how much knowledge of the old world was preserved in these Stables, and exactly how much of that knowledge would logically be passed down to the average Stable-dweller. This problem created huge logic issues in the original FoE; it will be interesting to see how this author handles it.

Anyway, what the fuck. Blackjack goes down to the Atrium. Apparently she still has hoofcuffs on, because Marmalade and Daisy put a pair of hoofcuffs on her and then jokingly refused to take them off. What a couple of merry pranksters; it's nice to see that ponies still like to have fun around here.
full (1).gif

>I passed the cafeteria where ponies loaded bowls with green recycled algae slime, scooped recycled fungus cubes onto trays, collected synthetic recycled carrot sticks and apple flakes into bowls, or heaped up stacks of green recycled grass chips, brown recycled hay chips, and white recycled cake chips upon their plates. All the food in 99 was recycled into more food. All the waste in 99 was recycled. We were recycled. And yes, even having lived here my entire life, I still found it easier to pretend that the machines just magically made the food poof into being. Still, despite being made out of recycled poo water, the chips were pretty tasty!
I'm told the Indians had a saying: when the chips are down, the buffalo is empty. In all seriousness, though, it's nice to see the author putting some thought into this stuff. I don't think kkat ever addressed how food in the Stables worked, and as I recall most of what the wasteland ponies ate was just prewar canned goods, which for some reason they still had in abundance more than 200 years after the megaspells.

Anyway, Blackjack still has the hoofcuffs on, so she goes to the table where Midnight is sitting. As luck would have it, Midnight is a PipBuck technician, which means she probably knows something about getting cuffs off. A couple of other ponies are there, by the name of Rivets and Textbook; not sure if they will be important characters or not.

It's clear enough that Blackjack whose name I just realized can be shortened to BJ has been after Midnight's no-no parts for awhile now, and it's equally clear that it's a one-sided crush. The author is probably using the original story as a jumping off point, so it's not surprising that there would be a couple of parallels. The obvious parallel here is that kkat's protagonist, Littlepip, had a one-sided crush on Velvet Remedy. However, LP spent most of the early story pining away silently after Velvet, whereas BJ seems to prefer a more direct approach.

>“Which means you’re intelligent. Skilled! That you possess far more competence than a lowly security pony like myself!” I said as she hesitated. I almost had her convinced! “I’ll pay you in oral sex!” I blurted. Textbook turned the shade of a spoiled apple, and Rivets covered half her face as she chuckled.
I was beginning to worry that there wouldn't be any cringey sex humor in this story, but it looks like I can put that fear to rest.

Anyway, BJ makes an ass of herself in front of her would-be lady friend, said lady friend wanders off in disgust, one of the ancillary characters makes a perfunctory "that went well" kind of joke, and the laugh track rolls.

>“I had no idea. I didn’t think you were into mares,” Rivets said with a smile, munching on her grass chips.
Really? I don't get the impression that subtlety is Blackjack's strong suit. Plus, she was very publicly chasing Midnight down the hallway just a few minutes ago, and from Midnight's response it's clear she does this sort of thing quite often.

Anyway, BJ and Rivets talk shop for a bit, and we learn a bit more about how things work around here. This stable is...strange. Jobs are hereditary: if one pony is a maintenance technician, that means her daughter will be a maintenance technician, no arguments allowed. Also, due to the strict population controls, if an adult pony dies, their child must immediately step in and take over their job.

I can understand the reasoning behind this arrangement in theory, but in practice this means that ponies are often thrust into jobs that they are not even remotely qualified to do. Specifically, it seems like the current Overmare is actually a young filly (I'm assuming something like picrel), because her mother was the Overmare, and presumably she died at some point. We also learn that a young filly is going to be taking over her mother's job in maintenance the following day due to that mare's untimely death. All in all, it seems like this stable's social structure is more than a little screwy.


Anyway, they banter a little more, and then Rivets takes her leave. The scene ends in a page break.

We rejoin Blackjack in the security team's briefing room, because apparently BJ's job is security. She still has the fucking cuffs on.

>Daisy and Marmalade snickered as I limped in, and I gave the rest of the security mares a sheepish grin and a shrug before taking my seat. Gin Rummy just sighed and looked at me with a slow, disappointed shake of her head. Still, wasn’t much she could do.
The hoofcuffs gag is funny, but it's getting a little illogical at this point. Are we seriously supposed to believe that in an entire room full of security ponies, not a single one, including this new character Gin Rummy, who is apparently head of security, knows how to take these stupid things off? Between the wacky job assignments and the Paul-Blart-tier security personnel they clearly employ, I'm impressed this stable has managed to survive for as long as it has.

Anyway, there's a fairly important-looking infodump that I should probably just drop in verbatim:

>Everypony in Stable 99 had a job assigned to them from birth. Maintenance ponies maintained, security ponies secured, and baker ponies baked. The forty or so males in Stable 99 were no different: they were breeding equipment. From birth, they had their segregated quarters in medical and were signed out by mares for reproductive purposes and, more frequently, recreational. There were twenty unicorns and twenty earth ponies on the breeding rotation. Once a male reached… how old was it? Twelve? Fifteen? -- they were put into breeding. Of course, to keep the number in rotation the same, that meant that a male had to be taken out of breeding and retired.
I'm assuming "retired" is a euphemism for "killed." I'm getting sort of a "Logan's Run" vibe from this place.

Anyway, the leadup to this is that a male seems to have escaped when it was his time to be retired.
I've been looking forward to you doing another review. I can't promise to provide much commentary, but you can be certain I'll be reading along and cheering you on as you take on the herculean effort of slogging thorough this work.

Anyway, Gin Rummy concludes the security briefing with a thinly-veiled jab at Blackjack. When everyone is gone, BJ asks her to please undo the cuffs, and even though it is (apparently) part of BJ's job to know how to do this, GR obliges and takes them off for her.

>Technically, every security unicorn was supposed to be able to do that. Technically, every unicorn, much less every security unicorn, was supposed to be able to do a whole slew of spells that I couldn’t. Maybe Mom would get lucky and outlive me. One thing was sure: the second I became head security mare, Stable 99 was doomed.
I restate my objections to this Stable's screwy methods of job-assignment. It seems like not being able to do a spell that you need in order to perform the most basic functions of your job would constitute a pretty solid argument for your not being right for that particular job. As I recall, the Stables were part of some misguided social engineering experiment the CMC were involved in. I'm going to assume that "everyone picks a job out of the hat, and then those jobs become permanent and hereditary" was, for some reason, the experiment chosen for this particular Stable. Also: it turns out that Gin Rummy is actually Blackjack's mother.

Blackjack finishes her conversation with her boss/mother. She steps out into the hall, where the Overmare (Overfilly?) is throwing a tantrum about the maneframe (I still hate this word, but since it was inherited from kkat's universe I can't rightly blame Somber for it). It seems that Midnight was supposed to find some kind of old data file, only she wasn't able to open it due to super-boss-hacker-level encryption. Since it appears that BJ has the same tunnel-vision about mare pussy as her predecessor, her main (mane?) concern here is taking the opportunity to hit on Midnight. She is once again rebuffed, and the scene ends in a page break.

We rejoin her a short while later, in the bowels of the stable where all of the maintenance and utility operations are conducted. In spite of the Stable's rather strict disciplinary regimen, this area doubles as sort of an off-the-books Red Light District: gambling, liquor, acts of coitus not approved by management, that sort of thing. Presently, she is involved in a card game.

>I really had no idea how earth ponies managed cards. They just did. Me, I levitated them around as I looked at the other players.
I used to complain about stuff like this, until I started writing horse-fiction of my own and discovered that it really is a gigantic pain in the ass. You have to rethink nearly every action a character could perform based on them being in an equine body, and on top of that, you have three varieties of equine bodies to deal with. Since the canon setting is basically a world populated by horses that use tools and dwellings obviously designed for humans, it's virtually impossible to produce a satisfactory explanation for every single action. So, I feel like it's fair to let some of this stuff slide. Any action that you could plausibly imagine being drawn into the show (including "adult" actions like drug and weapon use that would likely get cut in editing) is probably fair game. Since we have canon depictions of earth ponies drinking from mugs and playing the cello, a group of them sitting around playing cards is probably not that farfetched, and "somehow" is probably a good enough explanation for how they are able to do it.

Anyway, in this scene, we begin to get the impression that even with an abundance of off-the-books amusements available to the Stable residents, there is still some tension between management and the rank-and-file. Blackjack, as a member of security, is permitted to participate in the card games but also ostracized socially. We are given the distinct impression that the other ponies do not see her as one of their own, and watch their speech around her.

>She’d offered me the cigar at the start of the game, a blatant class B violation that I’d never ever report her on. I had no idea how she manufactured them, but it was just another indication that things were painfully tense in the stable.
Going back to what I said about actions being plausible, this one is borderline. The act of a pony smoking a cigar is fine in and of itself according to the rules I laid out. However, the issue of how ponies living in post-apocalyptic bunker conditions would be able to grow and cultivate tobacco, let alone roll it into cigars, is a whole other thing entirely. For the sake of simplicity I'm going to assume that these are pre-war cigars, and that the Stable management has a supply of them cached away somewhere.

At this point, Rivets brings up the issue of Daisy and Marmalade bullying Blackjack. It seems like she's using this as a segue into a more serious conversation: she mentions that BJ's mother is a decent enough pony, but other security mares seem to abuse their positions. She also calls into question the fairness of the hereditary job system. It seems to be an uncomfortable topic for BJ.

At various points so far, BJ has fretted to herself about "Incidents." At first I assumed she was talking about mechanical failure of the Stable's various systems, but it seems she's more worried about riots or rebellions breaking out.

>Rivets chewed slowly on the end as her eyes measured me up. Finally, she gave a minimal shrug. “You tell me. Overmare has us running like crazy for a month updating her on the stable, seizes inventory, and Duct Tape dies doing work for her. Now she’s screaming at Midnight that she’s going to shoot her and has her own little guard of security ponies following her around tonight.”
The maintenance ponies appear to be under considerable stress, and it looks as though an "incident" might be brewing.

Also, as an aside, we are given a little tidbit about Blackjack at this point: her cutie mark is a Queen and an Ace of Spades, and she earned it in this very room inb4 zigger joke.
Thanks, glad to have you aboard.

>“Some ponies don’t think she has a clue what her job is. Heck, some ponies don’t think she even knows herself. And some ponies have to wonder why Blackjack’s so insistent on coming to this game. Maybe to keep tabs on all of us?” Rivets asked as she nodded to the equipment around us. “After all, with all the interference, I doubt you can track us by our PipBucks.”
>The foreleg-mounted minicomputers were marvels of arcane technology; even if I didn’t understand the first thing about how they worked, I had to admit that they were useful. One of the functions most used by security was the ability to, if you had the correct address tag, track any other PipBuck. All I had to do was put in their name and I could find their location almost anywhere in the stable. Down here, though, it was another story. Probably why the missing male had gone to ground down here.
This is actually a pretty good example of how to feed essential information to the reader without deluging them with a massive infodump. The original FoE essentially opened with an entire tech manual about how the PipBucks work; this one mentions early on that the devices exist, but doesn't go into detail about any of its functions until said function becomes relevant. I believe I actually suggested using this method as opposed to kkat's in my review of the original story. Maybe Somber traveled forward in time and read my advice before he started writing.

Anyway, speaking of the future, the situation in the maintenance room is getting tense alright, that pun was terrible. It appears that, at best, the maintenance ponies are suspicious of Blackjack and suspect that the Overfilly sent her to spy on them. At worst, there is also a subtle implication that they are planning some kind of coup, and they are giving her sort of an "us or them" ultimatum here: either she can stay and join the rebellion, or she can gtfo. She opts for the latter.

Page break. She leaves the card game in a state of unease, hoping that she can talk to her mother later and relieve the tension without the need for anyone to get disciplined and/or killed. Since she's already down in the maintenance levels, she decides she might as well look around for that escaped stud and see if she can apprehend him. I'm sure her sexual frustration from earlier is in no way shape or form affecting her judgement here.

>Well, with the game a complete fiasco, Midnight continuing her cold shoulder, and me with six hours left in my shift, I might as well actually do some security work. Mostly the ten or so of us on C shift patrolled and wrote up any mare violating curfew. Down here, I might find more interesting violations, but it was rare that I’d ever run into anything major. I snapped on another function of the PipBuck: the Eyes Forward Sparkle.
>Instantly, a number of yellow bars filled my vision as the arcane device detected the number of ponies within a few hundred feet. It also had a few red bars, likely a few hungry radroaches looking to take a bite out of me. The E.F.S. was a function few ponies used regularly. After all, it only gave direction and hostility, and the indicator didn’t even tell you how far above or below you the bar was. For all I knew, that yellow bar was around the corner or a floor up. I entered in the P-21’s PipBuck address, but the little icon twitched around spasmodically. Likely he was down here… somewhere.
Incidentally, this is another good example of how to slowly reveal information through the narrative, rather than relying on infodumps. Here, the author also makes use of the good old-fashioned "show, don't tell" method.

>It wasn’t often that we had a stallion who tried to hide from retirement. Most just reported to security or medical to get their shot and that was that. Occasionally there’d be a crying or screaming fit in the atrium. Rarely, they’d suicide… ugh, please don’t let me find him hanging or poisoned down here.
I'd assumed that "retirement" meant that stallions are put to death once they are no longer useful as breeding stock, but this seems to imply that it's a form of chemical castration. The text hasn't clarified exactly what happens to these guys, but committing suicide in retaliation to being handed a death sentence seems like kind of a futile gesture. So, I'm currently assuming that the ominous euphemism of "retirement" just means spending the rest of your life not getting laid, which presumably some guys can't handle.

Anyway, she follows the blip on her radar-thingy, and tracks down what she thinks is the errant male. However, it turns out to just be a lost filly.

BJ asks the filly what she is doing down here and where her mother is, only to learn immediately that this is Scotch Tape, the daughter of the recently-recycled mare Duct Tape, whose job she is now performing. Open mouth, insert hoof.

>I couldn’t help but reach out and touch the steel walls of the stable. Somepony had daubed ‘Fuck the Overmare’ on the gray metal in flaking white paint. A shout of rebellion from the Incident almost a century ago, the last time the stable had torn itself apart. Back then, it’d been stallions challenging the Overmare and the rules imposed by Stable-Tec when the stable had been established. Today, it was Rivets against the Overmare.
Once again, the author displays some competence when it comes to revealing information. This place obviously has an interesting backstory, but he hasn't laid it out for us yet. Drop vague hints to make the reader curious (oh noes, "the incidents"), reinforce them through repetition so they stay in the reader's mind, and gradually hand out slices of information while simultaneously dropping new hints to ensure that curiosity remains piqued; that's how you do this. It's far too early to judge the book as a whole yet, but so far this guy is getting decent marks on storytelling.

Anyway, at this point Blackjack slips and falls face first into a puddle of shit that leaked out of one of the "recycling" pipes.

She spends some time lamenting her state of affairs, but as she's getting cleaned up, she notices another blip on her Eyes Forward Sparkle. Once again, she assumes it's the missing dudebro, and once again she strikes out. The interloper turns out to be just a mare, who is in the (suspiciously unlocked) emergency supply room for...some reason. However, it turns out everything is in order; she's just in here "getting something" for Rivets.

The mare tells her that she is on Shift C (the current shift), but she's not tremendously convincing. Blackjack demands that she show ID, and she turns and bolts for the door. It is at this point that BJ begins to suspect that something is awry.

She chases her down and kneecaps her with her baton. Once caught, the mare reluctantly agrees to show ID, and at this point BJ makes an interesting discovery: the "mare" is actually the missing stallion in disguise.

>Like all stallions, his cutie mark was a white male symbol with dots underneath it; his had two rows of ten white dots. Below that would go one more dot… though I was never sure why, since after that he'd be heading straight to retirement.
This is kind of an interesting detail. I'm assuming the dots are for tracking age: presumably once a male reaches a certain age they are put into breeding, and then taken out when they reach another. However, earlier we were told that a male was retired as soon as a younger one came of age, so...I'm actually not sure what the dots represent. Maybe we'll find out.

Anyway, it looks like I'm not the only one who's a little confused about what "retirement" means. The stallion seems to also be under the impression that he was being put to death, thus his decision to run. Apparently his plan was to hide out down here and steal food from the supply closets.

BJ does her duty and informs him, in the best security-mare voice she can muster, that he his under arrest. He is clearly angry, and for a moment she is worried that this will turn into an altercation, but he ultimately accedes to her request. However, he does make a rather cryptic remark:

>“Like you retired him,” he replied softly, his storm blue eyes darkening as he stared at me.
It's not entirely clear who "he" is, but presumably we're meant to wonder for now.

The stallion then accuses BJ, and by extension the rest of the security team and presumably the Stable management as a whole, of being murderers. BJ takes mild offense to this, but otherwise doesn't react. She escorts him out of the storage room and back towards the stairs, when suddenly another security mare appears and busts his leg with a baton.

It turns out the newcomers (there's actually two of them) are Daisy and Marmalade, the two security mares from before, who put the hoofcuffs on Blackjack. We learn that they have been down here for the last several hours, apparently tasked with finding the missing stallion. Though it's been hinted that these two have a history of bullying Blackjack and are not the nicest ponies in the world, at this point we learn that their sadism goes beyond just pulling mean-spirited pranks.

They pretty much jump right into "crooked cops from a 90s hood film" mode: they claim the suspect is resisting arrest, and proceed to savagely beat the shit out of him, with the clear intent of killing him. Once again, the issue of what, exactly, "retirement" means becomes muddy: their justification is that they are just doing what Medical was going to do anyway.

Blackjack now has a moral choice presented to her, within the context of her job as a security mare. On the one hoof, she can stand idly by and let these two lunatics beat this poor faggot to death, or alternatively she can step in and defend him. It's a common setup, where the protagonist has to make a choice between doing what's expected of her vs. doing what she thinks is right. However, in this case there's an extra dimension, as it's entirely not clear what is expected of her in terms of her job function. You could take the side of Marmalade and Daisy, and argue that since this guy is going to die anyway they're not doing anything wrong, and since BJ is security she should side with her fellow security mares and look the other way. You could also argue that these two are way out of line, and that she has both a professional and a moral responsibility to step in and use corrective force against her teammates.

This choice actually seems to allude to something that was brought up earlier:

> If I was lucky, I could get through this shift without any more disasters and, if I was really lucky, talk to Mom and not the head security mare about the rising tension.
She specifically draws a contrast between "Mom" and the "head security mare," indicating that they are two different roles for the same character. The function of both roles is similar: they are both essentially supervisory and intended to provide instruction and guidance. However, one relationship is personal and the other professional.

From this, we can probably guess at how BJ is thinking about this choice. The head security mare might advise her to maintain solidarity with her teammates, and to carry out her duty, which in this case means apprehending this escaped male, presumably so he can be killed. If he just happens to die on the way to being killed anyway, it's probably not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. However, "Mom" might have a different take: it's wrong to savagely beat a guy to death, even if he is going to be killed anyway, and you should do what's morally right, even if it means going against your teammates.

There's also another way you could frame this decision. During the card game, Rivets essentially gave BJ another choice: either you're one of us or one of them, as in rank-and-file vs. management/leadership. The choice here is similar: either she sides with management and looks the other way while this guy gets beaten, or she defies management and steps in.

Anyway, tl;dr she decides to step in. She attacks her two fellow security mares, much to their surprise:

>Daisy’s shock transformed into rage much faster. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing? He’s a fucking worthless male! He’s disposable!”
Daisy is apparently this stable's answer to Carl the Cuck.

>And one more thing I could do with telekinesis: with another thought, I triggered my PipBuck’s ‘Stable-Tec Assisted Targeting System’. The S.A.T.S. was a magical spell that momentarily slowed time almost to a stop and let me line up my attacks perfectly. Each attack cost some spell charge that had to build back up over time, but right now I wasn’t going to waste any of it. Three baton strikes to the head. The spell even gave me the probability of each strike landing!
Oh, goody. It's our old friend S.A.T.S. Can't wait until Blackjack starts using it to effortlessly auto-headshot entire gangs of raiders.

Anyway, tl;dr Blackjack successfully prevents the severe beating of a high school Spanish teacher. Daisy and Marmalade both survive, though they seem hurt and confused by BJ's sudden attack. In any case, the conflict is suddenly brought to a halt when a message comes through on their PipBucks: all security personnel are to report back to the security briefing hall.

Daisy and Marmalade exit the scene, letting BJ know that they will inform Gin Rummy that she has apprehended the errant male and is bringing him in. Presumably they won't say anything to her about BJ's attack on them, but it sounds like this fight isn't over yet.

Meanwhile, the FUCKING WHITE MALE is in pretty bad shape. Scotch Tape, the filly from earlier, witnessed the altercation. BJ sends her off to find a first aid kit. The male is introduced as P-21 (we actually knew this already, though here we get confirmation that he has no other name). We also get a bit of an explanation as to how the naming convention works:

>“Oh…” Males in 99 lived in medical and were identified on their breeding roster by their designations. P for earth ponies, U for unicorns. Don’t ask me why the former wasn’t E; I’d never gotten a straight answer. Maybe the Overmare who set up the system was a lot like the current one. 1 would be the newest stallion on the breeding roster, 20 the oldest. Being 21 would mean that a male was to be retired.
I'm not sure why 'P' would designate an earth pony either; pegasus would be what you'd logically expect. Though if I remember correctly, in this setting the pegasi are all part of the Enclave ugh, I'm already getting war flashbacks to reading kkat's pile of shit.

Anyway, the filly returns with a first aid kit. Seeing as how BP and presumably the filly have no medical training, I'm a little curious how they will manage to fix a broken leg and God only knows how many internal injuries this guy currently has...oh, wait. We're in the FoE universe. That means that medicine is absolute bullshit:

>There were two healing potions, small bottles of rich purple fluid capped in plastic. All a pony had to do was to bite hard on the end, crack the seal, and suck down the magical healing contents.
Again, I can't really fault Somber for this since he inherited the rules of kkat's universe.

But, and thank God for small miracles, it looks like he at least makes a few concessions to plausibility:

>As he gulped down the contents of the bottle, the bruises immediately began to disappear. His leg, however… “I’m going to have to set this,” I said as I looked at the limb.
>“You know how to do that?” the olive filly asked. P-21 just groaned as he clenched his eyes shut.
>“Nope,” I replied and took out the syringe of Med-X painkiller.
She attempts to set the leg, it's unclear whether or not she's actually successful. In yet another concession to plausibility, she attempts to use the second healing potion, but it doesn't seem to have much effect. There seems to be at least some reasonable limitation on what healing potions can do.

Anyway, tl;dr she gets his leg set and into a brace that she found in the first aid kit. There is also a drug called Buck in there, which she gives him. I remember that one from the first FoE, though I don't remember what it does exactly. Apparently it's contraband around here, though.

Page break. BJ brings the injured stallion up to the security level. There are ten security mares total on BJ's shift. The remaining seven plus the two that BJ beat up are gathered in the security room, as per the alert that went out earlier. They all stop talking as soon as BJ enters the room, so presumably Daisy and Marmalade have told them all what happened.

She puts P-21 into a nearby jail cell and confiscates his PipBuck. Then, the Overfilly enters the room:

>Some ponies liked to say she looked like my little sister, though never in earshot of Mom, of course. The Overmare’s white hide was a little more dingy than mine, and her eyes were a lighter pinkish color. Her mom had once styled her mane in elaborate curls and dressed her up in fancy outfits, but, since her death a year ago, the Overmare had chopped her dove gray mane short and worn nothing save her PipBuck, almost flaunting her Stable-Tec logo cutie mark.
I'm not sure if we're supposed to assume that BJ and the Overfilly are related somehow. They have different mothers, obviously, but they might be cousins or something.

Things then take an unexpected twist:

>When she saw P-21 and me, her smile only widened. “Oh… you found my trick pony!” she said, clapping her hooves together in glee. Her trick pony? P-21 stared straight ahead, his eyes unfocused pinpricks as she walked up to the bars. “Oh we’re going to have so much fun. Oh yes we are. Yes we are. You’re going to be mine forever. Yes you are.”
Looks like the "retired" stallion has a new job: sexually servicing post-apocalyptic Cozy Glow. Oh well, beats being euthanized I guess. All things considered it's probably good BJ stopped him from being beaten to death.

Anyway, the Overfilly has a little more to say, but she's pretty much what you'd expect: a spoiled, impulsive child who clearly has too much power and too little supervision.

Slightly more interesting is P-21. As the Overfilly is going on about stuff and whatever, he signals to BJ that she should copy the data stored in his PipBuck. She tries, but unfortunately the Overfilly takes it away from her before it finishes the transfer. In yet another surprise twist, she then orders BJ locked in the jail cell alongside P-21.

The reason for this is unclear. The most logical explanation is that it's punishment for what she did to Daisy and Marmalade earlier; however, I'm not 100% certain the Overfilly knows about that incident yet. Moreover, there's the reason the Overfilly ordered the security personnel to assemble: she is planning some kind of violent crackdown on the Maintenance rebellion, and she needs all hands hooves, whatever on deck. In this situation, it would stand to reason that any disciplinary proceedings would be put on hold until the immediate crisis has been dealt with. It appears that the reason for locking BJ up has to do with her friendship with Rivets and the other Maintenance ponies.

Anyway, BJ gets locked up, and the Overfilly takes the remainder of the security force and goes to deal with the Maintenance uprising. Daisy, meanwhile, gives BJ a rather nasty look on the way out. The Overfilly is clearly paranoid about loyalty, and is suspicious of BJ already. Since Daisy is clearly higher in her favor, and now has a bone to pick, it's likely that BJ's situation has become considerably more precarious.

Page break. P-21 does not seem to be in the mood to talk, and BJ has nothing else to do, so she decides to go through some of the files she copied from his PipBuck. Since the transfer didn't complete, there are a lot of corrupt and incomplete files, but it looks like she did manage to save a few of them.

She discovers an audio recording of a scene from the Overfilly's office. P-21 is in the process of fixing the Overfilly's sink and by fixing her sink I mean having sex with her, and by having sex with her I mean fixing her sink. Then, Duct Tape (the mare who died; mother of Scotch Tape) enters the room. The Overfilly has some kind of special project for her, as she is the only Maintenance pony she trusts. There is a heavy implication that the project involves sabotaging something on the Maintenance levels. The Overfilly assures Scotch Tape that if she does a good job, she will send P-21 over to fix her sink.

The file cuts out, but we get the general idea. The Overfilly is planning to do something horrible to the Maintenance ponies because she suspects them of treason (or whatever it's called down here). To some extent this suspicion is justified, since we saw earlier that the Maintenance ponies appear to be planning some kind of coup. Any conflict is likely to jeopardize the overall survival of the Stable, since the Maintenance ponies are the ones who understand how everything works.

BJ tries to press P-21 for information, but P-21 isn't having it. The Stable is run by a wacky matriarchy that used him for sex his whole life and now plans to discard him (although it's looking more and more like the Overfilly plans to keep him around as some kind of private cabana-boy off the books). So, he is understandably indifferent to the Stable's fate. However, he has a proposition for BJ:

>He clenched his eyes shut. “If I help you… you have to help me.” He looked at me again with a ferocious glare. “You have to let me leave this place,” he said in slow, even tones of carefully measured control. “Even if I die outside in ten seconds, at least it will be ten seconds free.” What, he wanted to die outside rather than be retired? Ooookay…
I can't tell if the author is being intentionally vague to build mystery, or if this is just another communication problem due to bad writing.

I'm still not 100% clear on what "retirement" means for the males. At first I assumed it meant death, then it was starting to look like some form of chemical castration, now it's sounding like it actually does mean death. In addition to this confusion, there's the confusion of what the Overfilly has planned for this guy. The paragraph I quoted above, combined with the audio recording we just heard, strongly implies that the Overfilly plans to keep him alive as some kind of personal sex slave. However, BJ's narration keeps talking about him like he's still going to be retired. Which could still mean either castration or death. The author could be a little bit clearer about what all of this is supposed to mean.

Anyway, they reach an agreement: BJ will help him escape, and in return he will help save the stable. As soon as he has her guarantee, he pulls a screwdriver and bobby pin out of his ass (literally) and gets to work on the lock. Meanwhile, he tells BJ to listen to the last recording he made with Duct Tape.

As you might expect, this recording is also >lewd. However, we get a little more of an insight into Duct Tape's character. While the Overfilly's interest in P-21 is obviously mostly physical, Duct Tape seems to actually be in love with him. The Overfilly appears to have bribed her by promising her the chance to "marry" him when her task is complete.

This, however, seems to be the salient point of the conversation:

>Duct Tape cussed softly under her breath and then sighed. “Well… I guess you won’t tell anypony.” She gave a little giggle, but P-21 remained silent as Duct Tape went on. “The Overmare has gotten in contact with Stable-Tec! The outside is safe and clean and we’re all going to be able to leave the stable soon!” She gave another joyous giggle. “In fact, she’s getting a broadcast from Stable-Tec right now!”

As the conversation progresses, we learn that DT's task actually involved unsealing the door so it can be opened. The plot seems to be thickening.
Great to have you back, Glim. I look forward to sharing more autistic Fallout knowledge when necessary and seeing your insights.

Hey-ho, sorry about the extended absence. Back to it, then.

So anyway, it looks like the Overfilly has some sort of plan to unseal the door and exit the Stable. The plan is being kept secret currently because she doesn't want to cause a panic. This actually more or less makes sense, since I get the impression the Stable's life-support systems are starting to wear out, and the tensions between labor and management are making daily life rather difficult. Presumably the Stables would have been built with instruments and whatnot that could detect when the outside environment is safe. I'm assuming there's probably more going on here than we're being told.

>Stable-Tec says they need a special data file from the stable that will tell them how we’ve been doing the last two centuries. EC-1101. So she’s had me extracting it from the system. It’s a doozy of a file, and buried pretty deep.
Presumably, the idea here is that the Stable would have some kind of general log file recording everything that's happened during the time the ponies were staying there. Stable Tec would logically want this file so they could review their data; however, this assumes that Stable Tec would even still exist as a company once the experiment was over. Considering what the Stables were designed for, this seems like a pretty big if. I guess it's better to have it and not need it, but it also seems like something that would be rather low priority.

Anyway, at this point the other shoe drops. P-21 ominously advises Duct Tape not to trust the Overfilly, and to protect her goddamn neck. The recording ends here.

Blackjack does a bit of musing, and concludes that not trusting the Overfilly is probably sound advice. She finds it suspicious that her mother, who is head of security, was not told about this plan to open the Stable. While it's not clear what exactly the Overfilly has planned, it is clear from what we've read so far that she wasn't exactly the best horse for the job to start with, and at this point she has pretty much gone bananas.

>I glanced at my PipBuck. There were dozens of radio channels on it, but only six were used by the stable. I clicked to security, but it was dead during C shift.
This seems odd, considering that an entire troop of security mares just left to go put down a revolt.

Anyway, BJ now receives a mysterious transmission on her PipBuck, which appears to be coming from outside the Stable. She records it.

>That was it. I needed to get out of here. I needed to talk to Mom…
>Except… would it be enough? Mom… I wanted to think that she’d believe me. That I’d be more than ‘Blackjack the screwup’. That she’d take it seriously because it came from her ‘little blank flank’. Or that she’d stay in ‘security head’ mode but accept the evidence I had… and would do something about the Overmare.
It's becoming a bit difficult to keep track of everything going on. What exactly is BJ trying to do here? My understanding is that she and P-21 are trying to escape and leave the stable, but here she sounds like she wants to find her mom and present some evidence against the Overfilly. This evidence would be...what? That she's bonkers? Seems logical that Gin Rummy would be well aware of this already. Moreover, it seems like she wouldn't care; she seems like a "duty first" kind of mare, and would be unlikely to turn on her commanding officer unless she had a damn good reason.

On top of that, it's still unclear what fate P-21 is trying to avoid. Is he afraid that he's going to be killed? Castrated? Forced to bang a crazy filly until she gets bored with him and has him castrated or killed?

And on top of that, there's still the question of what, if anything, is going on with that whole maintenance rebellion thing? Lots of loose ends and ambiguities here, and there's a lot going on. Let's hope the author isn't trying to juggle more balls than he can manage so to speak.

Anyway, P-21 gets the lock open and they leave the cell. Nice of the Overfilly not to post a guard on them or anything.

>“Don’t count on it. If I need a lock opened, I get a key,” I countered as I pushed open the grate and trotted into the deserted security section. Oh, key; reasoning that I might as well not make things worse, I scooped up the PipBuck key and pen-thing and put them back in the drawer. Right, back to the Overmare going crazy. I could try and get Mom on the radio, but I knew Daisy and the others would be listening to that channel. Everypony else would be asleep or under curfew. “Look. I need to get down to tell Gin Rummy about this.” Then I looked down the stairs… I also needed a gun.
See, this is kind of what I was talking about. This paragraph is all over the place, and it's not really clear what BJ's priorities are right now. As far as I can tell, the plan is to find Gin Rummy, warn her about...whatever, the crazy Overfilly I guess, and then...escape? Did I get that right?

>Goddesses, was I really thinking of shooting security ponies? Even Daisy… the thought of such a thing made my stomach churn. No crime was worse than murder in the stable. Killing another mare was robbing the stable of somepony needed to keep everypony alive!
She now appears to be contemplating murder, and I'm not entirely sure why. Presumably she is either worrying about being attacked while escaping, or perhaps she plans to intervene in the management-vs-maintenance debacle that I assume is still on the docket.

>But if the Overmare was up to something…
It's pretty clear that she is indeed up to something, but as to what that something could be...still quite a bit murkier than it ought to be.

Anyway, BJ leaves to go find her mom and warn her about............... the thing for which she requires warning, I guess. Meanwhile, P-21 stays behind for some reason, and proceeds to fuck around with the terminal for some other reason. BJ makes it to the Atrium without incident.
Welcome aboard, nice to have you back.
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> Then Marmalade glanced back across the atrium at me. She blinked, then gave a simple little smile and a little wave of her hoof. Smiling slackly, I returned it and nipped into the cafeteria before anypony else noticed. My heart hammered in my chest, and I didn’t dare glance back towards the tiny chamber off the atrium.
Wait, isn't Marmalade one of the ponies she was fighting earlier? As a matter of fact, she is.

This is exactly what happened:
>I looked at the pair beating him in glee and charged Marmalade first. Last thing I needed was another pair of hoofcuffs on me! Her orange eyes widened in shock as the baton cracked loudly against her skull with such force that she tumbled over. Goddesses, I hoped I hadn’t killed her.

So...let me get this straight. Marmalade, along with her friend Daisy, who is Blackjack's bully or adversary or frenemy or something, attempts to beat this P-21 faggot to death. In violation of protocol, BJ steps in and attacks the two of them with a nightstick, apparently injuring her co-worker Marmalade in the process. This action does not go over well with either the Overfilly or the other security mares, and eventually earns BJ a stint in the laundry brig. Once again violating protocol, she escapes said brig, eventually making her way back down to the Atrium, where she is spotted by none other than Marmalade, the pony she was just put in jail for beating up. It is worth mentioning that the other security mares are presently dealing with a potential Maintenance rebellion, and in addition to having brained two of her co-workers, BJ is also suspected of being sympathetic to the wrong side. Even if she sympathizes with BJ for...whatever reason...Marmalade could be reprimanded herself for not reporting the escape of an arguably dangerous prisoner. However, in spite of all of this, she decides not to sound the alarm because...reasons? I guess? I'm sorry, but her behavior here does not make sense.

Anyway, fuck. For reasons that are left completely unexplained, the presumably-still-concussed-from-earlier Marmalade decides to just wave at escaped prisoner BJ like a ninny, instead of doing her job. BJ, meanwhile, makes her way unimpeded to the sleeping quarters, where for some reason Gin Rummy, who is head of security, is sleeping instead of participating in the Security team's operation against the Maintenance team.

Actually, scratch that, turns out she isn't sleeping:

>Then I saw that her bed was still neatly made, and for a moment I felt my heart stop. She wasn’t here? Why wouldn’t she be here? She was always here!
Considering the circumstances, it would actually be much stranger if she were here. I get that it's not technically her shift, but as the head of security it would stand to reason that Rummy would be woken up in the event of an emergency. Unless I am radically misinterpreting what's going on, the current situation seems like a pretty clear-cut emergency.

Anyway, this just keeps getting more confusing. Instead of being with the rest of the security team, where she logically ought to be, or in bed sleeping, where Blackjack apparently expected her to be, Gin Rummy is actually somewhere else entirely, for reasons I can't even begin to fathom. Maybe she's taking a shit; who knows? In any case, BJ punches her mother's tag into her PipBuck, and discovers that, apparently, she isn't even in the Stable anymore. Either that or she put her PipBuck in airplane mode, probably because she was sick and tired of her autistic nitwit of a daughter always bothering her in the middle of the night.

>I screamed a little in frustration, beating my hooves in front of me!
Oh, come on. How often to do you get to do something like this? Why not cut loose and live a little? Go ahead, scream a lot in frustration! You've earned it, slugger.

>The Overmare was doing something. I needed to know what. I needed to know what all those signals the Overmare received meant.
Clearly this mare has some mad detective skills. After half a million gawd-a'mighty words of Littlepip's insufferable nonsense, it's nice to see an author willing to take things in a completely new direction with a completely new character.

>Well… I’d been looking for an excuse to bug Midnight in her quarters for months. Looked like I finally had it!
Wait, nope, scratch that; it's just another annoying unicorn sperg who lets her clit do literally all of her thinking. Oh well, at least she has a cool racing stripe in her mane.

Anyway, BJ leaves her mother a note explaining that the Overmare is "up to something," and then runs off to Midnight's to hopefully get her box munched. I can only assume that she has by now forgotten all about both the "incident" she was going to try and stop or whatever, as well as the stallion she promised to help escape.

Unfortunately for her, though, it seems that her efforts are in vain; her box is destined to go unmunched for the time being. She uses her security clearance to unlock Midnight's door without permission, and walks in on her doing the nasty with another of the Stable's designated gigolos.

Midnight is predictably upset at being barged in on, but BJ explains that she actually has something really important to discuss:

>“The Overmare is getting a signal from outside the stable,” I explained as I found the recording on my PipBuck. “I need to know what it’s saying.” Playing the odd string of beeps and boops seemed to finally convince her I was serious.
So this is the big emergency now? Not the pending blood-brawl between Security and Maintenance, not the stallion who's about to get executed and/or laid, not the Overmare doing whatever the fuck she's supposed to be doing that's bad? The issue now is this morse-code message she intercepted on some oddball frequency that might be dangerous, or could just as easily be literally anything else, including an old pre-war transmission instructing her to be sure to drink her Ovaltine? Just checking.

Anyway, since Midnight is a PipBuck technician (I think), it more or less makes sense that Blackjack would seek out her counsel vis a vis the whole beeping PipBuck message thing, which for some reason or other is her biggest concern right now. Midnight works her 1337 h4><0RR magic, and plugs into BJ's PipBuck.

>U-10 hummed to himself as he stood patiently off to the side by the door, looking over Midnight’s knickknacks. Midnight’s roommate was nowhere to be seen; no surprise. I knew I wouldn’t want to be around another mare on the queue… Probably.
This is a minor concern at the moment, but what exactly is Blackjack's deal? Is she a lesbian or...what? She has a thing for Midnight, obviously, but she's also mentioned getting dicked a few times already and we're only on Chapter 1!. This story is already proving quite a bit raunchier than kkat's, and I get the impression Somber's goal is to intentionally one-up kkat in the edge department. So, my current working theory is that BJ will turn out to be bisexual or something. I'm relatively certain this story's publication predates the whole "mayonnaise is a gender" revolution, so presumably a bisexual character would still have been considered pretty edgy.

ANYWAY, Midnight does her thing, and eventually they get the message decrypted. It reads as follows:
>be sure to drink your Ovaltine
>Stable-Tec security forces incoming tonight, 0100 hours. Have EC-1101 prepared for extraction. You’re doing the right thing, Overmare. You’ll be getting control of your stable back. Deus.

So...Stable-Tec, the pre-war company that built the Stables, is...still around? Am I understanding this correctly? Technically speaking we don't know anything about Stable-Tec or the broader FoE setting, since the author hasn't told us about it yet, but since I now have a working knowledge of the setting based on the previous fic...I'm a little confused. I guess I'll just have to keep reading and find out what happens.

Oh, also, while Midnight was working on the message BJ was keeping an eye on Daisy's movements, because she can do that apparently, and it seems that Daisy has returned to the security room. Not sure if that will be important or not, but the text explicitly mentioned it, so I figured I would too.

Anywho, BJ asks about this EC-1101 file, which I guess is the log file that the stable uses for whatever-the-fuck purpose, and Stable-Tec now wants it for some other whatever-the-fuck purpose. For some additional whatever-the-fuck purpose, Blackjack now wants to know the location of this file, which we learn is on some whatever-the-fuck maneframe located wherever-the-fuck. At this point I have completely lost track of what this horse is supposed to be doing; it may or may not still have something to do with putting down a revolt and/or helping what's-his-nuts escape sex and/or captivity.

In any event, it doesn't matter, because suddenly the door opens and in walks a total stranger:

>There were five hundred ponies in Stable 99. I might not know them all by name or even quite all of them by sight, but looking at the mare in the doorway, there was no possible way that she could have been from our stable. Her mottled hide was a stained and blemished yellow decorated with scars and bite marks. The whites of her eyes were stained a solid piss yellow. Her mane had been pulled into bloody spikes. She wore barding made of strips of leather and tires and decorated with countless nails jutting out. Her reeking brown teeth curled in a grin of pure glee.
Oh, goody. I was wondering when the author was going to stop mucking about with all of this foreplay and teasing, and move on to the serious-business edgelord stuff.

And, in that regard, he doesn't disappoint:

>And if any of us had the slightest doubt remaining, she blew off U-10’s head with the sawed-off single-barreled shotgun clenched in her jaws. Bits of blood, bone, and brains splattered over both of us as the pink unicorn dropped in a thrashing heap. The mare spat out the gun, casually reloading it as she giggled. “Bang… yer dead…” she slurred around a bloody tongue; it looked… chewed.
Alright, kids, say it with me:


Anyway, Midnight and BJ are understandably a bit taken back by this latest development:

>Midnight stood there stunned and wetting herself.
Stunned and wetting herself? My stars. I've seen ponies stunned, and I've seen ponies wetting themselves, but never at the same time.

>I was not far from that state myself, but, unlike her, I was security.
This sentence is bad and you should feel bad.

Anyway, since BJ is a security mare, her reaction time is slightly better than Midnight's. She attempts to subdue the interloper, but this pony is clearly no stranger to extreme violence. The newcomer easily deflects her attack and disarms her, and BJ ends up on her back with a rusty knife pressed against her throat.

Fortunately, her quick thinking again prevails, and she manages to break the knife using telekinesis. She kills the mare, and the fight is over.

>With a telekinetic shove, I rammed the sharp metal as deep into her throat as I could. Her yellow eyes shot wide as her sliced throat spurted blood over my chest and neck, smearing my barding with her gore.
Technically speaking, I believe "gore" refers to innards or intestines; this is just blood. I'm not 100% certain, though.

>Finally, something gave inside the nightmarish mare, and she slumped limply against me.
Nightmarish mare? Really? Wherever you are, Somber, please slap yourself for that one.

Anyway, BJ examines the corpse and discovers that it is wearing a PipBuck that used to belong to a mare she knew. However, she doesn't have much time to think about it. In walks another mean little pony, whom she swiftly dispatches.

At this point BJ figures out that the Stable is being invaded or raided or something, so she sends Midnight to find and alert Gin Rummy, while she runs off to...do something else. I think.

>I grabbed her with my hooves to hold her still, reversing the butt of the gun and bringing it crashing down on her skull. Again. Again. Then two things broke: the butt of the gun and her skull.
Whoever said this fandom's literature was lacking in artistic taste?

Anyway, Midnight goes off to find BJ's mother so they can get everyone to safety, while BJ herself runs off to go kick some ass. I have no idea what her ultimate objective is anymore, and I suspect neither does she.

>I didn’t understand these ponies, if they really were ponies and not some sort of mutant pony-shaped predators of some sort. They reeked. They seemed to revel in bloodshed. I had no idea how they could have penetrated the stable... unless they’d come in when the Overmare opened the door.
Here is my current working theory for what's going on: Stable-Tec is most likely a defunct company that was destroyed by the megaspells along with everything else. However, the ponies inside the stables would have no way of knowing this. The leaders of each stable were likely given a set of instructions to follow, and have continued following them for generations. In the meantime, the world outside the stables has become the dystopian hellscape we all know and love.

What probably happened is that a gang of raiders somehow got in contact with Stable 99's Overmare and told her that they were representatives of Stable-Tec. Since the Overmare in this case is a mentally unstable filly, she probably wasn't all that hard to fool. The raiders convinced her to open the stable doors, because blah blah blah the world is fine now and they can all come out. They also presumably want this EC-1101 file for some unspecified reason. The Overfilly went along with the plan, the stable was opened, and now the raiders are inside killing everypony.

That's my theory at any rate, we'll see if I'm right.

Anywho, Blackjack sends Midnight on her merry way, and then goes off down the hall. She encounters yet another generic goon who jumps out and attempts to horribly murder her; I'm sure we are all well familiar with this routine from the last story. BJ cracks her windpipe with the baton, and the raider goes down, dropping a .38 revolver in the process. BJ is now properly armed.

>She was so dirty I couldn’t tell what color she had been originally. She’d mutilated her own cutie mark.
I hate to nitpick, but how exactly does BJ know that this pony mutilated her own cutie mark? All she would know is that her cutie mark was mutilated. It's a minor detail, but it's important to keep a character's perspective in mind. BJ is not privy to the same omniscience as the author, the reader, or anyone else familiar with the FoE world; she has likely never seen a raider before, and has no idea how they normally behave.

>Air Duct and her filly Vent were laying still on the floor… but the smears of blood… holes chewed in the blue filly’s side… the blood splashed about.
Were they laying down the law prior to being eviscerated? If not, then Air Duct and her filly were lying still. Alternatively, you could also say "Air Duct and her filly lay still on the floor."

Anyway, edge edge edge. The raider tries to take a bite out of BJ's leg, and there is an implication that the raiders in this story are cannibalistic, in addition to being psycho killers and chronic bedwetters and whatever other silly nonsense that kkat established.

>Oh, puking now. I couldn’t help myself, my lunch coming up in the doorway.
This passage is objectively bad for several reasons, but oddly enough I like the way it reads. It has the ring of a Burroughs cut-up or a zen koan.

>“I can’t stand these sick fuckers,” a stallion said from the stairs above me. That it was a stallion made me guess that they weren’t quite the same ponies as before. “Murdering, psychopathic rapists the lot of ‘em.” Maybe there was the possibility of negotiation?
>“Look at it this way: they’ll exhaust themselves killing every last motherfucking pony in here, and then we can get rid of them easily,” a mare answered, snuffing any thoughts of working out a deal before continuing callously, “Deus gets that program he wants so desperately. My boss is happy. The Reapers are happy. Everypony wins.”
It appears that the situation may actually be more complicated than what I described above.

>“Makes me wonder what’s so damned special about it,” the stallion muttered as I crept up the stairs. “Deus just grabs a dozen of us at random from the arena, trots us out here, fetches these nutjob raiders, and waits for the stupid cunt to open the door?”
However, it seems like the basic gist of what I came up with is probably close to the truth.

Anyway, what the fuck. BJ overhears these two ponies, who appear to be the ringleaders behind the raider attack (though not raiders themselves, assuming that distinction matters), and then they notice her eavesdropping. BJ fires, gets a lucky shot, and that's another one down. She tries to pull the same trick again with the second pony, except her gun suddenly stops working:

>the revolver gave an unhealthy ping of rust and stopped, hammer drawn back.
I'm not quite sure what's supposed to be happening here, but this sounds like bullshit. My understanding is that the whole point of a revolver is that it's not supposed to jam up like this. However, I honestly don't know that much about guns, so I could be wrong. Maybe if you let a gun like this go to shit for long enough it rusts up and becomes unusable; idk. If anyone wants to weigh in, feel free.

Anyway, she grabs the dead mare's weapon, but it turns out to be something called a "beam gun," which she doesn't know how to use, so she uses it as a melee weapon instead. Since the other guy, for some reason, is only armed with a piece of rebar, this means that it's a more or less even fight.
373604 373737

Whoops, spoke too soon. It actually turns out that the beam gun doesn't work that well as a melee weapon, though I'm not sure why:

>I barely brought the beam thingy up in time to block the tip. There was a flash, a fizzle, and the metal spur continued on with no hesitation right into my flesh.
Not quite sure what's going on here; it sounds like the rebar actually went through the beam gun, as though it were incorporeal or something. Either that or she didn't fully block the attack, and the bar grazed her.

Anyway, the evil pony is about to run BJ through with a piece of rebar, when suddenly her mother shows up and makes an appropriately theatrical entrance. She blows a hole through his chest, and that's all they wrote of Generic Thug #2.

>I stared at his body as all those thoughts I’d stuffed into that mental closet started to tear down the door. My throat began to work as I stared at the draining holes in his head. I had to do something… something… scream… vomit… wet myself… curl up in a ball sucking my hoof till this was all over. Something!

>“I still don’t know what’s going on or how these… things… got in here,” she said as she checked her sidearm. “Somepony taught them the basics of how to use PipBucks. They went right for security ponies’ quarters. I’m just glad they didn’t get far.”
I'm still a little curious where she was all of this time. I'm guessing if the Overfilly was working with this Deus character, then she probably left Gin Rummy out of the loop deliberately. However, that still doesn't answer the question of why she wasn't in her quarters.

>Distracted by all the foals to slaughter. Damn it, if I’d just been faster I could have… done… done something!

Anywho, BJ and her mom yak back and forth for a bit, and we start to get a somewhat clearer picture of what probably happened. The Overfilly, being the paranoid little twat that she is, was worried about Rivets and the other Maintenance ponies leading a rebellion. So, she contacted some sketchy group of outsiders and hired them to take care of Rivets. They agreed to do this in exchange for this EC-1101 file that keeps coming up. However, it appears that for some unexplained reason the mercenary group decided to pull the ol' doublecross, and murder everypony in the stable.

BJ suggests that, since thanks to Midnight she now knows where to find the EC-1101 file, they should retrieve this file and see if they can use it to lure the mercenaries away. I have no idea how they intend to do this, and neither does BJ. However, it's as good a plan as any, so off they go.

They make it to the Atrium, but unfortunately the way is blocked by some kind of gigantic pony cyborg:

> A thing of pony and metal. Hydraulics braced the metal plates attached to its hide as it stepped forward. For all its mass, it seemed to trot almost effortlessly. Red eyes stared at where Lock had been blown to pieces. Two huge guns pointed over its shoulders, cannons built into its body.
Oh yeah, another security pony named Lock also got blown into bloody chunks.

Anyway, it seems like the way back to Security (which is where I think they are trying to go, though don't quote me) is temporarily blocked by a miniboss. However, BJ has a plan.

Page break. The plan, it turns out, is for Blackjack to dress up like the mare she killed earlier, the not-raider who appeared to be leading the mercenary group. Then, she will sneak into that place where the thing is, the maneframe with the EC-1101 file on it, transfer the file to her PipBuck, and then run outside, hoping that the mercenaries will follow her. This seems like kind of a retarded plan, since unless I'm completely misunderstanding how the computer systems in this universe work, all she's really doing is making a copy of the file and then leaving the building; presumably the original file would still be present on the maneframe. But we'll put a pin in that for now.

Anywho, she puts on her disguise and heads back to the Atrium. All the enemies are wearing stolen PipBucks, which are capable of detecting hostiles, but for some reason they don't register BJ as an enemy. Even though the text points this issue out, it doesn't offer an explanation, so I guess we'll just put a pin in that too. More important, however, is that the big cyborg pony seems to be a little less easy to fool. It demands to know why BJ, or "Two Bits" as the pony she is disguising herself as was called, is up here instead of downstairs murdering everyone.

She manages to come up with a lame excuse about how she broke her gun, which for some reason everypony buys. However, things take an unexpected turn:

>With shocking speed it swatted the gun out of my mouth, and suddenly the only ponies laughing were the yellowed-eyed mangy ponies with their insane giggles. “Cunt doesn’t have her gun. Cunt is useless, then. Cunt should be fucked, huh, Cunt?”
Apparently, the cyborg is from Australia.

>I suddenly became very aware of one part of him that wasn’t mechanical. A part that I was fairly sure was going to be inside me in a few seconds.
What? The rapey cyborg doesn't even have a mechanical robot weener? What a ripoff. I want my money back.

>I became aware of a whimper and looked over at a prone white shape. The Overmare. One of the filthy, yellow-eyed ponies was pinning her down and raping her, her mouth and flanks bloody.
Well, color me impressed. Iirc kkat didn't get around to tossing foal rape scenes into his story until Chapter 3 or so, meanwhile Somber is getting right down to business. It's pretty clear who the Ultimate Edgelord is. But will Blackjack be able to top Littlepip in terms of sanctimonious moralizing? Will she prove as adept at completely and utterly raping the entire concept of physics? Will her group of friends be as bland and uninteresting? How will this story ultimately stack up against its predecessor? Stick around and find out.
Post-post-modern classic rape. A classic. What rousing speech will BJ Blaskowitz say to have the filly mare up and defeat the invaders?

>The idea was utterly alien to me, and I did all I could to tear my eyes away and hide my horror. Mares might occasionally force another mare against her will, a class A crime, but for a stallion to do that to a mare was… focus, Blackjack!
I haven't addressed this much, but there's a strong implication of a female-dominant pecking order in this stable. It's already been clarified that males are reserved for breeding stock and females do all of the important jobs, but it seems that the philosophy permeates deeper into their social order. In the original FoE the various stables were all sociology experiments, with each one designed to test out some theory of social organization to see which one worked best. As I recall, there was some kind of male-dominant stable; presumably this one is meant to be its counterpart.

Anyway, Blackjack manages to avoid >rape by promising to go upstairs and retrieve this mysterious file that everypony seems so gung-ho about. We are also introduced to a mysterious unicorn who appears to be working with the invaders. However, there is a twist: due to his cutie mark and Pip-Buck, he appears to be a male from this very stable. Presumably, he didn't find a lifetime of idle sex to be to his liking, and decided to join up with these rogues instead.

This unicorn offers to go along with Blackjack to retrieve the file, and in order to avoid blowing her cover she has little choice but to accept his help. They go off to wherever they're going, the security room I think, only to find that the entrance has been barricaded by Daisy and (I think) Marmalade.

It is here that Blackjack makes a tragic faux-pas. She accidentally uses Daisy's name, which strikes the unicorn male (whose name is U-21 if that matters) as unusual. He then recognizes Blackjack the security mare. In order to preserve her disguise, BJ is forced to clonk him unconscious.

>I ran up to the security level and heard the yelling and banging. There was a door that divided the Overmare’s office, armory, and some utility rooms from detention, briefing, and the gun range. The door itself had been forced open, but Daisy had barricaded it with a desk.
As an aside, I'm having a bit of difficulty extrapolating where all of these locations are meant to be in physical space from the author's descriptions. This may be one of those areas where it helps to have some knowledge of the Fallout games; I'm assuming the designs of the stables are similar to the designs of whatever the bomb-shelter places in the games were called.

Anyway, the unicorn guy is unconscious I think, and now BJ goes up to the blocked security door. A bunch of the raiders are in the process of trying to knock it down. She manages to wrangle a shotgun away from one of them, then blasts another in the face. The one she killed was one of the intelligent non-raider enemies, if that matters. I'm still a little foggy on what exactly is going on here, but I get the impression it's meant to be a little foggy.

>Time returned, moving as if in molasses. The Stable-Tec Assisted Targeting Spell slowly discharged, and I watched the cone of lead fan out in a narrow wedge of death. I watched his flesh pulverize and tear away around each pellet, his head deform, and blood and bone fly away behind him. The second shot repeated the devastation, and I watched in horrified fascination as his head detached completely and he dropped like a sack of meat.
Sacrebleu! Le edge!

Anywho, I think there were a total of three raiders, and she just killed one of them. The other two come at her, and she gets hit in the shoulder by a baseball bat with rusty nails driven through it. Great, so on top of everything else, now she's going to need a tetanus shot.

>The shotgun held five more shells, and I pumped them out as rapidly as I could, the buckshot peppering them with oozing wounds. It was nowhere near as effective as those first two shots, though; S.A.T.S.’s accuracy was truly terrifying. I was glad that none of these ponies seemed to have access to it or knew what it could do.
Ah, my old friend plot armor, how I've missed you.

Anywhooooooo, she pumps shotgun rounds into her two assailants, one of them goes down eventually, the other one attacks her, but she strangles her or hits her or something, and I guess that's the end of them. She then jumps the barricade (why the raiders trying to break through didn't just do that in the first place is never explained). At this point, due to her being in disguise, she is shot in the butt by Marmalade after she vaults in Vaults! That's what the bomb-shelter thingies in Fallout were called. One might expect Marmalade to have figured out that something was amiss when "Two Bit" suddenly began attacking her own cohorts, but we'll put a pin in that for now.

>I slumped as I heard the barricade being drawn back. The red bar wasn’t moving towards the door. Maybe she was waiting for help to arrive? It didn’t matter. In just a second, Daisy would--
Wait, it looks like BJ hasn't actually jumped the barricade yet. I'm not sure how she was shot from behind, then, but we'll put a pin in that as well. Nice to see this author's fight scenes are at least as coherent as kkat's.

ANYWHOWOWOWOW, while I have absolutely no idea where BJ is supposed to be in physical space at this point, it's clear enough at least that she's finished off the raiders and gotten past the barricade. She is now in...the security room? I think? Anyway, at this point she gets jumped by Daisy, who whacks her a few times with her security baton.

Blackjack announces that she is not Two Bit, but Blackjack, cleverly disguised as Two Bit. Daisy says "I know," and keeps wailing on her with the baton. It seems she's still pissed off about that whole thing from earlier. Eventually she stops, and BJ explains her convoluted plan to download the security file and then run, hoping that the raiders will chase after her instead of just downloading their own copy.

>“P-21? Are you here?” I asked as I pulled it on. I gave Marmalade a grateful smile.
>“That useless cock pony?” Daisy snorted.
>“You called?” P-21 said dryly as he stepped out of the door to Maintenance One.
Hey, I was just beginning to wonder what happened to that guy. Turns out he was in Maintenance One all along, which I'm assuming is Stable slang for the bathroom.

>There was an unmistakable smug look on his face at the shocked expression on Daisy’s face.
This sentence is bad and you should feel bad.

Anyway, fuck. The P-21 guy comes out of nowhere at a plot-convenient moment, and for some reason assumes that Blackjack has betrayed him, even though as far as I can tell she is more or less following their original plan.

>I looked at P-21. “The plan’s changed a little. You’re still getting out of here, but I’m going with you.”
Oh, I see. The plan's changed a little. Wait, what exactly was the plan originally again? Get a file, and then go outside, right? Is that...not what they're doing anymore?

Anyway, there's some pointless back and forth. P-21 doesn't want Blackjack to go outside with him, Daisy makes light of Blackjack's weight, Marmalade accuses Blackjack of harlotry, and ultimately it is decided that Blackjack will, in fact, be going outside with P-21. Well, I'm glad we got that all sorted out.

Anyway, there's some more pointless back and forth, as well as a poorly-executed joke about sodomy. Long story short, BJ gets that security-file thingy copied onto her PipBuck, finally. As an added bonus, P-21 copies a bunch of the Overmare's personal files as well, which I'm assuming are mostly porn. Also, I have no idea how or why P-21 is so adept at using the stable's computers, but we'll put a pin in that for now.

>Then he pushed one more button.
>The stable around me vanished as my E.F.S. went crazy! “Whoa whoa whoa! Hey, what’s going on!” Columns of numbers and diagrams and maps and -- what the hell was that supposed to be?! -- all flashed by one after the other. Then, as quickly as it began, it ended. A tiny cursor appeared.
>Permanent transfer completed.
>EC-1101 transferred.
>Warning: unknown encryption detected.
>Warning: biomedical peripheral insufficient.
>Warning: navigational data unavailable.
>Warning: Equestrianet data connection not available.
>Please commence manual transmission.
Yeah, I have absolutely no fucking idea what's going on anymore. I guess he tried to install Gentoo for her and it didn't work out so well. In any case, it looks like Blackjack is just as confused as I am:

>I opened my mouth to see if a smart pony might have an explanation for what just happened
Unless you have eyes on your tongue, you don't open your mouth to see. Moreover, the presence of an explanation is not something that can be detected by vision. This sentence is terrible and you should feel terrible.

Anywhoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, it looks like that robot-guy from earlier, Deus, got tired of waiting and started blowing shit up. They need to get moving if they want to avoid being kerploded and probably >raped, though not necessarily in that order. They go into the Overmare's office, because apparently that room is adjacent to the one they're currently in.

>Though it looked like somepony had pissed all over the Overmare’s huge ring-shaped desk, it was still intact, as was an old piece of paper taped behind it.
Okay, seriously: I remember this coming up in the other story a lot, but what exactly is the deal with raiders pissing and shitting on everything? It didn't make sense in kkat's story, and it doesn't make sense now. Although to be fair, I suppose if you really have to go, the Overmare's desk is probably as good a place as any.

Anywhizzle, the paper on the desk turns out to be a list the Overfilly made of her enemies. BJ observes that both her mother's name and her own name are on it. Then, she punches in a door code her mother gave her earlier, and the desk lifts up to reveal a hidden staircase. She and P-21 head down, and the desk moves back into place.

>The entry hatch to the stable, a massive cog-tooth-edged slab of metal, was rolled away to one side, and a long rough-rock-walled tunnel led up beyond. Bones lay crushed on the other side of the door, mashed by the entry of Deus and his raiders.
Ah yes, the ol' skeleton-lined entry tunnel. Pretty sure these were a standard feature of all Stable-Tec constructions.

Anyway, blah blah blah, she makes it to the outside. However, instead of leaving, she tells P-21 to go on ahead, and then goes back to the atrium. Apparently, the entry tunnel connects directly to the atrium, thus making the secret passage hidden under the desk kind of pointless. The layout of this place is still confusing as all fuck. In any event, she goes back inside, yells to get the cyberpony's attention, announces that she has the security file, and then runs outside. Cyberpony takes the bait as intended, and BJ is now running for her life.

The chapter ends here.

>Footnote: Level Up.
>New Perk: Rapid Reload - All your weapon reloads are 25% faster than normal.
Oh for fuck's sake, are we seriously doing this shit again?

Anyway, this seems like a good stopping point for now. When I return, I have some thoughts about the opening chapter of this story before we move on.
pic unrelated, I just thought it was funny
you gotta do what you gotta do.png

Hey all, sorry I've been neglecting this. Mostly this is due to my diverting more and more time to my own writing projects, coupled with good old fashioned procrastination/laziness. If it's any consolation, one of the projects I've been focusing on is the rewrite of that old Dale Gribble green from eons ago that anons will periodically ask about. I've begun posting it in its own thread.

Anyway, back to it. Before we move on to the next chapter, I'd actually like to briefly contrast what we've read so far with the original Fallout: Equestria story.

The premise of this story is almost identical to kkat's: the protagonist is a misfit unicorn living in a Stable, who sucks at magic and doesn't like her job. She has a lesbian crush on another mare who lives in the Stable with her. One day, she decides to leave the Stable because reasons.

I have a couple of guesses as to why Somber chose to use this format. The first is that it seems to follow the structure of the actual Fallout games. From what I've seen, they pretty much all start out with the player character living in a vault, and then leaving for some reason or other. The second is that, to my understanding, this was the first actual FoE spinoff story written by someone other than kkat. In other words, it was basically a fanfic of a fanfic. As such, the author is trying to appeal to the audience of the original fic, and is likely to end up imitating it to some degree. In the same way that kkat's story was largely modeled after Fallout 3, I'm assuming large portions of this story will be modeled on kkat's FoE.

That said, I'm actually a little surprised by how much stronger this story is so far compared to its predecessor. One of my early gripes about FoE was that we never got much of a sense of what Littlepip's life was like in the Stable. There's very little depth to her character in the early chapters; all we really know is that she hates her job and has a crush on Velvet Remedy. As a setting, the Stable is also very poorly fleshed out.

When LP eventually returns to the stable, and ends up confronting her alcoholic mother and whatever the fuck else, most of the intended emotional punch is lost due to there having been absolutely no setup for any of this. LP's alcoholic mother does not even appear in the story until LP returns to the Stable to confront her. Also, we are never really given a sense of how life in the Stable actually compares with life in the Wasteland. This gives rise to a lot of confusion later on: for instance, it's not entirely clear how much Littlepip is actually supposed to know about the outside world and its history. For most of the story LP appears to be wandering around the ruins trying to figure out what happened to the world, yet at other points she seems weirdly knowledgeable about certain things. How much does she know about the war? About Equestria before the war? About the M6 and their various roles in government? We are never told, and it's not clear what we should assume. There are other questions too: Velvet Remedy's admiration of Fluttershy is a major part of her character, but it's never really clarified how she could reasonably know about Fluttershy. How much of the world's history were the Stable ponies aware of? Should Velvet have even known who Fluttershy was in the first place?

Somber hasn't really clarified any of that either, but he does do a much better job of establishing both Blackjack as a character, and Stable 99 as a setting.

When the story opens, BJ is a security pony who has lived her entire life inside this Stable. She seems to understand on some vague level that a major cataclysm took place at some point in the distant past, and the world outside is not safe. However, she doesn't seem to know the specifics; all she knows is that it's not safe to go out there. At this point, the outside world is not yet important; BJ's entire life so far has taken place in Stable 99, and all the events we witness revolve around that place and its inhabitants.

The author also does quite a bit more to paint us a picture of life inside this Stable. This place has its own internal rules and social structure, and the story's events turn around the assorted politics and conflicts that arise from that. Again: the outside world exists, and we have a sense it will be important, but it's not the focus yet.

It's clearly established that this Stable is rather badly run and has a lot of problems. The chain of command and organizational structure is strange. It's a female-dominated society; males are relegated purely to breeding roles and have no other jobs and no apparent social status. Each female has an assigned job, with assignments being determined by heredity rather than ability. The ponies still have cutie marks that designate special talents, but the talents don't seem to affect what role a pony will be assigned to. Thus, you have rather goofy situations like an obviously immature filly being made Overmare of the entire Stable. Procedure is clearly valued over function here. The setup actually reminds me a little of Futurama, where each person is assigned a career chip.

From reading the original FoE, we know that the Stables were social experiments engineered by the CMC, so presumably the wacky rules of this place are related to the parameters of an experiment. However, at this point in Project Horizons, we don't know this; all we know is that BJ lives in a place with weird, apparently dysfunctional rules.

BJ's character arc so far has revolved around her rivalry with Daisy, her obvious inadequacy at her assigned role, and her relationship with her mother. She seems torn between a sense of duty to the Stable, which seems to have been mostly ingrained into her, and a vague desire to forge her own path. This is set against the backdrop of a clearly dysfunctional, failing society. It's obvious something has to change, we're just not sure what yet.

There's one last thing from Ch 1 I'd like to call attention to before moving on. One piece of writing advice you will hear constantly is "show, don't tell." What this means is that you should convey mood and feeling through actions and dialogue, rather than relying on excessive description. In other words, instead of telling the reader that your character is feeling happy or sad or whatever, have them say or do something which shows how they are feeling.

With that in mind, I'd like to highlight the following short scene:

>I trotted past a row of gurgling pieces of equipment barely lit by wan yellow spark lamps. Knowing my luck, the yellow bar ahead of me was actually one or two floors above me. If I was lucky, I could get through this shift without any more disasters and, if I was really lucky, talk to Mom and not the head security mare about the rising tension. The former might be able to do something. The latter would have to crack down on Rivets, or, worse, tell the Overmare.

>Then I heard a faint sniff and soft sobs over the hum of the equipment. Looked like I’d found my pony. “Okay, come on out and let’s get you up to security. A quick shot and it’ll be all over.”

>The sniffling stopped, and then a tiny olive filly with teal eyes peeked out at me. My jaw dropped as I saw the pain and fear in her eyes. “Oh! Ah… you’re not… ahem…” I sat hard and rubbed my head. Could this night get any worse? “You’re not supposed to be down here. It’s dangerous and after curfew. Where’s your momma?”

>She just stared at me, and her eyes dropped to her hooves. “Recycled…” was all she blubbered. She touched her PipBuck and her ID flashed. ‘Scotch Tape, Maintenance Shift C’.

>Oh… I tried to think up some creative profanity but… eh… I got nothing. “Oh… well… ah…” What was I supposed to do? If this was Duct Tape’s kid, then she was supposed to be here. Should I say something about her mom? Give her a hug? Tell her she’s doing a good job? Tell her not to be a cryfilly? “Um… sorry about your mom. Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it.” I grinned at her as she clenched her eyes closed, pulled a wrench from her barding, and nodded before trotting back between the massive round machines.

One of my biggest gripes about FoE was the way kkat used over-the-top violence and tragedy to try and force emotion in his story. Horrific but implausible events were thrown in left and right for obvious shock value: a group of foals having a cutecenara party in the middle of a Steel Ranger invasion, then getting predictably massacred; a pack of raiders taking over Fluttershy's cottage and using it to stage caged death-matches between foals; a single colt somehow running down and overpowering a grown mare (who was wandering around a dangerous area alone and unarmed for some unexplained reason), then proceeding to rape her even while being shot at; the list goes on and on. The effect was usually the exact opposite of what was intended. I generally found that the parts of FoE that made me laugh the hardest were the parts that were supposed to make me cry.

While there is obviously some edgelord stuff in PH, and I suspect it's only going to get worse as the story goes on, it's worth pointing out that it's possible to convey that your setting is a harsh, nasty place to live without needing to throw sadism and rape and decapitation into every scene. The bit I quoted above does a nice job of conveying the ordinary day-to-day misery of life in this place, without hamming it up to the point where it becomes unintentionally comical.

Blackjack, who is not really cut out for her role as security mare in the first place, is trying to do her job by searching for the escaped stallion, presumably so he can then be killed and recycled. She follows a blip on her radar which she thinks is the stallion, only to discover it's a young filly. She chides her for being somewhere potentially dangerous, and asks where her mother is, which is a normal thing to do in that situation. The filly replies that her mother is dead, then identifies herself as the daughter of a character whose death was referenced earlier. BJ realizes that she has unintentionally reminded this filly of something painful, and feels bad about it, but there's not much else she can do except awkwardly apologize and let her get back to work.

It's a simple scene, only a brief interaction and a few lines of dialog, but it does a perfect job of conveying just how fucked up this place really is. The maintenance job this filly is doing is probably dangerous; it's established that her mother was killed performing a similar task (I believe she was technically killed by the explosion of a malfunctioning terminal). She's also grieving, and I'm sure she would just as soon not be alone in a dank basement performing dangerous maintenance work right now. However, she doesn't have much choice; that's just how things work around here. Her mother died, so now the filly has to take over her job; simple as.

That said, it's not a perfectly executed scene. For instance, this sentence is bad and you should feel bad:
>My jaw dropped as I saw the pain and fear in her eyes.

I would also probably cut this bit:
>What was I supposed to do? If this was Duct Tape’s kid, then she was supposed to be here. Should I say something about her mom? Give her a hug? Tell her she’s doing a good job? Tell her not to be a cryfilly?
It's not necessarily bad, but I think it's unnecessary. The significance of what's happening comes through well enough with just the bare-bones interactions and dialogue; we don't need to hear BJ's inner thoughts.

I would probably also tone down the sniffling and crying that the filly is doing. Again, the interactions and dialogue conveys the emotion in this scene quite well on its own. Anything else is just adding a layer of extra schmaltz that doesn't need to be there. It's like adding a sad violin track to a scene that's already sad enough on its own.
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Anyway, let's move on. We've got a long, long road ahead of us.

Chapter 2: Trust

>Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons
>By Somber
>Chapter 2: Trust
Seriously, nigger, don't do shit like this. We already know that the story is called "Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons"; I doubt anyone is going to confuse this story for "Rainbow Dash's Crusty Cunt Flakes." We already know the author's name is Somber; it's in the auto-generated fimfiction masthead at the top of the page, right next to the fucking title. We already know we're on Chapter 2; even if we didn't, we could probably deduce it from the fact that we just finished reading Chapter 1 and clicked "next." This story is already a literal million words long, you don't need to be padding word count.

>“In the end, we all have to trust in something…”
Regrettably, this seems to be another area in which Somber is trying to imitate kkat's format. Remember how every chapter of FoE opened with an unattributed quotation in italics, and I used to spend a paragraph or two per chapter speculating on who might have said this mysterious phrase and why? It appears that Somber has decided to do something similar here, only with uglier formatting and even vaguer quotations. At least kkat centered his.

Anyway, if this chapter's epigraph as opposed to an epitaph; see how I remember things? is to be believed, this chapter will involve trusting. Trusting in something. What could that something be? And who is the one doing all that trusting? Well, I guess we'll just have to keep reading and find out.

So in that vein, we rejoin Blackjack and P-21 as they flee the stable, a giant mechanical cyborg hot on their tails. A couple of raider-invaders are naturally guarding the exit, but thanks to our old friend plot armor S.A.T.S., BJ is able to make short work of them and continue running.

We are told that they run for five minutes; I'm not sure if we're meant to take this literally or not. I'm also not sure how they manage to outrun the cyberpony for that long, seeing as how it has mechanical legs and would presumably be much faster. Also, it is probably shooting missiles and whatnot at them, which would also be something of an issue. But we'll put a pin in that for now.

Anyway, after exactly five minutes of running, P-21 injures his leg or something and he starts limping and slowing down. BJ has a brief moment where she considers leaving him behind, then decides to be nice and help him instead. They continue to run.


Suddenly, some kind of mechanical insect appears and advises them to turn left. I don't remember what they are called, but I believe it's meant to be one of those flying mechanical drones that Spike/Watcher/Frank used in the first story. BJ is understandably confused, but decides to do what it says. They turn left, and find a ruined house.

>We came to a house. Well, if you could still count two standing walls, a toilet, and a bathtub as a house. I tried to ignore the pony skeleton curled up in the tub as we ducked behind the wall.
Oh boy, it's got skeletons too. Somber is just going right down the FoE checklist.

Anyway, the mysterious talking metal insect now advises them to hide.

>“But--” I started to say when I heard a panicked cry to the south.
How do you know which direction the panicked cry is coming from? You've never been outside before, remember? Do you have a compass in that PipBuck thingie you've got? Do you have time to stop and look at it while a giant evil robot is chasing you? Would you have the presence of mind to check it if you did? Would ascertaining the cardinal direction a voice is coming from really be your first priority in your current situation?

>Not my voice, but definitely a terrified mare.
Ooh, a skeleton and a terrified mare, and we're only on Chapter 2! Is she getting raped and murdered? I'll bet she's getting raped and murdered.

>I almost started after it when I realized that it had the same tinny buzz as the bug. A second later, Deus and four raiders galloped past.
Nope, false alarm. Oh well, we've still got a good 1,757,260 words left to go; I'm sure there will be rape and murder aplenty.

Anyway, it sounds like the robo-bug is pretending to be a screaming mare in order to lead the giant death robot and his minions away from our intrepid heroes. Then, this happens:

>I can’t explain it, but when I looked into the sky, I thought it’d be like the atrium ceiling. Instead, there was just this great big emptiness above me with distant gray that blurred into obscurity. Despite my head being tilted back, I felt like I was looking down. My brain screamed at me that if I took so much as a step I was going to fall into that immense nothing. I hate to admit that, after everything I’d been through, it was just the simple sky that made me wet my barding.
I remember Littlepip having occasional bouts of acrophobia, which kkat called agoraphobia. I was never quite sure what the deal with that was supposed to be, or why she was supposed to have it, but I think the basic reasoning is that a Stable pony, having never seen the open sky, might be overwhelmed by the vastness of the outside world. Makes sense I suppose. Anyway, my main point is that Somber seems to do a slightly better job of conveying this point than kkat did.

Anyway, she has her little dizzy spell, then it passes, and then the robo-bug comes back.

>“You can call me Watcher. As for what, this is just a spritebot. You’ll find them wandering all over the Wasteland. I just took some in this area over when I noticed you two helping each other.”
Spritebots; that's what those things are called. Anyway, it looks like our old buddy Frank is in this story as well.


Frank and BJ yak for a bit. Not a whole lot comes out of the conversation. A couple of sly references to Littlepip and her group are thrown in, suggesting that the timeline of this story is either contemporaneous with FoE, or takes place sometime shortly afterward. Since FoE ended with the Gardens of Equestria being fired off and life in the Wasteland improving, and in this setting this is clearly not the case, we can probably place this story somewhere within the same timeframe as the events of FoE.

Anyway, Frank advises BJ to make friends, and compliments her on already finding one. BJ then clarifies that she and P-21 are not actually friends, because who would want to be friends with a loser like that, amirite? Frank seems disappointed by this, and tells her she should reconsider. He also advises her to find guns, ammo, armor, etc etc. He also tells her to go West for some reason.

>I looked over at P-21 and then looked down at my PipBuck. Watcher had said we should go west? I knew that my PipBuck had a navigation function, but until now I’d never actually needed it. Loading the map, I noticed two interesting things. First, there was a little icon of a gear marked ‘Stable 99’, and secondly, there was a location tag off to the west.
Unfortunately, it looks like this story will be also be following the "open world video game" structure. Hopefully there will at least be a little bit more of a main plot to thread the endless mini-quests around.

>“Well, I guess west is better than south,” I said as I rose, keeping my eyes firmly towards the dirt.

Those questions aside, it seems they might have bigger fish to fry at the moment. BJ now observes that P-21 is crying like a little bitch. When she asks him why he is being such a giant fucking pussy, he shows her his leg that was giving him trouble earlier. The injury appears serious.

> Aside from the most basic first aid, I didn’t have a clue what to do. I had healing potions, but they were for immediate injuries. The kind of damage that had been done to his knee needed major magic.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that healing magic in this story is going to be at least somewhat less ridiculous than in the original.

Anyway, P-21 continues to bitch and moan, until eventually they hear voices approaching. It turns out to be more goons from the raider group, probably looking for their boss. They brought along that other male, U-21, who appeared briefly in the previous chapter. I'm not sure why.

>“Shut up! Do all stable ponies whine this much? ‘Please don’t kill me, I don’t wanna die. Please don’t rape my ass! It hurts, don’t do that.’ Bitch bitch bitch...” a stallion said sharply. “Now hurry up. When we find the big guy, he’ll decide what we do.” U-21 shouted off a few more protests as they continued off to the south.
Oh I see, south is the direction the cyborg pony went; that's why BJ doesn't want to go that way.

Anyway, P-21 doesn't want to go anywhere with BJ for some reason, but BJ points out that he won't get far with his injury. He continues whining and bitching like an effeminate pussy for a bit longer, and then agrees to go west with BJ.

Page break. We rejoin the two of them three hours later. They are trudging across the wasteland. Trudge trudge trudge.

>It didn’t matter, as I’d never see them again, but I felt homesick. I wanted to be able to look forward to Rivets’s next game. I longed for my boring and uneventful night shift. I remembered how thrilled I had been at the idea of being on the surface and wanted to kick myself.
Once again, we find this story following the same basic format of its predecessor, but also doing a slightly better job with the same subject matter.

In FoE, the events of the story kick off when Velvet Remedy, the Stable's resident celebrity, mysteriously runs off one day. Littlepip, who has a crush on Velvet, goes chasing after her to find out why she left, ostensibly providing the protagonist with an objective that could have driven the events of the early story. However, for reasons unknown, the author has her give up on this objective almost immediately. She then proceeds to spend the next several chapters wandering aimlessly around the Wasteland, doing basically nothing except murdering bad guys in increasingly gruesome ways. Eventually she bumps into Velvet Remedy by sheer random chance, and discovers that her reason for running away was completely mundane and stupid anyway, thus killing the mystery and deflating what little potential was left for a larger plot at that point in the story. Velvet then teams up with LP and her new friend Calamity, and the three of them proceed to wander aimlessly around the Wasteland, slaughtering assorted bad guys with no apparent objective in mind. Eventually, around chapter 13 or 14, the vague outline of something I will generously call a plot begins to take shape.

In PH, while the characters and setting are considerably better developed in the early part of the story, BJ is propelled into the Wasteland on a much flimsier pretext than LP. Her Stable is suddenly invaded by a mysterious group, who are after some kind of data file stored on the maneframe. BJ copies this file onto her PipBuck and then runs, creating a diversion that leads the invaders away from the Stable. Why the invaders would not be able to simply copy the file for themselves instead of chasing her is never explained.

In any case, now that she's outside, it's not entirely clear what she's supposed to do. Frank told her she should "go west," and while he doesn't elaborate on why, that probably works well enough as a short-term objective. Also, she still has the data file, and we still don't know exactly what it is or why the invaders wanted it in the first place. Presumably, they are still looking for her. Assuming the author doesn't decide to just tank his own premise for no good reason the way kkat did, there's probably enough substance here to build a larger story.

>We hadn’t come across anything too serious yet. Some fat bloated fly things had spat nasty thorns at us. I didn’t waste rounds after the first one; the butt of the pump action was more than sufficient. When I put their carcasses in my bag (well, we’d have to eat at some point; not that I was at all confident that they were edible, but they’d be better than air or dirt and quite possibly better than two-centuries-dead grass), my PipBuck’s inventory system labeled them ‘Bloatsprite Meat’. There was even a ‘value’ next to it. How the heck would my PipBuck know the value (in a totally unknown economic situation) of a bug it’d never seen before? I should ask Midnight how--
Having now played a few hours into the original Fallout game, I find it a little easier to understand why the author is bothering to tell us all of this extraneous nonsense. However, it doesn't make reading about it any less tedious.

In an open world RPG, there is going to be lots of wandering around, bumping into random monsters, killing them, collecting their hides, trading their hides for coins or bottle caps or whatever the fuck stupid currency, buying potions and provisions with the coins, and so forth. When you're actually playing a game and doing all of this stuff yourself, it's engaging and part of the fun. When you're just reading about someone else doing all of it, it's considerably less so. Davy Crockett presumably spent a fair portion of his time trapping animals, selling their pelts to Indians, stocking up on deerskin shirts, washing his balls off in creeks maybe once or twice a month, and doing numerous other mundane tasks. However, the assorted writers responsible for transforming the events of his life into fiction wisely left most of this out, and just focused on the exciting parts of his adventures. Remember: we don't need to witness literally every action your characters perform.

Anyway, fuck. BJ and her pathetic little bitch of a companion continue heading west. They come across a soggy, flooded area and consider having a bath, but the water turns out to be irradiated. However, they also come across a mostly-intact farmhouse, and decide to rest. From the descriptions of the knickknacks inside, I get the impression this is supposed to be the ruins of the Apple family farm. Once again, the story is following the structure of FoE fairly closely; I seem to recall Littlepip coming across the Apple farm shortly after leaving the Stable as well.

>The mares were cute enough, I supposed. Something about the one with the three apples made me imagine a little fun flank spank. The male... no... what was the word? Brother? He was pretty delicious. I could really eat his apple.
Apparently, Blackjack is meant to be some kind of bisexual or something. Like her predecessor Littlepip, she seems to have sex on the brain almost constantly. Interestingly, P-21 rebukes her for this.

Anyway, not a whole lot happens here. The main takeaway is that the old photographs show a starkly different family dynamic from what BJ and P-21 are accustomed to. P-21 is shocked to see males occupying military and familial roles, rather than simply being used for breeding and amusement by females.

>Pissiest... male... ever… “I was just trying to lighten the mood,” I said in a softer voice. He blinked, then resumed his grumpy frown. Midnight. Why couldn’t I have run out of the stable with a beautiful dark unicorn mare? Really? If you were going to have a travelling companion, it’d be hard to beat that. Or a pony with a sense of humor. Was that too much to ask?
The author seems to be setting up some kind of frenemy dynamic between BJ and P-21. Once again, it is implied that P-21 may have had a romantic relationship with Duct Tape the mare, not the tape. P-21 is a pretty unlikable character so far, but his wussy, whiny attitude mostly seems to be a result of the warped gender roles of Stable 99. It may be interesting to see where he ends up. Hopefully, Somber will put a little more effort into developing his side characters than kkat did.

Anyway, there's a terminal in here, so P-21 starts monkeying around with it to see if he can get it to work. Meanwhile, BJ goes into the bathroom and washes herself off in some mildly-irradiated water that has been sitting stagnant in the sink for God only knows how long.

The rest of this is just standard FoE fare: they open a safe and rummage around, there's some junk in there, they take it. Fartboy-21 is able to hack into the terminal; turns out there are some old logs and whatnot in there. BJ of course reads the logs, and Somber of course dumps their contents into the story verbatim so we can also read them. None of it seems especially relevant at present; it's mostly just bits of backstory from kkat's fic. The author is a pony named Hoss, who appears somehow connected with the Apple family. He goes over the creation of the Ministries, how Big Mac died saving Celestia from assassination, the more or less natural death of Granny Smith, and the detonation of the megaspells. For some reason, Hoss elects not to go into the Stables with everyone else, choosing instead to remain on the farm and die slowly of radiation poisoning. His typing becomes more erratic in the last couple of entries, and in true FoE spirit, he appears to have died in mid-sentence. I'm a little surprised his skeleton isn't still sitting at the keyboard.


Page break. P-21 manages to open some kind of ammo box that was also in the room, and they stock up on bullets. While BJ loads the ammo into her saddlebag, P-21 takes a turn reading through Hoss's journal.

>As I scrolled through my inventory to distract me from the bones in the corner, P-21 read through the journal entries himself.
Ah, the corner. That's where his skeleton was hiding. I knew it was in there somewhere.

Anyway, they go outside, dig up Granny Smith's corpse, and dump Hoss's bones on top of her.

>He returned just as my magic brushed against something more substantial. With great care, I levitated the dirt around the buried bones of the pony. Finally, I stopped. My horn hurt. My head hurt. My eyes burned. But I did feel a little better as P-21 laid old Hoss next to Granny. Then I noticed something in Granny’s hooves: a little figurine of a cheerful orange pony I recognized from the pictures. Her hooves kicked at the air above her as she grinned confidently at me.
No. No. Nonononononononono. N-O spells NO. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. No. Not those goddamned butt-fucking son-of-a-dick-in-the-ass collectible statues again. No. Just...please. No.

>Carefully, I levitated the little statue from the grave and gently brushed the dirt away from a tiny plaque at the base. ‘Be Strong’. Looking at the orange pony, her little cowboy hat and three-apple cutie mark, I couldn’t help but smile. I wanted to be strong. I needed to be strong. I glanced at P-21, but he was simply placing the bones.
We're really doing this, aren't we?

>“Would it be okay?” I asked softly. He glanced at me, then at the figurine, before going back to placing Hoss’s remains in the earth.
>“I’m curious why you’re asking me,” he said as he finished laying out the bones. He finished by placing a brown moth-chewed hat atop the old skull.
>“Because you seem to know what’s right,” I replied. I felt so confused right now, I’d welcome any advice.
>“I guess that depends on why you want it,” he said as he sat on the edge of the grave, looking at me.
Alright, I am willing to give BJ and her dad Somber a small amount of credit here: at least she had the decency to ask before proceeding to loot Granny Smith's tomb. I mean, sure, the person horse, whatever she asked doesn't exactly have a right to grant permission here, but...at least she asked someone, instead of just grabbing the stupid thing and pocketing it without a second thought. Once again: this story so far is basically just kkat's FoE with a few minor improvements here and there.

>“Because. I want to remember him… because no one else does but us.” I looked at him and gave a snotty sniff. “And I’ve got to be strong…”
Okay, wanting to memorialize this poor nameless dead guy is a decent enough thing to do I guess, but...it seems like you could still accomplish that without swiping personal mementos from his wife's grave. Or, here's something: instead of taking the dumb statue for your autismo statue collection, why not put it upstairs somewhere in a place of prominence? Make a little memorial display out of it. Do something with one of these idiotic statues that doesn't involve a flimsy, transparent justification for grave robbery.

Or, she could go the opposite direction with it: just straight-up take the stupid thing and don't even try to justify it. Just be all like, "Fuck Granny Smith's rotting carcass, I'm taking this treasured statue of her granddaughter so I can put it on my bookshelf next to my Hatsune Miku figurines, and if you niggers don't like it you can suck my lady-balls! Yoink!" I mean, if you're going to be a kleptomaniacal autist, at least own it for Christ's sake.

Anyway, whatever; enough with the fucking statue. After a page break, BJ awakens in a strange bed; presumably they spent the night in the farmhouse. Unfortunately, she soon discovers a bunch of red blips on her EFS, and hears some familiar voices downstairs. It seems that U-21, the other male unicorn from Stable 99, was able to track BJ by her PipBuck tag. Presumably this is why the invader-raiders brought him along.

A moment later, one of them opens her door and pokes her head into BJ's room. Things go rather predictably from here:

>I pulled the trigger. Eight pellets of lead travelled less than two feet, turning the firearm into scrap and her lower face and throat into pulp. She made a noise; not exactly a scream, with all the bubbly froth coming from her. Her whole body whipped wildly, flinging gore before she collapsed in a thrashing heap.

>Three rounds of buckshot turned the hall and most of her front into blasted ruin. As that accelerated time wore off, she slumped to the ground, her last shots chewing up the floor before she fell over in a bloody mess. I looked down at the mare still thrashing on the ground as she tried to breathe through the ground meat of her throat. I wanted to put her out of her misery. From the tears in her eyes, she wanted it too. I pointed the shotgun at her head; she stilled a little. Just pull the trigger. End her pain…
lol. lmao even.

Anyway, the edge goes on for a bit longer, but it's just more of the same. She does leave one of them alive as an act of...eh, we'll just call it "mercy" for now...which could become significant later on. She also fires on U-21; even though he is clearly a prisoner of the invaders, he seems to be a little too enthusiastic about helping them for BJ's taste. However, at the last moment he raises his foreleg to shield himself, and instead of killing him the shot merely destroys his PipBuck. She is about to finish the job, when P-21 suddenly shoots her in the ass. It...seems accidental? I'm not sure. I'm sort of picking up on a hostile vibe from this guy; he might actually have shot her intentionally. Maybe he doesn't want to see one of his brother fuccbois get iced.

Anyway, P-21 pleads for BJ to spare U-21, and ultimately she does, since his PipBuck is destroyed and he can no longer track her. Also at P-21's insistence, she leaves him with a couple of healing potions so he can take care of himself. Then, BJ and Dr. Fuccboi leave the farmhouse.

Page break. BJ and Fuccboi are still heading west. Fuccboi's leg is still hurting, and for some reason he refuses the medicine BJ offers him. He also refuses to take the gun she offers him. His reasons are a bit interesting: apparently, he doesn't trust himself not to shoot her. This seems to confirm my suspicion from earlier.

>We weren’t friends.
>That was the truth of it. He was smart, clever, and resourceful, but we were not friends. Was that really so surprising? Clearly, there was far more bothering him than just his injured leg. Yet he wouldn’t talk. It’s like he hated me or something, but hadn’t I saved him from Daisy? Didn’t I help him escape from 99?
My assumption here is that P-21, while seeing the practicality of teaming up with BJ for now, also deeply resents her as both a female and a security mare for Stable 99. The males don't seem to have been particularly well-treated, so his hostility makes sense.

Anyway, they keep walking until they eventually reach the destination that Frank marked on BJ's PipBuck. It turns out to be an abandoned school building in a town called Withers. In a shocking turn of events that will surprise no one, the building turns out to be full of raiders. The decor in there is par for the course: lots of dead bodies, decapitated children, blood, feces, entrails, etc etc etc.

Events move predictably from here. Bang bang bang, splat splat splat, edge edge edge. The raiders are dead now. Unfortunately, BJ doesn't emerge from the fight unscathed. She gets a cut on the neck that her barding doesn't completely deflect, as well as a mild nick on the ear from a passing bullet. Oh yeah, she also gets like half of her skin blown off by a grenade; almost forgot about that.

Oh, also, during the fight there's a brief exchange between BJ and P-21 that seems like it might be important:

>There was a guilty look in his eyes. “I don’t trust myself with a gun right now…” He looked away. “I’m glad you know who you’re supposed to shoot. I feel like I want to shoot everypony. You know who to shoot.”
>Him shooting me in the farmhouse... and trying to fire again after I hit the safety... those had been accidents... right?
She's trying to give him a gun so he can help her mow down their enemies, but he's still reluctant to take it. At first I was thinking this refusal is because he is meant to be some kind of Velvet-Remedy-esque pacifist pussy, but I actually don't think that's it. This guy seems to be harboring quite a bit of repressed rage, and he seems to have a legitimate desire to hurt Blackjack, which he doesn't entirely trust his better angel to override. The reasons for this are still a bit murky, though.

Anyway, it looks like most of the raiders are dead at this point. They go through a couple of classrooms to make sure the area is clear. Then:

>I trotted past more scattered filth, heedless of the risk. At this moment, I just wanted it over with and cleared. The other classroom had a pen of sorts constructed of chain-link fence in the far corner. Within were a half-dozen filthy, terrified-looking fillies. The raider crouched behind them.
Oh boy, a group of helpless prisoners for the hero to rescue. That's another box checked! Are the fillies being raped and murdered? I'll bet they're being raped and murdered.

Events move predictably from here:

>My last two shots rang out, and his ribcage vanished. The assorted viscera within came slithering out in a messy heap over his hostages, but at least they were still alive. Suddenly, the girls started screaming. Then there were two bangs from behind me and an explosion and everything turned white and then dark.

Page break. BJ awakens to find the rest of the raiders dead, and the fillies eating cereal. For a brief moment, BJ believes that the shot in the back had come from P-21. However, he denies it, and the fillies confirm that it wasn't him. What actually happened is that a raider BJ had spared, I'm assuming the one from the farm earlier, had followed them or something and then shot her in the back. No good deed goes unpunished, I guess.

Anyway, Somber once again demonstrates that he is basically writing the exact same story as kkat, but just a tiny bit better:

>“He’s funny,” a teal filly said as she grinned at P-21. “He was actually apologizing to ‘em after they was blowed up!” One of the girls laughed. The rest had expressions ranging from pained to tired to even happy. They didn’t look scared. Though with how I must have looked right then, it’d be a miracle if anypony was scared of me.
>“As for my name, I’m Scoodle. Them raiders grabbed us while we was out lookin’ fer stuff fer the Finders.”
>Scoodle? Well… who was I to judge? “My name’s Blackjack.”
>“P-21,” he chimed in.
>“Y’all got funny names.” That seemed to count in our favor. The teal pony lifted the box of Sugar Apple Bombs and poured them into her mouth, chewing frantically before letting out a loud belch, much to the giggles of the other fillies.
Rescued NPCs with actual names and spoken dialogue? Personalities even? In my Fallout: Equestria spinoff? Apparently, it's more common than you think.

Anyway, it turns out that Scoodle and her friends are "Crusaders." They wear CMC-esque capes, but their job is to run around scavenging supplies to sell to Finders, who are apparently merchants that buy and sell scavenged junk. Their apparent level of experience at doing this accounts for their cavalier attitude towards the violence they just witnessed.

I have to say, I'm liking the amount of thought Somber puts into making this setting and its inhabitants feel real. Again: I'm finding this to be basically the same story as FoE, just done a tiny bit better. It contains a lot of the things I didn't care for about the original, but the little improvements here and there make all the difference. Reading FoE was like being raped, whereas so far, PH is like being raped by someone decent enough to put a condom on so you don't get AIDS.

Page break. BJ decides to go exploring around Withers, to make sure there aren't any more filly-raping murderers lurking around and waiting to lob grenades at her. So far the third-degree burns she suffered don't seem to be affecting her much. She comes across a billboard advertising a place called Hoofington. I seem to recall this location being mentioned once or twice in passing; I'm assuming it will be significant later.

Suddenly, a wild sprite-bot appears. BJ flags it down and has a brief conversation with Frank.

>“Glad to be it,” I replied with a wince. I smiled as I looked at the bandages that half covered my body. “Half blown up, but yeah. Alive.”
Oh, okay. She bandaged up her third degree burns. Between that and the sugary cereal she just enjoyed, I'm sure she's right as rain now.

Anyway, she grills Frank about a hunch she has: that he sent her running straight into a nest of raiders on purpose. They go back and forth for a bit, but eventually he admits that yes, he did. However, he insists his reasons were pure:

>The spritebot hesitated, and I felt he was picking his words carefully. “I might have had some intelligence about them being held till slavers could pick them up.”

BJ demands to know why he didn't just tell her that there were a bunch of fillies being held prisoner. Again, Frank protests his noble intentions:

>“Please, don’t. Do you have any idea what it’s like to tell people six fillies are being held by raiders only to have them turn and run the opposite direction? Or, worse, kill the raiders and sell the foals to slavers themselves?” There was anguish in his voice that said he knew all too well. “I just wanted to point you in the right direction and hope it would work out.”

Come on now, Somber. Is that the really the most tragic thing you could think up? Frank sends ponies to rescue the foals from the slavers, and sometimes they just sell them to the slavers themselves? Don't they even rape the fillies before selling them? Maybe murder a few of them? Have them fight to the death in round-robin cage matches? Fist them and use them as boxing gloves to fend off their grieving parents? Oh wait; the fillies are orphans, so that wouldn't work. Never mind; forget I even brought it up.

Anyway, that's the end of the chapter.

>]Footnote: Level Up.

>New Perk: Telekinetic Precision - You’ve got a steady horn on your head for when you need to count sand, thread a needle, or keep a pin in a grenade.

The ']' character is a typo on Somber's part, not mine.

Chapter 3: Learning Curve

As with the preceding chapters, this one starts off with some redundant information:

>Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons
>By Somber
>Chapter 3: Learning Curve

As well as another unattributed mystery quote:

>“I’m so sorry…”
About what? The bad formatting? You don't need to apologize; just stop doing it.

Anyway, when the chapter opens it is the following day.

>We waited in the Withers public school till morning. Really, once the flies and the reek of rotting meat reached a certain point, all of us were glad to get out of there.
I hate to be a nag, but were there seriously no other buildings available in Withers to sleep in? I get that the town is a post-apocalyptic ruin and all, but I'd have to assume there'd be at least a few buildings that survived the explosions and have the added advantage of not being full of blood and shit and rotting carcasses. Really? There weren't? Not even a Motel 6 or anything? Never mind; forget I even brought it up.

>I still resembled a mummy with all the bandages coiled around me, but their healing magic was doing the trick. Though it’d taken two healing potions to bring me back from the gunshots to my back and the back of my head, my luck was still holding out.
My hopes for the rules of healing magic in this story turning out to be less ridiculous than its predecessor are fading faster than Biden's mental acuity.

Anyway, BJ & Co. are still in the classroom, surrounded by rotting corpses. BJ examines a map on the wall and discovers that Hoofington, the town whose billboard she saw in the previous chapter, is a short distance away. She also notices some old, fading propaganda posters:
>a pink pony with her mane striped almost identical to mine, but pink and gray rather than black and red, stared out with a grin above a caption that read ‘Trouble can start in the smallest places’. A purple unicorn sat on the library wall, looking clever and surrounded by floating books, saying ‘We need every idea’. Well, that’s what I thought it said. Some wit had scratched out ‘idea’ and written ‘penis’. I got the joke. In the nurse’s office, a soulful yellow pegasus hugged a bunny while telling me ‘Little ouchies are still ouchies’.

>I knew there had been a war. Even security ponies had to learn history in 99. Zebras had attacked and attempted to exterminate all of ponykind. There’d been six ministries that had done all they could to end the war and find peace for ponykind. They’d failed. It might have been unfair of me, but I hoped that they’d done more to try and end the war than just make pithy quotes for posters.
Once again, Somber manages to clearly address an issue that kkat left ambiguous.

Scoodle and the other fillies give BJ and P-21 a quick rundown on how the Wasteland works. They explain about scavenging, gun repair, and bottle caps being used as currency. Then, they set out on the road.

It's not at all clear where the group is headed or why. Again, this seems to be another instance of Somber's story imitating kkat's. The apparent destination is Hoofington. Along the way, they are attacked by some radhogs, which provides a nice segue into a discussion about ponies consuming animal flesh for sustenance a point which never really made a ton of sense to me, but since kkat is the one who made it canon, we can't really blame Somber.

>I tried to hide my disgust as I asked, “What are you doing with that, Scoodle?”
>“Huh?” She looked up with a bloody knife clenched in her jaws; I did my best not to shudder. She stuck the tip in the corpse and answered brightly, “Oh, this? Radhog is good eatin’!”
>I just turned my back and busied myself with not being nauseous or watching them finish their work. I’d stick with the Sugar Apple Bombs.
It was established in Ch 1 that you have literally spent your entire life up to this point eating recycled poop. Get off your high horse, horse.

Anyway, they keep walking. They bump into some more radhogs here and there, but mainly this scene is a giant infodump that takes the form of a conversation between BJ and Scoodle. Normally I don't care for this sort of thing, but FoE is a complicated setting with a lot of factions and terminology, and kkat was pretty stingy about providing this sort of information. I'm inclined to consider this a positive.

Here is a brief synopsis of what we learn:

Most of the Wasteland's inhabitants keep to themselves and are mostly focused on their own survival; they will generally not go out of their way to harm or hurt anyone. Other types, such as the raiders, are aggressive to the point of ridiculousness again, this was already established canon inherited from kkat, and a few that are genuinely good and helpful. Scoodle identifies the Crusaders as belonging to the chaotic-neutral group:

>“What, ya think because we’re young we’re helpless?” And with a flick of her head she scooped the pistol out of her holster and pointed it right at his head as if she had a S.A.T.S. spell herself. Then she grinned around the handle before spitting the pistol back into her holster. “We don’t fight lest we gotta. We stick together and hide when we can. We got lots of forts all around we can hole up in if we need ta,” she said as she trotted along. “See, we can get in places big ponies like yerselves can’t. We find all kinds o’ good stuff in cellars and tunnels and stuff.”
I have to say, Scoodle and her merry band of ragamuffins are beginning to grow on me. They remind me a little of the pickpocket gang from Oliver Twist. I like their mannerisms and their idiosyncratic speaking style and the way they fit into the world. They feel like a real organic part of this setting; definitely a far cry from the sad-eyed helpless orphan-foals that kkat dotted all over his world for no reason beyond giving Littlepip something to rescue. I'm kind of hoping they end up becoming major characters and not just one-offs.
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Anyway, some other information is covered as well. We learn a bit more about the "Finders" that were mentioned earlier:

>“Shoot, Finders care only about the caps. You got caps, they’re yer best buds in the world. Ya got nothing and they’ll piss on ya soon as look at ya. Finders ain’t nopony’s friends and don’t you believe ‘em when they say otherwise.” Scoodle and the other Crusaders definitely didn’t seem very happy, even though we were apparently heading towards their town.

The identity of Deus aka Cyberpony:

>I described Deus and the filly immediately looked concerned. “Well from what you said, I’m guessing he’s a Reaper.”
>“Reapers is what happens when raiders grow up. They’re the baddest of the baddest. Don’t take shit off nopony. There’s only a hundred of ‘em, cause the only way to join is ta kill another Reaper hoof to hoof. Monsters one and all,” Scoodle said darkly.

A short list of potentially helpful Wasteland residents:

>“Well there’s DJ Pon3 on the radio. He’s off in Manehattan, but he knows stuff what’s going on everywhere. You can hear him all over the place.” P-21 and I shared a look and added it to the mind bogglingly long list of ‘what the fuck are they talking about?’ “There’s also them Society ponies. I guess they technically count since they do help. Bunch of stuck up thoroughbreds that give ya a meal and then tell ya how thankful ya should be for getting it.”

>“Well, ya can talk ta the college ponies. Call themselves the coll… co… um… well most folks just call ‘em Eggheads. They’re way over past the Core, but you might run across ‘em. They wanna fix Equestria. Dunno how. They’re nice to us most often. If we ever come down with worms we always ask them fer help. They got this medicine that’ll clean ya out lickity-split!”

The Steel Rangers:

>“I didn’t forget ‘em. Wasn’t gonna mention ‘em,” she said sourly at the pink filly. “Rangers might help ya. They might not. Might shoot ya. They got their own things going on, mostly trying ta figger out how them roboponies work in the Core. I can tell ya they won’t give us a glass o’ piss.”

Something we haven't encountered yet called a Robopony:

>“That’s what they are, so don’t you laugh. Pony gadgets wandering all over the Core. Dangerous critters, too. You see a pony made of wires and lights, you best run. Can’t kill ‘em.” Scoodle frowned in thought. “There’s the ‘Clavers, if you want, but I don’t trust ‘em one bit.”

The Enclave:

>“The Enclave are pegasus ponies! They’re gonna swoop down and save us all!” Boing cried with a little cheer. A few of the other fillies also looked hopeful.
>“I’ll believe ‘em when I see the sun,” Scoodle replied sullenly. “They give me the willies.”


>“Ghouls is ponies that are… well… they look dead. But they ain’t! I been to Meatlocker, and they wasn’t nothing but friendly to me.” Her certainty faded a little and she amended, “Well, some of ‘em might try and eat ya, but they ain’t no different from raiders.”

A general summary of Hoofington as a location:

>Ghouls. Enclave. Steel Rangers. Eggheads. Society. Reapers. Finders. Crusaders. I was suddenly getting a picture of Hoofington as a city with different stables all around it, each group fighting against the others for control and dominance.

Finally, a metric fuckton of probable foreshadowing:

>P-21 looked at Scoodle as he asked, “You mentioned the Core? What is that?”
>“The Core? It’s what got blowed up in the big war. I heard there was all kinds of tech and stuff being studied there. Least it was before the zebras blowed it ta smithereens.”
>“Wasn’t the zebras!” Boing jumped in. “Them ponies made something what blowed up in their faces!”
>“I heard that Princess Celestia sent the whole city to the moon right before the bombs went kablewy,” offered a gray unicorn filly.
>Another quickly shook her head. “Nuh-uh. It was a dragon. Biggest, scariest dragon of all. He breathed green fire.”
>“That’s what the bombs did, ya ninny!” Scoodle roared. I winced at their noise, wondering if this was how they had gotten caught in the first place.

Again, I'm usually not a fan of large, concentrated infodumps, but I'm inclined to consider it positive in this case simply because I suspect it will make the story much, much easier to follow, and because the dearth of such information was a major gripe of mine in the original FoE. Ghouls, for instance, I recall being a major point of confusion for me, that only wound up being clarified because of anons in the thread who knew the Fallout references.

Incidentally, I know that most of kkat's world was just a 1:1 transposition of elements from the Fallout universe, but there are some new terms in here that seem specific to PH. I think this is the first we've heard about Reapers, Roboponies, Finders, Crusaders, Society Ponies, and College Ponies (Eggheads). I'm curious if these are Fallout analogues or Somber's original creations; if anyone from the gallery knows and can answer it would be helpful.

Anyway, when all of this concludes, BJ pulls P-21 aside so they can try and figure out their next move. They don't have much in terms of goals or a destination, but they reason that Deus is probably still looking for them, that he still wants the EC-1101 file for whatever reason, and that it's not safe to return to the stable until the matter has been dealt with. They conclude that the thing to do would be to learn as much as they can about EC-1101, but since they don't have any clear leads on where they should go in order to do this, they reason they might as well just stick with the Crusaders for the time being. Still kind of a vague objective, but at least it makes sense, and is more of an objective than Littlepip had at a comparable point in her story.
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Anyway, they enter a new location, and the mood suddenly turns...somber.

They come to a wide swath of land that is almost completely covered in skeletons. Because it just wouldn't be Fallout: Equestria without lots and lots of skeletons. The area is appropriately termed "The Boneyard." Apparently, what happened is that when the megaspells went off, a huge crowd of ponies fleeing from Hoofington and Manehattan fled their respective cities, wound up in this spot, got trapped or blocked somehow, and yada yada yada they all died. The fillies seem to either hold this place in some special reverence, and/or consider it dangerous.

>“There’s bad stuff here. Ghouls. And Tiara.” That was all she said before she bit down on the pistol again and continued walking.
"Tiara" may or may not be important later.

They continue to tiptoe through the tulips boneyard. BJ is confused that, even though there are ammo boxes, crates, abandoned wagons, and other lootables scattered all over this location, the fillies insist that these should not be touched. P-21 advises BJ to heed their advice. However, she is incensed at being ordered about by a cuck, and immediately does the exact opposite of not touching anything.

>Then I saw the creature within the heap of bones. It looked like a pony that had been cooked past well done, and now that it was exposed it began to move! It reared up and opened its maw wide, letting out a scream that no living pony could make. And then, it was answered.
Well, dang.

>Instantly, my PipBuck came alight with red bars as horrific screams raised in the air. The mounds around me shifted and from the depths emerged chunks of rotting meat clinging to pony frames. Shredded lips allowed jagged mouths to open far wider than any living pony’s could. There was nowhere to run; they stepped out onto the road in both directions.
Well, double dang. I guess the moral of the story is that when a bunch of orphans tell you to be quiet and keep your hooves to yourself whenever you cross a huge atomic mass grave, you're better off just listening to them.

Anyway, from an exclamation by Scoodle, we learn that these creatures are apparently called "heads." A fight scene begins.

>I popped S.A.T.S., but the rifle required a great deal more energy per shot than my pistol or shotgun. I carefully lined up my shot in that moment of frozen time, then released the spell. I could almost see the bullet as it spun through the air, striking the ghoul pony in the head and blasting it apart into meaty chunks. Without S.A.T.S. I had a harder time lining up the shots. What took one round to the head would require four to the chest.
I like that the author imposes some reasonable limitations on S.A.T.S., instead of just allowing the protagonist to be an instant bad-ass by using it all of the time. The combat in general in this story seems to be a little better thought-out than in FoE. Small improvements that make a difference.

>The Crusaders were holding up better than I’d anticipated. Maybe the fact we were ridiculously outnumbered and probably going to die helped them focus on putting every round in the screaming ghoul ponies’ heads. P-21, unarmed, simply kicked and shoved to try and keep the ghouls off the Crusaders.
So these things are ghouls? Are "heads" a type of ghoul, or did I misunderstand why Scoodle shouted "heads" as soon as she saw them? Maybe she just happened to win a coin toss at a portentous moment.

Also: didn't Scoodle just comment a few paragraphs ago that ghouls were mostly friendly and harmless? Not taking the opportunity to warn about the "heads" seems like an odd omission, seeing as how they were approaching a place filled with them. Since the Crusaders obviously know this place, as well as why it's not a good idea to try to loot corpses here, it seems logical that Scoodle might have mentioned the ravenous flesh-eating breed of ghoul that resides here when the subject came up. Just food for thought.

>Scoodle’s revolver blasted ghoul after ghoul, not firing till she had a head shot. She would be an amazing markspony when she grew up; a pony to be feared and respected. But as she turned to gun down one, two others pounced upon her.
Again, I'm really beginning to like Scoodle as a character. In kkat's world, child characters were usually helpless, pitiable creatures with huge sad eyes, who did little besides wander around the Wasteland waiting to be rescued by the author's ultra-badass protagonist. Here, the child character is a badass in her own right, and what's more she did it the hard way, learning to shoot on her own without relying on high-tech gizmos. The author even calls attention to the contrast between Scoodle's natural marksmanship and BJ's reliance on S.A.T.S.: while BJ, the adult who has technically had weapons training, has to wait for her targeting-assistance power to recharge before she can do anything, the younger pony picks up the slack. Small improvements that make a difference. I honestly think Scoodle is the most likable character I've yet encountered in the entire FoE universe; hopefully she won't end up getting killed or anything.

>One ghoul pony gripped Scoodle by her haunches, the other by her shoulders. With monstrous strength they each pulled their half.
>The teal filly was ripped in two before my eyes.
Well, dang.

>I fell into a moment of horror that felt like a S.A.T.S. that would never end as I saw with terrible clarity the organs and viscera pouring out over the asphalt.
The only thing worse than watching this character die is reading this sentence describing it.

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Anyway, Scoodle is now kill. F. Blackjack proceeds to go full Rambo on the ghouls as the dramatic music swells:

>“No!” I roared, rage seeming to guide my shots. Despite my tears blurring my vision, I laid down a rain of fire such that even the ghouls were momentarily beaten back. Every other bullet seemed to find skulls and vulnerable joints, though my horn ached from the effort. When the rifle clicked on an empty chamber, a telekinetic stream of bullets flowed from my bag into the magazine, and my attack continued. But there were more ghouls than I had bullets, and every second it seemed like more of the mindless monsters emerged from the bone piles.
If the ham on display in this paragraph could be harvested and used as food, this group would never need to hunt radhogs again.

BJ shoots until she has expended every last bullet she owns, and when she's finally out she proceeds to use her rifle as a club. However, it is still not enough; the tenacious little buggers just keep on coming. Then, suddenly, this happens:

>The scream from a nearby bonepile froze us all in place. A luminous green light spilled forth from a ghoul pony that at once started my PipBuck clicking. “Tiara!” the ghoul screamed, looking down at us with its baleful gaze. The presence of this glowing abomination was tempered by one saving grace: its presence made the hordes of ghouls back away momentarily. “Tiara? Is that you?”

To save time, I'll go over this next bit quickly. The interloper, the one the fillies referred to as "Tiara" earlier, is actually Silver Spoon, or what's left of her. I seem to recall there being some backstory about the fate that she and Diamond Tiara suffered during the first FoE, but I don't remember the specifics. In any event, Spoon seems to have been caught in the same atomic blast that created the rest of these ghouls, only she got some kind of ultra-concentrated dose of radiation that makes her ultra-radioactive. The Geiger-counter or whatever in BJ's PipBuck is going clickity-clackity all over the place. Her appearance is appropriately horrifying: in addition to glowing with an eerie green light, her glasses have also been shattered and fused into her eyeballs, rendering her blind, or partially blind, or something. She is also completely bonkers. Apparently, she has been wandering around this boneyard since the megaspell event, looking for her lost friend Diamond Tiara. She doesn't seem to know what year it is.

Thinking quickly, BJ pretends to be Diamond Tiara, and fakes her way through the whole "bump bump sugar lump rump" routine. Spoon seems to fall for her little ruse. While the ghouls strip the flesh from Scoodle's bones, Spoon and "Tiara" have a bit of light conversation, catch up on old times, and then BJ asks Spoon if she could please ask the other ghouls to stand down. She does, and they do, and the party moves on, albeit one filly lighter. The scene ends in a page break.

Wew lad. That was...something.

Believe it or not, I actually think the author handled this more or less well. The scene itself was bizarre for a number of reasons, but from a top-level view this is basically the right way to do tragedy. Not so much because of all the edgelord stuff about ripping flesh and viscera everywhere, or BJ's over-the-top dramatic reaction; that stuff was pretty much par for the course in FoE. However, the setup and execution for Scoodle's death was handled impressively, and had the intended effect.

If you really want to kick your reader in the feels as hard as possible, the basic formula is simple. Create a likable character, spend some time endearing them to the reader, and then kill them unexpectedly. If done well, it works every time. One of the works I like to recommend whenever I have a chance is the Higurashi When They Cry series of visual novels, written by Ryukishi07 the anime is more well-known, and is decent for what it is, but it's a sub-par adaptation of the story; if you want the full effect you should really play the novels. I don't think I have ever encountered a writer who was that skilled at creating likable characters and then killing them off.

The nice thing about this technique is that it usually still works even if the reader can see it coming. I've been harboring a suspicion for awhile now that Scoodle and her friends might not be long for this world; however, I will say that I wasn't expecting it to happen this quickly. Nevertheless, I was genuinely sad to see her go, and that's ultimately the effect you want your writing to have. If a character dies, the reader should miss them.

Consider the death of SteelHooves in FoE. This was a major character who is present for a good 2/3 of the story. He was given a tragic backstory and everything. However, I honestly gave zero fucks when he was suddenly and unexpectedly decapitated. By comparison, Scoodle was only in PH for a few brief scenes. How is it that her death had so much more of an emotional punch?

Well, to be fair, part of it is probably that by the time SteelHooves died, I thoroughly hated almost every single character in FoE; for me, the real tragedy was less that SteelHooves died and more that the other four main characters didn't. However, it's still worth taking a closer look a few simple things that Somber did to make Scoodle's untimely demise significant.
Well damn, I neglect checking the catalog for a few days and suddenly there's over a dozen posts to read. A welcome surprise.

Anyway, rip (heh) in peace Scoodle. So far Somber seems to have crafted a much more enjoyable story, hampered as it is by being tied to kkat's original. The character interactions, especially the ones between BJ and P-21, are much better compared to what I can recall from the original. We're still early in the story though, and Somber has ample opportunity to fuck it all up, but I remain cautiously optimistic that this will at least be slightly better than FoE. Whatever the outcome your review will be entertaining and informative to read as always.
>I think this is the first we've heard about Reapers, Roboponies, Finders, Crusaders, Society Ponies, and College Ponies (Eggheads). I'm curious if these are Fallout analogues or Somber's original creations; if anyone from the gallery knows and can answer it would be helpful.

To my knowledge this stuff is mostly 'original'. They're basic and tropey for such a setting, but I don't really know of any analogues to these factions in the Fallout series. The closest I think we get is the White Glove Society in Fallout: New Vegas since theyre a bunch of posh high-class folks but they are smaller-scale and used to be cannibals as their dark 'secret', and I don't remember what this fic's 'Society' is supposed to be like.
This makes me wonder about how pip-buck enemy detection works. Feral Ghouls are mindless to the point of having all inhibitions overwritten with a senseless killing intent. They would always be marked as red, since they would never not be friendly or neutral, but them being asleep, or sitting in some kind of stasis, means they're not even marked at ALL, not even as 'passive' entitites? How far does this extend? If you walk into the middle of an ambush of ponies fully intending to murder you, but they all put their minds to something else, they show up as friendly? Don't even show up at all? Seems dumb, odd, and unclear.
Screenshot 2024-07-15 002843.png

First and most obvious is that the character is genuinely likeable. Scoodle is sympathetic for much the same reason Scootaloo is sympathetic I'm assuming the similarity in names is intentional for precisely this reason. She's a scrappy little orphan with a give-em-hell attitude; you admire her spirit and want to see her succeed. Her speech affectations are also weirdly endearing. Accents can be hard to do: you basically want to write the character's dialogue in a way that's distinctive enough to be memorable, but isn't so exaggerated that it gets annoying. I'm not quite sure what I'd call the dialect used by Scoodle and the other fillies, but...it works. It's sort of a combination of the Apple family's country drawl and a gruff city accent. It's not hard to imagine street urchins in the Wasteland speaking this way.

Second, and slightly related to my first observation, is that these fillies are written in a way that makes them feel like they are genuine residents of this world, as opposed to NPCs that wander around aimlessly until the player approaches them and presses X. One of the most striking things about Somber's Wasteland vs. kkat's so far is that Somber's feels like a real place. Things happen on their own out here; it isn't just a static video game world where everything sits in a holding pattern until the protagonist takes an action.

The fillies call themselves Crusaders, and eke out a meager existence by rummaging through the ruins looking for junk they can sell to the Finders. The Finders do more or less the same thing, buying and selling whatever they can, while allowing the orphans to do the more dangerous work of actually exploring dangerous areas and retrieving items. The Finders and the Crusaders probably attempt to cheat each other through barter when possible. The relationship is mutually symbiotic and mutually exploitative, and probably just one example of hundreds of similar relationships that exist in this setting.

This version of the Wasteland is neither a functioning society nor a grimdark anarchic hellscape; it's an ecosystem, where the inhabitants do what they need to do to survive in whatever niche they can carve out. Sometimes they help each other, sometimes they fuck each other over, most of the time it's probably somewhere in between. There are bad things out there too, of course, raiders and monsters and ghouls and whatever the fuck else. However, the vast majority of the world's inhabitants are neither overly good nor overly evil; they just want to live the best lives they can, and to that end they just do what they need to do. Contrast this against kkat's setting, where cartoonishly evil raiders endlessly victimize helpless NPCs for 200 years, until one day the the hero wanders in and rescues them.

Lastly, consider the way that Blackjack fits into the equation. So far, one of the most defining traits of her character is a deep sense of inadequacy. She has the role of a security mare, but she's not especially good at it, and may not be cut out for that sort of work in the first place. She's driven by a vague sense of duty that seems to be mostly instilled in her through upbringing, yet she always seems to be either fucking something up or letting someone down. She saves P-21 from being killed or castrated or whatever, but she has to beat up one of her fellow security mares to do it. This action probably costs her the closest thing she has to a friend, as well as whatever trust and status she might have inside the Stable. She prevents the invaders from taking the EC-1101 file though I'm still not sure how exactly; either Somber doesn't understand how digital file copying works, or I am grossly misunderstanding how PipBucks and Maneframes are supposed to work, yet she has no way of knowing whether her actions ultimately saved anyone, and on top of that she is now stuck in the Wasteland with a murderous cyborg chasing her. Finally, she meets these three fillies and rescues them, only to end up getting one of them killed as a result of her ignorance and carelessness.

Again, we can make a comparison to kkat's FoE. Littlepip begins the story as a dull, essentially lifeless NPC who has no defining character traits beyond boredom and a desire to lick carpet. After leaving the Stable for no good reason and wandering purposelessly around the Wasteland for a bit, she suddenly decides she wants to save the world, and then does. One of my most frequent gripes about her was that she never had any clear motivations for doing any of what she did. She seems to be driven by some kind of squishy-yet-utterly-intractable moral code, but it's never made clear what she believes in or how she came to believe it. In the end, all we really have is this obnoxious little dwarf who goes from town to town wreaking absolute havoc and destroying everything she touches, while everyone praises her and calls her the Lightbringer. Her morality comes across as narcissism, her sense of duty comes across as megalomania, and her heroism comes across as psychopathy.

BJ is a sympathetic character so far at least; it's still early because she has real strengths and real flaws. She seems to have a genuine desire to do good and be good, but she's not sure how to go about doing that, and as a result keeps fucking things up. Her fuck-ups actually cause real damage: Scoodle is dead because of her, and she has to live with that. I suspect hope this event will be a major part of BJ's character arc.

Scoodle was only in the story for a short time, but she was rendered as a genuinely likable character, and her death had symbolic import. SteelHooves, for all his 1200 pages of tragic backstory, made few meaningful contributions, was not especially endearing, and his death served no purpose beyond a hamhanded attempt to milk the reader for sads.

This is the difference between tragedy done well, and tragedy becoming accidental comedy.

Anyway, moving on. After the page break, the party sallies forth. We are told that it takes them an hour and a half to cross the remainder of the Boneyard, and presumably they have no further ghoul encounters. As an added kick in the teats, BJ is now suffering from acute radiation poisoning from her encounter with Silver Spoon.

>I felt like crap. I deserved to feel like crap. My guts gurgled and every square inch of my body felt like it’d been beaten. The Crusaders didn’t say a single word. They didn’t look at me or each other, but I could almost hear their thoughts in the back of my mind saying over and over again ‘She killed Scoodle for a box of bullets.’
Seeing as how I just spent two entire posts praising the things Somber did right vis a vis the whole "Scoodle gets eaten alive by ghouls" thing, I should also point out that there are some glaring logic issues with how the event was set up.

While Scoodle's death was tragic and easily preventable, Blackjack isn't entirely to blame for it. Blackjack and P-21 are both greenhorns: they've spent their entire lives living in a Stable, and have no idea how things work in the Wasteland. It's plainly established that the Crusaders understand this: we just digested a massive infodump in which the Crusaders explain Wasteland life to the two of them.

The Crusaders, Scoodle in particular, go into extensive detail about the various dos and don'ts of living in the Wasteland. She even helpfully informs them that the bottle caps they found are currency and not garbage; she didn't need to do this and the Crusaders could have profited from the omission. She tells them anyway, because Scoodle is clearly a good filly who deserves headpats and also to not have her flesh and organs torn forcibly from her skeleton. She is both astute enough to grasp that much of what she considers common knowledge is going to be new to Blackjack, and helpful enough to provide this information without needing to be prodded.

It therefore makes very little sense that, upon entering the extremely dangerous Boneyard area, a situation where explaining any and all danger to the newfags would be in everyone's interest including her own, this is all the warning she provides:

>“There’s bad stuff here. Ghouls. And Tiara.” That was all she said before she bit down on the pistol again and continued walking.
'Bad stuff' is pretty vague, and she offers no explanation whatsoever as to who 'Tiara' might be. And as I've already pointed out, earlier in the text she heavily downplays the danger of ghouls:

>Scoodle caught my look. She sighed and rolled her eyes, explaining to the clueless stable ponies, “Ghouls is ponies that are… well… they look dead. But they ain’t! I been to Meatlocker, and they wasn’t nothing but friendly to me.”
Nothing but friendly, eh? Well, that doesn't sound like anything worth getting all hot and bothered over.

To be fair, she does add this:

>Her certainty faded a little and she amended, “Well, some of ‘em might try and eat ya, but they ain’t no different from raiders.”
Some of them might try to eat me, eh? Well, that sounds like something I'd just as soon avoid. Say, we wouldn't happen to be in walking distance of an area where literally thousands of cannibal ghouls are hiding deceptively under the bones, just waiting for unwary passersby to disturb them, would we? No, I can't imagine we are, because if we were, you'd probably say something...right?

Here's the crux of the biscuit: Scoodle and the Crusdaders know the Wasteland and understand its dangers. Blackjack and P-21 don't. Wherever they are ultimately headed I'm actually still not clear on their present destination, the Crusaders know that their path will take them through the Boneyard. They know that the Boneyard is home to thousands upon thousands of carnivorous ghouls. They know that the literal only way to safely move through the Boneyard is to keep quiet and not touch anything.

Wouldn't it stand to reason that, if you are a seasoned Wastelander planning to ferry a couple of level 1 noobs through what is probably the most dangerous part of the local area, you'd want to thoroughly explain any and all dangers before even setting hoof there? If you're going to spend half the morning yakking about Finders and College Ponies and a thousand other general subjects, wouldn't it make sense to also cover some stuff that's going to be relevant in literally like 20 goddamn minutes?

Apparently not, because not only do the Crusaders fail to give BJ and P-21 any heads-up before entering the Boneyard, they suddenly and conveniently start answering all questions with vague and mysterious non-answers that utterly fail to convey the gravity of the situation:

>“We should take some of this,” I whispered as we passed a tipped-over wagon half buried by bones. I couldn’t see a single target on the E.F.S. aside from the eight of us.
>Scoodle looked at me with an expression of horror and outrage, shaking her head.

P-21, who seems to at least sense that the danger might be more serious than it appears, is equally unhelpful:

>“I think you should listen to her,” P-21 murmured.

So, unsurprisingly, the result of this is that Blackjack does something clueless and stupid, and the scene ends in tragedy. Scoodle's death was unnecessary and preventable, but she is as much to blame as Blackjack for how things turned out. In fact, you know what? The more I think about it, fuck Scoodle. I take back everything good I said about her; she sucks now. nah I'm just playin' Scoodle, you know I love you. *headpats corpse*

Anyway, the takeaway is this: as this is probably the best-executed tragic death I've yet encountered in the FoE universe, I'm inclined to give Somber quite a bit of leeway here. However, the setup could use some work. You can't just have an otherwise-sensible character suddenly holding the idiot ball just because you need her to die tragically at a specific moment.

Anyway, fuck. They keep walking and make it out of the Boneyard. At this point, BJ, who is still dying of radiation poisoning, turns around to say something to the Crusaders, only to discover that apparently they ditched her awhile ago. P-21 is still hanging around, however.

He points out that there is a house up ahead where they can rest and treat BJ's crippling radiation sickness. However, BJ is still down in the dumps about accidentally getting a child gruesomely killed earlier that day. So, she spouts some moody bullshit about how she just wants to be left alone to die. P-21 gives her this nice little rousing speech:

>“I’m sorry, did you say something?” P-21 walked in front of me, his sure blue eyes bearing down into mine. “Sometimes we don’t get what we want,” he said as he nudged me towards a single story house beside the road. “Sometimes we don’t get to sit around and have pity parties for our mistakes. Sometimes we just have to keep going because, otherwise, we might as well just die.”
Ah, I see that Somber also shelled out the 60 bucks for "Michael Bay's Complete Guide to Writing Hokey Inspirational Lines for Side Characters to Deliver to Main Characters When Said Main Character Wants to Just Give Up and Die." Excellent; it's a fine book.

BJ, however, is unimpressed. She replies that "just dying" as opposed to "keeping going" was kind of at the center of the whole point she was trying to make just then. P-21 suddenly bitch-slaps the bejeezus out of her:

>He hit me hard enough to knock me on my side. I stared up into the sky and felt my guts churn and my pupils contract. “I’m sorry. Were you about to say you wanted to die? Is that it?” he said as he glared down at me. “If you were this weak, you should have just given yourself to Deus and been done with it.”
Did this guy suddenly grow a pair of testicles in the last hour and a half? Because from what we've seen, this is completely out of character for him.

It goes on:

>“I killed Scoodle!” I yelled up at him. It felt like a confession.
I hate to be that guy, but technically a ghoul killed Scoodle. All BJ did was set in motion a series of events that led to this outcome.

>“Yeah! You did, you fucking idiot!” he screamed back down at me. “Didn’t I tell you to listen to her? Didn’t you say to me that I know what’s right when it comes to this sort of thing? But she’s dead, Blackjack, and unless you wallowing in pity or dying will somehow magically bring her back to life then this is accomplishing nothing except indulging in your own selfish wishes!”
I once again hate to be that guy, but I can't help but point out that if P-21 had been a little more insistent on this point, this adventure might have ended differently. Seriously, where were his cajones back when it might have actually made a difference? I also should point out that Scoodle herself could have been a lot clearer on why she wanted BJ not to touch anything. All in all, I'd say this whole incident was a learning experience for just about everypony involved.

Oh, and as long as I'm being that guy, there is one more thing:

>Didn’t you say to me that I know what’s right when it comes to this sort of thing?
P-21 is conflating two separate meanings of "right" here. When BJ made this statement in its original context, she meant that P-21 seemed like someone who understands what is morally right, as in knowing right from wrong. In this context, P-21 is referring more to his understanding of what choice is correct. Whether or not BJ should have listened to Scoodle earlier is a practical choice, not a moral one.

>I slowly opened my eyes, looking into his. He hated me. I hated me.
Well, the important thing is that the two of you have finally found some common ground.

Anyway, fuck. P-21 makes BJ promise not to get any more children killed as a result of gross negligence, and BJ agrees. The scene ends in a page break.

>P-21 managed to get me into the derelict house after I’d shat myself but before I collapsed. Lying on my side on a filthy mattress, I felt like I was rotting from the inside out. That wasn’t completely inaccurate, as the next time my bowels moved it was to dump blood over my hind legs. I drifted between guilt-ridden consciousness and blissful unconsciousness.
Thank you for this level of detail, Somber, I'm sure we all appreciate it.

And there's just so much more to go:

>The worst was when I was stuck between the two. I saw Deus laughing at me as he sawed off my PipBuck with a chainsaw penis. The Overmare reminded me that I was ultimately disposable. The little orange pony figurine told me that she could only help so much; I’d have to get up and be strong on my own. I felt eyeglasses melting on my face and covering my cheeks in cracked glass. Scoodle’s severed head lay on the bed next to me and whispered softly over and over again, "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine!"
Alright, I admit I added that Ovaltine bit.

Anyway, fuck. The long and short of it is that BJ lies in bed being edgy for an indeterminate time, while P-21 nurses her back to health. No mention is made of how exactly this is accomplished. This seems like an odd omission, seeing as how radiation sickness isn't something that just goes away on its own with bed rest and chicken soup. Perhaps Somber got too carried away writing about Blackjack's horrible diarrhea, and neglected to mention the existence of a product called Rad-Away, which readers of the previous fic would know about, but which has not yet been introduced in this one.

Suddenly, Frank shows up:

>Carefully I pushed myself up and covered my face with my hooves. “I fucked up, Watcher.”
>“You’re not the first. And if I can be blunt, your fuck up only killed one filly. I’ve known ponies whose fuck ups killed millions. So on the grand scale of fuck ups, I think you’re overrating yourself.”
Wait, was he just floating around all this time, watching Scoodle get torn to shreds without doing anything? What a dick.
>We're still early in the story though, and Somber has ample opportunity to fuck it all up, but I remain cautiously optimistic that this will at least be slightly better than FoE
This is pretty much my view of it atm. If nothing else, compared to its predecessor it has nowhere to go but up. famous last words

I was actually wondering about this too. From what I can tell, the EFS works by somehow reading the intent of a pony/creature relative to the PipBuck wearer and displaying them as friendly, neutral or hostile. This is actually one of the few areas where having a technology be "magic" instead of electronic actually makes things less complicated. But anyway yes, it seems odd that the ghouls wouldn't be detected at all. My understanding of what happened is that they weren't unconscious or asleep, they were just unaware that the ponies were passing through the area. Sort like how in zombie movies the zombies just sort of wander around aimlessly or stand there until something catches their attention. Seems reasonable that the PipBuck would at the very least have detected their presence, and I agree that it most likely would mark them hostile by default.

The more I think about it the whole event feels a little contrived. Everything I like about Scoodle's character is still valid, as is the significance of having her die as a result of Blackjack's mistake. However, the actual situation the author cooked up that leads to her death leaves a lot to be desired. My guess is the author just had an idea for a creepy scene, but didn't completely think it through.

>Slowly I dropped my hooves from my face to look at the little machine as it went on. “So I’m asking you: is this it? Are you just a pony that wallows in self-pity and kicks herself for a mistake, or not? Because if this is it, then I’ll leave you be. I can’t help you. You can’t help anypony.”
Wow, that Michael Bay book was more popular than I realized.

Anyway, Frank continues to give BJ a pep talk, and slowly she begins to come around.

>It would be so easy just to give up. Fold the hand. Cash in the chips. Quitters might not go bust, but they’d also never make it big.
Ah, good. I see that Somber spent the extra fiver to get the bonus "Michael Bay's Book of Inspirational Gambling Cliches" PDF. An amazingly useful reference guide; I use it myself constantly. I mean, sometimes in life, you'll find that the chips are down. And even though you might throw snake eyes, sometimes you just have to go all in and bet everything you have on seven.

Aaaaanyway, Frank finishes up his pep talk, BJ decides to keep on keepin' on, and the scene ends in a page break.

>Turns out, starting involved me getting off that filthy bed and finding some RadAway before I either died outright or grew a second head.
Ah, there's our first mention of RadAway.

Frank knows of a place where she can find RadAway: a downed Ministry of Something-or-Other carriage that crashed 200 years ago, and was never looted because blah blah blah monsters; pretty standard FoE fare. Also in keeping with the FoE blueprint, I'm assuming the fact that BJ is presently rotting out from the inside due to acute radiation poisoning, which would only have gotten worse during the couple of days she wasted lying around moping, will in no way shape or form affect her ability to take out the bad guys.

>“Those are some nasty looking reptiles,” I muttered as I looked down at the lake surrounded by dead trees and gangly weeds. A small island on a cove was connected to the mainland by a rotten bridge. I could barely make out the sight of the upside down sky carriage mixed in with the remains of a gazebo. P-21 and I were crouched in the flattened remains of a small cottage a small ways above the gray waters of the small lake. ‘Lake Macintosh’ appeared on my PipBuck map.
Alright, let's get this over with.

BJ and P-21 spend a few minutes having a token argument over whether or not it's suicidally stupid for BJ to participate in the assault in her condition. It plays out exactly the way you would expect. Then, the fight proper begins.

Once again to Somber's credit, he proves just slightly more capable than kkat at doing kkat's schtick. There are three giant reptiles on the island according to her EFS, though BJ decides to err on the side of caution and assume there could be more. She fires at one of them to attract it, then kills it off. The other two are drawn by the noise and begin charging her as well.

She apparently has a shotgun and some type of rifle, and a very limited quantity of ammo like the first story, I am already finding it next to impossible to keep track of exactly which guns and how much of each type of ammo everyone is supposed to be carrying; I thought they picked up a ton of ammunition a few scenes ago but I could be mistaken. She expends everything she has for the rifle taking down the first gator, and the shotgun on the second. There is still one gator left, but she has no more bullets. Oh noes, whatever will she do?

>This would normally be the point where I would die and P-21 would take over and probably do the Wasteland a lot more good. There was just one catch: I wasn’t done paying for a little teal pony.
It's not the principal that kills you, it's the interest.

Anyway, much like Littlepip, she decides to creatively improvise. However, unlike Littlepip, her improvisations are so far a little more practical and don't involve as much blatant magical physics-rape. When the gator opens its mouth to eat her, she jams the empty shotgun in between its jaws to prop them open. Then, she tosses a grenade down its throat. It kerplodes. All in all, a concise, reasonably-executed fight: action was clearly described, and there was never any ambiguity about positions or number of combatants.

At this point, P-21 rejoins her. They immediately dive into an inappropriate side conversation.

>He rolled his eyes and gave a long sigh. “I’m back in the stable again.” I detected more than a little bitterness in that comment.
Yeah, but at least now you're no longer well-fed, sheltered from the elements and from enemies, and constantly getting laid. You have to look on the bright side, my dude.

>He rounded on me, teeth bared as he glared with undisguised anger. “My whole life, I’ve had mares telling me what I can and can’t do. I wasn’t even allowed the option of turning a mare down if she was on my breeding rotation.” He gave a little snort. “Did you know some males in 99 would cut or beat themselves just to get a break? Just to do something we wanted instead of what we were instructed to do?”
Aaaand those newly-developed testicles of his just went and crawled right back up his butt, never to be seen again.

Anyway, he keeps on blubbering for a few more paragraphs about how unfair and miserable life in the Stable was. BJ asks if this conversation can at least wait until she pops her RadAway, so she can give his emo-whining her full attention and not have to worry about shitting out her entire rotted digestive tract, but P-21 is having none of it. He wants to talk about this now.

He demands to know what, if anything, BJ would have done with her life had she not been conscripted into her role as a security mare. BJ is forced to admit that, since she had no real goals or ambitions anyway, life as a security mare probably wasn't all that bad. Probably a fair sight better than "designated toilet scrubber" or "pre-op groin shaver," at least.

It is at this point that we learn the source of P-21's eternally sour attitude: it turns out that he always wanted to be a teacher, but Stable rules had forced him to become a cabana-boy instead.

>“Before I was P-1 I tried to learn all I could about arcane sciences. That was how I knew Duct Tape so well; I studied off her as she went through training. I thought that if I knew enough that maybe the Overmare would let me teach. I would have been fine doing both jobs.” He opened up the crate and took out two empty syringes and two boxes of some kind of canned meat. “Know what the Overmare said? She said she’d let me teach sex education in my breeding rotation.”
Well, that would still be a fair sight better than letting the pre-op groin shaver teach sex education.

Anyway, while this is interesting enough as a chunk of P-21's backstory, this is hardly an appropriate time for them to be talking about it. Plus, it's been well established that the career-chip-based job system of Stable 99 was pretty fucked; at this point they are just whipping a dead emo cabana-boy horse.

To cut a long story short, P-21 gets the box open, BJ drinks the RadAway, and her radiation sickness is cured, or lessened, or something. We are told that her meter is in the yellow now, whatever that means. I guess the takeaway is that she is less radioactive than before, but still a little radioactive. Anyway, the conversation wraps itself up, and they reach an understanding. Here are the main bullet points:

>BJ observes that, based on his interactions with the Crusaders, P-21 is good with kids and would have probably made a good teacher
>P-21 acknowledges that, even though she is reckless and impulsive and kind of an idiot, BJ is also brave and resourceful, and actually did save his life at one point, so there's that
>while the two of them are still not actually friends, due to recent events they are less not-friends than they were before

Also, BJ finds a strange glowing sphere and decides to take it with her. Her PipBuck informs her that it's called a "Memory Orb." Oh, goody; more of those things. I can't wait to see what's inside it.

End of chapter.

>Footnote: Level Up.
>Skill Note: Guns (50)
>New Perk: Run and Gun - Better accuracy with ranged weapons while moving.
>Quest Perk: Minor Mutation: Rad Sight - When under the effects of minor radiation poisoning, gain +1 Perception in low light conditions. -15 to sneak, speech when not wearing sunglasses, authority glasses, or mirrored sunglasses.
As with the first story, I have no idea if I'm supposed to take these "level up" comments literally, or just read them as tongue-in-cheek references to the video game origins of this story.

Chapter 4: Innocence

>Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons
>By Somber
>Chapter 4: Innocence
Ah, we're still reading the same book by the same author. Good. I remember one time, I was reading Treasure Island and suddenly it turned into Bonfire of the Vanities. I was confused as all hell. Announcing the title and author at the beginning of every single chapter could have helped me avoid this confusion. t. nobody, ever.

>“Another donut! Extra sprinkles!”
The author's bad formatting makes this chapter's unattributed mystery quote even less comprehensible than usual. Normally, the italics make it clear enough that the first line of every chapter is meant to be read as an epigraph. But, in this case, the opening paragraph of the chapter is a quote from the Overmare's log on BJ's PipBuck, and is thus also italicized. Thus, the way this text reads, it seems that the chapter opens with a random person saying "Another donut! Extra sprinkles!", followed by a non-sequitur transcription of an old audio log. Had Somber at least adopted the convention of centering his epigraphs the way kkat did, this minor yet somehow extremely irritating issue could have been resolved.

Anyway, fuck. As I said, the chapter opens with one of the logs that P-21 copied onto her PipBuck before she escaped. It's basically just the Overfilly ranting to herself about how she rules with terror and oppression from the shadows, because everypony plots against her. Here's the full thing if you want to read it:

>Stable Overmare’s log 11-#231: There is a threat to my stable and my ponies. A threat within that must be dealt with. Numerous problems plague the stable, and I am certain of the cause: her name is Rivets. When I assumed the Overmare position, as per my right, she resisted me from the very beginning. Patronizing. Insulting. Countermanding and fighting me at every turn. I am the Overmare! Stable-Tec created my position, gave ME authority, but she believes the stable is hers. Worse, she has a significant following among the security ponies. The head of security herself dared countermand my arrest order! Oh, she claimed there was no law, but I am the law! Something will have to be done about the nag. I won’t let her do it to me again.

In other exciting news, P-21 is once again in a pissy mood. On top of that, it's also raining. So, BJ is listening to the log files as they walk. I still have no idea where they're headed exactly, but we'll put a pin in that for now.

>Stable Overmare’s log 11-#233: If help cannot be found within the stable, then it must be found without. To do that, I’ll need to make contact with the outside, and I think I’ve found a pony to help me with that. Duct Tape from the night shift. She’s quiet, well trained, and obedient. Above all, she’s lonely and naïve. I just need to find the correct leverage to use against her. Perhaps her foal? Or maybe I won’t even need that; I had her move some stable broadcast equipment to Maintenance One, and she did so without question or speculation. Best of all, it infuriated Rivets.

These logs seem to mostly be filling in a few of the gaps in our knowledge of how the Stable fell. The Overfilly, paranoid that Rivets might be trying to overthrow her, decided to contact StableTec headquarters and have them send backup. She enlisted Duct Tape to do the grunt work of unsealing the door, through some combination of bribery and coercion. It seems that P-21, then called P-20, factored into this: he and Duct Tape seem to have had a deeper relationship than was typical between breeder and breedee. The Overfilly took advantage of this, promising Duct Tape unrestricted access to her favorite cabana boy in return for doing her evil bidding. Yada yada yada, it worked; DT unsealed the door. With access to the outside world no longer a problem, the Overfilly needed a way to establish contact with StableTec HQ. She selected an unidentified male to send on this errand. This turns out to be U-21, the guy who was helping the invaders earlier.

The author did a reasonably good job thinking all of this out. The Overfilly's line of reasoning makes sense: she has no idea what's been going on in the outside world for the last two centuries, but probably has access to whatever spotty historical records were loaded into the maneframes, plus whatever procedural manuals StableTec would have provided. She assumes that StableTec still exists somewhere, and will provide support if she requests it. Seeing as how she is also a naive, spoiled child with an overinflated sense of her own power, she interprets any criticism of her leadership, however warranted, as rebellion, and thus becomes suspicious of Rivets and Gin Rummy. Believing that there is a plot brewing against her, she cooks up a super-sekrit plan to send word to StableTec that she can't trust her own security team, and that she needs them to send reinforcements.


>Stable Overmare’s log 11-#240: Success! U-21 made contact with Stable-Tec almost immediately. He has put me in touch with Stable-Tec’s director Sanguine… a male, apparently. He verified his position by accurately identifying several Stable-Tec passwords from when the stable was first sealed. He was quite sympathetic to my needs and assured me that, once the stable was back in my hooves, Stable-Tec had no interest in interfering. His only price for assistance was a file in my databases. I suspect deception, but I have no alternatives. I will put Duct Tape on extracting this file.

Whether or not U-21 ever seriously tried to find StableTec HQ is unknown; most probably he just decided to run for it, when he was intercepted at some point by Deus's group. For reasons unknown, this group wanted the EC-1101 file from Stable 99. So, using U-21 as a go-between, they pretend to be StableTec representatives and agree to "help" the Overfilly. U-21 probably betrayed the Stable willingly enough, since he would have been in a similar position to P-21.

Anyway, this goes on for a while. The Overfilly employed U-21 into arranging a deal with this Sanguine character, whose true identity is yet unknown. She also promised Duct Tape that when it was all over, she and P-21 would be free to pursue their own life together on the surface. However, Duct Tape seems to have suspected that the Overfilly might not keep her word, so she encrypted the EC-1101 file and refused to give up the password until the Overfilly held up her end of the deal.

Unfortunately, this seems to have backfired on her. The Overfilly, angry at being defied, apparently decided it would be easier to just have Duct Tape killed and then have her own underlings work on breaking the encryption. This is actually a mind-numbingly stupid decision, since all DT wanted was to leave the stable, and the OF didn't technically need her anymore after the door was unsealed. The sensible course of action would have just been to do what she said she would do in the first place: let DT and P-21 go, in exchange for the password. However, it's well established that the Overfilly hates being defied and is bat-shit crazy anyway, so this is all pretty much in character for her.

So, she booby-traps a terminal and has DT needlessly killed. At this point, she has roughly 24 hours to break the encryption before Deus and his team show up to collect the file. However, since it turns out that Deus is going to betray her anyway, she inadvertently flips him the bird on her way out by ensuring that all he will gain for his troubles is a file that he can't open. In any event, the whole plan goes to pot when Blackjack ends up taking the file and running out the door with it, and...we all know the rest. I think.


>The next few recordings became more and more hysterical. Screaming, crying, and desperate rants. Half of them involved the Overmare begging somepony not to hurt her. The other half about how killing ‘her’ was the only thing she could do.
Logically, you would assume that these were her last recordings, made during the Stable invasion, and the "somepony" whose mercy the Overfilly is begging for would be Deus. However, this is not the case; the timeline for these appears to roughly the period before BJ went to play cards with Rivets and the maintenance ponies during Ch 1.

This timeline is confirmed by the last message in the log:

>My log… it’s time. Sanguine can worry about the encryption himself. Blackjack is meeting with Rivets as I record this; I have no doubt that the coup is imminent. Deus has several dozen ponies ready, and now I must take back what is mine. If I don’t act now, then I’m certain that tomorrow I’ll not have a stable. I will not be the final Overmare of Stable 99. This is my stable. And nopony shall ever hurt me here again. Not her. Not anypony.
Whoever is "hurting" the OF in the previous recordings, they don't seem to fear her authority, which suggests an outsider. However, this was clearly recorded prior to Deus's invasion of the Stable.

BJ is also perplexed by this:

>“Hurt her? Who hurt the Overmare? She’s the Overmare! No pony could ever touch her!” I sighed and shook my head. P-21 walked pensively beside me, hanging his head a little.
This seems to confirm my suspicion that there is one more piece to this puzzle, which the author is deliberately leaving out for now.

Oh, this is from earlier, but there's one more thing in this section that bears mention:

>I watched him, his odd mask-like expression. What was he thinking? “Did you... like her?”
>He glanced at me with a cool look. “She liked me. That was all that mattered.”
>“That’s not what I meant. I mean...” Goddesses, could I slog through an awkward conversation or what?
>He looked at me and sighed. “She helped me. That’s something only one other mare’s done. So I’m thankful for that and sorry she died, but no. I didn’t like her. Not like you’re asking.”
From what we've seen, it's obvious that Duct Tape was in love with P-21. He is probably also the father of Scotch Tape. DT likely expected, or at least hoped, that the two of them possibly three; it's not clear if she planned on taking her filly along or was just planning to abandon her would be able to escape the Stable and pursue some kind of relationship on the surface. However, in the above exchange, we learn that P-21 did not feel the same way. From what I can tell, his plan was to dump her and go off on his own the second the two of them made it to the surface. This whole thing is turning into a regular soap opera.

Anyway, the takeaway from all this seems to be that Sanguine, the mystery player, is at the center of the drama. It's easiest to just let P-21 explain:

>“First, that this ‘Sanguine’ was probably watching the stable before U-21 left it. You know how dangerous this place is. A lone stable unicorn wouldn’t have lasted long. Second, Sanguine has some links to Stable-Tec; the Overmare confirmed that with his codes. Third, he clearly had a grasp of the Overmare’s psychology. I suspect we’re looking for somepony who’s spent time in a stable themselves. Fourth, he’s got established contacts with Reapers and raiders. Deus might have been brutal, but he also showed restraint rather than charging through and killing everything.”
So, gang, it looks like we have a mystery on our hands. Hooves. Whatever.

BJ sees the situation as less complicated, however:

>“So we find and kill Sanguine and we win? Sweet. I love a simple plan,” I said with a smile
So do I, as it turns out.

Anyway, fuck. So far, the story is shaping up surprisingly well. We're 4 chapters and roughly 45,000 words in, and already we've got decent character arcs and a plot involving a central problem. For comparison, by Ch 4 in FoE, Littlepip was still wandering aimlessly around some weapons factory and hadn't even met Calamity yet.

Basic storytelling competency? In my FoE spinoff? Apparently, it's more common than you think.

So, they've got an objective now. The plan is to find Sanguine and kill him, which I guess solves both their problems and the Stable's. Assuming the Stable even still exists. That seems like a big 'if', actually. But again: this story at least has a plot, and has done a pretty decent job of sticking to it so far. For comparison, in terms of word count, 45k into FoE would put us at about the point in the story where Littlepip decides, for no reason I've ever been able to discern, to invade a town full of slavers and single-handedly murder all of them. As such, I'm grading Somber's story on a pretty generous curve.

Anyway, in order to take on Sanguine, along with Deus and whoever else is still after them, they are going to need guns and whatnot. Since the best way to gather supplies in the Wasteland seems to involve picking fights with random enemies, BJ decides to investigate some red blips she spots on her radar. Unfortunately, the enemy turns out to be one of those "roboponies" she was warned about earlier. It begins shooting some kind of heat laser at them. However, she is able to clonk it over the head with her baton enough times that eventually it breaks the robot, not the baton. P-21 opens the thing's chest cavity and scoops out whatever electronic bric-a-brac is inside: some "scrap electronics," plus some crystals and a battery and whatever the fuck else.

With that out of the way, it's on to their next adventure. Which, as it turns out, is just more of the same.

BJ moves a little further into the woods or whatever, and finds four more roboponies. The first one she dispatches in the same manner: she clonks it on the head three times, three being the magic number, not four, and not two, but three. Five is right out. Also, the thing's heat laser singes her neck a little while she's fighting it.

She manages to take out two more by lobbing a grenade over a wall. The static geometry in Somber's world seems as indestructible as in kkat's. The last one she takes out the old fashioned way: by clobbering it on the head. Well, I'm glad we got all that sorted out.

There is a building nearby, with some freshly-murdered corpses lying near the door, so naturally BJ and P-21 decide to go investigate. The dead ponies turn out to be Pegasi, which BJ has never seen before. She is just having all sorts of fascinating life experiences since leaving the Stable, isn't she?

Anyway, yada yada yada. They loot the corpses, pick up some kind of magic laser weapon, along with the usual assortment of random crap, and go inside the building, which her PipBuck informs her is called Weather Station 4. Since the two pegasi were obviously killed trying to escape from this place, BJ decides that it would be prudent to go inside and poke around a little. P-21 opts to wait for her outside.

She enters a dimly lit room that, naturally, is full of skeletons. Also, there are more of those fucking robot things. However, BJ decides to change things up a little and kill them with her new zappy-magic-gun-thingy, instead of just bopping them all on the head one at a time. She takes a hit to the chest at one point, but her barding seems to mostly deflect the damage, and a healing potion takes care of the rest.

She continues to explore. She finds some more skeletons and some more pegasus corpses, and also another beam gun and some crystal cartridges for it. She also encounters a locked healing-supply box; she notes its location and resolves to come back with P-21 once the area is clear.

There's something else I've noticed, which falls into our "small improvements" category. BJ doesn't seem to be able to open locks, whereas P-21 can. Anons who remember my FoE review will recall that Littlepip, in addition to her obnoxiously overpowered-underpowered "levitate" spell, her badass stealth-ninja skills that she has because reasons, her expert marksmanship due to SATS, her absurdly high negotiation skills acquired as a side-effect of her crack-mint problem, her nearly-invulnerable body, as well as all the other ridiculous advantages the author gave her over her environment, she also had her lockpicking ability completely maxed out by like the third chapter. Littlepip was basically a one-mare army who could solve virtually any problem on her own without assistance; her friends were just along for the ride. This story seems a little more balanced, in the most literal vidya game sense of the word.

BJ has the same SATS power as LP, but it seems to have more reasonable limits imposed on how often it can be used. She has some basic aptitude at hand-to-hand hoof; whatever combat due to her security training. Apart from that, she has no other apparent skills. P-21 is adept at stealth, lockpicking, and that sort of thing, but seems pretty useless in a fight. In other words, these two are pretty much starting from zero; they each have their strengths and weaknesses, and they need to learn how to function as a team in order to survive. You know, like they would have to if they were characters in the sort of RPG-style game that this world is allegedly based on.

So far, the unremarkable Jane Everymare protagonist is behaving the way you would logically expect her to; nopony is picking up boxcars and lobbing them at alicorns yet. Resisting the temptation to give your protagonist unreasonable advantages or powers, even though she's your kick-ass protagonist and you think she's cool enough to deserve them, is a sign of maturity and good instinct.

Anyway, as BJ explores, it begins to strike her as passing strange that there are so many skeletons in here. I'm not sure what the appropriate number of skeletons is for any given location in this world, but from what I've seen it's quite high.

>There were enough bones for a hundred ponies, and lots of them were quite small.
The bones were small, or the ponies were small? This is an important distinction; it should be made clearer.

>As I reached the stairs at the end of the hall I heard the scrape of P-21 entering. No doubt he’d start on the robots in the hall.
Maybe I spoke too soon; it sounds like P-21 might be willing to do some fighting after all. Not sure why he had a change of heart.

Anyway, it goes on like this for a bit. BJ wanders around, sees more skeletons and dead bodies, finds some more junk, and eventually comes to a door, beyond which there appear to be two hostiles and a friendly.

>Reaching the door at the end of the hall, I bit the handle of the pistol, gently gripped the doorhandle with my magic, and slowly turned it, wincing at the grinding noise.
Another small improvement: unlike Littlepip, Blackjack's magic can either hold her gun or operate the door handle, but not both at the same time. She is not able to manipulate thousands of objects simultaneously without any consideration for weight or distance.

Anyway, she doesn't want to just toss a grenade into the room since there's a non-hostile in there, so instead she goes charging in. The two roboponies fire their lazars, and she scampers across the room and hides in the closet. Due to the size of the doorway, the robots can't both enter at once, so she is able to shoot them each at point blank range with her magic beam pistol. The question of whether or not the robots' heat laser weapons are powerful enough to cut through either the walls or the door is never addressed; again, Somber seems to have adopted kkat's video-game rule that architecture is static geometry and is thus usually unaffected by physics. I can't say I agree with this logic, but it is what it is.

With the hostiles dealt with, BJ can now turn her attention to whatever is in this room. She finds a terminal, an automatic pistol (the regular kind, not the magic kind), and some ammo. The non-hostile she saw on her radar turns out to be a pony hiding in a crawlspace under the floor. However, as soon as BJ approaches, the pony apparently decides that she is a threat. The yellow blip turns into a red blip, and the pony begins firing laser blasts at BJ. The scene ends in a page break.

Well, as luck would have it, BJ is fine. Despite being shot point-blank in the face, she appears to have even an even better dodge modifier than Trump. She gets off with a minor burn on the face that a healing potion is able to cure.

The pony who shot her turns out to be a female pegasus. BJ is understandably upset that the pegasus just opened fire on her without asking questions, seeing as how she had been courteous enough not to blow her up with a grenade and all, but P-21 (who arrived sometime in the ether-space between scenes) advises her to go in the bathroom and have a look at her reflection.

>Since when did my eyes fucking glow? Now that I was paying attention to the amber light, it wasn’t the result of light slipping through boarded over windows or emergency lighting. The light came from my eye sockets as if I had a little PipBuck lamp glowing in the back of each. “Well… fuck…” I said lamely as I finished the bottle of lukewarm soda. After everything that had happened in the last three days, I’d finally reached the point of numb acceptance. My eyes were glowing. What could I do about it?
The text has mentioned "amber light" a few times off and on, and I was a little curious what the deal with that was. Apparently, it's due to BJ's eyes having acquired some kind of luminescence. Presumably this is a side-effect of the massive dose of radiation she received earlier.

Anyway, with the whole issue of who-shot-who-and-why more or less resolved, BJ goes back into the main room and has a look at the pegasus she just sort-of rescued:

>She looked pretty ragged. Her black coveralls were torn and stained with waste. She didn’t look like a wastelander. In fact, she looked more rattled than the Crusaders.
iirc, the pegasi in this world are all part of a separatist community called the Enclave that lives in the clouds. It seems like a normie pegasus would have had a similar upbringing to a Stable pony, so presumably this one is as unaccustomed to life in the Wasteland as BJ herself.

Anyway, the details don't seem to matter much. The pegasus is still suspicious of how glowy BJ's eyes are, and so BJ tells her she can just fuck off if she wants to. It turns out that she does in fact want to, and so off is the direction in which she fucks. She may or may not reappear later in the story.

With that out of the way, BJ and P-21 now turn their attention to the terminal:

>I looked at the massive terminal. “So… any clue what that thing is for?”
>“It’s on a security lockout.” He glanced at the piles of ash and the robot recharge bay. “I guess they failed to enter the right password. That activated the sentries.”
>And that meant there was no chance to hack the terminal without ending the lock-out. “Great…” I muttered as I spotted another pegasus skeleton in the corner…
Maybe this is a silly question, but...is there any reason you actually need to mess with this terminal? My understanding is that the two of you only came in here to get supplies, which you've now done. I guess I can understand idle curiosity to a point, but if accessing whatever is on this terminal is more trouble than it's worth...maybe just leave it be?

Well unfortunately, despite Somber's improvements here and there, this kind of logical thinking is still verboten in Edgequestria. BJ examines one of the room's many skeletons and finds a recording cartridge she can play on her PipBuck.

The recording is standard FoE fare: some long-dead NPCs are having a conversation, then everything explodes, then the NPCs die, for some reason in the presence of a running tape recorder. If anyone cares about the details, this building used to be a weather station, there were a bunch of foals sheltering inside when the megaspells went off, they all died, and that's where all the tiny skeletons in this building came from. Very tragic; much sad.

>“Kids aren’t doing so good. I’m not doing so good. Fuck. Couldn’t get to Thunderhead now if I wanted. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I contacted Jack Knife at Weather One and Bluebells at Weather Three hours ago. They were told to abandon too. Think Jack left, I dunno. Nopony’s answering anymore. Somepony help us. Anypony.” The recording gave one last crackle and I heard him whisper, “Fuck… they’re fucking kids… fuck…”
>For the longest time I thought that was it. Then I heard a grating rasp that rose and fell. It wasn’t static. “Fuckers… fuckers abandoned us… told me… told me to stop transmitting… switched channels on me… fuckers… didn’t give a shit for the kids.” There was a spate of coughing. “Is that blood? Shit… it is, isn’t it? Fuck… Dash was right… I thought… shit… Fucking right… fuck…”
As a side note, this recording might have unlocked some kind of Steam achievement for largest number of fucks in a single log entry.

Anyway, as the recording plays, the sad violin music swells. BJ pounds the ground with her hoof, tears streaming down her face, as she curses the...humanity...of the situation? Ponanaity? Poonanny? Equanimity? Inanity? Oh, who gives a fuck anyway?

>Damn it! I’d been fine when the bones were just bones. I didn’t want to think of dozens of foals dying slowly of radiation poisoning while someone, somewhere, casually let them die. “How could they?”
It's actually much easier than you'd think. It literally would have required no action whatsoever.

>I spotted her hiding in the doorway, sitting down on the floor looking at her hooves. “There was nothing we could do,” she said in a soft, buzzing drawl. “After the bombs went off… every pegasus that could get home was recalled. We had to save as much as we could.”
Wait, what? Is this the same pegasus as before? Unless I'm misunderstanding what's going on here, this pony would have to be 200+ years old to have witnessed these events. Has she been here all this time? How, and why?

Well, after reading a little further, I think I might have taken her statement too literally. Here's the deal with the pegasus:

Her name is Morning Glory. She is a member of the Volunteer Corps, which is some kind of Enclave civilian unit working to reestablish contact with the surface world. She and a bunch of other pegasi were sent down here with gifts and supplies and what-have-you, on a mission to make contact with any ponies they could find. For whatever insane reason, they were not provided with any weapons or any combat training.

In a surprise twist that will surprise no one, the first surface-ponies her group encountered were a pack of raiders, who proceeded to rape them, murder them, rape them again, eat the corpses, call them names, pee on them, bum smokes off of them, borrow money they had no intention of paying back; they just did absolutely awful stuff to them. Worst weekend those poor little pegasus buggers ever had.

Morning Glory and a few others somehow managed to get away and hole up in this abandoned weather station, which they were horrified to discover is full of the skeletons of dead children left behind or murdered or something by the Enclave 200 years ago. They wanted to boot up this terminal for whatever the fuck silly reason, and wound up accidentally triggering the security system. Morning Glory was in the crawlspace futzing with some wires when the shooty-robots started shooting, and was the only one who survived. The rest is history.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that Morning Glory seems to be in a bit of a state. Blackjack, speaking from all of her two days of Wasteland experience, suggests bloody rampage as the best cure for depression. She proposes that if Morning Glory joins the party, together they will get revenge for the deaths of her comrades, protect the surviving Crusaders from future abduction by this specific group of raiders at least, have good wholesome fun committing mass murder, and replenish their supplies, all in one fell swoop. If you don't believe me, read it in her own words:

>I let out a long sigh. “Actually, no. First, I don’t want anypony caught by raiders if I can do something about it. Secondly, I don’t like the idea of raiders having beam weapons taken off your comrades. Thirdly, there might be five young fillies in this area and I don’t like the idea of them getting captured again. Fourthly, I need caps and ammunition and taking it from murdering scum sounds fine to me,” I said as I listed them all off, rolling my eyes in thought. “Oh yeah, and it’s fun. You’ll find that out if you come with us.”
Straight from the horse's mouth, as it were. Morning Glory mostly just seems surprised that BJ wants her along in the first place. Maybe she smells or something.

>“Sure. Your friends were attacked and killed. You’ve been trapped in a coffin under a terminal for a week. I’m pretty sure some part of you wants some payback.”
She was hiding in that crawlspace for a whole week? What was she eating? Where was she going to the bathroom? Or should I even ask?

Anyway, it's looking like Morning Glory is going to be this story's quiet, gentle Fluttershy-type character. BJ has to coax and cajole her quite a bit, but she reluctantly agrees to join, though it seems like she doesn't fully trust BJ just yet.

Oh, also:

>“Oh no. The Volunteer Corps are issued surplus arms and armor separate from security and scouting forces.”
Looks like I made a minor mistake earlier. I thought she had said that the Volunteer Corps were sent down unarmed; it looks like I read that bit wrong:

> “I… all my friends… we were sent to make contact… we had gifts… no heavy weapons. No power armor.”
Looks like they weren't given heavy weapons or power armor, but they still had light arms, hence the blasty-pistol she used to shoot Blackjack in the face earlier.

Anyway, MG does some repair work on the blasty-pistols they have in their possession, and BJ comments that she seems skilled. This provides a segue into her backstory.

From the bits and pieces of poorly-fleshed-out backstory in kkat's abortion of a fic, we know that the Grand Pegasus Enclave is basically a modern, civilized state that exists in the clouds. The pegasi pulled out towards the end of the war and sealed themselves off, and were thus able to stave off the worst of the devastation that befell the rest of Equestria.

Since 200 years have passed, there now appears to be some internal controversy about whether or not the pegasi should rejoin the surface world and try to help it rebuild. Morning Glory appears to have been part of some kind of youth-led political movement in favor of re-establishing contact:

>“I… I was a student at the Thunderhead academy,” she flushed. “There were some protests… nothing serious. Just a lot of us wanting to come down. That’s why the Volunteer Corps were established.” And ripped to pieces by raiders. Convenient.
The establishment of the Volunteer Corps seems to have been a rather shrewd move by the Enclave government.

A group of bleeding-heart luvvie college students think that the Enclave should help the poor, starving ponies of the Wasteland below. To emphasize this point, they stage some mostly-peaceful protests with probably just a few small fires. However, instead of either suppressing them or indulging them, the Enclave elects to give them exactly what they asked for, to the letter.

The protestors are assembled into a shoddy, undisciplined proto-military unit, given two weeks worth of simple combat training, armed with shoddy weapons and armor, and dropped into the Wasteland to "establish contact." It goes about as you'd expect: the Wasteland tears them to pieces in a matter of days. Think "bleeding-heart white girl goes on spirit journey to connect with the poor starving Negroids, gets culturally enriched."

The not-so-subtle implication is that this is exactly the outcome the Enclave wanted. They settled a hot-button political issue and got rid of an annoying group of troublemakers all in one fell swoop, and managed to pull it off in the most cost-effective and optics-friendly way possible. Honestly? Sounds like the kind of thing we should be doing with BLM protesters and the like. So far I'm liking the Enclave more and more.

>“Well, your call,” I said, gathering up Brolly’s remains in a bag.
Wait, who's Brolly again?

>Outside, I found a tree and cleared out a hole at its base with my horn. There wasn’t room or time to do anything fancy, so I set the bag into the depression and covered it once again.
Oh, right, that guy from the recording earlier that she was going to dig a grave for.

>I levitated a pointed rock and scratched out ‘Brolly’ and ‘He tried.’ on the trunk.
If Somber keeps playing his cards right, he might end up being remembered the same way. Personally, I think "Won't someone please think of the children?!?" would have made a better epitaph for Brolly, but it is what it is.

Anyway, after taking the time to dig a grave and carve a personalized tombstone for Brolly, the three ponies pack up their bags and head west, leaving the bones of literally hundreds of dead children, as well as the decomposing corpses of Morning Glory's fellow Volunteers, untouched and unburied in the halls of Weather Station 4 with nary a thought. What the hell is it with this setting and selective sympathy for the dead, anyway?

Page break. The trio sallies forth, on their way to murder some raiders, apparently.

>As we journeyed back towards the west, I let Glory take some potshots at the bloatsprites. She could shoot when she worked up the nerve. I couldn’t begin to guess how she aimed a weapon like that with no sights, but between a half dozen bloatsprites and one radhog I was pleasantly impressed.
Oh look, little miss "I've been in the Wasteland for all of like two frickin days" is suddenly a battle-hardened combat vet. Since it's been established that she's had at least some basic firearms training as a result of her role in Security, I'll grudgingly add it to the list of Somber's small improvements. Still though, her inner Littlepip is starting to show, and I can't say I like it.

Anyway, as they walk, we learn a little more about the current situation. It seems that the Enclave is conducting limited outreach operations across the Wasteland, mostly through "volunteer" civilian groups like Morning Glory's. We are also told that the Enclave is conducting diplomatic missions as well, though I'm not sure how that would work since the Wasteland is literal anarchy. Who exactly are they sending diplomats to?

There is apparently some pushback from various Wasteland factions; the Steel Rangers in particular don't seem to like the Enclave. Blackjack is rather suspicious of their intentions as well. Morning Glory, however, seems to have complete faith in what she and her fellow pegasi are trying to do.

Anyway, it turns out the raiders' hideout is an old donut shop. They approach, and BJ's PipBuck detects one lone sentry wandering around out back. She decides to dispatch him first.

>I approached as quietly as I was able, baton floating beside me as the raider let out a rather epic bowel movement. He’d probably have to kill it with a shovel afterwards.
So the raider was going outside to poop? He's not just going to shit all over his own mattress like the rest of them do? What a refined chap; it's a shame he has to die.

BJ tries to reason with him out of compassion or as a gesture of goodwill to Morning Glory or something. It doesn't work, so ultimately she just clobbers him to death with her baton. That's one down.

>A pulpy noise that oddly matched his bowels filled the air and his whole body jerked and fell flat next to his reeking pile of filth.
Whoever said this fandom's literature was lacking in artistic taste?
>Something we haven't encountered yet called a Robopony:

> >“That’s what they are, so don’t you laugh. Pony gadgets wandering all over the Core. Dangerous critters, too. You see a pony made of wires and lights, you best run. Can’t kill ‘em.”

This is interesting to recall when reading your latest posts. I can understand a small street urchin being wary of certain monsters that adults find easier to handle, but she says this almost definitively, as if it is a particular trait of them to consider. However it's most likely exaggeration, and they are simply too tough to bother with.

I bring this up because Blackjack goes in and casually kills several of them with little real effort, even bashing a couple with an antipersonnel security baton. It reminds me how FO:E had all sorts of monsters who should be a problem to deal with or are hyped up to be dangerous and end up being shitty mindless fodder for the protagonist to easily cleave through.