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[GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Silver136 on Sat May 31, 2014 1:42 pm

Actually, most of Stable 2 had Apple blood in them. Applejack was pregnant when she was locked in.
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Vinylshadow on Sat May 31, 2014 3:01 pm

Oh yeah

So Pipsqueaks's got Apple Blood, BJ's got some Twi blood...

Wouldn't surprise me if there's fanfics floating around with the great-great-something grandfoals of other Ministry Mares in 'em as well, but taking that as canon would be dubious at best

I know that one version of New Pegas has one of Pinkie's descendants
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Scienza on Sat May 31, 2014 3:20 pm

swicked wrote:
Vinylshadow wrote:I'm still trying to wrap my my mind around "Bi for Applejack"

Last time I checked...weren't they both mares?
All of the mane six were straight. It was said in FoE at some point, I believe, and kkat confirmed it.
In FoE, not necessarily. The only real discussion of Rainbow's sexuality is when AJ tells her that she's straight, which just only reinforces my whole "unrequited love" headcanon. Also wasn't Flarity in the original as well? IIRC, Rarity's last words were something along the lines of "I love you, Fluttershy."

As for Kkat's confirmation, well, headcanons differ. In Scienzaland, Rainbow's love life is a tragedy.

EDIT: On the Flarity, they're not exactly her last words, but they're pretty close.

FoE Ch. 37 wrote:
A tear dripped down one of Rarity’s cheeks.  “I love you, Fluttershy.  And I am not going to let you stay.”  Rarity smiled softly but her voice brooked no argument.  “Now pull yourself up and come with me, or I’ll drag you all the way with my teeth.”

Of course, it might just be platonic love, but that means you aren't thinking like a shipper.


Last edited by Scienza on Sat May 31, 2014 3:29 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Rayndalf on Sat May 31, 2014 3:25 pm

Vinylshadow wrote:I'm still trying to wrap my my mind around "Bi for Applejack"

Last time I checked...weren't they both mares?
The most probable scenerio that satisfies the word of (our) god that being Rainbow Dash caused Glory to have sex with Splendid, and that (as I am now thoroughly convinced) Rainbow Dash was in love with Applejack. I don't really care what kkat says to the contrary...
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Vinylshadow on Sat May 31, 2014 3:43 pm

RD may have felt something for AJ, but I'm guessing it was nothing more than a...whatchamacallems...schoolyard crush?

Wouldn't surprise me if that's what made RD throw herself into the Ministry of Awesome

She saw her friend working hard to protect Equestria and drew inspiration from that

AJ would fight on the front lines (figuratively speaking) whereas RD woudl fight behind (enemy) lines
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Scienza on Sat May 31, 2014 4:41 pm

Vinylshadow wrote:RD may have felt something for AJ, but I'm guessing it was nothing more than a...whatchamacallems...schoolyard crush?

Wouldn't surprise me if that's what made RD throw herself into the Ministry of Awesome

She saw her friend working hard to protect Equestria and drew inspiration from that

AJ would fight on the front lines (figuratively speaking) whereas RD woudl fight behind (enemy) lines
It's all in your interpretation. I don't expect it to be actually canon (and as far as the thread has shown, it doesn't seem that Somber or Kkat share this opinion), but I feel that it adds an interesting element to Rainbow's character and her self-imposed isolation in the centuries after the war.

Moar AppleDash Speculatin':

I made a joke about this interaction earlier, but it all sort of boils down to one moment:
FoE Ch. 14 wrote:“Aw, if you wanted some company,” Rainbow Dash clopped the orange pony on her cutie mark, “You could have just asked me.”

The earth pony fixed Rainbow Dash with a look.  “My barn door don’t swing that way.”   Something stirred in me.  “An’ neither does yours.”  The stirring died.
Now, there are multiple ways one could interpret this. 

A) You could see this as RD making a joke to throw AJ off balance (which it does, but that's so much more boring and less gooey). 
B) You can read this as RD just being drunk off her ass and making stupid jokes (which is also valid, but once again, doesn't really add much to her character).
C) You can read this as RD suggesting that she would be very open to a relationship between the two. It's stated as a joke, but notice that RD states that if AJ had been feeling lonely, RD would have touched butts with her. It's not "If you came to me, I'd have loan you some of my porn stash" or "I know some places where we can pick up some hot pieces of ass" or even "I could have hooked you up with Snowflake", it's very specifically that if AJ had wanted the sexy fun times, she could have gone to Dash and gotten it. This implies that a) Rainbow would be open to having sexual relations with that woman. b) Rainbow sees their relationship as being sufficiently intimate that moving to the next stage would be entirely possible. The "you could've" implies that, even in a joking context, RD sees a possible shift from "friends" to "friends-with-benefits" (and maybe to "half a dozen foals named after apple-related products) as an actual possibility. c) Rainbow sees the idea that Applejack would actually come to her as something entirely possible. This is easily the shakiest of three already very shaky conclusions, but the way I read it, the statement suggests that RD thinks that she doesn't see it as unreasonable that Rainbow would be the one that AJ would turn to in search of romance. The rest of the conversation indicates that AJ doesn't evidently think so, but that doesn't mean that Rainbow isn't trying to make it true. 

The fact that AJ then feels she has to tell Rainbow that Rainbow is straight is also rather revealing. One's sexuality isn't something that you just forget, or need to be reminded of, so that Apples needs to tell Dash about her own sexuality implies less that Speedycloud likes boys and more that what RD is saying is real enough that it makes AJ insecure. AJ doesn't particularly want Dash to be into her because of how it would affect their relationship, especially since AJ just hooked up with Sgt. Racism, and so she feels she has to crush Dash's implications and possible feelings as unambiguously as possible while reaffirming her own understanding of their relationship.

Also, RD touched AJ's butt.

Throw in a healthy bit of extrapolation, speculation, and the connection of dots that might not actually be connected, and you get the conclusion that Rainbow was concealing an unrequited love for Applejack all this time.

As for why I believe in this particular headcanon (besides a previous obsession with  appreciation of the ship), I think that it adds a very interesting dynamic to Rainbow's characterization and actions. As far as is known from either text, Rainbow never forms any really substantial romantic relationships. Now while one can see this as a "Ha! Take that!" to the vast majority of shippers who pair Dash with everything, I see it as more interesting if it's because Rainbow's holding onto her feelingss for the one that got away. It adds another layer to her general post-war feelings of being lost in numb uncertainty while adding a bit more explanation to why she's become so disillusioned about helping the surface. She loved a mare that was never really her's, any hope of telling Applejack about how she really felt long lost to balefire and time.


Last edited by Scienza on Sun Jun 01, 2014 11:42 am; edited 8 times in total
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Vinylshadow on Sat May 31, 2014 4:51 pm

See?

Keeping something open to interpretation is a good thing in a story, it leaves room for other stories to be made

Having a rock-solid steel-clad canon with each and ever detail hammered out isn't any fun, which is why I like the gap between LittlePip entering the SPP and the Afterword

A lot of things can happen in 10 years

Part of me wonders if RD comforted AJ after Applesnack killed Zecora and something happened

Maybe not romantic, but it let them see sides of each other they hadn't before

Maybe RD will visit Stable 2 after everything comes to a close (provided she's not killed off so we have closure to each of the Ministry Mares) and pay her respects to a dear friend
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Scienza on Sat May 31, 2014 5:04 pm

Vinylshadow wrote:See?

Keeping something open to interpretation is a good thing in a story, it leaves room for other stories to be made

Having a rock-solid steel-clad canon with each and ever detail hammered out isn't any fun, which is why I like the gap between LittlePip entering the SPP and the Afterword
I never said that my headcanon was absolute canon, just that it's the headcanon that I subscribe to. I find it interesting, but that doesn't mean that it has to be yours.


Part of me wonders if RD comforted AJ after Applesnack killed Zecora and something happened

Maybe not romantic, but it let them see sides of each other they hadn't before
I'm with you in that I think this would be a very interesting possibility. While it would be revealing if it did happen ("See, I told you he was a racist"), it would possibly be more interesting if it didn't happen, and that RD had been maintaining a careful distance either to help her accept that AJ was with Steelhooves or to avoid taking advantage of her friend's relationship troubles.
Maybe RD will visit Stable 2 after everything comes to a close (provided she's not killed off so we have closure to each of the Ministry Mares) and pay her respects to a dear friend
Personally, I think that RD would end up going to all her friend's final resting places at some point, but it would be interesting.
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Vinylshadow on Sat May 31, 2014 5:21 pm

Yeah, she'd even be able to visit...whatever the name of the place was where the Goddess resided that's bathed in deadly radiationl; she'd be able to get the locations from LittlePip easily enough, since she'd be able to get into the SPP easily enough

Celestia might surprise her though

Speaking of the Goddess...if she can pour feelings into a single Alicorn... (Lacunae)

Couldn't she transfer her mind to an Alicorn and have escaped?

Although I can't see 4 minds inhabiting the body of a single Alicorn easily...
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Silver136 on Sat May 31, 2014 5:53 pm

Remember though, Fluttershy is alive. The FoE afterword said that much.
 
As for the goddess, you have to remember she had all those memories she put into Lacunae drawn back out. She wasn't focused on herself anymore, but rather on her "children." I doubt she would have "sacrificed" one of the alicorns to save herself.
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Scienza on Sat May 31, 2014 5:55 pm

@RD
She could pretty easily go all over, since she's a ghoul and all. I think the fic mentioned that there were some problems with passing through the SPP shield as a ghoul, but presumably Littlepip could just allow her to enter.

Assuming nothing happens to her, my bittersweet-ending headcanon involves her traveling with Flutters and Spike on this quest.

@Goddess
The problem with the Goddess is that she's not just those four minds. The core part is a warped version of Trixie with the other three acting as cheerleaders, but the most critical aspect of her is the thousands of contingent souls that she absorbed. There isn't really a perfect real-world analogy, but I'd say that the closest to the relationship between the overarching Goddess intelligence and the contingent souls is something in between the hive-mind of an ant colony and how the firing of your neurons creates your conscious awareness. Where it breaks down is that the individual souls have some degree of awareness and independence, but from what I can tell, the Goddess is something that emerges from the group rather than any one particular soul. It's sort of like how Lacunae is very distinct from the kernel soul which formed her (Psalm). So I think cramming the Goddess into a single alicorn would just make said alicorn's head explode.
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by neoaustin on Sat May 31, 2014 6:50 pm

... i love you guys.
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Guest on Sat May 31, 2014 7:37 pm

Scienza wrote:
Personally, I think that RD would end up going to all her friend's final resting places at some point, but it would be interesting.

Unfortunately Rarity's is a pile of rubble now... Speaking of Rarity Maybe RD will be the one to handle the figurines. She can actually go retrieve Little Pip's if she needs to.

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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Evilgidgit on Sun Jun 01, 2014 11:54 am

Last wrote:
Scienza wrote:
Personally, I think that RD would end up going to all her friend's final resting places at some point, but it would be interesting.

Unfortunately Rarity's is a pile of rubble now... Speaking of Rarity Maybe RD will be the one to handle the figurines. She can actually go retrieve Little Pip's if she needs to.
Well Fluttershy is still alive. Twilight doesn't even have a body. Rarity's is tragically buried under a mountain worth of rubble. Applejack's is presumably still in Stable 2 unless they removed the bones and moved them to Junction Town. And Pinkie's is still in her office.

That was one of the few things that bugged me about F.E., Littlepip not taking the time to bury Pinkie's corpse. I only got the satisfaction in F.E. Starlight where Radiant Star found it and buried it outside. But that can't really fit into my own headcanon due to conflicting plot points with PH (i.e. Discord).
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Scienza on Sun Jun 01, 2014 12:01 pm

I can't remember, did she know whether it was Pinkie's corpse when she found it? Or was it an orb that she found later?
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Vinylshadow on Sun Jun 01, 2014 12:38 pm

I have Starlight, but I have yet to actually read it
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by O. Hinds on Sun Jun 01, 2014 3:51 pm

NOTIFICATION
We have changed the paragraph
I landed on a pile of scree and loose rocks.  The illumination provided by my horn revealed a few dozen feet of broken, shadowy landscape.  There was no moon or sun to light the world.  Only the outlines of a ghostly building amidst spectral trees.  I reached out and felt the bark.  It didn’t feel like a tree.  It was... firm.  Neither warm nor cool, neither wet nor dry.  I moved slowly through the grove, the rocks not shifting under my hooves.  It was utterly bizarre trying to walk over the uneven surface.  I couldn’t move so much as a twig or pebble in this shadowy world.
in Chapter 66 to
I landed on a pile of scree and loose rocks.  The light provided by my horn revealed a few dozen feet of broken, shadowy landscape.  There was no moon or sun to light the world, but a faint twilight glow provided just enough illumination to make the darkness of the land vaguely perceptible.  Near me were the outlines of a ghostly building amidst spectral trees.  I reached out and felt the bark.  It didn’t feel like a tree.  It was... firm.  Neither warm nor cool, neither wet nor dry.  I moved slowly through the grove, the rocks not shifting under my hooves.  It was utterly bizarre trying to walk over the uneven surface.  I couldn’t move so much as a twig or pebble in this shadowy world.
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Rayndalf on Sun Jun 01, 2014 7:28 pm

Scienza wrote:I can't remember, did she know whether it was Pinkie's corpse when she found it? Or was it an orb that she found later?
Yes, she noticed the copious amount of drugs, the figurine on her corpse, and the contents of the pink glowing terminal.

How do I remember this after so long?
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Icy Shake on Mon Jun 02, 2014 12:16 am

Um. Well, now I feel like kind of a heel for forgetting to say this when I was posting then, but happy belated birthday, Somber. I'm very sorry that the applications and interviews haven't been working out. I do hope you find something that will work for the long term, and soon.

Chapter Forty Seven Running Thoughts:
My gut still burned; I hoped my repair talisman could do something with the buckshot.

Ha, ha! Yes, and, of course, what an important plot point that is.


Silver Spoon and Xanthe looked at me in worry, Nurse Graves in concern, and Shears with an almost desperate stare.  Carrion, though, only appeared mildly annoyed by the acid-etched steel of his power armor.

Well, figure the repair talisman should handle it in time.


I was going to get them all killed…
The file number just shone back at me.  Taunting me.  Follow the file, Blackjack.  Follow the file.  Find the answers.  Learn the secrets.  All I had to do was keep going.  Keep following the trail to the very end.  Overcome.  Win.  Win at any cost.  Ante up.  Push to the very end…
The question was how many bodies I was going to leave behind me.  I looked over at my companions, thinking, feeling folks and not just answers to my questions.  They’d followed me here…
Was I going to be just like the Ministry Mares?  Just like Goldenblood?
I closed my eyes a moment and took a long, low breath.  “Okay.  That’s it.  I’m pulling the plug,” I said as I stood and closed the plate on my foreleg.
“What?” Mr. Shears asked bluntly.
“We’ll find the exit and get the hell out of here.  How many RadAway packets do we have?  A dozen?” I asked, looking at Nurse Graves.  The ghoul shook her head.  “Less?”
“Eight,” she said softly.
“Right.  Then we’re done.  I’m not going to kill all of you for my own ends,” I said as I looked to the south.  “We go back to Meatlocker, heal up and come back another day.  We didn’t know about the smooze, the soul jars, or the Warden.  We need better supplies and weapons.  I want to get Glory and P-21 in on this.  His grenades and her beam rifle are just what we need.  You can whip up more talismans, we can bring a tanker truck of RadAway, and we’ll do it right,” I said with a nod.  “We can work our way in from the outside, take our time with the turrets, pick off the ghouls, and make sure this place is secure.”

Well, can't say it's not a legitimate concern, though of course most of them were volunteers. Wish the sentiment had come early enough to have helped Silver Spoon, though.
As for the rest, well, it's not too often Blackjack's ready to admit defeat and just regroup to fight another day. It's kind of refreshing. Not sure that the plan would end up being enough to really make it through safely, but it's more than the current one. However, you've got to think about how all that's gone wrong so far has been just getting into the prison and through the basement and one floor. I'm not too sure that the same issue of unexpected problems popping up to leave them in serious trouble wouldn't simply recur.


“I don’t have to take any of you,” he said as he looked right at me, his horn flaring bright blue.  “Just one.”
From the cloaked ghoul, a twisting, ghostly white whirlpool formed above his horn.  Then, in a flash of gray smoke, it shot across the distance between us and slammed into my chest.
I’d like to say I’d never heard screams from inside me before, but as the spell hit me I heard a noise like Enervation coming from my chest… a clawing, twisting explosion of pain that drove me to my knees.

Ah, the soul-removal spell. Not too bad for motivation, but in this case does rather require everyone else to step in line to come to Blackjack's aid. Granted, that's rarely too much of a problem, and some are already independently committed.
Anyway, dick move.


“I die, she dies!” the ghoul screamed, freezing the earth pony.  Shears rasped, “That curse is slowly ripping her soul from her body.  In a few hours, she’s dead or worse.”  Rampage grit her teeth in frustration.  “Do you know how to remove it?” he asked, staring at Lacunae, who pointed her AM rifle right at his face.  The alicorn didn’t answer.  “Do you?” he asked as he looked at Xanthe.
“Starkatteri blasphemy,” Xanthe spat at him.  “You meddle in that which you have no right!”

While I get Xanthe wouldn't be a fan of Starkatteri blasphemy, wouldn't she like the idea of the Maiden being taken out?


“Is nothing I’m not already used to,” I said as I stared down at him and grimaced.  “I get hurt a lot.  So.  Tell me why…” I said as I floated Vigilance out and pointed it at his head.  “Or else I kill you and have a nice party in Afterlife before I die.  Again.”
“Again?” he murmured softly, and then took a slow step back.  “You’ve… been to the everafter?  Seen the singing lights?  But your eyes…”
“Are synthetic.  So.  Tell me why,” I said, then clenched my jaw against another stab of pain.

Some interesting mechanics of soul removal and death, there. I like the way that the effect on the eyes was hidden. Lots of weird things seem to happen to her eyes, don't they?


“I’m not going to abandon Tiar… um… Blackjack,” Silver Spoon said as she put a hoof on my shoulder.  I smiled at the gesture, but stepped clear from the spiking radiation.  The round unicorn just nodded and hung his head.  She blinked behind her frames.  “You might need me to deal with the Warden again.  Maybe I can, like, convince him to meet us face to face?”  She looked at the ceiling with a worried frown. 

Go Silvy! Blackjack deserves your help and loyalty least of all, but damned if it's not nice to see you look past that to stay by her anyway.



I looked at Nurse Graves, and she just smiled and shook her head.  Rampage too.  Psychoshy gave me the cockiest grin she could muster, gulping against her fear.  Stygius looked at her with surprise, then smiled, patted his chest, and pointed to me.  Finally, all eyes turned to the zebra.  Xanthe chewed her lower lip.  “I… I can go?”
“With that stealth suit, you probably can,” I replied calmly.  “I sort of dragged you into this too.  We could use you with us, but only if you want to join us.”
The zebra looked absolutely torn.  “I… I… I…” she stammered, looking in the direction of the exit.  “Ooooh, curses.”  She slumped down before me, hanging her head.  “I cannot leave you, Maiden.  You have cursed me like all the others.  I am in your thrall.”

Xanthe is so adorable.

I sighed, rolling my eyes.  “Xanthe.  You can go.  I don’t want you along if you don’t want to come along.”     This whole zebra curse thing was getting a whole lot harder to understand and, honestly, a bit concerning.

I could just imagine her actually saying "Shoo! Shoo!" here and making the hand motions to go with it.
 

“Don’t fly in the central shaft!”  Graves warned as we spilled out.  “There’re high-powered turrets up there designed to take fliers out in the event of lockdown!”
“Big deal.  There’s a missile in the way,” Psychoshy snorted as she lifted off the ground.
“Do you want to find out what will happen if that warhead is hit by a beam turret?” Graves countered.
“Oh that would be bad.  Very very bad.  Please don’t shoot balefire warheads with beam weaponry!” Xanthe pleaded.

Thank you, Captain Obvious. The best part is I do think Xanthe thought it was important to say that, that maybe the others didn't know.


“Some people say earth ponies are made out of mud.
Well this poor mare’s made of muscle and blood!
Muscle and blood, skin and bone,
A mind that’s weak but a back’s that strong!”
. . .
“She was born one morning when the sun didn’t shine!
She picked up her shovel and she went to the mines!
She loaded sixteen tons of that number nine coal
Till the boss mare said ‘Well-uh bless my soul!”
. . .
“Load sixteen tons and whaddaya get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Princess Luna don’tcha call me, ‘Cause I can’t go!
I owe my soul to the Company store!”
. . .
“She was born one morning, it was drizzlin’ rain.
Fightin’ and trouble are her middle name.
She was raised in a cave, bred by an old mama griffin
Ain’t no high class mare makes her walk the line!”
. . .
“If you see me coming, better step aside!
“A lot of mares didn’t; a lot of mares died.
“I’ve got one hoof of iron, and the other of steel
“And if the right one doesn’t get ya then the left one will!”

Like the song on the whole, but there are some places where it doesn't seem to flow right to me. Also, the last two lines of the fourth stanza are a pretty weak point.
And oh, the power of song while fighting! Not just to make them stronger, but to make for a more fun spectacle for the reader.


Carrion leaned over towards Xanthe.  “You understand that this is why you couldn’t beat them, right?  You just couldn’t compete with pony combat folk music.”
Xanthe didn’t argue, though she did furrow her brow.  “There was once a report that said pony battle effectiveness increased by almost seventy percent when they were singing.  It recommended withdrawing immediately till the song was over.” 

Yep. Oh, and I'd like to think that "almost seventy percent" is within measurement error of 72.8%, which is a 20% improvement, three times.


“My co-workers and friends,” Graves replied quietly.  Then she looked back at us soberly.

How much self control did it take not to use "gravely" for either of those adverbs?


“Right.  Got an encore?” Psychoshy asked Rampage sourly.
“Your turn,” the striped reaper responded, her voice softer.  For some reason, the lack of anything shooting at us had us talking more quietly.

Well, it's all about responding to the atmosphere, and pattern recognition. That's important too.


A safe had three hundred bits and some files that had survived the flames.  Prewar ponies and their love of paper.  Graves took them and slipped them into her saddlebag.

Yeah, like Blackjack's one to talk. Also, heh, "prewar" as "wartime."


“I’m sorry, Graves,” Shears said as the glowing shears came up and sliced right through the leathery hide and desiccated sinew.  The ghoul’s head popped off and rattled as it rolled across the floor.  For a moment the ghoul in combat armor swayed…
Then it turned and smashed its hooves down on the round unicorn ghoul.
Oh crap.  It was one of the suits of soul armor…

Nice fake-out.


I whipped out the first thing I could think of, the only thing that had been effective: my sword.  The blade hummed its lone cold note as I slashed at the suit, but unlike the ones down below, this one refused to cut.  Still, it jerked away, as if in pain.

A better soul binding, or is it just that the sword would have a degree of difficulty with metal anyway? Think that came up a couple chapters ago.


I looked at the radiation meter creeping up through the yellow.  “You came back to see if any of your coworkers survived.”
“This was my life, Blackjack.  My home!  This place was full of ponies that needed help, and we did everything we could to help them,” Nurse Graves said as she trembled.  “So why am I still here when none of them are?  Was it just an accident that I was in the supply room stuck doing inventory because I notified the news about prisoner conditions here?  Is… is this existence supposed to be some sort of reward, or punishment?  Living so long and keeping my mind only to remember this horrible place?”
“That’s why Hobble called you a whistleblower?” I asked as I sat down besides the grieving ghoul.  She nodded in short, jerking spasms.
“We all knew it was wrong.  We gathered files.  Put our careers on the line.  Showed the pattern of guard abuse, the overcrowded conditions, and the strange magical murders and disappearances.  But I was the one who drew the short straw and went public with it.”

I would have said something about solidarity and this being the sort of things unions are for, but I doubt the labor situation in wartime Equestria was really anything to write home about.


I helped her to her hooves, and she continued down the hall to a simple gray door marked ‘Supply B.’  I jiggled the handle, made an irked face, and knelt down with bobby pin and screwdriver.  This was definitely going to be tough; I could barely get the pin in there.  Then something jingled by my ear.  Nurse Graves gave a sad smile as she held a keyring in her mouth.  Okay... I guessed that’d be easier.  Still, I bet I could have opened it as well as P-21.  It just would have taken me a while...

"So that's what that feels like"


“Lacunae… what is that?” I muttered between gulps.
She looked up with me, and her purple eyes narrowed in a confused frown.  Carrion joined me.  Then Shears.
Then the fire turned and looked at down at us.
“Oh…” I began to say, when it stepped off the edge and tumbled like a flaming blue meteor towards -- and through -- the skylight, showering us in glass and gobbets of blue fire. We all fell back as it landed in the middle of us, and for several terrified moments all we could do was stare as it rose to its hooves.  I supposed it was a ghoul, technically.  The blackened pony hide was so charred that it gleamed like obsidian.  A roaring blue bonfire poured out of the gaps in its flesh and along its spine, and its fiery eyes blazed as it opened its mouth wide in a demonic scream.

Interesting adversary, and some nice description there.


The flaming monster winced at the impacts, took a deep breath, and exhaled a plume of blue and green fire that washed over the floating robot.  Its robotic eyes exploded in showers of sparks, and the three arms were blown clear off!  The levitation talisman went dark as Cerberus gave one last anemic crackle.  “For the Glory of Equestriiiiiiiizzzzk--“

No! Not the much more endearing racist!


But Cerberus’ action had galvanized the rest of us as we all began firing at the immolated monster as fast as we could.

Heh, a robot galvanizing people. I bet he would have liked to literally galvanize some of them, too, if that were allowed by his combat inhibitor. Luckily . . .


“Stop!”  Silver Spoon yelled as she waved her hooves.  “Like, you have to do what I say!  Like those others!  I don’t care if you are totally big and flaming and scary… do what I say and go away!”
The ghoul turned and stared at her with blue eyes of fire and took a step back.  Then hope died as the ghoul made a horrible inhalation noise, the licking fire sucking back through the cracks and holes in its blackened hide.  Silver Spoon stared in horror as the fire crackled in its mouth, unleashing a blazing plume of radioactive flame.

It was worth a shot. Still not great reaction time, though. Maybe this one isn't actually feral.


Shears leapt at Silver Spoon and knocked her out of the path of the fire.  Caught in the inferno, his rags burst into flame as he rolled across the ground, screaming in pain.  The blazing ghoul swept its head around, and Carrion and Lacunae barely flew out of the stream.  Half the break room blazed with blue-green fire.
There was no time to question his sudden gallantry as it turned towards Graves, Stygius, Xanthe, and Psychoshy in the storage room.

Well, it's not like it was the first thing he's directed at her. More noticeable, though.


“No!”  I screamed as I brought the butt of the shotgun down on the head of the blazing monster.  Purple light swept the orange packets up before we could trample them, but I barely paid any notice.  Graves was gone, along with all the supplies we’d needed.  Another good pony gone because she’d tried to keep my dumb ass safe.  Because I hadn’t forced everyone to leave.  Because the plan had gone completely to shit.

Yep. All Blackjack's fault. All of it. Pay no attention to the pony behind the rags.


I might not have had a grenade, but I had explosive shotgun shells.  I screamed in rage as I grabbed its jaws with my fingers and forced them wide, ramming the shotgun down its throat and pulling the trigger as rapidly as I could.  Its sides erupted in volcanic cascades of ghoul gore and radioactive fire. My PipBuck roared; I was back in the red and heading quickly for dead as I did all I could to blast this thing into oblivion.

Nice move and all, but I'm surprised the radiation is the main problem. Maybe Psychoshy should have been kicking this thing after all.

Then the barrel of my gun blew apart in a shower of red steel, my fingers glowing from the heat as it inhaled once more.  I shoved its head away as I dove to the side and looked back.  Once thing was for sure -- I had really succeeded in pissing this thing off.

Yeah, it's great that the point is made, even if it is only with his active attack, but isn't he covered in fire? That seems like it should have a pretty profound passive affect on her.


Of course, as I raced down the hall, I was suddenly struck with the immortal question of ‘Now what?’  I had a really pissed off monster on my butt, but more than that, I was still soaking up rads.  I had no clue where this hall went, only that if I came across a locked door or anything I was probably dead.  I felt like shit, I had a hole drilling away inside my chest, and didn’t have a clue what to do beyond ‘run faster’.
So why was I grinning so hard?

Well, because you haven't really gotten beyond what drove you from your friends in the first place, even if you're somewhat better controlled. You still prefer being able to let moment-to-moment action drive out the need to think.
Happyhorn would be disappointed.


I skidded to a stop, and out came Duty and Sacrifice.  I aimed just a few inches south of its tail and fired.  The bullets really weren’t any more effective than my slugs, but I hit a very tender target, even for a ghoul.  It looked back at me, eyes wide in outrage from my lead suppository.

Yuh-huh. "Suppository." FOE protagonists really like going for the genitals, don't they? Though I guess that's mostly just she and Murky, but Littlepip may have at some point. Don't think she made it such a habit, though.


Be awesome, a cyan pegasus suggested.  Easy for Gl- Rainbow Dash to say. 

I love it every time this happens. It's one of those nice touches that underlines how important Glory is to Blackjack, despite everything.


“My key?”  The… turquoise pony?  Wait!  The pony wearing the charred rags didn’t have the boiled-looking appearance of the undead.  He looked like a simple portly unicorn with prominent buck teeth and a shaggy brown mane.  His eyes had the same milky whiteness of a ghoul, but there was something off about them.  Something… luminescent.
That, though, could wait till after I was done wrestling with an unbeatable undead invincible enemy. 

Great last line there, one of the ones that captures the tone of big sections of the story.


“No!  No more shrieking,” I muttered as I took my target, hopped into S.A.T.S., and cast three magic bullets at my right leg at the knee.  The first two blasted the corroded, smoking metal.  The third took it off completely.

Whatever it takes . . .


With a fiery scream the ghoul fell, plunging to the ground fifty feet below.  It crashed into the tangled steel, buried for a moment in the twisted chainlink and razorwire.  Then its blazing head emerged... and let out one last roar of rage before exploding in a massive green fireball that obliterated not just the ghoul but the steel and ten feet of concrete.  It wasn’t just vaporized.  It was as if everything around the ghoul had been utterly disintegrated, including the possessed soul armor.

And will Rampage notice? Because if so, she could make it a program to find a balefire egg as a strong candidate.


I was barely aware of the hooves pulling me in.  There were screams and shouts and calls for RadAway.  It didn’t matter anymore.  I was so tired.  Ready for a really long nap.  I felt Rampage slap me.  Heard Lacunae tell me to stay awake.  Didn’t they understand?  I’d earned a rest…

I like the feeling here, of her just sliding away into unconsciousness after the battle ended with a Pyrrhic victory.


I stood beneath hazy summer clouds that gave us all a welcome respite from the sun beating down and making our itchy green uniforms feel even worse while we stood in line.

This was a pretty good scene from what I remember.


We’d been given a preliminary physical, sent the fillies and colts who wanted to fight home, signed the parchment, and gotten our hoof and dental prints taken.

Somehow I just have trouble seeing hoofprints being all that useful, especially since they're the kind of thing that might often be covered long-term or altered repeatedly by routine maintenance.

Then we got our first lesson in military life: hurry up and wait.  So we stood in rows, unicorns in one line, earth ponies in another, and pegasi on the far side of the field.  Above the trees to the west, black smoke still rose from Hoofington.

Not quite sure that's what "hurry up and wait" means, given the preceding didn't seem all that urgent, but I do love the term.


“Can you believe the zebras said they didn’t do it?” one mare muttered behind me.
“After Littlehorn, I don’t put anything past those bastards,” another growled.  “We should throw out every stripe in Equestria.  Can’t trust a one of ‘em.”

Hi, Applesnack!


It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.  Celestia wasn’t supposed to quit.  Alicorn princesses didn’t quit.  She’d lasted over a thousand years!  How could she quit?  Oh, sure, nopony was calling it that, but ‘resigning due to an inability to secure the peace, safety, and prosperity of her people’ was ‘quit’ with far more syllables than needed.

Yeah, that's something that I think the readers have had to grapple with, too.


Big Macintosh nodded once.  “Ayep.”  Then he looked at the pony curiously.  “Hey!  Applesnack?  Strudel’s great nephew twice removed?”
“Three times... I think,” Applesnack replied, looking around.  “Is Braeburn here?  I’d thought he’d jump at a chance like this!”

Man, I know this is probably taken pretty close from the show, but that doesn't stop me from thinking that's just not how that works.


“A lot have been pretty resistant to the army.  The Equestrian Guard used to be almost solely the province of unicorn knights and pegasus warriors.  The idea of taking just anypony old enough and willing to fight and training them to be soldiers is... difficult.”

I think I can appreciate the irony of Applesnack being on the receiving end of anti–earth pony racism, even if it's more general rather than  necessarily coming from Cupcake here.


“Hey!  Is this where we sign up to join the Skyguard?” a buck said from above, drifting down on his widespread wings and landing with a crash.  “Is Rainbow Dash here?  I’d really love to meet her!  I got a move called the Stonewing Stomp that I think she’ll find totally awesome!” the gray winged pony said, giving a little hop and smashing the grass under his hooves.
“Didn’t you just hear him?  We’re joining the army, not the guard,” a blue pegasus mare said, landing beside him.  “Don’t mind him.  He’s a numbskull.  Flew into one too many mountains back in summer flight camp.”
“Oh, like you never did, Jetstream,” he snorted, rolling his eyes.
“Correct.  I never did,” she replied pointedly.
The gray pegasus pointed a wing at her with a grin.  “What about that faceplant into Mount Celestia’s southern face?  The infamous ‘plotbreaker’?”
She looked back at him flatly.  “That was you, Stonewing.”
“Oh?  Oh yeah.  Well, who smacked right into the wall of Ghastly Gorge during speed trials?”
“Also you.”
“Ploughed through the wall of the Cloudeseum?”
“You.”
“Left their imprint in the Ponyville dam?”
“You,” she finished in that same flat tone.  “I’ll give you a hint, Stonewing.  If there was an epic flight failure in the last ten years, it was probably you.”
This caused him to frown in thought and concern.  “Oh, yeah...” Stonewing murmured as he looked skyward and rubbed his chin, then shrugged and grinned at the pegasus guard.

Somehow I could easily see Stonewing and Blackjack really hitting it off. Jetstream plays a good straight man, but it kind of brings with it an undercurrent of what did she see in him?


“I don’t see as many pegasi or unicorns,” the yellow earth pony said with a small frown.  “Mostly earth ponies.”  Nearby there was a bit of commotion, with a stallion shouting for somepony to be reasonable in the crowd.
“Unfortunately, many pegasi don’t see much appeal in joining,” a smooth voice said as an emerald-maned unicorn stepped forward in his professionally tailored uniform.  “Wars are dirty, uncouth things for surface ponies to struggle through.  No concern for ponies who live in the clouds.”
“So why aren’t there many unicorns here either?” Jetstream countered.  I reached up and touched my horn lightly, wondering if I even counted as a unicorn.
“Because wars are dirty, uncouth things for banal unmagical ponies to struggle through.  No concern for ponies who can use magic,” another unicorn said as he pushed his way through with a scowl.  He was certainly handsome, but it merely seemed to emphasize his haughtiness.  “There you are!  You’ve made me wade through all these commoners to find you.  What do you think you’re doing, Vanity?  This is no place for a prince!”

This, too is a good "introduction," but I rather wish it had been Vanity who gave the line about wars being dearty, uncouth things for non-magical ponies. It still works coming from Blueblood, but doesn't have quite the same punch.


Vanity smiled and nodded, looking sublime in his tailored fatigues.  “And it won’t just be the soldiers.  I’ve heard talk that Princess Luna plans on throwing the entire might of Equestria behind this war.  Every factory.  Every resource that Equestria has to bring to bear will be used.  It won’t be the guard being sent off to fight while the rest of us live our lives and try to pretend that the war is just some trivial bit of news.”  Vanity looked off to the east, his expression solemn.  “Hoofington proved just how much the enemy will destroy if given a chance.  Littlehorn showed that all of our people are targets, no matter how helpless or innocent.”

Not a bad one-paragraph description of total war.


“I’ve seen what happens when muh sister’s six friends work together.  If all of Equestria works together and don’t hold back, how can we fail?” Big Macintosh said casually with an easy smile.

Counting Applejack as one of her friends, or including Spike? Eh, I'll take the latter. He doesn't get the attention, much less the treatment, he deserves. I blame the writers.


In the weeks to come, we would work together and learn the difficult art of war.  Royal Guard Cupcake put his armor away to become Captain Cupcake.  Twist learned that while her eyesight would always hinder her firearms ability, she was a tireless and tenacious fighter, and she learned to speak without her lisp so orders and communications could be clearly understood.  Doof lost the fat and put on muscle with the constant work and training.  Vanity taught the others dignity and pride, and learned the messy realities of fighting.  Stonewing and Jetstream worked as a team, protecting their surfacer pony friends from harm.  Applesnack softened his cynical and hard attitude and learned to work with others.  And Big Macintosh learned to become a leader, soft spoken but always supremely confident and sure of the right course of action.
And myself?  I discovered that while I had little in the way of magic, with the help of an earth pony weapon I could be just as effective as a unicorn battlemage of old.  Even if it was hard to sight a target and pull the trigger.
We were friends.  We were comrades.  We were Macintosh’s Marauders...

Nice end to the segment. On the whole, the memory was pretty good, doing a strong job of showing the Marauders' first meeting. Particularly towards the end, though, the dialog got a little on the overly expositive side, but given that the whole thing was essentially an expositive scene, I don't know how much could have been done to avoid that. In contrast, the part exerpted above was, in my opinion, a competent example of showing by telling, and clearly knew where the depth of showing a scene wasn't needed. In that sense, it reminds me of the part of It's a Wonderful Life where Joseph gives maybe a few sentences each to cover what the major characters did during the war, with the little bit of exposition and few seconds of footage being all that was necessary because it all fit so well with what we already knew of the characters.


Drink,” she said.  I lay back, levitated the jar, and gave it a tenative sniff.
“It smells like pee,” I muttered sullenly.  My chest still felt the curse chewing away inside.  I looked around and spotted Shears at the far side of the storeroom, head bowed, filthy brown mane hiding his face.
“Well, I tried to filter it as well as I was able and remove as much uric acid and protein contaminants as I could, but unfortunately, the facilities here aren’t quite up to snuff.  So yes, there’s probably at least some pee in it.  Drink it anyway,” she said, then gestured towards a rainbow-splattered bucket in the corner.  “When it hits your bladder, aim for the bucket.  We need to save as much as possible.”

So there is something Blackjack wouldn't consume, other than plastic.


“Graves?” I suddenly asked as my brain began to replay the battle.  “Where is Graves?”
“She didn’t make it,” Rampage said, and then immediately followed it up with, “And unless you are a flaming ghoul that burned her or forced her to come at gunpoint, you are not responsible for her death.  You can shelve that guilt right now.  If she hadn’t thrown out what RadAway she did, you and your friends would have died.  That ghoul was sane enough to target our supplies.  You should be proud you beat it rather than kicking yourself for her death.”
I opened my mouth and closed it again.  I knew that she was right, but maybe if I’d been faster... if I’d shouted out a warning sooner or been a better distraction...  I knew that some of us might not come back, but I’d always intended it to be over my dead body.

And we have Blackjack acting like herself again. On a more positive note, having Doctor Octopus around was pretty handy, and I always like it when he shows up.

I occupied myself with drinking the yellow-orange fluid in the jar, wrinkling my nose.  Actually, though... despite the smell of pee, the taste was a robust, tangy RadAway orange with a salty aftertaste.  Not bad!

Perhaps I spoke too soon. Should have seen this coming.


She arched one brow at me before she turned and returned the jar next to the equipment.  “And Razorwire.  That filly certainly knows how to brew her chems.  Trust me, you don’t want the details to her secret, personal recipe for Dash,” she said, rolling her eyes.

Oh right, I forgot she was locked up for drug crimes. That's what it was, right, before the informing?

“Something about this place is pulling us to the fore.  It’s somewhat disturbing.  Fortunately, most of us want to help you, and those that don’t are keeping silent.”

I'm guessing the Enervation. It's what would make the most sense. Or something to do with the talisman's connection to Hightower? That could be it, since I don't really remember this happening to Rampage when they were underground in the tunnels when Glory lost her wing, and that was probably about as Enervated as here.


“Help me get to the bucket,” I said as I hobbled my way into the corner.

One of the more pathetic lines Blackjack's ever said.


“Where did the extra talismans come from then?”
I heard Lacunae’s voice in my mind with a strange new clarity, though the screaming background of Enervation did make things a little more difficult.  “Several pieces were ‘donated’ by Caprice, salvaged from Deus’ body.  She was apparently selling off the Reaper piece by piece as souvenirs, but then Glory reminded her that she hadn’t paid for the installation of those beam turrets and threatened to take some pieces of Caprice as souvenirs if she didn’t turn over whatever was left.”

Fun reminder Glory can be serious business when she  wants to. It's really not a move I could see Blackjack readily making, at least not on her own behalf.

I looked around, but there was no sign of my purple alicorn friend.  “Lacunae?  How are you hearing me?”
“I’m afraid that the extreme radiation to your brain had some... unexpected side effects,” Lacunae murmured.  “Some of the things that were believed to be simple tumors were not, and they are now... active.”
I stared straight ahead, listening to that scream in the distant parts of my mind as I focused.  “What do you mean ‘active’?”
Then I heard a voice break through that interference and speak low and grand and just a touch snotty.  “It means that you are a part of that to which you have no right, Blackjack!  You are a thief!  A trespasser!  A bit of mutant scum whose unworthy mind has tapped into a grand and glorious being!”

It was brought up just a little bit earlier, but still fun now that it's bigger, and offering a chance for her Hamminess to make an appearance. Also, I believe the checklist is now mutant-cyber-zombie-alicorn (part one). Could be missing something, though.


Apparently, the second I set a hoof out of Hoofington again, I was destined to become transformed into an alicorn rather than the half unicorn, half alicorn, half cyberpony thing I was now.

Manbearpig.


“Right.  Knowing my luck it’ll turn me into some kind of freaky cyber alicorn!”

Heh. Ironic, but hey, even if the prediction didn't exactly come true, it rhymed with what did come to pass.

I really wanted to hyperventilate right now; having the Goddess inside me... damn it!  It felt like I was losing myself.  It was like being back on the Seahorse, feeling hurt and violated and just wanting it over.  I wanted my own dreams back, not Psalm’s.  I wanted to see with my own eyes, not view visions and flashes of what other ponies wanted me to see.  I wanted to be Blackjack again.  I could almost not remember that idiot who ran out into the wasteland with Deus on her tail.
It was all... too much.  Just too much.  The enormity of how much I’d changed and what had happened to Graves came crashing down on me.  I didn’t want to deal with it anymore.  I just wanted to curl up with my head in Glory’s lap and have her stroke my mane until magically everything was better.

This is a better than normal placement of this sort of thing. I'd hope that it's a place where even those who don't care for the repeated angst see the appropriateness to the situation.

But right now, I had ponies who would die if I simply went fetal.

Also, because she isn't just who she used to be on first coming out of the stable, or even just after her cyberization, she's likely to do better at getting her head back in the game.


“I am hoping that I can absorb enough radiation to push the missile out... but...”  There was a pause, yet I heard what she tried to hide.  “The warding talismans are weakening.”

Hm, so probably not moonstone after all.


“Wait.  Wait.  Lacunae... what are you trying to hide from me?” I asked, thinking hard at my friend.  It was like looking at photographs underwater, and the harder I looked the deeper she pushed them.
“Please don’t pry, Blackjack.” Lacunae murmured quietly.  “There are things I do not want you to know.  Things that I am ashamed of.  Please...”  The voice was as soft and composed as ever, but there was a begging tone to it that halted my attempts to get at those pictures in her mind.  What was I doing?  Of course I didn’t have a right to go rifling through her mind.  And if she didn’t want to tell me now, hopefully someday she would.  I stopped trying to look at those pictures.

Yeah, not one of the nicer points of Blackjack's friends. Not quite up there with Rampage's late betrayal, in my mind, but not one of the better moments.


I limped over to where the zebra was working on the robot.  Its metal casing had warped in the heat of the magical fire, and only one round eye remained.  “How’s the guard dog?”  She looked up at me in surprise.  “What?  I can’t have read a mythology book?”  Actually, I’d been assigned the book as a group project with Midnight.  She was the one who’d done the reading, and I just got the good bits from her and made a little black three-headed dog doll for our presentation.  Still counted, though.

I like this. Of course Blackjack would be the student who let others do most of the work in a group school project. Getting distracted, too. Granted, it does undercut her whole "I could almost not remember" thing when she's dragging up memories of her school days—then again, allowance for figurative speech and all that.


“I can’t obliterate filthy maggot farms with only one arm, you striped savage.”  The robot buzzed and crackled as its remaining eye flashed with its words.

I have to wonder why he has a thing against ghouls. It doesn't seem like something that would be programmed in. Maybe just because they aren't close enough to the ponies he was programmed to see on his side?


“Oh you hush!” Xanthe replied.  ‘Shhhhh...’ the stealth suit beeped chidingly.  “I grew up with bigger and tougher robots than you,” the zebra said before she grabbed a screwdriver and jammed it into his bulbous main housing.  There was a sizzle, and his eye stalk twitched.
“Yes great striped mistress!  I live to serve... damn this treacherous stripe programming!” the robot buzzed, and then added, “Oh, just scrap me now.”

It's like an echo of Blackjack's dysphoria in miniature.


“Yes.  The Propoli.  We were... are... builders.  We were the first to set aside the ancient ways of wandering and hunting.  We founded Roam before there was an Equestria.  The union of the seven great tribes on the seven hills was the start of our empire.  Of course, there are dozens of lesser tribes...”  Then she looked at Shears in the corner.  “And cursed tribes.  Like the Starkatteri.”

There's been some nice background for Xanthe, and the thing about her home in Dawn Bay is setting things up well. The count seems odd, though. I thought there were thirteen, counting the Starkatteri. Were several promoted, and others just folded in or something?

“They used to live here in Hoofington, didn’t they?” I asked with a worried frown.
“Indeed.  This was their capital.  Long ago they were a tribe of mystics and sorcerers.  They preserved the oldest and darkest ways, predicting the future from the movements of the stars.  And they could not only know the future, but affect the fates of others.”  She shuddered.  “And they studied death and the progression of the spirit.  But when Roam was founded, we excluded the Starkatteri.  We drove them away across the sea, and here in this place they founded their own city of wickedness.”
“And it was destroyed?  By a falling star?” 
“Yes.  They had a spell that would call a star spirit from the heavens.  The stars are terrible things, not to be meddled with.  To change their placement in the skies is to change fate itself.”  She shivered terribly.  “We once mocked the Starkatteri, but had they succeeded in capturing the star and extracting its spirit... the world would be a far more terrible place.”

I like the history. Hm, I wonder how far some of it is from the truth, though, since it seemed that at least at first most of the zebras of Hoofington didn't know the Eater was there, and they were only corrupted by its influence. Maybe there was some historical drift, with the sins of the children imputed on their ancestors to explain why they were there, banished instead of leaving for another reason. Or perhaps at first it was only superstition that made the other tribes drive them out, but it turned out that what came to pass looked much like what they believed anyway.


“Snips?” came a soft voice from the back of the storage room, and I looked over with trepidation as Rampage approached.  She wore a strange little smile, her pink eyes bright.  “It’s you, isn’t it?”
Snips looked at my friend with a confused frown.  Then his luminescent eyes widened.  “Twist?  But... your speech... and stripes?  Why are you striped?” he stammered.  “And the armor and... is it really you?” he asked with a ghost of a smile.

Well, guess he never had any reason to meet her again after she joined the army.

Rampage just nodded and then lunged, hugging the round blue unicorn.  “It is!  Oh, I haven’t seen you since the Ponyville Reunion!  Then Littlehorn happened and... and...”

'Natch.


Rampage just shook her head.  “I have no idea.  I don’t know either.  I mean... I died at Miramare.  After I... I...”  Her eyes grew round.  “Oh no... no no no...”  And she started to shake.  “Please...”
She pushed away from Snips and started to pace.  “Aw, what’s the matter?  Tell him.  Tell them all,” she said with a little leer.  Suddenly she whirled around and snapped, “She doesn’t have to tell anypony!  She has the right to remain silent.”  Then her head whipped to the side.  “Don’t give us that cop shit!”   Tears streamed down her cheeks as she backed away even more before suddenly stopping in her tracks.  “Full disclosure might be therapeutic,” she said reasonably, then bellowed, “Leave her alone, Doctor!”
sure might be therapeutic,” she said reasonably, then bellowed, “Leave her alone, Doctor!”
Now everypony was trying to move away as she turned and pressed her forehooves to the wall.  “Shut up!” she screamed, and brought her forehead against the wall with a pulpy crunch.  “Shut up!”

Okay, Twist, Angel?, Softheart, probably Razorwire, Doc Oc, then it could be almost anyone. Then, of course, Rampage.


I did the only thing I could think of in a situation like this.  Therapy with bullets...  Xanthe gave a litte scream and Stygius jumped to his hooves in alarm.  Psychoshy just muttered about how the woodchipper had been cooler.
Snips stared in horror as I put three rounds in Rampage’s head, sending her down in a heap.  His eyes flared, horn glowing as he brought his shears out.  I caught the closing blades with my remaining hand, the edges cutting into the metal of my fingers. “Wait!  She’ll be okay!” I yelled in alarm.

And . . . cue Snips seeing she's the recipient of the Phoenix talisman. Wonder if he'll recognize any of the souls?

“The phoenix talisman...” Snips breathed softly.  “You have the phoenix talisman!”  Xanthe stared in similar astonishment.

This should be good. Hopefully. The slow reveal had been going on a long time, and would have been interesting to see play out, though.


“Are you mad?!” Xanthe shouted.  “Have you thought of the dozens, perhaps hundreds of deaths, of stolen souls such an effort would require?!  Bad enough one!”
“You don’t understand,” Snips pleaded.  “I agree, it was wrong, but at the time we almost had it!  We almost had... everything.  A way to make ponies truly immortal!  The ethics didn’t matter, just success.”  Then he slumped.  “And then... Rarity changed her mind.”

Not the easiest extrapolation of the Snips from the show, but then none of them are. Plus side, having this aspect now does make what happens later seem more in character than when I'd forgotten this little speech.


“Goldenblood’s technicians assured us that they were,” Snips replied with a little shrug, but I knew better.  If Goldenblood could get his hooves on Rarity’s necromantic research, he would never destroy it.  “After that we swapped to something else.”

No shit.


“Lacunae!  Xanthe says there might still be fuel in the missile!  Don’t move it-” I thought frantically at the alicorn.
    Then there was a shriek as the missile suddenly shifted, but instead of sliding free, the concrete gave way and an avalanche of crumbled flaming rubble tumbled down towards the floor of the prison.  “No!  Don’t drop it!”  Xanthe shrieked as the missile slid further into the prison.  Lacunae’s face creased with effort as she tried to keep the weapon aloft.  The blazing warhead touched the bars on the far side, and then the thrusters in the rear were inside and swung down.  I held my breath as the whole missile tipped vertical and dropped down the central shaft.

Because nothing can ever go easy around here!


“Thank you for not exploding,” I said in a rush of relief.
    Suddenly crimson flames erupted from the base of the rocket.  The flames crawled through the twisted metal, spreading as the fuel leaked and ignited.  Any chance at all of retreat the way we came was now ablaze in a lake of fire!

You just had to say something.


. . .

So, did they ever do anything about Blackjack's leg? I mean, they couldn't repair it, but did the peg happen? After the timer really starts, I have trouble seeing Xanthe taking care of it (could be the case, though), but could Blackjack really deal with going on while needing to consciously think about walking, and doing so poorly?
Chapter Forty Seven Overall Thoughts:
Eh, not too much to say about this chapter. In part that's because I read it over two weekends, with my hard drive getting corrupted in the middle and me needing to replace it, which took up most of my non-work time from last Monday to Thursday. But mostly because there was a lot I just didn't find too interesting.

The first half is pretty action heavy, and while it was intense, particularly the part with the flaming ghoul they ended up killing with the balefire egg, the only part that did much to grab me was Rampage's highlander song. The song was pretty good, but there were a few places where it seemed like the rhythm to sing it would be a bit awkward.

Various cast members get to do a bit during this time, but again, many are basically in the background. Snips pulls the soul-sucking curse on Blackjack, but it doesn't end up seeming all that important since all it really ended up doing was preserving the status quo. Later on, at least, there's some nice stuff between him and Silver Spoon, and even Twist, which builds into the background of the phoenix talisman after he sees Rampage regenerate. Rampage isn't happy about finding out why she regenerates, now having even more existential doubts than before.

The vision/dream/etc. for the chapter was when the Marauders met up at boot camp. It was a nice scene, but not especially informative and at some points a little over-expositive. Still, the characters played well off of each other, which was kind of a nice contrast to what was going on in the Tower. The dream ended with what I thought was a great example of how to do a scene via telling, reminding me of an expositional scene from It's a Wonderful Life that served a similar purpose.

After this, there's more fun, with Doctor Octupus and Razorwire recycling RadAway to keep Blackjack alive, and the revelation that Blackjack is now hooked in to Unity. This leads to some well-placed angst which Blackjack overcomes quickly because she needs to get down to business, which I thought was a nice moment to show how she's changed since early on, and indeed since before going after Sanguine after he killed Priest.

Anyway, there's some interesting world building with Xanthe talking about the zebra tribes and her home, though particularly the Starkatteri. It makes me wonder if some of the history she learned was distorted against them, though, since it seems to sell them as more nefarious, even from the beginning, than Blackjack's star vision while visiting the everafter would indicate.

So the chapter ends with Lacunae and Carrion botching their attempt to get the missile to fall out of the prison, just after Snips finds he can't undo the curse he placed on Blackjack without his notes or Snails's help.

All in all, there were some pretty good parts of the chapter, but frankly it's one of the few cases where I think the story went on too long without enough really happening in it. I think there was somewhere in the twenties where I thought a couple of chapters would have been better condensed into one, or three into two, and I believe the same may well end up proving the case for Hightower.
Chapter Forty Seven Editing:
but the pain was receding. Once on all

only one space after period


 that they were going to tumble right-- okay, not going there.

symmetrical spacing about dash?


pointing towards the door..  A glow of alicorn magic p

double period



blackening on contact. I desperately flung


only one space after period


sizzled in a dozen places..  I looked over at the

couble period


We hadn’t even left ground floor and already we were thrashed.

"the ground floor"?


I chowed down on cram cans and gems, and was relieved to see my fingertips reforming.

capitalize "Cram"


 able to stand!  The pain-“ he muttered as

second hyphen for dash


want to come along.”     This whole zebra curse

is the second space after the quotation a tab?


“Don’t fly in the central shaft!”  Graves warned as we

should have only one space after quotation


broken warning or threat. Rampage didn’t miss

only one space after period


and rammed her hooves into it’s chest

"its"


Princess Luna don’tcha call me, ‘Cause I can’t go!
I owe my soul to the Company store!”
>and
It exploded in sparks, raining down upon her as she cried out, “Princess Luna, don’tcha call me ‘cause I can’t go!  I owe my soul to the Company Store!”

The capitalization of "company store" should be the same in each case


wide over her head. “Stoooooooooore!”

only one space after period


her for several seconds as Cerberus’ music cut off.

"Cerberus's"


“So… what can we expect in there?”  Rampage asked, tapping her hoofclaws against the door.

should have only one space after quotation


various diagrams of pony anatomy. She trotted to a large stainless

only one space after period


space where something moved .  “Graves, look out!”  I shouted as I shoved her to the side.


there's a space between "moved" and the period, should have only one space after the quotation


Unlike other ghouls, this one was nearly whisper-quiet; all leathery skin and brown bone as its hooves slammed into me again and again.

semicolon to comma?


I helped her to her hooves, and she continued down the hall to a simple gray door marked ‘Supply B.’  I jiggled the handle,

period to outside of quotation marks?


glass and gobbets of blue fire. We all fell back

only one space after period


But Cerberus’ action had galvanized the rest

"Cerberus's"


then frowned, then sniffed ,and suddenly the striped

there shouldn't be a space before the last comma, and there should be one after it


The monster gave an applebuck that blasted Rampage off her hooves, across the room and through the wall.

comma after room?


“Stop!”  Silver Spoon yelled

should have only one space after quotation


away at the burning ghoul. “Me, you great big

only one space after period


“No!”  I screamed as I brought the butt

should have only one space after quotation


Be awesome, a cyan pegasus suggested.  Easy for Gl- Rainbow Dash to say. 

second hyphen for dash


 I grabbed the edges and rocked hard to the side. With a ping, two wheels
it slipped out of my grasp. The armor snaked up

only one space after period


Its buckles and straps flew wide, and I stared as the blue and black armor wrapped itself around the flaming ghoul.  The X-ray beam struck the upraised legs and flashed off the metal.

Blackjack doesn't know what the machine is, having recently thought of it as just a "strange machine." Switch to "disintigration beam" like before?


she looked across at me in worry. I felt like I had a chunk jammed in my chest

only one space after period


ponies were being gathered.   There were shots and cracks

three spaces after period


but instead of pudge it was all muscle. The uniform strained to contain his

only one space after period


“The Equestrian Army is going to be far larger than the Royal Guard or Equestrian Skyguard.  Many of us will be resigning our posts with the royal guard to lead you in battle.”

should the second instance of "royal guard" be capitalized?


organized than we expected. To be fair, I don’t think we

only one space after period


“The royal guard’s five times the size it was when the war started.

should "royal guard" be capitalized?


into the equipment. “I can only speculate

only one space after period


I’d expect to live longer than a normal unicorn, assuming that I didn’t get myself killed first, but... What the hell was I anymore?

should have second space after ellipsis, or not capitalize "What"


“Several pieces were ‘donated’ by Caprice, salvaged from Deus’ body.

"Deus's"


I could almost not remember that idiot who ran out into the wasteland with Deus on her tail.

Would this be more clear as "almost couldn't remember"? I'm instinctively parsing the sentence as her being almost able to forget if she wanted to, rather than being nearly unable to remember what she was like before.


“Please don’t pry, Blackjack.” Lacunae murmured quietly

quotation should end with comma, not period


“Oh you hush!” Xanthe replied.

comma after "Oh"?


“Yes great striped mistress!

comma after "Yes"?


First I need to get Cerberus’ gyroscopes working so he can at least

"Cerberus's"


“So, where are you from Xanthe?

comma after "from"


What was yours again?  Propoli?”  I asked with a casual smile and got one in return.

should have only one space after quotation


She shivered terribly.  “We once mocked the Starkatteri, but had they succeeded in capturing the star and extracting its spirit... the world would be a far more terrible place.”
I looked at the blue unicorn in the corner.  “Well, thank you for sharing.  I hope you can tell me more about zebras in the future.”  She gave me a slightly perplexed smile.  “What?”
“You are the Maiden of the Stars, destined to destroy us all.  To hear you speak of us so is... unexpected.”

This was a little confusing, since that was Shears's introduction in the scene, but the glance is from Xanthe, and it is she who next speaks. Maybe change the "She" to "Xanthe"?


I mean, being the maiden is pretty embarrassing when you can’t even smite somepony trying to kill you.”

Should "maiden" be capitalized?


 I have a very pissy goddess tuned into my thoughts.

"tuned in to"


I was going to meet with two ponies I knew from Ponyville: Mr. and Mrs Cake.
Mrs Cake was still alive... told me to warn

need dot for "Mrs"


I must have missed their killers by minutes  The blood was still fresh

missing period after "minutes"


he murmured as he looked away. “Eventually I

only one space after period


“You’re talking about Snails, aren’t you?”  Silver Spoon asked.

Should have only one space after quotation


no matter how much misery it made or what mistakes it lead to.

"led" not "lead"


“Don’t give us that cop shit!”   Tears streamed down her

three spaces after quotation


into the metal of my fingers. “Wait!  She’

only one space after period


“I’m sorry.   I wish...

three spaces after period


“Okay everypony.  Smart alicorn has a plan.  Lets go out and hear it.”

comma after "Okay"? "Let's"


“So what’s the plan, Lacunae?”  I asked with a wan smile.

should only have one space after quotation


“But it’s empty, right?”  I asked as I pointed up at the weapon

should have only one space after quotation


Don’t move it-” I thought frantically at the alicorn.

second hyphen for dash


Then there was a shriek as the missile suddenly shifted, but instead of sliding free, the concrete gave way and an avalanche of crumbled flaming rubble tumbled down towards the floor of the prison.  “No!  Don’t drop it!”  Xanthe shrieked as the missile slid further into the prison.

should have only one space after quotation. Maybe change of of the shrieks?
Other Editing:
48:
The maiden is born of heartache and sorrow, and I know you suffer.
(appears twice)

"maiden" should probably be capitalized


54:
The Maiden of the Stars’ city.

"Maiden of the Stars's"


“I’m not the maiden of anything!

I'm actually not sure on this one, but it's the last that's really ambiguous, so it doesn't hurt to point out.


56:
I didn’t curse your father with some kind of magical mysterious maiden powers.

Maiden should probably be capitalized.
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Icy Shake
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by O. Hinds on Mon Jun 02, 2014 1:35 am

Icy Shake wrote:Um. Well, now I feel like kind of a heel for forgetting to say this when I was posting then, but happy belated birthday, Somber. I'm very sorry that the applications and interviews haven't been working out. I do hope you find something that will work for the long term, and soon.

Chapter Forty Seven Running Thoughts:
My gut still burned; I hoped my repair talisman could do something with the buckshot.

Ha, ha! Yes, and, of course, what an important plot point that is.


Silver Spoon and Xanthe looked at me in worry, Nurse Graves in concern, and Shears with an almost desperate stare.  Carrion, though, only appeared mildly annoyed by the acid-etched steel of his power armor.

Well, figure the repair talisman should handle it in time.


I was going to get them all killed…
The file number just shone back at me.  Taunting me.  Follow the file, Blackjack.  Follow the file.  Find the answers.  Learn the secrets.  All I had to do was keep going.  Keep following the trail to the very end.  Overcome.  Win.  Win at any cost.  Ante up.  Push to the very end…
The question was how many bodies I was going to leave behind me.  I looked over at my companions, thinking, feeling folks and not just answers to my questions.  They’d followed me here…
Was I going to be just like the Ministry Mares?  Just like Goldenblood?
I closed my eyes a moment and took a long, low breath.  “Okay.  That’s it.  I’m pulling the plug,” I said as I stood and closed the plate on my foreleg.
“What?” Mr. Shears asked bluntly.
“We’ll find the exit and get the hell out of here.  How many RadAway packets do we have?  A dozen?” I asked, looking at Nurse Graves.  The ghoul shook her head.  “Less?”
“Eight,” she said softly.
“Right.  Then we’re done.  I’m not going to kill all of you for my own ends,” I said as I looked to the south.  “We go back to Meatlocker, heal up and come back another day.  We didn’t know about the smooze, the soul jars, or the Warden.  We need better supplies and weapons.  I want to get Glory and P-21 in on this.  His grenades and her beam rifle are just what we need.  You can whip up more talismans, we can bring a tanker truck of RadAway, and we’ll do it right,” I said with a nod.  “We can work our way in from the outside, take our time with the turrets, pick off the ghouls, and make sure this place is secure.”

Well, can't say it's not a legitimate concern, though of course most of them were volunteers. Wish the sentiment had come early enough to have helped Silver Spoon, though.
As for the rest, well, it's not too often Blackjack's ready to admit defeat and just regroup to fight another day. It's kind of refreshing. Not sure that the plan would end up being enough to really make it through safely, but it's more than the current one. However, you've got to think about how all that's gone wrong so far has been just getting into the prison and through the basement and one floor. I'm not too sure that the same issue of unexpected problems popping up to leave them in serious trouble wouldn't simply recur.


“I don’t have to take any of you,” he said as he looked right at me, his horn flaring bright blue.  “Just one.”
From the cloaked ghoul, a twisting, ghostly white whirlpool formed above his horn.  Then, in a flash of gray smoke, it shot across the distance between us and slammed into my chest.
I’d like to say I’d never heard screams from inside me before, but as the spell hit me I heard a noise like Enervation coming from my chest… a clawing, twisting explosion of pain that drove me to my knees.

Ah, the soul-removal spell. Not too bad for motivation, but in this case does rather require everyone else to step in line to come to Blackjack's aid. Granted, that's rarely too much of a problem, and some are already independently committed.
Anyway, dick move.


“I die, she dies!” the ghoul screamed, freezing the earth pony.  Shears rasped, “That curse is slowly ripping her soul from her body.  In a few hours, she’s dead or worse.”  Rampage grit her teeth in frustration.  “Do you know how to remove it?” he asked, staring at Lacunae, who pointed her AM rifle right at his face.  The alicorn didn’t answer.  “Do you?” he asked as he looked at Xanthe.
“Starkatteri blasphemy,” Xanthe spat at him.  “You meddle in that which you have no right!”

While I get Xanthe wouldn't be a fan of Starkatteri blasphemy, wouldn't she like the idea of the Maiden being taken out?


“Is nothing I’m not already used to,” I said as I stared down at him and grimaced.  “I get hurt a lot.  So.  Tell me why…” I said as I floated Vigilance out and pointed it at his head.  “Or else I kill you and have a nice party in Afterlife before I die.  Again.”
“Again?” he murmured softly, and then took a slow step back.  “You’ve… been to the everafter?  Seen the singing lights?  But your eyes…”
“Are synthetic.  So.  Tell me why,” I said, then clenched my jaw against another stab of pain.

Some interesting mechanics of soul removal and death, there. I like the way that the effect on the eyes was hidden. Lots of weird things seem to happen to her eyes, don't they?


“I’m not going to abandon Tiar… um… Blackjack,” Silver Spoon said as she put a hoof on my shoulder.  I smiled at the gesture, but stepped clear from the spiking radiation.  The round unicorn just nodded and hung his head.  She blinked behind her frames.  “You might need me to deal with the Warden again.  Maybe I can, like, convince him to meet us face to face?”  She looked at the ceiling with a worried frown. 

Go Silvy! Blackjack deserves your help and loyalty least of all, but damned if it's not nice to see you look past that to stay by her anyway.



I looked at Nurse Graves, and she just smiled and shook her head.  Rampage too.  Psychoshy gave me the cockiest grin she could muster, gulping against her fear.  Stygius looked at her with surprise, then smiled, patted his chest, and pointed to me.  Finally, all eyes turned to the zebra.  Xanthe chewed her lower lip.  “I… I can go?”
“With that stealth suit, you probably can,” I replied calmly.  “I sort of dragged you into this too.  We could use you with us, but only if you want to join us.”
The zebra looked absolutely torn.  “I… I… I…” she stammered, looking in the direction of the exit.  “Ooooh, curses.”  She slumped down before me, hanging her head.  “I cannot leave you, Maiden.  You have cursed me like all the others.  I am in your thrall.”

Xanthe is so adorable.

I sighed, rolling my eyes.  “Xanthe.  You can go.  I don’t want you along if you don’t want to come along.”     This whole zebra curse thing was getting a whole lot harder to understand and, honestly, a bit concerning.

I could just imagine her actually saying "Shoo! Shoo!" here and making the hand motions to go with it.
 

“Don’t fly in the central shaft!”  Graves warned as we spilled out.  “There’re high-powered turrets up there designed to take fliers out in the event of lockdown!”
“Big deal.  There’s a missile in the way,” Psychoshy snorted as she lifted off the ground.
“Do you want to find out what will happen if that warhead is hit by a beam turret?” Graves countered.
“Oh that would be bad.  Very very bad.  Please don’t shoot balefire warheads with beam weaponry!” Xanthe pleaded.

Thank you, Captain Obvious. The best part is I do think Xanthe thought it was important to say that, that maybe the others didn't know.


“Some people say earth ponies are made out of mud.
Well this poor mare’s made of muscle and blood!
Muscle and blood, skin and bone,
A mind that’s weak but a back’s that strong!”
. . .
“She was born one morning when the sun didn’t shine!
She picked up her shovel and she went to the mines!
She loaded sixteen tons of that number nine coal
Till the boss mare said ‘Well-uh bless my soul!”
. . .
“Load sixteen tons and whaddaya get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Princess Luna don’tcha call me, ‘Cause I can’t go!
I owe my soul to the Company store!”
. . .
“She was born one morning, it was drizzlin’ rain.
Fightin’ and trouble are her middle name.
She was raised in a cave, bred by an old mama griffin
Ain’t no high class mare makes her walk the line!”
. . .
“If you see me coming, better step aside!
“A lot of mares didn’t; a lot of mares died.
“I’ve got one hoof of iron, and the other of steel
“And if the right one doesn’t get ya then the left one will!”

Like the song on the whole, but there are some places where it doesn't seem to flow right to me. Also, the last two lines of the fourth stanza are a pretty weak point.
And oh, the power of song while fighting! Not just to make them stronger, but to make for a more fun spectacle for the reader.


Carrion leaned over towards Xanthe.  “You understand that this is why you couldn’t beat them, right?  You just couldn’t compete with pony combat folk music.”
Xanthe didn’t argue, though she did furrow her brow.  “There was once a report that said pony battle effectiveness increased by almost seventy percent when they were singing.  It recommended withdrawing immediately till the song was over.” 

Yep. Oh, and I'd like to think that "almost seventy percent" is within measurement error of 72.8%, which is a 20% improvement, three times.


“My co-workers and friends,” Graves replied quietly.  Then she looked back at us soberly.

How much self control did it take not to use "gravely" for either of those adverbs?


“Right.  Got an encore?” Psychoshy asked Rampage sourly.
“Your turn,” the striped reaper responded, her voice softer.  For some reason, the lack of anything shooting at us had us talking more quietly.

Well, it's all about responding to the atmosphere, and pattern recognition. That's important too.


A safe had three hundred bits and some files that had survived the flames.  Prewar ponies and their love of paper.  Graves took them and slipped them into her saddlebag.

Yeah, like Blackjack's one to talk. Also, heh, "prewar" as "wartime."


“I’m sorry, Graves,” Shears said as the glowing shears came up and sliced right through the leathery hide and desiccated sinew.  The ghoul’s head popped off and rattled as it rolled across the floor.  For a moment the ghoul in combat armor swayed…
Then it turned and smashed its hooves down on the round unicorn ghoul.
Oh crap.  It was one of the suits of soul armor…

Nice fake-out.


I whipped out the first thing I could think of, the only thing that had been effective: my sword.  The blade hummed its lone cold note as I slashed at the suit, but unlike the ones down below, this one refused to cut.  Still, it jerked away, as if in pain.

A better soul binding, or is it just that the sword would have a degree of difficulty with metal anyway? Think that came up a couple chapters ago.


I looked at the radiation meter creeping up through the yellow.  “You came back to see if any of your coworkers survived.”
“This was my life, Blackjack.  My home!  This place was full of ponies that needed help, and we did everything we could to help them,” Nurse Graves said as she trembled.  “So why am I still here when none of them are?  Was it just an accident that I was in the supply room stuck doing inventory because I notified the news about prisoner conditions here?  Is… is this existence supposed to be some sort of reward, or punishment?  Living so long and keeping my mind only to remember this horrible place?”
“That’s why Hobble called you a whistleblower?” I asked as I sat down besides the grieving ghoul.  She nodded in short, jerking spasms.
“We all knew it was wrong.  We gathered files.  Put our careers on the line.  Showed the pattern of guard abuse, the overcrowded conditions, and the strange magical murders and disappearances.  But I was the one who drew the short straw and went public with it.”

I would have said something about solidarity and this being the sort of things unions are for, but I doubt the labor situation in wartime Equestria was really anything to write home about.


I helped her to her hooves, and she continued down the hall to a simple gray door marked ‘Supply B.’  I jiggled the handle, made an irked face, and knelt down with bobby pin and screwdriver.  This was definitely going to be tough; I could barely get the pin in there.  Then something jingled by my ear.  Nurse Graves gave a sad smile as she held a keyring in her mouth.  Okay... I guessed that’d be easier.  Still, I bet I could have opened it as well as P-21.  It just would have taken me a while...

"So that's what that feels like"


“Lacunae… what is that?” I muttered between gulps.
She looked up with me, and her purple eyes narrowed in a confused frown.  Carrion joined me.  Then Shears.
Then the fire turned and looked at down at us.
“Oh…” I began to say, when it stepped off the edge and tumbled like a flaming blue meteor towards -- and through -- the skylight, showering us in glass and gobbets of blue fire. We all fell back as it landed in the middle of us, and for several terrified moments all we could do was stare as it rose to its hooves.  I supposed it was a ghoul, technically.  The blackened pony hide was so charred that it gleamed like obsidian.  A roaring blue bonfire poured out of the gaps in its flesh and along its spine, and its fiery eyes blazed as it opened its mouth wide in a demonic scream.

Interesting adversary, and some nice description there.


The flaming monster winced at the impacts, took a deep breath, and exhaled a plume of blue and green fire that washed over the floating robot.  Its robotic eyes exploded in showers of sparks, and the three arms were blown clear off!  The levitation talisman went dark as Cerberus gave one last anemic crackle.  “For the Glory of Equestriiiiiiiizzzzk--“

No! Not the much more endearing racist!


But Cerberus’ action had galvanized the rest of us as we all began firing at the immolated monster as fast as we could.

Heh, a robot galvanizing people. I bet he would have liked to literally galvanize some of them, too, if that were allowed by his combat inhibitor. Luckily . . .


“Stop!”  Silver Spoon yelled as she waved her hooves.  “Like, you have to do what I say!  Like those others!  I don’t care if you are totally big and flaming and scary… do what I say and go away!”
The ghoul turned and stared at her with blue eyes of fire and took a step back.  Then hope died as the ghoul made a horrible inhalation noise, the licking fire sucking back through the cracks and holes in its blackened hide.  Silver Spoon stared in horror as the fire crackled in its mouth, unleashing a blazing plume of radioactive flame.

It was worth a shot. Still not great reaction time, though. Maybe this one isn't actually feral.


Shears leapt at Silver Spoon and knocked her out of the path of the fire.  Caught in the inferno, his rags burst into flame as he rolled across the ground, screaming in pain.  The blazing ghoul swept its head around, and Carrion and Lacunae barely flew out of the stream.  Half the break room blazed with blue-green fire.
There was no time to question his sudden gallantry as it turned towards Graves, Stygius, Xanthe, and Psychoshy in the storage room.

Well, it's not like it was the first thing he's directed at her. More noticeable, though.


“No!”  I screamed as I brought the butt of the shotgun down on the head of the blazing monster.  Purple light swept the orange packets up before we could trample them, but I barely paid any notice.  Graves was gone, along with all the supplies we’d needed.  Another good pony gone because she’d tried to keep my dumb ass safe.  Because I hadn’t forced everyone to leave.  Because the plan had gone completely to shit.

Yep. All Blackjack's fault. All of it. Pay no attention to the pony behind the rags.


I might not have had a grenade, but I had explosive shotgun shells.  I screamed in rage as I grabbed its jaws with my fingers and forced them wide, ramming the shotgun down its throat and pulling the trigger as rapidly as I could.  Its sides erupted in volcanic cascades of ghoul gore and radioactive fire. My PipBuck roared; I was back in the red and heading quickly for dead as I did all I could to blast this thing into oblivion.

Nice move and all, but I'm surprised the radiation is the main problem. Maybe Psychoshy should have been kicking this thing after all.

Then the barrel of my gun blew apart in a shower of red steel, my fingers glowing from the heat as it inhaled once more.  I shoved its head away as I dove to the side and looked back.  Once thing was for sure -- I had really succeeded in pissing this thing off.

Yeah, it's great that the point is made, even if it is only with his active attack, but isn't he covered in fire? That seems like it should have a pretty profound passive affect on her.


Of course, as I raced down the hall, I was suddenly struck with the immortal question of ‘Now what?’  I had a really pissed off monster on my butt, but more than that, I was still soaking up rads.  I had no clue where this hall went, only that if I came across a locked door or anything I was probably dead.  I felt like shit, I had a hole drilling away inside my chest, and didn’t have a clue what to do beyond ‘run faster’.
So why was I grinning so hard?

Well, because you haven't really gotten beyond what drove you from your friends in the first place, even if you're somewhat better controlled. You still prefer being able to let moment-to-moment action drive out the need to think.
Happyhorn would be disappointed.


I skidded to a stop, and out came Duty and Sacrifice.  I aimed just a few inches south of its tail and fired.  The bullets really weren’t any more effective than my slugs, but I hit a very tender target, even for a ghoul.  It looked back at me, eyes wide in outrage from my lead suppository.

Yuh-huh. "Suppository." FOE protagonists really like going for the genitals, don't they? Though I guess that's mostly just she and Murky, but Littlepip may have at some point. Don't think she made it such a habit, though.


Be awesome, a cyan pegasus suggested.  Easy for Gl- Rainbow Dash to say. 

I love it every time this happens. It's one of those nice touches that underlines how important Glory is to Blackjack, despite everything.


“My key?”  The… turquoise pony?  Wait!  The pony wearing the charred rags didn’t have the boiled-looking appearance of the undead.  He looked like a simple portly unicorn with prominent buck teeth and a shaggy brown mane.  His eyes had the same milky whiteness of a ghoul, but there was something off about them.  Something… luminescent.
That, though, could wait till after I was done wrestling with an unbeatable undead invincible enemy. 

Great last line there, one of the ones that captures the tone of big sections of the story.


“No!  No more shrieking,” I muttered as I took my target, hopped into S.A.T.S., and cast three magic bullets at my right leg at the knee.  The first two blasted the corroded, smoking metal.  The third took it off completely.

Whatever it takes . . .


With a fiery scream the ghoul fell, plunging to the ground fifty feet below.  It crashed into the tangled steel, buried for a moment in the twisted chainlink and razorwire.  Then its blazing head emerged... and let out one last roar of rage before exploding in a massive green fireball that obliterated not just the ghoul but the steel and ten feet of concrete.  It wasn’t just vaporized.  It was as if everything around the ghoul had been utterly disintegrated, including the possessed soul armor.

And will Rampage notice? Because if so, she could make it a program to find a balefire egg as a strong candidate.


I was barely aware of the hooves pulling me in.  There were screams and shouts and calls for RadAway.  It didn’t matter anymore.  I was so tired.  Ready for a really long nap.  I felt Rampage slap me.  Heard Lacunae tell me to stay awake.  Didn’t they understand?  I’d earned a rest…

I like the feeling here, of her just sliding away into unconsciousness after the battle ended with a Pyrrhic victory.


I stood beneath hazy summer clouds that gave us all a welcome respite from the sun beating down and making our itchy green uniforms feel even worse while we stood in line.

This was a pretty good scene from what I remember.


We’d been given a preliminary physical, sent the fillies and colts who wanted to fight home, signed the parchment, and gotten our hoof and dental prints taken.

Somehow I just have trouble seeing hoofprints being all that useful, especially since they're the kind of thing that might often be covered long-term or altered repeatedly by routine maintenance.

Then we got our first lesson in military life: hurry up and wait.  So we stood in rows, unicorns in one line, earth ponies in another, and pegasi on the far side of the field.  Above the trees to the west, black smoke still rose from Hoofington.

Not quite sure that's what "hurry up and wait" means, given the preceding didn't seem all that urgent, but I do love the term.


“Can you believe the zebras said they didn’t do it?” one mare muttered behind me.
“After Littlehorn, I don’t put anything past those bastards,” another growled.  “We should throw out every stripe in Equestria.  Can’t trust a one of ‘em.”

Hi, Applesnack!


It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.  Celestia wasn’t supposed to quit.  Alicorn princesses didn’t quit.  She’d lasted over a thousand years!  How could she quit?  Oh, sure, nopony was calling it that, but ‘resigning due to an inability to secure the peace, safety, and prosperity of her people’ was ‘quit’ with far more syllables than needed.

Yeah, that's something that I think the readers have had to grapple with, too.


Big Macintosh nodded once.  “Ayep.”  Then he looked at the pony curiously.  “Hey!  Applesnack?  Strudel’s great nephew twice removed?”
“Three times... I think,” Applesnack replied, looking around.  “Is Braeburn here?  I’d thought he’d jump at a chance like this!”

Man, I know this is probably taken pretty close from the show, but that doesn't stop me from thinking that's just not how that works.


“A lot have been pretty resistant to the army.  The Equestrian Guard used to be almost solely the province of unicorn knights and pegasus warriors.  The idea of taking just anypony old enough and willing to fight and training them to be soldiers is... difficult.”

I think I can appreciate the irony of Applesnack being on the receiving end of anti–earth pony racism, even if it's more general rather than  necessarily coming from Cupcake here.


“Hey!  Is this where we sign up to join the Skyguard?” a buck said from above, drifting down on his widespread wings and landing with a crash.  “Is Rainbow Dash here?  I’d really love to meet her!  I got a move called the Stonewing Stomp that I think she’ll find totally awesome!” the gray winged pony said, giving a little hop and smashing the grass under his hooves.
“Didn’t you just hear him?  We’re joining the army, not the guard,” a blue pegasus mare said, landing beside him.  “Don’t mind him.  He’s a numbskull.  Flew into one too many mountains back in summer flight camp.”
“Oh, like you never did, Jetstream,” he snorted, rolling his eyes.
“Correct.  I never did,” she replied pointedly.
The gray pegasus pointed a wing at her with a grin.  “What about that faceplant into Mount Celestia’s southern face?  The infamous ‘plotbreaker’?”
She looked back at him flatly.  “That was you, Stonewing.”
“Oh?  Oh yeah.  Well, who smacked right into the wall of Ghastly Gorge during speed trials?”
“Also you.”
“Ploughed through the wall of the Cloudeseum?”
“You.”
“Left their imprint in the Ponyville dam?”
“You,” she finished in that same flat tone.  “I’ll give you a hint, Stonewing.  If there was an epic flight failure in the last ten years, it was probably you.”
This caused him to frown in thought and concern.  “Oh, yeah...” Stonewing murmured as he looked skyward and rubbed his chin, then shrugged and grinned at the pegasus guard.

Somehow I could easily see Stonewing and Blackjack really hitting it off. Jetstream plays a good straight man, but it kind of brings with it an undercurrent of what did she see in him?


“I don’t see as many pegasi or unicorns,” the yellow earth pony said with a small frown.  “Mostly earth ponies.”  Nearby there was a bit of commotion, with a stallion shouting for somepony to be reasonable in the crowd.
“Unfortunately, many pegasi don’t see much appeal in joining,” a smooth voice said as an emerald-maned unicorn stepped forward in his professionally tailored uniform.  “Wars are dirty, uncouth things for surface ponies to struggle through.  No concern for ponies who live in the clouds.”
“So why aren’t there many unicorns here either?” Jetstream countered.  I reached up and touched my horn lightly, wondering if I even counted as a unicorn.
“Because wars are dirty, uncouth things for banal unmagical ponies to struggle through.  No concern for ponies who can use magic,” another unicorn said as he pushed his way through with a scowl.  He was certainly handsome, but it merely seemed to emphasize his haughtiness.  “There you are!  You’ve made me wade through all these commoners to find you.  What do you think you’re doing, Vanity?  This is no place for a prince!”

This, too is a good "introduction," but I rather wish it had been Vanity who gave the line about wars being dearty, uncouth things for non-magical ponies. It still works coming from Blueblood, but doesn't have quite the same punch.


Vanity smiled and nodded, looking sublime in his tailored fatigues.  “And it won’t just be the soldiers.  I’ve heard talk that Princess Luna plans on throwing the entire might of Equestria behind this war.  Every factory.  Every resource that Equestria has to bring to bear will be used.  It won’t be the guard being sent off to fight while the rest of us live our lives and try to pretend that the war is just some trivial bit of news.”  Vanity looked off to the east, his expression solemn.  “Hoofington proved just how much the enemy will destroy if given a chance.  Littlehorn showed that all of our people are targets, no matter how helpless or innocent.”

Not a bad one-paragraph description of total war.


“I’ve seen what happens when muh sister’s six friends work together.  If all of Equestria works together and don’t hold back, how can we fail?” Big Macintosh said casually with an easy smile.

Counting Applejack as one of her friends, or including Spike? Eh, I'll take the latter. He doesn't get the attention, much less the treatment, he deserves. I blame the writers.


In the weeks to come, we would work together and learn the difficult art of war.  Royal Guard Cupcake put his armor away to become Captain Cupcake.  Twist learned that while her eyesight would always hinder her firearms ability, she was a tireless and tenacious fighter, and she learned to speak without her lisp so orders and communications could be clearly understood.  Doof lost the fat and put on muscle with the constant work and training.  Vanity taught the others dignity and pride, and learned the messy realities of fighting.  Stonewing and Jetstream worked as a team, protecting their surfacer pony friends from harm.  Applesnack softened his cynical and hard attitude and learned to work with others.  And Big Macintosh learned to become a leader, soft spoken but always supremely confident and sure of the right course of action.
And myself?  I discovered that while I had little in the way of magic, with the help of an earth pony weapon I could be just as effective as a unicorn battlemage of old.  Even if it was hard to sight a target and pull the trigger.
We were friends.  We were comrades.  We were Macintosh’s Marauders...

Nice end to the segment. On the whole, the memory was pretty good, doing a strong job of showing the Marauders' first meeting. Particularly towards the end, though, the dialog got a little on the overly expositive side, but given that the whole thing was essentially an expositive scene, I don't know how much could have been done to avoid that. In contrast, the part exerpted above was, in my opinion, a competent example of showing by telling, and clearly knew where the depth of showing a scene wasn't needed. In that sense, it reminds me of the part of It's a Wonderful Life where Joseph gives maybe a few sentences each to cover what the major characters did during the war, with the little bit of exposition and few seconds of footage being all that was necessary because it all fit so well with what we already knew of the characters.


Drink,” she said.  I lay back, levitated the jar, and gave it a tenative sniff.
“It smells like pee,” I muttered sullenly.  My chest still felt the curse chewing away inside.  I looked around and spotted Shears at the far side of the storeroom, head bowed, filthy brown mane hiding his face.
“Well, I tried to filter it as well as I was able and remove as much uric acid and protein contaminants as I could, but unfortunately, the facilities here aren’t quite up to snuff.  So yes, there’s probably at least some pee in it.  Drink it anyway,” she said, then gestured towards a rainbow-splattered bucket in the corner.  “When it hits your bladder, aim for the bucket.  We need to save as much as possible.”

So there is something Blackjack wouldn't consume, other than plastic.


“Graves?” I suddenly asked as my brain began to replay the battle.  “Where is Graves?”
“She didn’t make it,” Rampage said, and then immediately followed it up with, “And unless you are a flaming ghoul that burned her or forced her to come at gunpoint, you are not responsible for her death.  You can shelve that guilt right now.  If she hadn’t thrown out what RadAway she did, you and your friends would have died.  That ghoul was sane enough to target our supplies.  You should be proud you beat it rather than kicking yourself for her death.”
I opened my mouth and closed it again.  I knew that she was right, but maybe if I’d been faster... if I’d shouted out a warning sooner or been a better distraction...  I knew that some of us might not come back, but I’d always intended it to be over my dead body.

And we have Blackjack acting like herself again. On a more positive note, having Doctor Octopus around was pretty handy, and I always like it when he shows up.

I occupied myself with drinking the yellow-orange fluid in the jar, wrinkling my nose.  Actually, though... despite the smell of pee, the taste was a robust, tangy RadAway orange with a salty aftertaste.  Not bad!

Perhaps I spoke too soon. Should have seen this coming.


She arched one brow at me before she turned and returned the jar next to the equipment.  “And Razorwire.  That filly certainly knows how to brew her chems.  Trust me, you don’t want the details to her secret, personal recipe for Dash,” she said, rolling her eyes.

Oh right, I forgot she was locked up for drug crimes. That's what it was, right, before the informing?

“Something about this place is pulling us to the fore.  It’s somewhat disturbing.  Fortunately, most of us want to help you, and those that don’t are keeping silent.”

I'm guessing the Enervation. It's what would make the most sense. Or something to do with the talisman's connection to Hightower? That could be it, since I don't really remember this happening to Rampage when they were underground in the tunnels when Glory lost her wing, and that was probably about as Enervated as here.


“Help me get to the bucket,” I said as I hobbled my way into the corner.

One of the more pathetic lines Blackjack's ever said.


“Where did the extra talismans come from then?”
I heard Lacunae’s voice in my mind with a strange new clarity, though the screaming background of Enervation did make things a little more difficult.  “Several pieces were ‘donated’ by Caprice, salvaged from Deus’ body.  She was apparently selling off the Reaper piece by piece as souvenirs, but then Glory reminded her that she hadn’t paid for the installation of those beam turrets and threatened to take some pieces of Caprice as souvenirs if she didn’t turn over whatever was left.”

Fun reminder Glory can be serious business when she  wants to. It's really not a move I could see Blackjack readily making, at least not on her own behalf.

I looked around, but there was no sign of my purple alicorn friend.  “Lacunae?  How are you hearing me?”
“I’m afraid that the extreme radiation to your brain had some... unexpected side effects,” Lacunae murmured.  “Some of the things that were believed to be simple tumors were not, and they are now... active.”
I stared straight ahead, listening to that scream in the distant parts of my mind as I focused.  “What do you mean ‘active’?”
Then I heard a voice break through that interference and speak low and grand and just a touch snotty.  “It means that you are a part of that to which you have no right, Blackjack!  You are a thief!  A trespasser!  A bit of mutant scum whose unworthy mind has tapped into a grand and glorious being!”

It was brought up just a little bit earlier, but still fun now that it's bigger, and offering a chance for her Hamminess to make an appearance. Also, I believe the checklist is now mutant-cyber-zombie-alicorn (part one). Could be missing something, though.


Apparently, the second I set a hoof out of Hoofington again, I was destined to become transformed into an alicorn rather than the half unicorn, half alicorn, half cyberpony thing I was now.

Manbearpig.


“Right.  Knowing my luck it’ll turn me into some kind of freaky cyber alicorn!”

Heh. Ironic, but hey, even if the prediction didn't exactly come true, it rhymed with what did come to pass.

I really wanted to hyperventilate right now; having the Goddess inside me... damn it!  It felt like I was losing myself.  It was like being back on the Seahorse, feeling hurt and violated and just wanting it over.  I wanted my own dreams back, not Psalm’s.  I wanted to see with my own eyes, not view visions and flashes of what other ponies wanted me to see.  I wanted to be Blackjack again.  I could almost not remember that idiot who ran out into the wasteland with Deus on her tail.
It was all... too much.  Just too much.  The enormity of how much I’d changed and what had happened to Graves came crashing down on me.  I didn’t want to deal with it anymore.  I just wanted to curl up with my head in Glory’s lap and have her stroke my mane until magically everything was better.

This is a better than normal placement of this sort of thing. I'd hope that it's a place where even those who don't care for the repeated angst see the appropriateness to the situation.

But right now, I had ponies who would die if I simply went fetal.

Also, because she isn't just who she used to be on first coming out of the stable, or even just after her cyberization, she's likely to do better at getting her head back in the game.


“I am hoping that I can absorb enough radiation to push the missile out... but...”  There was a pause, yet I heard what she tried to hide.  “The warding talismans are weakening.”

Hm, so probably not moonstone after all.


“Wait.  Wait.  Lacunae... what are you trying to hide from me?” I asked, thinking hard at my friend.  It was like looking at photographs underwater, and the harder I looked the deeper she pushed them.
“Please don’t pry, Blackjack.” Lacunae murmured quietly.  “There are things I do not want you to know.  Things that I am ashamed of.  Please...”  The voice was as soft and composed as ever, but there was a begging tone to it that halted my attempts to get at those pictures in her mind.  What was I doing?  Of course I didn’t have a right to go rifling through her mind.  And if she didn’t want to tell me now, hopefully someday she would.  I stopped trying to look at those pictures.

Yeah, not one of the nicer points of Blackjack's friends. Not quite up there with Rampage's late betrayal, in my mind, but not one of the better moments.


I limped over to where the zebra was working on the robot.  Its metal casing had warped in the heat of the magical fire, and only one round eye remained.  “How’s the guard dog?”  She looked up at me in surprise.  “What?  I can’t have read a mythology book?”  Actually, I’d been assigned the book as a group project with Midnight.  She was the one who’d done the reading, and I just got the good bits from her and made a little black three-headed dog doll for our presentation.  Still counted, though.

I like this. Of course Blackjack would be the student who let others do most of the work in a group school project. Getting distracted, too. Granted, it does undercut her whole "I could almost not remember" thing when she's dragging up memories of her school days—then again, allowance for figurative speech and all that.


“I can’t obliterate filthy maggot farms with only one arm, you striped savage.”  The robot buzzed and crackled as its remaining eye flashed with its words.

I have to wonder why he has a thing against ghouls. It doesn't seem like something that would be programmed in. Maybe just because they aren't close enough to the ponies he was programmed to see on his side?


“Oh you hush!” Xanthe replied.  ‘Shhhhh...’ the stealth suit beeped chidingly.  “I grew up with bigger and tougher robots than you,” the zebra said before she grabbed a screwdriver and jammed it into his bulbous main housing.  There was a sizzle, and his eye stalk twitched.
“Yes great striped mistress!  I live to serve... damn this treacherous stripe programming!” the robot buzzed, and then added, “Oh, just scrap me now.”

It's like an echo of Blackjack's dysphoria in miniature.


“Yes.  The Propoli.  We were... are... builders.  We were the first to set aside the ancient ways of wandering and hunting.  We founded Roam before there was an Equestria.  The union of the seven great tribes on the seven hills was the start of our empire.  Of course, there are dozens of lesser tribes...”  Then she looked at Shears in the corner.  “And cursed tribes.  Like the Starkatteri.”

There's been some nice background for Xanthe, and the thing about her home in Dawn Bay is setting things up well. The count seems odd, though. I thought there were thirteen, counting the Starkatteri. Were several promoted, and others just folded in or something?

“They used to live here in Hoofington, didn’t they?” I asked with a worried frown.
“Indeed.  This was their capital.  Long ago they were a tribe of mystics and sorcerers.  They preserved the oldest and darkest ways, predicting the future from the movements of the stars.  And they could not only know the future, but affect the fates of others.”  She shuddered.  “And they studied death and the progression of the spirit.  But when Roam was founded, we excluded the Starkatteri.  We drove them away across the sea, and here in this place they founded their own city of wickedness.”
“And it was destroyed?  By a falling star?” 
“Yes.  They had a spell that would call a star spirit from the heavens.  The stars are terrible things, not to be meddled with.  To change their placement in the skies is to change fate itself.”  She shivered terribly.  “We once mocked the Starkatteri, but had they succeeded in capturing the star and extracting its spirit... the world would be a far more terrible place.”

I like the history. Hm, I wonder how far some of it is from the truth, though, since it seemed that at least at first most of the zebras of Hoofington didn't know the Eater was there, and they were only corrupted by its influence. Maybe there was some historical drift, with the sins of the children imputed on their ancestors to explain why they were there, banished instead of leaving for another reason. Or perhaps at first it was only superstition that made the other tribes drive them out, but it turned out that what came to pass looked much like what they believed anyway.


“Snips?” came a soft voice from the back of the storage room, and I looked over with trepidation as Rampage approached.  She wore a strange little smile, her pink eyes bright.  “It’s you, isn’t it?”
Snips looked at my friend with a confused frown.  Then his luminescent eyes widened.  “Twist?  But... your speech... and stripes?  Why are you striped?” he stammered.  “And the armor and... is it really you?” he asked with a ghost of a smile.

Well, guess he never had any reason to meet her again after she joined the army.

Rampage just nodded and then lunged, hugging the round blue unicorn.  “It is!  Oh, I haven’t seen you since the Ponyville Reunion!  Then Littlehorn happened and... and...”

'Natch.


Rampage just shook her head.  “I have no idea.  I don’t know either.  I mean... I died at Miramare.  After I... I...”  Her eyes grew round.  “Oh no... no no no...”  And she started to shake.  “Please...”
She pushed away from Snips and started to pace.  “Aw, what’s the matter?  Tell him.  Tell them all,” she said with a little leer.  Suddenly she whirled around and snapped, “She doesn’t have to tell anypony!  She has the right to remain silent.”  Then her head whipped to the side.  “Don’t give us that cop shit!”   Tears streamed down her cheeks as she backed away even more before suddenly stopping in her tracks.  “Full disclosure might be therapeutic,” she said reasonably, then bellowed, “Leave her alone, Doctor!”
sure might be therapeutic,” she said reasonably, then bellowed, “Leave her alone, Doctor!”
Now everypony was trying to move away as she turned and pressed her forehooves to the wall.  “Shut up!” she screamed, and brought her forehead against the wall with a pulpy crunch.  “Shut up!”

Okay, Twist, Angel?, Softheart, probably Razorwire, Doc Oc, then it could be almost anyone. Then, of course, Rampage.


I did the only thing I could think of in a situation like this.  Therapy with bullets...  Xanthe gave a litte scream and Stygius jumped to his hooves in alarm.  Psychoshy just muttered about how the woodchipper had been cooler.
Snips stared in horror as I put three rounds in Rampage’s head, sending her down in a heap.  His eyes flared, horn glowing as he brought his shears out.  I caught the closing blades with my remaining hand, the edges cutting into the metal of my fingers. “Wait!  She’ll be okay!” I yelled in alarm.

And . . . cue Snips seeing she's the recipient of the Phoenix talisman. Wonder if he'll recognize any of the souls?

“The phoenix talisman...” Snips breathed softly.  “You have the phoenix talisman!”  Xanthe stared in similar astonishment.

This should be good. Hopefully. The slow reveal had been going on a long time, and would have been interesting to see play out, though.


“Are you mad?!” Xanthe shouted.  “Have you thought of the dozens, perhaps hundreds of deaths, of stolen souls such an effort would require?!  Bad enough one!”
“You don’t understand,” Snips pleaded.  “I agree, it was wrong, but at the time we almost had it!  We almost had... everything.  A way to make ponies truly immortal!  The ethics didn’t matter, just success.”  Then he slumped.  “And then... Rarity changed her mind.”

Not the easiest extrapolation of the Snips from the show, but then none of them are. Plus side, having this aspect now does make what happens later seem more in character than when I'd forgotten this little speech.


“Goldenblood’s technicians assured us that they were,” Snips replied with a little shrug, but I knew better.  If Goldenblood could get his hooves on Rarity’s necromantic research, he would never destroy it.  “After that we swapped to something else.”

No shit.


“Lacunae!  Xanthe says there might still be fuel in the missile!  Don’t move it-” I thought frantically at the alicorn.
    Then there was a shriek as the missile suddenly shifted, but instead of sliding free, the concrete gave way and an avalanche of crumbled flaming rubble tumbled down towards the floor of the prison.  “No!  Don’t drop it!”  Xanthe shrieked as the missile slid further into the prison.  Lacunae’s face creased with effort as she tried to keep the weapon aloft.  The blazing warhead touched the bars on the far side, and then the thrusters in the rear were inside and swung down.  I held my breath as the whole missile tipped vertical and dropped down the central shaft.

Because nothing can ever go easy around here!


“Thank you for not exploding,” I said in a rush of relief.
    Suddenly crimson flames erupted from the base of the rocket.  The flames crawled through the twisted metal, spreading as the fuel leaked and ignited.  Any chance at all of retreat the way we came was now ablaze in a lake of fire!

You just had to say something.


. . .

So, did they ever do anything about Blackjack's leg? I mean, they couldn't repair it, but did the peg happen? After the timer really starts, I have trouble seeing Xanthe taking care of it (could be the case, though), but could Blackjack really deal with going on while needing to consciously think about walking, and doing so poorly?
Chapter Forty Seven Overall Thoughts:
Eh, not too much to say about this chapter. In part that's because I read it over two weekends, with my hard drive getting corrupted in the middle and me needing to replace it, which took up most of my non-work time from last Monday to Thursday. But mostly because there was a lot I just didn't find too interesting.

The first half is pretty action heavy, and while it was intense, particularly the part with the flaming ghoul they ended up killing with the balefire egg, the only part that did much to grab me was Rampage's highlander song. The song was pretty good, but there were a few places where it seemed like the rhythm to sing it would be a bit awkward.

Various cast members get to do a bit during this time, but again, many are basically in the background. Snips pulls the soul-sucking curse on Blackjack, but it doesn't end up seeming all that important since all it really ended up doing was preserving the status quo. Later on, at least, there's some nice stuff between him and Silver Spoon, and even Twist, which builds into the background of the phoenix talisman after he sees Rampage regenerate. Rampage isn't happy about finding out why she regenerates, now having even more existential doubts than before.

The vision/dream/etc. for the chapter was when the Marauders met up at boot camp. It was a nice scene, but not especially informative and at some points a little over-expositive. Still, the characters played well off of each other, which was kind of a nice contrast to what was going on in the Tower. The dream ended with what I thought was a great example of how to do a scene via telling, reminding me of an expositional scene from It's a Wonderful Life that served a similar purpose.

After this, there's more fun, with Doctor Octupus and Razorwire recycling RadAway to keep Blackjack alive, and the revelation that Blackjack is now hooked in to Unity. This leads to some well-placed angst which Blackjack overcomes quickly because she needs to get down to business, which I thought was a nice moment to show how she's changed since early on, and indeed since before going after Sanguine after he killed Priest.

Anyway, there's some interesting world building with Xanthe talking about the zebra tribes and her home, though particularly the Starkatteri. It makes me wonder if some of the history she learned was distorted against them, though, since it seems to sell them as more nefarious, even from the beginning, than Blackjack's star vision while visiting the everafter would indicate.

So the chapter ends with Lacunae and Carrion botching their attempt to get the missile to fall out of the prison, just after Snips finds he can't undo the curse he placed on Blackjack without his notes or Snails's help.

All in all, there were some pretty good parts of the chapter, but frankly it's one of the few cases where I think the story went on too long without enough really happening in it. I think there was somewhere in the twenties where I thought a couple of chapters would have been better condensed into one, or three into two, and I believe the same may well end up proving the case for Hightower.
Chapter Forty Seven Editing:
but the pain was receding. Once on all

only one space after period


 that they were going to tumble right-- okay, not going there.

symmetrical spacing about dash?


pointing towards the door..  A glow of alicorn magic p

double period



blackening on contact. I desperately flung


only one space after period


sizzled in a dozen places..  I looked over at the

couble period


We hadn’t even left ground floor and already we were thrashed.

"the ground floor"?


I chowed down on cram cans and gems, and was relieved to see my fingertips reforming.

capitalize "Cram"


 able to stand!  The pain-“ he muttered as

second hyphen for dash


want to come along.”     This whole zebra curse

is the second space after the quotation a tab?


“Don’t fly in the central shaft!”  Graves warned as we

should have only one space after quotation


broken warning or threat. Rampage didn’t miss

only one space after period


and rammed her hooves into it’s chest

"its"


Princess Luna don’tcha call me, ‘Cause I can’t go!
I owe my soul to the Company store!”
>and
It exploded in sparks, raining down upon her as she cried out, “Princess Luna, don’tcha call me ‘cause I can’t go!  I owe my soul to the Company Store!”

The capitalization of "company store" should be the same in each case


wide over her head. “Stoooooooooore!”

only one space after period


her for several seconds as Cerberus’ music cut off.

"Cerberus's"


“So… what can we expect in there?”  Rampage asked, tapping her hoofclaws against the door.

should have only one space after quotation


various diagrams of pony anatomy. She trotted to a large stainless

only one space after period


space where something moved .  “Graves, look out!”  I shouted as I shoved her to the side.


there's a space between "moved" and the period, should have only one space after the quotation


Unlike other ghouls, this one was nearly whisper-quiet; all leathery skin and brown bone as its hooves slammed into me again and again.

semicolon to comma?


I helped her to her hooves, and she continued down the hall to a simple gray door marked ‘Supply B.’  I jiggled the handle,

period to outside of quotation marks?


glass and gobbets of blue fire. We all fell back

only one space after period


But Cerberus’ action had galvanized the rest

"Cerberus's"


then frowned, then sniffed ,and suddenly the striped

there shouldn't be a space before the last comma, and there should be one after it


The monster gave an applebuck that blasted Rampage off her hooves, across the room and through the wall.

comma after room?


“Stop!”  Silver Spoon yelled

should have only one space after quotation


away at the burning ghoul. “Me, you great big

only one space after period


“No!”  I screamed as I brought the butt

should have only one space after quotation


Be awesome, a cyan pegasus suggested.  Easy for Gl- Rainbow Dash to say. 

second hyphen for dash


 I grabbed the edges and rocked hard to the side. With a ping, two wheels
it slipped out of my grasp. The armor snaked up

only one space after period


Its buckles and straps flew wide, and I stared as the blue and black armor wrapped itself around the flaming ghoul.  The X-ray beam struck the upraised legs and flashed off the metal.

Blackjack doesn't know what the machine is, having recently thought of it as just a "strange machine." Switch to "disintigration beam" like before?


she looked across at me in worry. I felt like I had a chunk jammed in my chest

only one space after period


ponies were being gathered.   There were shots and cracks

three spaces after period


but instead of pudge it was all muscle. The uniform strained to contain his

only one space after period


“The Equestrian Army is going to be far larger than the Royal Guard or Equestrian Skyguard.  Many of us will be resigning our posts with the royal guard to lead you in battle.”

should the second instance of "royal guard" be capitalized?


organized than we expected. To be fair, I don’t think we

only one space after period


“The royal guard’s five times the size it was when the war started.

should "royal guard" be capitalized?


into the equipment. “I can only speculate

only one space after period


I’d expect to live longer than a normal unicorn, assuming that I didn’t get myself killed first, but... What the hell was I anymore?

should have second space after ellipsis, or not capitalize "What"


“Several pieces were ‘donated’ by Caprice, salvaged from Deus’ body.

"Deus's"


I could almost not remember that idiot who ran out into the wasteland with Deus on her tail.

Would this be more clear as "almost couldn't remember"? I'm instinctively parsing the sentence as her being almost able to forget if she wanted to, rather than being nearly unable to remember what she was like before.


“Please don’t pry, Blackjack.” Lacunae murmured quietly

quotation should end with comma, not period


“Oh you hush!” Xanthe replied.

comma after "Oh"?


“Yes great striped mistress!

comma after "Yes"?


First I need to get Cerberus’ gyroscopes working so he can at least

"Cerberus's"


“So, where are you from Xanthe?

comma after "from"


What was yours again?  Propoli?”  I asked with a casual smile and got one in return.

should have only one space after quotation


She shivered terribly.  “We once mocked the Starkatteri, but had they succeeded in capturing the star and extracting its spirit... the world would be a far more terrible place.”
I looked at the blue unicorn in the corner.  “Well, thank you for sharing.  I hope you can tell me more about zebras in the future.”  She gave me a slightly perplexed smile.  “What?”
“You are the Maiden of the Stars, destined to destroy us all.  To hear you speak of us so is... unexpected.”

This was a little confusing, since that was Shears's introduction in the scene, but the glance is from Xanthe, and it is she who next speaks. Maybe change the "She" to "Xanthe"?


I mean, being the maiden is pretty embarrassing when you can’t even smite somepony trying to kill you.”

Should "maiden" be capitalized?


 I have a very pissy goddess tuned into my thoughts.

"tuned in to"


I was going to meet with two ponies I knew from Ponyville: Mr. and Mrs Cake.
Mrs Cake was still alive... told me to warn

need dot for "Mrs"


I must have missed their killers by minutes  The blood was still fresh

missing period after "minutes"


he murmured as he looked away. “Eventually I

only one space after period


“You’re talking about Snails, aren’t you?”  Silver Spoon asked.

Should have only one space after quotation


no matter how much misery it made or what mistakes it lead to.

"led" not "lead"


“Don’t give us that cop shit!”   Tears streamed down her

three spaces after quotation


into the metal of my fingers. “Wait!  She’

only one space after period


“I’m sorry.   I wish...

three spaces after period


“Okay everypony.  Smart alicorn has a plan.  Lets go out and hear it.”

comma after "Okay"? "Let's"


“So what’s the plan, Lacunae?”  I asked with a wan smile.

should only have one space after quotation


“But it’s empty, right?”  I asked as I pointed up at the weapon

should have only one space after quotation


Don’t move it-” I thought frantically at the alicorn.

second hyphen for dash


Then there was a shriek as the missile suddenly shifted, but instead of sliding free, the concrete gave way and an avalanche of crumbled flaming rubble tumbled down towards the floor of the prison.  “No!  Don’t drop it!”  Xanthe shrieked as the missile slid further into the prison.

should have only one space after quotation. Maybe change of of the shrieks?
Other Editing:
48:
The maiden is born of heartache and sorrow, and I know you suffer.
(appears twice)

"maiden" should probably be capitalized


54:
The Maiden of the Stars’ city.

"Maiden of the Stars's"


“I’m not the maiden of anything!

I'm actually not sure on this one, but it's the last that's really ambiguous, so it doesn't hurt to point out.


56:
I didn’t curse your father with some kind of magical mysterious maiden powers.

Maiden should probably be capitalized.
Ah, thank you very much as always.

Icy Shake wrote:symmetrical spacing about dash?
Hm, I think not here.

Icy Shake wrote:is the second space after the quotation a tab?
…I have no idea what's going on there, but I'm just seeing a normal, correct double space; sorry.

Icy Shake wrote:There's been some nice background for Xanthe, and the thing about her home in Dawn Bay is setting things up well. The count seems odd, though. I thought there were thirteen, counting the Starkatteri. Were several promoted, and others just folded in or something?
Presumably.

Icy Shake wrote:So, did they ever do anything about Blackjack's leg? I mean, they couldn't repair it, but did the peg happen? After the timer really starts, I have trouble seeing Xanthe taking care of it (could be the case, though), but could Blackjack really deal with going on while needing to consciously think about walking, and doing so poorly?
Doing a quick search of 48, it looks like her leg damage is mentioned multiple times throughout the chapter.
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Vinylshadow on Mon Jun 02, 2014 9:31 am

I suddenly had an image of Blackjack with 4 wooden peg legs as (temporary) leg replacements for some reason
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Silver136 on Mon Jun 02, 2014 10:07 am



Found this, thought it was amazing.
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Vinylshadow on Mon Jun 02, 2014 11:11 am

You need to insert an image rather than host it



I chuckled
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Silver136 on Mon Jun 02, 2014 12:05 pm

Thought I did. I've gotten it before, guess I just messed it up this time.
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Vinylshadow on Mon Jun 02, 2014 12:33 pm

You had a Blackjack moment
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Dutcher on Mon Jun 02, 2014 12:37 pm

Guys
Guys

Chapter 67 - Goldenblood [Coming Soon]
“No. You won’t. You may have made it impossible for Shining Armor to perform his spell, but now that you have so foolishly revealed your true self, I can protect my subjects from you!”

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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by O. Hinds on Mon Jun 02, 2014 1:10 pm

I was wondering when a post like that would go up. :)
So, speculation time?
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Vinylshadow on Mon Jun 02, 2014 1:33 pm

IT WAS QUEEN CHRYSALIS ALL ALONG



Or Celestia can somehow interact with computer systems all over Equestria from the SPP and saw what was going on and comes in to kick some flank
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Silver136 on Mon Jun 02, 2014 1:35 pm

Well the title is "Goldenblood" so I'm assuming we'll finally see him. Probably in Black Pony Mount...nah. Nothing interesting under there.
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

Post by Vinylshadow on Mon Jun 02, 2014 1:40 pm

BPM

...let me guess, it's got some sort of geas on it that makes any pony that thinks about it dismiss it
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Re: [GRIMDARK] Fallout Equestria: Project Horizons Discussion

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