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Novel Pursuits with Radio Star

By Castafae
Created: 2022-09-29 06:44:58
Updated: 2023-04-22 10:42:34
Expiry: Never
oc

  1. -Late Night Radio-
  2.  
  3. >Another night wasting away in front of the tv.
  4. >Nothing interesting is on either.
  5. >Ugh.
  6. >You stretch your arms out and take a look around.
  7. >The apartment is pretty gloomy, the light emitted from the tv is the only thing keeping it lit.
  8. >Well, except for a certain mare’s desk lamp.
  9. >She’s currently writing, by the looks of it. Sat in the swivel chair she loves so much.
  10. >How she does it with hooves you have no idea.
  11. >But it’s impressive to say the least.
  12. >Her head is adorned with a pair of headphones and her short mane is mildly unkempt.
  13. >A cream coat and a light brown mane.
  14. >She kinda reminds you of a latte.
  15. “Hey, Radio.”
  16. >The mare slides her headphones down and pushes off the desk, rolling her chair over to you.
  17. >She spins a bit until she’s finally facing you with her sea green eyes and her winning smile.
  18. >”What’s the commotion, chief?”
  19. >Her voice doesn’t come from her mouth, which is something that took awhile for you to get used to.
  20. >Instead, it came from a speaker at the nape of her neck.
  21. >Radio indeed! All she needs now is an antenna.
  22. >Or maybe some dials.
  23. “Got any leads?”
  24. >Radio wiggles her chair around a bit while she ponders something.
  25. >“Hmm… You up for an interview downtown? I’ve got a decent gig sitting pretty just for you!”
  26. “Would you be up for it?”
  27. >”Depends if we have to deal with some cranky old broads again.”
  28. >You sink deeper into the couch with a sigh.
  29. >You don’t wanna go downtown.
  30. >But you might have no choice.
  31.  
  32. “How’s your book?”
  33. >”An emotional mess, nowhere near done with the second draft either.” She turns her head to the tv. “Anything noteworthy?”
  34. >You glance over at the tv and wave dismissively.
  35. “Same stuff as usual. God, I hate cable…”
  36. >Radio leans in and starts whispering. “We could totally pirate some stuff if you’d stop being a wuss…”
  37. “I’m fine with how things are until we can afford it legitimately, Rad.”
  38. >”That’s what a wuss would say.”
  39. “So it goes.”
  40. >Radio pouts momentarily before sliding off her chair and trotting to the fridge.
  41. >She opens it and narrows her eyes.
  42. >”We’re out.”
  43. “Of what?”
  44. >”Take a lucky guess.”
  45. “Everything?”
  46. >Rad rummages around until she produces a stick of butter from the fridge. “We still have this.”
  47. “Please don’t eat that.”
  48. >She smirks as she puts the stick back. “Eh, it would have been a crappy meal anyway.”
  49. “So… I guess we gotta go shopping.”
  50. >”Or we could order in! We can always go shopping tomorrow morning.”
  51. >It’s like she’s implying she’d be up before noon.
  52. >Well, you're no better.
  53. >You glance at your apartment window. It’s probably around midnight right now.
  54.  
  55. >”I think that the chinese place on 7th street delivers late.”
  56. “You really wanna be the reason some poor delivery boy ends up walking six flights of stairs?”
  57. >Radio shrugs. “It’s your money, man. I’m just an innocent bystander…”
  58. “Well, as long as you have a clear conscience.”
  59. >You grab your phone and search for the number.
  60. >Radio climbs onto the couch and sits next to you. “Make sure they don’t forget the fortune cookies this time!”
  61. ”I know I know, you were utterly devastated last time.”
  62. >”Pff, I was fine.”
  63. “So your little tantrum didn’t happen?”
  64. >Radio turns away. “It wasn’t a tantrum...”
  65. >You clear your throat.
  66. “Annnooon! The cookies aren’t he-e-ere! How could th-”
  67. >Rad shakes you side to side with her forehooves, clearly flustered. “Y-you don’t have to bring it up!”
  68. >After she finishes shaking you, she looks down and takes a deep breath before side eyeing you.
  69. >Maybe that was a bit mean.
  70. >Time for some de-escalation.
  71. “Do… you want fried rice?”
  72. >”...”
  73. >”Yes please.”
  74. >Crisis averted.
  75. >”And some noodles… please?”
  76. “Can we share?”
  77. >Radio looks up again. “We can split the rice too.”
  78. “That’s alright with me. teriyaki like usual?”
  79. >”Hmm… Maybe soy sauce this time? Oh! Lotsa broccoli too!”
  80. “I’ll make sure to add it.”
  81. >After a few more minutes you finish up the order.
  82. >Now it’s just your favorite part.
  83. >Waiting.
  84. >Radio went back to her book, mumbling about an idea she was rolling around in her head.
  85.  
  86. >You decide to step out onto the balcony, which is probably the only decent thing about this apartment.
  87. >The night air is cool and the moon is verging on full.
  88. >The traffic below makes surprisingly good white noise.
  89. >You lean on the railing and let your mind wander for a while.
  90. >Maybe you should just give up…
  91. >You could always go home.
  92. >You're barely able to keep yourself afloat here anyway.
  93. >…
  94. >But that's quitter talk.
  95. >Things are getting better, you just gotta press on.
  96. >You’ve got some interviews set up, so you can’t back down now.
  97. >Besides, you have another reason to stick around.
  98.  
  99. >You feel a tug on the back of your shirt.
  100. >You turn around to find Radio with the delivery bag in her mouth.
  101. >She sets it down on the floor and gives a smile.
  102. >“Foods here.”
  103. >She then tosses a fortune cookie at your face, resulting in it bouncing off your forehead and onto the balcony floor.
  104. >”I got my cookies.”
  105. “I can see that.”
  106. >You sit down on the floor of the balcony with Radio following suit.
  107. >You both eat in relative silence, other than the sound of Rad’s headphones chittering away, you think it might be jazz, though you’re unsure.
  108. >You look over at Rad and smile.
  109. >You’re glad you took her in.
  110. >It helped keep you going.
  111. >She notices your staring and lifts her head up, rice on her cheek. “Something the matter, chief?”
  112. “Nah, just… appreciating the little things.”
  113. >”Huh, am I little?”
  114. “Little enough.”
  115. >You scoot over and ruffle her mane, getting her to crack a smile.
  116. ”Little Miss Radio Star.”
  117.  
  118. -Costume Kerfuffle-
  119.  
  120. >You wake up to the sound of the front door’s bell.
  121. >When was the last time you’ve ever heard *that*?
  122. >You groggily get out of bed and shuffle to the front of the apartment.
  123. >The bell rings a few more times in quick succession. Clearly whoever is at your door isn’t very patient.
  124. “I’m coming, I’m coming! Jeez…”
  125. >You unlock the door and open it up.
  126. >”Took your sweet time, eh, chief?”
  127. >You look down and find Radio with a couple of black bags with orange trim nestled in the crux of a foreleg.
  128. >Her headphones are like usual, sitting on her neck, they don't seem to be playing anything at the moment though.
  129. “Rads? When’d you go out?”
  130. >Radio trots past you and sets the bags on the kitchen counter, along side her headphones.
  131. >Once she finishes she sighs and stretches momentarily.
  132. >”Well, unlike a certain someone, I don’t really *need* sleep, so I got up early… well, earlier than usual, that is, to get a few things for halloween!”
  133. “I’m assuming you forgot your key?”
  134. >Radio rummages through one of the bags and pulls out a candy bar. She eyes it with intensity.
  135. >”I kinda realized that a few minutes after I left, but I figured since you're here, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.”
  136. >She flings it towards you, and with a smidge of luck, you manage to catch it midair, earning you a round of applause from Radio.
  137. >”Heh, good job! I hope you enjoy that. It was the last one.”
  138. >You glance at the coconutty stick of calories in your palm and chuckle.
  139. “I’ll make sure to cherish it… I assume everything is out of stock because of everyone’s favorite candy day?”
  140. >Radio turns to you with a rope of licorice pursed between her lips like a cigar.
  141. >”Seems like it, chief! I couldn’t even find a bag of the cheapo stuff!”
  142. >Radio grabs a particularly big bag and tosses it lightly between you and her.
  143. >”I did find something pretty sweet! Uh, unrelated to candy.”
  144. >You gingerly open the bag and find… another black bag.
  145. >You slide out the bag and glance at Rads, who is grinning ear to ear.
  146. >”It’s a costume blind bag! Pretty neat, huh?”
  147. “Well it’s uh… It’s…”
  148. >Kind of a waste of money? But who knows, maybe it’ll be something interesting?
  149. >You take another look at Radio, who’s waiting with bated breath.
  150. “Nice find, Rads, are you… sure this’ll fit? Whatever *this* is?”
  151. >Radio nods and pulls out a smaller bag similar to yours.
  152. >”They had specific sizes, so it’s not *entirely* random. They even had pony ones!”
  153. >Well, at least you both have equal chance at getting something dumb, so maybe you’ll get a laugh out of it.
  154. “Alright, I guess I’ll get changed, hey, maybe I’ll get something cool?”
  155. >Radio trots in place, clearly excited. “That’s the spirit! I’ll go get ready!”
  156. >Radio grabs her bag and all but scrambles into her room, and closes the door.
  157. >At least she’s enjoying herself.
  158. >You guess this means you have to go see what this thing is, right?
  159. >You stroll on over to the bathroom, and set the bag on the sink.
  160. >How bad could it possibly be?
  161.  
  162. >...
  163. >...
  164. >...
  165. “Ugh.”
  166. “Fine.”
  167. >You turn to the mirror to look at the disappointment that is your costume.
  168. >You ended up with what looks like a red devil onesie and a collapsible plastic pitchfork, which, admittedly, is kinda neat, if a bit dinky. Hell, you might even keep it around as a memento.
  169. >It even has a hood with little horns on it.
  170. >You suppose this means you should go see if Radio ended up worse off.
  171.  
  172. >After a brief walk to the front room you look around, not seeing Rads anywhere.
  173. >You decide to go knock on her door, seeing as it’s still closed.
  174. “Hey, how’d things go with y-”
  175. >”BOO!”
  176. >You jump, right before being tumbled to the ground, a mass of black firmly planted on your chest.
  177. >You finally get a look at your assailant… who is Rads in a little nun outfit, a rather intensely black nun outfit, but a nun outfit never-the-less.
  178. >She gives a grin. “With the element of surprise, any costume can be scary!”
  179. >”Christ, where’d you even come from?!”
  180. >She gestures towards the doorless closet that is next to her room.
  181. >”It’s dark enough in there that it was pretty easy to sneak up on ya, chief!”
  182. >You don’t remember it being so dark in there, but at this point you're more focused on the mare that is currently squeezing the air out of your lungs.
  183. “Duly noted, …can you get off me?”
  184. >”I dunno, maybe you need exorcising!”
  185. “Nuns didn’t exorcise, Rads.”
  186. >”Pff, I bet *I* could! I could totally do an exorcism!”
  187. “Uh-huh, I believe you. Uh, how about a truce?”
  188. >Radio ponders this, before nodding to herself and rolling off you, letting you breathe easy once more.
  189.  
  190. >”I’d say something ‘pious’ or ‘nun-ish’ but I have no clue where to even begin.”
  191. >You sit up and get a better look at Radio’s costume.
  192. >It’s more or less a flowing black sheet, somewhere along the lines of a poncho, which covers her completely, not a tail hole in sight.
  193. >The habit is about what you’d expect, though it seems to be shaped to hold a pony's ears snugly inside instead of letting them poke out.
  194. >Her mane sticks out from the habit somewhat. It’s either loose fitting, or she didn’t bother tucking it in.
  195. >...
  196. >Why are you lingering on this so much?
  197. >Eh, whatever, she’s cute.
  198. >”You’re costumes… a hoodie?”
  199. >You only now notice that her voice is slightly muffled, which you assume is because of her speaker being covered.
  200. >”It’s… I guess it’s a onesie, you know, like pajamas.”
  201. >You wiggle your feet, which have a pair of plain red slippers.
  202. >”Wow, it’s actually pretty neat, you could totally sleep in that thing!”
  203. “I don’t really intend on using this after halloween.”
  204. >Radio gets up and brushes off the front of her costume. “Hey, if you don’t want it, I could *probably* fit in it.”
  205. “It’d be a pretty loose fit, but be my guest, you’d certainly pull it off better than me, that’s for sure!”
  206. >You stand up and pick up your pitchfork. You twirl it around half-heartedly.
  207. >”You know, if you had a little more enthusiasm, you would probably be enjoying yourself.”
  208. “We don’t exactly get trick-or-treaters, I honestly don’t see the point of this.”
  209. >”Hmm…” Radio rubs her chin and then taps a hoof on the ground. “I got it!”
  210. >She turns to you once more, her outfit flowing with her. “Let’s go trick-or-treating!”
  211.  
  212. “You gotta be kidding me Rads.”
  213. >”Nuh-uh! I bet if we map out a route of the most busy streets, we can snag some candy without anyone asking questions!”
  214. >Well, it wasn’t a bad idea, and a pony can probably justify the absurdity of your costume…
  215. ”Seeing that we don’t have anything to do today… we could give it a shot.”
  216. >Radio makes a noise you can only describe as a ‘squee’ and jumps into the aforementioned closet and pulls out a pair of candy pails. One is an orange jack o'lantern while the other is themed after a mummy.
  217. “I guess you’ve been waiting for this, huh?”
  218. >”Since forever! I knew it’d be a bad idea last year, but this time around, I’ve got a good feeling about it! We’re gonna get so much candy it’ll be unreal!”
  219. >Her antics seem to be getting to you, since you're starting to share her enthusiasm.
  220. >Maybe this’ll be a fun halloween?
  221. >You could certainly use one of those.
  222. >You give Radio a smile and raise your pitchfork.
  223. “We’re gonna trick-or-treat like our lives depend on it!”
  224. >Wow, that was stupid, but from the looks of it, you certainly got Rads excited.
  225. >”Woohoo! Let’s do this thing!”
  226. >Wait a second…
  227. “Halloween is in two days, we’re a tad early…”
  228. >”What?!”
  229. >Radio pouts and lightly kicks a candy pail with a hoof.
  230. >”Dangit, I miscounted! Aw man…”
  231. “Hey, at least it gives us some time to get prepared, right?”
  232. >”I guess I can wait, I got all that licorice to last me until then, so I’ll be fine.”
  233. >You glance at the kitchen table, which has a bag of licorice bites and several long sticks of licorice still in their wrappers.
  234. “When did you start loving licorice?”
  235. >”It was all they had.”
  236. “...”
  237. “...Can I have some?”
  238. >Radio pauses for a moment before attempting to sign the cross, which end up with her just... waving her hooves around for a solid minute.
  239. >The highlight of your day, if your being honest.
  240. >Once she finishes, she gives you another grin.
  241. >”You have my blessing, chief!”
  242. “Hell yeah!”
  243.  
  244. -Sweets and Scares-
  245.  
  246. >”You gotta admit, I did a pretty good job, eh chief?”
  247. >You and Radio are currently resting up on a park bench, a block or so away from your next destination, or so you’ve been told.
  248. >Radio has been pretty vague as to what it is.
  249. “I don't think I even got this much candy as a kid! You really outdid yourself, Rads!”
  250. >You look over to Radio, who has her nun costume on.
  251. >And you had your… onesie.
  252. >Yeah, you're still not over it, but the fun you’ve been having has mostly drowned out your embarrassment.
  253. >Radio grins and looks down at her candy pail, which had overflowed to the point you had to grab a grocery bag as backup.
  254. >”Hey, if you thought that was great, wait til’ you see what else I got in store!”
  255. “Are you gonna tell me what it is yet? Or are you enjoying keeping me in the dark?”
  256. >Radio taps her hoof on the bench’s railing, before turning to you with a smirk.
  257. >”Hmm… I suppose I could give you a hint… for a price.”
  258. >You knew she’d do this sooner or later, might as well get it over with.
  259. >With a sigh, you grab your pail and set it between you and her.
  260. “Alright, what do you want?”
  261. >”Gimme the gummies!”
  262. “Wh- *All* of them?!”
  263. >”Hey, if you want to trade, I’m fair game! Those gummies… their *mine*!”
  264. >You ponder this for a moment.
  265. >A trade, huh? You might as well get something that you actually want.
  266. “How about all those peanut butter cups?”
  267. >Radio winces, but after a moment of silence she starts fishing them out of her pail.
  268. >You guess she *really* wants those gummies, if she’s willing to give up her precious cups.
  269. >Once she gets everything in a pile, you take your mound of various gummy baggies and plop it in her pail.
  270. >Radio pouts as you grab your peanut buttery bounty.
  271. “A pleasure doing business with you, sister.”
  272. >”A deal with the devil is never a good idea… Well, at least I got what I wanted!”
  273. “Glad to hear that… So, what’s the hint?”
  274. >Radio slides off the bench and twirls until she’s facing you again.
  275. >“Spooky!”
  276. ”...Spooky? Lemme guess… You want to go to one of the haunted houses over here?”
  277. >Radio blinks before narrowing her eyes. “How’d you know?”
  278. >You shrug and grab your pitchfork, before getting up with a groan.
  279. >You really got to stretch more…
  280. “There isn’t much else open at the moment, so it was a process of elimination…”
  281. >You give her a smile.
  282. “...Or rather, simply a lucky guess.”
  283. >”Well… At least now you know!”
  284. >Radio grabs her candy pail with her mouth and gestures down the park path.
  285. >”Enough stalling! Let’s go before we run out of moonlight!”
  286. >You glance up at the night sky, which is clear for the most part, aside from the occasional cloud that obscures the moon from time to time.
  287. >You look back at Radio, who is staring at you with impatience.
  288. “Lead the way, O sister.”
  289. >Rads rolls her eyes and starts walking down the park path.
  290. >”Try to keep up!”
  291. “Trying is the best you’ll get outta me!”
  292.  
  293.  
  294. >It doesn’t take long for the two of you to leave the park behind, once more walking the city streets.
  295. >The whole place is chock full of pumpkins and plastic skeletons. Fake spider webs seem to litter every stray bush.
  296. >The people around here certainly take Halloween seriously, huh?
  297. >Rads leads you down a particularly festive street, which had been pretty busy earlier on in the evening.
  298. >There weren't many people still roaming around, the majority seem to be the aftermath of various parties that have been winding down.
  299. >In a way it made you anxious. Hopefully you weren't too late.
  300. >But from the looks of the large house in front of you… you start to feel like it’ll go just fine.
  301. >It oozed Halloween spirit, the front yard brimming with skeletons and graves, and fake spider webs litter just about every piece of greenery.
  302. >Somewhere there was a fog machine, as the entire property seemed shrouded in an eerie mist.
  303. >The cackle of a witch and the yowl of a cat greet you as you get closer. In general, the ambient sounds where *just* right.
  304. >God, you love this holiday.
  305. >You look down at Radio, who is staring up at the entrance.
  306. >She seems uneasy.
  307. “You alright?”
  308. >Radio side eyes you for a moment before taking a deep breath.
  309. >”Yep! No worries chief! I-i got this in the bag!”.
  310. >She’s just a bit jittery, you're sure she’ll feel better once she sees that this thing isn’t as scary as it seems.
  311. >You give Radio a quick pat on the head before making your way up the stairs.
  312. >She doesn’t follow you at first, but after a moment you hear her make her way up as well, if a bit slowly.
  313.  
  314. >You sit at the entrance waiting for the group currently inside to finish up.
  315. >Radio is sitting next to you, staring into her candy pail.
  316. “You know… we don’t have to do this, if you don’t want to.”
  317. >Rads looks up at you and smiles.
  318. >”I’ve been wanting to go to one of these for a long time! I can’t back out now… R-right?”
  319. >You’re unsure if she’s asking you or herself.
  320. >Before you can say anything else, you notice fog coming from under the front door.
  321. >The door opens slowly, creaking as it goes.
  322. >The group before you walks out without much issue, from the sound of it, they seemed to have fun.
  323. >You peer into the foggy entrance and see a figure, which moves itself slowly towards you.
  324. >It stops once it makes it out of the fog, a tall mass of black cloth with an arm holding a bucket now stands in front of you.
  325. >It holds its arm out towards you. As it does, you feel Radio hiding behind your legs.
  326. >...
  327. >Oh it wants the admission fee.
  328. >You rummage through your pocket and take out a few dollars.
  329. >You gingerly toss the money into the bucket, which withdraws into the folds of cloth and you hear a muffled ‘Thanks’.
  330. >The mass retreats into the fog, beckoning with its other hand.
  331. >”Enter…If…You…Dare…”
  332. >Neat.
  333. >You turn to Radio, who you assume is trying to psych herself up, as she’s currently mumbling to herself.
  334. “...Ready?”
  335. >She pats the sides of her face with her forehooves and then jumps up, a determined look on her face.
  336. >”Let’s do this!”
  337. >With a nod, you start walking into the house, Rads close behind.
  338. >As you step inside, the door shuts behind you.
  339. >Guess there's no turning back, eh?
  340. >Time to test our mettle!
  341.  
  342.  
  343. >The inside is bigger than you expected, it almost feels… manor-like.
  344. >The front is covered in fog, which seems to be the running theme of the attraction.
  345. >Moonlight pours into the room from a window up a wide central staircase.
  346. >It’s actually kinda nice in here… aside from the ‘spooky’ decor.
  347. >There are a lot of skeletal remains and spiders littered about, though there is a method to the madness, as it almost feels… overwhelming, but like, an almost perfect amount of overwhelming?
  348. >It certainly seems to be getting to Radio, who hasn’t looked up since you’ve entered.
  349. “I guess we just… walk around?”
  350. >You wander over to a side-room, which has a dining table with an assortment of gruesome meals strewn about.
  351. >...Or as gruesome as a plastic ham with eyes coming out of it can be.
  352. >Honestly, all of the food is just weird, though there's a charm to it, it all seems handmade as well. Whoever made these must have been pretty passionate.
  353. “So, whaddya think?”
  354. >Radio hesitantly looks around before wandering around the room.
  355. >After a moment she starts to… laugh?
  356. >”Hahaha, I knew it! This stuff isn’t that scary at all! Ha! This’ll be a cinch, chief!”
  357. >Radio prods at the prop of a brain sandwich and giggles.
  358. >Well, at least she’s distracting herself.
  359. >You stroll on over to the entrance to the next room, which is covered in fog.
  360. >...Not to say that everything else isn’t, but this room in particular seems to be unreasonably foggy.
  361. >You notice something darting across the room, though Radio doesn’t seem to be paying attention as she struts in after you.
  362. >Maybe you should tell her to slow her roll…
  363. >You prod Radio with the butt of your pitchfork, which only makes her jump a little.
  364. >”Y-yeah?”
  365. “Try not to get… *to* ahead of yourself, Rads, I’m pretty sure there’s something up ahead.”
  366. >Radio stares at you for a moment before nodding.
  367. >”I got this, like I said! No monster’s gonna sneak up on me, no sir!”
  368. >Radio turns from you before you can respond and starts walking further into the fog.
  369. “Radio…”
  370. >You guess she’s leading now.
  371. >You follow her, trying to take in the sights that are… not easy to see.
  372. >You were right before, this is *way* too much fog.
  373. >Maybe their machine is on the fritz?
  374. >If the room was meant to be scary, it’s too foggy to see.
  375. >Radio stands shakily at the other side of the room, a nervous smile on her face.
  376. >”Haha! S-see? Not a monster in sight! You don’t need to worry one bit, chief! W-who would be afraid of a dumb fog monster, anyhow? That’s silly! Super silly! H-heh…”
  377. >Oh, she’s definitely freaking out.
  378. >You probably should do something about that.
  379. “Yep! You did good Radio, I’m proud of you! How about…”
  380. >Radio freezes up and stares wide eyed through you, her ears flattened against her head under her habit.
  381. “...Radio?”
  382. >”B-be-behind…”
  383. >You turn around and are greeted by a hooded figure similar to the mass at the entrance, though this one was around half its height.
  384. “Oh.”
  385. >The figure stands motionless in the fog, all while Radio is shaking like a leaf.
  386. >You feel for the doorknob that you know is behind you and grip it.
  387. >The figure moves a… hoof towards its hood and brings it down.
  388. >It’s a pony, and it wears a stark white mask with indecipherable symbols on it.
  389. >From what you can see, its mane is long and light blue, while what little of its coat you can see is a slightly darker blue. Poking out above its mask, is a horn.
  390. >”You’ve come just in time to witness a most glorious ritual…”
  391. >The pony lifts up a hoof and points at Radio, which makes her cower behind her hooves.
  392. >The pony chuckles lightly, before switching its attention to you.
  393. >”But of course, a ritual cannot be complete without…”
  394. >The pony's attire falls off, revealing its wings, which it unfurls to their full length, holding them aloft.
  395. >The pony flaps them down, blowing the fog away, letting you get a better look at its body, which is covered in bandages with symbols like the ones on its mask.
  396. >”Sacrifice!”
  397. >From its physique and voice, you deduce it’s a mare…
  398. >A very scary mare.
  399. >You turn the knob of the door behind you and push it open with the pitchfork in your other hand.
  400. >You glance over to Radio, who seems to get the memo, as she scrambles into the next room.
  401. >You wave to the spooky mare and walk backwards into the next room.
  402. >To your surprise she waves back, if a bit slowly.
  403. >”...Happy Halloween.”
  404. >She mumbles that rather quietly, but it’s audible enough for you to hear.
  405. >You give her a thumbs up and a smile, which gets her to giggle as you slowly close the door.
  406.  
  407. >What a polite cultist! You hope Radio witnessed that.
  408. >...
  409. >From the looks of the shaky little nun under the table you assume she’s still pretty shaken up.
  410. >You know, maybe she’s not cut out for a haunted house, despite her protests…
  411. >You look around the room, from how normal it looks, you guess it’s used to let a group catch their breath before moving on.
  412. >You sit down on the floor next to Rads and wait for her to settle down.
  413. >It doesn’t take long, as she sits back up and looks over to you.
  414. >”You know, I think I might have worried myself into a mess back there…”
  415. “Are you… enjoying yourself?”
  416. >Radio trails a forehoof on a table leg, before crawling from under the table until she’s next to you.
  417. >”It’s… interesting.”
  418. “How so?”
  419. >”Well, I… I guess it’s given me a few ideas.”
  420. >She points to her habit. “What if… I do a story about a fearless nun who’s friends with a wacky demon?”
  421. “That's… That’s what you came up with? Where does the haunted house come into play?”
  422. >”Well… I-It kinda doesn’t? I’ve mostly been thinking it up to stop myself from uh… crying.”
  423. “Jeez, if it’s that bad, we can just leave, you hear?“
  424. >Radio shakes her head. “We don’t need to leave! I… I’m fine now, I just let it get to me, that’s all.”
  425. >She shuffles in place as her face reddens. “I-I wanted… I wanted to show you I can be brave…”
  426. “You seem plenty brave to me, you just need to keep a level head.”
  427. >”I know! I just… I dunno Anon, I just want you to think I'm cool…”
  428. “Rads.”
  429. >Radio hesitantly looks up at you.
  430. “You’re a damn fine friend, you don’t gotta prove jack. If anything, I wish I had what you had, I uh, am sorta a mess when It comes to committing to something… And you! You mapped out an entire neighborhood for the sake of candy! You’re… Radical.”
  431. >Radio stares at you blankly for a moment before giving you a warm smile.
  432. >”Thanks Anon…” She rests a hoof on your shoulder and narrows her eyes. “But for the love of all things holy… please don’t call me Radical.”
  433. “As you wish, sister.”
  434. >Radio gets up and gestures towards the next room. “I guess it’s about that time, shall we?”
  435. >You get up and grab your pitchfork, nodding to Radio.
  436. >After taking another deep breath, Rads trots to the entrance of the next room before stopping, waiting for you to proceed.
  437.  
  438. >You walk into the room and take a look around, most of its furniture is covered in clear plastic wrapping, which also covers the entirety of the floor.
  439. >Hanging from the ceiling are several windchimes.
  440. >Several seem to be made of bone, or at least emulating the look of bone, while the rest are more standard, being made of metal or bamboo.
  441. >You aren’t sure where it’s coming from, but there is a breeze, which sways the chimes back and forth, sounding off a cacophony of rattling and metallic ‘dings’.
  442. >It’s more weird than scary, and from Radio’s curious look, you assume she’s alright with this.
  443. “So, whatcha think?”
  444. >”It’s kinda nice, the sound I mean. It reminds me of some sort of avant garde student film.”
  445. “How many of those have you seen?”
  446. >Radio lightly brushes her hoof against one of the windchimes, making it ring louder than before.
  447. >”Not many, but i’ve always liked the creativity they always seem to have, they really use what they got to the best of their abilities, that's for sure.”
  448. >You stand there with Radio for a minute, soaking in the calm atmosphere.
  449. >Once you’ve properly appreciated… whatever that was, you move on to the next room, and from the looks of it, it’s the last one, as you can see the front entrance from the door on the opposite side of the room.
  450.  
  451. >The room is a return of the fog, though it’s more subtle, only coating the floor and barely wisping up to your knees occasionally.
  452. >The black mass from before is pouring over a table in the back of the room, which almost feels like the back of a chapel, as rows of pews are strewn about, making the room feel much smaller than it is.
  453. >It lifts up what resembles its head and turns to the both of you with outstretched arms.
  454. >”Welcome Visitors! You are about to witness… The ritual of my ascension!”
  455. >Oh, so it’s a theme?
  456. >Radio seems calmer than before, simply looking around, mildly concerned by the writing on the walls.
  457. >A window opens above the mass and something flys in, softly landing on the ground before it.
  458. >It looks like the mare from before, though she seems to have changed costume into something more akin to white church robes.
  459. >She bows to the entity before turning to you.
  460. >Her mask is now resting to the side of her face, letting you see her deep blue eyes, which almost seem to glow.
  461. >”I need… a volunteer.”
  462. >Radio takes a step forward, much to your surprise.
  463. >”M-me!”
  464. >She’s shaking, but she slowly makes her way towards the mare, who watches her intently as she goes.
  465. >You’re impressed, to say the least. You just hope she doesn’t push herself too much.
  466. >Once in front of the mare, do you realize how big she is compared to Radio, who has to look up at her to make eye contact.
  467. >The mare smiles, and then turns to the mass, which now lays on the table, motionless.
  468. >”I simply need you to raise your hoof towards this lowly creature of the night… I will do the rest.”
  469. >Radio nods, then raises a shaky hoof towards the mass.
  470. >”Good… Now, let us begin…” The mare tilt her head towards you. “Come sit and bear witness…”
  471. >You make your way to a pew and sit down, it’s surprisingly comfy for a slab of wood.
  472. >You watch as the mare circles the mass, mumbling something inaudible, before stopping in front of Radio, staring at her intently.
  473. >”To the sky, little one.”
  474. >”H-huh?”
  475. >The mare raises a forehoof to the ceiling and grins.
  476. >”To the sky!”
  477. >Radio nods quickly before raising her hoof higher up towards the ceiling.
  478. >...Almost immediately, the mass begins to writhe and the fog becomes denser.
  479. >You watch the mass slowly fall away, revealing a man cloaked in velvety red robes.
  480. >The mare attempts to cackle, though it more comes off as a soft chuckle.
  481. >”Isn’t it magnificent? A nosferatu in the pale flesh!”
  482. >The man grips the side of the table and sits up, before turning his head towards Radio.
  483. >”To think a sister of the cloth would be my savior… Haha… It is an interesting outcome, to say the least.”
  484. >He slides off the table and walks slowly towards a shaky Radio, though he stops a few feet from her.
  485. >The tall mare makes her way to his side with a covered platter.
  486. >The vam-er-’nosferatu’ grabs hold of the platter's cover. “A reward is in order, yes? I can’t have my savior leave empty hooved…”
  487. >He lifts the cover up to reveal…
  488. >A bunch of really expensive looking candy.
  489. >...Or at least as expensive as full sized candy bars can be.
  490. >Radio’s tension drops almost immediately as she blankly stares at the candy.
  491. >”...”
  492. >You stifle a laugh, which gets Rads to snap out of her funk.
  493. >”T-thanks uh…”
  494. >The man waves his hand dismissively. “Worry not about names, the immortal have no concept of it.”
  495. >Radio glances over to the cult mare, who’s demeanor has mellowed out considerably.
  496. >The mare smiles and bows, though it’s a short bow, as she quickly snaps back up so the platter resting on her hoof doesn’t fall. “Nightshade, at your service, you’ve been a wonderful guest.”
  497. >”I uh, I’m Radio, and this is chi-Anon! His n-name is Anon…”
  498. >You get up and walk over to Radio’s side.
  499. “Nice to meetcha, Nightshade and vampire, you guys really had something going on here, though I’m a bit confused by the room before this one…”
  500. >The vampire gestures above with a smirk on his face, when you look up, you see another pony descend, who is frowning with a vengeance.
  501. >”I saw that! My room was *way* cooler than Shade’s!”
  502. >It’s another mare, though this time she just has wings.
  503. >Her mane seems awfully faded, though there is a hint of the bright rainbow it might have once been, while her coat at one point must have been a baby blue, though now it’s more along the lines of a ‘blue gray’.
  504. >The pegasus huffs. “At least I didn’t cover my room with the fog machine so nopony can see how *plain* it was!”
  505. >”I-I thought it was atmospheric…”
  506. >”On what planet? Venus?!”
  507. >The vampire puts himself between the two mares and sighs. “Not in front of guests, alright?”
  508. >He leans in towards the pegasus, who is currently hovering with her forehooves crossed just above the pews. “We’re closing up after this, how about you go decorate the front? Doesn’t that sound lovely?”
  509. >The pegasus’s sourness fades at the notion. “Can I put more spiders everywhere?”
  510. >The vampire smiles. “Of course! Have at it, Tech.”
  511. >’Tech’ lands on the ground behind you and trots gleefully into the front room.
  512. >Nightshade looks on in concern. “I’d rather not find fake spiders in my spice cabinet again…”
  513. >”Just hold on Nights, Halloween’s almost over, and then we’ll be done with spiders until Christmas…”
  514. >Radio chimes in. “What do spiders have to do with Christmas?”
  515. >The vampire cringes. “I’d rather not get into it… Ehem… Anyway…”
  516. >He gestures towards Nightshade. “Please accept this gift… I mean, you paid admission so it’s less of a gift and more of a… uh, oh whatever! I've lost my mojo…”
  517. >The now dejected vampire walks off into a side room to the right of the table at the back, leaving you with two confused mares.
  518. >”We can have… all of this candy?”
  519. >Nightshade nods. “You two are the last of the holiday! We're closing up, as you might have been able to tell, so um… Here!”
  520. >She extends the tray towards Radio, who seems pretty happy with this outcome.
  521. >You help her gather up all the candy into the overflow bag and now you have three bustling containers of pure unadulterated diabetes.
  522. >Isn’t Halloween the best?
  523. >You walk with Radio to the entrance, with Nightshade in tow, who is humming a little tune as she goes, it’s familiar, though you can’t quite make it out.
  524. >You pass Tech, who is giggling to herself as she stuffs a cabinet with fake spider webs, much to Nightshade's chagrin.
  525. >”It was… Um, Good to meet you two! I-I need to deal with that…”
  526. >Nightshade trails off as she quickly trots over to Tech, who sticks her tongue out at her and flies away. “T-Technicolor! Get back here! …This isn’t even the right cabinet, dummy!”
  527. >Radio turns to you, a concerned look on her face.
  528. >”I don’t think I could handle something like that… Would you ever put fake spiders in my draft rack, chief?”
  529. >You turn to Radio, quite puzzled.
  530. “I…Why would I do that? No, No I wouldn’t.
  531. >”Oh thank goodness… How about we go home, I’ve got a great idea for a horror novella!”
  532. >You walk down the steps with Radio as she prattles on about her idea.
  533. >...And then the nun spares a demon from being exorcised! But that’s when things get spooky! Well, this demon is nice, but the *other* demons are super mean! Oh, oh! And there’s a vampire and two angels who are like, opposite of each other and…”
  534. >Yeah… She’s going to be on this one for a while.
  535. >You’re not even sure if she’s describing horror anymore…
  536. >But, it’s certainly intriguing nevertheless.
  537.  
  538. -Routine Maintenance-
  539.  
  540. >”Do you think ‘alabaster’ is too intense of a word? I feel like ‘pale’ would work just as fine!”
  541. “I dunno, I guess it depends on how you want to describe the pillars. They were marble, right?”
  542. >”Limestone, or something similar at least.”
  543. “Eh… I could go either way, I’m not all that sure myself.”
  544. >”My gut is telling me… Hmm… Pale!”
  545. >Radio nods to herself, seemingly pleased.
  546. “Glad you figured it out, now stay still! I don’t want to mess this up.”
  547. >Radio is currently laying on the couch, trying to prod you for feedback on her latest scene. Some sort of drama from what you’ve gleaned.
  548. >She’s been working on it for the past week, and from her palpable excitement, you assume she’s getting close to a resolution of sorts.
  549. >Putting that aside, you focus on the task at hand, checking up on Rads’ speaker.
  550. >It was a simple affair.
  551. >Sorta.
  552. >You’re pretty sure it’s idiot proof, which is great considering you have barely any experience with machines.
  553. >You pop off the front panel and set it on the coffee table.
  554. >Peering inside, it’s about as it was last time.
  555. >Huh, wait a minute.
  556. >Was that always there?
  557. “Hey Rads, this bit in the middle is blinking.”
  558. >”I have *lights* in there?”
  559. >Her voice was a bit louder than usual. A little too loud, but you chalk that up to the panel’s absence.
  560. “I mean… there’s at least one light… and it’s blinking.”
  561. >A small yellow light is slowly flashing next to a symbol of a fuse.
  562. >You tap the light a few times, which surprisingly gets Radio to flinch slightly.
  563. “Did you feel that?”
  564. >”I uh, I think that was just a reflex? I have no clue what you’re doing back there.”
  565. “Gotcha, but… say something if something feels weird, okay?”
  566. >She nods a little.
  567. “I’ll… go get a fuse, be right back.”
  568. >”Take your time, chief. I’ll be waiting with bated breath!”
  569. “Uh-huh.”
  570. >You get up from the floor in front of the couch and slide open a drawer by the tv.
  571. >Inside are a few miscellaneous bits and parts, including a fuse, which you grab.
  572. >Maybe you should invest in a safer place to keep all of these parts…
  573. >You sit back down in front of Rads and open up the compartment next to the flashing light.
  574. >Inside are a pair of fuses, one of which has certainly seen better days.
  575. >After making sure you weren't going to electrocute yourself, you replace the problem fuse.
  576. >With that dealt with, you look around inside the speaker for a few moments more, checking for any more outliers.
  577. >Everything seems fine, so you close it up.
  578. >You give her a brisk pat on the neck, partially so she knows she can get up, and partially so you can make sure the panel is secure.
  579. “You know, I kinda expected that to be worse. So, how do you feel?”
  580. >Radio sits up and rubs the back of her neck.
  581. >”About the same, honestly. Which I guess means that everything's fine.”
  582. “One of these days, we’ll have to get you a proper checkup, you know.”
  583. >Her mellow expression sours slightly and one of her ears flicks.
  584. >”I’d rather not…”
  585. “I know, I just want you to know it’s an option.”
  586. >”Mmhm.”
  587. >Radio clears her throat and resumes her usual happy-go-lucky demeanor.
  588. >She slides off the coach and grabs her headphones from the coffee table.
  589. >”Now that we have that settled, I’ve got another question!”
  590. “Hit me, not like I got anything better to do… besides maybe making dinner.”
  591. >It's around 11 p.m. but neither of you have had a bite to eat since yesterday.
  592. >You ended up sleeping another day away while Radio was too preoccupied with her writing to notice time passing.
  593. >The blackout curtains didn’t help, since day and night seemed to pretty much blend together.
  594. >If everything goes well on that interview on Tuesday, you’ll probably need to work on your sleep schedule.
  595. >Maybe you’ll get lucky and snag that night shift?
  596. >You get up from the floor and stretch while Radio sets her draft folder on the coffee table.
  597. >You’ve read it a few times, mostly because Rads wouldn’t stop pestering you until you did.
  598. >Seeing that it’s almost doubled in size since you last saw it, you assume she’s been on a roll concerning ideas.
  599. >”Alright! Gimme a sec, I gotta grab something else.”
  600. >As you sit down on the couch, Radio trots back from her desk with another folder in her mouth.
  601. >Radio sets it on the table, although you don’t recognize this one.
  602. >”I need your opinion…” She opens the new folder, which has a bunch of drawings of various ponies, all of which seem to have some sort of fantasy armor on.
  603. >”Which of these scream ‘heroic’ to you? I’m kinda stumped.”
  604. >The drawings were a little shaky, but It still baffles you that she can draw as well as she can with only her mouth.
  605. “They all seem pretty heroic, but… maybe this one?”
  606. >You point a finger to an especially fearless looking mare wearing knight's armor.
  607. >Radio nods to herself. “Huh, I see it… Hmm…”
  608. >Rads takes the drawing and stares at it for a while.
  609. >”I’m… sold! Thanks chief.”
  610. >With a smile she closes up the drawing folder and stacks in on the draft folder, then proceeds to put them back on her desk.
  611. “That’s it?”
  612. >”I just needed a second opinion, now I know for *sure* she's the one!”
  613. “Well, I’m glad everything worked out… Whaddya want for dinner?”
  614. >Radio taps her chin. “I dunno, what do you want?”
  615. “I was thinking of going out for a bit, so I could snag a pizza.”
  616. >”Sounds like a plan! Hey, you want me to come with…”
  617. >Radio trails off, getting quieter as she goes. By the time she notices, she’s silent.
  618. >She gropes at the panel on her neck with frustration.
  619. “Rads?”
  620. >Radio pouts at you and points at the panel.
  621. ”Okay, just… Let me take a look.”
  622. >Radio, now voiceless, sits down on the floor with a dejected look on her face.
  623. >You walk to her back and take the plate off once more, and find things to be… worse.
  624. >You have no clue how to describe it, but you're pretty sure something broke, and you’re clueless as to what.
  625. >At least the fuses look fine.
  626. “Yeesh, this is a mess, I don’t even know where to start…”
  627. >Radio looks back at you, teary eyed.
  628. >She doesn’t look like she’s taking this well.
  629. “Hey now, it’s alright! I… I’m sorry Rads, we’ll figure something out.”
  630. >You don’t really know what to say, nor have the expertise to help her yourself, so at this point, it’s best just to go get help.
  631. >But where?
  632. >...
  633. >Ugh.
  634. >You have an idea, but you don’t like it.
  635. ”Okay… I think we should go for a walk. I know a place that’ll be able to help.”
  636. >You fumble with your phone, making sure your coordinates are right, and then turn back to Radio.
  637. “Look, I know you don’t like repair shops, but we’re not going to know what’s wrong without a helping hand.”
  638. >From her expression, you can tell she’s incredibly apprehensive, but after a moment, she nods slowly.
  639. >You look around the apartment for your jacket, seeing that it’s pretty cold outside.
  640. >You glance briefly at Radio, who is scribbling something down on a piece of paper.
  641. >She has calmed down a bit, but all her fidgeting just shows you that she’s still unsure.
  642. >You can’t even remember the last time she had an incident like this, and you doubt she does either.
  643. >Christ, what the hell did you do?
  644. >It has to be your fault, right?
  645. >Shoulda just took her to someone who knows what they're doing in the first place and maybe you could have avoided this…
  646. >You shake your head, trying to clear your thoughts.
  647. >As much as you’d like to beat yourself up about it, now's not the time.
  648. >You need to focus.
  649. >You gotta be a big man, Anon! You can’t let Radio down.
  650. >Again…
  651. >You put on your jacket and grab your things.
  652. >Radio is already sitting by the door, clutching a clipboard.
  653. >Once you approach her, she thrusts it at you.
  654. >There are a few pieces of paper clipped to it, the first of which simply says ‘Hold on to this’ with several exclamation points at the end.
  655. “You think you’ll need it?”
  656. >Radio pouts a little as you tuck the clipboard under your arm.
  657. >You take that as a ‘Isn’t it a bit obvious, dumbass?’
  658. >You’re embellishing, but it feels like the appropriate response.
  659. “Ready?”
  660. >Radio tilts her head then nods to herself, before trotting over to the hall closet and taking out one of her own jackets, specifically the dark green bomber jacket you got her for Christmas one year.
  661. >She always seemed to like that one, even if she rarely wore it.
  662. >She wriggles into the jacket and stuffs a pad of sticky notes into its pocket.
  663. >You guess the sticky notes are just an extra precaution.
  664. >Rads pats her jacket pocket and then gives you the hoof equivalent of a thumbs up, which mostly involves her doing a sort of fist pumping motion. It's funny looking, but it gets the message across.
  665. >You open the door and stand in the hall of your apartment complex.
  666. >With a deep breath, you start your way to the elevator with Radio in tow.
  667.  
  668. >The elevator was on the newer side, having been installed a few years ago, but despite that, the inside had a much more vintage appearance due to your landlord liking the aesthetic.
  669. >You're just glad it works.
  670. >You step into the elevator and press the lobby button.
  671. >As the ride starts, Radio bumps you lightly.
  672. >You can barely get a ‘Yeah?’ out before she slaps a sticky note on your chest.
  673. >You take the note off and give it a look.
  674. >’Do you know them well?’
  675. “We go way back! She’s really good with ponies, even if it doesn't seem like it. She’s… Kind of a sourpuss, but her heart’s in it.”
  676. >You look over to Radio, who is staring sullenly at the floor.
  677. “Hey…”
  678. >You kneel down and lightly coax her into looking at you.
  679. “I promise nothing bad will happen, okay?”
  680. >She stared up at you, shaky and on the verge of tears.
  681. >It reminded you of when you first met her.
  682. >That same helpless expression.
  683. >You… You didn’t want her to feel like that again.
  684. >You pull her into a hug, which she returns readily.
  685. “Whatever happens, I’ll be here. I’m not going anywhere.”
  686. >After a moment, you let go and give her a pat on the back.
  687. >While she is drying her eyes, you strike a pose in an attempt to cheer her up.
  688. “We’re a team, right? Radio and Anon against the world!”
  689. >She smiles a little and takes a deep breath.
  690. >As the elevator door opens, she trots out with what you can only describe as ‘determination’.
  691. >She twirls around and gives you a grin, beckoning you forward.
  692. “Heh, that’s the spirit! Let's get a move on!”
  693.  
  694. >Once outside in the dreary cold, you look around, observing the snowy city streets.
  695. >There was a stillness in the air as you stared up at the streetlamp above you.
  696. >You breathe in the cool air and let out a sigh.
  697. >A puff of visible air drifts away from you, and you notice Radio trying to mimic you out of the corner of your eye.
  698. >It isn’t as effective, but she does elicit a small plume of her own, which gets her to silently giggle to herself.
  699. >You’re glad she’s back to her old self, at least for the time being.
  700. >You take your time, leisurely making your way down the snow burdened street.
  701. >From the fairly undisturbed snow on the road, you guess it’s been a slow night.
  702. >There wasn’t a single soul besides you and Radio.
  703. >It was honestly a little surreal.
  704. >Like your own winter wonderland.
  705. >...As wonderful as a quiet city street can be, but it was nice, either way.
  706. >You take your phone out of your pocket and quickly check if you're going the right way.
  707. >You know where you were going for the most part, but it’s been long enough that you didn’t want to accidentally take a wrong turn.
  708. >Somewhere along the way, you stop for a moment, admiring an early Christmas display set up by some rich folk.
  709. >It's an elaborate scene of Santa riding a motorcycle pulled by a bunch of biker jacket clad reindeer.
  710. >It elicited a chuckle out of you, and Radio seemed enthralled as well.
  711. >Right before you start walking again, Radio has slipped you another note, simply stating that she thinks Santa would have looked cooler with a pair of shades.
  712. >When you give the plastic Santa another look, you think you get it, he was a little walleyed.
  713. >With that, you set off once more.
  714. >Led by streetlight, you finally make it to your destination, a little repair shop nestled between a cafe and a now defunct tourist trap.
  715. >A somewhat fresh sign up front calls it: ‘Pommel’s Pony Parts and More’.
  716. >’Pommel’s’?
  717. >You guess a certain pony ended up becoming a mascot of sorts…
  718. >You look over at Radio, who is currently reading the list of services the shop does.
  719. >You wonder if they’ll get along? Radio wasn’t much for conversation with other ponies.
  720. >Not like she *could* converse at the moment…
  721. >You clear your throat and gesture towards the sign.
  722. “From repairs to retrofits, this place does it all. Pretty neat, huh?”
  723. >Radio nods and then does some gesturing of her own towards the door.
  724. “I suppose I’ll go first?”
  725. >She nods again and you take the lead.
  726. >You grip the door handle and pause, taking yet another deep breath.
  727. “Let’s hop to it…”
  728. >You open up the door.
  729.  
  730. >A little chime rings out as you step inside.
  731. >You take a look around the quaint shop, noting the shelves upon shelves of parts, each one just as unique as the last.
  732. >Music was playing from somewhere in the backroom, which was through a curtain behind the counter.
  733. >You… weren’t exactly in your element, but it was cozy at least.
  734. >As you turn to check on Radio, you notice that she hasn't followed you.
  735. >She had a hoof in the doorway, staring up at something further inside.
  736. >You follow her gaze and land on a… lone pony head.
  737. >It was sitting atop one of the shelves with its eyes closed. Its expression almost seemed peaceful.
  738. >You can already tell Radio was starting to wig out over it.
  739. >Before you can de-escalate the situation, you both turn your heads at the sound of some noisy rustling from behind the counter.
  740. >”I’ll be with you in a moment!”
  741. >A cheery voice rings out and you hear some more rustling before a head pops up from behind the counter.
  742. >An off-white mare with a disheveled teal mane sets her hooves on the counter.
  743. >She gives a hardy wave in your direction, not really paying attention just yet.
  744. >“Welcome to Pommel’s! I’m its namesake, Pom, and I-”
  745. >Her emerald eyes finally settle on you and widen.
  746. >”A-Anon?!”
  747. >She nearly scrambles from behind the counter and trots briskly down the middle aisle towards you.
  748. >”I haven’t seen you in ages! I hope you’ve been feeling fine. What brings you around the ol’ shop?”
  749. >Pom had a new beige apron on, but despite that, she always kept the same old raggedy scarf on her neck.
  750. >She more or less forces you to shake her hoof, with a grin all the while.
  751. “It’s nice to see ya, Pom, you showed up just in time! I’ve got a bit of a predicament that I need your help with.”
  752. >You lean in and mumble a quick ‘Delicately, Pom.’
  753. >You glance behind you, making sure Radio is still there.
  754. >Seeing that she was, you step aside and gesture towards her, much to her dismay.
  755. “Do you think I can get a little appointment with our resident repairmare?”
  756. >”Of course! Let’s just get you two set up first,”
  757. >You walk further inside and turn around, looking at Radio expectantly.
  758. >Pom tilts her head as Radio hesitates at the door.
  759. >Pom gives you an understanding smile and starts to walk up to Radio, who takes a step back, bewildered.
  760. >”Hey there! I’m Pom! I know visits like these can be scary, but you’re in good hooves!”
  761. >Radio takes another nervous glance up at the shelf, and Pom follows.
  762. >”Oh! That’s Catgrass, she had her core transferred recently, so her old shell is just sort of sitting around until we can find a good use for it. It’s not everyday you wind up with an entire pony’s worth of parts, haha!”
  763. >Radio rests her gaze on Pom for a while before looking over to you, searching for some sort of input.
  764. “It’s actually a pretty standard procedure, I’ve seen it a few times myself. I’m sure Catgrass is happy with her new body.”
  765. >Pom gives an approving nod. “Yessiree! We pride ourselves with the satisfaction of our customers. We would never do something that would put our clientele at risk. So…”
  766. >Pom gives Radio a warm smile. “Why not come inside? I’m sure we can figure out a way to make you more comfortable.”
  767. >Radio lowers her head for a moment, trailing a forehoof in the snow outside.
  768. “Ain’t it chilly, filly? C’mon now!”
  769. >Despite her apprehension, she cracks a little smile.
  770. >With a deep breath, she shuts her eyes and beelines for you.
  771. >...Which ends up with you getting a headbutt in the stomach.
  772. >Luckily, it wasn’t hard, but you still have the wind knocked out of you briefly.
  773. “Oof… See? That... That wasn’t so bad.”
  774. >She keeps her head firmly against your chest, refusing to look up.
  775.  
  776. >Pom starts walking over to the counter. “After I write a few thing down, I'll get Claire! I’m sure she’ll be happy to see you!”
  777. “Yeah… I’m sure she will.”
  778. >Pom leaves through the door behind the counter and you let out a sigh.
  779. >At least Pom is jubilant as ever.
  780. >Now all you have to do is deal with your favorite grump.
  781. >You’re sure she won’t be happy with being woken up in the middle of the night, but once you explain things, you’re sure she’ll be… slightly less pissed?
  782. >Hopefully.
  783. >You give Radio a pat on the head and she cautiously looks around.
  784. “Just a couple of ponies helping their fellows. You’ll be just fine, Rads.”
  785. >Radio detaches herself from you and takes a few steps around the shop, eyeing all parts around her.
  786. “I used to help them out way back when. I was mostly just cleaning and stocking, but I liked the idea of helping ponies get better. It felt like a noble cause, you know?”
  787. >You rub the back of your neck.
  788. “I… Never did learn how to properly fix a pony, though. For all I know, I screwed you up real bad. I’m sorry, Rads.”
  789. >Radio turns to you with a frown and then slips the clipboard from under your arm, holding it in her mouth.
  790. “What are y-”
  791. >She rears up and smacks you as close to the top of your head as she can manage with the clipboard, and then starts scribbling on it as you rub your head.
  792. “Hah, I guess I deserved that… What’s this?”
  793. >She turns the clipboard around and you look at the writing.
  794. >’Don’t blame yourself, dummy! You tried your best and I avoided this for way too long.’
  795. >She writes down more and waves it in front of your face.
  796. >’We’re a team! Just like you said, so we’ll get through this together.’
  797. >Her small burst of bravery waivers and her ears droop slightly.
  798. >You give her another pat on the head and grin.
  799. “You’re right, Rads! All you gotta do is relax and let things run its course. I’ll be cheering you on.”
  800. >She lifts her head and a smile creeps up onto her face.
  801. >With a vigorous nod, she sits down next to you, scribbling down something on the clipboard.
  802. >You glean that they’re simple readied responses, so she doesn’t have to write something new each time.
  803.  
  804. >As she keeps herself busy, you take one more look around the shop.
  805. >It wasn’t all that big, but it wasn’t cramped.
  806. >In a way, it reminded you of the inside of a small town auto shop.
  807. >Rows of labeled parts, some small, some big.
  808. >Most of them are secondhand, cleaned and fixed into usable condition again.
  809. >’Scrap’ isn’t the right word. It was more than that.
  810. >Like... Like flipping through a storybook of somepony’s life!
  811. >All the little dents and dings on an old stripped down leg.
  812. >A pegasus with a clumsy streak, looking for something a little tougher.
  813. >A unicorn’s horn that sits in the middle of a plasma ball, slowly sparking deep purple electricity.
  814. >You remember that one fondly, that stallion had stuck his horn in a bunch of rubber gloves in the hopes that it wouldn't zap anyone while he got a replacement. The both of them had a good laugh over it, much to that poor guy’s chagrin.
  815. >Pom kept the problematic horn and turned it into a little attraction of sorts, despite Claire’s protests.
  816. >She certainly had a knack for experiments like that. You wonder if she had done anything new while you were away?
  817.  
  818. >But… you know not every part had a happy ending.
  819. >Claire always said it was best not to think about it too hard.
  820. >But you knew how upset it really made her.
  821. >There was a rather messy scene with a kid and an old batch colt named Coal.
  822. >Things were looking up at first but...
  823. >The colt didn't make it.
  824. >It was the first time they ever lost a client.
  825. >Claire tried to stay detached, but you could tell she wasn't taking it well, especially since it reminded her of a mutual friend who was having troubles at the time.
  826. >One evening after sweeping the shop, you lent her an ear.
  827. >She wanted to explain some things to you, but you feel like she was doing it moreso for herself.
  828. >’We do what we can for those who need help.’
  829. >’But… not everypony can be helped, as you already know.’
  830. >’Sometimes, all we can do is make sure that they’re comfortable.’
  831. >’It’s the least they deserve, right?’
  832. >'It's... frustrating. But we can only do so much.'
  833. >'That isn't to say we shouldn't try! And you know well how much I try...'
  834. >’It's just- Some things are... terminal, even for a pony. Not every core can be salvaged or part replaced...’
  835. >'I... I think at the very least, we can make sure they don't have be alone.'
  836. >'I know we're not exactly that kind of service, but that doesn't mean we can neglect hospitality.'
  837. >'You, Me, Pom, and Trent are a team! I... I'm sure we can help ponies.'
  838. >'Trent...'
  839. >'I... I want to help ponies like him.'
  840. >'Ponies that... that might not be able to afford one of the big shops.'
  841. >'...'
  842. >'I-I wish... I wish I could fix humans too...'
  843. >'Why can't- can't they just...'
  844. >'It's not fair...'
  845. >She had trailed off after that, clearly agitated.
  846. >You wanted to comfort her, but she kept insisting that things were fine.
  847. >Her tears told you otherwise.
  848. >Not long after, there was a blow a little too close to home and…
  849. >You shake your head.
  850. >Those were tough times, it isn’t healthy to dwell on them.
  851. >At least not now.
  852. >You stare off into space for a while, letting your thoughts drift you away from the past.
  853. >Somewhere along the line of the daydream express, you’re snapped back to reality by a tug on your jacket.
  854. >You look down at Radio, who points over to the counter.
  855. >Next to Pom is a very sleepy looking unicorn covered in a fluffy blanket, who had just come from the back room.
  856. >Her coat was white, or at least it used to be.
  857. >Now it was more akin to a silvery gray.
  858. >Despite her model’s classy nature, she was… fairly unkempt, nor did she keep the same manestyle as her counterparts. Opting instead for it to flow down in a waterfall of purple that settled at her shoulders.
  859. >It always got in her face and no matter how many times Pom offered to style it, she refused.
  860. >The obvious bedhead certainly added to the look.
  861. >The scruffy repairmare shoots daggers at you from across the room with her intensely blue eyes.
  862. >She seemed miffed.
  863. >Well, a little more than ‘miffed’ but she didn’t seem furious or anything.
  864. >Might as well get this over with, eh? Stalling isn't going to make Rads better.
  865. >You take a deep breath and give her a nod.
  866. “Hey... Claire.”
  867. >“Good evening, Anon.”
  868.  
  869. >Her horn becomes engulfed in a cool blue glow and she pulls her blanket off and offers it to Pom.
  870. >As Pom trots out of sight with the blanket, Claire stifles a yawn.
  871. >“I finally get a night to myself and just when I’m about to turn on some nice relaxing music and get a smidge of beauty sleep, *you* show up? Funny how that works.”
  872. “Well... Unlike last time, I've got something important.”
  873. >”Pray tell, *what*?”
  874. >You look over to Radio, who is currently out of Claire’s sight, reading the labels on one of the shelves.
  875. >You’re unsure if she was trying to hide, or if she genuinely wasn’t paying attention.
  876. >You get her attention by clearing your throat, and gesture her over.
  877. >Radio slinks into view, almost on the verge of hugging your leg.
  878. >You guess even with all her hype from before, she was still pretty anxious.
  879. “She’s got a problem that would benefit your expertise. If you’d be so kind, that is.”
  880. >Claire’s expression softens up and she walks out from behind the counter.
  881. >”What’s the matter then?”
  882. “Her voice box broke… I think.”
  883. >”You sound uncertain.”
  884. “Well, I’m not sure what’s wrong! All I know is that she can’t speak anymore and we need help figuring things out.”
  885. >Claire stands before you, eyeing Radio, who had shrunk down under her gaze.
  886. >It was an odd sight, seeing how surprisingly different their heights were.
  887. >Radio was a little shorter than average, but it didn’t become noticeable without another pony next to her.
  888. >As for Claire, she was on the taller side, towering over Radio by at least a head and a half.
  889. >It’s safe to say that Rads was intimidated.
  890. >Claire gives her a bow and a kind smile. “Don’t worry dear, we’ll have you all sorted out soon enough. I’m sure you’ve already met Pommel, yes?”
  891. >Radio straightens up a bit and nods.
  892. >Claire gestures a hoof towards Pom, who was behind the counter once more.
  893. >”Well, would you be so kind as to follow Pom? She’ll give you a little checkup and then we’ll get to business.”
  894. >Claire gives a soft laugh. “Think of her as a nurse of sorts! Isn’t that right, Pommel?”
  895. >Pom gives a rigid salute. “Nurse Pom at your service! We’ll be done posthaste!”
  896. >Claire tilts her head a tad. “No need to commit to the bit, Pom.”
  897. >“You sure? I can grab my stethoscope!”
  898. >Claire gives her a confused look. “When did you get a- uh- nevermind. Just the normal process, got it?”
  899. >Pom trots from behind the counter and stands next to Claire.
  900. >”Of course! Just a bit of fun, that's all!”
  901. >Pom holds out a hoof to Radio and nods. “We’ll just have your friend here fill some things out while I do a few scans, okay? He’ll join us a little later.”
  902. >Radio turns her head to you, looking quite overwhelmed.
  903. “Just remember what we talked about. Just relax.”
  904. >Radio nods slowly and then takes yet another deep breath.
  905. >She turns back to Pom and gives her a nervous smile as she takes her hoof.
  906. >Pom leads her into the back and you are left alone with Claire.
  907.  
  908. >Claire sighs and cranes her neck towards the clock on the wall.
  909. >”Well, it could be worse…”
  910. >She turns to you and presses a hoof against your chest.
  911. >”You owe me. Got it, dude?”
  912. “Owe you? Wait, you’re not going to charge me?”
  913. >She rolls her eyes. “Unless you somehow won the lottery while you were gone, I’m gonna guess you’re just as perpetually broke as before.”
  914. >She giggles a little. “And even then, I doubt you’d keep the money long, either!”
  915. “Aw c’mon! I’ve gotten better! …Sorta.”
  916. >At least you’re not living out of your car anymore, right?
  917. >Even if you had to sell it…
  918. >It was an utter bastard to keep up, but you miss it regardless.
  919. >”Well, seeing that you’re not wearing rags… I believe you.”
  920. >She turns around and makes her way to the counter.
  921. >”So… Who is this mare? I don’t recognize her from around here.”
  922. >You follow close behind and lean against the counter as she pulls out a set of documents.
  923. “That’s Radio. She’s my roommate. I uh.. I wouldn’t say she’s ‘from around here’ but I think she likes the city now.”
  924. >”Radio? Hmm… What an odd name. Can you imagine a pony named ‘Tape Deck’?”
  925. “Actually yes, I can. Miss ‘Clarity’.”
  926. >Claire sighs. “Pony names are quite the oddity, aren’t they? I suppose I'm not one to judge, my apologies.”
  927. >She floats the documents onto the counter and sets a pen down.
  928. >”You know the drill, fill this out with all your basic information… Oh! And sign this waiver, too.”
  929. “Waiver?”
  930. >She waves a hoof dismissively. “Nothing concerning, I assure you. Just a few legal precautions that we’re supposed to hand out now.”
  931. “Huh, did you get in trouble?”
  932. >She snorts. “No, it’s just some semi-recent legislation. It doesn’t affect my job other than a little more paperwork, so I could care less.”
  933. >As you begin to write away your soul, you chuckle.
  934. “You’re one of the few people I can think of that doesn’t mind paperwork.”
  935. >”What can I say? I find it relaxing.”
  936. “I can see it now! You doing your taxes with a giddy little grin, all gussied up in that purple bathrobe.”
  937. >”I haven’t had the robe for awhile now! I'll have you know that my new tax attire is an oversized band shirt!”
  938. “Huh, what band?”
  939. >”It’s rather faded, but I think it used to be a tour shirt for… Oberon?”
  940. “The one with all the rock ballads, or the heavy metal one?”
  941. >”Rock ballads, I haven’t listened to them all that much, but I found what I gleaned so far quite nice.”
  942. "You're wearing a shirt for a band you don't even listen to?"
  943. >"It's a good looking shirt! If anything, it made me want to check them out in the first place."
  944. "I suppose it did, huh? I'm glad you're broadening your horizons."
  945. >"Me too, it's... nice."
  946. >You click your pen and set it down.
  947. "All done."
  948.  
  949. >Claire takes the papers and floats them into a folder under the counter.
  950. >”Well, we’re all settled! I’ll go get things started, I’m sure Pom is done by now.”
  951. “Hopefully she hasn't talked Rads’ ears off.”
  952. >”Heh, I hope so too.”
  953. >Before she turns around, she rubs her chin.
  954. >”Anon?”
  955. “Uh, yeah?”
  956. >”I think I’ll cash in that favor now.”
  957. >Your shoulders sag.
  958. “Alright… Whaddya want?”
  959. >”Go get a pizza, preferably mushroom, but just cheese is also fine.”
  960. “Well I mean… I can afford that at least. Any place in particular?”
  961. >”There is a place a few blocks down that’s open 24/7. I think it's called ‘Sauce Boss’?”
  962. “Oh yeah, I worked there for a bit.”
  963. >”Where *haven’t* you worked?”
  964. “I dunno, if it’s around here, I’ve probably given it a shot.”
  965. >”Mmhm… Anyway, do that and we’ll be even.”
  966. >She starts walking away, but you give her a quick ‘Hey!’ before she makes it out the back door.
  967. “Look… Radio isn’t very trusting of… all this. I know you know what you’re doing, but just… be careful. I don’t want her panicking while I’m gone.”
  968. >Claire gives you a reassuring smile. “She’s in good hooves, I know how to deal with these sort of situations.”
  969. >You expect her to start leaving again, but for some reason, she stays in place.
  970. >She's staring at you with an undecipherable expression, searching your face.
  971. >Maybe she's waiting for you to go?
  972. "I'll uh... get going."
  973. >You nod and turn around to leave.
  974. >As you do, you hear her mumble something, but you can't make it out.
  975. >Before you can make it across the room, you're pulled back a bit.
  976. >You turn to face Claire, who clearly has a hold on your jacket with her magic.
  977. >She swallows drying and trots up to you.
  978. >”Hold on, Anon. I… I need to say something.”
  979.  
  980. >Claire's eyes avoid yours. “I’m… sorry for before. What happened was… I-I couldn’t think straight at the time. I… I didn’t mean any of it. I’d take it back if I could…”
  981. >Her head lowers and she inhales sharply.
  982. >”It wasn’t your fault, and it wasn’t right to do that to you. Pom talked me through things a-and… I think I get it now.”
  983. >She sighs, her ears flattened. “I probably should listen to her more… I guess I’m bad at that too, just like I’m bad at apologizing…”
  984. >She finally meets your gaze, her eyes a little watery. “I hope we can start over, despite it all. I… missed this. Talking to you, I mean.”
  985. >It takes a moment for you to process all that.
  986. >Things were… difficult back then.
  987. >The whole thing was one tragedy after another and Claire took it hard.
  988. >She tried to move on, but it simply made her distant.
  989. >And she ended up lashing out after bottling up her grief for so long.
  990. >You don’t remember what she said anymore, but you ended up avoiding her after that since you didn't think you could make things right.
  991. >Losing one of your only friends was hard enough, but having another push you away made it unbearable.
  992. >You’re honestly surprised Pom was able to get through to her.
  993. >Then again, Pom wasn’t your run of the mill pony, with all those ‘emotional support powers’ she claimed she had.
  994. >You guess she wasn’t joking around, Claire seems genuinely sorry.
  995. >You hold out your hand and she gladly meets it with her hoof.
  996. >The two of you shake, and a smile makes its way to your face. “Let bygones be bygones, eh Clarity?”
  997. >You’re not one to hold a grudge.
  998. >And… and you think things can mend.
  999. >You miss your old friend, after all.
  1000. >And you think she missed you too.
  1001. >She wipes her eyes and matches your smile. “Of course… Thank you.”
  1002. >Once you disengage, she clears her throat. “I’ll do everything I can to make sure Miss Radio feels safe and secure. Whatever is wrong, we’ll make it better.”
  1003. “I’ll hold you to it, Claire.”
  1004. >”Now uh… Off you go! Do… do the thing.”
  1005. >From her insistence on you leaving now, you take it she doesn't want you seeing her in such an emotionally vulnerable state.
  1006. >Once at the door, you give her a loose salute.
  1007. “I’ll see you in a bit. Take care, Claire!”
  1008. >"You too, Anon. Don't be gone too long."
  1009. >For Radio's sake, you'll try not to.
  1010. >She waves you off as you leave the shop, stepping once more into the snowy night.
  1011.  
  1012. >You exhale your stress, letting it float away with your breath in the cold.
  1013. >Things will be fine now, especially with those two in charge.
  1014. >You missed your old pals, and you think Rads could use some new friends.
  1015. >She’ll definitely enjoy having more people to talk to, and with Pom having a thing for fantasy stories, you think they’ll get along just fine.
  1016. >You can totally see Pom being Radio’s perfect beta reader, too.
  1017. >It certainly would make your own reading load a little lighter!
  1018. >Rads can churns out a lot of things and it can be overwhelming at times. Having an extra pair of hooves can help combing through things a little easier.
  1019. >Claire on the other hand? Well… you’re not sure.
  1020. >You wouldn't describe her as 'reserved' like her counterparts, but she certainly had an aloof air to her, even if she didn't mean too.
  1021. >Maybe they’ll bond over a mutual love of music? Or maybe Claire will force Radio to play some obscure adventure games with her, you know she loved doing that in her spare time.
  1022. >You kinda want to see the latter, it’d probably be pretty funny.
  1023. >You tried getting Radio into gaming once, but hooves made that a little hard, with her sort of giving up on using a keyboard. She mostly just likes to watch you play when she isn’t busy, but maybe some tips from Claire can change that?
  1024. >Not that you mind, of course. Rads' commentary through your seventh playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas made the whole experience all the better.
  1025. >She really liked Mr. New Vegas and every once in a while she'll end up pretending she's hosting a music station.
  1026. >She already had a voice fit for radio, and having her really lean into it was a sight to behold.
  1027. >It was mostly just her monologuing before she turned on whatever music she had ready, but it was still pretty cute.
  1028. >You walk down the street, snow crunching under your boots.
  1029. >You're lost in thought as you navigate the city streets.
  1030. >You may be acting as the delivery boy, but you’re pretty happy with the current outcome.
  1031. >Hell, you might even grab a couple more pies and have yourself a little pizza party with some friends, new and old!
  1032. >You’re optimistic for whatever comes next, that’s for sure.
  1033.  
  1034. .. - .----. ... / -- -.-- / - ..- .-. -. --..-- / -.-. .... .. . ..-. -.-.--
  1035. -Radio Silence-
  1036.  
  1037. >Well…
  1038. >H-here you are!
  1039. >Sitting on a beanbag in the back of a dingy repair shop.
  1040. >Waiting for that excitable mare to show up again.
  1041. >What did Anon call her?
  1042. >Pom?
  1043. >Yeah that- that’s the one.
  1044. >W-why is she taking so long?
  1045. >You sink further into the beanbag and fidget with your mane.
  1046. >As your anxiety starts to get the better of you, you take a deep breath and shut your eyes.
  1047. >I-it’s okay…
  1048. >T-they’re ponies a-and they won’t hurt you a-and- and-
  1049. >It’s just some repair work!
  1050. >You can handle that! Y-you’re brave and stuff…
  1051. >Maybe not brave enough to stop trembling, b-but just enough to *not* cry.
  1052. >You’d rather not make more of a scene than you already have.
  1053. >Chief believes in you! You can’t panic!
  1054. >After a little more positive reinforcement, you feel okay enough to open your eyes again.
  1055. >Well, sorta.
  1056. >You’ve had your hooves in front of your face for a while now.
  1057. >You lower them and take a cautious look around.
  1058. >It’s a pretty casual space for repairs, all things considered.
  1059. >It reminded you of a doctor’s office more than anything else.
  1060. > Except like, really open.
  1061. >In the middle is one of those chair-table things that you’re supposed to sit on.
  1062. >They um, probably have a proper name.
  1063. >There is a desktop computer like Anon has, sitting on a desk in a corner of the room.
  1064. >It’s pretty plain besides a few tech related stickers on it.
  1065. >Besides that, there are a couple of shelves with a lot of containers in them against the walls..
  1066. >You want to guess they have tools in them?
  1067. >The seating was a little all over the place.
  1068. >There were a few stacked stools and a pair of metal folding chairs.
  1069. >And you were sitting on a cushy beanbag next to an armchair.
  1070. >You wiggle a little in the chair.
  1071. >...You do kinda like the beanbag though, even if everything else is really strange.
  1072. >It’s comforting.
  1073. >There isn’t much else for you to do but sit around and try to keep your nerves in check.
  1074. >It's... certainly an effort, but you manage well enough.
  1075.  
  1076. >Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for Pom to make an appearance again, having just come out of an even further room with a tray of steaming mugs.
  1077. >You guess that might be their living space? Seeing how late it is, you guess they must live in the shop…
  1078. >You're surprised she doesn’t seem tired.
  1079. >Maybe she’s a night owl like you?
  1080. >She balances the tray on a forehoof and gingerly walks over.
  1081. >By the way she holds it, you guess she has done this a lot.
  1082. >That being said… You hope she doesn’t trip.
  1083. >Once she makes it over to you, she gives you yet another smile.
  1084. >”Hey again! Sorry for the delay, I had a little idea.”
  1085. >She does a theatrical twirl and outstretches the tray to you.
  1086. >You unconsciously take a few sniffs and smell something good.
  1087. >”Care for some hot chocolate?”
  1088. >It even has tiny marshmallows…
  1089. >You- You love tiny marshmallows!
  1090. >Without hesitation, you give her an affirming nod and take a mug.
  1091. >It warms up your cold hooves as you stare into the chocolatey abyss
  1092. >After making sure it’s at a safe temperature, you take a small sip.
  1093. >...And then a much longer swig.
  1094. >It’s *really* good.
  1095. >She sets the tray down on a table and takes the other mug for herself while you swirl around your drink.
  1096. >Pom scoots a stool in front of you and sits down with a huff.
  1097. >”Phew! I always forget how long that takes, but it’s worth it, huh?”
  1098. >You nod again and set your mug on a side table.
  1099. >She takes a sip of her own and sets it beside yours.
  1100. >“Alright alright! So let’s just get to know each other a little bit and then we’ll get those scans done.”
  1101. >She shifts into a more comfortable position and then clears her throat. “So… What’s your name?”
  1102. >Oh boy, more writing!
  1103. >Not that you aren’t used to it… it’s just the annoyance of the situation that gets to you.
  1104. >You pick up your clipboard and pen from your side and start writing.
  1105. >’Radio Star’
  1106. >You wind up writing your full name, since you make the assumption that they might keep records.
  1107.  
  1108. >You turn the clipboard around and Pom tilts her head.
  1109. >...And then starts humming the chorus of something awfully familiar.
  1110. >By the time she stops, you’re beet red.
  1111. >”Did I hit that nail on the head?”
  1112. >Sometimes you forget that people besides Anon might actually recognize that…
  1113. >You nod slowly and then scribble down a quick: ‘But just Radio is fine!’
  1114. >”Ah, I see! …Sorry about that.”
  1115. >She leans in and whispers. “My name is actually related to swords! You know, like a hilt and pommel? Claire just likes pronouncing it all fancy like.”
  1116. >Pom leans back and giggles. “Names are just the silliest things, no? Sometimes, we have them simply because they sound nice, and other times, they have some sort of special meaning!”
  1117. >She gives another smile. “How about you, does your name have any meaning to it? …You don’t have to answer, of course! I don’t mean to pry.”
  1118. >You rub the back of your head while you think.
  1119. >You… You guess it’s kind of meaningful? It felt like a spur of the moment thing, especially with Anon suggesting it more or less as a joke regarding the music the both of you listened to.
  1120. >Well, you guess it stopped being a joke the moment you started answering to it.
  1121. >You were pretty excited about having a name back then, with you snatching it up immediately and all.
  1122. >It’s honestly a little embarrassing to think about…
  1123. >Having someone acknowledge your full name felt really awkward, and besides Anon, no one else really knew it.
  1124. >You weren't much of a ‘star’ after all.
  1125. >Hmph… are you more of a radio, then?
  1126. >You grope at the back of your neck and frown.
  1127. >...Kinda?
  1128. >But what does *that* mean?
  1129. >”You there?”
  1130. >You blink and refocus on Pom, who was waiting patiently for an answer while you were zoning out.
  1131. >You write down a hasty ‘It’s got some meaning, I guess.’ and leave it at that.
  1132. >All this talk about names is giving you some ideas… but you’ll set that aside for now.
  1133. >You’ll write it down in your journal later.
  1134. >She nods as you show her the clipboard.
  1135. >”I see! Well, I won’t hold things up any longer.”
  1136.  
  1137. >She slides off her stool and dusts off the front of her apron.
  1138. >”Let's get things started, eh?”
  1139. >She stands in front of you with a smile.
  1140. >...Why does everypony seem bigger than you?
  1141. >That scary mare from before was *really* tall…
  1142. >At least Pom is normal height… sorta.
  1143. >She’s still kinda big.
  1144. >Or maybe you’re small…
  1145. >...
  1146. >Are- Are you short?
  1147. >Wait a sec- she’s talking! That’s probably important, so focus, dummy!
  1148. >”...And once we’re done with that, we’ll move on!”
  1149. >You flip to your ‘please repeat’ page and show it to her.
  1150. >”Oh! Sure thing.”
  1151. >Pom clears her throat.
  1152. >”These scans are completely benign and are in no way invasive. They will let us easily see if your body has any visible damage, if not, we’ll proceed to the next layer, which will indicate if there is any internal damage, be it a break, jam, or what have you. Then and only then would we ask for permission to do a hardware scan if nothing else shows, and once we’re done with all that, we’ll move on!”
  1153. >That doesn’t sound too bad…
  1154. >”So, are you ready?”
  1155. >You look her in the eyes.
  1156. >She's been nothing but nice to you so… you guess this’ll be okay?
  1157. >With slight apprehension, you nod.
  1158. >“Good! Now, all I need for you to do is to stay still.”
  1159. >You watch as she sits down in front of you.
  1160. >Her eyes light up, making her already bright green eyes much more intense.
  1161. >They flicker rhythmically and you feel as if you’re being stared at from all sides.
  1162. >Despite the fear in the back of your mind, you stay relatively calm.
  1163. >After a minute or so, the flickering stops and she blinks a few times in succession.
  1164. >Pom rolls her head a bit and lets out a sigh.
  1165. >”Jeez, that took longer than I thought! You can relax now, Radio.”
  1166. >You almost immediately slump back into the beanbag with an inaudible sigh of your own.
  1167. >At least that’s one part over…
  1168.  
  1169. >Pom trots over to the computer across the room and fiddles with something on her hoof.
  1170. >She pulls out a… usb?
  1171. >Huh.
  1172. >Anyway, she sticks the usb into the computer and hums along with its startup jingle.
  1173. >You watch as she pulls up a sheet with a wireframe pony in the middle.
  1174. >The pony is filled with multicolored blobs, most are green besides the occasional yellow.
  1175. >It’s pretty abstract, but you guess that’s you?
  1176. >”Hmm… Hey, Radio?”
  1177. >She turns to you and does a motion with one of her back-legs.
  1178. >”Try to stretch more! You’re all tense.”
  1179. >You’re way out of your comfort zone, of course you’re tense!
  1180. >But… you guess it couldn’t hurt.
  1181. >Maybe you should take a few more breaks?
  1182. >You could bust out Anon’s old Wii and play some tennis or something…
  1183. >That counts as exercise, right?
  1184. >Pom pauses for a moment and enlarges a red spot on the pony on the computer.
  1185. >”What’s this?”
  1186. >She squints at it a while and then turns to you with a puzzled expression.
  1187. >You watch her get up and walk up to you again.
  1188. >”Could you please turn around for a moment?”
  1189. >You hesitate, but ultimately, you roll over and lay on the beanbag, belly down.
  1190. >You keep yourself from flinching as she moves aside the back of your mane.
  1191. >”Oh.”
  1192. >Once she lets go of your mane, you roll back into a sitting position, facing her.
  1193. >Pom rubs her chin for a moment.
  1194. >”I take it that’s the problem?”
  1195. >You give her a slow nod.
  1196. >”A built-in voice synthesizer like that is a rather unorthodox choice. Especially one that doesn't blend in with the rest of the body.”
  1197. >You didn’t exactly have a say in the matter…
  1198. >If you did, you’d probably be like ‘Hey! I quite like having vocal cords! How about you just give me a cup holder instead? I could always use one of those!’
  1199. >And… And Anon would be there too! You didn’t know him then, of course… but he’d be there.
  1200. >You- You wish he was…
  1201. >Someone who would listen to you and say that everything was okay and that you could go home if you didn’t want to an-
  1202. >You nearly jump a foot when you feel a hoof rest itself on your shoulder.
  1203. >You lift your gaze, meeting Pom’s eyes.
  1204. >She looks concerned, or at least you think she is?
  1205. >It’s kinda hard to see her, with your eyes being really watery and all.
  1206.  
  1207. >”Hey… Is something the matter? I’m sorry, I hope I didn’t sound like I was making fun of you!”
  1208. >Everything's fine! Why would she think…
  1209. >You stare down at your trembling hooves.
  1210. >A few stray droplets fall onto your jacket, rolling down the sleek surface.
  1211. >Are- are you… crying?
  1212. >You quickly dry your tears with a sleeve, desperately trying to keep your composure.
  1213. >There is a sickly feeling rising in your stomach and no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop shaking.
  1214. >What h-happened to not making a scene?! Relax! You- You don’t have to…
  1215. >You don’t want to…
  1216. >S-stop that! You’re fine a-and you don’t have to think about it anymore, so just go to your happy place and b-breathe just like Anon said…
  1217. >Your mind is running a mile a minute, but after some searching, you remember last Thursday and hold onto that.
  1218. >You’re nice a-and snug at home watching movies with your best friend and the two of you are eating really crappy pasta but it’s okay because it’s the thought that counts a-and…
  1219. >Breathe in…
  1220. >Breathe out…
  1221. >Over time, your trembling slows and your breathing settles down. And after a few more shaky breaths, finally, you calm down.
  1222. >You stay still for a while, slowly registering the world around you again.
  1223. >Somewhere along the line, you must have balled yourself up, since your tail is in your face.
  1224. >You uncurl yourself from your ball-like position and awkwardly sit up, keeping your gaze firmly glued to the shop floor.
  1225. >Well, that was... awful.
  1226. >When was the last time you had one of those?
  1227. >You'd rather not think about it...
  1228. >Maybe joking around about *that* isn’t a good idea, even in your head. Your real feelings always slip through the cracks.
  1229. >As you pick up the clipboard again, you take a deep breath.
  1230. >Just... press on.
  1231. >You lift your head and glance over to Pom.
  1232. >She looks... shocked.
  1233. >You have a hunch she thinks *she* did this.
  1234. >But no, it was all you and your stupid attempt at dark humor.
  1235. >You’re clearly not ready for something like that…
  1236. >Not to mention the joke sucked and you just ended up embarrassing yourself.
  1237. >Bleh, let’s not do that again…
  1238. >Know your limits, Rads.
  1239. >You start scribbling down ‘You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just-’
  1240. >You pause, mulling around your words.
  1241. >’It’s just some emotional baggage. You’ve been very kind. Thank you.’
  1242. >Once done, you tear the page off and offer it to Pom.
  1243. >Her demeanor relaxes, but now she’s all concerned again.
  1244. >”You're welcome but… Are you sure you’ll be okay? You were quite beside yourself.”
  1245. >Oh boy, let’s not go down that rabbit hole.
  1246. >You flip to the ‘yes’ page and show it to her.
  1247. >”Do you... really mean that?”
  1248. >You tap the paper and nod, hoping she doesn’t see your anxiousness.
  1249.  
  1250. >She still looks a tad worried, but she gives you a warm smile nevertheless.
  1251. >”Alrighty then… But, if you do need to talk or um, write. I’m all ears.”
  1252. >She wiggles her ears a bit and chuckles awkwardly.
  1253. >”See?”
  1254. >You crack a smile, which seems to get Pom to perk up.
  1255. >Pom gives you a slight bow before she gets up from her seat and checks the clock on the computer.
  1256. >”Hmm… I'm sure they're done by now.”
  1257. >Pom turns to you. “I’ll go pop in and check up on them. Just sit tight and we’ll be back inna flash!”
  1258. >She makes it halfway across the room before she stops and looks back at you.
  1259. >”You can finish my cocoa if you want! It’d be a shame if it went cold.”
  1260. >She moves aside the curtain to the front and then gives you a wave before leaving you alone with your thoughts yet again.
  1261. >At least this time you’ve got hot chocolate to keep you company, so you guess that’s a plus.
  1262. >You slump over into the beanbag once more, finding it to be your constant companion through this ordeal.
  1263. >You roll onto your back and stare up at the ceiling, letting your mind wonder.
  1264. >Maybe you could get one of these for home? That would be pretty sweet.
  1265. >You do remember seeing a few over at the thrift store...
  1266. >You already have the swivel chair for your desk, but you’re sure you can make a killer reading nook with a beanbag!
  1267. >Man, there's this open spot by your bookcase that would just be *perfect*!
  1268. >Realistically, you’d probably end up sleeping instead of reading, but no matter the case, it’s certainly an idea to keep in mind for later.
  1269. >With a sigh, you get back to the matter at hoof.
  1270. >This isn’t so bad so far, but you know the hard part comes next.
  1271. >You might have tripped up a bit, but as long as you take it slow, you’ll be fine.
  1272. >Probably.
  1273. >You wriggle around, trying to get comfortable, but for one reason or another, you’re restless.
  1274. >Anon made it sound like that Claire mare isn't as scary as she seems... You hope he's right.
  1275. >You slide off the beanbag and do some prescribed stretching.
  1276. >Surprisingly, you feel slightly better after that.
  1277. >You guess Pom wasn’t kidding! Not that she had any reason to kid to begin with.
  1278. >You decide to take a walk around the…
  1279. >What would you call this?
  1280. >An office?
  1281. >Maybe a work area?
  1282. >Eh, you'll ask one of them before you leave.
  1283. >As you do a lazy lap around the table in the middle, you feel your mojo slowly return.
  1284. >You’re sure it’ll drain away the moment someone comes through that door, but for now, you’re feeling okay.
  1285. >And that’s all you could ask for, really.

Testament

by Castafae

Letters for Gray Garden

by Castafae

Novel Pursuits with Radio Star

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Fae Green Archive

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Fae's Party Adventure

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