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Interstate

By ceiling-necromancer
Created: 2023-10-23 05:00:57
Updated: 2023-12-26 03:53:22
Expiry: Never

  1. >White.
  2. >The light shines in through the lack of curtains onto your mattress
  3. >A lingering sense of dread remains from last night... you're pretty sure that you were drinking to forget something
  4. >And oh fuck, your head
  5. >It's still bleeding a bit, you're pretty sure your skull cracked
  6. >Not like you have anything to help it though, you'll just put some gauze on it in a second
  7. >You carefully stumble over to the sink, filling a cup to the brim with slightly cold, over-chlorinated water that you gulp down greedily
  8. >Oh fuck, you're starting to remember
  9. >It's safe to say that bridge is burned
  10. >Rent is a few days past due, they'll probably have you out by the end of the week
  11. >You were saving up money to pay for it, but your job let you go
  12. >If memory recalls, they cut off your internet a few days back
  13. >You were...
  14. >That's right, you were at the bar
  15. >You were with her, that...
  16. >She liked ponies? You think they were in her profile on tinder
  17. >It's sad to think that you fucked things up with someone who shared a crucial common interest, but not everyone who likes ponies is automatically a winner anyways
  18. >And you're like 50% sure she's why your bed looks like someone got murdered on it
  19. >The blood has flowed to a trickle, you feel weak
  20. >You must've lost a lot last night
  21. >It occurs to you that you probably didn't sleep so much as you fell unconscious due to head trauma, it's a miracle you made it back to your apartment and locked the door before that happened
  22. >You have a few hundred dollars left in your account
  23. >Not enough for rent, but enough to maybe make a plea deal with your landlord
  24. >You just need to work at McDonalds for a few weeks while you get back on your feet, that's all
  25. >The single bulb in your bathroom flickers out.
  26. >Your face greets you in the mirror, illuminated by the light of the sun, lazily bouncing off of the white surfaces in your room
  27. >Your face is soaked with blood, your eyes are bloodshot, and your hair is long and scraggly
  28. >You get some gauze from the medicine cabinet and start to slowly wrap your head wound, it hurts at first but eventually it subsides a bit
  29. >Wash out what blood you can in the sink, dry thoroughly, repeat...
  30. >Eventually you get enough out and get everything dry enough that you can stand to put on your beanie without worrying about it getting soaked with blood or water
  31. >You look in the mirror again
  32. >You look like a mentally deranged homeless person
  33. >"Hello"
  34. >You whip around and your head protests, sending jolts of pain across your skull
  35. "Aaaaaargh! Fuck! Who are you?! How did you get in?!"
  36. >It's a girl's voice
  37. >She laughs, a warm and surprisingly welcoming sound
  38. "I think you'll figure that out once you open up your eyes look at me"
  39. >You nod
  40. >It's...
  41. "Battle Royale."
  42. >"Who did you expect? Peeta Mellark?
  43. "I named you before all of that shit, and you aren't my current oc."
  44. >She winces, her wings flaring up a bit
  45. "Sorry, touchy subject. I wasn't thinking."
  46. >"Might be a good idea not to think too much considering what happened last night."
  47. "Tell me about it... you were there?"
  48. >"It's complicated, I'm pretty sure I started existing in your world right after you got hit in the head, but that event was preordained."
  49. "I was meant to get smacked in the head with... I really don't remember"
  50. >You hold a hand against your head, trying to focus in on her
  51. "Do you know what happened?"
  52. >She gives you a pitying sound, somewhere between a whinny and a whicker
  53. >"You tried to tell her about something, I was still somewhat sick myself from the manifestation. Before last night I haven't held a form, so you'll have to excuse me for being inattentive"
  54. "I can't really blame you, yeah... it doesn't matter anyways"
  55. >"I hate to take away from our little moment, but there's something I need for you to do for me."
  56. "Go ahead, I can't make any promises yet though"
  57. >"Fine. I'm stuck in a sort of conceptual limbo. I'd like to pass on to Equestria, but I'm not fully flesh and blood and I need a vessel to survive the journey"
  58. "Sorry, you aren't angry, are you?"
  59. >"No, but I was hoping having a magical pony show up in your room would make you agree outright."
  60. "So, Equestria is real?"
  61. >"It is. It was thought impossible for physical teleportation between... Spell Service knows more about this than I do, but I get the idea from talking to her that it's not really an option unless you know this group of scientists"
  62. "That's a shame. And what lets me know you're not a product of my head injury?"
  63. >You take your hand off your head.
  64. >The pain starts again, so you put it back on there.
  65. "You said that you're not exactly flesh and blood, so I'm assuming your manipulation of objects mostly extends to not falling to the center of the earth"
  66. >"This list."
  67. >With an outstretched wing, she brings a list out of somewhere inside of her chest
  68. >You take it, you can feel it
  69. "And how do I know I'm not hallucinating holding this thing?"
  70. >"Read it out."
  71. >It's names and locations, some of them on the same line.
  72. >"I need you to go to those places and talk to the people with those names."
  73. "What about the lines where there isn't a name to ask around for?"
  74. >"I was told that you'd figure it out."
  75. >Reassuring
  76. "And why should I do this?"
  77. >Clown makeup and a red suit materialize on Royale, her black mane dying itself green in an instant
  78. >"You've got nothing left to lose."
  79. >You stare at her and she stares at you
  80. >After about ten seconds, the clown makeup vanishes and she appears to be a bit out of breath
  81. "Does that hurt?"
  82. >"It's an alteration to my form, pain isn't really something I know the feeling of... but it's straining in a way"
  83. "How many times can you do it?"
  84. >"It's not really good for subterfuge, you're the only one that can see me."
  85. "Ah, about the note"
  86. >"Take a picture of it, then show someone on the bus ride and get them to confirm that it exists. Time is of the essence, we should go soon."
  87. >You take a picture of the back of it with the light shining through, just enough to make out that something is written on the other side but not enough for it to really be legible
  88. "I still don't understand what I have to gain from this. Does it have to be me? What am I even doing?"
  89. >"I was told you should prepare to enter a sort of urban war."
  90. "Fuuuuck, that's not good. I don't even have any weapons that I could conceal onto a bus! Isn't there anything else I can do to help you cross? Don't get me wrong, I love ponies, but I don't want to... you know"
  91. >"Unfortunately, the conditions are somewhat determined by each pony's creation circumstances. Since Battle Royale is a bloody mess of a film, the circumstances that get us both what we want can't come to pass without bloodshed."
  92. "What do I gain from this?"
  93. >"I can suck your dick"
  94. >You give her that look, a carefully practiced look of disdain and malice that you perfected throughout all your years of being a loner
  95. >The sort of look that conveys two words: "go die."
  96. >She looks a bit scared for a fraction of a second, but her expression goes back to neutral in the same time
  97. >"No? Okay..."
  98. "Sorry, it's somewhat of a force of habit. You get a few too many weird questions when you're a dude with long hair."
  99. >She sighs deeply
  100. >"Yeah, okay. You scared me though, I was just trying to offer something nice"
  101. "Am I really so perverse that that's the first thing you thought of before we both go off to war?"
  102. >"No, but Spell Service suggested it... I'm pretty sure she can't hear us, so I'll tell you that she's a bit of a slut."
  103. >"I can put in a good word with her though, that can be your favor. She's the one that'll be converting the good will your actions produce into a body for me, once the portal is open it's possible she could turn you into... your new OC."
  104. "Wailing Woods?"
  105. >"Yes, that one."
  106. >Her "that" is emphasized in the way one might emphasize an insult
  107. "Sorry."
  108. >She gives you this sad look
  109. >"It's not really your fault in the sense that I can blame you, but the burden of my abandonment is yours alone. Maybe in time I'll be close enough to you to look past it, but I just can't at the moment."
  110. "Just let me do something real quick and I'll walk with you to the ATM."
  111. >"Groovy."
  112. >>>
  113. "What do you call a deer with no eyes?"
  114. >"I've got no eye deer"
  115. "How about a fish?"
  116. >"Fssssh"
  117. "Spell ICUP"
  118. >"I see you-"
  119. >She stops and actually giggles a bit
  120. >"You almost got me with that one, Anon. Haven't heard that one for a long time"
  121. "Yeah, I think the last time I saw someone using it seriously was back in grade school. Oh how time flies"
  122. >"Quiet down for just a minute, don't look behind you but someone's staring at you"
  123. >"Is that- it is! Yo, Anon!"
  124. >You turn around to see your favorite drug dealer, Derran
  125. "Derran, my man. How's it been?"
  126. >"You know, mostly just selling weed these days. Don't need to sell much else to pay my rent really"
  127. "Cool, cool. Guess that's how it goes in San Francisco. Do you even have to worry about getting arrested for that these days?"
  128. >"Only if I carry around a piece"
  129. >He snaps his fingers
  130. >"I've got it! I remembered what I was supposed to give you."
  131. "Huh? I don't remember you owing me anything."
  132. >"That's because you were off your fucking tits on acid, man. You just handed me like 300 dollars and asked me to get you "put it forward" whatever you meant by that. Anyways, I interpreted it as this."
  133. >He hands you a brown denim bag, there's something heavy inside
  134. >It's the pride and joy of magnum research
  135. >A fucking desert eagle
  136. >Chambered in 50 action express, and the goddamn idiot somehow got you a gold one
  137. "Derran, I-"
  138. >"Don't worry about it nigga, I didn't pay for it myself if you catch my drift. Oh, that's right. Be careful with the thing around the pigs."
  139. "Jesus Derran, is it gold or titanium gold?"
  140. >"The fuck does it matter?"
  141. "Real 24 carat gold blemishes a lot easier"
  142. >"Sheeeit negro, I dunno. But don't look a-"
  143. "Gift horse in the mouth, I know. Thank you very much."
  144. >He gives you a nod.
  145. >"You're most welcome, thank you for being a loyal customer all these years. There's some other fun things in that bag, it's got a false bottom. Some ammo and some things I won't spoil the surprise on. I gotta split now, seeya cuh."
  146. "Yeah, be seeing you. Take it easy."
  147. >"Wow."
  148. "Yeah, I know."
  149. >You slide the denim bag into your backpack and complete the walk to the ATM with Royale.
  150. >You withdraw everything you own down to a $10 increment from the ATM
  151. >Just as well, the transaction fees are just about the rest of it
  152. "That's $340, don't think that'll be enough for all the greyhound tickets"
  153. >"You'll figure it out."
  154. >She rubs her muzzle against your leg and, while incorporeal, the action still gives you the warm fuzzies
  155. >You smile down at her
  156. >The greyhound station is just a block away, you're lucky you didn't have to walk all the way across town with no car
  157. "Feeling mighty affectionate now, are we?"
  158. >"Admittedly I underestimated you a bit, Spell Service says that she's had ponies who were able to convince their creators to go through with everything with just the promise of a pity blowjob. That glare you gave me was a breath of fresh air, and then you agreed to do it for a more reasonable price."
  159. "You said ponies, you mean mares and stallions?"
  160. >She chuckles darkly
  161. >"You have no idea."
  162. >>>
  163. >The ticket is $146, leaving you with a meager $194 for the remaining bus fares across the US.
  164. >You and Royale pass the time with chitchat about Equestria, she's very excited to go there and it's honestly a bit contagious despite the shit you're about to do.
  165. "They all deserve it, right? The people we're... you know?"
  166. >"Oh. Oh yeah."
  167. "What'll being a pony be like for me if your mage friend can do it? Do you know if I get flesh and blood?"
  168. >"I'm honestly not entirely sure, I'm sorry. If the bus ride is quiet enough and I can concentrate, I might be able to bridge a connection over for a few minutes and ask about specifics"
  169. "Alright, thanks"
  170. >The two of you sit in silence for the rest of the thirty or so minutes before the bus arrives
  171. >You don't know for sure, your laptop is still in your bag and you didn't take your phone
  172. >Too easy to be tracked with
  173. "Whelp, I've already spent the money and you seem pretty real, but I hope you don't mind if I ask the bus driver if he can see the paper I took a photo of"
  174. >"Go right ahead, it's important for you to have some peace of mind that this is all quite real if you're to do what's to come."
  175. >You step up into the metallic smelling bus and look around. There's only one other guy on it and he's sitting with his knees up to his face in the back, presumably asleep or pretty out of it
  176. "Do you see this photo?"
  177. >The bus driver gives you kind of a funny look
  178. >"Yeah, it's of some paper. Why?"
  179. "Is there anything written on the back? Someone sent me this picture and I can't make out the scrawl."
  180. >"I can't rightly say, looks like some words but I can't read them myself. Sorry pal"
  181. "It's quite alright, thank you"
  182. >"Well, now you know."
  183. >You're not sure if you're more or less unsettled than before you knew this was all real, but it doesn't change the fact that you were full well willing to go through with it regardless
  184. >The doors shut with a hiss and you buckle your seat belt
  185. "Are you going to buckle in?"
  186. >You mean it as a teasing remark but she seems not to find it funny
  187. "Sorry."
  188. >"Bus 2653. To Sierra Vista, from San Francisco."
  189. >The bus pulls out of the station, you watch the scenery through the window for a few minutes with Royale, mostly just the city going by
  190. "I get tired of looking at cities, seems like no matter what they do they just can't make big cities look good"
  191. >"I like the buildings in little towns and hamlets much more myself"
  192. "It seems like with closer proximity to other people things just progressively get worse and worse"
  193. >"Yeah, I'd imagine San Francisco is just full of shitty architecture firms trying to justify these tall, ugly things."
  194. >After a few more minutes of ugly buildings in midday light, you elect to just pull out your shitty laptop and play minesweeper
  195. >You used to be pretty good at it, but your abilities have decayed over the years
  196. >Royale watches lazily, flitting out her left or right wing every once in a while
  197. "Can you see out of your left eye?"
  198. >"Great question. For now, I don't really have binocular vision so much as I just have a cone radiating out of my head that travels a certain distance and then cuts off."
  199. >You hit a mine and let out a soft "fuck"
  200. >"If a wall is in my way, I simply imagine it isn't and it vanishes from my view allowing me to see what's on the other side. It's as if the obstruction simply ceases to exist for me until I want it to return, or until I stop thinking about it. Light passes through for me, though obviously it's not really illuminated.
  201. "Sure would be nice for minesweeper, you can't see through simulated ground can you?"
  202. >You clear a stage
  203. >She giggles
  204. >"Nah, I just see the seat in front of us. I can see about as far as you can I think, it sorta tapers off at a horizon line when I'm looking into the distance."
  205. >The two of you stop talking for a few minutes as the bus goes onto the golden gate bridge
  206. "I like this part, admittedly"
  207. >She gives you a nod, propping herself up on the little window sill with her hooves and looking out into the bay
  208. >She's blocking your view, but you don't mind because she's really cute
  209. >You don't remember why you left her behind actually, at some point she just wasn't your main oc any longer
  210. >And eventually you stopped getting art of her too
  211. >After the bridge passes under you, you two resume conversation
  212. "That must be handy, being able to see through things."
  213. >"You would think so, but I don't really have any more visual clarity than you do. I can see through a tanker truck, but if it's really far down the highway, it's a bit hard to be able to tell what I'm looking at inside of it."
  214. >She looks down at her hooves
  215. >"Plus, in most cases other than when I'm on a bus moving at 45 miles per hour, I can just walk over and phase through the object I want to look inside. I just need to be careful around certain things."
  216. "What sort of things?"
  217. >"Anything that produces high-frequency photons. EM radiation can take big chunks out of me, and it takes a while to heal back. If I sustain enough damage, I'll simply cease to exist."
  218. "Jesus."
  219. >"It's a bit of a bummer, but I'm trying not to get too attached to this form of living or the benefits and drawbacks relating to it. Soon I'll be a real mare with a blind left eye, if that's what you were asking initially"
  220. "I was sort of curious about both"
  221. >"That's good, glad to know I didn't waste your time"
  222. >She looks around
  223. >"Oh, wait"
  224. >The two of you share a laugh at the absurdity the statement
  225. "Do you want to watch a movie? Minesweeper is getting a bit tedious and I'm rusty"
  226. >"What've you got?"
  227. "Mostly old 80s and 90s flicks. Any you want in particular?"
  228. >"Well, hm..."
  229. "Want me to pick something?"
  230. >"Do you have that movie about the girl and the guy from the future? Can't remember the name of it"
  231. "It sounds familiar, but I need a bit more info"
  232. >"It ends in a factory with the girl crawling on her stomach-"
  233. "Terminator?"
  234. >"Yeah! That one"
  235. "Let me check... yeah, looks like it's here"
  236. >"Can we watch it?"
  237. "Mhm, as long as you don't think it'll scare you too much"
  238. >"You designed me to be a battle-worn veteran, I think I can handle it again"
  239. "You've seen it before?"
  240. >"I have... a vague notion of the plot of it"
  241. >Something probably best discussed later, if you remember to
  242. >She hops into your lap and you start the movie, the audio playing through the speakers
  243. >The driver is just out of earshot, and the guy in the back is presumably still asleep/doped enough to not care
  244. >She's...
  245. >Warm in your lap.
  246. >It isn't what you expected at all
  247. >Living things radiate heat, sure
  248. >But her?
  249. >If you get ahold of some thermals you'll have to test her heat signature, could help the two of you if you end up fighting military personnel
  250. >Not that it should come to that, ideally
  251. >You sort of stopped paying attention, Reese is already rescuing Sarah from the terminator in Technoir
  252. >Royale looks comfy, almost dreamlike but still clearly enraptured with the images
  253. >She stays like this until Kyle starts talking about the machine war
  254. >"Stop it, please."
  255. >You press the spacebar, pausing the movie abruptly
  256. "Everything okay?"
  257. >"I... it's nothing. Continue, I'm sorry."
  258. "Are you sure?"
  259. >"Maybe I'll tell you later, right now I just want to watch this"
  260. "Would a hug help?"
  261. >"Uh, yeah."
  262. >You wrap your arms around her from behind and she rests her muzzle against your right arm, there isn't really a force applied by any sort of weight but you can still sort of feel her presence regardless
  263. >You unpause the movie and it continues without issue
  264. >She gets a bit shivery when Kyle first talks about how he travelled across time for Sarah
  265. >And you can feel her muzzle heat up a little bit when they get intimate
  266. >You don't comment on it, you're pretty sure it's involuntary and it's her moment to experience as she wants to
  267. >The movie finishes
  268. >She twists around and gives you a hug of her own
  269. >"Thanks, Anon"
  270. "For what? I haven't done anything"
  271. >"It was a good movie, and you're a good human"
  272. >Your stomach feels like it's full of butterflies
  273. "I think you're a damn good mare"
  274. >Good lord you're both so fucking autistic
  275. >She gives you a reassuring nuzzle
  276. >"Let's see what else your friend put in that denim bag, if you like"
  277. "Alright"
  278. >You pull up the false bottom carefully
  279. >There are three plastic baggies, each containing a tab of acid
  280. >14 rounds of 50 AE
  281. >One hand grenade
  282. >A small flask marked with "PE"
  283. >And finally, a king size seasonal reeses
  284. >The two of you stare at it all for a few seconds
  285. "Uh, can you eat? These taste awesome"
  286. >"It might be another weapon"
  287. "It's still sealed, I think this one is..."
  288. >You break the seal on it and are immediately hit with the smell of peanut butter and chocolate
  289. "Aw yeah, this is the real deal"
  290. >"Sadly I can't, but if you leave it open I can enjoy the odor of it"
  291. "Damn, you mind if I have one? The seasonal ones are always super fresh"
  292. >"Go right ahead"
  293. >It's probably the best thing you've tasted in months
  294. >You haven't had any money in the budget for sugar lately
  295. "Fuuuuck"
  296. >Royale laughs, a donkey-esque sound (in a cute way somehow)
  297. >"I think we're going to make a good team, Anon."
  298. "I think we've got about three hours to Cold Springs, I think that's normally a stopping point on the trip."
  299. >"What's at Cold Springs?"
  300. "It's a place people normally get off... I don't have internet or I'd tell you more. We'll just have to see I suppose, I know they have food there."
  301. >"Are you hungry?"
  302. "Yeah, didn't get the opportunity for much food. We'll see."
  303. >You still feel tired, and Royale seems to notice
  304. >"If you want to get some sleep I can keep watch, I don't really have a need to rest."
  305. "That's handy. I think I'll take you up on that, how will you wake me up if something happens?"
  306. >"By yelling as loud as I possibly can."
  307. "Damn, well that works."
  308. >You put your laptop back in your bag and put the seat back as far as you can
  309. >It's not that far, but it's a bit better than before
  310. >You close your eyes and before you know it, slip into nothing
  311. >Your mind reels.
  312. >A shape is before you, you...
  313. >You try to avert your gaze but you're not looking at it, not in the way someone with a body would
  314. >Is this what Royale sees like?
  315. >Far below you hear the voices of hundreds, chattering away
  316. >Laughing
  317. >Screaming
  318. >Barking in annoyance
  319. >And then, they synchronize.
  320. >You know the voice, it's on the tip of your tongue
  321. >Someone familiar, a friend?
  322. >"Ignition in t-minus three."
  323. >It's driving you mad, and the shape before you isn't helping
  324. >"Two."
  325. >You know her!
  326. >"One."
  327. >It's-
  328. >Blinding light pierces the thing before you, your vision distorts into thousands of different colors
  329. >Most of them are wrong
  330. >You shouldn't be able to see them, your human eyes...
  331. >How real is this all? What the fuck is happening?
  332. >And then, before you have time to process any more of it, you're awake.
  333. >Warmth... inside your neck
  334. >You jump, did someone stab you?
  335. >Oh, Royale has phased her hoof through your esophagus
  336. "You scared me, I thought I'd been hit in the neck"
  337. >"I tried everything else I could think of to wake you up, sorry. Wanted to give you a few minutes to get ready to hop off, an exit sign just passed saying that Cold Springs is in a mile"
  338. "Oh, well."
  339. >She looks at you expectantly and you shake your head
  340. "Let's find some other way for you to wake me up, maybe just scream next time?"
  341. >"I did."
  342. "Hm, maybe that isn't working after all, we'll figure something else out."
  343. >"Hopefully"
  344. >The bus hangs a right off the road, pulling into a small parking lot next to this building made of different shaped stones held together with mortar
  345. >It's like 5:00 PM now, and your stomach is grumbling a bit
  346. >Not to mention you're a bit thirsty
  347. "I guess I could spend a bit on food"
  348. >Royale nods, walking right through the wall into the store
  349. >"Bad news, looks like mostly convenience store affair. The best you're probably going to do here is using their microwave to heat up a frozen personal pizza."
  350. "Well, I don't dislike pizza."
  351. >You step back onto the bus
  352. "Say..."
  353. >"Paul."
  354. "Paul, how long are we going to be stopped here for?"
  355. >"Well, to keep schedule, about thirty minutes"
  356. "I'm going to grab a personal pizza and maybe use the restroom, could you give me a little bit of leeway on that?"
  357. >"I'll do what I can"
  358. >You go into the store (which is just a convenience store with a small "museum" area and some area-appropriate knickknacks) and pull a digiorno personal pepperoni out of the freezer
  359. >It microwaves for a few minutes while you and Royale knock around and look at the small museum exhibit
  360. >A few really pretty pictures of Arizona sunsets and sunrises
  361. >Some old wheels that used to be used on the first few vehicles that traversed the supposedly treacherous Route 66
  362. >You believe it, Arizona has a impressive array of venomous arthropods and reptiles
  363. >You're glad the bus is sturdy.
  364. >"Hey Anon! Check it!"
  365. >You walk over to what Royale is looking at
  366. >It's an old-timey plunger detonator, the sort that Wile E. Coyote would've tried to use to kill The Roadrunner in those old cartoons
  367. >The microwave dings, and the mid-20s guy at the counter lets out a string of obscenities, screaming at you
  368. >"How many fucking times do I have to tell you, the microwave is for employees only!"
  369. >He continues to yell at you as he gets up out of his seat and heads over to the microwave, throwing the door to it open, picking up your dinner, and slamming it on the floor with a wet squelch
  370. >You narrow your eyes and the man gives you a smug look as he lifts a boot and stomps your pizza into a pulp
  371. >He tracks the greasy, saucy, cheesy mess all the way to the restroom, the lock sliding to the "occupied" position
  372. >"What a pill, what does he care if we use the microwave?"
  373. "Yeah, some people just go mad with any ounce of power..."
  374. >You grab another pizza from the freezer section and set it in the microwave, programming the timer for another 3 minutes
  375. >You aren't paying for the one he ruined if he tries to get you to
  376. >You open up the door, still deep in thought and begin to cut the pizza into pieces as best you can with a plastic spoon (there were no knives provided)
  377. >PE, sounds familiar.
  378. >You take out the small flask and unscrew it
  379. >A slender aluminum device extends barely out of the flask; it was covered by the cap, and positive and negative terminal markers are clearly indicated
  380. >A grin begins to form on your face
  381. >"Anon?"
  382. >You remove the detonator, confirming that the substance inside the flask is what you think it is
  383. "Plastiqe."
  384. >"Oooooooooh"
  385. >"We need a detonator though, don't we?"
  386. "That's what the thing on top is"
  387. >"No, I mean like the roadrunner sort, a power source"
  388. >It clicks in both of your heads at the same time
  389. >You produce one of the three tabs of acid from the bag
  390. >"Royale, would you be a dear and head into the bathroom? Tell me how much longer he'll be, and see if he he has any money in his wallet."
  391. >Battle Royale looks uneasy, but nods
  392. >You walk over to the man's water bottle, unscrew it, and drop the tab of acid in it.
  393. >You carefully rescrew it, making sure it doesn't deviate from the position he left it in, then go back to cutting your pizza with the spoon
  394. >Royale comes back out
  395. >"I estimate three more minutes, he's finishing up"
  396. "About enough time to scarf down this pizza"
  397. >"Anon"
  398. "What was that?"
  399. >"He's not a good person."
  400. >You nod, eating your pizza
  401. "I could've told you that, really."
  402. >"No, his phone Anon. He was looking at-"
  403. "I'll stop you there. Hopefully future attacks of opportunity will also be on equally gross people"
  404. >You're talking in a very low voice, and Royale is too
  405. >Volume shouldn't matter for her speech, but you're not going to bring it up because it's important that she feel like a corporeal mare
  406. >You're about done with your pizza when he comes out, so you scarf down the rest of it fast and head off into the bathroom
  407. >You start with doing your business as quickly as you can, being sure to wipe down the seat thoroughly with soap and water after that creep sat there.
  408. >After you finish, you begin to give yourself the gas station equivalent of a hospital sponge bath
  409. >You even replace your old bandages with new ones and give your hair a little scrub-down with hand soap before putting your beanie back on
  410. >You had forgotten about it, but it does actually have the faded design of a pony on it
  411. >You'll grab some laundry detergent in a minute, for your clothes and hat, along with a few other things
  412. >Extra soap, shampoo
  413. >There aren't any security cameras here, so you're only really worried about the degenerate over at the desk
  414. >Royale walks through the door, apparently figuring you're probably about finished
  415. "Have you been keeping an eye on him?"
  416. >"Yeah. He just emptied his water bottle and went to go fill it up again at the pump outside"
  417. "Good, good"
  418. >"What did you do?"
  419. "You'll see."
  420. >You push open the door and stretch your arms and hastily grab a container of liquid detergent, three protein bars, a few gatorades, and a king size reeses and shoving them into your backpack
  421. >You've just zipped up your pack and put it back on when he walks back in
  422. >Seems to pay you no mind, you check the time
  423. >If you're lucky, he'll start in fifteen, which gives you five minutes to steal the plunger and get back on the bus
  424. >With possible leeway, but it's a large item and you it's going to be difficult to fit in your backpack
  425. >You walk around idly, looking at all of the items in the store
  426. >They sell silly putty, a few knickknacks, lighters...
  427. >You glance back at the museum display with the plunger on it, looks to have some form of sound alert security system
  428. >After slipping an egg of silly putty into your pocket you walk over to the plunger again, pretending to be looking it over it while you scan for the mechanism that trips the security system
  429. >It seems to either be weight-triggered or laser triggered, there's a plate under the plunger but there's no glass in front of it to keep you from touching it
  430. >It's been 10 minutes based on the wall clock
  431. >Royale is tense, she hasn't said anything in a few minutes
  432. >"I hope you know what you're doing"
  433. "Haven't done it before, but it's something that an idiot could do."
  434. >You whisper in her ear
  435. "I've been- well, that'd spoil the surprise"
  436. >You've been on at least 50 acid trips
  437. >Many of them unsupervised
  438. >Normally pretty boring shit
  439. >"Let's hope"
  440. >The cashier begins to look down at his hands
  441. >He looks to be cooked, but just to make sure you walk in front of him and snap your fingers in front of him
  442. >He looks around a bit but otherwise pays you no mind
  443. >You reach into his pocket and take out his wallet, checking the dollar amount inside
  444. >$347
  445. >You walk over to the plunger and tear off a bit of silly putty from inside the egg.
  446. >Once you've worked it a bit and feel ready, you stuff the silly putty into the holes of the alarm speaker, and lift the heavy thing up and into your backpack
  447. >It takes considerable effort to get it to zip shut, but you've managed it by the time the bus horn honks for you
  448. >You pocket your spoils, increasing your budget from $194 to a much more comfortable $541
  449. >You walk over to the daytripper and give him a smile
  450. "I have to go now. Equestria needs me."
  451. >You and Royale walk out the door into the hot Arizona sun and climb back into the bus
  452. "What's the next stop?"
  453. >He purses his lips, looking down at this company-issue tablet thing in a heavy-duty rubberized case
  454. >"Looks like no more until the one at Sierra Vista, speak now or forever hold your pee. Six more hours."
  455. "I just went"
  456. >You and Royale walk back to the seat you were sitting in previously, not that it matters much but it's somewhat familiar at least
  457. >The guy in the back is awake now, tacking away on his laptop
  458. >Probably trying to be the next bestseller
  459. >If he's bad enough he might just make it.
  460. >The bus doors swing shut and the engine thrums as the driver puts you back on Route 66
  461. >"Please, please tell me next time you're going to pull something THAT RECKLESS"
  462. >You cringe back a bit, it feels weird when she yells
  463. >Doesn't hurt your ears exactly, it's kinda like when you wash a pair of gloves clean
  464. >The sensation is there, but distant
  465. >You've come down from the adrenaline high by now
  466. "You're right, I'm sorry."
  467. >"What if he had figured out that you were the one who spiked his water and called for help? What if he had pulled out a gun from under the counter and shot you dead when you were stealing all that shit?"
  468. "You could've seen if he had a gun under the counter, right?"
  469. >"Yes, and he did, I just didn't want to tell you because I figured it might throw off your... whatever you just did. It was a shitty hi-point, but you and I both know it still could've easily fucking killed you."
  470. >The two of you sit in silence for a minute
  471. >"Do you have prints in the system?"
  472. "No, my record is clean."
  473. >"You probably do now."
  474. "I know."
  475. >Water begins to well up in her eyes as she sniffles a bit, her tears falling off of her face and dissipating into nothing like holographic images
  476. >You try to hold onto her as best you can
  477. "I'll do better next time."
  478. >"You forgot the shampoo."
  479. "I think we'll stop in a motel for the night, they'll probably have some."
  480. >"Okay, Anon... If you die, you-"
  481. >She cuts herself off
  482. >"I can't get to Equestria, you know that. I won't fade away painlessly either."
  483. >She's silent for a moment.
  484. >"Well pain isn't quite the right word, but it's the closest I can think of."
  485. "We'll get you to your prize, your chicken dinner. Your victory royale. Your-"
  486. >"Stop it"
  487. "I can hear you giggling"
  488. >"It's stupid and I'm being serious, I'm not giggling!"
  489. "Your survival games win. Your-"
  490. >She snorts, breaking into laughter
  491. >"It's not funny!"
  492. "I didn't say anything, cutie"
  493. >"Mnnnn... I'm worried about you too, Anon."
  494. "That's logical"
  495. >"No, I don't mean just our connection across the border, I mean... you know, something more. The mare who killed her childhood friend so that she could exit the contest alive... that's how you designed me. I should be colder, more calculating. I'm a winner, but I'm also a murderer."
  496. "You didn't have a choice in the matter. You would've killed her, or she would've killed you."
  497. >"It's easier for you to say, I can see her in my mind. Your backstory for me is canon in some sense, I remember the sounds she made, the look of fear as her pupils shrank as I drove that spear through her-"
  498. >She's nearly inconsolable for a good twenty to thirty minutes, you stroke her mane lightly and whisper soft encouragements to her while she works through some of her guilt
  499. >Her sniffling finally dies down
  500. "You worry about me?"
  501. >"Well, yeah. You've been kind to me, even given the fact that Spell and I are kinda just using you in a sense"
  502. >She pauses, wiping nonexistent snot off of her muzzle with a hoof
  503. >"I like Spell, but she has ulterior motives. I could tell from the moment she pulled me out of that bar where you were bleeding out of your head like a courier that she really doesn't care about the hosts beyond their links to the ponies."
  504. "I'll keep that in mind."
  505. >"Try not to let it keep you down, ponies can change and she hasn't had much of a social life from what I can gather. Maybe she'll be better some day."
  506. "Maybe."
  507. >You two just watch the desert landscape rolling by for a few minutes
  508. >Lots of sand, not much else
  509. "You're not going to lose me. I promise."
  510. >She nestles into your shirt a bit
  511. >"Thanks, Anon."
  512. "Would now be a bad time to ask about my pony form?"
  513. >"Hmm... well, Spell Service initially seemed disinterested of course, but after I made it clear that it was something that I had told you she could do for me and that it's one of the reasons you're helping me out, she begrudgingly told me that the largest she could make your mare form was a bit on the small size, not quite filly of course, but... marelet would be an apt description."
  514. "Oh, that's good."
  515. >"You don't mind being small?"
  516. "Well, let's just say small mares have some advantages."
  517. >"Like what?"
  518. >She raises her eyebrows and grins
  519. >A sign whizzes by the bus
  520. "Check it out, sign. In the middle of nowhere on a straightaway."
  521. >"Anon, that was a milemarker and we aren't playing desert bus. It's okay if you want to be the little mare."
  522. "Old board meme, but I guess it does still track. You sure?"
  523. >"Yeah! I mean, I'm still going to tease you about it most likely, but it's okay."
  524. >You pause, thinking about it a bit
  525. >You thought you were fine as a human until this opportunity came up
  526. >It's an extreme understatement to say that all of this took you by surprise
  527. >But now that you have a pony sitting in your lap, you're not so sure you still feel you belong in this rat race, clawing to survive
  528. >There's the question of what will happen to pony you if you succeed, especially if you can't go to Equestria, but right now your focus should be on survival and success of your mission.
  529. >Once you get to Sierra Vista, that is.
  530. "Thank you, Royale. Terminator 2 next?"
  531. >"Sounds good to me."
  532. >The two of you settle in once more, this time putting up the armrest between the two seats so that your side of the row can be used as a sort of makeshift couch
  533. >Or maybe a loveseat, those are smaller than couches but a bit larger than armchairs if memory serves
  534. >It's not quite the same but Royale looks comfortable enough on your lap so you start the movie
  535. >"I had forgotten how good these effects were, when was this made?"
  536. "It was released in the early 90s, but I'm unsure when it began production"
  537. >"I see"
  538. >She audibly winces at the scene where the T-800's drive is removed
  539. "More brutal than the eye scene from T1?"
  540. >"The eye removal is vestigial, the terminator doesn't need a human eye to live. It does need a brain, the non-organic nature of the brain doesn't make it any less uncomfortable for me."
  541. "Do you want to take a break?"
  542. >"It's okay, thanks for asking"
  543. >You hit the spacebar
  544. >She quite likes all of the T-1000 effects, the two of you discuss the machine's possible sadism a bit
  545. "The way I see it, the T-1000 probably has some of these issues because of it being so new when it's sent back after John. If Skynet had more time to iron out the problems with its love for causing pain, it may have succeeded in its mission"
  546. >Royale leans back a bit more, nuzzling into your shirt
  547. >"I think the original, non-reprogrammed T-800 is spookier than the T-1000 to be honest. Psychopaths are scary, but the first terminator seems almost alien. It feels like the culmination of a eugenics experiment involving generations of successful assassins"
  548. "Yeah, it almost makes you wonder what the fuck it would even do if it succeeded in killing Sarah."
  549. >"I'd hazard a guess and say just try to blend into society until it could aid in assisting Skynet"
  550. "Imagine if the altered timeline somehow caused Skynet to use a slightly different comms protocol for all its models this time around, so when the chosen T-800 finally uplinks, Skynet just thinks it's defective and has it scrapped"
  551. >She snorts in amusement
  552. >"Kek. 'Who is this retard? What's he doing in my house? 'Hurr, what are my new orders? I killed Sarah!'"
  553. >You laugh too
  554. "That would really suck"
  555. >The two of you sit for a minute, movie still paused
  556. >"What does Skynet do after it finally wipes out humanity?"
  557. "I guess nothing, it's won after all?"
  558. >"Sounds boring"
  559. "Yeah, but I don't feel comfortable saying it would celebrate or build a robot society either, it's pretty much just a complicated military control system."
  560. >"It learned and adapted"
  561. "That's true"
  562. >You both sit in silence for a few minutes, you mimicking the stroking of Royale's ears and her enjoying the attention
  563. "Ready to finish the movie?"
  564. >She smiles at you
  565. >"Yeah."
  566. >Royale seems a bit taken aback from the scene where the T-800 is lowered into the molten metal
  567. >"I thought it was going to be John's surrogate dad... that line from Sarah earlier in the movie, about it always being there"
  568. "Yeah, despite how iconic the shot where it gives them the thumbs up when almost fully submerged has become, I do think that it was trying a mite bit hard to tug at the heartstrings. They set it up by talking about how the T1 terminator's parts were recovered from the factory and that's what led to Judgement Day, but I still don't think it's a flawless ending. Another reason why I prefer T1."
  569. >"Agreed. Very good sequel though, all things considered."
  570. >You mimic ruffling her mane a little bit
  571. "Wanna play me in a local multiplayer game?"
  572. >She rolls her eyes
  573. >"Anon, you'd... I can't actually make myself feel solid for anyone but you. I'd love to, but I can't."
  574. "Ah, yeah..."
  575. >You feel the awkwardness building between you two
  576. "I'm sorry, just got kinda used to talking to you and it slipped my mind. I haven't had much social interaction lately"
  577. >That's an understatement
  578. >Part of the reason you went out to that bar was that you would often contemplate how long it would take them to find your body should you somehow die
  579. >How accelerated the decomposition would be
  580. >-and how people would probably only show up to your funeral for the possibility of a potluck, then quickly disperse when they realized nobody else had brought any food
  581. >Who needs other people anyways? You had your alcohol, your pony porn, and your little hide away from the rest of the world
  582. >None of your shitty, entitled coworkers gave a damn before or after you worked there, fuck them
  583. >and now...
  584. >and now...
  585. >"ANON!"
  586. "Huh?"
  587. >"I asked you like five times, are you okay?"
  588. "Yeah, I uh..."
  589. >You unzip your backpack
  590. >Of course, you didn't bring any... pain dullers
  591. >Except for the acid, and that should almost certainly be saved for a special occasion or another trap
  592. "I guess it just occurred to me that my life actually has a reason to continue now."
  593. >"You weren't uh... you know, were you?"
  594. "No, I mean more in the sense of rotting away in my room"
  595. >She looks you in the eye
  596. >"Anon, do you know what one of the seminal strengths of ponies is?"
  597. "Dicks?"
  598. >"How much porn do you look at?"
  599. "I'm not going to answer that"
  600. >"Seminal as in pivotal, with influence. It's our closeness and community with one another, socially awkward mares don't just hole themselves up in rooms, they get jobs at flower shops and tend to the gardens in the back and hang out with their friends after work, ya'know?"
  601. "People aren't like mares, Royale."
  602. >"But I'm a mare, and so are you, really. You carry the same drive to be real that I do, just in a different way. You aren't whole yet, but you will be soon"
  603. >You let out a small sigh
  604. "I think we should just focus on the day to day, I don't want to get too caught up in hope for the future lest I be disappointed."
  605. >"You will be a mare if you succeed, do you doubt your ability to succeed?"
  606. "No? Yes? I don't know. I don't even know who half of these people are, and what places are at these addresses... do you?"
  607. >"Not... really?"
  608. "I'd appreciate any help you can give"
  609. >"Okay, that'd be a no then"
  610. "I appreciate your faith in me, I really do, but it's a bit difficult for me to see that faith as being justified if I can't even justify it within myself."
  611. >"I know not everything is going to be immediate. Think of it like this: all I'm asking for is the best you can do. Nothing more, nothing less."
  612. >You breathe in deep through your nose and exhale deeply from your mouth a few times.
  613. "My best. Nothing more, nothing less."
  614. >"Does that feel a little bit better?"
  615. >You smile.
  616. "Yeah, it really does. A bit."
  617. >>>
  618. >You and Royale step off of the elevated plastic steps onto solid concrete at the bus station
  619. >The past few hours have passed by fairly uneventfully, mostly just mock cuddling
  620. "Thanks for the ride, Paul."
  621. >"If you're paying, I'm Greying"
  622. "May want to work on the catchphrase though"
  623. >He laughs good-naturedly
  624. >"Fuck you, pal"
  625. >You laugh back a bit
  626. "Yeah, yeah. Take it easy man."
  627. >"You too."
  628. >Laptop guy does not get off, the doors shut after a few minutes, and the bus continues on its way.
  629. >You wonder where he's going, just another stranger along for the ride that you'll never see again
  630. >Something poetic about that
  631. >It's damn late, not sure exactly how late with your phone left back in Cali and your laptop snugly in your bag, but...
  632. >You should find a motel and get cleaned up, at least tonight.
  633. >You elect to pull up google maps as you don't see one nearby, connecting to the (graciously functional) station wifi and deciding on Knights Inn due to it being the cheapest and having free breakfast
  634. >It's only about a 12 minute walk according to maps, you commit the directions to memory and then put your laptop away so as not to attract the wrong sort of people
  635. >"Feel good to stretch your legs finally?"
  636. "Oh yeah. Bit nippy though, I expected it to be hotter at night in the desert."
  637. >"Look at it this way, zero humidity."
  638. >You snap your fingers
  639. "Right."
  640. >You keep the gun by your side as you walk to the motel, putting it back in your backpack when you get to the check-in office
  641. "Room for one, one night only please."
  642. >"Any preference as to location?"
  643. "Do rooms on the top floors cost more?"
  644. >"Nah. We have openings facing the parking lot, and the street."
  645. "What do you think, Royale?"
  646. >"Street, why not"
  647. "She says street"
  648. >The woman gives you a funny look, but nods
  649. >You don't really give a damn what she thinks, whatever
  650. >"Sixty-two dollars."
  651. >Might as well try it
  652. "I'm coming into town for work and don't have much money, think you could give me a day to get that to you?"
  653. >"I can't do that."
  654. >You sigh and hand over the money, bringing you down to $479
  655. >She tosses you a room card which you catch with flawless accuracy, then walking up to the second floor room she put you in
  656. >Royale walks right through the wall into your room, scoping it out a few seconds before you do
  657. >"It could be worse"
  658. >You take in a whiff of air, smells like cigarettes
  659. >You open up the room, revealing a small bed with a TV before it, a minifridge beside it, and a bathroom that has a shower resembling the sort of thing an SS officer might tell you to bathe in if your nose were a few centimeters too long
  660. >There's complimentary soap and shampoo, at least
  661. "Yeah, it could be a lot worse"
  662. >You take off your shoes and backpack, and slide the deadbolt into place
  663. "Can you alert me to any forced entries? I'm going to hop in the shower."
  664. >"Sure thing."
  665. >You grab the detergent and the eagle before you go in, locking the door and resting both on the handbar that's next to the toilet
  666. >You empty your pockets, gingerly setting the note down next to the sink before thinking better of it, exiting the restroom and putting it down next to the TV
  667. >"Good choice, don't want to get that thing wet"
  668. "Well, I have the picture... guess that's of the back though"
  669. >"Yeah, you took it with your webcam too, so it's not the greatest quality."
  670. "That's right, god I must've looked weird whipping my laptop out to show Paul that photo"
  671. >"A few minutes ago you talked to me in front of that lady at the check office, I don't think people really think much of schizoid behavior unless it interferes with their lives or scares them"
  672. "Hard to say"
  673. >You put down your money too, making sure the blinds are shut as you do, and returning to the bathroom
  674. >You have a refreshing shower, scrubbing yourself clean as thoroughly as you can
  675. >Shampooing your hair through the bandages proves impossible, so you gingerly remove them and go easy on your wounded scalp
  676. >It hurts less than you expected, but still hurts
  677. >The soap is somewhat rough on your skin, but you feel very clean and no longer afflicted by bus muck when you get out
  678. >You use the detergent to hand wash your bandages and beanie, the faded image on your beanie clearing up a bit to reveal a smiling Pinkie Pie
  679. >If memory serves this was cannibalized from an official hasbro hat for kids by a sewfag friend of yours, before he...
  680. >Jesus, you haven't thought about that in years
  681. >It's good to remember him though, two deaths and all that.
  682. >>>
  683. >You put on a plain white t to sleep in and slip on a pair of boxers
  684. >It's pretty late, you don't really care to check the time, but you do want to get in bed now
  685. >The gauze on your head are still a bit damp, but they'll dry soon
  686. >You grab the remote next to the note and shut off the lights before climbing into the lumpy bed
  687. >"I checked for bedbugs already, we're good there"
  688. "Thank you, I didn't even think about that"
  689. >You turn on some mindless TV for a bit, it's local channels
  690. >Mostly crap... reruns of old, bad sitcoms
  691. >You find a channel playing MLP, though after only one episode it switches off to Barney, much to you and Royale's disappointment
  692. >"This is our mindset"
  693. >You chuckle and continue to mindlessly channel surf, eventually you get out of range of anything that's being broadcast near enough to be picked up
  694. >"You need to get some rest"
  695. "I rested earlier, and don't you too?"
  696. >"I feel a sense of rejuvenation when I relax for a few hours, I've done plenty of relaxing today"
  697. "That's all well and good, but with how recent my last nap was I don't know if I can."
  698. >Royale squeals like an excited filly
  699. "What?"
  700. >"Spell Service taught me a little something earlier."
  701. "What is it?"
  702. >"Where'd you get hit in the head again?"
  703. >You point to the location of the skull fracture and wince, more out of habit than anything
  704. >"Sit up, please"
  705. >You do as instructed, wrapping your hands around your knees and pushing the covers back a bit
  706. >"Alright. I can initiate the connection now, but you might want to get comfy first"
  707. "What are you going to do?"
  708. >"Just trust me, you'll like it"
  709. >Never thought you'd get raped by a cartoon horse
  710. >Always kinda hoped, though
  711. >You lay down on your side, pulling the covers back up over you and placing both pillows under your head
  712. "Hit me."
  713. >You feel an extremely strange sensation, like what you always kind of imagined Neo felt the first time he got plugged into The Construct.
  714. >Things are dimly lit again, there's a large candle lit on the bedside table
  715. >Everything is a bit... happier
  716. >You look around the motel room, noticing that the generic late 2010s television is replaced with a much older wooden model
  717. >"Comfy?"
  718. "Yeah, b-"
  719. >You clap a hand over your mouth, only to find it isn't one
  720. "Oh, wow"
  721. >"I'll admit I like your true form a bit better right in front of me, Wailing Woods."
  722. >You carefully bring a hoof up to your face, inspecting it
  723. >Bark brown, you crane your neck down a bit, feeling warm metal against fluff
  724. >Your necklace is there, that's a good sign
  725. >You can feel it and view the rough green gem inlaid in it, a piece of casting materia collected from the sap-like ichor that runs out of timber wolves and is often left in puddles and pools at sites of pack rivalry
  726. >The ichor hardens over thousands of years and becomes an amber-like stone with qualities than amplify nature magic
  727. >Not quite to the extent that an earth pony can use it of course, but a unicorn mare also has other tricks in her robes
  728. >Royale taps your muzzle with a forehoof, catching you off-guard and making you go cross-eyed
  729. "I didn't know you could do that"
  730. >"Well of course, I'm inside your head again now. Your body lays dormant, but as long as we have this connection I can hijack your mind and do what I wish with it"
  731. "It sure is a good thing you aren't malevolent"
  732. >Royale gives you an evil smirk
  733. >"About that..."
  734. >The pegasus pins you gently to the bed with her forehooves, locking your own forelegs in place
  735. >You struggle a little bit, but of course the physique of a bookworm is lacking compared to that of an experienced aerialist
  736. >She further taunts you, laying down on top of you as you squirm in protest
  737. >"You're so adorable and helpless like this, without your magic... I could do whatever I wanted to you"
  738. >She leans over and gives you a lick on the cheek
  739. >"Anything I wanted."
  740. >You continue to squirm, but it's more a formality than anything, and she knows it
  741. >Your face is getting warmer
  742. >She looms over you, not quite menacing but most certainly domineering
  743. >She brushes her muzzle up against the sides of yours, the sensation of soft coats rubbing against each other an ecstacy
  744. >You find yourself nuzzling back without even thinking about it, it just feels natural
  745. >"There we go, now you're getting it! Although, with that blush I'd have called you "Burning Bush" instead~"
  746. >You let out a soft sound, and Royale seems to interprets it as a plea
  747. >She stands up and steps off of you, leaving you confused with your forehooves drawn up to your chest like a dog expecting belly rubs
  748. >"Could you roll over for me?"
  749. "Mhm."
  750. >You rock your body from side to side until you tip, then position your legs more comfortably beneath your body
  751. >It takes a bit, but as soon as you're done Royale lays down on top of your body, the warmth of her enveloping you
  752. >She sort of kicks up the covers over the two of you, you feel snug and secure as she extinguishes the candle with one of her wings, then wraps both of them around you
  753. >She playfully licks your horn, which sends a pleasant shudder down your spine
  754. "Mnnn"
  755. >"I'd like to spend more time with you here, but it's a one to one time scale and we have things to do tomorrow. Lets get some rest and we can maybe spend a bit more time together tomorrow night, okay?"
  756. "Ok Royale"
  757. >"That's my girl."
  758. >She wraps you tightly in her embrace, you can't move much but you could care less
  759. >You shut your eyes and soon you're asleep
  760. >>>
  761. >A dream fades into being
  762. >Twilight is standing before you in a labcoat, she's not looking at you and when you look down you see that you don't have a body, pony or human
  763. >"Doc-"
  764. >"I've told you a hundred times Ginseng, call me Twilight."
  765. >"Twilight, the experimental results we're getting from the Starswirl device are way off"
  766. >"Which ones?"
  767. >"Almost every sensor we have collecting data"
  768. >The other mare pulls a long sheet of printout, clearly hastily ripped from a running machine by the uneven tear at the end of it, and gives it to Twilight
  769. >"Oh Celestia."
  770. >"Yes, I'm thinking we should notify her."
  771. >You wake up with Royale still on top of you, but you're human again and she's laying on your chest this time
  772. >You sit up, the sleeping mare falling through your chest and startling herself awake when she impacts the bed
  773. "Shit, sorry"
  774. >"No, it's fine. I needed to get up regardless, I suppose we're closing up shop here and then heading over to the first list item?"
  775. "Well, I'd like to get some breakfast first and then do some laundry in the sink. Dunno when I'll next have the time to wash yesterday's clothes"
  776. >"That's fine, hopefully the breakfast is good"
  777. >You pull on a clean pair of jeans and a clean pair of socks, slipping into your worn tennis shoes and grabbing the room key that you left on this bench thing near the door before walking out into the hot morning sun
  778. "Jesus, there's the desert heat. Never thought I'd be overdressed for anything in jeans"
  779. >"Mmm, yeah. I can't quite feel it myself, but I can see the glare and cloudless sky. Looks hot"
  780. >The two of you walk together down to the small dining area, there are some really uncomfortable looking metal chairs at metal tables
  781. >Next to them are a good four vending machines for both food and drinks, an ice machine, and some sort of other machine right next to it that you can't actually tell what is supposed to be vended from
  782. >There's a light gun shooter with a graphic of a few buff dudes shooting each other on the side, upon closer inspection it's unplugged
  783. >Curious, you plug it in to find that it's broken
  784. "Damn."
  785. >"Figured you'd get in some practice before we go?"
  786. >You laugh
  787. "Doubt it'd help much since the handcannon has a lot more recoil, but essentially yeah."
  788. >"This isn't fucking Fortnite"
  789. >You hold up your hands defensively
  790. "Handcannon is a pretty universal name for deagles in video games that don't want to get sued by Magnum Research. Don't ride my ass for that, please"
  791. >"Are you here for breakfast, sweetheart?"
  792. >You jump, an older lady has been watching you talk to yourself for what must be about a minute without saying anything
  793. "Uh, yeah. Whatever you've got, I'm not picky."
  794. >"Can you show me your room card? Just have to confirm you're staying here"
  795. "Sure"
  796. >You bring it out and place it in her wrinkly hand, she swipes it in a card reader and then hands it back to you along with a plate
  797. >"Have a good one sweetie, be sure to return the tray in the bin over there"
  798. >She points to a bin next to the first vending machine that you didn't see
  799. >On the plate is a fork, knife, two sausages, a biscuit, grits, powdered and rehydrated eggs, a breakfast pizza, and a miniature carton of orange juice
  800. >You sit down and then begin to mumble quietly with Royale
  801. "Never thought I'd be walking into a hitman job with a no child hungry breakfast"
  802. >She chuckles, then winces
  803. >"Hopefully there's enough calories there to keep you alert and sharp."
  804. "I'll be fine, I've got you to watch out for me"
  805. >She smiles at you
  806. >"Let's take care of each other out there."
  807. "Let's."
  808. >The sausages are bland but filling
  809. >The biscuit is good, but that's to be expected. You don't think you've ever had a bad cafeteria biscuit, the low quality ones just stick to the roof of your mouth a bit
  810. >As this one does
  811. >The eggs are as to be expected, nearly tasteless. You season them with a little bit of salt and pepper, which helps a little bit
  812. >The pizza crust is hard, but the cheese and sauce are a soggy mess. You're not entirely sure how, but that's how it goes
  813. >And finally, the orange juice is very acidic. It wakes you up almost as good as coffee does just going down
  814. >You bus your dishes and head back up to the room without saying another word
  815. >"That bad, huh?"
  816. "I've had better, I've had worse"
  817. >Royale nods, you open the room door and get to work on your clothes
  818. >They aren't really stained, but they do smell a bit like sweat so you give them all a good scrubbing down
  819. >When you're done scrubbing and rinsing, you use the hair dryer that's bolted to the wall to dry them off as best you can
  820. >They remain damp, but it'll have to do you surmise, packing them up next to your dry clothes
  821. >Now, what to do about the gun...
  822. >It's massive, you don't think it'll fit inside your pocket fully
  823. >The most you can probably fit is the barrel and trigger, the pistol grip will stick out like a sore thumb
  824. >You try it out and sure enough, the pistol grip sticks out quite a bit
  825. >"How tight are your jeans?"
  826. "Tight enough, why?"
  827. >"If you can go without a belt, you could use it inside your pants to secure the pistol to you"
  828. "I'll try it"
  829. >You try it, it sort of works, but is also uncomfortable
  830. "I'll maybe set this up when we get on location, which is..."
  831. >You bring out the list, the first location is 5528 South San Fernando Ave
  832. >Checking in with google maps, it appears to be a refrigeration company
  833. >With shitty reviews, go figure
  834. >Some of them with hilariously bad spelling
  835. >According to one customer, the owner Dan is "aeragent" and "a pedafile"
  836. >This item doesn't have a name on it, so presumably you're going to kill Dan and whoever else is there and get on with it
  837. "Royale?"
  838. >"Hm?"
  839. "If there are no names listed, how do I know I'm killing the right people?"
  840. >"Good question. As we get closer to location, you should begin to feel a draw. You shouldn't feel drawn to people that aren't required."
  841. "How do I distinguish between the draw and general nervousness?"
  842. >"That... I'm not sure of. I was told it has direction, and that it feels a bit different. More burning than cold, but not quite like rage."
  843. "I see. We need to find a way down there, I might just jack whatever vehicle I can find the keys for when we arrive, but I don't have my phone so uber is out."
  844. >"I'm sure the office has a landline, how about we hail a cab?"
  845. "Hm."
  846. >You search around a bit, eventually finding a shuttle service with good reviews
  847. >You pack up everything, stealing the soap and shampoo from the shower as well, and walk down to the office
  848. >The man who picks up the phone tells you he'll be there in under 5 minutes
  849. >You tell him you'll be waiting wearing a plain t-shirt and that you're the guy with long hair
  850. >Sure enough, he shows up in under 5 minutes
  851. >"Slick's shuttle service, I presume you're Joel?"
  852. "That's me."
  853. >"Where are we headed today, Joel?"
  854. "Fifty-five two eight South San Fernando Ave please."
  855. >"Alright, the rate within city limits is a flat nine dollars. I don't do tax for cash."
  856. "Right on."
  857. >You hand him a 10 and he hands you back a 1, bringing you down to $470.
  858. >You climb in, keeping the door open just a second so Royale can hop up too
  859. >Lean back and set down your backpack, the window seat of the SUV is comfy
  860. >There's a television on the back of the headrest, but you don't have any DVDs to play and it's only a 15 minute drive
  861. >"So, what do you need refrigeration services for? You don't seem like you're from around here"
  862. "My dad died and left me his place, I don't have a car or a job just yet and I was told that the AC hasn't been working"
  863. >"That's rough. Good man?"
  864. "We weren't terribly close. He divorced my mom and remarried an infertile woman, we rarely talked"
  865. >"How's your mom holding up?"
  866. "I don't know, she kicked me out of the house a few years back. Haven't gotten the chance to talk to her about it yet, I figure I'll call her on the landline when I get there"
  867. >"If the phone company hasn't cut it off. Want to use mine?"
  868. "Thanks for the offer, but I have some personal things I want to discuss with her."
  869. >The three of you ride in silence for the remaining duration of the trip
  870. >"Well, good luck man. If you need a trip back, I can swing back around and pick you up again for half price"
  871. "Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. Have a nice day."
  872. >You grab your backpack and step out, holding the door open again for a few extra seconds so he doesn't drive off with your pony companion
  873. >His wheels crackle down the rudimentary road, leaving you in the hot desert sun next to the weeds and scraggly brush on the side of the path
  874. >Red dirt and gravel beneath your shoes
  875. >And an uncomfortably warm pull towards a small compound behind a very short barbed wire fence
  876. >It's a similar sensation to hot water after scooping snow with bare hands
  877. "I feel it."
  878. >"Good, good. Are you ready?"
  879. "Yes."
  880. >"One more thing, that was some good quick thinking with that story back there."
  881. "I just improvised a story into a fable. I read a greentext once about someone like that."
  882. >"Hmm, still a nice job"
  883. "Thanks, let's hop this fence and do it."
  884. >You make sure nobody else is around before you pull out the handgun, remove your belt, and tighten it against your waist
  885. >There's a large van parked in front of a garage, beyond it is another small building
  886. >You can feel them in there, there are three different points radiating out from your chest
  887. >The sun is beating down
  888. >You're beginning to sweat, you duck low behind a scruffy bush
  889. "I don't want to sound like a pussy, but could you go ahead and check that building for me?"
  890. >You point to the point of origin
  891. "I need to know if they're armed, what they're doing, and ideally if there are any unlocked doors."
  892. >Royale nods, her face serious
  893. >"You don't sound like a pussy, what you're asking is perfectly reasonable. I'll report back."
  894. >You nod, cursing yourself for the belt trick and readjusting it back to normal, opting to just hold your gun
  895. >You'll get a holster eventually, but not keeping it at the ready will just get you killed and it probably wasn't going to work out well for you
  896. >It's a wonderful feeling, watching a mare's rump as she trots away, her short tail leaves you with a few nice glimpses of her marehood as she goes
  897. >Maybe if you're lucky she'll let you have a taste tonight
  898. >Royale trots back over to you a minute or two later, her spirits clearly heightened
  899. >"Both of them are sitting watching TV, and I checked everywhere they could be concealing weapons. You're good to go, both entrances unlocked."
  900. "There were two of them?"
  901. >"Is that not right?"
  902. "I'm feeling three points"
  903. >Her face changes to one of unease
  904. >"Can we... try to sneak a bit closer and see if the third point can be picked out from the other two?"
  905. >You nod, staying low and using the various pieces of brush for cover as you approach the building
  906. >"Anything yet?"
  907. "Yeah, it's coming from... down below"
  908. >"That's strange, there was no basement entrance of any sort..."
  909. "Let's just proceed with the others. It hasn't moved at all, so I'll keep you updated if it does."
  910. >"Roger. What's the plan? Go in guns blazing?"
  911. "First, I'm going to get the one that owns this place to surrender the keys to the van, whatever cash he has, and then I'm going to hold them at gunpoint while I look around for a more quiet way to dispose of both of them. Ideally we don't draw any attention to ourselves until right before we're about to leave, or we've already left"
  912. >She nods
  913. >"Unfortunately I don't know if you're going to find it, the most dangerous thing they have in there is antifreeze, far as I could tell"
  914. "I could make them drink it, but I don't remember if it's a speedy death... we'll figure something out. Prepare X-ray and update me on all motions as we approach the building."
  915. >"Affirmative. Left is scratching his nose, right is eating a potato chip."
  916. >You're right outside the door, staying low under the window
  917. >"Left is flipping the channel, right is motionless."
  918. >You rapidly open the door with one hand before drawing the eagle on them into a two-handed hold
  919. "Hands on your heads! Down on your knees!"
  920. >Both men hurriedly get down on their knees and put their hands on their heads
  921. >"W-what's all this about mister?"
  922. "I'm not especially sure, but I know you've both done something heinous. I wouldn't be here if you hadn't."
  923. >"Look mister, if you just put down the gun-"
  924. "I'm not going to put down the gun. Which one of you drives the van?"
  925. >The fatter one on the left quickly takes one hand of his head and puts it in the air
  926. "Where are the keys?"
  927. >"I-in the bowl coming in"
  928. "Where is your wallet?"
  929. >"On the table in front of you"
  930. >You glance down quickly, seeing that that's the case
  931. >Not taking the gun off either, you swipe the wallet from the table, take out the meager $20 in it, and pocket it before walking over to the bowl and taking the van keys
  932. "Do you have any firearms?"
  933. >"Just a .22 for dealing with snakes"
  934. "Where is it, and where's the ammo?"
  935. >He points to a cabinet, you draw it, checking the chamber
  936. >There's a round in it
  937. >You stick the eagle in your pocket, setting the bolt in place
  938. >You aim it right between the fatter man's eyes
  939. >And pull the trigger
  940. >It isn't subsonic or suppressed, so your ears are ringing
  941. >The right guy is freaking the fuck out, you quickly drop the rifle and draw the handgun on him just in case he tries anything
  942. >Hopefully the .22 shot was less noticeable than the 50 AE at a distance
  943. "What the fuck is in the basement?!"
  944. >"There is no basement!"
  945. "Lies!"
  946. >You slam him across the face with the eagle, hard
  947. >He crumples, still conscious but hurting
  948. >Your heart is pounding, the first point just went dark
  949. >It's just his and the one directly beneath you now
  950. >Still directly beneath you, but hotten
  951. >It's fucking moving
  952. >You freak the fuck out
  953. "WHAT'S DOWN THERE?! WHY IS IT MOVING?!"
  954. >"I don't know! What do you want to see down there?"
  955. "Do not fuck with me! I'm not a schizophrenic, I know both of you have done some heinous things out here. What are you keeping under this building?"
  956. >It's approaching you fast, your heart beats like the pistons on a formula 1 car
  957. >You dive out of the way, over the crumpled form of the first man
  958. >It rips him in two.
  959. >It's not from this earth.
  960. >You put three rounds in it
  961. >It looks at you, but doesn't advance
  962. >Maybe it's confused
  963. >The face of a child
  964. >Maybe it's sizing you up
  965. >The body of...
  966. >You dump the rest of the mag into its head, (if it could be called that anymore) and it falls only after the final one
  967. >All three points are dark
  968. >Your ears are ringing, but you can hear Royale's stressed breathing
  969. >She doesn't even need to breathe, she must really be freaked out
  970. >Neither you nor Royale says a word as the two of you climb into the van, busting through the fence gate
  971. >The ground rumbles behind you
  972. >Turning onto the road
  973. >A sinkhole opens up, swallowing the building you were in minutes ago
  974. >Drive.
  975. >You start driving towards the motel
  976. >Finally you speak, turning to Royale
  977. "Royale, what's the next destination?"
  978. >"I-I... on the note."
  979. "Oh, of course."
  980. >Your hearing seems to have mostly returned now, but you should look into ear pro
  981. >That fucking hurt
  982. >Your hands are shaking as you remove the note from your pocket, making sure to keep your eyes on the road.
  983. >Sanford, Colorado.
  984. >You remember the way from the motel to here, so getting there isn't an issue
  985. >Reconnect to the internet
  986. >Expand all of the direction trees, screenshot
  987. >Compile them into one image
  988. >Set your laptop down in the seat next to you
  989. >You only begin to relax once you've gotten on AZ-90
  990. >You've got a right merge into I-10 coming up, so you keep your focus on the road but finally recline a bit into the leather seat
  991. >It's comfortable, and the van is shockingly clean
  992. >"My Celestia."
  993. "I'm never going to get that thing out of my head. Do you have any idea what it was or why it was down there?"
  994. >"Not exactly"
  995. "Tell me what you can please."
  996. >"Two weeks ago, an event Spell calls "The Rip" began. It's what made things strange between worlds, and what let me burst from your skull."
  997. "What caused it?"
  998. >She laughs, somewhat dejectedly
  999. >"Nopony knows, Tartarus, the effects of it are barely understood."
  1000. "Do you have any ideas of what that thing was?"
  1001. >"Spell talked about something, she just called it contamination."
  1002. >She gives you a haunting look
  1003. >"All I really know about it is that it has more power over the deceased than the living."
  1004. >You'd prefer to change the subject, shivering.
  1005. "I'm curious, if high frequency EM radiation hurts you, do you feel radio frequencies?"
  1006. >"Yeah, it's not that accurate though if that's what you're asking. I couldn't tell you the location of a radio station, but I could tell you if a patrol car is running radar before you see it."
  1007. >That's actually pretty useful
  1008. "Wanna see if we can shave a few hours off of our travel time to the next location then?"
  1009. >She grins
  1010. >"Alright, just please be careful. Be mindful of other vehicles and all that
  1011. "Of course."
  1012. >You rev it up to 85 and stay there until you're about to turn off onto I-10, slowing down considerably for the turn
  1013. >Once you're on the open road again, you rev it up to 95.
  1014. "The next list item is just a location again, guess that could mean anything"
  1015. >"The names can mean anything too, far as I can tell."
  1016. "But if I just have a single name to kill, I shouldn't have to fight any monsters, right?"
  1017. >She sighs
  1018. >"I'm sorry Anon, but monsters may have once held names. Some of them may hold them still. It's not a guarantee."
  1019. "Shit. Well, at least we've got each other, traveling across the country, solving mysteries."
  1020. >"I wouldn't really call it solving them..."
  1021. "I would. Think about it this way, everything we're killing is either morally reprehensible or dangerous. Do we know why we need to kill them? No. But their deaths still probably end investigations, even if it's just cases going cold."
  1022. >"So you think we're what, like in Minority Report?"
  1023. "Kinda, how do you remember the name to Minority Report and not Terminator?"
  1024. >She gives you this knowing smirk
  1025. "Oh, right the... yeah. Kinda, though? I'm leaning more towards Scooby Doo or Dream Hunter Rem though."
  1026. >"I can see Rem, she does often solve problems by shooting them or cleaving them to pieces. Where does the Scooby Doo idea come from?"
  1027. "Well, you're a talking animal who I entrust to sniff out clues, and we have a big van now..."
  1028. >"It's not really our van though, and I elect we steal something faster if we can find it. Like a car, with a missile rack! See, then we could go full Rem. She has animals that help with her detective work too, it actually works better as a metaphor I think~"
  1029. "Hmm, makes sense. I don't think we're going to find a car with missiles though, sadly"
  1030. >"It's a shame. A fast sports car would do nicely though, law enforcement is already probably after us to some extent, the sooner we change vehicles the better and this thing really doesn't like going over 90 miles per hour"
  1031. >The van has been shuddering slightly for a bit now
  1032. "Yeah, you can say that again. Alright, next unsecured sports car we find that belongs to some dickhead, we take it."
  1033. >"Cool! Hm, are you getting hungry yet?"
  1034. "Little bit, stress works up an appetite I suppose"
  1035. >"I can check the back of the van, see if there's any canned food back there"
  1036. "Please. Best we save money, neither gas nor 50 action express are cheap."
  1037. >"You can say that again. Hm, looks like we've got two cans of chef boyardee ravioli. If you don't like that, didn't you steal some food from the souvenir store?"
  1038. "I did, mostly granola bars. I got reeses cups though, I suppose that'll be dessert. Is there a can opener back there?"
  1039. >"Yeah, no hot plates or utensils though"
  1040. "Guess those must've been in the house, alright"
  1041. >You break the seal with the can opener wheel and begin to turn, bracing it between your legs and keeping one hand on the wheel
  1042. >With no fork, you sorta just slurp it down. It's nice and filling, and soon you're feeling less hungry and more satisfied.
  1043. >You toss the can on the passenger seat floor, putting the can opener in your backpack for later
  1044. >You polish off two reeses cups from a package and throw that on the floor as well, you feel surprisingly good now
  1045. "Onward to Equestria, huh?"
  1046. >"Onward to Equestria!"
  1047. >You scan through radio stations for a while until you find what you think is a local news station
  1048. >'-multiple members of the community have given their statements. John Freeman, a civil engineer and professional engineer who performed the land surveying for the address gave his, we have the recording here.'
  1049. >'The land was sturdy. We've got a ground-penetrating radar system which we bring 'round to all of our jobs, there were no voids, cavities, and digging didn't show hazardous percolation in the area. That should've been impossible, I can provide documentation of that fact to the law. Me and the boys do good work, we can't be held responsible for acts of god.'
  1050. >'The area has become a hot-spot for local alien watchers, as it was claimed that a creature not of this earth was buried under the wreckage of the first building. A long serpent-like tail was said to be visible by some eyewitnesses that got there first, and current FBI involvement and mounting quarantine of the site by federal officials has not quelled the conspiracy theorists and their claims, here's one of them now:'
  1051. >'This area is about to become the Area 51 of Arizona. They're going to start buying up land surrounding the incident site, and it's going to uproot the businesses of honest, hardworking residents like myself. Why are you smiling? Don't you think this is at all of concern? I hope the FCC finds your piece of junk station in violation of some sub-code and revokes your fucking broadcast-'
  1052. >The feed cuts out momentarily before returning
  1053. >'People are certainly angry, but it is at this time that I'd like to remind you all that 103.7 stands by the brave men and women in the federal government that keep us safe from outside threats, and that interviewed citizens have opinions that are not held by this station. More after this commercial break.'
  1054. >'Have you or a loved one recently been injured? Call-'
  1055. >You shut it off
  1056. >"Don't you want to keep listening to the news? It's about us"
  1057. "I couldn't be bothered if they're just going to shill products and the feds. We can always read an article in a day or two"
  1058. >You pause for a second
  1059. "Besides, we already have the most important piece of information"
  1060. >You reach into the backpack, grabbing the denim bag and removing one of your seven remaining rounds
  1061. >You hold it up to the light, inspecting it lazily while still keeping full view of the road
  1062. "Things are about to get more difficult with glowies getting involved."
  1063. >Royale lets out a pained wince
  1064. >"Even more reason to ditch this vehicle as soon as we can. They'll have already run the plates since it was registered in his name and was absent from the pit"
  1065. "Hmm, true. Can you go back there and tell me what you see?"
  1066. >"Two hoses, two funnels, a large jug of antifreeze... damn, it's almost like coolant replacement isn't rocket science. An adjustable wrench, a welding mask, and..."
  1067. >You hear her retch
  1068. >"A pair of grade school boxers. I'm glad we iced these guys"
  1069. "You can say that again. I really hope that old guy wasn't right about the feds claiming eminent domain for some sort of research operation, because otherwise we did the community a massive service"
  1070. >"Even if he's right, it's not as if we could've known there was a Ripper down there."
  1071. "Ripper? Is that what we're gonna call them?"
  1072. >"I figured it made sense. It ripped a guy in half, and it came from The Rip."
  1073. "It works. I'm hoping it doesn't enter our common vocabulary though..."
  1074. >"Yeah, honestly. I felt like it could see me, it's hard to say how but it made me feel watched in a way that humans don't when their gazes pass over me"
  1075. "I've been wondering about something"
  1076. >"Hm? What'd that be?"
  1077. "You passed me the note, and you offered to suck my dick. The first one required contact since you gave me something with mass and the second one would've required at least simulated contact. Can you manifest further physical items? Can you touch other people or push and shove them?"
  1078. >"I'm... this is super disappointing, but I'm not entirely sure. I was told the note thing, and I quote "kinda just works" by Spell, so I assume it's a special exemption to the rule. As for sucking your dick, I uh... stimulate your nervous system, but it drains the hell out of me if I'm not directly in your mind."
  1079. "Wouldn't you just have asked me to close my eyes and jacked into my brain then?"
  1080. >"Welllll I would've, it would've made more sense, but recall that Spell didn't teach me how to do that until you fell asleep and I had a bit of flex time to phase into Equestria."
  1081. "Ahh, right. Sorry, that line kinda got lost in the haze of last night..."
  1082. >"Yeah, you looked so happy as a mare. I can't wait to get back in there and see your cute little fuzzy pony body again"
  1083. >You find yourself blushing a bit, but it feels wrong
  1084. >After all, you're actively piloting an ape that's actively piloting a half ton hunk of metal at the moment
  1085. "I can't wait, but we've got a while to go before then. I wish the sun would set a bit faster, I think we'll rest then."
  1086. >"Mmm, it's what, 4 PM? We've been on the road for like an hour"
  1087. "Only 9 to go"
  1088. >"What time does the summer sun set?"
  1089. >You give her a playful smile
  1090. "I'd ask Celestia about that."
  1091. >She giddily clips her forehooves together
  1092. >"I would! But... as you can probably guess it's not one to one"
  1093. "Ahh, yeah. Well, it doesn't look too low. I do appreciate the scenery at least"
  1094. >"Lots of dead looking vegetation"
  1095. >It's silent for a while, eventually you flip the radio back on and find a rock station
  1096. >You and Royale sing along to some songs, apparently she knows all the ones you do
  1097. >So, Don't Fear the Reaper, Veteran of the Psychic Wars, most of the discography of Blondie, a bit of Pearl Jam, and some Duran Duran are all fair game
  1098. >Lots more probably, but that's most of what's played before you two exit the station's range and have to hunt for another
  1099. >"Shit, slow down. Highwayman running radar."
  1100. >You nod, petering off to just under the speed limit
  1101. >You see him come up around three quarters of a mile later, he appears to be none the wiser
  1102. "Nice! That was awesome, Royale"
  1103. >"Shucks, I do what I can for my mare friends"
  1104. "Well, you saved our asses there"
  1105. >"I haven't just yet. Stay at the speed limit, there's another one coming up in about 3 miles, I think"
  1106. "Alright"
  1107. >She's correct again
  1108. >"Damn, they're really out in force around here."
  1109. "I guess this is an area where a lot of people try to shave off a few minutes of travel time, quota fodder"
  1110. >"Probably. Say, you ever-"
  1111. >The driver-side window shatters, a bullet dropping out of the air into your lap
  1112. "SHIT!"
  1113. >You floor the gas, putting your head down under the car door
  1114. "Royale, I need you to be my eyes."
  1115. >Another two cracks retort in rapid succession, are they aiming for your tires or you?
  1116. >No more glass breaks, but you're covered in the stuff
  1117. >Shit
  1118. >"Keep the course, stay steady! No cars in front of you."
  1119. "Did you get a good look at whose shooting?!"
  1120. >"No! But, I saw a black car with tinted windows, parked. The muzzle flashes were coming from above it, over a small earthen mound."
  1121. >Shit, this is fucking bad
  1122. "Let's just hope they don't have pictures of me. Were they on this side of the road or the other?"
  1123. >"Other!"
  1124. "Well, let's gun it and hope they don't catch on. Shit, I really wish we could take an alternate route."
  1125. >"Yeah. Alright, we've gone more than three miles."
  1126. "You don't think they were pursuing us?"
  1127. >"On the wrong side of the highway? They'd have to be insane, and they'll be kinda far behind us since they were stationary"
  1128. "Yeah, you're-"
  1129. >"Anon? Don't put your head back up!"
  1130. >Boom
  1131. >Crack
  1132. >The windshield is gone
  1133. >"Shitshitshit! Fuck everything, get off at the next exit!"
  1134. "There aren't any coming up!"
  1135. >Boom
  1136. >You've lost traction, the van is listing over towards the other side of the highway
  1137. >A black sports car is following you there, and a black-haired man is brandishing a large black SCAR-20, his black-suited arm resting on the black window sill...
  1138. >You hit the breaks
  1139. "Royale, I'm sorry. It might be over."
  1140. >"Anon, you stupid faggot, they aren't taking prisoners! That first shot was for your head!"
  1141. "I have a plan, but we wouldn't have gotten far with a blown tire. I need you to keep me updated on the positions of anyone who comes out of that car."
  1142. >You grab your backpack, climb down onto the floor, and crawl into the back of the van
  1143. >While you load up your last seven rounds, you ask Celestia, Luna, Cadence, whoever you think might be listening to help you
  1144. >After all, this isn't really about you. It's about her.
  1145. >You're just the stupid fucker that's keeping her tethered to the mortal coil until she can get her real body
  1146. >"Sniper fed has exited the car. Watch the bullet holes, it looks like he has a thermal scope on it."
  1147. >You rack back the slide, then put both hands on the arm
  1148. >You realize your wrists still hurt something fierce from mag-dumping it earlier
  1149. >You may have missed one of those shots too, it was hard to tell in the moment
  1150. >"A second one is getting out, she's trailing behind. Doesn't appear to have a weapon... no, wait, she's drawn a glock from a concealed holster."
  1151. >Your luck, you guess
  1152. >You're sweating, and the August desert heat that's beginning to leak into the car with the window and windshield cracked isn't helping
  1153. >There's no way you could run away and detonate the C4 on the van, they'd absolutely hear you swing open the back door and run
  1154. >Also, you just realized you don't have any copper wire to run to the terminals
  1155. >Veteran of the Psychic Wars comes back on the radio
  1156. >"You're under arrest. You can come peacefully, or..."
  1157. >He shoots right through the passenger side window
  1158. >"I can crack your skull and blow out your brains like I cracked your windows and blew out your tires."
  1159. >"If you want to shoot at him, he's..."
  1160. >Royale is sitting beside you, she gently nudges at your hand with the side of her muzzle, her muzzle going through it just a bit
  1161. >You adjust your hand to where it no longer overlaps with it
  1162. "Drop your weapons. I have you in my sights."
  1163. >"Oh? How's that?"
  1164. >Royale, thinking quickly, tells you that he's smiling cruelly
  1165. "You have a cruel smile on your face."
  1166. >"He's frowning now."
  1167. "and now a frown."
  1168. >"What are you... no matter."
  1169. >A shot rings out, it doesn't hit you but you it's close and it's followed by two more
  1170. >You crawl over to the other side of the van, there's a hole in your shirt and you're bleeding from your side, a nasty gash opened up where one of the bullets grazed you
  1171. >"He has one round left in his magazine. The girl knows it, and she's moving around to the back of the van."
  1172. >Even though you know revealing your position may just get you shot at, you speak
  1173. "She's moving to the back. Tell her to stop that."
  1174. >You hear a gurgling sound
  1175. >'You see me now, a veteran'
  1176. >'Of a thousand psychic wars.'
  1177. >There's a thud
  1178. >"James!"
  1179. >"Get up, Anon. Hold her at gunpoint when she comes to his aid."
  1180. "I... okay."
  1181. >You get up quickly, holding your golden eagle as tightly as an imperial legionary would hold his.
  1182. >The man's eyes are rolled back in his head, he's convulsing on the ground
  1183. >She comes around to check on him, and...
  1184. "Freeze."
  1185. >She does so
  1186. "Drop the glock."
  1187. >She does this as well.
  1188. "Good, good. Give me a second to collect my things, you're going to give us a ride."
  1189. >"You..."
  1190. "I'm holding you hostage, yes. Is he..."
  1191. >"Who are you talking to?!"
  1192. "Shut up."
  1193. >"Yes, if he isn't dead now he will be in a second."
  1194. >Royale stumbles on her way out of the van and falls to the pavement
  1195. "Are you okay?"
  1196. >"You just killed my husband!"
  1197. "Not talking to you"
  1198. >"It's nothing, just let me..."
  1199. >She takes to the air, hovering a few feet off the ground
  1200. >"There."
  1201. >You leave the shit in the trunk behind as the fed leads you to her fed car
  1202. >She's crying a bit
  1203. >Oh well, they were trying to kill you both
  1204. >"Who are you talking to...?"
  1205. "Unlock the car."
  1206. >She does, and you follow her around to the driver side, making sure she doesn't try anything suspicious
  1207. >Your ears are fucking ringing again, and you weren't even the one shooting this time
  1208. >You're angry, tired, and bleeding.
  1209. "Royale, keep an eye on her. If she tries anything while I'm going around to the passenger side, kill her."
  1210. >"I can't do that again, not-"
  1211. >You ignore her and walk around to the passenger side, getting inside
  1212. >Your blind bluff worked, she fed is shivering
  1213. "Good, good. You're going to take me to Sanford, Colorado."
  1214. >"I-I don't know where that is"
  1215. "Then use the GPS. If any other feds show up, I'll put a bullet in your skull. Do not call for backup, and if you're all listening in at HQ, don't move a muscle"
  1216. >Tears are streaming down her face in rivers now, you can see the rage in her eyes.
  1217. >But she nods.
  1218. >"Nobody's going to come, James and I are-"
  1219. "Were."
  1220. >She lets out a sob
  1221. >"Were a solo team."
  1222. "Good. Royale, are you in?"
  1223. >"Yeah, in the back seat. Didn't want to obstruct your view of her."
  1224. "How'd you take him out? We should use that more often if you can"
  1225. >She gives you kind of a rude glare, holding up a foreleg
  1226. >Her left hoof is gone.
  1227. "Oh. Oh god, I'm sorry, I didn't-"
  1228. >Her look of annoyance changes quickly to one of fear.
  1229. >"Anon, pay attention!"
  1230. >You whirl around to the girl, who was reaching for your gun
  1231. "Really?"
  1232. >"I..."
  1233. "I've half a mind to shoot you right here."
  1234. >"That's half of why I tried. Well, course is set."
  1235. >You sigh
  1236. "Turn us around and take us to Sanford. You've got a long drive, I'm tired, and you're trying my patience."
  1237. >"Yes sir."
  1238. >She drives right through the vegetation-filled median, past her partner's corpse, and picks up the course you were following minutes earlier
  1239. "Will it heal up?"
  1240. >"In time, maybe a few days."
  1241. "I'll help you until then. I'm sorry Royale."
  1242. >"It wasn't your fault, I'm just... generally not happy"
  1243. "Me neither."
  1244. >You turn the radio back on, tuning to the channel it was at before
  1245. >'Wounds are all I'm made of'
  1246. >'Did I hear you say that this is victory?'
  1247. >The three of you are quiet for a while, both you and Royale nursing your very physical wounds and the agent nursing her emotional one
  1248. >Your bleeding has slowed down and is starting to clot on its own now, but it still hurts like a bitch
  1249. "What does the case deal with?"
  1250. >"That's classified"
  1251. "What's the charge for leaking classified information?"
  1252. >"Treason"
  1253. "and the penalty?"
  1254. >"Execution, a fine, or life in prison. Probably the latter"
  1255. "Then what'll it be, life or death?"
  1256. >"It'd be stupid for you to shoot me while I'm in the drivers seat. I figured that you should be considering that in case you're an idiot"
  1257. "I'm well aware, but in an emergency I could always shift lock-override into Neutral, keep the wheel steady, and let Newton decelerate me."
  1258. >She's silent for a minute
  1259. "So, tell me what your case is."
  1260. >"I don't know. We were given your license plate and probable route, and told to set up camp and talk to nearby highway patrol. There were other agents set up on other probable routes that you could've taken out of here, we just happened to be the fuckers to have to deal with you."
  1261. "Were you told why you were carrying out a hit on me?"
  1262. >"No."
  1263. "Don't lie to me. I know you're not giving me all of the information."
  1264. >"That's all I have."
  1265. >You fucking doubt it
  1266. >God damn you hate feds
  1267. >You curse not all that quietly and pull out the note, making sure to shield all but a tiny slit of it with your hands over the top of it
  1268. >No telling if there are cameras in here
  1269. >The address is 520 West County Rd.
  1270. >There's small scrawl next to the address that simply reads "Grasstown"
  1271. >You assume that'll make more sense when you get there
  1272. "Royale?"
  1273. >Royale has been sulking in the back, you haven't had the heart to bother her until now
  1274. >"Yeah?"
  1275. "Do you want to come up here?"
  1276. >"Why? Do you want to look at it?"
  1277. >She sounds annoyed, like she thinks that you think you can somehow fix her injuries
  1278. "Not unless you want me to. I'd like some company."
  1279. >The fed doesn't even acknowledge you as Royale climbs over the console and into your lap
  1280. >"I'm sorry, I know you're hurt too. I don't mean to..."
  1281. "Shh, shh. It's okay. That's a part of you, I fully understand. I'd be very unhappy too"
  1282. >"I feel pretty damn guilty. You can actually get shot, bleed, and die."
  1283. "You can die too if I do."
  1284. >The fed gives you a strange glance at this
  1285. >You may have to kill her later, you know you can't just let her drive off with this car at the very least
  1286. >She'd crawl right back to her agency and tell them all she's learned about you
  1287. >Hopefully this vehicle isn't wire tapped to all hell, but you're not exactly going to avoid talking to Royale for the entirety of the ride
  1288. >The most important thing is that they don't get a picture of the note, then they'd know your exact moves
  1289. >"I can, but it still doesn't feel like I'm the one out there risking my flanks. Bullets can pass right through where my skull should be, and I won't feel a damn thing."
  1290. "You've lost something too. It'll come back in time like you said, but it doesn't change the fact that it's gone in the moment and it hurts."
  1291. >"I suppose... can I have a hug?"
  1292. "Of course"
  1293. >You bring Royale into your arms and wrap her up tightly
  1294. >You swear you can almost feel her fluff and weight
  1295. >and then it's gone when she cries out
  1296. >"Anon!"
  1297. >You whip around towards the fed
  1298. >She's leaning over your lap, not touching you at all, but clearly reaching for the gun in your right pocket
  1299. "Stop making things so complicated."
  1300. >You grip the eagle tightly, and look over at her
  1301. "Your agency has destroyed great people."
  1302. >You rip the sunglasses off of her face, revealing red and puffy eyes
  1303. >The facade gone, you roll down the window and toss them out
  1304. "If I wanted to, I could subject you to horrible torments for that. I don't think any sort of God in any sort of Heaven would punish me for such a thing, nor the actions I carried out earlier today."
  1305. >You lean in close to her and slap the shit out of her stupid face
  1306. "You're less than dirt, and so was your shitty husband."
  1307. >One of her eyes twitches
  1308. >Suddenly, she veers off at a sharp angle
  1309. >You drop the gun and grab the wheel, trying desperately to bring it back on course before she fucks everything up and gets everyone in the car killed
  1310. >You just barely manage to
  1311. >"Let me die! Let me take you with me!"
  1312. "You'll find another!"
  1313. >"I'm pregnant!"
  1314. "So you're going to go for a triple homicide suicide instead of a double?"
  1315. >"Well, at least we're on the same page about abortion"
  1316. >You laugh at the simple absurdity of the statement, slam your elbow backwards into her nose with great force, and finally wrestle full control of the wheel just before the car fully veers off into the ditch
  1317. >She's out, the car is still on cruise control though
  1318. >You don't know how to manually cancel it without hitting the brakes in this model of car, so you just do what you'd said previously and put it into neutral by shift lock-overriding
  1319. >"What a basket case."
  1320. >You smirk, despite the bad situation
  1321. "Guess she didn't have the time to listen to me whine?"
  1322. >"Okay, that's enough of that."
  1323. "Yeah, I'm done. Personally I do think that she was right about the one thing"
  1324. >Royale laughs
  1325. >"For the record, I also agree. Let's frisk her for knives and other implements and see if we can find something to tie her up with in the trunk, I'm getting really tired of dealing with her slimy bullshit."
  1326. "Yeah, good plan."
  1327. >There's a bottle of pills in her right vest pocket that appear to be methamphetamine based on the label
  1328. >You put those in your backpack, you never know when you might run into a meth head that can be persuaded with such things
  1329. >All of her pockets are empty but that one, excepting a cell phone
  1330. >It's on, you toss it out the window into the desert
  1331. >You notice she still has her earpiece in
  1332. >You toss that too
  1333. >and a small knife strapped to the inside of her pant-leg
  1334. >You pull it out, it doesn't have any sort of engravings to indicate a manufacturer
  1335. >It's neat though, almost looks like a more tactical version of a kunai
  1336. >You tuck it neatly into your backpack as well
  1337. >There are zip ties in the glove box, ten to be exact
  1338. >Not the handcuff assortment, just normal hardware store zip ties...
  1339. >You'll have to get creative.
  1340. >After a minute or two of experimentation with the finite zip ties that you have available (you don't want to waste any of them lest they come in handy in the future) you find that while the largest loop of a single zip tie is not enough to bind two hands together, two zip ties can be attached together in the same way that one end of a zip tie can be attached to itself by putting the opposite ends into the thick parts of the other
  1341. >You're sure there's some sort of technical term for both of the things you mentally butchered, but that works perfectly for binding her hands behind her back
  1342. >You conservatively use three zip ties as the principal allows you to increase the number of zip ties used in the equation as far as you wish for her legs, as you don't want to have to start over after connecting two
  1343. >You know that you should be able to use the skinny "strip" of another zip tie as a key to "unlock" a stuck tie, but you haven't been able to get this to work and time is of the essence
  1344. >In any case, you pack the remaining five zip ties away as well
  1345. >You bind her legs and put her in the back seat
  1346. >Frisking her pockets and patting her down one more time, you manage nothing
  1347. >In a gesture of pity, you buckle her bound form into the middle seat
  1348. "Royale, would you mind keeping an occasional eye on her? Even like this I still wonder if she doesn't have some means of trying something."
  1349. >"With pleasure, she gives me the heebie-jeebies."
  1350. "Wonderful. Well then, let's get going"
  1351. >The GPS is actually set correctly, so you turn off your brain for a while and just follow it to its destination.
  1352. >>>
  1353. >"Mnn... Anon?"
  1354. "Yeah?"
  1355. >"She stirred a minute ago, opened her eyes, and then closed them again."
  1356. "I see you're awake."
  1357. >"How-"
  1358. >You sigh and wave her off
  1359. "I'm asking the questions now. Your nose feel any better?"
  1360. >"That bullet wound feeling any better?"
  1361. >There's ice in her voice
  1362. >You're not a fan, you asked her out of somewhat genuine concern
  1363. >You need to keep in mind that she's not really human
  1364. "Royale, can you check for any sort of... back seat sound shield?"
  1365. >"Flip up the console, first button on the right."
  1366. "Yeah right. That's probably a panic alarm, something you didn't have the foresight to press before you entered my world"
  1367. >You flip up the console just because you're curious
  1368. >There are in fact multiple buttons there
  1369. "Royale?"
  1370. >"Mhm?"
  1371. "Can you track the wiring from these buttons to specific parts of the car?"
  1372. >"Yeah, um... some of them."
  1373. "Which ones do you know?"
  1374. >"Give me a minute."
  1375. >She studies the wires, at one point dipping her head inside of the console to get a closer look
  1376. >"The top left activates a chain of servo motors that unfurl a sort of metal garage door type thing from inside the body of the car. Presumably that actually is the noise shield she was speaking about. The top right one links to the car's internal computer system, I can't tell what it does physically. The second one down on the left engages an extra locking mechanism on the back doors. The second one on the right is proprietary... one down left is proprietary, so is right, and the next two, and the next two. That's all"
  1377. "Well, damn."
  1378. >You go ahead and press second down left, there's an audible 'kerchunk' as heavy-duty locking mechanisms slide into place
  1379. "Nice! Guess you aren't going anywhere"
  1380. >"I'm beginning to see why they really wanted you killed."
  1381. >You press the top left and the servos whirr to life, closing you and Royale off from the prying ears of the federal agent in under ten seconds
  1382. >The GPS display also bisects itself, displaying a rear camera view of the highway with the bottom half of the screen
  1383. "Go check back there please, I want to see if she's making any noises"
  1384. >Royale pokes her head back there, then comes back a second later laughing her little flanks off
  1385. >"She's cursing you and crying"
  1386. "Seriously?!"
  1387. >"I know! It's gold."
  1388. "and I can't hear a word of it! Their tech works perfectly"
  1389. >"Perfectly against them"
  1390. >The two of you share a good few minutes of laughter at the agent's expense
  1391. >Finally, it dies down
  1392. >"I'm going to go check if there's proper ventilation back there"
  1393. "Please do, ideally she's a hostage. If we can keep from being further shot at until we get to Deimos, I'll be very happy."
  1394. >"Alright."
  1395. >Royale vanishes into the back for a few minutes
  1396. >"We're clear, ventilation is circulating interstate air from just behind the central console"
  1397. "Awesome, awesome"
  1398. >"and uh, you... said the wrong town name. You do have what's on the note plugged into the GPS, right?"
  1399. "Oh, yeah. Of course, I just got the two mixed up."
  1400. >You point to the screen, Royale nods and then snrks
  1401. >"You're such a fucking dork, bonehead"
  1402. >You laugh, but your face is getting a bit red
  1403. >"Hey."
  1404. "Yeah?"
  1405. >"It's getting dark now, isn't it?"
  1406. "I suppose"
  1407. >"Shut down the GPS, it might be a factor in tracking us, and..."
  1408. >She climbs onto you, her missing foreleg seeming to be less of a hindrance in her navigating the inside of a car than freeway pavement
  1409. >Licking her lips, looking at you hungrily
  1410. >"Pull off at the next exit. We're going to... rest."
  1411. "O-oh."
  1412. >You shut off the GPS quickly, and pull off about a mile up the road on the side of a barren path that snakes off from the freeway
  1413. >The fed is unbuckled and moved into the trunk carefully, once you're absolutely certain no cars will see you moving her. The back seat and trunk connection is pulled down so that air from the back seat can still flow into it, you leave the engine running, make sure the trunk doesn't have any gadgetry in it with the help of Royale (it actually has negative gadgetry, the trunk safety latch that can be used in case of a kidnapping in almost every car has been spookily removed), and then get comfy with her
  1414. >You're sitting this time, reclined back as far as the drivers seat constraints will allow
  1415. >Which is less far with the big metal shield behind you, still worth it though
  1416. >Royale says it doesn't matter, that sleep is a mental thing so you'll sleep well even in these conditions once she gets her vision loaded in
  1417. >You're excited to see what that is, but you still crack your back before reclining and letting her enter your mind...
  1418. >You're in the car again, but it's...
  1419. >Much different, sort of like the inside of a car in a video game
  1420. >Everything is less detailed, more angular, the scenery outside is still about the same but a bit more vibrant
  1421. >The trees even look a little bit polygonal, almost like the ones from your oc's namesake
  1422. >"I need you to give me permission. All you need to do is say something along the lines of "I give Battle Royale full permission to do what she wishes in my mind."
  1423. "Royale, understand. I trust you completely, but I need to know what you-"
  1424. >She locks her muzzle with yours, pulling you into a kiss with her forehooves and penetrating your lips teasingly with her tongue
  1425. >Then, just as soon as the heavenly action had began, it stops
  1426. >and there's just the smirking, smug pegasus before you
  1427. >"Just do it, dork."
  1428. "I-I, Wailing Woods, give Battle Royale full reign of my mental faculties."
  1429. >"Good girl~"
  1430. >The scenery melts away, the car being replaced by a comfortable bed within a small winterized cabin out in the woods
  1431. "Oh, wow."
  1432. >"This is the place Spell Service told me I could live in! It's her parents winter home, they died a few years back..."
  1433. >She seems solemn for a second, but springs back up quickly
  1434. >"I wanted to show it to you since you'll probably never get to see Equestria with your own eyes. All of the details of it were burned into my head, even the snow outside"
  1435. >As if to emphasize her point (and possibly exactly her intent to emphasize her point, given she has full reign), a thunderous boom sounds from outside and you look through the window, seeing a raging snowstorm just feet from the two of you
  1436. >"Now, on to the 'mane' event~"
  1437. >She has her hoof back in this version of reality, but it's heavily bandaged
  1438. >You notice that you have bandages on the side of your barrel as well
  1439. >Very interesting, you muse on this as Royale turns you over
  1440. >You kinda just let it happen
  1441. >She lays down next to you and gives your right ear a little lick
  1442. >You smile back at her and she starts giving you a massage
  1443. >Your withers down to your shoulders, you're putty for her
  1444. >Maybe ponies are actually a fluid
  1445. >She softly whispers things to you, telling you that she loves your cute little mare form
  1446. >That you're so soft
  1447. >and that she loves you
  1448. >You tell her that you love her too, and she states in turn that she knows
  1449. >You're a puddle of mare at this point, she carefully moves on to the crest of your neck
  1450. >Compressing things you didn't even know were in tension
  1451. >Making you feel like the luckiest gir-
  1452. >Making you feel really lucky to have Royale
  1453. "If I had known you could do this when you appeared, I might've accepted it instead of being promised this form..."
  1454. >"Silly. I don't doubt that you might have, but there's no reason you can't have both. How do you feel?"
  1455. "Like a million bits"
  1456. >She gets off of you slowly, nuzzling your poll and between your ears as she does
  1457. >"Wanna feel even better?"
  1458. "U-uh"
  1459. >"Hang on a minute, I'll get it and show you"
  1460. >She leaves for a second, coming back with a bottle of what appears to be champagne in her mouth
  1461. "Oh, really?"
  1462. >She sets it down on the bed before speaking, for obvious reasons
  1463. >"Yeah! All things considered, we finished our first task, survived an assassination attempt, and now we're together relaxing. We're a bit beaten up physically and psychologically, but I'd say that's even more reason to take off the edge"
  1464. "Well... oh, what the hell."
  1465. >Royale gives you a little wink, disappearing for a second and grabbing two wine glasses
  1466. >You think you're technically supposed to drink champagne out of those narrow things because it's a rather expensive beverage, Royale's bottle even states that it is "Dole Perneighon" which is presumably pretty expensive stuff
  1467. >Maybe she can get more if there's ever another occasion like this though? You're still not sure how all of this mind stuff works
  1468. >She pours you most of a wine glass full of the stuff, and pours herself half a glass
  1469. >You look at it and figure what the hell
  1470. "Uh, Royale?"
  1471. >"Yeah?"
  1472. >She's looking away from you a bit, almost like she wants to avoid the subject of you being poured more
  1473. "I uh... suck at holding things with my hooves. Could you help me drink?"
  1474. >"Oh! Of course."
  1475. >Royale pushes you up against the frame of the bed, she feels very strong but is incredibly gentle with you
  1476. >She reaches out for the glass and it just sort of sticks to her hoof like items did sometimes in the show
  1477. "Huh, that easy?"
  1478. >"Well, it's a practiced sort of thing... since you dreamed me up as a pony with a backstory and everything, I've sorta just always known how to do this."
  1479. "Interesting"
  1480. >"Anyways, open your mouth and put up your hoof when you think you've had enough"
  1481. >You soon find that she is lying to you about this, as she pours way more of the glass into your muzzle than you asked for
  1482. >Not as if you're complaining exactly
  1483. >You swish the beverage around in your mouth, it's fizzy and sweet with a slight bite to it and ice cold
  1484. >You've only had champagne once before, when you and your cousin graduated high school your grandfather bought some to celebrate
  1485. >You imagine the two of you would've been served more champagne had either of you graduated college, but that was not to be
  1486. >That being said, it's a warm memory of a bygone time when your eyes were starry and your mind was hopeful for a bright future
  1487. >Although right here in the now, your eyes feel almost starry again
  1488. >Royale sets your glass down gingerly and picks up hers, drinking the majority of it in one gulp
  1489. >You remember writing her to have somewhat of a drinking problem before she was chosen for the game, and you never wrote of her coming to terms with it
  1490. >Maybe she will someday
  1491. >The two of your muzzles are inches from one another, Royale pulls you back down so you're laying on your back again and gives you an almost wry smile
  1492. >"You're going to have more in a minute, okay?"
  1493. "O-okay Royale"
  1494. >She nuzzles your cheek
  1495. >"Good girl."
  1496. >About as soon as you feel it starting to kick in, Royale presses you against the back of the bed again and tells you to open your mouth
  1497. >You do, it takes a bit longer for her to grab the champagne this time
  1498. >She's... drinking from your glass
  1499. >No wait, she isn't swallowing
  1500. >OH.
  1501. >You open up, Royale locks her muzzle to yours, makes sure the seal is good (you think), and then lets loose champagne into your mouth
  1502. >It tastes better this time around, somehow
  1503. >You eagerly swallow and she releases a bit more
  1504. >Before you know it, your glass is empty
  1505. >You're... a small pony at the moment
  1506. >and a tall glass of wine is enough to make you feel quite relaxed when you're not that
  1507. >Everything is getting a bit warmer in all the pleasant ways, Royale takes her glass off of the bedside table
  1508. >You worry she may make you drink it as well, but she just polishes off what's left in it
  1509. >"Mnnnn, now..."
  1510. >She turns off one of the two crystalline lamps, the lighting feels a lot cozier
  1511. >Her muzzle is so close that you can feel the slight wine glow radiating off of her
  1512. >and you imagine she can feel one coming from you, too
  1513. >She presses her lips against yours and wraps you up in an embrace, tight as a present
  1514. >Your entrance is teased at, her tongue dancing across it
  1515. >You open your mouth just a little bit and close your eyes, waiting patiently
  1516. >and you don't have to wait long, she runs her tongue along the span of yours, slow and gently
  1517. >You feel very helpless, you're so glad it's her that's making you feel this way
  1518. >You trust her completely, she's everything to you
  1519. >-and you to her.
  1520. >You softly dance your tongue along the underside of hers. She hugs you a bit tighter, a bit closer
  1521. >This must be what it's like to die and go to heaven, or elysium...
  1522. >But you aren't dead, just...
  1523. >Somewhere
  1524. >Royale pulls her muzzle away from you, you open your eyes once again
  1525. >She hasn't stopped embracing you tightly, and she's smiling down at you
  1526. >"Do you want me to take you?"
  1527. "Um, sexually?"
  1528. >She sort of collapses on top of you and laughs
  1529. >"Yeah, sexually"
  1530. >You're both so damn autistic
  1531. "Yes, please"
  1532. >"Alright, I'll get it"
  1533. >She's a bit stumbly as she gets up, producing something from the bedside table
  1534. >"This wasn't here initially, but it's burned into my head"
  1535. >She laughs
  1536. >"In fact, to my recollection, it's exactly the one that you had me keep in my bedside table of that story you wrote! Funny how things turn out, isn't it?"
  1537. "Y-yeah"
  1538. >You can't remember exactly what she's talking about at the moment, but you know you're going to get it
  1539. >"As I recall you wrote me as bisexual, maybe I am. I'll say I don't care much for stallions, and care a great deal for mares."
  1540. >You did write her on top for the few encounters she had, it seemed to make sense for fleshing out her character
  1541. >A great fighter, a battle tactician, and a leader in bed
  1542. >Royale, of course, is no longer a figment of text files and thoughts
  1543. >Those thoughts are standing beside you right now, attaching some sorts of straps
  1544. >"Alright, that should do it. Do you want any more champagne before we start?"
  1545. "N-not sure"
  1546. >"We'll say yes, then"
  1547. >She gives you a quarter of the glass, this time from the glass
  1548. >Her strong hooves pull you over to the side of the bed, draping your hind legs over into space
  1549. >"Are you ready, cutie?~"
  1550. >You feel yourself blush, if that's even possible with how red the wine has already flushed your face
  1551. "Y-yes."
  1552. >She nuzzles at your dock and then licks it
  1553. >You raise it somewhat nervously
  1554. >You're a virgin in every sense of the word, fully sexually inexperienced
  1555. >Royale drapes herself on top of you, she's bigger than you are and it is very noticeable right now
  1556. >She licks and plays with your ears, teasingly brushes your mane in front of your face, leaving your vision obscured
  1557. >Then, she wraps you up tight again with her forehooves.
  1558. >You register a gentle prod at an entrance you hadn't really thought about until now, you know you're a mare but...
  1559. >Damn is it sensitive
  1560. >She gently works at it a bit until you feel it start to get a bit wet, likely your natural lubricant
  1561. >She's so gentle and slow with it, you're letting out little gasps and moans but she's really not that deep in
  1562. >She takes one forehoof away from her embrace, does something, and then hugs you again with it
  1563. >It's wet with your juices now
  1564. >"Ready for the main event?"
  1565. "Mhm"
  1566. >"You sure?"
  1567. "I am."
  1568. >She begins to push deeper and deeper, only a few centimeters each time with each light thrust but every part of your marehood past the entrance is an uncharted territory
  1569. >You moan, whispering her name over and over again as she's railing you
  1570. "Royale... Royale... Royale..."
  1571. >"Don't wear it out, silly~"
  1572. >She puts a hoof over your mouth, silencing all but the wet schlicking of you getting fucked, her little giggles and hums of enjoyment, and your low moans
  1573. >She nibbles a bit at your ear and a shiver runs down your spine
  1574. >Celestia...
  1575. >You can feel yourself getting close already, and she hasn't even reached your depths yet
  1576. "Mnnnmnmfff"
  1577. >"I know, Woodsy. Tell you what"
  1578. "Mhmmh?"
  1579. >"I'm gonna to make you wail"
  1580. >She thrusts all the way in suddenly, hitting you with a jolt like an epi pen as she lets out something like a laugh
  1581. >and then pulls all the way out, and thrusts all the way to the bottom again, releasing her hold on your muzzle as she does
  1582. >You wail out a sound of intense pleasure as you cum all over her
  1583. >You can hear your marecum hit the hardwood floor below
  1584. >Suppose she made the woods wail in more than one sense
  1585. >You sort of just lay there for a second, Royale still sheathed in you
  1586. >The two of you panting lightly
  1587. >"I can tell you had fun"
  1588. "Yeah, oh wow. That'd be an understatement. Did you manage to...?"
  1589. >"Oh, I haven't yet no. I did have a great time though, you're really fun to play with"
  1590. >She lays down on top of you, nuzzling your cheek
  1591. >"I imagine you're feeling a bit tired out now?"
  1592. "Yeah, more than a bit. I could help you reach too if you wanted, I don't want to be nonreciprocating"
  1593. >"Oh, don't worry. I don't quite feel like I need to, the most important thing for me coming into this was that you had fun"
  1594. >You stutter out a thank you and she hugs you again
  1595. >"Well, time to pull out I suppose"
  1596. >It's a strange sensation, having your sex stimulated during clarity
  1597. >Royale is casually wiping down the toy with a sort of fancy hand (hoof?) towel
  1598. >"Oh, hm. Woodsy, do you know any cooling spells?"
  1599. "I don't know any spells at all, sorry to say"
  1600. >"I was hoping we could maybe re-seal this with the cork... well, it may not matter"
  1601. "When you bring this place back up in your head, will it reset or resume from tonight?"
  1602. >"I don't really know, but even so it would feel weird to waste good champagne"
  1603. "Well, I don't kno-"
  1604. >A voice is whispering in your ear
  1605. >'Focus on the winter air outside, then your horn. Imagine a retraction, then set your horn to the cork'
  1606. "Or do I?"
  1607. >You take in a deep breath, thinking of the cold and the snow and ice it brings
  1608. >Of your horn, you drew it once, badly
  1609. >But you know how it looks despite never having seen it outside your mind, and you can feel it on your head
  1610. >The cork lays on the bedside table, you gingerly step over to it and set your horn to the material
  1611. >and finally, you think of a hermit crab retreating into its shell
  1612. >You shiver, you're suddenly colder
  1613. >"Hey, you did it!"
  1614. >Royale picks up the cork and jams it back into the neck of the bottle, it's a perfect fit
  1615. "Oh, wow. I guess I did"
  1616. >"You're the mare! Now, let's get you to bed"
  1617. >You wonder what the voice was, but you're so tired
  1618. >It feels important, but there's little energy left in any part of you to voice concern to Royale
  1619. "I heard a voice in my ear, it told me"
  1620. >"Don't short sell yourself, you're drunk. Let's get you into bed"
  1621. "Okay, sorry"
  1622. >Royale pulls aside the covers to reveal incredibly inviting sheets
  1623. >You collapse on them, and she half pushes and half hugs you into a good position for sleeping in
  1624. >She pulls in a second after, turning off the other crystal lamp and sliding into place behind you
  1625. >Her forehooves wrapping around your soft form, her soft pegasus barrel pressing against your back
  1626. >Her fluffy muzzle nestling into your mane and pressing your head down just a little bit
  1627. >You feel secure, your eyes have barely shut before you lose track of yourself in the darkness of slumber
  1628. >>>
  1629. >No dreams last night, hopefully that's a good thing
  1630. >You open up your eyes and rub them
  1631. >Did last night happen?
  1632. >Royale is standing on your chest, grinning ear to ear
  1633. >Oh fuck, so it did
  1634. >You don't feel the effects of a hangover at least, you suppose simulated alcohol must be like that
  1635. "Is the agent back there?"
  1636. >She nods
  1637. >"First thing I checked when I came to, funny how the facsimile of a physical body intoxicates you... I shouldn't need to sleep"
  1638. "How long ago now?"
  1639. >"Just five minutes, I haven't been staring at you that long."
  1640. >You laugh
  1641. "God I love you"
  1642. >You already miss being Woods, but you try to push the thoughts out of your mind and focus on the task at hoof
  1643. "Sanford."
  1644. >"Sanford."
  1645. >The GPS says it's a mere 4 hour drive, you checked out for a good while admittedly
  1646. >You wonder if they know your whereabouts
  1647. >Who knows
  1648. >Best to get a move on, then
  1649. >You start up the car and pull the seat back up into a more comfortable position for driving
  1650. >This really isn't a bad car, if you can verify it doesn't have any fed-related issues you may just use it for as long as you can
  1651. >Although in this case that may not exceed a day of length
  1652. "All systems go"
  1653. >You're off
  1654. >>>
  1655. >You stopped for lunch, gas station pizza
  1656. >A total of $9 for you and the agent to both eat
  1657. >Royale saves you from multiple speed traps along the way, which you're of course quite thankful for
  1658. >The two of you speak of some old 80s movies, she mentions wanting to watch "The Stuff" with you
  1659. >You take a small detour to a gun store on the way
  1660. >20 rounds of 50 AE are $40, which is scalped but should hopefully last you a little while
  1661. >You pay the old geezer behind the counter your ill-gotten gains and move on with the day
  1662. >>>
  1663. >Sanford, Colorado
  1664. >A tiny town
  1665. >You re-check the address carefully, it's...
  1666. >You plug it back in
  1667. >An open field
  1668. >Grasstown is right, fuck
  1669. >It takes less than fifteen minutes to arrive, you get out of the car to stretch your legs from the trip
  1670. >Fzzzt!
  1671. >A dart... materializes in your neck
  1672. >You know you have time to get in the car and lock the doors
  1673. >You get in the car and lock the doors
  1674. >Lay low
  1675. "Royale, I've been tranquilized."
  1676. >She looks at you with worry
  1677. >"There's not really much I can do to help, just... try to lay low I suppose. I'll go outside and see if I can see who hit you."
  1678. "Thank you."
  1679. >You should have 2-3 minutes before you're fully out of it
  1680. >You rip out the dart, all of its contents have already been injected into you anyways
  1681. >You're starting to feel loopy
  1682. >Dizzy and sedated
  1683. >Everything is... very alright
  1684. >You lay back in the drivers seat, Royale's instructions seeming ridiculous in your current state
  1685. >You just need to rest, and then everything will be fine
  1686. >You barely register the window glass breaking and Royale screaming at someone
  1687. >>>
  1688. >You're awake
  1689. >You're nauseous
  1690. >You're puking into a bucket
  1691. >Someone is holding back your hair
  1692. >"Easy, Anon. We're here to help. Royale told us everything."
  1693. "I-"
  1694. >You discharge more gas station pizza into the bucket and groan
  1695. >"Take it easy. We hit you hard"
  1696. "Royale?"
  1697. >"I'm here, Anon. Right beside you."
  1698. >You turn towards her voice but immediately regret it as your diaphragm spasms again and you're forced to spit acid water into the bucket
  1699. >You meekly turn your head just a bit again, you feel like you have gotten the last of it out of your system now
  1700. >Whoever's holding your hair back seems to sense this and gently lets go of it, letting it drape around your shoulders again
  1701. "Do you have food and water?"
  1702. >The speaker isn't visible, you think she's behind you
  1703. >"Of course. Stay there for a few more minutes, we'll prepare you something that'll be easy on your stomach."
  1704. >You hear something drop into a trash can on their way out, there are too many footsteps for it to be one person
  1705. >"You're doing good Anon, they're okay."
  1706. "What did they give me?"
  1707. >"Fentanyl."
  1708. "Was I fucking ODing?"
  1709. >"Yeah, you've been having a rough time. Dave gave you a nasal spray, narcan I think"
  1710. >You look around, you're in someone's garage
  1711. >There's an old beat up van parked next to the fed car with a bunch of extension cords going into it
  1712. >You can see a rack of servers inside and some sort of machine that defies explanation, you have no idea what the fuck it could do
  1713. >There are a few canisters of something and what look to be large deflated balloons?
  1714. >A pudgy guy wearing an Eva 01 t-shirt comes back out with a glass of water, a toothbrush, and some toothpaste
  1715. >You brush your teeth, gargle the water, and spit into the bucket
  1716. "Can I get some to drink please?"
  1717. >"Yeah, shit. Sorry"
  1718. >You nod
  1719. >You haven't been this out of it since the day after that Discothèque in Germany...
  1720. >Why did you go there again? How did you afford it?
  1721. >You can hardly remember that entire week, you just remember a pretty girl embracing you
  1722. >She wasn't from Germany herself, she pulled you in close.
  1723. >and then...
  1724. >and then the two of you just hugged each other you think
  1725. >You knew her from online somewhere, an acquaintance
  1726. >You hope she's doing well, you've shut yourself out from all the online friends you ever had recently
  1727. >The living corpse gambit
  1728. >"I'll admit, you're remarkably calm for someone who just got drugged"
  1729. >You force yourself back to reality with considerable effort
  1730. "Royale's word goes a long way."
  1731. >He laughs and goes back inside, returning with more water
  1732. >You drink it greedily
  1733. >You still feel like death, but minutely less so
  1734. >She brushed your hair with her hands, you remember that
  1735. >She kissed you, on the forehead
  1736. >Like you would a dog
  1737. "Do- do you have a couch or something I can crash on?"
  1738. >"Oh, sure man. Yeah."
  1739. >Dave leads you inside and directs you to a very comfortable looking sofa
  1740. >It's old and worn, but you want to sit on something and just barely exist right now
  1741. >You barely have the presence of mind to remove your shoes before collapsing on it
  1742. >Royale jumps up into your lap, nuzzling at you
  1743. >She was gone by the morning, you never saw her again
  1744. >It almost felt like a dream, but her lipstick stuck to your forehead so you know it wasn't
  1745. >You're so glad Royale is keen on staying close to you
  1746. >You...
  1747. >You act like you're stroking her mane and she gives you a pitied smile
  1748. >Maybe if you had some mushrooms you'd feel her...
  1749. >"Dave! Don't forget the bucket"
  1750. "Right! Sorry Komet."
  1751. >He rushes back outside and grabs your puke bucket, putting it beside the couch
  1752. >"If you need this, just uh... you'll figure it out"
  1753. "Yeah"
  1754. >Dave disappears back into the kitchen, probably to help whoever Komet is with the food
  1755. >Not wanting silence and the mental labyrinth that covers for it, you look around and notice a remote and a boob tube, so you flip it on
  1756. >Teen Titans Go
  1757. >Ancient Aliens
  1758. >You settle on National Geographic and watch some short film about Komodo Dragons while Royale tries her best to care for you, she's whispering that they got you early and you shouldn't suffer any brain damage
  1759. >That's good, you kinda like your brain
  1760. >There are times when you wish that you could be stupider, just slip into stable sedation
  1761. >Get a job at the local supermarket as a cashier
  1762. >Go out on the weekend with co-workers and drink heavily
  1763. >Wailing Woods is a mage though
  1764. >Mages are like atmospheric scientists or engineers, they need strong minds to comprehend the complexities of weaving reality
  1765. >Not every unicorn can be a mage just like not every...
  1766. >On second thought, you're too out of it to play /pol/ack today
  1767. >You're shivering
  1768. >It's hot out, but that doesn't matter since the AC is on full blast inside
  1769. >You laboriously get up and seek out a knitted blanket that's laying discarded on top of a lawn chair next to the TV set, draping it over top of yourself, and laying down on the couch
  1770. >It's got a rasta pattern, the sort of thing you'd buy at a state fair
  1771. >Must've been cheap, and it's comfy enough
  1772. >You flip through channels a bit more, you forgot how horrifying Komodos are
  1773. >Venom and mauling
  1774. >You guess that's how they survive
  1775. >You guess that's how you survive too
  1776. >Eventually you just settle on watching cartoons like a good little junkie
  1777. >At least you think that's what junkies do, you never really bought much from Derran other than psychedelics and tried to avoid his other customers
  1778. >You're glad that he's just selling weed these days really, Derran is a surprisingly good guy for... what he does
  1779. >But regardless, most of your experience with junkies are from the movies, so whenever you think of a wastoid it's usually the image of some fuckup watching cartoons and eating cereal in his bathrobe at 1:30 in the morning
  1780. >Probably because of Pulp Fiction, you guess
  1781. >Or was Vega's dealer watching some sitcom?
  1782. >You haven't seen it in a while, maybe you think of cartoons because the cereal he was eating had a moose on it
  1783. >Then in that other movie the girl hid a gun in the box of cereal
  1784. >Kaboom!, you think it was called
  1785. >In any case, good thing you kept your socks on, otherwise Tarantino might've shown up
  1786. >You chuckle aloud at the stupid joke
  1787. >"What?"
  1788. "Nothing, just some shit from my internal monologue..."
  1789. >You hear a loud 'pop' and then Dave cursing up a storm
  1790. >When he comes into the living room he's wet and covered in food but has a bowl of chicken and rice in broth for you
  1791. >and another glass of water
  1792. >"There you go dude"
  1793. "Thanks, looks good. Trouble with the rice cooker?"
  1794. >"You could say that, I'm not much of a cook. This was Komet's idea."
  1795. >Dave sits down next to you and starts vaping something, probably weed
  1796. >You've known him for less than an hour and that already seems like his vice
  1797. "So, when do we talk about... you know?"
  1798. >"Oh, Komet has a meeting with Spell Service. Right now, let's just watch TV."
  1799. "Yeah... okay."
  1800. >"Plus you OD'd man, you should take it easy"
  1801. >He kinda is right
  1802. >Dave opens up netflix on the TV and puts on season 2 of MLP while you eat the small meal prepared for you
  1803. >Royale grumbles something about how she was denied the privilege to talk to Spell a few minutes back due to her preparing for the meeting with Komet
  1804. >You give her a reassuring stroke between her ears
  1805. >Her hoof has noticeably healed thankfully, she's got a few inches of it back
  1806. >Also your side doesn't hurt as much now, though you don't think they bandaged it
  1807. >Could just be the leftover effects of the fent
  1808. >At least it isn't bleeding anymore, though part of that is because it's attached to your shirt with blood
  1809. >Dave seems to be able to see her too, you're not sure why
  1810. "So, why did you and Komet tranq me?"
  1811. >"I'm not supposed to say. Komet is embarrassed and sorry, she kept going on and on about how the dosage should've been right and blaming herself"
  1812. "Huh. So..."
  1813. >"Can't say much, but I'll tell you that I'm out of my depth as well"
  1814. "Well, what can I do? This is my life"
  1815. >He nods
  1816. >"Yeah, I fucking feel that... did you notice the Delgihn next to your car?"
  1817. "What's a Delgihn?"
  1818. >"He means Ripper, that's the name they've chosen for them. I didn't notice it either, so don't be hard on him."
  1819. >Royale's tone is a bit snippy, for somewhat obvious reasons
  1820. >"Well, it could've killed-"
  1821. >He sighs
  1822. >"I'll tell you what I know about hunting them later if Komet gives me the go-ahead for sharing information. Right now I'm under a loose equivalent to an NDA, and I'm sorry about that."
  1823. >"Why did you let us pull in close if you knew it was there?"
  1824. >"Uh, Komet had some reason..."
  1825. >"Right, right. Of course, builds trust to tell us you were willing to put our lives at risk."
  1826. >"This is risky business! We already told you Royale, information itself is a hazard. She only wants you to know what you need to know... at least for now. You know about psychic landscapes."
  1827. >"Great, I lose my hoof killing a fed, we leave a fed in the fucking trunk and now we've got a stoner fed and a unicorn fed!"
  1828. "Royale, can we keep it a bit quieter? I know I can't really hear you, but I'm still getting a bit of a headache..."
  1829. >She winces
  1830. >"Shit, I'm sorry Anon."
  1831. >You give her a reassuring lengthwise stroke and tell her that it's alright
  1832. "Komet is a pony?"
  1833. >"Yeah, thought you'd have gathered that"
  1834. >You give Dave this look of complete exasperation
  1835. "I'm new to this. Maybe you shouldn't smoke that shit if you're just going to be an ass under its influence"
  1836. >He grumbles a bit and then changes the channel to the news
  1837. >Footage of Sierra Vista
  1838. >"Look at this, you made a massive mess. This is national!"
  1839. >He's not wrong, not really
  1840. >But he is pissing you off, and your headache...
  1841. >God your head
  1842. >The coolant business you shot up has been turned into a massive blacksite
  1843. >Black helicopters overhead, the whole nine yards
  1844. "What was I supposed to do?"
  1845. >"I don't know, I'm just some asshole stoner!"
  1846. >You take a deep breath
  1847. "I'm sorry I called you an asshole, but put yourself in my shoes"
  1848. >"You took off your shoes though"
  1849. >He takes another hit from the pen
  1850. >You just laugh and force a grin
  1851. >Better to not be confrontational, first impressions are important, and it would appear that both of you are trying to salvage yours
  1852. >The clipping of hooves around the corner becomes audible
  1853. >"Alright, sorry about that. I see tensions have mounted since I was last here?"
  1854. "You could say that, a bit"
  1855. >"Allow me to alleviate some of them, I've confirmed your unique signifiers, you're privy to sensitive information now."
  1856. >"Komet-"
  1857. >"Dave, they're fine. Spell vouched for both of their work"
  1858. >She gives him a bit of a look
  1859. >"and even though Dave thinks you could've done better back in Sierra Vista, I think you did well given the situation. You'd never seen a..."
  1860. >Royale pipes up
  1861. >"I told Anon what a Delgihn is."
  1862. >"Good, good! You'd never seen a Delgihn before. It could've killed you, so using that force was valid. You couldn't have known it'd cause a collapse like that either, and you didn't have the time or equipment to destroy it non-destructively"
  1863. >You rub your head, feeling a bit better about yourself but still in pain
  1864. "So, why did you tranq me?"
  1865. >"Because if you had started shooting it would've alerted five different Delgihn in the area, and they would've ripped you to pieces."
  1866. "Oh. That's"
  1867. >You're still not happy, but you concede with a sigh
  1868. "A logical response."
  1869. >She nods, then puts her hoof on your knee
  1870. >You jerk up in surprise
  1871. >It's...
  1872. >Fully solid
  1873. >She isn't bound to Dave like Royale is to you? She has mass?
  1874. >"There are two options you can proceed with from here, one is significantly more difficult than the other."
  1875. "Alright, tell me"
  1876. >"Well, they're both... hm."
  1877. >She pauses for a second, idly scratching at her horn with a hoof
  1878. >"The first one is easy, I whipped up a bomb a few days ago. It should have a high enough yield to kill all the Delgihn, but there's a danger of it causing collateral damage, killing residents... and it'd be considered a terror attack probably. The feds would devote even more resources to pursuing you than they already are."
  1879. "Gonna be honest, I don't like that one much."
  1880. >"I thought you might say that, I devised the plan before you were a wanted criminal to be fair. The second one is lower risk in the long term, but much higher risk in the short term. I have a posthole digger, a ceramic funnel, and a jug of muriatic acid."
  1881. "Oh, god."
  1882. >"Some of my studies on... Delgihn have indicated they don't really feel pain, but are highly responsive to loud noises, seismic events, and high-frequency electromagnetic radiation. Dave and I were able to detect four of them buried under the field, and one of them buried next to where you parked."
  1883. "I guess corpses were buried in that field a while back, and one next to the road... but who the hell buried a body next to the road?"
  1884. >"Maybe it was a different time, before this road was even here. In any case, that one will probably be the most difficult one"
  1885. >You shiver
  1886. "So, I suppose I'll be doing it under cover of night?"
  1887. >"That... would be best. We don't need to do it tonight though of course, probably the only nice thing about the constraints of your missions are that most of them don't seem to be crucially time-sensitive. You should at least rest today and tonight, get some sleep in a comfy bed. Get to know me and Dave, he can be a bit rough around the edges but I promise he's a good guy. You'll be safe from the feds while you're here."
  1888. "Hmm"
  1889. >A nice bed, hot shower, and safety from your pursuers sounds like just the load off you need
  1890. "Okay, but I do want to know how you're keeping the feds off my back"
  1891. >She laughs
  1892. >"I strapped their agent to a large weather balloon and set it off into the sky. Life support and climate control will be maintained until they finally track her down from the sporadic pings I've been sending out."
  1893. "and what if the balloon pops?"
  1894. >"Then oh well."
  1895. >You smile
  1896. "I like you Komet."
  1897. >She grins, her snowpity shining with selective malevolence
  1898. >"I like you too Anon!"
  1899. >She nuzzles Royale a bit
  1900. >"I'm really sorry for taking up your time with Spell, I know you usually talk to her before now. Do you need to go talk to her now?"
  1901. >Royale seems a bit surprised, she smiles
  1902. >"Yeah, I do. You three play nice, I'll be back soon."
  1903. >She mumbles an incantation and a blue aura surrounds her before she vanishes into thin air
  1904. >"So..."
  1905. >Komet hops up on the couch
  1906. >"Anon, you need to finish your meal. I'll let you pet me afterwards, deal?"
  1907. >Oh yeah
  1908. >That's a great deal
  1909. >You continue at the still warm dish with renewed vigor
  1910. >>>
  1911. >You take a nice hot shower and change into your old "Hit The Sauce" Twilight t-shirt from the early days of pony interest, fresh jeans, and a fresh pair of boxers, socks, etc.
  1912. >The text is even in all caps impact on it, it's great
  1913. >Fresh bandages for your head and side, your side starts bleeding again after you clean it up but your head seems to have stopped now
  1914. >Must be something to do with this pony mess, you don't think a fracture like that would heal easily without some strange meddling
  1915. >You throw everything else in the washing machine, beanie included
  1916. >Apparently Komet makes enough money somehow to afford to rent places like this on one of those vacation home renting sites
  1917. >You asked her and she told you not to worry about it
  1918. >You don't really want to ask her for money even though it might come in handy later
  1919. >Royale gets back after about an hour, her and Komet talk for a little bit about logistics and planning and you do your best to pay attention and weigh in
  1920. >Dave sort of just sits there and plays some gacha game on his phone
  1921. >You're getting really tired and the two mares notice
  1922. >"It's alright Anon, you can rest. We'll talk about more of this tomorrow."
  1923. "Dave, do you want my gun to keep watch?"
  1924. >"It's fine, I've got my own"
  1925. >He goes into the kitchen and grabs this amalgamation of plastic and metal, the thing looks to be like 75% 3d-printed
  1926. "Is it reliable?"
  1927. >He nods and points the thing at a nearby lamp, pulls the trigger twice, and the lamp ceases to be
  1928. >It doesn't even make much of a sound, the breaking ceramic is louder than the shots he fired
  1929. "Oh, neat."
  1930. >Komet adds her piece
  1931. >"Your life is in good hands, and hooves! Get some sleep, we'll see you tomorrow. Your bed is down the hall on the right, we already made it up for you."
  1932. "Thank you"
  1933. >You grab your backpack and head for the bedroom, Royale trots after you
  1934. >Slide off your jeans, drape them over the chair in the corner, and slip into bed
  1935. "Should we do pony things tonight?"
  1936. >"Of course."
  1937. >Royale slips into your head and takes you back to the cabin, the two of you cuddle until sleep takes you
  1938. >..
  1939. >You have your human form back, but you aren't in bed anymore
  1940. >You're standing next to a large crater in the ground
  1941. >It stretches as far as the eye can see before you
  1942. >It's as if a large ball were dropped on a planet and completely pulverized a small country
  1943. >There's great heat radiating off of the inside, it appears that most of the earth that wasn't destroyed or flung off has melted into magma or slag of some sort
  1944. >Looking behind you, a mountain range is crumbling
  1945. >Off in the distance, you hear a child crying
  1946. >You start towards her, and your view melts away into something else
  1947. >A laboratory
  1948. >There's blood everywhere
  1949. >You can see the outline of a pony, like a ghost bathed in white
  1950. >Everything is blindingly bright
  1951. >On the ground, a silver sword
  1952. >Used to hunt the undead?
  1953. >There's an engraving in equine
  1954. >Somehow you can read it, 'The But Softly Whispered Affirmation'
  1955. >and somehow, you also know that this sword is supposed to be yours
  1956. >The ghost stumbles, cries out, and then there's nothing
  1957. >You wake up, it takes a few minutes for you to regain your eyesight and be able to move again
  1958. >You grumble a bit, waking up Royale who smiles at you
  1959. >What the fuck was that dream about?
  1960. >Komet calls out from down the hall
  1961. >"Pancakes! Come get em' while they're hot!"

Interstate

by ceiling-necromancer