How and where to begin?
I suppose that it would be beneficial if I introduce myself and tell you a little about the pony who is writing this journal; please understand that I am writing this in hopes that you will read it – and somewhat in fear that you will read it…
My name is Iridae, a name I have given myself loosely based on the word iridescence, and I have been watching you for several months now. I was born within Facility R-4, one of the Roanoak Continuation Centers near the capital, roughly four years ago now. But I am a bit older than this would normally indicate, for reasons I will explain shortly.
I also like to use the term born as it makes me feel better about the whole ordeal, but the reality of the situation is that I was created. Which is some pretty heavy stuff to deal with, sure, but I’ve had plenty of time to come to terms with it.
My existence comes about because we made weapons that can erase entire cities and poison the world for generations. Faced with this we needed to build shelters that can both protect from the devastation and sustain people until the radiation falls back to safe levels.
How long is this? It all depended on the weapon, how many were used, and how big they were; so no one really knew. Some shelters only held a few people and had supplies for a couple of months, while others were designed for significantly longer durations – decades even…
But there is a problem with locking a bunch of ponies away for some indeterminate amount of time to wait out the destruction of the world – time that could even be a generation or more long. You see, it becomes a numbers game to prevent the duplication of genetics, and all while managing the environmental issues of the numbers…
Along with the typical shelters, the Roanoak Government also devised and built four experimental Facilities; R-Series 1 through 4. The goal for an R-series Facility was to be able to hold out for at least ten generations, or two hundred and fifty years – but to do this without inbreeding would require a Facility to hold a bit over six thousand ponies… And even with the magic and technology we had to recycle the environment, it is impossible to maintain a closed system with those numbers.
To resolve this problem, the R-series Facilities were constructed to utilize an artificial means to extend the genetic base of the three hundred ponies within them. This was managed by way of ‘blanks’; genetically pure zygotes that would be created with carefully selected base-pairs sampled from all of the Facility occupants prior to the door closing. In this way, central processing, the mainframe that ran the Facility, would be able to wring the maximum number of permutations out of the least number of ponies – all while still having familial units with actual genetic ties.
That last part was very important. Each R-Series ‘foal’ would be a genetically perfect blank slate, meaning they each contained the genetic material to express one of the three tribes, the same as a normal pony foal, but with no dominant or recessive allele groups to create tribe phenotypes. The final tribe expression of the R-Series foals was determined by the family group, mostly due to exposure to the magical emanations of the parents after insemination and during term. For this reason, R-Facility families were always matched pairs, and were under strict computer governed population control.
A pony literally had to pass on before a zygote would be issued for insemination.
And this brings us to R-4, my birthplace and my home.
Built in a rush as enemy troops began defying the borders of Roanoak, R-4 was the last of the R-Series Facilities, and sometime after the Last Day the containment failed. Faced with eventual death from Balefire exposure, the occupants of R-4 programmed the population control computer to monitor the environment in and around R-4, and if the hazard abated, bring the surviving blanks to full term artificially.
It was then given the task of raising and protecting any ponies that it managed to save… Which is a tall order for any computer.
The Balefire energies within R-4 were such as to render the vast majority of the stored zygotes too damaged to be considered for use. But as the necromantic energies abated within the complex, and the computer methodically analyzed each of the ten thousand zygotes that were prepared, seven were within cellular mutation tolerance for release from cryogenic suspension.
And that is where I, and my four siblings, come into the story.
Each of us were ‘born’ at around the age of fifteen, having enjoyed an accelerated growth phase managed by the computer. During this time, we were in-vitro, and we were given a highly technical education delivered directly to the subconscious and memory centers; twenty-four hours a day, seven days per week.
I like to say I completed my Master’s degree in three years, by the time I was fifteen, just to see the reactions on pony’s faces.
While this method of rearing young is fantastically efficient, it did present a few problems… One was that foals imprint their environment, essentially patterning themselves from the world they grow up in; and our world was the cold logic of a mainframe and the sterile halls of the facility.
Another issue was that even though we were each highly educated, none of us had any life experience to filter that knowledge through or social mores to form limits of behavior around.
So, ultimately, we were little more than fancy fur-bearing robots tending to the facility.
You may have noted that I mentioned seven surviving zygotes, but only four siblings? That is because two of my siblings were killed as the test and control groups for Balefire exposure evaluation; testing that was conducted to determine the maximum exposure we could sustain if we left the Facility.
You see, the R-Series Facility R-4 was built within the Roanoak capital – the area in the Empire most devastated by the bombs – and this meant that everything outside the door could be instantly lethal.
Apparently, the enemy’s goal was to remove the Elder Alicorn quickly before she could bring her power to bear upon them, so the entire capital area of Roanoak was reduced to dangerously contaminated rubble and glassy concrete in a span of a few minutes. The plan worked, and the ruling Elder Alicorn was removed as a factor in the war that day. The city on the other hoof would remain a dead zone for nearly two hundred years.
We needed data to determine what we could be exposed to, so that we could determine how long we could endure it to begin external repairs on R-4 and thereby get a better idea of what we faced out there. And at the time this exposure test was seen simply as a method to acquire data, and the process was exactingly scientific with nothing but clinical detachment. Even the two who perished in the tests were keeping voice records of the exposure up to the point they could no longer speak…
To the common pony I have learned that this is rather shocking – but we were anything but common ponies. We were each identical to one another; being entirely white and rather spindly looking Earth Ponies. Our only true color was our blue eyes and the very light rose-gray color of our hooves, and none of us carried the mark of destiny as other ponies do… I assume this is because we were assembled from the genetic uniqueness of three hundred individuals.
Within the Facility we went by our zygote designation; I was Number 7101.
Our daily routine was as robotic as the computer who ran the Facility, and was primarily centered on the maintenance of the facility – because it increased efficiency of the facility. And anything that increased the efficiency of the facility was good, while anything that reduced efficiency was very, very bad.
It is hard to say how long this went on – after all, you don’t really get ‘days’ and ‘nights’ in the facility, and the passage of time wasn’t really a factor for us. There was a routine, and it was adhered to with exacting precision.
Eventually though we discovered that the necromantic radiation outside the Facility was low enough for us to venture forth – in environment suits – for up to an hour at a time on the good days.
For us, my siblings and I, the primary use for going through the Facility door was to effect repairs of external systems; cameras and sensors for central processing. Some of this required clearing away debris, which in-turn required operating some of the robotic systems of the facility. But once a robot cleared the Facility door, it was never allowed back in due to contamination. And because of this we had a large set of robots outside to aid us.
It was one of the better days where I would not hit my exposure limit for almost an hour, so I was a good twenty meters away from the door, working with a DL-419 to move contaminated earth away from the weather station, when everything changed…
I was on the second load when the machine suddenly stopped with its lift bucket full of dirt, and began running a series of warnings about a magical anomaly. I pulled the safety interlock on the machine and trotted over to the bucket to find a large, glowing gem attached to a silver necklace poking out of the dirt and rubble.
It was a very strange find as it showed no signs of wear or tarnish, at all. But my pondering was brought up short by a very slow air leak around one of my helmet seals, it sounded like someone whispering, and even after running a communications check in my helmet I could still hear it…
Thinking the necklace might be made of some advanced alloy which would be useful, I scooped it up in my suited forehoof and deposited it into my samples bag. Then noting the time and the leaky seal I trotted back towards the door.
A thorough scan showed that the necklace was free of contamination, which was odd in and of itself, but that also meant it was safe for entry – so I took it inside for study. And after shedding the environment suit, and a quick trip through the decontamination shower, I picked up the samples bag and headed for the metallurgy lab on level four; I was intent on reverse-engineering my latest find, and then using that to develop better plating for the field suits to extend our time outside.
I dumped out the bag on the workbench, and then went over to the nearby desk to make a terminal entry regarding the faint damper leak in the ventilation duct for the metallurgy lab.
Leaky seals seemed to be a thing that day… The fitful sound was right on the edge of my hearing, so if Number 811 got the work order quickly, the time to repair would be diminished, increasing overall efficiency.
This was a good thing.
Once done with my trouble ticket I ambled back over to the workbench with a spectrometer in my teeth and placed it next to the necklace… The gem kept catching my attention; it glowed with a pale lavender light and deep within the stone faint sparks and flashes of iridescence pulsed.
It was certainly the most curious thing I’d ever seen.
Turning away from the jewelry I activated the spectrometer, and it returned an analysis of common silver and diamond… Nothing of an alloy nature at all.
Simple silver should have melted in the intense heat of the Balefire, but this appeared brand new. And the diamond should have been rendered black by the necromantic radiation, but it was not only clear, it was positively radiant.
I reached out with a forehoof to nudge the gem a bit under the light, and received a powerful shock for my efforts. Powerful enough to leave a small burn mark on the wall of my hoof and leave me waving it about to abate the sting.
“7101… We just got a report of a magical distur…” The shock must have been a bit more intense than I initially observed, given the incessant ringing in my ears. I pinned them back as I winced, still waving my stinging hoof. “Ow!”
Suddenly the ringing stopped and the sting vanished. Opening my eyes, I was greeted with the completely unfamiliar sight of a large room which appeared to be made of a dark stone. Bright tapestries hung from the walls, and before me, on a dais elevated a bit off the floor, sat what appeared to be some form of medieval throne.
My point of view seemed a bit odd as everything in the room seemed smaller than I was accustomed to. I craned my head around, examining the surroundings; the floor under my hooves was also stone, but I stood upon some form of deeply died red carpet that flowed from the throne before me to the large arched doorway behind me. The lighting was provided by strange glowing gems that hovered atop ornately carved pillars, and behind the throne, some sort of symbol – like a tree…
“7101 – report. Are you alright? Do you require medical assistance?”
I blinked in the harsh lighting of the lab and immediately felt the short hairs of my mane stand on end. “Uhh – no? No. Everything is fine here.” I spoke to the room, as one does with an intercom system.
“There was some form of power surge but nothing seems out of the ordinary 2155. I will resume my tasking now.”
There was no response… None was needed.
I turned my attention back to the necklace, and for quite possibly the first time in my life, I had questions I could not answer.
Over the next few days I spent a lot of time with that necklace. Every time I would touch it, I would get the same jolt, followed by some sort of vivid hallucination of places I had never seen before; forests, castles, towns, airships… Never with any other ponies – just the scenery.
This intrigued me in a way I had never experienced, for nothing truly unexplainable ever happened in the facility.
I began to poorly sketch out things I saw in the hallucinations, pouring through the computer archives of pre-war history and shirking my duties…
It was this last that was noticed first…
>7101, the maintenance on the west weather station is four days behind schedule and there are no reports for the delay. R-4 central processing requires input regarding the status of your tasking.
I looked over the words on the TTL monitor before me, the green text burning into my thoughts… Why was I behind schedule? Why had I not filed my reports? It was so confusing – the desire to fulfil my tasking was there, but somehow muted by a jumble of thoughts all centering on the necklace. What was it? Where did it come from? What were these visions?
I began to type at the terminal…
>Report: Western Weather Station Recovery
>Update: Delays in the reclamation of the weather station due to an unusual situation arising from who are you my little pony? What is it you seek to accomplish in this place, day after day?
I stop and look, disbelieving, at the monitor. Why did I type that?
Slowly I begin pressing keys, answering the questions. The blinking cursor pacing across the screen with each click of the keyboard.
>I am 7101. I enhance the efficiency of Facility R-4.
The cursor stops in its travels and just blinks at me.
“Well?” I mutter audibly.
“Well what?” comes a voice from behind me. 2155.
“N – nothing 2155. Just some frustration with the system is all.” I press the ‘clear’ button on the keyboard and am rewarded with a flicker of cursor as the words fade.
“R-4 central processing requires you to submit to a medical evaluation, 7101. Data is showing a marked decline in tasking, and heuristics indicates an eighty-two percent probability of illness or injury.” 2155 pauses a moment, “What is your frustration in this context, 7101?”
The question makes me pause – why am I frustrated? Maybe I am injured or ill after all, and with a visit to the auto-doc all will be better. “I am uncertain, 2155, R-4 central processing’s data would seem to be accurate. I will report to medical immediately.”
2155 simply nods, then points with a forehoof at my chest. “What is the purpose of the physical embellishment, 7101? I presume from the glow that it is a power supply of some sort.”
I look down, the surprise of finding myself wearing the necklace plain on my muzzle. “I …”
I cannot tell 2155 about the necklace. My research is not complete, and if 2155 thinks it is a pre-war artifact, I will not be allowed to continue… “Yes. Yes 2155, it is a power supply for an envirosuit modification I have been working on.”
2155 nods once more, turns, and departs the lab. I follow close on 2155’s heels as we head for the medical lab on level one.
The trip is pretty short, if one knows the way through the maze of hallways, doors, and lifts – and in no time, I am watching as 2155’s tail vanishes around a corner while I stand at the hatch to medical.
Sighing I reach up and press the ‘open’ button, and with a pneumatic hiss the hatch slides away, revealing the white sterility of the medlab.
“Come in! Come in! What can old RM-553-1 do for you today … Seven One Zero One?”
The strangely metallic voice comes from a large sphere festooned with sensors and robotic appendages suspended from a track in the ceiling. It glides silently from one side of the room to another, the only indication of its attention being the glowing red optics pointed at me.
“Hello Doc – 7101 reporting as instructed.”
The sphere pauses in its movements. “Doc? Not RM-553-1?” The sphere seems to shudder slightly before continuing its traversal of the lab. “My bedside manner updates must be working!” It stops next to a gurney and pats the cotton-clad surface with a stainless-steel appendage, “Just hop on up here and let me have a look at you!”
I do as I am instructed and hop up on the table before folding my legs under and laying down. Scintillating lines of laser light plainly show where the auto-doc’s sensors are imperceptibly poking and prodding my prone form, and this continues for a good minute or so.
“Very interesting! I am showing a six percent deviation from your baseline genetic profile, Seven One Zero One. This would indicate Balefire or some other mutagenic radiation, but I am detecting neither! Fascinating, don’t you think?”
The Auto-doc glides around the table to some monitors which flicker to life, displaying cross-sections of what I assume to be me.
“If I had to guess – and I can’t because I’m not programmed to guess – I would say that you are beginning to express tribal phenotyping! This would only happen if you were around other ponies though – have you discovered other ponies? If you have, old Doc stands ready to render any help I can!”
I look confused. “Doc, there aren’t any other ponies. R-4 central processing is adamant that we’re the only survivors – which is why we must stay here. If we can keep R-4 central processing running, we are guaranteed a happy life – free from the ravages of Balefire sickness and necromantic radiation exposure, and getting eaten gruesomely… You know that…”
The Auto-doc slides back over towards me, eerily cheery as always. “That I do! I have access to all of R-4 central processing’s data, except for that itsy-bitsy part way over there that is top secret of course! If you’ve not encountered other ponies though, then this is unprecedented! Spontaneous alteration of morphology! Exciting!”
I nod. “Fascinating, I’m sure.” I look down at the necklace, and my ears perk as I get an idea. “Hey, Doc, what do you make of this?” I loop the diamond over my pastern and present the gem to the Auto-doc’s sensors.
The coruscating lasers play over my foreleg and the gem for a moment. “You seem to have recently acquired a slight electrical stressing of the hoof wall just below the coronary band resulting in a slight burn. I have an ointment you can apply that will fix that right up!”
The Auto-doc starts to move – “No, Doc. This!” I move the gem a bit higher and wave it about slightly.
The optics on the robot refocus on my foreleg and twitch about. “I detect only the slight burn, Seven One Zero One. Please inform me of any additional trauma you feel I may have missed.”
“The gem, Doc. What can you tell me about the diamond?”
The Auto-doc seems to get the tiniest touch of annoyance in its mechanical voice, “There are no sedimentary crystalline structures within range of my sensory apparatus, Seven One Zero One.” The bot then glides off towards a cabinet and resumes its overly happy tone, “Foals! Always playing such imaginative games!”
I look back down at the gem and gingerly tap it with my other forehoof, for a moment expecting nothing but air – but am pleased to feel its solidity.
The Auto-doc squeezes a bit of some clear goop onto my forehoof with what looks like a caulking gun arm, and then spreads it evenly with a plastic stick held in the vice-like pincers of another arm. “There you go, Seven One Zero One – right as rain!”
“Thanks Doc.” I mutter as I head back out into the R-4 complex…
Several more days pass and I try desperately to get back into the routine of maintaining R-4; up at 4am, exercise until 5, then breakfast, then work order disbursement from central processing and a day of fixing something before a meal break, and finally the rest period.
I had decided that the rest period after dinner would be the only time I would work on the puzzle of the necklace, if only to keep central processing and my siblings out of my mane. I was certain I had traced the necklace to being even older than the pre-war capital, given the complex artistry of the chain and clasp – which would make it hundreds of years old.
An actual treasure!
But anything else regarding it was remaining a complete mystery… Not surprising really, in the pre-war days all ponies wore such finery. For all I knew this was some toy surprise found at the bottom of a snack box.
By the end of the second week, the strenuous research, in addition to my daily tasking, was beginning to wear on me. I was suffering pretty much a perpetual migraine and chewing up all the aspirin the Auto-doc was willing to give me.
Then one day during a visit for more aspirin, my happy little world turned upside-down…
“Yes, that is definitely a phenotype mutation you have there, Seven One Zero One.” The robot’s servos whined as the sensor array was moved away from my head. “You are right at eleven percent deviation from your genetic baseline profile, and with the horn bud it is obvious you have discovered a tribe of Unicorns! How exciting is that!”
I whined along with the servos and gingerly rubbed at the tender spot on my forehead. “But I haven’t found anypony, Doc!”
The Auto-doc slid over towards the desk in the room. It had several appendages typing, writing, or rummaging about in a cabinet simultaneously as it cheerily intoned, “To express a phenotype, Seven One Zero One, you would have had to come into contact with the magical emanations of another pony – and a magically strong one at that given that you are nearly sixteen years after foaling! Your genetic makeup contains the base-pairs for all of the three tribes, and it is only by way of exposure to their unique magics that you would acquire a phenotype.”
I looked down at the necklace and watched the gem sparkle and flow with light. The necklace had to be the source of my mutation… But how? And why me?
“…So, central processing says that to maintain the safety of the others, which is our purpose, they must not know of there even being the potential of other ponies outside the Facility area! So, I have to kill you now! It is unfortunate, but programming is programming you know!”
I look up to see the Auto-doc moving towards me with a syringe full of something decidedly unhealthy, and I scramble backwards off the gurney and onto my backside with a crash of utensils and stainless pans from the nearby table.
“Doc!? What… No!”
I try to get to my hooves, but panic and tile floors were never a good mix for me, and I manage little more than a mad scramble. The suspended robot looms over me, optics twitching as it zeros in on a convenient artery… “Please do not struggle, there is no need I promise! Needles are far less painful than most ponies realize!”
At that moment, I feel a sensation like ice water being poured over me and a surge of energy flows from my hooves to my head, lifting me some few inches from the floor and causing my mane and tail to flow about me as if I were underwater. The tiny horn upon my head glows intensely, lighting the room in a lavender flash…
And with a thunderclap that throws me back into a corner, denting the cabinetry, the Auto-doc crumples as if it is nothing more than a tin can trod upon by a giant.
A heartbeat passes with little more than the sound of angry, popping metal before a few sparks proceed an eruption of smoke and flame from the crushed robot.
A strange voice whispers in my ear – a voice used to command, for when it speaks, I have no choice but to do as it bids… And it bids me to run!
Five seconds after the explosion the fire claxon sounds and water begins to spray from fixtures in the medlab ceiling… But by that time, I have already cleared the hatch and am partway down the corridor, making for the decontamination room and the envirosuit storage.
I gallop into the room, full tilt, and literally run smack into 2155 who manages little more than an incoherent whinny before we collide.
We both scramble back to our hooves… “7101! What in the name of central processing is going on? There was a massive burst of magic followed by an explosion in medlab…”
I nod quickly, then resume looking for my envirosuit. “I was in there, the Auto-doc went crazy and I crushed it – somehow…”
“That was you!? Is this some sort of sabotage, 7101? If so, you should stop right there until central processing figures out what is wrong with you.”
I shake my head, “Central processing tried to get the Auto-doc to lethal inject me… Something is really wrong, 2155… I don’t know what, but there is a little voice telling me that I need to get out of here right now!”
“Out into the radiation? Have you gone insane 7101?”
I shake my head again, “It … She … says it is all a lie, that there are other ponies – her ponies – we just have to get out of the capital… Come with me!”
2155 just stares at me as if I’d said ‘come with me if you want to live’ and jumped hooves-first into a reactor.
“You’ve gone mad, 7101. The rumors of mutation are true – you became contaminated and the mutations are driving you mad! Don’t go out there, 7101 – the Aux-Doc can probably still fix you!”
“The Aux-Doc will try to kill me too… Anything tied to central processing will try to kill me… Something about us never being allowed to know other ponies survived…”
At this point I had suited up and was placing the helmet on my head. With a pneumatic squeak the seals engaged and I nosed the comm button. “I don’t know if this is all in my head, or some mutation-based insanity, but if there is a world out there with more of our people in it – I need to find it. She wants me to find it. If I stay here, I die. If I go out there I probably die too – but at least one option has a chance…”
2155 simply nods as I move the lever that actuates the facility door. I look back and nod in turn as the massive door closes with a muffled boom.
Once I was away from the Facility proper and clambering over bits of rebar-laced building concrete and the rusted hulks of abandoned vehicles, the reality of what had just happened closed in on me like the oppressive, unbroken cloud cover overhead…
There I was, doing my best to navigate the ruin of the Capital as expeditiously as possible to reach the boundary of the sea of radiation before I became a TV dinner – all while not puncturing my suit and dying instantly of course. And all of this was happening because I was following the urging of something that might entirely be my own personal crazy leading me to my death…
This really gets one pondering their sanity.
Most of the path I was being urged along was in an upward direction, or at least it felt that way. Every time I made it over some bit of decaying building or upturned pavement, I found yet another pre-war remnant that needed scaling – and this repeated over and over as my stamina was gradually consumed.
To complicate matters, my pipbuck’s radiation alarm was blinking and beeping at me, kindly reminding me that I was about to die. But after a half an hour of incessant blinking and beeping it went back to a caution level, which meant that while the air needed to be filtered and no exposed hide was permissible, the envirosuit should protect me just fine.
At about the thirty-minute mark the caution light winked out as well, which made sense as Balefire radiation tended to pool in low-lying areas and I’d been climbing for what seemed like forever… The air particulate was still hazardous according to the Pipbuck, but that was because of the fibrous nature of the spalling concrete being unhealthy to breathe.
So, the voice in my head had been right about the radiation… Might it also be right about there being other survivors as well?
Curiouser and curiouser.
I jumped and scrambled my way to the top of a section of concrete high-rise to get a view back the way I had come, and took in the sight of the Facility at the center of an enormous bombed out crater…
The very first thing I noted was the deviation between central processing’s data regarding the layout of the area, and the actual layout: Central processing had been leading us to believe the entire capital was a flattened ruin, meaning that to get from the Facility door to the edge of the city would be a day or more of hard exposure, and being as the glowing green radiation tended to pool like water, meant that the edge of the danger zone was some fifty kilometers in any direction, as that is where the hills began… But from my vantage I could see this was not actually the case.
The Facility itself was a large bowl-shaped crater, probably some fifty meters or so deep at the center, with ruined buildings radiating out in all directions for about a half-kilometer. R-4 had apparently suffered several direct hits during the Last Day, which would explain the leakage that killed the inhabitants. But the fact it, we, survived at all, looking at the destruction all around, was a testament to its builders.
Beyond the crater though, buildings still stood. They were the dilapidated ruins of buildings, but most were still over ten stories tall. The hill in the distance, to the east and probably ten kilometers away, where the Imperial Palace would have stood, was completely razed – but the city between was rather intact, all things considered.
Here and there I could even see the faint light of fires… Two hundred years after the fact I seriously doubted they were natural…
This left me in a quandary; given the recent events with central processing and the fact that, apparently, we were not to know of the potential for other survivors – had central processing altered the topographical data as well? And if so, what was the reason?
Was central processing trying keep us prisoner?
Either way, I had endured a dangerous amount of radiation to get here and even protected by the envirosuit I had exceeded my monthly exposure by a fair percentage, so going back to get the others was simply not going to happen immediately. And even if I did make it back, I would be attempting to convince my siblings of the truth while running from the facility’s robots all trying to kill me…
But that same radiation would keep them safe, for now – nothing would go in there. Nothing intelligent anyway. And what would go in there was no match for the Facility door.
So, I had some time. Time to find other ponies that some part of me was insisting were out there, somewhere… And once I found help, then I could come back and rescue my siblings from R-4.
I turned my gaze from the surrounding city back to my pipbuck to check the rad levels again. “So, now what?”
I voiced the words aloud – the sound of my voice inside my helmet startling after hours of single-minded trudging… And at that instant my Pipbuck picked up a distant radio signal: 88.9 Khz – coming from the north…
Since I wrote those words I had been on the road for several months, slowly making my way north towards my navigational star: WDCB.
I was really looking forward to seeing this Diablo Canyon, though I feared the image I held in my imagination probably didn’t even remotely resemble the reality of the place… I imagined it as being some sort of pre-war holdout of civility and order – which luckily wasn’t far from the truth. But the broadcaster seemed so likeable I had no choice but to assume the rest of the residents were of a similar cut of cloth.
Along the way, I’ve encountered several of the various factions inhabiting this strange new world of ours: from the New Republic trying to civilize the Capital Ruins from the mishmash factions known simply as Raiders that roam it, to the sprawling arcane sciences powered fortress operated by the ISA – a group of technologists attempting to recover any pre-war military hardware in order to discover lost Empire secrets…
This last is where I was a, let’s say ‘guest’, for several days after being captured in the Capital Ruins and wearing my pipbuck… The ISA has even recovered and repaired an Empire airship! I will write more about these groups in later entries dedicated to them.
Fortunately, the voice in my ear always seems to know just what to say or whom to speak with, and coupled with my pre-war technical knowledge we seem to be able to get into the good graces of pretty much anyone – even a group of barbaric Slavers… I talked my way out of their clutches by making use of my technical skills to get a small radioisotope generator working for them – ahh the wonders of the common light-bulb here in the modern dark ages.
It is certainly not a complete pleasure cruise though; this brave new world of ours is exceedingly dangerous… I’ve run from every kind of strange, mutated thing you can possibly imagine, and dodged hard radiation and even harder unexploded munitions – pretty much daily.
This is not to say that I would not stand my ground if required, I certainly would – and in my travels, I have even acquired various implements of personal protection; firearms and ammunition of various makes. But … she … merely shakes her imaginary head and I find myself divested of the weapon in short order. She seems to dislike the idea of conflict and tirelessly guides me to more peaceful ends.
And she’s not been in error so far, as is evidenced by my still drawing breath I suppose…
With regard to my illusory companion, while I most certainly sound mad for consulting voices only I can hear, I have come to accept her presence as a part of my day-to-day existence.
When I say she speaks to me, it is not quite so overt – words are never exchanged, but she does find a way to make me understand her intentions, most of the time. And she has demonstrated that she can guide my hooves on a few occasions now as well, and she is not above doing so if she feels it is required – but doing so seems to exhaust her and she goes silent for a time afterwards.
I do have to mention that I have never actually seen my illusory mare, making me sound even more insane. And I am not even one hundred percent sure she is even a she, but she has never corrected me on this matter so I stick with it for simple familiarity.
And I refer to her as a Unicorn due to her attempts at teaching me spellcraft, of a fashion, as the expression of my phenotype has continued.
Overall, she has been mostly concerned with showing me methods for the manipulation of magical energy, but it is slow going as we cannot actually converse. So, in an attempt to help me help her I have acquired, at no small expense, old Equestrian books of Unicorn spellcraft.
But her teaching does not follow these texts even loosely. These pre-war texts march through magic with wrote and ritual, fuss and bluster – and she dances with the magic, guiding the various energies into glowing complex patterns I have only just begun to visualize, and may never fully understand.
Regarding the expression of my Unicorn phenotype, it has progressed – though much slower once I encountered the stresses of life in the wilds. But three months on and I am virtually indistinguishable from the Unicorn tribe, though I am slightly taller and somewhat lankier than most I have met.
I find this phenotype convenient, for the Unicorn tribe in general tend to be viewed as strange and eccentric by the other tribes. So, the peculiarities arising from my rather unique foalhood and my relative newness with all things Unicorn are easily overlooked by way of my tribe affiliation.
Should I have ended up with wings, my life would be much more complicated by the general rarity of Pegasi amongst the other tribes… I have met very few of the flyers on my journey thus far, and those I have met were outcasts who spin some shocking tales of their people… So, at this juncture, I do not envy their life above the clouds.
As for me, I have been keeping careful notes regarding the peoples and places I have encountered along this road I travel, and entering them into the databanks of my slightly modified pipbuck. Someday I will return to R-4, repair central processing’s faulty logic, and enter all I have learned into the R-4 mainframe for posterity.
I suppose in that way I have taken it upon myself to chronicle this day and age, in the hopes that those who come after us will learn from what we do here and now.
And that is my introduction, such as it is.