There’s a saying amongst ponies in the wasteland: “Wasteland Eyes”. Anypony who’s spent long enough out in the dust and dirt of the wasteland knows what it means. It’s both a look and a way of holding yourself. You can earn them in an instant, in the flash and crack of a laser rifle, or over years, in the crack of a slavers whip, but the meaning is always the same. It means the Wasteland has pushed you to your breaking point, and perhaps beyond, but that you have endured it. The abyss has stared into you, and you have met its gaze.
Treading carefully, delicately trying to feel my way amongst the loose rocks of the hillside, I slowly made my way up and over the ridge. Even under the eternal clouds of the equestrian wasteland, it’s still uncomfortably hot. I’m certainly not the most athletic stallion around, which certainly isn’t helping matters. Openly panting now, but with grim determination, I scramble up the last few feet of the ridge and observe the scene below.
They’re there. Just like I’d thought. Four raiders and a young, grey coated unicorn colt. He’s in chains. I’ve never been one for killing, but…sometimes, needs must. Slowly and deliberately, I grasp my gauss rifle in my telekinesis, gently tugging the spark battery to ensure it’s settled properly in its slot. Laying flat on the ridge, the warm stone against my stomach, I tug my goggles up over my muzzle and onto my face. Jumpstarting them with a quick spark of my magic, I blinked as the familiar displays materialised in front of my eyes. Lifting the rifle, I peer through the scope down at the group of raiders. They’re sitting around a campfire, the colt some distance away from them. They’re laughing and talking, as if nothing in Equestria could be more normal than abducting children to sell into slavery.
A memory rises unbidden from my subconscious, like a bubble rising to the surface of a pond. The smell of smoke and burning flesh. The sound of crackling fire and screams cut short by gunfire. The heavy feeling of manacles being wrapped around my hooves. The scent of the sack they’d dragged over my head to keep me from crying out. I tossed my head angrily, banishing the thought. Raising my rifle back to my eye, I centred the single dot at the centre of the scope over the first raiders head. There was a moment of hesitation before my resolve hardened within me. I squeezed the trigger. I felt the familiar off-centre kick, and the tingle of static as the rifles magic acceleration the round to fantastic speeds. My telekinesis operating almost on autopilot, I twisted and pulled the spark battery from its slot, quickly slamming another into its place. The other raiders jumped to their hooves and began casting about, looking for me. Already, in my head, the familiar geometry of murder was working away. Next target, I thought, shifting my view to the raider most likely to see the shot. Another click, another crack, and another fractal of pony brain and viscera decorated the valley below. The last two turned to flee, but they had to gallop several hudred yards to be out of my sight, and I only had to move my rifle mere inches. two more clicks, two more cracks, and two less raiders in the wasteland.
I climbed to my hooves, and began to make my way down the ridge.