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File:Project Horizons 2 2262.jpg

  Loyalty, love... and secrets.

Project Horizons is a Recursive Fanfiction for Fallout Equestria by Somber, and is currently a work in progress.

Stable 99 is an okay place to live. Sure, the place has seen better days, but the poor mares down in maintenance can't be blamed for the lack of upkeep. After all, the stable's been running on recycled parts for two hundred years, and a lot of important stuff got broken in the Incident. And the bucks might complain about the lack of freedom compared to the mares, but why bother? All they have to do is get laid all day. Until they get retired, that is, but don't think about that. And yeah, the mares might not have much freedom either, but you can't take any chances, especially after what happened last time...

Okay, maybe it's not the best place to live, but at least it's better than being outside. After all, with the door broken, there's no chance that somepony might get in and cause problems. It would take somepony with knowledge of how the stable works to get that thing open. Even then, how would they know it's safe? There was a war, remember? Better to just wait for the Overmare to say it's okay than take chances, even if she does have an ego problem. Just don't think about it, okay?

Of course, it pretty much goes without saying that things go horribly wrong. The door gets opened and a band of murderous, cannibalistic raiders immediately swarms in. Before the death count can get too high though, Blackjack, worst security mare in the stable, lures them out with a mysterious data file stashed on her PipBuck. With a cybernetic monster on her heels and a reluctant companion at her side, she sets out into the Equestrian Wasteland, determined to discover exactly what those raiders wanted so badly. After some hard lessons, it isn't long before the troubled mare finds herself delving through the dark secrets of wartime Equestria, and engulfed in a plot that threatens far more than just Stable 99...

Character sheet is here.


Project Horizons contains the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Hospital: The Fluttershy Medical Center - location of one of the most iconic scenes in the story.
  • Action Bomb: Fury, who can even regenerate from it thanks to being part phoenix. Blackjack becomes one temporarily thanks to the Killing Joke.
  • Actually, I Am Him: A variation: Watcher bursts out laughing when Blackjack refers to "Littlepip" and "The Stable Dweller" as separate ponies. She doesn't catch on.
    • This gag gets carried to extreme lengths, including Blackjack having a quick, drunk adventure with Littlepip herself. Several characters have tried to spell it out for her, but every time they're either interrupted, or she writes it off as ridiculous.
  • Adult Child:
    • Played for Laughs. Blackjack picks up the Foal At Heart perk at the end of Chapter 6, and occasionally lapses into childish behavior.
    • Rampage in reverse whenever she regenerates from being disintegrated.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Zig Zagged by the therapy simulation in Chapter 43. Its attempts to recreate Blackjack's homes, family and friends end in disaster. The simulation where Blackjack is an actual mental patient with characters she's known taking the place of the asylum staff fares better, but she manages to crack it anyway. The program eventually takes the form of BJ's friends once again and helps her tackle her own subconscious, but in the end she's forced to kill 'Scotch Tape' to leave the simulation.
  • After the End
  • AI Is a Crapshoot: There are friendly A.I., but the CRUSHKILLDESTROY type are more common. Guess which type BJ meets more often?
    • Averted by Applebot, who is genuinely helpful, and Ol' Hank, who is friendly and talkative. At first.
    • The A Is running the virtual Fluttershy Clinic Blackjack is trapped in really do want to help. They just can't stop until she's "better."
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Played straight with raiders, but typically averted otherwise.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Vigilance, a 12mm pistol handed down to each Stable 99 head of security.[2]
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Played with. The source of the life-sapping Enervation seems to be the souls of the ponies that died in Hoofington when the bombs hit its shield. They are constantly screaming, but unless you're close to the source, only the telepathic alicorns can actually hear it.
    • Played straight in the case of the foals in the medical center.
    • Played straight once again with the ponies fused to Horizon Labs' cryo room. They literally feel compelled to scream, and are incapable of doing much else. Blackjack narrowly avoids joining them.
    • How Blackjack describes viewing Deus' memory orb.
    • Apparently Discord's fate, trapped at the heart of Project Chimera.
  • Apocalyptic Log: All over the place, naturally.
  • Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?:

 P-21: Hey, Scotch. Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Scotch: I think so, P-21, but where are we going to find a dozen rockets out here?

  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: According to Lacunae, Blackjack doesn't qualify for Unity because she's unpredictable, unstable, irrational, self-destructive, and whiny.
  • Artistic License Linguistics: The author refers to male ponies as bucks. 'Buck' is the term for a male deer or goat, but serves as a neater 'man' analogue than 'stallion'.
  • Artistic License Music: When delivering a letter to Octavia's home, Blackjack finds a contrabass and learns to play it with some sheet music from Roses. The contrabass is not typically a solo instrument and few songs are suited to be played with the contrabass alone. When Roses provides the sheet music for songs like Winter Wrap Up, Hush Now, Quiet Now and Art of the Dress, the music played probably wouldn't have been recognizable without another instrument like a violin or a piano to round it out.
    • Well... this is only true if you assume she only plays the bass part.
    • There's also the strong possibility that the contrabass is Octavia's Soul Jar, meaning that the instrument itself may have assisted BJ in playing the songs.
  • Ascended Meme: Queen Whiskey and her Royal Airforce in Chapter 34.
  • Ascended to Carnivorism: Played differently from the main story: Among Hoofington's many dangers is a virus that induces this in anypony infected with it. The compulsion is strong enough that, if there's nothing else to eat, the victims will eat themselves. Pegasi are immune, but Lighthooves is attempting to change that. Chapter 42 reveals that he's succeeded.
  • Ass Shove: P-21 occasionally conceals items 'under his tail'. First a screwdriver, then later a grenade.
  • Badass: A nescessary trait for Reapers, such as Deus and Rampage.
  • Badass Boast: Blackjack becomes increasingly fond of these.

  Blackjack: But right now, I got my gun, my beer, a fire in my belly, and a grin on my face and there’s not a mother-fucking pony in the Wasteland who can stop me!

  • Badass Crew/The Squad: Macintosh's Marauders.
  • Bad Dreams/Nightmare Sequence: Blackjack suffers from these frequently.
  • Bad Future: What Blackjack sees in a nightmare after being ejected from the HMS Celestia and almost drowning. It's not a pretty sight.
  • Bad with the Bone:
    • During the solo fight in the museum, Blackjack finds a dragon claw. It replaces the police baton as her go-to melee weapon until it gets destroyed.
    • During the mansion adventure, she improvises with diamond dog claws glued to the end of a thighbone.
    • In Chapter 42, Blackjack kills an Enclave pegasus by stabbing several bones into the socket of her severed wing.
  • Beware My Stinger Tail: As in the main story, the power armor of Enclave soldiers is equipped with a bladed tail for melee combat. Radscorpions and manticores, naturally, have poisoned variants.
  • BFG:
    • Deus has a pair of 120mm[3] artillery cannons built into him. Steel Rain also has a pair, mounted on his Power Armor.
    • Megamart is protected by an enormous Sentry Gun aptly named "Gun". Blackjack jokingly wonders if it fires I-beams, and the answer is uncomfortably close to "yes."
  • Big No: Blackjack is not happy when Lacunae spoils the sacrifice portion of her Heroic Sacrifice in Chapter 22.
  • Big Red Button: Whenever Blackjack encounters one, she wants to push it. It rarely ends well.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Deus' cybernetic implants make him nigh-invulnerable and extremely powerful. They also cause him constant agony, forcing him to rely on custom-tailored painkillers.
    • Rampage is practically impossible to kill. Pity that she's a Tortured Abomination who wants to die.
  • Blood From the Mouth: Occasionally. Blackjack literally vomits blood at one point due to Enervation exposure, and an unfortunate prospector in Tenpony Tower does this because she's about to violently explode.
  • Body Horror:
    • Turns out when you're exposed to too much Enervation, you vomit blood and your appendages drop off; eventually, you melt. Harshly illustrated at the end of Chapter 26. Blackjack and co. are forced to pass through a field of concentrated enervation. Everyone gets a solid dose of internal bleeding and/or Mind Rape, Blackjack's leg bones are reduced to the consistency of rubber, Glory's injured wing melts off and Lacunae is reduced to an Empty Shell.
    • Blackjack experiences Stonewing's transformation into Gorgon 'first-hand' through a memory orb.
    • Professor Zodiac, heavily injured by Enervation, is kept alive by machines in a state much like Mr. House. The sight of her 'true form' is enough to traumatise Scotch Tape.
    • In chapter 30, Blackjack discovers a horrific tumor growing in her empty eye socket. It is never described.
    • Horizon Labs. The cryogenics lab is a mass of taint-dribbling, pulsating flesh with many mouths 'singing' in a choir of screams. Blackjack's tainted insides respond to the sound by squirming inside her. Eventually, they join in the song. Meanwhile, Rampage is being monstrously mutated by the taint saturating the room.
    • 'Future' Glory, as seen in one of Blackjack's nightmares, is described as a 'hulk of flesh and feathers', with eyes down the side of her neck and at least five wings.
  • Booby Trap: True to the source material, these are common.
    • The Sand Dog Lair in Chapter 21 is packed with traps specifically designed to attract scavenging ponies.
  • Break the Cutie: Happens to Morning Glory frequently, most notably when she is betrayed by the Enclave and branded a Dashite. And again later, when she loses a wing.
    • And yet again when the killing joke turns her into Rainbow Dash—possibly even including a bit of her personality—the one thing the Enclave hates more than a Dashite.
  • Breather Episode: Chapter 34 is where Blackjack finally gets a break. She gets restored and cleansed of taint, meets LittlePip, and goes to have fun adventures with her while happily drunk.
    • The subsequent chapter continues the breather with some more serious introspection while the next plot arc gets set up.
  • Broken Tears:
  • Cain and Abel: Blueblood is the Cain to Vanity's Abel.
  • Call Back:
    • Blackjack's response to losing her eye in Chapter 27 is exactly the same as her response to discovering that her eyes glow in Chapter 4.

 Blackjack: Well, fuck.

    • When a cancerous growth takes over Blackjack's empty eye socket in Chapter 30, she jokes about finally growing an eye tentacle penis, in a call back to Chapter 15.
    • In Chapter 33, Blackjack's line, “I’m not a monster. I’m not… even if I look like one,” calls back to Gorgon's goodbye note in Chapter 25.
  • Call Forward: In Chapter 30, Watcher compliments Blackjack on her eyepatch. Yeah, about that...
  • The Cameo: Littlepip, Velvet Remedy, Calamity, Xenith and a number of minor characters from the main story appear in Chapters 34 and 35.
  • Can't Bathe Without a Weapon: While in Flank, Blackjack takes a bath in full armor with her weapons in easy reach. She isn't attacked, but she mentions she's ready for it.
  • Cast Calculus: The cast undergoes a series of transformations as new members are added.
    • Red Oni, Blue Oni: When they first leave Stable 99, Blackjack acts as Red Oni against P-21's Blue.
    • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: The addition of Glory shifts the group to a Freudian Trio. With Glory providing an emotional center to the group, P-21 is free to increasingly hint at his suppressed aggression while Blackjack is cooled by reminders that her actions have consequences. She finds herself as the Ego that must balance P-21's vengeful, self-serving Id and Glory's naively over-civilized (for the Wasteland) Superego. Lancer briefly features as a Sixth Ranger Traitor, and the party is scattered after Brimstone's Fall.
    • Five-Man Band: Blackjack quickly finds Glory at Miramare, then picks up Rampage as a Sixth Ranger shortly before recovering P-21. The Power Trio defeats Deus without Rampage's direct assistance, but the adventures between Flank and Chapel serve to show off Rampage's capabilities and personality, and help cement her to the group. On return to Chapel, they finally pick up the fifth team member: Lacunae. The Power Trio is augmented not by a Red Oni, Blue Oni pair, but by two color-coded individuals who embody the monstrous extremes of savagery and transcendence.
  • Cast From Hit Points: Trottenheimer's Folly is powerful enough to take out a warship with one shot, but exposes the user to taint.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Trottenheimer's Folly is a literal example.
    • Blackjack's taint infection, introduced in Chapter 15, remains largely unimportant until the late twenties, where it takes a sharp turn for the worse.
    • The slave collar that P-21 puts on Blackjack in Chapter 15 is used to cripple Deus a chapter later.
    • In Chapter 23, Lacunae attempts to calm Blackjack down by linking minds and sharing her memories. Later, Blackjack does the same in reverse to break Lacunae out of her Empty Shell state.
    • The hymn sung by the ponies of Chapel during Blackjack's first visit saves her from a horrific fate in Horizon Labs.
  • Circling Birdies: "Little Glories" circle Blackjack's head after Big Daddy throws her at a wall.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Blackjack drops a few.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: In Chapter 22, when Blackjack enters the Overmare's Office to find the Overmare raping P-21.
  • Collapsing Lair: The Flash Industries building.
  • Complete Monster: Brass, the manticore-hybrid pony, much to Blackjack's glee.

  Blackjack: Finally! I finally have an enemy to fight that I don’t have to feel sorry for! [...] Do you eat foals? Tell me you eat foals and rape helpless little ponies. That’ll be the icing on the cake!

  • Continuity Nod:
    • Project Horizons takes place at the same time as Fallout Equestria, so there are frequent references to events in the main story, and many minor characters such as Watcher, Ditzy Doo and Homage make appearances. Borders on Continuity Porn when Blackjack meets LittlePip.
    • During a memory orb sequence, the Marauders are playing a tabletop RPG. Applesnack rolls two critical failures in a row, and grumbles about the possibility of his character Steelhooves becoming undead and trapped in his armor.
  • Cool Big Sis: Blackjack and Rampage to Scotch Tape. When Rampage leaves the party for a while, Lacunae takes on this role as well.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Appears to be heading this way, if Blackjack's out-of-body experience in Chapter 34 is any indication.
  • Could Have Been Messy: Constantly Averted.
  • Country Matters: Deus' favorite word.
  • Crapsack World
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The Wasteland likes handing these out. When she's really upset, so does Blackjack.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: Rampage occasionally gets out of control, to the point where Blackjack responds by shooting her in the head until she calms down. Rampage even thanks her for it. Lampshaded:

 Glory: Blackjack! You don’t do therapy with bullets!

Blackjack: You do when you’re dealing with a regenerating mare who thinks she’s a crazy zebra.

  • Cult: The Harbingers towards whatever's inside Hoofington's Core.
  • Curb Stomp Battle:
  • Cyborg: Several characters. The purpose of Project Steelpony is to create these.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to Fallout Equestria. Project Horizons is a lot bleaker in tone, and tackles subjects that KKat only briefly touches on (ie. suicide, rape, and child mortality).
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Almost everyone to some extent, but P-21 and Rampage in particular.
  • Deadly Gas: Blackjack floods Stable 99 with chlorine gas. Later, Killing Joke causes Scotch Tape's lungs to fill with chlorine. Pink cloud also makes an appearance in the lower levels of Hippocratic Research, and as Sanguine's Breath Weapon.
  • Deadly Hug: Rampage performs one on Thorn. Blackjack disapproves.
  • Death Trap:
    • Hoofington itself was designed as one for the zebra army, and apparently served its purpose right up until the megaspell exchange. Apparently, it's still working. The promise of salvage and wartime technology attracts scavengers and small communities, which are gradually whittled away by Enervation and other dangers of the Hoof.
    • Silverstar Sporting Supplies.
    • The tainted forest surrounding Hippocratic Research.
  • Decapitation Presentation: The head of Gin Rummy, Blackjack's mother, is impaled on a spike in the atrium of Stable 99, making it the first thing BJ sees upon returning home.
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • Blackjack is emotionally crushed by the events of Chapter 22. Only luck and timely intervention save her from comitting suicide as a result. Blackjack's suicide attempts, in turn, push P-21 over the horizon.
    • Glory briefly crosses this when she loses her wing, to the point of sitting down in an Enervation field and begging for death.
    • Sanguine crosses the horizon when his family is killed.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Blackjack dies while snuggling under Glory's wing.
  • Dirty Business
  • Doomed Hometown: Stable 99 gets infected with The Virus.
  • Doorstopper: As of Chapter 35, Project Horizons' word count has surpassed that of Fallout Equestria. Chapter 42 puts the total word count at around 780,000 words.
    • According to Word of Somber, Chapter 33 is the halfway point, putting the final word count somewhere in the region of a million words.
  • Double Standard Rape (Female on Male): Deconstructed Trope. This trope is the status quo in Stable 99, due to males being viewed as little more than breeding equipment. Much of Blackjack and P-21's early Character Development stems from their attempts to get over it. Blackjack has a minor epiphany when she realises that she raped P-21 at least once, and they eventually reconcile after Blackjack is raped herself.
  • Dressing as the Enemy:
    • Blackjack, frequently.
    • P-21 disguises himself as a maintenance mare and, to his intense embarassment, a (female) Flash Fillies gang member.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Rampage is mentioned to have attempted suicide multiple times.
    • Blackjack attempts to gas herself in Chapter 22, but Lacunae intervenes. The only reason that Blackjack is still alive at the end of Chapter 23 is because she forgot to turn her gun's safety off.
    • P-21 attempts to hang himself in Chapter 25.
  • Drowning My Sorrows:
    • Blackjack with vodka, after Glory's branding.
    • Rampage in Chapter 45. Her regeneration makes it hard for her to get drunk normally, so she alternates bottles of booze with mouthfuls of laundry detergent.
  • Drugs Are Bad:
    • Played with. Chems help Blackjack survive horrific injuries and perform incredible feats, and she seems to lack Littlepip's weakness to addiction, but overdoses and side effects wreak havoc on her long-term health.
    • P-21 is a lifelong Med-X addict. Running out contributes to his suicide attempt in Chapter 25, and almost kills Scotch Tape in Chapter 40.
  • Drunken Master: Blackjack with whiskey. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • Typically averted, but Roses recieves a formal burial in Chapel and her daughter is later buried with her.
    • Blackjack and P-21 bury Hoss with Granny Smith shortly after they stumble upon his farm.
    • Following a battle, Lacunae cremates the corpses left behind by levitating them towards the Core's defense lasers.
    • Priest in Chapter 36.
    • Notably averted with Shujaa.
  • Dysfunction Junction: BJ and her band start out this way and get worse with each new member.

 P-21: Blackjack, are you trying to turn us into the deadliest band of angsty whiny ponies to wander the Wasteland?

  • Easily Forgiven: In Chapter 33, Blackjack saves the ponies that injured Oilcan, killed Tarboots, nailed her to the floor, raped her and cut off her horn, from her friends, because she wanted to save somepony before she died. She admits to have hurt them in the past and believes that killing them would not give them the chance to Do Better.
    • Her forgiveness pays off in Chapter 43, but she doesn't realise it at the time.
  • Eaten Alive: The Stable 99 Raiders temporarily manage to restrain and butcher Rampage. She regenerates as usual. Blackjack speculates that the raiders could use her as an endless food source.

 "Her liver's back!"

  • Elaborate Underground Base: Hoofington's underground is an enormous warren of pre-war train tunnels and underground facilities, including at least one partly-functional megaspell center.
  • Enemies with Death: Blackjack argues with a hallucination of ponified Death.
  • Enemy Mine: Lancer apparently considers his brief period of cooperation with Blackjack and co. to be an example of this.
  • Engineered Public Confession: The Enclave does this to Glory. Emphasis on the "Engineered" part.
  • Epic Fail: Blackjack's "attack" against four Zodiacs at the beginning of Chapter 28.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: As standard for the setting.
    • Deus puts an enormous bounty on Blackjack's head early on, resulting in her being hounded by dozens of bounty hunters and desperate wastelanders.
  • Expy:
  • Explosive Leash: Slave collars.
  • Eye Scream: Occasionally occurs in combat scenes.
    • Blackjack takes down a mutated dragon by blasting its eye out with a grenade, climbing into the socket and unloading poisoned shotgun rounds into its optic nerve.
    • Glory has a mine go off in her face in Chapter 21.
    • Blackjack herself loses an eye at some point between Chapters 26 and 27. In Chapter 30, the empty socket develops a malignant tumor, thanks to radiation and taint, and in Chapter 32, her remaining eye is blown out by Steel Rain. Then she gets soaked in taint and falls in salt water.
    • P-21 ends one of Rampage's 'Angel of Death' moments by stabbing her through the eye with Blackjack's sword and twisting it until she calms down.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: During one of Blackjack's nightmares, the monstrous 'future' version of Glory has a fully expressive row of eyes down the side of her neck.
  • Face Heel Turn: P-21, briefly. Blackjack talks him down.
  • Fantastic Drug: As in Fallout and Fallout Equestria, there several varieties of these. Of particular note is Hydra, which shares its New Vegas counterpart's limb-restoring properties but infects its user with taint.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: P-21 and Blackjack, although the strength of their friendship fluctuates.
  • Footnote Fever: Following the trend set by Fallout Equestria, each chapter ends with a footnote detailing Blackjack's perk and skill advancements.
    • Played for Drama at the end of Chapter 32, where the footnote text is inexplicably corrupted.
      • Played even more so at the end of Chapter 33, when she dies.
        • Returns to normal in a triumphant fashion in Chapter 34. Blackjack is cured of taint and is Back From the Dead. The footnote? "Level Up: Maximum Level"
  • Forbidden Zone: The Hoofington Core.
  • Forced to Watch:
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The revised Chapter 1 is laced with foreshadowing, particularly of Chapter 22.
    • During her Journey to the Center of the Mind, Blackjack encounters a mirror that shows her various reflections of herself. The final reflection is monstrously mutated, prompting Blackjack to exclaim that she'd rather die than become something like that. She also notes, in passing, that her reflected self is incapable of looking back at her. Then, at the climax of Chapter 32, she loses her remaining eye and exposes herself to a large dose of taint...
    • Blackjack frequently notes that her heart beats irregularly.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Standard for robots, turret defenses and Enclave pegasi. The Flash Fillies gang specialises in these.
  • Friend or Foe: The E.F.S system on the PipBuck somehow determines the status of all living beings and marks them as either hostile or friendly. Blackjack keeps wondering how it knows, and somewhat distrusts the system, especially after nearly killing a frightened scavenger who got marked as 'hostile' for using the basic Crapsack World survival rule of 'shoot first, ask questions later'.
  • Genuine Pony Hide: The official uniform of low-ranking Reapers.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Mare!: P-21 successfully beats the mope out of Blackjack in Chapter 36. To be fair, he warned her.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: As Blackjack lies dying, Glory uses the Delta PipBuck to contact several of Hoofington's factions, who band together to save Blackjack's life.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • The Fluttershy Medical Center contains an experimental system for keeping terminally ill or injured foals in a state of medical stasis. It's still mostly operational - the occupants have been conscious and alone for over two hundred years.
      • Sanguine's family suffered the same fate, and are extremely traumatized by the time he revives them.
      • Psycoshy suffered this and believes that Sanguine rescued her, when in reality he was responsible for her imprisonment in the first place, planning to use her to unlock Project Chimera once he had EC-1101.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Played dead straight for most of the protagonists. Glory is a possible exception, but even she has her moments.
  • Goomba Stomp: Rampage performs one on a pair of Mooks.
  • Gorn: Invoked In-Universe by raiders, who take a perverse glee in mutilating their victims.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: The conflicts between most Hoofington gangs, as Blackjack later learns.
    • Most ponies who join the Burner Boys were horribly maimed by the Wasteland, and wouldn't survive on their own.
    • The Flash Fillies take in victims of rape and other abuse to keep each other safe.
    • Every member of the Halfhearts lost someone dear to them. They stay together to hold off suicidal depression.
    • The stated goal of the Reapers is to unite the most dangerous fighters in the region, so they spend their time working together and fighting one another for sport instead of terrorizing Hoofington.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Blackjack delivers a few - mostly to mooks, but also a particularly nasty one to Deus.
    • Psychoshy inflicts one on Blackjack during their cage fight in Chapter 25.
  • Guns Akimbo:
    • Taken Up to Eleven by Vanity of the Marauders; he simultaneously wields dual assault rifles on a battle saddle and a pair of levitated revolvers. On one occasion, he levitates enough weapons to single-handedly hold a hallway against an attacking mob.
    • Blackjack attempts to dual-wield on occasion, but her accuracy suffers as a result.
    • Taken to a ridiculous level by Lacunae in Chapter 31, where she wields a levitated grenade machinegun and a fully-armed and armored Steel Ranger.
  • Half-Pony Hybrid: A regular freakshow of these, thanks to Project Chimera.
    • As the child of a pony and a zebra, Silver Stripe/Professor Zodiac is a mundane variant.
  • Half The Mare She Used To Be:
    • Scoodle is torn in half by ghouls.
    • Deus does this to Blackjack during one of her nightmares.
    • Glory saves Blackjack from this fate in Chapter 29.
    • Dusty Trails would have suffered this fate in Chapter 36 if Sanguine didn't have an even worse one in store.
    • Rampage threatens Psychoshy with this, but Blackjack stops her.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Rampage's 'Angel of Death' persona delivers one to Blackjack, along with an unhealthy dose of Not So Different.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: In the revised version of Chapter 1, Blackjack does this when she walks into Midnight's room and comes across her being...busy.
  • The Hero Dies: And then gets better.
  • Heel Face Turn: The Zodiac Family, the Reapers, Precious, and possibly Psychoshy and Discord.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Chapter 13 ends with Glory beginning a long series of these.
    • Blackjack has several, usually triggered by My God, What Have I Done?.
  • Heroic RROD:
    • Upon first arriving in Flank, Blackjack is suffering from heavy injuries and the side effects of several chems. She's forced to take Dash and gallop through an enervation field to reach the town, and ends up having a heart attack. Fortunately, help is at hand.
    • At the end of Chapter 42, Blackjack runs her cybernetics out of power, to the point where her legs and eyes completely shut down.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Subverted and then Averted when Blackjack gasses Stable 99. While Blackjack's actions are heroic, it's less a sacrifice and more a suicide attempt, so when Lacunae teleports to the rescue, BJ is dismayed.
    • Played straight when Silver Stripe sacrifices her synthetic organs to save Blackjack, reducing herself to a Brain In a Jar.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Blackjack's greatest fear is being corrupted into a Complete Monster by the wasteland. Eventually Invoked, in a literal sense. Blackjack becomes a cyborg and finds herself having more in common with Deus than she'd like.
  • Hidden Depths: Sekashi.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: Blackjack has a serious case of this after being heavily augmented with cybernetics. She spends two chapters re-learning how to walk, and ends up triggering various functions of her new body completely by accident. Fortunately it's mostly Played for Laughs, and she's fine after she gets some alcohol in her system.
  • I Am a Humanitarian: Stable 99 ponies by nescessity. Raiders by compulsion.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate:
    • Subverted. Blackjack attempts to Mercy Kill Mini and puts her gun to Mini's head, but can't bring herself to pull the trigger. Mini summons up the strength to do it herself using her magic.
    • Averted in Chapter 33. Rampage's serial killer personality flatly refuses to put Blackjack out of her misery.
    • The tainted ponies fused to the cryogenics room in Horizon Labs ask Blackjack and Rampage to burn them.
    • Dusty Trails, fed halfway through the rock crusher that killed Gorgon. P-21 gives her a Med-X overdose.
  • Idiot Hero: Blackjack. Known for nebulous "plans" and battlefield drunkenness.
    • Deconstructed - it takes BJ a long time to work out why P-21 doesn't trust himself with guns near her.
  • If You're So Evil Eat This Kitten: Almost literally, but due to the lack of kittens, Rampage's heart is substituted.
  • I Have a Family:
    • Roses begs Blackjack to spare her life for the sake of her daughter. It works. She later makes the same appeal to Prince Blueblood, who is somewhat less merciful.
    • Eventually revealed to be Sanguine's core motivation. He wants to reactivate Project Chimera to save his sick family, who have been in stasis since the bombs fell. This, and the possibility that Chimera could also be used to save Scotch Tape, is enough to convince Blackjack to call a tentative truce.
  • I Love the Dead: Psychoshy wants to be the lover of Sanguine, a Canterlot ghoul.
  • I'm Melting: Type A is the end result of enervation exposure. Partially invoked in Chapter 26 when Enervation rapidly worsens a deep wound on Glory's wing.

   I stared as the skin holding the wing slowly stretched like taffy and then broke, the wing splashing softly into the water beside her.

 Scotch Tape: Blackjack’s been naughty!

  • Journey to the Center of the Mind:
    • Blackjack performs one of these to heal Lacunae.
    • In Chapter 43, Blackjack faces down her own self-destructive subconscious.
  • Karma Houdini: Invoked with Director Mephitis, the pony in charge of the Yellow River Internment Camp. He overloaded the camp with zebra POWs in order to request additional supplies from the Ministry of Peace, fenced said supplies for his own profit, and refused to set the prisoners free when the bombs fell, backstabbing a subordinate in the process. He then took his ill-gotten profits with him and fled to Thunderhead, and apparently never answered for his crimes.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Burner Boys gang specialises in flamethrowers and incendiary bombs.
  • Klingon Promotion: The fastest way to become a reaper is to kill a reaper and take their place. Rampage earned her position and armor this way, and after killing Gorgon and Deus, Blackjack is offered a position as well.
    • You Kill It, You Bought It: Zig Zagged. Initally downplayed when Blackjack earns the right to become a Reaper. She's annoyed at her newly-increased notoriety but offically taking the role, while encouraged, is voluntary. Her refusal causes her to once again become a target for gangs, which were being held off by the presence of a Reaper in her group and the protection of Big Daddy Reaper. After destroying the HMS Celestia, BJ is granted an honorary place in the Reapers whether she wants it or not.
  • Large Ham: THE GODDESS WISHES TO REMIND YOU THAT THIS TROPE IS IN FULL EFFECT.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: A function of memory orbs.
    • Blackjack has a number of traumatic memories removed from Scotch Tape's mind, much to Rampage's dismay. This ends up backfiring, as Scotch's trauma remains despite the memories of its cause being gone.
  • Literal Cliff Hanger: Chapter 29 ends with one of these, where Morning Glory (apparently) falls to her death.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Ludicrous Gibs: While we don't see it happen, Blackjack's drug-assisted Unstoppable Rage caused by Glory's branding results in this. Apparently she tore several Enclave pegasi limb from limb with her hooves and teeth.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Inverted. P-21 is Scotch Tape's father, but doesn't want her to find out. Blackjack winds up blurting it out during a strategy discussion.
  • MacGuffin: EC-1101
  • Magic Missile: Blackjack learns to fire bursts of energy from her horn. This ability develops over the course of the story, eventually gaining shotgun-grade power and extreme range.
  • Magitek
  • Meaningful Name: Trottenheimer's Folly. The gun's ammunition contains concentrated taint, which contaminates the user whenever Folly is fired.
  • Mechanical Monster:
  • Mercy Kill:
    • Blackjack performs a series of these at the end of Chapter 6. She suffers frequent flashbacks to the event, and often worries it was her Start of Darkness.
    • Averted in Chapter 16 when Mini is stuck in a wall, as Blackjack can't bring herself to pull the trigger.
    • Chapter 19 reveals that Rampage has a different problem.
    • In Chapter 21, Blackjack describes killing raiders as this, then immediately suffers another flashback to the first entry.
    • Chapter 22. All but one of Stable 99's entire surviving population.
  • Mind Screw: Chapter 43. Literally. Most of the chapter takes place in Blackjack's traumatised subconscious.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Blackjack finds herself admiring Scoodle's fighting skills, just in time to see her torn apart by ghouls.
    • At the end of Chapter 9, Blackjack and co. have killed Gorgon and freed an entire mine full of pony and zebra slaves. Then Lancer appears, shoots Blackjack in the spine, and guns down every other zebra present.
    • Blackjack wakes up during invasive surgery and gets forced into a memory orb from a Grand Galloping Gala.
  • Motive Rant:
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Blackjack asks this a lot. Especially in Chapter 23 following the execution of Stable 99.
  • Mystical Plague: Enervation. It's everywhere, it reduces the effectiveness of healing potions[5], and it does all kinds of unhealthy things to ponies.
  • Mysterious Backer: The Dealer. He'll appear time and time again to help point Blackjack in the right direction, even as he emotionally beats her down just as often (much to Blackjack's confusion). Thought to be a figment of her imagination for a majority of the story, but it turns out he's the spirit of Goldenblood's assistant, tied to EC-1101 as a sort of guide to make sure it gets to its destination. Even after learning this, we know next to nothing else about who he is or what his own goals are, but it's clear he does have some ulterior motives.
  • Myth Arc: Since being broken down into volumes, the overarching plot is this.
  • Named Weapons: Trottenheimer's Folly, Persuasion, Vigilance, Duty and Sacrifice.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Blackjack is often guilty of this.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: Most of the food in Stable 99 comes from the recycled remains of deceased (or "retired") ponies.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Blackjack is actually a nickname chosen to hide her Embarrassing First Name.
    • Rampage took her name from the reaper she killed to earn her position. Her real name is unknown. The closest she has to one is "Arloste," which Scalpel gave her.
  • Operation Blank: Several. Specifically the various secret research and development projects undertaken by Goldenblood's OIA during the war, including Project Chimera, Project Steelpony, Project Eternity, Project Redoubt and the titular Project Horizons.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Glory and a group of Crusaders when P-21 first calls Blackjack his friend. Complete with actual (200 year old stale) popcorn!
  • Phlebotinum Rebel: Gorgon's first action upon being given the powers of a cockatrice by a shady OIA (Office of Interministry Affairs) lab is to petrify and shatter a nurse.
  • Playing with Syringes: Project Chimera. Among other functions.
  • Potty Failure: Taken seriously. Blackjack suffered this as a result of radiation poisoning, and again in Horizon Labs. Scotch Tape and various other characters occasionally wet themselves out of fear.
  • Power Shoe/Armed Legs: Psychoshy's weapon of choice. Rampage uses a bladed variant.
  • Powered By A Forsaken Draconequus: Project Chimera.
  • Properly Paranoid: Blackjack, especially after the assassination attempt in Chapter 16.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Roses, a slaver who simply wants to provide for her daughter.
  • Punctuated for Emphasis:
    • In Chapter 27, after Blackjack gets shot up by Red Eye's slavers.

 Blackjack: You! Can't! Kill! Me!

    • Followed shortly by:

 "You! Sick! Fucker!" I yelled, bringing the batton down with each word.

  Blackjack: Do! Not! Shoot! The! Nice! Security! Pony!

  • Rage Breaking Point:
    • Blackjack is not happy when Rampage pushes the subject of rape on her.
    • BJ completely loses it while learning of the various crimes committed at Yellow River. Discovering Shujaa's butchered remains drives her over the edge.
  • Ragtag Band of Misfits: The protagonists.
  • Rape as Backstory: Rampage, the males from Stable 99, and many of the Flash Fillies.
  • Rape as Drama: A recurring theme.
  • Read the Freaking Manual: Blackjack aquires the Wasteland Survival Guide early on, but despite considering it a good idea she rarely consults it. Scotch Tape however does, and occasionally points out chapters relevant to the current matter on hand.
  • Red Baron: Blackjack, AKA 'The Security Mare'.
  • Red Herring: Up until Chapter 32, all evidence seems to point to repeated used of Hydra as the main source of Blackjack's worsening taint problems. During the encounter in Horizon Labs, she learns that it's actually Trottenheimer's Folly.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Some readers have drawn parallels between the crucifixion of Jesus and the scene where Blackjack is raped. Blackjack already has several of the standard messianic character traits. Both are nailed down by all four limbs and stabbed in the side, the horn amputation can be seen as a variant on the crown of thorns, and the scene itself carries strong overtones of self-sacrifice, forgiveness and redemption. Following her subsequent death, Blackjack is revived three days later.
  • Running Gag:
    • Everypony shoots Blackjack. Carried over from Fallout Equestria.
    • Blackjack's horn is not small, it's compact.
    • Dropping boats on ponies.
    • "Then [...] exploded."

  Of course it exploded! Everything spontaneously explodes around me! Pipes! Vertibucks! Mares!

  • Strapped to An Operating Table: Blackjack, more than once.
    • Cruel to Be Kind: In at least one case, Blackjack really needs surgery, but is too out of it to realise until afterwards.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: P-21 specialises in explosives.
  • Sympathy for the Devil:
    • Just before his death, Deus leaves a memory orb for Blackjack. The contents make her feel for him, just a little bit. Following her own augmentation, BJ mentions that, in a sense, she is beginning to understand him.
    • Blackjack also finds a 'Thank you for killing me' letter in Gorgon's room.
  • Take My Hoof: Blackjack to Glory, as a building collapses beneath them. Despite BJ's best efforts, Glory falls, but is saved by Operative Lighthooves and his entourage. The roles are reversed in the next chapter, where Blackjack grabs hold of Glory's wing to avoid being sucked into a sewer pump.
  • Taken for Granite: Gorgon's preferred method of dealing with his enemies.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • Gem to Deus, with a bomb at point blank range.
    • In Chapter 32, Blackjack to the HMS Celestia[7]
  • Talking to Themself:
  • A Taste of the Lash: Not shown, but mentioned as an official form of punishment in Stable 99.
  • Tears of Blood: A result of Enervation exposure.
  • Tele Frag: Mini Zodiac suffers this, and doesn't even get to die from it.
  • Tempting Fate: Blackjack has an unfortunate habit of doing this. In Chapter 20:

  "I know you don’t believe it," I said with a smile, "But most of Stable 99 are good ponies. We won’t have to kill them all." Because if we did, then I was going to follow them.

  • Theme Naming:
    • Blackjack and a long line of her ancestors have names related to playing cards and card games.[8]
    • Morning Glory's family.[9]
    • The Zodiac bounty hunters are all named after the zodiac star signs, though these are assumed names.
  • There Are No Therapists: Surprisingly subverted with Rampage being an almost literal version of Warrior Therapist. Apart from this, the trope is played straight due to the setting.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Narrated word for word by Blackjack, just before she gets raped.
  • Title Drop: Almost. In chapter 5, we have a log from Dr. Trottenheimer writing about his extremely controversial project named "P.H.", which seems to make pretty clear what "Project Horizons" is about...
    • Although Chapter 39 mentions that weaponized megaspells were handled by "Project Starfall." Apparently, "Project Horizons" was something much worse. Even Blackjack finds that a little hard to believe.
    • And in Chapter 45, Blackjack finds a terminal of Goldenblood's which simply says, "Activate Project Horizons: Y/N?" Fortunately, she opts not to.
  • Tortured Abomination: Deus, Gorgon, Discord, and Rampage. Also, the screaming room.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Following a battle, Blackjack and co. decide to help the ponies of Flank by reinforcing the town's defenses. The locals see it as an attempt to take over the town.
    • It pays off in Chapter 36.
  • Tranquil Fury: Blackjack drops into one upon finding Stable 99 turned into a raider nest. It takes a bullet to the head to snap her out of it.
    • Also in Chapter 42, sort of. After being hit by an explosion (not a spoiler with how often that happens), her Pip Buck gets temporarily messed up, so all she can hear is Octavia's contrabass.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Blackjack suffers an excessive number of injuries, ailments and psychological traumas over the course of the story, many of which come very close to killing her. Glory suffers awfully as well.

 Ponibooru comment: ALL ABOARD THE PSYCHOLOGICAL DETERIORATION TRAIN, NOW DEPARTING BLACKJACK STATION. AGAIN.

  • Truth in Television: That virus that ravages the wasteland through cannibalism is more or less a pony version of vCJD.
  • The Virus: See Ascended to Carnivorism.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Watcher makes a number of appearances, but plays only a minor role. That is, until he invites Blackjack to meet him and see the Gardens of Equestria, rescuing her from the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Unskilled but Strong: The Harbingers. They possess pristine top grade weaponry, but nary a pony knows how to use it effectively.
  • Unstoppable Rage:
    • Blackjack, when the Enclave brand Glory. She deliberately helps this trope along by injecting herself with a cocktail of chems.
    • Other characters have been seen to use chems for the same purpose. Notably, the Burner Boys' suicide bomber raiders in Chapter 31 and Flank's militia in Chapter 36.
    • In chapter 42 Blackjack falls into this against a squad of Thunderhead Enclave soldiers. Her brutality makes a member of the Highlanders visibly afraid.
    • This appears to be the whole point of the chem appropriately named Rage and its derivative, Stampede.
  • Was Once A Pony:
    • Deus, aka. Doof.
    • Rampage is strongly implied to be a conglomeration of the souls of (at least) Twist, Officer Softheart, the 'Angel of Death', a nameless foal, a drug dealer named Razorwire, Shujaa, and Doctor Octopus (No, not that one).
    • Lacunae is implied to have originally been Psalm.
    • All the monsterponies created by Project Chimera, including...
      • Gorgon, a.k.a. Stonewing, fused with a cockatrice.
      • Cora, the manticore pony, who was once Brass, the mare that goaded Doof into raping Twist.
      • Fury, who was fused with a phoenix.
      • Precious, a foal fused with a baby dragon.
    • Blackjack herself, following her mutations and cybernetic augmentation.
  • Wham! Episode:
  • What Have I Become?:
    • Blackjack shows elements of this following her augmentation. She finds her automated breathing, lack of heartbeat, and optical interface deeply disturbing, to the point of sympathising with Deus.
    • Sanguine admits to these thoughts, though it's not enough to stop him from doing the unspeakable.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Blackjack receives these frequently, though more often out of concern than outrage. However, her various abuses of P-21 in Stable 99 and suicide attempts are genuine examples. Rampage calls her out on going ahead with Scotch Tape's memory wipe, and leaves the party as a consequence.
    • In Chapter 40 Blackjack delivers one of these to Twilight Sparkle's consciousness via Lacunae, after witnessing firsthoof all crimes against equinity she committed to create the Impelled Metamorphosis Potion.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Rampage doesn't. Apparently, several other Reapers (and many of the former Marauders) have this problem.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?:
    • Due to her Stable upbringing, Blackjack is terrified of air travel. When she has to do it, she prefers to spend the trip in a memory orb. Just looking up at the sky makes her nauseous.
    • Various events make Scotch Tape afraid of machines.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: The battle for Stable 99.
  • Wretched Hive: Flank is a town built on prostitution and drug abuse.
  • You Know Too Much: Goldenblood invokes this, dropping an unfortunate eavesdropper down an elevator shaft.

 Goldenblood: Do you know what the three most precious things in Equestria are, Dewdrop?

Dewdrop: Family, sir? Friends? Um… money?

Goldenblood: Family is a dime a dozen. Friends are articles of convenience. And money is trash. No, the three most precious things are loyalty, love... and secrets.

   "So…" I muttered as I stared at the orb, its light casting my features in its ghostly glow, "One monster to another… what's on your mind, Deus?"

Notes

  1. Full-sized cover image can be found here.
  2. An inherited position.
  3. By Glory's estimate. Almost the width of a mare giving birth, apparently...
  4. Repeated drowning, repeated disintegration, dismemberment, eating a balefire egg, shooting herself in the head to make a point, and being fed into a wood chipper on a dare.
  5. With enough exposure, they can become Inverted Healing Shivs.
  6. From left to right: Scotch Tape, Lacunae, Rampage, P-21, Morning Glory, Blackjack.
  7. At least, that's her intention.
  8. Card Trick. Tarot. Little Poker. Full House. 52 Pick-up. Straight Flush. Aces. Royal Flush. Bridge. Hearts. Gin Rummy. Go Fish.
  9. Dawn. Dusk. Moonshadow. Lucent. Lambent. Sky Striker.
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