• Published 26th Oct 2013
  • 1,186 Views, 27 Comments

Fallout: Equestria - Weight and Measure - Facsimile

Though his last job was a miserable failure, Rule Book the 'discount' mercenary may have found his ticket to a bright future; a mysterious robot with an insatiable curiosity and a penchant for working out the trouble Rule Book gets them in.

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Chapter 3 - Bleak Outlook

mov cx,#0x0003;
jnc ok_load_file;

Imagine the face of the first person you have memory of.

A parent, almost certainly, or the equivalent thereof. A caretaker. Though their eyes may not be filled with love they are at least the eyes of someone knowing and certain; they see you and know why you’re there. While the future may not be known, they are sure that there is a future for you ahead. It is easy to take comfort in this certainty, this security. To trust that your caretaker is right.

The pegasus who stood at the doorway, looking out into the grey light of a cloudy day, was a stranger, not a caretaker. He knew nothing of my purpose nor did he know anything of my future. With him, I wasn’t certain I had a future in front of me at all. I had no one else I knew of but this stranger, and when he looked at me I could see his eyes moving almost imperceptibly, looking over my chassis in the light and remaining deep in thought. There was no certainty in his eyes… only a grim discontent.

He didn’t know my purpose.

Who was I to be? A worker that saw that all toils were toiled, and all tasks were done? A soldier that saw to the protection of that which my creator would wish protected? A tender to the wounded, emoting sympathy but operating with mechanical efficiency?

I was as much a mystery to myself as I was to my activator.

The building we were in had been the office for a place of business, but the identity of this business remained unknown to me. No markings were left to determine where I was, and though unable to ask I had the indication that the pegasus would not know either. All that was left were the remains of wooden or metal desks, smears that had once been ink and paper, and bleached fragments of concrete.

Beyond, through the gaps in the ceiling and the glassless windows, I could see that there were other buildings in just as terrible condition as the one in which we resided. Small offices and little shops, glimpsed briefly, that had long since lost any sign of what they had once been. My hypothesis was correct in some form: disaster was the cause of this damage, but an earthquake did not seem likely. Whatever had occurred was truly only able to be described as cataclysmic, and whatever it had been was something long past.

How long had I been in the storeroom below us? Since the disaster that caused such destruction? It was possible, though this hypothesis was one I did not like to think much into; it would mean less chance of determining my purpose.

If it had been a year since these buildings were crushed, then there would be less weathering. As it was now, it seemed as though water damage was starting to erode the walls and floor. Five years? Not even that span of time and a torrential hurricane would account for the same weathering.

A decade? Such a span of time would account for the weathering, but not the degradation of my power cells.

Twenty years?


I cut the analysis process short and quickly scrubbed the logs of that train of thought; I didn’t want to consider such a span of time as long as that… for if true, the chance of meeting my creator, of any pony who could give me purpose, was very small.

I would have to trust that my activator would know what to do, and would act in my best interests.

Load task-management program, I commanded my file system, intending to bring back up the section of my HUD that would give me objectives based on presented end goals. The file system gave an error back instead: the file wasn’t opening. Surprised by this, I examined the logs my system had brought me regarding the program’s previous run event and was disappointed to find that it had closed in such a way as that it had become corrupted. Much of the program was completely intact, but the executable process was no longer usable.

I brought up the files very carefully, pulling up the directory and all it contained from my chassis’ storage and examining it. It was overall a very small program, but one that relied heavily on processing power; not the best of background tasks, but a helpful one to one such as myself, who was being given no commands. It had closed in a fairly haphazard way, and this had caused some of the data in the executable to become scrambled, preventing it from running. I would simply have to find a solution myself.

Pulling the damaged executable file out and moving it into an archive, I created a new file in its place, a blank section of memory that I could begin to devise a fix inside of. The original executable had been small and for the purposes of loading up other sections of code, and so recreating it was a simple matter of loading the same files that the original had been loading when it had run, referencing the logs it had left behind.

Eighty-nine lines of code later, I saved this new file and turned it into an executable. For safety, I made it read-only so that if there was an issue later on, it wouldn’t pose a threat to itself and risk damage to the executable. I didn’t want to have to do this again.

Load task-management program, I commanded my file system again. This time, the process opened, and while it wasn’t as quick as I would have liked, the friendly dialog in the corner of my HUD was a welcome sight.

New objective? it queried.

Determine my purpose, I responded, adding the new goal. Then, remembering my initial objective: Secondary: Defend activator.

I could feel the program working away, churning through data to try to determine the best way to reach these assigned goals. Primary objective unable to be completed at this time. Gather data.

It was no surprise, but it was still a disappointment.

I turned where I stood, bringing myself about to face the grey pegasus; in the soft light I could see how dirty and disheveled his black mane was, still damp from the engagement with the reptile in the basement below us. The thick grime that covered him was streaked and partly washed away. He caught my motion and his head turned to look back at me, meeting my gaze for just a moment before again I saw his green eyes wander as before, looking me over.

He seemed wary. Cautious. Calculating. Though the mind of a living being worked differently from my own, I could almost see the thought process running in his head: he was trying to work out what I meant to him. Was I useful? Was I a threat to him? I didn’t know the answer myself, and I saw no realization enter his eyes. He was still uncertain; still a stranger.

With a quiet huff of breath, the pegasus broke his gaze from my chassis and started across the room at a trot, heading towards where the front desk of this building had once been, and in his motions I noticed something peculiar: he was limping. Why was he limping? He could have been injured by the creature he had killed.

“Alright, so here’s the deal,” he began. “I don’t know what we were supposed to find here other than you, but I’m not ready to stay here any longer than I have to.”


The two letter word created vast possibilities that could be explored. Assuming that the pegasus was using correct grammar, this meant that there was at least one other individual he was referring to. But who? I had seen no one else but this pegasus and he didn’t seem to be looking for anyone. So where was the completed part of the ‘we’?

At the desk the pegasus began to shuffle his hooves among the bits of debris, looking around for something on the floor. I could hear his hooves scuffing against bare concrete where once there had been carpet. He was favoring his rear leg rather often, and when his jacket moved I could see that there were soaked bandages beneath, stained red with blood. In that case, he’d been hurt before the fight because I hadn’t seen him stop to put those bandages on. Either a recent wound or one that the fight had reopened.

He continued as I began to move myself to follow, my own hooves making hollow clicking noises on the floor as I walked. “I don’t have much time until the bandits track me down, unless they take their sweet time with my pack back there- SHIT!” he cut himself off with a sudden realization, swearing loudly and jerking his head in frustration. His expression had, in a moment, changed from one of grim thought to almost horror. “My pack!”

I turned my own attention to the words he’d said: Bandit. An outlaw or robber. But more importantly, plural.

Single words brought pieces of what the situation was into better focus, and I was able to speculate: The pegasus and at least one other were attacked by ‘bandits’. So why was this 'we' in his case now simply 'I'? The most likely scenario was that whatever companion or companions had been with the pony was no longer so. Considering the mention of bandits, injury or death was a likely possibility.

This environment seemed to be one I was ill-suited for with as much damage as I had taken.

The pegasus’ mood had taken an even darker turn upon realizing that he was without his pack. I saw him staring at the ground, but made the guess he wasn’t seeing anything in front of him and was instead quite firmly rooted in thought. “Damnit… I knew I forgot something,” he muttered before looking up at me. He seemed to guess my question and answered, though I hadn’t asked. “When we got hit I…” he gave a defeated sigh, looking away from me almost ashamedly. “..I left my freaking pack behind. I had to fly and I can’t carry it when flying, so…. damnit!”

I formed a quick hypothesis: not long before locating me in the basement below, the pegasus and whatever companion he had at the time were attacked by ‘bandits’. This pegasus fled, leaving what I could only guess were valuable objects of his behind. Likely, to be looted by said robbers.

It made sense that there would be looters after a disaster of any substantial size, but after as much time as I had estimated had passed would not law-enforcement have been reestablished? In fact, would not salvage on this portion of a town or city have been attempted?

I could not get rid of the notion that something was terribly ‘off’, but it would have to wait.

My activator started to pull open the drawers on the desk, searching among the barely-intact items within for something, though I couldn’t imagine what. Eventually he came across something that caught his eye, and he stopped his shuffling through the old office supplies and pulled something out, holding it up to the light. “Hm, how’s that for a search check?” he asked.

Held up to the light was a set of pens, some without their caps. They looked as though they were rather high quality, though long past the age where they would actually be able to write on paper. Emblazoned on them, however, was a symbol: an image of a gear framing a mountain peak. The symbol was engraved in the metal casings of the pens, and a short while later I saw the same symbol on a paperweight that the pegasus also held up from the same drawer.

“What d’ya think?”

I thought that there was a good chance that the symbol had some relation to the company that owned this building, or more accurately the remains of this building. Most likely their logo, and perhaps the logo of my creator or creators, but I found no matches at all in my database. Whatever the case, I couldn’t provide this answer to my activator without a working vocoder.

The pegasus noted my lack of response and tilted his head a bit, narrowing his eyes. Again, the uncertain examination of my shape. “Anyone home?”

I nodded in response to let him know I could hear him; he hadn’t noticed before that I had been silent, but he hadn’t done much that would have needed a response. “Can you talk, or are you the quiet type?”

It was hard to answer this question; were it a yes or no ordeal I could simply give the answer by shaking or nodding, but it wasn’t. Instead, I raised one battered leg and spun it about to point upwards at the region of my chassis’ ‘throat’ area, tapping the metal of my hoof against the joints of my neck.

My activator seemed to show some understanding. “Damnit… I always skimped on points in my repair skill.”

The statement didn’t quite make sense to me. Points? Interpreting it as a language variation left me with understanding that he had said, roughly, that he wasn’t knowledgeable enough to have gotten my vocoder working.

“So here’s the situation, robot,” he said then, and I saw the objects he had retrieved vanish into his pack alongside the case he had stowed earlier. “There’s bandits out there somewhere, and they know I got away. They might just come looking for me, and I can’t be holed up when they do. So we have three options: we can head further into the city, which seems like a shit idea but who’s keeping track anymore… we can leave the city behind and see what some friends of mine can do about this logo and about telling me about you and that processor in your skull…

“Or, we can go get my pack back, and see if Keystroke is still alive. Or, whatever it is he was before, if not alive, I don’t know.”

Keystroke? The way it was said, my auditory interpreter automatically placed a capital at the beginning; a proper noun, not a standard noun. I had a name for someone, for once. The name of the missing companion that finished the ‘we’ that had been mentioned earlier.

“Leaving the city means getting out into cross-country territory, and I don’t have much food left,” the pegasus continued. “That was in my pack. Same with water. And I can’t roll high enough survival to provide for myself half the time out there, so I’m not really happy leaving that pack behind, if you follow me.”

I only barely did, as the slang phrases he was using didn’t quite match up with what I had in my language files, but I managed to get the basic idea from context. I nodded affirmative.

“I can’t go far without food. Not sure if you get that, since you’re a robot and all, but it’s true. So right now, as stupid as it sounds… going after the bandits and getting my pack from them might be my only chance of survival.”

Based on the definition of the term ‘bandit’, I had great doubt that the individuals would be willing to peaceably hand over anything they had unlawfully taken. My diagnostic program chimed in with similar doubts about the situation: most likely, going after anything called ‘bandits’ rather than ‘looters’ or hopefully even ‘malcontents’ would end up doing more damage to me than needed.

But my only objective was clear: I had to protect my activator. How, I didn’t know, but I had to. It was the only purpose I had managed to work out from the limited data I had so far been presented, and I was bound to ensure it was done by any means. If pursuing a dangerous course of action was how it would be done, then it would be done.

My diagnostic program informed me, again, that I was loony.

“So, you’re going to come with me, right? And try to keep us both alive?” the pegasus asked, hopefully. I didn’t know why it was a question at all; he was my activator.

Still, I nodded in the affirmative once more; I would follow him so far as my purpose remained unknown and as long as my power cells allowed. This, of course, was just over five weeks time, as my diagnostic program was happy to remind me now that I was determined to carry out what it saw as a needlessly-dangerous task.

Five weeks. Assuming that I only followed, and didn’t take more damage, that was only five weeks of time to locate undamaged power cells or locate a generator. That, or determine what steps would need to be taken to repair my primary cells, if any even could be taken. My backup cells weren’t able to put out the voltage needed to power up most of my chassis’ modules, and without power I wouldn’t know what most of them even were.

The pegasus’ expression changed to one that was more positive, and I felt somewhat more positive about things myself; after all, we had an objective that was clearly laid out, and it was a relieving moment. I liked having a task.

I hurried myself after the pegasus as he hastily shut the drawers on the desk again, keeping the items he had pilfered moments ago with him and starting towards what I assumed to be the front door. He was significantly more adept at getting around fallen debris than I was, not hesitating with his choice of path like I had to in order to work my way around fallen chunks of the floor from above us.

Add new primary objective, I began a command to my newly-revived task program. Retrieve activator’s belongings from ‘bandits’.

A moment passed before the HUD blinked and updated my objectives, showing the new one now at the top and highlighted: Follow pegasus to ‘bandit’ location.

Prepare for additional damages to chassis, chimed in my diagnostic program. I informed it that it should be less verbose, which it dutifully obeyed, but not without a certain air of smugness that I didn’t very much appreciate. It seemed it didn’t appreciate the direction I was taking my new body, and had a certain amount of blame for some recent damages reserved for my choices.

Perhaps it wasn’t wrong.

At the open doorway, the doors themselves long since vanished, my activator stopped and peered out once more, looking from side to side and then once looking upwards towards the cloudy sky before proceeding; I had wondered what his investigative glances outside had been for some time now, and now I finally realized that he had been trying to watch for anyone approaching. Such as, perhaps, bandits.

As I followed down a short set of steps, the change from relatively dim conditions into bright daylight caused my optics to softly whirr, closing their apertures automatically to adjust to the increase in brightness. As they refocused, and as I followed the pegasus into the parking lot, I was able to take in more details about the city around us.

Within my database were descriptions, thousands at the very least, of various things that I could refer to for information. Among these were details of wildlife, details of plants, details of ponies, and even details of cities. What I saw around me was unable to be matched to anything. I could use the word ‘alien’ to describe it, though this was the first time I had ever been outdoors to witness the world myself. I had expectations from my database, but this…. defied all of those.

The world was bleached and devoid of color. For several seconds my eyes swept side to side, wondering if I had lost chromatic sensor input, but it was a bleak monochrome world I had entered and not because of an error. Here and there, yes, specks of red or brown or blue, but the vast majority was blank concrete and bare earth, interspersed with dark shadows and marks that looked like scorches across the ground. Every building I saw around us was caved upon itself like the one we had left, and none of them had intact windows. They were crumbling and eroded by weather.

There was no sound save for the soft whirring of my own motors, the breath of my activator, the crunch of our hooves on dusty pavement, and the sound of wind blowing between gaps in the buildings around us.

Whatever hope I had stored away that there would be someone near that could tell me my purpose was deleted, but not by choice; it was cleaned up as invalid and untrue garbage information, marked to be overwritten. There were no ponies, or any living creatures, that I could see as far as my eyes would allow me to see, and it was clear to me now that whatever disaster had claimed this area had done so very completely, or more time than I had been willing to estimate had passed.

Stopping in front of me, the pegasus looked back and saw me looking around, and as though sensing my curiosity he offered an answer. “Know where we are?” I shook my head. “Detrot,” he said. “Well, sorta. We’re actually a long ways from the real Detrot, in a town to the north-east of it. But Detrot was a big enough city that everything around it used to be called the same.”

Detrot. I began to scour my database for information, but I didn’t have much: the seat of the county in which it resided with a population of more than five-hundred thousand, not including populations within the overall ‘metroplex’ area that was called by the same name.

Half a million ponies or other sentients. Was. Past-tense.

Where? Where could that many living creatures have gone? What did they do when disaster struck the city? What could have happened to make this much damage be possible? Nothing in my databanks could come close to a hypothesis.

The pegasus met my gaze as I looked to him questioningly, and I opened my mouth to question him further…. but of course, I couldn’t speak.

My activator seemed to grasp that I was confused, and continued, though not by much and not along the same thread as my actual question. “Normally ponies from the desert don’t come nearly this far west, so I’m not even close to local. All I know is that this whole area is bad, bad mojo,” he trailed off. “...should have bucking thought of that when I took this bucking job.”

Curious, I lifted myself up, standing upright on my hind legs… but wasn’t able to fully manage the maneuver, because one hind leg once again jammed and hung, preventing me from gaining any height to see by. I settled for what I had already, panning around on the horizon.

As far as I could see into the cloudy distance was yet more of the same; buildings destroyed or at least greatly damaged, and no sign of movement. I continued to peer around, following the pegasus as we moved out of the parking lot of the building we had been in, and into the empty roadway. Still nothing.

Then, far in the distance, I saw something: a smudge. My eyes whirred quietly as they refocused, and the smudge resolved into a vague jagged shape. It was far in the distance, almost lost in the haze of atmosphere, but the shape was distinct enough for me to identify it as the skyline of a very large city’s ‘tower’ district.

That must be Detrot, I messaged to my own process. And therefore, that must be roughly south-west, judging by the navigational cues provided by this pegasus. We were somewhere to the north-east of that, in a smaller town in the country of Equestria. Which, based on information from my database, was a very large country. Millions of individuals, and with a strong government.

Where was everyone? The logical conclusion must be only that they weren’t here either because they were avoiding this area due to disaster, or because there was no reason to be here any longer. Because my estimation of a great deal of time having passed since this disaster was very likely, it seemed as though there must be something else that was preventing a population from forming near here.

I wondered just how much danger we were in for the residents of an entire country to be avoiding a metropolitan area.

My activator seemed to be nervous; with my gaze now returned to him I noticed that he was looking around us a great deal, as though expecting something to change. It seemed he was expecting the bandits he spoke of to appear at any moment. It also seemed likely that the sound of his firearm could have been audible even here, which if so would offer anyone nearby an idea of where we had been.

“This way,” the pegasus finally said, matching my gaze and then turning. He pointed us towards what I had determined to be east, and I was quick to follow in his steps, mounting the curb on the far side of the road to use the sidewalk rather than the cracked and broken street.

I made a very careful note of where we had come from, with the hope that we would return; it was likely that the location would offer more answers later on, and perhaps spare parts to replace what was broken on my own chassis.

For now, however, the only hope of answers would lay ahead.

The town was in shambles; every building we passed was a small store or office, thoroughly looted and with little in the way of furnishings. I saw no intact windows in the one-hundred and six window frames I had so far counted, and there was no sign of habitation. Whoever had lived and worked here had been gone for some time, and the belongings they owned were almost all either taken with them or looted afterwards. What objects I saw that were still here were usually damaged beyond use.

As we traveled, though, I noted that there were inconsistencies in the destruction of buildings; some buildings managed to remain rather intact if certain criteria were met; single-story structures, structures made entirely of concrete and steel, and structures with short wall-lengths were all kinds that seemed to have survived far better than their neighbors, and some of these did indeed have rooftops.

Even more curious was the fact that as we left what was likely the town’s business district behind, the destruction seemed to lessen in intensity overall to a degree. It seemed almost as though whatever disaster had occurred was focalized on the business district. As the buildings grew more residential, with the appearance of apartments interspersed with small store buildings, the integrity of their structure noticeably improved.

There were simply too many variables involved to narrow down exactly what could have happened, and so I simply continued to gather data.

In the meantime I turned towards the thought of what we would do once we actually did encounter the ‘bandits’ that my activator spoke of. By himself he had little chance of negotiating; it wasn’t logical to think that multiple aggressive individuals would be willing to negotiate with my activator. My presence made little difference; I had no knowledge of negotiation tactics other than whatever I would come up with on my own, no knowledge of combat, and I was not very threatening to begin with because of my chassis’ size.

Even more concerning was the fact that as we traveled, my activator’s limp became slowly more pronounced; he seemed to be in pain, but was going through the effort to not show it. With an injury, it was hard to tell what he could do if it came to violence, even with a firearm hidden beneath his clothes.

So what then would be the best course of action?

Subterfuge was a conclusion that seemed pleasing to me; avoid contact entirely, locate the objective, retrieve, and escape. This would prevent the need to negotiate or do combat, and so would far decrease the risk to either of us. But even so, I had limited knowledge of the scope of this art; I was unsure how to accomplish it without more relevant data.

It was in my slow sweeping of the buildings around us, looking into every window I saw in the hope of seeing something within that would give more clues to the fate of the town, that I saw something rather unexpected far before my activator did.

Some distance down the road we had been traveling alongside, on the side opposite of us to our right, was a building with a mostly-intact structure, and even a second story. The window on that second story contained something unexpected: a pony. Standing and looking out of the window frame, peering down the road towards his right and away from us, was a male pony with a black, wide-brimmed hat. My optics softly whirred to focus, and I noted that under the layer of grime covering this pony, his coat looked to be a dull brown. This coloration made him somewhat harder to spot against the background, which is likely why my activator hadn’t yet taken note of him, but my sensors had seen his movements and brought him to my attention.

The second person, and third living thing, I had ever seen was standing at the windowsill and peering towards his right, a black object laying on the sill in front of him that was long, but otherwise unidentifiable at this angle. He didn’t seem to have noticed us, instead being focused on something else. I followed his gaze, and guessed that his interest was in a store sign that was hanging by only a set of heavy wires, swaying in the wind down the road somewhat further.

Was this individual one of these bandits? Was he the companion? The answer wasn’t relevant so much as whether or not he was a threat to us. In my HUD were outlined my objectives, and clearly one of them was to protect my activator. I didn’t know if this pony I saw in the distance was a threat, but my activator might.

I reached forwards with one hoof, batting at the dirty black tail of the pegasus in front of me. He jolted somewhat in surprise at the touch and quickly turned to look back at me, confusion painted across his face; he didn’t know what I had seen. Now stopped, I raised the same forelimb and pointed upwards and forwards, towards the individual, and my activator’s eyes followed the motion to the window. My question as to if the pony in the distance was a threat was answered by the colt’s change of expression to one of grave concern.

If the pony in the distance was not the companion, Keystroke, that he had mentioned, there was a very good chance it was instead one of the ‘bandits’. Without a word my activator tensed and sprang into action, turning towards his right and bolting with wings outstretched as though he were about to take flight, but he never took to the air. Instead he was almost hopping and gliding, using his wings to take the weight off of his injured leg. I didn’t question his choice, immediately following suit and putting more power to my motors, bringing myself up to a quick gallop.

I was thankful that my chassis didn’t seem inclined to make more noise at a run than at a walk as we crossed the road to the far side. Ahead I could see where my activator was trying to bolt, and followed him into a building where the door was missing from its frame. It looked to be some form of small store, perhaps once a bakery or a deli judging by the arrangement of counters and displays.

My hooves skidded across dusty concrete as I brought myself to a halt, the pegasus stopping far faster than I did in front of me just inside the door. He looked around with quick intensity, making sure there were no other occupants, before finally he turned to address me in a volume barely above a whisper.

“Shit,” he started with much emphasis. “Good spot check. I didn’t even notice that. It was a pony, wasn’t it?”

I nodded in response. He didn’t seem to have gotten a very good look before bolting.

“Do you think they saw us?”

That I had seen, they had never once looked in our direction or otherwise indicated that they knew of our approach, but I didn’t know if our dash for this small building had drawn any attention. To reassure the pegasus, I shook my head, but his look of relief was short-lived as he grimaced, the adrenaline of flight giving way to the pain of his injured limb.

A stifled, if barely so, hiss of pain escaped through his teeth, and I took a step back as he suddenly slumped onto one side on the ground, and this hiss turned into a stifled whimper. He was in pain, immensely so, and I struggled to try to think of some way to help. He’d been holding back showing his discomfort at traveling on foot, or so I guessed, if his leg pained him this much.

Why hadn’t he flown instead? Pegasus ponies could hover for a great length of time without rest, but this individual seemed reluctant to. It was something I took note of for later investigation.

I didn’t know what to do. My activator curled in slightly on himself, the bandages that covered his flank in view and very red with what seemed to be fresh blood. He was in a great deal of pain and seemed to be struggling to keep himself quiet, or risk attracting attention. The bandages had become soaked in water from the basement that I had no doubt was contaminated, and this worried me about the possibility of some harm being done by that as well. In fact, it could well be the wet bandages that were causing the most pain.

I stood there wondering what to do for several long seconds, feeling helpless at my inability to cope with the situation. Soon, though, my activator quieted, and looked down to his flank with gritted teeth.

“S-sorry,” he muttered. I didn’t know what he was apologizing for.

The pony at the window outside was a threat; my activator’s rush to use a building for cover was proof of that. What kind of threat was unimportant to me; if the pegasus didn’t want to be seen, I saw no reason to argue the point.

I found myself wishing I had recorded a frame or two of the stranger in the window, for examination.

“Nnh!” The pegasus on the ground grimaced and clenched his jaw visibly, touching the top of the layered on bandages experimentally and finding it did nothing but make the pain worse. “O-okay,” he said eventually, though his tone betrayed his uncertainty. “.... okay. That was probably a lookout. If we were spotted he’d probably be yelling for backup or be shooting. Uh…”

He was trying to work out a course of action. I watched his eyes, as I had done often since my waking, and saw him looking around the room, cataloguing everything he saw in the hope that he could make use of it. Eventually he settled on something in particular, and my own eyes followed his line of sight towards the back of the shop building.

There was a doorway to the back rooms of the building, pushed open against the wall with a broken tension-hinge on the floor. Beyond was a kitchen, and what seemed to be other small rooms. Debris littered the ground from where parts of the ceiling had come apart, and it was gloomy without a source of light beyond the door we had entered through and the glassless window of the main room.

“There’s probably a back door,” the pegasus started in a whisper. “Maybe we can slip out that way and try to come up behind this guy. They attacked us a little further down the road… so maybe we can get to there without getting spotted?”

It sounded like a question. Almost a vague hope. He was unsure about where to go from here.

“Just give me a moment to… catch my breath. Okay? Go ahead and take a look in back, see if there’s a back door.”

I was reluctant to leave my activator alone, but being as he had given me an instruction… I hardly had a choice. My list of objectives updated to display the line ‘Locate rear exit of structure’. I looked over the pegasus, wondering if he would be alright, but noted that he was uncovering his weapon; mounted to a harness slung under his coat was a pistol with a long barrel, though I knew too little of firearms to make a guess as to the make and model. The diameter of the barrel said to me that it was likely very powerful, and having seen the damage a single round did to the thick bone of a skull, I estimated that it would do the same to any aggressor that dared enter the building.

With my activator behind me, I moved into the second room, stepping around debris and over the broken tension-hinge on the floor. The floor in this next room was covered, more or less, in small square tiles, dirty with dust and grit from the ceiling. The remains of a large refrigerator, a long commercial oven, and a floor drain that had long since stopped draining all indicated that this was a kitchen. An open metal door on the right wall let me see what had once been a walk-in freezer, though the shelves instead had been cleared of anything that had been on them.

I walked slowly around the room, curious about the state of the appliances; they appeared to have been partly dismantled. Screws were missing from the oven’s casing and panels were hanging loosely. The refrigerator was pulled forwards some and was missing panels as well. Upon inspection, the entirety of the compressor motor that normally took up a large portion of the underside of this appliance was also missing.

Moving on, I traveled down a short hallway where to my right was the open door to a small bathroom, likely for employee use, and a closed door to the left with a faded sign. In front, however, was what I had been instructed to find. Even in the gloom I could make out the dusty and broken sign on the floor that read ‘EXIT’, long since fallen from the ceiling. The metal door was closed and intact, which was the first exterior door I had thus far seen of the sort.

I cleared the objective from my HUD, marking it as completed before reaching my neck upwards to grip the handle of the door in my metal jaws, the only way I knew to grasp it, and gave a firm tug.

The door remained unmoved.

Curious as to why, my eyes whirred to focus on the surface directly in front of me; it seemed this door had a keyed deadbolt lock to hold it closed, one where a key would be required to lock it from either side. Unfortunately, the slot where a key would fit on this side was jammed by no less than three pieces of dark metal, and fragments of a fourth. The key, if found, likely wouldn’t unlock this door due to the obstruction, and I doubted that the key would be easy to find.

I reluctantly placed the objective of finding an exit back onto my HUD; I’d simply have to find some other way. I looked around, hoping for a window, but this hallway was devoid of anything of the sort, as had been the kitchen. The bathroom, as was proper for such a room, had no windows either. Perhaps in the closed room there could be a window?

I retreated the short distance back to the closed door, looking over the worn metal; unlike other interior doors, this one was built heavy and much like an exterior one. Perhaps a second exit door? Unfortunately in the gloom I was unable to read the faded sign. Unlike the rear door, however, this door had a level for a handle and no locking mechanism, and so for it I simply lifted a foreleg and pulled down on the handle, turning it as far as it would go and pushing open the door.

The hinges gave a low creak as they turned, and one vibrated ever so slightly; another tension hinge like the door to the kitchen. I applied more pressure, pressing the door open against the hinge’s countering force, and slowly peeked into the room beyond.

The inside was utterly dark, which was unfortunate as it proved that there was no window access, but I could not otherwise see anything that would give me an indication as to what the room was for. Perhaps a storage room? I pushed at the door and opened it wider to allow more light in, my eyes quietly dilating as wide as the apertures would allow so as to make it easier to see into the room with the minimal lighting.

On the floor in the far corner, curled in what looked to be a position close to that of sleeping, was what at first seemed to be a pony, but with a grim realization I found that instead it was a corpse. The third pony I had seen in my operation was most certainly dead, the body dessicated and shriveled from obvious mummification, hairless skin pulled taut over bones and a few strands of mane covering the face. They were wearing a shirt, and a hat sat toppled next to the body, a nametag on the shirt unreadable. An employee, most likely. I didn’t know if they were male or female.

I remained standing there, contemplating the discovery of the corpse. From all appearances it had been here since the pony had died, curled in a position where it seemed they had been sleeping when their life terminated. Had they been here during the disaster? I had no data relating to the dating of biological remains.

Dismal, I noted in my log file. It seemed that I was finding very little pleasant about the world I had found myself in upon activation. But there was yet more to see, and I simply had to hope that I would be able to find civilization, and answers, in the near future. But there was nothing I could do for the corpse on the floor, nor did I have a reasonable guess as to their cause of death.

I averted my optics from the remains, and returned to my exploration. The room had a number of boxes, most of which had been opened and emptied, some of which seemed to be cardboard that was decaying slowly. In one corner was a bucket on wheels, plastic with a mop handle sticking out and leaning against the wall, near to a shallow basin and faucet. Indeed, this was a storage room, and likely had housed dry goods and cleaning supplies for this place of business.

Near to the corpse, however, was something interesting: steel cylindrical shapes were outlined in the dim glow from the open door, and my optical interpreter resolved this into a ladder, reaching upwards. I followed the metal rails, noting the lack of ceiling tiles, and saw that the ladder extended into the blackness above me where even my sensors couldn’t see. What lay beyond?

My objective was incomplete, and I had yet one more place to search; up the ladder. Perhaps it led somewhere that would have an exit.

Looking back down, I looked about for something I could use to prop open the door with, and found that a nearby plastic sign was leaning against the wall. I leaned out and grasped it in my metal jaws, picking it up by the handle and dragging it out to jam into the space where the hinges met the frame of the door, keeping it held open. The ‘Wet Floor’ sign did an admirable job in its new role as a doorstop. That done I entered the room, pushing aside empty boxes to make my way to the ladder.

I reached up with my forelimbs, placing them on the rungs of the steel ladder and trying to determine the best way to approach this task of climbing. Eventually I settled on the approach of using my forelimbs to hold myself steady, grasping with my jaws and using my hind legs to push my way upwards; the five-point climbing method seemed inefficient, but perhaps it would be the safest method. I ascended slowly, counting the rungs as I went.

Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Each an equal distance apart so that even as the light grew less I was easily able to locate them by simply calculating the distances my limbs needed to travel. Above me I could only see blackness, and higher up the paint on the rungs vanished and was replaced instead with minor surface corrosion and rusting.

At fifteen meters from the ground, with only blackness ahead of me, I found my progress impeded when the end of my plastic muzzle touched a metallic surface that quietly rattled at my touch. I saw nothing, but remaining still I could hear a very faint sound, a low grumble of air moving rapidly over a surface. An exit? I reached out and swung my head slowly back and forth, searching for anything by which I could identify the obstacle, and eventually I struck something that with a few more taps I determined to be a lever, or handle.

It was a hatch of some kind.

I reached out and grasped the handle in my jaws, trying to twist but found it wouldn’t move in that direction. The other direction proved useless as well. Finally I pulled at it and was rewarded with a dull CLACK as a metal latch unbolted itself from a catch, the lever swinging downwards… and then suddenly tensing as springs mounted in the object began to pull.

All at once I was blinded by white, my optics unable to change from fully dilated fast enough as daylight bombarded my sensors. The hatch was yanked upwards by springs that rattled from the tension. Suddenly without something to hold onto, I found my rear hooves slipping from the rungs, and with a clang I found myself without anything at all to support me.

I was falling. My internal components shifted upwards in their moorings as gravity was thrown entirely in reverse, and the bright square of blinding light leapt outwards and away from me. I reached out my hind legs to try to catch myself on the rungs, but one of them missed the metal and instead I found myself being shoved in a sudden spiral.

Uncontrolled descent! flashed a bright warning in my HUD, a new alert for me. Activating gyroscope.

My diagnostics system interrupted the message with a new one that was troubling: Gyroscope not responding, module without power.

Without the rapidly-rotating wheels of a gyroscope within my chassis, I would be unable to control my tumbling. I was now too far from the ladder to reach out and hope to grasp onto it, sent backwards by the strike against the rung.

Activate reaction-control thrusters, I commanded hopefully to my chassis.

No such module detected, was the unfortunate reply.

Gravitational control systems, I queried.

No such module detected.

Emergency parachute?

Random guessing is unsatisfactory. No such module detected.

The ground was rapidly approaching and I was sure that an impact from such a height would cause damage to me, perhaps severely so. Though even with it approaching, I was curious: gyrocope? The module would imply, were it working, that there was a reason to be facing in a particular direction. So what direction was I meant to be facing?

Gyroscope module designed to right the chassis, chimed in my diagnostic software. Upon righting, deployment of pneumatic pistons is performed to absorb kinetic energy from a dangerous fall.

Pneumatics? A feeling I had never felt before swept through my circuits, an elation in the discovery of something new about myself. The emotion was unbidden, but appropriate. It was something new about this chassis I was wearing that could tell me more about my purpose, or enable me to perform more functions. What that would be was of course a mystery, but the elation of discovery remained.

If my gyroscope could not right my chassis, then I would right myself using improvised methods.

I calculated my angle based on internal readings, and then a second time to determine how fast and in what direction I was tumbling. It was a great deal, but I would have to compensate for this regardless. I put power to the motors along my spinal column, twisting my torso quickly so as to exert inertial force against part of my rotation, and with a hard kick of my forelimbs I put another force into play to try to control my tumbling.

Deploy pneumatics, I commanded my system, overriding the need for my chassis to be righted and hoping that my course-corrections would be enough to bring my limbs downwards as originally intended.

TSSST! came a loud sound from my chassis as my hind limbs extended from the lower half, increasing their length almost two-fold using metal pistons. The hind hooves split apart fractally, the casing deploying to show an array of motors and supports beneath in a complex fashion, expanding the surface area of the bottom of my hooves until they were far wider, a three-toed claw of a shock-absorber. With a loud CLACK of metal on stone, cracking the tiles beneath me, my hind legs impacted the ground and were pushed upwards against the newly-discovered pneumatic pistons, a soft hissing of air escaping as they slowed my deceleration from a sudden jolt to a much more comfortable… jolt.

I fell forwards on all fours as the pistons in my hind legs retracted, the rear hooves collapsing back together with a mechanical whirring of servos; a change from an impact of a predicted 30g, to a much lighter 12g.

Enumerate damage, I requested of my diagnostic software, checking over myself visually.

My diagnostics had already been gathering the data. Current report of no damage sustained in fall. A repeat event is thoroughly recommended against. If at all possible. Statistical probability of survival in a second instance is… unfortunate.

And yet, I’d made it out intact. And what’s more, it seemed that the chassis that I had found myself placed in had more to discover than had seemed apparent initially. I heard a hoarse call from the other room, asking if I was alright, but of course I was unable to answer audibly. Instead I turned to return to my activator, to make him aware that I’d found a rooftop exit for us to exploit…

...my left hind leg collapsed underneath me, suddenly unresponsive. I fell forwards, my torso taking the brunt of the fall as I dropped. What had happened? I went through a rapid self-check of my motor-functions, and everything seemed to be fine, save for a single motor in my left hind leg, the same leg that had caught and frozen multiple times so far.

Damage report updated. Locomotion module thirty-seven has sustained damage of unknown extent. Unresponsive. Logs suggest possible issue with power-distribution due to reduced voltage. There was a pause as my diagnostic software showed me the log in question. Investigating and attempting resolution.

“Hey!” came another hoarse, loud whisper from the other room. “You okay, robot?”

The door was still a meter away from me, and I would be unable to simply walk out. It seemed I would have to, for the time being, drag myself out to meet my activator.

A soft sound brought my attention elsewhere, however. My ears swiveled, trying to track the sound to a source, but as it stopped I became unable to determine where it had been coming from. I turned my head, looking behind me to the corpse, wondering if perhaps it had somehow been the source, but it remained precisely where it had been before. Uncertain, I raised my head to peer upwards at the hatch to the roof that I had opened.

In the square of light was silhouetted a face. A pony with brown coat and a wide-brimmed hat peered down at me.

The lookout.

mod_ attributes;
set PERK,#0x0001;
set PNEUMATIC_LEGS, [Woosh! You’ve got the wind under your hooves with air-powered pistons; you jump three times higher than a regular pony. In addition these babies double as shock-absorbers, reducing all fall-damage by two thirds if you land legs-first.]
jnc ok_mod_attributes;

Press [Enter] to continue...

Comments ( 17 )

Eeeee! Thankies!
I would like to know what you like most, if possible x3?

More please :pinkiehappy:

5235051 mostly the massive Ratchet and Clank vibe I'm getting from this fic

i justvread your latest chapter, and i just gotta say: dayum! :rainbowderp:

Welp, i got done.

Can we please get a possible ETA on the nxt update, guy ( or gal, dont know... )? :scootangel:

I am a goat!
The ETA on the next part is highly dependent on how much I think people like what I'm posting, but I should be done by the end of this month >.>. I'm a slow writer because I tend to rewrite large portions as I edit.

I know that I for one love this particular fallout crossover fic, good nice quality ones like this one are --a rarity-- *rimshot*

Just read what's written so far, I rather enjoyed it and have very few problems with anything in it. I assume Rule Book is similar to Fish Legs from How to Train Your Dragon, in that he lists real world 'stats'? While I enjoy the overly analytical thought process of our mechanical protagonist I hope writing it won't burn you out, I can imagine it's very taxing. That's all I can really give feedback-wise for what is available.

This is pretty cool. An interesting premise, and good writing. I'm really diggin' it. Can't wait for more.

Well, writing for the robot isn't actually all that difficult, it's kinda something I'm used to from writing Wikipedia articles. Clinical tone, it's called. As for Rule Book, yes he is listing out and reasoning over statistics... which is up to people reading to determine if they're a real thing or not.
I'm a slow writer unfortunately, as I'm often very, very busy.... but I hope to see more on this story out soon! Thank you very much for reading!

5655170 I almost forgot about this fic... :rainbowderp:
Plz plz plzzz give us an update!? :raritydespair:

... Or, you know a chapter... :rainbowkiss:

Oh, nvmnd. I just saw your page, carry on. :scootangel:

5369349 You said a month! It has been... alot longer than a month... :fluttershyouch: I haven't forgotten you though. :pinkiesad2:

Sorries! I've been actually doing a lot of FoE roleplay and tabletop gaming in Fallout-related stuff.... I have a fair portion of the next chapter done!
I'm glad you haven't forgotten though <3! You can always PM me about things!

6539483 I'm a goat now too!
I don't know how to pm... :twilightsheepish:
It's fine, I understand.

Your book has been advertised on the new facebook group page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/foebooks/ :)

Interesting; i hope this story continues someday.

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