• Published 16th Jan 2015
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Fallout Equestria: Action Hero - Popcorn Chicken


The world of cinema may be long dead, but one young griffon strives to build a life taking clichés as gospel.

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Chapter 3: Grounded Part I

Chapter 3: Grounded – Part I

To the pegasi ponies that lived above the cloud cover, every new day was a Celestia given blessing. One made safe by the ever-watchful gaze of the Enclave, a rigid government determined keep everything clean, clear and uncontaminated. They lived in ignorance of what lay below, going about their daily lives as if it didn’t matter.

“Come on! Just over this hill. I bet you’ll love it!”

“Do we have to trot? Why can’t we just fly?”

“That would ruin the surprise!”

“The blindfold already did.”

Two pegasi made their way across the cloud countryside, their hooves making contact with the vapour as if it were a solid surface. Since the weather machines ran rampantly, it was a common to see clouds mass together in dense lumps. Sometimes hills, valleys, and even mountain ranges could form and vanish overnight.

“Okay, now brace yourself. You’re in for a shock!” announced Shuffler, rosy coat and lavender mane matching the bubbly excitement in his voice. His thin, almost frail forehooves closed around his companions blindfold.

“I’m bracing.” Likewise, Adder’s light grey coat and taupe mane almost matched the dour tone of his reply.

Off came the blindfold. “Ta-dah! So, do you like it?”

Laid across a small cloud valley in-between the two hills was a blanket supporting an assortment of containers, beverages and plates. It would have looked like a nice romantic picnic if it weren’t for an uninvited guest.

“I don’t get it.”

“Pardon? What’s there to ge-OH GODDESSES! GET DOWN!”

Small ripples radiated across the cloud surface as Shuffler hit the deck. Adder continued to stare until a pair of rose hooves dragged him down too.

“Did you see it!? Did you?!” Shuffler wheezed, clutching a hoof to his chest. “What was that beast?”

“I think it’s a griffon,” said Adder while peeking over the hilltop. “They’re creatures made up of lions and eagles.”

“It’s TWO carnivorous predators in one!?” Shuffler’s vision began to swim. “Where’s the nearest patrol? Can we radio in a Vertibuck? What about the Wonderbolts? They deal with this sort of thing right? You’ve got connections to our senator! Just call someone and make them make it go away!”

“Don’t you think you’re over-reacting just a little? Look at the little guy; he’s looks like he’s just in his teens,” Adder added, attempting to appeal to paternal side he knew Shuffler kept well hidden. “And you want to bring the Wonderbolts down on him for scavenging some food to maybe feed his equally starving family? Have you no heart?”

Snuffler’s snout scrunched and his cheeks flushed with a light shade of pink. “Well… let’s just scare it off then. Hopefully it will go back under clouds where all those dreadful creatures belong.”

“That’s better.” Adder put a hoof on Shuffler’s shoulder as thanks. “Now, I think I remember how to deal with griffons from an Enclave Environmental Educational.” Adder smirked. “You just have to be bigger and louder than it is. That intimidates it.”

“Intimidates? Are you sure?” Shuffler added. “Won’t that just provoke it to attack?”

“They’re territorial creatures, and I take it that down there is your… our territory,” Adder explained, still smirking. “So let’s go down there and make a statement: these are our clouds and if you want to take them you’ll have to fight us!”

“‘Fight us!’ Are you insane?!” Shuffler hissed. Adder spared him a small chuckle. “It has talons, claws, a razor-sharp beak and simple, bestial instincts! It will tear us to shreds if it so decides!”

“Well… right now it’s shredding your shortbreads.”

Shuffler bounded over the hill in rosy blur. The skeleton of a pegasus reared up on his hind legs, flared his wings and flailed his forehooves out in front of him while shouting and grunting. This might have been terrifying to a normal pony foal or a nestling griffon, but to Gillet – who spent his youth watching violent films well beyond his age – this was just odd. Slightly irritating at best.

“Raaa-AAAAHHH!” Shuffler’s declaration of cloud ownership became a surprised scream as he lost his hoofing and fell, spiralling down the cloud hill before coming to a spread-eagled crash landing just before the picnic blanket. Gillet stared at the groaning pegasus for a few seconds before shrugging and returning to the shortbreads.

“Did it work?” Adder called out, not withholding a small snicker.

“No… and it doesn’t matter… it’s already finished the shortbreads,” groaned Shuffler in reply. “It took me weeks to requisition those sky wheat rations just so I could make them!”

“Why didn’t you just come to me?” Added made his way down the hill and stood beside the crumpled form of Shuffler. “I could’ve gotten you those rations overnight.”

“Then it wouldn’t be a surprise.”

“Oh get up you useless lump of a stallion.” Adder helped Shuffler to his hooves. “I swear, sometimes I don’t know what to do with you… or what I would do without you.”

“Oh, you don’t mean that.”

“Mmmm… maybe I d-”

An empty tupperware container flew neatly between Adder and Shuffler’s snout, interrupting their tender moment. They both turned their heads to the little griffon, who continued to ignore their presence.

“So, what do we do with him?” Adder said.

“Wonderbolts.”

“What if we try maybe, talking to him?”

“Talking to it.”

“Don’t be so mean.” Adder stepped forward onto the blanket and cleared his throat. “Excuse me little one, might I ask who are you?”

Gillet ceased scrounging and turned to the voice. This time he was looking up at its source. “I’m not allowed to talk to strangers.”

“But you’re allowed to steal their food?”

Gillet paused and swallowed, realization suddenly coming to him. His first reflex was to smile charismatically. “Hi! My name’s Gillet. Is this your food Mr. Pegasus? Its really, really good!” This wasn’t the first time he had been caught stealing treats.

“Well aren’t you a polite little guy?” Adder said, turning to Shuffler as he finished the sentence. He merely huffed. “Well, this is Shuffler and my name is Adder.”

“Adder? Like the snake? Do you have fangs?! Is your special talent poisons?” Gillet asked excitedly. Suddenly he was genuinely beaming. “That would be so cool!”

The grey stallion chuckled. “Not quite little one. You see this?” Adder pointed to his cutie-mark; a dark blue addition symbol in a lighter square. “My talent is mathematics. I make a career as an accountant for the Enclave.”

Gillet’s beak upturned; he much preferred his version. Seriously, what kind of talent was being good at something boring? Thankfully Gillet knew his destiny and it wasn’t going to be something so dull, nor was it forever it tattooed to his flank as a depressing reminder. “What about him? Is his talent being clumsy?”

“I’ll have you know that I am a professional gymnast!” Shuffler twirled on the spot revealing a coiled red ribbon on his rosy hide.

“Mean a professional at falling over?” Gillet corrected.

“Why you mouthy little–”

“What brings you up above the clouds, Gillet?” Interjected Adder before the pair were interred in immature back and forth name calling. “Surely you know it’s not safe up here for you and your – and I mean no offense – kind.”

“I’m gonna join Junior Speedsters!” Gillet’s wings shot out from his side knocking over an adjacent thermos. “Can you tell me where they are? I wanna signup today!”

Adder had expected a lot of silly and absurd answers from Gillet, but this one in particular caught him off-guard. “Junior… whats, sorry?”

“Junior Speedsters,” Gillet repeated staring incredulously at Adder. “You don’t know about Junior Speedsters?”

“Not off the top of my head, no,” said Adder. He glanced back to his gymnast companion who simply glared at Gillet.

“Man, what do they teach you in pegasuses school!” Gillet exclaimed, frustrated by Adder’s lack of pre-war pop culture knowledge. “It should be the most famous flight school ever ‘cause Gilda, one of the greatest Talons ever, went there!”

Adder smiled but Shuffler bristled, his dislike of Gillet intensifying. Unlike his companion, Shuffler was well versed in famous athletes and their rise to power. Though he did not know of this Gilda or these Talons, he did know of one infamous pegasus who had at one point called herself a Junior Speedster. “Well, I guess you will just have to go home; Junior Speedsters was shutdown centuries ago. Good riddance too! All it did was inspire trouble-makers and vagrants.”

Gillet’s feature’s drooped. Adder shot Shuffler a short glare receiving a mouthed “What!” in reply. “There are other flight schools, Gillet, but I am certain you don’t need training. After all, you did fly all the way up here on your own.”

Apparently, it didn’t take much but a few compliments to get Gillet out of a slump. “Yeah… Yeah! You’re right! I flew up here all on my own even when mum said it was impossible and I should never try! I must have natural talent!” Gillet flexed his spindly arms and fluttered his wings.

“L-Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Adder said, his smile straining a little.

“Pfft! Natural talent!” Shuffler mocked, separating Adder from Gillet with his wings. “Hardly. You must have some sort of radiation induced mutation. Sacrificing brain cells for stronger wings I would think,” he added, continuing to insult a nestling who had just made it to the double-digits. “Now, shoo! Hurry along to your dear mother before you contaminate my… our picnic any further.”

Gillet stared blankly at Shuffler. There were a lot of big words in there he didn’t completely understand, but the couple he did piqued his interest. “Is this a ‘picnic’?”

“Yes it is!” Shuffler mistook Gillet’s innocent ignorance as insulting. “And you’re ruining it! Please go and leave us be!”

“Ruining what? I’m making it fun! Whattya gonna do with two ponies? Just Talk? Boring!” Gillet crammed a jam donut into his beak; about a third of it missed and tumbled down his sides. “Behfides! Fhrees comfanee!”

Shuffler’s brow twitched. “It’s a private picnic! For Adder and I!” he seethed through clenched teeth.

This time Gillet swallowed before speaking. “Private? In the middle of the sky? I like you. You’re funny.”

Adder stepped in before either of them got another word out. “What my friend is trying to say is: though we are grateful for your company, Shuffler and I would rather have a private picnic together. Do you understand?”

Adder’s smile was kind and understanding while Shuffler’s scowl was amusing and fun to play with. As much as Gillet was enjoying pressing his buttons and eating his food – especially the food – he did genuinely feel bad for Adder; he had to put up with Shuffler all day long. “You pegasuses are weird,” Gillet said with a simple shrug. “But… I guess I’ll go home and train on my own since I’m too good for your flying schools. I’m just gonna grab a few things for the trip back down.”

Gillet scooped up a pile of clouds and tried to bend them into the shape of a bowl. The process was a little harder than he imagined and very quickly he had a misshapen container of soft vapour which could barely hold a biscuit, let alone its shape. His first attempt frustrated him, so he tore it to shreds, scooped up another batch of clouds and tried again.

“You don’t know how to make cloud shapes?” This time it was Shuffler speaking with a softer tone. “At all?”

“Duh!” Gillet snapped, hurling the second bowl over the hill edge. He grabbed another batch and started over, concentrating his hardest this time. “Pegasuses keep hogging all the clouds! They don’t grow on trees y’know!”

“Here… like this.” Shuffler knelt down beside Gillet and scooped up a fresh batch of clouds. He weaved it in a circular motion while continually adding more wisps to it. Soon he held a solid, pearlescent bowl which he offered to Gillet. “See? Add enough layers and it becomes strong enough to hold just as much as your tummy could!”

Gillet eyed the bowl much like the unfaltering hero would eye the helping talons of the mocking villain. Eventually his desire for delicious food overtook his pride and he snatched the bowl from Shuffler’s hooves, uttering a barely audible thanks under his breath. Without looking at either of them, Gillet stuffed it to its brim and departed through the hole he tunnelled through in the first place.

“Finally!” Shuffler exclaimed. “I thought we’d never be rid of him!”

Adder chuckled as he joined his close friend in cleaning up Gillet’s mess. “Well, you can’t say it wasn’t interesting.”

“Do you think we should tell someone?” Shuffler said, occasionally glancing back at the hole, fearing more might come up through it. “A wild, perhaps disease ridden griffon just flew up here without care or concern!”

“Maybe he was just lucky?” Adder put forward neutrally. “There are outposts all over the clouds. He would have been vaporised instantly if he popped up within half a mile of one.”

“Instantly? No warning at all?”

Adder turned away, busying himself with a creased corner. “Nope.”

“Maybe we should duck there and check,” Shuffler said, taking several small steps towards Gillet’s cloud tunnel. “Just to see if he made it down there alright.”

“Just ‘duck down there and check?’” Adder repeated, baffled. “Moments ago you wanted to spank the little guy and buck him back underneath the clouds. Now you’re worried about whether he gets home or not? Are you trying to get branded?”

“I’m not!” Shuffler turned back to Adder, slightly more adamant but no less flustered. “I’m just saying it would be a shame if he were to… uhm… Just imagine if his parents came up here with an ash filled urn demanding an explanation!”

“Well his parents are horribly irresponsible then,” said Adder, raising his voice a little to egg Shuffler on. “Letting their son fly up here when they clearly know it’s dangerous!”

“Yes! You’re right!” Shuffler said with renewed enthusiasm. He was just thankful that the topic was moving away from him. “Anypony could set a better example! Even you and I could!”

Adder smirked. “You, and I?”

“W-Well… Figuratively!”

“You wanted to keep him didn’t you!?” Adder’s snide smirk returned as he pressed questions he already knew the answers to. “I saw that look Shuffler! You dived to help him the moment he was having trouble!”

“I just wanted to get rid of him so we could enjoy a picnic together! That’s all!” There was fire in Shuffler’s voice but clear uncertainty underneath it. Adder simply raised a brow prompting another short outburst from his close friend. “Besides! I would adopt a pegasi foal over some tainted beast!”

“Ohhhh! So you were thinking about adoption then!” Adder said, pressing the topic while Shuffler just stammered and backed away. “How could you possibly set aside the time and funds to raise a foal. Why… you’d need someone to help. A foal-sitter… or even a partn-”

Clunk!

Shuffler spasmed the moment that word was uttered from Adder’s mouth. His hind legs bucked back and struck a metal box sitting on the edge of the blanket. The buck itself wasn’t powerful but it was enough to launch the lockbox just short of Gillet’s cloud tunnel.

“NOOOOO!” Shuffler darted towards it, his dextrous hooves blurring with speed. The lockbox teetered on the edge before tumbling down just as his hooves neared it. As he prepared to make the dive after it, Adder tackled him from the side. “I need that box!” Shuffler shouted, bucking clouds into wisps as he struggled against his friend.

Adder poured every ounce of strength he could muster into preventing his friend from making the dive while Shuffler used every gymnastic trick he could think of to slip by.

The struggle only lasted a few minutes before Adder collapsed on top of Shuffler, using his weight to pin him against the clouds. “What…” he wheezed. “What was in that box?”

Shuffler gave one last effort attempting to pull himself out from underneath Adder, but it proved ultimately fruitless. Now admitting defeat he just laid there, his low eyes glistening softly. “A cake,” he answered despondently.

“You were going to risk your life for a CAKE?!” Adder’s voice rose sharply, a rarity in his life. “By the Goddesses, Shuffler! I can get you a cake! I can get you any cake you want.” He leapt off of Shuffler but remained between him and the cloud tunnel. “If you want to make the cake yourself I can get you the ingredients! Rare ones, too! I swear Shuffler; I’ll work day and night to get you whatever you want if you’ll just promise to never do that again!”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter anymore!” Shuffler spat, punching a low lying cloud into vapours. “The cake wasn’t important at all! What was inside was and now it’s gone! Years of -”

“OW!” Adder had just enough time to duck as the lockbox was hurled back out of the hole. In its shadow was Gillet and clutched in his talons was some soggy cake. “You pegasuses are super weird! Why’d you stuff shrapnel in a cake!? Huh?!” He tossed it at their hooves. “You could have chipped my beak!”

“You-but-how?!” stuttered Shuffler, his gaze darting between the disgruntled griffon and the open lockbox. Jammed in the keyhole was a brown feather.

“I was waiting for you boring pegasuses to leave so I could clean up. Then you started having a hissy-fit and threw the box down the hole. You nearly hit me!” Gillet accused, imitating his mother by pacing back and forth before them. “So I flew down and caught it ‘cause I have natural talent for flying remember. Then I picked the lock and inside was this kinda ruined cake but I figure I’ll just eat it anyway. When I bit-”

“You… You… Magnificent little rascal!” Shuffled dived onto Gillet tackling him before either him or Adder could react. “Thank you thank you thank you!”

“Hey! Hey!” Gillet squawked. He struggled hard but he was no match for the stallion and his hysterical strength. “Let go of me! I dun’ wanna catch being clumsy!”

The little display brought back Adder’s smile. As he waited, a peculiar glint in his peripheral vision caught his attention. Adder scooped up a small cloud and squeezed it over the cake. Slowly, the rain water washed it away revealing something he had always expected, but, nonetheless still shocked him to his core.

“Shuffler…” Said Adder slowly. In his hooves he held a golden band just wide enough to clip around the base of a pegasi wing. On a small setting was a sapphire addition symbol. “Is this… does this mean…?”

Adder looked up to see Shuffler standing before him; in his hoof was a similar band but his had a coiled ruby ribbon set in it. “It does…”

“I wanted it to be a surprise but, well, you know what happened.” Shuffler said coyly before turning to Gillet, who was stuffing his face with the ruined cake. “Can I ask a favour, Gillet?”

“I just saved your stupid jewellery!” The little griffon threw his wings and cake covered forearms into the air in exasperation. “Whattya want now!?”

“This is a very important moment, Gillet! You simply must take some pictures!” Without waiting for an answer, Shuffler dragged Gillet over in front of them and shoved a wonky, blocky device into his talons. “It means a lot to us.”

Gillet groaned and rolled his eyes, but truth be told he relished the opportunity. He wasn’t making motion picture history like his heroes but a couple of polaroids would last just as long. He focused intently on the task at hand, lest he succumb to whatever infected these pegasi and made them so mushy and boring.

“This is the happiest day of my life!” Shuffler exclaimed. He and Adder proudly displayed their wing clips as Gillet snapped shot after shot of them. A small pile amassing on the clouds before him. “Now you, Gillet!”

“What? Huh?!” Shuffler sculpted a pony size pillar of clouds beside Gillet and propped the camera on top of it. “Why me?”

“You mean a lot to us Gillet.” The camera’s internal clock started ticking down. “If you weren’t a griffon, Shuffler and I would take you home this very day!”

“Shuffler… I don’t think you shou-”

“Now, say-”

“FREEZE!”

The flash went off snapping a final picture of the trio. Adder and Shuffler beamed but Gillet’s expression couldn’t be anything but happy. Though he barely heard the voice over Shuffler and his own thoughts, he knew full well who it belonged to.

“HOOVES UP NOW!” Gillet’s forearms were first into the air.

From the clouds burst what Shuffler had feared. The mother griffon towered above them, rearing up on her hind legs and flaring her wings to keep herself balanced. She brandished at them a pistol and an expression that couldn’t be any more furious, incensed and – underneath all of that – worried.

“Oh Goddesses! Please don’t shoot us!” Shuffler cried while Adder tried to step in front of him. “Please we beg of you!”

“Step away from my son,” Glinnis demanded.

“Your… son?” Shuffler and Adder looked down to Gillet who in turned looked down at the clouds.

“Gillet. Come here. Now.” Slowly he trundled forward to his mother’s side. “And you two…” Glinnis lowered here pistol but still kept it at the ready. She glanced sideways to the picnic, then to the camera and finally back to them catching the glimmer of their wing-clip rings. “… You two enjoy your evening.” Glinnis grabbed Gillet by the forearm and dragged him along with her.

It was the worst kind of trip: the silent one. Both griffons descended from the clouds in complete silence, save the cycling of their wings and the wind whistling through their feathers.

Gillet knew he was trouble. As he stepped through the open Stable doors he might as well have waved goodbye to the outside world, but he wasn’t dreading impending punishment. There were other, more important, thoughts on his mind. Ones he hadn’t really given any serious thought to up until now.

Even as Glinnis ranted and raved at him about what he had done today, the only thing on his mind was the last picture taken, and what Shuffler had said.

“… now that story about a Vertibuck and I is true – and rather funny at the time – but it was still a life-threatening situation which I took very seriously! Did you just fly up there thinking it would be all fun and games!? You could have died! They could have taken you and locked you up in a zoo or performed freaky experiments on you!” Glinnis almost started plucking feathers from her head in frustration. “Gillet, answer me! What do you have to say for yourself?!”

Gillet looked at the picture before bringing his gaze up to his scowling mother.

“Mum, where’s dad?”