And so Buttercup returned to her new friends hiding behind the rock. "Good news and bad news."
Giddyup gave a little whicker. "It is good to see you return safely."
"Thanks." She met Stan's eyes, her head craned upwards to do so. "They said you can have a chance, but there's a very specific requirement."
"If they want me to come as nude as you are, hard pass."
Buttercup blinked at that. "Armor's expensive," she squeaked defensively. "And I'm not a guard." Though since he brought it up, she suddenly realized, that was not a flappy layer of skin. Those were clothes. She felt silly for not realizing that right away. Look, she hadn't seen a lot of humans outside of maybe a picture or two!
"So what's the condition?" Stan picked up his rifle, as if somehow instinctively knowing this involved that.
Humans really were born with their guns. For just a moment Buttercup wondered if he felt through it. "You have to promise not to be mad..." She didn't want an enraged human to deal with. "You can say no, but that means you can't come in."
Stan shrugged at that, but he was still holding his gun. "Go ahead, ask. If it's that bad, we're out of here. Not like we don't have places to be."
Giddyup raised a metal hoof. "We must complete the delivery of--"
"That's more than enough, pal." Stan nodded as Giddyup aborted the report of their tasks. "So what's the requirement already?"
No more delaying. Buttercup pointed at Stan's longarm. "If you come in peace, they want you to not have any guns, or other weapons. We'll take care of them while you're here." A charming smile, she hoped. "Please?"
Stan grunted at the idea. "That was a lot of drama for something so simple." Simple?! "Do the people... mutants inside carry weapons or not?"
Buttercup raised each of her hooves one at a time. "Not more than you see me holding. Only the guards walk around with weapons, usually."
Stan shrugged. "Then that isn't that big of a request. I've had to turn over for some of the snootier cities that forgot what time they're in." He set the gun down, face up. "Do I give it to you?"
Buttercup took a step back. That simple? "Y-yeah. They'll check if you have spares though, they said."
"What about a knife? That allowed?" Stan shrugged softly. "Basic utility blade. Ain't got any blood on it but what we ate."
"I did not eat," assured the atomic powered equine that was Giddyup. "Will eating utensils be provided for Stan while we visit?"
"'Course." Buttercup bobbed her head. "We're not rude. So... for safety sake, the knife too, please." She sat and extended her hooves, ready to accept what was given.
Stan set his longarm across her extended legs. "Can you walk while you're doing that?" He struggled to imagine how that'd play out. "What if I gave it to Buttercup? He's great at holding things, and if he promises, you know he'll hand it over at the gate. It's a gate, right? All towns got gates if they got anything."
"I am Giddyup," he reminded. "She is Buttercup." He pointed to their new, living, pony friend.
Buttercup smirked at that. "Don't you forget it. I was Buttercup first."
But Stan laughed at that. "Doubt that. I really doubt that."
Buttercup fixed her fellow horse with a look. "Tell him! Tell him I was first."
Giddyup was not as certain. "What is the date of your manufacture?"
Which spread the confusion right back on Buttercup. "Manufacture?"
Fortunately, there was Stan to figure out where the two horses had failed in their conversation. "He's a robot. Robots are manufactured. Built." He hiked a thumb at Buttercup. "And you are a mutant, which means you were born, either from your mom like a normal horse, or an egg. Mutants are weird like that."
Giddyup recoiled in apparent shock. "I thought all horses were manufactured."
"Nope," assured Buttercup. When he held out the knife towards her, she snapped it in her teeth. "Anything else? Oh, and I didn't come from any egg. What am I, a radscorp?" A popular day for radscorp consideration. "Uh, oh right. So I was born 19 years ago."
It was Stan's turn to be surprised. "Huh."
"Huh? What's so odd about that?" Buttercup turned awkwardly, starting to shuffle/waddle on her hind legs, the gun laid across her arms, the knife in her mouth. "Why, how old are you? And you! Giddyup, I was first, right?"
Giddyup easily kept up with the encumbered pony. "That is incorrect. I was was manufactured October 2nd, 2077."
Stan burst into a low laugh. "Think he has you beat by at least a few days, missy."
Buttercup began to color. "Just a few..." She was quiet in their march a moment. "If you were first, why'd you give up the name so quick?"
Giddyup lowered his head next to hers, though his voice came more from the center of his chest than from his head directly. "You wanted it, so I gave it to you. That seemed to be the correct thing to do, to make a friend."
"Buttercup!" There was a winged pony, a pegasus perched on an equally large rock as the one they had been hiding on was watching them. "Is that his gun?"
"She did it," breathlessly admitted a horned pony closer to the ground, watching them with wonder. "Let me help." He trotted towards them at a light jog. His horn began to glow, snatching the rifle free of Buttercup, though his eyes were on Stan the entire time.
Giddyup let out a happy little neigh, followed by low nickers. "It is a pleasure to meet you. I am grateful you also speak English. Equine communication is limited, but I would have tried my best."
"He ain't lying." Stan was watching the horse with the floating gun beside it. "Now... That is not normal, just gonna put that out there." Psychic powers were not high on the usual expectations for mutants.
Buttercup gestured with her liberated hooves. "This big guy's Watch Out. He's great at living up to his name." She pounced the unicorn in a warm hug. "Keeps us nice and safe."
Watch Out shoved Buttercup back. "I'm on duty, Buttercup. There's a human right here."
The pegasus landed, gliding down easily. "I'm Sky Eye." She pointed back up at the rock she just descended. "One guess why I got that name." She laughed as she approached, eyeing Stan. "And you're a human. Never got this close to one that was still breathing."
Of the two, Stan figured Sky was a lot less nervous than Watch. Also, she flew. Alarming, perhaps, but so much less worrying than whatever the horned one was doing. He addressed her, "Hey. Stan's the name. This guy's Giddyup. Giddyup Buttercup in its entirety." He patted the metal side of his robotic companion. "We came 'cause she invited us." He nodded towards Buttercup.
Watch Out walked back to the gate he started at, setting the gun aside inside it. "Buttercup gets ideas." He peeked out at the lot of them. "You have one chance, Stan. Stan... What does that even mean?"
Sky snorted softly. "Ignore him. Humans have, what, a dozen languages? You lost track of what your name means, didn't you?"
How one lost track of what one never knew... "It's just a name. I will want that gun back when I go."
"Don't even worry about it." Sky turned for the town and pointed. "We're not thieves. Welcome to the stable. Keep by Buttercup, do as she says, and it'll be a nice trip." She looked over her shoulder at Stan. "In case this wasn't super obvious, don't tell your friends about this, huh? We're not looking to 'make friends', and human friends are risky ones to make in general. One chance, all you get."
"All my worst enemies are humans." Funny how that worked out. "Don't owe them a damn thing. Any obvious rules besides the basics? No starting fights, no taking what ain't yours." The basic rules that governed most societies since there was any such thing.
Watch snorted softly. "You speak those rules, but humans so rarely follow them. If they did, we'd be out of a job."
Buttercup laughed a bit too loud as she trotted to the fore of her group. "Follow me! I have so much to show you." With pride, she led her group into the village of ponies. Beyond the tall gates that kept out the horrors of the waste, they found a small town that was... green. Lush lawns, no, but local plants had been set around, encouraged to grow and thrive. That an earth pony was nibbling on one was a hint that the decorations served more than one purpose.
"Stop grazing off the ground," hissed Buttercup, closing with the stallion and thomping them right on the head. "We aren't wild animals!"
"I was hungry," he grumped, swallowing the last of the greenery he had secured. "And it's right there." He only then noticed Buttercup was not alone. "W-wha?" His eyes went wide. "Is that a robot?"
Stan chuckled softly at the reaction. "Robot rates over a human huh?"
"If you were a threat, the guards would have taken care of you." The stallion nodded with confidence. "But a robot!" He gestured wildly at Giddyup. "Where'd you find one? And it's a horse."
"I am a horse," agreed Giddyup. "Nice to meet you."
"And it talks!" The stallion began to bounce up and down in place. "It talks!"
Buttercup applied a hoof to her face. "Meet Long Stalk. Long Stalk, the robot you're fascinated in also has a name."
"I am Giddyup Buttercup. You may call me Giddyup." He nodded at the flesh horse. "Nice to meet you, Long Stalk."
"Wow." Long rushed up to circle around Giddyup, viewing from all the angles he could manage. "Wow! What were you made for? All robots are made for something, right?"
With a soft click, a marketing promo began to play from Giddyup, not in his voice at all. "The ultimate in equestrian robotics, Giddyup Buttercup is programmed to perfectly emulate the behavior of an actual horse. He neighs, he trots, he'll love you love you lots! And with no need to feed or exercise him, Giddyup Buttercup is perfect for urban environments." A little corporate jingle played to finish it off, one more click as it reached its end.
Buttercup crossed one hoof over the other leg, pointed at Giddyup with a confident smirk. "He's real nice, and he taught Stan, the human, to be nice too!"
"Wow..." Long fell to his haunches. "This is amazing. They made a horse, just to horse? Humans are... They're gods. They do things because they can." He fixed his eyes on Stan. "Will you do something magical like that?"
"That's real unlikely." He gestured back towards where his gun was lost. "I'm real good at making things stop moving, but they took that 'magic staff' away from me. I can keep on ticking when things get rough, but you've managed that good enough so far."
Giddyup stepped towards Long. "We would like to meet more. Will you introduce us to your friends? If they know us, then they will not be alarmed at our presence."
"Huh?" It took Long a moment. "Oh! You have to meet the elders. They will go nuts." He turned to Buttercup. "They're with you? C'mon! The elders gotta see this. They gotta! They'd know what to do, and say, and ask, and all that stuff."
Buttercup turned to her new friends. "Long here is good at taking in the long view. He's already thinking about what to do next, not now. It's how he is. Good thing we love him." She threw an arm over his withers in a hug. "If he says meeting the elders is the right thing to do, he's probably right."