• Published 13th Jul 2015
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Founders of Alexandria - Starscribe

Four months after the end of human civilization, six ponies come together to rebuild. They learn that the apocalypse has not made friendship any easier.

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Part 1 (Adrian) - Chapter 2

Dinner in Alexandria was a community affair. Everypony took breakfast and lunch on the go, often using prepackaged pre-Event food. But no matter what you were doing, no matter where you were, you always came for dinner.

It probably helped that the group was so small; it helped that there was more than one pony who enjoyed cooking, as well as more than one who enjoyed gardening. Adrian was neither, which meant he got all the reward without any of the effort. Well, effort cooking anyway. Just because he didn’t like to stick around after he got bored of a place didn’t mean he was afraid of hard work.

Adrian limped into the pavilion beside Sky, who had to slow down in order to avoid outpacing him during the short walk. She hadn’t done any of the lifting or hauling today, but telling himself that only sorta helped soothe his pride. Of course, the smells coming from the pavilion quickly erased any trepidation he may’ve had.

The pavilion was big enough for dozens of ponies to all have benches and a little wooden roof over their heads, so of course they only needed the one table. A food truck had been driven right onto the grass beside the pavilion, though they generally only used it to keep their food away from raccoons and foxes during the night.

“What’re we having tonight?” he asked nopony in particular as he moved for the largest empty seat on the bench, climbing up onto it. Cloudy Skies sat in the middle, next to him.

Moriah apparently didn’t care much about the community spirit of the meal, because she was already eating, though the salad she ate looked as though it had been gathered from random plants nearby. The idea of eating just anything like that made his stomach turn. “Mad science,” she said, through a mouthful of something. Had she even washed it?

“Not mad science; food science.” Alex sat on Sky’s other side, but even from there Adrian could feel her glares for Moriah. “Oliver is making burgers.”

His stomach did another somersault at that. Like many ponies who’d been around right from the beginning, Adrian had loved meat when he was human and tried to keep eating it. He’d quickly learned that pony tongues did not work the same way human ones did, because he could not get himself to swallow. “Like… meat burgers?”

Oliver was behind the grill, and surrounded with the sizzling of something cooking. He had a spatula in his mouth, but still he shouted. “Nhmt rhll mett! Onn of-”

“He’s trying to say it’s one of the Equestrian recipes.” Alex smiled, gesturing at a cookbook resting beside the freshly baked buns Sky had made that morning. The spread also contained homemade cheese, some sort of leaf for lettuce, and typical store bought condiments. “You don’t want to know what’s in it, but I had these twice when I was in Equestria. It’s not quite the same, but your tongue can hardly tell the difference. They’re like what burgers should taste like. The way they used to be.”

Moriah rolled her eyes. “I saw them making the patties. It’s mad science.”

Adrian was a simple pony; he would trust his nose. His nose told him the burgers would taste amazing. Probably shouldn’t call them burgers, since he knew none of the “Equestrian” food would have meat in it. He’d never liked it when vegetarian food pretended to be “real”. “Did they have fast food in Equestria?”

Alex leaned sideways past Cloudy, so she could talk to him easier. Like the older mare, she had a short list of subjects that really interested her, and her visit to Equestria happened to be one of them. Unlike with Sky’s farming obsession, a visit to another universe actually seemed really interesting.

Adrian hadn’t believed for a second she had really gone to another world. Not until he saw the memory crystal, and relived exactly what she had felt at the time. Everything, from her racing heart, the way her dress felt on her back, the rage boiling in her chest as she learned what had really happened to humanity. Something about watching the memory had written the experience permanently into Adrian’s mind as well, as fresh as when he had first experienced it.

The implications of magic like that were terrifying. Thank goodness worrying about things like that was over his head. Like Alex, really. It was a shame she was too young for him, they’d probably have got along better than he did with Sky.

Of course, he had accidentally been tuning her out while he thought. “— they don’t have cars, so it’s not quite the same. They figured out deep frying though.” She nodded emphatically. “I never saw a chain. I wonder if they had corporation there.” She swiveled her head around over her shoulder, meeting Oliver’s eyes. “Does the library have any books on law?”

Oliver shook his head. The spatula wasn’t in his mouth this time, so he was able to reply more clearly. “Nope. At least, no books with titles about it.” He moved behind the grill again, though he shouted from behind it. “I thought the point was to help us learn to be ponies?”

“Yeah.” She looked down, disappointed. “But law might be really complicated with all these different species living together! It would be nice to have some sort of guide to make suggestions.” She sighed. “I wish Sunset Shimmer had come back with me. You guys would’ve thought she was awesome.”

Moriah glared. “I doubt it. She willingly works for a murderer. Some of that guilt has got to be communicable by proxy. It might’ve been her idea!”

She went on, but that was all Adrian listened to. He didn’t really understand why the unicorn Moriah hated the Equestrians so much. To him, they’d seemed well-meaning and genuine. Or had that just been how Alex had felt? Probably not; otherwise Moriah would’ve felt that too. Not that well meaning meant that they’d been justified in sending his family away in time, so far that he’d probably never see them…

No! He couldn’t get angry. Being upset about a pony he’d never even met, a pony he’d never meet, just didn’t make sense. Not when he had a real life in the present to live. Maybe if he ever saw her, he’d see how hard hooves could punch, for his family.

“You didn’t die, Moriah,” Alex pointed out.

“But people will! Just because I got lucky and saw your campfire doesn’t mean others will be so lucky. There will be thousands of deaths. Tens of thousands.”

“It would’ve been billions!”

Oliver cleared his throat, and the mares both stopped, staring. He had a plate of burgers in his mouth, so he couldn’t talk until he set them down beside the buns and everything else. “Eat up!” he said, louder than he had to. “I only made one for each of you, so no seconds.”

As one, everypony but Moriah rose from their seats and followed Oliver. The other mare kept talking, but Adrian wasn’t listening and apparently neither was anypony else. By the time they’d all returned with their plates, she’d given up and gone back to her salad.

As usual, the food was fantastic. Maybe the cheese was a little runny and the leaves weren’t lettuce, but Oliver and Cloudy sure knew how to cook. Alex hadn’t been lying either, it did taste like having a burger. Even after, when he’d learned it was made of hay and mushrooms, he hadn’t complained. No sense not enjoying something just because his old self didn’t enjoy it.

“How’s the water situation coming?” Adrian asked, when he was half done and starting on the fries. Real fries, with real potatoes! Thank god he could still eat those. And the ketchup was good too! “Did you figure out the pressure… stuff?”

Alex groaned. “I’ve learned more about pumps than I ever wanted to know.” She held up her legs a little higher. Even with her shirt, Adrian could see the grease on her legs. “We’ll have it by the end of the week, I’m sure. You’re sure too, right Joseph?”

She glared at him. Moriah glared back, but for entirely different reasons. Even Adrian wasn’t that stupid.

Joseph was, though. He showed no sign of recognizing the jealousy Moriah radiated on an almost constant basis. “Yeah, yeah!” The unicorn was still playing his 3DS while he ate, but he nodded vigorously anyway. “Sure, right. Whatever she said.”

The little earth pony rolled her eyes. “He’s somewhat more helpful when we work, thank God.” She lowered her voice. “It doesn’t really matter if he pays attention so long as he does what I say with his magic. We’ll… be there soon. I’m sorry it’s so horribly annoying to fill up the water truck.”

He shrugged. “It’s only once a week. It’s not like the water tower is that far.” He liked feeling useful. He didn’t like something so dreadfully boring, but he wasn’t about to say so.

“Any news from the other settlements?” Oliver ate more slowly than the others. He was also the least involved in the intricate web of relationships that was Alexandria, at least so far as Adrian could tell. Oliver was a doctor, and maybe a little bit of a cook. Nothing else really mattered to him that much.

Adrian played with one of his fries. It was harder to do with hooves. “There would be more if you let me tell them about your library.” He couldn’t help but let a little resentment slip into his voice. “I know a dozen ponies at least who will be jumping to get here when they learn you’ve got books to help them learn their powers. You can’t hog them all here forever.”

“Not forever.” Moriah again, looking serious. “We can’t let people take them from us. Knowledge is the scarcest resource; we could get all kinds of things in exchange for what’s in those books!”

Adrian felt his ears swivel back, his muscles tensing a little. He wasn’t the only one, if the anger in Alex’s voice was any guide. “We already discussed this. You were out-voted, Moriah!” She turned to Adrian. “We just want to be a little more situated. Those books are going to help the colony, but not because we hoard the knowledge. We want the books to stay here… and that means we need a system to make sure they don’t grow hooves and gallop away once we start letting other ponies into the library.” She looked to Adrian. “Same reason we haven’t told the story of what really happened yet. We want proof. The library will be the proof.”

“Just another week?” To Adrian’s credit, he only sounded a little sarcastic.

Alex looked like the remark might make her upset, but Oliver apparently did something because she settled down again, going back to her burger when he answered. It wasn’t as though it didn’t make sense for Oliver to answer, anyway. When he wasn’t dealing with the garden, the library was his responsibility. “Two more tops. I’ve just got the tags to install. Joseph already finished with the computer, so it should be painless.”

Unlike Moriah, he wouldn’t belabor an argument. Cloudy seemed to know he was upset, because she spoke up then. “So what news is there? Are the others doing well?”

He nodded. “For the most part. A few ponies are getting sick in New York right now. Some sort of cold. Their doctor is trying to figure out exactly what’s causing it, but it doesn’t seem to be that serious. Nopony stays sick for more than a few days.”

Oliver frowned, stirring his food around with one hoof. “It wasn’t like we thought we’d be immune forever. Some of the Equestrian books talk about disease; it was only a matter of time.”

“Anything else?”

Adrian shook his head. “Nothing much. I planned out my next trip, once I’m not needed here anymore. Colorado Springs.”

That provoked no positive reactions, particularly from Cloudy Skies. Talking about leaving in front of her got to her more than slashing her tires would have, more than dumping out all those little terrariums she made in old jars.

But it wasn’t as though he was leaving tomorrow! He’d been pretty clear with these ponies he wasn’t going to be around forever. He had way too many colonies to visit for that.

“You think they’re broadcasting?” Alex hopped up onto her hooves, hurrying over to the radio. “They usually are. Wonder if there’s any news we haven’t heard of.”

“There won’t be!” Adrian watched her walk away, though there wasn’t as much to see. It was a good thing Cloudy wasn’t the jealous type. Not that they had any sort of relationship… “Nobody’s got a network as good as mine! You can hear their broadcasts, they don’t know there’s even anypony else out there!” He tried to cut back on some of the passion from his voice. “That’s why I’ve got to keep moving. Ponies need to know that, no matter how crappy things are, they’re not alone.”

His wing twitched painfully, though he managed to keep any discomfort from his face.

Alex, meanwhile, had reached the radio. She twisted it on, and a voice from halfway across the country echoed through the pavilion “-know about. So even if we are far away you can and should head to us. We have power, food…”

Even the radio was calling to Adrian tonight, and he wasn’t anywhere close to finished in Alexandria. It was going to be a rough few weeks.

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