• Published 28th Nov 2015
  • 2,210 Views, 162 Comments

Fallout: Equestria - Make Love Not War - hahatimeforponies



Atom Smasher goes on an excellent adventure in San Palomino with the brother she didn't know she had to find the Dad she forgot everything about. Also, strange things happen in the desert.

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The Lion Sleeps Tonight

I hate running. I mean, it's probably obvious at this point that I'm a lot lazier than is maybe good for me. Even at the best of times I will take every possible opportunity to dawdle, hitch rides and float on minimum effort. But since Rainbow was a one-man motorcade, there was no way we were flying to the Caballero Centre, and taking one of the vertibucks for personal business wasn't on the cards, brisk jog it was.

Well. For Rainbow it was a brisk jog. For me it was like fat camp. Every time I stopped with a stitch in my side, he yelled at me until I started moving again. This was not the unflappable doofus I'd been dealing with for the last two days. I didn't like this Rainbow Code. He was acting like a Steel Ranger.

At least I recognised the route this time - it was the same way I'd gone this morning. He slowed down when we approached the baroque old mall. This was good, because ponies jogging in power armour are deafening, and I still had a headache. He stopped across the street from the facade. The glass front and ceiling running down the spine of the building had all been blown out leaving a rusting skeletal frame. By now it was night, and even outside was pretty dark with only the stars for light, so inside was almost completely in shadow. The heat of the day was also rapidly dissipating, so my sweat actually found cold air to evaporate to.

I flopped on to the ground next to Rainbow. He looked down at me and snorted. "That'll burn the drink off you." I made an incoherent noise of discomfort and objection in between panting. "Stick close to me. I've got the EFS and the lamp, unless you've got something else in that bag of tricks."

"Why did you need to bring me along anyway? It sounds like I'd get in the way."

"You will. But it's safer with you here and not back at Roswhinny."

I chuckled. "Oh because, if you leave me with Ivy she'd kill me."

"It's more that she'd kill me."

"Well aren't you nice to your sister." I reluctantly got up and stretched my aching legs. Rainbow started walking towards the building, doing his best to avoid generating peals of thunder with each step. I crept along behind and to the side so I could see where he was shining his lamp. The light ran over a pedestal in the middle of the aisle while he was sweeping. "Hey. Bring that light over here." I bounced up to where it was, and the light followed.

It was a map of the mall. It was faded from exposure, but still vaguely readable. "I never figured you for a target shopper, Atom."

"You tend not to hang about when the security are flying lion monsters."

"Fair."

"Now, if I were a mystery robot and a bunch of hicks scavenging in an old shopping centre, where would I look..."

"Hardware, non-perishable foods, and in this part of the world, gun shops."

I squinted at the map as I ran my hoof over the glass trying to read it. "Of course there's a Satellite Sam's in here. I wouldn't be surprised if there was one across the street from another one at this rate."

"I think there is, downtown somewhere."

"There's an outdoors shop halfway down the length of the place, on the right. If there's a working torch in there, then I can start snooping ahead of you without alerting the entire postcode."

"And if that's where the main nest is?"

"Then we do something else, you ninny."

As we proceeded, I stayed beside him, and we moved slowly, listening out for any movements, heavy breathing, or gunfire. The floors and columns bore scratchmarks, and Rainbow had to be careful not to crush bones as he walked. A collapsed bridge linking one side of the upper level to the other diverted us to the stairwell nearby to look for a way around before attempting to climb over. The stairs had also collapsed, but we did pass by some toilets. Which reminded me.

I stepped over the broken door to the ladies' room. "Rainbow, do me a favour, close your eyes and point that lamp at the mirrors so I can see what I'm doing. I need to take a leak."

"Atom..."

"Do you want me hobbling away from a manticore, or running?"

"Fine."

I really did need to pee. Even all the heat and running couldn't get through all the water from that beer. When I'd taken care of that, I had a quick poke around for anything I could steal. There was a cigarette machine I didn't feel like jimmying open, a first aid box with bandages, and in one of the stalls, I spotted a glimmer. On closer inspection (I held up my shitty PipBuck screen to it to get more light on it) it was a tiny skeleton, clutching a stuffed bear. There wasn't much to identify the kid besides a dirty plastic headband on the floor. But damn, this bear was in pretty good shape, considering it had spent two centuries in the bog. One of the eyes was hanging out by the wire holding the bead in, and I don't know if brown was its original colour, but it wasn't ripped, had plenty of stuffing, and no signs of mould or any other ick. I shook the dust off it and stuffed it in my bag.

I practically strutted out of the bathroom. "Check it out! I got a new mascot."

"What? You took that from in there?"

"It wasn't in the loo itself, or anything. It was on some skeleton."

He paused. "Oh." I started back to the main mall, but he turned around. Without light to help me, I had to stop and wait for him. He'd gone into the bathroom (rude) and found the stall with the skeleton. He bowed his head and muttered, while moving the bones about. "Deep peace of the quiet earth to you. Deep peace of the flowing air to you. Deep peace of the shining stars to you. Luna's song of the silver moon to you. Celestia carry you in eternal light."

"Rainbow, are you... praying?"

He stood up and breathed for a moment before turning to me again. "The dead have no need for worldly possessions. This is no reason to be ungrateful."

I did my best to stifle my laugh. "Are you gonna go and give all those other skeletons in the atrium a funeral too?" He sighed, staring at me. "What?"

"Let's talk about this another time. We're on the clock." He hung his head as he passed me. I started thinking about names for this bear.

Since there was no conveniently caved in wall, we started climbing over the collapsed bridge. He pointed his lamp to the ceiling and I flew on to the rubble to survey it. There were a few bits of collapsed roof concrete, and a statue in the middle of this rotunda had broken off its pedestal and lay in pieces in the dried fountain. I scanned for anything large and furry. "Man, this would be a hell of a time for some night-vision goggles or something. Why didn't you grab some on your way out?"

"Are you kidding me?" He took his sweet time slowly shifting his weight from step to step to minimise the noise of tiles being crushed. "Requisitioning one of those things is a nightmare."

"There. The camping shop."

"You run ahead, I'll keep the light on you."

I glided across the rotunda to the far side. Outdoor And More had definitely seen better days. The shattered windows left 'closing down sale' posters hanging or lying flat. I couldn't investigate much with Rainbow still climbing down the rubble pile, so I wheeled through the rack of sunglasses and started trying some on.

He stopped at the doorway. I'm not sure he could even fit inside. "Really, Atom? It's pitch black and you're making it darker?"

"They're not for in here, you daft bugger." I slipped a pair of aviators into my bag. "Right. Torches, torches..."

"Be quick, we still haven't seen any sign of Sam. I'm not sure if we're late or early."

I wasn't listening, I was just prancing around the shop looking for useful things. Next to the counter was a wall-mounted rack of pegs. Near the top was a peg with elasticated straps and little boxes hanging off them. Curious, I took one down and looked for a button. Nothing. I tossed it and tried another, also to no avail, but the third one shone a big fuckoff white light in my eyes, and then I couldn't see for a minute. "Found one. Ow."

"Great, now let's move." He turned his light away from me. I wasn't sure what you were supposed to do with this light, so I wrapped the strap around my hoof and pointed it where I wanted to look. it was awkward since it was loose, and the light flopped everywhere. I had a quick scout around the place for anything else potentially useful. I stopped at a glass case with several unfolded multitools. Like, I'd come across some fold-out knives with a screwdriver and a pliers in them before, but this was just a metal octopus. I had no idea what half of these tools were even for. "Atom? Please hurry."

"Yeah, yeah." One of these things would be handy, but not the ridiculous ones. Maybe there was a miniature one somewhere? I passed a rack of spark batteries. A couple were corroded and hollow, but most were intact, save for dust on the packaging. I was impressed by the array of standards that there were.

"Atom, I think it'd be a really good idea if you stopped being in the shop in the next ten seconds."

I sighed. The hoof lamp was getting annoying so I put it around my neck instead. The light still wasn't pointing in front of me, but at least it wasn't pointing at the ground. I walked out of the shop. "What the fuck is the probl-" As soon as I drew level with Rainbow, I started seeing what he was seeing. On the upper level of the mall was something very large, prowling on the far side of the rotunda, and looking right at us. The light from his lamp reflected in the back of two narrow slits where eyes should be. Two long tusks, one of them chipped, framed a huge snout. A collar of crimson hair ringed its head. Its nose, tusks and mouth were all smeared red. It licked its lips.

It jumped. Rainbow fired. Eight beams of red arced across the rotunda. It roared in pain as the lasers hit a wing, and it crashed to the ground by the fountain. We'd already started running by this time.

"Okay. New plan, follow the bloodstains."

"What? Atom, that'll lead us right to the manticores!"

"And Sam's scouting party."

"Sam's dead scouting party?"

"But why would they eat a robot?"

"... ahhh."

We heard the manticore we'd shot down getting up again. "There!" I pointed to a big red trail leading to a puddle in the doorway of a supermarket. Near the doorway, some construction lamps had been set up near a generator. If that wasn't leading us the right way, I don't know what else would.

We slid to a stop near the checkouts. "Fly up on the aisles to keep a lookout. They're less manoeuvrable than I am, but if I run into- Atom."

"What?"

"That's a head torch. It goes on your forehead."

"Ohhh." I pulled it up to snap below my goggles. The light was now directly in front of me and followed my head as I looked around. That made way more sense. "Man, my face is getting crowded." The thumping of a heavy set of legs on crushed marble from outside got louder.

"Go!" He ran away into the aisles. I jumped, flapped once, and was on top of them. I kicked over a two-hundred-year-old cup of coffee that had been left up here. It was completely dry by now, but it was still baffling. Why would you put this up here? "Atom, if you get distracted, so help me Celestia..." Am I really that predictable? Damn.

Rainbow was somewhere in the middle of the place when the manticore arrived. It seemed to have trouble with the doorway, and had to crawl before reaching the higher ceiling. It sniffed the air. I glided from aisle to aisle, staying relatively close to Rainbow. The manticore started pacing down the aisles. It could definitely see me, but I think it didn't fancy its chances of successfully leaping over the shelves to get to me. "It's just stalking us."

"I'm picking up three more hostiles on EFS, two upstairs. I think they're herding us."

"Where's the other one?"

"Northwest."

"I don't have a compass, Rainbow!" The manticore kept itself directly between me and the way we came in. I gave the exit a look. Shuttered.

"You were in that camping shop long enough!"

"Just tell me the aisle!"

"The aisle that I can't see?"

I started looking around. At the exit end of the place - the north end, I suppose - and at the back wall, by the pets and cleaning supplies section, was another big furball. No mane on this one. "Never mind. Found it." I flew from one row of aisles to the other, over Rainbow. He slowed down, and started looking both ways. "So, any bright ideas?"

"I'm picking up a friendly, south-southwest."

"So, at those collapsed shelves by the bread counter?"

"How sturdy are these shelves?"

I planted all four hooves and threw my weight from side to side. The shelf wobbled with me. "About as sturdy as a homework excuse."

"Well, there goes any tight spaces advantage I had." The manticore by the exit end started prowling towards us along the back wall.

"I've got an idea."

"Oh no."

I jumped along a couple of shelves. "See this one I'm standing on? I want you to ram it as hard as you can."

"What?"

"Not yet."

He paused. I watched the manticore approach, flapping its tiny wings and bashing the dairy shelf beside it with its tail. "Ooh. I get it."

"Wait for it." It was utterly unafraid of me. It knew that I wasn't running away, so it was calmly padding over to us. It was close enough to smell. Rancid gore, sickly mange, and a faint aroma of dung. It snorted as it reached my shelf. "Now."

The shelf escaped from under me, with the crash of eight hundred pounds of turbo-charged metal colliding into it. This was my cue to fly back across the central aisle. The manticore roared as the shelf pinned it against the the back wall. Rainbow backed up and planted. The other manticore had broken into a run. I looked at it, and when it found itself in the spotlight, it scrambled to a stop, and turned around to try another way. The pinned one roared again, swinging one of its front paws, knocking the shelf aside like a cardboard box, and crushing the next one over in the process.

All this did was open the way for Rainbow to open fire. The supermarket lit up in pink and red. It howled in pain, and scrambled away along the back wall. The lasers turned some cereal boxes into goo, before the last shot clipped its tail, and it was away. His lasers powered down in time for me to hear soft crunching to my left, getting louder. I looked over. So that's where the other one went.

"Incoming!"

Rainbow jumped forward. He was slow, and got a punch in the butt, but with the daddy manticore charging down the aisle towards him, it could have been a lot worse. The impact sent him spinning into the already collapsed shelves. "I'm okay!"

The manticore slid to a stop, eventually colliding with the bargain bin and sending some cheap garden furniture flying. I hopped along the aisles to approach it from the side. Distract it so Rainbow could recover maybe? I dunno. Adrenaline isn't always conducive to tactical decisions, especially when you're me. It took a swing at me when I got close. I was too quick for it (which is good, because that paw was the same size as me), but it did give the shelf a bang. It leaned over, and I had to jump to the next one over, but it only swayed. The wine bottles on the top shelf fell off and crashed to the floor. A crying shame, but it brought the centre of gravity lower. I'd be back for this aisle later.

Rainbow stepped out of the wreckage and planted again. This time, no stare-down, just firing as soon as he was in position. Or at least, for five shots, four of which hit the 18-packs of toilet roll at the far end of the room and set them on fire. After that, the rig on his back made a bunch of sparking and clicking noises. "Oh, buggery." The manticore charged again, but this time he was better prepared, and ducked down one of the aisles towards the checkouts.

"Where's the other one gone?"

He paused. "Upstairs."

"What?"

"It's moving with one of the others."

I thought about this for a moment. "Maybe they're a family unit? Getting the babies away from danger?"

"I'll take it if it means we've only got one to deal with, because I'm empty."

"You didn't check your ammo before you left?"

"We were in a hurry!"

I sighed and scanned the aisles. "What does it take?"

"Atom, you're not gonna find microspark cells in an EZ-Mart."

I wasn't looking at the gun aisle. "Keep bullfighting, I'll be back."

First order of business: pull down the burning TP. A rickety place like this is not a good place for a fire. Next: electronics. I started taking down packets of batteries and comparing them in size of the cells in the power pack for my ShitBuck (registered trademark). AA seemed to match, so I scooped up some boxes of them, and the next sizes up and down.

Rainbow ducked in between some shelves again, returning to the centre aisle. The manticore spotted me and continued towards me, so I did the same. I was much closer to the north wall, so it ploughed into a stray trolley and bodied a wall of stationery. I scrambled over to Rainbow. "Hold still." I thumped the ammo box, and the chain of spent cells flopped out. The AA's were closest in size, so I ripped open two twelve-packs and loaded them in.

"I'll have you know that this is a very rare eight-barelled chain laser, and if you break it I'm going to have to explain to Turing Test that the scruffy troublemaker I let on the base turned an expensive MEW into a box of slag by loading consumer batteries into it."

"If I break your toy, you're going to have bigger problems than that." I folded the chain back up, slammed the lid down, and tapped his back. The manticore rounded on the central aisle again, panting and padding slowly towards us.

"I've got an error."

"Is that bad?"

"It might still fire, but I don't have a count. Don't worry, this happens all the time with knock-off ammunition."

"How often do you use knock-off ammunition?"

"Never, you twit."

It charged. I ducked. He fired. It was yellow, but it fired. A spray of the shots hit the thing in the face, across the bridge of its nose and in one of its eyes. It roared in pain and stopped its charge. Rainbow paused, then fired again, hitting its already injured wing a few times. At this, it’d had enough, and scrambled away. I flew up on the aisles to see where it was going. There was a metallic screech as it charged the shutters blocking the exit, and I can only guess, pulled it off its rollers entirely.

I dropped to the ground beside Rainbow. "All clear?"

He panted. "All hostiles are leaving EFS range."

"So how did two of those things take out a whole squad?"

"My guess is..." He pulled off his helmet and sat it behind his head, between his wings. His lamp went out, leaving only my head torch to see by. His mane was all matted to his face. "They were on a standard patrol. They probably stomped in like they owned the place. Manties got the drop on 'em and they couldn't use their big guns that close."

"Right." The silence was nice after all that. I thumped his ammo box. The batteries were singed and smoking, and I smelled something that was probably some kind of toxic chemical, but the mechanism looked unharmed. I shook them out before they had a chance to melt something.

"That was... actually pretty clever, Atom. I'll have to bring some of those back and see what the scribes can make of it."

"You're damn right, it was. Now let's find that robot." If you could hear a frown, that's what I heard from him.

The shelves by the bread counter showed signs of previous combat. A shelf was on its side, and two more shelves had been thrown into the bakery, making a complete mess of the whole area. He stopped in front of the downed shelf and crouched to try and see under it. "Hello? Who's down there?"

There was a pause. Then that radio-filtered voice I'd heard earlier called back. "Oh don't worry about me, I'm just peachy. You should try this some time, it's like a heavy massage. Really works out the tension."

Rainbow looked at me. I giggled. "Are you hurt?"

"My pride is hurt."

He sighed. "Don't go anywhere, I'll have you out in a sec."

"Did you just tell me not to go anywhere?"

Rainbow stood at one of the long sides of the shelf, wedged his front hooves under it, and lifted. With the power armour, it was trivial. The shelf couldn't have been terribly heavy with its contents liberated, and he could probably lift the empty shelf by himself without armour, but with, it was like flipping a rug. He lifted with enough force to flip it over completely, so it crashed down on its other wide face.

Sam knocked some dessicated baguettes away and pushed himself up. "Let's see, antenna correctly bent, servos... a little squeaky, hat..." He put a metal hoof on his head and nudged his cap. "Check. Everything ship shape. So, who should I be thanking for..." I looked over to Rainbow without thinking, lighting him up. Sam squealed.

Rainbow looked down and remembered what he was wearing. "I can explain!"

"Well would you just look at the time! I've got to feed my oven and I left the cat on. I’d better be on my w-"

I reached out and stopped him. "Wait! It's not what you think."

His one grated eye lit up brighter than normal - enough to see me with. "Atom Smasher! I should have known you were with the local thugs, asking all those questions."

"If you’d just hear us out..."

"The hell with that, I'm getting out of here before more of you pricks show up." He shoved me off and started walking as fast as his hydraulic legs would carry him. I looked at Rainbow and shrugged.

"Does the name Gadget mean anything to you?" he called out.

Sam stopped. The room was silent. "What was that name?"

"Gadget."

Sam waited, like he realised he'd already said too much. He turned, and took a step back towards us. "Now why have you come to me with a name like that."

Rainbow smiled. "We're his kids."

"What?"

I held the lamp and let Rainbow do the talking. "You've met my sister, Atom Smasher.” I waved, because at this point that was all I had the energy to do. “I'm Rainbow Code. Gadget is our dad, and... we're looking for him."

Sam stepped closer to get a better look at us. Then he laughed. "Holy crap, the cranky bastard has been busy! You've totally got his face." He zipped right up to Rainbow. "Grease that hair back and grow out some scruff and it would be spooky. And you!" He leaned over to me. "I should have known those big green eyes from somewhere. Haha! Man, this is surreal." Rainbow chuckled and sighed with relief. "Riddle me this, though. How did the son of a free bird like him end up with... eugh. The Rangers?"

"Well..." He shrugged. "It just kinda happened. I followed his trail to San Cimarron about... nine, ten years ago, and got picked up. I was good at shooting and finding, and needed food and water, so, it worked out."

"Ten years ago? How did you manage to not swing around Isotope City before you got headhunted? We'd be way ahead by now." Rainbow snorted and shrugged again. "Unless you've got your old man's luck too. Pray you don't." I laughed. He turned to the exit again. "Walk with me. I imagine you’re none too eager to end up as cat chow, and one shelf falling on me is quite enough for one day.”

We followed, Rainbow first. I kept a look and a listen out. Following Sam led us out the way his party came in. There was no sign of them. I yawned while Rainbow kept up the questions. “So, Gadget. What was your last contact with him? Do you know where to find him?”

“Listen, kiddos, I'm afraid you've seen your old man more recently than I have. After shit went down in the hills, everyone split and I ain't seen a thing since."

"Oh."

"I know it's not what you want to hear, but I'm as lost on the whole thing as you are."

"But he came back, right? I followed him all the way to SC, and then the trail vanished."

Sam looked at Rainbow's power armour. "That thing isn't recording, is it?"

We got outside the doors of the mall, so that we were at least out of the darkest shadows. Rainbow pushed the button to open his armour, and stepped out of it. "Does this make you feel better?"

"A little." I yanked the power cord out of my computer thing. He nodded at me. "Did he ever talk about the Manehattan Project?"

I looked at Rainbow. I continued to be the passenger in this conversation. "If that was his science work, then not by that name. Never said much about it either. He didn't even say he was going, he just... left one day."

"Wow, did he?" He looked at me. "You musta been..."

I was staring into space, and I took a moment to notice I was being talked to. "I don't even remember the guy. I was, what… nine?"

Sam sighed and looked at the floor. "Always running from something, Gadget. Anyway. The plan was that after things went south that the whole project would be iced for twenty-five years. Wait for the heat to die down, then have a reunion, see if we could get things running again. I don't know how things went for anyone else, but I hit a snag."

"What was that?"

"I couldn't remember how to find the damn place."

"What?"

Sam seemed amused. "Who would have thought, eh? I'm a technological marvel. I have such a perfect replica of the equine brain that I'm even shit at directions. I'm sure if I wandered around in the Death Caps long enough I'd find the place, but then so would everyone else. Hell, your boss would probably settle for finding me, technicolour. Winchester might be an asshole, but Isotope City is the safest harbour a bot could ask for."

I was fizzling out again, and I leaned against Rainbow’s armour. He sighed. "So we're back at square one."

Sam scratched his chin. I didn't know robots could do that meaningfully. "Maybe not exactly. If you can find a way to get me in the general area without being followed, I can put together the rest. Dig?"

"It's a start. We can think about it more at... somewhere safer than this. Atom can go find you when we make a move." When I heard my name I looked up. Only then did I notice that I’d let my head drop. I nodded… somewhere.

Sam chuckled. "I'll do my best to keep Winchester from ventilating you next time you're around. Now let's scram before the furballs work up the courage for round two."

"Anyone else from your party still here?"

"Two of 'em are cat food and the third one shit a brick and booked it at the first sign of trouble. It's sad, but it's not the first time a scouting trip has gone awry."

"Any one you walk away from, eh?"

“Life in the wasteland.”

“So what can you tell me about the Manehattan Project? Not technical details, I…” Rainbow chuckled nervously. “I know you still don’t fully trust me. I just want to know what my dad was trying to do.” I wobbled a bit, and stepped away a bit to find somewhere more stable. Unfortunately, even two centuries later, the anti-hobo construction features of capitalist architecture were still effective, and the best place to lie down was on an empty bit of pavement.

“I’m surprised he kept you so in the dark. It was his baby. His pride and joy. The same work that got him tossed off that comfy cloud o’ his.”

“If there’s one thing I know about him it’s that he was absolutely paranoid.”

Sam paused. “This is true.” In this pause, I yawned and rolled partly on my side to get another look at the stars. Scenery tips from travelling hippies: not that bad.

“I would guess that for the sake of the project he kept it to himself.”

Sam laughed. “If you didn’t look so much like him, I’d be halfway home by now. Listen, next time, okay? I don’t want to play my whole hand at once. Maybe you can guess what it was, if you’ve really got his feathers. There’s not many things that would make a man tear down his whole life and start over.” He looked at me, then back at Rainbow. “And doing it more than once needs a little crazy on the side.”

This is the last thing I remember clearly. I curled up on my belly again and tried to keep my eyes open, but they were feeling pretty damn heavy at this point. My legs hummed from their hardest workout in weeks, and every muscle was happy to stop responding to inputs. Rainbow and Sam’s conversation blurred into noise, and before long, I was out altogether.

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