• Published 27th Jul 2021
  • 583 Views, 93 Comments

Suck it up, Buttercup - David Silver

He marched through the wastes. He was also bright yellow, and had a tail that did not sway much. He was also named Buttercup, not exactly a manly name, but it was his. His friend needed him. What is that? It looks like him, but also very not...

  • ...

13 - Narrow Conditions

"Operating manual," stated Yellow with all due gravity. "The ponies are to be sequestered safely within the vault until one of the following conditions. 1: Monitoring sensors detect background radiation and human activity has reduced to predetermined levels. 2: The vault becomes or is in danger of becoming inoperable. 3: An attack equal to or superior to remaining vault defenses is detected."

Fend nodded in agreement with the statements. "Radiation has reduced to required levels," they noted in a congratulatory tone. "Human activity has not."

Stan brushed the air dismissively. "From the look of it, this vault isn't shuttin' down."

Skyline frowned softly. "But we were let out before, which means one of those had to be true, right? Were we being attacked?" There were precious few signs of a pitched battle. "What happened?"

Giddyup looked to his co-giddyups. "The landslide. Am I correct?"

Yellow danced in place. "Affirmative. The risk of the vault becoming damaged and/or sealed was deemed high enough to qualify."

Fend pointed in the direction they had descended. "You have shown the vault can be entered. That condition is no longer valid."

"About that." Stan gestured between the two living ponies. "Let's be real an' all. Only one of the whole mess of 'em is really made fer ladders. The other almost busted her head open gettin' down here. That ain't much safe."

Yellow let out a thoughtful little horse noise. "Allow me to confer." He rose to his metal hooves and clip-clopped away thanks to the speakers within him playing the noise, the hooves he had not really made to produce the correct noise on their own in more of a dull metal thunking.

Giddyup was looking to Fend. "Could a pony not employ the same mode of entry I used?"

"What mode of entry did you use?" Fend inclined his head smoothly, not clicking at Giddyup tended to do. "Did you not employ the ladder?"

Giddyup raised the solid metal and not at all equipped for climbing hoof at Fend. "That is not logical."

"It is not," agreed Fend in an apologizing tone. "The query remains."

"When I approached, I was seized and brought rapidly, but safely, to the ground floor."

Fend sat up. "What were the forces applied? Will you share your records of the event."

"I will." Giddyup's wire popped free of him. Both of them looked to Stan expectantly.

"The curse of fingers," laughed out Stan as he got to grabbing the wire and paused. "Where does this need to go?" He did not normally plug wires into Giddyup, more the other way around.

Fend turned his head to look at a spot near the back of his robotic barrel. "A port is there, just in front of my right rear leg."

"Right." He got in close to Fend, patting around. Ah. He felt the port, hidden in the paint. "And in we go." He slotted the wire home and both giddyups went quiet, having their silent conversation. "While they do that." He turned to the living ponies. "I am assumin' you two don't wanna stay here. Am ah right?"

Buttercup stomped in place. "Yes! I don't wanna stay here forever." She waved a hoof wildly. "They're nice, sure, but my friends are home."

Skyline hiked a brow. "There are no few problems with that idea." He spread his leathery wings. "But let's keep it simple. No, we don't want to stay here. We were sent to gather information and bring it back. If we never do the second part, we failed, nice and simple. What would they do if we just... left?"

Stan inclined his head at the security robot watching over the playing field. "They got a lot of security, all woke up on workin' full time. If they see you movin' fer an exit, they'll probably get angry."

Skyline huffed. "At you, if they think you're taking us." He wagged a finger at Stan. "But we are who they are guarding. They can't hurt us."

Buttercup hmmed softly. "They could stand in our way, close the doors, threaten to take away our treats?" She licked over her lips. "Those were pretty good treats... Not good enough to be happy about being locked in here."

It was at that moment that Stan realized. "When did Giddyup get here?" They had left him at the computer. For a big metal horse, he was sneaky when situations were right. The soft grass flooring likely helped things along. "Shoot. From one computer conversation to anotha'."

Fend stirred awake, the wire popping free of him in the motion. "The forces are within tolerance of a giddyup buttercup unit." He directed a hoof at Skyline. "The odds of injury are 38%." The hoof went to Buttercup. "The odds of injury are 74%. Unacceptable. This mode of transit is not suggested."

Giddyup nosed against Stan, directing at the dangling cord. Only after Stan started to get it back into place did he speak up, "I lack experience with the force tolerances of living horses. I have no files on that subject."

Buttercup's cheeks puffed out. "I am not a weakling!"

"No." Skyline raised a metal hoof/hand into view. "I'm strong. I am going to guess the metal parts don't bruise nearly as easily."

"Correct," agreed Fend. "You are resistant to many injuries, especially to your forward legs."

Buttercup stomped in place with obvious irritation. "When you say 'chance of injury', are you talking like a bruise, or...?"

"Injury in this context." One could almost hear a click as Fend narrowed his definitions. "Soft or hard tissue damage that would impede mobility by at least 50%."

Giddyup leaned forward. "It would hurt, a lot. You are very likely to be very unhappy, and would require medical assistance."

"Affirmative," agreed Fend. "That is what I said."

Buttercup winced at the imagined injuries. "Alright, so no using that."

"Hey." Stan knocked the side of Giddyup. "What'd you get from the computer?"

"53 files." Giddyup nodded sagely, perhaps a little too satisfied at Stan's annoyed expression. "Do you want me to begin playing them?"

"No." He thumped the end of a pointing finger against Giddyup. "I want you to tell me if you found somethin' useful. While we're at it, got thin's those old horses will want?"

"I cannot be certain, but the odds are good." Giddyup looked around slowly. "Is Yellow still busy?"

"Affirmative." Fend nodded. "The overseer is not efficient in this regard."

Yellow stood in a crowded office. The crowd was mostly computer parts. Computers of all sorts dominating the walls and floors where a human operator would otherwise live. "In conclusion, safe transportation of ponies is currently severely limited. The odds of the situation improving are low."

"How low?" demanded a male voice. "Give exact numbers."

"If security systems were reassigned to this task." Yellow paused in thought. "There would be a 40% chance of success. 30% chance of damage to the vault. The remaining 30% results in both being true."

They were both quiet, just the sound of tapedecks spinning, the mainframe processing quietly. "How severe would the damage be?"

Yellow sat up, surprised at the question. "I am unable to make that calculation." He knew a lot about ponies, less so about mechanical engineering.

"Can the ponies present be restored to working order?"

"They are within acceptable parameters," joyfully reported Yellow. "No further repair or action is required at this time."

"Incorrect," boomed the computer. "Two ponies is an insufficient number."

Yellow processed through that. There were very specific means to get more ponies. "Initiate breeding program?"

"Affirmative," agreed the computer. "Proceed."

Yellow tapped from one hoof to the next thoughtfully. "Genetic variance will be critically low. Are you certain you wish to proceed? Y slash N, I will default to no.

"It is our purpose. Proceed."

Yellow dipped his head at the room that was also a computer. "Affirmative." He began to turn away but paused with hesitation. "It remains unsafe for ponies to leave or enter. Should we not engage--"

"Negative," cut off the computer. "Ask again and you will be deemed inoperable."

Yellow flinched at that. He was a robot, but he still enjoyed existing. "Affirmative." He hurried from the room, lest he be sent to the scrap area.

Giddyup paced with agitation. "This vault is not safe. We should leave." He was looking at Stan. "The safety of my child is at risk."

"Hey, thanks." He rolled his shoulders, fingers playing at his longarm, draped over him as it was. "But we signed up fer a job. Besides, I didn't get what ah came to get, so let's get on that." He waggled a finger at the living ponies. "Have fun runnin' around or whatever a bit."

Skyline frowned quickly. "You're abandoning us?"

Buttercup set a hoof on Skyline's shoulder. "He's not us. Let him get what he wants." She leaned in closer. "He'll be back," she whispered gently.

Skyline's tufted ear twitched at the whisper. "If you say so. Have... fun."

"Plan on it." Stan and Giddyup left the grassy field for the ponies to enjoy.

Not that either pony was feeling the urge to race and dance across it at that moment. Buttercup pawed at the ground with a hoof. "He hasn't let us down so far."

"It only takes once," caustically added Skyline. "Regardless, fighting our way out feels... dumb. My swords against the guns they're carrying will end badly for everyone."

"Do not do that!" burst Fend. "Child, you should not fight. It's not good for you or them. I do not wish you to be harmed."

"I am not a child." Skyline reached back for his sword, drawing it smoothly as he rose up to two legs. "I can and will fight, if I have to. You seem nice enough." Though he still directed his sword at Fend. "And I trust you will step aside if asked."

Buttercup crashed into Skyline's side. "No! Fend isn't the problem." She smiled at Fend awkwardly. "He's just upset."

"Just upset," repeated Fend as if testing the idea. "Apologies for causing you distress. That was not the intended outcome."

Skyline swatted at Buttercup with the sword, clearly not trying to catch her, with how easily she jumped back out of the way. "I will not fail this. I know too much, and the elders are waiting for that knowledge."

"Which you could be." Buttercup's eyes followed the motion of the dangerous blade. "You know that now."

"I don't want it!" He slammed a hoof down, sword flat with the ground. "Maybe it's just how they programmed me, but the idea of being an elder... It sickens me. I am supposed to do things, not just decide things!"

Buttercup danced away from the agitated stallion, but Fend was approaching instead. "This will help." And out popped a little tray full of feed. "Enjoy at your leisure."

Skyline shoved his sword away, falling back to all fours. "You're feeding me?" Fend did not move, the tray offered quietly. "I will not calm down with a snack," he huffed, though he did approach, sniffing at it. "Raspberries?" His ears began to dance. "I only had those once..." He leaned in and took up a mouthful, soon quietly grazing at Fend, the tantrum coming to a quiet conclusion.

Buttercup peered at the ending. "What is that? Some kind of miracle drug?"

"Mare Magic," declared Fend. "It is--"

Skyline backed away, coughing. "I am not a mare!"

"--recommended for mares and geldings," completed Fend. "But it has no ill effect on stallions. It can calm moods, soothe estrus related discomforts, and relieve sore muscles." Fend turned to keep the tray pointed at Skyline. "Are you feeling better?"

That might have been the worst part, that he did feel a bit better. "Don't do that!" His masculine pride bristled at the idea of being fed anything literally called Mare Magic. "But I'm fine... I'm fine." He turned to Buttercup. "Sorry for yelling at you."

"We're still friends," she assured, happy that Skyline was calmed down more than showing any signs of grudges. "Now let's have some faith in our new friends. They haven't done anything wrong for us so far."

Author's Note:

Skyline has a moment, and Stan goes searching for loot. Everyone has their priorities! Is the head computer suffering from typos in the code?

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