• Published 27th Jul 2021
  • 959 Views, 101 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...

  • ...

5 - Crossing Threshold

They moved in a loose unit towards the gate that had let them in. "I don't see no fence," noted Stan in a sweeping circle. "Why don't people just go whatever direction they feel like?"

Skyline rolled his eyes at the idea. "We have other defenses against sight and detection, formations of the land, and tracks coming and going from them would be another hint we don't need to give."

"One set of prints," agreed Buttercup. "We all use the gate." And so it was that they had a gate, with no fence attached to it.

But they were also talking horse mutants, so the gate was actually kinda low on the reasons to call it an odd thing. Stan hiked a thumb. "So once we're free, we hike a sharp left, right?"

"That is correct." Giddyup let out a little excited nicker. "The directions given imply the journey will take four days at a safe pace."

"And if we skip lunch?" Stan nudged his affronted mechanical friend. "Time spent in the wastes is never safe time."

"While this is true, you require balanced nutritional input for optimum growth." Giddyup nodded sagely, secure in his logic.

Buttercup did not share in that. "He's still getting bigger?!"

"One thing that's bothered me off an' on fer years now." Stan leveled a finger at Giddyup as they went. "Why do you talk so fancy if'n you were built fer kids?"

Buttercup inclined her head. "That's a good question."

Skyline advanced to speak with the gate guards, not participating in their chat.

Giddyup pointed at himself with a metal hoof, the only kind he had. "My instructions say to not speak around children. My speech was designed for communication with adults, largely for upkeep purposes, or for setting parameters for the play I engage with children with." He nodded firmly enough for his jaw to clap shut. "Knowing the allergens and other health concerns of my children is extremely important.

Buttercup's features became that of a grandly smug grin. "So which is Stan, your child to not talk around and care for, or the adult you talk to about the children with?"

"Stan is an adult child--"

"--Hey," cut in Stan with a fresh frown. "Now that's jus' rude."

"I did not mean it in an offensive manner. Your permissions are tailored specifically to you as I cannot give you the default of either a child or an adult and had to assign some of either."

Skyline returned to them. "We have to head ten minutes out before we make our turn." He gestured with a toss of his head. "Let's go. We're leaving the stable, so keep your eyes and ears open for trouble. Stan, collect your gun."

"Now tha's a quality idea." Stan fetched his longarm, inspecting it for any defects that sprang up while it was out of his view, but they did not pause, marching onwards. "None of you have any." His eyes went to Skyline. "You good wit' those swords?"

"G'luck," called Sky Eye from above, waving at them as they passed into the wasteland proper. "We'll keep an eye on this place."

Skyline chuckled softly as they walked. "I remember when she was a little filly, always wanting to play guard before she was near big enough to do it right."

Buttercup's ears danced. "She's not much older than me..."

Skyline colored faintly and dropped the topic dead.

Not that Buttercup allowed it, circling in closer to the cybernetic pony. "How old are you?"

"Older than the rest of you," he grumbled. "Not that it matters. I'm not an elder, just an adult, like you, or Stan."

"Beats bein' an' Adult Child." Stan gave Giddyup a look, though it lacked true teeth.

"Permission category renamed to: Special."

Stan chuckled at that. "Not sure how better that is. Ah'm an Adult Child, or Special. Buddy, good thing ah like ya." He patted Giddyup, mussing his bristly mane. Unlike the living horses, his was bottle wire stiff rather than flowing things that could be confused with human hair.

"Here." Skyline directed with a finger that ponies should not have had. "Now we turn." He started in the new direction. "You confuse me."

Though Skyline hadn't turned, Stan picked up what was being put down. "What's the problem?"

"You are a human." He looked over his shoulder. "Surrounded by ponies, living and not. That is not typical human behavior."

"I accept blame." Giddyup sounded quite happy about that.

"Well, it was his idea that we came here, and that we're huntin' for the other Giddyups. That's the problem wit' having friends. They drag you into strange shit sometimes."

Skyline kept his ears turned, but his eyes swept across the horizon as he walked. "You are not doing this for him."

"Hey. He's my bud, whatever else. He wants to run into some of his family? Ah'm plenty fine with that." He adjusted the strap of his gun to his shoulder. "You ever been this far from your little town?"

"I was born away from this town." Skyline's ears turned forward. "Not that I remember much of that. The elders seem convinced you can find out more. You didn't sound very convinced yourself... Watch out for humans--other humans."

"I have located one, friendly. Name: Stan."

"I said others," grumped out Skyline. "Why are you even here?" He glared aside at Buttercup. "I know you haven't been as far as we're going. You don't know what trouble's out here."

"That's reason enough." Buttercup skipped her hooves in a little hop. "I brought them, I wanna see where they go. You don't think I can handle it?"

"I know you can't handle it." Skyline rolled his eyes. "You have no weapons. You're not that good at fighting with your hooves. You have no practical skills for this kind of thing. Why would you think this is a good idea?"

Giddyup's hoof came down between Skyline and Buttercup, startling both of them. "She has friends that will protect her."

Stan chuckled at that. "Volunteerin' me again? Bad habit ah yers." Still, he didn't say he wouldn't do it, or complain exactly. He drew out a thick paper, unfolding it out and again, a map it became clear to be as he got it deployed. "We're... here'sh." He tapped at the map with a finger. "Ya ever hear of a Pip Boy?"

All the horses, metal or not, shook their heads.

"Figures." He trailed that finger along a line. "We're close to a road. Good for smooth travel."

"Bandit likelihood increases," warned Giddyup.

Skyline huffed softly. "Even not-bandits, we're not trying to run into other humans. Advertising we exist isn't the idea." He lifted a few inches, just to flop back to the ground. Like Sky Eye, it seemed his wings wouldn't bring him up easily. "I didn't know you had that. What a treasure. May I see it?"

Buttercup stuck her head up on the other side of Stan, peering at the strange marks. "What is that?" Glancing aside at Skyline and back to it. "Is it really treasure?"

Giddyup nodded with sage certainty. "Humans do not have navigation systems with 100% accuracy."

"Sure don't." Stan began folding the map back up. "That's a map, a drawing of where we are if you were, what..." He hiked a thumb upwards. "Like a mile that way, looking down."

Buttercup's eyes widened at the idea. "Not even the best pegasus has ever gotten that high, and they drew that?! Amazing!"

"Ain't sure it works exactly like that." He tried to stuff the map away, just to discover a fuzzy snout in the way. Skyline had positioned his head right in the wrong place. "Hey."

"Hey yourself." Skyline pointed a metal finger at the map. "If you're done with that, let me have a look."

"You even know how to read a map?" Stan did not sound very confident in the idea.

"It's just a drawing of the area. What's to figure out? I want to see the terrain." He sat on his haunches and crossed his arms, metal finger tapping at his furry arms. "I'll give it back."

"When we camp." With the snout moved, he was able to stuff his map away properly. "Either way, we're headed that way." He pointed off across the way. "Stay close. Man walking with horses, that's 'just' a merchant. Bunch of horses wanderin' 'bout, questions start bein' raised."

Skyline moved in walking just alongside Stan. "That's a clever idea. I like it. Let's keep our mouths shut. You're used to horses that don't talk, right?"

"Yer pickin' up what I'm laying down." Stan nodded with satisfaction. "Except you, Giddyup. Yer a robot. Robots talk."

"I am a robot," agreed Giddyup. "And a horse. I am glad that the human permission hierarchy allows me to retain robot speaking permissions when horses would be denied the same."

"Yer temptin' that," laughed out Stan as they crunched across the broken ground. "Now, 'bout those bandits. They haunt the road, which we're avoidin', but they're around here. Lower chance ain't no chance, so be on yer guard. As fer wild critters, ain't too many to worry 'bout in this specific neck. Maybe a molerat if we get unlucky."

Buttercup twitched the closer ear at Stan. "Molerats are super mean. Get really mad if you're on their turf."

"Humans detected." Tension grew instantly. "Three. Bovine detected. Wheeled transportation."

Stan relaxed. "Merchant. Caravan. If we're going fer four days each way, might be good to trade."

Skyline said nothing. "Good, you too." Stan tapped Buttercup atop her head. "Just two mutant horses ah mine."

The caravan came into view, pushing slowly along the dirt. Stan raised a hand towards them. "Hey. Got some trade?" Being loud and obvious was usually the way to go with caravans. They needed to see you and know what you wanted right from the get go.

There were three humans, just as Giddyup had detected. Two of them had longarms much like Stan, out and ready. The one who wasn't immediately armed stepped forward. "We avoided the road, infested these days, and still we run into business? What are the odds?"

"Roads are as much trouble as not these days," agreed Stan as he offered a hand, soon met with a clap and a firm shake. "Got some good caps if you got food n' supplies."

The whiskered merchant rubbed at his goatee. "Sure sure, we can do that. Now, 'xcuse me, but I just gotta ask."

Stan sighed as if he could see what was coming. "Do we have to? I got caps, you got food."

"Yeah yeah." He waved and one of the guards got to fetching the supplies to trade, showing each box and bag before they were added to a pile. "How much are we talking?"

"Need a bit over a week, for me and the horses here." Stan waved off to either side where the ponies stood quietly, watching. "Water too, can't ever be sure there's a source of that safe to put your lips on."

"Won't argue that." The merchant reached back, grabbing a big bottle of water off the cart and thrusting it at Stan. "Here. This one's on the house. Think of it like a group discount, a bulk order bennie."

"Appreciate that." Stan worked it onto a loop at his belt line where it wouldn't jostle too badly. "Giddyup, get the rest. How many caps we talking?"


Stan raised a brow at that. "You testing me? You get 30 and celebrate the day."

"30?! Like there's someone else you're going to pull up to and offer that to." The merchant crossed his arms. "A lot of them wouldn't do business with you to start."

"Insulting your customers is how you roll? 35 and stop laughin' on the inside you're rippin' me off that bad."

The merchant held out a hand, and caps were dropped into it. "Pleasure doing business. You keep safe from the psychos. Oh, heard there were a few supers nearby, made a camp for themselves. You don't want none of that."

"Sure don't." Stan made sure Giddyup had gathered up what they had just purchased. "Stay safe, alright? You fix your prices, maybe we'll trade again."

"Don't count on it!" And off he went, leaving the curious caravan of Stan behind.

Author's Note:

Other humans! Was he wondering at Stan's bright colored and winged horses? Or maybe he noticed the typos... Merchants hate those.

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