• Published 27th Jul 2021
  • 470 Views, 92 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...

  • ...

6 - On the Way

"Thanks." Buttercup was walking along at Stan's side. He wasn't in a huge rush, so a walk was about the right pace to keep up. "For getting us food like that. Humans trade all the time? What did you give him? It sounded metal." Her ears danced, eyes glimmering with questions and curiosity.

Skyline snorted gently. "The tales of humans being murder machines is only somewhat an exaggeration. Among themselves they can, usually, avoid making a mess."

"Usually," agreed Stan. "Unless we're talking a bandit. Could argue they ain't human, but that ain't bein' nice."

"That is correct." Giddyup nodded as he walked. "That is not nice. You are to be commended. Your behavior was even more horse-like than normal. I would know." For he was programmed with how to act in horse-like ways with complete authenticity!

"Good job." Stan hiked a thumb back at the humans long out of sight. "They barely cared about you, well, you." He nodded towards Buttercup. "You they glanced at." He looked to Skyline. "Can't rightly blame 'em. You're showin' metal."

"I half-closed my eyes," noted Skyline, sounding perhaps a bit proud of that. "Made it harder to see... that."

Buttercup leaned around Stan. "About that. Why are your eyes like that? They're kinda cool, but also odd."

"You wouldn't normally dare ask." Skyline scowled at Buttercup. "What gives you courage now?"

"We're on a mission, together." Buttercup nodded with utter confidence in this logic. "We're partners, so I can ask questions."

Skyline grumbled softly. "Giddyup. That food, how much of it can we eat?"

"You should be able to ingest any food." Giddyup sounded confused at the very question. "Do you have specific dietary needs?"

Skyline quirked an ear at the metal equine. "You claim to know a lot about horses. We're vegetarians; is that in there?"

There was a moment of quiet. "Oh." As if he had just found that file. "Are horses obligate herbivores? I was assigned and programmed for human dietary needs." Giddyup suddenly turned his head at Stan. "Another reason I want to meet my peers. They were programmed for horse care and growth."

Stan casually shoved Giddyup's face away, confident it wouldn't harm his mechanical buddy. "We're on the way, aren't we? We could get there faster, but..."

"It is a good time for lunch," agreed Giddyup in a roundabout way. "Let's perform a survey of what food is within tolerance of our new companions."

Buttercup looked around before accelerating into a trot over to a few rocks. "This looks nice." She perched right on one. "Yeah, weight off the hooves."

Stan caught up at his usual walk. "Now, ah thought horses stood up most of their life. Not an expert or nothin'. Giddyup never has to sit, but he's a robot."

"I am a robot," agreed Giddyup, no argument for the fact provided.

Skyline had risen to his hind hooves, casually reaching into Giddyup's saddlebags and starting to pull out the supplies they had secured. "You have to be careful. Human food is not pony food." Slowly, two piles began to form as he tossed things into one or the other. The water he left right where it started. Water was water, thankfully.

Buttercup leaned to the side for a better view of the growing piles. "Which of those is the 'go ahead and eat it' pile?"

Skyline kicked back a hoof at one of the piles. "That one." He had to lean on Giddyup for that split second, his weight wobbling in the motion, but he recovered quickly enough. "We may want to forage. About half the food is meat."

Stan whistled. "Huh, only half? Maybe that merchant wasn't rippin' me off half as bad as ah thought. Pass some meat this way an ah'll make it go away."

"Right." Skyline starting putting things back, meat on one side of Giddyup, pony-safe vittles on the other. With a toss, he sent a package flying at Buttercup.

She squeaked, dodging it rather than catching it. The packet landed in the dust, flying partially open. "What'd you do that for?!"

Skyline tossed another to Stan, who caught it. "Passing out the food." He approached, his own packet held firmly in his metal fingers. "If yours has dirt in it, your fault."

"Meanie." She nosed into her food, nostrils twitching. "Mmm." And soon it was all forgotten as she got into chomping away happily.

Stan ripped the top off his box. "My favorite brand." He got a box of cereal, and was happily munching into the sugary rings. "Look, so far, we're off to a decent start. Jus' remember, alright? A human around, stick close, shut up."

"And don't stare at them," added Skyline. "Staring makes them want to stare back." He lifted his food. "I have to admit, not bad." He took a big bite of what looked sort of like a well-cooked yam of some sort. "Mmm. Humans are good for some things."

Lunch was devoured. Bellies sated, they resumed their trek. "Now, look, it's relatively quiet around here." Stan glanced aside at his living pony friends. "Which might be your fault, come to think. You hunt the hostile animals 'round here?"

Skyline shrugged softly. "We don't like them anymore than you do, I would think."

"So, yes. That'd explain it. Anything too dangerous, you'd do something about it. Either way, we're leaving that. So expect things to get more dangerous. We're headed away from all the settlements I know about. You head out into the wilderness, it just gets more dangerous; the way it works."

Skyline nodded slowly, his metal fingers digging into the ground in one step. "I am prepared. It is for our benefit that we do this." A moment of quiet. "It's not too late. You could run back home from here."

Buttercup grunted out a suffering sigh. "Ugh, really? No! I'm here and you can't get rid of me, so too bad." She thumped sidelong into Giddyup. "My name brother will protect me."

Giddyup angled his head. "Name brother?"

"We had the same name." She wobbled a hoof between herself and Giddyup. "It has to mean something. So name brother." She angled the hoof back at herself. "I'd be a name sister."

"Logical," conceded Giddyup. "Very well, I accept a reason to celebrate in our shared identification. It is good to be your name brother."

With relationships settled, things grew quiet, but only for a moment. "Ya never answered my question."

"What question?" Skyline peered up at their human companion.

"Are you any actual good at those swords you got?" He waggled a finger at the dangling blades. "Or are they more for show?"

"Good enough to make good the promise they make." Skyline's eyes turned back forward. "I'm not helpless, like Buttercup."

"Hey!" But he did not respond to her offended cry. "Be that way... I'll help, promise. I may not be a guard, but I'm not a lump."

Stan turned his gun in his hand, inspecting it as they walked. "Somethin' botherin' me way more than the extra. If someone was comin' to yer vault, they'd set up shop there. Don't know many that wouldn't, if it was in good order, which it was, right? You were there?"

Skyline's nostrils flared in a silent gust. "That's how the stories go. I was a bit young."

"I thought you stopped agin'?" Stan let his gun dangle from its strap. "You are full of as many questions as the tin can we're visitin'. Either way, if they moved in, there'd be a patch of activity around it. That kinda thing is usually not much a secret. But, see, I ain't heard a damn thing about no vault in that area. What's that tell you?"

"I also have not heard any rumors or discussion concerning the location we are approaching."

Skyline responded before Giddyup could complete their thought, "It means they didn't stay."

"Which then leads right on," continued Stan, "To why. Way ah see it, only could be two things." He thrust out one finger. "There wasn't nothin' there for 'em. The vault's busted and dark and who the hell needs a fancy hole in the ground?" Another finger extended. "Two! There was somethin' keeping them from doing it. Something nasty likely that scared 'em off, or killed 'em. Can't say both is impossible."

Skyline's jawline tensed. "That is the danger we approach. Still, your thoughts are not without merit. It means, probably, we aren't going to face people as our problem. People, as you said, would make noise to other people. You'd have heard of something in the area. No rumors, probably no people. Are humans also herd animals?"

Stan burst into a rough laughter. "You just had a profound moment. Yeah, we hate admitting it, but we're even worse than horses, in the end. We look for leaders and we follow them."

"I don't do that," merrily chimed Buttercup, walking along with a spritely bounce to her steps.

Skyline rolled his eyes and looked to Giddyup. "I'll let you prove her wrong."

"How kind of you." Giddyup looked to Buttercup. "Your leaders are your elders. You follow their instructions. They take the role of 'parent.'"

Buttercup squinted in defiance at the idea. "Well, sure, they know what they're doing... but..." She went quiet, grumbling with defiance. "They didn't tell me to go out and find you two!"

"I am thankful that you were a naughty child in this instance. Do not do that again." A curious thing to be thanked but also be told to not do a thing. "You could have been hurt."

"I knew he'd get it." Skyline smirked in vicious enjoyment of Giddyup's words. "You shouldn't have been there. You should have run when you saw a human. You should not be striking up random conversations with them."

"And if I did all that, we wouldn't be here." She kicked a rock away to bounce and roll. "So good thing I didn't."

Stan raised his longarm, squinting down the sight as if it had a magnifying sight, which it did not. "We should go around."

Skyline scowled, looking ahead in the same direction Stan was focusing. "What do you see? Giddyup?"

"Mutant. Classification: FEV." Giddyup pawed at the ground. "Avoidance is advised."

"What ah just said." He kept the gun trained, but started off to the left. "Hopefully it didn't see us. The hell is a centaur doin' out here?"

Buttercup went where he led, though still not spying what the other two had apparently spied. Neither of the ponies could spy the trouble. Humans just had better distance vision than equines, it seemed. Both deferred to the warnings of their companions, the entire party diverting to avoid the unseen enemy.

Skyline let out a ragged breath. "It was wise that they waited until you were here before trying this. I didn't realize just how sharp the vision of a human was."

"You're going to ask that and not what a 'centaur' is?" Buttercup nudged against Stan with a hopeful smile. "What is it?! Tell me, please."

"Ah'll try." Apparently far enough away from the threat that he lowered his gun into a more idle position, Stan considered how to word it. "Start with a big thing. Two heads. One's a dog, ever see a dog?"

Skyline raised a hoof. "I've encountered a few dogs."

"One of those heads is a dog, mean, sharp teeth. The other's a human. Both are mean as hell. Once it's on you, the sharp teeth tend to be a problem, as teeth do. From afar, you got something with a human's eyes and--"

"--potential cruelty," finished Skyline with a frown. "That is not a creature I look forward to encountering. Thank you for helping us avoid it. With any amount of luck, that one is the only one."

Stan chuckled sourly. "Or, with my luck, the entire vault is swarming with the bastards, waiting to take a bite out of all of us."

They would only find out when they got there.

Author's Note:

Humans! Wait... No, centaurs don't really count for that. Who made that typo? I hope it doesn't pass on to my words.

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