• Published 27th Jul 2021
  • 496 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...

  • ...

7 - Hole In The Ground

Stan angled the map left and right in his hands. "The hell..."

Skyline circled in place, looking for something. "What's wrong? Are we going the right way?"

"Maps are great." He began folding it back up. "But things change, and they don't. The road--" He nodded up ahead. "Busted, like a great big landslide tore it right off. And it's right where we want to be. Wouldn't say it's that bit of a deal if it was just that."

Giddyup considered the path ahead. "It is not unusual for roads to be in poor repair."

Buttercup let out a sigh. "Let me guess. That's where the old stable was?"

"Yeah." Stan shoved the map away. "We should be able to see it, instead, rocks, lots of rocks. That explains it though."

Skyline perked. "Ah, yes. Humans never spread rumors because they didn't find it. Hm..."

"So we never had to leave it?" Buttercup advanced towards the rubble-strewn road. "Coulda stayed all nice and cozy?"

"Doubt that." Skyline accelerated to her side. "The only thing worse than being buried, is being buried with no way out. Whatever caused this could have damaged the vault too."

"Yeah." Stan frowned as he stalked forward. "That's what I was thinking. The elders, they said they left cause they saw danger comin', but I'm starting to think it wasn't human danger in the first place."

Giddyup's stance shifted as much the others did. He had to start climbing over rocks, one hoof at a time. "If I had treads, this would be impossible."

Buttercup looked back at her metal friend. "Horses don't have treads."

"A fact for which I am grateful. What are we looking for?"

Skyline shoved a rock about half his own size aside. "Now that is a good question. If it's buried..."

"Then this got more complicated in some ways," agreed Stan. "Giddyup, you got any tricks that'd help us find the entrance?"

Giddyup paused in his advance across the rocks, instead looking at Skyline. "I do not, but I think you do."

"Hm?" Skyline regarded the robot with some confusion. "What are you talking about?"

"You are a cyborg. You were designed for use in this facility." Giddyup tapped up and down against the rock his right forehoof was on. "You may have a function that assists."

Skyline squinted at that about as hard as he could. "I'm not a robot."

"Cyborg," repeated Giddyup, seemingly quite sure that he had just been misheard.

Stan rapped a knuckle on Giddyup's side with a loud clang. "Cyborgs don't come with manuals like robots do." A faint pause. "Do you come with a manual?"

"I do," joyfully reported Giddyup. "How do you operate without one?"

Stan huffed as he hopped down. "Ain't even surprised. You know people--" He hiked a thumb at himself. "And horses don't come with manuals, right?"

"I have a manual for people." Giddyup's progress slowed, placing his hooves carefully on the terribly uneven terrain. "But it is specific for my interactions with them. I have one for horses as well, to emulate their behavior and sounds. Surely you have one. You interact with humans at a clear proficiency."

"Yeah, sure." Stan rolled his shoulders. "I wrote that manual myself, the hard way. Years of refinin'. Still got mistakes all over it, but it gets me through." He hopped and climbed, having far less trouble overall than Giddyup.

Buttercup scaled up to the top of a tall rock. "Skyline, try it. What is a cyborg anyway?"

Skyline was perhaps the best off of at rock scaling. He had wings that let him glide a short distance. He could jump, and he had hands to grab and pull. He was waiting for the rest more often than not. "Never heard the word before." He looked to Stan. "He used it. Tell us."

A sudden hiss drew Stan's attention away from the show off. His hand had gone too close to the den of a critter, and it was rushing out to share its displeasure with him. "G'damnit!" He scrambled back barely in time to let a sizable mole rat sail through the space he had been, teeth bared.

Skyline swooped down on it like the ambush predator he was, sword drawn on the way. The creature backed away, blood dripping from where the blade had caught it, cutting open its side. But its fight wasn't entirely extinguished, scrambling forward at Skyline with a lunging hop to get at his legs and vitals.

Or so it hoped, Skyline drawing his second sword in a bright arc that crossed with the first. Two halves of the beast crashed to the ground on either side of him. "Are you alright? Did it bite you?"

"Nah, I'm alright." Stan dusted himself off. "You?"

"Nothing a rag won't fix." Skyline got to cleaning his swords off. "Now, explain what a cyborg is."

"You." Stan pulled up onto the next rock, but sat on it rather than rising up to stand on it. "You're half machine. Giddyup was thinkin' maybe your machine parts work with the vault's machine parts. They do anythin' besides grab stuff?"

Skyline opened and closed his hands with consideration, but Buttercup wasn't giving him that quiet time. "Go on!" She thumped against him on her way to scrambling up to the next rock. "Either you try or we just keep digging and climbing and hoping!"

"Interface located." Giddyup was on a rock above Skyline, lowered down to his belly. "If you allow me, I can try to access your manual."

"What?!" Skyline edged back a step from Giddyup. "I don't have a 'manual'." He sheathed either of his swords one at a time. "What are you talking about?"

"You have an access port. It's in the center of your left hand." Giddyup inclined his head a bit. "Horses do not normally have hands."

"I'm not a usual horse..." Skyline turned his arm to peek at that 'access port'. There was a hole there, a little thing he had mostly ignored. There hadn't ever been a use for it. It didn't get in the way. It was just... there... "What are you going to do?"

"Connect to it." A wire extruded from Giddyup's side and flopped to the ground. "Put that in the access port. I do not have hands. This is normally used to allow for advanced debugging of technicians on me. I am extremely out of date for my last checkup, but I doubt I will find a technician any time soon."

Stan shook his head at the sight of it. "That means he trusts you, by the by. He don't like showing off his wires."

"I do not. Please insert it into the access port." Giddyup was watching Skyline with the patience only a robot could have.

A patience Buttercup did not have, scrambling up next to Giddyup and snatching that dangling cord in her mouth. "Go on!" She hopped down next to Skyline. "Do it. Maybe you'll learn something amazing."

Skyline snatched the cord right out of Buttercup's mouth. "He didn't say you could touch that."

"Thank you." Giddyup's eyes closed. "It may take some time, please be patient."

"I didn't put it in yet," grumbled Skyline, considering the cord. It was about the right size to fit in there. "Will it hurt?"

"It shouldn't." So simple a reply, yet filled with uncertainty.

"Right... I promised we'd get this done." He wriggled the cord down the hole until he heard a click from inside. His hoof sudden began to glow along several lines and split. "What?" But he wasn't there to worry about it for long.

He was in a different place, without space, really. "What's going on?"

"I am accessing your files," came Giddyup's calm voice without an obvious source. "Compatibility verified. You were manufactured by Wilson Atomatoys, like me. This is good. The same bypasses should work." A soft beep issued from nowhere and everywhere at once. "Success."

"Is this a... one way thing?"

"No." Giddyup was not a creature of discretion or subtelty. "You have access to my files as well."

Except Skyline had no idea how to... do that. "What kinda files?"

"I have quite a number." Giddyup did not provide any further hint than that, busy with his own work. "File located. Searching..."

"What are you searching for, if you found what you wanted?" Skyline tried to look around, but there was no 'around' to look. He was not really... He had no hands, no arms, no body. He was nothing but a thought.

"This file has a great deal of information. I am searching for what is related to our current predicament. Located! Disconnecting."

Skyline staggered forward, barely keeping himself upright as his senses returned to him. "How long was that?!"

Stan and Buttercup were seated not far away, both nibbling on a snack. Buttercup waved eagerly at Skyline's movement. "Hey! You went all quiet and we set up camp." She craned her neck to look up at the sky. "It's been a few hours now."

"Yep. Both of you went blank on us." Stan tore off a bit of jerky he was working on, masticating idly. "Was wondering if something went wrong or not, but not much we could do about it."

"Please reinsert my cable." Giddyup rose to his hooves and turned to present where the cord was dangling free of him. "I have the answer."

Skyline looked at his hoof, no longer glowing, or split. "That was... unnerving." Despite that, he grabbed the cable and got it back where it belonged, snugly hidden within Giddyup. "So what did you find? What's the answer?"

Giddyup raised a hoof even with Skyline's tufted ears. "You have an audible searching system."

"A what?" Skyline raised a brow at the idea.

"You have a built in sonar." But that word didn't help at all. "You can squeak really loudly and hear the echo and learn from it."

Stan gave an empathic 'huh'. "That'll guide us to the vault?"

"I believe it will. Your sonar is designed to react to the metal of the vault specifically. It will sound different than anything else." Giddyup slowly climbed down to join the others at their camp. "Have you used your sonar previously?"

Buttercup began to clop excitedly. "You have a super power! Um, a second one, besides having hands. I already thought you were pretty cool, Sky, but this takes it to another level. You can see with your ears?"

"I never tried it before... Just... squeak?"

"Very loudly," advised Giddyup. "At a high frequency."

"Right..." Skyline let out a little squeak, more like someone feigning surprise. It had as much effect as one might expect.

"Louder, with a higher frequency." Giddyup began to emit a squealing beep of his own. "Like this." And it grew louder a moment before cutting off. "My hearing is not calibrated for this purpose. I cannot do it for you."

Skyline smiled a little. "Happening all over again."

Stan threw a package at Skyline, caught easily. "What is? Have a snack."

"Yeah..." Skyline took a little nibble. "We got a Giddyup, babysitting us all over again."

"With pleasure." Giddyup sounded quite happy to be playing that role. "Is it helping?"

"It's a start." He thumped a hoof against Buttercup's side. "Don't tell anypony about this, huh? I'm strange enough."

"Strangely awesome." Buttercup danced from hoof to hoof with a smile. "You can do it!"

Skyline did his best to clear his thoughts, breathing slowly. He let out a squeak but held the note, raising it towards the tone Giddyup had demonstrated. "Louder." He pushed it higher in volume at Giddyup's prompting, reaching for that... Oh...

He could hear the echo of his squealing as it pushed higher and louder. He could... feel a map of sorts, impressions. He could... feel the space around them, as if his arms were incredibly long, allowing him to feel where the ground was without touching it, along the form of the rocks.

"It's working!" he allowed breathlessly. And something felt... different.

Author's Note:

Skyline learned [Sonar]! But what move did he forget for that? This is how typos are born...

Oh well, what's a bat pony without the power of reee?

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