• Published 27th Jul 2021
  • 1,067 Views, 124 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...

  • ...

8 - Air Through Soil

His piercing screech mostly did not penetrate into the rock. The rock was a solid barrier, which made sense, except where it wasn't. Skyline could feel... hear? Something like that. He couldn't quite explain the sensations at work, seeing as his eyes weren't actually involved at all.

But something was echoing, deep underground. He began to wander, eyes still closed. The echoes changed with it, the impression sweeping like someone waving a flashlight around through the darkness. A smaller bit of that echo reached upwards, up up." He opened his eyes and pointed. "There." He was pointing up the hill from them. "Some part of it goes up there."

Stan started up the hill, scrambling up the rocks. "Alright, some place to be. Better than randomly digging."

Buttercup was at Skyline's side. "Does your throat hurt?"

"Um..." Since she had brought it up... He cleared it softly. "A little, yeah."

"I can imagine. You were squeaking so hard. I woulda lost my voice, I think." She frowned, considering that. "Did I mention you're amazing."

"Stop saying that." He put a leg over her, capturing her by the neck. "You're going to give me a big head."

The two laughed, forgetting their dangerous place for a moment.

Giddyup wasn't there, a fact not noticed until they arrived at the top of the hill, where he stood waiting for them. A fact Stan quickly noticed as he scrambled to his feet, dusting off the dirt of the climb. "How did you get up here?" He pointed back down the rubble pile. "Faster than us."

"I went around it." Giddyup directed to where the hill had a much more gentle slope on the other side of it. "I was able to move faster as a result."

"And you didn't tell us... why?" Stan thumped the metal hide of his robot friend with a metal clang.

"You were having fun." Giddyup turned to the ponies. "Group climbing is good exercise and can be an excellent team building experience. I am not built for that fashion of climbing. If it can be avoided, I will do so. I am sorry I did not get to enjoy it with you."

Buttercup let out an equine snort that bubbled into a little laugh. "You didn't miss much." But she was already turning towards Skyline. "Alright, where to from here?"

Skyline wasn't squeaking. He was ducking instead. "We get down," he whispered. "Look."

Where he was facing, a small camp could be seen. Great lumbering figures were gathered around a campfire. It was growing dark, and they were huddled about it. For warmth? Possibly, though it wasn't that chilly out. They lived in a very temperate region. Still... There they were, Super mutants.

"Great." Stan pulled out a set of binoculars, though they had lost the right to be called that with one of the lenses busted. Regardless of the linguistical mistake, he put them up to his head, squinting. "They don't look like they spotted us. Lucky us, we got the high ground."

"Pretty sure that makes it easier for them to see us," whispered Buttercup, looking, but without any aid. "What are they? Are they friendly, like you?"

"The odds of that are... small." Stan tucked his busted binoculars away. "Supers are to us what you imagine most humans are to you."

The ponies cringed at the idea. A human's human?! What fashion of horror could that even be?

"They are not in my manual," reported Giddyup in solemn tone. "But I have learned something about them."

Stan sat up, still mostly low to the ground. "Yeah, what's that?"

"They are to be avoided in wilderness settings."

Stan squinted as his robotic friend. "But other times?"

"Did you forget Winston?" Giddyup inclined his head with a click.

"Ah yeah. Winston." He could see the ponies gazing at them with confusion. "He was an alright Super, lived in a town, minded his business. Ain't got a problem with Winston. They ain't Winston."

"They are not," agreed Giddyup, as was his habit. "Skyline, do you know where to proceed?"

"Hm? Oh." He sat up, looking around slowly. "If I squeak, that'll draw their attention, won't it?"

"If you squeak at a high enough pitch, they will not hear it."

Higher? Even higher? Skyline frowned, imagining it. Higher. "Alright." He let out a squeak, far too quiet, but held. He focused on the range, raising it higher and higher and... it stopped.

Well, it stopped for everyone else there. He was clearly still working on... something, but no sound was resulting. Buttercup leaned in, ears twitching as she listened for his breath, still there, gusting with his effort except when he inhaled to resume it. "Wow..."

Finding that note, holding it dear, he began to raise the volume, the volume that only he could hear. But then his world collapsed, which it was in the bad habit of doing that day. The piercing cry raised to the high pitch it was meant to be used on gave new information. The rocks were still rocks, largely unchanged, but it was like he could see clearly a shaft. "Beneath us!" he gasped out, the image fading from his mind as he labored to regain his breath. "There's a tunnel, right under us. A ladder, I think, down a pipe."

Buttercup frowned at the idea. "How did we get out that way? Climbing a ladder woulda been slow and scary."

Stan casually thwipped the mare's nose. "You walked out the side, before the hill caved in over it. We're taking the back entrance. Alright, cyborg pony, where? Be specific."

"That's Skyline." Despite his complaint, he was taking slow steps, his nose near the ground. "And I thought I saw it..." He tapped with his hoof, softly thudding against the dirt. "Around..." The puff of hoof to dirt gave way suddenly to a low thunk. "Here." He began brushing away the dirty hurriedly, sending grass and small plants flying. "Right here."

Buttercup joined in the burrowing, revealing a hatch that had long ago been buried in dirt and grown over. "Oooo." She brushed aside the dirt covering what seemed to be a handle. "Let's get out of sight."

Stan nodded as he grabbed the handle firmly and gave it a twist instead of pulling it. A loud clunk sounded and the hatch swung open towards them, revealing a long and dark tunnel. Rungs projected from the wall, serving as a ladder. "Yeah, alright. I know how I'm getting down, but..." He looked to Giddyup.

Giddyup was still a moment. "I will wait." He pointed in the distance. "Down there, out of sight."

Buttercup dashed between Giddyup and where he planned to go. "No! You can't. You can talk to the machines, like Skyline's arm. You're super important to this."

Stan shrugged at that. "Hey, I know how to work a keyboard. An' besides, don't 'magine Giddyup is going down that hole."

Skyline peered into the darkness, slit eyes contracting a moment. "It will be a challenge for Buttercup." He threw himself over the edge, grabbing rungs with his metal fingers. Clearly, it would not be an issue for him.

Giddyup raised a hoof, gently patting Buttercup on the head. "I do appreciate your concern, really, but..."

"Bud." Stan began to climb down after Skyline. "Cover up the hatch, so people, or supers, don't spot it at a glance."


But Buttercup was not rushing for the hole, dancing from hoof to hoof as she thought desperately. "There has to be a way..." She scurried over to the hole the other two had vanished into, squinting into the dark and along the walls. "If there are robots like you that work here, there must be a way for you to get in." She reached into the dark, tapping along the walls. "What is this?"

"What is what?" Giddyup joined her, leaning over the side to peek. "That appears to be a hook."

Buttercup grabbed the hook in her mouth, drawing it free. It was attached with a thick steel band to the side of the tunnel. "Will it help?"

Giddyup considered quietly a moment. "Perhaps it can hold me?" He turned and sat down on his haunches. With a pneumatic hiss, a ring popped free of him. "Attach it."

Buttercup giggled with joy as she threaded the hook through the ring, only to be bashed right aside. Giddyup was wrenched towards the hole the moment the hook was in place, thrown into the dark with barely a yelp, and he was gone.

She got back to her hooves, blinking and surprised. "You alright?" But no response came. "Um..." Well, she was the last one. Giddyup couldn't do it. She pushed the door half closed and got to burying it as best she could. Wriggling under it, she began down the ladder, awkwardly balancing from rung to rung. She did not have hands, forcing her to use her forelegs to hook onto the ladder with each step down, each feeling like she could slip and fall who knew how far.

It grew dark, too dark. Dark as dark could get. There was no light in the dead vault, leaving Buttercup descending into a place more dim than ever she had experienced before. "Feel free to tell me if you're there," she called as she went. "Really would rather not be alone. Stan? Skyline? Giddy?"

But there was no sound. There was no light. She just had to keep climbing and hoping that, some day, she'd reach the end of the ladder. That she wouldn't fall, and that the ladder did have an end, somewhere.

Light brilliantly shined past her. She yelped in horror, clutching all the more tightly to the rungs. But then the light was gone. She looked down where it had come from and could see a pin prick of light, and some sense of movement. Something far below her was clearly making light. "Giddy?" Could robots glow? She felt sure that was a robot thing.

Reinvigorated, and increasingly certain her friends were waiting for her, Buttercup hurried as quickly as she safely could.

Which was not a thing she could measure. Her hind hoof landed squarely on a rung, only to kick out, sliding as she put weight on it. The world began to rush past her. She was falling. She would splatter against the ground and be dead in a hole. She screamed in abject horror as the wind rushed past her.

She struck something, but her bones were not shattered. She was being held and lowered quickly but safely in the arms of Skyline. "Gotcha." He set her down on her hooves. "Ladders are no joke to ponies. Take it slower next time."

She was busy not listening, grabbing him in a great hug and sobbing against him. "I thought I was gonna die!"

Stan chuckled softly. "You still might, but not from climbin' down. Good job gettin' Giddyup down here."

"Excellent deductive work," agreed Giddyup with a nod, his eyes glowing brightly and casting light over the area focused on the two spots he was looking at but spilling broadly in addition to see the hallway they were entering. "I can only hope it functions in reverse. Either that, or we re-open the main entrance."

Buttercup set down her hooves on the metal floor with strange new clops. "Oh... wow. We're really in a vault, aren't we?"

"Looks like." Skyline looked over towards Giddyup. "Guess you're in front, with the light and all."

"I got somethin'." Stan fished out a flashlight that he soon had on, shaking it to keep it going. "Not the best, but better than nothin'. Now, see, this ain't a fun trip. Vaults're dangerous. Stay on alert, alright? We hit it rich, or die. I prefer the first option if we got it."

Giddyup was focusing his bright eyes on Buttercup. "Did you conceal the entrance?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah!" She pumped a hoof triumphantly. "Figured I should, so I did."

They'd hopefully only have the dangers ahead of them to deal with.

Author's Note:

What's this? A bonus chapter?! Charles paid for it, and so it is! Clearly a typo.

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