• Published 4th Jan 2012
  • 5,757 Views, 578 Comments

Fallout Equestria: The Daily Unlife - Nyerguds

"Live a little, they say. Easier said than done." Lemon Frisk, a 220-year-old Canterlot ghoul, leaves Stable One looking for the Meaning of Unlife.

  • ...

Day Twelve - Living on the Edge

Living on the Edge
sooner or later, you have to jump

Misty opened her eyes, but found her vision blocked by something. Blearily, she moved her hoof to push it off her face. The thing fell off, wriggled around a bit, and turned to face her. She looked into a set of four curious eyes. Her own eyes widened.

"L-Lemon..." she said, trying not to freak out. The weight she felt all over her body made that really, really hard, though. She tried to concentrate on anything else she could find.

Lemon Frisk blinked, and opened his eyes. "Oh, crap," he said as he looked at Misty. "Misty, don't move!"

Misty's eyes darted around, trying to see as much as she could without actually moving her head. Finally, she closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and let out a slow sigh.

"I'm covered in spiders, aren't I?"

"Yes," Lemon Frisk responded. "Same type as yesterday. Smaller ones, though."

She shot him a nasty look. "You just had to jinx everything you possibly could, didn't you?"

"Sorry," he said, clearly not in the mood for a witty comeback.

Misty looked at him. "Why aren't you covered in spiders?"

"Beats me," Lemon replied.

"Wasn't Teegee supposed to stand guard?" Misty asked.

The robot replied from outside the door. "No. Lemon Frisk asked me to keep watch. I watched. It was fascinating to see them detect Misty Cloud's body heat and swarm in through a hole in the wall."

Lemon Frisk rubbed his forehead with a hoof. "Oh, great." He looked at the door. "If they want her body heat, they shouldn't be inclined to kill her, right?"

"That seems safe to assume, yes," the voice behind the door answered. "Though, they are young animals, and may be easily startled."

"Teegee, just come inside, will you?" Misty asked.

The door opened, and the chrome-and-teal pony stepped inside. "Very well."

"So, what do I do now?" Misty asked.

"The sun has already risen," TGIF-1 said. "They will probably leave soon. With the cloud cover, I imagine they might have trouble regulating their body heat without mammals around."

"Oh, screw this," Misty said, as she slowly got up. The spiders scurried away from her as she did. "There. No spider bites. Problem solved."

A single spider sat perched atop her head. It pushed up its back legs to peer down at her.

"You too, now," she said, looking up at it. The spider looked back at her, unmoving. She sighed. "All right, you stay up there, then."

"You're just... leavin' it there?" Lemon Frisk asked, incredulously. "On your head?"

Misty reached a hoof up and patted the grey-and-brick coloured spider. "Well, it's not doing any harm. It'll leave when it feels like it, I guess."

"Have you seen the size of the fangs on these things?" Lemon asked. "It could probably pierce your skull with those."

Misty broke eye contact with the spider and turned to Lemon Frisk. As her head moved, the spider promptly focused on Lemon as well, and tilted its body a bit. "Sure," she said. "But she doesn't have any reason to. Besides, Teegee is right. She's regulating her temperature. She has to get off eventually, or she'll get too warm."

"She?" Lemon asked. "How do you figure that?"

"Well... we saw before that there were two colour varieties, so I think that might be gender related. And I think for animals in general, it's mostly the females that take care of the young." She nodded at the open doorway, where the rest of the small spiders were huddled around another pair of grey-and-brick spiders. "So, I'm assuming this little one here is a filly."

"It's not 'a filly', Misty," Lemon said, rolling his eyes. "It's a deadly spider that happens to be female."

"Well, she's cute," Misty said, petting the spider with a hoof. The spider leaned into her leg as she did.

"Yeah. That just makes it more disturbing." Lemon looked at the door, and the mother-spiders outside of it. "What's the status on those two?"

"EFS says Neutral," Misty replied.

"Well, that's something, at least," Lemon said. "Come on. I think it's about time we move on."

"This little filly shows up as friendly, though," Misty said, looking up at her cranial passenger.

"Great," Lemon Frisk said, rolling his eyes. "First the robot, now a giant spider. Your mom will be so proud. What's next? A radigator?" He walked out the door, completely ignoring the spiders as he passed them. The two large ones followed him with their eyes, moving their bodies to track him, but did nothing beyond that. "C'mon, Misty, Teegee. Let's get out of here."

As they walked out, the spider on Misty's head kept turning to face the other spiders, but made no move to actually get off. Once they were out of the building, it (or, well, 'she') once again faced forward, occasionally glancing down at her noble steed.

"Well now, glorious leader!" Misty said. "We're well and truly in the city of Whinnyapolis! Where to next?"

Lemon looked down the street. "Well... I kinda wanted to check out the Plaza, but..." He gestured towards the toppled ruins at the end of the street. Misty followed his gaze, and realized that Lemon's concern had not been the obstacle. As TGIF-1 had indicated the previous evening, there were usually windows in them, which meant it was possible to make your way through them, albeit in a slightly different orientation than the original architects had intended. When she looked at where he was pointing, though, she saw the real problem. And, to be perfectly fair, it was only a problem for her, specifically.

On the lower part of the few skyscrapers she saw standing upright behind the fallen one, a faint blue glow was visible.

She shook her head. "What is that stuff, anyway?"

"I honestly have no clue," Lemon Frisk said. "Teegee?"

"It's magical radiation," the robot said, unhelpfully.

Lemon rolled his eyes. "Yeah, but why is it blue?"

"I am unable to analyse magic. Besides my rad-meter, I have no sensors for it. This glow appears to be different from the information I have stored on radiation in two factors. One, as you have already observed, is the colour of the glow. I have record of red glows at the centre of balefire impacts, from intelligence material of Zebra weapon tests, but besides that, lingering radiation generally has a green hue. This one is blue. The second factor is that for the amount of visible glow, the detectable radiation seems far weaker than it should be."

Lemon Frisk nodded. "I see. It's not that weak up close, though. I've been near one of these blue glows."

"That would indicate that away from the source, the radiation rapidly decreases in intensity," TGIF-1 stated.

"I guess," Lemon said.

"So," Misty said, "then maybe we can get close enough to check it out without me getting into the actual danger zone."

Lemon looked at her with a slightly worried look on his face. A moment of silence passed before he spoke.

"Are you sure?" he asked. "I'd rather not take any unnecessary risks."

Misty smiled. "Come now. This whole trip is an unnecessary risk. You knew that from the start."

Lemon nodded. "Fair enough. Better keep some Rad-X ready, though." He checked his pipbuck to make sure the rad meter was on, and they made their way towards the building.

* * *

"Lemon!" Misty yelled. "Are you all right?"

"Teegee!" Lemon Frisk yelled. "You said you had this all planned out!"

"Indeed," the robot said, peering down into the hole Lemon Frisk had fallen into. "It appears the outer walls were not designed to be walked on, though."

"Oh, really?" Lemon grumbled. "So, where am I?"

"There should not be any more of the building there," TGIF-1 said. "When the building collapsed, it must have torn through the street, into the city sewers."

"You know, traditionally," Misty said, hesitantly, "there are always bad things in sewers."

"Reverse jinxing is still jinxing, Misty!" Lemon shouted up at them. "Any ideas on how to get me out of here?"

"You are approximately five point twenty-three meters down," TGIF-1 said. "I imagine you should start with a rope."

"Rope..." Misty said, frowning. "Lemon, do you remember when we decided I would mainly be carrying food and medical supplies?"

Lemon groaned. "I'm carrying the rope, aren't I?" He sighed. "Meaning you can't let down a rope. And I sure can't throw it five meters up. Could you, uh, grab it in your magic if I throw it up as far as I can?"

"Not likely," Misty said. "Never been good at catching moving objects. But I could always—"

A soft chirping noise came from the hole.

"What was that?" Misty whispered, startled.

"I don't know!" Lemon's unnerved whisper came from the pit. "There's something here, that's for sure!"

The chirping returned, louder this time. It didn't sound like a nice chirp. It sounded like the chirp of something hunting in the dark.

Canterlot ghouls were exceptionally strong, but they weren't superbeings. And despite the feral ones' reputation for being horrors lurking in the dark, they did not have any such thing as, for instance, night vision. It wasn't the first time Lemon Frisk really wished he did, though.

The chirping hunter didn't need night vision. It could find its prey perfectly well without it. That was, after all, what the chirping was for.

Lemon heard the sound of large, flapping wings. He frowned. "They sound like vampire fruit bats." His eyes widened. "Oh, shit." He looked up towards the surface. "Misty! Get away from there! They're bloodwings!"

A giant bat emerged from the tunnel, with more following in its wake. Lemon Frisk once read that moments like these happened in slow-motion; that you saw things playing out before you perfectly clearly, but couldn't do a thing to stop them.

As the jumble of bat wings swarmed around him in a dark, confusing mess, Lemon Frisk wondered how many more ridiculous things like that had ever wasted ink and paper. He was bitten a couple of times, but the bats clearly didn't like whatever moonlighted for blood in his system. He frantically swung his hooves around, and managed to hit a few of the bats before they were able to go up through the hole.

Fortunately, it seemed that in the cramped sewers, the large bloodwings didn't hunt in big groups; there were only three of them, and two of those had just been terminally reminded that the price of flight was usually paid in resilience. Less fortunately, the third bat hadn't tried to bite Lemon, but had instead gone straight up, towards the only real prey around.

To TGIF-1, the whole scene did, in fact, play out in slow motion, and aided by a whole array of sensors far better than mere night vision. He saw the threat coming clearly, and tracked the bloodwing's movements as it zipped right past him. His systems also tracked the orange pony, and some subsystem took note of the fact her eyes widened as it dawned on her that the robot made no move whatsoever to actually stop the flying monstrosity.

"Tee—!" she started shouting, but she stopped to throw herself to the side to dodge the bloodwing.

A greyish-red blur shot out at the bat. There was a brief struggle, and then the bloodwing crashed into a wall. Or, the floor, rather, if you took into account the fact the whole building was on its side.

The creature shuddered and went limp. As the large wings sagged and fell down, they revealed the small spider, its fangs still clamped into the bloodwing's throat.

Misty was leaning against the wall (ceiling, technically), trying to get her breathing under control. She looked at the small spider that had saved her life, and the robot who had so clearly not.

"Why didn't you do anything?" Misty asked.

TGIF's visor glowed pale blue. "I was performing the task of tracking your tactical responses," he said. "Does that not qualify?"

"Not if I'm dead, it doesn't!" she yelled, astonished. "Why didn't you help me?"

"That would disrupt the experiment," TGIF-1 said. "If I assist you, I am no longer observing you. I would be observing us."

Misty just gaped at him, completely at a loss for words.

"Misty?" Lemon shouted from below. "Are you all right? What happened?"

The spider finally let go of its prey, and scurried over towards the voice coming from the hole. It angled its body down to look into the abyss, tilted left and then right, and jumped.

"Spider!" Misty quickly shouted, "Don't squash her!"

"Yaah!" came Lemon Frisk's refined and intelligent response from below. "Ugh! It's a good thing I can't get a heart attack!"

Lemon looked at the small spider on the ground in front of him. Or rather, at the four gleams of its large front eyes, which was really all he saw of it in the dark. Then, he noticed something else gleaming. A thin thread, leading up. A smile crept onto his face. "Safety line, huh?"

He grabbed the line in his mouth and tugged on it. It was incredibly thin, but it held. He looked up. "Hey, Misty, can you figure out where the spider attached that thread?"

"I see it. Looks like a blob of web... stuff. True Spidermare style. I don't think you can climb up that, though. It's far too thin."

"I know. I'm knotting the rope onto it. You pull it up, secure it somewhere up there, and then we can work on getting me up there."

Misty looked down the hole. "...You think the spider actually figured that out?"

Lemon looked at the spider. The spider looked back, its four large eyes gleaming in the dark, its face as expressionlessly cute as ever.

* * *

It took them about half an hour, especially without any assistance whatsoever from the chrome robot, but they finally got Lemon Frisk out of the hole.

While Misty recovered from the considerable magical and physical effort on her part, Lemon Frisk glared at TGIF-1. "Why the hell didn't you do anything?"

"As I told Misty Cloud, I do not want to contaminate my data."

"Oh, that's a load of horseapples," Lemon spat. "You told us about the spiders yesterday, and you plotted the route through this building. You already influenced this anyway."

"I did not interfere because I wanted to see how you handled high-risk situations."

"I'll tell you how ponies handle high-risk situations!" Lemon Frisk yelled. "They rely on their friends, or they die!"

"Indeed. But you were stuck down there."

"That's not the point!" Lemon yelled. "If she had died, and I were stuck down there, there wouldn't be much more to observe, would there?"

"There would be your attempts at getting out," TGIF-1 said.

Lemon Frisk gathered every scrap of military discipline he could find in his old memories to prevent himself from attacking the robot. He ground his teeth, still glaring at TGIF-1. "You don't get it, do you? What if it were you, stuck down there? What would you want us to do, then?"

The robot's visor turned white. Lemon Frisk had seen it turn pale blue before, usually when the robot was asking questions or wondering about something, but this was the first time he saw it turn completely white.

TGIF-1 stared down the hole. "Data and scans indicate severe structural damage in the sewer infrastructure," he said, his voice monotone, but somehow softer than usual. "I might never get out."

He turned to Lemon Frisk. "I only just started this experiment," he continued. "If I would find myself stuck in the sewers, I would prefer to get recovered." He looked away from Lemon again, and stared down into the pit, his visor remaining completely white. After a few seconds, he hesitantly stepped back, and his visor returned to its normal blue.

Misty looked on, and frowned. "What was that all about?" she asked.

TGIF-1 looked at her. "It was an uncomfortable simulation," he said. "I dislike feeling restricted."

Misty nodded. "You were scared," she said. "That's what it means, right? The colours?"

"I lack facial expressions," TGIF-1 said. "The visor was designed to reflect my processing state."

"You mean, your emotional state," Misty said.

The robot gave a short nod. "Sufficiently equivalent. Decreased saturation implies lack of data to make decisions, or lack of favourable options. Uncertainty."

"So, let me get this straight," Lemon Frisk said. "Whoever built you didn't just screw up on the orders thing. No... they had to make a robot with emotions who could disregard orders at will, and who apparently has a mild case of claustrophobia, to boot." He shook his head. "Who were these yahoos, anyway?"

TGIF-1 turned his head to nod towards his cutie mark. "I was built by Solaris Incorporated." he said.

Lemon's eye twitched. "...they did more than chemicals?"

TGIF-1 nodded. "Indeed. They were a competitor of Stable-Tec, and branched out into several fields of research, including chemicals, weapons, chemical weapons, music industry, sonic weapons, space exploration, orbital weapons..."

"Right, right," Lemon interrupted, "I get the picture. So they dabbled in everything. And weaponized it." He looked at the logo on TGIF-1's rump. "Odd design. It almost seems to parody Princess Celestia's cutie mark."

"That is not the logo of Solaris Incorporated," the robot pointed out. "It is merely the logo of the robotics research branch. There was some public controversy about the robotics branch logo, but Solaris officials decided not to care."

"Right," Lemon said, shaking his head. "I think I've just about heard enough about them. How the hell did you ever get through testing phase?"

"The tests were interesting," TGIF-1 said.

Lemon Frisk frowned, before his eyes widened in understanding. "They never found out about your orders flaw, because you liked the tests?" He shook his head. "Dear Celestia."

He gave the robot a stern look. "Right. We're going to lay out some base rules here," he said. "In situations where we are all together, and there is danger to any of us, you will help us deal with that danger."


"Take another good look at that hole, and do another simulation of what it'd be like to be stuck down there," Lemon said. He saw TGIF-1's visor flash white for a second. "Good," Lemon continued. "That? That won't be happening if you follow the rules. You help us when we need it, and we'll help you if you need it."

"You could not possibly recover me from down there," TGIF-1 said. "My weight is twice that of an average pony, and I have no prehensile appendages. Not even a mouth."

"Doesn't matter," Lemon Frisk replied. "We'll find a way. If all else fails, we could always leave you there for a while and come back with more ponies." Lemon grinned at Misty. "I'm fairly sure I know some pony in the Stable who would be thrilled to recover him."

Misty chuckled. "Now that's just mean. Were I Teegee, I'd choose the sewers."

"Anyway," Lemon Frisk continued, looking back at TGIF-1, "that's the deal."

"Realistically, there is little you can do to stop me from following you," TGIF-1 said.

Lemon Frisk smirked. "Oh, you're underestimating us, rustbucket." He nodded at Misty. "Even after the effort of gettin' me out of that hole, I'm pretty sure Misty would still be capable of using her magic to shove you right into it. And considering your relationship with magic, there'd be diddly squat you'd be able to do to stop her."

The robot's visor flashed white as he quickly turned to Misty. The mare was looking grim; she hadn't quite gotten over the robot's lack of action when the bloodwing attacked.

"Not to mention," Lemon Frisk continued, "I'm pretty strong, and you're unarmed. I'm fairly sure I could get you in there myself."

The robot's visor momentarily flashed slightly purple. "I am not unarmed!" the robot said, apparently taking offense at the statement. "I have a GAU-3 minigun built into my chassis, and am thus perfectly capable of defending myself!"

Misty frowned "A mini-gun?"

"Misnomer," Lemon Frisk said. "The only thing 'mini' about them is the size of the chunks that remain of their targets." He turned to the robot. "And I'm pretty sure there's no way one can fit inside you. I think you're bluffing."

"I am not bluffing," the robot said, his visor once again nudging slightly into purple.

"So, show it, then?" Lemon asked.


Lemon raised his eyebrow. "Why not?"

"Visual confirmation is a big psychological trigger with your kind. Under your new rules, you would most likely insist I take it out every time we encounter a threat. I prefer not to."


The visor shifted to purple, and firmly remained there. "Because it is a chore. I need to recalibrate my entire body to compensate for roughly a quarter of my weight being shifted off balance to the left."

"How long does that take?" Lemon asked.

"Zero seconds, since I'm not doing it," the robot said. It was easy for the two ponies to substitute the purple glow on the robot's face with a look of annoyed defiance.

Lemon Frisk sighed. "All right, all right. Anyway, you will follow the rules?"

"Very well. But, hoof-to-hoof only. No minigun."

Lemon Frisk rolled his eyes and smirked. "You drive a hard bargain, rustbucket." He looked ahead at the corridor. "Can you scan for structural weaknesses?"

"I already did that when you fell through," TGIF-1 said. "There are some more weak points in the wall, but no more gaps to the sewers underneath them. Even if you fall through, it would never be more than thirty-four centimeters."

"Wall? You mean the floor," Misty corrected.

TGIF-1 pointed a hoof at the right-side wall. "That is the building's floor." He pointed his hoof down. "That is the building's outer wall."

Misty shook her mane. "Oh, very well. Lead the way."

As they walked on, the spider hopped onto Misty Cloud's back, on top of her barding and saddlebags, and stayed there. Misty gave her a pensive look, and tilted her head.

"I think we should name her."

Lemon shook his head. "Really, Misty?"

"Well, she's sticking around. It's annoying if she doesn't have a name. Then next time I can yell it when she comes jumping at you, and you know it's not just any odd spider." She smiled, and looked at her two companions. "Any suggestions?"

Lemon Frisk stopped and looked at her. "No."

"You, Teegee?" she called to the robot.

TGIF-1 stopped, and a thin blue grid of lasers projected from the centre of his visor scanned over the spider. For a while, he was silent.

"Jolly Jumper," he finally said. He turned back and walked on.

Misty blinked. "Umm... okay?" She threw an unsure look at Lemon Frisk, but his answering look was just as unsure.

"Just roll with it," he said, shaking his head. "I'm done arguing with robots for the day."

* * *

The irradiated mess of metal in front of Lemon Frisk had been created by Solaris Incorporated. That much was clear from the logo printed on one side of it; an alicorn stretched and curved around, with the name "SOLARIS" connecting the tail and the nose to close the circle. At the right side, the bold words "TRY THE ALTERNATIVE" curved alongside the alicorn's wings.

The rest of the thing hadn't survived quite as well as the logo. Lemon Frisk could make out a serial number of some kind under the logo, but besides that, the blue-glowing scrap heap was completely unrecognizable. Well, not completely; Lemon was fairly sure it was the same material as The Shard.

"Well?" Misty shouted from a safe distance. "Anything interesting?"

Lemon Frisk walked back across the plaza. "A clue. Our teal friend and our blue glow appear to be relatives."


Lemon Frisk nodded. "Yup. I think I found the real logo Teegee mentioned earlier." He looked up at the sky, slowly moving his head towards the direction in which The Shard would be. "I wonder if this was it..."

Misty tried to follow his gaze, didn't see anything noteworthy in that direction, and gave Lemon a confused look. "Was what?"

"The thing that 'went up'," Lemon said. "This looks similar to The Shard at Dead Farm."

"Wow," Misty said. "Must've gone up quite a bit, to end up there."

"Unless it was meant to go farther," Lemon mused. "A lot farther." He turned to TGIF-1. "You familiar with this?"

The robot's blue laser grid scanned the text in the distance. "Scanned number: 52663913. No database of Solaris components or patents found; no reference material available."

"So, that's a 'no', then," Lemon said, half-asking.

"Indeed. After a mishap with a food generation talisman, I was kept strictly separated from all other Solaris research activities."

"Food generation talisman?" Misty asked.

The robot looked at her. "Grain paste, to be precise. I have nothing more to say on that subject."


Misty opened her saddlebags, and pulled out the Wasteland Survival Guide. "Did we ever check this for mentions of blue glow?"

"Not really," Lemon said. "But I've read through that thing quite a lot of times. I think I'd remember."

Misty smirked at him. "Right. Well, let's do the sensible thing, for once." She floated the book in front of her, and leafed through the pages with her magic. "Well, now," she said, smirking at Lemon. "This mentions several kinds of megaspells were used in different cities... and plenty of them weren't balefire." She stuffed the book back in her saddlebags. "In fact, if I remember correctly, you came from one of them. Pink, right?"

Lemon lifted a hoof and opened his mouth to respond. Then, he blinked, and closed his mouth. "Huh. Right," he finally said. "Pink."

Misty nodded at her saddlebags. "It also said the glow in Fillydelphia is red. Didn't find any mention of blue, though; it focuses mostly on surviving it. Back to square one, then, I guess."

"Well, we have another source of information, here," Lemon said. He turned to TGIF-1. "I know you said you didn't get into contact with any Solaris research, but, do you know anything about any megaspells they might have worked on?"

"You think Solaris did this?" Misty asked, frowning.

"Oh, I certainly do," TGIF-1 responded to Lemon Frisk's question. "I carried one."

The two ponies stared at him, dumbfounded. Lemon was the first to recover. "You... carried a megaspell?"

"Indeed. They took out the minigun for that," the robot said. "I was undecided on whether that was an improvement or not."

Misty nodded. "Infiltration. You were a delivery mechanism."

Lemon gave her a surprised look, and raised his eyebrow.

"What?" Misty responded. "I can be insightful at times!"

Lemon smirked. "Well, my turn." He looked a TGIF-1. "You never delivered it, did you? That's why you were deemed a failure, and were dumped in that factory."

"Indeed," the robot replied.

"So, what hap—" Lemon started, before a mangled growl cut him off.

Misty turned sharply towards the sound, pulled out the shotgun with her magic, and fired. The messy remains of the ghoul's head splattered out in front of her.

She stared at what she just did with a shocked look on her face. Slowly, she turned towards Lemon. "H-has it been a week already?"

Lemon nodded thoughtfully. "Yup. It's been a week already."

"I... I just heard the growl, noticed the red on my EFS, and dropped right into SATS." She frowned. "I honestly didn't think you were serious about that shoot-ponies-in-the-face reflex."

"Welcome to the wastelands," Lemon said, grimly. He looked around the plaza. "This place isn't safe. Too open. Any ghoul wandering around here will spot us."

"And, indeed, I have!" a voice sounded from behind them. For a ghoul, it sounded surprisingly soft and smooth. "Well, well, well. Lemon Frisk! As I live and breathe."

Lemon's eyes widened as he saw the ghoul appearing from the rubble. The newcomer was a ghoul who actually looked his age, and not in terms of decay, per se. His beard, while thinned out by age and decay of the skin that held it to his face, was still rather full, and the lines around his eyes somehow gave Misty flashbacks to warm cosy family gatherings on cold winter nights, despite the fact the Stable had never really had any such thing as seasons. He had a truly grandfatherly look.

"Then again," the ghoul continued with a smile, "you've always had a knack for surviving on luck alone, haven't you?"

Lemon Frisk grinned. "Live and breathe, indeed," he said. "What in Equestria are you doing here?"

Misty gently tapped him on the shoulder, and threw him a questioning and somewhat reprimanding look.

"Ahheh," Lemon said, sheepishly. "Misty, this person here is the illustrious Buoyant Waves, travelling singer and song writer." He looked at the other ghoul. "Waves... this is Misty Cloud." He smiled at Misty. "My... wife."

Buoyant Waves smiled. "Ohh, now isn't that a pleasant surprise? I thought you'd never get into that stuff again!"

"Yeah, well..." Lemon said, "it just sort of, happened, you know?"

Buoyant nodded gravely. "Indeed. These things tend to do that."

"So, what brings you to these parts?" Lemon asked.

"Oh, I know some dogs around here. Great fans of my songs." He grinned. "Probably because of all the ponies dying in it, mind you; some of them hold a bit of a grudge. But, you know... hard to hold a grudge against a dead pony. So they don't mind having me around."

Lemon nodded. "We met one of 'em." He threw an absent-minded look around the plaza. "Why didn't you ever tell me about that?"

"About what?"

"The dogs, here in Whinnyapolis."

Buoyant raised a bushy white eyebrow. "Tell you? Come now, Lemon. You were barely ever around! Sure you came to the Stable when you knew I was there, but you just came for the songs. You never stuck around to socialize. You're just lucky I'm good at remembering names."

He looked around the plaza. "We shouldn't stick around here. There are a lot of ghouls in these houses, and they generally keep to their normal day cycles. For smoothcoats, this place is a lot safer at night."

Misty and Lemon exchanged a surprised glance. "Huh," Misty said. "Not often you hear that."

"Well, and then there's the fact Diamond Dogs are tunnellers," Buoyant said, taking the lead to get them to a safer place. "They can see perfectly well in the dark, and most of them don't tend to come out much in day time." He grinned. "So most nocturnal gnashers were taken care of years ago." He turned around and started walking.

Misty stopped as her rad meter protested. "Uhh... could you stick to safe paths, please?"

"Oh, right," Buoyant Waves said. "I'm sorry, dear. I completely forgot." He frowned and looked around. "Markers, markers..." His face lit up. "Ah! There!" He walked towards a wall and examined it. "Yes... this should lead us right to the Kennel."

Lemon Frisk looked at the scratches in the brick wall, obviously made by diamond dog claws. "Useful. What does it mean?"

"Markers are always twofold," Buoyant Waves explained. "The centre is the route symbol. As you see, this one is three stripes, symbolizing a claw."

"I recognize that," Lemon Frisk said. "T.B.'s parents wore that symbol on her funeral."

"Oh, you knew these dogs?" Buoyant waves nodded. "Not surprising, then. It's their clan symbol. Anyway, the circle around it has a line in it, pointing up and to the right. That means, go around this building at the right side, until you see another marker."

Misty looked at the marker circle. "There are more lines on it. What do these mean?"

"The V shape at the bottom is the continuation of the route, but we're going to its origin. The X at the side..." Buoyant nodded at the glowing blue scrap heap, which matched the direction of the symbol. "Well, you were already looking at it. Seems fairly obvious what it means."

"Right," Misty said, nodding. "The Blue Death."

* * *

"So," Misty said to Buoyant Waves as they walked on, using one of the toppled skyscrapers as bridge over a wide chasm in the ground. "You've been here before, then."

The old singer nodded. "Indeed, I have. Is there anything specific you want to know?"

"Oh, no," Misty said. "I actually wanted to ask about the big picture." She glanced at the eight-legged companion sitting snugly on her saddlebags. "Though, now you mention it... do you know what's up with these spiders? They swarmed all over me this night, and this little one, well, she stuck around."

Buoyant Waves gave her a deep, hearty chuckle. "Fascinating creatures, aren't they? They live in symbiosis with the Diamond Dogs of this city. Quite ironically, they act somewhat as, well... guard dogs. One of the reasons the Dogs dislike ponies is because adventurers tend to shoot at anything that has more legs than they have." He smirked. "Which, admittedly, is a sane survival tactic in the rest of the wastelands... but here in Whinnyapolis, things work a little differently. A few decades back, some scavenging parties seriously cut down the spider population. The Dogs fought back. Killed all of 'em. They figured, if no one returns from here, they'll stop coming."

Misty nodded. "Well, that seems to have worked. The ponies around here seem to think this place is completely dead."

"It's a bit of a pity it happened like that... but honestly, ponies and Diamond Dogs never really got along, anyway. Maybe it's for the best."

Misty glanced over at Lemon Frisk, who was looking for a way off at the end of the skyscraper, and wasn't really paying attention to them. "I bet he'd disagree with that. He takes the fate of these Dogs quite personally."

"Yes, I got that impression," Buoyant Waves said, frowning. "Why is that? Just because he knew some of them back in the old days?"

"No. Because he's the one who put them here. Did you know he worked for the Ministry of Morale?"

Buoyant Waves looked at Lemon Frisk. "Huh!" he exclaimed. "Didn't take him for a suitcase spook!"

Lemon's ears perked up at that, and he turned towards the two. "I'll have you know several of these 'suitcase spooks' were very nice ponies," he grumbled. "But, no, I wasn't one of them. Was the kind of pony that usually ended up travellin' surrounded by 'em, though." He sighed, a melancholic look on his face. "It helps to know the ponies behind the suitcases."

Buoyant chuckled. "Fair enough. The Ministry of Morale went kinda off the rocker by the end of the war, though." He glanced at Misty. "Ponies got downright scared o' them. Sure didn't seem to help morale much."

Lemon nodded. "Pinkie went kind of... strange, yeah. And not in a good way. Internally, it was a lot worse, believe me." He looked around, and finally located another marker. "Ah! Down here, through the window. There's..." He blinked, frowned, and turned to his companions. "A rope."

Buoyant gave them an apologetic grin. "Well, it's obviously not created with ponies in mind!"

Misty looked down the window hole, frowning. "I'm getting a whole lot of red markers down there," she said.

Buoyant nodded. "Radroach nests. You can't have a spider population like this without a pretty big food source."

"So, what do we do about 'em?" Lemon Frisk asked.

"Do?" Buoyant asked. "Boy, you got cotton in your ears? Unless they attack, you leave them alone! Spiders gotta get their food somewhere; massacrin' their food supply would be just as bad as killin' the beasties themselves! Not to mention, the Dogs are mostly carnivorous as well! Radroach is good eatin'!"

Lemon Frisk looked down through the open window to the tilted staircase below it. "Huh. This place sure has an interesting ecosystem."

* * *

With a little help from Misty, the four managed to get down to the staircase. Despite being tilted an exact ninety degrees, it wasn't easy to walk on; as it turns out, staircases rarely have nice square blocks as steps, and far more often have their steps sticking out a bit. Which was rather annoying, since the whole building was lying on its side. While TGIF-1 carelessly trotted down, the rest had quite some difficulty managing the obstacle.

"No roaches so far," Lemon whispered.

"Well, they don't exactly have pipbucks telling them we're up here," Buoyant said. "Chances are they're farther down. Let's not disturb them, all right?"

The step Misty was about to step on glowed red, lit by laser beams projected from the projector between TGIF-1's eyes. "Do not step on that one," the robot warned, his voice monotone as usual. "Analysis shows structural integrity of that step is suboptimal."

Misty frowned, and looked at the robot. "You warned me without incentive," she remarked.

"Analysis also shows that you falling down there would initiate a rescue operation in which chances of getting radroach gunk in my servos would be about eighty-four percent."

Misty stepped over the step, smirking. "As long as you're doing it for the right reasons, I guess."

Lemon stepped over the dangerous part as well, and joined her on the rubble mound at the base of the stairs. "Keeping radroach gunk out of his servos is 'the right reasons', now?" he asked.

Misty started making her way down the rubble. "No," she said, still smirking. "But it means he'd help if I needed rescuing."

* * *

"Hoy!" the Diamond Dog guard shouted at them, pointing an oddly customized shotgun at them. "Votz dis, den?"

The group had travelled through quite a large part of Whinnyapolis, and had come out at the south edge of the city. The place was a mix of lower class housing and industry, but the spot they had come out on was an undeveloped dirt patch. The Dog was guarding what looked like an improvised mine entrance; a tunnel with scrap metal and wood supporting it so it wouldn't collapse. Lemon Frisk recognized Diamond Dog expertise in it; as long as they maintained it, it would last longer than any Stable. He also noticed that it pointed south, away from the city.

"Hoy!" Buoyant Waves shouted back. "Dead pones walking!"

The Dog's frown spread out into a grin. "Dead Pone!" He turned into the cave. "Oy, puppies! Dead Pone Volkin' iz 'ere!" He turned back, and suddenly spotted Misty and TGIF-1. His stance lowered, and he held out an arm to the side to signal the Dogs inside to stay put. "Hoy, Dead Pone. Votz dat, den?" he said with a deep growl in his throat.

"Well," Buoyant Waves started, before glancing at TGIF-1. He turned to Lemon Frisk. "Yeah, what is that?"

"Um." Lemon Frisk looked at the Diamond Dog, the robot, and the other ghoul. He was sorely tempted to blame Misty, but the Dog seemed equally hostile towards living ponies, so that was clearly a really bad idea.

"I prefer 'who' over 'what', actually," TGIF-1 noted.

"Metul pones, dey keel dogz," the guard growled. "Dey vants old trinkets. Dey try steel vater gem. Ve dun let dem."

"He's not a Steel Ranger!" Lemon blurted out. "He's a robot! Like those guards at the factories downtown, only this one is, uhh..." He looked at TGIF-1, and at Misty. "...ours?"

"I'm not!" TGIF-1 interjected. "I am property of a bunch of dead ponies. Which, I assume, would make me property of myself."

"Right, that's it," Lemon Frisk said. He looked at TGIF-1. "Either you stay out here, or you're ours, all right?"

"Would that ownership make you responsible for my actions?" TGIF-1 asked.

Lemon Frisk glared at the robot, grinding his teeth. "The hell it would," he hissed. "You never listen!"

"Social interaction is interesting," TGIF-1 said. "I will follow you."

Lemon Frisk slumped down and turned back to the dog. "The tin can is pretty much indestructible, but he's fairly harmless. Just... don't expect him to be helpful in any way."

The dog eyed TGIF-1 suspiciously. "Him no vunt vater gem?"

Lemon turned his head back towards the robot. "Hey, Teegee. Do you want their water talisman?"

"Those magical trinkets that create moisture?" the robot replied, his visor going pale red, in what was apparently 'disgust'. "No!"

Lemon looked back to the guard and smirked. "He doesn't like magic things."

"Und dot vun?" The dog asked, nodding towards Misty.

"Misty?" Lemon said. "She's my wife!"

"Dead pone und not dead pone?" the Dog said, his eyebrows furrowed. He clearly found that hard to believe.

Lemon sighed. "Look... is there a Dog called Blinker in there somewhere? He knows who I am."

"Und who are yu, den?" the Dog asked, sticking his face out towards Lemon.

"A friend of Top Bitch," Lemon said, without giving an inch.

The guard gave them a conflicted look, looking over all of the members in the odd party. Finally, he settled on Misty, and noticed the spider. "Hm. Jumper tink dem gud ponez," he mumbled, apparently more to himself than to them. He shot one last look to Buoyant Waves, which seemed to warn old ghoul that anything that would go wrong was caused by him leading them there, and then disappeared into the tunnel.

"Hoy, get da plent kid!" they heard him yell. "He's gots guests! He can tek care uf dem!"

After a short wait, Blinker appeared in the entrance. He gave Lemon Frisk a flat stare. "Hy sed, leef Dogz alone. Vhy hyu heer?"

Buoyant waves stepped forward. "Sorry. That would be my fault. This place was the first that came to mind when I thought of a safe haven around here."

"Dead Pone? Hyu know Lemun und Meesty?"

"Just Lemon, actually," Buoyant Waves said. "More or less, anyway. We lived in the same city, before I started travelling."

Blinker nodded, a frown on his face. "Hokay. Hyu come in, den."

* * *

To Misty's surprise, the diamond dog den was nothing like the caves of the Slags, but, in fact, much more like a Stable. Except for the lack of smooth concrete, that is. The walls and roofs were all fortified with metal panels, blocks of broken concrete, wood, plastic, and a multitude of other materials, including, at one point, what looked like a sheet of woven branches. Misty realized the Diamond Dogs had no idea about the specifics of radiation when they built it; they probably just made a larger and more reinforced version of what they normally lived in, designed to withstand the shockwave of a megaspell. And, to their credit, it had.

As they went deeper into the complex, she peeked into some open side doors, and was surprised to find a spider nest. "Huh. They brood here?"

"Leetle vuns iz so fregile," Blinker said. "Dey need de heat."

"So, what do you get out of it?" Misty wondered.

Blinker stopped and, well, blinked. "Vuts? Ve lucky dey's around! Dey great hunters, und spider venom keeps de meat fresh mooch longer!"

"And they just... bring you their kills?" Lemon Frisk asked.

"Ya. Hy tink dey see us as pets," Blinker said as he walked on. "Ve's here fer keepink de leedle vuns varm und safe." He grinned. "Dey tek gud care uf pets."

"Who guards the guard dogs," Lemon Frisk mumbled to himself as he followed Blinker. "An interesting ecosystem, indeed."

* * *

"Well. Here we are, then!" Buoyant Waves said, looking around the large domed room. Misty looked around with wide eyes, studying the construction. It was nowhere near as big as the Stable's atrium, but then again, it wasn't made from reinforced concrete, either.

Lemon smirked as he saw her awed reaction at the feat of Diamond Dog engineering. "If you ever need anything repaired... find a diamond dog to do it," he said. "They are so amazingly resourceful."

"I... see," Misty said. "It's just a bit overwhelming, is all."

"Though unless you want it underground, don't ask them to build you a house," Buoyant Waves added with a chuckle. "They wouldn't see the point."

"Iz same ting," Blinker said, shrugging. "Poniez mek houses higher, iz harder tu mek. Dogz dig denz deeper, und soil iz harder tu dig. Only de flyink ponies, dey haff no problemz. De Elders, dey say dem houses fly." He looked at Lemon. "Hyu seen dem? Before de Great Death?"

"Just... in the distance," Lemon Frisk said. "We earth ponies generally prefer keeping our hooves on the ground." He thought back to Pinkie Pie's GriffinChaser contraptions. "Though there are always exceptions."

An older dog came limping towards the group, leaning on a cane which seemed to have been fashioned out of a piece of rebar bent into a ring at the end. "Hyu dun belief me, Blinker? Damn pup. Hyu dun belief me 'boot de gems none, either." He glared at Lemon Frisk. "Is hyu de Lemun pone fillin' 'is 'ead wif dat junk? Ey?"

Lemon blinked and involuntarily took a step backwards. "I'm Lemon, yeah," he said, looking rather confused.

"Hyu tell de boy ve vas took 'ere cuz of poizun! Hyu no say ve 'ere cuz ponies took our gems!"

Misty gave Lemon Frisk a confused look. "Lemon?"

Lemon Frisk gritted his teeth. "Look. It's... complicated, all right?"

"Not really!" Misty said, sounding rather upset. "You lied to him?"

"I didn't lie to him!" Lemon shouted. "Not really, anyway. I just... glossed over some details."

Misty cocked her head and gave him a level look. "What details, Lemon?"

"Ponies had been mining gems there for years!" Lemon shouted. "They weren't after their gems, because they were already gone!" He glared around at the Dogs that were attracted to the commotion. "The Dogs had been kicked off these lands years before, but they kept coming back. And then, when the whole place is completely stripped of all riches, do they give it back? No! Some idiot at the Ministry of Magic decides to dump lethal toxins in those wonderfully available tunnels! And the Dogs? They still come back, of course! And then," he screamed, daring any of the Dogs to interrupt him, "then they send me in! Because before that, it wasn't enough of a crisis! The Dogs weren't even official citizens! They were just filed under 'monsters', together with the manticores and the hydras and the cockatrices!"

He looked back at the older Dog, who was now seated before him, having decided to let his weary bones rest during Lemon's tirade. "So excuse me if I glossed over some details," Lemon Frisk continued. He motioned a hoof around the room. "I got you this. I got you out of there, and into this city. I knew they would accept you here. Minotaurs, buffaloes, donkeys, even Diamond Dogs, like Top Bitch. A lot of folks besides ponies had signed up for the war, and the bulk of them had done their basic training here, in this city. They were used to seeing other species around. This place was perfect!"

He stared at the ground in front of him, a grim look on his face. "No place was perfect. While the Hellhounds survived in their poisoned tunnels, this city died along with the rest. For two hundred years, I thought I'd killed you all."

The domed room was silent. No one knew how to respond to that; not even Misty. Finally, the old Dog got up, leaning on his piece of rebar. "Bot hyu din't," he said, giving Lemon a piercing look. "Hyu din' save us, yah. Bot hyu gif us a chence. Ve'z here, und ve's not Hellhounds. Ve survive. Und hyu... hyu helped. Hyu din't mek blue deth dot keelz us, hmm?"

Lemon Frisk nodded numbly. "Yeah... I didn't."

"Poniez steal our gemz... poniez poizun our land. Dem poniez is all ded. Bot hyu brought us here. Ve knew, vos friend of Teebee. Ve dunno more. In our past, hyu is jest... dee-tail." He grabbed Lemon's chin and pulled it up, forcing him to look into his eyes. "Dun gloss over dee-tails. Dey'z alvayz importunt."

With that, the old Dog turned away and disappeared into one of the tunnels, leaving a speechless Lemon Frisk standing in the room. Slowly, the surrounding Dogs trickled off as well, seeing as the excitement was clearly over.

After a while, an annoying glare in the corner of Lemon Frisk's eye made the stallion look up. TGIF-1's visor was glowing a vivid green. Lemon Frisk threw him a questioning look. "What?" he asked.

"This conversation stuff is fascinating!" the robot said energetically. "I can't even tell who actually won the argument!"

* * *

Lemon Frisk and Misty sat on one of the many benches that had been gathered in the Great Hall, as the Dogs apparently called the domed room. After they'd dropped off their saddlebags and weapons in a room Blinker had shown them, 'Jolly Jumper' had once again taken her position on Misty's head. All around them, Diamond Dogs were gathering and finding a spot of their own. Misty noticed that quite a lot of them had spiders with them as well. To the spiders, this place was indeed a giant nursery... with excellent guard dogs.

The old Dog who had argued with Lemon Frisk before climbed onto the makeshift stage at the other side of the Great Hall, leaning on his rebar cane. "Ey, dogz!" he yelled, grinning from ear to ear. Lemon and Misty both felt themselves suppressing some ancient pony instinct to get the hell away from that grin. "Ve gots us a beeg guest, today! Ho yus! Hyu all know him! He's Dead Pone Volkin'!"

As the crowd went wild all around them, Misty and Lemon found themselves bludgeoning that old instinct half to death just to manage to remain seated. Screw raiders, screw infinite mirror rooms, screw the big bad wild wasteland. Terror was a concert hall full of Diamond Dogs.

The noise, and the ponies' terror, left suddenly as the old grandfatherly ghoul on the stage opened his mouth. A revered silence filled the hall.

"Hey, Dogs," Buoyant Waves said. "'S been a while, huh? Well. I got you an old classic, to kick this thing off. A song I'd like to call, Ode to the Stable One Medical Droid. Because that poor thing has to put up with us perversions of nature all day." He chuckled. "I'd get pissy too, if I were that droid."

(melody: Build That Wall)
(Listen to Misty's pipbuck recording of the song)

Have we forgotten how to live
Have we forgotten how to cry
There's no use asking all the why

Did we not meet the ferrymare
Did we forget to pay our fare
Or were there just too many there

We took a tomb to build our home and
left its ghosts outside to roam

Have we forgotten how to live
Have we forgotten how to die
We truly breathe only to sigh

A cosy life amongst the dead
Haunting along with those that do
The city's dead, and so are you

We might try feeling like we're more but
living's still an endless chore

Have we forgotten how to live
Have we forgotten how to cry
There's no use asking all the why

Footnote: Level up! Current level: 13.
New Perk: Wasteland Detective (level 2): Long-forgotten mysteries don't stay forgotten much longer when you are around. Of course, simply remembering things might be considered cheating.

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