Fallout: Equestria Side Story: Gardener

Everyday, dozens of ponies fall in the wasteland. For one pony, each death is the start of a new life. This is the tale of Gardener and his efforts to rebuild the wasteland, one tree at a time.

Art courtesy of Jetwave

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/259/fallout-equestria-side-story-gardener

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1. Prologue

Rain.

Rain was supposed to purify the lands, cleanse the stains of our mortal failings and bring new life to the world we had so cruelly neglected and abused. Rain was supposed to wash away the sins of our land like a baptism. Instead these rains simply washed away the blood of the fallen, and ushered forth new contempt for our blasted wasteland.

I stood from behind the debris which had sheltered me from gunfire, and gazed out upon the heavens as they poured forth their torrents of rain. That which was supposed to bring life back to the wasteland instead brought with it a feeling of unease. Was this a gift? Or was this water full of radiation that would have us sick for daring to be among it? Would it grow the fields, or would it scorch the land? I hated the rain. I hated this place.

The wasteland was a hellscape of our own designs. A place of pain, suffering, and madness that destroyed the best of ponies and made us little more than animals fighting among the ruins of our once glorious empire. I prayed every night to a god I knew no longer existed that this was the last generation to have to suffer, even if it meant our total extinction. Oblivion was better than the hell we had created; anything was better than this.

I walked to my friend. Downed by a grenade, he drew breath in ragged, painful gasps. His inside were exposed, leaving him in a pool of his own blood. The rain fell on him, burning his insides, and washing away his life into the ruins. He looked at me, begging for help; anything I could do for him. He had been my friend, and now he would become one more corpse for the wasteland to consume. I held his head, cradling him like a lost child in the rain. I lied to him, told him that it was going to be okay as I reached for my gun. He didn’t see it; I don’t think he could see anything. The silencer turned the sharp crack to a quiet pop, and my friend suffered no more. I closed his eyes for the last time, and laid him among the ruins. Good friends were hard to find in the wasteland, and he had been the best.

I felt my skin itch, and cursed the rain again. This cloud had gotten into something nasty, and brought with it the stinging pain of corrosion. There was no time to mourn my friend. I grabbed up his pack, as well as the packs of my fallen enemies, and moved for shelter. There I sat in the overhang, listening as the rain formed puddles around the bodies of my friends and enemies. Soon the would rain stop, and the wasteland scavengers would consume them.

I searched through the filthy packs of those who had killed my friend, finding ammunition and foods stolen from those less fortunate than I. There was no pain in their loss, they would be mourned by none. I would tell the tale of my friend to those who would listen, and too listen to the tales of friends gone past. What a world we lived in where the tales of the dead so far outweighed the deeds of the living. Truly we deserved this; every pony here was a monster, and we all deserved to die.

Somewhere in this wasteland, there was an answer. We had set off to find it. My life, the life of my friend, was meaningless if I did nothing for it. But I felt myself losing faith. The dream of peace seemed further now than ever before. Was there nothing left fighting for here? Was the Equestrian dream truly gone? Had the lives of so many ponies been spent simply as the swan song of ponydom? I closed my eyes, and tried to imagine a better world. I had a hard time remembering what better even was.

The vicious rain ended after a few minutes, allowing me to leave my shelter and continue on my pointless journey. Where I was headed no longer mattered; the task my friend had been assigned to ended with him. Once again, I was a soul adrift in the wasteland with no purpose.

I searched through my friend's belongings for answers. I found only seeds. I gazed down at the tiny seeds. He had seen in them only limitless potential, a way to bring light to the darkness. I had seen only their value as food or trade. He told me one day I would understand.

I stared back at my friend, his red coat splotched with burns from the corrosive rain. He may be gone, but his body remained. He had wanted so badly for the fighting to end, to settle down and raise a farm from the blighted land. And when he died, he wanted to become part of Equestria. I looked back on his ruined body, and found my purpose.

It had taken me several hours to find a shovel, and even longer to find a usable sledge hammer. By the time I had found the tools of my self appointed mission, night had begun to fall on the wasteland. I entered the ruined building where I had taken shelter from the rain, and found my way through the ruined desks to the second floor. The tell tale signs of raiders were no where to be found. The building looked the same as it had two hundred years ago when it was frozen in time by the balefires and megaspells. I shoved a desk against the door, and laid on the floor to sleep.

Early the next morning, I awoke with a renewed sense of understanding as to my purpose in the wasteland. I gathered my tools, and headed back outside to the same spot where my friend had fallen. He was still there, miraculously untouched by the wasteland scavengers. I began my task.

Digging in the ruins was a difficult pursuit. I slammed the concrete with the sledgehammer, breaking through the stone crust of civilization. The weight of the hammer felt good in my mouth. It felt like progress; like the hoof of a long forgotten Deity guiding my actions. The concrete crumbled under my blows, the chunks becoming manageable stones. Within ten minutes, I began to dig under the concrete. My hole widened as the hours progressed. Before noon, I had a grave big enough for my friend.

He had told me the a secret of the wasteland. Radiation didn’t seep into the soil through the concrete. The pony made stone absorbed radiation, sure, but it also shielded the land below from the foul contamination. The best source of unirradiated soil was right underneath our hooves. We just had to be willing to work for it. I stood in the deep hole; sweaty and proud. It was perfect.

I grabbed my friend’s orange mane and dragged his body. His massive frame no longer seemed important; his spirit had moved on to greener pastures. What mattered was that he laid to rest in the ground that he so loved. I pushed the body into the grave, the soft earth underneath puffing around him as he struck bottom. I looked on my friend for the last time. Before I met him, I had no goals. He wanted to become part of a better world; I had nothing better to pursue. I followed him because he had a vision. Now I was going to continue that vision.

Dirt filled around my friend quicker than it had come out. Great waterfalls of clean soil swallowed him. Equestria had welcomed home another of its ponies. I finished my labors, and planted a seed in the grave. There, surrounded by the ruins of Manehatten, life would grow again. My friend would become a tree, and bear fruit for a new generation of life in the wasteland. The sun hung high in the sky again, filtered through the miserable clouds above. I looked back on the ruins where my friend’s life ended and saw the ponies who had killed him.

I found myself again pounding the concrete. Again, digging in the clean soil. Again dragging the bodies of the fallen. Again planting the seeds of new life. The sun began to fall as I finished with these bodies. Tired but joyed by my labors, I looked up to the heavens. It had started to rain again.

This rain was pure. It filled the freshly dug earth with its life giving power and cleansed the sweat from my coat. I stared up into the clouds, and enjoyed the rain for the first time in memory. There was purpose to my life now. I would bury the dead of this land, giving peace to them perhaps for the first time since the war. I would become Gardener now, bringing life from the remains of those passed on. My first stop was New Appleloosa. I would need more seeds.

I trotted away from the perfect circles in the concrete. The patches of clean earth would become dirty again, certainly. But beneath the surface, roots would take hold in clean soil, and grow to renew the wasteland once more. I would spread the word of my friend. I would spread his vision and gather recruits to my cause. Would they listen? Would they care? With enough ponies working together, this could be the last generation to suffer in the wasteland.

Perhaps the goddess had answered my prayers after all.

   
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