Fallout Equestria: The Daily Unlife

"Live a little, they say. Easier said than done."

These are the voyages of the Canterlot ghoul Lemon Frisk. His mission: to find the Meaning of Unlife. His continuing perils: crazed raiders, feral ghouls, overzealous rangers, deranged robots, and a mare who won't stop poking him.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/6001/fallout-equestria-the-daily-unlife

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6. Day Five - The Life of the Party

The Life of the Party
the shell of a person

"Let me see," Lemon Frisk said. Misty floated the binoculars over to him, and he used a hoof to get the strap around his head.

Night had fallen, but that didn't seem to stop the raiders. They kept shooting at the factory, and the ponies inside desperately tried to keep them away by shooting back. A faint glow from their abandoned camp fire just outside the factory provided the only light in the battle.

"I saw one of Capsworth's helpers lying outside," Misty said while Lemon looked at the scene. "He was probably the one who saw them first. The rest seems to have made it inside the factory."

Lemon Frisk nodded. "I think they got dead or wounded inside too though. Not everypony is shooting back." He took the binoculars off his head and threw them back to Misty, who caught them in her magic.

Vinegar walked up to the two. "Are there any plans?" she asked. All of the Slags were well-armed, but she didn't want the ponies and Slags getting in each other's way.

"Yeah!" Lemon Frisk said with a smile. "I'm bait. Once they're all shooting at me, you guys sneak closer and kill them all. They won't know what hit 'em."

Vinegar blinked. "You are a crazy ghoul."

"Thanks," Lemon answered swiftly. "Really though, don't worry. I can handle a few bullets."

"Pray to the Goddess they are not carrying energy weapons," the mare replied flatly.

"Good idea," he nodded. "Celestia, dear, if you're hearing this... magick all their energy weapons away."

The zebra frowned. "What?"

"Heh," Lemon Frisk said, smirking. "I met Celestia. Nice lady and all, but really, kinda removes the whole mystique. She was beautiful, and amazingly powerful... but her shield still fell. She's dead. If I have to start relying on dead ponies, I'd rather start with myself."

The half-zebra's head slumped down as she gave him an annoyed glare. "You made your point," she grumbled. "Now get going."

Lemon Frisk nodded. "I know Capsworth brought red flares. Once you see the place light up... start shooting."

* * *

"All right," Lemon Frisk said to himself. He imagined his heartbeat going up, and sweat accumulating on his forehead. The fact his ghoulish body didn't do these things anymore didn't make him any less nervous. He repeated his old breathing exercises to get his nerves under control. Another thing that was purely psychological now, but it worked, and that was what mattered.

He looked at the raiders around the factory. They seemed to be busy yelling insults and vulgarities at the occupants. Capsworth and the others had managed to barricade the remains of the glass door with the reception desk.

"Hey assholes, catch!" one of the raiders yelled, throwing a grenade over the barricade. Capsworth swiftly followed that advice, enveloping the grenade in a blue aura in mid-air and chucking it back. The raider's scream was interrupted by a loud bang as the grenade went off in his face.

Lemon Frisk smiled. "Idiot."

He crept closer to the raiders, thinking about how to handle this. He wasn't really planning on becoming a bullet sponge just to get their attention. Even for a ghoul, getting shot hurt. A lot. Not to mention getting bullets in your lungs. Those things itched like hell, and could take weeks to cough out.

Lemon Frisk crept up to the nearest raider. Their attention was currently focused on the factory, but that would change once the Slags started firing. So he was going to create as much confusion as he could.

He wasn't used to fighting living ponies, though. Feral Canterlot ghouls, automated turrets and even guard robots were all fairly predictable. And he generally avoided fighting the ghouls. They were just as tough as he was, and usually left him alone as long as he didn't disturb their routine. That didn't mean he had never gotten into any fights with them, though. The easiest way to get rid of one was by grabbing its neck from behind and biting down above it, and then twisting the neck back with his forelegs while pulling the head right off with his teeth.

Old habits die hard. The raider's head bounced into the middle of the firefight.

Just in case the raiders hadn't noticed the bouncing head, Lemon Frisk let out a frightening ghoulish scream.

* * *

"What the fuck!?" one of the raiders yelled, staring at the head that had rolled between them.

"A ghoul," a unicorn raider standing beside him said. "There's a fucking ghoul out there! Since when do those damned things wander?"

Another frightening screech made them decide to stop thinking about it, and try to waste the fucker instead. They turned to where they'd heard the voice, and started firing. To their surprise, bullets were flying back to them. They heard a yell of pain, and the bullets stopped. They galloped towards it, only to find one of their own, shot in the leg, and spouting vulgarities.

"Shit! Did we do that?" the first one, a grey earth pony, asked.

"That goddessdamned fucker got between us," the unicorn said. She looked around. "Don't shoot until you see it!"

"There's something here!" the wounded pony behind them yelled. His volley of frantic gun shots was cut off by a sickening crunching sound.

"Ohh, fuck me with a minigun!" the grey earth pony said, looking at the ghoul that was calmly walking towards them, the wounds on his legs and face shrinking and disappearing as he walked. The raider turned his tail and ran into the darkness.

The unicorn frowned. "Come back! This ain't no feral! He's got barding! This fucker's toying with us!"

Lemon Frisk didn't reply. He just shot the mare with the gun he'd grabbed from the dead raider.

The raider was fast, though. She jumped aside, and peppered Lemon Frisk's barding with a shotgun. Lemon Frisk shot again, but the raider's own barding deflected the shot.

Lemon Frisk frowned, spat the gun out, and ran straight towards the raider. Just as the shotgun roared again, he rolled forward, catching the brunt of the blast on his protected back. He dashed on and kicked the shotgun out of the unicorn's magic grip. The raider wasted no time kicking him in the gut.

"He's here!" she yelled. "Waste that ghoul! It's not a feral!"

The next thing she saw was a screen full of static, and then nothing at all, as she was hit in the face with Lemon Frisk's pipleg.

The yell hadn't missed its effect. Even in the dim light, the raiders were now clearly focused on their target, and Lemon Frisk felt another bullet getting through the seams of his barding. He ran towards the factory.

"Capsworth! Throw a red flare, now!" he yelled.

"Lemon Frisk?" The white unicorn looked over the barricade, but quickly ducked back as bullets smashed into it.

"Just bloody do it!" Lemon yelled, running along the side of the factory.

Capsworth didn't waste any time. He floated a red flare out of his saddlebags, lit it with a telekinetic squeeze at the right spot, and threw it over the barricade, towards the approaching raiders. The response was instantaneous. The Slags' rifle shots sounded distinctly different from the shotguns and mouthguns of the raiders.

"The cavalry has arrived, bastards," Lemon Frisk said, slipping into the darkness at the side of the factory.

He heard heavy panting behind him, and noticed the unicorn he had hit in the face. She was bleeding from her flank.

"Fuck!" she swore, as she noticed the ghoul. She had clearly tried to escape the onslaught, only to run right into him. She fired her gun, sending several bullets into his neck. Her eyes widened as she saw the still-irradiated ghoul's wounds heal before her eyes.

Lemon Frisk hit her on the side of her head, sending her sprawling into the illuminated area before the factory again. He pressed his hoof down on her neck.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" he asked.

"Screw you!" the raider spat back. "We all gotta make a living somehow."

"I don't," Lemon Frisk replied coldly. "I died two hundred years ago." He moved his head closer to the mare's face. "Now tell me, what the hell got you down so far that you'd defile Celestia's ideals to the point of murdering and robbing other ponies?"

The unicorn laughed. "There's nothing else out there, ghoul. This land is as dead as your precious Celestia is. So who the fuck are you to judge me?"

"My name is Lemon Frisk," he said, still glaring at her. "I worked for the Ministry of Morale to solve the problems plaguing the integrity of the country. I was there when the world ended, and now I see you scum preventing it from getting rebuilt, even two damned centuries later."

The raider frowned, a hint of fear in her eyes. "What?"

Lemon frisk lowered his mouth to the mare's ear. "Now you know who I am, to judge you." He raised his head again, and pushed his hoof down harder on her neck. "I don't like killing ponies. I even hoped I could at least have saved some of you."

He looked at the camp fire, and saw the body of the pony Capsworth had hired to travel with them. "Who am I kidding. There's nothing to save." He pushed his hoof down harder, and heard the raider's neck crack.

He didn't bother looking down at the dead raider. He just sighed, and walked back to the barricade, where Capsworth and the Slags had long taken care of the remaining raiders.

* * *

"Do you want to talk about it?" Misty asked.

Lemon Frisk looked up. He hadn't taken any notice of what happened after he'd killed the last raider. He had just been sitting there, against the wall, staring at the floor, and Misty had clearly noticed something was bothering him. Looking around now, he saw Mushroom Stew was busy stabilizing one of the wounded ponies, while the other Slags were busy dragging the raiders' bodies onto the remains of the camp fire, and lighting it again. The dead pony from Capsworth's team was gone too. At this moment, Lemon Frisk didn't even bother wondering if they would take him home, give him a proper burial here, or if they just cremated him with the raiders. He felt so numb.

"Yes," he finally said. "But not now. You need to sleep."

Misty smiled, and walked closer towards him, until her pipbuck started warning her about his still-irradiated body. She frowned. "Maybe you should, eh, switch that back on."

Lemon Frisk raised his pipleg. "No thanks. I'm sick of that noise."

On the trip back, he'd demonstrated the switch that was installed on his rad meter. These things got quite annoying to the Canterlot ghouls, especially when sneaking around the ruins. So when the ghoul ponies from Stable Three joined them after eighty years, they more than welcomed their pipbuck technician's ability to install an 'off' switch on them.

"Not all of us have pipbucks, you know," she said.

"Ponies go out in these wastes without a rad meter, they get what's coming to them," Lemon threw back. "Besides, I don't want to keep you all from your sleep with that incessant clicking. Now go get some sleep."

She gave him a sad look. "A- Alright," she said.

Lemon Frisk smiled. "You could just sit down here with me, but I don't think we're carrying enough Rad-Away for that."

She smiled back. "Yeah, guess I better not. But thanks anyway."

* * *

Lemon Frisk walked aimlessly around the factory. The dark rain clouds had finally burst open, and were washing all the radioactive dust and dirt from the Shard off his body. He felt the warm glow make place for cold wetness. He glanced back at what was left of the fire, where they had attempted to burn the raiders' bodies. They'd probably bury the remains in the morning. Right now, though, nopony (or albino zebrony, for that matter) had any intention of coming out of the dry building. Except for Lemon Frisk.

He'd killed before... or, at least, he didn't feel much difference between killing rabid Canterlot ghouls and mad raiders. But that last mare had really shaken him. He'd been judge, jury and executioner, all in one. That wasn't the part that really bothered him, though. The part that bothered him was that it didn't matter to the rest of the world. There was no authority to take care of them. Ponies like Capsworth welcomed it. The wastelands couldn't care less who died, by whose hooves.

"How do you deal with that?" Misty had asked him, when they'd first met. "The quiet. The space. The death."

Lemon Frisk sighed. She'd been asking the wrong pony. He'd never really dealt with it before now.

When he walked back into the factory, he was soaked to the bone. Probably literally. He unstrapped his barding and saddlebags, switched his radmeter back on, and, seeing that it had stopped ticking, joined the Slags around the camp fire they'd made inside the entrance hall. This was the first time he saw them in the bright light of the camp fire, without the rags, visors or helmets.

"This is all wrong," he mumbled, as he sat down beside the camp fire.

"What is?" Mush asked.

"This whole world," Lemon replied, shaking his head. "These wastelands."

Mush smirked. "Yes, well, tell us something we do not know."

"Pinkie Pie invented chimicherrychanga," Lemon Frisk said, trying to smile. "Bet you didn't know that. Good stuff. Been centuries since I ate that."

Mush laughed softly. "Well, that was a useless bit of information. Unless you have the recipe."

Lemon Frisk tilted his head, thinking. "I think I could remember that. Good luck finding the cherries though."

"You are an odd one," one of the other Slags remarked.

"No, just say it like everypony else does," Lemon Frisk said, smiling. "I'm a crazy ghoul."

"One of the nicer ones, though," Mush said with a smile.

Lemon Frisk looked at the place where Misty was sleeping, and sighed. "I guess. But that's not enough, is it? To fix these damned wastelands, nice is not enough."

Mush's smile didn't waver. "No. but sometimes, to be nice is the first step."

Lemon Frisk got up, shook the remaining water out of what remained of his coat and mane, and looked at Mush. "You know, that's pretty good advice, actually," he said. "I think I'll do that."

He walked over to Misty, sat down beside her, and carefully put his foreleg around her shoulders.

* * *

Misty woke up from the sound of bottles rattling in boxes. The sun had long passed the cloud layer, which was now a bright white, and no longer pouring out rain. She felt a familiar leg around her neck, and smiled.

"What time is it?" she asked.

"Around noon," Lemon Frisk replied. "You looked like you needed your sleep, though, so I made sure they wouldn't wake you up."

"Tsk. We could've helped them out," Misty said, slowly getting up on all fours.

"Technically, our involvement ended the moment we arrived here with them."

"Not really. Capsworth said we could take some of the stuff for ourselves," Misty said. "Shall we find out which half we can take that from?"

Lemon Frisk smiled. "Oh, very well."

"Hey, Sleeping Beauty and the Beast," Spray Paint said, walking towards them. "Finally woken up?"

"Up and ready to go!" Misty said cheerfully. Then she remembered the conversation they'd had around the camp fire. "Oh. I guess this is, uh, goodbye then?"

"I guess so," Spray Paint said. "You're really going back to the Stable?"

Misty threw a glance at Lemon Frisk, and sighed. "Yes, we're going back. I owe Big Apple that much. That doesn't mean I'm staying there, though."

Spray Paint nodded. "Right. Uh... just tell my mom I'm all right, okay?"

"And your dad?" Misty asked.

Spray Paint grinned. "Screw that jackass. And feel free to tell him I said that."

"Will do," she said, mimicking his grin. "Oh, we want to take some gifts with us. You know. Capsworth said we could take some."

Spray Paint gave them a sly smile. "I've been looking around the storage rooms behind the cellar a bit. Found some special stuff there. Come take a look!"

The two ponies followed Spray Paint into the cellar, and were guided into one of the back rooms.

"This was locked when we looked around here," Lemon Frisk remarked.

Spray Paint nodded. "Capsworth opened it. He's pretty good with locks, apparently. Wrench told me he used to be a scavenger himself, before he settled in Hayden."

"Nice," Lemon said. "Who's Wrench?"

Spray Paint frowned. "Wrench Twist. He's the guy the raiders got. We talked a bit on the way here."

"Oh," Lemon said. "I'm sorry."

"Anyway," Spray Paint said, drawing their attention to a closed wooden case, "Capsworth may have opened the door, but he left me to sort this out. And look what I found!" He opened the case, and grabbed one of the bottles inside it at the neck with his mouth. "Fretty niffy, ainf if?" he said, showing it to them. The bottle held a rainbow-coloured liquid, and the label proudly proclaimed it to be 'Sparkle~Cola Rainbow Crash!'. A smaller text below it further elaborating that it was 'Made with REAL Zap Apples!'.

"I'd say! Pretty nifty indeed," Lemon Frisk said, admiring Spray Paint's find. "I'm not sure if they even released that stuff. I remember Rainbow Dash taking issue with the name, or something like that."

"So... there's twelve bottles in there," Misty said. "Two bottles each?"

Spray Paint put the bottle back. "Depends if you're letting your zebroid friends in on this."

Lemon nodded. "Better not take any unnecessary risks there. I did say they'd get half of all the bottles. Caps can always do his best to swindle these out of them if he wants them so badly. I say we just take one each, for now, and then discuss it with them." He looked back to the door. "Did you find the bottlecaps?"

"Oh yeah," Spray Paint replied. "We got a big bag full of those things. Hurray for devaluating the wasteland currency."

Lemon Frisk snickered. "Misty mentioned the Stable being able to produce those."

Spray Paint shook his head. "Money forgery in the wastelands? Don't go there. That's a train of thought that will end in a fiery train wreck, one way or another."

"Yeah, I was thinking that too," Lemon said. "Misty, can you take two bottles? My saddlebags are still in the hall."

Misty nodded, put two of the bottles into her saddlebags, and floated the whole crate with them. In the factory entrance hall, they were greeted by Capsworth and Vinegar.

"What do we got here?" Capsworth asked.

"Some special stuff," Lemon Frisk said. "Misty already took two bottles for us. You'll have to fight out whether that comes from your half."

Behind her helmet visor, Vinegar raised an eyebrow. "There is hardly need for conflict here. You helped us, take your reward. We will divide what is left."

"In that case, I think I'll take two for myself," Lemon Frisk said, grabbing two of the bottles in his muzzle and walking over to his saddlebags. Capsworth gave him an odd look, but didn't say anything.

After putting the bottles into his bags, he put on the barding and saddlebags, with the surprising ease with which all earth ponies manipulated the world around them. He effortlessly pulled them on his back and fastened all the straps and buckles with his mouth. Misty watched him, visibly surprised at the speed with which he could do that.

"Wow," she said. "That's almost faster than I can do that with my magic."

"You won't see me getting lazy just because I'm travelling with a unicorn," he said, smiling. He looked around at the site. "So, I guess this is it, then?"

"No way," Misty said. "I kinda need food, and Rad-Away, and all that. Capsworth said we'd get caps, so I'm claiming caps."

* * *

After getting a few more bottles of Sparkle Cola and about a thousand caps from Capsworth, and saying their goodbyes to everyone, Misty and Lemon finally left the factory grounds. They headed east, towards Stable 69.

"So..." Misty said. "You want talk about it now?"

Lemon Frisk smiled. "Not really. I had a good chat with our Slag friends after you went to sleep."

Misty gave him a sly smile. "You know the alternative!"

"Oh, come on," he said, unable to suppress his own smile. "Do you have to use threats of physical abuse to get your way every time?"

"Apparently," Misty said with a grin. "Or maybe that's what you want me to do? Hmm?"

"Antagonizing a crazy ghoul is never a good idea, you know!"

"Oh, I can take you," Misty shot back. "You're ticklish."

"Sure. Let every raider in the wasteland know my fatal weakness."

Misty frowned. "Seriously, though. Something happened there that seems to have shaken you quite a bit."

Lemon Frisk sighed. "I knew the wastelands were bad. Heck, I knew raiders were bad. But I didn't expect that damned mare to even bother to rationalize it. It just made it worse, somehow."

"You talked to one of the raiders? What did she say?" Misty asked.

"Basically, that Celestia's ideals are as dead as she is, out here in the wastelands," Lemon Frisk said, staring at the ground. "That it doesn't even matter whether you kill somepony or trade with them. That in the end, nothing changes, no matter what you do."

"Do you believe that?"

"No, but that doesn't make it any less depressing that some do. It helped to hear Mush's view on it, though." He smiled at her. "She said a little kindness can go a long way in this place. I think she's right. We helped to set up trade between two communities. Heck, with some luck, we can get your Stable involved too. That has to count for something."

"Making the wasteland a little bit better, hm?" Misty said, quoting the ghoul from Hayden.

"Indeed," Lemon Frisk said with a smile. "Just add a lot of little bits together, and we might just get there."

As they walked up a hill, the ruins of a mighty city appeared at the horizon. Closer by, in the rocky side of what seemed like an exhausted gravel extraction pit, they could see the familiar cog wheel shape of a Stable entrance.

"Whinnyapolis," Lemon Frisk said, staring at the ruins in the distance. "Right?"

Misty nodded. "Quite a sight, huh? An entire city reduced to rubble. I can only imagine what it must've been like before the war."

Lemon swallowed. He didn't have to imagine; he'd known the city really well. Blossom Tree was born there. He only had to close his eyes to see the mighty buildings rising towards the heavens. And now, barely any buildings were still standing upright. Entire skyscrapers lay down, crashed into the streets and onto the nearest suburbs. The few remaining ones leaned precariously against each other, giving the city the impression of a construction of toppled domino stones in which some had refused to fall. The center of the city emitted an eery green glow.

He'd never seen a balefire target before. He always imagined other cities to be like Canterlot... decayed, but with a lot still standing upright. Of course, the center of Canterlot was comprised of Ministry buildings which were magically protected against decay, and the rest was never actually hit by anything except the pink cloud. The decompression explosion that had happened when the Princesses' shield had failed had done quite some damage, and the pink cloud made everything decay faster, but it just couldn't compare to the sheer chaos of a city blown up with a balefire megaspell.

He shuddered involuntarily. "Let's just go to your stable."

* * *

What had appeared as a wide open area before the stable was in fact quite a bit harder to navigate. The clear open road to the stable was made in the direction of Whinnyapolis. Neither of them felt like making a detour that would bring them closer to the dead city, so they were making their way through the gravel that was bulldozered aside to get to the sturdy rock. The route suggested by Misty's pipbuck brought them closer to the rock wall before following it to the Stable door.

They passed the remains of the original gravel extraction site. Several steel shacks were pushed aside together with the rest to make way for the Stable, and were simply left there, half-buried in gravel. Passing around the last of these shacks, they finally reached the door.

"Who's there?!" a guard yelled at them. He was wearing a battle saddle with a heavy rifle installed on it.

Misty's face brightened. "Winter Gale? Is that you?" She ran out to the white earth pony. "It's me, Misty!"

Winter Gale gasped. "You're back! It's really you! We thought you—" He interrupted his sentence when he saw a movement behind her. "Look out! Behind you!"

Misty and Lemon Frisk both looked back, only to find nothing behind them. Too late, they realized what the white pony was yelling about.

The bullet hit Lemon Frisk in the chest, ripping straight through his barding and piercing through both his lungs. Because he had turned to look behind him, the bullet blew out of his right side, just before his hind leg. The barding and saddlebag at the exit wound were violently torn loose from the sheer impact on the inside of the armour. Lemon Frisk turned his head and looked at Misty with a shocked expression, before falling over to the left. His barding and saddlebags swung over his back when he hit the ground, revealing the nasty exit wound that barely missed his cutie mark.

"Lemon!!" Misty screamed. She turned towards winter Gale, magically wrenched the gun from the pony's battle saddle, and smacked it violently against the side of the door, before shifting her focus onto the fallen ghoul.

Lemon Frisk looked at the scene unfolding before him, the whole world reduced to slow motion. Stray thoughts flashed through his mind, but somehow the pain made it hard to choose one to focus on. "Did she really just bend that gun over a stable door with her telekinesis?" was the first one. It was quickly followed by "Woah. I've been shot" and "That guy looks really scared to death of me." Finally, it settled on "Damn, this hurts. A lot."

He tried to say something, only to find out that his throat could produce nothing but a shallow gurgling sound. "Right. Both lungs are pierced," he realized. He saw Misty levitate a healing potion from her saddlebag, and bringing it to his mouth.

"Swallow, dammit!" she yelled at him. He realized that without breathing or a heartbeat, she probably didn't even know if he was still alive.

Lemon Frisk blinked. "Swallow?" he thought. "No, too slow."

Resisting his automatic reflex to cough, he let the potion leak into his lungs, allowing it to directly heal the damage that was hindering him the most right now. He pulled his mouth away when it was half empty, and after keeping the liquid in there for about half a minute, he finally allowed his lungs to cough it up.

"Lemon?" Misty asked, unsure how to react when seeing the potion come back out.

"Uhuh," Lemon Frisk said, his voice even raspier than normal. "Lungs are okay now. Gimme the rest."

She nodded, and floated the bottle to his mouth again, allowing him to drink the remaining half.

He rested his head on the cold gravel, and let out a sigh.

Behind Misty, Winter Gale carefully crept closer, apparently realizing he'd made a mistake. Lemon Frisk smiled at him. "Kid..." he said, slowly. "We're gonna be the best of friends."

Realizing whom he was talking to, Misty turned around to the white pony. "Get some help, dammit!" she yelled at him.

* * *

"I'd like to tell you he's okay," the doctor said, "but every machine I got here tells me he's stone cold dead."

Lemon Frisk was lying on a stretcher in the Stable's Medical Bay. He grinned. "Must be broken then," he said, getting off the stretcher. "I feel just fine."

He'd been carried inside and given another healing potion, which had really been all he needed. The doctor had insisted on examining him nonetheless. Needless to say, the results of the examination were inconclusive.

"I guess you've never seen a ghoul before," Lemon Frisk said. "Poor guy at the door clearly had though. I gather he was sent out to explore the city?"

The doctor blinked. "Winter Gale? Right. They were ambushed by what he described as 'dead monster ponies'. He was the only one who made it back, and when he was tasked to guard the door instead, he got himself the biggest gun we had in the Stable." He glanced at Misty. "Not a good time to lose our Stable's psychological support."

Lemon Frisk shook his head. "No use anyway. You'd need a stable full of psychologists to get over the stuff that's out there." He looked around. "Where did they put my saddlebags?"

"Uh, they're being cleaned," Misty said. "There was a nasty stain on them."

Lemon risk rolled his eyes. "On the inside. Not like you'd even see it. Well, give me your guide, then."

Misty nodded, and floated out her copy of the Wasteland Survival Guide. "Here, Doc. That'll spare a lot of future traumas, and lives. I suggest you get it to the WRD as soon as possible."

The Doctor looked at the odd book, and skimmed through it. "This is... amazing," he said, and looked up to Lemon Frisk. "Where did you get this?"

"Bought it in a settlement in the wastes," Lemon Frisk replied. "It's the result of a lifetime of experience, from someone who's about my age."

The doctor looked up. "And what is your age?"

"I've seen Whinnyapolis when the only things glowing and green were its grassy hills in the morning sun."

The doctor blinked. "Wow." He turned to the book again. "So this is written by a ghoul like you?"

"I doubt Ditzy Doo is anything like me. She traveled through this dump for the past two hundred years, helping wherever she could, while I was sitting on my hooves in Dead Canterlot. She's a bit of a celebrity out there."

The Doctor smiled. "Well, she's about to become a celebrity in this stable, too. I'll go drop this off, okay? Misty, you know the way, you can let yourselves out." With that, Doc trotted off.

* * *

"Well. Here we are. Stable sixty-nine," Lemon said, looking out of the medical bay's window. "Every stallion's fantasies dashed. Looks like the joke's on the wastelands."

Misty laughed. "Until you hear its history, that is. Though if you want to hear about that, you'll probably have to ask my dad. He's a teacher."

"Oh, that's right," Lemon Frisk said with a sly grin. "We came here to visit your parents and look at pretty mares."

"And to talk to Big Apple's parents," Misty said, hanging her head.

"From what the doc said, it seems there are more wasteland victims already," Lemon Frisk said. "Besides, you brought them the Guide. He didn't die for nothing."

"If I hadn't come back, he would have," Misty said, her head still hanging low. "I'm sorry."

"Chin up, little pony. Let's get this over with."

* * *

"Lemon?" Misty said, as they made their way to the living quarters of Big Apple's parent.

"Yeah?" Lemon Frisk replied.

"I think I... better do this alone," she said. "Ponies aren't really used to you yet, and all, and with the news I'm bringing them, I don't want to scare them in advance."

"So what am I supposed to do, then?"

"You know the Stable layout, yes?" Misty asked. Lemon nodded; all stables were built in pretty much the same way. "Well," she continued, "school's just about to end. If you hurry, you'll still find my father there. Red stallion, blue and white mane, chalkboard cutie mark. Can't miss him."

"All right," Lemon Frisk said. "So will you give me a name to call him too, or should I just call him 'dad'?"

"Whuh- No!" she yelled, blushing fiercely. "His name is Hailstorm."

"Hailstorm? What's the deal with that? You got an entire stable without a single pegasus, and everypony has a weather-related name."

"It's a bit of a... tribute," Misty said. "Stable history. Ask my dad about it. Now get going, or you'll miss him!"

"Right. Um, good luck with Big Apple's parents."

"Thanks."

The orange mare trotted off into the corridor, leaving Lemon Frisk alone with his thoughts.

"Wait, did you say 'school'? Maybe that isn—"

His words were cut off by the hiss of the automatic door closing behind Misty.

Lemon Frisk sighed. "All right. Next order of business is apparently scaring little foals with my appearance."

* * *

"Are you feeling okay, mister? You don't look okay."

Lemon Frisk smiled at the young colt that had curiously trotted up to him. Lemon was standing in the school yard just outside the actual classroom. Through the classroom window, he could see the red-coated unicorn teacher cleaning up the room and collecting his books. He decided it wouldn't hurt to talk with the curious kid for a bit, until Misty's dad was ready.

"Actually, I just came from the doctor's office," he said with a grin. "He said it's nothing to worry about."

The colt frowned. "Really?"

"No, he really said I was 'stone cold dead'. But I feel fine anyway."

The colt smiled. "You're just joking now."

Lemon Frisk looked at the colt with wide enthusiastic eyes. "Oh, no! He really said that! You see, I'm a ghoul pony from the Wastelands. So I'm kinda dead. But not really."

The Colt looked unsure now. "Ghoul? That's like zombies, right? They say zombie ponies ate Apple Crisp's daddy."

Lemon Frisk nodded. "Yeah... I heard that too. But I'm not like that!"

"But you're a zombie pony too!"

Lemon Frisk gave the colt a sly smile. "I'll tell you a little secret about these ghouls that eat ponies! I know why they are different! You know griffins?"

The colt nodded. "I've seen pictures of them, in the books."

"Well, you see, griffins, they eat meat. Other animals. Like, mice, and stuff. Ponies don't eat that, we don't need to eat meat. We just eat hay, and apples, and, uh, well, I don't really know what you guys eat in this stable."

"We got apples!" the colt said, enthusiastically. "Oh, and cauliflower! And broccoli! I like broccoli!"

"Oh, Nice! Now, these zombie ponies, as you already said, they eat ponies! You know why?"

"Because they uhh... have no broccoli?" the colt tried.

Lemon Frisk frowned. "Hmm. Probably, yes. That's a good point! But you see, ghouls don't need to eat at all. They're dead. I'm a ghoul, I don't eat. But those ghouls, they're rotted in the brain!" He emphasized it by tapping his hoof against his temple. "Stupid! Crazy, even! And because of that, they don't know that they don't need to eat! And they got no broccoli, or apples. So they try to eat meat, like the griffins."

The kid nodded. "Yeah, that's really stupid. So can you tell them they don't need to eat ponies? Maybe they'll listen to you!"

Lemon Frisk shook his head sadly. "No... their brains are too rotted. They're just dead bodies that got back up after they died as ponies. They're no longer ponies, just walking dead bodies."

The little guy looked shocked. "That's terrible! It's like, my gramma's body would step out of her coffin, instead of being food for the broccoli!"

"What happens to dead ponies, here in the stable?" Lemon Frisk asked.

"Mister Hailstorm explained it to us," the colt said, solemnly. "It's the Circle of Life. They put her in the machine, to make her into food for the broccoli, so we can eat the broccoli. But I saw her in the coffin, and momma said she wasn't really there, she was gone to Celestia, and her body was just something that she left behind to be food for the broccoli. I was really sad when she died, but I still think that's nice, to leave the body, for the broccoli. Because, uh, I like broccoli."

Lemon Frisk couldn't help but smile. "Yeah, it's exactly like that. Those ghoul ponies out there, they died and went to Celestia, but their bodies don't realize it, and now they're eating ponies."

The colt nodded. "Right. So then Security needs to make them dead again! They have guns!" He frowned. "But... Apple Crisp's dad was security."

Lemon sighed. "Yeah. But you know what? I'm a ghoul pony just like them. And that means they don't think I'm a pony they can eat! So I think I can probably kill them!"

"Ooh! Like a spy! Like Daring Doo with the Desert Rat People! Only, you'd be, uh, like, a real Desert Rat with the Desert Rat people! Only, not evil!"

"Exactly!" Lemon Frisk grinned, vaguely recalling those comic books from his youth. "So you just wait, and I'll make sure those nasty ghoul ponies don't eat anypony ever again!"

"Yay!" the colt yelled enthusiastically. "You're really cool! What's your name? I'm Fog Light!"

"Lemon Frisk!" the ghoul replied.

Fog Light tilted his head. "Hey, Lemon Frisk, but why didn't you go to Celestia then?"

Lemon Frisk shook his head. "I really have no idea. I just died, and then woke up again. Maybe I didn't have time to go to Celestia before my body woke up."

"Woah! That's really weird! That never happens here. Nopony has ever gotten up after they die."

"That's because you're in a Stable, kid," Lemon Frisk said. "You're protected in here. That kind of stuff only happens to ponies who die in the magic poison of the big war. You know the big war?"

Fog Light sighed. "Yes, I know the big war. Mister Hailstorm told us about it, but then I was making paper boats with my magic because I really need to practice to get my cutie mark, and then he said I had to stay in detention because I wasn't listening to the boring war ministries stuff, and that's why I'm here when everypony else is already gone."

Lemon Frisk blinked. "I see."

"Oh! I should really go home! Bye Lemon Frisk!" the kid said, running past him, and disappearing into the corridors of the stable.

"Wow," a voice came from behind Lemon Frisk. "You should take my job. I've never seen him so interested before."

Lemon Frisk turned around to see the red unicorn leaning against the door frame of the classroom door. The ghoul smiled. "Mister Hailstorm, I presume? Misty Cloud sent me."

Hailstorm's eyes widened. "Where is she?! Is she okay?"

"She's here in the Stable, and she's just fine. But Big Apple died out there, and she wanted to inform his parents first."

"I see," he said. "So... Lemon Frisk. You meant what you said about handling those ghouls?"

Lemon Frisk nodded. "We came here mostly to deliver a book describing all the dangers of the wastelands. Doc already brought it to the, uh, wastelands information committee thingy."

"The Wasteland Research Department," Hailstorm helped.

"Yeah. That," Lemon Frisk said, nodding. "The radio doesn't generally mention radroaches, manticores, bloatsprites, radigators and all that. Those things are just general knowledge to the average wastelander."

"Sounds nasty," Hailstorm said. "I suppose Misty will expect us at our living quarters, then. Follow me."

* * *

"She was still living at home?" Lemon Frisk asked, as they entered Hailstorm's home. It was a typical family home in a Stable living quarters. Sparse, but comfortable, with a few separate areas for the children's bedrooms and kitchen area.

"Much to our chagrin, yes. She stalled her breeding queue position until there were no stallions left, all because of Big Apple. I don't know how his parents will react, but his mate is going to be angry; they destroyed the poor mare's chance at getting children. Let's hope they can still shuffle her in somehow."

Lemon Frisk raised his eyebrow. "That's a whole level of complications Misty never mentioned. And then we're not even talking about Spray Paint."

"Love's a nasty business, in this stable," Hailstorm said, matter-of-factly. "I mean, we don't really mind it, and there's contraceptives for love couples fooling around, but if it makes ponies do crazy things... yeah. It gets bad."

A dark purple mare with a strikingly contrasting blond mane entered from the kitchen area. "Oh? You must be the ghoul that our daughter brought into the stable."

"You knew about him?" Hailstorm asked. "Wait, you knew Misty was here?"

"Rumours, Hail," she said. "You miss out a lot being in that school all day."

"Right, right," he said. "Lemon Frisk, this is my mate, Moonstorm."

Lemon Frisk frowned. "Moonstorm and Hailstorm?"

"Our parents thought it was cute," Moonstorm said with a smile.

Lemon Frisk smiled. "All of you have somewhat weather related names, but you must be the first pony I've seen around here with a weather related cutie mark."

Moonstorm glanced at her flank. "That? Oh, no. It's not a whirlwind, it's a whirlpool. I work in water maintenance."

"Oh. I see," Lemon Frisk said.

"I heard you got quite a welcome, at the stable door," Moonstorm said. "I'm glad to see you, eh, survived."

"Oh yes. Really warm welcome," Lemon Frisk deadpanned. "Only way he could've made it warmer was by using incendiary bullets."

"They shot you?" Hailstorm asked.

"Winter Gale was on guard," Moonstorm said. "After what that poor guy went through, I'm not really surprised. Nopony that twitchy should be put on guard duty."

"By the Goddesses, you're lucky to be alive!" Hailstorm said.

Lemon shrugged. "Takes more than a few bullets to kill me. I'm just glad he didn't hit anything vital, like, my cutie mark. That would've really bummed me out."

The two ponies stared at him, but before they had a chance to comment, the door slid open, and Misty walked into the room. She looked like she hadn't slept in a week.

"Misty!" Hailstorm said. "So glad to see you!"

Misty just smiled weakly. "Hi dad. Hi mom."

"She was there, wasn't she?" Moonstorm said.

Misty just nodded, and slumped down next to Lemon Frisk. "Hold me," she said, leaning against him.

Lemon Frisk just nodded, and put his foreleg around her shoulders.

* * *

"You two seem awfully close," Moonstorm said.

Misty had gone to her bed, and had drifted into an uneasy sleep, and Hailstorm had gone off to the stable's common room to meet up with his friends. Given how miserable Misty was feeling, no one had gone further into their little Public Display of Affection. But now, Lemon Frisk was alone with Misty's mother, and she was clearly curious about it. She didn't sound cynical, or worried, or even disgusted, though. Just curious.

"It's... complicated," Lemon Frisk said with a sigh.

Moonstorm smirked. "You could sure say that. Nothing more complicated than love."

"Nah," Lemon said. "Love's simple. It's the circumstances."

"So tell me, Lemon Frisk," she said. "What are these circumstances?"

"She loves me, I'm trying to get over two hundred year old repressed war traumas, including the loss of my own wife and son," Lemon Frisk said. "So as I said, complicated."

An uneasy silence fell over the room, only interrupted by the sounds of Misty tossing and turning in her sleep.

"I'm sorry," Moonstorm finally said. "I never really considered your own troubles in this."

"Too caught up on the whole 'ghoul' thing, huh?" he said, smiling.

She just nodded quietly.

Lemon Frisk laughed softly. "Sterile, squishy, pretty sure it's all still there, haven't used it in two hundred years, so no idea if it still works." He grinned at Moonstorm's slightly disgusted expression. "Really, don't bother. I fired all of that ammunition the moment I found out how she felt. Your daughter's quite cute when she's embarrassed."

Moonstorm laughed. "You have a strange sense of humour."

"Count yourself lucky; most ghouls just get cynical," he said.

He glanced in the direction of the bedroom where Misty was sleeping. He heard a soft whimper coming from inside.

"I wasn't there when Big Apple died, but she told me about it," he said. "He died before her eyes. Torn apart by a mutated monster of the wastelands. I guess talking about it with his parents brought it all back."

"You care about her," Moonstorm said. "I can see that, at least."

Lemon Frisk looked Moonstorm in the eyes. "When I leave this Stable, she'll come with me. There is nothing I or anypony else can do to change that. I know our reasons for sticking together are somewhat odd. She stays with me because she's in love. I want to get closure on what happened two hundred years ago, and I know she'll help me with that. But she's my friend, and right now, that's enough for her. I may not know where we're going with this, but at least we both know where we stand."

"She's her own mare," Moonstorm said with a sigh. "With the Stable opened, the breeding program will probably be ending soon anyway. Many ponies will try their luck out there. But it's okay for a mother to be worried about her child, isn't it?"

"Why else do you think we came back?" Lemon Frisk said. "The wastelands are dangerous, and many ponies who leave this place will undoubtedly die. But as long as Misty travels with me, I'll do anything in my power to protect her."

Moonstorm nodded. "I suppose that's all I can ask for." She glanced at Misty's bedroom door. "Go, then," she said, smiling. "Protect her from her nightmares."

Footnote: Level Up! Which level are you anyway? I guess you lost track, in those two hundred years.
New Perk: Foal at Heart: Wait, you don't scare the crap out of little children? How the hell did that happen?

 
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