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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11. Day Nine - The Bright Side of Life

The Bright Side of Life
the brightest light casts the darkest shadows

Lemon Frisk opened his eyes and looked at the orange mare that was lying next to him. He smiled. He could definitely get used to that again.

He realized that he had slept that night, but couldn't remember any dreams. The only dreams he'd had so far had been flashbacks. This time, he felt more... refreshed. His mind didn't just need time to process his past, it seemed. It also simply needed time to rest.

He noticed Misty stirring and smiled at her. "Good morning, sunshine," he said, softly nuzzling her neck.

Misty turned her head and smiled at him, a dreamy look on her face. "Hey, you," she said.

"Hey, you," he answered. They didn't need anything more. Just this simple moment of happiness.

It didn't last. Misty's eyes wandered away, her face taking on a sad expression.

"Oh Celestia," she said. She left out a shuddering sigh. "A week. That's all it took."

Lemon Frisk's head shot up. "Misty, that's not—"

"One week!" she yelled, turning back to him. "One week and I already replaced him! Do you know how long we'd been together?"

Lemon Frisk didn't reply. He sighed softly.

"Three years. Three Celestia-damned years we waited for that door to open. And then..."

She sighed. "I don't deserve this. I don't deserve you."

Lemon Frisk gave her a flat look. "I didn't know it was standard practice for shrinks to take their patients' survivor's guilt and then wallow in it themselves," he said, his tone slightly accusing.

Misty looked away and sighed again. "Sorry."

"Don't be sorry, dammit!" Lemon said. "Bad things happen. There's nothing you can do about that. Have you seen the world, out there? The greatest monsters prosper, and the bravest heroes die without as much as a gravestone. There's no such thing as deserving something. You just do your best, and hope some good comes from it. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't. Life's n—"

"Don't say it!" Misty warned.

Lemon Frisk's eyes narrowed. "Life's. Not. Fair. Misty."

"It should be!" she yelled. "This isn't right! I get welcomed back with open forelegs, both by the Stable and by you! I've done nothing to deserve that. You have, sure. You talked me into coming back here. You brought the guide. You even took the initiative to get rid of those ghouls. But me? All I did was run. Even after you got me back here, all I ever wanted was to run away some more. I'm a bad pony, Lemon."

"You're my bad pony, though." Lemon said, going through her mane with a hoof.

"Am I really?" she asked, slumping down on the bed. "Maybe Spray Paint was right about that too. Maybe all I wanted was someone to protect me. Someone to replace Big Apple."

"Too?" Lemon Frisk asked, raising his sole eyebrow again. Little details like that didn't easily escape him. "What else did he say?"

Misty stared at the door, away from the stallion lying beside her. "I bottle everything up. You can't help ponies unless you keep an emotional distance, and I'm a bit too good at that. I just... don't let the bad things affect me much."

Lemon frowned. "Until you burst."

Misty nodded, without saying a word.

"And that's what you're doing now," Lemon said.

She nodded again. Her body shook as she suppressed her tears.

"C'mon," Lemon said, "don't hold it back. It's not doing anyone any good."

"I can't do this," Misty said, shaking her head. "Not with you here. Not after last night."

"Yes, you can," Lemon said. "Especially with me here. Especially after last night."

He hugged her from behind. His skin felt cold and clammy, but she didn't mind. And that fact only made her feel worse.

"Your dad said I didn't need a psychologist," Lemon remarked calmly. "He said all I needed was a friend."

"I'm not your psychologist, Lemon," Misty muttered. "Never have been. Psychologists ask questions. Guide ponies to a mindset that makes them deal with their problems. All I did with you was listen."

Lemon smiled. "Exactly. You listened to me gush about Blossom Tree and Lemonade. You didn't even mind me bringing her up last night, of all times." He nuzzled her mane.

"So, tell me about him," he continued. "Tell me about Big Apple."

Misty sobbed. "Dammit, Lemon, I miss him," she said, squeezing her eyes shut. "I miss him so much."

Lemon nodded, knowing she felt the movement through her mane. "You do. You're not a bad pony, Misty. You're just hurting, and finding no one to blame."

Misty turned around and sobbed into his chest. "You're still too good at that," she said between the sobs.

Lemon kissed the top of her head. "Shh. Just let it all out."

She cried. And then she cried more. And then, she talked about Big Apple. Who he'd been, what he'd been like, what had made him so special to her.

And then she cried some more.

* * *

By the time Lemon and Misty finally emerged from the bedroom, Misty's parents were long gone. They had day jobs to attend to, after all.

"I wonder if they heard any of that," Misty said. She felt numb from crying too much. Relieved, but numb.

"Does it matter?" Lemon asked.

Misty shrugged. "It'd be awkward if they just heard the arguing part."

"Ahh, love couple's first spat, has to happen sooner or later." Lemon quipped.

"Oh shut up," Misty said weakly. "We argue all the time."

"Not really," Lemon threw back. "Whenever I have real arguments, you just poke me. That doesn't qualify as arguing."

Misty ignored him and sat down at the table. "So. Love couple, huh."

Lemon nodded. "Sure seems that way. Everypony's going to be disgusted when they figure that out, you know." He looked at Misty. "And, technically, I guess this makes one of us a necrophiliac."

"Hmph!" Misty said, sticking her chin in the air. "I moved a little!"

Lemon snorted. "You're terrible."

"That's not what you said last night," Misty said, managing a weak smile.

Lemon just rolled his eyes. "So... what are we going to do today?" he asked, not specifically to Misty.

Misty's smile grew bigger. "Same thing we do every day, Pinkie... try to take over Equestria!"

"Hah!" Lemon laughed. "Ministry Mare Misadventures? Really? You got that recording stored here?"

Misty shook her head. "No, just a transcript. The notes on it said some ponies wrote it down from memory after the Stable closed. It was a radio show, right?"

Lemon grinned. "Yep. You got the whole thing?"

"Yeah, I think. I imagine the Ministries must've gone bananas when that aired."

"You have no idea." Lemon said. "It was just harmless satire, of course, but the political climate really didn't appreciate it at that time. Heh. Makes sense that we never got them all."

Misty smiled. "Well, you can't really prevent somepony from memorizing it, can you?"

Lemon frowned. "We could, actually. Some unsavoury memory extraction method involving memory orbs." He gave her an uncomfortable look. "Wasn't my department, but... we knew it was being done."

The mare's smile faded. "Oh."

"Well, that was more for spies who got sensitive information and such," Lemon Frisk explained. "This was broadcast publicly. The Ministries could hardly go out and mess with the memories of everypony who'd been listening to public radio. I'm not too surprised the original text survived. Especially with the clandestine reruns." He smirked. "Also, it was really funny."

He looked around in the room. "Hmm... don't you have a terminal here?"

Misty nodded. "In my parents' room. Why?"

"Well, I'm just curious what else I can find in that famous maneframe library of yours."

"Ah. Well, my dad originally moved it to their room so I wouldn't be on that thing reading old stories all night long," Misty said. She smiled. "I think he also suspected I found his diary."

"Hah. You did, then?"

"Password is 'DAMN KIDS'," Misty said, while walking into her parents' bedroom. "Or, at least, it was before I left. Hey, wanna check out what he wrote about us so far?"

Lemon blinked. "Uhh, maybe we should not invade his privacy?" he suggested, carefully peeking into the room Misty walked into.

The mare shrugged and booted up the terminal. "If he cared about that, maybe he should change his password every once in a while."

She looked at the screen and let her magic flow over the keys, swiftly navigating to the diary. Suddenly, she frowned.

"He changed his password."

Lemon let out a sigh of relief. "Good. Can we go back to the library part now?"

"No, no, I got this!" she said. "You can get a dump of the system memory and filter through that to get possible password phrases left behind in there. It's a trick dad showed me."

Lemon gave her a flat look. "He showed you how to hack his own terminal."

Misty nodded. "Which is why you shouldn't feel bad about me doing this."

Lemon Frisk shrugged. "Well, it's your dad. I'm staying the hell outta this."

Misty peered at the data on the monitor. "I think I found something. Readable text, at least. It doesn't look like a password, though... something about losing a bet."

She tilted her head to the side. "Huh. It's the diary data itself. He didn't even encrypt his entries." She looked at Lemon. "You'd think the stallion teaching me about circumventing security would at least care a tiny bit about it."

Lemon Frisk frowned. "But, he did change his password..."

"Yeah, that is odd," Misty agreed.

"Misty, can you go to the normal login screen again?"

Misty looked at him. "Why?"

Lemon smirked. "From everything you're telling me, I can draw only one logical conclusion."

"Which is?"

"Just try to log in again."

Misty shrugged and went back to the password screen. It accepted the password without any problem.

Her eyes widened. "Oh come on!" She looked at Lemon Frisk, who was giving her a smug look. "All right, spit it out, what did you figure out?"

"You mistyped the password, and jumped to conclusions."

Misty's face hit the terminal.

"Smartass," she mumbled, her horn still leaning against the monitor. She looked up at the glowing text again. "Ooh. There's an entry dated this morning." She lifted her head and looked at Lemon. "This has to be about us!"

"You really want to know the personal thoughts of your dad after he most likely heard us going at it last night," Lemon Frisk said, shaking his head.

"Uhuh. Now let's look at this thing."

---

Inserted: 2 hours 16 minutes ago.
Author: Hailstorm

Great. Just great. Looks like I lost that bet. He can still get it up after all.

Little bastard's going to be insufferably smug all day. And I owe them all an hour extra recess.

---

Misty blinked. Whatever she was expecting, this was not it. "What little bastard is he talking about?" she wondered out loud, while going down to the previous entry.

Lemon Frisk rubbed his forehead with a hoof. "I really hope I'm wrong, but I'm afraid I have a fairly good idea."

---

Inserted: 15 hours 23 minutes ago.
Author: Hailstorm

Fog Light bet me that Lemon and Misty will get it on before the week ends. Hah. He's two hundred years old! I doubt he can still get it up.

Kid, you better owe up with that week of undivided attention in class.

---

Lemon Frisk's hoof briefly left his forehead to allow him to read the message, and then firmly reasserted its previous position. "Seriously? He makes bets, with the kids, about other people's private lives? Those kids are at an age where they shouldn't even know about that stuff!"

Misty gave him a confused look. "About what? Sex?"

Lemon gave her an uncomfortable look. "Well, yeah."

"Why wouldn't they—" she started, but stopped as she realized whom she was talking to. "Oh, right," she said. "Reproduction was one of these taboos, in your time, huh?" She shrugged. "We live in a Stable with a breeding program, Lemon. I guess they figured, the sooner they know, the less accidents they'd get." She glanced at the wall between her parents' bedroom and her own. "And the internal walls here are hardly sound-proof."

"Huh... so all the kids know about... that?"

Misty giggled. "It's cute how you get all worked up about it."

Lemon looked around the bedroom door with a pensive look on his face. "Hey Misty... what are the chances your mom made similar bets?"

"Over at water maintenance? Hah. One hundred percent." She raised an eyebrow and smiled at him. "Something tells me she won hers, though."

Lemon thought back to the dark blue mare. "Yeah. I can imagine. You realize, of course, that this means the whole Stable knows by now, right? We'll be the talk of the day... again."

Misty looked up in surprise and blinked. "Ah, dammit."

"Come on, now show me the library stuff," Lemon insisted. "We've read quite enough of your dad's diary."

Misty frowned, and looked at the entries list. "I wonder what he wrote when I left..."

Lemon put a foreleg over the keyboard. "Don't, Misty. It won't do anyone any good."

Misty sighed. "I suppose."

"Come on, you haven't had breakfast yet. Go grab a bite while I check the library."

Misty nodded. "All right." She kissed him on the cheek and walked out of the room. Lemon turned back to the console and started looking through the library entries.

Misty suddenly stopped, a mischievous smile creeping onto her face. "I'll pour you a glass of water," she said as casually as possible, before walking on.

Lemon Frisk frowned, and shook his head absentmindedly. "I don't nee—" His head shot up, and he blinked. He turned his head and glared at Misty. "You're a nasty, nasty mare."

* * *

One short breakfast and a glass of water for Lemon Frisk later they went out to meet up with Vector Field. He'd promised them housing, after all.

It didn't take long for Lemon Frisk to notice the difference in atmosphere in the Stable. Before, ponies would glance at him and then quickly pretend to go about their business, unsure how to react to the undead stallion's presence. Now, the reactions were decidedly more pronounced, and varied widely. A lot of ponies just stared openly, their faces stuck somewhere between disgust and curiosity. Some reacted decidedly... different.

A young green-coated stallion walked up to him, grinning from ear to ear. He held up his hoof as he passed. "Brohoof, dude!" he shouted. Confused, Lemon Frisk held up his hoof. The youngster bumped it as he passed. "Rock on, Lemonator!" he shouted as he went on.

Lemon blinked. "Who the heck was that?"

"Um, one of the Apples... I think." Misty replied, looking almost as stunned as Lemon Frisk. She glanced back at the pony that had passed them. "A nephew of Apple Twig, if I'm not mistaken."

"Right. Is this, um, normal?"

"Amongst his age? Sure," Misty said. "For a complete stranger, though... well, that's kind of a new thing in the Stable. I guess everypony deals with it in their own way?"

"Eww! Like, seriously, Misty?" some mare suddenly said, staring at them with open disgust. "He's like, dead!"

Misty sighed and walked on without even dignifying the outburst with a look. "And there we got the other end of the spectrum," she said. "Come on, let's get out of here."

"Right," Lemon said. "Let's go find Vector Field."

They walked through the corridors, trying to avoid attention and failing miserably. Loads of ponies spontaneously started talking to them, asking them how they were doing, trying to confirm the rumours, and some even apologizing for the unpleasant outbursts of others. Lemon Frisk suddenly found he'd gone from a curiosity walking around in the Stable to a person worth talking to. Despite some of the negative reactions, he couldn't say he minded.

"Ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh!" a white unicorn with a poofy yellow mane suddenly yelled at them. "You two are really together now? Eeeeeeeeee!"

Lemon Frisk blinked. "I didn't know Pinkie Pie came in unicorn form."

To his surprise, Misty started laughing. Most of the times something like this had happened, she had just grinned uncomfortably and walked on. Lemon concluded she knew the mare.

"Lemon Frisk, meet Cocktail Party. Tail, this is Lemon Frisk." She smiled at Lemon. "Classmate."

Lemon Frisk nodded. "I repeat my previous statement. I wasn't aware Pinkie had any children."

Misty shrugged. "Well, you'd know more about that than us, I guess. I honestly have no idea who's in her ancestry."

"A dragon!" Cocktail Party said, her previous enthusiasm barely suppressed by her current air of seriousness. "Maybe even... two!"

"Small question," Lemon said. "Have you been outside before the Door opened?"

Cocktail Party tilted her head and frowned. "Umm, no?"

"Not even for a quick peek?" Lemon insisted.

"The Door was closed!" Tail said, her enthusiasm mostly replaced by confusion.

Lemon looked at Misty. "Not related to Pinkie Pie after all."

"How so?" Misty asked.

"The Door being closed wouldn't have stopped her."

Tail gasped. "She would've opened it herself?"

Lemon laughed. "Do you think Earth ponies have magic?"

Tail gave him a look of intense concentration. "That's a trick question, isn't it... earth ponies, no horns... magic..." Her face brightened. "A-ha! Yes, they do, because all ponies have magic potential! It's why pegasi can pull air carriages that are bigger than their wingspan would allow them to fly with!"

Lemon Frisk gave her an appraising look. "Well done! Well, to put it simple, Pinkie was, uh, sort of an earth pony teleporter. Nopony knew quite how she did it, but she definitely did it. She might even have been in several places at the same time. And we're also pretty sure she could predict the future."

Tail frowned and then crossed her eyes to try to look up to her own horn. "Now I kinda wish I wasn't a unicorn." She kept absentmindedly tilting her head back in an attempt to take a better look at her own horn, until she lost her balance and fell backwards. "Wah!"

Lemon Frisk caught her before she hit the ground. "I'm gonna retract my previous statement. She may very well be a bit Pie."

"Oh my gosh!" Tail exclaimed, looking up at her 'saviour'. "You're all squishy!"

She jumped out of Lemon's hooves, and grinned at Misty. "Sooo... how was he? Details, filly!"

"Tail, we're standing in the corridor." Misty said, giving her a flat look. "Ponies are watching."

"Sooooo?" Cocktail Party asked, tilting her head all the way to a ninety degree angle while grinning widely.

Misty sighed, and leaned in closer to whisper in her ear.

"He never, ever tires," she whispered, failing to suppress her own grin.

"Hee! You lucky mare, you!" Tail grinned. She suddenly noticed a blinking light on her pipbuck. "Ack!" she exclaimed. "I'm late!" She started galloping down the corridor. "Late late late! Bye Misty, Bye Lemon!"

Lemon Frisk blinked again. "There is no way in Tartarus that mare does not have any Pie genes."

"Heh," Misty said. "Honestly, I never made the connection. Of course, to us, the Ministry Mares are just a history lesson. Cocktail and I go way back. She's the one that earned me my cutie mark."

"Oh. So you helped her when she was depressed, then?"

Misty nodded. "Indeed. We became pretty good friends after that."

"Small question... when she was depressed... did her mane stop being poofy?"

Misty stared at him, her mouth hanging open. "How could you possibly..." She frowned. "Pinkie Pie?"

Lemon snickered. "Definitely related, then. Pinkie must've had some relatives that ended up in these parts." He looked at Misty. "See, when I first started in the MoM, the colleagues told me a little story from Pinkie Pie's life in Ponyville, to make absolutely sure nopony would ever try to throw Pinkie a surprise party of any kind."

Misty gave her a confused look. "What? Wasn't she quite the party pony?"

Lemon nodded. "Yeeah... but apparently, back in Ponyville, she got all paranoid and depressed when she noticed her friends were keeping secrets from her. She was really good at organizing surprise parties... but she oddly didn't take too well to being on the receiving end of one."

"Huh. Sounds like a strange pony."

Lemon laughed. "You have no idea."

* * *

About ten minutes later they reached Vector Field's home. Unsurprisingly, the stallion looked quite smug when he opened the door.

"Coming to inquire about the housing arrangements, I take it?" he asked.

Lemon rolled his eyes and smiled. "Yeah, yeah. You were right. We, uh, talked it over, and we'll gladly take your offer."

Vector nodded. "I suspected as much, especially after hearing the grind of the rumour mill this morning. How about that other offer I made, though?"

Lemon Frisk raised his eyebrow. "I wasn't aware they were a package deal."

"What?" Vector said. "Oh, no, no! I didn't mean it that way! Honestly, this is not a 'deal'. I just wondered if you'd gotten the chance to talk to her about that."

Despite being completely unable to blush, Lemon felt a heat in his cheeks. "Aheh... no, not really," he said, grinning uncomfortably. "We didn't get much... conversing done after I implied I wanted to move in with her."

Vector smirked. "I can imagine."

"You and the whole damn Stable," Misty grumbled.

Vector shrugged. "It'll pass when the novelty wears off. Of course, if you'd join the expedition, you'll be rid of most of them for a while. It might be a welcome reprieve."

Lemon Frisk shrugged. "Actually, I was just starting to feel accepted around this place," he said.

"I could use a break from this," Misty said flatly. She frowned and gave Lemon an unsure look. "But... I don't want to run away again."

Lemon smiled. "It's hardly running away if we're travelling with ponies from the Stable, now is it?"

"It's your life, Misty Cloud," Vector said. "If you want to leave, go ahead; you won't be the only one."

"No, I just... don't want to abandon them, you know?"

Vector Field raised an eyebrow. "You don't actually owe them anything, Misty. You're free to go wherever you want." He smiled. "But you'll come back eventually. I know you will. Which is why I'm offering you two a residence."

Misty blinked and looked at Lemon. "When did he get good at that sort of stuff?"

Lemon smirked. "I suspect he always has been. You ponies simply never cared enough to notice."

Misty looked at the purple-maned stallion. "Well, damn."

"So, uh," Vector Field started carefully. "About that expedition..."

"Right," Lemon said. He turned to Misty. "Basically, he asked me to act as guide and guardpony on the trip. Just to the Sparkle~Cola factory. Maybe to Hayden, if we miss them at the factory."

"Oh, just that? That's barely a few hours," Misty said. he turned to Vector Field. "We'll do it."

"There, uh, was another factor involved," Lemon said.

Misty turned back to him. "Oh?"

"Actually recruiting ponies to go with us."

Misty blinked. "You mean as in, going around, door to door, to ask ponies whether they want to come with us?"

Lemon nodded.

Misty thought back to all the reactions they'd gotten just quietly making their way through the Stable. She slumped down. "Ah, dammit."

* * *

After getting the address and door code of their new dwelling from Vector Field, the two ponies found themselves in the Stable corridors once again. Luckily, there wasn't anypony around this time.

"Okay," Misty said. "Where do we start?"

"...she asks the pony who barely knows anyone in the Stable," Lemon retorted.

Misty rolled her eyes. "All right, fair point. Still, where would you start?"

"Honestly? I'd like to put our stuff in the new place first," Lemon said, walking in the direction where Vector Field had said their new home was, "starting with emptying my saddlebags there to make space to move your stuff. But if you mean for the trip, I'd say, pipbuck technician."

Misty trailed behind him, a frown on her face as she tried to follow his reasoning. "Oh, right," she said after a few seconds. "The ghouls."

Lemon Frisk looked back at her and nodded. "Nopony's going out there with a sabotaged Friend-or-Foe system."

Misty hastened her pace to catch up with him again. "Right. Nimblegait it is, then."

"Winter Gale mentioned that name..." Lemon said. "Would she come along on this expedition?"

Misty shrugged. "Could be. She'd probably love to see pipbucks in action out there. Those things are her passion. She even has one as a cutie mark." She sighed. "I wish I'd actually listened to her ramblings about it now... then I might've known about E.F.S. and S.A.T.S. when we first left."

Lemon tapped her lightly on the back of the head. "Bad Misty!" he said, a mock-frown on his face. "No dwelling on the past!"

"Aye aye, cap'n," Misty replied. "Or should that be 'yes, sarge'?"

Lemon smirked. "Nah. Not feeling too military at the moment. Now come on, landlubber, let's go get yer booty and bury it someplace new!"

Misty grinned. "My booty's right here, cap'n, and ready for any buryin' ye might wanna do."

Lemon rolled his eyes. "Behave. We got work to do; moving in, and finding ponies to drag along on this expedition thing." He tilted his head and frowned. "What about that mare we met in the hall? Uhh... Surprise Party?"

"Cocktail Party," Misty corrected him. "I'm not sure she'd handle it too well. Then again, most Stable ponies won't." She turned away from him and stared at the wall. "I didn't."

Lemon Frisk nuzzled her neck. "Hey now, no moping," he said softly. "Besides, with a bit of pipbuck and weapons training from Winter Gale they should do quite all right."

Misty frowned. "We're a peaceful community, Lemon. I think you overestimate us."

"And I think you underestimate ponies' tenacity," Lemon Frisk retorted, smiling. "You're managing quite well, all things considered."

Misty gave him a dry look. "I refer you back to this morning."

"Hey, I said 'quite well', not 'just fine'," Lemon said, frowning. "Really. I don't think there's anyone out there in the wastes without a set of traumas."

Misty gave an impressed whistle. "That's a lot of potential customers."

Lemon chuckled. "Pity most of them are inclined to pay in lead. In advance."

Misty looked at the door they had arrived at. "So, this is the place, then?"

"Looks like it," Lemon Frisk said, eyeing the digital lock. "Let's see if the code Vector gave us works."

He tapped in the code. Both ponies smiled involuntarily as the door opened with a soft click. Carefully, they walked inside and looked around in the room. Sure, the place was empty besides the standard furniture, which included a table, two chairs, and some sparse closets and cupboards... but it was their place. All theirs.

After standing there for a while, Lemon Frisk finally decided to break the moment of silent admiration of a barren room. "Right!" he said. "Let's, um, unpack my stuff, so we can move in here properly."

"Honestly," Misty said, "I don't think I've got all that much stuff that needs moving. We could've picked it up first."

"I know," Lemon said, leaning his head against hers. "I just wanted to see it." He turned towards her. "And I'm pretty sure you wanted the same, or you'd have said that right when we left."

Misty smiled. "Ah, all right." She unstrapped Lemon's saddlebags with her magic, and started rummaging through its contents.

"Bottlecaps, bottlecaps, more bottlecaps... you guys seriously need a more portable currency." She opened a large drawer, and the bottlecaps floated out of the saddlebags with her magic. They came out in a neat long line and were poured unceremoniously into a large pile in the drawer.

"Well, the next step up is weapons, I guess," Lemon said. "They're usually worth quite some caps."

"You can haggle about their price, though," Misty pointed out while levitating a heap of ammunition out of his saddlebags and depositing it in a different drawer. "It's still not a standard."

"True," Lemon said as he peered into the bags. "Ammunition prices are relatively fixed, though."

He frowned and reached into the bag, picking up a small device with his mouth. He put it on the table and looked at it.

"By the dogs of Tartarus," he said. "I didn't realize that was still in there when I left."

Misty looked at the device. "That's a pipbuck addon, isn't it?" she asked.

Lemon Frisk nodded. "A broadcaster. Ugh." He gave the small thing a look of distaste. "Wish I'd left that in Canterlot."

"Isn't that like, a radio transmitter?" Misty said. She picked up the device with her magic, and looked at it curiously as she let it rotate in front of her face.

Lemon Frisk's eyes widened, and he swatted the thing out of her magic field. "Stay off that thing!" he yelled, fear in his voice.

Misty took a step back and watched the device slide away on the floor. She looked at Lemon, confusion on her face. "What was that for?"

Lemon sighed, picked up the broadcaster and put it back on the table. "Look... that thing is dangerous, okay?"

Misty frowned. "How dangerous?"

"The pink cloud did more than fusing stuff. It corrupted anything it touched. Anything that broadcast a sound or radio signal became deadly."

Misty gave the small device a look of apprehension. "Yeesh. So why do you have one of these?"

"A couple of years ago, we started seeing dark-coloured alicorns in the city. At first, someone actually wondered if Luna had survived, but it was nothing like that."

Misty frowned. "So, what were they? Rad mutations?"

Lemon Frisk shook his head. "No. Far too... perfect. These were made deliberately. Most likely some experiment from the war; the wastelands are full of crap like that. Robots, cyborgs, crazy immortal super soldiers... you wouldn't believe some of the stories I've heard from Buoyant Waves. One thing was clear, though; these alicorns didn't like us very much." He gave a short nod to the broadcaster on the table. "Since we're already dead, these things don't actually harm us. They're just annoying to have around. But for living ponies... well, they're worse than the pink cloud itself. They make your brain bleed out of your skull. We started using them as defence against those things."

"So... what do we do with it?" Misty said, eyeing the tiny device as if it could jump out and strangle her. "Leave it here?"

"Hell no. Wouldn't want to risk it somehow getting lost here, getting found by somepony else, and then turned on." He grabbed the device and put it in a side pocket of his saddlebags which closed with a zipper. "I'm keeping that with me at all times." He bit down on the zipper and pulled it shut with a sense of finality.

He looked into the bags again to see what else was in there. He'd stocked up on healing potions from the Stable infirmary, and there was still some of the Rad-Away he was carrying for Misty. "Well, looks like we got most of it. This oughtta do."

* * *

A short while later, Lemon and Misty had finished moving their stuff. Since it was nearing noon, Misty decided to go to the common room to grab a bite, and maybe find some volunteers for the expedition.

Lemon looked around in the crowded room. The crowded room looked back.

A moment of silence passed, before the room exploded in chatter and shouting.

Lemon facehoofed. "Oh yeah!" he shouted over the noise to the mare standing next to him. "This was a magnificent idea!"

Misty smirked, and leaned closer to him. "They're a crowd, Lemon. You should be used to managing those."

Lemon sighed, and nodded. "Attention, everypony!" he shouted. Yup, that shut them right up. The ponies looked at him expectantly. Some, oddly, seemed to look somewhat beyond expectant, and seemed unusually enthusiastic at his sudden appearance. He noticed a familiar booklet on some of the tables; the WRD had apparently already started printing the Wasteland Survival Guide.

"Right," he said. "As you probably all already heard, Misty Cloud and I are moving in together. We won't be giving any more comments on that subject, and no, no details on last night either. If you really want to imagine that, have fun with the mental imagery, but we won't be adding anything to that."

The reactions to this were pretty much as expected, ranging from "aw" to "ew". Lemon ignored it.

"And now for something... completely different. Right before we came here we met with a trader, and he's currently setting up a deal that could make his village into a blooming farming settlement. I think Stable Sixty-Nine could participate in that, by providing seeds for crops, thus establishing friendly contac..." He looked around at the ponies and sighed. "You know what? Why am I even telling you this? This is Vector Field's job. I gave him the idea hoping he'd take some damn initiative, and now I'm still stuck doing it myself!"

He shook his head and turned around. "Screw this," he mumbled to himself as he walked off. "You coming, Misty?"

Misty blinked. "Wait, what?" Confused, she walked out behind him. "Lemon!"

* * *

"Lemon Frisk!" Misty shouted, running behind him. "What the hell was that about?"

"Can't you see it?" Lemon said, without turning back. "A population dissatisfied with current management will go looking for a strong leader figure." He finally stopped, and looked at her. "I don't want the job, okay? I didn't sign up for this. I just wanted to help them out. They can find somepony else to chain to that desk."

Misty stared at him. "You think they want... you... as overstallion?"

"Management, leader, overstallion, special advisor... call it whatever you want. I'm not interested."

Misty gave him a concerned look. "Are you sure that's what this is? You may just be misinterpreting it."

Lemon stopped in front of their door and angrily punched in the code.

"No, Misty, it just clicked into place," he said as he walked inside. "I came from out there, I know how the world really works, and I immediately solved several problems you ponies had. The whole affair with you running away and the radio censoring getting exposed has made them lose their confidence in the WRD. And now I moved in here, I'm officially part of the Stable."

Misty smiled. "You know what I think?"

Lemon raised his solitary eyebrow. "What?"

"I think you should just go out on that expedition, and not mind all those politics. Even if that's all true, it won't happen that fast, unless you're planning to organize a coup d'état instead of an expedition. You're worrying over nothing, Lemon."

Lemon sighed, and looked at the open door of their house. "I guess you're right."

"So come on. Let's go pay Nimblegait a visit and get my pipbuck fixed."

* * *

The two ponies had barely left their home when they bumped into the young stallion they had run into earlier that day; the one who had greeted Lemon Frisk so enthusiastically.

"Yo!" the green-coated earth pony said. "Hey, what was all that about an expedition? I reckon that oughtta be pretty groovy!"

"Well, you're lucky you bumped into us," Lemon said. "We were just starting preparations."

"Lucky? Pshyeah right," he said. "You said you were moving in with Misty. That normally implies her moving out of her parents' house. So I looked up Misty in the housing list, and, right on, it's changed. I open the info of the new place, and bam, you're listed there along with her. So I thought, excellent, let's check it out!"

"Quick thinking," Lemon said. "So, what's your name?"

"Rambo Apple, at yer service," the young stallion replied. "Where are you pones off to?"

"Nimblegait," Misty said. "There's something wrong with the pipbucks of this Stable."

"Too true. Winter Gale spread the buzz about that when he came back from your most spectacular ghoul hunt. The Wasteland Research dudes warned everypone to go through pipbuck maintenance afore headin' out. I still gotta do that too, actually. Mind if I tag along?"

Lemon smiled. "Not at all."

"Groovetastic. This will be one gnarly trip, pones. And I mean the good kind o' gnarly, not the bad kind o' gnarly!"

Lemon Frisk gave the stallion an uncertain look. "Riiight," he said. Misty suppressed a snicker.

* * *

As it turned out, Nimblegait was a petite unicorn with a gray coat and a brown mane... and an obsession with pipbucks.

"Well, it's about time you dropped in!" she said to Lemon Frisk as she opened the door. "Doc said you had a really interesting pipbuck!" She glanced down at Lemon Frisk's leg, and her eyes widened. "By the balls of the forefathers! What in Equestria...?"

Lemon Frisk rolled his eyes and moved his pipleg behind his other foreleg, out of sight of the overzealous technician mare. "We're not here for my pipbuck," he said, with a certain finality.

That finality was completely lost on Nimblegait. She crouched down and circled around him as he tried to keep the curiosity out of her line of sight. "But... that's impossible!" she said, eyeing the mess of titanium and flesh. "It's melted into the leg?"

"Yes, yes it is, which means it can't be fixed without cutting me open," Lemon Frisk said.

Nimblegait opened her mouth, but Lemon beat her to it. "No, I won't give permission for that!" he added quickly.

The technician slumped down. "Bahh. All right then." She gave him a pleading look. "Can I at least take a closer look? See if I can connect to the system?"

Lemon sighed, and pointed the curiosity at his two companions. "After you take care of their Friend-or-Foe systems."

Nimblegait perked up immediately. "Awwright!" she said with a grin. She looked at Misty Cloud and Rambo Apple. "Standard procedure then, I take it?"

"Indubitably," Rambo Apple said.

Nimblegait blinked. "That means 'yes', right?"

Rambo frowned. "Um... yeah."

"All righty then." Nimblegait quickly connected Rambo Apple's pipbuck with her terminal, and tapped in a few commands. "This'll be quick; I set up a script for it. I just wish I got the wireless functions working, now that'd be cool."

Lemon Frisk raised his eyebrow. "Wireless functions?"

Nimblegait nodded. "I know they're in there. Very short range, but some of the Stable's automated messaging systems use them, and that awful bit of extra programming in the Friend-Or-Foe system obviously uses it too. But I can't figure out how exactly to use it for my own purposes. It's frustrating!"

"Well, good luck with that," Lemon said.

As Nimblegait checked the readings from Rambo Apple's pipbuck on her terminal, Lemon Frisk's attention drifted to the wall of the Pipbuck Maintenance room. There was a magnificent landscape painted on it. A river was shown flowing through the green hills, and a magnificent rainbow arced down from a bunch of white clouds in the distance.

"That's quite a mural," he said.

"Spray Paint made that, years ago," Misty said. "We all hoped to see something like that when coming out of the Stable." She gave him a sad smirk. "Guess it turned out quite differently, huh?"

Lemon nodded. "The way things are going out there, we'll be lucky if it'll start looking like that in another two centuries."

"That's one done!" Nimblegait piped up. She motioned Misty to come over to her terminal. "Another two to go!"

"I do hope you're keeping a list," Lemon remarked. "Don't want ponies to go out there without the fix."

Nimblegait nodded. "Oh, it marks them in the list, and I've set up a scanner at the Door that makes a racket and alerts me whenever an unfixed pipbuck goes through. Finished setting it up yesterday. Though it all goes by pipbuck tag, and there's about a thousand pipbucks listed in the maneframe that aren't actually anywhere in the Stable."

"Oh. Right," Lemon said. "The males."

"Yep. Haven't had a chance to filter them out," Nimblegait answered. "That's one of the things I wanted to use that wireless function for; it'd make it peanuts to list all those that are in the Stable." She looked at Lemon Frisk, and tilted her head slightly. "You know, it'd have been quite helpful if you'd have brought the pipbucks of those ghouls along."

"You can file those complaints with Winter Gale," Lemon said, a flat look on his face. "We weren't even sure if we were coming back here."

Nimblegait frowned. "Oh. Right."

She glanced at her terminal, and her face brightened. "All done! Your turn, Lemon Zest!"

"Lemon Frisk," the ghoul corrected, though the mare had long stopped paying attention to anything else than his pipleg.

"Now, let's see..." she started, tapping a few keys on her terminal, while throwing occasional glances at his pipleg. "Pipbuck 3001M. Ministry of Morale Edition." She looked back at him, beaming. "Right?"

"...I guess?" Lemon Frisk replied. "I just got it for the job; never bothered to learn its fricking serial number."

"Pity," Nimblegait continued, "because the serial would make it easier to get the exact O.S. version.” She prodded a piece of protruding flesh with a screwdriver. ”Alas, it's somewhere underneath that."

"Don't poke me!" Lemon Frisk said, glaring. "You're almost as bad as Misty!"

"Ugh, you're a bit too old for me," Nimblegait said casually, while bringing up the blueprints of the pipbuck on her terminal. "I'm just in it for the pipbucks, thank you very much."

"I'm not sure whether that should make me relieved or afraid," Lemon Frisk said dryly.

"Afraid," Misty whispered to him, smiling. "Ponies usually come see me right after seeing her."

Nimblegait just rolled her eyes at that. "Oh, can it, Misty." She turned to Lemon Frisk, a manic look in her eyes. "Now let me see that thing! C'mon!"

* * *

Lemon Frisk walked out of the pipbuck technician's office, shivering slightly and leaning on Misty.

"Never... again..."

Misty gave him a sympathetic look. "You want to talk about it?"

Lemon rolled his eyes. "Maybe later." He looked at his pipbuck. To Nimblegait's credit, she'd closed it all up again exactly as it was before, and, despite the internal damage, she had been able to do something, at least. As Lemon Frisk had already known, the pipbuck's screen's connection at the back was busted but couldn't be replaced due to being melted into his leg, and while the pipbuck's controls still worked, about half of the functions they could access had damaged components.

In the end, Nimblegait had given a huge sigh of defeat, and had, in her own opinion, performed butchery where fine surgery had been required. She linked the still-working buttons straight to the few things that still worked; one served as on/off button for the radio, another two would seek up and down the radio frequencies, and a fourth could now interrupt the power to the monitor, allowing him to switch off the eternally staticky glow. She had also somehow increased the power input to the monitor, making the snowy screen actually useful as light source.

"Where did she even get that scalpel?" Lemon Frisk asked.

"Doc's her dad."

"Ugh. You can see mental health isn't his specialty." He frowned. "Wait, her dad? Why does she call her dad 'Doc'?"

Misty shook her mane. "Everypony calls him Doc. I don't even know what his real name is."

Lemon slowly shook his head. "Your Stable is a strange and confusing place, Misty."

"Oh, and the Wasteland isn't?" Misty threw back.

"Point," Lemon conceded. "So, what's next on the list?"

"The expedition, dude!" Rambo Apple threw in.

Lemon Frisk nodded. "Right, right. The expedition." His face brightened as he looked at the other stallion. "Hey, how about we take care of the logistics, and you go around recruiting ponies? You seem like a guy who knows ponies."

"Abso-defi-lutely!" the green-coated stallion said, a wide grin on his mouth. "I'll get it done, Lemon Meister!"

Lemon watched as the young stallion galloped off, and shook his head. "Where did he pick up... well, all that? I've never heard anypony talk like that."

"I'm guessing, movies," Misty said. "In case you didn't notice, he had a film reel as cutie mark, and that kinda sounds like the slang they use in those Crashing Waves pictures. Not sure if you saw those."

Lemon frowned. "Can't say I have, though the name sounds familiar. May have been related to Buoyant Waves."

"Well, anyway, those coastal ponies had some strange speech patterns," Misty continued. She paused, a pensive look on her face. "Though he seems to mix in any odd slang he finds."

"So, you guys actually got movies, then?" Lemon asked. "That's pretty impressive."

Misty nodded. "Nimblegait pioneered a way to get those uploaded into the maneframe, too. That stumped our ancestors for ages. It's just way too much data, apparently. Not that I know much of that. But, yeah, the Forefathers didn't include a maneframe expert, oddly enough, and none of the mares were specifically chosen for their expertise."

Lemon Frisk shook his head. "Yeah, because that would've been the sensible thing to do. Summer Rain might've gotten things done, but he still did them in his own way. It's amazing Stable-Tec management didn't catch on. If he'd put the expertise in female hands, nopony would've noticed."

"Then again, their privileged status as only males made them noticeable in the Stable as well," Misty pointed out, "making it easier to establish their leading roles in these fields, without it just looking like Summer Rain picking favourites."

Lemon shrugged. "I guess. C'mon, let's get packing."

Misty shook her head. "Yeeah, you may not need to eat, but I'm getting pretty hungry. We kind of skipped lunch, remember? I don't want to skip dinner as well."

"Oh," Lemon said, slightly embarrassed. "Right, sorry."

Misty smiled. "C'mon, let's go. I feel like cooking!"

"Broccoli, huh?" Lemon said, smirking.

"Heh. We do have more than just broccoli. But I guess I do need ingredients, yeah." She looked at him, and grinned. "And guess what, the lab is right on the route to the gardens!"

Lemon rolled his eyes. "Right, right, let's drop by there as well."

Misty gave him a peck on the cheek. "You're a darling, you know that?"

Lemon looked at her and smiled. "Nasty mare," he mumbled under his breath.

"What was that?" Misty asked, cheerfully.

"I said, I'm aware," Lemon said, his expression unchanged.

"Sure you did," Misty said, smirking. "C'mon, let's go."

* * *

The Stable 69 gardens weren't much out of the ordinary. They were pretty similar to those in Stable One, though obviously, these were actually in use, while the ones in Stable One had quickly lost all purpose after the place turned into a settlement for residents that didn't need to eat.

Misty was humming happily as they walked through the corridors, clearly looking forward to breaking in the kitchen in their new residence. Her groceries, two broccoli heads and a bottle of apple cider, were bobbing along beside her in the orange glow of her magic, following the rhythm of her tread.

As their door came into view the pair noticed a pony standing there, waiting for them. Lemon frowned as he recognized Apple Twig, his earlier assessment of the Stable's political situation still fresh in mind.

"Apple Twig," Misty said, somewhat sternly. The green mare opened her mouth, but Misty held up a hoof. "Before you say anything; there's one thing I want to make perfectly clear," Misty continued. "Lemon and I are going to spend a nice, quiet evening together in our new residence. I'm going to cook dinner, have dinner, and then the two of us will share this nice bottle of apple cider." She nodded at the bottle floating beside her. "At no point does this planned evening involve any visitors, or any political tug-of-war between the WRD and Vector Field. If you have any questions or remarks about tomorrow's expedition, go find Rambo Apple and Vector Field, and discuss it with them. Without us. In fact, if you see Rambo Apple, please tell him to postpone any visits until tomorrow morning." She tilted her head slightly. "Is that clear?"

The middle-aged mare gave a somewhat apologetic look. "Oh. Um, okay." She looked like she was about to say something more, but Misty's narrowing eyes made her reconsider. She nodded. "I'll just... leave you two to that, then," she said.

Misty smiled victoriously as the resident DJ skulked off. She entered the door lock code and walked inside, throwing a smug look at Lemon when he came in behind her.

"See? Nothing to worry about, unless you give into them."

Lemon Frisk laughed. "Looks like my coup d'état has been postponed once again," he said.

He closed the door behind them, the click of the lock promising a quiet undisturbed evening.

Yes, he certainly could get used to that.

Footnote: Level Up! Let's just get this nonsense over with and restart from when you left the Stable, okay? That's right. Two centuries of scavenging plus one week out there equals level 10. Deal with it.
New Perk: Sticking Together (level 2): You're truly accepted as one of the residents of Stable 69 now! Any Stable pony companions’ skill sets are at your disposal when needed. And, apparently Misty can hack terminals. Yay!

   
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