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.



7. Day Six - This Stable Life

This Stable Life
built on foundations of death

Misty's bedroom door opened with a soft creak, and Hailstorm looked inside. He was greeted with a soft nod from Lemon Frisk, who was sitting at the end of the single bed in the room. Misty, lying on the head of the bed, was curled up into a ball, holding Lemon Frisk's right foreleg and using it as pillow.

"Oh. You're up already," Hailstorm said. He looked at Misty, and frowned. "She's..."

"Still asleep, and cuddling my leg, yes," Lemon Frisk said, smiling at Misty.

The red stallion nodded. "Right. Uh. Moonstorm and I discussed this whole, uh, thing, yesterday."

"I thought so," Lemon said, looking up at him again. "I heard your voices through the wall."

"You did?" Hailstorm asked. "Hm. We didn't keep you awake, did we?"

"Heh, no," Lemon said, shaking his head. "There's one thing you can take literally about the 'restless dead'. I don't sleep."

"Huh," Hailstorm said, raising an eyebrow. "So you stayed here with her all night, awake?"

"I can hardly disobey a mother's orders," Lemon Frisk said with a smirk. "It does get a bit boring, but at least the company's pretty." He glanced down at the picture of the red couch on Misty's flank. "And, hey, I finally got to see her cutie mark."

"Well, anyway," Hailstorm said. "The people of the Wasteland Research Department wanted to talk to you... both of you, that is. They asked for you to be there in about half an hour."

Lemon Frisk shook the leg that was currently taken hostage by the pretty mare. "Hey Misty. Wake u-up."

Misty grumbled in her half-sleep, and buried her face deeper into Lemon Frisk's knee, holding his leg even tighter now.

"Yes, really cute," Lemon said. "But you still have to get up."

Misty looked up, and gave Lemon a sleepy look. "Hmm?"

"Good morning, sleepy head. Your Wasteland Research buddies want to see us," Lemon Frisk said. "Which also means I'll need your cozy squishy pillow back. I kinda need it to walk on."

Misty realised what she was holding, and quickly sat upright, letting go of his leg. "Oh! I didn't mean to... um..." She suddenly realized the door was open, and her dad was looking at the whole scene with mild amusement. "Dad!" she yelled out in surprise. "Um, hi, dad."

Hailstorm rolled his eyes. "I'll see you two at the table." He walked out and closed the door.

* * *

A little while later, Misty and Lemon had come out of the bedroom, and had joined Moonstorm and Hailstorm at the breakfast table. Their hosts had already finished their food though, and were mostly trying to find out what the Wastelands were like. Since Lemon Frisk didn't eat, he took it upon himself to answer most of their questions, giving Misty time to finish her apples. After finally running out of questions about the outside world, Hailstorm shifted the conversation to the more personal angle he'd missed out on the previous night.

"So," Hailstorm said. "You, and her, huh?"

"Um. Not really," Lemon said. "Somewhat. Maybe. We haven't quite figured it out."

Hailstorm sighed, shook his head and looked at Moonstorm. "Looks like she chooses all the wrong bucks in terms of getting us grandchildren, doesn't she?"

Lemon just nodded. "I did warn her about that. Well, sort of."

Misty's face seemed to be spontaneously developing a chameleon defense mechanism, since it was taking the colour of the bright red apple she was eating. "Stop talking like I'm not here," she muttered under her breath.

"Yes, leave the poor dear alone!" Moonstorm cut in. "She's been through a lot, out there!"

"That's not even relevant here!" Hailstorm said. He rolled his eyes. "Mares."

"What was that, dear?" Moonstorm said with a soft smile, while poking her hoof into her husband's side. The stallion yelped and jumped aside.

"Nothing!" he responded immediately.

Lemon Frisk raised his eyebrow, looked from Misty Cloud to Moonstorm and back, and blinked. "This explains so much."

"So, um," Misty said, having finally managed to finish her apple, "what happened here after we left?"

Hailstorm took a deep breath. "The Wasteland Research fellows broadcasted about your, um, illegal excursion, warned ponies not to follow the example, and then went over a long list of very real and horrible things they actually knew about from their year of research, but hadn't gotten around to releasing in some form that wouldn't cause panic. Raiders and slavers and all that. Since you'd already left, this information was mostly received as 'too little, too late', and the ponies generally blamed them for sending you to your deaths out there. After all, informing ponies was what they were bloody there for, and they had opened the door, too." He shook his head and sighed. "This was bound to happen."

He looked at his daughter. "Not that I think it would've stopped you. But you'd at least have gotten some idea of how messed up it is out there. Might've saved Big Apple." He smiled. "So don't blame yourself too much for that. It was their responsibility."

"Wait, I thought you guys had had radio for months," Lemon Frisk said. "How can you not know about raiders?"

"Everything went through their equipment. They had the only means of getting signals through the walls, and they'd spent a year recording songs off it. They simply filtered out the stuff they thought was 'too traumatizing', and filled the extra time with music. Now, I wasn't really involved in all that, but apparently some ponies had been insisting on opening the Door, and the WRD gave in to them before they had a chance to address the radio censoring issue."

Lemon Frisk facehoofed. "The truth, no matter how much it hurts, censored. Now I've really heard it all." He looked at Hailstorm. "What about the city excursion, though?" he asked. "I mean, by that time they must've been completely informed."

"Heh. Now that's quite another deal," Hailstorm said, shaking his head. "The WRD didn't have a clue about undead flesh-eating monster ponies. Apparently the scout team thought they'd found survivors. It took them completely by surprise."

Lemon Frisk nodded. "Well, I guess that's not too hard to believe, considering they got all information from the radio," he said. "Feral ghouls generally stay at the place where they died, so there's rarely anything new to report about them."

"All that changed with you two though," Moonstorm said. "I heard some rumours from the laundry crew. Lemon's saddlebags apparently had a booklet with some kind of survival guide. The WRD took it all and put it in storage, of course."

Lemon shrugged. "We sent the doc to give them Misty's copy anyway. It's kind of why we came here, after all."

"Well, you better go see what they think about it, then," Hailstorm said. "They're expecting you."

* * *

"Good morning, Stable Sixty-Nine! This is DJ Trillex, with a special report for all the ponies in here."

Ponies everywhere looked up to the enthusiastic female voice coming out of the speakers. They hadn't had the chance to hear their own DJ in quite a while... in fact, she hadn't done a show since the WRD had given the public access to external broadcasts. Sure, the Overstallion and the WRD had broadcasted some news, but that wasn't quite the same.

"Now, I'm sure you'd all much prefer to hear that cool guy from Tenpony Tower telling you all how many more settlements were murdered to the last pony, but alas, today you'll have to make do with little old me, because I'm hijacking this, and there's nothing you can do about it! Well, besides walking out the Big Door and turning on your pipbuck radio, but if you're planning on going outside, you really want to hear me out first. Because I got two very special guests with me, straight from the Wastes! So, better start with introductions, then!"

When Misty Cloud and Lemon Frisk had arrived at the offices of the Wasteland Research Department, they promptly found themselves getting interviewed live on the Stable broadcast system. Their host was a middle-aged but very enthusiastic green earth pony mare, with a branch with an apple hanging from it as cutie mark. She had only introduced herself as 'DJ Trillex'. Right now, the DJ was looking at Lemon Frisk expectantly.

"Uh, hi everypony," Lemon Frisk said, in his grinding raspy voice. "My name is Lemon Frisk, and I'm a ghoul from the wastelands."

"He's not!" Misty cut in, using her own microphone. "He's only been out there for a week! Heck, I've been out there longer."

"Well, all right. But I'm still a ghoul, and I came here from the wastelands, didn't I? And unlike you, I already knew how things work out there."

Misty sighed. "Fair enough. Uh, you ponies probably know me; I'm Misty Cloud. Me and two of my friends planned our own little excursion about a week and a half back, and... it didn't end too well. We got attacked by some mutated monstrosity. Big Apple got killed, and Spray Paint barely survived. He wanted us to tell his mom that he's doing all right. He's making a living working for a merchant in one of the settlements we found. They're nice people."

"Oh, that's right," Lemon Frisk interrupted. "He also asked us to deliver a specific message to his dad, didn't he? What was that again, Misty?"

Misty smiled. "The message was, and I quote, 'Screw that jackass. And feel free to tell him I said that'. Don't go blaming us, Event Horizon, because that's exactly what he said."

Looking at how the introduction was getting rather out of hoof, the DJ decided to once again take control of the conversation. "Right! Wow. So, Lemon Frisk. You're, uh, a ghoul. What exactly does that mean?"

"What it means?" Lemon Frisk said, frowning. "I've expired and failed to go to meet my maker. I'm a stiff. Bereft of life. If I hadn't kept walking, and the whole place wasn't poisoned to hell, I'd be pushing up the daisies! I am an ex-pony!"

The DJ blinked, slightly stunned. "Right. I'm sensing you want this to be perfectly clear. You're dead."

"Not even," Lemon Frisk continued. "I'm bloody undead, un-bloody dead. I mean, what's the bloody point?"

"Well, from what I've heard, you've got two centuries of experience with it. You tell me?"

"Heh," Lemon laughed. "Not a clue. Trust me, finding the meaning of life doesn't get any easier by dying. Life has, sort of, passed me by, you know?"

"Passed you by. Right," DJ Trillex continued. "So tell our listeners, why did you come to our humble Stable?"

"Oh, that's an easy one," Lemon Frisk said right away, grinning from ear to ear. "To look at the pretty mares."

Misty facehoofed, and groaned. "Oh, not this again."

The DJ frowned. "You came to the Stable... to ogle the mares?"

"This place is quite famous in the wastelands, you know," Lemon Frisk said, "though nopony really knows where it is. But they all know Stable Sixty-Nine is the one with tons of pretty mares and only a few stallions."

Trillex raised an eyebrow at that. "Two hundred years ago, maybe..."

"Yes," Lemon continued, "Misty set me straight on that. I just thought I'd warn you about how the wasteland dwellers may react to those shiny stable uniform buttons of yours. As for me coming here to look at mares, it's nothing quite as mundane as 'ogling', and it doesn't really have anything to do with that gender ratio either. Well, I guess, now we're here, I might as well make it official."

Misty's eyes widened. "Wait, what are you..."

"Right!" Lemon Frisk exclaimed, making sure he sounded as official as he could. "Taking into account the few mares we've seen in Hayden, who were, admittedly, rather homely, the Slags, who, being part zebra, were pretty exotic without even trying, and the female population of Stable Sixty-Nine I have currently observed, I, Lemon Frisk, hereby declare that, in my humble opinion, Misty Cloud is worthy of the title of 'Pretty Mare'." He looked at the orange mare sitting next to him, who was currently trying to bury her head under her forelegs. "Happy now?"

"Ecstatic," she groaned. Her microphone didn't pick up more than a muffled groan.

"Well, I have to agree, she's not bad-looking," the DJ said, determined to keep her show running, no matter how odd the ghoul was acting. "So what brought on this little... revelation?"

Misty jumped up. "No, please don't!"

"Well, she asked me," Lemon Frisk said, completely ignoring Misty's plea. "I could hardly answer her when all I had to compare with were two centuries of seeing ghouls. Every smoothcoat is pretty compared to those, and I wanted to give her an honest answer."

"That's a lie!" Misty shouted. "You called me a pretty mare first! I just wondered, and you made a big embarrassing deal about it wherever we went!"

The DJ blinked. "Huh. All right. So then, why did you really come here?"

This time, Misty made sure she was the one answering, to prevent Lemon Frisk from embarassing her even further in front of an entire Stable that knew her quite personally. "Mostly to let Apple and Spray's families know what happened out there," she said. "And to deliver the Wasteland Survival Guide."

DJ Trillex smiled. "Ah yes! Fillies and gentlecolts, perk up your ears for this! These brave wasteland travellers gave us an amazing guide, detailing all the nasty things out there, and how to deal with them! We all know what happened to the scouting team that went to the city, but it seems there are ghouls of a different kind out there too, because this guide was written by one, and delivered to us by another. So, Lemon Frisk, have you ever met this Ditzy Doo?"

Lemon nodded. "A few times, when she was making deliveries. She's a bicentennial ghoul, just like me. One of the few pegasi that didn't decide to leave us all to die and hole themselves up in the clouds. Gotta admire that."

"Indeed," the DJ said. "And I don't think the Enclave would take her in now, anyway. Misty mentioned you've only been out here for a week. What did you do in these two centuries before that, then?"

"I've just been scavenging in Canterlot. My advice though, if you're not already dead, don't go there, or you will be. It's poisoned to the core, with something far worse than plain old radiation."

"So, why did you leave?" the DJ continued. "I mean, after two centuries, that is somewhat odd, no?"

Lemon Frisk didn't answer right away. Why did he leave? He didn't really have an answer to that. He had told himself it was the alicorn situation, but he realized that wasn't true. Or, not entirely true, anyway. The Alicorns just got him thinking about the Princesses, about the old days... about his life. It had made him even more restless than he was by his own nature, and urged him to go find... what, exactly? The meaning of life, as he had joked with the DJ? Nothing that profound, probably, but still, a reason. A reason to keep doing this. To keep going, day after day, two centuries beyond the end of his natural life.

"Lemon?" Misty asked softly. "Are you all right?"

Lemon snapped out of his musings. "I- I'm sorry. I've never really thought about it before now. I guess I just wanted... something more. Some point to living this weird un-life. I've been surviving Canterlot for two hundred years, but only now, I feel like I'm really living again."

"So, this is a kind of... spiritual journey, to you?" the DJ asked.

Lemon Frisk laughed. "An undead pony on a spiritual journey? That seems like the setup of a joke. But, yeah, I guess you could say that."

Trillex smirked. "I guess the punch line would include walking into a bar and drinking spirits."

"Heh, if only," Lemon Frisk said. "I can't get drunk since I became a ghoul. And to make it worse, it seems other ghouls can."

"Ooh, yeah, that sucks. Anyway, what are your plans now?"

"Moving on," Misty said, firmly. "I can't stay here." Her voice mellowed. "Two days ago, I ran straight on, for two hours, without ever changing direction. You can't imagine how... liberating that feels. The gym's treadmills are nothing compared to that."

"Sounds nice," the DJ said. "How about you, Lemon Frisk?"

"We're sticking together," Lemon said. "My first order of business is keeping a promise to a young colt I met here. Fog Light, if you're hearing this... we'll deal with these crazy zombies, make sure they never eat anypony ever again. You have my word."

Misty suddenly looked worried. She hadn't heard about this yet. "We're hunting... feral ghouls?"

"I have been sneaking around in a city full of them for two centuries, you know," Lemon Frisk said, sounding somewhat proud. "And those were an exceptionally tough kind, too. Taking out a few here shouldn't be too hard. I mean, it worked on raiders."

Misty throw him a questioning look. "What 'worked on raiders'?"

Lemon blinked, and realized it might not be a good idea to tell Misty that he had literally bitten the head off a pony. "Um... taking... care of them?" He swiftly turned back to the DJ. "So, yeah, first order of business, getting rid of those feral ghouls. After that, who knows? Probably explore the city, and see what else and who else is out there. It's a big wasteland, and there's not much that can kill a Canterlot ghoul."

"Well, this has all been very interesting, but we still have a lot to discuss, so I think we'll end the interview here," the DJ said. "Thank you both for thinking of our humble little Stable, and giving us this amazing guide. This has been DJ Trillex! We will now resume your normal outside broadcasts."

"Wait, there's one more thing!" Misty Cloud said. "A gift to you specifically, DJ Trillex, and to everypony in the Stable. I have a pipbuck recording of a ballad of the Canterlot ghouls..."

Lemon Frisk's eyes widened. "You didn't!"

"...sung by Lemon Frisk," Misty continued. She stuck out her tongue and leaned over to him. "Consider it payback for the whole 'pretty mare' thing," she whispered in his ear, before grabbing a wire from a nearby console with her magic, plugging it into her pipbuck and transferring the audio file.

Lemon Frisk nodded slowly, admitting defeat. "Touché, Misty. Touché."

The DJ took over at that point, and not much later, the microphones were off, and Lemon Frisk's raspy singing voice sounded throughout the Stable, accompanied by the faint crackling of a camp fire burning in the background.

"The colts and fillies all forgot, the games we used to play...
All the brave stallions and the mares, died in the olden days...
And as we look, upon the land, that we once knew to thrive...
Equestria, we ask the ground, oh are you still alive?"

* * *

A bit later, the three ponies were sitting around a table in the office of the Wasteland Research Department, each with a drink before them. DJ Trillex told them more ponies would join them later, but despite being part of the think tank, they all still had their stable duties, too.

"You two seem to make a game out of embarrassing each other," the DJ said.

"True," Lemon Frisk said. "I take my duties very seriously!"

Misty wasted no time in stabbing him in the side with her hoof. Lemon Frisk let out a loud whinny and fell off his chair. Still, he couldn't help but laugh.

"You're getting sneakier!" He grinned while getting up again.

She grinned back. "I have to. You're getting more wary around me."

"Am not. You really think you caught me completely unaware when you started using my leg as a pillow in your sleep?"

Misty's face reddened. "Shut up!"

"Anyway!" Lemon Frisk said, swiftly getting back onto his chair, and looking at the DJ pony. "What's your real name?"

"Apple Twig," she said. "I'm Apple family!" she added proudly.

"Wow. After two hundred years of breeding program, Apple family pride sure hasn't changed much!" Lemon said, smiling. "Your accent has, though."

Twig nodded. "Well, that's not so surprising. I mean, there was only one Apple in the Stable. Judging from the older DJ Trillex recordings, it was gone after just a few generations."

"Older DJ Trillex recordings?" Lemon Frisk asked. "You mean, you didn't make it up?"

"Oh, no! The original DJ Trillex was one of the original Forefathers. His name was Apple Pie. When the doors started closing after only eight stallions had entered, Blueshift and him managed to still squeeze themselves through. Well, mostly, in Apple Pie's case; Trillex means "three-legs". He took up the broadcasting station as a hobby during his recovery, and kept doing it when it turned out he couldn't buck apple trees anymore. The DJ role has been sort of hoofed down through the family, more or less."

Lemon Frisk's eyes widened. "Wait. You said the Stable closed when there were still ponies outside?"

Apple Twig nodded. "Stable-Tec screwed us over really well," she said. "The Stable was built with enough space for a starting population of two thousand ponies, and all plans and drills showed it that way, too. They did find it odd how all mares went in first and the stallions second, but after a few drills, everypony just started thinking of it as 'ladies first'. Until the Stable Door closed after only eight stallions had gone inside, that is."

Lemon frisk swallowed hard. "By the Goddesses. Nine hundred ninety ponies, left out there to die, right in front of the door? By design?"

"Well, we don't know what happened to them, exactly," Apple Twig continued. "We expected the ground before the Stable to be littered with skeletons when we opened the Door, but it wasn't. There were just a few, instead of hundreds. My guess, most of them got away before the bombs hit. We know the bomb hit quite a while after the alarm, though, so it wasn't too surprising."

Lemon Frisk stared at the table, and started mumbling to himself. "Roughly a thousand stallions, panicky situation, not too cramped. Additional situational factors... let's see. Time span is definitely one. Then there's age groups, family ties..."

Apple Twig frowned, and turned to Misty. "What's he doing?"

"Not a clue," Misty said. "But if I'd have to guess, I'd say he's trying to find out what happened to them."

"How would he do that?"

Lemon looked up from his musings. "Well, it's like looking at photographs of a party that's turning into a panic," he explained. "I'm a crisis manager; I was trained to assess social behaviour on scales like that. In fact, it becomes easier with more ponies involved, because you can apply statistics more easily. In this case, I'm trying to figure out, roughly, how most of them reacted. How many skeletons were out there? Did you clean them up?"

Apple Twig nodded. "Yes. We buried them in the far end of the gravel flat. It must've been about forty or so, roughly in a line towards the city. I'm guessing they died in the panic inside the original queue towards the stable. Only about ten of them were close to the door."

Lemon Frisk nodded. "Forty. Hm. Do you know what age groups the intended male population was in?"

"All in their early adult years," Twig said. "Young, strong people chosen to repopulate Equestria," she added cynically.

"You said the bomb hit quite a while after the alarm. How long was that?"

Twig frowned. "The reports on the sensor malfunctions showed they all spiked, and then died; probably one central malfunction that took them all out somehow, but it was definitely caused by the shockwave. That was about two and a half hours after the doors closed."

Lemon Frisk nodded again. "Right. Forty initial chaos victims, on a population of nine hundred ninety, that's about 1/25th. No information about any wounded, though. Aggressive age, all male, probably all with family in the city, and, given the nature of the Stable experiment, most likely without any close relatives inside the population. I mean, they must've done that for the mares, and they were probably thorough enough in keeping up appearances to do the same with the stallions, right?"

Twig blinked. "Uh. I dunno. They're in the Stable inhabitant records, but I never really looked into it."

"Well, I'll just assume so," Lemon Frisk continued. "Looking at the statistics for the age groups, that brings us with roughly 20% inclined to lead, 10% inclined to take independent action, 70% inclined to follow examples... other traits, let's see. We can assume 30% strongly family-centered people, 30% prone to violence or adventurous behaviour. Then there's the subcategories and overlapping groups. Applying Hardly Seldom's short-term behaviour theorem, taking into account the amount of time for the trauma to sink in, and the inevitable 'cry wolf' effect, hmm..."

Lemon Frisk cleared his throat. "Within the first hour, about a fifth would stick together with their friends, in groups of three to twenty, and move on to find some other place to survive. Most of the others would panic, with a small portion of them becoming violent, though I am inclined to lean towards panic trampling, personally. In two hours, even the more panicky ones had probably somewhat calmed down, but not until after the chaos left forty victims. About a quarter of the original group would've gone back to the city, warnings be damned, just to be with their families, especially since they might've thought it was a false alarm, after two hours. The others would probably have gone away from the city, either alone or in groups, feeling very lost. Of those that moved away, the decisive group probably made it the farthest before the blast."

He smiled. "Whew. Been a long time since I've done that. Mind you, there's no real way to know how many survived; I only know the social and mass-psychological side. I have no idea about the range of the balefire bomb effects, or the distance the ponies could've travelled in that time. They probably all went roughly in the same direction though; completely away from the city as seen from the Stable."

Misty frowned, and looked on her pipbuck, opening the map. "Wait. The city is roughly north-east of here. That would send them straight to... Hayden!"

Misty and Lemon Frisk looked at each other, eyes wide. "Could it really?" Lemon said. "The village without pretty mares?"

"It's been two hundred years though," Misty said, frowning. "It shouldn't still be noticeable."

"Unless it became a kind of traditional thing. You know, the colts' camp," Lemon Frisk said, thinking. "They weren't restricted in a Stable. Ponies came and went. It could simply have become a place where guys hang out."

"Well, not much use speculating about it," Misty said, shrugging. "We'll just have to ask Spring Singer, if we ever go back there."

"A fifth," Apple Twig said. "You're saying that roughly two hundred ponies of the original male population of our Stable probably survived, and went straight towards a place that's a settlement now?"

Lemon Frisk smiled. "Better. Hayden was the insurance policy of one smart pony who had found the safest spot on the map in case the world went to hell. It's got its own water talisman, and it's been there since the war. It would've been there, waiting for them. I wonder if Spring Singer arrived after them. She never really said; I just assumed she was already there."

"I'm assuming Spring Singer is a ghoul too?" Apple Twig asked.

Lemon Frisk nodded. "She helped build the place. Unfortunately, they were quite far away from their safe haven when the bombs hit."

"I'll transfer the maps," Misty said, holding up her pipbuck leg. "Then you know everything we know about the area between here and Canterlot. Oh, and Lemon's map, it could be of some use. What happened to his saddlebags anyway?"

"Oh!" Apple Twig yelled, getting off her chair and walking towards some cabinets in the wall. "Sorry, I completely forgot about that." She looked at Lemon Frisk. "We kept the contents of your saddlebags here, and put everything neatly back inside when it was cleaned. We didn't really look at the stuff though, out of respect for your privacy. I mean, we'd love to see what's there, but we prefer not annoying our first outside guest by nosing through his stuff without his permission. We would've asked about the guide, but, well, you sent it to us anyway."

She opened the cabinet, pulled the saddlebags out with her teeth, and deposited them on the ground before Lemon Frisk.

"I wonder though, why in Equestria do you collect bottlecaps?"

* * *

As Apple Twig had predicted, more ponies joined them a while later, and, as could be expected from a think tank, every one of them had their own way of looking at the outside world. Misty and Lemon spent the next few hours telling them everything they knew about the Wasteland, its culture, trade, weapons and currency. They also made sure they understood that letting the Stable's production facilities make more bottlecaps as money was a really, really bad idea.

It was around noon when they finally left the WRD. The two went to the Stable's common room to have some lunch. Well, Misty had, and Lemon Frisk had simply followed. Some ponies had given them friendly nods, but most still seemed rather disturbed by Lemon Frisk's appearance.

"So, now what?" Misty said, sitting down. "You wanted to go hunt those ghouls?"

Lemon Frisk shook his head. "No. First, I really want to know more about this Stable. Your history intrigues me."

"Well, you're in luck, then," a familiar voice said behind him. "I'm off for the day."

"Hi Dad!" Misty said, greeting Hailstorm with a smile.

"You two gave quite a show on the radio," Hailstorm said with a smirk. "I have to hoof it to you, girl, that song was a good way to let the Stable ponies warm up to Lemon Frisk."

Lemon raised his eyebrow. "Was that why you did that?"

Misty slumped down. "Way to ruin my revenge," she muttered. She suddenly looked up again, frowning. "Wait, you shouldn't be off for the day!"

"And yet I am," Hailstorm said. "It's ESA training day. They're Focal Point's responsibility now! Well, I guess a bunch of them just went home. With the Stable opened, they just don't take it seriously anymore. Can't imagine why, though. The ESA is one of the most awesome things ever invented."

Misty smiled. "Ooh... I haven't been in there in years!"

Lemon Frisk looked at the two ponies. "Excuse me, but uh, I don't speak acronym."

Misty snorted. "Sorry. It's a joke anyway. The ESA was an experiment of the WRD, thought out ages ago. Nowadays, the kids just play in it. It's good training, I guess, but for them, it's mostly just fun." She looked at Hailstorm. "Shall we just show him?"

Hailstorm grinned, "Are you afraid of heights, Lemon Frisk?"

Lemon frowned. "I spent two hundred years living in a city magically glued onto the side of a mountain, so, not particularly." The way the two ponies kept smiling at him made him feel uneasy. "Why?"

"You'll see," Misty said, still smiling.

* * *

The trio of ponies was standing in front of a very normal-looking door in the residential area. The only thing that made it different was a foal's drawing next to the door, set inside a glass frame. It showed a pony in a space suit, as Lemon remembered seeing them in comic books. Below it was the text "Equestrian Space Agency." The only other thing that stood out was the fact there was a box full of socks on the ground below the sign.

"Come on, put them on!" Misty said. "You're not allowed inside without socks. It would damage the room."

"Can you at least tell me what this is all about?" Lemon Frisk asked.

"Nope," Misty said, using her magic to pull a sock over one of Lemon Frisk's hooves. "You figure it out. It's your special talent, after all."

Lemon Frisk rolled his eyes but decided to humour them, and pulled three more socks over his other hooves. "You two have been deliberately tight-lipped about what's behind this door. I can't figure it out from nothing."

Misty and Hailstorm grinned and exchanged quick glances. "Door," Hailstorm said.

"Pony," she replied.

"What are you two—"

The next moment, Hailstorm's magic pulled open the door, while Misty's magic shoved him inside. The door slammed shut behind Lemon Frisk, and suddenly, he was looking at...

Vast empty space, as far as the eye could see. Lemon Frisk felt slightly dizzy. The fact the floor felt slippery under his socked hooves didn't improve the matter at all.

He quickly noticed it wasn't empty after all. Throughout the space, above, below, and all around him, he could see ponies. Foals, playing. And... himself. He blinked.

He realized he was in a room with mirror walls. The "Space Agency" was nothing more than six giant mirrors; four on the walls, and two for the ceiling and floor, paving the entire room. They had knocked out the interior walls of the residence to make it one big rectangle. To complete the effect, even the inside of the door was covered with a mirror, its outline only faintly visible inside the mirrored wall. There was no handle; he assumed he would simply have to push it to open. Along the sides of the ceiling of the rectangular room were fluorescent lamps, subtly illuminating it without detracting from the effect of endless space.

Lemon looked down below him, into the endlessly mirroring depths, and wished he hadn't. He wasn't afraid of heights, normally, but the illusion of endless nothingness below him was frighteningly real. He could see how they thought it up as an experiment to let ponies deal with wide open spaces... but for those first ponies, it must've been quite a baptism of fire.

"Lemon Frisk!" he heard a familiar voice call out from the corner of the room. "We're in spaaaaace!" Fog Light grinned at him. Behind him, three other foals were playing. An adolescent mare with a beach ball as cutie mark was looking over them. She gave Lemon Frisk a polite nod, but didn't seem to have any intention of coming closer to the ghoul pony.

Lemon Frisk blinked, and looked at Fog Light. "Yeah. I guess we are, huh?"

* * *

"That was... interesting," Lemon Frisk said, pulling the socks off his hooves. "How did they ever think of that? It's so simple."

"Old tailor Flux State thought it up in his younger years," Hailstorm said. "Completely by accident."

"You got tailors?" Lemon asked, frowning. "Don't you have uniform rules?"

Misty sniggered. "Not on Saturday nights, silly! We do have some entertainment, you know!"

"Exactly," Hailstorm said, "And Flux happens to have a knack for designing nice clothing. Fifty years ago, as the story goes, the WRD started its research efforts to get radio signals from outside. Well, everypony knew the outside was supposed to be endless plains and huge open sky, and the comic books showed that too, but they had no idea how to prepare for something like that. Until Flux State accidentally lined up two pony-sized mirrors, and saw the infinite repetition in them."

He looked at the drawing next to the door. "His daughter, Equilibrium, drew that picture after testing out Flux' first version. It was just a rectangular room of two long mirrors for each 'wall', without ceiling or floor. She loved it right away. I think Libri even suggested adding the extra dimensions; she was really into those Lunar Defender comics, with all the space stuff. When the big room was made, the older ponies were scared to death to go inside it, but my generation, well, we just grew up with it. It's always been for the kids. In a way, we're probably more used to big spaces than the average wastelander."

Misty looked at Lemon Frisk. "It freaked you out, didn't it?" she asked, smiling.

Lemon nodded. "When I looked down, yes. I don't think I'm cut out to be a astronaut."

* * *

By the time they were back at Misty's home, the lights in the Stable had started to dim, indicating night was falling. The story about the mirror room had focused Lemon Frisk's attention back on his original interest, though, and the talk at the dinner table quickly shifted towards the Stable's history.

"Apple Twig already told me about the stable closing in front of nine hundred ninety stallions," Lemon Frisk said to Hailstorm. "I suppose you can tell me what happened next?"

Hailstorm nodded. "Indeed, I can. Now, not many ponies here know the specifics about this, but I do. And the first thing you have to realize is, there was a very specific experiment planned in this stable. Which was thoroughly sabotaged."

"Sabotaged?" Lemon asked.

"Yeah. The original experiment, according to the radio log we got from the Overstallion's office, was a complete return to prehistoric times. Herds consisting of one stallion and his group of mares."

Misty looked up. She'd never been very interested in Stable history, but Lemon Frisk's enthusiasm in the matter was quite contagious, and this was information she hadn't heard before.

"The first Overstallion was a Stable-Tec manager," Hailstorm continued. "All data we got indicates that Applebloom was the one who put him here, and changed the original experiment. We don't know why. There were some rumours about those two, though, so it could be she was doing him a personal favour. While they couldn't change the overall experiment, they managed to change some minor details. The Stable wasn't supposed to have any cultural information whatsoever. Just an empty maneframe with loads of space, and the technology to produce whatever we thought up. Small changes in the preparation document made people bring books into the Stable instead of prohibiting it, and the order of the males was changed so the first dozen or so were all experts in very different fields of life. Our Overstallion was put in first place, and number two was a genetics expert. As you can imagine, those changes made all the difference."

Lemon Frisk sighed. "Figures. The only successful Stables were those that didn't work as intended. Most were set to open automatically, though. Wasn't this one?"

"Yes, but that was linked to the radiation sensors outside," Hailstorm said, "which all died during the initial blast. It switched to manual control after that."

"That's... rather sane, by Stable-Tec standards," Lemon said, once again abusing his poor left eyebrow.

"Not as sane as you'd think," Moonstorm said. She hadn't said much so far, preferring to let her husband speak on what seemed to be one of his favourite subjects. But she knew the stories, at least. "There's a story from the Overstallion about it," she said. "His terminal spewed out a few dozen error messages about the sensors, and right in the middle of those, one asking to open the door. It's a good thing Summer Rain had an eye for detail, or he would've just confirmed it along with the rest."

"Yep," Lemon Frisk said with a flat look. "That sounds more like Stable-Tec."

He blinked. "Wait. You did not just say 'Summer Rain', did you?"

The dark purple mare gave him an odd look. "Yes, I did. He was the first Overstallion."

Lemon Frisk frowned. "Blue earth pony, jet black mane, King of Hearts playing card as cutie mark?"

Hailstorm's face brightened. "You mean, you knew him?" he asked.

Lemon Frisk facehoofed. "Very few ponies back in the day didn't. The Whinnyapolis Maresmerizer. The stallion who never slept alone, or with the same mare twice. By Celestia. They gave him the task of repopulating Equestria?"

Hailstorm laughed. "We know what kind of guy he was, but we never knew his fame was so... general."

He looked at Misty. "Don't tell me... that's why you got a weather related name?"

Misty gave him an embarrassed grin "It's kind of tradition, to name the children after the name style of their father, and that traces back to the ten Forefathers."

Lemon Frisk nodded, his expression stuck somewhat between disgust, disbelief and amusement. "I see. Wow. Summer Rain. The guy who had probably slept with every mare you knew. The stallion that held the condom industry upright single- uh, well, you get my point." He cracked a smile. "Crazy guy, too. I worked together with him once. Not an ounce of shame, subtlety or tact, but if he wanted to get things done, they'd get done all right."

"Oh believe me, I know," Hailstorm said with a smirk. "There's this story about Blueblood..."

Lemon laughed. "Oh, I remember that one! It was one of his favourites. He told that to everypony!"

Misty just stared at them, frowning. Lemon Frisk shook his head, and looked at Hailstorm. "You never even told her that one?" he asked.

Hailstorm shrugged. "She's never been very interested in Stable history."

Lemon Frisk smiled at Misty. "Right, well, you just have to hear this one. During the war, Summer Rain was working on some project for some noble houses, led by Prince Blueblood. Now, Blueblood was quite infamous for being a stuck up pain in the ass. Unsurprisingly, Summer Rain and him didn't get along at all. Eventually, Rain got fed up with the prince, and came up with his own idea to make the guy lighten up a bit."

He grinned at Misty. "And then he tried to buy the prince a prostitute."

Hailstorm grinned. "I love that guy."

Moonstorm shook her head and rolled her eyes. She had clearly heard the story before. Misty just facehoofed.

"Blueblood was screaming to have him drawn and quartered," Lemon continued, grinning. "Rain got away with it, somehow. He always did."

He paused, and looked at Hailstorm again. "So, what happened next, after the door closed?"

"Oddly enough," Hailstorm continued, "Summer Rain wasn't responsible for what we generally refer to as 'the initial craziness'. Apparently, he left behind some ponies that were pretty important to him. Friends and family. It struck him pretty hard. Those other nine bucks though, they went wild, big time, with any mare that was willing. I think even Apple Pie got a few special hospital visits. Summer put a stop to it. The first thing he did, even before they started working on a breeding plan, was get the fabricator to produce condoms."

Lemon Frisk blinked. "I did not see that coming."

"And sex toys. 'To keep the mares calm'. There's rumours he modeled for them."

Lemon groaned. "Yes. That's him all right."

"Anyway," Hailstorm continued, "after that, he got everypony to write down their complete genealogy, and worked together with the geneticist, Life Weaver, to set up the breeding program. Any mares that were pregnant from the initial craziness were excluded, and inserted after the child's father was confirmed."

Hailstorm paused, and looked at Lemon Frisk. "Now, here's the most important part. After that was taken care of, he got ponies collecting information. Science, philosophy, recent and ancient history, and anything else they didn't have books of, was all written down to the best of their knowledge. Any books ponies had brought inside were pooled together in one central library. All of that information was inserted into the maneframe, to be reprinted for future generations. There's an audio log of Scootaloo going over the point of the experiment, and the Overstallion's role in it. Rain ignored it completely, and put a huge effort into preserving our culture."

Lemon Frisk blinked. Apparently, Summer Rain had been quite a bit more than a few crazy stories and a reputation of never sleeping alone.

"He was a great fan of comic books himself," Hailstorm said, smiling. "He brought in a small library of them. Transformares, Daring Do, Mare-Do-Well, Lunar Defenders, the Batmare, and a bunch more. We probably have the most extensive library of pre-war and wartime popular culture you could imagine."

"So that's why Fog Light knew Daring Do," Lemon Frisk said. "Heck, I grew up with these books! It's pretty weird to meet kids that are into the stuff I read as a kid... two hundred and twenty years ago."

"We don't have the books, though," Hailstorm said. "Just the comic book versions."

The conversation was interrupted by a knock on the door. Moonstorm got up, and let in a familiar-looking white earth pony.

"Winter Gale!" she said, smiling. "How are you, dear?"

Lemon Frisk cocked his eyebrow. The young stallion standing in the doorway was the pony that had shot him when they'd first arrived.

"I'm all right, auntie," he said. "I'd like to speak to Lemon Frisk, please."

"Of course," Moonstorm said. "Come on in."

The white pony gave a short nod to his cousin and uncle, and looked at Lemon Frisk. "Uh... I—"

"If you've come here to apologise," Lemon Frisk said, "don't bother. It was an honest mistake, and I'm just as alive as I was before, so, no harm done."

"...right," Winter Gale said, somewhat overwhelmed. "But... I heard you say on the radio, you're... going to hunt those zombies, in the city."

Lemon Frisk nodded. "That's the plan, yes."

"I want in," Winter Gale said, his nervousness replaced by absolute conviction.

Lemon blinked. "Uhh... I'm not sure if that's such a good idea. You were kinda, um, twitchy."

"I know," Winter Gale continued. "But I need this. Those things killed four of my best friends. I want to make sure they don't harm anypony ever again. I need to do something!"

Lemon Frisk looked at Misty, who frowned for a second, before giving a short nod. Lemon sighed. "Well, the resident shrink agrees," he said. "I think she just messed up her Romantic Outing For Two though, so you better be grateful."

Misty's face tuned red. "Wha- But you planned—" She let out a frustrated shout. "Agh!"

Winter Gale gave them a confused look, then promptly decided to ignore the whole exchange. He gave Lemon Frisk a nervous nod. "Thanks."

Lemon Frisk grinned. "Yeah. We're gonna be the best of friends."

Footnote: Sorry, no level up for just hanging around in a Stable all day.
Special perk: Agoraphobia. You don't generally have a problem with open spaces, but that was just one dimension too many. Luckily, the next time this makes you freeze up will probably be whenever you're falling to your death anyway.

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