Near Human

by Element of Power


Chapter 5

Getting up, she decided to tell Fluttershy first. If there really was a creature loose in the forest, Fluttershy and her animals would know. Concentrating, she teleported away with a pop.

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When Twilight arrived, she knocked softly on the door. She didn't want to frighten Fluttershy. While she waited for the door to open up, she looked around the outside of the house. She hadn't noticed it before, but now she could see that there were no animals out there. There were usually plenty of critters, in the houses, eating from feeders, but at the moment it was completely barren.

Twilight looked to the forest, wondering. 'Are they scared of the creature? Is it closer than we thought?

The door clicked and opened, revealing the pegasus Twilight was waiting for.

"Great! Fluttershy, there's something I need to tell you." She frantically stated. Fluttershy simply nodded.

"Of course, you can come in if you want." Twilight rushed in, already opening the letter she received from Celestia. She stopped short though, because now she saw the answer to her earlier question. All around Fluttershy's house, critters were flying, running, and resting in every place imaginable. The usual animals of her cottage were either having fun in the chaos, or cowering in a corner because if it. Shaking her head, she went back to the current issue.

"Princess Celestia just wrote to me about something that happened in Canterlot, something about a creature. Here, read it." She floated the letter over to Fluttershy.

Fluttershy read the letter, her eyes going back and forth across the lines. When she finished, her eyes widened in shock.

"Oh, that's scary... and it's in the woods. Many of my little animal friends told me they saw a weird creature in the woods." At this, Twilight jumped up. "They did?! Can they tell us where it is? Can they follow it?"

Fluttershy looked at the birds for a second. "I'm sorry Twilight, but all the poor little things were scared of the creature. I don't think they feel safe outside. They said the creature doesn't feel natural."

Twilight was frustrated at the lack of progress, but she took a deep breath and continued calmly. "Well, there has to be one animal willing to keep an eye on it." At this, a small blue bird flew over and landed on Fluttershy's head. It looked down, and tweeted to Fluttershy.

Looking at the bird, Fluttershy softly said, "You will? That's very brave of you." The bird tweeted in response.

"This little one said she's willing to keep an eye on it." Fluttershy told Twilight. "YES! Thank you!" Twilight celebrated. Fluttershy just smiled. "You should be thanking her", nodding to the little bird. Twilight smiled back. "Thanks!" Running for door she shouted, "I have to tell Princess Celestia!" and she ran off to town.

Fluttershy looked back at the bird. "Well, you can start now, if you want." The bird tweeted in agreement, before ruffling her feathers and taking off to the forest. Fluttershy sighed in worry before closing the door.

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E - 30 had been walking through the forest for the better part of 4 hours, and he still had not found anything of use. He had been using his scanner to search for any hidden metals deep in the ground. It was incredibly useful, even though he found nothing. All around, there had been nothing but trees and bushes.

At this point, it was getting annoying. He was looking for supplies, but deep down he knew he was looking for a town. Somewhere the creatures lived. They were the ones with the resources. In the end, they were the key to his survival. And if he couldn't interact with them, then their possessions would have to do.

After a couple more hours, he was about to break. There was still no sign of the end of the forest, or even a clearing in the trees. And, to add to the frustration, there was an annoying blue bird that kept following him through the trees, obnoxiously tweeting. It seemed like it was trying to annoy him on purpose. It never actually went lower than the branches of the trees, yet he could always hear it.

He looked up. "Maybe I could spot something from the top of a tree. Why didn't I think of this before?" He jogged a bit, looking for a taller tree. He found one, standing a good 15 feet taller than the surrounding trees, but didn't have any lower branches for him to climb. Walking up, he put his hands on it, small hooks emerging from his palms and fingers.

Digging his hands into the bark, he climbed. The bird that had been following him flew higher in the trees to avoid him, but he didn't care. He kept climbing, until he got to the part of the tree that split into branches to small to scale. Turning his head, he looked around the treetops, searching for anything of interest.

To his surprise, he did find something. There was a clearing about half a mile to the west.

"Well how about that. It's not much, but at least it's something." He descended from the tree, letting himself fall down at certain intervals to go faster. When he hit the ground, he took off running in the direction of the clearing. Trees blurred past as he leaped over bushes and fallen logs, never losing speed.

After a few minutes, the clearing appeared. He slowed to a stop and hid behind a tree just in case. He could hear the sounds, thing speaking to each other. E - 30 peeked around the trees, and saw a bunch of dog creatures, going in and out of a cave opening. They looked like upright dogs, except with large arms and small back legs, many with a posture like a gorilla. Most of them seemed to be wearing vests collars.

He decided to take a risk, and moved away from the tree, into the clearing. The bird that had been following him tweeted rapidly.

As he got closer, more and more began to notice him. The situation was becoming more and more dangerous as they did. He stopped moving, as did they. One dog in the front spoke up.

"Why you here? You no can steal!" He angrily shouted in a broken speech. Others got the same idea and began shouting over each other, the same broken speech ringing throughout the ranks. At this point, the situation was quickly becoming volatile, so he began to back up slowly.

Before he could start running for cover, the crowd quieted. He looked around, confused at the sudden silence. Then, the dogs in front of him began to part, letting a larger than normal dog through. The apparent leader looked at him with a neutral expression.

"Why are you here?" He spoke in a deep, rumbly voice. Unlike the others, his speech pattern wasn't broken.

E - 30 could tell that the dog was a lot more rational than the others. 'Maybe he's willing to help me.'

He cleared his throat. "I was just passing by, looking for anyone nearby. I just happened to notice this clearing."

The leader's eyes narrowed. "Yes, but why are you here? And still here?"

The leader looked like he was quickly becoming irritated. THis was his chance to get what he needed.

"Right. I wanted to know if you are willing to make a deal of sorts. I need metal, any kind you have." He quickly asked. The leader scratched his furry head in thought. The whole time, the crowd of dogs stared at their boss, waiting for his verdict.

Finally, the dog spoke. "We have plenty of metal. We are DIamond Dogs, so naturally we mine for gems. Of course, as we mine, we often come across pockets of unrefined metals, embedded in the rocks. We have no need for this, so we can give you as much as you need. However, we will need something from you. What is it that you can offer?"

The dogs around him started whispering among themselves, but E - 30 ignored them. He tried to think of a service he could offer. 'Wait, they like gems...'

"Well, you told me that you guys mine for gems. So, I have a way of scanning for certain materials. I could help you search, and you provide me with the metal you have.

The top Diamond Dog stood there, thinking. Then he nodded. "Deal. My name's Onyx. Like the gem." E - 30 spoke up. "I'm called E - 30." At this, Onyx shrugged. "Follow me."

He turned around, walking back through the crowd of dogs. The crowd stayed parted, waiting for him to follow their leader. E - 30 hesitated, then followed. The crowd joined together again, before following behind him.

They went into the cave, which turned out to actually be the entrance to a mine. The group followed a winding path through dirt and rock, lit by torches mounted on the walls. As they got deeper into the mine, the walls would occasionally have large sprouts of crystal like gems, already being harvested by a couple of Diamond Dogs.

"Hey!" E - 30 heard a shout from the front, from the leader. "Since you have more than likely heard about us Diamond Dogs, I wanted you to know that me and my pack don't employ slaves."

'Oh. Good to know I guess.'

Pretty soon, they all stopped at a pretty barren space in the mine. The crowd moved off to the side to let Onyx speak. "In this area we haven't been finding anything. This is where you come in. Tell us where to dig."

E - 30 nodded, before setting off his scanners. Directly below them, 15 meters down, there was a large deposit diamonds, surprisingly.

"I got something." He told the leader. "Below us. 15 meters down." The Diamond Dog turned to his pack, who quickly began digging a sloped tunnel down. E - 30 moved out of the way to give them space to work. Dirt and rocks flew out of the new hole, as the dogs dug with incredible speed.

They found the diamond, and had started a line to pass up the diamond chunks. Those were then dumped into a cart that was taken away to be emptied.

Apparently satisfied, Onyx turned back to E - 30. "Thank you. The reward is yours. Go back to the cave opening, there will be a pile of metals off to the side. Take as much as you want; you can even take a cart. Feel free to have some gems of your choice too. The rarer ones can fetch a decent amount of bits."

The dog extended his paw, so E - 30 did too, and they shook appendages. "Pleasure doing business with you." He walked off headed back up to the surface. He could hear Onyx yelling after him.

"You can come back anytime, we could always use your services, and we have plenty of metal!"

E - 30 finally found his way up to the cave, so he searched for his reward. Over in the corner, he saw a pile of dirt and rock covered metals. Obviously, they didn't particularly care what happened to it. He grabbed loading it up to the brim. He could have had his nanos break it down and store it inside him, but he read that a certain amount would make him considerably heavy.

"I'll just absorb some later, but first I should grab some gems, just in case." He pulled the cart over to a pile of gems, which were being sorted, cut, and polished. When he got there, the dogs knew he was allowed, so they let him through. He took a few handfuls, putting it in the cart with the rest of his loot. One diamond dog looked at his loot with envy, but let him take it.

Thanking them, he left the cave, pulling the cart behind him.