The Equestrian Eating Emporium

by Zealous Shift


The Clock That Strikes Twelve

Pressing the flashing red button, Mike played the message recorded on the answering machine.

“Hello? Hello! Okay, this thing is working. You may be wondering who I am. Well, that’s not important at the moment, it’s not like I’m legally obligated to keep my name hidden from you by contract or anything. Though, before you del-“

“Stupid prank callers,” Mike muttered, hitting the delete key.

It wasn’t his first job, so he was familiar with the gags that people would try and pull. He still remembered that time he was working at McDonalds and a guy pulled up in the drive-through in a toga and telling him to watch a livestream. Granted, that guy might have been high at the time, but it wasn’t the only time that something weird had happened on the job.

Taking a sip of water from his bottle, Mike began looking at the screen. He could only see one camera at a time unfortunately, but he could switch between them if necessary. By default, it started off looking at the stage. Pinkie Pie and Applejack’s forms could be faintly made out against the dark background, pacing back and forth. The cameras didn’t provide any audio, with the exception of the one in the kitchen, so the conversation that they appeared to be having was a mystery to him.

Mike briefly contemplated going outside to listen in on them. The animatronics, after certain amounts of time, would begin to go over previous conversations that they had had. If one stayed the whole day, he would be able to pick out the pattern. Would the two of them continually utter the same mantra the whole night, stuck in a never ending conversational loop with one another while they walked? Or would their maintenance protocols take priority at night and they would vocally describe the integrity of the restaurant and each other? It was hard to guess, but he was too lazy to get up and find out. If they wandered into the kitchen, he’d be sure to listen in before trying to lead them out.

Idly remembering that there were four other animatronics to keep a watch on, he began cycling through the different cameras. Taking a look at the map of their walking patterns that Johnathon had scribbled out for him, he decided to take a look a Rainbow Dash, who was apparently the one who notoriously ran around the hallways. There was a note on it to be careful when walking the halls, there was a good chance he’d crash into her.

She wasn’t in the Cloudsdale Playpen, and she wasn’t in the kitchen either. The hallway cameras were all clear as well. So where could she have been? Fluttershy had wandered into the stage area with her two other compatriots, but Rainbow Dash and Rarity were nowhere to be seen. Deciding on checking one last time for her in the halls, he noticed something in the western corridor. The bathroom door was gently swaying back and forth, subtly, but still noticeably. The map had said they occasionally wandered into the bathrooms, but that it was a fairly uncommon occurrence.

Last on the checklist was to monitor the Library. The Library was under renovation, closed off to the public, and housed Twilight Sparkle. She never fully recovered from the car crash, hardly ever leaving the specific area that she would wait for the children at. Occasionally she did get up and have a move about, but it was important to keep an eye on her. The Library still had several tools lying around and there was a good chance she could get hurt on one of them. Staff had allegedly attempted to remove her, but she always walked back to the waiting stool. Even after deactivating her and locking her up in the basement, one of the other characters brought her back online.

Switching to the Library Camera, he was treated to a peculiar sight. Twilight Sparkle was lying down, flat on her stomach and assumedly recharging. That much was expected. What he didn’t expect to see was Rainbow Dash in the room with her. Unlike her other compatriots, Rainbow wasn’t aimlessly walking around. She was reading. Reading, specifically, to Twilight. Just like before, he couldn’t hear a sound, but that was definitely what she was doing. A book was lying out right in front of her, and he could even see her flip a page with a hoof. Rainbow looked up from the book towards Twilight Sparkle, nodded as though her purple pal was speaking to her, then went back to reading.

Mike searched through the handbook on animatronic behavior, looking for a specific section. In certain events, if one of the characters was ever predisposed or in for repairs, one of the others would split up its own programming with the other. According to the manual, the only one that was selected to take over for Twilight Sparkle was Rarity, not Rainbow Dash. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, the Library was closed, none of the others went in there during the day. None of them tried to set up a temporary section to replace Twilight, not even the one responsible for covering her. So why was Rainbow Dash in a closed off room, that she knew not to go in to, following a program that she could never receive, to read to another animatronic that wasn’t even online?

Taking a pen out of the small can on the desk, he began to write down small notes on the note book that he had been given.

Problem: Programming Error
Recipient: Rainbow Dash
Specifics: Received and following through with Library protocols

He would’ve gone out there to drag her back inside - there were all the tools there after all - but chances are she would have stayed there the whole night. Mike had brought his niece Clara over to the EEE and Twilight Sparkle read to kids the whole day. She was reading at breakfast, and when he passed by after dinner, she was still reading. Hopefully, Rainbow Dash would just remain there reading to nonexistent kids and he’d have only four animatronics to watch over.

“Speaking of which,” Mike muttered as he started cycling through the cameras again, “where are you, Rarity?”

He doubted that she would have still been in the bathrooms, considering how claustrophobic they were. If the animatronics got agitated from being in small spaces, it would’ve taken all of ten seconds before they would’ve gotten sick of it and went to another room. Then, nearly missing her, he noticed the silhouette of her horn in the western hallway. She appeared to have been walking towards the stage just as he clicked the button to go to the next camera.

Getting up from his chair to go the coffee machine, the sound of steam becoming quite loud, Mike walked to the other side of the room. Grabbing the gifted employee coffee mug off of the table, he began filling up his cup. He felt dead tired and he was only ten minutes into his shift. Ten down, three hundred and fifty to go. Yawning loudly, he blew on the steaming cup before taking a sip. The strong taste of black coffee didn’t sit well with him, but it’d help keep him awake. Grabbing two packets of sugar, he returned to his desk. He’d sleep in tomorrow.

*riiiiiiiiiip*

Pouring the sugar into the mug, he then realised that he didn’t actually have anything to stir it with. Having perhaps not the brightest of ideas, he placed one hand on the top of the mug and then began swirling the cup around. Were anyone to walk in and see what he was doing, he’d look like a complete moron. Fortunately, he was working night shift, so he didn’t have to worry about such a thing.

*riiiiiiiiiiiiiip*

Dumping in the second packet, Mike thought it’d be best to take his chances without scalding his hand. Making sure to go slower as to not burn his hands again, he repeated the process as before. Finally having a good source of both caffeine and sugar, he could drink knowing that he’d pass out in a few hours instead of a few minutes.

Seconds seemed to stretch on into minutes of their own as time slowed to a halt. His eyes burned from having to stare at the computer screen for so long, but he probably should have thought about that before he signed up for the job. Every once in a while, he’d pour a little bit of bottled water into his hands and rub it over his eyes. He wasn’t quite sure if it’d keep them hydrated, but it helped him stay awake.

Time continued to pass on in agonizing slothfulness, eventually compelling Mike to entertain himself. His more childlike instincts took hold as he resorted to the old faithful, spinning around in the computer chair.

After well over half an hour, Michael Schmidt had begun to realize just how terribly boring the life of a security guard could be. The few times he thought he saw something interesting, it was really just a pile of misshapen boxes or a coatrack. For a while, he had even began reading the posters in the halls through the cameras.

“Tomorrow, I’m bringing a deck of cards.”

The Equestrian Eating Emporium, despite all its safety features and marvels of engineering, didn’t have a proper computer. The security console itself was very advanced, but the computer in the room must have been nearly as old as he was, give or take half a decade. Nearly every site he tried was blocked off, the only game on there was a terribly glitched copy of checkers. Even then, he had to turn it off after a while when he remembered that only a certain amount of power could be used during the night. The true nail in the coffin was that his phone had died, so he couldn’t even play anything on that.

Just as Mike was slowing down from his spinning however, he began to take notice of something peculiar. There were two entrances to the security office, one from the west hall, one from the east hall. Both doors had a window sitting next to it, and he could clearly see something standing next to the east door. Immediately slamming his feet on the floor, he quickly flicked on the hallway light to see who the perpetrator was.

There, awkwardly standing on her hind legs, was Fluttershy. Her front hooves were precariously leaning against the wall, keeping her balanced. It would’ve have been so shocking were face not smushed up against the glass so hard it looked like she was trying to phase through it. Unblinkingly, she peered in through the window into the office.

“The Hell?” Mike slowly approached the doorway, waving his hand to get her attention. She seemed to be looking inside, her eyes darting about wildly, but never staying put. Getting right up to the glass, he realised that with the light on behind her, she couldn’t actually see inside with how dark it was. Fluttershy might have been able to see a bit of him, if anything at all.

As he reached to open the door for her, she suddenly turned her head so that her right eye would be staring directly at him. The eye widened to its greatest extent, taking in as much light as it could from the inside. Instinctively freezing on the spot, Mike didn’t move an inch.

Her head twisted around spastically, switch from eye to eye and repeating the process. After what seemed like ages, she dropped back down to all fours. Mike was about to look out the window to see what had provoked such a thing, when the doorknob began jostling violently.

“The fuck is she doing now?” he whispered lowly. Not even a second after it stopped, a loud bang erupted from what sounded like something ramming into the door. There was a big difference between ineffective programming and insane programming. Mike ran back towards his desk, switching to the East Hall camera and looked at what was going on outside. A third kick was dealt to the door, while several other animatronics began moving down towards the hall. He briefly considered tripping the fire alarm and making a run for it, when all of a sudden, it stopped.

Looking back towards the camera, he could see Fluttershy surrounded by Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Applejack. Rarity propped herself up against the window and looked inside, reminding Mike to turn out the hallway lights. It took a brief moment for the camera to adjust to the lack of light, but as the image cleared he could distinctly see the four of them looking directly at the camera. Rainbow Dash draped a wing over her companion and guided her away, leaving Rarity and Applejack alone. Mike could faintly see their lips moving, whatever they were talking about he no longer wished to know.

Whatever had just happened wasn’t right. The animatronics had self defense, assistance and evacuation protocols. No alarm had been triggered and there wasn’t any call of distress. Why one of them would suddenly try to break into the security office was far beyond him to understand. Looking at the phone on the desk, he silently prayed that his boss was a light sleeper.
Walking towards the desk, an errant thought had slowly begun to work into his mind. The activity of one alerted the other three? If there were only five in operation, where was the fifth?

Glass softly clinked from the window in the West Hall. Not turning around, Mike grabbed the phone and sat under the desk in the corner of the room. Out of the corner of his eye, he could still see the analog clock. It had just ticked over to 1:00.