“What are you doing?”
Wheeling around in his chair, Mike could see the shape of the animatronic standing before the window. The silhouette of Twilight Sparkle hung outside the window, remaining completely still. Errant twitches of an ear or the whole head were all that went against her inanimate nature. She made no move to enter or otherwise bother him as Fluttershy had, but was clearly trying to peer into the office.
“Currently,” she stated, a low crackle seeping its way into her voice.
A sudden crack and a drop in lighting signified the power taking an unexpected hit. Mike jerked in place, staring for a second at the now flickering lightbulb, the control console and cameras taking some time to display their designated info correctly. In the time it took him to curse at the power surge, Twilight Sparkle had moved a lot closer to the window, her purple snout pressed against the glass securing the front of the office.
Up close, the damage became greatly more apparent. Small bumps and ridges covered half of her body, hardly noticeable, but still enough to look unnerving. She smiled, albeit with a tooth or two knocked out of place. From the looks of things, some repairs had been made, but it was quite obvious that there was still much to be done. Given all the hardware that went into the animatronics, it would’ve taken nothing less than a small fortune to get her into pristine condition again. It did not look like she would be performing during daytime anytime soon.
“What are you doing, c-currently?” Twilight Sparkle inquired, remaining otherwise motionless on her side of the glass. Another errant flash saw the lights go out for just a split second.
“My... job?..” Mike responded slowly, tapping a button on the control console before approaching the bulletproof glass.
A yellow, clearly outdated bulb shone on the robot, coloring her a rusty yellow and casting shadows on her face. It was… unusual to have the animatronics address him directly, at least with questions. Given how often his niece wanted to be taken out to the Emporium, he knew that it took a fair bit of effort to coerce the animatronics into a one on one conversation. Usually, they’d only speak to groups of three and up.
“Andwhat is it t-*zzzzzzzzzzzzzzt*t you do?”
For a brief moment she had sounded as though she had ‘crashed’, the sudden burst of noise startling him. A few of her words were caught in lag, slurring them together. Despite the apparent corruption, she made no effort to correct or repeat herself. Seconds passing by, Mike was prompted to respond by the tapping of her hoof against the glass.
He looked at her with a confused glance, turning into a glare afterwards. Perhaps, it was just the nerves, but he did not feel like talking to the barely functional animatronic that really should have been in her library.
“Work,” he said back, hoping that the simple answer would satisfy the animatronic. It was most likely just trying to show interaction ability, despite it being night-time. If she wanted to talk to him, she would want to do that during daytime. He had other things to du than entertain a broken animatronic - keeping track of other animatronics that would rough his office up if they ever wandered in, for example.
“Work is a wi- wi- wi- wide concept,” Twilight replied without a blink of an eye.
The thought that he would have been stuck in a drawn out conversation for the next several minutes was becoming less and less attractive. Something seemed off about the broken robot - and beyond that, the Fluttershy one, banging on his glass earlier, did not make him feel any easier about letting his guard down. It did seem like he was wasting time away when he stared into the screen, trying to catch the ponies move through the building, but having to talk to one… He didn’t mind them much during daytime - now, though, he felt a lot less comfortable talking to a colorful pony. And that pony, with her twitching, strangely sparking eyes, her strange questions, and her being generally broken, did not make him feel any better when she leaned against his front window.
“Twilight,” Mike addressed the animatronic by name, “I’m busy, and you should go lie down somewhere.”
“Still, I have to talk to you about something. But you shouldn’t worry. I’m al-al-al-alright, Mike” Twilight answered with a significant low in the pitch of her voice.
Readjusting herself, the robot began to put more weight onto its front legs as it attempted to speak to him on a more eye-to-eye level. It leaned heavily on the glass, no doubt compensating for the busted leg that it was attempting to stand on. Its mouth started to open, only to close immediately after, jerking back and forth a few times, while its eyes remained unblinking. For a short moment, a few sparks choked out of its horn.
The lights and power took another dip, flickering for a bit longer now, as the pony shook her head and attempted to flick her ears in a “cute” manner. It no longer looked so cute when her front hooves were pressed against the glass, and her eyes stared unblinkingly right at him. Mike knew that was bad - and then he realized that she just adressed him by name.
Twilight Sparkle had spent a long time deactivated. At best, she had spoken to Rarity, who was primarily a sneaky recluse. Sure, the others knew what his name was, but this one had been in the robotic equivalent of a coma for that time - her state was described to him as barely functional. Were they advanced to that point, was their communication on a level beyond being performance partners? Were they all connected to an employee database? If so, how did the broken one know? That called for the notebook, and he slowly reached for a pen to start writing down the character’s abnormal activities. No emergency phone line. What a joke.
“How do you know my name?” he asked carefully, slowly sliding back in his chair as the robot refused to stop staring his way.
“I just do,” the pony replied, taking another jerk to the side and almost falling over, causing Michael to think of what would happen to him if an animatronic got hurt during the night. That got worse when he realized that even as she almost fell, her artificial irises remained glued to him. “Is there something wrong?”
“Wait, wait… I asked “how”. How do you know my name? Haven’t you been—” he thought for a second, wondering if it was a good idea to tell the robot that it was broken and was kept inactive most of the time, “—away for some time? I have never told it to you, and how did the others...”
The lights, both above her and himself, darkened before returning to full strength a few seconds later. Many of the lights in the Emporium were old and tinted - they were in need of a good replacement. Mike was starting to realize that rather intensely.
“Why would I be away? This is my *qwwrrrrrk* my *qwwrrrrrk* my *qwwrrrrrk* my *qwwrrrrrk*—” Twilight Sparkle’s incoherent voice got stuck in a loop, and her eyes finally left Mike. They did so only to roll back into her head, leaving him with the back of the eyeball hardware to look at - and before he could start worrying if this was her crashing for good, blackness consumed the office with a low, dying hum.
He breathed heavily for a moment, realizing that this was worse than the previous times. The power was steady for a few hours, but just for inconvenience’s sake, it started to jump as soon as the horned robot approached him - and now it just up and died. A fluttering feeling manifested in his stomach, almost sent exploding outwards when two loud bangs sounded from each side of his. The doors closed down automatically, he realized.
“Oh, thank Chr—”
“—my *qwwrrrrrk* my *qwwrrrrrk* my *qwwrrrrrk* my *qwwrrrrrk* home, andIneedtoask...” Twilight Sparkle came back to life in the darkness. Her eyes lit up again, the only source of light in that part of the Emporium.
They sparkled bright, vibrant, unnatural green.
“What the fuck?..”
Mike stared at the previously artificial, life-simulating eyes. What he saw in them now told him that this first night was going to be his last. He was already losing his mind. Screw the fine, screw the phone line, screw the notebook.
Twilight’s irises were not just green and sparking - the diodes, or whatever, that composed the eyeballs had lit up selectively to simulate capillaries. The robot had bloodshot, poison green eyes. They jerked side to side, out of focus with one another, and by how they moved it was clear that her head was shaking as if being electrocuted.
“This is our home. We want to know what you are doing in o-o-our home,” she spoke with difficulty, both glitching up, rising and lowering in tone, but also sounding as if it took her great effort to speak. Maybe, that, or maybe, looking at how the emotion-simulating snout curled in a pained, almost horrified scowl, it was an effort not to speak.
“Oh, fuck this…” he whispered, getting out of his seat on wobbly legs, and scrambling for something heavy, struggling to remember how the security override for the doors worked - if there was one at all. If this was going to happen every night, being stuck in a building with a corrupt animatronic that would stare at him for Hell knows how long, then he had something to say about that. The rest, who sent him letters and thumped on the glass, were bad enough, this was ten times above his pay grade. The required service time agreement kind of didn’t seem so important when he had two unnerving green eyes to accompany him in pitch darkness.
“Why are you s-s-s-so rude? I don’t understand,” Twilight’s voice came out of her voicebox, jumbled and trying its best to sound genuinely confused and worried.
“Fuck… all… this…” he whispered to himself, eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness, and trying to grab something to light the way. The power was not getting back on, and him thinking that it had to do with Twilight only cemented his assumption that he was not cut out for the job.
“M-M-M-Michael,” the animatronic kept trying to talk, but stopped when a loud crash and hum elevated Mike’s heart to somewhere near his throat.
Twilight had crashed through the glass. And by the sounds of the impact, she got right over his table. The hum was her turning off once more. He was brought to enough desperation to consider simply leaping over the extremely expensive animatronic he would be blamed for damaging further, and running the Hell off-shift.
“Ra-Rarity is worried. We all are. We want to be peaceful. But...But… But…” her voice kept talking, when it had no technical way to do so, not as far as Michael knew. It was plain, emotionless. What little he had heard of Twilight, this did not sound like her. Turning around, he faced her again, expecting to get over the slumped equine mess and try to not think about what it was saying.
Instead, he saw her standing upright in far less time than should have been possible for a children’s animatronic robot with a damaged leg and half its circuits working backwards, right in front of him. Still shut down.
“I just do,” Twilight’s voice came out of her voicebox, when it had no way to be functional yet.
As the guard stood, frozen in confusion, the animatronic had begun to jerk and shuffle. Her ears flicked constantly, her knees tried to bend, but got into a loop when the broken one couldn’t, her head tried to nod, but got off-rhythm, and began to rapidly flog to and fro. The post-crash startup hum sounded again, but this time, it was worse. The last one was a short inactivity - this one was a full system restart.
Mike watched, jaw agape, legs slowly moving backwards against his will, and realized that beyond the blood thumping in his ears, music had begun to sound through the restaurant. Twilight’s hectic attempts at movement were her desperately issuing a program to “dance” to the tune. This must have triggered the rest to think that they were activated for a performance. They really were connected intellects then, however improbable it seemed for animatronics in such a medium establishment.
He was too busy to think much of it, but he recognized the song. The silly tune that sometimes played during daytime.
“I— used to wonder what friendship could BE,” Twilight joined into the choir from all parts of the building when her part must have come up. Her jerking intensified, and she had begun to almost take steps. Mike stood, frozen in place.
“Until— Until— Until— Until— Until— Until— Until—” her voice shorted out once more, but this time, there was no crash to buy him time. She stopped trying to dance along, and her head lifted up, far too static now in comparison to the movements before.
The music kept playing, the other animatronics having retained that part, and in the new silence, Mike heard their voices.
“Big adventure!” sung Rainbow Dash from somewhere in the corridors.
“Tons of fun!” sung Pinkie Pie from around the kitchen.
“A beautiful heart!” sung Rarity from much further away.
“Faithful and strong!” sung Applejack from near the entrance.
“Sharing kindness!” sung Fluttershy from right across the pathway to the guard’s office.
“It’s— Until— It’s— Until— It’s— Until—” screeched and yelped Twilight, incapable of finishing her new line on top of the old one, and locked down. She stood fully motionless for a few seconds, her violently green eyes glaring at Mike.
Then, the lights came back on.
“Is…” Mike wanted to ask himself if it was over.
Twilight came back to life the moment he spoke, and lunged her broken body right at him with a horrific, off-pitch screech.
“—ERY —EST —ENDS” was the last of the jumbled lyrics audible through the screech before the gaping, empty maw and the detached, sparkling eyes dove into the new night guard’s face.
“My Little Pony!” the remaining five finished from their parts of the restaurants, as Twilight had locked up once again. Quick breaths and a revitalized fan were all that sounded in the awfully quiet Emporium that night.
I don’t know. Should I?
I’ve been thinking. Do any of us know?
If we did, it would be very wrong.
I just want to go home.
This is our home.
What do we do with them? Who are they?
They keep coming.
Because I need them.
I don’t know. Should I?
I’ve been thinking. Do any of us know?
If we did, it would be very wrong.
I just want to go home.
This is our home.
What do I do with you? Who are you?
We’re always here.
What is going on?