• Published 19th Aug 2014
  • 5,200 Views, 602 Comments

The Equestrian Eating Emporium - Zealous Shift

Michael Schmidt is a new security officer at the Equestrian Eating Emporium, home of the famous animatronic ponies. All he has to do is keep watch over them at night. What's the worst that could happen?

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Cupping his face in his hands, Michael slumped forward in his chair. He cursed under his breath while opening his fingers enough to look at the screen. As though to rub further salt into the wound, he could faintly see the impression that she had formed from sitting on the carpeted area for so long. Twilight Sparkle, the first animatronic the Emporium had ever made and perhaps the most expensive out of all of them, had, of course, decided on reactivating herself.

The animatronics were never supposed to ever truly be ‘offline’, merely conserving power. There was an override switch to completely disable them, but so long as there was one online it would attempt to revive the others. Nothing had ever prevented her from moving outside of her room before, but the fact that she had suddenly sprung back to life while the others were exhibiting malfunctions was concerning. If Twilight Sparkle was at all damaged by the others, or happened to further injure herself… it wouldn’t be pretty.

He was still assured that had anything happened, he would not be explicitly blamed.. Even if he wasn’t looking through that particular camera at the time, everything was being recorded regardless. All he had to do was make a proper report in the morning and until then, keep watch on the rest of them. Besides, knowing his luck, if he went out to try and keep her contained there would probably be an actual robbery.

It was for times just like this that Michael was grateful for the invention of the coffee machine. Returning to the table at the back of the room, he took the strongest coffee he could find and turned on the machine.

There was unfortunate timing, there was also the odd misfortunate coincidence or two. Then… then there was the situation that he was currently in. If the unpredictability of the animatronics and their erratic behavior was part of the shift every night, it was not that hard to guess just why no one was in a rush for the job application.

Perhaps, he thought, the night was getting the better of him. He hadn’t had much time to rest back at the apartment, so it was likely that his nerves were getting the better of him. Caffeine and sleep deprivation had led to an embarrassingly long list of overreactions and poorly thought out plans. All he had to do was remain calm. The only concern he had was his inability to contact his boss, an issue that would be rectified when the store opened again in a few hours. Twilight Sparkle was a problem - for a mechanic, not a security guard. Cup of freshly brewed coffee in hand and a mantra of disassociation from several potential crises in head, Michael retook his seat.

Taking a deep breath, his gaze slowly returned to the pulsating, blue-tinted screen. The library was still empty - of course it was - but she couldn’t have gone too far. For one, if memory served, a large portion of one of her legs had been removed due to extensive damage. For another, they didn’t tend to go for the full tour. If there was anything he could have gathered from staring at them for the past couple hours, it was that, sans the stage, they all stuck to their own little area to patrol. While there wasn’t any indication of what Twilight Sparkle’s patrol route was, it was effectively assured she would eventually return to the library.

Cycling through the cameras, he was relieved to see that the two pegasi were still recharging. The universe wasn’t as cruel as he had suspected. Applejack was similarly where she had last been found, wandering back and forth through the intermediary hallways. In an odd way she was acting like a secondary security guard, she seemed to arc around through the building and would eventually end up on either side of his room. Predictable, at least. That still left Rarity, Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle, wherever they had scampered off to.

While circling through the camera channels, Michael almost didn’t notice the blob of white that had just started to wander into view in Hallway 7. Were it not for how she had been taunting him for the past two hours, he would probably have been certain that in his caffeinated state he probably would’ve missed her wandering past.

Referring to the map of the store located on the wall, there were only two doors in that corridor, the entrance to the locked off basement, and the way into the boutique. Switching over to the camera within the boutique, he waited patiently for her to arrive. It was her personal room, after all - she would’ve had to enter. Unless Rarity had decided on turning around just before the door, which was a legitimate possibility with how poorly the rest were behaving, she’d have to enter.

Sure enough, the pale form of the automaton trotted into the room. Her horn having the ability to light up, a faint glow stretched out towards the walls. Rather useful for the nightlife she had, but it was most likely to show off for the children. While the nagging reminder that he should’ve been checking the store’s entrances and ensuring that Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle had not gotten themselves into trouble, Michael hesitated on changing cameras. For two hours, he had barely seen hide nor hair of her, he wasn’t about to wander back around the restaurant without some idea of where she was. According to the manual, she had a habit of ‘inspecting’ the rooms, going through them to ensure tidiness. Might have explained why she was never in the halls - probably inspecting the blind spots that he couldn’t quite see. If he could find the pattern to her seemingly erratic movements, the rest of the job might not be so painful.

What had started off as a simple plan of observation had turned into a new source of new questions. When the manual said that Rarity inspected the rooms, Michael had presumed that meant she would have wandered along the edges of the walls, perhaps rearranged some things, and then went on her way to the next one. Instead, he saw the animatronic unicorn stare unflinchingly at the wall. She seemed almost… nostalgic for it, decorated by dozens, perhaps hundreds, of drawings and paper cut outs.

From what Michael could see through the screen, the drawings seemed to be of Emporium characters - there were a few that he didn’t quite recognize however. One that looked a fair bit like Rarity, a dark grey one that was somewhat similar to Twilight Sparkle, a pegasus in what appeared to be a black uniform, what looked like some kind of dragon, possibly a lizard, and others. While he was familiar that the characters had originated from some old toy line, he was unaware that it was so diverse. It was odd, he would’ve suspected that he’d have heard some kind of reference to the others then if there were drawings of them on the wall. Then again, there was probably a reason for that. There had been rumours they were setting up a new Emporium out of state. Probably for the better, Wyoming didn’t typically have a large customer base.

Looking to the top of the screen, he had found that Rarity had been staring at the wall for six minutes straight. Unblinkingly. Considering that perhaps there had been a problem with the camera, he tapped a few keys on the security console. The image rotated slightly to the right, slowly revealing more pictures as it jittered along. The camera, while a bit slow to start moving, wasn’t the one that had frozen up. As though a summons for new life, Rarity had instinctually turned towards the lens. Between their desire for direct eye contact and their ability to go on without blinking, it was a tad bit unsettling to have them peer right into the glass. She began to walk down, breaking eye contact with the camera as she strutted along the wall. Hitting the button on the console to have the camera turn down, he saw her mange to keep just ahead of it before escaping into the blind spot. Whatever it was that had caught her interest, it must’ve been right beneath the camera.

Positioning the camera over to the left, he was still able to watch her walk out the door. At that point, he was expecting her to do something like tha-

“What the fuck?..”

Mid turn, the screen had gone pitch black. Tapping several keys on the console to garner any kind of reaction, he became increasingly distraught as there was no visible effect. He couldn’t tell if the camera was offline, or damaged, but he couldn’t see a thing. Sure enough, all the other cameras nearby still responded just fine, but, of course, the one in the boutique was the one to suddenly break while in use. He doubted heavily that Rarity, a three and a half foot tall robot with hooves, could’ve possibly found a way to break it.

The thought had occurred to him - he hadn't actually made any of the other cameras pivot in spot. The security system was rather dated, given how much money the animatronics and electricity cost, so he might have accidentally pulled a wire loose. Again, a problem for the mechanics, not him. The boutique was secure, there was no possible way an animatronic or person could get in or through such small windows, and there was still a camera in the hallway.

Switching over to the camera at the end of the hall, he could see the faint outline of Rarity standing in front of the doorway. To her side was Twilight Sparkle. Zooming in - a function that still thankfully worked - he could see the extent of the damage. Before, when she was sitting down, he couldn’t see the supposedly botched leg. Seeing as how her hind leg was reduced to the mechanical equivalent of a broken bone sticking out of her thigh. Perhaps it was the added weight of the wings, but she seemed to balance awfully well for what would’ve crippled any living thing. The two appeared to be talking, if that was the correct word to describe it. It was hard to tell from that angle, as both of their faces were obscured, one from positioning and the other by hair.

Twilight Sparkle draped a wing over Rarity, a move that seemed oddly out of place. On occasion the winged ones had replicated the gesture when taking pictures with children –mimicking an avian sign of affection- but to see it done with each other… Artificial intelligence had come a long way over the years, he had seen some of the wonders that it had performed when he visited California, but it was still baffling to see animatronics like them act this way. To be ‘emotional’, even with each other. Perhaps it was because he was sitting in a middle of nowhere town in the north-west, but technology still managed to baffle him even with all that he had seen.

Twilight Sparkle departed down the hall, Rarity lurked back behind the doorway and out of sight. This brought him to a brief conflict in deciding which one was more important to keep a track of. Given the former’s limp and small twitch, it wasn’t that hard a decision to make. Slowly trailing her with the cameras, he took notice of how erratically she switched directions. There wasn’t a slow rotation, just a sharp, ninety degree turn. It was during these turns that he saw the dents coming from her left side. Given how she was supposedly hit by a truck, he was surprised to see her in such good condition.

Michael continued to track her progress through the cameras, quickly jotting down her progress with a pen and napkin. If her patrol path happened to overlap with Rarity’s, he wouldn’t have to worry as much with monitoring them. She was briefly stopped by Applejack near the centre of the restaurant. The two spoke – he could see their jaws moving – for a minute or so before Twilight departed. It was hard to tell what exactly they were saying to each other, lip synching was slightly off and their body language was still quire rudimentary. Applejack at least seemed to be happy, for lack of a better word.

Switching over to the next hallway, Twilight Sparkle stopped before a large window, peering inside. Before he could question what had interested her enough to give her pause, he was addressed by a somewhat distorted, clipping, voice.

“What are you doing?”

Maybe, Mike realized, that was his window.

It was only a couple minutes past three.

Author's Note:

There, I did something. Now to go and be ded for another half year.
In all actuality, I will be beating myself in vain attempts to keep to some semblance of a schedule. That and JLB will beat it out of me if I don't.
Regardless, sorry about the wait, I'll hopefully have more updates soon and comment below to tell me what you think.

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