• Published 20th Oct 2015
  • 1,950 Views, 163 Comments

Norrath, Earth, Equestria. A Construct's Journey - Nimnul

A strange construct, or fancy golem, is displaced to Equestria. But Landshark is no servant, no mere automaton. She claims to be a renegade Bellikos. What and Who is she, and why does she just want to settle down quietly now?

  • ...

PreviousChapters Next
A Long Night (Part 1)

Landshark had allowed her mind to wander. She had been introduced to the Captain of the Guard-slash-Prince By Marriage Shining Armor and Princess Mi Amore Cadenza. She had briefly wondered if, considering intel from the townspeople, Shining Armor would be a prince now without his marriage, since Twilight was an alicorn now. Gossip had been unclear on whether Shining Armor still remained captain of the Canterlot guard alongside his function as co-ruler of the Crystal Empire, but she supposed it did not precisely matter to the local citizens here.

The royal couple had also brought a small number of guards with them. Landshark hadn't known to take the term 'crystal pony' so literally and wondered about their durability.

To her practiced eye, the guards had seemed alert enough. If they felt even the slightest bit dismissive about the fact that she was a fragile piece of pottery surrounded by a number of sturdy ponies, they had hidden it well. She supposed that Shining Armor wouldn't allow fools to guard his wife and himself.

In a vacuum, and remembering advice from Bon Bon, she was confident she would be able to take on a guard, perhaps even two. She assumed they were likely trained as well as a pony could be trained, but didn't have the instant ruthlessness people in Landshark's line of work acquired after surviving for a few weeks. It was all just idle musing, of course. There was sufficient magical power in the room that the guards seemed frankly superfluous to the construct.

If Landshark had wanted to watch siblings arguing, she would have rather done it at Sweet Apple Acres or the Carousel Boutique as opposed to the throne-room of this ridiculous palace. She mentally performed another inventory of her smithy as Twilight and her brother revisited their respective 'untold amounts of cultural information versus potential military threat' talking points, again.

While Landshark had been standing at ease, Princess Cadance had watched her with unusually concentrated interest. The construct felt compelled to detract points from Twilight's score when the Princess of Friendship had let slip that the Element of Honesty had had initial difficulties trusting the construct. Rookie mistake.

Landshark refocused her attention. She'd been addressed by Princess Cadance, but had been too zoned out to react. She made a show of blinking and shaking her head. She fixed her eyes on the Princess and kept any inflection out of her voice. "I'm sorry, Princess Cadenza. I hadn't expected a conversation. I just thought Princess Sparkle needed an interesting piece of statuary in the background while she reconnected with you two. Could you repeat that?"

Landshark smugly awarded herself some points as both Princesses flinched. Needling immortals in petty ways had its own thrill, however cheap. Shining Armor scowled.

Twilight retreated onto familiar ground. "Well, technically you would have to refer to a group of statues collectively, or to the art of making statues if you wanted to use the term statuary."

"My apologies, Miss Landshark," Cadance conceded. "I was simply wondering if that is one of Rarity's dresses?"

"Created by Rarity," Landshark agreed. "It is my dress."

Cadance nodded slowly. "Her work is recognizable. Was it a great effort to convince her to abstain from the usual ostentation of her designs?"

Landshark tilted her head, but Twilight beat her to the answer. "Oh, I doubt that, Cadance. Rarity crafts the dress to fit the wearer. My friends and I learned that a while ago. This is a very good example of that." Twilight nodded. "This is definitely Landshark's dress."

Landshark nodded minutely without otherwise moving. "Twilight." Calling her by her first name was a peace offering to the alicorn after essentially accusing her of being a poor host, and appeared to be recognized as such. Twilight smiled.

Shining Armor approached the construct. Landshark locked her unblinking gaze onto him. "You appear too fragile to be a soldier," Shining Armor observed. "To what purpose were you originally created?"

Landshark mentally sighed. He had to have read everything that had been written down about her, in Canterlot and here. She assumed he was beating around the bush. To what end, she didn't guess at. "Fomenting anti-authoritarian sentiments to weaken the target society by spreading a philosophy advocating the primacy of personal desires over duties to society." She paused. "Any questions you couldn't have answered by reading a report on me?"

"Why are you here now?"

Apparently not. "Accidental transition to your reality, questioning by the diarchs, subsequent suggestion to consider acclimating to your society in Ponyville."

There was a subtle glow to Shining Armor's horn, and he narrowed his eyes. "Why are you armed in the presence of the Princesses?"

The guards shifted their weight and seemed more alert than before. Twilight and Cadance appeared surprised. Landshark emitted a chuckle. "It's just steel in a useful shape. No one offered to have their horn screwed off when meeting me, and no one told me to have my jaw wired shut either."

"This is tiresome." She took a step back, but guards moved to block the door.

"The other Princesses all trust her," Cadance reasoned. "At least to the extent that she is not violent. She has not hurt any pony so far."

"She's been kind and helpful to anyone who gave her the time of day." Twilight nearly choked on the next part. "So ... so what if she isn't good around us alicorns?"

Landshark nodded at Twilight "Thanks."

Shining Armor appeared frustrated. "I just can't believe the Princesses didn't keep pressing for more information about her world and organisation. Who do you work for? What are their capabilities, technologically and citizens under arms?"

Landshark emitted an exaggerated sigh. "Fine. I'll give you something. These guards you got here? A joke. We got bears."

Shining Armor narrowed his eyes. If he was confused, he did not show it. "Elaborate."

"Back as a rookie they had me working the pens for the 53rd Bearborne." She made sure to sound amused. "These aren't just any bears, you know. A fully grown war-grizzly covered in reinforced steel tops the scales at some 2,500 pounds. Hell of a job cleaning up after those things."

She shrugged and chuckled. "Worth it, though. They usually get inserted by air on the flanks or behind the enemy. I've seen footage. Nothing like watching two dozen warbears smash into an enemy position." She sounded excited. "A properly bred warbear can do like 70 kp/h in sprints, but you've got to get them pretty damn mad to get them to go that fast, otherwise they won't get near that speed."

She had the attention of everyone in the room now, she knew. "You have any idea what a 2,500 pound beast does to a man, or a pony? It's crazy. Like hitting a newborn kitten with a mallet. I once spent like a week trying to get the stains off the plating. Apparently they'd hit an enemy and got the son of a gun stuck between two bears, really ground him in. And don't get me started on what happens after the charge! Once those bears start mauling, chunks just fly everywhere." She snickered. "Us pen-crews were basically standing by with high pressure hoses to try and get the chunks of alien off the bears after the fights, before they dried. The bears actually liked it."

The Princesses looked queasy now, but Cadance also seemed perhaps a little exasperated. Landshark suspected the alicorn could tell she was just making things up. She pressed on. "It's not all fun and slaughter, though. Bears are hard to train. You lose its respect for even a moment and it'll literally tear your head off. But I got massive respect for the riders. Always head first into danger and they're riding a bear! That sense of accomplishment must make them feel like giants among mortals." She sighed wistfully.

It was a complete fabrication, of course. She started laughing.

Shining Armor looked angry. "How much of that was actually true?" He glared and stamped a hoof in evident frustration.

Landshark laughed some more before shaking her head. "You should have seen your faces. Warbears!" She turned serious. "The only true part was my respect for my human comrades. They may not have had bears, but they were brave."

Landshark turned her head to regard the guards by the door. Then she re-established eye contact with Twilight. "Am I a prisoner?"

"What? No! I just wanted you to meet my brother and his wife!" Twilight definitely did not feel in control of the situation.

"Not your guards at the door, though, Twilight." She continued to ignore Shining Armor as she addressed Princess Cadance. "Consider us to have met, Princess."

Finally, she regarded Shining Armor evenly. "You insist on these questions?"

Twilight was familiar with that tone of voice, but her hope that her brother might back down went unfulfilled. "Yes." Shining Armor nodded. The stallion looked massive in front of the slight construct. "And I want the truth!" Shining Armor had suspected that the construct might have embellished the bear story, but he had been completely unable to detect any hints that it was all a falsehood. The construct was a worryingly convincing liar, in his opinion.

"That tells me one of two things," Landshark ground out. "You're either a colossal meathead who thinks he knows better than the alicorns, which I would have to respect, of course. Or you just revealed that Twilight or your wife are confident they can do whatever they wish with my internal fail-safes and animating force, since you'd know that last time I was questioned, I was nearly unmade, if not for Celestia's interference." She paused. "Disappointing, but insightful."

"Miss Landshark." Cadance's voice was firm. The construct's dead eyes snapped in her direction. "You've accepted the hospitality of an alicorn in good faith. Nothing is going to happen to you tonight. But please indulge me and tell me about your friends here in Ponyville." She shot Shining Armor a look that seemed to quiet him down also.

Landshark hesitated, but Twilight seemed to nod very enthusiastically, so maybe she was being offered a way to defuse the situation.

"My best friends are ordinary ponies." Landshark seemed to come alive for the first time since entering the room. She gestured animatedly as she talked. "They struggle with their own problems every day. Psychological trauma. Substance abuse. Poverty. Problems you can't just shoot magic at. But they don't care what I am, they still struggle to do right by their families, raise their young and show kindness in a world that doesn't care about them."

The construct snapped her jaws and hammered her words out. She'd been annoyed, but now she felt nothing but pride for her friends. "They are not part of your world. When you've redeemed the last chaos god and chased off the last evil monarch, they, or ponies like them, will still be struggling. And I should be out there spending time with them, not here, talking to royals who have their every need in life met."

Being confronted by two alicorns, even kind ones, plus a powerful unicorn loyal to them, was wearing away Landshark's composure. She was too detached to be afraid for herself, but she focused her thoughts on her friends and clamped down on her growing anger with every ounce of her will. She had wanted to make it through the night without a reputation for snubbing the alicorns. It was too late for that, of course. She had to assume that rumor would get out about her brazenly telling untruths to their faces.

Landshark had to admit to herself that being antagonistic towards non-hostile gods and godlike beings was petty and counterproductive. She wouldn't normally bring herself to apologize, but she'd seen the way her friends, even the fillies, faced their mistakes, and she couldn't disappoint them by doing worse.

"That was uncalled for, and I apologize. The crack with the statuary was also petty. And grammatically incorrect, apparently." She did not apologize for the things she had said directly to Shining Armor.

Cadance had in fact informed herself as thoroughly as she could about the construct. When she had noticed her nearly vibrating with a sort of subconscious anger at her current situation and finally become outright antagonistic, Cadance had deliberately prompted her to think of her mortal friends.

"I'm sorry, Landshark." Twilight was subdued. "I should have known this would stress you. This is my fault."

"No," Landshark shook her head. "It may be in my nature to see the worst in everything the mighty do and say, or to take petty shots at you, but it is unworthy of the person my friends know me as. The fault was mine. I was weak." Landshark had a knack for imbuing her declarations with a certain finality that was at times difficult to deny.

Cadance had watched the construct discard anger and petty spite within seconds. Moments before it had seemed as if she might be pushed to violence, now it seemed as if nothing could shake her. "You don't feel love like most ponies do," Cadance observed, "because you aren't flesh and blood, I assume. But you love your friends all the same."

Landshark nodded curtly. She felt perfectly in control now as she imagined her friends at her back. "My life belongs to them, Princess. It isn't mine to risk by antagonizing greater powers." She directed a look at Shining Armor.

She wasn't trying to be dramatic, although she was going to have to admit to a tendency in that direction. It was the plain truth in this case however. She kept her gaze locked onto Cadance. "The alicorns' powers are truly frightening, once you think about them, uncolored by your perception of the personality that wields them. You must know this."

Cadance merely nodded at first, but when she sensed Twilight about to leap to her defense, or that of the alicorns more generally, she spoke to agree with the construct. "Of course. Controlling the sun and the moon are overt displays of power. The power that gave a nation hope against Sombra's despair may seem benign, but we need only remember spells such as 'Want-It-Need-It' to know how very dangerous it can be to change how a population feels and thinks."

That wasn't something Landshark had heard about, but it seemed to be a sore point for Twilight, who looked hurt and remained silent. The construct emitted a low chuckle. "And don't forget, sleep can easily be made into an enemy the body can't escape. Dreams have power. I don't mean to accuse. I am glad to be a guest in this nation and friend to some of its people. But I fail, more often than I like, to separate what my instincts tell me from what I see around me."

Landshark looked over at Twilight, and regret swung in her voice. "I should have told the pony, Twilight Sparkle, who simply wanted me to meet her relatives, that it would only leave everyone upset. Instead, I felt that I could not very well dismiss a summons from the local pantheon without inviting hostility from their followers, and came here, already resentful. That was not fair to her, as a person."

Shining Armor grumbled. He still couldn't bring himself to trust the machine and its intentions. "You've betrayed your leaders in the past. You're good at convincing talk, but who is to say you won't turn against our people in the future?"

Landshark did feel a little hurt by that, but was sure the stallion was simply trying to get a reaction out of her. She regarded him for a moment before speaking, intentionally choosing a friendly, nearly pitying tone. "Maybe you have lofty ideals ... but many of the best ideals can be transmuted into ruthlessness by dedication. I'd rather deal with someone childish who is also compassionate, than someone exemplary whose dedication makes them ruthless."

"It's funny, in a way," Landshark mused. "The alicorns have been kind to me, despite my poor behavior. They continue to act different from what my gut feeling, if you want, expects. But you, the military pony, you see a threat. Is it because I chose? Your subjects are born, and you assume they are born good, or at least decent. They have their destiny stamped onto their side and fit into your nation. Those that turn against your society must have something wrong with them. But I've been created for evil. When I realized the situation, I turned against my creator, then washed my hands off the conflict. I've not been fixed, or redeemed. I just made the choice."

She shook her head, sounding amused now. "Does it unsettle you, to deal with someone whose life has no meaning or destiny, and who is indifferent to home, money, comfort or fame? Someone who follows the law because they wish it but never just because it is expected? Face it, Prince. I am outside your jurisdiction in a most fundamental way. And I suspect, because the military mind does not know how to make the machine work without botching it, there is an urge to smash it in frustration." She paused. "Princess Cadance, Twilight. Please know that I do appreciate your patience. In quieter moments I am extremely glad that it is good enough for you that I am a good neighbor to your ponies. Please remember that. By your leave, Twilight?"

"Alright Landshark. Try to have a good night."

Twilight still looked a little sad, but there wasn't much to be done about it right now. Landshark would try to make ammends when she met Twilight at a later date.

The construct paused at the door and turned about. "I've withheld names deliberately, although it'd be easy to find out who my friends are. Twilight knows." She paused and swept a glare across the ponies in the room. It was of course completely blank to most of them, but to Cadance, more sensitive to emotions than anyone but a changeling or Pinkie Pie, it seemed to promise enduring, patient hate. "If I find out they've been hassled, to dig up intel on me or just because of the association, to gain leverage of any kind, I'd be quite inconsolable."

She turned and strode off, an angry, ultimately fragile construct that nonetheless wouldn't relent or rest in defense of her friends.

"You know," Shining Armor spoke up first, "it actually admitted to Princess Luna that there's more it could reveal without triggering those fail-safes. It just deflects by threatening suicide. I'm sure its friends know more. Things it might let slip in unguarded conversation."

"Shining Armor!" Twilight glared at her brother. That she continued to use his full name after their guest had left told him she meant business. "She was my guest! You can't treat people who accept my hospitality like that! She's been exiled from her home and she's been beaten up twice here in Ponyville and she almost never pushes back. Ponies should just leave her alone. She can't stay patient forever."

"Of course 'she' can," Shining Armor argued. "It's a machine. If it didn't have a face we wouldn't even be arguing about this. If it's not in its interest to use violence, it won't happen. It's rather funny how much it talks about being free. Of course it's not built to value our laws and customs."

"You can't seriously be arguing that she could be executing a program of deception and yet reveal additional information carelessly to her friends." Twilight rolled her eyes. "Either there's a program or there isn't! And there really isn't." She cocked her head. "Have you been reading too much science fiction lately?"

Shining Armor shrugged. "There could be gaps in it. It might actually have a limited degree of independence to appear more convincing."

"I'm sorry, but you're wrong." Cadance spoke up at last. "I've spoken to Celestia and Luna and read the reports. That being is a fully independent sapient. Maybe it doesn't think quite like we do, and its emotions are different too, but it ... she loves some of our ponies as best she can." Cadance shook her head. "She has barely reacted to threats, but if you were to send ponies to question her friends, I would fear for their safety. She's peaceful for their sake, not her own."

Shining Armor wasn't quite done yet. "Just once I'd like to be really prepared for a threat to Equestria. Here we've got definite proof of an unknown, technologically advanced faction, whether from another reality or hidden on our world, and everypony just shrugs it off?"

Twilight growled in frustration. "Even if a stable connection between two worlds were easy to hide, and it really isn't due to the preposterous amount of power required, but even IF, ridiculous, but okay, it's absolutely no way to make a first impression by harassing her! Especially not if they were already here, which they aren't. Even Discord agrees she's on the level. Do you really think he'd say nothing if there was any kind of real threat to Fluttershy?"

Cadance nodded. "Please let it go. We can't let fear of what might be possible make us hard and unkind. Every Princess so far agrees to let her stay and be subject to our laws, that will have to be good enough until the situation changes."

Twilight tried to look understanding. "In part, I understand your concern. Hate comes easy for her, at least aimed at beings with powerful magic. She has no fear of personal consequences, and her only needs are emotional ones. She only tries to be civil because the ponies she values prefer it that way. She's devoted to regular citizens and distrusts authority. If we had government agents lean on her friends, she may well be very tempted to hurt those ponies. And she wouldn't forget that we did it. Not ever." Cadance nodded at that point, remembering that final pronouncement the construct had made before leaving. Twilight sighed. "But her friendships with those ponies are real. I still think we should leave her alone. It's not fair to her to hassle her because she's capable of violence."

Shining Armor wasn't happy about it, but there was no real use arguing against two Princesses, or his sister and his wife. "Fine. I'll drop it for now. But I'm not happy about it!"

Author's Note:

I imagine being in the mundane guard/police force/military had to have gotten a little frustrating over the course of the show when every major threat appeared almost totally unexpected and had to be countered by artifact deployment and/or weaponized friendship.

PreviousChapters Next