• 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?

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Dangerous Knowledge

Saturday was shaping up to be a fine day. Bon Bon and Lyra had shown up shortly after noon, bringing along drinks, a variety of Bon Bon's sweets, and a supply of pastries straight from Sugarcube Corner. They spread a blanket behind the smithy and settled in.

Bon Bon grinned, she seemed to be having a pretty okay day. "Shark, we still got time before Berry is due to get here with the fillies. You want to get your flank kicked again?"

Landshark groaned in fake exasperation. She had a list of excuses for losing sparring matches against Bon Bon, some were even reasonable, like 'why would I have ever learned to beat up small horses?' but at the end of the day she had spent most of her fighting days heavily armed and heedless of danger. Learning unarmed self-defense to protect herself without biting chunks out of the other guy hadn't really been a high priority. She had been complacent. Savage mauling wasn't a socially acceptable form of self defense in Equestria, however. The same likely went for just gunning fools down. It was a good thing these ponies weren't any bigger or she'd be in real trouble. As it stood she assumed she'd be okay versus anyone who wasn't a trained fighter of some kind. The average local creature wasn't too dangerous to a construct like her, not one on one.

"How about I get back to you on that in, say, fifty years, when you're old and grey and I'm still factory spec?"

"Pah, by that time I'll have coached someone to stand in for me. There'll be some spunky young pony, down on their luck, needing a washed up old coach to prep them for the big fight, and I'll get to live vicariously through them! And your legwork will still be awful, at this rate." Bon Bon shook her head vigorously as Lyra grinned. "I think Lyra is implanting her jokes into my head while I'm sleeping. Send help."

Lyra puffed out her chest. "You know you wouldn't have it any other way. I'm just being a good influence, ya old grump."

"For certain definitions of good, huh?" Landshark snapped her jaws, then continued. "Well I'm glad you're enjoying yourself, Bon. I just never had a life outside of work before so I never really ran into the kind of target who needed to be put in their place without doing real harm." She shrugged. "Even back when we'd blow off steam by brawling it out with guys from other units, I was stronger and tougher so I was sloppy and didn't take it seriously."

Bon Bon nodded, expression suddenly serious. "If you want to protect your friends without seriously harming someone, you need to stay standing to go the distance if you want to beat a pony into submission the slow way. As soon as someone fouls up your weak knees, you lose your mobility advantage. Still too careless. Too little patience, not evasive enough."

"Good thing I haven't had real trouble with ponies after those first couple of days. Thanks for your patience, really." Another factor leaving Landshark uneasy was the suspicion that not everypony was going to be as hard-headed as the guy she beat on during the last, and so far only, bar fight. Trying to subdue organics by blunt trauma carried risks for the target.

"S'nothing. Been giving the others some pointers too. They're not like you'n me, but being able to avoid a hit never hurt anypony." She shot Lyra a crooked smile. "Nice to get some good out of the old job."

"Yeah and your current job pays all the bills, Bonny." Lyra's mood was not diminished by the admission. "So, watcha teaching the fillies today, Shark?"

"Well, you'll just have to wait and see, won't you?"

Fortunately for an impatient Lyra, Berry Punch arrived, fillies in tow. They were easy to hear chatting away as they approached, so Landshark went to the front of the building to meet them. Unexpectedly, there was one young pony too many. Scootaloo had come along for unknown, though hopefully mundane, reasons. Dinky and Ruby Pinch snapped off quick salutes, somewhat less sloppily than in the past.

"Agents Double Down, Pincer. Good of you to come." Landshark regarded the pegasus filly evenly before nodding curtly. "Crusader. Surprised to see you without your friends."

"Her friends are kept busy by their families today, Shark," Berry explained. "Dinky figured she could tag along today. I didn't see why not." Berry smiled and bumped into the construct playfully as she trotted past. "I'll leave you to it, boss. When the girls get hungry, just come on out into the yard."

Scootaloo smiled with perhaps a hint of trepidation. "Miss Punch is right. Can I stay and play?"

"We'll probably come join you outside soon, Berry." Landshark made a show of thoughtfully rubbing her chin before addressing Scootaloo again. "Hmm. I was going to teach the girls some stuff for responsible monster hunters. Not sure it's good for Crusaders, considering your rep about town. Somebody could get hurt if you're not careful."

This appeared to cause Scootaloo considerable consternation. "Hey, we're totally responsible!" When Landshark just continued looking at her and the other fillies seemed to have some difficulty maintaining straight faces, she sighed. "Okay okay, but we're turning over a new leaf now that we've got our cutie marks, honest. Please give me a chance?"

"Well, alright." Landshark sighed. "C'mon in." She led the way into the work area. "Don't touch anything I'm not personally giving you to touch." Ruby Pinch and Dinky of course knew not to play around with the equipment and tools, but it was, after all, Scootaloo's first visit.

"Now, before we start, let me just disappoint you right away and tell you that none of this is secret alien technology." She took off her wig and hung it on a hook. "First, let's talk about fireworks. Ah, I see a question from the audience already. Yes, Pincer?"

Ruby Pinch lowered her hoof. "Well, fireworks are nice and all, but you can't do any magic, can you?"

"I can't," Landshark agreed easily. "And that's the first thing I was going to say. I was a bit disappointed to see that fireworks around here involve so much magic. Where's the fun in that?" She twitched her jaw and shook her head. "The world where I was made was pretty magical too, and our fireworks didn't involve any magic. At least the gnomes said they didn't. They didn't tell anyone else how they made them."

Gnomes, being created by Brell Serilis, usually spent their afterlife in the Underfoot. Brell might have been a disinterested deity, but at least his followers were allowed to enjoy the things they had loved in life. For many gnomes, that was tinkering and inventing. Landshark generally avoided talking to fillies about how the Underfoot housed dead people, however.

"Lucky for us, I've got this extraordinarily dry textbook here with a section about gryphon-made black powder fireworks!"

A trio of groans followed the news, but Dinky and Ruby Pinch didn't put a lot of feeling into it. They knew that the construct usually didn't bore them.

"Just messing with ya. I've read it myself. I'll sum it up. Double and Pincer here already know how black powder is made. But, you might ask, how do you get fancy colors and effects out of a firework rocket without any magic?"

Landshark outlined the structure of aerial fireworks briefly. Stick/tail, fuse, launching charge, effects. Her enthusiasm about non-magical solutions to problems was obvious and helped keep the fillies' attention. "So see, the fuse that lights the charge also lights smaller fuses in sequence to trigger the effects. Effects are loosely packed explosives. Depending on how you pack them, you either get a whole mess of stars in the sky at once, or they go off in some fancy looking sequence of smaller lights. Making these things is an exact science!" She sounded amused. "I don't know, seems like a more interesting answer than 'it's magic'. And anybody can learn it, after all. I wouldn't be surprised if they made 'em like that in places without a lot of unicorns in Equestria, too."

She suspected she wasn't being entirely fair towards magic. It probably took some talent to put on a dazzling light-show with magic as well. "Now, anybody can use black powder fireworks, that's the upside, but the downside is that you've still got an explosive missile. You can get hurt if you're not careful or if it's shoddily constructed. That's why we won't have a demonstration."

The disappointment was real, this time. "I've been tricked into being educated, on a weekend!" Scootaloo appeared distraught.

"Can I see the book?" Dinky seemed the least disappointed that Landshark did not have any fireworks at hand.

"Hmm? Sure thing," Landshark shrugged. "It doesn't have detailed instructions on how to make 'em, if you're looking for that." She placed the book on the ground for Dinky and crossed her arms. "Look, Crusader. Maybe this isn't immediately interesting to you, but I like to get across the idea that a lot of neat things can be done without any magic at all. Besides, if you're going to stick around, you'll need to put up with me talking a lot."

"Oh yeah," Ruby Pinch agreed as she looked over Dinky's shoulder at what the other filly was reading.

"Yes, thanks for the input, Pincer." Landshark smiled, in her way, and continued. "Of course we are playing a game with the code-names and such. But the things I show or teach about are seriously dangerous if mishandled. Maybe that's not always fun. The day is still young, though!"

Scootaloo nodded. "I didn't mean anything bad, Miss Shark. I'll listen, no worries." She grinned. "It's probably for the best I'm learning about this now and not when we were still desperate for our cutie marks."

Landshark snapped her jaws. "A few weeks ago I wouldn't even have let you in here. I can just see the headline. 'Filly loses hoof in firework accident, negligent golem launched into sun.' No thanks, Crusader."

She clapped her hands together. "So! When I was still really new to my old job and got taught about guns, I was really impressed. I'm from a world were magic was quite powerful. But the humans I worked for didn't have much of any magic. They had guns." The construct started pacing a little. "And they had so many varieties. Guns can turn anybody into a mage, I thought. They make nonsense of any distinction between commoner and nobility. They're easy enough to learn, they punch through the type of metal armor I knew, and with a little persistence will crack arcane shields too, because it's a lot of power focused very tightly." She expected that alicorns and of course Shining Armor could produce very powerful shields, but she did not feel the need to mention that now.

Landshark reached into a pocket and pulled out a rifle bullet. "Maybe that world wasn't very prepared for magic." She squatted down to show the projectile to Scootaloo. "But not a lot of mages know to expect one of these babies to fly at them from 500 meters out. Takes less than a second to cross that distance. That's real speed." The construct sounded positively gleeful, but added, "We had a lot of humans that were very good shots. Better than me."

"Then I get to your country and nobody has hands and the only ones who could handle a gun are the people with magic and/or nobility. That just sucks. No offense, agents."

"It's alright, Ma'am." Dinky grinned. "Says here in the book that black powder is a pretty old invention. Someone has to have guns out there already, you'd think."

"Sure," Landshark allowed. "Guns can get a lot more primitive than my revolver. Cumbersome things where you have to shove both the powder and the bullet down the barrel to reload. Inaccurate too. But I don't know much about the really old types." She shrugged. "And of course larger cannons are a thing. Unless Pinkie Pie invented the party cannon out of whole cloth and no one ever thought to use a device like that to fling a chunk of metal at a wall or a ship." The thought made her a little nervous, for some reason. She wondered if Pinkie had to understand a thing to manifest it. "Anyway, until recently, Equestria has had peace and stability for a very long time. I'd look for weapons development outside of magic in other regions of the world. At least gryphons have hands, or near enough. Unicorns with Canterlot attitudes probably think that stuff is really quaint."

At least the fillies still seemed interested to hear something they might not get to learn in school, although perhaps they would have chemistry classes at some point. Dinky frowned in thought. "So can you make new bullets for your guns? Black powder isn't hard to make."

"I suppose I could. But my ammo uses better powder. More power, leaves the barrel a lot less dirty. I just haven't quite figured out how to make smokeless powder yet. There's only so many bits I've got to spare for experiments. There's a reason you don't see me firing my gun just for the fun of it." She hung her head. "And I haven't been able to bring myself to ask Princess Twilight for more help trawling chemistry textbooks to see if someone already did work in that direction."

Even if ponies had smokeless powder, Landshark wasn't sure she would just be able to mail order the stuff. And she hadn't exactly packed gun cleaning supplies to cover indefinite exile, so she if she started using powder that was harder on the gun, she'd have to try and find cleaning oils and solvents in this world sooner, another headache she had been putting off. She had been trained to be fastidious about her weapons. Perhaps a unicorn chemist would be able to duplicate her current supplies somehow. Experiment with just any chemical didn't sit right with her. The bore brushes also wouldn't last forever.

Landshark gathered up some supplies into a small crate. "Alright girls, we're taking this show outside. Ruby, would you please bring the cleaning kit? My hands are full." She mentally took stock, then emerged into the backyard. She paused.

"What are you three up to out here?" As she waited for an explanation, she continued on and placed her crate by the earthen wall marking the end of her property on the Everfree-facing side.

Berry Punch was sweating. She had apparently been doing push-ups. Landshark still sometimes caught herself thinking that horse legs shouldn't work that way, but it happened less frequently, these days. "We've been working out. It's pretty embarrassing when the candy maker of all ponies is in the best shape here!"

"Yeah." Bon Bon grinned and returned to the picnic blanket. "And by the looks of it, it's going to stay that way for a good long while."

Lyra was lying on her side in the grass. Apparently she had just dropped where she had been working out herself. "Bonny puts in a lot of work to stay ahead of her candy habit. I guess it shows."

"Besides," Berry admitted, "it does kind of help me keep my mind off things."

"I'll just take your words for it, ladies." She wasn't fit to judge the physical fitness of equines. She turned away, drew her gun and went through the process of unloading it, pocketing the cartridges and, by rote, double-checked that each chamber was empty. "Agent Pincer, you brought the kit. Why don't you show Scootaloo and the others how you clean it and explain how the thing works? Double Down and I need to set up something to show everyone later." She strode over to the picnic blanket and placed the revolver on the ground. "It's completely safe now. Still, no one but Pincer touches that gun, ladies."

"Yes ma'am!" Ruby Pinch was proud to show off what she'd learned, both about the weapon and the progress she had made with her unicorn magic, but she still approached the task with a degree of reverence. She did feel the need to reassure her mother, though. "I don't think I like guns like Shark does, mommy. But all the fiddly bits that make it work are really interesting! I'm not allowed to try and take it all the way apart without her around yet, though."

Berry Punch raised a brow, but smiled. "Hmm, remind me to get you a pocket watch or something for you to take apart. But go on, we're all listening."

Landshark motioned for Dinky to follow her a few steps away to the supplies she brought out. "Alright. I was going to show this to you both but I'm not real comfortable having Scootaloo learn this," she whispered. "So Pincer is keeping them all busy."

Dinky nodded, looking curious. "Right. So what are we doing?" She peered into the crate. "Scrap metal and ... what's in those jars?"

Landshark started piling up the bits of scrap iron. A malformed shovel blade, some fouled up knives and other unworthy odds and ends accumulated while training her apprentices. Then she picked up one of the jars. She had measured the contents beforehand. "This is iron oxide. Rust! Boring, right? Take it and pour it into that small iron cup."

She watched as Dinky did as instructed, then grabbed another jar, offering it to the filly. "Aluminum powder. Mostly harmless if you don't eat it or breath it in. Put it in the cup." The mixture required much less aluminum compared to iron oxide. Again, she had measured it beforehand.

The filly did as ordered, but seemed slightly anxious. "This isn't going to explode in my face, is it? Mom would be pretty upset. It would hurt, too."

Landshark chuckled and patted Dinky on the head. "The safety of my agents is my highest priority, Double. Nothing's going to happen here unless your magic grasp heats things up to 3000 degrees and you haven't told anybody."

"I can't even make water boil, Ma'am." The filly grinned. "So how are you going to get it that hot?"

"Patience, my dear. First, I'll go grab you some eye protection. You just stay there and make sure nobody messes with the setup." Orders given, Landshark quickly made her way back inside, calling out to the rest of her friends on the way. "Show's about to start, I'm just getting everyone some eye protection. Gonna be bright."

She could have just gone with a bunch of cheap sunglasses, she supposed, but the fillies would like her solution more. She returned outside with an armful of iron welding masks. She'd planned this day in advance, and her apprentices had helped create spares. Only the cost of the tinted glass had had to be crammed into the budget with some effort. Scrap iron was plentiful.

She stopped. "You're wearing sunglasses, Bon." She hadn't known that her friend even owned a set of shades.

"Yep. You said it'll be bright."

"Suit yourself. Everyone else, put on a mask." She headed over to the prepared experiment again. "Alright Double, here's your mask, head on over to the others." Louder, she addressed the group. "You ever wonder how they weld together the railroads? Wait, don't answer that. It's probably magic." She patted herself down until she found a strip of magnesium she had prepared but kept apart from the other items. She hadn't mentioned the magnesium to Dinky, purely as a precaution. She didn't really expect the filly to try and experiment on her own time. Sticking it into the iron cup, she gestured grandly. "Well, anyway. This mix Agent Double Down helped prepare is a little something called thermite. The mixture is, of course, classified."

Landshark offered Bon Bon a quick nod. The mare's old 'Field Guide to Improvised Munitions (Magic-Free)' had been helpful, because the construct hadn't remembered her own instructions on the topic quite well enough to get the mix right, and hadn't been sure how to best light thermite outside of a properly manufactured thermite grenade. Another one of those things she wasn't going to tell the fillies. Bon Bon would be pretty cross if the fact that someone in Ponyville had a book that the Princess didn't have a copy of filtered all the way to the Friendship Castle.

"Now, making thermite actually do anything requires enormous heat. But the strip of metal at the top is much easier to burn, while burning hot enough to set the whole thing off. Lyra, if you could do the honors?"

It still seemed to take considerable effort to light the strip of magnesium, and Landshark realized she had risked quite the anti-climax by not checking beforehand if Lyra would be able to do it, but she had gotten lucky.

"You're watching one of the most powerful chemical processes used in non-magical industry, ladies. And again, this isn't anything your world didn't already have."

The thermite reaction burned brightly, and the enormous heat made a complete mess of the scrap iron. Everybody was suitably impressed, the fillies, and Lyra, giddy with excitement.

"That is so cool!" Scootaloo cheered. "Totally worth the wait." She nodded with a grin, almost bouncing in place as she did.

Bon Bon observed everyone's excitement with fondness. "Well, now that we've all learned something, let's eat! And once the iron cools off, you can look at how it all melted together, right, Shark? That'll take a while, though."

"Oh yeah. I'll pour some water on it later." Landshark smiled. "Impressive and educational. I figure it can't hurt them to be curious about how the world works." She tapped her forehead. "Seems to me that a little outside the box knowledge would make for a more creative magic user."

"Yep. It's good to be resourceful." Berry grabbed a muffin, took a bite and chewed, looking thoughtful.

"Yeah and take it from me," Lyra added, surprisingly serious for once. "Not everypony makes the cut for the School for Gifted Unicorns. I imagine it's a huge help to know you can do something else clever, maybe not with magic, but with the help of your magic." She'd said it quietly enough, the fillies, conversing among themselves, hadn't heard it.

"I wouldn't trade you in for any or all of the unicorns who make it through, Lyra." Bon Bon snorted. "Just another form of Canterlot snobbery, most of it. Back in my day at least they trained the occasional combat magician. Royal Guard training is too narrow for a fightin' unicorn."

"You always sound like you're pushing sixty when you talk like that." Berry shook her head. "But maybe I am a little worried. What if Pinchy wants to go, but doesn't make it? I hope Twilight doesn't set the fillies' expectations too high." She quickly added, "I'd support her all the way, of course. I'd be real proud if she made something of herself despite being stuck with me."

"It'll work out one way or the other. When they fall, we pick 'em up." Landshark watched the fillies start roughhousing and decided it was time to make sure the iron had cooled. She went to fetch a bucket of water to douse what was left. "And none of that talk, Berry. You're a great mother."

She poured water onto the hot iron with the hiss of steam, then sat down. "Hey, Crusader! Come on over for a second! Agents, you carry on there."

Scootaloo cantered over quickly, then sat down. "Yeah? What's up?"

"Just making sure you're having a good time. I think the other two are taking this a little more seriously than people expect. Hope you weren't too bored."

"You kidding?" Scootaloo beamed. "The thermite was really awesome, and you should have seen Pinchy's face when she was cleaning your gun. There's a cutie mark somewhere that way, I just know it. Maybe her mom is right with the pocket watch idea." She looked smug. "That's what Crusaders do now, you know. Help others with their marks, whether they're still waiting or just aren't sure what to make of it. I'll have to tell the others as soon as possible!"

Landshark pinched the bridge of her nose. "Of course. Well, I'll let you get back to it. I guess you're their problem now, not mine. Enjoy our monster hunter hospitality." Ruby Pinch and Dinky had enough sense to tell the Crusaders to back off if they didn't feel like being their next project, the construct predicted.

The rest of the afternoon passed quite ordinarily, in conversation and play. No further verbose lectures or experiments. The kind of comfortable togetherness that made all previous struggles seem worth it, not just to Landshark, but to the adult ponies as well. The only negative side was that Ditzy had to miss it.

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