• Published 20th Oct 2015
  • 1,978 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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It had turned out that Landshark was really pretty bad at efficiently making use of her time. Bon Bon was rather surprised how many hours of the day the construct could have done something useful, but hadn't. She wasn't one to talk, of course. It had taken time to transition from being a secret agent to successfully running a candy store. It was an unpleasant reminder of days spent doing nothing at all.

There weren't any problems at Landshark's smithy, because it was almost always very clear what needed to be done at any given point, but Bon Bon had realized that the construct really didn't do particularly more work in any given day than most ponies. On the upside, it was easy to cow Landshark with threats of informing Princess Twilight, the best micro-manager in town, how little the construct managed to accomplish despite only needing a single solid night's sleep per week to think clearly.

Bon Bon had absolutely no compunctions about using her friend's lack of sleep requirements to her alleged benefit. She had been woken up from a nightmare by Lyra at around four in the morning, and rather than risking sleep again, she had waited until the unicorn had drifted off, then begun looking for Landshark. She hesitated briefly before stepping out of her home, but despite the nightmare, she felt ready to brave the night by herself. Today, at least, the night didn't seem to be too full of hidden dangers.

This wasn't always entirely trivial. Instead of sensibly staying home at night and perhaps reading, Landshark seemed to like ranging all over town. This particular morning it had taken nearly an hour until Bon Bon had found the construct walking along with a cop on the night beat, making slow conversation about nothing the earth pony deemed to be of any importance. Fortunately it was easy to corral Landshark back towards her smithy.

"I swear," Bon Bon shook her head. "I never really wondered what you do when we're not hanging out or at work. This is the best you could come up with? Bug ponies on their graveyard shifts?" Her ears were flattened back, she didn't consider herself a morning pony, and she hadn't dressed for the late autumn night chill.

Landshark could tell that Bon Bon was in a poor mood. Her question had been angrily rhetorical, as this hadn't been the first time the two had met under similar circumstances. She shrugged. "Well, on weekends I might also hit that night club Vinyl is disk-jockey at after the rest of you head home. Y'know, see ponies, be seen, have a chat."

During her first few days in Ponyville, the construct had struck some of the more excitable ponies as unsettling, because when she wasn't working whatever odd jobs ponies were willing to give her, she had been silently hanging around town, watching. Bon Bon conceded that at least now, Landshark went out of her way to engage ponies when she wandered about town.

"Hmm. If I didn't need to sleep I might pick up another job. Do the night shift at the Hayburger or something, buy Lyra something nice with the extra change. Or get caught up on reading. Learn something new. I don't know." There wasn't any real criticism audible in her words. She might not have been feeling her best, but she had gotten good at not snapping at others.

Landshark nodded. As they were walking, she took off her coat and awkwardly draped it over Bon Bon. "Lyra'll break my arms if you get sick from tracking me down in the middle of the night, you know." She shook her head. "I might actually do that. Get another job. I've done so many night shifts just standing guard or just being on call, it's nice to be able to just wander off whenever I want, though."

"I guess you wouldn't understand," she continued. "Sure, I am completely wasting these hours. But it feels so wonderful, Bon. When all my friends are asleep and no one expects me to be at work, my life is completely meaningless, and I love it. There's no fate here in store for me. Equestria doesn't care what tasks I was built for, or what cause I dedicated myself to. Not even what I do well, or poorly. Here, I just ... I just am. At least at night."

Bon Bon actually chuckled. "That's going to be a pretty hard sell to anypony who remembers worrying about their cutie mark when they were young and worried about the future." She grunted as she tried to adjust the coat on her back. "Thanks, by the way. Chilly this morning. I guess ponies have it good that way. Maybe to you, cutie marks don't make much sense, but it seems ponies who get to work with their special talent are generally happier. I sure prefer making and selling candy to the old job." She paused. "Uh, I hope you don't mind me intruding on your special aimless drifter time, then."

"Well, as long as you don't do it every night. I'd worry about you getting your sleep, as well." She wasn't surprised that most ponies might not understand her. After all, they were born directionless and actually looked forward to finding out what special talent they had. A lot of people seemed to draw a portion of their self worth from their employment, as well. Landshark was a tireless worker, but work, like money, was generally a means to an end. It was incidental to who she was.

She wasn't Landshark the blacksmith, that was just something she happened to do. Having work affected the way people thought of one another in useful ways. Hopefully running her own smithy made her seem both less strange and more respectable, and being responsible for the wages of her workers at least engaged the construct's sense of responsibility. Owning her own property did give her privacy as well, which was a bonus that would have taken longer to achieve if she had kept doing menial labor around town.

Bon Bon shook her head. "Don't worry, I'm used to going on less sleep. Could go for a coffee, though. Let's hit the Hayburger real quick?"

"Sure." The construct gestured vaguely, turning up her palms. "You're the boss. I'm just drifting until it's time to fire up the forge."

They walked in silence until arriving at the fast food restaurant. The night shift was, of course, rather dead, aside from the occasional other unfortunate soul being out and about at night, like police officers. The two of them exchanged greetings with the stallion behind the counter, then settled in a far corner with a view on the exit. Landshark smiled.

"I think that's the third time I've met that guy for the first time. He's such a zombie during these shifts, he never really remembers. It's great." She leaned forward and spoke more quietly. "Apparently he volunteers for this shift a lot because it pays a little better and he has debts to pay off. Everyone's got a story, I guess."

Bon Bon took a tentative sip of the hot coffee and nodded along, then narrowed her eyes at the employee, who seemed to sleep standing up behind the counter. "Looks familiar. I think he buys those coffee flavored toffees every so often." She shrugged. "The Cakes and I, we're the only game in town if you want to rot your teeth with real quality. We see a lot of ponies." She squinted, no longer entirely sure she had remembered correctly. "Can blur together a tiny bit when I haven't slept well."

"Probably means a lot of people know you as well, then." She snapped her jaws. "Here's another perk of the hour. Check this out." She sat up straighter. "This coffee sure beats that swill they serve at the Sugar Cube Corner!"

Bon Bon flinched and ducked under the table, perhaps expecting the nearest window to burst inwards from the impact of a pink pony. When nothing happened, she sat back up and scowled. "Nice try, but I'm still not convinced Pinkie sleeps. I think she just knows you couldn't tell coffee from a cup of paint, without first sticking your fingers in."

"Oh no." Landshark deadpanned. It came naturally, after all. "You just put half of my Pinkie-summoning experiments in serious doubt with that suggestion." She shook her head, sounding amused. "Well, I suppose she might also just want to give you your space."

"Maybe. Lyra made a strong case when we first met Pinkie." Bon Bon grinned despite looking tired. Coffee and being indoors had apparently improved her mood. "So, how're you getting used to life without Berry managing your expenses?"

Landshark crossed her arms and sighed ostentatiously. "Honestly it makes me want to go back in time and buy all those poor guys in logistics and supplies a few rounds of drinks. I was seriously underpaying Berry. It's just not stimulating in any way. At least when you post me somewhere to stand guard, paying attention and waiting for something to happen keeps me engaged by itself. Probably sounds crazy, but there you go."

Bon Bon shook her head. "It's just you and two workers, Shark. You're sounding whiny. Do you have any actual problems performing the tasks to satisfaction when I'm not looking over your shoulder?" It was strange seeing the construct like this. Of course Landshark was unreadable unless she wanted to be, but Bon Bon had really only seen Landshark either happy to be with friends, or, more rarely, mad about princesses. Occasionally she might be melancholy about the past. But this was the first time she seemed to be frustrated with some entirely mundane aspect of life.

"I'm confident that I'm performing the tasks competently in accordance with your instructions, and if questions arise, I will consult you." Landshark lowered her head. "C'mon Bon. I know I'm griping, but you understand a little bit, right? The last ten years I got room and board for free and never really bought anything but gifts for others or things suggested for me by friends. I think I'm doing okay for having to be responsible with money for the first time in my life. Although I think Dinky might be better with money than I am."

"Oh sure," Bon Bon readily agreed. "Doesn't sound too different from government work. Still, get used to it. As your adviser, it is my duty to make sure that there is a certain level of tedium involved with all forms of business, work, rest, and relaxation that you engage in, you know. If you find anything in civilian life to be too easy and hassle free, I might have to report you to Taskmaster Twilight. Now, why don't I finish my coffee and we head to your place, review what we learned about tax season, huh?"

Landshark groaned, but transitioned into a chuckle. "Fine, fine. Slave driver. I should have just built a shack in the Everfree from the start." She shook her head. "Well, I'm lucky I got you mares to set me straight."

Bon Bon finished off her coffee and let out a slow breath. "That hit the spot. And hey, part of soldierin' is complaining about stuff, anyway, you're not beaten down if you can still gripe about something. Besides, if you were a hermit you'd never get started on replenishing your ammunition." She stood up and grinned. "Let's hop to it, then. We got a long day ahead."

"I'd be a laughingstock if I lost my nerve just from managing a tiny little business. This town supports a store called Quills and Sofas. I'm sure I'll be okay selling cutlery and repairing farm tools, or whatever." Landshark rubbed her chin. "Maybe I should get a sofa for the front office, in case somebody wants to wait around for something to be done."

As the two of them left the Hayburger, Landshark remembered another idea. "Oh yeah, I'm going to ask Berry if I can buy some of her old equipment. She'll probably not want to keep the still around, for example, and it'll get her some extra bits while she works on stabilizing her situation."

"Well, I guess you can afford it now that you have lowered expenses, only two sets of wages to pay. And I suppose it's a good cause." Bon Bon yawned. "Just watch those impulse purchases, yeah?" Somepony else might have tried to change Landshark's mind, but Bon Bon thought she might have done the same, as a way to help out the other earth pony without just donating bits. She would have done that, as well, but a lot of ponies seemed to have trouble accepting charity.

"Yeah, and I got a tiny bit of a windfall. Mr. Rich ordered a shield. Decorative, of course. I think he wants a conversation piece or something. The guy can haggle, but I got the longer breath." She paused briefly, staring up at the sky. "No crossed swords to hang behind it, though. Would have cost extra, and I guess people would wonder why he had weapons earth ponies can't use. Still, squeezed a good profit margin out of him."

"Huh. Mr. Rich is pretty alright. I wonder if Pinkie ever thought to throw him a 'Your Daughter Might Not Be a Sociopath After All' party." Bon Bon slowly shook her head. "Nah, too mean-spirited. So what do you want a still for?"

Landshark chuckled quietly before answering. "Well, alcohol has all kinds of uses. Solvent, disinfectant, fuel, offering drinks to guests. Gives me something to pour out for old friend that they wouldn't laugh at, I guess. But those are more excuses than reasons. I guess I just kind of want it because, why not?" She clasped her hands behind her back. "I know you girls aren't real big on the hard stuff, not anymore, but it's something I used to help do back in the day for and with my buddies."

"Fair enough. Everypony needs a hobby, I suppose." She hesitated. "Or a pet. I'm meeting Fluttershy today. She said she found a likely candidate, thinks I should meet him."

"Oh, nice. Want me to tag along? I've been thinking about getting a pet. Some company and a reason to worry about my personal finances, not just the business side."

"Hmm." Bon Bon frowned in thought while she scanned rooftops and street corners out of habit. "I guess it can't hurt? Do animals get along with you?"

"Well, it's not like the birds stop singing when I pass by, you know?" Landshark shrugged. "I've worked alongside dogs once or twice, but working dogs are so well trained, it doesn't really mean anything that they didn't react to me." She hesitated. "I guess we'll see? I can play dead really well so I obviously don't smell like anything edible to carnivores. I doubt animals have some kind of special reaction to me." She let a few moments pass. "Are you sure that question doesn't reveal your underlying bias against synthetic intelligence and their inorganic shells? Should I make cats hiss and dogs howl with my passing?"

"Yeah I don't know, stupid question. You've been at Fluttershy's place before, anyway." Bon Bon shook her head and mumbled. "Didn't mean anything by it, Shark." She yawned again. "Guess maybe I was surprised you'd just drift around instead of working or learning 'cause I thought you'd need to be productive, as a machine. S'just as bad."

Landshark snickered and tried to playfully shove Bon Bon. She had never had much luck shifting an earth pony who wasn't playing along, however. "Nah, I'm not offended, I was just teasing. Seriously though, maybe I should get a dog too. Or something else. Fluttershy sure has a bigger variety of animals than I've known as human pets and service animals." She took on a musing tone. "I like dogs, I think. With proper training they never let you down. That sense of smell is really useful too. If this was a human town we'd be seeing dogs all over the place, and we'd run into people getting up real early to take them for a quick walk. I guess a lot of ponies don't want to keep a carnivore?"

"That's probably it," Bon Bon agreed quietly. "It'll be weird having to buy meat. I don't think you can feed a dog just apples, so I wonder what Applejack's arrangement with her dog is. I assume Fluttershy has some kind of hook-up. She probably wouldn't be too happy if that dog was catching critters she's friends with."

"I haven't the foggiest idea about balanced diets for anyone, but everyone else trusts Fluttershy to do right by animals, so I'd just stick by her advice." Preparing meals wasn't a particular strength for the construct. She would follow instructions well enough, but after years of watching humans eat in cafeterias or subsist on MREs, she still knew nothing of proper nutrition or seasonings. She had no context for the sense of taste, of course, which wasn't a particular hindrance when all you wanted to do was distill alcohol that would strip paint off the wall and get people drunk before nausea made them throw up. It would make a career as a cook seem slightly unusual, however.

By the time the pair arrived at the smithy, it was still dark, as the days had been getting shorter. Still, Landshark assumed the farmers around town would be getting up, or perhaps were already up, to do chores. She began starting a small fire in the forge. It'd be a few hours yet before her workers arrived, but the building had a tendency to get rather chilly over night, she had been told. If she kept it simple and didn't work the bellows, the forge doubled as a reasonable hearth without causing the type of uncomfortable heat one might associate with the smithy during work hours.

Once the fire was going, Bon Bon had dozed off in the middle of the room. Apparently she should have had more than the one coffee. Landshark shook her head and left her there. "Fine, first watch is mine." The whispered comment didn't seem to stir the pony, so the construct just settled down and planned out what she wanted her employees to be doing that day while she accompanied Bon Bon to Fluttershy's place.

They were on the way to Fluttershy's cottage. It was late morning, and Landshark assumed that Bon Bon had been asked to show up after the pegasus finished her morning chores and fed all her animal friends.

"Sorry about that, Shark." Bon Bon kept her eyes low as they walked.

"Bah, you wound me. Like I'd ever ask for an apology, Bon. If anything, I should have woken you up sooner." Landshark had thought she'd do Bon Bon a favor by letting her sleep, but a little under two hours later, she'd decided to wake her friend up with a measured kick to the flank to snap her out of a nightmare. Apparently she hadn't done this in time to prevent Bon Bon, and by extension the coat she had still had draped over her back, from being drenched with cold sweat. Landshark didn't smell it, but Bon Bon felt bad about it. "Besides, I'll take it as praise that you fell asleep so easily at my place."

"Funny how that works," Bon Bon muttered. "It's not the place, it's the po ... person." She shook her head and put on one of her best candy store smiles. "Well, let's try and make it a good day, right?"

"Right you are. I think this is going to pass as a beautiful autumn day. Let's try to enjoy it." The construct started patting down her pockets before producing a much diminished pack of cigarettes and a lighter. "You ever smoke?"

"Not in a long time." Bon Bon grinned despite herself. "Once I retired and after I got my life together I couldn't very well keep telling myself that it was going to be short anyway, right? Would be a pretty shoddy example for my customer base, too." She shook her head. "That's never gonna stop looking surreal, you know."

"Yeah that was a common one, back in the day. Filthy habit, they used to say, but cancer is pretty low on the list of risks for a monster hunter." She paused to consider her next words. "I guess it's a good reminder to not disappoint those folk whose life did turn out real short, Bon. I'm enjoying life for them, too. I swear I'm going to run that smithy as best I can." She pinched out the cigarette after little more than a minute. There was no good reason to stink up Fluttershy's home just for the sake of the construct's nostalgia. That would just get the ornery rabbit on her case.

"As good a motivation as any," Bon Bon agreed evenly. "Better than some, for sure. Now let's see who Fluttershy thinks is going to watch my back in the future."

Fluttershy was in her element, talking to somepony about their potential future pet. She took a sip from the tea she had served for herself and Bon Bon. "So, um, you are able to provide ongoing care and support for a dog, right?" She hesitated. "I mean, not Lyra, but you."

If Bon Bon were to be perfectly honest, she felt nervous. Landshark had excused herself to step outside to see the animals, which Fluttershy certainly had appreciated more than the earth pony had. She comforted herself with the thought that she was better at hiding her anxieties than Fluttershy had ever been. At least on a good day. "Sure," she nodded. "I also know I'm going to have to be the boss and that the dog's safety is my responsibility too. We make enough money to cover expenses as well." She gestured vaguely. "You know, pet ownership stuff. Exercise for the dog, as well. I'll make time."

Fluttershy wasn't sure she had ever spent time alone with Bon Bon - really alone, not just happenstance and business transactions in a candy store that just happened to be empty at the time. There'd always been somepony nearby, it had always been a mostly public space. She still remembered the communal dream most of Ponyville had shared. It had solidified Fluttershy's impression that Bon Bon was at her best when Lyra was nearby. She smiled, remembering the good job the two had done decorating for Cranky and Matilda's wedding.

Now, things seemed different. As soon as Landshark had left, Bon Bon had stopped meeting Fluttershy's eyes, which she naturally didn't mind, but where Fluttershy tended to do it from lack of confidence, Bon Bon kept scanning the room with cool precision. Her ears, too, flicked this way and that, indicating that the earth pony was trying to be aware of everything surrounding her at all times. At least this made it easier for Fluttershy to understand what Lyra and Landshark had meant when they said that a trusted dog might help Bon Bon relax.

The silence was well on its way towards awkwardness. "It's just us two and some of my smaller friends in here, Bon Bon." Fluttershy was perhaps the tiniest bit unhappy that her visitor apparently didn't consider her cottage to be a safe space. It almost seemed like an injustice to the serenity of her home. She wouldn't ever say as much, of course.

Bon Bon looked at Fluttershy briefly, offering a wry smile which didn't quite reach her eyes. Her breathing was slow and measured. Fluttershy briefly pictured the unchanging rhythm of a blacksmith's bellows before the earth pony spoke. "If it was that easy, I wouldn't be sitting here, now would I?" Her nostrils flared. "I don't know your house and I'm not close enough to you to trust the house. That's just the way it is." She looked away again. Her voice held none of the usual cheer she might affect behind the counter of her store, or in public. "Maybe I'm a good actor, but I need help. Just something so I don't need to rely on my friends so much."

Fluttershy was sure she looked hurt, but nodded. "I'm sorry." She gathered her thoughts, then shrank back behind her mane as she prepared the next question. "Do you have ... have problems with uncontrolled anger? That wouldn't work out very well, I think. Sorry."

"No." Bon Bon let out a slow breath before continuing. "I get angry the same as other ponies. I may be a mess, but I'm still a professional. I probably got more of a grip on anger than half your friends do. Or mine, for that matter."

That was probably true, and Fluttershy didn't object. "I'm asking for the sake of the animals, not to hurt you. Sorry." She took another sip of tea. "Even if you don't visibly mark yours as a service dog, sooner or later you'll be identified as a pony with a disability ... and without a visible one, ponies will ask nosy questions. Will you be able to accept that?"

Bon Bon took a slow drink from her own tea. Finally, she nodded. "I won't say it'll be easy, but I'll deal." She sighed and lowered her head. "This is your home, right? It's where you're safe. Where you feel secure."

Fluttershy nodded and motioned for Bon Bon to go on.

The earth pony chewed her lip, still sweeping her gaze across the room. "I don't feel that way anywhere unless I know one of my friends is nearby. Used to be just Lyra." She raised a hoof to forestall comments. "Look, I know it doesn't make sense. I know. But I still sometimes feel so vulnerable." Despite herself, she smiled. It looked real enough to Fluttershy, this time. "Even if it does nothing else, having someone cover my back who doesn't have a life outside of mine will take a huge burden off Lyra. Right now, I'm actually having a great day."

Fluttershy offered her kindest smile and nodded. "I'm happy you're doing well. If you're okay, I'll go get your new friend and tell Landshark to come back in, so you can all get introduced."

Bon Bon just nodded, so Fluttershy left the cottage. When she returned, it was with Landshark in tow, who was carrying a puppy of indeterminate breed. The earth pony didn't know that much about dogs. Fluttershy marveled at Bon Bon's almost immediate transformation. Some tension seemed to leave her body, and the earth pony smiled at the others without immediately looking away again. "Shark, I should just give you a swift kick for running out on me."

Landshark just shrugged, but sounded amused. "You seemed to be having a good day and at least that way Fluttershy saw the way you get 'wound up tighter'n a pig's tail'." She did an acceptable job aping Applejack's manner of speech on the last part, which at least Bon Bon seemed to find amusing. Looking down at the pegasus, the construct went on. "Now, mind telling us about this little guy here?"

"Of course!" Fluttershy spoke with real enthusiasm. "He's a mix, but there's a lot of Labrador in him. They're intelligent and eager to please. As long as we keep at it, I'm sure we can train him just right. Isn't that right, sweetie?"

The little dog barked, presumably an affirmation. Landshark carried him towards Bon Bon, who carefully petted the mutt. Fluttershy continued to talk. "He should be about ten weeks old, it's best to start training them early. But it also means that it will take longer until he's old enough to work. I'm sorry." Even the apology sounded less meek than usual. After all, she was talking about what was best for the animal.

Bon Bon smiled brightly. "It's no big deal, Fluttershy. I figure we'll be seeing plenty of each other in the coming weeks or months. Even slow progress is progress." She directed her smile at the dog. "It's going to be a big job, little guy. I'm sure you're up to it, though."

They exchanged further pleasantries. It was easy to show affection to young dogs, even for Bon Bon, and they seemed to hit it off well enough. Eventually however, their attention turned towards more important matters. During the initial weeks of training, the dog would stay at Fluttershy's cottage, with regular visits from Bon Bon, as well as trips into town for socialization. A proper service dog had to learn to eschew distractions from curious ponies and other animals alike, after all. Fluttershy herself might not exactly be a certified trainer of service dogs, but her friendship with Twilight Sparkle would make it easy to obtain any additional reading material she might desire, and her ability to have meaningful conversations with her charges would be an enormous help.

On the whole, Bon Bon experienced real optimism regarding the coming weeks and months. Even if the end result didn't meet all of their expectations, she was sure that just having a dog she trusted would raise the quality of life for both herself and Lyra. At this point she was probably more worried about having Lyra run the store during Bon Bon's absences, and that wasn't really a fair worry, she thought.

They were getting ready to leave when Landshark turned to Fluttershy with a new question. "I didn't want to change the topic earlier, but I was considering getting a dog myself. I don't really have any special requirements or anything." She paused, considering. "Any dog I'd get would spend a lot of time around Dinky and Pinchy, too. So maybe the dog shouldn't be too tiny? You're the expert. Just let me know if you have a dog that needs a new home, and maybe help me prepare for having a dog."

"Do you mind if I visit your place and see it for myself? I'm curious how you live. Then I can try to catch you up on pet ownership details that everypony grows up knowing but you might have missed." Fluttershy smiled timidly. The construct didn't really seem too alien to her. She generally had an easy time accepting most forms of life. But she would feel a little irresponsible if she gave up one of her friends to Landshark without informing herself more about the way the construct had built her life, and how much Landshark actually knew about caring for pets. It wouldn't do to just make assumptions.

"Of course. Any time during business hours should be alright, or just after closing. Too late in the evening and I might be out with my friends. I guess I'll see ya when I see ya. C'mon Bon, let's make sure Lyra didn't eat all your product." Landshark waved and turned to leave.

"Don't even joke about that. If we didn't need her to mind the store I'd have her do the obedience training along with the dog." The earth pony chuckled. "Nah, she's way more reliable than she makes herself look. Bye Fluttershy, see ya soon."

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