• Published 13th Dec 2011
  • 6,902 Views, 539 Comments

Far From the Tree - Rust



A mysterious pony turned to stone 1000 years ago is revived by the denizens of Ponyville.

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Ironhorse

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


IRONHORSE

Of all the strange things one experiences in life, quite possibly one of the most peculiar may be waking up in an awkward situation. Perhaps with another entity in your bed that you don't even remember meeting. Perhaps you might find yourself in somepony else's bed, and you've no idea where you are or how to get home. Maybe you'll find yourself in your room, but on a completely new bed that you never remember purchasing. Or even, maybe you will be waking up all alone, when you know there was another figure by your side when last you closed your eyes.

Or perhaps, like a certain dark teal earth pony, you'll wake up screaming.

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As Luna's moon fell over the horizon, and its brighter counterpart began the long climb into the blue abyss, a bellowing cry shook the Eternal Tower to its foundations. The racket was so great that it succeeded in frightening off the bolder species of birds that used its roof as a hunting perch. A passing pony would have thought that the noise greatly resembled a mighty Ursa bellowing out in pain and fear. A passing psychologist would have recommended that the pony meet them in their office at once for immediate trauma therapy. A passing filly or colt would probably have wet themselves. A passing Fluttershy would have given Rainbow Dash a run for her money by managing to create Equestria's very first Sonic Flutterboom in her haste to flee. The echoing roar was raw and savage, as if it had come from the deepest of instincts, yet tainted with the pitch of desperation.

Buckshot was sitting bolt upright in his bed, back flat against the wall. He was breathing as if somepony had tied another set of weights around his legs and had him participate in the Running of the Leaves. A bead of sweat descended from his shaking forehead, the moisture cooling against the hot coat as it traveled down to the tip of his nose. His ocean eyes flickered around the bare room, frantically, searching for some kind of danger. When he had determined that there was none to be found, he relaxed and took inventory on himself.

His upper half was tightly wrapped up by some sheets, constricting the motion of his forelegs to a minimum. He duly noted the large, jagged, hoof-shaped chunks in the stone wall to the side of his bed. He'd been kicking in his sleep apparently. Buck took the sheets in his mouth and slowly began unraveling himself, thinking to himself as he craned his neck this way in that due to the lack of his dexterous front appendages.

What the clop was that?

His efforts were rewarded by the significant relief in his left foreleg as it was released from its bonds. Buck continued onto his right leg, still breathing heavily out from his nose as he worked. With the added assistance of his freed hoof, the work went less slowly, but was still hindered by several rather large knots in the blanket.

I can't even remember why I'm so spooked.

He grunted a bit as he wormed his way out of the linen prison. Buck had never been a deep sleeper, always the first to wake if there sounded a bump in the night. He often thrashed and kicked in his sleep, much to the annoyance of his wife, who had, on occasion, sent him to the sofa simply because his nighttime movements had a tendency to get a little violent if he was having nightmares. Buck stuck his back hoof into one of the large indents in the stone wall. A perfect fit. He snorted with frustration. What a way to start the day. Resolving to attempt to reach a few more minutes of slumber, Buck turned to lower the shades; the light in the whitewashed room was almost unbearable for so early in the morning.

With a start, he realized the shades were already drawn, and the blinds were down as well. Almost no light was coming through the window from the outside. Buck eyed the single lamp on the dresser warily prodding it with one hoof. It was off. But where was the light coming from? He rolled out of bed, all thoughts of extra sleep put out of his mind. The last sheet wrapped around his body was pulled off as he stood up, stretching his massive frame like a cat. Abruptly, the intensity of the light in the room increased to an almost painful level, a silvery sheen seemingly coating the air itself.

Oh. You again.

He looked down to his chest, wincing slightly through the glare. The white crescent moon emblazoned into his hide shone brightly. He rubbed his hoof against it, and to his surprise, the mark felt a shade cooler than his surrounding coat. Buckshot noticed with slight worry that the edges of hair bordering the emblem had grown significantly darker in color. He took a few deep breaths and felt himself relax for the first time that day, and as he did so, the moon's glare waned greatly. Buck's eyebrow shot up. The shining light faded to a dull glow, greatly resembling a dying flashlight bulb.

I can control it?

He forced himself to take even slower breaths, regaining his normal relaxed composure. The moon soon stopped glowing altogether, flickering briefly before extinguishing.

Well... That's one way to wake up, I suppose.

Buckshot grabbed one one of the few articles of clothing he owned, a threadbare towel from Sweet Apple Acres, and wrapped it around his bare neck, covering up the mark. He opened the door to his bedroom, only to find Ragdoll standing in the portcullis, a hoof raised as if she had been just about to knock.

"Dobroe utro, comrade." She spoke in her odd, lilting voice, now tinged with concern. "I was coming to check up on you. That sound you make... It not seem good." She shuddered slightly, cat-eyes half closing with the memory. "You are well now, da?"

Buckshot was a little touched by her concern. "Struth, Rags, I'm not sure what happened. Musta been a nightmare or somethin' of the like."

Ragdoll's ear twitched. "As you say. Do you not have a meeting with Obsidian in little bit?"

"Aye, I'm meetin' him by Sugarcube Corner once the sun clears the horizon."

"When you see him, tell him I say hi. Ponimat?"

Buck nodded. "Will do." Ragdoll returned the gesture and padded down the stairs on silent hooves, the tip of her bushy brown tail flicking side to side. Buck proceeded to trot across the circular library room to a door on the opposite side. Rust had shown him this earlier; his own private bathroom. After relieving himself of the usual morning buildup, he fired up a hot shower. While the water heated up, Buck planted his hooves onto the sink and looked in the mirror. The stallion staring back at him gave a slight smile. He laughed.

"Well, g'day ta you too, mate!"

Now unreasonably cheerful despite his rather eventful awakening, Buckshot hopped into the shower. He didn't move at first, simply standing in the hot water as it cascaded down around him. He savored the sensation as it ran off his massive head and splattered onto his powerful shoulders. Buck absentmindedly focused on a particular shower tile as he blew some wet mane out of his eyes. The water was very hot; almost scalding, but the stallion didnt seem to mind. Rather, he reflected on how different things were now.

In his day, running water itself was something of a luxury. His had been one of the first houses to receive it. Buck remembered that day well, as he was the one who'd dug the ground up for the piping to be laid. It had been backbreaking labor, but the reward had been worth it. Fresh, clean water for his family to do whatever they wished with. He smiled as he remembered how thrilled his wife had been once the pipes were running. They had "broken in" the new shower that night. Thoroughly.

Oy! Stop thinkin' bout that! She's dead and gone.

The salt content of the water running down the drain increased briefly. Buck was glad his face was already wet, he never liked how tears felt. Images of his wife flashed in his mind's eye.

No. I can't keep doin' this. She's gone, aye, but that doesn't mean I should forget her. What was it Rust had said? 'Don't mourn them, remember them fondly.'

Upon reaching this resolution, Buckshot let out a snort and began vigorously cleaning himself. The employer of the railyard might be one to judge on appearances, and he was never one to disappoint when somepony was counting on him.

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Obsidian trotted slowly down the road, savoring the cold winter air. He'd been born up north, in the distant mining town of Steelshod, on the other side of the mountain range that made up Equestria's northern border. It wasn't often he got to experience weather like this; the Princesses usually scheduled mild winters with little snowfall. The brisk, chilly morning brought back a mild pang of nostalgia as he remembered his hometown. Obsidian blew a hot jet of steam from his coal-black muzzle. For some reason, there was something satisfying about doing that for him; it reminded him of the mighty blasts of smoke that came from the trains he pulled from time to time.

Obsidian had come down from the mountains roughly a decade ago, after a collapse in the main mineshaft at the Steelshod mine had rendered the facility unable to operate. He'd spent most of his adult life hitched to the small rail carts in the mine, hauling mounds of rubble to the surface. He'd never minded the work, in fact, he enjoyed the physical toll it took on him. It had molded him into the dark mountain of solid muscle he was today. There had been a few times when he'd been ahead of schedule, so instead of finishing up his quota early, he'd simply leaned against the tunnel wall and read a few pages from one of the many books he read.

Sometimes he had been mistaken for the "dumb ox" kind of pony. This could not be farther from the truth. While growing up, Obsidian had been best friends with the daughter of Steelshod's town librarian. He could recall the vast amount of time he'd spent in the library with her, building forts out of books and then slowly destroying them from the inside out by taking out books from the walls they'd made and reading through their fortress of knowledge. Eventually, the forts had collapsed onto the pair, so they'd simply take out another bundle from the shelf to begin anew, giggling all the while. Obsidian had learned much from his childhood friend, and despite his appearance and line of work, was actually quite knowledgeable, provided he was in the mood to show it.

As he turned around the side of Sugarcube Corner, he entered the small square, complete with a small (but frozen) fountain capped with a Seapony figurehead.

"'Bout time ya showed up, I was beginnin' ta think you'd gotten lost in the bush somewhere." Came Buck's oddly accented voice. Obsidian noticed him leaning against Sugarcube Corner, his hat and bandanna seemingly freshly cleaned, the weights around his hind legs practically sparkling. Buck held out a muffin with one hoof. It was steaming warm. "Here. I take it you aren't a morning pony."

Obsidian snorted, but accepted the gift. "Ach, I never liked it. Sorry for the wait, I like to take my time, you know?"

"Aye, I know a lot more about time than you'd think," he said cryptically. Obsidian shrugged. This guy suddenly reminded him of that strange stallion who lived across town in that blue box. He was always going on about time. What was his name again? Doctor... something.

"Come on, then, railyard's this way." Obsidian tossed the muffin into his mouth and headed out of the square, due south. Buckshot joined him on his side, walking slightly behind. The two massive stallions marched together, eventually falling into the same rythym. They said nothing on the way, simply letting the clack of hooves on the cobblestones do the talking for them. After roughly ten minutes or so of trotting, Obsidian hooked a right onto Manesburough Blvd., the road that ran alongside the railroad tracks into town.

Buck noticed the tracks. "What are those, mate?"

Obsidian looked at him blankly. How could a pony not know what railroad tracks were in this day and age? "That's for the trains."

Buck's eyebrow rose, silently asking the question for him. Obsidian continued. "Trains are like big metal carts that run on the tracks instead of the ground. There are often multiple wooden carts attached to the train itself. These smaller carts hold passengers, freight, you name it. These go behind the train as it pulls them."

"So the metal cart is powered somehow?"

Obsidian's ear twitched. "Used to be. The trains used to run on magic, but there was an accident a while back where a train ran into a landslide and nopony could stop it. Nowadays, we use teams of ponies," he slugged Buck on the shoulder. "Like us, to pull it so we can stop the train if need be."

"So what's the metal part for then? Why don't we just pull the wooden carts?"

"That part is used nowadays to give power to the train. It takes in the energy of the rolling wheels as we pull it, and magically converts that energy into power for the train's utilities, like lighting, water, that kind of thing."

The dark teal stallion scratched his head. "Oh. I guess that makes sense."

Obsidian laughed. "Come on, you'll see when we get there!"

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Buckshot stood on the packed gravel of the railyard, his tail hanging limply behind him. His eyes were wide and fixed dead straight ahead, filled with awe and wonder. He turned to Obsidian, who was standing beside him, resisting the urge to laugh at his fellow giant's foal-like wonder. "So... that's a train, mate?"

"One of many." Obsidian trotted up to the object of Buck's amazement and fondly layed a hoof on it. The monstrous metal megalith towered over the two, all shiny wheels and freshly bronzed tubing. The construction was long and shaped like a cylinder, somewhat like a black tube sticking out of a squat box at the rear. The box part had windows in it, so Buck assumed that's where the engineers rode in. There was a line of metal plating lining the side of the tube, painted a bright shining orange with red highlights. The massive black unicorn continued, his voice showing pride. "This here is the Southern Equestrian Engine No. 4449, but we here at the yard like to call her 'The Daylight'."

Buck cautiously approached the engine, sensing the power it could make. "She's beautiful, mate." He reached out a hoof to touch it.

"Hooves off, buddy." Obsidian slapped his hoof away none too gently. "She's my girl. I've pulled The Daylight from here to Elder Mare's Cape, and only me and her crew are even allowed to so much as think about her. You'll probably be assigned to a different engine, one that isn't as critical to the work here at the yard. The Daylight hauls all the important loads, like expensive goods and those snooty rich ponies from Canterlot. Hay, we're even taking Princess Luna to Ponyville in this thing."

"Princess Luna's riding here on this train?"

"Yes, and my crew and I are going to be the ones pulling her," Obsidian said proudly, his already enormous chest puffing out to ridiculous proportions.

Buck chuckled at his friend's inflated ego. "I'm sure she'll appreciate that, mate."

"How would you know? It's not like you've met her or anything," Obsidian gave him an incredulous look, before realizing his error. "Ohhh, right, I forgot... You're a clopping knight!" He laughed heartily. "In that case, I'll take your word for it and spread it on to the others! Now come on, we need to see the forepony about getting you a job here, Sir Buck," he added teasingly.

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Whistler held the her clipboard in front of her with one, mottled grey and white hoof. The forepony of Ponyville Railyard, she'd been working here so long that her original coat color was buried under a permanent smoke stain. Her brown eyes looked down the list as she called out the names printed. "Easy Peasy!" she barked out in a commanding voice. The announced member of the list replied back.

"Here, ma'am!"

She moved down a name, adjusting the train engineer's hat worn on her head unconsciously. "Lickety Split!"

"Present!"

"Runningwind!"

"Present, ma'am."

"South Star!"

There was a muffled scuffling for a few seconds, then the voice rang out. "Right here, ma'am!"

"Obsidian Tempest!"

"Present."

She eyed the dark unicorn carefully. "No slacking off today, you hear me, colt?"

"Yes, ma'am!"

"Good. That's The Daylight taken care of. You five will be taking her out on a tourist run from Stableton around the red line to Pasture. Be there at nine 'o clock." She glared at Obsidian, who innocently pointed to himself as if to say who, me?. "Sharp," she added. The selected ponies trotetd off in the direction of their engine. Whistler was about to turn around to head back to the office when an unfamiliar voice rang out.

"'Scuse me, sheila, but I need to speak with ya."

Whistler eyed the last pony left standing in front of her. He was probably around the size of that giant from Sweet Apple Acres, Big Macintosh. Judging by the hat and bandanna getup, he was probably related to him. The stallion adjusted his hooves nervously, revealing a flash of metal as she caught sight of two weight bands strapped to each of his dark teal hind legs. "What's your name, big guy?"

His voice was heavily accented; it sounded like Austailian to her. "Name's Buck Apple. I'm here lookin' for a job, and I was told you'd be the one ta see for that."

Whistler gave him a once over. He was big, but tipped slightly more toward the lean side on muscle mass, with the exception of his ridiculously strong-looking back legs. Those weights of his must weigh a ton. He held her stare evenly through heavily lidded eyes that gave him a slight look of boredom. She nodded brusquely. "All right. Come with me." She turned around and headed for the freight yard, not bothering to look and see if he had began to follow. The sound of large hooves crunching on gravel confirmed that he had.

After a few minutes, she stopped in front of an old, rusty hopper that was filled with a very dense form of dried out cement. A few worn out looking harnesses dangled from a cross brace welded to one end. The ponies around the yard used it for training, be it for endurance as a group, or individually attempting to move the heavy hopper. Scrawled on the side in blue spray paint, somepony had wittingly written, "Old Mercy". Whistler turned to the giant and motioned to the scrap heap. "You know how to pull, Buck?"

He nodded. "You could say that."

She snorted. He sounded way too cocky for his own good. "See that clump of weeds down the track?" She pointed a smoke-stained hoof at the particular patch of green, roughly a hundred yards down the line. "Move "Old Mercy" here to it, and I'll give you a full time job at one of our engines."

Buck looked at her with a small amount of disbelief in his ocean eyes. "That's it?"

"That's it." Whistler resisted the urge to grin. This was one of her favorite tricks to play on the newbies that showed up here. It took a team of at least four strong ponies to move this bucket of bolts an inch, let alone a hundred yards. Truth be told, she never actually bothered to see how far the potential employees had moved it. She just wanted to see for how long they'd keep at it. An important trait of a train-puller is perseverance. Her ponies often had to travel long distances for even longer periods of time. No quitters allowed.

The dark teal stallion simply shrugged and trotted up to the far end of the car, on the opposite sides of the harnesses. Whistler raised her eyebrows. What was this crazy foal up to? Her questions were answered when an almighty BOOM rang out, seemingly shaking the heavens themselves. "Old Mercy" shot forward like a rusty rocket, somehow accelerating blindingly fast for an object so large and heavy. The old hopper's wheels screeched like nails on a chalkboard as they spun faster for the first time in years. Abruptly, the friction between the wheels and the rail came to a head, and flames shot up from the bearings. As the hopper roared by her, Whistler saw the stallion pressed headfirst against the back end, growling like a diesel engine as he seemingly effortlessly pushed the now-flaming behemoth forward. Farther down the track, she saw his dark teal form suddenly flash out and around the screeching hopper. Another groundshaking BOOM was heard as the car screamed to a halt, coming to a jerking stop right at the clump of weeds.

Whistler blinked. The entire process had taken less than eight seconds.

"Oy! How'd I do?" The stallion's distant cry reached her ears.

Whistler blinked again. The hopper had been weighed once, coming in at roughly ten tons. He had moved it one hundred yards in the blink of an eye. She pinched herself to check if she wasn't dreaming. Nope. She was awake. She looked down at the tracks, which were still smoking heavily from the violent movement of the hopper. She looked back at Buck, who was standing to the side of the hopper off in the distance, waving his hat around cheerfully. Whistler pinched herself again. Still awake. She took a shaky breath collected herself.

After a minute or so she had somewhat regained her gruff exterior. She finally yelled back. "You're hired! Now get your flank in gear, you've got some work to do!"

Author: FYI, I like trains (If that wasn't obvious). Also, the engine I modeled The Daylight on can be found below. This chapter was actually quite the pleasure to write, I had fun expanding on the legendary physical ability that Buck seems to possess.