• Published 14th Oct 2020
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The Mystery Mystic Machine - Some Leech



Anon's no stranger to finding odd and unique treasures in the local junkyard, but he would never have expected to find a prize quite like this...

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One Man’s Trash

With a deep, contented sigh, Anon’s nostrils filled with the unmistakable bouquet of rust, rotted timber, and mildew. Most people and, for that matter, ponies would have probably hated being stuck at a landfill for most of the day, but not him. As far as he was concerned, being a waste technologies specialist had been a damn fine way to meet new creatures, stay active, and find nifty or unique trinkets folks had discarded.

The dump was a treasure trove of goodies, if you weren’t all that picky. Thus far, he’d found: his sofa, several chairs, more books than he could count, and an old racing cart he’d been trying to fix up for months! The gig wasn’t without its downsides, sure, but he didn’t mind it in the slightest - after all, being among things that were unwanted made him feel somewhat at home, since he’d been away from Earth for ages.

“Alright, let’s see what we have today,” he muttered to himself, reaching the gated entrance.

As with many mornings before, he always came in a bit early to peruse the refuse from the day before. Between taking days off and being unable to keep an eye on everyone who was coming or going, it was nearly impossible for him to casually browse everything that came to the waste-yard - as such, he’d give himself a look around before punching in. It may have sounded silly, but he got a certain thrill from walking through the newly deposited heaps of rubbish - in a sense, it almost felt like a treasure hunt.

Part way through his initial round, having wound past various heaps and miniature mountains of discarded goods, his eyes fell onto something altogether unique. His pace quickened, leading him up the small mound of trash and towards the aberration, until he stood before the thing. Nearly as tall as himself, encased within a battered wooden box, was some sort of pony automaton.

In all his years, both in and outside the junkyard, he could honestly say he’d never seen anything quite like it. The structure of the thing was roughly the size of a phone booth, though the top half of it held most of his interest. Surrounded by broken and shattered panes of glass rested a mechanical simulacrum of a unicorn mare.

While it was obvious that she was supposed to be protected to a degree, the broken windows surrounding her had left her open and exposed to the elements. Her exterior was a manila color, yet that may have been discoloration from age, and she bore a few scuffs marks - still, she was remarkably intact.

Her hooves lay neatly placed together before her cold, blank, lifeless eyes. A flowing, brunette mane rolled over her back and shoulders, from under a jade colored turban, wonderfully complemented by a twin pair of oversized golden hoops in her ears. Aesthetics aside, one of the most intriguing things about her were the articulation points about her neck, joints, and jaw. If fully operational, it looked as though she was intended to move about to a substantial degree!

Probably the most confounding thing about the entire contraption was that there was an honest to goodness palm-reading diagram on the front of the machine - not hoof-reading, palm-reading. The strange thing had a little slab with a palm-shaped decal on it, leading Anon to believe it had some sort of practical use! Frankly, the more details he noticed, the more confused he got. Where had she come from? How old was she? Who brought her to the junkyard? Amongst all the questions which bubbled up within him, one burned brighter than the rest - did she work.

Digging into his pocket, like an excited kid at an arcade, the man produced a bit and deposited it into her slot. Straightening up and listening to the coin clatter and tick against the mechanisms inside of her, he held his breath and waited. Sadly, as the seconds ticked fruitlessly by, he realized just how silly he’d been. Nobody would have thrown her out if she was functional.

“Don’t worry, old girl,” he halfheartedly chuckled, patting her frame, “I’ll get you down from here and-”

“H-H-H-H-Hello, weary traveler!” the machine sputtered, it’s eyes going alight. “What mysteries d-d-do you hold for Mistress Fortuna.”

Anon stumbled and fell back, damn near tumbling down the hill of debris. Not only had the automaton talked, but it had moved as well. Her eyes, a pale yellow with crimson pupils, appeared to be miniature screens of some sort. With a noticeable crack running along one of her luminous peepers, she stared down at him and blinked. Pushing himself up, unable to look away from her, he brushed himself off.

Waving him closer, with one jittery foreleg, she smiled at the man. “Come now, there’s no reason to be frightened of o-o-o…” whatever she was about to say was lost, as her power seemed to die. Her eyes went blank, her limbs slackened, and she ground to a halt mid-sentence.

“Piss,” Anon grumbled, stepping over and slapping his hand against her framework. “Hey! Come on…” he groaned, rocking her chassis and even giving it a light kick.

Try as he might, all of his efforts to rouse her failed. Reluctantly turning away, knowing he’d have to get to his post, he frowned. Like it or not, he had a job to do and he’d really rather stay on his boss’ good side. Begrudgingly stomping away and leaving her petrified form atop the hillock, he peeked back at her and reassuringly waved.

“Don’t worry,” he called over his shoulder, “I’ll be back.” As nonsensical as the admission was, he’d felt compelled - after all, he’d only just found her.

Returning to the entrance and sliding the main gate open, he flipped the sign from Closed to Open. With the yard officially open for business, he walked into the toll-house and punched his time card. Besides charging ponies for any deposited loads of junk, it was his job to ensure things were kept relatively organized. The dump recycled or composted nearly everything they got in, unlike the landfills back on earth, and it was up to him to help streamline the process.

One beneficial thing about his post, besides having free range to scavenge as he pleased, was that he was easily able to see waste coming or going from the place; it may have sounded relatively boring, but it allowed him to stake the most choice claims just as they rolled into the joint. Plucking one of the many novels he’d saved from his neatly arranged pile, he flopped into his chair and got comfortable.

Observing ponies haul cartfulls of trash inside, as well as a handful souls who came to rummage around for anything useful, the hours flew by with startling speed. While it wasn’t the most exciting job he could imagine, the relaxation of small talk, reading, or simply watching the steady procession of creatures was enough to see him through the day. Only during the final leg of his shift did something go awry.

Hearing a grunt of exertion, he glanced over his book and noticed an elderly pony wheeling the mechanical mare towards the exit. He’d hoped that nobody would try to ferret her away, yet luck hadn’t been with him. Setting his novel down and heaving himself from his seat, he rushed out to intervene.

“Oh, shucks, I thought they’d already thrown her in the crusher,” Anon grumbled, drawing the wizened unicorn stallion’s attention.

Quirking a brow and looking up at the man, the pony ground to a halt. “If that’s the case, I’m even luckier to have found her when I did! I haven’t seen one of these since I was a colt!”

“I - Uh…” Anon fumbled, desperately trying to think of something - anything to dissuade the senior citizen. Suddenly, in a stroke of genius, he was stricken with an idea that just might work. “She’s got a defective power core!”

The stallion squinted up at him for a moment, before scrunching his snout. “A defect-o-what now?”

“The power supply,” the man continued, praying the pony wouldn’t see through his bullshit. “She’s defective and is a public hazard. I meant to get her off the pile earlier, but I got caught up with paperwork.”

Cautiously backing away from the inactive automaton, the unicorn’s eyes widened. “I...is that right?” he stammered.

Sensing that his charade was working, Anon pressed the attack. “I’m totally serious. The only reason we didn’t chuck it into the compactor was because we were afraid she might explode!” he joked, giving the contraption a light kick - a move which bore unforeseen and rather tumultuous fruit.

Without the slightest bit of warning, the mechanized mare sprang to life in grandiose fashion. “Woe be upon the H-H-H-Heathens! Dark tidings of misery and a foreboding future await any who dare question the cosmic m-m-m-m-m-machinations!!!” she blared, waving her forelegs about.

Between Anon’s warning and the automaton’s abrupt and rather chaotic raving, the old-timer booked it through the gate and out of sight. As amusing as the sight was, the poor pony completely abandoned the wheeled dolly he’d somehow managed to get the clockwork contraption on - moreover, the unexpected turn of events were slightly troubling. Knowing nothing of how the machine was being powered, the man swallowed hard.

As soon as her outburst began, she fell silent and calmly placed her hooves together. Returning to her idle position, as if nothing had happened at all, a soft grinding noise emanated from within her chassis. Before the man could leap for cover, a small paper slip appeared from a tiny slit on the lower half of her frame.

“It appears fortune is in your favor, weary traveler,” she intoned, a heartbeat before deactivating once again.

Waiting a moment, leery of the finicky construct, Anon hesitantly stooped down to retrieve the slip it had produced. Turning the piece of paper over and reading the golden lettering on the opposite side, his bewilderment mounted. There was no prophetic message or grand revelation awaiting him - no, the note only held two cryptic words.

~ Mismatched Socks

Scratching his head in consternation, he was left completely baffled. The thing had freaked out, made a scene, and given him some nonsensical little letter. It was only when he glanced downward, halfheartedly looking to his feet, did he freeze. Peeking out from above his shoes, just below the cuff of his pants, peeked a pair of clashing socks. Slowly rearing back and staring at her, he pursed his lips.

There was a damn slim chance that it had somehow gotten lucky, yet that seemed a nearly inconceivable possibility. He hadn’t even realized he’d inadvertently grabbed and donned the clashing articles, so how in the hell had some defunct and partially operational oracle figured it out. While he couldn’t put his finger on exactly what was going on, the bizarre situation gave him a moment for pause.

“Are you screwing with me…?” he quietly asked, feeling somewhat silly for talking to the semi-animate object.

She mutely sat with her eyes inert, deathly still and tranquil - that was, until the dull whine of cogs cut through the air. A second slip emerged from the small opening on her lower half, yet this was different than the first. The note was brightly colored, folded, and it practically ejected from her to the ground below. Bending over and and picking it up, with his curiosity piqued, Anon gave it a look.

The damn thing had to be messing with him - that or someone had intentionally sabotaged it at some point. The slip was about as far from a divination as you could get, considering it was an expired coupon from Hayburgers. Coincidence or not, the revelation brought a grin to the man’s face and gave him a chuckle.

“Alright, keep your secrets,” he hummed, stuffing the voucher into his pocket, “I’ll stop pestering you for now.”

Turning and retreating back into his booth, he rummaged around in the desk and produced a pen, some scrap paper, and a bit of tape. As much as he would have loved to wheel the peculiar mechanical mare home, it simply wasn’t in the cards. Not only was she perched on a dolly belonging to the pony who’d fled, but he didn’t have a way to feasibly get her to his apartment; with few other options, he did the only reasonable thing he could think of.

Scrawling out a simple message and taping it to her frame, he wrestled her under the awning of the toll-house. While it wasn’t the perfect solution, he hoped that the words ‘Warning! Anon will deal with it!’ would give anyone eyeing her second thoughts. Giving her a final appraisal, making sure she’d be sheltered from the worst of any possible rain, he nodded approvingly to himself.

“Alright, I’ll see you tomorrow,” Anon remarked, leaning into the small, shed-like office and flicking the lights off.

Though he didn’t have work the following day, since the junkyard was closed on Sundays, he had every intention of coming back to tinker around with his newest find. It wasn’t like he had much to do anyways, besides a load or two of laundry and maybe some grocery shopping, so paying her a visit gave him something to look forward to. Patting her frame and strolling towards the gate, he closed up for the evening and saw himself home.

~

Standing outside the employees booth, with his mouth agape, Anon could scarcely believe what he was seeing. Not only had the contraption been removed from the dolly, which rested off to the side, but someone had tampered with his note and scratched out ‘it’ and written ‘HER’ in the empty space below. The two small, previous mysteries paled in comparison to the most fascinating thing - she was powered up and looking blankly into the distance.

No sooner did her eyes flick in the man’s direction than she turned towards him and raised a hoof. “H-H-H-Hello again, traveler! What mysteries d-do you hold for Mistress Fortuna?”

While it took him a second to process everything he was seeing, Anon leveled a finger at her. “Who moved you and changed my note?”

“T’was a draconequus from the heavens,” she sighed, flashing him a grin.

“Bullshit!” Anon blurted. Trudging over and inspecting the ground around her for any sign of hoof, paw, or claw marks, he knit his brow in consternation. “Really though, how’d you get -”

“T’was a draconequus from the heavens,” she repeated, her slightly tinny voice maintaining the exact tone and volume as before. “Jackass…”

The man balked, honestly unsure if he’d imagined or genuinely heard the crass statement. Walking around to squarely face her, he leaned forward, removed the note from her frame, and locked eyes with her. “Did you just call me a jackass?” he inquired.

She sat unmoving, staring through him as if he wasn’t even there. Blinking periodically, with her damaged eye sporadically winking in and out on occasion, she seemed either unwilling or unable to give him an answer. As entertaining as the thought was of Discord paying her a visit, he highly doubted a glitchy automaton was worth a demigod’s attention - then again, the Lord of Chaos was known to interfere with mortals from time to time.

“Well then, if that didn’t work,” Anon began, jamming his hand into his pocket, “how about we try this.”

He’d secretly hoped he could get her up and running again, and he’d come prepared just in case. Since he had to do laundry that morning anyways, he’d made sure to bring a few extra quarter-bits with him to the landfill. As he brought the first coin down to her slot, she leaned forward, reached through the broken pane, and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Fortunes are a quarter-bit, palm-readings a one bit, and for…” she trailed off, eyeing the change in his hand. “Is that five bits?”

Glancing down at his hand and doing a quick tally of his change, Anon frowned. “It’s only four and three-quarter b-”

“For four and three-quarter bits, I shall grant you a great blessing!” she shouted, before seizing to a halt. With a pained sound of grinding gears and strained metal within her, a dull wisp of smoke drifted from her mouth. Fortunately, whatever mechanical mishap came to a swift, leaving her to cough and bat away the exhaust wafting from her hinged jaw. “How about it, traveler?”

Anon wasn’t sure what to think of the offer, although losing his laundry money for the week was none too enticing. “How about three bits for this blessing thing?”

Askance, as if stricken, she held a hoof to her breast. “You would wish to haggle with a mystic such as-”

Holding up his hand and cutting her off, he smoothly leaned against the corner of her booth. “And I’ll clean you off and grease those joints of yours.”

He couldn’t tell if the offer gave her a seizure, a climax, or possibly both, but she violently shuddered and a few sparks jumped from the joint in her neck. Mercifully, her fit was short lived and she quickly shot him a sly smirk. “We have an accord,” she glibly responded, expectantly extending a foreleg.

Grabbing the proffered hoof and giving it a shake, Anon beamed. He had no way of knowing what the latter two services she offered entailed, assuming the first was a note of prescience like he’d gotten before, yet he felt certain they’d be interesting, if nothing else. Feeding the coins into the slot, he shied back and watched her begin to move.

As she lifted her turban over her horn, unveiling a small fractured crystal ball he had no idea was there, she hummed to herself. “Let us see what the future holds,” she mused, setting the little sphere before herself. Theatrically waving her hooves before the orb, hunching over and carefully studying the object, a light flicked on beneath the globe. “A fortune of renown awaits you, unlike any other, and a grand acquaintance shall cross your path…”

Squatting down at peering into the cracked crystal, wondering if she was actually seeing anything within its depths, Anon rubbed his chin. It seemed like a pretty generic prediction - still, at least it wasn’t a bad one. As she plucked the orb from its spot, after the flickering bulb under it dimmed, he got to his feet.

“That’s one out of three, what about the other…” he went quiet, when she pointed downward. Glancing down, noticing that another card had emerged from the slit, the man retrieved the paper, turned it over, and rolled his eyes.

You will pick up this paper…

“Very funny,” he grunted, crumpling the note in his hand. As he looked down at her smug grin, a thought occurred. “Wait,” he huffed, straightening the oracular ticket, “if this the fortune, what was the bit with the crystal ball?”

“That was your blessing,” she snickered, waving at the little slab affixed to the front of her booth.

Pressing his hand against the plate, Anon noticed her eyes go dark. She buzzed and crooned, as the panel softly glowed against his palm. For something that was so beaten up, most of her components seemed to be working relatively well - well, with the exception of the jittering and occasional stutter. Pressing her hooves together, she cleared her throat.

“You are the first creature with a palm I have encountered - please insert more bits,” she flatly declared.

Extraordinarily nonplussed, yet amused all the same, Anon shook his head. “Maybe next time. For now, let’s get those joints lubed up a bit.”

“Wait,” she exclaimed, reaching past the shattered glass of her confines to grab his cuff, “aren’t you going to ask for the meaning of your fortune?”

He shrugged, seeing no harm in hearing what she had to say. “Shoot.”

Whatever was lighting her eyes blazed brightly, as a twisted grin split her snout. “Of predictive ponies and omens true, more secrets I may have for you…”

“That’s not even a fortune! That’s just you wanting to hang around!” he groused.

“Is it?” she rebuked, crossing her hooves over her chest. “Has not everything I’ve offered been true?”

Raising a finger to argue with her, he paused. Somehow or another, she had been correct about everything - even his socks from the day before. Whether she was full of it, a con artist, or just a supremely clever automaton, he couldn’t say - regardless, something told him to keep her around. With her by the toll-house, at least he’d have someone to keep him company on the slower days.

“Alright, fine, you win,” he murmured, trying and failing to keep a straight face. “I guess I’ll keep you around for a little while.”

Even if he hadn’t seen the smug look she gave him, her words positively dripped with pride. “I knew you’d say that…”