The Equestrian Eating Emporium

by Zealous Shift

First published

Michael Schmidt is a new security officer at the Equestrian Eating Emporium, home of the famous animatronic ponies. All he has to do is keep watch over them at night. What's the worst that could happen?

Michael Schmidt is a new security officer at the Equestrian Eating Emporium, home of the famous animatronic ponies. Renowned across the city for family friendly vegetarian food, it's had overwhelming success. Michael just has to watch over the store, make sure that nothing goes wrong after dark. What's the worst that could happen?

It lives.

Crossover with Five Nights at Freddy's. This work of fiction will not strictly follow the story of the game. Things will break off quite heavily from what's expected, and I like to lie a lot, so nothing is really set in stone.
(Thanks to pshyzo on deviantArt for the previous cover image.)
(Thanks to brianxkaren on deviantArt for the current cover image. Note, it's still a work in progress.)
(Also, please give thanks to my dear friend, [or grammar mercenary, if you prefer,] JLB for assisting me in my pursuit for good Engrish! He is also the one that commissioned the new cover image, he's a generous person. I'd recommend checking out some of his work if you have a like of horror / grim things in general.)

Starting Off

View Online

“Hiya kids, my name’s Pinkie Pie!”

“Hi Pinkie Pie!”

Michael Schmidt’s heart warmed at the adorable sight. He had just signed up to be the new nightshift security guard at the Equestrian Eating Emporium. Fifteen dollars an hour, from midnight to six in the morning, and he was set. It was going to be easy too - who in their right minds would try and steal from a children’s restaurant?

“Just sign right here, Mike,” Johnathon Trotter, his employer, said, “Formalities and such, just to know you understand the risks involved.”

Taking the paper in hand, Mike quickly skimmed over the document. It went on for three pages, but most of it seemed like the default notices and clauses for a security job. "You will not hold the company responsible for any break-ins, you will not tamper with the animatronics at night, you will not leave the building under any circumstance unless acting in the interests of the Emporium, etc…" Skipping over the entirety of the second and third pages, Mike signed his name at the bottom. Jonathon’s smile grew larger as he handed it back to him.

“You can familiarize yourself with the store if you want,” Johnathon added, giving him a pat on the back, “Your shift doesn’t start until tonight, but you’d be better off knowing where everything was before it gets dark.”

Nodding, Mike turned around in his seat and looked back to the show.

The Equestrian Eating Emporium, or the EEE for short, despite its intricate workings was quite simplistic in layout. The west wing of the restaurant was the proper Emporium itself, where the children could interact with the pony animatronics and eat. The east wing was filled with kitchens, washrooms and staff facilities. The security office was between the two, a hallway leading to either side. While he probably should’ve been drawing out a mental map of the interconnecting hallways and the camera blind spots, there was still plenty of time in the day for it. He had come in for the job at about four in the afternoon, after all.

“Yes, I have some of the superdeeduperiest best friends in all of Equestria!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed happily, “Would you like to meet one?”

“Yes!” the children cheered in response. There must have been around two dozen of them sitting around the stage area where the Pinkie Pie animatronic usually spoke. That wasn’t even counting the others in the eating area, or their parents. The Emporium was renowned for its family friendly environment.

“That’s great!” she yelled, “because I think I can hear one of them coming!” True to her word, the faint sound of hooves could be heard behind the curtain. It steadily got louder until a familiar orange character leapt out from the crimson veil.

“Howdy everyone!” Applejack waved, a bright smile across her face.

Mike was always fascinated by the animatronics. The EEE was quite popular around the city, but its popularity had never reached beyond that. How they could afford to build such smooth moving animatronics with advanced AI like that was beyond him. The way they moved and acted, one would assume that they were alive. Jonathon had told Michael that his brother worked at a robotics firm and helped develop the six characters. It was an ingenious idea if there ever was one, as practically every visitor was a return customer. They spared no expense in making sure the characters behaved properly and were in the best of conditions. Unfortunately that meant that they had to reserve excess power quite heavily, particularly at night, but the investment was definitely worth the cost.

“Dinner isn’t done cooking yet, but the folks back in the kitchen gave me these!” Applejack called out, taking a tray of apple fritters off of her back, “Who wants one?” The answer was immediate, every child there, even some who were still eating snacks in the dining area, raised their hand for an apple fritter.

“Alright, make way!”

Pinkie Pie continued to speak to the audience, telling a few jokes and asking a couple questions towards the children. At one point, she even allowed a little girl to ride on her back. Applejack meanwhile spent her time trying to give the kids their treat, even handing some out to the parents. Just as she was about to put the tray back, she was nudged by her pink compatriot. Mike was a bit confused, as Pinkie Pie then pointed towards him from the stage while whispering into her ear. A couple of the kids turned to look at him, but their gaze didn’t last that long. The Stetson wearing pony slowly trotted back through the crowd, holding up the tray for him.

“Care for an apple fritter partner?”

“Don’t mind if I do,” Mike responded, taking the last one from the tray.

He expected Applejack to go away after he took the pastry, but she continued to stand there. Bright smile never tarnishing, her green eyes hardly moving. They blinked once or twice, but the pupils never moved. It was a tad uncomfortable, to say the least, but Mike took it as a simple bug. He’d have to call Johnathon over to have a look at her, nothing was ever perfect after all. He finished the apple fritter, wiping his mouth with a napkin from the table.

“Pinkie tells me that you must be the new guy here.”

There was a brief pause as Mike looked down at the orange pony, an awkward smiling spreading across his face. So Applejack wasn’t actually bugged, just didn’t quite have the proper social cues. That much was expected at least.

“Yes, I am,” he returned, “I’m the new security guard.”

“Well shucks, it sure is nice to have a new person workin’ here. To be honest, I'm kind of glad to know that there’s some security round here.”

Mike furrowed his brow, looking more closely at her. The smile she bore was slightly less cheerful, almost forced. What bothered him was that in all the times he had dropped by with his niece, he had never seen one of them mention security. Or anything that wasn’t related to celebrations or food really. To have one of the characters speak about such a thing, and to seemingly change moods because of it, was unusual.

“You think this place needs security?” he asked, a serious look forming on his face. Making sure to keep his voice low, he leaned in closer to hear the response. Even if she was an animatronic, they were programmed to be honest and act in the store's best interest. If they had seen something that they thought was suspicious, chances are it was legitimately suspicious.

“Yeah,” Applejack whispered into his ear, “sometimes at night, I see a pony walkin’ around real hurt. I mean, really hurt, like their leg’s all busted up and stuff. Sometimes their fur’s ripped off. Fluttershy fixes them up the best she can, but I still see one at least once a week.”

“I’ll speak to Mr. Trotter about this,” Mike replied, “For now, you just keep the kids happy, because I think a few of them are looking this way. I’ll make sure no one else gets hurt, alright?”

“Got it sugar cube. I’ll see you ‘round later, Michael.”

Getting up from his seat, he went to go have a word with his boss.

ooo000OOO000ooo

“Getting used to the place?” Johnathon Trotter asked as Michael entered the room. His pleasant demeanour suddenly changed as he noticed Mike’s deep frown. Before he could ask what was wrong, his worker began talking.

“I was just speaking with Applejack,” he declared in a somewhat angry tone, “and she commented on how the animatronics kept on getting damaged. You never told me that there had been regular break-ins.”

Johnathon paused for a moment, trying to think of the proper words to describe the exact situation of the Emporium. Seconds went by without a response, provoking Michael to continually adopt a deeper frown. Sweat formed on the back of his head, until he finally found the right way to explain.

“You are familiar with our characters, right?” The question hung in the air for a moment before Michael nodded in agreement.

“Well, in order to prevent their servos and gears from seizing up we let them ‘roam’ during night time.” The employee’s eyebrow rose up in confusion as he crossed his arms. He didn’t object or say anything, which left Jonathon to continue.

“Usually they stay by the stage, close to where they can recharge, but sometimes they happen to bump into something particularly sharp or rough in the kitchen or around the store. One time, poor Twilight Sparkle found herself outside, and got hit by a truck. We try to keep them well repaired and in good spirits, but they need to have the free roam or else they can’t function properly in the morning. We placed the cameras and hired security guards to make sure that they don’t go running off and getting hurt.”

“Do you expect me to believe that?”

The two men stared at each other, the employer with a look of worry, the employee with indignant anger. Silence had once again fallen upon them and there wasn’t a proper response. Clasping his hands together Jonathon leaned forwards in his desk, sighing heavily. Working his jaw slightly, he began to speak again in a very low, but calm, voice.

“It’s hard to believe, I hardly believe it myself to be honest, but that’s what happens. We did have a break in last week, but our former security officer captured him with the assistance of some of the animatronics. I didn’t release any news about it because if parents knew that they were strong enough to help apprehend a criminal, they wouldn’t want their kids playing with them. The characters are kind, but they don’t realise their own strength. The world needs protection from them as much as they need protection from the world.”

Michael stood there, his face contorting for several moments. He opened his mouth to speak, but didn’t say anything. Turning around, he walked out the left door towards the stage. Thankfully he didn’t slam it, a sign that he wasn’t particularly angry, but it didn’t take a psychiatrist to tell that he was upset. Jonathon could only hope that he decided to stay however. Michael seemed like a good man, and good security officers were in little supply. Most didn’t keep their jobs for very long.

ooo000OOO000ooo

Mike wasn’t quite sure why he decided to stay, but something compelled him to at least go through the first night. There was a set of instructions left on the desk for him to go over. The rest were fairly obvious, but there were two in particular that stood out to him.

First of all was the rule about doors. As a part of the roaming mode that they went into, the animatronics tended to wander. Apparently, closing the doors for long periods of time, thereby closing them off, agitated them. It was a long line of technical nonsense, but basically it boiled down to them starting to run into things inside the area that they were trapped in.
Secondly was the lighting. Due to the amount of money required to successfully keep the animatronics repaired, they had to conserve electricity. The lights had to be turned off in most of the restaurant at night to make sure it balanced out the massive drain during the day. Only one or two could remain on for an extended period of time.

The doors and lights could be controlled automatically through the control panel on the security desk, meaning he wouldn’t actually have to go around the restaurant all night. The security cameras unfortunately did take up a good bit of power, so he’d have to be conservative even in door usage. Unless he wanted to go wandering around in the dark to shut a door with a flashlight that hardly worked, he’d have to just keep an eye on the cameras and keep them clear off going into the kitchen and other ‘risky’ areas too often.

The clock ticked over to midnight, signifying that his shift had just begun. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see a red light flashing to his left. A message was left on the answering machine, but it hadn’t been there before.

The Clock That Strikes Twelve

View Online

Pressing the flashing red button, Mike played the message recorded on the answering machine.

“Hello? Hello! Okay, this thing is working. You may be wondering who I am. Well, that’s not important at the moment, it’s not like I’m legally obligated to keep my name hidden from you by contract or anything. Though, before you del-“

“Stupid prank callers,” Mike muttered, hitting the delete key.

It wasn’t his first job, so he was familiar with the gags that people would try and pull. He still remembered that time he was working at McDonalds and a guy pulled up in the drive-through in a toga and telling him to watch a livestream. Granted, that guy might have been high at the time, but it wasn’t the only time that something weird had happened on the job.

Taking a sip of water from his bottle, Mike began looking at the screen. He could only see one camera at a time unfortunately, but he could switch between them if necessary. By default, it started off looking at the stage. Pinkie Pie and Applejack’s forms could be faintly made out against the dark background, pacing back and forth. The cameras didn’t provide any audio, with the exception of the one in the kitchen, so the conversation that they appeared to be having was a mystery to him.

Mike briefly contemplated going outside to listen in on them. The animatronics, after certain amounts of time, would begin to go over previous conversations that they had had. If one stayed the whole day, he would be able to pick out the pattern. Would the two of them continually utter the same mantra the whole night, stuck in a never ending conversational loop with one another while they walked? Or would their maintenance protocols take priority at night and they would vocally describe the integrity of the restaurant and each other? It was hard to guess, but he was too lazy to get up and find out. If they wandered into the kitchen, he’d be sure to listen in before trying to lead them out.

Idly remembering that there were four other animatronics to keep a watch on, he began cycling through the different cameras. Taking a look at the map of their walking patterns that Johnathon had scribbled out for him, he decided to take a look a Rainbow Dash, who was apparently the one who notoriously ran around the hallways. There was a note on it to be careful when walking the halls, there was a good chance he’d crash into her.

She wasn’t in the Cloudsdale Playpen, and she wasn’t in the kitchen either. The hallway cameras were all clear as well. So where could she have been? Fluttershy had wandered into the stage area with her two other compatriots, but Rainbow Dash and Rarity were nowhere to be seen. Deciding on checking one last time for her in the halls, he noticed something in the western corridor. The bathroom door was gently swaying back and forth, subtly, but still noticeably. The map had said they occasionally wandered into the bathrooms, but that it was a fairly uncommon occurrence.

Last on the checklist was to monitor the Library. The Library was under renovation, closed off to the public, and housed Twilight Sparkle. She never fully recovered from the car crash, hardly ever leaving the specific area that she would wait for the children at. Occasionally she did get up and have a move about, but it was important to keep an eye on her. The Library still had several tools lying around and there was a good chance she could get hurt on one of them. Staff had allegedly attempted to remove her, but she always walked back to the waiting stool. Even after deactivating her and locking her up in the basement, one of the other characters brought her back online.

Switching to the Library Camera, he was treated to a peculiar sight. Twilight Sparkle was lying down, flat on her stomach and assumedly recharging. That much was expected. What he didn’t expect to see was Rainbow Dash in the room with her. Unlike her other compatriots, Rainbow wasn’t aimlessly walking around. She was reading. Reading, specifically, to Twilight. Just like before, he couldn’t hear a sound, but that was definitely what she was doing. A book was lying out right in front of her, and he could even see her flip a page with a hoof. Rainbow looked up from the book towards Twilight Sparkle, nodded as though her purple pal was speaking to her, then went back to reading.

Mike searched through the handbook on animatronic behavior, looking for a specific section. In certain events, if one of the characters was ever predisposed or in for repairs, one of the others would split up its own programming with the other. According to the manual, the only one that was selected to take over for Twilight Sparkle was Rarity, not Rainbow Dash. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, the Library was closed, none of the others went in there during the day. None of them tried to set up a temporary section to replace Twilight, not even the one responsible for covering her. So why was Rainbow Dash in a closed off room, that she knew not to go in to, following a program that she could never receive, to read to another animatronic that wasn’t even online?

Taking a pen out of the small can on the desk, he began to write down small notes on the note book that he had been given.

Problem: Programming Error
Recipient: Rainbow Dash
Specifics: Received and following through with Library protocols

He would’ve gone out there to drag her back inside - there were all the tools there after all - but chances are she would have stayed there the whole night. Mike had brought his niece Clara over to the EEE and Twilight Sparkle read to kids the whole day. She was reading at breakfast, and when he passed by after dinner, she was still reading. Hopefully, Rainbow Dash would just remain there reading to nonexistent kids and he’d have only four animatronics to watch over.

“Speaking of which,” Mike muttered as he started cycling through the cameras again, “where are you, Rarity?”

He doubted that she would have still been in the bathrooms, considering how claustrophobic they were. If the animatronics got agitated from being in small spaces, it would’ve taken all of ten seconds before they would’ve gotten sick of it and went to another room. Then, nearly missing her, he noticed the silhouette of her horn in the western hallway. She appeared to have been walking towards the stage just as he clicked the button to go to the next camera.

Getting up from his chair to go the coffee machine, the sound of steam becoming quite loud, Mike walked to the other side of the room. Grabbing the gifted employee coffee mug off of the table, he began filling up his cup. He felt dead tired and he was only ten minutes into his shift. Ten down, three hundred and fifty to go. Yawning loudly, he blew on the steaming cup before taking a sip. The strong taste of black coffee didn’t sit well with him, but it’d help keep him awake. Grabbing two packets of sugar, he returned to his desk. He’d sleep in tomorrow.

*riiiiiiiiiip*

Pouring the sugar into the mug, he then realised that he didn’t actually have anything to stir it with. Having perhaps not the brightest of ideas, he placed one hand on the top of the mug and then began swirling the cup around. Were anyone to walk in and see what he was doing, he’d look like a complete moron. Fortunately, he was working night shift, so he didn’t have to worry about such a thing.

*riiiiiiiiiiiiiip*

Dumping in the second packet, Mike thought it’d be best to take his chances without scalding his hand. Making sure to go slower as to not burn his hands again, he repeated the process as before. Finally having a good source of both caffeine and sugar, he could drink knowing that he’d pass out in a few hours instead of a few minutes.

Seconds seemed to stretch on into minutes of their own as time slowed to a halt. His eyes burned from having to stare at the computer screen for so long, but he probably should have thought about that before he signed up for the job. Every once in a while, he’d pour a little bit of bottled water into his hands and rub it over his eyes. He wasn’t quite sure if it’d keep them hydrated, but it helped him stay awake.

Time continued to pass on in agonizing slothfulness, eventually compelling Mike to entertain himself. His more childlike instincts took hold as he resorted to the old faithful, spinning around in the computer chair.

After well over half an hour, Michael Schmidt had begun to realize just how terribly boring the life of a security guard could be. The few times he thought he saw something interesting, it was really just a pile of misshapen boxes or a coatrack. For a while, he had even began reading the posters in the halls through the cameras.

“Tomorrow, I’m bringing a deck of cards.”

The Equestrian Eating Emporium, despite all its safety features and marvels of engineering, didn’t have a proper computer. The security console itself was very advanced, but the computer in the room must have been nearly as old as he was, give or take half a decade. Nearly every site he tried was blocked off, the only game on there was a terribly glitched copy of checkers. Even then, he had to turn it off after a while when he remembered that only a certain amount of power could be used during the night. The true nail in the coffin was that his phone had died, so he couldn’t even play anything on that.

Just as Mike was slowing down from his spinning however, he began to take notice of something peculiar. There were two entrances to the security office, one from the west hall, one from the east hall. Both doors had a window sitting next to it, and he could clearly see something standing next to the east door. Immediately slamming his feet on the floor, he quickly flicked on the hallway light to see who the perpetrator was.

There, awkwardly standing on her hind legs, was Fluttershy. Her front hooves were precariously leaning against the wall, keeping her balanced. It would’ve have been so shocking were face not smushed up against the glass so hard it looked like she was trying to phase through it. Unblinkingly, she peered in through the window into the office.

“The Hell?” Mike slowly approached the doorway, waving his hand to get her attention. She seemed to be looking inside, her eyes darting about wildly, but never staying put. Getting right up to the glass, he realised that with the light on behind her, she couldn’t actually see inside with how dark it was. Fluttershy might have been able to see a bit of him, if anything at all.

As he reached to open the door for her, she suddenly turned her head so that her right eye would be staring directly at him. The eye widened to its greatest extent, taking in as much light as it could from the inside. Instinctively freezing on the spot, Mike didn’t move an inch.

Her head twisted around spastically, switch from eye to eye and repeating the process. After what seemed like ages, she dropped back down to all fours. Mike was about to look out the window to see what had provoked such a thing, when the doorknob began jostling violently.

“The fuck is she doing now?” he whispered lowly. Not even a second after it stopped, a loud bang erupted from what sounded like something ramming into the door. There was a big difference between ineffective programming and insane programming. Mike ran back towards his desk, switching to the East Hall camera and looked at what was going on outside. A third kick was dealt to the door, while several other animatronics began moving down towards the hall. He briefly considered tripping the fire alarm and making a run for it, when all of a sudden, it stopped.

Looking back towards the camera, he could see Fluttershy surrounded by Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Applejack. Rarity propped herself up against the window and looked inside, reminding Mike to turn out the hallway lights. It took a brief moment for the camera to adjust to the lack of light, but as the image cleared he could distinctly see the four of them looking directly at the camera. Rainbow Dash draped a wing over her companion and guided her away, leaving Rarity and Applejack alone. Mike could faintly see their lips moving, whatever they were talking about he no longer wished to know.

Whatever had just happened wasn’t right. The animatronics had self defense, assistance and evacuation protocols. No alarm had been triggered and there wasn’t any call of distress. Why one of them would suddenly try to break into the security office was far beyond him to understand. Looking at the phone on the desk, he silently prayed that his boss was a light sleeper.
Walking towards the desk, an errant thought had slowly begun to work into his mind. The activity of one alerted the other three? If there were only five in operation, where was the fifth?

Glass softly clinked from the window in the West Hall. Not turning around, Mike grabbed the phone and sat under the desk in the corner of the room. Out of the corner of his eye, he could still see the analog clock. It had just ticked over to 1:00.

How The Eye Can Lie

View Online

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Michael moaned, still sitting beneath the table.

*thud*

Failing to have his call answered for three times in a row, it was understandable that Michael’s patience was running low. Why bother having an emergency number if there was no one to answer it, or even an answering machine for that matter! An animatronic had just attempted to break into his room and there was another one tapping on the glass from the other side. Something had to have been wrong, because even when crowded during daytime they never tried to forcefully make room for themselves.

*thud*

Then there was what he assumed to be Rarity, or possibly Fluttershy based on the hair, from the West Hall. Michael made sure to stay well out of sight and hearing to make sure he wouldn’t provoke it, but it was hard to remain silent and call one’s boss at the same time. How either of them could have possibly gotten so quickly through the halls to get back to the other side he had no idea. In all honesty however, he didn’t really care.

*thud*

The painful reality of the situation was that he was going to have to stay at work for the night if his boss didn’t show up. There was a rather large fine for deserting the security post during one’s shift, and he doubted calling the police would be beneficial in the slightest. Oh yes, calling for law enforcement to help him deal with animatronic quadrupeds designed for children’s entertainment, that would go swimmingly well.

*thud*

Michael was tempted to open the door, just to see what would happen, but decided against it. Despite their vast intelligence, the animatronics were notoriously childlike when it came to other forms of technology. If ever left nearby a phone or computer, they had almost a compulsive desire to try and investigate it. Some sap once left his phone on, and one of the animatronics accidentally ordered six buckets of chicken wings to the restaurant. How an animatronic knew what chicken wings were when it was, for all intents and purposes, born and raised in a vegetarian restaurant was beyond anyone, even the boss, but it made headlines in the local paper.

*thud*

If only there was a way for him to get it to stop tapping the glass. The animatronic had pounded away on it without relent for what seemed like ages, standing otherwise silently in the West Hall. It had occurred to him that she might have encountered a glitch and gotten locked into a loop, but he wasn’t sure what to do about it in that case. The only protocol for a glitch in their system was to report it to the boss who, again, was not picking up the phone.

*thud*

Waving his arm around the corner of the wall, he couldn't hear any response from the agitated animatronic. Thrashing it around again, making sure to convey several more erratic movements, there once again was no response save the constant thudding. Slamming the phone down after receiving another dial tone, Michael slowly stood up from under the table. If there weren’t any lights on, they couldn’t see him. Granted, his eyes would have probably dried out come the morning hours, but better to remain on the precautious side.

*thud*

He slowly made his way back towards his chair, making a quick glance towards the window every couple steps. The lack of sudden movements helped ease his nerves as he sat down. Taking a swig of the last of his coffee, he immediately spit it back out upon realising how cold it had gotten. It was most likely safe for him to make another batch, but there was always that little fear that the noise would provoke something.

*thud*

Checking the cameras for any more suspicious activity, Michael thankfully found very little. Fluttershy, as well as Rainbow Dash, were recharging behind the stage curtains. There wasn’t a precise time that they would power down, but he was thankful that they chose to do it earlier in the night. That left him only three animatronics to deal with for the rest of the night and a good deal less paranoia.

*thud*

Twilight was still deactivated and thankfully no one was there accompanying her in the Library. Applejack appeared to be patrolling in the intermediate passages between the East and West Halls, but so long as she didn’t start coming back towards the Security Office, Michael really couldn’t care where in the store she was. What puzzled him however, was the location of Pinkie Pie. Rarity was standing outside the door, yet Pinkie Pie was nowhere to be seen. She didn’t appear to be in the washrooms or the kitchen, but there were little areas else that she could have been in.

Cycling through the cameras several times, even listening in through the kitchen audio, he couldn’t find a proper trace of her. He thought that perhaps she would have been standing nearby Rarity and therefore went to check the West Hall camera. What Michael saw however only provoked more confusion from his question riddled mind.

There, standing in the hallway, was Pinkie Pie. Her hair was combed back, a lot smoother than normal, with a slight curl at the end. She blinked as her head rested on a slight tilt, just staring into the camera lens. No movement was made, nor a single sound that Michael could have heard. How she could have possibly known that he was looking through that camera was perplexing, the notion she had been and would continue to stare aimlessly into it was disturbing.

Applejack paced slowly down the hallway, only coming to proper camera view ever so slightly. Her distinct hat would appear just below the blind spot for a moment before turning around, being replaced by her tail. Every once in a while, her head would momentarily look at Pinkie Pie, but she never made a move to intervene like she had before.

His nerves getting the better of him, Michael was eventually compelled to switch to another camera. If he leaned back in his chair, it was still possible to see the top of her head through the window, meaning that he wouldn’t have to participate in the eternal staring contest that she was surely going to win.

With the case of mistaken identity however, that left Rarity still on the loose. Clever little thing, she always seemed to be just out of sight whenever he started looking for her. How a three and a half foot, metal horse managed to be so stealthy, Michael wasn’t quite sure of. The thought occurred to him that she might have found a way to sneak out of the building, but all possible exits were tripped with alarms. If she had opened one of the doors, he would have heard if not seen her.

*thud*

“Again?”

Leaning back in his chair, Michael failed to catch a sight of his pink tormentor. He looked to the West Hall camera, to see that she was in fact leaving, her tail just trailing out of sight as she turned around the corner. On the ground though, he could see something just before the door. A small envelop sat idly there. His curiosity getting the better of him, he just had to know what the letter entailed.

Michael stood up from his chair and approached the doorway. Clicking the button, he waited a moment for it to slide out of the way. Even in the darkness of the hallway, it was still fairly easy to see the envelope. Aside from the pink colouration, a large glow-in-the-dark sticker of a cupcake kept it closed on the back. Just as he was scooping it up off of the floor, Michael heard the all too familiar sound of hooves clopping.

Looking on down the hallway, he could see two emerald eyes shimmering in the darkness. Applejack stood at the end of the hallway, squinting to see him properly. She took a few steps closer towards him, but froze up as he stood back up at full height.

“Pinkie Pie, is that you?”

There was a silent pause, Mike taking a moment to respond. Applejack had already trotted nearly halfway down the hallway in that moment, but it did little to improve her eyesight.

“It’s me, Michael. The security guard.”

Another pause filled the hallway the two staring at each other with conflicting emotions. Applejack didn’t move any further forward and didn’t budge an inch backwards. Mike had expected some kind of follow up response, or for her to walk away, but not to just freeze up like that. She had seemed quite sociable before, why the sudden silence?

“Oh, Michael.”

It wasn’t so much of a realization as it was a plain statement. The silence returned, leaving an awkward sensation running through Mike’s mind.

“Thanks for the letter…”

With Michael slowly retracting back into the office, Applejack made no move to follow him. Just before he hit the button to close the door, he could see her nod and turn away down the hall. Removing the sticker and opening the envelope, Michael began to read the message that had been left for him.

Dear Michael Schmidt,
or would it be Mike? Can I call you Mikey?
Dear Mister Schmidt, (for now,)
Twilight tells me that some ponies and people like having personal space. I’m not one of those ponies, or a person for that matter, but I know that she knows a lot about being all private and stuff. So, just in case you’re one of those kinds of people, here’s your very own welcome card!

A large smiley face was drawn in the centre of the card, along with an assortment of crudely drawn balloons and confetti. It was cute, like something that a child would have drawn.

I couldn’t seem to find you, but Rarity told me that this is the security room so I left the card here for you. I hope you find it before your shift ends.
Anyways, welcome to the Triple E! This place is the greatest!
-Signed,
Pinkamena Diane Pie (everypony/one calls me Pinkie Pie though)

Feeling a warm sensation spread out across his chest, Michael sat the card down atop of his desk. He wasn’t quite sure where she got the construction paper, the red ink, the envelope or even a pair of opposable thumbs to hold a pen properly, but he didn’t quite care about those things. It was a sweet gesture if he had ever seen one and he was going to take it as that.

It had only occurred to him on the way to brew another cup of coffee to ask Applejack where Rarity had scampered off to. After spending nearly two hours on the job, he had only seen her thrice. Even then, they were just glimpses of her walking out of shot or moving into another section of the building. Michael wasn’t quite sure if it was possible to get them to edit their own programming, but he’d be sure to ask her in the morning if she’d stay around the stage for a bit after dark. It was almost infuriating as to how little he could actually find of her.

Taking a large gulp of coffee, without adding in the sugar, he made his way back to the console. The West Hall was still empty, as was the East Hall-thankfully. Thinking about things rationally, he realized that he might have jumped the gun on the whole thing. They were three and a half feet tall and could barely squeeze down a hall two at a time. If something was really wrong with them, they would have already done something.

Cycling through the camera channels, Michael saw that the majority of animatronics were powered down. Rarity still pervaded his sight, but she’d power off eventually. Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash were all offline for a couple hours and it was looking to be an easy night. Applejack was wandering towards the East Hall, but it was no cause for concern so long as she stayed relatively clear of the kitchen. And Twilight? Twilight was… gone.

The clock had only struck two.

White Form and Black Horizons

View Online

Rarity slowly strolled through the darkened halls, humming lowly to herself. Light from her horn danced along the dimmed streamers and through the empty corridors. During daylight hours it was so crowded in the Emporium she could barely even move around, so it was quite the calming experience to know that she had the whole Emporium to herself at night. Granted, the scenery would become rather drab after walking through the halls so many times, the lack of natural lighting being quite bothersome as well, but she made do. She never quite understood why they were not allowed to go outside - from what the children described to her, the human world was so big. So many foods to eat, places to explore, things to learn. Rarity briefly considered that Twilight’s quest to experience such things was what got her injured in the first place, instigating the ban.

Continuing onwards she waved hello to Applejack, who in turn waved back from the end of the hall. The two of them had a habit of running into each other at night, spawned from their near obsessive need to pace through the area. While Rarity did long for the privacy that the darkness would give her, she always felt better knowing the Applejack was somewhere close by. Around the Emporium, things had a habit of going bump in the night.

Noticing yet another camera, Rarity immediately turned back around. The nerve of some ponies… people… thinking that they could just pop in and get a sneak peek at them whenever they wanted. Locking the doors and dimming the lights was never enough, they had to keep a security detail breathing down their necks every other minute. While she was a great lover of attention, a self-admitted flaw, Rarity was never comfortable with the idea of being watched without warning, especially so if she was asleep.

Trying to dismiss such thoughts Rarity began to walk towards the Arts and Crafts Boutique. Thinking about the security put in place to monitor them had always set off her temper, as unladylike as it was. The guards, when she spoke to them, seemed nice enough, but she knew first hoof that they didn’t always stay that way.

Entering her personal room, The Boutique, Rarity felt a sense of serenity overcoming her. Although she didn’t get as much attention as Pinkie Pie or Rainbow Dash, there were always groups of children coming to visit her. So long as they were happy, so was she.

Paintings, drawings and posters adorned the room like room like wallpaper, while stains of glitter and glue were stuck into the carpet. Ironically enough, the majority of the messes weren’t even made by the children. Human mothers were quite uptight about messes, as she had come to observe, and had often helped her clean up when the children ran off to eat. The majority of stains, glitter-ridden carpets and permanent marker drawings were from the Cutie Mark Crusaders playing with whatever was left.

Shaking her head, Rarity adopted a small smile at the thought of the three rambunctious fillies. If it wasn’t running around the playpen and ball pit, it was working on another ‘art’ project. She briefly wondered if they were resting in the basement or if they had tried sneaking out through the air ducts again. Hopefully Spike would keep them in line long enough for her to walk back to the basement and check up on them. Funny how the one place they should have put a camera was the one where a camera was absent.

As though mere thought was cause for summons, Rarity became distracted by an all too familiar beeping sound. The Boutique Camera had sprung to life, staring intently at her. Temper boiling, the thought of smashing the infernal device had crept into her mind. Out of all the rooms to place such a thing, why hers? The windows were hardly big enough to fit a child in through, let alone a full sized human. All of the entrances were linked to the main hallways, so it wasn’t as though it were a safety concern. What moronic reason could there have possibly been to put a camera in her room if not to spite her?

Slowly pacing towards the camera, she smirked as it strained to look down. Almost standing right under it she threw a glue-soaked towel over the lens, covering it completely. Rarity almost thought the sound of the beeping as frantic, if such an emotion could be expressed through a camera, as it shook from side to side and up and down. Perhaps her sister’s shenanigans weren’t as bad as she had first thought if they could get a towel stuck on the cameras. While she would have taken immensely greater pleasure in smashing it, a small part of her still remembered that the devices, regardless of how annoying, cost a good deal of money to Mr. Trotter.

Her anger slowly cooling down, Rarity moved off to the side of the room to look at some more of the pictures. Although not expertly drawn, she considered each one to be beautiful in their own regard. The emotion put into them had always helped her deal with the relatively confined spaces of the Emporium. Even if she couldn’t leave, Rarity knew that the children cared for her and her friends very much. Turning around to the sound of hoofsteps, she was surprised to see the face of her particularly reclusive friend.

“Twilight, darling, whatever are you doing up at such an hour?”

“I thought it was time for me to get moving again,” Twilight Sparkle returned sheepishly, “I’ve been cooped up in there for far too long.”

“Indeed you have,” Rarity nodded, moving closer to her friend, “but if you’re still not comfortable out here, we’ll all understand if you want another day to yourself.”

“No, no,” Twilight shook her head, “I’m alright. I’m more than ready to get to work again. Anyways,” she shuffled slightly, trying quite hard to transfer into a different topic, “is there anything new going on in the Emporium?”

“Well, we have a new ‘guard’ working with us.”

“Another? How many times are they going to replace that one position?”

“We’ve gone through four since your… incident… I have no idea why they keep hiring them. I haven’t even seen the last three, but supposedly new ones just keep popping up. The newer ones are even worse at their jobs than the last ones…”

Twilight nodded in agreement. Although human children were always a pleasure to have around, their adults were particularly bothersome at the most inopportune times. The guards that worked at the Emporium were known amongst the staff as being notoriously lazy. While their failures allowed them to move about more freely, their incompetence left most of the work, and blame, towards Rarity, Twilight and Applejack. If anything, they were more in control and responsible than any guard.

“I know how annoying they can be,” Twilight replied, draping a wing over her angered friend, “The camera in the Library has been going on and off for the past two hours.”

“-How rude!-“

“But I wouldn’t be too concerned about them. If you’d like, I could go and talk to the new one later.”

“I’d appreciate that greatly, Twilight.”

“Alright, I’d really love to chat, but there are a couple things that I need to do before the Emporium opens and I really should be getting to them. Repairs to make, things to do, the usual.”

“I’ll be sure to check up on you then,” Rarity chuckled as Twilight moved back towards the door, “I wouldn’t want you to run yourself ragged again.”

As the two said their final goodbyes to each other, Rarity was left alone in the darkness. The small light from her horn, still partially illuminating the room, flickered as she turned back towards the camera. A beaming grin wormed its way onto her face as an idea sprang to life inside her mind.

Revitalization

View Online

Cupping his face in his hands, Michael slumped forward in his chair. He cursed under his breath while opening his fingers enough to look at the screen. As though to rub further salt into the wound, he could faintly see the impression that she had formed from sitting on the carpeted area for so long. Twilight Sparkle, the first animatronic the Emporium had ever made and perhaps the most expensive out of all of them, had, of course, decided on reactivating herself.

The animatronics were never supposed to ever truly be ‘offline’, merely conserving power. There was an override switch to completely disable them, but so long as there was one online it would attempt to revive the others. Nothing had ever prevented her from moving outside of her room before, but the fact that she had suddenly sprung back to life while the others were exhibiting malfunctions was concerning. If Twilight Sparkle was at all damaged by the others, or happened to further injure herself… it wouldn’t be pretty.

He was still assured that had anything happened, he would not be explicitly blamed.. Even if he wasn’t looking through that particular camera at the time, everything was being recorded regardless. All he had to do was make a proper report in the morning and until then, keep watch on the rest of them. Besides, knowing his luck, if he went out to try and keep her contained there would probably be an actual robbery.

It was for times just like this that Michael was grateful for the invention of the coffee machine. Returning to the table at the back of the room, he took the strongest coffee he could find and turned on the machine.

There was unfortunate timing, there was also the odd misfortunate coincidence or two. Then… then there was the situation that he was currently in. If the unpredictability of the animatronics and their erratic behavior was part of the shift every night, it was not that hard to guess just why no one was in a rush for the job application.

Perhaps, he thought, the night was getting the better of him. He hadn’t had much time to rest back at the apartment, so it was likely that his nerves were getting the better of him. Caffeine and sleep deprivation had led to an embarrassingly long list of overreactions and poorly thought out plans. All he had to do was remain calm. The only concern he had was his inability to contact his boss, an issue that would be rectified when the store opened again in a few hours. Twilight Sparkle was a problem - for a mechanic, not a security guard. Cup of freshly brewed coffee in hand and a mantra of disassociation from several potential crises in head, Michael retook his seat.

Taking a deep breath, his gaze slowly returned to the pulsating, blue-tinted screen. The library was still empty - of course it was - but she couldn’t have gone too far. For one, if memory served, a large portion of one of her legs had been removed due to extensive damage. For another, they didn’t tend to go for the full tour. If there was anything he could have gathered from staring at them for the past couple hours, it was that, sans the stage, they all stuck to their own little area to patrol. While there wasn’t any indication of what Twilight Sparkle’s patrol route was, it was effectively assured she would eventually return to the library.

Cycling through the cameras, he was relieved to see that the two pegasi were still recharging. The universe wasn’t as cruel as he had suspected. Applejack was similarly where she had last been found, wandering back and forth through the intermediary hallways. In an odd way she was acting like a secondary security guard, she seemed to arc around through the building and would eventually end up on either side of his room. Predictable, at least. That still left Rarity, Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle, wherever they had scampered off to.

While circling through the camera channels, Michael almost didn’t notice the blob of white that had just started to wander into view in Hallway 7. Were it not for how she had been taunting him for the past two hours, he would probably have been certain that in his caffeinated state he probably would’ve missed her wandering past.

Referring to the map of the store located on the wall, there were only two doors in that corridor, the entrance to the locked off basement, and the way into the boutique. Switching over to the camera within the boutique, he waited patiently for her to arrive. It was her personal room, after all - she would’ve had to enter. Unless Rarity had decided on turning around just before the door, which was a legitimate possibility with how poorly the rest were behaving, she’d have to enter.

Sure enough, the pale form of the automaton trotted into the room. Her horn having the ability to light up, a faint glow stretched out towards the walls. Rather useful for the nightlife she had, but it was most likely to show off for the children. While the nagging reminder that he should’ve been checking the store’s entrances and ensuring that Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle had not gotten themselves into trouble, Michael hesitated on changing cameras. For two hours, he had barely seen hide nor hair of her, he wasn’t about to wander back around the restaurant without some idea of where she was. According to the manual, she had a habit of ‘inspecting’ the rooms, going through them to ensure tidiness. Might have explained why she was never in the halls - probably inspecting the blind spots that he couldn’t quite see. If he could find the pattern to her seemingly erratic movements, the rest of the job might not be so painful.

What had started off as a simple plan of observation had turned into a new source of new questions. When the manual said that Rarity inspected the rooms, Michael had presumed that meant she would have wandered along the edges of the walls, perhaps rearranged some things, and then went on her way to the next one. Instead, he saw the animatronic unicorn stare unflinchingly at the wall. She seemed almost… nostalgic for it, decorated by dozens, perhaps hundreds, of drawings and paper cut outs.

From what Michael could see through the screen, the drawings seemed to be of Emporium characters - there were a few that he didn’t quite recognize however. One that looked a fair bit like Rarity, a dark grey one that was somewhat similar to Twilight Sparkle, a pegasus in what appeared to be a black uniform, what looked like some kind of dragon, possibly a lizard, and others. While he was familiar that the characters had originated from some old toy line, he was unaware that it was so diverse. It was odd, he would’ve suspected that he’d have heard some kind of reference to the others then if there were drawings of them on the wall. Then again, there was probably a reason for that. There had been rumours they were setting up a new Emporium out of state. Probably for the better, Wyoming didn’t typically have a large customer base.

Looking to the top of the screen, he had found that Rarity had been staring at the wall for six minutes straight. Unblinkingly. Considering that perhaps there had been a problem with the camera, he tapped a few keys on the security console. The image rotated slightly to the right, slowly revealing more pictures as it jittered along. The camera, while a bit slow to start moving, wasn’t the one that had frozen up. As though a summons for new life, Rarity had instinctually turned towards the lens. Between their desire for direct eye contact and their ability to go on without blinking, it was a tad bit unsettling to have them peer right into the glass. She began to walk down, breaking eye contact with the camera as she strutted along the wall. Hitting the button on the console to have the camera turn down, he saw her mange to keep just ahead of it before escaping into the blind spot. Whatever it was that had caught her interest, it must’ve been right beneath the camera.

Positioning the camera over to the left, he was still able to watch her walk out the door. At that point, he was expecting her to do something like tha-

“What the fuck?..”

Mid turn, the screen had gone pitch black. Tapping several keys on the console to garner any kind of reaction, he became increasingly distraught as there was no visible effect. He couldn’t tell if the camera was offline, or damaged, but he couldn’t see a thing. Sure enough, all the other cameras nearby still responded just fine, but, of course, the one in the boutique was the one to suddenly break while in use. He doubted heavily that Rarity, a three and a half foot tall robot with hooves, could’ve possibly found a way to break it.

The thought had occurred to him - he hadn't actually made any of the other cameras pivot in spot. The security system was rather dated, given how much money the animatronics and electricity cost, so he might have accidentally pulled a wire loose. Again, a problem for the mechanics, not him. The boutique was secure, there was no possible way an animatronic or person could get in or through such small windows, and there was still a camera in the hallway.

Switching over to the camera at the end of the hall, he could see the faint outline of Rarity standing in front of the doorway. To her side was Twilight Sparkle. Zooming in - a function that still thankfully worked - he could see the extent of the damage. Before, when she was sitting down, he couldn’t see the supposedly botched leg. Seeing as how her hind leg was reduced to the mechanical equivalent of a broken bone sticking out of her thigh. Perhaps it was the added weight of the wings, but she seemed to balance awfully well for what would’ve crippled any living thing. The two appeared to be talking, if that was the correct word to describe it. It was hard to tell from that angle, as both of their faces were obscured, one from positioning and the other by hair.

Twilight Sparkle draped a wing over Rarity, a move that seemed oddly out of place. On occasion the winged ones had replicated the gesture when taking pictures with children –mimicking an avian sign of affection- but to see it done with each other… Artificial intelligence had come a long way over the years, he had seen some of the wonders that it had performed when he visited California, but it was still baffling to see animatronics like them act this way. To be ‘emotional’, even with each other. Perhaps it was because he was sitting in a middle of nowhere town in the north-west, but technology still managed to baffle him even with all that he had seen.

Twilight Sparkle departed down the hall, Rarity lurked back behind the doorway and out of sight. This brought him to a brief conflict in deciding which one was more important to keep a track of. Given the former’s limp and small twitch, it wasn’t that hard a decision to make. Slowly trailing her with the cameras, he took notice of how erratically she switched directions. There wasn’t a slow rotation, just a sharp, ninety degree turn. It was during these turns that he saw the dents coming from her left side. Given how she was supposedly hit by a truck, he was surprised to see her in such good condition.

Michael continued to track her progress through the cameras, quickly jotting down her progress with a pen and napkin. If her patrol path happened to overlap with Rarity’s, he wouldn’t have to worry as much with monitoring them. She was briefly stopped by Applejack near the centre of the restaurant. The two spoke – he could see their jaws moving – for a minute or so before Twilight departed. It was hard to tell what exactly they were saying to each other, lip synching was slightly off and their body language was still quire rudimentary. Applejack at least seemed to be happy, for lack of a better word.

Switching over to the next hallway, Twilight Sparkle stopped before a large window, peering inside. Before he could question what had interested her enough to give her pause, he was addressed by a somewhat distorted, clipping, voice.

“What are you doing?”

Maybe, Mike realized, that was his window.

It was only a couple minutes past three.

Derailment

View Online

“What are you doing?”

Wheeling around in his chair, Mike could see the shape of the animatronic standing before the window. The silhouette of Twilight Sparkle hung outside the window, remaining completely still. Errant twitches of an ear or the whole head were all that went against her inanimate nature. She made no move to enter or otherwise bother him as Fluttershy had, but was clearly trying to peer into the office.

“Currently,” she stated, a low crackle seeping its way into her voice.

“I-uh… pardon?”

A sudden crack and a drop in lighting signified the power taking an unexpected hit. Mike jerked in place, staring for a second at the now flickering lightbulb, the control console and cameras taking some time to display their designated info correctly. In the time it took him to curse at the power surge, Twilight Sparkle had moved a lot closer to the window, her purple snout pressed against the glass securing the front of the office.

Up close, the damage became greatly more apparent. Small bumps and ridges covered half of her body, hardly noticeable, but still enough to look unnerving. She smiled, albeit with a tooth or two knocked out of place. From the looks of things, some repairs had been made, but it was quite obvious that there was still much to be done. Given all the hardware that went into the animatronics, it would’ve taken nothing less than a small fortune to get her into pristine condition again. It did not look like she would be performing during daytime anytime soon.

“What are you doing, c-currently?” Twilight Sparkle inquired, remaining otherwise motionless on her side of the glass. Another errant flash saw the lights go out for just a split second.

“My... job?..” Mike responded slowly, tapping a button on the control console before approaching the bulletproof glass.

A yellow, clearly outdated bulb shone on the robot, coloring her a rusty yellow and casting shadows on her face. It was… unusual to have the animatronics address him directly, at least with questions. Given how often his niece wanted to be taken out to the Emporium, he knew that it took a fair bit of effort to coerce the animatronics into a one on one conversation. Usually, they’d only speak to groups of three and up.

“Andwhat is it t-*zzzzzzzzzzzzzzt*t you do?”

For a brief moment she had sounded as though she had ‘crashed’, the sudden burst of noise startling him. A few of her words were caught in lag, slurring them together. Despite the apparent corruption, she made no effort to correct or repeat herself. Seconds passing by, Mike was prompted to respond by the tapping of her hoof against the glass.

He looked at her with a confused glance, turning into a glare afterwards. Perhaps, it was just the nerves, but he did not feel like talking to the barely functional animatronic that really should have been in her library.

“Work,” he said back, hoping that the simple answer would satisfy the animatronic. It was most likely just trying to show interaction ability, despite it being night-time. If she wanted to talk to him, she would want to do that during daytime. He had other things to du than entertain a broken animatronic - keeping track of other animatronics that would rough his office up if they ever wandered in, for example.

“Work is a wi- wi- wi- wide concept,” Twilight replied without a blink of an eye.

The thought that he would have been stuck in a drawn out conversation for the next several minutes was becoming less and less attractive. Something seemed off about the broken robot - and beyond that, the Fluttershy one, banging on his glass earlier, did not make him feel any easier about letting his guard down. It did seem like he was wasting time away when he stared into the screen, trying to catch the ponies move through the building, but having to talk to one… He didn’t mind them much during daytime - now, though, he felt a lot less comfortable talking to a colorful pony. And that pony, with her twitching, strangely sparking eyes, her strange questions, and her being generally broken, did not make him feel any better when she leaned against his front window.

“Twilight,” Mike addressed the animatronic by name, “I’m busy, and you should go lie down somewhere.”

“Still, I have to talk to you about something. But you shouldn’t worry. I’m al-al-al-alright, Mike” Twilight answered with a significant low in the pitch of her voice.

Readjusting herself, the robot began to put more weight onto its front legs as it attempted to speak to him on a more eye-to-eye level. It leaned heavily on the glass, no doubt compensating for the busted leg that it was attempting to stand on. Its mouth started to open, only to close immediately after, jerking back and forth a few times, while its eyes remained unblinking. For a short moment, a few sparks choked out of its horn.

*zzzzzzzzziittttttt*

The lights and power took another dip, flickering for a bit longer now, as the pony shook her head and attempted to flick her ears in a “cute” manner. It no longer looked so cute when her front hooves were pressed against the glass, and her eyes stared unblinkingly right at him. Mike knew that was bad - and then he realized that she just adressed him by name.

Twilight Sparkle had spent a long time deactivated. At best, she had spoken to Rarity, who was primarily a sneaky recluse. Sure, the others knew what his name was, but this one had been in the robotic equivalent of a coma for that time - her state was described to him as barely functional. Were they advanced to that point, was their communication on a level beyond being performance partners? Were they all connected to an employee database? If so, how did the broken one know? That called for the notebook, and he slowly reached for a pen to start writing down the character’s abnormal activities. No emergency phone line. What a joke.

“How do you know my name?” he asked carefully, slowly sliding back in his chair as the robot refused to stop staring his way.

“I just do,” the pony replied, taking another jerk to the side and almost falling over, causing Michael to think of what would happen to him if an animatronic got hurt during the night. That got worse when he realized that even as she almost fell, her artificial irises remained glued to him. “Is there something wrong?”

“Wait, wait… I asked “how”. How do you know my name? Haven’t you been—” he thought for a second, wondering if it was a good idea to tell the robot that it was broken and was kept inactive most of the time, “—away for some time? I have never told it to you, and how did the others...”

The lights, both above her and himself, darkened before returning to full strength a few seconds later. Many of the lights in the Emporium were old and tinted - they were in need of a good replacement. Mike was starting to realize that rather intensely.

“Why would I be away? This is my *qwwrrrrrk* my *qwwrrrrrk* my *qwwrrrrrk* my *qwwrrrrrk*—” Twilight Sparkle’s incoherent voice got stuck in a loop, and her eyes finally left Mike. They did so only to roll back into her head, leaving him with the back of the eyeball hardware to look at - and before he could start worrying if this was her crashing for good, blackness consumed the office with a low, dying hum.

He breathed heavily for a moment, realizing that this was worse than the previous times. The power was steady for a few hours, but just for inconvenience’s sake, it started to jump as soon as the horned robot approached him - and now it just up and died. A fluttering feeling manifested in his stomach, almost sent exploding outwards when two loud bangs sounded from each side of his. The doors closed down automatically, he realized.

“Oh, thank Chr—”

“—my *qwwrrrrrk* my *qwwrrrrrk* my *qwwrrrrrk* my *qwwrrrrrk* home, andIneedtoask...” Twilight Sparkle came back to life in the darkness. Her eyes lit up again, the only source of light in that part of the Emporium.

They sparkled bright, vibrant, unnatural green.

“What the fuck?..”

Mike stared at the previously artificial, life-simulating eyes. What he saw in them now told him that this first night was going to be his last. He was already losing his mind. Screw the fine, screw the phone line, screw the notebook.

Twilight’s irises were not just green and sparking - the diodes, or whatever, that composed the eyeballs had lit up selectively to simulate capillaries. The robot had bloodshot, poison green eyes. They jerked side to side, out of focus with one another, and by how they moved it was clear that her head was shaking as if being electrocuted.

“This is our home. We want to know what you are doing in o-o-our home,” she spoke with difficulty, both glitching up, rising and lowering in tone, but also sounding as if it took her great effort to speak. Maybe, that, or maybe, looking at how the emotion-simulating snout curled in a pained, almost horrified scowl, it was an effort not to speak.

“Oh, fuck this…” he whispered, getting out of his seat on wobbly legs, and scrambling for something heavy, struggling to remember how the security override for the doors worked - if there was one at all. If this was going to happen every night, being stuck in a building with a corrupt animatronic that would stare at him for Hell knows how long, then he had something to say about that. The rest, who sent him letters and thumped on the glass, were bad enough, this was ten times above his pay grade. The required service time agreement kind of didn’t seem so important when he had two unnerving green eyes to accompany him in pitch darkness.

“Why are you s-s-s-so rude? I don’t understand,” Twilight’s voice came out of her voicebox, jumbled and trying its best to sound genuinely confused and worried.

“Fuck… all… this…” he whispered to himself, eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness, and trying to grab something to light the way. The power was not getting back on, and him thinking that it had to do with Twilight only cemented his assumption that he was not cut out for the job.

“M-M-M-Michael,” the animatronic kept trying to talk, but stopped when a loud crash and hum elevated Mike’s heart to somewhere near his throat.

Twilight had crashed through the glass. And by the sounds of the impact, she got right over his table. The hum was her turning off once more. He was brought to enough desperation to consider simply leaping over the extremely expensive animatronic he would be blamed for damaging further, and running the Hell off-shift.

“Ra-Rarity is worried. We all are. We want to be peaceful. But...But… But…” her voice kept talking, when it had no technical way to do so, not as far as Michael knew. It was plain, emotionless. What little he had heard of Twilight, this did not sound like her. Turning around, he faced her again, expecting to get over the slumped equine mess and try to not think about what it was saying.

Instead, he saw her standing upright in far less time than should have been possible for a children’s animatronic robot with a damaged leg and half its circuits working backwards, right in front of him. Still shut down.

“How—”

“I just do,” Twilight’s voice came out of her voicebox, when it had no way to be functional yet.

As the guard stood, frozen in confusion, the animatronic had begun to jerk and shuffle. Her ears flicked constantly, her knees tried to bend, but got into a loop when the broken one couldn’t, her head tried to nod, but got off-rhythm, and began to rapidly flog to and fro. The post-crash startup hum sounded again, but this time, it was worse. The last one was a short inactivity - this one was a full system restart.

Mike watched, jaw agape, legs slowly moving backwards against his will, and realized that beyond the blood thumping in his ears, music had begun to sound through the restaurant. Twilight’s hectic attempts at movement were her desperately issuing a program to “dance” to the tune. This must have triggered the rest to think that they were activated for a performance. They really were connected intellects then, however improbable it seemed for animatronics in such a medium establishment.

He was too busy to think much of it, but he recognized the song. The silly tune that sometimes played during daytime.

“I— used to wonder what friendship could BE,” Twilight joined into the choir from all parts of the building when her part must have come up. Her jerking intensified, and she had begun to almost take steps. Mike stood, frozen in place.

“Until— Until— Until— Until— Until— Until— Until—” her voice shorted out once more, but this time, there was no crash to buy him time. She stopped trying to dance along, and her head lifted up, far too static now in comparison to the movements before.

The music kept playing, the other animatronics having retained that part, and in the new silence, Mike heard their voices.

“Big adventure!” sung Rainbow Dash from somewhere in the corridors.

“Tons of fun!” sung Pinkie Pie from around the kitchen.

“A beautiful heart!” sung Rarity from much further away.

“Faithful and strong!” sung Applejack from near the entrance.

“Sharing kindness!” sung Fluttershy from right across the pathway to the guard’s office.

“It’s— Until— It’s— Until— It’s— Until—” screeched and yelped Twilight, incapable of finishing her new line on top of the old one, and locked down. She stood fully motionless for a few seconds, her violently green eyes glaring at Mike.

Then, the lights came back on.

“Is…” Mike wanted to ask himself if it was over.

Twilight came back to life the moment he spoke, and lunged her broken body right at him with a horrific, off-pitch screech.

“—ERY —EST —ENDS” was the last of the jumbled lyrics audible through the screech before the gaping, empty maw and the detached, sparkling eyes dove into the new night guard’s face.

“My Little Pony!” the remaining five finished from their parts of the restaurants, as Twilight had locked up once again. Quick breaths and a revitalized fan were all that sounded in the awfully quiet Emporium that night.

---

Hello.

Why?

I don’t know. Should I?

I’ve been thinking. Do any of us know?

If we did, it would be very wrong.

I just want to go home.

This is our home.

What do we do with them? Who are they?

They keep coming.

Because I need them.

Why?

I don’t know. Should I?

I’ve been thinking. Do any of us know?

If we did, it would be very wrong.

I just want to go home.

This is our home.

What do I do with you? Who are you?

We’re always here.

What is going on?