The doors to the hospital swung open, releasing Pinkie and a very bandage-handed Archer back into the world.
“I could have done without the frequent customer card,” Archer muttered, staring irritably at the tiny pink slip of paper as he made his way down the steps.
“It’s a joke! It’s supposed to be funny!”
“Where’s your sense of humor?”
“Inside the bundle of clenched muscles and pain that used to be my right hand. I’ll let you know when it gets out.”
She giggled, which did little to improve his mood. From some ostensibly bottomless secret compartment inside her mane, she produced a rather long list, which as mood-improvement went, arguably performed even worse.
“So, we’ve gotten you out of the hospital, had breakfast, checked in with the musical entertainment-”
“Crippled my hand...” he muttered.
“Right, right. Next on the list is... venue!”
“Sweet Apple Acres, silly!” Pinkie exclaimed, rolling the list up and sticking it back into the mess of hair from whence it came. “We need to go check with Applejack!”
“I’m technically supposed to be working there.”
“We’ll figure that out once we get there,” she said with a dismissive wave of her hoof. “Don’t even worry.”
“I worry. That’s the problem,” he noted with a chuckle, starting down the cobblestone road. “I worry about everything.”
First rule of scouting: Never take the roads. They’re too obvious.
If someone had told Archer a mere five days ago that not only would he be trotting down a main road in a Fae Realm, but he would be doing it with a local bouncing right alongside him, he would have laughed in that hypothetical person’s face.
Yet here he was. It wouldn’t be that far-fetched to say his mood still hadn't improved, even in light of this revelation.
Pinkie was bouncing, as she was wont to do. Up, down. Up, down. There was no stopping her. Now if only there was a way to harness that excess power and put it towards something useful... like powering a city.
With a start, he realized he had been staring at a fellow life form and getting... tinker-y. Speaking from experience, that never boded well for anyone. That was how Mad Science started. In a desperate bid to re-rail his train of thought, he asked the first question that came to mind.
“So, she forgot on purpose?”
“I’m sorry?” Pinkie’s elastic stride hitched for a half-second.
“Inkwell. She just up and decided to not remember who she was? Where she came from?”
“Oh, no. She didn’t decide to, silly! It just sorta... happened.”
Archer’s very inelastic stride took much longer to start back up.
“It’s sort of like anti-sad shields for the pony brain! Like, if something makes me real sad or real angry, I usually find myself not even remembering it after a week or so.”
This was troubling, to say the least. But she didn’t seem bothered by it at all. Perpetual Motion Pinkie Pie could not be stopped.
“So this is all completely hypothetical...”
“Keep in mind, I’d never actually do this...”
“But... let’s say...” He let the word drag out, trying to find the most innocuous ones he could to follow it. “...Thaaaaat I went on a murder spree and killed mostly everyone. You’re telling me that I would effectively erase myself from existence from the viewpoint of anyone left?”
Now he was more than unnerved. She just... kept... bouncing....
He didn’t see the sign in front of him until it was too late.
Egregious head injury.
Do not pass GO.
Do not collect two hundred bits.
Archer awoke to the familiar sight of the Hospital ceiling.
“Pinkie, if you’re trying to fill out that frequent customer card, I will end you.”
“I promise this is the last time, alright?” called Pinkie from somewhere out of the sight range of his neck brace. Speaking of which...
“Am I going to have to wear this thing all day, too?”
“Nope! The doctor said you’re fine. All we have to do is sign you out and we can get right back to-”
“The death of a thousand ‘accidents’?”
“Noooo,” she said, emerging into view with that omnipresent smile. “To getting ready for the party!”
“Oh, of course. It’s not like grievous bodily injury is any concern. ‘Sure, let’s go traipsing through the woods, to who knows where! It’ll be fun!’” He let out a huff. “I’d rather not test my luck again, thank you.”
“Come on! Pleeeease? It’ll be-”
“You didn’t even-”
“I promise I’ll be more careful this time!”
“Talk is cheap.”
“Do you really want to spend the rest of the day in this hospital?”
There was no immediate answer. Archer pondered this for a minute.
“...So, you promise?”
“Pinkie Promise! Cross my heart, hope to-”
“Alright, alright,” he snapped, hoisting himself out of the bed with one hand and unhooking the neck brace with the other. “Just so long as you promise not to almost get me killed again. If a meteor or something hits me, I’m probably just going to go live in your basement for the rest of my life.”
“Sounds like a plan to me!”
His only thought as he strode out of the room was That pony is way too cheerful.
He imagined his jimmies would be more rustled if she was anyone else, but... you know Fae people. You could never ask them to make sense, and the fact that Pinkie was the sponge for all the weirdness around here just made it all easier to keep track of.
“Okay,” Archer muttered, walking down Ponyville’s main street. “We’re out of the hospital. No immediate danger. No threats of bodily injury.”
“Right!” Pinkie chirped, trotting briskly alongside him.
“And we’re sure about this?”
And then they got hit by a meteor.
Nah, I’m just fooling.
There was, in fact, no ballistic death rock about to ruin Archer’s day for the third time in a row. He was going to be just fine the whole way to Sweet Apple Acres. With that established, we can safely overlook the 48-item list of things he thought could conceivably assail them en route, including but not limited to a bear.
Ok, so we can’t overlook the bear, but that’s for much, much later.
Say what you wanted about Applejack, but she started as she meant to go on.
“For your job.” she enunciated, pointing a hoof at the applebucking log leaning against the nearby barn. “You know, the one y’all made such a fuss over yesterday? And then had to take a day off from because Rainbow blew ya up?”
“It was an accident!”
“Accident or not, you’re not gettin’ paid ‘til you’ve worked at least one day. And you can forget about paid vacation.”
“Hey!” interjected Pinkie, sliding between the two. “We weren’t here about work! We were here about play!”
“Play?” they both asked.
“Yeah! You know, ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’? Now, I don’t know Jack, but I really don’t want a repeat of what happened to him. Do you, Applejack?” Said farmpony would have answered, were it not for Pinkie’s immediate gasp of realization. “Waaaiiit a second. You’re named Apple-jack! And you work a lot!”
“Ohmigosh, ohmigosh, did you work too much, Applejack? Are you dull now!?”’
“Hey!” Applejack spared a pleading glance to Archer, but he was too busy stifling a laugh to be of any help.
“We need to throw an un-dulling party, stat! Ohh, we need balloons, and streamers, and sugar! You can tell you haven’t had much sugar, because back me up here, Archer, you could bounce a marble off that, couldn’t you?”
“Pinkie!" Applejack yelled, half-infuriated, half-humiliated.
“I have no comment,” Archer said, in one of the smartest statements he’d made since arriving in Ponyville three days prior.
“This is serious! We have a party emergency here, if Applejack’s gone dull! Archer, stop standing around laughing, we’ve got to- mff!”
“I think what my associate is trying to say,” interrupted Archer, his hand over Pinkie’s mouth, “is that we’re here regarding my ‘welcoming celebration’ to be held on Friday, in one of your vacant barns.”
Applejack relaxed a bit. “Shoot, is that all? The way she was going on, I thought I was about t’ be dunked in whipped cream or somethin’.”
Archer gave a wry smirk. “Don’t count out the possibility until she’s gone,” he intoned, grimly.
He should have been more scared than he was at Pinkie Pie rubbing off on him. Somehow, he found the prospect less worrisome than most sane human beings would have.
The door creaked open with a squeal of long-unoiled hinges.
“This is it,” said Applejack, using her hat to shield her airway from the dust native to the inner-barn atmosphere. “The exact barn you asked for, Pinkie.”
The inside of the barn, which had once been used to store lumber in Ponyville’s frontier days, was wide and extremely long. The far wall was almost invisible through the sawdust fog. Any other pony - heck, any other living being - would have looked at this big, empty, derelict structure and seen a giant waste of space, only kept erect because the land it occupied couldn’t be used for anything important.
Pinkie looked at it and say nothing but opportunities.
“It’s perfect,” she said with a smile.
“So,” asked Archer, strolling inside, “How in blazes are we going to get tables long enough to fill this place out? And, uh...” He coughed. “What’s going to be done about the dust?”
Pinkie patted him on the back, patronizing expression firmly glued into place.
“Just leave it to your Aunt Pinkie. I can fix this place up in...”
“Wait, hang on a second. ‘Aunt’?”
“Pinkie, I’m almost twice your age.”
“Pfeh, details! Now look, here’s what we have to do...”
The weird thing was, the to-do list was now nearly three times as long coming out of Sweet Apple Acres as it was going in. Only now it was filled with such things as “Invent Dustbuster”, followed shortly by “Use Dustbuster on barn”.
Pinkie was not a very practical pony.
As if to shame him for thinking such hurtful (yet true) things, one of his legs suddenly refused to function with an oddly metallic snap. He went down with a yelp.
“Archer?” asked Pinkie, turning around. “You okay?”
“Didn’t quite catch that.”
“I said,” he said, pulling his face out of its face-shaped niche in the dirt, “My leg brace just broke. Help me up.”
She allowed him to loop one arm over her neck, hoisting him up.
“It’s that femoral support,” he muttered. “Knew I should have made it thicker.”
“So, to the lab?”
He pulled himself onto her back. “Hi ho, Silver.”
“Fine, then! Hi ho, Pinkie, AWAY!”
He pried himself out of the indentation in Sugarcube Corner’s outside wall.
“No. We are not going to the hospital again. I am fine.”
“No buts. I am going to the basement with a bottle of painkillers and a mission, and that is that.”
“But what about the party?”
“What about it?” he asked, shoving the Corner’s front doors open. “You’re a reality-warping Fae horse with infinite capacity for flouting logic and the bounds of physical possibility. What’s stopping you from doing everything on that list yourself?”
That smile of hers would have given any sane man pause. But Archer wasn’t on the best of terms with reality at the moment.
“...What, indeed!” she remarked, rubbing her front hooves together sinisterly. “Be right back! I have to go flout logic and the bounds of physical possibility!”
“Glad to hear it,” Archer muttered, descending the basement stairs. “You know where to find me.”
At that present moment, it was roughly five P.M., Thursday afternoon.
And of course, it would be a tall order for the events between then and the party the next day to be as... ahem, action-packed as they would have to be to warrant writing out in their entirety. So, allow us to summarize the next 24 hours, in the interest of expediency.
Archer went downstairs and fixed his leg brace. He then piddled around tinkering with things for the rest of the day, very few of which exploded.
Inkwell got fed up with Arrowhead’s constant shenanigans and eventually found Archer in the basement, passing off the mental gremlin with quite the fuss from both of them.
Pinkie gallivanted off, doing Celestia-knows-what in preparation for the welcoming celebration that pretty much everyone involved save her was convinced wouldn’t need half the space she had reserved for it.
And thankfully, nobody else had to be hospitalized.
The following morning and early afternoon were shockingly uneventful, given the relative insanity of the past week. The closest it got to actual excitement was Archer experiencing a brief yet intense crisis over whether he really wanted to spend the foreseeable future knocking apples out of trees to make a living.
And all this while, unknown to our heroes, there was a giant bear named after a constellation who had recently woken up and was wandering around the Everfree forest. It was cranky, very hungry, and informed by an anonymous source that it needed to kill something nearby that walked on two legs.
We shall resume our narrative on Friday night, 6 P.M., as Archer approached the old barn-turned-mead hall....