“I’m still convinced that this ‘mystery plan’ of yours can’t end well.”
“You know what, Archer? Y’all worry too much.”
“Well, thank goodness you told me! I might never have known that about myself.”
Twilight merely sighed. Applejack and Archer had been sniping at each other like this ever since they left the library. At this rate, Rainbow Dash would need to find a new “best friend” before the week was out.
“Y’all must not have a lotta human friends, if’n this how you treat other people all the time.”
“I get along with other humans quite well, I’ll have you know. It’s all you Fae folk I can’t stand.”
“There you go, using that word again! I told ya once, I told you a million times, we ain’t-”
“We’re here!” yelled Twilight, eager to end the hostilities before Applejack and Archer ended up confessing their undying love to each other, or something equally embarrassing.
“Here” happened to be a circular building a good distance from downtown, painted bright white and sporting a sign reading “Carousel Boutique”. Something about the building woke a nameless fear within Archer’s being.
The bell on the door jingled as the three walked in.
“Cooomiiiiing~,” sang a voice from upstairs, quickly followed by footsteps (hoofsteps?) descending the staircase.
“Welcome to Carousel Boutique! Where every outfit is chic, unique, and magnifi- OH MY GOODNESS.”
In the space of five seconds, a white unicorn had cantered down the stairs, started a canned welcome speech, stopped, and began staring at Archer with a sorrowful gaze one normally reserves for orphans of war. She slowly approached him.
“Oh.... my. You... you poor man!”
“This outfit... it is absolutely dreadful! Who put you in this gorilla suit? I demand to know!” She had shifted from doleful to indignant in less than two seconds.
“No excuses! There is absolutely no excuse for an ensemble like this!” She trotted up to him, examining his scouting attire with an eye much more critical than any it had ever been subjected to.
“The seams are shoddy, the material has been treated so poorly I could swear a five-year-old did it... And what on earth is this made out of? What are we trying to say here? ‘Cannibal’? No!”
She maneuvered herself behind him and gave him a push. “Alright, longshanks, you’re coming with me.”
“Sorry, Archer, her fashion sense has a mind of its own. Try not to break him, Rarity!”
“Oh, don’t worry, Twilight. I plan on doing quite the opposite.”
“Please, this is getting really uncomfortable-”
“I’d be finished by now, if you’d just - stop - squirming!”
Rarity had been trying to get Archer’s measurements for the past five minutes. As you might have guessed, it was pretty slow going.
“Let’s see, four and a half there and- oh, quit it. Three-quarters around here... There! Now, remove your boots. I need to get your foot measured.”
“I’m a size ten.”
“No, no, no. I need the specifics! Boots. Off. Now.”
“Listen, miss. These boots have been through hundreds of miles and two weeks of forest. Not once during that time have I taken them off. If I remove them now, the smell might kill you.”
Rarity weighed her options. On the one hoof, she simply had to get this man’s shoe size. On the other hoof, she had no doubt that feet marinated for two weeks in boots like that would carry a quite lethal scent. Erring on the side of caution never hurt.
“Fine. But come back here the minute you’ve gotten a bath. I’m not even sure what a ‘size ten’ means for a... what did you say you were?”
“Well! I’ve never made anything for one of those before. I suppose this will be a learning experience for both of us, hmm?”
“...And by the way, the gorilla suit? It wasn’t cheap.”
“Oh, please, darling! Anything that sacrifices that much form for function is not worth wearing. I’m surprised your kingdom had the gall to ask you to put it on!”
A few minutes later, Rarity was hard at work. Archer, having nothing better to do, struck up conversation with her as to what she did, who she was, and most of the other things people in general liked to know about each other. It drifted, as these types of conversations normally do, towards defending their races’ decisions from each other, despite neither of them having actually met a member of the other’s species until today.
“You would be surprised. You really would. It takes quite a lot of effort to turn a perfectly serviceable collection of leathers into something that passes as camouflage.”
“Camouflage? As what, a carcass? No, dear. Whoever stitched that outfit obviously had no idea of how to blend style and aesthetics with utility. An amateur job, if I do say so myself.”
“Well, gee, thanks. Glad to know giving up the family tradition when I did was a good move.”
Rarity took a moment to process this information.
“You... you mean, you...?”
“...Sewed this mess of a suit together? Yes indeed. Though ‘blending style with utility’ is apparently not something you can learn just by being a seamstress’s kid.”
“Oh,” said Rarity, rather flustered. “I... I’m terribly sorry, I had no idea that... that th-this was your work....”
“It’s alright. I hated the thing, anyway. And I’m quite eager to see you back up all that smacktalk with some authentic Equestrian hunting gear.”
Rarity remained silent.
“Oh, don’t tell me you can’t do it.”
“No! No, it’s just-” She gave a small chuckle. “I wasn’t planning on making hunting gear, per se.”
“You were going to dress me up like one of your fancy French ladies.”
“Well...” Rarity pawed at the floor. “Yes,” she said quietly. “Yes, I was.”
“Something a little more rugged, if you please.”
Rarrty harrumphed, turned, and renewed her clothesmaking efforts.
“You want rugged? I’ll give you rugged.”
Twenty minutes later, Archer stood in front of a mirror in a green, brown, and tan uniform, with steel plating stitched into the limbs.
“Not quite that rugged. I need to have a little freedom of movement.”
Rarity sighed, tore the breastplate/shirt off of him, and tried again.
Twenty minutes after that, he was wearing a thin outfit consisting entirely of a wispy tunic and some shorts that were, in his opinion, entirely too short. It was chilly, even in the warm spring afternoon.
“Too much freedom of movement. I think I can feel a draft...”
Rarity threw a blanket over him and tried yet again.
Twenty minutes after that, Archer sported a finely-crafted brown ensemble, which sported a proper bowman’s handguard, a built-in quiver, and so many neat little pockets, the tinker in him would never be unsatisfied again.
“I think I can work with this one.”
A sigh of relief, followed by the soft plumph of a body falling onto a nearby couch, were the only response from Rarity.
“It looks... neat.”
“I really... like the... color?”
Faint praise couldn’t dampen Archer’s spirits today. Certainly not now, when he actually looked like he knew what he was doing.
“You know, Twilight, I have to hand it to your friend. She knows her way around a needle and thread.”
“Well, I should hope so. She’s only been doing that her entire life!”
“You bet your britches,” said Appplejack. “Rarity’s probably the fanciest filly you’ll find in Ponyville.”
“Oh, thank goodness. I was having to hold my breath the entire time as it was!”
“Yeah, she likes her frou-frou perfumes, n’ such, don’t she?”
“You’re telling me. Last time I can remember a place smelling like that, I was in...”
Another Equestrian was peeking out at them from behind the door of a bright pink building. Of course, Archer hadn’t noticed her at first, seeing as she herself was pink.
No, you don’t grasp just how pink this Equestrian mare was. She was pink. She was super-dee-duper pink. She was a bright violent magenta that spoke of oversugared children, diabetic comas, and ADHD. Archer, of course, had never heard nor could conceive of any of these things, and so had to settle for a deep-seated unease.
And in the time it took for you, the readers, to contemplate this description, she had pounced on him.
Pinkie Pie, after all, scoffed at such petty limitations as the “laws of physics.”
“OOOOH, Twilight! Who’s this? I’ve never seen him before! Applejack, have you seen him before?”
“Oh, he looks like a dragon! But he’s taller than Spike. And he has hands like a monkey! And a face like an orangutan! OH! OH! And feet like a chimpanzee gorilla thing!”
“Pinkie, maybe you should-”
“NO WAIT! I’ve seen him before! He isn’t just a monkey man! He’s the monkey man who tried to eat Big Macintosh this morning! Haha, silly-billy! You can’t eat ponies! They don’t taste good! I know, I’ve tried! Here, look.”
Pinkie began to furiously nibble on her own backside like a dog with a particularly tenacious itch. Archer, unprepared for such a disconnected set of words, actions, and all-around randomness, attempted to back away before she could remember he was here.
But, as any of you could have guessed, it wasn’t long before she was violating his personal space yet again.
“See? BLEGH! I taste awful! So why’d you want to eat Big Mac, huh? I don’t think he’d taste much better than me, and he’s got WAY less sugar in him than I do!”
“Couldn’t tell,” Archer muttered.
“So, what’s your name, mister? Huh? Oh, let me guess. ‘Monkey Penny!’ No, wait. ‘Ape Lincoln?’ No, wait. Oh, I know! ‘OOK Skywa-’”
“ALRIGHT, THAT’S ENOUGH!”
Archer’s outburst startled everyone, including himself. But there was only so much a man could take before breaking down.
“Listen, Missus... Pinkie?”
“Yep! Pinkamena Diane Pie, though everyone calls me Pinkie Pie!”
“Right, well, Miss Pinkamena...”
“...I really appreciate your enthusiasm. But as you can see, your friends were taking me... somewhere.” He turned to Applejack and Twilight. “Where were we going?”
“Here, as a matter of fact.”
Archer sighed and turn to Pinkie, who was sporting a grin the size of a gnome and jittering like a goat on espresso.
“Okay,” he said slowly. “Pinkamena... would you like to show me around your home?”
Somehow, despite having no hands, she grabbed his arm and yanked him inside.
“Welcome to Sugarcube Corner! This place is owned by Mr. Cake and Ms. Cake, but they let me stay here and I get to make candy and throw parties here and EVERYTHING!”
“Well, this explains a lot-” He was interrupted by another yank transporting him from the front to the back of the counter.
“This is the cash register! I get to work here when the Cakes are on vacation... which is kinda often, come to think of it!”
“Gee, I wonder whyOOMPH”
Pinkie pulled him yet again from the counter to the room immediately behind it.
“This is the kitchen! This is where the magic happens. We’ve got sweet ingredients of all kinds here!”
“No, look! It’s right back here!”
Pinkie zipped over to a nearby closet and began flinging containers out of it, naming the contents as she did so.
“We’ve got flour, baking soda, icing, frosting, rock candy, rock salt, Rocky Road ice cream, rocks, more icing, more frosting, sugar, more sugar, fake sugar, sugar substitute, real sugar, birthday cake, birthday candles, birthday punch, birthday presents, birthday cards, anniversary cards, ‘just because’ cards, business cards, party decorations, party accessories, party hats, party presents, cupcakes, muffins, corncakes, cornbread, and last but not least, NOISEMAKERS!”
She took out the last article and blew a single, happy note on it. That note faded when she realized that she had thrown everything out of the closet, and directly at Archer.
An ice cream cone had implanted itself on his forehead, dripping Rocky Road down the bridge of his nose. Flour covered his face, obscuring the pained grimace he wore due to rock-based facial injury. His brand new outfit was soaked with punch and covered in baking soda, sugar, and all the sugar substitutes known to mankind. Candles stuck to the doughy mixture like blowdarts. A box covered in gaudy wrapping paper lay broken open at his feet, spilling the confetti inside across the pile of cards that lay there.
“Alright. I've had enough."
Archer slowly wiped his face off, shook out the sugar and candles, and pulled the rapidly melting dairy treat from his hair.
“This has been fun. But I’ve really...”
Pinkie had zipped up again, grabbing hold of his arm with two hooves that had no fingers. How did that work?
“I still haven’t shown you everything!”
“Miss Pie, no offense, but I don’t think I can take any more of this ‘showing’ you’ve got planned.”
“No, no! Just one more room! Pleeeeease?”
Archer sighed, wiping the last dribbles of ice cream off his face. “Fine. What is it?”
“It’s the party room.”
“It’s in the basement! It’s where I keep all my party-throwing gadgets!”
“Well that’s all well and good, but... Wait. Did you say ‘gadgets’?”
Pinkie merely nodded.
“Gadgets, as in, 'Magimechanical Devices-'”
“'-and Techmaturgical Equipment!'”
Both Archer and Pinkie’s eyes widened. Archer opened his tinker’s kit, producing the traditional flatwrench used by every tinker known to man, Fae, and presumably Equestrian. Pinkie reached into nothing and pulled out the exact same wrench with her teeth.
“Yes, Pinkie Pie?”
“Did we just become best friends?”
Archer’s age was uncertain. He may have been 20, or possibly as old as 35. But suddenly, he was all of six years old. There was nothing a tinker liked more, after all, than seeing another tinker’s work.
The room underneath Sugarcube Corner was packed, wall-to-wall, with techmaturgical wonders of all kinds, every single on of them painted bright pink. For all his skepticism, all his misgivings, and all of his discomfort at Equestria so far, Archer was forced to concede that any race that produced such a prodigy in the art of tinkering could not have been all bad.
Pinkie led him over to a crate filled with explosives of all shapes and sizes.
“Here’s the fireworks. I kinda went overboard making this last batch.”
“Well, the tinkers over in my kingdom have a saying. ‘If you want an invention that isn’t supposed to explode, you have to make a few that are first.”
“Wow, do they really say that?”
“No, I just made it up. If you blow something up back home you get a week in the penitentiary.”
Not wanting to dwell on that fact any longer, Pinkie led him to another corner of the room.
“This is the gyrocopter! One of the first machines I ever got off the ground.”
The gangly mess of tubing with bike pedals and a propeller seemingly tacked on would not have seemed airworthy to the untrained eye. However, any good tinker knew what it needed to fly, not only true, but quite fast.
“It’s got a sub-etheric capacitor in between the pedals, right?”
“Yeah. You won’t believe how much those things cost!”
Archer’s gaze was drawn to a large object covered by a sheet near another corner of the room.
“Oh! What’s this one?”
Pinkie bounded over. “This is...” She whipped the tarp off. “The party cannon!”
The cannon was polished to a mirror shine, painted just as gaudily as everything else in the room. Archer, for his part, was taken in when she used the word “cannon.”
“Yeah, ‘ooooh’! It shoots party decorations!”
“What, you mean it disintegrates them?”
“Noooo! It doesn’t shoot at the decorations, it shoots the decorations! Here, watch!”
Pinkie pressed a button at the back. Nothing happened. She pressed it again, to no effect.
“Hehe... one moment.”
She pried open a hatch and set to work, muttering to herself about crossed wires and missing batteries.
While Pinkie worked on the cannon, Archer allowed his gaze to wander across the rest of the room. “Laboratory” would be a better word for it. Weird and wonderful machinery filled the space, some finished, some not. One was labelled “INSTANT CAKERIZER (DO NOT TOUCH)”.
Another sported the ominous label of “deactivated by royal order”. Whatever it was, it looked big, bulky, and Archer had little doubt it could detonate catastrophically if given half a chance. Because... it was a tinker’s invention. That’s what happened when you kept one of those around.
“Aaaand... DONE! Merry Christmas, everypony!”
The last thing Archer remembered was being impacted with a concussive force that hit like the fist of an angry Ursa Major. He flew several dozen feet before impacting the opposite wall, landing in a tangled heap with a festive tablecloth draped over him and a balloon tied to his left foot.
When he could think again, he took the cloth off to reveal Pinkie standing in front of him, looking quite embarrassed.
“Hehe... Sorry, Archer.”
Her giggling tried to be infectious, but merely inflicted a good-natured smile on the recent cannonee.
“That’s okay.” He spat out a mouthful of confetti. “Accidents happen.”