Prologue, Part 2: Integration
Lauren seemed to shrink a little under the combined looks of shock, disbelief, and fanboyism. I myself felt a single drop of drool leak from my lip and drop onto my lap, snapping me out of my trance. As I wiped my lip I took note of the day’s events; I was pseudo-kidnapped by the princess of the ponies I’d spent the last two years worshipping, and I had learned that the ponies I once thought were fictional were anything but.
Derek to my right took a steadying breath. “I, I don’t...” He put his face in his hands.
Lauren straightened up. “I’m sorry, I hope you guys won’t mind, but I just wanna get a bit more comfortable...” With that, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
Oh boy... I thought, looking away to avoid being blinded again.
Lauren’s eyes opened, revealing a blinding light, the light enveloped her, and there was another explosion of light; this time we kept our cool for the most part. The light faded, and in Lauren’s place stood her pony avatar; a pure white alicorn with a mane the same shade of red, and an inkwell cutie mark.
Lauren- or Brushstroke, as Celestia called her- made a sigh of relief like she’d been cooped up in a car for the past few hours. She turned and nuzzled her wings affectionately. “I missed this...” She faced us and lit up her horn; another cushion appeared beside Celestia, and Brushstroke sat down. “So... I assume you guys have a lot of questions.”
“The whole thing...” Louis blurted out. “...was more or less a documentary? The world, the characters...”
“All real,” Brushstroke said, nodding. “Every episode was a true story. We discovered Earth about nine years before the Summer Sun Celebration; we found the lessons of Twilight Sparkle to be the perfect way of conveying Equestria’s message to humanity. So, we told her story; Celestia would send me reports on events transpiring in Ponyville, as well as a copy of Twilight’s friendship letters, and I would turn the story into a full fledged episode.”
“But you left the show after season one...” I said, but I quickly clammed up when I realized I’d interrupted her.
Brushstroke smiled patiently. “I had to leave because the bronies had surfaced; this was the sign that humanity was more than willing to accept Equestria’s lessons, and I needed to work out a way to find bronies willing to come to Equestria. I explained everything to my fellow writers at the HUB; Meghan, Amy, Mitchell, everyone. I showed them who I was, what I was sent here to do, how important the bronies truly were... I shared my communications with Celestia with them, told them that Twilight’s lessons needed to be shared. They promised they’d take it from there, to the best of their ability.”
“Why the bronies?” Derek asked. “I mean, we enjoy the show because it’s... well, an amazing show, but I’m not sure how that makes us special.”
“Because you are willing to openly embrace the magic of friendship, while many other humans take it for granted,” Celestia explained. “Even if it seemed ironic at first, we could tell you were, over time, taking the lessons of Harmony to heart.”
I slowly nodded; before becoming a brony, if anyone ever brought up the ‘magic of friendship’ with a straight face I would have laughed them out of the room. Now, however... I knew that it was friendship, love and harmony that made Equestria just so... appealing. It wasn’t just the characters I’d love to hang out with; it was the overall sense of peace that would make living there a real joy.
“The fact that you bronies exist is proof that humanity is ready for Equestria,” Brushstroke said. “...Or at least, soon will be.”
“We wish to slowly, discreetly, begin integrating human and pony alike into each other’s society,” Celestia said. “While your kind is aware of us, very few ponies are aware of you. If we were to suddenly drop humanity into Equestria, or ponykind on Earth, the shock of two societies being so suddenly melded might produce some... less than favorable results.”
“That is why you are here,” Brushstroke said. “Should you accept what we offer, you will be the first humans to step foot in Equestria. You will start small; only a handful of ponies will be briefed on the truth of your presence at first, but over time we shall allow the truth to be told. Once we know for certain ponies are ready for humans, we will reveal ourselves to your leaders. We will begin diplomatic relations, and pony and human societies will finally become intertwined.”
The door opened, and three white-dressed people each pushed a cart loaded with food into the room. For a moment I wondered how they got the carts up the stairs, but shrugged it off as the work of magic; I then felt weird for so quickly adjusting to the existence of magic. The caterers seemed unphased, or at least unaware of the presence of two alicorns in the room as they handed out the food. They mostly served a variety of desserts and some sandwiches that seemed to be appropriate for a pony diet. As the caterers left I stirred my food absentmindedly with my fork, my brain demanding to be let out for a smoke break. I was going to be an... ambassador?
At the merest thought of the word ‘ambassador’ I sat up. “Um, I know absolutely nothing regarding politics...”
Brushstroke giggled. “Let us worry about the political side of things. Your job is to show ponies that our cultures can easily meld.”
“How were we chosen?” Louis asked, gesturing to the humans sitting at the table. “Did you choose whoever got those glowing green rocks?”
Brushstroke gave a sheepish smile. “In all honesty, our method of choosing applicants was more random than we would have liked...”
I raised an eyebrow. “So, you just shoved those rocks into random people’s pants at Bronycon?” I said with a smirk. Brushstroke blushed and, I swear to god, did the ‘squee’ noise that puts a smile on any brony’s face.
“Well, the stones are used as beacons for our magic,” Celestia explained. “We can use them to summon you to places, or enter your dreams...”
My stomach did a couple somersaults. Louis dropped his fork. “Luna...”
“I dreamed of Luna, the night I found that rock...” Derek said.
Celestia nodded. “She entered the dreams of every brony we gave a rock to, and evaluated each of you; she read who you were at heart, and how likely you could easily blend in in Equestria. She found a great deal of worthy candidates, so we simply...” Her voice trailed off.
I smirked. “You drew our names out of a hat, didn’t you.”
Celestia gasped with mock-indignation. “No!” She paused and smiled. “We pinned your names to a wall and threw darts.” Everyone in the room laughed.
“So, if ponies aren’t gonna know we’re aliens, won’t they be a little confused that there are... aliens walking around?” Louis asked as the laughter died down.
Celestia shook her head. “You won’t exactly look like aliens...”
Everyone clued in to her hidden meaning. “You’re making us ponies...” Colin said.
Brushstroke nodded. “With our magic we will make you into the ponies you are at heart. There is no way to tell what you will become; whether you’ll be a pegasus, unicorn or earth pony, what your cutie mark will be, not even the color of your coat or mane... What you become will be based on who you are.”
At this point I could feel my brain trying to kick its way out of my skull, demanding a breath of fresh air. Derek held up his hands. “Okay, let’s see if we got this right; you want to turn us into ponies, bring us to Equestria with you, and see if we can get along with your people?”
Brushstroke laughed. “Pretty much, yeah.”
“What about our families?” The red-haired girl asked. “Our homes?”
Celestia nodded sympathetically. “We have already prepared what you call a... ‘cover-up’...” she chuckled. “Sounds shadier than it really is, but, there it is...”
“So, a lie...” Derek said.
Brushstroke nodded. “Should you agree to our proposal, your friends and families will believe that you are all volunteering to aid a burgeoning village in South Africa. They will still be able to remain in contact; any mail they send will be forwarded to Equestria.”
“When can we come back?” Dana asked.
Brushstroke bit her lip. “Opening a portal between our worlds takes a lot of magic; I’m sure once we begin diplomatic relations with your people, our combined resources will make a sustained portal more plausible...”
Sounds familiar... I mused.
“Our next portal opens next week,” Brushstroke continued. “We can only open a portal for roughly three days every month or so. This is, by no means, a one way trip.” I leaned forward in my chair; honestly, this was all sounding quite appealing. I was never one for homesickness.
“What can we bring?” Louis asked. “I’m guessing guns are out of the question...”
Brushstroke laughed. “While we will not allow human weapons into Equestria, anything you can carry, you can bring with you. We just ask that you be careful who sees it in the first few weeks. Once the knowledge of humanity is made public, you can ease up a little.”
“Where will we be staying?” I asked, though a small part of me knew the answer.
“Ponyville,” Celestia said with a smile. We all bounced in our seats with silent glee. “We felt it would be the most agreeable for you.” She was right.
“You will be living in the newly built Ponyville Embassy,” Brushstroke explained. “The ponies believe that you are dignitaries of a distant land that is seeking to become part of Equestria.”
“Which is... sorta the truth...” I muttered, nodding.
“The Embassy is already furnished and ready for you to move in,” Celestia continued. “It is also built with the electrical sockets you have here. We understand that you might have a hard time parting with certain human commodities, mainly your electronics...”
And video games, I thought, feeling a pang in my stomach at the thought of not being able to play WoW anymore.
“...and you will be without the... ‘internet’, at least for a time...” Celestia continued.
I gave a mild groan that was slightly louder than I meant; both princesses turned to look at me, and I shrank slightly in my chair. “Well, personally, I can part with it...” I muttered. “It’s just... well, the internet is why we’re here today, isn’t it?” I looked at everyone else at the table, who were all nodding. “I mean, we’d all think we were alone in liking what was, ostensibly, a little girls’ show.”
Brushstroke nodded as well. “We are working on finding a way to create a network between Earth and Equestria, don’t you worry.”
I leaned back in my seat again, my heart swelling with joy; this all felt too good to be true. Every brony’s dream, laid out before me, the only drawback being that I’d be without YouTube and fingers for a while... I looked at everyone else in the room; they all seemed to have the same attitude.
“While it seems you all are willing to become Earth’s first unofficial emissaries to Equestria...” Brushstroke said. “I’d advise you don’t jump in so quickly. I thought it would be easy leaving home to come to Earth, yet every day my heart ached, I missed it so much...” She paused to nuzzle Celestia affectionately, who responded in kind. “Yet it was worth it in the end... in more ways than one...” She smiled, and somehow I could tell what she was thinking of, or rather who; her husband, Craig.
“As I said, the portal opens next week,” she continued. “You should have plenty of time to consider our proposal, though it seems some of you have made up your minds. At three o’clock on September 23rd, a taxi will arrive at your homes. The driver will wait ten minutes, then depart...” (...Brain, what the hell? I thought.) “It will bring you to the site where we are opening our portal. I would advise you pack whatever you need or wish to bring before then.” With that, the princesses stood up. With a glow of their horns, the cushions vanished, and the pair turned to leave. Brushstroke gave us all an appraising look before heading out the door. Celestia turned as well.
“I have high hopes for all of you...” She said with a smile before departing. Shannon entered the room as they left, yet even her own grin couldn’t surpass the ones we all bore.
“Well, glad to see that went well!” She said. “If you’ll all come with me, I’ll bring you all back to the rooms you arrived in!” We all stood up, some of us grabbing a few extra desserts from the catering (myself included, because, goddamn those things were delicious) and we followed Shannon down the stairs.
As we returned to the hallway, Shannon turned and walked backwards to address us. “If you guys have any questions, just take your stones... stop snickering, Creed...” she said, mock-sternly at me. “...and give them a tight squeeze... I mean it, Creed!” The smile on her face said otherwise. “We will give you a call, and we can talk about any questions or concerns you might have. Ah, here we are!” We’d arrived at the door to the room I’d woken up in. “Creed, since you arrived last, you can go first.” She pulled one of multiple folders from her clipboard and gave it to me. “This is the brochure for that ‘volunteer work’ your parents will think you’re going on, to help sell the story.”
Nodding, I approached the door. I stopped to shake Shannon’s hand; a part of me felt guilty for feeling annoyed at her chipper attitude earlier. “Thanks for this... opportunity.” Shannon smiled and pulled me into a sudden friendly hug. As she stepped back I turned back to the others. “I hope to see you guys next week,” I said before turning and entering the dark room. The door shut behind me and I was left in near complete darkness again. I bounced on the balls in my feet, yet a part of me wondered how I’d deal with the next week, knowing what lay ahead; like a child struggling to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, knowing what awaited them the following morning. The floor beneath me suddenly lit up, a bright white rune revealing itself. There was a flash of light, and I blacked out again.
- - - - -
I woke up with a jolt in my bed, banging my head on the low slanted ceiling again. Swearing, I rubbed my forehead and slowly sat up. The memories of the past hour stubbornly remained, way too vivid to pass off as a dream. As I swung my legs over the side of my bed I became aware that I was gripping something. I looked down and gave a delighted laugh at the folder Shannon had given me.