• Published 24th Nov 2017
  • 610 Views, 20 Comments

Archer: Magic - Thought Prism

After being blacklisted by the CIA, what's a group of freelance intelligence operatives to do? Why, sell sentient pony holograms of course.

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Zone 1

It was a scorching mid-afternoon in the arid desert of New Mexico. This particular location happened to be near the secret entrance to a top-secret CIA research facility, from which eight people and one malnourished infant had recently been kicked out for being inept and/or insane: the former members of the covert agency known as ISIS (no, not that ISIS), among them one Sterling Archer. He was currently wearing a pair of shades and staring triumphantly into the distance, much to the irritation of his associates.

“Ok, so is anybody gonna ask what his idea is, or are we just gonna stand here slowly cooking in our own juices all day?” quipped Pam.

“For once, I must agree with Pam,” said Malory. “Please, by all means, Sterling, tell us just how you are planning on getting us out of the wretched mess.”

“I bet it’s a carnival!” exclaimed Cheryl. “I’ve always wanted to be one of those bendy people.”

Cyril sighed and rolled his eyes. “This is Archer. I’m sure it’s far more dangerous than that, and even less likely to work.”

It was then that the man in question finally broke his pose, turning to face the others. “Actually, it involves almost no danger. And it will work, assuming Krieger pulls through for us.”

Krieger pointed to himself. “Me?”

“Yes, you. Or, rather, your wife.” Archer blinked. “Actually, no, just whatever your wife is made of.”

“A long range hologram projector coupled to advanced AI firmware?” Krieger asked.

“Sure, whatever.”

Lana narrowed her eyes, firmly cradling Abbiejean with her freakishly large hands. “And how exactly is Krieger’s Japanese virtual wife technology going to provide for our daughter?”

Archer slowly reached over and placed his hands on her shoulders. Then, he uttered a single word: “Bronies.”

Lana stared. “Bronies? What?”

“I concur. What the hell is a Brony?” Cyril asked.

Archer smiled mischievously. “Only a member of the most fanatic of subcultures, with devotion that supersedes reason and money to burn.”

Malory steepled her hands. “Continue.”

He cleared his throat. “So, there’s this show called My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and—”

Pam immediately broke out into a fit of hysterical laughter. The only person not glaring at her after the first minute of such was Ray, and only because he was still lying unconscious from having his spine broken again.

Her chuckling finally petered off. “Sorry, it’s just… that sounds like something for little girls.”

“Obviously,” said Archer. “But weird man-boys also like it. To an unhealthy degree. So I was thinking we could, like, make a bunch of those projectors for the different characters and sell them at a premium.”

"That’s… actually not bad, Archer. It’s child-friendly and everything,” said Lana.

“I’m in!” added Cheryl. “I had ponies when I was a girl, they were great. It was fun to feed them to my pet crocodile as I watched.”

After quickly shooting a look of utter horror at her, Cyril nodded to Archer. “At this point, anything that isn’t illegal or liable to get me shot is fine.”

Krieger rubbed his chin. “Yeah, I can do that. Guess I’ll table my other projects. Cultivating an army of hybrid mantis shrimp men will have to wait.”

“Dang, that does sound like it would be awesome,” said Archer. “I immediately regret my decision.”

“Of course you do,” sighed Lana.

“Actually,” began Pam, “How the hell do you even know about this pony show in the first place?”

“Hey, yeah,” said Cyril. Then, a sly smile crossed his face. “Just why is the manly Sterling Archer familiar with something called My Little Pony – and its fans?”

Archer frowned at him. “I’ll have you know that I regularly need to temper my sheer badassery with some sort of outlet, lest I just start uncontrollably wrestling tigers with my bare hands 24/7. Also, Rainbow Dash is my spirit animal.”

Malory snickered. “Rainbow Dash? That sounds like something a gay stripper would put on their breakfast gruel!”

Archer’s frown was immediately redirected. “Dammit, mother, she’s a character from the show.”

“A poorly named one,” she replied.

“Heh, I bet the others all have even more stupid names,” said Pam.

Archer snorted. “One of them’s named Applejack.”

Pam’s eyes widened. “Never mind, she sounds delicious.”

Cheryl nodded sagely. “All ponies are. At least, they were to Mr. Throat Ripper.”

Ignoring Cheryl’s usual brand of psychosis, Lana abruptly changed the topic. “Is nobody going to bring up his sunglasses? Because when Archer put them on, I thought for sure that he was going to suggest we try opening some kind of 90’s throwback detective agency.”

“What? Where did you get that idea?” asked Archer. “Why would anyone need a reason to put on eye protection in the middle of a god-damn desert?”

“He’s got you there, Lana,” said Krieger. “They call it ultraviolet radiation for a reason, you know.”

Defeated, she merely sighed.

When nobody deigned to continue the conversation, Cyril groaned. “Well, I guess it’s back to praying for a passing car we can hitchhike, then.”

~ 2 Days Later ~

“Ta-dah!” exclaimed Krieger, framing the recently completed devices set out on the table next to him with a pair of jazz hands. They were each shaped like steel cubes with various lenses, lights, and other photonic equipment poking out of the casing. All seven were plugged into the same power strip.

Cheryl clapped rapidly and Archer grinned with pride while the rest of them just stared, standing nonplussed in the middle of the lab.

“Krieger, why are there only seven of them?” asked Malory. “That’s not nearly enough for a product launch.”

“Because the CIA confiscated 87% of the equipment in my lab before we got back here,” he replied.

“Cut him some slack, mother. It’s not like you were any help,” said Archer. Then, to Krieger: “Go on, man, explain how they work.”

“With pleasure,” he said, clearing his throat. “So, as you already know, these ‘Virtual Ponies’ use the same type of projector and fast-learning routines I developed for Mitsuko-chan. Except their base personalities were compiled from the TV episodes – thank you, Netflix – which was a lot faster than programming them from scratch.”

“We’ve got just enough for each of the main characters,” added Archer. “The plan is to test them out for a bit to make sure they’re legit, then show them around to raise money. The stickers are just for the prototypes.”

Upon closer inspection, they did indeed each have a small, glittery sticker of their respective character on the side, pulled off a sheet bought fifteen minutes ago at the drugstore across the road.

“Heh, nice job, tough guy,” said Pam, snickering.

“What are you waiting for? Turn them on already,” said Malory. “I have a pedicure appointment soon and I’m not missing it.”

“Based on prior experience, we’re waiting for something to backfire horribly,” said Cyril.

Lana nodded in agreement, arms crossed. “There’s a reason I left Abbiejean at the daycare today.”

“Pffft, they’re holograms, guys,” said Archer, taking a swig from the flask in his jacket. “They couldn’t hurt anything even if they wanted to. Which they don’t, because their mantra is literally ‘Friendship is Magic’.”

“I dunno…” Cyril said.

“Do it do it do it!” goaded Cheryl.

“You don’t have to tell me twice,” said Krieger. Without any further ado, he reached over and switched them on.

The Virtual Ponies immediately appeared with a pop of static, their holographic bodies about three feet tall. Among them were Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Spike, who, let’s be honest, totally counted as a pony.

They all appeared groggy, as if they’d just been rudely awoken from a peaceful sleep.

“Owie, I must have partied harder than I thought last night,” said Pinkie as she rubbed her head.

“Aww, they’re so cute!” said Cyril.

Applejack was next, prying her eyes open. A few blinks, and she stood, able to comprehend her surroundings. Namely, the group of huge, unknown creatures staring at her. She reacted about as well as one could expect: by screaming “Waugh!” and backpedaling into the nearest wall.

“So far, so good,” said Malory sarcastically.

This started a chain reaction as her friends were startled to full alertness. “What’s going on?” exclaimed Twilight, leaping to her hooves. Her eyes widened as they darted back and forth between the people present.

Fluttershy squeaked in surprise and huddled next to Applejack.

“In hindsight, I probably should have expected this,” stated Archer.

Not having heard him, Spike waddled up next to Twilight, sharing her bafflement.

The first thing Rarity noticed was that something was very wrong with her hooves, tilting them from side-to-side. “What in Equestria?”

Dash’s reaction, meanwhile, involved punching. “Hey, back off, creeps!” she exclaimed, flying into Cheryl’s face hooves-first. However, the woman didn’t budge an inch, as if she had collided with a brick wall.

“Dash!” chided Twilight. “Don’t just attack them!”

“But they foalnapped us while we were sleeping!” Dash said, hovering.

“Oh, I don’t mind at all, hit away!” assured Cheryl. “Although it would be better if I could feel it,” she added under her breath.

“I thought you said these ponies were nonviolent, Archer,” said Lana.

At that, he rolled his eyes. “Comparatively. And Rainbow’s my favorite for a reason.”

Rainbow cocked her head to the side. “Wait, you’re a fan?”

“No shit,” replied Archer. “I wish I could break the sound barrier. Then I wouldn’t have to keep carpooling with these guys all the damn time.”

Twilight sighed in relief. “It’s ok, girls, they’re friendly. Even though their vocabulary seems to be… different.”

Now placated, everypony gathered up in front of the ISIS crew, no longer afraid, but still very much confused and curious.

“I have many questions,” began Twilight. “Where are we? Who are you? What are you? And why are our bodies translucent?”

Krieger turned to Archer. “Should we traumatize them all at once, or a bit at a time?”

“Dude!” exclaimed Pam.

“For once, I don’t think that’s necessary,” said Archer. “Take it easy on ‘em.”

“Twilight, what does ‘traumatized’ mean?” asked Spike.

The way her face now paled was all the answer he needed. Fluttershy was also back to hiding in the corner.

Sighing, Cyril decided to man up for once and answer Twilight. “Right now, you’re on another world, called Earth, where we humans live.”

“Also there’s no magic here, so everything sucks,” added Archer.

There was a collective gasp among the ponies.

“Oh, it’s not that bad,” said Pam. “We have Trans Fats, which are almost as good.”

“No magic?” said Twilight. “How is that possible?”

“Yeah, how do you even have anything to eat, if’n that’s true?” said Applejack.

Krieger rubbed his chin. “Am I allowed to explain how photosynthesis works to Orange Horse here?”

“Do we suddenly have three years to spare?” asked Malory. “And I don’t think any of these ponies are supposed to be black people; we should address them by name.”

“Oh yeah, those are a thing,” said Cheryl.

Lana, meanwhile, glared at Malory.

“I guess introductions are in order,” said Cyril. “I’m Cyril, and that guy who has the pegasus running scared is Dr. Krieger.”

“Hey-o,” he said, waving.

“I’m Pam, the cool girl who’s great at parties and better in bed.” She then gestured to Cheryl. “This is Cheryl. We think.”

She gasped at that. “I’m not Cheryl Tunt? Am I actually a giant fungus or something? Because that would make sense.”

Archer took another pull from his flask. “I’m Archer, the world’s greatest secret agent of all time, and that’s my mother, Malory. She’s less cool.”

“And I’m Lana, the woman who still regrets pity-boning him.”

“Hey!” Archer exclaimed. Though it looked like he was about to break into an angry tirade, he swallowed his pride for the sake of the ponies. “Now it’s your turn. Krieger and I are the only ones who know who you are.”

Twilight, though still overwhelmed by the situation, slipped into friendship princess mode out of reflex. “Oh. Well, my name is Princess Twilight Sparkle. Just Twilight is fine.”

Malory nearly choked on her own tongue.

After a brief pause, the others followed her lead despite their various misgivings, starting with Rainbow Dash, as is the norm. “Rainbow Dash, fastest of the Wonderbolts,” she said, pointing to her face.

“Uh, I’m Spike the Dragon.”

“My name is Pinkie Pie and I’m SUPER excited to meet you!” She started pronking in place gleefully.

“Applejack,” the mare in question said, tipping her hat.

Rarity curtsied. “I am Rarity, a lady well versed in both fashion and generosity.” Then, when she failed to speak up, Rarity added. “And sweet Fluttershy still seems to be rather nervous.”

“We all are, Rares,” said Applejack, brow furrowed. “She’s just the worst at hidin’ it.”

“I’m not nervous! Just confused,” insisted Rainbow, hovering with her hooves crossed. “For once, I’m with Twilight here. You… humans haven’t told us what’s up yet, and I wanna know.”

“Exactly,” said Twilight. “Are you all spies? Why did you bring us here? And, most importantly, can you send us back once we’re finished?”

“Well, we were all intelligence agents, and we still would be if some of us hadn’t horribly botched our most recent job,” said Lana.

“That’s exactly right,” confirmed Malory with disdain. “And you seven are going to be our tickets to the high life.”

“Wait, really? You abducted us just to make some quick bits?” exclaimed Spike.

Cyril put up his hands in a placating gesture. “It’s not that bad! Technically we didn’t abduct you at all.”

“How does this not count as abduction?” asked Rarity. “One minute we were celebrating Starlight and her friends for saving us from Queen Chrysalis – who also foalnapped us - and the next we wake up here!”

“Yeah, funny story,” began Pam. “The thing is… none of you are actually real.”

“You’re cartoon characters that were created by a faceless corporation to sell toys!” added Cheryl.

The Equestrians just stared at them in disbelief.

“That’s the single stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. And I’ve met Discord,” said Applejack.

“How can we not be real?” asked Fluttershy. “We can think, and feel, and everything else.”

“Well, as of today, I guess you are,” said Archer. “Truly this is a momentous stepping stone on the path to the inevitable singularity.”

The others blinked owlishly at Archer as he chugged the rest of his booze. There was a heavy, drawn-out silence until Pinkie Pie broke it.

“Wait, did you girls seriously not know we were all fictional?” she asked.

Her friends’ jaws all dropped. Archer started laughing hysterically.

“I mean, nopony ever bleeds, everything has a moral, half the villains we fight get redeemed in seconds, Celestia constantly messes up for the sake of the plot… I could go on,” Pinkie said, her head cocked to the side.

“Uh… you’re making even less sense than usual, Pinks,” said Dash, her brow furrowed.

“Should I just play them an episode?” asked Krieger.

Pinkie nodded. “Oh yeah, that’d be way easier than explaining! Can you do MMMystery on the Friendship Express? That one was fun!”

“Sure, why not?” said Krieger. He then pulled up the appropriate episode on his computer and hit play.

And so, it began. For most, the experience would have put a smile on their face in one way or another, but the ponies beheld that which would cast their beliefs asunder, to be replaced with naught but despair. As the events unfolded before their eyes, each character reacted differently to the fact that they were just that: a character.

Twilight was the first to realize the implications, and immediately collapsed, curling into the fetal position while mumbling to herself. “It all makes sense now. Free will was just an illusion. Everything I did was preordained. I’m the protagonist.”

Next was Fluttershy. “We’re… we’re all just moving drawings? My animal friends were all just made to be my friends? I can’t…” She then began shivering uncontrollably.

Applejack’s legs gave out from under her. “My whole life was a life. My whole family was a lie. I’m a lie!”

“All my designs,” began Rarity with glazed eyes, “weren’t even mine to begin with. My passion, my creativity, it was all the work of someone else: my own creator. Is that all I am? Somepony else’s puppet?”

“Every time I did something awesome, it wasn’t actually me?” lamented Rainbow Dash.

“Uh, where am I in this? Am I just a… side character?” questioned Spike, a forlorn expression on his face.

“Unfortunately, yeah. You kindof are,” confirmed Archer. “Especially now that Starlight exists.”

Spike moaned in reply.

“Archer! You can’t just call someone a side character to their face!” exclaimed Lana. “I think. There’s honestly no precedent, but I’m pretty sure it’s still rude.”

Cyril nodded. “Yeah, that’s definitely rude. Also, I’m so, so sorry you had learn the truth this way.”

“Oh, it’s not that bad, Cyril,” Pinkie said. She then pulled the girls into a group hug to the best of her ability, given that Twilight, Applejack, and Spike were sobbing on the floor. “We still have eachother, right? And friendship is magic! I’ll support you, and we’ll get through this together!”

“Well, however you do it, you need to get your shit together fast,” said Malory. “No one will buy copies of your souls if you’re just going to be wailing wrecks.”

Pam gasped. “Too soon!”

Now all seven of them were crying their eyes out.

“See, look what you did!” Pam added.

Malory shrugged. “What? It’s not like they actually have feelings.”

“They have more heart than you, mother,” quipped Archer.

“It’s true, I did hardcode that in. Where’s your heart algorithm, hmm?” asked Krieger, as he leaned in closer to Malory.

Malory harrumphed and turned away. The ponies continued to cry into eachother’s simulated coats.

“Come on, cheer up!” said Cheryl. “Who knows, maybe we’re all fictional, too!”

In a more well-planned effort to calm them down, Lana inched closer to the pony pile and knelt. “Shh, shh. Just let it out, everything’s going to be fine. We’ll show you all the neat stuff on Earth later, okay?”

“And if we can get enough money, we’ll bring all the other ponies here to keep you company,” added Cyril.

That got Twilight’s attention. “No! You can’t! Nopony else should ever be subjected to this waking nightmare!”

“That’s a bucking given!” exclaimed Rainbow Dash. “Can one of you guys punch him for me?”

Eager to oblige, Archer decked Cyril in the stomach, hard. He fell, wheezing in agony.

“Thank you,” said Dash, wiping the tears from her face with a wing. “Seeing that makes me feel a little better.”

“You’re welcome,” replied Archer. “I probably would have done that anyway.”

“Fuck you,” moaned Cyril from the ground.

“Lana’s idea actually sounds fun, though,” said Cheryl. “Once they’re done lamenting the cruel nature of their existence, we can go paint the town red! I call Pinkie Pie!”

“Actually, yeah. It would be less than ideal for all the bronies if they had to explain everything about our society to them,” noted Krieger.

“That probably would reduce sales,” said Malory.

Cheryl started clapping in excitement again. “Yay!”

“I guess it’s settled then,” said Lana. She stood, placing her hands on her hips with pride.

“Just let me pair everyone else off,” said Archer. “God knows what she would do if mother got stuck with Applejack.”

At that moment, both of them glared at him in unison and asked “And just what is that supposed to mean?”

Archer crossed his arms. “I rest my case.”

Pam sighed. “Whatever, can we just get to it, then? After all those meals I missed in the desert, I could still eat, like, four pizzas.”

“Alright, alright,” said Archer. “Just give them a few more minutes to calm down and Krieger and I’ll take care of it. Assuming Cyril is off his ass by then.”

The man in question could only groan as Pinkie slowly worked her magic.

This was going to be a long day.

Author's Note:

Fittingly released on Spend-All-The-Money day. I may need to add in the Dark or Drama tags, but I can assure you that the rest won't be subjecting our favorite characters to any more existential woes.

Actually, now that I think about it, Shadow Play wasn't that bad. Writing over a dozen characters in one scene isn't that easy. Let me know if you think I made it work. Also let me know if you're liking this so far!

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