• 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.

  • ...

Zone 2

~ After more group therapy and pony buddy assignments ~

Cyril carefully parked his car outside the small shop, Spike bouncing with anticipation in the seat next to him. "Well, here we are. I've never been to a place like this before, so I have no idea what to expect. Hopefully nothing too weird."

Spike snorted, pointing to the sign over the door which simply read 'COMICS'. "It's a comic book shop. They tend to be weird, like, intentionally. That's half the fun!"

"If you say so."

Neither of them wanting to waste more time sitting around, Cyril picked up Spike's projector. It, and the others, had been hooked up to robust portable batteries. The pair of them then walked inside. The first thing they noticed were the shelves upon shelves of comic books. Also boxes and rotating racks. Then they noticed the chill-looking bearded man behind the counter, who shrugged upon seeing Spike.

"Hey, new faces!" he exclaimed. "Welcome!"

"Thanks! I'm just gonna look around for a bit," replied Spike.

Cyril set the projector down on the counter. "Do you mind if I leave this here? No? Good."

Much like a kid in a candy store, Spike zipped around, poring his eyes over the dozens upon dozens of comics on display. "Hey, this Flash guy looks kinda like Fili-second! And that other guy's head is on fire! Are those demons? Sweet!"

Spike's enthusiasm proved contagious, and Cyril smiled. "Let me know once you've made up your mind and I'll buy a few issues for you."

"That was to be expected, but thanks!" said Spike.

Reaching over, Cyril patted the spot in the air where Spike's head started. "It's my pleasure, you scamp. We little guys need to look out for eachother, you know?"

Spike nodded sagely. "Because no one else will. The life of an assistant is a difficult one."

"Tell me about it."

Spike's eyes gained a mischievous glint. "I would, but I was gonna go back to gushing at your world's comic books."

Cyril chuckled at that, not bothering to respond as Spike returned to browsing.

Cue the continued running draconic commentary. "Wow, this one looks terrible. Who drew it? Some guy named Frank Miller, apparently. This Samurai Jack series looks way cooler, very stylized. And it's based on a TV show, too! With all this talk of kindred spirits, now I have to get that one. What's over here? Let's see, Hawkman, Hawkeye, the Falcon, the Vulture, the Penguin, why are there so many characters named after birds? And that guy is just an actual duck! See, Star-Lord sounds way better..."

Eventually, Cyril tuned him out, and started eyeing the MSRPs of the books. Now visibly curious, he turned around to face the shop's proprietor. "Say, Mr...?"

"Everybody calls me Pete."

Cyril blinked. "Ok, uh, Pete, I was wondering, how profitable is this business?"

At that, he snorted. "Not."

Cyril cradled his chin with his hand in thought "Really? Huh, I figured, with the margins, the near-uniform pricing, and the small staff that even low revenue would be compensated for."

"Yeah, I can see why somebody'd think that. Though, I'm not a financial wizard like you, apparently. Heck, I can barely make it as an actual wizard."

"Former financial wizard. There's no glamour in that line of work. At all."

"Wait, you're a wizard?" interjected Spike as he walked back over. "I thought magic wasn't a thing here."

Pete blinked down at him. "It isn't. I was talking about D&D."

"D&D?" Spike asked.

"You know, Dungeons and Dragons? The tabletop fantasy role playing game with the dice?"

"Oh, that sounds like Ogres and Oubliettes!" Spike exclaimed. "I've played and GM'd plenty of O&O!"

"Well alright, then!" Pete pointed back at a door on the far wall. "Actually, today's game night, there are some guys setting up to play in the back right now."

"Really, that's awesome!" Spike then looked up at Cyril. "Come on, let's go check it out! I'm gonna need you to be my claws for a bit."

"Sure," replied Cyril. Then, under his breath, he added "Can't be close to as intense as getting into an actual fight."

So, the pair of them ventured forth into the back room. The creak of the door drew the gazes of four people sitting at a plastic table. Much to Cyril's surprise, they too reacted in a nonplussed manner to Spike. Quips, however, were another matter.

"Look, it's a holo-dude and his manservant," said a man with curly hair.

"Hey!" objected Cyril.

As Spike giggled, another guy wearing glasses joined him. He turned to the GM and said "Didn't we just fight a purple wyrm?"

The chubby guy sitting next to him sighed. "You and your puns. He's clearly a juvenile Lizardfolk."

"Sorry to intrude, but I was actually hoping to join you guys," said Spike, waving to get their attention. "And for the record, I'm actually a dragon."

Glasses-guy snorted. "If you're a dragon, then I'm King Kong."

"Now now, that's no way to treat a new player," said the GM. Then, he smiled at Spike. "We've been waiting for somebody to take over the NPC Rogue."

"Neat!" said Spike. "Hey, Cyril, pull up a chair for me so we can get started."

Cyril sighed, grabbing a chair from one of the other tables. "It's gonna be a long day."

Malory exhaled in contentment as she reclined in a plush leather chair, armrest in one hand and a glass of brandy on the rocks in the other. A Polynesian woman whose name she probably couldn't remember delicately rubbed essential oils into her aching feet. Truly, one could describe this as the perfectly relaxing experience she needed after the past few days. Or at least, it would have been perfect, if not for Rarity, who stood off to the side glaring angrily at her.

"What?" said Malory, turning her eyes toward the holographic mare. "Did you expect me to skip this for you?"

Rarity flicked her tail in annoyance. "Yes! It would have been much more courteous to put the needs of your guest first and foremost."

"I am being quite accommodating right now," said Malory. "I could have just turned you off until I was finished."

At that, Rarity's frown became a full-blown scowl. "So, I'm supposed to be happy just because you aren't actively trying to upset me?"

Malory paused to sip her drink and bask in the pleasing efforts of her silent pedicurist. "I was under the impression you enjoyed this sort of thing. What with that over-styled ribbon you call hair, you must spend half the day in the salon."

Rarity flinched away as if she had been physically struck by Malory's words. "Ah-pfft-what? Over-styled? Everypony else says my mane is fabulous!"

Malory rolled her eyes. "Sure they do."

"And yes," Rarity continued, "I do frequent the Ponyville Day Spa. However, I am in currently in no state to enjoy any spa, let alone this one."

"Hmm? Oh, right holograms. Sucks to be you." At that, Malory shut her eyes and waved her away. "If you're not in the mood to wait quietly, then go drag your aristocratic ass outside. Eat some holographic hay or something."

It took a moment for that to sink in, but when it did, Rarity gasped. "Unbelievable! The nerve of you to suggest such a thing!"

Malory gulped down some more brandy, kept her eyes shut, and shooed Rarity again.

"Ugh, fine! I've never met anyone as entitled and insufferable as you in my entire life, and I've been to Canterlot!" To properly punctuate this statement, she flipped her mane with a hoof. "I'll leave you be for now, but I shall expect an extensive tour of all this world's great couture when you're finished."

Malory sighed in resignation. "Fine. Just don't get your hopes up. Fashion these days is pathetic. Anything that isn't a bargain bin frock mostly involves taping random objects to malnourished immigrants. But if you insist."

Nodding with satisfaction at her affirmative and... descriptive response, Rarity quickly took leave of Malory, trotting back into the spa's lobby to converse with the confused customers.

Fluttershy stared at the creature before her, its grotesquely long limbs, patchy black hair, and beady soulless eyes evoking memories of many sleepless nights huddled under her bed in fear of possible monsters. But this beast was all too real, and seeing its unmoving form looming over her was unnerving in a way she had never before experienced.

Petrified where she stood, Fluttershy managed to squeak out a hello. "H-Hi there."

The horse neighed.

Fluttershy slowly spun around to face Lana. "I very much regret my decision," she said.

"I tried to warn you," Lana replied. "You were the one you wanted to see an animal that didn't exist in your world."

"I know," Fluttershy admitted, hiding her face behind her mane. "I'm not sure what I expected, but this wasn't it."

Lana shrugged. "Yeah, well, most animals here on Earth are pretty stupid. At least Abbiejean is enjoying herself."

Currently, Abbiejean was looking forwards from her seat in a stroller, eyes wide in wonderment and grasping at the air. She was actually trying to cuddle Fluttershy herself (as any sane person with a pulse would), and was completely disinterested in the horse, but neither Lana or Fluttershy knew that.

The infant's adorable antics cheered Fluttershy up a bit. This minor improvement ended shortly thereafter as the horse audibly defecated on the spot.

At that, she cradled her head in her wings. "Why oh why did I not pick the butterfly conservatory?"

"I am so sorry," said Lana. "Because I'm used to dealing with embarrassing situations caused by my insane coworkers almost constantly, I may have gotten desensitized to, like, the entire emotion."

"It's ok. You don't need to apologize," said Fluttershy with a smile. "You had my best interests at heart, and that's what really matters."

Lana nearly hitched at the sweetness. "Where have you been all my life?"

Fluttershy opened her mouth to respond, but couldn't find the words.

"Seriously, once all this is over, would you be open to staying with me and Abbiejean? Please?" asked Lana.

Fluttershy gasped. "I'd love to! Especially since you asked."

"Ooo, right, the whole endless replicated slavery thing. Sorry about that too, AI ethics wasn't something I was even aware of until today."

Fluttershy's muzzle hardened a bit at that. "It's fine, I've come to terms with it."

During the awkward pause that followed, the horse decided to poop some more.

"That, on the other hoof, I don't think I'll ever be able to come to terms with."

Lana groaned. "Back to my place?"

"Back to your place."

At the lab, Twilight waited patiently as Dr. Krieger finished rigging up some sort of addition to her projector.

"So, Dr. Krieger," began Twilight. "You never actually explained how whatever it is you're doing is going to help me read. Not that watching you work isn't fascinating it its own right, but still. I'm guessing it's something to do with the fact that, as a light-based projection, I can't directly interact with objects, right?"

Suddenly, Krieger raised a finger and walked off. "Hold that thought. Uno momento."

"What does that even mea— aaand he's in the other room now."

When Krieger returned, he was not alone, but rather accompanied by another man wearing a paper bag over his head. The bag-wearing man carried a large stack of textbooks in his arms, and Twilight began pronking in place when it was placed on the floor in front of her with a satisfying thud.

Krieger, humming to himself, took a remote control out of his pocket and plugged it into the projector. "They you go, all set! You should be able to move this fellow around now using your magic," he said, placing an arm on bag-head's shoulder. When Krieger saw the worry on Twilight's face that statement produced, he added "Oh, this is just a robot. No free will at all, totally fine!"

Twilight scanned the robot with as much scrutiny as she could muster. "It looks so anatomically accurate, though! And what's with the bag?"

"Oh, that's because I can't risk Archer and the others finding out I built robotic duplicates of them without their consent," replied Krieger. "Wait. Dammit. Look, just don't tell them, ok? It's a secret to everybody."

Not really knowing what to make of that, and too eager to dig into those books, Twilight replied "Sure?"

"Great! If you need me, I'll be right over there doing research," said Krieger as he pointed to his desk.

He hadn't even sat down before Twilight spoke up. "Uh, excuse me, but these are all books on science and engineering. Didn't I request history?"

Krieger spun around, crossing his arms. "Yes, but the history of the human race is one fraught with needless war, mass genocide, torture, famine, disease, and bad folk music. You're better off not knowing, trust me."

Twilight's brow rose.

"Also, I'm too lazy to go the library, and I already had those," he added.

Twilight sighed. "Ok, thanks."

It took Twilight a bit to get used to how different moving the robot felt from her usual telekinesis, but soon she was nose deep in the first book.

~ Many pages later ~

"Horsefeathers, the place is crazy in the best way."

Krieger blinked, turning in his chair. "Huh? What'd you say?"

Twilight didn't bother repeating herself, but rather continued voicing her thoughts. "I mean, I can easily see the weather running by itself. The lack of a schedule must be a nightmare, but given enough practice and pattern recognition, the farmers and architects can compensate. But the entire field of astrophysics? Mind. Blown. It makes so much more intuitive sense than Equestria's system! The whole point of changing it for the show was probably to make Celestia and Luna more important to the story, and wow I feel like a jerk for thinking that."

"If it helps, I have absolutely no idea what Celestia and Luna mean in this context," said Krieger. "Did you have any questions, or do you also like thinking out loud for no discernable reason?"

"Of course I have questions! Is it true almost all of your vehicles run on explosions? How can anybody be confident in their personal safety if that's the case? And why would human society even keep using petroleum fuel when they know its use irreparably damages the environment? You can't possibly be that nearsighted and power-starved!"

"Because money. And, yes, we totally are that nearsighted," confirmed Krieger. "I tried to get approval for a 4th-dimensional resonance battery, so we could screw over our ancestors instead of our descendants, but the government said it was 'too risky'."

Some of the color drained from Twilight's face. "Uh, they were probably right."

"Bah, what do you know," he said. "Still, I'm surprised you didn't bring up nuclear reactors before the combustion engine."

"Oh, that's because I'm already very familiar with quantum physics."

"You are?"

Twilight nodded. (She totally is. Rewatch the very end of The Hooffields and McColts if you don't believe me.) "The possibility of a fission reactor has been a known theory in our academic circles for a while now. But when you can start a cold fusion reaction with enough magic instead, then why bother?"

Krieger stared at her with a mixture of awe and disbelief. "Huh, neat."

"I'd love to see one in operation, though."

"Then you'll need someone else to chaperone, because I am probably now blacklisted for life by any organization with more technology in house than a potato clock," said Krieger. "But I'll show them! We can do plenty of other stuff off the record. Say, you wanna help me try and detect some Gravitons?"

Her ears perked up. "Do I!"

Pam narrowed her eyes in thought at Applejack as she picked up her sandwich. "Okay, so *nom* let me get this straight: you actually like being on a farm doing chores 'n stuff? Toiling in the dirt and shit from an ungodly hour in the morning?"

Applejack tried to defend herself, but her words remained unformed when she was unable to stop herself from retching in disgust at the sight of the woman across the table.

"What?" Pam asked, still chewing her food. "You don't like it when people talk with their mouths full? My folks would pull out the paddle for wasting time waiting to talk with it empty!"

Applejack shut her eyes and took a deep, blissfully scent-free breath to compose herself. "Not that, it's the *urp* horrendous thing you're eatin'."

Pam paused. Her eyes trailed over the uncontested dive that was the surrounding eatery, the poor décor only topped by the layer of unidentifiable grime that seemed to cling to every square inch of surface available. Pam begrudgingly nodded in agreement. "Yeah, Arby's is pretty terrible. Only reason we're in here is 'cause it was so close."

The sound that came out of Applejack's mouth was a mix of a growl and a groan. Her teeth clenched. "No! The... the corpse shavings."

Pam glanced down in surprise as if she hadn't realized what she'd been eating up until this point. "You know, I guess you could call it that." She then pointed a thumb to the side. "I should let their marketing department know, hehehe. Can't possibly make their reputation any worse."

Applejack's chin hit the table, her hat falling over her face.

"Anyway, where were we?" asked Pam. "Oh yeah, farming."

"Honestly? I don't think any of my usual hobbies are on the table," said Applejack with a sigh.

Pam grinned. "That's not just because they all ran for the hills when they saw what was for dinner, was it?"

Snorting at the bad joke, Applejack elaborated. "Working, helping out, rodeo, they're all physical."

"Oof. I get it now," said Pam. "I wouldn't like it if I couldn't punch a bitch when a bitch needed punchin'."

"I'm sorry, but, bitch punching?" asked Applejack, incredulous.

"Language!" Pam said, laughing. "Aren't you supposed to be a kids show character?"

"Actually, now that you mention it..." began Applejack, her eyes widening, "that's something to do. It would be nice to know if our show was doin' a good job of teaching you folks how to better themselves. Privately, I've always liked to think of myself as a pony whose example is worth following."

"Oh? Yeah, I can do that, but are you sure that's all you want to know?" asked Pam, mischief in her eyes. "Or do you also want to check how popular you are compared to your friends?"

If she hadn't been thinking along those lines before, AJ certainly was now, a small blush now tinting her cheeks. "Sure, might as well do that too."

Pam pulled out her phone, smiling. "Ok, let's see what the internet has to say. Probably something stupid."

Applejack waited patiently, facing to the side and pondering just what an 'internet' was. At the same time, Pam polished off her corned beef with one hand while surfing the web with the other. Eventually, Pam finished, and called out Applejack's name to get her attention.

"I've got good news and bad news," said Pam.

"Alright, let's get the bad news out of the way," said Applejack.

"So, uh," Pam reluctantly began, "basically, neither the little girls or the Bronies like you."

"Aww, horseapples." Applejack's expression soured. "Does it at least say why?"

"Well, the kids prefer your friends because they're more cute than you, and the Bronies can't form an emotional connection to your character as easily 'cause you're less crazy than your friends."

AJ's jaw dropped. "Seriously? How is being sane a bad thing?"

Pam shrugged. "Just calling it how I'm seeing it."

"Fine. What's the good news?"

"The good news is that your show actually has inspired plenty of people to better themselves, mostly through charity work."

A small smile graced her face. "I suppose I can overlook bein' third-string if it means I'm helping make this world a better place."

Pam fidgeted a bit. "Sorry girl, but that might not be the case. You've also inspired like just as many perverts."

Unable to find an adequate response, Applejack began stuttering incoherently.

"I mean, shitsnacks, I don't think I've ever seen this much fanmade porn in one place before! There's like over 9,000 pieces of erotica alone! Not to mention any of the actual pedophiles that have been arrested."

The stuttering increased in intensity. Then Applejack fell off her seat.

"Still, you're lucky. I wish I had this many people jacking and/or jilling off to me on a regular basis!"

Applejack was now twitching on the floor, her eyes glazed over from shock and revulsion.

Now noticing Applejack was no longer visible, Pam peeked under the table to check on her. "Uh, are you ok?"

"Hey, so, Pinkie, what's it like being a cartoon character?" asked Cheryl as she sipped her coffee. "Probably super nuts, right?"

Pinkie giggled at that, bouncing along next to her as they leisurely toured the city. "Oh, yeah, it's great! At least, it is for me, since I knew about it from the start. As long as I'm being my usual fun-eriffic self, the writers will let me get away with basically anything. Breaking physics, breaking the fourth wall, you name it!"

Cheryl's face fell. "Must be nice. I have, like, oodles of money, and I still get bored sometimes."

"Oh, well that's no good. You should spend more time with your friends, then!"

"Eh, I dunno," Cheryl said, Pinkie's exuberance having little effect. "I've stuck around with them so long because they were entertaining. But now the novelty is starting to wear off a bit."

Pinkie gasped, her jaw widening an impossible amount. "That's no way to talk about your friends! I'm sure if you let them know how you're feeling they'll support you!"

Cheryl just shrugged. "Well, what about you? I doubt all of the people watching your show on TV would go out of their way to change unless you bribed them with hedge funds or something, even if you did consider them 'friends'." She encapsulated that last word in air quotes.

Now visibly perplexed, Pinkie started intently up at Cheryl. "Uh, I'm not sure where you got that idea. Just because I can see the screen doesn't mean I can see through it. And even if I could, I don't think the Hasbro executives would let me just talk to the audience for a whole episode." Perking back up, she added "still, most of my fans would probably at least try to clean up their act if I asked!"

"If you say so."

"I do say so!" confirmed Pinkie. "And in the meantime, I'll cheer you up in their place!"

Pinkie then proceeded to zip in front of Cheryl, pull her party cannon out of her mane, and blast holographic confetti (basically sparkles [of the non-Twilight variety]) into the woman's face.

Though not surprised, Cheryl smiled as she halted in place. "See, you're interesting. Interacting with someone who's happy all the time usually makes me gag."

"Wait, really? But... you were so excited earlier! That only happens with perpetually cranky people!"

"I'm rich," Cheryl plainly said, as if that explained everything about her eccentricities. It only explained most of them. "My birthright is to only laugh when I feel like it. Or when a peasant needs to be haughtily demeaned or something."

After a brief silence, Pinkie spun her tail like a propeller to bring herself up to Cheryl's eye level. "Challenge accepted! By my honor as a party pony, I will not rest until I have make you chuckle, guffaw, laugh, giggle, or chortle!"

Cheryl blinked. "Sure, ok."

And so began an onslaught of Pinkie's best material. Cheryl was beset by puns, horse puns, sight gags, general goofiness, and more as she just resumed walking, nonplussed. But Pinkie was unrelenting in her pursuit of a smile, and kept the jokes coming mercilessly. Random bystanders aplenty cracked up when they passed, but not Cheryl.

At least, not until her wandering eye settled on something across the road. Then she laughed uproariously.

Pinkie noticed this, immediately deflating. "Really, sister? What could possibly be funnier than a bald sheep replacing its wool with whipped cream?" To see what the fuss was about, Pinkie then turned her gaze in the same direction as Cheryl's. There, she beheld a miserable looking man wearing three equally ratty hoodies layered over eachother and holding a cardboard sign which read 'please help'. For once, Pinkie was speechless.

Cheryl, however, was not. "It's a hobo! Hobos are hilarious!"

Pinkie looked at the beggar in dismay as Cheryl kept laughing. "But... he's probably starving!" Pinkie exclaimed. "Who knows when he last had a nice bubble bath?"

"Exactly!" Cheryl managed, as she nearly doubled over from amusement. "Plus, everyone else in his family probably either hates him, is also broke, or are all dead!"

"How could you say that?" asked Pinkie after another dramatic gasp, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. "Poverty isn't funny at all! It's the opposite of funny!"

Cheryl finally started to calm back down. "It is to me! I - whew - think there's a word for it in Krieger-speak. Scha-something."

Pinkie's ear twitched. Her opinion of Cheryl had rapidly undergone a 180. "Please answer the question," she said.

Cheryl quizzically tilted her head to the side. "Hmm? Because my family also hates me just as much as I hate their asses, and you can joke about your own circumstances? Because I'm rich and get to laugh at the poor, as I said already? Because I am - and I quote Malory on this - 'a terrible person and literally worth less than a dung beetle's shit'? Take your pick."

Pinkie stared at her for a good twenty seconds. "You need therapy. And not the frosting-covered kind."

Cheryl nodded. "I get that a lot."

Archer knelt next to a wall in an alleyway, keeping to the shadows as he surveyed his surroundings. Once the coast was clear, he quickly dashed through an intersection, precious electronic cargo in tow, and crouched down behind another building.

"Uh, why are you doing that?" asked Rainbow Dash as she hovered over his shoulder.

Archer twisted his head back around to address her. "Doing what?"


Archer rolled his eyes. "Because I don't want to be seen, obviously."

"Well, yeah, I figured," said Dash. "It's just that, well, I'm here too. And I'm not exactly the most inconspicuous mare, ya know."

"I am aware," said Archer. "It's better than nothing, though. Also, this is a nice area, so the streets are all clean. There's literally no downside."

Dash chuckled a bit. "That, and watching you do spy stuff is pretty awesome."


After that, Archer kept traversing the streets in Stealth Modetm for a little while. At least until Rainbow spoke up again. "Say, where are you taking me, anyway? Some sort of stunt course?"

Archer didn't stop moving to answer immediately, instead dive rolling over to the next corner and pointing around it first. "Here."

Taking his cue, Dash flew over to poke her head around the wall. Visible a short distance away was a decently-sized wharf. Tied to the docks were a variety of privately owned boats, ranging from dingy, two-person recreational fishing dinghies to small party yachts with three decks and everything in between.

Rainbow raised a skeptical eyebrow at Archer. "We're here for a boat?"

"Not just any boat: a speedboat," Archer elaborated. "I know you have a major boner for speed. But an airplane would be massively underwhelming, and you've already driven a derby cart - what were those things powered by, anyway? - so then I thought: 'hey, she probably hasn't gone fast on water before'. And now we're gonna do that."

Rainbow's mouth slowly broke into a grin. "Ok, now I'm actually getting excited."

"Glad you're on board, because now you need to help me steal one."

It took Dash a second to register that statement. "Huh?"

"Even I know that owning a boat is a stupid idea." Archer suddenly stepped forwards and started walking towards the docks, eyes scanning into the distance. "Just watch my back and make sure nobody calls the cops while I'm hotwiring the thing."

Dash hovered there, blinking, before noticing Archer had left and shooting after him. "Wonderbolts don't steal! We're supposed to, like, embody valor or whatever!"

"Well, you're not in Equestria anymore, and I won't tell if you won't," said Archer. "What's a little grand larceny between friends?" It was about that time when Archer spied their seafaring chariot for the day: a sleek, tapered vessel with two engines and flames painted on the side. "Jackpot," he added.

Dash followed along on autopilot as Archer jumped into the boat and started tinkering with the controls. She was still conflicted about the whole thing, but after some thought, realized she couldn't stop Archer anyway, and might as well enjoy the result.

"What the, it's a flying— hey that's my boat!"

Spinning to face the source of the shout, Rainbow's eyes met those of a very peeved man with tanned, wrinkly skin and sunglasses. When she glanced back at Archer, he clenched his lips and silently flicked his head towards to boat's owner, then went back to work.

Rainbow gulped, then flew up to the man. "Hi, so, nice to finally meet you, I'm your guardian alicorn!"

The man blinked in confusion. "Is that like a guardian angel?"

"Yes?" said Dash. When his expression softened into one of skepticism, she continued. "And I'm here to tell you that you should ignore him and go home!"

He stared at her for what seemed like an eternity. "Why?"

At this point, Rainbow had broken out into a cold sweat. "Well, uhh... because he's dangerous. Very dangerous. That's my job: helping you avoid danger."

"Yeah, I'd totally kill you," chimed in Archer.

After processing this new information, the man's eyes widened, and he slowly began walking backwards with his hands up until he was off the wharf. Then he drew a cross over his chest and booked it.

Dash let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. Then, she crossed her legs and huffed at Archer.

"What?" he said. "That was great; you'd make a better field agent than Cyril."

She almost asked if he was being serious about killing the guy, or if he was just acting, but figured that for once she'd keep her thoughts to herself. Con Mane had no qualms regarding murder, at least on missions. Besides, now she would get to ride the boat!

With an abrupt jolt, the speedboat's motors roared to life, Archer beaming in excitement as he took his seat behind the wheel. "Woo! Listen to that!"

Rainbow's ears swiveled, almost pulling her head to face the rumbling rotors. As Archer tied down her projector, Dash plopped into the seat next to him, the events before now already water under the bridge.

Archer unceremoniously undid the rope and tossed it overboard before revving the throttle. "Ready to see what this girl can do, RD?"

"Heck yeah!"

"Then let's go!"

The boat accelerated rapidly, pulling out of the docks and into the open ocean. Archer laughed as their speed built, watching the smile on Rainbow's face grow as the vessel started to angle backwards. As the boat's wake grew frothier, and the pacific waves grew bigger, her smile began to rival one of Pinkie's.

"The bumpiness is intense! It's like flying in a vortex!" Dash exclaimed.

"This is nothing," said Archer. "We aren't even at this thing's max speed yet!"

"Really? What are you waiting for?"

Taking that as his cue, Archer pushed the speedboat to the limit, the pair of them hollering in delight as its angle with the water doubled in degree. The G forces sent a thrill through the both of them. Once he'd determined they'd gone out far enough, Archer moved to reverse course in the flashiest, least advisable, and most badass manner possible: cutting the gas and pulling hard on the rudder to drift to the side. There was a tremendous splash as they spun, whitewater sailing overhead.

And then Rainbow Dash's body flickered a few times before sputtering out of existence.

For one blissful moment, Archer remained ignorant of what had just happened. When that moment passed, he looked at where Rainbow had been, then at the sparking, shorted-out projector, then back at the seat. "Oh. Shit."

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