Note: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic belongs to Lauren Faust and Hasbro. TRON belongs to Disney. Last time I checked, I wasn't Lauren Faust, nor was I the Mouse. Heh, that rhymes!
My Little Program: Friendship is Perfection
"I-I'm sorry. I have no idea what happened!" Twilight Sparkle apologized profusely, looking around helplessly. "That spell was supposed to take us to Sugar Cube Corner!" That might have been the intent of the spell, but that definitely wasn't the outcome. Unless, of course, Sugar Cube Corner decided to redecorate with dark colors separated by brightly shining lines of light.
"Wherever this is, it's not there!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed. "But I like it anyway!" Likewise, Rarity seemed impressed with the this place, wherever it was- flitting here and there, commenting on how these lines would make a lovely accent on some of her dresses.
Applejack was not as impressed. "There's no trees, no grass, anywhere! What does everypony who lives here eat?"
"I dunno, I kind of like it! There's nothing here to get in the way of flying, and these rainbow lines are awesome!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed. To punctuate her statements, she immediately took off, flying around in circles before touching back down. "See?"
Fluttershy just shrank back. She didn't like this place. It felt dead, devoid of life. There wasn't a single critter anywhere, and the air crackled with a sort of energy that unsettled her. It just wasn't natural, and she didn't care what the others thought of this place, she just wanted to get back to Ponyville, where she belonged. Walking backwards, she wasn't aware of where she was going until she bumped into something. Slowly, she turned around. Her eyes widened, and she let out a high-pitched shriek.
"FLUTTERSHY!" she heard several voices yell, and she felt them running to her side, but she couldn't bring herself to turn towards her friends. She stood rooted to the spot, looking fearfully up at the two bipedal, black-clad figures looming above her.
"Identify yourselves, programs," one of the things said, a distorted, deep voice reverberated from inside the shiny black ovaloid shape that was apparently its head.
"Don't answer it!" Applejack yelled,d digging her hoofs in, as though she was ready to charge at the two... whatever they were.
"Identify yourselves, programs," the second one repeated, a slightly higher, but still distorted, voice this time. When none of the ponies answered, the first one turned to its partner.
"Are they viruses?"
"No- they don't have circuitry, even! Viruses would need that," the second one replied. "I wonder- are they ISOs?" Its partner scoffed at that.
"Except for that one, they were all derezzed, and besides, they don't look like any ISOs I've ever seen! They don't look like any program I've ever seen, for that matter!"
While the two strange creatures were arguing amongst themselves, Twilight took advantage of their distraction to try to herd her friends away to safety, but barely made it three steps before the figures realized what was going on. Quick as a flash, one was in front of the group, while the other one took its place at the back.
"We will not ask again. Identify yourselves, programs." For a while, nopony moved, much less spoke. The one who had ordered them to identify reached behind itself and detached a disc from its back, but before it could do anything with it, Pinkie Pie rushed forward, skittering to a halt seconds before she would have crashed. The figure took a wary step back, grip tightening on the disc.
"Hi! I'm Pinkie Pie! And these are my best friends in the whole wide world! Who're you?"
Well, the figure had definitely not been expecting that,and its grip loosened on the disc. "Uh... I'm Xeta."
"Where's your face?" Pinkie continued. "Or are you like those monsters I read in one of Twilight's books that cuts off the face of everypony they find so that they can have one for a little while, then when it goes bad they have to get a new one?"
"What? No!" Xeta yelled, disgusted by the very idea and a little unnerved that this... odd pink thing would think that of him. "I'm a security program in the service of our Programmer!" There was a clicking sounds, and Xeta's helmet retracted, revealing his face. Twilight gasped.
"You- you're a human!I thought they were just old mare's tales!"
"Human-wha? I just said I'm a program! I don't even know what-" Xeta exclaimed before cutting himself off. There was clearly no way to reason with these things. His voice, the ponies noticed, was coming out much clearer without the helmet to distort it. Then, something akin to shock plastered itself across his face. "You... you're not..."
"No, you idiot, they'd look like us if they were!" the still-helmeted program said sharply. "And if you had any sense you'd shut up about that instead of blabbering about it like a broken error message! Whatever these things are, the Programmer will want to see them. Put your helmet back on and let's get out of here!"
Xeta shrugged, helmet clicking back into place. "Come on, let's go. Eiya's right. The Programmer will decide what you are. I just hope for your sakes that you aren't ISOs." The... program called Eiya gave a harsh shove to get the ponies moving, something that Applejack didn't appreciate too much.
"Watch it!" she groused.
Not having much of a choice, the ponies complied, Pinkie Pie at the front chattering away happily to Xeta. Meanwhile, the others were quietly conversing with Twilight. "You're saying that they're humans?" Rarity whispered in awe, casting a nervous glance over her shoulder at Eiya, who was grumpily guarding the back.
"I don't know what else they would be," Twilight muttered back. "They match every description of a human that I've ever read- they walk on two legs, they have arms with hands that can pick things up, they have manes, but not like ours. But these said they were programs. I've never heard of those before!"
"Well, whatever they are, we can take 'em!" Rainbow Dash said, probably louder than she should have. Applejack nodded in a agreement.
"I don't know that we can," Twilight whispered after shushing her friends. "They have an advantage here, and we don't know what they're capable of. I don't even know if my magic would work on them!"
Fluttershy, however, wasn't listening. Instead, she was focused on a glowing orange sphere that had popped up next to her. "Hello," she quietly greeted.
"Yes!" the sphere said, glowing brighter and flying closer, barely touching her nose, before floating away again. Fluttershy giggled.
"What's your name?" she asked it.
"Yes!" came the reply.
"Your name is Yes?" Fluttershy was confused. Out of all the names a creature could have, Yes was a bit odd, even for this strange world. But the sphere suddenly turned red and spiky.
It was then that Fluttershy realized that this strange creature could only answer "yes" and "no." So she tried a different tactic. "Do you think we're going to be alright?" The little sphere paused for a moment, then vehemently responded with a "YES!" Fluttershy jumped from the intensity, and the others noticed.
"What's that?" Rainbow Dash asked curiously, peering at the sphere.
"Did you make a new friend?" Rarity added.
"Yeah. But I think he can only say yes and no." The sphere chimed in with a "yes!" "I just wish I knew what he was!"
"That's a bit," Xeta said, turning around. "You've never seen one before?"
"No," Twilight replied. "No, we haven't. We don't have bits where we come from."
The rest of the trip passed relatively uneventfully, with the exception of Xeta rambling on and on about where they were. Apparently he'd taken the ponies' lack of knowledge about bits as an invitation to recount the stories of this place- apparently called The Grid- in excruciating detail, and to ramble on about the greatness of somepony he called the Programmer.
"He freed us from the tyranny of the Users! He saved us from the threat of unchecked virus code that the Users refused to do anything about! He protects us from programs who want to overthrow his reign, and he gives us entertainment in the form of games!"
"Oooh! I love games!" Pinkie exclaimed. "Can we play them too?" Xeta laughed.
"Trust me, Pinkie, you'd rather watch," he replied, as though he and the hyperactive pink pony had been friends for years. "But maybe I'll take you and your friends to one, if the Programmer allows me to."
"Don't count on it," Eiya muttered under his breath. Then, "we're here."
Everypony stopped, gaping up at the large, ominous ship floating above the large structure smack-dab in the middle of the Grid. "Woah," was all Rainbow Dash was able to say. The others just nodded along with her, not having anything else to add to that.
The two programs herded the ponies onto the ship, all of the other programs at their stations, carrying out their work, staring at them. A female program who had been clacking away on a sort of rectangular thing stood, then hollered out, "Xeta! What are you doing, aren't you supposed to be on duty? What are those?"
"Hey Mie!" Xeta yelled back. "They say they're called 'ponies' and they're not from the Grid! They're pretty awesome! I'm going to try to take them to a game later, you wanna come?"
"Of course!" the other program called back, going back to her work.
They continued on their route, stopping only briefly to make sure that a program who'd fallen off his stool when the motley group walked by was alright- I'm fine, I'm fine, but what the heck are those things? More ISOs?", and to explain to a slightly hysterical program that the ponies, were not, in fact, going to delete him.
"Poor thing, he's been traumatized ever since that Solar Sailor accident over the Sea of Simulation," Xeta explained to a worried Pinkie. "He won't say what he saw in there..."
Finally, they reached a sort of lobby, and a bald program with a visor stared at them. "I see the two of you caught the suspicious, uh, programs," he said dryly.
"They're not programs, Jarvis, they're ponies! That's the amazing thing! They're not Users or ISOs, either!" Xeta yelled enthusiastically. "And this is my new friend Pinkie Pie!" he gestured towards the pink pony. "I wonder if the Programmer will let her be my new partner! Eiya's no fun, we never get to do anything except work! He won't even let us go to End of Line when we're done!" Jarvis rolled his eyes.
"The Programmer wishes to speak to them alone," he replied. "You and Eiya are to go back on patrol, then you are to report on your findings to Rinzler in three millicycles." The two programs nodded and turned, Xeta turning over and waving one more time to Pinkie, who returned the gesture happily.
The door opened, and the ponies were ushered inside, before it closed with a final snap. A rather large man stood up, arranging his flowing cape behind him. "Greetings, ponies!"
"Are you the Programmer?" Pinkie Pie asked.
"Yes, I am CLU," he replied. "Ruler of the Grid. I understand that Xeta explained all this to you. I want to know- how did you get into the Grid? It's not supposed to be connected up to any computers."
"Um, sir, we just sort of... showed up," Twilight Sparkle replied nervously. CLU's face twisted into something ugly, then immediately, as if it had never happened, he was back to normal.
"Do you mean you spontaneously generated?" he asked. "You were not created by anyone? Did you come out of the Sea?"
"Uh... my parents created me," Rainbow Dash interrupted. The other ponies shuffled around uncomfortably, and even the Programmer looked a bit taken aback. Of course the Pegasus would put it that way- so bluntly.
"So, you can't be Users, and if you're not programs or ISOs, then what are you?" He held up a hand to stop her when Pinkie Pie opened her mouth to say something. "And I KNOW you're ponies, you don't need to explain that. But how did you get here?"
"I was trying out a new spell that didn't work," Twilight replied. "It was supposed to take us to Suga- I mean, the bakery where we live, but it brought us here instead." That seemed to intrigue the digital dictator.
"Spell? Like magic? I thought those were just old User stories! But you're saying it's real? And that's how you ended up on my Grid?"
"Yep!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed. "That's how we got here! Can we watch these games Xeta told us about now?"
CLU laughed, a deep, rich, but slightly disturbing sound. "Of course! Come, sit!" he gestured towards the area in front of his throne, waving his hands. Much to the surprise of the ponies, a bunch of fluffy cushions appeared at the feet of the large piece of furniture, as if by magic. Twilight's eyes narrowed- for someone who claimed to not have believed in magic, he sure acted like he knew how to use it. Then, the cover blocking the throne room's view raised, and all of them were treated to a view of the enormous arena down below. CLU did his customary greeting, then settled into his throne. "I hope you enjoy the entertainment!" he said, before turning to Twilight Sparkle. "Afterward, I would like to speak with you regarding this magic business. Would that be acceptable?"
"Oh. Of course," Twilight answered, intimidated. Something was very wrong here. The program that had brought them here had made it seem like the Programmer was a great, powerful, benevolent leader who would do anything for his people. But Twilight could sense waves of hostility naturally emanating from him, although he did an admirable job of keeping them tamped down. There was a disturbing aura that surrounded him, one that Twilight hadn't felt since her encounter with Night Mare Moon. It was the same malevolent, destructive desire to cause pain that lurked just below the surface of the seemingly-pleasant man's personality, and Twilight wondered when it would make itself known.
It seemed that she wasn't the only one to pick up on it, as Applejack and Rarity shot her meaningful glances as she settled onto the cushions along with her friends. Applejack looked as though she wanted to say something, but one look from Twilight stopped her, the studious pony shooting her a look that said "we'll talk later."
And then, the games began. All six ponies watched in horror as the carnage started. It was impossible to tear their eyes away, but it was sickening to watch. Fluttershy let out a cry of despair and buried her head in the cushions when she saw a disc slice through a hapless program, in graphic detail, on the JumboTron. Her bit friend rose up, turning spiky and red and repeating "NO!" over and over.
"What is this?" Rainbow Dash yelled, standing up. "I thought you said this was supposed to be a game!"
"Of course! What did you think it was? Do you not have games where you come from?" CLU replied innocently. "You do not fight against one another for your very survival? I have to wonder, what do you do for entertainment, then? How do you punish lawbreakers? Wherever you come from must be a very imperfect, lawless place if you don't deal with criminals. Was the entertainment not to your liking?"
No one spoke for a while. Death obviously wasn't unheard of in Equestria, but never like this. Even battles between the most bitter of enemies never ended in this way, and the majority of ponies would live out their entire lives without ever coming across any serious conflict. While the ponies had seen pain before, and in some cases, even death, seeing it plastered up all over the screens, in high definition, was too much.
"You're sick!" Rainbow Dash finally screamed, stamping at the ground. She would have attacked, if Twilight hadn't cried out suddenly, horn glowing a blue color she'd never seen before. The studious purple pony felt the familiar tingle of teleportation magic course through her body, and the light spread out to encompass her friends.
"Hold on!" she yelled, before the light became blinding and the feeling of gravity lifted away. Everyone heard CLU's enraged voice shouting something angrily, probably either telling them to come back, or calling for his guards, and then- nothing.
When ground appeared underneath their hooves once again, it was the familiar, soft green grass of Equestrian. "Ah... home sweet home," Applejack sighed, flopping down lazily.
"Twilight-" Rarity began. "Never try to teleport us to Sugar Cube Corner again!"
"Yes!" a different voice shouted, floating up behind Fluttershy.
"It's the bit!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed. "He followed us!"
"Come on then, let's get you to your new home," Fluttershy said, gently nudging the floating sphere with her nose. The bit happily complied, following the Pegasus's lead towards her home.
"Ah, Fluttershy made a friend!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed. "Did we bring Xeta with us?"
"No," the bit replied.
That evening, Twilight Sparkle wrote her usual letter to the Princess, asking Spike to take down everything exactly as she said it, and to not ask any questions about anything weird until the end. He had been napping at the time of the original spell attempt, and as such, hadn't found himself in the Grid.
Dear Princess Celestia-
Today I learned a very important lesson about making sure that I have the spells correctly learned before I try to use them on my friends. I also learned that Equestria is only a small part of the whole world, and that it is possible to go to completely different realms and even make friends there! I also learned that while it is best to always believe the best of your friends, everypony does not deserve that same belief. There are those out there who are not what they seem.
Your faithful student,
This was originally written for a prompt on the TRON kink meme, and I honestly wasn't sure if I was going to de-anon or not. I wasn't really sure about the concept, although the prompt caught my eye and started chewing on my brain. I put a lot of work into this (those ponies are really hard to write). I did end up adding the end of the story after its original posting on the meme because I didn't like how I'd ended it, just with the bit and Fluttershy. I'm not sure if it really ties it up better or not, but at least it ends more like an MLP episode.
On the other hand, I had a few other ideas that might be fun to do with this premise, and I'm probably going to write at least one of them (I can absolutely imagine Rarity and Zuse being BFFs).