You’ve had a dangerous life, you have to admit. Countless thieveries, robberies and drunken brawls later, and you’re lucky enough to escape as unscathed as you are. A lot of small miracles working in succession, you suppose. That and getting out of tough spots is kind of your special talent.
And yet, you’ve never been more nervous in your life than you are now. Waiting backstage, minutes from show-time. Nopony’s going to arrest you. You wouldn’t expect anypony fighting you, either. They’re all just going to be looking at you, and that’s it. Just watching you. This is a way safer experience than most of the things you’ve done over the years, so why are you so nervous?
You turn around. Now, there’s a pretty face to calm your nerves. You can’t really agree with the garish hat though; she looks better with just the cape on.
“I’ve never seen you so tense before,” she jokes, “One could see your jittering from space!”
“Yeah, yeah, very funny,” you mumble, “Didn’t you have stage fright during your first show?”
“Of course I did,” she admits, “But then I found a way of dealing with it.”
“And that was..?”
“But if I told you, you’d no longer have stage fright!” she giggles, and not in the friendly way, “Seeing you squirm like this is pure gold!”
“Trixie, c’mon, you wouldn’t want my debut to be a disaster, would you?”
“Very well,” she sighs, “if you’re really feeling that nervous just remember; you’re better than them in every way. They should feel downright privileged just to have bought tickets to see you. Do you see them practicing unparalleled magic and breaking free from impossible restraints? No, of course not; because they can’t. In fact, they paid top-bit just to watch us do something that’s easy to us, we’re that good! They suck, and we rule. Don’t be intimidated by them; be the one to leave them intimidated by your unprecedented talents!”
“So… be as vain and self-important as possible, and treat myself like I’m some sort of holy gift to the rest of Equestria?”
“Hey, it works for me.”
Trixie’s riveting advice didn’t do a lot to rid the knots in your stomach, but you feel it helped a little by giving you a solid frame of mind to work in as the curtain rises.
You take a deep breath, looking out from the stage to… huh. The spotlight’s in your eyes. You can’t see a single pony in the whole theatre. That settles you for a moment, before Trixie trots forward and triumphantly introduces the two of you - The Great and Powerful Trixie and Her Eminent and Obedient Assistant - prompting a bout of cheering. Yup, you’re definitely on a stage right now, and other ponies can definitely see you. No pressure or anything.
You awkwardly bow to the audience’s cheering, while Trixie, conducting the attention of everypony in the theatre, directs them to the first trick; a shabby wardrobe, where she would be starting the evening with a disappearing act. Yeah, talk about leaving as soon as you arrive.
Like most tricks of that sort, it was always Trixie being the centre of them. All you had to do was close and open the wardrobe doors, while the audience gasp at her vanishing and reappearing. You manage to pull it off without a hitch, just as you had rehearsed. Unlike everypony else, you were the only one who knew she was hiding in a hidden compartment of the wardrobe each time.
When the applause dies down, you nervously step up. It’s your turn to be the star of the show, and it involves the only trick you know. A ratchet-level hoist swings just short of the top of the theatre, complete with a long metal chain that stretches from the very top of the hoist to the ground.
Remember, just like you rehearsed.
You remain perfectly still as she wraps the chains around your chest and legs with her violet aura. From there, she brings out four bronze padlocks - the same padlocks you’d spent the past few days practicing with - and begins locking the chains into place one by one, all the while describing what is going to happen to the audience.
“And once my Eminent and Obedient Assistant is suspended thirty feet above the ground,” she declares, snapping one padlock on you at a time, “he will only have limited time to escape before the hoist’s mechanism kicks in, dropping him and sending him to his doom-”
A ripple of laughter emanates from the crowd as you unlock the first padlock almost as soon as she snapped it onto you. You counted ten seconds flat. Trixie gives a mock-smile to the audience, almost like your funny breakout was scripted, and tries to relock it.
And then you unlock it again.
“What do you think you’re doing!?” she whispers in the angriest way anypony could whisper after her third attempt to close the padlock.
“Being as vain and self-important as I can,” you reply with a grin, “Don’t be intimidated by my unprecedented talents now!”
“Fine, you asked for it,” she huffs before turning back to the audience, “It seems my Eminent and Obedient Assistant isn’t being so obedient! He says he wants more of a challenge! Should we give this scoundrel what he wants?”
The spectators do what spectators do; they cheer and whoop with agreement at you accepting… wait, you didn’t say you wanted more of a cha-
Before you finish your own thoughts, Trixie’s horn glows to an almost menacing degree. The chain springs to life and binds you in a completely different fashion, wrapped around just your front and rear legs, before the padlocks once again snap onto you like animals. Suddenly, you’re swept into the air, complete with a rush of vertigo. Once you regain your bearings, you realise you’re dangling upside-down by the legs thirty feet above the stage. Needless to say, it takes a while for you to get over the shock.
All you feel is dizziness for a first few seconds, before you can mentally compensate for the blood rushing to your head. After that, you look up - or down, to everypony else - at the stage thirty feet (may as well be a mile) below you. The chains clink together as you swing hopelessly to and fro, trying your best to ignore the throbbing of your nerves.
Okay, calm down. Assess the situation. You’ve escaped worse.
Sure, you hadn’t rehearsed the upside-down part of the escape act, nor could you even properly see the locks in this position. Swinging around this ridiculously high up isn’t helping either. But if Trixie thinks that’s going to stop you, she has another think coming. Time to get to work.
You feel the chains getting looser and looser as you undo one padlock after another. It’s taking you far longer than ten seconds to undo each lock this time, given the circumstances. Once you undo each heavy padlock, you haphazardly let them drop, forcing Trixie to catch them with her magic or risk damaging the stage or props. Nothing passive-aggressive about that at all!
When the final lock clicks open, you grasp the chain with your fore-hooves as it unravels into the long chain it once was. From there, you casually slide down the whole thirty feet like a rope (taking care not to damage yourself on each link), before landing triumphantly back on the stage, greeted by the loudest cheering you’ve ever heard. Even Trixie looks slightly taken back by just how efficiently you managed to worm your way out of humiliation.
It all must have looked so easy and impressive to them. Truth be told, your heart is still pounding like a mad-pony in a cage. But all of these ponies in the theatre… they’re cheering for you. They actually like you for something you’re doing.
Once you regain your nerves, you turn back to Trixie;
“You’ll have to give the Scoundrel a bigger challenge than that.” you gloat. You know if there’s one thing Trixie understands, it’s gloating.
She doesn’t backchat. She only returns an impressed smirk. This community service thing is going to be more fun than you thought.