Amplitude Adjustment

by kudzuhaiku

Chapter 2

Vinyl Scratch never gave much thought to destiny; that is to say, until of course she did and was then overwhelmed by it. For Vinyl, thoughts of destiny were very much like a heavy brick or one of Octavia’s extra saucy kisses; when one of these things collided with her skull, she was in trouble, for certain. Overall, she rather liked Octavia’s saucy kisses, but heavy bricks? Not so much. When the ol’ grey mare was particularly worked up and in a mood, there was a thing she did with her tongue where she’d trace out the shape of her cutie mark on Vinyl’s tongue, or the roof of her mouth, and when that happened Vinyl knew it was time to play upon the organ so that Octavia could clear her pipes.

Standing before a mirror, Vinyl checked over her appearance and made adjustments to her suit jacket, a thoroughly modern bit of fashion. The fabric was piano black, so she had paired it with a piano tie, and she thought that she looked smashing. Peering into the mirror, she checked herself over, turned around a few times, and after seeing how snazzy her reflection looked, Vinyl decided that she was fine.

Of course, some snooty pony might faint if they saw her in a stallion’s suit jacket, but that was their problem, not hers. Stallions just had better looking clothing. Oh sure, dresses were fine, gowns could be pleasant, but frilly stuff was often itchy and uncomfortable because it was made for looks, not comfort. The powder-blue shirt was a good touch, she thought to herself, and she took an extra moment to adjust the knot of her tie.

“I can’t tie my tie… I can’t.” Her colt companions voice was a panicked whine that got her attention. “No matter what I do, I can never seem to get the hang of this.”

Pulling herself away from her reflection, Vinyl grabbed Sumac, held him still, and with a few flicks of her telekinesis, she tied his tie. Afterwards, she hauled him closer and had a better look at his tie. Squinting, she had to lean in closer to get a better look at the white on black pattern, and because the print was so impossibly tiny, she was almost touching Sumac when she could begin to make something out. There were tiny white letters that were very, very difficult to discern, and Vinyl had to strain to see them.


When she realised what it said, Vinyl laughed and then retreated.

“Okay,” Vinyl said to Sumac, “who was the clever one that bought you that tie? Twinkleshine?”

Shaking his head from side to side, the colt grinned. “It was Rainbow Dash.”

“Oh.” At this, Vinyl was surprised. “Really? I wonder what made her do that.”

“Rainbow feels bad when she’s gone for too long so she buys me stuff to appease her guilt.” Sumac shuffled on his hooves and Vinyl began removing the wrinkles in his dark green tweed jacket, which had little specks of orange, yellow, and pale green in the weave. “She did it for Scootaloo too, and all of the other foals she plays big sister to. I guess it is just her thing.”

“Thing?” One of Vinyl’s eyebrows arched.

“Yeah. Her thing. Her approach to life. I dunno.” Mid-sentence, Sumac shrugged.

“Tarnish wears tweed too.” Leaning in, Vinyl inhaled and drew in the smell of the fabric, which was familiar to her. “His jackets have corduroy in the high stress areas. Tweed helps Tarnish pull off the unassuming professor look.” Jaw firming, she tugged on Sumac’s lapels to straighten them, and then began to smooth the collar of his clean white shirt.

The black and white tie really didn’t go with the dark forest green tweed but Vinyl didn’t have the heart to say anything. Princess Celestia might notice though, and who knew what she might do. Sumac’s white shirt was also a little plain, and something about it didn’t quite sit well with his beige features. For whatever reason, Sumac was trusted and allowed to pick his own clothing, though Vinyl wished his mothers would have helped him find something that was a better match.

Leveling her gaze, Vinyl studied Sumac, taking every inch of him in. He looked fine, more or less, but something about him caused wrinkles to appear like magic. While she continued to try and sort Sumac out, Vinyl realised that she had something in common with her dear friend, Rainbow Dash: the company of foals was prefered over that of most adults. Over the years, her patience for other ponies had diminished, and considerably so.

Most grownups lacked curiousity, they did not ask many questions, and had hardly any sense of wonder of the world around them. Vinyl had seen things, amazing things, awful things, and she had been on a great many adventures. Typical adults did not go on adventures, no. They settled in, did their jobs, and barely noticed the world around them while sticking to their routine.

But not foals.

Foals were imaginative, they played pretend, and had adventures. Sumac was ready to break routine at the drop of a pith helmet. Smoothing out his unruly mane, Vinyl smiled, then thought about how precious these years were, and how short they would feel in hindsight. Too short, no doubt. Would he grow to be boring? She hoped not, it was the worst fate she could think of, and she knew that it was her job to make sure that he grew up to be interesting. A wizard should do that for their apprentice.

“Ready, Sumac?”

“Yeah, but I kinda feel like throwing up,” the colt replied.

“It’ll pass,” Vinyl said, offering assurance. “Let’s go do our thing.”

Princess Celestia was a tall, imposing figure, flanked by her ever present assistant Raven. Curiously, the princess was not wearing her crown, her shoes, or her regalia, which threw poor Vinyl off. The replacements for these items, these vestments of state, where really quite peculiar to behold. Around her stately, noble neck was a choker made from strung-together and dyed macaroni noodles—which was staining her pelt. Upon her regal head was a newspaper folded into an admiral’s hat, but those same folds also made a paper boat, as Vinyl recalled. The hat was covered in globs of glue, glitter, and long strands of hair no doubt torn from tender locations.

“Did you lose a bet?” Sumac asked while peering up at the regal monarch.

It was all Vinyl could do not to facehoof.

The princess’ reply was a calm, steady, measured response. “Not yet, young Master Sumac.” She cleared her throat, a polite, dignified sound, and then continued, “My foals made replacements, as you can see. Oh, not just for me, but for their father as well. Prince Gosling, being the bold sort, put his on and immediately began to parade around to show them off.”

“And you didn’t?” Sumac spoke with the bravery that only foals had.

“Alas, not right away, no, I didn’t. I tried being polite and diplomatic about the issue, but Prince Gosling quickly escalated the situation by making a statement that I ‘lacked the stones’ and didn’t have the guts to be seen doing my public duties wearing the finery my beloved offspring so lovingly crafted for me. So, here I am. Behold your princess in all of her splendiferous beauty. Am I not majestic as the dawn?”

Tilting his head off to one side, Sumac studied the enormous mare for a few seconds before responding, “You look ridiculous.”

“Your honesty and your candor are duly noted, young Master Sumac.”

Pulling the trunk around, Vinyl opened it up, cleared her throat, pulled out some of the contents of the trunk, closed the lid, and then put those contents up on display. For some reason, she was a little nervous, but couldn’t say why. Princess Celestia’s mood was unknown, unreadable, which for some reason cast a shadow of doubt upon everything. The princess was supposed to be a reliable constant, eternal, unchanging. As regular as the sunrise, as the old expression went.

It was almost as if Vinyl was a filly again and was back in school. Not just any filly either, but one of the weird ones, a strange one, a fact made worse by the fact that she was mute and spoke by writing stuff out on a tiny chalkboard. Her voice—though thoroughly artificial—was a luxury. Hard data, the good stuff, was plunked down on top of the trunk with a thump and then Vinyl turned to face the princess, who stood patiently waiting.

Saying nothing, Raven turned on a waiting camera and then flicked on a nearby microphone. Vinyl felt a prickle of fear that crept up the back of her neck. It seemed as though the pitch was going to be archived. Of course it was. The monarchy was now obsessed with getting everything on film for the historical record. Princess Celestia had even given birth on film—quite an impressive feat, really.

There were no chairs in this room, no places to sit, no furniture, not much of anything. No distractions, other than the camera and some of the recording equipment. Cocking her head off to one side, Vinyl smiled her best smile and gathered what remained of her courage. Her tie felt too tight and her collar doubly so. Why had she worn a suit jacket and tie again?

“Princess Celestia, today I am here to introduce you to the radio, or perhaps I should say make a formal introduction, because the radio has been here for quite a while now. We just haven’t noticed—”

“How have we not noticed?” Princess Celestia asked, interrupting.

Vinyl’s carefully rehearsed opener was now undone and she scrambled to recover. “Well, as I was starting to say, as a professional and accredited engineer, a graduate of your school, I have some understanding and some insight into the introduction of new technology into Equestria, and the rigourous means that which everything must be tested to determine if it is safe.”

“You said that we haven’t noticed. Has it been here this whole time? If so, how did we fail to notice?” The princess’ voice was a stern, unwavering deadpan. “Has there been a lapse in procedural protocols?”

Yep, it had gone off the rails. It was like following Tarnish after one of his brilliant, cunning plans—cunning plans that always went spectacularly wrong, without fail. For all parties involved, typically. Vinyl let out a worried little huff, followed by a snort. This wasn’t supposed to be improvised, this was supposed to be an orderly by-the-book presentation. Sumac was now frozen in terror, he had gone stiff, rigid, he was unmoving and unresponsive. He looked like Vinyl felt.

“I do not want a repeat of the microwave incident.” Princess Celestia revealed no emotion, no feeling, no anything. “That was careless and sloppy. The unicorn researcher who approved that tech failed to test it around other tribes, and microwave instant ovens robbing pegasus ponies in nearby proximity of their flight abilities was a gross, unforgivable oversight.”

“Your Majesty,” Vinyl began, and she chose her words with great care. “Ponies only care that something works, and have very little interest for how it works. Radio exists in Equestria, and has for a very long time. Wireless microphones operate with radio, we’ve just never noticed. We’ve mimicked the technology and then used it with no understanding of it.”

At this, Princess Celestia frowned so hard that it made Sumac whimper.

Yes, Vinyl had revealed oversight, an error that had been made, but she was certain that she could recover. She just had to keep her cool and talk her way out of this somehow, sort of like the time when Alto Clef had come into the bedroom to find she and Octavia in the throes of passion; that had not been the time to panic and this wasn’t either.

“Quite a number of things operate on radio principles and I’ve only recently gained an understanding of them. Sumac and I have been hard at work for almost a year now, conducting experiments and careful trials. It has lead us to some surprising conclusions, such as the fact that Terra Prime has always had radio.”

“Explain.” The deadpan command was direct and blunt, a verbal brick.

“Unicorns are radios.”

The manner in which Princess Celestia’s eyes narrowed were terrifying and some great blazing inner-light could be seen within them. Vinyl waited, saying nothing, unsure if the princess had something to say. Raven wrote something down and then cast a spell on the microphone, which left it glowing. She did the same for the motion picture camera and Vinyl, distracted, wondered what the spells were for.

“Unicorns are radios?” The alabaster behemoth’s words were slow and uncertainty could be heard, a rare thing to be observed from Princess Celestia. “This requires some exceptional explanation. I hope you came prepared, Vinyl Scratch. Go on, explain to me how unicorns are alien tech, because I would really like to know.”

Cringing, Vinyl wished that she had chosen her words a little better.