Spike of All Trades

by Ariamaki

Chapter 22: Marker

“What brings you to my establishment today?"

He replied with his best shrug, gesturing to the cabinets. After all the time he had spent talking and thinking about 'The' Gamer today, it took concentrated effort to call himself 'a' gamer, lowercase.
"I'm... a gamer. Big one, actually. It's taken over comics as my #1 hobby, and cooking too. Which is not to say I let those slide! And I was a regular at the... The old arcade, I guess."

"Aaaah, say no more. And before we get off on a bad hoof, it's not 'old' to me: Gillie'd tan my hide if I didn't make sure this place carried on in his style, ya know? He'll be dropping back in every so often to help us get a grip on things... Maybe you could do the same, if you're so big into it?"

The excitement bubbling up at the idea broke through his cool facade.
"That would rock! I'd totally love to. I've already got all sorts of questions and-"

Ammo put up a hoof.
"Calm, slow, relax. We can talk shop after the tour, and maybe on another day to boot: You've got a friend with ya and I'd hate to bore her with technical talk, right? Doubly so because it would ding my Hearthswarming gift if I get her mad."

Rarity's cheeks puffed a bit in faux-anger.
"I resent the accusation that I would ever scrimp on a gift simply because I was feeling cross with somepony!"

"Alright, fair enough: Not simply because you were mad. Better?"

The annoyance faded, replaced with a slightly devious smirk.
"Indeed. Compounded by other reasons, well, more than one pony has gotten an outfit that's slightly out of trend. Once, even jewelry that was the wrong base metal for their fur-tone!"

"...Even when you're being vengeful you're still our Rara, huh?"

Rarity didn't have a response to that one, giving Ammo the opportunity to lead them back up the stair (singular) and into the foyer.
"Gonna do the tour, might as well start it from the top! Well, front in this case."

Spike was excited at the prospect, especially because he was starting to realize the building was even bigger than he originally thought. Turning around and looking up from the section of games he had been in, he saw across into the space around the corner. They must have combined Gillie's original space with the field next door to give themselves even more space! He turned to make sure Rarity was going to be on the tour as well: He'd hate to leave her alone, doubly so after kind-of sort-of excluding her with their banter and jokes before.

She smiled at him and gestured towards Ammo.
"Well, shall we? I only know what little I do about the place from helping her get set up in town: This is basically my first time inside, just as much as it is yours."


He had a feeling that Ammo was rolling her eyes as she led them back into the building. It would have been nearly literal to call what followed a whirlwind tour: They moved from place to place so quickly that their movement whipped up enough air to ruffle loose paperwork or flutter a curtain. As far as Rarity's reactions went, Spike guessed this was normal for her Aunt. He did his best to keep up, and thanks to the refreshed speed boost he had gotten from the tea earlier, he even succeeded.


"So you've seen the entrance, of course, and the first bank of cabinets: Gillie used to keep his really far apart because older engines had heat problems? I sprung for some open-air cabinets to house those ones, and it solved the problem. Saved a lot of space for some of the other stuff: Got a few shop spaces here in case we ever start doing merchandise or sales or whatever, here's the office, check-in, rentals for the table games, aaand pause."

Ammo screeched to a halt, reminding him of a proper Pinkie Pie Ponyville tour, complete with Rarity bumping into her a moment later. They had passed all of the things she described, ending up in a large sort of clear space. Rather than the cabinets and counters and walled-off rooms from the entrance, this central spot was dotted with tables and chairs, a jukebox, and a single large counter built into the wall. Behind the counter he could see a small kitchen, which made this-

"Food service! Drinks too. Nothing hard yet, but I figured it's important for the stopover ponies from the flights and patrols to be able to wet their whistles and fill their bellies on the way in and out. Plus, locals seem to like it just as much: Cuts down on breaks, makes for a nice social space."

Spike nodded absentmindedly, looking over the menu for a moment. Seemed like the right kind of thing: Nothing too messy to keep you from getting back to the games, and nothing that took too long to make. Convenient, cheap, solid stuff.

"And restart. Washrooms are over there, convenient to the food. No bowling lanes, didn't wanna muscle in or try to compete when you guys already have such a nice alley in town. Still, here's where the rest of the cabinets are, there's the basement entrance: It's not finished, but I've got plans for downstairs. More skill games, some specialized stuff for each of the races, and my specialty..."

She pulled up to another stop, this time gesturing to the last section of the building. He could see another rental counter, this one staffed by a sharp-eyed Night Guard pegasus stallion, and behind it... Targets. Paper and metal and rubber and even some crystal, bullseyes and pony silhouettes and clouds, even an exercise bag wired up into a machine he didn't recognize. Rarity went very still next to him, and Ammo was smiling bright as the sun outside.

"Never did tell you about this one, huh Rari? Well... I couldn't not do it, right? I mean, it is my special talent. And really, what kind of fun is life without a shooting gallery close to hoof?"

Rarity chuckled and looked around with an expression Spike didn't recognize. Her eyes were narrow, her mane pulled back in a brief cloud of magic and settled further from her face.
"I suppose you're not wrong, Auntie."

After she adjusted her mane Rarity nodded to the stallion behind the counter, waiting until he waved a hoof in her direction. Taking that as a signal, she stepped up (taking a deep breath as she did) to a spot across from the furthest-out crystal target. It was a long shot, probably the entire depth of the building from the street to the back.

“Spike, it would be lovely if you don’t gossip around town about this. But, well...”

Rarity cleared her throat and took an unfamiliar stance.

"Daddy... Magnum, that is... always told me this. Ahem..."
She took a practiced pause before busting out a solid impression of Magnum Belle, throwing her voice into a range that was sportsmanlike and deep.

"Rara, it runs in the family! It's how I got my Cutie Mark, it's how your mother bagged me, and it's how you're going to rise to the top, in anything you do. I tell ya, metaphor or literal or whatever-"

Spike barely saw the blip of magic, a flare of blue light that cracked out from her horn and crossed the space in an instant. There was a loud *DING* as the magic-sensitive crystal lit up with the color of Rarity's magical aura. The smallest center segment had been pierced by a stem of solid blue mist... And then it was followed by two more shots near-instantly. The second was long and dense, the third a whirling marble, and all three landed with needle-tip accuracy on the exact same spot. The dense second shot pierced the original stem before the spinning orb blew the whole lot into smoke and ribbons, clearing the board as if she'd never fired a shot to begin with. Rarity turned to Spike with a broad smile while he boggled in shock.

"-a Belle always hits the mark."