The Ponyville Social Network: Stay Connected - by Twifight Sparkill
Rainbow Dash was violently roused by the sound of a pounding hammer, thrashing about awkwardly to keep from falling out of her makeshift treetop roost. Having nestled some hours prior in the comfortable confines of an elm tree located on the outskirts of Ponyville, she'd expected to manage a languid midday nap without the bustling interruptions of noisy passersby.
The unexpected clamor roused the dozing pegasus abruptly, and she was fortunate to catch herself before tumbling to the hard ground below, albeit clumsily, flailing madly about.
"Wuh... what the freaking hay?" Rainbow exclaimed furiously, struggling to keep a hold of her supporting branch. "Who the heck is making all that racket?"
Bursting from the tree's canopy in a frantic state, the cyan pegasus peered about her immediate area with an unhappy scowl.
"What's with all the noise!?" Rainbow shouted angrily, leaping into the sky, her wings thrashing violently. "Recreational areas are supposed to be for er... peace and quiet and stuff, you know?"
After a few flustered aerial passes about the clearing below, she eventually spied a white unicorn pony wearing a large yellow hat that appeared to be busily constructing ... something that required a hammer, apparently. The wooden creation being built appeared tall, very thin, and had a little-shingled roof atop what seemed to be a flat rectangle, all held up by two large posts. It resembled an ornate signal of some kind, decorated with fussing detail.
She flew down to investigate further, landing behind the raucous culprit with a dramatic winged flourish.
"Hey, what's the big idea making all that racket?" Rainbow growled, poking the offending pony in the flank. "Do you know what time it is?"
"I most certainly do know," Rarity turned, greeting the boisterous blue pegasus with a wide smile, magically removing her large sun hat with an exaggerated flourish. "It's almost lunchtime, by my estimation. Just about the time you're supposed to return to your weather duties if I'm not mistaken? After sleeping all morning, that is to say."
"You... I... um, hey Rarity," Rainbow muttered, eyeing the seamstress' assemblage ruefully. "It's good to see you. What in the name of Celestia are you building here, exactly?"
"This," the suave white unicorn addressed with a wave of her hoof, "is a social message board!"
The pegasus made a sour face.
"Okay, not to sound offensive? But uh, we've already got one of those," she responded in a patronizing tone. "Like, right by Town Hall? I thought everypony knew that. You know that, don't you?"
Rarity shook her head, clucking her tongue in a chiding manner.
"Everypony does know that, I'm quite sure," the unicorn admonished with a hint of exasperation. "This is a very different sort of message board, you see?"
Rainbow didn't see at all, to be honest. She marched about the ornate structure a couple of times, finding the accented carved moldings and needless stencil work an eyesore, though couldn't discern much else that made it any different.
"I don't see," Rainbow Dash consented with a snort. "Aside from it being all fancy, if that's what you mean."
The unicorn sighed, grasped a hammer with her turquoise magic, and tapped a slightly misaligned nail back into place.
"It's an enchanted post board, darling," Rarity cooed with a breathy sigh. "... well, sort of. Not so much the board, but anything posted on it responds to replies almost instantaneously! Why in no time this will become Equestria's bonafide hotbed of interest! Look at it! Isn't it wonderful?"
Dash blinked a few times.
"There're messages on the board at Town Hall," the pegasus drawled with a yawn. "Look, I just woke up, so... maybe you could just come out and tell me what's supposed to be so special about it already?"
Rarity frowned, though managed to waive any negative emotions before they defeated her carefully practiced response.
"This is one of many social message boards I've been constructing throughout the area," the unicorn gushed in her usual eloquence. "Once completed, they will serve as an information hub for any pony looking to share needful notices; unlike conventional mail, members will receive responses in a fraction of the time any post office could manage! When it comes to local businesses or important social engagements, it is of the utmost importance that messages be received as quickly as possible between any parties engaged, you know? Why, if I had a bit for every time a piece of mail was lost or a shipment arrived late, I'd be richer than ... well, Filthy Rich. Do you understand?"
Rainbow Dash didn't understand.
"There are local business and social whatchamacallit messages on the board at Town Hall," she recited. "It's the same thing, isn't it?"
"Not so," Rarity tutted. "Unlike the board at Town Hall, these messages will be received by the ponies who post the messages instantaneously! In fact, even the responses to those posts will correspond to the ponies who'd posted previously! Isn't that wonderful? This is a revolutionary new way to quickly send messages to others," Rarity stated in a musical lilt. "Mail can be so informal and often tardy, mm? If you're participating in a discussion of importance, especially a matter involving several ponies, wouldn't it be nice to be able to send and receive notations in a timely fashion? Whether matters of business or simple social functions, it is crucial that responses arrive as soon as possible."
Rainbow Dash continued to listen with the same expressionless glare.
"Well duh, that's why we have post offices," the pegasus finally offered. "We want to send a message, we write a letter. Easy."
"Is it?" Rarity asked.
"Of course," Rainbow grumbled. "We write a letter, blah blah blah, fold it into an envelope, then uh... we write the address on the envelope..."
"A-and?" the unicorn queried, rolling her hoof to issue the matter further.
"Put a stamp on it?" the pegasus offered, shrugging her shoulders.
"Precisely," Rarity hummed. "You wrap it up in a neat bow, pay an exorbitant postage whether destined for a local address or some recipient across the nation and then you wait. You wait and wait some more. Wait wait wait! Not exactly an efficient system if you're running a boutique and your client is right across town, mm?"
Rainbow Dash remained thoughtful, unwilling to simply play straight to the unicorn's assured banter.
"What about an express courier?" she eventually managed. "You could send for a courier. I mean, unless you're too lazy to just fly over and--"
"We don't all have the blessing of wings, darling," Rarity interrupted pointedly.
"Right. Unless you're too lazy to trot over," Rainbow corrected in a similarly sardonic tone, "you could use a courier. That's what they're for, if I'm not mistaken?"
Rarity sighed, hammered in the last few nails, then shook her head.
"You're missing the point, dear. Efficient business and social exchanges require immediate responses. This relieves the lengthy wait for communication via mail and courier, do you see? Packages and deliveries along the lines of material needs shall never change their habits, but ordering such items will! With my ingenious network, announcing important events and exchanging information amongst multiple recipients will be as easy as posting a single message! Won't that be wonderful?"
Dash considered it all for a while, scratching her chin absently.
"So this is just a way to share notes? Mail carriers and courier ponies would still be necessary, right?"
"Even more, darling!" The unicorn beamed, packing her tool kit with a giddy fervor. "An expedition of instantaneous messages would revolutionize how we all conduct ourselves in regards to commerce and personal exchange! Why, with my system, it would be possible to plan and execute a gala affair in a day as opposed to wretched weeks! Could you imagine?" she sighed, clasping her hooves with a satisfied smile.
"Sure," the cyan pegasus nodded, slowly losing interest. "Sounds great."
"It is great," Rarity insisted. "It's positively brilliant. This will change everything! I've developed a network to affect how we share information, whether industry or community and everything in between! Don't you see? This is progress! This is groundbreaking!"
Rainbow Dash nodded a bit, lost in the monolog though invested enough to consider the possibilities.
"How is this even a thing? Notes placed on a message board, sending written responses to their original posters? I mean, I get the idea, but... how is that even possible? You're not exactly Twilight, after all, no offense. How did you manage to figure this mess out?"
"It's actually rather simple, darling," Rarity announced with a knowing smile. "Having been involved with our beloved new friends for so long, becoming Elements of Harmony and being deemed each responsible for sending our separate friendship reports to Princess Celestia when applicable, let me ask you – what method have we used all this time?"
The pegasus tapped her chin with a forehoof as she recollected the process.
"Um, we used Spike. He burned our notes up, and er... they went somewhere."
"Geniu-us!" the fashionista asserted, dancing in place. "After studying the method in which specific races of dragons were able to transfer certain materials over great distances with their flame breath via careful magical coordination – and I'll assure you, the months of research required to figure such nearly caused irreparable wrinkles about my eyes – I was able to isolate the components that could enable such a method! Certainly, none of this would have been possible without the help of my special little dragon! Such a dear, sweet, selfless friend! Always willing to assist with my endeavors, no matter how harsh the demands!"
"Anything for his buddy-ol'-pal Rarity," Rainbow snorted derisively.
"He is an absolute necessity in this process, which is why I insisted he be my equal partner," Rarity continued, paying no attention to Dash's derisive tone. "Spike offers an essential component to making this project possible, and paired with the unicorn magics I've expertly crafted, his efforts have made my creation come to life!"
The cyan pegasus quirked a brow.
"So, how exactly does all this work with Spike? He can't be everywhere to burn paper... it makes no sense."
"It's his saliva, dearest," the alabaster unicorn admitted. "To function as designed, participants will have to purchase parchment that has been ... licked, to share or receive notes through our network. Spike moistens hundreds of sheets of paper for me in his spare time, and I serve him tea and cookies for being my special little helper. He's always so eager!"
"Wow," the pegasus replied, wearing a sickened expression. "That's... sort of really gross, except that part about cookies. Okay, so when somepony writes on this... spit paper, what happens?"
"You do realize the spittle will have dried before any ponies buy these sheets, right?" Rarity assured, with a subtle rolling of her eyes. "... at any rate, it presents any written response on an application, made of the appropriate return parchment, almost instantaneously! After a parade of exacting tests ran over several days, requiring poor Spike to rehydrate several times per hour, the process was finally cleared for a suitable announcement!"
"Yeah yeah. Dragon spit paper on one bulletin board sends a message to another board somewhere else, yadda-yadda. This sounds great and all," the pegasus offered, "but how do you expect to manage this um... net worth... thing?"
"Network," Rarity corrected, punctuating the word with exaggerated tongue-clicks.
"Whatever," Rainbow Dash muttered, nodding her head. "I just heard about this 'amazing invention' right now, and I can already figure how that'd be a prankster's dream come true! Write a letter, send it to every pony in every town... and boom! Hilarious mass hysteria! Which would be awesome, sort of. Darn, now I wish I hadn't told you."
"Whoever participates in this hub, they'd have to first purchase the appropriate paper to even engage in the network." Rarity repeated. "This will be offered only to reputable retailers! No proper business would ever squander their bits to make frivolous jokes! That would be a horrible waste of money! Who would even consider such a notion?"
"Who indeed," Rainbow Dash coughed into her forehoof. "Say if a business owner had these gross dragon-spit papers lying around, and an employee with a sense of humor found them, who's to say there wouldn't be utter mayhem? Which I am a huge fan of, naturally.
"There would be serious penalties, of course! Penalties! Awful things, like... well, I don't know yet, all right? Just wait until my official unveiling in two days, and I'll have everything worked out for you," Rarity pleaded. "I'll field any and all questions when I reveal my masterpiece to the others. Is that fair?"
The cyan mare hovered in place, making a smug face for Rarity's implore.
"I guess I could? Maybe? What others are you going to be showing this off to?"
"Why, you and the rest of the girls of course," the alabaster mare stated plainly. "Would you honestly think I'd dare to design a project of this magnitude without first passing it by my best friends? The very idea is preposterous! Until you assaulted me, this was supposed to be..."
"... a surprise," Rainbow Dash managed softly, getting the idea. "I uh... hm. Despite your having interrupted my nap, I guess I'm sorry for spoiling your big reveal, Rarity. I had no idea you were busy inventing something to show everypony, now did I? I sort of feel bad. Sort of, eh."
"I forgive you, Rainbow Dash." Rarity accepted quietly. "All I ask is that you make sure to wear something nice when you arrive for my actual official reveal. Please?"
"You want me to wear something girly and frilly!?" the winged mare barked, dumbfounded. "Wasn't listening to all of this punishment enough? C'mon, give a girl a break!"
The fashionista made a very cross face.
"All right all right, keep your hat on! I'll see you in two days, looking too cool for school, and I'll pretend to care about your disgusting lizard-drool idea," Dash smirked, then launched herself into the sky. "See ya!"
Rarity sighed, watched her friend disappear into the clear blue sky, then gathered her bits and pieces of tools together. She cast one last wistful look at her beautiful device, and sighed.
"Two days," she reaffirmed with a smile. "After that, everything changes for us."
To be continued.