• Published 15th Feb 2012
  • 9,452 Views, 235 Comments

A Better Place, A Better Time - Mental_Zero



A young shape-shifter finds himself in a very unfamiliar place, a long way from home.

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The Limelight is Too Bright

I showed up a few minutes early to get things set up at the club. It had been 3 days since I made my decision, and each day made me more sure about my choice, but it still didn't make me look forward to telling Vinyl about it. My copies and I were just finishing up when Vinyl arrived. She looked at me,

"You're early."

I glanced back at her from the taps,

"Felt like getting things done ahead of time."

She looked around, impressed, "Not bad. Everything connected?"

One copy popped up from behind the turntables, "Levels tested as well."

She watched him as he returned to me, "Light set up?"

Another popped out from backstage, "And tested." He followed the first. The last two appeared from the supply closet, "And everything was wiped down and the stools are out, before you ask."

I finished cleaning the taps and stood up, smiling at her pleasantly. She chuckled slightly, "I gotta say, I'm impressed, Ryan. Where'd this initiative come from?"

I put away the rag and cleaning solution, "Well, there's actually something I wanted to talk to you about, Vinyl."

She set up her gear, "What's up?"

I hesitated for a moment, waiting for her to finish setting up, "Well, you remember what happened last Friday, right? With the two of us at your place?"

She raised an eyebrow at me, "Yeah, of course I remember, why?"

I walked over to her, "Well, um, I kind of met someone else."

She looked up at me, curious, "Oh?"

I folded my hands behind my back, forcing the words out, "Yeah, she and I are kind of...together now."

She nodded thoughtfully, "Cool." She looked back up at me when she was done loading the tracks, "Dude, are you alright?"

It took a moment for me to catch up, "Uh, yeah, I'm fine. So, we're cool?"

She looked at me steadily, "Ryan, listen, you're a good guy, and I'd have loved to get with you, but if it isn't happening, it isn't happening. So yeah, we're cool."

I breathed a small sigh of relief, "Okay, that's good."

Fail popped up on my shoulder,

"Told you so."

I swatted at him absentmindedly, getting a chuckle from Vinyl, "Sup, Fail?"

He dodged my half-hearted swats easily, "Not bad, still working on getting the Boss' balls back. They seem to have gotten misplaced somewhere between Earth and here."

She chuckled again, "Is he this bad with every mare?"

He shrugged, "I swear he didn't use to be. Maybe it's dealing with the new species or something, maybe the magic in the air is messing with his head. I'm sure we'll figure something out eventually."

Safe appeared and grabbed Fail,

"While I agree with you, you don't have to be mean about it."

They both disappeared again. Vinyl grinned at me, "I like them."

I shrugged, "Fail's a little prick, but he makes good points every once in a while. Safe's cool, too."

We spent the rest of the time between then and the opening just chatting, exchanging some tracks that we had happened upon. Vinyl thankfully didn't prod too much about who I was with. Don't get me wrong, I loved Twilight to death, even back then, but I didn't really want too many ponies knowing about it yet. As a last-minute thought, I set up a few little things around the club while Vinyl was busy with something, just to give me a few extra eyes and ears to spot things that might otherwise get missed. Fail and Safe agreed to keep watch on them if I was otherwise distracted. Was the idea paranoid? Maybe a little, but after the events a couple weeks earlier, a few preventative measures seemed justified. Three views over the main floor, four over the bar, one at each door, and one in each private area, giving me more than enough perspective to spot anything developing before it became a problem. Thankfully enough, they were unneeded the first night of the weekend, Vinyl and I switched between sets every hour and a half before closing time without incident. That doesn't go to say that the night was completely uneventful, and not in a good way. There were at least a dozen of them waiting for Vinyl and I when we left. As soon as we opened the back door, there was a sudden torrent of light and sound from outside, mashing together for a pretty fair sensory assault. I yanked Vinyl back and slammed the door, holding it closed. Having grown up in the United States, I knew there was only one possible source from that,

"Paparazzi..."

Vinyl frowned at the door,

"Yep."

I snapped the lock shut and looked at her, "Any suggestions?"

She returned the look, "They probably stay there for a few minutes before trying the front door. If we bolt out the front now, we should be able to slip away without them catching us. Can you get the door locked behind you quickly?"

I nodded, "I got it."

I spawned a pair of copies, we each grabbed one of Vinyl's bags and headed to the front door. I got a firm grip of the front door key, Vinyl got ready to run, "3, 2, 1...go!"

She shoved the door open, the copies immediately after her. I slammed the door shut and locked it, but when I turned around, I could already hear the paparazzi running around to the front, and it sounded like their group got a good bit larger. I sent the order to the copies to split up and blasted past Vinyl, "We'll meet you at your place!"

I took off before she could respond, taking to the rooftops. For any of those curious as to why I was so vehemently against interacting with those ponies, it's practically a contractual obligation for anyone with a career in the sciences to despise paparazzi, as they are, to put it bluntly, stupid. That and the fact that they tend to just be scummy people all around anyway just compounds for a more than healthy distaste for their kind. I sent out two more copies, one to ask Twilight to leave the upstairs window open, and the other to keep watch for when Vinyl got home, then resumed my escape from my pursuers. They were fast, clearly conditioned to chasing celebrities through urban environments, but I managed to keep outside the range of their cameras. After another 15 minutes of running, I got the alert that Vinyl was home, and the copies and I converged on Vinyl's home. She was smart enough to leave the door cracked open, so we could all get in without having to slow down. The final copy shut the door behind us, locking it tight. Vinyl was stretched out on the sofa, looking at us with an amused grin,

"You guys look so stupid."

We all replied with an indignant, "Hey!" But that only sent her into a laughing fit. I rolled my eyes and we set down her bags in the next room. Once everyone was reabsorbed and I walked back out she had finished her fit, but still grinning cheekily,

"Guess I found one more thing I have to teach you; the art of dodging paparazzi."

I rolled my shoulders, "Well, maybe another time, for now, I should be getting home. Thanks for the help, Vinyl."

She nodded, "No problem, Ryan. See you tomorrow?"

"You know it."

We exchanged a quick fist-hoof bump and I took off before anyone figured out where I disappeared to.

I kept to darkness as much as I could, darting between alleys. Eventually there was just a block between myself and home. The only problem was that every dropout journalist and cheap photographer from there to the Badlands seemed to have set up camp in the front yard. I peeked around the corner on the other side of the street, it was clear, but the last clearing between the end of the street and home would leave me wide open. A thought suddenly popped into my head, I'd have to move fast and have perfect timing, but if I did it right, I'd get in without them ever getting the chance to snap a single shot of me. I stepped back, digging the balls of my feet into the ground, locking onto my target of the window. I placed the tips of my fingers on the wall next to me, tendrils creeping out from the points of contact. I pushed off, accelerating as quickly as I could, leaving a trail of tendrils on the walls of the buildings I passed, each linking together to form a long, tightly woven net. Just before I jumped, I yanked forward on the net, throwing it out parallel to me, completely blocking line of sight for any photographer. I hauled on the net as I passed through, yanking it after me. What I hadn't accounted for, however, was the tab on the inside of the window that was half of the latch that held the window shut. The net caught on that and I...well I tripped up, went right past my planned landing zone, and slammed into the wall opposite at roughly 40 miles per hour. To add insult to injury, the net, now with a rather large hole ripped in it, fell right on me. I heard the window snap shut and the curtains being drawn,

"Ryan, are you okay!?"

I reabsorbed the net and sat up slowly as Twilight came running down the stairs. I propped myself up against the wall and gave her a weak thumbs-up,

"Almost stuck the landing."

She rushed over to me, "Are you hurt?"

I looked down at my legs, "I think I broke a femur, but it should be better in a little while. I just need some sleep right now."

She nodded after a brief moment and helped me limp upstairs, and was subsequently greeted by a rather grumpy-looking young dragon,

"Should we set up a crash mat for you or something?"

Twilight shot him a look, he grumbled something and curled back up in his bed. I sat down and worked off my jeans, getting a better look at my leg. It was definitely broken, but it didn't look like it was shattered, so it ought to be healed by morning. Not like I was really getting a chance to leave home any time soon. Twilight cringed slightly at the sight of the sudden cockeyeing halfway down my thigh where the two halves of the bone got jammed next to each other. I got a firm grip on my leg, yanked out and forced the two halves to align with the other hand, letting out a disgusting sound of tearing flesh and grinding bone, but it was set. I grimaced at the pain, but it was manageable. I stripped off my jacket and shirt, laying them out next to the bed. When I looked back, Twilight was still looking at me, concerned. I pulled up the covers and swung my legs up onto the bed,

"It hurts, but I promise it's fine, Twi." I shuffled over and gave her a quick kiss, "Come on, I've shaken off death twice, a busted leg won't keep me down for long."

I flashed her a reassuring smile, that seemed to finally do the trick. She got back into bed and snuggled up to me, nuzzling my chest,

"Good night, Ryan."

I kissed her on the top of the head and switched off the lamp, "G'night, Twi."