• Published 1st Oct 2014
  • 3,119 Views, 414 Comments

Story Shuffle - FanOfMostEverything


Thirty-one one-shots inspired by thirty-one random Magic cards.

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7
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Peer Review

Ditzy liked air mail duty. Sure, her sense of direction left something to be desired, but from a distance, the gathered magic of city populations acted like beacons for her senses. Granted, it had been rather more of a concern when she'd been the entire Ponyville postal system, but now she had underlings with whom she could trust day-to-day affairs, even if Address Unknown barely trusted them to bring him coffee.

True, there was another pegasus on the staff now, but Speedy Delivery couldn't use acceleration spells to guarantee same-day delivery, or invisibility spells to keep ponies from noticing the barely subsonic grey blur. (Ditzy always made sure not to break the speed barrier. Muting a sonic boom was far more trouble than it was worth, and even if it weren't, Rainbow Dash would never forgive her.)

Still, on those precious occasions when there wasn't a pressing problem for postmistresses or planeswalkers, Ditzy liked to travel at rational speeds and take in the scenery.

Thus, somewhere between Hoofington and North Hayverbrook, she noticed what she could only describe as a sullen metal aardvark on wheels. Curious, Ditzy swooped down for a better look.

The aardvark impression only grew as she got closer. The contraption had a few spots of red paint, but it was bare metal for the most part, including a prominent proboscis of some kind. The mana pathways glowed faintly under the surface, a length briefly flaring into activity here and there.

As Ditzy landed, she noted what was likely the cause of the flare-ups, two ponies looking into an open hatch on one side. Two tall, rather thin, yellow coated ponies.

Ditzy made a point of landing with as much noise as she could without eating dirt.

One of the pair looked up, spotted her and frowned. He nudged the other with a knee. "We've got a lookie-loo, Flam."

The other looked over. Ditzy saw that he was wearing what could only be described as a hairnet adapted for a mustache. He glared at his brother. "Don't call her that, you pinhead! She's standing right there!"

Not-Flam winced, then trotted with a winning smile on his face. "Good afternoon, ma'am! Please forgive me, my brother and I were in the middle of some delicate calibrations, and I'm afraid my tongue got away from me." He held out a hoof. "Flim Flimflam, artificer extraordinare."

Ditzy shook his hoof. "Ditzy Doo." She quirked an eyebrow. "So, not 'traveling salespony nonpareil'?"

Flim gave a nervous chuckle, "I, er, take it that we've met then." He took a step back.

"Well, I never introduced myself at the time."

"Indeed. Well." He cleared his throat. "I'd like to say I never forget a face, but life on the road, never putting down roots, I'm afraid you have me at a bit of a disadvantage. Might I ask where we met?"

"You may." Ditzy let the question hang for a few seconds. As Flim opened his mouth, she completed the thought. "Ponyville."

Flim's gaze shifted up. "Ponyville, Ponyville…" He stamped a hoof. "Ah! The Squeezy! 6000 model?"

"That's the one."

He winced as the memory came in full. "Oh. Not our finest hour." He smiled far too wide. "But that, my good mare, is a thing of the past! The Flimflam Brothers are hard at work on an invention that will change far more than mere apple processing!"

"One of them is hard at work," groused Flam. "The other is selling to a market of one."

Flim scowled at him. "Didn't you say something about not being rude?"

"To the customer, yes. I can be as rude to you as I like."

Flim turned back to Ditzy and gave a put-upon sigh. "Family. What more is there to say, Miss Doo?"

She tilted her head towards the contraption. "Well, you could tell me about your invention."

"Well…" He brought a hoof to his chin. "Normally, I'd keep this confidential, but I think I can divulge a bit if you promise to keep it to yourself."

Ditzy nodded. "Scout's honor." Not that she'd ever been a Filly Scout.

"Well, ma'am, I am pleased to tell you that in the very near future, there will be no more coal plants, glorified boilers that belch out toxic smoke. No more hydrothaumic dams dangling Swords of Damoocles over the heads of humble towns. No, those will both be things of the past with the introduction of the Flimflam Brothers' Geothaumic Generator!"

There was a distinct lack of fireworks. Trixie would've been appalled.

"You see," Flim continued, "the Flimflam Brothers' Geothaumic Generator takes in the ambient magical energies all around us and concentrates them to a level high enough that it can run all of the modern-day electromantic conveniences that make life worth living!"

Ditzy tilted her head. "This one's on wheels."

"Well, the current model is more proof-of-concept. We want ponies to see the benefits of the Geothaumic Generator for themselves, drum up a little demand, and to do that, we need to take our product to them. Same principle as the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000, really."

Ditzy nodded. "Same startup spell, then?"

Flim shook his head. "I'm afraid I can't tell you that much, Miss Doo. Certain proprietary secrets need to stay that way for now. Patent pending and all."

"Well, I ask because if I'm looking at it right, it would be possible to plug the thing into itself, creating a feedback loop that would produce a sizable dead magic zone."

This got an indulgent chuckle. "Oh, I assure you, that's completely…" Flim trailed off and looked at the device as though he'd never seen it before. "Er…"

Ditzy began pacing around the generator. "Hmm… Yes, a blood sacrifice would break the effect."

Panicked choking came from both stallions.

"Briefly."

"Miss Doo." Flam's voice was rather strained. "Can you substantiate these claims, or are you just pulling our legs?"

"I have some experience with artifice," said Ditzy. "I also have something of a unique talent."

"I'm not sure how bubbles enter into this, Miss Doo," said Flim.

Ditzy looked at the stallions, who were standing side by side. Her eyes flashed blue, and theirs did in turn.

Flam stumbled back and blinked. "An impressive parlor trick, but it doesn't answer my ques—"

"Look at the generator, Flam."

He looked at his brother instead. Flim was rapt, gazing at the device. "I mean it. See for yourself."

Flam rolled his eyes. "If you're bamboozled because some mare—Hurricane's ghost!"

"I know," said Flim. "It's like a living schematic."

Flam hissed. "She's right about the feedback."

"We can put in an override."

"And if some enterprising pony overrides the override?"

"Then they've violated the warranty."

"We're offering a warranty?"

At that moment, the mana sight faded away. Both brothers turned from their invention to Ditzy. Flim spoke first. "What did you say you did for a living, Miss Doo?"

"I didn't. I'm a postal worker."

The stallions stared at one another, aghast. "A postal worker!?" they chorused.

Flam zipped to her side. "Why that won't do at all!"

Flim flanked her. "Such a waste of potential!"

"Miss Doo, would you be willing to lend us some aid in developing what could very well usher Equestria into a new golden age?"

"We'll offer a generous cut of the profits!"

Ditzy looked from one brother to the other. "What profits? You'll never sell one of these."

The brothers looked at one another over her back. Flim looked horrified. "Never…"

"Sell?" finished a shocked Flam.

Ditzy pushed the brothers away with her wings and slipped out from between them. "Even when it isn't sucking all the magic out of an area, it's still drawing a significant portion of it. Earth ponies wouldn't want to get within a mile of it, unicorns would have the spells sucked out of their horns before they can cast them, and the less said about what it would do the stability of cloud cities, the better." She bobbed her head from side to side as she thought. "I suppose if you could find a civilization completely devoid of magic, inherent or developed, you'd have your ideal customer, but don't ask me where you'd find one."

She looked from one gaping unicorn to the other. "Um, of course, that's just my read on it."

They said nothing. They were barely breathing.

Ditzy cleared her throat. "Well. Um. Yeah." She took flight. "I'll just head back to Ponyville now. Good luck!"

It was some time before Flam finally broke the silence. "Well, there's fifty thousand bits we'll never see again."

"Now what?" asked Flim.

"Well, selling this hunk of junk for scrap isn't going to recoup much."

"Not if we go for the technology angle, no…"

Flam quirked an eyebrow. "I take it you have an idea?"

Flim grinned. "The scrap money wouldn't buy the components we'd need… but think about how many apples and beet leaves we could get."

"Miracle tonic?"

"Miracle tonic."

"Brilliant idea, brother of mine!"

Author's Note:

Damoocles was, of course, a minotaur.

And yes, after a dozen chapters, I finally wrote one with Ditzy Planeswalker. Analyzing an artifact, then breaking some brains; she's really making her mentors proud.

Also, you have to admit, the mental image of Flim and Flam as Urza and Mishra is kind of fantastic. (Assuming you know what I'm talking about.)