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Starscribe


Student, Author, and Programmer. PM for commissions, or check out my Patreon.

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Midnight Oil might not be the most well-known investigator in Canterlot. She might not have the longest list of solved cases, or the best contacts with the authorities. What she does have are guts, and the street-smarts that come from a life in the underworld. But when her abilities are challenged by her biggest case yet, Equestria's ancient capital might not survive the terror of strange alchemy!


Editing by Two Bit and Sparktail. Cover by Zutcha.

This story was written as a commission for FZ6pilot, who created Midnight Oil and inspired the general premise. It will be told in a series of episodes, the first of which will update each Thursday until complete.

Chapters (4)
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Comments ( 35 )

Another brilliant work by Starscribe. I eagerly await more.

Another story? You are slowly taking over my entire reading list. Really. Most of the stories I read that still get updates are written by you.

Looking forward to checking this one out later.

Nice variant on the classic hardboiled noir setting with your heroine being more of a want to be private eye in the process of becoming a real one.

always count of my eyes <-- on, not of

Seems like this will be good. Between your other work, and the interesting start and premise...
Looking forward to more chapters!

Ooh, Noirscribe. This promises to be quite the engaging read. Looking forward to Midnight's next burn.

So far another one of you stories i'm going to track.

Hee! Detective stuff!

I'm a big fan of both flavors of detective, both classic golden-age and noir. I have to say that this story is scratching that particular itch, enough so that I'm gonna fire off what I'm going to try not to turn into a thirty-page commentary on it.

Okay, so first off: Central character. I like the idea of Midnight a bit more than I like the full presentation. You do a good job feeding us information about her and she's got the whole noir paradigm down - hell, she even has a cast of irregulars and informants you've set up here to develop later. The problem is that there's kind of two Midnight in this story you're setting up, and you don't quite nail the second. The Midnight we get is a good noir protagonist who feels pretty by the numbers; drinks in the seedy bar, has the money issues, lives in the shady end of town and comments on the above, etc. This all goes over great.

The issue is that Midnight the archivist who is moonlighting as a PI feels a little underdeveloped. Aside from the point when she uses her nervous-archivist voice to convince Supply Chain that she's a shy, nervous poor lady looking for a hit of Bliss, it really never feels completely developed. I get that you wanted to start the story as close to the action as possible but not giving us a look at Midnight Oil's life outside detective work feels like a mistake to me, especially when a driving part of her motivation is that if she does well here she gets to quit her day job.

There's also a bit of fundamental tension there - the standard noir protagonist is sort of forced and shaped by the seedy world they inhabit into the PIs we read about. For them it isn't really a sense of adventure, it's a tough-world-calls-for-tough-people survival thing. Having Midnight want to get into this dangerous, seedy world and out of a much safer (if low-paying) job is a bit at odds with the atmosphere of seedy-people-seedy-city-ness you spend the entire first scene establishing. It might work better for golden-age style detectives like Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, who command exorbitant fees because of their intellect, but PIs in noir (and real life) are often underpaid hired muscle who are desperate to get by. There's a reason their offices are in the shady part of town, and it's not because they like the view.

I feel like you're missing a bit of prologue- a scene that sort of gives us a look at Midnight's real day job, and why she's drawn to this super-dangerous not-great-paying career. Without it, you have a really interesting idea for a character who unfortunately doesn't get to do very much with the interesting elements.

I think the bit that drew that into focus for me is here, actually:

I caught it with a wing, tucking it away in my oversized jacket. “I notice things other ponies don’t,” I said, grinning up at him. “And I understand bureaucracy. Most ponies who do my job don’t care about either of those—they think it’s all brawls on the docks and interrogations under bright lights.”

“Yes, I believe they do.” Fancypants was taking me through his gallery. The hallway had increasingly-impressive objects on display there. Intricate gold jewelry, paintings, sculpture. Each item here probably cost more than I would earn if my lifetime. Some ponies had all the luck.

When did Midnight do either of those things? She did have a really clever moment - the attempt to snatch Supply Chain's ledger when she 'dropped' her bits is straight out of a good spy novel and part of what made me want to read the rest of the story. But she got information about Fleur not though bureaucracy but from an informant she meets in a bar, and she gets an antidote to... drug side effects, I guess? from a science buddy. She didn't so much 'notice' things other ponies don't notice or use bureaucracy as just happen to have the right connections. Be very careful with stuff like this when describing a detective's methodology, it can make or break the character in the long term.

That said, I had a ton of fun reading the story. When it hits a high, it can be pretty high, and I appreciate your pacing decisions. I just wish you'd spent a bit more time on the setup to this first 'mystery' as opposed to the resolution.

And another series starts!:pinkiegasp: Mystery sounds right up my dark alley, and Midnight is at least likable (and competent) so far.

8934449
I’m pretty sure we’ll get a good look at Midnight’s “other life” if you wait until after the prologue to start criticizing.

8934920
My dude, it's 1) chapter one and tells a complete story start to finish in a fic that was advertised as episodic, at what point am I allowed to criticize it and 2) my entire criticism is that the chapter lost something by not being placed after a scene of Midnight chronologically. It would literally run counter to my criticism to insist that including that scene later in the story retroactively fixes that.

Like... maybe chill? I liked the fic too, and I have full confidence it's going to go uphill from here in quality.

Interesting. I eagerly await the next installment.

She closed the distance in a flash—a literal flash of a teleport, as skillful as anything I’d ever seen. She practically jammed her hoof at me. “Come on then, partner. Let’s find a missing Opal.”

I like this girl. She doesn't watch life go by, she sees a chance for adventure and freakin' GRABS it!

...Wait, who said anything about an Opal? Did a quick search, that word was never mentioned in her presence. What does she know!?

Hmm. A teleporter with a history of attempted one-hoof discounts. No, that doesn't seem at all suspicious. Still, seems like they've stumbled on something a lot bigger than one poor little rich girl. This is going to get very tricky, very fast.

Now I’m almost glad that I didn’t get to this until it was almost time for the next chapter.:twilightsheepish:

Here’s hoping Midnight learns to hold her tongue just a bit....

"I wonder if there’s some kind of… friendship chemical they could refine."

Refined from changeling magic, maybe? The drug kind of sounds like what changelings feed on distilled into physical form.

I can ship it, hopefully we get shipping and not death and/or betrayal.

Ah, Midnight still gets no breaks. Even with a boss considerate enough to give her one.:trollestia:

At least, if they're being taken to big bad Delirium this early, she probably is interested in this situation but not the true culprit. But we'll just have to see how things go....

Well. That could've gone better. Really not sure what to think of Calico, but I don't trust her any farther than I can throw her.

As for Golden Bliss, part of me can't help but wonder if it's purified from something disturbingly innocuous. Say, apple cider.

A satisfying conclusion that still offers plenty of potential for more. Hopefully the princesses will do something now that they're aware of the rot in their home. Lovely stuff all around. Thank you for it.

Shorter story than I expected, but long as it needed to be.

Short 'n sweet. A good story!

I approve of this ending.

Also, that comment near the very end from Calico about bats was interesting. That says a few things if this is loosely connected to the author's other stories.

Wow, you wrapped this arc up really nicely.

So straight up, I was really hopeful when this story dropped that it'd give me a fun, noir adventure. I'm happy to say that it one hundred percent delivered.

My commentary on the first chapter stands - I really could've used some perspective on why Midnight is trying to get out of the archivist game, particularly when she seems to enjoy it more than a little and you portray her as the worldly-wise member of the core cast. That said, once you paired her up with Calico and played up her mistrust I started falling in love with the story. You built a strong dynamic between the two, played out every good spy or noir beat I could think of down to the offer-from-the-bad-guy and convoluted method of execution, and made it feel very natural.

You've also got a strong sense of pacing that shows through in these chapters. While the first mini-case didn't leave us a lot of room to breathe, the full case of the Soma Opal doesn't drag and moves at precisely the perfect pace. Pace is key to a good noir story, so nailing it as well as you did really helps cover for any minor flaws elsewhere. i also appreciate that you're setting up lots of small details that can be revisited later in more depth, and building up a strong sense of both the city and the inhabitants.

Honestly I still wish you'd given us a bit more on why Midnight is drawn to danger - she doesn't really seem to be a thrill-seeker given that she reacts to most of the dangerous situations she enters with caution - but that one gripe melts away pretty quickly when I think about how gosh-darn happy the rest of the story made me. Good job all around, I really hope you have future installments planned.

Well, I was wrong. Didn’t expect this to be wrapped up so quickly... but then again, it is (possibly) just the first episode.:raritywink: It ended on a sweet note, at least (almost lighthearted compared to everything else you have going).

8978346
Yeah, it is just the first episode. The next one is already in the works.

Oh, more, please. This site needs more noir goodness.

9264627
It's kinda light noir, no doom and gloom or deep guilt. :rainbowderp:

And here I expected the bat pony to go for the changeling :trollestia:

"count of my eyes" is a typo for "count on my eyes" and "discrete" (separate) is a typo for "discreet" (inconspicuous).

"My eyes winded" is a typo for "My eyes widened".

some investigator you are not noticing the obvies possibillity of a trapdoor xD

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