• Published 2nd Apr 2019
  • 540 Views, 30 Comments

Knight of Equestria III: Pizzicato and Changelings - scifipony



Vinyl Scratch lands a gig for DJ Flopsy Mopsy: the public party for the royal Canterlot Wedding—in a stadium-sized venue! Handling this taxes her fledgling abilities, but, when she thinks she owns all the hooves, all Tartarus beaks loose.

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Flopsy "Businessmare" Mopsy

I didn't sleep well, despite a nice event-comped room at the Uptown Suites Stable. The hay mattress was plush and the room recording-studio silent, but the fourth floor room afforded a view of Castle Canterlot and Palisades Park. Even with the curtains drawn, I could see in my mind the looming venue I was headlining.

Why had Vinyl Scratch had to say "You're perfect"? I kept telling myself, I could handle this. That I needed the sleep. At one point, I found myself editing in my head my valedictorian speech with things I'd learned since I'd given it.

"Ugh!"

I threw the sheets and pillows off the bed, fetched my notebook, and began planning the playlist. I was it, the DJ. I first had to program the music for while the wedding took place in the castle for those not invited, which would be most of Canterlot. It wouldn't be dance music, but if it made ponies sway, I wouldn't lose points. After the announcement of the marriage at the balcony, there'd be a fanfare and more or less staid "wedding reception" dance music while ponies celebrated and patronized the gourmet and fast-food feedbag stalls that would ring the event. After "supper," all Tartarus could break loose, and I'd be able to play anything danceable until I dropped. I planned a rave like no other. I spent hours, tip of my tongue peeking out, charting out drops and loops I could mix in, and which records I'd line up with each of my five turntables. I had five columns in black marker connected with lines and arrows, annotated with BPM transitions, track start times, and FX I could use—in gold, lavender, and cerulean gel pen.

I woke, drooling on my notebook, when the housekeeper knocked on the door with a coin. It was well past 10 a.m. and I found multi-chromatic ink stains on my cheek that resembled the result of a tattoo artist gone mental during a salt-lick bender. I had to address that first. Waking now nearly matched my circadian rhythm, except that I hadn't napped from 10PM to 2AM last night. I dragged a comb through my mop of hair, which barely worked at the best of times, and dragged myself downstairs to find the stablery's breakfast room closed.

My stomach growled.

"Ugh!"

I flopped on a forest green lobby sofa. "Hungry and too tired to search. Put me out of my misery!" I laid my snout on my legs and might have fallen asleep there, but...

Somepony said softly, "I hear your pain."

I jerked. "What!?"

I lifted my head and saw a grey-brown stallion Dad's age cringe. He had blue eyes. Touching a hoof to his temple, he said, "Had a bit too much cider last night."

I chuckled. He wore a dark jacket. The zipper split "Whinnyapolis 5" down the center. I said, softly, "You feel it literally."

"You'd think that stablers who cater to the club and theatre district would cater to our weird hours, but you'd be wrong."

My stomach growled embarrassingly.

He said, "Maybe we could both use some food." He extended a hoof. "By the way, I'm Helping Hoof."

"Flopsy Mopsy." He helped me up.

"Ah, the DJ."

Not that I had rabid fans, yet, but I gave him an evaluating look.

He said, "I'm their tour manager." He pointed at his jacket and added, "Finally-the-Last Retirement Tour."

The Whinnyapolis 5 were a mane-band that had been popular long before I was born. "Thus the excessive cider?"

"Don't you know it?"

"Not into the self-care craze?"

"Ha! I know a place."

I smiled. "Lead on."

Somepony had converted an alley into a glassed-in lunch counter with stools and a black-painted roof. Garlic smell laced with fragrant oregano smacked my nose as we walked in—to make my stomach pay attention, which it did with another growl. A cyan unicorn stallion with a mane the same greyed-brown as Helping Hoof's served up a pair of long aubergine sandwiches ladled with red sauce and dripping with creamy mozzarella cheese, topped with whole leaves of basil and brown, green, and black olives. More lunch than breakfast, but yummy. And I got a big yellow-stained Cannoli's mug with five bags of black tea floating in it. I added a spoon of sugar and a spot of milk.

The gentlecolt tried to get me to talk about myself, but I understood well that he was in the biz and got him to talk shop about setting up venues, dealing with roadies, and fixing problems. He'd fixed his share of problems, not the least of which was working for geriatric clients. He answered a dozen questions.

I snatched the bill from around his back with a deft wing and said, "Nonsense," when he protested. "I've learned a ton. I'm getting the better deal."

Outside the tiny shop, he asked, "Where's your gig?"

I pointed toward the south end of Castle Canterlot, the spires of which loomed visibly over the intervening buildings. "The Canterlot Wedding."

"Oh, dear."

My heart thumped. "Oh, dear?"

"That explains the questions and the way you..."

"Look? Exhausted? I fell asleep drooling on my notebook last night. I'm a bit—"

"Overwhelmed?"

"Yes, but your advice is going to help." I covered my mouth with a wing to mute a belch. "Thank you. Got to get cracking."

He followed me back to the stablery. "You look like you could use a helping hoof."

"Rimshot, please," I responded.

"Blame my mother for that." As I stepped into the garage, he continued, "Every venue is dark tonight. Nopony's going to object, the least of whom being the retiring 5 who're sleeping it off. I'd like to see this from the inside."

Standing before my van, I started worming myself into the harness as he said, "Let me pull that."

"Nope," I said, "I mean, yes, if you want to come along, be my guest, but, no, I pull my own load."

Maybe I should have gone earlier.

I'd prefer to call what I found pure bedlam, not chaos, because of, well, Discord. He and I had history. Still, it qualified as such. I would have expected that since dawn, ponies would have completely built out the stage, completed the break room, the staging area, the watering bar, not to mention the big tent that would protect the immediate area before the stage. I saw stacked metal rods, canvas, piles of wood, all in vague outlines of what ought to be. I saw cans of paint here and speakers stacked over there. Some workers sat aside, eating their lunch. Okay, it was lunchtime. In the middle of it all, distinct groups of ponies gathered, probably different companies judging by overalls, caps, and patches. In the middle stood a puce pegasus pony gesturing with his wings behind him.

I trotted across the expanse of "The Canterlot Promenade." About ten pony-lengths from the argument, I unhitched. At the moment, somepony was complaining about needing to place speakers.

I trotted up and asked the pegasus, "Are you the assistant Vinyl Scratch sent?"

He glanced at me and the van I'd unhitched myself from and back to me. "I could really use some coffee, and lunch. Could you go get me some? Thanks!"

He returned to saying to mount them (the speakers, presumably) now, not to wait for the walls, and no he had already moved stuff for the dance floor ponies.

I looked back over my right shoulder at my van. From the side, you couldn't see the caricature of me painted on the front end. I looked left, frowning, at Helping Hoof.

He rolled his eyes and coughed. "Should I fetch coffee and a sandwich for him?"

With a wicked smile, I said, "Why not?"

Helping Hoof dashed off as I stayed and tried to ascertain the hold up. Best I could tell, Daring Darling, as I quickly learned, had got himself in a pickle by rearranging some of the stage elements and trying to optimize the layouts, bollocks-ing up everypony else's plans, supplies, and timing.

When Helping Hoof returned, he carried a cardboard tray loaded with crisp carrot fries smothered in mayo, coffee whitened with what smelled like hazelnuts, and a hoof-sized hayburger redolent of the mustard and grilled onions that dripped out on the yellow paper wrapping it. He slipped it from his back to mine before I walked it to Daring Darling's side. I asked, "Are you the construction supervisor?"

"Could you put it on the stage. I'll be done in just a moment." He launched back into trying to get the canvas ponies to shift around the tenting.

I shrugged the tray up my neck and over my muzzle to slide on the ground at his hooves with nary a spill. I said, louder, "Are you the construction supervisor?"

His green eyes narrowed as he looked down at me. "No—"

I cut him off. "Good. I was going to fire you for doing such a bad job of it."

He huffed. Despite a couple of speaker-crew-ponies making cutting motions at neck level, he said, "Whoever you are, consider yourself fired."

He returned to the argument, but the other ponies were backing away. He stepped forward, hit the edge of the cardboard tray, and flipped the coffee up at his chest. He nickered, jumped, and backed fanning himself with his wings to cool the scalding liquid. I followed him practically nose to nose.

"You, you..." His face became clouded and red.

"Vinyl Scratch picked you to do what?"

"I don't have to answer—" He looked at the retreating work ponies then back toward me. Something didn't fit the narrative in his head; he backed up as I followed. He said, "Assistant to DJ FM."

"Have you met DJ FM?"

He glanced to my left. We'd walked back far enough he could see the front end of the van—and my picture emblazoned on it. He looked at me. "I think I have."

"Good. If Vinyl Scratch hired you, there must be a reason. Go to the stage and think about all the reasons I should let you help me tonight instead of handling my own records, like I did most of the last year."

"Ok."

"Go."

His horseshoes clattered in the silence as he walked off, head down. But the instant I turned back toward the crew-ponies, they launched all at once into their problems.

I put up a wing to quieten them. They grumbled as Helping Hoof said, "I've experience dealing with setting up outdoor venues. I can help."

I nodded, thinking of all the answers I'd got over lunch.

To the crowd, I said, "This is going to be the biggest party ever thrown in Canterlot. It's a royal wedding. Reputations are going to be created or crushed tonight, and not just mine. It must be spectacular because I always give credit on stage. I insist you will put up signs taking credit, tastefully placed. This rave is being paid for from the princesses' purse. I've just hired Helping Hoof here. Work this all out between you and get it up and running by 4:00 p.m.—and I'll guarantee a 10% bonus for everypony. Work out your problems, go back to the original plans, whatevs. Just do it. Now."

Everypony stood open mouthed and eyes wide. Helping Hoof's jaw dropped almost to the travertine brick at our hooves.

"What? I'm spinning the first record at 4 o'clock, so work it out. Make me look brilliant. Go. Go. Go!"

The crew shot away, a half dozen lunches abandoned.

Helping Hoof shut his mouth with a clack. I turned toward the stage and said lowly to him, "Whatever you charge the Whinnyapolis 5, I'm paying you double."

"And I'll make it worth every bit," he said, trotting, chest out, into the fray.

Now for Daring Darling...