• Published 2nd Apr 2019
  • 542 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.

  • ...
3
 30
 542

I Fancy Him

Author's Note:

Flopsy Mopsy’s story involves music, so you may want a flavor of what she’s hearing in her head. The following song corresponds to the ponified song Pony Behavior in this chapter:

Human Behavior by Björk.

Daring Darling had worked concerts, outdoor and indoor, and he had a pretty good grasp of sound mixing, and he knew many of the artists I played. He had some experience with DJs, but mostly at parties. He didn't know any DJ with a capital-N Name. He apologized and insisted he was a quick learner. He had gone wrong trying to fix problems he perceived with the conventional placement of speakers and walls, after he'd been asked to mediate problems between crews.

His rep was on the line.

I asked, "Can I call you D-D?" I wasn't calling him Darling.

He nodded. I gave him a chance

All went well, and like a kicked over anthill, ponies worked furiously, extending poles, air-lifting canvas roofs, and magicking around stage planks, pulling guy-wires and setting up speakers. By 3:00 p.m., I felt sure it would all finish on time without further drama. When the lighting crew trotted up, I was sorting albums with D-D, following the session plan in my notebook. I held a fluttering drool-wrinkled page open against the breeze...

Vinyl Scratch had said The Night Electrical were unicorns and that they used direct live magic, not machinery. I had no quibbles about performance art being mixed with my music, and looked forward to discussing how the spells they cast could integrate with my beats, especially where I'd typically use spark volcanoes or gem lights that modulated to the music.

But then I saw him.

Him.

Ghost Zapper.

He was a white stallion with an electric-blue mane and dreamy light-blue eyes to match. I'd taken a fancy to him when he had been a senior on the hoofball team and I a junior. A bit of a bad-colt, him, proud of his athleticism, with mares giving him goo-goo eyes wherever he went. He'd never seemed much of a scholar, though, and I very definitely was. Secondary school wasn't free in Trottingham; here it was, and I had not been willing to miss a second of the prize it represented to a poor immigrant filly who had been born to farm peasantry. Regardless, I won't tell you how many times I'd imagined our wedding and the beautiful mares and colts we'd have together. I'd bloody well written poetry to him, not that I had ever shared it with him!

I had fancied him. And fallen hard.

Hard.

Equestrians called it a crush, and it kind of hurt that way. Never'd had the guts to talk to him, either, until after... I'd become a different mare after Princess Nightmare Moon remade me. She'd revealed a hidden courage that lay in my heart—a fearsome thing and likely evil, considering how I'd had to work to control myself the last time it'd surfaced. But by then Ghost Zapper had left town. He'd graduated that spring before the 1000th Summer Sun Celebration. When I'd found my courage and had hypothetically become ready to say hello, he'd already been gone.

"FM! You're going to tear the notebook!"

A golden aura had formed around the stallion in my eyes. Everywhere else had become a fog. I fanned myself with a wing, despite the cool early spring weather. My heart raced. I was breathing hard.

"FM! Really?" I felt somepony lifting my right foreleg. "Are you crazy!?"

I shook my head at what felt like a non-sequitur, even as his previous words replayed in my mind and mostly bounced off. It was as if a full pony choir had gathered around me and had begun singing a note of epiphany. Ahhhhhhh!

My state of fascination snapped. Calling me "crazy" was the ultimate heavy lift for D-D. I coughed, looked down, and lifted my hoof.

"Sorry," I said.

D-D crouched beside me, dropped his forelegs to the notebook and slid it away. Three pages were ripped and fluttering in the breeze, attached by the width of a horseshoe to the notebook. Green eyes regarded me with something that could have been anything between disdain and worry.

He shut the cover. "Let me find some tape."

"Good idea."

He trotted off and I felt the warmth return. Stupid me. Fancying a colt again, but come the last day of spring, it would be two years since we had attended school together. But not really together, considering the only pony I'd ever discussed it all with was my best friend, Vinyl Scratch, and true to form, that had involved few words on her part.

Vinyl Scratch had arranged the lighting for the event.

Hmm. Of course she had.

Evil evil mare.

We'd share some choice words about that.

Meanwhile, I looked up and saw that Ghost Zapper stood with four other unicorns—and their leader, a hefty lime-green mare with a black mane—talking with Helping Hoof while the rest listened. They all wore well-stuffed lime-green saddle bags bearing the arch of a rainbow. It matched the mare's cutie mark.

I had to talk to them. Other than the sound technicians, the lighting technicians were the next most important element of the performance. I took a deep breath, then another. Screw your courage to the sticking place, filly, I told myself. I was a successful up and coming DJ and he was a working illusionist.

Business, Flopsy Businessmare Mopsy! Deep breath. Another.

I trotted up, nonchalantly, hoping not to trip over my own hooves.

Helping Hoof saw me and said, "Aurora Australias, meet DJ FM."

Unfortunately, my eyes had strayed back to Ghost Zapper. Not looking at the mare, I raised a hoof and said, "Nice to meet you."

My heart started racing again.

She clacked my hoof. With an accent to her Equestrian that sounded similar but very different to mine, she said, "Nice to meet you, mate." I heard a faint chuckle.

Of the unicorns, two were stallions, but some ponies were just better endowed than others.

Aurora Australias said, "It's about time that he step up and coordinate with the star of the show." I looked at her and saw she had magenta eyes and a smile that would have been a smirk had she been less professional. She gestured with a hoof back toward the stage and added, "Ghost Zapper, help DJ FM and discuss the lighting FX she wants to implement."

He said in a smooth baritone, "Yes, ma'am."

I found myself backing away as he approached. I got about ten steps when he came within a pony-length. "Miss FM? Should I call you that?"

"Hi." I let my ropey fringe fall over my eyes, allowing me to hide in plain sight.

We blinked at each other for a moment. All the images of him two years younger and snippets of truly embarrassing poetry I had written whirled around in my head. Bloody Tartarus! You matched wits with bloody Discord and saved hundreds of ponies from being warped and mangled by the git. He's just a colt!

But such a lovely colt.

He said, "Hi," too, looking increasingly non-plussed.

Any second now, he would remember me, the shy immigrant filly who worked with her Mum and Dad cleaning homes and businesses, and it would be very awkward indeed.

"So," I said, somehow making one syllable quaver. "I-I've never used illusory lighting in a s-show before. How is that different from standard, um, embedded, um, magical effects l-like my volcano amulets?"

He pointed to the stage. He walked beside me and I felt my hide tick at his closeness. He said, "I think I've met you—"

He remembered me! Don't look.

He continued, "—I've been to clubs in Manehatten. Should I call you FM?"

"Flopsy Mopsy. I mean—" Coughing, I glanced up into his pale blue eyes and stumbled. Stop that! "I mean, everypony calls me Mop."

Yeah, like the business end of a tool pony janitors and maids use to clean other ponies' houses, which you don't want him to remember!

"Mop it is. I love dance music, so this should be very sweet. I talked to Vinyl Scratch at that last Pon3 event she held in Canterlot and she remembered me and picked The Night Electrical Productions for tonight's lighting. So, I guess it's best I'm the one to talk to since I landed the gig."

We reached the stage. Speakers loomed to the right and the left. The overhanging tent roof shaded us from the sun, which was beginning to drop in the sky. D-D eyed me warily from the controls off stage left. Other ponies put up tinsel decorations. I said, "The Canterlot Wedding. Imagine that. Nothing will be bigger."

"And you're headlining. You're barely my age. I expect you're very talented. I'll do my best to see that you shine."

My throat closed up as my face flushed hotly. And he didn't miss it. He smiled and diplomatically looked away at the equipment. I led toward the steps to the stage, but he leapt up onto it, so I fluttered up behind. As he examined my sound board and decks, and noted the advanced sound processor Vinyl Scratch had sent to augment my kit, he began explaining the particulars.

Simply put, illusory lighting was performance art. It consisted of 20% variations of Illuminate spells, because there was no substitute for real light, especially at night. The remaining 80% were various types of aural, kinesthetic, and visual illusions—the FXs as they were known. Most anything from ghostly images (his specialty) and steam to fireworks were possible. Designs and patterns could be made to pulse through clouds floating over the head of the dancers, and plenty more. He finished with, "It was all the rage on the island of Sandawhinney last year. I've had plenty of practice. Wait..."

I looked up and our eyes locked. Perhaps I'd acclimated to his presence. My heart lurched, but I got out a demure, "Yes?"

"We attended school in Ponyville together, didn't we?"

"Different years," I replied, fiddling with sliders on my sound board, hiding behind my bangs again.

"I kind of miss Miss Cheerilee."

"You do?" I didn't look up.

"Yeah. She was very hard on me, but she taught me that I had to follow my talent, not what all the rest of the colts thought important. I wasn't ever going to qualify for pro hoofball. But I was good at illusions and art, so she got me books on both. She was the greatest."

"I was a bit of a lit geek. She helped me with my poetry and rhetoric. I ended up giving the valedictorian speech."

"Really?"

"Feathersoft went full mental and couldn't do it. I was number two in the class." No, no. No boasting!

"I remember that shrinking violet—a purple pink-maned filly who did the lost little lamb bit, tagging behind me for a few weeks. And I remember you hanging with Vinyl Scratch."

"Yeah. Cheerilee encouraged me to expand my record collection to all genres, like classical and reghay, not just dance. That helped a lot."

"She was the greatest. And we're going to make this the greatest. Show... ever... that is."

"That we shall."

He unpacked what looked like a mini red-plastic soundboard from his saddlebags. It had a dozen sliders and rows of rainbow-colored buttons hoof-labeled with the names of the various FXs. They didn't control the lighting, but rather made beeps in the eardrops that each illusionist would have in their ear. Some sort of contagious magic entanglement spell. I was to use it to cue up what I wanted.

For the next forty-five minutes, he demonstrated what he could do and how I could use the board to cue the five of them to change the standard FX they'd planned for the night.

The ponies that arrived at 4:00 p.m., as we finished a dry run, saw a preview of the light show rampant with dancing, shimmering auroras chased by pastel pink and blue will o'wisps about two stories in the air.

I smiled. I looked at the stage, the watering bars, the expanse of the wood dance floor that extended out one-hundred pony-lengths, and the speakers arranged above and beside me and around the promenade. The main tent over it all rose above the spires that connected the flyway that circled the promenade. I even caught the smell of garlic and roasting corn as the first feed bag vendors started opening their stalls.

Everything was ready.

I clacked hooves with Ghost Zapper, and everypony else on the team, but I still thought him dreamy. Not as scary as before. A real thaumaturgical nerd with bonafides comparable to my musical geekery. And professional. And nice. And I said dreamy, right?

It wasn't as if I hadn't worked with plenty of stallions over the last year—stallions that had the stamina for the late night sweat sessions, seemingly and reputedly more so than us mares did, but this mare had cracked that stereotype with a passion. I'd earned my admirers. I'd have had my choice of the herd in Baltimare to Manehatten, but I was more interested in my turntables and landing elusive primo gigs than in a string of stallions. Companionship had never been my focus. Not with certain hard to explain rough edges in my past. I wasn't your average mare.

Looking at Ghost Zapper's cutie mark as he retreated—a smiling ghost that looked like a pony covered by a sheet...

Okay, fine, at his muscular flank—

Looking at him, I began to understand what else had held me back.

I'd idealized him. How like the shy filly I'd been! I'd thought I'd left the naive me I'd named Shy behind long ago. Not entirely, I guess.

I sighed and closed my eyes. With a deep breath that I pushed slowly through my nostrils, I swept everything from my mind and reveled in the smile that grew on my face.

With a tap of a hoof, I adjusted my boom mic and glanced at Helping Hoof who nodded. I gave a two pinions up with my wings and sung, "Welcome, Canterlot!"

A few hundred early arrivals cheered as I lifted the green headphones and checked the cued track D-D had setup. I nodded as I added, "The ceremony starts at 5:00 p.m.. Let's have some feel good music while we gather and chat and give our best thoughts to the royal couple. There's some 'good cook'in', by the smell of it, at the feedbags. Give it a look-see."

I dropped the needle and ramped the volume from zero. A little uptempo ambient at ya. D-D came through, following the plan I'd charted last night and cannily bringing me strong black tea, sweetened and whitened. Helping Hoof had likely relayed what he'd learned about me at lunch. As hundreds and hundreds streamed into the promenade, I reached for my sound FX record, used a recorder to loop a ticking clock on another line and muxed it in faintly. As the clock approached five, I looped driving timpani solo sampled from Bee Shoring's Pony Behavior, slowed the BPM down significantly, and mixed it in almost subliminally. I bobbed my head to the beat that I slowly ramped up in volume and BPM.

I heard a clock tower chime five o'clock and moments later, a wedding march flared from the castle, from the open doors of the balcony. I lowered the music as the crowd of thousands upon thousands cheered.

Somepony closed the balcony doors.

I immediately dropped a record: a waltz that pretended to be a march. Very cheery. "Wish the bride and groom your very best!"

The chorus of "awww" changed to a crazy loud cheer. I smiled. Everything going according to plan.

I had this. All the hooves. Nothing could go wrong now!

...I could not have been more wrong.