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On the Sliding Scale Of Idealism Vs. Cynicism, I like to think of myself as being idyllically cynical. (Patreon page.)


Why do they keep coming back? Maybe it's wounded pride: they were humiliated once, and so they have to get one con over on Ponyville to heal their egos. Or a lot more than one, given all of the successive embarrassments. But either way, the brothers have returned to the scene of their crime(s) so often as to give Pinkie a tail twitch configuration just for their presence. Something which leads her and Twilight to a huge tent in the Everfree, one which has free drinks, slot machines, and happy ponies who haven't lost so much as a tenth-bit.

They can't lose.

As far as the latest con goes, that's just part of the setup.

(Now with author Patreon and Ko-Fi pages.)

Cover art taken from an image created by DrXFizzle.

Chapters (1)
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Comments ( 60 )

Not even our little ponies are immune to the temptation. Ponyville is a town full of idiots...
Also, FIRST COMMENT!!!:yay:

Today, I'll be working on the Flim-Flam traveling casino story.

Twelve hours and twelve thousand words later…

10341069 Oh, the town isn't full of idiots. There's always room for one more. Or two, if you count the dragon.

...was how to think like a con artist.

*sniff* Our little Twilight, grown up so fast.

Conning the conmen. Nice!


They basically formed a herd in that casino, as was said...


Really makes me wonder if the twins' marks are really for conning people... Which'd suck... They've fallen, and stuff...

Flimsy cloth... Reminds me of Hoov-Mat...


The brothers keep learning... And they seem to be getting slowly better... Using more refined enchantments, and stuff... They've put so much effort in their latest... Maybe their next one will be the turning point...

So much hope, I have...


Hmm... Rachette... She's slowly improving the Apples' way of life with mechanics, as we've seen in two stories now...



truly ove you.

truly love you.

"-- free?" Twilight whispered. "All the drinks are free ?" It didn't make sense. Everything the brothers did was about parting ponies from their bits. The happy players (they all seemed so happy) were passing over tips, and perhaps some of that was being skimmed -- but to have no cost for the drinks themselves...

Casinos give free food & drink if you're gambling. WHY?
1) It's more profitable How? Because for a casino, the BIG profit comes from keeping folks gambling. You have to stop gambling to get somethin to eat, you'll be away from the table for an hour+. They can't possibly sell food & drinks for a high enough markup to make up for what they'll lose from you having stopped gambling.
2) When you drink, your judgement is the first thing to go They WANT you to drink. They WANT you to get drunk off your ass. If the law allowed, the first thing they'd do when you walked in the door would be to stick a hose down your throat & pump you full of booze.
3) If you think about it, there's NOTHING that you can offer that every other casino can't easily copy Everybody else is doing it, you'd better do it too. Otherwise, your customers will go elsewhere.

Conning the conmen into upping their con into higher gear so they they get more greedy and make mistakes... making them play their own flaws against themselves.

Nice. Also, Zecora returning home: the fuck happened around here?

But like the Twilight and Pinky pointed, it seemed almost out of character for them. Here, it was character development but for a moment I thought they now had a third partner that pulled back their worst habits.

Two things from the chapter that could be used for a future story:

"Zecora isn't even home right now! She's staying in Canterlot, taking extra makeup classes for her citizenship test --"

A story involving Border Crossing and Zecora. Or the Citizenship Test. It's been teased at and the whole process to become an Equestrian citizen has been talked a lot in various Estee stories but the test and subsequent passing or failing never been brushed upon yet.

She always paused at the remnants of the vacuum jar, and usually did so with regret. The brothers had figured out... well, nothing, really. In a sense, they'd stumbled onto a true scientific principle by sheer accident , and Twilight was still trying to reverse-engineer the true cause of what they'd observed: the fact that the majority of things which decayed did so when in contact with air. And thus the jars: a complicated little household kitchen system with tight-sealing lids, a valve, and a rotary air siphon designed to pull the atmosphere out . It took some time, left a pony's neck sore -- and whatever foodstuffs had been placed in the jar wouldn't appear to decay at all. You could keep fresh-cut apples from browning for days . It was possible that the actual time limit was longer, but... they had been dealing with the brothers. A vacuum jar had several requirements: an airtight seal, a clear view of the contents, and walls solid enough to stand against the constant inwards pull generated by the absence of everything. The last would have required time, investment, and testing, and so that was where the siblings had failed. But in the name of variety, it was one of the few examples where, strictly speaking, their creations hadn't ex ploded.

That sounds like a very nice project for Ratchet and Applebloom. They already made a revolutionary kitchen appliance (a pony friendly salad tosser) and not the double hinges loading tray (stolen from Flim and Flam but still...). This could be a very nice invention that Equestria could benefit from if it worked.

You know... if the brothers ever get caught and condemned I wonder if the princesses could offer them to use the patent for some of their inventions to be converted into paying their caution or fine they have to pay? Maybe overtime with the profits?

If I didn't know better, the Twins' dad was probably Bugsy Siegel.

This was really fun to read. Personally, I went into this betting that the drinks weren't free, but the real twist of their plan had me grinning... and then I grinned even more when they figured out how they were gonna try to stop it. Excellent piece!

When Pechanga Casino first opened in Temecula, California, everyone thought it would last a month at most.

Little did the city fathers realize the naivete of the town's populace for it's been over ten years and the buildings are several stories high now.

Flim and Flam would feel right at home there.

Fantastic story. Made me think. Also, possible typo,

"until her tail hit in her in the face for the third time."

Thanks for the story!

"They really make you think, don't they?" Pinkie asked. "The brothers, I mean. It's strange, because they don't want ponies to think. They want to think for everypony they hurt, and that just makes us think all the more. So maybe if we think long enough, we'll come up with the right thing..."

I read that as 'right think' at first. Not sure if that would have been an improvement or not.

And ending on a 'cut lex luthor a check' moment. Can't say I care for some of the bleak outlook here. They were trying.

I admit I had a different thought seeing the description. There's a saying with respect to social media: "If you're getting something for free, then you're the product." Became apparently pretty quickly that wasn't the case, but if, say, the enchantment stories were really ads they were being paid to run, and you had some way of monitoring eye focus to see which ads ponies responded to better, you'd have a decent business model ala Facebook.

Of course, that wouldn't really be a scam, so they wouldn't do that. Like Dick Dastardly, it's not enough to turn a profit. It has to somehow be a dirty profit. Heck nothing in their scam here was technically illegal.

WRT the banker, someone somewhere will figure out to charge fees per transaction eventually. I know that's based on real history, but if someone in the group (I question Pinkie figuring that out but I know this is a whole separate continuity thing) was going to carry the logic out that far, the next step would be to pass a law preemptively. That does, of course, risk putting the idea in ponies' heads, but as established, it would almost inevitably come up eventually. Best to deal with it early. As Robert Oppenheimer said of atomic weapon treaties "It should have been done the day after Trinity."

Estee would be scary as a criminal, because she not only had to figure out a near-perfect scam for this story, but also how to stop it.
A good author has to be able to become every character in the story, so to write someone smart, they have to be just as smart.

the fact that the majority of things which decayed did so when in contact with air.

A con that could lead her to germ theory. Barring better microscopes, the key may be looking into mycology. With some rot, it's hard to tell what's going on. Mold is a flamboyant performer by comparison.

She's staying in Canterlot, taking extra makeup classes for her citizenship test --

For a second, I thought the citizenship test had a cosmetology portion. :derpyderp2:

"Okay," Twilight half-whispered, because it wasn't.

:rainbowlaugh: Fantastic.

I have questions about "Reign Of The Princesses," because I'm me and fantasy card games are still card games.

Not on every stomp, because then anypony would realize something's wrong -- and just stay where they were, because why wouldn't they try to take advantage of a broken machine?

Because it's a Twilight Zone episode and they're in an ironic Hell?

They tried to come up with an answer. Something which would save Ponyville. The ones they cared about, and ponies all over the continent whom they had yet to meet.
They failed.

Might have been worth bringing in the other Bearers for additional input. Or Mr. Rich. Sometimes you need a fresh perspective more than anything.

"Maybe they stole it from somepony else," Ratchette proposed. "The whole concept."

Well, on a metanarrative level...

As I said, a fresh perspective. :ajsmug:

Brilliant work. Though there's still that lingering doubt: Would the brothers have maintained the slow bleed, or would they have gradually transitioned to something genuinely enjoyable and not reprehensible?
... Yeah, probably not. The way they were beaten shows it was only a matter of time. Though one could view it as commenting on a wine's bouquet within earshot of an alcoholic. As you said, those two really make you think. Well done; thank you for another great read.

The only real, qualitative difference between genius and idiocy us that genius has limits.

It wasn't untill your comment I realised that's what Estee meant! :rainbowlaugh: I thought that's wierd, but I'm sure it will be funny to read about why that's a thing.

Does it say something about Estee's ponies that I just accepted a makeup test as part of some crazy bureaucracy?

Oh, Flim and Flam. Boys, boys, boys.

I mean, this was a clever one. It was genuinely clever. They came this close to outwitting Ponyville for real. But they couldn't resist the bigger score, they threw away the lead -- and they got tricked into it. They fell for the con.

But that's the whole point of Twilight Sparkle, isn't it? She's been punching above her weight class the entire time, against opponents bigger and stronger and smarter than her, right from the start. Because she's a Librarian. She learns. And they don't.

Mind you, as an aside? I would love to see the Triptych-Verse Fields Brothers meet up with Trixie. I don't know what it is, exactly, but I feel like she'd run rings around them without even trying...

It meant they missed most of the riot.

Welp if I'm correct this means the scam was already discovered and destroyed :rainbowlaugh: kinda sad tbh but hey what can ya do

Include me in the group confused about the nature of the makeup test. My first thought was that Rarity would have given her a tonne of study notes. My second thought was that they were going to try to conceal her stripes. I then thought it might have something to do with Orange is the New Blue...

I was several paragraphs along before I realised that Zecora had been tardy with her citizenship paperwork.

I am now picturing a classroom with Gerald Gristle, Yapper, Cerea, and Iron Will all learning the finer points of eyeshadow, mascara, and blush. (I fully expect a tub of foundation to be thrown out the window.)

I like this one and I hate to be a buzzkill, but I ran the numbers and, to quote a wise man, by all accounts it doesn't make sense. The optimal situation for the brothers is for somepony to turn all their bits into smidgeons and cash out immediately. Anything over that first hour or so represents only smidgeons per hour of profit, and at around the 12 hour mark it turns into a net loss for them. Add in employee payroll, advertising, free drinks, maintenance, and saddlebags, and their casino would quickly go bankrupt, and who could manage something like that?

Besides, they intend it to be a con, but is it really? Ponies get hours of entertainment and free drinks for ten smidgeons on the bit of whatever amount they bring in with them. That's a pretty good deal, all things considered. Even some dumbass who brings in his life savings wouldn't lose everything, which is more than can be said for actual casinos. All in all, it'd be a pretty fun and inexpensive night out, compared to most other forms of entertainment.

Note that as Twilight realized, it’s a sliding fee. The staff can work out how long somepony’s been there and determine how much to extract. It’s the slow road: you get drops, but my, doesn’t that bucket fill up when they come in bulk.

There’s also the danger of this being a traveling operation. Ponies who decide they’re Moon-kissed for luck and try real games are going to get hurt.

Also, it’s the brothers. Let’s just say start-up costs are very, very low.

So Sea Monkeys were a thing for a while in this 'verse. (The brine shrimp, for the confused.)

I feel like this is probably pre-Triptych. Not only do we have a Call Forward to the heart-squeezing scene, but Pinkie's response to Twilight's suggestion of teleportation was "Some ponies". Not "Earth ponies". Although that could theoretically be because somepony is there who isn't an earth pony in body or essence in earshot actually paying attention.
(The first spoiler for those who haven't read Triptych, so if you read it anyway and don't know what I'm talking about, there's where you look. The second and beyond... there are a few stories you could read to get it... one of which is Twilight's Escort Service, which feels like it takes place before this story, if only because she didn't seem to notice when she left ponies dazed, so she didn't know for this time, and she would likely have taken it into consideration then if it were the other way around.)

This is not marked as part of the Continuum, so it doesn't have to be consistent with it.

But let's pretend it is. Twilight's an alicorn and this is 'deep into autumn'. Triptych takes place between Twilight's ascension and the end of summer. So this has to be after.

Also, Twilight's observation about the heart-squeezing has the qualifiers 'living' and 'free'. If this were before Triptych she'd just say it was impossible.

Definitely something I could see Flim and Flam do. A nice blend of their origins as legit engineers and their development as conponies. A applaud you, good sir and/or madam.

Nice. :D
As usual. :)

The Triptych setting, and the others where a pony's mark has a mental effect, makes you wonder: Did their mark point them down a lift of crime, or did they start running cons and their worldview adjusted their mark to fit? If they reformed would it work, or would they have a permanent, or even escalating, pull back?

It's like they're a rubber mask away from dealing with meddling foals or something. Half of the plots on Scooby Doo don't make a lick of sense because the guy dressed up as Almost Zombie could easily make more money legitimately.

I found Twilight's solution very funny.

The TV advert guys were really happy with the Time machine compressing TV programs, to make space for more adverts.

They loudly declaimed the technology as soon as it was then used to compress adverts to make room for more adverts that wernt the advertisers product.

Thats why the last timeline was a Death Realm? Death By Smidgins?:rainbowderp:

Basically anything they can get from a pawn shop and/or Goodwill equivalent and/or Ratchette's/the nearest technician's trash bin, right?

It's just like the Cider Season episode. The brother's had the win in the bag (could have refused AJ's request for additional help, chosen not the give out free cider to celebrate their victory, could have given away the "good" cider at the bottom of their stack, etc.), but in the end, they shot themselves in the hoof because they couldn't resist the urge of a big score.

Pinkie Pie is indeed a 10, so this graphic checks out. :pinkiehappy:

Tipper #34 · Jul 20th, 2020 · · 2 ·

Also, Celestia's goody two-hooves star pupil just literally ran a con to get two ponies who were running a legal, legitimate business, run out of town.

When Discord finds out, he's going to laugh for a week.

While technically true about being legal, always remember: Just because something is legal does not mean that it is morally or ethically correct. Laws are made by humans or ponies, and there is always the potential for abuse of laws or favoritism. By beating the con by staying on the correct side of the law, the Bearers did the right thing, which sometimes can be the hardest thing to do. Don't do what is "legal". Do what is right!

Really enjoyed this ride. Interesting to see Our Heroes genuinely stymied after going in with confidence at the start. Kind of a reversal of the usual triumph over impossible odds that they usually get mixed up in. Rachette was a lovely addition to the team even if it's only a temporary team up since she says she isn't the heroic type. I liked how you brought up her old brush with their trickery in her emotional response to this scheme. It's pretty interesting how this story explored the idea of how the two brothers could have so much potential if they could just learn some empathy and common decency/sense and how to fully follow through on their ideas. To be fair I also have trouble fully following through on my ideas. It's not the easiest thing to accomplish. It's amazing to me how people finish things. Thanks for the story Estee! :twilightsmile:

They flapped their waxen wings too high.

is it wrong if i want to subject those two to Starlight's = sign cutie mark spell then hide their cutiemarks where noONE will ever find them?


Oh, absolutely agreed, without a moments' hesitation! If it's a choice to be Lawful or Good, anyone worth calling a friend would choose to be Good. I'm just pointing out that Discord would find it utterly hilarious that Twilight Sparkle made a conscious choice to not be Lawful. And, well, we all know what the opposite alignment to Lawful is, don't we?

An EA or Activision Exec looking at this fic would find Flim and Flam to be quaint, sweet-natured amateurs. Not that that's saying much: the guys running those firms make Nixon and his Ratf*ckers look like choir boys.

That said, a pretty good read. Always fun to see your take on the travelling salespones nonpareil.

If anybody was acting sensibly in that Episode at the start of the contest AJ could have pointed out that the brothers didn’t bring any apples of their own with them and no they could not have Sweet Apple Acres product for free.

reminds me of a "bloom county" comic where they kept making the Funny Pages of a newspaper smaller and smaller...until they collapsed into an "inky black hole"!

Estee always writes the best stories.

I'm surprised the riot occurred in only two hours. I expected most of those plans to take longer to come to fruition. Maybe they got caught going through the garments?

Oh if only the brothers could fight against their own nature. And yet, pony nature is the very foundation of their lifestyle. If the marks went against it, they'd be out of business. If they themselves went against their own, business would be unstoppable.

There's probably some kinda irony there, but I'm not smart enough to articulate it.


I pictured it as also having ignited when they started to suspect their own employees. Those confrontations did not go well.

I don't know about this one; I love the universe and I know the brothers are horrible ponies in it, but I can't really agree they were doing anything wrong here. Yeah, they're subtly encouraging ponies to keep playing to maximize a potential cut at the end, but it is perfectly legal, transparent, and they're maintaining employees and the business itself. It would be ridiculous to provide this service at no cost. They're entertaining ponies for hours, ponies openly having fun with the enchantments and drinks.
Sure, it might be bad for ponies in the long run, but compare it to a bar, a perfectly legal establishment glorifying addictive, harmful behavior that has games and entertainment to keep ponies interested while charging at minimum a 100% markup for the drinks. I think F&F taking roughly a 10% cut is perfectly reasonable, especially considering their overhead. If they ended up getting rich from this, it'd be from a successful business model- not a con.
Even if the "sliding scale" went up to 50%- well. You ever go into a bar with $50 and still have $25 when you leave several hours later, especially after having drunk your fill the entire time?

I think the difference is, with a bar or a normal casino (whether in real life or in Las Pegasus), the customer has a clear concept of the costs and/or risks when they patronize such establishments, but with the Brothers' traveling casino, the sliding scale exchange rate is either not disclosed to the consumer at all, or not until it's too late to do anything about it, so they're misled into thinking there's no risk, and by the time they might understand such, they're often too drunk to do so. The way F&F run their business, even if the customer "wins", they lose, but at a regular casino where the probabilities are such that the customer will usually lose, there is an actual possibility that the customer will legitimately win and make gains on their investment. With bars, the customer knows they will be paying potentially large sums of money for the alcohol (and a possible door charge) and to enjoy less-inhibited socializing and whatever other entertainment may be provided, and the customer (at least upon entry to the premises) is aware of the general experience they are likely to receive as long as the staff doesn't allow them to become blackout drunk and/or get into a physical fight. Neither a standard bar nor a standard casino should be able to get away with mistreating customers for long, because due to their static locations, government inspectors are going to be able to regularly check for compliance, whereas the F&F traveling casino would possibly be able to move elsewhere before any inspection orders or search warrants could be served.

I hear what you're saying, but anyone hoping to actually profit off of gambling is going check things like currency, odds, fees, etc. If it isn't clear what you're paying upfront, I grant that that's unethical- but they didn't investigate this exchange rate, neither confirming that it varies from pony to pony or even asking if it's available in writing. They acted on an assumption, and while the brothers may certainly have corrupted the system eventually themselves, the ideas floated may have led to them straying off this more honest path they'd decided to follow.

You could just bring your own saddlebags. This could have been an oversight- how'd they get their own money out there to begin with?- but at no point did they say they weren't allowed. As for the sheer weight of the bloody things... Well, if you aren't aware of your encumbrance...

I guess what I'm saying is that someone seeking to profit could probably do so. It feels like the rest of it is fools soon being separated from their money.. which is what casinos profit from anyway. Not the savvy gambler. Nobody's going to win big, but they still definitely enjoy the service and entertainment they receive.

Regardless, it's a short story that makes you Think, and that's pretty awesome. :raritywink:

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