• Published 26th Feb 2021
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Tidalverse: The Fearsome Foursome - Alden MacManx

Four life-long friends go fishing one fine late spring morning. The Event happens. Now what?

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Chapter 12: Life with Elvis

“Ship’s log, stardate 1602.24, sunrise. First Officer Fred recording.

“I woke up early to make sure the spell I put on Frick, Frack and myself last night is reinforced before we go over to help Elvis’ crew today. If I’m right, Frick and Frack will go right back under Elvis’ compulsion, but I can break the compulsion with a phrase that Elvis should not know, that being the opening line to Twisted Sister’s greatest hit.

“Maw and I spent some of the night upstairs with Fran, plotting what to do in case we are kept from returning until after the show Friday night, which is what I suspect will happen. Everyone is invited to the Friday night show, which I hope will be a real… blockbuster.

“Maw will handle the logs for the rest of the week. Sandra, communication with us is going to be sparse through to the weekend, so don’t bother calling. We may have a very big surprise for you after Elvis is dealt with. Until we can get you a decent story, Deliverance out.”

Fred saved the audio file and sent it via email to the WSU, having to use a pen between his teeth to enter the commands into the computer. Fran promised a voice-activated system when she could find the programs required to do so, and Fred hoped it would be soon. Of all on board, he was the slowest when it came to using the computer, and he had to use a special stylus to use tablets. He kept at least two on him when he had his harness on. Better than clothes, except when it was cold out. At least it gave him something like pockets.

After breakfast, the three ponies and Fran headed to Graceland, ready to help do maintenance work. To be honest, of the twelve ponies there, none of them had any real experience on how to build or rebuild things, so they just do the best they can to follow Elvis’ orders to rebuild. In Fred the sexton and handyman’s view, it was Hell’s own mess. Fred did give them credit, they were trying their best.

At Graceland, the four reported to the minotaur, who was dressed this day in a crudely-done Hawaiian shirt pieced together from two others and a pair of board shorts that did fit. Fred did suggest that he could go around and help on some of the reconstruction, to show the ponies better ways of doing so. The minotaur thought for a moment, running his fingers through his pompadour. “You do that, Parson. I have to thank you for thinking of such a thing. You go around the construction sites and show everyone just what to do, okay?” Elvis told the earth pony.

“Sir, it would be an honor to do so,” Fred said, feeling the minotaur’s influence pervading his mind, but not affecting it. He turned to his crew. “You three work on the sound stage, getting it up to scratch. We’ll meet at lunch.”

“Right, Fred!” Fran agreed. Frick and Frack trotted off, eager to get started. Fran followed at a more sedate pace. Elvis went around to the back of Graceland, to work on whatever his project back there is.

Fred did as instructed, finding ponies hard at work at one project or another. The first group he sought out is the one working on the electrical system. By lunch, he had shown the three (two unicorns and an earth pony) how to do wiring in such a way that when power was applied to the system, it would not go up in a shower of sparks.

“I knew I wasn’t doing it right, but I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. Thank you for showing us the right way, Sexton,” said the black and red unicorn stallion, Dawson Stalking Crane.

“No shame in not knowing how, Dawson. You were just doing your best to follow Elvis’ orders. What did you do Before?” Fred asked as he watched Dawson and the other unicorn, Gracella Whitespot, re-doing their earlier bad splices properly.

“College freshman, University of Memphis, mathematics,” Dawson said absently, focusing more on his splicing work.

“While I loaded planes for FedEx,” Gracella informed Fred.

“Now I know why you didn’t know how to do good electrical splicing. Let me check on Laura’s digging and lining the conduit trench,” Fred told the pair, referring to the earth pony in the group, Laura Polderin. “Keep on replacing the splices in this line from here back to the generator. Elvis will like it if we get this done before the show on Friday.” The two unicorns picked up the pace.

At the Sound Stage, Frick, Frack and Fran were hard at work, wiring up a turntable, CD player and mixing board, along with speakers. By late afternoon, they were ready to try out the system. Fran fetched a generator, set it up and ran a line inside to the makeshift studio platform. Frick plugged the line into the power bars operating the haywired system. “Hope this works…” he muttered as he started turning on the equipment, his purple glow flickering over everything.

Frick visibly relaxed as the power-up lights came on, without the accompaniment of arcs, sparks and smoke. “Okay, step one complete. Now for step two,” he said, pulling out a CD from his saddlebag and loading it.

“You know what all these switches do, Frick?” Fran asked as she looked over the contraption.

“Fran, not only was I Chief Engineer for thirty years, I did the occasional fill-in board shift, covering for no-shows or vacations. Average of about thirty to forty air shifts a year. I know what I’m doing here. If it works,” Frick said as he pushed the ‘play’ button. Three seconds later, ‘The Snakes Crawl At Night’ by Charlie Pride came over the speakers. He immediately checked everything he could check before boosting the volume, just listening while the song played out, eyes closed, ears swiveling to catch the sound.

“Is he normally like this at work?” Fran asked Frack quietly.

Frack nodded. “He loves music, country in particular. He would love nothing more than to perform, but three things are blocking him. They are the fact he’s almost completely tone deaf, is musically illiterate, and he can’t carry a tune if it was dyed into his hair. So he does the next best thing. If he can’t bring music to others on his own, he can maintain the station that brings his music. That wool cap he found in Fremont? It has speakers in it, so he can listen without disturbing me while we’re in the cabin.”

Fran was about to say something, but Frick spoke first. “Fran, I want you to go out on stage and test the microphone out there. You’re the closest to Elvis’ height, and if it works well for you, it should work for him,” he told her. “Just sing what comes to mind.”

“Right, Frick,” she said before going out on stage. Once there, she turned the microphone on and freed it from the stand. She paused for a few seconds, her toe tapping before she started ‘Vive’ by Kabah. Frick let her sing for thirty seconds before shutting the microphone feed off.

“Okay, Fran. That was outstanding!” Frick called from the table where his gear was set up. “I’m going to have to find that song, even though I can hardly understand it!”

Fran turned the microphone off and put it back on the stand. “Just wait until you hear the music that goes with it. I’m going to have to search some stores now for it!” she laughed as she walked back to the table.

“Maybe I’ll join you when Elvis gives me a day off. Probably next Sunday, we’ll search Memphis for some music.”

“Sounds like a plan, Frick. Ready to head back to the Deliverance for dinner?” Fran asked.

Both Frick and Frack hesitated, their duty to the boat and crew being interfered with by Elvis’ compulsion. “We had best check with Elvis before we go. It would be rude to leave without his blessing,” Frack said slowly, feeling the double pull on his conscience.

“Then, let’s find him. We worked through lunch, and unlike you, I’m hungry!” Fran lashed out with. “Let’s shut down the generator to save fuel, find Elvis and head home, in that order!”

“Okay, Fran,” Frick said dubiously. They did that, finding Fred with Elvis discussing reclamation and rebuilding methods. When Fred noticed the trio, he asked if they could go back to the boat, which was swiftly granted by the minotaur.

“Y’all be back here at eight in the morning, okay, ready to put in a full day of work before the show. Is everything working?” the big bull asked.

“Initial tests are saying yes. I’ll bring some custom tools tomorrow and I’ll tweak and peak the systems to do the best they can, sir!” Frick said enthusiastically. “It will not be as good as a true stage, but it will be the best I can make of it!”
“That’s good to hear. Now, head on back to your boat and I’ll see you tomorrow, all of you. Got it?”

“We got it, Mister Elvis!” Fred said. “The work of a pastor is never done, tending to his flock.”

“How correct you are, Pastor,” Elvis said. “Go forth and return in the morning!”

Thus commanded, the four did just that, returning to the Deliverance. Fran called in when the group crossed I-240, so Freida knew they were coming. Freida had already called Moe and Joaquin down for dinner, and had laid out a spread for everyone.

When Frick got aboard the Deliverance, he looked at the cat and bird, surprised. “You going behind my back again, woman? I didn’t authorize any visitors!” he said angrily.

Fred snapped, “Frick, Frack, We’re not gonna take it!'' The phrase tripped the subliminal triggers Fred had implanted, and the two ponies shook their heads violently, disarraying their already haphazard manes even more.

“Fred, thank you,” Frick said soberly, Frack nodding in agreement. “That Elvis has some power!”

“That he does, but, I have a counter. Let’s just hope I’m good enough to mask our efforts,” Fred said before chugging a cup of hot lavender-chamomile tea.

Frick asked, “Fran, what do you feel? Compelled to obey or not?”

Fran thought while she had a slice of venison. “I can’t quite explain it, Frick. It’s like it’s better if I play along, because if I didn’t, life would get very nasty for all of us. It’s like there’s a power behind him that is not quite aware of anything but ponies, and I don’t want to call attention to myself by not following the instructions given.”

Moe gestured as he sipped from a glass of wine. “I like the way you said that, Fran. With me, I told him flat out that I would not join his group, that I had a higher calling. He accepted that, and has not given me any grief since. I have office hours once a week, bring him his meds, and we leave each other alone.”

“While I’m an utter mechanical moron, and I said I don’t care for his music,” Joaquin added. “I hang around because I don’t want to be alone.”

“I also notice he doesn’t bother you much at all,” Freida observed. “Have you managed to take a picture of what he’s doing in Graceland’s back garden?”

Joaquin nodded, pulling a cell phone from his shirt pocket. “I’m glad you were able to charge it. Now, Fran should be able to download it to your computer. It looks like some sort of fancy markings, almost like a language, but not one I have seen before. I just hope I wasn’t noticed,” he said as he passed it to Fran, who took it and looked it over. “Code for security is 0987.”

“At least it wasn’t 1234…” Fran muttered as she unlocked the phone.

“So I’m dyslexic. I get things backwards all the time,” Joaquin squawked.

“You still do good, young fellow,” Moe said, reassuring the parrot.

“Okay, what is next on the agenda?” Freida asked.

“Tomorrow, I’m going to suggest working on some light systems. Every actor likes a spotlight on them while performing,” Frick announced. “Going to need your help rigging cables to the ceiling, bro.”

“I can do that. I’m sure if we put our heads together, we can come up with something,” Frack said to his brother.

“I’m sure I will hear the hollow clonk noise from here…” Freida snarked.

“You just might, Freida,” Moe agreed. “The question is, will I hear it at the hospital?”

“If you do, that just means all is well between us, Moe,” Frick countered.

Moe just muttered, “Oy gevalt…”

Thursday the 25th, the Deliverance crew, except for Freida, were hard at work at the Sound Stage, setting up lights, seating, and speakers for the best audio. In the afternoon, Elvis himself came by, bringing karaoke CD’s with the songs he wanted to do, playlist desires, and setting up on stage for light checks. Frick, Frack and Fred were most insistent that they mark the stage properly, so Elvis would be in the best light for the show. This, of course, pleased the minotaur greatly, and he readily acquiesced to the staging requests. The three ponies went into great detail on the staging, making sure they knew what Elvis would be doing through the entire hour.

Once that was set, Frick drilled Frack on the light control panel, because he could not run the sound equipment and lights at the same time. They used their radios to help coordinate, while Fran built a wooden mockup of Elvis to place on the marks, moving it about as needed, wearing sunglasses. They did one walk-through of the show before knocking off for the night, Elvis having granted permission to do so when he was present earlier.

Back at the boat, after Fred cleared the minds of Frick and Frack from Elvis’ pernicious influences, Freida gave a report on what she learned from the WSU about what the minotaur is doing in the back garden. “What it appears is that Elvis is trying to power up a gate, working on his fans' combined loyalty and admiration OF HIM to power it. It is doubtful that Friday’s performance would be sufficient to activate the spell, but it would charge the ‘spell battery’ a lot. Estimates are that it will take three or four shows, with everyone present, to power the spell.”

“Just what is the spell going to do?” Moe asked.

“The WSU is not completely certain. More than likely it’s a summoning portal, designed to bring someone or something here to Earth from wherever it’s set for. Just who or what it is designed to summon, no one is certain. Knowing what Elvis is doing to the ponies here, it cannot be considered benevolent,” Freida told the group.

“Do you have any plans on taking him down, and what will happen after, if we’re successful?” Frick asked.

“Yes, we have and no, we’re not going to say what, Frick,” Fred said in flat tones. “You and Frack are too open to his control. I have divine backing. You don’t. No plans will be discussed in your presence.”

“Well, what you say makes sense,” Frick agreed.

“However, some plans can be discussed, and we had best do them now while we’re all here. Tomorrow’s the show, and we don’t have to show up until noon. Show starts at seven, and I know he wants everyone there,” Fred said, looking around the table.

“But, that means we’ll have to leave the boat unattended!” Frick said, shock and horror evident in his voice. “I won’t stand for that!”

“You won’t have to, Frick. You’ll sit down for it,” Fred sighed. “Tonight, I’m going to train Doctor Moe and Joaquin to operate the boat, but under a lockout code that I’ll have Fran program in so as to limit them to basic shipkeeping functions only, and not getting into the records or phone systems.”

“Who will be here?” Frack asked.

“I know I have to show up before the show, to deliver his poisons of choice for the show, but I won’t have to stay for it. Joaquin can be here at the start, then I’ll relieve him once I get here. That way, when the show is over, let me know you’re on the way home,” Moe said. “My moped is the fastest thing in town, except for those who have wings.”

“I like that idea,” Joaquin chirped. “I can be here before noon, telling Elvis honestly I have been asked to watch your boat. He knows I don’t like his music, and never forces me to stay around when he does perform. I can be here before noon so everyone can go to the show for set-ups.”

“I think that’s a very good idea,” Fred told the group. “The boat will not be unattended, Elvis will have the blessing of an appreciative audience, and some of us get to practice new skills, in order to serve the one who pulls the strings, right?”

Everyone raised their coffee cup, water glass or Coke can in a mock toast. “For duty and ponanity!” all chorused.

Promptly at noon the next day, the Fearsome Fivesome plus one arrived at the Sound Stage, to find Elvis’ entire crew there, along with Elvis himself. The six were invited to join them for lunch, which was being made in a large pot outside the Sound Stage. While they ate, Elvis gave them their instructions for the afternoon.

“Parson Fred, I’m putting you in charge of everyone until after the show and I take over. All of you, if Fred says to do something, it is as if I told you. Make sure the Sound Stage is ready to go by seven. Frick, Frack, you go on dinner break at five, because I will be here at six to go over the show with the two of you. Everyone else, dinner is at six, show will start promptly at seven and run about an hour. Until then, I have to go prepare,” the minotaur told his very attentive audience.

“I understand, Elvis,” Fred said. “All will be ready for your show tonight. We may not be like Las Vegas, but we’ll do our best.”

“Ah know that, Parson. My gratitude to all of you,” Elvis said as he glanced at a rather ornate watch on his wrist. “I must hurry. Until later, all.” The minotaur then ran from the Sound Stage toward Graceland, and the back of the mansion.

Fred looked at the dozen and a half ponies and others sitting around the fire. “You heard the man, let’s get to work.” He broke down the ponies to specific tasks, like one watching the generators, one to make sure the fuel for them was available, a team doing specific cleanup of the Sound Stage seating area, and two to put a polish on the stage itself. Frick and Frack were detailed to their usual tasks, setting up the lights and sound.

Once all ponies were off and working, Fred gathered Freida, Fran and Moe in a separate room. “Okay, everyone have their tools for later?” he asked.

“I have all of Elvis’ usual medications set up in this bag. I just have to leave it in his ‘dressing room’, and he’ll handle the rest,” the white Abyssinian reported. “No funny stuff, just his usual order.”

“Good. No need to make him suspicious. Now, you go put the pouch in his dressing room before heading back to the Deliverance. I’ll be in this area, so have Joaquin find me here after you relieve him. We’ll be in touch,” Fred instructed.

“Sounds good to me,” Moe said, getting up. “At least the moped runs better now than before!”

“That it does,” Fred said before looking at someone else. “What about you, Maw?”

“I’ll be all set up shortly after the show starts, Paw. I’ll be in the right place at the right time. Just keep the lights and sound up,” Freida said quietly, a look of grim determination on her face.

“Will do. Oh, Maw, check out Elvis’ wardrobe. Make sure everything’s as good as it can be. If you have to do some sewing, do your best. Fran, do your best in helping everyone here so that Elvis will be able to put on the show of his life. Got it?” Fred asked sternly.

“Got it, Fred,” Fran replied.

“Can do, Paw. Let’s make the big bull happy!”

For the next few hours, everyone there did just that. Fred wandered from group to group, supervising, instructing, and helping as needed. Freida checked over Elvis’ costumes, finding a white jumpsuit that was not only clean, but in near-pristine condition. She checked it over thoroughly, ensuring it was good to go before putting it on a hangar in the dressing room of the Sound Stage, along with what jewelry was there. She was sure the minotaur had more in Graceland itself, but it never hurt to have a backup. Fran worked with Frick and Frack, helping them tweak and peak the mixing and light boards. She also plugged a flash drive into a spare socket on the mixing board, telling Frick it’s a backup of the CD’s he was going to use for the show.

“Let’s hope we don’t have to use it,” Frick said. “I’ve been drilling for days!”

“I hope we don’t have to, either. Pays to be sure, right?” Fran replied.

“That it does. Do we have a third CD-ROM drive? I don’t remember.”

“I’ll look for it, Frick. I think there’s one in the engineer’s tool room.”

Moe went back to the Deliverance, and Joaquin flew back about an hour after Moe left. “Wind’s picking up out of the south. Looks like it may start storming around show time,” the parrot reported once he found Fred.

“Well, that’s great,” Fred grumbled. “A nice, long, WET walk home in the dark. Something to look forward to. What’s HE up to?”

“Looked to me he was praying in the center of the back garden. He does that before the shows he puts on. Why, I don’t know.”

“I think I do. Explanations to follow. Help me keep an eye on everyone. He put me in charge of everyone before the show,” Fred explained.

“He does that,” Joaquin agreed. “Usually it’s Dawson Stalking Crane or Lucida Parker,” referring to one of the other unicorns.

“Tread carefully, compadre. With great power comes great responsibility,” Joaquin cautioned.

“Well I know it, Mister. Well I know it.”

When Frick and Frack broke for dinner, Freida went as well, to be able to chat with Elvis about costuming before the show. Turned out that wasn’t needed, because when Elvis arrived at six, he brought along a bag that had several costumes and his desired jewelry in it. “Ah do thank you for even thinking of it, Missus Freida, but ah got that taken care of. Do some last-minute checks an’ make shuah all is ready, please?” he asked.

“Of course, Mister Elvis. I will do that,” Freida said before leaving the presence. She did just that, inspecting the stage and the seating area, seeing the marks were in place, the wireless microphone had fresh batteries, and the seating just so, especially hers.

By seven, all were in their places, awaiting the show. Promptly at seven, the stage lit up with a flash of all the lights and a boom of drums and trumpets before a single spotlight highlighted the microphone. Elvis strode out, in a sparkling white sequined suit, liberally bedecked with jewelry.

A cheer went up from the ponies as he picked up the mic. The opening notes of ‘Jailhouse Rock’ boomed from the speakers, Elvis picking up at the right moment. This went on through the show, Frick starting the karaoke tracks properly, Frack keeping Elvis in the spotlights as he moved about the stage, and the ponies cheering. Even Fred could feel the presence, the power, the command the minotaur had over the ponies. He could feel it, but that was all. He was still his own pony.

Occasionally, through the show, a thunder clap was heard, generally between songs, because the music was loud enough to cover up the thunder. It didn’t interrupt the festivities.

When the final song of the ‘concert’, ‘Suspicious Minds’, started, Fred reached into his saddlebags and pulled out two items, his radio and his mp3 player. He had the radio off, because Frick and Frack were using theirs to coordinate. He turned it on now, along with the mp3 player, which was set to a particular song. He held the player’s speaker to the radio microphone.

Dee Snyder’s voice was heard, shouting ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It! NO!’ blasting right at Frick and Frack. As expected, the coded phrase and song blew through Elvis’ programming, restoring their wills to their control. The duo, however, did not betray the fact they were clear of the minotaur, and kept on doing what they were doing.

Freida got up to head for the ladies’ room, while Fran made her way to an opposing corner of the seating area. The crowd (such as it was) was whipped into a frenzy, singing along with the minotaur. As the song ended, the building shook with a clap of thunder that was louder than it should be, as well as longer. Elvis stood on the stage, a shocked look on his face, as blood trickled down his nose from the third eye socket that appeared in his forehead. The shocked look was replaced by pain from the second shot that caught him in the throat.

The stunned silence in the room after the thud of Elvis’ body hitting the floor was broken by Freida’s snarl from the ladies room door, a fifty-caliber rifle in her claws. “NOBODY messes with my husband and friends and gets away with it!”

Author's Note:

Sorry that it's shorter than usual. Chronic fatigue and brain fog has been hitting me hard. I'm glad I got this out.

Don't EVER piss off a griffon hen. Especially when messing with her mate. It could have lethal consequences.

Until the next chapter! waves tiredly before flopping back in bed