• Published 24th Mar 2013
  • 13,291 Views, 1,251 Comments

Syncopation - Terrasora



Octavia Philharmonica, the Canterlot Conservatory's rising star, is about to begin a whole new part of her life; one that involves an old friend, an ambitious businesspony and a certain eccentric DJ.

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The Following Day

Octavia awoke naturally; a strange feeling to say the least. After spending years waking up to Frederic Cloppin’s Nocturne Opus 9 Number 2 and the occasional nightmare, the cellist felt that waking up without an alarm was impossible.

And yet, there she lay, hooves rubbing at her eyes and mane disheveled.

I should get up, thought the grey mare.

Octavia weakly kicked at her blankets, only succeeding in shifting them down a few inches.

Plan B then.

Plan B, as it turned out, consisted of pulling up her blankets and nuzzling against them. The cellist understood that she likely wouldn’t be going back to sleep, but that wasn’t going to stop her. After all, what did Octavia have to do that day? Surely nothing important.

A voice in the back of Octavia’s head spoke up.

Fancy Pants. 5:30.

A single violet eye cracked open and peered at the clock. It wasn’t even noon yet.

Shower. Food. The voice, a mirror of Octavia’s own, was insistent.

The thought of breakfast nearly got the cellist to her hooves, but the movement somehow changed. Octavia wriggled deeper under her covers.

Half-formed thoughts ran through the grey mare’s mind, most of them unintelligible, many of them protesting her refusal to begin the day. Octavia could barely hear them in her semi-conscious state, feeling sluggish but oh-so-comfortable.

But all good things must come to an end and, despite her best efforts; Octavia was forced to roll out of bed. There was a decisive lack of energy in the cellist’s movements, a weight that she was feeling in her hooves.

Brushing teeth, showering, brushing hair. Hygiene routine completed.

Octavia stretched, feeling the weight alleviate by the tiniest amount.

Am I tired? Strange, considering that I actually got to sleep.

The cellist tromped into her kitchen, opening the refrigerator. She was greeted by empty shelves.

Ah, that’s right; self-filling refrigerators are still in the testing phase.

Octavia looked over at her bit bag, weighing hunger and the loss of bits in her mind. Sighing, she decided that hunger would be slightly worse. But only slightly.

But where do I go? SunBucks?

The image of a white unicorn with an electric blue mane flashed into her mind. A glimpse at the clock confirmed that Vinyl Scratch would likely be there for her late-morning coffee.

Definitely not. Fast-food is out of the question, of course… A trip to the supermarket is in order. Celestia knows that I’ve been putting it off for long enough.

The cellist trotted outside, closing and locking the door behind her, running through a shopping list in her mind.

Flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla, butter, bread, dandelions… That’s going to cost quite a few bits. Not that I should be worried about money, but it is always bet to be careful. Lucky that Fancy Pants offered Harpo and I that job so quickly.

Fancy Pants. It’s amazing really, a pony of his wealth deciding to enter into yet another business. Music, nonetheless! At this point, he could ask to become Princess and everypony would attend his coronation. The Princess Fancy Pants cometh! Behold, behold.

Octavia giggled aloud at the mental image, garnering a few stares from passing ponies.

But enough of that. Although I do have to wonder if there’s any reason behind his sudden venture into the music industry. The market is dominated by a few large companies at the moment; any new agency, even one run by Fancy Pants, is a gamble.

Which is why he wants ponies to think it over before joining. That pony is far too kind.

The cellist walked through the sliding doors of the supermarket, a slight smile cracking the mask of cold detachment she wore in public.

Octavia walked up and down the various aisles, slowly filling the shopping cart she had found at the market’s entrance.

Flour, eggs, some apples as snacks, sugar… and vanilla… and… I really should have written all of this down.

Octavia looked up from her shopping cart, locking eyes with a mint-green unicorn. The cellist recognized her; she was definitely another Conservatory student, but Octavia could not remember her name.

Laura? Liar?

The cellist nodded in greeting and the unicorn returned the nod, turning back to the box she held in her hooves. Octavia walked on.

I really should speak to more ponies. Harpo is probably the only student I think of as a friend… Well, Octavia, it’s a bit too late for that, considering that there are no more students.

“Miss Philharmonica, what a surprise!”

Octavia turned towards the voice, and found Professor Arpeggio serenely smiling at her.

“I was not expecting to see you until later on today,” continued the Professor. “But this is as good an opportunity as any to congratulate you on a fantastic concert. I would have said something yesterday but I was rather busy fending off the,” Professor Arpeggio grimaced, “Record Producers.”

Octavia smiled. “Although Fancy Pants was able to slip past you.”

“Ah, yes. I think we can both agree that that particular stallion is a special case. Working for him would be a great experience.”

The elder pony looked around and leaned in conspiratorially. “Now tell me, Miss Philharmonica, did you take the job?”

“Fancy Pants is not accepting an answer until 5:30 this evening. He wants me and Harpo to thoroughly think over his proposal.”

Professor Arpeggio threw back his head and laughed, startling two ponies that had been passing by. “Yes, he is a special case. Most other companies would have you signing a contract on the spot. Luna knows I had to knock away a few rolls of parchment away yesterday. Although I can’t blame them, especially after they had heard you play Mister Nadermane’s piece. It really was a masterful display. And you had seemed so nervous when I passed by you.”

Octavia replayed that moment, feeling her stomach drop from remembering her nightmare, a small panic seizing her. “No, Professor Arpeggio, not nervous at all.”

“Well of course not! Not from you Miss Philharmonica.” The Professor grinned at his star student. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I must return home. Missus Arpeggio is expecting me.”

“Of course, Professor.”

The elder pony trotted off. Octavia went back to her shopping, but could not prevent a slight voice coming from the back of her head.

‘Not nervous at all.’ That was a blatant lie. I was having nightmares about that concert. Tartarus, I nearly snapped my cello’s neck in half right before performing!

But what else could I have said? ‘Yes Professor, your top student who performed wonderfully could not feel her hooves as she walked on stage.’ Ridiculous!

Your pride will be your downfall, Octavia Philharmonica.

Octavia sighed inwardly. I hate when I quote Koltein at myself.

The grey mare paid for her groceries and walked back home.

***

“Harpo? Harpo, are you in there?”

Octavia stood in front of the composer’s home, rapping furiously on the door. She had been knocking for the past ten minutes without receiving any form of answer.

“Harpo, get your purple flank up; you’ll miss the final day at the Conservatory!”

The door opened the slightest bit, revealing a bloodshot green eye. Harpo’s voice was little more than a rasping whisper.

“Octavia, stop yelling. You know who’s going to show up to the Conservatory today? You. That’s it.”

“You and I will be at lessons today.”

Harpo attempted to roll his eyes, but that particular movement was beyond his capabilities. He looked up instead, putting as much exasperation into it as he could. “But I’m hungover!” whined Harpo.

“It won’t be the first time you have attended lessons with a hangover.”

The composer considered this for a moment before sighing. “Do I have time for breakfast?”

“Harpo, it is half past noon.”

“I know! Your infernal knocking woke me up; I could have easily slept until 3 o’ clock.”

Harpo’s eye disappeared from the crack in the door way, leaving the door open. Octavia took this as an invitation to enter.

The stallion prided himself on his “Disorganized Tidiness (Patent Pending)” and his home was a reflection of that. Half-finished music pieces lay on counters and tables, novels and textbooks adorned the couches and chairs, and various other bits and pieces were strewn throughout the house. The only object that was not decorated with tidbits was Harpo’s pride and joy; his harp.

Nopony, not even Octavia, was allowed to touch that without the composer’s express permission and only then with Harpo hovering at their shoulder.

Harpo himself was at his refrigerator’s door, holding up one hoof to cover his eyes and muttering something to the effect of,

“Light, stop yelling; I’m hungover.”

He fished out a loaf of bread and a jug of orange juice; his “Surefire Hangover Defense.” (Patent Pending)

The composer set the toaster to three, which was guaranteed to leave his toast half-charred and set about finding a glass for his juice, stumbling through his kitchen as he did so.

Octavia, meanwhile, had found a seat on a couch and was leafing through the pages of Artemis Foal: The Eternity Colt.

“Harpo?”

“Mmmmm?” Harpo responded.

“Have you thought about Fancy Pants’s offer?”

“I am not exactly the best thinker at the moment, Octavia.” As if to punctuate his statement, the composer crashed into a chair. “But I think we would be crazy to refuse him.”

Octavia looked towards the composer, about to ask him to elaborate. Harpo held up a hoof, busy downing his first glass of orange juice.

The stallion placed the empty cup on a counter with a sigh, reaching for the jug of orange juice. “You see, Octavia, Fancy Pants is not a member of the music industry; he is a business pony through and through. He will not be as in tune, if you’ll pardon the pun, with what is expected of most musicians; namely, to perform what their producers think is best. He will take whatever we create and find a market for it; we will have far more freedom in his company than we would in any other.” The toaster finished toasting and Harpo, orange juice in hoof, awkwardly trotted over to it.

“I see… Harpo, that was one of the most convincing arguments I have ever heard from you.”

“Which is further proof that you don’t listen to me!” The composer took a bite of his burnt toast, cringing slightly at the taste.
Five bites later and both slices of burnt toast were gone, along with a good amount of the stallion’s headache.

“Can we go now?” asked Octavia.

In response, Harpo reached into a cupboard, pulling out a bottle of aspirin and taking it with the last dregs of orange juice.

He burped slightly. “Alright, lead the way, Octavia.”

***

“… It has been a long and arduous few years, and it pains me to see you go, but I can rest assured, knowing that each and every pony here has a bright future ahead of them. I am proud to have been your Professor but from this day forth it will be your duty to teach as well as to learn. As daunting as it may seem, I hope that you will find this task both enjoyable and informative, much like my classes.” A slight laugh echoed through the auditorium, punctuated by slight sniffles from the more emotional students.

Professor Arpeggio smiled for a moment, and then continued. “The next years of your life will be uncertain, confusing, and difficult. Again, much like my classes.” Another laugh. “But each of you will overcome these obstacles and achieve something truly incredible. Congratulations.”

The stallion stepped down from his podium to thunderous applause; partly from the speech he had delivered and partly because his was the last speech. After sitting through three hours of speeches and congratulations the former students were prepared to leave, stretch their hooves, or fall asleep.

Others had already fallen asleep.

“Honestly Harpo, wake up!” Octavia nudged the composer’s ribs, perhaps a bit more energetically than was needed.

Harpo jumped, letting out a small squeak and beginning to put his hooves together in applause. He stopped himself when he saw that most everypony was filing out of the auditorium.

“Octavia that is the second time you have woken me up today. Do it once more and I will break your cello in half and sleep on the remains.”

“Break my cello and you’ll never wake up again.”

The two musicians gave each other their best serious faces before grinning widely.

Chuckling, Harpo looked up towards a clock. “There’s about an hour and a half left until our meeting with Fancy Pants.”

“Indeed.”

“Where did he say we were meeting him?”

“We are supposed to be at… Oh, dear.”

Harpo looked at the grey mare. “You didn’t forget, did you?”

“No, it’s just, well; Fancy Pants and I never worked out that detail.”

“So, we are supposed to get word to him… Without knowing where he is.”

Octavia nodded.

“What is this, a fantasy novel?!” Harpo threw up his hooves.

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic.”

“My dear cellist, you have not begun to see me be dramatic. You want dramatic? I’ll give you a Shakemarean tragedy!” The stallion extended his hoof and looked slightly upwards. “Oh, cruel and most far-off recording deal! Why must thou torment us to this degree? We suffer for our art and our art doth bring us much suffering yet thine devices bring on us a task most challenging.” Harpo turned towards the cellist. “Stop me anytime Octavia.”

“No, I want to see how long you can keep this up for.”

As it turned out, Harpo was as much a playwright as a composer.

“Okay, Harpo, you’ve made your point.”

Harpo dropped his hoof. “Good, I was running out of whimsical terms.”

“Well, as I was about to say before you awakened as an actor, we could always go see Fancy Pants at his home.”

Harpo’s jaw hit the floor. “V-visit Fancy Pants? At his home?”

“Unless your infatuation would get in the way. In that case, we could simply do nothing and lose out on working in Fancy Pants’s company.”

The composer jumped to his hooves. “Come on Octavia, what are you waiting for? To Fancy Pants’s home!” He happily trotted out of the auditorium, an amused cellist followed, rolling her violet eyes.

Harpo stopped suddenly. “Octavia?” he asked. “Doesn’t Fancy Pants live on the other side of Canterlot?”

“Yes, why? … Oh, actually, that is a problem.”

Canterlot was a rather large city, a very large city in fact. Traveling from the Conservatory to Fancy Pants’s mansion on hoof would require far more time than they had at the moment.

The cellist sighed. “Well, to use a rather cliché statement, ‘Better late than never.’”

Harpo nodded, leading the way to the sidewalk.

“Hey, you two!”

Harpo and Octavia turned towards the voice, a faint remembrance stirring in the cellist’s mind.

A chariot had parked outside of the auditorium and, sure enough, leaning through the window was a white unicorn wearing purple shades that covered her eyes.

“Hey, it’s Octy! You just keep popping up, don’t ya? It must be fate!” Vinyl flashed a wide grin. “Well, whatever. Hop in, both of you.”

Harpo was looking rather confused. Octavia massaged the area between her eyes with one hoof. “Miss Scratch, may I ask what exactly you are doing here?”

Vinyl facehoofed. “Seriously, still ‘Miss Scratch?’ I thought we had gotten over this. It’s Vinyl. V-I-N-Y-L. Or DJ-PON3. And I, Tavi slash Octy, am escorting you two to Fancy Pants. So hurry your flanks up and get in!”

Harpo looked at his friend. “Octavia, what’s happening? Should I be worried?”

“Harpo, this is Vinyl Scratch.”

“‘Sup!” interrupted Vinyl.

“Miss Scratch, this is Harpo Parish Nadermane.”

Harpo nodded his greeting.

“Alright, two syllables. You get to keep your name, Harpo! Congrats!”

The composer turned to the cellist. “Is that why she calls you Tavi or Octy?”

Octavia nodded before turning to the DJ. “Now introductions are out of the way, but I still don’t understand why exactly you are here, Miss Scratch.”

“Octy, if you keep calling me Miss Scratch I’m gonna think you don’t love me. Don’t you love me?” The unicorn’s eyes grew wide and teary and her lower lip jutted out in a pout.

Harpo began to chuckle. Octavia threw a sharp look at him.

Vinyl smirked, the puppy dog eyes falling away in an instant. “Well, at least one of you has a sense of humor. And, as I was saying, I’m supposed to take you two to see Fancy Pants. That is if you still want a guaranteed job doing what you love immediately after getting out of school.”

The composer began to walk forward, but Octavia held out a hoof. “So you work for Fancy Pants?”

“Ding-ding-ding! Someone get the mare a prize! Check out the brain on Tavi!”

Octavia chose to ignore that statement. “And what do you do exactly?”

“Oh, Tavi, I can’t answer that. Boss man wants to tell you everything himself; he’s a sucker for theatrics. He’d probably fire me if I took away his thunder.”

The cellist was still rather suspicious.

Vinyl seemed to deflate. “Right, you don’t trust me completely, I guess. That’s cool. But right now you can either run across Canterlot and get to Fancy Pants’s mansion late; and he’s a very busy pony planning on heading out right after your meeting, or you could jump in the carriage, be pulled along by these nice gentlecolts,” she gestured to the four stallions that would be pulling the carriage, “and get there on time. It’s your choice.”

Reluctantly, the cellist put down her hoof and walked towards the carriage. Vinyl threw the door open and welcome them in with a flourish. Harpo and Octavia took their seats.

“Alright boys,” exclaimed the DJ, “We are off!”

***

The first half hour or so of the carriage ride passed in silence. Octavia seemed quite content with simply looking through a window as they rode through Canterlot. Vinyl had placed a pair of large headphones over hear ears and was currently twitching along to some song.

Harpo was clearly uncomfortable, but knew better than to interrupt two mares that had some form of tension between them.

The DJ brought her headphones around her neck, suddenly filling the cart with the sound of construction work. “Tavi, why don’t you trust me?”

The composer winced slightly; clearly Vinyl had not learned the same lessons he had.

The cellist turned towards Vinyl. Her voice was clear, devoid of anger or happiness. “I’ve only met you Miss Scratch, are you worth trusting?”

Vinyl rolled her eyes. “It’s not like I teleported you through Canterlot to get your cello or anything.”

Octavia straightened slightly, closing her violet eyes and taking a deep breath. “Indeed. Thank you for that.”

Vinyl nodded, thinking that she had made some headway. “Don’t worry about it.”

The grey mare went back to her window.

The unicorn shook her head slightly, but decided not to pursue the cellist. “So, Harpo, how long have you known Little Miss Sunshine over here?”

“Four years, back when we first started Conservatory.” Harpo’s voice was uncharacteristically quiet.

“Oh, okay.”

A tense silence fell on the carriage.

Again, Vinyl was the first pony to speak. “Come on, I know you two aren’t always this quiet! Fancy Pants said that you guys were," the DJ put on her best impression of the posh pony, "‘a pleasure to speak with.’ All I’m getting are whispers and ponies looking through windows!”

Octavia nodded and continued to stare through a window.

Harpo straightened out the smallest bit. “Well, Miss Scratch—“

Vinyl groaned. “Don’t you start calling me that too.”

The corners of Harpo’s lips turned up. “Okay, then Vinyl.” His voice went a bit closer to his natural tone. “Octavia and I are rather… quiet by nature. We basically only speak to each other. I’m actually the more outgoing one; I can keep a conversation if I really try. ‘Tavi’ has a much harder time.”

Vinyl considered this for a moment. “Alright, I get it. I mean, I don’t mind talking so I don’t really get it, but I get it. I just have to get Tavi to talk to me, right?”

“Exactly!” exclaimed Harpo.

Octavia turned around, a horrified expression on her face. “Harpo, what are you doing?!”

“I’m trying to get you another friend, Octavia.”

Vinyl grinned widely. “Don’t worry Octy, we’ll all be besties by the time this is over.”

"... Joy.” deadpanned the cellist.

***

Half an hour later, the three musicians filed out of their carriage where a rather distinguished white unicorn stood waiting.

“There you three are, and still five minutes early,” said Fancy Pants. “I trust that the ride was enjoyable?”

Harpo was wiping tears from his eyes, clutching his stomach. “Rather enjoyable for some of us.”

Vinyl was hanging from Octavia’s neck, in an effort to get the cellist to hug her. She had been in that position for some ten minutes, much to Harpo’s endless laughter. Octavia, on the other hoof was clearly not pleased.

“LOOOOOOOVE MEEEE!” exclaimed the DJ.

Harpo broke down in another fit of laughter.

Octavia looked up at Fancy Pants in a good imitation of Vinyl’s earlier puppy dog eyes. “Fancy Pants, if you’ve ever cared for either my parents or myself you will help me.”

“I’m sorry Miss Philharmonica; not even I can fully control Vinyl Scratch. But I am glad that you two are getting… acquainted.”
Fancy Pants turned towards his mansion, beginning the trek through cast iron gates and gardens.

Octavia followed, awkwardly dragging the white unicorn with her. Harpo brought up the rear, struggling to keep back another wave of chuckles.

“Well then, Fancy Pants will you please explain why Miss Scratch—“

“Vinyl!” interjected Vinyl.

“—accompanied us here.”

“I’m sorry Miss Philharmonica, but I can’t do that unless you agree to work within my company. And there are still two minutes left until half passed five, so you can’t agree to work for me. I will, however, say that Vinyl Scratch is indeed in my employ.”

They marched through the front entrance of the mansion, settling in a large living room.

Fancy Pants, ever the gracious host, took drink orders before stepping into his kitchen.

He returned, levitating two cups of water, four highball glasses, and a bottle of cognac. “Maestro Nadermane, Miss Philharmonica, I know for a fact that you two drink even if you have chosen to restrain yourselves and ask for water. Feel free to take a glass if the mood should strike you.”

Fancy Pants took a seat, an amused gleam in his eyes upon noticing that Vinyl was still clinging to Octavia. He took out a pocket watch just as the minute hand hit the six.

“It is now 5:30. I am ready to hear your answers.”

“Yes!” responded Octavia and Harpo simultaneously.

Fancy Pants blinked. “… That’s it?”

The composer and the cellist nodded.

A sigh escaped the distinguished pony’s lips. “I was expecting some sort of speech, an attempt to rationalize your choice. That response was rather anticlimactic." Fancy Pant seemed genuinely downcast, but he quickly bounced back. "No matter, though! You will learn to love the theatrics with time. And now I believe that some explanations are in order.”

Fancy Pants closed his eyes, taking a moment to center himself. “I did not lie when I said that this music company is a modest venture. I have an amount of editors, technology personnel, ponies who can take care of the press, but only a hoofful of musicians. In fact, the exact number has just increased to three musicians.”

Octavia’s eyes bulged and Harpo, who had just begun to take a sip of water, coughed savagely.

After ensuring that the composer was not dying, Fancy Pants continued. “Indeed, I am rather… selective. But I hope to foster a sense of unity amongst my musicians.” The unicorn grew serious. “Make no mistake; you three are now a team, even when performing by yourselves. I do not enjoy the fact that most artists of today work separately, many of them competing against the very same musicians they should be working with... I am aiming to create something unique, and you three will be at the forefront.”

Fancy Pants leaned back slightly, taking a sip of his alcohol. “Are there any questions?”

The three musicians felt as though they had been called to the principal’s office. They said nothing, opting instead to shake their heads.

“Miss Philharmonica, you asked me how Vinyl fits into all of this. The answer is simple; she is the senior member of the group and your direct superior.”

Octavia looked down at the white unicorn currently clinging to her. Vinyl grinned cheerily.

“… Pardon?”

Author's Note:

Chopin's Nocturne Op. 9 No.2
I will place any music mentioned in the fic down here for all you curious types. (Sidenote: I actually used this particular piece as my alarm for a while. It was a nice way to wake up. And then I started disliking it because of the fact that it stole sleep from me. I'm still a tad ticked off at it.)
I'm a little uncertain about this chapter although my pre-reader AppleDashFan132 (Who, as always, I have to thank for pre-reading/editing for me!) assures me that it's good... Anyway, comments and feedback are and always will be read and appreciated!

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