Silence: a once pristine haven abreast of a sea of chaos and noise had, as of late, taken a far more foreboding and unnerving twist. It had been months since Octavia last had the apartment all to herself for such a stretch of time and what was once a welcome fantasy served only to remind her of her foolish mistake. Yet the silence did not care; it just hung in the air over her head like a vulture circling its dying prey.
Once again, her borderline obsession with cleanliness had caused a fiasco that she was responsible for. It was no wonder Vinyl was so upset: she had thrown away a personal possession with reckless disregard for any possible value it had – although she could not see any. If she could, she would have apologized in an instant, but the disk jockey’s instant absence prevented it.
Octavia sat on the couch, mulling over her feelings as the evening’s scheduled fog pressed against the glass. Actually, given the height of Canterlot, it was more a cloud than a fog, but it served the same purpose. She swirled a glass of wine in her hoof, sipping it in order to stave off a creeping chill. She had kept the wine bottle in a cabinet hidden behind the trash can: oh, the things she had to do to stop Vinyl from drinking it all!. Now, loneliness swept over her; loneliness and the sobering thought of her upset roommate lying in a ditch somewhere blind drunk.
Normally, she would not care what kind of parties the unicorn got involved with, so long as she herself was left out of the picture or the aftermath. This time, however, she knew she was responsible for anything that might happen to her. A shiver ran down her spine at the thought of being responsible for the most reckless, blasé and disgusting mare she ever knew.
The cloud lingering outside had a remarkable talent for sucking all of the life and colour out of a room and making it feel dreary. For instance, a potted plant resting next to the record player appeared wilted despite the viridian stems and leaves that shone with life. The same could be said of inanimate objects too: canary yellow curtains over the windows doing nothing to add cheer or brightness to the room.
But how much of this is the weather, and how much of it is guilt? Octavia mused as she took another light sip. It has been four days since Vinyl had her little temper tantrum. I can see her being upset for two or three, but this? She sighed to herself as the memory played out in her head once more. Never had she seen such raw, unbridled emotion in the cool and stoic unicorn.
Vinyl had always struck her as a private pony, despite her extremely forward attitude – more than once had she suggested they do some rather... lewd things together. Any time the subject of family or friends came up, she would list celebrities she had met and partied with and said they were like family to her. Of course, Octavia knew better, so she had never brought the issue up. However, her recent outburst gave her pause, so now she pondered the possibility that Vinyl Scratch was not close to anypony. At least, none close enough to really count as friends.
Could it be that the extroverted, loud and pretentious pony was actually a lonely, shy filly on the inside? The thought alone made her significantly more tolerable, but it did nothing unless she could either find her or somehow communicate with her. Of course, she would get hungry and run out of money and come back, so she could just wait for her. After all, it was none of Octavia’s business just what troubles the mare would find.
Still, she was a little worried about her, not because she was her friend or anything, which she was not, but rather because she was a mare in need. She was not going to just stand by and watch as Vinyl destroyed herself while knowing full well she could have stopped it. However, she knew how stubborn that unicorn could be, so she would probably need more on her side than guilt and an earnest apology.
Perhaps a couple of those annoying ponies in the pictures on the door could be of some use? If she explained her plight to them, they might commiserate and assist in tracking Vinyl down and possibly serve as backup should the unicorn reject her. The only flaw in her plan, however, was that she knew none of their phone numbers and Vinyl kept her address book somewhere in her room, or as Octavia named it in her thoughts, The Pit. It would be a venture fit for the Daring Do novels, but if she wanted the burden of guilt lifted, it needed to be done!
She sighed and gulped down the remainder of her wine. There was no point in delaying and losing her resolve once the fantasies of dirty laundry and half-eaten, moldy bagels bobbed to the surface. Oh great, there they are, she thought as the mere anticipation summoned them. Octavia forced herself off the couch with a groan, already dreading her decision. But, as her father would say: she had made a choice and now she had to stay the course.
The end of the hall came far sooner than she had expected, throwing her off just a little when she noticed the smiling faces of intoxicated ponies beaming at her from the pictures. Never before had she been inside, but she had managed to steal a peek once, and it was enough to make her never want to enter. She stared down the door, as if her gaze would be enough to make it move, almost hoping it would so she would not have to actually touch it.
Swallowing in anticipation, she slowly reached her hoof up to the door knob. Please be locked. Please be locked! she silently pleaded to Celestia. However, as her hoof touched the cold brass, she found that it gave way easily to the pressure put on it, clicking and swinging open a fraction of an inch. “Drat. Now I HAVE to follow through,” she moaned to herself. Taking a deep breath, she pulled the door open and cast the curtain aside. An audible gasp left her muzzle as she beheld the sight in front of her.
Boxes of records sat on a narrow shelf on the opposite wall, three boxes per level. The white carpeted floor was absolutely spotless, save a few stains that Octavia decided she’d rather not ponder further. A desk sat opposite of the end of the bed, littered with papers and the occasional wire here or there, messy but with a hint of organization to it. The grey mare stepped beyond the threshold, bracing herself as if there were some spell in place that would fail the instant she trespassed.
Yet, everything stayed as it was, including the impeccably made bed. Looking at it closer, Octavia wished she could keep the sheets that crisp. She almost envied the unicorn before she reminded herself that Vinyl could use magic to get them that precise. “I must be losing my mind,” she spoke aloud to herself. “There is no way that she can be any sort of clean! The shock of the mess must have sent me into delirium.” Satisfied with her own answer, she pushed on deeper into the unknown.
Since there was a phone sitting on it in amongst the piles of paper, wires and other electronic stuff, it stood to reason that her address book had to be in one of the drawers. As she came closer, however, she could make out outlines and words upon the papers. Picking one up with her hooves, she could see numbers and several different peculiar shapes: a schematic for something box-shaped. Unable to read blueprints, Octavia had no idea what it was; just that it was a box with circles on one side. Scrawling chicken scratch next to the neat typeface boasting that the device was “awesome” or “can produce three hundred decibels of rock & roll might” made it undeniable that the unicorn had somehow drawn them.
“What on Celestia’s green Earth is a ‘Bass Cannon’?” Octavia mused to herself before casting the blueprints aside. Whatever it was, it was of no consequence to her... at least she hoped so. Pulling out the drawers of the desk, she found herself confronted by a rat’s nest of wires, and other arcane electronic stuff she figured was used to repair her speakers or turntable. She probably stored them in a closet or something of the sort since she did not see them upon entering her bedroom.
Digging through the contents of the drawers, the mare found all manner of various electronic bits in one and piles of drawings and other blueprints in the one below that. On the other side of the desk, there was a drawer filled with tools, including a blow torch. However, in the drawer below that, she found what had to be her goal: books, portfolios and other papers.
Starting from the top, she worked her way down the pile, finding books filled with mathematical equations that made her head spin, dirty magazines, a Daring Do and, curiously, several books by Burning Jewels. But it was a little black book at the very bottom of the pile that immediately grasped her attention and refused to let go. Carefully extracting it from the depths, she laid it flat upon a little area of the desk she had cleared and opened it, immediately realizing her success.
Inside the book were the names, addresses and phone numbers of hundreds of ponies, all written out in the horrid scrawl that Vinyl passed as writing. However, there was a heavy use of symbolism beside each name. A very few had stars, others had ampersands, while others still had various combinations of other signs and some had none at all! Octavia’s mind immediately dwelt on a rating system of some kind: perhaps some were work contacts or possible employers?
It did not matter though: she had to try and find some names that she could recognize. Looking through the list, a few names popped up, most notably Pinkie Pie, an Element of Harmony, whom possessed an exclamation and a number sign beside her name. However, the name that popped up first and foremost in her mind, as soon as she saw it, was an entry marked by a star, reading ‘Mom and Dad.’
The perfect opportunity presented itself to her. For one, she could figure out what made those stupid sunglasses mean so much to her in the first place, and at the same time she could receive her parents’ support and help her get Vinyl to snap out of it. Deciding not to waste any more time, she picked up the phone beside her, double checked the number in the book and dialed.
She smiled with self-satisfaction as the phone rang on the other end. If all went according to plan, the whole matter could be cleared up before dinner and she would not have to live with the guilt looming over her any longer. As soon as the thought came across, however, it was pushed out by the matter at hoof as a low, regal voice crooned over the line. “Hello. This is the residence of Lord Ebony Tune and Lady Ivory Song. How might I be of service?”
At first, she thought she had dialed the wrong number since there was no way Vinyl could be associated with such a powerful couple of nobles as Ebony and Ivory. Of course, there was the possibility that her parents were servants since, in her own experience, the hired hooves’ dormitories shared the same number as the house itself. “Uh, yes,” she replied, remembering there was a pony on the line. “I am looking for the parents of one Vinyl Scratch. I am afraid it is a matter of some urgency, so it would be most appreciated if you could get them right away.”
“I am sorry,” the stallion replied, “but Lord Ebony and Lady Ivory are currently on a trip around the world on their yacht and are not due back for some months. Will the matter still be of urgency then?”
“Um... no,” she replied, wondering just how daft the pony could be. “I am not looking to speak with their lordships. I am looking to converse with the parents of a mare named VINYL SCRATCH. She’s a disk jockey living with me in an apartment in Canterlot.” There was silence on the line for a couple of tense moments, the noble mare hoping the servant finally understood.
“I apologize, but am I speaking to Lady Octavia?”
“Yes, you are,” she replied after taking a moment to reel herself back from the identification.
“It makes sense that you would not know. Miss Vinyl is not very comfortable having ponies know that she is nobility since she does not like the aristocracy in general. Rest assured though that Lord Ebony and Lady Ivory are her birth parents. I would like to go into more detail, but I am being called to attend to a matter. I am sorry that I could be of no help, but I will contact her parents as soon as possible. What is it that you wanted to ask?”
“Oh, well... By the time they get back, it will hopefully have passed, so no. I am afraid that I have nothing to say.”
“Very well then, have a good evening, milady.”
With that, there was a flat tone on the line as the stallion hung up. However, it did not stall her train of thought for even a moment. It had to be a prank, or some sort of joke that had been set up by Vinyl in case Octavia called the number. She would not put it beyond her to try and convince the butler to play along with her mean little prank. But on the other hoof, proper butlers (she assumed since it was custom that only the butler would answer the house phone) did not bend to that sort of whim.
Even if he is telling the truth, it does not change a thing now does it? Octavia thought to herself as she hung up the receiver. I mean, so what if she is a higher-ranked noble than I am and makes a complete mockery of the system with her uncouth shenanigans? Shaking her head to be rid of the pesky cobweb of thoughts, she turned her head back down towards the address book lying on the desk in front of her.
Noticing how few ponies had a star beside their numbers (of which her parents were among), the grey pony decided that she would work her way down the list and gather either information she would need or their support in her search. Turning back to the first page, she flipped through the little black book until she came across the first name bearing the rare star. “Berry Punch?” Octavia mused as she read the name aloud. She had heard it before, but she could not quite put her hoof on where.
Regardless of whether she knew of the pony or not, they were still possibly a friend or relative of Vinyl, so it was good enough for her. Looking down at her number and address, she saw that the mysterious mare was a resident of Ponyville, which cemented in her mind that they had not met before. Therefore, it was likely she had heard of her via the absent unicorn, either during one of her drunken appraisals of a party or show, or at some other point where Octavia decided to ignore her.
She picked up the receiver once more and dialed the number in the book, hoping her assumption of closeness was correct and that she had not accidentally called a rival or annoyance. Seventeen rings had sounded on the other line and just as she was about to hang up to try again the next morning, a droning, yet still feminine voice responded on the other end. “Y’ello?” the mare groaned, as if she were ill.
“Good evening. Am I speaking to a miss Berry Punch?” Octavia asked.
“This is her speaking, how can I help you?”
“Do you know a pony by the name of Vinyl Scratch? If so, how would you gauge your relationship with her?”
“Vinyl?” the other mare replied, perking up in the tone of her voice. “We’re the best of drinking buddies anypony could find! Heck, once she managed to drink me under the table!” A soft peal of giggling shot out of the ear piece as she probably regarded the no doubt hazy memory. “Can I ask why you’re calling? Although maybe I should ask who you are first?”
“My name is Octavia and I am her present roommate. I am calling because...” she swallowed, bracing herself for the proverbial impact. “Because I accidentally destroyed her sunglasses and then, foolishly I might add, threw them out. I was wondering if you could tell me why they are so important to her, or help me find her so that I can properly apologize.”
“No way...” Berry spoke, sounding awestruck. “You broke her SHADES!? Man, that’s like kicking a stallion where the sun don’t shine to Vee.”
“Mama? Can I have my bedtime story now?” spoke a filly on the other end of the line.
“Listen, I have to go now,” Berry spoke after. “If you want to know why those sunglasses mean so much to her, why don’t you come down to Ponyville and have a drink with me? I’ll be able to tell you ALL about it then, okay?”
Octavia was not much of a social drinker, and if she and Vinyl were ‘drinking buddies’ then it stood to reason that one or both of them may have been drunk when the story was told. That being said, however, it was not like she had any other leads to go on. “How does coffee tomorrow morning sound? She’s been gone for a few days and I am afraid she will do something rash, which I will be responsible for.”
“Sounds like a plan, Octy! I’m not normally a morning mare, but a friend of Vinyl’s is a friend of mine. See you then!”
“Wait a moment, I am NOT friends with-” However, before she could finish her sentence, there was a dead tone. She had hung up on her, and quite rudely at that. “It would seem that I am having coffee tomorrow with that mare.” Rather than be aggravated further, Octavia decided to handle one friend at a time, closing the address book and picking it up with her mouth. She would replace it once the whole fiasco was over, but at the moment she needed to relax. Walking out of the room and over to her instrument, she reminded herself that while Vinyl could sometimes be foalish, she could take care of herself; at least for the moment.
Everything was dark. She could not see anything in the oppressive shroud, not even her own hoof in front of her face. Such darkness was rare to find in a nation as bright as Equestria, but thankfully it was a fleeting thing. In just a few moments, she knew the darkness would be lifted. Until then, she was content to continue sitting alone in it, so long as she did not feel anything brush against her.
A steady, low roar echoed in her hears, putting pressure on them as if she were submerged underwater. It was comforting at the same time as it was distressing. Occasionally, a squeal would echo through the darkness and send a shiver down her spine as she entertained foalhood fantasies of monsters lying in wait in the shade, waiting for their chance to strike!
Just as the thought passed, so too did the darkness, giving light to the gently rocking train car. Octavia cast a disinterested gaze around to see if anything had happened in the tunnel. A couple ahead of her still shared the same sickening love-locked gaze, but the mare on the other side of the aisle had finally managed to get her baby colt to sleep. Aside from them, she was alone in the car, since very few ponies commuted to Ponyville from Canterlot, especially at nine in the morning.
Trees whizzed past as the train struggled to stop from speeding out of control down the steep grade of the hill, the past tunnel being the last one to separate the line from the small town nestled between the mountain ranges, just visible from the other side of the car. Octavia leaned her head against the windowsill and sighed. Yes, this was her plan, but she was not so sure about it now that somepony had mistook her guilty concern for genuine, friendly, worry for Vinyl’s well-being.
How could she be friends with a mare as annoying and self-centred as the unicorn? She would often wander in at odd hours of the night, sometimes with rowdy ‘guests’ in tow that would create a din loud enough to interrupt her precious sleep. Then, of course, there were all the little things, like her excessive volume even when speaking, being the pony incarnation of a tornado, and having a tendency to wind up in jail, requiring Octavia to bail her out with her own money. If anything, Vinyl was more of a hindrance than a friend.
Comfortably reassuring herself of her stance on the matter, the grey mare picked her head up and looked around the car with boredom once more, regretting that she had not picked up a newspaper at the Canterlot station, even if it was for an absurd fee of two bits. However, she could feel that they would be arriving soon since the train was no longer traveling on a noticeable slope like it had been for the rest of the ride.
The door at the front end of the car slid open, a blue uniformed pony stepping inside and slowly down the aisle. “We’ll be arriving at the next stop in two minutes! Two minutes to Ponyville!” the conductor spoke, giving the smooching couple in front of Octavia a wary eye before continuing on to the next car.
As the rhythmic chugs and puffs of the engine began to slow down, Octavia shuffled around in her seat uncomfortably. She had never been to the small town of Ponyville before and had never really traveled too far from Canterlot on her own, so this would be an experience. The town had a reputation for being ground zero to all sorts of strange and dangerous shenanigans, which explained why Vinyl liked to go there to party sometimes, not to mention that it was built on the very edge of the Everfree Forest: the single most dangerous place in all of Equestria!
Would there be some kind of rampage or monster attack while she was in town? With her current track record, it seemed all but certain that her presence would spark some kind of disaster one way or the other. Before she could elaborate further, however, she noticed the buildings outside her window as the train pulled into the station.
Stepping off the train, the mare shaded her eyes against the early morning sun. She looked up and down the platform, seeing a couple of ponies step onto the train, but nopony who looked like they would be called Berry Punch. Then a burgundy coloured mare climbed the steps onto the platform and started looking around.
Taking a chance, Octavia slowly walked over to her, surprised that the other mare did not notice her until they were practically on top of each other. “Good morning,” Octavia started. “Are you, by chance, Miss Berry Punch?”
The mare regarded her for a quick second before a bright smile broke upon her face. “You must be Octavia! Welcome to Ponyville! But don’t call me ‘Miss:’ that’s a title for my ma!” She hooked a foreleg across the grey pony’s neck, ignoring her discomfort, and led her down the ramp from the platform into the thick of morning traffic. “Sorry about cutting our conversation short last night, but my little Berry gets cranky without her bedtime story!”
“I see. I take it you just finished dropping her off at school then?” Octavia remarked.
“Yep! That’s why I said I could meet you for a drink this morning! I know just the place, too. I swear; they serve the best coffee in all of Equestria!” It was only natural for her to think that, since any coffee shop here would be a ‘ma and pa’ operated business and not like the big chain stores back in Canterlot. However, she could not help but notice that Berry’s face seemed to be stuck into a permanent grin, a feature that reminded her of her loud roommate.
“So... Uh, Berry? How long have you known Vinyl for, exactly?” the Canterlotian asked as they crossed the busy town square and ducked into one of the side streets.
“Hmm... A few years now, I’d say,” she replied. “At least, long enough to know what she’s like most of the time. She has her smart, deep moments too, like that one time she talked about how talking to griffons is like mixing drinks!”
“Vinyl? Deeper than an obnoxiously loud charlatan whose liver miraculously has not failed from all the alcohol she drinks on a weekly basis?”
She laughed at her comment and smirked a little wider. “Yeah, I know! Isn’t that wild!? So, how long have you known her for, Octavia?”
“A little over a year now,” the visitor replied.
“Yeah, that’s not exactly long enough to get her, if you know what I mean: at least, if you’re staying sober around her all the time!” Octavia remained silent as the other pony walked with her down the shady back streets of town. Unlike the rest of the town, these roads were eerily quiet. It was just enough to put her on edge and get her mind churning, producing various worst-case scenarios that caused the hairs of her coat to stand on-edge.
“So... Uh... Exactly how much further is this coffee shop you were talking about?” Octavia asked, doing her best to keep the encroaching unease out of the tone of her voice.
“Not that far!” Berry spoke back. “We didn’t need to come down the alley, but it shaves off a dozen minutes or so, and I am sure a big city pony like you is busy, busy, busy!”
Just as the city pony was about to deny having anything close to a full schedule, the sight and sound of ponies traveling in front of the alley’s other opening filled her senses. There were more ponies out and about than before, meaning the town was awake and ready to get on with the brand new day ahead. The idea that all the ponies could be asleep in a town at the same time was a foreign concept to Octavia.
Ponies chatted endlessly about various unknown topics of news or gossip, but she was never the one to eavesdrop, so she kept her mind and her ears on the pony leading her through the crowd. Octavia was not exactly bursting with questions to ask, and the act of getting a drink over the conversation was nothing more than a formality. She would have been quite happy asking her to relay the story to her on the platform, but her parents had emphasized the importance of good manners, even to common ponies.
Looking around, she noticed the buildings for the first time since arriving in the small town. Between Canterlot and Ponyville, the two settlements could not have had a more different building style. The Equestrian capital featured large, towering buildings made of the purest stones in the country while Ponyville favoured shorter abodes largely made of wood and plaster with thatched roofs. This place must really smell when it rains, Octavia thought snidely.
Thankfully, Berry Punch found the place she was looking for and walked inside a building similar to, but noticeably older than the surrounding ones. The wood was dark and the white plaster was chipped and beginning to peel in some places. A wrought-iron sign hung above the door, faded words of gold paint on raised lines, reading ‘Lucky Horseshoe Tavern.’
“A bar?” Octavia inquired, remaining on the threshold. “I thought you said we would be conversing in a coffee shop!”
“Oh,” Berry replied, turning around and looking thoughtful as she brought a hoof to her cheek. “Oh, right! The Lucky Horseshoe might be a bar, but they also sell coffee here. It’s the only game in town for drinks and light snacks and stuff like that!” She grinned at the city pony, as if it was only logical.
Octavia sighed and applied a hoof to her face before putting it down. “I suppose I did agree. Very well; lead on.” Stepping inside after the country mare, she jumped a tiny bit as the floorboard sagged just a fraction of an inch and creaked dangerously, as if the floor were going to collapse. However, after a couple more steps, she found the wood to be sturdy.
The Lucky Horseshoe was a very dark and brooding place, Octavia noted as she took a seat. Not that it was macabre, but the dark wood of the floor, walls, ceiling and counter made her feel as if she had plunged into some sort of abyss. However, the sole redeeming feature had to be the rather handsome Pegasus stallion standing behind the counter, wiping down a glass with a washcloth before striding over to the two mares.
“Berry, I thought I told you that I don’t serve alcohol until at least three in the afternoon,” his baritone voice spoke with a sigh. Like most Pegasus ponies, he was lithe and well-built, but despite the hardened expression on his white muzzle, Octavia could see sparkles of gentle kindness in his green eyes.
“No, it’s nothing like that, Quicksilver!” the other mare grinned and blushed. “I’m just here to show a new friend around and treat her to a cup of your home-brewed coffee! Octy, this is Quick Silver; the bartender slash owner of the Lucky Horseshoe! Oh, and I DO know self control, mister!”
“Like how last Nightmare Night you swore you would not drink, yet you carried around a flask filled with ‘Pumpkin Juice’ in your costume’s pockets?” he replied with a disapproving glare, causing her to shuffle about uncomfortably in her chair.
“I uh... I have no pockets this time, but I can assure you that it WAS juice,” she smiled uneasily.
“Right,” he answered, completely unconvinced. “I’ll just go get started on the coffee then. Would you like some cream or sugar, ladies?”
“Both please!” Berry responded immediately.
“I’ll take cream, but no sugar, thank you,” Octavia spoke for the first time since entering the establishment. The quiet ticking of an unseen clock filled the air as the mares returned to silence. Unsure if she should break the slight tension first, the city pony started looking around, as if interested in the decor of the dark, century-old styled interior.
A loud creaking noise broke the quiet stretch, drawing her attention back to the burgundy pony that was now reclined in a chair, balancing on its back legs. She yawned and stretched with without any hint of a wobble, smiling as she reached into her mane and pulled out a small, silver flask. “So, you want to know how Vinyl got her shades, eh?” She popped open the lid of the flask and took a quick drink. “Well, I’d be all too happy to tell you!”
Octavia looked at her with wide eyes and a trace amount of revulsion, especially at such an hour. “Is that alcoh-”
“Nope! Leftover Pumpkin Juice!” the mare interrupted with a smile. “Now... How did it go again?” She tapped her chin with her hoof, deep in contemplation. “Oh yeah! It was a few years ago, after Vinyl got her licence and became a certified DJ!”
“Wait... you need to be LICENSED? I thought she just showed up on random doorsteps with her equipment and begged them for a job, or something,” Octavia mused.
“Please save all questions and comments for the end of the story!” Berry cheerfully rebuked. “Now, as I was saying: it was years ago...”
Large, canvas tents of multi-coloured hues stood as islands amongst a sea of moving bodies, indifferent to the streams and flow of traffic through the even larger hall in which they sat. Hundreds of conversations melted into a single rabble of incoherent speech behind a veil of music. The melodies were not exempt from the melting pot: each individual song collided and created something new with its neighbours. To most ponies, it was an unholy catastrophe of obnoxious noise.
However, to one mare standing in the heart of it all, it was anything but. It was a new, unique song all on its own with lyrics that could never be repeated. There was something special about it, knowing that she would never again hear the exact same song with the same tempo or beat to it. Yet, as the pony in front of her moved forward, ever so slightly, she lost track of her muse and remembered where she was.
Only in Manehatten, specifically the annual Musical Arts Convention, could an up-and-coming young artist like herself make it big in just a day if the right pony came along. It was only earlier that morning that a colt from a record label stopped by her booth and expressed a breath of interest in her style. But the future- beyond the immediate, anyway- was far from her mind as she glanced over the shoulder of the pony standing in front of her.
Vinyl Scratch’s constant smirk turned into a beaming grin as she saw that she was only a couple of pony lengths from her! A jolt of electricity shot through her body, causing her to trot in place on the spot and very nearly let out a very un-cool squeal at the idea of being so close to her idol. She was so excited that she did not notice she had stepped on the tail of the stallion in front of her. “Ow!” he exclaimed before looking back at the magenta-eyed mare. “Watch where you’re stepping!”
Normally, she would have gotten mad at him for talking to her in such a rude tone, but she was so excited to meet her that she simply let it slide off her back. “Kay. Sorry dude. No need to be testy.” Although not easing up on his glare, the colt turned his head back to face the front. Behind his flank, Vinyl stuck her tongue out at him and decided to call it even, lest she embarrass herself in front of the mare at the end of the line.
Looking around him again, she found that the line was beginning to move far more quickly than she had realized. Maybe it was the anticipation, or maybe it was the lack of conversation, but it did not matter to Vinyl. The white unicorn at the table ahead smiled warmly and spoke unknown words to a star-struck filly in front of her.
Her two-tone purple mane was swept back into a spiky mohawk that ran all the way down her neck. However, her most distinctive feature was her purple shades. They had big, thick rims of black plastic and the lenses had a gradient of purple to match her mane, going from dark at the top to lighter near the bottom. Before she had come along, such a look was likely to get somepony laughed off the stage, but by Celestia, she made it work! Vinyl could not help but let her mind run wild with the possibilities of what would happen when she met her, ignoring the fact that she was probably just as star-struck as the other filly.
In her mind, she could see the two of them going to a coffee shop after the convention was over and talk to each other as if they were old friends. They would discuss this or that, no real topic of conversation; just idle chat. However, she was soon ripped out of her daydreams by a pony at the head of the line calling ‘next’ which made the stallion in front of her advance and come before her.
Now there was a bored-looking minty mare with red, thick-rimmed glasses in the shape of wings in front of Vinyl, making sure that none of the other ponies in line got too close or crowded the mare beyond. “If you want anything signed, its five bits,” she spoke in a whiney, high-strung Upper Manehatten accent. Vinyl dug into her saddle bags and pulled out a small sack of bits of which five floated into the other pony’s pack. The budding DJ also pulled out a record, a picture of the mare at the table leaning over an old-style standing microphone against a black background on the front.
“Next!” the bored mare called out once the colt finished stammering goodbye. She moved slightly to the side to let Vinyl pass, which the unicorn was only too happy to do. Time seemed to slow to a crawl, each hoof step seeming like an eternity as she travelled closer to the mare than she had ever dreamed she would. She took a deep breath to steel herself and presented the album jacket for her to sign.
At first, the white unicorn at the table gave her a small, but friendly smile. However, as Vinyl got closer, it broadened into a wide grin. “Hey there, kid!” she said warmly with a hoof beckoning her closer.
“Hey. ...Sup?” Vinyl spoke, voice shaking a little, but determined to remain calm and cool in front of her.
“I caught your show last night. It’s nice to meet you, DJ P0n-3!” She extended her hoof for her to shake.
“You... You, DJ FLARE, caught my show? MY show!?” she replied in disbelief, but shook her hoof nonetheless.
“Uh-huh! The owner of the club’s an old friend of mine, helped me get started, and I was in last night to catch up. I heard you laying down the beats and I asked him about you: said you were a newbie, but still good enough for him to give a shot. I agree with him! Techno isn’t my niche, since I’m more a rocker girl, but I was impressed!”
Vinyl could hardly believe her ears. Here she was: DJ Flare: the best and most well-known disk jockey this side of the dragon lands, telling her that she, Vinyl Scratch, had impressed her! “I... I’m honoured! I know you must get this all the time, but I got into DJing because of you.”
“Not as often as you’d think, actually,” she said with a smile. The album jacket Vinyl had brought to be signed lay forgotten on the table. “You know, I think we might have to pick up this conversation later, DJ P0n-3. I’m free this afternoon for lunch. Why don’t you join me there?” she continued, bringing over the album with her hoof and signing it after seeing how antsy the crowd was getting.
Vinyl had to fight to keep her cool and not squeal with pure euphoria. “Sure, I can dig that. You can call me ‘Vinyl’ if you want to. Where do you want to meet?”
“I was thinking maybe by that burger place out back at, say, around two or something? If I can call you Vinyl, then you can call me-”
“Oh come on!” an impatient pony near the back of the line shouted, making the ever calm idol turn her head and, as Vinyl imagined, roll her eyes behind those opaque shades. However, some of the other ponies in line were beginning to push and shove, obviously annoyed that Vinyl had spent far longer with her than any pony before. It was almost enough to make her laugh and slightly envious of how many ponies simply wanted to talk to her. Vinyl hoped that, one day, she might have fans like that.
“Well, I’ve held up your line for long enough. Sounds like a kick-flank idea. I’ll meet you there,” the younger DJ smiled.
“Yep, see you there, Vinyl,” she said with a smile and a wave of her hoof.
Taking her album back, the unicorn made her way down the small elevated stage that had the table on top. On the way down, however, she bumped into a stallion dressed in a black suit making his way up. Seeing no badge on him to tell if he worked for Flare or not, she decided to help him out. “Hey, buddy. The line starts back there. This is for ponies that have already seen her, kay?”
However, the rude colt shoved past her, a glint of silver from a necklace flashing in her eyes, making her turn on the spot in curiosity. He marched right up to the other mare; shoving aside a fan getting his shirt signed by her and cleared his throat loudly. “DJ Flare, the time has come for you to pay for the insult you once paid unto us.”
For her part, Flare did not bother with him, not even looking up, until she had finished signing the shirt. “Silent Shadow, do you really need to do this here? I’m with fans and this is a very public place.”
“I do not care! Because of you I have lost everything...and I am not alone. I can do what I want, when I want, where I want, because there is no pony more free than one with nothing to lose!”
“Don’t care; come back later,” she said with a hint of mirth and jest. However, no pony was laughing, especially as half a dozen other ponies, all dressed in the same black outfit, crept out of the crowd and encircled the older DJ. She turned her head, smile turning into a slight frown as she regarded every pony around her. “Really? You seriously want me to leave my shoeprint on your rears? Well... if you’re THAT determined, I would be very rude of me to deny you.”
“Hey, wait!” Vinyl said, turning around to face the scene that she has somehow ended up in the middle of. “You’re going to fight her!? Why? What’s she ever done to you, buck-face?”
“This is nothing foals need concern themselves with. Begone, lest you get hurt,” the leader of the encircling ponies spoke to her coldly.
“Oh-ho-ho, now I’m going to have fun bucking your face in, bub,” she replied before walking over to him. “NO PONY calls DJ P0N-3 a foal and gets away with it!”
“You really don’t need to be involved in this,” Flare spoke as she rounded on her table, the workers trying to usher the crowds lined up away. “I’d rather not have a fan get hurt. Especially by scum like this,” she spat at the older stallion.
“I’ve been in brawls before, I can handle myself,” Vinyl reassured her.
The older stallion smirked and chuckled to himself. “Two stupid, young disk jockeys against six older, far more experienced ninjas? This will be so easy that it’s almost not sporting. Fillies and gentlecolts? Let’s wipe them out!”
In an instant, everything around them turned to chaos as the six ninjas sprung into the attack. Others screamed and ran for their lives as several glints of steel flashed, but the two unicorn mares were ready. Time seemed to slow down for Vinyl as one of the assailants charged her, moving to draw a sword hidden within their skin-tight outfit. She dashed towards them so that the other pony would have less time to react.
Her gambit seemed to pay off, as she quickly closed the gap between them and delivered a solid buck between the eyes, throwing them onto their back. Using her magic, she wrapped the ninja in a ruby glow of telekinetic power and sent them flying like bowling pins making them crash into a stand down the aisle which collapsed on top of them.
Flare, meanwhile, had used her musical magic to devastating effect; shooting off concussive blasts of raw sound at each ninja, making them fly and bowl over anything in their path, be it pony, bench, or stand alike. The dust began to settle over the moans of injured and humiliated shadow warriors and the ceaseless thunder of running hooves. The stallion that spoke with Flare picked himself up off the floor and smiled. “I don’t know where you two learned to fight like that, but I still have numbers on my side!”
Before either Flare or Vinyl could realize what was happening, dozens, if not hundreds more ninja emerged from the shadowy corners of the convention hall and converged on them. “I bet you didn’t realize there was a Ninja Convention next door, now did you, Flare?” he smirked as the two DJs backed into each other. They were surrounded on all sides and outnumbered at least a thousand to one.
“Dude, what did you DO to these buckers?” Vinyl asked, impressed that her idol had managed to tick off an entire profession all at once.
“I might have gone to Neighpon and I might have partied too much and threw up on an ancient and sacred statue of their deity in a drunken blur,” she answered sheepishly, blushing and rubbing the back of her mane. “And then I might have bucked it. I don’t remember.”
“Oh, Celestia, that sounds awesome,” Vinyl beamed.
“Mmm. Listen, there’s something under the table you might find useful, Vinyl. Be a pal and use it?”
“Okay,” she replied a little uneasily, reaching out with her magic beneath the table to feel for what she meant. The sensation was sudden and distinctive as she felt her aura touch something long and hard, making her gasp in delight. She yanked on it and drew the slender sword out of its scabbard and in front of her face. “Sweet!” she smiled as she admired the blade.
Long minutes passed as the ninjas attacked from all sides, pinning them down as others evacuated the hall. Concussive blasts of sound erupted from Flare’s horn as individual ninjas came close to them, all of them with swords drawn, ready to be used with deadly skill. Yet, for every one that was thrown back and injured, two more seemed to pop up in their place, causing her trademarked smirk to falter just a tiny bit. “Hey, Vee? How ya holdin’ out?” she asked as she heard the clash of blades behind her.
Vinyl barely kept the ninjas on her side of the circle at bay and though they possessed far more experience than her, she kept right on top of them, even beating them back just a little bit. “Fine!” she spoke through her gritted teeth as they clashed against the blade in her mouth. “If I’m in trouble, you’ll know it!” Stepping forward, the ninjas backed off from her, obviously impressed at the way she handled a sword despite being a beginner.
Together, the two unicorns took down hundreds of ninjas back-to-back, some concussed, others bloody heaps piling high on the floor, writhing and moaning in pain, for none of them had, miraculously, died yet. However, the wear was starting to become evident. Vinyl’s coat glistened with sweat as she panted for breath, and Flare felt the power of her attacks dwindling just a little bit with every strike.
“Vinyl?” she panted after blasting another away. “I don’t think we can take this for much longer, do you?”
“Not really, no. I hope you have a plan for that,” the younger DJ responded.
“I do,” she sighed. “Brace yourself.” Vinyl had no plans of looking behind her, but she did as she said anyway, pulling back from her marginal advance. However, instead of coming closer, the ninjas stared in horror and froze in place. For a brief moment, she thought Flare had cast some sort of time spell, but the intense buildup of magic energy on her horn gave her pause.
Turning around despite herself, the DJ saw her idol suspended in a sphere of pure blue magic, lightning crackling and sparking in the barrier. From her angle, she could not see the void of white that had become of her eyes, shining through the sunglasses as if nothing were even there. Yet, she could see the unadulterated fear and desperation on the ninjas’ faces as a clue.
Flare shuddered and groaned as each bolt of lightning struck her, causing her body to grow and reshape itself. With a slight cry, wings began to emerge from her sides. Vinyl could only sit there and gawk with the others as the transformation took place. Somehow, she was becoming an alicorn, yet the only thing she could think to say was a small, almost inaudible “damn.”
The bubble of magic faded away slowly, revealing the alicorn within. Her coat dazzled like snow, giving a luster of midday to those around her. Her mane and tail, once spiky and short, now flowed out for feet, wafting in an ethereal breeze, and had not a tangle or single sharp edge to its locks. Musical notes would pop up here and there in her mane, whole notes, half notes, quarter notes; all the notes there were in different combinations.
“Thou shalt pay for angering the Goddess of Music!” the former unicorn shouted, her voice echoing as if she were a multitude. “How dare thee endanger mine fans and mine friends with such reckless disregard!? Prepare to meet divine fury!” Her horn dazzled in a furious flame of ocean blue as magic began to compress around her.
Some ninja began to flee, obviously unicorns since Vinyl herself felt very much like she should be running as well. All the others just looked on in mystified horror, not knowing the retribution that was to come. She knew that Flare would not wish to harm her, but even knowing that, she trembled in her shoes.
A blast, like the loudest pipe organ ever, exploded from the divine mare, shredding clothes, obliterating stands and sending every pony inside the building flying out through the massive windows that made the outer walls of the convention center. All, that is, except for Vinyl Scratch, who stood in amazement, mane swept back as if she had been standing in the middle of a hurricane.
“Holy buck!” she shouted, ears ringing loudly from the volume of the attack. “That was... Oh my... You just!” there were no words to describe the awesomeness that she had just witnessed.
Flare floated down to the ground, shaking her head as if her mane were wet. “Phew,” she expressed, sitting on her rump. “I didn’t mean to put out that much power,” she chuckled uneasily, back still facing away from her. “Are you okay there, Vee?”
“Yeah... Yeah, I’m fine,” she replied, sitting beside her, though still in a mild state of shock. “But holy Celestia, filly! That was... No words to describe.” She shook her head, trying to grind through the object lodged into her mental gears.
“Yeah...” Flare added, although a little sadly. “Listen, Vinyl... I’m afraid I’m going to have to call off our lunch. I’ve only been allowed to stay here because I was all incognito and junk. But, now that my cover’s been blown... I have to go.”
“What!?” she exclaimed, looking up and to the side, into the face of her idol. “Wh-where are you going? Why do you have to leave?”
“I have to leave because I promised Celestia and Luna that I wouldn’t use my powers. They’ll know soon enough that I’ve broken that vow, so I have to go. As for where... Well, let’s just say this is not goodbye.” Her horn glowed once more, this time wrapping the shades that sat on the bridge of her nose with her blue aura, slipping them off to show her rarely seen orange eyes. “I want you to have these, Vinyl. I can’t take material goods where I’m going and... I think you can take care of them.”
Vinyl gulped as she felt the shades descend upon her, landing on her muzzle and throwing the world into a purple tint. “These are... I can’t! These are yours. I’m not worthy enough to wear your shades!” She could feel tears begin to well up in her eyes, but she did her damnedest to suppress them.
“Don’t be like that, filly. You have great talent and promise. I’m sure you won’t let me down. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go. Goodbye, DJ P0n-3. And good luck.” Before she could utter a word against it, DJ Flare exploded in light; a light that would have blinded her had it not been for the shades that now adorned her face. Just as soon as it happened, it was gone, and so too was Vinyl’s inspiration, her idol, her goddess.
Octavia sighed in disbelief at what had just occurred. Unfortunately, she was honour-bound to make sure she was okay, so she leaned across the table, pushing aside her coffee mug and half-eaten crumpet on a plate. Lying on the floor, splayed out with her face glowing was Berry Punch; passed out almost the instant the story had finished. Her flask of ‘Pumpkin Juice’ lay at her side and spilled upon the floor, the smell of alcohol wafting into the sophisticated Canterlotian’s face.
It was very easy to shrug off the story as a drunken mare twisting and extrapolating a more mundane tale. However, the story also reeked of Vinyl’s hoof, since such exposition was commonplace and the bigger and more unbelievable the story, the better. She signed once more and sat back down in her chair, pondering her next step. “Mister Quicksliver? Can you give a lady a helping hoof?” she asked since there was no way she could pick the mare up on her own.
He looked down at the sauced mare, and sighed. “I’ll get a bucket of cold water.”