Abacus Cinch was not happy.
The Friendship Games had been an unmitigated disaster. The Shadowbolts, her own students, had turned against her, forced her to concede to a mutual victory with their rivals, the students of Canterlot High. The reputation of the Crystal Prep – her reputation – teetered precariously on the edge of disaster, and to top it all off Celestia had even managed to steal her prized pupil, Twilight Sparkle, away from her.
So she’d pushed the girl to use the magic she’d stored, the result of which had nearly caused a monumental disaster. She could hardly be blamed for such foolishness. Shadowbolts were disciplined. Shadowbolts were strong. Twilight Sparkle failed to meet the criteria. No, of greater importance than the loss of one (admittedly gifted) student were the implications the games had wrought.
She still scarcely believed it. The students of Canterlot High had magic. And Crystal Prep did not.
She wouldn’t allow it; she couldn’t! Crystal Prep was superior to that wretched public school in every way. Their curriculum, their funding, and their college acceptance rate, all the highest in the country. But this magic threatened to ruin everything! But Abacus Cinch was no quitter, she had a reputation to uphold, after all. Reports of the goings on at Canterlot High weren’t difficult to get a hold of, with all the photos and status updates today’s youth posted online, she could have compiled a complete dossier on any student in the world!
Or, in this case, any three students.
She examined the papers laid out on the desk before her. They’d covered their tracks well, but they must have known that people didn’t merely appear out of thin air—not in this world, anyway. There was always a trail, if you knew where to look for it, and Abacus Cinch always knew where to look.
She raised her eyes and adjusted her glasses, taking careful stock of her guests. She wasn’t impressed. Torn sleeves, obnoxious accessories… their outfits were an affront to her senses. On any ordinary day Abacus Cinch wouldn’t have given the trio a second glance before having security escort them unceremoniously to the curb. Her fingers drifted together forming the shape of a pyramid. Today was no ordinary day.
“I suppose you’re wondering why I’ve brought you here.” Cinch probed. The purple haired one sulked, arms crossed and staring impassively at the wall. It ignited a cold fury within the principal, who was not used to such blatant insolence. Meanwhile, the girl with the blue hair gazed blankly into space. Cinch doubted she could do much with her, education could only shine when paired with intelligence and it was clear that this girl had a severe deficiency on both accounts. No, it was only the one that sat between them, the one with torrents of orange hair and a calculating look to her that held any interest to Abacus Cinch. The only one who would look her in the eye.
“It crossed our minds,” said the orange haired girl. Her voice, Cinch noted, seemed to draw the other girls into the conversation, as they nodded in agreement. “But we’re more interested in knowing how exactly you found us.”
Abacus Cinch allowed herself a small smile. “Information is, perhaps, this world’s greatest resource, and I think you will find that I am a very resourceful woman.” The girl’s eyes narrowed, clearly unsatisfied with her answer. Abacus continued unabashed. “I know of your encounter with the so called Rainbooms. I know that after they bested you, the three of you turned tail and ran. I also know that you’re two months past due on your rent, and as we speak your landlord is affixing an eviction notice to your door.” The girl’s teeth barred, her shoulders hunched, and her fists clenched into tight balls. She’d hit a nerve.
“We’re listening,” she growled. The principal’s grin widened.
“I’m sure you’ve found that without the proper influence, this world can be a harsh, unforgiving place. You’re lucky that I’m giving your girls the time of day, let alone inviting you to speak with me in my office.”
“It’s not luck. You need something, something you can only get from us.”
Cinch nodded approvingly. “Precisely. And do you know what that something is?” Abacus leaned in, her glasses sliding down to the tip of her nose as she examined the girls before her.
“But we don’t have any magic!” Blurted the blue haired girl. The others turned on her like a pack of starving wolves, and for a moment Abacus thought they might tear her to shreds in her very office. She found the idea rather amusing.
“Do not insult my intelligence,” said Abacus sternly. “As I said, I know of your time at Canterlot High School, and I know that in that final confrontation with the Rainbooms your magic was lost. A pity.”
The orange haired girl eyed her suspiciously. “So if you know all this already, why are we here?” The predatory part of Abacus’s mind came alive, and she eyed the girls hungrily. She had them now.
“You are here because I believe that we can help each other.” When the girl didn’t respond, she continued. “You seek the return of your magic, and revenge against those that have wronged you. I want nothing more than to level the playing field with Canterlot High, so when next we compete they won’t be able to rely on their magic to claim victory.”
“But we don’t have our magic, not anymore,” growled the girl. “And if we did, what makes you think we’d waste it helping you?”
“Straight to the point, then. A student at my school—a former student, rather—designed a piece of technology able to contain this magic. As she used Crystal Prep resources to research and develop the object in particular, and due to the bylaws she signed in order to have access to those resources, Crystal Prep retains the rights to any and all of that research.”
The orange haired girl’s eyes were wide, staring at Abacus in shock and disbelief. Even the purple haired girl was paying attention now, her expression one of barely contained need.
“I don’t get it,” said the blue haired girl.
“You’re so stupid,” quipped the purple hair girl. “She might have a way to give us back our magic!” Both girls looked at Abacus in awe, but their leader remained unconvinced.
“Then why not use it yourself? If you have the magic, what do you need us for?” Abacus liked this one. Unlike the others, she might even be Crystal Prep materiel.
“Control over the magic we captured proved… difficult. You three have proven yourself adept at manipulating magic to meet your needs, and it is that control that I require of you.” Abacus sighed. “Additionally, and most unfortunately, the device was destroyed.
“This is my offer, listen closely for I will not give it twice, nor will I bargain with you. This is not a negotiation. I will give you access to the research on the tracking and containment of magic. In addition, I will provide you with the resources to pursue this research and access to the greatest minds of your generation. You will become students my school, live within the dormitories without cost, and you will assist me in reclaiming the legacy that has been stolen from me.
“In return, you will follow my every instruction without question. You will conform to the standards I set for all my students, and if you are able to reclaim your lost magic, you will stand by my side as, together, we crush Canterlot High School.” With one finger, Abacus Cinch pushed her glasses back up her nose into their proper position. “So, do we have a deal?”
The three girls looked at each other, but Abacus didn’t need to see the look of hunger on their faces to confirm what she already knew. “We accept,” said the orange haired girl, accompanied by nods from her compatriots.
“Excellent. I shall have the paperwork drafted immediately. Aria Blaze, Sonata Dusk, and Adagio Dazzle, congratulations. You are Crystal Prep Academy’s newest Shadowbolts.”
“Thank you, Principle Cinch,” said Adagio, wearing a look of gleeful malice that spread first to Sonata, then Aria, and finally to the principal herself. “We won’t let you down.”