Cinch stalked towards the doors at the end of the hallway. The lab was basically untouched from when she'd checked it after her former brightest student had left, but even with the data taken from Twilight's research, the machines yielded no knowledge to the Principal of Crystal Prep.
Cinch stared at one of the devices, whose design had been laid out in one of Twilight's meticulously arranged blueprints. She recognized the name, the design, even the controls; but she had no idea how it functioned.
Fortunately, Cinch thought to herself, as she heard the door open behind her, I don't have to. After all, Crystal Prep recruits the best- and even if Canterlot High has stolen my best student, they've only taken one of many.
Turning, Cinch looked through the thick panes of glass which nearly covered the poor girl's face. Stepping towards her student, Cinch spoke. "Ms. Moondancer. Thank you for joining me here today."
Moondancer gave a tiny smile and ducked her head. "It- it's no trouble, ma'am. Um, but, I do have a question..." As Cinch continued to look at her, she pulled in a breath. "This was Twilight's lab, correct?"
"Yes. Ms. Sparkle has... abandoned Crystal Prep, and the lab equipment which she assembled using our resources. She was, however, thoughtful enough to leave behind some of her notes concerning her experiments and observations."
"I-I thought she'd left to pursue her research further, ma'am. Why would s-she leave her notes behind?"
Cinch felt her eyes tighten, and bit back a rising scowl. There was no reason to believe that the girl meant any accusation, but the thought could not be allowed to linger. "Ms. Sparkle's work was backed up in multiple places, Moondancer. She did not wipe them clean, obviously intending someone to continue her research here at Crystal Prep."
"I- I see." Moondancer hesitated, her eyes widening as she considered the implications. "Um, ma'am? Do you want me to continue her research?"
Cinch forced a small smile onto her face. "Yes. You have earned the right to continue her work, both from your academics and your understanding of the... preview I released to find a suitable successor." Finding Moondancer had been simple. Cinch had released the summary of Twilight's discoveries and the unfinished blueprints of the prototype "Sparkle Energy Spectograph Mk. 1" to the student body. Within hours of discovering the blueprints, Moondancer had come forward with a corrected set of the plans, as well as a rough prototype of the device assembled in one of the fabrication shops. Cinch had drafted her to fill Twilight's place at once.
"Thank you, ma'am." Moondancer glanced at the devices scattered throughout the lab space, then turned her attention to her principal. "Should I contact Twi- I mean, Ms. Sparkle to collaborate? She'd probably be happy I managed to complete her -"
Cinch's snarl caught in her throat, but her words held a hard edge despite her control. "No. Ms. Sparkle is now a student of CHS, and is not to be contacted. The discoveries here will be attributed to the efforts of Crystal Prep students, no one else. Do we understand each other?" Moondancer nodded. "Excellent. I look forward to seeing your progress. Especially considering the practical applications of the work we are doing here."
Without a word, Cinch turned towards the door. As she opened it, she looked back over her shoulder. "I will make certain to include your efforts her on your next scholarship report, Ms. Moondancer. Do well here, and you have no need to fear losing your place here at Crystal Prep." The door closed behind her with a soft hiss.
Moondancer gulped as Principal Cinch strode out of the lab. Glancing at the desktop beside her, she watched the program embedded in the computer complete the next round of analysis. Cinch told me that whatever Twilight was working on was revolutionary; and though I could understand her being open to collaboration, it doesn't make sense that she'd just abandon all her notes. Or, if she erased some of the backups, she wouldn't think to wipe them all.
Moondancer stared at the devices scattered across the room. Walking over to the pegboard in the corner, she stared at the map of readings and the picture of CHS held in the middle of a web of papers and strings. Twilight found something out; something having to do with her research and CHS. Something so important that she left behind everything to pursue it.
But Principal Cinch wants her research pursued. And not just for the sake of research- what she said about "practical applications" seemed rather pointed.
Looking at the data, and devices surrounding her, she swallowed. Turning on a nearby printer, she began to print the technical documents included with each device. According to these notes, and the spectrograph blueprints, crystalline structures tend to capture the energy signatures she was tracking best. If I want to study this, I'll need a way to trap this energy for study.
And I need to find a way. If I don't- Looking up at the clock, she shuddered. Twilight could afford to escape from here. I'm not nearly so lucky...
Cinch frowned as she sank into her chair, deploying a computer monitor from beneath her desk. With a few keystrokes, she began to bring up the electronic locking mechanism for the Exotic Energy Lab, changing the primary student registry from Sparkle to Moondancer.
As she finished her work, she heard a ring come from her messaging system. Glancing coolly at the caller ID, she scowled and punched down on the green button.
"Ah, Principal Cinch. So good of you to take my call."
"I'm more impressed that you decided to call yourself, rather than letting one of your remaining staff handle it." Cinch replied. "Mr. Stayn, you may be an alumnus of this school, but you are one which no longer provides any prestige for us. I am accepting your call only because of the device you provided me recently, which will contribute to the success and legacy of this school."
"That data tap proved useful?" Stayn's voice oozed through the speakers. "You do realize that by admitting it-"
"Please, Stayn, don't assume that you are speaking to an amateur. One of my former student designed a very effective scrambler to prevent recording my conversations. Now, get to the point."
There was a long pause. "Fine." Stayn nearly spat. "Celestia's hiding something, and I suspect your... former student found out about it." After letting his silence confirm his suspicions, he continued. "You and I both know that whatever Celestia found is revolutionary, but she's sitting on her students' discoveries like a mother hen, and putting her connections to work to keep it under wraps."
"And you want that discovery for yourself." Cinch said.
"And you for your school. I don't care who gets the credit for figuring this stuff out, but my attempts to get my hands on the prodigy responsible, a girl called Sunset Shimmer, have been stonewalled by the Bureau of Reform."
Cinch scowled, recalling her encounter with Candace. "Faust's pet project."
"Yes. If they're given enough time, the possible applications for this discovery could be compromised." Stayn hissed. "I had a lot of friends before Everfree dragged me down, and one of my former colleagues is looking to put this new energy in use before anyone else has a chance to create legal barriers against its use."
"And if we find out how to use it first, I'm to send the first copies of our research to you." Cinch summarized. "And in return-"
"I'll make certain Crystal Prep gets tier A-1 funding for their contribution, and gets national recognition." Stayn followed.
"But we have to deal with Everfree's legacy- both parts."
"Her obstructive organization and her deviant get, yes." Stayn snarled.
"Language like that is why you lost your senate seat." Cinch replied. "Still, I concur, with one caveat. I think one more thing is in order, if you can get the leverage to do so much for Crystal Prep."
Stayn's response was measured. "What is it?"
"Blueblood and Celestia make an effective team, both in the legal and semi-legal realms. I've recently learned that Cadance has been accumulating certain... uncomfortable facts about my school, obviously on her cousin's behalf to sabotage us. Cadance can't act on them for now, but as long as Blueblood's in office, she has a path to cause a PR nightmare. If you can push so hard to get me funding, you should be able to remove him from his current position."
Stayn laughed. "Evict him from office? The pansy? Gladly. And I'll see to it that his replacement comes down on Celestia." His voice dropped dangerously. "But none of this will happen if we can't get the facts on Celestia's discovery. Do you think we can?"
Cinch glanced down at the paperwork on her desk, then slowly reached for a file. Flipping it open, she stared at the announcement for the most recent Friendship Games. "I already have someone working on it. And, if that fails...' she trailed off as she looked a the next page, describing Crystal Prep's team. "I'm going to have a chance to get to the source of it all very soon."