And so, Smolder found herself late to the first class that morning. Although it couldn’t have been more ironic getting coffee stains on her favorite coffee colored hoodie, it still rubbed her the wrong way. What the buck was Gallus about to get out of shoving her?
The dragon awkwardly pursed her lips as the tips of her claws drummed idly on the desk, one by one and creating this oddly tempoed pattern. It rang through the rough fluff just below her horns and made her brain twinge in just the right way, such that she could lock her eyes with those emerald green, staring right back at her from the front of the classroom.
“Tall orange,” she seemed to reiterate, causing Smolder to prop up and square her shoulders broad. Applejack smirked, her plump, freckled cheeks making way for the grin split on her lips. Smolder felt her blood warm and pulsing through her veiny wings. The small twinges in her stomach told her to stop staring, and yet, she couldn’t pull away from that siren stare.
All of a sudden, she was brought back to reality. Everyone was staring at the dragon from their desks; Smolder just gripped nervously at her coffee-stained sleeve. The patches of dried brown were what she felt moistening up again at her scorching touch.
“What do you think when you hear the word, ‘variable’?”
“Well…” her gaze averted for a split second, but she found herself grinning dumbly as she eyed her professor, once again. And again, those inviting pools of green, pulling Smolder in to the point where she couldn’t escape.
“Go on, take yer’ time.”
“Um...a variable is...is, um…”
“-Something that can vary,” a soft voice chimed in from somewhere behind her. Smolder whipped around in her seat to see Ocellus, hoof raised with a fiery twinge in her big bug eyes; Smolder felt a small twinge beneath her scales when she realized this. A spark shot through her like no other- fiercellus was something she’d never seen before until now.
“Come to think of it,” the changedling continued, the friction in her gaze burning brighter, “Isn’t that why the ‘if’ and ‘else’ commands exist? Because a variable can vary?”
Applejack’s small smile turned into a wider grin. “Fantastic description. Class, Ocellus has brought something wonderful to my attention.” she pepped in her southern drawl, skipping around her desk toward the charcoal black chalkboard. Smolder clenched her wrist even harder, so much so that she could feel her own scales peeling apart and letting blood seep through.
It would’ve evaporated as soon as it came with her smoldering touch- when she averted her gaze from the pleased professor, and over to Ocellus, she found their eyes locking in place. Ocellus squinted a bit as her muzzle scrunched in dismay.
Smolder peered with anger; never in her entire life of hoarding so far, had she felt so robbed.
Smolder spent all day through her classes gazing down at her keyboard, the jumbled alphabet providing more comfort than moving on ever would at this point. It was seldom that she ever felt so violated over something so small- however, with the gravity of the situation, how could she not?
She saw Gallus just barely glance at her from abreast; at the time she was already frustrated, so there was no point in asking his opinion. He’d just open that overcritical beak of his and say something that would immediately get on her nerves.
“So, are we gonna talk about what happened back there?”
Smolder lashed her tail like a cracking whip, turning her head so furiously that she could’ve snapped her own neck if she wasn’t careful. “Listen here, you pompous prick.” Smolder already had her index finger extended in Gallus’ direction, specifically geared up just for these kinds of quarrels. A smirk came to the griffon’s beak as he chuckled with a low purr.
“What’s there to even listen to? Those eyes said it all.”
At this point, the dragon was overcome with the blood rushing straight to her face, making her turn bright red. “A-Are you- you can’t be- no!”
“You’re totally into Professor Applejack, dude.” Gallus stopped and propped up on his hindlegs in the middle of the corridor, to lean against the wall with his arms fully crossed against his work sweater. Smolder’s fists clenched in a trice; this was a matter of self-esteem suicide.
“No I’m not!”
“C’mon!” Gallus chirped with a sinnocent grin. “You were eyeing her that entire time!”
“No, I wasn’t!”
“You were all over her with your eyes.”
Smolder peered with eyes narrow, her scales so hot that she could’ve burnt through her own jacket.
“Laptops! School laptops! Free for now, then it’s fifty bits a month!” the two glanced over to a teenaged mare’s propup shop, stacks upon stacks of carefully placed school laptops. Two were open in the very front with the pristine, slate black screens reflecting the ceiling lights. “Tread lightly if you’re drowning in debt! No one likes bankruptcy!”
Smolder snorted; this school was way corrupt- however, one look at Hazelnut’s propup shop made her realize that this specific teenaged mare did a really good job at masking it. As her eyes glossed elsewhere, she locked her gaze on her other close friend, Sandbar, who trotted up to the computer stand.
“Hon…” Hazel narrowed her brown eyes with slight sympathy as she pursed her lips. “...that’s the third computer you broke this year…”
“I-It just keeps going to a weird screen!” the sea-foam green colt lamented with the wilt of his ears.
“Sandbar, how many times do I have to tell you that The Matrix doesn’t have you?”
Finally giving up on her current client, Hazelnut focused her gaze on the rest of the corridor. “Don’t forget! The Python Plane Progress report has been updated! Make sure to check the roster one more time in the auditorium for further details!”
And that was when Smolder grunted, pairing her own noise of current dismay with an elegant roll of her eyes. “...this is how the Headmare tells us she’s racist, without being racist.”
“This again?” Gallus affixed his gaze back on the dragon with a small scowl on his face. It was an occasional thing for them, as predators. Snarling used to be seen as impolite, which is exactly why they’d do it at each other-it signaled some kind of “brother”hood; even if they weren’t related. Smolder turned a blind eye with a similar show of her fangs.
“It’s true. Every brainwashed twat on that roster’s bound to be a pony. It’s how it works around here, whether we try to change it or not.”
“That’s not true!” Sandbar butted in with the passionate jerk of his head. Smolder almost colored herself amused at the colt’s sudden spur of bravery. “I’m sure you’ll be the first dragon on that roster!”
Smolder’s tail curled with a small spike of adrenaline. Sandbar was, of course, her cheerleader best friend. Silverstream was almost the same, however she’d taken way too many coding workshops- only for the hell of it, anyways. That girl could run herself ragged and still be giggling about it.
Unlike Sandbar, who took the more common classes and was just fine. Smolder watched with a groan as Sandbar rocked awkwardly back and forth on his crookedly posed hooves. And when he launched himself in front of her, she found that he smelled of sweat and old paperbacks. Then again, he’d been around the library a lot lately.
And then he opened that mouth of his- then again he wasn’t much worse than Sil’.
“Don’t worry, Smolds,” he chimed, that big goofy grin on his muzzle. “You’re the most passionate creature in this school. Especially about the P.P.”
“Mother of Torch, not this again.”
The dragon’s blood pressure began to rise in her body, coursing through her veins and rising right in her face once again. “Sandbar,” Gallus purred with a smug undertone, “Who taught you such language?”
“Are any of you about to buy a computer or not?” the brown eyed mare sitting at the pink clothed software store realized the group of creatures just lingering in the halls. The lawful loitering by her table made her nerves twist in angst. Though, she never let it show through those passionate eyes.
Even then, Smolder could just sense the tension linger in the hall. Running her claw against the smooth paint job on the wall, she beckoned her colt companion with just her steadfast gaze. “See you next period,” Gallus sprung from the wall with the slight waver of his wings and was headed off.
Smolder didn’t bother replying.
She was dead set on getting through the day.
“In this lesson, you will learn how to properly dress a website, such that you will make a splendid show of your web programming skills. The internet is a wonderful thing, my darlings.”
The slew of words strung together with such thoughtfulness; how could Smolder forget?
Well, simple: she didn’t have to listen at all.
The sheer simplicity that was HTML, would bore her to sleep. Such that, she almost let herself drift into a false state of unconsciousness. Every word coming out of Professor Rarity’s mouth almost made her drool out of pure boredom.
It was intoxicating.
Every single command, every piece of syntax was something Smolder was convinced had been sewn together in a cloth of creative lies. Ponies, albeit overcultured, were also one of the most overcritical, stereotyping kinds of fiends out there.
Well, she ended up contradicting her own self there- not every horse in Equestria was awful; Sandbar was a lovable idiot, and Hazelnut was pretty cool, for a background character, statistically. After all, Smolder didn’t think of this all the time.
It’s just the way society made it seem to her.
Her claws clutched tightly to the tough flesh in her palm; just the sound of the bell ringing knocked her out of her thought-filled stupor. Those thoughts that she had stopped racing and crashed into each other in some kind of mental collision. To a screeching halt, came her psyche. Sandbar looked over with some calm gaze in his forest green eyes- similar to Applejack’s, but like two calming pools of malachite.
“You weren’t paying attention in class,” he smirked. Immediately as he spoke, Smolder felt the warmth of a thousand beaches- the golden sand being engulfed with the rushing sea-foam.
Well, this was the vibe Sandbar always gave off when he spoke. Smolder could almost see him surfing a gargantuan tidal wave, swirling with deep, ocean blue. Yeah, he’d smell of sea-salt so often in the day that she could swear she’d crave sushi around him.
“I just…” she gripped her hoodie sleeve. The scent of coffee cake filled her nostrils- she was apparently very good at smelling the scenery. Watching as a torrent of pony students fled the classroom with glee, she turned her gaze back to Sandbar with a grunt and frown. “...it’s pointless, isn’t it?”
“What?!” Sandbar pipped forward for the thousandth time that day. “What do you mean-?”
Smolder clapped her claws over Sandbar’s mouth before jumping right out of her chair with that fierce glare in her eyes. When she tore her claws away, she ended up digging them straight into her satchel strap. “I mean, it’s just a feeble attempt at getting other creatures to flake out on any real career path they have coming their way...it’s just a matter of weeding out the crooked ones. And they think it’ll be the non-horses…”
“Now hold on just a minute…” Sandbar chimed in once again. “...no career path actually defines good or bad, unless you’re, y’know, selling drugs.”
Poor Sandbar. Always blurting things out. Always an oversharer.
She watched him closely as he hurled his bag over his back with a passion in his swift motion.
“Besides, it isn’t the career that’s inherently good or bad. It’s the creature that makes it known. They say one bad apple, spoils the whole bunch, right?”
He turned to smile at his draconic friend. Smolder almost let a smile bring curvature to her sharp beak.
...for once, Sandbar was actually right.
“One bad apple, spoils the whole bunch...one bad apple, spoils the whole bunch…” a whisper chanted to itself, roaming the halls somewhat thoughtfully. Smolder was headed back to the dormitory just before curfew to work on her programming.
Coincidentally, she ended up passing by the computer lab- the largest room in the school. When she stopped in front of it, she felt her heart quiver with excitement and angst. This room in particular, had belonged to the most elite members of the entire student body. It contained the most poignant aspects of what she’d never see herself reaching, not in a million years.
Androids, all four legged, tall and bold, were standing right in front of the large glass, metallic chests puffed out in pride. Developed by the most powerful programmers that went to this specific center in particular. By Torch, it made Smolder’s scales want to scurry right off her body.
Disgusting how they stood there, so patriotic and proud.
It should’ve been one of hers.
“...jealousy gets me nowhere,” she gruffed, gripping her arm with disdain. The blackened screens they had for eyes, Smolder could almost feel glare right at her as she walked by. Pompous; proud.
Something she would never reach, not in her entire life.
By the time she made it back to the dorm, her roommate was nowhere to be found. Though it wasn’t as late in the evening, it wasn’t very like Ocellus to be what went by her own definition as “late”.
Come to think of it, she hadn’t seen the bug all day.
“Huh...Ocellus?” she called into the room, tail twisting with hope for the avoided. With a frustrated sigh, she plopped down on the bottom bunk and threw open her laptop from the satchel that had been tossed across the room prior.
Even then, she didn’t get far.
Error after error after error. And every time she tried debugging, well... there was already one kind of “debug” that she wasn’t very fond of at the moment.
“Ocellus!” Smolder ran herself silly through the hallways, claws pounding erratically against the velveted floor with the blackened fear overcoming her body. The pain rose up in her legs so hard that she almost felt herself genuflect; her ankles almost bent completely every shaky step she took.
Digging her lower claws into the carpeting, she found herself screeching by the giant door to the courtyard. The way she burst through it, swinging her body as if to mangle it, overcame her with nausea.
Time seemed to slow down, the dirt path elongating at such a quick pace. Smolder shook her head with her laptop in hand. A cry for help, her cry for help rang sharp through her brain like a shockwave of dread. Just as she felt her knees almost buckle, her wings spread like a flash of lightning and flapped so violently with intent to barrel.
“That was Ocellus...Ocellus is in danger, she’s under attack…”
Silver pearls of sweat traced down Smolder’s damp brow with slow motion as she reached what she could’ve sworn was the edge of time. That metallic body, towering over the helpless blue changeling, eyes glowing red with intent to kill. It was locked on the target, laying against the tree and crying bloody murder; the blood slightly spilt from the edge of her lips said it all.
Smolder didn’t even need to think- launching off her front claw, fist clenched, she rocketed it square into its big, bulky metallic head.
She could feel some of the console break apart within the machinery. The way her coffee stained hoodie flowed off her back as she rose just inches from the ground made the sweat on her scales begin to condense.
“Don’t touch her!” she bellowed, landing with her feet clenching the soil.
Just as she got ready to strike again, the android caught her hoof with one brisk wave. “W-What the…?”
She felt the orange scales chip away with a sanguine taint, her scalp fragmenting with the wounded flesh on the side of her head. She felt her brain touch the top of her skull for just a second when her body gave out.
And she hit the ground.
“Leave her alone!” Ocellus sputtered, the glitter of her horn popping with a vivid pink. That hunk of metal didn’t even get a chance to react before it was hit with a powerful blast. Every piece of hardware on that thing began chipping away; the ears made of carbon breaking off and showing the multicolored wires, zapping violently and dispersing blue sparks. Even then, two of its legs broke off instead.
Still, it locked right on the changeling. If it had to hobble, it would-
Smolder held her open laptop, which bent backwards at the impact against the robot’s head. It spluttered and spurted bits of hardware and hard acquired oil spurting right onto Smolder’s jacket. At this point, she didn’t care about the soiled laptop.
Grabbing the robot by the muzzle, she hauled it right into the dirt, bringing it against the wall.
Her mangled claws bled scarlet into the black oil of the carbon beast’s broken body. Suddenly, her world shifted back into motion when she found solace.
“Smolder,” Ocellus called from behind. Smolder jolted in surprise as she found the changeling nuzzling into her hoodie. Leaning into her, she watched as Ocellus jutted her head up, lifting the dragon onto her feet by the arm. “...are you okay?”
“Don’t worry about me,” the dragon grunted, letting Ocellus lead her back into the building. “You’re bleeding from the mouth...it could be internal…”
“Mmmngh...oh no, I’m okay. Bleeding from the lip, is all.”
The two looked around. It was completely pitch black in the halls, not one individual to be seen.
“We should tell someone about this,” Smolder gruffed with the slight flick of her tail in Ocellus’ direction. The purple fin at the very edge brushed up against Ocellus’ abdomen.
They looked around in the pitch blackness. It didn’t take much to adjust- both dragon and changeling eyes were perfect for this sort of thing. However, they happened to be two bleeding students, standing like pawns in the middle of the hall.
Who was to say that they weren’t fighting or something?
“On second thought…”
Smolder gruffed once again, clenching her arm. “We should just head back to the dorms. There’s no point in squealing, it’s not like anyone’s gonna believe us anyways...we should just...ehm…”
Ocellus turned her head slightly to face the courtyard, eventually pivoting her entire body so that she sat in front of the door.
They couldn’t just brush something like this off.
Every inch of Ocellus wanted to squeal.
So, so very badly.