"...and that, class, is why our sun orbits us instead of the other way around." Cheerilee put her chalk down, turning to the fillies and colts at their desks with a wide grin. "Do any of you have any questions?"
The foals all stared at the board, blinking as they tried to process the equations on them.
After a moment, Cheerilee sighed. "The first sun was dying, so the precursors built another and made it go around us."
"Oh!" Scootaloo chirped brightly. "That makes sense!"
"Ah kinda got that from all her chatting," Apple Bloom pointed out. "What Ah don't understand is how one pony manages ta keep tha thing from entering our atmosphere."
"Wait," Sweetie Belle interjected, "the precursors are real?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact. You've even met one!" Cheerilee nodded out the door. "The Draconeuuqii were once quite widespread--"
The school bell suddenly chimed, a signal that caused all the foals to start shifting out of their desks. The teacher rolled her eyes, stepping toward the front door. "Alright, recess has started. Everypony form a single file line, don't shove, and remember not to start fights!"
Scootaloo stretched her wings and yawned, flicking an ear toward Apple Bloom as she passed. "Right, so yeah. Sorry about yesterday or whatever." She shrugged. "I can be a blockhead at times, yaknow?"
"Yeah, you sure can..." With a sigh, Apple Bloom walked out after her friend. "Look, if ya want ta tease with me that's fine, but... you really shouldn't say things like that about Sweetie. It could--"
"Apple Bloom," Sweetie Belle interjected as she left the classroom, "it's fine. I mean I was totally embarrassed, yeah, but it's Scootaloo. I know she didn't mean any harm by it!"
"Hey, blank flanks! What're you talking about?"
Sweetie Belle frowned. "Her, on the other hoof..."
"None of your beeswax, DT." Scootaloo snorted and turned her gaze away from the approaching pink pony. "Come on, let's go get a table somewhere over there."
"...DT?" The filly rolled her eyes. "Sounds like some lame rapper name."
"Well," Scootaloo said smugly, "diamonds shine and glitter with refracted light, and tiaras are the mark of a true princess. I figured DT was more your wavelength." She gave the earth pony a mock salute. "Can't wait to hear your next album!"
"Huh, you're right," Sweetie mused. "DT fits her so much more than Diamond Tiara."
The pink filly fumed. "Why--You can't just--you are so going to get it!"
"Get what?" Apple Bloom asked innocently. "We're just complimenting your artistic skills."
"Diamond! Sorry I was held up." A grey filly galloped up to the group, breathing just a touch heavily. "My lunchbox was kind of jammed into my cubbyhole in a weird way--"
"Hello Silver Spoon." Sweetie waved happily. "We were just discussing Diamond Tiara's promising musical career."
Silver Spoon adjusted her glasses. "Wait... Really?"
"Well for what it's worth, I think you would be a very good singer," Sweetie Belle assured her. "You've got a good voice, you just need to train it a bit. Rap is good for that," she added with a smirk, "easy to find a rhythm, there's not a lot of pitch variation--"
"AAAAAAAUGH!" Diamond threw up her hooves. "I AM NOT A RAPPER!"
Scootaloo shrugged. "Hey, no need to broadcast your disappointment."
"NARNIGHFLIRKNSHEMARFISDA--!!" Diamond took a deep breath, held it for five seconds, and let it out slowly. "Right. Clearly you lot are beneath me. I think I shall remove myself from your presence."
"Yeah, keep telling yourself that," Apple Bloom snarked at Diamond's retreating form. "Denial's perfectly natural, after all!"
Scootaloo gave Apple Bloom a strange look. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, ya know, it's just... Mah sis says a lot of ponies would get in a lot less trouble if they was just honest with themselves."
Sweetie Belle tapped her chin thoughtfully. "You know... that's actually pretty deep."
Scootaloo rolled her eyes as she sat at a table. "Yeah, sure it is. So! I motion we figure out the most epic way to find our special talents."
Apple Bloom sat down next to her. "Ya ever wonder if'n we've found our special talents and just haven't realized it?"
The pegasus leaned away, horror evident on her face. "Apple Bloom... that's crazy talk. I mean, if we'd found our special talents, obviously we'd realize it, right?"
After a moment, the yellow filly reluctantly nodded. "Ah guess you're right... Um. No offense Sweetie."
Sweetie Belle sighed, sitting across from them and letting her head rest on the table. "I'm going to have to get used to it anyway. Maybe I'll look into how griffons figure out their special talents... if they have any..."
Scootaloo rubbed the back of her head awkwardly. Apple Bloom bit her lip, glancing away.
For a moment, the sounds of the other foals playing were drowned out by their own somber reflections.
"...Didn't... Those Saddle Arabian ponies," Scootaloo offered, "the ones that came that one time after Trixie took over... didn't they have blank flanks? Maybe they have a way to find special talents without getting cutie marks! Or... something...?"
The unicorn didn't lift her head, but her eyes did roll to give her friend a flat look.
"Look, I'm trying to help here. I really don't know what to say, Sweetie Belle, I just..." Scootaloo waggled a hoof in the air, desperatly searching for the words that would communicate her point.
"Yeah, yeah. I get it." Sweetie sighed. "Just... can we not do this now? Can we just have an ordinary lunch?"
Apple Bloom frowned. "Sweetie, ya can't just ignore this."
"I'm not. I just don't see what it has to do with anything right now. We're here to eat lunch and talk like friends do, and..." Pushing her head off the table, Sweetie Belle let out a little sigh. "I want to be normal right now. Maybe later we can talk about my thing, but right now, let's just... I don't know, talk about our favorite musicians?"
Scootaloo shrugged. "Alright. So, either of you catch that last Sapphire Shores album?"
"Was that 'Watch Mah Flank' or 'Sass Me Ah Dare Ya?'"
"Actually, I was talking about 'Schoolyard Sweethearts'. It was a bit of an out of genre experiment for her, but it really worked." Scootaloo shrugged with a smile. "I mean, yeah, a couple of the songs were way too mushy, but the beat was pretty good, and she worked out some great tunes. Dunno bout the lyrics, though."
"Wait, that was a Sapphire Shores album?" Sweetie Belle's ears perked, the faintest smile coming to her face. "I thought it was a disk of old movie tunes, from back when colored film was still kinda new..."
Diamond Tiara snorted as she entered her mansion, absently handing off her saddlebags to the stallion on her right. She didn't even spare a glance as he started taking out the schoolwork and organizing it into stacks, instead choosing to stomp forward for a few steps. "Those... those.... THOSE...!"
Silver Spoon gave the butler a questioning look. He nodded for a brief moment. With a sigh, she raised her hooves to her ears.
"THOSE SELF-ABSORBED PRANCING PANDERING TALENTLESS TRIO OF CHARLATANS I SWEAR TO CELESTIA THAT THEY DELIBERATELY GO OUT OF THEIR WAY TO SABOTAGE MY EVERY EFFORT AND HOW IN THE HAY WERE THEY CHOSEN TO BE PRINCESS MI AMORE CADENZA'S FLOWER FILLIES WHY AM I ALWAYS JUST PUSHED ASIDE BY THE GROWN-UPS WHY DO THEY LISTEN TO THEM JUST BECAUSE THEY RUINED MY CUTECENARA ARGBLARGLFRAGLEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"
The grey filly opened an eye, peering at her friend carefully.
"...Alright. Alright." Diamond took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I... am cool now. I'm cool. And I'm sorry you had to hear that, Randolph, that was quite... extreme of me."
"Not a trouble, miss Tiara." The butler placed a stack of papers in front of the filly. "The top portion is homework that is due tomorrow, as per usual, but the packets on the bottom will require considerable effort and time to complete; I simply felt it would be best for you to start work on it now instead of later."
"Thank you very much." The words were automatic, casual, and even as she said them Diamond had picked up her papers and started to walk into the living room. "I don't know what irritates me about those blank flanks, Silver, but every time I see them I get this overwhelming feeling of... of..."
Silver Spoon put her forehooves back on the floor. "...Of what?"
"...I don't know! It's like I'm jealous except that they don't flaunt what I'm jealous of! It's... they're so... do they even realize how lucky they are?! Two of them are related to national heroes directly, both of whom are independently wealthy, I'm pretty sure Princess Twilight was willing to teach them at one point... They have a huge social network and they never use it except for these frivolous 'crusades' of theirs! It's like seeing a pony walk up to a high class buffet and ask the chef for a donught!"
Silver nodded as the two of them sat on a couch. "I can see how that would be frustrating. I myself often find the lack of knowledge about our world that most ponies exhibit to be incomprehensible. The fact that so many disciplines have solutions to problems other disciplines struggle with is a constant reminder of how poor communication can hamper a society to an almost unbearable point."
Diamond stared at her.
"...was I using the big words again?" Silver coughed. "I'm sorry, I'll try to be more relateable."
"No, it's fine Silver. It's just us in here." Diamond started sorting through her homework, absently filling in the proper answers. "And yeah, I totally get what you're saying. You know, I think the crusaders could fix that too? If only they'd focus for one measly month!" She groaned, setting aside a finished paper and working on another. "Honestly, at this point I kinda expect they'll become alicorn princesses before they gain their marks. Can you believe I ever--?"
She snapped her mouth shut.
"...Ever what?" Silver asked.
"Ugh. It's nothing. I'm disgusted to even think about it." She waved a hoof. "Let's just get this all done."
Silver frowned. "You're already halfway through your stack, Diamond. I'm still not complete with my first assignment."
"Huh. Really?" Diamond glanced back at her pile of papers. "...well, it just goes to show that I'm naturally very smart, is all."
Silver frowned. "And I'm not?"
"No, you're smart in a different way. I mean, you do a lot of research and I just... see patterns is all. Honestly, most of this is just guesswork." She shrugged. "It really helps when talking to ponies."
"Huh. Patterns, huh?"
"Yeah, it's always been that way for me."
"Neat, I guess...."
"Sir, we're getting a report from a listening station. The keem'Potriitch are headed in Equestria's direction."
"Hmm. Have they given any sign of recognizing our activities there?"
"...we don't know, sir. Their transmissions are coded."
"Keep me updated on their movements. If they enter the third sphere, prep for mass drone termination, but don't do anything before then."
"Sir, what about--?"
"You have your orders, lieutenant."