by Sharp Spark


Apple Bloom was almost done with her art project when the sirens started their wailing. The other kids immediately began making noise to match: Snips and Snails cheering loudly, others excitedly babbling, one flighty filly in the back of the schoolroom letting out a terrified shriek. Bloom added a groan of her own to the chaos, her pencil falling out of her mouth to clatter against the desk.

More than anything else, it was annoying. She had really been in the zone this time. Halfway through the best apple tree she had ever drawn – and she had drawn a lot of apple trees. She briefly considered taking the paper and pencil with her, but she figured she wouldn’t have the room or light to continue.

Besides, she had a job to do, as dumb as it was. She hopped up, trotting to the back of the room as Miss Cheerilee valiantly tried to get everyone else to calm down. The trapdoor sat in a weird place in the corner of the room. It wasn’t a big deal to push the empty desk out of the way, but it took all her strength to heave the heavy panel open. She peered down into the darkness for a moment before a question from Miss Cheerilee caught her attention and she glanced up to nod that she was ready.

The other ponies pushed and shoved each other as they formed a loose line, more out of natural rambunctiousness than any real worry. Except for Alula in the very front, her wings twitching as she hyperventilated. Alula was always in the front, and it wasn’t because they went in alphabetical order.

Apple Bloom rolled her eyes. “One,” she muttered as Alula dived past her into the darkness of the basement. The next ponies took it slower. “Two. Three. Four.”

Sweetie Belle was number eight, and she and Apple Bloom shared a quick look of exasperation. The colts were all excited about getting out of doing their schoolwork. Most of them were too dumb to realize that recess was in another ten minutes, and that they’d miss most of that instead.

“Twelve. Thirteen. Four— What?”

Silver Spoon planted her hooves right in front of the entrance, her eyes wide. “Where’s DT? Is she inside already? I didn’t see her!”

Apple Bloom exhaled. “Yeah, sure. She’s down there. Just go already.”

Silver Spoon bit her lip, looking back over her shoulder one more time before climbing down.

“Fourteen,” Apple Bloom said, wrinkling her nose. “Fifteen. Sixteen.”

Miss Cheerilee stood at the back of the line, herding the last stragglers past Apple Bloom. “Is that everyone?” she asked.

Apple Bloom frowned. Nineteen. Well, twenty, including herself. There were supposed to be twenty-one. Had she seen Diamond Tiara? She couldn’t recall. She didn’t remember any blank-flank-related insults at any rate, and that was usually the giveaway.

...Come to think of it, she seemed to recall Diamond asking to go to the bathroom earlier. A few minutes before the sirens? And that gave Apple Bloom a certain clever idea.

“Twenty-one,” Bloom said, giving Miss Cheerilee her most innocent smile. “That’s everyone.”

It would serve her right to come back to find everypony gone all of a sudden, to be left alone with the sirens still blaring. Apple Bloom’s only regret was that she wouldn’t be able to see the look on Diamond Tiara’s face when she freaked out. The best she could hope for would be to catch Diamond still sobbing when they came back up after the stupid drill was over, all the better to tease her about for weeks on end. After all, it’s not like she didn’t deserve it.

“Very good,” Miss Cheerilee said, breaking through Bloom’s devious daydreams as she shooed Bloom into the musty dark. Cheerilee followed close behind and the heavy trapdoor slammed shut with a rattling bang, leaving them in total darkness.

At least until the shield spell activated, encasing the tiny chamber in a purple bubble. The wan light revealed a room far smaller than the classroom above in here, hardly enough room for all the kids. It didn’t help that they had lost all sense of order. Everypony knew that with the shield spell they were completely locked in for a good half-hour. Colts were roughhousing and wrestling in the dust, while other ponies tried to stake out their own parts of the room to sit and talk in. Over in one corner, Alula had curled up in a tiny ball.

Apple Bloom peered around. It wasn’t like it was a very big space, but she was still having trouble finding her friends – with so many foals bouncing around, it made it all very confusing. Her eyes narrowed as she caught sight of Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara seated on the floor side-by-side, whispering and giggling with one another. “Huh...”

“Hey, Apple Bloom,” Sweetie said, sidling up to her.

“There you are! Boy, I’m sure sick of all these emergency drills, aren’t you?”

Sweetie nodded. “For sure. But… Didn’t we have one of these last week?” Sweetie frowned, a hint of worry entering her voice. “I thought they only tested the alarms like once a month.”

Apple Bloom blinked. “Did we?”

“Last Thursday.” Sweetie Belle craned her head, looking around the room. “Have you seen Scootaloo? I couldn’t find her anywhere.”

Apple Bloom’s eyes slowly trailed up to look at the ceiling, at the glow of the impenetrable shielding spell and the thick trapdoor right past it. The two together blocked out all sound from above. She couldn’t even hear the sirens anymore, much less anything else.

When she looked down again, she noticed her teacher staring upwards as well, face pale and drawn. Their eyes met for an instant, and then Miss Cheerilee put on her best reassuring smile.

“Don’t worry,” Miss Cheerilee said. “Everypony in here is perfectly safe.”