• Published 21st Apr 2017
  • 2,296 Views, 100 Comments

Cross Reference - Eyeswirl the Weirded



Following the events of the Friendship Games, various parties adapt to their new lives.

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Chapter 4: Goals

Goal: Get big and powerful again, at least back to what they were before the Battle of the Bands.

Stretch goal: Become super-awesome queen of everything.

Way to do that: Come to Crystal Prep and take it over.

Specific way to do that? Sonata didn't know, and Aria was kind of dragging her feet so far.

"So," she thought out loud on the bus-ride over, "takin' over a school without magic is kinda tough, huh?"

"Maybe," Aria muttered back as she watched the world go by through the window, "but at least we don't have to go to little diners, parks, and any family outings we stumble across to grind up enough energy to do it."

Seriously, five months straight and Adagio said we had just enough to bewitch the cafeteria. No more of that crap; we're gonna go for the real power in this world; cold, hard cash!

...

Or, like, credit too. The kind you buy stuff over the internet wi- Just, money! Money in general! That's what they've got at Crystal Prep, and that's what's gonna be in my control when I have 'em all eating out of my hand.

Sonata stared at the side of Aria's head as she waited for a clue, but she could see from her expression that she was just daydreaming about tons of people pulling her around in a golden sleigh or whatever. Fine, Sonata would fantasize too!

...

.........

.............

.........

...!

Porcupines. Porcupines are cool.

*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*

Expectations were a bitch. That was what Indigo Zap had firmly decided today.

Specifically, the one that 'prim, proper,' and whatever else Crystal Prep students were expected to be that meant everyone had to get to school early, like at least half an hour before classes were supposed to start. It wasn't a hard rule, there was no punishment if you showed up two seconds before the bell rang, but everyone would look at you funny and whisper behind your back, then make fun of you for it to your face and make the whispering part a little extra stupid.

She didn't know why it was a big deal, it just was, and it was the reason she once again found herself sitting idly in the cafeteria (where a lot of other students waited for the day to actually start) with nothing to really do. As annoying as all that was, though, it wasn't the thing really bugging her as she passed the time by talking to Lemon.

"...so it's like, I don't know about the blue one, but if Aria doesn't like it here, she's probably just gonna go back to CHS. Maybe there's somewhere she could be the best at something around here, everyone's favorite thing, but she gets so evasive every time someone brings up cheerleading that I don't think she's gonna go for it."

Sitting next to her, headphones on, Lemon bobbed her head as Indigo kept talking.

"Of course, even if she was the best ever at something, she'd just be another snotty, I'm-better-than-you-because-I-can-walk-a-tightrope-with-pretzels-hanging-from-my-ears kinda kid, so would it be better to hope she just sorta settles in on her own?" Lemon kept nodding, drawing a smile as Indigo reached out to pat her head. "You always know what to do."
"Well, if it isn't Indigo Sap!"
Lemon happily accepted her head-pats.

Artist's depiction:

"...Uh, hey! I'm talking to you!!"
"C'mon," Indigo said as she got to her feet, "they'll probably be here soon." The two of them headed off together, paying no mind to any other voices in the cafeteria.
"Why do you always do this?!"

"Probably because she doesn't like us, Glitter."

"...Shut up, Glitz."

*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*

Even if she was starting to feel like she might have been getting a good handle on Sociology (basically just memorizing tid-bits of one big, long story), Aria still knew she wasn't doing great in school so far. That was fine, there was plenty of time before they'd be doing report cards or anything, right? Not that it would matter if Adagio straight up asked her how she was doing, but until a test was taken, graded, and passed back, she didn't have to solidly answer anything!

For now, she'd focus on taking over the school. It was only their first week here, so she opted to stick with recon until she was pretty sure she knew the score, and the second break period was a pretty good time for that. Her current objective was to find out if Sugarcoat had clued in that she was hatching a plot to usurp Sunny Flare's place and whether or not she cared as they sat at the lunch table together.

"So," she began, nodding to Sunny Flare and Blueblood a few seats away, "most likely king and queen for that dance comin' up?"

"I assume you are referring to the standard event of regular schools," she answered without looking away from her sandwich, "in which a hollow, fleeting position is filled by winners of a popularity contest. That is not how things are done here."

Briefly thinking back to Cinch's disdainful comments on popularity contests back in the Friendship Games, Aria nodded, knowing Sugarcoat's reaction to her next question would give her a hint about how much she suspected. "And how does Crystal Prep do it?"

"Titles and minor medals are awarded based on academic merit and accomplishment, which are most often boiled down to bragging rights until the next such gathering. That in mind, Prince Blueblood may still net a title or two, as well as Sunny Flare if her relevant academic rivals haven't improved to the point that they may have been chosen for a competition like the Friendship Games instead."

No sign of suspicion for asking, thought Aria, so far so good. Unless I want her to know. Would she work with me? I know she likes tormenting Sunny Flare, but these two have known each other for a lot longer.

"Do these medals and stuff matter to anybody else, or is it like when you guys won the first round in the Friendship Games?"

"Both. While not universally applicable, many of those that you saw that day were not remaining quiet out of apathy, but envy. To succeed means recognition, which the pressured students of Crystal Prep can almost always be expected to long for. To put that another way, even if not everyone will outright show it, everyone notices when someone outperforms them."

That was something Aria could certainly relate to, noting that she might have a better understanding of Crystal Prep than she first thought. In fact, it reminded her just a little of Coltlantis. Kelpies certainly noticed when she won that showcase, the one that first got her Adagio's atten-

Her train of thought was thrown off by Sonata's loud laughter. Turning her head to see the culprit sitting between a giggling Lemon Zest and a confused Sour Sweet.

"Hey, hey Aria," called Sonata as she tried to pull herself together, pointing to Sour Sweet, "you should talk to this one, she's really funny!"

Sour Sweet's eyes narrowed as she grumbled her response. "Not as funny as your career prospects."

"Yea, that-" Sonata blinked, her smile vanishing in an instant. "Hey!"

Surprised, Aria snorted in amusement. "Heh, yea, I see what you mean; she is funny."

Sonata's brow furrowed. "She was talking all nice a second ago."

Smiling sweetly, Sour Sweet folded one arm over the other. "Hahaha, I'm always nice," her tone changed again, "when I'm not talking to a moron."

Sonata huffed and pouted as Aria laughed again, the latter wiping a tear from her eye before addressing Sour Sweet. "Just a heads-up; she doesn't get sarcasm." Chuckling at the resulting eye-roll, she turned back to Sugarcoat. "So, this contest thing, what are the categories? Is it just whoever does best in whatever classes or are there specific marks to reach?"

"Once more, both, but being at the top of a class is much easier to boast about on account of other people still being in those classes once awards are passed out, unlike the groups of people working toward specific achievements. And yes, those specific achievements are, in most circles, seen as 'tryhard bait.'"

"Seriously? Those exact words?"

"Most often, yes." She smiled a little. "I hope you enjoy hearing the dignified, sophisticated students of Crystal Prep being forced to use modern slang when more appropriate terms are not forthcoming, because it happens more often than you might suspect."

"Sounds like you do."

"If you're interested, I'll print you a copy of my Bingo card."

"Heh, I'll think about it."

"Noted. The way it works is that there are primary and secondary categories, the former being more valuable in the eyes of Principal Cinch and potential employers, the latter more valuable in the eyes of your fellow students. The secondary categories are simply those at the top of the class, holders of the highest grade point averages and best performance in extracurricular activities. There is an unspoken rule that winners are expected to have won at least one competition recognized by Crystal Prep, brought back some kind of trophy to display, but it is not 'strictly required.'"

"So I'd have to join a club?"

"Or make one."

Sugarcoat discreetly studied Aria's face here, and from the contemplative uncertainty she witnessed, determined that Aria may have been on the verge of starting up Crystal Prep's very own cheerleading squad if she wasn't confident that she would excel in existing clubs. Perhaps she could get something out of Indigo Zap with that information. Adjusting her glasses, she continued.

"The primary categories are a little more involved, because to win them requires going above and beyond what students are already expected to do; pulling off something amazing in Science, The Arts, or Study. Please note that this is a Crystal Prep tradition that goes back many decades and is not taken lightly by the staff, not a simple contest to be entered and prizes bestowed to the best of whoever shows up. It is entirely possible to go to great lengths in the hope of earning recognition only to be met with disdain and dismissal, as many have lost considerable social standing in finding out."

"...Oh." Aria briefly looked away. "So it's... pretty much just something to impress shareholders somewhere and keep that 'reputation' intact? Prove the school is doing that whole 'best and brightest' minds shtick?"

"As far as the school itself is concerned, yes. There are personal, long-term benefits to attaining these accolades, but the endearment of the student body is not one of them."

"Huh. Well, I'll, probably stick to the secondaries, then. For now. Maybe."

Part of Sugarcoat was disappointed, and not just because she was interested in seeing what Aria might have come up with for any of the primary categories. She had anticipated that the two newcomers would get intimidated sooner or later, but had hoped that part would at least wait until they had seen direct competition of some sort.

Oh, well. Play through.

"I assume you'll gravitate towards something athletic." She got an irritable eyebrow raise for this. "I am not calling you mentally deficient, you have a lean and hungry look to you."

"Oh." Aria scratched her head. "Well, I mean, the looks on peoples' faces in gym tell me I was doin' pretty good, so... helps to know your strengths, right?"

"Indeed."

Sugarcoat continued with her lunch, again disappointed that her reference seemed to have gone completely over Aria's head. Must not have been paying attention when they went over Caesar and Cassius in class. No matter. Whatever Aria, and possibly Sonata, were planning, it was bound to make things interesting around here.

*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*

Standing near the cafeteria doors just after lunch, Dean Cadence quietly watched the students as they returned to classes. Two in particular stood out; those cheerleader girls that transferred from CHS the other day. She frowned a little as Aria Blaze brushed past another pair of students that were trying to get her attention (students that made Cadence feel like a bad dean for failing to remember their names again), not feeling any better when Sonata Dusk outright pushed the other girls out of the way to catch up to her. It wasn't like a shove or anything, but a crowded-hallway-acceptable push.

Still, she didn't want to judge them for it, because they were probably under a lot of stress by now. Figuring out how hard the course material was here had certainly given Cadence a shock when she was younger, and not just because she learned the hard way, so she could understand the two not being as polite as might be ideal.

Or heck, maybe they just weren't confident about navigating the halls yet and wanted to be sure they got to class on time? Couldn't fault them for that, right? Well, she couldn't, but she'd find out if Principal Cinch could when she got to her office to deliver her report.

*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*

"I see. Was that the peak of their ill behavior?"

"That's all I've seen, yes."

"Hm." Sitting at her desk, Cinch steepled her fingers, resting her chin on them as she idly glanced at the clock. "Then perhaps they are in good shape. Truth be told, I've never understood the need people have to stop in busy hallways for idle chit-chat, much less the merits of doing so when there are places to be. Even if it is not sheerly due to focus on their attendance record, I think we can allow this without comment. On that note...?"

"I've checked with their teachers," Cadence said while drawing a paper from her bag to double-check, "and it kind of looks like they're... not doing so great. Not a single F or D so far, but no A's, either." To her equal surprise and concern, Abacus Cinch smiled.

"In other words, their scores are average? Standard? Neither great nor terrible?"

"Er, yes?"

Cinch chuckled. "I'll need you to do me a favor: Do not interfere with their academic lives unless they come to you." Seeing Cadence make a face as though she'd been instructed to leave mewling kittens out in the rain, she rolled her eyes. "You are free to offer assistance, if only as a reminder that it is available to them, but the initiative to improve must be their own. Is that clear?"

Relieved, Cadence smiled. "Crystal clear, Principal Cinch."

It was cheesy and stupid, Cadence knew that, but she'd been giving that answer for two years and she'd give it for many more as long as it kept making her stoic, stony boss smile even just a little. Cinch was the one that kept setting her up for it anyway, right?

*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*

Reclining as best she could on the gym bleachers, a miniskirt-and-belly-shirt-clad Adagio wondered if it would be too tacky of her to have a lawn chair brought in here. There was little direct sunlight at this time of day, but with no one else in her 'squad' and no one to talk to, she felt like lounging a for a bit. Maybe while wearing sunglasses, just to complete the image for anyone that walked in. Unfortunately, even with her excessively fluffy hair to lean back on, she couldn't quite get comfortable enough to stay where she was.

Getting up with a mild sigh, she took a quick look around the gym to see that she was still alone. Not that that bothered her or anything, but it did mean she had some time to spare. Bringing out her phone, she swiped the screen a few times to put some music on, got to her feet, and started going through the routines she'd be sharing if anyone ever joined.

Slowly gyrating her hips in rhythm with wide, sweeping arm-motions, Adagio smirked. If anyone actually ended up joining her unit, she knew exactly what she would teach them. If Celestia had willingly given her control of the school's cheerleading subdivision, there was no reason she had to emulate Sonata rather than practicing dances that reflected her own sexy style a little more. She'd keep it classy, of course, but what were Rarity's words on this occupation? That young ladies would 'parade about a bit'?

She moved her body in rhythm with the slow, but percussive beat of the song she'd chosen, swinging her legs to step into a hip-shake just strong enough to flick the side of her skirt upward without outright flashing anyone. She knew some kind of chant would be important too, so she'd need to either come up with cheers for pretty much any sporting situation or instruct any prospective members of her squad on suggestive improv.

Or, since any random girl that joined probably wouldn't be as in-sync with me as Aria and Sonata, maybe having several general-purpose cheers is the way to go.

She'd need to know who and what she was working with before she could make any kind of concrete plan there, so for now, she focused on the dancing.

Unbeknownst to Adagio, two of her fellow students watched her through the gym's double-doors, cracked just enough to peek through.

"So she really does mean it with the cheerleading stuff," whispered Trixie, eyebrow raised in mild disbelief and crouched down to avoid detection. "Or, whatever she's up to involves copious amounts of hip-swinging. Man, look at her go..."

Standing behind Trixie at an angle from which she could still see through the crack, Maud had no comment to offer for the situation, but was content to join Trixie on her whimsical adventures anyway.

The practice went on for a while, the head cheerleader demonstrating a variety of dances from slow, hypnotic motions to quick, but calculated movements to draw attention to particular body parts for only an instant before resuming a less racy routine, but no cheers or chants were heard. Eventually, Adagio checked her phone, put it in her hair (Trixie knew it!!), and walked off toward the locker rooms, presumably to change into her street clothes and head home.

Shaking her head a little as she stood up, Trixie turned to Maud. "It's so weird, isn't it? I thought for sure that sending the other two away meant that she didn't want them caught in the blast for whatever she was doing, but she's legit just kind of existing now."

"Yes," replied Maud in complete monotone, "existing is very weird."

Grinning playfully, Trixie replied with a light shove. "Freakin' smartass. I mean it's weird seeing her of all people not planning our collective demise or even going all wimpy-apologetic like Sunset Shimmer and the new Twilight Sparkle did. Been like a week now and nothing's happened!" Thinking about it, her lips slowly curved into a sinister smile. "Still... If she's not up to anything, maybe that means there's room?"

Maud raised a single eyebrow just enough for it to be noticeable.

"Think about it; the position of Head Bitch In Charge of CHS has been pretty much vacant ever since Sunset ate the dirt at the Fall Formal, and if Little Miss Hips-For-Days isn't gonna step up and take it, that means it's still open!" She adopted a particularly wicked look as she wrung her hands. "And if their power isn't built on magic, nobody'll even try to stop them!"

Trixie held her pose and facial expression for almost a full minute before noticing that Maud wasn't saying anything, leading her to look askance at her geology-loving friend. "...You see where I'm going with this?"

The most obvious sign of Maud tilting her head was her hair slowly shifting to hang at uneven lengths on each side. "You seek this title for yourself."

It didn't sound like a question, but it felt like one, Trixie answering with a hint of a frown. "Well, yea. It'd be pretty fantastic, ruling all over the place like Sunset did, just without any of the crater stuff that came when she brought Magical Girl crud into the mix. Does that bother you?"

Maud Pie, Trixie had learned, was not always quick with her responses, but when asked why, she had shared a nugget of wisdom that made Trixie completely fine with that:

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply.”

She figured it meant that Maud was always thinking about what she heard, not just what she could say, so her responses actually meant something. That usually made it easier to wait a little longer than when talking to a normal person, but this time, the wait was just a little tense.

"...It does not bother me, per se, it makes me worry."

Seeing where her thoughts were going, Trixie regained a confident smile. "Well don't, because Trixie will not repeat the stupid mistakes of Sunset Let's Just Leave All This Evidence On Top Of The Trash Can Shimmer, will not be careless and overconfident like she was, and will not get expelled!" Crossing her arms and raising her chin, she smirked haughtily. "Even Sunset managed to avoid that last one, so Trixie will surely be safe." Studying Maud's face, she found no signs that she had gotten more worried, which, knowing Maud, she took to mean acceptance. "Still, there is one big, fat question hanging over this little Become The New Head Bitch scheme..." Her confident demeanor shifted to a perplexed one as she idly brushed her chin. "How will I actually do it?"

"You can be a bitch," Maud replied without the faintest hint of emotion, "I believe in you."

Smirking in amusement, Trixie very lightly punched Maud's shoulder. "Freakin' smartass. C'mon," she said while striking a comical Adventure Awaits kind of pose, a fist in the air, "I believe Trixie was promised the wonders of cathedral geodes today!"

Trixie didn't notice as the two headed out to go see the aforementioned museum display, but Maud's lips quirked into the tiniest grin.

In their excitement for pretty stones (Trixie's favorite kind), neither noticed the two freshmen that stuck closely to a wall just around the corner, Diamond Tiara peeking around when things were quiet to confirm that they were both gone.

"Did you hear all that?"

"Yea," answered Silver Spoon, "what's a cathedral geode?"

"I dunno, but that's not the important thing! She said that there was room for somebody to take over the school and do whatever they want! Just like bacon girl used to!"

"...And?"

Diamond facepalmed. "Seriously?"

"Okay, okay, but don'tcha think the girls with the magic will just run up, steamroll over anyone that tries to be like Sunset was, and call it a day? I kinda thought that was why there hasn't been another queen bee since then."

"Uhh..." The prospect of consequences sinking in, Diamond scratched her head. "That, that's just, um..."

"...?"

"..." Diamond folded her arms and glared at the floor. "Dammit, that's a pretty big problem. But," she said with a simultaneously annoyed and hopeful expression, "Trixie sounded like she really thought she could do it! Didn't she say that as long as there was no magic involved, it'd all be cool?"

Silver shrugged. "Trixie's stupid."

Diamond angrily pouted. "Well I'm not... There's gotta be a way around those girls."

"Around which girls?"

Diamond and Silver both shrieked in fright at the sound of the new voice, whipping around to see a slightly perplexed Adagio Dazzle looking down at them, eyebrow raised.

"Uh," stuttered Diamond, "the, th-the ones that, uh-"

"COTTON CANDY!!" Adagio and Diamond turned to look at Silver, who quickly turned the hue of her shouted food as she stared back at them. "Uh, I-I mean, at the carnival, there's always these girls who crowd around the cotton candy machine, a-and, we always have a hard time getting around them to grab a stick, so we were talking about what we'd do about that?"

She'd said it all in one breath and faster than strictly necessary, but that wasn't the detail that got Adagio's attention as her eyes narrowed. "Would these girls happen to be purple with pigtails and blue with a ponytail? Carrying a shillelagh? Because I told them to stop doing tha-"

"Uh, n-no ma'am," answered Silver, too afraid to blink.

"Oh. Well," she said with a shrug as she turned to walk away, "best of luck with that situation anyway." Smiling a little, she called over her shoulder. "Maybe try talking within earshot about diabetes and weight gain, see if that moves them!"

As the older girl left, cackling, Silver Spoon finally started to feel her insides warm up again. She looked at her only friend to find her still staring after the huge, bobbing curls as Adagio left, her eyes wider than the time her dad actually did come home early to spend Christmas with her. Silver had a bad feeling.

Diamond started to grin. "Hey, Silver?"

A very bad feeling!

The grin slowly turned all evil, her eyes still focused on Adagio's back. "I've got an idea..."

*\0/* *\0/* *\0/*

Setting down her bookbag as she closed her bedroom door, Twilight breathed a sigh of relief. Once her puppy had settled down and the daily period of overflowing excitement he felt upon learning that she had survived another day was concluded, she sat at her desk, looking over her notes on magic.

There wasn't much added since the end of the Friendship Games, just random, disjointed tidbits from things Sunset had told her here and there. She'd learned a bit about unicorns, the kinds of creatures in the other world, the concept of 'Cutie Marks' (Sunset insisted that that really was what they were called), and the more controllable properties of Equestrian alchemy, but nothing usable on this side of the portal. None of the new information had come from Adagio, because... she was hard to talk to, even without the serial-groper difficulties Twilight had been trying to work through.

That wasn't to say that she was groping Adagio on purpose and struggling to stop, she was struggling to not have that happen at all, because there had already been so many accidents like that and-

She shook her head. Nothing like that had happened within the last few days, so maybe she was in good shape. Did it matter that she achieved this through very rarely being within arm's reach of Adagio and remaining cautious any time they were in physical proximity to one another? It felt disingenuous to say otherwise, but she wanted to make it perfectly clear to everyone (Adagio and the rest of the school, the many witnesses to my embarrassing impacts) that she wasn't the crazed pervert she must have looked like during the Friendship Games. Not helping at all was that Adagio Dazzle was a very, very pretty girl, and anyone within viewing range of her was bound to let their eyes linger longer than strictly necessary. She knew this, because she'd even seen her newest friends doing it a few times!

Well, maybe once that was all behind her, she would have an easier time focusing on the thing that brought her attention to CHS in the first place. She wanted to study magic, but slowly this time, carefully, in short, easily-controlled steps. The spectrometer was history, and even if she couldn't bring herself to destroy the blueprints, she wouldn't be rebuilding it any time soon. She'd been far too greedy, far too careless last time, and the consequences could have been apocalyptic had she not been stopped.

...The propensity to doubt statements was directly proportional to the dramatic level with which they were delivered, which may have had something to do with teenage tendencies toward exaggeration, but in this case, she knew it was true!

Luckily, life on Earth continued, and with it, her chance to learn more about these energies from another world. It had occurred to her that she probably could have made a new model of spectrometer to only measure, not contain magical energy, but that was what the first one was supposed to do, so it was safe to say that she didn't understand enough about these things to even measure them yet, and wouldn't be repeating her past mistakes.

...Still...

In a slightly irrational moment, she looked around her otherwise empty bedroom (Spike wouldn't tattle on me now that he can't talk anymore, and hopefully not even if he could), opened a drawer in her desk, and smiled. The new project was by no means done, and probably wouldn't be for a while, but who could resist tinkering a little? She wasn't going to fully assemble this thing until she understood how these energies worked, whether they flowed from high to low like heat, along some kind of circuit like electricity, or just went by completely alien rules that she couldn't begin to guess at on her own, but some day, she wanted to be able to detect, measure, and analyze this stuff.

That wasn't too much to ask, was it?

Author's Note:

Mostly just establishing stuff that I didn't feel I could get away with skipping this chapter, but I hope at least some of it was amusing anyway.

If you're thinking that this story might end up getting hectic with all the different characters and all the different side-plots going on at once, you're probably right, because that's kind of the idea! The trick is presenting it well enough that it's more fun than confusing.

Aria has seen Disney's The Princess and The Frog, along with most of the animated movies. The villains' behavior may or may not factor into her general approach in getting CP under her control, only she'll be avoiding high places whenever she can help it.

I originally had the idea of having Aria and Sonata mutually befriend one 'half' of Sour Sweet each, even taking sides and trying to get their favorite to come out as the dominant half, pitting Sour against herself as they cheered for her while she bounced back and forth between reactions, but as much crazy fun as that could have been (nevermind the possible toll on Sour's psyche), I don't legitimately see Sour as having a split personality because even her Sweet side seems to be sarcastic and not at all genuine, meaning it's just more Sour.

Even when she hung out with Teen Tia and Lil' Luna, Young Cinch was not much fun at parties.

Beautiful Maud and Trixie interactions! I'm playing with a slightly more sinister Trixie and a slightly more silly Maud than usual here, which I'm hoping makes for a fun dynamic.