• Published 17th Jan 2012
  • 1,889 Views, 106 Comments

The Donors - GoesKaboom

The truth about Pumpkin and Pound Cake's parentage.

  • ...

Ties That Bind

Chapter Sixteen: Ties That Bind

Sororal Heart Private School, in downtown Manehattan, was an ideal learning environment featuring attentive teachers, rigorous academics, and a diverse student body. The school boasted a surplus of highly-ranked teachers, and was proud to welcome students of all races and species, from all over the world. The facilities were state-of-the-art, and students could join various clubs and activities to keep their minds sharp.

At least, that was what the promotional materials for the school said.

In reality, while the school facilities were quite nice, most of the other claims were either outright lies or the truth had been stretched so much that it was now paper-thin. The students who got the top education were mostly either the children of celebrities, politicians, or wealthy ponies who could afford to donate fat checks to the school every so often. The students who'd gotten in on merit, or scholarship, or whose parents had to work three jobs to afford their tuition? They were relegated to the lowest priority, and the school's administration turned a blind eye to problems like bullying and low academic performance. That was the way it had always been, and that was the way it was going to stay, at least if those at the top had anything to say about it.

Which was why students like Keylogger and his two best friends were such a problem. Nopony could deny that the Earth pony colt was brilliant, but he was such a troublemaker. He already knew the entire computer class curriculum, and he had no qualms about obnoxiously correcting the teachers if they got something wrong. He also seemed to have some sort of misplaced sense of morality. After all, a year ago, the administration had to suspend him for bucking a filly in the face. The filly in question had been the daughter of one of the biggest donors to the school, so of course, there was no question that the colt would have to be punished severely.

Keylogger, unsurprisingly, didn't see it that way.

“But Miss Chalkboard, Shale called Saffron a really rude specist name! My mom said that if she ever caught me using words like that, she'd wash my mouth out with soap and kick my flank! “ the colt protested. “If anypony should be getting in trouble, it's Shale! Do you know what she called Saffron? She called her a 'sand-muncher!'”

Saffron was a camel. By all rights, it should have been a cut-and-dried case- Keylogger should have been suspended for fighting, and Shale should have been suspended for specism and bullying. But instead, Shale got off scot-free while Keylogger and Saffron ended up suspended. Once they were allowed back in school, however, the two became fast friends. A few weeks later, a unicorn colt named Dark Star joined their group, and the three of them had been inseparable ever since.

Because of their bond, Saffron and Dark Star were the only other ponies (or in Saffron's case, camel) that knew about Keylogger's family “business.” And since the colt told his friends everything, of course, he told them about the visit with Moneybags.

“So yesterday this really weird unicorn comes into the store and asks for my parents,” Keylogger explained during break time. “I thought it was really weird, especially since he knew my name, and I kinda panicked. I thought he might have been with the EBI or something. But it turns out he's worked with my parents before, back before I was born and when I was a little foal. Anyway, he had a job for them, and for the first time, my parents are letting me join in and get paid for it! Can you believe it? I'm gonna get 50 bits for it too! I'm gonna ask Lavender Blast to go see the new Iron Mare movie with me, once I get the money!”

“Awesome, dude!” Dark Star cheered on his friend. Saffron, however, just rolled her eyes.

“Bulls,” she said in her accented Equestrian. “You never think anything through! A cow doesn't want to go to action movie on first date! You have to take her some place nice. Like a fancy restaurant. Like Lemongrass.” Keylogger stared at his friends.

“Are you crazy?! I can't afford to take her to Lemongrass! Like, a small salad there is 40 bits! I can't afford that!”

“How many times do I have to tell you,” Dark Star said, in good-natured irritation, “ponies are mares and stallions, not cows and bulls!” Saffron shrugged.

“But I am not a pony,” was all she said.

“Anyway, I'm going home today and working on this project. You guys wanna come? I can ask my mom to make some smoothies and cookies or something.”

“Sorry Keylogger,” Saffron answered apologetically. “I got D on my last Equestrian Literature test. Mother will be angry if Mr. Syntax calls her. I have to go and study and warn her.” Dark Star snorted.

“That's horseapples. You moved here from Saddle Arabia what, two years ago? Sticking you in Equestrian Literature with the rest of us who've been speaking Equestrian our entire lives isn't fair! Syntax has it in for you!” Keylogger nodded in agreement.

“Seriously, Saffron, that's bucked up,” he agreed. “You want me to re-route his paycheck for you?”

“No! Please do not do that!” the camel exclaimed in alarm. “Do not get into trouble for me!” I just need to study more, is all.” Keylogger rolled his eyes.

“Do you honestly think Dark Star and I would be able to learn Bactrian that quickly if we moved to Saddle Arabia? You already speak Equestrian better than I do anyway. Besides, you even understood that stupid book more. You were the one who figured out it was an allegory for Princess Luna's banishment! I just thought it was about a really obnoxious pegasus. Syntax has no legitimate reason to give you bad grades.” Keylogger shook his head, Dark Star copying his friend's movement.

“I'm not stupid, Saffron,” the unicorn said. “I know exactly what's going on here, and I think you do too. This school is full of specist idiots. That's all it is. No amount of studying will get your grades up. The best thing you can do is let Keylogger go to town.”

“I have to try,” the camel protested.

Keylogger hummed slightly, lost in thought. “This guy my parents are working with apparently has a lot of influence and is really powerful... maybe we can ask if he'll help us.” He turned back to his friends. “Come over. I'll finish this job thing, and then I'll ask my mom how to get in touch with Mr. Moneybags. From what I understand he's big in the finance district, maybe we can convince him to cut off money to this place if they don't change or something.”

“Great idea! Let's meet back here after school and we'll head on over to Keylogger's house!”

“I don't really have a choice, do I?” sighed Saffron.

“If we didn't take the initiative, nothing would ever get done around here!” Dark Star exclaimed. “You're lucky to have us looking out for you!”

Hexadecimal glanced at the clock adorning the shop's wall. 2:56 PM. In a few minutes, barring anything unexpected (like Keylogger getting stuck in detention- again), her son would be home. Binary had already done most of the really hard parts- he'd broken into the Equine Reproductive Project's database. Hexadecimal wanted Keylogger to get a good look at the internal structure of the database, and she wanted especially for him to get some practice using queries. After all, if he was going into their line of work, he would be seeing a lot of the insides of databases, and he needed to know how to access the information contained therein.

At exactly 3:02, the door to the shop opened, and Keylogger entered, accompanied by his two best friends- the unicorn colt and the camel... filly? Hexadecimal wasn't exactly sure what one called a female camel, but Saffron was a good kid. She was polite and respectful, something that Keylogger could occasionally stand to emulate.

“Hello,” she greeted, watching as the children entered. “Not that I mind that you two are here, but Keylogger has some obligations to take care of.” The mare shot a glance at her son, who just shrugged. “He needs to take care of them before he does anything else, but you two are welcome to play around on the computers free of charge.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Hexadecimal,” Saffron said politely, “but I really cannot stay...”

“Mama, do you think that Mr. Moneybags could help us with a problem?” Keylogger cut across his friend before she could object. “Saffron is having some trouble in school, and it's not her fault. That teacher is a bucking specist asshole-”

“Language,” Hexadecimal warned, but there was no bite to it. “Is this true?” she addressed the camel gently. Saffron stiffened, and looked like she might try to deny it, but Dark Star stepped in.

“Yes ma'am,” he answered. “Mr. Syntax has Saffron in the same Equestrian Literature class as native speakers and he keeps finding excuses to give her failing grades, even when her work is better than everypony else's. It's not fair, and Saffron is too scared to say anything-”

“Hey!” the camel protested.

“What? It's true. Keylogger says that the stallion you're working with is important and that he might be able to help us get the school to stop treating her so badly.”

The mare rounded on her son. “You told them?” she practically shrieked. Keylogger nodded, looking defensive.

“Mama, they're my best friends. And they were here when you and Dad did that Bank of Equestria job. They kind of already knew about the family business.... and it's not like they'll tell anyone.”

The dusky-pink mare deflated a bit at that. “I'd forgotten about that,” she murmured, more to herself than to anyone else. “Well... I suppose in that case... well, I don't know what Moneybags would be able to do in your school.... as far as I know he has no connection to it at all. But don't worry, Saffron dear. Binary, Keylogger, and I will look into everything. It will turn out alright, I promise you.”

Saffron looked uncomfortable. “Mrs. Hexadecimal, I appreciate it, but it is not necessary. I solve the problem myself.”

“On the contrary, my dear,” Hexadecimal responded. “I raised Keylogger to accept everyone for who they are. I don't much like the idea of my son going to a school where specism is acceptable. I'm very proud of him for not letting your instructors' prejudices rub off on him. My own mother hated non-Earth ponies. I swore I wouldn't be like her, and I swore I wouldn't let my son turn out like her either. Why, when she found out my father's birth father was a unicorn...” the mare cut herself off there. “Well, it's not important. You two, go have fun. And you,” she snapped, eyes darting towards her son, “had best get your flank in that basement and find that information for Mr. Moneybags!” Having given her orders, Hexadecimal turned back to the children. “I'll set to making some smoothies and cookies for you, alright? I have chocolate chips, but do you have any particular smoothie preferences?”

“Just hay for me please,” Dark Star said.

“Can you make strawberry banana?” Saffron asked. Hexadecimal nodded.

“You're in luck. I have strawberries and I have bananas. I'll get right to it.” Then, she turned to look at her son. “What are you still doing up here? Get in that basement, now!”

Once Keylogger was in the basement and his mother safely out of earshot in the kitchen, Dark Star turned to Saffron. “Do you think Keylogger's mom's okay? She seems a little worked up.”

“Isn't Mrs. Hexadecimal always kind of... oh, how would you say it in Equestrian?- hyper?” Saffron answered.

“Yeah, but it's usually like happy-hyper or something.” The unicorn colt obviously wasn't sure what he wanted to say, exactly. “She usually doesn't get pissed like that, and Keylogger says she never, ever mentions her mother. I don't think Keylogger has ever met his biological maternal grandmother. I always assumed she was dead.” Saffron looked bemused.

“Do ponies often discuss their families with one another?” she asked. The unicorn colt snorted.

“Seriously, Saffron, I wish you could come to a Hearth's Warming Eve party sometime. Most ponies reunite with their entire extended families before they go watch the pageants. It's really something to see. My entire family comes all the way in from places as far as Las Neighgas and Appaloosa. My uncle married a zebra, and he and Auntie Zoan fly in from Zebrica every year. I have a cousin who works as liaison to the griffons, and he always tries to come in from Griffinvale, although it's not always possible.”

“I believe you. I am sure it is interesting. I just cannot go to one,” Saffron replied sadly. “I would like to meet your zebra aunt.”

“Yeah, I know. Your parents don't want you to get too Equestrianized. Which is horseapples, just so you know. Don't camels have holidays where they get to see their families?” Saffron shrugged.

“Sort of. But when a cow gets married, she is no longer considered to be a part of her family, she is part of her husband's,” the camel explained. “And in traditionalist families like my mother's, the cow is often not allowed to see her family unless it is for funeral.”

“That's horseapples,” the unicorn reiterated. Saffron laughed.

“My family, on my father's side, isn't so traditional. But I do not see them often either, because my grandmother does not like my mother very much. Religious conflict, you see- Mother is very strict in following the traditional camel religion. Grandmother... well, she's an... I don't know how to say it in Equestrian, but she doesn't believe in any god or goddess, not even Princess Celestia or Princess Luna.”

“She doesn't believe in the princesses?” Dark Star asked, confused. “Like... she doesn't believe they exist?”

“No, no, she believes they exist,” Saffron answered. “She just doesn't think they are... uh... I don't know the word.”



Dark Star laughed and rolled his eyes. “Then who does she think raises the sun and moon?”

“I never asked her,” the camel replied. The two broke down into giggles.

“Your family is weird,” Dark Star teased good-naturedly. Saffron snorted.

“You ponies are not much better,” she shot back, before dissolving into laughter again.

In the kitchen, Hexadecimal cradled her head in her hooves. “Stupid, stupid,” she muttered to herself. “Why are you so bucking stupid?” Not even Binary knew the full extent of her family drama, and he'd been dating her when it all went down.

It wasn't really anything tragic, unless you considered it tragic in the sense that it showed the darker, more corrupt side of the pony condition. Hell, if it had been the storyline to one of her television dramas, she would have lapped it right up, glued to the screen throughout. It was a classic drama- stallion falls in love with mare, mare turns out to be a bigoted jerk, stallion is actually of mixed heritage, so he hides his background, stallion and mare get married without the mare ever knowing. That accurately described the predicament that Hexadecimal's father, Black Hat, found himself in when he met her mother, Pink Tweed. Pink Tweed came from a family of Earth pony supremacists. Supposedly, they could trace their lineage all the way back to Chancellor Puddinghead, although the lessons about learning to cooperate, understand, and trust other ponies despite their differences obviously didn't take for that branch of the family.

Black Hat had been an Earth pony as well, although he came from a mixed union. While his mother, New Clover, had been an Earth pony, his father, the unfortunately-named Zero, had been a unicorn. When Black Hat met Pink Tweed, it was love at first sight. When the stallion learned of his wife's... beliefs, he'd done everything in his power to hide the truth of his parentage. Zero had died of an illness two years before his son met the love of his life, so it wasn't especially difficult to pretend that his widowed mother had been married to an Earth pony stallion. It also helped that New Clover absolutely despised Pink Tweed and wouldn't let the other mare in her house.

The pair had three foals: Hexadecimal, the eldest, Unplugged Cable, a colt, and Starlight, a filly. Starlight, unfortunately, fell ill while she was very young, the disease rendering her essentially catatonic, although she did have moments of lucidity. Currently, she lived in Manehattan Assisted Living Facility. While as time went on, she became more and more lucid, she still wasn't strong enough, or conscious enough consistently to be able to live on her own. Pink Tweed had all but abandoned her youngest foal when she'd fallen ill. Black Hat used to visit his daughter, until he was sent to prison for breaking into computer systems, and nopony had seen Unplugged Cable for years, so Hexadecimal was the only one who still bothered with her.

Hexadecimal and Unplugged Cable grew up about as well as could be expected, given their circumstances. Unplugged Cable probably turned out the best, having adopted neither his mother's bigoted beliefs nor his father's disregard for the law. Hexadecimal did inherit her father's attitudes, but disavowed her mother's beliefs. Things were calm, for a while.

Then everything got shot to shit.

First, Black Hat tripped up and got caught breaking into the Equestrian government's computer systems. Two days after he was arrested, Unplugged Cable announced that he'd gotten a pegasus mare pregnant.

Pink Tweed was furious, but was willing to overlook her son's transgression and help raise her grandfoal, provided that it was an Earth pony like its father, and not a pegasus like its mother.

Nine months later, the pegasus mare gave birth to a unicorn filly.

The truth eventually came out- Black Hat's father had been a unicorn, and Unplugged Cable had passed on the genes to his daughter. The reveal was too much for Pink Tweed to take, who divorced her incarcerated husband and disowned the two children who she'd still acknowledged.

Hexadecimal, for her part, didn't give a flying hoof about her mother abandoning them. Frankly, she was glad to see the back of the meddling old nag. But she did worry for Unplugged Cable and his family. Cable refused to reveal the identity of the mare and her daughter, then one day up and disappeared without a trace. It had been six years since then, and nopony had seen mane nor tail of the stallion.

Hexadecimal smirked bitterly to herself. Her mother's attempts at indoctrination had utterly failed. The mare might have had somewhat skewed morals (and that was putting it mildly), but she had two principles that guided everything she did: loyalty to her family and friends, and a deep, abiding disgust for bigotry. That's why her rage had boiled over at her son's explanation of what his little camel friend had been enduring.

No, she wouldn't stand for it. Not at all.

Keylogger went down to the basement, ready to complete the task that his parents had set for him. Just as his mother had said, his father had already done most of the hacking itself. All he had to do was find the information. Given that Moneybags had provided them with his official record number assigned by the Equine Reproductive Project, it took less than ten minutes for the colt to ferret out the information he was looking for. Apparently Moneybags had only been selected as a donor by one couple.

Clicking on the profile, Keylogger scanned the information about the mare that would be carrying the unicorn's foal before hitting “print.” She seemed pretty ordinary: worked as a baker in a small, podunk town in the middle of nowhere called Ponyville, was married to another baker, the works. Her name was apparently “Cup Cake.” Keylogger snorted at that. He knew it was impolite to make fun of somepony's name, but seriously? Cupcake? Why couldn't she just be called Cupcake? Why Cup space Cake? That was just silly.

Once the page had printed out, Keylogger was about to close out of the window when something else on the page caught his eye. Apparently Cupcake (sorry, Cup Cake) had chosen a second stallion as a donor. Curious, the colt clicked on the hyperlinked number and was taken to a different page, featuring an oddly familiar-looking pegasus stallion named Steel Seethe. Deciding that Moneybags might want this information too, Keylogger printed out that page as well. He wouldn't have given it any more thought if he hadn't glanced down at the stallion's home address, in black-and-white on the printed page.

137490 Rainboom Way, Unit 2F, Manehattan, Equestria.

Lavender Blast's house.

To Be Continued

Author's Comments:

ARGH. Too... much... plot. The next time I decide I want to write a novel-length fic, someone stop me.

Actually, I have a question for anyone reading this: would you prefer for me to cut out some of the side plots, and streamline the story somewhat? When I first planned out this story, it took up one page of looseleaf paper, front and back. Now, it's six pages of looseleaf, front and back on all of them. But some of the extra layers to this story could be deleted without affecting the main storyline. Like, the hacker ponies, Derpy's part (which will be coming up eventually although you do get a clue to what it is in this chapter), and the side plot with Keylogger's friends... none of this is exactly directly related to the Cake family, although it does add more depth to the story. All of this could be deleted and it would shorten the eventual length of the story by about ten chapters.

I don't want to bore anyone reading this, so let me know if you want me to keep the sub-plots. If you don't, that's fine too, I won't be offended. :)