Copper Head could hardly believe the situation that he and Spot were in. Somehow, they had both been captured by giant talking wolves, imprisoned, given three strange tests, and practically forced to attend a military school in a far away country filled with a breed of ponies that no one has heard of. He furrowed his brow. Everything seemed to have happened so fast, as if he was just in a dream. Yet here he was. In the middle of a crowd of cloudwalkers, waiting for the speaker to finish whatever she was doing.
“Copper Head? You should pay attention, she's calling out names now.” The voice was Spot, Copper Head's newest companion and the only pony he could relate to in this foreign environment. She was listening intently to the mare on the platform and noticed Copper spacing out, “She's starting to name ponies and the teacher's they've been assigned to.”
“You mean we aren't all in the same class?” Copper Head inquired, “I guess I really did miss a lot.”
“Not much really. Four ponies will be assigned a teacher who will give them all of their quizzes, tests, assignments, etc. The speaker made a very big deal about how all of these teachers graduated from this academy as the best in their class, and that our time here will be easy or difficult depending on which teacher we are assigned.”
“Oh.” Copper Head thought for a second, “But what if you and me aren't given the same teacher?” A moment passed and Copper Head glanced at Spot after she didn't respond. She looked sad and suddenly pressed herself against Copper Head's side. Copper Head felt bad for her, I would probably be alright on my own, but Spot... Who knows what could possibly happen to her. She's so fragile. For her sake, I hope we're with the same teacher.
Soon, the assigning process began. The mare on the platform shuffled through her notes until she found the one she was looking for, “Our first teacher is Miss Dover Dust.” A white cloudwalker who had been sitting near the stage quickly hopped out of her seat and jumped on stage. Her green mane was cut short, but the erratic gusts of wind still blew the longer strands of hair into her face. “Assigned to Miss Dust is Apple Spritzer, Alumina, Off Topic, and Solid Smoke. Will you please come to the stage at this time.” A colorful group of four ponies made their way out of the crowd and onto the stage. They greeted their teacher and quickly exited the platform.
What came next seemed like a blurr of names and bodies. One by one, students were paired with their teacher; and little by little, the crowd of ponies grew smaller. There were only a handful of ponies left, yet neither Copper Head nor Spot were called yet. However, they still weren't in the clear. Three teachers were left. Three chances for them to be separated. “Our next teacher is,” the announcer paused for a moment as she read the name in her head. In the most serious tone she had every produced, the mare read the name aloud, “Kloud Nine.”
The remaining ponies in the crowd starting murmuring. Spot could barely make out one of them saying, “Didn't his last group of students fail miserably? I heard he's probably the hardest teacher in the entire academy.”
The pony next to him responded, “Yeah, I heard that too. It's probably because he's King Krafty's younger brother.”
“And the student's under his tutelage are Copper Head,” immediately Copper Head's heart dropped. He looked at Spot who was staring back at him with large pleading eyes. He had no choice, but to walk up to the stage. As he made his way across the lawn, the mare started calling more names, “Grand Prix.” Copper Head remembered that name; the daughter of the stallion they met in King Krafty's castle? “Shadow Storm.” Another familiar name, the son of Angel Storm. Copper Head started to think that he put all of them together on purpose. “Spot.”
Copper Head's ears perked up and he looked back to see the yellow unicorn bounding across the grass to him. They looked into each others eyes, but exchanged no words. They shared a smile and returned to walking up to the platform. The two made their way to the stairs and slowly started climbing them. They were cheap wooden ones that weren't meant for frequent use and as soon as Copper Head put his full weight onto the wooden planks, they groaned under his weight. I guess cloudwalkers don't weigh as much as normal ponies... that or I suddenly got fatter... He frowned and hoped that the latter was false.
When Copper Head and Spot emerged onto the stage, they were met with two unfamiliar faces. One was a mare with a white coat and a red mane. She had a golden trophy in front of two checkered flags as a cutie mark and a checkered scarf; marking her as Grand Prix, the daughter of F1. She looked rather annoyed and avoided eye contact with either Spot or Copper Head. The other was a stallion with a dark blue coat and a black mane with a gold stipe. By default, he would have to be Shadow Storm, the son of Angel Storm. He eyed the two non-Cloudwalkers with great interest, but with very little subtlety.
There was a harsh grunt that caused all four ponies to jump. Looming next to them was a disgruntled stallion. His face was covered in scars and there was a cigarette hanging from his mouth. He held a striking resemblence to King Krafty, except for the splotches of black in his coat on his back and nose. “Figures I would get the two foreigners and Krafty's pets. I guess he'll baby me till the day I die.” He spat out the cigarette which fell through the cracks of the stage. Copper Head wondered if that would start a fire, but apparently the teacher didn't care as he brushed past them. “Well, let's get going. You have a long and painful day ahead of you. Might as well get a head start, eh?” He laughed as he made his way down the steps.
Grand Prix rolled her eyes and passed Copper Head and Spot without a word. “Don't worry about her.” Spot and Copper could feel hooves around their shoulders. It was Shadowstorm, “She's always like that, stuck up and arrogant and all that. But she'll come around. Name's Shadowstorm by the way. What's yours?” They both gave him their name, “Really? Sound's kinda odd to me. Anyway, we should catch up with the teacher. It's always best to make a good first impression.” He hopped down the stairs with Copper Head and Spot following close behind.
The entrance to the school was not far from the back of the stage. There was a small patch of grass and a cobblestone path leading to a small bridge. A small pony-made river ran under the bridge that hosted a variety of wildlife as indicated by the numerous quacks, croaks, and buzzes. Kloud Nine was waiting by the door with Grand Prix. Neither of them looked at each other. As Copper Head, Spot, and Shadowstorm approached, Kloud Nine spoke, “As soon as we head inside we are going to head up the stairs to my office, which is on the ninth floor. Don't stop at the other floors. I don't want any of you getting a head start.
Kloud Nine swung opened the door to the academy and a blast of warm air swept over the ponies. The warmth was a great change to the cold atmosphere outside, so all the ponies hurried through the large wooden doors. Inside, there was a broad staircase in the middle of a small room and corridors leading off to the left and right. Kloud Nine led the group up the stairs and past several floors. At each one of the floors there was a set of large doors with small windows set in the middle of each. Most of the ponies didn't bother peering through the glass, but Spot couldn't resist. From what Spot could see, the rooms beyond the double doors were vastly different from the previous floors. Beyond one door was a tropical jungle, behind another was a desert wasteland, and behind yet another was a snow covered city. What's with all these different floors? Spot contemplated, This place is nothing like the schools in Neighjing. No classrooms, no school ponies wandering the halls, no library; not even a bonsai garden! I wonder if the others noticed. She tried to read the other ponies' faces, but it seemed like they were oblivious to what was behind the many doors they passed. She couldn't investigate alone, and asking the teacher might only make him mad. For now, Spot decided to put these thoughts away for later.
As they reached the ninth floor, there was another door, but this one was actually painted into the wall. Kloud Nine stopped and looked deeply into the wall before muttering, “Every dog has its day.” The painting suddenly swirled and changed colors. It went from a small green door to a wide red door which was rounded at the top. The teacher opened it and stepped through while the ponies sat staring at it in wonder.
“What was all that about?” Shadowstorm walked up to the door and stuck his hoof through the opening. “It was just a painting a second ago.”
Grand Prix pushed him out of the way, “Ugh. It's called magic, stupid. Krafty has this kind of stuff all over the kingdom. You can be such an idiot sometimes.”
Spot interjected for Shadowstorm, “Hey, there's no reason to be so mean. We're a team now. We should learn to get along.”
Grand Prix rolled her eyes, “Psh. There's no reason to. As long as we get good enough grades, I don't care what happens to you three. I'm here to be the best, and I don't need you all holding me back.” Grand Prix went through the door, before anypony else could say a word.
Copper Head huffed, “Well that was rude. I have a bad feeling about her, guys.”
Spot grinned, “We'll just have to show her the magic of friendship. If we just keep being friendly, she'll start being friendly back. Trust me, I used to be a teacher.” She turned with a flourish and entered the room. Copper Head and Shadowstorm exchanged a look before heading into the room after her.
The room beyond the portal looked a lot like an office. It was small and a dark mahogany desk filled most of the space. Three chairs sat opposite the desk and bookshelves stood at its sides. The wall behind the desk was mostly comprised of a large window. The view overlooked the side of the mountain and a floating island like the ones Copper Head and Spot had seen earlier hovered in the distance. Ponies could be seen flitting to and fro between islands like small birds flying from tree to tree.
Kloud Nine was at the desk with an already lit cigarette in his mouth. The desk itself was littered with papers of various shapes, sizes, and colors. The stallion took his hoof and pushed all of the papers off the desk. Before they could hit the ground, the papers twirled around and magically placed themselves in a neat piles on the corner of the desk. He then opened one of the drawers and procured four small blue books. He tossed them at his students, all of whom managed to catch them except Shadowstorm who was struck in the face with the book.
Copper Head set the book down and flipped through the pages. There was a bunch of words, but also some drawings and pictures. The best kind of book. He finished flipping through the pages and asked, “So what are these for?”
Kloud Nine set the cigarette in an ashtray and replied, “Student Handbook. You'll need them for your first assignment, but before that, you'll need to know the password in order to get back into my office. It's 'Every dog has its day.' Make sure you remember it!”
Grand Prix raised an inquisitvie eyebrow, “Every dog has its day? What's that even supposed to mean? Wait...” Grand Prix smirked, “It has to do with your name doesn't it? Kloud Nine. If you shorten that down you get K9.”
Kloud Nine frowned, “Dang kids get more smart mouthed every year.” He leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. “Yeah, that's the reason. Ever since we were kids, Krafty always called me K9. He always thought I looked like a dog and that's why the password is dog related. Heck, even my magic is dog related, but enough of that!” K9 quickly leaned forward and surprised the four ponies, “I best be telling you your assignment.” K9 took out another copy of the Student Handbook and opened it, “Turn to page 22. You should see a page with a list on it.”
The four ponies opened their books to page 22 where they found a list titled, “Actions That Warrant Detention.” Spot examined it closely while commenting, “I'll be sure to memorize all of these rules within the hour. I haven't had detention in my entire life, and I don't intend to start now.”
K9 chuckled, “Well that's too bad. Because your first assignment it to get detention.”
“WHAT?” Spot yelled, “NO! I can't tarnish my record! I take pride in my academic conduct, and you want me to TRY to get detention?”
K9 nodded, “Yeah, that's pretty much what I want you to do.”
Spot muttered, “You monster...”
“Anyway... I'm splitting you up as well. Copper Head, you're with Shadowstorm. Grand Prix, you're with Spot. I'm not letting a guy and a girl go together for this assignment. I've made that mistake once and I'm not writing that much paperwork again...”
Copper Head was about to complain about the pairings when suddenly a hole in the ceiling sucked up Shadowstorm, Grand Prix, and Spot. Copper Head could feel the suction pulling him up, but he was firmly planted to the ground. K9 raised an eyebrow, “Still here? I should get those portals looked at, but that's why they made floor versions.” K9 pressed a switch which caused a hole to open up under Copper Head, who fell through and disappeared into the inky blackness.
Copper Head and Shadowstorm landed in a patch of tall dry grass near each other. The two looked around at their surroundings from the safety of the foliage. They could see a long flat piece of land with few vegetation except tall patches of grass and some trees. The sky was blue and cloudless and the sun beat down on them with an unrelenting wave of heat. There was little movement except for the grass swaying in stray gusts of wind. Shadowstorm turned to Copper Head and whispered, “Where do you think we are? Is this... are we still in school?”
Copper Head looked around again before replying, “I'm not sure. Something seems odd about this place, but I don't know what. But it probably has something to do with our assignment.”
Shadowstorm nodded enthusiastically, “Yeah, that's what I was thinking! But still, what kind of assignment is that? Getting detention? I can do that in my sleep. Heck I don't even need this book.” Shadowstorm threw the book over his shoulder which flew up and out of sight.
“Um, you probably shouldn't have done that.” Copper Head put his handbook on the ground and opened it, “We should at least take a quick look at it.”
Shadowstorm quickly snatched up the book and threw it over his shoulder, “Ain't nobody got time for that! Trust me, I've gotten in detention enough times that it just comes natural to me. Teach' is probably writing me up right now for something I did. That's just how good I am.”
“I don't think 'good' is the right word to use...”
Shadowstorm quickly waved Copper Head off and peered out of the grass again. After a moment he turned again and said, “I see a tree not too far away. If we can make it there, we could probably climb it and find someone to help us. And by help us, I mean get us in trouble.”
Copper Head sighed, “Fine. It's not like you listen to me... anyway...” Copper Head looked up mid-sentence to find that Shadowstorm was already gone. Copper quickly chased after him. He wasn't too far off, but the cloudwalker was a lot faster than the earth pony.
When Shadowstorm made it to the tree, he faced Copper Head and started jumping up and down, as if trying to somehow encourage the earth pony to run faster. Copper eventually made it to the tree, and peered up into its branches. The tree was oddly shaped, with its branches and trunk badly twisted and gnarled. The leaves were also very large, but there were less of them compared to other trees. There were even strange furry vines that hung down and swayed back and forth.
Furry vines? Copper Head thought to himself. He suddenly realized what it was and pointed it out to his companion, “I think there's something in that tree. Do you see that vine? It looks like an animal's tail.”
“Pshaw. It's just a vine. Here, I'll show ya'.” In a feat of acrobatics, Shadowstorm made his way to the branch below the “vine”. He judged the distance, and when he was satisfied, made a leap for the plant. He grabbed it with his teeth, only to find himself falling to the ground with something on top of him. The object leaped up off of the pony and snarled. To both of the ponies' dismay, it was a cheetah.
Copper Head stood as still as possible and whispered to Shadowstorm, “Is that... a cheetah? Why did you have to grab its tail with your teeth!”
Shadowstorm laid on the ground and whispered back, “How was I supposed to know? I thought it was a furry vine.”
“Vines aren't normally furry!” Copper Head kept the cheetah in his sights as he half-whispered half-yelled at Shadowstorm. The feline was looking at both of them with a hungry look in its eyes, as if judging which pony it should eat first. “Listen, Shadowstorm. When I say go, we try to make a break for it. If we run together, we might be able to break off and confuse him.”
Shadowstorm contemplated the plan for a second before saying, “Nope. I'm out.” His shadow expanded as he slowly sank into the ground. Soon, all that was left of him was a small patch of black on the ground that skittered away perpendicular to Copper Head and the cheetah.
The cheetah narrowed its eyes on Copper Head and started walking towards him. Copper Head backed up a bit and murmured, “Well, I'm dead.” He broke out into a run away from the cheetah who immediately took off after him. It wasn't long before the wild cat was upon the pony, it unsheathed its claws and dug them deep into Copper Head's flank. Copper Head winced in pain and fell to the ground, twisting his body to face his attacker. The pony struck out with his hoof and hit the cheetah on its forehead, but it was not enough to deter the creature. It swiped again at him with his paws and left a huge gash on the pony's front. Copper Head struck again, but this time the cheetah grabbed his leg with his teeth. The wild cat pulled on his leg and probably pulled it out of its socket. The stallion closed his eyes, waiting to die, when he felt the weight of the cheetah being lifted off of him. He opened his eyes to see that the cheetah was gone, and in its place was a hooded pony. Copper Head looked around and saw the cheetah about a foot away with a spear pierced through it's side.
The pony spoke in a strange accent that Copper Head could not place, “Good think it was I who was walking by, being eaten by a cheetah is a bad way to die.” Copper Head stood up weakly and thanked the pony, but his knees buckled from the wounds that the cheetah inflicted. Copper Head couldn't even feel his leg, and it just hung there. “Injured leg? I have the cure! Best come to my house for sure!”
The mysterious pony helped Copper Head up and led him not far to a small hut that almost blended in with the surroundings. There was a cauldron outside with a foul smelling odor emanating from it. The pony noticed this and explained, “The foul smell coming from the pot, keeps predators from stalking my lot!”
Ok, this is getting weird. Why is this pony speaking in rhymes? And some pretty bad ones at that...” Copper Head felt wary of the stranger, but there was not much he could do. This pony saved his life when his so called “teammate” ran away at the first sign of danger. Inside the hut, a small opening in the roof let in sunlight that revealed a myriad of clay pots and one bed roll. The pony set Copper Head down on the bed roll and began searching through the the containers scattered throughout the tent. “Eye of newt and ostrich egg. These we need to fix your leg.”
As the pony kept rumaging through the pots, Copper Head had to ask, “Why do you talk in rhyme? Doesn't it get old?”
The pony stopped what he was doing as Copper Head asked the question. He just stood there for a few minutes before asking, “You're not here to give me a grade are you?”
“What? What grade?”
The pony turned and removed his hood. The stranger turned out to be a female zebra. She walked closer to him and stared into his eyes, as if trying to read his soul. “Well well, it looks like you are not a liar. What brings a red earth pony to floor eight without reason?”
“Wait... I'm still in school? Why are there cheetahs in school?!?”
The pony laughed, “You are a freshman! I see you still haven't been taught the mysterious function of this school. It is good to see a new pony, but it is unfortunate that you would be attacked without having been briefed on the dangers of this floor. Here, let me get rid of this eye of newt crap and get you some real medicine.” The zebra went outside and came back with a first aid kit. She gave him some kind of medicine that took away the pain, and set his leg. Copper Head heard a pop and feeling, including pain, came back to his leg.
Copper Head tested the leg by walking around which he could only do very slowly. “Thanks for helping me. Mine name is Copper Head. What's yours?”
“My name is Bonez. It's a strange name for a zebra, but I never did live in Zebrica like most of my kind.”
Copper Head sat down across from her and started examining his leg while questioning, “Zebrica? I've never heard of that, before. What's it like?”
The zebra laughed, “You know more about it than you think. This entire floor is meant to simulate the wild savannahs of Zebrica. Being half-zebra, I was assigned here to learn more about my 'ancestral homeland'.”
“Half-zebra? You don't look like anything other than a zebra to me.” Copper Head examined the zebra for any signs of a different lineage, but there were no tell-tale signs. She had taken off her cloak, and Copper Head could see why she was named Bonez. The stripes on her back and sides were set so that they looked like a back bone and ribs and the stripes on her legs looked like leg bones.
Bonez chuckled, “Well, my father is a zebra and my mother is a cloudwalker. I don't have the hind-leg wings, but I do have the cloudwalker magic. I don't mind not having wings either, they look rather awkward to me.” She examined Copper Head and asked the same question, “How about you? Just an earth pony, or do you hold some sort of mystery?”
“No, just a normal earth pony.”
Bonez nodded, “Fair enough. Now tell me. What brings you here?” Copper Head told her about his teacher, K9, and how he had assigned them to go and get detention. He then told her about how Shadowstorm had ran off at the first sign of trouble. Bonez shook her head in disappointment, “Teammates need to look out for each other. If he was here right now, I would give him a piece of my mind.”
Copper Head agreed, “Yeah, well at least you were there to save me. By the way, where is your team?”
The zebra slowly looked away from the stallion and at a photo that Copper Head had not noticed earlier. There were four ponies in the picture, one of them was Bonez. She sighed and softly spoke, “They all died. It was on our fourth trip to Zebrica. The real Zebrica. When we were attacked by a pride of lions. One of my team foolishly stopped to fight them off and was torn to pieces. The other two could not run fast enough to escape them. I almost met the same fate, except a wandering tribe of natives came to my aid. They fought off the lions, but my friends were already dead. I couldn't even bear to look at their remains. Now, without a team, I'm unsure if I'll ever be able to graduate.” The zebra smiled, “But I never give up hope. Krafty is a caring pony. He's helped out his fair share of unfortunate students before.”
Copper Head could feel his heart ache. He hadn't realized it before, but his family must think him dead as well: devoured by some wild beast. Twilight would have surely told them about what happened between them and the wolf, not knowing that he was alive and well, but far away from home. As the two sat in silence, a low rumbling started to shake the ground. Copper Head felt it first, “Hey Bonez, what's that sound? I don't think I've heard it before.”
Bonez raised an eyebrow in confusion, but after she felt it, she knew what it was. “Quickly, come with me.” She exited the tent and Copper Head followed. Once outside, everything looked normal, except for a cloud of dust not far from where the hut was. There were figures moving within the cloud, but they were hard to make out. Bonez walked a bit closer to the cloud before explaining, “It's a stampede. Something must have scared the elephants. It doesn't look like they are headed this way, but we must be prepared to run if they decided to come towards us.”
Copper Head glanced at his leg, “Yeah, I don't know how well that would go.” They watched as the stampede grew closer, but it seemed like they would be far enough away that neither of them would get hurt. But something seemed odd about the rampaging herd. The head elephant was quite large and it looked like there was something attached to its head. Upon closer inspection the thing kind of looked like... a pony. Copper Head immediately guessed who it was and facehoofed, “Shadowstorm...”
Sure enough, the reckless cloudwalker was riding atop the lead elephant and laughing his head off. As the stampede drew closer, Shadowstorm noticed Copper Head standing not far off, and did a double backflip off of the elephant. He landed perfectly and out of reach of any of the elephants. After dusting himself off, Shadowstorm trotted up to Copper Head with a huge grin on his face. “See? I told you I could get detention. All we need to do is wait for that lady to show up.”
Copper Head was beginning to get very annoyed of the cloudwalker, “Hey! Did you forget that you almost got me eaten earlier? You just ran off like it was no big deal! I could have died! Then you run back here heading up a stampede of elephants? How reckless are you?”
Shadowstorm waved him off, “Hey, you're alive aren't you? Besides, in just a little bit, I'll have solved all our detention problems.”
“What are you...” Copper Head stopped as he heard yelling and turned to look for the source. A bright blue pegasus flew up to them and started gasping for breath. She was wearing safari apparel, much like something Daring Do would wear, but with a lot more animal teeth dangling here and there.
After the pony caught her breath, she screamed at Shadowstorm, “YOU!! How dare you start a stampede on MY floor! That right there gets you a detention.” She looked at Copper Head and narrowed her eyes, “And a detention for your little friend here too. I'm sure the both of you had loads of fun planning this little charade. Now come with me, the both of you are in a LOT of trouble!”
Shadowstorm nudged Copper Head in the shoulder and whispered, “See? What did I tell ya?”
Copper Head rolled his eyes and turned to say goodbye to Bonez, but she was nowhere to be found. He looked in the direction of the hut, and could almost make out her figure. He waved in that direction just in case she was looking, and swiveled around to follow the pegasus. Well, we got detention easily enough, but I did get hurt in the process... I wonder how Spot and Grand Prix are doing? They surely can't be having too hard of a time. With Spot's smarts, she probably figured out a way to get detention without endangering anyone's life...
Grand Prix and Spot landed in something soft and cold. The two struggled to get out of it, but eventually they made their way to solid ground. After examing the landscape, the two discovered that they had fallen into a snowdrift that was piled up onto the side of a wall. Looking up, they could see the looming silhouette of buildings against a dark starry sky. “We must be in one of the other floors,” Spot commented, “I saw this same place while we were climbing up. Looks like maybe Phillydelphia to me, or some other large city.”
Grand Prix sniffed, “Yeah, it's gotta be one of those dirtwalker cities. The smell is unbearable. Let's hurry up and get detention so I can get out of here.” She walked out of the allway and into the streets which was surprisingly filled with ponies, many of them not even cloudwalkers. Spot followed Grand Prix into the streets, walking and reading the student handbook at the same time.
Spot flipped to page 22 and began reading through the list of offenses. Some of them were rather normal, no killing, stealing, or cheating. But others were incredibly weird, like “Don't feed the walruses on floor B1 cupcakes”, or “No speaking in reverse while on floor 3.” Each floor looked like it had some particular rule attached to it, but neither pony had the slightest idea as to what floor they were on. Grand Prix came to a sudden halt, which made Spot drop the book after bumping into her. The book fell between the slots of a drainage grate and out of reach. Spot peered inside the hole, but could not see the book.
Grand Prix pointed at something with her hoof, “Hey, that place looks like fun. Let's go there.” Spot looked up to see what Grand Prix was talking about. About a block away, there was a brightly lit building that was producing loud thumping music. Lights flashed through the open door and a small line of ponies were being let inside. Grand Prix hopped in line and Spot fell in behind her.
There was a large buffalo in a black suit and shades guarding the door. Whenever a pony tried to gain entrance, he would search a checklist before either letting them in, or turning them away. Only a couple of the ponies in front of Grand Prix and Spot were turned away, so it came as a surprise when the buffalo grumbled, “Not on the list. Get out of here.”
Spot turned to leave, but Grand Prix stood her ground and stamped her hoof, “Why aren't we on the list? Do you know who I am?”
The buffalo looked her over and replied, “No. Now go, before I have to force you off the premises.”
“Why you...” Grand Prix wanted to fight, but her opponent was ten times her size. She was going to give up and leave when a voice behind her startled the pony.
“The ladies are with me Shaggy. Let 'em in.” Grand Prix, Spot, and the buffalo turned to see an impeccably dressed cloudwalker stallion. He smiled at the two mares and in a suave tone said, “Won't you two lovely ladies join me? I have a VIP booth where we can get acquainted. It's also the best place to listen to the music: not too loud; not too soft. Just right.”
Grand Prix and Spot blushed. They both stuttered, “Of course...”
The stallion smiled again, nodded, and gave the bouncer a strange look before entering the building. The two mares giggled and followed him into the club. After adjusting to the low-light, they realized how full the building was. It was hard to believe that there were this many students in the academy. The dance floor was active with stallions and mares dancing to the beat that the DJ was mixing. The DJ herself was on a platform surrounded by amplifiers and in front of her was a mixing table. She wore various glow-in-the-dark bracelets along with many of the dancing ponies. In the corners of the nightclub, lovers sat at small round tables and were either drinking, talking, or kissing. No one sat at the bar, save for a few who were just ordering drinks to take back to the tables.
The stallion motioned for them to follow and he led them up a flight of black stairs that was almost impossible to see if you didn't know they were already there. They climbed up into a box-like room with a large one-way mirror. At the top of the stairs, the stallion opened the door and invited them in, “After you.” Grand Prix and Spot entered the room and the stallion closed the door behind them. The music dulled when the door was closed, but one could still make out each beat and note. The side opposite the window was occupied by a large illuminated fish tank filled with exotic aquatic animals. The rest of the room held a private bar, couches, love seats, and a table with chairs.
There were other ponies already in the room, two stallions, two mares, and a she-griffon. One stallion who was rubbing his face into the griffon's feathers was the first to look up, “Hey Crasher. Brought us some entertainment, huh?” At the mention of “entertainment”, the others immediately looked up.
The one referred to as Crasher replied in a suave tone, “Not so fast, Limelight. A few introductions are in order.” He faced Grand Prix and Spot and pointed to each pony as he called their names, “The cuddly one is Limelight. The griffon is Ozone, but we just call her Oz. The big pony in the corner is Pacha and his two lady-friends are Ecstasy and Black Out.” With a flourish he gave a small bow, “And my name is Crasher. Welcome to the VIP room of Club Phuture.”
Grand Prix stepped further into the room, “Thanks a lot Crasher. My name's Grand Prix, and the yellow one over there is Spot. Pretty nice place you got here.” She walked over to the window and looked down at the mass of dancing ponies, while Spot stood near the door talking to Crasher.
The cloudwalker named Ecstasy got up to stand next to Grand Prix and started admiring her scarf, “That's such an interesting scarf you have there. A checkered flag; are you a racer?”
Grand Prix nodded, “Yeah, I've been in my fair share of races. The Cavern Run, the Skyway Circuit, and even the annual Cloudwalker Grand Prix. I think my father named me after that very race. As for the scarf, it was given to me by my sponsor: Rainbow Factory Inc.”
Ecstasy giggled, “Very impressive, Grand Prix. Do you mind if I try on your scarf?”
“No, go ahead.” Grand Prix took off her scarf and gave it to the other Cloudwalker.
Ecstasy wrapped it around her neck and exclaimed, “Oh! This is surprisingly soft! I love it!”
“Mmhm... So, what do you guys do for fun around here?” Suddenly, Grand Prix felt something wrap around her neck.
Ecstasy pulled her close using the scarf and looked into her eyes. “Why don't I show you,” she whispered. She pulled Grand Prix even closer and kissed her. Grand Prix was repulsed as she could feel Ecstasy's tongue wrap around hers.
Grand Prix struggled and eventually released herself from Ecstasy's embrace. Something was wrong though. Grand Prix felt dizzy and it was hard for her to think straight. She stumbled over her words, but was finally able to speak a few words, “What... did you... do?”
Ecstasy smirked, “Oh my, you haven't had Cloud Dust before have you? I suppose I passed on some of its effects to you.” Ecstasy pulled Grand Prix in again, this time though, Grand Prix couldn't resist.
Grand Prix started feeling the effects of the drug called “Cloud Dust” and it made her completely compliant and spacey. She couldn't think, she couldn't remember anything, she couldn't really do anything. All she could do was sit helpless as Ecstacy had her way with her. What is happening? Grand Prix thought through her blurred mind. I don't want this. I have to fight back. I have to fight this. Grand Prix forced her brain to send orders to her limbs, but somewhere along the way, the transmission was lost. Come on, Grand Prix. You can't let her win. You can't... what's that feeling?
An icey surge ran over Grand Prix's body. She thought it was just the effects of the drug, but she notice that Ecstacy finally stopped and Grand Prix dropped to the floor. She made a splash as suddenly the floor seemed to have turned into water. She turned her head to see Spot.
Spot's face was red with anger and embarrassment. While Grand Prix was over by the window, Spot was absorbed in conversation with Crasher. It was all innocent until Crasher asked for sex as payment for getting her into the club. His asking for sex like that made her furious. In her haste to get the stallion away from her, she pushed him into the the aquarium which shatter the glass. The water level was high enough that some of the fish could swim around, but the larger fish flopped helplessly in the low water level. In the split second it took for her to push the stallion away, she was surrounded by the remaining ponies; save for Ecstasy and Grand Prix. The griffon lunged at her, but she repelled her with a blast of magic. She hopped over Blackout and bucked Limelight in the face. Crasher however, had recovered from the shock and jumped at her. She rolled out of the way and shot a burst of magic at him. He deftly avoided it and the bolt hit Pacha who was slow in getting off of the couch.
Crasher looked around at his friends and the ruined room. He sighed, “C'mon Spot. A simple 'no' would have sufficed... well not really.” He kicked at a fish that was flopping around near his hoof and sent it flying, “You see, when you step into the VIP room. You have to play by the rules. And the only rule is what I say goes. But I'm feeling generous. I won't bill you for damages if you present that nice flank to me. What do ya' say?”
Spot narrowed her eyes, “Bastard! What kind of scheme do you think you're running? This is a school! Students should feel safe, not treated like this.”
Crasher laughed, “Wow, you sure are stupid! Each floor of this school is based on a different location in the real world, yes? The reason we can run little 'schemes' like this is because they exist in the real world! Go to downtown Las Pegasus, Phillydelphia, or Detrot and see if you can't find a drug dealer, or somepony willing to sell their body for money! This very club is modeled after one in Rio Caballo. So, I'll give you another chance. What do ya' say?”
Spot snarled, “No! Of course not! Just let me and Grand Prix go!”
Crasher sighed, “Then we'll have to do it the hard way.” He slicked back his hair and his cutie mark glowed. His hair took on a metallic sheen and suddenly Crasher charged at Spot. Spot launched a ball of magic at him, but he deflected it with his hair. Spot was too surprised to do anything else, so she braced for impact. Crasher's hair had not only taken on a metallic sheen, but had actually become as hard as metal. Spot learned this the hard way as Crasher charged into her. Spot lay on the ground gasping for air as Crasher stood over her. He leaned in close and said menacingly, “You see? I always get my way. Now just relax, I'm sure you'll enjoy this.”
Crasher parted Spot's legs. Spot's mind raced with thoughts on how to get away. Her horn glowed blue and in an instant, all of the water from the aquarium started circling around the ponies. Spot's horn sparked and all the water slammed the contents of the room against the window, including Grand Prix and herself. A crack formed on the window and grew larger and larger until the window shattered altogether. The rest of the crowd of Club Phuture didn't see it coming. A torrential downpour flooded the lower level of the club, frying electrical systems, drenching ponies, and spilling over drinks.
The music stopped and was replaced by screams and the sounds of running. The water had short circuited the DJ's electronics and started a fire. The fire instantly spread up the curtains on stage and small puddles of fire sprang up in places where the spilled alchohol had ignited. Only minutes after the window gave out, the entire club was in chaos and most of the party-goers had left the building. Spot dragged Grand Prix out of the building as she was still tripping on whatever drugs she had been given. “Thanks... S-Spot.” Grand Prix hazily formed the words.
Despite the current situation, Spot smiled. “Of course, Grand Prix.” Their earlier experience had been something less than great, but now it looks like Grand Prix was opening up to Spot.
Once outside, the two mares tried to get as far away from the site as possible, but they were accosted by an older stallion. “Hey! Hold it right there you two!” The stallion was dressed like a police officer and he had a shiny gold badge to prove it. “Crasher tells me you two were responsible for this. Now I don't know you two, but I've known Crasher a very long time and he would never lie to me. I may have full confidence in his word, but I'm a fair pony. Explain to me what happened and maybe I won't be giving you two detention.”
Spot's eyes widened. She looked at Crasher who was standing where the police pony was standing just moments ago. He had an evil look in his eye, but Spot just miled and said to the officer, “Yep, it was us.”
The officer scratched his head, “Huh, it's not normal that I get a confession. I'm.... actually unprepared when it comes to a response.” The confused pony ran a hoof through his moustache before saying, “Follow me, then.” Spot followed the officer to the floor's exit with Grand Prix in tow. She was not excited about getting attention, but at least she was a way from that crazy night club.