The six friends stood in Twilight’s library. Each with similar thoughts running through their heads. The changelings are back?
The first to speak up was Rainbow Dash. “Wait a minute Twi. I thought your brother’s spell blew all those changeling guys to Timbuktu.”
There were mutterings of agreement from the other four ponies that had just learned the changelings could be back. Twilight cleared her throat before responding.
“Yes Shining Armor and Cadence did drive the changelings out, but it seems they’ve regrouped.”
This time Applejack stepped forward. “Well then, what’s the Princess want us to do about it?”
Rarity nodded “Applejack’s right, darling. If those ghastly brutes are back, how could we hope to find, let alone stop them?”
Twilight smiled “I’m glad you asked because I’ve already got an idea.” With a spark of her signature purple magic, Twilight summoned a black board. Picking up the accompanying chalk, she began her explanation. Complete with illustrations. “We learned last time that a blast of magic will, in a sense, short out a changelings disguise. So I propose we hold a meeting tomorrow in the town square and when everyone is gathered, I use a large but harmless magical burst to see if any changelings are present. Simple!”
Twilight beamed at her simple yet effective plan until Fluttershy tapped her shoulder. “Um Twilight I hate to question your plan, but won’t the changelings not come if we tell everyone what the meetings about?”
Twilight nodded “Yes, but we won’t be telling everyone what it’s about till I’m about to do the burst.”
The other ponies nodded at Twilights response. It seemed like she had this whole thing under control.
Rainbow yawned “Well now that that’s all settled, I think I’ll go back to my cloud bed.”
Twilight chuckled “Yes, I suppose we should all get some sleep. Just be in the town square at noon. It’ll take me at least the morning to get the mayor to let me have an assembly without giving away why.”
Saying their farewells the six friends went their separate ways to rest before what would be an eventful day.
A few hours later, the sun was just beginning to rise. Lightning was sitting at her desk, reviewing the files she’d taken. There was a scowl on her face as she flipped through the pages for the third time since she’d woken up an hour ago. Her anxiety about completing what she’d started kept her from sleeping for long.
Without the option of sleeping, she’d decided to try and find her other target. However it was proving pointless as the pages she scoured again and again gave her nothing. Growling in frustration, she slammed a hoof on her desk.
This makes no sense! Her thoughts swirled as she tried to piece together what she could be missing. Could the file be incomplete? The frustrated mare shook her head. No. I made sure I got the complete records. Was there only one to begin with? Another shake. No it’s always two. It has to be two.
“But who’s the other one!?” Lightnings frustration boiled over in that shout and she struck her desk again. As the sound faded, her door gently swung open and a sleepy eyed Scootaloo shuffled in. “Mom what’s with all the noise? It’s like four in the morning.”
Lightnings anger abated slightly when she saw the tired filly. “Sorry. I’m just frustrated over a... project I’m in the middle of. I can’t seem to get the last part right.”
Scootaloo yawned “What kind of project?”
The mare smiled a bit. Even though she was taken from her rest, the little pegasus was as curious as ever. “Just a personal one.”
Lightning would have left it at that, but an idea popped in her head and she decided to try it out. “Hey, Scoots, do you know if anyone new came to Ponyville around the same time I did?”
The filly raised a brow at the seemingly random question. “I don’t think so. Maybe that unicorn, what’s his name with a telescope in his cutie mark.”
Lightning shook her head at that. “No, besides him.”
Scootaloo shrugged. “Sorry, he’s the only one I can think of.”
Lightning deflated a bit at the dead end she ran into. What am I missing? Then a light went off in her head. Maybe I’m looking for the wrong thing. With a new tactic in mind, Lightning turned back to her daughter. “How about someone that leaves Ponyville a lot, and stays away for a bit. Know anyone like that?”
The filly hmmd as she thought. “Sweetie Belle told me once that Rarity’s always going off to find more gems for her dresses. Sometimes it takes her awhile to get back.”
Lightning sighed and nodded. “Thanks kiddo. Now get some sleep, and I’ll wake you for breakfast at around six ok.”
Scootaloo yawned and trotted back to her room. Once the filly was gone, Lightning slumped in her chair and threw an foreleg over her eyes. Well that was a bust. It can’t be Rarity. It’d cause to much...
Suddenly, the disguised changeling sat bolt upright in her chair. Wait maybe it could work. Yes if it was done right no one would suspect a thing.
The gears in Lightnings mind turned and after she weighed the options she came to a decision. It might be risky, but I’m gonna pay Rarity a visit.
After breakfast and sending Scootaloo off to school, Lightning started on her way to Carousel Boutique. She could only hope that Rarity was there. She’d also have to be more careful because it was broad daylight.
When Lightning reached Rarity’s place of business, she noticed the door was open. Walking in, she discretely closed, and locked it before calling out for Rarity. A moment later the fashionista glided into the room. “Oh, Lightning, dear to what do I owe this visit?”
Lightning smiled “Oh, I just wanted to know if you could make me a dress. Something I could go out in for a night on the town.”
The alabaster unicorn beamed as she heard this. “Why of course darling! Now right this way, and I’ll take your measurements.”
The two stepped into Rarity’s work space and the unicorn began measuring. As Rarity took Lightnings wing base measurements, she detected a strange scent coming from the pegasus. “Darling are you wearing some type of perfume?”
Lightning chuckled. “You could call it that. Oh is that silver laced cloth?”
Rarity turned her head away from her quest to look at her bolts of fabric. “Why yes it is. I just got it in a few days ago. Would you like to see it?”
Lightning nodded and Rarity turned her body fully away from the other mare to fetch the fabric. With Rarity distracted, Lightning aimed a strike at her like she had with her other target.
Inside the boutique there was the sound of a struggle and a flash of green from the windows before everything went silent.
Twilight was in the middle of persuading the mayor to let her have an assembly in the center of town when the door to the mayors office burst open. Both of the offices occupants turned to see a slightly disheveled Rarity in the doorway.
Rarity trotted up to Twilight with urgency. “Twilight, I need you to come to my boutique! Quickly!”
Twilight blinked at the sudden request. “Rarity, I’m kind of in the middle of something important. Something we talked about last night.”
Rarity leaned in to whisper something to Twilight. The mayor watched the exchange and how, Twilight’s expression went from confused to surprised as she listened to whatever the other unicorn was saying.
Once Rarity pulled back, Twilight turned to the mayor again. “I’m sorry, Madame Mayor, but something urgent has been bought to my attention and I need to go. Can we discuss what I was asking about later?”
The gray maned mare nodded. “I suppose. Good bye then.”
Once the two unicorns left town hall, they galloped in search of their other friends. After rounding them up, the group made a beeline for Rarity’s shop.
When the six arrived, they were greeted by the sight of the mare they knew as Lightning, struggling to get free of the thick cloth that was binding her. Rainbow Dash cocked a brow in confusion.
“Hey, what’s with telling us that you had something important to show us only to have it be one of my weather team?”
Pinkie was the next one to question the situation. “Yeah, Rarity, if this is a prank I don’t get it. Oh, you should use sneezing powder! That one’s always funny.”
Rarity huffed. “I didn’t have time to explain to you all like I did Twilight, but this is no pony. She’s a changeling!”
Twilight nodded. “Rarity came to me and told me how Lightning had come in and, once her back was turned, attacked her. She wanted me to come and see for myself, but I suggested we find the rest of you before I see if it’s true.”
The others gave looks of understanding before Applejack took a step forward. “Well then what’cha waitin’ for? Blast her an’ let’s see what’s what.”
This got the bound mares attention and she stopped struggling to look at Twilight. “Don’t listen to her! She’s a changeling, and she’s fooling you!”
Rarity scoffed and waved a hoof in dismissal. “Oh, don’t listen to this ruffian’s lies. Let’s just get this over with.”
Twilight’s horn began to glow but Lightning spoke up again. “If she’s not one, then blast us both. What’ve you got to lose?”
Rarity stomped angrily “Stop your nonsense and be quiet! I’m not the one who attacked anyone here!”
Lightning smirked. “Then why not humor me? Unless you’re actually hiding something.”
Rarity stepped closer to Lightning. “Now see here you little...”
Twilight came between the two arguing ponies. “Enough! I know how to settle this.” Twilight charged her horn, and let out a flash of magic that blinded the entire group.
When everyone recovered from the sudden flare, they looked at the bound pony. What was there in the place of the pegasus they all know as Lighting was a changeling.
Twilight turned to where Rarity stood. “There, problem.... solved?”
Twilight couldn’t believe it. Where her friend had stood was now occupied by another changeling! The other ponies gasped, and before anyone could say or do anything, the Rarity impostor bolted for a window. The changeling dove, shattering the window, and flew off.
Everyone was stunned and seemingly unable to move. Until the bound changeling spoke and broke the trance they had fallen into. “See I told you. Now let me loose so we can go after her.”
Twilight turned her head from the window to Lightning. “You expect us to free you?”
Lightning sighed exasperatedly. “Look, we don’t have time for this. Just untie me and....”
Before she could finish, cyan hooves stomped the floor as Rainbow dash made her way directly in front of the false pegasus. Before she knew it, Lightning was nose to nose with a seething Rainbow Dash. The violet colored eyes of said pegasus were filled with fury, and so was the voice of their owner.
“Now listen up you! I don’t know what’s going on but I know this. A mare I had on my team just turned out to be a fake. A mare I considered a friend. Someone I could trust.”
The pegasus paused to take a deep breath. Apparently trying to hold back from hitting the focus of her rage.
“I also just learned that one of my best friends was really a changeling that took her place, and I have no idea where the real Rarity is. So let me make this very clear.” Dash’s eyes narrowed “You will tell us right here right now just what the heck is going on. Or Celestia help me, I will beat you into paste! Got it?”
Lightning nodded. Her solid blue eyes wide with a mix of fear and admiration. Wow. And I thought Chrysalis could give a death glare. Rainbow lowered her head and yanked the cloth with her teeth. Once the fabric was of the changeling, the pegasus backed up and sat in front of Lightning.
Lightning sighed. “Fine but to make this quick,no questions till this is all over.” After the group of ponies nodded The ousted shapeshifter began her story:
“After the failed attack, I was thrown out of Canterlot and crash landed in a large orchard. The crash left me unconscious till the next day. When I woke up, I could feel that I had been cut off from the hive. When this happens, most changelings die, but for whatever reason I’m one of the ones that didn’t. Alone and in need of a steady food supply, I started in the direction of the closest source I could feel. On my way to the town, I came across Scootaloo. She was asleep and when she woke up she...”
The audience of the changeling each gave looks of confusion at her pause. It was Fluttershy who broke the silence. “Was is about her family?”
Lightnings eyes widened. “How’d you know about that?”
The butter yellow pegasus tapped her hooves together. “Well, um, I’ve foal sat her and her friends a few times. Once or twice I walked in to check on them, and she was talking in her sleep. When I asked her about it, she said she didn’t have a family.”
Lightning was still confused. “Then why didn’t you say something when she introduced me as her mother?”
Fluttershy chuckled. “I thought you had adopted her, and just wanted to keep it low profile. I was really happy for Scootaloo.”
Lightning shook her head “Well I guess that makes the next few parts easier to tell.
“When Scootaloo woke up, she was saying how she wanted a family. I made a deal with her that if she let me be her mother and feed on her emotions, I’d take care of her and be her family. Soon after I met each of you, and secured my place in Ponyville. I used my shapeshifting to forge documents at the bank so I could have some money to pay for my home, and for what it needed. I did it again to make up documents that said Scootaloo was my daughter if anyone went looking to question my story. Once everything settled down, I remembered something important. Whenever Chrysalis invades a new place, she always uses two plans at once. The main invasion failed, so her back up was already in effect as far as I knew. You see, if a direct invasion doesn’t work, she switches to a more stealthy approach. Before the attack, she placed cells of us at places all over Equestria. The goal of these cells is to slowly infiltrate the cities and towns, and when the time is right we capture the remaining inhabitants, and replace them with our own before anyone suspects a thing. Once we have enough of a lands population in cocoons, we take over the rest of the country like child's play.
“I did some digging and got a hold of the population and housing files for the town. I was looking for anyone new. Someone that moved in before the attack. I found one, and started following him. I was sure he was a scout for the swarm, so I mixed up a special poultice that gives off a smell that’s similar to a pheromone changelings give off. Only we can smell it. I laid a trap with this, and once he followed the smell I had no doubt he was a changeling.
“I caught him, but a scouting party is always a pair. I couldn’t find any other new arrivals to the town, so I took a gamble when I heard Rarity goes outside Ponyville to look for gems. I figured she could have gotten captured and replaced. So before I came to the boutique, I spread a little of the poultice on myself. I asked Rarity to make me a dress to get her close enough to smell me. If she could smell the mixture then she was a changeling.
“What I didn’t know was that she wasn’t another scout. She was a siege warrior. The main offensive arm of the changeling swarm. She caught me by surprise and tied me up.
“The rest you know. Any questions?”
Rainbow stood and looked Lightning in the eye. “So you’re not loyal to Chrysalis?”
The changeling laughed. “I was never loyal in the first place. I was born and bred a siege changeling. I did what I was told because that’s all I know. But when she cut me off from the hive mind, I wasn’t going to lay down and die.” Lightning chuckled again “What she didn’t know is I like living.”
The next to speak was Pinkie Pie. She bounced in front of Lightning and cocked her head. “So you being Scootaloo’s mom was for real, and you’re not a evil emotion sucking meanie pants?” Lightning only nodded. Pinkie squinted at the changeling before turning on her heels. “Oki doki loki. That’s good enough for now.”
Twilight tapped her chin in thought before she approached the shapeshifter. “Well, regardless of all that, I’m still going to have to take you to Celestia. However, before I do that, you’re going to take us to this other changeling you caught. Once we see what he knows, we’ll decide what to do from there.”
Lightning sighed and nodded. The Group began to leave when Lightning was held up by Applejack.
“Look sugar cube Ah ain’t one to condone lyin’ to folks and Ah don’t trust ya’ll yet, but here’s what Ah figure. You ain’t done anything bad since Ah met ya. Plus, from what I heard from AB and Sweetie Belle, yer a pretty good ma to Scootaloo. When this is over, and if you don’t go pullin’ any double cross I’ll give ya’ll a chance. Deal?”
Lightning grinned “Sure Applejack.”
The farm pony smiled “An’ if’n ya do turn out to be no good I’ll buck ya right into Rainbows hooves.” Applejack trotted after her friends while Lightning followed behind them once again dawning her disguise.
Well I’m in hot water now but I’ll deal with that later. Right now I’ve got an invasion plan to throw a wrench into.