Trixie was comfortably sleeping in her bed. Having been interrupted already that night by some midnight-prankster, she was eager to get back to sleep. Today had been a good day, and she had a feeling her reputation was coming back greater than ever before. But hard logic told her that not everypony would believe that Twilight was a lair- too many trusted her.
The blue Unicorn was drifting off, the wonderful world of dreams slowly floating towards her. She was nearly sound asleep, when...
*knock knock knock*
Trixie tried to ignore the sound, hoping it was her imagination.
*knock knock knock*
Tossing her blanket off her, Trixie stood up and walked angrily over to the door. "The Great and Powerful Trixie is trying to sleep!" she snapped, pushing the top part of her door open. At first, she saw nothing, and thought that the midnight-pranker had come back. Then she looked down and saw three foals staring up at her.
"Trixie, your number-one fans have something you'll want," the tan-white one said. He picked up the camera that was slung around his neck with his mouth and held it up to Trixie. Surrounding the camera with purple magic, Trixie pulled it away from the young colt and held it up to her eyes.
"What is this for?" she asked.
"Look through these pictures." The colt pointed at a button. Trixie clicked it, and the small screen on its surface changed, showing the last pictures it had taken. She flicked through them, face slowly spreading into a smile. "Twilight Sparkle is a liar! She's harboring a Changeling!" Trixie said delightedly.
Ditto was absorbed in "Goldhoof the Magical and the Pegasus Race" again.
Goldhoof stared with surprise up at Moonbloom. "What, Goldhoof?" Moonbloom asked. "Were your eyes too clouded, or am I really that good?"
"You caused this?" Goldhoof choked finally, waving a hoof at the feuding ponies. "But...how?"
Moonbloom grabbed Goldhoof's wing in a hoof. She spread it and pointed with another hoof. Now that Goldhoof looked, she saw many small, worm-like creatures twisting themselves between her feathers.
"They're a special type of parasite." Moonbloom said simply. "They feast on feathers. No Pegasus will be able to fly for a long time, not until they molt."
Goldhoof suddenly jumped up and waved her wings hysterically, trying to shake off the tiny worms. A few fell to the ground, but others were wrapped tightly in her wings. She looked back to Moonbloom.
"I put them in every racer's wings, and your's. I knew you'd be trouble, so I figured it would be better if you couldn't fly either," the black mare stated.
"Why?" Goldhoof asked quietly.
Moonbloom just smiled and flew off, not answering. Goldhoof tried to follow her, but her large, golden wings were now useless.
"Uh...oh.." Ditto said to herself while reading. All was silent except for the sound of pages turning as both Ditto and Twilight read.
Suddenly, there was a voice in Ditto''s head. It was familiar, but she couldn't quite place it.
Ditto blinked in surprise. Someone was communicating to her through magic. It must be another changeling. "It's me, Ditto," she sent back through her thoughts, not saying a thing out loud. In her head, the voice of another changeling answered.
"Ah, Ditto! It's been a long time," the voice said. "It's General Carbon. I need to inform you of an invasion on Ponyville. Many changelings are stationed here, searching for all the stranded ones."
"General Carbon?" Ditto thought back. "There are other changelings in Ponyville?"
"Yes, there are many. Some haven't been found yet; like Mirror, they've been cut off. Her horn was broken off on landing, and I'm sure it's happened to others. I only found her through pure luck. Oh, you might see me around Ponyville, by the way. I'm disguised as an orange earth pony mare."
"But, wait, what about Queen Chrysalis?" Ditto sent, barely catching the part with Mirror.
"She is dead."
"What?" Ditto asked, stunned. But the only thoughts in her head were her own again. General Carbon had cut off the connection. Ditto sighed.
"Ah ha!" Twilight exclaimed suddenly, making Ditto jump. The purple Unicorn levitated a book in front of her. "I think I've found a way to make these butterfly wings more durable." As the whole conversation had taken place in Dittos' head, Twilight hadn't noticed a thing.
"Great," Ditto responded, not really listening. Other than Mirror, she knew of no other Changeling in Ponyville. In fact, Ditto hadn't even really seen Mirror. All she knew was one day, when somepony knocked on the door downstairs, Ditto sensed the aura of a Changeling. She had told Twilight, and Twilight had been angry with Pinkie and Fluttershy at first for harboring a Changeling, then remembered she was doing the same thing. She hadn't known it was Mirror until Twilight had told her the name, and she just guessed it was the same Mirror she knew.
"You really shouldn't blame them," Ditto had told her. "They're just helping someone in need."
As Mirror drifted to mind, Ditto wondered if she had been told of the invasion, too. She knew that Mirror was dedicated to the swarm and probably wouldn't follow General Carbon without knowing for sure that Queen Chrysalis was okay with it. The queen's word was law- that was the way of the swarm.
Ditto knew she couldn't fight the ponies of Ponyville. She had grown too attached to Twilight and the others, she couldn't just betray them by fighting against them, not after what they had done for her. But she couldn't tell them about the invasion, that would be betraying her swarm, her family. It was a pickle, to say the least.
Suddenly, Ditto was dragged back to reality with the slam of a door. Twilight had left the bedroom, going downstairs. Ditto stood, barely noting how her leg felt better, and crossed the room. Searching the shelves, she found nothing of interest to read. She needed something pleasant to take her mind off of the invasion.
Suddenly, she noticed a long roll of parchment. It was the library's archive of books that have been checked out. It must have gotten misplaced- it normally stayed rolled up in a drawer. But now, It was rolled up in between two books. Horn glowing with green magic, Ditto levitated it off the shelf. She carried it across the room and used a hole-filled hoof to open a drawer.
Suddenly, a knock on the door below startled her and she dropped the scroll as she jumped. Wincing as she fell on her broken leg, Ditto trotted over to the door. Pushing it open a crack, she saw Fluttershy and another, unknown Pegasus standing in the library. Ditto carefully closed the door before returning to the scroll.
The parchment had unraveled and Ditto clearly see the words written on it. A name caught her eye before she rolled it up again.
Minuette- checked out "The Security and Protection of Equestria"
Suddenly, everything fell into place in Ditto's mind. Minuette was a Changeling. It all made sense now. Minuette had been the one taunting her in her dreams! She had checked out the book on security, she had sounded cheerful when the guard had been removed, and she must have been responsible for Ditzy Doo's crash!
Ditto dropped the book and raced downstairs. Luckily, the guests had left, and Twilight sat alone in front of book, large, glittering butterfly wings on her sides.
"Twilight, I need to go out." Ditto said quickly.
The unicorn looked up from her book and gave Ditto a confused look. "Why?"
"I've just figured out something important, and I need to go confirm it." Ditto's solid purple eyes were filled with urgency.
Twilight thought for a moment, then pulled a book out from the nearest shelf. She flipped it open to a certain page and dropped it in front of Ditto. "There's an illusion spell that should fix your eyes when you transform," she said.
"You mean, you really trust me enough?" Ditto blinked in surprise.
"Yes, I trust you enough." Twilight turned back to her book but continued talking. "If you were any danger or untrustworthy, we would all be enslaved by Changelings."
Ditto smiled, then she started reading. To her, it was of great relief and pain that Twilight trusted her.
'Moonbloom' -the Unicorn version- gasped in the fresh air, delighted. The outside, it was beautiful! The morning sun was shining brightly and a light breeze ruffled Ditto's silver and black tail and mane.
But nothing could distract her from her mission. Trotting down the road as casually as she could, Ditto looked around. Maybe she could pick up the aura of a Changeling and find Minuette. She vaguely wondered why she hadn't detected Minuette being a Changeling before, but it was probably just because she was low on magic or because Minuette was really a high-ranking Changeling that could hide her aura. Actually, if the latter was true, what was the whole point of this adventure?
Ignoring this thought, Ditto trotted on.
"I'm telling you, there's Changelings about!" Ditto turned as she heard those words. She saw a teal-green unicorn who was sitting in an odd position on a bench. Next to her was a light cream-colored Earth Pony mare with a striped mane.
"What makes you say that, Lyra?" the cream mare asked.
"I haven't seen Applejack or Carrot Top in forever! I bet they were kidnapped!" the Unicorn, Lyra, responded.
"I'm sure they're fine. I saw Applejack just yesterday morning and saw Carrot Top at the welcome party." The second pony sighed. "Now, I'm going to go Sugarcube Corner. Do you want anything?"
"How about a watermelon cupcake?"
Ditto wasn't paying attention anymore. She turned and limped away as fast as she could. She had come to the conclusion that the less ponies who see her, the better. Thank Chrysalis that illusion spell had fixed her eyes.
Suddenly, she sensed something. Stopping in her running, Ditto realized she sensed the aura of a Changeling nearby. Could it be Minuette? She had to know.
Her horn glowed with green magic as she trotted towards the source. It seemed to be in Sugarcube Corner. Trotting towards the cake-shaped building, Ditto pushed open the door to find a huge line of ponies. This is going to take awhile, she thought, frowning, I'll have to look everywhere for Minuette.
Ditto reached the front of the line, trotting up to the counter. She blinked in surprise when she saw the pony behind the counter, shock all over her face. Pinkie Pie was standing at the front of the line, same cheery smile, same cheerful attitude, but it wasn't quite Pinkie.
“Hey, are you new in Ponyville? You must be, because I’ve never seen you before! I love meeting new ponies! What’s your name?” Pinkie asked.
The aura was leading her here. This had to be a Changeling, but who? Ditto dug through her memory, trying to remember who this was. Suddenly, she remembered. This was good old Mirror! Her old friend from the swarm. Ditto almost greeted her old friend by name, but remembered that she was disguised. Thinking quickly, Ditto said, "I’m Moonbloom. You’re Pinkie Pie, right?”
“Yup, that’s me! Pinkie Pie, party pony extraordinaire!”
“Well Pinkie, I have this friend; her name’s Minuette, I’m sure you know her. Anyway, I want to throw her a surprise party, since her birthday’s coming up soon.” Ditto lied.
“Really? That’s great! I’m sure it’ll be lots of fun!”
“Exactly, that’s why I need to talk with you somewhere private. You know, to discuss it?”
Mirror's smile fell. “Well, I’d really love to, but we’re kind of busy right now…”
“Oh, I know! I just want to tell you about my ideas for it. We can plan it later.” Ditto replied quickly. She wanted to talk with her old friend, but couldn't tell her who she was in this crowd. She hoped Mirror would agree, just so she could talk to her in private.
Finally, Mirror nodded. “Alright, let’s go to the kitchen to talk about it.” Then she turned and hopped into the kitchen in a good impersonation of Pinkie's bounce. Ditto followed.
Once they entered the kitchen, Mirror turned away from Ditto and started looking over a list. “So, what did you have in mind for the party? We have to make it as fun as possible, you know!”
Ditto blinked her now pony-like eyes. Did Mirror really not recognize her? But she couldn't help but giggle at how well her old friend was at impersonating Pinkie Pie. “You can drop the act, Mirror. It’s just us now,” she said.
Mirror dropped the list in shock and turned to stare at Ditto. “How…how did you…?”
Ditto's horn glowed green, undoing the illusion spell. Once the glow evaporated, her eyes were left the normal solid purple. She smiled at Mirror. "It's me, Ditto."
There was a long silence where Mirror just stared at Ditto in shock. As time wore on, Ditto got a bit uncomfortable. Just as Ditto opened her mouth, deciding to speak again, Mirror swept her into a big hug.
“Ditto! Oh, Ditto, it’s you! Thank Chrysalis, you’re okay! You have no idea how happy I am to see you!” Mirror gushed, holding the changeling tight. Ditto struggled in the embrace; it was so hard, she could barely breath!
“That’s… great, but… Mirror… my ribs… crushing me!” she struggled to say. Mirror dropped Ditto, who landed on the floor, gasping for breath.
Mirror blushed in embarrassment. “Sorry. It’s just, well, I’m happy to see a friend after all this time. The last two changelings I’ve met since ending up here haven’t been all that… friendly.”
“Yeah, I heard about that. Your horn broke, so you can’t see any of us unless we reveal ourselves.” Ditto said, pulling this information from her short talk with Carbon. She had forgotten about it until now, no wonder Mirror hadn't recognized her! “You’ve talked with General Carbon already, right?”
“Yeah, I have, but I don’t want to talk about it.” Mirror said, trotting over to the sink and pouring a glass of water for herself. “Anyway, let’s not talk about me. I want to hear about you. How did you fix your eyes? They actually looked pony-like! And where did you get that limp?”
“I learned an illusion spell that makes my eyes look like a pony’s, and my leg broke when I crashed after the invasion at Canterlot.” Ditto said, “Luckily, I met somepony kind enough to help heal it. It’s not perfect, though, so I’ll have a limp until it heals.” Wishful thinking, there was still a chance it would never heal. But that wasn't important right now.
“Huh, both my foreleg and horn broke when I crashed. Fluttershy helped my leg heal, though, so the only problem now is my horn.” Mirror said, “Isn’t that funny? You’re a changeling with a horn but no wings, and I’m a changeling with wings but no horn. Funny, huh?”
“Um, I guess…” Ditto said, unsure on how to answer. It was coincidence, alright. If this was the real Pinkie Pie, she would probably have some silly and impossible explanation on how this happened.
“So anyway, where have you been all this time? I’ve been staying at Fluttershy’s cottage; are you living with anypony right now?” Mirror asked, taking a drink of her water. Ditto vaguely wondered how her friend was holding the glass so easily with a hoof- she always had to use her horn to levitate things. If she used her hooves, she always held thing clumsily.
Shrugging off the strange thought, she answered, “Actually, I am! I’ve been staying with Twilight at her home.”
Mirror suddenly choked on her water, coughing. Setting the glass down, she gasped heavily for several moments before gasping out, “Twilight?!”
Ditto wasn't sure why she was so surprised. “That’s right. After the invasion, I crashed into her tree house. I stayed there for three days until she came back, but I was unconscious for most of it. I’m surprised nopony noticed and came looking,” she explained. “Anyway, she and Spike came in, she found me, she freaked out and accused me of threatening Ponyville and waiting to ambush her, and I told her that that wasn’t true. There was a lot of shouting that morning.”
“And she just let you stay?” Mirror asked.
“Yeah, she saw how injured I was and how I wasn’t a threat to anypony, so she agreed to take care of me. I didn’t really understand why at the time, but now I do; she was just being a good pony and helping someone who really needed it.” Ditto said, “Of course, she was still a little freaked out over there being a changeling living in her house, so she kept me a secret and confined me to her bed whenever anypony came over and didn’t let me go out. This is the first time she’s let me leave; she told me this morning that I could go out because she trusts me not to do anything bad.”
“Huh, that sounds like what me, Pinkie, and Fluttershy are doing.” Mirror said, laughing nervously. She took another drink of her water.
“Um, yeah, about that…I might have told her that you were also a changeling… ” Ditto said hesitantly. She had a feeling, now having met Mirror again, that her old friend wouldn't appreciate this.
She was right. choking on her water again, Mirror gasped, “You what?!”
“I just recognized that you had the aura of a changeling! I didn’t know it was you!" At first... "I figured that if Twilight was okay with me living with her, she’d be okay with you being with her friends!” Ditto defended herself.
“And was she?” Mirror asked.
“Well, she did get a little caught up in her friends keeping such an important secret from her, but she calmed down pretty quickly once she remembered that she was doing the same thing.” Ditto said.
“Okay, well, as long as she hasn’t told Celestia on us…” Mirror sighed.
“No, she hasn’t. She trusts me.” Ditto said.
“…So, how’s it been? Living with Twilight?” Mirror asked.
Living with Twilight... that sounds like it would be an interesting book series! Ditto thought. She then thought, This is a strange time to be having silly thoughts.
“It’s been nice. I was never well-liked at the hive anyway; you and Queen Chrysalis were really the only ones who cared about me. But living with Twilight has been nice; she cares enough to keep me fed, she’s got plenty of interesting books for me to read, and, well, it’s been nice. Even though we invaded Canterlot and tried to enslave Equestria, she still trusts me…” Ditto trailed off, the planned invasion in her thoughts. She wondered whether or not to tell her pony friends. She couldn't be a traitor to the changelings, yet Twilight trusted her.
“Something wrong?” Mirror asked.
Ditto realized that her nervous and upset feelings must have shown. “Well, she trusts me. She trusts me not to do anything that’ll bring harm to Ponyville, and I don’t want to lose that trust,” Ditto confessed. “I want to tell her about the invasion, but General Carbon will be so angry with me if I do! Maybe I’ll just hide under a rock while it’s going on-”
Mirror choked on her water again. Ditto wondered why, at this point, the other changeling wouldn't have learned to stop drinking while she was talking. “Invasion?!” Mirror sputtered after she finished coughing.
Ditto winced at the volume of her voice, hoping that no one had heard her. The building was full of ponies! But, when no one came, she answered, “You didn’t know? General Carbon didn’t tell you?”
“No, he didn’t tell me anything! What invasion?” Mirror panicked.
“Keep your voice down! We don’t want anypony hearing us!” Ditto whispered, “General Carbon is planning an invasion of Ponyville soon using the changelings that were blown here by the blast and the ones that were already here undercover beforehand.”
“What? Why? That goes completely against Queen Chrysalis’s orders for a situation like this!” Mirror whispered back.
“… General Carbon is convinced that Queen Chrysalis is dead.” Ditto said.
“But that’s impossible! Queen Chrysalis is immortal; she’s lived for over a thousand years! She can’t be dead!” Mirror said.
“I know, but no changeling has seen or heard from her ever since the Canterlot invasion failed. If she is alive, she’s probably in no condition to lead us.” Ditto said. Of course, Ditto was assuming this- she hadn't had any connection with the swarm until that morning. Anyway, if someone had seen her, Carbon wouldn't have said she was dead, would he?
“But, what about High-General Double? She’s second-in-command to Queen Chrysalis; only she has the authority to declare war! Does she know about this?” Mirror asked.
“General Carbon has been using magic to separate the thoughts of the changelings in Ponyville from the rest of the swarm. Unless she knew about the invasion beforehand, I don’t think so.” Ditto explained, “Besides, most changelings like High-General Double, but a lot don’t approve of her having her position and only listen to her because Queen Chrysalis said to. I think General Carbon sees this as a chance to prove himself over her and gain control of the swarm. He’s got plenty of support; a lot of the changelings here would prefer him as High-General over her.”
“…High-General Double and General Carbon never did get along. Now that I think about it, they were always fighting with each other for power.” Mirror said, “But still, attacking Ponyville so soon, and without Queen Chrysalis! That’s suicide!”
“Maybe, but what can we do? He’s a general, and we’re just soldiers. He has more power than us.” Ditto said.
“It doesn’t matter! The Queen’s word is law, and nothing can overrule it! I have to find General Carbon and make him see that!” Mirror decided, “When is the invasion?”
“I don’t know. Soon, I’d guess.” Ditto answered, “General Carbon said he’d give the signal when it was time.” At least, she assumed.
“Then there’s no time to waste!” Mirror said. She began trotting towards the door. “Where would Doctor Whooves be at this time? He’ll have to follow his schedule if he wants to keep his cover, after all.”
“Doctor Whooves? What makes you think that General Carbon is Doctor Whooves?” Ditto asked, raising an eyebrow. She had seen Doctor Whooves the first time she had been out. She only knew his name because somepony had called him as she ran past. She had also been Carbon before seeing Mirror.
Mirror froze and turned back to the changeling with growing horror. “What?”
“General Carbon isn’t replacing the Doctor,” Ditto said. “He’s replacing-”
A loud, high-pitched beeping noise suddenly rang out, cutting Ditto off mid-sentence. Covering their ears, both changelings turned towards the source of the noise, the oven, which had smoke billowing out from it.
“Ah, the cake! I forgot all about it! Dear Chrysalis, can I not do anything on my own?!” Mirror growled, quickly grabbing the fire extinguisher. She opened the blazing oven and pressed the nozzle, firing white foam inside. The flames were quickly doused, leaving only a ruined oven and blackened pastries behind. Ditto felt bad, Mirror was always part of the swarm, a drone, not as independent as Ditto. She must feel terrible, being cut off from the rest.
“Mir-uh, Pinkie, are you alright?” Fluttershy asked, poking her head inside. Ditto quickly cast her illusion spell over her eyes again. Fluttershy knew her well, but she didn't want to surprise the Pegasus. It may cause an uproar. “What’s going-”
“Everything’s fine!” Mirror said quickly, “We just need a new oven, that’s all! But beyond that, nothing’s wrong! There’s nothing to worry about!”
“…Okay, if you say so…” Fluttershy said hesitantly, going back into the main room.
Ditto suddenly felt a spark of magic in her horn. Touching a hoof to it, she concentrated on what was happening. But it wasn't someone trying to talk to her- it was someone listening to her thoughts! Whoever it was had heard their whole conversation! He or she might have heard about how she was reluctant to fight with the changelings during the invasion! This could mean big trouble.
“…I have to go. Sorry, Mirror.” Ditto said, quickly galloping out the door. Pushing her way through the line of ponies and swung open the door and exploded out onto the street. "I need to find Minuette." she muttered to herself. She continued walking around town, but saw nothing of interest. She sensed no changeling aura, and finally decided to call it a day and go back home.
"I'll look again tomorrow." she told herself, then she trotted towards the library.
Morph flew above the town, eyes fixed on the black Unicorn. She was in her Pegasus form, but only so she could keep an eye on the traitor.
Morph had heard her talking with another changeling. She didn't want to fight on the changeling's side in the upcoming invasion. She had Empathy Sickness, so bad that she was going to side with the ponies.
There was no choice. She had to get rid of the traitor. She flapped her yellowish- orange wings and landed on a nearby hill as the black Unicorn trotted out of sight. With a flash of green light, Morph returned to her normal form- a blue Unicorn.
Now, how would she go about getting rid of the traitor?