Soul gave me a final scratch and departed with warm wishes, leaving Rough and myself to a peaceful meal. Well, a meal for Rough at least; I was just sitting there, opposite to him. Rough took a bite of their 'egg and pancake meal with extra bacon' and stared at me curiously. I didn't have much of anything to say, so I simply looked out the window at the passing beasts and groups of not-minotaur wandering around together.
A clink of metal on ceramic drew my attention back to Rough, whom had set their fork down and was digging through their coat pocket for something. "Say Blue, I got an idea." They explained, producing a small rectangular object with a white backing that was strangely flat. "You ever seen a Smartphone before?"
"Yeah, guessin' you havent." Rough sighed, rolling their eyes. They began jabbing at the device with their thumbs and then pressed the sides of it, causing it to click. "Okay, here's my plan. I took a picture of this thing on Speaker mode, so that means if I set it to never turn the screen off, you can talk with me normally-- well, I mean if you use that pegasus voice or somethin'. Wavey alien bug-voice will still sound weird. If people ask or wonder who I'm talkin' to, I can just point at the speaker."
I had no idea what any of that meant; Speaker, screen, smartphone... so I blinked at Rough.
They then covered their face with a free hand. "Just-- alright. I'm gonna put this down on the table, and then we can talk normally, alright?" Rough took another bite of their meal and continued. "So, I uh... I wanted to ask you a few things, if that's fine with you?"
I nodded, and Rough sighed. "Alright, Blue, my space alien bug-buddy. You can talk now."
"I know that; there just wasn't a need to use my voice." I stated plainly. I could sense frustration from Rough.
"You're a pain sometimes, you know that?" Rough grumbled, taking another bite before posing his next question. "So, you think there are any more of you wandering around Earth?"
I frowned as best as I could in Winona-form at that. "I honestly have no idea. I could be the only one, or the entire hive could have been sent here after Canterlot. There is no way to be certain."
Rough's face scrunched. "Do you mean Camelot?"
I blinked in confusion. "No, I meant Canterlot..." Now I was doubting myself; Had it been called Canterlot, or Camelot? There weren't any Camels in Equestria, so I doubted it would be named after them... no, It must have been Canterlot!
Rough waved the question away with their metal stabbing thing. "Nevermind; what about Canterlot? Is that where your people are from?"
I shook my head. "No, it's the capitol of Equestria."
Rough's eye twitched. "Equestria."
Rough held their fingers to the sides of their head in annoyance, shutting their eyes like their head hurt. "Okay, okay. Canterlot, Equestria, whatever. What were you doin' there that caused you to come here?"
The limited capability of a Winona to express themselves was starting to bother me. I tried to bite my lip and realized that my mouth didn't work that way anymore. Now that I noticed it, my body was beginning to hurt. Possibly from being compressed into such a small form for so long. I looked to Rough and asked, "Do you mind if we find a place where I can revert my form? It's starting to hurt."
Rough glanced between their partially finished meal and myself, and then to a room near the back. "Yeah... I mean there's a restroom in the back there that locks for only one person at a time." They said, pointing towards the room with their metal stabber.
I nodded. "I will be back in a moment."
I hopped off of the couch, swiftly moving towards said door and weaving through the legs of a passing not-minotaur. Reaching the door, I glanced around to ensure nothing was looking at me. Finding myself free, I quickly lit my horn with magic, the concealing form of the Winona breaking for a moment as my concentration wavered from the multitasking of turning the door's handle and maintaining my disguise. With a click, the door quickly swung open and allowed me to return to normal, not a single creature wiser.
Shutting the door behind myself, I allowed my disguise to collapse on itself. It scorched from my horn to my hooves, leaving four small marks on the tiled floor. The floor that was also sticky, and covered with thin strips of paper. It was slightly annoying, but the relief alone from being out of my form was far greater than my discomfort with the restroom. Being disguised so long had felt like my body was being pressed and squished into a pinhole which I was then forced to maneuver around in. Finding a seat of white, I took a spot on top of it with a quick buzzing of my wings. It was only slightly slippery, but it would do. Rough had brought up some memories of the attack on Canterlot, and I had to organize how I would speak about them in order to not upset the ones providing a supply of love as well as cover.
"It is time." A fellow disguised changeling had said, a smirk on their face. A great cracking noise was heard, causing everypony in the room to freeze and halt the playing of music. The chandelier swung hazardously, accompanied by the clanking and rattling of glasses as another thunderous boom cracked the shields above us again.
"Everypony move to the shelter!" A Royal Guard shouted, motioning nobles out of the room with a golden armored hoof. "This way, move!"
A tip from an infiltrator was that since my disguise was a unicorn, to keep the eyes of that disguise green. The aura of a pony's magic was linked to their eye color, and changeling magic was a bright green. Seeing as I was a unicorn dressed as a noblepony, I followed the crowd towards their shelter, leaving small traces of pheromone in order for the warrior caste to find this hiding spot.
"What's happening!?" A noblemare shouted in panic. The lot of us were being ushered through a small opening. A staircase lead further down below ground as the deep booming of the shields faltering grew more frequent. Dust and earth were falling from the ceiling, causing even more panic as claustrophobia set in.
"We have everything under control! Do not panic!" A guard shouted over the rest of the ponies. A large and heavy metal door was opened, filled with treasures. "Everypony into the vault! Hurry!"
A loud shattering was heard outside, accompanied by screams of fear that nearly knocked me over from their intensity. "The shield! They broke the shield!" A noble shouted before immediately fainting into a heap of fine culture on the floor. The rest of the ponies had backed into the reinforced walls as shards of solidified spell began to rain down from above.
"What if the building collapses!? We'll be trapped!"
"Keep calm! We'll all be fine, I promise!" A guard shouted over the quickly spreading panic, trying to calm them down.
My diguised teeth rattled when a shard dropped directly on top of our vault above ground, the crashing noise of a building being battered and broken sounding above us and causing dread in the ponies nearby. If this vault was buried, there would be only one way for the hive to find them. I would have to dig them out... but the moment they knew I was a changeling, they would attack me.
"Everypony stand back!" I shouted, taking a position in the center of the vault. I charged my horn and applied a familiar spell to the walls of the vault. My hoof-hardening spell. Hopefully that would prevent the vault from caving in from the weakened structure above us and give enough time for the hive itself to find us. The walls shone a bright green, the same color as my magic.
"What are you doing?" A guard sternly asked, moving close to me.
"I'm reinforcing the walls to keep us safe!" I strained, my own magic not really being up to the task. I was a tunneler after all; fed to the point of being useful, but starved to the point that practicing my magic was almost a traitorous thought with our limited supply of love. Surprisingly after I had said I was keeping everypony safe, I was given a wave of affection and gratitude. The moods of the ponies around me became relieved.
"You're sure what you're doing will work?" A noblepony asked.
"Eh, not really?" I blurted. The strain of trying to maintain the spell was wearing me down, on top of having to keep my disguise from faltering even the slightest.
"Well, keep it up Ma'am. We'll all get out of here safe and sound with your help, I'm sure of it." A guard captain nodded with a smile, sending his own gratitude towards me.
The sounds of collapsing shields and dispersed magic soon went out overhead. This meant that the shield was fully down now, and the real invasion would begin. Warriors would decend from the sky in a fireball of magic, damaging the infrastructure of the city and bringing down buildings as they crashed through them. Every area that could be turned into a chokepoint or dead end would quickly become one, even if towers and buildings had to be brought down to achieve that. A rapid booming like a storm front breaking above us was heard, setting everypony inside on edge. I knew the pheremone trail would lead my hive directly to these ponies, as that was the entire point of my being there with them. It was only how long it would take that made me nervous.
After a short time, Ponies began hearing the sounds of digging and magical blasts coming from above. They cheered, thinking their saviors had found them. The guard captain opened the vault door as well, rolling open on a massive mechanism... only to reveal a literal wall of changeling warriors on the other side. A few guards hastily threw up shields while the captain attempted to close the vault shut, but it was not to be.
I held the vault door's lever in my magical grip as the captain struggled with it, desperately trying to save the ponies within. "What are you doing!?" The captain shouted at me, doom and despair filling the room. "Why are you helping them!?"
I couldn't maintain my form any longer. Dropping the disguise in a wave of fire as the guards' shields broke, I replied above the sounds of gasping horror, "I live for the hive."
And the warriors flooded into the vault...
Breaking from my flashback, I found myself in the dirty restroom of Alice's Restaurant. I no longer hurt, and reverted to my form as Winona. There was a knock on the door the moment my disguise enveloped me. The door soon opened suddenly, and I realized that in my haste to be free of my disguise, I forgot to actually lock the door behind me.
A very confused not-minotaur stared at me as I stayed atop the seat in the room. "The bloody 'ell?"
Since I wasn't near Rough, I decided to refrain from answering them and quickly exited the room underneath their legs. Soon after, I found a place back at Rough's table. In my short absence, they had managed to devour the rest of their meal and now sat in recline, nursing their belly.
"Oh, hey-" Rough greeted me with a belch, "Eugh, sorry." They apologized, covering their mouth. "You alright? You were gone for a while."
I hesitantly replied with, "I was thinking about how to answer your question about Canterlot..."