Thirteen Loyal

by Masterweaver

Iridomyrmex purpureus

"We're moving out." Formicidae squad looked up as their leader walked in, tossing a dead vocoleoptera on the crystal table with a grim expression. "I just got word. A traitor partnered with Twilight's student and the spirit of chaos. Used Crystal magic to destroy the throne and brainwash the hive. The queen escaped, we're meeting her in Manehattan."

"The hive's... brainwashed?"

Twilight Sparkle's face glared at Pinkie's form. "Yes, Odontomachus. I just said that. They've joined our enemies." She snorted. "And if Chrysalis says they're brainwashed, they're brainwashed. She's the expert."

Fluttershy stood up, quickly transforming into a dark blue unicorn stallion. "We've got to go now. If Discord was there--"

"Don't be so quick to save your own shell, Atta. The infiltrator squads are all that's left. We work together, or we die."

The purple psuedopony took in the worried expressions, and steeled herself. "I will be frank: this isn't what we planned for. We're worse off then we have ever been--even the invasion didn't take as large a toll as this turn of events. We will have to be smart, swift, and silent, with little margin for error, in order to merely survive. If we are ever to reclaim our greatness, we will have to do better than our best. We're alone, under-equipped, and trapped in enemy territory." She frowned sternly. "And if any one of you thinks that I'm going to let that stop our return to power, if any of you think that I'm going to rest before I have helped the queen free our people, then you don't know me at all. From this moment on, no more joking, no more games, you follow my orders. Am I clear?"

One by one, the ponies and dragon in the room nodded.

"Good." Twilight transformed into a yellow earth pony. "Aphaenogaster, you take Atta to the train station, get tickets to Canterlot and prepare us a safe house. Oecophylla, you and Odontomachus go through the town and gather every last changeling artifact you can--no love feeding, too suspicious. When you're done, train to Canterlot. Solenopsis, Dorylinae, you're with me. Strategic sabotage of the palace, then the train. Our key word is Construction Hill, once we meet up in the capital we'll plan our next move."

Applejack, or the creature who looked like Applejack, rose a hoof. "Beggin' yer pardon, Iridomyrmex, but ain't there a bunch o' changlin' checkpoints in the city?"

"Apocrita squad was in a perfect position to subvert those. Hopefully they've already put in the effort. If not... we've got bigger problems." The yellow earth pony gave her a look. "And for the hive's sake, Aphaenogaster, drop the accent! It's a dead giveaway. We can't afford it!"

The orange mare rolled her eyes, transforming into a white unicorn. "Oh very well. I suppose I shall have to brush up on my nobleisms on the way over. Come along....?"

"Moonlight Dances." Atta nodded. "You are...?"

"Precision Calculus."

The two of them moved swiftly, not quite running out of the throne room. The yellow mare let out a slow breath, turning to the others. "I'm giving us two hours. Do what you can, but if it's a risk, get out." She glowered at them. "And switch your shapes! We don't want any hint of our activity for the ponies to find out!"

Pinkie and Rarity nodded as they walked out, green fire enveloping them to reveal a blue filly and a violet mare.

"Right. Palace sabotage." The yellow mare turned to Rainbow and Spike. "Suggestions."

"Leave the high-powered artifacts." Rainbow tapped the crystal table. "We can chip this, but it won't affect functionality unless we waste too much magic to screw with it. And all that crazy stuff up in the attic--I don't know what would happen if it broke, but we need to survive this day."

Spike nodded. "Burn some of the books. We don't have time to get them all, but we should at the least make it harder for them to learn anything about changelings." He sighed. "Well, anything else."

"Excellent point, Solenopsis." The yellow mare rubbed her chin. "Let's throw some more into that pile--mind magics, tracking magics... and anything involving Horseshoe Bay, just to give them a false lead. Take what we can eat from the kitchens, trash the rest."

"Back up the plumbing," Rainbow suggested. "It won't stop them, but it will make them more irritable.

"Yes, good thinking Dorylinae. You'll handle that. Me and Solenopsis will go through the library. Once we're done, meet up in the kitchen."

The blue pegasus saluted, zipping out the door and up the stairs.

The dragon shrugged, transforming into an orange unicorn. "On the one hand, I'll miss having hands. On the other, I don't have to be a midget anymore."

"We might go for griffon disguises at some point. Relations between them and ponies are still tense." The yellow mare turned to leave.

"...Iri." The unicorn's voice stopped her. "You really think we can do this? Take the hive back, free them from brainwashing?"

For a moment, the yellow mare stood in silence.


"I believe we have to, Sol. We don't have a choice."

The unicorn frowned. "...Well. Let's get sorting through those books, then."

A moment later, the only creature in the room was the dead black beetle on the table.