Undead Robot Bug Crusaders

by Banjo64

Chapter 11: First Day of School, and Bugsitting

The first day of the new school year: a date dreaded by many a youth regardless of age, gender, or species. Some disliked having to sit in a boring classroom for hours on end. Others feared having to be near ponies they’d usually avoid. Scootaloo, however, had another reason to be upset that morning.

“You can’t be serious! You want me to take care of him by myself?!” exclaimed Scootaloo.

Namely, the fact that her mother had stopped by her house before the sun had even risen to announce that she’d been given an important job, starting that very day.

“Well, one pony joining the class will raise far less suspicion than several,” explained Blue Monarch.

“Then why are we sending him to Ponyville? You really expect me to believe that there’s not a single classroom with more than one changeling in all of Equestria?” demanded Scootaloo.

“Because it’s Ponyville. It’ll be far easier to cover our tracks if something goes wrong here than anywhere else. Now don’t worry Scootaloo. All you have to do to keep an eye on him in the classroom. The other hives are taking care of everything else. You don’t even have to make friends with him if you don’t want to,” reassured Blue Monarch.

“I’m still responsible for someone who might end up affecting all of changeling kind. Forgive me if I’m a little worried because I’ve only been given a few hours to prepare for this! Can’t you do something? Have someone always on hoof to make sure things don’t go wrong?” argued Scootaloo.

“Scootaloo, your job is to be on hoof for him if something goes wrong. You are asking me to give this job to somepony else, and I think you are more than capable of doing it. And if you’re so nervous, maybe you can ask your friends for help?” suggested Blue Monarch.

Scootaloo’s train of thought ground to a halt. She hadn’t thought about that.

“It’s way too early for this,” grumbled Sweetie Belle.

The three of them were at the clubhouse a little after sunrise, which was very odd for them on a school day, let alone the first.

“I know, but I need the time to explain things to you two. Something’s come up, and I could really use your help,” said Scootaloo.

“On the first day of school?” asked Apple Bloom.

“Yes, on the first day of school. Do you think I’m happy I had to drag you two out here this early either?” asked Scootaloo with an eyeroll.

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle shared a sigh.

“Fair enough. So what’s this all about?” asked Sweetie Belle.

Scootaloo turned toward the door.

“OK, we’re ready for you!” called Scootaloo.

The door to the clubhouse open to reveal a blue crystal pony colt with an urn cutie mark.

“Uh… Hi everypony,” the colt said nervously as he walked inside.

“Huh. Wasn’t expectin’ that. Who are you?” asked Apple Bloom.

The crystal pony’s gaze shifted nervously.

“Oh, me? I’m… uh... Crystal Hoof! Yes, Crystal Hoof. I’m visiting from the Crystal Empire as a… transfer student. We’re going to be classmates,” said Crystal Hoof with an awkward smile.

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle shared a look then turned to Scootaloo with unamused expressions.

“He’s a changeling, isn’t he?” asked Apple Bloom.

The disguised changeling gave an eep of fright while Scootaloo facehooved.

See what I mean? This plan is doomed, thought Scootaloo.

Yes, because two ponies who know you’re a changeling figuring it out is clearly a sign that everypony else is going to, snarked Beetle.

Indeed. The plan is still on, Scootaloo, added Blue Monarch.

Scootaloo huffed, but accepted that whining wouldn’t make this day any easier.

“Relax, Thorax. These two already know about us. They’ve even visited my hive,” reassured Scootaloo.

“Oh. OK, I was kind of worried I blew it already,” said Thorax with a sigh of relief.

“So… why is another changeling going to school with us? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, but why?” asked Sweetie Belle.

Scootaloo took a deep breath. She really didn’t want to have to start rambling this early in the morning, but this was important.

“It’s kind of complicated. Remember how we were treating all of Chrysalis's changelings because she wasn’t watching her royal jelly intake?” asked Scootaloo.

“Yeah, but you guys never really explained what that means. Does it work like bees, where royal jelly makes royal changelings?” asked Sweetie Belle.

“Sort of, except… Nevermind, you don’t want to know the details. Short and clean version: we had an entire hive full of changelings whose bodies were in bad shape because they didn’t have enough jelly in them to become royals, but they had enough to remain regular changelings,” explained Scootaloo.

“So.. ya had to mess around with their bodies to fix them? Sounds like things got mighty messy,” commented Apple Bloom.

“It kind of did,” mumbled Thorax as he rubbed his stomach at the memory.

“Luckily, we managed to work everything out. While all of Chrysalis’s changelings are still really funky colors, they’re otherwise normal now. We’re even redistributing them among all the other hives to give them new homes. There was, however, one exception. Thorax here had just a bit too much royal jelly in him to safely revert to a drone. Instead, we had to push him forward the other way,” explained Scootaloo.

“Other way? Ya mean he’s a royal changeling now?” asked Apple Bloom.

Thorax looked around to make absolutely sure no one was nearby, before dropping his disguise. He now towered over the fillies, revealing that he was actually a fully grown changeling. his body a rather flamboyant green, his purple wings were large and glittering, and his single horn stood sharp and proud.

“Wow. I mean, your colors are kind of weird, but otherwise you look kind of neat,” said Sweetie Belle.

“You should have seen him before we fixed him up. He looked like a moose,” said Scootaloo with an eyeroll.

Thorax blushed before turning back into Crystal Hoof.

“Alright, that’s interesting and all, but that still doesn’t explain why he’s goin’ to school with us. He’s a grown up, right?” asked Apple Bloom.

“It has everything to do with why. You two know how the queen rules the hive and the princesses raises the citizens. But we don’t have any kings or princes. Male royal changelings just don’t have a place in a hive,” said Scootaloo.

Thorax gave an awkward cough while Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle raised their eyebrows.

You might want to try wording that better, commented Lynx.

“Oh, right. I don’t mean we’re kicking him out just because he’s a guy or anything. There’s nothing wrong with being a male royal. I’m just saying there’s no real reason for him to be a royal changeling in the first place since he can’t lay any eggs,” reassured Scootaloo.

“Ah. OK,” said Sweetie Belle with a nod.

“But that still leaves the problem of what to do with him. We can’t just let him take the place of one of our queens, and he can't do the job of a princess. We thought about letting him take control of Chrysalis’s changelings and making it an official eighth hive, but he’s spent his whole life just scrubbing floors in Chrysalis’s hive. He’s had no training, no field experience, and no proper education,” explained Scootaloo.

Thorax looked at the ground and rubbed his hoof against the floor.

“It’s true. I’m not even very good at disguises. The only reason I’m a crystal pony is because I still can’t get pony hair right, and crystal pony coats are a little harder than the other tribes so it’ll be easier to hide,” Thorax admitted shamefully.

Scootaloo sighed. She could already tell what Thorax’s biggest problem was going to be during his stay.

“Anyways, after some debate the queens realized that, due to recent events, we had the perfect job for him: official changeling ambassador in Canterlot once we’re ready to reveal ourselves. He doesn’t have ties to any other hive, so he’ll be a great neutral speaker for all of us,” said Scootaloo.

“Let me guess, the problem is that he has a lot to learn before he can take the job, right?” asked Apple Bloom.

Thorax blushed at her words, and gave a small nod.

“Exactly. And, for some strange reason, everyone decided that it’d be best to make him go to school to learn. Namely, our school. And because I’m the only changeling who’ll be attending the same classes as him, it’s my responsibility to make sure he doesn’t expose himself,” said Scootaloo.

“Wait, the entire changeling race decided that it’d be best to send him here, and for you to take care of him yourself?!” asked Sweetie Belle.

“Well, just at school. The other hives are taking care of everything else. We’re not even connected to the same hivemind,” admitted Scootaloo with a shrug.

“Whew. Alright, that sounds a lot less insane,” said Apple Bloom with a nod.

“And that’s why I need your help. Thorax here has never had to go out and use a disguise before. As you noticed, he’s still got a lot to learn about that too. I’ll be keeping the closest eye on him, but I would really appreciate it if you two would give me some backup,” finished Scootaloo.

Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom looked at Thorax, who seemed to be trying to blend in with the floor.

“Well… Ah can’t say Ah think this is a good idea, but Ah definitely don’t want to see anythin’ happen to him. Ah’m in,” said Apple Bloom.

“Yeah. We’ll be glad to help,” said Sweetie Belle.

Thorax sighed in relief, though his expression was still troubled. Scootaloo noticed, and realized what he must be thinking. She figured that a good first step would be to cheer him up a little.

“Hey, Thorax, don’t worry. Everything is going to be fine, and I’m not just talking about the classroom. Nopony is blaming you for becoming a male royal. We all know this isn’t your fault,” she reassured.

Thorax gave a ghost of a smile.

“Yeah! I mean, I’m sure you never asked for this, Thorax. Your mom was just a pig head. Er… no offence?” said Sweetie Belle.

Thorax actually chuckled at that.

“I’d... use a stronger word to describe her, so yeah, none taken,” said Thorax with a shrug.

“Alright, we still have about an hour until we need to head to school, so here’s what we’re going to do…” said Scootaloo.

“Good morning class! Is everypony ready to start the new school year?” asked Cheerilee with a smile.

She was meet with polite nods and cheers, though even she could tell how half-hearted they were. You don’t have to teach for long to know that the first day of school was always one of the hardest to keep your students engaged.

“Now, before we get started, I’d like you all to meet our new student. Come up and introduce yourself, Crystal Hoof,” said Cheerilee.

Thorax, who had taken a seat at the back of the room, took a nervous gulp as he stood up.

“Um… OK…” he mumbled.

Scootaloo watched as Thorax nervously made his way to the front of the classroom. The plan was for the three of them to first pretend they didn’t know Thorax so they could avoid some awkward and potentially dangerous questions. All she could do was give him a nod of confidence as he passed her.

Why do teachers always insist on doing this? Everypony knows the real introduction takes place during recess, commented Poppy.

It’s traditional, and gives the other students time to prepare their questions, answered Blue Monarch.

Ten bits says he blows it, said Twitch.

Scootaloo toned her family out. Not for the first time, she really wished they all had something better to do than play peanut gallery.

Thorax reached Cheerilee’s desk, and turned to face the crowd. This was the first time a (seemingly) crystal pony had visited town, and everypony was watching to see what this strange new pony would say. He was clearly nervous, but Scootaloo and the girls had recommended he make no effort to hide this. It would make it easier for him to focus on keeping his story together, and would inform the student body that he would need some time before he found his circle to join.

The school hierarchy was serious business after all.

“Er… hello everypony. My name’s Crystal Hoof. I’m going to school here as part of an exchange program with the Crystal Empire. And… um… I hope I can make some friends while I’m here,” said Thorax in a quiet, nervous tone.

Scootaloo heard giggles from a certain duo, but ignored them and gave Thorax another nod. So far, so good.

“I’m certain you will, Crystal Hoof. You can go back to your seat now,” said Cheerilee with a smile.

With a sigh of relief, Thorax made his way back to his chair. Ponies watched him for a moment, before turning to excitedly chat with their friends about this new development.

Most of them did, at least.

“So, you’re a crystal pony, huh?” asked Diamond Tiara as Thorax passed her desk.

Thorax nearly jumped and turned to face the filly.

“Uh… yeah?” he asked, not sure where this was going.

“You’re certainly shiny enough. Does that mean your head’s full of nothing but crystal too?” Diamond asked with a sneer.

Scootaloo fought the urge to groan. Diamond wasn't even waiting till recess to start tormenting him. Good thing this was one possibility they’d prepared for.

“Well, technically yes. Crystal ponies’ entire bodies are made of a bio-mineral substance that’s similar to crystal, including their brains,” interrupted Sweetie Belle.

Diamond Tiara turned toward the interruption with a glare.

“Nopony asked you, book worm,” she growled.

Thorax saw his opportunity and quickly slipped back to his own desk. When Diamond Tiara turned back and noticed this, she gave Sweetie Belle another glare before turning away with a huff.

Sweetie Belle gave Thorax a quick smile. He returned it with a look of gratitude. Sweetie Belle’s distraction had worked. The possible bullying was avoided, and nopony had any reason to suspect that the CMC had any connections to this strange pony.

Team Changeling 1: Team Diamond 0.

Cheerilee cleared her throat to bring the class’s attention back to her.

“Alright then. Now, we’re going to be following a different schedule this year. Instead of starting with math, we’re going to try having grammar class as our first period…”

The remaining first half of the school day passed without incident. Well, regarding Thorax at least.

You really should start taking better notes, Scootaloo. You know you’re not allowed to use the hivemind to cheat, said Uno.

It’s the first day of school. She’s just giving us a refresher on what we learned last year, argued Scootaloo.

And you remember everything you learned perfectly? challenged Dove.

As a matter of fact, yes. You want to test me? asked Scootaloo.

Ok, what’s twelve times thirteen? asked Twitch.

Scootaloo resisted the urge to gag. She hated math. Still, this problem didn’t seem too bad. It was really close to the range of those catchy songs that had helped her with her times tables.

Alright, twelve times twelve is one hundred and forty-four. Add another twelve... one hundred... fifty… six, she deducted.

Correct! Too bad while you were solving that you missed what the teacher was saying during history class, said Twitch with a cackle.

It took every shred of willpower Scootaloo had to keep from facehoofing.

Would somepony kindly buck Twitch in the face for me? she asked.

Gladly, said Butter.

Letting out a sigh under her breath, Scootaloo grudgingly turned her attention back to the lesson.

“Alright, now, can anypony tell me why Manehattan was built on the coast?” asked Cheerilee.

To Scootaloo’s surprise, Thorax raised a hoof.

“It was originally a small port town built to handle trade with the griffons,” he answered.

“That’s correct, Crystal Hoof,” said Cheerilee with a smile.

Wait… I thought he didn’t have any formal education,” noted Scootaloo.

He didn’t. Cheerilee said that earlier this lesson. He’s just taking better notes than some other changelings in disguise, said Blue Monarch in a tone that made Scootaloo cringe.

Realizing what her mom was really saying, Scootaloo grumbled and picked up her quill. She also tuned out her siblings’ giggles.

They’d see who was laughing when school started in the hive. It was just so delightful being in a classroom with hundreds of your cousins and siblings.

Recess finally arrived, and with it the inevitable evaluation of the new kid. But it wasn’t just about Thorax himself. Everypony wanted to talk with a pony from the Crystal Empire and press him for information about the strange kingdom to the north.

This wasn’t the hard part. They had changelings in the Crystal Empire ready to forward him information. No, the hard part was watching Thorax wilt under the gaze of the entire student body and trying not to pull the poor guy into a hug. Seriously, it was painful.

“So, you're from the Crystal Empire, huh?” asked Snails.

“Uh… yeah,” said Thorax with a nervous smile.

“What’s it like over there?” asked Pipsqueak.

“There’s.. Uh… a lot of crystals. And… um… a really big castle you can see from anywhere in the Empire,” said Thorax.

OK… which hive was in charge of gathering information from the Crystal Empire again? asked Dove.

I think it was the Las Pegasus hive. You know how lazy those guys are, said Uno.

Scootaloo sighed. So much for those contacts up north. She figured it was time for a strategically placed subject change. She glanced at Apple Bloom and gave her a nod.

“So, why did you come all the way out here anyway?” asked Rumble.

“Well... the main reason for the whole… transfer student… thing is because we’re trying to catch up on all the... stuff we missed while… you know… we were cursed and... stuff…” said Thorax as he started sweating bullets.

There were a few snickers from certain ponies, but most of the class just looked sorry for him. Scootaloo had to admit, that was a clever way to discourage questions. At any rate, this was Apple Bloom’s cue.

“OK, so… what do ya think of Ponyville?” asked Apple Bloom.

“I… uh… haven't really had the chance to look around yet. I only got here this morning,” said Thorax.

“Really? Well then, we gotta take you to Sugarcube Corner after school,” said Snips.

“And the bowling alley,” said Ruby Pinch.

“And the arcade,” added Button Mash.

Everypony rolled their eyes at Button’s predictable idea.

“How about we let him decide what he wants to do?” suggested Dinky.

“Yeah. What do you like to do for fun, Crystal Hoof? Sports? Music? Video Games?” asked Rumble.

“Well… uh… I like to sing from time to time…” mumbled Thorax.

Well, it wasn’t like he was allowed to do much else when he was busy scrubbing the floors all day, commented Beetle.

“Well, duh. Everypony likes to sing from time to time. That’s why we all do it,” said Diamond Tiara with a roll of her eyes.

“Heartsongs don’t count, Diamond,” said Silver Spoon in an annoyed tone.

“Says who?” challenged Diamond.

There were several groans from the crowd.

“Hey, can you two not argue about that again right now?” chided Dinky.

“Yeah, and we’re not done with Crystal Hoof yet,” said Rumble.

Diamond and Silver looked ready to object, but seeing as the entire class was against them they decided to put their long-running debate aside.

“OK, so anything else besides singing?” asked Ruby Pinch.

Thorax jumped as he realized the spotlight was back on him. This did not help him speak clearly.

“Uh… I… collect rocks? I mean, special rocks. Ones that are... shiny and… stuff…” he mumbled.

The ponies in the crowd shared awkward looks.

“Uh, you never got to do anything exciting at home, did you?” asked Snips with a sad look.

“Not really…” mumbled Thorax as he rubbed his hoof into the dirt.

OK, this was getting depressing again. Time for another distraction.

“Well, I say we fix that. Anypony up for a game of tag?” suggested Sweetie Belle.

There were several cheers in agreement as somepony grabbed a stick to help decide who was it. Several ponies, Diamond Tiara and Sliver Spoon included, decided that this was a good time to walk away and do something else during their recess.

Thorax let out a sigh of relief, though he still look pretty nervous. Scootaloo counted this as a victory. Crystal Hoof was clearly going to be a shy pony for a while, and by now most of the class knew not to press him too hard. They wouldn’t have to worry about him getting overwhelmed by questions anytime soon.

“You’re mine, Crystal Hoof!” cried Rumble as he chased the disguised changeling.

While the game of tag itself wasn’t particularly noteworthy, Scootaloo noticed something interesting about Thorax.

When they had started, he had been really confused, even if it was clear the hivemind was feeding him instructions on how to play. He seemed really uncertain about which way to run, tripped fairly often, and ended up tagged quite a few times.

But after a few minutes, he started getting into it. He began to recognize how each pony reacted when they were being chased and when they were doing the chasing. He began to copy a few techniques on how to outmaneuver the other ponies. Very soon it was hard to tell that this was Thorax’s first time playing tag, let alone any outdoor game.

Now, learning how to play tag isn’t all the impressive as there really isn’t much to it, especially considering this was a full grown changeling disguised as a colt. But as Scootaloo watched him expertly faked out Rumble and escape being tagged, she realized that there was something special about Thorax:

The guy was a very fast learner.

Wow. I’m impressed. Even for an adult, that’s a tricky dodge to pull off, she noted.

Well, yeah. The guy’s a royal changeling. Of course he’s going to be smart, said Goose.

I don’t think that has anything to do with it, Goose, grumbled Lynx.

Scootaloo’s right. It took me ages to learn how to pull that one off, added Uno.

Indeed. It’s part of the reason we figured he’d be perfect as an ambassador. He demonstrated a surprising amount of understanding of changeling law in a very short time, explained Blue Monarch.

So… if he stayed with some rulers long enough he could have learned how to rule his own hive? Considered Dove.

Possibly, though that would likely take months or even years of observation for him to reach that point. We’re planning on going public well before then, so we agreed that a more efficient method of education was needed, said Blue Monarch.

Fair enough. Though would it have killed you to arrange this whole thing sooner? Asked Scootaloo.

Blue Monarch gave a cough.

Well, I didn’t have a hoof directly in the decision, so I really can’t comment on that, admitted Blue Monarch.

Scootaloo just rolled her eyes and started running as Rumble turned his attention towards her.

Scootaloo let out a sigh of relief as the day ended. School was always a miserable experience for her. It wasn’t that she was a bad student. She managed to get passing grades every year. She just struggled learning in the classroom.

Which is why you should take notes and study at home, said Dove in a snarky tone.

Shut it, grumbled Scootaloo as she packed up her saddle bags.

Thorax, meanwhile, had already left. He had a lot to do today as he wasn’t lying about only arriving in town that morning. He hadn’t even moved in yet. Scootaloo didn’t know where exactly he was staying, but apparently another hive had spent all day arranging a home for him and planting “parents” to look after him.

Scootaloo finished packing, got up, and headed out the door to find her friends waiting for her. They turned together and started making their way to the clubhouse.

“That was a lot easier than I thought it would be,” said Sweetie Belle once they were far enough from everypony else.

“Yeah. Thor… Ah mean Crystal Hoof seemed to be gettin’ more and more relaxed as the day went on,” noted Apple Bloom.

“Well, we still have a ways to go. It’s only a matter of time before Diamond Tiara starts teasing him about something or other, so we better be ready,” Scootaloo pointed out.

“Yeah, but I think we’ll be able to handle that. That said, what about us? Do we find out where he lives and spend some time with him?” asked Sweetie Belle.

Scootaloo sighed. She honestly wasn't sure what to make of Thorax. Sure, he seemed nice and could probably use a friend, but were the three of them really the best choice? He probably wouldn’t want to go crusading with them. Plus, it wasn’t like he was going to be staying for long. Once he learned what he needed he was going to be moving to Canterlot.

“I dunno. I mean, I’d like to be friends with him, but he’s an adult. He probably has to do a bunch of adult things after school, and wouldn't want to hang out with a bunch of fillies. Still, at the very least I think we should be friendly, if not outright friends. I say, if he decides he wants to spend time with us, we’ll let him,” said Scootaloo.

“Well, that goes without sayin’. Especially if we’re goin’ to be keepin’ an eye out for him as long as he’s here,” said Apple Bloom.

“Yeah, that’s true. Still, if we are going to be keeping an eye on him, maybe we should try and get to know him a little better?” asked Sweetie Belle.

“Well, duh. The plan was to hide the fact that we already knew him so we wouldn’t have to come up with some crazy story about how we met a crystal pony that had never been seen in town before. Now that the first day’s over, we can hang out with him during recess no problem,” said Scootaloo with a wave of her hoof.

“I wasn’t talking about that. I meant spending an afternoon or something hanging out with him when he has the time,” said Sweetie Belle.

“Well… I guess if the opportunity presents itself we can. But yeah, he’s going to be pretty busy outside of school,” said Scootaloo.

“Speakin’ of bein’ busy, you girls wanna get a head start on our homework?” asked Apple Bloom with a smile.

Scootaloo turned and looked at Apple Bloom as if she had come back from the dead, metaphorically speaking.

“Uh… Apple Bloom? It’s the first day of school. What homework?” asked Scootaloo.

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle started giggling. Scootaloo looked between them in confusion.

“Did I miss something?” asked Scootaloo.

The two fillies giggled harder.

Sensing a prank being pulled at her expense, Scootaloo looked around for some kind of clue. She noticed a small flash of pink from a nearby bush.

Was Pinkie up to something or…

“Wait a minute,” said Scootaloo as she turned back to Apple Bloom.

That’s when she noticed that her friend’s eyes were purple. She immediately facehooved for missing such an obvious tell.

“Ugh… Thorax! I can’t believe I didn’t notice sooner!” she groaned as her friend and the changeling disguised as her friend started laughing.

“Sorry, Scootaloo. Apple Bloom figured it’d be a nice and safe chance to practice my acting skills when you weren’t expecting it,” said Thorax with a chuckle.

Scootaloo sighed. Still, she had to admit she was once again impressed. Thorax really was a fast learner.

“And yeah, I have some stuff I need to do today, but I wouldn’t mind hanging out with you girls for a bit when we have the time,” said Thorax.

“Alright, alright. You got me. We’ll figure out when we’ll do that later. Now let’s get you two switched back before somepony notices something off,” said Scootaloo with a shake of her head.

Thorax nodded and made his way to the bush Apple Bloom was hiding in.

You do realize you’re going to be teased about this relentlessly for some time, right? asked Twitch.

Scootaloo let out a sigh. Yes, she did.