Slowly, the smoke started to settle - revealing the lifeless body of Xerox; seconds later Chrysalis and her army broke down the door - swarming the chamber.
The Queen approached her broken child with an expression of disbelief. “What have you done...” she said, as a tear escaped her eyes.
For a moment the room went silent - Chrysalis has crouched over the body on the floor - frozen from shock, and her changelings didn't know what to do. Suddenly she got up, and her grief turned to anger. “You are gonna pay! Argh!” she screamed, discharging her magic.
A blinding flash filled the chamber, followed by some smoke. “Round them up! I want all of them to... WHAT?!” Chrysalis shouted in surprise when a pink energy field emerged from the settling dust.
Shining Armor managed to put up his shield just in time. “How is that possible?! No matter - break through that barrier my subjects!” immediately a few dozen changelings swarmed the shield, pounding on it like there was no tomorrow.
“Uh, guys - could you fire that spell of yours already?” Rainbow asked, glancing nervously at the attacking swarm.
“We need time to… charge up,” Shining responded with some effort, keeping up the barrier was taking its toll, “Twili - you need to take over.”
Twilight didn’t have to be told twice - her horn immediately lit up and seconds later she was in control, however… “Arg… guys - hurry up! I don’t know how long I can hold it!”
Cadance and Shining were working as fast as they could, but soon a crack formed in the barrier, followed by another, and another - it was getting obvious the shield won't hold long enough. “Twilight - let me out!” Rainbow shouted, taking a combat stance. “I will buy you as much time as I can!”
“No way ya ahr goin' out there alone partner,” Applejack added, glancing at Rainbow with a smile, “ready when ya ahr Twi!”
The rest of the gang - even Fluttershy - quickly followed and waited for the princess to make her move - Twilight, however, was lost in thoughts. Glancing at the swarm outside, it was looking more like a suicide mission… but what other choice was there? At this rate, the shield would be gone in a matter of moments anyway. “Alright… I will try to blast them spherically - you should have about two seconds before I re-establish the barrier. Rarity, when I discharge my magic - use yours to blind them, that should give you a few seconds to get into positions,” Twilight said, and everypony nodded in agreement.
Moments later they put their plan into action - Twilight went first, dropping the shield for a millisecond, only to blast the charging changelings with an orb of energy. Rarity was next - dazzling the attackers with light from her horn, allowing everypony else to take their position.
Rainbow and Fluttershy took the sky - the former knocking changeling after changeling with her agility and speed, while the latter working as a decoy - with the use of her ‘stare’ she was able to confuse the attackers, who were flying into the walls and hitting each other in the process. The land was left to the rest of the team - both Pinkie and Applejack were bucking and kicking every enemy that got too close - while Rarity was making sure nobody got behind them, zapping every changeling with her magic. Thanks to their distractions Twilight was able to regenerate her magic quickly, and for a moment it was looking like they will make it.
Unfortunately, good fortune didn’t last long - since Rarity was fighting all by herself, she was first to be overwhelmed - quickly followed by Pinkie Pie who tried to help her. Applejack was able to stand her ground for a few more seconds, knocking out several changelings in the process - until a powerful hit from the sideway knocked her off balance - before she could get up, a dozen attackers pinned her to the ground.
Rainbow was no better off - her speed gave her the upper hand initially, but now she was being surrounded by a few dozen changelings trying to keep her away from their brethren pounding on the shield. With a sharp turn around the nearby pillar, she gained enough speed to punch through the blockade and clean the barrier of any changelings one more time, before being knocked out of the fight.
Mostly ignored at first, Fluttershy was the last - now alone and cornered, all she could do was use her ‘stare’ to paralyze the attackers. "Oh, we don't have time for this! Here little pony, watch this!" Chrysalis said, morphing into a dragon right before her eyes! Fluttershy's pupils widened, as she involuntarily covered her head - seconds later changelings swarmed her, and it was over.
The changelings quickly chained the captures ponies together as Chrysalis turned to Shining and Cadance with a grin. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” she said, attaching the chain to herself, “if you force us out, I am taking your friends with me - and believe me they will NOT enjoy the trip.”
Twilight glanced at her brother, and he glanced back - they both knew that their friends would most likely not survive the flight (according to reports Chrysalis barely survived it herself the last time - and her body is much more resilient than that of any normal pony). Even if they would - being prisoners of the Queen was not something anypony was looking for... On the other hoof, they were only five versus thousands of ponies in the Empire.
She was shattered - logic clearly dictated that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, but her heart was telling her different story - the fate of the entire country rested on her shoulders and she couldn’t decide, only glancing forth and back at her friends and the queen. She closed her eyes just as tears began flowing them. “I’m sorry - we can’t-”
ZAP! ZAP! ZAP!
Suddenly bright flashes and some smoke filled the room again - followed by the sound of fighting. “Get her off me!” when the smoke subsided... two queens were on the floor struggling against each other as both ponies and changelings were watching the scene with confusion.
“What are you waiting for?! Get her off me!” one of the Chrysalis yelled.
“No! Get HER off ME! I’m the real one!” the other added.
The changelings just glanced at each other not knowing what to do - both figures were identical in every detail, and there was no way to tell who was the imposter, their attention shifted when one noticed the ponies running towards Twilight, their chain broken. “Capture them you, idiots!” Chrysalis shouted, this time her subjects reacted immediately - but, so did Twilight.
ZAP! ZAP! ZAP!
She dropped the shield and discharged her horn on the approaching swarm knocking several attackers to the ground - allowing Rarity and Applejack to enter the range of the barrier - however, more changelings were already on the way. “Hurry!” she screamed, firing another volley.
Soon everypony was close enough; Twilight was reestablishing her shield when suddenly one of the attackers knocked Pinkie away - just as the barrier went up, she was pinned to the ground by a dozen angry changelings.
In the meantime, both queens were still struggling. “Child - you are forcing me to do THIS!” one of them said, and her horn began to glow green.
“Aaarg!” the other screamed as she dropped on the floor, clenching her head.
Chrysalis stood over the suffering Xerox, with the expression of disbelief. “Child... why?!”
“I know what you did! Separating children from parents and making them suffer, just so you could harvest more love during the ‘reunification’!” she snapped, fighting the pain the Queen was causing. “No..pey-dopey... I would rather starve to death than have any part in this…”
Chrysalis shook her head, her mouth slightly agape - she was not used to her subjects questioning her. “Those ponies lied to you child, you know how it goes-”
“I know how it goes, all right! Other changelings confirmed everything so save your breath! If you think I will let you hurt my friends, then you are loco in the coco!”
In the meantime, other changelings brought Pinkie into the presence of the Queen. “Her memories corrupted you… but I will give you one more chance,” she said, turning to Pinkie with a grin. “Tell me Mrs. Pie - do you know what happens when changeling magic collides with some energy field?" Pinkie shook her head. "The shield gets HOT!” she added as her horn began to glow.
Moments later a beam of energy hit the shield and produced some sparks and sizzle - no visible damage could be seen, but everyone in the room felt the heat wave emanating from the barrier.
Xerox gave her queen a surprised look. “Why did you do that? Nobody will be able to touch that shield now without getting burned.”
“Because…” Chrysalis's magic intensified again - this time concentrating on Xerox, “you are going to bake us some… PIE!”
“NO! Please don’t! AAAAA…” she screamed from pain as the mind control spell was starting to work - to keep order in the hive, every queen had the ability to mind control every changeling drone if necessary, Chrysalis rarely used it, but this time she was out of options.
“Good… you know what to do child, GO!” she pointed at Pinkie.
“Arr… I can’t… I must-” Xerox tried to resist her queen with every shred of sanity she had left, but it was a losing battle.
Suddenly she felt another wave of agony emanating from the top to the rest of her body and second later she was no longer in control - her hooves moving on their own. “No… Pinkie…” she mumbled, her voice barely audible - as her magic levitated the confused pink pony from the ground…
A moment later the stench of burning fur mixed with frying meat filled the air. “Arggg! Hot, hot, hot, HOT! It burns! Make it stop!” Pinkie screamed as her left side was pushed against the heated shield - other ponies just stared from inside the barrier with horror as their friend was being cooked alive.
After a few seconds of agony, Chrysalis ordered her changeling to stop. “So princess, will you drop that barrier or do you want me to show you my recipe for Pinkie ‘PIE’?” Her horn got brighter again - commanding Xerox to resumed the torture.
“I’m sorry… I can’t control it…” she whispered with teary eyes, shifting her victim to the other side, and pushing her against the shield again.
Immediately, Pinkie uttered a yelp as her body took the heat - inside the barrier, ponies were restless. Fluttershy curled up on the floor with her hooves on her head, Rarity and Applejack were both frozen in place - unable to comprehend what was happening. Cadance and Shining were trying to concentrate, but to no avail - only Rainbow Dash and Twilight kept their heads - the former arguing to let her out - but it was impossible.
“I see you prefer to have some pink pie for dinner - let's heat up the oven!” Chrysalis said as another beam of energy hit the shield - increasing the temperature even more. “I hope you like your pies, extra crispy because-”
Queen’s speech was interrupted by a ray of magic flying just right above her muzzle. “Grr, who dares to…? You?!” her jaw dropped momentarily when she saw that the attacker was none other than smiling Princess Flurry Heart. “Who let that baby out?! Grab her!”
Dozen changelings launched into the air, trying to catch the little alicorn… only to crash into each other when she teleported out of the way with a giggle. The second squadron was trying to be more clever, splitting into two groups - the first trying to round her up, while the second waiting for the right moment - however, just when they dashed for the capture, they all ended up hitting the pink shield Flurry established for herself.
Finally after a few more seconds playing ‘cat and mouse,’ one changeling got lucky. “I got her… I… uh-oh - your highness I think she is gonna-”
“WHHHHAAAAA!!” the outcry of Flurry Heart filled the entire chamber, producing about 150 dB and forcing everybody in the room - even Chrysalis - to cover their ears from pain. She managed to recover only after creating the sphere of silence around the crying baby, which was flying freely around the room again.
“Arg… you little brat - when I catch you-”
“Your Majesty!” Xerox shouted to her queen - thanks to the distraction, she was able to regain control and was now standing near one of the windows.
Chrysalis turned around with a smile. “You are right, leave that worthless earth pony - grab the little fluffy alicorn instead!” she added with a grin but Xerox didn’t budge. “What are you waiting for, child?”
“I’m super duper sorry queen but… this ends here,” she said to Chrysalis and then turned towards the burned Pinkie Pie who was now sitting idly nearby the shield, “Pinkie, use the ‘auntie Pie’ technique on Flurry Heart now and... never stop smiling!” she added, pushing herself out of the window...
“NO!” Chrysalis screamed dashing towards her subject - but when she arrived all she could do was to listen to the loud thud of her child hitting the ground below. With her mouth agape, she just stared motionless at Xerox’s body with the rest of her army looking at the sight over her shoulder.
In the meantime Pinkie’s shock subsided, wiping tears from her eyes and fighting the pain from her previous injuries, she started to make one of her’s ‘Come to Auntie Pie!’ stunts and quickly got the attention of - still distracted - Flurry Heart. Before any changeling noticed - both she and the little princess were inside the shield, lifting everypony’s spirits.
Finally, Chrysalis snapped out of her pondering. “DESTROY THAT SHIELD NOW!” she roared with a voice full of menace, and again all the changelings started pounding the barrier (which was cooler now, since Twilight reestablished it to let in Pinkie and Flurry Heart) - the Queen herself joined in, firing blast after blast.
But with the return of Flurry Hear - Cadance and Shining were immediately filled with the new willpower to fight, as well as the magic of love to power the spell. “Buckle up Chrissie. 'Cause you're goin' for a ride!” Shining said with a grin just as the spell discharged, pushing the changelings out of the Empire. A few seconds later the magic died down, and the chamber was filled with peaceful silence...