Twilight smiled warmly as she let her spell deactivate. After finding out about Locomotion and Hornette's picnic date, she had taken it upon herself to keep a watchful eye on them through astral projection, mostly to ensure they were left alone, but also to confirm a hunch that had been bugging her for well over a month now. The more she watched them, the more she could see that it wasn't a mere hunch – Hornette and Locomotion were incontrovertibly smitten with each other. “Aww, what a cute couple,” she murmured to Flash, who was standing and watching next to her. “Rarity was right – they really are perfect for one another.”
Flash smirked wryly. “I dunno if Loco's gonna be so cute when he finds out we were spying on him,” he quipped.
“Well, yeah, I may have been a little bit intrusive over the last few hours,” conceded Twilight ruefully.
“More than a bit, I'd say. Who was it scanning Hornette's memory every evening since she came here?”
“Oh, don't go on, Flash!” giggled Twilight, swatting him playfully. “It's not like I was out fishing for a gossip column scoop or anything – and a good thing too, otherwise the poor changeling would never live it down. Besides,” she observed gravely, “as heart-warming as it was, it probably wouldn't look good on her probation report.”
“Or on her probation officer's record,” put in Flash. “But no, you're quite right, Twily; if Hornette's to stay here, it's probably best we leave it alone for now.”
“Done,” declared Twilight, tracing a cross over her chest and placing her hoof over one eye. “Anyway, I think it's about time we hit the sack as well. Anything to report before I turn in?”
To her concern, Flash's expression turned serious. “As a matter of fact, yes there is,” he replied grimly. “No. 3 Unicorn Platoon have reported suspicious activity in the Everfree Forest.”
Twilight's brow furrowed. “What sort of activity?”
“We've no confirmation as yet, but we think there may be more changelings out there.”
“And when did you receive this information?” asked Twilight tersely.
“Lieutenant Claymore told me half an hour ago, while I was on my way to use the bathroom,” answered Flash. “Says his troops found this out at about half past eight or thereabouts.”
“What about Diesel?”
“What, that renegade Pegasus who keeps stalking Loco and Hornette? Well, apparently Private Pike says he saw somepony on the edge of the forest who matches his description; but other than that, nothing.”
Twilight grimaced as, not for the first time, an extensive list of worst-case scenarios began to flow through her mind. Could these alleged “changelings” have just been ordinary spies, out to gain love for their hive? Or was there something even more sinister going on? Either way, she didn't like the sound of it... “Right, then tell the unicorn units to investigate further, Flash,” she instructed. “If there are any further leads, I'm to be informed immediately, am I clear?”
“Perfectly,” said Flash, bowing slightly. “I'll pass on the word at once,” and he bustled away.
With an anxious frown on her lips, Twilight gazed out of the window on the far side of her chamber. First the discovery of the changeling whom they now knew as Hornette; then the unexplained arrival of a Pegasus named Electro Diesel, whom they still knew nothing about...and now a fresh swarm of rogue changelings in the Everfree Forest. Something about the whole affair didn't seem right – judging by her memory scans, Hornette clearly had no way of knowing about these new arrivals, but it still seemed far too convenient to be a mere coincidence.
Somehow, it seemed, she had become unwittingly tangled up in whatever scheme it was they were carrying out, but what was it? Did they have designs on the Bearers of Harmony, or was it Hornette herself they were after? And then there was the same old question about Diesel – who was he really? Why could nopony find so much as a scrap of information on him? How did he manage to keep evading them all the time? Deep down, Twilight had a nasty feeling she already knew the answer.
“Please don't let anything happen to Hornette,” she thought aloud.