Chapter 14: Prima
“Okay, so, uh…” I said, my brain repeatedly trying, and failing, to understand what I was seeing. “...Wha, what?”
“Seize her!!” The changeling yelled. He and his allies suddenly flung themselves at me. With a yelp I ducked beneath their sudden tackles; the trio flew over me and smashed comically with the footboard of Dane’s bed. Dane let out a yell and fell from his bed, scurrying towards the corner.
I looked towards the door, considering cutting my losses and flying out to find Liz. But these three would follow me easily, since my flying hadn’t improved all that much. I could take the time to smack them around- I mean, I didn’t know that much magic but I could make do with using levitation to toss them about, or just bury them in the heaviest things I could lift--
I blinked. Echo? What’s happening?
Mother, they’ve-- ...Silence.
I was suddenly tackled in my distraction, sending me tumbling to the floor on my back. I looked up to see one of my aggressors standing on me, its horn lit. “Restrain her!!” I heard one of his cohorts yell.
“Yeah, no.” I lifted the poor sap off of me in my magic and tossed him at the wall. His neck bent sickeningly with an audible crack. My stomach lurched- changeling or no, I'd just killed someone--
As the changeling slid down the wall to the floor, however, he made a single death throe before beginning to glow a bright neon green. Within seconds he was considerably less changeling-shaped, becoming a glowing green goo that formed into a puddle on the floor. After the obligatory look of befuddlement I turned towards his friends, who already had their horns lit. I grabbed a dresser from my right and held it between me and my foes; their green blasts peppered the furniture, some of them managing to pierce the wood entirely, sending pieces of cloth flying from it. Before they could react I hurled the dresser at them.
One of them- I assumed him to be the original changeling who’d summoned his friends- immediately flew upwards. His friend was not so lucky. With a fantastic crash, the dresser pinned him against the wall; only his hind legs were visible, poking from underneath like the Wicked Witch of the East. Then, much like said witch, he vanished, only instead of shriveling up, he glowed, then became a puddle of slime.
I looked at the remaining changeling, who was scowling furiously. “You think you’ve won here??” He snarled.
I looked between the two puddles of ooze, which had nothing to add but the occasional quiet bubble popping. I looked back at him. “...Seems a bit one-sided here, yeah…”
“She will find you!!” He yelled. “You had your chance, Chrysalis, and you nearly doomed us all! But she will lead us to a glorious new age!!”
Before I could get as far as ‘the’ in saying “What the fuck are you talking about,” the changeling immediately zipped out the door and down the hallway. Before I could even get out into the corridor I heard the sound of glass shattering from the living room; he’d fled through the sliding glass door. With a groan I turned towards Dane. “Don’t suppose you had a clue what he was yammering about?”
Dane merely whimpered, curled up into a ball as he stared between the two puddles of goop. I shook my head. “Whatever, I gotta go get Liz. Gimme your cell phone.”
- - - - -
“I should be out there…” Shift said for what must have been the twentieth time as he paced around the basement, his wings twitching irritably.
“Dude, your dad-mom can take care of herself…” I repeated, resting my head on a hoof with boredom. “Look, once Chris and Echo get back with Liz we’re gonna high-tail it out of town for a while, okay? Until then, Chris said to stay put and don’t do anything stupid.”
“I’m so excited to get out of the house again!” Digit said cheerfully, flying in circles around the room. “I wanna see everything that Mommy imprinted on me! I wanna see Disney World and Las Vegas and Boston and Disney World and Pandaria and the Satellite of Love and…”
“THANK YOU, Digit!!” I yelled, rubbing my head; she reminded me of that ‘Pinkie’ character from the show, from the episodes I’d watched. Decent stuff, I’d have to watch more.
“I’m feeling like a star,
you can’t stop my shine….”
All eyes fell on Chris’s phone. I snagged it in my magic- whoever was calling wasn’t in Chris’s phone book. Tentatively, I answered. “Hello?”
“Ray! It’s Chris!”
I gave a short sigh; it sounded like he was talking on a phone in a wind-tunnel or, more likely, flying. “You find Liz?”
“I know where she is, but things are a bit more… complicated than I thought. You need to lock the doors and windows and hide in the basement.”
“Why? What’s going on? What happened?!”
“All I know is Liz is at the warehouse on the eastern end of that… train-bridge thing over the river, Echo’s gone dark, and I just had a tussle with three changelings that are, apparently, water-soluble! And the guys at the airport know I’m not playing by their rules, so odds are they’re gonna come breaking down my door any minute! Just keep your head down, if they get in, just… I dunno, improvise! Hide, run, hit ‘em with blunt objects!!”
He obviously didn’t have much time for clear thinking, though, to be honest, I don’t think I’d be faring any better. “Chris, CHRIS!” I yelled. “Calm down, it’s gonna be alright. Just get Liz back and we’ll figure out a way to get Echo back, then we’ll get out of town for a while, okay?”
I heard him take a deep breath. “...All right, but I don’t know if running will solve our problems… Not with these… other changelings creeping about. When I get Liz and Echo back I’m gonna find out who’s leading them.”
“...And?” I asked.
“...I dunno. But I won’t let them threaten us again. Keep your head down and don’t let anyone but me, Liz or Echo in.” He hung up. I looked at the phone with concern, then over at Digit and Shift, who were completely silent the whole time.
“What’s happening?” Shift asked.
I took a breath. “We hole up and--”
A bang over our heads made us jump. Several more bangs followed.
- - - - -
I landed heavily outside the warehouse Dane had described. It was your basic warehouse affair; solid gray, no real distinguishing features other than a single black car parked off to the side. It seemed like the ideal place to store a kidnap victim, and even if Liz wasn’t here, I had nothing to lose by taking a peek.
...And by ‘taking a peek’ I mean ‘smashing the door down.’ I blasted the garage door, creating a reasonably sized hole for me to slip through. The place was almost pitch-black, save for a single light in the far corner hanging over a chain-link cage; in the cage sat…
“LIZ!!” I yelled, sprinting towards the cage. Liz looked over at me and gasped; she stood up and gripped the cage tightly.
“Chris, look out!!”
The lights flicked on; the warehouse had only a few crates, most of them lined up along the walls. This seemed to be a kind of ‘temporary storage’ setup for Halford’s company. I turned to see a single black-suited goon standing near the lightswitch, glaring at me. “You haven’t lost a step, Chrysalis.”
I rolled my eyes. “Look, I don’t know who you guys are, but I’m not-- FUCK!!” I ducked as, in the blink of an eye, the goon morphed into a changeling and fired a beam of green energy straight at my face. The blast flew into the wall, leaving a scorch mark the size of my changeling-head. With a snarl I lit up my horn and lifted the poor sap by his own. I brought him over to me and glared deep into his defiant blue eyes. “Who’s really in charge of this? Why take Liz? Where did you guys come from?”
He laughed cruelly. “Gotten a little too comfortable with your exile, my Queen?”
I shifted my magic-grip to his throat and squeezed. “Not in the mood, tool. Now answer my question or I’ll--”
“VICTORY TO QUEEN PRIMA!!” The changeling suddenly screamed, arching his head back. He suddenly began to glow, like the drones back at Dane’s house.
“Wait, shit, NO!!” I yelled, but I was too late; he melted into the same bright green puddle I’d started to become accustomed to and fell to the floor in a foul-smelling heap. I stared at it for a moment; Queen Prima?
“Chris?” Liz called, making me spring back to reality. I spun around and bolted towards the cage, lighting up my horn as I went.
“One sec!” I said as I gripped the cage door in my magic. With a powerful jerk of my head I tore the door from its hinges and flung it to the far side of the warehouse. I took a moment to take human form as Liz came running out of the cage. I quickly grabbed her and pulled her into a tight hug, never wanting to let her go again. “I’m sorry…” I said. “This is my fault…”
“Was that a changeling?!” Liz said, staring over my shoulder at the goo pile.
“Yes…” I said. “No idea where it came from.”
“It’s not… one of yours?”
“Definitely not,” I said. “I mean, I’ve laid a few more, but I haven’t hatched any…”
“So there’s…” Liz said, slowly. “...another queen out there?”
I shrugged. “Could be… Let’s just get back to the house, high-tail it out of town- get off the grid, find a place to hole up, maybe even find others like me and Ray.”
Liz looked back at the cage. “Anything to get away from there…” The way she said that made me furrow my brow.
“...What is it?”
Liz shook her head and shuddered. “Please, let’s just go…” But I didn’t drop it. I walked around Liz and looked into the cage; other than a few reasonably sized crates, it seemed empty…
Wait. One of them had its lid ajar. “Chris, please, let’s just go, I can’t…” Liz said, her voice faltering. I looked back at her.
“What’s in there, Liz?” She didn’t answer, save for a whimper as she turned away. I looked at the box and lifted the lid.
With a yelp I stumbled back, the lid toppling to the side. Inside the box was a corpse; a large man, in his mid forties, wearing a tight black suit and with a half-inch wide hole in his head, burned out as though he was shot through the forehead with a flaming arrow. His eyes were left open, unseeing, staring at the side of the crate. I wasn’t into forensics, but judging by the smell he had to have been dead for at least a few days.
I leaned against the cage wall opposite the crate, a hand over my mouth. Who felt the need to kill this man?
“You haven’t lost a step, Chrysalis.”
I spun towards the way I’d come in. Liz was slowly backing towards me, her mouth quivering in fear. It wasn’t hard to see why; standing in the entryway was a much more alive version of the man rotting in the crate off to my right. His hands were behind his back in a very business-like manner. He stepped into the warehouse calmly, not taking his eyes off me. From here I could see what appeared to be an ID badge hanging from his shirt pocket; I could read the name “Travis Bower” as he approached.
I looked between the living Travis and the dead one to my right. I looked back at the living one and dropped my human guise, stepping out of the cage and dropping into a defensive stance. “Who are you?”
‘Travis’ laughed. “I should have expected you’d not remember me… Even after the decades I served you, helped keep our empire in a glorious era…” His eyes suddenly flashed green. I stepped between him and Liz and braced myself for an attack…
...that never came. Instead, ‘Travis’ took a step backwards. “But your time has passed.” A ring of blood-red flame surrounded his feet. It suddenly sprang into a pillar that stretched to the ceiling…
My eyes widened with recognition. Well, this bodes well…
The flames vanished. Before me stood another changeling; it was a little bigger than me, with broader wings and an orange mane, sticky and translucent. While I, as Chrysalis, wasn’t exactly something you’d put on a child’s ceiling to help them drift off to sleep, this queen was something out of an Amnesia game. Her horn was much sharper, like a ritual dagger. Her muzzle looked more like the maw of a crocodile, as imagined by Tim Burton. Her pupils were inch-long black lines in a sea of blood red, piercing and terror-inducing.
I took a nervous step back. “Who are you?”
The queen laughed- a throaty, croaking laugh that sounded muffled through her layers of jagged teeth. “I am Queen Prima… And under my rule, the Changeling Empire will span, not only Equestria, but this world as well…” She grinned. “Just as Discord promised.”